Monday, January 30, 2012

las vacaciones

A couple of weeks ago, the boy and I attended a travel expo here in Halifax - we had heard about it from friends and had been thinking about booking a trip down south for March, so we thought we would check it out. We weren't expecting to find a deal, but you never know (that's pretty much my motto in life - I think I say it at least a few times every day)!

Well, it turned out to be a great plan, because we did (unexpectedly) get a great deal and booked a trip to Mexico!! We got our preferred week, preferred area, and preferred star rating - ALL within our preferred budget! How amazing is that? (See? You never know).

So, from March 16th to 23rd we will be enjoying the sun, sand and beautiful culture and history of Mexico at the Occidental Grand Xcaret resort!

To say we are excited is an understatement - we both love to travel, and have done quite a bit of traveling together already, but have never flown anywhere together (and the furthest out of the country we have been together is New England). This trip is particularly special also because the boy is half Mexican (his father - who he has never met - is Mexican) and he lived in Mexico for a few years when he was a kid. It will be neat to visit a place that he has personal ties to.

Bonus: He is fluent in Spanish, so I am slowly learning some words and phrases that I can use while down there (in addition to the few I remember from my University intro Spanish class). My pronunciation is good, but my accent is horrible - we Maritimers and our hard R's are not a good match to the fluidity and softness of the Spanish consonant. Ah well, at least I'm trying, right?

For those of you that follow the news, you may be aware that there have been a lot of instances of violence against tourists in Mexico in the past few years. There is a lot of negative talk surrounding travel to the country because of these incidents, and many people don't understand why we would ever want to go there. Normally I don't feel the need to justify my decisions to anyone else, but the fact that many of the complaints out there are either extremely ignorant (i.e. not based on any actual personal experience or research) and broad-based, frustrates me. So, I just feel the need to address some of this negativity:

- 75% of the violence in Mexico occurs in the Northern states (this is where most of the drug/gang activity is and many of the cities in this area are on travel advisory lists - translation: you are risking your life going there). I would never visit the Northern states for that reason. The area we are going to - Playa del Carmen, which is on the eastern coast and many many miles away from the Northern region - is one of the safest areas in the whole country. I have a friend who backpacked with her boyfriend in this region for 3 weeks and never had any problems.

- The onus for personal safety is just that: personal. It falls to each and every traveler to "travel smart" - and that goes for EVERY location you travel. When traveling in a foreign place you should never do things like: visit remote areas at night or alone (don't wander anywhere alone or at night, more to that), get involved in confrontations, accept rides from people you don't know, or walk around carrying lots of cash or wearing expensive jewelry or clothing. I'm sorry but if you do any of these things, you are basically asking to be robbed or attacked. I'm not saying that anyone who has been robbed or attacked deserves for that to happen (that is OF COURSE not true); I'm just saying that we each have a responsibility to be safe and smart when we travel and if you choose not to do this, you are putting yourself at risk.

- Further to the above point, the onus is also on the traveler to educate themselves about where they are going. DO YOUR RESEARCH before visiting a place - I really can't stress that point enough. Read reviews and news online both about the region you are visiting, and the specific hotels and sites and if there are consistent warnings about a particular place, don't go there.

**Even if you prepare, is there still a possibility that something may happen to you? Of course. But the possibility of something bad happening exists everywhere at every moment of the day - the point is, how LIKELY is it to happen? Most things are possible, but this doesn't mean they are probable. You can't completely eliminate the possibility of anything happening, but the more you prepare yourself and the more safety precautions you take, the lower your chances of getting into trouble.

- It isn't fair to paint one entire country with a bad brush because of the issues caused by a few - the boy and I have seen comments all over the internet talking about how Mexico is a dirty, disgusting place that should be bombed, etc, and these kind of comments are completely unwarranted. Mexico may have its problems, but so does every country. And I'm not saying that there are not places in Mexico that are in dire need of a "clean-up", but for every area like this there is a beautiful place that is a perfect tourist destination. Any Mexican people I have met are completely lovely, and I am sure many of them are not happy about or proud of the negative incidents occurring in their own backyard. Most of them are honest people, just trying to make a living - like you and me - and this can be said about any country. 

I try not to get too "ranty" on this blog very often, but if it's one thing I can't stand it's ignorance. I can respect comments based on research or first-hand experience, but not those based on only rumour or gossip. I am very sorry that there are people that have had bad experiences traveling in Mexico, and I hope that they find peace and compensation from their experiences. But I am also very sorry that the negative press seems to be the main and constant focus within dialogues about the country (and many other countries). There is so much wonderfully vibrant history and culture there so it pains me to see such a fixation on its flaws.

I just hope that they can find a way to fix the problems that they have and make the entire country safe again - for everyone. In the meantime, I will gladly visit (albeit only certain areas) and encourage others to do so. 

Viva las vacaciones!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

getting hairy

I am very moody when it comes to my hair (ok, so perhaps I am moody in general, but that's another blog post). I find I keep a style for a few months, then I get sick of it and want to change it up. I used to change up the colour a lot more too, until I decided I didn't want to fry my hair anymore. For the past couple of years I have been different variations on red/auburn - I know, I know, still damaging but not as "frying" as blond, which I sported for almost all of high school and University (and I did go a couple of years completely natural with NO dying whatsoever).

I seem to be satisfied long-term with the colour now, but I still yo-yo all the time with the cut. Just in the past year I have had it long and layered, an asymmetrical bob (both with a long side-bang), and now I have a basic shoulder-length cut with blunt bangs. I liked the asymmetrical shorter cut, but after a couple of months I longed for...well, long. I so missed being able to put my hair in fun, different styles like braids and buns. The short cut barely allowed me to pull my hair back at all. All in all, it was a fun change but my heart truly belongs to long hair.

So, I'm yet again in the position where I am growing it out - is it just me, or does hair seem to take FOREVER to grow out when you are itching for it to be long?? We are going to Mexico in March (oh yeah, baby) and I want my hair to be long enough by then to try out some fun new styles!

It's (slowly) getting there - it's actually long enough to pull back now, but not as long as I'd like - but until it gets to where I want it, I'll at least have the dream of length and versatility. I can always look up photos of styles (such as the ones below) and dream of the day when I can try them out on my own long locks.

What about you - do you wear your hair short or long? Are you satisfied with your current look or are you itching to change it up?

(Need some hair inspiration? Check out Pinterest. That's where I found all these photos, and let me tell ya' - it was tough to narrow it down to a few, there are so many beautiful ones!)

Love that this looks sort of messy and undone, but still pretty. And I love the headband - really into the headband look right now, and looking forward to a time when I can wear them in a cool, thrown-on way like this.
Great wedding hairstyle (maybe not so much for everyday - but a variation on this would still be good for the office)
Pretty sure I could never pull this style off, no matter how long my hair gets, but hey - we are talking about daydreaming here!
Coolest thing ever? I think so!

Monday, January 16, 2012

golden year

Ok, so I realize everyone and their dog (AND their grandma, I'm sure) is posting about the Golden Globes today and I'm not normally a bandwagon-jumper, but I can't help it - it's so easy to get sucked in by the glamour of it all.

It was fun to live-tweet the red carpet arrivals and to read everyone's real-time reactions to the outfits - fashion is SO polarizing! For example, I sort of liked Sarah Michelle Gellar's dress (I'm a sucker for an artistic print, although I could do without the duvet pouf at the thigh/hip), but it seems like everyone else on the interwebs hated it.

Anyway, instead of going on and on about what I liked and disliked about each look, I figured it made more sense to narrow it down to my Top 3:

#1 Emma Stone in Lanvin - I love the colours of this dress, the slight military influence with the jeweled epaulettes and eagle belt, and the breezy bottom.

#2 Charlize Theron in Dior -  What I really loved about her look was the styling - I love her 20's style hair-do and sparkly headband, as well as the simple shoes and clutch. The plunging neckline and high leg slit keep the giant thigh-bow from overwhelming her.

#3 Diana Agron in Giles Deacon - I LOVE the colour of this dress (even though she matches the carpet) and the top of laser-cut swans is beautiful. I can't imagine how many hours it took to make this top! I think her red lip and simple hair really go well with the dress. 

Honorable mentions go to Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon who both looked smokin' (I seriously said "Damn!!" about both when they walked out on the red carpet - you can ask my cat, she was there). I would give supporting nods (see what I did there?) to Julianne Moore's divine green earrings, Heidi Klum's turquoise necklace, and Tilda Swinton's icy blond fauxhawk (she has such an amazing look - very patrician yet alien at the same time).

And I know people hate on Ricky Gervais (my mom wouldn't watch the show specifically because she didn't want to see him) but I thought he was funny! I can see why you would either love or hate his sense of humour because it is a bit weird, but personally I love that he makes fun of all the celebs (you can read for yourself here). However, you could tell that the HFP Assoc reigned him in as much as they could this year because you barely saw him after his opening monologue! At one point I was willing him to appear and tell more jokes because I was so bored. 

I would say I probably watch more for the fashion than the actual awards, but I was really excited to see The Artist pick up three trophies - I saw that last month and it was one of my favourites all year. It's completely charming and so refreshingly different than anything in the theatres nowadays that it was a pleasure to watch. If nothing else, you should go to see the adorable and intelligent little dog (named Uggie) that plays a supporting role. 

Ummm HELLO?! Behold the cuteness
 Another win I was excited about was Octavia Spencer for The Help - I absolutely loved this book AND the movie (which almost never happens) and a bit part of the reason for that was her character. She was just wonderful, so this award was well-deserved.

Fav acceptance speeches include Christopher Plummer (I love him so much, and love that he's still making wonderful movies into his late 80's! He paid his wife - who is gorgeous btw - a beautiful compliment), Michelle Williams (who seems like such a sweetheart, albeit very timid), and the producer (I think?) of The Artist who told a story of a man who won an Oscar for a short film in the 60's but was not able to afford a ticket to the ceremony to accept it - turns out he was talking about his father, who is no longer with us (tear-jerker!).

Ok, ok so award shows can be incredibly over-the-top, long and boring, and narcissistic but it's kind of fun to escape into a glamorous netherworld of beautiful people for a few hours once in a while.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have like a MILLION shows and movies to catch up on before the Oscars (I thought I was pretty up to date but I realized last night I have yet to see many of the main noms! Thank goodness for movie passes!).

What did you think of the show? Do you have a favourite dress or moment?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

wise americans

Have you heard of The Legacy Project?

 It was a study started in 2004 by Karl Pillemer, a professor of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and aimed to collect practical life advice from America's elders. Basically the research team posed the question “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?” and received 1,500 responses. The compiled responses can be browsed on the website and have also been compiled in a book, "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans".

The advice is split into categories, and the results are fascinating - mostly in their simplicity. The seniors who were interviewed didn't say that amassing a ton of wealth and owning lots of expensive designer clothes was the key to happiness. They said things like the following gems:

Surround yourself with people you love. It’s nice to have money and be able to live well, but loved ones are more important than possessions. (Malinda, 72)

Love life! Yes, just being alive to experience the joy, exultation, love of one’s wife/husband, the satisfaction of succeeding in a task set before you, the challenges you face and overcome, the social intercourse of friends and their imparting of knowledge you could never otherwise know. The wealth of memories. (Harry, 81)

Don’t give into every ache and pain and be thankful for every day that you have on this earth, and enjoy your family. You can’t change anything by thinking about it. Whatever is going to be is going to be, and your worrying and concerning yourself is not going to change it one little bit. (Frank, 88)

See a theme here? The same points come up throughout the results - enjoy life, slow down, appreciate the people who love you, do nice things for other people, don't waste your time on things and people you don't love, never give up, it's the time that counts, avoid regrets...

Most of the advice is related to things we know we should do but have trouble actually doing. Perhaps as we are going through life and making decisions, we should think about how we hope to be when we're a senior (if we aren't one already). When you are 80 years old and you look back on your life, what do you hope to be able to say about it, what do you hope to see? You want to look back and be proud of the life you lived right?

That's it, I have a new life philosophy - live your life so that when you're 80 you can look back and be proud...or something less awkward. You catch my drift?

Or you could always read this post by a palliative care nurse about the main regrets that people had on their deathbeds. Food for thought about what is really important in life in the end (hint: it's not that new Louis Vuitton purse).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I remember having a stuffed monkey that I used to carry around with me when I was a kid. I called him Curious George (ya know, 'cause they are both monkeys). He looked kind of like this:


I think it's safe to say that all of us have had a toy like that - one that was attached to your hip and gave you a lot of comfort. But we all eventually grow out of that toy playing business (and start carrying around things like purses and smartphones to give us comfort instead).

But what if you could get back in touch with that feeling you used to get from your stuffed animals and practice your DIY skills at the same time? Well, nostalgic Haligonians such as myself now can thanks to The Monkey Show.


No word of a lie - this is a "Make Your Own Sock Monkey" studio! It's basically "Build a Bear" but for monkeys (wait, I mean FOR people...WITH monkeys. Yes, that makes more sense). This idea is simultaneously so genius and creative yet kooky that I can't help but love it. You can drop in, pick out your monkey kit, have a seat and start sewing! You can even pick out accessories for your new buddy and give it its own special personality and style.

All ages are welcome and you can book a "make a sock monkey" party including a kit for each person, a party "host" to instruct everyone, and added extras if you want them (monkey clothes! loot bags!). Am I wrong, or is this like the funnest idea for a birthday party EVER?! One of my best friends' bdays is at the end of the month and I actually suggested this to her as a way to celebrate. She's turning 27 (see? never too old).

Here's to super-creative and unique small businesses that keep us in touch with our inner child! Get your ticket to The Monkey Show today! (or at least check out their website - it's SO cute - do me a favour: go to the homepage and scroll down to the bottom - you may make a new friend. An orange and white stripey one. I already have one). 

The Monkey Show
1569 Dresden Row
Halifax, Nova Scotia
(902) 407-4788

Monday, January 9, 2012

damn fine

I was lied to. Or, I should say I was never given the whole story.

Everything I was told, or that I read/heard, in high school basically implied that if I got a University degree that I would be all set. I would graduate, get a job and that would be that. They never told me that so much rides on your first job out of school. They never told me that sometimes that first job that you think is going to set you for life ends up being...well, nothing like you expected. They never told me that sometimes your first job out of school can also be the first job you are let go from and that you can be unemployed for the first time a month into living in your first apartment (and having, you know, actual BILLS to pay).

But this all happened to me (needless to say I would have appreciated a head's up as to the possibility). This experience set off a sequence of events that resulted in finding myself inching closer and closer to 30 while spending my working life jumping between temporary secretary jobs where I am not appreciated and that don't really suit me (setting: present day). Soul-sucking corporate jobs with lots of forms, regulations and people blaming you for things that are out of your hands. Jobs that make you long for 4:30 and give you permanent neck and shoulder pain and tension.

And in between all of this, a job search that is pretty soul-sucking in its own right. A search that after a while appears futile and makes you wonder if you have anything of value to offer, if there was any point in getting that degree after all, and why is it so many of your peers seem to be "getting it right" while you are getting it so...wrong.

Not exactly the rosy image I had in my high-school head about my future.

The one blessing from my unexpected career woes? Realizing what I really love and am really good at. Had I never been forced to do so much self-examination and career research, I may have never realized where my true passion lies and the number of opportunities available within that niche for someone who is willing to reach out and grab them. I am not sure I would have ever looked at a skill that lurked there the entire time - my entire life, to be exact - in my peripheral vision as a potential career path had I not been forced to think of "outside the box" ways of bringing in income, as well as my purpose in life.

I have always been a writer (even though I hate when people say that, and they say it a lot) but never a confident one. I never thought of myself as a writer nor thought of the skill as a "talent" or as something that made me special. As an extremely quiet and shy kid growing up, it was a struggle for me to even raise my hand in class and give a 10 second answer, let alone admit to myself that I was talented or special in any area.

I just knew I liked doing it. It felt good to have my essay chosen to read at my 6th grade graduation (out of all the essays in my class). I actually liked writing papers in English class (if that's not an indication of uniqueness, I don't know what is). My marks were always highest in English and arts-related classes. In Jr High I started writing a movie screenplay (alas it never got finished, but if it did I imagine it would have starred Rachel McAdams).

It felt good that, even though I was too scared to open my mouth and speak my mind, that I could always get my thoughts and opinions out on paper. Even if I couldn't be one of those confident and articulate people that everyone listened to in person, I could at least be that person through my pen or keyboard.

I have learned and grown so much since then, but writing is still an outlet for me. And now that I realize it can not only be an outlet, but a way to earn a living, I think I love it even more. You see, I am of the mind that things happen for a reason - so, I am starting to think that maybe there is a reason that my career trajectory has not gone as I would have liked or expected. Maybe there's a reason that I am not liking these secretarial jobs (and they don't like me back).

Maybe it's because I am following the wrong path, looking in the wrong places. Perhaps I was far too focused on getting a "regular" job where I'm always working to please others and feed others' souls rather than working to fill up my own. Maybe it's time to shake things up, give up on the whole "regular" existence thing and take a chance on something I love.

I have been working a bit towards writing for work for about a year now, but I feel I would benefit from some guidance and some mentorship. I feel like I am finally pointed in the right general direction, but I need someone to lead me from here. I know I want to write for a living, but I don't quite have the confidence or the full range of skills to jump right in with both feet on my own.

I feel that your writing course would help give me the confidence boost, practical tools, advice and motivation I need to really make a future out of this. It's time to tell myself it's ok to do what THEY never did - go forth, and follow your passion.

This blog post is an entry into The Damn Fine Words Writing Contest.

Friday, January 6, 2012

One day you're in...

I haven't had a chance to catch the first episode of Project Runway All-Stars yet, but I am ridiculously excited to watch it tonight when I get home from work (Friday, I'm in love).

I don't recognize all the returning designers, so I can't speak much for their skills or whether I think they are strong competition or not, but a few of my past favs are back, thankfully.

I think it's safe to say that Mondo Guerra is one of the best-loved contestants in the history of the show - seriously the Internet-love out there for him is amazeballs. He is definitely the one I (and many others) am rooting for to win. (His confession on the runway that he suffers from HIV and the dress he designed represented his comfort with his "positive" status?! SERIOUS TEARS!).

He was totally robbed his season, I'm sorry but he was. Gretchen's designs were nice but (IMHO) they were much more commercial than Mondo's (plus she didn't seem to be nearly as down-to-earth and passionate about winning).

However, Mondo may want to look out for Austin Scarlett - besides being delightfully flamboyant the boy is talented. And I believe he has many years of bridal design experience under his belt (I saw him on Say Yes to the Dress once, I'm pretty sure!). As for the others I recognize, I can only remember small bits about them - Anthony made funny comments, had a delightful Southern accent and made (frankly) some pretty beauty-queen-tastic (aka. tacky) dresses. Kenley had a cool, retro pin-up girl style but as I recall she was vaguely annoying (same with Michael, who I remember as being very whiny). Mila was pretty bitchy and...honestly that's all I remember about her. I recognize Sweet P but don't actually recall what I thought of her designs (forgettable is not good, I'm sorry to tell ya toots).

I'm very excited to follow. I personally thought last season was a bit lackluster so I think the show needs a jolt (I felt similarly about this season of the Amazing Race and think they should also do another All-Stars installment). Please don't let Mondo get "Auf'd"!!

Time to break out the scissors. Because in fashion, as you know, you can be cut at any time. 

On a not-completely-unrelated note - I have a confession to make: one of the things that amuses me the most about Project Runway is Swatch the Dog - he is the resident pooch at Mood Fabrics where the designers do all their shopping. Get it? Swatch? Cutest. Dog. Name. Ever. Oh, and guess what else? He has a blog! Well the store does, but lets not nit-pick...check out The Daily Swatch here (it's a great pick-me-up on a sour day).

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Looking for a unique party/wedding favour idea or a fun personalized gift for a loved one? Why not design your own candy!
 I recently discovered Papabubble New York and besides having a cute, quirky name they also have one of the cutest sites and concepts I have seen. This candy company allows you to order customized candies in various incarnations, amounts, colours and styles. You can choose a cylinder, pillow or stick shape and choose your own colours (text, stripes and interior), your own flavours (including non-traditional ones like lavender, bergomot and guava).

You can even order candy in kooky shapes and forms, like dentures, toothbrushes and animals! Somehow I don't think my mom would be amused if I gifted her a set of candy dentures for her next birthday (I, however, would find it HILARIOUS!). You can also customize your label, include ingredient labels on your order, and their handy order form tells you exactly how much candy it will take to fill various sizes of bags and jars (perfect for ordering event favours).

Six kilos of their simplest design option costs $330 + packaging (which is optional), which seems a bit steep for candy, but considering it's custom-designed and can fill up to a couple hundred small bags (3,000 candies) you are getting a lot for your money. Also, if you are near NYC you can visit their store in-person and save shipping! Yet another reason to live in NYC (as if I needed one)...

I think I found my future wedding favours! Now I just need to actually get engaged (meh, details, schmetails)*
Check out their candy-making kitchen/lab! Source
*for the record, I am in NO RUSH to do this. Quite fine with how things are :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Keeping Up With the NYRs

Found here
New Year's Resolutions (aka NYR's) are overrated. Lets be honest - the ones most of us set for ourselves are so lofty and unrealistic (both in general and in relation to our own lifestyles) that we are basically setting ourselves up to fail. When is the last time you set a NYR and actually stuck to it (for more than a week), let alone actually accomplished it fully? In addition to being unrealistic, most NYR's are fairly broad as well (lose weight, be more patient) so sometimes it's hard to know if you have actually accomplished it or not!

I am certainly speaking for myself here. In the past I have shot myself in the foot by setting major goals for myself in the wake of the post-new-year/holiday push of energy and self-examination many times (remember this WAY long-winded post from last January?*).

I am so over that.

Don't get me wrong, I am not over setting goals for yourself or pushing yourself to be better. I will always be a huge proponent of that. It's important to examine your life on a regular basis and "clean house", i.e. eliminate or improve on the things that are holding you back. However, I will never be a proponent of pressuring yourself by setting expectations that are so high that it's only a matter of time before I throw them out the window and decide that I am lazy and flawed.

I have realized (the hard way) over time that setting manageable goals is the key. Be honest with yourself about your habits, your inclinations, your personality and what you tend to prioritize in life. Only you can know how much you can manage and what will work for your life/what won't so it's time to get real about that. Who cares what Suzie Underpants over there can manage (or can SEEM to manage - KEY!) - what can YOU manage? What works best for YOU?

So, what works for me? Setting a short list of specific, short-term, realistic goals - ones that are not so specific that I feel restricted, but not so broad that I do not have any clue as to where to start. Activities that are focused around jump-starting new habits, that will hopefully (eventually - no timeline) lead to achieving greater goals (rather than going for the greater goal right out of the gate and ending up trampled by it) is what works for me.

With all this in mind, here are some things I am going to work on in coming weeks:

1. Eat smaller portions and replace carbs with protein/vitamins whenever possible
2. Spend one hour per week on a creative or artistic activity 
(non-writing, e.g. painting, drawing, craft)
3. Go on a hike with the boy once per week
4. Continue to work on getting better quality freelance writing work (I realize this is rather broad, but I have various tactics I plan on trying out to help work toward this goal - including some changes to how and what I write on this blog - stay tuned! - don't need to go into more detail here)

That's it. Sure, I have lots of plans for the year, lots of things I would like to accomplish that are bigger and broader, but those are things that I can tackle when the time is right. They are not urgent priorities (and, in fact, I have to wait for some other things to fall into place before tackling them) and can be kept in the back of my mind until they are. The goals that will be at the front of my mind are only the above. If I can more-or-less stick with them for a few months until they become habit, then I will be happy. When that happens, perhaps I will choose five different primary goals to work on. Or maybe I'll take these ones one step further. 

Who knows. I'll see what happens and how I feel. After all, the power is in my hands, not in theirs.

What do you think of NYRs? Did you make any for this year?

*Speaking of which, related to #  above, I am going to work on being more concise this year. No, seriously.