Listen To This & Read That

Hey there lovelies!

Fall has finally hit Toronto in full force. The leaves are changing colour, the air is brisk and cool. My sundresses have been put away and replaced with sweaters, and pumpkins and halloween decorations are on every porch.

October (one of my favourite months) always comes around to give me a place to slow down and enjoy. Sure, it also marks the beginning of midterms and crazy stress, but somehow, in the midst of all that, there is some inherent soothing quality to fall. While tackling a pile of readings this Saturday night (lively I know), I made some tea, lit a candle and let the ambiance and the beautiful foliage outside, carry me through my work.

It was calming. Restorative in a sense, and everyone needs that once in a while, especially if another round of midterms are heading your way.

As the seasons change, my music taste generally changes with them. Fall is obviously no exception. My iTunes playlists shift from upbeat pop, to more subdued blues and indie tunes, melodies that mirror the changing colours and brisk winds of October. Today I thought I’d share some of my favourite autumn tunes with you, as well as a couple books I’ve read recently and really liked!

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Written by the author of Eat, Pray, Love. this book was quite a treat. It was quite thought provoking and made me question a lot of habits I posses in relation to my own creativity, which is something I value deeply. If you’re a creative person (and Gilbert affirms that we all are), this enthralling read is perfect for you!

Paris To The Moon – Adam Gopnik

This book is essentially a compilation of articles written while Gopnik (an American writer) was living in Paris with his wife and young son. It is full of delightful accounts of living in, arguably, the most romantic city in Europe, and the trials or raising a child away from the world you were raised in yourself. My favourite parts of the book were always stories of Gopnik’s young son Luke, and the mischief he got up to in the Luxembourg Gardens.

My Autumn Playlist

  1. Noisy Sunday – Patrick Watson
  2. Turn Into The Noise – Patrick Watson
  3. Don’t Be a Fool – Shawn Mendes
  4. Ruin – Shawn Mendes
  5. Mercy – Shawn Mendes
  6. River – Leon Bridges
  7. I’m Not The Only One – Sam Smith
  8. If You Ever Want To Be In Love – James Bay
  9. Sound & Colour – Alabama Shakes
  10. Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes
  11. Lua – Bright Eyes
  12. An Evening I Will Not Forget – Dermot Kennedy

So, I know this was a little bit of a random post…a weird little journey, but books and music have always been important to me and I cannot deny the power of good music in hard times (aka midterms).

If you (like me) are in the middle of a hellish stint of midterms, I just want you to remember to take care of yourself! Eat well, shower, exercise and take time for yourself during this crazy time. No exam is ever worth sacrificing your own wellbeing!

Hope you guys are all having an amazing week!

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Bombshell Blues

While biking down to school one day, David and I stumbled upon a beautiful mural and just had, to stop and take some pictures. Yes, we are those basic people you see taking pictures everywhere, and yes, we love it!

But seriously, how cool is this mural???

Late September and early October are those times of the year when it’s cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon, and you know what that means? It’s shorts and sweaters season (clearly one of my favourites)!! Pairing your fave summer shorts with chunky sweaters and jackets, is an easy way to transition your summer staples in to fall, which is great for those of us who aren’t quite ready to let go of summer!

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Shirt: Ralph Lauren (similar) // Shorts: American Eagle (similar// Jacket: Vintage (similar)  Sunglasses: Forever21 // Shoes: Converse All Stars

I jumped on the bomber jacket band wagon in September when I bought this vintage beauty at a Value Village (one of the best places on Earth even though it’s gotten slightly overpriced). This jacket goes with literally everything and is so warm and comfy.

I wear it a lot, and I’m not even mad.

If you’d like to get on the bomber band wagon, there are so many cute options, and if you buy a plain one, you can customize it to your own liking all by yourself (think patches, pins and lots of embroidery!)

I went for a little pattern play in this outfit because it’s pretty simple otherwise. Adding the mix of stripes and plaid makes the whole look that much more playful and interesting!

Well I hope you’re all having a lovely day!

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Blue on Blue & Some Yellow Too

Hey there!! Today’s #OOTD is one of my closet favourites! It’s one of those great versatile dresses that will take you from class to dinner with your friends, and is just the right amount of ridiculous – which is what I tend to look for in my wardrobe.

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Dress: Zara // Shoes: J.Crew (similar) // Sunglasses: Forever21 (similar)

I picked this awesome dress up in Portugal over the summer and fell in love because it’s weird – in a good way. Not only is my favourite colour blue, but my sorority colours are light and dark blue, which means that this dress and I are destined to be together! It’s so incredibly comfortable (which is very important) and looks just as good with sneakers as it does with girly flats, which is something I can totally get behind!

Because the dress itself is pretty bold, I paired it with some yellow floral flats for a pop of pattern (yellow and blue is one of my favourite colour combos) and finished the look off with a casual “man bun” – which has become my go to hair style recently because I’m lazy and it usually looks pretty good!

Hope you’ve been having a great day!

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P.S. Thanks again to my best friend David, for the lovely photos, you’re the best!

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A Life Update

Well hey there stranger! It’s been awhile since my last post over here on Pin & Daisy, but settling in to my school rhythm took a bit longer than expected and I figured that deserved priority! Because I’ve been away so long and haven’t really had a chance to take pictures for a legitimate post, today I’m just going to do a mini life update and a bit of a reflection on my first month back at school!

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We’re well in to October now and you know what that means. . .midterms! I’ve had four of them this week (ridiculous I know), and while it’s been pretty crazy, it’s also helped me reflect on how much I’ve changed as a person/student, since last year. I’ve found it so much easier to organize my studying/homework, and have created a set method to study for exams and tests (which has been a total lifesaver).

Other than crazy amounts of midterms, school has been awesome! I love all my classes, my profs are wonderful, and I’ve made so many new/awesome connections, so I’d call this semester a win so far! While I’m still not totally in the swing of things (still on vacation in my mind), everything is falling in to place as the days go by. Campus is also gorgeous in the fall, and I can’t wait until all the trees start turning beautiful shades of orange and red! Autumn is my favourite season, and I love being able to drink apple cider, eat fall treats and wear sweaters, scarves and jackets. It’s a pretty magical time.

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P.S. These lace up flats from Aldo are literally the comfiest things ever and go with EVERYTHING! Find a similar pair HERE.

This semester, I’m trying to make an effort to get more involved on campus. In first year I was totally preoccupied with figuring school and myself out, and kind of ignored extracurriculars. This fall I’ve joined a mental health awareness group (something I feel really strongly about) and am going to more events and activities put on by my college. Getting involved is hard (considering how many choices there are, and how big the school is), so I’m hoping it’ll get a bit easier as this year goes on!

On a more random note, I’ve also finally decided to bind a book of my own poetry! This idea is still in the beginning phases, but I’ll keep you more updated on that as it progresses.

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This adorable picture is from Bid Day back in September!

Back in September I also joined a sorority! Bet you didn’t know they had them in Canada! Surprisingly, many Canadian universities do have Greek life! The whole recruitment process is kind of crazy: picture a three day long interview with, seven different organizations, and you kind of get the picture. Even though it was pretty intimidating, the end result was so awesome, and I learned a lot about my self throughout the process. I ended up in an organization called Kappa Kappa Gamma, and honestly could not be happier. All my new sisters are such cool, caring, intelligent women, and I feel very lucky to be a part of our chapter.

I know what you’re thinking: “A sorority? Seriously? Those are for rich white girls we just want to party and feel better than everyone.” Sure, it makes sense. Our society has so many misconceptions about Greek life in general. Sorority women are portrayed as dumb and snotty in movies and on tv, so of course that must be how it is in real life…right?

Wrong.

There is so much more to sorority women, and greek life in general, and I’m going to take a stab at fighting some popular stereotypes:

(1) Stereotype: Sorority girls think academics are very low priority. Truth: Academics are our number one priority! In most cases, the all sorority average is higher than the campus average because we encourage each other to excel and push ourselves to higher academic standards. It’s also easier to study when you always have a friend to go to the library with you (no matter what you’re studying)!

(2) Stereotype: All you do is party and drink! Truth: Not everything is about partying/drinking. In fact, we aren’t even allowed alcohol on our property or in the house! All sororities strive to uphold philanthropy, academic excellence and sisterhood above all else. While many girls do drink at other events, nobody will force you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, and most of our time spent together is filled with crafting, eating and just hanging out.

(3) Stereotype: You’re all a bunch of stuck up rich girls. Truth: We actually all come from totally different backgrounds, and try to give back to the community in many ways, and as often as we can, whether it be by holding charity events, volunteering at soup kitchens, or organizing book drives.

(4) Stereotype: You pay for all your friends. Truth: That’s ridiculous! You aren’t paying for friends, you’re just paying for the cool stuff you get to participate in, and the events and activities you plan and attend with your sisters! Like any other organization or sports team, there are fees to keep us running and doing all the wonderful things we do!

(5) Stereotype: You get hazed as a new member. Truth: Not true! All sororities are strictly against hazing! As a new member you’re integrated in to your chapter in meaningful and fun ways, not by being forced to do something you’re uncomfortable with. Your chapter wants you to feel loved and supported, not scared and attacked! Hazing allegations are taken very seriously, and chapters can be shut down because of it!

(6) Stereotype: Everyone is the same in a sorority: blonde, rich, dumb and snotty. Truth: Each chapter is home to a group of diverse, authentic, and lovely ladies! My Kappa sisters are all so cool and different from each other, and that’s what makes them all awesome! Everyone has different skills/strengths/passions, to bring to our chapter so we can all push and support each other to excel in all aspects.

There are probably a lot of other rumours I could address, but I figured those were the most pressing! It’s easy to get caught up in the things you hear in the news or watch in movies, but if your school has greek life and you aren’t sure about joining, I highly recommend it, you just might find your new home away from home!

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Well, I guess that’s all for now, but I will for sure be more regular with posting (I promise) because I’ve missed my blog this month!! Hope you’re all enjoying a lovely day (the weather here is phenomenal).

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The First One

So, I know I technically call Pin & Daisy a fashion and lifestyle blog, but as you can probably tell, it’s been a bit more life instead of fashion. I have a few reasons for this, but mainly, because summer sent me for a whirl! This week has been all about transitioning back in to real life, and as such, I finally made some time and shot a little outfit post for y’all – my first one ever in fact!

On the way to a haircut (which I was way early for), my Blogapher (Blog Photographer – get it hahaha?) and I found the cutest little market and accompanying wall, in Parkdale. The market (very sadly) was still closed, but we took full advantage of the wall, which was a perfect backdrop for today’s low key outfit!

Speaking of Blogaphers (he created his own title I swear), I’d like to introduce you to the lovely guy behind the camera for Pin & Daisy! My best friend David (who is in school for Opera singing – rad I know) takes great shots and is part of the family over here! You should totally go follow him on Instagram, for pics of his (epic) red hair and awesome self!

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Here is David in all his red-headed glory early yesterday!

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Blouse – Old Navy (similar) // Shorts – H&M (similar) // White Converse // Purse – Dooney & Bourke (similar) // Sunnies – Forever21

Today was humid and generally disgusting in Toronto, so I dressed more for comfort and ease than anything else, but I’m loving the vintage/minimalist vibe either way. I got this blouse after a biology exam in April (random I know). It was honestly a little bit of an impulse buy, but I love how vintagey the cut is without being frumpy or old looking (also it’s in my favourite colours – navy and white – so how can you go wrong).

My Dooney & Bourke purse goes with me pretty much everywhere, and is a great purse if you’re looking for something small and easy to wear.

Seriously though, how cute is this wall?? I can’t get over it! Will likely be returning to this spot to take photos a few more times (and to actually look inside the market when it’s open).

Hope you’re all surviving this crazy hot weather!

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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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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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What Not To Do In First Year

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As July comes to a close (wow how is the summer flying by so quickly????) I’ve decided to dedicate most of the posts this month to one of my favourite times of year: Back To School! I’ll be talking about preparing for university and sharing some things I’ve learned for getting through that crazy first year! If any of you guys have ideas for posts or want me to cover a specific topic, just leave it in the comments and I’ll fit it in!

Starting University is a scary and exciting adventure. For some, it’s their first time living away from home. Others, are worried about making friends, and others are worried about the tornado of academic work. Either way, uni is a huge change from High School. Teachers are not as hands on (how can you be in a huge class?), the work load is much larger, and you’re meeting new people everywhere you look.

This summer I’ve been thinking back to my first year a lot. Going over the mistakes I made and wondering what things I could’ve changed to avoid certain experiences. While there’s no right way to go through university, there are some things you might want to avoid to make your first year go a little more smoothly, so, I’ve decided to curate a few things I wish I’d been told (and a few I wish I’d believed more) before starting school last fall!

Date That Boy — In the first few weeks of university you’re going to meet so many people, and some of them just might be people you’re madly attracted to. Whatever the case, and no matter how well you get along, or how “right” it feels in the first few months of school, do not date the boy! By all means, keep up the relationship. Flirt, text, hang out and giggle, but wait until at least mid semester before making any serious commitments. School gets stressful and you’re at university to work on yourself and your academics. Focus on that before jumping in to something that could go south really fast. Trust me on this one. It has bad idea written all over it.

Forget The Readings — While home work might seem light and easy (reminiscent of high school) in the first month of uni, do not let yourself fall behind in readings. When things start to pick up (and trust me, they will) you’ll thank yourself for keeping up and even getting ahead. Going in to midterm season with a pile of work you’ve neglected multiplies your stress by at least 1000%!

Shut Yourself Away — While school is incredibly important (that’s what you’re paying tons of money for of course) don’t lock yourself away in the library or your dorm room. Being social is just as important to your experience and well being as academics, so make sure you take time to talk to the people on your floor and go out once in a awhile.

Miss That Opportunity — If you go in to school knowing you’re interested in a certain type of club, don’t miss joining it! I went in to first year with a few clubs I wanted to join in mind, but was either too scared too go through with it, or got too busy. Looking back on it now, I regret that decision and have decided to follow through with those clubs this year! Student groups and associations are a great way to meet like minded students and people who could ultimately become your best friends! Don’t give up on things that could really improve your uni experience.

Wear Only Pyjamas — I know school gets hectic. Assignments pile up and it feels like you’re living in the library. But please, don’t go from well thought through outfits, to sweats and pjs every day! As silly as it seems, dressing up and wearing clothes that make you feel awesome and beautiful are really important for feeling confident. If you feel good in what you’re wearing it’ll translate to how you act to others and how people react to you. And hey, when things are crazy, it’s always great to look in the mirror and know you look damn fine!

Worry About Your Major — Things change. You learn new things and take classes that you’ve never heard of. University is made for this! The more you learn, the more your ideas of the perfect major might change…or not! I know so many people who came in to school in one program, and by the end of the year, had completely switched. I also know people who came in with one idea, and realized it really was the perfect program for them. It’s all dependent on the person, and there’s no right way to go about it! Just know that figuring out your course of study is a process, and it works out in the end.

Forget About Yourself — This is my last, and probably most important, piece of advice. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Workout, take breaks, eat well and be gentle with yourself. School is crazy, and when stress starts to get to you, it’s important to take a step back and make sure you are keeping yourself healthy and happy. You absolutely cannot function optimally if you’re not sleeping enough or are incredibly anxious. Your mental and physical health are both so important and school should never overshadow that!

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So, those were a few of the things I want to warn incoming freshman about. It’s a scary time, but don’t let the new experiences and change throw you off. You are a strong person and scary experiences are the perfect opportunity for learning and growing!

Again, if there are any “Back-to-School” topics you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments!

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Toronto’s Best Cupcake

TORONTO'S

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

PRACTICE

 

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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