Archive | January, 2011

An Outfit for Hawaii

31 Jan

As you read this, I’m somewhere on the Big Island of Hawaii. The next few days will likely be spent sleeping, swimming, hanging on the beach, hiking, biking, surfing and sleeping some more.

I put together an outfit for a fun afternoon of wandering around Hawaii. Let me warn you: I spent a good part of my 20s living on a hilltop over looking a Mediterranean beach. I used to have to trudge down a banana hill to get to the beach. Those walks in 40+ heat left a mark on my beach style, which is comfortable, practical and not terribly girlish.

First, the bikini. I love this one from Shoshanna. It reminds me of one of my early faves, a black number from Top Shop:

Then, I always love worn-in denim shorts. Mine are from Abercrombie:

On the top, I wear an old white men’s button-down, wore to light summery perfection. This one from J. Crew would work perfectly:

For shoes, sorry, girls, I’m going practical. I expect my beach afternoons will involve clamoring over rocks to explore as much as possible. Let me introduce the shoe that’s carried me miles and miles and miles, the Birkenstock Ramses (did I just hear a groan from every stylist I know?) :

I’ve found Old Navy is a treasure trove of affordable beach bags. I like this cross-body striped number:

And to keep my freckles from popping out, I wear a hat similar to this Melissa Obadash panana hat:

We’ll talk sunglasses later on this week! Have a great Monday, lovelies.



A Glam Manicure

28 Jan

I rarely paint my nails. Not because I don’t love the look, but because I’m lazy.

So, whenever I have the opportunity to have a manicure, I feel supremely pampered. I felt that way last weekend at Urban Venus, where my mom kindly treated us to manicures.

Just walking into Urban Venus’s downtown location makes me happy. The decor is clean and bright, the girls are friendly and the place smells great. (The smell is thanks to their custom moisturizers; I chose the Pina Colada scent.)

Choosing nail polish colours — especially from such a great collection of OPI shades — is always a difficult task. The last few years, I’ve been drawn to dark, deep colours; my staple shades are Lincoln Park After Dark and Dark Cherry Chutney.

But, when Emily, my blogging style icon over at Cupcakes and Cashmere, showcased her sparkly nails in a recent post, I thought they looked fantastic. And when the girl doing my nails at Urban Venus said they’d done sparkly nails on all of the performers they took care of at last year’s MuchMusic Video Awards, I was sold on the idea. (I’m no performer, but I do like trying new things.)

We used two colours: Black Onyx as a base, at left in the picture below, and then Mad As a Hatter, at right.

The end result was different than what I’m used to — and that’s why I loved the manicure so much.

I felt like I had jewelry for nails, which was fun, but probably not ideal for wearing to work. The next time I bust out a glam manicure, I’ll have to ensure I have a glam week to match.


Winter Pregnancy Fashion

27 Jan

Both my sister and sister-in-law are pregnant and due within the next few months. Neither can zip her winter coat up over her growing belly. Neither wants to fork out dollars for a super-sized jacket that only fits for a few months.

With five weeks left to go, my sister’s belly is big. On days when it’s -20 and colder, she pulls on her husband’s puffy parka — pretty funny as her husband is well over six feet. But on warmer winter days, Nicole pulls on a super stylish knitted shawl, scarf and toque combo from Pieces, a Danish company with a few outposts in eastern Canada. Her husband picked it up the set for her on a recent trip to the Netherlands. It’s perfect for keeping the cold away from her belly.

Check out this stylish pregnant lady:

So you can get a sense of the baby bump that she’s covering, here she is shawl-less. Looks lovely, don’t you think?

This is my favourite shot. It looks like she’s saying, “Oh my! I think I’m going to have a baby!”

*Photos courtesy of Martin Zacharias


5 Questions with Design+Conquer

26 Jan

I first met and wrote about Morgan Mallett, the jewelry designer genius behind Design + Conquer, in 2009 — not long after she founded her company and began creating gorgeous pieces out of flexible plastic polymer.

Since then, big things have happened. Morgan and her creations been featured in all kinds of publications. Sook Yin-Lee wore Mallet’s Tron earrings at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Refinery29, the famous fashion website, featured Design + Conquer in its “Hot New Products” feature. And, recently, Morgan has a new email pen pal: Perez Hilton.

Morgan heard that Perez is looking to feature young fashion designers on his new site, Coco Perez, so she sent him a video with her work. He replied and has asked to see another, more personalized, video, which he suggested should be “fun, fruit and cute.” Morgan will be submitting that soon, and we’re, of course, rooting for her; the exposure she’d receive would be fantastic.

In the midst of juggling her daytime job (graphic design for the University of Calgary), planning the video for Perez and designing, cutting and hand-making every piece of D + C jewelry, she squeezed in a coffee date with me last Sunday. Read on for 5 Questions with Morgan Mallett.

But first, here is the lovely Morgan herself, as photographed by Calgary photog Noah Fallis:

What’s your spring/summer collection for 2011 all about?

I was really inspired by Expo ’67. I was fascinated by the graphic design, the architecture and the grandeur of the event itself. I later found out both my parents attended and thought that was pretty neat. It was huge, and a unifying event for Canada.

How does that play out in your designs?

I never like to be literal, like, hey, here’s a flower! It’s more the shapes I’ve seen, and maybe not in Expo ’67 even, but in that era. I repeat them and arrange them differently. And the colours, too. They’re modern, but they’re also taken from that time, like the oranges and greens from textile patterns.

**On that note, check out Morgan’s Lounge Earrings, which were photographed by Greg Swales:

And her Radio-Canada Earrings, which I adore:

 Many of your pieces are bold. How do you suggest women wear them?

 I’ve got a variety of sizes. There are larger, more statement earrings and there are smaller ones, which are more stereotypical, for every day wear. It really depends on the person. I have a client in New York who received a pair of big earrings but was disappointed they weren’t even bigger, so she asked me to make a custom pair. I think a lot of people, like me, don’t find exactly what they’re looking for in stores. [With my pieces], you’re making a statement by wearing an accessory that really reflects you and that no one else has. That’s one of my goals.

What’s a typical Saturday like for you in the YYC?

I usually get up around 9, workout, have breakfast, walk the cats outside and then I’ll get to work, emailing different designers and clients. I sketch, listen to music, make a pair of earrings. If I had a really set schedule, I don’t think I’d be as creative. And then I try to get out with friends. You can only stay so long in your design lair, hatching and scheming plans. You’ve got to get out there.

You exercise, you’re a vegetarian, you support animal causes. What’s your guiltiest pleasure, food or otherwise?

Let’s see, here. Where do I begin? I will buy the odd tabloid magazine and enjoy the suffering of others. (laughs) No, no. I definitely like a healthy lifestyle. I’m not big into partying but I do enjoy going out once in a while. But that’s not the goal for me. I love designing and that’s what I’m here for.

You can buy Morgan’s pieces online or at AG Silver Boutique in Calgary’s Fashion Central.

Once I decide which pair of earrings I must have, I’ll be placing an order, myself.

~ Michelle

My Mom’s Moussaka

25 Jan

This post could also be called Why You Should Live Close To Your Mom.

I created my own winter boot camp this weekend. The boy and I had a glorious snowy day of skiing at Lake Louise on Friday. I followed that up with a super long run Saturday, thanks to sunny skies and a new running watch (thanks, Santa). On Sunday — which was supposed to be my recovery day — we set off on a leg-busting cross-country ski around Pocaterra Trails in Kananaskis. Here’s a photo from Trail Peaks:

By the time we got back to Calgary, we were sweaty, sore and starving — and just in time for Sunday dinner at my parents. My wise mom (knowing we’d be starving) made moussaka for dinner. If you’ve never had it, it’s like a Greek lasagna but instead of cheese, pasta and tomatoes, it’s made with creamy bechemel, eggplant and potatoes. In other words, it’s precisely the type of hearty comfort food that’s needed after a day of skiing.

Like much Greek fare, moussaka recipes differ based on region. Some chefs use potatoes, some don’t. Some make it with beef, others prefer lamb. My family relies a Cypriot recipe with optional potatoes, optional zucchini and lamb. It comes from a small cookbook called The Taste of Cyprus, by Gilli Davis, that my mom, sisters and I own and love.


  • 2 lb (1kg) aubergines or courgettes or a mixtures of both, trimmed and sliced lengthwise in thick slices
  • 2 large potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 glass/100 mL olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 lb (450) minced beef or lamb
  • 2 large tomatoes, grated or 1 -400 g tn of tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 glass/100 mL of red wine
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the White Sauce:

  • 3 oz/75  butter
  • 4 level tablespoons flour
  • 1 pint warm milk
  • ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 glass/2 oz grated cheese — halloumi, kefalotiri or tasty cheddar

1. Immerse the aubergine slices in lightly salted water for 30 minutes, and then rise and squeeze them gently, pat dry with a kitchen towel. The courgettes need no attention.

2. Fry the aubergine or courgette slices in 3/4 of the oil, turned the slices so that they brown but don’t cook through. Leave them to drain on kitchen paper.

3. In another pan, fry the onions till soft in the rest of the oil, then add the meat and stir to break it up. Add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, seasoning and wine and continue to cook for 25 minutes when the liquid should be absorbed.

4. For the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and then add the warm milk gradually, whisking hard to remove any lumps. Take the saucepan away from the heat and stir in the seasoning, spices and cheese. Make sure that the sauce has cooled before adding the eggs.

To assemble the moussaka

Either use a 10″ x 10″ baking dish or six individual pots and line the base with slices of cooked aubergine or courgette. Add a layer of cooked potato if you are using it.

Now spread the meat in a layer over the aubergine and cover with the remainder of the aubergine and potato.

Cover the top of the moussaka with the white sauce and bake in a moderate oven, 350 F for about 50 minutes until the top is a good crusty brown.

Pour glass of wine. Enjoy.

PS – Those who know me well are sure to comment about the fact that I posted a recipe with potatoes as I have a lifelong hatred of potatoes. Of course, I didn’t eat the potatoes. S. ate them on my behalf.

Mayday! Avenue Diner is Closed

24 Jan

Say it isn’t so. One of my favourite brunch spots, Avenue Diner, is temporarily closing its doors. If you’ve never had “The Ultimate” Fried Egg Sandwich at Avenue, well, no point in sweating it now, I suppose. There’s nothing you can do but wait for the new location to open up, at which point you must, must order and ingest the fantastic sandwich goodness.

Back to the closure: My parents and I stopped in at Avenue Diner yesterday for breakfast, not knowing it was the last day the cozy restaurant will ever operate at the 105 8 Ave. S.W. location — where it’s been since it opened its doors in 2003. Here’s the sad news that greeted us upon arrival:

A bigger kitchen is in order, said our waitress. So, they’re on the hunt for new space and are hoping to reopen in a few months. Here are the cooks whipping up some of the last breakfasts:

Till Avenue reopens, I’ll be making a point to hit some of my other fave brunch spots in town, including but not limited to The Dairy Lane, Belmont DinerAKA winebar and Overeasy. And maybe I’ll finally get around to trying Red’s Diner on 4th St. S.W. So many possibilities, so few Sunday mornings.

Goodbye for now, Avenue Diner. Can’t wait to check out your new digs.


An Outfit for a Movie Matinee

21 Jan

Hooray, hooray, I’m playing hooky from work today! As you’re reading this, the boy and I are heading to the mountains for a day of skiing.

Tomorrow, if I can still walk, I’m planning a movie  matinee. I’m want to check off The King’s Speech from my must-see list. I’d hate to be poorly educated on Oscar night.

It’s supposed to be semi-sunny and warm this weekend, the perfect opportunity to bust out this cozy sweater from Zara. I love the double-breasted Grandpa thing that’s going on here:

Note the awesome elbow patches:

I’ll add comfy pants, an ongoing theme — I realize — in my wardrobe. Believe me, you work from home long enough and comfy pants become a way of life. A few readers suggested that I try out these Paige Denim Verdugo jeggings, sans heels. Heidi Klum likes them, too.

Continuing with the comfy theme, a slouchy tee is in order. I have this one from the Gap, and wear it more often than I want to admit on a blog.

I’d top it off with this slouchy cardy beanie from UGG Australia. (I hear our friend and stylist Leah groaning now but, Leah, this way I don’t have to do my hair):

And a fun bag from Anthropologie, big enough for a water bottle and maybe a steamed milk, balanced precariously inside, and a dark chocolate bar, preferably with sea salt. I’ll need the extra calories up after skiing on Friday. Well, let’s pretend I’ll need them.

For shoes, these Roberto Del Carlo‘s would do nicely.

Have a good weekend, lovelies!


Innocent Pride Scarves

20 Jan

I love scarves. They’re versatile, remind me of chic French style and are an inexpensive way to completely change the look of an outfit.

Which brings me to Katrina Mastronardi, an Edmontonian who designs and hand-makes some beautiful and funky creations, called Innocent Pride Scarves. Mastronardi’s scarves are quickly developing a following; on the cover of the latest issue of Parlour magazine, the model is wearing Innocent Pride. The magazine also included Mastronardi in their “We Love” list.

I began to covet my own Innocent Pride scarf on Christmas Day, when Laura Halvorsen, a good friend to the Magnan siblings, stopped by our parents’ house for a visit. She was wearing an Innocent Pride scarf, and I was immediately smitten with the loop of material, the leather cuff and the unique look it added to Laura’s denim shirt. (As we know, lately I’m all about how to wear the denim shirt.):

Next time I’m in Edmonton, I may have to figure out a way to get my hands on one of Katrina’s gorgeous scarves.

Now, let’s get back to Laura. She’s awesome. Not only is she a Westjet market researcher, but she’s a yogi, yoga teacher and a talented musician, songwriter and singer.

I’m not the only one to dub her awesome. Last summer, Laura won Calgary is Awesome’s songwriting competition, called Shot at the Dark. Check out the video they shot of her singing the winning song, called Apartment Floor.

On that note, Laura is writing and recording new songs, and uploading them to her Apartment Series on YouTube. Be sure to check back often, because she’s posting new material all the time.


A Cheezy Story

19 Jan

Do you remember when I promised to tell you my odd remedy for a stomach bug?  I’m sure you’ve been lying awake at night from curiosity. Wait no longer, friends. With reports of stomach bugs going around,  I figure it’s a good time for my story. Grab your coffee — this one’s a doozy.

My remedy: parmesan cheese. Here’s why…

Years ago, I went on a humanitarian medical mission to Tbilisi, Georgia, with a team of Italian surgeons that I’d originally met in Mexico.  We arranged the whole thing via cellphone as I was walking through banana plantations on my way to the beach on a Mediterranean island.

Still with me?

I met up with the surgeons in Milan and we flew through Turkey to Tbilisi. The Italians showed up late to the airport, carrying ten two-kilogram blocks of parmesan cheese to give out as presents, along with 30 boxes of medical supplies. I never thought we’d make it to Tbilisi but we did.

See, here’s me:

The hospital was crumbling to bits, the equipment sorely out-of-date. The days were intense, grueling, fascinating. We’d start at 6 a.m. and work at the hospital 9 or 10 at night. After that, a local physician or politician would take us out to a restaurant to say thank you with a slow, belly-busting meal of Georgian delicacies. We’d dally over a five-, six-, eight- course meal, which was interrupted repeatedly for long speeches and mandatory vodka shots. The whole thing would take place under a ceiling of blue cigarette smoke. We’d finally roll into bed at 1 or 2 in the morning.

After a nearly a week of this, I woke up in the middle of the night, sicker than I’d ever been in my life. I’ll spare you the gory details but it continued through the next day and next night. On my second full-day of being sick, the head of the mission — Gianluigi, a well-known laparoscopic surgeon — came to visit me, carrying a block of cheese bigger than my head. He told me that I should eat some parmesan cheese. I told him he was nuts; the word cheese made my stomach do dive-bombs.

He told me, in his fantastic Italian accent, that he always eats parmesan cheese with bread for stomach bugs. His theory, as I recall, was that parmesan (“parma-a-giana”) helps balance the intestinal flora in our gut. I was skeptical. But given a choice between going to the hospital for an IV and eating parmesan cheese on the hotel balcony, I choose cheese.

It was no cure but I started to come back to life.  At the end of the trip, Gianluigi  sent me back to Canada with two kilos of parmesan cheese. (Try explaining that at customs!)

I’ve looked online and found nothing to back up the parmesan cheese theory so don’t blame me if it doesn’t work for you. All I’m saying is every time I get a stomach bug, it’s parmesan cheese on toast for me. It’s like the Italian version of chicken noodle soup.


PS — Telling this story reminded me of how much I loved khachapuri. Any one who has ever been to Georgia has eaten this cheese pie, which the LA Times called the most elaborate grilled cheese sandwich on earth. Here’s a recipe with yummy photos. If you’ve never had, try. Now.

Canadian Winter Wonders

18 Jan

Last spring, my friend Andrew quit his job, sold his condo and took off for a year of adventuring around the world. Since then, he’s floated in the Dead Sea, had monkeys steal his laundry and slept in the place where Buddha found enlightenment. (Check out his adventures here.)

This weekend, Andrew sent me a message that went something like this, “Hi Chris, I’m in Kerala, India, loving beach life. I’m drinking beers by the sea, after another +30 degree day.”

Hrmph. Well, Andrew, I’m drinking steamed milk with chocolate sprinkles at my desk, watching the sunrise on yet another morning of -20 temperatures, with an avalanche blocking the highways out from Lake Louise.

But, it’s not terrible. I’m quite cheery today. The morning is waking up beautiful and pink, and I’m taking Friday off to play in the mountains with S.

We’d go collectively bonkers in this country if we let cold weather dictate our happiness. In fact, our famously frigid Canadian winters have inspired some wonderful things like toboggans (a Canadian invention) and, one of my favourites, Lawren Harris’ Mount LeFroy.

For this cold pink morning, I put together a list of fun wintery pieces from Canadians — a reminder that -20 isn’t such a terrible state of affairs.

Like knitted sweaters and hats from Vancouver-based clothing label Granted. The label was launched in 2007 by a brother and sister whose parents started their hand-knitting company in 1978. I love the looks of this lumberjack vest:

And this fun deer toque:

I love my mitts by the small Ontario label Hides in Hand. You couldn’t wear these in conditions warmer than -10 — your hands would melt off from sweating.

Montreal’s La Canadienne is my go-to company for winter boots that are both stylish and practical. I own a pair of four-year-old wedges that still come out for dress-up events on bitterly cold days. For more casual affairs, I like this fun pair from their 2010 collection:

What’s winter without hot chocolate? I’m hooked on Calgary’s Choklat, one of only two chocolatiers in Canada that make their own chocolate. They also bake brownies that will make you hear angels. (If you like wine and chocolate — who doesn’t? — check out the fun pairing list that local wine shop Zyn and Choklat put together.)

And other good things that come along with winter: chinooks, ski weekends with friends, coming home to garlicky tortellini soup made by the boy, hunkering down for a night of Cranium, outdoor skating rinks, fuzzy socks and those icy crystals that dance in the air.

(Of course, Andrew, if you want to buy me a ticket to visit you in Kerala, I can leave this afternoon.)


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