Pinspirations: Packing for the beach

The perfect set of outfit items for a beach vacation.
L-R: Outfit via We Heart It,,, Summer Allure dress by Conversation Pieces, Seersucker Keds via Urban Outfitters (sold out), Marc by Marc Jacobs watch via Macy's, outfit via Pinterest

This is the last post you'll hear from until I return from Hawaii! Above are some of my trip outfit packing inspirations. I'm having to shop from my closet for this trip as none of the stores seem to have any spring/summer stock in unfortunately, but maybe I'll see something cute over there to buy! Have a great week everyone and in the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram as I'll hopefully be able to post some snapshots while I'm over there. Yay for wifi!

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A Book Devoured: Review of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls book cover

British author Patrick Ness is becoming one of my all-time favourite authors. Every book I've read of his has been a knockout and A Monster Calls is no exception.

Ness wrote this story based on the original idea of his friend and fellow writer, Siobhan Dowd, who passed away from cancer. The story follows a young boy named Conor who is dealing with some very big issues. First, his mother is sick. Secondly, all the kids at school ignore him and he never can get punished, no matter what he tries to do. Thirdly, every few nights, at precisely 12:07 am, Conor is visited by a gigantic, terrible monster. This monster has great tearing limbs and a menacing voice and it wants something from him. It wants something from Conor that terrifies him to the core of his being.

As far as a review goes, I don't know what to say about this book except that you have to read it. Repeat: you have to read this book. It's quite short, I literally read it in a week just on the commute to work, but it is one of the most powerful stories I've read in awhile. Ness seems to be making a career out of writing stories about children facing extraordinarily grownup situations and this book certainly delves into some pretty serious realms.

Ness does a masterful job of bringing you into Conor's world and immersing him into his experience, as if he were a living person. I have been fortunate enough to never have had to experience the loss of a loved one, but after reading about Conor's slow steps to inevitability, I now feel I understand it a little more.

A Monster Calls leaves you a little devastated, kinda weepy, and a little angry. It all seems to end too fast. It feels a bit unfair even. The story ends before you're ready to let it go and yet it also feels finite and concluded. While this all may sound rather confusing and depressing, it's actually not. It's pretty amazing how much Ness is able to convey so much in this short book and I kinda wonder if a child read this, how much they would understand. That wouldn't stop me from recommending it though and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Available for purchase on Amazon.
See more of my recommended reads here.

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Treat Your #1 with Lush Cosmetics' Valentine's Day Collection

Lush Cosmetics' Valentine's Day collection

Whether you're single, taken, and especially if you're "it's complicated," everyone deserves a little pampering once in awhile and what better way is there to pamper yourself than with some luxurious beauty treatments? Create your at-home spa with some of these new offerings from Lush Cosmetics, specially released just for Valentine's Day:

  • Neon Love soap: bergamot, rosewood and cinnamon leaf oil combine into a heady floral while passion fruit juice and soya yogurt cleanse and moisturize skin
  • Love Locket bath bomb: vanilla, jasmine and neroli oils deliver a sensuous bath experience 
  • The Kiss tinted lip balm: delivers a hint of color and is formulated with vegan agave syrup 
  • Tender is the Night massage bar: this one isn't a new release, but was enlarged for this special collection to deliver you even more ylang ylang and vanilla goodness
  • Prince Charming shower gel: creamy marshmallow and vanilla combine to give you a delectable shower gel that will leave you feeling uber girly. This body wash also contains pomegranate juice, almond oil and grapefruit oil!

Besides these individual items, Lush also has a variety of gift packs available containing mixes of shower gels, bath bombs, soaps and more. Be sure to snap these babies up before they're all gone!

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Happenings Lately: Hawaii Planning, Good Eats and 4Angels Beauty Care

1 more week until Mr. Artist and I head off to Hawaii!! We are super excited to go on our first big trip together and I'm super excited for that place to be Hawaii. Unfortunately I'm also currently freaking out as the long term forecast predicts rain for the first couple days of our trip!

Honolulu weather forecast
You've got to be kidding me

Oh well, at least it will be warm. So far, our plans include spending a day at the local Polynesian Cultural Center to learn about the various Polynesian cultures and enjoy a luau and dance show, learning how to paddle board, and going on a snorkeling/whale watching boat tour! I also have a whole list of local eating spots I want to check out. Now that I know it might be raining the first couple days though, I feel a little deflated. What to do when it's raining??

Besides vacation planning, I've been spending my time catching up with friends and trying out new eats in the city. Two recent finds for me was The Wallflower on Main St. and Bistro Wagon Rouge on Powell. I'd first heard about The Wallflower when it was featured on The Food Network's You Gotta Eat Here and I was immediately intrigued by its mix of vegetarian/vegan and comfort food options. I went there last weekend with a friend to gossip and eat a delicious brunch of eggs benedict with goat cheese and figs - a STELLAR combination that still has me drooling now.

Fig and goat cheese eggs benny from The Wallflower Modern Diner. Photo: Just J

Then just this past weekend, I visited Bistro Wagon Rouge, a cozy nook of a French restaurant tucked away in the industrial part of Powell St. A very strange location, but man was the food amazing. We started off the night with some refreshingly delicious beef heart tartare (trust me on how good it was!) and some tartine with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Then I ate the duck cassoulet which featured a roasted duck leg with sausages and crispy pork, all on a bed of creamy mashed beans. My dish was delicious, but not photogenic, so here's a picture of the beef bourginon, which was as amazing as it looks:

Delicious beef from Bistro Wagon Rouge. Photo: Just J
Mmm meat. Photo: Just J

Also on the weekend I got the chance to visit 4 Angels Beauty Care. Located on Burrard and Drake, 4 Angels just opened last month. 4 Angels offers a variety of face and body waxing services, threading, massage therapy and even henna and sari wrapping for weddings and events.

I visited the salon for my regular eyebrow threading appointment. For $22 my half-hour appointment included a brow consultation, threading and makeup application. This was my third time getting my brows done and I was very pleased with the excellent and attentive service I received at 4 Angels. My consultant was friendly and knowledgeable, with over 20 years of experience! I highly recommend threading as it leaves your brows clean and defined and my over-plucked brows are slowly growing back into a thicker shape. While the location of 4 Angels is a bit out of the way for me and the salon itself isn't as glamourous looking as others I have visited, I think I would go back as I found the service very friendly and efficient. You can even book online!

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Cozy Up to a Cocoon Coat

I was a little hesitant to do another winter coat post for you, but I just have to share my latest winter wear obsession: cocoon coats. There seems to be an endless number of terms for various cuts of winter coats and cocoon is the term of the season as this enveloping style is popping up everywhere on street style blogs and Instagram feeds.

A cocoon coat refers to the shape of the coat when it is fastened around its wearer. Slightly reminiscent of an oval, a cocoon coat is usually fitted around the shoulders, but gently bulges around one's middle and falls below the knee. I know, not exactly the description for a very wearable piece of clothing, particularly on shorter people, but I swear, I think even us shorties could pull this off!

One plus that cocoon coats have is that they are cozy and the loose fit will accommodate your chunkiest knits with elegant ease - unlike fitted trench styles which cause you to look like a puffed up chicken. Also the longer length works well with both slim fit and wide-leg pants (see Gary Pepper for inspiration) and of course will keep your legs warm in skirts. Need more reasons to fall in love? Check out this inspiration here and here and scroll through the list of my picks for capturing this cozy trend below:

ASOS Collarless button front coat, $125.93
ASOS Collarless button front coat, $125.93

You can never go wrong with a red coat in my opinion. Dare to stand out from the black herd with this strawberry red wool coat. I love the darling touches on this coat: the bracelet length sleeves, the contrasting trim and yes, even the slightly hi-low hem. This coat just makes me want to clasp my hands together and go "eeee."

MANGO Hounds-tooth coat, $189.95
MANGO Hounds-tooth coat, $189.95

If you've already got a plethora of colored coats, then why not try a classic print? Hounds-tooth is such a classic, never-goes-out style and yet it's uncommon enough to look daring and edgy! At least, in style-challenged places like Vancouver. This coat features a narrower fit than most cocoon coats, making it a little more forgiving for shorter girls while still evoking that encompassing feeling.

ASOS Vintage style cocoon coat, $225.08
ASOS Vintage style cocoon coat, $225.08

ASOS is hitting it out of the park with their various cocoon coat options, but this is probably the one you've seen all the bloggers wearing. While I would normally shy away from wearing anything that is bubblegum pink and which has an almost calf-hair finish, I think the combination looks absolutely adorable on this coat. The hairy texture just begs you to stroke its surface and with the light pink color, it brings a youthful exuberance to this coat. While this won't be a buy that will last you the rest of your life, if you're young and trendy, then life is too short to not have some fun with a coat like this.

J. Crew Stadium-cloth cocoon coat, $400
J. Crew Stadium-cloth cocoon coat, $400

However, if timeless and classic is more your M.O, then this option from J.Crew is probably just your speed. A quality camel coat never goes out of style and I like how the sleek lines of this coat elongate the frame. This coat also comes in 3 other funner colors: midnight green, a bright regal blue that's more like an electric cobalt and gossamer peach, which is almost a dupe of the ASOS pink coat.

Freda Rae cocoon wool coat, $430
Freda Rae cocoon wool coat, $430

Lastly, I have to include this beautiful cream coat from Freda. This coat is the epitome of luxurious and is made of 90% wool and 10% cashmere. This coat reminds me of a child wearing their father's suit jacket, but elevated 1000 times over into a sophisticated piece you could wear season after season. Even the lining, in its soft violet silkiness makes me want to reach through my screen and touch it.

Which of these coats would you pick?

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A Book Devoured: Review of Cooked by Michael Pollan

Cooked by Michael Pollan book cover

I have admit a sneaky thing. Sometimes I like to browse the shelves of bookstores looking for new titles to read as ebooks later. Horrible right? I say this because that's how I found the book Cooked, listed under the New Fiction section of a local Chapters.

Author Michael Pollan is probably best known for his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma and he has carved out for himself a steady niche of books talking about food, culture and sustainability. In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Pollan delves into the links between food and human society, hypothesizing on how cooking may be the catalyst that launched modern man.

Divided into 4 chapters (Fire, Water, Earth and Air), Pollan goes into great length on cooking techniques characterized by each of the four elements. Fire cooking, like roasting, or as Pollan dives into, whole hog slow-cook BBQ, represents how man first drew into communities. Water is represented with the homespun magic of braising and serves as the metaphor for families coming together. For the last 2 elements, Pollan dives into bread making (Air) and fermentation (Earth) to hypothesize on the role these last two elements of cooking had on the evolution of man itself.

Cooked started out really slow to the point where I started reading another book on the side just to spice things up a bit. Midway through the Fire section though, something changed. Maybe I just got used to Pollan's "wiser-than-thou" style of writing or his obvious upper-class privilege, or maybe the story was actually starting to wind its way into my brain. Either way, I found myself fascinated. This book changed the way I appreciated food. As a city-dweller, I have no connection to the food I eat and it was very interesting to learn about the parallels around the world in terms of cooking methods and traditions. We humans are profoundly affected by food, but nowadays we know nothing about how it gets to our table. After reading Cooked, I felt a new-found appreciation for things like crackling (BBQ'd pork skin) and a curiosity to taste what real, authentically fermented kimchi tastes like.

While I've always been interested in the cooking process, this book only deepened my curiosity further. I'd say this is a worthy read for any food aficionado, or for anyone even mildly interested in the environment as it touches on both and how each of us can get back to the traditions that help our planet, help our stomachs and feed our souls.

Cooked is available via Amazon.
See more of my recommended reads here.

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Favourite Relationship Songs

As much as I love words, there's something about words set to music that really just elevates everything. The emotion in the singer's voice, the lyrics and the instrumentals all combine to create an overwhelming emotional response. Or maybe I'm just conditioned to movie soundtracks.

Here are some songs that I mark as some of my favourite "relationship" songs. I mark them as relationship rather than love songs, as love songs generally to me only address a certain aspect of love, whereas love is complicated, its messy, its torturous. Certainly, none of these songs involve anyone under the age of 18 because people under 18 don't know shit about love, despite what the radio will tell you. Each song is very personal to me, marking times in my own relationships where the sentiments of the song matched my own. Whether they are about falling in love, falling out of love, regret or grief, I've noticed that all the songs have a similar melancholiness to them. What does this say about me! Apparently I like depressing music.

Without further ado, the list:

Head Over Feet is all about falling in love, despite the barriers you put in front of yourself. Haven't we all been a little gun shy about letting someone in?

Lyrics here.

Everlong, especially the acoustic version, is amazeballs. This song is all about being in the throes of love.  In the song, singer/songwriter Dave Grohl describes how his lover is so incredible that he can hardly believe how he lived without her.

Lyrics here.

Canadian band Billy Talent is way underrated in my opinion for back in its day. These guys write some pretty damn good lyrics and this song has got to be my favourite of theirs. In the song, the narrator pleads for forgiveness of his lover after realizing how he destroyed their relationship with his insecurity. I probably had this song on repeat 100 times when it came out.

Lyrics here.

The newest song of this bunch, I only heard this one recently, but it immediately struck a chord with me. This song is a great example of how powerful simplicity can be. For anyone slowly realizing the dying of a relationship, you'll understand just what I mean. Apparently Christina Aguilera is in this song, but I don't hear it??

Lyrics here.

And finally of course I have to include The Blower's Daughter in this list. This song is the epitome of the agony love can incite. How do you get over the memory of someone? You listen to this song.

Lyrics here.

What are your favourite relationship songs?

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Pinspirations: The Perfect Winter Weekend Outfit

My idea of the perfect winter weekend outfit
L-R: Handmade teardrop earrings via Etsy (no longer available), Alexander Wang Lydia clutch via Outnet, Giambattista Valli silk-chiffon skirt via Outnet

Creams, blush, greys and soothing aquamarine. The perfect outfit for strolling along the street in winter, one hand around a warm coffee and the other holding the hand of your special someone. While I'm definitely more of a summer outfit girl, there's something so appealing about winter's abundance of textures and monotone colors always look best against an equally grey, wintry landscape.

I hope everyone has some good weekend plans ahead! I'm looking forward to nights in with some close friends, catching up on life and eating delicious snacks.

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What's for Dinner: Spinach Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Avocado

Spinach chicken burgers with caramelized onions and avocado.
Photo: PaleOMG

I made this recipe months ago and then forgot to post about it, but I think even though this is more of a summer dish, it would be a welcome favourite any time of year. After all, when is it NOT a good time to be eating burgers, especially burgers as healthy and delicious as this?

This recipe differs from the typical hamburger in that it's made with chicken and spinach instead of beef. Although the original recipe recommends going paleo and eating it as a lettuce wrap or sans bun, Mr. Artist and I ate these with regular hamburger buns and salad.

Avocado is an absolute must with this recipe as it gives your meal a satisfying, creamy fattiness that is otherwise lacking in this dish. When purchasing avocados, give them a firm squeeze to tell how close they are to ripening. A little give in the avocado skin is good and to be extra sure, leave them out on your counter for a couple days so that they are buttery soft and easy to scoop out with a spoon.

Now, onto the recipe! For this dish, you'll need:

For the chicken burgers
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • sliced avocado (to garnish)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
For caramelized onions
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fat of choice (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • pinch of salt

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat along with enough cooking oil (or fat of your choice) to cover the pan and your sliced onions for your caramelized onions. Let onions begin to cook down, moving them around at times to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. When onions begin to brown slightly, pour in a tablespoon of water to help steam and cook the onions perfect. Be aware that caramelizing onions takes a long time, so don't be like me and become impatient with your heat!

While the onions cook down, put in a large bowl all the ingredients for your burgers and use your hands to mix well. Form patties by taking a large ball of meat and rolling it into a ball between your hands, then pat down to form a flat patty. 

Place a non-stick large skillet over medium heat. Once skillet is hot, place a couple of your patties down and cook on both sides for 6-8 minutes, or until golden-brown. Once burgers are done cooking, top with onions, slices of avocado and whatever other toppings you like and that's it!

Here's how my burgers turned out:

My attempt at spinach chicken burgers. Photo: Just J
My attempt

Total time: the onions take awhile so I'd guesstimate about an hour 
Serves: depending on the thickness of your patties, you could get around 5 burgers out of this recipe

Happy eating!

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Obsessed with Perfume

Lately my two biggest (and worst) influences, Sheila and Angela have inflamed my passion for perfume. I've always been fascinated with perfumes and especially perfume bottles, but lately I seem to be collecting more scents than I've ever had at one time in my life.

Scent is your body's signature and is one of the most expressive senses that you possess. Scent is highly personal and the same perfume can wear very differently and mean different things to every person. I always remember how my mom's signature scent is her Chanel No. 5. Always a classic, this scent is literally an icon unto itself and while I love the smell of it on her, on me it seems to overpower and wears way too musky - just an example of how different the same perfume can be.

While I haven't narrowed down my scent signature, I do know I tend to be drawn to lighter perfumes that are either fresh/oceany, citrusy or lightly floral. Here are some of the favourites in my collection lately:

CLEAN perfumes

I recently picked up a 3-pack set of the CLEAN perfumes at Sephora on Boxing Day. I initially was only in love with Rain, a refreshing and tantalizing mix of melon, daffodil and water lilies, but I've since fallen in love with White Woods and Skin as well.

Where Rain is more melon-y and refreshing, White Woods and Skin are more appropriate for winter with their heavier notes. White Woods combines mandarin, vanilla orchid and sandalwood to create a luxurious, almost creamy smell; while Skin is the most floral with its mix of honeydew, lotus blossom and blue rose.

When I'm not wearing these, I can be found wearing my L'Occitane Citrus Verbena. I am so IN LOVE with this scent. Although not a winter perfume at all, I find the Citrus Verbena's powerfully fresh notes of lemon oil, organic verbena and grapefruit so invigorating in the morning. L'Occitane's Verbena perfume is also very similar to the Citrus Verbena, but I prefer the latter for the added complexity that the other notes adds in.

L'Occitane Citrus Verbena perfume

Finally, I find myself regularly sighing over and lusting for the many lovely scents of Joe Malone. There's a Joe Malone scent for everyone as the line fills the whole spectrum of scents from feminine florals, to zesty citruses and spicy gourmands; plus, most of the scents are made to be layered with each other, increasing your perfume options exponentially. I cannot narrow down which ones I want as I want them all!

If I had to pick only three though, the front runners so far would be the Nectarine Blossom & Honey, the English Pear & Freesia and the Nutmeg & Ginger (incidentally, the last two smell beautifully when layered together!).

Joe Malone perfume collection

Now I want to know: what are your perfume obsessions?

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Everything and nothing

Recently my past decided to cross my path as it does from time to time. As always, it hurts a little. I've never written about it here, but this time I decided to try as a means of understanding a question that often circles around in my brain. Why do ended friendships hurt so hard?

I have been able to move on and even forgive relationships that broke my heart, yet the friendships where similar things happened have hurt me deeper and longer. I wish I knew how to change it. Is it perhaps because hurt in relationships can almost be expected whereas with friends it is not?

I used to prepare myself for betrayal by boyfriends even before it happened, steeling myself against what was surely inevitable. A self-fulfilling prophecy. But with friends? They are supposed to be your staunch defenders, your ride-or-die fellows who will be there at your best and lowest. Your supporters who will tell you that you look amazing even when your hair is plastered to your head and you have just puked your lunch into the toilet. Your family.

After a lot of introspection, I have come to believe that a lot of what happened had nothing to do with me and everything to do with me.

The nothing to do with me part: Emotions are a bitch and love so easily turns to hate when you become the embodiment of the negativity in others' lives. When friends become too close, that closeness can become stifling and in trying to establish your identify from each other, you can become each other's worst enemies. Your friendship becomes a pile of kindling and anything will light it up. The last thing anyone should ever do is to compare their lives to their friends. No matter how blessed and easy someone else's life may seem, it never quite is. Nobody is perfect and being envious is the most useless emotion that blocks you from achieving your own happiness.

The everything to do with me part: Unfortunately, I learned to be a better friend by being a not so great one. When I was younger, I was impatient and selfish. I was a good listener, but I was averse to having anyone "need" me. I had no space in my life to be a good friend. My life a few years ago was kinda messy. I was in a relationship that strained my relationships with friends, with family, and for whom I sacrificed a lot. And worst of all, it was all my choice. It wasn't all that guy's blame. I was just as unhealthy for him by allowing myself to enable the behaviours that hurt both of us. That's another story and we have both moved on better for it. With all that, I had no time to give for friends whose problems I deemed unequal to mine. Good friends don't do that. Although I still think that people need some perspective sometimes on what is worth moaning over, I think I know now that if you value your friends, you need to put aside your ego and give them your full attention.

So why am I writing all this? Maybe as a way to gain closure for myself because I'm sure I never will get that chance with the past. At the very least, I would like to understand objectively what went wrong. Also, as a way to share my experience and see what other people's have been.

I hope the past is doing better now. I know I am living life way happier than I was and everyday I am grateful to be with someone who has made me a better person and to have friends who are truly supportive of me and never judging me for my weaknesses. I hope the past can say the same.

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Pinspirations: Living Room Styling and Kitchen Re-dos

Lately I've been collecting inspirations for updates to my living room and kitchen. We have the bones (furniture) of our house put together and now comes the stage of making things pretty and updated! Here are a few of my recent inspirations c/o Pinterest:

Amazing mix of warm wood and cool whites in this living room
Photo: Domino

Really loving the mix of sleek modern pieces in warm finishes and colors. There's something so relaxing and simple about this palette. 

Photo wall collage inspiration
Photo: Ideas to Steal

I'm currently trying to envision a montage of art and photos to place above the couch in my living room, where there is currently a huge blank wall. A skinny ledge seems like a good option as it lets you place picture frames and even little knick knacks. Plus, you won't have to put any holes in your wall and can easily change up the items anytime.

Wooden counters and greenery make for a homey kitchen design
Photo: Design Sponge

A bright and whimsical kitchen
Photo: Design Sponge

For the kitchen, I'd love to replace our current blue counter-tops with clean wooden ones like these. I love the rustic, homey feel of butcher block counter-tops and apparently they can be quite affordable! 

What's inspiring you lately?

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A Book Devoured: Review of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

A Handmaid's Tale book cover

The Handmaid's Tale by Canadian author Margaret Atwood is a classic dystopian novel that some of you may have already read from school. The first time I read this book was years ago, but I always enjoy revisiting a story as good books are like slipping on a comfy bathrobe and settling down for a nap.

This novel follows the narrative of an unnamed woman living in a near future theocratic society set in what is present day Maine. The government has been overtaken by an extreme Christian sect who has renamed the new America, "Gilead". Born out of falling birth rates and rising fears, Gileadean society is a strange throwback to puritanical Christian values. Both men and women's lives are highly regimented. For women, you're either a Wife, a Martha (a housemaid), a Jezebel (a prostitute), or a Handmaid (a surrogate womb/slave). Our narrator is the latter and through snippets of her back story and daily observations, the reader pieces together a story that is altogether terrifying in its possibilities and realism.

It's definitely obvious that Atwood is making remarks here on the subjugation of women, feminism, of the dangers of religious fervor and chemical pollution on society. It's chilling to read about how the narrator loses her freedom, her family and her sense of self. Stripped even of a name, she stumbles along the line between being a person at all, or just a "vessel". This is objectification of women at its worst and not unfamiliar even in today's world. However, an interesting twist on the story is how Atwood hints at how the so-called revolution was also caused by women, for women. Handmaid training is enforced by zealous Aunts and the narrator's own Wife was an advocate of the revolution and who now bitterly recalls how traditional values trap her at home, sterile in all senses of the word.

This book is one that leaves you feeling disturbed and that's a good thing. While the pacing is a little slow at first, the ending leaves you full of questions. It might be good to read this with someone because you'll definitely want to discuss it after!

The Handmaid's Tale is available via Amazon 
See more of my recommended reads on GoodReads

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Happy belated 2014!

Hope everyone had a fun New Year's Eve! Mr. Artist and I went to our usual NYE houseparty at one of Mr. Artist's friends condo and this year Sheila came along as well, which was a fun addition! It was a pretty fun, chill affair with people just talking and drinking lots of various types of liquor. Unfortunately, there was also lots of spillage in the hosts' all-white living room (what a mistake!). Sadly, I was one of those spillers. I was standing around chatting and Mr. Artist mentioned how so many people were spilling this year compared to last year and next thing I know, I seemed to have thrown my drink in the air,spilling my cranberry vodka everywhere. Not sure why, considering I don't recall knocking into me...

This week also marked the return to work and routine. Luckily, I only had a couple days to work before the weekend again, thanks to New Years falling on a Wednesday. Let me tell you, returning to work after a holiday is HARD. Even if you love your job, it's HARD. Why can't I just get to work in bed? WHAT USE IS TECHNOLOGY FOR.

In order to get out of those work day blues and the long winter months ahead, Mr. Artist and I have decided to book a trip together! I'm thinking somewhere warm, like Hawaii! I haven't been back to Hawaii in years, but I tell everyone how it's my favourite place on Earth. Chill people, amazing weather that's not too hot or cold, beautiful tropical scenery, great multicultural food and culture and public beaches everywhere. Who wouldn't love it! I mean look at this how friggin amazing this place looks!

The beach: somewhere I'd rather be anytime
Screw you job

Only lame thing about Hawaii is the price as I'm starting to research various flights and venues. A friend recommended checking out AirBNB, but I'm a bit skeptical. Staying in a random's house? How will you know if they're psycho or even hygienic? Anyone have experiences using this service and can provide tips?

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A Book Devoured: Review of The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

A Headmaster's Wager book cover
Photo: Vincent Lam

Before I was a lover of fashion, food or makeup, I was an avid reader of books. There's something about words on paper (or screens) that has always fascinated me. I've learned about new worlds, new philosophies and ways of living through books and my love of a good story is a large part of why I write at all. Since reading is one of my favourite pastimes, it seems only appropriate to share it on my blog. I hope that by doing so, I can help you find some good reads and avoid the duds. The more people who read, the better the world will be imo. Also, please feel free to share your recommendations as I'd love to hear them and chat with you about them!

For my first review, I'll start things off with the debut novel by famed Canadian writer, Vincent Lam. Being Chinese-Canadian, I'm always drawn to stories by authors of similar backgrounds to me. Lam somehow manages to cross over that stereotype of the "Asian-Canadian writer" and into a more subtle territory of shifting identities and histories with his work, and the Headmaster's Wager is a perfect example of that.

In the book, readers follow the life of Percival Chen, a Chinese immigrant in Vietnam during the onset of the war. To say that Chen isn't very likable is an understatement; this character is a prostitute loving, mah-jong gambling, whiskey drinking, blindly patriotic "businessman" whose only concern is how much money he can wring out of his students; however, he is also a doting father who literally would give up everything for his only son, Dai Jai. One day, Chen is forced to confront the changes happening in his adopted country when his son makes a foolish mistake that changes their lives forever.

As a reader knowing little of the Vietnam War, watching Chen's rose-colored glasses being slapped off his face is eye-opening. While I abhor Chen's tendency to stick his head in the sand, I still feel his agony over his increasingly desperate efforts to save his son. Chen is weak and deliberately ignorant, but he is also determined and sometimes thoughtful. After all, you have to be pretty bad-ass to kick a morphine habit with just 1 bottle of drug-laced vodka and a locked door.

The Headmaster's Wager starts off slow, but slowly crescendos into a searing examination of greed, family and the terrifying way that war can obliterate everything you know. If you're looking for a thoughtful novel about the personal effects of war that isn't overly depressing or heavy, then I recommend this book.

Available via Chapters for $20.65

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