Laveanne Lavender Fields: A Touch of Provence

This summer for me is a time of exploration in my own country’s backyard and to my delight, I didn’t have to venture far to discover something extraordinary. Lavender fields! Laveanne Lavender Fields is about an hour away from Toronto.

My friend Karolina joined me on this adventure one warm sunny July day.

We decided to take the scenic route to get to Laveanne, as opposed to the highway and we were in for a treat. We not only passed by little charming towns, but also saw so many greenery and rolling hills. The further away we were from Toronto, the more surreal it felt that we were travelling somewhere abroad.

When we stepped onto the property of Laveanne, we felt like we were transported into the lavender fields in Provence, France. The view of more than 10, 000 lavender plants was breathtaking and the fragrance of them were definitely in the air.

At Laveanne, July is blossom month. I was glad that I took some time out during July to visit this lovely haven with Karolina.


We started our early morning at the charming boutique and were in heaven browsing through so many lavender products, mostly made on site. Then we strolled through the plant nursery. Finally we stopped in front of the big maple tree outside and were greeted by our yoga teacher, Elizabeth. She guided us on a 60 minute gentle yoga class outdoors and then a 30 minute meditation walk through the lavender labyrinth. Elizabeth gave her students an option to walk through the labyrinth barefoot or with shoes. I chose barefoot, so I can feel more connected to nature, and at the same time draw energy from earth, which is a practise known as “earthing”. I loved how earthing was combined with the walking meditation here!

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At the end of yoga class, we visited the pop-up restaurant on the terrace, overlooking the lavender fields, and enjoyed a variety of lavender infused food. Everything was so delicious!

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We originally anticipated spending a few hours here and ended up spending the whole day! We took time to stroll through the fields, take photos, and bask in the sun on one of the benches. Time seemed to just slip away quietly in this beautiful and tranquil environment.


In the words of Karolina, “I felt like I was at a spiritual retreat.” Truer words were never spoken. Laveanne is a sweet haven where one can find peace and beauty away from the hustle bustle of city life, and feel rejuvenated body, mind and spirit at the end of the visit.


Ottawa: The Tea Party Cafe

Last Tuesday I was in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, to continue my own celebration of our country’s 150th birthday. I was on the hunt for a cool cafe with character because for me, a visit in a city is not complete without exploring at least one cafe or tea shop! Luckily for me, my cousin Flo, a local of Ottawa, knew just the place to take me!

Located on a quiet street inside the historical ByWard Market, The Tea Party Cafe is a cute cafe with two floors, and its own private patio, perfect for tea sipping and chatting with friends under the sunshine.


It has a charming yet funky vibe, with Alice in Wonderland drawings all over the walls.



We arrived around noon, and it was still calm. There were a few people outside in the patio, and only one table was occupied inside.

For vegetarians and vegans, the lunch menu was a delight. There were a variety of healthy options to choose from. I selected Daal Curry with basmati rice while Flo chose Thai Tofu Curry with basmati rice. We decided on the large size ($8.50) for our vegan dishes as opposed to small ($5.50), and were not disappointed with the generous portion size and price. Both dishes were extremely fresh and delicious!


After our lunch, we ordered the “Cream Tea” for dessert, which included a pot of tea and their famous scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Tea Party Cafe has over 50 types of tea to choose from including a series called “Alice in Wonderland”, which goes nicely with the theme of this cafe. The fun part of selecting our own tea was we could walk up to the tea shelves and open up any jar of tea to smell it, before deciding which one we wanted!

I opted for Japanese Kyoto Cherry Rose while Flo opted for Jasmine with Flowers. Both teas had strong flavours associated with their flowers. We enjoyed the taste of both!


We got very lucky that we were served scones fresh out of the oven, since they ran out of all ingredients after the Canada Day long weekend, and made a stop that morning to buy the ingredients for the scones. With a dollop of clotted cream and a spread of strawberry jam over the scone, the scone simply melted into our mouths. As claimed by the cafe, they are definitely the best in the city!


At the end of our meals, we came to the conclusion that The Tea Party Cafe is a nice cozy peaceful place to hang out with your friends, over yummy food, desserts and teas!

Next time I’m back in Ottawa, I would love to try their afternoon tea menu. The best part is that they also offer a vegan version of the afternoon tea! For a vegan afternoon tea, they only need two orders and 48 hours notice.

If you’re ever visiting Ottawa, check out The Tea Party Cafe!


Take a Moment for Mesothelioma

Sometimes when you think you know almost everything (which is actually never true!!) about a certain topic/issue, you are surprised that there is actually more to learn about it and of this world. This is exactly what happened. I thought I had a general understanding of most types of cancer after what my dad went through and other people I knew who experienced other types of cancer. Emily Walsh, the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, contacted me to help her in spreading the word about mesothelioma through her organization’s summer campaign called “Moment for Meso”. It was my first time hearing about this type of cancer and it is with pleasure I share with you some important facts I learned.

I ask you to please kindly take a moment for mesothelioma and read about this type of cancer below.


First of all, like me, you may wonder what is mesothelioma? I learned that it is an aggressive cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. One of the leading causes of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is an insulating material consisting of magnesium-silicate mineral fibres. It is invisible to the naked eye and often found in many older homes, schools, factories and commercial buildings as it was favoured by builders and contractors for many years for its low heat conductivity and resistance to melting and burning. Once it becomes worn or damaged, it causes fibres to flake off and become airborne; it is at this point that it becomes a great risk. When research showed that there is a link between mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos, this material was then used less. However, millions of people, both in America, Canada and around the world, are exposed to this harmful substance already.


Here are 5 startling facts about asbestos:

1. It was once used in more than 3000 American consumer products (e.g. household items like toasters and hair dryers) and some of which may still be in use today.

2. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe.

3. It is still not banned in the United States and about 30 million pounds are still used today.

4. It is possible to experience second-hand asbestos exposure by touching clothing or items that have asbestos fibers on them.

5. Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational cancer in the USA even more than 30 years after its peak.


Now that you know what is asbestos and have a better understanding of how it is linked to mesothelioma, here are 5  interesting facts about this type of cancer:

1. Every year around 3000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma and are given an average of 10 months to live.

2. It can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms closely resemble other respiratory conditions.

3. Symptoms may not appear until 30-60 years later, after first exposure to asbestos.

4. Navy veterans are at the most risk of to develop mesothelioma since asbestos was widely used in Naval ships and shipyards.

5. Men are 4 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma; however, women are becoming victims to it through second-hand exposure.


Mesothelioma in Canada
As a Canadian citizen, I was curious to see if mesothelioma is becoming as prominent as in the United States, so I did a little bit of research. To my astonishment, I discovered that Canada has the highest mesothelioma cancer rate in the world. It is no wonder since Canada was heavily involved in the chrysotile asbestos industry since the late 19th century through mining and the federal government allowed its production and use in thousands of products. Similar to the United States, the most significant increases happened in the shipbuilding areas around Vancouver, and in Quebec. Quebec was home to many of Canada’s early asbestos mines.

According to medical experts, about 2.1 of 100, 000 Canadians are diagnosed every year with mesothelioma. Today, only 1 of the original 13 mines are in operation. The Canadian government did set some safety regulations on asbestos use. As well, it is spending billions of dollars to remove asbestos from schools, factories, plants and other commercial buildings. High-risk professions and trades affected by exposure to asbestos includes miners, ship loaders, truck drivers, carpenters, construction workers, insulation installers, plumbers, roofers, shipbuilders and textile workers.


International Connection
While Canada is trying to protect its own citizens from asbestos exposure (as given examples above), it is interesting to note that it led a successful campaign to block the listing of asbestos as a toxic material as proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and many countries at the Rotterdam Convention in 2004 and 2008. It also continues to be a major exporter of chrysotile asbestos to second and third world countries who do not monitor asbestos exposure or regulate its use, as it makes $100 million dollars.  All 27 European Union countries, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Chile and Japan have banned asbestos in their countries. Second and third world countries such as India and Vietnam continue to use asbestos products in construction. However, on a positive note, it appears the Canadian government is changing its tune. In 2012, it revealed that it will no longer block international efforts to add chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material at the Rotterdam Convention. The next Rotterdam Convention will be held in 2015. Let’s see if Canada will keep its promise next year.


Thank you for taking your time to read about mesothelioma and being part of  “Moment for Meso”. I hope you have learned something about it, and are more aware of it now. Feel free to spread the word to others and let’s all help to raise awareness! 🙂



If you like, you can learn more about mesothelioma by reading the following sites that I’ve used to put this post together.

Top 4 Natural Home Remedies for Cold

Part of the reason that I haven’t been feeling well has to do with me getting the cold and losing my voice.  After a few months of being strong, despite many people around me getting the cold, I finally succumbed to it.  I didn’t want to go see my family doctor; I knew he would just prescribe me some antibiotics from past experiences.  Too much antibiotics is not good for the body, and I didn’t want any of them in my body.  I wanted to self-heal from this cold using natural ingredients, and see if they would work.  Amazingly, I did get better in a week! 🙂

Below, I will share with you 4 natural remedies that were helpful for me in combating and getting better from the cold.  Please keep in mind, this list is for informational purposes and based on my own experience; I am not a medical professional.  If you have any questions and/or concerns, please consult your doctor, before you try any of these.


I learned from my cooking instructor that turmeric is anti-inflammatory and she has a glass of hot milk with turmeric every night.  She says her nightly turmeric drink has helped to boost her immune system and she feels healthy all the time.  As soon as I felt the beginnings of a sore throat (often the first sign of a cold), I decided to give the turmeric a try.  Instead of putting it into milk, I decided to add 1 teaspoon of it to hot water.  I had one cup daily of this for a week, and believe it is one of the reasons I feel better quickly. 🙂


When my sore throat persisted, I began adding raw honey into my daily morning lemon water.  I learned that raw honey (not heated, pasteurized or processed) is an alkaline-forming food with natural vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. Furthermore, its antibacterial properties is perfect in treating a sore throat, as the honey coats the throat and eases the irritation.  To my delight, I discovered that pairing up 1 tablespoon of raw honey with half a freshly squeezed lemon into a hot/warm cup of water is such a natural soother for the sore throat.


My brother is currently studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and he was the one who recommended me to drink this concoction after he diagnosed my tongue and heard my cough.

Here is an excellent link to the benefits of the ingredients in this tea and how to make it:


Last but not least, the most important natural remedy is allowing our body to rest and recover on its own.  Despite my healthy eating and regular exercise routine, I knew I was lacking in sleep during the past few weeks due to various reasons.  When I finally lost my voice in addition to the above two symptoms of the cold I mentioned, I knew my immune system was endangered.  Therefore, I decided to take two days off from work.  I was lucky those days were attached to the weekend so I had four days to fully rest both my body and voice at home, and by Monday, I was almost back to normal. 🙂


Here are 2 links that I found helpful in explaining why sleep is so important to our health.  Sleeping well is definitely one of the keys in maintaining good health.  Check it out when you have time:

Finding Joy in Unexpected Places!

There really is joy and pleasure in discovering new places or things in our everyday life, unexpectedly.  Such is the case when I discovered two neat places that specialize in delicious, healthy & gluten-free food. 🙂

I would like to briefly share with you these two places I found in my own city with some friends.  If you’re a resident of or a visitor to Toronto or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and have time to spare, check out the following places!

1. The Victorian Tea Room in Thornhill

It was easy to see the difference between the "regular" and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side).

It was easy to see the difference between the “regular” and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side); and the gluten-free pastries were on a separate plate.

If I had to choose to eat only one meal in a day, it would have to be English High Tea or Afternoon Tea.  High Tea originated from England and refers to the mini meal accompanied by tea, served between lunch and dinner. This is my favourite meal of the day because I love its combination of sweet and savoury, ranging from scones with sinfully thick and smooth Devonshire cream and sweet jam, to delightful finger sandwiches and scrumptious tiny pastries.  Aside from the obvious enjoyment of munching on these afternoon treats, the best part is drinking the aromatic tea, presented in the prettiest teapots and cups and saucers, in a cozy and relaxing environment with close friends and/or family members! 🙂

Anyways, now that I’m gluten-free, I thought I had to forego this little indulgence, unless I work hard in learning how to make gluten-free scones and the rest.  To my absolute delight I heard about this new tea place that opened about 6 months ago, and I learned it offered a gluten-free menu!!  It was also perfect timing to check it out as I had a friend who recently came back from England so we thought it would be lovely and very “English” to go for high tea there, and reminisced about good times we both experienced in England. 🙂  I really liked how the gluten-free treats were divided from the regular treats clearly.  Also, I thought the gluten-free treats still tasted delicious, and after eating them, I did not feel as full as I used to after eating my high tea bite sized food.  This tea place also had over 40 different types of tea from around the world to choose from and we had fun deciding on which one to drink! When I’m in the mood, now I know where to go to for my high tea craving!

To learn more about the Victorian Tea Room, see:


2. Goodbye Gluten  in Toronto

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

This place was definitely an unexpected surprise.  We were going to try out one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, and got lucky and found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant.  As we got out of the car, we saw this store, which was right beside the restaurant, and of course we went in!  Despite its small space, it was very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products that you can think of, from noodles to desserts to health food and freshly made food.  It’s really a gluten-free foodie’s paradise and an one stop gluten-free grocery shopping experience!!  They also have a mini gluten-free bakery section, producing freshly baked goods daily as they have a kitchen downstairs.  The desserts looked really yummy, but we couldn’t buy any since we had a big dinner ahead of us.  I will most definitely keep this shop in mind if I ever need a gluten-free cake for any special occasion or need to buy some gluten-free essentials. 🙂

Here’s this store’s website if you’re interested in getting more details:

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carry vegan products!  What's not to love about this store?? :)

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carries vegan products! What’s not to love about this store?? 🙂

The Largest Vegetarian Food Festival in North America!!


On the weekend I attended the 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival in Toronto, organized by the Toronto Vegetarian Association. (see: This festival is a 3 day event, and according to the booklet given to all visitors, this festival “is the largest event of its kind in the world, attracting 40, 000 visitors over three days.  It was located at my favourite place in the heart of the city: the beautiful Harbourfront (part of Toronto’s waterfront).  I went with my dear friend Marla, who is on her own journey into becoming vegetarian/vegan after watching a documentary on the horrendous truth about how farm animals are treated.  Both of us found out about this festival when we went to this fabulous Farmers’ Market in town (which I will blog about later) a few weeks ago.

Both of us had no idea what to expect from this festival since it was our first time.  Well, let me tell you, when we arrived, we were very impressed!  It was indeed LARGE.  It was held inside buildings and in outdoor tents as well. There were presentations, workshops (yoga, belly dancing etc.), chef demos AND 140 exhibits, showcasing a variety of healthy and green products, where you can shop to your vegetarian or vegan’s heart content!!

For beginners into the plant-based diet, this is like an educational paradise for both of us.  We got free food, freebies, and learned so much from experts!

Here are some of the highlights from our visit that I would like to share with you:


Even though it was a rainy morning, nothing deterred us from exploring and walking in the rain from place to place at the festival.  We were lucky to drop by a Chef Demo, featuring 1 of the 8 amazing chefs at the festival this year.  We saw Jenné Claiborne, a personal chef and health coach, as she demonstrated how easy it is to whip up a fast healthy vegan meal and dessert using only 5 ingredients in her “Five Ingredient Cooking” demo.  She told us that the best kitchen equipment and cooking investment for anyone is the food processor.  Then she showed us how effortless it was to create 2 things in minutes using the food processor: the Chickpea Avocado Parsley Tartine and the Chocolate Date Bar.  I swear, for a novice cook like me, her approach in making delicious and healthy vegan dishes is appealing and practical, so I will definitely try making more of them whenever I have time.  Also, we found out that she created “The 21-Day Vegan Blueprint Program”; it’s ideal for people who are considering in becoming vegan. 🙂

Check her out at: and



I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Laurie Sadowski as she walked as step by step in her workshop “Gluten-Free Baking”.  I learned a lot about gluten-free baking and different gluten-free flours, egg and diary replacers.  After listening to her, I now understand why sometimes my gluten-free baking experiments in the kitchen don’t turn out well.  One key thing I learned that needs to be in gluten-free baking is xanthum gum, which binds the ingredients very well, and the baked goods will not be all crumbly.  Another secret to successful gluten-free baking is knowing how to use combinations of gluten-free flours for certain baked good recipes and individual nutritional needs.  I’m super excited to read and try her recipes from the 2 books I bought!!  I’m especially looking forward to her “Bakes Bread” book as I can now explore and make my own fresh gluten-free bread to eat! 🙂

To get to know Laurie and her books more, please visit her website at:



At this evening Chef Demo, I learned how to make 2 delicious autumn classic treats a la gluten-free and vegan: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and Apple Pie.  These treats were demonstrated by Ashley Wittig, co-owner of Toronto’s only 100% vegan and gluten-free bakeshop, Bunner’s.  After tasting the delicious muffin, I’m excited for Thanksgiving and will try to make at least one of these goodies, and will definitely visit Bunner’s sometime soon! 🙂

To find out more about Bunner’s, see



We ended the night at the festival on a sweet note with these cupcakes by Sweets From The Earth.  Sweets From The Earth is a company, with 2 facilities, making baked goods that are all natural, vegan, peanut and nut free, and gluten-free.  The Cookies ‘n” Cream cupcake and Lavender cupcake were definitely “sinfully delicious” as they claim. 🙂

See for more information on its many sweet and yummy products.


Aside from these highlights, my favourite part was being able to browse through the exhibits and to be able to sample its products, and the most fun was of course SHOPPING there!!  I’m a shopaholic at heart, and some of my friends often joke that I can be in the middle of nowhere, and I can still manage to buy something that pleases me.  Believe me, it has happened before when I was in Africa and Asia, and my friends were astounded I found something when they thought there was nothing to buy at all. Ah, the joy of shopping!  So it is no surprise that I bought quite a few awesome items. 😉  Marla claims that I bought the entire Vegetarian Festival, which is of course an exaggeration!  I simply couldn’t pass up on some very good deals and to be fair, I tried samples of these products before buying them.  I like them because they are healthy, organic, vegan, gluten-free and green products!!  Plus, I learned about new healthy food choices I can include into my balanced diet such as hemp seeds and rice milk. 🙂

Below you will see some favourite products I bought and samples I got from the festival.  I’m looking forward to reading Healthy Eating For Life: To Prevent and Treat Cancer and trying some cultural recipes from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats from Around the World.


One lesson I learned from my first time at this festival is that I definitely need to bring several reusable bags to carry all the purchases and samples for next year.  I have a feeling it’s gonna be super special since they are celebrating its’ 30th anniversary!  I can’t wait for next year’s festival and will be fully prepared! 😉


*Here are some more fantastic places to check out for (these are all Canadian companies)…

-Raw, Organic and Gluten-Free Snacks:

– Organic, Fair trade, Non-GMO (genetically modified organism) and Raw Products: (I buy my raw cacao nibs here, and love the taste of them!)

-Hemp Seeds:

-Non-Dairy Milk:

A Gluten-Free Culinary Delight!

Last week I went off to watch a talented friend of mine perform in a local production of the musical “West Side Story” in the township of Uxbridge.  Uxbridge is about an hour drive from Toronto.  My friend recommended a restaurant in town that was 100% gluten-free and wheat-free.  It serves Mediterranean style food using local ingredients.  When I learned it was 100% gluten-free and used local produce, I was super excited and couldn’t wait to try it out!!  My cousin Viv came along on this gluten-free adventure as she likes eating, and has a love for musicals.  Please sit back, and enjoy as I describe and show you how delicious and beautiful the food was presented in this fabulous gluten-free and wheat-free restaurant: Frankie’s Ristorante! 🙂

Welcome to Frankie's!

Welcome to Frankie’s!

When we entered the restaurant, we were immediately charmed by the cozy, cheerful and intimate ambience.  There were about 10 tables, ranging between 2-4 seats each.  Lovely artwork by local artists were hung along the wall, and the jazz music added to the atmosphere.  It was as if we stepped right into the 1920s, the Jazz Age or Roaring Twenties, a time of carefree fun and leisure.  We were wondering why there was a piano by the front of the restaurant, and later learned that on Friday nights and Saturday nights they have live music performances, and a jazz pianist performs on Friday nights.

Frankie Whole Resto

A better photo view of paintings on the wall

A better photo view of paintings on the wall

We ordered the following food on the menu:

Frankie's Bread: "Frankie's own home-baked bread topped with a chunky tomato sauce, Pancetta, bell peppers & feta cheese, then baked to perfection & served piping hot."

Frankie’s Bread: “Frankie’s own home-baked bread topped with a chunky tomato sauce, Pancetta, bell peppers & feta cheese, then baked to perfection & served piping hot.”

We had the Frankie’s Bread for appetizer, and the description on the menu surely reflected what we got.  It was most definitely served hot, and the combination of the ingredients on the bread made it sooooooooo scrumptious!

Mediterranean Pasta: "Brocolli, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, raisins, tomatoes & olives in a light tomato olive oil sauce."

Mediterranean Pasta: “Grilled Broccoli, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, raisins, tomatoes & olives in a light tomato olive oil sauce.”

We decided to order the Mediterranean Pasta since the description on the menu sounded very unique, and it was something we never had before.  For an extra $5, we added chicken to the pasta, so we could have some extra protein.  The pasta came in a very generous portion, and we actually shared the pasta; the restaurant kindly split the portion into two plates for us.  Half a portion of this pasta was filling enough for both of us already.  We really loved the taste of this pasta!  The crispness of the broccoli, the crunchiness of the sunflower and pumpkins seeds, the sweetness of the raisins and the freshness of the tomato and olives in the sauce somehow magically contributed to the overall light, refreshing and appetizing taste.  We were glad we split the pasta, as we had room for desserts after!

Frankie's Famous Sticky Toffee Pudding

Frankie’s Famous Sticky Toffee Pudding

Our friendly server Abbie suggested we try the restaurant’s best seller dessert, which was the Sticky Toffee Pudding.  When we had our first bite into this dessert, we were so happy that we took her suggestion.  Served warm, this pudding was simply a delight to our taste buds: it was sinfully sticky, sweet and moist!

Chocolate Berry Cake

Chocolate Berry Cake

Since we were both chocolate lovers, our night would not have been complete if we didn’t order something chocolatey for dessert.  We settled on the only chocolate dessert of the day, which was the Chocolate Berry Cake.  It was also served warm, and can be likened to the Molten Chocolate Cake, except it had berries in the centre along with the chocolate liquid oozing out.  We enjoyed this delectable cake as well, and felt satisfied and healthy after eating it.

Overall, we had an excellent dining experience here with the warm atmosphere, amiable and attentive service, and most especially the delightful gluten-free food.  I will definitely return and highly recommend this restaurant to anyone!  Check out Frankie’s website here:

To my delight, I have now discovered that there are wonderful places out there like Frankie’s that cater to people with gluten sensitivity.  Being gluten intolerant doesn’t mean eating unappetizing food for the rest of my life, so for that, thank you Frankie’s!  I am actually inspired to try cooking a few gluten-free meals in the kitchen now.  You may see a few recipes on gluten-free main dishes in the future here. So, stay tuned, my dear readers! 🙂