I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Casa Loma this past March. I had had everyone from friends to patients at the clinic I work at recommending it, but for some reason in my mind I was terrified that it was going to be a super hokey tourist attraction, essentially just a large house decorated and marketed as a castle. I went in totally blind, having no familiarity with the history of Casa Loma or its first owner, Sir Henry Pellatt.
Fortunately, I was wrong and I was not disappointed by the experience! Though the castle is not technically finished (portions of the basement including the pool were never quite completed), it still is indeed a castle, a smaller but still regal version of the castles I saw while touring Europe as a teenager. The original owner and creative mind behind Casa Loma was Sir Henry Pellatt, a man with a number of skills and talents. Heavily involved in the military and local commerce, Pellatt was also a one-mile race record-breaking star and millionaire.
In 1911 Sir Pellatt hired architect E.J. Lennox to help him design his Hill House, his Casa Loma, in Toronto, Ontario. It took roughly three years and $3.5 million dollars to build this grand 64,700 square foot house. According to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, that would be about $78.5 million dollars today!
Unfortunately Sir Pellatt and his beloved Lady Pellatt only had the privilege of residing in Casa Loma for a decade or so. Soon enough they experienced great financial distress from the war and from the incredible expense of simply building, heating, staffing, and maintaining such a lavish property, and had to leave Casa Loma in 1924. After this, the property was briefly turned into the snazzy Casa Loma Hotel during the years of 1926-1929. This too was short-lived, and during the Great Depression possession of Casa Loma ended up in the hands of the City of Toronto, and is still owned by the city to this day. The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto took over the site and turned it into a tourist attraction open to the public, and continued to run the attraction until 2011 when the Casa Loma Corporation was formed. While the story of Sir Pellatt and Lady Pellatt is quite tragic, I do find it wonderful that such a lovely building and piece of history is accessible now to thousands of people, rather than kept private as a home for only 2-3 people.
It is incredibly hard to pick a favourite room or aspect of this expansive property, but the conservatory is definitely in my top three. The beautiful stain glass windows, the natural light, and shining tile made me feel as if I was in a church, but less stuffy. It’s easy to daydream about high tea or sprawling out for a few hours with a good book in this warm, bright lit space. Also, if you’re into fancy bathrooms, the bathrooms just outside the conservatory down a side hallway are absolutely gorgeous. Each stall has its own sink and hand dryer, and there are two massive floor to ceiling mirrors that are perfect for a quick selfie or makeup touchup before you continue on with your tour.
As you exit the conservatory and make your way into the library space with dining room and concert alcoves, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the space. The square footage of the library alone is probably 10 times the size of my house! The deep wooden shelving and rich, warm flooring is contrasted marvellously by the intricate cream ceiling. I imagine there would have been more furniture in this space when it was lived in, but nowadays your voice will carry all the way across and echo, easily.
Forgive the poor quality of my camera phone photos, they don’t do the space justice! Sir Pellatt’s study was a dream as it had a hidden secret staircase leading downstairs to his vault. Apparently there are three hidden passageways in Casa Loma, with one yet to be found. Whether or not that is true, is hard to say. I can only speculate that after all of these years if there is one that has yet to be found, it’s either been sealed off and plastered up well, or else has become so damaged that no one has found it. If I worked there it would take all of my willpower not to scour the castle, tapping on walls, in an attempt to find it.
In the basement you have access to a tunnel that takes you quite aways underground to the garage, stables, and plant nursery. Definitely drafty in the winter though, so dress accordingly! I was kind of wandering aimlessly for most of my visit, but if you’ve got a bit of a time crunch or want to see Casa Loma in a more methodical way, I recommend starting from the bottom up. In the basement is the cafe, the gift shop, the movie screening room (the unfinished pool), and washrooms. If you’d like the audio tour recording for your visit, pop by the gift shop first to pick up a headset. I preferred just to read the signs that interested me and wander at my own whimsy, but it was nice to watch the quick 30 minute history video in the unfinished pool first. Since I knew nothing before my visit, it gave me the historical backdrop and helped me figure out the areas I knew I’d want to spend more time in. Had I skipped the video, I probably wouldn’t have figured out that there was a tunnel and would have missed the nursery, which was one of my favourite parts of the experience.
The second floor of the castle hosts all of the bedroom suites, each one more lavish and over-the-top than the last. I’m talking bathrooms bigger than most public school classrooms. Sir Pellatt and Lady Pellatt each had their own respective suites, with Lady Pellatt’s being the largest. There was also a suite specifically designed for the royal family should they have ever chosen to visit, as well as another guest suite. Throughout these of course were hidden servant stair wells to take Casa Loma staff amongst the levels and to their own, much humbler, sleeping quarters.
Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes and have scheduled a solid 2-4 hours out of your day if you want to thoroughly see everything! I know it may seem tempting to wear some cute heeled shoes, especially if you are set on taking some nice touristy photos of yourself and your travelling partners, but it is not worth it. If you do the tunnel and go through each floor and each room, you’ll have walked at least a few kilometres by the end of your visit. Comfortable footwear is handy as well if you’d like to hike up the number of staircases to the two open towers at Casa Loma.
I went on a Monday afternoon early in March, so I was lucky in that the castle overall wasn’t very busy. However, during busier times I could see there being a bit of a wait to see the towers as the staircases are only large enough for one person to go up or down at a time, and even then it’s tight. If you’re patient though, it is worth the wait. It was still a bit chilly in early March so I didn’t linger at the top of the towers, but it was great to pop my head out and see the skyline view of Toronto from atop the hill.
My only regret about visiting during the winter is that the gardens were covered in snow! I imagine they would be quite lovely to see during the summer. Even without the gardens though, I would say that this attraction was well worth the $30 CAD entrance fee. I think that there’s a little bit for everyone, whether you’re interested in antique cars, architecture, antique organs, interior design, or Canadian history overall. If you’re a film buff you may recognize Casa Loma as the setting for a number of famous movies. They’ve also added in a number of different Casa Loma escape rooms that you can experience after hours, which I think would be spooky and thrilling, particularly the escape room located in one of the towers. If you’re in Toronto and have never been, it’s definitely something I would recommend. I’ve been to Toronto annually for the past 4 years and have done the majority of the recommended downtown tourist attractions, but this is my favourite so far!
This is something I’ve been thinking about since I decided to do a “no buy” year back in December 2018, and then thinking about why losing VIB Rouge status is even important to me. Serein Wu recently posted a video touching on this and I share many of the same feelings.
Presently as I write this on April 8, 2019, a little more than 4 months into my 13-month no buy year, I would need to spend $940 at Sephora before taxes by the end of 2019 to reach VIB Rouge Status for 2020. I’ve only spent $60 at Sephora since December 2018, averaging out to about $15 per month. If I continue along similarly with this spending average, there is no way I will reach VIB Rouge Status again by 2020. Even if I were to quit buying replacement products from the clinic I work at or the drugstore, I would still have to spend a little over $100 a month at Sephora to reach status again.
I think I first entered a Sephora about 4 years ago or so, back when I was but an infant mystified by the world of makeup and skincare. My friends were super into Sephora, but we didn’t have one in my university city yet. However, one opened up not too much later, and I gradually began shopping there more and more. At first I had zero disposable income during my first year of university, but gradually I picked up part-time work while in school, which fuelled the shopping.
At one such part-time job at a spa in my hometown, I worked with a number of reception staff who were trained as makeup artists and collected makeup, and this rubbed off on me. At this point in time I thought it was wild and unfathomable that I somehow made VIB status, and couldn’t believe that these ladies regularly made VIB Rouge status. I was a little envious not only of their makeup skills, but their luxury makeup collections as well.
As I found myself working more, school getting more difficult, and my mental health declining, I spent more and more. I became a little obsessed with the cycle of new releases, and was the person who would stay up late just to get a new palette as soon as it launched on Sephora. At this point, I had definitely more than made VIB Rouge status, and maintained this status for 3 years.
Sephora has done this really great job of marketing their rewards program and making it seem far more luxurious and important than it actually is. Even the language they choose to use amplifies the want to reach each tier of the program. Rather than using “VIB level” or “VIB tier”, they use “VIB status”, alluding to high social standing. They stagger their “perks”, saving benefits like free standard shipping and VIB Rouge event access for Rouges only.
All of these perks make a person feel special and privileged at first, but when it comes down to it these perks are not really a worthy award for the amount of money you are spending, and their only use is to aid in the shopping process. The tiny sample sizes are often too small to even be considered a proper travel-size, and only wet your lips to encourage you to buy other high-end products. The savings you receive are minimal, and the events are entirely shopping and sale based. Why did it make sense to spend $1000 on makeup, before taxes, in a year just to receive free shipping and tiny samples? I very rarely place a makeup order under $50, so by default I’m getting free shipping regardless of my Rouge status. While I love samples and travel sizes as much as the next person and find them to be quite handy at times, they often just end up sitting in my bathroom drawer unused until they expire.
After mulling over these points and Serein’s video, I realized that being sad about losing a fake status was something I didn’t need to waste my time with. In fact, losing VIB Rouge status or VIB status would actually be an accomplishment; it would mean that I’m making wiser financial choices and refining and minimizing my beauty collection.
E M P T I E S
I recently finished the @essencemakeup Superlast 24 H Eyebrow Pomade Pencil (Waterproof) and their Make Me Brow Gel Mascara in Soft Browny Brows.
I loved both products, and think that overall as a brand Essence gives you fairly good quality for your dollar. The Pomade Pencil was like a thin, waxy crayon that could be blended out but also helped hold brow hairs in place and withheld excessive sweating for the most part. The gel mascara was a tad too light for me, and I do have it in the darker shade that is a bit more appropriate for my colouring, but still excellent. Holds brows in place while giving a bit of a tint to make them appear a bit darker and fuller.
If you’re looking for an affordable brow duo, this is my favourite! And apparently everyone else’s favourite, too–I usually have to go to multiple Shoppers or Superstores to find them in stock.
I have become very aware of my moments of weakness, and what triggers the mindless Sephora app browsing for myself. Usually it stems from the idea that “*something has happened* so, I deserve *blank*”. For example, “A patient verbally abused me on the phone at work today, so I deserve a pick-me-up”, “I’ve been doing so great at my no-buy that I deserve a treat”, “It’s my birthday in April, so I deserve a gift”, etc. My default thought process basically goes about self-care and emotion-regulating entirely wrong.
I’ve been trying to rethink these sorts of enabling thoughts. “I work hard so I deserve to be debt-free”, for example. I still mindlessly scroll through the Sephora app, but for shorter periods of time, and I unload my cart more quickly rather than letting these items pile up there for another day. Spending money on things I don’t need or even necessarily want when I know I have debt and upcoming expenses is no longer something I can pretend is okay, and even “window shopping” online isn’t as satisfying as it used to be, which is good! This lowers temptation significantly.
Through all the temptations and tribulations, here is what I actually purchased in March:
Total dollar value of products purchased: $288
What I used up in March:
Total dollar value of products used up: $76
Not my best month, according to the numbers! And definitely not great compared to last year’s numbers. In 2018, on average, I spent $197.83 per month at Sephora. Mind you, this didn’t include work purchases, and I certainly did a fair amount of shopping at work, so the numbers may not be that far off. Still, I would like to get to a point where I am spending significantly less than I did at this time last year, so that I can save significantly more money towards things that actually matter.
Because I am sitting pretty comfy with my makeup and skincare stash right now, I’m going to challenge myself more for the month of April within my no buy. I will buy absolutely nothing for my entire birthday month with my own money. I don’t foresee myself running out of anything, so I will need no replacements.
I had been sick off and on for at least a week when I first starting writing this post, so Ispent a lot of time in bed falling down the Youtube rabbit hole of makeup videos and pet youtuber drama, and it got me thinking about the real life logistics of being a pet youtuber.
I want to differentiate that in this post I’m talking about pet youtube channels, so folks who live in a regular house and have a number of pets that they discuss online, not actual non-profit animal rescue or conservation groups/ranches like Kamp Kenan, etc. I started watching pet youtubers mid way through university, when I owned a betta fish, Scout Finch, and when I first got my Horsfield tortoise, Nugget. I originally came across Taylor Nicole Dean right before her channel really took off, while I was looking for betta fish care advice after receiving some really poor care instructions from my local Petland. From there, I started watching a number of other animal-based channels. At first I didn’t really bat an eyelash at pet youtubers and their exorbitant number of pets, but with the recent spew of videos criticizing popular petubers popping up, it’s made me think more about pet ownership and the logistics of owning as many pets as pet youtubers do. I don’t wish to chastise pet youtubers for their career or hobby choice, but just wanted to share my train of thought with others and see how others feel on this topic.
Time: I cannot fathom the amount of time that it would take on a daily basis to take care of 20-50+ pets. I understand that most Pet Youtubers do this as their full-time jobs, and may have assistants or family members who assist in their animal care. Let’s say that they spend a full 10 hours a day caring for their pets, and that they have 30 animals (based on the channels I’ve seen, 30 seems like a pretty average number, as I’ve seen folks who have anywhere from 15 to 50+ animals). Even if they are spending a full 10 hours a day solely on pet care, that only leaves 20 minutes per pet. Regardless of the type of animals, whether it be fish, reptiles, or mammals, I don’t think this is enough time per animal. Even if a decent portion of that animal count is fish, fish maintenance, especially for exotic saltwater fish, takes a fair amount of time. I presently only have two pets, my cat and my tortoise, but I spend anywhere from 1-3 dedicated hours with them on top of working full time to feed them, bathe them, brush them, play with them, cuddle with them, clean litterboxes and enclosures, etc. Keep in mind too, that this 10 hours just accounts for care, and not for filming or editing, which is very time consuming. The thought of having even 10-20 pets, even if they are mostly observational pets like reptiles and fish, terrifies me to be honest!
Days off: You…just don’t get any days off. Ever. That 10 hour day of animal care? That’s every single day, even weekends, even stat holidays, even when you want to go away on a trip. If you don’t have an assistant, or a very supportive family member or partner who doesn’t work while you’re away, who is going to put in that 8-10 hour work day of care for all of your animals? And does that assistant or family member or whoever properly understand how to care for multiple exotic pets all with varying dietary and environmental needs? Would they know what to do if the power goes off, or if an animal falls ill? You can’t just drop off a fleet of skinks and geckos at a pet hotel either if you don’t have a loved one or neighbour to take care of them when you’re away. If I had that number of pets I would feel as if I couldn’t go away, and I would be incredibly anxious about the wellbeing of my pets if I did go away. Being a pet youtuber in particular is one job you just can’t call in sick for. Even if you’re not filming, you still have to keep your animals alive and cared for.
Unstable work: Though there are a number of youtubers (Shane Dawson, Jenna Marbles, Tati Westbrook, the list goes on!) that have managed to turn Youtube into a lengthy career, as a viewer it seems that Youtube is a risky career field and that there is a certain element of financial instability with working full-time on Youtube. How can you pay for all of those expensive animals if your income is suddenly cut due to a change in an algorithm, fading popularity, and the like?
Emergency: If there is an emergency like a fire or other natural disaster in which you need to evacuate QUICKLY, there is no way you will be able to save or transport the majority of your animals. If you have 30+ animals it would take hours to even remove them from your home. If they are reptiles that have special heat and humidity set ups it would be impossible to recreate each of those environments while travelling or relocating. It would be difficult in general to fit 30+ animals into any vehicle, or even two or three average-sized vehicles.
What are your thoughts on petubers/ Pet Youtubers? I’ve veered away from watching them in recent months, as so many seemed focussed solely on Taylor Nicole Dean’s drama, and it’s very clear that she is going through some difficult things and just needs to figure that out on her own. There’s still the odd non-drama video that piques my interest, though. Who are your favourite petubers, and do you think it is ethical or in the best interests of animals to own that many pets?