Started from the bottom...

We started from the bottom...

And 20:07 minutes later, I was here...

Ok, so maybe more like an hour. None the less, it was well deserved.

A few weeks ago, my brother, sister in law and I took part in the World Wildlife Fund's CN Tower Stair Climb. Impressively, we all did it under 30 minutes... all 1446 stairs. Trust me, it wasn't as bad as it sounds. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we'll probably be doing it again next year.  And I will be challenging myself to do it in under 20 minutes next time (if only I had a stopwatch with me...).

Thank you to everyone who supported me during my fundraising efforts and climb! Together the 4000 climbers that participated raised over $1,000,000 to help protect species at risk and the places they call home.

Would you take on this challenge?
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Toronto Islands Pt II

The day on the Toronto Islands continued as we biked down the boardwalk, along the south side of the islands. We took a pit stop on a boardwalk bench and cracked a cold one as we looked out over the blue expanse of the Lake Ontario.

Like I said before, being on the islands, especially in that moment, helped boost my confidence in this city. There are pockets where you can escape the crowds and concrete and where you can rekindle your relationship with Mother Nature, you just have to find them...

And while my butt and quads may object, there will be more trips to the Toronto Islands in the future. 

Happy National Bike Month!

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Toronto Islands

I have a love/dislike relationship with the city of Toronto. Some days there is extreme dislike, and then there's days like this, where my faith that the city can be beautiful, 'outdoorsy' and not always full of concrete, is restored...

On the Canadian long weekend, Steve and I took a long bike ride, 50ish km or so to be exact, to the Toronto Islands. Let me just preface this post by saying I haven't been on a bike in at least 4 or 5 years. Safe to say I trailed, the entire time...

We picked up the trail along the Don River and headed south towards downtown. Once we reached downtown Toronto and picked up a picnic lunch and some cold brews in the historic Distillery District, a quick ferry ride took us over to the Toronto Islands. 

Comprising the only group of islands in the western part of Lake Ontario, the Toronto Islands are located just offshore from the city centre, and provide shelter for Toronto Harbour. The virtually car-free islands are a popular recreational area, home to a small community of year-round residents, a public school and a small, but growing, airport. 

And while nature is plentiful on the islands, they're also known for their spectacular view of the downtown cityscape...

This place is beautiful.

Stay tuned Thursday for more pictures from our day on the islands...

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sunday morning coffee | 05.25.2014

Sunday Morning Coffee will be taking a break for the summer, as I will be busy traveling, getting in touch with nature and enjoying some much needed sun. Stay tuned for what t.o. & fro has in store this summer!

But before SMC goes on vacation, let me recap this last week and leave you with one of my favourite eco-tips and fall/summer food past times...

This week I, 

To be more responsible,

eco-tip 16. tips for shopping at farmer's markets 

1. Always bring cash. Rule #1.  Most vendors don't accept anything else. Small change is also a plus to allow purchases to go faster.  

2. BYOB bags. Instead of toting around plastic bags from each vendor, bring your own reusable bag. After all, shopping local is about sustainability!

3. Shop around. We always do a loop before we commit to our purchases.  You've got to see what's available first.  Also, one vendor may have what you're looking for a little less than another.

4. Go with a list. This is extremely important so that you don't go overboard.  There's only so much produce you can eat before it starts to go bad.  Or, if you just can't resist, go with a friend and split it! 

5. Try new things. Plan for spontaneity.  Yes, your trip will go much faster if you have a plan, but sometimes it's always fun to try something new.  For example, we treated ourself to some sheep's milk cheese and plum-filled donuts, something we don't usually purchase.   

6. Remember where your money is going. We love supporting local, and since all vendors at our farmer's market are local, we try and spread our money throughout the market rather than all at one vendor.

7. Get advice.  See a vegetable that you've never tried before?  Ask the vendors how you prepare it or if you can try a sample. Our farmer's market was handing out samples of giant beef steak tomatoes. They were so delicious, we now enjoy eating them with our lunch.

8. Local does not mean organic.  Just because it was produced locally, doesn't mean it is organic.  Then again, just because it isn't labeled organic, doesn't mean it wasn't produced following organic principles.  If you're curious, make sure you ask the vendor.

9. Timing. Go early or go late. Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open and are about the close. For the best selection, go early when popular items will still be available.  For the best deals, go late when some vendors will reduce the prices to try and rid some of their inventory. Also, take your time.  Farmer's markets are best shopped when you're not on a schedule.  Take your time and appreciate the beauty the place you call home can produce.

10. Know your seasons. If you know a bit of what to expect when you go, making decisions at each vendor will be much easier.  Learn what grows in your area when and talk to the vendors about what will be coming in the next few weeks. For those that live in Ontario, and surrounding states and provinces, Foodland Ontario has a great availability guide to use as a reference.

Do you enjoy Farmer's Markets?

Have a good week!

One Year.

One year ago today this is what our world looked like as we drove away from a place we called home for the past 3 years...

One month from today we'll be right back where we left off...

I get giddy just thinking about it.

Want to take over t.o. & fro while I'm gone? I've still got vacation guest post spaces left! The option also comes with your pretty face hanging out on my sidebar for 15 days (June 25 - July 10). Check out my advertise page for more info on how you can join the fun :) Oh and did I mention this option is FREE?!

What inspires your senses?

A photograph is but a moment frozen in time, preserved for the future.  They have the power to tell stories, convey feelings and the strength to move us emotionally. Photographs have the ability to capture a moment that's gone forever, one that's impossible to reproduce. Today's linkup is all about exploring the world of photography through our senses.  Sharing moments in time, memories, feeling and emotions that have inspired our senses. Today, I hope you enjoy "sensing" the world and connecting with others through the universal language of photography. 

Here's what inspires my senses:

SEE  | New beginnings.

SMELL  |  Spring flowers.

HEAR  | The return of spring.

TASTE  |  Summer adventures.

TOUCH | The spring breeze off of Lake Huron.

'SIXTH SENSE'  |  Fascination.

If you would like to join in on the fun,
1| Linkup your blog post from Friday, May 23 at 6:00am EST to Saturday, May 31 at 11:55pm EST.
2| Please link back to this link-up in your post, either with text or the below button.
3| Share with social media, using the hashtag #whatinspiresyoursenses and I'll retweet your link!
4| Visit and check out as many blogs as you can to see what inspires others' senses!
5| Last, but definitely not least, get creative and have fun!

At the beginning of June, I'll pick my favourite senses and share with all of you!

t.o. & fro

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Head in the Clouds

Last week, I finally picked my ass up and went to get a new passport. When it was finally my turn, the woman behind the counter looked at my hometown and and said she'd never heard of it. I briefly described it's location and size, saying it was extremely small. She asked me if it had a convenience store, church and beer store. I said yes, yes and yes, as she said "Well that's all you need. Are the people nice?" Kind of an odd question, but living in a city of millions, you'd get it. We laughed about how people still make eye contact in my home town and how you even know your neighbour's name. The conservation ended with her saying, "Sounds like a nice place." And it is. Much different than the big city.

Lately my head has been in the clouds...

In my day dreams, I escape the city living, the long commutes, the hustle and bustle, the pushing and shoving, the honking and yelling and the concrete for days.

I escape to a place that is peaceful and quiet.

It is a place where the breeze blows and doesn't carry the stink of a big city with it.

Where the tall buildings are replaced by tall trees and that concrete is replaced by lush green grass that you can feel between your toes. 

Where time is not dictated by a set routine, but rather the rise and fall of the sun

Where you don't know what your closest neighbour is doing, or what they've having for dinner. But you do know their name, and when you do occasionally see them, you can engage in friendly conversation. 

Where getting your food doesn't involve parking lots, shopping carts or long lines at checkout, but simply a basket and your bare hands

This is my day dream...

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6

Where do you go when your head is in the clouds?

Andi @ ap loves designThe places I go when my heads in the clouds! I'm at the point in my life where I want to be a mom and have a family, so I'm constantly thinking about babies. How they will look, smell, who's personality they will have. Babies are definitely on the brain. But I also think about where my business will be in the next five years. Or at least where I would like it to be. I do a lot of daydreaming. Maybe a little too much :)
Etsy  |  Blog  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

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sunday morning coffee | 05.18.2014

Sunday Morning Coffee is the place where I sit down with a big cup o' joe and recap the past week's events - from my favourite posts of the week, to the happenings here at t.o. & fro, and even share my "Eco-Tip of the Week" to encourage you to live a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle. So please, grab your Sunday morning poison and join me...

This week I,

To be more responsible,
eco-tip 16. washing your car

Spring means dirty cars, and nice enough weather to get outside and wash them! But, when washing your vehicle, it is important to be aware of what products you are using and where the water is going.

One question to ask yourself is what kind of sewer systems does your city have? In the majority of cities, the storm sewer system (those square grates on the side of the road) takes the rainwater and melted snow and releases it, untreated, into local streams, rivers and lakes. So that means any water being used on your driveway to wash your car, is also flowing into the storm sewer system. The problem with that is the water that comes from washing your car often contains dirt, oil, heavy metals, hazardous chemicals, soap and more. And when it goes down the storm sewer system, it is all entering your local streams, rivers and lakes, harming aquatic habitat. Gross.

To avoid this, consider these options for washing your car:
  • Use commercial car wash facilities, where a different set of practices is followed to treat the dirty water.
  • Wash your car in a location where water won't flow into the storm sewer system, such as your front lawn, where the water will be absorbed by the soil.
  • Use a pail, washcloth and small amount of soap and water. When you're done with the dirty water, dump it down a laundry sink or toilet so that it enters the sanitary sewer system for further water treatment.

Here are some extra tips to help you stay green when washing your car:
  • Don't use soap! Instead, choose environmentally-friendly water-based detergents that are phosphate free. 
  • Is there rain in the forecast? If yes, then rethink your wash! Good ol' Mother Nature will also help save you time and money.
  • Are you in a drought? Do everyone a favour and don't wash your car!
  • Look for the yellow fish! Many cities paint a yellow fish beside all storm sewers to remind you that what you put down the sewer will harm the fish.

Have a good week!

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As most of you know, I started this blog as a way to keep in touch with friends and family when an unexpected move took us from sunny South Carolina to the land of the midnight sun, Alaska, for the 2010-2011 hockey season. We were over 4500 miles from home base in Toronto and this blog (titled "Our Alaskan Staycation" at the time), was the perfect way to share our Alaskan adventures. Little did we know, we would end up staying for three years and this little blog of mine would expand beyond family and friends and be read by people across the world.

So, today I'm throwing it back to my first ever blog post. Please forgive the lack of photos, my creativity and overall "blog knowledge" were severely lacking at the time...

We're moving to Alaska???!!!!

"Well the rumors are true… Steve got traded from a team in the the sunny south to a team in the great white north, over 6700 km away.  In exactly 3 days we will be on a plane to Anchorage, Alaska! 

I got the call from Steve on Tuesday, October 12 while I was in Walmart buying stuff for my road trip down to Greenville, SC.  It’s a phone call I’ve gotten before but this time wasn’t one I wanted to believe.  I’m pretty sure my response was “Don’t lie to me!” as I stomped my foot like a two year old having a temper tantrum.  I had just put my bathing suit in my suitcase that morning!! I immediately drove home to start my research.

Some Alaska fun facts:

1//  The state has over 3 millions lakes and over half the world’s glaciers
2//  Half the population of Alaska lives in Anchorage (but Juneau is the capital)
3//  Alaska is only 55 miles from Russia
4//  Anchorage has only 6 hours of sunlight a day in January (I will need to find a hobby or one of us will not be coming back alive)

After a few days of thinking it over, and some cold feet/partial panic attacks, the decision to move became official.  Not many people can say they have had the opportunity to live in Alaska!  Not only do the pictures look amazing but everyone we’ve talked to has had nothing bad to say about the place.  It will be a huge change, including a HUGE temperature adjustment, but definitely one for the best.  Steve can now focus on having a great hockey season and I can keep my fingers crossed on banking a seriously sick job, hopefully in biology, when we get up there.

So until next time… when we are exactly 71 hours from Toronto (according to Google Maps) and much much colder in the land of the midnight sun…"

And three days after that post was written, we were on a plane, destination: Alaska. Our minds were open and we knew we had nothing to lose. If only we could have predicted what was in store and what the next three years would bring...

Do you have any memorable "firsts" to share?

Behind the Scenes @ Batty's Bath

Last month I introduced you to Batty's Bath. Have you checked her out yet? This girl is amazing! Not only does she live in my neck of the woods, but we both share the same passions and morals when it comes to living a responsible lifestyle, and we would both much rather be surrounded Mother Nature than living the urban life.

Today I'm bringing you a behind the scenes look into Batty's Bath and how it all began...

Tell us about the beginning. In a few sentences, when did you start this business? Why? What’s the story?

Batty's Bath developed out of a few things...

First I started making products long before BB ever became a business. "making things" came about because .....
  • there was a need for products that didn't irritate my family's skin and research told me natural products were the way to go. After trying everything we could find locally, with less than stellar results, I starting learning about the DIY side of skin care. This jived well with me because I come from a long line of talented DIYer women. 
  • I wanted my skin clear once and for all. After a decade of listening to my dermatologist (and trying everything and anything she prescribed), I set out on a journey for answers. My chronic, cystic acne started when I was in 5th grade and didn't settle until I started taking action (outside of my dermatologists recommendations) internally & externally with natural remedies. I experimented with all sorts of methods and started concocting my own skin care formulas. After a lot of tweaking, I finally found what worked for my skin. 

Between the things I was making for my family and for my skin, the word spread, and other people started asking me to make things for them. 

After being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis and a period of my symptoms getting progressively worse, it became clear that a full time career working for someone else was never going to work. I never knew how i was going to feel from day to day and was having more sick days than non-sick days. I decided I had to figure out a way to making a living while being able to work within a schedule that was flexible and allowed for spontaneous sick day. My current career in animal care didn't allow for this. During my adjustment to living with AS, the demand for my products increased. Soon my new career path became clear. 

How did you learn so much about skin care?

A combination of research, experimentation, self-taught methods, and formal education.

I have several bookcases full of books about skin care, holistic medicine, herbs, essential oils, and the like ... and i've read every single one! I also have over 150 (I just checked lol) books on my kindle that are about natural skin care, holistic health, etc - and aren't the same ones on my bookshelves ;)  I've read about 120 of these. The rest are new additions that I'm working through. I'm very much an info junkie!

Early on, when I wasn't reading and soaking up info, I was testing out formulas and taking classes (from soap making to blending essential oils.. and everything inbetween). I was also spending a lot of time in online forums chatting with other folks who are interested in natural skin care and clean/green living - It's amazing how much education can happen in such an informal setting. It was also a great place to get feedback about formulas or troubleshooting.  About 5 years after I got into natural skin care and health, Batty's Bath became my career path. I spent another year and a half (around studying for my bachelors degree part time), preparing Batty's Bath to launch. 

What is your most popular product? What is your favourite product?

Hmmm I don't think there's one "most popular product" that I could pick out, but there are several that people seem to gravitate to. Those include the Detox Kit, Patchouli & Grapefruit Facial Soap, Tea Tree Facial Scrub, Patchouli Facial Moisturizer, and more recently, Hydra Healing Skin Rescue Gel (it was added to the line-up a couple months ago and has quickly become a customer fav).

It's equally as hard to pick just one product as my favourite lol. But right now some that I'm using daily are Cherrylicious CP Soap, Pineapple Facial Scrub, Hydra Healing Gel, After Acne Serum, and Patchouli Facial Moisturizer

You have a large herb and vegetable garden in your backyard. What's currently growing? Anything you use in your products?

Since I live in Canada, I'm a season outdoor gardener but a full type indoor plant momma!

Right now, most of my plants are either just sprouting (indoors and outdoors), ready to be transferred outside after the last frost, or are in the form of seeds patiently waiting to be planted. Currently my mint (that is used in my products) is the only plant in my gardens that is hearty and growing quickly. It's always the first thing to spring up after the winter - it even beats the tulips most years!

Other plants that are or will be growing (that will make their way into BB products) are calendula, chamomile, plantain, echinacea, lavender and this year I'm hoping to add gotu kola to that list. I also have lots of herbs (indoors and outdoors) and wildflowers (outdoors) that come up on their own every year. Most of these find their way into my tea.

Lastly, I'll be planting a big pumpkin patch (like I do every year), plus several other edibles including cucumbers, sweet peas, strawberries, corn, and watermelon. 

What's next for Batty's Bath?

There's always lots of things in the works, but my biggest focus right now, and for the future, is to run the business and not have the business run me! lol. Sounds a bit silly, but when it comes to living with two chronic illnesses (fibromyalgia being my second diagnosis), balance between work and everything else is key. I like where the business is now - it's manageable and doing really well - and I'm still able to have time to take care of myself. Beyond that, I'm always looking at ways to work more efficiently. BB has been in a substantial growth period that hasn't slowed down for the last year, so working more efficiently, and hiring a virtual assistant, has created room for that growth to happen without tipping the balance scales. 

Batty's 'business partners'  |  Packaging skin serum  |  Product photoshoot  |  3 different types of facial scrubs  |  Making quick stick acne fix  |  Mixing up a large batch of deodorant (in 8 varieties!)

Check out Batty's blog, for more glimpses behind the scenes at her studio and where she shares her research and field notes with the hope of inspiring others to be true to themselves, encouraging others to connect with the natural world, shedding light on myths and misconceptions surrounding natural skin care and more! Sign up for her skin care videos and inspiring how-to's and you'll receive a coupon for free shipping off your first order!

Find Batty and her fabulous products here:
Shop  |  Blog  |  Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest 

All photos courtesy of Batty's Bath.

sunday morning coffee | 05.11.2014

Sunday Morning Coffee is the place where I sit down with a big cup o' joe and recap the past week's events - from my favourite posts of the week, to the happenings here at t.o. & fro, and even share my "Eco-Tip of the Week" to encourage you to live a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle. So please, grab your Sunday morning poison and join me...

This week I,

To be more responsible,

eco-tip 15. sharing our backyards with wildlife

Spring is one of my favourite seasons because it means love is in the air and babies are being born. 

No matter where we live, we share our space with wildlife. The presence of wildlife in our own backyards and cities brings nature closer to us, but can also present its own challenges. 

Oh hey, that's me with Maya, the orphaned musk ox I helped hand raise.
 (Please not try this at home.)

What do I do if I've found orphaned wildlife?

It's easy to think that young wildlife has become orphaned when you find them alone. But in fact, a lot of mothers will leave their young to go out and search for food. Don't worry, they will come back. And when they do, they expect their young to still be there.

Do NOT try and pick up the animal, you do not know the circumstances as to how or why it got there. It may actually be injured or sick. 

Wild animals do not make good pets. While they may look cute and cuddly as a baby, they grow very quickly. They have special diets and high energy, requiring a lot of space. Not to mention, they have teeth, do not use toilets or littler boxes, go through yearly sheds and stink! Please keep them wild.

If you are certain that the animal has been abandoned, call the proper authorities. Do some research to find out who to call in your area, whether it is a local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre or the SPCA.

So do your part, when viewing wildlife, please consider the hardships these species have to deal with because so much of their natural habitat has been taken over. Each year, the wildlife is forced into closer contact with humans, competing for food, shelter and space. With a little understanding, precaution and common sense, we can all enjoy the beauty and fascination of Mother Nature.

If you have a good tip for greening your life, or even a photo of your living a more sustainable lifestyle, I'd love to hear about it and even feature it as my "eco-tip of the week" during Sunday Morning Coffee! Please leave a comment below or email me at with your tips and photos.

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