Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Culture Central

One of the things I love about my city is the extremely dynamic creative community that we have here - Halifax is just full of artistic people who are always coming up with cool new ideas and putting them out there. And the creative community here really is that - a community. There is a real sense of camaraderie, support and collaboration that is really heartwarming.

I witnessed just such an event on Saturday night - a fashion show for fellow blogger and designer, Mo Handahu. Her line, Clutch Culture, is all about vibrantly printed clutches in various sizes that she makes all herself by hand. I have followed her blog for a while and have always been a fan of her fun, vintage-inspired style, not to mention her humble and sweet personality, so I was excited to see what her offerings for Summer 2012 would be.

The event took place at FRED, which is appropriate considering both FRED the place and Fred the person are major players in the creative scene in Halifax. I almost got whiplash from turning my head every which way to see all the gorgeous outfits in the room! The performances by two singers on acoustic guitar before the start of the show were lovely, and set a nice relaxed tone for the show to come. *All photos by me, unless otherwise stated*
This girl had a killer voice (and heels!)
I even enjoyed the commentary from Fred himself (aka Fred Connors) - he was a little, shall we say, "off-the-cuff", but I enjoyed his enthusiasm and frankness. His comments about how important it is to support the creative community we have here really spoke to me. I personally don't think he will win the mayoral race, but I would consider giving him my vote (this city needs fresh, hip blood!).

Friends and I, waiting for the show to start
I loved the styling of Mo's runway show - the models in the first part were draped in oversize neon blazers (perfect match for the 90's theme), skin-tight, graphic print dresses and neon Wayfarer-style sunglasses. It all said Miami-heat to me, which is perfect for a summer line.

 Everything worked really well together and complimented the bags rather than overpowered them.

The models in the 2nd part looked in every way like African warriors with their white body paint and gorgeous batik headwraps. I love the diversity in the models - a variety of skin colours and body types were featured, which was refreshing.

Gorg body paint
I loved these graphic shorts *Photo by Kimberly Piccott*

Well done, ladies!
All the looks really encapsulated the Clutch Culture "style" and the vibe of the brand is apparent throughout. As the bright, lively styles strolled in front of my eyes and the music pulsed in my ear, I could almost see 16-year-old Mo hanging out, creating and figuring out her path in life.

You've come a long way in 14 years, baby - can't wait to see where you go from here!

So many beautiful prints!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Me and my friend (who it must be said is also named Kim) both love to do artistic things. In fact, we sort of bonded over art - or art class to be more specific (yay, high school). We would kvetch over making art while I chewed her ear (NON STOP) about my boy troubles (she's a candidate for sainthood, that one).

Anyway, as we have gotten older and more responsibilities and priorities have filled our schedules, we have found it harder and harder to stay in touch with that artistic side of ourselves. We try to take in the occasional art class when we can, and constantly pin/save cool projects we find online that we will do "someday" but never seem to get around to, but it is often hard to motivate ourselves to sit our butts down and make something.

We were recently discussing how disappointed we are about this and we made a plan - see, we are both generally the kind of people who are more likely to stick with something if we a) schedule it and b) have a buddy to share it with (I am not very self-motivated as it turns out). So, we thought, why not schedule a day once per month where we get together and have a 'crafternoon' (clever, right? I came up with that), i.e. an afternoon or art and craft making!

It has worked quite well so far - we have met twice and have come away from both experiences feeling great and motivated to do it again. The first time we painted a mural on her bedroom wall - observe:
Photo by Kimberly Piccott
And the 2nd time (just last weekend) we made these:

Photo by Kimberly Piccott
FELT FLOWERS! This is a craft I found here. What is great about the blog post the craft is from is that she includes patterns for various shapes that you can print right off and cut out! This made it so easy and fast. You can customize these flowers using different combinations and layers of shapes, as well as different colours and embellishments. You can also customize them by putting different attachments on the back - we used alligator clips because we liked the versatility (you can clip them to a jacket, bag or headband, or simply right onto your hair), but you could also use pins, and various types of hair clip or comb, depending on how you plan on wearing them.

This was not only a super-easy and fast project - it was super-affordable too; This is the breakdown of supplies and approximate costs:

Felt sheets - $0.50 each x 16 (I got 2 each of 8 colours) = $8
Beads and sequins - $1 each x 2 packages (Dollar store!) = $2
Small alligator clips - $4.99 for pkg of 4 (Michaels - unfortunately all I could find) - $5

Grand Total = $15 - and you could easily make 2 dozen flowers with all the felt I bought (hundreds with the beads and sequins) so each one arguably costs pennies to make. I already had thread and sewing needles so that cut down on my costs as well. 

I look forward to making many more of these, for myself and as gifts. I know someone who definitely liked my flower - I came home from supper out that evening and the cat had knocked it on the floor and clearly played with it, pulling two of the yellow stems out!! I had to resew that whole section and it did not look as good after that, I'm sorry to say. 

Apparently they also make good cat toys (who knew).

Do you like arts and crafts? What do you like to make? Do you have 'crafty' friends? How do you make time for creative pursuits?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Show Girl

Summer is great is so many ways - warm weather, sunshine, sandals, long weekends. One thing I don't like about summer is that all my fav tv shows are over until September!

There were a few great new shows this year that I got into, and I am really glad I did. A welcome trend in these new shows is the fact that they centre around twenty-something women (hello, relatable!) stumbling their way through life in a very funny, but also real and awkward way.

I feel like it has been a while since there have been characters on tv that are like me and my friends - young, out of University sort-of professionals, trying to find their way through relationships, career and what they want. It's like there was Friends....then a whole ton of shows focused on families swamped the schedule - which is fine! I just haven't seen young, female characters who are in a similar life stage as me portrayed on tv in what seems like a long time.

Here are my new favs:

1. New Girl
 It's no secret that I have a girl crush on Zooey Deschanel - I really want to steal her hair and style, and she has such a fun, slightly weird personality that is very endearing so I was excited to hear she was going to star in her own tv show. I tuned in at first for her, but I continued to watch throughout the season for her crazy male roommates and their hilarious lines and sometimes embarrassing antics. I absolutely love Schmidt and his hilarious one-liners and neurotic personality; I like Nick and his rumpled yet cute, cranky old man persona; I even like Winston although I haven't quite figured out what his deal is. This show is just so darn kooky - the characters are always getting themselves into awkward situations and none of them have any concept of social norms or what is appropriate. Plus, Zooey wears SUPER cute outfits and they have had some really awesome guest stars (Lizzy Caplan! Ryan Kwanten! Durmot Mulroney! Jeanne Tripplehorn! Justin Long!).

A"Douchebag Jar" should be a staple in every home around the world.

2. Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23

Ok, how could you NOT love a show where James van der Beek plays himself?! And not himself like carbon-copy-of-Dawson himself, like a complete jerk version of himself. I love that he completely turns his image on its head and acts as a guy who is self-absorbed, shallow, slightly dim and obsessed with fame (of course, that could be a more accurate portrayal than I know!). He almost steals the show from Chloe (aka Krysten Ritter) - almost. Except that Chloe actually acts like an even bigger jerk than The Beek does. However, underneath her bitchy exterior, she is a bit of a softy. Plus, she's stylish and crafty (she makes money by "entertaining" important dignitaries - basically an escort yet somehow it doesn't seem trashy -?) and she's the perfect foil for goody-two-shoes June. This show also has many witty one-liners that have me cracking up every week and some crazy story lines (like New Girl). I love the career arc they have given June's character - I have had the same experience and know many people who have as well and it shows how crappy and simultaneously liberating it can be to have your life plan go "off course".

3. Girls
This show has been getting a lot of criticism, mainly for the "unlikeability" of the characters, which I can see. Yes, the characters are sometimes unlikeable, often make bad decisions, and say such awkward things sometimes you want to cry. However, don't we all do that in real life? Especially in our early 20's? I sure as hell did! And hey, I still do. Girls may be a bit of an exaggeration of 20-something life in New York, like SATC (which it has been compared to quite often) but I feel like it's a much more gritty portrayal; less sugar-coated, less slick and sexy. It is less tongue-in-cheek, more poke in the eye with a pencil. It is kind of refreshing to hear characters just put their thoughts and feelings out there, good and bad, and to see them making bad decisions, maybe because, in a way, it makes you feel better about your own mistakes.

Alas, I will have to wait several months to see where these new favs pick up. However, not ALL my favs are gone for the summer - I am happy to say one airs only IN summer and just came back two weeks ago!
Two episodes in and I'm loving Season 5 already. So. entertaining - the action just never lets up! And ok so having lots of yummy men to look at helps as well :) Besides I think a new season of Project Runway starts soon...hmmm, what was I saying about having no shows to watch this summer??

*By the way, have you caught my tv recaps on You Know You Love Fashion yet? I just happen to review all the above shows over there! Plus a few more...check out my posts here, here, here and here!

What new shows have you gotten hooked on? Any new favourites return recently or do you have suffer with reruns until September?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

House Parties

Photo taken by Kimberly Piccott
Since I entered what (I guess) you could call my 'late 20's' (I turned 27 in December), there has been a noticeable shift in the lifestyles of my friends, namely more and more people I know are buying homes.

One of the great benefits of this is the greater opportunity for entertaining at home - tiny walk-ups that can barely hold 10 people are replaced with spacious living rooms and rec rooms; actual dining rooms that hold tables and chairs provide somewhere to sit and place your food other than your own lap.

One of my best friends just moved into such a house in January with her fiance, and practically every weekend since they've moved in she has hosted SOME kind of get-together. One of the trends in her entertaining has been what I like to call "At-Home Sales Parties", where you invite a group of friends over and a consultant/independent sales rep of some kind talks to you about the products they offer, and shows you examples, samples and tries to convince you to buy something.

Remember Avon and Mary Kay? Yup, just like those. However, these are no longer your grandmother's parties - my friend's many entertaining forays have opened my eyes to an entire "home-selling" world out there that I never knew existed. I can certainly see the appeal - shopping in your own home can be a much more laid-back, comfortable experience and you can actually try the products out or see how they are used (can't do that in most stores!). Plus, if you host, you usually get free products and/or discounts on what is offered.

And I can also see the appeal for the consultants - you get the chance to run your own little business, but with the support of the bigger business to provide you with all the supplies and training you need, and you can work as much or as little as you want. I'm telling you, if selling Mark (the 'young women's' line from Avon) were open to Canadians, I would be on that in about two seconds!

I do find that some of the products for these lines can be a bit pricey, depending on the company, and sometimes I feel an awkward pressure to spend money (I am not going to lie, I have skipped out on such parties before because I was broke and didn't want to be pressured into buying), but for the most part I think they can be a great way to entertain and shop if done the right way and you end up with a good salesperson.

One of the recent parties my friend hosted was for Lia Sophia - I have to say, I was impressed with this jewelry and ended up buying two pieces (a necklace and a pair of silver hoops). Their stuff is good quality and the prices are a bit high, but still reasonably affordable for most budgets (although, for the higher prices are are getting good quality, so it makes it less painful). I really liked the consultant that my friend had also - she was really nice, but not pushy, and knew a lot about the pieces. My pick: The "Parade" Necklace.

Pampered Chef and Epicure are two parties that friends of mine have hosted but I haven't attended. I have looked through the catalogs though and many of the things look and sound super-yummy. A lot of their items are cater toward convenience, which is nice when you are someone who is busy and doesn't like to cook (like me). The prices are also pretty reasonable here, which is another added bonus. My picks: Pampered Chef - "Round-Up From the Heart" 2008 Trivet (they donate $2 to Food Banks Canada for every one purchased!)/ Epicure - Smoky Bacon Salad Topper

I have been to a couple of these parties - in case you couldn't tell from the company name, these are all about sexy toys and bedroom accessories (meow!). These parties are always a lot of fun, and they offer a bunch of different packages depending on your preferences. One package they offer is the "Unleashed" party, where the consultant demos the products (in a PG way of course - clothes stay on, people) and you and your friends can try them on and take funny photos. It's a little crazy but also a comforting and discrete way of buying some sexy products for yourself (and your partner, if applicable).

What is really neat about the Halifax branch is they have a "Party Pad" downtown here (within blocks of all the great nightlife) that groups can rent out and it has a full kitchen where you can bring whatever food and drinks you want and you get VIP cover into a nearby bar with your fee. Definitely a unique idea for 'girl's night out' or bachelorette. My picks: Hah - yeah right! I don't kiss and tell ;)

Have you ever been to or hosted an "At-Home Sales Party"? What did you like/not like about the experience? What is your favourite home-party company?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sushi Love

Sushi is one of my favourite foods. Luckily for me, countless great sushi operations have opened all over Halifax in the past few years, so there are lots of ways for me to feed my addiction.

The boy and I eat sushi fairly regularly and it just so happens that we have had some cool sushi-related experiences lately that I wanted to share with you:
* Last month we went to see the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the Oxford Theatre. The film follows 85-year-old Jiro Ono, who runs a tiny, hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant 'Sukiyabashi Jiro' in a non-discrept Tokyo subway station and has devoted his life entirely to creating top quality sushi - so much so that the restaurant was the first of its kind to be awarded 3 Michelin stars. The film is beautifully shot, extremely lyrical, and is a testament to qualities that are all too often forgotten in today's hurried and self-actualizing society - dedication, humility, simplicity, and patience.

* As part of the continued attempts to explore my new neighbourhood (Clayton Park), the boy and I recently ventured out to Happy Sushi - an All-You-Can-Eat sushi restaurant about 2 minutes from our apartment. Yes, you read that right - ALL. YOU. CAN. EAT. SUSHI. TWO. MINUTES. AWAY.

I'll just give you a minute to let the awesomeness of that sink in...

The concept is certainly an interesting one - you are given a 'menu' that lists every item they have available, and you figure out what things you want to order and write the quantity in a little square next to the item, the waitress collects it and they bring you the dishes one at a time. You can do this as many times as you want, at a flat cost (I think $25 for dinner, $17 for lunch) and it includes non-sushi add-ons such as soup, dumplings, pop and ice cream (I had the green tea flavour and it was delish). The only catch is that if you order anything and don't eat it, you get charged full price for it! So you definitely don't want your eyes to be bigger than your stomach! The strategy we used was to just order small amounts at a time - maybe two or three options - eat those, then if we still had room, order two or three more and continue on that way until we were full. Well, I think we ate something like 50 pieces between us, plus dumplings and ice cream so we certainly fulfilled the AYCE expectation.

* Backtrack to New Year's Eve 2011 - we wanted to have at least a somewhat special meal but who wants to order takeout or try to get a table at a restaurant on NYE? Too. Hectic. We decided eating in would be best, but we wanted to try something new and prepare something we could make together.

So? We decided to make homemade sushi!

Luckily, our local grocery stores now have a pretty good selection of Asian products, so we were able to pick up sushi rice, seaweed wrappers, and bamboo rolling mats with minimal searching. The one downer was that we couldn't find fresh tuna anywhere, and the boy was really counting on it, but we made do with salmon (easily my favourite fish). I was a bit worried the supplies would be costly, but in the end it was a moot point because we ended up with a TON of rolls. You would be surprised how many you can get out of one small fillet of fish (see above)!

And it was so easy - now, we used a very basic technique (we could have gone more fancy with it, I suppose, but it was our first time and we preferred to eat earlier than midnight). We simply laid the seaweed on the rolling mat, pressed cooked rice in a thin layer on one-half of the wrapper, added slivers of fish and whatever other fillings we wanted, then rolled those babies up! A couple of things you have to remember are to wet your hands before handling the rice because it can get pretty sticky, and to not add too many fillings or make the filling layers too thick (otherwise the roll will be way too thick to roll up and cut properly. A lesson we learned the hard way).

Happy New Year, indeed. And now I will leave you with this hilarious lesson about the importance of Unagi:

Ahhhhh, salmon skin roll.

Have you tried sushi? Are you a fan or not? Is there a particular food you are addicted to?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Since I moved into a new apartment a couple of months ago, which is across the street from a very cool Library, I have made a commitment to start borrowing books instead of buying them (at least part of the time). I recently figured out how to borrow e-books and download them onto my Kobo e-reader - cool, huh?

I love books and I love new books, but buying them can be hard on the wallet if you go through them quickly like I do (I read on the bus every day - to work and home - so I sometimes can finish a book in a week's commute. A new book every week? Yeah, not in the budget).

On my very first trip to the Library after making this commitment, I found a little gem in the travel book section that has become one of my new favourites - Adrift in Caledonia:

I had never heard of Nick Thorpe before so I wasn't sure when I picked it off the shelf if I would like his writing, but the story certainly sounded 'up my alley'. It turns out I did enjoy his writing - very much so - and the story more than I even thought I would. Basically, Nick is an Englishman living in Glasgow, Scotland and he decides to take a trip around the entire country (2,500 miles!) entirely by hitching rides on boats (hence "boat-hitching"). And hitch rides he does - he travels on everything from rowboats, submarines, fishing boats, ferries and kayaks - every kind of boat you can imagine really, on every kind of waterway you can picture (I had no idea that Scotland has an entire system of canals!). Although some sections of his trip were pre-planned, most of the time he literally (and bravely) has to walk up to people he doesn't know and 'bum' rides. He has to completely rely on the kindness and open-mindedness of yachters, rowers, fishermen, and sailors to complete his trip, and he even has to help crew some of the vessels. Fortunately for him, this allows him to pick up snippets of their 'stories', and the personalities and experiences of these people are what gives the book its real heart.

This book not only fed my wanderlusty soul with the whimsy and romance of a long-distance trip, but it also instilled in me a newfound respect for people who make their living on the water (NOT a cushy existence in most cases). As someone who has lived their entire life next door to the ocean, I understand the pull that the water enacts. There is something simultaneously magical and scary about being on the water - it has a kind of mystical power and beauty that is very exciting, although you know it could turn ugly on a dime. It's hard to explain if you are not someone who has grown up by the ocean, but I definitely get it.

I have some Scottish heritage and have always wanted to visit this country, but before reading this book I would never have thought of exploring it by boat. I hope I get to have a seafaring adventure in the home of my ancestors someday like Nick did, but in the meantime I was able to do so vicariously thanks to this wonderful book.

If you like books about sailing, boating, travel and/or journeys than you should read this one. If I can find it at the Library, I think I'll read his other story Eight Men and a Duck (a voyage to Easter Island in a reed boat?! That is just crazy enough to be awesome!).

His latest book Urban Warrior sounds great too. Sigh, so many books, so little time.

Have you read a book recently that really spoke to you? What are your favourite type of books to read? Do you prefer to buy or borrow books?