Friday, January 30, 2009

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on Oprah Looking Fab

I stayed awake for long enough today to catch the Olsen twins on Oprah, which featured a segment on young moguls. They both looked fabulous, and healthy too. Ashley sported some stunning large pearl earrings and strappy black stilettos, while Mary-Kate wore a black dress with dramatic white trumpet sleeves and black cut-out booties (an obsession for me right now). Check out Oprah's slide show to get the full scoop on their outfits. They were also there to promote their new book, Influence, as well as their fashion lines The Row and Elizabeth and James. I had never seen them in an interview before and was actually quite impressed with how eloquent they were, and how passionate and hard working they were regarding their businesses.

Here is a link to a segment from Oprah which takes you inside the day in the life of these twin moguls and how they run their fashion lines. As you can see, they are very hands on.

Beautiful Break

It's been quite a few days since I posted and I just wanted to let you know it's because I've been quite sick. I'm slowly getting better so will be getting back to posting very soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Beautiful Bride and Manolos

My beautiful friend Maxine got married last fall and she recently posted up this picture of us at her wedding, showing off our shoes. She's sporting her very first pair of Manolo Blahniks, and matching that with her gorgeous, puffy, very princless like wedding gown by Judd Waddell. I am wearing double Betsey Johnson creations. We had to take a pic of our designer shoes being the shoe fiends that we are.
Maxine always has the biggest, brightest smile, and on this day, the mega-wattage was higher than twice our shoes combined.
Wedding photos courtesy of Jonetsu Photography, who also happened to snap my wedding photos.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama's Presidential Address


My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hand Knitted Goodies by Granted

As much as I hate winter, I feel somewhat cheered up by the fact that i could cozy up in one of Granted Clothing's chunky, Cowichan inspired knitted sweaters. What makes these knits more special than your typical Aritzia TNA sort (yes I do own a brown and cream one that I live in during the fall and winter) is they are hand knitted and produced in Canada with merino wool and possum (before you get all grossed out about possum, I happen to own a pair of fantastic possum wool gloves made in New Zealand and they are superbly warm). Not to mention the killer motifs such as camels, flamingos, palm trees, and prancing deer. I covet! Too bad the CBC sweater is a limited edition; how utterly Canadian!

The leg warmers are darling too, although I would put them over my short, dark blue fringe bootie moccasins (handmade in Wisconsin) and not uggs.

They say the Prairie/North American Midwest type look is coming in for the spring (See TopShop's Memphis collection). Perhaps a piece like the vest is something I can invest in as a transition to spring?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Spring Brings: Stella McCartney's Slouchy Sexy

Stella McCartney's Spring 2009 collection brought out more of my faves: jumpsuits!  The colour palette was spot on - lovely neutrals in nude, beige, peach, cream, gunmetal, silver and a touch of turquoise for pop. Stella embodies what it means to be effortlessly stylish; her muse is no try-hard. You will find no girly bows, ribbons, or animal prints.  The sensuality and femininity is subtle but equally potent.   Plunging V-necklines and high cut jumpers (like a one piece maillot) show plenty of skin, and inventive tailoring keeps the line uniquely modern.  The boyfriend jacket and drapey tops continue to make a strong showing, and they make very wearable pieces.  I also loved the pared down makeup and swept back hair - very fresh for spring.  Accessories were limited to at the most one stand-out item.  This Stella girl is modern, strong and looks equally chic from day to night to weekend.  She's on the go, but makes it look so easy.

My only question is, can one successfully pull off one of these jumpers?  Or is this strictly resort wear?  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sales! I Can't Resist

The boxing day and holiday shopping season is long over, and yet there are still sales abound everywhere.  In store, online, there are so many good deals out there it all makes it very hard to resist.  

Here a couple of latest finds - A black babydoll style coat from Joie and a cute Built by Wendy  dress  as seen here.

Taisa Anderson Designs - Local Handcrafted Jewelry

A friend from work, Taisa, is a very talented jewelry designer. She runs Taisa Anderson Designs, and prior to the holidays she brought in her latest wares which make perfect gifts for girlfriends. There's something very earthy and organic about her designs, and I love the global ethnic influences. I bought a few things from Taisa as gifts, and I was very tempted by the beautiful cloth bead necklaces. I liked it so much that I asked her to make me a custom one that fit more like a choker, and in the brown and white fabric as you see below. I picked it up last week and I've been wearing it nonstop - it's the kind of piece that really pops.

Taisa scoured the markets in Uganda and Burundi and brought back some brightly coloured fabric (think lime green, mandarin orange, sunny yellow paired with neutrals like cream and brown) to create necklaces and earrings. Not only is her jewelry handcrafted, but much of it also benefits the Bavubuka Foundation, a charity project that she has been quite involved in over the past year. Taisa spent several months in Africa in 2008 and she visited villagers, teaching young women beadwork and jewelry making so they can earn a living. She also spent time amongst inner city youth teaching boys how to hand spin beads and create beautiful, long necklaces (also available for sale). 80% of the proceeds go back to support this youth group.

As a fellow traveler who has fallen in love with Africa (and been there twice), I really admire Taisa's efforts. It is very inspiring to see how one person can make a difference. Her work is gorgeous, unique, and created with care, and to top it off, supports some great causes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My obsession with Jumpers

I was delighted today find a colleague of mine also adores jumpers. Rompers, pantsuits, jumpers - they're not for everybody but they are so much fun! I have at least 3 in my closet - a black, white and a grey one. I think they do require a bit of nerve to pull them off. Over do it and you can either look like a 14 year old Hills wannabe or a common slapper (not sure which one is worse). My white terry cloth one is strictly resort and beach wear.

Here's a couple of very worthy jumpers from Sass & Bide to feast your eyes on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sweet Dreams of a Floating Hotel in Sweden

This beautiful floating hotel and restaurant, Salt & Sill, is located on  Klädesholmen, or Herring Islan, on the west side of Sweden.   Salt & Sill started as a restaurant, selling fresh seafood right from the local villager boats.  It is touted as one of Sweden's best seafood restaurants, and in October 2008, the owners opened up a very sleek and stylish hotel.

Typically anything "floating" seems to be downright cheesy and almost always a tourist trap. However, this looks absolutely beautiful.  I have no idea what there is to do on Klädesholmen other than to eat, steam and/or sauna, but just from these pictures it looks like a relaxing retreat.

For a detailed account, the Guardian has a wonderful article about the hotel.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Review: How we Lead matters - Marilyn Carlson Nelson

I participated in the Mini Book Expo, which is a really cool book review program where bloggers get books for free. The catch: read, review and blog about it! Thanks to One Degree for coordinating this. Below is my first book, How We Lead Matters - Reflections on a Life of Leadership by Marilyn Carlson Nelson, CEO of the Carlson group of companies and named to the Forbes List of Most Powerful Women.

I was interested in the book because it was marketed as an intimate look into the perspective of a great female business leader. I always knew of the Carlson brand which consists of businesses in travel, hospitality, and restaurant industries. Some of the more well known brands include the Radisson Hotels and Resorts, TGI Fridays and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. What I didn't know was this impressive corporation was led by a CEO who is also a mother, wife, community leader, and philanthropist.

The book is set up as a series of short memoirs, one per page with an accompanying quote or poem. The structure immediately distinguishes it from the plethora of other CEO Life Experience books out there. There are no hard business lessons or strategies to be gleaned. Instead, Marilyn's book is an account of lessons and memories from her life which she has chosen to recount as she claims are "[stories] they have stayed in my memory - surviving the successive waves of the years...because they tell my truths". The stories are meant to reveal Marilyn's core principles which have guided her throughout her life, both personal and corporate, and helped her make decisions which define her as a person and a leader.

For the most part, her point comes across poignantly. We are reminded of lessons many of us know but often forget: to try hard, and to keep trying even if we're up against the odds. To be self-reliant and be the one person to instigate change instead of waiting for it to happen. To make ethical decisions and care for others, whether they be family members, friends, your community, or children of the world. To know humility and to rebound from hardship and failures. These themes resonate throughout the book, and while these are no revelations of mass proportions, her personal style and voice narrating the stories of successes and failures struck a chord with me. Especially her ability to be vulnerable, and in her telling of a most tragic event in her life: the death of her teenage daughter. This openness allows the reader to feel connected to Marilyn, and to take her advice to heart.

Marilyn is a true American entrepreneur (she believes "a job is the best form of philanthropy"), and although her father started the Carlson company and in some ways she has "inherited" the leadership position, her many achievements in both the corporate and greater social world prove she is not successful merely because of her family name. I may not have always agreed with her philosophies and opinions in the book, but I have a large amount of respect for her and her accomplishments.

The most moving part of the book, and perhaps the last reminder to take the lessons to heart, comes from the speech given by Marilyn's daughter to her senior class just prior to her sudden death. Titled, "The Journey Not the Arrival Matters", it neatly sums up Marilyn's approach to life and how our everyday decisions on how we live our lives matters.

My final and most important take away from Marilyn's book is that each time I find myself down, uninspired, or feeling sorry for myself, I will thumb through these stories, poems and quotes and I know it will remind me once again of these important lessons which we all know but often forget.