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Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Spring has sprung here in Montréal with blue skies, bright sun, and above zero temperatures. One of the tasks I had scheduled for myself this long Easter weekend was to repot some of my plants, which are composed exclusively of cacti. To be specific, my goal was to pot my collection of moon cacti into individual pots but to make this more fun, I decided to make this into an easy arts and crafts session using used candle jars.

First a disclaimer: I am not a plant expert! I did not always have cacti and in fact, for pretty much all of my adult life, I did not grow any plants. This is despite being surrounded by a forest of plants in my childhood home, which my mother tended to and cared for inside our suburban dwelling. She had a green thumb and the plants grew tall and robust under her care, meaning that a collection of approximately fifteen plants took up a large portion of our living room. My family called this area the “jungle” because that is exactly what it was — a smorgasbord of plants large, stout, small, flowered, spiky, with big leaves, and small leaves.

I did not inherit my mom’s ability to be the plant whisperer, and my various attempts to grow pants were always a bust. My first plants were small pots of cacti that my parents permitted me to purchase as a child; I loved how they were purchased as small, baby creatures that came with seemingly straight-forward directions. However, I always managed to kill my cacti, and my memory is fuzzy in terms of whether I drowned them in too much water though that seems like the probable diagnosis. Since then, I never owned a plant though I did tell myself that eventually I would have a jungle of my own.

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One of the benefits of living in Montréal is the quality of bread. Seriously, this is a benefit. If you grew up munching on packaged sliced white bread from one of the big bread companies selling at your local supermarket, the chances are that you may be accustomed to consuming sub par bread. But if you grew up in Montréal, your supermarket is stocked with excellent bread. Not to mention that each neighbourhood is dotted with boulangeries. With the choice of amazing and freshly baked bread, there is no excuse for buying mediocre products.

I recognize that I am a minority in that I grew up eating excellent bread in Canada, outside of Québec. During my early childhood, my mother baked our bread from scratch and without a bread machine. She would make the dough, let it rise, knead it, let it rise, knead again, before popping it in the oven and letting the perfume of the baking dough encompass our tiny apartment. Later, my father sought out quality baked goods and made weekly drop-ins to the Portuguese bakery in our neighbourhood. He would bring home European baked desserts and buns still hot from the oven in a large paper bag. I loved consuming freshly baked bread while it was still warm.

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Slice, oiled, and salted baguette can be made into croutons or crunchy toasts.

Now that I live in Montréal, I am spoiled with amazing bread. I drop by my chain supermarket and they stock various baked goods from local bakeries such as Premiere Moisson which, despite being a chain, produces amazing baguettes, ciabattas, focaccias, and other baked goods. But people here mostly purchase baguettes, and you will see many pedestrians, especially before dinner time, walking around with a baguette perched in their sack. Yes, this is like how some people stereotype the French except here you will be lucky if you see someone wearing a striped shirt and beret while holding on to their baguette.

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If you are a student or someone who likes to work with music, you are in good company. I love music, I played years of classical piano (though not very well), and I love discovering artists both old and new. I once had much more enthusiasm about visiting live music concerts, but nowadays I rely on friends, music streaming services, and music review websites to lead me to new gems. Either way, I am that kind of person who always has ear buds popped into my ears: On my commute to class, working out, studying, and at home doing chores.

Hence, I started this series, Things That Go Thump in the Night, for the purpose of sharing some music favourites to readers and anyone who should stop by in this jungle that is The Internet. The musicians and tracks that I have listed are specifically ones that I lean on for work purposes, since most of my time these days is devoted to school — and this time often runs into the wee hours of the night. I love playlists, and am sort of a nerdy, secret DJ for building soundtracks to various aspects of my life. This means that I have a playlist for when I am happy, when I feel like #@*!, for running, for less intense exercises, when I want to relax, and so on. I also have a playlist that I play for studying purposes. These tracks are usually mainly instrumental, are not too slow in tempo (so that I do not fall asleep face forward in the library), and are of various genres to keep things interesting.

I sometimes get requests from friends for music recommendations for studying purposes. I always end up making these friends a burned CD with various selections from this study music playlist, which leads me to designing the CD cover and case, old school style. So I thought, why not make a few blog posts about this playlist? And here we are, at part four of this music series.

So far, I have covered three lists of favourite music for productivity. Part one covered the electronic genre, part two for alternative music, and jazz for part three. Part four of this segment is an array of different genres and musicians which I did not include in any of the earlier posts for various reasons, mainly because I wanted to minimize the length of each blog post. Hence, here I am covering some other great music resources: Sigur Rós, Phoenix, The Herbaliser, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and Keith Jarrett.

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Here in Montréal, we are digging ourselves out of yesterday’s snow storm that closed down schools and caused traffic chaos. The storm caused $17 million in clean up to remove the 20 centimetres of snow, but today it is bright and relatively mild. The Onion, of course, had an article two days ago with the title, “Punxsutawney Phil Beheaded For Inaccurate Prediction On Annual Groundhog Slaughtering Day” — are we not glad this is an Onion article?

Happy first day of spring!

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On nails: Essie, Geranium

I love nail polish. Many girls and women these days do. In fact, during the recession starting in 2008, many economists expected that lipstick sales would surge as per the Lipstick Effect which posits that the sales of inexpensive indulgences, such as lipstick, increase during lean economic times. Instead, a 2010 study found that the sales of nail polish, not lipstick, actually increased by 0.8% in 2009.

This I do not find surprising. I would say that, as someone who likes to follow fashion and beauty trends, many women including my peers are not as enamoured with lipstick which is not a staple for many grooming routines. We women continue to wear foundation/concealer as base, love to pile on tons of mascara, groom the brows, and maybe some blush and eyeshadow. For the lips? Not lipstick for every day wear, but instead something sheer and more natural like gloss or balm. Lipstick, when used, is reserved for special occasions (or daring fashionistas featured on a street style blog). Amongst all the women I know, I would say I am the only one that still sports lipstick though only for a night out or for events. And when I wear lipstick, it is bright and meant to be seen, never soft and demure.

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On nails: Butter London, Yummy Mummy

But nail polish is a different story. Just about every female friend I have has a nail polish or two to paint at home on a week day night, or bring to their neighbourhood nail salon. When I was working full time, I sported nails in unassertive colours for the sole purpose of looking neat and professional. Nowadays, as a student, I wear nail polish in both brights and neutrals, and more as an accessory. I do not usually pile on the earrings, necklaces, or other accessories on a daily basis. But my nails? They are a relatively cheap and fast way to complete my outfit. And they bring a flash of colour to the sometimes grey transitory season that is the end of winter, or beginning of spring.

My all time favourite is Essie’s Geranium, which can only be found at specialty beauty shops or salons though Essie now carries select colours in drugstores here in Canada. It is a bright, warm coral that I sport all year round (top photo). The orange makes it a non-basic red, and it is flattering on my yellow-based skin tone. I apply three to four coats for maximum coverage and opacity.

A new discovery is Butter London’s Yummy Mummy (second photo from top). Horrible name and quite a high price point, by the way ($17 CDN!). But it is a beautiful, cool beige-grey tinged with purple and fine shimmer. It is quite sheer and applied in two coats, it retains some translucency and looks like your nails, but better. For a completely opaque look and to emphasize its cool undertones, use at least four coats. I surprisingly purchased this product at Indigo bookstore amongst their array of lifestyle products (with a gift certificate, natch).

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Aux Vivres
4631 St Laurent Blvd.
Montréal, QC H2T 1R2
(514) 842-3479
www.auxvivres.com

A vegan restaurant? In Montréal? Really?

Yes, yes it is true.

Aux Vivres has been kicking around the tourtiere-, duck-confit-loving city of Montréal since 1997. The restaurant is located on a bare stretch of Saint Laurent in the Mile End neighbourhood of the city and was the first vegetarian-friendly restaurant that I heard about when I first moved to the city. It was actually with Hilary that I visited Aux Vivres for the first time when we were both students and prior to her move to the U.K.

The restaurant is not only vegetarian-friendly, but it is entirely vegan. That is, you will not find any cheese, eggs, or even honey in the items on their menu. Aux Vivres also sources organic and local ingredients to keep with its environmentally-friendly initiative. Additionally, I have yet to spot a person wearing Birkenstocks or sporting dreads or reeking like patchouli oil during my visits to the restaurant. Instead, you will find patrons of all ages, including families with children, hipsters, and the decidedly non-cool people (that might be me) all congregating at this no animals harmed sanctuary.

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Erecting a vegan restaurant in Montréal is both a smart and ballsy move. Smart because, in this city and culture that emphasizes le bon vivant (the good life), restricting your diet to plant-based food is a form of asceticism not welcome for many French Canadians. Here, you have (great) restaurants like Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef that have such menu items as “duck in a can” and “double down” — all various forms of foie gras, the very controversial and rich French dish which is the product of force feeding a duck to fatten its liver. Cruel, say animals rights activists. Delicious, say the French. So Aux Vivres is running against the current and is one of the meatless options for restaurant-goers in the city, capturing a minority market that is still relatively sizeable and devoted.

And as such, how does the comely vegetable match against the celebration/brouhaha surrounding meat-based dishes served in some of the best restaurants in Montréal? This is why Aux Vivres is ballsy. I am sure that, back in nineties when Aux Vivres first opened, they must have faced some disdain and doubts as to whether such a restaurant can survive in a climate of joie de vivre. Fast forward, sixteen years later, and Aux Vivres is thriving. The restaurant does not take reservations and should you wish to visit during peak dinner hours, you will be waiting in a line up snaking out the front door. (I do not recall ever waiting more than fifteen minutes for dinner, however.) Aux Vivres is very forward with technology with servers carrying portable tablets to punch in your orders. For a restaurant that serves a minority of Montréalers, it still manages to produce excellent food. I really mean this. I have visited many vegetarian and vegan restaurants in my native Toronto, but Aux Vivres blows them out of the water.

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God you just have to love Phoenix.

The French band dropped their first single from their fifth studio album, Bankrupt!, set to be released on April 22 (U.K.) and 23 (North America). The album has ten tracks, as expected from Phoenix, and should include one instrumental track as well, another Phoenix album standard. The band also announced their world tour last month, which so far includes two stops in Canada (no Montréal?!) from late March to the end of August. Interestingly, the band is playing at The Grove Music Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. I have never heard about this festival but I am surprised at the big names that signed up! The line up for The Grove Music Festival not only include Phoenix, but Macklemore x Ryan Lewis, Hot Chip, and Earl Sweatshirt. Where on earth this did festival come from?!

In the meantime, watch the band’s video for their first single, Entertainment, which does not feature any members of the band. However, the video juxtaposes scenes from a fictional South Korean drama (also called K-Dramas) and images of a militaristic North Korea. As expected, scenes of romantic unfulfilled love, co-worker conflicts, ancient Korean landscape, backstabbing (literally) and other ingredients essential to the k-drama unfolds. And a very hipster looking Korean dude sporting eyeliner and long locks. However, no Kim Jong-Il in sight. Pure entertainment.