Dear Diary

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it 100 times over – Toronto is simply not a happy place. There’s very little colour in our city, with the scales tipping toward grey and black especially in the winter. We’re a town of neutrals, of busy streets and even busier people who all seem to have their own very set agendas. We get a lot done, but I definitely wouldn’t describe Toronto as exceptionally HAPPY.

Luckily, Happy Place is here to save the day.

Much like The Museum Of Ice Cream, Happy Place is a touring installation of fun, photo-friendly experiences, and just in time for the winter blues it has popped-up in Toronto for the first time ever! There’s lemonade, there’s a pot of gold to jump into, there’s a confetti cannon globe you can stand inside, and there’s even a snack bar at the end with all rainbow food! I don’t want to give too much away in case you decide to go yourself! The surprises are all part of the fun…

Here’s the info if you want to go //

Where // 245 Queens Quay W (Harbourfront Centre)
When // November 1st – January 1st
Get tickets here

And some photos from our visit of course – how could we not?

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Party Time

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When talks of planning my baby shower started to surface I knew two things – I didn’t want to be too involved, and I didn’t want anything too typical.

I’m a total control freak with a set vision for just about everything in my life, so letting go of the reigns on this one was NOT easy for me. I knew I wanted to have my baby shower early-ish in case I ended up feeling too huge to move near the end, and when my parents and sister all simultaneously decided to come visit from the West Coast at the end of October I knew that was the perfect time. Though it was a challenge not to obsess over every other tiny detail after setting the date, I decided to put a little faith in my amazing friends and family. I created an email listing some of my best ideas and contacts, hit send, and then let the chips fall where they may. My partner in crime Johanna and little sister Sierra headed up the planning committee, and though Sierra and I may have disagreed on the importance of games and gift opening at first, in the end these two did NOT disappoint. My “village” came together in the most beautiful way, offering up everything from handmade treats (what’s a baby shower without scones from my pals at Kitten and The Bear?) to their amazing design skills for the invites. I couldn’t believe the way so many talented people from Toronto and beyond came together to make this day so special for baby and me.

But why not just have the typical baby shower?

Let’s be honest – baby showers are long overdue for a bit of a revamp. Sitting around a room with a bunch of strangers making small talk and and letting people guess how big my belly is was just never my cup of tea, and I have a feeling a random survey would reveal not many people actually enjoy those types of events. In case you haven’t noticed from following this blog, I don’t take to normal very well – I tend to do everything out of order and on my own terms, I always have. This whole pregnancy has been such a big adventure, and I wanted a shower that mirrored that, not another quiet afternoon filled with awkward diaper games and soggy tea sandwiches. If I’m having a party, it better be a party to remember, and this one was definitely one for the books.

The party itself was at SoSo Food Club, a super cute new Chinese fusion restaurant in Toronto’s west end that just happens to have an all mint and pink colour scheme (my kind of interpretation of the whole pink and blue thing!) There was an epic snack table created and plated by my talented sister herself, topped off with scones and jam from KATB, candy from The Candy Bar, and tea from Tealish. Fun fact, this family-run tea shop is where Johanna and I originally met, and it’s still one of my very favourite places to sip in the city. If you haven’t tried their Toasty Almond blend, it’s totally pregnancy safe, caffeine free, and steeps hot pink (see if you can spot it in these photos – it was definitely the crowd favourite!) Then there was the cake, an ombre masterpiece custom created by Millie Desserts. These cakes have hundreds of thin crepe layers with the softest cream in between, and the result is basically a fluffy vanilla cloud dessert that melts in your mouth.

With gorgeous blooms from our friends at Wild North Flowers, who always knock it out of the park with their arrangements, and balloons from Balloon Bar, the space couldn’t have come together more perfectly. And the cookies! How could we forget the magical little pink and blue teacup cookies?! Johanna gave Little Rose Cookie co. full creative reign and she absolutely killed it, plus I am a bit of a sugar cookie connoisseur and these ones tasted as good as they looked which is HARD to come by, believe me.

A dreamy event might be #allinthedetails, but this one was so much more than that. I like to stay positive so I don’t talk about it much, but the reality of having a baby on my own with my family living so far away is daunting at times, and though I know down in my bones this was the right choice for me, my pregnancy hasn’t been without its fair share of anxiety about the future. Seeing all of these amazing people show up for me and baby with bells on, armed with hugs, gifts and warm wishes was exactly what I needed to remember that my little family is anything but alone in this journey. The whole afternoon was so filled with happy it flew by almost too fast, and I wish there was a way to bottle it up into a magic potion that I could take a sip of whenever I start to have doubts.

In the car on the way home my parents were recounting tales from the day and they said one thing that really stuck with me: “Your friends sure have a lot of faith in you Lyss, they all really seem to wholeheartedly believe you can do this and have your back. No one has any doubts. It’s kind of amazing.” Amongst all the gifts I unwrapped that day, hearing these words was the most precious.

Credits //

BonBons from The Candy Bar
Florals by Wild North
Ombre layered crepe cake by Millie Desserts
Custom magic sugar cookies by Little Rose Cookie co.
Tea from Tealish
Scones and Jam from Kitten and The Bear
Balloons from Balloon Bar
Soso Food Club
Risograph invitations designed by Jennifer Iliett

Take a peek at MyRegistry here!

The biggest thank you so Johanna, Sierra and my mom Judi for making my fun, colourful baby shower dreams come true. You guys made the most unexpected dream team and this day was better than I ever could have conjured!

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

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Before I got pregnant I had plans to leave Toronto as soon as the weather turned cold. It’s become a bit of an accidental yearly tradition for me after moving to the wintery side of Canada, and in my mind 2018 would be no exception. I started the year in sunny Palm Springs, and in the case my attempts to get pregnant didn’t work out (everyone reminded me again and again it can take a lot of time) I hoped to finish out the year on an epic adventure to Japan, topping it off with Christmas in Hawaii.

When I saw those two lines appear on a test back in June it didn’t immediately click that for the first time in a long time I’d be firmly grounded in Toronto this winter. As Summer slipped by and the sweaters hit shop shelves it finally dawned on me with what I can only describe as a feeling of total panic. I’m not great with the cold, and even though I have the best reason ever to get cozy at home this year, the idea of not being able to leave the snow and ice behind had me shook.

I started to reason there had to be somewhere hot I could go in my second trimester, the best time for a babymoon before things get really rough, but it turns out there are still a ton of Zika travel warnings in Mexico and the Caribbean, making pregnant vacations at any stage more complicated than I had expected. Yes, the threat has significantly dropped and the chances of coming home with Zika at this point are fairly low, but I decided for me personally the cons still outweighed the pros. Again and again my heart kept calling for Hawaii, but it just seemed too far away and too expensive. I had sort of given up on the idea of escaping to the sun one last time before baby when my dear friend Bianca surprised me with a trip for the two of us! It was the sweetest gesture EVER, and before I knew it I was boarding a plane to one of the most beautiful places on earth!

Originally from the West Coast, I had been to Hawaii a couple times as a kid on family vacations, but this was my first time visiting the Islands as an adult with my own agenda. I landed in the humidity armed with a long list of pastel places I had to see, with inspiration from my pals at Ban.do and suggestions from my local friend @GirlandHerPearl. We chose to stay downtown Waikiki to get the bustle of the city and all the fun that includes, but rented a cheap car to explore faraway beaches and tasty food destinations most days.

Overall this 5 day vacation was everything I could have hoped for and more for a last hurrah. I absolutely do not believe life ends after baby, but it was really precious to have a final trip to myself, with endless time to bask in the sun and wander through shops full of breakable objects without worry. It gave me time to thank my body for all the heavy lifting its done lately, and fuel up for the final three months of pregnancy in Toronto’s deep winter. And now? Now we wait for the biggest adventure yet!

Scroll down for my list of must-see pastel places!

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Where to Stay //

There are so many amazing hotel options in Waikiki that it can be hard to pick just one, but we couldn’t help but fall for The Laylow . Newly renovated and steps from the beach, this pastel paradise was dreamy down to every last detail. The restaurant, the gift shop… even the wallpaper in the elevators was on point. I’m not sure I’ve ever blended in at a hotel quite so well!

How to Get Around //

A car is pretty much necessary in Hawaii unless you want to stay right in downtown Waikiki (or whatever city you’ve chosen a hotel in!) We rented something super basic for super cheap and it was a great decision, though you may want to consider a larger vehicle with 4 wheel drive if you’re venturing off the beaten path (we may have gotten a bit stuck in some sand on a beach at one point!)

What to See //

Leonard’s Bakery // Hawaii’s first Malasadas, which are basically delicious Portuguese donuts served hot! I recommend getting one of each kind (the Li Hing was incredible)
Rainbow Drive In // A classic Hawaiian fare takeaway counter with amazing cheap eats.
Bailey’s Aloha Shirts // All the vintage Hawaiian shirts you could ever ask for! Careful with your shopping though, some of the oldest shirts go up to $3000.
Hula Pie at Duke’s // A tourist favourite, I remembered this place from visiting as a kid and I have to admit the Hula Pie was JUST as good. I recommend bringing a friend or two to share this monster dessert… or if you’re pregnant and anything like me go ahead, get a whole piece to yourself!
The Royal Hawaiian What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t mention Hawaii’s pink palace? If you’re able to get a table for brunch be sure to try the pink guava pancakes!
Shimazu Shave Ice // There is shave ice available almost everywhere but this place makes them as big as your head and has SO many delicious flavours. By far the best selection we saw.
The Surfjack Hotel // Famous for their awesome “Wish You Were Here” postcard pool, this hotel wasn’t my favourite for food but their coffee/gift shop was adorable!
Yanagi Sushi // A local favourite, this might just be the best sushi outside of Japan (and it feels like you’re in Japan too!) Reservations highly recommended.
SALT at Our Kaka’ako // We only stumbled across this spot because I was determined to go to ARVO for their famous avocado toast, but basically it’s a brand new shopping centre of sorts in Hawaii’s most “indie” neighbourhood filled with all sorts of wonderful curated shops and restaurants. These were our favourites but more businesses were in the process of opening too!
Paiko Plant Shop
ARVO
Lonohana Estate Chocolate
Butterfly Ice Cream
Here. Store
*If you’re not on a babymoon I also highly recommend walking around all the awesome breweries in this neighbourhood – there are so many and they’re all SO cute!

Spots we wanted to see but didn’t quite make it to //
Dole plantation, Ice HNL, Hawaiian Sweet Potato Factory (they have a rainbow sandwich!), Awa and Olena Jewelry, At Dawn Shop, Bevy Cocktail Bar, Taco’ako

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

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I’ll admit, in the past when I heard the word “baby moon” I couldn’t help but cringe – it seemed like an indulgence reserved only for super privileged pregnant couples, and I never really saw it being a priority for me personally. Don’t people have better things to do when planning to bring a new human into this world?!

The thing is, now that I’m here with three months to left in my pregnancy and a constantly growing belly that has me just a bit off-balance at all times, I get what all the fuss is about. Being pregnant is such an incredible feeling, but it can also feel like your losing your whole body (and existence) to a tiny human living under your skin. I have really struggled with my newfound limitations body-wise, and travelling in the second trimester before I got too big to even sit in a car comfortably for half an hour (I’m getting there) ended up being really important to me. If you’re craving some time out of town, why not take a trip while you’re still feeling up to it?

I also think it’s really necessary to celebrate. To celebrate your incredible body, the massive shift in life seasons, to honour your past and let yourself have one last vacation that’s free of child-related worries before the future arrives. I went from chuckling to myself about the concept of baby moons to insisting it was something I needed to do almost as soon as I got pregnant. Yes, travel with babies and kids is totally possible and can be an amazing experience, but it’s still not the same as taking a trip on your own or with a loved one.

In the end, I planned two pre-baby escapes for good measure – a long haul adventure to Hawaii with my bff Bianca (post on that coming soon!) and a smaller, local trip to PEC right here in Ontario with my little sister. What these two trips taught me: It doesn’t matter how far you go, just that you allow yourself to go at all. I actually enjoyed being closer to home for a shorter trip more with how pregnant I’ve been feeling lately, and I can’t stress enough how important it was to me to give myself a special window of time like this to celebrate, close off the past, and look forward to the future. Whether you’re hopping a plane to an exotic island or just planning a staycation at home in your own city, give yourself (and perhaps someone you love dearly) this special moment to pause and reflect. After all, moments like these will never exist in quite the same way again after you officially become a mom.

Why PEC //

Prince Edward County is a wine lover’s paradise, but this will be me second trip there without drinking and in my books it’s just as good either way!

The county can be overcrowded in the Summer months, so I actually prefer to go up in the autumn – the leaves are breathtakingly beautiful on the drive between towns, harvest season yields all sorts of delicious local goodies, and sweater weather has never felt quite so cozy. It’s also a short distance from Toronto, so it’s not too big a commitment travel-wise if you’re based in Ontario.

Where to Stay //

I’ve stayed in multiple spots all over the county but this trip we went with The Drake Devonshire, a small boutique hotel complete with a lakefront view and amazing restaurant (I recommend the brunch!) When we checked in there were hot cookies waiting beside the bed and we were told how to dial pints of ice cream up to our room if needed, so yeah, basically a pregnant person’s dream come true!

How to Get There //

A short 2.5 hour drive from the city, travel by car is really the best way to get to the county, and once you arrive up there I find driving from town to town on the beautiful country roads is one of my favourite parts of the landscape. We were lucky enough to borrow a Porsche Panamera hybrid for our trip, and it was SUCH a fun (and eco friendly) way to see the sights.

A few of my favourite pastel places //

Bloomfield Beauty Co. // Where do I even start with this incredible spot? Located in Bloomfield as the name suggests, this spa escape is seriously heaven on earth. Owned by two talented sisters, you can get everything from massages to pedicures, all served with a side of tea (or bubbly if you prefer!) We spent an entire afternoon there and still didn’t want to leave!
BluBoho // My favourite Toronto jewelry shop now has an outpost in PEC and it’s gorgeous.
Hinterland Winery // The best bubbly in the province! I grabbed a bottle to pop after baby Garrison joins us in the new year.
County Collective // This spot is SO cute, just make sure you check their Instagram before heading over as they’re often closed off-season.
Fete beach // Located in the same Bloomfield building as County Collective and BluBoho, this gorgeous shop is another must-see on the tour of pretty pastel places!
County Yum Club // On top of seasonal goodies this roadside restaurant serves vegan corn dogs. Need I say more?
Grange Winery // This place makes incredible wine and cider with the prettiest designs, but they also serve local craft soda so you have something to sip while your non-pregnant companions get tipsy wine tasting.
Slickers Ice Cream // You have to try the burnt marshmallow here, and don’t worry, the Picton location stays open all year round!
Coriander Girl // Another Toronto export, this space is shared with county apothecary brand Sunday’s Company, and their shop together is absolutely gorgeous, filled with plants, dry brushes, skincare and more. I highly recommend taking a locally-sourced bouquet home with you on your last day!
The Vic // Did someone say golden milk latte? This coffee shop in downtown Picton has amazing baked goods and lots of caffeine-free hot bevvie options if that’s your thing (they have real caffeinated tea and coffee too, don’t panic!)
Kinsip Spirits // Fun fact – you can get a shot of whisky infused maple syrup instead of spirits and it’s absolutely delicious + totally booze free!

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Special thanks to The Drake Devonshire, Porsche Canada and Bloomfield Beauty Co. for making this trip so magical

Dear Diary

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We hear it all the time in hashtags and Instagram captions, but my goodness, being pregnant really does show you how crazy mysterious and magical women’s bodies can be. Watching my body shift, stretch and grow in ways I never thought possible over the past 6 months has been a total trip, and understanding how to slow down and listen to its new demands hasn’t been easy for someone as go-go-go as I am.

I also haven’t been the best about following all of the pregnancy “rules”. Turns out the internet will tell you almost anything you can think of is risky when carrying a child – food, spices, herbs, scents, essential oils, if you can name it and there’s a warning about it. My first trimester I was terrified, constantly searching every single ingredient and giving up some of my favourite teas and tinctures. The more I monitored and read, the more nervous I became… it felt like unless I was eating exclusively processed, packaged junk food I was totally doomed.

The thing is, I started to realize the most unhealthy thing I could possibly be full of was fear. I started doing more research, and it turns out the internet warns against a lot of ingredients simply because their effect hasn’t been studied on pregnancy. Kombucha, for example, is often not recommended because it contains a tiny amount of alcohol, but a lot of women believe the healthy bacteria outweighs any potential negative concerns. Still, I wasn’t truly confident in my decisions until I read Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen.

I haven’t been big on pregnancy reading, but if you’re going to buy one book, this is the one to invest in. Erica is all about trusting your body and using common sense to make decisions instead of being lead by anxiety, and it helped me get comfortable with the idea that I know best for my body and my baby. Sushi for example, is almost always flash frozen now, killing the bacteria pregnant women are warned of, so as long as you pick a busy, popular restaurant that doesn’t leave fish sitting out, you’re probably totally fine. Same with cold pressed juice – buy fresh from a reliable source and there’s very little chance bacteria has had enough time to grow!

With newfound confidence, I started experimenting with different ways to keep calm and carry (baby) on, like adaptogenic smoothie recipes and essential-oil boosted epsom salt baths. Stress has been my number one enemy this pregnancy – I’m so happy to be where I am, but I’m constantly on edge, all too often frustrated with work issues, friend conflicts and disappointment in myself. Hormones can be hard to handle, and I also stopped taking anti-depressants when I conceived which has been more of an adjustment than I expected. All that in mind, being a mother is about adapting, and I’ve worked hard to take care of myself with these potions and rituals that create time and space for my changing body and mind.

*I am not a doctor, and though these products and potions worked great for me, make sure you check in with your midwife/doula/care provider before trying anything new!

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Moodbeli Powders //

Hot chocolate has been my biggest craving by far this pregnancy, and I wanted to find something healthier than Carnation brand powder with mini marshmallows. I came across Moodbeli and instantly fell in love – their tonics are all SO delicious and can be brewed hot or mixed into a smoothie. Like a milky taste? Try adding some of their “Cloud Powder” to your cup – it’s like a plant-based cream. The best part about this brand is every product is rich with vitamins and minerals, for example the Bliss Booster is high in iron + calcium, and tastes like spicy hot chocolate to boot.

My favourites //

Cloud Powder
Bliss Booster
Ceremony Tonic

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Moonbath //

I have yet to find a pregnant lady who didn’t swear by taking baths – it’s a great way to take the weight off of those tired bones and let all that stress go. I’m all about soaking up fancy, indulgent baths, but I love the idea of adding a bit more meaning and healing in the mix. Moonbath checks out on both fronts, with super pretty packaging and aromatherapy-focused ingredients that aim to evoke specific strengths. All natural and thoughtfully crafted, I especially love brewing the Nasty Woman bath tea when I’m feeling a bit too hormone-heavy.

My favourites //

Nasty Woman Bath Tea
New Moon Bath Tea
Milk and Honey Bath Salt
Sacred Smoke Smudge Blend

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Fleurs //

I first found this brand through Hello Mellow, an awesome local wellness shop that sells all sorts of healing products. Yes, the Fleurs brand contains CBD, which has not yet been comprehensively studied on pregnant women, and though the amount absorbed from these creams and teas that actually makes it to baby is minute, I have personally only used them very sparingly since becoming pregnant. A lot of women are medicating with full-on CBD oil for pregnancy nausea and aches nowadays, but to be on the safe side I plan on using these products more regularly after birth. This is a personal choice, and I definitely look forward to more well-researched data about CBD and pregnancy in the future, because it really can be so helpful!

Pregnant aside, this local brand is seriously amazing. Each tea bag is carefully dosed to provide non-psychoactive relief, and their pain potion has been a lifesaver in the past when I got stress headaches that nothing else seemed to touch.

My favourites //

CBD pain potion
Stress roll-on
Organic CBD teas

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Herb and Nectar Tea //

If the unknowns of CBD aren’t your thing, I’m also a huge fan of Herb and Nectar Tea. They use a lot of herbs that are on the “risky” list, but their Divine Feminine Blend has been one of my absolute favourites to sip this past 6 months – it’s not only safe for pregnant women but encourages uterine strength and is high in iron and magnesium. I also recommend their high quality, pure Cacao Tea, which basically makes a cup of the most decadent rose cinnamon hot chocolate you can possibly imagine. Make sure you order ahead of time, as each jar is hand blended fresh!

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Some other spirit-boosting favourites //

Tarot cards by Labyrinthos
Lohn Candles
Palo Santo from Cardea Auset
The Strength in our Scars poetry book by Bianca Sparacino

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