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I am an established fashion writer and content editor with expertise in creating cross-platform, multi-channel content, researching and writing engaging features, and collaborating with creative and marketing professionals. And before that…

I spent my formative years in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, before moving across the country to obtain a B.A. (Hons.) in Psychology from Queen’s University in Ontario. Next, I spent six years at FASHION Magazine (Canada’s most-read glossy, with over 1.9 million readers per issue), including three as its Western Editor, before being recruited to become Managing Editor at Aritzia, one of North America’s top women’s fashion boutiques. Somewhere along the line, I also completed a post-graduate law degree.

Business of Fashion, FLARE, ELLE Canada, Canadian House & Home, enRoute, the Vancouver Sun (part of the Postmedia Network),Chatelaine, Wallpaper ,the Globe & Mail, the Georgia Straight, WE, and Montecristo. I also wrote and co-edited the Shops section of Time Out Vancouver: 2nd ed and have made numerous TV appearances – a highlight was talking about Vancouverites’ style for NBC’s Today Show during the 2010 Winter Olympics!

In 2011, I moved to London, where I am now Editor at THE OUTNET.COM, part of the NET-A-PORTER Group Ltd. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and thanks for visiting! x

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Email: rebecca at rebeccatay.com  |  Phone: +44 (0)7719 110 777

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The Road Trip: Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula

The Road Trip: Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula

Costa Rica is probably one of the last places you’d dream of embarking on a road trip holiday, but after weeks of major indecision on whether to do a beach break, tropical rainforest adventure or five-star “no thinking required” resort vacation, my boyfriend and I decided to do all of the above.

Despite an abundance of bumpy, rocky winding roads, it is actually the perfect place for a road trip. We picked up our car at the airport in San Jose and decided to head to the Nicoya Peninsula (vowing to explore the Caribbean and more southern region of the country on a future trip).

A short drive from the ferry terminal and you’ll find a cluster of small towns with amazing surf and an incredible, relaxed vibe. A few days in Montezuma, Mal País, and Santa Teresa and you can see why the people who live here have the bodies they do: if you spent as much time surfing and doing yoga (with some lounge breaks in between) as they do, you’d have rock-hard abs too.

Other ferry systems may be more organized, but can you get a beer and plantain chips on the upper decks and watch ‘Ticos’ (as Costa Ricans call themselves) dance and flirt with each other.

Our first glimpse of paradise on the Nicoya Peninsula…
Healthy eating in Montezuma
Surf’s up!

Playa Santa Teresa: where epic sunsets, hot surfers, and miles of white sand come together. Can you blame us for not wanting to leave?

Ever driven on a beach?

Small towns such as this one are a frequent sight when driving through Costa Rica. We loved how colorful the country was: nestled amongst all the lush greenery were rows of houses painted vibrant reds, blues, yellows and pinks.

We eventually made our way to Monteverde, a major eco-tourism destination in the Puntarenas region of Costa Rica. The town, which has a friendly, backpacker vibe and a cooler climate than the Nicoya Peninsula, draws plenty of naturalists and tourists thanks to its proximity to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

We saw plenty of animals during our holiday, from cattle and possums in the cloud forest at night to baby turtles making their way by moonlight toward the ocean near Playa Grande.

One of the best parts of a road trip is the chance to stop at fruit stands along the way, many of which sell fruits we had never seen or tried before. Those round, purple fruits are star apples (“caimito” in Spanish) and have a whitish-purple colored fruit that is incredibly sweet and juicy.

Until next time, Costa Rica!

Hello, Hong Kong!

Hello, Hong Kong!

  

Planning a trip to Hong Kong is exciting, yes, but also daunting. So much to see! So much to do! So many things to buy! Luckily, I recently had 10 full days to spend there, and though I could have easily spent another 10, I managed to get in just enough sightseeing, shopping, and eating to confidently update my list of favourite spots:

SHOP
Always a must-visit, high-end department store Lane Crawford (and specifically its outpost at the International Finance Centre) is renowned for its fantastic edit of luxury and contemporary brands and fun-loving, creative personality. From teddy-bear Jeremy Scott x Adidas high-tops and a well-curated edit of popular American brands such as J.Crew and Club Monaco to a men’s Denham shop-in-shop, there’s truly something for everyone here (and if not, there’s a bevy of other luxury boutiques at the IFC to satiate).

EXPLORE
For a more boutique-y experience, take a stroll through the newish area known as PoHo (near SoHo, of course, and apparently called this after the buildings in the area, many of whose names start with Po). Hilly and relatively calm, the area is quickly gentrifying but its quiet, quaint nature remains. Stop in and pay your respects at the Man Mo Temple, then pop into Po’s Atelier for a fresh scone and Eclectic Cool for its selection of Danish décor items, then finish at 67 Edit on Hollywood Road for fashion by a mix of Hong Kong and international designers (think Shourouk jewellery, Sophie Hulme, LeiVanKash, and more).

EAT

Where to start…

Crystal Jade at the IFC – for the world’s best xiaolongbao (steamed Shanghai-style pork “soup”-filled dumplings)

Kiu Heung Yuan at 91 Wellington St. – for delicious Yunnan noodle soup (bear in mind that if you can’t handle food that’s too spicy, anything more than “mild” will blow your ears off)


Tai Cheong Bakery at 35 Lyndhurst Terrace (Central) – for egg tarts with a sweet, slightly flaky biscuit crust that garners 45 minute-long lineups

DO
For a crazy fun day out, check out the horse races at Happy Valley or Sha Tin. The former boasts a more lighthearted atmosphere (with more ex-pats), while the latter is for serious betters and is farther out, in the New Territories.

GET AWAY
Lantau and Lamma Islands may be better known day trip destinations from Hong Kong, but head out to Po Toi to really escape the chaos of the big city (because as much as you may love it, everyone needs a break once in awhile!). The quiet island boasts several decent walks, with noteworthy sites such as the Tortoise Back rock formation and the old “haunted” Mo family mansion along the way. Finish with a scrumptious, well-deserved seafood feast at Ming Kee Restaurant near the harbour.

After Hong Kong, we headed over to Macao, where we proceeded to eat our way through the former Portuguese colony. Stay tuned to the Kiwi Collection blog for that post, coming soon (you’ll also find some fun hotel picks for Hong Kong)!

Myanmar, Part 2: Inle Lake

Myanmar, Part 2: Inle Lake
I received a text message from a friend today who’s heading to Myanmar next month – which reminded me to post the rest of our adventure in Myanmar! 
First, a summary of our entire itinerary, followed by highlights from the Inle Lake portion of our trip.
Dec. 27: Bangkok to Yangon (1 night)
Dec. 28-30: Bagan (3 nights)
Dec. 30-Jan. 5: Nyaung Shwe, Inle Lake (6 nights, including 1 in a monastery)
Jan. 5-6: Yangon (1 night)
Jan. 6: return to Bangkok
To get to Inle Lake, we took an overnight bus from Nyaung U. While this is a much cheaper option than flying, I definitely do NOT recommend it! There are two bus departure times; both are ‘red-eye’ options, which may seem like a blessing (less time wasted in transit) until you arrive near Inle Lake around at 3am and realize that in Myanmar, this means all the hotels are closed and locked until the morning! 
Basically, from the bus stop, we shared a cab with a couple of fellow travellers (the guy was from Japan; his girlfriend was Japanese American) and directed our driver to the November Hotel, which we had booked from Nyaung U the day before. However, when we arrived, it was locked and there wasn’t an intercom, buzzer, or person in sight!

We proceeded to bang and rattle the hotel gate for 20 minutes until finally, a sleepy innkeeper came outside and we begged him to let us in. But our bad luck didn’t end there. Although our booking was for December 31, check-in time was still hours away and the manager insisted the hotel was full. When he finally realized we weren’t going to leave (we asked if we could sleep on the wooden benches in the lobby), he looked through his handwritten book (which was basically a hand drawn grid in a notebook) and found us a room that had not yet been changed or cleaned – but was empty. Phew! We were so exhausted that we managed to sleep, despite staying in our clothes and not getting under the covers, for fear of bedbugs.

(The couple we cabbed into town with had left to find some accommodation of their own – we later learned that they slept in the foyer of another hotel that had taken pity on them and about 10 other wandering, weary travellers!)

Not so sure about this – at least not at 3am!

And yet, despite a less-than-wonderful way to begin our time at Inle Lake, our 6 nights in the area made up my favourite part of our time in Myanmar.

In the morning, we headed out and started exploring the area.

The busy main street. The ladies are wearing long skirts called longyi, but in fact, both men and women wear them and they are part of the traditional wardrobe in Myanmar. From what I gathered, there are two main varieties: men’s tend to be cylindrical and worn knotted in front (they can be hiked up into shorts in hot weather), while women’s tend to be more like a sarong or wrap skirt.

We walked about 10 minutes through town before landing at the main docks, where you can rent a boat + driver to explore Inle Lake.

I bought myself a woven hat…
And then we made our way onto a boat!

This photo is taken by turning around – the boat driver stands at the back, next to the (very loud) engine. As you can see, the water is very dirty.

Locals use very shallow canoes to get around the lake

Our co-pilot (a.k.a. our captain’s son, who couldn’t have been more than 6 years old)

Houses and villages built entirely on stilts!

We made our way to the Khaung Daing Hot Springs, where we spent about an hour. There are three pools in the area pictured, as well as a larger pool where men are not allowed, just women and children. Skeptical as ever, Elliot wasn’t entirely convinced these are natural hot springs, but nevertheless, it was a good pit stop during our first boat trip.

After a few hours, and with plans in place to explore Inle Lake and some of its towns the next day, we headed back to Nyaung Shwe to make plans for New Year’s Eve… 

Which we celebrated at the Golden Kite Italian restaurant! 

We had basically been wandering up and down the main street for some time, trying to see what looked the busiest and had the most ‘celebratory’ ambience, and eventually settled on this random place. 

Their pizza and pasta was surprisingly good (and homemade – apparently the owner had somehow lived in Italy for awhile!), and we even got to try a local red wine! It was… OK.

Best of all, however, we ran into some friends – the Japanese/Japanese American couple we had cabbed into Nyaung Shwe with! 

Turns out, he’s a recreational DJ in Japan (and also studying for his PhD in physics) and with a little sound system setup help from Elliot and a tour group of about 20 super-enthusiastic Slovenians, we managed to get a NYE dance party going. Happy 2013! 

We also found a Kiwi girl we’d met back in Bagan, who proceeded to fall in love with a cool Myanmar kid.
The next day, slightly hung over, we embarked on a full-day boat trip around Inle Lake.

Almost immediately after passing the “Welcome to Innlay Lake” sign, you see men fishing using a traditional drop-net that is unique to Myanmar. They also employ an interesting one-legged paddle technique, which keeps both hands free for casting and pulling their nets. 
Unfortunately, the cover of the latest edition of the Lonely Planet country guide shows a fisherman on Inle Lake using his net – which means that recreating this scene for tourists has become a source of income in itself for some. 
Before we knew what was happening, our boat driver had taken us over to this gentleman’s canoe and, as much as I would have preferred avoiding a staged fishing scene, we felt obligated to hand over a bit of cash (though Elliot felt more cheated than me and basically gave about £0.20, which even by Myanmar standards, is not much!). The lucky fisherman even actually managed to catch a fish, which he proudly displayed.

We then stopped by a weaving house, where men and women were making longyi out of silk and lotus. I have never seen this before, but when two segments of a lotus root are sliced and separated slowly, they produce a slightly sticky, stringy substance that can be accumulated and eventually woven into a thread of sorts. Complex flying shuttle looms constructed from bamboo are then used to weave these threads into lotus shawls, which are delicate but incredibly soft.

  

Elliot bought a woven silk longyi for his father for USD$15.

We then went on to an itinerant market, which moves to one of five different sites depending on the day of the week and sells a variety of ornaments, souvenirs, jewellery, and other collectible knick knacks.

We also stopped by a cigar-making factory, where women and teenage girls sat on the floor of a building on stilts, rolling the ‘cheroot’ (cigars) by hand. 
Later, we realized we had been seeing these dried tobacco leaves at the local markets; they’re filled with a fragrant mixture of dried fruit, star anise, honey, rice wine, and other natural ingredients. Each woman rolls up to 500 per day, and the factory sells packs of 10 to tourists for approximately 1000 kyat (about USD$1). We didn’t buy any, but they did smell quite nice. 

Our second-last stop (we also had a lunch break, and stopped at the “jumping cat monastery”, though the cats no longer really jump) was at an umbrella-making workshop.

This was also a place where tourists were invited to see the long-necked “giraffe” women of Padaung, whose necks have been elongated from dozens of heavy brass coils worn for years. It is an incredible sight, but as is the case in northern Thailand, it has become a tradition practiced not for its historic significance as a beauty ideal, but for the tourist revenue it is known to draw. The Lonely Planet suggests avoiding these workshops if possible.

A floating garden – we saw tomatoes growing among the reeds and tried a few our boat driver picked for us, although we weren’t sure they were safe to eat as tourists are advised not to drink the tap water in Myanmar and the lake was pretty murky around the villages.

Our last stop of the day: the Phaung Daw U Pagoda, which contains five Buddha statues that have been covered with so much gold leaf that they now appear just as blobs!

Each October, the local people celebrate the full moon festival by gathering here to watch a procession of the Buddhas as they’re boarded onto an enormous dragon boat and carried from village to village to drive away evil spirits.

Women aren’t allowed up the altar step, which apparently is the case at most Buddhist temples. 

Myanmar, Part 1: the journey there, plus Bagan

Myanmar, Part 1: the journey there, plus Bagan

I’ve been meaning to do a post on our trip to Myanmar at Christmas since, well, the moment we got back. And here I am, finally getting to it seven months later…

In any case, I’ve had a handful of people ask after our itinerary, so I’ll start there and include the highlights along the way. Most of my trips to Asia start in Singapore, where most of my relatives live, and this time, we also stopped off in Thailand to spend Christmas with one of Elliot’s best friends who lives in Phuket. Below is just the Myanmar portion of our trip.

December 27 – Bangkok (DMK) to Yangon (RGN) on Air Asia
Our flight from Phuket to Bangkok was so delayed we very nearly missed our flight to Yangon, despite having allowed ourself four hours for the connection! However, we convinced them to let us carry our bags on, made a mad dash through the airport and, yes, were the very last ones onto the plane. There was an American couple that were making the same connections as us, and we later found out they had placed fifth in the CBS TV show The Amazing Race!

Our plan in Myanmar was to ‘wing it’ where possible, travelling like backpackers, but as Yangon is the former capital of Myanmar and its largets city, we thought we’d book our hotel there in advance. We arrived in the city at around 7pm and after checking in to our hotel (the May Shan, which was fine but nothing special, though the wifi in the lobby was a treat), we headed out to explore.


We discovered we were moments away from the Sule Paya (or Sule Pagoda), which is more than 2500 years old – older than the Shwedagon Pagoda!

We then headed to the night market, where there were lots of interesting fruits that I didn’t recognize – including these, which I believe are wax apples
Our first trip on a bicycle rickshaw, which are common in Myanmar and seat 2 passengers, back-to-back. 
December 28 – We had opted early on to only spend one night in Yangon, at least at the beginning of our time in Myanmar. Having been in Singapore, Bangkok and Phuket, we thought we’d be more eager to get out of the big cities and onto the more adventurous portion of our trip.
Early on the morning of the 28th, then, we boarded an Air Mandalay flight to Nyaung U (also spelled Nyaung Oo), the nearest town to Bagan, an area renowned for its thousands of Buddhist temples. A Christmas Day flight from Yangon to Heho (another city in the Shan State, where Bagan is) that had crashed and killed two and injured 11 left us feeling a bit worried; the tiny airport where almost everything was done manually (not a computer or conveyor belt in sight) didn’t really help.

Nevertheless, we got to Nyaung U in one piece!

Nyaung U, Old Bagan, and New Bagan are the three towns where travellers to the area normally stay. We decided to look for a hotel in Nyaung U based on the advice of a few blogs we had read that identified it as the busiest town of the trio. Definitely good advice – it was already pretty small and dusty!

We arrived mid-morning and wandered around until we found a hotel. We had started hearing rumours in Yangon about difficulties finding accommodation (given the peak season and rising popularity of Myanmar as a tourist destination in general) and had already met quite a few single travellers who confirmed this. However, of the five hotels we stopped in at, three could accommodate us and one had room but turned us away as foreigners! Apparently, there was a religious festival happening that weekend so hundreds of Myanmar people were expected to travel to the area, with all its thousands of temples!

In any case, we ended up staying at the Eden Motel for three nights, at a cost of USD $25 per night. Not cheap – but accommodation in Myanmar generally isn’t (at least not yet).

We did have an enormous room, though!


Our first view of Nyaung U, from the front steps of our hotel

Initially, we had planned to spend New Year’s Eve in Bagan, based on the following Lonely Planet description:
A bustling river town with more happening than you’ll find elsewhere in Bagan, Nyaung U is where most independent travellers hang their hat (or backpack). Roaming the back roads towards the jetty or stopping at scrappy teashops will attract friendly wide-eyed looks. There are a handful of temples to see, including the Shwezigon Paya, and a lively market. Visitors staying in New or Old Bagan tend to make it here, if not for the restaurant scene (the closest the Bagan area gets to nightlife) then for the transport links.

Don’t get me wrong – we loved Bagan and had an amazing time exploring the temples by horse cart and going on a cruise of the Ayerwaddy River – but Nyaung U was hardly “bustling”!

We weren’t expecting a big New Year’s Eve party, but given that it was peak season (and three days before NYE!), we thought Bagan would be rife with other travellers who would at least be keen to ring in the new year in the traditional western way, i.e. with a toast and countdown at midnight! Not so.

In the end, we decided to spend two days exploring the region, then head to Inle Lake.


The market in Nyaung U

Myanmar people doing their washing on the banks of the river. This was our view from The Beach Bagan restaurant, which was a lovely restaurant about a 10-minute walk (or 5-minute horse cart ride) from the main thoroughfare of Nyaung U.

A typical Myanmar horse cart. These are superb for exploring the temples. Sure, renting a bicycle is a cheaper but much more exhausting option, as not all of the roads are paved and the bicycles are a bit rickety! We saw more than a few tourists walking their bikes through inches of red sand… not fun!

A common view in Bagan: old, noisy trucks and vans with dozens of passengers hanging out of every window and perched on every available surface!

You can get a sense of just how many temples there are in Bagan… THOUSANDS! We visited about 15 in the course of a single day. According to the Lonely Planet:

In a 230-year building frenzy up until 1287 and the Mongol invasions, Bagan’s kings commissioned over 4000 Buddhist temples. And despite centuries of neglect, looting, erosion, and regular earthquakes, this temple-studded plain remains a remarkably impressive and unforgettable vision.

Typical temple activities. Note my scarf tied around my waist – as is the case with many religious sites around the world, you need to dress appropriately to visit the Buddhist temples in Myanmar. No skimpy tank tops or short shorts!
One very old, beautiful temple.

Temples as far as the eye can see

Amazing…
… Even more amazing after one man got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend! We all cheered when she said yes.

Be sure to stop at a lacquerware workshop, too, where you can learn the process of weaving, painting, and decorating lacquerware, and then buy some really beautiful Myanmar pieces.

We also rented a river boat and took a little cruise down the Ayerwaddy River. This was another highlight of our time in Nyaung U – the boat engine very noisy (as Lonely Planet did tell us would be the case), but the river is enormous and really beautiful. Our boat captain even brought us to a little beach shack for a drink!

  

That night, we decided to check out the local party our horse cart driver had been telling us about – it had something to do with the religious festival that weekend but we weren’t exactly sure what. Nevertheless, we had some dinner, then rented bikes and rode about 5km toward New Bagan. 
We knew we were in the right place when we heard loud traditional Myanmar music playing and spotted all the parked scooters. (FYI, tourists are no longer allowed to rent scooters or hire scooter taxis in Bagan. We kept hearing about one incident in particular involving a female Japanese tourist who was apparently raped and stabbed to death by a male Myanmar motorcycle taxi driver that had picked her up to go sightseeing.) 

And this was the performance! It was a bit of a bizarre night – not exactly what you’d expect to draw a large crowd of around 200 Myanmar people ranging in age from 20 to 50, but cool to witness anyway. 
Stay tuned for a post on Inle Lake next…

A little video for THE OUTNET.COM

A little video for THE OUTNET.COM

I did this little video for THE OUTNET.COM where I got my hair done, put on a metallic Christopher Kane dress, and talked about ladies who have amazing airport style.

A friend of mine said I am starting to develop a British inflection in my voice, which is a bit terrifying. I CANNOT GET Madonna syndrome! Do I have it? Do I? Watch the video and let me know.

Oh, and if you want to check out the products we selected to go along with the video on site at THE OUTNET, click here. I’m a big fan of the “Medea” stretch jersey tee by Theory.

Juice detox: the verdict

It’s so good to be eating again!

I managed to finish all six days of the Nosh Detox – despite more than a few ohmigod-I’m-starving instances and a pretty rough second night.
So was it worth it (and by that, I mean the £179 and 24 bottles of juice)?
It was probably worth the experience, but I have to say, I’m not sure I’d do it again. 
I might be feeling differently if I had been feeling really run down prior to starting it, but I didn’t really feel the big energy boost that was supposed to come around day 4. In fact, on day 5, the pamphlet that came in the bag of juice said, “This is how you should always feel”. Hmm – the same as I usually do?
Truth be told, I can see how the juice detox would be a good way to lose weight. I’m not unhappy with my weight and don’t generally struggle with it (although my metabolism definitely took a nosedive a few years ago and I do sometimes wish I didn’t love ramen and burgers so much), but I actually lost 10 pounds. I went to bed last night (and was still, prior to dinner tonight) lighter than I was in high school. What?!!!
Anyway, I’m sure it’ll all come back on in the next few days, especially as I have a fridge full of cheese, bread, and ingredients for all kinds of yummy things that I’m going to make. I also bought two bottles of wine. 
What I have learned, however, is that I definitely need to drink more water. I’m pretty sure my extreme headaches on day 2 were from dehydration (and the shock to my system of near-starvation), but since I basically hate water, my new routine is to put cucumber slices into a jug of water. Much tastier.
So, that’s it. No big revelations but still glad I did it…
Anybody else have any other (more interesting) detox stories to share?

Juice detox, day 3

Juice detox, day 3

Feeling much, MUCH better today, thank god!

I don’t feel quite like I’ve turned the corner (people always talk about feeling fantastic after a cleanse, and I’m not sure I would say that just yet), but definitely 100x better than last night.

Short post today – my juices today were:

  • 11:00am: The Rehydrator. Contains grapes, strawberry, pear, apple, lime, & flaxseed. 
  • 1:30pm: The Eliminator. Contains green leaves, berries, mango, oranges, & acai. 
  • 4:30pm: The Healer. Contains banana, peach, pineapple, apple, & the “best green superfood in the world”. Not loving these ‘vague’ ingredients but this was by far my favourite juice so far. The thick banana was such a treat!
  • 8:00pm: The Rejuvenator. Contains goji berries, peach, mango, pineapple & lime.

More than anything, though, I really, really miss food. And on that note, how about a few snapshots of my favourite foods?!

Ramen! I could eat ramen everyday. Ramen ramen ramen.
My favourite places in London are:
1) Bone Daddies in Soho
2) Tonkotsu, in Soho
3) Shoryu Ramen, on Regent Street (but surprise! They also have a pop-up in Soho)
4) Ittenbari, ALSO in Soho
I have no idea why they’re all in Soho, but who cares!
#NoodleFriday is a tradition in our household (as in, Elliot and I go for noodles every Friday… a bit more difficult now that he’s back in Spain but I still manage to get ramen into my system twice a week). Definitely can’t wait for juice detox to be over so I can get some RAMEN!
Oh, Bone Daddies also serves this delicious sweet & spicy pork bone dish which is amazing. Definitely not one for a non-meat lover, but the sauce on these is perfectly sticky, perfectly spicy, and there’s JUST enough meat on these to be perfectly worth the effort of chewing on some bones. Yum.

I also love a good BURGER. Gaaah what I wouldn’t give for a burger right now!

Burgers are pretty trendy right now (still) in London—it seems to have started sometime late last spring or even earlier, I think—but the interesting thing about burgers here is that restaurants ask how you like them done. In Canada, burgers have to be fully cooked through (health officials say the ‘safety’ of beef all comes down to its surface area, since that’s what is exposed to air—and obviously, ground beef has a lot of surface area before it’s formed into patties). Here, you can get your burger medium-rare or even rare.

I didn’t think I would like a medium-rare burger, but surprise! I do.

This before-and-after series is from Honest Burgers, in Soho (they also have a location in Brixton)
And this next one is from Patty & Bun, near Bond Street / Mayfair!
As you’d expect, everyone has an opinion on who serves the best burgers in London. My friend Lis swears by Patty & Bun’s, but she had a lamb burger and I had a regular beef burger, and mine was far too messy. The sauce was running down my arms from the very first bite! It was still pretty good, though.
Honest Burger was, IMHO, the better of the two. Probably the best burger I’ve had in London, actually. We did wait 2 hours for our table (we went to a pub and had 2 bottles of wine first, so that might have helped, too), but my burger stayed intact throughout, with perfectly uniform amounts of meat, bun, vegetables, and cheese in every bite. Amazing.
I’ve also had a Lucky Chip Burger (yummy and great to be able to eat it outside, at Netil Market in East London) and a burger at Meat Liquor (overrated and in a room that has over-the-top slaughterhouse décor), as well as many a burger from various pubs (the Prince of Wales in East Putney does a pretty good burger). What can I say… I can’t wait until I can eat burgers again, too.
Now that I’m starving and REALLY MISSING FOOD, I shall drink some cucumber-infused water and go to bed.

Juice detox, day 2

Juice detox, day 2

I’m lying in bed with my laptop propped at a really awkward angle, but I can’t muster up the energy to fix it… I feel like I’m going to die!

Day 2 sucks. Here are the juices I had today:

  • 11:00am: The Rehydrator. Contains passionfruit, strawberry, orange, parsley & flaxseed
  • 1:30pm: The Eliminator. Contains acai powder, pineapple, mango, blueberries, & peach
  • 4:30pm: The Healer. Contains green synergy powder, green leaves, banana, kiwi, & oranges
  • 8:00pm: The Rejuvenator. Contains goji berries, passionfruit, orange, mango & lime
The first half of the day went by smoothly – I was running late this morning so the lemon & ginger tonic was slightly less offensive when I gulped it down at the train station. The Rehydrator and The Eliminator (such a terribly evocative name… a bit gross) were also fine. The Rehydrator in particular was a bit thicker in consistency, so more like a smoothie, which I was into.
My 4:30pm drinks on Days 1 and 2 have both been green, although yesterday’s contained avocado and today’s contained mystery “green leaves”. But after that is when the day started really falling apart! 
What started out as a headache got progressively worse until I had a migraine (well, my type of migraine, anyway – I don’t get the aura or sensitivity to light that some people get). When I got up to leave the office, I got clammy, had cold sweats and nearly vomited. I had one of those moments in the bathroom where you wonder if anyone will notice if you sit down on the floor in one of the stalls. :(
When I got home, I got straight into bed, only to get up 10 minutes later when the doorbell rang (yay, four more days of juice had arrived), major GRRRR, got back in bed and fell asleep for about an hour. Eventually, I got up and, since my headache had subsided slightly, I decided to try and drink the 8:00 potion. 
Rejuvenator, my ass! The first sip made me retch so I decided to take a break… which is what I’m doing now. We’ll see if I get through the rest of the bottle. 
This is my sad, sad current view
My Aussie friend (whose name is Julia!) says this is normal, and that Day 2 is the worst, and that headaches are a common symptom. She also says by Day 3 things start looking up. The “detox manual” leaflet (which came with the first delivery) confirms the headaches, but not the Day-3-looking-up thing.

Hopefully she’s right.

Juice detox, day 1

Juice detox, day 1

I started a juice detox today. I’m not 100% sure why – I suppose as some kind of willpower test? In any case, I’m always up for trying something new!

My Aussie friend recommended a London company, Nosh Detox, to me. She had completed two of their juice programs and liked the results (she said she noticed a huge change in her energy levels), so when they had a 50% off deal on in April, I decided to give it a go.

It wasn’t cheap: even with the discount, it cost £169 for six days of juice (you get four juices a day, so 24 bottles in total… yes, that’s a lot of plastic), which is more than I would normally spend on food in this amount of time (I’d say I buy lunch and dinner approximately six or seven times a week in total), but these kinds of things normally are a bit of an investment, aren’t they? That’s what I told myself, anyway.

Side note: my new favourite packed lunch (though I’ve actually been doing this since November) is leafless salad, which is exactly as it sounds: everything that you’d put into a typical salad, minus the lettuce. My favourite combination is:

  • avocado
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • a bit of cheese
  • sweet corn
  • chick peas (only if you feel like it – they’re pretty filling)
  • black beans (again, only if you feel like it as they’re pretty filling, too)
  • a boiled egg
  • roast chicken breast or tuna 

I finish with either a handful of capers (for their saltiness) or a tablespoon of oil and vinegar dressing. Cut everything up into bite-size chunks – the second best thing about this salad is that you can eat it with a spoon! In fact, I started making this dish because I was sick of wrestling with those big, annoying (and often messy) leaves of lettuce every time I went to take a bite!

Back to Nosh.

Here are the juices I received for Day 1, snapped as I was making my last pasta supper:

The nice thing about this detox is that it’s pretty mindless. It’s like detoxing for dummies! Unlike some cleanses, you aren’t allowed any food, but each bottle is packed with enough nutrients to sustain you and detoxify your system at the same time.

And, as you can see, each bottle says EXACTLY what time you’re meant to drink it. It’s simple, but it’s genius!

Oh – the company also delivers the 6-day supply in two batches, so everything is pretty mindless. You just pop them in your fridge and bring the right bottles with you when you leave the next day! (This is starting to sound like a plug for Nosh, but I swear, I paid for the detox.)

I woke up kind of excited to start, but of course, as soon as you know you’re not allowed to eat, food is all you can think about. I’m not a big breakfast person (I usually just have something small, unless it’s the weekend, in which case, I LOVE BRUNCH), but I was starving by the time I got to work. The Lemon & Ginger Tonic I was allowed to drink at 8:30am (the tiny bottle in the front) didn’t cut it, and I didn’t like its flavour, either. Boo.

The rest of the day was pretty standard… the juices are timed pretty well, so by the time I was starving, it was nearly time for the next juice. Here is what was in them, in order:

  • 11:00am: The Rehydrator. Contains passionfruit, strawberry, orange, parsley & flaxseed
  • 1:30pm: The Eliminator. Contains acai powder, mango, pear, grapes & lemon
  • 4:30pm: The Healer. Contains avocado, mango, watercress, pineapple & “green synergy powder” (the first weird-sounding thing)
  • 8:00pm: The Rejuvenator. Contains goji berries, banana, berries, orange & lemon

Here are the finished juices.

I went for a run this evening (I was worried about going to the gym on an empty stomach tomorrow morning! And why not torture myself more while I’m at it?) and now, it’s about three hours earlier than I would normally go to bed… and I think I’m going to go to bed.

Life’s pretty boring without food.

The next five days follow the same four principles (with the same tonic each morning), so we’ll see how I feel. Keep you posted.

Weekend away, part 2

Weekend away, part 2

Haven’t had time to posting the rest of my thoughts about our Easter trip to New York, so here are the photos instead!


Lichtenstein – a good precursor to my visit to the Tate Modern, where the artist’s retrospective ends in a few weeks.

The super-impressive Warhol Campbell’s soup collection. Spot the cheddar cheese soup… sounds gross but also kind of delicious, no?
What! Amazing.

Edvard Munch – an obvious obsession with painting people’s hands over their cheeks. Quite a good collection of his work – though I was a bit disturbed by the constant recurrence of this theme in so much of his work, to be honest.

Everyone knows I love Mondrian…

Also met my friend Susan for a lovely breakfast at Veselka, near St. Mark’s Place. Love this little Ukrainian diner and the little old man that served us!

Standard view from the path that cuts through Central Park.

Sneaky pictures of the inside of the Guggenheim… they no longer let you in just to view the grand foyer – you need to buy a ticket almost immediately upon entering, and there are about 3 security guys ready to kick you out if you’re loitering about for a photo!

All in all, had an amazing time – ate a lot, saw some friends, and soaked up the wide roads, the super-tall buildings, and the general feeling of openness that apparently, I’ve been missing here in London.

Much-needed weekend away

Much-needed weekend away
It’s only been one week since Elliot and I were in New York, and even though it already feels like it was eons ago, I can’t wait to get back.
The last time I was in New York was in 2010 – I went on a Kiehl’s press trip just as the Vancouver 2010 Olympics were kicking off, which was a bit weird… I remember feeling like I was leaving the city just as the whole world (or so it seemed) was arriving.
During our visit, we stayed in Fort Greene / Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, which was new to me but really nice. As a tourist, it’s probably nicer to bunk up in Manhattan, but our place belonged to a friend of Elliot’s and you can’t beat free accommodation. It was also an amazing, HUGE apartment (especially by London standards!), but Elliot has forbid me to post photos. Sorry.
We pretty much ate, shopped, and walked our way around the city, with a few art stops in between (but inevitably we’d end up shopping and/or eating again).
First up: brunch at The General Greene on Dekalb Avenue, which was basically out the front door and a few steps down the street from the apartment.
Love: the casual, cafe-diner feel of the place (I didn’t realize this, but I’m sick of London places that try and recreate that old-time American diner feeling; I now believe it can only feel authentic in the States).
Also love: cheddar grits. Who would’ve thought?! They went perfect with my over-easy eggs. 
Side note: I like that “over-easy” requires absolutely NO explanation in the States. To be fair, most Brit servers will get it, too, but they’ll often say “oh, fried” in response to you in a snarky tone. And forget about ordering your eggs “over well”!
Random, I know, but I decided that I’d try and take snapshots of things I forgot about and felt a sudden sense of “aww, look!” about. 
Brown packets of Sugar in the Raw was one of those things.

Whee, hi! We look a little weary here but actually had a great time. This is, of course, us on the High Line, a public park elevated above Manhattan that runs from the Meatpacking to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. It was built on an old rail line that was saved from demolition. 
I had seen it under construction in 2009 but this was my first time actually ON its pathways. I can imagine how beautiful this must be in the summer. 
Note to self: come back to New York in the summer.
From the High Line, we wove our way through Chelsea and ended up stopping by this super-techy shop called Tekserve, where Elliot had bought his last Mac. We bought our Apple stuff at the actual Apple store this time, although we did get some accessories here.
It was a bit too geeky for me, but I did spy a random 13-year-old boy practising his Justin Bieber moves while watching music videos on an iPad. I also liked these archival walls.
Remember these Macs (Macintosh, I believe their sticker said)? I remember sitting in a classroom at school with about 20 of these computers, with all of us students logged onto the BBS (bulletin board system) and thinking it was SO COOL to be chatting online… to each other.
We then took some obligatory New York photos (but not too many). Here is the iconic Flatiron building at the intersection of 5th Ave., Broadway and E. 22nd St., in the Flatiron district.

Next stop: Num Pang, which was featured in this list of cheap and cheerful lunch spots that was handily published on Refinery29 a few days before we left. I had a noodle bowl with grilled beef; Elliot had a healthy brown rice bowl with the market fish (I forget what it was).
It wasn’t drop-everything-and-go cheap (our bill came to around $20), but it was definitely reasonable, a perfect spot for a casual walk-up lunch, and super delicious.

Throughout our trip, I was surprised to find that a lot of things haven’t changed much in the last three years. For instance, some of my favourite restaurants – La Esquina, Freeman’s – are still relevant and ‘cool’, and I could still remember where certain shops were (such as the APC store in Soho).
Of course, some things had changed a LOT. Such as this. 
This is the nearly completed One World Trade Centre, a.k.a. Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower stands where the original World Trade Center stood. Last time I visited New York, the site was a flat construction site. I can’t remember checking out the area much the few times I was in the city before that, but I did fly to New York in April 2012, just 7 months after 9/11, and witnessing hundreds of people and thousands (millions?) of memorial plaques, bouquets, teddy bears and other trinkets lining the barricades around the building. The air also felt dusty, from all the debris that was still strewn everywhere. 
At 104 stories, the new Freedom Tower will be the tallest building in the western hemisphere – and in fact, even unfinished, it has already claimed the title for tallest building in New York for nearly a year. What a way to commemorate the tens of thousands lost in the attack—and say fuck you to terrorism.
Another view of Freedom Tower…
and some other very tall buildings downtown.
After our little adventure downtown, we headed to the Lower East Side and lined up for “Americanized Oriental Food” (pulled directly from their site, thank you) at Mission Chinese Food
(By the way, I hate the word “oriental”, but let’s save that for another day.)
In the line, we spotted Padma Lakshmi, model, presenter of Top Chef… and ex-wife of Salman Rushdie. She was coming out of the restaurant with a small entourage; apparently she really likes the place. A normal-looking 40-something guy swooned when he saw her, waved, then shouted, “Seeing you just made my life!” Whoa.
Anyway, here’s Mission:
tiny and very ‘American Chinese-y’
We had the mapo tofu, Chongqing chicken wings (both of which were scary yummy spicy), plus a few smaller dishes from the other side (lamb meatballs, smashed cucumbers). 
I need to go back with a bigger group so we can order 10 dishes and I can try them ALL!
We were lucky to get in as they close between lunch and dinner.
mapo tofu
So, interlude… 
Here’s another thing I spotted in a store that I realized I hadn’t seen in ages! Full-scap, three-hole punched, 8.5″ x 11″ (a.k.a. letter size), VERY NORMAL lined paper! 
As it turns out, apparently the US and Canada are actually the exception when it comes to paper. While we use this very sensible-looking paper (three holes just make so much more sense than 2), nearly every other country in the world uses A4, which is slightly longer. I just learned that here.
A pack of paper photographed backwards. You get the idea.
Now back to food. This is the view from our perch at the bar at Momofuku Noodle, one of those legendary places that I have probably tried to visit every time I’ve been to New York, but only got around to (that is, had time to wait in line for) on this trip. 

It was well worth the wait, and the food is well, WELL worth all the hype. We started with kimchi, which was served with a tiny, cute bottle of hot sauce.
And then, of course, we had ramen. 
Yum! 
More New York highlights coming soon.

Highlights from Singapore!

Highlights from Singapore!

It’s been more than five years since I was last in Singapore, and it was incredible how much the city had changed!

In 2007, the city was just preparing for its first Grand Prix; this time, the entire financial centre had changed and welcomed such megastructures as the Marina Bay Sands hotel (which has an incredible infinity pool more than 60 stores up) and the Supertrees — a lush, green attraction that’s part of Gardens by the Bay — are drawing loads of tourists everyday.

Despite all the newness, though, I was still drawn to a few areas:

Little Tekka market in Little India. I LOVE this hawker centre – there’s so much delicious food on offer  that it’s difficult to choose just one dish! 
On our first visit to the market (we went back twice in four days), I settled on chicken rice. Yum.

The Indian gentleman at this crêpe shop some impressive facial hair! His crêpes were DELICIOUS – we ordered sweet ones (with sugar and bananas), but they’re also yummy when eaten with a savoury, tomato curry-type dip.

Someone recently pointed out that Singaporeans are all about “drinks in bags”. This is teh tarik in a cup, in a bag. Cold drinks come directly in a bag.

Dozens of sari (and other printed silk and cotton garments) vendors upstairs… love the colours!

We also explored Haji Lane, which is near the Tekka Market and full of independent boutiques selling unique clothing, accessories and household trinkets. 
 
I particularly liked this store, K.I.N., which stands for Know It Nothing and is “a multi label boutique” for men. 

It stocks a bunch of international brands like Gitman Vintage, Robert Geller, Norse Projects, as well as a good (very small) selection of magazines (I was pleased to see Hobo, which hails from Vancouver there) and some locally designed garments, too.

We bought a couple of these “Nasi Lemak” t-shirts by Nom Nom, a brand that “celebrates Singaporean food culture”… on shirts! I love nasi lemak. 

  

 
We also fell in love with this tiger rug from Nepal. It wasn’t outrageously expensive (it cost SGD1000, which is about $800 or £500), and if we hadn’t been off to Thailand and Myanmar next, I might have tried harder to convince Elliot that we needed it…
Next time… (If anyone is heading to Singapore and feels like bringing something back to London, let me know!)

A last look at Haji Lane.
A final highlight: a trip across the causeway to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, where we stopped for some bak kut teh before heading to the mall. 
A lot of Singaporeans head to Malaysia for shopping (the exchange rate works in their favour – so much so that the Singaporean government requires you to fill up your gas tank to a certain level prior to crossing the border to discourage people from going over just for petrol), which we did too, but the pork bone / spare rib soup at this little restaurant was the tastiest I’ve ever had and, on a trip full of incredible meals, still one of the most memorable!

Me too busy getting ready to eat to look up at the camera!

Obsessed with Soreen

Obsessed with Soreen

This is a bit of a weird post after so long (sorry!), but I took these photos awhile ago and I’ve been going on and on about Soreen malt loaf that I thought I’d finally just post these here. I also had two good friends from Canada stay with me last month, and I believe both tried and liked the wonder that is Soreen….

Big Soreen and  little lunchbox Soreen. 

It’s hard to describe Soreen, but it’s kind of like a really sticky, dense raisin bread, without too much raisin bread flavour. Here’s what it looks like inside:

It tastes the best with olive oil spread (or margarine) slathered on it quite thickly:

And when you bite into it, you leave teeth marks! Delicious!

Mallorca, Trip 47: Es Trenc

Mallorca, Trip 47: Es Trenc

After over two years of being in a long distance relationship between Europe and Canada, I moved to London… and Elliot and I are still doing the long distance thing. But hey, London is a hell of a lot closer to Ibiza/Mallorca (what’s two hours compared to 11?), and really, there are worse places he could be based for me to visit. Many, many worse places.

Anyway, I have just one last visit planned for the end of September, so I thought I’d share some Instagrams of my last two summer 2012 trips to the sunny isles:

A weekend destination: Es Trenc, Mallorca
The walk from the parking lot at Es Trenc to the beach itself involves passing by several decrepit houses that were nearly finished before construction was halted: apparently, you can’t build houses on the beach. Not sure what the whole story is here—you’d think the developers would have gotten the permits first, but then again, it IS Spain—but here’s the result. 
Something about the fact that thousands of people pass the development each summer somehow makes it less depressing and ugly.
But why not?

Our beach umbrella. We have gotten a LOT of use out of this little number.

More graffiti on the beach. Great colours and cheeky kids!
Taking photos in front of the graffiti wall.
Elliot lifted himself up to look inside…
And I got a leg up. 
(My butt looks quite large in this photo.)

My favourite beach snack. 
You just can’t resist buying one while saying “Magnum G-O-L-D???!!!!!”
Another weekend destination: the city beach in Palma. 
Testing out my new Tucker NYC jumpsuit on the beach. I had the opportunity to meet the designer, Gaby Basora, during a trip to London in the summer, and it was a true privilege. She designs all of her own prints and is SUCH a lively, gregarious person—a true pleasure to be around.

My teeny weeny leopard print D&G bikini. This got quite a bit of wear this summer.
That day, at city beach, we also saw a set of butt implants. Very bizarre.
Anyway.
One of our favourite little restaurants in Camp de Mar, which does a good paella.

Spanish olives are the BEST.

  

A 5-second August recap

A 5-second August recap

A quick recap of the last, er, MONTH!

First there was the Olympics…

I saw Quebec’s Alexandre Despatie dive at the Aquatic Centre…

These were Despatie’s second Games and he didn’t do very well – but the guy cracked his head on the board and had to get 20+ stitches not 6 months before the Olympics, so let’s give him a break, shall we?

I also walked around the Olympic Park again…

I even got chicken mcnuggets at the world’s largest McDonald’s (which isn’t actually this one, but the OTHER one at Olympic Park – see second picture below)…

I wandered the London 2012 Megastore (but didn’t buy anything)…

And then I went back to Vancouver for the amazing, super gorgeous #AdrianxMalania wedding, which took place in the massive forest-backyard of one of Adrian’s best friends, Tim.

Here’s my friend Paul looking quite dapper, taking it all in:

 

And then I came back to London and started a new job! 
How’s that for a super-quick update?

Mallorca favourites: Sa Foradada

Mallorca favourites: Sa Foradada

Elliot would probably disagree with this, seeing as I grumble about it every time he suggests it, but Sa Foradada IS actually one of my favourite places in Mallorca.

About a 5-minute drive from Deià (in the north of the island), getting to Sa Foradada means a 45-minute hike down a winding gravel road. It’s easy and I usually do it in flip flops, but the 35-degree heat definitely makes it a bit more challenging.

Here are some photos from the top of the mountain, pre-hike. You can see the winding road on the side of the tip of the island that is basically the last 10 minutes of the walk. (That’s my sister and her boyfriend on a recent European sojourn from their travels through Africa.)

The start of the walk involves climbing over an iron gate (the only cars allowed on the road are those belonging to the restaurant owners at the bottom). This sign makes sure you’re heading the right way:

There are plenty of olive trees during the first 10 minutes of the hike. 
Ever eaten a raw olive picked off a tree? I don’t recommend it.

There are also loads of sheep during the first 15 minutes. They roam the dry land eating grass and they run away from you if you approach them. The big collars around their neck have big cowbells around them.

And then, once you get to the bottom, we usually go eat at the family-owned restaurant first. This man, who is in his 70s, has owned the restaurant for over 40 years, and still spends his summer days cooking paella for appreciative tourists.

My favourite paella in the world.

See? We have brought quite a few people here—at least four different groups of visitors, that I can think of—but Sa Foradada remains a favourite. 
After lunch, there’s a little rocky cove where you can sunbathe (though to be honest, it’s not the most comfortable as there’s no sand…). Usually, though, I end up splashing around in the tide, trying to avoid being smashed over the rocks. 
Last time we went, we climbed up the side of the small mountain, but I got a bit scared once we got to the very tip of the cliff and had to hang on to the peak-marker. My palms were very sweaty (and they’re getting sweaty now just thinking about it again)!
It doesn’t look so scary here (I just look flipping ridiculous), but Elliot is taking the picture about 2 feet away from the edge of a 100m-high cliff. I won’t be doing this part again!

Canada Olympic House… and more Britishisms

Canada Olympic House… and more Britishisms

Today, a Canadian woman asked if I was Canadian… because she said I had a bit of an English accent. The horror! Seriously, I’m heading back to Vancouver in late August for a week, so if I have ANY SYMPTOMS of Madonna English, y’all had better tell me.

Anyway, this Canadian woman was at Canada Olympic House, which is at Trafalgar Square (also where the annual Canada Day celebrations are held). The house is, unfortunately, closed to friends and family, but I got a little tour of it and, I must say, this actually gives it more of a comfortable feel.

The Canadian sponsors are there – Petro Canada, Molson Canadian, and, of course, P&G, which is not Canadian but is a big Olympics sponsor and owns Crest, Pantene, Pampers, and Secret, among a few other beauty brands. P&G’s Olympics campaign slogan is “Thank you, Mom”, which is officially the biggest tearjerker campaign of the Games. If you haven’t watched it, YouTube it.  
Anyway, they’ve set up a lounge where friends and family can, in true living room style, watch CTV-streamed Olympics content… which is such a relief. The BBC is wonderful, but their Olympics coverage has (obviously) been SO British-centric – yesterday, I was shouting at the TV in frustration as they named the gold, silver, and bronze winners in some sport, OMITTED ANY MENTION of the Canadian team in 4th, and then focused in on the Brits in 5th. Bah.
Canadians watching Canadians compete at the P&G “Home away from home” lounge at Canada Olympic House. There is Molson Canadian beer and poutine (although they make it with mozzarella… sacrilege! Apparently you can’t find cheese curds in London).
There is also a Hudson Bay Company pop-up shop! Love.
Anyway, a few more random Britishisms to start your weekend:
  • When buying coffee, if you want a “drip coffee” (as we would say in North America), you have to ask for “filter coffee” here (although many cafés don’t actually have this). Basically, they’re referring to a French filter coffee – i.e. coffee made using a Bodum.
  • When ordering an Americano or a cup of tea, you have to specify whether you want it black or white. Essentially, white means it comes with milk in it – hot milk. Cafés here don’t have Thermos’ / carafes full of a cream, half-and-half, skim, or soy milk by the sugar and other condiments.
  • The middle finger: it is used here, but it’s much more common to use a two-fingered salute, with your palm toward you and a type of swipe-upward motion. Basically, imagine yourself saying “up yours” with two fingers in a backward-peace-sign, and you get the idea. (Apparently, this tradition derives from the Hundred Years War in the 14th century: English archers that had been captured by France had two fingers cut off their right hand – the fingers that drew the bow – so by flashing those two fingers, you were effectively showing a gesture of defiance.) 
That’s it for now.
Happy weekend!

My Olympics so far!

My Olympics so far!

I LOVE the Olympics. I get teary eyed whenever I see someone win, love hearing the stories of how far the athletes have come, love everything about them.

Here, then, are a few highlights of my Olympics so far – they’ve only been on for two official days, but we had the amazing chance to watch the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal on Wednesday (two days before the real deal), so my Olympics experience has been going on a tiny bit longer. :)

Hello from Olympic Park!!! 
(I need a “fringe” trim…)
The pastoral scene, before the Opening Ceremony rehearsal began… 

Volunteer performers walking the “clouds” around the stadium.

One of my favourite parts of the Opening Ceremony – the smokestacks raising from the ground to represent the Industrial Revolution. Amazing.

Spotted a few of the 10,000 performers post-rehearsal, still in costume. 
This dress reminded me of these two from Marc Jacob’s spring/summer 2012 collection. No? 
Source: Style.com
I also received a press membership to Omega House (St. Barnabas’ House in Soho) for the duration of the Games, which is pretty amazing. Here are some photos of the front room, the “Omega Ladymatic”, which I got a sneak peek of pre-opening. Omega is the official timekeeper of the Olympics, and Omega House officially opened on Saturday night, attended by brand ambassadors such as Nicole Kidman.
Omega has been good to me… during the Vancouver 2012 Olympics, I got to interview Cindy Crawford (another brand ambassador) for FASHION Magazine.
Me with Cindy. 
My head looks about twice the size of hers.
Back to London 2012, here’s a shot of the blimp that can be seen flying high above Olympic Park. I imagine it has a lot of cameras in it, capturing those aerial shots of the park we keep seeing on the BBC (CTV in Canada).
On Saturday, we headed back to Olympic Park for women’s handball. I didn’t do any research into this game before we went, but after watching two matches (Croatia vs. Brazil and Denmark vs. Sweden; winners in bold), I would describe it as a cross between hockey, soccer, and basketball.

Brazil in yellow; Croatia in red.

Seven people play for each team at once (including 1 goalie, who mans a net that’s about half the size of a soccer goal). Like basketball, the ball can be dribbled across the court, although players can also run with the ball (I believe up to three steps). 
When they stop running, they then have three seconds to pass or shoot the ball into the net. A few other rules: the offensive team can’t enter the dark blue defensive zone (which I think is 6 meters from the net), although if they land in it after ‘shooting’ the ball, that’s OK.


Like hockey, there are powerplays when someone fouls or gets a 2-minute penalty, which happen when someone holds another player unfairly; like soccer, there are yellow and red cards that are granted for certain types of fouls.

Maybe most interestingly, the ball is a bit sticky as a result of the weird resin-y substance that the players rub on their hands. They also put a glob of it on one of their heels, and during the game, you can often spot them rubbing their hands on it to make them tacky again. I imagine this makes dribbling a bit hard… 

There are two 30-minute periods (with a 15-minute half-time), and as far as I know, there are only a small handful of countries that have teams (competing at the Olympics, anyway) – although apparently, it’s a pretty big sport in Scandinavia. 

I don’t think there is a Canadian team… so if anyone wants to start one, I vow to join! What better way to get to the 2016 (or maybe 2020) Olympics?!!! (Sure, I will be O-L-D by then, but at least then we can say we went to the Olympics!)

Some keen Denmark fans.

A keen Netherlands fan in the crowd… wearing a shirt for another weird-sounding sport. Underwater hockey?!!! Seriously? Anyone know anything about this?!!!

On to a brief walk around of the rest of the Park…
Love this pattern on the floor. Reminds me of the Hay rug I apparently love blogging about.

Anyone who knows me knows how much of a recycling Nazi I am – so this recycling organization system throughout the Park really speaks to my anal side. I doubt everyone is taking it seriously, but at least the effort is there. Thanks, Coca-Cola.
The Orbit, which, if you have a ticket to another event at Olympic Park, you can buy a £15 ticket for. It’s essentially an elevator surrounded by DNA-looking spirals, leading up to two viewing platforms.

View of the athletes’ practice track. We saw quite a few people practising sprints and hurdles. 
I wonder who they were….

A view of the cauldron on the inside of the Olympic Stadium, which is causing a bit of controversy for its central position (apparently, it is usually moved to one side of the stadium). It will be moved elsewhere in the next few days, I’m sure – before all the athletics (track and field) events begin. 
A view of the City. The Shard (that triangular tower on the left) is the recently completed, Renzo Piano-designed, Shangri-La hotel-containing, tallest building in the UK. 
The slightly phallic-looking building on the right is “the Gherkin”.

And there’s O2 arena, where loads of concerts are held. I saw Jay-Z and Kanye West perform there a few months ago. It was slightly controversial when it was built, as its intended exhibition, the Millennium Experience (which was open for all of 2000), had major financial problems—and then failed to attract the number of visitors it was supposed to.
Thanks for reading my London 2012 recap! More photos to come – I’m heading to the beach volleyball semi-finals next week!

The Olympics start this week!!!

The Olympics start this week!!!

The Olympics start this week and I’ve just been told that I get to go to the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal!!!!! Aieeeeeee!!!!!

Unfortunately, I won’t be allowed to take photos but as it’s only two days before the actual event, that’s ok, STILL SO excited. 


I seem to be the only person living in London that is excited (the tourists are excited, but everyone else is grumbling about the traffic, the inconvenience, and… the tourists), but I don’t care. I love the Games!

A Monday whinge

A Monday whinge

Blame it on the weather, but I’m feeling peevish and cranky. Here is my current list of things that annoy me:

- weird British pronunciations. Not so much when it comes to names that are not pronounced the way they are spelled (i.e. the town of Reading is inexplicably pronounced “Redding”, while Chiswick is “Chissick”, but I’m fine with these), but these words:

  • urinal: pronounced here as “ur-eye-nal”. Urine is still “ur-in”, so why suddenly the long I?
  • router (as in an Internet router): pronounced here as “rooter”. Ugh, although this one is slightly more forgivable.
  • and many others I will add to in the coming days
- people who whinge but don’t do anything about what they’re whinging about (though I guess I could be blamed of this as well, since I often don’t inform these people that I am tired of hearing about their problems)

- THE RAIN

I do, however, like these photographs of London in the rain. They are so gloomy, it is almost hilarious! Source: these are all from the Urban 75 blog, which features photos from “Brixton, London, Wales, New York and more”.

Joy!
A rainy maple leaf

Fucking car. I swear drivers do this on purpose. Apologies if I have ever done this to you.

This poor, poor woman! Last thing she needs.

Happy Monday!

Weekend update: fashion, music, food, FUN!

Weekend update: fashion, music, food, FUN!

Weekend recap! On Friday, I met a friend for lunch near Vauxhall and spotted these lovely, colourful tiles at the tube station…

And earlier that week, I headed to Starworks’ media preview of the resort collections, which are often my favourite as they are also so colourful. I sense a theme… 

A bit of Nicholas Kirkwood. A bit less wacky (though they wouldn’t be Kirkwood if they weren’t a wee bit crazy), a bit more wearable. I love those bright pink metallic slippers.

Love the swirl, wave detail on the top row pairs (especially the nude flats with his signature rounded heel), and the mix of bright blue and vermilion on the bottom row.

A few of these pairs (i.e. the ones with the laces) look a bit more ‘traditional’ Nicholas Kirkwood.

These shoes feature Swarovski crystals, and I bet a few bride-to-bes will be putting these on their wish lists. As someone who owns a few pairs, I can honestly say that Nicholas Kirkwood shoes (even when they are five inches high) are actually, really comfortable. Definitely not as narrow as Louboutins, which I love. (I’m sure my podiatrist back in Vancouver – yes, I have one… TMI? – will appreciate their width, too.)

Starworks also represent Tucker by Gaby Basora, a brand I first fell in love with after buying a blouse at The Block in Vancouver’s Gastown. Gaby designs all of her own prints – how great is this lipsticked-angry-woman print for Resort 2013?

Another series by Tucker – love this chunky yellow knit. What a great way to brighten up a drab fall day. I need one of these!

And on to Roksanda Ilincic, who is probably one of the most beautiful fashion designers and best embodiments of her own brand. I love her signature lantern sleeves and wool crepe – it’s a combination that gives her pieces so much amazing volume, but keeps them light and comfortable at the same time. Definitely on my wish list.

And yes… she is launching a children’s line! SO ADORABLE. This little rack of little clothes was enough to make even the coldest heart feel broody (which is what they say here in the UK to describe someone whose biological clock is a-ticking away).

And on to Jonathan Saunders. How ’70s does this coat feel?!

Let’s breeze through the rest – some new, lighter fabrications (seersucker!) but still-sporty silhouettes from Lisa Marie Fernandez swimwear…

Wild, bright, and always-amazing digi-prints from Peter Pilotto…

Another amazing piece by Peter Pilotto. This dress is made from layered mesh (with an inner lining), so it feels light and sporty, while its print is nothing if not elegant.

And then it was the BBC Radio 1 weekend! We got 4 guest list passes (thank you to the BBC, Mallorca Rocks and my flatmate’s boss!!!) – wicked fun. The tickets were actually free for everyone who bothered to apply (it was a bit of an arduous process – people had to submit passport-sized photos and provide proof of address as certain boroughs were allocated more tickets than others), with a £10 donation to charity at the door.
I saw Ed Sheeran recently in Mallorca and Ibiza, but this ginger(bread) man has some serious talent. He is one of the only big acts I’ve ever seen that has NO ONE supporting him on stage – no drummer, backup singer, nothing. 
Elliot spotted him wearing “Ibiza Rocks” underpants. Quick note – no one really says “boxers” or even “briefs” here; everyone says “pants”. And what if you’re trying to buy what we call pants in North America? You ask for “trousers”.
Anyway, we got very very drunk, but not so drunk that we couldn’t take a picture of this massive #jagerbomb #fail. 

We also saw Will.I.Am, Nicki Minaj, Example, Kasabian, and a couple of other random acts, but the highlight for me was seeing Jay-Z – even though I saw him a month ago at the O2 arena. This time, he brought along Rihanna, M.I.A. (uh, amazing!), AND Kanye West.

You’ve probably seen loads of other coverage of Hackney Weekend (Florence and the Machine, Azealia Banks, Rihanna, Lana del Rey and David Guetta all played on Sunday) – so I’ll skip over the rest, but seriously, it was amazing.

The next day, we went for brunch at Dishoom, a Bombay-style café near Covent Garden.

This was my “Full Bombay” breakfast, which was a delicious take on a full English breakfast, with Akuri (spicy scrambled eggs that are apparently an Irani café staple) on toast instead of poached or fried eggs. I’m craving this again now.

And that’s my weekend update! 

More London eats: East Street

More London eats: East Street

I was walking to Tottenham Court Road station the other day (which, before I moved to London, thought was a fictional name from Harry Potter) and chanced upon this big, open space that reminded me a bit of the street markets in Singapore.

Lo and behold, that is exactly what East Street is going for.

As usual, I was hungry, so I went in and sat down. It was a bit empty (it was around 4pm, before dinner and well after a normal lunch hour), but they had a few people sitting there on laptops, using the Wifi.

In addition to a menu that includes traditional dishes from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia, they have a shelf near the front displaying a few essential ingredients, too.

I was glad to see that these weren’t exorbitantly priced. I bought a very large bottle of sweet chili sauce. Yum!

A blurry photo of a corner of my placemat.

A shot of my super delicious chap chae. 

East Street has an “Eastern Express” lunchtime menu where, for £7.95, you get:


A choice of: 

  • Korean chap chae, sesame-scented fried glass noodles with shiitake, cucumber, carrot, chili, and optional chicken
  • Thai tom yum soup with prawns, straw mushrooms, and glass noodles
  • Japanese “gomoku yakisoba”, which are noodles fried with prawns, chicken, red pepper, carrot, and bean sprouts
  • Indonesian nasi goreng, which is a spicy fried rice (we eat this in Singapore, too)!

AND a choice of:

  • 3 pork gyoza
  • 3 “tod man khao pod” (Thai corn fritters)
  • “goi cuon” (Vietnamese rice paper rolls, or “summer rolls” as they seem to say here)
  • miso soup

I don’t know how authentic the chap chae was, as it was only the third time I’ve ever had it, but the servings were enormous and I thought everything was delicious. Next time, I’ll try the Singaporean spicy chow mein off the regular menu and let you know how similar it is to the dishes you get in hawker centers.

3-5 Rathbone Place
London
W1T 1HJ
+44 (0)207 323 0860

Today I wore…

Today I wore…

… a winter coat. They say you don’t live in London for the weather—but I think I naïvely thought “they” were referring more to the mild, rainy winters than to the lack of summer (or, for that matter, any change in seasonal temperatures at all).

It makes this glorious weekend in late May all a very distant memory…

What I would give for weather that warrants ice cream. Especially ice cream from “Tay’s Ices”!

Queen’s Park on a busy Saturday.

My ice cream and lovely sarong.
I’m crying inside. And outside, too. 

Bad sister, bad friend!

Bad sister, bad friend!

Unfortunately, I have been a bad sister AND a bad friend!

Bad friend because I had to miss my bestie Shannon’s baby shower… so “gutted” (as they say here, which I quite like)!!!
Bad sister because I have been neglecting to read my sister’s blog regularly. Today, however, I FINALLY revisited it – and she and her boyfriend have chosen a new WordPress theme and it looks great!
Look! It’s me!
JUST KIDDING. That’s my sister! She likes food, too!
So, to try and make up for the bad sister bit (the bad friend bit, I’ve remedied by dropping something into the mail…), please check out her blog here!

She and her boyfriend both up and quit their jobs (well, she finished her master’s: she’s smart like that) in January and are spending the next 10 months travelling through Africa. Insane—and way braver than I will (probably) ever be.

Soho Yum Yum: London’s first “Temakeria”

Soho Yum Yum: London’s first “Temakeria”

So apparently, Yoobi is London’s first “temakeria”. I happily chanced upon this little corner restaurant (38 Lexington St. in Soho) on my way to work in a café—and it reminded me of Michi Sushi in Vancouver, a cute little “sushi on the go” restaurant right at the corner of Granville and Broadway.

Someone told me (I think it might have been one of the guys working in the restaurant!) that temakerias originate in Brazil… but, er, somehow I doubt that (Japan, no?!). To this person’s credit, however, if you google “temaki”, there are a surprising number of hits from Brazil.

Cute branding.
Brand new interiors—clean and spacious, if a bit sparse.
They do actually sell other things as well—miso soup (£2), for example. I quite liked this version, which, in addition to miso, tofu, and bits of seaweed, also had broccoli! I went there quite early in the lunch hour so I imagine the broccoli would get soggy by afternoon, but maybe not.

Temaki! This is making me hungry just looking at it. 

Citrus Salmon temaki: £3.60

 Tuna tartare temaki: £4

See you there soon!

Adventures in London: lost and found

Adventures in London: lost and found

Mind the Gap!

Seven months into living in London and I already barely hear the “Mind the Gap” announcements and am basically immune to the horrible squeal between Paddington and Edgware Road stations.

But never mind: the tube isn’t so bad, otherwise. And check out what we chanced upon!

(Ok, so this was actually two months ago, but I only remembered my plan to post this after I lost my good ol’ Telus BlackBerry and discovered that these photos had somehow made it into my iPhoto anyway.)

The official Transport for London Lost Property Office! 

That wasn’t the cool part, though. In the windows were shelves of stuff that had been found, labelled with the year they were found and which station / bus. It was a true mishmash of stuff from different decades… 
Check out the mobile phone from 1993. I’m pretty sure my dad had a similar one—perhaps an even bigger one! Apparently, someone also lost an IRON on the tube, back in 1934. 
A top hat found at Euston station in 1951!

Here: a telephone lost at Camden station in 1936, and an amazing vintage Mamiya camera lost in Brixton in 1979. Immediately after seeing the camera, I noticed the “things in this window are not for sale” sign. Damn. 
I have yet to lose anything on the tube in London (Elliot did lose a pair of gloves I gave him for Christmas a few years ago, though)—and I doubt much actually gets turned in these days… but what an interesting place nonetheless!

Wish List Wednesday: Texture!

Wish List Wednesday: Texture!

I’ve been really into the TEXTURE of my clothes lately – I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it has something to do with getting tired of all the high-street, crappy polyester clothes out there. In fact, I’ve basically stopped going to H&M and Topshop: as much as I appreciate fast fashion, I’ve completely gone off of it… not such a good thing for my bank account, although it does mean I’m buying fewer items in general.

Anyway, I think feeling so many crappy fabrics in these types of stores gave me a craving for interesting, more “authentic”-feeling materials.

The results:

A loopy skirt by Rag & Bone from The Outnet that I’ve been loving ever since I tried on the matching jacket over a year ago. Here’s a photo of me at an event in Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew wearing it. 

A teensy back story: I had interviewed the designers earlier that day and have never blushed so much in an interview. It all started when I said my boyfriend was British and co-designer David Neville said, “Oh, you like British boys, do you?” with his little twinkly eyes, to which I replied, “Yes, but I’ve also met your wife!” (His wife is makeup artist Gucci Westman, and I met her years ago, backstage at New York Fashion Week). Such “cheeky chappies”, as they say here.
Another photo from the event. Us three girls are all trying on Rag & Bone dresses; I ended up buying that red/maroon one. Our retro-school-picture pose was Joy’s idea :)
More texture: this time via Zara (the one high street store I still do love). This beaded and embroidered clutch was the last one – and I kept such a firm clutch (sorry, couldn’t resist) on it that the changing room attendant let me bring it into my room while I tried on a skirt (they never allow accessories in there). Woo!

And my last bit of texture – so I’m pretty sure these ARE polyester, but how amazing are they?! I got these Isabel Marant beauties at the Shop at Bluebird, a gorgeous boutique in Chelsea that has an amazing buy. These are also available in black (though what’s the point, when you have black hair). 
Love!

Weekend in Mallorca

Weekend in Mallorca

Monday, May 7 was a “bank holiday” here in the UK (stat. holiday in Canada – yet another little language-ism I feel the need to share) – May Day, officially. I went to visit Elliot in Spain, which was more eventful than normal.

On Friday night, we went to Pirates (Reloaded) with some of the Mallorca Rocks reps and guests – it’s a dinner show with a sexed-up version for adults that features, obviously, a pirate theme and acrobatics-type numbers. It’s one of the main attractions in Magaluf, which has a lovely beach but is far more known as a playground for 16-20-year-old British lads on their first vacation away from their parents (for you North Americans, think a bunch of teenagers on their first trip to Cancun or Vegas and you get the idea.)

Then, on Saturday night, we went to a launch party for McQueen Ibiza, which has just opened a new location in Mallorca. I was told this was a party to celebrate “adult toys”, which was no, NOT sex toys but stuff like this:

That, my friends, is a jet pack. It’s this weird, Ironman-like contraption that basically has two hoses near your armpits that shoot out water that has been sucked up through a hose hanging out of a ‘base’ that you wear on your back. Sounds weird… and it looks weird, too. 
That’s not all: it retails for €100,000. If I have that kind of money, a jet pack is NOT the first thing I would be lining up to buy….
We got a better look the next day (actually, Elliot was going to try it out but after three hours and a few “incidents”—a loose screw here, a missing Allen key there, and plenty of “we’ll be ready in half an hour”s—we gave up).
Weird.

This, however, was my view — so no complaining.
We also went to one of my favourite paella restaurants at Camp de Mar on the west side of the island – didn’t have the saffron-y dish this time, but did start with another Spanish favourite, pimientos de Padrón. Legend has it that 1/100 of these little peppers will be spicy, but I have never, EVER had a spicy one. 
But watch: now they’ll always be spicy.

In Palma, there was also a little festival / market this weekend – I think it might have been for the Feria de Abril, but I’m not sure.

My favourite little stall was a “Pulperia”, which was selling Pulpo a la Gallega, a signature Spanish dish. SO fresh and so delicious. I want some now!

Look at those tentacles!

Opening Ceremony is opening in London!

Opening Ceremony is opening in London!

News blast: Opening Ceremony is opening in London this July!!!

Ummmmm… like I need another reason to shop. For those of you who haven’t been to an Opening Ceremony in New York, LA or Tokyo, it’s an amazing store / retail concept that sells a mix of its own house label and established or emerging designers. It also collaborates with people like Chloë Sevigny and brands like Rodarte, Pendleton — who some people say was “revived” as a result — and Keds.

My crazy Rodarte x Opening Ceremony boots, snapped last September at London Fashion Week!

Each year, Opening Ceremony also features the “unique commercial and cultural character” of a different country in its stores on its website, etc. The country for 2012 is Argentina, and there’s some cute stuff on OC’s site from Argentina right now.

But I’m more excited about the London store opening in July!

“Yay! We’re coming to London!” 
(That’s not me in the photo, duh – it’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders of Opening Ceremony and also the designers at Kenzo. Photo courtesy of the NY Times).

Travel Thursday: Basque Country, Spain

Travel Thursday: Basque Country, Spain

It’s officially Thursday here in London, and it’s only been one full day, but it feels like ages since I got back from a short weekend away in northern Spain.

Maybe it was the insane rain today (seriously more torrential than anything I ever saw in Vancouver), or perhaps the fact that I lost my personal BlackBerry and saw my productivity drop by about 20% (all those emails that require just a short “perfect, here’s my address” / “what date will this be launching” / “here’s my answer to that question/edit/query you sent me” were waiting for me every time I opened my laptop instead of already answered on my network-less tube journey!), but god, am I ever glad it’s already Thursday.

Anyway. Last Friday evening, I met Elliot in Madrid, from where we drove straight to San Sebastian. Elliot originally wanted to go to Galicia, but I complained and nagged until eventually, we decided to go to San Sebastian and explore the Basque region a bit instead.

Alas, the weather was crappy in San Sebastian:

But you can see how this place would be jaw-droppingly beautiful on a sunny day, no? The two beaches in the picture are La Concha and Ondarreta, separated by the little rocky bit in the middle. 
Here are some photos I took on our stroll through the picturesque town. Only about an hour from France, it felt like you could see a bit more French influence on the architecture than the traditional Spanish fincas and villas elsewhere in the country.

So many interesting sedimentary rock formations!

A pretty bride, not at all bothered by the rain. She had a cute little white rabbit fur stole on.

This is the famous “Wind Comb” art piece by Eduardo Chillida, placed at the end of the bay, at the foot of Mount Igueldo, in 1977. The third sculpture is in the direction I’m facing in this photo.

We also walked through the Parte Vieja (“old town”), which felt very polished and not unlike Palma.

And, of course, we ate. I gained about a stone (which is just over 6kg, for you North Americans), I think! I could eat these little bocadillos every day, and pretty much did on this trip. Crusty white bread and fatty Iberian jamon… yum.

Elliot doesn’t like them. Isn’t he crazy?!!!! It drives me insane.

San Sebastian is also known for its high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants, but I’m saving those for another little writeup. The Mr. and Mrs. Smith guide has a pretty good roundup here, though.

On the other side of the bay is Zurriola beach, where world surfing competitions are often held. We may have had bad weather, but the late fall, winter, and early spring are prime surfing times. I wanted to rent boards (they were SO CHEAP – around €15 / two hours!) but their wetsuits didn’t look as warm as the ones we wore at Roxy Surf Camp back in 2009. I also can’t swim worth shit, and when I took lessons in Tofino, you can touch the ground pretty much the whole time (where you learn, anyway). Basically, I chickened out.
After two nights in San Sebastian, we decided to skip town and head somewhere else. Bilbao is about an hour away, so we booked a last minute hotel there and got in the car (a Mini we rented from Madrid). 
It’s impossible not to be impressed by the Gehry-designed Guggenheim; it is, after all, pretty much the FIRST thing you see when you enter the city by car. You’re driving around a bend, toward a bridge, and then suddenly, there it is, in all its shiny glory, 50 metres away from you.
Our second impression of Bilbao: it’s so green!

For some reason, we had been under the impression that Bilbao would be industrial and a bit dull (save for the museum), but we were completely surprised.

Beautifully landscaped, great architecture throughout and some good restaurants: definitely a very livable city.

We liked this building, which was modern but with a single wall that had been preserved from the original historic façade. It turns out the “Metropolitan” is an enormous health and fitness club.

And, of course, a few shots of the Guggenheim:

Jeff Koons’ “Puppy”, covered in flowers.

Ever wondered what the surface of the Guggenheim looks like up close (or, for that matter, the Disney building in Los Angeles)? I did. Also: it’s titanium, in case you were wondering…

More Koons.

The view of the Guggenheim from our very-cheap-but-surprisingly-well-situated hotel!
After Bilbao, we went on to the Rioja region, where we stayed at the Hotel Marqués de Riscal (another Gehry property). I’m saving it for another writeup as well, but it was quite possibly the nicest hotel I have ever stayed at. Seriously, you gotta love a hotel with a pillow menu.

This bed was heaven. You know how sometimes, no matter how comfortable and plush a hotel is, you still can’t wait to get home and back into your own bed? I experienced none of those feelings here. This was THE MOST comfortable, 18-inch-thick mattress I have ever slept on. 
The “Cloud” lamps next to the bed were also designed by Gehry.
From now on, I only want to stay at hotels that have a B&B Italia sofa in my room…
 And this kind of view from my window…

And come stocked with Caudalie products…

And complimentary, yummy red wine.
Anyway, we also got a tour of the Marqués de Riscal winery itself. I’m not a wine expert by any stretch of the imagination, but from what I do know, Marqués de Riscal is quite a “commercial” winery – widely available, consistent and good – probably similar to Mission Hill in BC. They’ve had some highly rated wines over the years (they’ve been producing since the 1800s) and are best known for their Reserva and Gran Reserva.
In any case, in addition to some of the things you see on most winery tours, we were also shown some pretty incredible parts…. all below:
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(hmm, that’s pretty cool)

Holy shit. This little prison of a room is where the winery has stored between 300 – 1000 bottles of each vintage, since the 1860s. These bottles are never sold (apparently, the King of Spain once tried to buy one, and they didn’t budge, even for him) but on occasion, they are opened to drink. For example, in wooing Frank Gehry to sign on to the project, they pulled out a bottle of a 1929 Rioja (the year of his birth). This apparently impressed him and he signed the deal.

Yes – those are all very dusty, very old bottles of wine.

Rows upon rows of them!

This was also quite cool: not every winery shows you where the bottling process takes place, but the engineering that has gone into the machines used for this process was pretty impressive!

And ta-da! The end result.

Hello (and goodbye), Ireland!

Hello (and goodbye), Ireland!

Just sitting in Dublin airport, waiting for my trip back to London…

I’ve been here, visiting Kildare Village, for the past few days doing a photo shoot for the June issue of the online magazine I’m editing.

It’s been wet and windy (note: “windy” in the UK can also refer to being gassy… obviously, in this context, I mean windy as in the wind blowing through the trees and messing up my hair) and I have made a few observations about the Irish:

1) They are very proud – of their land, of their country, of everything. 

The customs official asked, upon entering the country, if I’d be back often, to which I replied, ‘probably not’. This sounds snooty but it was barely 8am (meaning I got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am to catch my 7am flight!) and in my tired state, I was simply being honest.

Anyway, his response to this was “you just try” with a cheeky little twinkle in his eye. This made me smile.

2) Not surprisingly, many of them are anti-English. One man told me that Ireland had been “occupied by terrorists” for many years. Someone who heard him thought he meant the English; someone else thought he meant the IRA. I don’t know which he meant, but I do know I need to learn brush up on my Irish history.

Here’s another example of how the Irish like to do things their own way:

This tea tasted very similar to the English variety of the (almost) same name.

3) Apparently, red hair is not an accurate Irish stereotype. I made a comment about seeing lots of people with red hair (what?! I did!), and a friend told me that a more common, “actual” Irish look is dark hair and pale skin. What I was referring to was Scottish. Right.

4) Many (or at least it appears as such) English people have never tried Guinness. Weird, right?! In my first year at Queen’s University, I’m pretty sure I thought it would make me cool if I liked Guinness – so for a (very short) while, before I moved on to vodka redbulls or tequila shots (barf), I drank Guinness when we went to bars and pubs.

Guinness heir Daphne Guinness, who, judging from her super-skinny physique, probably does not drink Guinness beer. (Photo: Mayhem Entertainment)

OK, off to find some grub before I fly!

I love my new, vintage, slightly tacky Escada

I love my new, vintage, slightly tacky Escada

So in my ongoing quest to find a decent consignment store (next step: shipping things back to Canada… which one friend from Calgary who now lives here does quite regularly), I came across this wonderfully tacky red silk Escada shirt.

I repeat: red, silk… with a swirly cowboy-esque black pattern and a gold button. Check it out.

I know that Zara has been making a small fortune on its little button-up shirts with those little cowboy metal-tipped collars for awhile now, but I just got one and am loving it. I feel like I might have trouble resisting the urge to wear it with this shirt (although that might make me too hot).
After that, I might have to dig out my Texas tie. And then, and only then, will I be doing my Calgarian roots (home of the one and only Calgary Stampede, dintcha know?!) proud.

Who knew? Queen’s Park Market

Who knew? Queen’s Park Market
This weekend (much to the surprise of many a Londoner, apparently), it was glorious and sunny out again. Hurrah!
I met a new friend (“friends!” … see: The Inbetweeners… ) at the Queen’s Park market, which I have never gone to, yet is only about 10 seconds away from my house. Okay, 10 minutes, but whatever.
Here are some of the colourful things I picked up.

Butter lettuce and orange plum tomatoes, yum!
In case you want a better look…

I also found these little birdies at a “charity shop” (I forget what we call them back home, but I don’t think it’s “charity shop”. Secondhand store, maybe? Donations store?). They are mega random but they were only £2 for 12 so naturally, I bought 24.

Happy Monday, now Tuesday!

A bit of culture: The Wallace Collection

A bit of culture: The Wallace Collection

After my recent post on how glorious it is in London when it’s sunny, today was one of those all-too-common grey days. It reminded me of the last time it was super rainy, when instead of moping around drinking tea all day, we headed out to see the Wallace Collection in Marylebone.

The Wallace Collection is a museum in an old London townhouse, with galleries and rooms filled with art, sculptures, and paintings. All the stuff was essentially once the private collection of “the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace”, the son of the 4th Marquess. (I put this in quotations because I don’t actually know what a marquess is. Wikipedia tells me it is a rank below a duke but above an earl.)

Anyway, the collection was left to Britain by Sir Richard’s widow in 1897. It’s a pretty incredible collection, and gives a pretty good glimpse into what it must have been like to live in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The main entrance of the house. Imagine having to run down these stairs to answer the doorbell!
The light fixture above the main stairs ‘sprouts’ from this gilded starburst motif, with a face at its centre. 
One of the main galleries. It’s expansive and spacious, but I like how there is still a homely / comfortable feeling to the room – a result, I think, of how the paintings are all crammed closely together onto the walls.

“The Laughing Cavalier” by Frans Hals, 1624. One of the highlights of the collection.

“The Lady with a Fan” by Diego Velázquez, 1640 – another highlight.
Loads of miniature paintings. These reminded me of the little school photos we used to trade with friends in junior and high school – you’d write a little message to the recipient on the back and collect the ones you received from your friends, like baseball cards. 

Cabinets full of snuff boxes and tea sets.

A closeup of the intricate, silk wallpaper.
The most ornate curtain cord tassel I’ve ever seen.
Another gallery.

An old, wonderful chair.

The house also has a covered courtyard, where a café now serves high tea with scones and cakes piled onto one of those cute, very English tiered cake holders!

Somewhat oddly, the Wallace Collection also houses an armoury on the main level. This family was really serious about collecting random odds and ends!
The Wallace Collection seems to be one of those places that not everyone knows about or has visited – guess it isn’t as widely advertised as the National Gallery, say, or the Tate Modern (where I just got a membership, yay!). Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth a visit, if only for a good ol’ dose of Downton Abbey-style Britishness.

London: sunny, at last!

London: sunny, at last!

London: the sun does come out here after all!

SUCH a great, beautiful weekend. Elliot’s last for awhile, and even though he’ll get more sun back in Spain than any Londoner (or anyone, really) could ever dream about, it was so nice to get out in this city and see how glorious it really can be! Also funny: how nice everyone suddenly becomes. :)

This is London Fields, and it actually seemed much greener in real life. A few hours later, when we passed it again, it was JAM packed with people, all lying around like seals on a beach.

This woman and her band were playing in the heart of Broadway Market. She had an odd singing face, but she had actually quite a lovely voice (she sang French ballads; also slightly weird) if you could get over her weird facial contortions.
Our friends pointed out the drawing on the side of this building as a Cyanide & Happiness one. When we went home that night, we spent about an hour poring over recent comics; I really like this one:
Cyanide & Happiness ‘specialise’ in sick, often cynical, always hilarious humour.
Anyway, back at Broadway Market, there were loads of stalls selling everything from crochet socks and butterfly-wing pendants to Vietnamese banh-mi (the most delicious sandwiches in the world) and these sausages. 
We have been on a quest to eat less meat (I have no idea why; this is one of those instances where Elliot has decided he wants to do something and I, for some reason, agree to do the same), so this stall was particularly painful.

 We then passed a portion of Regent’s Canal where a little canal boat had been transformed into a makeshift bookshop, with its owners eating a lovely little meal on top.

It was really cute – not sure if you can see the gingham tablecloth (or the fact that the guy was wearing a studded belt with some kind of bike top / leather vest), but their little picnic looked delicious.

We then found The Dog & Wardrobe, a little vintage furniture / housewares shop next to the canal that, as it turns out, was mentioned in a recent issue of Time Out (which I saw when I got home). It was like a tiny, mini version of the Sunbury market – I wouldn’t be surprised if they got some of their great finds there.

We finished off the sunny day out with burgers and beer at the Netil Market… (yes, I had a burger; Elliot had a veggie burger!!!)… next time, I’ll take some snaps of the meat.

An outfit post

An outfit post

I’m not a huge fan of outfit diary-style blogs—all I can do when I’m scrolling through them quickly is think, ‘how embarrassing’ or ‘how awkward for the person taking the photos’.

That said, going to fashion week these days involves a lot of prepwork: putting outfits together, packing (which I didn’t have to do this season, thankfully), and figuring out how long your feet will last in a certain pair of 5-inch heels. Some girls I know even take snapshots of their outfits so that getting dressed for a 9am show is that much more painless, but I generally just enter the week with a few ideas of specific pieces I want to wear and then go from there.

Blah blah blah. Here are a few of my outfits from fashion week, as they appeared on a few sites that cared! (Thank you!)

This photo appeared on Elle.com‘s London Fashion Week street style slideshow. Exciting! I’m wearing Dries van Noten pants, YSL shoes, an Alexander Wang leather and velvet jacket, a vintage fox fur scarf, and a zebra print Jimmy Choo for H&M clutch. Inside the jacket is a tee from Portobello Market.
 A detail shot of my clutch as it appeared on New York Magazine’s The Cut blog.

A friend of mine sent me this download of the Fashion Week Daily newspaper after she saw me in it. I’m the girl wearing a big orange coat (Sportmax) with blue palazzo pants (Zara), a white shirt (Elizabeth & James) and a blue origami sweater (Phillip Lim). That sweater was making a repeat appearance this season—normally a do-not-do at fashion week, but it was the first day, it matched my pants, whatever.

A closeup of this outfit. The yellow bag is by Rebecca Minkoff. This was a fun, happy outfit. 
See my smile? Happy!
And trying to be less happy for Wayne Tippetts. Like this backdrop, though – this is a walkway near the riverfront / back entrance of the Savoy Hotel before Maria Grachvogel’s show.

This was another one of my colourful ensembles for fashion week. Apparently, my mantra this season was ‘the more colourful, the better’. (Although anyone who knows me would probably say that’s the case everyday.) 
This is a Jil Sander skirt (I could NOT believe it when I found this at Holt Renfrew near the end of the season!), an Anthropologie sweatshirt, and a big indigo coat by Ports 1961 (with removable furry scarf). My orange shoes are Louboutins (again, quite old – I remember wearing these in New York in 2009!) and my little felt-bead purse is from Portobello Market. It matches my Hay rug, which I wrote about before here.

This closeup shot appeared (of me trying to stuff something into my too-small-for-fashion-week purse on Vogue.com. A friend of mine recognised me by my tattoo!
The outfit also got me and my friend Mosha noticed by Damien Florebert Cuypers, an illustrator who was doing sketches for the New York Times’ T Magazine blog. This is my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE ‘street style’ snapshot EVER. I also loved his little captions: 
Sunny and peacock-esque! 

This was one of my last outfits—Isabel Marant corduroy jeans, Theyskens Theory tuxedo tee, Lanvin for H&M faux fur coat, Alexander Wang Diego bag, and silver necklace from CoS. The Miu Miu heels just about killed me – I even made a pit stop at home to change into other equally-high-but-much-more-comfortable ankle boots. No one ever goes home to change their shoes here—that’s how sore my feet were!
This is later, feeling much happier (with different shoes on) and with a drink or two in me, at the Business of Fashion fifth anniversary party at Le Baron. Mosha (in a great Peter Pilotto dress) and I made sure to reference founder Imran Amed’s Canadian roots, and he must have liked it, because this photo later showed up on the site’s daily newsletter. 
Favourite outfits? Yays or nays? My orange-and-blue combo apparently inspired a few comments after it was included in a Luisa Via Roma fashion week album on Facebook (one girl said “you have to be Asian to pull this off”—huh?)… any other thoughts that simply *must* be shared? 

London Fashion Week FW2012

London Fashion Week FW2012
It’s been a insanely busy two weeks, what with London Fashion Week, a digital workshop whirlwind trip to Barcelona, and lots of steps to get the online magazine I’m now editing up and relaunched by April! (I’ll point you to the link when that goes up, don’t worry.)
Anyway, even though it now feels like ages ago, here are a few of my highlights from the Fall/Winter 2012 collections at London Fashion Week. (Quick note: people here say “Autumn/Winter” instead of “Fall/Winter”… not sure why, but there you go. FW12 is now AW12.)

Probably the worst photo imaginable, but one of my favourite “newbie” shows. Canadian Thomas Tait lured a load of editors to a FREEZING (seriously, it was probably -5 degrees inside… and +5 degrees outside), dark warehouse in east London. Good thing his collection was stellar. Amazing construction, beautiful rounded shoulders on jackets, and this to-die-for sweeper coat in a mossy green.

Peter Pilotto – another one of my favourite collections this season. I’ve often wondered why they named their label after just one of the guys behind it (the other is Christopher De Vos). Loved the digital prints in this collection, and this snapshot is of one big thing that LFW brought: the pretty puffa.

Two shots from Christopher Kane. There were some great colours in this collection—blood reds and purples, as well as black and dark, dark greys—and a cool wood-grain print that you can just barely make out in this second photo. The purple carpet matched the font used for the tickets, and I sat in the front row, on the very, very (literally, VERY) end of the runway, three down from Poppy Delevingne.

Clémence Poésy at Burberry.

Love this little bow belt at Burberry. Not loving the look on Alexa Chung’s face.
A closer look at the belt and one of the owl screened tops from the Burberry show. This photo was taken the next day at Burberry’s enormous London showroom. 
I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was fashion week or the fact that it was much busier than usual (I have been there on one other occasion, and it was much quieter), but I did notice quite a few groups of people carrying brown paper bags around. I wonder if Burberry provides a packed lunch for some of the staff! This wouldn’t surprise me.

Very wide cartridge pleats at Mary Katrantzou.

Roksanda Ilincic looking beautiful and very tall backstage, before her show. This was one of the calmest backstage areas I’ve ever witnessed.

An oversized, drawcord checked backpack backstage at Roksanda Ilincic. This makes me want to wear backpacks again.

Another shot of Roksanda backstage. She is gorgeous! And very friendly. The shoes are by Nicholas Kirkwood for Roksanda Ilincic. 
I don’t wear heels as much as I did back in Vancouver (the cobblestone on London sidewalks and roads just isn’t conducive to them, and running to the tube in 5-inch heels is no easy feat), but I do still pack them in my bag, and they are definitely still my favourite type of shoe to buy.

Some of the colours from the show – as the models start lining up.

A look board backstage at Moschino Cheap & Chic. The Italian label showed in London for the first time, a strategy thought by many, including the Telegraph’s Lisa Armstrong, to be a way to gain a larger audience for the second line (similar to when Miu Miu moved from showing in Milan to showing in Paris). 
I heard many people say “Mosshino” during fashion week. When my sister lived in Milan, I mispronounced enough Italian words to know better. Here is a good little recording of how it should be pronounced (“mos-keen-o”).

(As a general rule: 
An S before a CH, as in Moschino = “sk”
Two CCs before an i, as in focaccia = “ch”

There are other tricks, too, but Elliot says I’m being pedantic I can’t remember them right now.)

More backstage shots at Moschino Cheap & Chic.

(The woman on the far right in this photo is Lucy Yeomans, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK)

Four photos from the actual show. Not sure how I managed to take those first two; as you can see from the third and fourth, I was seated behind Julia Sarr-Jamois (fashion editor at Wonderland magazine), who has a fairly significant afro.

Mustn’t forget Mark Fast. I liked this collection—it felt much more grownup than previous seasons, and a nice departure from his usual super-sexy, tight knitwear. As you can see, AW12 is still tight, for the most part, but the subdued palette and stripes felt much more wearable. 
I also went backstage right after the show with my fellow Canadians, Mosha (of FLARE) and Alannah (of ELLE Canada), and saw Mark talking to Kanye West. 
That’s it! This last shot is an extreme closeup of the wallpaper in the “Peter Jensen pop-up café”set up in the basement of Somerset House. Isn’t it cute?!

Of course, one of the fun (and also slightly stressful) parts of fashion week is all the insane street photography that goes on… but I’ll post about that later this week. 

A skill you might not have known I possess…

A skill you might not have known I possess…

Today I ate pho with Michelle Bobb-Parris, the brill fashion (and, yes, street) photographer behind whoisbobbparris.com.

We have some interesting similarities:
- we are both Canadian
- we both like to eat
- we both did law degrees (although to her credit, she practised for 2 years here in London)
- we both ended up working in fashion

And she took this cute Instagram shot of something I always do whenever I use chopsticks that have come wrapped in a paper sleeve. It is a hidden talent you may have not known I possess.

Her caption (original post here): “Cool thing of the day: @rtay can fold a chopstick rest in 5 secs flat.”

Oooooh, Barcelona!

Oooooh, Barcelona!

Went on a quick trip to Barcelona last week…. and for all the times I’ve been to the Mercat Santa Caterina, I have never eaten at the big market restaurant that’s on the end / part of it!

(Oh, so I’ve only actually been to the market twice, not about 12 times like my lead-in made it sound.) 
Amazing place, great food, good buzzy atmosphere. And this fun herb wall!

Long farmhouse tables and trees running along the entire length of the restaurant.

My “medium rare” T-bone. More rare than medium-rare. Good thing that’s how I like it.

A photo of the outside, snapped on a previous trip. The market restaurant is on the end there, behind the arched doorways where all the mopeds are parked.

A little colour blocking

A little colour blocking

Just got back from Barcelona, and before that, it was London Fashion Week.

Emails, work, and sleep are calling, but in the meantime, a little colour blocking inspiration for the weekend!

Travel Thursday: Sunbury Antiques Market

Travel Thursday: Sunbury Antiques Market
A little pre-fashion week post…
The other morning, bright and early (although it wasn’t actually bright out since it was only 5:30 am), Elliot and I went to the Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Race Park with Dawn. One of the owners of Ibiza Rocks, she was looking for more quirky furniture and bits for Pikes Hotel in Ibiza.
I had read about Sunbury in a recent issue of Time Out, and as this was the first market since the article was published, we were a bit worried that what used to be an antique trader’s secret would be overrun with readers (like us) checking out the market for the first time.
Anyway, with the help of one of Dawn’s friends in London who owns a curiosity shop, we got in our Zipcar and arrived at Sunbury by 6:15. Doors open to the public at 6:30 and vendors aren’t allowed to start displaying their wares until then, but we used the few extra minutes to get a bacon sandwich, tea, and head up to where rows and rows of trucks were waiting.
And then, at 6:30, a cute little old lady started waving a Union Jack, shouting, “We’re open! We’re open!”
Dawn was on the hunt for some taxidermy… and like the market regulars, we had a couple of torches with us to see things in the dark a bit better. 
I loved this little pink couch. This style of furniture is a rarity in North America (especially Canada), but there are quite a few here. I’m hoping to have a home one day that will accommodate one of my own.
Another little couch that I loved. This one was a lovely periwinkle / baby blue and was in pristine condition. 
An old train wagon with its wheels rubbed and cleaned. This would be great repurposed as a coffee table, but was a little steep for us at £350. We were looking for pieces for our apartment here and Elliot’s place in Mallorca, which has 20-foot ceilings and the space to accommodate a more eclectic range of furniture.
I also liked the little silver aluminum containers next to the wagon, which I think were ammunition containers. A row of them would work great as outdoor planters.
A random male mannequin that seemed put together from various other mannequins, and an oversized tennis racket used in advertising campaigns. The racket is amazing!
A bit later, once it was brighter. I LOVED These four chairs—and Dawn actually had bought another six last year! The others are already at Pikes, so she snapped these ones up to go along with them. They were pretty cheap, too: something like all four for £100.
It became very clear that I have a thing for antique sofas and chairs that are (a) velvet, (b) come in sorbet colours, and (b) have fringe trim.

You can’t really tell from this photo, but these were all miniatures: the chairs are child sized, and the two mini-kegs are only about 16 inches high. Great for an outdoor kid’s tea party or something, no?

I was first drawn to this stall for the Chairman Mao propaganda poster… but we left with the wicker basket chair (we’ll replace the orange cushion later). I liked the poster, too, but I’m not sure my dad woud approve.
We also found these little lamps at the same stall. Hard to tell here, too, but the green filing cabinet is super miniature, so the lamps are bedside table-sized and quite heavy. They are from the ’70s and it’s rare that Elliot falls for something, so I could tell he really wanted these when he kept asking me if I liked them.
We got the lamps and the basket chair for £120.
An old baby pram—actually once used as such! Dawn bought this for Pikes… can’t wait to see what purpose she gives it!

This stall had some signs from a sheep and pig showcase. They weren’t very old, but there were some vibrant colours and, out of context, on their own on a wall, would make great conversation pieces!
My favourite read “Mixed Pairs”—but at over eight feet long, it was too big for us. 

A random silk print. I liked this but we didn’t buy it—I think it was too expensive. Prices at the market are quite random, since every vendor prices their own goods. 
This is a pair of old basket wheelie bins used to hold baguettes in a bakery. They remind me of the bins we used to have in phys.ed. class, that would hold balls and other gym toys.

More taxidermy—tiny animal taxidermy!
We liked this big butcher’s cart; something to get one day, if we ever have an enormous kitchen!

From the same vendor: also loved these big farm tables. The tables and benches were quite reasonably priced, too, at £300-£350 for three pieces.
This is how things were set up at the market… literally stuff spilling out of people’s trucks. We spotted some interesting-looking chickens at this stall….
And loved them. We brought these home with us, too—they were £15 each!

A tiki bar! SO RANDOM! I do love a good tiki bar, though—and this one was perfectly home-sized. 
And then, just shortly after what time we’d normally wake up, we were done.
Elliot stayed until around 1pm to help Dawn load up the truck she had arranged and reported that most vendors start packing up around noon. The best stuff goes by around 7 or 8am, though—in time for all the market-goers who own their own little shops to get their new finds back in time for opening!

Saving / shopping in London

For some reason, it’s always stuck in my memory that a friend of mine, Grace, once told me that if I lived in New York, I would be able to buy amazing clothes for really cheap. This was years and years ago, when she WAS living in NY and I totally envied her access to the most amazing sample sales, flash sale sites (Gilt didn’t ship to Canada back then), blah blah blah. I think I might have also just returned from a trip there, where I spent about $600 at the Barneys warehouse sale (the best sale in the world, I think) and got about eight things. Unheard of.

I bought these D&G shoes at a Barneys warehouse sale years ago.

Anyway, I have learned that this is also the case in London. No big surprise there.

Months of living extremely frugally, without a regular paycheque, means I’ve completely gone off the deep end again I’ve done a lot of research and am amazed at how easy it is to find designer stuff on sale here. It all makes the high street stores slightly unappealing… although I’m still not immune to the power of Topshop, Zara and H&M—especially since they all have e-commerce here in London and I can scratch my fast-fashion itch without having to brave Oxford Circus.

I am currently coveting this top from Zara.

Anyway, here are my favourites (perhaps in time for any of the fashion pack who will be in town this weekend for the circus that is London Fashion Week):

Browns Labels for Less: I mentioned this location before—it’s the store I literally stumbled into by accident when I meant to go to the Vidal Sassoon salon in Mayfair. The store is small, but fairly well organised. 
Recent finds include a preppy Carven mini-cardigan and a Balenciaga patterned basic tank.

Joseph clearance shop: This is another tiny boutique in the lovely, posh Chelsea neighbourhood. Again, I stumbled upon it—and Elliot, thinking it would have men’s, followed me in blindly and regretted it not 30 seconds later—when we were out for a walk last Sunday. 
Recent finds included an amazing pair of blue suede wedge booties by Pierre Hardy, on sale for £56. Regular price = £550. In case you’re not very good at math (“maths”, as they say here in the UK, which is, I suppose, more correct), that is basically 90% off. Alas, they weren’t in my size.

Photo: random Local Data Search site
The Outnet: This is obviously a no-brainer. What’s even better about The Outnet here in the UK is that there is zero chance of being charged import taxes or duty, and items literally arrive within two days. No border waits here. 
I currently have this Rag & Bone skirt in my shopping bag. 
Photo: The Outnet
A year ago, the cheeky chaps behind the label, David Neville and Marcus Wainwright, went to Vancouver and I interviewed them at Holt Renfrew, then went to a celebratory event that night, got drunk, and very nearly paid lots of money for the matching zip-up cardigan.
Lastly, there is Bicester Village. For North Americans, this place is just like Woodbury Common (outside NYC) or Seattle Premium Outlets—except 1000x better. A glance at the store listing for women’s clothing brands will confirm as much.
Photo of Bicester Village: it even looks like a little village!
Of course, there are also the sample sales. The London Designer Sale is coming up on February 24, Rainbow Wave does an amazing sample sale (coming up in May, I believe), and Daily Candy‘s London edition has a monthly listing of sample sales
Lastly (for real this time), I’m pleased to “announce” that I am currently working for the company that owns Bicester Village and its eight sister villages, which are dotted around Europe just outside cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, and Frankfurt. I am Acting Editor of the magazine, which will relaunch in April. 
So, there’s my update! It’s so exciting! I’m having so much fun! Yay!

I love London buildings

I love London buildings

I love the architecture in London—all the variety of it, the old buildings that keep on giving and being used, the crumbling brick, and how grand everything (okay, almost everything) manages to look, regardless of the state they’re in.

I passed this row of houses the other day in Belsize Park, which is a lovely area in northwest London (and also the area where Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin live).

I love the red brick – and since seeing the row, I’ve noticed that there actually is a lot of red brick in London. Up until now, I (for some reason) had only noticed a lot of old, white houses and dirty, sandstone-coloured fences and bridges.
I don’t know who lives here, but I wish it was me. This lovely semi-Tudor-style house is about 5 minutes from Swiss Cottage tube (I’ve seen similar lovely houses, but mostly in Surrey or Richmond, which is a bit farther of a commute), and I love the circular drive.

I spotted this corner building in Farringdon, in east London. I love its tall, tiny little tower on the corner.   More photos of some other great buildings coming soon.

Travel Tuesday: The Cotswolds

Travel Tuesday: The Cotswolds

Sod Travel Thursdays – today is Travel Tuesday! (I suck at keeping to a weekly schedule.)

We headed out of the city to the Cotswolds over the weekend, which is an enormous area that includes six counties and 790 square miles. For Vancouverites, it would be a bit like going to the Okanagan—it’s a general region, encompassing a few different cities, except in the case of the Cotswolds, it’s only 90 minutes away and there are more villages and tiny towns than proper cities.

“Yay! Mini holiday!!!”
Some countryside colours on our walk from the tiny village of Ebrington to the tiny little village of Ilmington. 
A dirty sheep.

A hidden little frozen pond. I tried to get Elliot to walk across the ice but he was too chicken.

More countryside colours.
A derelict house (that was actually marked on our little hand-drawn map as the “derelict house”).
Who ate this corn?
Roadside cattails.
After much walking (what should have taken about an hour took us more like 90 minutes), we found the Howard Arms pub, where we sat next to a fire and I thawed. It was deceptively cold outside!
And while we were inside the pub, all of this snow happened.
And I got very cold. And cranky. I reminded Elliot of my friend who dumped a guy she had been dating for a few weeks because he took her on a hike for her birthday present (her rationale = “he obviously didn’t know me very well!”).
So cranky, in fact, that I didn’t take anymore photos until we went to dinner that night at the Ebrington Arms, a lovely country pub (and guest house) owned by a friend of a friend.
Mmmmm, rabbit, fish and chips, and ale. I’ve decided that I like ale the best. It’s less fizzy so I feel much less bloated after a few pints!
Cool wall hanging. I would like one of these faux deer heads, please.
Not-so-faux, brilliantly taxidermied Fantastic Mr. Fox.
I would also like a few of these candleholders, please.
The next day, we drove to Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill was born.
A very impressive door.
Elliot played with the snow.
And played with the snow some more.
And then he threw snowballs into the half-frozen lake. And then we came home!
All in all, a very relaxing weekend spent in the English countryside.
Wheee!

Dinner at Momo

Dinner at Momo

Just got back from a lovely weekend in the Cotswolds (yes, it snowed buckets but nothing unlike what we saw growing up in good ol’ Calgary)!

Photos of the trip coming soon, but in the meantime, some shots from my birthday dinner at Momo in Soho. I’ve been wanting to go to this Moroccan spot for awhile (not to be confused with the Japanese restaurant of the same name here in London), and I was not disappointed:

Lovely room. We sat on a raised, loungey bit near the back, then moved to the main dining area for drinks with some friends afterward.

The best lamb tagine (left) and cod and clams tagine I’ve ever had, with couscous and curly kale on the side.

Yummy sweet tea for afters. Does anyone know where I can buy this type of tea in London?

New day!

New day!

Not feeling so sorry for myself today… birthday day is always better than the night before your birthday (unless you’re under the age of 23, I think). Thank god for that.

Yesterday, I had cupcakes; today, I had a cupcake and got a few lovely presents. Tomorrow, we’re heading to the Cotswolds (a kind of weird, icky name for a supposedly beautiful part of the country) for a little weekend getaway. Yay!

Yummy cupcakes from yesterday. These weren’t for me but, instead, for a soon-to-be-mother (hence the adorable, little sugar feet).
Another delicious cupcake with cream cheese icing from Konditor and Cook café at Curzon Cinema in Soho.

Part of my present from Elliot – a cute little shirt with bows all over it. Duh. I picked it out at Portobello Market. Happy birthday to me!

Tomorrow

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is my birthday and I feel old. :(

Not so happy birthday!!!

This photo was taken when I was much younger. Two years younger.

But no, I take that back—I am happy to be living in a new country, I am grateful for my new, fun job (more on that later), and going through a new adventure that this time last year, I didn’t really think would ever happen. But right now, I don’t want to think about my age. I am not in the mood for aging gracefully!

Eating with my hands

Eating with my hands
My good (crazy, utterly insane, and totally admirable) friend Stephanie was in London last week, preparing to do the Tough Guy obstacle race….
Photo: Tough Guy

So to get her nice and ready and protein-ed up, I took her to Meat Liquor, a burger bar in Marylebone that I had read about and been wanting to go to. Actually, she just happened to be staying in the area and I had no idea if she ate meat or not, so it’s a good thing she did.
It’s a bit of a funny place. Apparently, one of the owners (two guys named Yianni and Scott) had a pop-up meat truck last year and another pop-up of sorts, called #Meateasy, in New Cross (I was told his original truck was stolen); Meat Liquor is his permanent location. 
There’s also been, apparently, a trend to American-style food in London. A friend of mine suggested that this is because the English haven’t traditionally liked eating food with their hands, but it’s becoming more widely accepted and liked—hence the increase in burger bars and Mexican taco places. I can’t believe this is true, though, because another English girl I met told me one of her favourite foods is SANDWICHES! And there is definitely a sandwich culture here—and not just for children. Supermarkets, bookstores, cafés: they all sell sandwiches. Also known as “sarnies.”
Photo: Found on Flickr, courtesy of a guy named Toban Black… who, get this, happens to be Canadian and posted the photo because he was also surprised by how many SANDWICHES there are here!
Anyway, Meat Liquor is definitely a take on an American diner, but the décor (dark, with red blood paint splashed all over the animals painted all over in black) is, IMHO, much more slaughterhouse-inspired. The food is served on cafeteria trays and there are paper towel rolls (which they call “kitchen roll” in the UK) instead of napkins. 
Regardless of what you think of the space (and the clientele… a bit too “City”—banker type boys—for my liking), though, the burgers were very tasty. I also tried deep fried pickles for the first time! I thought they’d be whole pickles in a crumbly, chicken finger-type batter, but these ones were sliced pickle in a thicker batter (almost like the outside of a spring roll). But very delicious.
Don’t be surprised if you visit me and we go here, too.

Tay’s Eatery

Tay’s Eatery

It’s the weekend!

Hoping for a chill one… (“chilled one”, as they say here… why past tense?)

But first, some Friday fun:

Thanks to Joy for this photo, snapped in Kincardine, Ontario! 

Open house

Open house

Apparently, it is impossible for me to take some nice photos of my house in a way that actually conveys what it looks and feels like (the rooms always look crappy and small!), so here, instead, are a few random detail shots.

After you enter the flat, there’s a narrow set of stairs, at the top of which you’re greeted by this little cat decal by Parisian graffiti artist, Miss.Tic
Kitchen! We have a mini dishwasher (which I love), a mini fridge (which are apparently relatively common in London flats but are SO ANNOYING!), and a washer/dryer combo next to the fridge (it’s actually a washer AND a dryer, although I have never used the dryer setting. It just seems a bit wrong.)

The only basil plant I never killed. I just ate it all! Does anyone know if these are supposed to regrow?

I know you’re thinking, “thanks for showing us your garbage can, Rebecca”, but these are interesting because (a) they are HELLA expensive (this sucker cost £60!!!), (b) it seems like EVERY house in London has one of these! Brabantia, the brand, has really cornered the “bin” market in the UK, and (c) if you ask someone (in a store, for example) if they have a “garbage” (as you pass them an empty coffee cup), they might look at you strangely. They understand you better if you use the word “bin”.

The chandelier that cost £5000 (it’s made of about 200 triangle-shaped crystal. REAL crystal!). It reminds me of the house that Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer live in in Scarface.

My very packed shoe rack. It is organised by designer, and this is one of my favourite mini-sections of it.

A frame left by our landlady = the perfect frame for my Pyrrha necklaces! Kudos to Danielle and Wade, the designers of this amazing line, for getting their stuff into Liberty. It’s been there forever, I think, but it’s my favourite department store here and a $180 Pyrrha necklace in Canada costs about £200 here! Wow-za! 
I miss being able to go to their studio-house and look through case after case of Pyrrha seals. Discovering a bracelet or ring style you hadn’t seen before was THE BEST.

The very extensive record collection left in our care by our landlady friend. She also left her decks, but no amps. No amps = no fun, although I wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway. I’d probably try to figure it out, though.
Tiny little bathroom. I got the same map of the world shower curtain here as I had in Vancouver. The tiny little radio actually works (thanks to Brit and my friends at Aritzia for gifting it to me!) and I like to blare it when I’m in the shower.
The white “componibilli” storage thing (I trained Elliot to say that word because it’s fun to say) is a Kartell piece by Anna Castelli Ferrieri. I coveted it for two years when I worked at Caban (remember CABAN?!!!) about a million years ago. I aways remembered it being much more expensive than it ended up being, like one of those things I thought I’d buy when I grew up. I guess I’m grown up now.
Although, that said, another thing I always thought I’d buy when I grew up was an Eames Lounger. Still don’t have one of those.

Our mini fireplace.

Random finds from the last Granger & Hertzog film prop hire clearance sale. In England, when you rent something, you say you “hire” it. As in, “we got a hire car for the weekend” or “we hired a car for the weekend”.

Anyway, Granger & Hertzog specialise in unique and bits of furniture that can be rented for set decoration. Once a year (generally in November, I think—I’ll let you know later this year), they have a big warehouse sale and some people line up in advance because it’s mega cheap.

We got this random fretwork acrylic table for £5 and the bulbous lamp next to it for £10. I also got this cool, stacking container thing which stores some of my jewellery, and a round, silver TV bench. Everything cost £50 altogether. The colourful thing on top of the table is a pompom garland I bought for our Christmas tree. I decided it could stay out since it’s not red and green, but haven’t quite decided what to do with it yet.

Come visit and see it all in person!

My favourite places to eat in London so far

My favourite places to eat in London so far

Last week, after months of liking British cuisine but not LOVING it (minus a few amazing Thai “takeaways” / takeout and a really delicious Indian NYE meal), I ate at what very quickly became my two new favourite places for food.

First is the Riding House Cafe, which reminds me a bit of Vancouver’s Café Medina—they both have that friendly-and-cool-but-not-pretentious atmosphere that is perfect both for brunch with the besties and a work meeting. I had eggs benedict, but I’ve been dreaming of the chorizo hash brown that my dining buddies Jessica and Fiona both had. I sense another visit coming up this week.

Photos: Riding House Cafe. Next time I’ll try and take my own, although I do hate disrupting the flow of a meal to snap a photo.

For dinner on Friday, we went to Polpo, a Venetian bacaro (a term that is, apparently, hard to define—but it’s basically a meeting place with a warm, friendly atmosphere). The room reminded me a bit of Café Medina’s older sister, Chambar, except that it serves cicheti (side dishes) and small plates.

Best part, though, is that it is completely reasonable. We had olives, a plate of three different crostini, all piled high with various delicious toppings, lamb chump, flank steak, a beetroot salad, roast potatoes, three cocktails and a half litre of wine, and two desserts, for around £80.

The only downfall to Polpo is that they don’t take resos… and, not surprisingly, reasonable prices + great atmosphere + a cool but not try-hard-y crowd = 90-minute waits.

Photos: Polpo. Again, I’ll try harder next time.

Both restaurants are in Soho and are part of a family of successful properties (another similarity to Medina / Chambar). If you come and visit me in London, don’t be surprised if I take you to one or both of them.

British English

British English

You wouldn’t expect two people who are native English speakers, from English-speaking countries, to have a language barrier. And yet, when Elliot and I first got together, it took us ages to properly understand each other.

Every time I said “really?”, he said “yes, really” in this weird, semi-sarcastic, semi-confused voice, and it wasn’t until later that I realised that this was just my North American way of expressing surprise / disbelief, not me actually questioning the truth behind something.

Me: “Really?!”
Elliot: (silence.)

Anyway, over the weekend, we headed north to Leicester, a town of about 300,000 (although on our first visit there, Elliot told me it had 3 million!!!!! I very swiftly kiboshed this idea) to visit Elliot’s brother’s family. We passed through all the little towns and cities, which made me think of just how UN-English British English is. For example:

Leicester = “Les-ter”. As anyone who’s ever made shepherd’s pie (or cottage pie, more probably) will know, a whole bunch of letters just seem to disappear when you ask for Worcestershire sauce. Same goes for Leicester, Bicester, and Gloucester… and probably many, many more. The C just seems to disappear, and you’re left with Lester, Bister, and Glosster. WTF?

A couple of the other North American vs. British spellings and just plain weird pronunciations that came up on the drive:

  • curb vs. kerb
  • Warwick = “Warrick”
  • Marylebone = “Marl-ee-bone”
  • oriented vs. orientated
Even more interestingly, “Asian” here in England refers to South Asians—as in, people from India, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc. If I refer to myself as Asian here, I get confused looks… and on any surveys I’ve done (and companies do seem hellbent on obtaining demographic info here), I have to check the “Chinese” box. People from other parts of Southeast Asia don’t have a tick box. Weird, no?
Source: Office for National Statistics. I’m appalled that these figures, from 2001-2002, are the most recent listed on their site, and am hoping that there are more recent statistics listed somewhere else… 

Whoa, children!

Whoa, children!

Just got back from a weekend away filled with family and kids ranging from 3 months to 12 years—and all the activities involved (burping and cleaning up sick, dressing up dolls, going to a football / soccer match, and being woken up at 7:30am). Exhausted!

Updates tomorrow.

In the meantime, home sweet home.

Travel Thursday: if only via food

Travel Thursday: if only via food

We haven’t left London in awhile (if a month can be considered awhile), but we are potentially heading up to Leicester (pronounced “less-ter”) this weekend to visit some of Elliot’s family, so hopefully, I come back with something interesting to report.

In the meantime, check out the little trip to Japan sushi we made!

There are some pretty amazing restaurants here, including a ton of fantastic cheap eat options and too many Michelin-starred restaurants for my bank account to handle, but the one thing I am really missing is sushi.

Gone are the days of the $10 lunch combo box at Sea Monstr Sushi that made you so full you (almost) felt like you didn’t need dinner and yet, returned for the very next day. Sure, there are good Japanese restaurants but they are way more expensive, and the fish just doesn’t taste as fresh. Recommendations more than welcome.

In any case, we decided to make our own sushi at home. Here are the results:

The ingredients! Sushi seasoning is a mix of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt and can apparently also be mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil to make a tasty salad dressing. 

Vegetables (including some slightly brown avocados; oops) and crab sticks. We didn’t get real crab this time, but will try to next time. They sell imitation crab here in this handy stick format, unlike the flaky chunks back home.

We also realized too late that we didn’t have plastic wrap or cling film. This is because we don’t often have leftovers (we also don’t have any Tupperware or food storage containers!), and if we do, we just use pot lids as covers when we refrigerate food. 
Anyway, tinfoil ended up being just fine. (As an aside, aluminum—”a-LOO-mi-num”—foil is called aluminium—”a-loo-MIN-ee-um” foil here.)

Our finished rolls!

Sushi feast! Look how red that tuna is! It was delicious.

High street shopping in London

High street shopping in London

To think that a year ago, I didn’t know what “high street” meant…

I had breakfast with a lovely fellow Canadian today, and the two of us trying to describe Aritzia (she misses it dearly) to her British colleague made me think of all the brands that don’t exist here and vice versa.

But first, “high street.” High street basically refers to boutiques that are literally, on the high street—which are, essentially, main streets. In Vancouver, Robson Street would be a high street; in Toronto, Queen Street would be one.

What’s more, high streets here very often literally have the name “high street” in their name. Example: High Street Kensington, the main shopping street in—you guessed it—Kensington. This isn’t always the case, of course—Oxford and Regent Streets are definitely high streets but aren’t named as such.

Photo: Wikipedia. Look! There’s even a “High Street Kensington” tube station!

Anyway, high street fashion brands are those that can afford the rent on these busy thoroughfares: think brands like the Gap, Urban Outfitters, Topshop, H&M, and Zara. Of course, luxury brands can afford high rent, too, but obviously, they want to maintain their position as, duh, luxury brands, so tend to group together in more posh areas. It’s all pretty self-explanatory. So onto the list.

Here are a few high street brands I’m surprised don’t exist in Canada yet (and please do correct me if I’m wrong!):

CoS – my favourite high street brand; CoS supposedly stands for “collection of style” and is actually owned by H&M. It’s still trend-driven, but much more quality-oriented (“orientated”, as they say here in England) and way, way less “fast”.

I recently bought these jersey legging trousers, because who doesn’t need a pair of tight coral-coloured pants?! But I do love them. (Photo: Cos.)

The Kooples – I’ve been seeing the Man Repeller wear a lot of this brand lately, so am guessing it is Stateside, now. My second favourite of the high street brands, the clothing is very British in its styling but the company was founded by three French brothers. Fréres.

This look is SOOOO The Kooples. But it’s cute, right? (Photo: The Kooples.)

Kurt Geiger – Pronounced “guy-ger”, with two hard Gs, this is a shoe retailer whose specialty, it seems, is producing runway-inspired footwear, with the odd exact-copy thrown in there for good measure. My friend Alexandra of Searching for Style did some research and found that Kurt Geiger, the company, has managed to strategically place itself in every major (including luxury) department store as it controls all of their respective shoe departments! Not sure how it does this—more research required. Stay tuned.

Hello, YSL. I mean, Miu Miu. I mean, Kurt Geiger. (Photo: Kurt Geiger.)
Uniqlo – Why haven’t they opened there yet?! I don’t understand.
The most amazing long sleeve t-shirt I have ever found. I think I need 5 more, just in case. And they’re only a tenner! (Photo: Uniqlo.)

Next – I find this high street brand kind of shitty, but it seems to do quite well here.
Dorothy Perkins – see Next.
Mango – I know there is Mango in Canada, but seriously, only in Toronto still?!!!
New Look – Slightly better than Next—it has an ongoing collaboration with Giles on its side.

——————–

There are probably at least ten more, but let’s move on to popular brands that surprisingly, don’t seem to exist in the UK:

Old Navy – There’s a Gap on every other corner, and a Banana Republic, too. Why no Old Navy?

Lululemon – I’m not surprised the other major Canadian brands (yes, Aritzia, but also Joe Fresh) haven’t opened here yet—after all, they just opened big shiny stores in New York—but Lulu has been in the States for AGES and there seriously seems a big gap here. Its main competitor, besides the usual sports brands like Nike and Adidas, and from what I’ve seen so far, would be a brand called Sweaty Betty… which I think is an unfortunate name (but there are some nice workout clothes).

A cute look from Sweaty Betty. (Photo: Sweaty Betty.)

J.Crew – I’m sure this brand will come soon (and in the meantime, they now ship to the UK).
Madewell – see J.Crew.

Bebe – I hate this store and think their clothes is mostly crappy, but I’m still surprised there are no Bebe stores here.

Bebe barf. I’m SO over batwing minidresses. (Photo: Bebe.)

BCBG – Did you know BCBG stands for “bon chic, bon genre” (good style, good attitude)? I’m not sure this would qualify as “high street” as their price point is a bit higher, but I’m still surprised there are no BCBG stores here. They do have good sales.

Club Monaco – The brand I miss the MOST. They sell some of it at Browns, an amazing, high-end department store (with an equally amazing outlet store down the street, which I literally stumbled upon! I was en route to the Sassoon Salon down the street to get my bangs trimmed and WALKED INTO THE WRONG STORE!), but it’s much more expensive and I miss being able to use my press discount.

Love. Want. (Photo: Club Monaco.)

Consigning in London

Consigning in London

When I was about 14, my mom started taking me to Danielle’s Consignment Boutique in Calgary, where we’d drop off our clothes and have a browse around for any goodies. In Vancouver, I started doing this at Front & Co., which had a rule that meant you had to stay in the store while they sorted through your things (which often meant you ended up finding something else you wanted to buy).

Since moving to London, I’ve been on the hunt for a similar store. I’ve sold a few items on eBay, but consigning generally just takes less work. So far, I’ve discovered a few things:

1) Designer consignment stores here tend to be called “dress agencies”.

2) Pricing is determined much differently. In Canada, prices are determined solely by the buying team, with the exception of high-end designer items, when they might ask how much you paid and whether you’re comfortable with a particular price. At Pandora, an established store in Knightsbridge (the quite posh locale of Harrod’s), all prices are agreed upon by you AND and the store, and only after this do you leave your items there.

3) Same goes for sales. At the Front, price tags are date-stamped and everything is reduced by 20% once it’s been on the floor for a month. At Pandora, I assume that things don’t go on sale unless you’ve pre-agreed to it.

4) Consignment stores are generally better organised in Canada. They don’t seem to like organising shoes by size at dress agencies here!

Photo: Pandora. Pretty shoes organised in no particular way!

I also found another series of stores in Notting Hill, called Retro Man / Retro Woman. They have TERRIBLE reviews, thanks in part to their peculiar “we buy everything” policy, which basically means they’ll give you ONE PENCE if they don’t like something. They also have a cash or trade policy, where they’ll give you double the cash value of your things in vouchers for any of their stores.

I’ve decided the only way to make this work without feeling ripped off is to itemise every single item I bring in and pre-determine an acceptable cash / voucher total. Last week, I brought in 9 items (2 pairs of jeans, a pair of waterproof oxfords, an old Phillip Lim skirt, and some other random stuff) and got £200 in trade. I ended up taking these two items and the rest (£20) in cash.

I love this Dries van Noten sheer dress, which was mega discounted as it is for a (very) small chested lady such as myself. I loved that entire season (fall 2008), in fact, and have a couple of other pieces from it.  Here’s the dress on Amanda Laine (a Canadian model!), and a close-up of the hem.
I also got this little shearling vest, trimmed in (fox, I believe) fur. Love fur, love the colour, love that I can wear it over dresses and that it’s a bit dressier than the 4 other fur / shearling vests I already own.

Monday Update

Monday Update

This weekend was fairly uneventful – Saturday was a day of errands, with one of Elliot’s friends visiting from Ibiza and a delicious dinner at Ducksoup (typed “dicksoup” there at first, by accident… Freudian typo?!). I had rabbit rillette and cornichons, followed by cuttlefish risotto with squid ink. There’s something deliciously weird about eating a plate of rice in a very black sauce.

I love how tiny and homemade Ducksoup feels (there are only a handful of tables; most people eat at the bar), but wish they would write their daily menus a bit more neatly. But whatever.

Photo: Ducksoup

On Sunday, we headed to our friend Lucy’s house in Esher for Sunday Roast. This is an actual, proper noun THING here, needing capital letters and everything. Of course, we have roasts in Canada, but it isn’t as entrenched a tradition as it is here. Think of it as a full Thanksgiving dinner, every Sunday. We haven’t cooked one yet, but we’ve gone out for plenty, at pubs with names like “Duke of Wellington”, “Prince of Wales”, “Rose and Crown”, and so on.

Photo: my BlackBerry. This is a traditional pork roast, with a big chunk of crackling on top. YUM.

I was going to write about consignment stores in London, but seeing as how this post has ended up being all about food, I’ll save that for tomorrow! I’m also on two deadlines today, so that’s enough procrastinating for now.

Travel Thursdays

Travel Thursdays

As you can see, I’m trying to instill a teensy bit of order on this blog, so Thursdays are now, henceforth, Travel Thursdays.

I’ve already written about my recent travels, so I’m going to dedicate today’s entry to a few photos of London living. 
Photo: me playing on Instagram on Elliot’s iPhone.
Over the holidays, we (my dad who was visiting from Canada, my sister and her boyfriend visiting from South Africa, Elliot and I) went to Buckingham Palace to witness the Changing the Guard (I would have thought this would be called “changing OF the guard”, but apparently not). It was pretty cool, very distinguished and regal, and full of pomp and circumstance (though I can’t imagine how packed it must get in the summer). 
In true horseshoe-up-Elliot’s-butt form, we somehow managed to show up late and still end up in the first row along the road—perfect view for watching the horses and guards entering and leaving Buckingham Gate. 

This poor girl lost her parents and was on the phone, trying to find them, as thousands of people looked on! Later, we saw her crying as the policeman reunited her with her family.
Over the holiday, we also went to Wimbledon to watch the greyhound races. It was a bit of a weird place—lots of scummy people who take gambling pretty seriously—but the dogs were pretty incredible.
It was fun, but I felt a bit sorry for the dogs when I saw a sign near the bathroom looking for people to adopt retired racers. That said, I have since been heartened by the fact that I’ve seen more than a few greyhounds as pets around (definitely more than I ever saw in Canada), thanks in part to the Retired Greyhounds Trust, I hope.

Wish List Wednesday

Wish List Wednesday

Thanks to everyone for your kind tweets and comments on my last post about Mango. He is and will be missed.

It’s hard to follow a post like that with one about fashion, but I actually started compiling this, my first installation of “Wish List Wednesday”, on the weekend. But then, that was also before I headed to Liberty, one of my favourite department stores here in London, where today, I found that half the store was on sale and the other half was full of brilliant, colourful things that had arrived for spring!

Not surprisingly, my wish list changed. Here is the newest version.

Photo: La Garconne

1) Isabel Marant‘s latest hidden-heel sneaker, the Willow.
Upside: I liked the Bobby from last season (but needed some convincing), but LOVE this new colour.
Downside: Too bad everyone else has come out with fashion sneakers now, too.

Photo: Telegraph

2) Christopher Kane rainbow dress from Resort 2012.
Upside: how impossible would it be to NOT be in a good mood wearing this?
Downside: likely to be one of THE most-spotted (and only wearable once) dresses of fashion week.

3) YSL arty ring
CORRECTION: I bought this today (in purple)! Somehow, it managed to slip by the hawk eyes of dozens—hundreds, even!—of other lassies and I found it lying, all sad and dejected, in the bargain bin at Liberty. It’s missing the tiniest stone but (a) it’s hardly noticeable, (b) it was, like, 80% off, and (c) I can get a super-special jeweller to  find an exact replacement, or get them to put a similar-coloured bead in its place. Yay! Happy Wednesday!

Goodbye, Mango

Goodbye, Mango

When I left Canada, my intention was to return in February to pick up my little orange tabby, Mango. He had received his rabies shot and gotten his pet passport in August, but UK pet immigration laws state that animals must have had their vaccines for 6 months. I left Mango in the very kind, very capable and loving hands of Caitlin, who I’ll be forever indebted to for agreeing to adopt him until February.

Unfortunately, I woke up one morning in November to find an email from the Granville Island Vet Hospital with the sad news that Mango’s kidneys had started to fail. After two nights in the hospital, a few teary phone calls and a futile search for a cheap last-minute flight back home, we had to put him down.

Mango was the sweetest, most affectionate cat that I ever met. I’ve never (and still don’t, really) thought of myself as a cat person, but I was truly in love with Mango and his loving head butts, stubborn orange hair—I’m still finding it on my clothes!—and little (sometimes big) meow.

He will be dearly missed.

Thanks to Caitlin, his vets Anna Wallace and Bill Ignacio (seriously amazing, those two and their team), and everyone who has cared for, pet, and loved Mango as much as I did. Thanks also to the Granville Island Vet Hospital for making a donation in Mango’s name to the Pet Trust Fund, an organization that helps support learning, research, and health care at the Ontario Veterinary College.

European travels

European travels

Before Christmas, Elliot and I took the opportunity of living in London to do a bit of travelling. I don’t think Europeans realize how lucky they have it. A 4-hour flight from London can get you to a serious handful of countries; the same flight from Vancouver doesn’t even get you to Toronto!

Tivoli Gardens, the oldest amusement park in the world, in Copenhagen.

First, we went to Copenhagen, where we tested out Air B’n’B (a site where you can rent someone’s apartment rather than staying in a hotel) with wonderful results. Our lovely apartment was in the Nørrebro area, which was great for getting to most areas of the city.

Swan chairs in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel Blu, completely designed (including interiors) by Arne Jacobsen. Room 606 is still in its original state and can be viewed by request if empty. Unfortunately, someone was staying there when we visited.

Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Saviour) in Christianshavn, with its amazing, famous corkscrew top.

Iconic buildings in Nyhavn, with plenty of bicycles lining the cobbles. 
Even though plenty of other cities in the world have colourful streets like this (Venice, San Francisco), they’re still fun to see. 

Original Arne Jacobsen chairs at the Danish Design Museum. Jacobsen is basically a national hero.

Flagship store of one of my favourite interior design brands, Hay. I discovered the company at Vancouver Special, where I purchased one of its signature, impossible-to-clean-but-amazing Pinocchio rugs (below). 
Pinocchio rugs next to another personal favourite, the Eames elephant. I hope to buy one of these this year. 

Next, we took the train to Edinburgh, Scotland, then hopped on a “luxury” bus with about 30 excited Spanish visitors for an English/Scottish-Spanish wedding. We drove through massive sheets of wind and rain—what one newspaper called a “weather bomb”—to get to Inverlochy Castle. Passing huge trucks flipped onto their sides and dozens of trees ripped out of the ground (one actually tore the right-hand mirror off our coach!) was a bit unnerving.


Nevertheless, we got there and the wedding and castle (which we stayed in) were beautiful.
The lobby of Inverlochy Castle, where we were greeted with champagne and porters. 
It felt very Downton Abbey.
Blurry shot of what I wore to the wedding. 
All the ladies wore fascinators (mine was by Lilliput Hats) and my tartan dress was Luella Bartley for Target.

Finally, we took the Eurostar to Paris. 
We stayed with friends of Elliot’s who work for Corteo, the travelling Cirque du Soleil show—Olga is the former gymnastics champion of Ukraine, and Joe is a very talented rigger who likes climbing high things. Their apartment was in the upscale Trocadero district in the 16th and it was only my second visit to Paris (the first was when I was about 14). It is definitely a very livable city….

The pinkest apartment you ever saw.

Snapshots taken at the Louvre.
À bientôt, Paris! 

Millions of seeds

Millions of seeds

I’ll post some photos of our flat in London soon, but we’ve been doing some redecorating, so it’ll have to wait until after that.

In the meantime, here are a few shots of Ai Weiwei‘s sunflower seeds installation, recently on display at the Tate Modern and now in New York at the Mary Boone Gallery. It was amazing.

From far, the installation looks a huge pile of sunflower seeds—which is apparently one of China’s most prized exports—but up close, each and every single seed in the 5-ton pile was hand-painted and hand-crafted from porcelain by specialists in China. According to the installation notes:

“This combination of mass production and traditional craftsmanship invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon, and the geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange.”


London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week

In September, I attended London Fashion Week on behalf of FASHION Magazine. This was my third time to this fashion week, and I felt MUCH more organized, much less lost in the city.

As usual, there were tons of paparazzi everywhere—at LFW, the crazier your outfit, the better. (*Note: bragging alert*) Here are some of the photos I found of myself. I was especially pleased—chuffed, as we’d say here in London—with those on the Harper’s Bazaar and Telegraph sites.

Origami sweater by 3.1 Phillip Lim; chartreuse long-sleeved dress by Zara; bag by Chloé; and sandals by Marni. This was my “Crayola” outfit.

Floral shirt by Equipment; sequined cardigan by Marc by Marc Jacobs; aqua corduroy jeans by J Brand; bag by Chloé; and shoes by Yves Saint Laurent.

A detailed shot of my ring, tattoo and bag for the French site, L’Express.

Dress by Surface to Air; fur gilet by Zara; scarf by Aritzia; clutch by Club Monaco; and boots by Rodarte for Opening Ceremony. I couldn’t decide which colour socks to wear so I wore one of each. 
I look a bit nuts; Elliot calls it my “crazy girl” photo—and it appeared on the Sky Living website! Damn.
Of course, fashion week is really about the editors, celebrities, and It girls designers that show their collections, so here are a few highlights from spring. And to think that it’s all starting to hit stores now!
Love the stripe/floral combos at Ashish.

Love the pops of cobalt blue at Emilio de la Morena. (And yep, that’s Caroline Issa‘s face, there.)

Fantastically wacky cow print jumpsuit at House of Holland.

G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S espadrilles by Christian Louboutin for Jonathan Saunders. I need these.

More sorbet shades and pastels at Jonathan Saunders. I really loved this ’50s Miami housewife-inspired collection. 

Cool shades in signature bunny-ear shapes at Peter Jensen.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this Egyptian-inspired Topshop Unique collection, but I did like the sporadic Elizabeth Taylor references.
Blurry shot – but the plastic flower appliqués on this sheer organza shirt by Christopher Kane is on my wish list. And I’m still coveting his gel-filled clutch from FW11!

More gorgeous florals, this time at Erdem.

Autumnal shades for spring at Burberry. I’m also loving those striped, woven straw riding caps.

Love this swan reference at Giles and the metallic blazer. It felt very Christmas-y, though.

Floral pantsuits at Mary Katrantzou. The lady is a genius.

I also loved the sheer trains Mary Katrantzou paired over some of the skirts. It had a cool mullet effect.

There’s something laidback and cool about this undone hair (at Aquascutum). 


Of course, I like this bow-embellished raffia clutch by Anya Hindmarch. And the strawberry minaudière is ever so cute.

Then came Spain…

Then came Spain…

Before moving to London and after leaving Canada, I spent two months in Spain, with the idea of relaxing, enjoying being jobless and (relatively) responsibility-less, and waiting for Elliot to finish up the Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks season.

Here are a few snapshots to summarize those two months:

These are my friends, Karen and Diane from Toronto. They’d planned to go to Greece, but changed their plans when I said they should come to Spain instead! They were the first guests to stay with us at our apartment in Santa Catalina.
Marc Fosh’s new restaurant in Palma, Misa Braseria. It was delicious; read the NY Times T Magazine review here.
Fish Spa in Palma, Mallorca. This was definitely the most ticklish “spa” treatment I’ve ever had, and though they’ve become fairly popular in Europe, I’m not sure I would try it again. I’ve since heard that these little fish can harbour bacteria in their teeth. Ick.

I went on as many friends’ boats as possible. This photo was taken from Elliot’s friend Graham’s boat, which we took to Formentera. Filling up in Ibiza before we departed cost €500!
Elliot and I rented a little sailboat at this beach. The school didn’t even require me to show that I’d taken a sailing course back in Vancouver (at Macsailing at Jericho Sailing Centre)! Only in Spain.
We made our first Spanish omelette. It was pretty tasty but didn’t look as professional as the ones at the tapas bars.
This is on the old Pacha boat that was rented for a friend’s 40th birthday! I was drunk about 30 minutes after setting sail.

On one of our trips over to Ibiza, we stayed at the Ibiza Rocks House at Pikes Hotel (a legendary place where Freddie Mercury often stayed). These tiny little kittens were hidden in a tree; the entire family was lovingly adopted by the hotel staff.
By October, it was cool enough to need fall/winter slippers. These are a traditional Spanish style, handmade in Inca from suede and lined in sheepskin and can be found in most of the little markets in Mallorca.


The move

The move
Good bye, Vancouver!

Let’s start with the move. I had started mentioning the possibility of jumping ship and heading overseas to friends and family back in the spring, but given that I started a new job in January (as Managing Editor at Aritzia), I don’t think that many people took it seriously.

It wasn’t until I actually booked my one-way ticket that it started to sink in. Packing was a nightmare… every time I’d pack a box, I’d find more stuff that needed to be given away, sold, or donated. Huge thanks to May, Shannon, Sunny, Jamie, Connie and Samantha for being such great helpers!

Here’s a shot of the West End-style sidewalk sale I hosted across the street (Holly Lodge, the lovely 1907 building where I lived, doesn’t allow sales on its lawns).

Everything else got shipped to London, where Elliot and I planned to move by October. I had to photograph everything (!!!) for insurance purposes, but Go World Cargo were a huge help.



I also had to get rid of my car! I brought it (actually, it was my sister’s, but I’d been driving it for 2 years, even before she moved to South Africa) to the scrap yard courtesy of ICBC’s Scrap-It program. It was a total car graveyard – a bit depressing.

My friend Johann then found a buddy who was willing to lend me his band’s van. Check out the odometer! Who knew cars could run that long?!

Bye bye, things! See you on the other side!

My blog, take 2

My blog, take 2

Let’s try this again, shall we?

For those of you that know me, you might remember that I started a blog awhile back, linked it to my portfolio site, and then failed miserably to update it regularly.

But let’s just forget about that.

Now that I’ve been living away from Canada for 4 months (2 months in Mallorca, Spain, and now 2 months in London), I thought this could be a way for people back home to “stay in touch”, for people here to get to know me, and well, since I’m currently a full-time freelancer, prevent me from getting bored.

So – welcome to my blog, and stay tuned!