Monday, 29 September 2008

Fashion forward?

They say that fashion is cyclical. Blow the dust off your Mom’s skinny belts and wide leg trousers from the 60-70s and you are ready to walk down the runway in 2008. It’s true…I wish I knew enough to save my Moms patent leather rain coats or pastel overcoats for my twenties. Why does style history repeat itself? Are we not creative enough? Are we short of good ideas and must look to the past?

Well …sort of. Also, fashion as some of you know follows the times. When “times” are good…fashion is colourful and flashy. Think the Roaring 20s. However, when times are tough..break out the sophisticated blouses, the high pants and the pencil skirts. For fashion week this year, designers are usually sticking with safe colours for more conservative looks. Or..they are filling the runways with bright hues displaying optimism and the hope for a better economy (fingers crossed).

Either way you look at it, since the early 1900s, fashion has always forecasted up and down turns in the economy. (Note to reader: I am not telling you to listen to Michael Kors over Mr Greenspan). However, it’s wise to pay attention to fashion trends as they are sure to indicate our future spending cycles.

Apparently, there weren’t many famous faces in attendance at Fashion week…another indicator that times are tough. Keep one eye on the runways this year ladies, I am not the only one who is noticing, “the times..they are a changin”:

Saturday, 27 September 2008

I Enjoy Ads

When I was living in Ottawa I would wait every year for the ByTowne theatre to run that years recap from the Cannes Lions Festival showcasing the winners and runner-ups, these were the best of best in advertising all rolled up into a nice 2 hour feature - Basically my heaven. My cheeks would hurt and stomach muscles would ache but my spirits were high. High because there were people out there that made me think, made me laugh and most importantly did so in a minute or less. Oh those clever people.

Here’s one ad that I’m enjoying (at the moment). I’d like to show you the latest installment of the Citroen Robot…

Friday, 26 September 2008

My Favourite Day in London

London is such a HUGE city with loads to do and see that it is extremely hard to get (or be) bored. Upon further inspection, after my first year of living here I realized I hadn’t even scratched the surface of seeing all of London; don’t get me wrong, I went out (in fact almost too much) but I would end up at the same places, doing the same things. So I made it my goal to go somewhere new, every weekend. Whether it be a museum, art gallery or area of London less travelled, it all made the cut. With my A-to-Z in hand I hit the streets in search of the ‘true’ London.

Even after all my weekly adventures one of my favourite ‘days out’ still remains one of my earliest discoveries: The Southbank. It’s a perfect way to get a feel for the city if you’re a visitor but because it’s also constantly changing w/ events and festivals taking place all the time by the Thames it draws the locals as well.

Starting at London Bridge Station you can have lunch and explore London’s oldest market: The Borough Market (warning: do not go on a full stomach, you’ll want to eat, lots). This is where the naked chef shops for his ingredients. Make sure to bring your own bags so you can load them up w/ exotic beers, yummy olives, scrumptious cheese, warm bread along with fresh fruits and vegetables locally grown.

Once your belly is full, it’s time to walk it off, along the Thames. With stunning views of St. Paul’s, the London Eye, Big Ben and London Bridge it’s easy to see why hoards of tourists come from far and wide to explore this place I call home (for the time being anyway). On a nice day, beer and Pimms stalls line the walkway and with plenty of green spaces it makes for the perfect time to rest and talk about what you’ve seen.

Need a little bit of culture? No problem, walk a little further and you’ll hit the Tate Modern. One of my personal favourites, it holds modern classics by Rothko, Andy Warhol, Picasso, Matisse…oh the list could go on.

Once you had a look around, continue walking along the Thames walkway towards Waterloo station. You’ll pass a skating park where amazing athletes draw in the crowds daily. They’re all so fearless; you wouldn’t catch me trying to flip my bike in mid air!

A little further down the path is a great (HUGE) outdoor book market…this is where I can spend hours collecting novels. I always have a few waiting to be read but that never stops me from collecting more.

If at all you get hungry the path is lined with coffee shops and restaurants. Once you’re finished head to Waterloo Bridge and head home.

Without fail this day always makes me happy. If you ever decide to head to London for a holiday and are looking for the perfect day out, drop us a line and what you like to do and I’ll do my best to sort you out.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Recipes Jo mamma never told you about: Banana Bread

Last I told you that saving your bananas would come in handy, well here's the perfect recipe to turn them into a masterpiece. It's simple but perfect, and I've been making it since University.

What you'll need:

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup of melted butter
  • 13/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of flour

The best part about this recipe is that you don't even need a blender. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a mixing bowl blend the butter into the mashed bananas with a wooden spoon. Then mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour the mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan and bake for 45 mins - 1 hour (depending on the oven). Cool on a rack for 10 mins. Once cooled remove from pan and slice to serve.


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Are we Agents of Change?

One of the truest quotes I ever heard regarding marriage was told to me by a friend’s father. “Women marry men hoping to change them. Men marry women hoping they won’t change”. Coming from a man who is happily married for over 25 years, I really couldn’t dispute this quote. The more I thought about it, I realized there is a lot of truth to this statement. Why do women feel that they can change people? Why can’t we just leave well enough alone?

It’s easy for me to ask such bold questions. I do not claim to be removed from this statement. I too, feel the need to adapt, tweak and modify people in my life. Throughout our relationship, I have taught my boyfriend to be more assertive, confident and stylish. I am not as bad as some girls..mainly because he does stand up to me. For some reason, women don’t always accept people for who they are, rather, they fall in love or friendship with people for who they could be. This rule doesn’t apply to all situations or all relationships. However, I do think there is a difference between men and women when it comes to this matter. Most men become involved in relationships with people for who they are. When asked for advice or guidance from a friend, most men are reluctant to say much at all. My boyfriend has had a positive impact on me. In a lot of ways over the past 3 or so years, I have become a better person while knowing him. I have to say, his greatest impact on my life, has been instilling confidence in me for who I am, right now.

Sometimes I wonder if we are setting ourselves up for disappointment or failure when we seek to change others. When I look at the people in my life, I automatically think of ways I could help them. Often my motives are altruistic, wanting to make them smarter, more attractive or more employable. For a long time, I thought I could boost the confidence of my roommate, increase her self pride, and have her choice in partners reflect that. What was I thinking? I am not that smart. I am not that influential. I am not her and I am not you.

I have wasted a lot of effort over the past years trying to help the helpless. I now realize they weren’t so helpless. They were just content. What’s wrong with that? The next time you are out with your partner, your family or friends, think about why you ever wanted to change them in the first place? Were you really looking for that change within yourself?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Doing Your Part

Going Green doesn’t have to break the bank. The little things we do from day-to-day could be the most damaging to this planet we call home. Here are some easy tips that hopefully you’ll find painless to implement but will make an impact…

1. Bring your own bags shopping. Here in the UK most of the grocery stores will either reward you for bringing your own bags (store points) or in fact charge you for using theirs. Right, so you don’t want to bring in your wrinkled old, smelly bags back to the store, fine, I get you. Plus we’re women and we need to look stylish, at all times. RuMe bags are reusable and durable but don’t compromise on style. And if that wasn’t enough, they fold up to fit perfectly in any handbag.

2. Pack your lunch using Tupperware instead of plastic bags. Have you seen the different types of Tupperware cases that are out there? Gone are the days of leaking salad dressing and smelly tuna purses. If you don’t bring your lunch to work but go to fast food joints bring a Tupperware with you and ask the cashier to place your order in it. A friend and co-worker would do this all the time. We’d go to Subway and she’d whip out her container and get them to pack her sub in it – brilliant!
On a similar note (but oh so similar) why not bring a travel mug to your favourite coffee house instead of using their cups?

3. Go paperless on your bank/credit card statement and utilities bills. Most companies allow its clients to view their accounts online…just make sure to check it regularly!

4. Unplug your stuff when you’re not using it. Here in the UK we have on/off switches for the sockets making it a lot easier to save electricity. Also, make sure to take your stereo, PC or TV off stanby when you’re out

5. Save your fruit….most people feel the need to throw out their soon-to-bad fruit but these can easily be placed in the freezer for a later date when you have the time to make that perfect banana bread (a recipe will be coming soon – so no excuses…watch this space), apple cake, peach cobbler etc….

6. Start a reading group (not to be confused with a Book Club). We all want to stay in touch so why not gather some of your friends w/ similar interests and share subscriptions – For example if Kristyn and I were to do this she’d probably get Economics and Times while I’d get Vogue and Cosmo then we’d swap mid-month. If you’re not keen on starting a ‘group’ just pass it on – give your mag to someone on the subway, family or friends.

Have a green tip? Go on share it with us

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A pit-bull with lipstick on

Have you paid any attention to the US election these days? Well if you reside in North America, you cannot help but catch some of the gossip out there. It has been inspiring watching this election progress as more and more young people become motivated to vote and serve their country. I was slowly beginning to think that the U.S was REALLY going to do something good for a change. I had hopes (like many outsiders or residents of different countries) that American voters were going to finally see past biases and bullshit, past party lines and CNN gossip. I am starting to think I was very wrong.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write anything in this blog about the US Election. Hasn’t there been enough coverage already? However, being a women’s blog, I had to comment on the Sarah Palin issue.

We have come so far as women since we fought for the right to vote. We now are closer to earning the same wages as our male counterparts. We have proven time and time again that we can balance our work and private lives. Yet we seem to want more. Do we want everyone in every corner of the earth to rally behind us as we surpass every man on earth? What happened to just being equals? Why do women feel the need to keep hammering the message to the rest of society that we are better?

It’s ignorant and egotistical to even talk about one gender being better than the other. What are we teaching our children or our neighbors about us when we are constantly trying to one up the other? This is the very issue that may let Sarah Palin slip right into the White House. She is a heartbeat (a 72 year old man’s faint heartbeat) away from the most powerful office in the world. She may get to that position not because she is smart, experienced, credible or worthy. She is FAR from any of those things. She will get the position because she will ride on the coattails of those before her. She will plead to the women vote..the vote that says..its OUR turn for the White House. After all..we CLEARLY deserve it.

It makes me cringe the way she uses her gender and her role as mother to get the women vote. “Hey..look at me..I am a mother”. Yes…well…. if you were that great of a wouldn’t be parading your kids around. You would know that they shouldn’t be in the limelight to serve your selfish wishes. If you actually KNEW about foreign affairs, health care and the economy, you wouldn’t need to play up your gender and talk endlessly about being a woman. You wouldn’t have to “lean” on your gender to get the sympathy of others. The worst part of all is that women are eating this shit up. They are so blinded by her gender, they can’t see her for the redneck lying conservative that she is. Her only presidential-like quality is that she is tough. She likens her tough hockey mom personality to a pit-bull with lipstick. When you talk about being a pit-bull with lipstick on…educated women such as me don’t buy it. After all, as my mother says, “if you have to talk about it so much, you don’t got it”

Sarah: When you start talking tough on issues (instead of about lipstick) and have something ELSE on your resume besides small town mayor and mother of five, maybe then, and only then, the rest of us WOMEN will take interest.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Does a Higher Price Tag = Better Quality?

Last weekend my hair straightener broke (for the second time! Grrr). I like to think that I’m not a very vain person but this was devastating – mainly b/c I had already blow-dried my hair before finding out which then left me with fizzy BIG hair and no tools to tame it. My warranty had expired and I was left to fend for myself. After much deliberation I hesitantly bought the best of the best (as far as hair straighteners go) a ghd ceramic hair straightener.

It finally arrived on Wednesday and I couldn’t be happier!! It’s beautifully designed, works like magic, not only in that it can straighten my hair in seconds but that it gets rid of my fly-aways as well. Also, did I mention it heats up the minute it’s turned on? Oh it does, there’s no more waiting around for this girl. Now that I’m a happy camper this got me thinking, why didn’t just buy it in the first place and save myself the hassle? Well I know the reason, the price tag. I couldn’t justify spending £100 (that’s $200 for you lovely Canadians) on a hair straightener.

Price is a very important aspect to any item’s ‘marketing’ campaign. A product or service’s price can determine the consumers’ perceived value for the item rather than the actual value. If something is marked too low we don’t want to buy it for fear of it being ‘cheap’ or poor quality. And if it’s over priced we’re not willing to pay for it because we don’t want to get ripped off. The pricing game is a tricky business…

A higher price doesn’t necessarily always mean good quality but where do you draw the line? This is where price comparison sites like Money Supermarket come into play. It’s a great way to feel the marketplace before you buy those higher ticketed items. Know the market before you spend your hard earned bucks. Read reviews and make sure what you’re buying is good quality – most online stores like BestBuy and Amazon have readers’ reviews.

My mother always said you can buy something that’s cheap but if it’s not good quality then you’ll end up spending twice as much in the long run. And you know what she’s right (she’s very wise my mother), and now my hair will reap the benefits! My wallet on the other hand…..

What Your City has to Offer

I wouldn’t call myself boring. My life is anything but a routine (right?) However, I always manage to do the same thing in the city every day or weekend. I take the great city of Toronto for granted and never manage to visit any of the city’s breathtaking sights. I had the pleasure of taking my boyfriend’s cousins from Germany around Toronto and Montreal/Quebec. I was excited to once again go up to Mont-Tremblant and spend a day swimming in the fresh clean lake. I couldn’t wait to eat on one of Montreal’s many patios. The Toronto portion of the trip was not at all on my list of priorities. Yet the city was somehow able to sneak up on me and force me to open my mind to its possibilities. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Toronto all over again. It doesn’t hold a candle to Berlin or other cities in the world that have so much to offer. However, Toronto has come a long way. And she has quite a base of attractions to build on. I drive past the CN Tower every day, taking its amazing height for granted. This past week I was standing at the highest point of the CN Tower a tourist could venture, and it made me realize how breathtaking the tower is. Moreover, I stood with my jaw dropped at the Toronto skyline view at night. Brief visits to Centre Island and Casa Loma, the ROM and the AGO forced me to see Toronto through a tourist’s eyes. It wasn’t fair of me to condemn a city that I hadn’t really explored since my field trips in elementary school. Watching the amazement on the eyes of my tourist friends as we navigated our way through Toronto, made me appreciate all the city has to offer. Even though my German friends spoke no English, many Torontonians managed to communicate with them in an exceptionally friendly manner. Have a love-hate relationship with your city? Maybe its time you re-explored it through a tourist’s eyes. After all, beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

Kristyn xo

Monday, 8 September 2008

Recipes Jo mamma never told you about

Summer is coming to a close, yet I still seem to have tons of fruit lying around my house. I always wonder what to do with extra bananas or berries. My father is famous for cutting up strawberries and serving them with a bit of salt and balsamic vinegar as part of a salad or dessert. Don’t judge until you try it!

For the not so is a recipe courtesy of npr on a recent trend in cooking…grilling fruits:

Grilled Fruit (Serves 6)

2 ripe bananas
2 ripe peaches
1-pound container of strawberries
1 stick of butter
Tablespoon of sugar

Peel the bananas. Rinse the peaches and strawberries; pat dry. Slice the peaches into quarters (make sure they are big enough to put straight on the grill). Cut off tops of the strawberries.
Place the strawberries on aluminum foil. Sprinkle with sugar and wrap. Put some butter on each banana and on each peach slice.

Shopping was easy...until I met you

If you can identify with my article, or better yet, my RANT on women and guilt, here’s another issue you may be able to relate to: guilt and shopping. I am pretty sure I just shuddered at the fact that I used them both in the same sentence. New Rule: One should never feel guilty for shopping. Yet, women ALWAYS feel guilty for our small (or not so small) indulgences. There was an article this month in Chatelaine about how women feel guilty for shopping for themselves. But when it comes to dropping a Borden or a Benjamin on their friends or family…NO PROBLEM!

I couldn’t agree more. Why are we feeling guilty for buying things for ourselves? We work hard and that means we should play hard. C’est correct??. Ok, but there are times when we CLEARLY have to buy for other people. Unfortunately, there are some people that have everything, or some that are just too picky. Here are some gift ideas that I have used in the past....feel free to add to my list:

  1. Magazine Subscriptions – a year’s worth of Vogue for your fashion victim best friend or a Food magazine subscription for your mother in law…the gift that keeps on giving (especially if it means, next holiday, your MIL’s chicken has some juice to it!)

  1. Maid for a day – go to Molly Maid and get your loved one a day or a fixed dollar amount of cleaning..redeemable whenever…while you are on the site…buy yourself one.

  1. Lessons/Classes – Is your friend an aspiring artist? Does your boyfriend need French lessons to be promoted at work? Whatever the class or lesson may be, consider enrolling your friend in a course at a local college or agency. Some community centers offer discounted lessons for citizens of that municipality. If you and your friend are short on quality time, enroll together.

  1. Trip Bucket – Do you have a Jessica in your life? Someone who frequently travels all over the globe? Put together a bucket for their next destination. Travel books, travel containers, maps and phone cards are all great ideas to get you started. Sorry Jessica, this is NOT what will be arriving on your doorstep on the 16th of February.

  1. Designer for a day – Whether it be interior decorating, or personal style..everyone needs help now and then. There are some websites where you can solicit professionals to spend a day with your friend and give professional help/advice. Ok, some might take it as an insult, so tread lightly. Either way, its an idea for those that have everything.

  1. Gift Cards – This isn’t the traditional gift certificate idea. Ok, maybe it is..but just a little. Forget clothing and music certificates. How about gas cards, CAA memberships, Aeroplan/Airmiles donations or gift cards for dinners, resorts and plays. It may seem like an easy choice, but take it from me, not many people would turn down a gas card right now.

The best part of all these gift ideas, is that they enhance your friend’s life. You can buy your father another sweater, or your nephew another video game. For those that are trying to discourage unwanted materialism, these ideas are speaking to you.

Kristyn xo

Friday, 5 September 2008

Angry Annie…but not all the time

I thought I’d share something that I actually enjoy about the commute to/from work. I know can you believe it? It’s true there are some things I actually enjoy, even look forward to. Don’t get me wrong they’re not life altering or anything major like that just simple (little) things that make me smile and really a smile can sometimes be all it takes to change this angry Annie into her normal loving self again.

I live in between two tube stops – Clapham Common and Clapham North. I usually grab the tube in the morning from Clapham Common, the reason is simple, it’s less busy (don’t get confused in thinking there aren’t many people on the platform or that the train itself isn’t busy because it is, oh it is. It’s just that it’s less busy, that’s all). I don’t dare try to get on at Clapham North as I’ve heard horror stories of having to travel backwards in order to actually get on a train (these people do not go to Clapham North anymore). But when I return home I get off at Clapham North (because it’s actually closer to my house); and it is there that I find my smile again. First off they play classical music (lovely!), secondly they always have a new ‘quote of the day’ listed on a board so you can read it while you’re going up/down the escalators and thirdly one of the gates literally makes the noise ‘woohoo’ when you’re entering the station!! How could that not make you smile?

What makes you smile during the hectic commute to work?

Rommate Corner: Cleaning a Foreign Concept

Dear Rhonda,

You can tidy your room ALL you want. You can organize your books by first letter, last letter or colour. You can even change the pictures in your lame picture frames. But that does not a clean room make. When did tidying become cleaning? If I can trace my name in the dust around your bathroom sink, I probably won’t stay long enough to admire your book collection.

Why do you always talk about how you can’t handle the mess? Is it because your personal life is so disorganized and messy? Ok, that jab was unfair…but seriously, I don’t get it. Have you no idea where or what the vacuum is? I am only left to guess that your Mom or Dad never made you clean the house, well aren’t you lucky?? Its time to call in the reinforcement….the backup so to speak……Mama's Helper…to pick up where jo mamma left off.

Love always,

Kristyn xox

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Put me in your suitcase….Amsterdam!

In a city where prostitution and cannabis are legal I’m determined to prove there’s more to this fascinating city than the just the rumors, I go in search of its hidden gems.

After arriving into the city, the first stop on my list is the infamous Anne Frank house. This is a must even if you haven’t read her diary as it sets the stage for this city’s (like most European cities) dark past. Don’t be discouraged by the long lines, I can assure you it moves fairly quickly and while you’re waiting look behind you at the clock tower (Westertoren) - the church located on the south corner. Its bells rang every fifteen minutes, which took some getting use to (Anne Frank confesses in her diary) but also provided time orientation for those in hiding. Some interesting points not to be missed: height measurements of the girls on the wall, the staircase (very steep and narrow) and bookshelf – which concealed the secret rooms.

I took some time after the exhibit to wander around and soak up the sights and sounds. Bikes, trams and pedestrians travel in harmony along the cobble stone streets. It’s easy to see how they call this city the ‘Venice of the North’; it feels like every corner presents a new canal and charming view. One can easily get carried away with taking photos here. The city’s name comes from ‘Amstel dam’, that is a dam in the river Amstel (which runs through the city). As the lights in the streets start to turn on and the city skies turn dark it’s time for me to get ready for the night’s plan.

But not before something to eat! I head to a snackbar for a frites speciale. Trust me, this is one dish you don’t want to miss out on - you can worry about the calories once you’re home…actually come to think of it, calories consumed abroad don’t really count, do they? This heavenly treat includes chunky chips with mayonnaise, curry sauce and onions. It sounds gross, I know; I was a bit nervous at first as well, but it’s incredible! You can thank me later ;P

Once I’m all dressed up we head to Studio/K, an uber cool, retro club/restaurant located at Timorplein 62. Two bands are scheduled to open before the DJ is set loose for the night. In another room, games -Twister, ping-pong, and old-school video games - are set up. This is where we spend most of our time (why would we leave when we’ve just started a ping-pong tournament?).

The next day we head to The Stedelijk Museum. The main focus here is modern art and the gallery is temporarily located about a 10 minute walk east of the Central station. While I was there an exhibit on the Pop Art master himself Andy Warhol was on entitled: Other Voices, Other Rooms. It was a comprehensive exhibit displaying some of his most famous films, along with drawings, photos and rare archive material, all presented alongside audio snippets from Edie Sedgwick, Mick Jagger and Man Ray.

After spending hours in the Museum I have just enough time for dinner before I head back to London for another work week. Time has flown and I feel like I’ve seen a lot, Amsterdam is a fascinating city even without the draw of its red light district and caf├ęs.

Wish you girls could’ve been there

Jessica xo

What is this guilt all about?

From the moment we wake up in the morning, we have places to be and people waiting for us. Whether it is car pools, lunches to make, kids to pick up, events to “appear at”…we are overwhelmed with obligations. Well that’s what makes up life ..right? Who would want to be sitting on the couch all their life with no kids, no friends and no job. True…but is it necessary to have guilt as the price to pay? Why is it that women feel guilty if they miss one event or one minor obligation…but men don’t? “Sorry buddy I missed your engagement party...I got caught up at something else…no biggie”

Maybe it’s the fact that we feel such strong bonds with the people in our lives that we don’t want to disappoint them. But where is the time for us? If I spend too much time with my boyfriend, I feel guilty for not hanging out with my roommate. When my roommate is gone and I am not helping out my friends or parents with something, back comes the guilt. I feel guilty for calling in sick (insert fake cough here) to spend a day to get thousands of things done that I have put off for your wedding, or your class or your priorities.

Should we take a page from our testosterone counterparts? Is it a bad thing to take time for ourselves… to lounge around and fart hot dogs all day? Does it make us less of a friend to not show up at ALL to your events? I am not too sure what the answer is…mainly because it is the overwhelming sense of guilt and ownership to people that PROVOKED this article (ok I will stop with the shameless self-promotion). A little less guilt and a little more self pity please.

Kristyn xo