Stress-Free Holiday Shopping Tips

Stress-Free Holiday Shopping Tips

Happy holidays, ‘ya filthy animals!

Jeeze… we soared through 2019, and now we’re smack in the middle of holly-jolly December. It’s officially time for Christmas music 24/7, peppermint lattes at our favourite coffee shops and scouring stores for the perfect gift.

But, the holiday season isn’t always as happy as we’d like. We focus so much of our attention on gift-giving that we forget that bills are due when January rolls around. Life continues and groceries need to be bought, bills have to get paid, and it can feel daunting after a month of heavy spending.

This month, I’m partnering with Capital One Canada to highlight a few of my best tips for surviving and thriving during the holiday season. This will include tips for how to build and follow a set budget, track spending, take advantage of credit card perks and rewards, and practice healthy credit card habits during this busy time of year.

DSC08566

Tip #1: Low budget, no problem!

For a lot of us that get together with large families, holiday spending can be stressful insofar as there’s so many people to shop for. Before you set off on a holiday purchasing spree, it’s important to plan ahead. Make a shopping list and build a budget that is realistic. Base your list on what you need for the holidays versus what you want. While you’re ticking items off your shopping list, don’t forget to track your spending!

Take advantage of budgeting and mobile banking apps to help you monitor your spending in real-time. This will help you identify areas where you may be overspending based on your holiday budget.

Sometimes budgets can be tight this time of year and you need to get creative… so why not try a Secret Santa? For example, instead of stressing over purchasing a handful of gifts for your cousins, organize a Secret Santa. You can set a fixed budget with your group so everyone stays on track.

DSC08581

Tip #2: Make your own personal ‘naughty’ & ‘nice’ list!

Let’s be real – you may have 20 friends, but not all of them need a gift. Personally, if my shopping list includes more than four or five people outside immediate family, it’s time to reduce my spending. That being said, it doesn’t mean that I can’t shop for additional friends –  it just means I need to find a more creative (and less costly!) gift.

Personally, I always love opting for homemade treats as a personal and budget-friendly present. You can pick any style of treat (cookies, cake, brownies, etc.) and buy the ingredients in bulk. If you have extra budget, you can even pick up some simple decorative items from the dollar store to gift with your goodies.

But remember – whether you’re shopping for low-cost goodies at the grocery store, or a more expensive item at your favourite retailer, be sure to opt-in to two-way fraud alerts on your credit card if that’s an option available to you. Two-way fraud alerts can help you identify unauthorized transactions in real-time which is especially important during the holiday spending season. Fraud alerts enable banks to notify customers through alerts that prompt for a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response to verify the transaction. With a Capital One card, you also get Mastercard Zero Liability protection against unauthorized use of your card.

dsc08091.jpg

Tip #3: Points, points, baby!

Assuming you’ve taken the time to evaluate your finances and build a feasible shopping list, ensure you don’t lose out on your points! Using your credit card to make holiday purchases may open up the opportunity for you to take advantage of the rewards and perks some credit card companies offer. For example, Capital One’s Aspire Travel Platinum Mastercard gives you one reward mile for every $1 spent on all purchases. The Capital One Guaranteed Mastercard can help you build credit while giving you access to benefits like 24/7 customer service, purchase assurance and extended warranty coverage.

For the month of December, I’ve decided to break up my credit card payments, so that I’m paying half of the bill on the 15th, and the other half on the 31st. Since I already know I’m going to be spending a bit more this month than usual, breaking up payments will make them far less daunting.

dsc08585.jpg

What are some holiday spending tips that you live by? Let me know in the comments!

 

-MR

Life After RuPaul’s Drag Race, with Darienne Lake, Jiggly Caliente, & Phi Phi O’Hara

Life After RuPaul’s Drag Race, with Darienne Lake, Jiggly Caliente, & Phi Phi O’Hara

Helloooo drag-queen-loving friends!

This summer, I had the absolute pleasure of being Canadian media on-board U by Uniworld‘s river boat cruise through Germany. U is a new take on experiential travel, with cruises designed for those with a passion for exploring and a taste for authentic adventures. Specifically, this river cruise was hosted by three lovely drag performers: Darienne Lake, Jiggly Caliente, and Phi Phi O’Hara.

63ffe701-eb8d-444b-a8e0-937cfc5acdcc88d3940b-c671-43d0-b34c-90129960d3af

After cruising together for several days, I decided to sit down with the three queens to get ALL the tea on their post-RuPaul’s Drag Race life.

IMG_8153

Michael: Today we are in Germany with three fabulous drag queens: Darienne Lake, Phi Phi O’Hara, and Jiggly Caliente. We are here on a beautiful ship called The A, part of U by Uniworld, and we’ve been travelling through Germany over the last week. How have you all been enjoying Germany so far?

Phi Phi: I hate it…! No, I’m just kidding.

Darienne: It’s very fun!

Michael: German men are very cute, though — they have a great jawline.

Phi Phi: Yes, okay, you’re very beautiful people.

Darienne: Beautiful people, beautiful sceneries, really every port that we’ve been to is just like a magical fairyland, really.

Jiggly: A romantic place.

Michael: SO! I’m going to be asking the queens questions about their personal lives, RuPaul’s Drag Race, so let’s just get right into it! What have your careers been like, post-RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Phi Phi: Well, we’re on a boat with you.

*everyone laughs*

Michael: Is that a good thing?

Phi Phi: I’m just kidding!

Darienne: It’s just been fantastic. I never thought that I would get to travel the world as I have already, so I count every blessing as they come. I feel very comfortable and happy.

Jiggly: It’s been a slow, steady pace, but I’m doing good considering how long it’s been since Season 4. I’ve been able to travel the world, create an album, be on TV — and I can pay my bills. I live a cute little luxurious life… it’s no Kardashian life but it’s enough.

Phi Phi: Well I’m fucking amazing. I think my success came after drag race, to be honest with you. Like, the show put my name out there but made me look like a complete c***. I had to work extra hard after the show — and I’m lucky to do my career as a boy, and do my singing and all my comic stuff, and I can also do cosplay as a [drag] queen, and travel the world all by doing that. I’m #blessed.

Michael: It’s interesting you mention that, I feel like when you all went into the show it wasn’t all prepped with a PR plan.

Phi Phi: A lot of the new girls do.

Michael: What made your season’s different?

Phi Phi: We were good.

Jiggly: I think we were more authentic. People weren’t thinking about a hashtag or something.

Phi Phi: Or the t-shirt that we’re going to sell, or something like that.

Darienne: And a lot of us started doing drag a long time ago, really put in the hours. We have performed for huge crowds, but we’ve also performed for no crowds, y’know on some Sunday night in some little bar. So we’ve gotten that experience of really learning how to grab a microphone, entertain the audience, all that kind of stuff — and be more than just a performer or just a look. A lot of queens these days started drag when they saw RuPaul’s Drag Race. Which is not to say that they’re not fabulous performers or entertainers or beautiful queens, I think for us it’s just about having that experience, and with experience comes a lot.

Michael: And I think the phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race has brought a lot of new people into the scene, a lot of heterosexual people in bars. Do you have any drag etiquette tips?

Jiggly: Sitting in front of the the drag show, you better be the ones tipping.

Darienne: Yea tipping…

Phi Phi: You don’t have to tip. I don’t think you have to tip, that’s that’s…

Jiggly: But if you’re in the front-front-

Phi Phi: If you’re in the front I think you should pay attention, get off your phone, like that’s absolutely drag etiquette. Yes we appreciate tips at a show, but you don’t have to. I would much rather someone come and enjoy themselves while cheering, and be into the show. ‘Cause some people don’t have the money.

Jiggly: Well, okay, in that case.

Darienne: But also it’s just about being a human being, and respect. Don’t touch us without letting us know or asking for permission. Don’t touch our hair, or the face.

Jiggly: Never touch my face.

Darienne: But that’s a human thing anyway.

Phi Phi: I think the way you would carry yourself at a theatre, carry yourself the same way at a [drag] show.

Michael: Do you find that the show has caused people to forget your humanness?

Jiggly: Fans have literally grabbed my face.

Phi Phi: Maybe I’m glad I was a bitch ‘cause they’re scared of me!

*everyone laughs*

Darienne: I think over the years things have definitely changed. Y’know, back in the day people were like, “hey girl, how’s it going?!”, and younger kids these days come up to a meet-and-greet and are like, “is it okay if I have a hug?”, and I’m like — sure! That’ll be five dollars.

*everyone laughs*

Darienne: However, you do get those moments where your out at a club, even not in drag, and it’s like, “OH HI I WANT A PICTURE!” — hey, calm down, alright? I’m trying to enjoy my life here, I’m not working. I’m off the clock, so, leave me alone.

Michael: Jiggly, could you talk to us about your gig on Pose, and what it means for trans representation in the media?

Jiggly: Well, for me, visibility it really important for the trans community but specifically trans women of colour. I’m so blessed to say that I’ve been part of two groundbreaking shows for the LGBT community, RuPaul’s Drag Race being one of them, and now being on Pose. I think the time is now, considering how the administration deals with things. Trump is taking away all of the rights of the LGBT community, specifically trans people, so the visibility of these trans people and their stories from the 80s and 90s is super important. I’m glad that Janet and Steven have been making sure that these stories get told properly.

Michael: It’s so interesting how all of you were lifted off of the same platform but you all have very different careers. (to Darienne) Your hosting the Hater’s Roast next month, and that’s a big deal because it’s the first drag pay-per-view event of it’s time! Who are you most excited to roast, and who are you most excited to roast you?

Darienne: I love all the girls, I thin they’re all so witty and brilliant. I really love Thorgy, she really gives me a chuckle. Mimi Imfurst is a powerhouse, a rapid fire. Alaska, she has a slow-play. All the girls are really fantastic. I love making fun of Mimi, because it’s just so easy.

Jiggly: That is so easy… *laughing*

Darienne: That’s not… it’s-

Everyone: True.

*everyone laughs*

Darienne: We all have fun, at the end of the day none of us take it seriously with each other. My biggest goal, always, is to make Willam laugh. So when I hear him — *imitates Willam’s laugh* — behind me, I know I’ve done a great job. He’s a tough one sometimes.

Michael: And Phi Phi, you’ve had an interesting career both as Phi Phi and as Jeremi. So could you tell me what that’s been like, sort of spitting up those two different paths?

Phi Phi: Well for me, it was always important to keep a hold of Jeremi. I think so many people do drag and create this character that everybody loves and gravitates towards, maybe they’re not happy with who they are as a boy or how they present themselves. For me, there would be no Phi Phi without Jeremi, and I never wanted to forget that. I did music before I ever did drag, and it was always my passion to make an album, so when I did and it was successful, I was so proud. For me, it’s important to keep [Jeremi and Phi Phi] separate — luckily that’s paid off really well.

Michael: Well, you all are doing a show tonight for everyone on-board our U by Uniworld ship, I can’t wait to see it!

891A91BB-D65F-4053-B0C4-5FDBDF7320A8

Want to learn more about U by Uniworld? Check out their newest itineraries & let your adventurous side guide you!

-MR

April 2019: Juno Awards & Champagne Showers

April 2019: Juno Awards & Champagne Showers

Happppy (end of) April, cutie pies!

As I’m writing this, the sun is shining in Toronto, and the woes of Canada’s winter blues are almost over (YAAAASS). I’ve been keeping myself busy over the last month, with my attendance at the 2019 Juno Awards, the production of my style inspiration videos, and my constancy at the gym. I’m so excited to share everything that’s been going on in my life over the last 30 days!

The 2019 Juno Awards

For my American & international readers, the Juno Awards are Canada’s biggest music awards (so basically, the Canadian Grammys). It’s always a big night celebrating the best in Canada’s music scene, with notable past attendees such as Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, and Alessia Cara.

I wasn’t planning on attending, but got an invite from my friend, Chris Brunton, a few days before the award show. Chris works closely with Canadian singer, Jann Arden, so I was able to tag along their festivities at the Juno Awards. All in all, I attended the Juno Awards with Chris Brunton, Jann Arden, and actress Zoie Palmer.

IMG_9997
Myself, Zoie Palmer, & Chris Brunton.
IMG_9998
aaaaand we found the hors d’oeuvres!

As someone who’s hosted red carpet segments (& hopes to do more in 2019!), it was a dream come true to attend the Juno Awards. I wasn’t necessarily excited to see the attendees, but I think that’s due to the fact that YouTube & social media events have desensitized my outlook on fame. I was really excited to see how the main show is produced in a live format, because most people only get to see what’s shown on their screen.

Interestingly, I learned that a big aspect of award shows are seat fillers! Basically, whenever an invited attendee or their guest (like Chris Brunton, or myself, respectively) gets up from their seat, the award show organizers will have a fan attendee fill their seat while vacant. So if an invited guest wins an award, there isn’t a bunch of empty seats beside them — genius! Anywho, there were lots of industry practices that I learned, but won’t bore you with!

Once we finished up at the Juno Awards, we attended one of their after parties, which was an incredible way for me to network with industry leaders in the entertainment space. Canada’s entertainment industry is quite small, so it’s really important that I get out of my comfort zone and take part in events that can help me learn & grow in my career.

IMG_9996
Chris Brunton, Jann Arden, myself, & Zoie Palmer at the Universal Music Canada party.

Producing my style inspiration videos

As a lot of you probably know by now, I’ve been producing weekly style inspiration videos on Instagram! I was inspired to create a style video series because I was seeing the same male fashions everywhere — dark blue, brown, black. Those are cute colours and shades, but give me some variety PLEASE.

I wanted to create a series that would inspire guys to dress outside of their comfort zone, and integrate more colour into their daily fashions. At this point, I’ve produced six style inspiration videos in the last four weeks, which feels like a great accomplishment.

I have to give a well-earned shout-out to my partner, Chris, who installed the seamless paper backdrop into our apartment, and always helps me shoot.

Now that I’ve produced a handful of videos using the colourful backdrops, I’m ready to mix things up! Firstly, I’m planning to collaborate with fellow Canadian creators to create a duo-style inspiration video. I think it’ll be great to see how women + men with body types different to mine show-off their personal style. Secondly, I’m going to start shooting these videos in different locations, like while I travel! I’ll be heading on a travel assignment at the end of the month, so look forward to a travel-focused style video in early May.

Celebrating my 25th ~champagne~ birthday!

April 25th marked my champagne birthday, which is essentially when your age matches the day you were born. Growing up, champagne birthdays were sort of a big deal if you were born in the middle of the month (the birthday parties were always bigger). Since mine wasn’t until I turned 25, I’ve had to be patient!

DSC05936

Y’know, I feel like I’m leaving a huge stage of my life behind. I’m sure a lot of you peeps can relate, seeing how over half my audience is above the age of 25! It feels like I’ve entered the next stage of my adult life, figuring out where I belong in the world and trying to make a living while I’m at it.

Chris and I — super-duper last minute — decided to shoot a silly ‘lil birthday video for my Instagram page, which you may have already seen. Long story short, I got cake & champagne thrown at me to the tune of Rihanna’s Birthday Cake. It was such a fun experience to film, because I rented a Sony RX10 which shoots slow-motion video (240fps, 480 fps, & 960 fps). We were able to capture really cool action shots, such as popping streamers and a bottle of sparkling wine! Shooting the birthday video was just a fun way for me to say goodbye to my youth & hello to an adulthood that I have yet to define.

Mikey’s Favourite Things for April!

img_9618-e1556293902614.jpg

Author Daniel Errico wrote an incredible children’s book, The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, which follows a brave young knight who must save his new love (a prince!). It’s such a cute story with beautiful illustrations by Shiloh Penfield, and it’s a must-have for children in 2019. AND! The story was made into a Hulu digital series with a star-studded cast. LGBTQ+ representation in 2019 just got a lot better!

6a8818b4-4123-45a8-980f-8d6bd8f997e4.jpg

I’ve been obsessed with this Hermosa Beach Mock-Neck from Parke and Ronen! It’s the perfect spring addition to your closet, as the knitted fabric keeps you warm in chilly weather & gives your look a big POP of colour. While the piece is a bit pricey ($155), the quality of the fabric and uniqueness of the style makes it sooo worth it (#TREATYOSELF).

78554514-e3bd-46c9-ac80-da65ece2c731.jpg

I’ve also been equally as obsessed with this Recycled Poly Coach Jacket from Frank And Oak. First off, it’s really hard to find bright red items of clothing that aren’t overwhelming for an outfit. I love that the jacket is thin & light, which adds the perfect pop of colour to my day-to-day fashion. The jacket is $129 CAD, but I happened to get it 40% off when I went into Frank And Oak’s Ottawa location.

img_9489.jpg

Need a spring jacket that’s a bit more cost-efficient? Check out Old Navy‘s Water-Resistant Poplin Hooded Anorak (basically it’s a cute yellow jacket), because it’s currently on sale for $42!

That’s all for my April adventures! See ya next month!

-MR

How to Stay Fit & Live A Healthier Life

How to Stay Fit & Live A Healthier Life

Helloooo!

Back in 2017, I had just finished university and moved back in with my parents, which led to a lazier-than-expected mentality. I felt slow, sluggish, and my diet was terrible. So even though you might look at the before shot and think, “I liked him better then!” — know that 2017 Michael was not very happy or motivated.

Photo on 2017-04-03 at 2.57 PM
March 2017

IMG_9803IMG_9807

Last week on my Instagram Story, I shared my fitness progress over the last couple of years, and asked you peeps to submit fitness-related questions…

How do you fit gym time on very busy days? Also how do you keep motivated?

To answer your first question, I try to get my gym workout completed before any other major task that day. I find that if I postpone my workout until later, I’m more prone to skip the gym altogether. On days where I’m super busy, I’ll just head to the gym and complete 15 minutes of H.I.I.T. and leave! The boost of cardio will help tp increase my metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day. Every day doesn’t have to be an incredible workout, but I always try to fit in some kind of fitness 4-5 times a week.

How do I stay motivated? I don’t do it alone! Chris and I keep each other motivated. Try to find a friend or peer who’s also looking to hit the gym more often. They don’t have to be your BFF — just a human with similar goals, who can be independent at the gym, and offer support when needed.

 

How did you overcome your fear in the gym? What made you more confident?

I’ve been confidently working out for YEARS. When I first started working out in freshman year of university, my gym buddy reassured me that every single person at the gym started out where I was. Once I learned that, it was so easy to realize that everyone at the gym is doing their own thing. They, TRULY, don’t care about you (and that’s great!).

IMG_9831

Do you count your protein intake? If so, how much protein do you consume?

I don’t count my protein or strictly regulate my diet very much. I just ensure that my diet includes a bit more protein than carbs, and I try to consume a healthy amount of good fats, such as avocados and coconut oil.

 

What’s the hardest thing for you about staying fit?

Late-night eating. I love me some 10pm chips sooooo LOL.

 

How much has your eating habits changed from then to now? In what ways?

Overall, I would say I focus on eating whole-foods that keep me fuller, longer. I have a focus on oats, avocado, eggs, and fish!

Breakfast THEN: cereal, OR eggs/toast/bacon

Breakfast NOW: a big bowl of overnight oats that keep me full until lunch

Lunch THEN: heavy on carbs and protein, might include chips or rice as my side

Lunch NOW: Protein smoothie, avocado toast w/ a poached egg, a vegetarian or vegan sandwich

Dinner THEN: large portion of meat, large portion of rice

Dinner NOW: Medium portion of fish or meat or tofu, medium portion of rice, large portion of salad or greens.

 

For you, what is the best hour to go to the gym?

There isn’t a “best hour”, but rather “worst hours” hahah! Try to avoid weekdays, 11:45am – 1:00pm (lunch rush), and 4:15pm – 6:45pm (after work rush). Workout out in the morning, while difficult, is extremely rewarding. You’ll burn more calories throughout the day as your body works to repair itself, and there’s nothing but relaxation after work.

 

Looked way better before…

Oh well! I didn’t feel that way.

 

Besides HIIT, what are some of your favourite workout routines?

Military press for shoulders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yjwXTZQDDI

Overhead tricep extension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbX7Wd8jQ-Q

Standard squats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oed-UmAxFs

** All courtesy of Scott Herman Fitness — he’s easy on the eyes, heavy on the fitness information!

 

Do you actually enjoy working out? If so, any advice to enjoy it? I just don’t enjoy it!!

Hahaha! I looove working out. IMO, the key to loving your workout is finding music playlists that get your head out of work, social drama, responsibilities, and allow you to zone into your workout. Try a new playlist!

Oh, and be sure to take weekly progress pictures. In two or three weeks, you’ll start seeing some small changes, picture to picture, and that’s always helped my motivation.

 

Have you hd ups and downs during this process? If you have, how do you deal with them?

Most definitely! No matter who you are, you’ll end up going through days, weeks, or months with a lack of motivation. As much as I try to fight back, sometimes its best to just let your body feel unmotivated for a while. If you body needs a couple weeks off to enjoy some tasty food, or just be less mobile for a little while, then go for it.

For me, fitness is a lifestyle, so it’s less about working out 4-5x a week, EVERY WEEK, and more about balance.

 

What to eat before going to the gym?

I eat a big bowl of overnight oats, 1 hour before my workout!

 

How to get abs?

Have a very low body fat %. That’s it. No amount of crunches will get you abs, because they are LITERALLY made in the kitchen. You’d need to have a very clean diet! I wouldn’t know much about that, because I don’t have abs and never have. I think they’re overrated…

 

How much time do you spend at the gym? Is there something you cut out of your diet?

40 – 60 minutes per workout, or 15 minutes or HIIT if I’m in a rush.

I’ve pretty much cut out sugary drinks, outside of cheat meals. I primarily drink water, which saves me a LOT of calories per day.

img_9848.jpg

I hope that clarified some of y’all’s fitness questions!

Have more fitness Qs? Leave them in the comments below!

-MR

Healthy Peanut Butter ‘n Jelly Protein Smoothie

Healthy Peanut Butter ‘n Jelly Protein Smoothie

Helloooo!

I’m a daily smoothie drinker, so I try to switch up my ingredients as often as I can. Lately, I’ve been really into peanut butter and banana smoothies (YUM!), but I wanted to change up the ingredients to make it a sure-fire 10/10. I feel like I’ve nailed down a recipe that truly emulates the peanut butter ‘n jelly experience, and I’m so excited to share it with you!

Here’s what you’ll need for ONE smoothie…

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries (the ‘jelly’)
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup of quick oats (the ‘bread’)
  • 1 scoop (~30g) of your favourite protein powder
  • 1 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup of almond milk
  • A handful of ice

Approximate Calories: 450

Protein: 40g

Add all your ingredients to your blender, then blend until smooth. I try to blend my smoothie for about 1.5 minutes, to give the oats enough time to break down & soften. Works great as a breakfast alternative, since it’s rich in carbs and protein. I love drinking one of these smoothies an hour before my workout because it gives me a burst of energy from the carbs + sustainable energy from the fats.

Enjoy!

-MR

Protecting Myself Against Fraud

Protecting Myself Against Fraud
This post was made in partnership with Capital One Canada.

We’ve all been there.

Your phone rings and displays an unusual number, informing that you’ve just won an all expense paid trip to the Bahamas!! Plot twist: it’s probably not a real contest… but you already knew that!

For many of my platform’s primary demographic (18 – 45), these scams don’t seem too threatening. We’re the ~digitally-savvy~ generation, right?! That may be true, but we’re also a generation that saves our credit card information to online retailers, punch our PIN codes in public on a daily basis, and still use “password123” for safeguarding.

Like it or not, we’re more vulnerable than ever to fraud. That’s why I’ve partnered with Capital One Canada during March, which happens to be Fraud Prevention Month! I wanted to take time and share some superbly helpful information from their recent Canadian study.

FACT #1: Capital One Canada’s 2019 national study found that 93% of Canadians are taking measures to protect themselves against fraud and identity theft – a substantial improvement over the 53% of Canadians who reported taking steps in their 2018 study.

FACT #2: Only one in ten (11%) Canadians feel that large companies are doing enough to safeguard their personal information. The overwhelming majority (91%) do not have a clear understanding of what large companies are doing to protect their personal information.

I can remember the first time that I felt like I was truly vulnerable to fraud. It was back in 2017, and I was selling some camera equipment online. I was new to selling items online, so when I received a text from a potential buyer claiming they’d like me to ship the item in return for an increased price, I was intrigued! The only information the buyer requested was my email, which at the time seemed perfectly reasonable; I mean, what kind of personal data can someone retrieve with my email address?! About half an hour later, I received an email that appeared to be from an official money transfer, prompting me to click a link and log-in. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the email address was nowhere near trustworthy, so I quickly blocked the individual’s number.

Had I been careless, I could have given the scammer personal banking information. Keep in mind, this is coming from ME, who’s been educating himself on Internet safety for years. If I can be vulnerable to fraud, anyone can.

FACT #3: 63% of Canadians have chosen to store or save their credit card information with at least one online retailer in the past year for a faster checkout experience, despite the majority (89%) citing that companies could do more to safeguard personal information.

HI. I’m part of that 63%. The feeling when you’ve placed everything into your virtual shopping cart, and all it takes are a few clicks before the items are sent to ship — all thanks to credit card autofill! While this is an incredible experience for online shopping, it can leave you vulnerable to thieves & fraudsters.

So, what are things that you can do today to combat fraud?

  • Keep your PIN private! Be sure to cover yourself before inserting your PIN code.
  • Using password protection on electronic devices — and set up two-factor authentication where you can!
  • Choosing complex passwords — don’t just use “password123”, select a difficult password that uses a range of letters, numbers, and special characters
  • Choose a credit card that has smart features built right into it, like two-way fraud alerts, and ensure you’ve given your financial institution permission to contact you if there’s suspicious activity. 
  • Choose a credit card that has smart features built right into it, like two-way fraud alerts, and ensure you’ve given your financial institution permission to contact you if there’s suspicious activity.
  • – Monitor your credit score regularly by taking advantage of free credit monitoring tools like Credit Keeper from Capital One. Unexpected changes to credit scores can be an early indication of fraudulent activity on one or more accounts. 

 

Have you ever had an experience with fraud? Do you have your own ways of combating theft of your personal information? Let me know in the comments section!

Have a happy, safe, & informed Fraud Prevention Month!

-MR

The Year of Extremes: Life Update, March 2019

The Year of Extremes: Life Update, March 2019

Howdyyyyyy, friends!

This is going to be a recurring blog theme every month or two, where I lay out some fun things going on in my life, and give you some insight into projects that are in the works. As my YouTube channel & Instagram page have become more centred on certain kinds of content, I wanted to have a place to touch base and discuss both mundane & interesting things going on in a 24-year-old freelancer’s life.

It’s the year of getting shit done, HENNY.

Sooo, where to begin with 2019?! Well, I always try to “theme” my yearly goal at the beginning of January. 2017 was all about trying new experiences, like moving to a new city (moving back in with my parents!), and testing out content creation as a full-time gig. Buuuut, I ended up working a lot of hours in 2017, which took a bit of a toll on my relationship and social life — so 2018 had to pivot. 2018 was focused on self-improvement, which involved working more closely with my agency, Fourth Floor Management (love them!), and passing off administrative tasks that were getting in the way of creating actual tangible content.

So, what’s my theme for 2019? Bare with me… but 2019 is the year of extremes! I’ve spent the last couple years working on my platforms and voice, both online & offline, but I’m ready to start doing more. For instance, throughout January & February, I uploaded TWELVE videos to my YouTube channel. I’m tired of saying to myself, “oh, I’ll just do that tomorrow” — I want to take ~life by the balls~ and make my goals a reality. Last week, I decided that I wanted to start creating colourful style videos for Instagram; 7 days later, and I’m 90% done creating the set in my apartment, and I’ll be publishing style videos later this week. 2019 being the “year of extremes” just means that I’m done being on the fence about life. If I want to do it, then let’s get it done.

DSC02617

Mid-20s? Shantay, you can STAY.

If you’ve been following my platforms enough, you’ll know that I’ve been on a pretty regular fitness routine since I was 19-years-old. Over time, I’ve learned so much about fitness and nutrition, and creating tangible & reachable goals for myself. For the most part, ages 19 – 23 was all about sustaining my fitness level — maybe I gained a bit of weight here, lost a bit of weight there, but my overall shape didn’t change much.

After turning 24, I started noticing a lot more changes with my body. I literally feel like my body is producing more testosterone than it ever has, which has been an interesting feeling! My strength and endurance have been peaking over the last year, and I feel more motivated than ever to continue my fitness regimen and push for results.

One noticeable change is that ‘ya boy has been working out his legs + glutes two times per week. It’s not that I used to skip leg day… it’s just that I used to avoid leg day at all costs!!! But not anymore! As I’ve been building more muscle on my legs, I’ve noticed a general weight gain throughout my entire body — which makes sense, considering our legs have so much muscle tissue. Pass me the booty shorts because ‘ya boy is ready for a peachy summer 2019!

dsc03692

Pass the champagne!

Next month, I’ll be kissing goodbye to the first half of my 20s as I turn 25-years-old on April 25th — which just so happens to be my champagne birthday. Admittedly, I don’t often celebrate my birthdays with much passion or energy. Throughout university, my 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd birthdays were overshadowed by university exams. No one had much time to go out for a birthday drink, so I haven’t prioritized my birthday in YEARS. So this year I’m having a bunch of my friends over for a ‘lil house party as we ring in my 25th year!

I’m really looking forward to 25. I’m ready for new experiences & challenges!! I’m considering doing a boudoir photoshoot, which is basically a tastefully naked photoshoot, once I turn 25. I’m aware of the fact that I’m in the ~peak of my youth~, and I’m sure I’ll want my ~glory years~ captured. THESE WILL NOT BE INSTA-FRIENDLY LOL. They will be for my eyes, and my eyes only (plus Christian xo). He’s actually the one that’s been pushing me to do the photoshoot, but no surprise there!

Lights, camera, action!

Part of my 2019 career goals is to diversify myself beyond social media. Social media and content creation has proved to be an incredible asset in my life, but I never want to feel like my worth is tied to a platform. I’ve seen first-hand what can happen when a platform begins to define your success (namely, the YouTube LGBTQ+ ~ad-pocalypse~ of 2017 & 2018). As a freelancer in the digital space, it’s important to remember that platforms will continuously change, and you must be able to adapt & diversify yourself.

IMG_8411

So what does that mean for me? Well, since 2016 I’ve co-hosted a red carpet segment at the Much Music Video Awards, and I’ve learned how much I love being a host. It’s led me to co-hosting various digital series, such as MUCH PRIDE (which was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award!), and creating lifestyle television segments for Canadian media. Recently, I put together my first on-air lifestyle segment for a local television station, Inside Durham, and I’m hoping to do more on-air segments in 2019. ‘Ya boy is just trying to be the gay Martha Stewart!! I’ve learned that I love sharing my passions with the world, and inspiring people to insert more colour into their life.

 

Sooo, that’s my life as of late! A lot to accomplish, but I’m feeling more motivated than I’ve ever felt before. It’s all about setting ambitious, yet attainable, goals.

Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you somewhere online v v v soon, xoxo.

-MR

Easy Jumbo Meatballs (COMFORT FOOD!)

Easy Jumbo Meatballs (COMFORT FOOD!)

Whenever the weather gets chillier around this time of year, I always find myself craving comfort food. Dishes that are hearty, satisfying, and fill my apartment with the yummiest aromas! Today, I wanted to share my recipe for easy-peasy weeknight Jumbo Meatballs.

NOTE: If you’d like to make a tomato sauce to accompany your meatballs, simply blend 10-12 roma tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, and salt (to taste), and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. OR, just buy a jar from your grocery store. Whatever works!

dsc01135

The Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • 700g – 800g of extra lean ground beef
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese, plus 3 – 4 tbsp
  • 5 – 6 cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil, plus 2 – 3 tbsp
  • sea salt, to taste

STEP 1: In a medium-heat pan, add 1/3 cup of olive oil until heated thoroughly. Once heated, add white onion & mushrooms. Stir every couple minutes until translucent, then stir occasionally. Onions and mushrooms should cook for about 40 minutes, so the natural sugars have enough time to release their yummy flavour! Add your cooked onions & mushrooms to your tomato sauce, and place aside for the time being.

Tip: don’t put your cutting board in the sink just yet! You’ll be able to use it as a platform for your raw meatballs in Step 3.

dsc01099

dsc01102

STEP 2: In a large bowl, add ground beef, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and 1 egg. Mix until all the ingredients have combined sufficiently.

STEP 3: Roll 5 – 6 large meatballs, roughly 3inches in diameter, and place aside on a cutting board.

dsc01101

STEP 4: Using the same pan that you cooked the onions and mushrooms, add 2 – 3 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat. Your pan will need to be quite hot for the next step, so occasionally add 1 drop of water to test its level of heat. The drop of water should crackle and pop immediately.

STEP 5: Carefully add each raw meatball to your pan, searing each of the 4 sides for about 3 minutes each. Searing meat is 100% about building flavor, as the surface instantly begins caramelizing.

STEP 6: Once all 4 sides have been seared sufficiently, reduce heat to medium-low, add your tomato sauce to the pan, and cook the meatballs covered for 15 minutes. After that, uncover the pan and cook for an additional 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

dsc01103

STEP 7: Once cooked, sprinkle 3 – 4 tbsp of parmesan cheese overtop, and broil for 5 – 8 minutes.

dsc01126

Pro tip! Grab a few baguettes & turn this meal into meatball sandwiches! YUUUUM.

Until next time, happy eating!

-MR

My Yummy Vegan Chili Recipe!

My Yummy Vegan Chili Recipe!

Over the past couple years, I’ve tried to incorporate plant-based alternatives into my diet for health & sustainability. In fact, one of my favourite recipes to make for a crowd is my vegan chili, because it’s got heavy flavour, a good level of spice, and it’s hearty enough for a crowd.

dsc00413

This recipe is not fancy by any means. All required ingredients can be found at any grocery store. My recipe is straight-up vegan comfort food, and it’s perfect for the chilly winter.

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 5-6 white or cremona mushrooms
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced (seeds optional!)
  • 2 large cans of diced tomatoes (no added salt!)
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 2 cans of red kidney beans
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1/3 cup of yellow mustard
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (this will salt + flavour your veggies!)
  • 2-3 tbsp chili powder
  • Other seasonings (your choice!)

Yields: 8 servings

Here’s how to make yummy vegan chili:

  1. In a large pot at medium heat, add 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1 vegetable bouillon cube; stir until the cube has dissolved into the oil. Once oil has heated sufficiently with the dissolved cube, add diced onion, red/green peppers, mushrooms, and jalapeño pepper. Continue to routinely stir vegetables until translucent and soft. Typically, this can be done in 15 minutes, but I like to cook them for about 25 minutes because it releases their natural sweetness.
  2. In a blender, blend 1 can of tomatoes for about 10 seconds. Add blended tomatoes to your pot and continue to stir. Add the other (1) whole can of tomatoes to your pot, and continue to stir until heated.
  3. Drain red kidney beans & corn from their cans, and add these to your pot, continuing to stir until heated.
  4. Add yellow mustard, chili powder, tomato paste, and other seasonings of your choice. The reason I don’t specify on seasonings is that everyone has their preferences! Some people prefer the nutty flavour of cumin, others opt for the aromatics of a bay leaf. When it doubt, just add a bit of salt + pepper 😉
  5. Your mixture should be relatively thick. In order to cook everything down, slowly add 1/2 cup of water. Increase heat to medium-high until it reaches a rolling simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  6. Cook your chili, stirring every 10 minutes, for 90 minutes. The result will be a thick, velvety, and hearty chili that will please any crowd!

 

dsc00406

2018 TOP PRODUCTS FOR THE FAB HUMAN

2018 TOP PRODUCTS FOR THE FAB HUMAN

Hey humans!

For the last year, I’ve been fine-tuning my morning and nighttime routines, to find a skincare, hair care, and shaving regimen that fits my busy life. I’m so thrilled to share a handful of these products with you, as most of the containers are almost finished! I think a big testament to the quality of any product is reaching the bottom of the package.

SO, here are my top products of 2018 for the ~fab~ human…

 

SKINCARE

DELETE1

NEUTROGENA DEEP CLEAN MICELLAR CLEANSING WATER

Alright, it’s time to stop what you’re doing, and forget everything you think you know about washing your face. Simply put, micellar cleansing waters removes makeup, cleanses skin, eyes and lips without rubbing or rinsing. By applying micellar water to a cotton pad, the micelles capture and life away dirt like a magnet! It leaves your skin perfectly clean and refreshed without over-drying. I’ve managed to try a few different micellar waters this year, and I can honestly say that Neutrogena’s is the BEST! I usually see it retailing for about $12 – 14 CAD, and one bottle will last you 2 – 3 months. When I stay on a strict regimen of cleansing 2 x per day, I almost never break-out.

DELETEE2

MURAD ACNE CONTROL CLARIFYING MASK, 4.0% SULFUR

Once again, stop what you’re doing. This time, head to the closest Sephora and purchase this mask by MURAD. DISCLAIMER – this mask retails for about $45 CAD, but is the most effective acne-clearing mask I’ve ever used. The mask’s formula is thick and rich, so you don’t need to use a lot, roughly a quarter-sized amount for your whole face. The 4.0% Sulfur treatment perfectly reduces the appearance of redness within a couple hours, and blemishes are cleared within a day or two. I use this as an end-of-week skin treatment, or as a rapid spot treatment for days that I have video or photo shoots.

DELETE3.png

ORIGINS CLEAR IMPROVEMENT CHARCOAL HONEY MASK

Let me preface by saying that I’m not big on the whole charcoal craze. I do have a few charcoal products, but by no means do I think this is some magic ingredient that’s going to change your life. HOWEVER! The Origins Charcoal Honey Mask is the perfect addition to your skincare, because it manages to bring out a radiance in my skin that makes me appear more awake and alert. As such, this is not a cleansing mask, as it’s more of a short-term treatment mask. If you apply the mask at night, your skin will look visibly more radiant and even-toned the next day. However, I wouldn’t say that the mask’s effect lasts more than a day or two. If you’ve got a special event or occasion that you want to look radiant for, this is the mask to use! It retails for $42 CAD, which in my opinion is a bit pricey. However, the jar has lasted me 3 months so far, and I’ve got a couple more treatments left in the package. At the very least, you’re getting a lot of product for the price, which is great.

DELETE4

THE ORGANIC PHARMACY FACE CREAM

Interestingly, this face cream is marketed as a day cream, mean’t to be applied in the morning before you head out the door. I’ve actually been using the product as a nighttime cream, because it’s extremely thick and rich, which helps my skin retain moisture throughout the night. To be honest, I like lighter face creams for the day, especially if I’m on-the-go. However, as a nighttime cream, this stuff is 10/10. It retails for about $85, but will last you at least 8 months. I’ve had this cream for about 5 months now, and I’ve only used about 65% of it.

DELETE5

OARS + ALPS FACE MOISTURIZER + EYE CREAM

Full disclosure, the brand directly sent me this product. We had planned to work on a partnership together, but it fell through last minute. Since I already had the product, I thought I might as well use it! I’m SO thrilled that I took full advantage of this face cream, because it’s been the perfect day cream! The cream is super light, which keeps my skin moisturized without feeling heavy or greasy. They also claim that this duals as an eye cream, but I’m not totally convinced on that. At best, it’s a superior day cream that dries almost instantaneously (and only costs $22 CAD!)

DELETE6

PATCHOLOGY FLASHPATCH ILLUMINATING EYE GELS

I’m in LOOOOVE with this product! Interestingly, my partner, Chris, picked up a sample of this product at a recent product preview — so of course, I used it for myself! I had a photoshoot one morning, and wanted to sure that my under eyes we’re bright and awake. The product are these eyedrop-shaped gels that you place under your eyes for about 10 minutes after your morning shower. After 10 minutes, your eyes are visibly brighter, tighter, and more awake! Each eyepatch sells for $3, which makes it a great stocking stuffer for the holidays.

 

HAIRCARE

DELETE7

VICHY’S DENSI-SOLUTIONS PRODUCT LINE

SO, I’m pretty sure this 3-part product like is marketed towards women, but for some reason the Vichy Canada team decided to mail it over to me to try! Yaaaass, gender is a construct anyway. SO! While my hair isn’t receding or going through any balding process, I am noticing some minor thinning as I move through my 20s. As someone who’s been styling their hair since the 9th grade, my hairstyle is very important to me. The product line consists of a shampoo, 1-minute rinse-off hair cream, and a leave-in spray. After using all three products, I noticed that my hair styled easier, and look visibly thicker. I’d highly recommend it for other guys like me, who are noticing minor thinning, and want to sustain their fuller hairstyle. The product line costs $86CAD, so not cheap! BUT, I can honestly say that the product line delivers what it says it’s going to deliver, so it’s worth the money in my opinion.

DELETE8

THE PERTH SOAP CO. MOROCCAN ARGAN OIL

I’ve been obsessed with this product since 2017, because of its effectiveness, versatility, and affordability. I primarily use the product as a leave-in hair oil to help replenish some of the lost nutrients from blow drying & styling my hair. I found that it helps to keep my hair moisturized and shiny. However, you can also use argan oil on your face, skin, facial hair, nails, and cuticles as an organic moisturizer. It sells for $30CAD, so once again, makes a great stocking stuffer for the holidays!

DELETE9

MISTER POMPADOUR BEESWAX PASTE

Mister Pompadour’s Beeswax Paste is a 10/10 hairstyle product for groomed pompadours. The brand uses all natural products, which allows it to rinse out of the hair effortlessly, so you don’t get any waxy residue after your shower. Additionally, the product is very light, but packs a huge hold for all-day style. It retails for $20USD, and consistently sells out online due to its sheer popularity by users. An absolute MUST for men’s hairstyling.

SHAVING

DELETE10

GILLETTE ON DEMAND

As most of you know, I’ve been exclusively using Gillette for my shaving needs over the past 10 years. While I don’t normally think of including Gillette in my round-up posts, I wanted to highlight their new Gillette On Demand service! Gillette On Demand sends you blades (+handle) to your door over a pre-set time period, depending on how often you shave. You end up saving several dollars each shipment, when compared to buying cartridges individually at the store. It could make for a great gift or stocking stuffer for that bearded family member of yours! Prices range depending on shipment frequency.

IMG_7439

That’s my 2018 round-up of my top skincare, haircare, and shaving products! Happy holidays, everyone.

-MR