Best Spring Event Dresses Under $120

 

Hey guys!

There’s just something about spring that I love. Maybe it’s that the sun is out longer, or more birds in the trees, or just bright green everywhere, but I love it! Here in Edmonton it’s still snowing periodically, but you can feel spring coming still. The sun is warm now, melting snow and ice to make way for green grass and tree buds in April and May.

With spring often comes invitations to early weddings, bridal showers and if you’re lucky, a baby shower or two! I find these days a lot of events are much more informal, you’re well dressed in a nice pair of jeans and a pretty top, but for some only a nice dress will do. And that’s ok! It’s always fun to dress up every now and again, but if you have multiple special events, it can get pretty expensive quickly.

My tips for keeping it affordable are:

#1. Always make sure you can wear the dress for multiple things. I try to make sure that I can wear the dress either casually on the weekend or more formally to the office with a blazer or cardigan if I’m buying one for an event. It’s just not smart shopping if you can only wear it one way.

#2. Always keep it $100-120 and under. If it’s $100 but needs $70 worth of alterations, it’s not really $100, is it?

#3. If it’s not $120 with alterations and versatile, it is the only dress you buy for the season. I find this 100% curbs the shop impractically urge and makes you really evaluate if that “super cute dress” is what you really need.

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AQUA Bell Sleeve A-Line Dress – 100% Exclusive • Aqua •

Women’s Charles Henry Woven Shift Dress •

Bardot Gemma Lace Halter Dress • Bardot •

Women’s Wayf Blouson Midi Dress • WAYF •

Women’s Donna Morgan Lace Shift Dress • Donna Morgan •

Women’s Maggy London Print Fit & Flare Dress • Maggy London •

Bar III Floral-Print Sheath Dress, Only at Macy’s • Bar III •

Women’s Eci Floral Print Midi Dress • ECI •

Charles Henry Bell Sleeve Shift Dress •

BB Dakota Laselle Cherry Blossom Printed Wrap Dress • BB Dakota •

NBD X Naven Twins Ask Me Out Mini Dress • NBD •

**Paper Dolls Pink Pleat Kimono Dress • Paper Dolls •

endless rose Long Sleeve All Over Lace Dress • Endless Rose •

Embroidered-Trim Fit-and-Flare Dress • Banana Republic •

 

Do you have any special events coming up? I’d love to hear what you’re wearing!

Fish Tacos 2 Ways!

Hey!

Fish tacos are 100%  one of my favorite indulgences in life. The crisp lettuce, spicy fish, cool and creamy avocado-lime crema and bright pico de gallo… it’s all so, so good. Plus, it’s actually pretty healthy (if you can force yourself to eat in moderation). Unfortunately a lot of the fish you get in fish tacos out a restaurants is breaded and then fried… so this is totally a make-at-home thing if you’re looking to keep it healthy!


I love to make enough spicy fish and fixings to have tacos 2 ways- once for dinner as traditional tacos, and once as a bowl for a nutritious, low carb meal. I figure if I’m going to put in the effort, it may as well last me a few meals!.

Fish Tacos 2 Ways!

Makes 4 meals for $12.71 or $3.18 per serving

For the crema:

2 avocados

1/4 cup greek yogurt

juice of one lime

For the spice rub:

Cumin, chipotle powder, oregano and chili powder. Optional: Southwest seasoning

For the pico de gallo:

3-4 tomatoes (I used vine)

1/2 a jalapeno

1/4 yellow onion

salt/pepper

General: shredded lettuce, corn or flour tortillas, white fish

I like to start by making my pico. I think that the hardest thing ever is to do tiny knife cuts when you’re hungry and just want to eat your dang tacos. Plus, ideally I make the components in this order: pico, shred lettuce, make crema, make fish- this way the crema is cool and the fish is warm.

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Back to the pico. I start by making a very fine dice of a quarter of an onion. Next, I make very fine dice of the tomatoes- if they’re super juicey, dump some seeds etc into a garbage bowl. Lastly, I take a jalapeno and slice the ribs out of half of it and discard along with the seeds. The nice fleshy green part is left, and you guessed it- I really finely dice it. After a very light sprinkle of salt and pepper, it’s ready!

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Next, we’re going to put our blenders to work. Literally, all you’re doing here is dumping 2 pitted and peeled avocados in a blender with 1/4 cup of greek yogurt and the juice of one lime. If you like cilantro, add a bunch in here! I don’t personally, so I didn’t.

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Ok finally, finally, let’s make our fish. I start with 2 fish filets for 4 meals, and in this case I used basa but your end result would be just as delicious with tilapia. I put a tiny bit of olive oil in a pan warming over medium heat and then make my spice mix while it warms up. In a bowl I put 1/2 tablespoon of cumin, 1-2 tablespoons of chili powder, a couple shakes of chipotle powder (this depends on the heat you want) and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of oregano. If you’re adding a southwest spice blend, you’d add it to the bowl now as well.

When your pan is hot, place the fish in the pan and sprinkle ~1/2 of your spice mix over top of the fish. As the fish cooks, start breaking it apart with the spatula. Gradually add the rest of your spice mix as the act of breaking the fish apart gives you more surface area to sprinkle over.

Once your fish is cooked and fully flaked apart, put it in a serving bowl and bring to the table with your tortillas, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and avocado crema.

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Assembling your tacos:

I assembled my tacos by starting with a shmear of the cream to hold everything down, then a couple spoonfuls of fish, shredded lettuce and a sprinkling of pico. It’s that easy! 20170222_190124

Assembling your taco bowl: Assembling your bowl is just as easy. Lay down a bed of lettuce and then sprinkle fish on top, add a dollop of crema, a generous serving of pico, and enjoy! This is also great with fresh corn and/or black beans if you have some laying around.

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Shop the Post:

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Kate Spade New York ‘Larabee Dot’ Champagne Flutes • Kate Spade •

Orrefors ‘More’ Champagne Flutes • Orrefors •

DENMARK Tabletops Unlimited Denmark Set of 4 Square Salad Plates • Denmark •

TABLETOPS UNLIMITED Tabletops Gallery Round Serving Bowl • Tabletops Unlimited •

Certified International Rainbow Seeds Pasta Serving Bowl • Certified International •

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion Small Porcelain Salad Bowl • Portmeirion •

Cuisinart Velocity Ultra 1-HP Blender • Cuisinart •

Magic Bullet NutriBullet Pro 900 Series Bullet Blender • Magic Bullet •

Do you have a favorite taco recipe? Let me know in the comments!

How to Entertain a Friend on a Diet

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Dieting, or making major life changes to be healthier, can be difficult enough to begin with. Add in that it can be isolating because often we make poor food choices when gathering as a group, and suddenly becoming healthier can become very lonely. One of my very best friends has been on a health and fitness journey for over a year (check her out over at Life as Alyx, she posts some of her healthy recipes there!) so when I ask her over it’s usually her “cheat” meal, but even so I try to provide her with options to make it a bit more healthy for her. I support you, so that means I support your goals, too, right?

Recently she came and visited with another friend of ours and we were having a “celebration” dinner of sorts. I wanted to serve something decadent, festive and fun- but I didn’t want to hand her a total gut-buster meal! We ended up having an awesome night with salad, cake, wine and pasta!  I put a lot of thought into what to make because I wanted it to feel like a fun dinner, but I didn’t want to feed her something so far outside of her regular diet that it could make her sick. Since that dinner went so well and everyone enjoyed it, dieting or not, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks!

  1. Always start with salad. And not a “salad” where it’s pasta, or marshmallows and fruit- an actual salad with greenery, a light vinaigrette and minimal cheese is ideal.
  2. If it’s carbohydrate heavy, ask if they’d like to have a carbohydrate alternative. Roasted cauliflower to sub out for potatoes, zoodles or spaghetti squash in favor of pasta- you get the idea! I find that the alternatives are often so fun that even those who aren’t on a quest for healthier living just want to try them anyhow!
  3. Serve wine in smaller glasses or pour for guests. We all have that friend with wine glasses that sneakily hold half a bottle of wine- not only is this incredibly dangerous, but if they aren’t familiar with what volume your glasses hold, it’s hard for them to determine what’s a serving. I often pour, then as I’m handing my guest the glass, I say, “This is a standard four ounce glass- not sure if you drove!”
  4. Tell your guests what’s for dessert- it helps them determine portion sizes.
  5. If you have the time and inclination, ask if they want this to be a “cheat” meal. If they do, just have fun!

Obviously it doesn’t make sense  to make multiple meals- but by asking questions, giving options, having a salad and assisting with alcohol portion control, you can help your guests make the absolute best decisions for their goals.

How do you help support your friends that are on a restricted or healthy-eating diet?

In case you were wondering, I served The Pioneer Woman’s mushroom four cheese pasta with optional spaghetti squash (I made a dish up of each and let everyone choose what they wanted), Caesar Salad with vinaigrette style dressing, light Parmesan and no croutons, there was wine and a girlfriend brought a delicious cake!

 

 

 

How to Prep for a No-Buy

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This post is probably well overdue. If you’ve been following me for a while then you probably remember that I did a 35 day no-buy stint from May-July last year and truth be told, I am on a food no-buy right now as well.

Yep. It’s been seven days since I last bought food, and no signs of buying anything soon. I actually had started about five days before that, but there was a wiiiiicked sale on sirloin beef that I just couldn’t pass up. I bought them using Airmiles, but I believe in transparency. I bought the beef (and potatoes!). I’m planning on not buying any food for at least another month and here’s why:

a. Life is expensive

b. I owe tax money (damnit)

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c. It’s a great way to make sure you’re investigating what’s lurking in your freezer and cupboards and not wasting through expiration or freezer burn (food waste is like throwing money in the air on a windy day, it’s just dumb). Think of it like an edible freezer and cupboard spring cleaning.

People ask me all the time how I do this. My number one tip is pre-planning (take a look at what you actually have. If you have no veggies in the freezer, this isn’t going to be healthy) and my number two tip is to schedule it during a busy time. What could feel like a shitty time of not allowing yourself to purchase food becomes “thank God I have these meals made and ready for myself”, and attitude is as important when you’re doing a no-buy as it is in any other area of life.

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So how do you logistically get ready for a food no-buy?

  1. Take an accurate account of what you have. This seems a bit brutal while you’re doing it, but it’s important to know what you have in the cupboards and freezer, as well as what kind of freezer space (you’ll understand soon) you have at your disposal. I look at it as making a list of my dry/canned/shelf stable ingredients, taking stock of my freezer “fixings” (uncooked items that need processed into meals) and pre-made meals. I usually do this the day of my final grocery shop before the no-buy.
  2. Make a list of what you would need to get through the 30 (or however many) days you don’t want to buy groceries for. How does this match up against what you have “in stock”? Those areas, whether it’s breakfast cereal or meat items, that are understocked go on your actual grocery list. My list of what I need actually becomes a bit of a meal plan, I think of it from that standpoint because I know if I plan it out that way, I’ll never be hungry. Be sure to prioritize eating what you already own previous to the no-buy, because this can’t become an excuse to buy thirty days of food on one bill rather than an exercise in using what you have. Well it could, but it wouldn’t save you any money. Tip: Try to avoid buying anything “convenience”. Yes, it’d be nice to have chips or flavored water, but it’s 100% not necessary. The meal plan is designed to remove these items and show you what you really need. Tip #2: If you have very little freezer space, do not load up on fresh or frozen components. Shop canned or dry items and vice-versa.
  3. Once you’ve created that list and meal plan, it’s time to hit the store. I start by shopping the dry and canned foods first, then produce, meat, dairy and freezer sections (in that order, too). Pick up everything on the list at the most affordable price possible, and if there’s something that you can’t get or is too expensive, substitute with something similar or buy frozen. These shops are a great opportunity to use up AirMiles cash or your PC Points rewards. They can feel expensive but keep in mind, you’re done after this. No more shopping!
  4. Once you come home with your loot, put it away and make plans for any fresh or non-meal items that you’ve purchased. I will look at my yogurt for instance, and say to myself… can I eat all of this before it goes bad? If the answer is no, I freeze some. If I’ve bought brussel sprouts or another veggie, I’ll often roast or cook it and then freeze it. Lastly, if it is something like a roast you bought, why not cook it and some potatoes, make the gravy and veggies and make meals? It makes life easier and you also know the day before you’re supposed to be done buying food if you’ve actually forgotten that you’ll need something like potatoes! Even just thinking about it and then popping the roast (or whatever) in the freezer will bring up those helpful thoughts.

That’s seriously it. I’m hoping to stay on my no-buy through into April for basically as long as I can (lettuce is very tempting this time of year hah) or until the food I recognize as not-so-new is  gone. I don’t want to decimate the nice base of a pantry that I have, just ensure that I’m eating what I have and not just refilling the top 1/3 of the freezer weekly. I’m thinking that every week or so I’ll do a roundup post of what I’ve been eating and how the no-buy is going.

 

Would you ever consider doing a food no-buy? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

 

No Champagne, No Gain

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Hey guys!

I told you this was coming. I warned you, even! My love for this “No Champagne No Gain” sweater by Brunette the Label knows no bounds (Canadian friends can buy it directly from Brunette the Label for more affordable prices here).

I may be wearing it right now.

Brunette the Label is a Canadian Brand based in Vancouver that I mentioned in my February 2017 Favorites post, and they’re also the creators of the hilarious “Fries Before Guys” sweatshirt you saw on Jillian Harris here. Don’t even get me started about Jillian Harris, either, because I love her, too. They make t-shirts, sweaters, jogger pants, hats, water bottles and mugs and all are emblazoned with cheeky, funny messages that are perfect for a day lounging on the couch or running errands. Which is exactly what I love to do in my sweater! Notice how that was basically code for, if I’m not at work, I’m wearing my sweater?

Now, before people get mad- these are not $20 sweaters. But they are great quality, extremely soft, well made and printed in Canada. Mine has been washed 20+ times and is still as black and fuzzy as the day I got it. Brunette the Label contributes to the Canadian economy which I am proud to support. I’d rather buy one sweater from these girlbosses than three cheaply made sweaters that someone (potentially literally) slaved over in an underdeveloped country and support a big brand.

Two items I’m totally coveting:

The "Awesome" Water Bottle

The "Boss Babe" Crew | BLACK

What do you love to wear while lounging or running errands? Do you have a favorite Canadian company (or local company, if you’re not Canadian)? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

February 2017 Favorites!

Hey guys!

Another month has passed, and I had some super fun favorites! Not a whole bunch of things, but a few that I have really loved. As a side note, I had this video edited all nicely with titles and the like and… when it uploaded, they disappeared. I clearly need to start editing in a new program. Sorry! Instead you get random clips of me drinking and swearing. Not the worst, right?

Food:

Oikos Yogurt

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These snack sized “dessert” yogurts have been amazing! I often crave something sweet at night or am hungry after getting home from my periodic evening job. These greek yogurts fix both of those issues! And the portion control helps me not overeat.

Wholly Guacamole Minis

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Ok. These are amazing! I know loads of people would love these for a quick snack with chips dunked right in the package, and yes, I’ve done that too! But how I really love to use these is spread over toast with a hard boiled egg sliced on top. It’s a super easy breakfast that I can meal prep up a few days in advance in baggies and take to work with me. It’s just as delicious at home with a fried egg, too!

Clothes:

Dynamite pants

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These pants have been a major life saver this past month! They’re comfortable, made out of dress material, but cuffed at the ankle to avoid them getting dirty when I’m walking around campus. They look super cute with a sweater or a tucked-in button up.

No Champagne No Gain Sweater

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This sweater by Brunette the Label is a favorite of mine. Not only does it have a funny saying on it, but it’s cute, comfortable and designed by Canadians. Nobody needs anything else, right?

Makeup:

It’s been a minimal month for me on makeup, my skin is trying to peel from the cold and dry weather so it’s been a lot of days of concealer, light lipstick and mascara.

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Marc Jacobs Mascara

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Bare Minerals Lipstick

Book:

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The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime also check her out on her blog!:

Favorite People:

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Katey McFarlan over at Chronicles of Frivolity– I have SO been loving watching her journey from single girl, to engaged, to married and NOW a new mom! Katey has a way of brightening every morning for me, I read her posts on the bus on the way into work and she has the BEST attitude and a sunny disposition that helps me start my day off right.

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Casey Holmes of the Casey Holmes Youtube Channel (and she also has a blog!)- I love all of Casey’s videos (even though our makeup and skincare needs could not be further from similar) but especially how she is a great example of work ethic for young, entrepreneurial women. She recently had a collaboration come out with Smashbox and it seems like girl is allllways working. I really respect that and am always so happy when I see her excited about an accomplishment.

That is all! What did you love this month? Let me know in the comments!

Bacon and Cheddar Potato Soup

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Hey guys!

This recipe is actually a slight switchup of one by the late, great King of Soups Ken Kostick.  It’s on page 154 of his book Ken’s Soup Crazy which you can apparently still get new through Abe Books, the only version of it that I found was $170 (WHAT), but you can buy used copies on Amazon for under $10. So full disclosure, this recipe is not original. I know people tell me all the time that nothing is “original” anymore with the internet but a little known fact about me is that I started writing as a Canadian University Press journalist (and later editor). I have a massive amount of respect for any creator and I am so, so against sharing intellectual and visual property without giving credit where it’s due and admitting when something isn’t of my creation (even when that means saying “I found this on Pinterest”). Yes, that includes fessing up when it’s actually my mom who came up with something… like this.

Disclaimers aside, this is the best potato soup I have ever had. Ever. The combination of crisp bacon, creamy potatoes and applewood smoked cheddar was so good that I joked to my sister that I could bathe in it. The trick to this soup being so good is twofold- cook your bacon first, then remove it to a paper towel for later.  Cook your veggies in the bacon fat for the flavor. Secondly, the applewood smoked cheddar is amazing. Since we’re going through a late winter deep freeze where I live, this seemed like the perfect recipe to share.

This isn’t an affordable meal with all of the bacon and cream and fancy cheese, but it is a delicious one and sometimes that’s important, too. You can easily strip this recipe back to one slice of bacon per serving, which will bring down the cost to roughly $15.85 and $2.64 per serving. If you want to try this out and it’s still a little too expensive for you, try making your own stock and finding the applewood cheddar in the smalls bin of the deli- those little chunks are often really well priced. Those two tips will save 4-5 dollars alone. I try to share the prices for how the average shopper will shop, but for me, this recipe is affordable because I search the sales bins, cut back on meat and make my own stock ($11.65 for 6 servings or $1.91 per serving).

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Bacon and Cheddar Potato Soup

Serves six for $18.85 or $3.14 per serving or $11.65 and $1.91 per serving using the tips I mentioned!

1/2 pound of diced bacon – $6.48

1 onion- $0.60

4 large potatoes, peeled- $2.80

8 cups chicken stock- $4.20 (or free if you make your own!)

1 cup applewood smoked cheddar cheese (grate)- $3.48

1/2 cup cream- $1.15

1/2 cup milk- $0.14

Pantry Staples: 1/2 tsp dried basil, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper

Optional: 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large soup pot, saute the bacon. Once crisp, remove the bacon bits and deposit your onion and garlic in its place. Saute for two minutes (if there’s loads of fat, drain some off… you only want about how much oil you’d put in to sautee onions and garlic normally), then add the potatoes, basil and stock. You’ll want to bring this to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes (or until potatoes are cooked).

Once the potatoes are cooked, use a hand/stick blender to puree the soup until it’s smooth. Then you can add in the milk, cream and cheese and let it simmer until the cheese is fully melted. Garnish with the parsley if you like once you’ve served it in the bowls, but definitely sprinkle some of those bacon bits on top!

Do you have a favorite way to make potato soup? Let me know in the comments below!

Shop the post:

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Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 6″ Chef’s Knife •
Belgique Copper Translucent 3-Qt. Soup Pot with Lid •
Calphalon Signature Nonstick 4 Qt. Soup Pot with Cover • Calphalon •
Cooks Signature 5-qt. Soup Pot •
Cuisinart CSB75 Smartstick 2 Speed Immersion Hand Blender • Cuisinart •
Smart Stick Hand Blender • Cuisinart •

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