Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Reflection on Life's Journey......................

Today I am feeling particularly blessed, so this blog will be more a reflection of my thoughts.....

From the time I had my first child until now has been a wild and many times rough ride.  Bullying, sewing dance costumes from home and then building a magazine - not one of these journeys is for the weak.  I can't remember the number of times I woke up in a panic wondering if I could deal with the day or meet my deadlines. There were a few bad mornings spent talking to Ralph on the big white telephone.  And always there was that underlying voice questioning if I was doing my best and/or SUCCEEDING?  Was I wasting my time?

There have several moments in the last 2 months which have led me to realize that all the loose threads of my journey these last 20 years are being woven into a pattern. I would have loved to have this happen in my youth, but life has it's own way of picking the right time and place. That place is finally now!

First there was an interview with Zen Chaplain Patti DeSante (founder of Ujamaah) who talked about presence. To the best of my knowledge at this point it means shutting off all the noise in your head and going to a deeper quiet space. Here creative answers arise without being limited by our conscious thoughts.  She also discussed  the first time a woman who was to become one of her teachers walked into the room.  She felt her presence before she saw her.

Next came a Women of Worth (WOW) event - I flipped a coin and luckily decided to attend. It featured publisher Julie Salisbury of Influence Publishing.  From the moment she stepped up to speak I was emotionally overwhelmed.  Such a strange reaction for me. When I met her one-on-one, there was the same reaction. Sometimes being guided is such a subtle thing, but this time it was like a whack upside the head.

Then the next morning I happened across a list of 50 life lessons on someone's blog.  Right there at #18 was, "A writer writes.  If you want to be a writer, write."  Message received!  I don't know where I will end up at the end of 2013, but the journey is obviously meant to be. I am alternately exhilarated, terrified, joyous, exhausted and more.  I can only reflect on a story a friend shared.  They were sitting with their grandmother when she looked the straight in the eye and said, "Aging isn't for sissies!"


(Note - check out my recent interview for Social City Networking by clicking HERE.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Virginia Leeming – 20 Years of Fashion

It's been a little over a year since Vancouver lost one of it's truly great icons - Virginia Leeming.  I cannot tell you the number of people who, to this day, still comment on the support and influence she had on both themselves personally and the larger fashion community. When I decided to pursue this series of Behind the Scenes interviews, her name was given me time and time again as the perfect place to begin.  As a self-taught writer I was nervous to say the least, but her charming smile put me at ease from the beginning and she was oh so kind in dealing with corrections. Since that first interview in January 2010, I had the privilege of sitting next to her at several graduation fashion shows for local design schools.  It was a pleasure each time.  So here in celebration of all she gave to Vancouver is a re-post of my article in Fame'd Magazine. Virginia - you are missed.

= = = = = = = = = = =

Image by Fred Fraser
For 20 years Vancouver's fashion community was well acquainted with Virginia Leeming as she helped shape the city's sense of style. As fashion editor for the Vancouver Sun she produced not only a weekly offering, but a bi-yearly ten-page spread. Her camera was a constant companion while travelling and over the years she amassed a large collection of photographs -- candids of the many famous designers and celebrities met at events, on the street and even at the exit door of shows. Best of all, she loved her job.

Leeming's father was a naval officer. The family travelled from coast-to-coast and spent several years in England. “We had a very good life, a privileged life in the sense that we met a lot of people who were very interesting.” Leaving home at 19, she ended up in Montreal working for a commercial photography studio where she began to develop some of the skills she would eventually need as a fashion editor. Initially the “go for” (as in go for coffee), she graduated to coordinator. If they needed furniture for the set, she arranged it. Models required, she booked them. Clothes, she located them.

After being lured away to the Bahamas for three years, Leeming returned to Montreal where she landed a job assisting the editor at a men's trade fashion magazine. When they decided to start a sister publication she was offered the position of editor. “I learned by the seat of my pants. I interviewed all kinds of designers and manufacturers. I wrote stories about buttons, about zippers, about everything in the industry including all the people that were on top of the fashion world in Montreal.” Then in 1979 her daughter Victoria was born. After moving back to BritishColumbia to be near family, she spent the next several years writing freelance for local publications.

July 2009 Article in the Vancouver Sun
Leeming found herself on welfare in the early '80's when work dried up. With encouragement from her caseworker she enrolled in an investigative journalism course at BCIT. Shortly after finishing she received a call from the Vancouver Sun asking if she'd like to be considered for the job of fashion editor. Initially someone was else was chosen, but three months later the newspaper phoned back to offer her the position. One skill Leeming brought to the table was her ability to work well with the photographers. “When you're working with someone who is a creative person, you don't tell them what to do. You work with them, or you make suggestions, but you don't say do it my way.”

Each fashion page began with a concept. Then it was off to various sales agents to find clothing and shoot details to arrange. Staying ahead of the trends was achieved by following the international wires and gut instinct. Then the Sun began to send her to fashion weeks -- initially Toronto and Montreal. When she finally flew to New York City for the first time she was “absolutely blown away by the number of shows in one week and the number of models in each show.” As a foreign journalist she received invitations to parties where she met the designers first hand. During these years she saw Ivana Trump and Gregory Hines sitting in the front row and met Kenneth Jay Lane on the street. “You'd just bump into people. Sometimes it's serendipity. Sometimes it's calculated. Sometimes it's by invitation only...I felt privileged .” One her career high points was flying to Paris. “New York City was very exciting, but Paris had the atmosphere and it was in the city of light where the international press converged .”

A short question and answer with Leeming produced the following. Best part of her job - the photography, the travelling and the interviewing. Favourite designer – Karl Lagerfeld. “He's a bottomless pit of creativity.” Funniest moments include forgetting to take her tape recorder off pause until half way through an interview with Sophia Loren and taking a photo of Evelyn Lauder at Estée Lauder's headquarters with no film in her camera. She also has some remarkable insights about how the fashion scene has changed. First is the lack of budget at newspapers with most content coming from the wire services(no local spin). Second is the current lack of intellectual content in fashion magazines. Lastly is that we are a little over concerned with image. “I think we need to buoy up our self image rather than our external image.”

When Leeming was first sent to fashion weeks, she had to take
her own pictures.  This one of Betsy Johnson was a favourite!
For now Virginia Leeming is enjoying her retirement. PR requests, judging at fashion shows and teaching keep her involved. With an innate knack to recognize doors opening and walk through them, who knows where she will find herself next.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Secrets From My Mother's Kitchen - Scalloped Potatos and Scalloped Corn

Illustration by Manelle Oliphant
Sooner or later I am going to have to start letting go of some of the multitude of cookbooks and food magazines I have accumulated over the years.  Unfortunately, I still have a soft spot for these publications and have many goods ones. Truth be told - there comes a time when you just do not have enough days in the year or meals you want to cook to make good use of them.

At a birthday dinner yesterday, I went for simplicity because I was so swamped.  The menu ended up with a simple Baked Ham, Scalloped Potatos with Leeks and Mushrooms created by surfing the web and seeing what I liked best, Green Salad, a simple Vegetable, Rolls (Wheat and White) and Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. The beauty of this is most prep was done ahead of time and the only actual recipe was the potatos. I could relax until 30 minutes before we sat down to eat.  Usually I'm too busy to enjoy company for more than a few minutes here or there.  This day I had lots of time.

Although the Scalloped Potatos received great reviews at the table, I personally found them a bit rich - the heavy cream seemed to overpower the dish.  After we had eaten, I was talking with my mother-in-law who is 88 about old recipes and recalled a very special cookbook I owned. When I moved to Canada many years ago and took my first job, the person training me was selling a self-published cookbook of her mother's recipes.  It was a charming edition with all lettering and illustrations created by hand.  I copied a few pages so you could get the idea.

What this cookbook has is more of a traditional style, but updated a bit from very old recipes here and there.  New ingredients such as Red Wine Vinegar and Asparagus have found their way in. When I grew up in the Mid-West, seasonings were limited to salt, pepper and the bacon fat you saved to cook everything in. Red Wine Vinegar would have been considered exotic with a capital E. and what in hell's name was an Asparagus ?!?!?!? I thought of this cookbook because the Scallop Potato recipe was much simpler and I actually really loved the idea behind it. The only issue I had was that I couldn't seem to consistently end up with a smooth cream sauce.

When my mother-in-law asked for the recipe I used last night I was honoured, but at the same time decided to give her both I gave her both. She was also very drawn to the simpler version.  The 2 recipes I have included below from this cookbook, take us back to a time when cooking was more basic. The potato recipe might take a few tries to get the technique right, but I think it's worth the effort as I have decided to resurrect it. I will probably still add the leeks and mushrooms (and maybe minced fresh garlic) next time, but am determined to make this my own. Sometimes simple is best.

Potato Cheese Scallop

I love the simplicity of this recipe and have used a few times although struggled to get the flour/milk to work perfectly. No fancy sauces to make ahead of time. No hi-fat cream.  Just old-fashioned goodness.  However, I did like using 1 large leek instead of the onion (remove dark green part of stem, quarter lengthwise, rinse well, pat dry and slice) as well as the addition of a small box of mushrooms diced. Then I sauted them ahead of time until very soft.

1            Medium Onion
6            Medium Potatoes
2 T          Flour
2-1/2 C   Whole Milk
1 C         Grated Cheese

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Thinly slice onions and potatos. Combine salt, pepper and flour.  Prepare baking dish.  Create 3 layers alternating onion and potato, sprinkling each potato layer with 1/3 of the flour mixture. Warm milk in microwave or on stove top (this is an important step) and gently pour over.  Cover and bake for 45 min.  Remove cover, sprinkle on cheese and bake 15 minutes longer.

Note - If you need to make a larger recipe, you will also have to increase the time it is baked covered. My family adores potatos so I use 1 medium potato per person at the table. A lot more than the average meal probably. It might take some time to figure out your family's requirements.

Scalloped Corn

I grew up with Scalloped Corn, but have never made it for my family.  They have an aversion to canned cream style corn, so have always been hesitant, but after yesterday the gloves are coming off. I thought the baking dish was originally placed in a pan of water to cook as this should be custard-y, but that step is missing here and I don't see it in others in searching the internet. Also, recipes have changed to include a variety of ingredients and toppings. I don't remember Scalloped Corn when I was young having cheese or a crumb topping, so not sure if if I will include those items the first time. I am also going to use fresh corn even those most recipes suggest canned.

1/2 C    Chopped Onion
1/2 C    Chopped Pepper (the original recipe says green, but I prefer Red or Orange)
1/4 C    Melted Butter
1/4 C    Flour
1/2 tsp  Dry Mustard
1 C       Milk
2           Cans Corn Kernals (going to try and use Fresh - about 1-1/2 to 2 cups should do it)
2           Eggs slightly beaten
1/2 C    Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Buttered Crumbs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare a 2 quart baking dish.

Saute onion and pepper in the melted butter.  Stir in flour, salt, pepper and mustard.  Cook 1 minute. Gradually add the WARM milk stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened.  Add corn, eggs and cheddar, then sprinkle with buttered crumbs.  Pour into casserole and bake for 40 minutes.

I may try and do the recipes in this cookbook from one end to the other and publish the ones I think best.  As this was never officially published through a trade house, it might be fun to be the torch bearer to make sure they are not lost except in the family's traditions.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wild - From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail

When my husband who is not usually drawn to personal pathos suggested I read Wild, I assumed it was just a comedic book about someone hiking the Pacific Coast Trail unprepared. That could not be further from the truth. I have been trying to wrap my mind around what I wanted to say about this book I found so very powerful and it has taken a bit of time.

One thing I try to do when approaching a review is to look at how others perceived the book/film/product. Imagine my surprise to find many who disliked it. Wow!  Perhaps understanding what this book is and is not would be a good place to start to help readers decide if it is one they would enjoy.

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What this is not - A guide to hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.  A person crowing about how they did it all wrong and what a great thing that was. A book on how to back-pack. Someone talking about what a great life they have. Someone asking for sympathy.
What is is - A powerful and honest memoir by the writer who talks about screwing up her life totally and, although sharing the tough childhood that had an effect,  taking responsibility for messing it up. A humorous look at someone deciding to backpack with no thought to the details or preparation and what it would cost her physically. An open discussion of how this brutal hike that she finished against incredible odds, helped her develop the inner strength to chose a new path. A New York Times #1 bestseller!

                                                    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Cheryl Strayed's father was a brutal man who beat her mother and was abusive to the children.  Her mother finally walked away and did her best to create a better live for the family. Then came a step-father who provided love and stability to the family. They moved out of town onto the land where Strayed was free to explore.

But the scars of early childhood were not dealt with and the death of her mother when she was only 22 put her on a profoundly negative journey.  Desperately trying to hold together a family that firmly drifted apart, she spiraled downward - sabotaging her marriage to a wonderful man with numerous affairs and becoming a habitual heroin user.

One day she happened to glance at a book on the PCT while in a check-out line, picked it up and then put it back. But the seed was planted and she found herself returning to purchase the guide.  Intuition is a powerful driving force and the call became too strong to ignore. At 26 she decided to listen.

While Strayed did spend months purchasing items recommended by staff at a proper backpacking store, she skipped some of the most basic things - reading up in the guide on recommended equipment, checking the weight of her pack, breaking in her boots, looking into how much money to send to each drop location, building up strength and endurance by taking some training walks carrying a loaded pack while wearing her new boots and the list goes on. She prepared only in a intellectual way that focused on the positives, but had not once stopped to think about the reality of the journey and distractedly skipped over advice sections that didn't interest her as she read.

In the end, when she loaded up her pack and tried to put in on at the starting point, she couldn't lift it. Food, equipment, tent and more, it all added up.  One dromedary bag when filled weighed 20 pounds on it's own. The description of how she managed to get it on her back is not to be shared as I don't want to ruin the surprise. It's incredible she didn't just say - WHOA, too heavy. Time to make some changes.

But  this was no white princess. She did the impossible and managed to not only get it on but carry it through the early part of the trail until someone helped her get rid of some unnecessary weight. Several times along the way, a fit male hiker picked up her pack only to say - wow, I've never carried a pack that heavy. It cost her, though, in terms of feet that were totally wrecked and joints that always hurt.

Over the course of the book, you are treated to an Erma Bombeck (If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What Am I Doing in the Pits) style book full of self-deprecating humour set against despairing moments of self-revelation.  There are hilarious moments, times she shares the beauty of the trail and others where she shares her personal demons. She makes no bones about the fact she was ill-prepared.

Stories about her time on the trail are interspersed with flashbacks about her troubled life and how it brought her to this moment. One can't help but be amazed she stuck it out against all odds. I think the desperate state of her soul kept motivated. One telling point for me is when she discusses her last name - Strayed. It is not her birth name or her husband's name. It was what she selected to write on the divorce papers when asked what name she would be going by in the future.

The mental challenges of the trail were enormous. The journey took her from desert floor to 12,000 foot high peaks, from unbearable heat and thirst to cold and snow. There were moments of total isolation interspersed with the camaraderie found amongst fellow hikers and feelings of fear, elation and desperation (such as when she lost a hiking boot).  In the end, this proved to be a trial by fire that allowed her to let go of her personal demons and move forward in a more positive life direction.

                                               Cheryl Strayed - Radical Sincerity at Tedx

Well written, heartfelt and honest, this is personal journey is so much more relevant than all those reality shows we seem to support. Time to walk away from TV and take a walk on the wild side.

Friday, February 22, 2013

La Saint Valentin

While I originally was not going to be able to attend this Valentine's Day extravaganza by LuvNGrace and Hennessy Cognac in Vancouver's beautiful Waterfall Building, a last minute business trip sent my husband out of town.  Out came my little black dress and faux fur jacket from Jacqueline Conoir.  Red accents were provided by jewellery (locally designed of course) and my favourite pair of Fluevog heels.  I wasn't the only one dressed to the nine's.  Everyone turned out in style.

                      "The [Waterfall] building was designed in 1996 by the legendary Arthur Erickson
                       The concrete and glass structure houses units for artists that combine living and 
                       work space. The focal point of the project is the central skylit gallery that 
                       is used as part of the sets for ABC’s “V” series as well as NBC’s “Facing Kate"

Hennessy Cognac - Image by Zed Studio
As always, I was greeted at the door by the uber-stylish Tracy Cake - smile and hug included. My next stop was to see DJ Miss Angel of Boy Meets Girl who already had the music flowing - a 2nd smile and hug for me! Then it was into the venue.  I have always loved this space.  A very tall vertical wall on one side and a full glass wall angling from ground level up to meet it on the other.  Probably the only negative is that is is a bit echo-y. The building has a great built in bar area where Hennessy Cognac set up a display and offered an array of special cocktails. My favourite was with Cranberry juice.  It not only delicious, but also had a beautiful red colour that suited the occasion.

Left Singers Jan Sam & Amber Samaya (Image by Pelman), Centre DJ Miss Angel (Image by Zed Studio)
Right Singer Sara K (Image by Jos Van Poederooyen)
There were 2 video crews working the event.  One was associated with the Waterfall Building. The second media team was filming a segment for a new pilot called Fashion File Media. The host for this project is the one and only Cynthia Pace of Style & Image with Cynthia.  Decked out in a sexy red Valentine's Day dress, six inch stilettos and a warm smile, she not only interviewed designers on camera, but styled Mandy Ross - the host of the evening - and could be found all evening chatting with attendees.

Cynthia Pace Interviewing the evening's host - Mandy Ross
Image by Zed Studio
I was thrilled to run into many industry friends that evening including Amy Yew from the Vancouver CourierJustin Voitic of Five Agency, actor/musician/designer Barry Ostash (Stavoc), Sue Randhawa of The Optical Boutique, Jennifer Little of Little Make-up Machine, Keiko Boxall of Studio Keiko and many, many more.I also was able to finally meet some of my wonderful Facebook friends in person such as the lovely Shannon Thompson!

Amy Yew and Sue Randhawa
Image by Aziz Dhamani

Jola V - Image courtesy of Hush Magazine

Several booths were there for guests to enjoy. I was particularly happy to see Jola V handbags. I have run into this designer at many events without realizing what she did for a living. When we finally sat face-to-face, I fell in love with one of her unique bags and purchased an amazing design in turquoise and burlap on the spot. Still looking for the right outfit to debut it with.  I also managed to snag a tasty cupcake by Lyttle Bake Shop.  It was delicious and tasted even better as it was hand delivered to me by a brand new aquaintence - Samantha Sito - which made me feel very special. Natural Glow Mobile was also there to offer information on their tanning mobile services.

I adore this image by Dan Poh of Tracy Cake with the display from the Lyttle Back Shop
Host Mandy Ross of Fashion TV had her work cut out for her this evening as the program was jam-packed, but she handled it easily with her warm smile and calm, graceful presence. She also took the time to wander through the crowd talking with everyone, making us all feel special. There were 3 focuses for the show portion - art, music and fashion.  While they were interspersed all evening, it's easier to mention them separately. Art displays by Miriam AroesteStacy Sakai and Liza Lee hung on the large gallery for us to enjoy as we mingled. For music we had live performances by Jan Sam and Amber Samaya (soft acoustic sounds), Sarah K (soulful R& B) and Jim Cummins (crowd pleasing). All performers did an amazing job, but I want to mention Cummins' performance in particular as he is actually best known for his I, Braineater artwork. For this evening he picked up an electric guitar and walked the runway as he sang to the crowd, stopping here and there for a more private serenade.  When he paused to give me some of that attention I was charmed - a highlight of my evening.

Jim Cummins charming the ladies - Image by Zed Studio
Five fashion shows featuring the work of 7 designers offered us a wide range from soft knits and eco-friendly fabrics to out of the box, statement making club wear.  First was Nicole Bridger - an eco designer with her finger firmly on the pulse of today's West Coast woman. We want to be stylish, comfortable and environmentally conscious and it all comes together in her collection. Paired with her garments was jewellery by Smitten Designs. Another show combined the Rock Star clothing of Nancy Perrault with chic hats created  by Dominique Hanke of Hive Minds Millernery. The combination of edgy, wearable looks worked well.  One new item for Perrault was some body painted vinyl fabric - a story well worth asking the next time you see her. Then there was Katherine Soucie of Sans Soucie.  Her luxury line of comfortable high-end clothing created from reclaimed hosiery just has to be seen. Not only is it comfortable and easy to take care of, it is utterly unique. I was pleased she chose to put one look from her new menswear line on the runway - the only menswear we saw this evening.

Left Nicole Bridger, Centre Nancy Perrault and Hive Mind Millinery, Right Sans Soucie
Images by Aziz Dhamani
Pretty Bastard by TMC offered up among other things lots of leather strapping and metal detailing, although this was only one part of her show. Beautiful finishing accessories for these looks were courtesy of local designer Mishe Jewels. With an outside the box aesthetic I think the line would definitely appeal to the counter culture club set.  Last down the runway was a sneak peak mini-collection from a brand new designer - Guylaine Designs. One piece that stood out were some slim leggings with a white criss-cross design. I had the privilege of having a look at these ahead of time and was impressed to see all the white cording was appliqued on.  I think hand detailing will be one her trade marks when she officially launches.

Left Pretty Bastard, Right Guylaine Designs
Images by Aziz Dhamani
Special thanks to the sponsors who help made this evening possible - Hennessey Cognac, Luxe Beauty Lounge and Spa, Bella Garnet Salon, Natural Glow Mobile, Jola V Designs, Style and Image with Cynthia, Snap, Smitten Designs, Hush Magazine, The Sociables, Mishe Jewels, Lyttle Bake Shop, Liza J Lee & Associates, Stacy Sakai and Victoria Radbourne Designs.

Wanted to close with this fun photo shot by Dan Poh
of Barry, Tracy and Jennifer hamming it up.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank God For The Talented Professional

Growing up quite poor, life was a never ending search for a way to do it yourself or do without.  The next step was where it could be acquired as cheaply as possible.  I also was the receiver of hand me down clothes. Some were much nicer than we could ever afford so I was delighted, but the day my mum showed me the used underwear I totally flipped.

On of my favourite images of Shannon.
Leaving home at 17, several years later quitting my job to immigrate to Canada and then choosing to stay at home with the kids meant the trend continued.  Costco, Zellers, Payless Shoes and Value Village were my best friends. My husband reluctantly cut my hair while I cut his and the kid's. When I was younger and more fit, I could make it work.  I wasn't a fashion plate, but could find an acceptable balance. Then with age came body changes that made it difficult to figure out what looked good on me. A depressing time. I would walk into the change room with 30 items and if I was lucky walk out with one. I also began writing and found it terribly embarrassing to enter a local designer's space full of beautiful garments while dressed in the sad pieces found in my closet. Still money was too tight to buy all new clothing.

When my mother died in 2007, I was desperate.  The memorial service at the Los Angeles university where she worked promised to be a daunting crowd all focused on the family. I finally bit the bullet and put my worries in the hands of a stylist - Shannon Belsito at Jacqueline Conoir.  Her job was to help me find just one outfit that I felt good in.  My stress level was high which made her job difficult and as we hadn't worked together before she was just learning my likes and dislikes, but it all came together.  The final look was timeless, versatile and over the years I have received many compliments on it. Since then we have continued to put our heads together each season to build a lasting wardrobe that coordinates.  It's coming along nicely. I learned a valuable lesson that day. We all need professionals we trust to help us. No one can be an expert in everything.So remember, if you feel I look well put together at at an event, it was because I took the step of asking for help and learning from someone with a lot more experience.

Master stylist Salim on right - posing with clients at the
Hennessey Salon annual Hair "Do" Fundraiser
Hair has been another crazy journey.  I love long, full hair, but am not blessed with it.  In my 20's I didn't care and was young enough to pull it off.  Perms and french braiding were used as much as possible to create style.  But with young kids underfoot it got a lot harder. The kind of haircuts I received from my husband were VERY basic.  When I ended up in a salon, it was one of the budget places where they couldn't give any real guidance. Then I bit the bullet and walked into a proper establishment with a highly trained staff and everything changed for the better. When my first stylist moved away, I ended up with the head honcho - Salim at Hennessy Salon in Richmond Centre.  No two short haircuts can ever be exactly the same, but I am confident the outcome will be to my liking because he brings over 25 years of knowledge to the table and has taken the time to talk extensively with me about what I want. He is also a master colorist and was able to transition my hair as I aged without the constant need to touch up roots. We try different approaches at times to see where it leads - some work better than others - and then adjust at our next session. I don't want to TELL him what to do. I enjoy the freedom of just sitting back, relaxing and letting him work his magic.

CAR REPAIRS! Such a huge and upsetting topic.  Paying for expensive service at a dealership does not insure good work, but neither does finding the cheapest place possible.  In the end, my husband and I take our cars to a private establishment where we know the owner and he has a vested interest in keeping our business - Travis Halliday at Red Line Automotive in Richmond. With over 20 years of experience, he lists suggested repairs in order - urgent for safety, needs to be done soon and something to plan for in the future.  The age of the car is factored into his suggestions as some are not worth doing if it's due for the scrap yard soon. It's advice we can trust and it guides our expenditures. Turns out our instincts were spot on as his business was awarded 2011 Garage of the Year by  SSGM Magazine!

Photographers are next on the list. Everyone gains experience by doing, so we do need to support rising talent.  BUT - when it's really important, experience and a vision that matches your own is not to be negotiated. The cheapest price will not give you what you need. The images you put out there - whether product photos, editorial images or head shots - will be available through Social Media forever.  It is your calling card to future clients.  If you can't come up with the resources to do it right - don't do it as all as the impact could well be negative.  For me - I was delighted to work with Eydis Einarsdottir on my head shot. While she spent time making sure I was happy with the outcome - I know she nailed the perfect image probably in the first 10 minutes. I also chose this photographer because she takes a light-handed approach to adjustments in processing which means in the end - the image really look like the person you are now, but is still flattering. This is only one small area of her expertise. For more you can check out her portfolio at THEY  Representation.

I was going to use an image of Einarsdottir working on set,
but feel this image shot on a trip home to Iceland better
captures her wonderful spirit. 
My most recent foray into letting a professional handle it was with eye glass frames.  I have worn and hated glasses since I was in grade 3. At 16 I purchased my first contacts and never looked back until at 40 when my eyes became dryer. Suddenly I was wearing glasses most of the time - Yuck!. With a complicated prescription, I was always encouraged to pick small frames and that was about all the guidance I received. It was a stressful process and in the end I owned a pair that sometimes turned out to be not all that flattering. This last week I found myself sitting across from, Sue Randhawa of The Optical Boutique  - a woman of incredible style I had met at a few recent events. I walked in to find a small grouping of frames pre-selected by Sue that would suit my silhouette and colouring. Suddenly I found myself enjoying the journey as it was no longer about trying to find that illusive pair that might look good on me. I instead started with several great choices and the process was about what I felt best represented me and suited my needs.  What a totally different experience! Now instead of looking at glasses as a burden, I have a vision of them as a part of my wardrobe accessories. For the first time in my life I want to own several pairs instead of tolerating just one.

Sue is the stylish lady 2nd from right.
Money is a tough subject for so many in these tight financial times, but it's important to remember no matter what professional you need - event planner, accountant, fashion professional, editor, etc. - finding the right match is of the utmost importance. They need to have solid expertise, good listening skills and be someone you can trust to understand what is best for your needs. Finances will usually have an impact on your final choice, but shouldn't influence you to make a decision that will lead to a negative outcome. In the end, working with the right person creates a better initial experience, the expert guidance reduces stress as you let them shoulder some of the burden and the results can have a positive impact on every area of one's life.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sure, I Can Do That

I had the privilege to first interview Gina Hole in 2009 - a rush article for Raine Magazine. She was on vacation, but in true Gina Hole CAN DO fashion, she made it happen. Thank goodness for cell phones.  Fortunately for this article in Fame'd Magazine February 2011, I was finally able to sit with her face-to-face.  Full of energy, intense, driven, creative and a perfectionist when it comes to work, she personally selects each artist signed to THEY Representation. With the addition of Sugar Studios in 2010, clients now have all their needs from start to finish addressed in one space - saving both time and money.

This interview was a real industry eye-opener for me and includes sound advice for those working towards a career as a fashion artist. Sure, I Can Do That was part of a Behind the Scenes series in Fame'd Magazine featuring those with many years of experience in the fashion industry.

= = = = = = = =

Image by Wayne Mah Photography
Gina Hole stepped into the world of fashion at the age of 15 and never looked back. Her extensive resume includes: retail, teacher, make-up artist, model booking agent/scout, and fashion show and event producer Now owner of THEY Representation and Sugar Studios, she still is as driven and focused as when she first started. - all with a keen sense of humour. She laughingly refers to her brain as the “Whack a Mole Brain” as she can easily juggle ten things at once and calls her experience as a self-taught artist, “The School of Hard Knocks and the Institute of Trial and Error.” One reason for her continuing success is her response to any new challenge, “Sure, I can do that.”

Even before that first retail job, Hole was an over-achiever focused on fashion. She remembers, “When I was ten years old, I would do the make-up and hair for my sister and her friends, but I'd always take it one step further. I would go to my mum's closet, pull all the clothes, get them all dressed up, cook them lunch and set the table.” She initially studied acting at Capilano University, but one day had an epiphany that changed her direction. “I am not comfortable in front of the camera. I love being behind the scenes doing make-up and helping them coordinate everything.” That knowledge proved crucial in years to come when she worked in Los Angeles with celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Celebrities need you in their corner, not competing. I have no desire to be the star. I made that realization at 19 and it's been clear sailing every since.”

With Canadian Recording Artist Marika who performed at the
Sugar Studio Launch - image by DAN AX and ANNETTE BIGGERS 
What followed were many years hard work to gain the experience she has today. Hole looks at interning as a gift, “ I would have sped up ten years of figuring out the business if I could have just sat in a corner and listened to what the pros had to say.” One relationship that has endured over the years is with photographer Chris Haylett. He came on board as staff photographer while she was working as a model agent for the Charles Stuart Agency and they went on to open a studio with stylist Fernando Attunes. The three worked together creating concepts for every area of the industry. Attunes was a great mentor who changed her life when he commented, “You can't be the best make-up artist if you are doing everything.” Taking this to heart, she relocated Toronto where she was rep'd by the Judy Welch Agency and then to Los Angeles where she was rep'd by TheCelestine Agency.

Tear sheet from article in Raine Magazine NYC 
This was the late 80's and early '90's.  There was no internet or email and she was in a stable of over 40 artists. It took a lot of time and money to promote yourself. Hole would sit in her agent's office making cold call after cold call to connect with photographers. The agency maintained three copies of her portfolio that were couriered to prospective clients, costing up to $200 a month in fees. Prints were $30 each. In a small market like Vancouver an artist can be diverse, but in places such as LosAngeles or New York, you are put into a niche. For Hole, that was being a celebrity and fashion make-up artist and hair stylist. Jobs were plentiful until the Gulf War began and then evaporated over night. She tried moving to a smaller agency hoping to find more work. Although the job market did not improve, she was given the opportunity to also work there as a booking agent – a skill that would prove invaluable in the future.

At the Fashion Hope Fundraiser in Sugar Studios
with photographer Lisa-Marie Mazzucco and
her son, photographer Sascha Mazzucco.
In 1992, Hole decided to head back to Vancouver to open her own agency, but life had other plans. The next 14 years were spent working as a Key make-up artist in the film industry while her family grew to include a husband and four children. Still agency represented outside of Vancouver, she found herself making referrals when she couldn't take the booking. One day she realized the moment was right. It took a year of interviewing to find a core group of artists that, “...really wanted it. You can't have representation going into it gingerly. Your agent is supposed to be an extension of you, an ally, so if you go in with trepidation, don't bother.” THEY Representation officially opened with fashion artists in 2004 and two years later added photographers to the roster. Although not everyone is right for representation, what Hole loves about an agency environment is, “All that artistic ego evaporates when you are rep'd. There is this kindness and camaraderie among the artist because they're not fighting to promote themselves.” The biggest change since her time in LA is the internet – most bookings now come from the artist's online portfolios.

While working with photographers, Hole realized she could use her knowledge, resources and connections to save her clients money. First she stepped into producing shoots, saving countless man hours by streamlining the process. Then, after an inability to find quality studio space to work in, she launched Sugar Studios in February 2010 – a first class facility open to a wide range of users from students to world class photographers. Studio A on the ground floor features warehouse door access onto a 35' “Infinity” wall, large make-up room and equipment rental. Studio B on the second floor is more intimate with beautiful natural lighting. Special packages are available for students and portrait photographers.

At an Obakki launch with a few of THEY Representation's
talented artists.
Hole has sound advice for those just starting out. Don't bad mouth someone in the industry to get ahead, let your work speak for itself. If you aren't working a job then you should be shooting, creating new work to keep your book fresh. If your website or portfolio is not 100 percent ready to be seen, then work around the clock until it is. And lastly, “I encourage creatives to the fullest extent whether artists with photographers, or photographers with ad agencies.”

For more information on THEY Representation go to For information on Sugar Studios go to

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thai Chicken Tacos

From Better Homes and Gardens
Long ago and far away, Milestone's Restaurant offered a Thai Chicken Taco entree on their menu.  When it was removed was close to the last time I set foot in their restaurant.  I have tried a few recipes to no avail and have emailed the powers at be to see if they would be willing to share the old recipe or at least add it to the menu again. No response as of yet.

Fusion food has always been a favourite of mine. I love to be surprised, so taking classics and reinventing them makes food fun in my opinion.   In my Let's Talk Food tab there are several examples of this such as Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas and Yam Pad Thai - both recipes with great flavours.  In a web search I did find a recipe that was based on one from Better Homes and Gardens.  It was worth a try.  While I still didn't find it up the the level of the original Milestone's offering, it was a hit with the family.  

Below I have taken the original Better Homes and Garden recipe and made a few change based on the adjusted recipe on another blog called (Mis)adventures in Cooking. The two things to consider when making this recipe is the serving amounts and the tortillas.  The original magazine recipe takes 16 heated corn tortillas, layers them in 2's and you end up with 8 tacos.  Unfortunately, the corn tortillas available to most of us are not of a quality good enough to use this way and would overpower the filling. Interesting to note that in the magazine's image above - they hardly look like the thick corn tortillas found in most stores and the tacos definitely look fuller than they did for me.

Milestones version - from Salute to Sanity Blog
I prefer flour tortillas for this recipe and just 1 per taco so I can taste the filling better.  Also, there isn't a lot of filling per taco, so if you like your taco to be on the fuller side - this recipe really only makes about 4-6. On this blog I decided to come down in the middle and make 6, but it's really up to you how much filling per tortillas works best.  Note -The small flour tortillas found in most supermarkets are a definitely larger than corn tortillas - so 4 would be perfect for my family.  If you can find them in the smaller size, then 6 would probably be best.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did last night!  That said, if anyone has access to the original Milestones recipe, please share it with me.  They were to die for.

Thai Chicken Tacos
4-6 Tacos depending on how much filling you like.

1              Lime Halved
1 lb          Boneless Chicken Breast cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup    Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1             Shallot finely chopped OR 1/2 small onion finely minced
3 cloves   Garlic, minced
1 T          Fish Sauce (Asian section of your grocery store)
2 tsp        Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp     Crushed Red Pepper (can increase to 1 tsp if you want it spicier)
1/2 tsp     Hot Chili Sauce (can increase to 1 tsp if you want it spicier)
2 T          Vegetable Oil
4-6          Small Flour Tortillas 

Cabbage Slaw

2 cups     Shredded Napa Cabbage (can substitute pre-shredded coleslaw mix)
1/2 cup    Shredded Carrot (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup    Sliced Green Onions (about 4)
1/3 cup    sliced radishes (optional)
1/4 cup    Snipped or chopped fresh Cilantro
1/4 cup    Chopped Peanuts
1/4 cup    Rice Vinegar
1 T          Mayonnaise

For Filling - 
Jucie 1 lime half and cut remaining half in wedges.  Stir together chicken, cilantro, shallot or onion, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, crushed red pepper and chili sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  In large skillet cook chicken mixture - stirring constantly - in hot oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.

For Slaw -
Mix together first 6 ingredients in medium bowl.  Add rice vinegar and mayonnaise and toss gently to coat.

To serve - 
Heat the flour tortillas.  Divide the meat evenly and top with slaw.  Serve with the lime wedges.

For the original Better Homes and Garden recipe from June 2011 click HERE.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Childhood Innocence

by guest writer Krista McKenna of

       Social City Networking
       Get Warm Project
       Team Awesome
       One Piece Vancouver
       O World Project

As I have grown up, I have experienced pain...

Pain in the form of an abusive step parent, bullying, assault, sexual assault, broken home and a couple of significant car accidents.  They have all absolutely changed my life forever- physically, emotionally and mentally.

By changing me, they have also all hardened me (the saying what doesn't kill you just makes you stronger is nothing but absolute truth) and when any one experiences pain, the natural reaction of hardening is completely respected and understandable.

While I share these things, one thing I very much want to make crystal clear, is that I am no victim. I am not to be pitied, or felt sorry for. I have absolutely no regrets, nor would I (if I could) go back in time and change any of the outcomes. I am no different from everyone else in this world.  EVERYONE experiences pain, - significant and meaningful - and I would not be the person I am today if I hadn't been made to go through it all.

I am thankful.

   I have forgiven.

The one and only sticky spot to moving forward is - I just can't figure out how to be "innocent" again. It's to be expected that after pain cuts you, you're left with a scars - a wall of protection, a lack of trust and questioning of those around you, even if they haven't (yet) given you a reason to distrust them. The walls we build protect us. They provide a buffer from all the vulnerabilities we are terrified to show. BUT, at the same time, these walls can hinder us.

How do you, we, I, become innocent again? It's a continuous work in progress. Soon, (hopefully), with work, we can laugh, smile, giggle, explore, goof around and let others that surround us have view of our true. unguarded selves without fear and distrust again.

I guess the first step in anything, is acknowledgement.