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Musings & Life

Westward Bound

Flying West

I had hoped to update properly and line up a few posts for the next two weeks but everything suddenly came at me at break neck speed.

Waiting forever it seems and then one day we find ourselves boarding a plane at 6:30am to finally make this trip. And here we are in the next leg of our journey.

So dear reader, my apologies for radio silence the past little bit, it’ll be quiet for a tad longer while I’m away now but I’ll be back in a few weeks. Till then xx

Musings & Life

The Spirit of Dark & Lonely Water

Barnard Castle, Durham 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

I’ve been on a bit of a Brontë/Gothic Romance/Costume Drama kick trying to tide myself over until Crimson Peak comes out.

Watching films set in the moors always makes me reminisce about trips to Durham & North Yorkshire to see my Dad’s family. Tramping through moors, castles, old viking towns, ancient abbey’s, and cemeteries in the UK was a regular occurrence growing up.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized how spoilt we were to have been able to experience these historical sites first hand so early on in life. Other North American kids didn’t summer near old castles and watch medieval re-enactments (nor likely traumatized by screwed up Punch & Judy shows either).

Trips to Europe weren’t cheap, and I think the only reason we were able to go as much as we did was due to my Dad’s work. He had business trips to Europe often, and at the time was able to trade in a business class ticket for 4 economy flights, dropping us off at my grandparents while he continued on selflessly for work.

There’s so much I didn’t take in as a child while there, and I find myself wanting to go back, as I spent most of my time while living in the UK down south (and of course pining for Canada).

Jenny Greenteeth by Dora MitchellImage by: Dora Mitchell

So an innocent search query inevitability leads me down a rabbit hole: the River Tees – where we’d spend hours catching minnows or picnicking – has some interesting folklore behind it, triggering memories of being told stories of ‘Peg Powler’.

“The River Tees has its sprite, called Peg Powler, a sort of Lorelei, with green tresses, and an insatiable desire for human life, as has the Jenny Greenteeth of Lancashire streams. Both are said to lure people to their subaqueous haunts, and then drown or devour them. The foam or froth, which is often seen flaoting on the higher portion of the Tees in large masses, is called “Peg Poweler’s suds;” the finer less sponge-like froth is called “Peg Powler’s cream.” Mr.Denham tells us that children are still warned from playing on the banks of the river, especially on Sundays, by threats that Peg Powler will drag them into the water; and he pleads guilty to having experienced great terror whenever, as a boy, he found himself alone by the haunted stream”

From: ‘Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders’ By William Henderson, p.265

Given my propensity to wander and having almost drowned several times in childhood, my family was no doubt using Peg Powler, like many a grown-up before them, as a way to keep me in check and wary of the water. Meg MucklebonesIt worked, especially with a vision of Meg Mucklebones from Legend fresh in my mind, I did not stray.

So whether Grindylow, Peg Powler, Jenny Greenteeth or by any number of names, I find it interesting how effective those folklore stories were in frightening me to behave.

Growing up in 1980’s Canada, Fairy Tales didn’t have the bite they once did. British folklore however was something all together entirely different. So entrenched in an areas subconscious identity, you even find youth theatre companies devising productions around local tales such as that of Peg Powler, as seen in the video below.

And totally unlike this Canadian PSA from the 80’s (which scared the hell out of many of us), the following 70’s British PSA  ‘Lonely Water‘ is terrifyingly dark and evokes folklore horror. Utilizing the idea of a water entity lying in wait to drag you under to the murky depths below, it plays on stories that already would have been familiar to many children, reiterating the message to be mindful of water.

Growing up did a particular folklore story stand out to you? Or as an adult do you find yourself drawn to certain ones now?

Beauty & Style Musings & Life

Less Is More: Tales From a Recovering Clothes Horse

Less is More - Minimalist Fashion

It’s been a few years now since I wore the same little black dress everyday for a month as part of the LBDD Challenge. As someone that tends to overshop it was a pretty eye opening experiment that helped me a lot in parring back what I was buying.

My goal after the challenge to try and shift where I spent my money, from fast-fashion giants to independent businesses has been successful for the most part.

However I do have a bad habit of holding onto things, and though I’ve drastically changed how I shop, I’m still hauling around a ton of stuff that though pretty, is rather impractical for me now.

Impractical BeautyIt makes me think about what my brother once said:

“It’s a sunk cost”.

Meaning – ‘a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Sunk costs should not affect the rational decision-maker’s best choice‘.

The context for this comment was that we had met up to see a concert together that we’d bought tickets for months ago (ohGr for the curious). However on the day, the weather was so humid it triggered migraines for both of us. We felt clammy, nauseated and like knitting needles were being poked into our brains with any little sound.

I remember holding an ice cold pop-can to my head trying to will myself better, he looked at me in this state and suggested we should really forget the concert.

Yes we had spent money on concert tickets, but why force ourselves to go when we were sick and wouldn’t enjoy it? The best choice was to go home and hide in dark rooms until we felt better.

Searching for styleHis words have stuck with me since. Applied to the situation of an overflowing closet, rationally the clothes are a sunk cost. Why hold onto them when I won’t wear them, they’re taking up space, creating a mess and making it difficult to cut through the clutter to get to what I’ll actually use.

Enter a minimal wardrobe.

I’ve followed along with Xandra Burn’s adventures in minimalism on her blog. Delighted by her commitment and creativity in expressing her personal style with interesting outfits, all the while liberated by leading a minimalist lifestyle.

She proves a limited wardrobe is far from boring.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a minimal wardrobe for some time, but never thought I could manage it. It’s funny how much emotional weight physical possessions take on. I always had a romantic notion of having an incredible wardrobe of costumes to pull from at a moments notice, but in reality I was just building a collection of things doomed to hang like museum pieces in my closet for the rest of eternity.

Dark desert styleMy subsequent lazy go-to became black jeans & band tees, a long way from my once upon time spooky thrift shop & vintage style.

So, I finally started the process of really decluttering and creating a capsule wardrobe with what I currently have as a way to dip my toes into the minimal world. This was 3 months ago now.

Dressing from a capsule wardrobe the past three months has been pretty awesome (of course not without some challenges but I’m still figuring it out). My style has been evolving over the past while and it’s felt so refreshing overhauling everything. Don’t worry though, I’ll always be a weirdo no matter what. Weirdos forever right?

Weirdos Forever(Off topic, but how awesome are these enamel pins from Louise Androlia? Love, love, love them!)  

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure where I’ll wind up with this and just how ‘minimal’ I can go, but it’s a positive start in becoming recovering clothes horse. I’ll be posting a bit in future about the experience and things I’ve found useful in building a smaller alternative wardrobe.

If you’re interested as well, the following posts are immensely helpful:

Minimalist Wardrobe FAQ: Common Pitfalls + How To Get Started

How To Pare Down Your Wardrobe ~ Getting Started

What Is A Capsule Wardrobe

How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe

And in particular this is a great piece from The Minimal Closet about how to be realistic with all the capsule wardrobe hype, and some tips on how to effectively work with a capsule wardrobe – What’s Wrong with Capsule Wardrobes?

Do you dress with a minimalist approach? Or are you considering doing so to combat a shopping hangover? I’d love to know what works well for you!

Image Credit: Edie Campbell by David Sims for Vogue March 2014, Weirdos Forever by Louise Androlia

Musings & Life

A Visible Soul

Waves of grief

Grief feels like drowning.

At least to me it does. A mixture of struggling against the waves as they hit you one after another. Gasping for air, fighting not to be pulled under until you finally are and then everything gets really slow and you’re just floating, suspended.

I’ve been pretty quiet lately because of, well, grief.

And for as much as a I feel like I have an understanding or a handle on death, I’m never quite prepared for the insane torrent of emotion that happens in the wake of it. Wave after wave of different raw feelings hit me, hardly able to catch my breath in between. All the while part of me is numbly aware of everything, distant and observing, waiting to resurface.

At this point, you might be wondering who has died.

It was Jasper, our darling cat, my constant companion and friend for the past 7 years.

Grief in wavesHis health had been touch and go the last while, but it seemed manageable with the right diet. This year though he started taking a turn for the worse, I think we kept hoping more meds or the right meds would fix it, but they didn’t and he was too far gone and in a lot of pain. It was crazy to see how quickly he declined towards the end, which at least I suppose he didn’t suffer, a kindness in the quickness of it all.

I still wasn’t really expecting that he would die though…

Do you ever find that though you logically know and understand something, as much as you might try to rationalize and explain it to your emotional side, it just doesn’t cut it?

I’ve experienced the loss of loved ones that have been expected, unexpected, totally unexpected and holy-fecking-hell-are-you-kidding-me unexpected.

I thought I’d be as ok as one can be when faced with Jasper’s death. But it’s really hit both of us harder than we expected. I’ve not wanted to talk much about it or share the extent to which this has been affecting me for fear…I guess fear of people dismissing my grief. Because Jasper was a cat.

But than I thought screw it. He was an awesome furry little guy. And that should be celebrated. And it’s ok that I feel this upset over his death. He was family. I’ve posted a few things since about it, and I have to say I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by nothing but kindness, love and support from people both near and far – and it’s helped *immensely* – so thank you.

I’m glad I didn’t just totally hide away and say nothing, because that would have been ignoring what had happened as well as the pain. And for as horrible as we’ve both felt, I think facing it head on has been better for us dealing with it in the long run.

Jasper CattooSeptember is finally here now, and things are speeding a long at what feels like a break neck pace. I’m trying to look forward to some pretty wonderful things which are soon on the horizon, but no matter what though, Jasper’s in my heart and etched on my skin. #catlady4life <3

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

Musings & Life

Parachute Coffee Review

Parachute Coffee Review - 49th Parallel Coffee June

Since breaking my caffeine habit when I gave up coffee for a month, I’ve been pretty determined not to go back to my old 7+ cups a day routine.

The benefits of quitting excessive caffeine consumption have been crazy noticeable and I feel so much better. However I still love a good cup of coffee and don’t want to totally cut it out. So with introducing a limited amount of coffee back into my life, I’m being more picky in what I’m drinking.

Where I live, the selection is limited. There are a few local roasters which I’ll pick up from regularly, but hey variety is the ‘spice of life’ and all that, so I decided to to look at some subscription services. Yes that’s right, a coffee of the month club. Coffee is awesome. And getting coffee in the mail is even awesomer (Yes that’s a word. Ok not really).

I ended up subscribing to Parachute Coffee based in Toronto, and so far am loving it. Total transparency – this is NOT a sponsored post, I just loves me some coffee and reviews are useful things.

Parachute Coffee 49th Parallel RoasterCoffee Subscription Details

  • For $25 CDN each month, you’ll be sent a different craft roast from a range of award-winning Canadian Coffee Roasters.
  • Freshly roasted whole beans, which brews approx. 40 cups of coffee.
  • Based in Canada, and they do ship internationally if you’re after some fine Canadian coffee, eh.
  • Free express shipping, no tax, you can cancel any time and no contracts.

So, I can’t speak to the ease of unsubscribing since I haven’t tried to and don’t want to. A major pain in the ass for a lot of subscription services though is trying to cancel. From digging around the FAQ there’s no immediately clear way on ‘HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE’, which ya I get, they don’t want it to be easy for you to quit, but offering instructions & a straight forward way on how to unsub makes for a more pleasant churn experience (and the likelihood you’d be more inclined to return in future), or recommend the service to friends.

Or hey, like some subscription boxes do maybe offer a pause or a month off option? Just my 2 cents.

Cost wise – $25 a month isn’t bad at all, especially if you factor in express shipping and you’re able to try out some truly fantastic coffee you might not have a chance to otherwise.Brew Kit from Parachute CoffeeWhat I really love about Parachute Coffee though that sealed the deal over other monthly coffee boxes was the fact that they offer a Brew Kit.

Given I’m trying to decrease my coffee consumption (no more big ass pots of coffee), this was perfect.

The Brew Kit comprised of a Hario Coffee Grinder, Clever Coffee Brewer and a first month coffee subscription is great for someone like me that doesn’t want to brew a huge pot or generally makes a total mess with a French Press. Total nice touch – the inclusion of a few filters with the kit meaning I didn’t have to dash out right away to get ones to fit the Clever. IMMEDIATE COFFEE GRATIFICATION! The how to video as well is pretty bemusing.

WTF Is A Clever?
Hario Coffee MillI kinda like having to hand grind my own coffee too. It doesn’t freak the hell out of my cats like my electric grinder does, and I have to “work” for my coffee in a sense. The Clever uses bamboo filters, making it pretty easy to clean up and it also only brews 2 cups of coffee max, meaning I won’t go overboard. Even with the Grinder & Clever, it still feels less cluttered in my kitchen than the regular coffee maker.

Overall, I’m really digging Parachute Coffee. The July roast arrived quite quickly and is super tasty like June’s. If you like coffee and trying different roasts, I’d recommend it for sure, and especially for fellow Canadians who are often excluded from US subscription boxes (boo-urns).

Musings & Life

Yoga Goes Darkside

Heavy Metal Yoga

When it comes to exercise, I will do anything and everything to avoid it. There’s this mental block in my mind (probably a remnant of childhood gym class trauma) that causes me to seize up with terror at the thought of any physical activity one would view as exercise.

And that’s not to say I haven’t tried over the years to get over this. I’m the queen of awkward gym visits and embarrassing aerobic class blunders. THE QUEEN I TELL YOU. And that’s all I’m telling you, I’ll overshare about my gym misery another day, promise.

So I’ve screwed up a lot in the past with exercise, but I’ve kept trying (hell I even ran a 5k, how that happened I’ll never know). I still kinda suck to be honest with all things gym related. But I have discovered a form of exercise that through repeatedly lying to myself that it isn’t *really* exercise (but really it is), I now enjoy and actually do on a regular basis – and that’s yoga.

One of the things I’ve also found to help motivate my lazy ass is to maintain my sense of self and style while working out.

This may sound a bit ridiculous but bear with me on this train of thought for a moment –

Getting out of your comfort zone and trying new physical activity or hitting up a gym can be pretty intimidating at the best of times. Couple that with being alternative you’re probably not particularly comfortable in mainstream workout gear, maybe that’s why the whole Health Goth thing stemmed from? Or maybe not. BUT given black liquid liner, corsets and Smeggs aren’t exactly conducive to working up a sweat – though Slimelight regulars might argue with me on this one – that doesn’t mean you have to suddenly go day-glo (unless you want to!)

There’s no metal or goth yoga where I live, unlike the awesome Metal Yoga Bones taught by Saskia Thode in Brooklyn or some of the punk rock yoga classes I’ve seen offered in other cities. So I have to be content with a pretty calm and meditative practice at my lovely local studio, or cranking up a little doom if at home.

Anyway! Here are a few darkside yoga essentials:

Yoga Goes Darkside

1// Yoga Capri Pants 2// French Hair Ties 3// Yoga Bolster 4// Dark Pines Tank 5// Yoga Mat Bag 6// Moon Phase Yoga Mat 7// Centre & Ground Yoga Mat Spray 8// Clove Aromatherapy Eye Pillow

And if you’re looking for further reading on the subject of weirdos working out I love Mlle Ghoul’s ‘Weight Loss For Weirdos’ series!

Image Credit: Metal Yoga Bones

Musings & Life

A Month Without Coffee

a month without coffee

In University several of my guy friends attempted a “Coffee Challenge”. The basic premise based off of an episode of Futurama, where Fry uses his tax refund to purchase and then drink 100 cups of coffee. The guys set themselves 3 days in which to accomplish this in. Subsequently they had to abandon their quest after some serious side effects from drinking mass amounts of coffee in such a short time period.

A seasoned coffee drinker by that time, I remember being pretty impressed and bemused by their attempt. Death Before Decaf seemed quite appropriate had they continued.

My relationship with coffee (ha, yes!) started slowly in my early 20’s. I’m embarrassed to admit now that it wasn’t a glamorous one. Visions of sitting outside a Parisian cafe reading the paper and sipping on an espresso in the morning sunlight were far from reality.

Do you like coffee?The actual scene: I was working a 40+ hour week at a financial office in the heart of London, commuting daily from Brighton. My days started early and ended late. I wore ill fitting “professional” clothes that felt awkward on me and devoid of personality. My existence was one of data entry and document management, which coupled with the early commute and my night owl tendencies made for one bleary eyed girl.

So on one particular sleep deprived day at work, making myself yet another cup of tea, I dared to try something with more kick than my usual cuppa.

Yes.

The instant coffee.

Told you it wasn’t pretty.

From instant grinds I graduated to Starbucks (which had recently opened in the UK). When everyone else at work was slipping out for a sly cigarette my friend Jenny & I were rolling into the Starbucks next to the office for Lattes and Mochas.

A Date With Agent CooperI began to acquire a respect and love for beautiful well-made coffee. My Dad delighted at this on a visit home, teaching me how to make incredible Lebanese Coffee and Italian Espresso. Back in London I frequented Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden & the Borough before the bespoke coffee crazy really hit the city. And during university I worked as a Barista. With a perk of free coffee on shift and beans to bring home to make my own they were heady caffeinated times.

I was hooked.

At the time I was drinking almost 2 pots of coffee a day. It wasn’t healthy and I knew it. My friends Natalie and Joe helped me slowly cut back my caffeine intake to 2 cups a day and I was great. Their trick when cutting back – apple juice first thing in the morning to help replace that kick and rush you’d get from caffeine.

Coffee Addiction Agent Cooper StyleBut since then, the amount of coffee I consume has been steadily climbing back up, no where near those 2 pots of caffeinated goodness days but enough to warrant cutting back.

This time, I decided to just cut it out all together for a month. Which may not be the brightest idea but all or nothing eh.

CAFFEINE WITHDRAWL – THE FIRST 11 DAYS

Day 1 – Bit sleepy, not so bad. I can totally do this.
Day 2 – Hella sleepy but ok, don’t see what all the fuss is about quitting caffeine cold turkey.
Day 3 – Mrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..I will cut you.
Day 4 – The headaches. Like someone is drilling into the back of my neck and skull.
Day 5 – WTF. I feel dizzy and weak, everything feels like it’s spinning and like I’m going to fall over. Oh wait, yes, I did indeed just fall over.
Day 6 – I sleep for a million hours.
Day 7 – Continuing to pop headache tablets as soon as I wake up and before I go to bed. Seized by the urge to make coffee at midnight. Must. Resist. Darkside.
Day 8 – I don’t look like the Lizard Queen anymore. My skin is soft, clear and has ceased to resemble a dry lake bed.
Day 9 – I will still cut you.
Day 10 – Headaches abating, not experiencing that afternoon energy crash anymore, no longer a cranky Gremlin upon waking.
Day 11 – When the hell is this over?

We're going to need more coffeeSo I’m finally coming to the end of my month without coffee.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?

  • I really like coffee. But I don’t *need* it.
  • I feel a million times better in the morning having a proper breakfast. (Dammit Mom was right!)
  • For excessive coffee drinkers, it’s not just the initial 5 days but the first two week without caffeine that seriously suck.
  • Even though I know coffee is dehydrating, actually seeing the difference is incredible.

So now that I’ve broken free of the caffeine devil, would I go back to drinking coffee?

The short answer – Yes.

Coffee. Hot.But that doesn’t mean I’m going to resurrect bad habits. Here are a few things I’m going to keep in mind as I rejoin the coffee drinking world.

OUTCOMES

  • For ever cup of coffee balance with drinking a glass of water.
  • Always have breakfast or some food before drinking any coffee.
  • Invest in good quality beans – don’t just drink swill.
  • View it as something to be enjoyed, and not all consuming life blood – no coffee vampire’ing out on anyone.

And the first cup after a month?

Absolutely going to be brewed from David Lynch’s blend. “Damn fine cup of coffee.

Musings & Life

Thirty Through The Looking Glass

Thirty Through the Looking Glass

When I was a child I planned out my life so exactly, that by the age of 10 I knew precisely what I would be doing for the next 20 years.

Attend an Arts High School ✓, move to the UK ✓, get into a top Theatre School ✓, travel the world ✓, meet the love of my life ✓, get married, buy a house or a flat in London, have kids, run a theatre company ✓ and lead a beautiful, bohemian existence.

Those were my rough plans.

I wrote letters to my future self at what I deemed were key ages in my life, a sort of check point to ensure I was meeting all of my self imposed life benchmarks. For awhile, these reminders kicking me in the arse as I went along were kind of awesome.

That is, until everything totally derailed.

People often talk about having the rug pulled out from under them, for me, it was more like having the rug catch on fire while I was still standing on it.

Looking Glass LifeI had come so far in achieving everything I set out to do, that I didn’t quite know how to cope or deal with deviating from my predestined path, carefully plotted and so deeply ingrained in my mind since childhood.

By age 30, I had expected to have everything figured out, that somehow reaching this magic number would result in my life just effortlessly clicking into place for my happily ever after.

The years leading up to my 30th were really hard. I decided to move back to Canada from the UK, trying to get over what I thought had been the love of my life, and reestablish myself in a country I hadn’t lived in for over 10 years.

Queen of HeartsI felt like an absolute failure coming home, leaving behind a broken home, my friends, our theatre company and all the wonder that is London. New friends at the Record Store I was working at in Toronto, were aghast as to why I would ever leave London, England to come back to Canada. Though not ill meant, this furthered my home sickness for my adopted city, and made me question what was wrong with me for not having been able to “cut it” in the UK after my relationship blew up.

Several months before my 30th Birthday I was seriously considering moving back to the UK. Going through my things I found a pack of letters from my childhood self. Re-reading them, (though full of love), the letters were a pressure – a pressure to live up to dreams that were no longer mine.

I didn’t quite know what I wanted, but I knew in that moment it wasn’t what my childhood self had planned.

More often than not, the person most critical and hardest on yourself is you.

If you let go of the need to conform to ideas  of what you “should” be doing, adventures more wondrous than you ever imagined begin to present themselves.

Make Your Story Up As You Go AlongI decided to stay in Canada and to make a proper go of it. When I hit 30 I didn’t have all the answers, my “Raison d’être” wasn’t suddenly clear, and I didn’t ride off into the sunset happily ever after.

What I did do was have a shit ton of Martini’s surrounded by an array of wonderful friends both new and old.

Last week I officially hit my mid 30’s. All my preconceptions as to what life should be like by this age have been thrown out the window, and I’m much happier for it. Dreams change, people change, and that’s ok, you’re not letting yourself down.

We live in a world where we’re hellbent on having ticked off a shopping list of achievements by a certain age or else. But life doesn’t end at 30, it ends when it ends.

Life StoriesSo stop stressing and ease up on yourself  ‘wunderkind‘ . I’ve learned it makes things a helluva lot more fun!

We’ll make up our story as we go along
There’s so little time
For us to try to rhyme
And so many highways to travel upon

And yeah, I totally just quoted the Monkees.

Musings & Life

Nick Cave Trainspotting

Nick Cave train spotting

Twitter & Facebook were all a flutter yesterday with some Nick Cave on a train action, caused by this tweet.

I think it’s all kinds of awesome that Nick Cave takes public transport. But I wonder with the rise of social media and everyone being armed with a smart phone that has a decent camera in it, if this would ever dissuade him in future from traveling in such a manner.

I’m not having a go or passing judgement on the person who snapped the picture, the situation just has me pondering our current culture and the “Photos, or it didn’t happen” mentality.

I wonder why we feel a need to capture every single moment – that we have to have some visible proof of an event for it to have been real.

The whole thing has me thinking about my own Nick Cave encounters. Including a Nick Cave Trainspotting one as well that happened 8 years ago.

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