Dear Diary

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I think we can all agree Toronto needs more pink places. Johanna and I have exhausted the few the city has to offer, and we’re always begging anyone we can get to listen to paint at least a portion of their home/business/office to help our cause.

We’re long time fans of Sweet Jesus and their incredible turquoise colour scheme (a much-needed addition to the doom and gloom of downtown Toronto.) We had been planning to visit their newest location at Yonge and Eglington for months, but somehow the dates kept slipping away, and before we knew it I was in California and the amazing Sweet Jesus soft serve was an entire continent away.

keep reading…

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By the time I got back I had a pretty serious craving for a vegan cone of any sort from the city’s favourite soft serve magicians, and it turns out waiting a couple months had only sweetened the deal – in the same massive building at Yonge and Eglington there was now a La Carnita (our favourite tacos in TO) and Good Fortune, a new PINK cocktail bar.

We’re generally pretty strictly downtown west-side girls, but this perfect trifecta is absolutely worth the trek. Our first course consisted of Sweet Jesus ice cream (I went for a vegan bounty-bar inspired cone and seriously lost my mind!), and for the second course we headed down the steps to the plant-filled pink oasis that is Good Fortune. Though there’s certainly competition, this is my new favourite cocktail bar in the city. There’s a peachy cocktail with a diamond-shaped ice cube that turns the drink pink! There’s a cotton candy cocktail! There are SLUSHIES! In case liquids aren’t your thing, there are also some pretty tasty snacks, AND you can order anything you like from the La Carnita menu upstairs. Yeah, it’s like a pink heaven just north of downtown, and apparently things can even get a little dancy up there on the weekends (in case you’re wondering where to find us…)

Final note: We loved Good Fortune so much that we decided to start a hashtag in an attempt to celebrate all of Toronto’s pink places, and maybe even inspire business owners to create more! Jump onboard and tag your photos too? #PinkPlacesTO!

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Dear Diary

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There’s nothing like a fresh start, especially when fruity scented cleaning supplies and nifty organizational tools are involved. I am a proud proclaimed neat freak, and moving into a new space of my own this time of year has prompted something I’ve always wanted to do: the ULTIMATE Spring Clean.

Going from multi-level apartment with a room mate to one bedroom condo automatically meant I needed to cut down about 1/4 of my belongings, and by the end of my purge I think I was probably left with less than half. I sold what I could, and then filled a friend’s Prius to the BRIM with everything that was left (if you ever have things to offload, St. Felix House is always in desperate need!)

With most of the baggage from my past behind me, I walked into my new apartment with less than I’ve owned in a long, long time, determined only to bring new things in that really bring something to the table. Here’s what I invested in to keep my new home minimal, organized, and clean!

Scroll down for my picks, and to shop the post!

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The Laundress – I love doing the laundry, especially when beautiful laundry products are involved. The Laundress has your clothing covered, from delicate wash and stain solution, to
static solution and crease release (particularly helpful with wrinkled sheets!)

Mrs.Meyers Clean Day – One of our go-to brands, Mrs.Meyers Clean Day never fails to impress with bright packaging, uplifting scents and most importantly, great natural cleaning power. This Spring I’m especially into Honeysuckle counter spray & lavender dish soap

Hasegawa Lucano Mint 2 step ladder – vertical space is key when it comes to storage in small living quarters, but if you’re on the shorter side it can lead to a lot of risky chair balancing acts. Luckily I found a step ladder so cute that I want to keep it out!

Parachute Home sateen sheet set – Am I the only one who has spent most of my life dreaming of finding the perfect sheet set? This silky set named after my favourite place in the world finally put my search to bed.

Herban Essentials Cleaning Wipes – these handy essential oil wipes can be used for just about everything, from makeup remover to dryer sheets that lightly scent your laundry!

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Neat Freak Organization – as a self-proclaimed “Neat Freak”, this brand definitely speaks to me. As mentioned above, vertical space is everything, so these 4 tier velvet hangers have been a life saver. Shoes have also proven to be a bit of a hurdle, but thanks to this over the door shoe hanger I have more than enough space for a pair and a spare! Honorable mention: fresh scented Storage drawers!

Simple Human Rose Gold Garbage Cans – All that glitters CAN be gold, even your garbage cans! Having these gleaming beauties makes taking out the trash much more glamorous, and displaying them means I have more cupboard space where I would usually try to hide trash away. I got the
Baby size for the bathroom and the bigger size for the kitchen and I couldn’t be happier with the investment.

Yellow Birdies Slippers – Cleaning up (and just about everything else) is more fun with cute slippers! This cheery yellow pair is the perfect addition to my collection, and they keep me from sliding all over the place while pushing around the vacuum etc.

Dear Diary

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As most of you know by now, I have moved, but what very few of you know is why and how this all happened so fast. Sometimes you choose change, and sometimes it chooses you – which was the case this time around.

I was happily enjoying my time in California when Jo called to inform me that #ThePastelPalace was flooding. The landlord would do nothing, the entire roof of the building was shot, and we had to move. Soon.

I came home from California and hit the ground running – I hired a real estate agent (she was awesome! You can find her here!) and saw as many places as I could in the span of a few days. I applied for a mortgage, but in the end decided to try renting in a newer building before investing in one. Though I’ve always been super resistant to condo living, a long string of housing issues has lead to over 12 moves in the span of 7 years, and this time around I decided to take the leap and try something new.

I ended up landing just that – a brand new condo in one of Toronto’s busiest areas, a unit that no one had ever lived in before in a building that’s still being completed. It couldn’t have been more of a change, but with all the other changes I had taken by the horns so far this year, I jumped in with both feet.

And then, the matter of actually moving…

scroll down to keep reading

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I used to be the master of packing and unpacking, and though the latter has stuck, I find myself more and more paralyzed when it comes to packing up. I get anxious about what I’ll need, when I’ll need it, how to prevent my favourite things from breaking… the list of worries goes on and on. With all the massive emotional baggage I was already carrying about leaving a place where so many dreams had been hatched and lost, I simply couldn’t take on any more weight.

For the first time in my life, I hired proper movers. The best movers in the city at that.

Cargo Cabbie has been voted best movers in Toronto for the past 6 years, and after spending a day with them it’s easy to see why. A team of their three best came in on time (actually, ahead of schedule), helped me pack all my belongings properly, and guided me through the quickest and easiest move I’ve ever experienced. They were so caring with my treasures, and even convinced me to try their plastic bins, which I LOVED. These stackable buckets fit a ton, are easier to carry than an awkward box, and they’re totally reusable. Plus when you’re finished unpacking them, Cargo Cabbie comes right on over to scoop them up – mess and waste free! I can not rave enough about this part of the service.

So how do I feel now, after making the big move?

Change is never easy, good or bad, but this particular shift has without a doubt been crucial. It’s the official start to a new chapter, after escaping the city for a few months to get a bit of myself back. Now, I get to cultivate that self – give it a place to grow and thrive and become so much more than it ever was. I’m a stronger version of who I was, a forever altered Alyssa, and this new home is my fortress and mine alone.

I couldn’t be more grateful for where I am, and what lies ahead in this fresh new space.

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Dear DiaryDress UpI'll Follow You Anywhere

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I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m really all about travel right now, but that doesn’t mean “travel” has to be a luxury vacation on the other side of the continent.

One of my favourite places to go since moving to Toronto is actually a bit of a shock to some people – Hamilton. Despite its bad reputation amongst Toronto residents, I adore Hamilton. I love the quiet streets, the community feel, and the beautiful spaces that can only be created in a place with something we Torontonians lack – space.

I have a full-on city guide in the works for this special place, but since it’s a little too cold to wander around outside taking photos right now I’m going to hold off and just talk about the specifics of my Saturday visit a few weeks ago.

Though it’s only a short trip, Hamilton feels worlds away from Toronto when I need a break. Breakfast at Saint James Espresso, waterfall hikes with my good friend (and Hamilton resident) Rachelle, and the best vegan chocolate macaroons EVER at Green Bar are all staples, and then of course there’s Berkeley North.

I’ve heard about this new West Coast-inspired eatery from Hamilton and Toronto friends alike, so I was determined to visit during my one day stay. Honestly, it’s not often that I do a full restaurant review post, but this was one of the best dining experiences of my life. The space is cozy, the staff is next level friendly, and the food was honestly off the charts. They have seemingly endless vegan and vegetarian options, and even offer a foamy vegan sour on the cocktail menu!

By the time dessert came around we were totally stuffed, but we still couldn’t say no to the decadent vegan cheesecake. It was the perfect place for meat eaters and vegans alike to meet, and by the time we left we felt like family. If you have no other reason to take a day trip to Hamilton, this spot is reason enough – oh, and there’s a great wall for photos right across the street too!

Scroll down to shop my look

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Dear DiaryI'll Follow You Anywhere

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As expected, almost every conversation I have right now is shaped by the same question: “How was LA? It looked AMAZING!” Every time I wish I had some sort of Eat Pray Love-esque story to share, an all consuming tale of triumph and growth and figuring out exactly where I’m supposed to be. But amongst the many tough things I’ve learned as of late, life is not like the movies (or romanticized novels loaded with privilege for that matter).

Anyone who follows me knows how tightly I cling to the fairytales I grew up with, from the aged stories of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O’Hara to Snow White singing “Someday my Prince Will Come”, but I’m starting to doubt I’ve been on the right track. Somewhere, something has gone awry. I worked so hard to build my life into the dream I’d always imagined – I climbed so quickly to such great heights and when I reached the top I guess I looked around and realized how alone I was up there.

This past three months I truly lived my life to the fullest. I did so much in such a short time, more than many people do over a decade, from learning how to shuck oysters on an oyster farm, to crashing into a patch of rocks on a rented surfboard (oops). I rode horses on the beach, went snowboarding through a forest of fresh powder, walked for hours on end through mysterious neighbourhoods and forced myself to be brave and make new friends whenever the opportunity arose. I learned how to eat dinner alone at a restaurant with only a book to keep me company. I fully quit smoking, switched to a 100% plant-based diet without looking back, and mastered new ways to deal with my anxiety and depression without the help of medication.

I also learned that no matter where you are or who you surround yourself with, your issues don’t just stay behind when you hop a plane. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and one that I’ve failed to accept so many times, but something about being on the other side of the continent and still facing a lot of the same problems made me question where the root of the issue was actually growing. It’s no surprise I found the root close to home – it was always within me.

Not to say there’s anything wrong with me, just the way I go about my existence. I’ve always believed in the good, that doing the right thing pays off and loving those around you will only build more love in this confusing and messy world. What I failed to notice was the shortcoming of basic human nature: for the most part if someone is given too much too soon, they’ll question how far they can run with it. I’ve done a terrible job of protecting myself, of valuing myself and of keeping in touch with reality – even if it isn’t as sparkly as I’d like to imagine, there’s value to having one foot on the ground, even if you’re a dreamer.

In conclusion, my trip was absolutely amazing, beautiful, extraordinary, and more than I ever could’ve hoped. It was also painful, raw, riddled with tears and struggle – more than I ever could’ve planned for. I think I left on this trip thinking it would just be a fun adventure, an escape from the cold of winter and the cold in my heart, but the most valuable thing about my time away turned out to be learning to actually work on myself, by myself, without any of the crutches, comforts, or support systems at home. Instead of staying so busy with events and friends that I buried my heartache and shortcomings, I spent days making lists of how I can improve myself and build off of the mistakes I’ve made. I sent letters of forgiveness to break down old anger. I made some big, hard, life changing decisions based not on my fairytale mentality, but on real tangible happiness and mistakes.

I’m going to cut this off here, because if I don’t I may NEVER stop, and no one loads this page for a full on novel. More coming, a LOT more, but for now this is the best trip summary I’ve got. If you’re somehow still hungry for more, there’s a fun roundup of some of my favourite LA learnings below, and of course a list of new favourite spots to see:

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A few takeaways before I go on and on for DAYS //

Care About Self Care // I’m really bad at taking care of myself. I forget to eat, to sleep, and some days I actually have to remind myself to breathe. California was a slightly different pace, where slowing down is celebrated and long lunches are best served on the patio with fresh squeezed local juices. I was constantly training myself to STOP WORKING and enjoy the scenery, to take a walk in the sunshine or take the afternoon off to visit a museum. In and around Valentine’s Day I went the whole nine yards, with a massage at The Now Massage, and honestly this place deserves an entire post of its own. The team is AMAZING, the massage so life changing, and the space is pure bliss. Don’t think, just go – you won’t regret it (and warning, you’ll likely come home with one of their gorgeous signature candles.)

More isn’t More // a major point of stress for me while travelling was everything I had lingering back home. For those of you who don’t know, I’m downsizing to a shiny new condo in response to our ceiling at #thepastelpalace COLLAPSING while I was away, and living out of a suitcase really made me realize how little I actually need in my space to live a happy life. Now that I’m home I’m shedding like crazy for Spring, leaving the extra weight behind and only bringing forward the bits and pieces in my life that truly bring me joy.

Scent Therapy // Scents can be totally transportive, so when I get lost in my mind or overwhelmed by the bitter winter cold I spray Le Labo Santal 33. Well known just about everywhere, I found Santal was particularly beloved in Venice Beach, in fact it was basically inescapable, so the two almost immediately became intertwined in my mind. A whiff of this stuff and I’m instantly back with my toes in the sand, sipping wine and watching surfers. Some might call it wearing perfume, but I prefer “scent therapy”.

Take a Moment to Meditate // All over California, especially in and around LA, folks kept reminding me to just ~chill~ and it wasn’t till I arrived back in Toronto that I started to listen. Sometimes the best things can’t be forced, and taking time to slow down and just be in a moment has had a really positive impact on daily existence. I’ve been using Headspace since I got back, and I’m loving their little lessons (“Not everything is about achieving! Just be present!”) plus simple guided meditation sessions that made it easy even for someone who never sits still (aka me).

Appreciate What you Have // I found myself complaining about Toronto a whole lot while I was away, and finally someone pointed out “you know, I’ve never met someone who has something negative to say about that city.” It struck me that maybe my issue wasn’t with Toronto itself, but with the version of it that I found myself living in. I started to restructure my thoughts, analyzing the negativity and taking into consideration what I might be able to change. By the time I got home I was shocked to find I wasn’t riddled with anxiety and sadness shivering in the cold – I was stupidly excited to get my life going here! So far it’s been nothing but good, even if I’ve had to shelve my summer dresses for the time being.

Van Leeuwen ice cream
Flowerboy Project
The Social Type
Twig and Twine
Moonlight Rollerway
by chloe
Donut friend
Flounce Vintage
Sokerbit
Kettle Black
The Springs LA
The Broad Museum
Galcos Old World Grocery
Block Party
Ysabel
The Row
Honeycut
SQIRL
Fonuts

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