There are a number of odd items in my crafting toolkit that I can't live without. Lately, one of my favourites is masking tape. And I don't mean fancy
washi tape (though I love that, too). I'm talking the
cheap green stuff down at your local home-stuff superstore.
There are tons of uses for it: masking off areas you don't want to paint (obviously), marking lines on something you don't want to mark up (such as a floorboard you're about to cut and install), holding down stencils, graffiti and so on. But my favourite application of late is as a quilting guide (thanks, Soule Mama!). As a matter of fact, I'm using it on my first mixed media project – a quilted pillow cover made with one of the designs I stencilled at Austen's crafternoon in March.
For this pillow top, I want to echo the hexagonal border of my painted motif, so I lay strips of masking tape along the edge of each line. The intersections of the tape pieces are the pivot points. If you're machine-quilting like I am, just make sure you slow down a couple of stitches before the end so you don't overshoot. If it looks like I'm going to do that, I just shorten my stitch length and hand-turn the wheel so I have precise control. Don't worry about sewing over the tape in some places – it'll work out later.
When each line is done, I lay down new strips of tape along the sewn lines to keep the pattern moving outward. I like the width of regular masking tape for this project, but if you want lines that are closer together, you might want to try slimmer washi tape. If you want super-close stitching, some craft supply stores carry a product called Tiger Tape, which comes in a variety of quilt-friendly widths.
The tape pulls right off the fabric when your stitching is done. Just be careful when you reach a point where you've sewed over the tape. Pull slowly and gently on the shorter side to make the tape tear where it's been perforated by the needle. If any small bits get stuck under the stitching line, just tease them out with a pin. Ta-da! Straight quilted lines, no nasty pencil marks.
And just in case you're not a sewing kind of person, here are a few other cool (or silly) masking-tape-themed crafts.
Between 3 and 8% of women have PMDD, a severe form of PMS with depression-like symptoms.
"For the three days leading up to my period, I was suicidal, anxious and irritable. I'd have fits of rage; I felt unglued. Then, I'd get my period and I'd be fine," says Jennifer, who asked us not to use her last name. Her psychotherapist suggested PMDD two years ago as a possible cause for her mood swings.
PMDD is like PMS's bigger, badder sister. It's another way of saying very severe PMS, says Dr. Samantha Saffy, a psychiatrist in Vancouver. In order to get a PMDD diagnosis, you need to experience the disorder's depression-like symptoms—mood swings, irritability, anger, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and a decreased interest in usual activities—more months than not. They should occur in the week leading up to menses, then improve after your period starts.
It can be difficult to get a diagnosis. Jennifer had been to three physicians with no luck. But just knowing PMDD exists might be helpful. "Often, being aware of your condition through education can help ease symptoms," says Dr. Tanya Tulipan, a psychiatrist specializing in reproductive mental health in Halifax. "If you know that certain days of the month will be more challenging for you, you can plan around them to minimize stress. Healthy habits such as getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and eating healthily are known to ease symptoms, too." Cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness can also help, but "if none of these strategies works, your family doctor can suggest an antidepressant that you can take continuously or even just for the week that you have your symptoms," says Dr. Tulipan.
No one wants to feel hangry or get hit with a midday crash—but that doesn't mean you have to visit the office vending machine. Instead, curb hunger pangs with these healthier, expert-approved alternatives.
1. Swap: Microwave popcorn for cauliflower popcorn
Even light microwave popcorn can be loaded with sodium, trans fats (which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol) and artificial colours and flavours, says Kelowna, B.C.–based registered dietitian Tristaca Curley. Instead, cut a head of cauliflower into bite-size pieces, then roast in the oven with some olive or coconut oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. This low-calorie, folate- and potassium-rich sub is a satisfying twist on that movie-night favourite.
Photography by Angus Fergusson
2. Swap: Store-bought gorp for DIY trail mix
Ready-made trail mixes can be full of sugar and salt, so create your own snack of walnuts (the nut with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids), unsalted sunflower seeds, dried apple bits and unsweetened shredded coconut. Add chocolate chips for an extra hit of sweetness. "For a tart superfood top-up, add golden berries, which resemble golden raisins," says Toronto-based registered nutritionist Joey Shulman. "They're lower in sugar versus other small berries, and they contain linoleic and oleic acids, which help with fat oxidation." Or add resveratrol-rich mulberries for their antioxidant punch.
3. Swap: Potato Chips for kale chips
"Regular chips contain trans fatty acids, the bad fat that can lead to heart disease and elevated cholesterol," says Shulman. "This superfood alternative is loaded with vitamins A, C and K." Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces (discard thick stems), toss with olive oil and salt, then roast until crisp.
4. Swap: Salted pretzels for roasted chickpeas
Sure, pretzels may be low in fat, but they're loaded with salt and have no real nutritional value, says Curley. For a crunchy alternative, try oven-roasted chickpeas. These legumes are high in fibre, protein and iron, making them an ideal "fill me up" snack. Toss together chickpeas, olive oil, sea salt and your favourite spice (think smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper or garlic powder), then roast until golden brown and crunchy.
5. Swap: Cheese crackers for a seaweed snack
Most crackers are processed carbs laden with artificial colours, preservatives and other additives. "In their place, top a sheet of nori with some canned tuna, smoked salmon or a meat alternative, like grilled tofu," says Curley. The seaweed is super satisfying and guilt-free: There are only five calories per sheet. Plus, sea vegetables are full of vitamins A and C, calcium, iodine (essential for metabolism) and iron.
6. Swap: Chocolate pudding for avocado and cocoa pudding
Chocolate puddings can be drowning in high-fructose corn syrup. For a healthier treat, mash an avocado, then stir in two tablespoons each of cocoa powder and hemp seeds and a quarter cup of honey, says Curley. This pudding is low in sugar and a great source of monounsaturated fats, vitamin C and fibre.
7. Swap: Granola bars for energy balls
Granola bars can contain as much sugar, fat and refined carbs as a chocolate bar. "Instead, stir together a cup of oatmeal with half a cup each of nut butter, hemp seeds and dried fruit," says Curley. Maple syrup or honey will help it stick together. This homemade option is high in fibre and protein, low in sugar and free of additives.
8. Swap: Chips and dip for hummus and carrot or zucchini coins
Processed foods like chips can raise blood sugar, triggering a release in insulin, which then lowers blood sugar. In the short term, these highs and lows actually increase cravings; in the long run, they can lead to weight gain. Try this clever swap from Curley. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice carrots or zucchini into coins. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then bake until golden brown and crisp. Serve with a side of hummus. (Brownie points if it's homemade!)
9. Swap: Banana chips for a loaded banana
This snack is often coated in sugar and deep-fried to give it crunch, so choose a fresh banana, which is glycemic index–friendly, suggests Curley. (Foods with a low-GI value are digested more slowly, so they won't cause a spike in blood sugar.) Top the banana with two tablespoons of your favourite nut butter, then roll it in hemp seeds. "You'll get a slow, steady rise in your blood sugar, so you'll feel full for longer," says Curley. Plus, this satisfying switch-up delivers potassium, protein, iron and omega-3s.
10. Swap: Chocolate-covered almonds for apple rings with nut butter
Almonds are a great snack, but when they're coated with chocolate, they turn into a treat. For a healthier option, slice a cored apple into rings. Top each slice with natural peanut, cashew or almond butter and sprinkle with hemp seeds, which are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. "Apples are loaded with fibre and vitamin C," says Shulman. "Look for unprocessed nut butters; they're rich in good fats, which contain essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and monounsaturated fats."
This stylish notebook might just be hottest organizing accessory of the year.
Everyone is supposed to have 24 hours in a day but for some us, it feels like there must be a rip in the space-time continuum. How else can you explain being constantly busy but having nothing to show for it? If this sounds familiar, learn how you can make the most of your time with our five fave productivity tips.
1. Write it down
Billed as "the analog solution for a digital age," the Bullet Journal is a diary, to-do list and catch-all for all your random thoughts. Developed by Brooklyn-based designer Ryder Carroll, this trendy organizing method involves writing down quick, memory jogging statements rather than complex entries. Use it to organize your tasks by day and month pages, keep tabs of books you want to read and things you want to buy or create new lists whenever inspiration strikes. An indexing system allows you to quickly find what you're looking for.
2. Plan your time
Sort of like HIIT for your to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique involves working on your tasks for a short, timed cycle of 25 minutes. With no distractions allowed, it’s great way for those with short attention spans to focus. Take a 5-minute break before starting your next 25 minutes of work and, after four of these cycles, you're rewarded with a longer, half-hour break. Sound a bit too structured? Maybe that's why it works—it was voted the most popular productivity technique by the readers of lifehacker.com.
3. Try a tech-savvy solution
The If This Then That app might be the closest you'll ever come to a personal assistant. Got any apps on your phone? Automate their functions by using If This Then That statements, or as IFTTT calls them, “recipes.” For example: get an early morning text when the forecast calls for rain, use it to get coffee going without getting out of bed (using a programmable outlet) or tell the family you're on your way home (with an email triggered by your location app once you've left work).
4. Go KonMari on your clutter
While organizing trendsetter Marie Kondo’s method of minimal living has been criticized for being a bit too twee, an organized, uncluttered home can be key to increased efficiency. "In most cases, things that function well are inherently neat and clean," says Clare Kumar, a professional organizer based in Toronto. It's not hard to see why. Simply owning less makes it easier for you to find what you need and streamlines your decision making (no need to choose between your 6 pairs of jeans, for example), saving you time that can be better spent elsewhere.
5. Let it go
There'll be days you can't get to everything. Your work presentation sits unfinished, the house is a mess and dinner was takeout (again!). Instead of stressing out, try to cut yourself some slack. "Our bodies burn out when stuck in fast-forward," says Carl Honoré, an expert on the topic of slow living. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to take some time out to recharge. So curl up with a good book, take a long bath, or enjoy a glass of wine...guilt free! After all, there's always tomorrow.
Gastronomes have long considered Montreal one of the most exciting culinary destinations in Canada. It's ridiculously easy to eat your way through the city, sampling the best bagels, smoked meats, poutine, artisanal cheeses and, due to its strong culinary ties to Europe, decadent chocolate treats. If you're the type to choose dessert over dinner, take note of these must-visit picks—you'll thank us later.
1. Chocolats Andrée
This beloved family-owned workshop and boutique first opened its doors in 1940. The timing was risky; the Second World War was underway, and the boutique's founders, sisters Madeleine Daigneault and Juliette Farand, depended on their clients for the sugar they needed to create their sweet masterpieces. But Daigneault and Farand were savvy, and the company prospered. Today, Daigneault's granddaughter, Stéphanie Saint-Denis, is the proud owner and operator, and she still maintains the sisters' commitment to traditional methods of chocolate-making. You won't find any conventional heavy machinery there; everything is prepared on-site in a tiny kitchen and workshop, where the chocolates are all expertly dipped by hand. You can also pick up nougats, caramels and beautifully shaped marzipan to satisfy any sweet craving.
2. Cacao Barry and Callebaut Chocolate Academy Center
Get a hands-on lesson—and a sneak peek into the world of chocolate-making—at the Montreal location of the Chocolate Academy Center, founded on more than a century of chocolate-crafting tradition, with centres across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Pros can sign up for courses, which teach the skills needed to craft such confections as trendsetting treats, and even technique-specific master classes. The general public can enrol in pre-Easter and pre-Christmas classes to learn how to make holiday treats.
Of this chocolate boutique's six locations across Quebec, the Atwater Market outpost, which offers the charm of a small-scale chocolatier in the big city, is our favourite. Stop in to sample its unique truffle offerings, such as basilic et citron vert (basil and lime) and noix de coco et coriandre (coconut and coriander), and don't forget to pick up its can'tmiss product: a "bean-to-bar" chocolate. Most chocolatiers invent delicious sweet treats but don't produce their own chocolate. Chocolats Privilège's beanto- bar chocolate, on the other hand, is prepared in-house, with every step—right down to importing, roasting and grinding the best cocoa beans—handled by the staff.