July 22, 2014

European Travel - Packing Light for Women!

For traveling to major cities in Europe, you want to look chic, but not have to haul around tons of stuff.
Since you will be on the move, you don't need to worry about having multiple outfits, since people you encounter will not likely be seeing you again. Even if they do, you can easily change up your look with accessories, such as scarves. Scarves are practically compulsory when in Paris anyhow.

This dress takes up no space and does not wrinkle!

The most important wardrobe essential for travel, without question, is comfortable shoes. You need at least two pairs, so you can alternate, especially if you are unfortunate enough to get a blister. I have problem feet, so I can't wear little ballet flats or any kind of heel. In summer, at least one of my pairs (packed in my luggage) is either Birkenstock Gizeh, Fitflops or Dansko sandals. The other pair, larger and heavier, are my black Blundstone boots, which I wear at the airport with leggings and a tunic. They may not be the most beautiful shoes in the world, but comfort trumps looks when you are walking all day long! This time, for a 3-week trip, I brought 3 pairs total and  I did not regret having any of them!

I find leggings ideal for plane or extensive car travel as they are so comfortable. Leggings are also good to pair with a little dress in the morning, when it is cooler, and you can strip them off as the day warms up.

I always have a cozy scarf on the plane. It looks elegant and also comes in handy when the air becomes frigid when in flight. Layering your clothing is also a good idea for the same reason, since the temperature when on board can also get very hot at times.

Packing light for a 3-week trip is a challenge, but you will be very thankful to have spent some time planning how to get by with as few items as possible when you are hauling your luggage up and down stairs.

With my leopard Birkenstocks, little black dress, scarf and small cross-body bag at The Louvre
My luggage consists of a small cross-body purse, where I keep my tickets, money, passport and other important documents. I also have a small backpack, containing a plastic zip-lock bag with sample size toiletries, reading material, camera, computer, neck pillow and snacks. Finally, my other clothing goes into a small suitcase with wheels. I will talk more about food for the trip in another post.

The small backpack is useful for day trips, so choose one that is a neutral which will coordinate with your outfits. You are able to bring a jacket, your camera and lunch in the backpack and still have your hands free.

I usually pack enough underwear to last a week (in a mesh zip bag), a few tops, a button front shirt that can also act as a light jacket, a knit dress and a pair of black pants, which can look casual or dressy. Rolling up the articles keeps them wrinkle-free. I also bring a few pairs of wool blend socks, which are blister-proof. If you fun low on clothing, you can always buy some new tops at your destination, which will be a fun souvenir of your trip!

I learned the hard way during my latest trip to always bring my featherweight down coat (even in the summer) which packs down to take up very little space. I froze on our first day in England, when it was rainy and cool. I think it is a good idea to bring a cashmere or wool sweater and rainproof jacket with a hood as well. A silk camisole which can slip easily under other clothing will keep you warm as well.

Make sure all your clothing mixes and matches. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane, including your outerwear, which you can take off upon boarding and stow in the overhead compartment. Start planning well ahead of time, laying out the pieces to see how things will match.

I am not much of a jewelry person, so I just wear my silver heart on a black silk cord, which is supposed to safeguard against EMF radiation. In order to get some sleep on the overnight trip to Europe, I used an inexpensive neck pillow (I got mine at the dollar store and put a cover over it which can be washed) and take a herbal supplement. There are many options - Valerian, Skullcap or Passionflower are a few herbs that will help you doze off.

I always debate about umbrellas. I did end up taking a small one this time, but I only used it once, on our first day in England. So, my advice is to buy one at your destination if you need it (for light rain, you can just flip up your waterproof jacket hood) so you don't have to unnecessarily carry it all over Europe!

Make sure to buy a power adapter (for the shape of the plug) for each country you will be visiting! They are different for UK and France. These adapters make it possible for you to recharge your computer and usually your camera battery (which usually operate on both 110 and 220 volts). If you haul along other North American appliances, such as hairdryers, that only take 110 volts, you will need converter plug adapters as well. I immediately regretted my lack of foresight in this area when I plugged in my water pik in my UK hotel room and after a couple of seconds of super power, it died! Converters and adapters are readily available at airports, so if you forget, that is the best place to purchase one.

I only check the suitcase if it is free to do so (tie a colourful ribbon on it for quick identification at the luggage carousel) or I am traveling with artist's materials that cannot be taken on board. Do you have a favourite travel tip?

July 15, 2014

Green "Jus du Jour"

Green juice on an empty stomach is one of the best things you can drink for your energy, health and beauty!

Leave out sweet and starchy fruits and vegetables to avoid the blood sugar/insulin effect that those items will provoke.

Some citrus and a little sea salt provide flavour, vitamin C and minerals!

Green "Juice of the Day"

Green Juice for One

Romaine lettuce, 4 leaves
Asparagus stems, 1/2 cup
one garlic clove
parsley, handful of stems
cucumber, 1/2 large english
celery, 3 large stalks
one whole lime, peeled
pinch of sea salt

1. Wash everything and cut into shapes that will fit through the juicer opening.
2. Feed the items through your juicer (preferably a slow, single augur juicer such as Omega), alternating hard and soft foods.
3.  Drink immediately, sipping it slowly!

*Feel free to use whatever you have in your fridge that is green! I love dill in this as well. Sprouts would also be great.

Eco-Chic - Reuse and Recycle Old Clothes into Trendy Fashion!

Paris Fashion
If you know how to sew, love fashion and are a little short on cash, here is a great idea - be a budget fashionista!

Dig through your closet or buy a second-hand article of clothing in a fabric you like and then get creative! You can shorten it, take it in, change the waistline, shorten the sleeves, remove the sleeves, make a top or skirt from a dress or completely remodel it (especially if you choose an article of clothing that provides lots of fabric). Don't be afraid of browsing through your local second-hand store for inspiration and choose something you can wash throughly!

Before you decide to get rid of an item, take a second look at the possibilities for changing it to suit you better. However, don't hang onto clothing that you no longer wear for ten years thinking you will eventually find a use for it!

I have recycled things I already had at home, such as using old pillowcases to make smaller ones for my travel pillow, or sheets to make curtains, plus altering clothing in minor ways. However, this girl has taken the reuse/recycle mantra to a whole new level!

Although most of the recycled outfits this gal has whipped up are not personally my cup of tea,  I love the concept, which is environmentally and economically desirable.

If you don't know how to sew, there are classes and even whole shops devoted to the craft. Just google "sewing classes" and your town. Why not give it a try, it's not rocket science and you may discover a whole new creative outlet!

July 10, 2014

On Accepting Your Natural Hair Colour . . . if you dare!

I am part of the tail end of the Baby Boom cohort (1956 - 1964).  Inner health is very important, but I also want to look good; however, a few years ago I decided to favour my health over vanity and quit going to the hairdresser every couple of months, where I spent an inordinate amount of time and money having my hair cut and highlighted. I kept meaning to call my former hairdresser to explain that I had not betrayed her with another, but somehow never got around to it - sorry Van!

My journey from blonde streaks to silver highlights was a little tough, although in retrospect, chopping off my hair and getting a funky short style part-way through the process (rather than having the alternative, inevitable two-tone effect) might have been a good idea.  Anyhow, determination won out over vanity and I managed to get through the very awkward phase and am now quite happy with my silver strands among the brown. To be honest, I kind of wish I was 100% white, that is such a dramatic look! 

If you don't want to chop off your locks or suffer through the not-so-pretty growing out phase, a good idea is to add a few lowlights, which helps to blend the two shades. A good hairdresser would probably be able to ease the transition, but I just tried not to think about it and wore a lot of hats!

Hollywood celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep, Ali MacGraw, Diane Keaton and Helen Mirren are leading the way with a new trend to embracing their natural silver hair. "Embracing a physical symptom of aging is in some ways the ultimate feminist move", says an article from New York Daily News which advocates embracing your grey hair.

There are a plethora of blogs extolling the benefits of rocking your own natural grey hair, but an outstanding blog on the subject is by Cindy Joseph, who has gorgeous, long silver waves and became a model AFTER going grey. She now even has her own "Pro-Age" makeup line for women who, "want to reveal their natural beauty"! I love that concept.

There are even some younger women with no natural grey hair who are colouring their hair grey on purpose, so grey hair does seem to be having a "moment".

I firmly believe you should do what makes you happy, whether that means hair colour or no hair colour while hopefully using the least toxic options (since some choices are known carcinogens). I know it is not for everyone, but I love my silver streaks and the time and money I have saved over the past few years has been fantastic - I financed a trip to Europe (see photo below, taken in Bath, UK at The Fashion Museum this June). I even found some tips on Youtube to trim my long hair myself, which involves a large bread clip, some good scissors and a bit of contortion!

Trying on a corset while visiting England - I didn't even cinch it very much, but ouch!
Not being a slave to my hair is very freeing. I also avoid lots of chemical toxins that can contribute to health problems such as cancer and if, as a result, I look my age, that is a small price to pay. 

July 6, 2014

What Happens in Paris, Stays in Paris - Part Deux

The iconic Eiffel Tower and rectangular sculpted trees

Gorgeous flower display


Yes, that is a baguette (made of the dreaded wheat) and *gasp* also a camembert (goat's milk though!) and some antioxidant-rich red wine. These are a few things I routinely avoid consuming, but I have to say, the food you buy in Paris is vastly superior to most North American supermarket purchases. For one thing, they don't contain GMO's. Unless you have serious health concerns and need to be strict with your diet, you can't visit Paris without trying a baguette, eating a little cheese and sampling their superlative wine! I am somewhat flexible with what I eat when I travel (up to a point, still no meat for me) but everyone has to draw their own line. I do try to make the best choice from what is available, seek out healthy foods and always have some nuts in my bag for hunger emergencies.

Since we had a mini-kitchen in our apartment and a great terrace complete with dining table, we experienced the thrill of shopping for food like a true Parisian. The cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and lettuce tasted farm fresh and delicious, even though they came from Fanprix, a mini-supermarket in our neighbourhood.

July 5, 2014

Scientific Proof - The Key to Longevity

In a nutshell, the way to longevity is to eat little, less often and exercise. No huge shock here, other than going against the canonical "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" advice usually dispensed by nutritionists.

The somewhat surprising part of this article was the advice to NOT eat 6 times per day, but to stretch out the time between meals to 5 hours or so. This is the way the French eat - sitting down, several courses (including dessert!), small portions, with friends, usually in a bistro or cafe and no snacking in between meals!

For the details, go here:


June 27, 2014

What happens in Paris, stays in Paris - Part One

Pistachio, vanilla, caramel with sea salt and dark chocolate macarons from Laduree

Okay, I know, this is not health food by any stretch of the imagination. Macarons are a sugary delicacy made from egg whites and ground almonds and are found even in McDonald's in Paris!

During my  travels, I try to stick to wise choices when it comes to food, but I make a few exceptions to my usual fare in order to sample local specialties. The 80/20 rule comes to mind - Pareto's principle states that if you choose wisely 80% of the time, you are on the right track. I would like to keep that percentage a bit higher, since I know dietary choices have a profound impact on how I look and feel, but when in Paris (a rare opportunity) I decided to sample a couple of usually verboten foods, such as macarons.

Believe it or not, this is a Paris McDonald's!
McDonald's Pastry Showcase
Do parisians really eat this stuff on a daily basis? I did not see ANY grossly overweight people here - maybe it is all the walking everyone does to get around. I believe we did a couple of marathons during our stay in Paris. However, the other customers in the Laduree shop (on Rue Bonaporte on the Left Bank) did not seem to be French, just saying!

These tiny little confections cost the earth, so we just bought a few to sample. I decided to go to the very best place for Macarons, which is universally acknowledged to be Laduree, rather than economizing with the (likely chemical-infused) McMacaron.

Macarons are usually gluten-free (but chock-full of sugar) so are a little better than some other indulgences. We had them after dinner with a cup of fruit tea. I really liked the vanilla flavour, but they were all way too sweet for more than a bite or two.

As we were wandering around, we came upon Pierre Herme, a rival macaron shop which some people prefer to Laduree due to the innovative flavours produced there. We just took a look, but as you can see it has a completely different vibe which is more colourful and modern.

Pierre Herme - contendor for best macaron in Paris!

June 26, 2014


June 15, 2014

Greetings from Paris!

Rooftop of Galeries Lafayette

Have you ever seen a store this gorgeous?
I am not too good at staying in touch while I am traveling, since I usually fall exhausted into bed after running around (until my feet can't take it any more) for the entire day.

Before catching the Eurostar to Paris, we spent some time in Britain (driving a stick shift on the left hand side of the road with crazy ROUNDABOUTS to deal with was QUITE the experience).

I have taken (literally) thousands of photos and will share a few of the best with you - don't worry, it won't be all of them!

Today, we popped into the giant department store, Galeries Lafayette, not so much to shop, but to look at the view from their rooftop.

We also picked up a couple of crocks of mustard in their comprehensive food section. I like all the varieties of mustard they have available and the packaging is great. Once the mustard is all gone, I use the empty crocks to store paintbrushes and kitchen utensils - pretty and practical!

Gorgeous produce display at Galeries Lafayette
These pastries are ART not food! I (usually) just look and admire .....

March 20, 2014

M.A.K.E. Matthew Kenney Cuisine - Santa Monica Raw Food Restaurant for Dessert!

M.A.K.E. Restaurant in Sant Monica

Matthew Kenney (formerly of Pure Food and Wine) has founded a raw cooking school and restaurant in Santa Monica, California. Not too long ago, I was seriously considering attending this school for raw chef training. The location is a bit hard to find, since it is on the top floor of a shopping centre in The Market at the end of 3rd Street and is more of a cafeteria in feeling than a fine food restaurant, being open to the mall. We actually stumbled upon it by accident and planned to return.

The afternoon we stopped by for dessert, we were the only people in the place, other than a lot of staff (or perhaps students) who seemed to be having a meeting. The service was rather slow considering the how little effort was involved in plating ice cream and pre-made desserts, and the fact that we were the only paying customers, but we didn't mind sitting a bit after walking around The Getty Museum all day.

"Banana Split"

I was disappointed by this "Banana Split" since I like to have an actual banana included. We had a really delicious non-dairy version of the "Banana Split" at Real Food Daily (another Santa Monica vegan restaurant) a couple of days prior and I am sad to say that the M.A.K.E. version paled in comparison. The raw ice cream here at M.A.K.E. was delicious, but one type was almost melted and the others were firm. They didn't serve me one of the flavors I requested, since it was apparently too soft, but I am kind of glad, since the best flavor was the substitute. The replacement flavor, the green one in the center (avocado) had some kind of crunchy substance underneath that was really delicious - probably some nut and date combination. The sweet crisps stuck in the ice cream were apparently made from banana. I would have loved more sauce as well - that sad little drizzle was not nearly enough!

"Chocolate Cake with Peppermint Ice Cream"
 My son ordered the chocolate cake which was rich, silky, moist and dense - I would call it more of a chocolate cheesecake texture. I had a taste and it was delicious.

Pineapple Cheesecake with Coconut, Strawberry, Goji Berry"
This "Pineapple Cheesecake" was pretty good, although I found the texture kind of grainy. I think it had a nice presentation, but the serving size was lamentable. Those little mounds measure about an inch across (note the strawberry slice to compare) so very pricey for what you get.

Overall, I was left a bit disappointed with M.A.K.E. After having the most exquisite, creative raw dessert (both visually appealing and amazingly delicious) in the candlelit ambiance of Pure Food & Wine in New York City (owned by Sarma Melngailis, Kenney's former partner) I would recommend that you save your dollars for NYC. Perhaps the savoury dishes were more stellar, but Cafe Gratitude, just a short distance away in Venice, is another delicious raw and vegan option with relaxing decor.
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