January favourites

Happy 2018!

I feel quite refreshed coming into the New Year – may have something to do with ringing in a fresh start in Cuba. Although, as much as I miss the warm weather and sandy beaches, it’s nice to have a routine again.

It’s also almost surprising how fast January has flown by. This past week, I went on a business trip to a city near the east coast, which I found incredibly charming. The seafood was also incredible, as expected when you are so near the coast.

Here is a list of things that I’ve enjoyed this past month.



Einstein smoothie from Copper Branch: This has become one of my favourite afternoon pick-me-ups in the PATH. Made with berries, coconut, maple syrup, and vanilla almond milk, it’s the perfect smoothie blend of fruity and sweet.

Mocha from Kupfert and Kim: I got the mocha here with soy milk, and it was absolutely divine – not too sweet, while still embodying the rich cocoa taste that I craved.

Peaches and Greens smoothie from IQ: For a lighter version, opt to remove the cashews from the smoothie for a straight fruits + veggies snack.

Cappuccino from Strange Love Coffee: I am so smitten by this small coffee shop on Spadina. When I tasted their cappuccino, my first thought was, “Wow, this is what a cappuccino should taste like.” It’s bold and rich in flavor.



Overnight oats from IQ: This is the perfect breakfast to keep you full for long – a mouthwatering blend of oats, cashew butter, coconut flakes, goji berries, and other goodies.

Shitake Teriyaki from Copper Branch: I got this protein add-on in my Aztec bowl, and it quickly became the star of my meal. It’s flavourful and has a meat-like texture despite being vegan. There’s often a massive line for Copper Branch at lunchtime, so I highly recommend ordering through the Ritual app (download using http://invite.ritual.co/JASMINE8295 for a free $10).

OM Bites: I tried the Matcha Macademia OM bites and was quite impressed. They carry quite a lot of flavor for something so small. Each bite is made with dates, rolled oats, macadamia, almonds, coconut oil, matcha and unsweetened coconut flakes. The bites come in a beautiful paper box – a healthy gift alternative to a box of chocolates.



Cocoon coat from Wilfred: I had to mentally prepare myself before purchasing this jacket (I don’t often make large purchases). This coat is fitted and sleek, and is made primarily of wool and cashmere – making it warm enough for even the Canadian winter.

Dr. Martens: I recently wore my black pair of Dr. Martens on a hike in the rain, and they proved to be quite sturdy and water-resilient. At some points on the hike, I purposely slid through the mud since my boots could take it and it made the hike more fun. I’ve had my pair for about nine years now, and I find the fading leather and creases quite charming.



Blueblood Steakhouse at Casa Loma: This extravagant restaurant in the grand Casa Loma castle is an absolutely unforgettable dining experience. I’m not typically a huge fan of steaks, but my 28 day Canadian centre cut was phenomenal. I was blown away by how tender and juicy every bite was; all the other dishes at this restaurant were also amazing. I highly recommend getting the side gorgonzola mac and cheese, the sweet potato ribbon fries, the kale chips, and the duck fat fries (which are massive). Also leave room for dessert – their baked Alaska (which they flambé in front of the table) was a complete star on its own.

Fiorentina café: Everything is made from scratch at this cozy small restaurant on the Danforth. I came here for brunch and would highly recommend the sour cherry compote pancakes – one thick cake-like pancake doused in syrup. The chili lime breakfast potatoes also carry a unique twist on the classic brunch favourite.

KOST at Bisha Hotel: This gorgeous restaurant on the 44th floor of the posh Bisha hotel was not what I expected it to be. Rather than embodying the typical fine dining scene of an upscale hotel, this restaurant was relaxed, airy, and carried fun bohemian vibes. It is the perfect sunny spot for brunch in the city. I recommend trying the chili potatoes and energy bowl.




Autumn style picks

Let’s face it – dressing for the fall season can be hard. I always struggle with the cold transition – should I layer up? Is it that cold that I should wear my winter jacket? Can I wear tights under a skirt and still be warm?

Here are some of the outfit styles that I have been playing with during this chillier weather:

Fall outings

I recently dug up an old pair of overalls from my closet (don’t even know where they came from, to be honest). I’m really happy I found them since they go well with many fall tops, such as a large fluffy sweater, a turtleneck, or even a light long-sleeve on sunnier afternoons in autumn. Jean overalls also tend to be quite warm on their own, especially due to the extra protection up top.

Overalls: Old Navy
Black turtleneck: H&M
Sunglasses: Primark


Morning coffee runs

I love layering in the fall, and have grown especially fond of this black romper I got from Oak + Fort. It has a V-neck plunge that goes well with a simple turtleneck or a long sleeve shirt. I wear it with black tights and ankle boots for warmth now, but have also worn it during the summer with a simple black bralette or tank top underneath.

Grey turtleneck: Forever XXI
Black romper: Oak + Fort
Black tights: H&M


Girls night out:

Longer skirts are key for fancier outings during this cold season. I found this silky pleated skirt to be quite versatile – it can be paired with a tight black turtleneck for sleeker events, or toned down with a cropped black crew neck sweater for more casual outings.

Black Turtleneck: H&M
Pleated pink skirt : H&M


Fancy events:

Jumpers are a good option for formal events during the fall since they keep your legs warm even if you wander outside for a little (given that you still wear a jacket). It’s also quite fun (and liberating) to wear wide-legged pants on the dance floor.

Jumper: M Boutique
Heels: Call it Spring 



August Favourites

My birthday is in August, making it my favourite month by default. I also find that the long weekend in August is also a good time for my family to get together for trips. This year, we went to the Tobermory and Collingwood (Blue Mountain) area to do some hiking, picnic lunches, and boat riding. Here are my favourite products that I’ve encountered throughout this month:



  • Carrot Rewards App: Linked to a user’s Aeroplan, Petro-Points, More Rewards, or Cineplex’s Scene, the Carrot Rewards App allows a user to complete surveys about health and fitness for reward points. This app has recently been subsidized by the Canadian government in hopes of promoting better nutrition and fitness among Canadians. Use the code jasmineh5166 to redeem bonus points when you sign-up!
  • Ritual: With a large number of restaurants on the app, Ritual allows users to conveniently order food for pick-up. Every order collects points, which can be used to redeem discounts or special offers. Use this link in your mobile browser to get $10 off your first order.



  • Kiehl’s Mango Lip Balm: My lips became severely chapped after hiking in the sun during the August long weekend. After a day’s use of the Kiehl’s lip balm, I could see significant improvements in repairing the damage of my skin. This product is more expensive than regular lip balms ($12), so I would only strongly recommend it if your lips are severely chapped.



  • Fitness Leggings by FableticsThe material of these leggings is comfortable, breathable, and most importantly, opaque. Some leggings on this site also have outside pockets to store your phone/iPod, which is ideal for jogging. New members of Fabletics also receive special discounts, including workout leggings for 2 for $24.  I’ve searched around and trust me, getting two pairs of such high quality for less than $25 is an amazing deal. 



  • AYCE Sushi at KaKa: I love All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) sushi dinners every once in a while. My visit to KaKa this month was actually my first AYCE this year, and it was incredible. The restaurant has an impressive range of items, as well as specialties including torched sushi, pressed sushi, spring egg soup, and takoyaki balls. I absolutely love the taste of torched fish, so having an AYCE experience with it was amazing.
  • Black Sesame Ice Cream at Kekou Gelato: I’ve tasted quite a number of black sesame ice creams before, but the one at this gelato shop was impressively creamy and rich in flavour. Kekou also has many other interesting flavours, such as Vietnamese Ice Coffee, Oolong Tea, and Whiskey Green Tea.
  • Cornish Hen at Peoples Eatery: This unassuming restaurant in Chinatown Toronto always seems to be buzzing with people, and for good reason. I finally tried eating here this month with some friends and loved it; everything from the atmosphere to the food was amazing. I would highly recommend trying the Cornish Hen, General Tso Tofu, and HDB (sashimi salad). I shared these three dishes among four friends, and it left us all completely full.

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:



  • 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 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.



  • 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.



  • 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!



  • 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!

Best Foods in Toronto

One of the things that I appreciate most about Toronto is the diversity of foods available. From Thai to Cuban, I can probably do a world food tour in this one city. I used to have a “one time restaurant” rule, where I would try to go to a restaurant only once so that I could try more places. However, I’ve recently found myself wanting to return to some restaurants in Toronto, just because of the great food and service, and I’ll know what to expect walking in. Here’s a list of some of my favourite places to eat around the city and what to order.



  • La Cubana: This Cuban diner offers a refreshing cultural take on the classic idea of brunch, serving Cuban sandwiches, rice dishes, and smashed plantains for a deliciously hearty meal.
  • Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine: The wait line for this popular brunch spot tends to be ridiculously long, especially on weekends, yet still justified by the amazing (and value) Egyptian dishes. The food is as colourful as it is delicious.
  • Saving Grace: This homey restaurant is the Saturday morning spot to get a good home-cooked brunch in a warm, cozy setting. They have daily features as well as classic morning staples, including banana pancakes, French toast, and egg scrambles.
  • Starving Artist: Everything at this joint is served on waffles, whether it be eggs benedict on miniature waffles or bacon sandwiched inside a warm square waffle. The creative dishes here combine unconventional flavours, yet still turn out delicious.



  • Jacob’s Steakhouse: Renowned for its steak, Jacob’s has an impressive range of cuts available, and the chef here is sure to cook the steak exactly the way it’s been requested. Their Caesar salad also makes for a great starter, and it’s prepared table side.
  • Trattoria Nervosa’s Capensate: Four juicy seared scallops are served on top of a chickpea puree and kale salad, dressed with an artichoke vinaigrette and sprinkled with pistachios. The large scallops are cooked perfectly and their taste contrasts nicely with the earthy complements.



  • Gusto 101’s Mafalde ai Funghi: This complicated-sounding pasta features portobello, porcini, crimini, oyster mushrooms, parmigiano, truffle paste, and a light cream sauce. It’s rich and creamy, and although it did have a strong fungi taste, it wasn’t overwhelming.
  • Mama’s Dumplings: This unassuming restaurant in Chinatown makes the best fresh handmade noodles and dumplings. Try the beef noodle soup and veggie dumplings.
  • Momofuku Daishō Rice Cakes: Their rice cakes are pan fried, forming a crispy exterior while remaining soft and chewy on the inside. They’re mixed together with spicy pork sausage, Chinese broccoli, and tofu.
  • Pai’s Khao Soi: Khao Soi is my favourite Thai dish, ever. It’s a thick curry-based soup with egg noodles and meat, topped with more crispy egg noodles. I also recommend trying the squash fritters and Thai milk iced tea at this restaurant.



  • Lee’s Singaporean Style Slaw: This massive salad features 19 different ingredients; the flavours are explosive and complicated, yet work delightfully well together.
  • Piano Piano’s Chopped Salad: This salad is made of many different ingredients but still maintains a good flavour balance; it consists of of salami, olives, feta, brussel sprouts, oregano, crisp polenta, and dandelions.



  • Jabistro torched sushi: The torched sushi here is done perfectly; Jabistro’s fish is extremely fresh and contrasts well with the slight seared taste.
  • Japango Butterfish Sushi: True to its name, the butterfish is so fresh it literally melts on your tongue like butter.
  • Miku torched sushi: This restaurant by the waterfront is famous for its torched sushi. I would recommend getting the Miku set course dinner to celebrate a special occasion; it’s pricier but worth it for what you get.



  • Bang Bang Ice Cream: The cookies and ice cream here are made in-store, and feature fun, creative flavours like London Fog and burnt toffee. I recommend getting an ice cream cookie sandwich so you get to try both the cookies and the ice cream here!
  • Canoe’s Butter Tart: The ‘deconstructed’ presentation of the butter tart here is a creative twist on the classic favourite, and the view from this upscale restaurant isn’t half bad either.
  • Emma’s Country Kitchen Donuts: This homey brunch spot features creative weekly specials for donuts, with flavours from maple bacon to lemon meringue.



  • El Catrin: This eccentric restaurant in the Distillery District makes the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. The cod is lightly battered, crispy, and oozes with fresh fish on the inside. El Catrin also features the option to add fried crickets in an order of guacamole; I’ve never tried it… but hey, maybe one day.
  • Seven Lives: This iconic spot in Kensington Market serves some of the best tacos in the city, as demonstrated by its wait line that always seems to be trailing out the door. I recommend trying the Gobernador and Baja fish taco.



  • Doomie’s: This “vegan junk food heaven” serves burgers, fries, poutine, and even delicious deep fried mac & cheese balls.
  • Fresh Restaurant’s Quinoa Onion Rings: These humongous onion rings are coated with quinoa and battered to a deep golden perfection.
  • Kupfert & Kim: I’m not vegan, but I enjoy going to Kupfert & Kim quite regularly. Their salad boxes are filling, tasty, and pair nicely with kombucha.

June Favourites

June was a bittersweet month. Although I was sad about it being my last month of traveling in Europe, part of me was also excited to be going home. After spending almost half a year abroad, I found myself really learning to appreciate my home back in Canada, especially the small things.


Here are some of my favourite products that I came across during my last month of traveling in June:


  • A Man Called Ove: I’ve never read a book as heartwarming yet comically written as A Man Called Ove. The main character is so sarcastic yet unforgiveably charming While the book probably made me cry about five times, it is still one of my favourites and I would highly, highly recommend it for a great read.
  • The Widow: I could not put this book down; it was a thrilling read that had me gripped with terror and adrenaline as I learned more and more with every page the secrets and thoughts that ran through the mind of the dead murderer’s wife.


  • Kiko Milano’s Eyebrow Marker: This was my first eyebrow liner ever, and I love it. It’s easy to apply and stays on the entire day.
  • Coconut Oil: After spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat in Greece, both my mum’s and my skin became very dry from prolonged sun exposure. Coconut oil is a natural remedy available in many grocery stores that heals and moisturizes dry skin. Using natural products such as coconut oil also reduce the risk of exposing your skin to any artificial or harsh chemicals.


  • Theobroma Chocolate (60% Dark Chocolate with Raspberry): I normally don’t like raspberry chocolate, but the dark bar made by Theobroma neatly tucks in morsels of dried raspberry (rather than your typical jam flavoring), giving the chocolate a refreshing and fruity textural burst.
  • Terra Carpo’s Sesame Candied Peanuts (Athens): This small coffee shop tucked away on the busy streets of Athens was filled with people when we went in to take a look. In addition to hot and cold beverages, this shop also sell snacks by weight, including different nuts and dried fruits. Their sesame candied peanuts are absolutely amazing (and insanely addictive).


  • Bershka Palazzo pants: These high-waisted pants are soft and flowy, so they’re great even during the summertime. I wore them when I was in Morocco, where females are highly encouraged to wear long pants, and the roominess of the pants ensured that I stayed cool despite the heat. I got the black pair, and they’re versatile in the way that they are able to match with many different tops.

May Favourites

I can’t believe it’s May already, meaning that it’s my last semester of exchange (and undergrad!!) My last exam is on the 30th and while I can’t wait for exams to be over, part of me is also sad that it’s ending – just as I’m finding the hidden gems around Boccconi University too.


On a brighter note, I’ve come across some pretty cool products and places this past month, and thought I’d share my favourite here:


  • Microfiber towels: Described as “ultra compact, super absorbent, and fast-drying,” these towels are ideal for traveling and take up minimal space in your backpack.
  • Ultralight sleeping bag liner: This sleeping bag is super light and thin. It’s not meant to provide warmth; rather, it acts as a clean liner so that you feel comfortable sleeping in any bed (no matter what your hostel may be rated).


  • Kiehl’s creamy eye treatment with avocado: Since exchange, I’ve been spending a lot more time outdoors; and I’ve realized that my skin (especially the eye area) can be quite sensitive towards the springtime weather changes. The area around my eyes began to get slightly itchy, red, and puffy as the weather got warmer in Italy. I went to Kiehl’s to get this cream, and could immediately see a difference after my first use. This product is creamy and moisturizing, and it contains vitamin A, avocado oil and fatty acids. I would definitely recommend it if you’ve been experiencing adverse skin changes towards the spring transition.
  • Lush’s honey lip scrub: Again, if you are experiencing drier than normal skin due to the spring time weather changes, this lip scrub is the way to go. It’s filled with hints of peppermint oil, which cools and freshens, as well as sweet wild orange oil, which provides a nice citrus taste. The best part is that it’s edible so you can happily lick the scrub off (or wipe it off, whichever you prefer).


  • Tiger (Flying Tiger Copenhagen): This is the place to go to pick up almost anything you may need on a daily basis (coffee mugs, notepads, washing bag, etc.) Prices are fairly low, ranging from one to three euros for most items. They also sell delicious snacks – try their Dutch stroopwafels and chocolate milk.
  • Bershka: This store is the perfect place to get some spring/summer attire at affordable prices, especially when compared to other European stores around the Duomo area in Milan. I would describe the style to be a more mature version of Forever 21, or a younger version of H&M.


  • Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs by David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano: This novel was a mandatory reading for one of my courses at school; I wasn’t particularly excited to read it at first (although comparatively more excited to read this one than the two other compulsory readings of actual textbooks), but I was quickly engrossed in the lessons inspired by the individual story of three of the world’s most successful businessmen. I would recommend it if you are interested in entrepreneurship, the technology space, or simply in learning more about the people and story behind some of the greatest products that we use on a daily basis. The narration isn’t technical but focused more on the actual story.


  • Ravioli di Zucca e Ricotta: I found this at my local supermarket and it’s incredible. I recommend it if you have a sweet tooth, since the pumpkin filling is sweet but contrasts well with its savory dough encasement. This ravioli doesn’t even require any sauce; it’s so good, I just top it with some sea salt to enhance the sweetness of the pumpkin filling. This is my socially acceptable way to practically have dessert for dinner.
  • Ricotta Spread: In Italy, the cheese aisle (yes, an entire block at the supermarket dedicated to cheese) is filled with an almost alarmingly large amount of different dairy products that I didn’t even know existed before. I recently purchased a tub of ricotta, softened to the point of being easily spreadable on toast, and it’s amazing – fluffy, soft, and mild in taste. It’s also super cheap – about 180 grams for 0.89 euros.
  • Venchi Gelato: I’ve heard really good things about this part-chocolate-part-gelato store, and I waited for the day I had to write two exams to treat myself as a celebratory reward. I got the waffle cone rimmed with hazelnut chocolate and candied hazelnut bits, a scoop of Brutto & Buenos (milk chocolate with chopped hazelnuts) as well as a scoop of cuor di cacao (75% extra-dark chocolate). The combination was unbelievable.