Thursday, September 27, 2012

Read: A post for the bibliophiles

Tonight I am hosting an inaugural meeting of a new book club. It's a first for many reasons; I've never joined a club of any type (outside of a gym setting), I've never willingly organized an activity with so many people involved, and finally, I have never volunteered to be the first to host anything. If you know me personally, you know that social gatherings are not my forte but I must admit that I'm really looking forward to this one for a plethora of reasons. I believe there is one reason above all others which makes this so exciting for me; my love of books. I started this post with the intention of writing about the club but it got me thinking about my reading life in general. I'll get back to the club later...

Warning: If your not a book worm you can tune out now or this will be a very boring read from here on out.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. Books like Prince and the Pauper, Frankenstein and Christmas Carol are practically committed to memory thanks to the countless number of times they were read to me out loud by my Dad at bedtime. Eventually I able to reading these stories back to him which had some interesting unintended results; I was the annoying kid in grade school who was constantly raising her hand to be selected for a turn to read out loud. You remember that girl in your class, don't you? Such a keener, I was. Books were my reward for good behaviour or good grades. I can remember submitting a essay in grade two (extra curricular, no less) for a writing competition with the potential to win a prize, which was a book of my teachers choosing. I still have that prize: a dog-eared 26 year old copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which sits on my bookshelf and still makes me smile every time I see it. I would practically explode with excitement when my teacher would distribute scholastic order forms in class. Does anyone else remember doing this in elementary school? Through this form we could order educational books directly from the publisher; my parents never said no as long as I was selecting books instead of toys. When the huge box would eventually show up on my teachers desk, I could focus on nothing else until she gave out the orders at the very end of the day. Ugh, the anticipation!! But even more dear to me was a near monthly visit to Coles bookstore with my father. I was allowed to select a single book of my choice. At first it was Roald Dahl books but eventually my tastes turned to Sweet Valley Twins and later, Christopher Pike (the R.L. Stine of my generation). I can remember clearly the grey cross-body army bag that I carried, filled with 30 novella issues of Sweet Valley Twins. I oozed pride when I carried those books. I'm painting a pretty nerdy picture, am I not?

For most of my teenage years, I read on my own and didn't really share with others that I had kept up the habit. My friends weren't the reading type, they were still under the misguided belief that reading books were for school and that's it. At first I read mostly horror and mystery books, such as Stephen King, V. C. Andrews (yes, yes, total smut!!). But then I started to visit the library and discovered a wealth of choice at my fingertips. Throughout high school (unbeknownst to my friends), my dad would drive me to the library and wait patiently as I selected the maximum number of books I could take out at once. When we left I would often beg a few dollars from him to buy any interesting second hand books that were on sale in the corridor. As a result, I will always have a fond spot in my heart for Fraiser Hickson library. I was also lucky to have an amazing English teacher in high school that encouraged me to broaden my scope; through him I discovered classics like Lord of the Flies, Macbeth, Caesar, Merchant of Venice, Death of  a Salesman, Button, Button, etc. It was wonderful to have a teacher that was so passionate about the material, even though the curriculum obviously covered the same books year after year. (Thank you Mr. Langlois)

Into my late teens I started to date a boy who also enjoyed books. I discovered that he and his entourage of friends were unabashedly addicted to reading, specifically Anne Rice novels. We were goth-lite by today's standards, all of the music and books with none of the fancy clothes, shoes and piercings. It was fun to discuss books someone other than a parent or teacher. We lined up like star-crazed fans to have Anne Rice sign our hard cover copies of Interview with the Vampire. Such fun! My taste in authors (Terri Brooks, Neil Gaiman) reflected other hobbies of the moment, namely comic books, role playing games, vampires, martial arts and horror movies.

During my post high school studies,  I inadvertently discovered one of my favourite authors. Thanks to a gap in my University schedule I took a Canadian Fiction course; my one and only literature course during my undergraduate studies. I was none too interested and quite unreceptive; a first for me in respect to books. The material seemed inaccessible, full of literary devices and allegorical meaning that I could not decipher. Also, the teacher made some harsh critiques of my writing skills which had a lasting impact on my ego. One selection stood out, Margret Atwood's The Robber Bride, resulting in a multi-year devotion to her entire back catalog. Others elicited a more luke warm reaction (Famous Last Words by Timothy Findley and Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient). I found the remaining books (Marian Engel's The Bear, Green Grass Running Water by Thomas King) to be almost intolerable and yet I still remember them to this day, which is quite telling. I learned that you may hate a book but it may still have an impact on you.

In my early twenties I met a new friend who had a much richer and varied reading history than I did. It made me curious about the classics that I had avoid up until that point; she made them sound so interesting and witty that I had try them for myself. I sunk my teeth into Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. Exposure to these books made me realize that I wanted to introduce more variety into my reading habits. By sheer luck (and a twenty dollar bill burning a hole in my pocket) I happened upon Fight Club in an airport store which opened up a whole new genre for me; authors with an obvious leaning towards the dystopic and amoral: Iain Banks, Brett Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, Dalton Trumbo, Daniel Keyes.

Also in my early twenties, I bonded with my next long term boyfriend (and now ex-husband) over a common interest in literature. I shared my favourites and he introduced me to the likes of Nick Hornsby, Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash ), Douglas Coupland, David Rakoff  and Elmore Leonard. I discovered that I was not much of a crime fiction fan, but it did lead me to discover an all consuming addition to Patricia Highsmith novels (The Talented Mr. Ripley). During this time frame I read novels that I truly believe had an affect on the way I see the world. These books had a profound effect on my psyche... they were that powerful. Authors like Charles Baxter, Melissa Banks, Jonathan Franzen, and Jeffrey Eugenides had a visceral effect on how I saw social interactions in families, friendships and romance. These are the books that I know I will go back to again and again over the years.

Which leads me to my current day reading habits. A few years back I started reading "Chick Lit". Despite the frequent knocks against the genre for being too fluffy, it is this very quality that I enjoy. In the right quantity, it's a guilty pleasure that can fill a hole when you are looking for something a little lighter. The same goes for best sellers, a la Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson. I wouldn't want to solely read best sellers but they can be enjoyable; I think of them as the literary equivalent of an action film or summer blockbuster. I'm willing to give most fiction a try; I have a definite leaning towards fiction/literature. I have forayed into non-fiction territory every now and then, but with the very special exception of 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin, I simply don't find non-fiction as fulfilling as fiction. When I read a book... a really good book, I let it take hold of me. Its not something I do consciously, but I find myself dreaming, day-dreaming and even dwelling on the story long after I've finished reading it. It's something that is all mine, whenever I want to disengage from the real world. I have my rules though; I cannot abandon a book without giving it a fair chance and if I read a few schlocky books in a row (i.e. Chick Lit) I must intersperse my selection with a more challenging book for variety's sake.

My love of books has also expanded to cookbooks, of which I have many. To me, cookbooks are a thing of beauty, something to enjoy not just for the obvious written content but also for their aesthetic. I can convince myself to buy most books in eformat nowadays, but I will never do this with cookbooks as they deserve the majesty of beautiful glossy pages filled with photos. My boyfriend and I can spend countless hours sitting together, scanning our cookbooks and planning for our next great meal together, and this definitely gives these books more meaning.

I am a romantic when it comes to books, verbose with affection and praise. They remind me of close bonds with people that matter to me. They also remind me of cherished time alone with a warm drink and a big blanket.While reading through this post I am reminded of how much I have to thank my father for encouraging me to read from a very young age. He definitely embedded this appreciation for reading and I am eternally grateful. My parents gave me every opportunity to have reading material at my disposal and I realize I was spoiled to have this privilege that other children may not have had.

So..yeah..I'm kinda excited to be part of a club that's based on a shared interest in books. I'm guessing it may end up being more of a social club than a literary review, but that's okay too. It all comes back to the idea that books can bond people together; even if the notion of a book club is just the excuse to gather people with similar interests in the same room. It seems to have worked, ten women who don't really know each other have confirmed their attendance; maybe some new friendships will evolve from the experience. Or who knows, maybe someone will introduce me to the next mind-blowingly awesome book that changes my world view? Either that or we drink wine and eat

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shop: Yoga Paraphernalia

Day 16 with no retail release. I mean that as a euphemism, make no mistake.

Life is busy, which is a welcome distraction as it keeps me from wandering aimlessly in stores and online. I delete all my preferred customer emails as they come in so as not to tempt myself. It's working so far, except for the J. crew email that alerted me to the existence of the Pea Coat that I covet so dearly. Luckily I'm not that interested in this seasons biggest trends (brocade, wedge booties, lace) so it's easier to avoid spending. There are far less transactions on my VISA and debit card, that's for sure. It's a real case of Pavlovian conditioning, when I see something that I want to buy on impulse (a magazine at the counter, a new shade of nail polish) I'm finally starting to listen to that little voice in my brain that says 'you don't need that'.

In the interest of losing some (new relationship) weight, I have been going back to hot yoga classes. I'm doing a minimum of three classes a week with the intention of doing 5-6. It's not cheap to attend these classes so I will supplement the classes with a home routine using my DVD collection. Eoin Finn's Blissology is pure gold; it is truly an essential DVD for a home practice.With all this yoga, I find myself going through my yoga clothing repertoire weekly (well, the ones that fit my ample bottom these days...). Which leads me to drool over all the beautiful Lululemon goodies that I want. If I just had one or two more tops/bottoms....hmmm.... Today I happened upon the HalfMoon yoga website from a Facebook suggestion (well done, targeted marketing!) and now I am itching to add some of those lovelies to a shopping cart as well. Sigh, I'll be good. In the spirit of yoga, I will do no harm to my goals (and wallet) by breaking my will. A little ahimsa in practice.

Halfmoon yoga

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stalking my Neighbour's Cat: First Contact

I've been stalking this cat for months. Well, maybe more like a year or so. I'm not sure I have the narrative right since I'm pretty much making it up in my head, but it seems like either this stray cat has adopted my boyfriend's neighbour as his food supplier or the neighbour has adopted this stray cat as his window dressing. Either way, I noticed the cat when I started spending time at my boyfriends place. Whenever we sat outside on the balcony, the cat was wandering around the neighbours yard or sleeping on their balcony. The neighbour is a smoker and he leaves a filled-to-the-brim ashtray in the outer frame of his window sill which the cat has adopted as his nap spot. He literally wraps his plump cat body around this ashtray in order to fit in the little space on the window sill. I have to admit that the visual of a cat and his ashtray is a bit absurd, I feel sorry for him having to be so close to the smell and at the same time I find it childishly amusing that it looks like he himself has a bad smoking habit.

Eventually the neighbour started putting out bowls of food for him but I have never actually seen him enter the house. It seems he is an entirely outdoor cat. Now that I share the apartment with my boyfriend, I have taken to peeking out the window every morning to see if he's out there, lounging around his ashtray looking as if he's had a long rough night. I know, crazy cat lady. I'm not denying it. He's awesome, and I'm jealous that I can't have a cool outdoor cat call Sir Fluffy Mewington, the Third (because that IS his name, I'm sure of it). I've contemplated buying cat food to coax him over to our place, but we are in an upstairs unit and it doesn't make much sense. So I continue to pine away for Sir Fluffy. Unrequited love is the hardest to get over.

But today as I was leaving for work (a wee bit late already) I spotted Mr. Mewington near the sidewalk. I've never seen him up close, I've only admired from afar until now! I tried to call him over using my 'cat gibberish' voice  and to my surprise he mewed at me and came over. First contact! I regaled him with flattery and conversation as I pet him; Who's a good boy?? You are!! What's Sir Fluffy the Second really like? You really should quit smoking, you know? Awww, you're so cute! He was so soft and playful....awwwwww. He has such a lovely coat for an outdoor kitty. But what do expect from a cat with an actual title in his name? Pshaw, of course he's awesome! As you can probably expect, he got tired of me before I got tired of him, and he took off across the street to sniff recycle bins. Such regal behaviour, no wonder why he answers to the honorific of Sir! All I could do was make sure the street was clear so he could cross and hope that I'd get to play with him again.

(Side note: I noticed a bit too late that a neighbour was watching me the whole time and now I am appropriately embarrassed.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shop: Thoughts on retail restraint

I've put some thought into this no-shopping thing. It's Day 11, by the way.

First, I will create a list of all the goodies that I would have bought outright during this time frame. After the 3 month time period, I will review the inventory of all the "impulse buys" so I can take a long hard look at my spending habits. Which items were so impulsive that I would probably give them away, completely unused? Which are so trend driven that they have already passed their peak by the end of the three months? Which would I still love to have? Perhaps this will allow me to shop smarter. I try to buy intelligently but I see evidence in my wardrobe proving that I could have used more restraint.

The second benefit I see is the opportunity to use all of the 'beauty' products that I have bought which are currently sitting in duplicate and triplicate on my shelves. I know I could have employed this strategy at any time, but somehow the motivation inherent in a three month challenge encourages me to use up the products I have so that I can be more sensible when I replace them. I don't need four bottles of toner (all open, all in progress) or stock piles of Bath & Body Works room wallflowers (but damn do those sales lend well to stocking up!). I am a hoarder. I'm not sure when this happened but I point the finger at my family (you know who you are!). You know the type; TP and paper towel stock pilers; we simply must have two of everything or it's as if we've run out! But this habit is bad for storage space and even worse for letting things run past their expiry date.


This whole thing makes me think on my shopping habits over the years. In my early twenties I subscribed to the following Tyler Durden truism: "You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled.  Then the right set of dishes.  Then the perfect bed.  The drapes.  The rug.  Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you." (Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club) I was little Ms. Indignant, fist pumping  and yelling "Hell Yeah!" in agreement. But as my career progressed and I started to do better financially, I realized it was easy for the younger me to think that way since I simply couldn't afford most of the things I admired. I trained myself not to want what I couldn't afford. But slowly I realized that I wanted to dress better at work. A nicer purse, a nicer pair of shoes, a nicer overcoat, etc. At home too, I found myself replacing those 'temporary' Benix warehouse student purchases with more "quality" items. I realized that (despite what they say) inanimate objects do make me happy at some inexplicable level. All the years of denial and scrounging lead me to a period of overindulgence which I'm only just now realizing.

Was I happier when I didn't have as much stuff that 'owned' me, or now that I own stuff? There's a middle ground in there somewhere, and I'm hoping that being more intelligent in my purchasing habits will help me find the right balance. When I think of quotes from Fight Club now, such as "If you don't know what you want, end up with a lot you don't" (Chuck Palahniuk) I still believe they ring true. Moving everything I own from one home to another over the years has make me see how tethered I am to all these inanimate objects. I could do with less. I'm not saying I want to give it all away or set everything on fire, I worked hard for these things. But I do think I could use some reflection on what I'm bringing into my life/home and whether or not they bring me value/happiness/use.

And yes, I took the opportunity to include not one, but two Chuck Palahniuk quotes.

Drink: The 'Venti' (Recipe)

To begin, I really hated Campari. I've tried it in a few applications and I just couldn't get over the bitterness. Earlier this year, my parents offered me a bottle that they had been gifted and I outright declined it. But I have since noticed how popular Campari based drinks are, every nice (hipster)restaurant these days seems to have a short list of signature drinks and cocktails usually involving Campari. I can get behind a Mojito, but a Negroni? Euuuff, not so sure.

A couple weeks ago at my favourite restaurant, Osteria Venti, I decided to try their signature drink, the 'Venti'. It combines a very simple list of ingredients: Campari, Limoncello, Soda. It was the Limoncello that sold me, as I am now 'cuckoo for cocoa puffs' over the stuff. I asked our server how 'Campari'-ish the drink was and he assured me that the ratio was more of a 4:1 Limoncello to Campari. I'm glad I took his advice and that he wasn't fibbing; it was a great summer drink. It had a slight bitter bite at the end that actually balanced well against the sweetness of the Limoncello and fizz of the soda.

This lead me to purchasing a bottle of Campari on my next visit to the SAQ. I have since made my version but I replaced the soda with sparkling water. It was delicious and I'm glad I have found a palatable use for Campari. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, is it not? So I hope Osteria won't mind that I ripped them off. Thanks Venti!

Sometimes its just a matter of developing a taste for something, my taste buds are often a little slow on the uptake with a new flavour. I'm sure after a few 'Venti's I'll be ready to retry a Negroni. Now I just need a few other Campari recipes to try.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drink: Teas by Mariage Frères (Review)

Last summer while on our trip to Paris, we discovered the most beautiful tea shop/salon called Mariage Frères. We happened upon the store by happy accident; while strolling the streets randomly as we often find ourselves doing when on vacation. The shop was beyond beautiful. It was so well appointed and the staff seemed as if they were characters in a novel. It emanated colonial style with its beautiful oak bars and gorgeous tea tins lining the walls. I stood in the entrance and gaped; and in the end I didn't even go in. I was rained on and too self conscious about how casually dressed I was to go in. That, and the intense, uniformed staff intimidated me! Such regret!

Luckily, a couple days later I discovered Mariage Frères teas available for purchase at a gourmet grocery store (it was really more like a gourmet department store, it was that big and that full of variety). I have great love for tea. Perhaps it stems from nostalgia of cups of orange pekoe with my mother and grandmother when I was growing up. I was already coming back home with boxes of Kusmi tea (also fabulous) so I didn't hesitate to pick up a few Mariage Frères teas as well, despite not having tasted it. I don't subscribe to one camp or another when it comes to tea (fruity versus smokey), so I am pretty open minded and chose something called Marco Polo.  At the airport on the way home, I also noted they had some Mariage Frères teas, so I snapped up another box of French Breakfast tea.

Both Mariage Frères teas were worthwhile purchases. I coveted them at first, which is why I still have some left after all this time but I'm trying a new strategy these days; to use the things I have rather than letting them expire unused in a futile attempt to hold onto things. The weather is starting to get cooler, which makes me crave a hot cup of tea in the afternoon. A great cup of tea makes a work day a whole lot better.

I have since learned that Mariage Frères teas are available at Holt Renfrew during the holiday season, (maybe year round?). If you see it and you are a tea lover like I am, treat yourself to a box. You won't regret it. (Oh ....and go into places that intimidate you rather than regretting that you didn't. Moral of the story and all that!)

Shop: Day 9, The added complexity of gift certificates

Day 9 with no retail therapy. Not so bad, not so bad. Still jonesing for that J. Crew pea coat, but that's okay. It's not like I could go the whole season thinking "Bah, I don't like this new style anyway!"

At work this week I won a 100$ gift certificate for sports experts. They have some nice yoga gear, and even better, a golf department (Nevada Bob's). But I'm scared to walk into a mall for fear of breaking my will, especially if there is a Lululemon or Banana Republic nearby. I've been debating if I should allow myself to spend gift certificates during this retail diet or wait until after Christmas. I initially only cared about all the excess spending I was doing, it wasn't really about the behaviour so much. But in hindsight, maybe giving up shopping cold turkey is key, as it will allow me to really think about my spending habits. Learn some impulse control and all that! And no, I'm not giving it away. It's one of a handful of times I actually won something, I feel like I should frame it!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shop: Day 6

Spent a beautiful late summer day with the boyfriend walking around St. Laurent, St. Denis and Mont Royal with a large latte in hand. Did lots of window shopping but I bought nothing. Just saying.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Drink: Bootlegging III, Limoncello progress continues...

Last Friday I used every measuring cup in the house while working on the next stage of my home made limoncello recipe. The alcohol base sat for 3 week to soak up all the lemon flavour from the rind. A few taste tests revealed that even the tiniest bit of white pith really does make the mixture very bitter. I was warned about this in all of the books that I referred to but it takes a delicate hand to peel lemons and not have any pith on the rind. In fact, peeling ten lemons with as little pith as possible is quite a feat, my wrists were quite displeased. As a result, I think my limoncello will have something of a bitter bite/after taste.

This time, when I made the simple syrup  I remembered to measure out the cooled syrup first before adding it to the alcohol. Which is important because this syrup recipe resulted in 5 cups of syrup and my ratio would have been out of whack. This specific limoncello recipe calls for a 1:1 ratio of syrup to alcohol. Aside from the bitterness, which I hope balances out over time with the addition of the syrup, another detail I observed was the colour. The lemon alcohol looked a hell of a lot like urine. The colour is a tad unappetizing. Thank god it smells good. Although once I added the syrup, the colour did lighten a bit. The 2 1/2 bottles of limoncello that I ended up with are now sitting in a cool, dry place for at least another 2 weeks.

Two additional things you can do that really affect the taste of limoncello: refrigerating the digestive itself (not freeze) and freeze the serving glasses. I have 4 frozen limoncello glasses from Positano in my freezer at this very moment, waiting for the moment my Limoncello is ready. I am pretty psyched to finally try the finished product.

Removing the Lemon peel

Lemon Vodka

Mixing syrup and alcohol, Bottling process

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Style: Ok, so adult braces weren't my brightest idea

In addition to the brackets and wires in my mouth, today my orthodontist installed my first spring. Yes that's right, a coiled metal wire is rigged to put extreme pressure against two teeth in order to make space for the tooth sitting between them. An actual spring. Maybe I'm the only one surprised by this, I thought I had read everything there was to read about braces, and I don't remember hearing about springs.

I should be grateful they let me have a thin wire, as opposed to my usual thick wire and no rubber c-chain for this 7 week period. I will enjoy much Indian food, wine and coffee to take advantage of this hiatus (these items stain c-chains and make them look mangy). The reason for the thin wire is because they also removed and repositioned 7 brackets. 7!!! Whenever you have that much repositioning, they go back to the first thin wire and work their way back up to the thicker ones. The pain is mounting and it is likely that by end of day, my face will be throbbing with dull pain. Which will last 2 days to a week depending on how much work was done. We shall see....

Needless to say, when I asked my orthodontist if I would be getting my braces off around the 2 year mark (i.e. this December) he laughed at me. But just a little.

Eat: Achtung! Fallen Cupcake!

On my way out of work yesterday I had to side step a cupcake that had been dropped on our employee entrance path. I honored a moment of silence for the fallen cupcake and carried on with my day. Sad waste of a perfectly good cupcake, It still had the pretty pink butter cream icing and everything. People need to be more careful with their cupcakes; they are cupcakes, dammit!! When I arrived this morning, this sign had been placed to warn passerby of the dangers of the fallen cupcake:

I had to take a picture. The fact a singular cupcake smear warranted a 'Caution, Work Area' sign is a bit overkill to me, but even more comical to me is the placement of a sign rather than a quick and simple clean up of the cupcake remains. Maybe they left it there as a warning to all other cupcakes??? hmmm....

Shop: Day 4: Son of a b@#ch! J. Crew's Tipped Peacoat

Okay, this is hard to take.

Back story: I looooove contrast trim. Ever since J. Crew released the Lexington jacket way back in 2007, I have been enamoured with contrast trim. It subsequently renewed my addiction to all things J. crew. About two years ago I bid furiously on a Lexington jacket on eBay even though I knew the size was a bit too tight. I won and I was thrilled. It wasn't even the colour combo I wanted and I rationalized that I'd lose the weight so I could wear it, but THAT never happened. On my best (skinniest) days I can squeeze into it but I wouldn't exactly call it comfortable.

Photo Courtesy of J. Crew

Current day: I just received the J. Crew newsletter for the fall and low and behold, they have made their perfect pea coat even more perfect by adding a contrast trim. Case in point: The J. Crew Tipped Pea coat. Gasp!!! I must have this!! The fact that it is 300$ US (plus duties, plus exchange, etc.) doesn't seem to deter my wavering impulse control. AWW COME ON!!! I am slowly, sadly resigning myself to the fact that over the next few days my size will gradually sell out, first in the colours I covet and then in the colours I would tolerate, until the time I can allow myself to buy it. At that point it will only be available in burgundy in a size 00 or 14, neither of which fit me. I didn't think my no-shopping sulking would start this soon.

This one smarts...

Photo Courtesy of J. Crew

Photo Courtesy of J. Crew

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shop: Fashion! Cats! Fashion Cats!!

For any of you cat lovers out there, You might remember a post from a while back gushing over the 2011 United Bamboo Cat calendar. Let me tell you, I've used a few of those pictures as desktop wallpaper over the last year. Sassy cats! Man, can that cat wear a parka?!

Anyhow... this perfect union is back for 2013! You can pledge 40$ US or more to get yourself a copy of the calendar, but time is running out as there is just a day or so left in the campaign. Once they reach the target goal I believe they will begin production of the calendar based on demand. The photo shoot is complete and you can see a few samples of what is to come.

United Bamboo Cat Calendar Pledge Page
Due to my no-shopping challenge (Day 3), I will refrain from purchasing it this year. Sniff, yes, sad day. But I must admit that I don't love the design of the calendar itself; it is hard to read the actual calendar dates as the font scrolls directly over the photos. I would want to keep and display the kitty pictures long after the month has past so the design is not very conducive to that. Want to bet my that my boyfriend is secretly thrilled I won't be bringing home yet another cat artifact? Having said that, the production is gorgeous and must I reiterate that it combines fashion and cats??? The only thing missing is lasers!! WERK IT, KITTEH!

Shop: Share the Wealth - Banana Republic 40% off one item sale

Wednesdays in September means 40% one full price item at Banana Republic. I know this because I have a flyer sitting on my desk that has 4 perforated promo coupons (one for every Wednesday of the month) as well as an email in my inbox with a ridiculously tempting online promo code. If you haven't received the email or flyer and want it, I can forward mine. Share the wealth. The cost is that I want to know what was bought so I can have a vicarious shoppers high from a great sale purchase (Yes, it's that bad). Is anyone taking advantage of the weekly Wednesday sales?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shop: Sattva Pants by Lululemon

Its day 2 (of the no shopping diet) and before I even left the house this morning I saw something that I wanted to buy. My inbox contained Lululemon's latest newsletter, which had pics of these brand new lovelies:

Photo courtesy of Lululemon

Photo courtesy of Lululemon

About a year ago I bought 2 pairs (in heather midnight and flint) of Saturday pants from J. crew. Up until then I wasn't very interested in owning sweats, but online pictures of these ones really sold me.  That's when my addiction began and I found myself dropping into Lululemon stores hoping to score more sweats. Jeans these days are so restrictive, they don't lend well to curling up on the couch and I can't seem to get my head around wearing pyjamas within minutes of returning home from work.

I was adverse to sweats in general for the longest time, which I attribute to being a child of the 80's (oh the trauma!!). Even though I am a total convert with regarding to wearing sweats at home, I have caveats. I am not a fan of writing across my ass, a la Juicy or Joshua Perets. I don't think letters scrawled across my butt do me any favours. Secondly, wearing velour or terry track suit out on the town including restaurants, is in my opinion, gauche. No matter how expensive it is or what jewellery you pair it with, it's still a sweatsuit! I'm a little late in the game to be ranting about this since this style is not as rampant as it use to be. It was this very trend that kept me from even trying sweats; seeing the Phat and Juicy army on the streets of Montreal really turned me off the look.

But in the comfort of my own home (and any type of car or air travel!) I love me some sweat pants. I know many men (women too probably) cringe at the thought of this, it doesn't exactly exude sexiness. I've seen more than a few references in pop culture hinting that when a woman gets into her comfy sweats, there's no chance for sexy time. But I say nay! Not so! Especially with the flattering choices of pants that J. crew, LuLu and other stores have these days. Gone are the days of the old school sweat pant offenders: no camel toe, no parachute hips, no flat ass, no cinched cuffs that sit too high on your ankles! Uhh, that wasn't just me, right? Look at these pants and tell me you don't want a lazy Saturday on the couch in these?

Photo Courtesy of J. Crew

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shop: A temporary hiatus; otherwise know as a test of willpower

They say that 'all good things must come to an end'. In my case, it's more like a temporary hiatus brought about by insufficient funds. I am referring to my shopping habits. Post-divorce, I went a little crazy with my spending habits. I indulged. A lot. I would like to say I was simply being frivolous but in reality, it was more like irresponsible.

As a result of all this excess spending, I find that my tastes have changed. I'm no longer happy with the mid range priced items like Nine West or Gap. I know that these are nice brands, but instead I have indulged myself with the more costly Kate Spade,  Marc Jacobs, etc. I realize I can't (or don't want to) afford these beauties at full retail, so I do my fair share of scavenging, but even discounted Marc Jacobs is more expensive than the average Michael Kors. My every day purses are much higher quality than they use to be, as are my gym clothes, my shoes, my make up...the list goes on. J. Crew was once a treat, but these days almost every outfit I have for work includes at least one piece from their collection. I have spoiled myself and have now set the bar too high. Not to mention the fact that I have a tendency to double up on items that I like, leaving me with 5 different bottles of toner, 3 identical shirts in different colours, etc. The thrill of a new acquisition has dulled and shopper's remorse has increased. For shame!

I know, I know...third world problems. I'm spoiled and fortunate, I know it. But this type of spending goes against everything my family instilled in me when I was growing up, and I do feel guilty. They were always afraid of unforeseen changes and sung the praises of saving every penny.  I don't subscribe to this mentality like I use to, I've seen too many people pass away over the years (with untouched nest eggs) to 'never put out the good china'. There's a great chapter on this concept in 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin which really hit home for me. But I think I need to find the right equilibrium, I lost it somewhere between eBay and Winners. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing I can't recover from but it's probably a good idea to rein it in.

Soooo, all that to say, I'm going to start a little experiment and I intend to blog about it so that I feel bad when I cheat. No shopping until after Christmas. A little over 3 months. wince...whine...sigh... I will use this time to set a budget/strategy for my future shopping habits.  I have even set some ground rules so my boyfriend doesn't mock me relentlessly when I agonize over one purchase or another.

1. No clothes, No shoes, No purses, No accessories, No Jewellery, No Make Up, Fragrance & Body Products (unless needed for hygiene purposes ex. tooth brush, deodorant, etc.)
2. No Cook Books, David's Tea (tea must only be part of grocery orders) or magazines that I am not currently subscribed to already.
3. No cute artifacts: ex. stuffed animals or otherwise useless toys that I often bring home for no other reason than 'it's CUTE!!!!!. Likely sources: Urban Outfitters, MultiMags, Chapters, etc
4. Allowed: Services such as Yoga memberships, reasonable book purchases for book clubs, golf fees, food & wine

Not sure if I'm missing anything. Any suggestions? I'm allowing myself one exception, as I am going away for a weekend and had already planned on getting a few things that I cannot normally buy in Canada. I'll try and be reasonable. *ahem* Also, spending on others for Christmas is an obvious exception although it will likely be the greatest source of temptation during my 3 month diet.

Any bets? Let's call this Day 1.

Style: Logic, Women & Haircuts Follow Up

I was sooooo close to just asking my stylist to go for it. I think she probably sensed my indecisiveness and opted for a middle ground; a choppy bob. It's cute; I'm really liking the results. It can be polished for work or choppy/edgy for play. It flatters my hair colour, and takes minutes to blow dry into a nice shape. I have yet to play with my flat iron or curling iron but I'm looking forward to seeing the results. The only negative is this wave I get on my right side caused by my habit of tucking my hair behind my ear. Once my bangs grow back in, we'll look at trying a new shape, maybe even that crop/long bang style I loved so much. Even though I didn't go for a really short cut, I was amazed by how much of my hair was on the floor when all was said and done. I know that I often yearn for the security of a longer hairstyle (specifically 5-6 weeks after my cut) but I never feel quite as stylish as I do with a fresh new short haircut!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Style: Logic, Women & Haircuts

It's haircut day. I visit the world's most awesome hair stylist every 6-8 weeks, and on the eve of said haircut day, I often contemplate chopping it all off. Again. Which is completely contradictory to my frequent laments during weeks 5-8, when I state that I simply must keep growing it out. I find myself arguing that long hair is easier for sports, for fast styling (because it requires no styling), for accepting the odd shape of my head. I should grow it out, I have good hair for long, straight styles. I have been growing it out for the last 3 years, progressing from cropped to short bob, to lob, etc. It's the most effort someone can put into something that requires no effort at all.

But then I saw pictures of Miley Cyrus's awesome new rocker crop. And I experienced short hair envy. Then the day ago Rihanna chopped all of her hair off again for the MTV Video awards. And its damn gorgeous. Major short hair envy!! I blame my indecision on two things: 1. I don't normally reinforce stereotypes but I think its genetic, aren't all women a bit illogical when it comes to hair? 2. the haircut in this photo. I LOVED it and it makes me want to do something drastic. Decisions, decisions.....and a few short hours to decide!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eat: And on that note....

Oh, and by the way, is this list of 101 Best sandwiches in New York enough of a reason to want to move to NYC? This could be my 'Julie & Julia' moment, except I gain 30 pounds and develop a hernia eating 101 sandwiches in as many days. I would want Rene Zellweger to play me just so she has to gain weight again....

Eat: Tasty, Tasty Cubans (Review)

To begin, I must declare ... I love sandwiches. If the term sandwichophile exists, it applies to me. I am perpetually on the hunt for my next favourite sandwich, and I guarantee that if you are present when I find something new and exciting, you will witness a happy food dance like none other.

Last year, during my first visit to New York City in over 15 years, I was luck enough to tryout a few amazing restaurants. One of them was a pretty average appearing Cuban restaurant called Guantanamera. I had never tried a Cuban sandwich but faced with an authentic Cuban restaurant, I had to give it a try. I must confess, it was (foodie) life altering!

Now, there is a lot of debate about what goes into a Cuban sandwich. I can attest that during my search for a Cuban sandwich recipe, the ingredients varied greatly. Mayo or no mayo. Roast pork or deli sliced pork? Cuban bread or dinner roll? etc., etc., etc. Guantanamera's Sandwich Cubano is described as a classic pressed Cuban sandwich of roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. What it really is, from a taste perspective, is this wonderful amalgamation of hot, cold, chewy, gooey, tangy and fatty perfection. Sandwich Nirvana.

I was back in NYC this past weekend. Leading up to the visit, I repeatedly requested that we go back to Guantanamera for that sandwich. My level of persistence must have been eye roll inducing. Thousands of world class restaurants at my disposal and all I wanted was this sandwich! I got my way; we stopped there on our last day for lunch before we left town. I worried it would not live up to my nostalgia but it was perfect. The only hitch was the nasty hangover I was battling from the night before (also well worth it). My stomach was not being very agreeable and I could not bring myself to eat the whole thing!!! I was devastated!! I was not going to waste this unicorn of a sandwich! I doggie bagged that bad boy all the way back to Montreal. That's right, half a Cuban was smuggled in our car, over the border, into Canada. And when I had the second half yesterday, standing over the sink in a shame inducing snarf-fest of happy dance/foodgasm moans, I was just as in love with it. Makes me regret not smuggling a few more Cubans back with me into Canada!

Cubano Sandwich @ Guantanamera