Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pretty Pink Places


In case it wasn't blatantly obvious, pink is without a doubt my favourite colour. All my life I've been a total girly girl, and anything pink is welcome into that that theme. On my blog and social media accounts, I've tried to keep that same pink theme going, but some days it requires a lot more effort than you would think to maintain. Having said that, I love the added challenge of having to hunt down pink places and things around the city. Even my boyfriend, Sean, can agree that I've come up with some pretty neat date spots based on my desire to maintain my social media aesthetic.

This weekend, we only had half a day to ourselves, so we narrowed down our adventuring to two spots. Given our love of food, we chose one spot for lunch, and another for dessert. I don't think I could ever be with someone who didn't love eating as much as I do. In a city like Toronto there is always something new to try, which is essential for any foodie.


When I asked Sean where he wanted to go for lunch, he responded with every blogger's dream answer: "Wherever will look best on your Instagram." Major boyfriend points were clearly gained for that answer. To be fair, I've definitely proven myself by picking places with great food time and time again, so his trust in my restaurant picking abilities is pretty high. Sean isn't super active on social media, so the hip, trendy places a lot of us girls discover through Instagram and blogs are totally new to him when we visit. I love being the one to show him so many impressive spots.


Ever since I first walked by Oretta and spotted the pretty pink decor, I knew I had to check it out, if for nothing else but an ideal photo op. The issue here is that Sean only gets one weekend off each month, and I work Monday-Thursday full time. Pictures in restaurants aren't ideal at night, and since Oretta doesn't serve brunch (which is usually my go-to meal on weekends) our opportunities to visit have been limited. I was working at my second job until 2:00 on Saturday, so when Sean told me he had the weekend off, I knew it was the perfect chance to squeeze in our first visit.


Oretta's beautiful interior design, combined with plenty of natural light makes for a perfect day dining atmosphere. The menu is Italian, which you can rarely go wrong with in my carb-loving books. When asked what appetizer we wanted to start with, Sean and I answered with the same synchronous response: the Fritto Misto. This dish was like a calamari, but what I loved most was that it was made up of smelts, shrimp and haddock, in addition to the squid. The beet chips topped the dish off perfectly. I would easily order it again next time we visit.


For our mains, Sean went with the Pizza Puzzona and I chose the Tortelloni. The Tortelloni was good, but I wasn't blown away by it. That being said, I'm also not the biggest fan of walnuts, which were a key topping and flavour in the dish, so that could have just been a personal preference. I stole a few bites of Sean's pizza though, and the blend of gorgonzola, mushrooms, fior di latte and spinach was simply divine.


Unfortunately we had to decline when asked if we were having dessert (a rarity in my life), but that day we had other plans. The girls next to us ordered the tiramisu, and seeing it made our decision to decline even harder to commit to. Somehow, we managed to hold out until we made our way to Ossington for our eagerly anticipated Peace Treats milkshakes.


Peace Treats is a little milkshake bar built into the clothing store Peace Collective. Peace Collective is known for their tees with slogans such as 'Toronto vs. Everybody', and 'Home is Toronto'. It's safe to say they are now known for more than just clothes. I had seen their milkshakes pop up on social media, so I knew they would make for a great picture, but I don't think I was expecting them to be as good as they ended up tasting.


Like the true five year old I am (and because it had the most pink on it), I chose the Amusement Park milkshake - a cotton candy milkshake topped off with even more cotton candy, a lollipop and whipped cream. I could literally taste the ten pounds I was gaining as I savoured every sip, but it was so worth those extra calories.


Since we don't live too far from Queen and Ossington, I convinced Sean to walk a little instead of taking an Uber straight home. When time is not a factor, I will walk anywhere within reason. I love stumbling across new places, enjoying the fresh air, and having nice, long conversations. We hadn't planned on taking any outfit photos that day, but lucky for us the sun was shining just right as we stumbled across some perfect backdrops.


I love my Stuart Weitzman highlanders. Lately I've been trying to get as much use out of them as I can before I have to put them away for the summer. When we came across this fun mural I had been wanting to track down, I knew it would contrast against all the black in my outfit perfectly. It may not be pink, but purple is definitely a close second in my books.


What are some of your favourite pink places and things around Toronto or your own city? Comment below with your answers!

Shop the Look: Top - Iro // Jacket - BCBG (similar) // Skirt - Zara // Purse - YSL // Boots - Stuart Weitzman

With love,

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Authentic Lebanese Hummus

Growing up, I still remember going over to my grandparent's house every week for home cooked meals. My mom's side of the family is Lebanese, so dishes such as tabouleh, fatayer, and baba ghanoush made regular appearances on our dinner plates. As a child, I don't think I understood just how much time and effort went into preparing these large meals made up of so many dishes. Nowadays, I have a newfound appreciation for my elders, as some days I struggle just to put together a smoothie for breakfast!

For those of you who don't know me personally, let me explain my incredibly huge Lebanese family. We are all spread out between BC and Quebec, but every two years my family holds a reunion where almost 200 of us gather to catch up. Ever since I was little, I always looked forward to these reunions. No matter how busy we all are, there is a huge group of us that almost always shows up, and that's something that I think is so special.


Among my family, we have many gifted chefs who have released cookbooks on the art of Middle Eastern cuisine. I am lucky enough to have had these recipes passed down, so I can recreate the dishes I enjoyed as a child. Today's recipe was created by my great Uncle Habeeb Salloum, an author specializing in food, history and travel. At 93 years old he has had over 2,500 articles published, in addition to his 10 books and 20 chapters in books.


When I first came to Toronto, Habeeb and his daughter Muna (my cousin) had me over several times for amazing Lebanese food. Since none of my immediate family was living in Toronto at the time, it was such a treat to be welcomed into their home and fed a home cooked meal. Habeeb is my grandma's brother, so many of the recipes he created reminded me of the dishes she used to make me as a little girl.



I remember being shown Habeeb's cookbooks when I was younger, but back then I definitely did not realize how accomplished he was as an author. His recipes have been published in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Countryside & Small Stock Journal magazine, and Forever Young Information magazine - just to name a few. Several of his books have won international awards, including the book this hummus recipe came from:  The Arabian Nights Cookbook: From Lamb Kebabs to Baba Ghanouj, Delicious Homestyle Middle Eastern Cooking which won "Best Arab Cuisine" for the U.S. Gourmand Best in the World Competition. You can purchase this book, along with many of his other cookbooks, over on Amazon by clicking here.

In the future, I would love to share more Middle Eastern recipes with you, but today I decided to stick with a basic that most people know and love: hummus. Hummus has become so popular, as it is recognized within several cultures as a signature dish. Nowadays there are so many variations of this appetizer popping up - avocado hummus, beet hummus, sweet potato hummus - you name it! When it comes to hummus, I definitely don't discriminate, but I don't think you can ever go wrong with traditional, Middle Eastern hummus. If you're looking to get more adventurous, this recipe also makes a great base for experimenting if you want to add other vegetables or flavours to it.

The great thing about hummus is that it is so easy to make, and loved by so many. If you are somebody who gets intimidated by lengthy recipes, and weird ingredients, hummus is a great place to start! In this recipe, I found it best to only add the water if necessary. I like my hummus super creamy, so I didn't add any water until after I blended the ingredients first, and then I added a couple tablespoons to help it mix in the blender. Make sure you follow the directions and only put two out of the four tablespoons of olive oil IN the mix - the other two tablespoons are to drizzle on top. Enjoy!


Hummus bi-Tahini - Chickpea Puree
Makes 2 cups

This now world famous Arab dish is to be found ready-to-serve in many western supermarkets. Almost without exception, every Middle Eastern appetizer table features this healthy and tasty food.

-2 cups cooked chickpeas 
-1/4 cup water 
-4 tablespoons tahini 
-4 tablespoons lemon juice 
-2 cloves garlic, crushed 
-3/4 teaspoon salt 
-1/4 teaspoon cumin 
-pinch of cayenne 
-4 tablespoons olive oil 
-1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley 

Place chickpeas, water, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne and 2 teaspoons of the oil in a blender; then blend into thick paste. (If a thinner consistency is desired, add more water.) Place in a shallow platter and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, decorate with parsley; then sprinkle with remaining oil.

How do you like your hummus? Comment below and let me know!

With love,

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Castle on the Hill


I was blasting Ed Sheehan's song 'Castle on the Hill' last weekend, when I got caught up in a whimsical idea. Wouldn't it be nice to dress up and do a romantic photoshoot around an old castle? I started wishing to myself that I lived in Europe, when it hit me that we actually have our very own little castle here in Toronto: Casa Loma.


While thinking of what outfit I would want to feature for this shoot, I thought back to this jumpsuit I had been wanting to feature. When I was trying it on, somebody had told me that I looked like a kindergarten teacher, but I decided to trust my gut and buy it anyways. When I started thinking of princess looks I could channel, it came to me. Who would wear such an outfit that made them look like a kindergarten teacher? Why, the book-loving, intelligent Belle, of course.


I didn't want to copy Belle's outfit, but rather draw inspiration from her first signature look - a blue apron over a white dress. I thought that out of all the traditional Disney princesses, Belle would definitely be most likely to wear a jumpsuit. With the remake attempting to make Belle even slightly more of a feminist than she already is, I felt that opting for something other than a dress definitely went with the modern Belle theme.


If you haven't had the chance to explore Casa Loma, I definitely recommend it. It makes for the perfect date, whether you are taking pictures or not. The sun lit garden is truly stunning, and the stained glass ceiling really makes it look like something out of a Disney movie. Over the six years I've been in Toronto, there are still a lot of landmarks I haven't seen, so it was nice to cross another one off of my list. That's something I love about Toronto - there's always an opportunity to become a tourist within your own city.


My heart will always hold a soft spot for Disney movies. As a child, I grew up surrounded by all things Disney. I was obsessed with all the princesses - especially Snow White and Belle. We have an aunt that lives in California, so several trips to Disneyland were made throughout my childhood. My mom, who worked as a children's entertainer, even dressed up as a fairy godmother for festivals. Somewhere along the way, I ended up falling in love with fairytales, and to this day I still daydream that I'm a part of one.


You can always rely on Disney for producing a remake that is just as good as the original. With the live action Jungle Book and Cinderella paving the way for a new Beauty and the Beast, I knew the film would not disappoint. I loved Emma Watson as Belle, and I thought she truly captured the essence of the character. Also - how could you not choose Hermoine Granger to play the book-loving Belle? No matter how old you are, I think you can always appreciate the magic in seeing an animated classic come to life.


Side note: I managed to find my childhood Belle costumes last night, and couldn't resist sharing them with you guys. My grandma sewed these costumes from scratch for my sister and I, and I am so glad that my mom kept them for me to pass down when I have kids of my own.


Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie? Do you think this is something Belle would wear in the present day? I would love to know all of your thoughts! Comment below with your answers.


All photos taken by my very own Prince Charming, Sean Vesely.

With love,

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chez Lavelle

On my first visit to Lavelle, it was a brand new rooftop bar and restaurant that had opened up down the street from my place. My boyfriend and I went for dinner and we were extremely impressed from start to finish. My only complaint had been that one half of the venue was a sophisticated crowd dining in the restaurant, and the other half was getting drunk by the pool. 


This weekend when my mom and I went for brunch, the atmosphere was completely different than when I had visited in the summer, and my previous complaints were no longer an issue. Throughout the winter, only the restaurant half of the venue is kept open, eliminating any guests who are only there to party. I'm a sucker for any rooftop restaurant, and if it has decor as beautiful as Lavelle, chances are you'll continue to find me there on a regular basis.


Normally I'm not one to order a cocktail at brunch. If I'm being honest, even one drink makes me groggy for the rest of the day. It's crazy how much drinking habits can change after just a couple years. However, between feeling somewhat adventurous and sitting in the glimmering sun, I decided to go crazy and order a drink. When I mentioned that I like sweeter drinks, our server recommended I try the White Ferrari. It wasn't as sweet as I expected it to be, but it was a perfectly balanced blend of tequila, creme de cacao, hellfire shrub, maraschino liqueur and fresh lemon juice. It was on the strong side, but since I made sure to fill myself up with plenty of food, I didn't feel too sleepy after I left.


From the pretty pink menus to the floral decor, this restaurant has my name written all over it. Their brunch menu is definitely not lacking anything in terms of selection, which made it all the harder to choose - especially since it was only the two of us. Our hardest decision was deciding between the waffle, pancakes or french toast. I can't remember the last time I was out for brunch where all three of those options could be found on the menu!


Ultimately we decided to go with one sweet and one savoury dish. As was recommended to me by Jenn from Gold is My Neutral (side note: if you don't already read her blog you should definitely check it out!) we chose to try the avocado toast. It was one of the larger portions of avocado toast I've had in my dining experiences - and trust me when I say I've had plenty of avocado toast in my time. It was packed with avocado, grannysmith apples, and feta cheese, topped off with a poached egg and a side of fries and mayo.


For the cruel situation we were put into, which was having to choose between a waffle, pancakes or french toast, we opted for the waffle, since a lot of the brunch spots we frequent don't always have one on the menu. 


My only complaint about the cocoa nib waffle was that I wish there had been two. We were pretty full by the end of the meal though, so we had still picked the appropriate dishes to feed two people. I guess we didn't actually need a second waffle, and my eyes were just acting bigger than my stomach. The waffle was served with berries, maple butter and syrup, but what stood out to both of us was the nice flavour in the tonka cream. When we asked about it, we were told that tonka is a bean with vanilla, cherry and almond spice, similar to cinnamon. I had never heard of it before, so it was nice to learn something new throughout my dining experience.


Before going to brunch at Lavelle, I had heard mixed reviews about their menu from friends. After trying it myself, I can say that I will definitely be back. Our food was delicious, and there were still so many things I wanted to try that I was just too full to have that day. Like I said, I'm a suck for a nice rooftop restaurant, so as the weather gets warmer, I'm sure my walks down the street to Lavelle will become more and more frequent.

Where is your favourite rooftop restaurant? Comment below and let me know!

With love,

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Sunny Afternoon


There is something special to be said about spontaneous, unexpected fun. I hate planning a whole day or night and then having my expectations become a total let down. When a great day comes about without any planning, it's one of the best feelings in the world. This is exactly what happened when my boyfriend, Sean, and I ended up having the same afternoon off at the last minute.


I was on my way to the Eaton Centre when I got a call from Sean saying that he didn't have to go in to work. I immediately rushed back home so we could have a little day date. Because we both work two jobs and have such crazy schedules, we don't often get the same days off, so we really have to make the most of the ones we have together.



My plan had been to go get some fresh flowers and to try out a new cafe. Since I had errands to run along the way, I didn't invite anyone to come with me, but I was so excited when I found out Sean wanted to join me. This photoshoot we ended up doing was completely unplanned - and it made it so much more fun.


We went to Avenue Road to pick up some flowers, and then headed back downtown to try out Versus Coffee. If you haven't been, you should definitely add it to your Toronto bucket list. They make beautiful coloured lattes, and the lighting in there is perfect for taking pictures. Since it was St. Patrick's Day, Sean chose green. Since it was just another day in my life, naturally, I chose pink.


The day before, I had picked up this beautiful, pink vest from Zara and I could not wait to put it on. It goes with so many outfits in my closet, so I can promise this isn't the last time you'll be seeing it. Like the true West Coast girl that I am, I often just throw on Lululemon leggings and and a pair of runners when I go out to run errands. Luckily for me, I had a new outfit I couldn't wait to throw on that day, even though it hadn't been my intent to take any pictures in it.


A few weeks ago I was sent these beautiful necklaces from Bel Jewelry and I have been wearing them non-stop ever since. The line is west coast inspired, so when I wear the necklaces they remind me of being back home. The jewelry is all hand-crafted in Red Deer, Alberta and is hypo-allergenic as well. I love to support Canadian businesses whenever I can, and since these necklaces are so easy to pair with every day outfits, I'll definitely be sporting them on a regular basis. With this outfit I chose to wear the copper owl necklace (close-up pictured above).


When everything comes together so naturally like it did on this sunny afternoon, it puts the biggest smile on my face. I'm a true believer in appreciating the little things in life, and quite often they make me just as happy as the big things. Time is the greatest gift we can give one another, and I'm glad I have somebody who is always eager and willing to give me his.


What does it take to brighten your day? Do you like to do big, crazy activities or do you also enjoy those little joys? Comment below and let me know!

Shop the Look: Top - AritziaPants - Zara (similar)Vest- Zara, Purse - Prada (this colour, Cammeo,  is currently sold-out), Necklaces - Bel Jewelry

All photos by my amazing, patient and talented boyfriend, Sean Vesely.


With love,

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Perriwinkle and Pastels


When I first bought these Gucci heels, I always paired them with all black or white outfits. Unique pastel colours have always caught my attention, but it can be a challenge to pair them with shades other than black or white. Given the crazy amount of colours in my closet, you would think finding something to go with them would be a piece of cake, but everything I had tried to pair them with ended up clashing. These heels are so comfortable, but because I don't want to wear them with the same dresses over and over, I haven't gotten as much use out of them as I would like. Enter the perfect shade of pink to match.


My mom and I were shopping at Saks when she pointed out this gorgeous, pink Equipment blouse. Equipment blouses are my favourite. The silk is so soft and feels amazing against your skin. We decided that since we loved the shirt so much we would both get it - a true like mother, like daughter situation. I wanted it because I needed new work shirts, but when I looked around my closet I instantly knew that the top would go perfectly with the perriwinkle Gucci heels.


This is one of those casual outfits that still makes me feel like a million bucks. I love pairing fun heels with a simple outfit - it totally glams things up. The pink is close enough to white that it just blends into the whole outfit so perfectly. Often, pale pink shades make me look washed out, but this one actually looked OK against my fair skin. I can't wait for the weather to warm up so it will be socially acceptable (and not too cold) to wear outfits like this.


What's your favourite pastel item in your closet? Comment below and let me know!

All photos were taken by Savana Salloum.

With love,

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