Tasnia Nasar


Heart thawing Valentine’s Day ideas

It seems winter has finally arrived. With a cold weather advisory in effect for Toronto today and temperatures expected to stay well below the freezing mark all through the long weekend, maybe it’s best to spend the next few days with your loved ones – indoors. However, with Valentine’s Day to look forward to, the last thing you want is to lounge around the house looking for something to do. Fret not! We have got you covered with these fun ideas on how you can keep things hot and fun at the same time.

  1. Netflix and Chill

Nothing wrong with keeping things simple one year. Throw on a movie and relax. If you’re down with the lingo, you’ll know to wear your extra special pajamas with an added surprise underneath. Because Valentine’s Day is a day of love, be sure to pick a movie you’re not exactly too interested in seeing. That way you won’t be missing out on anything on the screen – just focus on what’s happening on your couch.

  1. Host Games Night

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about your significant other. Your family and friends should be celebrated as well. Get everyone involved and host a night of fun. Have couple themed games available (remember to keep your single friends and families in mind too!) Serve hot chocolate and munchies to keep yourselves warm. Sometimes, the most fun is had when in groups.

Image result for candle light romantic tumblr

  1. Ignite the flames

Home? Put on some romantic music, light some candles, and get dressed! You don’t need a fancy restaurant to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style. Your kitchen can have the same effect. Cook up a nice meal – or get your significant other to cook it (because feminism). There’s something rather comforting about not having to awkwardly reply to your waiter while there’s food in your mouth. Plus there is the added luxury of not having parents at the table next to you who decided today is the day to teach their toddler what table manners. It’s all about you and your pasta tonight. Oh, and the person sitting across from you.

  1. Have you ever?

Whether you’ve been together for a month or for 30 years, there’s always something about your significant other that slips through the cracks during your time together. Think about it: how well do you really know each other?  It can be simple things such as their favourite colour, or something a little deeper – like the real reason behind their fear of dogs. Spend your day playing fun couple games, ask each other questions, and really open up to one another. (Warning: New couples should avoid questions on commitment, children, and future goals as it may cause a rather awkward situation that your developing relationship is just not ready for.)

  1. Embrace The Cold!

Don’t let the cold weather stop you from doing your thing. Put on an extra layer and head out! Whether you want to embrace the busy restaurants or go out to see a movie in a theatre instead of your couch, just remember it’s never really that cold! Why not do something out of the box and try an activity that’ll be sure to keep you warm. Attend a dance class or engage in a winter sport; skating, perhaps? There’s nothing more romantic than attempting to walk on ice and – somewhat – gracefully fall in your significant other’s arms. Don’t fret over the temperatures – as long as your heart is warm.

Got any other ideas? Share them with us! Don’t forget to tell us how your weekend went in the comments below. Happy Valentine’s Day!


10 reasons to avoid the gym

Happy New Year, folks!

This is probably the 94th article you’re reading about new year’s resolutions, but let me tell you the only resolution you’ll need to make this year. It involves the gym. But, I’m not here to tell you to start going to the gym, because you probably already promised yourself that you would. Instead, I am going to tell you the reasons why you shouldn’t go to the gym at any time of the year. So cross that cute ambition off your list because these 10 reasons will change your mind!

1. January brings forth the likes of many

Believe it or not, everyone’s New Year resolution is to start going to the gym. And like you, a lot of people attempt to accomplish this resolution, especially the first few weeks of the year. That’s why, during last year’s attempt to begin a healthy lifestyle, you might have noticed the large rush of people who do not look like they belong there. Men and women alike struggle to keep up on the treadmill, weights scattered across the studio, and confused folks trying to determine how to work their legs out of the complicated machines. It’s an absolute madhouse. Do yourself a favour and stay at home.

2. Money, money, money

The cheapest gym membership is roughly $30. That is, without the activation fees, maintenance fees, late fees, and other unnecessary, existing fees. Every month, whether you go regularly or not, money will be taken out of your account. There is no cash-only option or month-by-month payments. All gyms will require you to hand over credit card information to automatically withdraw money from your bank account. Instead of using this money toward a gym membership you won’t use, hand over that information to a children’s charity, women’s shelter, or buy yourself a really nice dinner.

3. Guilty until proven guilty 

 Eating is so much more fun when there are no weight commitments involved. Calorie counting is not only tedious, but it’s time consuming. Besides, no one needs the stress of overeating amongst the thousands of other first world problems we have. Gluten-free meals may seem like all the rage, but what is bread without the gluten? So just eat your cake and don’t think about the consequences. Chocolate is a great source of iron, especially during your time of month. And fries? Well, given the fact they were once potatoes, they technically qualify as vegetable, you know. Life is too short to not indulge in your favourite foods.


4. Instagram food, not your bod

And while you’re eating your favourite foods, go ahead and let your followers know. Don’t be that woman who posts a picture in front of the studio mirror with your workout ensemble on. Nobody likes that girl. We realize that with a gym membership comes great responsibility. You constantly have to prove you actually use it. Without a gym membership, the pressure is off! Besides, a beautifully plate of pasta is not only more like-worthy, it’s also more realistic. There’s no added pressure of making pasta look good, as there are with your body. Dimming the studio lights, standing with your chest out and sucking in your gut is just too much effort to demonstrate you are leading a healthy lifestyle. That plate of pasta, however, needs #nofilter.

5. Life is too short

There is probably a list of many other things you would rather be doing than going to the gym. Ending world hunger, knitting a sweater, reading a book, or Netflix binging all seem much more appealing than sweating and panting. If you’re life is busy enough, just keep telling yourself that you’re tired enough by the end of the day to skip going to the gym. The gym is for those people who have the ambition to take the time time and put in the effort to burn some calories. Calories that can be burnt doing something else– such as walking to the nearest bakery.

6. Home is where the heart is

Work out in the comfort of your own home. Merely watching a YouTube video of yogis and boot camp enthusiasts will have you feeling good as new. The next step will be to try out these moves one day. This way, you won’t have to spend time travelling, sharing equipment, or staring at people who are too fit to be at the gym in the first place. After your ‘workout,’ you have instant access to a fridge full of food so you can replenish those calories. Whether you’re doing crunches on your living room floor, doing leg lifts on your couch, or getting frisky with your loved one in the bedroom, burning calories at home is just more convenient.

7. Gym nuts are intimidating

They grunt, they sweat all over the equipment, and they make you feel less of a woman than you actually are. You don’t need to be exposed to that type of negativity! Gym nuts are people that have already accomplished their goals of attaining the perfect body, so the fact that they continue to take up space on the elliptical beside you is rather pretentious. While you’re struggling to keep up with the beginner level workout, the gym nut beside you is going at 100 km/h and doesn’t seem to be winded. Do yourself a favour and make friends in the same fitness level as you. That way, you can share stories about your late night walks to the fridge and your struggles to wake up in the morning. How romantic.

8. You’ll get your workout clothes sweaty

It’s difficult enough doing laundry — there’s only so many gym outfits you can buy to avoid washing the same set after each session. After an hour of cardio, the only thing you can think about is how to get your clothes off your body and into the hamper. Not only is dealing with clothes an added chore to your already hectic life, but it’s also a waste of water. They look better while you’re running errands, anyways. Create the illusion of a healthy lifestyle at the grocery store with some cute running shoes and a pair of yoga pants while you’re shopping for avocados and kale. People will look at you the same way they look at the Kardashians; a whole lot of envy with an added sense of judgment.  


9. Love yourself

So what if you have a hard time going up two flights of stairs? At least you look good. Sure, your clothes might be a little more snug then usual, but curves are gorgeous! If stairs leave you winded, take the elevator. That’s why they’re there in the first place. It’s 2016; technology is advancing at the speed of light. Soon enough, we won’t even have to lift a finger. (We all know how difficult that is) These luxuries were invented with people like us in mind. The least we can do is be thankful for them.

10. Find alternatives 

Maybe living a healthy lifestyle isn’t a bad thing. But I stand by my advice on avoiding the gym. Especially during the first few weeks of the year, where everyone will have the same mindset about shedding off their eggnog. Just know there are alternatives to getting fit, without the commitment of a gym membership. Like eating one slice of pizza instead of 10.


Good luck and happy fitnessing!

What’s the deal with ugly Christmas sweaters?

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks.
Dressed in holiday style
In the air
There’s a feeling
of Christmas”

What exactly is ‘holiday style’? Well, thanks to a generation of men and women who are on the lookout for everything that goes against society, we can now celebrate the era of the ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’. Hipsters are the cause of everything overpriced and overhyped, but ugly sweaters are something we can actually thank them for. While we’ve all been subjected to an ugly sweater at some point in our lives (sorry, grandma!), over the last few years people have deliberately sought out these sweaters instead of stashing them in the back of the closet where they belong. The ugly Christmas sweater tradition has come into our lives and fortunately, it is here to stay.


And thus, I have some good news for you, ladies. Tight cocktail dresses are a thing of the past. Despite the effort designers have gone through to introduce a new line of holiday-themed, sequinned ensembles and comfortable high heels (yeah right), looking presentable is one less thing we have to worry about during the holiday season. Because now, it seems that everyone is on board with the ugly Christmas sweater bandwagon. H&M, Urban Outfitters, Etsy, and a search on Amazon can lead you to the most elaborate, over the top designs of some pretty amazing, ugly sweaters.

The phenomenon behind this trend is simple; donning a sweater so visually unpleasing is well, adorable. It takes away from the pressure of having to look ‘party-ready,’ and the theme brings people together as a happy group of very poorly dressed people. The focus is taken off of your work and school life, and it takes Aunty Em a much longer time to bring up your love life. Instead, questions now sound a lot like ”where on Earth did you get that?” to ”Did it hurt to put that on?” These questions might have hurt you on an emotional level before — when you wore that sexy red and gold dress you loved so much — but now it can be taken as a compliment.

The trend is also great for those with a competitive edge, who want to express their creativity and come up with outrageous ways to make their ugly sweater just a little more ugly. We have been stuffed animals, ribbons, ornaments, and other Christmas-themed decorations attached to these ensembles. So, there’s no longer an embarrassment towards sporting an ugly sweater similar to one you may have been forced to wear as a child to make your grandmother happy. Now, you are no longer a child who is being dictated what to wear and when to go to bed. You are now in a society where everyone is collectively ugly. And that’s special. Also, it’s warm. (unlike that $250 dress you had in mind)

The only feeling of regret you’ll feel at your next Christmas party is not wearing something uglier. Flashing lights on a sweater may seem a little too ridiculous, but Sally over there seems to be rocking it at the drinks table. So the question is, how can you wear an ugly Christmas sweater to its full potential?

Well, the characteristics of a good ugly Christmas sweater, first and foremost, is the colour. You want to wear a colour that screams IMG_0908Christmas; red, green, or anything that comes in the form of an ornament. Next, its important to look for a sweater that has elements of winter and the holidays on them. Whether that’s a gingerbread man, a reindeer, or Santa Claus himself, your sweater should make people look at it and exclaim, ”yes! Just yes.”

That’s not to say you can’t sway from the Christmas theme. Hotline Bling sweaters are wildly popular this year thanks to Drake’s dad moves. Essentially, the point retailers are trying to make here is that anything works. Whether you want to splurge $100 on a three dimensional sweater or invest a modest $30 on a simpler piece, the key to owning the ugly in your sweater is to just let it be ugly. Put effort behind your sweater. Throw some nice pants on and touch up your makeup with some matching colour on your lips. Wear your sweater like it’s a ball gown. Only then, can you let the sweater be ugly to it’s full potential. (Also, it distracts everyone from the bags you’ve acquired under your eyes instead of under your tree from the holiday stress.)

How-to books are now on bookshelves and on publishing desks, making the ugly Christmas sweater phenomenon that more legitimate. Pinterest has boards on how to make them, your Instagram followers are having photoshoots with them on, your Facebook friends are updating their profile pictures, and other women are currently sitting somewhere on their kitchen table with a hot glue gun. It’s really a beautiful thing; unified ugliness.

So, what I’m trying to say is, it’s time to throw a Ugly Christmas Sweater party. Tomorrow? The expensive one’s don’t even itch! Don’t forget to send me an invite, my sweater is ready to go. Because whether you agree to it or not, the holiday sweater has become as important as drinking eggnog and ”singing” carols by the fireplace. And for that, we are thankful.


Are you adult enough for an adult colouring book?

It’s arguably the biggest new trend of 2015. With spots in Amazon’s Top 100 book list, as well as rave reviews from critics all across North America, adult colouring books are the perfect Christmas gift for the creative person in your life.

I couldn’t help myself when I went Christmas shopping the other day. I just had to pick up a copy. Anna Karenina: A Colouring Book Love Story includes images reminiscent of the Elizabethan era, complete with chandeliers, gowns, princesses, and princes. As an English student, this was the book that spoke to me directly.  I knew I was about to start something exciting when I found myself grabbing a pack of coloured pencils the same day to start ‘expressing myself’. Plus, at an average cost of $10-$15, they’re actually affordable.


I came home that night and sprawled across the living room floor with a cup of tea and my hair in a messy bun, taking the persona of my version of a stereotypical artist. I took out my pencil crayons and hesitantly put a mark on one of the paintings. Surprisingly, it took a lot of effort and concentration to fill in the red lipstick I wanted the woman in the drawing to be wearing. The drawings are done in a rather intricate way and is definitely not meant for children (despite what some people may say!). I found the process rather calming, as I deliberately thought out which colour would look good in which area of the drawing. I was careful not to go past the lines- as difficult as that was -and did my best to make my work look artistic. In the hour and fifteen minutes that I spent behind this colouring book, I not only recalled my childhood, but I was distracted from my technology. I also confirmed a lot I knew about myself — I am a perfectionist with the attention span of a three year old.

Despite not having any professional background or experience in fine arts, the effort I put behind my artistic piece(s) would lead anyone to believe I was prepared to release them in an art gallery. I expressed utter disappointment when my colouring tactics were looking less than par, and put a little too much thought into each colour. Because let’s face it, what difference is there between a light green leaf and a dark green leaf? I went back to each flaw and tried fixing them using blending techniques and filling them in more deeply, thinking I could obtain the artistic abilities of Picasso in a matter of one hour — without natural talent, an instructor, or thousands of dollars of tuition. I used my fashion sense to try and colour bloc flowers and patterns.

The precision and perfection that these books encourage was definitely a huge barrier for me. I started more then five drawings without completing a single one. I can’t say that I’ll go back to finishing them either. I learned that the expectation of perfection is the first thing you have to let go of. Letting things flow naturally is the only way to acquire the therapeutic feeling that is said to come out of these colouring books. Because in the end, the result of my hard work and precision was a flower on one page, a sun and sky on another page, and half a lady on yet another page.


Since my full fledged art session, I’ve only gone back to my colouring book a few times more. The pages are rather overwhelming for the average person, although the drawings do help create a sense of direction. I mean, let’s face it – I would never purchase a sketch book for myself and expect to freestyle. A colouring book, however, seems like the perfect activity for when you have a lot on your mind and would just like to relieve some stress. As my exam season winds down and my family and friends have started to come out of hibernation for the holidays, I am no longer as interested in my book as I was when I purchased it in the midst of deadlines and exam schedules. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s another aspect of #studentlife.

After trying our these adult colouring books, I came up with the following conclusion: Maybe I just don’t qualify as an adult yet.  However, I do not regret my purchase. It’s aesthetically pleasing and helps keep you away from your phone for at least 20 minutes. But, if you don’t Snapchat your progress, are you even colouring? Besides, colouring is not something I would usually take up as a hobby, so the thrill of trying something new is rather refreshing in the midst of my mundane routines. I’ve decided to take this project up as an opportunity to let go of my perfectionist ways and just let the drawings be what they’ll end up being. If that means colouring a horse pink, then so be it! Quick tip: avoid googling finished adult  colouring book images, because you’ll most certainly be disheartened at your lack of colouring abilities. Despite this, I did come across some drawings that I will eventually want to colour (to its full potential)  because of the sheer gorgeousness that the artist has captured using mere ink.


The overall verdict: give in and purchase yourself and/or your loved one a copy. It’s a fun way to do something childish while still being an adult. Plus it’s trendy, so why not?

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How Lee Simpson went through a year of buying nothing

Oftentimes, we don’t think about the damage we are causing the environment when we choose the clothes we wear, the foods we eat, and the products we use on our face and body. Although the idea of being environmentally conscious has heated up now more than ever before, the information we are presented with can sometimes be overwhelming. Lee Simpson, the former editor of Chatelaine and president of the Women’s Division of Roger’s Media, has made the conversation slightly easier – and rather amusing. Her new book; “A Year of Buying Nothing” follows Simpson through her journey of reducing her environmental footprint. Here’s what she had to say about the unique project.  

*Responses have been slightly edited*

Why did you decide to buy nothing for a year?

I undertook this year for a number of reasons. I wanted to see if I could invite less stuff into my life. I needed to make amends for all the unnecessary stuff I had persuaded others to buy in my previous career as Publisher of Chatelaine. En route, I discovered just how large and mucky a footprint the average pattern of buying stuff leaves on our precious earth. I vowed to leave a lighter footprint myself.

Tell me more about your new book!

I did not take the year on with the idea in mind that I would be writing a book. I wasn’t even going to take notes. However, one of my girlfriends gave me a really cute, little black and white notebook when we met just before New Years. She said ”Here, if you’re going to do this, you should make some notes!” So I thought ”well okay.” I had done some magazine writing prior, obviously. So I contacted the editor and publisher of the Observer Magazine and pitched it. They have 50,000 readers so I thought, maybe at the end of the year, they would have liked to read about my accomplishment of my year of buying nothing.

They said, ”I don’t think they want that at all.’ I think they want to watch you squirm all year long. I think you should write a blog.”

I didn’t even know how to spell blog back then, but I very quickly learned what that was all about. They WHO? were very helpful and so I wrote a bi-weekly blog all through the year: 26 editions of whether I was doing well or doing badly. At this point, I’m happy to come up with something every 2 weeks. It was really useful and it helped me stop and reflect on how hard it was. sometimes it’s very hard indeed not to buy anything. (Like that time I was in the middle of a knitting project and a dog ate the roll of scattered wool and made a big mess. Yeah, that happened!) Sometimes it was very easy — very easy indeed. But reflecting on it and trying to make it interesting and amusing for people to follow the blog, which grew every week, was a really good experience. Halfway through the year, somebody spotted the blog as having the potential to make it a book. I got a call from a couple of publishers, but Woodlake Publishing was the company that I decided to go with. We made a deal and then when the year ended, I recorded the things that you now read in the book.

What do you hope to accomplish with the publication of this book?

I would like world peace and no pollution! But realistically, I would settle for leaving a smaller footprint myself and maybe inspiring other people to do the same. I make absolutely no bones about it. This is a book that is not aimed at people that are already environmentally turned on, not at eco-pioneers, and not at people who really know their way around the ecological industry. This book is aimed at people who might have been in the same situation that I was in, where I didn’t really know the impact that I was doing when I was casually buying plastic wrap and facial cleansers with micro beads in it. Things such as fleece sweatshirts, I have now discovered, are potentially and incredibly damaging to our water tables and our soil.

Why did you decide to leave the publishing industry?

I left the publishing industry in 2000. I had been with the company for many years. I wanted to do something different with my life. I didn’t want the monthly deadlines that I experienced with the publishing industry stretching out ahead of me to be all I wanted from life. So I went back to university and did a four year program called the Ministry of Divinity. Then, I was ordained by the United Church of Canada in 2005 and I have been working in both congregational ministry and also in administration with the United Church and the United Church Observer, the denomination magazine, for the past 10 years.

Did you face any challenges as a woman in the church setting?

Not really; The United Church of Canada was first to denominate women back in 1928 and there are women in posts all across the country. It’s a very liberal denomination and always have been a leader in terms  of social justice and gender equality.

This was a tough project! Who were your inspirations during this process?

Well, from an environmental sense, I guess I would say Christiana Figueres. She is the head of the UN framework  of the talks that are coming up about the environment and climate change. Elizabeth May is incredibly inspiring. David Suzuki and Rudi Hoffman are great inspirations too. I’m inspired by a number of people that are way ahead of me when it comes to being environmentally conscious. But, I’m also inspired by ordinary people that might be around me. I have watched the young people around me change from people who would happily wear polyester to people who now look for bamboo and silk and cotton. They are very conscious of the source of fabrics that they buy. I have watched them clean out their grocery cart so they’re not buying too much plastic. Instead, they are looking carefully at the label and are not inviting pesticides along with their protein and they’re doing it often on very tight budget. I’ve seen, with their wisdom, that it can be done and that you can still eat and dress well and you can even wear pretty makeup!

How is this different from other books about being environmentally and financially conscious?

I think it’s more fun. It’s written from a large dose of humour. It’s not meant to be taken lightly but it is written lightly. I have used the marketing expertise that I gained from my years in the industry to look under the labels of some common products. I don’t think that all the people that make these products are bad people. I just think they have gotten a little careless. I’m just calling their attention to it.

Who is the target audience?

When I was in the magazine industry, Chatelaine had a target audience of women 18+ and I’m going to say that this book is pretty much the same. I’ve had younger readers. When I gave it to a daughter of a girlfriend of mine she was absolutely appalled to discover that the facial cleanser she uses routinely is like a toxin. Basically, it’s like putting poison on your face.  And when you wash it off with water, that is a kind of pollution.  Those ingredients you see on the long list of things on the label of your shampoo and conditioner are lethal to your environment and our children. However, places like whole foods and other various stores that are more environmentally conscious have improved their packaging. The colours have gotten prettier and their textures and their smells are equivalent to the things that people are buying in drugstores that are not environmentally conscious.

unnamedDid you start to buy things again now that the year is over?

I do buy some things now that the year is over. But my buying pattern, where I purchase and how much and how often is forever altered. For example, once my Christmas gift list would have included at least 20-30 items purchased new from department and mall retailers. This year I am buying exactly 2 things from those sources. The same number of loved ones are being gifted (in fact, more…new grandson). Everything else is hand made (stuffed animals), a gift from our kitchen, (jelly from our trees, fudge, homemade bread) a gift of service, (dinner for 6, delivered to our friends home and served by us) a re-gifted item, (silver candlesticks to a friend who collects) or second-hand (found excellent quality linens and washed and hand-embroidered pillowcases). So there it is!


Who would have known what a year of buying nothing can do for yourself and the environment? We would like to thank Ms. Simpson for letting us be part of this journey. Grab a copy of “My Year of Buying Nothing” here

5 Drinks To Keep You Warm This Holiday Season

It’s December! The countdown to the holidays has officially started. You’ve (hopefully) put up your Christmas Trees by now and are looking for ways to gather your friends and family for some quality time. With carols blasting, your uncle attempting to sing, and the presents scattered under the tree, it seems like the perfect time to sit around the fireplace with a warm, holiday drink. Whether it’s hot chocolate, eggnog, or a fancy latte — we’ve gathered some of the best recipes for you to try.

Candy canes aren’t just meant to be ornaments and stocking stuffers. Add a hint into your favourite hot chocolate recipe for a nice minty taste: 



  • 3 Cups of Silk Coconut Milk
  • 1¼ cups Ghirardelli Classic White Chocolate Chips
  • ½ cup Andes Peppermint Crunch chips or ¼- 1/2 tsp peppermint extract.
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Add coconut milk, Giraradelli Classic White Chocolate Chips and vanilla bean to a heavy saucepan.
  2. Heat until chocolate melts, whisking to keep the chocolate from sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and the cocoa is hot.
  4. Add Andes Chips or peppermint extract ( start with ¼ tsp and taste, then adjust).
  5. Add vanilla extract if you didn’t use a vanilla bean.
  6. Pour into a mug, top with whipped cream. Garnish with a candy cane and a sprinkle of Andes Peppermint Crunch Chips or red and white sprinkles.

Too old to build a gingerbread house? (We disagree!) Bring the same taste and tradition into drink form with this decadent latte: 




  • 4 shots espresso (or ¾ cup strong-brew coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1½ cups milk (for foaming)


  1. In a glass measuring cup, combine the coffee, spices, sugar and molasses. Use a whisk to dissolve the spices in the coffee very well. Divide between two mugs.
  2. Steam or froth the milk in a milk frother (or just warm it on the stove).
  3. Divide the milk between the two mugs, and serve immediately.

You can never have too many truffles! Never. Especially if it’s in your hot chocolate: 




  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 6 ounces 70% cacao dark baking chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash salt


  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. In a large saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan (do not boil). Remove from the heat; whisk in the chocolate, brown sugar, espresso powder, vanilla and salt until smooth. Return to the heat; cook and stir until heated through. Pour into mugs; top with desired flavor of whipped cream.
  2. To prepare dulce de leche whipped cream: In a heavy skillet, melt sugar until golden. Gradually stir in cream; cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a small bowl; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Skip the traditional eggnog this year and spice it up with some cayenne pepper: 




  • 2 quarts whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 3 ounces milk chocolate, melted
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups brandy (optional)
  • Whole nutmeg, for garnish
  • Cayenne pepper, for sprinkling


  1. Heat two quarts milk, the sugar, salt, vanilla seeds and pod, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and mixture is heated through. Remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes.

  2. Prepare an ice-water bath. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl until pale, about two minutes. Whisk one cup of milk mixture into yolks in a slow, steady stream. Whisk yolk mixture into remaining milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes. (Do not boil.)

  3. Remove pot from heat, add melted bittersweet and milk chocolates, and stir until incorporated. Discard vanilla pod and cinnamon sticks. Pour mixture into a large bowl set in ice-water bath, and let cool, stirring often.

  4. Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Pour cooled eggnog into a large serving bowl, and add brandy if using. (Add more milk to eggnog if necessary to reach desired consistency.) Top with whipped cream. Grate nutmeg over top, and sprinkle sparingly with cayenne. Serve immediately with churros on the side if desired.

Opt out of the cream and cocoa at least once a week (if you must) and curl up with a cup of cider: 



  • 1 navel orange
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider (not juice)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 11 1/2-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 8 cinnamon sticks


  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest from the orange to create long strips.
  2. In a medium pot, bring the cider, honey, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and orange zest to a simmer. Do not boil. Heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Ladle into cups and serve warm with the cinnamon sticks.

Mmmm…. we don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to try these! Let us know how you like them in the comments below or on Twitter and Facebook @Womenspost!


5 unique christmas trees to put up this year

Poinsettias, wreaths, and ornaments found their way into malls and stores way back in early September. It seemed a bit early to be celebrating the holidays, especially considering it doesn’t start to feel like Christmas until November. The days get shorter, the air gets chillier, and the sweaters just get cozier. It’s the perfect time to blast some Christmas carols and put up the tree. However, instead of the usual green tree, red ornaments gig, try something new this year! We’ve compiled a list of unique yet totally doable Christmas tree decorations that will get you so excited for the holidays—you’ll want to start now.

1.Keep It Cool  


aqua and sliver on a white tree- add in some navy too:

Who said coral blue was just for the beach? Add a pop of summer to your winter by going with a silver and blue colour scheme. Great for large living rooms with white walls and cream decor, this Christmas tree will have your place looking minty fresh. Besides, opting for an artificial tree will help you avoid the sadness that you’re overcome with when your tree is in its last stages of life.

2. Rockin’ in a Candy Wonderland 

Whimsical Christmas magic ~:

Christmas is all about the sweet stuff, isn’t it? Gingerbread cookies, fruit cake, and all that sugar and icing is just as fun to eat as it is to make. Take the fun out of your kitchen and into the living room with this funky candy-inspired tree. The pops of colour and the quirky tidbits will  make your place the hot spot during the holidays. The best part? Your tree could possibly be edible.

3. I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas 

Interior Design Ideas: Christmas Decorating Ideas - Home Bunch - An Interior Design & Luxury Homes Blog:

If Olivia Pope had a Christmas tree, it would be this one. This elegant look will make your window the brightest one in the neighbourhood. Not only does it look grand, it’s super easy to pull off. With only one colour to deal with, you can’t go wrong. It’s certainly a great idea for your loft or home and will match living rooms of any colour scheme. If you’re prone to spillage and are concerned about bringing in white furniture, indulge with this tree! Pop open that red wine bottle and take in your masterpiece.

4. Classic Yet Modern 

love the way she wrapped up the bottom of their tree! gonna need to remember this if I decorate next year!:

You can never go wrong with a standard, green Christmas tree. It reminds us of our childhood, creates a sense of familiarity — and grandma will always approve. However, this year, spruce up the tree by deciding on one specific colour.  The key to a classic, yet modern, look is contrast, as shown above with the gold accents. Make your ornaments pop in midst of the greenery by choosing the appropriate colour. The world is your oyster.

5. Christmas Present: Christmas Tree

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It’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas in midst of all the shopping, sales, and new Apple gadgets in stores these days. This tree is certainly a reminder that the holidays itself are a gift. It’s a time to celebrate with family and friends and rejoice the fact that everyone is together. Use a bright coloured ribbon to wrap your Christmas tree and tie a decorative, grand bow at the top. The tree itself will be a gift – to the eyes and the heart. Besides, you can never complain about having too many presents!

Good luck and happy decorating!

Images: Pinterest

3 simple ways to wear a blanket scarf

It’s that time of year again; days where you choose to skip the gym and hide under big sweaters in the name of fashion (and cookies). Blanket scarves are the new trend this winter, but the size can definitely be overwhelming. With the right tips and tricks, you can turn this warm, versatile item into a work of art. Check out how to wear them below:

1. Be A Sophisticated Turtle 

Wrap your blanket scarf around your neck once and let the two ends hang for a big, cozy look. Resembling a turtleneck that’s more ”I woke up like this” than ”grandma made me wear it,” this type of look goes great with a leather jacket and a pair of leggings. Be sure to contrast the colour of your outfit with your scarf to really make it pop! Make this look work-appropriate by opting for a blazer, some nicely tailored pants, and your favourite hand bag. Finally — a look that screams chic while still keeping you warm during the week!

MonicaxGuan blanket scarf leather jacket
Image by: Monica Guan

2. Baby, Let Your Hair Down 

There’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and your favourite blanket after a long day at work. Throw on your favourite sweater and wear your blanket scarf like a shawl for the perfect outfit to lounge around in. For a more effortless look, let one side drape over your shoulder and the other side drape over your shoulder. Either tie the two ends together to keep them out of the way or let them hang in front for more coverage. It’s perfect for a night in with your friends or a quick date at the coffee shop. Embrace the blanket part of the blanket scarf without being caught! To pull it all together, wear this look with a pair of cute shorts or pull on a pair of leggings for those days you think you should be doing yoga, but decided not to. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.

MonicaxGuan blanket scarf square sweater heather grey crochet shorts-15
Image by: Monica Guan

3. Make The World Your Runway

Straight outta Milan is what you’ll feel in this high-fashion look. Great for a day out in town or a stylish walk in the park, using your blanket scarf as a shawl or a batwing-style sweater is a sure fire way to turn some heads – if not all! Cover your shoulders with the scarf and let the fringed ends hang evenly down both of your sides. No knots or tying required! You can belt your scarf down to create an open-sleeved cardigan for a more put-together look. However, to truly master this outfit, it’s important to accessorize. Match your scarf with a basic top underneath and pair with a floppy hat and some thigh highs. Update your look for an extra chilly day by ditching your tank for a cute turtle neck, a pair of dark denims, and some ankle boots. Bam! The key to pulling this off is simple; confidence.

MonicaxGuan scarf poncho knee high wide brim hat-2
Image by: Sandun Dissanayake


There you have it: three easy ways to wear your blanket scarf. Warm, fashionable, and cute. It’s like wearing a hug throughout the day! Have some other great ideas on how to wear a blanket scarf? Share them with us in the comments below.


Jane The Virgin: Your breath of fresh air on Monday nights

Despite its name, there is nothing virginal about the hot new comedy series,  Jane The Virgin.  Now in its second season, Jane The Virgin hits viewers ‘right in the feels’. Or at least that’s how the warm, third-person omniscient narrator (Anthony Mendez) describes certain moments during the 40 minute show.  It stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, a young woman starting a new chapter in her life after being accidentally artificially inseminated by a troubled doctor. The series, an adaptation of Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen, follows Jane’s journey through pregnancy with on-screen text and a chapter book structure. It welcomes viewers to its world with immense ease as it invites them to sit down and hear Jane’s extraordinary tale.

Jane lives with her mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), and grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll), and has a long-term boyfriend, Michael (Brett Dier). The three Latino women are a force to be reckoned with their strong very distinct personalities. Rodriguez is fantastic in the lead role, making Jane funny and highly relatable. Like many 23 years olds, Jane is balancing student life and a waitressing gig at the Marbella. Also, did we mention she wears spanx? Her considerate, thoughtful, and warm nature allows you to root for her throughout her journey. Her Catholic practices have us earning her respect from the moment she was brave enough to admit to her virginity. Whether it’s during the powerful scene of her praying with a rosemary during a terrible storm or giving an emotional speech during her baby’s baptism, its easy to see how Jane’s faith plays a pivotal part in her grounded yet fun loving character. She puts others before herself without a second thought, and yet it never feels like she’s a doormat. Rodriguez never fails to make us love Jane and her broadly comedic moments. It’s never overdone with her. No wonder she won a Golden Globe for her role in her first season.

There’s a lot of chemistry on the show, from the Villanueva family’s comfortable, and natural equation and Jane and Michael’s easy going relationship. Adding to this is the series’ wise decision to have Alba speak in Spanish, with subtitles translating her speech for the audience. It gives the show a touch of realism and demonstrates respect for the Latino audience while giving others a weekly chance to brush up on our own language skills. While their characters could have easily become stereotypes, the writers add unexpected characteristics and story lines to make them more interesting than they initially seem. Jane’s mother Xiomara, for example, selflessly puts her daughter and mother first, through her provocative nature. Xiomara and Alba balance each other, with Alba’s strict demeanour is contrasted by Xiomara’s proactive nature. Jane feels very much like the product of her two parental figures; headstrong and modest.

Despite the fact that most of the story would be utterly ridiculous,  the series does a surprisingly good job making it seem normal – while still allowing us to laugh. Jane is presented with a dilemma and even those who struggle with its believability will appreciate the nuanced and honest reactions of everyone around her. There is no easy answer for Jane and the biggest strength of the show is the respect it pays not only to Jane herself, but all those helping her. Beneath its soapy exterior, this is a series about decent people trying to do their best in a difficult situation, one that will likely lead to future complications and lots of drama.

The playful tone of the series continues in its second season.  If you choose to dislike the plot, enjoy the bright ,coral colours of the set and the overall, authentic beauty of the cast. Two words; Justin. Baldoni. However, by itself, the show’s style and comedy make for an enjoyable viewing experience. The series finds just the right balance, creating a unique place for itself among the usual dramas that CW airs. With its down-to-earth lead character and parody approach, Jane The Virgin is a breath of fresh air that is a must see for any Monday night. Because we’re always in need of a pick-me-up on Mondays.

What we can learn from 18-year-old Instagram Star, Essena O’Neill

We’ve all been known to exaggerate on social media once in awhile, especially as a millennial. With the use of an Instagram filter and the right caption, we now have the ability to make a slice of cheesecake look glamorous. The question is; why do we do it? Is it for the likes or the affirmation? Or is it, in fact, to have a life beyond our 9-5 jobs and textbooks?

Eighteen-year-old Instagram star (apparently that’s a thing) Essena O’Neill may not have found the answer to this question, but what she did realize was that social media is not worth it. The realization went so far as to provoke the Australian teen to delete her Instagram account. In turn, she launched a website called Let’s Be Game Changers where she now posts videos – on Vimeo – ranting about the problems with social media and the beauty of becoming vegan. Cute. O’Neill then went on to challenge her followers to go without social media for one week. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other website ”where you can see others online”.

She has since created a so-called “social revolution,” which has gone viral. Obviously, O’Neill’s project has garnered positive feedback, but the question arises as to whether or not her and her followers have responded to this realization too dramatically. With millions of accounts on Instagram today, it is unfair to come to the conclusion that everyone on the social media site is unauthentic.

Despite her intention of creating ”social change”, O’Neill was criticized as a fame-grabber: for deleting her account for reasons other than sending an important message—but to get more attention. The accusations don’t seem like they are too far from reality. The fact of the matter is, if your Instagram account is making you feel miserable, you are not using it properly. As an 18 year old with over the half a million followers, O’Neill was bound to get a little overwhelmed trying to impress her fans.

So instead of deeming her a social media queen or a hoax in the making, it’s best just to commend her for her efforts in taking control of her mental health. However, we hope that O’Neill takes this opportunity to learn not to get too involved with virtual reality. Of course, it’s not for us to judge whether deleting her social media account is the right solution. In fact, all we can do is yearn for a time where Generation Y can find a balance when it comes to using social media platforms.

It’s a fun challenge to take on—to stay off of social media for a few days. In a world where we get our daily news from our Twitter feeds and lust over actors and actresses while we scroll down on Instagram, cleansing ourselves from social media can make us see the beauty of the outdoors. Remember what grass feels like? Bottom line; don’t dismiss O’Neill because she’s 18. Celebrate her because she is.

She may be a special cause—not every 18 year old has 500 000+ followers — but it is a good indication of the challenges Generation Y faces in terms of distinguishing social media from just being social. We hope O’Neill finds happiness and contentment in her new project. Good luck to everyone!