2021 was all about 90s nostalgia. Here’s how to wear it without looking dated
The 1990s made waves in fashion this year, but for those of us who experienced it the first time around, the decade’s hallmarks, such as chokers and overalls, may feel a little wacky. Britt Rawlinson, owner of luxury resale boutique VSP Consignment in Toronto, says not to fear – this time around, the look is much more polished. “It’s definitely a sleeker version of what I remember from the 90s and the makeup is much better.”
To dip your toe into these cool, nostalgic waters, start small with an accessory that flicks to the decade. “The way the claw clip in the hair has come back is so cute,” Rawlinson says. Before heading out to buy something new, check your closet for long lost treasures such as jewellery, hats and other accessories that you’ve held on to. Or, reconsider the way you style your existing clothing. For example, Rawlinson recommends layering a plain T-shirt under a more structured item, like a sleeveless dress or bustier, to nail that retro silhouette.
And when shopping for something new, look for a statement piece, such as footwear, that will fit in with your existing wardrobe rather than giving your closet a complete overhaul. “Versace did such an incredible platform Mary Jane that definitely became a must-have item,” Rawlinson says of the brand’s colourful, sky-high style.
– Caitlin Agnew
This year, the priority was refocusing one’s skin-care routine
Whether it was all the hours spent staring at ourselves on Zoom or an attempt to deal with maskne, interest in skincare was way up during the pandemic, resulting in cluttered cabinets and products that may have done more harm than good.
Sarah Kurmis, certified medical aesthetician and skin therapist at Wonder Skincare, says that people often purchase new products because they’re expecting immediate results, explaining that it actually takes around eight to 12 weeks for results from a new skin-care routine to show.
Over the past 12 months, there’s been a culling of those cabinets – something best done with guidance. A session with a skin-care professional can help you cut through the noise and is worth revisiting as the seasons, and skin, change. During a virtual consult with a client, Kurmis reviews their products to see what’s working, what isn’t and recommends options that might be more suitable.
“More often than not, we’re streamlining a routine to include potent, effective products in the right places for the individual,” she says, adding that she generally likes to ensure everyone is using the right vitamin C serum, retinol and broad-spectrum SPF.
Until you can identify what products you should be using, you can start the decluttering process by identifying how long a product has been sitting on your shelf, and tossing ones that have been open past their expiration. “We like to suggest writing the date you started using your product somewhere on your container to help you remember,” Kumis says. Products that are still fresh, but not the best option for your face, can be used up by applying them elsewhere on the body like your hands or chest.
– Caitlin Agnew
Being cooped up within the same four walls inspired us to rethink what they look like
The most wow-worthy trend in interiors? Glowing, textured walls that look like they belong in a Tuscan villa or Moroccan riad. “This year, almost every client I speak to asks about Venetian plaster walls,” says Montreal designer Celia Bryson. “I think it’s part of the return to handmade, and wanting an environment that’s minimalist but warm.”
Until now, the highly covetable look required patience – specialty installers are in high demand – a big budget, and the willingness to deal with plaster dust, both during and after. But now, thanks to the emergence of paint brands such as Pure & Original and Bauwerk, you can get the same matte, powdery-soft look as plaster in a more affordable DIY format.
“All it takes is a special primer first, and then this product rolls on like paint,” says Bryson, who’s planning to use Pure & Original in her own living room, dining room and vestibule. “Anyone can do it, and the more streaks and movement you get, the better.”
She adds that the effect is best done in small doses rather than all through the house. “A plaster-look wall could be great in a public space, like a living room or kitchen, but I suggest switching to more traditional paint or wallpaper in powder rooms and bedrooms.”
– Beth Hitchcock
The chore of cleaning became a joy after discovering this magic formula
Calgary’s Sarah McAllister runs the local cleaning company GoCleanCo, and during the pandemic has amassed 2.2 million Instagram fans who religiously follow the cleaning tips she posts on social media. They especially love that she uses products that have been around for years, namely bleach and Tide, mixed with hot water.
It’s a recipe (one gallon of hot water, one teaspoon of powdered Tide and 1/3 cup bleach for disinfecting) her mom and grandmother have used for years.
“During lockdowns, people were stuck in their homes and suddenly saw dirt and grime they’d never noticed before. I started posting simple cleaning tips on Instagram, using products most of us already have in our cupboards, and it went viral. I’m still shocked by it all.”
McAllister says powdered Tide is a bit of a marvel, containing enzymes and surfactants that break down dirt and stains, making them much easier to remove. She uses the water/bleach/Tide combo to clean bathtubs, sinks, grout, walls, floors, countertops and the interior of fridges, walls, floors and countertops. “Don’t use it on marble though,” she warns. “Marble is very temperamental.”
Her cleaning routine is equally straightforward. “Do one room at a time, top to bottom, left to right. Once that room is done, close the door and call it a day. You don’t want to be overwhelmed,” she says. McAllister says a good, deep clean can’t be rushed. “If you want to surface clean with a Swiffer, no problem but you’re just moving dirty water around. Our method is far more satisfying – and it becomes addictive. You can’t help but feel wonderful when your house looks this good.”
– Gayle MacDonald
Plants become passion projects, and the more the merrier. Here’s how to grow without going broke
Why have one plant when you can have many? This year taught us that living with an abundance of plants was one of decor’s most happy-making trends, and the enhanced need for self-care translated to the satisfying and utterly addictive pleasure in nurturing something and watching it grow. So how can one embrace this verdant vibe without going broke? Propagation.
Growing from one plant into another has a few key steps says Karen Newstead, owner of the Toronto shop Stamen & Pistil Botanicals. For example, “there are plants that are easier to propagate than others,” she says. Aroids, a group that includes the popular pothos, philodendrons, monsteras and the Zanzibar gem, also known as the ZZ plant, are better bets. Newstead notes that the best time to propagate is during growing season, so, spring or summer. But she says you can still propogate in winter months. “Make sure you find a well-lit, frost-free, wind-free area,” says says. And be prepared for slower growth. It may take two to four months for roots to develop in some cases.
Two methods of propagation are stem or leaf cuttings. For stem cuttings, remove the part of the plant you’re hoping to propagate just below a node (the part of a plant where leaves or branches are attached). Leaf cuttings should be done with mature leaves, with about 2 inches of stalk intact. Use a very sharp blade that’s been sterilized – Newstead uses rubbing alcohol for such tasks – and ensure you’re cleaning the blade before moving on to take a cutting from another plant.
Newstead says that water propagation is one of the simplest methods for success. Once you’ve made your cutting, place it in a vessel filled with room temperature tap or rain water; steer clear of distilled H2O that’s been stripped of nutrients. Clear glass vessels allow you to “see the progress,” Newstead says, and should sit in indirect light. Change the water every few days and once you see 5-10 roots have sprouted, it’s time to put that baby in soil.
– Odessa Paloma Parker
Desserts got more elaborate, and the simple cookie became a vessel for pretty much any other kind of baked good
“We want those things that makes us feel comfortable and make us feel safe,” says Craig Pike, who launched Craig’s Cookies in 2013, making chocolate chip cookies based on his mom’s recipe. When he and a friend were out shopping and noticed Pop Tarts were on sale, he bought a box and put them in a cookie, which made him realize maybe you could put anything in a cookie. “Our whole brand started by putting Oreos, Mars bars, peanut butter cups and butter tarts in cookies,” he says.
It’s the perfect encapsulation of what we were all looking for this year: an indulgent treat that feeds our sense of nostalgia.
Everyone loves a cookie crammed with plenty of stuff – salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy, melty – and this is an opportunity to rummage through your cupboards and toss in handfuls of whatever you can find, particularly those ends of bags that might wind up forgotten in the back of the pantry.
– Julie Van Rosendaal
Makes 18 cookies
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup old-fashioned or quick oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate bars
- Anything else you like (chopped Oreos, chocolate bars, Pop Tarts, etc.)
- 1/2 cup broken pretzels or plain rippled chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until creamy; beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and beat on low or stir until the dough comes together. As you stir, add the chocolate and any other additions.
Drop by the large spoonful (or use a scoop) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and press broken pretzels and chips into the surface of each cookie. (This will keep them from absorbing moisture from the dough, and keep them crunchy.)
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
(Adapted slightly from Dirty Food, by Julie Van Rosendaal)
Cocktails increasingly became mocktails, and sophisticated ones at that
The growing movement to low- and no-alcohol drinks has become more than a trend according to bartender Kate Boushel. It’s part of life.
The director of beverage and education for Groupe Barroco, which operates Atwater Cocktail Club and Milky Way Cocktail Bar in Montreal, trains staff to make specialty non-alcoholic cocktails as well as alcohol-free versions of all of the drinks offered to consumers on the extensive cocktail lists.
“It’s a mental hurdle more than anything,” Boushel says. “It’s not difficult to make vegetarian or vegan dishes. Mixing cocktails without using alcohol is a similar process.”
With a growing selection of alcohol-free spirits that mimic the flavours of gin, tequila, bourbon, vermouth and amari as well as other popular beverages, such as kombucha or flavoured sparkling waters that offer new flavours to a bartender’s tool kit, it’s easier than ever to make flavourful and complex mocktails at home.
A successful cocktail, whether it contains alcohol or not, offers a balance of sweet and sour elements, which explains why the Bunnykins is a popular fixture at Atwater. “It’s a perfect balance between fresh, sweet and herbal without screaming vegetable,” Boushel says.
– Christopher Waters
- 1 ounce fresh carrot juice
- 1 ounce fresh blood orange juice
- 0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 0.50 ounce thyme syrup (recipe below)
- 2 ounces tonic water
Add all the ingredients except tonic water into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds or until cold. Strain into an ice-filled oversized rocks glass and top with tonic water. Garnish with a carrot ribbon.
- 1 bunch thyme
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
Bring water to a low boil in a saucepan. Add sugar and thyme. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved and let steep on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fine strain. Let the mixture cool to room temperature then transfer to a bottle. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator, sealed in a bottle for up to 3 weeks.
The open road called, and Canadians packed up their cars and took advantage. But there are rules for a guaranteed good time
Unsure about flying, many Canadians took to the road, and even when the federal government gave the okay for international travel, the road trip was still a top choice. A survey earlier this year from Leger Marketing, commissioned by Toyota Canada, stated 49 per cent of Canadians planned for a summer road trip.
It’s not surprising that Jessica Off’s company Guess Where Trips has taken off. She creates mystery daytrips based on themes. Daytrippers know the sorts of experiences they’ll have – farmer’s markets, waterfalls, hiking trails – but not where or what, until they open an envelope with directions.
For a successful trip, Off recommends that people bring along a cooler bag (for treats you find along the way), your phone and charger, and cash – specifically coins in case you stop at, say, a chicken or alpaca farm where quarters are needed to purchase snacks to feed the animals.
She also recommends bringing an extra pair of shoes/boots (in case trails are muddy and your next stop is a restaurant for lunch). “Dress for the weather,” Off says. “Check the forecast and make sure you’re prepared for whatever conditions Mother Nature has in store.”
Technology has made finding hidden gems on the open road easier than ever before. Off uses three apps – Google Maps, Roadtrippers and AllTrails – to find the wide variety of stopovers that make her curated road trips across Canada so memorable. Her go-to source for weird and wonderful things to see and do is the website Atlas Obscura, which provides a detailed map directory for curiosities, such as the world’s largest beaver dam (Alberta), the Canadian Potato Museum (PEI) and the Screaming Heads sculptures (Ontario).
Her final recommended must-have is a playlist. As Tom Cochrane said: “Life is a highway.” Embrace it.
– Gayle Macdonald
When all else failed us, a walk got us through the day, and 10,000 steps became a daily must-do
Even when there was nowhere to go this year, a walk gave us an excuse to get out of the house. “We couldn’t go to the gym and access to [exercise] equipment was tough, but we had shoes,” says Toronto fitness instructor Zehra Allibhai. “In the morning, I would get out and do a walk in the neighbourhood listening to my Audible or a podcast, and in the evenings we did family walks. It helped keep up all sane.”
Before the pandemic, Allibhai says walking was an under-valued activity that many people – especially gym rats – didn’t regard as ‘”true” exercise. That perception underwent a radical shift during the pandemic. “Walking is so good for your mental health. You will also find that you are far more productive – and happier – when you get back.” Her goal, like many of us, was to get at least 10,000 steps. However, building up to that takes some time.
Use a smartphone app or other smart device (Fitbit, Apple Watch) to track your current movement level. Count your steps for a few days, without changing your routine, and then set a goal to increase your steps from there. Allibhai says the key is not to be “obsessed with counting, as much as moving.” Since many people are tied to work stations from 9 to 5, Allibhai suggests 30-minute walk breaks two or three times during the day, ideally outside (walk to a nearby park, go pick up something for dinner or deliver some dry cleaning).
“The best thing about walking is it’s something you can do even if you’re not super fit,” says Allibhai, who adds that finding a walking buddy for those longer jaunts helps keep you accountable. “It’s about creating those daily habits, and doing it consistently,” she says. “That’s when you notice and feel the health benefits.”
– Gayle Macdonald