On Our Radar: Give Up Drinking For A Month?!


Would you be willing to “lose the booze” for an entire 31 days? With the end of September comes the beginning of Ocsober, a month long event that challenges all participants to quit imbibing on any fermented beverage for an entire month. Does that sound completely insane to you? It did to us here at Novella, until we did some research into why a consenting adult in their right mind would willingly give up the nectar of the gods during a month that has both Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Ocsober is a fundraiser that began in Australia 30 years ago, and was borne out of a reaction against the country’s burgeoning alcoholism problem – especially among young adults. The fundraising initiative not only incentivizes youth to save a little money (it’s estimated that the average Australian spends around $35 a week on alcohol), but seeks to educate high school aged children about the dangers of binge drinking.

But why should we care about Australian alcohol and drug use? Well, it turns out that the statistics for binge drinking in Canada are not that much better. The reason that this fundraiser is slowly creeping its way across the pond  is because anyone who has ever lived through a Canadian winter or gone to a hockey game knows how much we love to drink. Unsurprisingly, alcohol use is costing us dearly – both literally and figuratively. The average Ontarian over the age of 21 will likely spend around $635 a year on the suds. Not to be glib, but, that’s like, a new pair of Manolo Blahniks from David’s. And I’m sure we have all heard about the staggering – and altogether depressing statistics of deaths by impaired driving – especially among young adults and teenagers.

This is why Ocsober is so important. People who begin drinking before the legal age are twice as likely to develop a dependency on alcohol, and adolescence is the time when most people experiment for the first time. If we can’t stop kids from trying a drink (and we can’t, because kids will always find a way to try it) it is crucial that we educate the most at risk among us about making healthy choices. While Ocsober may be a fun way to see how long you and your friends can hold out – you can also help propel the cause by donating to programs like MADD Canada. After all, if you give up drinking for a month, you might surprise yourself – you’ll likely have enough money left over for both a donation and those shoes.  At the very least, you’ll wake up on Sunday mornings a lot happier.

Photobombing Tourists: A Torontonian’s Guide

If you live in Toronto, listen up. This is important. I’m about to tell you where to find the finest photobombing locations in the city. (Are you taking notes? You should be taking notes.)

Toronto was packed with visitors this summer, and as great as it was to welcome a bunch of international peeps to our beautiful home turf, it was also annoying AF and we’re glad it’s calmed down a bit. Thankfully, after working in the Distillery District (quite possibly the most touristy corner of the city), I discovered the most satisfying way to put up with the rush: photobombing.

Here’s a Torontonian’s cheat sheet to the absolute best places to ruin tourists’ photos, ordered from easiest to hardest. The goal is to find yourself popping up in as many foreign Instagram feeds as humanly possible. Now run, children! Photobomb like you’ve never photobombed before.

Photo By Amanda Storey

The “Love Locks” installation at the Distillery District

Bridal parties, couples in love, besties — all the most annoying people stop to snap photos, usually bothering innocent pedestrians to take their picture. My suggestion: take a running jump and go full-on starfish in front of the camera before sprinting out of sight.

The new “Toronto” sign at Nathan Phillips

It’s here to stay, so take full advantage of it.

The CN Tower (of course)

This is a classic. Stop by the foot of the CN Tower at any day, any time, and you’ll find clusters of people bending over their iPhones to get that perfect shot of their faces blocking most of the building. The trick is to push your head through their huddle just as they’re snapping the selfie.

The sculpture outside the AGO

Henry Moore’s “Large Two Forms” attracts many a selfie-taker, mostly prospective OCAD students visiting the campus and first-time Toronto tourists. Hide in between the two big chunks that take up the bronze sculpture — no one will notice you’ve added yourself to the picture until it’s too late for retakes.

The “You’ve Changed” mural on Queen West

Tourists and resident hipsters alike can be discovered Instagramming this mural on the CAMH property. Make sure you’re a part of it before they lay on that Mayfair.

The floor of Reunion Island Coffee 

This is a trickier one, seeing as it’s literally the floor. If you live in Toronto, surely your Instagram feed has been flooded with shots of the infamous “COFFEE” tiled floor at this hip coffee joint. The shot of the photographer’s pretty shoes against the black and white tiles is so been there-done that, so it’s your turn to make things more interesting. Maybe poke your foot into the frame at the last second? Or even your face, if you want to get all next-level about it.

On the ferry ride to the Island

It’s just too easy. Look around you; surely there are couples everywhere snapping photos of each other looking out at the horizon.

EdgeWalk at the CN Tower

This is for the hardcore photobombers. It’ll cost you, but it’ll be worth it.

Shop All Weekend: Four Furniture Upgrades

For those who live in a confined space of an apartment in downtown core, with or without roommates, you probably only treat your home as a landing and crashing pad. You’re pretty much there to just sleep at night, and shower in the morning, while the rest of the day is either spent at work, or out and about around the city. We get it: staying in is boring, and with so many possibilities at your fingertips, you probably don’t see much value in upgrading that old futon, or adding in new furniture to your apartment – but you’re home is an extension of yourself. When you personalize it, you’re  more likely to stay in it and enjoy it, rather than just treat it like a Holiday Inn. Here are four furniture upgrades for your apartment.

Bar Cart


Having a bar cart in your flat is a simple furniture add on that injects a touch of cool to any apartment. Instead of hiding your liquor in kitchen cabinets or above the fridge, showcasing your mammoth bottle of vodka or gin that you purchased at the duty free, in a sleek looking cart, is a definite upgrade. A cart of liquor adds a touch of much needed class, whether you’re hosting your friends for pre-gaming rituals, or just feel like staying in and making yourself a drink after a shitty day. This Ernest Chrome Bar Cart from CB2 is simple, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and features wheels to be pushed around wherever the party is in your condo.

New Sofa


A good sofa in your pad is kind of a big deal. This is where you’ll be chilling out with your friends, sprawled out while you’re on that Netflix binge, or sometimes, I mean most of the time, eating your meals when you’re alone (don’t lie, we all eat a majority of our meals in front of the television). This Stride Sofa Sleeper from EQ3 is the sofa upgrade you need. The sofa features a modern clean design with comfort in mind. The added bonus of the sofa sleeper is its easy open technology to quickly transform into a double bed. The bed will come in handy for those nights when your friends need to crash, or you want accommodate more people when you rent out your apartment on Air BnB.

Piece of Art

analogue gallery

You will be surprised what a piece of art hanging on your wall can do to your flat, it has the ability to liven up your home with your personality, and can personalize a home like no other piece of furniture can. You don’t need to be a boguie hipster that hangs an abstract piece of art on your wall. Anything that you want to let people in your flat to know, without having to verbally communicate to them will do, what are your hobbies, taste in music, movies, your love of sports etc. My recommendation? you can’t go wrong with anything from Analogue Gallery.  



Listen, we know telling you to buy furniture and art is not cheap, so if you’re saving up for that next big splash piece for your flat, we understand. In the meantime, if you still want to upgrade your home with cost effective purchases, a bunch of scented candles will do the trick. Candles such as the ones from Sydney Hale Co. from Park & Province look great on the coffee table, smell great, and when you’re done burning them, the glass can be re-used as a cocktail glass, so you really can’t go wrong.

Novellahoods: A tour of the Upper Beaches

After over three years of living in Toronto, I feel like I’m pretty savvy when it comes to getting around the heart of the city. But being a west-ender, I’ve never really had many opportunities to cross over to the far-eastern side of Toronto. This whole time, the DVP has seemed to me like the Great Wall of China. What the hell is on the other side? I imagined tumbleweeds. Or maybe factories, or subdivisions for as far as they eye could see. It was all very mysterious.

But last night I finally got the chance to explore the Great Unknown that lies beyond the Don Valley: the neighbourbood of the Upper Beaches. ~TRUMPET SOUNDS~

Streetcar Developments hosted the tour — they’re the guys who build snazzy living spaces all over the city, condominiums that promote a tight-knit community amongst residents and within their neighbourhoods. It’s a really nice company who does really nice work, and their most recent project, The Southwood, is going to continue that track record right in the heart of the Upper Beaches.


Our tour began at the sales office for The Southwood, where some bubbly was poured and we were introduced to the concept for the condominium, which will be ready for occupancy in spring 2017. Chatting with one of the Streetcar reps, I found out that they’re building on the Upper Beaches turf because the neighbourhood is gaining a lot of momentum — especially amongst the city’s young professionals.

RoFo? Is that u?

After downing my champagne and deciding to start saving up for one of The Southwood’s south-facing one-bedrooms (SO. PRETTY.), our tour led us out of the sales office and we headed east down Kingston Road, the main street where all the magic happens.


Yellow House was our next stop, a charming little gallery-slash-framing studio owned and operated by an OCAD grad. Within seconds of talking to her I realized there’s a huge artistic presence in this pocket of the city, and gazing at the walls of her gallery I took in some pretty incredible work. I made a mental note to take my next artistic excursion out this way.

Up next was The Art of Cheese. This place really gave me a feel of how tight-knit the Upper Beaches community is. The owner, Bill Miller (a.k.a. “The Grand Fromage”) is a retiree who opened this tiny shop as his passion project, and he could talk for literally hours about the magic of cheese. After feeding us some beautiful San De Oro cheese and local red wine (I nearly died of happiness in this moment) he divulged all the secrets of his craft. Like, the mind-blowing fact that cheese is supposed to be eaten at room temperature — if it’s too cold, you’re only tasting 40% of its flavour. (WHAAAAT.)

The Grand Fromage in his element

After being charmed by Bill and his cheese (and his fromage-shaped foam hat), we headed to our next stop: Collected Joy. This beautiful odds-and-ends boutique is owned by Sharon Smyl, a former marketing director who worked with Minto Group and Starbucks. She lives right around the corner from the shop, and most of the brands she carries are local.


I adored Collected Joy. Sharon kept describing things as “exquisite” and I was just in awe of her style. Maybe I’ll get her to design my new condo at The Southwood. One day…

Second-last stop was at The Stone Pizza, where my fellow media people and I had an impromptu pizza photo shoot. The pies were, as Sharon would say, exquisite. Who would have thought to put apple slices on a pizza? And who would have thought it would taste SO GOOD?


Finally, we found ourselves at The Beech Tree restaurant and bar. This cosy, beautifully decorated spot is like the “Cheers” of the Upper Beach. The owner, like a lot of the shop owners in the area, used to work at a desk crunching numbers all day and abandoned that job to pursue his passion. The Beech Tree blew me away — literally everything is made in-house. Not one ingredient enters the store in a bottle or package. The mayonnaise, the syrups, everything is handcrafted from scratch in their little kitchen. Swoon. Oh, and the gnocchi can attest to the quality. I was almost reduced to tears while eating this. In a very good way.

(I couldn’t get a good photo of the gnocchi because it was dim and my photography skills are not on point)

On the walk to our ride home, we were pleasantly surprised by one final Upper Beaches experience. Farmacia Juice Bar‘s tiny cooler-on-wheels rolled up to the sidewalk and served up some scrumptious house-made juices, smoothies and freezies. As if I hadn’t fallen in love with the neighbourhood already, the owner told us that a few weeks prior, when their cart was stolen, the community banded together to find it and bring it back. It’s like the whole Upper Beaches ‘hood is #squadgoals.

So, my dear west-of-the-DVP-ers, here is my advice to you: if you’re getting bored of downtown and want to make a little escape from the city without going too far, go to the Upper Beaches. It’s not as swanky-snotty as the — er, Lower Beaches? — but it’s equally as beautiful and full of boutiques that will steal your heart. I’d live here. And maybe one day I will. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a charming small town that’s hidden in a huge city?

Meet Lara Smith , Founder of ‘Lusomé’

Lara (1)

Lusomé is an ancient Scottish term for desirable, and is also a synonym of the perfect balance between functionality and beauty.

This luxury sleepwear brand founded last year by Lara Smith offers beautiful designed pieces that allow women with night sweat issues feel feminine, attractive and sexy all night long.

We had the pleasure to get to know Lara and got very impressed when we found out the reason that motivated her to launch a sleepwear collection.

For those who haven’t heard yet about Lusomé, how would you introduce your company to the world?

L.S: We are a beautiful and proven solution to a problem nobody wants to talk about, night sweats.

Was fashion design something that you’ve always wanted to start a career in?

L.S: No, I wanted to be in the business side of fashion and then ultimately find apparel solutions that helped in someway. We never wanted to be another fashion story, we wanted a real purpose.

Fashion design is a quite aggressive field because almost everything is already invented and there is too many companies competing with very similar or even exact products. What differentiates Lusomé from your competitors?

L.S: Our technology which is truly unique, the hand-feel and performance of the fabric is extraordinary. The comfort features inside very simple and elegant design.

You launched Lusomé in March 2014, which means that this company has been around just for 1 year and 5 months and yet, you are already in over 72 retailers across Canada, the United States and Mexico. What is the ‘secret’ behind such a rapid success?

L.S: There is a captive audience desperate for beautiful and modern sleepwear. We have gotten a nice reaction from the press helping us to tell our story so we have some momentum and credibility.



Is part of your business plan keep growing your brand internationally? What is the next country you’d like to be selling your designs?

L.S: We would like to get more exposure and distribution in the US. We are careful to partner with the right retailers that will do justice to the story and serve the end consumer well.

What are the most frustrating and the most satisfying parts that you have experienced since launched Lusomé?

L.S: The most satisfying is getting communication back from customers who we have helped and seeing the amount of repeat orders we get from the same stores or customers on line.   The most frustrating part is the big retailers who have a formula and demands and don’t see the opportunity to offer something unique and needed by their customer….the conversation is only about margin etc and not about doing good work together to help women.

Even that your signature is simplicity and timeless pieces you update your designs in order to follow fashion trends. Is there any particular source of inspiration where you like to look at when creating a new collection?

L.S: Our creative director is brilliant and helps push us into trying more interesting and relevant pieces.


Your sister is a breast cancer survivor and you support Canadian Cancer Society by donating part of your sales. Is this personal connection and commitment what encouraged you to come up with a nightwear line for women with night-sweat issues?

L.S: My sister’s story was the catalyst to start Lusomé, the partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society came after the business was started but it was always part of the conversation to align and give back to the illness that impacts so many of our customers.

Is your intention to give a solution to these women’s issues because, in some way, feeling confident is crucial for treating major diseases such as breast cancer?

 L.S: Indeed, but it was more about helping women be comfortable and offering legitimate relief to a really awful side effect of so many health issues women face. If women can get a better nights sleep, they can conquer the world. Our brand position is Feel Beautiful. Be Comfortable. Those sentiments go together so nicely and it is what we wake up everyday to go out and do for women.

Do you have any long-term goal to achieve with Lusomé?

L.S: We of course want to tell our story far and wide and have distribution globally. We want to open up the conversation around night sweats as it isn’t a sexy conversation and women are suffering in silence and they don’t need to.

What testimony you’d like to give to fashion industry?

LS: We wanted to do something so innovative by merging technology and design in an underserved category, sleepwear.   With our frenetic, device reliant lives we want to create an opportunity for women to decompress and be comfortable wrapped in beauty and innovation. Should women struggle with health related night sweats or menopause induced sweats we have beautiful and proven product to help women feel desirable (Lusomé is an ancient Scottish term for desirable) and comfortable all night long able to tackle their lives feeling cool and rested.