Thanksgiving in Vancouver

Today was Canadian Thanksgiving, and the first time I ever tried turducken. Despite the fact that my stomach officially wants to leave my body—I’m pretty sure the turkey and duck have formed an unholy alliance in there and are currently overthrowing the chicken in a violent coup d’état—I can wholeheartedly say it was delicious. While the animals battled it out for digestive supremacy, I decided to document one of the things I’m most thankful for: the place where I live. This Thanksgiving is one of the nicest in recent history—unseasonably warm and sunny—and days like these really bring out the best of Vancouver; it seems like the summer just refuses to leave!

Having lived in this city for most of my life, there are times I’m still awe-stuck by its beauty, but after moving closer to the beach just over a year ago, I’ve rarely gone a day without realizing how lucky I am. Of course, the sea and the mountains are a (literally) huge part of what make this place so beautiful, but even the little, everyday sights can be just as beautiful:

Boat garden

Remnant of a summertime berry patch

Guarding the beach

One man’s junk …

Late bloomers

Yacht clubhouse

Berries by the beach

The city

Recipe: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Surprise, I haven’t disappeared off the face of the planet after all! The boring truth is that I’ve been far too stressed out to blog over the last few weeks finishing up some major design projects all due around the same time. Sending the last project to the printer on Friday was the greatest relief I’ve felt in a long time. It was amazing to feel a giant load of stress melt away all at once—even moreso after celebrating with a delicious dinner and a bottle of wine with two of my best friends.

The next morning, I decided to do something I was far too stressed out to do in a long time: bake! Feeling somewhat adventurous, I decided to embark on a baking journey I’ve never taken before and try making banana bread. Since strawberries are in season right now, I added some of those as well as some organic chocolate chips. To healthy up the whole thing just a little bit, I used whole grain flour instead of white and stevia (a natural sweetener) instead of sugar.

Verdict: the thing was super easy to make, and guess what? Between my boyfriend and I, we devoured half of the entire loaf before I even got a chance to photograph the finished product!! Yes, it was that yummy. The only thing is, it was very rich, even minus the sugar and white flour—calling it “bread” probably doesn’t do it justice, it’s certainly more akin to cake. Next time, I’d use half the chocolate chips. But, overall, a successful baking experiment and a great stress reliever!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole grain)
  • about 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons stevia (or 1 cup white sugar)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped into little pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, beat the stevia (or sugar) and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended, then add the eggs, one at a time. Next, add the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla and blend everything together.
  4. Stir the dry mixture into the wet but be careful not to overmix—stir everything together just until it’s moist.
  5. Add in the chocolate chips and then gently stir in the strawberries.
  6. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. I sprinkled a few chocolate chips over the whole thing to pretty it up a bit.
  7. Bake for about an hour, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Take out of the oven and let cool 15 minutes in the pan.
  9. Remove from pan and cool completely.
  10. Enjoy!

The Perfect Song for Summer’s End

The new album The North by Canadian band Stars comes out September 4. Their first single is “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It,” a song I immediately fell in love with the first time I heard it. It’s a song that epitomizes Stars’ trademark pop sound—catchey, dancey, and all-around beautiful, a perfect end-of-summer song. I saw Stars a few years ago in one of my favourite venues in Vancouver: Malkin Bowl, an outdoor theatre surrounded by a ring of huge trees in the heart of Stanley Park. I absolutely love the title of the song; it says so much in one simple line. Give the song a listen here, I guarantee* you’ll love it and dare you to try and refrain yourself from dancing to it!

* guarantee not actually guaranteed.

Rediscovering Vogue on its 120th Birthday

I’ll never forget the day when I found two cardboard boxes full of my mother’s old Vogue magazines in the basement: I was in my early teens at the time and completely oblivious to fashion. Flipping through the stacks of magazines she had collected over time—and, evidently, hadn’t had the heart to get rid of—was like stepping into a parallel universe. I didn’t quite know what to make of everything I saw at first, but I was fascinated. Most of all, I was fascinated by the models, especially Cindy Crawford, who was the model at the time and seemed to appear on every second page, donning some kind of otherworldly gown here, an over-the-top ensemble there. These women weren’t human: they were goddesses.

Upon my first discovery of it, Vogue wasn’t something that mirrored or even existed in the same plane of reality as the world I lived in—a lower-middle class suburban life wherein the majority of my closet consisted of whatever thrift store finds my mother dug up for me and the rare special-occasion purchase from the strip mall’s single “trendy” tween store. The contents of the magazine seemed to depict narratives from some kind of fictional world, or so it seemed to me, and I was its captive audience, drinking in every detail of every page until I had memorized virtually every issue. To this day, the one cover that stands out as most memorable is the November 1988 issue of model Michaela Bercu wearing a beaded Christian Lacroix jacket and Guess jeans—which also happened to be Anna Wintour’s debut issue.

Needless to say, Vogue brought out the same thing in me that had prevented my mother from discarding these fashion relics: an investment in the dream of fantastically impossible glamour; of impeccably ageless style; of beauty that could transcend generations and still remain relevant and alluring when picked out of a dusty cardboard box hiding in the corner of a basement. It’s the intangible quality Vogue has perfected since its inception, and the thing that’s kept it alive to see its 120th anniversary this year.

Fast forward to today. A shelf on my bookcase is dedicated to the Vogues I’ve purchased over the years and haven’t justified letting go of: the all-encompassing September issues. I’m not a follower of any organized religion, but I can understand how someone who is would be terrified to let go of a copy of their Bible. Of course, these publications don’t hold the key to any kind of spiritual salvation per se, but I would argue that they present a similar kind of offering: comfort, hope, faith—a glimpse into a seemingly unreachable nirvana of wealth and beauty.

As my taste for fashion evolved since my initial discovery of the magazine, so has my relationship with Vogue. What was first a physical depiction of a nonexistent world became a little more real after visiting fashion meccas like New York, Paris, and London. These places proved that the pages of Vogue were extracted from reality rather than the imagination of a council of fashion gods (though the latter is true, to an extent). Rather than crush my adoration for it, this only served to cement my devotion to the magazine. Now I could put palpable feelings to the images in the magazine, associate them with real sights and sounds like I couldn’t before. It was like meeting a pen-pal for the first time after writing to each other for years.

I can understand why I was so drawn to the images in the magazine when I first encountered them. They spoke to me of a potential, however slight and far-off, of existing in that world one day, of mingling with and maybe even being one of the impossibly long-legged women drowning in jewels or sequins or leather or whatever was big at the time. Not that I would admit or recognize it back then—as far as I was concerned, I was doomed to remain in the same average teenage existence for the rest of eternity.

I’m not that awkward teenage girl from a working-class family anymore: I’ve happily discovered that everyone does grow out of that life eventually, whether they like it or not, and I’m incredibly happy with the life I’ve made for myself since. But even upon opening the 120th anniversary issue of Vogue today—the biggest September issue ever, sure to get a spot on my bookshelf—I’m still greeted with feelings I have and always will come to associate with the magazine. They’re similar to the feelings I got walking down the streets of Manhattan the couple of times I was there: the expectation of finding something new and unknown around every corner; the excitement of being witness to something greatly important; and the fascination of immaculate glamour ever so slightly out of reach.

Vogue isn’t in the business of selling fashion—it’s in the business of selling dreams. And until I’ve reached a point where they’re no longer dreams, I’ll always have a place in my heart (and my bookshelf) for the next September issue.

All images photographed by me from the September 2012 issue of Vogue.

What Not to Say to a Graphic Designer

I love my job, the majority of which is very design-heavy. Outside of my 9 to 5 job, I also freelance. I’ve worked on various types of graphic and layout projects, and have been involved with quite a few clients over the course of numerous projects. However, this also means that I’ve had people make comments and requests that have been everything from eyebrow-raising to annoying to altogether infuriating. Then again, no matter what industry you work in, there are certain things you’ll hear over and over that will make you want to punch a wall. So I thought I’d share some of the most frustrating remarks I’ve heard over the course of my own work.*


*Please note that this—like everything else on this blog—is my own opinion, and stems from my own personal experiences. It’s not meant to speak on behalf of any other graphic designers or their clients.

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