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 changes 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. 

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. 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.