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couchsurfing

Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there

This Must Be The Place, Talking Heads

You won’t find a 1886 medieval mansion with a greenhouse and butler’s quarters on Airbnb. It is unlikely your hostel will greet you with a cup of artisanal coffee and I have never heard of a concierge at a hotel taking you to a punk house show.

If you are craving a more engaging or adventurous accommodation experience (because it’s more than just a change of scenery, right?) embracing Couchsurfing is a way to travel cheaply and meet locals around the world. A travel community based on global altruism, Couchsurfing connects like-minded travellers on an online platform where ‘surfer’s request to stay with a local host in a city. Apparently there are more hosts on Couchsurfing than rooms at the Hiltons. But unlike taking the hotel or hostel route, it is accommodation at no cost.

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green tomatillo salsa verde

Just follow all the pretty lights, get lost till it feels right

Places You Will Go, Patrick Watson

On my travels in Chicago I couchsurfed with a music journalist who didn’t eat vegetables. “Not even sweet potato fries? How about snap peas? You must eat corn (chips)…” I enquired and was received with a flat out no. Determined to cook breakfast for my new friend and convert her to the kingdom of plants, I headed to a neighbourhood farmers market looking for a vegetable muse.

A peculiar looking green tomato called a ‘tomatillo’ jumped out at me. Having never see one before in Australia, I was excited to create a frittata (disguising vegetables with delicious eggs – works a treat) with a side of homemade green tomatillo salsa verde. Tomatillo’s are not tomatoes – they are cousins, and cannot be eaten raw. They must be roasted until soft to release their zingy and fresh flavours that make this salsa verde so endlessly spoonable (like ice cream good!).

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aerie-1

Lost, lost, but not alone anymore

Ancient Light, Allman Brown

Travel opens the portal to many signs you may have missed in your day-to-day back home. On a particularly rainy Toronto day, and after spending way too much money at a chic grocery store (I’m looking at you $7 packet of sweet potato chips), I rode my bike to a cozy Kensington market café just before closing time. My body was tired and wet, but really it was my spirit that needed the most tending to. I felt lost in myself. You may know this feeling – it’s like a gentle heaviness. It seems to be an oxymoron, but it’s not. It’s like nothing is wrong and yet everything is not right. Despite it’s best efforts, even my cardamom spiced almond latte (try it, it’s a thing) could not fill this intermittent emptiness.

As I looked up, a calming green poster caught my eye. A sign – literally, and a much-needed moment of synchronicity. Three days later I was sitting in a circle with thirteen people making an offering at The Aerie Collective’s Embracing Change Urban Retreat in Toronto, Canada.

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apple chamomile marmalade

I always wanted a real home with flowers on the window sill

Where You Lead, Carole King

You can’t beat the magic of apple and chamomile, especially when it tastes like apple pie in a jar.

After the wondrous adventure of finding a giant apple tree in my Toronto neighbourhood, I had to commemorate that day (and the four bags of organic-as-it-gets apples) into a jam. It seemed such a waste to throw out the apple skins so I sliced them and added them halfway through the simmering process, like you would normally do with orange peel. The result is comforting apple-y marmalade compote with a subtle twist from the freshly steeped chamomile flowers.

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the distillery

So bright, the flames burn in our hearts

We Found Each Other In The Dark, City and Colour

Toronto’s Gooderham and Worts Distillery has undergone several transformations in its 119-year history starting off as the largest whiskey producer in the world in the early 19th century and then becoming one of the most popular film locations in Canada. Since 2011, it has taken on a new guise as a shopping and entertainment area know as The Distillery District – a reimagining of a legendary Parisian near downtown Toronto.

Food pioneers, local artisans, entrepreneurs and forward-thinking designers have since populated the 47 restored buildings that make up the Victorian Industrial village. Stepping through the grand gates onto a cobblestone street, there is a buzz in the air and impressive details evident in the craftsmanship of a Toronto icon’s metamorphosis.

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Apple Tree

The road you take will lead you here, so while you wait for the sun to rise again, think of us dancing in the rain

Tomorrow, Jono McCleery

Whenever I try a new cuisine I want to immediately jump on a plane to a new place: Iran for Persian eggplant stew, Morocco for harira soup, Venezuela for arepas and Ethiopia for handmade injera. The discovery of a new flavor (salted maple), condiment (green tamatillo salsa verde) or vegetable (squash vine) gives me the same thrill as another traveller might feel when they say, bungee jump into a waterfall or find bottomless $2 mimosas at brunch.

For every new city I visit, I always seek out a local farmers market to see, taste (and squeal) at seasonal produce and ask the growers lots of questions – they are the ultimate tour guide.

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long distance crush

I can't help but wonder do you ever think of me

Reverie on Norfolk Street, Luluc

A playlist for longing for someone who lives far away. A long distance crush. For what might have been. Songs about an emotionally unavailable love interest. Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you. For the times when your heart is in it more than theirs. For getting close, but not close enough.

I once heard that ‘true love is matching energies’ and I wrote it down. A holiday fling, instant soul sparks, electric connections – we’ve all had one. Long distance crushes do have their success stories but in reality – they are part ecstatic romance, part the perils of technology and part insanity management. At first you (think) you are falling in love, but then later realise that you are falling into patterns of sustaining whatever this is.

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Pumpkin Salted Maple Pie Life Curator

The tales we tell turn my heart inside out

Home Without You, Amy Seeley

Everyone has a memorable pie story –  the flawless salted maple pie at Sister Pie in Detroit comes to mind when I think about my own When Harry Met Sally ‘yes! yes! yes!’ food orgasm moments in life.

Who else likes to bake in a heatwave? No? Just me then. For Labour Day during my first weekend in Toronto I wanted to celebrate Canada by using my two favourite autumn ingredients: pumpkin and maple syrup.

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newspaper curated san francisco-1000px

So lean in close or lend an ear, there's something brilliant bound to happen here

Binary Sea, Death Cab For Cutie

San Francisco was my port of entry into my great American adventure. I imagined it to be like a West Coast New York – but to be clear, it has little comparison to The Big Apple. Firstly San Francisco is smaller – about 850,000 people call the Bay Area home. The city buzzes with an energy of opportunity, however, due to the rapid progress of tech startups, ridiculous real estate rises and gentrification (the buzz word of America) – newcomers are not well received. There is a feeling that the new wave of inhabitants are driving out ‘real San Franciscans’.

Who is a native San Franciscan? My impression is that ‘locals’ come from all over America to the Bay Area, but because the city is smaller than New York City you feel it more. It is harder to meet a true San Francisco native these days as in the past people used to work to live, not live to work. Nowadays people are not moving to San Francisco as much for the Northern Californian lifestyle and weather, but rather for money and the tech boom.

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summer bean bounty salad life curator 1

And I can feel the difference when the day begins, like all I know is "This year will be the year we win"

Parade, The Antlers

A next-level salad experience using summers’ abundant green vegetables including a curious farmers market find – squash vine, I have seen the light!

There is so much to love about this meal – crispy string beans, lightly sautéed squash vine (what zucchini grows on), zesty lemon, punchy ginger and garlic that dances well with subtly sweet honey. And sautéing fresh coriander – an exciting kitchen revelation. It releases a heavenly aroma when heated and gives me another way to eat my favourite herb.

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