Architectural Digest’s Style & Design Tips for December 2016

This month, the magazine explores the Obama family’s modern White House style, shows us how to display artistic sculptures in our homes, and gives examples of how lush greenery can compliment both architecture and personal style.

I hope you all had a happy and festive Christmas! Now that the excitement of presents and Christmas dinner has come to an end, many of us are coming up with our New Year’s resolutions and making personal goals for 2017. A common goal for the new year is to renovate or redecorate certain spaces (i.e. bedrooms, dining rooms, bathrooms and offices), which is why I wanted to share with you this month’s design tips from Architectural Digest. Even if you’re not planning to redecorate for a while or are on a budget, hopefully this post will help you gain some style and design insight for your future projects!

1. Use “dynamic” artwork and furniture to set the tone for your space.

Display unique photos, paintings, furniture and sculptures in rooms where they’ll have the most impact – think your foyer/entrance, dining room and living room. Whether it’s a photograph displayed in an elegant frame, a colourful painting or portrait, or a funky sculpture or table that really pops, those look-at-me pieces can bring life to small and plain spaces or give modern spaces a more casual vibe.

By the way, sculptures and art can double as furniture if you want to kill two birds with one stone. Check out this stunning Yves Klein coffee table, this Tommi Parzinger studded credenza, this Maria Pergay glass table and this Maria Pergay lamp. If you’re on a budget (or simply not made of money), you can find similar items for less at local housing ware stores like IKEA. They boast an assortment of unique shelves, lamps, storage units, cabinets, tables, chandeliers, etc. If you’re in Canada, you can also try Artemano, Structube, Urban Barn and Leon’s for funky yet functional household items.

2. Copy the Obama family’s White House style by using punchy artwork and earth-toned accents to make a “modern splash” amid a traditional theme, i.e. rich mahogany furniture coupled with beautiful rugs and carpets.

You can see pictures of their home here – notice how the rugs, dark wood furniture and subtle greenery (i.e. small plants or flowers) are a running theme throughout almost every room? This really ties the whole house together, as each room is complimentary of the next one but has memorable accents unique to that room (such as a plush sofa for the family room, breathtakingly beautiful artwork found in dining rooms and entertaining spaces, and antique desks and armchairs for executive rooms). Continue reading

Remembrance Day 2016: In Flanders Fields

Each year, Remembrance Day (Nov. 11th) honours the sacrifice brave men and women have made in order to secure peace and freedom in Canada. 

“Flanders Poppy on the First World War battlefields.” Source: greatwar.co.uk

“In Flanders Fields” is undoubtedly our most popular war poem. Penned on the World War I battlefield (in 1915) by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, it has become the unofficial “anthem” of Remembrance Day. The somewhat official symbol of commemorating our veterans is the poppy, which millions of Canadians wear on the left side of our coats in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. 

I’m no poetry expert, but I think these words are as powerful as any picture: 
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly 

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead: Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Loved and were loved, and now we lie 

In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you, from failing hands, we throw 

The torch; be yours to hold it high. 

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.” 

Thank you to all our veterans and current members of the armed forces. 🇨🇦

India Day 6: Drive to Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri & a Hectic Ride on an Indian Bus

After yesterday’s magical trip to the Taj Mahal, I don’t think anything can beat the morning we had. (Though there’s an elephant ride scheduled for tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!) The visit to the Taj totally exceeded my expectations and has definitely been the highlight of our vacation thus far. Today we left Agra for Jaipur, a vibrant city rich with history and culture.  

We left the Courtyard Marriott in Agra at 9:30 AM and drove straight to Fatehpur Sikri, an ancient city that Mughal Emperor Akbar built and once ruled in. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was constructed in the late 1500s and consists of beautiful mosques, halls and palaces. Akbar built palaces within the city for each of his three wives, and we could see details in each palace that referred to the wives’ hobbies and religious beliefs. Fatehpur Sikri remains, to this day, one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India.

Stunning 16th-century architecture and designs!

But I forgot the most important part: in order to get to Fatehpur Sikri, we rode on a cramped, run-down local bus up a hill in 34 degrees Celsius and a humidity factor of 89%! (It was honestly as bad as it sounds.) Now, keep in mind that my parents and I try not to be snobs when we’re travelling. Despite staying at nice hotels and taking precautions to ensure our safety, we mingle with locals whenever possible and find it fun to live like them for a day. The problem with today’s mingling was that it was a sweaty, smelly mess that left me desperate for a refreshing shower. 

Upon arrival at Fatehpur, we were a little disappointed to learn that we couldn’t take our car up to the ruins and would instead have to take the local bus, a small, ancient-looking vehicle that carried 25-30 people. My mum and I were a bit hesitant to get on when we saw that we were the only foreigners, but there was no other option. We squeezed into some tiny seats and received a mix of glares and curious looks from almost everyone on the bus. I started to feel like a goldfish – for some reason, people stared at us as if we were their entertainment. Maybe they were trying to figure out if we were Indian and, if we were, why we were dressed so differently than them. 

Everyone on the bus was dripping with sweat and wiping their faces with their clothes. Sweaty toddlers sitting on their parents’ laps had hair plastered to their foreheads and we saw more than one person with a totally soaked shirt…the humidity was truly overwhelming and I missed a fair bit of what the local guide was saying due to feeling very lightheaded. An hour later, one bus pulled up in front of a crowd of 60 people and there was immediate shoving and shouting as people scrambled to get a seat. We’re talking actual shoving – many of the people already climbing on to the bus were grabbed at until they had to give up and let others take their place. I was trying to stand still but ended up getting pushed and yelled at anyway. I think Fatehpur would’ve had more meaning for me if we had had a more pleasant method of transportation, but hey, at least we can say we took an authentic Indian bus ride and survived.

We arrived at Le Meridien hotel in Jaipur in the evening and didn’t get to see much of the city (although we did see elephants!), so tomorrow will be a full day of sightseeing. Can’t wait!

Elephant crossing!

India Day 1: Flight to Delhi & First Impressions

Wow! What a day. It’s 1:15 AM on Wednesday here in Delhi, but my parents and I are still on Toronto time so we’re somewhere between wide awake and ready to pass out. (If you’ve ever experienced jet lag, you’ll know what I mean!)

It took 14 hours to get from Toronto to Delhi, but that was truly one of the most comfortable flights I’ve ever had. We flew direct with Air Canada in Premium Economy, which means more legroom, better meals, wider seats and a much cozier cabin than regular economy. There were only 3 rows (21 seats), which meant we were able to sleep in a very quiet, dimly lit cabin with minimal disruptions from people walking up and down the aisles. I definitely recommend Premium for a great experience on long-haul flights. The food was surprisingly good (the butter chicken, rice pudding and samosas were a real treat) and there was hardly any turbulence – well done, Air Canada!

As first-time travellers to India, we were a little wary of what would greet us at the airport. Would we be walking into a country filled with crazy throngs of people (including pickpockets) and a horrible stench? Well, I’m happy to report that New Delhi, while quite smoggy, has none of the unbearable smells, piles of garbage and mobs of people that we were warned about. However, we’ll see how Old Delhi measures up later today when we embark on a half-day tour of the city. I’ll try to post daily updates, so please stay tuned! 🙂

Here’s Why You Should be Watching “Orange Is the New Black”

orange

This show, now in its fourth season, is so addictive! Consider yourself warned. Source: http://www.amazon.ca.

Guys, if you aren’t watching Orange Is the New Black, you’re seriously missing out! I think many people assume that shows about prison are depressing, and while Orange certainly has its bleak moments, it’s also light-hearted, clever and very entertaining. Based on American ex-felon Piper Kerman’s memoir detailing her year in a federal prison, this award-winning Netflix show follows a character named Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) as she learns how to survive amongst hardened criminals and adapt to her scary, unfamiliar surroundings. An educated blonde woman from Connecticut, she fell in with with the wrong crowd in her 20s and was charged 10 years later for knowingly transporting a suitcase full of drug money – also known as money-laundering – across international borders. The character’s uneventful and seemingly innocent life story is probably what makes her so relatable to the audience; other characters often comment that a “nice, white lady” like Chapman doesn’t belong in prison. With each Orange episode we find out more about the (often shocking) backgrounds of the other characters, which helps us understand more about where they come from and how they landed in prison.

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The World Partnership Walk: What It Is and Why It’s So Important to Donate

Each year, Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) hosts the World Partnership Walk in 10 cities across Canada. AKFC, an international, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating global poverty, has worked with Canadians for over 30 years to improve the quality of life of those living in Africa and Asia. The organization has made a significant impact in many crucial areas within international development, such as increasing access to quality education and healthcare and generating economic opportunities for women and men. The Walk is – you guessed it – a walk-a-thon that strives to bring awareness to these issues and encourage us to give back. According to its website, “…the World Partnership Walk has raised more than $95 million – making it the largest event in Canada in support of international development.” Also, 100% of those donations goes directly into AKFC’s overseas programs and initiatives. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is! Continue reading

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Produces Genuine Laughs But Mixed Messages

There’s no question that actress and comedian Tina Fey is a funny lady. From her spot-on impersonations of Sarah Palin to her perfectly-timed sarcasm in her movies and TV shows, she’s both relatable and endearing. These traits come across splendidly in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (view the trailer here), a new dramedy about timid cable news producer Kim Barker (Fey) who is unexpectedly sent to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2002 to report from an out-of-control war zone. The supporting cast (including Billy Bob Thornton, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and Alfred Molina) is a surprisingly entertaining mix of actors whose characters help develop Fey’s character as she adapts to the unfamiliar territory, struggles with personal and professional issues, and finds out if she can become the fearless TV reporter she always wanted to be.

It’s not necessarily a feel-good movie as it scrapes the surface of many real-world issues concerning war, sexism, loss, and guilt, but it’s not a full-blown drama, either. As aforementioned, there were some VERY funny moments; even my parents were giggling at the funniest lines (which, ironically, were not actually uttered by Fey, a comedian.) Continue reading