Media Tastings, Collabs, and Podcast Promotions

Hey boo! It’s been about 6 weeks, and I felt it was important to write something here for the 1 person left who actually looks forward to my blog posts. My absence is entirely my fault. I’m learning that maintaining an Instagram page, blogging, AND podcasting, realistically cannot coexist and is not sustainable. Something had to fall by the wayside, and unfortunately it’s the writing. This obviously saddens me, because it’s my passion, but when there’s so much momentum elsewhere, and sometimes blogging feels like a dying art, you have to accept defeat and realize where the casualty will lie.

Anyway, I wanted to fill you in on where I’ve been. In the last couple of months, my Instagram has really taken off. I’ve been invited to media tastings, been given products to promote and giveaway, and just generally have grown a very active and organic following that feels really special. I wanted to share some of these highlights here.

Feng Cha Canada Media Tasting

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Feng Cha is the cutest little bubble tea and fruit tea spot in Scarborough. The aesthetic was adorable, with a floral wall and a giant stuffed bear. We got to sample a bunch of their teas, as well as their pastries and buns, and I had so much fun meeting other foodies in the city and partaking in all things cutesy and Asian.

Podcast Promotional Photoshoot

A few weekends ago, me and Blair (along with her boyfriend in tow as our photog) went to Lov’t Studio (cutest little studio with amazing sets and props) to take some podcast promotional photos. Our podcast has really taken off, and we’re having so much fun spreading our message of self-care and self-love! We decided to take some photos to help promote it and increase our listenership (is that a word?), and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way they turned out.

Welo collaboration

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Welo (short for We Love) is my favourite Canadian brand of organic, vegan probiotic bars and beverages. My kids love their kids’ bars, and I love the ingredients in their products. So naturally this was an organic (pun intended) pairing, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything they sent to me, and doing a product giveaway with them! Hilariously enough, the winner of this giveaway was a new follower and someone I didn’t know, but it turns out he lives around the corner from me!

Revive Organics collaboration

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Revive Organics is also a Canadian company, selling ready-made organic and vegan smoothies that just require adding liquid and blending. I LOVE the concept, and felt like this partnership was very on-brand and made sense as a busy working mom of two. They sent me some of their smoothies, as well as their new overnight oats product, and me and the kids thoroughly enjoyed all of them. The company was also kind enough to send me a coupon code for my followers and readers, so if you’re reading this and want to try them out, you can use my code LAUREN50 for 50% off your order!

Imperfect Fresh Eats Media Tasting

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A couple of days ago I attended a media tasting at Imperfect Fresh Eats, a new restaurant at 318 Adelaide St. W. The concept is amazing. They use imperfect/slightly flawed produce in order to keep costs down and reduce food waste. The bowls were beautiful and full of fresh, delicious ingredients, but for a very reasonable price (small bowl is $9.50, a large is only $11)! You pick from a base of forbidden black rice, Asian sweet potato noodles, spring mix or spinach, add your protein (chipotle chicken, tofu, shrimp or kalbi beef), and then you can add unlimited toppings and dressings. I tasted the chicken and had a base of all four options, and honestly, it was amazing. I love what they’re doing there. Stay tuned for a giftcard giveaway!

Anyway, this is where I’ve been. Yes I’ve been neglecting my OG baby, but I’m out there hustling and I promise to give this blog more loving in the coming months.

XO,

The Athleisure Teacher

Cancun 2018

New year, who dis?

Happy 2019 friends! As I look back and reflect on 2018, I’m honestly so grateful I was inspired to start this blog in June. It’s opened the door to so many opportunities for me on Instagram. I’ve met so many wonderful new people, said yes to things that were waaaaaay outside my comfort zone, and even began a podcast all about self-care! Having a voice and a creative outlet has been so wonderful for my mental health, and it’s lead to me conquering so many of my fears and anxieties. I socialize and go out more often, drive downtown (where as I used to say no to things because downtown driving scared me shitless), and it’s just generally made me less self conscious in public (hello taking food photos with a ring light while other patrons stare at me). It’s also brought me and the hubby closer together, as he’s often my partner in crime on my foodie outings. He’ll take the photos (he has more of an eye for the aesthetics and plating), and then I edit and post. We’re quite the duo!

Anyway, this post isn’t about my year in review. It’s about our trip to Mexico over Christmas. We stayed at a resort on the Cancun strip called Panama Jack, and it ended up being a solid choice. It was a last minute booking, and we weren’t disappointed at all!

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When we first arrived, we asked for a larger suite. The rooms are quite small, and we needed to accommodate both kids on separate beds, because we just knew they wouldn’t sleep well together in the same bed. So we opted for a room upgrade for about $50 USD a night. Pricey, yes, but worth it I think. It was still a smaller room, but we fit two beds in for them, had an ocean view, and also had 24/7 access to a VIP buffet that served tons of delicious food and top shelf alcohol. The room itself was super clean, modern, and had solid amenities. The only downside was it didn’t have a bathtub, so the kids had to shower, which isn’t their favourite, but it was massive and we made it work.

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The food and the drinks were amazing. Generally speaking, the staff at the resort are very eager to please and provide amazing service. Everyone seemed happy and friendly, and the chefs were really into presentation of the food. Most of the food tasted as good as it looked. I mostly had omelettes made every morning for breakfast, and tacos for lunch. I drank mango margaritas mostly, but they also had this drink that I think is called a Miami Vice or something and it’s green, red, and yellow, and it was delicious as all heck. My daughter ate relatively well, but my son did not. He survived on fries, boxed cereal, ice cream, and mac and cheese. Some things they just couldn’t do, like Asian food night. It wasn’t working for me. Also, full disclosure, we did get food poisoning one night, which is pretty common in Mexico at an all-inclusive where the water can be contaminated, buffets have lots of hands touching things, and food might not be kept at the required temperatures. My other complaint is they only had 2 a la carte restaurants, neither which took reservations, which meant long line ups if you didn’t go as early as 5:15 pm! Other all-inclusives we’ve been to have had upwards of 10 a la carte restaurants with ample seating. But on the plus side, this was a smaller resort, with everything in close proximity, and we liked not having to walk far to the pool, restaurants, our room, etc. Especially because our bellies (okay just mine) were constantly full of tacos and margaritas, so frankly we were lazy af most of the time.

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They also had an amazing coffee shop in the lobby where I was able to get hot coffee and cold brew daily. This might’ve been my favourite feature of the hotel. The weather wasn’t great (extremely windy, overcast and rainy some of the days), so I’d often just sit at the coffee shop or get over-caffeinated and work out at the indoor gym.

The best part of this resort was how kid-friendly it was. EVERYONE there had young children, and those who didn’t chose the wrong hotel. They had so many amazing activities geared towards kids, and there was an amazing water park with tons of water slides that my kids had a blast going on. The kids club was for children 4+, but we lied about our 3 year old son’s age (let’s pray no one from the hotel reads that), and they took him along with my daughter. So every afternoon between about 1 and 3 or 4 pm, we’d drop them off and have some time to ourselves by the pool. They’d come back from the place with candy, face paint, arts and crafts, and other awesome things that made us confident with our decision to drop them off daily.

Overall, despite our illness (there was a doctor visit in there too in addition to the food poisoning, because my son got a high fever for a couple of days), we had a really great time. Because he was ill, he was pretty sleep deprived and miserable for a lot of it, and badly behaved, but we made the best regardless. Going to all-inclusives with kids isn’t easy, but I’m glad we did it, and I think we’d probably go back to one…

….without them.

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10th Anniversary of the Weird But True! Series

As an English teacher, I’ve always valued instilling a lifelong love of reading within my students. When I became a mom 6 years ago, I knew that it was so important to start reading with my daughter at a very young age, to ensure that she too fell in love with reading and books. Now, I read every evening with her and my 3 year old son, and it’s something we all look forward to after our busy days. Reading helps us decompress, allows us crucial bonding/quiet time, and just generally makes us all happy.

So when I was approached to review National Geographic’s Weird But True! series, I obviously felt it was a perfect partnership, as my values align nicely with theirs. This review is timely too, because it’s the 10th anniversary of the series, and 10 recently updated volumes have been released to celebrate! They’re available for purchase here.

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My children had such a blast reading all the fun facts from the four volumes we received! In particular, they both enjoyed ones related to animals, including facts like, “a gorilla at a zoo in Germany can walk on a tight-rope,” and “male pandas sometimes do handstands to mark trees.” Pandas are clearly adorable animals, but apparently they’re a little crazy too. Also, my son is dinosaur obsessed, so he really enjoyed facts such as, ” a t. rex could bite with 8,000 pounds of force – the equivalent of being crushed by three stacked cars,” and “the meteorite that most likely killed off the dinosaurs was the size of San Fransico, California, USA.”

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All the books in the series are so visually appealing and engaging. They’re vivid and uniquely laid out to keep the attention span of young children for quite a long time. Every night we read these, my children were able to stay focused and engaged for 10-15 minutes of reading, and they never got bored or lost interest. That’s a huge accomplishment for them, considering they’re relatively young.

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Personally, I was most interested in the food related facts, because obviously I’m a foodie, and that’s what captures my attention. After reading this page, all I can think about is someone needs to order me a bouquet of roses made from bacon ASAP. K, thanks.

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Overall, we really loved reading these books, and we think you will too! Generally I think they’re geared for children 8-12 years old, but we got a lot out of them as well! Oh also, National Geographic is currently running a contest for kids ages 6-14. Your son or daughter can submit their own accurate but weird facts about their hometown, province, or country here through January 31, 2019!

 

 

Toronto Christmas Market

This past weekend I visit the Toronto Christmas Market in the historical Distillery District (55 Mill St.). This year it runs from Thursday November 15th to Sunday December 23rd, and is free on weekdays and $6 per person on weekends. The market has a bunch of vendors and pop-ups with gifts, little chotchkes (I totally spelled that wrong), amazing food, and other fun things (shout out to Beekeeper’s Naturals for having a vendor there so I could stock back up on my lifesaving bee propolis throat spray).

The highlight of our visit was these cookies and cream donuts from Holey Dough.

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There were 6 mini donuts ($9) in there, and we split them halfway. They were perfectly light and airy, and went down a little too easily because they weren’t too rich. We both agreed we could have easily eaten all 6 ourselves.

Other than that, we mostly just strolled around and window shopped, stopping periodically for a photo op (PSA: It’s much prettier at night with all the lights, but alas my grandma lifestyle does not allow for evening outings much lately). If you’re looking for a meal beforehand or after, I highly recommend El Catrin, which serves amazingly authentic Mexican street food and cocktails.

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Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.

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Obligatory lifestyle blogger photos.

Coat: Aritzia

Jeans: Gap

Shoes: Town Shoes

Headband: Saks Off Fifth

Purse: Marc Jacobs

Combating the November SADs

Is it just me or is November officially the month of exhaustion, stress, burnout, depression, and all things awful and shitty? Despite feeling like I’m staying afloat in all aspects of my life, personally and professionally, I have to say that the perpetual night of Daylight Savings, early morning wakings, freezing cold weather and labor-intensive days at work have definitely gotten to me to some extent. So today I decided to compile for you some tips to help you cope with this extremely long winter that has already begun in Toronto.

  1. Maintain your workouts. Getting out of bed when it’s cold and snowy is definitely a special kind of hell, but you won’t regret it. No one ever regrets getting to their workout. The hardest part is getting there, but the endorphins at the end will be well worth it. They’ll help center you and make navigating this gloomy time of year a bit easier.
  2. Invest in adaptogenic herbs like Reishi and Ashwagandha. I’ve addressed these before in my podcast and on Instagram, but both are super helpful in combating stress and anxiety. Reishi, a wonderful little magic mushroom (not one of the fun kind though, sorry), also helps increase your immune system, which is perfect for this time of year when the kids are little living and breathing incubators of illness. You can purchase the Reishi I use here. It’s pricey, but it works.
  3. Get outside, even just for a few minutes. This is the tip I have the hardest time with, because ew, outdoors, but honestly…it works. Particularly if it’s sunny outside. Just a couple minutes of sunshine and/or fresh air does wonders for your mental health and clarity. For the last few weeks on my lunch, I’ve been taking a little walk in my school parking lot, followed by a break in my car. Will this be sustainable when it’s blizzarding and -10 degrees? Probably not. But I really ought to try to, because I come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.
  4. Meditate. It’s good for helping shift your attitude and perspective, and ensures improved sleep. I admit I probably only do it 4-5 times a week, as opposed to daily like I want to, but I find a huge difference in my mental state after I do a quick 10 minute practice on my Calm app.
  5. Increase your vitamin D intake with a supplement and invest in a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp. I personally haven’t done either of these things, but they were tips I received from colleagues, and might try this winter. I’d be curious to hear if anyone has found the light therapy to be helpful.
  6. Visit a salt cave. This week I had the pleasure of doing an hour meditation at Hoame, which is at 430 Adelaide St. W. in Toronto, and it was seriously the most phenomenal experience. Salt caves replicate the same benefits as being in the ocean, including improved immunity, stress reduction, and various other internal and external healing properties. I don’t think one visit is enough though, and would recommend a few throughout the winter to fully reap the benefits. All I know is I left totally rejuvenated, way more centered, and all the muscle pain and tension I had been experiencing that day, melted away. I also slept like the wee baby Jesus that night. 11/10, highly recommend.

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Salty.

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If you’re looking for me this winter, this is where I’ll be. K, bye.

My 37th Birthday

Yes, I am aware I’m legitimately the world’s worst blogger. BUT…I’m back. I swear. Life is really getting in the way of my oversharing, and I recognize it’s a problem. I promise I’ll find some inspo and get back to my regularly programmed blogging schedule ASAP.

Aaaaaanyway, this past weekend I celebrated my 37th birthday. I had something called “the Birthday Experience” at Assembly Chef’s Hall (111 Richmond St. W. if you haven’t been, highly recommend for delicious food), and it was so much fun! Included in my package was 5 guests, a bottle of champagne (it was pink obvs), and the most insane, OTT, extra cake by Short and Sweet Cupcakes.

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Mostly did it for the photo ops. Just being transparent as always.

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Yup, it was all for the ‘Gram.

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We had some delicious food. This was the burger and parmesan truffle fries from Resto Boemo, which is owned by that hunky former Canadian Bachelor, Brad Smith.

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Guys, I’m so unbelievably fine with aging, it’s not even funny. It’s so liberating and fun!

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Oh look, it’s me, in cake form.

Thankful.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving friends! I know I haven’t blogged in forever, but the reason for this is threefold:

  1. I’ve been bogged down with planning and marking at school.
  2. I’ve been focusing on our podcast (episode 2 about food and nutrition as self-care is now available on the podcast app! Just search “Self-care with Lauren and Blair” to listen!)
  3. Aaaaand I just haven’t been inspired to write, unfortunately, and I didn’t want to blog for the sake of blogging.

But here we are, and damnit, I’ll try to write something relatively coherent and engaging for all of y’all, because I know my 5 loyal followers want it.

What am I thankful for this year? Like, a lot. It’s been a really good time both personally and professionally, and I need to make a list because I love lists and lists are awesome.

1. My health. Always first and foremost. How lucky am I that my body is healthy enough to allow me to do high impact exercise 3 days a week? To run around with my children? To get out of bed every day and live a productive life? I will never ever take this for granted. When I sit on that spin bike, I thank gd for my health multiple times. I also thank gd I’m not pregnant, because being in that body really freaking sucks, but that’s a whole other blog post.

2. My family. I mean, duh. I’m eternally grateful that my children are happy and healthy and not the spawn of Satan. I also feel so blessed to have a wonderful husband, the best parents, and the cutest of sisters eva.

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Apple picking when it’s still hot out is fun too. (TB to a few weeks ago…)

3. My friends. I tightened my inner circle A LOT this year and it’s been very liberating. I have the world’s most patient friends, because for the last four months, my conversations, meals, and life in general have revolved around Instagram. They don’t get to eat until I’ve photographed (or rather, they’ve photographed because I’m a shitty photographer) their meals, and my conversations with them are a steady stream of follows and unfollows, podcast plans, and asking which picture to post. I’m sorry guys. I really truly suck. You’re all amazing for tolerating me.

4. Impromptu weekend trips to NYC. The fact the most incredible city in the world is just a one hour flight away is nothing short of amazing! I don’t want to live there, but every few months I just feel the pull of the city and gravitate towards it. It’s an addiction, I suppose, but the energy, food, nightlife, and shopping are beyond magnetic.

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5. My job. I have the best students this semester. We have the most interesting class discussions, and they’re all so engaged and participatory. It’s rare to get a group where the majority of the students have strong opinions, so this is pretty much English teacher heaven for me! Also, in case people think teenagers are rude and disrespectful, I want to tell you that every morning, my students come into my class and greet me with a “hello” or a “good morning.” When they leave the class, they say “have a good day miss,” or “bye!” They’re such mensches! I really appreciate their warmth and kindness, because it keeps me in a good mood and sets a really positive tone for the day.

6. Refined carbohydrates and gluten. Pizza. Donuts. Tacos.

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This maple bacon donut from Dipped Donuts in Kensington Market is pretty much the epitome of fall in Canada, amirite? I think I am most grateful for this donut. Like, I love my family and stuff, but…donuts win.

Pizza, Podcasting, and Promotions

Oh my gd, I just love an alliterative title so effing much.

Anyway, hi. This is a shameless self promotion post. But no one else is going to do it for me, so here we are.

Some exciting things have been going on for me in the blogosphere. First of all, I started a podcast!

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This is Blair, my 22 year old former student, and podcast co-host. Not only could she be my little sister, but she’s eloquent, mature beyond her years, so cool, and just generally very knowledgeable. Her values regarding self-care totally align with mine, and so we decided to make something special together.

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This is our podcast. You can find it in the podcasts app. Give it a listen if you want to hear about how we live our lives, caring for ourselves through food, exercise, meditation and mindfulness, beauty, and lifestyle. Right now we just have our introductory episode out, but stay tuned for episode 2 very shortly! Please subscribe if you like what you hear!

Also, I wanted to share a clothing promotion I currently have going on. I’m an ambassador for a women’s fashion website called Poppy Apparel!

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(Purchase this top and other amazing pieces here.)

Use my code ATHLEISURE10 at checkout for 10% off your order! Their stuff is so cute, and shipping is free!

Lastly, I’ll leave you all with pictures of me stuffing my face with tacos, because well, that’s what I do best.

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First Week Back Starter Pack

Hello friends, and yay for making it through our first week back to work (or if you’re a student reading this, congrats for making it through your first week back to school)!

I’ve been doing this whole back to school (as a teacher) thang now for like…11 or 12 years. Yes I’m aware that makes me old af, but I can honestly say it never gets easier. August is a special month of dread, and when that first week of September hits, you’ll need some coping mechanisms. With that said, I present to you, my first week back starter pack.

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I mean, this is really the foundation of your starter pack. If you don’t take Xanax, do you even teach bro? You’ll need to double up on your dosage early (ask a doctor, but also, maybe don’t and just take my advice on this one), especially if you’re like me and you looked at dem class lists way too early in August.

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Also, get on that Trenta iced coffee addiction on Labour Day, so you’re well prepared for the caffeine jitters that’ll ensue for the remainder of this first week back. The odds of you talking a mile a minute to your students are high, and you’ll need to leave class multiple times to use the loo (look how classy and British I am today),  but the alternative is a caffeine drip right into your vein, so Trenta it is.

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This one is a new addition to my starter pack this year, and I suspect it’s a testament to how old I truly have become. Aging is funny. You think you can tolerate bucketfuls of coffee just fine, but one day you just find out you totally can’t. So after doubling over in pain all the night a few nights ago because of coffee-induced heartburn, I found my  new best friend; Zantac. Allllll the self-medicating.

And finally, the most important item in your first week back starter pack is…

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A safe and quiet space to cry in. For me, it’s a women’s washroom/locker room on the first floor of my school. Find yours ASAP. You will need it.

(Okay so full disclosure: I actually did not consume any alcohol or medication this week to help me cope with going back to work. Nor did I cry. I’m not really a crier. I actually had a really great week and just practiced self care to keep me stable and productive. I meditated, went to sleep early, worked out, ate well, took frequent pauses to savor the small moments, and overall, I handled my shit really well. This is all meant to be humorous so take it with a grain of salt!)

Best of Summer Eats

As you are all fully aware of, I spent approximately 95% of the summer eating. So I thought it would only be right to share some of my best summer eats with you all, and hopefully inspire you all to the level of gluttony I achieved.

Enjoy! (Especially because I likely won’t have time to blog in the next coming weeks as I get acclimatized back into my work routine.)

Best salad (starting off light) – Parallel Salad at Parallel, 217 Geary Ave., Toronto

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This new Middle Eastern restaurant has been getting lots of hype, and rightly so. They nailed it with this salad of kale, sweet potato, lentils, walnuts, and beet tahini. It was filling from the vegan protein, and was tangy and savory AF. Note: there is also goat cheese on this salad, but I fear all things goat, so I omitted. I’m sure it’s even more delicious with the cheese.

Best pasta – Gnocchi Gorgonzola at Scaddabush Italian Kitchen and Bar (various locations across the GTA)

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I eat a lot of carbs, so I consider myself a carb connoisseur. This gnocchi wouldn’t be something I normally order, probably because I don’t think I like Gorgonzola cheese, but these little babies were cooked to perfection, and the sauce wasn’t nearly as rich as I anticipated (but still plenty rich). Basically this dish was a solid 10/10 for me, and I highly recommend it, and various other pastas and pizza from this Italian restaurant.

Best avocado toast – Oliver and Bonacini (various locations across the GTA)

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This avocado toast was to die for. It had hummus on it for a little zip, and it was essentially a salad on bread, with tons of fresh veggies. I put bacon crumble on top for $2 (I think), and it added some much needed protein, saltiness, crunch, and just general happiness.

Best dumpling/dim sum – Yu Garden, 8750 Bayview Ave., Richmond Hill

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While all the other dim sum restaurants we used to frequent north of the city have gone out of business, Yu Garden has been around for quite some time. We were reluctant to try it, because it’s very authentic Chinese food from Shanghai. They’re known for their soup dumplings, and other than the odd scalding here and there from the various times we’ve gone this summer, I have nothing but good things to say about this place. The food is incredible and you will leave very very very satisfied.

Best cocktail – Green Sangria from Scaddabush Italian Kitchen and Bar

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What can I say? This delicious fruity concoction pairs well with gluttony, carbs, and cheese. I drank this on their adorable patio multiple times this summer. Runner up for best cocktail goes to Radisson Admiral Hotel (249 Queens Quay W., Toronto), for their delicious white sangria as well…

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Best pizza – Sorelle and Co. (various locations across the GTA)

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Never in a million years would I have thought that the best pizza I’d have this summer would be a vegan one! I did eat a lot of pizza this summer, so that’s saying a lot. This Sorelle and Co. pizza was topped with tons of fresh veggies, and was perfectly balanced and not greasy like most of the pizza I traditionally consume. I highly recommend it!

Best ice cream – Cacao 70 Dip Shop, 180 Enterprise Blvd., Markham

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Once you eat your ice cream smothered in decadent chocolate, you can’t go back. There was way too much ice cream in here and I had trouble finishing it, but the rich coffee flavoured chocolate (pictured right) was to die for!

Best appetizer – Kung Pao Caulifower at the Keg (various locations across the GTA)

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So this summer I won a whopping $300 gift card to the Keg from an Instagram food account (Shout out to ToFoodies)! I don’t eat steak/don’t really care much for meat in general, so this cauliflower app was the real MVP for me. It was fried and tasted like Kung Pao chicken. It was incredible!

Best vegan dessert – Cookie Dough Cinnamon Bun at Cinnaholic, Promenade Mall, 1 Promenade Cir., Thornhill

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Feast your eyes on this baby for a moment, will ya? It only cost me $10, but it was well worth every penny. You’d think the frosting mixed with the chocolate sauce, chocolate chips and vegan cookie dough on top would be a bit much, but somehow I managed to devour the entire thing. Pro tip: I recently tried a basic cinnamon bun there and was disappointed. It didn’t fill me with the same kind of happiness. So my suggestion is if you’re going to go there, go hard and splurge on something extra.

Best sushi – Tomo Japanese Restaurant, 9625 Yonge St., Richmond Hill

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The sushi at Tomo is fresh, high-quality, and super delicious. Pictured are the dynamic roll (above), and the spicy beef roll (below). The service is amazing too!