Things anxiety about work likes to forget about

Hello my wonderful readers, it’s me, Casandra. I hope you haven’t forgotten me in the past seven days. I know I missed my normal mid-week post this week and for that I am sorry. I do have a pretty solid excuse though: I started my full time job this past Monday, and going from working just over 20 hours to working over 40 between two different jobs has definitely been a major shift.

In fact, I had a bit of a crash this week.

I use the word crash because some time ago my therapist and I had a conversation about the power words can have over your mental health. I used to describe my bad days as breakdowns and she was quick to correct me. While mental breakdown is not actually a medical term, it is used in clinical settings to describe an acute mental disorder. By using this word all the time I was implicitly linking a bad situation or a bad day to something much worse and detrimental. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of full on breakdowns but for the most part a bad day was just a bad day.

And last Wednesday was just that.

A bout of binge eating snacks I wasn’t supposed to have, writing panicked messages to my best friend, and a teary phone call to my mother and I realized I had been carrying far more inside my head than I should have been. Fears and anxieties had built up in just a couple of days, and pretending that everything was just perfectly fine had done more harm than good. I needed to talk about it, to go through the fear rather than avoid it. So that’s where I’ve been these past seven days.

Now that I’m back, I want to share my experience wandering into the working world, especially since I know many of my readers are venturing in themselves or are a few years away from leaving campus to find full time employment. I’ve learned some valuable lessons in the nearly two years since I graduated university and they were hard lessons to learn, especially because they challenged much of what I expected of myself after graduating.

So here’s three not so little lessons I like to remember when struggling with a new job:

It’s perfectly normal to have to find temporary work

In this day and age where stable full time positions seem to be the thing of fairytales (I know how lucky I am) it is important to remember that you haven’t failed just because you jumped into a position outside of your field or if you are working a few hours on the side in the same job you did before college. Finding a job can be really difficult. Actually, even finding temporary part-time work can be extremely challenging. You just do whatever you’ve got to do to keep going. Whether that’s selling clothes, flipping burgers, or in my case telling ghost stories, it’s okay to do whatever you need to do to get by.

I remember how frustrated I was after graduation, feeling like my degree was just a flimsy piece of paper in a $50 frame from Michael’s (I was far too cheap to buy the official ones from my school). It took me months to find a job and even then it wasn’t something I could have ever done for a prolonged period of time. I then went completely outside of the focus of my studies and went back to hospitality because it was what I knew. It was frustrating at the time but I realize now it was what I needed to do to get the ball rolling. Whether you’re in the position for weeks, months, or years, it doesn’t really matter: don’t let the weight of not working in your field weigh you down. In fact, know that you are doing amazing things even if you never end up working where you originally thought you would.

 

You won’t know everything right away, but you’ll figure it out

This is the lesson I needed to remember the most this week. I think you get so used to the flow of school that it’s easy to forget work doesn’t have that same flow. You won’t file into the same classrooms where teachers or professors will be waiting with a lesson plan or a syllabus. There won’t always be an exact due date for each project or an outline of how to do your work. A lot of stuff you’ll have to learn on the go. Sometimes someone will be there to show you how to do it and other times you’ll need to work it out yourself. That can be really intimidating, especially if you’re like me and you’re afraid of failure.

But that just brings me to my last reminder:

Mistakes are going to happen, it’s how you deal with them that matters

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, sometimes things are going to get messed up and sometimes it will be your fault. Other times it will not be your fault but the consequences will still end up falling to you. It’s important not to get wrapped up in mistakes, whether or not you caused them. You cannot let a mistake beat you or scare you out of future work. Own up to any mistakes you make and see if you can fix things. If you can’t, see if you can find someone who will be able to help you rectify the situation. Always move forward. Adapt your methods to try and minimize the chance of the same mistake happening again but be aware that others will come.

Mistakes are part of life and since your job is part of your life as well it is only to be expected that mistakes will happen there too. Things will never be perfect but you can work hard to minimize the damage. More importantly, don’t let a mistake paint your opinion of yourself. Everyone messes up sometimes, big and small, you can come back from just about anything. Be kind to yourself, especially when things keep going wrong. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s what truly matters.

 

Those of you who read my posts but don’t know me personally may be surprised to hear that I would not usually consider myself an optimist. I’m not the most pessimistic person on the planet either but I do have a tendency to be a cynic. Still, it is healthier and more productive for me to look ahead with optimism and hope in this scenario. It will help unravel the knots in my stomach as I face each unknown. I hope you too can find the optimism in whatever journey you’re on, even if it’s scary and new, never forget it can lead to something beautiful.

The truth is, I’m still in the process of learning these lessons myself. Some days I feel the weight of expectations pushing down onto my shoulders, crushing me with each passing moment. I need to remember these truths just as much as anyone, especially now that everything is new again and I’m feeling a bit lost. Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing.

“There is little difference in being lost and exploring.”
— Dan Eldon

Rolling into week two I’m feeling a little more sure of myself so hopefully that won’t mean another absence from my regular posting. Besides, I have some really fun shares coming up for you so stay tuned!

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Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Three

What is this? Two mother daughter adventures right in a row? Well, I figured after a few months of not documenting any, it was fair that I do a double share this week. My mom tends to come to visit every few weeks so we have a lot of adventures to share. Of course, whenever I tell anyone this it is usually met with something along the lines of “you two must be really close” which is then followed by me asking if said person has seen Gilmore Girls and if they have I explain that we’re just like Rory and Lorelai. I mean, I never went to Yale and my mom doesn’t own an inn but it is still a pretty fair comparison.

Anyway, onto the adventure.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent a couple days at my parent’s place last week but on Friday mom and I made the trip back to the big city with a mother daughter date planned downtown.

The St. Lawrence Market is the oldest continuous running Farmer’s Market in North America and it just so happens to be one of my favourite places in the city. I don’t even have to buy anything, I like to just walk around the market floor and take in the energy of the old building. It’s a great place to pick up fresh produce or to try a hot lunch from one of the stalls. From fried fish to peameal on a bun, there was a bunch of different options for lunch or an early dinner. The outside of the building is surrounded by a wraparound balcony with picnic benches that are perfect for enjoying a meal in the sun. If you can manage to snag a table, that is.

This trip to the market wasn’t for a haul of fresh fruits and vegetables, or even a trip to my favourite seafood joint but instead we had booked two at the market’s History and Tea Talk.

On certain Fridays this summer the St. Lawrence Market has hosted this event with different historical presentations and a traditional afternoon tea to follow. For me, it was mostly about the tea but the history talk turned out to be quite nice too.

We learnt about the original market building across the street and how the St. Lawrence Market sits on the spot that the first city hall used to sit. In fact, the Market Gallery where we were seated was part of the original city hall. The larger market building was constructed around it many decades later. The talk carried on with mentions of the city’s first mayor William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s cholera epidemic, and a bout of other historical facts that were rather interesting. Once the talk finished we were directed down half a flight of stairs to The Market Kitchen.

Getting to see The Market Kitchen in person was one of the main reasons I was so interested in taking in this afternoon tea in the first place. It is a spaced that is used for events and cooking classes. The moment I first saw the space online I fell in love and I’m pleased to say that seeing it in person did not disappoint.

The kitchen is found above the North West corner of the St. Lawrence Market. The large market windows overlook Front Street, including Toronto’s Flatiron building. On the other side of the venue there is a large railing that overlooks the shops of the market.

The afternoon tea itself was a modest serving but I did not expect anything extravagant at $15 a person. In fact, for the price I think it was more than a fair deal. Each tea setting was for four people so we sat with a another twosome. There was an array of finger sandwiches, two-bite desserts, and small scones with fresh berries and cream. This was accompanied by a large pot of black tea served on lovely mismatched china.

I don’t know what it is about finger sandwiches but I always find them so much better than actual sandwiches. Perhaps it’s the lack of crust or the fact that there just so itty bitty. Regardless, the small selection of finger sandwiches for the tea was quite lovely, even the plain cheese sandwich was scrumptious.

While the little desserts are normally my favourite part of afternoon teas, it was actually the scones that did it for me this time. While the cream was just normal whipped cream rather than Devonshire cream, it was still quite delicious, especially with the mixed berries on top. In fact, even after the scones were gone, we helped ourselves to a serving of just berries and cream.

It was another adventure well spent with my momma. Afterwards we killed some time by walking to the Distillery District and just hanging out before I had to take off to give a tour that evening.

If you’re in Toronto or just visiting, there is actually one more History and Tea Talk for the summer taking place next Friday August 25, 2017. This one includes a tour into the City of Toronto’s Art Collection art storage vault. To be quite honest, if I wasn’t already making plans to go to the CNE on Friday, I would consider going to this once more.

Of course, there’s always next year.

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Mother Daughter Adventures – Volume Two

With a few days off last week I decided to spend some time in my hometown with my parents and my friends. I hopped on a coach bus first thing Tuesday morning, threw in some headphones and ventured an hour north for a few days. Upon arriving, my mom and I realized we hadn’t really planned anything for our first afternoon together and so a wayward comment led us to venturing another hour further to go have lunch at a tea shop that used to be in Barrie but had since moved to Collingwood. Unfortunately, we arrived to find a sign on the door:

“Closed due to unforeseen circumstances” 

It was a bummer of course, we’d driven an hour only to find out that we wouldn’t be indulging in the delicious scones and Devonshire cream that we had been looking forward to tasting after so long. Our last second plan had been dashed at the last second which meant we had to improvise.

As per usual when it comes to my mom and I, a little mishap turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A heavenly one at that.

Heavenly Cafe can be found in a lovely little strip mall just a short drive from downtown Collingwood. Outside is a small summer patio while inside is a much larger space with an array of different table settings. There are high top tables, regular two seaters, and a few mismatched arm chairs that give the place a very chic vibe.

More interesting (at least to me) than the arm chairs and artwork was the long counter of sweets and treats that accompanied a full menu. Tarts, squares, sugar cookies, cinnamon rolls, full cakes, and macaroons. It was everything a sweet tooth like me could possibly want. Of course, being mindful of our eating habits, my mom and I decided sharing was the best option.

The cafe has a nicely sized menu with different sandwiches, salads, and a number of cafe specialities such as quiche and mac and cheese. After some debating we opted for the croque-monsieur and the french onion soup. The sandwich came with a side salad dressed lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette. The side salad was really nice and it was a good way to make the meal feel a bit healthier and lighter. But of course it was the sandwich that really had my full attention.

If you ever took a tour through my fridge, you’d quickly see that I really, really love cheese. At the current moment I have seven different types of cheese in the apartment. I just can’t get enough of it. This, of course, is why I’m a big fan of a good Croque-Monsieur, and the one from Heavenly Cafe was an absolute delight. The soft bread was covered in a thick layer of melted cheese and it was absolutely delicious. I pretty much devoured my half immediately.

Then there was the french onion soup, which once again I go to for the cheese. Until recently I didn’t really enjoy the soup itself. I prefer soup with a thicker consistency that isn’t just broth but on occasion a really good french onion soup can make me change my mind. The one at Heavenly Cafe hit the spot. The serving size was large, and even between the two of us we just couldn’t finish it, but we made sure all the cheese and soup soaked bread was out of the bowl and into our tummies before finally waving the white flag so we could have room for dessert.

Ah dessert time. Normally restaurants give you four or five options to mull over and the picking is usually pretty easy but when you’re grabbing a bite in a cafe things can get trickier. The counter was lined with glass jars and serving plates displaying a number of different treats. Then there were two glass cabinets stocked full of more yummy meal enders. The cinnamon buns looked unreal but since I had just enjoyed one the previous weekend on our adventure to the beaches, I decided I wanted something different.

We opted for one of the lemon tarts and a glass of milk. Our lovely server swirled some caramel onto a plate underneath the sweet treat and left us with a well sized dollop of whipped cream. Once again, the taste did not disappoint. The tart was not overly sweet and it made for the perfect light dessert.

While it was sad to not get our scones, it is always nice to try somewhere new. Sharing the soup and sandwich made for a lighter lunch and then the tart at the end topped us off perfectly. I would definitely say that Heavenly Cafe was quite a divine experience and I would not hesitate to go back there, though the drive is definitely a long one.

That’s another adventure in the books, and as always when it comes to time with my mom, it was a good one. I would say who knows what we’ll get up to next, but that is in fact the topic of my next post. Stay tuned for more…

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What the scale didn’t tell you

It’s been a little while since there’s been anything fitness or weight related on this blog, and while I’m still dedicated to making this place about more than just my physical health, I do think it’s still important to check in every now and then, especially when I have new lessons to share.

This week while visiting a friend I noticed a pesky scale sitting in the corner of the bathroom. I was able to avoid this scale on my first trip in but later on when changing out of my bathing suit I found myself too tempted to resist. I mentally prepared myself, reminding myself that that number doesn’t really matter, and then I stepped on. I was pleasantly surprised by the number on the scale but also simultaneously reminded that weight isn’t everything.

I’ve lost just under ten pounds since the last time I weighed myself in March. I realize that this doesn’t sound like a whole lot of anything in six months, especially with common declarations from weight loss programs shouting about losing 50 pounds or more in the same period of time or much less. But for me, this was just a reminder about why I did away with the scale anyway. I may have only lost nine pounds in six months but so much more has changed and that is simply not reflected in that number.

From reading journeys from others, I know I’m not the only one who has non-scale related victories to think about. I do know that a lot of the time the weight focused nature of diet culture can make us forget those non-scale triumphs and changes. In fact, often the scale does not fully reflect everything we’re seeing in ourselves so it’s important to remember it is not the defining factor in your journey, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s helpful to remember the other ways exercise and a healthy life style affect you and your body. With that in mind, I thought I would take a moment to talk about some of the things that number on the scale doesn’t measure.

Physical health

Whether you measure this by an actual assessment by your family doctor or just by your own personal observations, your physical health improving is a great way to justify all that hard work you’re putting in. For myself, losing weight and being active has allowed me to climb stairs without as much difficulty and it has helped with body pains that I have always carried in my heavier areas. Additionally, this whole journey is preventative for myself as Type 2 Diabetes runs in my family. Reflecting on how your journey has improved your health, as well as prevented further disease or illness, is a great way to recognize and celebrate your hard work and progress.

Strength

Related to physical health but still slightly different in my opinion are the changes you will see in your own strength. From lasting a bit longer on the treadmill to lifting heavier at the gym, any sort of improvements you see in physical fitness are reminders of all the changes your making.

It can be really useful to have a certain workout goal in mind in order to track the changes. I know a lot of people who are getting into running so they track how long they can continuously run. Others I know have committed themselves to yoga and have seen themselves master certain poses as they’ve become more flexible. For myself it has been about getting through certain workouts that challenge me with fewer and fewer breaks. Whatever it is, seeing yourself improve throughout this journey is a great way to remind yourself to keep pushing.

Comments from others

It may seem a little vain, but when others comment on changes in your looks it can really help bolster your motivation and your dedication to this journey. Plus, vanity doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It can take people a while to notice a difference, and others just won’t say anything, but hearing compliments every now and then can make you more inclined to compliment yourself as well. Others seeing changes may just help you see changes you’ve been missing this whole time.

Little comments here and there can be really great for your self esteem and they can act as little unexpected rewards. This is why I always encourage people to tell the person if they think they’re looking good in a certain picture or when they see them. Everyone can benefit from a nice comment or two, no matter what shape they’re in. We’re all beautiful and we deserve to be reminded of that, especially if we’re struggling to remind ourselves.

Clothing sizes

As I always like to remind everyone: women’s clothing sizes are bullshit. Yes, you generally have your average size which is your go to to try on in a store but that doesn’t mean we don’t waste so much time going back to the rack to try a different size for a better fit. Still, if you’re like me and shop at the same three or four stores, there can often be a bit more consistency (but not total consistency) so seeing your clothing size drop is something that is still possible. For me, dropping almost ten pounds seemed like a much bigger change when I realized I’ve dropped two pants sizes with that loss.

How clothing fits

The way your clothing fits and even the cuts you’re wearing can be even more useful than the actual size on the tag. Slipping into old clothes that hadn’t fit for a while or even having to go buy something new can be really empowering, especially if you start to feel comfortable in new styles that you didn’t dare try before. For me, it was all about the high-waisted pants with a tucked in shirt. This was a look I always envied but since I wear most of my weight in my tummy, I just couldn’t get comfortable with it. I saw girls my size and bigger pull of this look flawlessly so it wasn’t about not being thin enough to wear it, it was simply a comfort zone issue for myself.

In trying to be more body positive I’ve come to accept that you have to give yourself time to get out of your head. Just because other girls are comfortable looking fabulous in a crop top or a two-piece bathing suit does not mean you have to dress that way. But if it’s something you want, your journey may just help you get there with both mind and body. I always thought I would need a flat stomach to start wearing anything high waisted but here I am, still a lot of fabulous flab in my midsection and my head is finally in the place I needed it to be to try this look.

On that note: don’t be afraid to try new looks as you go through this journey, you’ll find that sometimes the things you were too afraid to try before become something you’ll wear all the time.

Body composition

Last but certainly not least is the fact that that little bathroom scale tells you nothing but a number. It can’t show you where you’ve toned or how much muscle you’ve gained in respective to the fat you’ve lost.

This is where progress pictures come in or even just regular pictures. Since change happens slowly it can be really hard to see your progress in a mirror. You’re seeing your body change little by little but it can often feel like nothing. Taking progress pictures a month or two apart can show you the bigger shifts and seeing those changes can be really inspirational. You can look at different areas that are changing at a faster rate. For me it started in my face and in my arms, then I saw it in my legs, and finally I noticed my mid section begin to change.

Those are just some of the ways you can look for changes outside of the scale. No one thing can really define your journey, just as there is no single magic solution to make the journey easier. Look for your victories in places outside of a number and try and take stock of them altogether. Maybe you only lost one pound this week but you now fit into an old pair of jeans, one should not negate the celebration of the other.

What non-scale victories do you use to track your progress? Let me know in the comments below!

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You had me at pizza…

Do you ever build something up in your mind so much that it becomes a disappointment when you finally get to experience it? Well, this is not one of those instances. Months ago I was looking for a deep-dish pizza place to try in the city because I just love deep-dish. To be honest there’s not really a type of pizza I don’t enjoy. Even bad pizza is better than no pizza, right? But there’s just something about the way the cheese and toppings get piled into deep-dish that makes it extra special.

So on a wild night of cravings several months ago I went searching for the best deep-dish pizzas in the city. Unfortunately upon doing this research I was faced with a map of pizza joints nowhere near where I live. But there was a silver lining: BlogTO’s list of “The top 5 deep dish pizza in Toronto” gave me some places to put on my restaurant wish list (which I should type up one day) and on the top of this list was Descendant Pizza.

Unfortunately, Descendant Pizza was one of the furthest joints away from where I live, and since it is in a neighbourhood that I had never ventured to before it wasn’t one that quickly fit into my usual plans. Months passed and then finally, as you would have seen if you read my post from Sunday, we made the venture out to Queen Street East which allowed for a little lunch stop in at Descendant.

And this place was so good it deserved it’s own post.

Descendant is one of those little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. There restaurant itself probably seats about thirty with a few small tables, a hightop rail at the front window, and one large wooden table right through the front door. The smaller tables were reserves and my short legs weren’t in the mood for a high top so we grabbed a spot at the end of the large table.

We stuck with water but Descendant has a fair range of ciders, beers, and non-alcoholic beverages to choose from. Instead of your regular Coke or Pepsi they serve Boylan’s Handcrafted Sodas in a variety of flavours, ranging from Root Beer to Lemon Seltzer.

But our attention was not on the drinks portion on the menu, but rather the Detroit-Style pizzas that Descendant is so well known for. From a regular pepperoni and cheese to more interesting choices like the “Truff-Ghi” (Cheese Blend, Slow-Roasted Garlic Cremini Mushrooms, Double Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Lemon Zest, Fresh Thyme, Grana Padano, White Truffle Sauce) and the “Gatt Daddy” (House made fennel sausage, Mama Lil’s Peppers). We opted for their newest menu item: Electric Avenue.

Our small “Electric Avenue” pizza came in an 8×11 pan and was generously topped with cheese jerk chicken, fresh Pineapple, curried lime aioli, green onion, mama lil’s peppers, and diablo’s fuego hot sauce on the side. The curried lime aioli was generously spread on the top and soaked down through the cheese in the most appetizing way. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The fuego hot sauce was a sweet heat that was served on the side. It was excellent for dipping the thick pan-style crust into after you had filled yourself on the abundance of cheese and toppings that were piled onto the middle. And of course, with this choice you know where I stand on the pineapple on pizza debate. Sorry Gordon Ramsey, I’m all about that sweet pineapple taste.

While Descendant is on the pricier side when it comes to pizza (our small was $19+tax), I definitely think the quality and the unique flavours you can get from the small Queen East joint is worth the extra dough (pun totally intended).

A small was a good size to split between two people because the dough is thick and the toppings are plentiful. I’m sure Matt could have ate a small on his own but with plans to go grab desserts and snacks in The Beach Village it made sense to opt for the smaller size. Of course, if we ever end up doing takeout I think we’ll get a large just to have leftovers.

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A Streetcar Trip Outside My Comfort Zone

The long weekend rolled in and I realized we had no plans. I was scheduled to do tours on Friday and Saturday but that still left my days wide open. After doing a quick little search to see what was going on in the city, I decided it was finally time to venture away from my usual haunts in downtown all the way out to The Beaches.

The Beaches is a neighbourhood east of downtown and since I live Northwest of Toronto’s core, I don’t often venture out too far east. The Beaches was unexplored territory and since trips to the beach are generally a summertime activity, I figured it would be a good idea to have this adventure before the summer months leave us and we roll into fall.

We made our trip down and out very slowly, having a later start in the morning since I’d be working late in the evening. After grabbing a quick bite to eat (which will be featured in another post) our adventures moved on Queen Street East as we ventured into an area known as The Beach Village. Here you’ll find an array of beautiful houses and cutesy shops.

  

We wandered inside antique shops, stores full of arts and craft supplies, and we even decided to stop in at a little bakery. Brick Street Bakery has a very rustic vibe to it with dark wood accents and low lighting. There’s a little four seater table at the front window for anyone looking to get off their feet while enjoying a treat or two.

We decided to just grab and go, eating in the doorway next door while we waited for a little sun shower to move along. Our treat of choice was a soft and gooey blueberry cinnamon bun. And lucky for us it was a good choice.

After checking out what the street had to offer we headed down to the actual beach. It was a windy day with a lot of cloud cover so Woodbine Beach wasn’t as busy was it likely would have been on a bright sunny day. But there were still lots of people about, enjoying the fresh air and taking in a game or two of beach volleyball.

Woodbine Beach is lined with a long beautiful boardwalk and peppered with Muskoka chairs. We didn’t actually make our way out onto the sand or into the water but just hanging by the boardwalk was nice and relaxing. It was also perfect for people/dog watching. We parked ourselves on a park bench for a little while and just enjoyed the summer breeze.

From the beaches we moved into Woodbine Park in order to find The Toronto Food Truck Festival. Over 40 food trucks rolled into the park for the weekend with foods ranging from authentic Belgian waffles to Southern-style BBQ plates. There were tons of options to choose from, which of course just made my life more difficult.

The only thing I found disappointing about the Food Truck Festival was the lack of small snack plates. Most of the trucks were serving full menu items priced between $10-15. We had been hoping to grab a bunch of little plates under five dollars so we could try more. Unfortunately only a few stands had anything close to that price range.

Since it was only three o’clock and we had already had lunch we weren’t hungry enough to gorge ourselves on anything like the chicken and waffles in a waffle or the bacon wrapped poutine burger. Instead, we order a twisted potato and an order of original apple fritters with vanilla ice cream from two different trucks. The two items together cost about $15. It was a bit of a pricey snack but they were both delicious in their own way.

The neatest thing about the twisted potato was the different kinds of gourmet ketchup offered to go with it. We sampled each of their unique flavours; bacon, mesquite, ghost pepper, and dill pickle. The dill pickle had the most flavour but I really enjoyed the mesquite (it had a barbecue taste) and the ghost pepper (it had a hot sauce taste). The bacon was a little disappointing as it didn’t really taste much different than plain old regular ketchup.

Of the two treats we sampled, the apple fritters were definitely the more memorable of the two. I learned in the first bite that old style apple fritters apparently have thick apple slices inside and icing sugar covering the top. Dipping these warm pockets of apple goodness in the runny vanilla ice cream was an absolute delight.

After making our way back out of the park we decided to check out more of Queen Street East simply because it’s an area we haven’t explored before. We walked back in the direction we had come from in the morning, taking a look into more of the stores we had passed by after lunch. I quickly began to recognize a lot of restaurants from lists that I’ve scrolled through on BlogTO including a little unique coffee house called The Sidekick.

The name hints to a super hero theme which is executed perfectly through the inclusion of a small comic book shop on the inside. Exposed brick and chalkboard menu signs are complimented by hanging tesla bulbs and the inclusion of a number of comic figurines and statues. In the back corner there’s a small fireplace surrounded by comfy chairs and a board game selection for patrons spending a bit of extra time in the cafe.

 

Our stop at The Sidekick was brief but it was a nice way to rest tired feet before wandering into a gastropub for dinner. A quick look at my watch told me it was time to head back downtown in order to get to work. We decided to walk rather than hopping on the 501 streetcar and the trek put me over 20,000 steps for the day before I headed in for my Saturday night tour shift. We adventured well and now that we’ve seen how easy it is to get out to The Beaches and the surrounding neighbourhoods I’m sure we’ll be back.

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10 Ingredient Jambalaya

I will be honest: this summer hasn’t exactly been a good one for meal plans and new recipes. I was doing really good at trying new things in the beginning but as things got busier and busier I found that easy old crockpot recipes became my best friends. Unfortunately my best friends weren’t always the most exciting. One can only eat so many deconstructed cabbage rolls and pots of chilli before they get kind of sick of what they’re eating. I’m someone who always likes to try new foods and this typically extends to my home cooking as well as eating out. Sadly, there isn’t always enough time.

Monday was another pot of crockpot chilli but since I had absolutely nothing to do on Wednesday I decided to venture out a little bit. I didn’t pick a new recipe but instead decided to try something I haven’t made since the winter months: jambalaya.

I am a glutton for southern style cooking, especially anything with Cajun roots. New Orleans is on the top of my bucket list and it’s not just because of The Princess and the Frog. Jambalaya is one of those dishes I just love to order at restaurants and while I was still in university it was something I learned how to make at home. I’ve experimented with recipes over the years and have finally come up with my fast and dirty way to make a heaping pot of the good stuff. So of course, I figured I’d share it with all of you.

Not so surprisingly I failed on measuring my ingredients so I just kind of eyeballed it the best I could to come up with this simple 10 ingredient list for making my version of Jambalaya.This is a spin off of traditional Jambalaya which uses broth instead of tomato paste.The cauliflower rice was a new test for me in order to lower the carbs and calories in this dish and it turned out great.

  • 1/2 a medium sized onion diced
  • 2-3 bell peppers diced
  • 1 stock of celery diced
  • 10-15 chicken strips
  • 12-15 shrimp
  • 4 turkey sausages (missing in mine this time; the store was sold out)
  • Tomato paste (156ml)
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Cajun seasoning to taste
  • 4 servings of rice or one head of cauliflower (or both)

Directions

Cook your turkey sausages in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (flipping once halfway through). While the sausages are cooking begin to prepare the rest of your ingredients; dicing the vegetables, peeling the shrimp, and cutting chicken strips into bite sized pieces. Once the turkey sausage is cooked cut these into bite sized pieces as well.

If you’re using cauliflower you can either grate it into cauliflower rice like I did or use a food processor (which is probably 10 times easier). If you’re using regular old rice proceed to boil your rice as normal. As you can see I’m pretty lazy (and I suck at cooking rice) so I just use minute rice.

Next, cook the vegetables and meats together on medium heat in a large pot on the stove top, stirring occasionally. After five minutes add the tomato paste. Fill the empty tomato paste can with water and pour this into the pot as well to change the consistency of the tomato paste. Stir the paste and water in until all the vegetables and meats are coated. Proceed to add hot sauce and cajun seasonings to taste. I prefer mine on the spicier side but it’s all up to you.

Finally, mix in cooked rice or grated cauliflower rice. Cook on low for 5 more minutes and then serve.

Prep and everything included this meal should take no longer than an hour to make. The recipe is for approximately 4-6 servings. It did four for us but Matt’s servings are large so it probably could be spread into six especially because we used both the cauliflower and the regular rice. If you give this one a try let me know, and as always if you have recipes to share please leave them in the comments below! I’m off to eat a big bowl of this now so:

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The Slow Down

This past Friday was my grandfather’s 70th birthday which meant a trip up north to spend some time with family at the campground. We spent a few hours munching on Chinese food, enjoying cheesecake, and just hanging around a campfire. I checked my phone every now and then but there was no running around or flitting from one place to the other, there was just good food and good company. It was a nice change from the hectic lifestyle of multiple jobs and city living that I’ve been getting used to the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the business over the long days of nothing all the time but sometimes it’s nice to just to find a moment to slow down.

This weekend’s little slow down helped me realize just how busy I’ve been, and I am realizing that I’m on my way to burning out if I’m not careful. This weekend was a good way for me to take a step back and to just relax. It’s something I realized I probably need more of in my life. Of course, I don’t always have the time to make the trip home and to sit around a fire. So with that in mind I thought it would be useful to create a list of things I can do to slow down in the city. And of course, that meant sharing the ideas with all of you. I’ve found a lot of the items on this list coincide with the items with my self-care post from eons ago but there’s some new additions as well.

Colouring or Journalling

There are a lot of beautiful adult colouring books out there but I will admit after trying one for myself I realized I don’t have the patience for colouring inside the lines. However, if you find a notebook or a notepad in my house you will likely find dozens of doodles of Felicity Smoak as well as random patterns that I’ve sketched all over papers. I don’t consider myself much of an artist but filling pages with doodles is quite calming.

I’ve turned my love of doodling into something slightly productive by keeping a bullet journal. My bullet journal is often about preparing for a busy week; it allows me to track my meals, to keep a running grocery list, and to know what day I have to be where, but it is also a creative outlet. New layouts and ideas for pages are a way for me to log off the computer for a while and to just focus on one thing. It’s good for clearing the mind and making sure things stay organized through all the chaos. Plus, as an added bonus my handwriting is getting neater.

Bubble Baths

Bubble baths are my number one feel good thing in general and they would go on a lot of different self-care and happiness lifts if I was ever to write more. I would say I love bubble baths more than the average person and I can easily stay in one for well over an hour if I have time. That being said, a quick fifteen minute bubble bath is also often enough to help me recharge and to just relax. There’s also been some studies that suggest bubble baths could burn calories but unfortunately it’s not enough to negate the need for meal planning and exercise. If only bath bombs and hot water were the secret to shedding those unwanted pounds, I wouldn’t struggle nearly as much as I do now.

 

Power Naps

I am someone who loves to sleep but over the years I have found I have a harder and harder time with this aspect of life. I used to be able to conk out right at nine or ten and then not wake up at all until six or seven in the morning, getting a good eight or nine hours. Unfortunately with one job that keeps me out late often, and a lessened ability to sleep right through the night, my sleep patterns just are not what I would like them to be. Long days mean I need a lot more energy to power through and little naps are often the way to make things work for me. There have been days where I’ll work a seven hour shift at one job and then have about three hours before I head off to a later shift at another. In those three hours I often try to squeeze in a little nap to help me get through the rest of the evening. In fact, I am writing this post after just having squeezed in a solid hour of midday sleep.

I know a lot of people struggle with napping, even though they’re exhausted and could really use the restorative powers naps can bring. There’s something to really be said about knowing what naps do to your body and how different timing of naps can effect you in different ways. One of the things I’ve used to inform my napping habits is the infographic below from The Wall Street Journal. My naps really range in length but I like to keep this information in mind, especially because avoiding 30 naps seems to be the way to go for me. I either do a really short 20 minute nap or I go full force for a 60-90 minutes since I seem to get the least amount of grogginess than these.

If you have the issue where naps just make you feel worse afterwards I suggest trying to nap in different places, positions, and for different lengths of time. You may just be able to find your sweet spot.

(Credit: Daily Infographic / The Wall Street Journal)

A Trip to the Coffee Shop

I am one of those people out of a romance movie that will sit in coffee shops for hours behind a laptop screen or with a notebook just doodling away. I like the music that Starbucks plays but really as long as the place has wifi I’m pretty content. The key to making coffee shops a slow down zone is to not just chip away at more work while you’re there. I don’t mind a little day planning but really if I’m using a solo coffee shop date to unwind it should be a time to detox from the work week by people watching and by enjoying an overpriced beverage or two.

Reading in Bed

You’ll notice how I’m very specific about where the reading takes place in this one. I think reading is pretty excellent just about anywhere and I’m very happy that I’ve been able to get back into reading for pleasure after struggling with it so much in university. But I’ve specifically listed reading in bed as one of my slow down ideas because I find that when I read in bed it is the place where I’m most likely to minimize all other distractions. Reading on transit involves being mindful of where I am, what I’m heading to do, and what’s going on around me. Reading on the couch often involves a computer screen beside me and my phone buzzing every now and then. But reading in bed is usually just reading. I’ve often put my phone away for the night and I’m just focused on whatever world exists on the pages before me. It’s easier to get lost that way.

 

Phone Calls with Friends and Family

If I didn’t have unlimited calling I would have the most outrageous phone bill ever. Where it’s easy for many of my friends to rake up hundreds of text messages a month, you are more likely to see me ending up with hours upon hours of call time. I’ve always preferred actual phone calls over text message and I am that person who will get lazy midway through texting and just call you because ‘I’m too tired to type’.

While I’ve probably lost the usefulness of quick text messages through this preference I do believe actual phone calls have a really therapeutic effect that texting does not. I call my mom pretty much every day and most of the time it’s been such a short time between our last phone call that we just say ‘I’ve got nothing new’ and then talk about something random. But those random conversations are a good way to unload and just stay in touch with whoever is on the other end of the phone. I always feel better after a long phone call and while I’m known for multi-tasking my way around the house while I’m on the phone, it still seems like a pretty good way to unwind.

There are many more relaxing things you can do without wandering off to the wilderness of course and I’m sure if I wanted to ramble on for another thousand words I could share some more ideas but instead I’m going to turn it to you: how do you slow down when life is crazy? What do you do to help stop yourself from burning out? Please share in the comments below!

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Lessons from a Shopping Bag

Today, a moment of growth came from a plastic bag full of snack foods and hair dye.

It’s a strange place to find real life character development and yet as I sat down on my couch with my freshly purchased goods I realized I didn’t feel guilty about them at all. I wasn’t worried that I was falling back into old habits where anything and everything was fair game, I just knew that today was not a day to worry about my diet. I had bigger things going on.

It’s easy for me to become obsessed with the efforts I’ve made to change my lifestyle. I spend hours upon hours looking at weight loss blogs, scrolling through workout videos, and planning meals. I put a lot of effort into trying to be healthier and dropping another pant size. There are progress photos, meal preps, step counting, and a whole bunch of other things that eat up time and energy. Some days I’m on top of everything and others I struggle. I used to make myself feel really bad about those off days but I’m starting to learn that my version of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t always include food logs, sweaty sports bras, or even a proper portion of vegetables. Part of this lifestyle is allowing myself those days when I’m not so concerned, knowing well that I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading a post from one of the bloggers I follow that really got me thinking. The lovely Sara of Truly Sara talked a little bit about why she doesn’t like the phrase “Cheat Meal” (you can read the post here). While I’ve often used “Cheat Meal” or “Cheat Day” on my social media as a catch all for those days when I’m not counting calories or tracking ‘points’, I do really agree with what Sara had to say. The phrase can often make us feel bad about the food choices we have made, and we can often feel like a failure just because of what we put into our bodies.

I started thinking about this post again today as I finished off a ten pack of nuggets and half… okay, two thirds of a McDouble from McDonalds. Today was not a day I had planned to indulge; in fact there was healthy food in the fridge already made and ready but it just didn’t happen. Today was a rough one for me both physically and mentally; things were going on in my life that I needed comfort for and I found that comfort in food.

Do I unhealthily use food as a coping mechanism sometimes? Yes, I do but it’s not the end of the world and that’s the lesson I took home with me today, along with a plastic bag full of goods.

What I’ve come to understand to be important is to remember that I am in control. Just because I had a bad day today and decided to make it better by eating McDonalds and getting junk food for the evening does not mean I’m suddenly a failure. In fact, I haven’t even done anything wrong. I acknowledged that my feelings were negative, and I knew that tonight the food would help with that. Today that was worth it, other days it won’t be so I won’t make the same call. I won’t do this every time I have a bad day and that’s the triumph in it. I believe it to be a lesson worth sharing.

So much of life is about balance, and everyone’s balance is different. It can be difficult to do but finding your balance rather than basing your life on someone else’s can be incredibly empowering. Whether you call them cheat days, indulgences, or just don’t worry about the labels, you don’t have to feel bad about making those choices. If it made you happy, even for a short period of time, that’s what truly matters; not the size of your jeans, the calories you counted, or anything else. Your happiness is worth more than all of that combined.

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Six Lessons from Sharing Six Hundred Square Feet

I cannot believe how fast this summer is going. August is just around the corner which means in two more months Matt and I will have been living in our current apartment for over a year. It will mark 20 months of living together in total. Finally getting to move to the big city has been something that has really positively impacted both of our lives, and it’s also been quite the learning process. As an only child, I have had my own space most of my life, and I’ve had a lot of alone time. I even lived completely on my own for the last three years I went to university and while I missed out on a lot of the social aspects of living with friends, living alone was a great experience for me. I have always been comfortable alone so I wasn’t really nervous about that experience; I can’t say the same about moving in together.

Matt and I had been together for about four and a half years when it came time to start looking at apartments. The process of finding a place and packing up all of our things was stressful enough but it wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as the idea of actually living together and sharing a space all the time. We had spent a few days together here and there both at home and on vacation but actually having a space that was just ours was something new.

After four and a half years you would think I would have been pretty confident in our ability to figure it out but of course there are a lot of things that you don’t even think about until you’re in the heat of it all, things you’ve done for years that are just part of your nature. For example, I always make my bed in the morning. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and it’s a very important part of my routine (a Navy SEAL commander even agrees that it’s a good habit to have).  But for Matt it was not something he felt like he had to do and so it was just one of those little things we had to talk about.

Over the last twenty months we’ve had lots of talks about chores, habits, which way the toilet paper roll should face, and a whole bunch of other mundane little things. Navigating a mine field of different routines and opinions has not always been easy, and I will openly admit I’ve started many fights over laundry and the shower head not getting turned off fully. But even with all these fights I feel like I have learned a lot from living together and that’s what I’d like to share with you all today. Whether you’re just moving in with someone (it doesn’t even have to be a partner; it could be a new roommate or a friend) or you’ve been living together for a while, here’s some lessons that have helped us make our little corner of the universe into a happy home. At least, most of the time.

1. Meet in the middle

I’m starting with a big one; this was one of the more challenging things for me because I’m very particular about a lot of stuff. I like the bed to be made, the kitchen to be clean, and for stuff to get done in a timely manner. Matt is much more relaxed and probably couldn’t give a damn whether the bed was made or not. Despite this, if he’s the last one out of the bed in the morning he still takes the time to make it because he knows it’s something I care about. On the other hand, I used to be very particular about dishes not being left in the sink for more than a day but it really wasn’t reasonable on weeks where he wasn’t getting home from work until two or three in the morning. While I wasn’t okay with just stockpiling dirty dishes, I found a way to change my expectations in the fact that we could run the dish washer a lot more often and it would be worth the extra money for the time saved.

I’ve phrased this lesson as ‘meet in the middle’ rather than the usual idea of compromising because I don’t feel like I’m lessening my standards or asking him to completely change his. We’ve talked about our preferences and what we expect in our home and we’ve found a way to bridge any gaps that exist between them. If you have areas that you disagree about it can be useful to find a middle ground rather than just shouting at the other person to change. Be willing to be flexible with your expectations but don’t feel that you ever have to fully rid yourself of them. Be honest about what you want from your home and find ways to make sure you both achieve that.

2. Have your own time

Moving in together means seeing a whole lot more of each other, and while that is nice sometimes it can also be a little bit exhausting. For me, I don’t think there’s anyone I’m truly comfortable being around all the time. It’s perfectly healthy to need your own space and to do your own things. This summer Matt has taken in a lot of Blue Jays games and since I’m not at all interested in baseball it’s been a great way for him to get out and have his own thing with friends and family. I myself have a plethora of things I take off to do on my own or with other people, including day trips with my mom or just daily wanderings around the city.

Even though you’re now living together and you’re likely going to see each other every day, your time does not have to be completely dominated by your partner. It’s important to continue to have your own life outside of them where you can enjoy things separately. Yes, you’re going to do more things together now by the very nature of you being together more often but you can still make plans with other people or even just with yourself. In fact it’s probably pretty important that you continue to do so. Having a break from each other can resolve a lot of conflict and it can make for a happier home.

3. Find ways to be alone together

There will be days when you’re both home with nothing to do. Sometimes it can feel like you then have to find something to do together, whether it’s watching a movie, making dinner, or something else entirely. While it’s nice to have these home date nights, you don’t have to feel the pressure to make that every night. It can be a weird shift from dating someone to living with them because of the fact that time together before might have often been something you always planned something for. But you can’t do that every single day so the shift while living together can be a little different. Some nights you’re both going to be home but that does not mean you have to do something together.

What I’ve found is a real comfort is being able to do your own things while you’re around each other, even if you’re stuck in approximately six hundred square feet with not much room to go your separate ways. Being able to sit beside someone without needing their attention is a skill that makes living together even more enjoyable and relaxing. Some nights you just want to chill and do your own thing, and if your partner can understand that they can do that too then you’ll be much better off. Sometimes you just need alone time but that alone time can come in the form of one of you watching television while the other reads or something along those lines. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit beside each other for a few hours and not even have to say a word.

 

4. Make the ordinary extraordinary sometimes

On the opposite end of things from the last lesson is the fact that living together means more nights in than ever before. Since Matt and I started dating when I was in University, a lot of our weekends together were actually spent in my apartment because I had to continue to study while he was visiting. Because of this we became pretty used to just having time inside an apartment where we’d do our own thing and then sit down to have dinner together or to watch a movie. It was good preparation for not feeling the pressure of making every single night special but that does not mean only nights out should be the special ones. There are plenty of ways to make evenings at home together something special.

It can be anything from surprising your partner with dessert one evening or just making time to do something fun together. As mentioned in my previous post about Pandemic, board games have become our go to thing. We have a handful of games now that the two of us really enjoy and if we’re looking to spend a few hours actually having a fun time together at home then we’ll set one up.

Whatever you do doesn’t have to be out of this world, the smallest thing can be a nice mix up that allows for a good break in the week. Sometimes it could just be the extra effort of a home cooked meal, or even just how you present that meal. Light a candle, throw on some background music, and just enjoy each other’s company. The little things can become quite special if you allow them to be.

 

5. Understand that life is rarely 50/50 all the time

I think this is one of the biggest wake-up calls I got. As someone who has always considered themselves quite independent and fiercely feminist it can be a bit discouraging that there is a typical bread winner in our household. It was even more frustrating when I was unemployed and contributing less than a third of what Matt was to expenses. In the beginning I was tracking everything in budget charts, right down to little purchases from the dollar store, and in the end all it did was upset me.

I have come to accept the fact that moving in together did not mean we would be going fifty fifty on everything. And I’m not just talking about money: household chores, the responsibility of planning dates or evenings with friends, the monitoring of bills and finances, and all those other little things that come into play when sharing a home, it just doesn’t split even nicely. At least, it doesn’t for us.

There are weeks where things aren’t so bad, where Matt has the time to take care of the laundry and I manage to do the cooking but other weeks he’s working overtime and I have a few days off where I can pick up the slack. Some weeks I’m pulling sixteen hour days and he’s left to pick my clothes up off the floor because I just couldn’t do it before collapsing into bed. It really varies. Some weeks I carry the house, some weeks he does, and every now and then we’re both there together, keeping things from falling apart. It fluctuates and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not a bad feminist because I take the lead on meal planning, and Matt’s not any less of a good partner for not paying for dinner when we go out. We’ve found our own way to balance things and while the scales shift and change all the time, they still work for us. You don’t need to feel bad if you can’t pay exactly half of everything, and you don’t need to create a perfectly even chore list either. As long as you find balances that shift and fluctuate in a way that works for you, it’s fine.

6. Keep dating your partner

In the beginning of moving in together it was very easy to just stay home and do nothing, to allow the weeks to pass us by with work and weariness. Matt stopped asking me out to dinner and I stopped planning adventures for us. We were around each other all the time, why would we need to do more together?

Of course, I realize now that that’s a silly question.

After some time it started to bother me that we weren’t trying anymore. Life had become routine in the worst way. Wake up, go to work, have dinner, go to bed. Some weeks we wouldn’t even see each other because we were working opposite shifts. But despite this we lagged behind on making that special time for each other, or even trying to surprise the other with small gifts or just a hot home cooked meal. We fought about it and it was one of the harder things to get over because it really is easy to just fall into the trap of not trying anymore. But we should have been and it’s something I do my best to remember every day. It’s important to keep trying to put that smile on their face, to surprise them after a long day. Just keep trying.

It can be something as simple as going out for lunch before the other person has to work or something more elaborate like a whole day out with dinner and a show. Whatever it is, don’t stop trying to make those special moments for your partner just because you see them all the time. Try to think back to the beginning of your relationship and how you would do things to impress the other. Those things are still just as important now that you’re living together. Never stop dating the person you love, it’s likely how you started to fall in love with them in the first place.

Even with all this, we still have our disagreements. Old habits can be hard to break and some days the desire to just sit down and do nothing overpowers the desire to help out. Things aren’t perfect and they never will be but things are good and the happy days far exceed the unhappy ones. To me that’s a pretty good start.

As we hopefully renew our lease and get another year here, I’m sure there’ll be a whole new handful of lessons to learn from our own experiences and from others. Do you have any tips of your own of how to manage living together? Is there anything you do in your home to make sure it’s a positive space? As always, please feel free to share in the comments below. I love hearing your feedback and finding out more from people with different experiences. Sometimes that’s the best way to learn.

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