beauty all around: thinking about what we deserve.

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I think I’ve just found my new mantra. I came across this graphic the other day and adore the simplicity of its message. With this ultra-sassified “girlfriend’s got it going on and she’s way too good to be worrying about you” image that’s being used, they are obviously trying to make the point that fantastic women shouldn’t be chasing after men who aren’t interested in them, aren’t kind to them, or simply don’t deserve them—they should just move forward and find someone better—and I think that’s a very, very important thing to remember. So many of us get so fixated on one person (I’m definitely guilty of this!) that we often end up wasting valuable time, energy, and emotion clinging to the idea that they’ll come around when, at the end of the day, they more often than not aren’t the right person. Because don’t we all want someone who knows how lucky they are to have a chance with us and who sees all the wonderful things we have to offer? Of course we do, and no one should settle for less than that. Go after what you want, sure. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. But know the difference between pursuing someone and making excuses for someone, and recognize when it’s time to move on.

Find someone who believes you are irreplaceable. Anyone who doesn’t can be replaced.

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musings on: wanderlust

I’ve never been big on this whole “wanderlust” concept that has taken twenty-something culture by storm in recent years. I’ll admit I went about my post-university years in a fairly conventional way—which I guess, these days, is actually pretty unconventional. I finished my 4-year degree and went straight to grad school; I spent the last semester of grad school applying for jobs and going for interviews; I received a contract position and started working a couple of weeks after graduation; and my contract position eventually led to a full-time job. I moved to a new city and got an apartment. I bought a car about a year after that. And life has basically been moving along pretty seamlessly since. Of course, I’ve always made plenty of time for fun and adventure (because otherwise, what’s the point, right?) but I’ve always put a lot of value on responsibility and direction. That’s just the way I’m built.

Now here we are, about three years into my career, and I’m feeling very ready for a bit of a mix up! Call it wanderlust, call it restlessness, call it finally having enough money in the bank, but with my twenty-sixth birthday fast approaching (eep!) I find myself longing for a change of pace and a change of scenary. Am I content the majority of the time? Of course. Am I looking to completely rebuild my life? No. Do I feel the need to escape everything and everyone around me? Definitely not. But am I feeling a need for rejuvination? Well, yes. You see, in my mind, we can’t possibly make the most of the very limited time we have (especially the limited time we have as young, healthy, energetic, unattached twenty-somethings!) if all we’re doing is cruising along at full speed moving singlemindedly towards all of the things we think we want and need—money, a better job, love. I think it’s infininitely important to have goals, and to go after all that you’re looking for in your life, but sometimes taking a breather, reevaluating, and simply enjoying being who and what you are at this particular moment can be the best thing for you—and can help get you ready for what’s to come. Often, to get out of your head, you just need to get out of town.

Luckily for me, my vacation time is scheduled, my tickets are booked, my bags will soon be packed, and I’ll be jetting off for a month-long European excursion with three of my oldest and dearest friends in just a few weeks. I feel very blessed and crazy excited. I can’t wait to soak in beautiful countries and cultures, meet incredible people, eat incredible food, and take in a little piece of what the world has to offer.

Even for a tried and true straight path gal like myself, sometimes a temporary dip onto a winding backwoods trail is exactly what the soul needs.

The Lone Traveler

domestic goddess: country harvest bread

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I’d been wanting to tackle homemade bread for the longest time. The smell, the taste, the texture—there’s nothing like it, is there? But it always seemed like too much work. Luckily, I eventually stumbled on Chef Michael Smith‘s recipe for “no  knead bread.” It takes a little longer than your average recipe but, luckily, most of that time involves the dough sitting in a bowl, slowly rising, while you sit back with a glass of wine.

This recipe is packed with healthy, delicious ingredients and really is so simple to make. Here’s what you need:

  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
  •  1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 5/8 cups of warm water
  • Add orange zest and honey as desired to sweeten

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Whisk your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Slowly add the water until a wet dough forms. Continue stirring until the dough has incorporated all of the loose flour in the bowl. Stir in your orange zest and honey if desired at the end.

2. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let it rest in a warm place for 18 hours.

3. After 18 hours, the dough will have doubled in size.

4. Remove your dough from the bowl and form it into a greased baking dish. Let it rest a second time for another 2-3 hours (it will almost double in size again).

5. Coat the top of the dough with olive oil or sunflower oil; this will help create a nice crust as the bread bakes.

6. Bake for 45 minutes at 425°C.

Your house will smell delicious and the bread will taste amazing—promise!

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bookshelf: “the descendants” by kaui hart hemmings

The Descendants Kaui Hart HemmingsI’m sure most of you remember all of the 2011 Oscar buzz surrounding screenwriter/director Alexander Payne’s film adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel, The Descendants. George Clooney gave an understated but emotionally powerful performance as the novel’s protagonist, Matt King, and up-and-comer Shailene Woodley left her mark with an award-nominated performance as Clooney’s troubled daughter turned partner in crime, Alexandra.

I’d avoided seeing the movie, despite all of the acclaim, because I really wanted to get my hands on Hemmings’ original work first. I picked it up over the long weekend and could not put it down! Needless to say, a few hours later I’d finished the book—but it’s still all I can think about days later. Hemmings creates characters that stay with you. Their tragedies are so universal, so relatable, and when developed against the backdrop of Hawaiian paradise, this story offers an insightful, cleverly constructed reminder that the events, relationships, and misfortunes that shape our lives shape all of us, every human, no matter who we are or where we are. And, maybe more importantly, their triumphs are often so subtle and so seemingly insignificant that Hemmings successfully relays that exact message: that in trying times, it is often those minor improvements and those fleeting reminders of joy or beauty in the world that keep our days rolling forward. This is such a beautiful read—often harsh but always warm, honest, and even funny.

j.

turntable: “young and beautiful” by lana del rey

I haven’t had a chance to check out the new Baz Luhrmann take on The Great Gatsby yet (it is one of my all-time favourite novels and I’ve been a longtime fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, so I’m expecting big things), but I already have the film’s soundtrack on repeat. Jay-Z, will.i.am, Sia, The xx, Florence + the Machine—the whole album is an eclectic mix of musical genres, featuring a big roster of music’s finest who deliver killer track after killer track. But one of the highlights has to be Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful.” Incredible vocals, a haunting melody, perfect production, and the most beautiful string accompaniment—I couldn’t be more obsessed.

domestic goddess: bacon & egg stuffed avocados

I have really been neglecting my inner domestic goddess! To be fair, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and baking lately (I even made a delicious country bread from scratch last weekend—recipe to come!) but I’m horrible about taking pictures and recording the recipes for my blog. I’ll get better!

But, I was over at a friend’s place the other night and we decided to make a little snack and try out a recipe we’d found on Pinterest (where else?): bacon and egg stuffed avocados. The “stuffed avocados” craze is in full swing right now and I couldn’t be more on board. Everything tastes better with avocado! Definitely not just for guacamole.

These were really simple to make. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 ripe avocado (cut in half, pitted)
  • 2 eggs (one for each avocado half)
  • 2 or 3 strips of bacon
  • seasoning of choice (I used a little salt and pepper and red chili flakes)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit.

2. Spoon out more of the avocado flesh around the pit hole, but make sure you leave enough of the flesh so there is still plenty of avocado to eat once it’s stuffed. (A helpful tip: use the egg to measure the size of the hole. If the egg fits perfectly into the hole you’ve made, there’s a really good chance it won’t overflow once you crack the egg into the avocado, and you will still have enough flesh left to eat.)

3. Crack the egg into the hole you’ve carved out in your avocado.

4. While you’re scooping out the avocado, you should also be cooking up a few strips of bacon. Fry or bake until almost crispy, but be careful not to overcook upfront, otherwise the bacon will burn when you bake the avocados.

5. When your bacon is ready, cut it into small pieces and scatter them over the egg.

6. Season with a little salt and pepper and some red chili flakes if desired.

7. Bake the stuffed avocados at 425°C for about 20 minutes. (Another helpful tip: to prevent the avocados from falling over while cooking, prop them up on a muffin tin rather than a flat baking sheet. This will keep the avocados in place while they’re baking, and the muffin tin will also capture any egg that might overflow.)

This is a really fun thing to serve for brunch, or just a great high-protein snack—and it’s super quick. Enjoy!

j.

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musings on: gratitude.

Fittingly, in the aftermath of Mother’s Day, I was reminded the other day—for the zillionth time in my twenty-something years—that my mother is remarkable. How she manages to stay on top of her own life, career, and marriage while also patiently and lovingly dealing with the issues and demands of four children who are all in completely different stages of their lives with completely different needs (seriously—we’ve got a late twenty-something, an early twenty-something, a second-year university student, and a high school student. How?) is a quality I am continually in awe of, and one I can only hope I’ll be able to replicate with my own children one day.

It had just been one of those weeks—you know the ones I mean. My job isn’t right. My love life isn’t right. My bank statements definitely aren’t right. Where should I be living? What should I be doing? And what am I doing wrong? Oy. My mom stayed on the phone with me for who knows how long, listening when she needed to, laughing when she needed to, and offering advice when I needed her to. She said a lot of things that made a lot of sense (like she always does) and managed to pull me out of my temporary funk (like she always does), but one thing she said to me really stuck:

You attract the same energy you’re putting out into the world. If you give off negativity and depression, that’s the only thing people will see in you. If you’re tough and positive and grateful, you will attract the things you want.

This might sound like a cliché—something I should know by now and not something I needed my mother to tell me—but I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of a cliché in a critical moment. Clichés of romance, clichés of inspiration, clichés of motivation—we overuse them because, more often than not, they are exactly what is needed and what makes the most sense in a particular situation. And, in my experience, they also tend to be true. And I think there is infinite truth to the point my mom was trying to make: if you’re grateful for what you have and hopeful about what’s to come, everything you have will feel like enough and the things that follow will fall into place in their own time.

It’s strange, and maybe also a little sad, to think that the people who are most blessed tend to be the ones who struggle most with gratitude. Why is it that the more we have and the more things go right in our lives, the more we lament what we don’t have and the things that have gone wrong? I made a prime example out of myself the other day. I have a job in an industry I long hoped to be a part of (even if temporarily), working for a company that I believe in and with people who are kind, intelligent, fun, and supportive. I have a big, loud, loving family who I can say anything to and do anything with, and who are always there when I need them. Whether I go back to my hometown, or to the city where I attended university, or to the city I’m currently living in, I’m lucky enough to find people who love me and friendships from different phases of my life that continue to enrich me. I’ve been successful enough so far to afford an apartment and a car and, on a smaller scale but equally important, things like groceries and a gym membership. I’ve been able to travel. I volunteer for organizations I care about and have met endless people who have inspired me. And, never to be underestimated, I am healthy. Things aren’t perfect, and like every person (twenty-something or otherwise) I am definitely a work-in-progress, but all things considered, I am blessed. Why is it so hard to remember all of these things when you’re feeling disappointed or hurt or overwhelmed? Maybe it’s just that innate human desire to continually be better—do more, see more, have more, be more. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think I would be equally unsatisfied if I was becoming complacent with my life. But there is a critical difference between being content and stagnant and being content while evolving. I can be satisfied with what I have and make the most of my life as it is on this day but still know that there is more for me—and believe that I will get there.

So I choose gratitude. Grateful for where I’m at. Grateful for the people that surround me. Grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Grateful for mom.

glam squad: MET gala 2013 – punk: from chaos to couture

The internet is all a-flutter today with mini mohawks (or not-so-mini if you’re the one and only SJP), thick eyeliner, leather, spikes, and studs, and glamour glamour glamour. For fashion lovers everywhere, Vogue‘s annual MET Gala—founded in 1948 and held every spring to celebrate the opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute exhibit in New York City—is one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year. Full of fashion elite and Hollywood’s finest, the MET Gala always promises show-stopping looks, iconic red carpet moments, and more lustworthy fashion than Grammys and Oscars combined.

This year’s MET Gala paid tribute to 80s glam in the best possible way with Punk: From Chaos to Couture. An over-the-top theme like this made it easy to either play it far too safe (a high fashion no-no) or take punk and run so far with it that you leave everyone scratching their heads the next day wondering what you (or your stylist) were thinking. But, as always, plenty of gala-goers brought their fashion A-game, striking a perfect balance between edge and elegance. Here are some of my favourite looks from the night:

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This is probably my favourite look from MET Gala 2013. Cara Delevingne was completely stunning in this Burberry Prorsum gown. The cut of the dress was simple and sophisticated, but the plunging neckline and spike detailing (brought out as well by the choice of accessories) paid homage to the night’s theme in the most glamorous way.

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Nina Dobrev turned heads in this custom-made Monique Lhullier ensemble with a bustier top and tulle outskirt with leather strapping at the top. This was a stunning example of how to pull off both bold and feminine in a single look.

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A lot of people were thrown off by the hair, but I thought Nicole Richie looked outrageous (in the best possible way) in this white, floral-encrusted Topshop gown with matching coif. If you’re going to make a dramatic beauty statement, an 80s punk MET Gala is the place to do it.

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Speaking of dramatic statements, Katy Perry was anything but understated in this Dolce & Gabbana look. But, I thought the detailing on this gown was completely couture and the look was accessorized perfectly for a night of punk glamour. She went for it!

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I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that little Dakota Fanning has quickly become a fashion knockout, but once again the budding style icon reminded us that she knows good clothes and knows how to wear them. This black Rodarte illusion dress was an incredible choice for the night. If you haven’t taken a closer look at the back of the dress yet, definitely check it out—stunning.

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Very few people pull of understated glamour like Rooney Mara. Her white Givenchy had such simple lines but the plunge, slit, shoulders, and metallic zipper detailing brought the look to a whole other level.

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Another Givenchy moment: new spokesperson Amanda Seyfried in vintage couture. Girlfriend knows good dresses.

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Bringing a serious pop of color was Kate Bosworth in this Balmain look. Mini, hot pink, metallic, plenty of embellishment—what could be more punk than that?

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Another mini pulled off by another red carpet pro: Gisele Bundchen in Anthony Vacarello. The chainmail meshing on this otherwise simple LBD is pure high-fashion creativity, and the spikes on her sky-high heels closed off a great tribute to the gala’s theme.

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Carey Mulligan has such a great aesthetic and always knows exactly how to pull off the perfect look for the perfect occassion—whether it’s very high-risk or slightly more muted. This black Balenciaga dress seems understated at first glance, but the cut-outs, the uniquely structured bodice, and the metallic detailing make this a really well-executed look.

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Stacy Keibler was a bolted beauty in this Rachel Roy number. And those shoes! Going short at the MET Gala isn’t always a popular choice, but I thought Keibler looked edgy and super glamorous. The only thing missing was her most coveted accessory, Mr. Clooney.

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Brooklyn Decker was a definite standout in this incredibly detailed Peter Pilotto dress—the structure of the gown, the colors, and the accessories were all on-point. So daring and so chic!

What were your favourite MET Gala looks?

j.

bookshelf: “the history of love” by nicole krauss

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This past weekend was one of those perfect, sunny, almost-summer, stay-at-home weekends that, every once in a while, you just crave. It has been a hectic few months with plenty of travel for work, trips to visit friends, drives up north to visit family, social engagements and volunteer commitments here at home, and as much as I love all of these things—and actually prefer thar my weeks and weekends be full of these things 99% of the time—I was ready for a low-key weekend at the apartment. I caught up on chores; I took my time at the gym; I did some cooking; I ran errands; and I spent hours sitting on my balcony with a drink soaking up the beautiful May sunshine and finally finished reading Nicole Krauss’ absolutely stunning novel, The History of Love.

Friends of mine can’t stop talking about this book, with many of them claiming it’s one of their all-time favourites, and I actually picked up a copy years ago just to see what all of the fuss was about. Like so many of the books I buy, this one has been sitting untouched on my overflowing bookshelf for far too long. I turned to it at long last a couple of weeks ago and, though it was a little slow to start, soon became entranced by Krauss’ intricate, poetic writing style and the heartbreaking but charming characters around which she’s created this tale. The History of Love is about many things: writing, art, immigration, family, friendship, heartache, loss, grief, time, life, death, and, of course, the beauty and the tragedy of falling in love and, ultimately, learning to let love go.

It takes some time to figure out what Krauss is trying to do, but once she hooks you, you’ll marvel at the heart and humanity at the core of each of her characters and the true delicacy with which she’s built their stories.

j.

beauty all around: stop, look, listen.

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I stumbled on this Insta-photo the other day and my immediate reaction was: There should be more signs like this posted on the street, and there should be more people in the world that go around and post them. What a simple yet beautiful reminder that we are surrounded by stunning, inspiring, even magical things, and if we take the time to stop, look, listen, and appreciate, it can transform our mood and often change the course of our entire day. Maybe it’s taking a moment to breathe in your first cup of coffee in the morning and soaking in that intoxicating roasted scent; maybe it’s leaving the office for a 10 minute walk over your lunch break and enjoying a little fresh air; maybe it’s stopping whatever you’re doing to call your parents or your best friend just to say hello and that you love them; maybe it’s that unmistakable buzz you feel when you step outside on the first warm, sunny day of the season; maybe it’s the quirky regular at the café on the corner who smiles and waves when you stop to say hello; or maybe it’s blasting your favourite guilty pleasure song on the drive home and singing at the top of your lungs. Whatever or whoever it may be that brings you joy, revel in it. Let it remind you that life can be a pretty remarkable thing.

j.