Friday, July 29, 2011

Imaginary Menu

Sorry, but this is going to be quick, my dears—I'm having a busy day! So instead, I'll just share with you the perfect imaginary meal that I'll be eating today. Don't worry, there are recipes for everything, so we can both try them out soon.

via Evil Chef Mom

To start with, these Cheese Fritters with Balsamic Sun-dried Tomato Dipping Sauce sound pretty divine. Just a couple of these, followed by a light Caprese Salad, what do you say?

via Closet Cooking

This Lemon Braised Chicken and Beans with Mint Pesto looks SO good, and SO easy. My mouth is watering in anticipation. Served with some good crusty bread, this would be perfection.

via The Kitchn

For dessert, let's keep it simple. Just some Salted Lavender Honey Shortbread...

via Spache the Spatula

And this Watermelon Granita. It sounds a little time-consuming, but the hard part—opening the freezer to scrape at the frozen bits every half hour—sounds like it would be refreshing anyway, so I don't mind. I can see this easily adapted to suit any fresh fruit you have around—lime and mint granitas anyone?

Hope I didn't get your mouth watering too much!
Which recipes are you just dying to try right now?

Have a lovely long weekend, and I'll see you again on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Roadtrip

The big day has finally arrived. Like I mentioned before, Dan and I will soon be cruising the friendly roads and heading down south to the promised land. I couldn't be more excited, and if I tried to write about anything else I'd just be covering up my true feelings and lying to you all. I don't want to give away all the awesome info, but I want to share the highlights of what we've got planned. 

This is where we're spending our first night, near Cave City, Kentucky.

I don't think I need to explain to anyone how awesomely amazing it will be to sleep in a wigwam. Apparently Cave City has all kinds of weirdo tourist attractions, and many of them, like Wigwam Village, were built in the first half of the 1900s. 

On Saturday night, and totally by chance, we will be in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry seeing this babe: though she'll probably look more like this, Glinda the Good Witch. 

In Memphis we will be going to Graceland, of course, but also Sun Studio, and here:

You can start getting jealous now. Amanda will be holding down the fort until I get home, so have fun!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On My 25th Birthday

– Waking up feels awesome somehow, even though it's the same routine I go through every day. I haven't felt that kid feeling of delirious birthday joy in at least 12 years, but it feels like a day where everything will go my way. The sun's shining, isn't it? The temperature is a normal, tolerable, summer warmth, isn't it? I put on my last pair of clean underwear, a new favourite skirt, tease my hair, wear lipstick. Birthdays are at least half about feeling like the best possible version of yourself, so I indulge in spending longer getting ready. Birthdays are not about getting to work on time.

– Staying on top of my inbox feels like trying to stack dry rice.

– Hey, all these great people are sending me well-wishes! Whoa, I haven't seen that gal in ages! That was so sweet of her. I should plan drinks with her soon. Man, I have the best friends ever.

– Hey, all of these people from my past took the time to wish me a happy birthday on my Facebook wall! I haven't spoken to half of these people since graduation! I never do that for people I haven't spoken to in like, a decade. Wow. They must be better people than I am. Like, more generous, more loving people. Maybe they think back on those times together on the regular, whereas I can barely remember what their face looks like. Ugh, I'm such a dick.

– I feel a special twinge of fondness for my birthday twin, Meghan, followed shortly by guilt about being such a terrible pen pal. I'm sorry, and you're awesome.

– Birthday food choices don't count. Yes, I WILL have cream cheese on my bagel. Yes, I WILL have a burrito for lunch, and I WILL order the saffron rice from the Indian place for dinner even though it's a whole dollar more expensive, thankyouverymuch.

– The Beatles' "Birthday" is always good, but on your actual birthday, it feels fucking magical.

– I should feel older, right? I'm a quarter of a century old now. I guess your birthday is just to mark the end of the year; like, I have already lived my 25th year, and am now entering my 26th. Oh god, there. That did it. Typing "26" is what made me feel old for the first time.

Thank you for making me feel so special today,
and thank you for reading Burgundy Girls.
It really does mean the world to me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Game Changer: Coke Talk

Life a little messy?
Feeling in need of some guidance?
There's no better bitch in the game than Coke Talk.

Dear Coke Talk is blog run by a self-described LA party girl who doles out advice to, well, anyone who asks. The questions run the gamut, from being in a great but passionateless relationship, having your heart broken for the first time, improving your sex life, handling class differences, and just about any old thing that might be causing indecision in your life. She also writes an advice column on The Daily, an iPad-based newspaper, under the name the Coquette.

What I really like about Coke Talk is how straight up she is. She doesn't bother mincing words with people who need to be told off, whether they're a petty thief, an artist with "demons" or stuck in a miserable relationship. She is genuinely helpful to those in need of actual guidance, about the things after school specials don't necessarily prepare you for, like choosing where to move for college, discovering you're bisexual or finding out your dad is cheating on your mom. And she's obviously having a lot of fun, answering random little questions in fun sized advice or recommending her favourite books.

Sure, she's a little brash. Sure, she's a little full of herself. But I honestly think she's earned a right to be—her advice is usually dead-on, and she's acts as the friend we've all needed or wished we could be at some point, telling off our loved ones for hurting themselves or others. She's a commonsense slap in the face, and it's absolutely refreshing. And she knows her limits—she doesn't offer any easy answers, just asks that people get their shit together before they go bringing more harm into the world and their lives. And yes, she loves to toy with the assholes who troll her site, but who hasn't wanted to tell off one of those brats before?

She's a savvy businesswoman too, parlaying her original advice Tumblr into the Daily column, an online boutique and jewelry line, and an intensely loyal fanbase in just about a year and a half of blogging (Molls calls herself a fan).

So yeah, go forth, read some Coke Talk, and maybe it'll help you get your shit straight too. I apologize in  advance for nuking your productivity today.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Girls in Fashion Ads

I am a big fan of both the Rodarte SS 2011 and the Miu Miu FW 2012 collections, and I'm going to go so far as to say that one of the reasons that they stand out for me is the inclusion of young, teen girls in their ads.


honey kennedy

all 3 miu miu pics from cocorosa
Weird, right? Usually I'm all like "That's fucked up. They are children! Put some real women in your ads." I'll admit that, when doing some research for this post, I was shocked to realize that Elle is 13 and Hailee is 15. These girls are young. There are all kinds of issues raised in using teen girls to sell clothes, issues like the kinds of bodies that should be wearing the clothes, and the provocative nature of many of the outfits and ads.

However, I think that in both of these collections the girls are representing the feminine in a way that is relatable to (almost) anyone, and that they are not being overly sexualized. Sure they look older than their ages, but they look more like they're playing dress up (see the second picture of Hailee, lying amongst the sparkly shoes) than being flaunted in an inappropriate way. They aren't super done up in makeup (minus Hailee's red lipstick), and they're not dressed in clothes that are inappropriate or revealing.

While I wouldn't say the looks they are sporting are age-appropriate, they seem to play to the whole idea of fashion as a kind of fantasy. And not this kind of fantasy, but the fantasy of fashion as something more innocent. It makes us think of when we were 13 and 15, when being the muse or the model for a fashion designer would have been a fucking dream (I guess it still would) and these girls are young enough to not have to fully deal with the bullshit industry of being thin enough, hot enough, and not enough. To many of us looking at these ads, being Elle's age again is just as likely as wearing designer shoes or clothes, but it's the innocence and the pure fun of the feeling that is refreshing and really shines through. 

Instead of using young girls in a sexy way to sell clothes, appeal to the male gaze, and generally put them on display, these ads are using young girls to play to women—and I don't think that it's in a negative way. When I see these ads, I don't think "Ahh, to be young again!" because being young sucked. When I was an early teen I had all kinds of issues that these ads just don't incorporate (the worst being permanent sweat stains). Apart from being raised in weirdo families (Elle), being in excellent movies (Hailee), and being fabulously rich, they probably deal with a lot of the stuff we did too. But in these pictures Elle and Hailee are doin' their thing, and looking like they are happy and comfortable with themselves, which is something that every woman struggles with, from the age of like 13 on. These pics are inspiring, and grant us the serenity that comes from remembering that women are awesome, and fostering that in young girls is the smartest thing to do.

Or maybe this is exactly what they wanted me to think. Anyone else have thoughts on these ads?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mehndi Party

In preparation for my cousin’s big fat Indian wedding, I went to a mehndi party last night. If the wedding's going to be anything like last night was, I’m in for a good time—lots of music, dancing, eating, singing and fun. Everyone dances, the men especially. Everyone sings, passing a mic around with a drummer creating the backbeat. Everyone is encouraged to join in, and it’s such a welcoming environment that my (very white) family didn’t feel self-conscious at all about dancing and trying our best to keep up.

The party was fun, but as the best party favour of all, I got this awesome mehndi done. Here’s what the dye looks like on:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


You know when you want something because it's so cool, but then if you had it you'd put it on a shelf and it would collect dust, and you'd look at it sometimes and smile, and when you had friends over they'd all notice it and say "oh, isn't that cool!" and you'd say "yeah, what a great find, right!" and then after a couple moves it wouldn't even make it out of the box, it would just stay packed up as something that you want to own but that isn't worth finding a place for anymore, because it's a doll! and even though it was a good movie it wasn't really a great movie, definitely not your favourite Hitchcock, maybe not even in your top 3, and then when you realize this you are like "hmm, maybe this means I'm growing up.

It's too hot to blog today. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eat It: Chickpea Salad

It's really really hot in Toronto right now. Crazy hot. 30 degrees Celsius by 9 am sort of hot. And I, sadly, am a girl without an air conditioner. Like Laura, I've been trying to find ways to keep cool that don't include living at the movies for the next two months, or setting up camp in my neighbourhood's 24-hour Loblaws.

But you need to cool off, and you need to eat. So you go to Loblaws, but it's too damn hot to cook, so what's a gal to choose? You should choose cold things, that's what. Cold things that you can chop lazily, throw together, mix and done. Bam. Cold goodness that will make sure you don't die as you're melting. Cold goodness that will provide your body with nutrients and fill you up because woman cannot live on popsicles alone (I found this out the hard way).

Monday, July 18, 2011

How To: Stay Cool on Hot Days

I haven't lived with an air conditioner for about four or five years, and until this year I've handled it quite well—the sweat situation was totally under control, same with the smell, and I was only slightly grumpy when I couldn't get a glass of water. This summer something changed for me. Maybe it's the more frequent working at home, maybe it's the lack of AC at work, or just something inside of me, but it's manifested in a complete intolerance for the heat, the humidity, and generally, the sunshine.

I just spent a beautiful weekend in Muskoka sitting by the lake, and got myself mighty burned for it. That burn has been the catalyst for something bigger—this list of ways to stay cool. It will not only help you, but also help me stay positive in my thinking, and not want to move home to my parents' house until October when it cools down.

me, pre burn. sunglasses from whitecrow

1. Get fans going. Place them beside open windows, but keep the curtains mostly drawn on these windows. You want to minimize the sunshine coming in and maximize the outside air being picked up by the fan to circulate around your sauna of an apartment.

2. Drink lots of water. I know it sounds cliche, but that Coke Zero aint gonna help you at all. Get a giant pitcher, fill it with water, and just keep on drinking. Limit your iced coffee and cold beer intake during the day, because though they taste more refreshing, you'll feel worse later. Staying hydrated is really important, so make sure your cat gets enough to drink as well. Don't assume that she is dying from heat just because she has started to sleep on her back in the dark bathroom.

3. Run freezing cold water on the inside of your wrists. This is a tip that I learned from my Grandpa when I was a kid. He told me that because your veins are more or less exposed, it will cool down the blood that travels around your body and cool you down quickly. I don't know enough about science or anatomy to know if he was putting me on, but nevertheless, the trick is really effective.

4. Wear the right clothes. I have been living in this super-thin cotton top that I bought years ago when it was an old lady's nighty (you've got to trust me that it's actually kind of cute). I've tried the not wearing much route, and there is too much sweat and rubbing going on for that to be comfortable for long. Thin cotton and boyshort underwear is usually a good bet.

5. Sit really still. Stop thinking about how hot it is, and look at pictures that your boyfriend took of you and your family up at the farm on Christmas. Remember how it felt to fall in the snow and get your pants all wet and have to walk home with frozen pants. Alternatively, try to embrace the heat but picture yourself in some exotic location, like Puerto Rico. I like to pretend that I'm in Greece again, where the heat was totally bearable because everything else was so beautiful.

cold vs. hot memories

5. Go outside. I know this sounds crazy, but if you can find a patch of grass in the shade and you bring a big hat, a book, and some of the super-important water, you'll cool down. Or take a walk to the nearest grocery store and wander the isles. Either way, put on some cutoffs over those boyshorts.

6. Take the bus. To get to work, the public pool, or your friend's air conditioned apartment building, take the bus. Street cars and subways are really stiflingly hot, but the buses usually are like those Juicy Fruit commercials, like falling backwards into a pool of cold water.

karaoke lyrics

7. Listen to some Stevie Nicks. Preferably The Wild Heart. It is an awesome album for the summer heat. Realize that no matter what you do, your hair is gonna look like hers, and you should just embrace it. Don't bother putting on makeup, it will just melt off. Get some bright lip stain and make your lips and your hair the main focus.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Top 5 Albums of Right Now, At This Moment

How very High Fidelity, you must be thinking.

I like to do this periodically, create a playlist of my favourite albums from right now, and then reflect back on it later. It's interesting to hear, the music that thrills you again like no time has passed, that just sounds good in your ears, or the music you've outgrown, the songs that just remind you of what it feels like to be 18. It's like a diary entry from a former self, and it's revisiting the narratives and emotions that worked for you then.

So, a gift to my future self: my top 5 albums, on July 13, 2011, 11:13 pm, are as follows.

1. Teen Dream – Beach House
I feel like this choice dates me somehow, because it's modern and I think it's just past the point of anyone caring about it, but I'll be damned if this album doesn't still thrill me. Something in the emotion of Victoria Lagrande's voice, its vulnerability, its earthiness grounding the sweetness of the synthentic backgrounds. This lush dream pop feels like emotions feel, rolling over you in tides with crests and lows, and bringing you to a new understanding by the end. And everytime I listen, I hear something different – tonight, it was the little banjo line on "Used To Be" that reminded me of a favourite band of mine growing up, Travis (was anyone else out there a Travis fan? I always feel like such a dork about that).

Choice pick:

2. Death Proof Soundtrack
I've already mentioned this one to you before, but this is just to say, no really, it's the best thing your ears have never heard. Just believe me already.

Choice pick:

3. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
This album makes me feel back in touch with nature. Is that weird? I listen to it, and it feels like I've spent time in the park, around green, growing things, which totally makes a difference to your physical well-being. The lyrics tumble like pebbles in a creek bed, the feeling is easy, soothing and filled with possibility. The lyrics aren't lyrics at all, just rolling words that follow the form, but they have their own logic somehow. Morrison has never sounded so generous, so open and so peaceful. This is my go-to album whenever things need to make sense, whenever my nerves need calming or I'm feeling in awe about the world. I remember Daniel playing it on a car ride when I felt nauseous to make me feel better, and it totally worked. This is powerful, Gravol-type shit.

Choice pick:

(How dreamy is that album cover?)

4. Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
This pick actually comes a bit out of left field for me. Have you ever tried to do it? Pick your favourite Beatles album? I mean, I love them all for such different reasons. Some have such insane standouts alongside the lowest of low (The White Album), some have really wonderfully conceived stretches (Abbey Road),  and if you'd asked me this a year ago, or even a week ago, I'd probably have answered differently. I'll probably answer differently a week from now. But this is July 13, 2011 at 11:31 pm, and I want to say Beatles For Sale. There are some really amazing vocal performances on this album, and overall, it's just a lot of fun. When, like me, you've been unpacking for the past two weeks, it matters to play albums that make you move. And oh man, that the first 5 seconds of 'Mr. Moonlight'? John Lennon's finest vocal performance ever. Seriously:

Boy has pipes.

Choice pick (two for the price of one!):

5. The Sun Sessions – Elvis Presley
This is Elvis at his best, in the first recordings he did for Sun Studios between 1954 and 55. They are just brimming with life, with nerve, with pure talent – this is a guy with music in his bones. I'm so amazed that these are considered some of the first recordings of rock n roll, because they sound so natural, so easy and exciting. Reading Priscilla Presley's memoir Elvis and Me may have shown me a different side of the King, but this is the beginning, before he became the sad, lonely man he would become. Ugh, god, just typing that made me feel sad about it. Nevermind. Just listen to the album – it's the cure for all that ails you.

Choice pick:

What are some of your favourite albums right now?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Converted Carnivore

I should preface this post by letting you all know that I am a meat lover. I will eat any kind of meat, I even covet horse meat (controversially enough), and I think a life without bacon is a life not worth living. During one of my many freelance jobs, I copy edited an article about the Ying Ying Soyfood, a micro, family-owned tofu-producing company just outside the city. I was intrigued, and read a bit more about them on their site. But to be honest, it was the comment left by Robin Banks.
"Their tofu bacon is all kinds of amazing... crispy from the oven it's almost impossible to tell from the real thing (except it doesn't have those nasty fatty bulges)!"
Now I have no problem with bacon's fatty bulges, but the idea of a slightly healthier bacon substitute (and therefore one that I could eat on a more regular basis) got my mouth watering. Since we just moved near Dufferin Grove park, the Thursday farmers' market would be the perfect opportunity to pick up some facon and check out what else they had to offer. Boy, was I surprised.

They have so many delicious kinds of tofu! We couldn't resist, and bought about five different kinds. The Gourmet Tofu they make has six different flavours, and it is all pre-cooked. I especially loved the Curry and Miso flavour, and I'm snacking on the Tomato flavour right now. They have burgers and balls, but the most incredible is the Smokey Tofu Deli-Slices of tofu bacon. They are sliced super thin, and once you fry 'em up I swear you can't tell the difference. We've been putting them in sandwiches, salads, and having them with eggs and toast in the morning (not all on the same day, mind you).

Don't roll your eyes at me, fellow carnivores. You really won't believe it until you've tried it. So just go to Noah's, the Big Carrot, Fiesta Farms, or any farmers' market in the city, and buy a pack. I dare you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Few of My Favourite Things

I'm having one of those days, where I haven't quite woke up five hours after rolling out of bed, and all of my bills are hitting my inbox at the same time, and I'd just really rather hit snooze on this whole adulthood thing. So instead, let's take a look at some things that have been inspiring me of late.


Internet wonder Swiss Miss launched a line of temporary tattoos this week at She paired up with a bunch great designers to offer smart, quirky temporary tattoos at a really great price (only $5 for a two pack, or an introductory offer of $35 for all 15 designs). My favourite is the Tattone colour chip above, but there are all kinds of clever picks.

You're Late

My impeccable taste continues on its quest to make me a brokest bitch on the block. These Acne Pistol Short boots from Gargyle started taunting me this week, all $570 of them. They come in all black or all terracotta versions too, but why on earth would you choose those?

Acne Pistol Short boots from Gargyle

Miss Moss's recent pairings of Escher tessellation designs and recent menswear street style photos was truly inspired. Who says girls have all the fun?

All via Miss Moss

As a lover of all things galactic, I'd like to try these DIY space shoes...

via Goth Reform School

...Or maybe try making a sweater into the final frontier.

via Stockholm Street Style

I love marbled nails so much, and I plan on trying to DIY them this week. Don't worry! I'll document it all the way for you guys. My 14 year old cousin told me about the how-to while we were bonding over nail art last weekend, and then I saw the set below a day or two later, inspired by Stella McCartney's resort collection over at Move Slightly. My cousin is such a trendsetter.

Marbled Nails via Move Slightly

What are you loving this week?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More natural beauty advice

I am a sucker for any beauty advice I read about online, especially for products that you can make yourself and are not full of chemicals. I generally believe that the fewer ingredients beauty products have (and not just beauty products, food too!) the better. I briefly went the whole no shampoo route (I couldn't keep it up, though I was skeptical and didn't give it much of a chance), and I still use my homemade blush and diluted apple-cider vinegar as facial toner. I like knowing that the stuff I slather on my face is not going to do me any harm. I get lots of this advice from a great blog called the Velvet Bird. Vanessa is adorable (and makes me want to get married and have goats and lots of tattoos) and always shares great, natural products that are fun to make and share, and won't break the bank.

homemade blush by velvetbird

Enter my new facial-cleansing system:

You can read here about how it actually works, but basically using good oil combats all the bad built-up oil from the day on your face. I have some pretty serious combination skin, oily in the T-zone and dry everywhere else, and lots of those super cleansers just dry out my skin. Using oil won't make you into a grease-ball, it will make your skin soft and luminous. At least that's what I'm hoping. Hurrah! Clear skin for all!

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Turning Pages

This has been a good summer for reading lists (it sounds like Laura's in a similar boat). For a while there (an embarrassing length of time, really), I was feeling completely uninspired by what I had been reading—books languished half-finished on my nightstand, classics sat dusty on my shelves. I could only manage magazines, albeit the well-written and thoughtful ones (Lula, Oh Comely, The Gentlewoman), but I felt completely blah about the whole ordeal.

It's tough to find a book you connect with deeply, and that usually doesn't happen browsing the bookshelves of Indigo. Most often, they're found in recommendations from good friends, shared in book lists, passed down from family libraries. And lately, I've been finding my reading mojo is back, and I've found it in books that aren't my cultural vegetables—books that are off the beaten track, or purely fun reads, or non-fiction. Here, a selection of the books that have been flying off my nightstand the past month.

Caste Marks: Style and Status in the USA – Paul Fussell
Easily one of the most entertaining and enlightening books I've ever read. Fussell critically eyes the the American class system, dissolving any notions of money as the sole difference between social strata. With chapters focused on how class is represented in dress, housing, cars and culture, certain themes emerge about each level of class—how the lowest of low and the out-of-sight uppers are more alike than any other, or how the middle class is defined by anxiety. And I found the tone of the work deliciously merciless, as Fussell has an incisive, gleeful, decidedly British way with words that dances circles around social cues usually left unsaid. After reading this, I am doubly excited to visit Disneyworld in the fall with my ride-or-die ho (and lender of this book), Gillian.

Bossypants – Tina Fey
This was a fun read, and I blasted through this series of short stories in two days. Fey's background in comedy is evident, her prose filled with quick asides and puns, not all of which succeed on their own but work towards crafting her charming persona. And I found this book REALLY charming—rather than write her idealized story, Fey presents herself flaws and all. I liked that she felt like a real person, a person who does selfish things sometimes, and whose teenage years were too dorky to have sex or take drugs, and who still gets scared in the same fundamental way everyone gets scared: am I good enough? She glazes over all the boring stuff, like having a baby and falling in love, and instead goes for the guts of what has made her so likable over the years—she's a self-depricating geek who loves what she does, and her success story feels like a win for the little guy.

Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters – J.D. Salinger
So I guess I lied about avoiding classics. This slim orange paperback was given to me by my friend Laura Jane, an extra copy of one of her favourite books that she'd been waiting to give to the right person. And I am too grateful that I was deemed worthy—this little novella really shows a true master at work. Finely realized in tightly tuned prose, Salinger wraps you up in Buddy's world, all summer heat and constricted ribs and strange passengers together enroute somewhere. It feels effortless and focused at the same time, and has the heft of a thorough backstory without overexposure. All of the characters feel so real, established in little asides and a very visual sense of telling. And boy, can Salinger turn a phrase, writing lines that tumble enticingly over and over in your brain. I have yet to read the second novella, Seymour: An Introduction, but I found Raise High to be so perfect on its own that I wanted to give it some space to breathe.


On Writing – Stephen King
Wow, I like this guy. I mean, I've never been a huge fan of King's work, but the few novels I've read have always been the best types of thrilling, can't-put-it-down summer reads. But man, On Writing has changed that for me. His memoir on the craft serves as an autobiography and master class on writing well, complete with grammar lesson and his tricks of the trade. His voice is not that of an expert, but of a fan of the written word who is just sharing what's worked for him. He is encouraging, helpful and concise, cutting to the heart of what's bad and what works, and offering seeds of advice for finding your story, characters and audience.

Before all of that though, King writes about his life—his love of B movies, his humble beginnings with his brother's newspaper, his terrible jobs as a broke newlywed, his devotion to his wife. And about his demons, addictions that threatened to tear his family and his writing apart (when he mentioned how he didn't realize he had written The Shining about himself, or that Annie Wilkes was alcohol and drugs, keeping him as her "pet writer", I couldn't help but shiver). King approaches this with no kid gloves and thankfully, only the detail needed to make you feel how tenuous it is—the balance between life and work, and how fear can take root and poison what's good in your life. It's a highly inspiring read from a man at the top of his game, and I strongly urge all you writers (and other creatives) to give it a read.*

What next on my reading list? Well, I've got a copy of The Handmade Marketplace that I think will help with a little project I'm working on, and I've still got Seymour to read. The next two on my library list are Valley of the Dolls and I Don't Mean to be Rude, but..., Simon Cowell's autobiography. And I'd like to start working my way through King's novels, especially The Shining. But really, the best part has been having the pressure off, reading things that inspire me and delight me, and feeling the escapist power of the page again. It's a good feeling, and it's just in time for a long, hot summer.

*May I also recommend you read the edition of On Writing I've posted here, the tenth anniversary edition. It's such a treat to find a book that has been laid out with a comfortable reading experience in mind, and I've found this one to be really great—wide margins, generous line spacing and the perfect size for a purse.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Burning House project

I am obsessed with The Burning House project, which asks people to submit a picture and list of the items that they would save if their house was burning.
"If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question." 
Picking and choosing what you would save in an emergency is faulty and kind of idealized—you would probably just grab your laptop, your cat, and GTFU. But the idea of finding, in the huge amount of crap that we all own, the most important things that you wouldn't want to live without, is very cool. So although the name of this project can be misleading, I love the results. I also love the process I imagine the submitters going through in order to find their most prized possessions.

The strict organization of these photos appeal to me, everything is placed to show itself and complement the other pieces, so now matter how unrelated the objects are they always look like a complete collection. Each object is there for a specific reason, and even more interesting than the pictures are the explanations of what 
the object is, and sometimes they'll include why.

It's also interesting how the age of the submitter can effect the items that they find most important. Justin McClinton, who is 19-years-old, has a picture of his family, a T-shirt his dad used to wear, and some other family heirlooms, while 47-year-old Stefano Meneghetti has a Kraftwerk LP and some breakfast cereal. (No judgments here, I definitely have food that would make my list.)

Similar to this project and equally as loved is the "What's in your bag right now?" blog post that you can see everywhere all the time. Mostly it makes me jealous because those purses are impossibly clean. Amanda and I will be tackling this and doing our own to share with you all very soon.

Check out the site, but be warned—the first time I saw it I lost about an hour of my day. You'll get lost looking through other people's treasures.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eat It: Bacon Fried Rice

Last night, I had planned to go to the grocery store, but my day ran late, we had friends coming by and only about a half hour to make dinner, so I decided to cook with whatever was in my fridge. And boy, am I glad I did.

Please excuse my iPhone pic and extra veggies*

I'd completely forgotten how much I like fried rice. It's the easiest, most versatile dinner imaginable, and it's perfect for using up everything in your fridge. Chop up your last bits of red or green pepper, onion, carrot, zucchini, herbs, tomato, avocado and toss them in. Add a can of drained and rinsed chick peas or black beans. Throw in some frozen peas or corn. Leave out the egg and make it vegan. Add in last night's leftover taco meat, shredded chicken, strips of steak, cubed hamburgers, tofu, whatever! Raid your fridge and cupboards mercilessly and your taste buds will thank you for it.

I had some leftover bacon from brunch on Sunday, so I thought I'd use that up. And, lucky for me, bacon makes everything it touches the most amazing incarnation of its possible self. Onions and eggs cooked in bacon fat? Sign me up.

It makes for great microwaveable leftovers the next day too, and is just enough bacon to be office appropriate. You could even use the leftovers in burritos! Aw man, I'm totally doing that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On Reading

It was only when Dan and I moved that I realized how many books I have and hold dear. Because I was an English student at U of T for about six years, I collected many, many novels and anthologies, the majority of which I sold back or donated after the class was done. But each year there was at least one class that I loved, one class where I totally treasured each piece of literature that we studied, and those books just never seem to leave my shelves. Even before I started university I was building a library; my parents' living room walls are lined with shelves of novels that they've collected over the years, and I can't think of much better than a house full of books (especially if they're colour coded, or alphabetized! Swoon!).

The bad news is that I haven't been able to read for pleasure for about six years now. When you're expected to read for school, and there is always some kind of work to be done, reading what you want to read takes a major back burner—for me it was completely off the stove.


I've been reading like a fiend ever since I finished my last class, and I am desperately trying to remember the mental book list that I've been compiling since 2006. Anytime I need book inspiration I head over to the new, smaller Balfour Books, which has an incredible Can Lit paperback section, with most of the classics going for under $5. That is how I found the Morley Callaghan book That Summer in Paris that I loved so much. And the Margaret Atwood collection of short stories Wilderness Tips, which is so wonderful and haunting that I will read it over and over again.

I have recently started reading Mian Mian's Candy, a book published in 2003 that was banned in China, Mian is being hailed as the country's most promising young writer. It's always interesting, reading novels that have been translated from their original language. It always makes me think about how much work went into keeping the tone and the integrity of what the author was trying to say, and this translation's language fits in perfectly with the overall feeling of the book.

"Saining and I were like a pair of curious cats, but curiosity can kill a cat. Sometimes, in his embrace, I would joke around and pretend to be the kind of girl who would marry him on the spot. Or I might pretend that I was the kind of girl who might run off with someone else at the drop of a hat. We liked words like elope, which to us suggested the road to freedom. But bombs fall on the most beautiful places, and happiness will steal away."

What I like most about this book is has to do with why it has been banned in China: its honesty about the dependence and easy access to heroin in Shanghai, and the hole-punched records and broken casette tapes that would be the only access to Western music. I'm only about half-way through, but it's a great read, a quick one too.

I am somewhat at a loss for where to go from here. There are too many good books out there, too many amazing authors whose work I want to read in full.

So give me your suggestions: books, authors, time periods, fiction, non-fiction, comics, anything!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Love Letter to My Bicycle

I'm not the most active person. Anyone who knows me, even just as an acquaintance, knows this as fact. I am huffing and puffing by the time I get to my office on the third floor. I have a handful of my favourite delivery places on speed dial, one of which is a block away from my house. I have been known to Skype-chat with friends a 20-minute TTC ride away. Even saying the word 'sports' makes my nose wrinkle involuntarily (oh hey, so does writing it!).

But there was a time, my first summer living in Toronto, when I decided to try being a bit healthier and my first step was to invest in a bike. Nothing fancy, just an old bike I could commute with and save on bus fare. I began trolling Craigslist, and within days, I found him—my red CCM in shining armour.

Because I am frequently impractical on matters of style, my trusty steed is a behemoth steel roadster bicycle from the 70s. He is so monstrously huge that when I called to inquire about the ad, the nice man selling him nervously cleared his throat and asked my height, because this is not a girl's bike. This is a man's bike. I am nearly 6', and I have to swing my leg up higher than my modesty would like to get over this puppy. Not only is he big, he is HEAVY, weighing at least 30 pounds. Or I don't know, heavier. I'm bad at judging weight. Regardless, it's not the most practical bike to drag up and down a porch daily.

However, I knew we were meant to be together, and I took the subway out to Bloor West Village, paid that nice man selling him $180, and rode home on what has been the most terrifying bike ride to date. It had been at least three years since last riding a bike, I had no helmet and had never rode in a city before, and NOTHING prepares you for the hills out by High Park, especially not at rush hour. But we survived, I was undeterred and from that day, a bond was forged.

Goliath + me 4 evah

Monday, July 4, 2011


So things have been busy lately, and although things are smoothing out now, it's certainly taking some getting used to. As you read last week, I moved out of the apartment that Amanda and I shared so we could both live with our boyfriends, something that feels both like "it's about time" and "whoa, this is a big step." Things have been quite lovely in that sense, but moving is a huge pain in the ass, as is the lack of internet, kitchen knives, and floor space that isn't covered in boxes.

The "big move" has been much more difficult than I anticipated, mostly because I think I anticipated a breath of fresh air—total domestic bliss in a place that was totally my own, a seamless transition for everyone, and a new apartment that was perfect in every way. I do love the place, once it's set up it will be really awesome, but there is the reality of noisy neighbours, garbage smells, screens that let in flies, and other qualities of city apartments.

I've been an anxious mess since June 30, mostly because of feelings brought on by the move: a combination of changed living space, finishing school, and generally feeling like I am being forced to grow up when I don't feel very grown up. I was ignoring these feelings until we stepped foot in the new place, which I feel is not yet my own, but a place I have to live up to. I am envying Amanda of her non-move, as staying in our old place takes less adjusting and probably feels like home already.

The back of the apartment, as we were moving in.