26.4.13

Book Club Friday: Sharp Objects




Almost everyone I know has read GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn, and it’s no real surprise because that book is ballin’. Last week, I was looking for new reads and after crusing through my local library’s available e-books, I checked-out SHARP OBJECTS aka The Creepiest Book I’ve Read In Recent Years.


Sharp Objects


The main character’s name is Camille and she isn’t your standard journalist. Fresh from a stint at a psych hospital, Camille is sent from her urban environment back to the hick-ish place where she grew up, and she isn’t too psyched about it, to say the least. But her newspaper needs a scoop and there’s been a couple of child murders in her hometown, so off she goes. Naturally, she’ll be staying with her mother, which, if she were any normal mother would be fine, but Camille’s mother is a total freak show. A neurotic and cold woman who’s more concerned with her youngest daughter, a thirteen-year-old, than she is with Camille. It didn’t take more than a few pages of their interaction to realize that Camille probably wasn’t hugged enough as a kid. Any by enough, I mean at all.


Camille inserts herself in the investigation and then Ms. Flynn does what Ms. Flynn does—she tells a story with so many twists and turns that you never know what’s going to happen next. I can’t really go into detail about why SHARP OBJECTS is so freaking creepy without spoiling things, but I can say that it’s the kind of book that stays with you for a long time…whether you want it to or not. *shudders*


If you’ve ever seen the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” you know that Jason Segel’s character is in charge of playing “dark and ominous tones” for a CSI-ish TV show, and if there were to be a soundtrack to SHARP OBJECTS, they would most certainly include dark and ominous tones. Like, for the entire book. With no breaks. Ever. So if you like the sounds of that (ha) then pick up SHARP OBJECTS. But…err…do it with caution, if you’re a bit of a wimp like me.


Happy Friday, Book-clubbers!


And thanks to Heather and Katie for hosting!


The Nail Files: Keep Two Chevrons Apart



The Nail Files Link Up


Chevrons are ALL the RAGE, peeps. And I've always been envious of those who sport such designs. I had some more time this week, so I decided I'd give them a go, myself. 


Spoiler Alert: I LOVE THEM!


Here's what I used:



And here's how it all turned out:



Step 1: Two coats of Paper Mache (one coat of Seche Vite because I was too impatient to wait).


Step 2: Take striping tape and make a "v" at the top of the nail.


Step 3: One coat of either Eden or Turned Up Turquoise (with the smaller brush to get into the corners).


Step 4: Remove tape (and add one coat of SV as, again, I was too impatient to wait).


Step 5: Take striping tape and make another "v," along the coloured line (so there'll be a small bit of colour not covered in sparkles/shimmer).


Step 6: One coat of either Harper or Ivy.


Step 7: Remove tape and add one more coat of SV.


The result is a VERY shiny mani. The three coats of SV could have meant a chip-frenzy but it was the best lasting mani ever! Almost a week with virtually NO chips! And my nails were just as shiny for the entire time. Yay!!


Have a fab weekend, everyone!


Thanks to Tara and Vicki for hosting!





25.4.13

Throwback Thursday: I'm (Almost) Like A Bird and (Definitely) Want To Fly Away




Haven't done one of these linkups in a few weeks but I'm back. Yay!


This week, I have a photo and a story from way back in 2000, when I was 19. I was home from my first year of university, working as an extra in movies and TV shows, which roughly translated into eating peanut butter sandwiches and playing cards while trying NOT to get picked to go to set (as you'd get paid whether you actually were in front of the camera or not, and obviously playing cards was more fun). And when a new bar opened up near my house...well...it ended up taking the majority of my summer earnings (isn't that always how that goes?). Anyway, that's how I ended up being in a Karaoke competition, because I just happened to be in the bar when qualifying rounds were happening and had consumed enough cocktails to think that I could be the next Jewel (keep in mind that it was 2000).


Much to my surprise, I qualified.


Then, a few weeks (and many drinking nights) later, I was in the semi-finals.


Lo and behold, I made it to the finals, and that's where my picture comes in to play. 


In order to give myself an edge, because I was now fully invested in winning the $500 prize, I decided that I'd get myself a stage costume. And since I was going to sing Nelly Furtado's "Like a Bird," I figured that dressing up like a bird would be a swell idea. I raided all of the closets in my house while a pal made me some shoes and soon, we'd managed to put together a pretty awesome costume, if I do say so myself...


My Maman's (grandmother's) red feather coat, red tank, EXTREMELY short yellow skirt (yikes) and a pair of sneakers-turned-yellow-felt-duck-feet.


The bad news is that I got so nervous waiting that I may have had one too many doses of liquid courage and was drowning merrily swimming in a "Mariah Carey ain't got nothin' on me" pool of delusion by the time they called my name...as you can judge by my face...and weird flipped hand.


*headdesk*


Needless to say, I didn't win. Nope. It wasn't even close. 


Funnily enough, though, this wasn't my ONLY time dressing up as a bird...


Halloween, 2010


So the evidence suggests that I've got birds-on-the-brain, which I guess is better than BEING bird-brained. Bahaha!!


Until next time, thanks to Ady, Julia, and Jennifer for hosting!






24.4.13

excellent, exquisite, etcetera


Six months ago, a pal and I were trolling around Richmond and Spadina, in downtown Toronto, looking for somewhere to have supper. I used to live around the area, so I was familiar with the options but like many major cities, there had been quite a bit of turnover. One of the new restaurants was etcetera and after taking a look at the menu, we decided to give it a try. 


And boy oh boy, we were ever happy with our choice as the atmosphere was super chill (awesome), our server was very welcoming (awesome), and they had a solid selection of drinks (obviously awesome). 


I'm a sucker for exposed brick and ventilation, so as you can see, I was in my element.


One of the appetizers that caught our eye was the Gnocchi Poutine. Now, I'm a fan of new takes on standard dishes but I never would have thought of such a combo. And it's brilliant, really, as gnocchi is made from potatoes and...well...so are fries. So topping gnocchi with gravy and cheese is like a total no-brainer in terms of taste. Obviously, we ordered a serving. 


We ate ours before taking a picture so etcetera was kind enough to send me this one. And the fact that we couldn't control ourselves is a testament to how good it was.


To sum it up in one word: ah-mazing. The gnocchi was cooked to perfection, the gravy was rich and hearty, and the cheese oozed over everything nicely (as cheese has a tendency to do). 


My pal and I ended up staying until closing time, and *may* have sampled a few of the many cocktails, which is when we learned that our server was actually the manager! Her name is Azzy and she's just about as cute as a human can be. She'd first come to Toronto for a Thanksgiving weekend and loved the city so much that she wanted to stay. So, when this former hair stylist's brother wanted to open up a restaurant, she decided that she would help and etcetera was born. It was a wonderful night, to say the least. 


So wonderful, in fact, that when I found myself in Toronto in February, the same pal and I went back for seconds. This time, my pal ordered the Egg Tacos while I opted for the Chicken Club. And just like the first time, everything was freaking delicious!


Egg Tacos: Corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, avocado, tomato, and salsa. Served with hash browns (or fries, in this case).


Chicken Club: Tomatos, bacon, chipotle mayo, and lettuce. Served with fries. And can we talk about the chipotle mayo for a sec? It.was.ballin'.


So if you're ever in the Fashion District and have a hankering for delicious and extremely reasonably priced food (main dishes from $8 - $19), make your way to Richmond and Spadina and pop into etcetera. Their unique take on standard fare will most definitely make them a staple in the area and hey, you may even see me there, as I'm slated for another trip to Toronto soon and looking at this picture has given me quite the craving. Mmmm...Gnocchi Poutine and Chipotle Mayo...


Bon appétit!





22.4.13

Diet Coke Detox


I drink a lot of Diet Coke. To be specific, I drink a lot of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. Yeah, I get it, without the caffeine there really isn't much point in drinking it but I love the taste.


Repeat: I love the taste.


However, it's just not good for you as the aspartame and sodium levels are super high. I've let my mass consumption of the fairly poisonous liquid slide for a while because it's pretty much my only vice left but when The Remix and I decided to do a Happypants Health Challenge (where The Remix and I eat clean and exercise for 30 days) I figured that I'd try to give up the bubbly delight as well. 

Oh, and we adopted "The Happypants" as our family name because I kept my last name after we got married. Who knows though, perhaps some day, we'll change it legally (haha, I kid, I kid...maybe. It'd be pretty funny, really).


Here's a gif representation of my first week participating in The Happypants Health Challenge:


Day One:

It was a horrendous rocky first day, but as much as I wanted to bail, I stayed strong.


Day Two:

Like, really, really bad. I was craving sugar and Diet Coke like a crazed person.


Day Three:

Me post-Thanksgiving.
Oh man. The exercise was mega-tiring. Each minute felt like an hour and I so wanted to quit. I didn't...but I suuuuuuure thought about it. 


Day Four:

image
The troll, in this instance, would be The Remix. No, it wasn't the nicest thing to say but I apologized later and, the most important thing, is that he didn't give me any. We had salad with tuna instead.


Day Five:

This was officially the worst day ever. I don't even know the last time I was so fuckin' cranky, although it was more like cr-angry (a combination of cranky and angry) as I hated the entire world, albeit mostly things that were food and/or Diet Coke related (you'd be surprised just how many things that entailed).


But then, it FINALLY started to get better...


Day Six:

Much to my surprise, the exercise didn't seem as hard on Day Six. I even went for the "long walk" with the dogs and felt great afterwards!


Day Seven:

And then, just yesterday, it seems that I entered an eating-clean-food-groove as I was actually looking forward to cutting up veggies for our salad supper! 


Now it's Day Eight of the Happypants Health Challenge and I can safely say that my cravings for Diet Coke are all but gone. That's not to say that they won't come back, but for now, they've abated. Thank freaking Jebus as last week was one of the longest of my life. My hope is that at the end of the 30 days, I won't return to my Diet Coke Dependency. Truth-be-told, I'll probably have to extend the lock-down for at least another 30 days as I don't trust myself to drink it in moderation (ummm...addict, much?). 


21 days to go! I can't WAIT until I fit into my favourite jeans again. I've missed them!

















19.4.13

Book Club Friday: Silver Sparrow




As a writer, I read a lot. Usually, I always have a book on the go, but this week, I found myself reading like a fiend and SILVER SPARROW was one of the books I devoured. And with an opening line like, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” I didn't have much of a choice but to keep on reading. 




It’s pretty hard to get a reader invested by the eighth word, but Tayari Jones managed to do it. And she didn't just do it once. Oh no. SILVER SPARROW was positively brimming with killer first lines, and they acted like spurs for my eyes, keeping them open into the wee hours of the morning, demanding that they continue to function so I could know how it all turned out.


The book sometimes moves around in time, filling in backstory, but the primary setting is 1980s Atlanta. Not at all where you’d expect, right? That’s why it’s so great! And, really, it’s just another reason why SILVER SPARROW was so engrossing, because almost nothing goes down how you expect it to.


James has two daughters: Dana and Chaurisse, and as the back blurb states, one thinks she’s an only child while the other has grown up in the shadows, all-the-while knowing about her half-sister, and having to live her life in a way that protected her father's secret--a heartbreaking situation, to say the least, no matter which side you're on. And when the two become friends when they are teenagers, well, you can see how it’s kind of like two girls trying to navigate themselves through an emotional mine field. With active mines. Like, everywhere. To say any more about the logistics would be spoiler-y, so I’m not going to say anything else in that regard.  


Overall, I was so engrossed in the tale of these two characters that I was sad when it ended. Ms. Jones has a way with prose that is so relaxed, it’s almost like you’re not reading at all, but instead, listening. I know that sounds utterly bizarre, but that’s the best description I can give of SILVER SPARROW’s flow. It was really like Ms. Jones chose only the most perfect words to tell this tale of seriously complicated family dynamics.


It’s not a tear-jerker, so you’ll be able to read it in public, and I’d definitely give it an enthusiastic two thumbs up. And you don’t just have to take my word for it as SILVER SPARROW was one of O Magazine’s Best Books of 2011.


You know who owns O Magazine?


O-P-R-A-H.


‘nuff said.


You really just need to read it.


Have a great weekend, everyone!


And thanks to Heather and Katie for hosting!



The Nail Files: Colour Blocking



The Nail Files Link Up


This week's Pinspiration:



What I used:



The Mani:


I started with two coats of Paper Mache and let them dry completely. Taking the striping tape, I put three pieces on each feature nail. Using the nail brush, I then painted each of the four sections a different colour. Then, I removed the striping tape, let the polish dry for a while, and finished with a top coat.


It was much easier than I thought it would be, but that was because of the brush. Having a hard angle made getting into the corners a breeze. And since the brush is fairly thin, there weren't any gobs of polish. This is definitely a technique that I'll try again!


Have an awesome weekend, everyone!


And thanks to Tara and Vicki for hosting!



17.4.13

I Heart Donald Maass


If you’re a regular reader, you know that I have a borderline obsession with Donald Maass. No, not in a stalker-y kind of way, but whenever anyone mentions that they’re a writer, I’m all: Have you read THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST? No? Well, you TOTALLY SHOULD!


So, when I learned that Mr. Maass was facilitating a Boot Camp during the Writer’s Digest Conference (East), I lost my freaking mind decided to attend. And boy-oh-boy, was it amazing.




Like, seriously amazing. The most amazing-est amazeballs three hours ever.


He was incredibly nice, seriously articulate, funny, a bit of a smart-ass (yay), and an all-around knows-his-shit kinda guy. Basically, he was exactly as I'd thought he'd be, which is awesome as it's just the worst when the opposite happens. 


Although I’ve read one of his books, I still took five pages of notes. Single-spaced notes. On my computer. Not in bullet form. Yeah, that’s a whole lotta information. Frankly, if I could type faster, there probably would have been more.


The thing about Donald Maass is that he has an impeccable way of phrasing things. His exercise questions are always poignant and if you do enough of them, I guarantee that you’ll have an epiphany—something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to you without his guidance. Yes, I understand that I sound like he’s paid me to write this post but rest assured, he did not.


Here are some gems he said during the bootcamp:


Don’t clutter the page, deepen the story.


There’s no such thing as a finished manuscript, only a deadline. (haha)


Stories need events that are more dramatic, which portray the journey the characters go through.


And that was just part of the introduction!


We got down to business quickly after that, and the room fell quiet except for the sounds of frantic typing, scratching pens, and the occasional sigh (usually of the light-bulb moment variety, but I was sitting in the front row so I can’t be sure about all of them).


My sneaky pic.


Here are some of the questions that really got my mind a-racin’ (hopefully they can help you, too):


What has your protagonist never told anyone? All protagonists have made a shameful mistake, who would be the worst person to find out? What’s the biggest consequence in revealing to that person?


In your protagonist’s past, what was their biggest tragedy? Betrayal? And who are they most angry about it with? Who deserves your protagonist’s scorn? Who has yet to be forgiven by your protagonist?


Backstories should be about shame and forgiveness. The journey to forgiveness is the dynamic stuff that’s happening even when the plot is driving the novel. Give your characters a dynamic experience so that readers can connect to them. You’ll create a character who people can relate to—the universal human condition.


There was a whole lot more than that but out of respect to Mr. Maass, I’m not going to share any more because he’d probably prefer you buy one of his books or attend a Boot Camp yourself. And you want to, after reading this post, don’t you? Yeah, I know that you do. So get to your bookstore/Amazon/library, people! GO THERE RIGHT NOW! See what resonates with you and then let your imagination soar!


Seriously. Start cracking.


Umm…why are you still here?


GO!