5 Things To Help You Survive The Trumpocalypse

 

It’s been a rough week, friends. Heck, it’s been a rough year. I know that many of you, like me, are still reeling from the US Election results.

Even though I’m Canadian, I woke up last Tuesday full of hope. I went upstairs, made coffee in my sun-filled kitchen and declared to my Mom, “today looks like a great day to elect a Female President!” Well, unless you’ve literally been living in an underground bunker Kimmy Schmidt style, you know how the rest goes. Wednesday morning I woke up shaken and teary eyed like I’d just been through a terrible breakup.

My heart still feels heavy, but the show must go on. I’m working on finding a balance between awareness about what’s happening in the world and self-care. This means engaging in media (books/music/podcasts/art) that makes me feel empowered and inspired. If you’re in need of some post-election inspiration or just some good ole’ distractions, here’s what I’m loving this week.

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1. Kali Uchis

Karly Loaiza, known professionally as Kali Uchis, is a Colombian-American singer-songwriter, record producer and music video director. I stumbled across one of videos while browsing through a friend’s Instagram late one night and was promptly drawn in by her blend of R&B, pop and sultry Amy Winehouse-esque sounds. But it’s Kali’s self-directed videos that really sealed the deal for me. Kali’s created a dreamy, pink hued visual world that’s part California bad-girl, part Francesca Lia Block. She’s exactly what I didn’t even know I needed. Make sure you watch her videos for I Know What I Want and Loner.

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Kali is tough, sassy and exactly the kind of friend you want to invite to your next breakup – Presidential or otherwise. Also, these song lyrics and gifs are everything.

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2. Tribe Called Quest: We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

If there’s one good thing that came out of last week, it’s this album. A Tribe Called Quest have created the perfect soundtrack for the Trumpocalypse. Filled with their signature wit and bounce, We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is political without being overly dark, mournful without feeling sad (RIP Phife) and just a damn good album all around. With songs like “We the People” and “The Donald,” ATCQ will make you want to fight the power and dance around your bedroom.  ATCQ’s performance on SNL and their new video for We The People are giving me life this week.

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3. Moonlight

There’s a reason why critics have called this movie “visually mesmerizing” – it’s absolutely stunning. Moonlight is about a young man coming of age in a disadvantaged Miami neighbourhood while grappling with his sexuality. I won’t say too much because you should really just go and see it, but know that it lives up to the reviews. It’s both timely and timeless, and one of best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

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It also doesn’t hurt that it stars my favourites Janelle Monae and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) and features some really amazing performances by everyone involved. Watch the trailer here.

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4. Goliath

A legal drama come mystery set in LA that has a distinct California Noir, Veronica Mars vibe? Yes, please. Starring Billy-Bob Thornton as a brilliant yet downtrodden lawyer who decides to take on a major corporation, this binge-worthy show is perfect for when you feel like ‘fighting the man.’ Also, the visuals are amazing. Thornton’s character lives at The Ocean Lodge (the seaside motel I stayed at the first time I visited LA) and drinks at Chez Jay. Think lots of palm trees, gritty motels and moody neon (like the scenes below.)

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(Just when I thought I got Los Angeles out of my system for the time being, this show has once again fuelled my Californiaphilia. Sigh.)

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5. Diane Guerrero’s memoir, In The Country We Love

Diane Guerrero stars in two of my favourite shows: Orange is The New Black and Jane the Virgin. But it wasn’t until I heard her interviewed on NPR that I knew much about her story. Diane’s parents were deported when she was 14, leaving her in the USA to finish high school and basically fend for herself. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided is a memoir about her experiences. Given the current political state in the US, this book is more relevant than ever. I’m listening to the audio book & am really enjoying Diane’s soothing and animated voice.

What are you reading/watching/listening and loving these days?

Please share!


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The Single Ladies Guide To Decor Books

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This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

I’ve always thought that one of the best parts about being single is having free reign over how I decorate my space. Whether it’s creating the perfect office/bedroom or making the executive decision to hang that vintage Janet Jackson poster that I bought in LA  front and center in my living room — the choice is always mine and it’s utterly liberating.

Why does this matter? Because I’ve been an interior design nerd ever since I moved into my first solo apartment in my early twenties. In between homework and part time jobs, I’d spend hours poring over decor magazines and (later) blogs, soaking up inspiration. However, back then “decorating” often meant throwing a pillowcase over a Rubbermaid bin and calling it a nightstand. Now that I’m in my thirties, I enjoy having the ability and resources to create a more adult space. This includes being able to collect books that I can use for inspiration.

A few months ago,  Overstock sent over a collection of (now classic) home decor books that I’ve been lusting after since my Rubbermaid bin days. O.co has been my go-to spot lately for all things home (see my nightstand update & home office posts), but it wasn’t until very recently that I discovered they also have an awesome collection of home decor and coffee table books available at prices well below what you’d find at a bookstore. But as I’ve learned, when it comes to both love and books, not everything (or everyone) lives up to your expectations.

So, do these classic home design books pass the test of time? Let’s find out.

1. Domino: The Book of Decorating

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Before there were a bazillion different design blogs, there was Domino. This colourful and eclectic home magazine was a major design inspiration for me in my twenties — not to mention, a welcome reprieve from the ubiquitous “I just bought everything at Ikea yesterday” design aesthetic. Although some of the room concepts no longer seem fresh, the advice offered is solid. From how to style an entryway and hang artwork properly to small space solutions; the pages are chock full of helpful decorating tricks that everyone should know. Plus, there’s also a “decorators handbook” at the back that gives the correct terms for various styles of upholstery and window treatments so that you’ll never have to go to another home store and ask for “that scrunchie style with that doohickey attached.”

This magazine cover isn’t featured in the book, but I’m including it anyways, because I love it and Mindy. (image found here)

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2. The Jonathan Adler Book: My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living

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I’m completely obsessed with all things Jonathan Adler, so it should come as no surprise that this was one of my favourite books of the haul. As the title suggests, this isn’t just a home book. It also touches on the importance of mental health. I truly believe that your living space affects your overall sense of wellbeing. Adler agrees. As he writes, “Your home should be like a good dose of Zoloft […] Coming home should be an antidote to the troubles and traumas of everyday life.” With advice like “be inappropriate;” “paint everything white and add colour with abandon” and “do whatever makes you feel happy;” this book is a cheeky, colourful manifesto on how to add joy to your everyday life.

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3.  The Good Life: Palm Springs by Nancy Baron

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My grandparents used to go to Palm Springs every winter in the 60’s and 70’s. I think their love for Palm Springs and all things California has rubbed off on me. Although this book of photographs by Nancy Baron isn’t technically a home decor book, there’s so much inspiration to be had within its pages (especially for someone like me, who describes their decor style as “bright, airy and with a touch of mid-century modern.”) This book definitely lived up to the hype — and then some. Airstream trailers. Backyard pools. Swinging 60’s prints. If any of this resonates with you, don’t sleep on this book. It’s timeless.

PS. Isn’t this couple adorable?!

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Tricia Guild is known for her bold fabric, wallpaper designs, and an extraordinary sense of colour and pattern. As I’ve learned, adding pattern and colour can make a world of difference in a space, but it can also be intimidating. Following the success of her books on colour, this richly hued coffee table book shares her skills with patterns. Of all the books, this one feels the most dated. Do you remember a time when every bar, hairdresser and boutique had the same obnoxious black and white, baroque, wallpaper? Well, there’s a lot of that in Pattern (which, makes sense since this book just celebrated its ten year anniversary.) But if you’re able to handle revisiting 2006 every few pages, there’s a lot of good stuff here. Guild schools us on everything from Kimono fabrics to European checks and stripes; making the book a good resource for anyone who wants to learn about interior design and maybe, just maybe, add some more colour to their life.
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Do you have any go-to home decor or coffee table books? I’m curious and want to know!
Thank you to Overstock for facilitating this review. I received these products free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. 

 

Too Much on The Inside + Other Truths

0402d5ae9968c163d5d9db0d742611bcWhile I was writing my book, which is a coming-of-age memoir about (you guessed it) dating and relationships; I avoided reading anything similar out of fear that I might creatively psych myself out. Now that the manuscript is complete, I’m having fun binge reading female penned memoirs and books set in Toronto. Last weekend, I finally had a chance to pick up and read cover to cover, Danila Botha’s Too Much on the Inside.

When Danila got in touch with me a few months ago, we quickly bonded over the fact that we spent our 20’s hanging out at a lot of the same places along Queen Street West in Toronto. She remembers what the area was like before it became gentrified, when two of my two favourite bars, Nasa and Element still existed. From the excessively greasy pub food to the telephone poles made thicker by six-inches of flyers and concert posters, Danila captures this era and locale so perfectly that I was unable to put her book down.

Set in the sub-cultural heartland of Toronto’s Queen Street West, Too Much on the Inside explores the depths of human connection as the lives of four people in their twenties converge with the impossible task of escaping their pasts in Brazil, Israel, South Africa, and Nova Scotia. They wrestle with love, heartbreak and angst while trying to build new identities.

All of the characters feel like they’re bits and pieces of people I met in Toronto. Whether it’s a violent trauma or their own angst, all of the characters are trying to outrun something, while grasping at the new and unknown. But, as Too Much on the Inside unfolds, it becomes clear that escaping the past is easier said than done.

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[photos of our old stomping ground via erik howard & flickr ]

Told in the first person, each chapter alternates between the perspectives of the various characters, which gives Too Much on the Inside a voyeuristic, diary like feel. One of the characters I found the most compelling was Marlize – a young South African woman trying to rebuild her life after her mom and sister are murdered and she’s violently raped during a home invasion in her native Cape Town. Traumatized but tenacious, she’s determined to move forward with her life. I loved watching her character fall in love, stumble and get hurt while growing stronger and more sure of herself.

Like the characters in Too Much on the Inside, when I moved to Toronto I was also running – from my parents separation, the lethargy of small town life and an aimless relationship with a much older man – in search of a place where I would feel at home. On some level, I intuitively knew that I would find likeminded individuals in Toronto – and I did – but, not without experiencing my own struggles.

When I was 19, I was sexually assaulted. I’d just moved to Toronto. Although the circumstances of my assault were completely different than the rape described in Danila’s book, the effects were long lasting. At the time I really wanted to talk about it, but often just couldn’t; instead I carried it with me, like a weight that felt impossible to shed. Desperately homesick but also determined to build a life of my own; I wanted to say everything, but also nothing at all.

Too Much on the Inside illustrates this dichotomy so perfectly. Dez, Lukas, Marlize and Nicki – the protagonists of the story, literally have “too much on the inside.” Their hurts, anxieties and hopes for the future are concealed from others, but always on the verge of spilling over the top. The title of the book is a perfect metaphor for being in your twenties, but also for living in Toronto – a bustling, multicultural city where everyone is from somewhere else, homesick, striving, forced to coexist in a melting pot of everyone’s different histories, disappointments and ambitions. I’ve always said that it’s hard to describe the inherent tension and energy that’s unique to life in Toronto, but I think Danila does a damn good job.

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[from my Queen West days circa early 2000’s. I was angsty but I liked flowers. Still do.]

For decades people have been writing stories about angsty twenty-somethings trying to find their way in the big city. But, with the exception of maybe Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For (also set in downtown Toronto), Too Much on the Inside is the first I’ve come across that takes place somewhere that I’m intimately familiar with. I can actually see, hear and even smell this story (the weird dirty greenhouse smell of Toronto never leaves you.) I think that’s why this book feels special to me.

When I think about the stories I’ve written about in my own book, Too Much on the Inside feels like a slightly different conversation, but a parallel one – like if I teleported myself back to the early 2000’s, I might look up from my beer and see Dez, Lukas, Marlize and Nicki living out their lives on the other side of the smoky dive bar. Knowing what I know now, I would wrap my arms around these characters and tell them, “This. All of this. It’s going to be OK.”

 Too Much on the Inside is available on Amazon. I received a copy of the book (thank you!) in exchange for my honest review. All views are my own because that’s how I roll. 

12 Must Read Books About Love, Life & Being a Woman

If you follow me on Instagram it’s no secret that I love to read. Most of my weekend mornings are spent with my nose in a book.

Lately I’ve been devouring books like crazy because I haven’t been watching as much TV as usual. With the exception of the show House of Cards (which I recently watched marathon style on Netflix) and  my regular shows that I keep up with – HIMYM, Shameless, Californication, GIRLS and my guilty pleasure, Pretty Little Liars (which I shamelessly and regularly tweet about) -I’ve found the majority of TV uninspiring as of late. Instead, when it comes time to relax at the end of the day or on the weekends, I find myself reaching for a book. I’ve been reading like a fiend and have already finished my 10th book of 2013.

A couple of you have asked me for book recommendations, so I thought I would share with you guys a few of my favourite reads. Sticking with the theme of this blog, here are some of my favourite books about love, life and being a woman.

If you enjoy this blog, you might enjoy these books too.

1. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley – Have you ever read a book where you just wanted to reach out to the author, hug them and ask “Um, can we be best friends?” This was exactly my reaction when I read Sloane Crosley’s collection of autobiographical essays a few summers ago. From her stories about growing up, to her thoughts on the game Oregon Trail, Sloane Crosley’s storytelling is witty, hilarious and achingly human. I really enjoyed her follow up book How Did You Get This Number which I also remember being really awesome.

2. Bossypants by Tina Fey – I debated whether to include this book on the list because I’m guessing many of you have already read it. Simply put, Tina Fey is awesome and hilarious. She also has some pretty insightful things to say about what it’s like being a woman in a creative industry. If for some reason you’ve been camping out in a Yurt in Siberia and somehow missed this one, read it. Read it now. Then thank me later when you’re laughing so hard you pee your (bossy)pants.

3. I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner. I read this book right before my 30th birthday and fell in love with it because it encapsulated so many of the things I felt and experienced while dating in my 20’s. I’ve written about this book here and here, but I keep coming back to it because the stories are tragically hilarious (like the story about “Douche Ziggy” which has since become a lexicon in my own vocabulary) and so close to my own experiences that I could have written this book (& I kind of wish I had.)

4. Hope Dies Last: Lessons in Love by Eleni Zoe – “I wanted intimacy in capslock but I got it in parentheses”  This is another book that will remind you of the best and worst parts of dating. A self-confessed perpetual singleton, Eleni shares her tragicomic stories about love, sex, broken hearts and bruised egos as if she’s whispering her heart out to you over a girly dinner. The book is beautifully written. Eleni writes with such honesty, clarity and vulnerability that it’s likely you’ll want to shout out “Yes, I’ve been there. YES” as you read it in one sitting like I did. You can read the review I did of Eleni’s novel here and check out her blog here.

5. Loose Diamonds: …and other things I’ve lost (and found) along the way by Amy Ephron – In this collection of essays, Amy Ephron weaves together the most insightful, profound, and just plain funny stories of her life to form a tapestry of a woman’s experiences from childhood through young adulthood, marriage, divorce (and remarriage), and everything in between. Each story is told with perception, wit, candor and humor which makes them like these little sparkling, bites of joy that you just want to consume in greedy helpings. You can read my full review of the book here.

6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling – Like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, it seems like almost every woman I know has read this book over the past year. Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy Kaling’s book as much as Bossypants, however it’s still worth a read. Mindy Kaling is hilarious, quirky and inspiring.

7. 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter – 32 Candles is the slightly twisted, utterly romantic, and deftly wry story of Davie Jones, a bullied ugly duckling from small town Mississippi who moves to Los Angeles to reinvent herself. A grown up fairytale with serious bite, this book has a little bit of everything – social commentary, a strong, smart, heroine, references to 1980’s John Hughes films and a swoon worthy love story.

8.This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz – Diaz is the author of one of my favourite books of all time, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’m slightly biased but I really, really loved this book. This collection of interwoven short stories starts out with a quote from another favourite author of mine, Sandra Cisneros: “Okay, we didn’t work, and all memories to tell you the truth aren’t good. But sometimes there were good times. Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep beside me and never dreamed afraid. There should be stars for great wars like ours” That kind of sums up what the book is about – it’s about love, in all it’s imperfect, beautiful, fucked up glory.

9. Your Voice in My Head: A Memoir by Emma Forrest – I didn’t think it was possible to write a funny and entertaining memoir about heartbreak, depression and therapy, however Emma Forrest has done just that. When she was spiraling out of control, Forrest found comfort in her effortlessly optimistic and wise therapist, Dr. R. However, when Dr. R passed away suddenly and her all consuming romantic relationship with a famous actor (Colin Farell) unraveled, Emma was forced to either sink or swim. Completely absorbing and moving, Your Voice in My Head  explores Forrest’s struggles with mania, breakdown, heartbreak and loss, but also touches on the beauty of love and healing.

10. Vida by Patricia Engel – From New York to Miami, Vida is a collection of short stories that follow a single narrator, Sabina, as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but dysfunctional family. I loved the character of Sabina – she’s witty, whip smart and equal parts cautious & reckless.  Truthfully, I read this book two years ago so I don’t remember all the details of the story, just that I really loved it and want to read it again.

11. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self  by Danielle Evans – The short stories in this awesome collection provide perspective on what it’s like to be young, female and African-American or mixed-race in modern-day America. Most of the protagonists in the stories are teen girls and young women who are dealing with issues of class, race, belonging and coming-of-age. I am so glad I decided to pick up this book up after reading about it in Oprah magazine. Although the issue of race is definitely at the forefront, Evans also captures universal truths about family, insecurities and being female in a really thoughtful, honest and at times humorous way.

12. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The relationship that unfolds between the two characters in this book – Hazel and Augustus, two teenage cancer survivors – is one of my favourite love stories ever. If I could create a blueprint for the perfect book, I’d use this one as the prototype. This book tackles huge issues – life, death, love, family, cancer – while managing to be witty, hilarious, romantic and heartbreaking all at the same time. If you haven’t read it , do it, do it now. It’s that good.

So, what am I reading this week? I’m currently digging into Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar and absolutely loving it. I bought it on Friday afternoon and have been trying to read it slowly because it’s so freaking good and I want to make it last. My only regret is that I didn’t read this book a few weeks ago because I can already tell it deserves a place on the list above.

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What are some of your favourite reads? 

Recommended Reading | Loose Diamonds by Amy Ephron

A few weeks ago the nice people at Harper Collins sent me a copy of Amy Ephron’s latest book Loose Diamonds: …and Other Things I’ve Lost (and Found) Along the Way 

I’m really lucky that good books have this way of finding me at exactly the right time. Loose Diamonds is no exception. I really loved this book. The weather in BC has been warm, sunny and summery & I have spent a couple mornings over the past week either out on my Mom’s balcony or cuddled up on the couch in the sun-filled living room pouring over this book.

In Loose Diamonds, Amy Ephron weaves together the most insightful, profound, and just plain funny stories of her life to form a tapestry of a woman’s experiences from childhood through young adulthood, marriage, divorce (and remarriage), and everything in between. I like my personal essays witty and insightful. With Loose Diamonds Ephron delivers: each story is told with perception, wit, candor and humor in a pared down writing style that never veers towards cheesy. I liken Ephron’s essays to those bags of bite sized brownies you can buy in the grocery store. They’re these delicious little bites of joy. You tell yourself “I’ll just have one more!” but before you know if you’ve eaten the whole bag. However, unlike the brownies, Ephron’s writing doesn’t come with a side-order of remorse and increased thigh girth. At worst you’ll end up with a mild reading hangover from consuming these stories late into the night, or people giving you funny looks when you giggle out loud at lines like this:

“I have a theory that single women who buy champagne by the case rarely end well. Disclaimer: I’ve been known to make generalizations based on a case study of four”

Since I started blogging three years ago I’ve become obsessed with reading memoirs and personal essays written by smart, funny, women. Recent reads have included everyone from Tina Fey, Sloane Crosley and Mindy Kaling to Zadie Smith. If the essay makes me want to reach out and hug the author and beg them “Can we be friends?!” then I consider it a good essay. Ephron’s writing is the stuff that creepy fan-girl declarations of friendship are made of.

As I mentioned the other day, the one year anniversary of my break-up is approaching and I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection & assessing my own collection of “loose diamonds” (things I’ve lost and found along the way.) There’s something very comforting about reading stories by women who have experienced life and have managed to maintain their sense of humour. Ephron’s stories reminded me that amidst the highs & lows of life, you can always find a little bit of sparkle if you look for it.

It could just be that I’m obsessed with all things vintage (including doll figurines), but can we just take a moment to acknowledge how cute the book cover is?!

By the way, this isn’t a sponsored post. I just thought I would share the book with you guys since I really enjoyed it and thought some of you might too!

PS. Thank you Almie Rose for introducing me to this book & Amy’s writing.

xox

S.

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