(un)wind: Life After Diagnosis (+ link roundup!)

 I've had quite a few people ask me what I do with my days now that I'm off. Truth is, I actually try not to lie around that much. In the beginning I found it hard to find a reason to get out of bed in the mornings: I wasn't working and my life didn't feel like it had a ton of "purpose". I've tried to abandon that idea and plan and fill my days with fun activities (even something as minor as a trip to Target, or a walk to Starbucks). This last week I haven't been that tired and I wanted to get out and do as many things as possible before my next treatment!

"Learn, laugh, love, smile, cry and dream. Care deeply. Don't hate. Mostly, though, laugh. Share the passion of life's grand adventure"

Can I eat this again?

I love days when Jeff is off. I take advantage by trying to get him to wake up at 6AM with me (he really loves that). We were excited to have a few days that didn't involve hospital visits, so we decorated our apartment for Christmas and had lunch by our place! I thought the quote on my place mat was very fitting.

 Salvation army Christmas concert with my aunt & family! Tradition.

Alas, on Wednesday, I had a rough one. I was tired. I had a sore throat (which I learned Thursday, is a common side effect of the flu shot! Which I had this week. Since my immune system is low, it's actually totally normal for me to get a bit sick from it). I was having some major hot flashes. My body hair started falling out, and then this morning my actual hair started coming out in clumps.

I was so hard on myself yesterday for not going out and crossing a bunch of activities off my to-do list. Instead, I laid in bed and listened to the ENTIRE Serial podcast. All 12 episodes. (Have any of you listened to it? I become obsessed fairly easily with TV shows, but this was the first time I've listened to a podcast. I loved Sarah's voice and diction. I found listening to someone speak totally relaxing. It's now made me super interested in trying out audiobooks!).

 This is what 14 hours in bed looks like. 

 I think part of me may have been nervous for my oncologist appointment which was Thursday afternoon. Thankfully, it's as if the universe knew I needed some GOOD news, and as some of you may know: I got back great news!

1) Since my side effects from the chemo were minimal the first time, it likely means I will have a fairly easy ("easy"..ha) time throughout the rest of the treatments. This means... I may escape chemo without any nausea! Woo. Let's keep our fingers crossed on this one.

2) The biopsy I had done on some lumps in my left breast came back as benign (TMI? If so, Sorry but...). Double woo! This may have an impact on the eventual surgery I choose to have.

3) My oncologist then asked me..so, is it working? I told him I wasn't sure. The tumour still felt fairly large to me. He measured it, and told me he'd have to disagree... that when he originally measured it, it was 10cm, and now it was 8cm. And, if you do the math: 10x10x10 = 1000... 8x8x8=512. This means, despite how I felt... it shrunk quite a bit with only one treatment! He smiled and told me to go  celebrate this Christmas because he couldn't have given me better news.

So, going into the weekend I'm super relieved (and also super in need of a wig). I think our mind gets the best of us sometimes: I tried to make myself feel guilty for not being active when in reality my body is fighting a major battle. Even though I feel better on the outside, my insides are fighting hard for me right now. A bed day may be what the doctor orders every once in awhile and I guess I accept that (I did hear the Real World just started up again... ).

Anyways, I have been spending SO much time clicking around the internet that I thought I'd share some interesting links to make your Saturday (and visit to this blog) all that much more interesting! (also, less cancer related... so much for not making this a cancer blog...)

Weekly (un)Wind:

-  How To Be Powerful, Likeable, and Female: This article talks about my favorite subject(s): women, the workplace, management style, and Jenna Lyons.
- Why Authors Don't Compete: this article by Seth Godin is awesome. "More reading is better than less reading, even if what's getting read isn't ours."
- This etsy shop makes all "miniature" doll sized, diorama friendly (amazingly adorable) accessories. Picture mini Harry Potter, mini Vogue, mini Ouijia board.The detail in them is crazy!
- My best friend is getting married this summer, so I've spent my fair share of time looking at wedding blogs. So far, this wedding is the most unique and fun I've seen yet!
- Also, if you're looking for some good book recommendations, this is Amazon's list of top books you should be reading in your lifetime (dated last February).
- Lastly, I have talked about one of my favorite blogs on here before, but A Beautiful Mess has been great with the holiday inspiration! I am obsessed with this Palm Springs gingerbread house, and these no bake oreo truffles (I just made them...they're amazing and so easy!)

Happy Saturday! (Now go listen to Serial if you haven't done so already)




(fund)Raise: Cancer Awareness

Note: If you want to feel amazing about humankind, read on. However, it's going to be a long one. You have been warned! 

When my dad came to me and said that the Ottawa rugby community wanted to start a fundraiser for me, I said no automatically. No questions asked. Fundraisers are for people that can't take care of themselves.

When I went to my first oncologist appointment, Jeff and I started to realize this was getting serious. My doctor outlined all of my side effects: nausea, extreme exhaustion, short of breath, mouth sores, dry skin, hair loss... and you absolutely can. not. get. sick. This is the only life threatening side effect of chemo; your immune system is at an absolute low (chemo stops the regeneration of cells, so it not only kills cancer cells that are rapidly dividing, but it kills all healthy cells as well). A little cold and the dreaded winter flu can be potentially life threatening (Although I have always wanted to take an ambulance ride...kidding mom).

My oncologist then gave me a stack of prescriptions and sent me on my way. There were 4 different anti-nausea meds, a prescription for a wig, anti mouth sore meds, and Neulasta. Throw in some anti-anxiety medication and some sleeping pills and I'm ready for real chemical concoction! Sorry, body.

"Funny" story time:

As mentioned in previous posts, I happen to think I am invincible. In fact, some weeks I found myself working 60-70 hours a week (of my own doing), completely ignoring the e-mails regarding my benefits that were sent out repeatedly in my first month at my work.

Next thing I know, I'm being told I have cancer and I have absolutely no benefits. Being a large company, I can only opt into my benefits in April... every 2 years. Uh oh. 

Long story short: paying $25 a month for benefits that have no limits (meaning they pay for 80% of ALL my prescriptions no matter the cost) is SO WORTH IT. I am so lucky to have some incredible people on my side at my work who moved mountains and made miracles happen: next thing I know I'm signed up for benefits back dating to November 1st. Thank you to the book Gods!

Okay, back to the meds: Neulasta is a shot that I give myself (or in this case, my mom administers to me) after every chemo session (Okay, so not only do I have cancer, get hot flashes from menopausal side effects, but now I have to give myself needles? UGH). Neulasta dramatically increases my white blood cell count, boosting my immune system and reducing the risk of infection. We went to fill the prescription to find out it costs upwards of $2500 (x 6 chemo sessions). Again, thank you benefits. Then I go to shop for wigs, realizing they are also upwards of $1000. Factor in parking at the hospital and that sick leave EI will only kick in at 50% of my pay, and my rent coming out this week... and you can start to slowly see my face turn stark white.

Knowing my dad, he disregarded my message of "NO FUNDRAISING", and his friend Gary Thomas went ahead and set up a youcaring page for me with a goal $2500. I started to see it shared by my family on facebook. Mortified, I told everyone to delete it. I wanted nothing to do with this fundraiser. I hadn't even told all of my family and friends yet!

Then I started to see the amazing outpouring of support on the fundraising page; not only in donations but kind words and thoughts. I started receiving e-mails and facebook messages from other families that have been touched by breast or other forms of cancer, giving me tips and tricks to get through treatments. And next thing I knew, I hit the goal of $2500.

I decided to take to my Facebook and share a link to a blog that I found... it scared me, but also reassured me that I could get through this next year. When searching for others "like me" (that 0.4% of those that get breast cancer at 24) I found Nalie. We have the exact same story: diagnosed at 24, same cancer, varying treatments. We will both have gone through the highest forms of chemo, similar surgeries, and radiation. I found so much comfort watching her videos (comfort meaning I am scared sh*&tless, but atleast know what I'm in for! Knowledge is power). I posted the link to her blog hoping it would help my family and friends understand. Mainly, I wanted everyone to know so when they saw me at the grocery store without hair, it wouldn't be an awkward run-in. Ha.

Then came the messages and e-mails. Hundreds. Seriously. I woke up to 68 facebook messages the next day, and they just kept coming. I was receiving links to blogs, uplifting videos and quotes. Well wishes from friends from high school, teachers, friends of friends, parents, strangers. They all asked what they could to do help, asking I let them know how I'm doing. 

The Ottawa Rugby community is the most genuine group of people you could choose to know. When I was asked if I was "surprised" at the outpouring of support, I had to think, and said "no". I'm shocked, I'm overwhelmed, but surprised? No. These are people that have helped me move, helped my parents build a restaurant from the ground up; they support each other and are the most loving and sweet people you could meet. Next thing I know, Toronto rugby has shared my page, and the Canadian Rugby website wants to feature my story. Like I said: kind people.

I spoke with my doctors, Jeff, and multiple family members and friends about the idea behind fundraising. So many people want to help, want to give at a time of crisis, but didn't know how. Everyone at the hospital has been adamant about allowing yourself to receive support: remember it, and give it back later. So, I said fine. And then the fundraiser went viral.

As of right now, it has been shared 899 times and we have received $9000. Wow. I've been struggling with how you even begin to say "Thank You". So, in the plainest terms: Thank You. Jeff and I no longer have words to express how grateful we are.

I also have to tell the story about my friend (and possible guardian angel, if you believe in that sort of thing) Katrina. Katrina and I met as co-workers at my last job, and have continued to grow into close friends ever since. She has been one of the most downright hilarious and positive influences in my life. She is the kind of friend that will cry with you... but only for so long, until she gets down to the business of making you feel better. She calls to check in after every appointment. And, after she found out about my diagnosis, started planning events and raising money to help me keep living a "normal" life.


She held a pay-to-play flip-cup and beer pong tournament. She placed (adorable) donation boxes at her work, her parents work. Her wonderful boyfriend made up flyers and they put them in mailboxes all over the city, planning a major bottle drive. She posted about this bottle drive on lots of local Facebook groups, and the stories of support gave me goosebumps. She had women calling her, saying they did not live in any neighborhoods where they were canvassing, but could they please donate because the cause was close to their hearts. She had people who weren't home, but left money taped to the flyers for when they came by. They are still having people contact them, saying they will save their bottles throughout the holiday season. Katrina had everyone that donated write their names on paper angels for me, and put them all in a photo album for me to look at when times are hard (cue the ugly cries). It is likely the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. We had a pizza night where Katrina surprised me with the donations, and I was obviously shell-shocked. She had shopped and made me the ultimate care package: cozy socks, nice makeup, comfy sweatpants and sweatshirts: and of course, she isn't going to let me slum it for the next year: she got me a sparkly skirt and beautiful dress because even cancer patients need to dress up and have fun (laughing as I type that).  That, in pair with the donations collected (upwards of $1500), have yet again shown me the kindness of friends and friends of friends and strangers. (How many times can I say "kindness" in one blog post?)


While I bawled my eyes out at her generosity, Katrina just said to me: "You didn't ask to get sick. This is what people do when people get sick. I would hope someone would do this for me". Making it seem as if what she did was no big deal.  Because that's the kind of person she is.

So what do you say when friends, family, and strangers show you this sort of generosity? Honestly, Jeff and I are at a loss for words. Thank you will never be enough.

So, instead, this is what I plan to do:

We are going to open a bank account that the funding will go in to. This account will strictly be for medical expenses.

1) This will help cover the medical costs incurred that are not covered by my insurance.

2) This will help me get a fabulous wig and some cute scarves to help keep me super warm this winter!

3) This will allow Jeff and I to continue to independently live in our apartment. This has meant SO much to us. My apartment is the coziest place I have ever lived, and I was so sad at the idea of having to give it up. So, for that, thank you x a million.

4) There will be costs around my surgery, so this will help with all clothing tailored around the surgery that I will have to purchase.

5) Any "ghost" costs, including parking at the hospital, wages lost from my mom taking time off work etc.

6) Lastly, if my genetics test come back positive, this will mean that my family may have to decide to undergo preventative surgeries, where there may be costs to them that are unexpected. This will also help cover this.

Anything additional and leftover, I can assure you, I will reinvest back into the community. I have been doing intensive research into the CBCF, and due to the complete shock of my diagnosis, I plan to do some work with them regarding breast cancer awareness.

Jeff said to me about a week ago: "Hey! You haven't cried in so long!". And I thought...how can I cry? How can I even be sad? I am surrounded by so much love, so much kindness: from my immediate family all the way to the outreach of complete strangers! While there is so much focus on all the "bad" that is happening out there, I have witnessed an incredible display of selflessness within my own community. People are good. In times of crisis, people reach out with stories of hope. People remind you of their love for you in the most sensational ways. If my life were to end tomorrow (theoretically..because, like I would let that happen), I wouldn't be devastated, I would be so happy. Going into Christmas (and my next treatment) I am so grateful for all the wonderful humans all around me. Love to you all!




(re)Assess: 24 years young

When I was younger my mom used to tell me I used to ask her "Mama, why am I here?".

That's a pretty loaded question for a small little 5 year old to be wondering, and it's something that has haunted me and excited me for the short 24 years I've been existing here in this world.

I also used to tell my mom that when I was older, I wanted to be an artist. I love to colour and paint and read. Thankfully, I still have those passions as I have the feeling I'm going to need to rely on them in this next upcoming year, as I'm starting to have (more) then a lot of time on my hands.

Let me take a few steps back. Last month, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can't even believe I just typed that. Me, who works an ungodly number of hours a week, full social calendar, consistently pushing myself daily until I hit my breaking point... you mean... I have cancer?

I went in to the doctor on my 24th birthday (November 18th will now be so much more then just my sister and I's birthday going forward) after I had found a lump in my chest, and my surgeon told me those dreaded words you just never think you're going to hear. Sam, it came back as a cancer.

It's going to be okay.

You're going to be okay.

Then there was something about leaving my job immediately, losing my hair, losing my fertility, and undergoing major surgery. I stopped listening around then.

What could have possibly caused this to happen to my seemingly healthy 24 year old body? Was it my lifestyle? (Have I been drinking too much diet coke? ...this actually crossed my mind). I just worked a month of overnights, for goodness sake! I am healthy!

24th Birthday! My last "hurrah".

For those that are interested, I have Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). This means that it's spread to the lymphnodes under my arms. Luckily, it hasn't metastasized to other parts of my body.

Here's how I can try and summarize the last month for you:

So. many. appointments.

So. many. tears.

So. much. information.

It turns out there's a lot to think about when you get cancer. Firstly, when you're the 0.04% of young women that do get diagnosed with breast cancer at my age and have to go through chemo (.04%... I'm really lucky, obviously!), there's a little thing called fertility you have to worry about.

After two weeks of invasive tests, my oncologists and I decided not to pursue fertility treatments. Breast cancer can test positive for progesterone and estrogen, and mine happened to come back positive for both. It was a little too risky to pump my body with any more estrogen to harvest any baby Sam & Jeffy's. The alternative has been to put myself into a menopausal state, by taking a shot of Lupron before every chemo: it completely shuts down my ovaries to protect them from the chemicals. Fortunately, because of my age and health, there is a good chance I will be fertile when my treatments are done, but there is always a chance I won't. Jeff and I spoke about it and decided this was okay (well, not exactly okay, but you know). I always pictured a little blonde baby girl, a little mini-me, but if that isn't what life has planned for me, Jeff and I have lots of love to give to any baby that comes in to our lives down the road. There are options.

Fertility treatment center selfie. Apparently Jeff thinks that's pretty weird.

We're also in the process of getting the rest of my body checked out and OK'd for any further spread of cancer. MRI results are pretty bang on, but you can't be too sure. Tomorrow I have a heart scan, I've had multiple biopsies, and I have been through every kind of CT scan you can imagine. At some point, you feel a loss of control: constantly being poked and prodded and just going through the motions.

So far, so good. My bones are healthy. My ovaries are healthy. My abdomen is healthy. The only concern right now are little nodules on my lungs, but I've been told not to worry about those just yet. We're going to check back in 3 months from now and see what they turn out to be.

My biopsy buddies!

Last Tuesday, I started my chemotherapy treatments (I'll write a whole post later down the road on Canada's incredible healthcare system and all of the amazing doctors and nurses I've met along the way). I'm being administered FEC chemo (click the link to read all of the fun side effects that I'm going to be facing). Did you know that only 10% of people actually get intensive nausea from chemo? This was the biggest shock to me! I was picturing movies like Stepmom and 50/50 and torturing myself thinking of the effects it would have on my body. With this first round of chemo, I'm almost a week out, and the worst of my side effects (so far) were heartburn and just feeling a little..weird. My scalp hurts and my bones hurt. I get headaches often. I'm very tired and I get short of breath easily.

The chemo diet.

There's also something they call chemo brain and it's definitely a thing. I think my blog "(un)Organized Mind" has a whole new meaning now that I've been diagnosed with cancer! I couldn't really string sentences together, my text messages didn't make a whole lot of sense and I don't really remember the first few days fully. I fully expect my side effects to worsen as my treatments go forward, but as of right now, it is definitely Sam: 1 Cancer: 0.

With the FEC treatment, I go in once every 21 days for chemo. This means that my next chemo treatment is going to be on December 23rd...Merry Christmas to me? I keep trying to tell myself that a year of my life isn't a lot to sacrifice in the long run: this time next year I am going to have the biggest birthday party and the best Christmas to make up for it.

My chemo is being administered intravenously, and thankfully they've invented a little thing called a portocath so I can stop getting so many darn needles! It's a small incision and device that's put into my chest, and I can get all bloodwork and treatment through the port. Unfortunately, I had it done the morning before my chemo and it is extremely sore right now. Again, a minor pain in the grand scale, but I would definitely love for my body to speed up with the healing process!

Yikes. Portocath surgery.

What no one tells you the worst side effect (for me anyways) is going stir crazy and anxious. I can't sleep (I wake up at 4AM daily), I can't watch TV, I can't read. I'm so anxious all the time! I guess that's normal and something I'll learn to manage, but going from being so busy to not even having to set an alarm in the mornings has made me quite the Nervous Nelly.   

My hair is still holding on for now, but it will undoubtedly fall out by Christmas so I'm just counting down the days at this point. Jeff's dad has set me up with his shaver so I can be ready to just buzz it at the first sight of hair loss (recommended to me by a good friend, shaving it all off can be empowering rather then seeing it all fall out sporadically!). I keep saying "I'm over it" when it comes to my hair but I'm sure it is going to be quite shocking when it happens. Right now I don't look "sick", but without hair, I know it will start to become very real, very quickly.

Pink hair - because, why not?

So, those are my updates! I will need to dedicate a separate post to detail the events that have taken place over the past two weeks (re: fundraising) but to everyone who has sent me all of their well wishes and donations: your support has overwhelmed me and I don't think I can ever say thank you enough. I feel like I owe it to everyone to give you the updates you deserve on how I'm doing, but more importantly, hope that if there is anyone else diagnosed (young or old) with any kind of cancer, breast or not, that you reach out to me because I know how lonely you may feel. I felt (feel) the same way.

"Deep breaths"

I guess if I'm going to end this post, it's going to be with this: my family and I keep saying "you never think this sort of thing is going to happen to you". Just remember: we aren't invincible. You always take advantage of your health until you don't have it anymore. I was the picture of health before being diagnosed. Anything can happen, to anyone, at any age.

I can't lie though, it's pretty scary looking into this next year, knowing I'm about to put myself through hell. I'm trying to tell myself that the answer to "Why am I here?" is that I'm meant to fight this battle, I'm strong enough to beat this, and something good will come of it. I don't know what "it" is yet, but I'm hoping something (anything) will present itself to me.

How I am going to try to remember myself.

I'm going to try to avoid making this a "cancer blog" because that's so not me. But, I am definitely interested in keeping in touch with everyone I love and this is my easiest way of communication (nothing like cancer to show you how loved you are! ;) ) so check this space if you want to follow along with what I'm up to. In addition, please reach out to me in the comments, find me on facebook, or e-mail me. I'd be MORE then happy to hear from you!!




Spring is for...Moving!

We signed the papers and Jeff and I will officially be moving to Westboro on April 1st. Uh - say what? April 1st is only 8 days away? Guess I better start getting down to business...

Right now, Jeff and I live in a small condo that has two floors: carpet, two bedrooms, a computer nook, two bathrooms and an open concept kitchen/living room. We've been living together for about two years, and I have one question to ask:

..how in the heck have I accumulated so much STUFF?

I read a quote that said: "The things you own end up owning you". I started doing some research on living a more minimalistic lifestyle, and this really started to resonate with me.

Why do I feel the need to save the boxes and bags from every single designer purse, watch or article of clothing I've ever purchased? Why am I so attached to my broken old Mac computer that hasn't turned on in years? Why have I kept every single gift bag and piece of gift wrap, so intent on reusing it?

And it goes further then that. I'm a book hoarder, a clothes hoarder, a "thing" hoarder. I have an ashtray collection (I don't smoke), multiple "memory boxes" (old receipts don't qualify as memories...), the list goes on.

So I went through my house one room at a time and I thought: What is this item used for? When was the last time it was used? Where, in my new space, will I put this?

If I didn't have a concrete answer for all of the above, it went in the trash. 
(Or the overflowing donation bins I've been putting together.)

So whether you're making a move from a 1300square ft space to an 800 sq ft space like I am, or you just feel the need to purge your life, here's a friendly list to help you do so:

- Clothing: If I hadn't worn it in a year, it got donated. If it doesn't fit TODAY, it got donated (no more, oh it WILL fit in 6 months once I hit the gym!). If it has rips and holes, it got donated (no, I won't get around to patching that up).

- Decor: If it was not "unique", it got donated. I can only have so many dollar store glass vases and candy dishes.  If the frame/piece didn't fit in my new colour scheme, it was donated. There will always be more frames to be had! Those half burnt candles? Garbage.

- Beauty products: This was a big one. Any sort of old cream, facial product, etc that had not been touched in 6 months was thrown away. I have become more aware as to what's in my products recently, so if it contained parabens, toxins, etc. - garbage! Old makeup that's crusty and from my first year of college? Garbage. Perfume bottles that had less then 3 pumps left? Garbage. And the hair products! I decided to make  a big bin for my family and friends to fight over, as I had such a collection. Everything else? You guessed it. Garbage! Only keep what you use on a day to day. The rest is taking up space!

- Books: I am big on building a library. However, Jeff and I have a HUGE book collection. Knowing we're big readers, friends and family are always giving us the newest book we just 'have to read'. Most were fantastic, but if we had absolutely zero interest in the topic, we decided we would put together boxes to donate to our public library. 

- Craft supplies: This is a bad hoarding issue for me. I love little odds and ends that I may be able to glue and include in my scrapbook. That being said, I went through all of my gluesticks, threw out the dried up ones, consolidated all of my paper into one shelf, tape and scissors in one bowl, odds and ends in a box. Cutlery organizers are fantastic for keeping all of your paper clips, pens and sharpies nice and organized. Old shoe boxes keep my pictures from being bent. Throwing away any additional packaging and getting things organized and in their own place saved me a lot of space.

- Kitchen: you'll be so surprised at how many salad dressing and boxes of crackers you have in your cupboard that have expired. I went through every single bottle and box and chucked everything that was coming close to expiry. If a box of cookies was half empty, I consolidated it with another box. Or I ate the rest. Whatever works. ;). Tupperware had to have  a matching lid, or else - garbage. Any of my cutlery that was rusted - garbage.
So now I am leaving my little old condo with less then half of what I originally owned. And, I feel light. Honestly! I feel like I can breathe in my home, knowing that there isn't anything that isn't going to be useful or beautiful. Knick knacks - be gone! I don't need you anymore. I can't believe it took a move to get me to accomplish this.

To get a bit deep here: I think keeping "things" gave me a sense of safety. Oh, if my new Macbook ever breaks, I can repair this old one! What if I forget a birthday? I may need this ripped tissue paper last minute!  This bus transfer has sentimental value because it is from the day I did _____ (fill in the blank with irrelevant event). Truth is, I love shopping for gift wrap and I'm rarely unprepared for a birthday. I'm careful with my electronics, and god knows I would probably never be able to go back to my old Macbook circa 2000. I'm so much happier being surrounded with white space, helping me think more clearly and giving me less to clean up and store.

So now, I have 8 days to do some last minute tidying and make some big decisions: do I keep my green artificial Christmas tree, or the white one? As you can see, my life is really difficult these days. I also need to prepare the kitties for the "big car trip" to the new house. They didn't like that one so much the first time around...

Happy Spring!


7 Products To Help You Survive the Polar Vortex

This winter has been cold in Canada. Like, lose yourself in a snowbank, slip on the way to work because it's been freezing rain for 48 hours, cold. 

If you know me in real life, you know I could bake in the sun for days on end. So, needless to say, me and my body are NOT happy about this whole "polar vortex" thing we've been forced to endure.

Working in the beauty industry (mostly relating to hair and nail care), I thought that I had become fairly well versed in products. Turns out, I needed to completely switch up my routine when it came winter this year since the conditions have been SO severe. My skin was drier (understatement of the year...I could have EASILY been mistaken for a reptile my skin was so dry), my lips were cracked, my hands and elbows broke out in a rash, my cuticles were peeling, and my hair was breaking. I was in shambles.

In about a month, and with some fantastic advice and great product recommendations, I have completely turned my beauty regimen around and it's worked miracles for me. So much so, that I am writing a post because I feel everyone should be using the following to help them get through the next 31 days until Spring hits (and, let's be honest, have we EVER had an Easter here that hasn't had snow?).
1) Clinique/Moisture Surge Overnight Face Mask

When I woke up in the morning, my skin was so dry and tight it felt like I'd gone for Botox in my sleep. I knew I needed a hydrating mask that I could leave on overnight to lock in the moisture I was losing. After doing my research, I learned that Clinique was not only good for sensitive skin, but it doesn't test on animals: bonus. This product changed my life and I would 100% recommend. Use a dime sized amount, rub on face, see miracles in the morning. (Approx. $40, Clinique)

2) Caudalie/Thirst Quenching Moisture Serum

I put this on underneath of my moisturizer in the morning. It's oil free and hypoallergenic. Essentially, it balance moisture levels on the skin, helping you to not overproduce or underproduce natural oils. It gets everything back to normal. It doesn't replace a daily moisturizer. It's pricy, but worth it. ($48.00, Sephora)

3) Body Shop/Vitamin E Moisture Cream

A very basic daily moisturizer that hydrates the skin. I wanted something light, specifically because I was treating my face with the two intensive moisturizing products I mentioned above. This does the trick. ($17.00, Body Shop)

3) Bite/Agave Lip Mask

This was a game changer for me. Normally I can't wear lipstick in the winter because my lips are MUCH too dry and flaky. Put on a tiny bit of this product overnight, wake up and your lips are smooth as summer. Everyone should have this product! ($30.00, Sephora)

(Note - I also tried the Fresh lip treatment. Although not as intensive, I do love it and put it UNDER my lipstick every day, or wear it on it's own, to keep everything smooth).

4) Heavy Cream Intensive Hand Repair Balm/Cake

It contains 20% shea butter. I already knew that shea butter was an amazing product when it comes to dry hair, so I figured it would probably be great for the skin. Not only does it smell like cupcakes, but my dry elbows and hands disappeared after using it nightly after about a week. It is extremely thick, so a little goes a long way. It definitely would not replace a daily body moisturizer - only for dry patches! ($22.00, Murale)

5) CND/Solar Oil

My cuticles were peeling and my nails were falling apart. I'm a big fan of CND products (original creators of shellac), so I knew this would be a winner. It's a dry oil, so it absorbs instantly, and it has jojoba and vitamin e to relieve dryness. It will also absorb into the actual nail (even through polish!) to strengthen. ($11.90, Chatters)

6) AG/Reconstruct Anti-Breakage Mask

For extremely dry, damaged, and chemically processed hair.  Great, I (had) all of the above. AG is a more natural line that is certified cruelty free. It also is based out of Vancouver so it's Canadian! Obviously I have to support them. This mask is SO creamy and thick. AG products are also notorious for smelling amazing, this is no different. Leave on for 8-10 minutes one to two times a week. See your hair shine. ($35.00, Trade Secrets)

7) Macadamia/Healing Oil Treatment

Some people are afraid of putting oil in their hair. Please don't be one of those people. Serums, which were popular in the 90's, have made people afraid of making their hair look greasy. Fun fact: A hair serum sits on top of your hair, making it look shiny and greasy. An oil will absorb into your hair, treating it instantly while imparting shine. Use a very small amount daily, and see results in about a week! Macadamia oil is made from Macadamia seed oil and Argan oil, a lighter alternative to regular Moroccan oil to those of you that have finer hair like me. I use a pump and spread it throughout my hair. I have been doing this for 3 years now and rarely see any split ends. (Trade Secrets, $40.00)
This is me. We live in igloos up here in Canada. Seriously! (Just kidding. I don't live in there. But it DOES fit 10 adults comfortably and makes a super fun fort.)

There you have it. A fool-proof way to mask yourself (literally) against the harsh cold of the polar vortex. Honestly, some of the products I listed above are pricy. I do realize that: but I'm a big advocate of "you get what you pay for". Since they use less water and filler, they're more concentrated and will last longer! The ingredients are pure, the companies are ethical, and the truth is: they work. I can always justify the cost when I know that a product is going to work.

Think I'm missing something from my list? Message me and let me know!


(un)Finished: In Transition

Time to do some major catch-up!

Jeff and I have been laying low lately. I have been loving my quiet time: taking baths, starting (very hard and frustrating) 1000 piece puzzles, reading a book a week, being able to finally make a dent in my very long "I'll read it later" list of internet articles. Listening to  Beyoncé on repeat. Eating all my favorite foods! February has been a very indulgent month for "me" time.

We have also been on the hunt for a new home, looking at apartments every weekend. It's fun to see an empty space and try to picture yourself living there. I love where we are now, but it isn't hard to become obsessed when you see modern white finishings and a fresh bagel shop next door. It looks like we may be looking at an April 1st move in date - the day Jeff and I celebrate our five year anniversary! I couldn't imagine a better way to spend it then settling in our new place. I have also had a few interviews (hint, the "transition" title of this post). I don't want to jinx anything, so that's all I'll say about it here!
We planned a last minute roadtrip to visit some friends in Toronto in January. I LOVE roadtrips. I also love having great travel buddies! We're all pretty similar in the way that we don't always plan ahead: this time, it led us to some pretty hilarious and unexpected adventures.

We spent quite a bit of time at Bellwoods brewery, where the boys dreamed of brewing beer and starting their own business. Of course, we also had to stop in at every bakery and burger joint until we couldn't fit any more food in us if we tried (trips that revolve around food = win!). We even managed to squeeze in some shopping time on Queen Street. 

Before heading home on Sunday, we went to the Drake Hotel for brunch. Jeff had told me that it was incredible (not only the food, but the decor and ambience was very unique). Made-to-order blueberry scones and chicken and waffles are their signature items, and I can honestly say there isn't a day that has gone by since where I haven't thought about that meal. Ah-mazing.

Their general store is attached to the hotel, and it was a full-on hipster hangout. I can't say I didn't love the selection of quirky merchandise though - this is where I saw the above Gin & Tonic card. I think it was made for me. Instead, I walked out with more then a few rolls of washi tape and the new Kendrick Lamar record. Totally guilty.
Despite MAJOR sickness going around in our household, I was spoiled with a three course meal this Valentine's day - see above for our delicious Mediterranean eggplant/lobster pasta dishes! I am SO grateful to live with a good cook. He's a pretty good boyfriend too I guess ;). 

I told Jeff I would make dessert, and my strawberries and cream cake turned out pretty delicious.  And pretty cute too! I feel like it's okay to compliment myself, mainly because I have no problem admitting that there has been so. many. failed. recipes in my past...Ha. I adapted the recipe from Gimme Some Oven. My favorite part of baking this cake was definitely reading the sayings on all of the hearts before I stuck them on. "My Pet" and "Baby Luv" were my favorites.

I just realized most of this post revolves around food. I guess I'm okay with that, because most of my life revolves around food as well! In fact, it's just about time for me to sleep so I can dream about the vanilla latte and fresh chocolate chip muffins I'm going to have in the morning...

What are you eating this weekend? 
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