The Downtown Dreamer

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Make 2014 Rock

Today, I have a confession to make - I'm a list making fanatic! I love making lists and checking things off. It makes me feel accomplished because the items on the list are short-term, and therefore attainable. Sometimes, I even write things down that I've already done, just to feel super successful when I check them off (you've done this too, don't lie!)

New Year's resolutions, on the other hand, I fail miserably at. Every time I write up my New Years resolutions (usually this happens sometime in February), they feel daunting and impossible to achieve. Really, am I going to go to the gym 4 times a week? It's never going to happen, so I think it's time to retire that goal, among many others.

So, instead of making resolutions, I'm going to follow a motto for the year. No, it's not "YOLO", but my main goal will be to make this year rock! Plain and simple, and easy to follow.

It's so easy to bog yourself down with things that don't matter. In 2013, I spent a fair share of time on things that just didn't matter. These things/people brought me down and prevented me from being the person I'm truly meant to be. So this year, there won't be any of that. I'm going in to 2014 with determination and hope.

Everything seems more achievable when it's written in glittery gold, right?

Happy New Year Everyone!

Till Next Time,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Treat Yo' Self

(1)Jeweled-Cluster Sweater (2)Mint Frosting Necklace (3)Kate Spade Heels (4)Sassy Umbrella
(5)The Great Gatsby (6)Ann Taylor Tinsley Suede Pumps (7)Mini-bows Sweatshirt (8)Tory Burch Wallet

Christmas shopping can be extremely stressful.
I'm definitely not one of those people that plans ahead and starts shopping in November, or early December. Those are smart, savvy shoppers. I always wait until the last minute, have a mini-freak out and frantically start making up my Christmas list. I guess I work best under pressure.

Last Thursday, I ventured out to the mall and with eight gifts on my list, I was determined to start and finish all of my shopping in one day. Ambitious, right? It was a grueling 9 hour day of going from store to store, but I got it done. Next year, I'll be one of those early shoppers (who am I kidding?)

Although, I'm not quite ready to enter another mall just yet (I think I'm off malls for a while), I am ready to treat

Take a minute to treat yo' self too!

Till Next Time,

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Feeling Festive in Red

Outfit Details - Pants: Sirens, Shirt: Old Navy, Sweater: Costa Blanca (old), Scarf: Old Navy, Boots: Call it Spring (on sale!), Bracelets: Gift and Joseph Nogucci (c/o Spark Sessions), Watch: Aldo Accessories (similar), Ring: Dynamite

A few days ago we were hit with a huge ice storm that left roads slippery, trees broken, numerous power outages and everything coated in a thick layer of ice. Although, conditions were dangerous, it looked absolutely lovely outside. When the sun finally came out, it made the city look like a shiny Winter Wonderland.

To me, Christmas means spending time with loved ones, having day-long movie marathons and lounging around in something comfy & cozy. Although, I ventured outside (in the freezing cold) to take these photos, this outfit gave me just the right amount of comfort without feeling frumpy and disheveled. You can't go wrong with red pants, red lips and red nails. 'Tis the season to be red and festive!

Merry (belated) Christmas everyone!

Till Next Time,

Sunday, December 22, 2013

DIY Christmas Ornaments

My favourite part of the Holidays is putting up the Christmas tree. I have an old school tree that requires a million pieces to assemble and lights that need to be manually strung up. As much as I love it, there are moments of frustration…those damn lights are never evenly spaced out and the ornaments seem to multiply on their own. Every year, I tell myself that I need an upgrade, but this ancient tree holds so many wonderful memories for me and my family (this was our first tree when we moved to Canada). So needless to say, once the tree is all setup, that's my favourite part.

Even though my ornament collection seems to grow every year, I've always wanted to create personalized family ornaments. I've seen so many lovely ones over the years, but I never figured out how I wanted to design mine. However after a recent trip to "Michael's", inspiration struck and I ended up leaving with plastic ornament balls, foam letters and gold spray paint.

I often veer towards the side of classic and simple, so that's the direction I took with these ornaments. They're a simple shade of gold with 3D lettering. Initially, I was going to remove the lettering (which is why I bought super cheap multi-coloured foam letters), but I liked how they turned out, so I just left them.

What you'll need:
- Plastic Ornament Balls (these were on sale for $1.75)
- Foam Sticker Lettering
- Spray Paint

What to do:
Step 1: Arrange your letters.
Step 2: Place letters on ornaments.
Step 3: Spray paint the hell out of them and let dry (not shown).
Step 4: Hang them on the tree*
Step 5: Bam, you're done!

*Note: The letters I used were VERY cheap, so they started to come off after they were spray painted. I simply super glued them on. If you want to peel off the letters, I'd suggest buying stronger self-adhesive letters.

Hope you’re all enjoying the Christmas season!

Till Next Time,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Best Kind of Advent Calendar

When Christmastime comes around, I usually go Vegan so I always miss out on the delicious chocolate Advent calendars. Whenever I'm at the grocery store , I'll longingly look at the vast array of Advent calendars and knowing that I can't have one usually leaves me grumpy and hungry. Albeit no one forces me to go Vegan, it's my own personal decision, but I just hate missing out matter how small. I toyed with the idea of making my own calendar, but laziness got the best of me .

Enter, David's Tea .

You might not know this, but I'm a bit of a tea aficionado...bordering on snob/obsession status.

Last year David's Tea introduced "The 24 Days of Tea". It was a hot commodity and sold out in stores and online within the first day. Behind each little door hides a surprise that's specially picked and packed into tiny tin cans. From the classics like 'Glitter & Gold', 'Forever Nuts' and 'Read My Lips' to Holiday teas such as 'Sleigh Ride' and 'Santa's Secret', the box offers a daily surprise for any tea lover. Unfortunately for me , I found out about the magical little box a week too late, so I missed out. Lesson learned!

This year, I went in prepared. I called/twitted ahead of time to find out the scheduled release date and if my local store would have it. Did I mentioned I'm a little a lot obsessed with David's Tea? Don't judge me .

Anyway, my crazy ways have paid off. I love that I can start my day with a new and unexpected surprise . For me, it's all about the little joys in life .

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you can't live without?

Till Next Time,

Friday, November 29, 2013

The First Snowfall

A few days ago, I woke up to a layer of snow outside . Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the cold. But there's something special about the first snowfall that makes me forget all about my disdain for winter. It's so calming and lovely.

So with the -9 weather that morning I did the only logical thing anyone would do, I threw on a ridiculously festive sequin skirt, red lipstick, and then ventured outside to take pictures.

Outfit Details - Cardigan: H&M, Skirt: Zara (old, smiliar), Boots: Payless Shoes, Bracelet: Self-made, Ring: Forever 21 (I think?), Beret: Winners

The hilarious and beautiful Joanna from ModaMama inspired me to finally wear this skirt. Every week, Joanna holds a "Rule Breaker" challenge . Last week it was mixing leopard and plaid, this week she challenged her readers to wear sequins during the day.

I gladly accepted the challenge .

Good thing too! This skirt has been hanging in my closet for the past 3 years. It was one of those things that I absolutely loved in the store, but when I brought it home, all of a sudden it didn't fit right and I didn't like the style . I tried to wear it countless times, but I just wasn't convinced by anything I paired it with. That is, until today.

Luckily, I've got this terrible habit of not throwing anything away. Or else, I would've gotten rid of this beauty a long time ago. Hoarding - 1, Cleaning - 0.

Till Next Time,

Friday, November 22, 2013

Food Friday: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Sage

My favourite food by far is pasta. I'm pretty sure I could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That's how much I love it. If it wasn't so deliciously carb filled, I think I could live off of it forever.

Another thing I love is pumpkin. I've had a mild pumpkin obsession over the last few weeks (read: years). Every Fall, I make a conscious effort to overuse pumpkin until I'm sick of it. That way I don't miss it during the Winter and Summer months. Weird, right?

The other day I was on Pinterest and saw the most gorgeous picture of a pumpkin pasta dish.
My first thought was, "Whaaaat?" For this pumpkin and pasta obsessed girl, I was elated. I had never thought of combining pumpkin in a pasta dish. I used to think that pumpkin was only good in pies and baked goods, but boy was I wrong!

The picture made my mouth water, but as fate would have it, there wasn't a recipe attached...just a beautiful picture to tease my tastebuds. So, I went in search of the perfect recipe. I wanted something that was both flavourful and creamy, but not heavy. It also had to be easy to make. Here's what I found.

Adapted from Chef Chloe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons maple syrup
3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-10 Sage leaves(extra for garnish)
Penne Pasta (you decide how much you want)

For the Pasta: Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta & cook until desired doneness. Drain and return to pot.

Next, make the Pumpkin Cream Sauce :
First, heat olive oil in a large pan. Add onions and saute until soft. Then, add garlic and sage leaves. Sauté for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Allow it to cool before putting it in the blender or food processor.

In a blender, add the onion/sage mixture, pumpkin, tomato paste, milk, nutmeg, maple syrup, salt & pepper and cayenne pepper. Blend until smooth, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides.
I had to improvise during this step as the sauce was a little too chunky for my liking. So, feel free to add additional pumpkin, tomato puree or milk to suit your tastes.

When the sauce is done, return it to a pot or pan to heat it up. Next, add pasta, plate and serve !
Don't forget to garnish with fresh sage.

*Note: This recipe makes a lot of sauce. You'll have leftovers for at least a week.

The best part of doing a food post/photo shoot is that I get to eat whatever I make once I'm done. And, you better believe that I ate this WHOLE plate. Then sopped up the extra sauce with bread. I couldn't let any of it go to waste...I think I might have a problem.

What's your favourite seasonal food or meal?

Till Next Time,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

{Recap} Spark Sessions: A Fashion & Beauty Blogging Conference

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a two-day Fashion and Beauty Blogger conference called "SPARK Sessions". I first heard about this conference back in the summer, and I knew I had to attend. When I purchased my ticket, the organizers had not yet released the schedule or list of speakers, but I knew it would be a worthwhile experience.

The idea for the conference was developed by Marissa Anwar from Chic Darling, and with the help of seven other amazing and influential bloggers, they came up with an informative, relevant and fun conference. The topics ranged from how to brand your blog and build a media kit to how to turn your blog into a business. Aside from the great panels, I had the opportunity to network with some other wonderful bloggers and PR Professionals. Essentially, it was a blogger's dream...especially for this newbie.

Day one discussed the foundations of blogging. From developing your brand, utilizing SEO, networking and building a media kit. It covered the basics that every blogger needs to know in order to make the most of their blog. The day ended with an after party/clothing swap, including drinks from Fresita and Bio Seaweed Gel manicures.

The Business of Blogging Panel with (L-R) Nicole Wilson, Alexander Liang, and Jessica Desjardins

The highlight of the conference for me was the opening keynote address by Jeanne Beker. When I was younger, I always watched Jeanne Beker host and report on Fashion Television, so it was truly a pleasure to hear her speak. She spoke about her life, career and experience in the fashion industry.

During her speech, she said one thing in specific that really resonated with me. She said that women often tell her, "I want your job!" and her honest reply was, "Get your own!" In fact, I once tweeted her and said the very same thing, "I want your job/life". Although her reaction was shocking, it was justified. It's so easy to covet someone else's life or career because they appear glamorous on the outside, but the truth is, we don't know what's happening “behind the scenes”. We need to find satisfaction in our own lives, and in doing so, we are able to forge our own unique paths that we wouldn’t wish to trade with anyone (I'll admit, I'm still working on this).

The PR Perspective with (L-R) Anum Khan, Cheryl Willberg, Kelsey Cole, and Valerie Stachurski

Day two was another information rich day and it built on the sessions from the first day. The panels discussed how to take great photos, turning your blog into a business, the PR perspective, and how to get published.

The conference ended with a closing keynote by the queen of gossip herself, Elaine Lui (aka Lainey Gossip). Her Q&A was blunt and refreshing. You gotta love her brazen in your face personality. She had the room laughing with some of her outrageous comments.

Conference attendees also had the pleasure of testing out the new Almay Shadow Softies. The eyeshadow comes in a variety of colours and is soft and pillowy to the touch. The great thing about this product is that you can layer it to achieve the desired colour intensity you want. A couple of swipes will give you a subdued look, but add a few more swipes and you get a colour that really pops. Almay's make up artist Jacquie Hutchinson was also on hand to dish out tips and tricks. She was hilarious and so sweet! I loved getting my make up done by her.

When I left on Sunday, I was beaming. It was great to be surrounded by like-minded people who are striving to create something beautiful (figuratively and literally). I felt so creatively refreshed and motivated. There's no greater feeling than being inspired to continue doing what you love. On that note, I've got lots of ideas and blog posts coming your way soon.

The amazing goodies & gift bag from SPARK Sessions

What inspires you?

Till Next Time,