5 Fun and Frugal Ways to Have the Best Summer Ever*

June 20, 2016
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Summer is so close I can almost taste it. There's nothing like a year full of gruelling work to help you appreciate the summertime even more. After having such a jam-packed summer vacation last year (click here for more about my life-changing summer experience), I am determined to make the most of my freedom before I take my next big step towards university. As we all know, uni rhymes with another word, money -- and you need lots of it to get there. So, as a young student on a budget, I can't afford to jet off to Ibiza and have the kind of summer that they write songs about. However, there are plenty of ways to have a summer full of memories and Instagrammable photos on a budget. You can have the kind of hometown summer experience that they make movies about.

Luckily for me, my hometown just so happens to be Toronto. Home of the Raptors, the Six, the cradle which forms the essence of Drake's swagger and a multitude of sights, sounds, and tastes. But, whether you live in the heart of the urban jungle, or in the cosiest of towns, adapting the ideas that I will present to you are bound to inspire others of your own. So, in collaboration with Personal Capital, here are a few "fun yet frugal" summer activities.

Racing  through the Six



I'm extremely excited to try this out this summer. In this activity, the TTC (public transit) is your chauffeur and the city is your playground. Pair up in teams of two or if you are under the age of 19, in whatever combination satisfies the use of two day passes (ie. two teams). Prior to the activity each team creates 3 challenges of similar difficulty and gives them to the opposite team. Challenges are completed upon having taken a photo (for proof) and sending it to the other team. The first team to make it back to the rendezvous point (preferably at someone's house or at your squad's favourite restaurant) is the winner.

The challenges could be something as easy as feeding a duck by the Harbourfront, or something as silly as doing a handstand at the base of the CN Tower. Either way, they should be fun and take each group around the city.

Cost: $12/per group (for the day pass)



Pic nic Perfect


"Some beautiful paths can't be discovered without getting lost."
~ Erol Ozan

  • A camera
  • A picnic blanket
  • A friend or two
  • Picnic food

I love getting lost, especially in nature. I used to take bike rides with a friend and we would purposefully take random twists and turns in order to get lost and discover new parts. Take the day, grab a buddy, pack a lunch and head down to the Evergreen Brickworks or to High Park and immerse yourself in nature. Trust me, you'll leave with a clearer head and a few hundred more calories on your Fitbit. Not to mention some great Instagram photos, like this one.



Photo credits: My father

Cost: approximately $30 (for the food)


Visit the Local Festivals


The best part about living in the city is that there is always, and I mean always, something going on. You just have to be open-minded. Participating in local festivals is a great way to immerse yourself into the heart of the city while eating tons of great food from different cultures. Personally, any opportunity to eat something new and exciting is worth it. Grab the latest copy of NOW (or your local city's newspaper) or check out your hometown's website to find out the dates of the events coming up. My personal favourites? The TD Toronto Jazz Festival, the CNE, Salsa on St. Clair and any event that's hosted at the Harbourfront.

Cost: $5-$30 (for food and small rides) 

Around the World in 80 Snaps


  • A camera
  • A city map
  • A TTC Day Pass
This one is a great way to "travel" without actually leaving the city. I love that as you walk through the city suddenly each step falls in sync with the vibrations of all the other lives running perpendicular and parallel to your own. It's exciting and most often then not, you leave the experience having found a new corner of the city to call your own. Grab a friend or three, choose a (insert country here)town  and start exploring. This can be a one day trip where you try to see as many little countries as possible. Or, it can be a weekly thing where you and your pals meet up and truly experience each corner of the city. My personal favourites are Greektown and Chinatown.

Cost: $12 per pass 


Camp Backyardigan


  • A tent + other camping gear
  • Flashlights
  • A backyard
  • Christmas lights
  • A s'mores kit (optional)

You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city of the girl. I've never been camping, but I've always liked the idea of it. When I was younger I would make pillow forts for my sister and I to sleep in, where we would read with flashlights and eat "s'mores" (which were just melted chocolate chip cookies). A more sophisticated way of meshing the camping experience, with the urban jungle is to camp out in a friend's backyard instead. All you need is a tent -- or if the weather is right, a few blankets for the floor and drapes for the walls of your fort --, Christmas lights, and a s'mores kit (because from what I've heard no camping experience is complete without them). Whether you're telling scary ghost stories or gossiping, enjoy the essence of the country plus the amenities of the city all at the same time.

Cost: $8 - $20 (depending on how many s'mores kits you buy and/or if you make your own)

~Alexandra XO


Psst psst... Personal Capital offers a whole slew of applications and software to keep even the busiest gal on track with their finances!
Psst... Check out this DIY Summer Sand Bucket List for a nifty way to keep track off all your summer goals.

What does your perfect summer day look like?



Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

June 13, 2016

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Why not me? A question whose answer fuels the fire of ambition and creativity within us all. The phrase has spurred people to work harder and learn faster. It's inspired people to ask questions that motivate others. The title of this second Mindy Kaling compilation of life thoughts, lessons and poignant, yet comical essays, is an invitation to all those who have yet to answer that question. The book is an outstretched hand which insists that even if you haven't found the answer, all you have to do is follow along so that you can figure it out together.

Honestly, the best part about Why Not Me? is that you feel like you're talking to Mindy while sitting on your sofa, sipping on tea (or wine in her case) and snacking on chocolate covered pretzels. When she says, “I can’t for the life of me not eat something that I want to eat.” You think, yeah me too! When she says, “I think it’s a federal crime parking meters won’t accept pennies. Yeah, government, we know pennies suck. But you made them! You have to accept them!” You think, Finally, someone speaks the truth!  It's raw, it's real, it's relatable, and I love every minute of it. Mindy's second instalment is juicier than Angus beef and more engaging than your older sister's diary. Not mention it's a veritable godsend -- for fans of The Mindy Project or of The Office -- who will appreciate the various throwbacks tossed in here and there. Featuring earnest advice on weight, love and life, she composes a rich and colourful mosaic that is the life of a young comedienne.

Filled with BFF breakups, soup snakes and other storytelling gems, each page is laced with her special brand of heartfelt humour, proving once again that laughter is the best cure. Mindy's jokes turn tales of woe, into tales of hope, and an embarrassing mishap, into a mere snafu not to be dwelled upon. Her sincere take on the various events that occur in her life, make you want to confront your own with a carefree hair flip and a bold, "Ha! Ha! Ha!".

In Why Not Me?  Mindy Kaling offers her readers a look into her day-to-day life, showing that you've got to think big to be big. Through her eyes we navigate the intricacies of Hollywood, the land of glitz, glam and "it's complicated" relationships. One chapter at a time, she proves that the number one way to have it all and to kill it in your career, is to work hard (or die trying). Why Not Me? is the unveiling of  a shared narrative that belongs to all those who are supposedly "different", and for those whose big dreams and even greater levels of ambition are often times intimidating to smaller minded people. As we watch her take each debacle in stride and in good spirit, we're left mesmerized and energized to head out, and to take the first steps towards our own destinies. In this way, she solidifies her spot as a great role model for men, women and children, of ages 8 to 88.


“Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled. Listen to no one except the two smartest and kindest adults you know, and that doesn't always mean your parents. If you do that, you will be fine.”
~Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?   


~Alexandra XO


Who is your role model?



For more on The Mindy Project, check out 5 Important Life Lessons The Mindy Project Taught Me

The Number One Backpack Essential That Everybody Needs

June 06, 2016
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Let's say that you were running late for class and got a little sweaty. What if, that time of the month decides to arrive a little earlier than usual? What if you want to discreetly spy on that Zac Efron look alike who sits a few rows behind you?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and potential pitiful occurrences call for preplanned courses of action. Never fear, The Emergency Kit is here. No fuss, no muss, no pixie dust, just a cute bag full of useful everyday items. The Emergency Kit is the perfect way to ensure that you can handle some of life's curve balls that just love to hit when you're in class. So, without further adieu, here's what you'll need:



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A small purse


The only requirements for this step is that the little purse is cute and fits easily into larger sized bags and/or backpacks. Try to choose one that's not made of fabric, because if it's sitting at the bottom of your knapsack then it is bound to get a bit scuffed after having countless binders and pencils thrown on top of it.

Lip balm


Chapped lips are a big no, no. Having well moisturized lips is very important to me. I'm pretty sure that when I was born, before my mom ever said my name aloud, she made sure to put some lip balm on me. So it's needless to say that I'm a dedicated user since day one. Save money and time and buy yourself a lip balm, instead of all those fancy lip scrubs.

Lip gloss


Maybe you need to jet-off to an event and need to make the transition from everyday gal to alluring damsel in very little time. My go-to? Lip gloss or lip stain. But feel free to pack a tube of mascara or any other of your preferred makeup essentials as well.

A compact mirror


I know that it's probably more discrete to use your phone's front camera as a mirror, but I love the old-timey air of mystery that compact mirrors create. They teach you to master the art of subtlety. You learn to become effortlessly sneaky. Besides that, they offer you the best close-ups without any of the surprising flashes or distortions due to bad lighting. Either way, I'm most definitely a fan.

Tissues


I'm also pretty sure that when I cried in that emergency room, that my mom was quick to whip out her pack of tissues to wipe away my tears. My mother's insistence that we always have a pack wherever we go, has resulted in a family-wide dislike of sniffling and snuffling. An event that is hard to ignore during the winter season, but that can be lessened with a handy pack of tissues in your emergency kit.

Roll on perfume


Why roll on? So, that it doesn't invade anyone else's "personal scent bubble". Why not deodorant? Because the tube probably won't fit your kit (unless it's the small Degree ones) -- I leave my deodorant in my actual backpack instead. Roll on perfume is the best way to control the amount of scent you put on, and to target the exact areas where you want to smell good. Bonus! Just the act of smelling the tube is enough to boost your mood for the day.

Hand cream


Once again, back to the emergency room flashback. Scaly, ashy and cracked hands are another family-wide don't. My friends always know that they can count on me to offer them some hand cream when they need it. I make an effort to have a tube (whether it's of my own concoction or bought from the store) in all of my emergency kits -- and yes, I do have several.

Note: You can save space and do a two in one combination of fragrance and moisture, by using a scented hand cream. I love any fragrance from Bath and Body Works.

Feminine napkins + smaller bag


I have an abundance of extremely small bags which all fit into each other perfectly like one of those Russian nesting dolls. So, I put any pads or tampons in there, so that I can discreetly pull them out during moments when I can't bring the entire emergency kit with me.

Band aids


Getting blisters on the back of your heels are the worst. They make everything from there on out horrible. Suddenly, you get shivers up your spine at the thought of wearing shoes. And you start contemplating whether or not you should replace all the shoes you do have with Crocs. Save yourself the heartache and the money, and slip a few band aids of varying sizes in your emergency kit. Whether it's because you got an actual cut, or because a blister do actual develop, you will thank me and yourself in the future.

~Alexandra XO


What do you keep in your emergency kit?




@itsalamb