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In my bag: dry goods

 

Apparently, I haven’t posted in a month!

It all started with a monster university paper, which I left to the very last minute. It completely drained me of the will to write, and then work got really busy, and then I can keep making excuses, but the point is, it’s time for me to write again. And guess what? I’m going to write about packing… again!
This time, I thought I’d tell you about my favourite dry products. What’s the point? Well, it’s nice to be able to bring everything in a carry on, and it’s also nice not to worry about anything leaking in your bag. So, here’s a rundown of some of my favourite and not-so-favourite carry-on beauty bits. I’ve found that for any trip, all I need are the following 5 items, plus deodorant and contact solution.

1. Soap (obvi)

Any bar soap will do. I like the way this one smells. It’s that simple. I keep the cardboard box to carry it in between hostels.

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2. Shampoo

This is Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar, and I fell in love with it right away. I have short hair, and I’ve always struggled with shampoos that make my hair a bit too soft and a bit too limp, and then it just flops around all day. This shampoo has solved the problem – it contains sea salt, which appears to make my hair just messy enough to hold all day! Lush also has a bunch of different shampoos for whatever your needs are.

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3. Hair product

Speaking of short hair – this product has changed my life! It’s essentially rice powder, with a bunch of other things mixed in. Pretty simple – sprinkle it on, mess my hair around, and it holds all day. All I ever bring with me now.

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4. Laundry soap

The only way to travel for an extended period of time with a small amount of luggage is to do your own laundry. I love this soap, because it’s everything friendly, it’s canadian, and it has fun smells, like rootbeer float, pina colada, cupcake and key lime pie. These little bags are about $2 each at Ottawa’s amazing Terra 20, and are good for 2-8 loads. What more could you want! I haven’t tried it to hand-wash anything yet, but I’m sure that it’ll work just fine!
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5. Toothpaste

Now, this is an interesting one. Another great product from Lush, these Toothy Tabs come in many flavours and are the weirdest, freshest thing you’ll ever brush your teeth with. They are also very weird! The baking soda base has a bit of a salty taste, and honestly, it’s like having the full force of all the Lush store smells explode in your mouth all at once. My mouth has never felt cleaner than after using this toothpaste… But.

These toothy tabs are nice to have for a quick weekend getaway, something that just sits in the bottom of my quick escape bag, but I probably won’t buy them again. Sure, my mouth felt super clean right after I brushed my teeth, but in the morning, my mouth tasted weird. It also makes me gag in the morning, for reasons I don’t understand. $5’ll get you 40 tabs, which isn’t the best for my small budget. I also kind of got tired of the taste, and was left not wanting to brush my teeth.

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Bonus favourite dry product: Towtabs

These are AMAZING! These tiny little pucks, about the size of a peppermint candy, turn into a full sized cloth with just a drop of water.

I first bought them as a quick ‘why not’ purchase, to see if they actually worked, and they do! They really made me happy when I was in Africa – too often, there was no water in the house, and all it took was a capful of water to have a quick “sponge bath”. If you see these, grab them – you never know when you’ll need them!

What are your favourite travel products?


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Travel Tuesday

This week, I’ve been lucky enough to discover the world while staying at home.

The YMCA has a great program called the Youth Peace Network – every year, a dozen or so volunteers from around the world come and spend a summer in Vancouver to learn about Canada, and share their culture with us. I got to spend the last week with these wonderful people, from Kenya, Ukraine, Argentina, China, Brazil, Czech Republic, Zambia, Mexico, Senegal, Egypt, Belarus, Hong Kong and Colombia, and I’m excited to get to know them better as the summer progresses. I’ve learned a couple new words (my favourite so far is shlopentcy, Russian for flip flop), and made new friends that I will surely visit on my RTW trip!

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On making your favorite foreign dishes at home (don’t)

Hypothesis: I can make Mole Poblano at home

In 2003, I spent three months in Mexico, where one of the traditional dishes is Mole. When I first had it, I thought it was the worst thing ever, but it wasn’t long before it became my favourite meal. I’ve only ever had the real things once since coming back, when a friend brought some back from a trip to Mexico, so I decided that now was the time to make it myself. I made it once in Mexico, in preparation for the day of the dead festivities (it was a three day, multi-ingredient process), so I figured that I could fumble my way through making it here. I browsed the internet, used four different recipes to put together an ingredient list that resembled my days in Mexico, and got to work. Mole is not easy work!

This is what the mole looked like about half way through blending all the ingredients.

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Thank god I had made it before, otherwise I would have been REALLY concerned.

Anyway! I put it all through the food processor (if any of you ever attempt to make this at home, don’t believe them when they say that a blender will do. It won’t, and you’ll just have to wash extra dishes), and put it in the Crock Pot, as per Martha‘s instructions.

Result 

– It’s only the second time I’ve used my slow cooker, so maybe I just don’t know it well, but the edges kept burning, so my mole has an (unintentional) burny taste to it

– It’s lumpy – as fine a job as the food processor did, it can’t break up the nuts as well as a good old fashioned Mexican mill can

– It’s really sweet

– It’s not spicy enough (even though I used 12 peppers, of 4 different varieties)

– There’s a large pot of slightly off mole sitting in my fridge that I will likely not eat

Conclusion: I ain’t never making it again

Take it from me: if you want genuine, delicious Oaxacan mole, go to Oaxaca, or go to this website – Phil has offered me the BEST customer service that I have ever received, and I will be getting a few containers of genuine Oaxacan Mole Soledad in the mail in 2-4 weeks.

 


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Travel Tuesday – My 7 Super Shots

Last year, HostelBookers came up with a game called 7 Super Shots, in which they gave 7 travel photo categories.

Well, I missed the boat on the original game, but since this is Travel Photo Tuesday, I thought that I would play, albeit a little bit late!

  • A photo that…takes my breath away. I took this in Peru, in the Colca Valley – it was very early in the morning, and we were on our way to Colca Canyon to see the condors fly. The scenery and the mist (and the altitude!) took my breath away.

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  • A photo that…makes me laugh or smile. This picture was taken on Lake Nicaragua, on the ferry that took us to Ometepe Island. I talked the captain into letting me steer the boat – those are his sunglasses that I’m wearing, and the sign says ‘authorized personnel only’. One of my prouder moments!

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  • A photo that…makes me dream. Me: 21 years old, sand surfing in the peruvian desert, no responsibilities, still two months of travel ahead of me before heading back to real life. My dream right now is to get back to that state – planning a massive round the world trip!

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  • A photo that…makes me think. This is the Inti Raymi festival in Saqsaywaman, Peru. We decided to spend less time in Bolivia, to make sure that we wouldn’t miss it. As far as I know, it’ a re-enactment of an ancient royal event… although it all happened in Quichua, so I don’t actually know what happened. It makes me think about travel priorities – I still wish that I had spent time in Bolivia, but I’m also happy that I got to witness this event!

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  • A photo that…makes my mouth water. Ok, there are two of these, because the first picture is nothing special to look at. But you don’t understand. This is the best cheese sandwich you will ever have. In 2005, the bus ride from Quito to Canoa was 9 hours long, and about halfway into the journey, I would start thinking about this sandwich. Poor Marina had to listen to me go on about it for 5 hours. But she understood.
  • The second picture is from my first ever paid photography job. I took this picture for Taste, an excellent catering company based in Ottawa. This Burmese tomato salad tastes as amazing as it looks.

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  • A photo that…tells a story. Kids will be kids will be kids. I met these boys at an orphanage in Bamako, Mali. They were the ones who were too old to be adopted, and had been living there for most of their lives. Doesn’t matter – they were silly and hilarious and happy, like any other kid I’ve ever met.

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  • A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot). Come on, Nat Geo or Lonely Planet… I’m ready for you!

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Life at home

Since being in this job, I’ve spent most of my time on the road. The thing is, though, that when I’m on the road, it’s hard to keep track of office things – I get to spend time in person with my staff, and get to know the communities that my program works in, but then I don’t really spend time at the computer. This month is my busiest work month, so I’d already decided to stay home for a few weeks. I’m really lucky that I get to work from home, but I’ve been working most days for about 9 hours, and all on the computer. The work isn’t hard, and I don’t mind the hours, but it’s fiddly and annoying and makes my head hurt. I can’t wait until next month, when my job is to travel and hang out with kids all summer!

Anyway!

This morning, I was woken up by a phone call at 7, and I stared at a computer screen until 5pm. By the time everything was under control, my first thought was to go to bed, but I was feeling too restless. Based on the state of my kitchen, I knew that I wanted to get pizza for dinner, so I forced myself to get out of the house and go to the beach on the way to the pizza place. That’s right, I had to force myself out of the house. I’ve been inside for five days, and I always feel like the longer I spend time inside, the less I want to do anything.

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This is what happens when I bake while I work at home.

Well, I’m happy that I went out – a sunny day and the sound of the waves reset my brain to a more restful place, and I know what I’m doing tomorrow – more beach!

Here are some pictures of the place that I’m lucky to call home. I can’t believe that I forgot how nice it is to get out there.

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Travel Photo Tuesday

You know that awkward travel photo that didn’t work out the way you wanted it, but it ends up being one of your faves? Well, here’s one of mine.

This was on my last day in Mali – I was walking through the city with a friend when we saw these giant cows lying around, and I decided to pose next to them. Just as I was getting close, one got up, and scared the shit out of me! Look at how huge they are! Anyway – as it got up, I jumped and sort of ran away, and a couple of men behind me started laughing and teasing me about it. What you see in this picture is my reaction to them, and it always reminds me of how much people in Mali love to joke around and have fun.

This also gives you a good idea of what many street corners look like in downtown Bamako!

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Where to eat in Montreal

There are thousands of food options in Montreal, and here is a short list of my faves – this is where I go every time I go to Montreal. Now, try and be good and spread these out over at least a week. Don’t be like me, and try to do it all in one weekend. I’m still recovering.

Breakfast

L’Avenue
This place doesn’t have a website or a Facebook page, but they don’t need it. The lineup – and the food – speak for themselves. Get here before 9:30 on Saturdays or Sundays if you don’t want to stand outside for half an hour, but I promise that the wait is worth it. Among other things, this place has ridiculous smoothies, eggs benedict and french toast. Bonus: they drop a full can of maple syrup at your table!

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Now, I’d love to recommend more breakfast places, but this is my go-to, every time. I actually went twice last weekend. I used to go to La Grand-Mère Poule, another delicious restaurant, and Bagel St-Viateur is a good place for you to try Montreal bagels (which I don’t actually like!)

Lunch and bites

To be honest, I’m usually so full of breakfast from L’Avenue that I rarely grab lunch in Montreal! Here are a few options… I tried to go to Jarry Smoked Meat after L’Avenue the other day and I just couldn’t handle another bite. I’m still sad.

M4 Burritos
A build your own burrito place, with delicious options like quesadillas, tacos, and salads, with amazing pulled pork and great topping selections. It’s right by Berri-Uqam metro station, so easy to grab a bite on your way to or from anywhere.

Jarry Smoked Meat
A bit out of the way, and tricky to get to by public transit, but oh-so worth it! Montreal is well known for its smoked meat, and this place just can’t be beat. The juiciest, most delicious smoked meat you’ll ever have.

Dinner

I’m only ever in Montreal for a few days at a time, and by the time I get there, I miss my old favourites, so my plans never vary very much. Unmissables include:

Poutineville
My favourite, favourite, favourite place. When I was in Mali last year, this place is all I could think about. They have the most amazing make your own poutine menu, which includes 8 kinds of cheese, 10 kinds of vegetables, 10 kinds of meat, and four kinds of sauce. They recently won Montreal’s Poutine Week contest, with a mouthwatering General Tao poutine. Don’t miss this place (they have three locations, so no excuses!), but just make sure that you have nothing planned afterwards! You’ll need a long walk, and then you’ll need to lie down.

Chez Chine
Ok, this is a random one. This restaurant is located in the Holiday Inn in Chinatown. I go here every time I come to Montreal, for one reason only – they have crispy duck pancakes. Everything else is over priced, and not necessarily delicious. But the duck… oh the duck pancakes! If ever you’re craving them (or wondering what they are), this is the place to go.

Maria Bonita
This is the place to go for delicious, authentic mexican food in Montreal. The owner has dedicated his life to finding the best product, to create dishes that taste like you’re in Mexico.

Dessert

Finally, my favourite category!

Rockaberry
Do not, do not, do not miss this place. Giant, fluffy cheesecakes in so many flavours (highlights include caramel fudge, oreo, and apple crumble cheesecake), as well as amazing crumbles. I think that I’ve said it all. Go, go now.

Juliette et Chocolat
All chocolate, all delicious.

Dr. Frost
Like Marble Slab or Cold Stone, but cheaper, and more delicious. Plus, the actual shop is super fun.

 

I hope that this list helps you decide where to go next! I just got back from Montreal, and I’m already looking forward to my next trip there…