Saturday, September 23, 2017

Interview with EFWA2017 Upcycling Challenge Designer Tieler James (New Orleans)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

My true journey started in 4th or 5th grade. I was being bullied alot eveyday and sketching was my way to escape. I took my sketches and started trying to make them. It seemed as though I was pretty good so I continued. I watched videos and read a ton of books. I practiced and practiced and stil do to this day. Design saved my life so I feel its my duty to better myself everyday.

I know you are self-taught. How did you learn to sew and draft sizes? What came easiest? What is a struggle? Do you intend to pursue studies in fashion design after graduating high school?

I am completely self-taught. At times some of the things just come naturally to me like draping and sketching. I had to teach myself how to draft pant patterns and sleeves, but once you do that for awhile it's like second nature. In terms of sizing, I just drape a new pattern to ensure a good fit for each of the garments, especially for clients.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

As a designer, my artist statement has changed from when I first started to know. Initially, my goal was to dress women and to make them feel strong, and that it still true. But, especially in the current political climate, my statement has evolved to creating fashion for non-binary people because I have noticed the lack of fashion for non-binary and gender nonconforming people in the industry. each year I create a new line with a new point of inspiration, and while I am making the collection I am most likely creating custom commission pieces for clients.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how? 

I am so glad to be apart of the Challenge. Yes, I have upcycled garments before. My most recent was fun... I took a bunch of mens dad jeans that I purchased from a thrift store and made a really cool 90s style skirt and jacket. I loved how it came out... I attached a picture below. 
Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

With this look, I really want to be inspired by classic menswear and how it has evolved, but I want to keep up the idea that menswear has just kept evolving and it hasn't stopped.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

Something that I want the audience to know, and I believe in this with my whole heart, is that fashion never dies. Keep your garments, keep all your basics in terms of clothing, all of these styles that you think are dying out will come back in!

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

I'm not really sure what the universe has in store for me, but I'm a senior right now and I cannot wait to go to college. I'll be studying Fashion Design and Fashion Business. After I graduate college I'm hoping to be farther in my business and to be world renown.

Links -
Website –
Instagram – @tielerjamesdesigns
Facebook –

Friday, September 22, 2017

Life Long by Ronald L. Ruiz

"To be fleeing cops and bad guys is scary enough, but imagine, as novelist Ruiz…does, that you’re also schizophrenic—and on the run, as it were, from yourself."  - KIRKUS REVIEWS

Synopsis - 

Ray Lopez is on the run with a duffel bag full of cash. Both drug dealers and the police are after him. But Ray is not a criminal. His last brush with the law was over traffic tickets. Recently released from the hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, he is haunted by voices, auditory hallucinations, that frighten him and cause him to question his every move.

Ray’s journey from California to Laredo is perilous. Like so many Americans before him, he travels through unfamiliar territory with no clear way of knowing who will help and who will harm him. And he may well find himself on the wrong side of the border with a mind that has no borders.

Review - 

This was an interesting book to read. In it we follow Ray, a schizophrenic, who ends up on the run carrying a bag full of cash stolen from some scary people. Not something he planned, it just developed by accident.

Ray rides buses over the coming days surrounded by other poor, trying to reach a safe haven and struggling not to stand out in the crowd, His drugs to control the voices are running low. He tries to blend in as he could be so easy preyed upon, but his schizophrenia and the fear of capture often make that impossible. Surprisingly, many along the way who could take advantage of him choose instead to give him sound advice.

Author Ronald L. Ruiz offers strong, solid characters and an unusual story line blended with a unique journey into the mind of someone mentally ill. How might they move through difficult challenges that take them out of their comfort zone? Here is one possibility.

Buy the Book:
Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ AbeBooksIndieBound ~ BookDepository
Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author - 

Born and raised in Fresno California - Educated at St. Mary´s College California, University of California Berkeley, University of San Francisco - Practiced law from !966 to 2003 as a Deputy District Attorney, a criminal defense attorney, and a Deputy Public Defender - Appointed to the California Agriculture Labor Relations Board by Governor Jerry Brown in 1974 and later served as the District Attorney of Santa Cruz County California.

Ronald L. Ruiz has published 5 novels and a memoir. Happy Birthday Jesus (1994), Giuseppe Rocco (1998), The Big Bear (2003), A Lawyer (2012), Jesusita(2015). and Life Long (2017).

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Interview With EFWA Upcycling Designer Stevie Crowne (Toronto)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I began to DIY all of my clothing when I was 16 years old in high school while trying to find my own personal sense of style. I was inspired by pop culture and outlandish design aesthetics. Accustomed to punk and glam infused visuals, I was fascinated by the type of fashion which turned heads being worn as reinvented streetwear. My talent agent at the time gave me a chance to show a five look collection in my hometown(Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). I proceeded to produce two shows before I headed to Vancouver in 2012.

I know you are self-taught. How did you acquire your skills - sewing, upcycling, embellishing and sizing? What came easiest? What was a struggle to learn?

I learned from my mistakes, which in my opinion is the best way to aquire an aesthetic being a design creative. It is the process of messing up multiple personal projects which gave me the fire to continuously discover ways to repurpose clothing. In the beginning I was not the best seamster so I stuck to embellishing, painting, applique, and stenciling as a way to transform each garment.

Over time I did begin to learn the fundamentals of sewing and construction through mentors like Evan Biddell once I arrived in Toronto. Even up until that point I felt as if each client I ever had in my past six years pushed me to learn more and more. There were never two purchases that were the exact same which definitely pushed me to newer heights each time.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic?

As a designer I am definitely keen on bold visuals, texture, and pop culture which is translated to reimagined streetwear designs. Each collection I produce is recycled and reworked vintage which focuses on a theme or underlying message.

For example, my 2013 Vancouver Eco Fashion Week collection debut was focused on post apocalyptic aesthetics. This was translated through military jackets, religious symbolism, and heavy use of studs and spikes.

For my debut Toronto SS17 Ride Or Die collection, themes were based on relevant social issues including integrated diversity, addictions, education, and environmental awareness through the art of up-cycling. It tackles the way we communicate in today's digital age through popular symbolism.

Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

My customers over the years have ranged from 14-40, depending on where I showcased the line or how I marketed/promoted it

This year already in Toronto, I have done five shows! One of which was surreal as it was showcasing the top sustainable designers of the year in Canada(Fashion Takes Action). With each show I have done this year nearly all of it has sold out, and I have had long waiting lists for orders.

My brand is self eponymous with my name. Crown is a metaphor for being true to one's own style journey and aesthetic. To be the ruler of your own choices in fashion. As a leader of my own brand I encourage the market to make the decision to support local and sustainable creatives.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

Currently, I want this collaboration to explain itself once it hits the runway and thereafter. I am currently about to begin moodboarding but have drawn inspirations.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

First of all, this is a huge benchmark for me to be going international, even if it is producing one look for this showcase. I dreamed of opportunities like this in my childhood.

I truly exist within my work so you can definitely expect to see my usual aesthetic in what I will be showcasing. Fashion is my full-time job and I am entirely connected with my craft. It is essential to my survival as food, water, and oxygen is.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

I see myself continuously producing eco friendly and repurposed collections for a long time(There will NEVER be a shortage of vintage + inspiration). It has been a thrilling, daring, and overall successful six years as a creative when I look back at all I've done since a teenager.

A large part of my success can be attributed to my everlasting hunger for opportunity and the ANGELIC mentors/ supporters/clients I come into contact with everyday.( I hope to continue to keep positive people around in my ventures).

My ancestors were pioneers of farmland in Canada's mid west. They truly created something out of nothing. I view myself in a similar way as I take discarded items(seen with no value) and repurpose them in a way that jacks the value back up for buyers.

I will continue to produce fashion shows, store collections, custom orders, and participate in projects that bring awareness to fashion consumers and the industry. My goal is to show that ethical fashion has the chance to change the world, one garment at a time.

Links -

Website –
Instagram – @steviecrowne
Facebook –

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Year in the Company of Freaks by Teresa Neumann

It's 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California.

Synopsis - 

In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion. When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents' farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A "disarmingly appealing" tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic "very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times."

Review - 

This is a fun review to write as author Teresa Neumann surprised me and I love being surprised by an author.

When I cracked open A Year in the Company of Freaks I balked at the length - 511 pages. WOW!  Could the story really stay compelling with that many pages and would I get through it in time to write this review.  THREE DAYS LATER I was done.  How did that happen?  I am a fast reader, but the truth was I couldn't put it down.

A Year in the Company of Freaks unfolds through flashbacks and the experiences of several different characters. This is a complex way to tell a story, but the author handles it beautifully. Life, love, loss, humanity and truth all find their expression here is a story that will keep the pages flying by.

When Sid Jackson is forced to move back to the family farm for a year and take on four diverse boarders, everything he had come to embrace while living in Berkeley is put to the test.  And returning to live in a home filled with childhood memories - something he had been avoiding at all costs - causes the well-buried grief he has carried over his parents death when he was only 12 to bubble up.  Added on top is the daily dynamic created by the odd group of boarders ranging from God-fearing to Vietnam veteran.

This is a coming of age story in many ways.  Yes, most of the characters are in their 20's, but as anyone who grew up in the hippy era knows, most of us did our best to walk away from every expectation we were raised with. We threw out the good right along with the bad.  It was a time of change during which our move into adulthood didn't come easily. Most of us took awhile to figure it all out and give ourselves permission to find a balance between old and new.

A great read and a great look back for me personally at a time I remember well.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author - 

A Great Author Interview HERE!

Author of highly-acclaimed "A Year in the Company of Freaks," Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of "Bianca's Vineyard," and its sequel, "Domenico's Table." Both books are based on the true stories of her husband's Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

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Interview With Teresa Neumann, Author of A Year in the Company of Freaks

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? 

Writing was always a natural medium of communication for me, but it went from a personal to a professional level in 2001. I credit the fascinating life mysteries of my husband’s Italian grandparents for the change. That year, at the acceptance of an invitation by my husband’s relatives in Tuscany, a visit to Italy turned epic and spawned my first book, “Bianca’s Vineyard.” That novel, and its sequel “Domenico’s Table” – both based on true stories – were my initiation into the world of being a published author. I took a bit of a risk, however, writing “A Year in the Company of Freaks” because it was a departure from my first two books in terms of time and location, although it still integrates some Italian themes. As an author, I’m open to exploring different subject matters and genres.

Looking back, can you see any indications growing up that you would embrace writing as a career? A favorite memory would be great!

I have always been a voracious reader. As a matter of fact, my mother was fond of telling me that I would just sit and stare at telephone books when I was a toddler. Go figure. In high school I was a total book worm and classic literature nerd. Ah, the written word! It never fails to seduce. As with most writers, I imagine, when stories come into my head I can’t help but put a pen to paper. It’s as natural to me as breathing.

Review HERE!
How did the idea to write A Year in the Company of Freaks come about? How much of the story was based on personal memories?  

My children, and their friends, were always asking my husband and I (former hippies) what it was like living in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Like so many other epochs in history, that time period had been so over-generalized and romanticized that they imagined it was all love, flowers and rainbows. I lived in northern California in the early 70’s and count it a miracle I survived, considering all the truly stupid things I did. Like hitchhike. Everywhere. Every day … and night. That’s not to mention the friends I lost to drugs. So, since the truth was a bit less glorious, and because children have an uncanny ability to tune out what they don’t want to hear from their parents -- I wrote a novel based on personal observations of that time period. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

What I enjoy most about writing is getting lost in the story as I create it.
Once I’m committed to a book, I’m extremely disciplined, which means time flies. It’s only when I’m done writing the draft and I have to do major edits that it begins to feel like a chore. Ugh -- a big one!

This is your third book.  Has the process been the same for each - how you schedule your writing, research, marketing, etc. - or has it varied for each book? If so in what way?

It’s basically the same process. I start each day reviewing what I wrote the day before. It “stirs up the creative juices” and keeps any potential writer’s block at bay. Though I love research, I prefer doing it first so that I don’t get bogged down or distracted once I start writing. As for marketing? I hate it. I’d much rather just write and meet with my readers! That said, Italian-Americans have been hugely supportive of my writing and have helped me market my books at various summer fairs. Several wineries have also hosted book signings. Thank God for them, social media, bloggers and digital book reviewers!

What do you like to do to unwind?  Do you like to read? Do you have any favorite authors/books?

Unwind: What’s that? LOL! I love relaxing to a feel-good movie. No nail-biters. Nothing heavy where I have to think too hard. Reading, of course, is the best for unwinding. I just finished “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah. The novelist Elizabeth Goudge is a gem few Americans know about. I LOVED her book, “The Dean’s Watch.” Brian Doyle – recently deceased – was a Northwest author whose talent blew my mind. Though we may differ slightly on some of the world-views he espouses in several of his books (always tricky for non-partisan readers when a novelist showcases their leanings), I always give credit where credit is due. Perhaps the greatest American writer of this century, Doyle was an absolutely brilliant word-smith who could bring me to tears with his prose. Unfortunately, my other favorite authors/poets are also gone from this earth: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Hardy, Dickens, Dumas, the Bronte sisters, Hugo, Tennyson, St. Vincent-Millay … How I would have loved to have met them all.

What would you most like readers to know about you and your work?

I’m an optimistic romantic/realist who treasures family and cherishes a simple life peppered with far-flung adventure. I dream of Italy, melt at the mere thought of French pastries, am a huge fan of British humor, and embrace my wild Celtic heritage … perhaps a little too much at times. I love people. I believe faith, unconditional love, forgiveness, and redemption play a vital role in humanity. They have in mine.

What's next? Do you have anything new in the planning or writing stages?

I’m working on a children’s book (it’s MUCH harder than I imagined it would be) and resurrecting a screenplay I wrote years ago; an adaption of a 17th century classic. I am VERY excited about it!

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Interview with EFWA2017 Upcycling Challenge Designer Sam Stringer (Vancouver)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I have been sewing since I was 8 years old, so I always knew that fashion would be the path I followed. I had an interest in evening gowns from the moment I learned how to drape, and I started making grad dresses in high school and eventually earned my degree in Fashion Design from the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2016, specializing in eveningwear. My first collection featured a line of elaborate gowns for black tie events, and I have since continued on focuses even more on custom design and fit.

I know you trained at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

Choosing to pursue my education at the Wilson School of Design at KPU was by far one of the best decisions of my life. It was hard to decide where I wanted to study, but I knew that I wanted a very hands on, and very business-minded education as I planned to pursue this as my career. the program was no piece of cake, the workload was extremely intense and the hours were long, but I enjoyed absolutely every minute of it. Even when I was designing something that was completely the opposite of my aesthetic, the skills I learned proved to be extremely helpful later on. By 4th year I was spending a minimum of 15 hours a day in the sewing labs, I am not going to sugar coat it, the hours can be very intense, but I was doing what I loved.

The best part of the program was the family that developed through the small class sizes and mentorship with the faculty. Our faculty are so incredible at what they do, and they all have massive amounts of industry experience which make them to relevant to what we were learning. The connections I made with the faculty and my peers and classmates was so strong that I ended up going back to work there, I am now the Program Assistant for the Fashion and Technology Program, I just couldn't leave the family!

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I view myself as a very artistic designer. It is no secret that art has had a great influence on my life, my entire family has an art background, so I definitely try to incorporate this into my designs. The aesthetic of my brand is very strong and powerful, with lots of focus on hand work, detail, ad luxury. I really put an emphasis on value as so much fashion is so wasteful nowadays with fast fashion. 

The pieces I make are meant to evoke self expression and showcase a fusion of art and fashion, while still remaining completely wearable. I currently have an annual showcase (possibly semi-annual) but the majority of my business focuses on custom design. I love collaborating with women on pieces that will showcase their own brands through my own, I aim to have a majority custom business with the option of limited ready-to-wear collections and gown rentals for special occasion.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I have created a few unique upcycling pieces through school, but I am EXTREMELY excited to create one in my aesthetic for this challenge! I am so used to working with silks and draped fabrics, so working with cotton will be a challenge in itself, but I can't wait to see how the idea in my head turns out!

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

The audience can expect to see an edgy fusion between masculine and feminine design details, I love the idea of playing with androgyny and working with the garments we are will be a very interesting challenge for my brand's aesthetic, I will definitely be creating a gown, but something very different than anything I have ever produced!

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

Whether that is an artist and their work, a motivated entrepreneur who is looking to showcase her personal style, or the girl I met in the grocery store who wants her garments to speak to her values, my inspiration will always come from the women around me. I am constantly inspired by the strong, motivated women in my industry and across all mediums of art and expression, and hope to continue to design in a way that allows them to showcase their own personal brand through my own.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

My business is currently 100% custom designs run out of my home studio, with the aim to sell out of a showroom in the upcoming years. The business will always remain with a custom base, but smaller exclusive ready-to-wear collections in international boutiques is one of the goals of the company. My clients contact the designer directly and collaborate on custom designs for events such as film premiers, weddings, bridal, grad, galas, charity events, etc, and can connect with the designer through the website or social media.

I am also incredibly excited to announce that I will be showcasing my SS18 collection at Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo this October in partnership with VFW! I am so thankful for the opportunity to show overseas at such a prestigious fashion week, and to have the support and constant inspiration from my VFW family will make the trip even more valuable! Stay tuned for details of our show on October 20th!

Links -

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Interview with EFWA2017 Upcycling Challenge Designer Francesca Phipps (London)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I have always been interested in the arts/fashion. My dad is an artist and my grandmother was a seamstress so I was constantly watching her sew growing up. Creativity is a way for me to express myself as a person, I love being able to get inspired by the smallest of things and watch this develop into a story which I hope will inspire other people too. I first properly studied fashion at college which really pushed me in the right direction, making me want to learn more, and from then on I have always pushed myself, watching myself grow and having the amazing support from my parents. I want to keep on developing my brand and myself as a fashion designer.

I know you trained at De Montfort University (Leicester). Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

I am so grateful that I studied at De Montfort University. During my studies I learnt a variety of skills from initial research to creating the final garment with all the technical elements. There was a lot of pressure and high work load however I found this very beneficial because the fashion industry is very fast paced so it was great practice. I have always found colour placement/print fascinating this is a skill I really like to test the boundaries with. One of my main struggles was keeping to schedule, however over time I got quicker and always got tasks done.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I aim for my brand to be high end, an effortless chic/streetwear look. My customer is a young woman from 18-40 however this does vary on each collection. My work involves a lot of colours and prints which I have hand drawn myself. I currently work full time so in my spare time I constantly give myself projects to do to keep myself learning and expanding. I also create custom work.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I am thrilled to be participating in this event. Yes I have, previously when I was studying at University I got picked for the ‘Katharine Hamnett – Just Fashion Hay Festival challenge’ I had to create a up-cycled garment in a week which was a challenge however very exciting and useful. I created a garment by printing on the back of denim with the prints being paint splashes allowing the user to add to the garment with their own print idea so they can re-use the outfit various amount of times as fashion is so fast paced and moving. I didn’t want the consumer to get bored of the outfit.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

This is an exciting project for me as I love working with used garments this is a way I usually create shapes for my collections. I want the audience to expect potentially a clash of prints, contemporary shapes mixed with classic details and drape. I want there to be an element of drama from this piece.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

For me I always love to see the reaction of the audience. This is what helps me build and grow as a designer. As I love draping and mixing tailoring I really want the audience to see the detailing. To me it is always important how the body manipulates the fabric, this is something I have always focused on.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

I want to keep showcasing my designs worldwide, so far I have been grateful to showcase in, London, New York, Vancouver and now Australia. I want to keep improving my brand and gaining a bigger audience. As eventually one day I see myself fully established with my brand having boutiques across the world.

Links -

Website –
Instagram – @francescaphippsfashion
Facebook –

Interview With EFWA Upcycling Challenge Designer Alex S. Yu (London, Vancouver, Taipei)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I’ve always liked fashion since secondary school after being introduced to the world of fashion from Fashion TV, the internet and various magazines. I became obsessed with models, fashion designers and their world. I aspired to be a designer or a stylist ever since.

I know you trained at Blanche Macdonald and the London College of Fashion. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

Studying fashion design is a lot of hard work and barely any sleep. I did not know how to sew at all before Blanche and couldn’t tell the difference between a seam or a hem or what a bobbin is. But the course at Blanche was very fast, so I had to work extra hard and practice a lot to get the hang of sewing. So sewing was definitely the biggest challenge for me during school. During London College of Fashion, the biggest challenge and the whole objective of the course was to discover who you were as a designer and what your voice is in this industry. So naturally there was a lot of soul searching and really thinking deeply about what I wanted to do with my voice in the industry.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I am an optimist. So I want to bring happiness and a sense of fun in my collections. I want to say that it’s okay to have some fun, and not be so serious all the time with my clothes. I create colourful and minimal garments that explore the fine line between reality and fantasy. My aesthetics rollick the happy emotions of childhood, nostalgia and wanderlust; and ponder the very definition of femininity in a modern, quirky way through garments.

The ALEX S. YU woman loves to have fun, and isn’t afraid of trying new things. She loves colour, prints, quirky shapes, textures, and most importantly, values comfort. The ALEX S. YU woman is eccentric, lively, nonchalant and views life through a pair of rose tinted glasses. I create two collections per year, SS and AW. Custom works are limited and thoroughly selected. I usually only accept custom works from VIP customers or if their requests are in tune with my aesthetics and vibes.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how? I am an avid thrifter and love hunting for second hand clothing. However, I rarely change the used garments that I have, I usually just alter the size/length or fix some stitchings if needed. So this will be the first time that I use used garments as materials to create something that is my aesthetics.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

I will create a look that is in tune with the ALEX S. YU aesthetics. It will be colourful, lots of fun and have a lot of different textures.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

I would like to welcome them to the world of ALEX S. YU and experience the fun.

What’s next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

I would like to continue making collections and get my clothes into boutiques around the world. My long term dream would be to have my own flagship store selling the collection. If I have my own store, I can present my ideas and voice holistically from the clothes, to the interior designs to the layout of the store.

Links – 

Website –
Instagram – @alex.s.yu
Facebook –

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Stove Top Pasta With Smoked White Cheddar Cheese, Chicken and Vegetables

I don't consider myself a chef as to me a chef is a food artist who can look at a pile of ingredients and see possibilities that the rest of us can't. They can taste each unique ingredient and understand how that flavour can be combined with others to create something new and unique.  ME?  I go through countless recipes (magazines, recipe books and the Internet) and occasionally watch a cooking show here and there for inspiration.

About half the time I make the recipe as is, especially if it's something new in terms of taste. I need to see how it tastes the way it was conceived before I know if I like it as is or if I want to change something.  The other half of the time I have an idea and look through several recipes for a framework to use as a basis to create from. Such was the case here.

I had leftover chicken. I had a lot of vegetables that needed using up. I had several kinds of cheese and lots of dry pasta. I also didn't want to stand at the stove making cheese sauce. A recipe had been calling me for awhile that made Mac and Cheese by cooking the pasta right in the milk and then stirring in the cheese. After exploring a ton of these recipes I was ready. 

The one change I wanted to make was to use an Almond/Coconut blend milk to cut down on the dairy. I still used a quality real cheese for the flavour.  How cheesy you make it is up to you. Around 6 oz seems to be the norm, but you can add more (or less) if you want it cheesier.  I liked the additional flavour of a smoked cheese and using a white cheddar meant no orange glow to the casserole.  

I pulled out my biggest, high sided frying pan and went to work.  By the end I had a tasty casserole style (or Mac and Cheese Plus) dinner that was full of flavour. Yes I still had to saute the veggies, but that's just not the same as stirring, stirring, stirring as your cream sauce thickens. Enjoy!

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Stove Top Pasta With Smoked White Cheddar Cheese, Chicken and Vegetables

1/2          Large onion diced
1             Clove Garlic diced
2-3 C      Vegetables (I used yellow pepper, fresh green beans and snap peas cut into 
               small pieces.You could also add frozen peas or corn when you add the chicken)
2 C          Coconut/Almond blend milk
1 C          Water
8 oz.        Dry Pasta - smaller is better. I used
6+ oz       Extra Old White Smoked Cheddar (a quality aged cheese is important, but
                you can choose your favourite, just make sure it isn't a bland variety)
2-3 C       Leftover Cooked Chicken shredded into bite size pieces
                (In a pinch you could sub a couple cans of chunky tuna drained)
1/2 tsp     Salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (about 1 cup, packed)
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and/or 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder


In a large frying pan with high sides, as a small amount of olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and any firmer vegetables such as green beans and carrots. As the onions start to soften add the rest of the vegetables and saute a few minutes more.

Add the Coconut/Almond milk (or your favourite), water, macaroni, shredded chicken, salt and pepper.  Bring to a low simmer and cook uncovered. Gently stir often to keep the pasta from sticking and move the pasta on top to the bottom so it all cooks evenly. Cook until the pasta is done to your liking - usually about 8-10 minutes.  And keep an eye on the liquid. The pasta will absorb it while cooking. If it gets too dry, as a little more water. 

When the pasta is done and the sauce creamy, remove from the pot and stir in your grated cheese a handful at a time, making sure each is fully melted and the sauce smooth  before adding the next. When all the cheese is incorporated give it a taste. You can add more salt and/or pepper, some Dijon mustard or other seasonings if you like.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Interview With Colleen M. Story, Author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author as well as all the different types of writing you are involved with?

My first love was music, so I spent a lot of years focused on that, to the point of obtaining a degree in music education. The writing bug bit me later, kind of out of the blue. I was in the store one day and felt this powerful urge to buy a Word processor (shows you how long ago that was!). Once I got it home, I just started writing.

Three years later I managed to publish my first short story, and shortly after that, landed my first job as a copywriter for a corporation. As fate would have it, I was handpicked by management to lead the health communications department because of my ability to “translate” the medical science into layman’s terms.

I learned a lot from that job, and I was very grateful for it, but after three years and a couple promotions, I wanted more time to delve into my fiction writing, so I started building a freelance business on the side. Soon after, I left full-time employment and I’ve earned my living as a freelance writer every since.

Though I worked just as hard in my home office as I ever did at a corporate office, I could set my own hours, so that gave me a little more flexibility. I was able to fit in about an hour a day on my fiction writing, so I did that for years. I wrote about five novels before I finally landed that traditional publishing contract that I wanted. Now I have two published novels and I’m working on a third.

After 20 years as a professional writer, I can say I’ve done just about every type of writing there is, from articles to books to website copy to manuals to white papers and interviews and more. It’s a tough job in many ways—mostly because it requires a lot of time at the computer—but what I love about it is that it keeps me interested and challenged.

When did the idea to write Overwhelmed come about? Why did you feel led to write it?

I started my motivational blog, Writing and Wellness, in 2014. Over the course of about 2.5 years, I featured over 100 writers on the site. One thing I heard from just about all of them was that they were drowning.

Writers have so much to do these days. In addition to the giant task of writing books, they must do their own marketing, too, which can be so extensive it’s almost like taking on a second job. Most work full-time as well, as the reality is that writing usually doesn’t pay all the bills. This is the perfect recipe for an exhausted, depressed, and burned out writer with little time to actually write.

I started to include posts on my site that addressed this issue, but I soon found that there was a lot more involved than could be adequately covered in a blog here and there.

In the fall of 2016 while I was on vacation, I got the powerful message from my muse that it was time to put a book together that would help not only writers, but anyone trying to calm down their crazy schedules, find more time for their creative passions, and attain a better overall balance in their lives.

Review HERE!
I was impressed with the depth of this book. How much of the material included came from your own experiences as a writer? How much research was needed to expand on this content and find the data to back it up?

I would say it was about equal in both parts. Since I’ve been a professional writer for two decades, I have a lot of experience when it comes to trying to balance writing with life. I’ve experienced personally all the struggles, from the health issues to the self-doubt to the burnout to the creative exhaustion, so I know about all the things that can kill our dreams if we’re not careful.

At the same time, my specialty as a freelance writer is health and wellness, so researching studies and reports is second nature to me. It’s something that I do for most of my freelance writing. Plus, I personally find it very enlightening to read research supporting the idea, for example, that cell phones can be addictive, or that sleep deprivation can actually shorten your life. Realizing what our daily habits can actually do to us often helps us put into place more definite boundaries that keep us happier and healthier.

My goal is to present the data in a way that helps creative artists to realize that hey, this isn’t just me. There are a lot of people struggling with these same issues, and there’s no reason to feel badly or like you’re failing somehow. Knowledge sheds light on the issues we’re facing in our modern-day lives, and once we truly understand what’s going on, we can create tools that help us create positive changes in our lives.

What would you say was the biggest difference for you personally between writing fiction and nonfiction? Is it a hard to shift gears from one to the other?

Writing fiction and non-fiction have been quite different experiences for me. Non-fiction comes easily, as if feels sort of like I’m talking through my fingers. It’s also a lot like teaching or coaching, which has come naturally to me since I was a child.

Fiction is much more challenging for many reasons. One, because I tend to gravitate toward a richer type of prose that takes more concentration and focus, and two because I don’t write from an outline—I’m a “pantser,” as they say. I have to get into a dream-like mode to sort of “live” through my characters, and that takes a trance-like mindset.

Because non-fiction is my job, I have trained myself to produce it under pretty much any circumstances. Fiction takes me much longer, mainly because I pursue stories that exist on the boundaries of what I know. When I’m writing fiction, it’s like traveling through a dark cave with only a flashlight, and often it can be tough to find my way. But fiction is also deeply rewarding to me because of the difficult journey and what it reveals, and because there’s a sixth sense about it—a sort of spiritual connection. Non-fiction is rewarding on a different level, in that I feel like I’m being of service and helping to improve readers’ lives in some small way.

Review HERE!
As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore? Do you write by a schedule or when inspired?

I think what I enjoy most about writing comes down to one word: discovery. In both fiction and non-fiction, I love discovering new things. What those things are differs between the two types of writing, but they both hold the promise that I’m going to learn something.

Writing feels like a chore only when I have to go over old territory. Writing yet another article on something I’ve already covered ten times before is something I usually have to force myself to do. In those cases, I try to find some new angle that I can explore.

I definitely write by a schedule because I have little choice. To pay the bills, I have to turn in my projects on time! I have more flexibility with my fiction, but I’ve also found that if I don’t schedule a regular time for it, it doesn’t get done. Creative artists love to be spontaneous, but the reality is that routines are the engines that produce the pages.

Do new ideas for storylines come easier the more you write, or does keeping the creative well working take time and thought?

This is a great question, because I think that for most writers, there is a happy middle ground where you’re writing and the ideas are hopping and your muse just keeps dishing it out. Reaching that middle ground can be tough, though.

On the one side, if you’re writing only once a week, you’re probably going to struggle because you’re not getting your brain into creative mode. On the other side, if you’re producing 25 articles a week (like I often do) and you’re dead by the weekend, trying to write a chapter in your novel is going to be difficult.

Balance is the key, and I think that includes getting enough sleep and daily exercise, too. We’ve learned that the brain thrives on these things just like the rest of the body does. So that’s part of what I try to help writers and other creative artists do in Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: find that balance that helps you achieve your highest potential.

What do you like to do to shift out of work mode and unwind? Do you like to read? Do you have any favourite authors/books?

I love to read, and I’m usually working on 5-10 books at a time. I have about five by my bed and I read a little from each before sleep, and another five that I usually read from before a fiction writing session. Some of my favorite authors include Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Neil Gaiman, and David Mitchell, but I also love discovering new authors.

Out of print August 31, 2016.
Outside of reading, I love horseback riding, but since I don’t own a horse at the moment, I don’t get to do that as often as I like. Music still plays a giant role in my life, too. I play French horn in the local symphony and in other musical groups, and I teach private music lessons to students of all ages.

What's next for you? Do you have new books in the works?

My next novel is entitled The Beached Ones. I’m hoping to complete it in time to have it ready as my next release, but it’s been a tough one to complete as it’s taken me some time to find the core of the story. I also think I’ll probably embark on another non-fiction book soon, but I’ve promised myself that my novel will come first. We’ll see if that works!

Boost productivity, improve time management, and restore your sanity while gaining insight into your unique creative nature and what it needs to thrive. Find practical, personalized solutions to help you escape self-doubt and nurture the genius within in Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, available today at Amazon and all major book retailers. Enjoy your FREE chapter here!

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter 

Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within by Colleen M. Story


Synopsis - 

Do you feel like you’re always behind? Do less important tasks frequently flood your schedule and sink your creative motivation? Are you frustrated and out of touch with your inner artist?

After 20 years experience in the writing industry, author Colleen M. Story extends a lifeline to pull you out of the sinking swamp of “busyness” and back into the flourishing creative life you deserve.

Today’s demands on writers and other creative artists are overwhelming. Not only must you produce the work you love, but build and maintain a platform and market your finished products to the world—all while holding down a day job and/or caring for a family.

You teeter on the edge. What waits on the other side are burnout, exhaustion, and a complete loss of creative motivation.

"Overwhelmed Writer Rescue" provides practical, personalized solutions to help beginning and experienced writers and other creative artists escape the tyranny of the to-do list to nurture the genius within. You’ll find ways to boost productivity, improve time management, and restore your sanity while gaining insight into your unique creative nature and what it needs to thrive.

Ultimately, you’ll discover what may be holding you back from experiencing the true joy that a creative life can bring.

Review -

As a writer, I truly struggle at times to get through projects. It always takes me twice as long as it should - sometimes more. So I couldn't wait to start reading Overwhelmed Writer Rescue.

At first I wasn't sure if this book would have what I needed as in the beginning she shares her personal difficulties with find productive time to write in a schedule that was stretched way too thin. I have the time, I'm just not using it effectively.  However, as soon as I began reading, I found myself there on the pages time and time again.  The reach of this book is quite wide in terms of topics and I loved that she took the time to find proper research to quote that backed up what she was sharing. It wasn't just her ideas, she included studies to bring the message home.

There were several crucial to my case specifically, but of all she shared the one that quickly rose to the stop was this  The schedule I used when a running a magazine and writing for others has become a habit that is built into my day.  It still worked okay when I changed my focus to just writing.  But now that I also do SEO for 2 companies and have a variety of things I have taken on for fun, this schedule no longer serves me well. It leaves my writing at the end of the list by which time I lack motivation, am tired and honestly can't do my best work. So it just doesn't get done. It's hard to change habits, but somehow I need to make this happen NOW.

This is just one single tidbit in a book chock full of information and tips to move forward.  I chose to read it as an ebook, but realize I am going to have to get a hard copy. I'll be going through this one again, taking notes and marking pages. And I just want to say - this book is not just for writers. The principles shared here really relate to anyone with time management and/or procrastination issues.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author -

Great author interview HERE!

Colleen M. Story has worked in the creative writing industry for over twenty years. Her novels include "Loreena’s Gift," an Idaho Author Awards first place winner, New Apple Solo Medalist winner, Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, Reader Views award finalist, and Best Book Awards finalist; and "Rise of the Sidenah," a North American Book Awards winner and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection.

As a health writer, she’s authored thousands of articles for publications like "Healthline" and "Women’s Health;" worked with high-profile clients like Gerber Baby Products and Kellogg’s; and ghostwritten books on back pain, nutrition, and cancer recovery. She finds most rewarding her work as a motivational speaker and workshop leader, where she helps writers remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness (, a motivational site helping writers and other creative artists maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being throughout their careers. Sign up for your free weekly email containing tips for living your best creative life at: www.writingandwellness/newsletter.

To find more information on Colleen and her work, please see her website or follow her on Twitter. She loves to hear from readers—feel free to use the “contact” form on either her website or Writing and Wellness to get in touch with her.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Warm Balsamic Bok Choy Salad

All those food magazines near the grocery store checkout registers are my undoing.  I can't resist. But once I buy them I so rarely try any of the recipes. That's why as much as possible I use the self checkouts.

But some stores just don't have them as was the case on a recent grocery run. Of course my eyes zeroed in on a Canadian Living magazine called Fresh and Tasty Salads. Every page was drool worthy. It quickly ended up in my cart.

Today I was getting ready to head out for a big grocery shop and thought I'd give it a quick look. It was Friday night and I was just going to have hot dogs, so thought I would spruce up supper with a unique salad. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky and the temps warm, so this fairly simple salad with grilled bok choy called me.  Plus look at that picture.

The recipe worked beautifully - easy to make, clear instructions and the recipe came together quickly. The only snag I had was I tried to rush making the warm dressing while my husband grilled the Bok Choy and cooked it on too high a temp for too long. I ended up caramelizing the maple syrup. So instead of a drizzle I had glops that hardened as they cooled.  I might have died if it was for company, but as it was just a Friday home meal, no worries - it still tasted amazing.

The piece de resistance was when my husband who's a total "it's just food" kind of guy commented that he really liked it. He rarely comments on food other than to say thanks for cooking. Well done whoever created this recipe. And I hope if any of you try it you also love it.

= = = =

Warm Balsamic Bok Choy Salad
Says it serves 6, but that would be fairly small servings. I would say 4 or 5 max, but I like generous servings of salad.

Ingredients - 

1/2        Med. Onion chopped
1/4 C    Pure Maple Syrup
1/4 C    Balsamic vinegar
1           Clove garlic sliced (I diced it)
1           Sprig rosemary (had basil balsamic vinegar so omitted this)
8           Heads shanghai bok choy halved
1 T       Olive Oil
1/4 tsp  Salt
1/2 C    Crumbled goat cheese (I found crumbled herb goat cheese for extra flavour)
1/4 C    Pumpkin seed toasted (usually in the serve yourself bins at the grocery store)

Directions - 

In small saucepan, cook onion, maple syrup, vinegar, garlic and rosemary over medium-high heat until syrupy and reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Strain through fine-mesh sieve. Be careful as the maple syrup is a sugar and as I learned the hard way, it can caramelize. So err on the side of caution - especially on how hot you cook it at.

In a large bowl, toss together bok choy, oil and salt. Place on greased grill or grill pan over medium-high heat; grill, turning occasionally, until grill-marked, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer to serving plate. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Drizzle with maple syrup mixture. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.