Happy {Easter} Weekend + Links I Love

Sherwood Forest trail

Happy Easter weekend, everyone! Got any fun plans? I’m heading out of town to spend  the long weekend with family.

I hope you have a good one! As always, I’ve rounded up my favourite links from the week for you to check out…

+ How to write TV in the age of Trump. The showrunners of ‘House of Cards’, ‘Veep’, ‘Scandal’ and ‘Madam Secretary’ tell all.

+ Who’s your celebrity crush? I burst out laughing at Joanna’s running commentary and “Looking at photos of him is like looking at the sun” would make a great t-shirt slogan! Also, I loved loved loved the comments.

+ This Cadbury mini eggs skillet cookie looks amazing (and potentially dangerous!) I see myself eating this in one sitting.

+ I love getting a behind the scenes look at just about anything really. Megan shared her creative process for a spring gathering shoot she worked on for Midwest Living.

+ This Everygirl article broke my heart. (Grab the Kleenex.) “Since his death, I have celebrated life each day. I hug each person I love when I say goodbye, as he would have done. I treat strangers with extra kindness, knowing that at some moment we will all experience loss and will have to continue to be out in the world unsure of what’s ahead.”

+ Good news for all US readers: Jetblue is offering anyone who owes taxes the chance to win a free flight!

+ Going under the knife, with eyes and ears wide open. After two surgeries and slight complications with general anesthesia on both occasions, I would still prefer to be asleep while being sliced open. How about you guys?

+ The 2017 Pulitzer Prizes were handed out earlier this week. Here’s the complete list of this year’s winners.

+ Such a great interview with Audrey Gelman, co-founder and CEO of The Wing, a New York-based co-working space for women. “I think courage is going to those hard places when you really don’t want to.”

+ When darkness seems to hide His face. This vulnerable post made me cry.

+ This essay: Why I gave up my glossy magazine job to be a butcher.

(Photo from Sherwood Forest last spring.)

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Beltline last spring

Happy April, everyone! How are you spending the weekend? I’m hoping to get some spring cleaning done. (Wish me luck!) In case you missed it, I shared my spring 2017 reading list yesterday.

I hope you have a relaxing one! If you’re in the mood for some Internet browsing, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links…

+ Flaws and all. I really appreciated this real and beautiful post.

+ Cup of Jo featured this cool book-filled loft in Toronto!

+ Flour 101. This guide makes my inner nerd very, very happy!

+ I’ve always had a thing for parfaits and I’m dying over this cute cereal version.

+ This New York Times Magazine video by Lynsey Addario, A Long Separation had me in tears. The accompanying article is worth reading as well.

+ The NBA’s secret addiction. So surprising and adorable.

+ Anne shared her favourite podcasts (15 of them!) I’ll be adding Off Camera and Smartest Person in the Room to my rotation for sure!

+ I am loving Man Repeller’s podcast, The Call and this week’s episode is well worth the listen: Wendy Carillo on what it’s like to run for Congress.

+ Beauty foods 101. McKel shares the top 10 beauty foods to add to your diet and advice on how to boost your beauty!

+ Do’s and don’ts of adding personality to your resume. Loved this.

+ How gorgeous is this strawberry malted milkshake Easter cake?!

+ Weekend reading: I started Behind Her Eyes last night and I am hooked. Have you read it?

(Photo snapped by Kay Gardiner Beltline last spring.)

Spring 2017 Reads

It’s a wet spring day here in Toronto and I’m counting down the days until it’s nice and sunny enough to read outdoors. This season’s list includes a handful of debut novels, big spring releases I’ve been dying to get my hands on, and a couple of juicy memoirs.

Here are the 15 books I can’t wait to dive into this season…

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Last weekend, I picked up Angie Thomas’s debut novel; I read it in 24 hours. This is a story that desperately needed to be told and Thomas tells it with such honesty, intelligence, courage, clarity, passion, and wit. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, that word would be “alive”. While reading, all I could think was: “this feels so real.”

Starr’s voice couldn’t be more authentic and the dialogue leaps right off the page. I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking while reading certain parts. I cried, I laughed, I felt sick to my stomach, but I mostly, I felt angry.

Fiction does what news media can’t. It takes us inside the hearts and minds of characters and invites us to walk in their shoes for a couple hundred pages or so. This book goes a step further: breaking our hearts for what matters, teaching empathy and tolerance, and inspiring us to fight with our most valuable weapon—our voice.

This should be required reading for everyone. I won’t soon forget it.

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

What She Knew by Gilly MAcmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking. . . .

so-much-love

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When Catherine Reindeer vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, So Much Love reveals how an unexpected disappearance can overturn the lives of those left behind: Catherine’s fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor finds himself thinking of her constantly. Her husband refuses to give up hope that she will one day return. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery. When, after months of captivity, a final devastating loss forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows.

A riveting novel that deftly examines the complexity of love and the power of stories to shape our lives, So Much Love confirms Rebecca Rosenblum’s reputation as one of the most gifted and distinctive writers of her generation.

Juliet's Answer

Juliet’s Answer by Glenn Dixon

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he does something unusual. He travels to Verona, Italy, to become a scribe of Juliet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, all in an attempt to understand his heartbreak. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet, letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.

Glenn’s journey takes him deep into the charming community of Verona, where he learns the traditions of the townspeople and becomes involved in unravelling the truth behind Romeo and Juliet—Did these star-crossed lovers actually exist? Did they live in Verona? Why have they remained at the forefront of hearts and minds for centuries? And what can they teach us about love? At the same time, we learn about Claire, Glenn’s unrequited love, the source of his heartbreak. Was she truly his soul’s match, or was she, like Rosalind in Shakespeare’s classic play, a mere infatuation who pales in comparison the moment his real Juliet enters his life?

When Glenn returns home to Canada and resumes his duties as a Grade 10 English teacher, he undertakes a lively reading of Romeo and Juliet with his students, engaging them in passions past and present. But in an intriguing reversal of fate and fortune, his students—along with an old friend—instruct the teacher on the true meaning of love, loss, and moving on.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one.

Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

the-new-jim-crow

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Called “stunning” by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis, “invaluable” by the Daily Kos, “explosive” by Kirkus, and “profoundly necessary” by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.

after-the-bloom

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

Synopsis from Dundurn Press: A daughter’s search for her mother reveals her family’s past in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.

Lily Takemitsu goes missing from her home in Toronto one luminous summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before. But never has she stayed away so long. Unconvinced the police are taking the case seriously, Rita begins to carry out her own investigation. In the course of searching for her mom, she is forced to confront a labyrinth of secrets surrounding the family’s internment at a camp in the California desert during the Second World War, their postwar immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.

Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family’s struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Synopsis from Macmillan Publishers: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Word by Word by Kory Stamper

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Many of us take dictionaries for granted, and few may realize that the process of writing dictionaries is, in fact, as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography, from the agonizing decisions about what to define and how to do it, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define, how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. And along the way, she reveals little-known surprises—for example, the fact that “OMG” was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917.

Word by Word brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a startlingly rich world inhabited by quirky and erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. Certain to be a delight for all lovers of words, Stamper’s debut will make you laugh as much as it makes you appreciate the wonderful complexities and eccentricities of the English language.

the-door

The Door by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: The Door is an unsettling exploration of the relationship between two very different women. Magda is a writer, educated, married to an academic, public-spirited, with an on-again-off-again relationship to Hungary’s Communist authorities. Emerence is a peasant, illiterate, impassive, abrupt, seemingly ageless. She lives alone in a house that no one else may enter, not even her closest relatives. She is Magda’s housekeeper and she has taken control over Magda’s household, becoming indispensable to her. And Emerence, in her way, has come to depend on Magda. They share a kind of love—at least until Magda’s long-sought success as a writer leads to a devastating revelation.

The Year of Living Danishly

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll?

A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

A Life in Parts

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: Bryan Cranston landed his first role at seven, when his father cast him in a United Way commercial. Acting was clearly the boy’s destiny, until one day his father disappeared. Destiny suddenly took a backseat to survival.

Now, in his riveting memoir, Cranston maps his zigzag journey from abandoned son to beloved star by recalling the many odd parts he’s played in real life—paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, lover, husband, father. Cranston also chronicles his evolution on camera, from soap opera player trying to master the rules of show business to legendary character actor turning in classic performances as Seinfeld dentist Tim Whatley, “a sadist with newer magazines,” and Malcolm in the Middle dad Hal Wilkerson, a lovable bumbler in tighty-whities. He also gives an inspiring account of how he prepared, physically and mentally, for the challenging role of President Lyndon Johnson, a tour de force that won him a Tony to go along with his four Emmys.

Of course, Cranston dives deep into the grittiest details of his greatest role, explaining how he searched inward for the personal darkness that would help him create one of the most memorable performances ever captured on screen: Walter White, chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin.

Discussing his life as few men do, describing his art as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about creativity, devotion, and craft, as well as innate talent and its challenges and benefits and proper maintenance. But ultimately A Life in Parts is a story about the joy, the necessity, and the transformative power of simple hard work.

What are you most looking forward to reading this spring? I’d love to hear!

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Kay Gardner Beltline

Happy Sunday, everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. I am putting together my spring reading list and I’ll be sharing it with you all on Tuesday!

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links…

+ Last night, I started The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I am already 100 pages in. This is a story that desperately needed to be told. It’s tearing me apart. I can’t stop my hands from shaking while reading certain parts. All I can think is “this feels so real.” And that’s because it is real; it’s happening every single day. Here’s a great interview she did with Atlanta magazine. I am ecstatic it’s being adapted into a movie!

+ LOVED this essay. The Personal is Political.

+ Emma Roberts has an online book club, Belletrist. I really enjoyed her exclusive interview with Joan Didion about her new book South and West.

+ Will’s incredible profile in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times is so well-deserved!

+ A fascinating long read: ‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death. I haven’t read this piece in its entirety, but I will soon.

+ How to Get What You Want (it’s a lot easier than you think). I can definitely relate to  number 3.

+ The Super Bowl Champ, and the Dying Author Who Changed His Life. “Your book ‘Exclamation Mark’ … changed my outlook on life. It taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from—there is a place in this world for you. You just have to stay strong and keep moving forward.”

+ This cake is just so beautiful.

+ I’m dying to make this matcha ginger affogato. So gorgeous!

+ Have you heard of Code Switch? It’s an NPR podcast by journalists of colour that launched last year May. Gosh, I’m late.

(Photo snapped by Kay Gardner Beltline last spring.)

Spring Jackets

Today is the perfect spring day. The sun is shining, the sky is the most brilliant shade of blue, and there is a bit of a chill in the air. But the weather can be a bit unpredictable this time of year, so I won’t be packing away my snow boots and winter coat just yet.

In the meantime,  I’ve been hunting down jackets and coats to get me through the winter to spring transition. Here are 10 jackets I’ve got my eye on this season…

ASOS Skater Mac

ASOS Skater Mac

Free People Open Dolman Jacket

Free People Open Dolman Jacket

cupcakes and cashmere Abria Drape Front Jacket

cupcakes and cashmere Abria Drape Front Jacket

Madewell Fleet Jacket

Madewell Fleet Jacket

Mango Crop Biker Jacket

Mango Crop Biker Jacket

Lovers and Friends Morning View Coat

Lovers + Friends Morning View Coat

Mango Waterfall Jacket

Mango Waterfall Jacket

Jack by BB Dakota Marilou Suede Moto Jacket

Jack by BB Dakota Marilou Faux Suede Moto Jacket

Mango Adjustable cord parka

Mango Adjustable Cord Parka

Jack by BB Dakota Cayenne Jacket

Jack by BB Dakota Cayenne Jacket

Which one is your favourite?

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Canoes

Happy Saturday, everyone! I hope you’re having a beautiful weekend so far. Got any fun plans? I’m catching up with the girls over Sunday brunch and I can’t wait.

If you’re in the mood for some weekend reading, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links this week…

+ Watch: how to run away and join the circus. Talk about taking the leap!

+ Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author of the popular Modern Love essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband” died of ovarian cancer earlier this week. Reese Witherspoon shared a touching post on Instagram, complete with illustrations by the children’s book author.

+ This vanilla latte coffee scrub sounds amazing.

+ Man Repeller launched its new podcast The Call this week and it is so good. I am really looking forward to future episodes. You can listen to episode one here.

+ Loved this powerful and beautifully-written essay that Meghan wrote for Time Magazine: Periods, Potential, and the Path to Education.

+ Have you heard about the fashion search engine TAGWALK? A former assistant quit her job to create it! Here’s her story. “Van Houtte’s startup is designed to help the fashion industry track down looks with as much specificity as possible, from runway shows in Paris, Milan, London, and New York that occur twice a year. It’s like Google, but in Anna Wintour-speak.”

+ Diane von Furstenberg shares some of her greatest design inspirations in this short video.

+ What life as a human rights lawyer is really like. “We need those who will work to amend, change, or even break laws if need be, all in the service of protecting our fundamental right to a life of equality, freedom, and dignity. Being a human rights lawyer is one such way.”

+ Photographer captures ballerinas in this stunning underwater photo series.

+ I’ve been snacking on protein balls lately. These pistachio matcha snack balls and these salted caramel protein balls sound so delish!

+ Whipping up this creamy raspberry protein smoothie this weekend.

(Photo snapped by the Toronto Waterfront last spring.)

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

Sunset along the boardwalk

Happy Friday, everyone! How was your week? The weather here in Toronto is freezing (-15 celcius) and super windy, so I’m staying in and catching up on my favourite shows and doing laundry. On the bright side, Daylight Saving Time starts at 2 a.m. this Sunday!

Hope you have a good one! If you’re looking for some weekend reading, I’ve got you covered with a ton of my favourite links this week…

+ Kerry Washington, Warner Bros. to adapt ‘The Mothers’. This news made my year!

+ A Week of Outfits: Toby. LOVE Toby’s personality and sense of style and I could not stop laughing at his commentary. My favourite line: “I like blazers because it’s like a grownup. I like wearing layers. I know my style — I just know.”

+ Where to dine, shop, sweat, and stay in Santa Monica. Such a comprehensive city guide!

+ Finding space. I cried while reading this post. So beautifully written and heartfelt. “Slowly, being single didn’t seem like the worst thing. Slowly, I didn’t equate single or alone with loneliness.”

+ Loving this adorable sweater dress (with ruffles!).

+ I can’t believe I just discovered OKREAL! In honor of International Women’s Day, they featured inspiring women from their #OKREAL community. I could really relate to this one: “It opened my eyes to how difficult it is to be an active advocate for your own health.” I learned this firsthand a few years ago. Read all their stories here.

+ I was curious about this new networking app so I downloaded it yesterday. Do you use it? Thoughts?

+ “I’m in.” Miss these two, but they’re still at it! “Thank you to both of you for your profound levels of activism within our community, leading up to a historic event that I did not think I would witness in my lifetime. Thank you for how you treated children, both your own and all of America’s, with kindness, humor, and spontaneity.”

+ Tsh shared the 3.5 tricks that are helping her read more this year.

+ I’m seriously craving these turnip cake fritters with prosciutto and these glass dumplings with mushrooms and smoked gouda cheese.

+ Weekend sips: Iced lavender dirty chai latte!

Reading update:

I finished The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall this week. I could not put this down.

Reading this weekend: Unbound by Steph Jagger.

(Photo snapped at sunset by the Toronto Waterfront.)

In Conversation with Melissa Offner

melissa-offner-_running

Melissa is a content creator, stylist and world explorer. Born and raised in the small town of St-Lambert, Quebec, she now calls Toronto home. After seven years as a TV host, she felt stuck in a place that she no longer wanted to be in. Last summer, she made the decision to leave the television world behind and embrace the freelance life. She now runs her lifestyle website where she shares her passion for running, wellness, travel, food and fashion. Read on to learn about her journey to self love, how she stays motivated, and how she practices self-care while on the road…

You share a lot about self love and acceptance. How did your journey begin?

My journey with self love has been a long and complicated one. I was teased and bullied a lot growing up for having red hair, freckles and being skinny. I also had an eating disorder as a teenager for several years that almost landed me in the hospital.

Even in previous relationships, I had a hard time believing I had any value and didn’t really love myself deep down. It was only after doing a lot of work with a therapist and also getting myself out of those toxic relationships that I was able to really start accepting myself.

My husband has also been key in my journey, accepting and loving me for who I am. I would say the last three or four years, it’s really when I started feeling at peace with who I am and proud of my journey.

Have you always been an active person?

I have always been an active person. Growing up, I did it all. I swam competitively, skiied, played tennis, figured skated, did karate, etc.

When did you first start running?

I only started running about three years ago and only more seriously the past two years.

You shared on Instagram that you’re training for a half marathon. When is the half marathon and what keeps you motivated?

This will be the first ever half marathon I’ve ever done. I was signed up for one last year but ended up getting injured so had to opt out, which was the worst feeling in the world. So I feel like there’s some unfinished business to take care of this year. The first half I’ll be doing is on May 7th, I’ll be running the BMO Vancouver half marathon, followed by the Rock N’ Roll half marathon in San Diego in June, on the day of my birthday.

I think what keeps me motivated is proving to myself that a) I can actually run a half marathon, as I’ve only run shorter distances in the past b) to be the healthiest and strongest version of myself c) challenging and surpassing myself.

What’s your favourite fitness line?

That’s a hard question because every brand has something really cool and unique. I’m a big fan of Nike‘s training and running gear, I also love Adidas‘ more lifestyle inspired garments. I recently discovered a Canadian brand called Hyba, that has cool gear at a great price. I also love Michi, a brand from Toronto. They make the most comfortable leggings and sexiest bras!

Melissa Offner_travel

You’re a bit of a world explorer. What’s your most memorable travel experience so far?

Hardest question to answer. I think last summer’s trip to Kauai stood up a lot for me just because of how beautiful the island is. It was a great surf trip but also great trip to explore the countryside and get to know the local culture. I was really moved by my time there. Also, living out of a van in California this past fall was a major highlight thus far.

You traveled around in a camper van! What was that like?

It was hands down the best experience of my life. It taught me a lot about being self-sufficient and living in minimalism. It also gave me a great sense of freedom. There’s nothing quite like waking up in a new place every day and being able to take your “home” with you wherever you go.

How do you practice self-care while traveling?

Self-care is huge for me, no matter if I’m traveling or at home. I make it a point to eat properly when I travel, even if that means going to do groceries or spending a little more money on getting good vegan food or cold-pressed juices. I also make it a point to sign up for local fitness classes or going out for runs. It’s a top priority for me even when I travel.

What’s the one item you never leave home without?

My phone because it allows me to work no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I also have some great meditation apps, music, organization apps, etc. that allow me to use the phone for so many different purposes and keep me on track.

What are your favourite travel and fitness apps?

I love the NTC app, it’s a great way to get a short workout in no matter where you are – hotel room, park, gym, etc. The NRC is also my go-to running app, which allows me to keep on track of my race training. As for travel apps, I’m a big fan of rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber when I travel, also Ubereats, when I’m busy on the road and don’t have time to go out and get myself food.

Favourite food?

A good vegan meal with a cold-pressed juice and homemade vegan treat. In Toronto, my favorite spots to go eat are FreshLive and Hogtown Vegan. I have yet to go to Planta, but heard it’s great! I miss it when I’m away!

What has traveling taught you about yourself?

Traveling has taught me so much. I learn something new on every single trip, big or small about myself and so much about the world around me and us as humans. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people that have taught me so much.

Traveling has taught me how to be self-sufficient, to be flexible because anything can happen when you travel. It has also taught me to be a better listener and have more understanding.

What’s on your travel bucket list this year?

Oh man… Ideally, I would love to go to Asia and Australia/New Zealand this year. I hope my schedule and finances will permit such a trip. But it’s quite high on my list!

Thanks so much for sharing, Melissa!

You can follow Melissa’s adventures on all her social media accounts @melsays, her YouTube channel, and her website Melsays.

(Photos courtesy of Melissa Offner.)

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

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Happy first weekend of March, everyone! Spring made an appearance here in Toronto, but that was short-lived. We’re back in the deep freeze again (Right now, it’s -13 celcius with the windchill!) How are you spending the weekend? I fell behind on my winter reading and I’ve got a stack of books to cozy up with this weekend. Read any good books lately?

I hope you make the time to rest this weekend. I came across so many good things on the Internet this week and as always, I’m sharing them with you. Enjoy!

+ Too Busy (not) To Pray. I read this post while waiting in the blood lab this week. Perfect timing as always. “My so-called “busyness” is often the culprit of my lack of joy, lack of flexibility, and lack of a peaceful heart. But, still, even knowing this, I say things like “I have too much to do,” and then scurry past the most importance task of just sitting with the Lord.”

+ Amanda followed me on Instagram recently and I am so happy she did. She’s just so real and encouraging. This post: Our wedding and love story is well worth the read. I cried in public.

+ You may want to marry my husband. This Modern Love feature also made me cry. Luckily, I read it at home.

+ Interior designer Magalie René-Hayes shares her 10 tips for transitioning careers quickly. I am thinking about changing careers so this post came at the perfect time. Thanks, Design Sponge!

+ The Cup of Jo team asked people in their shared office space what they actually eat for lunch. Loved the responses.

+ Don’t Wait for Permission. Griffin opens up about how she was turned down when she first applied for her Pure Barre franchise and how she kept on chasing her dream. “Don’t wait for permission to think outside the box. I’m not talking about being dishonest or breaking the rules, but the people who go above and beyond don’t wait for approval.”

+ 10 healthy whole food swaps. Happy to see raw apple cider vinegar and tahini on the list!

+ I’ve been on a nut butter kick lately, but it’s so expensive. I’m considering making my own and this espresso almond cashew butter sounds incredible. Laura, you’re genius!

+ Sarah of My New Roots has a beautiful new cookbook out. On the wish list.

+ I just downloaded the prettiest free desktop wallpaper from Design Love Fest. Such a mood brightener.

+ Canada turns 150 this year. I downloaded Passport 2017, the Canada 150 events app this week. It’s the perfect way to get personalized recommendations and discover cool events happening in 2017!

+ I don’t care if it’s freezing out. I’m making these healthier, boozy chocolate chip cookie milkshakes this weekend! My favourite things rolled into one.

Reading update:

I picked up Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People last night and it kept me up way past my bedtime.

I’m hoping to finish The Lonely Hearts Hotel this weekend. Highly recommend it if you’re in a historical fiction kinda mood.

My Favourite Wellness Instagrammers

For years, I avoided Instagram. But at the end of 2015, I took the plunge and now I wonder how I ever lived without it. I can’t stop myself from snapping photos of any and everything. Most of all, I love connecting with like-minded people from all over the world.

This year, I’m focused on getting my health back on track and gaining weight in a healthy way. I’m making an extra special effort to eat more of what’s good for me, enjoy my favourite snacks (gelato, sea salt dark chocolate, caramel popcorn!) in moderation, rest when my body says so (I’m someone who pushes myself even when I’m sick or exhausted), stick to a workout routine, go on regular brunch dates with the girls, and let go of toxic relationships.

Today, I’m sharing the women who are inspiring me on my health journey…

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Vickie Chountalos

Toronto-based Certified Nutritionist and CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, Vickie Chountalos is one of those people you feel comfortable around the moment you meet them. I first met Vickie when Village Juicery opened up in my neighbourhood last year and we became instant friends. She is passionate about being in control, specifically when it comes to her health.

Instagram highlights: Uplifting posts on self-love and letting go of the things that are holding you back, stunning food photos, and delicious recipes that nourish the body and soul.

Follow Vickie on Instagram @theholisticboss and check out her website The Holistic Boss.

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Melissa Offner

Melissa is a content creator and world explorer with a passion for running, surfing, and the great outdoors. Last summer, I started following Melissa’s fitness journey and adventures on Instagram. Melissa suffered a back injury last year and took time off to heal. She handled this situation with such grace and positivity. She viewed it as an opportunity to learn and grow; perspective really does make all the difference. I’m so happy she has fully recovered and is back doing what she loves. Her attitude is infectious and she inspires me to kick fear to the curb and live fully!

Instagram highlights: Fitness and running inspo, outdoor adventures, travel, the most amazing murals, posts on self love, self-care, and acceptance.

Follow Melissa on Instagram @melsays and check out her website Melsays.

amanda-morgan

Amanda Morgan

Amanda Morgan is a clinical nutritionist and yoga instructor living between Connecticut and New York City. She is also the founder of the cleverly named wellness and lifestyle website, Healthy Wifestyle. Last night, I read through all of her posts on Instagram. Amanda doesn’t sugar coat anything and I don’t think I’ve encountered anyone as real, vulnerable, and encouraging as her in a really long time. It’s so refreshing! I love that she’s willing to talk openly about those issues women are too often afraid to talk about. She gives women the permission (and a safe space) to be 100% real about their fears and insecurities.

Instagram highlights: Real talk, tips on healthy relationships, yummy and good-for-you recipes, yoga, and travel.

Follow Amanda on Instagram @healthy_wifestyle and check out her blog Healthy Wifestyle.

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Ella Mills

Ella Mills is the owner of The MaE Deli, writer of several cookbooks, and wellness advocate behind the hugely popular food blog, Deliciously Ella. I started following Ella’s wellness journey three years ago and she inspired me to give plant-based foods a fair try. Last spring, I had the pleasure of meeting Ella at the Toronto book signing for her second book, Deliciously Ella Everyday. She truly is a beautiful soul with a great sense of humour!

Instagram highlights: Real talk on social media and comparison, inspiring posts on self-love and self-care, simple plant-based recipes (and gorgeous photos of said recipes), behind-the-scenes of her business, yoga, and travel.

Follow Ella on Instagram @deliciouslyella and check out her blog Deliciously Ella.

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Mia Harris

Two years ago, Mia Harris left her corporate job in banking to follow her heart for nutrition and helping people. And she’s never looking back. For the past 7 months, she’s been living her dream as a holistic nutritionist and lifestyle coach. Splitting her time between Los Angeles, CA and her home in Victoria, BC, Mia feels incredibly grateful that her job allows her to connect with awesome people from all around the world. She enjoys hiking, cooking, going to the beach, and she’s currently taking extra courses in women’s health.

Instagram highlights: Nourishing and delicious recipes, inspiring posts on eating well and following your dreams, nutrition tips, rainforest scenes, beach and sunset shots.

Follow Mia on Instagram @miaharrisnutrition and check out her website Mia Harris Nutrition. Mia has a blog in the works, so stay tuned!

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McKel Hill

McKel Hill is a Nashville-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, wellness coach, and founder of the wildly popular Nutrition Stripped blog. I’ve been a regular reader for three years now and I drop everything when her weekly newsletter lands in my inbox. McKel is on a mission to “share simple recipes and actionable advice to make healthy living simple and available for anyone and everyone.”

Instagram highlights: Beautiful, delicious, and simple whole food recipes, nutrition tips, wellness advice, fitness motivation (workout playlists + videos), and food for thought.

Follow McKel on Instagram @nutritionstripped and check out her blog Nutrition Stripped.

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Griffin McKenzie Hill

Born and raised in Kentucky, Griffin now calls Colorado Springs home. A dancer for most of her life and a lover of kale and leggings, Griffin opened her studio Pure Barre Colorado Springs in 2014. She followed me on Instagram earlier this week and I’m so happy she did. The photos from her barre classes have inspired me to head back to the studio ASAP.

Instagram highlights: Real talk on body love and self-care, business posts, ski trips, and mountain views.

Follow Griffin on Instagram @griffinmckenzie and check out her blog Griffin McKenzie.

jordan-younger

Jordan Younger

Jordan Younger is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, wellness podcaster, and the blogger behind the wellness and lifestyle blog, The Balanced Blonde. A few weeks ago, one of her beautiful photos (a shot of her doing yoga on a beach in Bora Bora) popped up in my explore feed, so naturally I ended up scrolling through all her photos.

Instagram highlights: All things yoga, handstands, travel, yummy bowls of goodness, and natural beauty tips.

Follow Jordan on Instagram @thebalancedblonde, check out her blog The Balanced Blonde, and listen to her Soul on Fire podcast.

Are you on Instagram? What are your favourite accounts to follow? What are your 2017 goals and what keeps you motivated?  I’d love to hear in comments!