Brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

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Anyone who lives in Toronto knows that brunch in this city is no joke. If you want to secure a seat at one of the coveted brunch destinations in town, you’ll likely have to add your name to a lengthy list, or visit first thing in the morning. These are generally the places that live up to their hype and serve crave-worthy dishes that will keep you coming back for more. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, located in the heart of Liberty Village, is definitely one of those spots!

I had heard of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen a few years ago as one of the places to go for brunch, particularly for their blueberry buttermilk pancakes. I finally had the chance to visit last year, and was thoroughly impressed with the food and atmosphere. Last week, I was excited to be invited to return to enjoy their brunch, along with their Walter Craft Caesar. I arrived early at 10:30 am on Sunday with my boyfriend and the place already had a line out the door. If that isn’t a sign of food that’s worth the wait, I don’t know what is!

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We started the meal with a round of the restaurant’s “Canadian Caesars” which feature Stoli, curly celery, horseradish, and the star of the show, Walter’s Caesar Mix – Canada’s first all-natural, premium Caesar mix. I’ve loved Caesars as long as I’ve been legal, especially as my beverage of choice to pair with a yummy brunch. There’s something about having that spicy, savoury, slightly sour drink with your meal that just makes it that much better, maybe because it almost seems like another dish in itself.

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When the drinks arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the unique presentation, with heaping mounds of curly celery serving as a garnish. The wooden chopsticks were a cute and useful touch to help you pick up the strands while drinking, and you could really taste the difference in the mix. The drink had a bold tomato flavour that I crave from a great Caesar, and didn’t taste diluted at all. The only thing I thought was missing was a strip of the restaurant’s delicious Rosemary Bacon!

As far as the food goes, here’s what we ordered:

  • Veda’s Choice – Mildred’s classic poached eggs on a flakey croissant with your choice of smoked salmon or bacon, topped with Béarnaise sauce & served with mixed greens
  • The Manhandler – sliced flat iron steak on toasted garlic sourdough with arugula, two eggs sunny & a side of MP sauce
  • Mrs. Biederhof’s Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes – served with a wild blueberry compote, Lanark County organic maple syrup & whipped cream.

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Mildred’s Temple Kitchen specializes in refined comfort food with a focus on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Everything we had was absolutely delicious, and you could truly taste the quality in the food. Veda’s Choice (which we had with bacon) was luxuriously rich with the eggs cooked to runny perfection. The flat iron steak was tender, well-seasoned and a perfect medium rare. Our favourite however had to be the restaurant’s claim to fame blueberry buttermilk pancakes, which were on another level of fluffy.

The restaurant offers a weekend brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, and a “B’Lunch” menu (which offers a mix of brunch and lunch items) Monday to Friday from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. All of the dishes we had are served on both menus, and I highly recommend them all. I’m also a big fan of the restaurant’s scones and biscuits, which are baked fresh every morning! If you’ve been wondering if the wait it worth it for brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, I can personally vouch that it is. And if you’re planning a visit soon, make sure to wash it all down with a Canadian Caesar – I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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Travel Diary: Exploring Jamaica with Air Transat

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I’ve recently taken an interest in travelling down south, thanks to the particularly chilly winter we’ve been having in Toronto. Nothing has been appealing more to me lately than the idea of turquoise waves lapping across stretches of soft sand! So when Air Transat reached out to me with an opportunity to take a quick 5-day trip to Jamaica at the end of last month, I jumped at the opportunity. I travelled with a group of seven bloggers/influencers including myself, our awesomely organized Transat representative, Debbie, and our guide to  exploring the beautiful country – Charissa, from the Jamaica Tourist Board. Our home for the trip was the Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort, a modern, Caribbean-style property with a luxurious private beach and stunning ocean views.

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Shout-out to the inspiring ladies I travelled with, (from left to right): Jeanne, Alyssa from Random Acts of Pastel, Anna, Jess, Bella from xoxoBella, and Krystle from Dine & Fash

This trip was actually the first time I’ve ever travelled without the company of family or friends, and I was initially nervous to be visiting a new place with an entirely new group of people. I decided to take the plunge, and it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made! The people I met, sights I explored, and the experiences I had in Jamaica will never be forgotten. I challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone and live a little (for once!), and will always look back on this trip as an amazing milestone in my adventures.

The Location

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We had quite a full itinerary for the trip, which allowed us to see and experience a lot within the relatively short time we had in Jamaica. When visiting anywhere new, I actually prefer to have a packed schedule so that I can see as much as possible of the destination! Here are the highlights of what we got up to:

Rose Hall Great House Haunted Night Tour: a chilling night time tour of a historic Georgian mansion in Montego Bay, retelling the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall. This was actually my first haunted house experience – and while I survived, I likely wouldn’t return unless it was in the daytime, lol!

Martha Brae River rafting tour: a scenic ride down the Martha Brae River on a handmade bamboo raft.

Hampden Estate rum tour: a great way to spend an afternoon – the beautiful grounds of Hampden Estate were established in the 1750’s, and have remained true to the original distilling process. We were able to see how the rum is made, and sampled some of their award winning labels – Rum Fire and Hampden Estate Gold.

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Visit to the coastal town of Falmouth: We were able to experience Jamaica first hand with a visit to historic Falmouth, once considered the most cosmopolitan city in the western world. I loved seeing the local people, colours and music on the streets! We were also able to stop at a few fruit carts for a taste of fresh coconut.

Tour & farm-to-table lunch at Zimbali Retreats: This organic farm grows over 500 fruit trees and provides a natural escape in a tropical mountain valley.

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Beach time at Negril Seven Mile Beach: Negril is a popular tourist area known for its amazing snorkelling and scuba diving. Our group had soaked up the sun with some much needed beach time, enjoying the beautiful, soft sand and calm waters.

Sunset at Rick’s Café: The famous Rick’s Café is a popular tourist spot offering live music, food and drinks, cliff-diving (!), and an unbelievable view of the sunset. A few of the other girls had a blast plunging into the ocean from the rocks above, while I kicked back and enjoyed the view.

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Visit to Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios: Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most famed attractions and natural wonders. The stunning waterfall can be climbed from the bottom up and looks as pretty as a postcard. Most of the group tackled a series of seven ziplines over the falls, while I (being the chicken that I am) watched from the safety of the ground below.

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Of the experiences we shared, two definitely stood out for me. The Martha Brae River rafting tour was unlike anything I’d ever done, and allowed us to take in the beauty of the land first hand from a thirty-foot long bamboo raft. The Martha Brae is located three miles inland from the town of Falmouth, a serene river surrounded by towering trees and local vegetation. The rafts are guided by experienced Raft Captains, who are also responsible for building their vessels by hand. We were able to learn about the different plants native to the area, and had one of the most serene experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

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The other favourite of mine from the trip was our visit to Zimbali Retreats. The drive to this farm was an experience in itself, with winding dirt roads and plenty of potholes! The trek was well worth it however, when we arrived at the private retreat in the tropical mountains. After being given a tour of the farm, where all 500 species of plants are tended to by hand, we were treated to a delicious, farm-to-table culinary experience, made with ingredients grown right at the farm. I had the jerk shrimp, which was bursting with delicious flavour and spice.

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Jamaica offers the most beautiful combination of mountains, lush rainforest, lively cities, and white sand beaches. I’m so grateful that we were able to experience each of these different aspects during our trip, thanks to the awesome itinerary planned out by Charissa and the Jamaica Tourist Board.

The Resort: Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach

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Our stay at the Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort was nothing short of exceptional. The beachfront property is conveniently located only a short, 10-minute drive from Sangster International Airport in the heart of Montego Bay. All 146 rooms of the resort feature a breathtaking ocean view, and include a terrace or balcony. Dining options include an impressive buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as two a la cart restaurant options offering Mediterranean and authentic Jamaican cuisine.

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We were greeted at check in by a musical performance in the lobby of the resort, and served the cutest tropical drink in a pineapple upon arrival. We were each provided with a private room that was equipped with amenities including free Wi-Fi, a fridge and a television, with a sleek and modern Caribbean design. The room I was assigned actually had two double beds instead of a king, which was perfect to help me lay out all my outfits and pack for each day’s adventure. My favourite aspect of the room was definitely the balcony, which provided an unreal view of the sunrise and sunset each day.

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A standout aspect of the resort – and one of the first things I noticed about the people when arriving in Jamaica – was the warmth and hospitality of the staff. The team at the Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort went out of the way to ensure we were taken care of at all times and were more than accommodating when it came to any special requests!

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The Food

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I always need to make a quick mention about the food, wherever I visit! I went to Jamaica with high hopes for the food, and was not disappointed. The buffet at the resort had something for everyone (I especially appreciated the super crispy bacon served at breakfast), and switched up the dishes frequently for dinner. We had an epic breakfast spread one morning at the resort, filled with piles of fresh fruit, stacks of fluffy pancakes, and plates of yummy savoury eats.

 

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We also made a few trips off resort for food, one of my favourites being a visit to local hotspot, Scotchies. Our group dove into an amazing spread of authentic Jamaican dishes: jerk chicken and pork, sausage, wings, festival, roast yam, steamed veg, and rice and peas. We washed it all down with Jamaica’s staple beer: Red Stripe. We also made a point to stop on the way back to the resort for Jamaican patties – I had a beef and cheese patty that really hit the spot!

Before I knew it, our whirlwind trip had come to an end and we were on our way back to the airport for our flight home. Our group flew Option Plus with Air Transat, which provides special privileges in Economy Class including seat selection, extras on board, and priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling. It was such a breeze getting on and off the plane on the way to Jamaica, and on the way back. As part of our experience, we were also able to pre-order on-board meals for our departing and return flights off The Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina. I had a Spinach and Basil Omelette for breakfast on the way there, and Sweet Potato Gnocchi on the way home, both of which were very tasty.

I’m so thankful to have participated in this experience, and never in my wildest dreams thought I would have had the opportunity to go on a trip like this! A huge thank you to Air Transat, the Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort, and the Jamaican Tourist Board for showing me all that Jamaica has to offer.

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Brunch at The Carbon Bar

The Carbon Bar Brunch

I was recently invited to try the brunch menu at The Carbon Bar, a hip spot located at 99 Queen Street West that serves up southern-style snacks, plates and platters. I had actually visited the restaurant before for dinner after a recommendation from a friend and was impressed by the food, so I was excited to return to try their brunch selection.

Carbon Bar offers a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am – 2:30 pm that features a number of drool-worthy items including Chicken ‘N’ Waffles with citrus crema and Buttermilk Pancakes with wild blueberries and Ennis Farm maple syrup. They also have a beautiful, full-service bar whipping up refreshing mimosas, house Caesars (my personal fave), and other made-to-order cocktails.

My friend and I arrived at 11:30 am on a Sunday for our meal and were greeted by the restaurant’s super friendly staff, who escorted us to our table. I love the decor at Carbon Bar, which features funky red banquet seating, retro lighting fixtures and impressive high ceilings.

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The Carbon Bar Mimosa

We ordered a few different dishes to sample along with the prettiest grapefruit mimosas – the restaurant actually has an awesome promotion running currently, where they’ll give you a free mimosa with your meal if you share your brunch experience on social and tag them @TheCarbonBar.

Here’s what we feasted on:

  • Chicken ‘N’ Waffles – buttermilk fried chicken, citrus crema, chili + honey + garlic sauce
  • Buttermilk Pancakes – wild‎ blueberries, Ennis Farm maple syrup, lemon yogurt hangop + house smoked bacon
  • Smoked Brisket Benny – high rise biscuit, two poached eggs, red cabbage slaw, Anaheim chili, dill pickle, hollandaise
  • Smashed & Fried Potatoes – kimchi,‎ parmesan, green onions

The restaurant was also kind enough to serve us a few fresh baked pastries to start. When the food arrived (very promptly I might add), I was blown away by how delicious everything looked – you eat with your eyes first, after all. All of the dishes were also served piping hot, a factor greatly appreciated by someone who can’t consume her meal before documenting it excessively, lol!

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The Carbon Bar Buttermilk Pancakes

Once we were finally able to dig in, it’s safe to say we were both thoroughly impressed by the quality of the food. The pancakes were fluffy as clouds, the benny was bursting with flavour thanks to the chili and pickle, and the chicken was crunchy on the outside and succulent on the inside. I love that the menu puts a spin on the classics, infusing them with southern flair and unexpected asian influence (like the kimchi in the potatoes). And when I say we feasted – I mean we had a feast. The portions were more than generous and way more than the two of us could eat! We had the leftovers packed to-go, which were left at the hostess stand for us to collect on the way out – a nice touch on the restuarant’s part.

If you’re looking for a new go-to brunch spot with a delicious selection of savoury and sweet dishes in a cool, relaxed atmosphere – I highly recommend a visit to The Carbon Bar. It’s perfect for both groups (large or small) and couples, and is soon to be on the top of everyone’s radar, in my opinion. I’ll definitely be returning to try some of their Texas BBQ soon, and in the meantime will be dreaming of the mouthwatering brunch spread we had!

All-inclusive Vacation in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

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This post is long overdue, but I still wanted to share a recap of my experience in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba at the end of December. This was only my second all-inclusive vacation (the first was in Playa del Carmen, Mexico in 2012), and I had heard mixed reviews about vacationing in Cuba prior to my trip. My boyfriend had been multiple times and wasn’t super keen on returning, but once we explored our options, we quickly realized it was the most affordable choice for the time of year. We were looking for an easy and relaxing beach vacation to unwind at the end of the year, and decided to book.

Here’s a summary of my experience for anyone looking travel to Cayo Santa Maria in the future:

The Location 

Cayo Santa Maria is a small island off of Cuba’s northern coast, known for its beautiful beaches and all-inclusive resorts. To get to the island, tourists fly into Santa Clara airport (the teeniest, tiniest airport I’ve ever travelled to – seriously, our departing flight from Cuba was one of two departures scheduled for that night) and then take a one hour bus ride to the resorts. Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017 caused considerable damage to this area, including to the highway that connects Cayo Santa Maria to the main island. The resorts were reopened in mid-November, but we weren’t sure what to expect when we arrived.

We were relieved to find that most damage had been repaired by the end of December, when we landed for our vacation. The weather was a perfect 25°C and sunny during the day, and cooled off at night to about 18°C. Hurricane season in Cuba is June – November, and after some pre-trip Googling I was convinced we would be met with swarms of mosquitos and sand fleas that appear after heavy rainfall. However much to my relief, this was not the case. We were lucky to steer clear of rain almost entirely, and were able to soak up the sunshine and avoid the harsh Canadian winter at home.

The beaches were beautiful, with soft sand and turquoise waters. Due to the hurricane, there were some minor debris still left along the coast, but nothing that took away from our experience. The water was calm, and shallow enough to wade into for a few hundred feet – great for a non-swimmer like me. 

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The Resort

We chose to stay at Ocean Casa del Mar, a relatively new resort that opened in 2016. I was attracted to the modern design, which was initially what drew me in when searching through different resorts to stay at online. When we arrived, my boyfriend was instantly impressed with the resort in comparison to some of the others he had stayed at before. I, on the other hand immediately zoned in on the stained linens, rugs and towels. After the initial shock, I was able to look past this, and accepted that this was a somewhat normal quality standard for a cheap, all-inclusive resort.

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I would rate the overall cleanliness of the resort a 7/10, but I did appreciate all of the modern touches – especially the pink walls outside of all the units. The air conditioner in our room worked well, which was important for staying comfortable in the heat, and we had convenient access to both the pool and the beach. The grounds of the resort had been affected by the hurricane, so it was bare in some areas, but I could tell that the landscaping would be beautiful in a few months time.

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The resort put on a show in a stage area by the lobby each night at 9:30 with live singing and dancing. We caught it a few times but spent most evenings relaxing in our room and binge-watching Ozark episodes I had downloaded to my phone before we left, lol! Other activities including dance lessons, pool games and Spanish lessons were also available, but we spent almost all of our daytime just relaxing on the beach.

The Food

This was what people had warned me the most about before the trip. Anyone I talked to who had travelled to an all-inclusive resort in Cuba did not have great things to say about the food. I think this almost worked in my favour, because my expectations were so low when I arrived that I was pleasantly surprised by the selection!

Ocean Casa del Mar had a variety of themed restaurants (that were located in the same spaces, but changed theme based on the night of the week – Italian, Asian, Seafood, etc.), and a main buffet that served breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were definitely a few unusual items on the menu, but for the most part we didn’t have any trouble finding things to eat each day (though we did consume a LOT of fries). We figured out early on  that the best food was at the beach. With a number bars spaced out along the sand, they had fresh whole grilled fish, burgers, and even paella on a few occasions.

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While overall I was okay with the food situation, I did notice a few questionable practices happening at the resort. For example, the same spatula was used to portion out, cook and serve the raw chicken, beef and pork at the grilling station. I had also received a few warnings to avoid eating the produce, as it could be washed in tap water – which often contains bacteria our digestive systems aren’t accustomed to. We made it through the week without any stomach issues (thankfully), but once we were home both my boyfriend and I were sick for a week. I’m not exactly sure what the culprit was, but it could have been one of the above.

Tips for travelling to Cayo Santa Maria

  • The plugs in Cayo Santa Maria are different than North American plugs. Bring an 220v compatible adapter to be able to use and charge your appliances.
  • Cell service is rare, if not impossible to find. Wi-fi must be purchased at most resorts and is spotty at best, so plan accordingly – or better yet, plan to go off the grid!
  • If you have some extra suitcase space, gently used clothing, cosmetics and gifts are great to bring to Cuba to donate to hotel staff and locals, who are super appreciative of anything you give them.

I personally love the carefree nature of an all-inclusive vacation, and would love to go on more trips like this in the future (hint: there may be another one coming up very soon!). If your thing is sitting on the beach, unplugging and having a few cervezas in the sand, Cayo Santa Maria is definitely an affordable option to consider.

Valentine’s Day Staycation at One King West

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My boyfriend and I were looking for a special way to celebrate Valentine’s Day together this year, as it’s the first time in three years we could spend it together in person (we were long distance for two years while he attended school in London, UK). With both of our hectic schedules, it seemed like a weekend staycation was just what we needed. After researching a few hotels, we settled on One King West, and were lucky enough to be invited to collaborate with them to experience one of their Romantic Getaway packages.

One King West is located in the heart of downtown Toronto at Yonge Street and King Street West in an Ontario Heritage-designated building. Formerly the head office of The Dominion Bank (later The Toronto-Dominion Bank), the building is architecturally stunning, with all of the historical charm you would expect of a 100-year-old landmark. Amenities include a full concierge, limo service, valet parking, a business centre, and a newly renovated rooftop fitness centre. One King West actually doubles as a hotel and residence, with suites divided between two buildings: the historic Dominion Bank Building, and the “Silver” Condo Tower, which we stayed in.

The Room

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We were upgraded to a Tower Premium Suite, which was located on the corner of the building, offering incredible views of Lake Ontario as well as the CN Tower. On a clear day, this would have been one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever had of the city – unfortunately, we were hit with some terrible weather during the weekend way stayed, and the top half of the CN Tower was engulfed in fog! Luckily it cleared up at night, just in time to see the pretty city lights.

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The suite itself was cozy, with a separate bedroom containing a king sized bed, and a little living area with a kitchenette, couch, and desk area. The bed was one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever stayed in – we actually had a quick nap after checking in after failing to resist the soft, squishy siren song of the mattress and pillows.

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As part of the package, we were greeted with a bottle of white wine (custom bottled for the hotel) and a plate of gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries – one of my all-time favourite treats! I love that we were also provided with plush robes and a pair of slippers, which really added to the rest and relaxation theme of our weekend.

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One King West Bathroom 3

The washroom had both a tub and a shower, and luxurious toiletries by BYREDO. A few things to note about our experience if you’re planning a stay at One King West in the future – I did notice that the Wi-Fi signal in our room was quite weak, which could be a bit tricky for those travelling for work. It wasn’t as much of a problem for us, as we could use the data on our phones, but could be frustrating for longer stays.

The hotel also offers valet parking at a cost of $49 a night on a first come, first serve basis, but spots seem to fill up quickly – we arrived around 5:30 pm with the car but unfortunately were turned away and had to park in a public garage nearby. If you’re located in the city, you might want to consider other transportation methods, since the hotel is located very conveniently on the subway line.

The Food

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The hotel offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in their lobby bistro, as well as a bar named “Teller’s Bar” that serves snacks and drinks in a casual setting. We were ecstatic to have breakfast included in our stay, which was buffet-style and served in the lobby until 11:30 am. This gave us ample time to sleep in, and we were thoroughly impressed with the selection available when we arrived at the buffet.

In addition to every kind of breakfast protein you can imagine (bacon, peameal bacon, sausage, turkey sausage, and eggs cooked any way you like them), they also had a selection of pastries, pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, parfaits and fruit. It was truly a spread fit for royalty! The best part? They let us take our food back to our room, where we could eat in the comfort of bed, and enjoy a little more quality time before a late checkout.

Location

In my opinion, one of the best features of One King West is the awesome location. Just steps away from major landmarks including the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Hockey Hall of Fame, there’s never a shortage of things to do and see in the area. Another key feature is that the hotel actually connects to the Toronto PATH, the underground tunnel system that provides optimal access to public transportation and many downtown Toronto destinations. This was particularly handy during our stay for avoiding the cold and slush when walking to dinner for the evening at Jump restaurant, located just across the street.

The only complaint I have about our staycation experience at One King West is that it was far too short. We had such a relaxing stay, and were treated with such friendly, accommodating service that we’re sure to return!

If you’re looking for a last minute way to spend February 14th with your special someone, the hotel is offering a Valentine’s Day dinner/getaway package featuring a four-course prix fix dinner menu set to live music. I definitely recommend a stay at One King West if you’re looking for an affordable hotel in Toronto for a weekend of sightseeing, or simply to relax and enjoy some time off.

Celebrating Lunar New Year: Traditions, Outfits, & Gift Ideas

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With Lunar New Year just around the corner, I’ve teamed up with CF Markville Mall to share some of my favourite ways to celebrate, as well as my personal connection to the holiday! As a second generation Chinese-Canadian (born and raised in Canada by my English-speaking parents), I was never fully immersed in Chinese culture growing up. Unlike most of the other Chinese kids I knew, I never learned to speak or write Chinese, and definitely identified as “Canadian” more than anything else.

Despite this, I could always count on my grandmother to keep some Chinese traditions alive for our family – Lunar New Year included. This was one time in the year where I felt truly connected to my Chinese culture: happily dressing up in red, having dinner with family, and exchanging lucky red pockets and candies. Lunar New Year marks the beginning of spring for many in various Asian cultures, and is all about bringing good luck and good fortune for the coming year. The multi-day long festival is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, and will begin this year on February 16th – the Year of the Dog.

My Lunar New Year Traditions

To celebrate, my family usually gets together on Lunar New Year’s Eve at my grandmother’s house for a traditional home cooked meal. This typically includes fish and dumplings, which signify prosperity. My grandma happens to be quite a superstitious lady, and I’ve adopted these Lunar New Year traditions over the years from her:

  • Wear red and gold to symbolize good fortune
  • Don’t sweep, clean or wash your hair on New Years Day, or you’ll sweep and wash away your good luck and fortune for the year!
  • Mandarin oranges are a food that brings good fortune – having the stem and leaves attached also represents long life

Lucky red pockets containing money are also given during Lunar New Year, typically from adults and married couples to the children in the family.

What I’m Wearing for Lunar New Year

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As I mentioned, red is a colour that symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture. Wearing a new outfit is also a popular tradition, as it represents the start of a new year (and a great excuse to go shopping!). I headed to CF Markville Mall to pick up a new lucky red outfit, and stumbled on this gorgeous dress from Zara.

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I’m actually not one to have a lot of bright red in my wardrobe (despite its popularity in fashion as of late) and opted for a darker burgundy shade for my outfit. I love the pretty ruffle details, as well as the touch of gold in the embroidered flowers – a colour that’s also considered to bring good luck.

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To add a pop of true red, I used a bright red polish and matte red lippie to finish the look.

My Lunar New Year Outfit and Gift Guide

Lunar New Year Gift Guide

  1. Aritzia Vivienne Dress in Lillooet

I love the simplicity of this little slip dress, and the bright, crimson colour. Pair it with a leather moto jacket, or over a t-shirt for an effortlessly cool vibe.

  1. Forever 21 Beaded Tassel Drop Earrings

These earrings definitely make a statement and are an easy way to instantly dress up any look. I love that the red tassels almost mimic the look of the decorative tassels on traditional Chinese lanterns.

  1. Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso

My all-time favourite red lippie, which I’m wearing it in the photos above. It’s a bold, flattering shade of red that works well on any skin tone – and the cool undertone makes teeth look super white.

  1. Essie Nail Polish in Ole Caliente

This is the nail polish equivalent to the lipstick above – a bold and flattering true red. I don’t usually rock a red polish, but when I do, it’s this one! Make sure to finish with a topcoat for a chip-free shine.

  1. Pandora Chinese New Year Charms

Pandora has released an entire collection in celebration of Lunar New Year, which includes these adorable Lantern, Ingot, and Lion Dance charms. I’m obsessed!

  1. Aldo Stessy Gold Pumps

I love the almost mirrored finish of these super-reflective gold heels! The pretty metallic hue is the perfect way to add a prosperous pop to your Lunar New Year look (or to any outfit!).

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If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate (or you’re inspired to shop for any of these items), CF Markville will be holding a Lunar New Year celebration on Sunday, February 17th that will include exciting performances, live music, and a traditional lion dance!

I’m also holding a giveaway on my Instagram to help you celebrate – head to my page to enter for your chance to win a $500 Roots gift card + three Pandora charms! I’ll be at the mall on the 17th checking out all the festivities myself. Happy Lunar New Year and hope to see you there!

2017 Year in Review

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Happy New Year! I can’t believe we’re officially into 2018 – the last bit of 2017 seemed to fly by, and we’re already halfway through January. I’m sorry I’ve been missing from the blog for the past little bit… balancing my full time job, blogging, Instagram and the holidays got a bit overwhelming for me in December. I decided to take some time off to really focus on spending time with family and friends, as well as to unplug for a bit to get back into a healthy and focused mind-set for the new year. With that in mind, I thought reflecting back on all the accomplishments, challenges, and fun I had in 2017 would be a perfect place to jump back in!

If I was to describe last year in one word, I would have to admit that “hectic” is the first thing that comes to mind. I spent a lot of time learning how to juggle my work (professional and personal) with my life – and while I’ve definitely started to get the hang of it, there’s still lots of room for improvement. 2018 will be all about balance for me: finding ways to be more motivated, efficient, and to make time to stand back and take care of myself when things start to get overwhelming. Although 2017 was a struggle at times, I also had some amazing experiences and made memories I’ll hold onto for years to come.

Here’s a quick recap of what I got up to in 2017:

I kicked work into overdrive

Apart from my full time job (I work in Digital Marketing for a print company in Toronto), I really focused on growing my Instagram last year! Thanks to the support of my awesome followers, I was lucky enough to be given many more opportunities in 2017 to work with some of my favourite brands, create content, and attend events I used to dream of being invited to. I would consider myself to be a quiet, more introverted person, so this really helped to bring me outside my comfort zone, to meet new people, and to even make a few new friends.

My best friend sent me to Coachella (!)

Coachella

As I’m sure many of you know, Lauren (aka LaurDIY) is someone I hold near and dear to my heart, and since going long distance with our friendship we haven’t been able to see each other as often. She surprised me in April by offering to bring me along with her to Coachella, and I nearly died of excitement. We took amazing Instas, celebrity spotted, tanned while eating avo toast by the pool, and spent some much needed quality time together. This was such a special and once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ll never forget, and will always be grateful for.

Celebrated my champagne birthday

Champage-Birthday

I turned 24 on August 24th last year, something that people refer to as your “champagne” birthday. I’m hoping this means 2018 will be my year (fingers crossed!), and I had a great time celebrating with my family and my closest friends. I’m reaching the age where getting older is starting to scare me more than excite me, but I know I still have a few years to figure out what I’m doing. Your 20’s are supposed to be some of the best years of your life, right? 

My boyfriend moved home

As some of you might know, my boyfriend and I were long distance for two years while he attended school in London, UK, after having been together since 2011. This was a huge change for us and definitely a challenge at times, but we found a way to make it work. I was SO happy to have him finally move home to Toronto in September, and have been treasuring every bit of face time we’ve had since then. Skype dates are great and all, but having him around to give me hugs IRL has been incomparable.

I travelled more

Travel

2017 was the year for quick getaways! I *finally* was able to take a day trip to Tobermory, Ontario in the summertime (a place I’ve been dying to visit for years), and also went to visit my boyfriend while he was away for work in the summer in Scottsdale, Arizona. Scottsdale wasn’t a place that had ever been on my radar, but I actually loved it, even in the 40-degree heat! In the fall, my bf and I also spent a weekend in Montreal, which I think will be our new annual tradition.

Ended the year off right in Cuba

Cuba

If I could pick a way to spend the last week of every year, I would spend it on a beach, in a tropical location, with unlimited food and drinks! This is exactly how I ended 2017, with a trip to Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba. This was only my second all-inclusive vacation, and I had never travelled to Cuba before. The weather was amazing, the beach was stunning, and we didn’t end up having wifi, which was a blessing in disguise. Stay tuned for a full recap of the trip soon on the blog!

As for my goals for 2018, my blog and my Instagram are a huge source of joy and creativity in my life right now, and I would love to see that part of my life continue to grow this year. Part of that includes engaging more with all of you, showing more of my personality online, and getting to know you better. Whether that’s through comments and messages, Insta stories, or through video – I’m determined to find more ways to connect in an engaging and meaningful way.