habitat for humanity – women build toronto

Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in the Women Build Toronto with Habitat for Humanity. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t feel comfortable bringing my phone on the construction site but I still want to share my experience. 

Very briefly, Habitat for Humanity gives family living in poverty a hand up by allowing them to buy homes at low-interest and no money-down. The partner families commit a minimum five-hundred volunteer hours and all the proceeds from the mortgage gets put back into building homes for other families. This allows these families to have a quality, safe home that allows them to break the cycle of poverty for their families. It was noted at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday that all children of the Toronto chapter have gone on to post-secondary education. This allows them to become productive members of society. The Women Build is an annual event held by the organization. It goes for ten days, and this year their goal was one million dollars raised for the organization. This event allows women to come together and build homes, from the ground-up. It provides a great service to the community while giving the women participating a rewarding and unique experience. I joined Team CAWIC, which is a non-profit organization enhancing the experience of women in construction, I do not work in construction but know someone on the board and thought this would be a great experience.

The day began bright and early with a groundbreaking ceremony. Over 80 women watched as the CEO of Habitat, title sponsors of the homes, local politicians and the partner families “broke ground” on these homes. Then we got to work. I’ve never worn a hard hat or steel toe boots, I have extremely limited homebuilding/renovation experience. I can hang a mean picture, and I can hang wallpaper but I was not prepared for what we were getting in to (in a good way). The home I was assigned to was just foundation. I was not expecting to be building a home, I thought there was no way I could do that. I expected that we would be painting, maybe if we got crazy, we’d hang some drywall. Instead, I climbed down a ladder in to what will one day be a family’s basement. At this point it was just gravel. We spent the day doing various tasks, we built stairs to get in and out of the site, we laid sills and shoveled gravel. We worked hard but it was rewarding. Some of the other groups had homes that were further along and they were able to put in floor joists and walls. Most of the women working with us didn’t have a ton of experience in construction but we were able to come together to accomplish an incredible task. Not only were we helping these families change their lives but we were able to prove to ourselves that we were capable of more than we thought possible. By the end of the day, we were aching but had smiles on our faces. We were proud of the work we had accomplished, even though we didn’t make a huge dent in the home, we still played our important role. 

The end of the day had us going back to ‘base camp’, taking off our heavy boots and receiving a great goody bag from some wonder sponsors. I was really impressed with our loot, which included some great coupons and a ticket for the home show coming in October. It was really nice that they were able to give us a token of appreciation, even though a thank you would have been plenty. 

Awesome goody bag from some awesome sponsors. Not pictured, the delicious chocolates I ate in the car on the way home (thanks Purdys!).

I would highly recommend looking into this organization, they always have events and builds going on and could use anybody’s help, even if they use the ladder upside down at first (don’t worry, we fixed it…) and if you’re a woman, definitely look into joining a team next year for the build. You can also still sponsor me for this worthy cause until the end of September, every dollar counts! I’d love to hear where other people volunteer in the community? I’m always looking for new experiences! 

Happy volunteering!

gluten-free expo: five of my favourites

I attended the Gluten-Free Expo this weekend. Based on my previous posts, you can tell I eat gluten but my brother was diagnosed with celiac disease about ten years ago so I’ve been familiar with the diet for years. I’ve also tried the good and the bad (and sometimes that’s very bad) so I thought I would share my favourites I tried at the expo this weekend. In no particular order:

1. Cuisine Solel – They had a large selection of flours. They also had samples of their product and I had to say, it was really delicious. The bread was moist, which is not very easy to do with gluten-free. They also had two types of flour, one that was for the bread maker and one for the over. If you’re into making your own breads, I highly recommend this brand. 

2. Comensoli Foods – We tried some pizza at this station, they were really good. I had the vegan vegetable pizza, it did not taste vegan or gluten-free.  My brother had the cheese – which was not vegan, he loved it so much he bought 4 pizzas. 

3. Queen B – This booth had a large selection of cakes and biscottis. We tried their signature orange cake and their banana hazelnut cake and they were great. They were moist and flavourful (can you tell moist is a big deal for me when eating gluten free). They also had a Cocolime cookie that looked good but I’m not a coconut fan, but if it was anything like their cake it would be great. They also have beautiful packaging, I love pretty things.

4. Pillers – We tried their turkey kielbasa, pepperoni and my brother tried their spicy pepperoni. I loved their kielbasa and pepperoni. I would always be frustrated when purchasing meats and finding out they had filler and wheat in them. This brand proves that it doesn’t have to be filled with gluten to be delicious. 

5. All But Gluten – We tried their bite-sized brownies, they were absolutely fantastic. They were chocolatey and moist (again, with the moist, I know but if you’ve ever had bad gluten-free you know this is important). They were definitely melt-in-your-mouth and tasted like ‘regular’ bite sized brownie. 

The expo was a great opportunity to learn about brands I was not familiar with. There were a number of brands that I had never heard of, it is great to see how many brands are making gluten-free more accessible. When my brother was diagnosed 10 years ago, the gluten-free market was completely different. This expo continues to prove that there are great brands out there providing great food for celiacs, gluten-intolerants and people who just want a delicious brownie! What favourites of yours made the list, or which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments! Happy eating.


We are definitely a culture of never having enough time. 

VolunteerTO recently posted a TEDx Talk from Ben Rigby about microvolunteering. He talks about the fact that over 70% of Americans say they do not have time to volunteer, likely it is similar in Canada. Many non-profits have processes to volunteer with them and many of them have resources stretched thin, so in my experience sometimes it takes a while to get started. Ben Rigby discusses how much time we spend every on games like solitare or farmville (or more recently, candy crush) and he wanted to find a way that people could help from their phones and on their own time. This would give non-profit the resources they need for smaller tasks and also allows the average person to give back and also give the public an easier way to donate their time to causes that are important to them. This talk really articulated how we can all make a difference, without a huge time commitment. 

KoodoNation is a Canadian microvolunteering site. You simply create a profile about what your skills are and the types of causes that are important to you. It can include your bio, links to your site and your social media. You can then search by challenges, causes and skills. Some of the challenges or tasks can take a few minutes; the first one I did was helping a non-profit develop hashtags they could use to promote their organization. All of the information for challenges I could see were targeted to me based on my profile, changes to your profile will give you different results. KoodoNation also makes an effort to make you feel as if you’re part of a community, people and nonprofits can like your suggestions. The site is definitely worth looking around and playing around with; particularly if you want to make a difference but feel overwhelmed by how much time you think you need to make a difference. They say in fundraising “every penny counts”, I think the same could be said for microvolunteering “every second counts”. 

tedx talks: learning to fly

I had the chance back in July to see Bobby Umar speak at “Hello! My Name Is…”, I really enjoyed his talk that evening on ways to network. What really spoke to me was that networking is about what you can do for other people. Bobby has also done a series of TED Talks. For those who don’t know what those are (don’t worry, I only recently learned), TED talks are presentations that are a maximum of 18 minutes about any ideas “worth sharing”.

The presentation I watched this evening was called Learning to Fly, which was presented at UTSC back in February. I think this is an excellent video for university and college students, particularly at this time of year because this is the time to be asking questions about where you want to go on the path of life. For many students, this week was the first week they spent away from home and Bobby’s discussions on leaving the nest really put into perspective how important that is. Others, who are going in to their second, or third, or fourth, (or fifth, or whatever) year, may be wondering what their plans are for the next year and how these new classes, new groups and new experiences will benefit them throughout their life. 

In less than 18 minutes, Bobby gives the audience the steps to “learn to fly”. Bobby asks at the beginning of the video “Why not?” and goes on to say that it is a very important question. I thought that was absolutely true, while living overseas, I was constantly asked “Why are you here?” or “Why did you go?” and the best answer I could give any of those people was “Why not?”. He discusses how you can live your super life and how you can start right now. He discusses how people wait for the perfect time to leave the nest, to get lost, to get a life. The reality is, there is no perfect opportunity, there will always be reasons not to do something but you have to ask yourself, if it is worth fighting for and is it worth the risk – if the answer is yes then it is likely that the right time is now. You have to ask yourself “Why not today?” because unfortunately, we can’t go back and try yesterday again. I highly recommend this video for all the twenty-somethings out there who just aren’t sure about their next step.

eggspectation at the eaton centre

Had to meet a girlfriend for brunch, as we all know most of the great brunches are on sunday so I wasn’t sure what I’d do on a saturday.
We decided to go to eggspectation, so we could wander around the eaton centre after eating. It was much more cafe-style than I expected,  for whatever reason I was expecting a fancier place. Regardless,  my meal was delicious. I had the eggs florentine, and really enjoyed it. My meal including drink, tax and tip was about $18.50. I definitely have to go back, they had such large menu it was so hard to decide what to have. I would recommend this place if you’re looking for a quick all day breakfast in that neighborhood, but want a little fancier than frans. Happy brunching!

first thursday at the ago

So, I haven’t been to the AGO in years. Like most people, the last time I was there was on some long ago-forgotten field trip, long before the renovations. I’m not a huge art gallery fan, I always feel like I’m not appreciating the art enough but I heard about First Thursday, it sounded more up my alley. 

The first Thursday of every month the AGO re-opens at 7pm – there is special exhibits, bars, food and live entertainment. Tickets are $15 at the door and $12+$2 service fee online in advance. The regular price for the gallery is $19.50, so it is worth it if you don’t want to spend the entire day at the gallery. Drinks were what you’d pay at a regular bar, about $6-$7/piece, depending on what you wanted. The food was small, appetizer sized – we had cripsy noodles and chicken as well as a steamed bun with chicken, it was $5 total. They also had a selection of desserts. It definitely wasn’t a meal but it was delicious and a good amount just to munch on. Only the first and second floor are open during this time and as we were walking around they closed part of the second floor off, at about 9:45 – it seemed a little odd. The gallery was pretty busy and expect to stand in line, outside, even if you’ve purchased tickets in advance. It is a 19+ event but the crowd was definitely a mix. Art galleries have the reputation of being very quiet and a little empty (unless there is something famous on display) and so it was interesting to see basically the complete opposite, loud music and a lot of people, a real mix of people as well. 

As I said, I hadn’t been to the AGO in years and I must say, I really enjoyed it. They even had a few stations where you could “create-your-own” pieces. We did one, related to their Ai Weiwei exhibit, where we created posters of what we stand for. 

Selection of “I Stand For” Posters
I would definitely recommend getting out to a First Thursday, it was fun and something new to do in the city. 

do you want to order food from an ipad?

Then Kiku is for you. This sushi restaurant opened near my work in Markham. They also have a location at Leslie & York Mills (but I’ve heard they don’t have the ipads). I’ve only recently started eating sushi, I’m slowly coming around so my co-worker and I decided to try this place out. Our lunch was all-you-can-eat (I assume that’s the only way people ever eat sushi?) and it was $14.50. All menu items were ordered using the ipad, it was pretty neat. I really liked it because it had clear pictures of the items, sometimes I mix up crazy and crazy dragon – or whatever they are – again, not a sushi expert. The pictures help me not order the wrong thing. As a sushi-novice, it is appreciated. Our food came fairly quickly and it was delicious. I recently went to a sushi place where the rolls were falling apart by the time they got to my table. The rolls were served in the typical 6-8 roll servings but pieces like tempura, dumplings and other small items were served in ones. It actually worked great because I may want yam tempura but not want 4 pieces, I thought that was great. We also got dessert, I opted for the chocolate mousse because I had obviously eaten too much and it really hit the spot. It was sweet and small, just what I needed. The decor was typical of sushi places I’ve been in the city and in Markham. They also had a group area where guests would sit on cushions on the floor, that could be fun for a group or birthday. 
If you’re looking for a fun place with good food, I’d recommend Kiku for your next sushi craving. 
iPad used for ordering

Sushi Kiku Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

thai food on eglinton

I love thai food and am often reluctant to try new places because I hate when it isn’t good. 

Tonight we tried Lime on Eglinton, between Yonge and Mount Pleasant. I really enjoyed it. We had vegetable and chicken spring rolls and shared the thai chili cashew chicken, thai coconut-peanut chicken and classic street-side shrimp pad thai. It was obvious that the spring rolls were made from scratch, I hate when you can tell that they were frozen and they come out mucky. The thai chili cashew chicken had lots of chicken and plenty of vegetables, it wasn’t actually spicy unless you actually ate the chilis. The coconut-peanut chicken was pretty good, even though I’m not a huge coconut fan and the pad thai was how I like my pad thai, fairly saucy but not too tomatoey (like spring rolls, most people know I hate spring rolls pad thai). We were four people and this was a reasonable amount of food, we maybe could have had a bit more but it really wouldn’t have been necessary. The meals were reasonably priced as well, with most dishes on the menu between $10.95-$13.95, they also have a great lunch special menu. I would recommend this place when you’re uptown, looking for a nice place to have a reasonably priced meal. Happy eating!

september is here!

Time for the cliche “I don’t know where the summer has gone”, every year it seems to get shorter and shorter, even though I’m not sure that is possible.

I love the summer, and the fall coming means that winter is coming. I’m trying not to be too upset about it. I will instead share the things I am excited to do in September. There’s so much going on in the city and that will help me not miss summer (too much).

This Thursday, I will be attending the AGO’s First Thursday for the first time. This is when they open up the AGO after hours, apparently there is DJs and a cash bar – really, its my kind of art experience. I will definitely be blogging about my experience.

Starting September 13th, it is Toronto Beer Week. I’m not sure how I never knew this existed in Toronto, I’m obviously a beer fan! I’m pretty excited. I haven’t been able to pick out what I will be doing because there is just so much but I promise to share my experience. 

September 20th, I’ll be seeing Sarah Silverman at JFL42. I’ve never attended Just for Laughs in Toronto. We also get to pick 4 smaller acts. I’m pretty excited because I love stand-up comedy. 

I know the focus is on September but I also want to mention an event I’ll be attending in October. The Delicious Food Show is happening the weekend of October 25th. There is a Buytopia deal for tickets until midnight tonight.

I hope that everyone finds some awesome events to usher them into fall, I’m sure a lot will revolve around TIFF coming up next weekend. If you know events I should be checking out, leave a comment. Happy September!

my beauty pick: sephora lip stain

I am very bad at finding lipsticks that stay on and that I actually like. These stains are a little heavy but not too bad. I’m sure if you were used to wearing lipstick on a daily basis they wouldn’t feel so heavy. I like the darker colour for fall and winter and like the lighter one for the spring and summer. I love these because they don’t come off very easily. I find that if I eat or drink for a few hours, I have to reapply to the centre of my lips, otherwise, it stays on there no problem. You do need a make up remover to take it off because it is really on there. 

I also hate paying a lot of money for cosmetics. There are somethings I’ll “splurge” on, but even then it usually means like than $35. I like the price tag on these most of them are $15. 

10 – Everlasting Burgandy & 03 Strawberry Kissed

I like the ‘everlasting burgandy’ for the cooler times of year and the ‘strawberry kissed’ for spring and summer. They have a total of 10 shades, some are a bit too adventurous for me, although I think purple is in for the fall. Check them out, let me know what you think or if you have any other make up favourites!