Five Things Friday: Waste-Free Soap Bar,Vegan Butter Recipe, Stationery Biking, Soap Nuts, Podcasts

Welcome to my third instalment of Five Things Friday! You can read the previous two here and here. In this weekly post, I try to talk about cool stuff that’s on my radar that would be of interest to my audience.

I have to be honest that I haven’t gotten up to much other than work and (attempted) essay writing this week, but there are still definitely five things that I want to bring to your attention! Let’s get started.

Waste-Free Soap Bar: // Yesterday, I wrote a full blog post sharing my thoughts on the Soap Works shampoo bar. My verdict? It’s not bad; I’m actually pretty happy with it. I will probably continue to try different soap bars, but I plan to finish this one, and I don’t dread washing my hair with it, the way that I did with the LUSH shampoo bars (I tried two of those—hated both because they were wayyy too drying for my hair). Read all about it here. And guess what? It costs about $2–3 and it lasts a really long time (I have long, thick hair and after four or five washes, the bar still looks almost completely unused). You can buy it here.

Vegan Butter Recipe: // I’ve been resisting vegan butter for the longest time, using coconut oil or vegetable shortening instead (I can buy them in bulk so it’s “waste free”) and not getting the same results you would with butter. Then I decided to look up vegan butter recipes, and this one looks promising. I’m thinking, weekend project. I will let you know how it turns out. Seems simple enough, and I already have most of the ingredients, such as olive oil, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, and a few others.

Soap Nuts: // It turns out you can do your laundry with a completely plant-based detergent alternative that is also unprocessed. Soap nuts look like nuts (thanks, whoever named them), and they’re a berry shell that naturally contains soap! I can buy them in bulk at Bulk Barn, and so far I am experimenting with them. You are supposed to be able  to reuse them in several loads of laundry, but my experience hasn’t been that! I will write a whole post when I figure out exactly what does and doesn’t work with regards to soap nuts.

Stationery Biking: // Change of plans! My seldom used stationery bike is now near my workspace, so I hop on to pedal a little every so often throughout the day. It’s great! One of the biggest “pros” of working from home is being able to actually move and exercise during breaks, even if they’re only five minutes long. This isn’t the biggest calorie-burning hack, though I do rack up 100–200 extra by the end of the day, but it’s just been good for the way I feel. I would really recommend it; there’s so much more to exercise than the calories we burn doing it.

Podcasts: // I am a bit of a podcast fiend, and I love listening to new podcasts, even if ultimately I’m pretty picky about which I “keep” on my regular podcast rotation. I’ve been listening to and liking a podcast called Elise Gets Crafty lately. If you’re hoping to make a living from a creative pursuit without actually losing the creativity side of things, I recommend exploring this one. It’s a bit eclectic in that there isn’t one specific theme or motif that carries from episode to episode (other than creativity—duh!). It’s a weekly show, and I love the interviews that Elise does with people who’ve managed to turn their creativity into something financially sustaining and value-giving. Check out her podcast here.

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Waste-Free, Vegan Soap Works Shampoo & Conditioner Bar

I have tried a few different waste-free shampoos, from baking soda and apple cider vinegar to the LUSH shampoo bars and now the Soap Works shampoo bar. So far, my favourite has been the Soap Works shampoo bar.

I have lots of long, thick, curly hair that is prone to dryness and sadly a little damaged from colouring (highlights), sun exposure, and heat styling. For these reasons, I try to stick to hydrating shampoos, and my favourite “container” shampoos are from the Andalou Naturals line, which you can find at Whole Foods. Aside from the plastic waste, those are really great—cruelty-free, non-GMO verified, and many of their products are vegan, as well. I find the Andalou Naturals  shampoos are extremely hydrating.

But I have been interested in cutting out plastic waste where I can, so when I saw the $2.50 Soap Works shampoo and conditioner bar at Bulk Barn, I knew I had to try it. At first, I thought it was a regular bar of soap because it is the same shape and size; it looks like just a regular bar of white soap.

After four washes, I feel like it works like a very basic shampoo. It’s not ultra hydrating, and my hair definitely feels as though it still  needs conditioner—which so far I haven’t figured out how to make or where to buy in waste-free form. When I use a packaged conditioner, my hair feels great, just as it would if I had shampooed with a much more expensive, packaged shampoo.

From some online reviews, it seems that this shampoo bar works best for fine, healthy or slightly oilier hair. I am personally pretty impressed, and I am going to keep using it. I know that the reason I am not getting perfect results has more to do with my hair than with the shampoo bar, but even so my hair feels much less dry than it did with the LUSH shampoo bar or the ACV/baking soda combination.

You can buy the Soap Works shampoo & conditioner bar at Bulk Barn or at Well.ca (where you can also read 73 reviews on it!).

Five Things Friday: Floor Barre, Idris Elba, Apple Strudels, Vegan Jobs, and A&W’s Beyond Burger

Hi there! I am back with the second instalment of Five Things Friday. This is a great way to do a weekly recap of five things on my radar that I think might also interest my readers.

Floor Barre: // My favourite ever ballerina, and the only dancer I follow on Instagram, posted a series of short videos demonstrating some floor barre (or ballet-lying-down) exercises here, here, here (and don’t forget to swipe on this and the next for more), and here. Evgenia Obraztsova is the prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, and thanks to her newly also-in-English captions, I now know about floor barre. Floor barre is a lot like pilates, or a lot like ballet lying down.

I personally love pilates, and I even love doing the Ballet Beautiful workout on days I want a really tough sculpting workout. What you need to know about floor barre is that it’s a lot of hip work, but it’s also a lot more reasonable in terms of difficulty (compared with ballet beautiful).If you want to get a taste, start with Evgenia’s exercise demonstrations or try this short video from the New York City Ballet workout (Youtube video below). What is great about this five minute introduction to floor barre is that the movements are synchronized to music, which makes it truly feel like you’re dancing while lying down.

Three more free online floor barre workouts to keep on your radar are this fitness workout from the Scottish Ballet company, fitness trainer Caroline Jordan’s no impact floor barre routine, and Lazy Dancer Tips’ floor barre workout. Each of these are about 30 minutes in length, and I have listed them in order of difficulty.After completing all three of them, I would say my favourite is the one from the Scottish Ballet. It begins with some easy warmup exercises and moves on to some more difficult moves that require good muscle control, but they also definitely emphasize flexibility work. I found I could do everything.

Caroline Jordan’s video is a little more challenging and is definitely focused on sculpting a little more than dynamic stretching. If you’re looking for a reasonable toning workout, this should do.

Lazy Dancer Tips, on the other hand, is a Youtube channel by Alessia, a dancer/trainer, and I definitely felt her floor barre routine would have been more appropriate for someone with more hip flexibility, like a dancer. Several of the floor-facing exercises would have been easier to do if I’d had a lot more turnout available to me in my hips. I didn’t, so I had to modify some moves. But I love her channel and even this workout was good when modified, so I wanted to bring her to your attention.

A&W’s Beyond Burger: // On July 9, A&W added a plant-based burger to their menu. Last Wednesday, I finally decided to try it. I’d been resisting until then because I honestly am not a fan of fast food—at all. But I really wanted to try the Beyond Burger to find out what the hype is about. Well, guess what? They were sold out. Their drive thru had a sign telling me they would restock in two weeks. I turns out they’ve been selling out elsewhere, too.

I think it’s such good news that people are willing to give non-meat alternatives a try!

Idris Elba as James Bond: // Rumours of Idris Elba being cast as James Bond again have resurfaced. This has sparked a Twitter shouting match between people, and this is the first time I really feel the negative effects of scrutinizing things so closely from an identity perspective, or what is usually negatively referred to as identity politics. Of course, we live in a world where your skin colour unfortunately matters at this point; so it’s not a bad thing overall.

Many, including entertainment journalist Dana Schwartz, are equating people’s negative opinion on the potential pick with racism.

This accusation was a huge slap in the face for me… I’m not racist. But my first thought when reading about Idris Elba being cast for the next Bond film was, “Isn’t he too old?” As Dana points out in other tweets, he’s actually younger than some previous Bond picks. But Idris has a very prominently grey beard, and somehow I just don’t think he makes a good James Bond. Would it make me racist if I also admitted that I think 95% of white actors also wouldn’t make a good James Bond? Is it a male actor’s birthright to get cast as James Bond?

Before finding out about the controversy, I actually thought about other black actors that would make really great Bond picks. So who do I think would make the perfect James Bond? Djimon Hounsou! Thoughts?

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Tim Horton’s Vegan Mini Apple Strudels: // The Tim Horton’s near my home offers soy milk, which means that whenever I grab a coffee to go (which is seldom), I now choose Tim’s over Starbucks. I recently also found out that they have a few other vegan options, including these mini apple strudels and their caramel apple bagel—I haven’t tried the bagel yet. How cute are these? They were a little crumbly and dry, but I’m not too picky with apple-flavoured sweet treats, so I still liked them.

On the other hand, I don’t know how I feel about these ingredients for the apple filling:  apples (sulphites), water, glucose-fructose, sugar, modified corn starch, salt, cinnamon, malic acid, guar gum, artificial flavours, spice, sodium citrate, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, sulphiting agent, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, caramel colour, artificial colour.

Yep, that’s just the apple filling! I guess if you’re in a pinch.

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VeganJobs.com: // I tend to keep my job hunting to Linkedin and Indeed, but recently, I’ve started checking out this website called veganjobs.com. On the other job boards, I encounter quite a few postings that I wouldn’t feel comfortable applying to, often because a large portion of the company’s revenue comes from the sale of animal products.

So VeganJobs.com has been a great job board to keep on my radar. There aren’t too many jobs posted as one might expect, but of the ones that are, quite a few are remote, so you don’t have to be in a specific location, and many are from independent or small companies that aren’t posting everywhere else. I thought some of you might want to know about it, too!

That’s all from me! If you wanna read my last Five Things Friday, click here. In that one, I talk about a book, writing prompts and more.

Grateful for the Little Moments

The last couple days brought a health scare for our family dog. He is a beautiful little (or not so little) Maltese poodle mix. He is twelve years old, and he joined the family just a few weeks after he was born.

C. is the first dog that anyone in the family has had as a pet companion. And getting him was only half-planned, though I’ve been grateful for my parents’ inexperience and sensitivity more than once since. They had planned to visit a breeder to see some puppies just to learn more about the process of buying a dog. It turned out that C. was the last puppy left from his litter, and they fell in love instantly!

C., relaxing, taken a few weeks ago (2018)

His health scare started with a cough during the day, and when he visited the vet, he was given antibiotics for a bacterial infection. He stayed up nearly all of that night coughing, and he continued to have sporadic fits of coughing yesterday, too. (So far, he seems all better today!)

This is the first time he has been sick, and while his age might not be the main factor (I mean, we’ve all had throat infections, right?) I can’t help but feel he has slowed down. And that’s been a reminder for me to enjoy every single moment I have with him, because I don’t know how many more I’ll get.

We have all been spoiled by his always energetic personality and this infection along with some behavioural changes in the last few months have been a total surprise. I can’t tell you how much I regret all the times I put off taking him to the dog park! I didn’t appreciate just how lucky I was to have a dog on my hands that wanted to go. One of his behaviour changes is that he is not as enthusiastic about his walks–he goes twice a day. Whereas in the past, any mention of the word “walk” would have him wagging his tail and waiting by the front door, there are now days when even a treat won’t do the trick to make him want to go.

Observing these changes in C. has been so humbling and such a great, difficult–and slightly painful–reminder that as wonderful and beautiful as life is, it is also ever-changing. We are all only here temporarily, and even who and what we are changes.

C., winter 2018

I remember hearing a cheesy quote about chasing your dreams because tomorrow you might be here but your dreams might not be, and it rings true. We should chase the dreams in our hearts as they call us.

As for C., I feel beyond blessed and lucky to have him in my life even with his changing moods and aches and pains. We’re off for a walk now.

Four Things I Wish I Had Known Before Thrift Shopping

I love going to Banana Republic or Aritzia or J. Crew as much as any other girl. I love finding that perfect shirt or dress, and buying something brand new; there’s just something about the shopping experience I love. But with the awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and the people it affects along the supply chain, it’s become clear that I need to make better decisions.

Consider that an article from the Ellen McArthur Foundation, an organization dedicated to studying how we can create a sustainable circular economy, estimates that the garment industry produces the equivalent of more CO2 than the emissions from international flights and maritime shipping. But while the awareness of pollution from air transport has become so accepted that some airlines, such as British Airways, allow fliers to contribute to a carbon fund by buying offset credits when they purchase tickets, most fast-fashion giants are doing little and sharing even less with the consumer.

Two of the main environmental problems with most conventional (price-focused) fast fashion garments are that their production consumes an excessive amount of natural resources (namely, water) and it releases toxic chemicals into the environment at many stages of production, putting people and entire ecosystems at risk.

One way to mitigate these and other problems in the short term is to buy thrifted items. At this time, more environmentally made garments tend to be significantly more expensive than their conventionally made equivalents. So to stretch your budget, and make responsible decisions when you buy new, it’s a good idea to buy used clothes whenever you can. Here are some things I wish I’d known before starting to thrift.

[Consider watching the documentary The True Cost to learn more of the detailsof the environmental and human impact of the fast fashion garment industry. Rent it on Youtube or find on Netflix]

KNOW what you like: // This is my most important tip. When you enter a Club Monaco or the Gap or any other store, you’re presented with items that fit into a semi-coherent style. The company carefully curates their seasonal offerings and their garments wouldn’t look out of place side-by-side in your closet. But thrifting doesn’t offer that luxury! When you’re thrifting, you’re exposed to all sorts of styles; so it’s really important to know—before going to the shop—what you will be looking for.

Thrifting shouldn’t be about sacrificing your personal style; it just requires a little more effort. So, know your colours, which cuts suit you best, whether you prefer skirts or dresses, and be completely at peace with not finding anything sometimes—because that will happen!

If you have trouble envisioning what style might suit you, consider finding a fashion blogger that inspires you or look at the cut and colours of the garments at your favourite shops. I recently wrote a blog post about Carly, a style blogger I like.

Ditch last minute shopping: // If you know you’re going to be invited for a baby shower in two months, or you have to go to a friend’s birthday next month, start planning for an outfit now. It’s a good idea to have seasonal, occasion-appropriate outfits at the ready, but if your wardrobe is incomplete, act on it as soon as possible. Thrift shopping takes a lot more time and effort than conventional mall shopping. You might need to visit more shops and flip through more hangers than you’d like to. That’s why you need to give yourself time.

But if you do find yourself in a pinch, why not consider a rental service like Rent Frock Repeat? They are a Canadian designer dress rental service. You will pay a fraction of the cost of the dress, and you will look absolutely fabulous, without having to make an often unnecessary addition to your closet. This service is great for weddings and other big occasions.

Find a seamstress: // This tip can take you a really long way. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or skirt, or shirt, that is almost perfect, but not quite. Maybe it’s a little loose in the chest area, or maybe the shoulders sit a little funny. Ask the thrift store about their return policy, and take the garment to a seamster/tress you trust. See if they can fix it!

If you can find a place that offers well-priced alterations, then you will still save money on your shopping while ending up with an outfit that is tailored to your body, something no ready-to-wear item offers.

Follow the care instructions: // Yes, you may have only paid $8 for your newest thrifted item, and it may make little sense to now dish $10 to dry clean it. But if the wash instructions ask you to only wash cold with light items or dry clean, then you need to do that. My personal experience has been that thrifted items are much more prone to disintegrating than new buys. Treat them as well as you possibly can, and part of that will include following the care instructions to a T.

I Love This Style Blogger; You Might, Too!

I love having a roster of bloggers to inspire me, and weekends are just the best time to catch up on them—preferably with a hot drink. For me, the two minutes I spend connecting with a favourite blogger elevate the rest of my day, so they are totally worth it. If you’re reading the right lifestyle blogs, reading a post should honestly net you more than a cup of coffee in motivation and inspiration.

In fact, I would never bother with blogs if they didn’t give me something more than style inspiration or decoration ideas, or whatever the blog is about on a surface level. That’s because on a deeper level, the blogger-reader relationship is about a personal connection, in every case—for me—with someone I admire and want to emulate in some way. After an interaction, I walk away with a fuller inspiration tank, feeling humbler, wanting to try harder, work better, pay more attention to detail… Just be a better me. And today I wanna bring you a little bit about one of my favourite blogs, in case you haven’t heard about it.

It’s called Carly the Prepster (links at the bottom of this post). It’s a style and lifestyle blog written and curated by Carly Heitlinger (you wouldn’t know her from anywhere else, but that’s her name). She used to blog under the monicker The College Prepster, and I have been hooked on her blog for a couple years now. She is a mid-twenties girl living in New Jersey, and she blogs about lifestyle and style on a daily basis. Her blog posts are always complemented by beautifully shot photos and her writing voice is conversational. As a reader, I always feel like I’m reading a personal email from a longtime friend.

I have not only gained so much style inspiration from her (something my wardrobe actually needs), but just life inspiration in general. I find she makes an effort to truly live as and portray the best version of herself. Her attention to detail, discipline and perseverance inspire me so much, as well. Can I describe her better than to just say that she is one of those slightly (but still super high functioning) OCD, hyper-organized people you wish you could be? Not everyone would consider that a compliment, but I promise that it comes from the bottom of my heart as exactly that.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but it really is hard to overstate that there’s something special about her blog and, I hate this word,  but also about her brand. She’s not just another style blogger… You could recognize a Carly outfit from two miles out—her style is that coherent—and to me it never gets boring.

I find that Carly has found a way to strike the perfect balance between aspirational and practical content. You’ll definitely leave her blog or Instagram page aspiring to bake a gingham cake, build a gallery wall, and make a dent in your wallet at the nearest J. Crew, but if you follow her on Instagram, for example, you will also see post notifications about amazing sales for specific items she’s worn in posts—which are almost always to die for. I find those super helpful.

Her style is fun and feminine but still classy, and I would feel comfortable wearing many of the outfits she styles in everyday situations, which adds such an important layer of depth to my interactions with her posts. I walk away able to apply what I’ve learned from her to my life, and this is true for her dating advice, her office tours, and her easy recipes, not just fashion. It all just transfers. Many other bloggers by comparison present their content in a way that looks phenomenal for them and on them, but that would not be applicable to my life or the dress requirements for social situations that I would find myself in on the daily.

I know that lots of you might not know about her yet, which is why I wrote this blog post. So hop on over to her site and social media and see what you think.

Here are her best links:

Her website: Carly the Prepster

Her Youtube channel (she has over 130 videos!): Carly the Prepster

Her Instagram: @Carly

My only warning or bit of skepticism about Carly’s blog is that it implicitly promotes and inspires consumerism. She does address this in some of her posts, which is really unlike most style bloggers, and I really do feel her intentions are pure. I would love to one day find a blogger with Carly’s enthusiasm and personality whose fashion has a mind for minimalism (or at least less consumption) and kindness (no leather!). I haven’t found those two things in combination yet.

If you’re also aspiring to be a lifestyle influencer like Carly, read some of the thoughts I shared about the book Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy, director of influencer strategy at Hearst, a large American media company. What’s great about Brittany is that she’s sat on both sides of the proverbial table; while she manages influencers today, she was an influencer herself, working with large brands, just a few years ago through her own blog.

Staying True to Myself

It’s beyond confusing and difficult to turn down opportunity in a time of hardship. I have been somewhere I never expected for over a year now: I have been underemployed despite having good work experience and specific skills.

I thank God for my circumstances often (I should every day) when I remember that while I don’t have my dream job, while I feel the desire to contribute a lot more (doing the same things but more of them!)–and earn more money–I at least get to do something I’m good at some of the time.

Today, I received an interview request for a job that at first had seemed desirable. It was with a vegan company, and while I am not vegan (and don’t want to be!) I do have a lot in common with them in terms of food and product/lifestyle choices, so I applied.

After a short email screening, I was given a call and during this call I was criticised in passing for refusing to identify as an ethical vegan. I didn’t know how to handle this and offered that many would consider me a vegan and that I was open to learning more about the vegan lifestyle.

But that’s not my truth… And it’s only after I’d agreed to an interview time for tomorrow that I realized the anxiety dredging up inside of me wouldn’t just go away. I’d lied about something that is important to me.

So what is my truth? I’ll sum it up this way: I think all people are equal, regardless of what they eat. I think animal exploitation is bad (you don’t have to meet too many animals to see their lives matter…). And with all that, I think it’s better for 70% of people to eat meat 50% of the time than for 5% of who never eat it (or use animal products in other ways…) to stand in a corner screaming at the other 95%.

I believe there will be a day to fight the abolitionist battle and that that day is not today. Today I think we can promote alternatives and a decrease in exploitative consumption. This is a message that I believe many, many more people are willing to hear and integrate into their life than that of abolitionism–something that I’ve tried to inform myself about by becoming familiar with Gary Francione’s work but that I just can’t get behind for the masses today.

So I did something really hard, a choice that makes me feel like I’ve doomed myself to stand outside in cold freezing rain without a jacket or umbrella for a while longer. I cancelled the interview.

I apologized and explained I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the role in the necessary manner.

This experience, along with the rest of the hollowness and some of the arbitrary aspects of the job hunting process, has really tested my faith but also strengthened it in some ways because I feel it’s one of the most valuable things I possess at the moment. It’s what gets me up in the morning and keeps me trying when the numbers don’t add up.