Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Heart Jamie Oliver

When the weekend rolls around, I love to laze around, sip some tea, and get inspired as to what to nosh on. Who inspires me in the kitchen? None other than Jamie Oliver, and I've been a big fan of him since the early Naked Chef days.

I noticed on his new website that he's started something called Recipease in the UK. The concept is simple - you show up, pick out the item(s) you want for dinner, and you take 10 minutes to prep it in the Recipease kitchen before taking home a delicious meal of say, Jamie's Fantastic Fish Pie to finish cooking in your oven. There are a variety of items to choose from, from starters to mains to sweets ("puddings"). What's so cool about it is the menu obviously features all of Jamie's recipes. The concept is not new - in Vancouver we have several similar services such as Dinnerworks and Indishpensable which make creating proper, tasty meals super easy. These services are incredibly helpful for busy people who don't want take-out but don't have time to do all the prep work.

Classic lasagna available at Recipease. Image from

Too bad Recipease isn't here in North America - yet. Given Jamie's empire, maybe we'll see it on our neighbourhood block soon.

Yearning for Stylish Equestrian Wear

I have always struggled to find really stylish equestrian apparel.  Everywhere I look, it's all the same-old, same-old - nothing really unique and designer.  Sure, I love the well made quality and preppy looks from Pikeur, Arista, Harry Hall, and Ariat, but there's nothing out there that spoke to the horsey stylista in me.  Enough of the gore-tex Mountain Horse wear, and clashing pink, blue and green striped Joules polos already!

That is, until I came across O'Halloran.  This is what one could wear riding with royalty in Ireland on a mock hunt, and you would look hot doing so (Hello Prince Harry!).   O'Halloran also carried a regular fashion line, including this beautiful long duster, and a bolero made out of a "rich terracotta fabric".  The O'Halloran lady is aristocratic, yet ever so slightly rebellious in the details.

Sadly, O'Halloran is no longer in business as the founder, Cathleen O'Halloran-Cordova, sustained a serious riding accident in 2006 from which she is still recovering.  I sincerely wish her all the best.  Until O'Halloran returns, I will have to continue my search.

Some more looks:

Beautiful full-seat breeches with a Gucci-esque bit-belt.

Beautiful herringbone shadbelly vest with navy suede collar.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Holla for Yelle

I'm really digging the style and music of French artist Yelle right now.   Her electro-pop eighties meets gamine chic is fun and sassy.

Check out some of her music at her MySpace site - including Je Veux Te Voir and À cause des garçons.  Everything sounds better en Français.  Videos also at her Facebook Fan page.

High tops rule!

Is that a mini dress or a romper? Either way, looks great.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dining Out for Life is Back

Dining Out For Life, an annual event organized by A Loving Spoonful, is happening again on March 12 at various Vancouver and Whistler restaurants. 25% of all revenues generated on meals on this day will go towards AIDS charities around the Lower Mainland, including A Lovin Spoonful and Friends for Life.

Participating restaurants include Bin 941 and 942, Chambar, Fraiche, Voya and Gastropod.

A very worthwhile cause and I should be out on the town for a bite on this occasion.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sleek Sporty Schouler

Checked out some Proenza Schouler pieces today and found some lovely sporty pieces from the Spring 2009 collection.

Is the cropped top on its way back anytime soon? Paired with high waisted slim trousers rather than the late nineties, low rise belly showing hip huggers (yuck)?

Blue heels, seen in the beige version on Mary-Kate Olsen.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cycle Fixation

I've been in love with fixies for a while now and maybe this summer I'll be brave enough to try riding one on the hills of Vancouver.  Fixies, otherwise known of fixed gear bicycles, have only one gear and sometimes no brakes.  they're loved by fixie riders for their minimalistic, clean lines and a closer feel to the ground and terrain.

I particularly love these cycles from Mission Bicycles from San Francisco - pictures below are from their Flickr gallery.

Fixie fashion is also uniquely chic - they're the cool boys and girls you see whizzing around main street with their newsboy caps, rolled up denims, messenger bags and checkered Vans.  The panty shorts below might be a traffic stopper though.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar's Notable Looks

Brange in all black. How many carats are Angie's emerald earrings?

Evan Rachel Wood looking old Hollywood glam.

Anne Hathaway in sleek, glittery Armani.

All pictures courtesy of

Live Tweeting Oscars Right Now

Follow me on Twitter (@abeautifullife) for my commentary on the Oscar's fashion (for as long as I can anyways - i do have dinner plans you know).

So far - Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah looked pretty fab. Saw a glimpse of Natalie Portman and I'm desperately seeking her pink dress which the press is raving about.

Room with a View

I was watching one of my new fave shows the other night, Around the World in 80 Gardens on HGTV, and it featured a full episode of gardens around South Africa. It got me thinking about my two wonderful trips I had there and some of the fantastic places I would love to escape to right about now.

Kanonkop House
, located in Knysna (pronounced "neyes-na") on the Western Cape, must be one of the most outstanding B+B guest houses i have ever stayed in. It is situated up on a hill overlooking the famous Knysna point lagoon and there are coastal views as far as the eye can see. The house is custom built, modern yet very warm and luxurious. I stayed in the top-level Paradise Suite (very private too) which faces the lagoon and has an enormous en-suite bathroom with a soaker tub big enough for more than 2.

Everything about this place is 5 stars and it checks all the tickboxes regarding location, style, comfort and luxury. But it's the little touches at Kanonkop House that make it stand apart - beautiful antiques and art decorate the house; organic, locally-made biscotti, soap, and candles are provided in your room to make you feel very special. Most of all, it is the owner, Chris', hospitality that lifts this experience to the top. Friendly yet discreet, he was always available to ensure we had everything we needed without being overbearing.

Paradise Suite at Kanonkop House

Pool at Kanonkop House

(All pictures courtsey of

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beautiful Saturday

Enjoying a beautiful Saturday thus far with the mild weather and sunshine. Went on a lovely trail ride this morning with Miss Fancy after a morning jumpathon lesson. Took some snaps of the minis too at the barn. Now I've got a fruit crumble baking in the oven (my first attempt). Let's hope that goes as well!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Simply Sublime of a Gem a Winner at the Oscars

My cousin Tracy took me this absolute gem of a boutique last week - Simply Sublime.  Located at Oak and between West 22nd and 23rd in an old-school, low-rise apartment, where the building facade hangs the store's "golden crown" sign, one really has to look carefully to realize what a fine find this is.  Once inside, I felt like I was entering the lofty apartment of a very hip, very girly, girlfriend, filled with art, silver mirrors, and curvy antique white chairs.  I was then privy to rifle through her closet to try on the most stylish things and jewelry.  Oh, and did I mention Selena, the lovely manager at Simply Sublime, offered me bubbly?  I was in shopping heaven.  

Constantina James is the owner of Simply Sublime and also the designer of the beautiful jewelry on display.  Her work ranges from 14 carat delicate gold chains to sterling silver, and many pieces are hand hammered for Constantina's trademark feminine, organic look (think wilting gold leaves and feathers). The pieces incorporate semi-precious gems like Citrine, Blue Topaz, Pearls, Peridot and Swarovksi crystals.  Celebrities have taken note of because everyone from Anne Heche to Britney Spears have been photographed wearing her necklaces and earrings, and Simply Sublime is even providing a set of necklace, earrings and bracelet in this year's 2009 Oscars gift bag.  See the below photo for what the celebs are going to get!

below: Claire Newell Necklace (centre), matching double-hooped earrings and custom bracelet (not shown) in the Oscars goodie bag.

The Simply Sublime Atelier carries a wonderful selection of brands such as Habitual, Ella Moss, James Perse, Kensi and Velvet.  Everything from daily work wear, skinny jeans, embroidered beaded tanks and frilly tops can be found - day to night wear. 

For Spring and Summer, Selena says watch for bright colours (think sunshine yellow, tangerine, and mint green) in both the clothing and jewelry line from Simply Sublime.   I couldn't decide on which necklace I liked on my trip there but I'll be checking in soon for new stuff.

below: entrance reception 

Simply Sublime is located at 150-3737 Oak Street in Vancouver.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Would You Wear to Lunch with Mr. President?

Canada is waiting in anticipation of Mr. President Barack Obama's arrival tomorrow, his first official trip outside the US. Talk about Obamamania right now in Ottawa. What's on my mind? What would I wear if I were meeting Mr. President for lunch? What would you?

Here are some of my picks.

Here's a cute number by Shoshanna. A little unexpected, I know, but I love the embroidery.

(image from

Olga Kurylenko in stunning black and white Chanel. A more classic choice.

(image from

Flirty but classy pink number from Nanette Lepore.

(image from

Lastly, modern take on the tulip shape by Thread Social.

(image from

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Book Review: Outliers - The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Many of you may know Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell from his bestsellers such as Blink and The Tipping Point. I first caught wind of Outliers, his latest book, through a CBC interview with Gladwell. His approach to understanding what makes successful people successful piqued my interest.

Gladwell's goal is to provide a new view on achievement. In doing so, he argues, society would be better able to create the environment to better cultivate more successful individuals. Everything from improving our school system to improving aviation safety could then be achieved through creating the conditions that create successful individuals and societies. To do so, Gladwell examines various cases and breaks down the major factors which contribute to success. From professional hockey players to the Beatles to Bill Gates, highly relatable examples are used to support his theories.

So is it nature or nurture? Are some of us predisposed to rising to the top at whatever we do just as some of us are doomed to fail? According to Gladwell, it is a combination of both. Using cases, psychological studies, and statistics, he puts forth various theories which explain how and why success happens. Success is not an outcome of some extraordinary consequences that happen at random, but is directly the result of factors such as: hard work and practice, innate ability (to a certain extent but a high IQ does not guarantee success), luck and opportunity (which could mean coming from a wealthy family with the means to provide such opportunities, or being born in the right place at the right time), and rather controversially, cultural legacy.

Outliers is a well thought-out, well researched book, but I did find the examples he used very conveniently support his arguments. Hindsight is 20/20, and it would be worthwhile to review some of the studies he cites in further detail. Most of his theories are wellvsupported and they make sense, although his thoughts on how our culture impact why we are successful at some things and fail at others are sure to cause heated debate. For example, he postulates Asian students are successful at mathematics due to the thousands of years of dependence and hard work ethic in rice paddy fields. He argues that it is not that Asian students (those from Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and also those who are Asian in ethnicity but born or raised abroad) are genetically superior to solve mathematics problems but rather, those students have a greater work ethic to sit patiently to solve math problems. Through thousands of years of tending rice paddy fields, which is a notoriously labour intensive and complex process, students from Asian cultures have inherited a kind of work ethic not seen in their North American and European counterparts which help them excel at math.

Now I have always been terrible at math, and I am not sure whether he is correct and I should have just sat my ass down for longer periods of time and I could have achieved A's in Calc 101 and 102. Gladwell uses broad stereotypes in building his case, but I commend him for saying what many have already thought about. In the end, Gladwell argues that for good or for worse, our culture impacts why we're good at some things and not so good at others. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we can make changes which allow us to shed or to embrace those legacies that make us good at what we do. At the end of the book, Gladwell reveals a surprise about his own cultural roots which ties his other theories together.

One thing that Gladwell never really focused on is what is defined as success. His cases centre around success in the career and individuals who have climbed to the top of their respective career ladders. To me, career success is only one way to define success. Success to me, is happiness in life, and whatever that may be. I understand that is not the focus of Gladwell's book, but not everyone wants or thrives on the kind of success that Gladwell is writing about.

Outliers is a worthwhile read, and provides a new way to look at those who rise to the top in their careers. Perhaps what I take away from this is a greater acknowledgment of how my Chinese culture contributes to who I am as a person. The Chinese believe that hard work and good fortune will always lead to success, and in many ways, this is in parallel with what Gladwell is saying.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Reflections on Love and Life

On the eve of Valentine's Day, I am reflecting on something very personal and very real.  I am thinking of the bond between my great-aunt and great-uncle, who have been married for more than 60 years.   I am thinking about the fragility of life, and how short its duration is.  I am thinking about putting trifle differences aside and forgiving those who matter, no matter what.

I was given this lovely poem, hand-written on a card, from my dear friend Sam on my wedding day.  Tonight, I read it aloud, find comfort it its meaning, and take it to heart.

Marriage, by Kahlil Gibran, from the book "The Prophet"

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Shoe Fetish Friday

My friend rocked up to the office today with the flyest shoes he picked up at Eugene Choo (pricey!) at what he calls "discounted" rate.  Don't know what brand these are but they are beautiful, Italian leather booties with a low heel with a slim outline.  Love love love these.  

Got a shot also of my own black patent leather booties with kitten heel (where else but from Hong Kong) - paired with electric blue zipper jeans from Urban Outfitters for $19.99.  Like I said, neon is my thing right now.

My same outfit got featured on K's The Anthology.  So honoured.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Spring Brings: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Hopefully there's only a few more weeks of winter left as I'm looking forward to some of these very wearable looks from Marc by Marc Jacobs. The collection can be summed up as, "what the chic boys and girls wear".  Again, a trend in the spring is heavy 80's - and we see that here. Unlike the rock n roll 80's punk style we saw for Rock and Republic, this collection is all about fun, lightness and utility. 80's wash denim, canvas shoes, neon accessories (I love the neon pink string bracelets and layered necklaces), cargo and khaki capris pants (often rolled up), and high waisted shorts put together a picture of youthful exuberance. He somehow even made fanny packs work.

The menswear was a standout - I know rolled up capris and short shorts aren't for every guy, but the boys that walked this runway looked fine.

And what's a Marc by Marc Jacobs collection without the hot accessories? I am in want of sunglasses like these and I can't wait to take a closer look at the bags.

I was skeptical of the whole neon trend when I first spotted it, but I am now completely enamored.  

There's a kind of Johnny Depp cool about this look:

(All pictures from

Monday, February 9, 2009

Perfect Dress for Paris

I picked up this very cute number from Teenflo last week.  I think it's very classic but modern at the same time, and a perfect dress for my days in Paris, non?