Wednesday, October 22

October is Brain Tumor Awareness Month



There was smoke in the air when I found out that you died. Thick like fog settles in the morning, but yellow and acidic so it hurt to breath. Swimming and collecting in the unevenness of the earth, every blade of grass, stump or tree. Every building and street lamp and parked car was an obstacle to be set upon by the smoke.  It was a series of grey days.

It felt forbidding from the start. Like an omen. I don't really believe in omens but when I heard that you had died I felt like a premonition had been realized. The premonition of hundreds of acres of burning forest. I'm sure the firefighters or the people with rural homes would not understand, the people whose lives were wrapped up in the reality of the flames, but for the last several days as the fire had burned I had been thinking not of them but of you.

You who were an artist of a thousand office doodles. Line drawings in pen that collected over every page of your notebook. Mostly the faces of the people around you lost in thought, the lines of our furrowed brows. You drew all of our faces.

You who were accomplished in your work and valued innovation and never stopped making. Who never stopped talking. Who had a million things to say.

You who loved and gave and attended every outing, including the karaoke ones, and who never packed a lunch. Neither of us did, so we got lunch together and it was a reliable kind of trip talking Game of Thrones and spoilers and SciFi.

You who loved your family with all your heart and wrote on Facebook while you were sick only that you missed your dog. I know he misses you.


Several weeks prior I had taken a photo of your empty desk. Something about it bathed in the light of our offices only window, the chair pushed out from the monitor, sitting empty in the middle of the cubicle. I remember how much it stung when a new staff member took your chair. It was the nicest chair. You were the only one who cared enough to do the Ergonomic Assessment. All she had to do was say, can I have that? And she took it and replaced it with a chair that was not your chair. We had all been saying "Let it wait till he comes back, he'll be back soon". Eventually it dawned on us that you would not be returning, but none of us who knew you could take the chair.


I heard that in certain parts of the city ash fell from the sky like snowflakes. It drifted in through office windows and people drove around in 30 degree heat with their windows rolled up tight to keep the death out. I was on the LRT train when I got the call and I remember how the smoke seemed to push against the glass, trying to get in the cracks. Particles of trees in British Columbia and the North West Territories carried all the way to Central Edmonton on a breeze.

It comforts me a little that the day you passed is a day all Edmontonians can remember. Not just those whose lives you touched, but all of us. Remember when the ash rained and the smog stung and the highrise condos were mired in haze? Remember that? Ah yes, July 2014, I remember well.

A series of grey days.



It's taken me these months to put the words in my head to paper, and as life would have it the month I finally do, this month of October, is Brain Tumour Awareness Month. I would encourage everyone to donate even a small amount to research and to the betterment of the lives of those who suffer from brain tumours. You can do so through the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.


City of Edmonton photos from the Edmonton Journal. 



Monday, October 13

Being Thankful

I'm stopping in today, a holiday Monday here in Canada, to talk a little about being thankful.

Life can be tricky sometimes. It's not always roses and raindrops on noses, sometimes it's just torrential rain that washes out your footings and leaves you sinking into the mud. Sometimes you attend a funeral and get married in the same week and it's weird. That's one of the things that happened for me this year, and a week that leaves you feeling both the most profound sadness and the most complete joy is a strange week indeed. I've been thinking a lot about how this kind of juxtaposition is what brings the gems out of the rocks in our lives. Encourages us to stop and take stock of the beautiful things we have to be thankful for.

For me, being thankful is about enjoying and appreciating and telling your loved ones how much of a difference they make in your life.  Stopping to really look at how they make your life better. I know this is so true in my case.

So this year I am eternally and profusely thankful for the comfort, joy and love that my new little family lends me.


Friday, October 10

September in Instagrams

I find it absolutely impossible to reconcile the fact that September has already passed us by. How did that happen? I definitely remember August, but September has been a whirl. Perhaps the thing that's throwing me off is the fact that August's warm summer weather carried into the beginning of September, causing the months to kinda swirl together. I'm happy to say that despite it not feeling like fall, I took full advantage of those first warm weeks.

We visited the farmers market for the first time this year, we took trips to parks and to the farm, we even had a fire in the backyard complete with smores. I've been working very hard on our bedroom makeover, which you can see a little before and after sneak peak of in the bottom left of my collage.

It's been a good balance this month of getting out and enjoying things, and staying in and enjoying the cozy-ness of our new bedroom (as it gets colder). We moved a TV into the bedroom, something I swore never to do, this summer while it was too hot to inhabit any other room in the house. Now, we're fully in the habit of cuddling in the bed while watching TV. We've been watching X-files, Hannibal, Castle and The Knick over the last few months. I won't lie, I don't regret this little move one bit. The best part is when we have Tommy and Lola both sleeping on the bed with us, it's heaven.

Thursday, October 9

Capsule Wardrobe

Fall is already half way gone here in Edmonton, but the last few chilly weeks have had me thinking a lot about my wardrobe. No surprise there, I like to shop, and I'm currently in the midst of a bedroom makeover which means I'm thinking a lot about clothes storage and how I would like to live more minimally. It was probably fate which led me to the blog "Un-Fancy" where author Caroline blogs about her capsule wardrobe and living with only 37 pieces in her closet. She has some amazing resources and ideas, and I couldn't wait to comb through all of her archives! One of the great resources she provides is a wardrobe planner you can print off and  brain storm with. I've found this planner immensely helpful.
Berry Red

I thought I would share some of the realizations this process has helped me come to, and some of the planning I've done!
Olive Green
The first couple of exercises involve listing your lifestyle activities (for me: lounging, working, casual activities like board games with friends and dog walking, the occasional night out), doing a word association to narrow down what style choices you should make (natural, comfortable, effortless), deciding what colours you want in your wardrobe for the season (creams, indigo and denim hues, browns, reds, olives and golds) and listing your favorite brands (ASOS, Lord and Taylor, GAP, Everlane).
Navy Blue
The next two activities were the most revealing to me. I was challenged to make a list of my go to pieces, and my go to outfits. I listed boyfriend jeans, joggers, cozy knitted sweaters, cropped jackets, tent or shift dresses, drapey buttondowns, and raglan T's. I also added Jumpsuits, colorful cardigans, and ankle boots to represent the things I wish I had more of in my closet. For go to outfits I listed my white button down with my joggers and ankle boots, a drapey dress layered with a T or cropped sweater, a casual knit or T with a pencil skirt, and a casual T with jeans and a cardigan or cropped jacket.
Monochromatic Greys and Black and White

All of this made it pretty clear to me what I would need to buy for the season, and what exactly I'll be purging from my closet and keeping. I can solidly envision every item in my closet that I want to keep. Of course this doesn't actually make it much easier! I've already carted off, count it, five garbage bags of clothes to the local donation store, and Nick got in the game with an entire garbage bag of T shirts. Even so, my closet felt like it was bursting at the seams. This was in part due to my commitment to removing the rolling garment rack (took up too much space and didn't fit in with my new vision for the bedroom) and having to fit everything into half a closet.
Additional Denim
I took a first step by folding neatly all of my summer attire and storing it in packing boxes usually reserved for my suitcase. I would like to upgrade soon to some nicer storage boxes like these ones from Real Simple. These boxes went in the top of my closet and made considerable room , now, it's just winter and fall stuff in there. I could also pack up my winter clothes, but in Edmonton you never know when it's gonna suddenly be minus 30, so I thought I should keep them handy.

The other thing that made a huge difference in my closet, and I'll share some pics soon, was the purchase of slim line hangers! I've been wanting to do this forever, but I finally pulled the trigger. It certainly helped that I had some wedding gift cards for HBC left over. I purchased 62 slimline hangers and am employing them all (for my winter and fall wardrobes). The best feature is that each hanger has a little hook on it and you can hang additional hangers off the hook. I hang all of my basic shirts (like the white T's below) on one cascading hanger, I have three hangers for dresses, one for jackets ETC. making everything not only fit better in the closet, but easier to find. 
Basics
To prepare for fall, and recover from my purge, I purchased some new pieces. These include: skinny jeans, boyfriend cords, a layering tank, denim dress, flowy dress, knee high boots, some sweaters and button downs. I'm hoping to do some photo shoots before the snow flies! 

Wednesday, October 1

Man Cave Makeover

Many of you are probably aware of the fact we're currently working on a bedroom makeover. As it happens, we've also been making small progress on another room -- the man cave.

The biggest issue I've had with this room is that at the moment the dominating feature is the massive amount of books on bookshelves and in boxes on the floor. I began planning storage solutions and shelving, but while I was reading Elsie and Emma's new book  'A Happy Handmade Home' I had a revelation! They talk about making a list of activities you do in the room you're decorating, and things you want to do in the room. I realized that although video gaming, hanging out with friends and doing stuff on the computer were all on the list, reading books was not.

I decided to use our currently vacant (thanks to all my closet purging) underbed drawers to store books, move the long neglected boxes to the basement storage area we just acquired, and leave only a small selection of books in the man cave.

Man Cave
Serendipitously, I was contacted by the community manager for the company 'Man Crates Gifts for Men' to talk about man caves for their 'Man Cave Makeover' Campaign. Man Crates is a super cool new company that ships curated boxes of goodies in actual wooden crates that your man will be required to open with a crowbar. How neat right? Good news, they do ship to Canada (although it isn't cheap).

Above, you can see my 'vision' for Nicks new man cave. I've already purchased the cute little sofa from IKEA (although we have yet to assemble it), which is where I envision his friends chillaxin while they play multiplayer games.

After doing a lot of research on space saving, ergonomic and functional 'gaming spaces' we decided to wall mount his big screen TV over his desk, with his computer beneath it. That way, he can easily hook his computer to the big screen to play multiplayer games but he can also switch it to his computer monitor for regular computing. When he's playing console games he can sit on the sofa, or just roll the chair back to see the big screen.

Recently, Nicks desk kinda exploded in a shower of tiny ball bearings and computer trays. I'm thinking a space saving, wall mounted desk might really make the room feel bigger. I sourced this one from Lowes Canada online.

Man Cave Makeover


Another really important feature of the new Man Cave will be hidden, functional storage. I love the rustic ottoman I chose for my Polyvore mock up, but any small storage ottoman will do. I imagine we'll store game controllers, headsets, and TV remotes in there. Maybe even console games.

A few industrial accents will make the space feel more 'manly' and that bear pillow is killing me. I know Nick would also appreciate a rustic faux fur throw to make his Game of Thrones fantasies come true.

Lastly, imagine a spattering of game related trinkets on that cute industrial hanging shelf. Nick has a little vault boy bobble head that will probably find his home there.

I can't wait to get really started on this room (money is currently a factor, haha, I spent quite a bit on the bedroom not gonna lie), and I know Nick will love it.

Monday, September 29

Little Lola (10)

We've had a beautiful mild September so far and we've been trying to get to the dog park as much as possible before you know what arrives. Lola was beginning to manifest some fear of car rides, so we've also been trying to take her for lots of rides with lots of treats. As uncomfortable as she is in the car, girl always has an amazing time at the park. It's awesome to me that all of the pictures above were taken in the last two months and there's four different parks represented. It's so much fun to explore a new park.

Yesterday we tried Dawson Park in the river-valley for the first time and it was beautiful. Lola discovered the North Saskatchewan river and got all muddy and wet. She also got to climb a big cliff (top right). She ran up there unbidden and we all stopped to watch her. We called her to come on down and she looked around, I imagine enjoying the view, pondered briefly how she would descend and then came barreling down at full speed. A small bush served to slow her down once she reached the bottom, the look of wild adventure in her eyes.

I should start a picnic table series, I always get her to sit on a picnic table for photos. She's such a photogenic pup.

Friday, September 26

Self Tanning for Brides (And Everyone Else)

OK, it's pretty standard fare, brides like to be tanned. Most do anyway. Something about wearing white and being all professionally made up can make a lady look a little washed out unless you're beautiful pale peaches and cream.

I wasn't wearing white, but I was wearing makeup, and the colour of my dress (labeled 'Oatmeal' by the designer) though flattering on me, did make me feel a little washed out. Plus, I had my entire back visible so I wanted it to be a pretty back (I totally got my first ever back zit the week of the wedding, not kidding).

For my first foray into self tanning I considered the three options: go to a tanning salon and get my fake bake on, get a spray tan, or try one of the vastly mind boggling at home options.

The first option was immediately ruled out due to cancer. Not a fan. The fact is that tanning beds have been correlated with an increased risk of skin cancer. I know everything causes cancer these days but I wasn't interested in improving my odds. 

In the car on the way home from the spray tan admiring my new predicament.
With that in mind I chose to try a spray tan at a reputable local salon where they use a low chemical formula that reacts to each persons natural skin colour to create a perfect non-orangey result. I went for my spray tan two weeks before the wedding so there would be time for it to fade if it was awful, and I could re-do it if it worked out. The experience was a bit weird. It was my first time and being all naked while someone sprays you down with a sticky cold liquid is very odd. After the spraying was done I stood there like an idiot for a long time before I felt less sticky, then headed home. At home I had to stay far away from my puppy so she wouldn't lick my tan off! I was supposed to keep it on for up to eight hours so I ended up having to sleep in it. I fell asleep with my hand on my chest and woke up with a hand print on my boobs! After showering I was less than impressed with the result. For 30 bucks, I might consider doing it again (early in the morning preferably so I don't have to sleep in it), but I had a big problem with streaking and gaps in the colour. After scrubbing out my streaks I looked pretty good for about three days, then it started to fade and it faded completely unevenly! I looked super patchy! Overall, unimpressed. Definitely not wedding worthy.

The patchy second day of my spray tan.

That meant I had to go shopping. I headed to Sephora and ended up purchasing Vita Liberata Rapid Tan Mousse. The kit came with a mitt for applying the mousse, and it was a special 'choose your colour' formula that you leave on for one to three hours (or more) depending on the level of darkness you want. 

Nick helped me apply the mousse (he was in charge of my back) but it was incredibly easy to get an even coverage. Much easier then spraying! I loved the mitt application.

The first time I left the tanner on for one hour and showered only to emerge the exact same colour as before! I reapplied and left it on for the full three hours (I should note that after showering I again felt like I had emerged the same colour, but the colour continued to develop more subtly over the next few hours so don't be discouraged right away when you wash off). This time I was extremely happy. It looked natural, even and it faded evenly as well. I would highly recommend taking this approach to self tanning. I was so happy with the product, it even lasted a full week before it faded.

No Streaks!

Using Self Tanner:
  • Look for a mousse formula that will go on evenly and be easy to see any bare spots.
  • Exfoliate and moisturize your elbows, ankles and knees before beginning. Start with shaved legs.
  • Use a mitt to get that perfect even coverage.
  • Get some help with the hard to reach back region!  
  • Don't be discouraged right away when you wash off your colour guide, it will continue to develop after the guide is rinsed off. 
  • If you end up with streaks, use an exfoliating body wash, loofa or cloth to scrub away any darker bits. 
  • To maintain your colour, moisturize frequently and try to wash and exfoliate in the shower evenly all over (shaving your legs exfoliates, so your legs will fade faster then the rest of you if you don't give your whole body a gentle scrub). 
I hope this helps someone even a little, we have six months of winter to look forward to in Edmonton and I might try tanning again when the shroud of winters palor begins to become opressive.

Wednesday, September 24

Everlane Fit Details and Recap

Rounded Collar Silk in Blush
It's no secret that I love Everlane. When they first launched their campaign to bring shipping to Canada I pledged the $200 to get free shipping for life and I have absolutely been using that privilege to the best of my wallets ability. I thought, since the website doesn't have a space for reviews, I would take a few minutes to share my favorite -- and my most disappointing -- purchases from the luxury brand.

First, let me give you the pitch. Everlane is a brand offering luxury essentials, responsibly sourced and with a focus on transparency. They're open about how they source their factories (you can find factory tours on the website), what everything costs to make, and what the markup is on each item. Originally they began with simple mens ties, but they now offer everything from leather bags and sandals made in Italy to simple T's and more, with a focus on the most luxurious knits and silks you've ever worn.
Rounded Collar Silk in Blue
My first purchase in April 2013 was a silk blouse. The rounded collar silk in navy. I also purchased their essential leather belt, a T for Nick and the French Terry sweater in mustard. I wore the navy silk on the blog here. I spoke in detail about my love for the Everlane silk shirt here, where I reviewed several different brands of silk shirts and their fit.

Over a year later I can attest to the fact that I still love my Everlane silk shirt, and have purchased it in an additional colour (blush). I'm very careful about wearing them, always changing when I get home to avoid puppy nails and cat hair so they are a little higher maintenance than the rest of my wardrobe, but I love having them. Everlanes newest fall collection of round collar silk shirts don't include the button placket, which is unfortunate as that detail prevented boob gape for me. I'm currently obsessing over the new silk 'pocket' style so it might be time to buy another.
Reverse Denim Backpack
After the silks I stocked up on simple T's and purchased both the Reverse Denim Tote, and the Reverse Denim Backpack. I cannot tell you enough about how I love these two bags. I use them tons, and I always return to them. The tote is an occasional beach bag or purse, and the backpack accompanies us to the park, camping, hiking, and picnicking. It has a great laptop pocket inside, and the exterior pockets keep small items well organized. They're also holding up fantastically to regular wear. 
Reverse Denim Tote
A note on Everlanes T's. I've purchased two for myself and many for Nick. The mens XL is a perfect fit for him and I usually purchase him the V-Necks. The V isn't too low, and they all look amazing on him. I'm slowly planning to replace every T shirt in his collection with Everlane. The womans T doesn't fit me as well. I feel that if they had an XL I would find the fit more flattering, as is, the L is just a tad tight on me. Still a good layering basic, but not as chic with a pair of jeans. 
Nick in an Everlane V-Neck
I also own the Ryan pocket T, which fits wonderfully, is slouchy and great, but I find that it collects a lot of pet hair so I only get one wear before I have to wash it again. The fabric also wrinkles very easily and noticeably, and I don't love the neckline. 


By biggest Everlane regret has to be the purchase of the Box Cut button down shirt. I thought, how can I go wrong with a white button down? But the fit was awful on me. I purchased in large and could have easily gone down to a medium. It isn't just a box cut on me, but swallows me whole. Very unflattering.
Rounded Collar Silk in Blue

The mustard French Terry (part of my first purchase) I wore many times and got a lot of use out of, but it never fit quite right either. I purchased it in Large and it was a little too tight, almost the same fit as the T-shirts. Interestingly both the French Terry and the T-shirts are made in an LA factory, and both are tight on me in an L. Not sure if this is a coincidence. ;)
Everlane Seed Stitch U-Neck

Lately, my biggest Everlane success has been with the Seed Stitch sweaters. I own two, the Seed Stitch U-Neck, and the Seed Stitch Raglan. My favorite is the Raglan, as I find I need to wear a tank top or other layering shirt with the U-Neck to make the neckline work (and admittedly I find the Birch colour to be a little bit of a wash).

The Raglan is my most recent purchase and it is literally the softest thing I have ever felt. It's amazing, warm but it breaths so it's perfect for fall. I purchased it in Pine and it goes with everything and is very flattering. The cut on these I also find flattering. I purchased both in Large and they don't hug too tightly, instead draping perfectly. They have a slit at the hips along the hem and the back drapes a little longer than the front. I love them. Perhaps that is the greatest difference between the cut of the Seed Stitch and the French Terry, the French Terry having a banded bottom that emphasized my flaws in the middle.

For reference, I'm a standard size large or 14 on the bottom, 12 on top. I have a 32 waist, 42 hips, am 5'4" and wear a 36D.

Please feel free to ask any questions about fit or styling! 

Thursday, September 11

Canada Has Determined That is a Lie

I've been gearing up for fall lately. Nesting. It might be that the wedding's over and I have too much time on my hands or it might be that it's getting colder and I'm thinking about cozy sweaters and rooms I don't mind hunkering down for six months in.

Of course if you live in Edmonton you know, and all others let me tell you, this year we seem to have skipped fall and gone right on to that other thing.


Seriously. It snowed this week. What's with that? My sister broke out her winter jacket but I'm refusing to let the parka see the light of day until at least mid October. I remember distinctly that last year it didn't snow until November.

Anyways, I've been working on a little bedroom makeover, cleaning out my closet, thinking about organization, and buying a crap ton of new fall clothing items. Probably should have restrained myself on that last one, but for some reason I found I couldn't help myself. I have a gateway problem where the first hundred dollars is impossible to spend but once I finally do it the money flows freely until it's kinda gone. I should be good now... but seriously guys, I got so much nice stuff! So many sales! So irresistible!

None of my clothes have arrived yet, but I am super super excited about the bedroom updates. Can't wait to share. :)

Tuesday, September 9

Curly Girl

 
Last week I started hunting for a stylist on the North end who I could entrust with my difficult, curly hair. My stylist for the past year and a half was my friend Katy from Kick hair salon, she did a great job getting me ready for my wedding but I was more than ready to see someone closer to home who I wouldn't have to use a vacation day to see on the South side.

I started checking Yelp and reading reviews and through someones random review discovered that there were  now DivaCurl certified stylists in Edmonton, like, lots of them. Having searched high and low for a DivaCurl stylist some five years ago and given up due to the big fat 0 I encountered, I guess it hadn't occurred to me to check the website for awhile. See, some six years ago I read the Curly Girl Handbook by the makers of DivaCurl, a natural and chemical free hair product line made just for curls, and became hooked. I learned so much about  my hair from reading the book and it really helped me learn the basics of living with curls. This book really took the place of a curly girl mentor in my curl-free childhood (I think my mother has just come to terms with the fact that she is the one who gave me curly hair). I've been sulfate free ever since!

Anyway, I went back to the DivaCurl website and checked their map of local certified stylists (there's not only hair products but a specific way of cutting hair and styling that is recommended) and discovered two salons within walking distance of my house! I chose to visit Filippos Salon at Northtown mall due to its proximity to my bus stop. They also have a whopping three certified stylists to choose from, and carry a wide variety of the Deva product line.

I was paired with Stylist Kelsey Sebo who did a great job getting rid of all my horrible split ends and bringing up the length a bit. It was really amazing to get the full DevaCurl experience, everything from the 'plopping' with a micro fiber towel, to the cutting method. I purchased the DevaCurl shampoo and conditioner to begin using again, and am just waiting to finish my other products before I invest in the rest of the line. I couldn't believe how great the gel worked at the salon. I also purchased the cool Diva diffuser, but lo, it doesn't fit on my big fat hair dryer at home! I'm keeping an eye out for one with a slimmer head and soon will be able to regal you with the coolness.

If you're a curly girl, I would highly recommend checking out Kelsey or another DivaCurl certified stylist and getting the full experience. It really makes a world of difference.

ASOS high waist skinny jeans and crop top, Birkenstocks from Modcloth
Anyway, more about my outfit. I wore this on a long weekend Monday, it was bloody freezing and everywhere I went I was shivering out of my skinny jeans (not actually). The sandals -- my biggest mistake. That being said, I felt awesome and looked pretty damn hot. ;)