Dear Diary

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We’ve already been over my personal 2016 resolutions, most of which are going quite well actually, but this post is all about those dollars. That’s right, RAOP is finally making bank (sort of), and this year our tiny team has some pretty big plans for the pastel empire. The only problem? We really need to get on top of proper money management.

A few months ago I was able to get myself out of credit card debt with the help of Mogo (aka my financial superhero), but now it’s time to move on to bigger financial woes. We finally set up RAOP as an actual business and got ourselves an accountant, but that doesn’t mean our personal money struggles aren’t still coming into play.

Making the move from working at a cushy full time job to working for ourselves here at The Pastel Palace was a tough call for Johanna and I, and though the payoff (not to mention the FUN) has been more than worth it, we’ve definitely got a lot to learn when it comes to budgeting and running a business. Freelance life can be difficult to navigate no matter what field you’re in, and we’re just starting to grasp basic concepts like knowing our worth, charging appropriately for projects, and keeping track of what we’re spending. On top of that, we’ve come up with a few key goals and money saving tips to keep us in the green this year, and we’re sharing them below!

Keep scrolling for our favourite tips and tricks

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Don’t Spend on small stuff // I am really bad for spending all of my money on pretty little things, and though a lot of them end up as props in shoots etc. I still can’t help but feel the need to scale down and rethink my approach a bit. Weekly fresh flowers and paper clips shaped like flamingos might look nice in the studio, but saving those pennies to invest in new photo backdrops makes a lot more sense (cents?)

What’s Old is New Again // Johanna is the queen of DIY, and she’s been doing a great job of repurposing and reinventing around the house lately. Old band t-shirt? Let’s make it a crop top and use the extra fabric to make macrame plant hangers! Backpack too stained from pen ink? Give it new life with a quick dye in the bath tub!

Plan ahead // One of our biggest shortcomings is budgeting and keeping track of what we spend, so the prepaid Mogo card is sort of a lifesaver. All you do is load the card with your spending money (ex. our entire budget for a shoot), and whether you’re shopping online or irl you can never overspend! It’s a really clever way to stay on top of budgeting, and the card designs are really pretty to boot.

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Don’t get Screwed by CC Debt // I may have gotten my credit card under control, but Johanna still has a handful of debt and student loans to pay off. We’re trying to work out a plan to help her get on top of it, and Mogo’s Liquid Loan is definitely a contender, but in the meantime she’s just saving whenever she can. As for me, I’ll be keeping a very close watch on our new business account visa- there’s something extra scary about falling off the wagon with that card!

Back to Basics // Since leaving our 9-5 life we’ve had to make a lot of little lifestyle adjustments, including but not limited to making tea at home instead of splurging at coffee shops, getting creative with cocktail recipes instead of overspending at the bar, and making more home cooked meals with friends.

Swap Meet // We love the idea of trading what you don’t need for something you do, and we try to do so as much as possible. We’ll often trade social media consultation for business advice and locally-made goods, and we’re really into Toronto’s trading group Bunz Trading Zone. Offering goods and services is a great way to get what you need for less, and it also helps build a really wonderful sense of community, even in the big city.

Dear DiarySips, Sweets & Snacks

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Well, as expected living on just juice was a challenge- in fact, for me it was pretty much impossible. I’m a super active person, and I always have about 100 things on the go, so attempting to go so many days without any carbs and then survive two days drinking only liquids honestly just didn’t really work.

Though I did my best to relax, I ended up working and running errands like crazy before collapsing into bed and sleeping almost all day both days. I felt like I was missing out on a bunch of important time, and by the end of day one I just got SO hungry. What can I say? I truly love to eat, and though a cleanse might work if I was laying poolside in the sun all week reading books and taking long naps, a few days without food in the middle of cold Toronto winter and a crazy busy work week started to feel almost unhealthy.

And so, At the end of day one I ate a few bites of kale salad, and on day two I couldn’t help but snag a few pieces of the vegan sushi we made with Juniper Wood Kitchen.

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After my indiscretion, I ended up consulting Marcelina, curious why not eating even made sense in the first place. She explained that because our digestive system is always working hard to, well, digest, it never gets a break to heal and regenerate. By ingesting only liquid foods, we give it that break to cleanse and gather energy instead of continually loading it with solid food to process. This makes a ton of sense, but in the end I couldn’t ignore what my body was telling me- I really needed to eat, so I did.

Though I’m sure cleanse experts will shake their heads, I still feel really good about how I’ve done so far. It’s been a whole week since I’ve touched a cigarette, and six days without any animal products or junk food, which for me is VERY big. I didn’t crack and order a pizza, I didn’t go out drinking with my friends (despite their insistence vodka is basically just a potato), and most importantly I’m feeling so inspired to make all sorts of healthy vegan recipes this week!

But not so fast… I’ve still got one last day to go! I’ll report back later this week with the full review.

Dear DiarySips, Sweets & Snacks

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So here we are, almost halfway through January- oh how times flies! I was a little slow to get started on my resolutions this year, and you may have noticed I’ve been a lot more quiet than usual. what can I say? I needed a bit of me time! Anyway, here I am, back and better than ever.

In an effort to fast track some of my 2016 goals, I decided to try something I’ve failed at multiple times in the past: a cleanse! Now I know what you’re thinking- “Alyssa, you’ve mentioned time and time again that you don’t like cleanses and you’d rather eat? Who even are you!” Trust me, I’m definitely not attempting to survive on lemon water and cayenne for a week. Instead of trying to jump into a pre-set juice program or create on my own cleanse schedule based on the internet as I have in the past, I decided to turn to my favourite local juicery for help.

Village Juicery, to be precise.

I’ve had a pretty serious addiction to Village ever since they opened a couple years ago, and every time I visited to stock up on chocolate nut milk (you MUST try it) I became more curious about their Reset programs (aka custom juice cleanses). I loved the idea of a reset this month, especially with all of my 2015 bad habits and recent emotional baggage that I’d like to leave in the past, so I set up an appointment with Marcelina, one of Village’s in-house nutritionists, and dove right in.

Lesson one: you cannot just “dive in” to a juice cleanse! Marcelina and I talked through all of my eating habits, my energy levels, how I sleep, how much alcohol I drink (insert face palm) and more before she carefully drafted up a schedule of juices tailored to me. Because I’m so deeply attached to eating, she planned out two “Prepare” days, two “Eliminate” days, and one “Reset” day, which in English means I only had to make it through two days of just juice. During the other three days I’d be able to eat nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies (specifically greens!)

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And so here I am, reporting from the end of day 2. In an effort to prep and make my cleanse as successful as possible I started eating only veggies and a tiny bit of whole grains (brown rice mostly) right after my appointment at Village Monday, which means I’ve had no processed sugar, caffeine, white bread products, or alcohol for four days! It’s been a massive change for me considering I basically live on pizza and donuts, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been dreaming of burritos and slices of cake nonstop for the past 48 hours.

Anyway, moving on!

I picked up my first 2 boxes of juice magic yesterday morning and got started right away. On top of the juices and little health shots Marcelina included chia breakfast bowls for the first two days, and some really tasty kale pulp crackers. She also included a calendar with timing for when to drink everything, and cute little tips for what to focus on each day (because she’s the sweetest ever), which made me feel a lot more motivated right away. That said, I somehow missed a memo, and for the most of yesterday I didn’t eat any veggies, just the breakfast bowl. That’s right, I put myself through hours of juice-only life by accident. MY BAD.

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Once I figured out I could eat veggies, nuts and seeds for these first official two days everything got a lot less dismal. I made a super tasty salad for dinner night one with tahini dressing, kale, cucumber, peppers, and an entire avocado (can you tell I miss my fats?), and snacked on my kale crackers with hummus all day yesterday. I feel sleepy much earlier than usual (Marcelina recommended sleeping before 10!) and have been battling a few headache attacks, but overall I feel really good about day one and two. My body actually feels nourished, which is an altogether new feeling, and as I start to shed my bad habits (I haven’t smoked since Sunday!) I can feel some of the bad vibes and sad feelings evaporating out of my life as well.

Starting this morning, it’s the big Kahuna- two days of just juice. Wish me luck? I’ll report back soon…

Dear Diary

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After almost a week of rest and regeneration, I’m finally feeling up to facing 2016 with everything I’ve got. January is practically made for self-improvement and new goals, and though 2015 wasn’t my favourite year on record it certainly taught me a lot about myself and where I’d like to be next.

Protect your magic // I’ve been hesitant about this one for awhile, but I think it’s finally time to embrace it based on recent life lessons. I’ve always loved how easily I trust, how strongly I love, and how much I throw myself into new experiences, but sadly I think the best thing I could do moving forward is to learn to be a bit more guarded. Giving away your magic feels wonderful until you have nothing but a few specks of glitter left for yourself, and I think I need to teach myself to only give what I receive back. To read more about the art movement that’s inspired me, click here.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover // For a long time I was too busy to make time for one of my favourite things: learning. From watching documentaries to devouring books, I used to love to soak up new information like a sponge, and I’m really seriously invested in bringing that hunger back to my life. Also, podcasts! Any recommendations?

Go green // I don’t know what happened, but I used to eat so much healthier not long ago. These days I survive on a diet of mostly cheese, simple carbs, and sugar, which may look cute in photos but honestly, it does NOT feel good. Effective immediately I’m going to cut back on the diary and sugar, and work towards a mainly plant-based diet. I’ll be sure to share any new favourite recipes here!

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Snuff out the smoke // Very few of you know this because I never ever bring it up online, but I’ve smoked on and off for years. It always used to be just a casual social thing, but recently it’s become much more of a habit than I care to admit. I’m hoping to stop completely by the end of February, and in the meantime I’d love any tips you might have!

Run for it // Nothing in the world makes me feel more strong and totally free than a good run, in fact I always joke I run my best when I’m dealing with some form of emotional trauma. I want to work morning jogs into my daily routine instead of just sporadically when I’m feeling too sad to function.