Fall back into Resolutions

Well folks, it is officially September. While summer is still technically with us for two more weeks, I always find that once the September long weekend passes and school starts back up, the carefree summer attitude often fades quickly away. Instead of mourning the season, I for one, always look to September and Fall as a chance to make a fresh start. Besides, it seems silly to wait another four months just to make a resolution, doesn’t it?

Re-organize your Finances

Remember back at the start of the year when you were geared up to get your finances in check, stop throwing your cash away and start saving? Ya, me too. Wasn’t that a fun thought? Seriously though, if you’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to moula, now is the time to get back on track. While it’s hard enough to accept that summer is fleeting, keep in mind that the holiday season is approaching. While it can be tempting to go “back-to-school shopping” even if you’ve graduated or indulge in a Spiced-Pumpkin Latte at Starbucks every day, don’t sink yourself now! Besides, how nice would it be to enter 2013 with a little nest egg?

Leave piggy in tact!

Re-organize your Closet

As we leave summer behind, we also leave behind the need for barely-there shirts, skirts and shorts. Take the time to go through your closet and bring forward those staple sweaters and jeans that have been taking a back burner during the blazing heat. Check to see what still fits, what’s still in fashion and take whatever is no longer up your alley to your local Value Village or Salvation Army. Then, once you’ve cleaned shop, take these tips from Kaylee to help you transition between the seasons with ease!

Get back to the Gym!

Summer can present us with a ton of opportunities to exercise outdoors. Summer can also present us with a ton of opportunities to laze around instead of working out. Since dieting and getting fit are the most common New Year’s Resolutions, why not get started now? If you’ve taken a bit of a gym-hiatus this summer, September offers the opportunity to get back into a regular routine. It’s never too early to start developing healthy habits. And just think, by the time January 1st rolls around you’ll be that much closer to your fitness goals!

Tackle a Bucket List

While summer presents countless opportunities to try new things, fall does that too! If you haven’t touched the bucket list you made in January, dust that bad boy off and start checking things off! Don’t count out the adventures that can still be had, just because the weather is a tad cooler. Throw on a jacket and some boots and find your latest adventure. Consult Catherine’s Fall-Bucket List here for some great ideas!

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Album Review: Cat Power is back with ‘Sun’

When contemporary rock queen Cat Power, born Chan Marshall, emerged from the depths of her spiralling stage anxiety and substance abuse in 2008 with Jukebox, her last release of cover songs, the industry applauded her triumphant transformation and confident spin on two handfuls of old folk and bluesy classics. Cat was back, and the world had waited with bated breath to see how she was going to do it.

Jukebox was an incredibly poised materialization of the indie goddess’ trampled insecurities and newfound healthy defiance – but what would come next would be the real deal, the ultimate signifier of her revival, the comeback of the musical mastermind we came to worship when she first leaned weakly over a microphone in a dingy New York bar.

And with Tuesday’s release of Sun – the musician’s first full-length, self-written, self-produced album in over six years – now we can say that Cat is truly back. And with a pretty kind of vengeance.

Sun, this long anticipated five-years-in-the-making kind of album finally transpired – but not without its major roadblocks. Initial hesitation about Marshall’s ability to produce her own album and play all of her own instruments garnered a middle finger from the shy artist. A mid-recording break-up after four years with Hollywood actor Giovanni Ribisi led to Marshall chopping her long locks back off and dedicating a blissful ballad to his teenage daughter whom she grew to love. Popular new instruments intimidated her yesteryear soulful repertoire – yet she plugged in the synth, making it one of the most heavily heard noises on the album.

Like I said, Cat has been reborn.

And the result is the most confident, dazzling album you could have ever expected from the introverted indie sensation; one whose popularity was founded on eight classic albums such as 1998’s Moon Pix – a haunting (yet critically-acclaimed) peak into the then-struggling artist’s timid existence, featuring subdued nuggets of grungy genius like the original version of “Metal Heart” and the breathtaking “Colours and the Kids.” Albums like this and 2006’s The Greatest – a collection of duelling mournful and funky Southern-inspired jams that still erected her tattered demons at points – were near-masterpieces of their time, but on a very different level from Marshall’s 2012 uprising.

Like some sort of bright revelation, Sun is a swooning sort of beautiful from start to finish; a sigh of relief to fans who remember her as a curious recluse that hated the sound of her voice, apologized constantly, asked if people were mad at her and possessed a sad disbelief in her own talent. On the title track, the album commences with growling undertones and atmospheric keyboard effects amidst Power chanting “We’re free with me, we can finally run” – setting a bold tone off the bat. The waltzy rhythm and perfectly auto-tuned harmonies of “3,6,9” make it an immediate highlight – fit for a sassy single or impromptu ladies-only line-dance. Maintaining heroic storytelling themes throughout the middle of the album, the final songs skyrocket the LP into brilliance. “Manhattan,” a twinkling two-chord piano ode to the city that nursed her early career, is exactly as bright as the skyline – bubbling more by the second with layered heartbeat percussion and multiple Cat’s crooning.

On “Nothin’ But Time,” what I believe to be one of the artist’s most magical songs to date, Power preaches to Ribisi’s daughter during the 11-minute piano anthem which momentarily features Iggy Pop’s wobbly vocals and coats her own gorgeous, pleading harmonies over top of each other. Telling the teenager, “Your world is just beginning/ And I know this life seems never-ending/ But you got nothing but time/ And it ain’t got nothing on you,” Power reassures the teenager – and us, and maybe herself, as well. Whoever she’s speaking to, it’s never been more believable.

 

 

The whole album is on shelves and available for stream here on NPR.

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Bachelorette Party

As the years fly by and we move into our mid-twenties, celebratory excuses turn from “I’m finally legal!” to “I bought my first condo” and “I’m engaged!”. While many of us have not reached these stages of adulthood, it’s always fun to join the ride and start planning parties for those who are. Somehow I’m lucky enough to have two groups of girlfriends, and the first gal to get hitched spent this past Labor Day weekend being surprised beyond belief for her special Bachelorette. As the first wedding in our group, we were newbies to the Staguette scene. And so, many lessons have been absorbed, the biggest of all…we may just need to drop our day jobs and go into party planning.

While surely every bride-to-be is different, I’m quite convinced that the following do’s and dont’s will make any girl happy, especially when surrounded by her very favourite women.

Balloons of all shapes …CHECK.

1. DO buy all the cliché decorations
If you intend on buying antique vases, silver cutlery and linen napkins for a lavish Bachelorette affair, please. STOP. The truth is, a Bachelorette is a raunchy celebration of single-hood, not a Pinterest party. Head to the dollar store, browse online and embrace your inner sexaholic.

2. DO find a venue
While a house party surely has it’s advantages, it’s fun to put everyone in a different setting for the special event. A hotel room offers the perfect venue for an intimate party, and allows for a girly sleepover at the end of the night. Best of all? Virtually no clean-up.

Blindfold …CHECK.

3. DO surprise the Bride-to-be
Keep the bride in the dark as much as possible. That way, she has no decisions to make, and not a care in the world. She’ll thrive on all the suspense surrounding her special night, and each activity will become that much more exciting. 

4. DON’T bring cash
Likely our smartest decision of all, we purchased a prepaid credit card for the bar hopping portion of the evening. Not only did it make things easy when the time came for dividing expenses, it also facilitated the bar tab situation. The last few dollars were spent on poutine at the crack of dawn. Perfect.

Fun & games …CHECK.

5. DO play games
What Bachelorette party is complete without a few games? Think about these ahead of time and bring all the materials you’ll need to execute easily. In our case, the maid of honour came up with a series of tricky questions. The bride would write down her answer, and two teams would do the same. If our answers matched the bride, she and the MOH would drink up, and if we were wrong, we did! Questions included: Who will be the first in this room to cry at the wedding? (answer was me) OR how long did it take the bride and groom to say “I love you”?

 6. DON’T skip the carbs
This is a general rule of thumb for any Saturday night…but some people just need that extra push to grab a bread roll and some pasta before indulging in another cocktail.

7. DO make a few phone calls
I’ll leave this one to your own discretion…but I will say that our hotel room was visited by a certain fireman, and he may have made us all feel slightly awkward, but it was hilarious and memorable, and definitely necessary for our first Bachelorette party!

8. DO make it a group effort
The MOH shouldn’t do all the work, and working as a team will allow for ultimate brainstorming and creativity. We designed and printed T-shirts, wrote poems, made a slideshow, coordinated a pot luck, booked the hotel, bought decorations, compiled a Bar To-Do list, purchased the alcohol and made playlists – all from different corners of North America. Surely not a job for one!

Honorable mention: DON’T post all the photos on Facebook.
What happens at the Bachelorette, stays at the Bachelorette (you would hope…)

10 rules of social media etiquette

From an early age, the various forms of social etiquette are drilled into our heads: Say please and thank you. Don’t chew with your mouth open. The list goes on and on.

But when it comes to etiquette of the social media sphere that now inhabits our daily lives, we are relative newborns and some of us just haven’t quite figured it out yet. Not to fear, after perusing multiple blogs, online forums and magazines, I have compiled 10 of the most outrageous social media faux pas and how to best avoid these breaches of social media etiquette.

1. It’s social media, NOT solo media: The first and probably most important courtesy while firing up twitter, facebook, instagram and anything else under our gigantic social media umbrella is to remember the essence of what you are doing. Social is the first word in this new age catch phrase “social media”. Avoid the solo conversations with yourself over your various platforms. Avoid being a glory seeker. The purpose of this new tool we have been granted is to  facilitate connections and dialogue with other people, businesses and brands. No one wants to read/see/retweet a monologue of your life’s inconsequential details.

2.Communication: Ultimately, Social Media is a tool for connecting and communicating on our vast and glorious information highway. Thousands upon thousands of people are able to access the content you share on social media platforms; therefore, the things you share should be said/posted/tweeted eloquently. There is nothing worse than reading someone’s facebook status that is littered with short forms (“lol” “nvm” “brb”). If you’re communicating a sentiment, a whereabout, a passion,  please do it clearly. Cut out the MSN lingo, unless your 140 characters is running out quickly. That is the ONLY time an “lol” is acceptable. Maybe.

3. Instagram foodies: As the self-proclaimed foodie of inanutshell, this  particular social media no-no tugs at my heart, but simply cannot be ignored.

Simply put: STOP POSTING PHOTOS OF YOUR BORING FOOD.

I love food. I live, breathe, read, talk about and photograph food. Does everybody want to see a series of photos of your scrambled eggs and toast? Probably not. Not even if it has a valencia hue to it. No body cares. Stop doing it.

4. The Pity Seeker: Fall is around the corner, which also means that flu season is riding its tail coats. Nothing upsets and disgusts me more than reading facebook statuses about how bedridden, snot-drenched and congested you are. Stay in bed. Watch a flick. Drink some chicken noodle soup. But for the love of god, sickies, stay off facebook.

5. Vain hashtags: You may think you’re great. Your mom may think you’re great. But announcing this to the world through the use of #vainhashtags is embarrassing. If you think you are beautiful enough to use any of the following hashtags you should probably close your twitter account and delete all of your facebook friends to save them from rolling their eyes at your own vanity: #fitgirlproblems #hotgirlproblems #malemodelclub #handsomeandiknowit #toohotformyowngood

6. Awkward selfies: Unfortunately, this social media faux pas extends over every single social media platform. To my dismay, it seems that wherever I turn, someone has posted a sexy smoulder on instagram, a look at me in my bikini twitpic or a duckface facebook profile picture. It is awkward to see these self portraits and then imagine how much time you might have wasted staring at the camera, in your  very own hand, to get the perfect, awakrd selfy. It makes the entire social media world squirmish. Enough said.

7. Personal Problems: Much like my distaste for knowing the read on your body temperature, I also don’t want to know about your lastest bad break-up, fight with your bestie or over all negative nancy attitude. This will immediately garner you an unfriend on any/all social media sites. Positivity is key and reading about how much of an asshole Kevin is for cheating on you with your best friend does not uplift my mood nor make me want to continue following your saga of a life.

8. The unwelcome hashtag: I LOVE a good hashtag. I think they can be the best online vessel for communicating a sense of wit or humour. With that said, hashtags should be used in moderation. An entire tweet composed of hashtags makes me anxious. Much worse is to see hashtags used all over pinterest and instagram, but the facebook offenders are the worst by far. Basically equating twitter with facebook, these offenders will litter the interweb with usually boring, uncreative hash tags, what some would call: #hashtaghappy. Moderation my friends.

9. Careless users: By all means, use social media to share and engage with friends and followers, but under no circumstance should you  ever share or retweet something that you haven’t either read or researched yourself. Social media carelessness can result in an array of problems from recieveing negative feedback to losing followers and a diminished network. Make sure to do a background check, even if it’s brief, before you retweet or share something that mayh not accurately reflect your personal views.

10. Share the Love: The last thing and possibly the most important rule of social media etiquette is sharing the love. If someone retweets or shares your social media content you should feel inclined to return the favour. And even if you don’t feel that way, you should still do it. It is a basic courtesy, the way that social media is meant to operate and, in the long run, will garner you a wider networking circle.

In a nutshell, these simple rules will keep you out of social media trouble and keep your followers and friends happy!

Fall Fashion: Making an Easy Transition

As far as seasons go, summer is certainly a fan favourite. People seem to be at their happiest, basking in the sunlight, enjoying the outdoors, traveling, drinking and loving life. But as August creeps on, there are a select few of us who anticipate the beauty that is Fall fashion. No other season gifts us with as much variety, as much texture and as much rule-breaking. Those few months are the only ones where Summer shorts, Spring shoes and Winter wools can all be worn at once, and when so many trends come and go, that it’s all up to you to find that signature look.

Although it surely is exciting, it can also be a bit daunting. Your overly summery pieces need to find their place in storage, and many of your Winter favourites creep back  into your mind space. How does it all come together? Here are a few things you’ll need to stock up on to ensure Winter hibernation is without interruption.

More is More
Rather than setting out to purchase dozens of large wool sweaters, look to your summer knits, and pair them with a denim jacket or a buttoned up blouse.  Truth is, no matter how many people try to force minimalism on the fashion world, the layered look will never go out of style.

Top it Off
A great jacket is key in every season – there’s the Summer trench, the Winter down, the Summer linen and the Fall leather/military jacket. If you’ve got a versatile piece to throw on over just about anything, you’ll be cozy all of autumn. Venture outside your comfort zone and look to all those Fall textures that make it the most exciting season for fashion.

Quick Fix
If you think about it, it’s slightly humorous that we consider this barely-there material to be a key transition piece. But truly, nylons and tights can make most summer dresses and skirts cool-weather appropriate, keeping your mind and budget at ease. Choosing between sheer and opaque can depend on the occasion, the outfit and the weather, but I’d say that a fancier occasion calls for sheer, while opaque can take on more of a daytime role – and thrives in our Canadian winters.

Key Investment: Great pants
I hate buying pants. Always have, always will. That’s why I’ve accumulated so many tops throughout the years, because they’re simply more fun to peruse the racks for. But let me tell you from experience, a person in serious need of new pants will not survive the Winter. Invest in pants you’ll be proud to show off, because once the snow gets here, they’re really all you’ve got. Try new colours, patterns, cuts and brands…Your Fall/Winter wardrobe will improve tenfold as a result.

Images via

Midday Musings

Not too long ago, Kaylee introduced us to the idea of midday musings, a quick pick me up for your day filled with interesting things floating around the web that have caught our eyes. Behold, another installation of midday musings, in a nutshell…

Samsung’s 5 Cent Hoax 

CEO’s of Samsung & Apple. Laughing on the outside, plotting on the inside.

Yesterday, a hilarious story hit the internet involving Apple and Samsung, two high-tech giants who are currently dominating the technological world. The story is as followed: Apple won its current copywright case against Samsung and was awarded 1.05 BILLION dollars. The story alleged that Samsung delivered its debt by sending truckloads upon truckloads of nickels to Apple’s headquarters, as the payment was able to be made any way in which Samsung sees fit. As much as it pains me to say this, the story isn’t true. I loved this petty-payment hoax, because let’s face it – Apple can stand to be taken down a notch or two. And millions of nickels would certainly do it.

Invasion of Chalkboard Paint

A long time ago, I had a friend paint an entire wall in her bedroom with chalkboard paint, that we were obsessed with drawing on. At the time, it was the coolest. thing. ever. Fast forward 7 years and chalkboard paint has taken over the world. DIY crafts involving this unique paint are everywhere and I have to say that I’m enjoying the trend. I don’t know if I’d take it as far as the kitchen pictured below did, but small touches are really cute. What is your favourite use of this unique paint?

Princess on a Budget

A while back, Christian Louboutin revealed his re-imagining of the Cinderella Slipper; a haute-couture shoe lover and Disney fan’s dream. While the design was released, no price tag was, leading news outlets around the world to speculate at the high cost of the designer’s fantasy shoe.

In keeping with the Cinderella/Disney princess trend, this week, Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) launched their own line of Cinderella-inspired shoes. With their designs ranging in price from approximately $60-$90 USD, they are making it a bit more affordable to walk in a princess’ shoes. Cinderella came from humble means before meeting Prince Charming, after all.

Royal Salute, Indeed

Speaking of Royalty, real-life Prince Harry got himself into some hot water in the media after playing strip pool with some friends while spending a relaxing party weekend in Vegas. Harry was photographed in the buff, cupping his royal jewels in the company of an unknown (also naked) female companion. Media speculated that this incident could have a negative impact on his service in the Air Force as an Apache Helicopter Pilot. Enter thousands of Harry supporters (including military members) who embraced Harry’s nakedness and joined the Facebook group, “Support Prince Harry with a Naked Salute.” Many have uploaded photos of themselves, sans clothing, saluting the Prince in a sign of solidarity. Awesome.

**images courtesy of Google & Pinterest.

The Gender of Wine

Like many other fields of interest, the world of wine has, for centuries, been dominated by men. How did this connection between men and wine come to fruition, consequently segregating women from the irresistible grape? It stems back to that age old story of woman as the homemaker, as the domestic being. Men were the creatures  dominating pubs,  embracing drunkenness, crushing pints and, subsequently, tainting their palates with an insatiable thirst for wine. Somehow, maleness and wine became intertwined. Men have since been the front runners in wine tastings, in wine writing and even, as wine makers. Not until the last 10 years have women truly started to stand up and speak out for a beverage that speaks equally loud to our female palates. So what is all the fuss about then?  Well, as a woman of wine and recently certified sommelier, I have noticed one more thing that, perhaps, sets women apart from men in the world of wine: the gift of the gab. It is men who hold this gift when it comes to wine. Men want to talk, passionately, about wine. They seem to find indiscernible pleasure in talking about something concrete and decoding it’s abstract components. There are women who can hold their own and talk wine up, down and sideways among themselves and with men alike, but the prominence of men’s passion to discuss wine is truly remarkable. Wine writer, Matt Kramer, describes this phenomenom with lucidity,

“Rarely have I seen a woman swoon over wine. I have seen them enjoy wine immensely. Taste wine acutely. Talk wine articulately. But when it comes to the wine passion, women are no match for men.”

As a woman who truly appreciates wine, I would like to be the one to smack down that sort of nonsense and proclaim my love, my undying passion for wine. But I’ve heard men talk about it, and it’s true. Or maybe I have yet to find multitudes of women who can talk the talk with me. Who’s to say. Does this necessarily mean that wine is masculine? Not at all.   As women are becoming more dominant figures in the world of wine, despite lacking this “male passion”, it continues to perplex me that the gender of wine has not yet had a sex change.  After all, it has been scientifically proven and discussed at length, that women are better at wine than men. I mean that women are prolifically better, more acute, astute tasters than men. So one would imagine that this upper hand would automatically render the gender of wine female; however, that simply isn’t the case. We have had to pry our way in to the world of wine, through the barricade of (yes, I’ll admit, talented) men. It hasn’t been easy and I take my hat off to those women who have made their mark in the world of wine (and to those who succeeded in doing so many years ago). Although there are too many to name, these five women are role models for a budding, female wine enthusiast like myself. Among these women, there are wine writers, wine academics and enologists, all of whom have played a role in shaping wine with the embrace of a woman’s touch:

1. Jancis Robinson: A self-admitted work-a-holic, Robinson has written multitudes of wine books and has been an active wine columnist in what is considered to be the summit of wine journalism. She is reasonable, respected and she is a Master of Wine. In the world there are only 297 Masters of Wine. Of those 297, only 87 are females and Jancis Robinson is one of them.
2. Natalie MacLean: Rendering 2nd most influential on my list of women involved with wine may come as a surprise to some readers. MacLean’s wine writing is fluffy, light and approachable. She has written two books and has, on numerous occasions, been nominated or voted as the world’s best wine writer. Although impressive, in my opinion, MacLean’s true merit is her devotion to social media. She has a brand, a goal and she has stretched that across a variety of online platforms, thus projecting a comprehensive online voice for her product (herself). She is a woman who loves wine, knows wine and also knows how to work the digital age to her advantage.

3. Heidi Peterson Barrett: Another surprise as she comes in 3rd on my list, Barrett’s claim to fame is her undeniable knack for creating some of California’s greatest cult wines. Cult wines, such as Screaming Eagle, garner dedicated groups of wine enthusiasts who will pay premium prices to get their hands on a bottle of “cult wine”. Whether I’m a cult wine enthusiast or I just appreciate her influence in wine marketing, Barrett is a woman who has her entire hand on the pulse of wine making.
4. Zelma Long: Long has worked for years as a winemaker’s consultant. Throughout the 70’s Long was Robert Mondavi’s head enologist and then re-branded Simi winery, later becoming its CEO. She’s consulted for wineries in Washington, Oregon, Israel, France, Argentina and Italy. Aside from consulting for multiple wineries, she’s also the winemaking partner of Vilafonte in South Africa and owner/winemaker of her own company, Long Vineyards, in Napa, California.

5. Karen MacNeil: In fifth place is another female wine writer, and someone who took the bull by the horns in a time that female + wine writer = confusion. MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible, Emmy winning host of PBS series Food, Wine and Friends and founder of Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at The Culinary Institute of America. When asked about her begginings as a wine writer, MacNeil replied,

“This is an exciting time for wine. When I started writing about wine, I was the only woman doing it. Every tasting was for the 10 men in America who controlled wine writing… The landscape has changed tremendously in the last thirty-five years. In 1972, I was assigned by a magazine to write a story on Cava. I flew to Barcelona after being in touch by mail with the winery I was to visit. When I arrived at the airport, it seemed that no one was there to pick me up. I spoke no Spanish at the time. I waited for four hours. Eventually, I went up to two men and asked something about getting to the winery. With a look of shock they hollered, “You’re the wine writer from America!” It was inconceivable to them that the wine writer from America would be a woman.”

It’s 35 years later, and as a woman I still grapple with the gender of wine. With such amazing women making their mark in the world of wine, it is hard to ignore the rise of female wine enthusiasts. On the other hand, the male passion may be something slightly more difficult to harness. Or could it just be that wine, in its many forms, has been and will always be gender neutral?

Images via: 1 2 3 4 5

Toronto Islands: City Escape

The view from the Toronto Islands ferry

One of the many things I love about this gigantic sprawl called Toronto is that on any given day you can end up very far from where you thought you’d be.

And I don’t mean that literally. In an always evolving metropolis full of endless options – a side street, friendly suggestion or long wander can lead you to a handful of hours that are delightfully unexpected and instrumental in furthering your love for the Big Smoke. I feel like this happens to me most weekends.

Yesterday afternoon was no different. After a week of wonderful birthday celebrations for both Meghan and Kaylee – which included champagne at Tuesday night softball, lovely gifts, a heartwarming surprise visit from the Ottawa nuts and many, many laughing fits – I decided Kaylee and I needed to top off the festivities with a new Sunday activity that took us away from downtown crowds. And so, after some brainstorming, Kaylee, myself and our two friends ventured over to Hanlan’s Point – a portion of the beautiful Toronto Islands – to have an extravagant champagne and cake-filled lunch and afternoon of beach lounging. This adorable outing was the definition of proof that you don’t have to venture far to feel like you’ve accomplished a total city getaway.

If you’ve yet to explore either Hanlan’s Point, Centre Island or Ward’s Island, the waterfront picnic parks that make up the Toronto Islands, you have to do so immediately. When one thinks about trekking to an island, you might think it calls for planning, hassle and hours of your time. Wrong. I was amazed at the ease and convenience of this beautiful jaunt across the pond, considering the bliss we were treated to upon arriving. We effortlessly strolled onto a harbourfront ferry (at Queen’s Quay between Yonge and Bay) after a five-minute wait, instantly found a picnic table in the acres of green grass and weeping willows, had a stretch of soft beach all to ourselves and readily hopped right back on a ferry at the end of our relaxing day. The entire endeavour was almost all too simple considering our only fare paid was for baguette, spreads, cake and champagne – and our only moments of waiting were between turning on to our backs and fronts as we sprawled on beach towels.

Whether as part of a group outing, date or a leisurely solo excursion (one of my personal favourite things) – anything that includes a refreshing boat ride and sandy beach perch is one of the most beautiful ways to spend an afternoon, in my mind.

PS Our dear friend Cass, who joined us yesterday, was able to (cutely) tick a Toronto Island visit off her city “bucket list.” Do you have a bucket list for your city? I think it’s a great idea and we’d love to hear yours – comment below!

Full bellies, happy girls

Beautiful birthday girl and cake!

My first non-vegan cake in 10 months! (Insert major stomach ache here)

Heaven.

Happy Birthday Meg!

Well, the wonderful week of birthdays on in a nutshell continues. Today, our dear Mother Hen Meghan Brown, turns 24 years-old – and we couldn’t be prouder!

After a year of incredible accomplishments (finishing her Master’s, traveling, moving up in her full-time job, to name a few), Meghan deserves nothing more than praise and celebration. We can all recall her nose to the grind (rightfully so) during a trying handful of years that balanced both school, work and play – and how relieving it was for her to graduate with flying colours, slightly kick her feet up after decades of studying, spend time with her hobbies and plan the next step. Meghan has always been independent, brave and destined to accomplish so much; traits that make it an undoubted fact she’ll go far in what she does.

On top of all that? She’s never forgotten to be a terrific friend. We call her Mother Goose/Hen for obvious reasons; she values her friendships and relationships, puts time and effort into each of them and always looks out for others in times of need – with caring advice, a shoulder to wimper on and a witty joke to pick you up. Also, she’s the angel who cuts her night short to take care of a best friend, quietly slipping her into a chic pajama maxi-dress before tucking her into bed with watchful eyes. For all of the above – we thank you, Egg! Have a beautiful birthday – here are some of the special things your birthday party would call for…

On the meal, KATE says…

Even though our birthday girl knows how to turn on her inner diva, when it comes to good grub, sweet and simple keeps Meggo happy. She’s a lady who knows what she wants, knows how to get it and when it comes to the dinner table, it’s no different. Meghan tends to opt for tried and true classics, and although she is up for almost any new culinary adventure, she usually manages to find something on the menu that will keep her happy. Aside from her frequent visits to sushi houses, Meghan has a few  classic go-tos. Calamari is a must. A beautifully marinated steak with grilled tiger shrimp is a definite, usually with a side of truffled potatoes and al dente greens. For dessert, steer clear from chocolate, that is one thing that Meghan simply detests. Instead you can expect her to enjoy a delicate creme Brule.

On the drinks, CAT says…

Remember the time Meghan signed a hefty visa tab “I like to party”? I sure do. Meghan may have a 9 – 5 government job, enjoy the occasional night in with her cat or a rerun or two of Grey’s Anatomy, but that’s only one side of this (sometimes) wild girl. Give her an excuse and she’s the first one at the bar yelling “SHOTS!” While the Ottawa contingency of nuts will make sure there’s many of those accompanying our night out this evening, we also know that Meg often opts for the casual bevy. Our girly and traditional pal likes sticking to the classics, and who can resist a Strawberry Daiquiri? Tried, tested and true, this drink is one of Meggo’s faves for a night out with the gals. When it comes to dinner and a nice glass of wine Pinot Grigio is definitely where her finger lands on the wine list. I’ll never forget the first time she brought the cool Voga wine bottle to one of our potluck’s. A conversation piece and delicious vino in one. Again, for post meal drinks Meg heads for a classic. She won’t want to try anything with egg whites in it, too much garnish or squid ink – to that she’d say “I’d pay to know what that is.” No, Meg, like our idol Carrie Bradshaw, would be perfectly happy with a Cosmo. Simple and perfect. Finally, for her late night go-to she’ll order a Jaeger Bomb (or six). Just enough kick to get the party started and smooth enough to go down without any chase. We may not line 19 of these up, like we did on her 19th birthday, but you can bet there’s a j-bomb or two in Meghan’s near future.

On the music, JESS says…

You can’t nail this birthday girl’s music taste down – and I mean that in a very good way. As a singer with a trained melodic ear, Meg appreciates pretty notes, thoughtful lyrics and big uplifting anthems just as much as the next gal (if not more). That being said, that eclectic taste, ranging from romantic sounds to dance floor classics, has never excluded one of her greatest loves: a bumping beat. Her keen ear for all things hip-hop and R&B, which was most likely fostered in her early days as a dancer, often leaves Meg rapidly rhyming her pants off in the middle of a party – her quick tongue flying along with the catchy verses and fan favourites. Meg feels music, so whether it’s Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” echoing across a pub, Coldplay flying through the open windows of a roadtripping vehicle or “99 Problems” beating down on a dance floor, she’ll make sure everyone listens up and pays attention to the joyful jams. Some of my favourite moments with Eggo are cued by the opening beat of an old-school hip-hop classic, a motionless stare and smirk at each other and a loving rap battle. Now that’s friendship.

1. Theory of Relativity – Stars (new!) 2. Ignition – R. Kelly 3. No Church In The Wild – Jay-Z and Kanye 4. Beez in the Trap – Nicki Minaj 5. Juicy – Notorious BIG 6. Drop it Like Its Hot – Snoop-a-Loop 7. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Lauryn Hill 8. We’ve Got It Goin’ On – Backstreet Boys 9. Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve 9. Lemme See – Usher 10. Title and Registration – Death Cab For Cutie

On the outfit, KAYLEE says…

Meghan is lucky enough to have been born with the best accessory one could dream of: gorgeous piercing blue eyes. For this reason alone, her birthday dress should be a bright cerulean to make every guest a little more jealous of her coveted feature (ahem, brown eyed girl currently typing). A statement silver necklace and her signature pearl studs make the look birthday ready, and a neutral clutch with touches of colour, ties it all together with a perfect birthday bow. Now, the shoes. You may have noticed that these babies are none other than Jimmy Choo…but it is my belief that we all (most especially Meg) deserve a little spoiling on our special days, and these cream coloured, tiny wedge, classic sandals are just the ticket for each of Meg’s 24th year celebrations. As Meg’s style evolves with each life change she embarks on, I am thrilled to see her take risks with fashion; wearing bold patterns, unique accessories, and always staying true to her classic style and fun-loving self.

Happy Birthday Kaylee!

Today, one of our own is celebrating her 24th Birthday! Kaylee is not only a fantastic writer and our fashion guru, but also is one of the main reasons that inanutshell has been so successful over the past year and a half. Her input behind the scenes, whether it be organizing our meetings and taking care of all the technical details, shows how well-rounded this talented gal really is. Over the past year, we’ve watched Kaylee’s life change drastically; moving to a new city and starting a new career in a demanding field in which we’ve already seen her succeed. The wonderful thing about Kaylee is that she always handles the twists and turns of life with such grace, it often makes us wonder how she’s doing it so effortlessly. She is also a loyal and loving friend who we can always count on and she never misses a chance to spend time with those that she loves, even if it means spending most of her weekends commuting between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. As the last member to join our close-knit little group, we’re so thankful that the fates (and a shot of tequila) would bring us Kaylee’s friendship, a gift that will forever be unmatched. Happy Birthday!

This weekend, Kaylee’s man & large circle of friends in Toronto are throwing her a huge soirée to celebrate her 24th. While distance and circumstance might not allow all of the nuts to celebrate together this year, if we could throw her the perfect party, here’s what we’d do…

On the OUTFIT, Jess says…

Although this will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone – Kaylee’s fashion sense is exquisite. Without ever looking ostentatious or heavily premeditated, our dear fashionista exudes natural style in every kind of outfit; her own unique flavour of bohemian chic that doesn’t discriminate from either a colourful floral print or elegant black dress with timeless accessories. Whether wearing distressed jeans, leather sandals and a slouchy t-shirt underneath earthy gems and classic Ray Bans around the city or pairing a simple skirt and shirt combination with a statement necklace, wavy hair tucked up above green-rimmed eyelids and a pair of fierce heels for Saturday night cocktails – she always looks effortless, perfectly feminine, and stunning. Kaylee certainly fields the “What kind of thing are you wearing tonight?” question the most from her friends – and her typical breezy answer, before rocking a show stopping number?  “Not sure! Haven’t thought about it yet.”

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

On the FOOD, Kate says…

Although Kaylee is our fashion forward and style savvy nut, she is also an experienced diner who appreciates great food and wine. Being raised by two beautiful, culturally aware people, Kaylee was one of those children who never shied away from an exotic meal and those early culinary experiences have led her to become a woman who enjoys the finer side of dining (sprinkled with a dash of the esoteric). She is always on  the hunt for the up and coming dining spots and in a short time of living in the big smoke, she quickly gained a handle on the pulse of the Toronto food scene. Any birthday menu for our lovely birthday girl must include a round of oysters served with lemon and horse radish: one of Kaylee’s dinnertime favourites. Followed by something nutritious yet hearty, like a quinoa, ground beef lettuce roll (beef larb) and polished off with a prime veal and risotto main course. Of course a little something sweet, like truffles and premium scotch liqueur, is the perfect way to send our precious birthday girl on her way with a full tum and smile on face.

On the DRINKS, Meghan says…

If you’ve ever visited Kaylee’s home in Montreal, you’d know that upon arrival, you’d be swiftly guided into the kitchen and handed a drink. While she may be inhabitting a different city, her love for a good cocktail hasn’t changed. One of her favourites is the Caesar, without too much spice. While this girl may be wild in some ways (aka impromptu Beyoncé performances in the middle of a party), when it comes to caesars, it’s mild all the way. With dinner, wine is a must! Not one to enjoy anything too fruity, Kaylee usually turns to a rich Chardonnay to accompany her meal, much like J. Lohr’s delicious variety, one that was always on hand during various celebrations in Montreal. For later on, Kaylee would definitely switch to a classic coctail: vodka soda, with a slice of lime. And, even though she “secretly” hates it, a good old fashioned shot of tequila is mandatory at this Birthday bash. While it may send her over the edge, I’d still pick Patron; a classy tequila for a classy girl!

On the MUSIC, Cat says…

You won’t find Kaylee gyrating to trance music or being the first in line to buy tickets for a dub step concert. No, you’ll find her secretly putting on her favourite Beyoncé song, standing on a chair, in the middle of a bustling party and singing out strong soulful lyrics, with just as much sass as the diva she idolizes. Or maybe, you’ll see her commandeering a night out, grabbing a mic, her main squeeze and everyone’s attention with a rousing karaoke routine to The Hip’s Bobcaygeon or The Dixie Chicks’ Traveling Soldier. While cruising in the car, it’s more mellow tunes she’ll groove to, from leading ladies like Norah Jones or Florence and the Machine. But, perhaps her most poignant music moments are when she tears up listening to her talented (and soon to be famous) best friend belt out lyrics from a Broadway musical. Or having her shoulder slumped around her seven besties screaming old Spice Girls jams, for old time’s sake. Or standing on the table tops of her family home, leading the pack in old Grease and Dirty Dancing favourites. Yes, her taste is eclectic, her style is impeccable and her ear is well tuned, but it’s her heart that forms the beat to the soundtrack of her wonderful life.

 

Celebrating Kaylee’s Birthday in 2010, with her girls from MTL & Ottawa <3