Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Primitive Versions of the DVD

With the ever-increasing popularity of television and the internet it seems that my favourite form of entertainment, books, are subsequently declining. When people do pick up a novel these days they seem to be drawn towards drivel like the Twilight Saga (seriously I hate the series so much they don't even get a customary link), and wouldn’t know a good book if it bit them. Yes, reading is meant as a form of escapism from the everyday, but is it impossible to have fun and learn something at the same time? True literature has the ability to entertain and to educate its readers, but most people hear that a book is deemed to be “literary” by the critics, and they run screaming for their easy reads. I’m here to inform you that this is mere cowardice in the face of learning something, and to give you some suggestions of novels that are not only highly enjoyable to read, but will also give you a new perspective on the world. I’ve been known to discard books that are dubbed classics (can’t stand Charles Dickens in any way, shape, or form), but I’ve found some surprising gems among the classics, as well as been surprised at what I have learned from bestsellers.

One of the first places I look for books with a message is with writers from other nations. Not only do their cultural perspectives differ from mine (obviously, they’re from a different country…), but there are things that it’s just not possible to experience (in some cases thankfully so) in a first world nation like Canada. Many of these works are obviously in other languages (which can be problematic due to availability and poorly crafted translations that are highly unreadable), but if you can find a good translator then you’re set. A good place to start is with the Russian author, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, who was considered a literary genius even by his contemporaries. During his time in Russia, Solzenitsyn was imprisoned within the gulag system for dissing Stalin (not a good idea obviously), which provided him with insight into the lives of prisoners, and became the premise for many of his novels. His novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the shortest of his novels that discuss the Russian penal system, so it’s a good place to start if you have any interest in 20th century Russian history, but don’t know where to start (his Gulag Archipelago sequence is a bit more daunting). Ivan is easily available in English (I read the translation by Max Howard and Ronald Hingley), and the compact plotline (confined to 24 hours in Ivan’s life) keeps the book from being too daunting to new readers. It took me about 2 days to read, because once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. It may not be a happy book, but it sure as hell is informative and interesting.

When I mention my favourite author, Charles de Lint, most people give me a blank look. Even those who read within his genre (fantasy) usually have no idea who he is. Which is a damned shame, because he’s one of the most talented fantasy authors of all time (in my not so humble opinion). The fact that he’s Canadian is an obvious factor working against him with mass popularity (stupid publishers not giving him enough press!), but he’s very well known within fantasy writers’ circles. He’s worked closely with such famous names as Terri Windling, and Charles Vess (both incredible talents in their own right), so why the heck isn’t he super famous? Whatever, I can keep him my awesome little not-so-secret! Except that now I’m going to tell you all to go and read one of his books, because he’s amazing, and if you don’t like his books, then there’s something wrong with you. His novel The Onion Girl, which won the World Fantasy Award, is probably his most well known book, and it’s definitely a good place to dive into his work. It’s technically in the middle of his set of stories set in the fictional city of Newford, but you don’t really need to know the backstory to understand the book. It’s classified as a piece of “urban fantasy,” since it’s set in a very realistic setting, but still has magical elements that play a large role alongside normal life. Just as a warning: there are some dark themes in The Onion Girl, but that’s what makes the story so capitvating, and what transforms the story into a literary commentary on humanity.

If your heart is set on reading about vampires, then so be it. But for the love of books and not being a moron, please avoid anything penned by Stephanie Meyer (aka Twilight). There are plenty of much better vampire books out there, so go pick up one of them instead. I’m not going to recommend Bram Stoker’s Dracula, since I found it dry as dust, but I would highly suggest picking up one of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. It’s pretty clear that these novels aren’t just escapist fiction, since they cover some of literature’s “big themes” (family, religion, politics, love/desire/loss, and obviously the balance between life and death). The characters, though dead, are the driving force behind her narratives, and each provides a different perspective for her to explore. Lestat is the most famous of her vampires, but as the series progresses her focus shifts to others who are equally captivating. My favourites are Armand/Amadeo and Marius, the Renaissance- and Classical-era vampires who’s stories give us glimpses into their historical periods before entwining with the life of Lestat in the modern world.

Being the literary rockstar that he is, this post would be incomplete without a mention of Neil Gaiman. You can learn something new from any of his writing (seriously even his blog is amazing), but if you want something amazing then read The Graveyard Book.
NOW. Seriously. There’s a reason why it won the Newberry Award (for Best Children’s Book). I love everything that Neil has published, but The Graveyard Book will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s such a delightful book. It tells the story of the murder of the protagonist’s parents when he’s an infant, and his adoption by a graveyard of ghosts. Growing up in a graveyard gives Bod (short for Nobody ß clever name for a missing baby right?) a life that is anything but ordinary, and every mundanity of his life is something fascinating for the reader to experience. Seriously, go read it already, or we’re going to have to have words…

*all images from Amazon

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Literary Classics

For classic black pumps, this pair from German shoe designers, Bleka (sorry I don’t have a link for them, since they don’t seem to have a website…), lives up to its name; they totally are “awesome!” The material isn’t straight up black patent, so if they get scuffed the damage isn’t as noticeable (which can be a deterrent when buying patent pumps). The heels are pretty high, but they’re chunky and therefore totally stable for walking. I’m also really fond of the toe shape, since it’s neither pointed, nor square, nor rounded. It’s kind of a squared-off round, if that makes sense, which is relatively comfy for your toes. The only problem that I have with this pair of heels is that there’s absolutely no cushion on the footpad, so after a while your feet are going to get sore without insoles. But whatever, high heels aren’t meant for copious amounts of walking any ways :p

Saturday, 28 May 2011


Anyone who writes in pen knows that mistakes are often made, but not so easily erased. Scribbling can render the mistake illegible, but the result is that there’s now a big blotch of ink in the middle of your work. The solution is, of course, whiteout! Playing around with this handy liquid paper corrector as a child I distinctly recall attempting to paint my nails with it (as well as with sharpies, markers, and highlighters…).

Obviously I wasn’t going to try this technique again (I’m a grown up now) just for the sake of nerd week, but I found a white nail polish to mimic the effect. I was lucky enough to scoop China Glaze “Snow” for only $5 from a local Chatter’s salon, after I had researched the perfect white polish on the China Glaze website. Online the whites all seem pretty similar (since there are no actual swatches), but I figured that Snow sounded like it would be a true bright white, with no other hints of colour. To the naked eye Snow looks perfect, but I did a test of it on plain white paper, and once dry the shade was a perfect match!

why is my skin pulling so much red >_<

Using the polish was a bit trickier than I expected, since the formula was quite a bit more liquid than I’m used to from China Glaze. I used two coats for these pictures, but to be honest I could have used three to make a more solid white. I wasn’t too surprised by this, since a thin polish is going to cover less well, but the bigger problem was that the thinner solution made the tipwear apparent really quickly. I don’t think this manicure lasted 24 hours before I started noticing major chips. Next time: three coats and possibly a topcoat!

Even though the thin formula is problematic, this polish is definitely the perfect bright white, and I anticipate it working quite well for layering. Definitely going to combine it with last week’s superbright yellow!

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Straight and Narrow

As someone who likes things to be perfectly ordered and neat it’s no surprise that my unruly, curly, frizzy hair was a constant bane to my existance. No matter what curl-controlling products I used (gels, mousses, or hairsprays; I tried everything) my curls would not not be tamed. I wasn’t about to try a chemical relaxant on my hair, since they’re very damaging to thin hair like mine, but I figured that maybe a straightening iron might be the solution to my hair woes. In Grade 11 one of my friends (who also had unruly curls) let me try her flat iron, but the results were less than pleasing. My hair was poufy, fried, and looked a mess, so I was convinced for years to come that my hair couldn’t be tamed by heat.

But a few years later I discovered that a curling iron could control my curls (though it took far too long to be a practical solution). The time to attempt a flat iron again had come, but this time I would try a higher quality styling tool. I was happy to find that my sister’s flat iron was capable of straightening my curls like it promised to, and with no damaging consequences.

they're changed the basic flat iron a bit since I bought mine,
but this is the present equivalent.
photo from here.

So I ran out and bought my very own Babyliss flat iron that was exactly the same as my sister’s, since we don’t really like sharing in my family. The brand that I bought (I was later informed by my hair stylist) was not a super good straightener, but it was still a medium-level professional brand. Babyliss may not be considered one of the higher-level professional styling tool brands (like Paul Mitchell and Chi for example), but it works well on my hair without damaging it (which can be a problem with flat irons that are 250º+ capable). I’ve had it for about 3 years, and it still works just fine, and my hair isn’t damaged from the constant heat. I have nothing but compliments to give abour the Babyliss brand based on my experience, and that should say something considering how prone to whining I am :p

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Geek Chic

Just because I spend a lot of time surrounded by books doesn’t mean that I can’t be fabulous at the same time. On the contrary, being nerdy can be really cute!

a loose patterned shirt is perfect for layering to create texture

pearls are a librarian's best friend:
simple, classic, and elegant

pencil skirts are a wardrobe staple, and are super easy to style

a fancy top is paired perfectly with a sateen pencil skirt

pumps are always a good bet for classic style

retro Victorian and Oxford-style heels are totally hot right now

a fancy belt is more than enough to accessorize this outfit

polka dotted stockings spice up this classic sweater and fluted skirt ensemble

swapping glasses just for fun :)

bright nails for a dash of attitude

one of the models with a spin-off of her favourite novel

Some people who saw the pictures from this photoshoot say that we all looked too formal for our age, but I beg to differ. I personally enjoy dressing up like a professional, since it makes me feel like a grownup, and I figure it’s good practice for when I become a librarian. What do you all think? So we like playing adults for a day, or are we all determined to never grow up?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Eyes on the Prize

I already have an adorable pair of glasses, but I can’t say that I would mind another pair. The ones I already have are a light silver with a brushed steel finish, and are from a nice, but not too expensive brand name. Being the diva that I am, I want a designer pair for my next purchase. Ironically the pair that I have my sights set on are actually rather simple, as they have a plain black acetate frame, with small logos at the temples. But of course, they’re from Chanel. The 3188s are simple classics, and that’s exactly why I want them so badly. They’re a nicely squared modern cut, yet the frames aren’t thick enough to be designated as part of the hipster trend (yuck). And they look exactly like the glasses that my future librarian self should be wearing!

Closets are Just Where I Keep my Clothes

Just because I’m obsessed with shoes doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten my true nature, that of a die-hard nerd. Fingers have been pointed, and I’ve been singled out as a “closet nerd” (thanks Steve, you’re an ass), but I am by no means in the closet! In fact, my closet is much too full for me to fit inside, so I have no choice but to wear my nerdiness with pride. If you don’t believe me then here’s the proof…

  • I get excited about the new Mac gadgets. Seriously, I actually read all the emails they send me, and I even though I can’t afford to buy any of the new shineys, I can definitely drool over them!
  • I’ve also been known to get over-excited in bookstores when I find something special. Yes, the rumours are true; I did scream when I found The Vampire Lestat graphic novel (which I obviously bought immediately).
  • I own approximately 1000 books, which I refer to as “my babies” or “my preciouses,” and the only way I am able to keep track of them is through perfectionist alphabetizing, and a constantly updated set of photos on my iPhone and computer.

  • I’ve always loved Star Wars, and I always will. I’m not ashamed to say it. Original movies for the win! And yes, I do still have all my action figures. They live in the same box as my Barbies, and that’s totally okay!
  • I enjoy reading obscure authors, especially those in translation. No one is as fucked up as the Russians and the Germans, and for that’s why they write such amazing/strange stories. Seriously, go pick up some Leo Tolstoy or Gunter Grass and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
  • Totally and utterly obsessed with Shakespeare. He is the greatest ever. I can’t even express how much I love everything that he’s ever written.
  • About 1/4 of my movie collection are anime/cartoons. As a side note: I refuse to watch anime if it’s dubbed. Subtitles are way better, especially since I speak a little bit of Japanese.

  • Two of my favourite books are my dictionary and my thesaurus. Words are fun!
  • Every summer when I was a child I voluntarily signed up for the reading program at the library. I wish that I could still get stickers and prizes for reading every day, but sadly adult reading clubs just aren’t as fun…
  • Organizing and alphabetizing are activities that I do for fun. If things aren’t properly organized it makes me really nervous, and I have to fix it immediately!
  • When I play video games I play them until they’re 100% completed. I MUST get all of the stupid little achievements or I’m not happy. For a girl who doesn’t really like video games, my gamerscore is actually pretty legit.
  • I still have all my Pokémon cards.
  • I have all the essays I’ve ever written since Grade 12. Mostly to prove how smart I am if anyone needs to know :p
  • Even my wardrobe is colour-categorized.
  • I don’t play sports, I won’t run, and I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t set foot in a gym since Grade 10. I also tend to avoid the outdoors, since it’s boring out there, and I don’t like getting a tan.
  • Back to school textbook shopping is one of my favourite activities ever. I can’t WAIT til September rolls around again!
  • There’s a reason why one of my favourite candies are Wonka Nerds.
  • I name my stuffies after famous historical figures (sockmonkey is Henry, after Henry VIII of England), and I plan on naming my Great Dane William (after Shakespeare of course).
  • I like heist movies because the plotting involved requires brains.
  • Trips to the library are just as fun as trips to the mall (in fact, are usually better, since they are free!)
  • I refer to used book shopping as “hunting,” and treat it as such. No one gets in my way of finding the perfect book to add to my collection, and I’m used to having to wait for the perfect conquest.
  • When I grow up I want to be a librarian. Pretty sure it doesn’t get anymore nerdy than that…
Shakespeare bobblehead = LOVE
(thanks Liz!)
In other news, it’s one of my favourite nerd’s birthdays today. So without further ado: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MELVIS <3 She’s about as nerdy as I am, and we just have to work on her shoe collection so that she’s just as fabulous as well! I helped her along the path to greater shoes already this year by giving her a few pairs of mine, and she won my giveaway contest for an Aldo gift card, so she’s well on her way. For her birthday present (since I don’t ever neglect my friend’s birthdays) I decided to cater to her nerdy side, and fill up some of her bookshelf with a book that she needs to finish part of her collection of nerdy books, as well as a smart-talking book that I’m sure she’s going to love. And I got her something else that’s not nerdy, but is still rather funny, and I’m sure she’ll enjoy it. Thank god for free shipping from Chapters for making her present possible! Once again, happy birthday Melvis, and happy hangovers (greasy burgers and shopping usually help) <3

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Giants: a Shoe Sunday Story

Once upon a time three giants came upon a very small city. Scattered about them in a haphazard way were about two dozen houses, but nowhere in sight could they spy any inhabitants of the very small houses. They knocked sharply on the doors, peered inquisitively through the houses’ upper-story windows, and stomped around rather loudly exclaiming to each other “how odd.”

After a period of time had passed they grew bored of waiting for something to happen, and they became sure that nothing of import could occur in a city this small. So they left the very small city behind, and went in search of other, more giant-sized adventures elsewhere. 

Featured Shoes: Converse "Aquarius" Chuck Taylor All-Stars

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sunny Days are Here to Stay

I’m not a huge fan of yellow nail polish, even though I absolutely adore the colour itself, but I was curious to see how bright this yellow polish from Icing would actually turn out. I picked it up for about 40 cents (yay multipacks of minis from the clearance rack), and it fit this week’s theme perfectly, so I figured why not try it out.

Well, I tried, and tried, and tried again, but even after 4 coats this polish still wasn’t actually covering my nails properly. In most light I could see the distinction between my nail tips and actual nail! Under natural light and natural fluorescent bulbs (as you can see in the pictures) though, the colour was much more opaque. What the heck! Icing obviously isn’t the best quality polish, but I’m not too impressed by how much the polish fought me. I also found that the colour of the polish in the bottle didn’t really translate to my nails; it looks very close to the same shade as highlighter pens, but it definitely pulls white on the nail. The formula wasn't too bad to work with (except for the requirement of multiple coats) since it dries relatively quickly.  I would definitely classify this polish as a "jelly," since the multiple coats give it a bit of a translucency and it isn't really a solid looking finish. 

I did end up wearing it for quite a few days (with a top coat it lasted for almost a week before chipping horribly), but I’m going to have to figure out how to rectify the lighting problem. I think a coat of white polish underneath might do the trick, so I’ll have to try that! Does anyone else have this problem with other yellow polishes, or it is just this type from Icing that’s the problem?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Bright Eyes

One of the easiest ways to add a pop of colour to any outfit is to focus on makeup. One of my favourite techniques is to emphasize the eyes with brightly coloured eye shadow. I prefer to use dry eye shadow compacts, instead of liquid eye shadow or mouse or eyeliners because the application isn’t difficult, and if you screw up it’s not too hard to fix. You can stick to a single colour, or use a soft brush to blend two colours together.

photo from here
In this example I used Rimmel London’s Three-sum eye shadow compact in Breath Taking. It has a gorgeous lavender on one side of the disc, bright pink on the other, and a light shimmery gold in the middle. I don’t usually buy Rimmel’s eye shadow sets because I’m not a big fan of their colour choices, and the texture isn’t always the best (some are a blend between mouse and dry eye shadows yuck). But I lucked out with Breath Taking, and it’s definitely become one of my favourite palettes!

What are all of your favourite bright eye shadows? Do we like doing crazy bright colours, or is it too much?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bright Lights, Small City

When you're stuck in as small a city as Kamloops, there isn't much to do. But don't let that get you down; just throw on some brightly coloured clothes (a huge trend this summer), grab your best friends, and take an adventure to an unlikely place! We went to the Kamloops Wildlife Park, and found an even smaller city than Kamloops to frolic in.


how do you measure up?

new friends :)

anyone home?

there were only leaves inside...

hide and seek :)

climbing the gallows
(seriously why is there a gallows...)

hidden leggings add a second layer of brightness

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Blinded by the Jeffreys

Since this week's theme is "Super Bright" it was rather fitting to find out about the release of another pair of GORGEOUS Jeffrey Campbell heels that fit the theme perfectly. This blindingly bright pair of JC's is called the Munroe (I guess after Marilyn, but I can't see the resemblance), and to say it lightly: J'ADORRRRRE! I don't think I've fallen so hard, or so fast for any pair of shoe lately, but I feel absolutely no guilt about being obsessed with this pair since they are nothing less than the best! Now I just have to figure out if I can ship these babies to Canada for a reasonable price...

image courtesy of Envi Shoes

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Problem with Professors

At the moment I’m engrossed with re-reading the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling in preparation for the theatrical release of the final film in July. Unfortunately, I’ve reached my least favourite book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I’ve found myself not wanting to continue reading. Obviously I can’t just skip over the fifth book, and finish reading the rest of the series, because that would be heresy. I find it physically impossible to read books out of their proper order, even if I’ve read the series as many times as I have with Harry Potter. When I first read the Order of the Phoenix, and every time re-read it (as well as the multiple times I’ve watched the film), I have the same reaction: utter repulsion and anger, which are then transmuted into sheer boredom, and which then results in swift abandonment.

During my current re-reading of the book I’ve noticed that it is certain themes in the story which are the cause of my extreme reaction. These themes revolve around the new character, Dolores Umbridge. In short, she is a despicable person, whom I cannot help but hate. I’m usually in full support of authority figures who do things for a reason, but Umbridge, and her puppet-master Cornelius Fudge (the Minister for Magic), are anything but reasonable. They are short-sited, stubborn, and unjust, all for the wrong reasons. Umbridge feels that she should have complete authority over the Hogwarts students, and over their teachers (including Dumbledore). Stupid cow that she is, she actually thinks that this is possible. Obviously Dumbledore cannot be controlled (nor should he be), and someone should have given her a reality cheque. The best moment of the book (and the movie of course) occurs when Fred and George Weasley decide that they have had enough ot Umbridge’s meddling, and that their time at Hogwarts has come to an end. In true trouble-maker style that would have made their rebellious forefathers (Lupin, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs) proud, they go out with a bang, literally. It really doesn’t get any better than seeing Umbridge chased down by a firecracker dragon!

photo courtesy of allmoviephoto

At the finale of the story the truth about the return of Lord Voldemort is revealed (and accepted) by the Wizarding community, and Umbridge is dethroned. While the battle between the forces of good and evil (yes, clichés abound) is actually only beginning, the small victory of having an unfair person put in her place, and reason restored to teaching at Hogwarts is at least a battle won. I’m not a believer in stories always turning out for the better (that’s just not real life), I try to find hope for the resolution of my own story, just as Harry and his friends must always look to the light, even though it is often dimmed. 

Sunday, 15 May 2011

An Explorer’s Best Friend

When one decides to go adventuring across sandy dunes boots are actually your best bet for footwear. Sandals may seem like the best option, but they have a tendency to come off all the time, or get filled with sand. Closed shoes also get filled with sand after a while, since they have open ankle. But boots solve all of these problems, because they don’t readily come off, and they are closed around your leg. This means that you aren’t going to be hindered by annoying grit between your toes, and you’ll stumble a bit less since your boots are secured on your feet. The only downfall is that most beachy exploration occurs in the Summer, so boots can get to be a little warm… You also can’t cool off by sticking your feet into the water, since it takes a bit more effort to remove boots than sandals and shoes…

This pair of boots I picked up for a song (seriously only $7) at Value Village just when we were seeing the last of winter. I’m not sure what brand they are, since there’s no insignia or logos anywhere on them, but I don’t care because they’re fabulous! As much as I’m not always into gold accents (I tend to go for silver), these boots are pretty damned close to perfection, since they have just enough of a sole, and the lines are super clean. The first time I wore them they were a bit uncomfortable, but once I had worn them a few more times they were much better. I wore them for about 3 hours during the photoshoot for Earn Your Stripes, and I packed a pair of sandals just in case they decided to give me any trouble, but I had absolutely no problems with them except that my legs got very warm after a while.

I like to think of these boots are being suited for a ship’s captain (hence why I’m featuring them during Nautical week), but they can also work really well for Equestrian-themed fashion. Of course, I rather dislike horses (it’s SO clichéd for girls to be obsessed with them), so I’m going to stick with calling them my captain’s boots J