The feeling of home.

I had first heard about Evergreen Brick Works this past summer from my brother, who raved about their summer farmer's market. But, being located across the city from us, it is a little difficult to spontaneously visit. So, when I had the opportunity to visit last week, I jumped on it. And I'm glad I did.

When I walked in the front door, I was smacked in the face by the smell of Whole Foods. You know, that feel good, organic-y, granola-y smell? I was instantly in love. From the smells and sights, to the history and mission of EBW, this place is totally... me.

From the late 1880s up until the 1980s, the Don Valley Brick Works was one of Canada's busiest brickyards, supplying bricks used in the construction of homes and buildings across Canada, including iconic landmarks in the city of Toronto. But, when the clay ran out, the factory had to close its doors, leaving all of the old infrastructure behind. The City of Toronto and Toronto Region Conservation Authority took advantage of the opportunity to turn the buildings of the abandoned industrial site into a lively and engaging community environmental centre to help create a greener future for the city.

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EBW opened with the notion that 80% of Canadians live in cities and that as a whole, we are losing touch with nature. It consists of 16 remaining heritage buildings and an adjacent 16 hectare public park that includes wetlands, hiking trails and wildflower meadows, and is a safe haven for urban wildlife. It is the perfect year-round living demonstration of how past and present can work together to create greener models for urban living. Because of this, it has been recognized by National Geographic as one of the top 10 geo-tourism destinations in the world. 

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Evergreen Brick Works is an escape from urban life, and it is exactly what I needed to feel at home.

Do you have a special place in your town that makes you feel at home?


How To: Beat the Vacation Blues


It happens every time you step foot back on home soil after a relaxing vacation - you dream about being back on the beach, sipping a pina colada, you talk about where you want to go next and you even complain about the weather back home. You have trouble reacclimatizing back to every day life. You have, the vacation blues.

And while I may not be able to escape to a tropical destination this winter (thanks a lot hockey), I have definitely have been dreaming about it. So for those of you luckier than me experiencing the vacation blues, your problems could be worse, with a few simple steps, you can get out of the rut, be as productive as you were before your vacation and beat the dreaded vacation blues. Here's how:

1// Unpack
Unpack your bags and do the laundry as soon as possible. Take some time to put away the 80 degree weather clothes that, if you're lucky, won't again need to resurface until summer.

2// Recreate a meal
One of the best parts of traveling is trying out new foods. Is there a meal that stuck with you from your vacation? Jerk chicken? Pasta dish? What about a drink? Pina coladas anyone? Find a recipe to recreate the meal. Even invite friends over to indulge. Knowing that you can recreate the meal yourself, at home and whenever you want, is a bonus.

3// Listen to music
Does the country you visited have a traditional genre of music? Mariachi? Reggae? Why not turn on Pandora, Songza or download some songs that will remind you of your vacation.  

4// Get outside
Yes, the weather may be a little different, and yes, you may need to bundle up, but getting outside will be refreshing. Even with snow on the ground, that dose of vitamin D will lift your spirits. 

5// Organize your vacation photos
Download and organize your vacation photos as soon as possible and while the details are still fresh in your mind. Why not hold a viewing party with friends and family to share memories of your trip? Or create a photobook or scrapbook if you collected souvenirs like maps and brochures. Making a photo book will help your relive the memories and remind you why you love to travel.

6// Plan your next vacation
Look forward to the future. There's no better cure for the vacation blues than to grab a map, do some research and get excited for your next vacation. 



Do you have vacations plans this winter?


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Linking up with Bonnie for Travel Tuesday.

Sunday Morning Coffee // 01.26.14

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 blogger posts, 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:
+ I gave you the opportunity to ask me anything! (Click on link to submit a question. Look for the Q&As in upcoming posts!)

Give it a read:
+ Kym at Travel Babbles talked about how your body can sometimes do some pretty cruel things, including tricking you into thinking you're pregnant.
+ Jenn's big day is fast approaching, so she's talking all things wedding, including dresses and garters.
+ Jess is channeling her artsy side, taking an online calligraphy class.

To be more responsible:
Eco-tip of the week 02. Paper, plastic or reusable? I'll take the latter, and you should too! There are countless reasons why we should all use reusable shopping bags. Here are just a few:

+ Experts estimate that 500 billion to 1 trillion bags are consumed and discarded annually worldwide - that's more than a million per minute! The US alone uses approximately 100 billion new plastic bags per year and the average person goes through between 350 and 500! 

+ It takes an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of plastic bags the US uses per year. This oil could be put to better use, such as fuel and heating.

+ Plastic bags aren't biodegradable, but instead photo degrade - breaking down in smaller and smaller toxic particles that contaminate both soil and water, and end up entering the food chain and are accidentally consumed by animals. 

+ Plastic bags make up over 10% of washed-up debris polluting the coastlines. Gross!

+ An estimated 1 million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting bags which block their digestive tracks. Turtles love to eat jellyfish - what do you think a lightweight plastic bag floating in the ocean looks like?

During the course of its long life, just one reusable bag will save over 1000 plastic bags! And, over a lifetime, use of reusable bags by just ONE PERSON would save over 22,000 plastic bags. Think about how that's helping our environment. 

Convinced why reusable is better yet? I hope so. It's so easy to "BYOB", bring your own bag. So, do your part: put down the plastic, pick up a reusable shopping bag and help protect our oceans, shores and wildlife! 


If you have a good tip for greening your life, or even a photo of you 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 toandfro21@gmail.com with your tips and photos. Use the hashtag #greenyourlife on social media!


Have a good weekend!


Winter Faves

In my neck of the woods, winter can be a cold, dark and depressing season, especially when you have to deal with an awful polar vortex. But, despite the 4:30pm sunsets, runny noses, cold fingers and toes and all around winter blues, winter can also be pretty beautiful...


one. cotton candy clouds
two. frost
three. snow covered trees
four. fluffy winter coats

Here's someone else who is a fan of some things winter has to offer....

Jess @ Stamp in My Passport: My favorite thing about winter would have to be the warm drinks. During the cold, it is perfectly acceptable to sit around under a blanket all day by the fire reading and drinking hot chocolate or flavored lattes. I enjoy it while it lasts because once summer comes I want to spend all of my time outdoors.

Now it's your turn:

What's your favourite thing about winter?


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Ask Me Anything


As most of you know, I started this blog back in 2010 as a way to communicate our adventures with friends and family when an unexpected move took us over 4500 miles from home in Toronto to the land of the midnight sun, Alaska. Over the past 3+ years, this blog has grown in ways that I never imagined. And even though our time in Alaska came to an end and we are now living back home, it surprises me every single day how many people continue to read and follow our lives. For that, I am extremely grateful. 

Today, I thought I would give all of my readers the opportunity to ask me any questions they may have - whether it be questions about Alaska or Toronto, living the hockey life, working in conservation or at a zoo and aquarium, how a Canadian can work in the US, etc. 

So, please, ask me anything! I will publish your questions and my answers in upcoming posts.



Thank you again and again for all of your continued support and friendship over the past amazing 3 years!


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Sunday Morning Coffee // 01.19.14

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 blogger posts, 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 green, life. So please, grab your Sunday morning poison and join me...


Is January really more than half over? Where is time going?! Here's what I've been up to the past week, give or take a few days...

This week I:
+ Shared a clever way to use kale in your smoothies.
+ Shared my favourite things that get me through the morning work commute.
+ Came up with some steps to get you out of that photography rut.
+ Said adios amigo to the polar vortex.
+ Got a promotion and recapped life lately

Links I Love:
+ Renee from So Fill You Heart gives her perspective on the time we first met
+ Jenn from A Country Girl's World loves to travel but this week shared the places she wasn't crazy about visiting.
+ For me, 30 is approaching faster than I want it to, but Jess at Stamp In My Passport is embracing getting another year older by creating a 30 before 30 list.


This day in age, everyone is talking about "going green", whether they really know what it means or not. Some days, it seems to be the "trendy" thing to do, but is that really such a bad thing? As an environmental educator with the word conservation in my title, educating and inspiring both the young and old to care for our natural world is not only part of my daily job, but it's one of my passions. Yes, not everyone believes in climate change, and yes, that makes it challenging at times, but "buy into it" or not, it doesn't hurt to be a little more responsible. In the long run, making changes in your daily life and living a more sustainable lifestyle will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but will also put a little change back in your wallet. 

Tip of the week 01. During these chilly winter months, keeping warm is on the top of everyone's to-do list, starting with heating your home.  In the winter months, turning down your thermostat in the evening or when you are away will save electricity and money. For every 1 degree C you lower your thermostat, for a minimum of 8 hours, you will save up to 2% on your heating bill. While that may not seem like a lot of money, or energy, saved, it will add up over time. And no matter the season, a programmable thermostat is a handy and inexpensive way to help you stay on top of your energy savings. So do your part: turn down that thermostat, throw on a sweater, and see your energy bill and carbon footprint shrink!


If you have a good tip for greening your life, or even a photo of you living a more sustainable lifestyle, I'd love to hear about it and even feature it as "eco-tip of the week" during Sunday Morning Coffee! Please leave a comment below or email me at toandfro21@gmail.com with your tips and photos. Use the hashtag #greenyourlife on social media!


Have a good weekend!


Top 5 Travel Destinations: A Country Girl's World

Happy weekend friends! Today I am happy to bring you Jenn, the lovely lady behind A Country Girl's World. Today she's sharing some of her favourite places she's visited. This post definitely makes me jealous and is only fuelling my travel each even more! So without further ado, take it away Jenn...

Hey t.o. & fro readers! I'm Jenn and I blog over at A Country Girl's World!  One of my favorite things to do is travel, so today I'm going to be sharing my top 5 favorite places that I've traveled so far.  I hope you enjoy!!

1. Las Cruces, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has my heart.  If I ever had the opportunity to move abroad, this country would be very, very high on my list. I had an amazing experience working at a biological station and learning about the things that grow there and the animals that live there, I even got to hold a bat! I got my first experience staying in hostels during our first and last nights and I got to see and experience a wide variety of wild life.  It doesn't hurt that this Country is absolutely beautiful!


Hanging out in a Strangler Fig Tree. 

2. Savannah, Georgia

I am not a huge fan of cities but this southern city made me feel right at home.  It is safe to say that apart from DC, this is my favorite place in the United States and I would not hesitate to live here.  The city is absolutely beautiful and definitely has charm.  River Street is a great area for shopping, eating and drinking and was probably my favorite area of Savannah.  Also, Leopold's Ice Cream was enough to make anyone want to stay!  Also, as a former Girl Scout (11 years) it was neat to see Juliet Gordon Lowe's Birthplace.



3. Assisi, Italy
Assisi was exactly what I pictured when people would talk about Italy.  The olive tree's made me feel as if I were standing in a pastel painting.  I also had the amazing experience of rappelling down the side of a 100 ft castle wall which was not open to the public!  Assisi was such a beautiful town and my whole experience there was positive, from the activities to the hotel, it was a great experience!


4. Carcassone, France
I have mentioned that I am fascinated by castles, Carcassone was no exception. I have a picture of an area which I swear looks like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. It doesn't hurt that while we were there, Sting was playing a concert in the Castle.  Such a neat experience (even though we could only stand outside of the stadium area).  Also, while we were there, France won one of their World Cup games so there was definitely some partying in the street happening.  I have so many great memories associated with this place!  Fun Fact: It was the filming location of Robin-hood, Prince of Thieves. 


5. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona was such a neat city.  I loved all of the Gaudi architecture!  It seemed like everywhere we went there was some weirdly shaped awesome looking building.   Of course seeing amazing sites such as Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia did not hurt the experience!  I learned so much on our tour of Sagrada Familia and found the history fascinating!   I even bought a book from the bookstore!   We were also in Barcelona when Italy won the world cup!  Our bus driver was Italian so that was definitely a fun experience!  We also got to try some AMAZING tapas and got to see a flamenco show!   Overall, my experience in Barcelona was amazing and I definitely want to go back.

    

I had a really tough time narrowing this down.  I was taking both the place and my experiences into consideration so it was really hard to leave Boulder Creek, CA off of the list because I had such a great experience leading those kids! It was also hard to leave Cinque Terre off but overall, I think my top 5 are pretty accurate. 

I hope y'all have a fabulous day!  And thank you, Mar for having me on your blog :)

Start reading here:

Visit Jenn here:




Have a good weekend friends!

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Frozen Kale Cubes


Smoothies have become a part of our morning routines. We try to jam pack as many fruits and veggies into the smoothie as possible, including one of our new favourites, kale. But for some reason we can’t seem to keep kale in the fridge without it going bad. In order to prolong the life of the kale, we decided to make kale cubes. This recipe really is so easy.

Why add kale to your smoothie? Kale is pretty much a nutritional powerhouse. It has so many benefits that there is no argument as to why you shouldn't eat it.  To prove my point, kale is: low in calories, high in fibre, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C and K, has zero fat, filled with powerful antioxidants and great for cardiovascular support, just to name a few. 

frozen kale cubes

Ingredients:
+  bunch of kale (as much as you want)
+  water

+  blender
+  ice cub tray or muffin tin

Directions:
1.  Was and de-rib kale.
2.  Add kale and enough water to a blender; blend to a smooth and pourable consistency.
3.  Pour into ice cube trays or muffin tin and freeze.
4.  Once frozen, transfer to an air-tight container and keep frozen.
5.  Use within 2 months.


Yay for kale! Enjoy :)


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Things I'm Loving: For the Work Commute

Do you commute to work? Drive or take public transit? Regardless of your method of getting to and from work, it's never enjoyable. For me, I commute almost 3 hours every day on city bus and train. It's been a challenge adapting to this new routine, especially the early mornings and not so friendly winter weather. However, I have a few favorite things that help me get through the commute and I thought that I would share...


1. prAna "Ronnie" jacket // This jacket was just what I was looking for, and when it was the only size left at Mountain Equipment Coop, that just sealed our destiny to be together. This jacket serves two purposes - jacket and snow pants. It it down-filled, but thin, and just below knee length to keep my legs warm.

2. lululemon "Carry Me Om" tote // The quintessential work bag. Can be a shoulder bag for the lighter days or can expand into a sling for the days that you're carrying a little more weight, like every day for me. I was always lugging two bags to work everyday and so the hubby finally put his foot down and bought me this bag for Christmas.

3. LLBean Bean Boots, 8" thinsulate // These boots are the perfect winter boot, and as my husband says, make you look "legit". Warm, waterproof and comfy. Need I say more?

4. REI travel coffee mug // Coffee is a morning necessity and a good mug to keep it hot and from splashing all over you is important. This is THE mug for that.

5. Roots "Camp" socks // I'm a sucker for a good pair of tall, warm socks. I wear them every single day in the winter. These socks are perfect - they fit nicely in the Bean Boots and keep your feet warm and comfy!

6. iPad mini // I usually challenge myself to the crossword every morning, but when I need a break, the iPad is handy to have so that I can catch up on reading blog posts.

7. Soda Stream // If the soda stream was portable, there's no doubt it would be coming to work with me. But, unfortunately it doesn't fit in my new work bag. I always bring a bottle of soda water with me to work - I swear it forces me to drink more water because I must finish it before it goes flat. 


What are some of your favorite things that get your through the commute?




Adios Polar Vortex


Get lost polar vortex! Go away. Goodbye. Au revoir. Say┼Źnara. Adios. Arrivederci. Farvel. La revedere. Tschau. Daag. Hasta la vista. Adeus. Ciao. See ya later alligator.

Your name sounds cool and all, like an X Men character or gum flavor, but you are so much colder than cool, you're ice cold. Literally. And I am so over you. Here's just a few good reasons why you can leave: 

+  Brain freeze is no longer reserved for frozen drinks or ice cream. 

+  After standing at the bus stop for less than 2 minutes, my legs feel like I rolled in the snow after sitting in the hot tub, and then got back in the hot tub. #thisgirlisonfire

+  I went 3 years living in AK without frostbite. But a 15 minute walk from the bus stop in Toronto? Frostbite on my nose. Now I look like Rudolph.

+  I now have to think about what and how much makeup I'm going to have to use to cover up the large red blotch on the end of my nose so that I don't get made fun of at work. I will be self conscious all day.

+  There is no point in applying mascara in the morning when half of it runs down my face.

+  I feel more out of breath from walking against the wind for 15 minutes to the bus stop than I do from running a 5K.



Is it cold in your neck of the woods? 
How are you dealing with it?


Life Lately

I hope everyone had a great New Years and is starting 2014 off with a bang. I will be the first to admit I didn't make any resolutions this year. Let's face it, most of us never keep them anyways, right? However, I do vow to make 2014 even better than 2013. I can't wait for the new adventures it brings.

Resolutions, or not, 2014 has been treating me pretty darn well so far. Mostly because I recently received a promotion at work and started in my new position this past Monday. The position means more responsibility and no more uniform. I don't know what made me more excited to hear. This past weekend I got to go work clothes shopping and while I love having my own identity at work, I will admit, shopping was not easy. After striking out in about 10 stores, I really started to appreciate the work uniform. 

The weather has been quite odd in our neck of the woods lately. And from reading the news, it doesn't sound like we're alone. I know it's been my first January in Canada since 2010, but I don't remember the freezing cold temperatures and gusty winds that we've been getting lately. It was so windy last night that I was afraid our condo door way up here on the 42nd was going to rip off. No word of a life, when it's that windy we move all of the valuables out of the living room in fear that the balcony door will bust open and suck everything out. It's pretty scary! And they say climate change isn't real...


The most important thing to notice in the above pictures is the "real feel"... -32 in Toronto and +37 in Anchorage. I know we're 4 hours apart, but really Mother Nature?! Is this a joke or your sick way of punishing us for leaving Alaska? I enjoy winter but I wouldn't be disappointed if spring came a little earlier, strictly for an enjoyable morning walk to the bus stop. I'm kind of getting tired of doing the one-eyed squint because I have brain freeze and having to worry about mascara running down my cheeks.

Cold weather, and complaining, aside, here's a little bit more of life lately,


1//  Hibachi dinner for New Years.
2//  Early morning sunrise over Toronto, through a dirty bus window.
3//  My view.
4//  First sunset of 2014.
5//  My little chef has perfected pizza dough.
6//  Yummy dinner celebrating a promotion - steak, scallops, sweet potatoes and bokchoy.


How has your 2014 been so far?


t.o. & fro's Year in Review

Happy New Year!!! May 2014 bring you much joy, health and love!

I must admit, 2013 was quite the year, with both its ups and downs - we made the tough decision to say goodbye to Alaska and drove 4500 miles back home to Toronto, we got married, we moved into to our own condo in the biggest city in Canada and we both started new jobs. But on the the hand, we also dealt with loss - the tough and unexpected loss of our family dog Mya and of our faithful road trip companion Mo the mouse - and as newlyweds, we were challenged in ways we did not anticipate, dealing with many changes in scenery, work, living situations and things we took for granted.



I'm not quite sure what 2014 will bring us but I anticipate it will be another year of exciting and scary life changes. But, I guess that's what happens when you hit your late 20s.

Goodbye 2013, hello 2014. Bring it on!

And now, for the t.o. & fro's top 10 posts and instagram photos of 2013, as determined by YOU, the reader:



+  In the Blink of an Eye
The nine months between the moment I said, "YES!" and the moment we said, "I do", crept by at a snail's pace, but the perfect day flew by in the blink of an eye. 6.29.13. will forever be a day to remember.

To this day, this is the toughest post I have ever written and still brings me to tears when I read it.

After many tears, deliberations, arguments and weighing the pros and cons, we ultimately decided that the opportunities presented to the both of us on this adventure were too good to pass up.

A relaxing and enjoyable week spent in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Our first of many adventures as Mr. & Mrs.

Whether we're going for a hike, taking a drive or visiting family on a special occasion, I always like to be prepared. I'm no professional photographer, but have learned what I need to keep in my camera bag.  

I love food. Especially when it warms your soul and fills the house with the aromas of fall.

Why not get to know me a little better?! A few of my quirks in a nutshell. 

Hands-down one of my favourite fall soup recipe. Simple, inexpensive and most importantly, tasty.

I am thankful that finding these words came at the best possible time.

A photograph is but a moment frozen in time, preserved for the future.  My first photo linkup senses the world through the universal language of photography. 




From left to right:
1.  Saying goodbye to my Alaskan friends, human, furry and feathery. Definitely miss this fella.
2.  The two most important women in my life, mom and sister, at my bachelorette party.
3.  Tent set up for the big day. 06.29.2013.
4.  The best day. EVER. (I wish it didn't go by so fast.)
5.  Besties.
6.  Trip to Niagara Falls with our Alaskan and Jersey friends.
7.  Lake Huron's sunsets never get old.
8.  Lots of new this year, including a new job.
9.  He's not just a pretty face. That man I married cooks, cleans and now bakes pie! 
10. From mountains to tall buildings, 2013 brought different views. 


What was your favourite part of 2013?

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