Wild Oat Bakery & Cafe: A Sunday Success

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As promised, I am posting my latest cafe adventure AT LAST. Hopefully I’m earning some points, guys.

I would introduce you guys to a new partner in crime, aka Melissa, aka fellow Oakvillian med student, but unfortunately she did not survive the morning’s workout. Kidding. She had stuff to do; she promised to come next time.

After an intense bout of Body Pump, I walked down Bank Street towards my next hit: Wild Oat Bakery & Cafe. I found this cafe after doing a quick search for vegan/vegetarian/gluten-friendly cafes in Ottawa, and it was the closest location to the gym. Ravenous and caffeine-deprived, it took all I had to take the above photo before rushing inside.

The place was packed. I don’t mean packed like a TTC subway cart in Toronto; it was much more pleasant than that. It gave me the impression it was a warm and welcoming place much beloved by its Glebian patrons. The cafe is separated into two areas: the first is the actual bakery portion, where deliciousness is displayed in various shapes and forms.

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(For new readers: I try my best not to capture faces in my photos, to protect the innocent. On that note, go little kid repping Canada like a pro #Canuck).

On the right, there is a hot food table where you could get yourself scrumptious portions of VEGAN red lentil soup:

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There seemed to be something for everyone to eat, even myself with my ridiculous dietary restrictions (which don’t include meat, by the way; I’m just a semi-vegan).

As I was on the hunt for coffee, I passed over to the other side to see what additional wonders Wild Oat Bakery & Cafe held. The cafe and breakfast/lunch portion was located on this side, with tables and stools for patrons to sit and eat their food. As I mentioned earlier, the place was pretty much at max capacity. As I stood in line, I read the fabulous chalkboard menus while attempting to be stealthily non-creepy about photographing the place.

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Have I ever mentioned how much I love chalkboards? The colours here are glorious, and apparently they serve wine, beer, and cider:

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Literally, there is something for everyone here. On top of that, the prices for coffees were fairly reasonable. I opted for a hot drink this time, ordering a medium soy latte for about 4$. You can order drinks with organic milk, soy milk, or almond milk, and they have cream available on the coffee prep tables for those ordering simpler coffees. For those craving cold, non-alcoholic drinks, they also have a selection of iced coffees/lattes/mochas, as well as some ultra healthy smoothies. I ordered a sandwich as well, and was given my latte and a number (which I brought to my stool near the window).

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Go #1! And look at that latte froth. Perfection. I think it was the first time I drank coffee from a pint, and I would do it again. It’s classy.

I didn’t have to wait long for my sandwich. I ordered the East Meets West grilled sandwich (my apologies to the cashier for messing up that tongue twister at the cash). I ordered it on whole wheat bread, and it comes with tofu, tahini, pesto, cilantro, tomato, and greens (I asked for no onions).

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My entire order cost about 13$ in total, and it was delicious. The sandwich was hot, the veggies tasted fresh, and I found myself enjoying the seasoned tofu quite a bit. The coffee stayed hot throughout the entire meal, and I had a lovely view of the Glebe sitting at the window. They also have seats outside in the shade, in case anyone is claustrophobic.

Funny but awesome aside: I barely gazed at my phone the entire time I was there. Why? Well, let’s just say I had an actual interaction with an actual person like they used to do in the pre-cellular device era. Since the place was busy, I had the wonderful opportunity of sharing my table with someone who proved without a doubt the world is extremely tiny. It turns out this wonderful lady is close to a potential future medical student who interviewed at uOttawa. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, this medical student hopeful’s aunt is one of my small group teaching mentors. We had a good laugh over that. Also, this lady is a major Greece fan: I will break a plate for you in your honour, hope you like the blog! I will also check out the places you suggested and look out for possible mutual acquaintances!

All in all, I really don’t have anything bad to say about Wild Oat Bakery & Cafe. They have their public health certification (right under the hot coffee menu), the place is kept tidy, and the staff are friendly and polite. For those interested in the menu, a reviewer sent a copy to the Zomato website: https://www.zomato.com/ottawa/wild-oat-the-glebe/menu

Have you ever been to this Glebian cafe? How was your experience there? Do you have any other cool places to suggest?

Happy Sunday!

-EL

Once upon a time, in med school…

As Snoop Dog would say in a Katy Perry song: “Greetings, loved ones”.

I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Anyways, I know it’s been a long time since my last post, and at this point any promises to write more posts mean little to my dear readers. BUT I think I have a semi-solid excuse and I hope this flies for you:

I’m in medical school.

Holy crap. I can finally write that on a public blog. Feels great! So that’s why I haven’t written anything since February 2015. At that point, I was in my last semester of undergrad, I was prepping for my medical school interviews, and I was trying not to lose my mind working two part-time jobs. Thankfully, hard work pays off and I am now in my second semester of my first year of medicine. Time flies, but at least now I can percuss people’s chests and abdomens semi-well.

I also no longer have red hair. For the first time in 5 years, I had my natural colour back in its entirety. Until April 15th, 2016.

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That’s right. I went greeeeeeeeeen.

The conversation with the stylist went pretty much as expected.

Stylist: So you want your hair cut and styled with partial highlights? What colour were you thinking?

Me: I was thinking blue/teal. Or red if you don’t have blue.

Stylist: *comes back from checking* I have green.

Me: ….sold.

Hence, I went to Med Ball 2016 with mermaid hair. Creds to Arzie at L’essence salon in St-Laurent mall for the fabulous job (follow her on Instagram @hairbyarzie).

In regards to coffee, I’ve been to a few cool places in Ottawa during my hiatus. I have decided to reclaim the blog and continue my coffee adventures, green hair and stethoscope and all. Actually, you all have a fan to thank for this – hi Farrah and friends! – as they have commanded I continue my blog for their post-first year undergrad entertainment.

I’m hoping to hit up some places this weekend as I write an essay on a new HIV drug that’s been approved in Canada. Bring on the coffee!

Happy Tuesday!

-El

Long Time No See! But I’m Back ;)

Hello fellow Ottawa coffee lovers!

I apologize for my prolonged absence: turns out this school and two jobs business takes a lot of hours out of your week! Luckily for everyone, I haven’t let real life impede on my time spent in coffee shops, and believe me, I have consumed copious amounts of caffeine these past few months.

But the good news is that I am back! And with new hair, might I add:

New Hair

I have also successfully transitioned into semi-veganism, what with the new dietary restrictions and all. A perk of having an intolerance to dairy and eggs is that I have had to learn how to be creative with meal preparations. In essence, this means a lot more avocado and peppers, as well as coconut cappuccino ice cream and rice milk in plant-based protein smoothies. But the good news is that the inflammation has gone down drastically, and I now have a nice muscle tone showing. Wink wink.

However, the challenges for semi-vegans and vegans alike in cafes persist. Soy milk cuts it on those desperate days, yet the aftertaste left at the back of your tongue makes you wonder why you bothered in the first place. And an intolerance to almonds means nay nay to almond milk. So what is left for the Second Cups and Starbucks of the world?

 Starbucks Coconut Milk

( https://www.yahoo.com/food/coconut-milk-soy-milk-almond-milk-all-of-110172703326.html )

COCONUT MILK. BLESS THE GODS OF STARBUCKS.

I for one cannot wait until these coconut milk lattes hit all Starbucks stores in Ottawa. Expect a review of these very shortly.

Anyways, I have a lot of stories to share regarding cafes aplenty. I will start by recounting my tales of Scottish cafes, and let me tell you, these cafes were amazing.

Happy Friday!

-EL

Cafe Alt: A Fair Trade Alternative

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For the first time in 4 years, I dared venture down to the basement of Simard Hall to check out the campus-famous Cafe Alt. A couple of reasons prompted this spontaneous choice: mostly, I wanted to explore vegetarian and vegan options on and around campus since I can no longer eat dairy and eggs. Cafe Alt is known for its vegan and vegetarian meals, as well as its fair trade coffee and stress-free atmosphere. I was joined by the gorgeous pair Sherry and Emily, Cafe Alt experts and fellow cafe lovers.

I, for one, was starving. I’d spent the past week cramming for the MCAT, so grocery shopping took a backseat to Verbal Reasoning. As soon as I saw those delicious sandwiches behind the glass, I knew I’d have to have a taste cheese or no cheese. Luckily for me, they had a fantastic smashed chickpea sandwich made with avocado, tomatoes and arugula:

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Emily ordered the pesto bocconcini (right), which looked absolutely scrumptious. The sandwiches cost about 7$ each, admittedly a bit pricey for students. However, the food is baked and made fresh, and is nutritious and tasty! I had to force myself not to inhale the warm smashed chickpea sandwich as I waited for cafe mocha made with soy milk. I ordered the coffee “for here”, interested in both presentation and amount of coffee served. The mocha was served in a beautiful brown latte mug at perfect drinking temperature. I didn’t even notice the taste of soy as I sipped the chocolaty goodness:

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Sherry had brought her own lunch, but she did order an iced tea that apparently was warm at best. It looked delicious though:

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One thing all three of us noticed was the laid-back and stress-free atmosphere. Most patrons were sitting at the booths studying, but contrary to science/law students, they looked almost happy to be doing so.

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This observation somehow brought us to our next topic: Sherry’s psych thesis project. In layman’s terms, she is sending magnetic waves into test subject’s brains to gauge brain activity in specific areas of our most important organ. Pretty badass, if you ask me. Emily had just started her second week as a Common Law student, and she had some interesting stories to share about orientation week and her professors, which will not be discussed here to protect the innocent. And stuff.

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Adorable. Can’t make friends any better than these two. Sherry stole my coffee mug to make it look like she had ordered coffee. Emily, for some reason, decided to hold Sherry’s empty iced tea cup even though she had ordered coffee. Weirdos. ❤

Anyways, I definitely recommend checking out Cafe Alt when you have the chance. They are run as a student business by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and frequently host many shows and concerts in the evenings. They are open from 8am-6pm during the weekedays, and are sadly closed on weekends. Also, they make a point to recycle and compost any and all waste they have, and they are committed to protecting the environment. They are best known on campus for providing vegan and vegetarian options on campus, and they only sell fair trade coffee. Lastly, you can acquire a points card with the purchase of a regular or fancy coffee (i.e. latte, mocha, etc.), and you can get some free drinks after collecting 10 points! Pretty nifty, eh?

Check out their website for a complete menu, catering services, and booking information. They also have a Facebook and Twitter page to keep customers up to date on the latest events and additions to their menu!

Keep an eye out for my next posts detailing my trip to Scotland and all of their wonderful cafes I got to visit in many different cities! I am also hitting up a new cafe tomorrow afternoon, so stayed tune for the latest and greatest in Ottawa’s cafe universe.

Happy Saturday!

-EL

Blogging During This Excruciating Episode of the Bachelorette

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Hello fellow café lovers!

I haven’t had the chance to visit any new cafes recently, which is certainly a shame! HOWEVER, I can guarantee some fun and excitement in approximately 2.5 weeks when I am café hopping in beautiful SCOTLAND! And yes, photos will be included.

So instead of remaining MIA until my next adventure, I decided to write a little update regarding my café experiences in the City of Ottawa. This may include cafes that I have not featured on my blog, mostly because they are big franchises.

Second Cup

Let me just say this now: nothing can compare to Second Cup’s vanilla bean hot chocolate. For those of you who live for Latte Tuesdays during the school year, those café mochas and hazelnut lattes certainly keep you warm and caffeinated during those dark study nights. And when the store on Laurier near uOttawa closed for a couple of weeks last summer? Let me tell you, you weren’t the only addicts re-routed to Starbucks in Desmarais Hall until further notice.

As I was walking to my yoga class on Sunday, I feasted my eyes upon the new and improved renovated Second Cup store near Le Chateau. Behold!

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I find it quite lovely. I really like how they turned it from a simple counter and sitting area to a semi-enclosed shop-like space. It turns out the loss of sitting space isn’t as crucial as one might think since the new Second Cup is right near the new food court. Remember where Sears used to be? Well, its bottom floor will open as the new Dining Hall on Friday, August 1st. Check out the announcement here.

Starbucks

I suppose I should confess I have a gold Starbucks card. Can you blame me when Starbucks has mocha coconut frappuccinos?! They also have exquisite teas (thanks, Teavana), my favourite being their iced passion tea lemonade. Nothing screams summer like an iced passion tea lemonade.

Starbucks are strategically placed inside almost every Chapter’s I’ve come across. I want to meet the genius behind that deal: I mean, access to both caffeine AND literature? The literal loves of my life? Hell yes. Nothing beats a good book and a hot cup of vanilla latte. In addition, Starbucks makes it super easy to pay for their products: cash, credit, debit, as well as giftcards payable through their app. Perfect for students and professionals on the go from morning until night. Also, every purchase with the app gets you stars and stars can get you rewards, and you can ascend to the gold card status when you hit 30 stars. Every 12 stars gets you a free drink or food item, so make sure to flash your giftcard every time you go Starbucks!

The Loft: Board Game Lounge

Sophia, Kristen and I spent Friday night at The Loft to savour drinks and food and to play a good game of… JENGA! Jenga was one of my favourite games to play when I was a kid, and so we decided to recreate our childhood with a twist: I accidentally grabbed the “Truth or Dare” edition of the game! Needless to say, one of us ended up slow dancing with a broom; another had to admit to what their favourite battery-powered toy was; and yet another had to blow in another’s ear. In public. Surrounded by real live people. And daiquiris.

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It’s always nice to see another side to the same shop, and The Loft certainly cannot be qualified as a two-dimensional experience. If you haven’t been yet, I strongly suggest you go!

That’s it for now folks! Hopefully I will have a new café adventure to write about before departing for beautiful Scotland. Until then, may your coffees be hot and your summer even hotter (*snorts*).

Happy Monday!

~EL

Westboro’s Illume Espresso Bar

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Rain or shine, this café hopper has a mission to complete. Last rainy Tuesday, I met up with the lovely Sophia to explore the café world of Westboro. Located on 1433 Wellington St. W., this particular coffee shop caught my eye as I Google searched potential candidates for my next blog post. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Illume Espresso Bar.

Illume Espresso Bar is a modern and spacious location inundated with natural light. The floor and furniture is dark, the walls a blend of lighter colours and the menu/specials of the day are charmingly showcased on blackboards throughout the store. The food display case is rather small, hinting that their main incomes most likely stems from their coffee. However, they are gluten-free friendly and offer options for customers who require that option. The counter space and the seating appeared clean and tidy; no claustrophobia in this coffee shop!

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Sophia and I walked into Illume Espresso Bar after arguing about the location of the door (naturally, I was correct). We both looked a little rough around the edges, what with little sleep, too much work and fuzzy hair from rain and humidity. Nevertheless, the barista welcomed us warmly and waited patiently for us to unload our heavy bags and umbrellas at a table before asking us what we’d like to order. I looked up at the gigantic blackboard behind the espresso machine and tried to pick my drug of choice as quickly as possible. I knew I was leaning toward hot chocolate, since I tend to be wired for 12 hours straight after drinking espresso. As I slid my gaze from the espresso list to the hot chocolate list, the angels sang as I beheld The One:

The Nutella Hot Chocolate.

Now I don’t know about you, but mixing Nutella, hot water and chocolate seems like a recipe for the divine. And cardiovascular disease, but that’s beside the point. I ordered a medium in one of the white “for here” mugs and upsized to a larger mug for an additional 50 cents. In total, the drink cost me $5: I don’t recommend this option be a regular choice unless you are rich or you have been desensitized to expensive caffeinated beverages through repeated exposure to Starbucks. Sophia ordered the same hot chocolate in a paper cup, and we returned to our table and waited for our mythical drinks.

“I’ve been having a violent craving for chocolate all week,” I mumbled to Sophia.

[I know the conclusion you all jumped to. FALSEFALSEFALSEFALSE.]

“I know! Me too,” Sophia answered with a slight maniacal glint in her eye.

“This is going to taste glorious,” I hypothesized dreamily.

And I sure hoped so, for $5.

I took a glance at (and a photo of) their breakfast menu hanging from the wall behind our table:

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I couldn’t help but wonder what their Vegan Breakfast Bagel tasted like. I thought it was a great option to offer customers, especially with the gluten-free bread option available. I also liked that they have all of their social media platforms posted in plain sight for everyone to follow as they are waiting for their order. I forgot to check if they had Wi-Fi in the shop, but if anyone else knows, please don’t hesitate to comment!

When the hot chocolates came, they came with Swiss chocolate. I took multiple pictures with my iPhone to make sure this moment would be adequately preserved for all of coffee bloghood.

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Look at the leaf! I really want to know how they make the leaf. It’s always such a shame to break the beautiful design, but it was time to put the beverage to the test.

In all honesty, the first sip was laced with disappointment; the drink was lukewarm at best, not hot and steaming as I would have preferred.

“Is there coffee in this?” Sophia asked after taking a drink.

“No, there shouldn’t be,” I replied, puzzled. “Although it does taste a bit like a mocha.”

Sadly, although the hot chocolate was rich and not too sweet, it did not quite remind me of delicious hazelnut-milk chocolate spread on toast in the morning.

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Overall, I loved the open-concept atmosphere and minimalist décor of the café. The place was quiet and comfortable, with lots of space and windows to people watch while you sip your espresso. It’s a pity the Nutella Hot Chocolate did not live up to my expectations, but I look forward to visiting this shop again to get a second impression of this otherwise beautiful espresso bar. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @illumeespressobar. Their website is coming soon. 

Have you been to Illume Espresso Bar in Westboro? How did your experience differ from mine and Sophia’s? Did you perhaps purchase any of the food items on the menu? Don’t hesitate to let me know!

Happy Monday!

 

~EL

Dying for a Treat? Welcome to the Cupcake Lounge

photo (1)   Coming to work the day after Canada Day can be a real challenge, especially when Canada Day falls on Tuesday. In my opinion, Tuesday is the most awkward day of the week to have off; you come to work Monday, falsely convince yourself that Tuesday is in fact Friday, and then start crying when your alarm wakes you up at 6:30am. In my case, my tears were actually drops of sweat running down my cheeks since my apartment decided to emulate the Amazonian rain forest. Despite being faced with the prospect of swimming through air moisture and suffocating under the intense Ottawa heat, two other fellow students (Nishali and Elena) and myself decided to go on a lunch break adventure to the mystical Westboro. It’s not that mystical, but it is a gorgeous part of the city rife with- you guessed it!- coffee shops, all ripe for my picking. Today’s destination was a renowned shop called The Cupcake Lounge. Although advertised as a bakery (and rightly so), I discovered they sell many types of iced and hot coffees, as well as hot chocolates (never heard of peanut butter hot chocolate, but I definitely will try one when winter comes). It is located at 324 Richmond Road and typically opens at 10am daily during the summer. In addition to serving caffeinated beverages, they also have a liquor license to sell drinks like champagne. Yet, what they are renowned for is not their beverage options, but their scrumptious and hand-decorated cupcakes. photo (7) The storefront is prim and proper, with a beautiful brown and tan sign featuring their ice cream sandwiches, and a display of champagne bottles and beautifully adorned cupcakes with flowers visible through the large glass windows. Although Nishali and Elena had been there many times, this was my first time visiting the illustrious cupcake shop. We entered to find a spacious sitting area with comfy chairs and stools, well-lit thanks to the large front windows and soft artificial lights inside the store. Nishali and I approached the display of cupcakes with what I would call a comical sense of reverence. They were exquisite and of respectable size, with flavours such as Chocolate-Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, and Neopolitan. photo (5) Feeling overwhelmed with the earth-shattering decision as to which cupcake to order, I turned to look at the large blackboard featuring the drink menu. They had everything from coffee, to lattes, to hot chocolate, to iced variations of the aforementioned drinks. I opted for the iced coffee, which was priced at $2.45. The other iced beverages were more expensive, leaning closer to 3-5$ each. The polite and very friendly server asked me if I wanted milk and sweetener in my coffee, and I agreed to the addition of milk. After ordering the iced coffee, I decided I had spent enough time procrastinating on my choice of cupcake. I chose… the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter cupcake (gasps everywhere). Nishali chose the Neopolitan, which also looked delightfully scrumptious on its white plate, and she ordered Elena a Vanilla-Vanilla cupcake. Each cupcake costs between $3-$4, although Nishali informed me that the day-old cupcakes were sold for half-price the day after they are made. I am not sure if this is the case for their Byward Market location, but it seems to be the case for their Westboro store. I don’t see an issue with eating a day-old cupcake, especially when it’s half-off the regular price (then again, I am also a university student). Of course, I had to take pictures of the three cupcakes prior to their consumption: photo (2) photo (3) Photoshoot à la cupcake. I can’t get over their esthetic appeal! They look like elegant desserts one would serve at a wedding. Certain flavours are served daily, such as the Chocolate-Chocolate and the Red Velvet (yumm!). Not only that, they offer gluten free options as well as cheesecake options to boot. There are also special flavours featured daily and also monthly, so be sure to check out their website to see if your favourites will be on display that week! In addition to serving cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches, they also serve ice cream cupcakes, which are essentially cupcakes covered with a scoop of ice cream. It’s a good thing the area is so pedestrian-friendly, because you will need to walk these delicious treats off after indulging in them! The iced coffee tasted great, as well. It was a perfect choice for such a hot summer day in the capital. I found it a bit bitter without sugar, so I added about half a pack of white sugar to soften the taste. There was just the right amount of ice added so that there was a decent amount of coffee served. For $0.50 extra, you could add syrup to the drink, although I did not inquire as to which flavours were available for the iced coffee. The coffee complimented the taste of the cupcake very well, and I’m happy I chose the iced coffee over the ice hot chocolate since the latter would have probably resulted in a chocolate overload. Nishali and Elena were able to order glasses of ice water without extra charge, which I found fantastic due to the extreme heat waves we’ve been experiencing here in the capital. photo (6) Overall, The Cupcake Lounge is a truly wonderful treasure in the heart of Westboro. The quiet atmosphere is perfect for a lunch-time study session, a date, or to bring family for a treat after a long day. The shop is equipped with wi-fi, so anyone looking to access the internet will be able to do so without an issue. The staff were friendly, the store was clean and well-organized; it permeated warmth and welcome to anyone seeking refuge from the sun’s killer rays. Nishali, Elena and I will most certainly be back toward the end of the month for another taste of their all-natural gourmet cupcakes! Make sure to check out their website, and their Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages for more information and updates regarding both Ottawa locations. I have also started to post my café reviews on Urbanspoon, an app/website that allows customers to write reviews about any and all food establishments they visit (I thank Alessandro from The Loft: Board Game Lounge  for suggesting this fabulous idea!). If there is anywhere else you think I could share my blog for more exposure, please do not hesitate to leave a comment! Until then, have a safe and prosperous return to work.

Happy Wednesday! -EL