8 Places To Have Valentine’s Day Dinner

23rd January 2017

Valentines Dinner

Cafe Boulud

Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville is serving up a fancy 4 course prix-fixe dinner for $125. Mains include a choice of roasted venison, sautéed squid, braised short rib or duck magret. Head to d|bar after for a romantic nightcap.

Epic

Experience 1940’s dining with a touch of modern elegance at the Fairmont Royal York from Feb 11-14. This 5 course prix-fixe dinner is served with a complimentary glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne for $99.

Daisho Momofuku

Located on the third floor of a glass cube in the heart of the city, this intimate prix-fixe menu is offered to parties of two for $194. Enjoy a sampling of fluke, grilled strip loin, dungeness crab, sides and molten lava cake.

The Carbon Bar

From the wood fire pit with all the fixins’, feast on a 5 course menu for $75. Add on oysters for $3 per piece. The Chaucer’s Heart Truffle made with pink lemonade, tea infused ganache + dark chocolate sounds divine!

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Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain

21st January 2017

Scandinave Spa Blue

Every year hubby and I retreat to Scandinave Spa to unplug and relax. From downtown Toronto, it’s a 2.5 hour drive heading North West. There truly is no better way than indulging in a Nordic bath experience to unwind and reset!

Scandinave Spa Winter

This outdoor spa is situated on 25 acres of tranquil forested mecca. So turn off your phone, refrain from taking selfies and use your spa voice!

The experience begins with sitting in a wood-burning Finnish sauna or eucalyptus steam room for about 10 minutes. This helps open up pores and begin the detoxifying process.

Scandinave Spa Summer

Next comes the cold plunge! In the winter, you can lie in the snow and make snow angels. Yes, it’s wickedly cold but the purpose of the plunge is to enhance blood circulation, increase heart rate and close the pores. The key is to step right into the cold pools rather than taking your time to meander in.

The third phase is my favourite – ahhhh relaxation. Melt your worries and stress away in one of the 3 hot baths, soak in the thermal and nordic waterfalls or rest in one of the solariums with a book.

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Hip Urban Girl: The End Of An Era

17th January 2017

HipUrbanGirl The End

It’s a bittersweet day for me because we just wrote our last post on my other blog.

Some of you may know me from Hip Urban Girl. HUG produced over 2400 valuable and fun posts. No doubt it represented a very carefree time in my life when I was thriving in my career, had a large social network and the freedom to jet set around the world.

I started writing 6 years ago and haven’t stopped.

Not to say I don’t know how to have a good time anymore and have morphed into a dinosaur overnight (hey, I’m a still a hip + urban mom!) but priorities shift as you  begin decluttering and ‘editing’ life.

The next chapter…

The last 6 years have brought some of the greatest changes in my life.

Marriage. Different jobs. Starting an ad agency. Becoming a Mother in 2013!

Inevitably I’ve changed and so has my brand.

Meanwhile Lisa, the other half of HUG also moved to Portland, OR and has created her own stories.

Wendy 2017 City Refinery

So it is only natural that our content evolves with us. It feels right and there is no better time than now to close one chapter and open a new one.

City Refinery is a lifestyle website filled with things I love, inspiration and organized chaos.

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Delysèes Authentic French Bakery

16th January 2017

Macarons

BY GUEST BLOGGER, TIFFANY VITTI

Upon entering Delysees, be sure to leave self control at the door. This authentic French bakery does not do things by halves, with all creations decadent in both looks and taste.

The bakery is clean and minimal, allowing you to concentrate on the goods showcased in the wide display. It’s higher end, however, the staff are all unpretentious and keen to chat through each item, offer suggestions, or let you browse in awed silence at the miniature artworks.

Delysees

The bakery’s focus is on dessert in every form, from macarons to cheesecake.

The macarons rotate but there is always an extensive choice of over 20 flavours. The birthday cake macaron ($2.35) is apparently a favourite among kids but a bit sweet for my taste as it incorporates cake mix in the macaron itself. The sugar rush did not stop me sampling the praline crunch, champagne, and lime which were all bites of heaven.

Eclairs

The gold eclair ($4.50) was too eye catching to miss as it is sprayed with actual edible gold! The choux pastry was a tad dry for my taste – not quite saved by the dark chocolate patisserie cream inside. 

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Leaving A $382,000 Job To Start All Over Again

13th January 2017

Google Partners Adwords Analytics

I want to share a story about a very anxious and uncomfortable time in my life. As you are reading keep in mind these two things…

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Never be afraid (or think you are too old, too good or don’t have time) to start all over again.

This story has a happy ending but had I written it in 2011 or 2012, it would have been rather doom and gloom.

Online Advertising

In 2010, my husband walked away from a job that paid $382,103.00 with full benefits. To say he had gone batsh!t crazy was putting it politely.

He didn’t like what he was doing? Nope because he’s still doing the same thing today! Bad boss? His former boss has actually become one of our best friends and we even go on vacations together! So WTF right?!!?

He called it freeing himself from the “golden handcuffs”.

In a nut(case)shell, it meant leaving behind his executive position at an ad network to pursue his dream of becoming his own boss. The draw was making his own hours, hiring his own team, choosing his own clients and heck if he wanted to take his work on the road for 8 months, so be it. Which we actually did in 2012, creating a temporary home and office in San Francisco and Hong Kong.

With a handful of contracted media buyers and one lonely account (coming from having managed over 150!), Adfluent Media was founded late 2010 in the second bedroom of our downtown condo.

Spring, summer and fall came and went. Then it was Adfluent’s first anniversary and hubby closed off the year with barely $60K. Our family and accountant was like “what happened?!?” I was like so embarrassed!!!

Startup Life

In his second year, he made a little bit more. If it bothered him he sure didn’t show it and kept pressing on. Rise & Grind each morning he had to “hire myself all over again”. He also wore many hats: the accountant, web guy, biz dev.

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Luckee Dim Sum by Susur Lee

12th January 2017

Luckee

I’m really excited to share that Luckee, Susur Lee’s Asian tapas restaurant is now open weekdays from 12 to 2pm (except Mondays).

This is a great addition for King West’s power lunch crowd. I know for myself I’m always looking for a place to take clients that will impress on all levels from service to food to atmosphere.

It’s also going to be my new lunch date spot with hubby when we can snag those precious few hours in the afternoon while our little one is in Montessori School.

Luckee

We were recently invited to indulge in Luckee’s new lunch menu. Here’s what we had and highly recommend…

Alert: food porn coming up!

Cheung Fun

These soft rice rolls wrapped around a crispy Chinese donut are called Cheung Fun. They are filled  with either shrimp, chicken, lobster or mixed vegetables. Sprinkle shallots and scallions on top, drizzle on the soy sauce and you’ve got a mouthful bursting with delicious flavours and texture.

Taro Cakes

The Teahouse Turnip Cake is an authentic dim sum dish made with sweet potato, green onion and shallots. Susur takes this classic and puts an extra fancy twists to it by adding taro rosti.

Dumplings

Indecisive? Order the Luckee Dim Sum Basket and sample 4 of the chef’s signature steamed dumplings.

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Cool Things To Do To Embrace Winter

11th January 2017

Blue Mountain

I’m totally not a winter person. Just ask my poor husband who knows all too well that as temperatures drop, my grumpiness soars. This year instead of bitching in my Goose I’m going to try to embrace it like a true Canadian!

Here are a few things I’ve planned… 

Guided night time snowshoe hiking at Scenic Caves.

A weekend getaway to Blue Mountain including a visit to Scandinave Spa, of course.

Lots of hot pot, steamy noodle soups and hot chocolate 10 ways!

Taking my son tubing for the first time!

Cozying up at one of these new hidden bars and restaurants.

Checking out Ice Breakers, a series of giant art installations along the waterfront.

Winterlicious with friends (Jan 27 to Feb 9) – Fring’s, Leña and Cluny is on our list.

Do you know there is an inaugural Italian Restaurant Week happening Jan 26 to Feb 5?!

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What Happened After I Meditated 45 Days With The Headspace App

9th January 2017

HeadSpace App

BY GUEST BLOGGER, DANIEL LEE

How did I meditate for more than one and a half months? More on that in a bit. First let me tell you what changed for me…

  • I am more calm
  • I no longer get scared by screaming strangers on the streets or the TTC or in tight spaces (mentally, I feel like Bruce Lee) 
  • I now have more patience and genuine interest when someone explains how their day has been
  • I am less reactive — example, when my mom criticizes my cooking — I actually listen rather than talk back, and appreciate her feedback, to her amazement 
  • I am more fascinated with changes in the weather and gratefully accept that it’s -20 degrees celsius outside with windchill (lovely day) 
  • I sleep better
  • I workout better

And most importantly, I am way less stressed out. Mainly because I am no longer playing a defensive, reactive game to my emotions whenever a part of my day doesn’t pan out “smoothly”. I feel in control — more on Stoicism, a mental Operating System on dealing with stress, in a later post (I promise).

This brings me to answer my initial question of how I managed to consistently meditate for 45 days and introduce a new habit—I hacked my willpower. Think of willpower as a finite resource, similar to energy that we have in a day the moment we’re awake. By finding the most effective, efficient way of using the least amount of willpower to cultivate a new habit—I could more easily introduce an intended habit without it feeling like a chore. 

First thing after I’m awake when my cognitive capacity is still powering up—this is especially useful because I’m hardly making a conscious decision to do anything that requires effort. I’ll gulp a glass of water with apple cider vinegar along with a few pinches of pink salts (this is for adrenal fatigue purposes) and go straight into my meditative practice. 

HeadSpace App

Headspace is a guided meditation + mindfulness app that’s available on iOS & Android. When I turn it on, I’m in my zone. 

The creator, Andy Puddicombe travelled to the Himalayas to study meditation and eventually was bestowed as a Buddhist Monk in Northern India. He uses a series of pre-recorded videos and audio to guide me into easing my mind for relaxation and being aware of thoughts that may arise. Each session can be adjusted between 10, 15 or 20 minutes. I chose 20 because, why not? More chill is always better!

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All Things Kombucha

9th January 2017

I’m surprised at how many people actually have not tried Kombucha yet! I’ve been drinking it since 2012 and it totally beats any sodas or ice teas.

What the heck is it, you ask??

Pronounced com-boo-cha. It’s basically a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. It’s sweet, tangy and has a fizzy kick to it. At first it may taste somewhat herbally. <– Hmmm is that a word? But you learn to quickly appreciate it.

Check out my interview with Zoey Shamai the #GirlBoss and Founder of Tonica Kombucha.

Tonica Zoey

I’ve tried over 7 brands and my favourite is GT’s Synergy Kombucha. They just nailed it with the right amount of fizz and inventive flavours (they have 20!). Third Eye Chai tastes like apple pie and Trilogy is a bubbly spicy punch with raspberries, lemons and ginger.

Recently I discovered Oregon-based Brew Dr. Kombucha. More mild in flavour with a strong fizz and clean refreshing taste. I’m also a sucker for their pretty packaging!

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Thinking of a Friend Detox? Do it!

7th January 2017

Friends

Once upon a time it was cool to have a huge social circle or collect as many friends on social media as allowed – is there still a 5000 cap for Facebook?

Over the years however, I realize I no longer need an army of friends for validation. I’ve grown cool enough just to hangout with myself. Think of all the time + energy you get back when you surround yourself with the right people! 

So one of the last things I did before leaving 2016 behind was a friends detox. I went through my lists on social media and unfriended a bunch of people. I also reassessed who I’ll be investing my time in going into 2017. Sorry but not sorry if we (virtually) broke up for one or more of these reasons…

You are that friend whose mood swings are more volatile than the stock market! Clearly unpredictable, the way these types of friends treat you depends on what mood they are in. Seriously who wants to be walking on egg shells all the time?

The sensitive snowflake friend overanalyzes everything! They play out how things should be – all rainbows and unicorns, all the time! God forbid if things turns out otherwise. No matter how accommodating you are, deep down you know they are setting themselves up for disappointment. Constantly worrying if what you say or do is going to offend them or burst their bubble is no way to live!

This past election sure created a heck of a lot of frienemies. Whether you are “with her” or not, seriously don’t turn every dang little thing into some political rant!

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