Saturday, April 28, 2018

Authentic Carne Asada

Image from The Stay At Home Chef

I snagged this recipe from The Stay at Home Chef blog site a few months ago and have had it on my recipe must try list ever since. Yesterday was the day.

I adore real Latin American food. No - it's not burritos and enchiladas smothered in a 1/2 inch deep layer of cheese, guacamole and sour cream. That's the U.S. Tex Mex style of cooking.

True Latin American cooking allows the ingredients' flavours to stand out. It's cleaner and full of visual appeal. Burritos and enchiladas are offered in a simpler way than the U.S. Tex Mex style. Rice and beans are side accents and meat entrees offer small, warm rolled up tortillas to complete the meal.

Carne Asada is Spanish for "grilled meat." It's a Latin American dish of sliced beef, usually sirloin steak, tenderloin steak or rib steak, that is usually cooked with a certain amount of searing on the BBQ to impart a charred flavor. The marinade for this version using flank steak (also called skirt steak) is filled with citrus and the single jalapeno is quiet background touch. If you're looking for spicy, you'll have to add a lot more. Then cooking on the BBQ gives the meat that extra charred hit of flavour that is essential in my opinion.

My husband - the "food is food so what's the big deal" guy - took one bite and declared this a winner.  I served it with roasted potatoes, a colourful salad adorned with lots crisp colourful vegetables and small, warmed flour tortillas to wrap the meat in. And remember,  always cut flank steak across the grain before serving or your meat will be tough to eat.  Enjoy

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Authentic Carne Asada

Ingredients - 

2          Limes, juiced
4          Cloves garlic, crushed
½ C     Orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 C      Chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp   Salt
¼ tsp   Black pepper
¼ C     Olive oil
1          Jalapeno, minced
2 T       White vinegar
2 lbs.    Flank steak (usually 1 medium size one)

Instructions - 

In a large Ziploc bag, combine lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze it around to mix it up. Add the flank steak and squish it around some more to make sure the meat is well coated with the marinade. Squeeze out all the air and seal the bag.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.  I did it for the 2 hours this time, but next time will let it marinade overnight to absorb more of the flavors. I also occasionally flipped the bag over to make sure the steak marinaded evenly.

Heat your BBQ.  (note - The original recipe says to high heat. We did ours a bit lower as I don't like my meat to have any pink in the middle.  So had to turn it down a bit.)  Cook on the grill for 7-10 minutes a side (or until the doneness your family prefers). 

Let rest 10 minutes covered and then slice into thin strips ACROSS the grain. (note - As mine was cooked to a very done state, I was able to slice mine almost right away.) Serve with small warm tortillas and your favourite side dishes.  

Friday, April 27, 2018

KPU Wilson School of Design presents 2018 THE SHOW

All Runway images by Peter Jensen Photography

On April 19th, I had the honour of being invited to watch the KPU Wilson School of Design 4th year fashion design students present their grad collections on the runway at 2018 The Show.  The class was large - a whopping 32 students this time around - and each showed 2 complete head to toe looks.

This was the first time I have been in Kwantlen's new Wilson School of Design building. It was truly impressive. And I loved that they moved their show from the large River Rock Casino into this more intimate setting. Because of the smaller venue, they ran 7 shows over 2 days, but I think the trade off was well worth it.

The light filled glass rimmed space on the 4th floor where the show was held featured a u-shaped runway lined with 2 rows of chairs along each side, accommodating several hundred guests from media like myself, to students from local high schools, to family and friends. Every single person was close enough to get a personal view of the fashions being showcased - a treat for someone like myself who sewed professionally for 5 years. I could see all the details as the garments were just inches in front of me.

I have been attending the Kwantlen grad fashion show since April 2007, and have always been impressed by the work their students present. Great design work and strong tailoring skills have 4 years to develop and mature here. But there was something about the unique and diverse aesthetics of the graduates this year that made me sit up and take notice. Kudos to all involved.

There is also a strong emphasis on technology now that their fashion program is located in this new facility and I found myself extremely curious about the technical machines the school had available to the students.  Fortunately Dean Carolyn Robertson and and Program Coordinator Lindsay Norris offered to give me a tour after the show and introduce me to a few.  Their lab featured 3D Printers, a Heat Transfer Machine, an Ardmel seam sealer (the tape this machine fuses onto the garment's seams makes them waterproof), an Ultrasonic Welder and a Radio Frequency Welder. My mind was spinning with the possibilities they opened up to the young designers studying here.

Each and every one of the students did an amazing job on the runway and I can only hope somewhere there will be photographs of all their collections for you to view. But it's impossible to include everyone in one article, so I have chosen 11 students to feature here. It was truly hard to choose, but I hope those I selected will give each of you a small glimpse into the wide range of design styles I saw on the runway that day. Enjoy!

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Erin Chisholm - TH.ON 

Bio - Erin's ethos is about evolution - tearing down traditional ideals and remastering them to create the contemporary.

Line Description - Celebrating the rebellious and innovative spirit of fashion with her thesis, Chisholm invites her audience to delve into ambiguity and questions what it means to be human

Instagram - @th.ondesigns

Chelsey Wong - TEXTILIER

Bio - Chelsey has been a maker since childhood. Her creative endeavors brought her to KPU where she has developed a love for the design and the production processes.

Line Description - Textilier provides garments with Victorian era silhouettes with modern design details.

Email -

Luyi Ning- chéri

Bio - Luyi grew up in a multicultural environment. She sees fashion as a worthwhile adventure and aspires to share her stories through design.

Line Description - Inspired by Romanticism and Mori style, Cheri delivers an idyllic feeling.

Email -
Instagram - @cheri-style

Ho-Chi Huang - HO-CHI 

Bio - Inspired by her varied apparel industry experience; she fell in love with highly functional, innovative, and technical garments for menswear.

Line Description - Vert is tailored to harmonize and balance modern aesthetics and high-performance menswear.

Website -
Email -

Sandy Escalante - ONE IN TWO

Bio - Inspired by her travels, Sandy integrates functionality and contemporary fashion in a simple yet subtle way. Escalante creates a blank canvas for individuality through her collection: ONE IN TWO.

Line Description - ONE IN TWO elevates minimalism through details that transform silhouettes from one look to another.

Email -

Josie Robinson - ETERNA

Bio - Josie Robinson has always been a maker, ever since she was a child. As a creative, she is inspired by materials and tactile experiences.

Line Description - Eterna's pieces are hand dyed borrowing from the Japanese tradition of Shibori

Instagram - @eterna.textiles

Iris Chau - FJORD BOY

Bio - To Iris, design is a cross-functional practice that aims to serve people and the environment. She loves Croissants.

Line Description - Fjord Boy combines folk textile history with contemporary menswear to create upcycled pieces for the artistic collector. (Note all fabric for this collection was creating by piecing together discarded pieces from Our Social Fabric).

Email -
Instagram - @fjordboy

Joanna Lee - PASTICHE

Bio - Joanna has always had an interest in clothing and costumes. Her experience of working in a theatre wardrobe reflected her belief that clothing is used to tell a story.

Line Description - Pastiche references historical costuming to create evening wear with a whimsical essence.

Email -

Camille Huang - ECO LIA

Bio - a nature lover and a romantic. Her feminine and idealistic personality defines her as a dreamer. Camille is deeply inspired by bridal wear as she feels connected with the affection of love.

Line Description - Representing the modern romantic and sustainable bride. ECO Lia is designed using organic material, zero-waste construction, and a reusable mindset.

instagram - @eco.ecolia


Bio - Sieraa has always been interested in menswear. Her love for the industry pushed her to study Bespoke Tailoring in London. McNeill aspires to one day become a Savile Row tailor.

Line Description - Developed around the idea that men are at their best in a well-fitting suite; Sierra McNeill Bespoke adheres to the standards set by Savile Row, yet yields itself to the trends in men's fashion.

Chelsea Manansala - MISARANA

Bio - Chelsea was raised in a culturally diverse community that has inspired her to design a collection that blends cultures.

Line Description - MISARANA is a contemporary label that deviates from tradition, whilst celebrating its origin.

Email -
Instagram - @houseofmisarana

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For more information on the Fashion Design Program at KPU Wilson School of Design, please go to their website at

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week FW18 - Lasalle College Vancouver Fashion Design Student Showcase: Rethink, Restyle, Repurpose

AHH - fashion design student shows at Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW). They are one of my favourite parts of the line-up each season. And I love that the students gain valuable experience working with backstage hair and make-up teams. It's also a plus that instead of presenting their work to a supportive group of friends, family and teachers, the students are putting their ideas out for the general public and media to critique.  It can be an eye opener for them.

This is LaSalle College Vancouver's 17th consecutive season challenging a carefully selected group of the strongest students from the school's design program to create collections for this special show.  Every season a new show theme is chosen that they must incorporate. This time it was: Rethink, Reuse, Repurpose. Students had to think hard about sustainability in the fashion world during their design process.

The five students who were chosen to offer collections on the runway for VFW's FW2018 season included Alannah Anderson (Manitoba), Daniela Franken Dominguez (Mexico), Gurkirat Narang (India), Azam Rezahosseini (Vancouver), and Shuo Yang (China). Each had to create  their runway looks using pieces of donated clothing and textile scraps from Fabcycle - a pick-up service that collects textile waste and diverts it from the landfill by recycling the fabric or using it for community projects.

The results were amazing. In fact I had no idea until after the show that all the garments were created using upcycled textiles. As well, each student brought their own unique design aesthetic to the challenge. No two collections looked the same.

Special thanks again this season to fashion show producer Tracey Pincott, international videographer Trevor Brady and the beautiful Lizbell Agency models for helping the students create such an amazing show. Enjoy!

Alannah Anderson (Canada) -

Alannah is an Indigenous designer. She moved from Manitoba to British Columbia to pursue
an education in Fashion Design at LaSalle College Vancouver. Her inspiration for her
collection presenting at Vancouver Fashion Week is based on the concern for ocean pollution.
The concept was taken from different textural and structural aspects of ocean plant life. She
has repurposed various materials such as drapes and carpets to create her collection.
Alannah hopes to inspire others to understand the negative impact that the fashion industry
has on our environment, and to shine light on our ability to make a positive change.
Alannah is happy to represent LaSalle College Vancouver at Vancouver Fashion Week
along with her fellow alumni.

Daniela Franken Dominguez (Mexico) -

Daniela was born in Mexico and came to Vancouver to study Fashion Design at LaSalle
College Vancouver. She explains her move to Canada has had a great impact in her life and
opened her mind to a multicultural society, which has influenced her designs in many
different ways. Her inspiration for her first collection is based on the concern for lingerie
waste and how this traditionally ends up in landfills. From this concept she decided to use
recycled lingerie materials to produce her collection. Daniela dreams to own a sustainable lingerie brand in the future that will aim to improve the working conditions of people in her home country and make a positive impact on the environment. She hopes her collection representing the beauty in sustainability will mark the beginning of her journey as a fashion designer.

Gurkirat Narang (India) - 

Gurkirat is from India. Growing up, he admits it was not easy for him to study fashion mostly due
to being male and due to the culture in his home country. At the age of 18, he decided to choose
to follow his dream and come study Fashion Design at LaSalle College Vancouver. Since his time
here Gurkirat has faced and overcome many obstacles, and has learned from each one of them.
Gurkirat's designs infuse his Indian culture and his new love for the Western culture and fashion.

Azam Rezahosseini (Iran) - 

Azam received a pattern drafting and sewing certificate while studying Fashion in high school.
She then decided to study Science and graduated with a bachelor degree in Sciences. Since she
moved to Canada 12 years ago she has been wanting to get back to upgrading her design skills,
and now had the change to study Fashion Design at LaSalle College Vancouver since 2016.
Because the theme for our show this year is Global Warming, her designs were inspired by
the concerning thought of our lakes, rivers, and oceans drying up and disappearing. To
emulate the effect global warming and pollution would have on these, she worked to mimic dry,
cracked earth patterns and effects using plastic bags as part of the central detail in her

Shuo Yang (China) -

Shuo is originally from Zhejiang, China, and chose to come to Vancouver to pursue her education
in Fashion Design. Since the age of eight she has been interested in the world of Fashion. Her
inspiration comes from traditional elegant design. This collection is an ode to water…..most
importantly how many gallons of water it takes to make one pair of jeans. Shuo has worked
with recycled denim in her collection to encourage recycling fashion material and how one can
make something old look new and elegant again.

About LaSalle College Vancouver (

Established in 1998, LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) is an Applied Arts school accredited by Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) of the Ministry of Advanced Education of British Columbia and which meets the provincial British Columbian Education Quality Assurance (EQA) standards. LCV offers over 35 exciting applied arts programs in the fields of Fashion, Game Design & VFX, Audio & Film, Culinary, Interior Design, and Graphic Design, with credentials ranging from Bachelor degrees to certificates. E-learning programs are also offered in Fashion Marketing, Administrative Assistant, Video Game 3D Modeling, Interior Design, Graphic Design – Branding and Event Planning and Management.

About the LCI Education network (

LCI Education traces its origins back to LaSalle College in Montreal, which was founded in 1959. Present today on 5 continents, the LCI Education network consists of 23 select higher education institutions, and some 1,500 employees offering instruction to over 10,000 students throughout the world each year. LCI Education is also known as a leader in online training in Canada. LCI Education encourages program harmonization across the various countries in order to ensure greater flexibility, better control over the quality of its services and respect for cultural diversity.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile

Ah, that inimitable Italian style. 
It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. 

Synopsis - 

Ah, that inimitable Italian style. It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. Fashion doesn’t define her. She defines herself. She knows an extraordinary life is not about status, money, or achievement. The only mastery it requires is one her heritage has given her, the irrepressible passion to make art of life itself.

Ask an Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels. It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms.

Sass, Smarts and Stilettos takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence, and the humanistic business practices of Luisa Spagnoli, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Alberta Ferretti, from the emergence of Italy’s fashion industry after WWII, to slow food and sustainable fashion initiatives taking root around the world.

Life lessons echo in the words of the author’s mother and grandmother, in the voices of Italian film divas, designers, tastemakers, writers, and artisans across generations, from the first Sala Bianca in Florence to the game changing design ethic of Franca Sozzani, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace.

​Learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living. Say good-bye to mindless consumerism, emotional clutter, and others’ expectations. Create a personal style that fits like a custom blazer by Ferrè and enchants like the colors of a Sicilian sunset. Then go on to craft an extraordinary and empowering life made-to-measure for you alone.

Review - 

I already had a copy of Gabriella Contestabile's first book, when I heard she was working on a new one. I couldn't wait to see what she would come up with next. Unfortunately, I hate to wait a lot longer than I hoped for as she polished this book to her high standards. No worries. I made sure I was first in line to order a copy on launch day and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

When I first heard the title would be Sass, Smarts and Stilettos, I made the assumption that it would be a fashion book covering how to add a little Italian style in my own life. The fact the author has an incredible sense of style reinforced this misconception. As I began to read, however, I quickly learned this book is actually filled with all things Gabriella cherishes about her heritage - her family life growing up filled with the culture of her birthplace; the authentic Italian food her mum prepared along with that sampled on trips to Italy; the wonderful quality clothing she learned to appreciate (both sewn by her talented mother and purchased); the fashion style she learned from her mother and from other women on trips back to Italy; the history; the art; and so much more.

This book is in many ways a memoir, told as if the author is talking with the reader over a freshly made espresso at her favourite Italian cafe. We learn about all things Italian initially as we listen to her personal story from childhood forward. Gabriella's ability to vividly share important moments help them to come alive. There were times I swear I could visualize the scene, smell the aromas or taste the food.

Then slowly she begins to showcase her extensive knowledge of the history of Italian art and fashion, adding examples that help to bring home important points. And she includes story after story about the strong, independent fearless Italian women who dared to do things their own way without apology. Her mother was one of these brave women.

A wonderful read. I highly recommend it.

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

​Meet the Author -

Fab behind the scenes author interview - HERE!

Gabriella Contestabile is the author of the novel, The Artisan’s Star, and owner of Su Misura (Made to Measure) Journeys; a boutique travel concept for the female traveler who relishes off-the-beaten-track adventures that celebrate the Italian way of life.

​The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.

One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn

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Interview with Gabriella Contestabile, Author of Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? Looking back to your young years, were there any early signs writing books was in your future? If so please share a story.

I’ve always been a voracious reader. After we moved from Italy to Canada my father wanted to ensure I kept my Italian language but also learned to speak English properly. He bought me books in both languages. I devoured them. I would sink into the settings of each book and pretend I was the protagonist. In my head I lived all over the world. So perhaps that’s why setting plays such a major role in my writing.

But I first started writing in grade school because I was failing miserably in my penmanship classes. Try as I might I could never replicate my parents’ gracious script or that of my classmates. So my mother had me practice all my letters for hours every day while my friends were out playing in the park. I got so bored I started to write stories instead, and never stopped.

Where did your inspiration to write Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary, Extraordinary come from?

My mother, Sofia Loren, Anna Magnani, my grandmother, all those smart, sassy, sexy women who defined themselves on their own terms, not those set by men, movie studios, or the fashion industry. It was tough for my mother when she became the first woman in our Astoria neighborhood to go to work. So, not only were we foreign, spoke another language, dressed and ate differently from everyone else, we were now changing social norms as well.

But she taught me not to apologize for it, not to try and disappear into American culture as if my identity and Italian roots were something to be ashamed of. ‘We’re humans not baking soda’, she said. ‘We don’t assimilate and become indistinguishable. Rather we throw pinches and tosses of our unique flavors into that exuberant recipe that is humankind.’

I took that to heart and stood up for my mother the next day when she was struggling with an English phrase and someone gave her a disparaging look. I reminded the critic that my mother spoke two languages to her one. Then I spoke to my mother in Italian and for the first time I was not embarrassed to have someone hear me do it.

They say the book you write has always been inside you in some form. So perhaps this book is simply the voice of my nine-year-old self, decades later saying, ‘See? I told you Italians were cool.’

Review - HERE!
Based on the title, I thought this was a book about fashion. Instead I found your love for all things Italian - growing up in the culture, fashion, history, art, music and food.  I am curious how you would describe this book that hints to all the treasures readers will find within it's pages.

Interestingly enough, it did start out as a fashion book but, upon reading the first few chapters, my insightful publisher, Julie Salisbury, recommended I tell the immigrant story. She saw ‘Sass’ as a book about heritage. And, in fact, heritage underlies the very essence of Italian style, along with three other elements; community, conscious consumerism, and an appreciation for art in all its forms.

As an immigrant you’re always in a state of ‘otherness’, part of two cultures but never fully one or the other. As first generation, born in Italy with Italian as our native language this was particularly true for our family. We didn’t have a third or fourth generation relative living here to educate us on the American way of life. Transatlantic travel was not as accessible as it is today, so many of our Italian American friends had never been to Italy to experience its art and authenticity firsthand.

Our frequent trips back to our homeland re-affirmed elements of our heritage my parents were determined to preserve. One was this idea to make simple ordinary moments extraordinary every minute of every day. When you live fully with integrity and passion and with the openness to seek and to see beauty around you the way an artist does, you are living in Italian.

Italians draw on art to make art of life. It’s that simple.

Your love for Italy really comes through and you mention hoping to live in Italy in your book. Did you ever move to Italy and live for a period of time?  How often do you visit?

I grew up with a romantic view of Italy because of my father’s stories. He gave me the book ‘The Passionate Sightseer’ by Bernard Berenson when I was too young to appreciate it. It inspired a lifelong fascination with art, travel, and Tuscany. So whenever we traveled back to Italy, often for months at a time, I was tuned into the beauty I was about to witness. I can still vividly recollect my first time in Piazza di Spagna in Rome, approaching Brunelleschi’s Duomo at dawn via bicycle, and the smell of roasting chestnuts in my Nonna Laura’s house in Antrosano.

Over the years I’ve tried to visit Italy every year, sometimes on business and often with my family. I can tell you that every time as the plane descends over Fiumicino I think of my first espresso at a bar in Trastevere and feel a burst of joy come over me. I’m always sad when I leave but then, even after so many years, I still feel a rush of excitement when I see the lights of my beloved New York City from inside a yellow cab.

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?

I start with a morning meditation followed by thirty minutes of free write to shake out the cobwebs. Then I do some stretches and go outside to do something physical; a workout, a long brisk walk. After an espresso I start writing on the keyboard and try not to let writer’s block ruin my day. In general I write in the mornings and in the evenings. In between I work on other projects.

Although I try to write every day I periodically have to walk away, get outside, and think about something else. That’s when inspiration does hit, whenever I’m in motion and not at a keyboard or a desk, so I keep an old-fashioned notebook and pencil handy, even in my gym bag.

A technique that helps against writer’s block is handwriting an entire chapter in a notebook before typing it into the computer. Handwriting is more honest. There is something about the tactile sensation of a pen scrawling across paper. You don’t edit yourself as much, and when you read it out loud you always find something worth keeping.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore? How about the publishing process? Any tips for new authors?

What I love most is how writing makes me feel so alive. It makes me ‘woke’ as they say these days. Not in the early stages when you’re struggling through multiple drafts wondering why you ever chose to become a writer in the first place.

But later, once you finally figure out where to take the narrative. You feel it in your gut, and you just write, making mistakes along the way, like hitting potholes on a road. But you bounce back up determined to keep going, and then you’re ready to pick up speed and take on the hairpin turns. It takes awhile to get there but it’s worth it.

What feels like a chore is fighting my own self-doubt every time I stare at a blank screen. I’ve learned over the years that if the words don’t come, do something else. The muse will appear when it’s least convenient; while you’re walking in the street, on line at the farmers’ market, working on another project, or daydreaming. That’s how it works. Even when you feel you’re not working on your book, you actually are. It’s in your head and one day something happens, or you see a film, read a story, have a conversation, and it connects to your book in some way, taking the story in a new and better direction.

The publishing process was painless, thanks to Julie Salisbury of Influence Publishing, her team, and the Influence Authors community. They guided me every step of the way. At that point I was just happy to have the book finished.

What would you most like readers to know about you.

I would love to get to know my readers. I’m curious about how my books affect them, if in any way what they read inspires them to do something differently. George Sanders, whose talents I can only dream of emulating, once answered the question ‘why we write’. He said ‘we write to become better people’. So I hope my books inspire people to value themselves more, to venture out and connect with others different from themselves, to embark on a new adventure, to challenge stereotypes and bias, to treasure small moments, and to be as bad ass as they want to be.

I’m passionate about social justice. I don’t know if it’s because of my own immigrant experience, from reading Dickens and Dante, or from my parents teaching me that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, but I cannot stand to see people treated unfairly. Those themes keep emerging in my work and will continue with even more conviction going forward. ‘Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos’ enabled me to find my voice and now that I’ve found it I’m not shutting up.

Do you have any new books in the planning or writing stage?

Yes. Three projects in fact. I love collaborations so one is a book on how to live in Italian wherever you live in the world. I’ll be collaborating with two other women writers, both of whom, like myself, were born in Italy and lived in the US, Francesca Belluomini and Flavia Brunetti. We represent three generations. I also have a collection of short stories all set in Italy and needing a home. Finally a work of non-fiction that will feature fearless women who challenge the status quo and are making a difference in confronting the major issues of our times.  

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn

Friday, April 20, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week F/W18 - VCC Fashion Grad Exhibit 2018

Runway images by Harry Leonard Imagery and J Collen Jones (as marked)


When I stepped into the fashion world in the summer of 2007, I really was clueless. But fortunately my early connections were good ones.  One of the first fashion shows I attended was the Vancouver Community College (VCC) grad fashion show called Fiat Mode - a much anticipated show that has been exciting audiences for 30 years. 

I still remember how inspired I was after the show. As I headed for home, I promised myself I would make an effort to attend all fashion design grad shows I was able to, and would offer media support to as many young designers as I could. I still hold to that promise today.

Here I am 11 years later and the VCC grad showcase has grown from a separate show to become a regular part of the Vancouver Fashion Week line-up. What a wonderful opportunity for these new-to-the-scene talents to get a chance to present their work not just in front of friends and family, but on a wider fashion week stage with audience members who may or may not love what they see.

This format lets them experience the chaotic energy of a backstage not set up just for their convenience.  They learn how to deal with hair and make-up teams who are working feverishly for a large number of designers as well how to coordinate their section with the VFW runway choreographer. And the feedback they get will come from not just friendly faces, but the audience and media at large.

This season we saw the work of 4 very talented graduates offering a wide variety of aesthetics. They showcased collections with from 5 to 11 looks, depending on the designer. Each offered a strong, totally unique line-up and every garment showcased strong tailoring skills. A fifth student is listed below who did not participate in the runway show, so I have included 2 editorial images of her work.


Off World Rebels by James Jurome

The collection mixes vintage silhouettes and simple textiles with surface design details to create a futuristic, sci-fi, rebel with a nod to the modern vintage man. Using a neutral and drab textile palette as a base allows bright screen prints to pop and to give the appearance of floating on the textile surface.

James Jurome is a new menswear designer who originates from Kelowna, Canada. He chooses to use hemp fabric in support of a sustainable future, and plans to work with textile mills and factories which support fair wages and ethical treatment of garment workers and the environment.

TÒU by Stella Chu

Stella was inspired by the photos and videos she took while travelling in the summer. while looking at the natural scenery, landscapes, architecture, textures and portraits she captured, she started to write down all the Chinese characters that inspired her.

Chinese characters have a complex form. The beautify of Chinese characters is that one character may have different meanings.  By looking up the definition of the characters, breaking down each character into components and realizing how each character is formed, she picked "TÒU" to be the inspiration for the season.  The original meaning of "TÒU" is "wander through the world." It also has the extended meanings of transparent, clear, to penetrate, to pass through, to show, to reveal, fully, completely, and to leak out.

Folded Abstractions by Nico Gruzling

The fashion industry is undergoing revolutionary change as new technologies for design, manufacturing and marketing change the way we work, and or capacity to create. Nico's artistic vision embraces technology, using it to create distinctive fabrications resulting in one-of-a-kind garments with clever, utilitarian details.She uses materials that have been transformed in unexpected ways, using knit fabrics, borrowing elements from techniques including collage, laser cutting, and digital printing. Her designs aim to bring appreciation to the everyday; using custom sizing and unique construction to transform the routine of daily dress.

Folded Abstractions is a Fall/Winter 2018 collection. The collection takes inspiration from the art of Louise Bourgeois exploring ideas of feminism and transformation and reflects on them through work informed by the paper art of Origami.

Circus Circus by Kathryn Potter

It has become acceptable for chain stores to brazenly copy designers' collections as soon as they set foot on the runway. For Kathryn's graduation show, she has examined this concept by pirating her own luxury women's wear collection, Circus Circus.

Circus Circus is a menagerie of entertainment, playful illusion and electrified drama that has a dark, mysterious side. Characters from the Victorian circus are brought to life by mixing the unexpected, extreme dark to lights, forming colour clashes.  Drawing on her past experience in designing show stopping bridal and evening wear, she has taken traditional garments and reimagined them in street wear fabrics. Couture fabrics and high end features are combined with modern knits in lounge wear styles for a fresh look.

For her pirated collection, she has taken key design elements and fabrics from Circus Circus and toned them down for more accessible, simplified versions for the mass market.

Art Photo Clothing by Gisela Cindy Sulistyaningrum

This designer did not show a collection on the runway. 

Gisela Cindy is a student who has a highly attuned passion for social media, photography and styling. The idea of building her portfolio through Instagram has had the biggest impact on her career.

For her, it has become her journal to show people what interests her in fashion and photography. As an influencer, every post is leading to another where the theme is built.

For more information on the fashion program at Vancouver Community College, please visit their website at or email the fashion Program Coordinator Sarah Murray at

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken

Image and recipe Blog Chef
I am always drooling over cooking videos posted on Facebook.  This time it was a chicken recipe using a mix of honey and mustard for the marinade, then baked with bacon and cheese on top.  However, in reading the notes, this was adapted from another recipe which had mushrooms in it and I seriously adore mushrooms.

As I had the name of the original, it didn't take long to find other options.  Some used regular yellow mustard, some used Dijon which I am guessing is the most authentic. Some used only Monterey Jack cheese, some a mix of Jack and Cheddar.  I decided to go with this version, but I didn't notice the change to Dijon Mustard which I actually like better. No worries it still tasted great.

As always, after perusing several recipes I made a few changes.  I followed the recipe up to putting the chicken in the baking dish, but went ahead and topped the breasts with the 2 slices of bacon and a pile of sauteed mushrooms. Then I covered with foil and baked for 25 minutes. At that time I uncovered and topped with the cheese and popped it back in until melted.  I also skipped the adding the Paprika and the Parsley.  It received rave reviews.

This recipe is easy and delicious.  It's a little heavier than the normal dinner fair I offer, but great for an occasional meal. It would also be a wonderful, filling choice for company and as an added bonus really looks great on the plate.


= = = =

Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken


½ C          Dijon mustard (can also use Yellow Mustard if you prefer it)
½ C          Honey
1 ½ tsps   Vegetable oil
½ tsp        Lemon juice
1 T           Vegetable oil
2 C           Fresh mushrooms (sliced)
2 T           Butter
Salt, Pepper, Paprika (optional)
8              Slices cooked bacon
1 C          Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 C          Shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp        Fresh parsley (finely chopped) - Optional

Cooking Instructions:

In small bowl whisk together Dijon mustard, honey, 1 ½ teaspoons of oil and lemon juice. Add the chicken breasts into a large container. Pour about 2/3 of the honey mustard sauce over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Cover the remaining honey mustard sauce, refrigerate and reserve until later.

In a small frying pan melt the butter. Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have reached your desired tenderness. Remove from heat.

Lightly grease a 9×13” baking dish. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove chicken breasts from the marinade (discard the marinade) and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Add the chicken breasts to the pan and sear on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Place the chicken breasts into the baking dish. (NOTE - here is where I topped with the bacon and mushrooms and covered the dish in foil. In the final step below I only had to add the cheese.)

Place into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. During the last few minutes of cooking top each chicken breast with mushrooms, 2 slices of bacon, ¼ cup Monterey jack, ¼ cup of cheddar. Bake until the cheese has melted.

Sprinkle each chicken breast with ½ teaspoon of parsley before serving. Serve with the refrigerated honey-mustard sauce (note - I drizzled a little on the individual servings instead).
(Makes 4 Servings)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Ticket by Fred Shackelford


Synopsis -

Channing Booker, a compulsive gambler, drug abuser, and philanderer whose marriage is failing, finally gets lucky and wins the Mega Millions lottery. Expecting an imminent divorce, and hoping to hide his new fortune from his wife Susan, Channing devises a scheme to have a friend claim the $241-million jackpot and secretly return the money to Channing after the divorce is final. But Susan flees with all of her possessions, including the rare book in which Channing hid the winning lottery ticket.

With time running out before the lottery ticket expires, Channing launches a desperate search to find Susan, but she’s covered her tracks well, fearing his retribution. In need of money to fund her furtive new lifestyle, Susan begins selling off her worldly goods, including her rare books, unleashing a chain of events that puts not only her life in danger, but that of her new love as well…

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ Barnes & Noble  Abe Books ~ ​Alibris ~ Black Opal Books  ~ Fiction  ~ DB ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ScribD ~ Smashwords ~ Wordery  Books-a-Million Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author -

Fred Shackelford is a Virginia attorney who lives on farmland that his great-great-grandfather purchased in 1817. Before writing his début novel The Ticket, he published Judges Say the Darndest Things, a collection of humorous excerpts from legal opinions. Fred is a graduate of the University of Virginia. The Ticket was a finalist for The Clue Awards from Chanticleer Book Reviews, a finalist for the National Indie Excellence Awards, and a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook 

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

ICE by Lauren Carr (A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery)

The clues for a close-to-the-heart missing person’s case heat up when Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on the cold case.

Synopsis - 

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappear, the court of public opinion finds young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

Lauren Carr has added a new series with the
​Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries!

Review - 

When you've read every single book by a favourite author, it's always an exciting day when they launch a new series. Such is the case with Lauren Carr and ICE.  All her previous book series centered around characters that were in some way connected. With the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery series we step into a whole new world.

Chris Matheson is a strong male character, a former FBI agent and a single dad of three girls. He moves home to the family farm to live with his mum after his dad dies so they can help each other. Due to circumstances, his return home is not easy.  Many years before Sandy Lipton, girl he went to high school with, had accused him of getting her pregnant. Shortly before giving birth she mysteriously disappeared.  While Chris denied any involvement with Sandy, there is no way to prove his innocence as she literally vanished into thin air.

Enter the Geezer Squad. Disguised as a book club, this group of retired professional men and women discreetly look into solving cold cases.  Chris Matheson is brought into the club not really knowing it was more than a book club, but he quickly becomes a part.  After he shares Sandy's story, the group decides to step in.

As the mystery surrounding the young teenager's disappearance slowly begins to unfold, the danger increases. Chris finds himself working closely with a member of the local police - Helen Clarke - his first love who broke his heart for reasons unknown. The suspects continue to multiply as the two find themselves drawn closer together, their passion reigniting.  The ending, when it comes, will surprise you.

ICE holds many of the elements Lauren Carr fans love about her books - strong, independent male and female characters, wonderful dogs full of character, a mystery that needs solving, a bit of humour and a good splash of danger.  However, this series has a bit of a darker flavour to it which I loved.  Not too much. Just enough to keep me turning those pages one after another.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author
Fab new behind the scenes author interview - HERE!
Previous Author Interview covering her journey to become a writer - HERE!
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

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Interview with Lauren Carr, Author of ICE (A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery)

Read a previous interview with Lauren Carr covering her journey to becoming an author HERE!

I have read all your books and reviewed many. Up to this point the characters in the different series have had a thread connecting them. With ICE you start from scratch with a whole new cast and direction. What inspired this new series and edgier story line?

Last year, I saw a documentary about a group of former classmates investigating the cold case of their teacher, who had gone missing, only to be found murdered months later. I was inspired by these women, all in their fifties and sixties, combining their talents to solve this cold case. I was working on another book then, so I just tucked the idea into the back of my mind. Every now and then I would bring it to the forefront and massage it for a while. I was very intrigued by the ensemble group of middle-aged detectives combining their talents to work on this case that kept them up at night—a complete departure from my other series.

The character of the protagonist, Chris Matheson came at about the same time. The storyline for ICE called for an ensemble cast—the Geezer Squad. But, I needed a character to be the anchor. The reader meets the Geezer Squad through Chris, who is an outsider because he’s a young law enforcement retiree. I myself have a few friends who either joined the military or went to work for the federal government right out of high school—making them eligible to retire in their early to mid-forties. Technically, Chris is able to join the Geezer Squad. But because of his youth, he’s an outsider who has a lot to learn.

Review - HERE!
After working with such a strong set of characters through over 20 books, was it hard or exhilarating (or both) to start at the very beginning with blank page for this new series? What was best about changing direction? what was hardest?

It was both hard and exhilarating at the same time. It was exhilarating to do something different. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mac Faraday and his family and friends. They have such great chemistry! I wouldn’t have gone in a different direction to create the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries if I hadn’t been inspired to do so. Honestly, I did not wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to create a whole new series with all new characters.” It just happened.

But, once I started working on ICE, I faced the challenge of making Chris Matheson’s character different from Mac Faraday, Joshua Thornton, or any of the other male protagonists in my other three series. I did not want any readers to accuse me of taking Murphy Thornton, changing his name, and sticking him another series.

So I spent a lot of time with Chris before I started on ICE. Chris is notably gentler than my other male protagonists. He has to be due to his circumstances. He’s surrounded by women. He’s a single father to three little girls. He lives with his mother—a strong independent woman who recently lost her husband. Even their pets are female—until Sterling joins them.

He’s got the gentle hands of a loving father and son, but the heart of a fighter. 

While not heavy, this plot did feel a bit darker and edgier to me. Because you are so good at bringing these characters to life, I assume you get drawn into the book's mood as you write. At the end of your writing day, how do you put aside that edgier world and let go? What do you do to relax and have fun? 

Humor. I find humor in everything. Many readers have noted the humorous twists that I insert between the lines in my book. Maybe some would consider me warped in that way.

I remember shortly after my husband and I got married close to thirty years ago, my mother and stepfather visited us. The next morning, my mother said she had trouble sleeping because Jack and I had spent half of the night laughing. Not having sex—like most newlyweds, but laughing. She said it made her happy that we were such a joyful couple.

Three decades later, we still make each other laugh on a daily basis. Our son says we’re embarrassing. 

That’s something that I do strive for in every situation. No matter how dark or dire, I search for the humor in life. If you keep your eye out for it, you will find it. That humor, even just a touch of it, is what makes things look a little bit better.

I also strive to inject that in my mysteries. Even though murder mysteries are by nature a dark subject, the humor helps to lighten things just a tad to hopefully brighten up my readers’ days. 

Every title of yours I have read has at least one pet full of personality as a part of the cast. Each is unique. Do you spend as much time developing their personalities as you do the human characters in your books? 

Yes. I have learned that animals are like people. Each one has their own separate personality and quirks. Readers may assume that the things that the animals do in my books are mostly from my active imagination, but that’s not true. Everything that the critters do in my books have been done by real live animals—including Sterling using a low hanging branch as a swing to take him on a ride. A reader sent a YouTube video of a police canine doing that.

In the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries, Sterling is based on my new German Shepherd, who is the nephew of the real Gnarly, who passed away a little over a year ago of cancer. I did spend a lot of time studying Sterling, who is indeed smart like his uncle. But, he’s also a loveable goof-ball. That’s what I wanted to emphasize in ICE. 

Looking back through all of the strong female characters you have created, do you see parts of your personality reflected in any of these characters? I'd love to hear a few examples.

There are bits of me in every one of my main female characters—some real, some fantasy.

For example, the character of Helen is a bright, successful, pretty, police lieutenant. However, underneath it all, she is very insecure. She feels like a fraud because of the childhood that she had kept secret from Chris. Even she notes that over thirty years later, after everything that she had overcome and achieved, she still feels like damaged goods—like she’s not good enough for Chris.

I haven’t endured the horrible background that Helen had. But I did grow up a poor farm girl, and was the first person in my family to go to college. There has been a part of me that made me feel like a fraud—all because of things that are basically ancient history. It was the sense of vulnerability that Helen kept hidden from Chris, and eventually was forced to reveal to him, I wanted to bring out in Helen.

The character of Doris Matheson, Chris’s mother, ended up being a big surprise for me. I discovered while proofreading ICE, that her character is very much like my mother, who passed away last September. I did not realize that while I was writing the book or even going through the edits. It was while proofreading it that I was struck by the dialogue between her and Chris. The biting, witty, and loving tone between the mother and son was the same as what I shared with my mother. It was almost like I was channeling that special relationship we shared.

As a fellow author I am always astounded at how prolific you are. What tips do you have for those of us that struggle to get new works out regularly?

I treat my writing like a job. It’s a job I love, but it is still a job.

I keep a regular schedule. The mornings are devoted to “business.” That is social media, answering emails, and book promotion. The afternoons are spent writing. If I’m on a real roll, I’ll write in the evening, too. Or, I may do research.

I set deadlines for myself and fight tooth and nail to stick to them. I have two projects going at any one time. Right now, I am working on interviews and guest posts for the ICE tour, writing the next Thorny Rose Mystery, and mentally plotting the next Mac Faraday Mystery.

My situation does allow me to be flexible, but I still treat myself like an employee. If I miss a deadline, I’ll beat myself up like a slave-driving boss. 

I think I read you have another title in the works due out in the fall. Can you please share a teaser about your next project?

I am working on two books that I expect to be released early summer and another this fall.

Look for Murder by Perfection, the third Thorny Rose Mystery, early this summer.

Frustrated with their busy schedules, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday attempt to find togetherness taking a couple’s gourmet cooking course at the Stepford Kitchen Studio. Successful Chef Natalie Stepford is the model of today’s modern woman—perfect in looks, home, and business.

When Natalie ends up dead, the Thorny Rose detectives peel back the layers of Natalie Stepford’s life to discover that the pursuit of perfection can be deadly.

But wait! There’s more! Look for a Mac Faraday Mystery this fall! The next installment in the Mac Faraday Mysteries will be coming out just in time for Christmas - A Murder for Christmas (working title).

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram