Back to the Grind I Guess

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Well, I guess it’s finally happening, a new school year is upon us and while I’ve been looking forward to it for a while, it is a little bitter sweet. Summer vacation is now officially over for most, and the call of Professors and textbooks is all too familiar.

I won’t lie, I’m a little nervous for my second year of university! Things were pretty crazy in my first year and while it was totally awesome in the end, I don’t know what to expect going in to this year. Either way, I’m looking forward to more boundary stepping and comfort zone pushing this year, let’s make it a great one! However you feel about this next chapter in your life (if you’re nervous like me, don’t worry about it too much), I hope you face it with a smile, because you’ve totally got this!

It’s so odd, I remember moving in to my dorm last September. It was crazy, my first year! I could hardly believe it! I was so shy that I stayed in my room all day until my roommate finally moved in later that night, we’d met a few weeks earlier and she was the only person I knew in my residence. I’d never been away from my parents more than a week (wasn’t a camp kind of kid) and had no idea what to expect from living in a dorm. It was a crazy year, filled with ups, downs, and a couple of 360 loops, but I’m here now, a year later, and I’ve become an entirely different person.

I sat down a couple days ago to write this post and didn’t exactly know what I wanted to say. I’ve written a lot over the last month about advice, and what you can do to be successful academically in university, but no amount of articles or tips will prepare you for the crazy so many of you are about to embark on. Even if you’re not going in to first year, and instead are stepping in to high school or middle school for the first time, the feeling is much the same. Everything is different, and there are so many unknown unknown’s that it’s overwhelming.

I guess if there’s anything I really want to tell you, it’s good luck, and I know this is going to be an incredible year for you! I hope you are faced with neat challenges and that you step out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a tiny bit. I hope you make new best friends, go on adventures and make awesome memories with them, and I hope you make time to take care of your mind and body, that you get enough sleep every night, drink enough water every day and exercise even though it sucks some times!

This year, I hope you take a great big step towards becoming the person you want to be. Join a random club, talk to the girl sitting alone in the cafeteria, and study hard. It probably won’t be all fun and games, but even when it gets tough, I’m sure you’ll be able to soldier through.

If you’re looking for more detailed advice, here are some posts I’ve written about school:

Good luck to all you guys in this new school year! You’re all going to kill it!

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The First Week Of University

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While school has already started for a bunch of people, I have one week left to savour summer vacation and relax before I drown in readings and assignments.

The first week of university is simultaneously the best, and worst week of the year. You’re totally overwhelmed with information about your classes, new people, and might even be starting to feel a little bit home sick. On the other hand, you’re enjoying tons of freedom, and have a newfound sense of confidence and responsibility. Either way, that first week is daunting, especially when your first class is with 1500 other people!

Here are thirteen things you can do in that crazy first week to set yourself up for an awesome semester!

Buy an Agenda — I’ve heard it all:“I had an agenda in high school but I never used it.” and “I have a really good memory, I won’t forget about it.” or “I’m not organized enough to use an agenda.” Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, forget the excuses, and buy yourself an agenda. While your first week (or even month) of university might seem incredibly easy and relaxed, don’t be fooled! Things will pick up soon enough, and when they do, you’ll have no idea what hit you. Having an agenda will help you organize your time and make sure you’re on top of things in the midst of midterm and exam chaos.

Organization and time management is so much more important in university than it ever was in high school, so it’s helpful to have a system for keeping track of everything. It doesn’t really matter what agenda you have, but make sure it fits your needs and is small enough that you can take it with you wherever you go. Write down important dates as you become aware of them, and use it to plan what work you need to get done every day. This way it’ll be pretty difficult to miss a deadline and you’ll be on top of your readings and assignments. You can rest easy knowing that any important information about your classes and projects, have been written down and are easy to find.

Print Out Your Syllabi — These packets of paper are your lifeline for each one of your classes. Once you get them, print them out, hole punch them, and store them together in a folder.

Before your classes start, go through each syllabus and highlight important information including: your professors name and contact information, office hours, test and exam dates, assignment deadlines, and anything else you think will be important to know. As soon as you’ve highlighted these things, you can start transferring important information to other places. Test and due dates should be added to your calendar (I use the mac calendar app) and your agenda, so you have easy access to them, and contact info can be written down in your agenda or on your class schedule.

Keep your syllabi safe, they’ll be helpful once exam time comes around and you can’t remember exactly what sections you covered in class.

Make a Schedule — This might sound like overkill to some, but I always find it incredibly helpful to write out a schedule for the semester and hang it on my bulletin board. My schedule usually involves all my classes, work hours, volunteer times and when I plan to workout.

Having a visual representation of how your day will look is really helpful when things start getting more hectic and time management becomes key. It’ll also make it easier for you to plan what work you can do each day and when, so you stay on top of everything.

Find your Classes — To avoid getting lost and feeling anxious about going to class, do a mock run. Write down each building and room number and visit each of them before your classes actually start. This way you’ll know how to get to class on the first day and you’ll look like a pro doing it (who knows, maybe other freshman will even ask you for directions)!

Start your Readings — Don’t be fooled by the easy going vibe of the first week or two of school. Start your readings and try to get ahead while things are still settling. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the extra effort when midterms arrive and you have a bit more room to breathe.

Figure Out the Textbook Situation — Don’t buy your textbooks weeks in advance. Wait until school starts and check the updated syllabus to make sure they haven’t changed. Your professors will likely also mention whether the textbook is actually necessary in your first class. This way you can avoid buying books you won’t actually use.

Find your Library — You’ll be spending a lot of time at the library, so it’s in your best interest to find it (or one of them) during your first week. University libraries often host a bunch of informative intro courses for first years (and anyone else who’d like to take them) so you can become comfortable with the way your school’s library system works. Trust me, going to the library for the first time when you need to do major research for a paper isn’t exactly stress-free. Help yourself out and get familiar with the library system asap!

Find a Study Spot — This is something I cannot stress enough! Find a place you can study effectively on campus as soon as possible! Having a place you know, you study well in takes away a lot of stress and also eliminates the time you’ll spend figuring out where to go for a study session.

You don’t have to make a big deal about this at first (it is only the first week after all), but try to find a spot you enjoy the atmosphere of and is conducive to your study style. Later on in the semester you can always find new spots, but it certainly helps to know one off the bat, even if it’s not quite perfect.

Join a Club — Just do it! Look up your school’s club directory, and narrow it down to one or two groups you’re really interested in. Clubs are the perfect way to get involved in your campus community and to meet people with similar interests and values. I regret not joining any clubs in my first year and have already made a promise to myself to join one as soon as school starts!

Sign up for an Athletic Class — Take advantage of your university’s athletic facilities and programs. There are likely hundreds of intramural teams and registered classes waiting for you to join them! Sports and classes like pilates or yoga, are great ways to meet friends, and also allow you to set aside some time for personal health. Your body and mind will thank you.

Communicate With your Roommate — Don’t wait until the middle of the year to talk to your roommate about what standards you have for your room. It’s important to get everything out on the table asap so you can talk about the things each of you need to do in order for your year together to be successful. Talking about things early also lowers the chances that you’ll have a full fledged fight later in the year.

Some people suggest creating a contract with your roommate, stating all the things you hold each other to, and others are fine with just talking about their expectations and putting some rules in to place. Either way, make sure you have the talk early on.

Hangout With People in your Residence — Don’t shut yourself away! Even if you’re shy (like I was) make sure to reach out to the girl across the hall or the twins next door. They might become your new best friends, or not, but either way you’ll have someone to eat with until you find a more solid group of friends.

Call your Parents — Don’t forget to call the people who love you the most. Your parents are probably struggling just as much as you are, and would love to hear about how everything is going. They’re also the perfect people to call when you aren’t sure about a class, or how to talk to your roommate when something is bothering you.

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These are a few things I found super helpful in my first year of university and I’ll definitely continue doing them this year.

Good luck to those of you who have already started (I know you’ll have a great year), and enjoy the rest of your vacation to those of you who have another week to go (savour every moment)!

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Little Wonders Wednesday

Hey there!! I hope you’re enjoying the last day of August (what??) and are getting ready to head back to reality tomorrow (or in a few weeks for some).

Today’s post is my second segment of “Little Wonders Wednesday” and I’m excited to share some more awesome little things that bring me joy!

As I said in the first Little Wonders post, I think it’s so important to, in the midst of our busy lives, slow down every once in a while and think about all the things that we have been given, and everything we’ve worked hard for. Sometimes the smallest moments are the most important ones, and it’s easy to forget about them when you’re running around like a chicken without a head!

Little Wonder

Finishing a Notebook – As someone who hoards pretty notebooks and never really uses them, I always feel so much pride when I do finally finish one. Whether you use them as an agenda, journal or recipe book, there is no better feeling than filling up all the pages and being able to look back and read over what you’ve written.

Discovering Really Good Music on Youtube – Sometimes you have to dig really deep to find the good stuff on youtube, but every so often, you hit the jackpot and find your new favourite song or artist.

Finding What You Were Looking for. . .on Sale – There have been so many times where I’m on the hunt for an item of clothing or a book and finally give up waiting for it to go on sale. When I end up going to the store prepared to pay full price, it turns out that the sale is on, and I get exactly what I was looking for, but with a smaller price tag.

Butterflies Flying Around You – I always feel like a fairy princess when a butterfly or two keep circling me. It’s such a gentle feeling, and reminds me of my childhood, playing princess and making fairy gardens.

Bright Blue Cloudless Skies – There are few things better than looking up at a brilliantly blue sky without a single cloud in it. It seems to stretch on forever and makes you realize how vast and huge this lovely world of our is!

The Smell of Lilacs – We have a few lilac trees in our backyard and when they’re in bloom in the spring, nothing beats their gentle fragrance. Whether it’s walking in with my bike, or heading to the garage, I love getting a whiff of that gorgeous scent!

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Those are my Little Things for this month, and again, I hope you enjoyed this post and took a moment or two to think about the little things in life that give you pleasure!

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Where To Go In Portugal

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Before I get in to the meat of this post, I want to start off by saying something I say a lot: Wow how is it already the middle of August?? Time is flying by so quickly and in less than a month I’ll be back to walking through my campus, carrying tons of textbooks and looking for a Tim Hortons with wifi…God I really miss Timmie’s (I just need an ice cap is that too much to ask?). I hope you guys have all been enjoying the last few weeks of summer and are slowly getting back in to the swing of things when it comes to school and work!

While summer is winding down for us, September is a great time to start planning next years adventures (take advantage of great airline prices) so you can give yourself something to look forward to. If you’re stuck wondering where to go, may I give you a suggestion?

Portugal!

I might be a bit biased since I am Portuguese, but honestly, I’ve been to a lot of places in Europe, and Portugal is still one of my favourites. It’s a tiny country packed full of history, delicious food, kind people and so much culture.

Since it’s not a huge tourist destination (like say Paris or London), Portugal’s premier cities remain inexpensive and are bustling and full of life in the spring and summer months. Today I wanted to talk about my favourite cities to visit, and the ones I think you should add to your travel bucket list!

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Óbidos

Óbidos is a gorgeous walled medieval town that oozes charm and culture. Every summer they hold a medieval festival were you can buy a costume and become a knight or princess, and in the winter months they hold a chocolate festival (yum!) which I haven’t been to, but have heard awesome things about.

The old castle has been turned in to a gorgeous hotel you can stay at, and it’s honestly an incredible experience being in a place that is so old and full of so much history.

If you love history, want to see a prime example of medieval architecture and get to walk on top of a city wall, this is the place for you! As an added bonus, there are prime photo ops at literally every corner of the city (so you can step up your Insta game)!

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Coimbra

Coimbra is Portugal’s former capitol and is home to the gorgeous University of Coimbra. I’ve only been to this city a few times, but it is so full of history and beautiful buildings that I would recommend it.

If old school’s interest you, the University of Coimbra is stunning, and is almost as old and famous UK universities Oxford and Cambridge. The universities famous baroque library, the Biblioteca Joanina, is an incredible thing to see and apparently (I don’t know that they still do this 100%) houses a family of bats who come out at night to eat the bugs and protect the books (crazy I know).

All in all Coimbra is a great destination, and who knows, you might even want to transfer to UC?

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Lisbon

Lisbon, the capitol of Portugal, is an amazing, bustling, and eclectic city. It caters to young, artistic types (and families) and you’ll be able to find any museum or tour to suit your tastes.

While you’re there be sure to take A Tuk Tuk ride through the streets, hop on the old streetcars to climb way up in to the hills of Alfama, and stop in a smokey fado bar for drinks and a moving performance.

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Porto

I wrote a post recently about Porto, but would like to reiterate what a lovely place it is. The food is some of the most wonderful in the country, and it’s bubbly atmosphere makes it the perfect destination for families and couples a like.

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Cascais

Nestled by the water about a half hour away from Lisbon, is beautiful Cascais. If laying on the beach, shopping and eating are your favourite things to do on vacation, this should be your first stop. With tons of beautiful beaches, amazing hotels and incredible seafood, Cascais is perfect for a relaxing beach stay while still being close to some of Portugal’s biggest cities.

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Guimarães

Like Obidos, Guimaraes is a gorgeous example of a medieval city. It was settled in the 9th century and is where the country of Portugal began (how crazy is it to think that a country could begin in a city?).

There are hundreds of winding streets and over the top churches to explore in this beautiful city, as well as many lovely hotels to rest and recharge in.

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Sintra

In the fairytale foothills of Sintra Mountain, you’ll find this lovely city. It has been a royal retreat for hundreds of years, and you can visit the beautiful palace the royal family frequented high up on the mountain top.

Aside from royalty, Sintra is home to gorgeous homes, museums (there’s an amazing toy museum right downtown) and bakeries filled with delicious pastries. It has a vibe very different from that of most Portuguese towns, and is very lush and green due to it’s location. It really does feel like a fairy tale!

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Well, those are my favourite places in Portugal! We may be a small country, but it’s really packed full of beautiful places to visit an explore!

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How To Kick Butt In First Year

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As August moves along and September appears on the horizon, back-to-school activity begins in ernest. First time Kindergarteners hurry around Staples clutching their parent’s fingers and pick up crayons and craft paper. High school juniors wonder how they can possibly make it through another two years of school, and college freshman sit around selecting courses, paying tuition and buying things for their dorm rooms.

They all ask the same question: what will this year hold?

While elementary and high school are slightly more predictable, university is a total mystery to those of us on the outside. Sure you’ve watched the movies, read the articles and seen the meme’s, but what is it really like to sit in a lecture hall of 1500? What is it really like to spend all your waking hours in the library during exams, and what is it like to specialize your studies?

Last fall, before I moved in to my residence, I had no idea what to expect. Though some of my older cousins had gone to university before me, I didn’t exactly know how to ask them for advice, and while my parents tried their best too calm my nerves, university had changed since their schooling days. So, instead of turning to actual people, I searched Pinterest and Blogs across the internet, reading article after article titled: “What To Expect In Dorm Life” and “20 Ways To Make Your First Year Rock”. Knowing that other people were going through the same messy emotions helped me through that entire summer.

As a sort of thank you to all the blog posts that helped me out, and as part of my Back-To-School Month posts, today’s is all about tips, tricks, and advice so you can kick butt in first year!

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Buy an agenda before school and force yourself to use it. Write everything down. I mean everything (yes, even what you want to eat that day)! My agenda is my lifeline, and honestly, I don’t think I’d make it through the year without it.

Also use a big (pretty) wall calendar. Agenda’s are great for carrying around, and a big wall calendar is perfect for putting over your desk. It’ll help you see busy weeks in advance so you can stay organized and ready.

Plan your readings. Use your agenda to plan what work you need to get done everyday. Sit down on Sunday night and plan your readings/homework/assignments for the week so you can stay caught up (or ahead). This extra time also lets you see what’s coming up that week (maybe a friends birthday) so you can make room for important extra curricular’s or social events.

Protect your syllabus at all costs. This packet of papers is your life line for that class. Keep it safe, make a photo copy (seriously having a back up is a life saver), and highlight any important information. Transfer important dates to your agenda and calendar immediately and keep in with your notes for that class.

Don’t fall in to the “wear pjs and sweats all day everyday” state of mind. It’ll make you feel more tired and lazy. Dress up for yourself and I promise you’ll feel 10x more confident and ready to tackle your school work.

Don’t force a relationship with your roommate. It will come with time, and if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal! Not everyone ends up being best friends with their roomie. As long as you’re civil and respectful, you’re good as gold!

Do assignments right away. This is always easier said than done, but your stress level will lower drastically if you start the essay the day it’s assigned or brought up in class.

Find your library. Some libraries work for some people, and others don’t. Take the opportunity to try out different libraries and study spaces on your campus until you find one that’s perfect for you. Once you find a space you can study in easily, it’ll take a lot of the pressure off.

Work out every day. For the love of God, please get out of the library and move. It can be a dance class, a run, a yoga break or even a brisk walk through campus, anything. Just get up and do it. Not only will your body thank you, but your mind will be more focused to learn afterwards.

Don’t be afraid of taking morning classes. So many people tell you not to, but it’s a great feeling to be up early and done with lectures by noon. It’ll give you lots of time to be productive and get things done during the rest of the day.

Wake up early. Even if you decide not to take morning classes (sorry 8ams, I’m just not feeling it) consider waking up early. Building a routine helps you fall asleep easier (and sleep better) and if you wake up early, you can get the bulk of your studying out of the way so you can enjoy the rest of your day! If you’re not a morning person don’t worry, I wasn’t either, but if you force yourself to get up at say 8am (whether you need to or not) you’ll notice a big difference in productivity.

Get out of your comfort zone! Join the intramural team, rush the sororities, take a really weird art history class or just go to student plays and art shows. Whatever you do, learn new things and step outside of your boundaries. Chances are you’ll find a new passion or hobby.

Don’t worry about dating. If you have a boyfriend, great, but if not, don’t sweat it! Statistically people in university aren’t the ones getting in to long term commitments. You’re in school to learn and grow as a person. Take new chances and focus on expanding your mind and interests. The right person will come around eventually and you’ll be glad you didn’t rush it.

Flash cards are sent from heaven. Make them, read them and then read them fifty other times. They’re perfect for studying and you can have your parents or sibling or roommate or the guy you tend to sit near on the subway quiz you at literally any point in the day. Make them and use them.

Go to class. This is pretty self explanatory, but a lot of people still skip. You’re paying a lot of money to be there, so show up and get the most out of your education. However, if you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and skipping really is the smarter course of action, don’t be afraid to miss a class or two. You’re the only one who knows what you need to do in order to succeed.

Do the readings. I was always told that it’s impossible to get all your readings done in uni, but when I started, I found out that that wasn’t true at all. If you budget your time properly and are studying effectively, you should have no problem completing the required readings. Make the effort, because having already read the textbook helps a lot the night before your exams.

Rent your textbooks. If your student bookstore has the option, rent those babies. Textbooks are so expensive and renting is usually way cheaper and easier to go about than buying. Most schools give you the option to pay the difference if you decide you want to keep it.

Talk to your professors. Go to office hours, and student/staff mixers. Ask them questions after lecture and email them (as a last resort) if you really need to. Contrary to popular belief, your profs want you to succeed but they can’t help you if you don’t reach out!

Set goals. When you know what you want to achieve and the things you need to do to reach those goals, it’s so much easier to stay motivated. Figure out what these goals are, write them down and stick them on the wall near your desk or in your agenda. Read them when you’re finding it difficult to open a textbook.

Take breaks. Sitting for twelve hours straight in the library is not good for you. Your brain needs breaks to properly store the information you’ve learnt and honestly, after that many hours in front of your books, you probably aren’t giving your work 100% anymore (Instagram and Facebook start becoming really important). Get up, take a walk, listen to music, or eat a (healthy) snack.

Nobody cares if you go to the party. It’s no surprise that there’s going to be drinking and rowdiness all over campus most nights of the week (students party when they can). If you choose to go to those parties, all the power to you, stay safe and have fun! But if you aren’t an avid party goer (like myself) nobody really cares. Stay in and do your own thing of go bowling with friends. It’s all your choice.

Nobody cares if you drink either. As someone who doesn’t drink at all, I was really worried that people would judge me in university. Would they think I wasn’t cool? Would I get made fun of? Would the pear pressure be too much to handle? Nope! Nobody really cared, and if they did comment, it was usually to say that they thought it was cool I could go to parties sober. So if you don’t drink, have no fear, just do you!

You might not make many friends. I thought I was going to make a bunch of really good friends in my first year, but the truth is, I only made a couple, and that was totally fine. While quality is way more important than quantity, you will find your group of people as the years go on. Universities are often gigantic, but your homies are hiding in there somewhere!

Keep in touch. Call your parents and your grandparents. Send your high school BFFS letters and care packages. University is scary, and sometimes all you need is a reminder of the love you have back home. Don’t use distance as an excuse for letting important relationships fade. A text twice or three times a week is all you need.

Try to get a job. It may be hard to juggle with homework and clubs etc. But you’ll be so thankful to have some extra cash coming in!

Don’t hold yourself back. Just because you’re frightened or anxious, doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from doing things. If your scared of taking a semester abroad or taking an internship, chances are, it’s a perfect opportunity for learning and growth. Don’t be silly, take the leap!

Have fun! University is stressful and pretty scary, but it’s also an amazing time! You’re learning so many new things and there are opportunities to help you grow around every corner. While school is often crazy busy, make sure you take time during the week to hang out with your friends and do something fun.

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I think I probably could’ve come up with more advice (it’s one of my favourite things to write about if you couldn’t tell), but I’ll save that for another time. I hope this has been slightly helpful to a few of you who are heading to uni for the first time (or even if you’re a fourth year veteran)!

If you have any advice or suggestions, leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear what gets you, through a hectic year!

Hope you’re all enjoying this lovely Tuesday!

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Toronto’s Best Cupcake

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A few months ago, amidst finals stress and sleep deprived study sessions, my friend Alex and I decided we wanted to find Toronto’s best cupcake. We’d just been sorrily disappointed after eating some cupcakes from the Eaton Centre (they may look good, but the Urban Eatery cupcakes are a trap), and felt morally obligated to find a tasty treat worth eating.

Thus, the cupcake challenge was born!

We googled “best cupcakes in Toronto”, compiled a list of four bakeries (Bunners, Prairie Girl, Dlish, and Bobette & Belle), which seemed to appear on every blog post we pulled up, and made up a rating scale to judge each treat!

Our scale consisted of: Prettiness, moisture, frosting to cake ratio (if there is the right amount of frosting for the cake), balanced sweetness (between the frosting and cake), texture (for both frosting and cake), size, flavour overall, and value. Each item on the list was rated out of five, and then we tallied up all the points!

To help make our rating easier, we standardized the type of cupcake we would buy from each location, settling on a classic, chocolate cake with vanilla icing.

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Bunners

Firstly, excuse my (very) poor photography skills here. I didn’t realize that every single picture we took was blurry until after we ate the whole thing up!

Our first stop was Bunner’s on Dundas (there’s another location in Kensington Market)! This bake shop prides itself on gluten free and vegan products and is highly spoken of. Bunner’s didn’t offer a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing, so we just got chocolate on chocolate.

Review — Firstly, we noticed that the store itself was not exactly welcoming. There was nowhere to sit (it was quite small) and though it was early in the morning, somehow it was quite dark inside. Their selection of cupcake flavours was quite small, and we were a little disappointed to see so few combinations. Atmosphere aside, the Bunner’s cupcake ($4.20) was very large and the icing was nicely piped. The cupcake itself was pretty moist, but the texture was off, it was very grainy and clumpy and the cake was very heavy. The icing also had a strange texture and didn’t sit well on the tongue. There was just the right amount of icing (which proved to be hard to find at the other cupcake locations) and while the icing was sweeter than we would’ve liked, it was balanced out well by the cake.

Overall, we were pretty disappointed with the texture and general flavour of the cupcake.

Prettiness — 2.5/5

Moisture — 3/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 5/5

Balanced Sweetness — 3/5

Texture — 2/5

Size — 5/5

Flavour Overall — 1/5

Value — 1.5/5

Total: 23/40

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Dlish

Dlish, a cute little bakery on Queen, was ranked Toronto’s Best Cupcake in 2014 and runner up this year! We ordered a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing, but they boast a big selection of flavours.

Review — What really killed it for this cupcake (in our opinion) was the icing. The cake itself was pretty standard in texture, moisture and flavour, but the icing was way too sweet. Vanilla is usually a sugary flavour when it comes to icing, but this one was a bit over kill, and to make matters worse, it was grainy and didn’t taste all that authentic. The sprinkles on top were a great touch and they added a lot to the texture.

Overall, this was a pretty average cupcake, nothing all that special. We would’ve been happier had the icing been less sweet, but if you’re in the are, definitely check them out.

Prettiness — 2.5/5

Moisture — 3/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 3/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2/5

Texture — 4/5

Size — 2.5/5

Flavour Overall — 2.5/5

Value — 2.5/5

Total: 22/40

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Prairie Girl Bakery

Also excuse this poor photo. Lighting in the PATH is not ideal!

This gem is hidden under the heart of the financial district, in the PATH. It’s a little out of the way, but they have so many options it’s totally worth it! Again, we got a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing.

Review — Let me start by raving about the cake from this place. It was airy, light, moist, everything you could want in a cake. Alex and I were barely able to speak we were so pleased. Sadly, the icing was the downfall of this cupcake as well. Not only was it too sweet and too thick, but it was barely vanilla at all! In fact we got a really strong cream cheese flavour (which is usually fine, but not when you’re expecting vanilla). Honestly, the unexpectedness of it threw us for a bit of a loop.

Prettiness — 3/5

Moisture — 5/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 2/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2.5/5

Texture — 5/5

Size — 5/5

Flavour Overall — 3/5

Value — 3.5/5

Total: 29/40

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Bobbette & Belle

This Leslieville gem is honestly one of the most adorable little bakeries I’ve ever been to! Alex and I were happily surprised by an inviting and stylish sitting area, and we’ve already made plans to go back just because it was so cute! The music was also on point if that’s your kind of thing! Once again, we got a standard chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing.

Lighting was also incredible at this location (as you can tell in this not terrible photo)!

Review — We had big hopes for this little cupcake. It was pretty (prime piping and sprinkle work), and it was from a really pretty place. Sadly, it was only average, and the frosting again, was it’s downfall. The icing was way too sweet, and I know I said that about the others, but somehow, this was the worst of them all. Had the cake been less sweet, it would’ve balanced out the icing, but alas, this was not the case.

Prettiness — 4/5

Moisture — 4/5

Frosting to Cake Ratio — 5/5

Balanced Sweetness — 2/5

Texture — 4/5

Size — 3.5/5

Flavour Overall — 2.5/5

Value — 2.5/5

Total: 27.5/40

A Note From Alex:

Someone once said “a cupcake can make even the worst day a little bit brighter”. Ok, that someone was me, but honestly a good cupcake – or any dessert for that matter – can help ease some of life’s problems. That’s why Lauren and I knew we had to go on a mission to find Toronto’s Best Cupcake!

Obviously, this can be kind of tough, especially since judging foods can be a pretty subjective sport. Some people like a cupcake with really sweet frosting, others only want a little bit of frosting; the list of preferences could really go on forever…That’s why we tried to stick with a set of criteria that we could use to rate them in an unbiased way (as you can tell we have this whole cupcake judging thing down to a science, we could get PhD’s at this point tbh).

As Lauren said, we went to four different bakeries and ate four cupcakes. One cupcake looked pretty but didn’t taste all that great, another was just average, the third had super amazing cake, and the fourth was sold from the cutest shop which definitely made up for the lacklustre cupcake. Oddly enough, at each bakery we found that the frosting was their downfall – I would label myself as a lover of all frostings so that was pretty disappointing to me.

All in all though, I got to tour around Toronto with some amazing company eating cupcakes all day so regardless of the outcome I had a super fun time!

Official Verdict: Toronto’s Best Cupcake? Yet to be found.

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While we were happy to have spent the day eating cupcakes and exploring our amazing city, Alex and I were a little bit disappointed after these treats failed to live up to our expectations. Of course none of them were terrible, but they all followed a similar downfall. Decent cake, and incredibly over sweet icing. As we walked home from Leslieville, something dawned on us! Why couldn’t we, try to make our own perfect cupcake? So, in the next instalment of The Cupcake Challenge, we’ll be taking you through our recipe for creating the best (or our best) cupcake!

I hope you enjoyed this segment, and if you’d like to see something similar but for other foods (like pizza, hamburgers or ice cream) don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments!

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10 Things I Learnt In First Year

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Last fall I embarked on a crazy, scary, exciting new adventure…University! In September I showed up at my beautiful residence, unpacked and organized my dorm, said adios to my high school days and hello to the new ones ahead. It was a crazy year overall. I made friends, lost friends, studied really hard, pushed myself, and have come out the other side a completely different person! The whole year was a rollercoaster and though it was difficult and scary, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

While it was an exciting time, it proved a big change (obviously) and I faced a lot of challenges in my academics and social life. I struggled to make the grades I thought I should, missed my parents, and didn’t make nearly as many friends as I had imagined. Though it certainly was crazy, I learned so much about myself and the type of life I want to build for myself, so I am grateful it went the way it did.

While I learnt a lot of things, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the major lessons I learnt, so here are the ten most important things!

Trust The Universe

Sometimes things get out of hand and you feel like you have no control over your own life! Things and people start running away from you, or it feels like you’re drowning in school work. First year is a time of great change, and we all face a ton of challenges in those eight months. So many things are thrown at us and we’re expected to react properly with only a moments notice. While things can often feel overwhelming, I learnt that everything happens for a reason. Sure that boy you sort of dated, hurt you, and yes, there were some mean girls and petty drama. Maybe you really bombed a test, had a crazy house mate, or one of a hundred other negatives, but all of these things are opportunities for learning!

I’m a very spiritual and superstitious person (not in the typical religious sense mind you), and while I’ve always believed things happen for a reason, I’ve never been more sure of it until now. The universe has it’s own plan for your life. It twists and turns, drops and jumps, but ultimately, it’s going to take you to exactly where you want to go. As soon as I accepted and believed this from the very bottom of my heart, it became a great comfort to me and was one of the things that got me through the hardest parts of the year.

Some Things Are Temporary

It’s the truth. You likely won’t stay friends with the people you meet at frosh, you don’t have to be BFF’s with your roommate, and it’ll take some time for the new people in your life to stabilize and settle. You might start the year with one group of friends, and end it with a totally different bunch — that’s ok! In fact that’s how it’s supposed to go! Learning what you like in social relationships is a hug part of growing up. In first year (and university in general) you are thrown in with entirely new groups of people, many of whom you won’t gel with. It’s going to take some time to find those you really click with, and sometimes, even when you really want someone to stay, it’s best that they don’t.

The universe has a path for you to follow, and some people just don’t fit in with it. That doesn’t mean you won’t find your place at all, it just might take a little bit longer than it did in High School.

You’re Your Own Hero

This is self explanatory really, but I think it’s been one of the most important things I’ve learnt thus far. Life will get hectic and intense, that’s just the way it is, and you can’t expect someone to always be there to lean on. People are dealing with their own stuff too. This doesn’t mean your best friends won’t help you out when you need it, it just means that you have to be there for yourself every step of the way.

You always have the power to pick yourself off the floor and on to better things. Once we recognize this “superpower” in ourselves, the world doesn’t seem so scary and taking risks doesn’t seem as difficult.

It’s All About Priorities

This is something my dad has always said, and it’s proven true again and again! As much as personality defines ones self, priorities are often the major motivator for any action a person takes and everyones priorities are different.

Keeping this in mind is helpful when you’re in a difficult group work scenario, or if the people you’ve recently become friends with turn out to be the kind of people you don’t want to hang around. Everyone has different things that drive them. If your priorities are really different from someone else’s and you clash because of it, it’s ok to not stay close with that person. It’s ok to pull away from things that are bringing you down, and it’s ok to put yourself first. Recognizing this, though it can be hard to put in to practice, is so helpful in the long run. You (and those other people) deserve to find friendships you can thrive in, and there’s no shame in realizing someone might be the wrong addition to your group.

Not Everyone Has The Same Heart As You

This point builds on the previous one. While everyone has different priorities, everyone also has a different heart. The way you handle hurt, or stress, or anger, are all very different from the way others handle with them. The sooner you accept that everyone is going to react or behave differently in stressful situations, the sooner you’ll be able to stop expecting certain behaviours from them.

People don’t react the way you do or say the things you say in bad situations, and while it’s easy to say “I would’ve done this…” or “I would’ve said that…”, it’s even easier to accept people as they come and recognize that while they may not have done what you would’ve liked, they are doing the best that they can. This takes the stress off everyone, and leads to more open relationships built on trust and acceptance.

Listen To Your Mom

As annoying as it is sometimes, your mom really does know more than you. She always has, and it’s important to listen to her. When she tells you not to date anyone, it’s not because she doesn’t want you to be happy, it’s because she knows it’s not a good time and doesn’t want you to get hurt, and when she tells you everything will be ok, it almost always is.

Keep in touch with her, tell her what’s going on and she will always be there for you. That’s what mom’s do, they fix, and heal, and love when it feels like everything else is going south.

Your Mental Health Matters

This. Is. So. Important. University is crazy. Things are hectic, you’re stressed beyond belief, and people can be rude and hurtful. While ultimately you’re there for academics, never ever, prioritize school work over your mental (or physical) health.

If you are too anxious to focus, take a break. If you can’t open a text book because you’re too sad, seek professional guidance. If you need to drop courses to be at a comfortable spot, do it. Do not ever make academics and school work  worth more than your health and sanity. The only way you can perform optimally, is if you are healthy, happy, and stable in all areas of your life.

Your health matters, so listen to your body, and take breaks or talk to a professional when necessary.

Be Gentle With Yourself 

This point builds on the one above. When you didn’t do as well on a paper as you thought you would, bombed a test, or didn’t read a chapter. Be gentle with yourself.

University is such an adjustment, and you are doing your absolute best. Be gentle with your self talk, encourage yourself, and make sure you praise the hard work you’re doing. Acclimatizing to the social and academic aspects of college life is hard, it’s stressful and there’s no right way to go about it. There is a right way for you though, so don’t compare your experience with that of anyone else’s. You are doing what you need to do for you, and that’s exactly how it should be!

One Day You’ll Meet “The One”

You’re going to meet so many boys (or girls)! You’re going to meet one you click with right away and they might break your heart. You’ll meet some you admire from a distance, and others still that you just don’t click with. There will be tons, and while it seems like an endless game or a string of heart breaks, don’t worry about it, eventually the right person will come along.

Statistically people in our age group aren’t in long lasting relationships. They’re not finding the one yet, and while it might seem like everyone around you is falling in love and getting married, it just isn’t true. You’re not weird or abnormal. Your soul mate is just doing their own thing right now and you should be too.

Quality > Quantity

This lesson applies to everything. Friends, studying, eating, working out, literally everything! The long and the short of it, is that life is special! We’re blessed with so little time on this amazing planet and our job is to build something out of what we’re given, which you can’t do when negativity is tearing you down every step of the way.

Always remember, quality, is far more important than quantity!

Just because you have a million “friends”, doesn’t really mean they all care about you the way they should. If you spend eight hours “studying” for a test, but really just scroll through Instagram, that test likely won’t go well. And if you workout an hour everyday, but barely move a muscle, you won’t reach your goals the way you wished you could.

With social media being such a prominent form of communication, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t cool or popular enough. People are constantly posting pictures of their gazillion new friends and the cool things they do at school, so naturally we  compare our lives to theirs. Really, we should be focused on building our own network filled with people who love and support us. While you might not have a million friends like everyone else seems to, it is far more important to have a few quality buddies.

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Man, this post took so long to write! I’ve honestly been working on it for about a month and finally finished it while waiting for my flight at the airport. Finally! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it, because I really enjoyed the process of writing this post. It got me thinking about all the little ways I’ve grown as a person, and helped me appreciate a difficult year.

What are some things you’e learnt this year?

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Carry On Essentials

 

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Deciding what to use as a carry on and what to pack in it, is probably one of life’s greater challenges (#FirstWorldProblems). However, having travelled a great deal with my family I like to think I have carry on packing down to a science. Here are my carry on essentials, and some bagspiration if you’re still searching for “the one”.

As for my own carry on: last fall I got (thank you mom and dad) a beautiful Roots leather backpack, and since then, it’s been my go to travel bag (check it out HERE)! While the bag is a major investment, the quality and timeless shape will serve you for years and years (school bag to diaper bag?) and it honestly looks good with everything.

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A Good Book – A good book will keep boredom at bay if your flight is annoyingly long. I always bring a few so I can read on the plane, during my vacation, and on the way home! Currently Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and How The Mind Works by Steven Pinker are my carry on reads!

Laptop – In this day and age, bringing laptops on vacation is a no brainer. Whether you use it to get some work done in-between sight seeing, or for movies too and from your destination, it’s a useful extra. If you’re going on a shorter trip, consider excluding this from your packing list, but if not, make sure you put it in a case to stay protected.

Camera – A camera is an obvious companion for any trip and keeping it in your carry on ensures safety and easy access for those moments of inspiration.

Water – While airports don’t let you bring your own water in, be sure to buy a water bottle near your gate, or bring one to fill up! Staying hydrated is so important on long flights which often leave your skin dry and irritated.

Personal Hygiene Stuff & Hair Ties – This stuff is all a no brainer. Hair ties keep your hair up and away from your face, and lip balms, mascara, deoderant, etc. are great for applying post 8 hour flight so you can start your trip with a fresh face and confidence!

Wallet & Passport – These are important for obvious reasons and if you forget one or the other, well my friend, you’ve made a serious boo-boo.

Phone & Headphones – Whether or not I’m actually using my phone on vacation, I like to bring it along to listen to music and to connect to free wifi whenever it’s available!

Journal & Pencil Case – Journaling is another great pastime for a long flight, and is something I’ve begun doing more often this year. Documenting your journey by writing is a great way to stay creative, and is something you can look back on years later!

Thick Socks – Trust me on this one. It gets cold up there in the sky and I do not like having cold feet. A pair of fuzzy socks are the perfect thing to pull on while cruising to your destination, so you can catch some shut eye instead of focusing on how cold your little toes are!

Sunglasses – These babies are mandatory. Not only will they be useful for the rest of your trip, but after an 8 hour night flight, sunnies are my best friend. They hide the gigantic circles under my eyes until I can wash my face, and make me look more chic and put together, and less tired.

Neck Support or Stuffies – Yes I am an adult, and yes I do still travel with my stuffed animals. Honestly, it’s more of a comfort thing than anything else, but it’s always nice to bring a piece of my home with me. They also make for pretty good pillows if necessary.

Something Comfy – I always make sure to bring an extra sweater or big blanket scarf (no matter the temperature of our destination) because, as I said before, it gets chilly up there in the sky!

Gum – It’s good for keeping bad breath at bay and for stopping that annoying ear popping feeling during landing, so make sure to bring a pack (or two) with you.

If you noticed, I didn’t add snacks simply because airports are weird about letting outside food in (better to be safe than sorry) and while things past the security section can be expensive, it’s a great idea to eat something before heading to the airport at all. Whether it’s a light snack or a full meal, you’ll feel ready to take on all the annoying things airports can throw at you!

If you’re still looking for the perfect carry on for all your adventures, here are some great bags that fit the bill!

  1. Longchamp (these bags are amazing and black is the perfect neutral)
  2. Bando’s Everything Tote (pink and metallic. Need I say more?)
  3. Band0’s Getaway Duffle (love the adorable floral print on this one)
  4. Kate Spade Tote (perfect if you’re travelling for business)
  5. Madewell Transport Tote (this bag is absolute perfection)
  6. Madewell Transport Crossbody (perfection with an extendable strap)

There you have it, everything you’ll need to rock that long plane ride and arrive in your destination ready to go!

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Little Wonders Wednesday

Today’s post marks the beginning of a new series you’ll see once in a while on the blog. One Wednesday a month will now be dedicated to remembering the little wonders in life, and all the things that make this world of ours so incredible!

I’ll be writing about 5-10 “little wonders” in an effort to stay grateful and grounded in the present. Life can get so hectic, and sometimes all you need is a few minutes remembering the little things that make this world so awesome!

If you ever want to contribute your own “little wonder” leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to our list for an upcoming post!

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Hot summer sun on your back and shoulders – There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sun on your shoulders. The heat is therapeutic and if you’re lucky, you’ll be rewarded with a tan later.

Getting hand written letters from your friends – Since Facebook and texting have become so widespread, hardly anyone sends letters anymore! So, whenever you do get one in the mail, it is all the more precious.

Walking through puddles in rain boots – There is nothing more satisfying than walking right through a big puddle because you’ve got your trust rubber boots on, and watching other people hop and skip around it. A good splash or two doesn’t hurt either!

Fresh cut flowers – There is actually science on why fresh flowers make us feel so rad, but you wouldn’t have to pull out any numbers to make my buy a bouquet or two of peonies! Flowers smell beautiful and liven up every space they enter!

Getting a package in the mail – There is nothing more exciting than this! Whether you already know what’s in it, or couldn’t have the slightest idea, nothing beats the adrenalin rush of ripping open the packaging and examining your new belongings!

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I hope you’ll enjoy reading this new segment (and hopefully contributing to it) as much as I’ve loved writing it! It’s so important to appreciate the little things in life because they’re always the things that bring us back from the edge and keep us sane through difficult times!

I hope you’re having a lovely day!

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5 Best Travel Outfits

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As awesome as vacations are, I’ve always found the getting to and from part a little bit draining. Flights are long, uncomfortable, have bad food, and I never know quite what to wear or what to bring.

While carry on’s are an entirely separate affair (a post coming on this soon), I’ve come up with a few base outfits, which I gravitate to for different destinations and flight lengths! As you’ll notice (from the pictures) and as I’ll mention, I find it really helpful to stick to a neutral colour palette when choosing a travel outfit. Basics like beige, white, black and pastels are the perfect pieces to bring on vacation as they suit all seasons, most destinations, and are easy to mix and match with the rest of your vacation wardrobe!

I hope this quick guide will be helpful for figuring out how what to wear on those exciting pre-vacation flights!

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The Business Traveller

This sleek outfit is perfect for short flights from city to city (because let’s be real, nobody wants to spend 8+ hours in skinny jeans), can take you off a flight, and right in to a meeting or business event!.

Pair your fave skinnies with a simple blouse, neutral jacket or coat (it’s always cold on a flight), comfy flats and your go to purse that can double as a carry on. A low key colour palette will keep you looking stylish in any season, in every country, and also ensures that you can re-wear these pieces with the rest of your vacation wardrobe!

Check out this set HERE!

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The Long Haul Traveller

This outfit is perfect for longer flights where you need to be comfy, but still want to look cute! A sassy graphic tee, paired with sleek joggers and a bomber jacket will keep you warm and limber enough to get comfy for your flight (I swear sleeping on an airplane requires some gymnastics), and a trusty pair of sneakers will keep your feet happy.

A big backpack lets you keep all your travel essentials in one place and if you get one with a neat pattern or bright colours, it’s an easy way to add personality to any outfit!

Check out this set HERE!

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The European Traveller

Boyfriend jeans are probably my favourite trend right now! They look so put together, but are always so comfy because they’re baggier than our usual skinnies! Pair your favourite boyfriend jeans with an oversized blouse, summery flats, patterned scarf and a big tote to carry all your travel essentials.

This outfit will take you off the plane and right in to cobbled streets and picture perfect farmers markets! A neutral colour palette also makes sure you can mix and match all the pieces with the rest of your vacation wardrobe!

Check out this set HERE!

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The Beach Traveller

A breezy maxi dress, sandals and straw tote make for the perfect flight outfit to a tropical oasis! You’ll be ready for the heat, and can hop right from the airport to your hotel pool without missing a beat.

As I’ve mentioned before, neutral colour palettes are great because you can re-wear items with the other things you’ve brought on vacation!

Check out this set HERE!

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The Gallery Traveller

Whether you’re music festival hopping, or travelling from art gallery to gallery, white jeans are the perfect base to let your personality loose on. Add your favourite blouse, sandals and a sassy jacket (I mean how adorable is this jean jacket??!?!) and you’re ready to hit the coolest exhibits in no time!

Check this set out HERE!

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There you have it! Five easy outfits for those hard to deal with flights! What are your favourite travelling looks?

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