for good

I’m really excited to be heading into 2012.

It’s been quite a journey over the last two years, and for the first time since 2009, I feel like I’m starting off a new year standing on solid ground.

Now don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of good things in 2010 and 2011, but I really feel like they’ve been two really big years of transition. I really started to realize this after a number of conversations in the last couple of weeks coupled with looking at a whole bunch of old pictures (thanks Facebook Timeline)

The pictures from the end of 2009 make me especially sad. I looked sick. And truth be told, I had stopped eating, so this fact isn’t surprising. I was so stressed and sad and lost and heading into a crazy, new life without the partner that I had spent the last 3.5 years growing alongside. Our break up was absolutely the right thing for both of us, but it hurt immensely and meant that 2010 was an even bigger year of change that I had originally anticipated when I quit my job and decided that I was going to go back to school. While I enjoyed many parts of 2010, I also spent a lot of time figuring out who I was, what I wanted and how I wanted to be spending my time.

2011 brought lots of good things, but was really up and down in a lot of ways. I went back to work full time in March, which made me feel like a big fat failure. Isn’t that what I was fighting against? Slowly I began to realize that I had made the right decision and that working full time as an executive assistant was a pretty okay thing, and that it gave me time to do all the things that I loved. I also realized that I didn’t want to be a nutritionist, and that this fact was perfectly fine. I loved nutrition school, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. Working 9-5 also meant that I was free to perform, and in the last 2 years I’ve had some amazing opportunities to be onstage with some incredibly talented people in musicals, concerts, and cabarets, including 3 Ashleyx2 shows.

Ash bought me Kristen Chenoweth’s book (gosh, I adore Kristen. I think we’d be such good friends. And how wonderful is Ash for getting me such a perfect gift?!) for Christmas, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this song while I finished reading the book on the train home from Belleville.

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good”.

The people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the friends I’ve counted on, the places I’ve been, the tears I’ve shed, the mistakes I’ve made, the victories I’ve had – all of these experiences over the last 2 years have absolutely changed me to be the person I am at this very moment.

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Who knows what the future brings, but I’m ready for it.

2012, here I come.

This is my Winter Song to You

The last few weeks have been crazy and awesome and hectic and hilarious. I can hardly believe that it’s December!! This week marked the beginning of what I like to call the Holi-month and I had a blast with a lot of wonderful people at some great events.

On Tuesday I went to Hip and Urban Girl’s Champagne and Cookie Party with my sweet friends Reggy and Christine.

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I promise, that if you put 200 women in a room with cookies and booze, there will be madness! There weren’t a ton of gluten free and vegan options aside from the BabyCakes snickerdoodles that I brought

DSCN0739and the delicious cookies that Reggy made (there was almond butter and cranberries involved, they were pretty fantastic) I think my favourite moment in the evening was a toss up between coming upon Christine with a platter of a dozen cookies in front of her, each of which had a single bite taken out of it

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or the discussion Reggy and I had with the rep from Ohhh Canada about Tenga eggs making wicked stocking stuffers. Both moments were pretty amazing. Thanks to my Charlie’s Angels for a super fun evening and to Val for hooking me up with the tickets!

On Friday night I headed to the Cameron House with a some of my favourite friends for Graydon James & the Young Novelists’ cd release party.

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The show was fantastic. They have some incredible harmonies, heartbreaking lyrics and the whole band is wickedly talented. The crowd at the lovely Cameron House had a stellar energy, which was enhanced for me by the fact that I had one of my besties on either side of me. And did I mention that there were cupcakes and tea goodie bags?? They are a fantastic band to see live and it was a pretty magical evening. Go. Buy. The. Album.

Finally Saturday I had my own chance to be on stage spreading some festive cheer in another Singing Strong cabaret in support of Buddies in Bad Times theatre.

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I had a blast singing with some amazing singers (including my dear friend Lindsay), fabulous musicians (including Tara on keys) surrounded by a really fun audience and some great repertoire. There was an eclectic mix of tunes including some musical theatre, pop and jazz along with some holiday favourites that I got to sing lead on including Baby It’s Cold Outside (which is actually a creepy song…) and Baby Please Come Home.

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Linz and I also sang Wintersong, which is just such a  beautiful song. It’s an amazing thing to be able to take our friendship to the next level by singing in harmony with one another! I also got to sing Christmas Lullaby from Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for World (which is one of my dream roles) And of course the evening was made even better by the fact that there were some really awesome people in the audience to see me AND I was wearing a Damzels dress, which is always a good recipe for a perfect show. It was a brilliant evening and a great way to kick off the holiday season!

My holi-month continues with a party tonight, at least 3 pot lucks in the coming weeks, some more singing engagements and an evening at the symphony for Handel’s Messiah next week!

Do you have any fun plans for the Holi-month? What’s your favourite holiday tune?

PS – did you know I was nominated for a 2011 BroadwayWorld Toronto award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical? If you have a minute, please vote!!

Saying Goodbye to My Tea Club Gals

When I made the decision to go back to the office world in February, I had no idea that I would:

a) be changing jobs less than a year later
b) have made such an incredible group of friends along the way

It seems that November is a favourite time for change for me and with everything that’s changing, I’m really excited for what’s down the road. The corporate world is a funny place and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity that fell into my lap, to return to a company where I spent close to 5 years. No, it’s not nutrition school, nor is it a full time performing gig, but it allows me to do everything that I love and gives me some pretty awesome perks.

When I started at this office 9 months ago, I was immediately welcomed by an amazing group of people who I sat with. We weren’t really in the same department, but our affinity for tea brought me closer to their little circle.

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And boy, have we drank a lot of tea.

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Oh yes, the tea. After NourishTea sent us their line, we made a really great connection with Dan at Herbal Infusions. Dan let me come in and pick out a wide variety of teas for us to try and we had a lot of fun sampling everything over the next few months. We’ve since gone back into his shop many times and there are certain favourites that have definitely immerged.

Amanda swears Lapacho Orange Vanilla and is convinced that due to its antibacterial properties, it has boosted her immunity. In cleaning out my emails at my job I found some pretty hilarious descriptions of other teas “This tea is like a minty fairy. But fairies can be evil when they sit still too long” – of the mysterious minty tea in a pouch, “It smells like…poached pears. And cinnamon. And HAPPINESS.” of the Snow Love and “Drinking this tea is like kissing a boy who uses anise-flavoured toothpaste. Trust me, I would know” of the coolmint licorice.

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Kayla loved the Vanilla Bean Chai (and was excited to find that the tea fairy had left some on her desk last week) and Caileigh loved the fruitier teas and rooibos’ like the goji / pear / melon and green rooibos punch. Alessandra and I have stopped by the shop together more than once and Dan has been awesometown in accommodating us.

If you’re in the Spadina/Queen area, be sure to check out Herbal Infusions and go talk to Dan about tea. His blends are awesome and the shop has a wonderful vibe. If you’re lucky, there will be more events like the tea cocktail workshop which will help take your tea to a whole new level!

Tea time gave us time away from our desks to vent, giggle, yell, laugh, tell silly stories and generally bond. I’m so thankful for this time together and the friendships that I’ve made. These girls have helped me get through a lot this year and it made our work environment that much more fun. I’m going to miss our walks to David’s in the PATH, the weekly tea smell fests whenever any of us bought anything new and our daily tea times in the kitchen. I know that we’ll remain friends and have tea time outside of our cubicles, but it just won’t be the same.

And I have a feeling that my new coworkers are going to think I’m a freak when I show up with half a tea store of my own. But who knows, maybe I’ll turn them on to something new!

Cheers to new beginnings and wonderful friendships. I’m gonna miss you gals xoteaclub1

What Really Happens When Vegan Bloggers Get Together

Other than the obvious delicious food…

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We have to take pictures of said delicious food

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but at least when you’re doing it in a group it looks less weird. Unless you take off to another table to get better light and background…

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which is quite normal in our circle.

Thanks to Carol at Belmonte Raw for hosting an amazing lunch for a wonderful group of hungry vegan gals! It was a fantastic evening with great conversation, lots of giggles, general merriment, tweeting and of course incredible raw food. I’m thankful to know Carol, Camille, Marlie, Candice, Nicole and Dani and love our time together!

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To My Mother on Her 50th Birthday

If you were alive, I think you might smack me for announcing that it was your 50th birthday right here on the blog. I wonder if we would have had another surprise party for you, like the one that we had sometime in the early 90’s. I remember playing DJ that night and getting really excited when we played the NKOTB birthday song for you. I think you would have looked good for your age and it would have been a ton of fun to celebrate such a milestone with you.

I posted a picture of us on facebook this week. It was the one taken at Brenda’s wedding when you were wearing that fuchsia taffeta dress and (as someone pointed out) a flower in your hair. People commented on how beautiful you were and how much I look like you. It’s always so flattering when people say that I look like you, because you were stunning, but at the same time it’s hard to hear it too. I wish you were around now so we could compare our resemblance.

I wrote a list this week of all the things I wish I could talk to you about. I’m so lucky to have so many amazing people in my life to talk to, but there is always part of me that wishes I could get that call from you where I could ask your opinion on decisions I need to make or make you laugh with some of my outrageous stories or have you comfort me in the times I need you most. I’ve felt so manic this week due to everything that’s been going on lately, good and bad, and of course today.

Every year I tell myself that I’m going to be fine. November pops up and I decide that the 11th is going to be just another day and that I will reflect on the good memories we had together, rather than your death and continue moving forward. Maybe it would be easier if it wasn’t Remembrance Day because every single poppy reminds me of you and this year it’s even more in my face since it’s 11-11-11. Yah sure it’s “just another day”, but it’s your day and I know that I’ll never forget that.

Ash and I had our third cabaret a few weeks ago, and the theme was people/things that inspire us. While I had sang it at our birthday cabaret, I knew that I needed to sing this song again for you. In our short time together, your existence has inspired me to be the person that I am today and I feel incredibly blessed for the 13 years we had together.

I can’t think of a better gift to give you on your 50th birthday than a song that reminds you of my love. I wish you were here for me to tell you myself.

Happy birthday mum. I love you.

Wanna Win a Spot in Meghan Telpner’s Fab Uplift Detox Program?!

Update: Congratulations to Nicole for being selected as the winner! Please send me an email and I’ll have Meghan & her team send you your prize!

t’s no big secret that Meghan Telpner is one of my heroes.

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She is pretty much the queen of awesometown and I’m always excited to hear about her latest and greatest endeavours. (also thrilled that in less than 3 months we’ll be in St. Lucia together!!) I was super thrilled to read about her latest program – The Fab Uplift Detox program and am looking forward to playing along! Registration opens today and 1 lucky reader of Dancing Through Life is going to have the opportunity to join in for free! Keep reading for more details and all the fun…

Even when we know the right things to do - it is so easy to get derailed by the busyness of everyday. Suddenly that time when we can eat the best food possible, look and feel amazing becomes some foggy lensed vision of the way off magical time in the future when we have all the hours in the world.

You know what I'm talking about, right?

Well, Ms Meghan Telpner, the Toronto-based nutritonista you may know from her blog Making Love In The Kitchen is here to the rescue. She has put together the ultimate detox program.

Now this is not one of those lame, cheesy fad detoxes that requires you to starve yourself while pumping your bod full of supplements and laxatives. No way. Not her style.

Meghan and her team have put together a Food Detox! The ladies over there have named it The Fab Uplift Detox Program. And wouldn't you know - she is giving away a few spots in this program!

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If you play your cards right (or in other words, enter), you can win one of the limited number of spots in The Fab Uplift Detox Program. The program is valued at $79, though if you register on Monday, November 7th, the cost is just $69 and you can live anywhere in the world to participate.

This cleansing detox is about rebooting your system and getting a fresh start. It is designed to help identify and eliminate hidden food allergens, boost immunity, shed a little poundage but most importantly, support you in kicking those icky food habits and cravings that tend to derail us.

Included in the program is all of the following:

  • A full 16-Day Detox Program ebook which you can download immediately upon registration.
    • 4 day pre-cleanse coaching tips and recipes.
    • 8 Day Cleanse program including meal plan, shopping list and recipes.
    • 4-Day Post Cleanse guidelines.
    • Loads of info on why you should detox, what it means to detox, what this detox entails, and how to keep it going after the sixteen days have passed.
  • A daily email offering tips and support, progress, and bonus recipes.
  • Daily tweet coaching tips throughout the day (follow at #fabdetox)
  • Group TweetChat on Sunday, November 20th at 9:00pm EST
  • Live stream video chats with Meghan and her team (Scheduled for Friday November 18th and Friday, November 25th at 11:00am EST)
  • Email support throughout the main eight days of the detox with Meghan’s resident nutritionists Alexa and Jill
  • Extra sweet incentive:  At the end of the cleanse,  send in a before + after on how you feel or a general testimonial and you will be entered to win some of our most fav detox goodies from some of our most fav detox loving brands.

You can get full deets on the program over on Meghan's website. Please leave me a comment below to be entered for a chance to win!

You can earn extra entries by:

  • following me (@ashleydtl) & Meghan (@meghantelpner) on the twitter
  • tweeting about the giveaway (hashtag is #fabdetox)
  • blogging about the giveaway

Be sure to leave a comment letting me you did any or all of the above. Contest closes Thursday November 10th at 11:59pm and I’ll be randomly drawing one winner from all the entries. You can be anywhere in the world to win. Good luck!!

My Favourite Bakery: Babycakes NYC

It’s no big secret that I adore Babycakes in New York City.

I didn’t get to visit for some strange reason on my first trip, but absolutely made more than one stop on my second go round.

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What’s not to love about an adorable retro bakery that serves gluten free and vegan baked goods that are absolutely delicious?! Donuts and cinnamon buns and cupcakes, oh my!

I picked up the newest Babycakes cookbook when I was in New York and have been having fun making my own treats since I’ve been back. From adorable chocolate cupcakes that I may or may not have made for a boy because it was his birthday

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to sweet snickerdoodles

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and oatmeal cookies that my roommates went absolutely bonkers for

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So far the book hasn’t steered me wrong and those around me are thrilled at the prospect of delicious baked goods!! It’s a great way to cope until my next trip to NYC.

And I still want to make donuts someday soon. I just need to find an inexpensive donut pan.

Have you been to Babycakes? Do you have any favourite baking recipes?

Belmonte Raw aka My New Love

A few months ago I heard that there was going to be a new raw food place opening up in my neighborhood and I got pretty excited. Last weekend when I had brunch with Lisa and Carol that anticipation started to build as Carol told us more about the restaurant and then it grew even more so when I saw the Twitter updates of the doors being open.

On Saturday I finally got to visit and was blown away.

Belmonte Raw is everything that I hoped it would be and more, especially since it’s down the street from my house in the heart of Leslieville at 1022 Queen St E. The decor is simple and pretty and our server was positively delightful. The dine-in menu consists of mains that will rotate each week along with 2 daily salads plus an assortment of juices, smoothies and desserts with a commitment to local and organic produce.

I met up with Dani and Lisa by chance when I arrived, and both had opinions on what I should order. My meal got off to a lovely start with a Happiness juice

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which was an amazing mix of grapes, grapefruit and pear. It was all kinds of awesome. For my main, I opted for the burrito

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It was unbelievably good. A collard wrap with jicama, tomato, veggies and a nut-based taco filling served with dehydrated tortilla chips and 3 dips. The cheezy sauce that came with the chips was out of this world. Why bother eating cheese when you can have sauces that are cashew based and taste just as rich and creamy with so much depth of flavor?! The wrap was amazing too.

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I find that sometimes raw food can be way too heavy when it relies heavily on nuts and seeds to make it good. Belmonte Raw has found a great balance between food that is delicious, nutritious and going to keep you full. At the end I found myself dipping the collard wrap in the cheezy sauce because it was just that good.

Dani and Lisa told me that I had to try the chocolate, and who was I to argue?DSCN0651

It was like the best Reese Peanut Butter cup ever without the crap they put in Reese Peanut Butter cups, because it was entirely raw. I loved every single bite.

My meal was the perfect fuel for my crazy Saturday (pictures and video from the Ashleyx2 cabaret to come!) and I even grabbed a beet salad to take with me for later. I didn’t end up eating it for dinner, but the next day, and it was delicious as well.

I told Carol that I’m vying for her best customer award since it’s right down the street and an amazing option for healthy, scrumptious, take away food close to home.

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Found this great reminder to “live what you love” in the rest room and took that message to heart as I headed to my show!

Belmonte Raw, it’s official: we’re in love and there’s no turning back!

Guess What I’m Having For Breakfast Tomorrow…

Canadian vegans rejoice…

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Found coconut milk yogurt at the Big Carrot tonight!! Hopefully they’ll be quick in bringing the Greek style one too.

Seriously way too excited about this…

Something Rawlicious to Get Me Through a Crazy Week

I’ve sorta failed on the Vegan Mofo front this week… but it’s been non-stop rehearsals and a million things going on. Next week I will be better and I promise some SWEET content with NYC details and an ode to a bakery that I lurve. Promise.

One thing I did do this week was stop at Rawlicious before rehearsal on Monday and enjoy their seasonal menu whilst sitting at my favourite solo window seat in the Yorkville location

DSCN0641Holy jeeze yum. Stuffing and cranberries in a green wrap with side salad was the perfect mix of savory and sweet. Who says that raw food can’t be warming??

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Ended the meal with raw vanilla cardamom ice cream. It was divine. So divine, the full bowl pic didn’t even make it into my twitter stream

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They got the empty bowl while I was proofing the Ashleyx2 program for tomorrow’s cabaret! I hope to see you there! If not, we’ve got a videographer coming and will be posting lots of content from the show on youtube. Exciting!!

Just Your Average Saturday

Saturday was a crazy day a normal day in my life:

7-12:30 Weight Watchers

We had 3 awesome meetings and talked about Thanksgiving victories and learnings, setting your kitchen up for success and my awesome new (totally vegan) shoes. I think my meetings have a fashion show component to them sometimes…

12:45 – 2 Brunch with two awesome gals at Fresh

Was so happy to meet up with Lisa and Carol for brunch at Fresh. Carol got there early and managed to score us a table, which was amazing because brunch there is INSANE! The two of us started off with almond java smoothiesDSCN0623

It was oh-so-delicious and a perfect start to the meal!! I knew it was going to be a crazy day and I was kind of starving, so I opted for the pancake platter DSCN0624

Blueberry almond pancake, scrambled tofu and tempeh bacon made for a whole lot of deliciousness!! The scrambled tofu isn’t my favourite at Fresh, but the tempeh bacon and pancakes are pretty incredible. The gals and I had a great catch up, and Lisa and I expressed our excitement for Belmonte Raw’s restaurant/takeaway opening in Leslieville very very soon! It was the perfect brunch with amazing company and wonderful food.

2:30 – 5:30 Ashleyx2 rehearsal

Our show is just around the corner and we couldn’t be happier! We have a great set list and can’t wait to share our songs with an audience. Be sure to check out our latest promo video. We also just solidified that we’ll be having our after party at The Central which will be a lot of fun! Join us on Saturday!

6:30 onward Party errands, preparation and party…

We had a little party at our house in honour of Thanksgiving and Halloween. I wore this:

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And talked in a Minnesota accent all night, proclaiming my desire for world peace. It was all very Drop Dead Gorgeous and very very fun.

How was your weekend?

A New Musical Vegan Friend And Goodies From Louisiana

Back in September I caught a tweet from Lindsay at Cook Vegan Lover promoting her third annual care package swap. I jumped on board and a little while later received an email with details on my partner.

I was really excited when I checked Tanya’s blog and started to exchange messages with her learning that she was also a musician with a strong appreciation for kale! It was a lot of fun gathering goodies for her with a focus on vegan items that were from Canada. I sent her care package off, so you’ll have to wait and check out her blog to see what I got her! I was giddy when I arrived home to a giant box on Tuesday and then opened it up to find all of this:

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Lots of raw treats, some Louisiana goodness including swamp water tea and hot sauce, Tanya’s cd and an adorable music themed apron!! It was like vegan Christmas!

Thank you so much to Lindsay for organizing and Tanya for sending such a thoughtful bunch of goodies! I’m so excited to enjoy all of my treats. I love how many amazing vegans and friends the blog and twitter world have brought into my life!

Eating in the Eaton Centre Just Got A Lot Easier For Us Vegan Types…

I was really curious to see what the Eaton Centre would do with the sketchy foodcourt at the North end when they said they were renovating. Torontonians were promised the “urban eatery” with 900+ seats and sustainable practices including reusable dinnerware, glasses and cutlery.

I was even more excited when I heard that they were adding an Urban Herbivore. This meant that vegans had a great option right in the midst of the KFC, McDonalds and other random food court picks

I’ve now gone a couple times and I have had amazing service on both occasions. DSCN0527

I checked it out with the lovely Steph Belding (whose appearance in 50/50 I just saw on the weekend!! So awesome to see a familiar face in such a great film) around mid-September. Steph opted for the soup and I grabbed a curry bowl. We both enjoyed our meals and appreciated the reusable bowls (especially once we figured out where to put them once we were done!)

I went again last week with the lovely Lindsay for a lunch date and opted for a make your own bowl concoction. DSCN0596My bowl included brown rice, artichokes, tofu, snow peas, beets, cucumber salad and avocado. Our server was really great about letting me know what was gluten free vs. not (something I had asked less about the first time I had gone) and I found the bowl to be super filling and delicious! As Lindsay said, while all the components would be easy to make on their own, we generally wouldn’t make 6 different veg dishes to put on rice/quinoa, so it was brilliant to have so much variety all in one place.

DSCN0597All together now…

I love having such an easy vegan option right in the heart of the food court. I’m in the Eaton Centre at least once a week (for my Wednesday night Weight Watchers class) so it’s amazing to know that it’s there when I’m in a rush or just hungry! I’ve also found the staff to be more friendly than the location in Kensington and the portions to be more generous (that may change over time…) The price of a bowl is roughly $10 and they’ve also got juices, desserts and a soup of the day.

The new Urban Eatery also has a gelato place, complete with dairy-free gelato options. I chose peach-mango and pineapple

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While it’s no SOMA or Ed’s, it was pretty delicious and a perfect treat for a Friday afternoon. I’m pleased with the changes to the food court (although apparently we’re not supposed to be calling it that?) and happy to have such a great, local, vegan option.

Vegans – what do you do when you’re forced to eat in a mall food court?

There’s No Denying It…

There’s just something about Ashley…

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Thank you to the amazing Rich Burdett for the photos and our fabulous make up artist Claire McClelland for making us look so pretty. Our press release went out today and our show is less than 2 weeks away!

There's Just Something About Ashley Oct 22, 2011

There’s Just Something About Ashley
Saturday October 22, 2011
7:30pm

Annex Theatre
730 Bathurst St
Doors at 7pm

We’d love to have you there, and we’d also love for you to take a minute to ‘like’ our Ashleyx2 facebook page where you can stay up to date with everything we’re doing!

It’s so much fun to be an Ashley…