Bonnie Stern Bread

Like Oprah, I love bread.

I like eating it in sandwiches and with butter and sometimes just breaking off pieces of it and eating it straight. Until recently, like within the past year or two, I figured I would be a bread consumer only, rather than a bread creator. But after finding a recommended no-knead bread recipe on Lainey Gossip, I decided to test out my skills. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who makes their own bread. It’s not super worth it because bread is like 3$ at the store but it is cool to make something from scratch that can actually contribute to the grilled cheese sandwiches you make every day.

The recipe is from Bonnie Stern and can be found here:

It’s cool in a lot of ways but mainly in the fact that you only need a dutch oven big enough to hold your final bread form. It’s pretty low maintenance in that you don’t need to roll it out in any way or really maneuver it in the way you’d feel pressure to maneuver it when making bread. You mostly just fold it over a few times and pat it with flour to ensure its shape stays bread-like.

What is labour intensive are the hours spent at home waiting for your dough to rise. From the initial mix of all the ingredients (minus extra flour for dusting and maybe sesame seeds if you’re into that), you have to wait overnight for the yeast to do its work and make the dough rise. No problem, that’s fine because mixing flour, salt, instant yeast and water is nothing. It takes five minutes. You can make pre-bread in five minutes which is the least amount of time it takes me to make anything while baking or cooking.

The annoying part is the next day when your flour has risen. You take it out of its giant bowl once, pat it with flour then cover it in plastic wrap for 15 minutes. Okay, that seems like an arbitrarily short and random amount of time to have it sit but I’m sure the recipe writer knows what’s up. After the fifteen minutes are up, you dust it with more flour and fold it into thirds and add the extra baking trick (sesame seeds, lol) and let it rise for another 2 hours. Why? I don’t know.

When waiting for it to rise you have to set an alarm for 1.5 hours because at this point you heat up the oven and the dutch oven in the oven. You carefully place the bread in there at the 2 hour mark and then you bake the bread for 30 minutes before removing the lid and cooking it for its last 30 minutes. All things said, the whole process is really four hours but feels like six. Do with that what you will when you ever consider making this again. It does taste delicious though.

Eliot's Bookshop

Eliot’s is a trip. It’s been around forever and recently closed down because it was cheaper to rent it out to a corporate business than actually run a used book store in Toronto. My friends and everyone who hangs out with me for more than five minutes know that I hate capitalism but I especially hate it when it takes perfect, independent quality businesses from my life.

I discovered Eliot’s way too late to appreciate it properly. The first time I ever went in, I was 22 and bored on my lunch break from a job that I didn’t really like and walked to College to window shop. I saw the big green sign outside Eliot’s and wondered why I had never noticed that there was a bookstore on this stretch of convenience stores, sex stores, sneaker spots and those stores that sell Canadian tourist shit like CN tower replicas and moose t-shirts. If I had known Eliot’s was there, I would have gone way earlier.

Because it was 1pm on a workday, I was the only person in the store and the guy working there, presumably, Eliot, said “hello” and largely left me alone. I appreciate this in a store owner, because I am often paranoid that people will think I am stealing from them. I’m not, haha, but my nervous energy probably sets off the wrong signals. Eliot ignored my nervous energy and let me browse the entire bookshelf worth of Secrets of NIHM books in peace. Secrets of NIHM is this book series about rodents that are like Arthur and the kings of the roundtable or whatever. But they’re mice. I had recently read a copy of one of the series’ books at my parents’ cottage and was surprised to find that Eliot seemed to have every episode that existed. I picked out two more and carried them around with me while I looked around and when he noticed me looking at the stairs, Eliot encouraged me to go upstairs. “There’s two more floors.” he said. “Two?” I was a bit shocked. “Ya.”

And then he just let me go upstairs and explore more by myself. There were self-help books and cookbooks and books on gardening and on how to antique. I didn’t go up to the third floor because I realized I had no time left on my lunch break. When I came back down, carrying my three Secrets of NIHM books, he chatted to me about the series and told me about owning the shop. He gave me his business card and told me to come back when I needed to restock on Secrets of NIHM again.

Eliot’s store was unique, and not just in the fact that the name is spelled with one “L” and one “T” which always throws me off. It had more books than space for them and there were piles that seemed to multiply the farther you got into it. It was meticulously organized by book topic and there were connections between floors and subject matter. Lots of romance novels and science fiction stuff and educational books that teach you how to make shit.  

Years later, when I read about Eliot’s closing down on the CBC (, I visited for the second and last time. The article mentioned that it would be cheaper for Eliot to just rent the space to a bigger business than it would be to actually run the bookstore and pay for growing property taxes. He owned the building and knew he would have to retire eventually, he just didn’t want to so soon. What a huge bummer.

I told my mom about it closing and she said she made a special stop on her way home from being retired one day. She, like me on my first visit, was the only one in the store. She picked out a book on meditation (her Secrets of NIHM) and went to the register. Eliot told her she could have it for free. When I went back, the shelves were emptying quickly as everything was on clearance. The Secrets of NIHM shelf had been long gone. There was a teenage girl who looked like she went to UofT with her mom and sister buying a huge stack of books who let me go in front of them in line because I just had this one weird book on antiques I wanted to give my dad as a joke because the cover art was nice. I looked at Eliot. I said “thanks” and Eliot said “thanks” and we both looked sad.

Nana Mouskouri

There’s a 90% chance that music my mom listened to when I was a kid will become my bath music as an adult. Mom music is calm and soothing, like my mom. There’s also a 90% chance that the music my mom used to listen to will be by sung by a powerful European woman with a deep voice and vague, sweeping generalizations about love. Édith Piaf, the French Kiss soundtrack, Françoise Hardy and Nana Mouskouri played on repeat in my house and I’m a more emotionally open person because of it.

Recently, for my birthday, my parents drove me up to their cottage and made me coffee and let me read quietly all day. When it was time to eat, my mom asked me what music I wanted to listen to for my birthday dinner. When I said I didn’t know, she went through her case and put on Édith Piaf. She couldn’t see me from the kitchen but I teared up a bit because it was exactly what I wanted to hear at that time. My mom knows my music feelings better than I do.

Nana Mouskouri’s music feels more like mom music than anybody else’s to me. Her voice is rich and loud but chill. She covers your mom’s favourites and does them better because her voice is so smooth. Every song she sings feels like she woke up from a nap at 3pm, dragged herself into a recording studio with a glass of cold white wine AND some black coffee and just decided she would record a song for my mom. It always makes me think of my mom when I hear her which is almost never.

Last weekend when my sisters and I made a spontaneous trip up to the cottage again this summer, I went through their cds and found the very best of Nana Mouskouri. The cover makes her look like she’s a sex therapist and totally undersells her talent and beauty. Nana sings about love shamelessly. Most of her songs have the word “love” in the title like there’s nothing else worth singing about. And there almost isn’t. Only Love. Love Changes Everything. Love is a Rose. Love is Like a Butterfly. She’s overwhelmed and it disarms me. She sings about love like a teenager writes about it, the best way. I can be dismissive about so many things my mom suggests but her music taste is so on point to me now.

When listening to Nana, my problems seem trivial when there’s so much to celebrate. She’s in her 80s now, and definitely not touring anymore. I hope she’s living in an old house in Greece, in love and rich as shit and laughing about how seriously I take her music now.

Earliest Memory of Shitting my Pants

As a teenager, I used to catch a flu almost every winter break between Christmas and New Years. It usually only lasted a couple of days but one year’s bout of Norwalk was particularly difficult and long for me. I had hugged one of my cousin’s kids goodbye after my parents hosted a Christmas party at our house and later learned that he had been throwing up for days before the 25th.

On boxing day, my other cousin came over and dared me to dare her to eat a full carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream. In hindsight, she was just trying to eat all the ice cream and because I hated mint chocolate chip and didn’t really care if she ate it or not, I agreed. She started eating it while I worked away at a bag of salt and vinegar chips which I still can’t really stomach to this day. The next morning, when I woke up at 3am and started puking out the dinner and chips I had eaten the night before, everyone heard and thought it was Elaine and her stupid mint chocolate chip ice cream.

I spent the next three days loudly puking and shitting in the upstairs bathroom. I camped out in my house’s guest bedroom because it was closer to the washroom. By the third day, I was exhausted and dehydrated, unable to drink any water without it coming up half an hour later. I timed the periods between my throwing up on the DVD player and for a day or two I had to get up consistently every 27 minutes. I thought that my body was cool. I slept soundly between the vomiting sessions. Finally, after four days of this, I couldn’t muster the energy to get up anymore. My puking had turned to intermittent diarrhea which was more manageable and less aggressive. I had been laying in bed for a few minutes at 5 in the morning and my stomach turned.

My heart wanted it to be a fart. I felt so confident that it was a fart and that I could just go back to sleep without thinking of it. The bathroom was ten feet away but it was the principle, I had already gotten up so many times.

Later that morning, after taking a shower and cleaning the sheets, I went downstairs to watch my family eat breakfast. I sat next to my mom who insisted that I have some water and toast after having eaten very little that week. I told her the story of what happened that morning. She looked worried when she asked: “It wasn’t a fart...was it?” No, it wasn’t. She was so disappointed.

Greyhound: Atlanta to Charleston

Over the summer of 2014, my friend, Emma, and I travelled to Atlanta for our friend, Harris’ wedding. During the planning stages of our trip, we decided we wanted to extend our mini vacation in the US to include Charleston, South Carolina because that was one of the places we recognized when we read about places to visit in the South. Its old houses, palm trees, cobblestone streets and proximity to the ocean drew us in on our Google searches and we decided to be spontaneous and take advantage of our generous vacation time. We had done some research and found that though flights from Atlanta to Charleston were cheap, it was cheaper to take a Greyhound bus and it would be easy enough for us to sit in one and entertain each other for eight hours on the trip across states. That was like eight episodes of True Detective. Emma and I are cheap so we booked the Greyhound shortly after we booked our flights to Atlanta and home from Charleston. It was going to be an adventure and it was going to be fun.

On the morning of Greyhound day, we woke up earlier than god and packed our bags, wrote a cute note to our Air BnB host asking him to forgive us for locking ourselves out of our room and bugging him to help us out (that was more me than Emma) and took a cab to the bus station in downtown Atlanta. The first person I noticed was a woman holding a rag against her bleeding leg. Her black eye, scratches along her arms, her bleeding fingers and knuckles and the aforementioned leg injury made me think she had just beaten someone up or been beaten up herself. It was bleak. Random kids were walking around aimlessly like they were in charge of their own schedules and making their own bus trips across the country. A stressed out lady was holding a baby wrapped in a white blanket and talking loudly into her phone. Many old men gave Emma and I the once-over then proceeded to read their papers. It was a bit like we were in the twilight zone but we decided to run with the whole bus plan because what else would we have done, we had already bought our tickets. We aren't rich. That's why we took the bus in the first place.

The station had signs pointing in unclear directions. We went to the information desk and told them our bus number and asked if we needed to check our bags before leaving. They said “no”. We waited in the line for our bus and when we got to the doors, the bus driver asked us why our bags weren’t tagged to indicate that we were getting off in Charleston. This bus was stopping in Augusta on the way and we would need some paper sign that our bags were to be taken off and transferred to another bus. We didn’t know how to answer him so just shrugged and stood there like we were dumb. He insisted we run back to the ticketing place and to do it fast because we were likely going to be the last ones on this almost full bus at this point. Emma seemed exasperated but I insisted it would be fine because I always lie to her and tell her everything will be fine. We got our tickets after more waiting in line and people of Atlanta observing. We attached the tickets to our shitty duffle bags and boarded the bus after the pissed off driver gave us the tenth set of cut eye we had received that day.

As we were among the last to board, there were no seats next to each other but we did notice two empty seats next to two men, one in front of the other. I walked down the aisle first and sat next to a light skinned guy in a big white t-shirt. He seemed nice. I put my bag under Emma’s seat that was right in front of mine and proceeded to pull out my book. Emma’s seatmate was a skinny guy with a beard, also wearing a white t-shirt but he had an eye patch. I loved this. Because of the layout of the bus, I never noticed Emma talking with the bearded guy at all. I was also distracted because I noticed that the guy next to me had a picture of Beyoncé on the background of his phone. It also happened to be one of my favourite pictures of her. You know, the one where she’s dressed as a literal Queen and she’s wearing this elaborate gold corset and her hair is curly and her makeup is dramatic and flawless and she has literally never looked better? I couldn’t hold it in anymore and just pointed to his lock screen and said “BEYONCÉ”. We looked at each other like we'd just found our bus soulmates. He said he loved her. I agreed with him. We talked about our favourite songs and videos and he told me his name was Aaron. I asked him how old he was and what he did for a living and he said that he was 19 and that he drove trucks across country and he had recently finished a job in Atlanta and was returning home to Washington. He asked if I was 28, I said I wasn’t, that I was actually 23 and very insulted by his guess. He said not to worry, that it was more that I gave off a mature vibe and not that I looked 28. I said that I didn’t know what that meant but it still sounded insulting but that he was sort of right because people in my family aged poorly. He laughed and we bonded for the rest of the four hour trip to Augusta. I was worried about Emma but she seemed to be sleeping. She looked back at me a few times and I could sense jealousy in her stares. Aaron and I read over texts he was sending his very good friend, Natalie. They were going through some issues because he was in love with her but they had only ever been best friends. I encouraged him to come to terms with his feelings and to tell her everything but to not press the situation too hard. He agreed.

We continued to chat and when it got quiet, we would look out the window together and listen to music. I asked him to show me his Twitter because he said he had 7000 followers. I asked him how he maintained that kind of online presence and he said it wasn’t that hard. He also noted the importance of retweeting and liking other people's’ posts, as a way to engage the Twitter community. Then we started talking about guns and he told me a story where his uncle, his nephew and him had been held at gunpoint in their basement during a home invasion. His uncle was shot in the leg, his nephew was only 9 and they never caught the three intruders.  I looked shocked and he said to not worry about him, that it happened everywhere in the States. I asked him if he had ever visited Toronto and he said no. We were still chatting when we pulled into Augusta. He got off the bus and then we waved and parted ways.

As Emma and I disembarked, she grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the driver who was removing our luggage from the underside of the bus. She immediately told me about how insane the guy sitting next to her was. His name was Reece and he had served in Afghanistan, where he had lost his eye. He spent the first two hours of the trip asking her to send him nudes and she spent the last two hours of the trip pretending to be asleep. This plan backfired when he rested his head on her shoulder and fell asleep. I thought that this was hilarious but Emma was rattled by the whole experience. I felt guilty relaying to her how cool Aaron was and that I knew we would be friends because the background on his phone was a picture of Beyoncé.

We grabbed our bags and went into the large waiting room of the bus station, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The towns we passed looked like they hadn’t changed their infrastructure and buildings since the 70s or 80s. Their store windows were either boarded up or had dusty displays of mannequins with bald heads modeling women’s plaid pantsuits . The bus stop was equally frozen in time and looked like it used to be a school. This was confirmed when we went into the bathrooms and the toilets were so close to the ground they looked like they were made for five year olds. We washed our hands and I tried to find the restaurant Emma had said there would likely be at this stop. There was only a giant room with blue plastic chairs and a row of well stocked vending machines. We decided to look on the bright side, we both love vending machines and these ones looked like they knew what was up in terms of snack availabilities. We had four dollars between the two of us so we decided on a giant rice krispies square, a snickers bar, a blue gatorade (as if there are any other good flavours) and some potato chips for diversity. We sat down to our feast, and started sharing as we hadn’t had breakfast yet and Emma was still shaken up over her experience with Reece in the first bus. At this point, Aaron and Reece had moved to a separate waiting area from us and we were alone again to people watch in peace. Until an old white man with patchy facial hair approached us.

He introduced himself as Michael and told us that he had come talk to us because we were the best looking girls at this bus stop. I looked around and made a mental note that we were basically the only two women there. We looked sheepish and brushed off his comments but he was insistent. He proceeded to tell us that he was a mechanic and that he couldn’t travel on planes because he needed his tools, which included hammers, wrenches and some large, rusty looking shears. He had driven a car across the country for his son and was returning via bus to his wife and other kids. He spoke about his eight children and 10 grandkids, one of whom died recently. We didn’t know how to react to this guy so we just listened intently and nodded along as he recounted his Greyhound adventures. He looked like he was trying to get closer to incite a group hug so I grabbed Emma’s hand and directed her to two empty seats on the other side of the waiting area to continue our snacking.

Once sat, another man in one of the seats next to us turned and introduced himself as Jonah, a name I’m now obsessed with. I hadn’t noticed him before we sat down which was weird seeing as he was dressed in green hospital scrubs and had a giant bloody patch of gauze attached to his forehead and head. We shook hands with Jonah and told him our names and he held onto my hand for a long time and stared into my eyes while repeating my name back to me. I pulled my hand away and asked him about his hospital scrubs. He seemed confused and like he didn’t know what I was talking about then settled on “ohh you know, I’ve just had a strange couple of weeks.” He didn’t tell us much more about himself during our conversation but asked us a lot of questions and, like Michael, pointed out how nice we were. They weren’t wrong. He mentioned Jesus a few times and when we asked him where he was headed he shook his head and said that he wasn’t sure. We asked if his bus was leaving shortly and again he seemed unsure. I figured asking about the head injury might be rude and invasive. Was this guy dead and we just didn’t know it? Do ghosts bleed? Slowly, it came time for us to leave. A man announced over an intercom that our bus was leaving. I still hadn’t seen Aaron since we got off the first bus. I motioned to Emma that we should get going. We got up and said goodbye to Jonah, who we would likely never see again. He looked a bit disappointed that we were leaving and as we walked away he said “Emma….” She turned around to look at him. “Are you going to finish that rice krispies square?” She looked at the half eaten square, shook her head and handed it to him. He thanked us and we turned around and walked away to board our final bus of the trip. We got on, I saw Aaron for a brief second waiting on our platform and I waved but he couldn’t see me. Emma and I found two seats next to each other and we planted ourselves there comfortably for the remainder of the trip. I booted up my computer and we shared my headphones and watched the first three episodes of True Detective Season 2. We both fell asleep, for real this time.

Back when I lived with four people in a small three bedroom and one large closet house downtown, I experienced the worst and most embarrassing moments of my existence up until that point. The chance to shame myself happens very seldom as an adult because of an overwhelming obsession with details and constant self-awareness that makes most fuck ups almost entirely avoidable. This night was an exception.

I was twenty three and my newly moved in male roommate had gotten free tickets to a midnight screening of The Editor from our other roommate who worked at this film festival that year. We had flirted harmlessly for a while but I wasn’t really into the idea of having sex with him and compromising our roommate friendship. We decided to go on a date to this movie and being that it started late and we had a good chunk of time beforehand, we drank a half a magnum of cheap white wine and smoked a joint at home before leaving. He had also brought a joint for smoking outside the theatre to further ensure me getting really messed up that night. The movie was showing at a university screening theatre downtown and we got there just in time to see a bunch of people walking down the red carpet. This made me anxious as I already felt stoned and like everyone was looking at me. They, most definitely, were not. Not yet at least.

We cross the street and smoke in a parking lot. I feel okay given all the wine and pot but I have to pee a little. I ignore this urge because, gross, peeing is gross, girls are disgusting. When we enter the theatre, the lights are slightly low and the seats are maybe half filled. We decide that the best seats are three rows from the front and right in the middle. These seats are pretty much half a row down from a single guy sitting in the aisle seat. When we get into his row, he politely moves his legs so we can pass by. He looks friendly. We sit in the middle seats and start chatting and at this point it’s urgent that I pee before the movie starts. I’m worried the lights will dim even further and I’ll forget where I’m sitting. Again, I was high. We hadn’t been sitting there for five minutes but in that time the man at the end of the row had fallen asleep. This is not surprising because it is a Tuesday and it’s midnight and he likely had work in the morning like most people in the world.

I don’t notice him sleeping as I walk towards him, but I do notice how extended his legs are now. I’m getting nervous as I approach him and the aisle. He looks like he could be dead. I debate climbing over the seats into either the rows in front or behind us but at the last second chicken out and see that while his legs are extended to touch the chairs in front of him, they’re also spread wide open. My dumb fuck brain thinks that this opening would be a great place for me to put one of my legs, so I could hop over him in one sneaky snake movement. I steady myself by putting a hand on the back of his seat and on the seat in front of him and lift my right leg. The opening is not big enough for me. I’m squeezing myself into the spot in between his legs. I land my leg on the floor of the opening and then stop moving. I’m essentially straddling this poor stranger and he’s still sleeping. I’m frozen, I can’t move because he may wake up. I haven’t even been this intimate with my roommate yet and I remember him and try to see if he can see me giving this random aisle seat guy a lap dance. Then I realize that the other people in the theatre might be watching this too. The other people also included the producers, director, editors and actors that are in this movie. As I’m contemplating this, the aisle man wakes up. I am still straddling his one leg with both of mine. I look him in the eyes and see pure terror. He has no idea who I am or why I’m there. Or why I’m trying to hump his leg. I apologize profusely. I disentangle myself from him, with a little bit of help from his end, finally. I can’t look at him while he keeps insisting that it’s okay and that he’s fine. He just wants me to be okay but I am so far from that. I just want to get away from this situation as fast as I can.

As I make it to the aisle I breathe a sigh of relief and make my way quickly up the stairs. I don’t get two steps before I trip on my way up. I am practically horizontal on the stairs that I’m now realizing are lit up from the bottom. I can’t even compute what’s happening to me as I hadn’t fully recovered from grinding on the man in the aisle while my roommate was probably playing a game on his phone. I lay there unsure of what to do. A man sitting in the seat to my left slowly half lifts himself from his seat and hovers over me. “Are you okay?” I’m at eye level with his feet.

I think to myself: Pretend you are dead. Don’t move and this will be over in a few minutes. They’ll come to get your body and it will all be okay. But how long will it take for them to get here? Who are they? You’re a real person and you have to get up right now. No one is coming to save your dead body. I look up at the man and grit my teeth. “I’m fine. Thanks.” Lifting myself up slowly, I realize that my legs are hurt and that I will have to limp up the remainder of the stairs. I’m legitimately injured. I approach the top of the stairs and start thinking about whether or not people will recognize my bright blue jeans. On the way to the bathroom I think about leaving my roommate and telling him I’ll meet him back at the house. I don’t want to go back in there after having experienced two events so horrible and shameful one right after the other like that. But after peeing, I do go back. Because I want to see the movie but also to prove to myself that embarrassing moments like that don’t really matter. My roommate didn’t see anything and didn’t realize the extent of my injuries. He didn’t quite believe it had happened until I showed him my busted knee the next morning. We sat through the movie and I legitimately enjoyed it. I made sure to pee again before walking home.

Cheese and Pepper

Something I think is so great about cacio e pepe recipes is the fact that one of the main ingredients is pasta water. It’s an essential component to the flavour and texture of the pasta and finishes off the whole cooking process so beautifully. Also it’s free and it’s right there. You’re already cooking the pasta in water, all you have to do is save it when you’re done cooking the pasta.

According to this recipe that I use often:, the pasta water is brought to a simmer near the end and you add the pasta and cheese to it immediately afterwards. It sounds gross and counterintuitive to just add a bunch of starchy water to a skillet and throw some cooked pasta and cheese in there and hope for the best but this recipe kills it every time. I’ve never messed it up. I don’t always have the right breakdown of pecorino to parmesan. But I always have butter, cheese and pepper in my house which are basically the only other ingredients. It’s mac and cheese for grown ups. It’s fancy and impressive while not expecting too much of you and I love it for that.

No Frills

The No Frills by my house is a couple of minutes away. I go there on my way home from work or on Saturday mornings or Sunday nights. It's close enough to make a couple of stops in a day if I'm lucky. It's staffed with middle aged ladies and teenagers and there's usually a security guard and some kids selling chocolates by the main entrance. From the street, it's not that clear how to get in but once you know to walk through this narrow alleyway, you're indoctrinated into the No Frills fan club. Every person who has been in there agrees that it's the best No Frills in the city. Maybe even the best grocery store. When I tell other people where I live, a lot of them ask "near the No Frills?" and we bond over our mutual love for it. They're jealous and I like that. When in other stores, I scoff at how expensive everything is in comparison. I've saved so much money just by being too lazy to go anywhere else.

I love how completely bored and content everyone seems to be when they're working. I love how there's a lady who always stacks your items perfectly so they're really easy to put in bags. I haven't gotten their points card yet but it's only a matter of time before I cave and they turn my Optimum card into a PC points/Optimum card. I like how much space there is and how they add more products but it only seems to get bigger to accommodate. The route I take changes constantly depending on where they've moved the aisles. Every trip feels different and exactly the same.

They manage to have almost everything you need to make dinner and then some added random cooking containers and butcher cuts. Like, they have stewing beef but don't have lamb chops. As it grows and they redesign the aisles to include more organic food and sugar free cookies, I worry about it losing its specialness. Having lived here for three years, this No Frills is one of the only businesses I don't get cynical about anymore. They don't run out of produce anymore. This No Frills is like a second home to me. 

Tips on How to Be Good with Money When You're Not

Download Apps That Give You Points for Stuff

Since I downloaded the Carrot app, I haven't paid for a movie in, like, a year. I don't see very many movies in theatres but my point remains. All I have to do is walk around a lot everyday while carrying my phone and it logs my steps and gives me points for them. Once I earn 1000 scene points, I can see a movie for free. I currently have 2000 scene points on my Carrots app just sitting there lazily, while I walk around earning them every day. The somewhat negative aspect of this is that your data and activity log is probably being saved somewhere and used/sold by the government but this is a very small price to pay for free movies. 

Go to the Library

I mean, duh. 

Get Some Sort of Container and Put Money in It

I know compound interest is important but I recently repurposed an old mason jar I kept a plant I killed in by putting money in it. Now at the end of everyday, I put coins in there and occasionally use it for my laundry but mostly they just sit there like the scene points. The spare change adds up and makes me feel good that I accomplished a very simple goal of putting away money for later. Like a kid. Like a piggy bank, essentially. This is my suggestion. 

Have Bad Taste

While I don’t often go out to eat, when I do, it’s expensive. I don’t like to cheap out on food normally. Where I do excel in cheaping out, is in the purchase of my clothes. I buy men’s shirts from Value Village that I repurpose as sleep shirts/regular shirts. I haven’t bought a new coat since 2013 because I’m not yet entirely ready to give up on my old one even though the lining is shot and keeps getting progressively ripped. I believe in repairing old leather instead of replacing it with new leather EVEN IF the repairs end up costing more than the original cost of the thing I’m repairing. This isn’t exactly a way to save money but the point is that I like ugly shit. And ugly shit is cheap. And keeping ugly shit instead of replacing it with new ugly shit is the ultimate way to save money. So there you go.

Save Old Coupons

Okay this helped me recently because I kept getting all these Christmas emails about deals for subscriptions I was signed up for like Headspace and Classpass and shit. I stopped using Classpass because I couldn’t afford it and my one year Headspace subscription was a gift from an old boyfriend who was such a pain that dealing with him was cause for using Headspace. So once it expired, and since we no longer talk (thanks to all the clarity I got from using Headspace), I didn’t delete any of the Christmas emails I got for 25% off “the gift of headspace”. So I gifted it to myself now, for $71 instead of $95. Voila, ici, beaucoup, d’accord.

Use Other People’s Subscriptions

Who anywhere is actually paying for Netflix? It’s just a bunch of people with their lives already together who give their passwords to people who don’t have their lives already together. This is truly what the sharing economy should look like. Wealth distribution on a grassroots level. I was given a gift card for a year long subscription to Netflix like three years ago in my Christmas stocking from my sister-in-law. Have I been tempted to use it when I get kicked off my parent’s account at 9pm on a Thursday night? Yes, obviously, I want to watch How to Get Away with Murder NOW. But do I succumb to this whim, no, I don’t. Because I get free Netflix from my parents who continue to be the most generous people going. Get on someone else’s Netflix if you aren’t already. And share your password if you’re on your own subscription. This is keeping the world safe.

House Sit

In the same vein as using someone’s Netflix, we should all be using rich people’s houses when they’re on vacation. And rich people go on vacation a lot. Because they’re rich. The crucial part is knowing rich people. I have my parents and my friend’s parents who have asked me to house sit for them. Sometimes it involves watering their plants but mostly it’s taking a bath in their huge ass bathroom and just enjoying life more because their ceilings are higher.

Go to Free Workout Classes in Your Area

I could name like four different studios that offer free introductory spinning classes in Toronto. Whenever a trendy new workout idea makes its way to a new city, a bunch of places will let you go in free once, if you give them your email or credit card number at the door. You may have to cancel or some shit afterwards, but you got a free class. What more do you need? Giving up your credit card information for something free is marketing 101 and if you think it's a scam, you're right. But you're also getting free stuff for it so maybe don't try to have everything in life. Also speaking of Classpass, there is an invite your friend option where you can go to up to three free classes of your choice, over the course of two weeks, if your friend invites you. I’ve done this twice with two friends so essentially worked out for a month for free. It was amazing and I looked great. I had to use my mom’s credit card for the second subscription but who cares.

Thanksgiving 2016

We stayed in Eric’s new house that he built and designed himself. He gave us our own rooms and slept on a pull out in his spare room. One morning he got up before us and brought us bagels, strawberries and coffee. One of the mornings we were there we went out for breakfast at this sweet restaurant and I had a duck sausage sandwich and he paid for us in secret. We should get him a gift.

We went for a long ass hike to this lookout point. It was steep and slippery and scary in some places. The lookout was gorgeous. My brother even brought Andrew. The olds kept getting lost. We played this game that Jen taught us then we played the charades game. Kare, Jen, Cartman, Jono and I had a nice conversation about fruit and straight white male privilege. It was nice. Jen made pumpkin pie. We could have coffee and red wine whenever we wanted during the day. There were always snacks in the kitchen. Emma made one of the best cheese and spinach dips in the world. We ate it with chips and bread while we watched football and baseball and Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. During the Presidential debates we flipped back and forth between those and the Jays game. It was very patriotic of us. We watched a lot of TV in the main house. Eric drove us to and from there everyday while also responding to calls he got on his pager because he’s a volunteer firefighter. It was cool.

On one of our last days we laid around the main house then we played basketball across the street with Cartman, Eric and Kare. I lost despite that one year in high school that I played on the novice girls’ basketball team. Sad. :(

We chilled for the day and went for a walk into town with Andrew who kept dropping his gloves so we had to go back and trace our steps to find them. When we came home, Jen suggested we practice driving because I still don’t have my G2. We started in the school parking lot across the street (where Kare and Cartman were playing basketball) and then Jen encouraged me to keep going down another street instead of circling the school another time. We went driving and it felt so free. We ran into Charlie on his bike (we were in the their car). He was startled, probably more by the idea of me driving his car. But it was nice, we got to driving into adjoining townships. I was distracted by the trees and leaves and colours on the trees but it didn’t matter because no one else was really on the road at dinner time. We went home even though Jen kept making me feel great about my driving skills. At one point she told me that left was home and right was away and I said I wanted to go back home but went right instead. I told her it was probably my subconscious making me want to keep practicing and spending time with her.

I drove us home and Jen made me an aperol spritz and we ate and drank and watched tv and it was heaven and I loved it. It was an epic one. I wish my sister came with her crew. They’ll come for the next one.

A Bath

One Friday before reading week had started, I spontaneously decided to go in the opposite direction of home and visit Montreal before heading back to where my parents were staying for the winter. They mentioned that their rich friend had generously lent them her mansion but I decided that I wanted to visit a couple of buddies who I hadn’t seen since the summer prior. It was cold and rainy, like a lot of Canadian Februaries, but Montreal had it particularly bad this year. I had also only worn converse sneakers and a flimsy jacket because I needed to pack light with all the buses and trains I was taking for this last-minute mini vacation. I was tired from all the school and looking forward to shutting my brain off.

My plans were pretty haphazard. My one friend, Gene, was leaving for Mexico or someplace hot the next day with the rest of her classmates but I hadn’t seen her in ages and this was the only time I ended up visiting her at school in Montreal. She suggested I go out with her and her friends and sleep at her place and then leave early in the morning the next day before she had to leave to catch her flight. I don’t remember many details of this night but I for sure puked in her bathroom and probably offended one or two of her lovely roommates. We crashed in her bed for what seemed like minutes before we were unceremoniously woken up by her alarm. She had packed her bags and labelled her toiletries like the anal type A mom that she is and I grabbed a cab to my middle school friend, Darren’s house. Like Gene, I hadn’t seen Darren in ages, but unlike Gene, our relationship was kinda weird. We were part of similar friend groups in middle school and kept in touch throughout the years but mainly only peripherally. When I thought of the people I knew in Montreal, I texted him and he offered to let me crash in his bed so I thought I would be set for the remainder of the weekend and maybe a couple of extra days if he’d have me.

What Darren didn’t tell me was that he lived with his girlfriend and three other roommates, two of whom were there when I arrived. His girlfriend was not as Darren had recently cheated on her and she found out about it. His story was that he went to a bar alone and a strange and pretty girl approached him and asked him for his number and if he wanted to have sex. He agreed and that was it. He had also decided that he wanted to continue to see this girl while continuing to date his long-term live-in girlfriend. She, surprisingly did not like this idea and left the apartment for a much needed break at her parents’ place. Our schools shared the same reading week so the timing could not have been better for her to leave.

Darren’s roommates knew about this new girl and hated him, for obvious reasons. I felt this awkwardness as soon as I entered their apartment but still had no idea. He took me to his bedroom immediately to drop off my stuff, which I now feel like probably looked very suspicious, and told me everything I just mentioned. I told him he was dumb, he agreed and we changed the subject. Before heading back into the common spaces of his apartment, he asked that I not mention the new girl’s name, his girlfriend and to please play along when he said he was leaving to his uncle’s house for the next couple of nights. “Wait, what?” I said. “You’re leaving?” “Ya, I figured you’d appreciate the bed to yourself.” I mean, I DID appreciate the bed to myself but I didn’t want to be staying in his huge apartment alone without him. I brushed it off and moved on to meet his roommates. After making sure I was comfortably settled, Darren immediately took off.

I was left with his weird roommate, Caroline, who suggested we smoke pot on the balcony. It was freezing out but I thought it would help alleviate the weirdness of being alone with a strange new friend. It didn’t. She suggested we take the subway to a market where we could get crepes. I agreed and we spent an almost completely silent subway ride just looking at each other on a packed subway cart. We get to the marketplace, which is actually really cool and huge and we line up for crepes. I get confused when waiting for my order of a nutella and strawberry crepe and the guy convinces me I ordered an apple one. I’m pretty sure I didn’t but Caroline can’t corroborate my nutella story so I just take the apple crepe because I don’t want any more conflict. We eat in virtual silence and then take the subway home. I tell Caroline that I’m heading out for a walk and to potentially meet some nonexistent friends. I was convinced that I could either make a new friend or go through my phone and eventually find someone I knew living in Montreal. I did neither of these things. Instead I was outside for an hour before I got cold because my converse shoes were soaked through from stepping in too many slushy puddles so I had to retrace my steps.

I came back to Darren’s place and avoided Caroline, who was now occupied with talking to another roommate loudly about how much of an asshole Darren was. Lol, tell me about it. I went to his room, took out my computer and thanked god that he answered my text asking for the wifi password before he left. I texted my best friend, Julie, who knows Darren, and complained about how weird of a situation we were both currently in. She sympathized and I decided to buy my return ticket home, early the following day. Trains were usually 8 or so hours so I packed up my stuff that night and went to bed before 10. I woke up early, cabbed to the train station and got breakfast there to avoid any more interacting with his roommates and got on the train. I felt immediate relief. The train was calm and quiet and I texted my parents about getting picked up so they could drive me to their new, temporary spot. They agreed because they’re lovely and my dad picked me up from downtown and drove me to their fancy neighbourhood where they had been staying at their friend’s house temporarily.

The place was huge and isolated with a giant ravine in the backyard, which I noticed the following morning. I was on the second of three floors and essentially had a wing of the place to myself. I was a bit stunned when I first got there and spent a solid hour doing a tour. That’s how you know a place is huge. It had a wine cellar and an en suite bathroom attached to every bedroom. The place was decorated with pictures of my mom’s friend, her husband and their kids. It was extremely beautiful and looked like it was designed and decorated in the 80s. I loved it. I had a quick snack with my parents and told them about my weekend before retiring to my quarters for the week. I set up my computer in the bathroom and opened itunes. I have a playlist specifically made for taking baths and clicked on it. I ran the enormous tub and grabbed some bubble bath that was hanging out under the sink. It took less than five minutes to fill up because the water pressure was so strong.

I dipped my foot into the scalding water and kept going until I was fully submerged. The coldness in my feet and ankles from the weekend spent running through slush puddles couldn’t be hot enough and I slowly relaxed into a knees bent, sitting position. My songs were playing, I closed my eyes and went over the weekend’s vivid memories in my brain. I started crying. The tears came quickly and felt cleansing. They were so strong that I started to sob. I have never felt more relaxed in a bath. I stayed longer than usual but didn’t shave my legs or actually clean myself. I submerged my head multiple times and finally, after a solid 45 minutes and a lot but not all of the bubbles having dissolved, I got out of the bath. Besides getting into one, this is one of my favourite parts of baths. I took one of the many big person sized towels and wrapped it around myself. I brushed my teeth and got into clean pyjamas, closed my computer and slept the sleep of a very tired but renewed person.


When we were ten, Jordan, her parents and I went for a walk to U of T to play soccer around the old ivy buildings. It was a sunny, gorgeous day out and we were hot and sweaty from running around with her dad and playing soccer with so much earnestness and energy that we just wanted to get home to have a popsicle and sit afterwards.

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I'm sitting at the restaurant overlooking the river in the National with my brother, nephew and cousin.

I've ordered a latte and a t-bone steak and it's 10 in the morning. It’s our third day here. We've just come back from an early morning ride around the park. There is a water buffalo that's been dying for the past few days sitting by the water. It's calm and the weather is heating up. Our food comes and I make it halfway through the steak before I start feeling the effects of my order. "I'm getting the meat sweats.” My brother laughs. I take a few more sips of my warm latte and we make plans to go swimming at the pool later.

A Curly Haired Girl's Guide to Explaining to Your Mother That You Have Curly Hair

Having a mother with the opposite hair colour, type and texture than yours can be difficult at times. You never feel like you're quite on the same page when communicating about your hair woes. But there are tricks to teaching her how to see the light when it comes to the management and care of your unruly hair. Follow the steps below to avoid any more misunderstandings and misgivings about being a curly haired person in your mom’s straight haired home:

Agree that straightening is bad for the overall look and health of your hair. After all, it makes a lot of sense. Why would putting a hot iron on your already dead hair be good for it? In this case, conceding to her valid arguments will only get you points in her book. She has to know that you're open to her suggestions, no matter how tone deaf they may be.

Agree that your straightened to shit hair looks greasy, because it does. Lament the fact that your curly hair is also disgusting only the ends are fried and dry from all the straightening but the roots are weighed down by the accumulation of sweat and grease you get while it's straight. At least while it's straight, you can manage to tie it up in a messy bun in order to hide how infrequently you take showers. Committing to the curly haired look is only admitting defeat. This is a hole you won't ever be able to get out of so invite her in to see the place for herself.

When she tells you to "Just brush it, it'll untangle all those knots and make it look nice.", be patient with her. Explain in layman's terms that it will make your hair frizzy and insane while still maintaining its sheen of greasiness. If that fails, brush it in front of her. Proving your point will be worth the mess your hair is now in.

Apologize for the clumps of hair that have fallen out all over her living room couch. And the bathroom sink. And the kitchen sink. And for having pieces of hair turn up in the quinoa you prepared for her. When you wear your hair naturally, large masses of your hair knots are bound to end up everywhere, including your own butt crack and there is literally nothing you can do about this. Your mom should suffer along with you.

Never stop playing with it while she's around you. Make her aware of your own discomfort with your curly hair. Remind her that she was born with perfectly straight, dark and manageable hair that looks great no matter what she does with it. Tell her that yes, there is a difference in managing different types of hair and that curls are unique and weird and do not respond to logic or reasoning. Whatever you do to them does not matter or make any difference in the slightest. Will she ever realize this? Probably not. For now, just accept her compliments when she insists your curly hair is the most beautiful and that you should stop straightening it forever. You handed over your physical autonomy when she gave birth to you. In fact, you may never have had physical autonomy because she created you and she would never create something less than perfect. Your hair belongs to your mother so do what she says.

Silently curse her for marrying your dad, whose beautiful curls lay tight and close to his head. His hair is dignified and cool. He can pull off a thick bouffant. If your hair was that short, you may be able to pull it off too. But because of Western society's expectations of women and their beautifully long and Victoria's Secret modelled "beach waves", you will forever be stuck in a blow drying and straightening hell cycle until it's too greasy to tolerate. Make peace with this sad fact and with your mother at the same time. Be free. It's her world, you're just straightening your hair in it.