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Money Mindfulness: A Renewed Way To Look At Your Finances

Stress. We all have it and there are different causes. Relationships, work and health are probably the first ones that come to mind but 30% of Canadians claim financial stress as one of their biggest worries. THIRTY PERCENT! Credit Education Week runs until November 16th and last week I attended a money mindfulness retreat here in Toronto put on by Capital One Canada to learn a bit more about the topic and how I can take techniques I use for my own mental health and pain related issues and apply it to finances.

Captial One Money Mindfulness Retreat

Captial One - Money Mindfulness Retreat

So what is it about finances that command so much negative energy over people? I have not been able to stop thinking about it since the event. Could it be because the topic of personal finances can be embarrassing, if you seem to not have your sh*t together? I would imagine most people would feel more comfortable not only speaking openly but actually doing something about their relationship and work-related stress. Whereas with financial related stress, I’m certain it just gets internalized. Combine that with procrastination in finding tools to proactively manage money, or worse, denial, and one can find themselves in a mountain of debt. According to a Capital One and Credit Canada Debt Solutions study, we worry about our finances every day for about an hour. Just to put that into perspective for you, that’s about the same amount of time we spend a day eating. So the question is, what are we going to do about it?

The goal of Credit Education Week is to help empower Canadians and give them the tools and knowledge to help mitigate financial stress. At the event last week, we got a chance to go through several activities to gain more insight on just how much financial stress impacts the daily lives of Canadians, which apparently ranks as the second largest day-to-day worry behind overall health. Followed by a series of mini workshops that included mindfulness, meditation and yoga practice with Joga House Founder, Jana Webb, that got me thinking about how I can approach my own money management in 2019. Never having student debt, multiple credit cards or poor spending habits, which I know makes me an anomaly, I am already ahead of the game I guess. However, there’s always room for improvement and I am down for anything that can help me reach my financial goals faster.

Captial One - Money Mindfulness Retreat

Photography by David Pike

I’ll admit it, mindfulness and money conventionally aren’t two things that you would think should go together but once we got into the activities and a did a few mindful practices, it all started to come together for me. For those who aren’t really familiar with what “mindfulness” is, it really is just the practice of awareness. A heightened awareness, or simply being cognizant of why and how you’re doing something. Taking a mindful approach with your money combined with meditation or yoga can significantly lower the stress and anxiety around money. While I can give credit to myself for being fiscally responsible in terms of avoiding debt, I do love to shop. I mean, who doesn’t? The bad part is that lately I’ve been treating it like a legit pastime. Leaving the house to browse and shop without a plan or agenda, leading me to make a slew of unnecessary purchases, when I should be creating a list and only buying what’s on there. Sounds like the basics but you’d be surprised how many make the same mistake. There were tons of other valuable information shared but here are a few highlights that definitely stood out to me during the retreat that you may find useful:

Mindful Money Monitoring

Be aware of the numbers when it comes to your financial statements. Understand that the money going out must be lower than the money coming in. Be wise when it comes to paying off your bills, specifically when it comes to car loans and credit cards with revolving credit balance. Making minimum payments still incurs interest! Last but not least, understand the importance of having a good credit score because it really does matter. It can be the difference between getting a home (or not). Want to improve your credit score? Credit Canada Debt Solutions has some useful tips on their site. It’s also beneficial to keep track of it and Credit Keeper can help you do that. It’s a useful online tool created by Capital One that gives you access to your TransUnion credit score – for FREE. It’s refreshed weekly, so you can check your score regularly.

Get Comfortable with Budgets

Nobody likes to hear the word budget. I used to think that word had a negative connotation but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. My coach used to always say, “If you fail to plan…you plan to fail!” and having a budget is essentially having a plan for success. I am embarrassed to say this but Réjean and I don’t budget plan together so that is one of our priorities for the new year. I discovered some helpful tips on how to create one and a link to a free budget worksheet on Credit Canada’s website that you can find here.

Goal Getter

It’s impossible not be successful when you set goals for yourself. Creating a budget for yourself, especially if it’s more on the strict side, can be easier to handle once you have an idea of the big picture. Set immediate, short and long term goals and you will probably find it easier to make scaling back on spending more manageable.

Getting your finances together can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t need to be. Thanks to Capital One Canada and Credit Canada, there are some amazing resources out there to steer you in the right direction. With it being Credit Education Week (and 2019 right around the corner), there’s no better time than now to set some financial goals. To learn more about CEWC and to discover what events are taking place in your city head to www.cewc.ca.

This post is in partnership with Capital One however all views and opinions are my own

The Glow Up at Hillcrest

Shopping used to be my number one favourite pastime. That is, until Maxwell came into the picture. I know some mamas love passing the time there with their hub but the thought of fighting for one of two designated family parking spots, struggling to find somewhere to breastfeed or warm up a bottle and don’t get me started on changing diaper full of poo in a busy washroom with no privacy. Yeah, no thank you!

I had been hearing rumours about a mall mecca for mommies that promises to make the shopping experience with a baby on board not only manageable and actually convenient. I was intrigued. So much so, I was willing to compromise Max’s nap schedule to make the trek 35 minutes outside of the city to Richmond Hill to see this with my own eyes. Quite a few of you mamas that happen to live in the area have told me after seeing my IG stories that Hillcrest has been around for an eternity and had no idea about this major renovation they recently went through. Guys, the glow up is REAL! This project includes a refresh of both interior/exterior with a whole new north wing, tons of new retailers and yes some very much needed conveniences for the whole family, specifically mommy shoppers.

West Coast Kids - So Sasha
West Coast Kids has a gigantic section for baby accessories and the Bugaboo shop in shop is the perfect place to find your dream stroller. Love this updated version of the Buggaboo Bee.

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

Wondering if Hillcrest should be destination for your next family shopping haul? Here’s the lowdown on how it measures up based on our experience:

Location. If you live Newmarket, Markham, Thornhill or Richmond Hill, this is basically a stone’s throw away for you and I am a bit jealous of your proximity. For you downtown folk that consider anything north of Bloor St unchartered territory, if you’re are located close to one of the major highway arteries in the city, the drive to Hillcrest can be surprisingly easy as it’s a straight shot up the 404 north. Your best bet is to strategically plan to travel outside of high traffic times. I left the city around 10:20am and comfortably made it there at 11am. We left to head back to the city around 3pm (and yes we actually stayed that long) and missed most of the afternoon traffic. It isn’t located close to the highway exit and is about a 9-minute drive for the DVP still once you exit so in rush hour it could add on to your transit time.

Parking. SO. MUCH. FAMILY. PARKING. I was actually really impressed. Where you normally see anywhere from 1-4 spots allocated for family designated parking total. Hillcrest is setting the bar damn high with several…and I mean several at each of their main entrances.

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Shopping Experience/Retailers. Hillcrest doesn’t claim to be anything they are not so if you’re looking for solely high end shopping across the board, this is not the place for you. However, if you’re looking for a collection of retailers to appease the everyday shopping needs for everyone in your family, you will not be disappointed. They have the all the regular mall retailers everyone knows and loves; The Gap, H&M, Mendocino, Hudson’s Bay, SportChek, Aldo, Old Navy, Aritzia, Sephora and Indigo (opening here soon) but I think people will want to go for the stores they can’t find just anywhere like SportingLife, Miniso – a really cool Japanese specialty store that I’ve never seen before, Okaïdi, West Coast Kids and their newly opened HomeSense/Marshalls. I am always looking for decor items for the house and can never go wrong with that store. The HomeSense at Hillcrest is actually incredible. So is Marshalls. Kid you not, I spent over an hour in there picking up stuff for Max and other miscellaneous stuff that I have convinced Réjean we absolutely need. Do you remember Maxwell in this unicorn suit from my stories? I don’t know if it’s for Halloween or for everyday wear but she looked irresistible in it. If she wanted to wear just that every single day, I would totally let her.

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha
French kiddie brand Okaïdi has a European vibe, great quality and amazing price points

I spent the rest of my time powering shopping. I passed through Artizia like a Tornado and copped a super cute skirt and classic tee that I plan to wear next week to an event with Maxwell. There was a quick stop in at Sephora to quickly stock up on some Tatcha products and I was even able to find some great pieces to create a couple fall looks for Réj at SportingLife before dedicating the rest of my time to all things baby.

HillcrestGlowUp - So Sasha
Just 1/4 of the West Coast Kids location at Hillcrest. It truly is your one-stop shop for all things baby and kids with the best collections and unique products

West Coast Kids

West Coast Kids - So Sasha

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids - So Sasha
Love, Love, LOVE these books especially the ones specific to Toronto!

We also found a super cool store named Okaïdi. It’s a French brand that has recently landed here in Canada, with only a couple locations to date. The baby girl collection is quite adorable and super affordable so Maxie got to take home some new outerwear and dresses to take her through the season. The newborn and baby collections remind me of clothing that I found in boutiques when we were in Barcelona but the prices are more aligned with Zara Kids and H&M. But truthfully friends, the mall’s piéce de resistance is West Coast Kids. I think there is one other location, but it pales in comparison to the one you will find at Hillcrest. Hands down the best and largest collection of merchandise for kiddos from newborn to teens. Every square inch of the of the space has speciality items ranging from books and apparel inspired by our city of Toronto, super fun accessories, high end outerwear – Mackage parka’s for toddlers if you can believe, tees inspired by hip hop, the cutest footwear to keep your mini in style through all of Canada’s seasons, the coolest strollers and nursery items that will have you rethinking your decorating choices. I wanted everything in the store for Max. EVERYTHING. And tried to justify she needed it all too, plus a new nursery LOL. I did exercise some restraint and left with a couple of cute dresses, some new books for her reading collection and the YYZ sweatshirt you guys have seen her rocking on my stories from Canadian brand Posh & Cozy.

HillcrestGlowUp- So Sasha

West Coast KIds - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Hillcrest - So Sasha

West Coast Kids - So Sasha

Food. You will find the regular food court restos here and even a Panera Bread location, however it’s not actually connected to the mall. There are some tasty speciality spots like Uncle Tetsu’s for those who are obsessed with the Japanese cheesecakes that people line up for year round at the downtown location, Bake Code and Chatime (hello, my fave!) for the bubble tea aficionados. After all the cardio I did shopping for hours my last stop of the day was actually at Chatime for a Mango bubble tea and a matcha croissant – and yes both were they are insanely delish.

Hillcrest - So Sasha

Mommy/Family Amenities. The extra family designated parking spots are one thing but Hillcrest really knocked it out of park with some of the extra conveniences they thought of for families. The mall is actually all one level so it makes navigating with a stroller and young toddlers simple. Both men’s and women’s washrooms have baby change stations so the dad’s need not worry when they venture to this alone with the kids. For the mamas who are still breastfeeding, you’re going to love this…they have a nursing room so you can feed your bub quietly in private and wait for it, the Guest Experience Kiosk offers complimentary diaper kits plus baby bottle warming. It’s located a bit away from where the nursing room and washrooms, but it’s nice to not have to run around a food court asking for milk to be heated. I actually used the service when we were finished shopping so Max could have a bottle for the ride back home.

Hillcrest - So Sasha

HILLCREST FINAL ROUNDUP

Was it worth the drive to Hillcrest? Yes. Would I return to shop? 100%. I’m already planning our next visit and will probably do it with a few girlfriends and their kids. I am in need of a little refresh on our holiday décor so that is the perfect excuse to go back and the Homesense there is bound to have everything I need. Plus, there are loads of things I still want to get for Maxie at Okaïdi and West Coast Kids.

Intrigued? Head over to HillcrestMall.ca for all the details on the renovation, new store openings, promos, and upcoming events.

This post is in formal partnership with Hillcrest for either monetary compensation or product however all opinions are my own.

Let’s Make Flats Great Again

For the last few years I would wake up, look at my closet and would literally be late to wherever I have to go because I couldn’t decide what to wear. The funny thing is, I would stare at the options and continue to pick the same few items and repeat, repeat, repeat. I kid you not, only 20% of my closet had pieces I actually loved and used. I purged a ton this summer and still need to get rid of another garbage bag (or two) worth of items. My plan: To set aside a clothing budget each season and only buy the items I truly LOVE and not pieces that I will wear once and would be thrown in the back of my closet or tossed in our storage.

I have made a commitment to flats this fall. Well, Maxwell becoming mobile and running all over the place actually gave me no choice but to fully embrace them really. I figure, if I am going to wear flats, they better be pretty. I’ve had my eye on this Aquazurra’s for a minute and pulled the trigger. After buying my Gucci loafers, I still felt like I needed a pair of flats that could easily take a laid back look and make it look less casual, if you know what I mean. I did a quick poll during a trip to David’s Footwear a few weeks back when I went to check out the newly expanded flagship location and you guys were adamant about me getting these Mondaine Mules. Well SPOILER ALERT: I listened and got these but I also scooped up the Rene Caovilla open toe beauties ya’ll thought were over the top. But I digress… The new David’s store in Yorkville is now 6,000 sqft and they have added so many new contemporary brands, so good luck walking in there thinking you’re only coming out with one pair.

What I’m Wearing

Shoes: Aquazurra Mondaine Mules  //  Sweater: The Group by Babaton  //  Skirt: Artizia  //  Bag: Gucci  //  Hat: Old but found a similar one here // Bracelets: Vintage

I will be bearing my ankles in these Aquazurra’s for as long as possible. I love them so much, maybe until the snow arrives. This past weekend I wore this outfit not once but TWICE. With no shame at all LOL! The skirt and sweater I picked up on separate occasions from Babaton and Artizia stores respectively and are both available online. The sweater is the coziest and if it wasn’t covered in remnants of what the Maxwell and her cousins ate today, I would probably wear it again tomorrow.

FLARE Magazine ‘Fashion For All’ Campaign in Partnership With Joe Fresh

#BoPo. Yup, I just started a sentence with a hashtag and unless you’ve been living under a rock or have no imprint on social media, this term is not new to you. BoPo, short for “Body Positivity” is a topic that has been swirling around the industry for the last few years but really ramped up some speed in late 2016 with top models, actresses, and other industry insiders speaking up about the topic. An issue that has obviously long plagued the fashion world was finally being brought to light by some very brave souls willing to champion this fight and lead the way for others to openly speak out in hope for change. There’s been a lot of progress over the last year and a half and I have actually been super lucky to be apart of some incredible projects highlighting this topic.

I, like most women, have had body image issues over the years and if I can be honest here, still do from time to time. It’s been an interesting road postpartum getting back into shape after baby to say the least. As a mama to a little girl though, I want to help Maxwell feel good in her skin and be confident in who she is from a really early age.

Shop My Joe Fresh Look: Military Skirt – $34 // Turtle Neck – $19 // Block Heel Booties – $59

Fashion should be for every body – literally. Not exclusive to only those of a certain size, shape or colour. Last month I got a chance to be involved in a really cool project with Flare Magazine and Joe Fresh, which you guys know I have worked extensively with over the years. Their mission was to really show some of the leading faces (and it’s a pretty phenomenal line-up of amazing young women) and how we are redefining style for ourselves – wearing key pieces from Joe Fresh’s fall collection that reflect a bit of our own personal style. I am sure you already know or recognize some of the other faces and if not, this is a great opportunity to learn a bit more these women that each have a distinct voice, perspective and add something of value to the creative community.

Fashion For All - Flare Mag x Joe Fresh

Shot by Robert Caruso. Styled by Ingrie Williams (stylist) and Natasha Bruno (Stylist Assistant). Hair by Kristjan Hayden. Makeup by Claudine Balthazar. Nails by Rita Remark

 

I don’t want to spill all the tea here, so you’ll have to head to Flare.com to see the full interviews from each of us. Not only is it pretty damn cool but it’s also so refreshing to see all this diversity and representation in one campaign. You did good, Flare & Joe Fresh…you did good!

For more on the Fashion For All campaign head to Flare.com/fashion-for-all

Baby Skincare Routine: Eczema Edition

So here’s the low down for so those of you that had questions and concerns around infant eczema. Maxwell, just like most newborn babies, was born with perfect skin. A few weeks into life outside the womb she got the normal peeling skin most babies experience that I had seen before on other kids. When she was around three months old though I started to notice some changes to skin that looked like eczema. Let me just tell you, the amount of eczema I found on her probably didn’t warrant the complete breakdown and doctor’s appointment but after seeing my nephew suffering from painful, itching skin issues, I was adamant Max was not going to have the same fate.

The troubleshooting began almost immediately. Thankfully, the collection of eczema patches were mainly on her back, especially the area where the waistband of her diapers hit her skin and a tiny bit on her face around the eyes. But come on, it’s my kid and I don’t care if the skin irritation is minor, I didn’t want her to have any skin irritations at all. The doctor said we should monitor it and if it continues to worsen, we could always try a steroid cream. That to me, was not an option. So I did a skincare elimination diet. Stopped using all the  baby skincare products I had been using on her. Changed her laundry detergent and even replaced her formula. Living in a condo without the best air circulation and super dry heat probably wasn’t not helping our cause either. After not seeing much change, I decided to try out some A-Derma Exomega products that were passed along to me that I had heard were pretty amazing for extra dry or atopy prone skin. By this time it was winter and in an effort to not further dry out Maxie’s skin, I would only give her a full bath every other day. When I did,  I would add two capfuls of Exomega Control Soothing Bath to the water and started using the Emollient Cleansing Gel directly on her skin with a washcloth. I think applying a moisturizer to skin right away as soon as I took her out helped a lot. I would apply their Emollient Balm combined with some lavender oil as I was putting on her diaper. It has an extra rich texture and turned out to be just what her skin needed to keep it moisturized. We finally started to see some improvement after a month and to be honest, I couldn’t really telly you exactly when all the patchiness disappeared. They just seemed to fade away but I would say maybe two or three months tops. Seeing as though the first two products I tried worked so well and we were getting closer to spring, I swapped the Emollient Balm for the cream version. PRO TIP: We do a lot of swimming, Maxie really loves the water and I know the chlorine can wreak havoc on skin that’s prone to dryness, so after swims, I do try to still apply the emollient balm.

Photos by David A. Pike

Probably the best thing about these products are that their all natural and fragrance free which means they are completely safe to use on babies from day one but all the A-Derma products can also be used on kids and adults too. I am actually using the shower oil and the balm on myself. I will admit, that because the skin irritations we experienced early on has been completely cleared up, we do sometimes use other products during her bath time routine but the A-Derma products still remain as the core of Maxie’s skincare routine. You can find A-Derma products nationwide in Shoppers Drug Mart (who actually has the line on super sale right now), London Drugs, and Jean Coutu locations in addition to Amazon.ca.

Moments That Matter With Aeroplan: London Edition

London. A city that often gets a bad wrap because of it’s lack of distinct seasons and continuous rainy weather, but one I love so very much. I guess I am a little biased because it’s my mum’s hometown. I have tons many memories from my many travels there as a kid and desperately want to continue the tradition with Maxwell.

#withAeroplan - So Sasha

This trip however did not go as planned and to be honest, what happened while we were there made it very difficult to get this post written. Every time I sat down to write, flashbacks of my mom’s unfortunate accident kept flashing back into my mind. I missed several days of shooting with a photographer so this is not as photo content heavy as my usual travel posts.I know most of you had been following along on Instagram and were aware of the head injury she suffered on our second day in central London. I had an impressive itinerary set up for the ultimate girls trip with her and Maxie. Sadly, we didn’t get to do even half of what I had planned due to the incident that left her hospitalized, concussed and off her feet for the rest of the trip. She is finally turning a corner with her recovery.

Funny enough, the forecast was supposed to be sunny and clear for our entire trip but I still planned on us us hitting the ground running during the first two days on the ground just in case. It was my safety net in the event we were pummelled with rain sometime later in the trip, which really wouldn’t be much of a surprise. And guess what? We did pretty badly later on in the trip, but hey that’s London for you. We did ended up doing and seeing some really cool things while we were there so if you’re thinking of heading across the pond any time soon, with baby or without, you should definitely take note of my recommendations below. But first, for the mamas that had messaged me about what it was like traveling with a young child to London, here’s a few things that you should definitely know:

I’ve done a long haul flight with Maxwell before to Barcelona and it was our very first family trip, also booked using our Aeroplan miles. That being said, I knew I could handle the time in the air with her especially since my mum was there but things were very different this time around because she was almost nine months older. At almost 1, she was moving around a ton. Trying to be independent. Eating solids. Far different that when she was exclusively breastfed. SOLUTION: We flew redeye on the way to London and were on a 7am flight on the way home to try to capitalize on her sleep and nap schedule. So, London isn’t the most non-stroller friendly city and navigating around the city with a baby was a challenge, especially when using public transportation. The tube is very convenient for commuters and normally the easiest way to get around the city. But with a stroller, it can be a nightmare. Very few tube stations have an elevators or what the Brits like to call “lifts” so what you can expect…the highest escalators you’ve ever seen in your life. PRO TIP: If you’r traveling alone with baby, go online and get familiar with the stops on each line that, pray and hope a friendly bloke will help you get to street level when you get off, consider Ubers and black cabs as well. The infamous black cabs in London are so large, I was able to get the stroller in the backseat without even collapsing it. Find accommodation with a good walk score. It truly makes life much easier when you are within walking distance of the tube, sight seeing, restaurants, a grocery store and parks that you can take your baby to during down time.

WHERE WE STAYED

#withAeroplan - So Sasha

On all my previous visits to England I have always stayed with family. Economical, yes but you can never really feel like a tourist or that you’re on vacation. You feel awkward sleeping in. There’s no room service. More importantly, very little privacy. There are loads of amazing hotels in the city but we decided to rent a flat and secured one via KidandCoe.com – the luxury, family friendly version of Air B&B. If you’re a family with any upcoming travel, you have to check them out. Through the site, we got connected to Merino Hospitality who has apartments, towns and homes throughout London and honestly they were the BEST. Based in the Holborn area we were close to most city central landmarks within either a walk or short tube ride away.  The apartment was set up with everything we needed for Maxwell; crib, highchair, toys etc. It was brilliant and helped her settle in nicely. Our kitchen was stocked with all the basic essentials so we didn’t have to pop out to do groceries right away. We had what we needed for breakfast, snacks and such. Bonus, close to tons of cafe’s, grocery store, restaurants, and both Chancery Lane & Holborn tube stations.

WHAT WE SAW

Now that I look back at some of the photos for this post, we surprisingly got quite a bit accomplished. Mum got to at least hit up a couple places she’s been dying to go to. In between taking care of her, I somehow managed to venture out with Maxie solo while mum rested and we had our own mama/daughter adventures.

  • South Bank. With so many attractions in a close radius, the South Bank is the perfection location to check out when you’re in London. Once you are in the area. Everything is easy and accessible by foot but definitely more enjoyable when it’s not pissing down with rain. It’s London’s cultural district located right on the River Thames. There you will find the The Sea Life London Aquarium, The London Eye, restaurants and national centres for the arts, film and performance. You can take a boat cruise down the Thames, always a fave when I am in the city, and it’s also within a 10 minute or less walk from Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

  • Big Ben. It’s actually the nickname for the Great Bell inside the clock in the north side of Westminster. Probably one of the most popular and historic London landmarks. It was our very first stop once we arrived and I was so bummed when we got there to find it was completely under scaffolding due it’s extensive refurbishment that will leave it out of commission for a few years. I wasn’t leaving without a photo though of me and my girl. I have one just like this with my mom when I was a little girl. The handsome Ben will be back in full effect in 2021 if you plan on any future travel to the UK.

  • Regent Street. You want shopping? Well London has no shortage of it but Regent Street has something for everyone, including my new favourite department store EVER…Liberty London. The building’s facades are all by famed architect John Nash and are some of the most distinguished architecture in the city. Every international brand has their London flagship here and if you tuck in just behind and around the top end, you will find the infamous Carnaby Street.

  • Carnaby Street. Ok, I am still talking about shopping but it’s impossible not to. This was such a treat to witness actually because it’s a spot where my mom spent a lot of time as a teen and it was the first time I’ve even seen it in person. Carnaby Street is soooo unique. The area is infamous because of the 60s era but it has reinvented itself over the decades and boom…today you’ll find nearly 100 shops and 60 restos nestled in this pedestrian street path in London’s West End found between Regent Street and Oxford Street. I popped in on a busy Saturday to find out it was Carnaby Street Eat food festival which I am sure was home of the longest picnic table ever. Of course I had to sample a few things – the burgers were delicious by the way and happily washed them down with Camden Pale Ale, even though I had just finished brunch at Arthurs’s inside Liberty London.
    Carnaby Street Eat Festival
  • Liberty London. No idea how I’ve never been here before but I first went in just for brunch and then got lost on floor after floor of contemporary womenswear and the most beautiful flower arrangements curated and sold by their in-house florist team. Upstairs after burning calories eating, I highly recommend you refuel with a quick bite at Arthur’s Restaurant. Named after the owner of Liberty London – Arthur Lazenby Liberty. It is basically interior goals and I was pleasantly surprised to not find the place on a Saturday flooded with influencers and instagrammers because the decor filled with wood, velvet, mosaic tiles and tons of millennial pink is what the gram literally lives for these days. Maxie thoroughly enjoyed being nestled up beside me in one of the velvet booths chowing down on her Mac & Cheese here.
  • Notting Hill & Portobello Market. This place gets the award for the cutest neighbourhoods in London. I think everyone has seen the movie Notting Hill and knows the quaint little area for their adorable, colourful row houses and home to Portobello Market; a tourist haven full of street vendors, performers, boutiques and cafes.

Aeroplan - So Sasha

  • Buckingham Palace. You only really need to see this landmark once and I’ve seen it several times over the years. The residence of the Queen and administrative office, it is a tourist trap for sure and impossible to get a decent picture in front of the palace’s epic gates but I couldn’t resist attempting one of my two favourite girls.

#withAeroplan - So Sasha

  • Covent Garden. Once a fruit and vegetable market in the early 1950s, Covent Garden is the spot to check out in the west end of London if you love food and theatre. We were lucky to be within walking distance to it and I would have loved to go back one ore time before heading back to Toronto. It may be modernized with all the current high end retailers, fancy restaurants and bars but this historic destination has preserved it’s cobbled Piazza and arches of the Market Building. It’s the home of street performance and somehow I got pulled into the mid afternoon performance in front of a crowd of at least 100 before heading off to one of the area’s most  famous restaurants’, The Ivy, to see and be seen.

Where We Dined

Lucky for me, Max is eating a lot of the foods I eat, and actually has quite a worldly palette, and also eats puree pouches that allowed me to eat just about anywhere I wanted to. Mornings we usually ate in or grabbed something quick on the go from Pret-A-Manger. They are literally on every single corner almost I swear and it allowed us to get moving and out the door quickly. I prefer to save my money for nice lunches, dinners and high teas rather than brekkies. Here’s some of our fave spots to nosh, see and be seen:

  • The Savoy. Well there are numerous places in London to have high tea. The Ritz is probably the most famous in the city but I’ve done it a few times already. I wanted to try something different and I wasn’t disappointed by my new choice. The entrance and lobby of the hotel property just feels so historic and of another era. The dining room is exquisite and the tea menu is great. Maxwell was obsessed with the live pianist plus the service was incredible. They even sent us home with a gift bag of the same loose leaf tea we ordered during our service, which was a nice touch.

  • Rosewood London. This gem of a luxury hotel is on High Holborn street so just a stone’s throw away from our flat and turns out that they have some pretty stellar dining there. I ate not once, but twice inside their Holborn Dining Room. The menu is quite heavy on seafood but they do have some stellar meat options like Cornish Rare Breed Sirloin and a 35 Day Aged Rib Eye but after having their popular Shrimp burger, there was no way I was deviating from it on my next visit. Not quite like I expected but better than I imagined, it was minced shrimp ground and formed into a patty, grilled and served in the most perfect egg bun topped with jalapeño tartare, which chips (fries) on the side. To drink, several rounds of their Green Elixir, which is NOT to be mistaken for a healthy cold pressed juice but rather the most delicious Gin cocktail I think I’ve ever had made with Beefeater, Green Chartreuse, lemon juice, elderflower cordial, cucumber and basil foam. Honestly, it is hard to describe in words but the taste I will never forget.

  • The Coral Room. Inspired by the 1920s, this classy additional to Central London’s libation scene is a MUST for those who want to be transported to another time via design decor and cocktails. Behind the bar you won’t find bartenders, but rather mixologists who take their craft very seriously. They take their time prepping their cocktails, really enjoy taking the time out to explain the process, and even surprised me with a couple fave mixes not found on the menu. The Coral Room is nestled inside The Bloomsbury, which is also home one of the city’s most beautiful indoor terraces that is lined with endless flower walls – Dalloway Terrace, that is open for all day dining and a hidden underground bar that is only open to the hotel guests and stays open late into the night. Somehow, my cousin and I managed to get in there after way too many drinks in the Coral Room,

  • Madison Terrace Bar & Lounge. I am a sucker for a rooftop terrace and usually try to find the best one when I’m visiting a city. If you Google “Best Rooftops in London” a fair amount will show up actually. The summer in London is extremely busy and just about anything worth going to requires a reservation made well in advance so I was lucky enough to get up to the Madison rooftop terrace. The only downfall, I had Maxie in her stroller as my plus 1 and children are not permitted in their bar and lounge, even outside. They were kind enough to let me up to see the epic view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which means I will just have to return for drinks on my next trip to London.

  • The Dorchester. This was my first time here and it was not apart of my original itinerary but glad Maxie and I got to experience an evening rendezvous at the property’s infamous bar. We went early, other guests were still finishing up the last tea service seating around 6pm, so we headed to the back where we sat by the piano to take in the live music. We shared small bites and I sipped on Negroni’s served in bespoke glassware created specifically for the hotel. The musicians were so kind as to play a few nursery rhymes for Max on the saxophone and piano and then entertained me with some 90’s R&B that took all the diners by surprise. Although notorious for celeb sightings, we unfortunately didn’t see any but I am sure the walls hold many secrets.

  • Arthurs. This spot is not to be missed if you’re in the Regent or Oxford Street you have to pop in here for a bite. The decor alone is worth the stop in and it’s not exactly a terrible thing that it’s located on the second floor of one of London’s top shopping locations, Liberty London. Also known for their cocktails (are you seeing a trend here?) and inviting bar, Arthur’s serves contemporary British cuisine that I promise you, they have dining down to a fine art. They are open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, early dinner and serve drinks all day long. I loved the Salmon Poke there, Maxie devoured her Mac & Cheese from the kiddie menu while mum was really into the smoke haddock fishcakes.

Now that we’ve settled back home, I am already getting the itch to begin planning our next adventure. Winter is literally around the corner and I can’t help but think about a warm weather getaway next. I always like to say that the fall season is the perfect time to start thinking about travel goals for the new year and whatever your travel plans are, Aeroplan can help you get there. If you’re already a member you’ll already know this but accumulating miles may be easier than you think. If you think outside the box like we have, you can literally earn miles on hotel stayscar rentals, retail purchases, insurancebanking (credit cards), even online when you shop your favourite retailers like Sephora, Apple, Indigo, Hudson’s Bay, and so much more on the eStore getting you closer to that next trip faster. Not an Aeroplan member yet? Well, there’s really no better time than the present as they say and there’s some very exciting updates coming soon that I can’t wait to share with you guys. But until then, registering is easy and you can begin earning miles right away. For more information head to www.aeroplan.com.

This post is sponsored by Aeroplan however all views and opinions are my own.

Practical & Life Changing Hair Removal

Let’s get straight down to business and chat hair removal shall we because you guys have showed so much interest in my hair free journey since I opened up about it recently on Instagram. If you happened to miss it thanks to the apps awful algorithm, you can find it here. I have complained for years about every single aspect surrounding this topic. I started shaving when I was about 13, I think. Maybe even 12. I started waxing my armpits and bikini line in my early twenties. Then graduating to full brazilians shortly thereafter. FML. I am in my late thirties now so that’s a lot of years of painful agony from waxing and annoying nicks from straight blades. This summer I had enough. Like, why the hell was I making myself suffer? It had to end.

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha
I just want the smooth and soft legs that Maxie has

So, what happened next was an immediate call to action on my IG stories asking my followers to dish on their go-to hair removal methods. The response…well let’s just say most of the women agreed that waxing is savage. There were many that still shaved but to be honest, I was blown away by the amount of women who had turned to epilators and laser hair removal treatments. Like tons actually! I got feedback from the black community on what clinics in Toronto were the best at dealing with darker skin tones and started looking into the option of electric shavers and epilators after a few people brought them up. I ended up booking Holly from The Ten Spot Queen West location for my laser treatments on my va-jay-jay and I am going to see how that goes, then determine whether I am going to get other areas done. Who am I kidding? If it’s as good as people say it is, I will literally be a Kardashian and do my entire body head to toe. At $210 per session, you better believe they use the best machine in the game that is able to detect the amount of melanin in darker skin to avoid burning. I’ve only done two sessions so far and I promise to report back on the progress but so far they have been virtually painless (requires no numbing cream) and I have about 8-10 sessions left. I am excited to not have to worry about it anymore. But in the meantime, it’s just the one area and I am using the Philips BikiniGenie Bikini Trimmer in between appointments to keep things in check down there. Holly is infamous in the beauty and aesthetician community when it comes to laser removal and is The Ten Spot’s laser guru. She actually advised me to stay away from waxing completely from now and suggested I use my trimmer only as needed. It’s so easy to shape and trim with it. Its battery operated and portable, making it really convenient to use anywhere, especially when traveling and it can also be used in or outside of the shower. With that area now taken care of, you’re probably wondering what I am doing with the rest of my body that sprouts more hair than I would like to admit.

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha

I know the Philips brand has been known for their epilators and electric shavers for many years so I figured my experience with the BikiniGenie may mean that I will also love their other hair removal products. I am not quite yet ready to dole out coins for laser on my legs, pits or face just yet so it was worth a shot and the price point is so much more affordable than laser sessions. My first attempt was with the Philips Satinelle Advanced Wet & Dry Epilator. I was stoked for it because I heard that it had the ability to grab even the finest of hairs (even has a unique light to illuminate the area you are working on so you can target the teeny tiny hairs) and because the hair is removed straight from the root, it grew back slower, similar to waxing. It came with several attachment heads making it safe and easy to use all over my body but you know what…it’s just not for me. I am not quite sure what I was expecting in terms of pain level but it was far from pain free, I will say that. Personally, for me the discomfort level was not far off from waxing so I didn’t see the point however, if you can handle it and are looking for an at-home hair removal option that removes hair straight from the root and eliminates trips to the salon, this is the tool for you.

With the epilator no longer an option for moi, I tried the Philips electric shaver and have been using it religiously ever since on my legs, arms and armpits. So much different than shaving with straight razors. There’s a multiflex head with dual foils to make sure you don’t miss any hairs. I do find that I have to be very particular and hold it on a 90 degree angle when I am moving the shaver up my leg to ensure that

the blade cuts the hair as close to the skin as possible. I loooooove that I don’t need to be in the shower to use it like I would with a traditional razor. I’ve actually only used it in the shower once, I much prefer dry use. It’s a lot more convenient that way. I have traveled with this thing and even bring it on set with me to shave before a shoot if I don’t have time to do it the night before. You can’t expect to get the same shave as you would with a straight razor but if you’re anything like me, you’ll rush and end up slicing your skin. You can eliminate cuts and nicks from your shaving equation with the Philips SatinShave Prestige Electric Shaver. Plus, its only $60 on Amazon right now, so in the long run if you think about it, even more cost effective than purchasing straight razors for the foreseeable future.

Philips Hair Removal

For the ultimate in smoothness, I love to use Céla’s Seed to Scrub (a natural grain polish), their Exfoliating Mitt on my legs and arms followed by the brand’s Creme de la Creme Light moisturizer. And, voila…welcome to the softest skin ever. Also, just because I’m super extra, I wanted to also try out the Philips PrecisionPerfect Trimmer because why the hell not. I had gotten my brows micro bladed back in January so the maintenance on them is pretty minimal but now I don’t have to waste any time going anywhere to do threading to clean them up.

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha

Philips Har Removal - So Sasha
Photography by Jess Baumung

I’ve linked all the products above so you can shop them directly from Amazon, because who doesn’t love receiving the products they have ordered same day? They are also available for sale in store at Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, London Drugs, and Jean Coutu nationwide.

 

The Inaugural Millie Speaks Conference Series: “Your Authentic Life” Hits Toronto Sept 29th

There’s something special coming to Toronto ladies and I can’t wait to share this news with you. Next Saturday September 29th at the Arta Gallery, I am going to be apart of the very first Millie Speaks event. Created by Founder Chelsea Brown, Millie is a new company that in all honesty has the capability of being something HUGE. The goal. To inspire and support women in their journey to LIVE TRUE through a series of speaker conferences and exclusive travel experiences. The inaugural female centric speaker series, appropriately titled, “Your Authentic Life” has been created for like-minded women looking to inspire and be inspired by each other. I am so deeply honoured to be a part of such a phenomenally diverse group of panelists and stoked to hear the stories and tales from the other women who I look up to so much. I’m really also looking forward to being totally candid with all of you in attendance and open up more about my personal journey to where I am today. A 38 year former athlete, turned Marketer, turned entrepreneur and mom to a 1 year old, who has overcome so much adversity to find my way to true happiness and success. I will get to speak to this more during the conference. Trust me, I am fully aware that happiness and success mean very different things to different people and having one doesn’t necessarily mean you have the other. Took me years and quite a few road bumps along the way to learn that.

Millie Speaks: Your Authentic Life
Photography by Nicole Lewis – NicoleLewisPhotography.ca

So…what You Can Expect From Millie Speaks: Your Authentic Life? Over the course of the day, you will get to sit in on a series of three different panels showcasing women who champion as “Living Authentically” and courageously embracing what’s unique to them.  “The Everyday Heroine” who has achieved an impressive level of success but still experience an element on self doubt in their lives, and the “Adventurists” who have unlocked their own potential and greater perspective through travel”. The list of 10 panelists, including yours truly all bring different backgrounds, expertise and perspectives, which to me means there will at least be one panellist you’ll connect with on a deeper level.

Millie Speaks: Your Authentic Life

The moderators aren’t to be outdone by the panelists and are a group of amazing women, some you may already know of; Noreen Flanagan Editor in Chief of Fashion Magazine, Sangita Patel from ET Canada, Sarah Daniel; Beauty Editor and Creator of The Hidden Beauty Podcast and Dominique Lamberton from OnRoute Magazine. Plus, two Key Note Speakers that will BLOW. YOUR. MIND.

Millie Speaks: Your Authentic Life

In between all this amazingness…(yup, there’s more!) the day will kick off with an uplifting meditation. You’ll also get to check out the FASHION Magazine lounge, enjoy mini facials, hand massages and complimentary skin analysis from Caudalie – the ultimate brand in luxury skincare, fuel and refuel with great food, drinks and so much more.

Are you ready to open your minds (and hearts) to REAL conversations with REAL women? Tickets are now available for sale and will go quickly as space is extremely limited. To purchase tickets and for more information go to Millie.ca.

My VIP Toronto Film Fest Giveaway with First Canadian Place

Ok, I’ve been dying to share this news. DYING!!!! Film Festival here in Toronto starts next week and I’ve partnered with First Canadian Place and Exchange Tower to gift one lucky follower the ultimate film festival experience. FCP has seriously stepped up their retail game and I recently paid the centre a visit to scoop up some pieces for next week’s events and film premieres.

Toronto International Film Festival x First Canadian Place

Toronto International Film Festival x First Canadian Place

What I’m Wearing: Sequin Dress from Maska Mode // Jewelry by Swarovski // Chanel Rose Gold Sunglasses from Specs & Contacts

So what you’ll win is pretty major. A shopping spree with me (YAY) for the perfect film fest outfit (valued at $1000), plus tickets to a premiere and dinner for two. Craaaaazy right? Contest starts today and ends on September 9th.

Toronto International Film Festival x First Canadian Place

What I’m Wearing: Black Cami Tank from Sisley // Pants Derek Lam from Hangar 9 // Clutch from Judith & Charles // Bracelet from Swarovski // Sunnies are Gucci from Specs & Contacts. All retailers found at First Canadian Place

Oculina Black Organza Top (worn as a dress) by Marie Saint Pierre from Hangar 9 // Emerald Velvet Clutch from Judith and Charles // Jewelry by Swarovski

Toronto International Film Festival x First Canadian Place

Toronto International Film Festival x First Canadian Place

To enter simply share a photo of your ideal festival outfit OR share the contest image on your own IG page tagging @FirstCanadianPlace using the hashtag #MyFCPExFilmFest in the caption and you must follow the First Canadian Place IG account. Winner will be announced on September 10th on both @FirstCanadianPlace and my IG stories. You can find full contest details on myfirstcanadianplace.ca

The Power of Human Touch For Babies After The Newborn Stage

Since becoming a Huggies Ambassador a year ago, I have become slightly obsessed with discovering the benefits of skin-to-skin and the power of human touch for babies. Huggies actually has some great resources and information on their No Baby Unhugged website above and beyond product info and it’s where I’ve found useful White Paper documents like “The Power of Human Touch for Babies whitepaper and I know it’s legit because they are done in conjunction with the CAPHC (Canadian Association of Paedeiatric Health Centres). I honestly just find the whole topic fascinating and I’ve incorporated it as much as possible over the last year at home as Maxie gets older. In my experience touch at 1 years old has been just as important as it was when she was a newborn.

Ok mamas (to-be and new mamas), I have some information that is going to legit BLOW YOUR MIND. Our babies benefit from the power of our touch way before they are even born.  Research has shown that as early as 8 weeks after conception, a fetus is able to respond to the sensation of touch in utero. I know, crazy right! And guess what? There’s also some amazing benefits of touch for babies past the utero and newborn stages. There are different types of touch; from skin-to-skin, kangaroo care, facilitating tucking (make sure to Google this!), holding/rocking and infant massage. All these have beneficial effects that are actually supported by science. Pain relief, physiological stability, sleep, crying, both infant and parent mental health and increased breastfeeding rates are some of the reasons why I have been such a huge advocate. In the below chart, the ✔ indicates that there is a sufficient amount of research and evidence to claim it’s beneficial. An empty box means it’s neither harmful nor helpful and a question mark simply means there is not enough findings to say whether it has an effect.:

Findings from CAPHC document on The Power of Human Touch for Babies

For some reason most of the messaging on the benefits on touch tends to be around skin-to-skin and focused towards mothers with newborns, while other other forms of touch when babies get older are less frequently shared.  I’ve talked quite a bit about skin-to-skin and hugging during my pregnancy, early on in my motherhood journey and in my recent “Global Hug Your Kid Day” post here on the blog when she was just my teeny tiny newborn, but Maxwell is approaching her 1st birthday and there are still things we do together at home to incorporate touch as much as possible because of the powerful effect it has on her physical (how her body grows), emotional (her mental health), behavioural (how she will control and manage her own behaviour) and social development (interaction with others).

Infant Massage (IM)

If Maxie could talk, I am certain she would tell you this is her most favourite form of touch…selfishly of course. Adults LOVE massages so why would it be any different for a baby? Maxie had her first bath when she was 7 days old and with the help of my doula, I learned  how to ease Max into her first bathing experience and how beneficial IM can be for babies.

It has been apart of our bath time/nighttime routine ever since. It is the time of day I savour the most. That intoxicatingly yummy baby smell after her bath and the way she looks into my eyes while I rub her down is THE cutest thing ever. Perfect way for a parent to bond with baby. It’s super beneficial for sleep in full term babies and can also aid in digestion. I like to rub her down with a bit of lavender essential oil during the massage, which has a calming effect and perfect for sleep, with a carrier oil right after I put her diaper on. Gentle massage along the jawline and cheeks has also helped a ton for her teething pain.

Kangaroo Care (KC)/Baby Wearing

Yes, I am still very much wearing Maxie in a carrier thanks to the encouragement of my midwives and clinical findings outlined here. We have a handful of wraps and carriers that allow me to have Maxwell directly on my body. When we are at home, this form of touch is always done with her in a diaper only and I usually remove my shirt and bra.

Photography by Jess Baumung

I also wear her this way outside of the house. KC (Kangaroo Care) I find is a bit more challenging during the summer months with the heat which means Max is less likely to stay in there for long periods of time, but she does love it and I can tell she feels a sense of security against my chest. I know some of you will probably ask how long I keep her in the wrap when I wear her but to be honest, I just go by her energy and vibes. When she looks like she’s ready to come out, I take it off.

Skin-to-Skin (SCC)

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that we still occasionally do skin-to-skin. I really don’t think there’s a disadvantage to doing it this late in the game but I think most just stop after the first few months. During the first three months we did SCC as much as possible but now that she’s much older, I reserve this for when she is sick or feeling under the weather/uncomfortable from teething as it’s known to help with pain relief and crying. I am unsure of the effectiveness at her age but to be honest, it certainly is comforting…for the both of us and my parenting ethos is “do things that feel good”.

To learn more about Huggies and the benefits of skin-to-skin hugs, visit www.nobabyunhugged.huggies.ca

This post has been created in partnership with Huggies for monetary compensation and/or product. however all views and opinions are my own!

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