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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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!

 

 

Day Drinkin’ and Gym Etiquette

(Separate topics. I could see how one would read that title and think I’m day drinking and then hitting up the gym.)

Hi friends! Tomorrow I leave for NYC for four days, so I wanted to just check in with a few tidbits from my week before I go.

This week has been busy, but glorious. The kids are off to camp/daycare, and I’ve been feverishly trying to get in months of neglected chores, indulgences, and missed opportunities of day drinking on patios.

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Playing catch up quite nicely.

I reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in YEARS, which wasn’t okay, and I’m so happy we got to bask in the sun and each other’s company. Also, I’ve been hitting the gym like a fiend, trying to get in as many workouts as possible before I travel, because I probably won’t be exercising much beyond walking in New York. I tried barre for the first time (now offered at my GoodLife for free [!!!], since many people have been asking), and have been walking crooked for days. It was SO challenging! I think likely because my typical workouts focus on major muscle groups (spin, running, Pump), and barre engages smaller muscles that I don’t typically use. Also, holy ab work. My core is shit. Summer goal: strengthen core!

So regarding gym etiquette, there was an incident yesterday that left a sour taste in my mouth and I need to rant about it. I was using the leg adductor machine (or abductor, truth be told I don’t know which is which, but I know they both work inner and outer thighs), and a woman approached me. It was clear she was itching to use the machine. In broken English, she says to me “What you do is no good. Here, I show you.” Like whaaaaaaaat? Excuse me, but if you wanted to work in with me, that’s fine, but don’t tell me I’m using the machine incorrectly and try to teach me! I was so offended! As it is, I’m not overly receptive to instructors correcting my form (big pride and ego over here folks), but even less receptive to some random older lady telling me I’m doing it wrong. Umm, I’ve been working out since I was 18, for half my life and I’m not interested. So I firmly told her that I was okay and knew what I was doing and she skulked away. I did, however, watch her go use the machine after I vacated and couldn’t help but giggle as I watched her use it for her glutes as she stood on it in some bizarre splits type position. You do you, boo.

Okay so last thing. I recently posted to my Instagram asking if anyone used the Calm app and invested in the $77 yearly membership. I’ve been using the trial and I LOVE it. The woman’s voice is amazing, and I love the sounds and visuals. They really help me relax and get into meditation, which is something I struggle with. My mind still wanders terribly,¬† but I’ve made a bit of progress. Anyway, a former colleague informed me that all teachers are entitled to a free membership! Mind. Blown. Here’s the link to anyone who might want it:

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I’m still waiting for my confirmation code/to hear back, but I’m eagerly anticipating having the app for free! If you benefit from it too, I hope you enjoy! #sharingiscaring

Livin’ for the Long Weekend!

Hiiiiiii! Your girl is back and here to stay! I’m officially off for the summer, and expect to be coming at you pretty regularly for the next two months!

This past weekend was, in a word, magical. It was a perfect combination of rest (but not too much, because #fireworks, rage hulk smash), gluttony, and pretending I enjoy schlepping my kids from activity to activity to entertain them. [side note: I do enjoy it, please don’t judge me.]

Friday night we celebrated my last day of work with carbs, cheese, and cocktails at my favourite restaurant, Scaddabush.

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Green sangria and gnocchi Gorgonzola. Here. For. It.

¬†Also, aren’t my food photography skills improving? To get that one, I actually moved to a vacant table with good lighting. People watched me transporting my meal and normally I’d have been pretty self conscious, but I’m working on developing blinders and not GAF, because to be a blogger in this day and age, you gotta get comfortable talking to your phone in public, working angles for the best shot while people give you weird looks, etc.

Saturday we went to the splash pad with our best friends, and it was a blast! Leetle story about this playdate. While my kids played, I camped out under a tree with my best friend and her baby, and we just chat. I totally ignored my kids, and damn it felt good. I had a brief moment where a tiny voice in my head whispered, “Lauren, have another baby. They play too well independently now. They don’t need you. Find yourself another spawn that needs you.” And for a minute I actually entertained it. Then I burst into maniacal laughter, regained my sanity, and resumed my convo about all the bad decisions I’m going to make in New York City this week on my girls’ trip.

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I dare you to find a look that screams “haute couture” more than this. You wish you could pull off fash-un like this, yes? Truthfully, this mom style moment is brought to you by a solid 5 minutes to get ready, 45 degree humidity, and the known truth that wearing navy blue and black together makes you look like a bruise. (But in all seriousness, I do love me this Aritzia romper, mostly because it eliminates me having to figure out a top and bottom that semi-match. So thanks for that Aritizia!)

Sunday we had a BBQ with friends, which was so adorable. We got so lucky having friends who had a daughter four days after ours, and then a son two months after our son was born. Watching them grow up together has been so sweet!

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All dem blurred faces.

And then Monday we went to Woodbine Center Fantasy Fair, because four days of heat warnings and crazy humidity were really taking a toll on us (us being my hair).

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The sweet moments were all well and great, but I just came for the ice cream.

So there you have it. Installment #1 of the Teacher on Summer Break series. Have a great Tuesday friends! (Especially if your kids are off to camp. Especially especially if that camp is overnight.)