10/2017: Beats and Bites

November 06, 2017
S'mores Hot Chocolate from the Short and Sweet Bakeshop Café

Although the colors of Fall in Toronto arrived late this month, its flavors and aromas made an appearance almost as soon as I flipped my calendar from September to October.

Hesitantly, Fall slowly but surely decided to make itself known. Despite the delay, I was more than happy to embrace what few pops of color that Mother Nature was willing to share as the treetops changed from a persistent green to a shy yellow, to a sleepy orange, to a roaring red, and finally a blushing brown, as they completed their telltale waltz through the Autumn air that has become as crisp as the dried leaves that pave the city streets.

Yet, summer clung on, and the sun hung on so tight that as the days grew shorter, each sunset burned a little deeper and a little longer, stretching the moment between today and tonight and making it feel as infinite as the shadows cast by its rays.

But, finally, we are here. It's Fall. So, cheers to surviving the end of October and all the ghosts, ghouls and grueling midterms that it had to offer. Cheers to the start of the colors of November, and all the green trees, white lights and red noses -- or should I say, one blinking nose -- that it has to bring. 

Garlic Bread Grilled Cheese (Yes! That is Monterey Jack that you see there, and lots of it)





Macaroni and Cheese ... and a whole lot of other good stuff.

Puff Pastry Pumpkin Pie (try saying that three times fast) (Find the recipe for the filling here)

Belgian Waffles (these are super great check out the recipe here)

El Dia de los Muertos

November 02, 2017

I've been enamoured with the idea of the Day of the Dead, since I learned what a calavera was. I would see them in my TV shows (thank you PBS!) and I remember thinking, "How do they make them?" and "I wonder if each color represents a different flavour?" And most importantly, "How can I take part?" But overall, I was just mesmerized by the bright colors, especially in relation to death. It's a word often synonymous with black or white, but never the spectrum in between and I was shook (not shaken, shook). I still am. To my young self, it seemed like the perfect act of rebellion against the invisible force that takes loved ones away from us. It was a way to not vanish from this world like a candle light into thin, wispy tendrils of smoke. It was an opportunity to be remembered leaving the world the way we came in, with lots of noise, joy, and gifts.

Either way, it seemed a lot better than being mummified -- after watching The Mummy and Indiana Jones, 10-year-old me wasn't too fond of the possibility of coming back to life wrapped in (what I mistakenly thought to be) toilet-paper -- and a whole lot more festive than a Viking Burial. I vowed that if I ever got a chance to celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, I would, and I did, and now I can share it with you. I hope you enjoy and that you make sure to check out if you're own city has any festivities going on!

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Je suis entiché pas El dia de los muertos (le jour des morts) depuis que je suis toute petite et que j'ai vue ma première calavera. J'ai été introduit à la fête quand je regardais la télévision et je me souviens d'avoir pensé trois choses:

Comment est-ce qu'on crée un calavera?
Est-ce que chaque couleur correspond à une saveur différente?
Comment puis-je participer?

J'adorais toutes les couleurs, particulièrement portée pour une situation qui est souvent entourée de couleurs sombres, le décès d'un bien-aimé. Pour jeune Alex, c'était l'acte de parfait de rébellion. Au lieu de quitter ce monde silencieusement comme une bougie éteint, laissant aucune trace sauf la fumée qui s'écroule vers le plafond, tu quitteras avec un grand éclat, avec une telle vivacité que ceux et celles qui restent ne pourrons pas contenir leurs rires, leurs sourires et oui, évidemment leurs larmes. Mais, la différence est que celles-ci ne seront pas pour ta mort, mais pour les souvenirs de ta vie quand vous étiez tout sain et sauf. À vrai dire, pour une fille de 10 ans, tout avait l'air, plus intéressant que d'être momifié ou enterrer à la manière des Vikings. Le jour même, j'ai voué que dès que j'aurais la chance de célébrer El dia de los muertos une que je le ferai. J'ai gardé ma promesse et j'ai amené ma caméra (et ma sœur) pour que je puisse partager avec vous aussi.














In dedication to my papou

#MsBookworm Mash-Up: The Lazy Guru's Guide to Strange Cases and Wandering Stars

October 09, 2017
#MsBookworm Mash-Up: The Lazy Guru's Guide to Strange Cases and Wandering Stars. A review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Beneath the Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles and the Lazy Guru's Guide to Life by Laurence Shorter.

Let's be real. I'm a student, and between textbooks, novels, and articles, reading one book (no matter how good it is) can sometimes take me months to read. Then when I eventually do finish, it can take me a while to getting around to summarizing it and posting it here. So, I decided to do "crash course" on the books I loved, but since my memory is a little foggy on the details of their contents I don't have enough to write a full-length post about each of them separately. After all, you shouldn't be deprived of a few excellent quotes and reads on my account. Anyway, if you've read them or are thinking about reading them let me know what you think! :)

#MsBookworm Mash-Up: The Lazy Guru's Guide to Strange Cases and Wandering Stars. A review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Beneath the Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles and the Lazy Guru's Guide to Life by Laurence Shorter.

For the Laid-back Go-Getter: Lazy Guru's Guide to Life: A Mindful Approach to Achieving More by Doing Less by Laurence Shorter


This book is literally like taking a shot of positivity and zen. There are mostly pictures and the words are in a big font, so you can pretty much zoom through this one in under an hour (I finished it on my commute to and from dance class).

The book lays out the bare necessities of life in a quick and concise way. But it does leave you buzzing with positive energy and a new calmer, if not "lazier", way of tackling life's problems, going about getting things done, and chasing your dreams.

Favourite quote:

" 'Shoulds' don't generally help us to feel happier like they pretend to. Instead they tend to work the opposite way. This is because shoulds exist to protect our boxes... so they won't have to get opened (that's why they're so convincing)."  ~ Laurence Shorter, Lazy Guru's Guide to Life

For the Romantic Soul Searcher: Beneath the Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles

#MsBookworm Mash-Up: The Lazy Guru's Guide to Strange Cases and Wandering Stars. A review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Beneath the Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles and the Lazy Guru's Guide to Life by Laurence Shorter.


We follow 17-year-old military brat Gabi Santiago as she embarks on a multi-week trek through the European countryside. As she fulfills her injured brother's wish for her and his childhood best friend Seth, to walk the camino de santiago. The pilgrimage takes her and us on a soul-searching journey across the lush rural landscape as she tries to explain and understand the meaning behind all the hurt her family is currently experiencing and that people inflict on each other in different ways. All the while learning more about the world she thought she knew and the girl she thought she was. As she and other characters share and wrestle with their inner demons, they grow wiser and lighter with each chapter as romance burbles to the surface and we all learn the importance of family, good friends and following your own path. 

Favourite quote

"Go ahead. Cry. Curse. Get angry. You need to. But afterwards, after you get it all out, you go back to being strong for him, all right?"
~ Ashlee Cowles, Beneath the Wandering Stars


For Your Inner-Sherlock: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson



#MsBookworm Mash-Up: The Lazy Guru's Guide to Strange Cases and Wandering Stars. A review of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Beneath the Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles and the Lazy Guru's Guide to Life by Laurence Shorter.


Honestly, I was completely spooked while reading this. I scare easily (especially when I am reading at night ... alone) but even though I knew the plot-twists of the classic tale, I was still left with that telltale chill down my spine as I flipped excitedly through the pages. But surprisingly, I found myself laughing out loud. The characters can be humorously dramatic sometimes *coughs* Dr. Lanyon *cough* *cough* and unbelievably (if not willfully) oblivious. Mr. Utterson, I'm talking to you.

The curious case follows Mr. Utterson on a wild goose hunt through the upper echelons of Victorian-era London society, as he unlocks dark secrets and even darker pasts, as things are not as prim and proper they seem. Murder and darkness lurk in every corner and as the body count rises, the story that starts as Mr. Utterson's search for the infamous Mr. Hyde, ends up with him trying to solve the disappearance of his longtime best friend Dr. Jekyll. It was a quick and chilling detective story with enough odd clues and twists and turns to pique even Sherlock Holmes interest and throw him off-kilter as the case builds up to a climactic finale.


Favourite quote
"If he be Mr. Hyde," he had thought, "I shall be Mr. Seek."

09/2017: Beats and Cats

October 01, 2017

I'll be the first to admit that I've never been much of a cat person. Growing up they were always ignoring me, or getting in my way, or stabbing me with their nails (okay, that happened only once and it was an accident, but I digress). But all that changed during my trip to Greece, mainly because they are everywhere! There were so many in fact, that my sister and I began a multi-page "Cat Directory", complete with names and ID of those that we spotted on the mainland or on the islands of Aegina and Mykonos. By the end of it, I felt a little bit like Jane Goodall, except instead of living among the animals and learning their ways, I just tried to get as close as I could before they noticed me and ran away.

When looking for food photos to post for September's roundup, unfortunately, all I could find were a few measly photos of various crêpes I had eaten and a glass of lemonade served in a mason jar. Not exactly the kind of photos that make you salivate with hunger. Fortunately, I did have a ton of cat pictures, and I figured, who doesn't love cute animals? Even if you're allergic, here's an extremely hypoallergenic way to get up-close-and-personal with a few friendly, if not, extremely sleepy, felines. 










Cute Cars I've Spotted Pt I

September 18, 2017


I may not have mentioned it before but I love vintage cars. My earliest childhood memories consist of me watching American Chopper on the sofa with my dad. All of those hours spent watching old bikes getting transformed back into pieces of mobile art has solidified a deep-rooted love for machines. As I grew older, watching (and incessantly rewatching) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Herbie: Fully Loaded as a kid has solidified my deep-rooted love for vintage cars. As a result, I get pretty excited whenever I see any.

I sometimes even take pictures.

Okay, I almost always try to snap a photo...

Okay, okay, I totally did snap a few photos.

Greece was full of European models I've never heard of (or have only heard my parents dreamily speak of as a child). So, it's safe to say that I went a little nuts and my heart did a little happy dance à la Snoopy every time one passed by. I wasn't fast enough to capture them all, but luckily those I did manage to photograph were some of my favorites models and colors. I've taken enough to last me a good while, but until then enjoy a few of the vintage (or just plain cute) buggies and one motorcycle I managed to snap while I was there.

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J'adore les voitures classiques. Mes premiers souvenirs de mon enfance sont ceux de moi et mes parents assisses sur le canapé, regardant une émission d'American Chopper. C'est-à-dire que toutes ces heures passées devant la télévision a regardé des vieux motos rouillés devenir des véritables pièces d'arts, a assuré que j'aimerais les machines quand je grandirai. Depuis ce temps-ci, les films Chitty Chitty Bang Bang et Herbie: Fully Loaded, mon aussi influencé et ont transformé cet intérêt pour les machines en un amour profond pour les voitures classiques. Par conséquent, chaque fois que j'en vois une, je suis ravie.

Parfois, je prends même des photos.

D'accord, j'essaie toujours d'en prendre une.

Bon, d'accord, j'en ai pris quelques-unes de trop.

La Grèce avait pleins de modèles européens dont je ne connaissais pas ou que j'avais seulement en entendu parlé dans mon enfance. Malheureusement, je n'étais pas assez rapide pour photographier toutes les jolies voitures qui passaient, mais voici quelques-unes de mes préférées.

Citroën

Volkswagen
Volkswagen



Mini

Peugeot

#MsBookworm: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

September 11, 2017
#MsBookworm: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler


There's nothing scarier than a heat-ravaged world, set in the not-so-distant-future, that as recent world events show, could very well happen. This is by no means a horror novel, but the looming possibility and relatability of the dystopian North America that Butler creates are enough to send a shiver down anyone's spine.

And so our story begins in a time where water is scarce, those fleeing danger outnumber those living in peace. Those that can afford their portion of "peace" find solace within the confines of the large walls that surround their gated communities, which act as the only barrier between them and the dangerous and sometimes not-so-dangerous people and packs of wild dogs who lurk just on the other side of it... and who are consistently try to get in.

In the midst of this turmoil, is our heroine Lauren Olamina. Lauren's an 18-year-old girl with a rare syndrome which causes her to feel too much in her cold and calculating world. In this way, her peculiarity acts as both a curse and gift. A gift that she uses along with her Earthseed verses, to become the leader of a rag-tag group of refugees on their journey North across the deteriorating US landscape in search of the very essentials of life and of home.

In this sci-fi, the enemy is not an alien armada nor is it the living dead. The monsters who keep them up at night and clutching their weapons are other humans. But their judgments are all so clouded with drugs they may as well be mindless beings acting on the instinct to kill. Suddenly, the already dangerous voyage is made much more difficult by the regular presence of gangs, pickpockets, and pyromaniacs who threaten their group and other refugees, and who were responsible for making them homeless to begin with. Wise beyond her years and stronger than even she knows, Lauren struggles to battle the elements and her own peculiarity in order to survive in this "dog eat dog world".

The Parable of the Sower is full of slowly building tension and animosity, and moments of tenderness and clarity that inevitably makes you think about the world we currently live in and the steps we need to take to make the world an even better place.


Favourite quote


“All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

Vegetable Glycerin: The Magic Ingredient You Need to Make Any Cream More Moisturizing

September 04, 2017


As much as I love scented lotions, they just can't seem to provide the right level of moisture my skin needs to survive the winter weather. I often find myself using them in conjunction with other more heavy duty creams or oils in order to get the appropriate level of hydration. That is, until my mom reminded me of an old trick that she uses to boost the bottle of lotion we use for the family.

*drum rolls*

The magic ingredient is the humble but incredibly mighty bottle of vegetable glycerin. Just adding a few glugs to your lotion helps to vastly improve the levels of hydration, and here's a few great reasons why you should start using it.

It's a natural humectant

This is just a fancy word for saying that it uses the moisture in the air to attract hydration to your skin, keeping it feeling soft and feeling smooth. Mixed with other healthy ingredients like essential oils, or vitamins found in your body lotion, it helps to ensure that they're absorbed more easily into your skin.

It does wonders for the hair

I've recently started adding it into my hair regimen, and I can attest to it's supreme moisturizing powers! It's known to be used in many products such as shampoo and soaps, proving that if it works for your skin it should do wonders for your hair as well.

A little goes a long way

The bottles that can be found at either your drugstore or health food store are pretty big, and since you don't need to add that much for it's hydrating properties to kick-in, you'll be able to make multiple batches and use it in various DIYs.

It packs quite a punch

It's used for beauty and medicinal purposes. It's known to be used to treat burns, wounds and other skin diseases like psoriasis.

For more information on glycerin, click herehere, and here.

~Alexandra XO

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Autant que j'adore les crèmes parfumées, ils ne réussissent jamais à être assez hydratants pour ma peau. Ceci cause un problème particulièrement pendant l'hiver quand j'ai envie de sentir comme une fleur tropicale, mais je n'ai pas envie d'avoir la peau aussi sèche que le sable dans lequel, elles poussent. Alors, je me trouve souvent en train de les utiliser avec des huiles ou d'autres crèmes plus efficaces. Et j'allais continuer ma petite rituelle si ma mère n'était pas venue à mon secours en me rappelant l'ingrédient magique qu'elle utilise pour ajouter plus d'hydratation... la glycérine végétale!

C'est un ancien secret, mais c'est efficace. Vous n'avez qu'à ajouter un chouia a votre crème préférée pour en profiter de tout, ces valeurs nutritives.

C'est un humidifiant puissant

Cela veut dire que cela aide à attirer l'humidité dans l'air pour bien hydrater ta peau, pour qu'elle reste doux. Puis, ça facilite l'absorption des éléments nutritifs comme les vitamines et les minéraux dans votre crème. 

C'est excellent pour les cheveux

J'ai récemment commencé à l'ajouter dans ma routine capillaire en le passant (en tant que d'autre crème et huiles) dans mes cheveux. Cela marche formidablement ! De plus, la glycérine végétale est utilisée dans plusieurs produits de beauté comme le shampooing et le savon, ce qui prouve que si ça marche bien pour la peau, il devrait marcher aussi bien pour tes cheveux.

Il en faut très peu

Les bouteilles de glycérines vendues aux magasins d'aliments naturels ou à votre magasin régulier contiennent une grande quantité qui dura très très très longtemps.

C'est utile pour d'autres problèmes de peau

La glycérine est utilisée dans les produits cosmétiques et médicinaux. Elle est connue pour son traitement efficaces des plaies, brûlures et d'autres problèmes de peau comme le psoriasis.

Pour plus d'information sur la glycérine végétale, vous pouvez le trouver ici, ici et ici.

~Alexandra XO

08/2017: Beats and Bites

September 01, 2017

In the month that I've spent in Greece I've probably eaten:

  • 2 different styles of Mosaïko (Μωσαικό)
  • 4 gallons of ice cream (Konstandinidis' is the best in Athens)
  • 6 Granitas (Γρανίτα)
  • 7 Gyros (Γύρος)
  • 10 Pites (Πίτες)
  • 15 Loukoumades (Λουκουμάδες)
  • 30 pieces of bread
  • 100 pieces of various grilled meats
  • 9999 French fries


                  So, below (and the one above) is just a sample of some of the tasty food I've had a chance to eat at either restaurants or that someone graciously took the time to make for me or help me make.

                  Καλή Όρεξη!

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                  Au cours du mois que j'ai passé en Grèce, j'ai mangé à peu près:
                  • 2 styles différents de Mosaïko (Μωσαικό)
                  • 4 litres de glace (La crèmerie Konstandinidis' a les meilleures glaces en Athènes)
                  • 6 Granitas (Γρανίτα)
                  • 7 Gyros (Γύρος)
                  • 10 Pites (Πίτες)
                  • 15 Loukoumades (Λουκουμάδες)
                  • 30 tranches de pain
                  • 100 morceaux de viandes grillées diverses
                  • 9999 frites
                  Alors, voici un échantillon des plats que j'ai mangés dans divers restaurants ou que quelqu'un a cuisiné pour moi ou que j'ai cuisiné moi-même (avec un peu d'aide bien sûr).

                  Καλή Όρεξη!













                  @itsalamb