October favourites

October was a busy month for me, and a month of change. I wrapped up my first case of my first full-time job, and officially graduated from university (woo!)

Here are some of my favourites that I’ve come across this fall month.

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DRINK PICKS

  • Jimmy’s Coffee chili dark hot chocolate: This creamy dark hot chocolate has a nice (mild) hint of spice, perfect for the cold weather. Jimmy’s coffee on Portland and King is also quite a cozy spot to tuck away during this rainy season.
  • Rise ginger kombucha: This fizzy drink is a great afternoon pick-me-up, carrying a nice kick from the ginger and a strong sparkle as well.
  • Kupfert and Kim cappuccino with coconut milk (& maple syrup): Coconut milk complements coffee incredibly – and paired together with some maple syrup, makes for one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had.

FITNESS PICKS

  • Yoga Tree’s Flow in the six: Most yoga classes play soothing, wordless music in the background (which is nice) but what’s even better is the Flow in the six class at Yoga Tree, where Drake songs are played all throughout class. There’s just something about doing a chaturanga to rap that I find quite satisfying.
  • Yride at YYoga: I tried the spin class at this yoga-focused studio for the first time, and was quite happy with my experience. Picture a more cheerful hippie version of Soul Cycle.

FOOD PICKS

  • Hello 123: This new vegan bar, which recently opened on Queen St W, is created by the same people behind Kupfert and Kim – and it’s absolutely amazing. I had the charred cabbage and ceasar, which was seared to perfection alongside some sunflower seed croutons. The cocktails here are also super strong.
  • Impact Kitchen Mineral bowl: The power bowls here are locally sourced and come in a variety of different flavours. My “Mineral bowl” had kimchi, soft-boiled eggs, kale, sesame tossed kelp noodles, and radish. This is a great spot to get a healthy lunch on the east side of Toronto.
  • Planta restaurant: I loved everything about this restaurant from the beautiful decor to the amazing food and the friendly service. I got the Moroccan salad and iced coffee with coconut milk, and they were both absolutely delicious. I can definitely see myself coming back to try some of their other dishes.
  • Taco farm tortilla chips: I tried these for the first time from the Kitchener Farmer market (although Taco farm has its own brick-and-mortar location in Waterloo too), and their tortilla chips were absolutely amazing. It’s made with only three ingredients (oil, corn flour, and salt), yet has a great taste and crunch.
  • Nadege champagne macaron: A small macaron jam-packed with the fragrant taste of champagne – basically your favourite celebration drink in the form of a tiny dessert.

MASSAGE (RMT) PICKS

  • H20 Float: I’ve heard so many things about hydro float therapy (good and bad) that it was about time that I tried it out for myself. Essentially, you float in a pool of super salty water (either in a closed pod or open-concept tub), where your body floats effortlessly to release any tension, pain, or anxiety. I did the 1-hour session and my body felt surprisingly relieved and my skin extraordinarily soft afterwards. It was also so relaxing that I fell asleep halfway through my float. I loved my whole experience and the facility (super clean, professional); I would recommend others to try this at least once.
  • Step up massage: This massage center is no-frills and quite low-key (located next to a Burrito Boys on Adelaide) but delivered a great RMT. The service was professional, and the oils and hot towels used throughout the session provided a great experience that I would recommend to others looking for a massage place downtown.
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September Favourites

September’s been a relatively busy month. I’ve started work and have since flown twice to Chicago for training sessions. I’ve also been drinking more coffee (getting back in that work routine) so there are a few caffeine drinks part of this month’s picks. I also went to the Stratford Festival one weekend, which was a great small-town getaway, and below you’ll find a gem of a restaurant recommended.

On the whole, here are a bunch of great little products and places I’ve come across this month.

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DRINK PICKS 

  • Balzac’s Iced Americano: The Americano at Balzac’s is bold and crisp – just the way I like it (I despise watered down coffee beverages). This café also provides free of charge soy, almond, or coconut milk to add in beverages.
  • MOS MOS: This tiny coffee front inside the Toronto Path is always bustling – don’t be frightened by the long lines though, they tend to move very quickly. I usually go for the regular coffee with one milk and one sugar, a combination that almost tastes of a HK style milk coffee. I’ve recently also tried the chai matcha latte with soy milk, which is absolutely phenomenal.

 

FASHION PICKS

  • Frank + Oak Women Jeans: I went to the Frank + Oak warehouse sale and got two pairs of jeans: a black pair, fitted at the top and flared at the bottom, and another pair that is white and fitted. I love the jean material, thick and sturdy. Each pair retails for $90 but the price dropped to $30 for this sale event.
  • Topshop Cigarette Cropped Dress Pants: I find it difficult to find work pants that aren’t baggy or boxy in shape, so I was quite happy to find the cigarette style ones at Topshop. These pants are high-waisted, tight at the waist and well-fitted. I bought a pair in black and navy blue, $45 each.

 

FOOD PICKS

  • Bijou Crostini, Escargot, Weth Mushrooms, 63 Degree Egg, Smoked Cheese at BijouThis beautiful restaurant in Stratford served one of the best dishes I’ve ever had – a textural delight of escargot, creamy poached egg, and silky cheese; all-paired with a thick, crisp crostini. All the flavours worked incredibly well together.
  • Hungry Hippo Coconut Crisps: This snack is so flavourful, crisp, and relatively healthy. I got these coconut crisps at the annual Veg Fest in Toronto, but they’re also available at many grocery stores.
  • IKEA Veggie Meatballs: These veggie balls contain only natural ingredients, including corn, peas, and carrots, which you can actually see as whole pieces inside the balls. They’re flavourful and filling, and make for a healthy substitute to regular meatballs.

 

TRAVEL PICKS

  • Lavender Oil Applicator: I stayed at the Westin hotel in Chicago, which provided in every room a small oil applicator scented with lavender. Its gentle scent is soothing, and it’s quite nice to apply some on the wrists or temples when trying to relax or before sleeping.
  • Samsonite Spinner Suitcase: The inside of this suitcase has straps to secure clothing and interior pockets to hold smaller items, helping users stay organized throughout their travels. The wheels also move any direction, allowing users to wheel their suitcase beside them in tighter corridors.

Last Stop: Athens

I realize that I never wrote about my last stop in Europe, which was to Athens, Greece. We flew there from the island of Santorini, which was only about an hour flight away. Warning: If you go to Athens in June, it is crazy hot. Many shops and restaurants close during the hottest hours in the afternoon (between 2 to 5 pm), which our Airbnb host described as a siesta-like period for Greeks.

There are many important historic monuments to check out in Athens, as well as cool flea markets and shops. As the capital of Greece and a major transportation hub, Athens is also a convenient place to do day trips from.

Here are a list of things to do (and around) Athens:

1. Acropolis of Athens

The main feature at the Acropolis is the Parthenon, dedicated by the Athenians to Athena Parthenos, the patron of their city. I highly recommend visiting this site in the morning, as it tends to be less hot since the sun hasn’t reached its full peak yet.

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2. Take a ferry to Hydra

Athens is close to many islands, one of them being the island of Hydra, which is located in the Aegean Sea between the Saronic Gulf and the Argolic Gulf. There are short hikes you can do in Hydra to some beautiful beaches, where the water is as blue and clear as the sky. A one-way ferry trip to Hydra from Athens takes less than an hour.

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3. Watch the sunset over the water

This is just one of those classic vacation things you must do in Greece. The photo below was taken while we were waiting at the dock in Hydra for our ferry back to Athens.

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4. Visit the farmers market in Athens

It’s a little hard to communicate with vendors, who for the most part only speak Greek, but the farmer market in Athens was quite an interesting and fun experience. The produce here is really cheap; for instance, I bought a large bag of plump, juicy cherries (around 3 lbs) for two euros.

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5. Explore Monastiraki

This flea market area is always buzzing with tourists and locals alike. There are tons of cool shops, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops to check out. I recommend trying a fish foot massage at Doctor Fish Athens, where you place your feet inside a tank and little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. The sensation was really ticklish at first, but it soon became soothing and even nice. My feet also did in fact feel softer afterwards.

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6. Buy some Greek sesame snacks & honey

We bought a lot of souvenirs, such as snacks and beauty products, to share with our friends back home. Most of the snacks we found in Greece contain either honey and/or sesame seeds. There were also a lot of olive oil products for sale in the markets; we bought cream and shampoo containing this ingredient, as well as some olive wood products.

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7. Explore Coffee Shops

During the hottest hours of the afternoon (between two to five), many shops and restaurants are closed and it also tends to get too hot to wander outside – making it the perfect time to explore Athens’ coffee shops. There are tons of really neat ones around the city, my favourite being the cozy Little Tree Books & Coffee.

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8. See the Acropolis at night

There are many restaurants with rooftop patios near the Acropolis of Athens, allowing guests to see the beautiful Acropolis light up at night. We visited Kuzina, as recommended to us by our local Airbnb host. This restaurant tends to get quite busy so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

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9. Daytrip to Delphi

From Athens we took a day trip to Delphi, a famous ancient sanctuary about a two-hour drive away from Athens. The site is on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus, overlooking the coastal plain to the south and the valley of Phocis. Showcasing monuments built by important ancient Greek city-statess, Delphi embodies Hellenic unity and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Must-Try Foods 

Not only is Greece absolutely beautiful, but the country’s cuisine is also phenomenal. From street souvlaki to grilled squid, everything I ate was incredible – and at prices that I know I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Here are some dishes you have to try when in Greece:

1. Gyro and Souvlaki

Gyro is a special Greek delicacy consisting of meat, onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce served with pita bread. The gyro meat is cooked slowly on a vertical rotisserie and is served as strips or small slices of meat. Souvlaki is also a Greek dish, but is prepared as small meat cubes and grilled vegetables on a skewer. A great place to try these dishes is at Sfika, a restaurant that serves some of the best grilled meats in the city, according to our local host.

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2. Greek Salad

Made with the perfect balance of feta cheese, crisp vegetables, and buttery croutons, the Greek salad at Kuzina Restaurant was absolute perfection.

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3. Greek Frappé Coffee

The traditional frappé coffee is a Greek foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee, water and sugar. The frappé has become a hallmark of Greek coffee culture, and is available in virtually all coffee shops across Athens. I got one at Coffee Island, which sells a real strong traditional Greek frappé for 1.10 euros.

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4. Asian Greek Fusion at Mr. Dim

This may sound almost silly, but this Greek Asian fusion shop called Mr. Dim served one of the best bao creations I’ve ever tasted. The tender, juicy gyros meat worked so well with the flavours of the Chinese sesame bao; even my Asian parents adored this fusion dish.

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5. Grilled Squid

I highly recommend the grilled squid at Smile Restaurant, a local family-run business. I normally don’t love grilled squid because it tends to be too chewy for my liking, but the texture of this one was amazing and grilled to perfection.

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6. Moussaka

This traditional Greek dish is either eggplant- or potato-based, and is layered with ground meat in a fashion similar to that of a lasagna.

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7. Koulouria Thessalonikis

These giant sesame bagel-like treats are sold everywhere on the streets in Athens for typically less than one euro. They’re deliciously chewy on the inside, and carry a fragrant toasted sesame taste – perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

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Happy traveling!

July Favourites

I like the month of July – smack in the middle of the summer, when you know you still have one more month afterwards before reality strikes again in September. This month, I’ve been busy studying for my GMAT, catching up with friends and family, and traveling to LA for two weeks. Here are my favourites that I came across in July:

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CLOSET PICKS

  • Black romper from Oak and FortI am in love with anything that looks like a dress but actually hides a pair of shorts (and bonus points if there are pockets too.) I found this black romper during Oak and Fort’s Summer sale, where it was discounted by 40%. It’s a breezy piece that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
  • Long beige-rose dress from Oak and FortI also got this piece (photo above) during Oak and Fort’s sale period; my favourite part of the dress is the small slit on the left side. The slit allows for extra leg movement, but isn’t excessively high that you would have to worry about accidentally revealing too much.

 

COFFEE SHOP PICKS

  • Coffee Tomo: Tomo serves the best pretzels in Los Angeles (try the sweet potato & cheese one) and has a great seating area for studying or catching up with a friend.
  • Cafecito Organico: Not only does this coffee shop in Silverlake serve an amazing almond milk cold brew, but it also has a gorgeous backyard patio ideal for studying, chatting, or just hanging out.

 

FOOD PICKS

  • Dark Chocolate Almond Milk by Silk: This is the perfect way to fulfill your chocolate cravings while meeting your daily calcium needs. It’s rich and nutty, but not too sweet since it’s made with dark chocolate.
  • Caramel Cookie Crunch by Talenti Gelato e SorbettoSold in small tubs at local grocery stores, this gelato is so heavenly – layered with smooth caramel and morsels of cookie bits. I finished a whole tub in one day (with a bit of help).
  • Mint Mojito Iced Coffee at Philz: I wasn’t too sold on the idea of mint leaves in my iced coffee when I first heard about this famous Philz drink, but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. The mint leaves added a refreshing twist to my usual morning beverage, and weren’t overpowering in any way.

 

EVENT PICKS

  • Cinespia: I highly recommend this event for anyone in LA during the summer. Cinespia is an outdoor movie screening inside the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (yes, a cemetery). People bring their picnic blankets, a bottle of wine, popcorn, and other snacks to enjoy a chill night out. Get here early to reserve a good spot!
  • Dodgers Game: I didn’t think I would like watching baseball, but it turned out to be a lot more fun that I thought it would be. For ten more dollars than a regular ticket, you can snag a seat in the Coca Cola Pavillion that has all-you-can-eat nachos, hot dogs, soft drinks, popcorn, and peanuts!

 

TRAVEL PICKS

  • Camel Hydration Packs: This is essentially a backpack with a built-in hydration system, as it can hold large amounts of water in a reservoir (made of light plastic material) with a built-in-hose to allow the wearer to drink hands-free. I wore one when I was biking from Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach, and it was great at allowing me easily drink water without stopping since I’m not the best at biking hands-free. My pack also held up to 2L of water so it helped ensure that I stay hydrated all-day!