Ascension

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” – Ben Okri

“When you can imagine, you begin to create and when you begin to create you realize that you can create a world that you prefer to live in, rather than a world that you’re suffering in.” – Ben Okri

“Reach for the best feeling thought you have access too.” -Abraham Hicks

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Mid-January.  It’s still dark out by 5 p.m. The holidays are over, bank accounts are looking dismal, the sugar detox is real, and statistics show that most people have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions a week ago.  Enter Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, reported to be the most depressing day of the year.  I’m not gonna lie, it can be very challenging to keep your chin up and keep on trucking optimistically when so many people around you are suffering and struggling to see the point of it all. It can leave you having to dig deep to find the motivation to power on.  So, what do we do about it?  Well, for starters, let’s not fall for the oldest mistake in the proverbial book.  If you are feeling a little lower than usual, now is not the time to shoot for the stars and make unrealistic plans and demands on yourself.  You know I’m all about dreaming big and believing in your ability to live your dream life, but I have lived long enough to know that shooting too high, when you are feeling too low, is a recipe for failure and can knock you back even further than where you started from.  I think about my emotions like a staircase.  Each step up is a small improvement in how I feel.  The bottom step is hopelessness.  It’s where depression resides.  You may currently be on the third step, where frustration is rampant, but remember, it is a whole lot better than hopelessness. So, how do I climb the staircase?  Well, firstly, I realize that I can’t jump from the bottom step to the top.  Its just not possible, physically, or emotionally.  But, I can focus on the things that are working and the little things that make me feel good, like the warm glow of a scented candle, a really great cup of coffee, or how lovely the light is in the morning through my front window, and suddenly, my gratitude has carried me up a few steps.  If you treat it as a daily practice to notice the good stuff, then before you know it, you have reached the step that has you revelling in hope and optimism.  From here, you can see the top and now is the time to dream big and get specific about the things you want.  If you can get up enough inspiration and emotional will, you may even be able to launch yourself up the last few steps to the top, where all your dreams reside.  Here’s the catch though, no one stays at the top of the staircase forever.  The truth is, you’d get bored there.  It’s in our nature to want to be working toward something, to want to improve and to overcome adversity.  It’s in our DNA.  It’s part of being human.  From one day to the next, we climb up and down the staircase of life through many trials and tribulations.  Sometimes we get stuck for longer than we’d like on a particular step, or continually return to one on the regular.  If this is happening to you, chances are, you have something to learn from it, and you’ll keep returning to that step until you do.  The thing to remember is that it is in our power to climb or not climb.  We have the capacity to look around us right now in this very moment, find things to be grateful for, and start the process of ascension, no matter where you are on the staircase of life.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams. Hair cut and colour by Kitty of Berns and Black.

NEW FASHION: Flared pants by H&M, Velvet booties from Hudson’s Bay, Velvet jacket from Winners.

THRIFTED FASHION: Sunglasses, satin Chinese-inspired blouse, scarf.

VINTAGE FASHION: Embroidered hat.

Paris in The Prairies

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“She gave up on life as she knew it
to find life as it should be known…”

Niki Trosky (Winnipeg Author, from her book Love Life)

“Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.” –  Anais Nin

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

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About a year ago, I was having coffee with my Grandma and telling her about my frustrations and how I impatient I was feeling about life. Things weren’t happening quickly enough for me.  I wanted to be where I wanted to be already, I was tired of how it was, and I wanted change…now.  She smiled in that coy knowing way that Grandma’s sometimes do and said “bloom where you’re planted.”  When you are as impatient as I was at that particular moment, that statement is as irritating as nails on a chalkboard, but it was truth at it’s purest and so it sunk deep into my thick irritable skull for later when I was ready to receive the message.  It took a while, but I kept turning the phrase over and over again in my mind trying to grapple with what it really meant.

As we begin a New Year, I think I understand it’s meaning, not in the intellectual way I originally did, but in how to apply it practically to my life .  It resonates with me as a message to stop living in the future and be present.  To slow down mentally and stop looking for the greener grass somewhere else. To open your eyes to the beauty and opportunity and joyful moments happening right where you are and revel in them, for one day, they will be gone, forever.  We tend to be so trained by society to be goal oriented and focussed on our future ambitions that life is quite literally passing us by while we are dreaming of something bigger and better.  I am as guilty of that as anyone.  Dreaming big and having rich desires and hopes for the future is good, and healthy, and normal, but being so focussed on the star you are reaching for that you fail to realize you are up in the cosmos and really need to be present in this moment, with these people, in this situation, is a kind of tragedy.  This is what they mean when they say “don’t dream your life away!”.  Not that you should not dream, or that dreaming is a waste of time, but that you should not allow your dreams for the future to rob you of your present.  Life is happening now, and now is all there is.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never exist.

Necessity has had me firmly planted in the role of Mother and homemaker over the last few years and it’s been too easy to isolate myself and become too comfortable being alone and doing things independently. My shift in focus to my passion for fashion styling and now blogging has re-ignited my desire to connect with people, collaborate and be a part of a rich community of like-minded people.  Blooming where you’re planted as a creative person is not a difficult thing to do when you live in a city that is overflowing with artistic people.  Winnipeg has such a rich and diverse culture of music, art, dance, writers and fashion, that there is always something interesting to do and be a part of.  Even better than that, we are known as an extremely “friendly” city. This may seem silly or insignificant to some, but to someone like me who is looking to connect with people and collaborate, being surrounded by friendly, open and kind individuals who are more than willing to open their arms and hearts to you is such an incredible relief and also incredibly inspiring.  Not to mention that this is just the kind of positive and open attitude that gets shit done.  Inclusion not exclusivity.  Collaboration, not competition.

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I’m in love with Winnipeg and all the people here that inspire me every day! I have been incredibly blessed to have met and worked with so many skilled and talented people already it’s baffling.  And there are so many of you I haven’t even met yet, but I want to!  I’m so excited to meet you and create something together, and I’m not embarrassed or afraid to look silly by admitting that. I want to make cool shit! Not pretend that I’m too cool to approach you and too chill to get super excited about sharing inspiring ideas with you.  There are so many opportunities to co-create that have yet to manifest.  It’s a very exciting time to be alive!  The world is starting to figure out that we are so much better and stronger together and our reach is so much further and more potent when we can put fear and ego aside and realize that success for one of us is ultimately success for all of us in the same creative world.  A high tide raises all boats.  We can raise the tide together much more effectively and for the greater good if we work together, support one another and cheer each other on.

So, if you see me in the street, or at a coffee shop or an event, come and say hi!  If you have a great idea for a collaboration, let me know, whether we know each other or not. I don’t bite, and if you tell me you read my blog, my mind will undoubtedly be blown because I’m still flabbergasted when anyone I don’t know tells me they read my blog. Ultimately, if you have creative ideas that will improve the city that we live in, or the industry that artists work in, I’m in your corner.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty of Berns & Black

VINTAGE FASHION: Chinese silk jacket from Ruby Slipper Vintage

NEW FASHION: Grey Triat Coat by Lennard Taylor (it’s impossible not to look chic in this universally flattering coat!); Black beret and skinny scarf from the Haberdashery (Winnipeg, if you need a hat, this is the place!); Black booties by A.S. 98 from Rooster Shoes (you won’t find this quality of shoes or diversity of unique styles anywhere else in Winnipeg); Faux leather pants, striped shirt, and fringe bag from H&M.

COFFEE: Parlour Coffee

Merry Little Christmas

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Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling on the ground
Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling down
Well you be a real good little girl
Santa Claus is back in town
Got no sleigh with reindeer
No sack on my back
You’re gonna see me comin’ in a big black caddilac

-Elvis Presley

This was my favourite Christmas song growing up. No really, it was!  I listened to it over and over and over again.  It may in fact have been the first time I was exposed to old-school rock and roll, and it blew my mind. You really have to listen to it to appreciate it’s magic, because the lyrics leave something to be desired.  Full on rock and roll, groovy Christmas, with some subtle sexiness on the side (which Elvis did oh so well), oh and an amazing jazz piano solo.  Now I rock out to it with my own kids. Tradition.  It is not something I would have guessed would become so important to me, but it is.

Christmas means different things to different people. During a really difficult time in my life when I was at the tender age of 20 and planning to move out on my own for the first time, I really started thinking about what the holidays really meant to me.  It was a tumultuous time on my Mother’s side of the family with an immense amount of change being imposed on me and for the first time in my life, I was an adult, living on my own, paying my own way, and I was in a position for the first time ever in my life to choose for myself what I wanted. So, out of a really difficult situation that hurt me deeply and left me feeling really alone, came a really wonderful opportunity (as often happens).  The opportunity to really do some soul searching and decide who I was and what I believed in and valued. I was extremely fortunate to have a really solid group of friends around me and my then boyfriend who was later to become my husband and partner for life.

After digging into my own heart for answers, I realized that what hurt the most about everything I was going through with my family was the loss of history and tradition.  I realized that the real glue that holds a family together are the things that we repeat. Our rituals. We have all kinds of new experiences every day, but tradition allows for a regular check-in on our roots and they become the milestones for the passage of time.  All you have to do is look back at old photos.  Before the era of smart phones, people only pulled out their cameras during special occasions (a.k.a. traditions).  Most of my childhood photos were from Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays and Birthdays.  Our traditions are our culture. It is the fabric that holds us together.  It is the music we listen to, the food we eat, the sayings and expressions we say, and all the rituals we carry out together in bond.

So, I started over.  I began again from scratch and I built my own traditions.  I dug in my own roots, deep and wide, and made my own glue, thick and strong.   At first, Gregory (then my boyfriend) thought it was all a little too much.  I insisted that we go and get a real Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, every year without fail.  I made sure we blasted Christmas carols in the car on the way.  I decorated every square inch of our apartment and made a Christmas list of all my favourite classic Christmas tunes, which I played constantly until New Years.  I trekked down to the other end of the city every year to get fresh  perogies made by local Ukrainian ladies.   I learned how to make a turkey and wrap gifts like a champ. I was an epically annoying Christmas elf that Gregory learned to tolerate!  Then we had children.  Then, Gregory got it!  I had been nesting.  Digging in the roots and building a strong foundation of tradition.  When he saw how much joy they got out of it, and how much more magic was created by their knowing expectation of all the fun and magical rituals that were awaiting them as the holiday season approached, he understood. It’s about belonging.  When you know the rituals and are part of the traditions, you belong, and the bond is strengthened. This was what I was building.  Every year, my sons know what to expect and we all take comfort in the traditions that bring us together and strengthen our connection.  We drink eggnog, sing carols and decorate the tree.  We eat together, we laugh together and we build memories together.  So, what does Christmas mean to me?  Christmas is about traditions that stand the test of time and ride the waves of change unscathed.

Merry Christmas everyone and the most joyful and prosperous New Year from our family to yours!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty from Berns & Black

VINTAGE: Shoes from Buffalo Exchange, Beret from Ruby Slipper Vintage, Blouse from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: This incredibly adorable and insanely perfect for the holidays Velvet Colorblock Mini Dress by Tony Chestnut Design (An amazing Winnipeg designer who is rocking my world these days! You need to check out her work!) Knee-high socks by American Apparel.

A Marriage of Geek and Glamour

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“For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself.”
― Anaïs Nin

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“The ‘Muse’ is not an artistic mystery, but a mathematical equation. The gift are those ideas you think of as you drift to sleep. The giver is that one you think of when you first awake.”
― Roman Payne

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“NO MUSE IS GOOD MUSE

To be an Artist you need talent, as well as a wife
who washes the socks and the children,
and returns phone calls and library books and types.
In other words, the reason there are so many more
Men Geniuses than Women Geniuses is not Genius.
It is because Hemingway never joined the P.T.A.
And Arthur Rubinstein ignored Halloween.
Do you think Portnoy’s creator sits through children’s theater
matinees–on Saturdays?
Or that Norman Mailer faced ‘driver’s ed’ failure,
chicken pox or chipped teeth?
Fitzgerald’s night was so tender because the fender
his teen-ager dented happened when Papa was at a story conference.
Since Picasso does the painting, Mrs. Picasso did the toilet training.
And if Saul Bellow, National Book Award winner, invited thirty-three
for Thanksgiving Day dinner, I’ll bet he had help.
I’m sure Henry Moore was never a Cub Scout leader,
and Leonard Bernstein never instructed a tricycler
On becoming a bicycler just before he conducted.
Tell me again my anatomy is not necessarily my destiny,
tell me my hang-up is a personal and not a universal quandary,
and I’ll tell you no muse is a good muse
unless she also helps with the laundry.”
― Rochelle Distelheim

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I am both Geek and Glam, and so is my beloved, Gregory Chomichuk.  We share a love of books, film, art, the strange, the fringe, the beautiful and the underground.  He makes graphic novels, kids books and fine art.  I style wardrobes, bellydance and tell stories with images. Finding one another at such a young and idealistic age (I was 21, he was 23) has posed both tremendous challenges and growing pains, as well as rewarded us with a consciously created and curated life together. Side by side, we grew both together and independently, purposefully giving each other space and respect to become who we are as individuals.  We are united.  We are each others greatest supporter, we share everything and work diligently to constantly create circumstances where our passions and interests can overlap and intersect.  But, we are not the same.  We disagree on many things.  We do not love all the same movies and books and topics of conversation.  We do not understand the intricacies of one another’s work, nor do we trip over ourselves trying to. And we are absolutely not one another’s greatest fan!  Truth be told, I’m not even a fan of comics.  YES, I just said that! It is not a genre that has ever drawn me in, aside from a small handful. You see, our strength is our differences and our unwavering and ever conscious encouragement towards being ourselves. I don’t have to love comics to love my Husband. He, like myself, is much more than the work he does and no fan will ever know the truth of the Man. What I love, respect and admire, is his passion and drive to do what he loves no matter what.  The life we have built together, now including our two sons and two dogs, has us riding the waves of deep connection, while at times being oceans apart.  The constant ebb and flow has created a strong foundation while allowing each of us to grow into the people we are aspiring to be. When we wrote our wedding vows many moons ago, we included our intention to continually inspire one another.  We understood that working towards bettering ourselves and keeping life interesting and always evolving was one of the magic ingredients to a happy lasting marriage. There is still an air of mystery within each of us that keeps the other guessing, and our perpetual forward movement provides endless surprises and fulfilling experiences. We keep each other on our toes, so to say. He is my Muse and I am his. Together we share the non-glamorous as well as the glamorous sides of our life. He takes out the garbage and I do the laundry and together we build an empire and celebrate our victories with our Princes. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s authentic and intentional and a glorious masterpiece in progress. We are powerful on our own, but together, together we are a force to be reckoned with.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, ART DIRECTION, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: Great Gatsby sweatshirt, glasses and beanie (embellished by me) from Urban Waves in Winnipeg. Over the knee leg warmer by American Apparel.

VINTAGE: Thigh-high boots from Ruby Slipper Vintage, scarf from Value Village Thrift

BOOKS, PRINTS & ART BY:   GMB Chomichuk

BOOKS (Available for purchase on-line):

1.Infinitum– Time travel noir. A murder mystery that asks the question: Is love a force of nature or a force of habit?

2.Midnight City: Corpse Blossom + Midnight City: Flesh Tree– Pulp era mystery men and woman fighting a secret war against a mythos inspired by the horror auther H.P. Lovercraft.

3.Underworld– True crime, dipped in greek mythology set in Winnipeg in the 1980s.

4.Cassie and Tonk– All ages adventure about a girl and her robot at the end of the world.

5.Rust and Water – All ages graphic novel about two unlikely travellers learning to find a common language and alter the collision course of violence between their two cultures.

6.Moonshot– Indigenous comics collection

7.The Imagination Manifesto– Five interconnected stories that share a central theme- what happens when the things we believe in start to come true?

8.Fractured  Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse.

9.Will I See?– Illuminates the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Be a Queen

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“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” –  Oprah Winfrey

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You’re the type of woman a man should never let go of

you’re the type of woman men regret losing

nothing about you is ordinary

choose someone who knows this…

never settle for less than you are…

– r.h. sin

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She has the mindset of a Queen and the heart of a warrior

she is everything all at once

and too much for anyone who doesn’t deserve her

she is you

-r.h. sin

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Being a Queen is a state of mind. It’s about hearing all the noise around you; the opinions, the criticisms, the suggestions, and considering them all without allowing them to sway your truths and values, or rattling your core.  A Queen makes difficult decisions every day and understands the flow of give and take to maintain balance and order.  A Queen knows that she is ultimately alone and responsible for her own happiness, and at the same time she is a part of everything and everyone. A Queen knows her worth and holds herself in high regard so that others may do the same. She understands that a deep respect for herself and unwavering values commands the same from others.  She is all women.  She is maiden, lover, mother and matriarch.  She is goddess, and servant, and witch and warrior.  She is your screams and tears and fear and anger.  She is your love and compassion and tenderness and joy.  Through all things, she is serene.  Although the depths of her heart may rage and churn like angry waters through all that she must do, and the choices she must make, the surface of her soul stays calm and clear like glass.  She does not shatter.  She is strength and peace personified.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty Berns of Berns & Black.

VINTAGE FASHION: fur hat, wool coat, fur stole and boots all from The Ruby Slipper Vintage Shoppe.  Purple sari from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: Indian mirrored vest and tunic top from Shakti, layered necklace (VEGAS & MAX) from Mirina Collections (USE CODE: “tara” at checkout when you purchase anything from the site and receive 20% OFF!!!)

 

Over The Top With a Cherry On Top

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“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”  -Oscar Wilde

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”  -Mae West

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

“Life is short. Eat dessert first. ” ― Jacques Torres

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The creation of this shoot was an absolute pleasure and guilt-free indulgence with fellow fashion stylist Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox.  We share the same love and passion for creating a story with styling and decorative design.  We agreed that if we were to join forces, then we must go big.  In truth, I think going small would have been an impossibility for us together. When those creative juices start flowing, it can be difficult to reign them in. We knew that with both of us throwing our passion into it, it would have to be fantastically bold, and so, what better subject than Marie Antoinette and her over the top decadent and indulgent lifestyle.

I was fortunate enough on this shoot to collaborate with some amazing local businesses and talents.  All of the mouth watering baking was provided by Winnipeg gem, Pinky’s Bakeshop, and YES, we ate it!  The incredible one of a kind, re-worked vintage jewelry was provided by Vintage Bling. The intricate and beautiful white lazer-cut bustier worn by model Madeline Brandt was provided by designer Rebecca Johnson.  The photography was  done by Winnipeg photographer Dano Tanaka, and the location of the shoot was graciously provided by my Grandmother, Judy Cole.  The gorgeously elaborate hair was the creation of Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox. The creative concept, artistic direction and styling was the collaborative love child of both Monique and I.

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I am a true believer that when you feel good, you do good!  When I am feeling joyful and excited and my cup runneth over, I am my most generous and giving self and it feels effortless.  I think it is really important to indulge and treat ourselves every once in a while without guilt or shame.  We feel wonderful when we can pamper or treat someone else, so why not ourselves?  In this case, I think that balance is key.  We know how distasteful opulence, excess and extravagance can be when it becomes someone’s everyday lifestyle.  No one in history has taught us better than Marie Antoinette, how shallow, short-sited and ultimately destructive excessive indulgence can be. However, self deprivation and habitually denying yourself pleasure can be just as destructive and leave us feeling resentful and un-able to give back to the world around us.  True happiness lies somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes we go without and focus on others and sometimes we should have our cake and eat it too. Hopefully we enjoy our cake not with a side of guilt and shame, but instead, with a cherry on top.

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It is my wish and desire, especially as the holiday season approaches, that this post inspires you to suck the marrow out of life a little more than usual.  Don’t just eat that macaron, savour it. Stop to smell the crisp fall air or study the colours of the sunset. Drink champagne instead of your regular bottle of wine and celebrate that you are alive! Why do we need more reason than that to celebrate?  Wear something decadent hiding in the back of your closet, like the satin or velvet that makes you feel gorgeous and treat yourself with a manicure or new hairdo, or even something as simple as whipped cream on your hot chocolate. Go over the top, just because.  You don’t have to spend money or be wasteful to indulge either.  Wear those sexy underwear and silk robe you’ve been saving for a “special occasion” on a weeknight just for the hell of it! Use those fancy dishes you inherited that are collecting dust in the basement.  Put on Grandma’s diamond ring and the fur coat she left to you that you tucked away in a box somewhere and host a tea party!   The point is, life is short and it’s okay to indulge sometimes.

Like Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Dano Tanaka

STYLING & ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox  and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

HAIR: Monique Andrew, Style Hunter Fox

MAKEUP: Each model applied their own makeup

MODELS: Monique Andrew, Madeline Brandt, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

JEWELRY: Vintage Bling

BUSTIER: Designer, Rebecca Johnson

BAKING: Pinky’s Bakeshop

* Special thanks to Angela Brandt for all her help and support at this shoot! xo

The 90’s Influence

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“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” –Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

“Just A Girl”

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me to hold your hand

‘Cause I’m just a girl, a little ‘ol me
Well don’t let me out of your sight
Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
Oh I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes

Oh I’m just a girl, take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

Oh…am I making myself clear?

I’m just a girl
I’m just a girl in the world…
That’s all that you’ll let me be!

I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb

Oh I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
Oh I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

No Doubt, Gwen Stephani 

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I was a teen of the 90’s.  I went through puberty; graduated high school; used the internet for the first time; fell in love (twice), and moved out on my own.  I went through some of the biggest and most informative changes of my life during that decade.  The 90’s left a significant mark on my character and it still resonates with me today in 2016.

It was in the 90’s that I accepted my interest in fashion and style as a legitimate part of who I was.  I cared about it, and I put time and energy into it. If I wanted something I couldn’t afford, or it seemed unavailable to me (remember this was before on-line shopping), I bought second hand and altered it, or sewed it from scratch. I laugh now to think of what a strange experience it must have been for my parents to have a teenage daughter during the 90’s grunge era.  I imagine it must have been a combination of relief at the blatant lack of overt sexuality being displayed in the popular youth fashion of the time, and a touch of horror at my shabby, oversized, somewhat masculine style sense. Not to mention the very cheap price tag that went along with my almost entirely vintage wardrobe, which would be a relief to any parent. My style fell somewhere between your Grandpa’s closet in the 70’s, and Kurt Cobain’s, with an ever so tiny sprinkling of Charlie’s Angels. There were a lot of chords, bell bottoms, ripped jeans, 70’s big-collered button-downs and my most favourite pair of army pants bought at the local Army Surplus store.  I later regretted trading those beloved pants to my friend Ian, for his tie-dye sarong scarf. Although I do still have and use that scarf today.  Hey Ian, if your reading this, I want my pants back!

I jokingly laugh with my Husband and our male friends now about how they were ripped-off at the lack of skin and female bodies being put on display during their teenage years and twenties. The truth is, we all know how good it was for us in reality. The following generation of Brittany Spears/Christina Aguillera look-alikes made that abundantly clear to us. I feel lucky that I became a woman at a time in history when popular youth culture wasn’t embracing overt sexuality in women’s fashion.  That experience powerfully informed my opinions of how sexuality and the female body is displayed in fashion and it comes through in my taste now and how I dress myself daily.  I wasn’t even conciously aware of my tendency towards modesty in my style until another fashion blogger Miss Mellalina wanted to feature me on her blog as an example of a modest fashionista.  It was an interesting realization. My style is definitely bold and out-there, but it’s not overtly sexual. It’s true that most of the outfits I put together cover up most of my skin and don’t show off too much of my body.  Any skin I do show is typically a result of contextual function (e.g. wearing a bathing suit at the beach or cabin, shorts in the summer), or it’s balanced by a very contrasting counter-style (e.g. plunging neckline paired with oversized men’s trousers or all other skin completely covered up).

That said, I am fully aware of the effect that showing off even the tiniest portion of my body has had on my viewers.  Don’t think I didn’t notice the significant increase in the amount of attention my last blog post got for it’s slightly more provocative nature. It’s both totally predictable and yet completely astounding to me, the effect that a plunging neckline and seeing nipples through a top can have on people.  My likes, comments, and general traffic on all my social media accounts increased instantly and substantially.  Hmmm.  What does that say about us as a society?  It certainly shows why there are so many women and girls showing off their bodies and being provocative and seductive on social media.  The world has told us quite clearly and effectively that that is what it likes and wants, so that is what they keep giving to us. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate every like and comment that I get, but, here’s the thing,  you won’t see me posting any overt ass or boob shots on the internet simply for more “likes”.  You can be sure that the well established grunge era influence on me will be ever present in my choices to display my body.  Everything I do with fashion, I do for a reason and I can guarantee that if sexuality shows up in my posts, it will be to tell a story or express an idea or as an intentional art piece.  I have no intention of using my sexuality to get attention or gain more followers. The truth is, in my opinion, it’s too easy, superficial, and boring.  It’s also being done to death!  Not to mention it leads too many women down the path of attaching too much value to their physical appearance and then losing their self-worth in their later years, when showing off their bodies no longer gets the attention it once did. Hollywood’s substantial list of women over 35 who have had botox or plastic surgery is proof of that. Now, does that mean that my social media climb will be longer?  Likely.  Does it mean that the followers I do get will be more genuine? Indeed.

As a women who is approaching her 40’s now, I’ve lived some life, explored my sexuality and it’s effect, and I’ve been lucky enough to land in a place of self-worth and confidence that holds me true to my values without compromise.  If you ever find yourself in a place where you are allowing society to define who you are or what you have to offer, take a moment and determine if what others are saying they want from you is in line with what you want from yourself.  If your opinion doesn’t match theirs, I implore you to choose yourself over them. Our current focus on instant gratification, external approval and quick fixes has driven so many down a path that is not sustainable or satisfying in the long term.  In the end, what you create will be for others, at your expense. Gwen Stephani’s lyrics still resonate today as if it was still 1995…

“I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb”

If you stay true to yourself, you are patient, and you don’t succumb to society’s rule of thumb, you will find that there are many others who share the same values and tastes as you and they will find you, stick with you and help you to achieve the things that are important to you, because they are important to them too.  Everybody wins, no compromise.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Jeans (altered by me), militarty/faux leather sleeve jacket (altered by me with addition of ethnic textiles).

CURRENT FASHION: Hat and purse by H&M, sequin skirt and plaid shirt by Forever 21, boots by Dr. Martens, faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Let Fashion Transform You

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” —Bill Cunningham

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” —Lauren Hutton

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” —Rachel Zoe

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

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One of the most satisfying things about fashion, is how it enables us to transform ourselves over and over again.  In a chameleon-like way, we can express all the different sides of our personality by shining a spot-light on a specific part of ourselves through the clothes we choose to put on.  We can visit different eras in history and through styling the fashions of the time, we get a taste of the energy of that time and get to experience the feeling of that moment in history. We can also mix and match eras with our fashion and create a new energy and feeling that is all our own, or try on a lifestyle we don’t have just to see how it might feel. The clothes we wear can also allow us ease in manoeuvring through the variety of places, people, and circumstances we find ourselves in. I have found that my ability to adapt my style to the company I’m keeping, places I visit, or events I attend has been invaluable to me, and it’s also half the fun! Fashion allows us to wear our feelings on the outside if we want to, or to change our mood when we start the day in a funk and want to turn that around.

You can almost always tell how I am feeling or what type of mood I am in by what I’m wearing.  The process of getting dressed in the morning is so much more than just covering my body with coordinated clothing.  It is about tuning into how I’m feeling, or how I’d like to feel, checking in with myself and becoming aware of what traits of mine are feeling amplified.  I dress to the dominant characteristics that come through with the mood I’m in each day.  Some days I’m subdued and all I want is comfort and ease.  Some days spike heels and a push-up bra feel like my second skin. Sometimes I’m wacky and contrasting because I’m feeling artistic or counter culture.  Some days I’m just in jeans and a t-shirt, although admittedly, this is pretty rare for me. Some days I like to push the bar with a provacative attitude that says, “just try and question me on this look!  I dare you!”

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I think that it’s important for people not to get too attached to a specific style or look that they identify with, or they may begin to feel uncomfortable when they aren’t wearing it.  What I mean to say is, are you wearing your clothes or are your clothes wearing you?  Is your comfort so tied to the style you’ve adopted that you are no longer expressing certain sides of yourself?  Is your inner vamp being stifled by your black skinny jeans and t-shirt?  Are you afraid of colour or contrast because you are afraid you’ll attract too much attention to yourself? Are you becoming less adventurous in life because every time you go out you wear your little black dress instead of trying something new?  Does our lack of adventurousness in life cause a lack of adventurousness in our style, or is it the other way around?  Hmmm.  I would hazard a guess that if you took more chances with your style, it would positively impact your life.  I’m going to take the plunge and even suggest that being more adventurous and allowing your style to better reflect your feelings on a daily basis would have a dramatic positive effect on how you feel about yourself and that it will translate into a more positive life experience.  The clothes you choose to put on every morning can empower you tremendously and transform your life, or they can drain you and sap you of your motivation.  You have to admit that you feel exceptionally different in sweat pants and a hoodie than you do in a dress and heels, and I’m not talking about physical comfort.  I’m talking about the energy created by how you feel about yourself in one look versus another.  One of these looks leads to adventure and who knows what, and the other leads to Netflix and chips.

Sometimes you just need to push your own boundaries and step outside of your comfort zone. Even the simple addition of a scarf or other accessories to a very basic outfit can be an incredible energetic mood boost. Each one of us is made up of all kinds of personality traits, and moods that are equally a part of us.  If you aren’t already, I strongly urge you to play with your style and express some of those sides of yourself, if for no other reason than just to have FUN!  That is what fashion and style is really all about in the end.  It’s not meant to be intimidating and serious.  It’s about creation and exploration and self expression at it’s core.  It’s a tool.  It’s the paint and your body is the canvas.  Have some fun, get creative and let those hidden sides of yourself shine forth. It’s so simple, yet so incredibly liberating!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Traditional Scottish wool plaid skirt from Ruby Slipper, Boots from The Goodwill Store.

MODERN FASHION:Gold body suit and tights by American Apparel, feather earrings from The Haberdashery

VINTAGE: Faux fur leopard print jacket

 

 

Nerd is the New Cool in NYC!

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New York City, shot from Empire State Building

I just got home from a 5 day trip to New York City with my Husband, Gregory Chomichuk.  We were there to promote and sell his work as a writer/illustrator of graphic novels and all-ages books at the New York Comic Con. It was 4 really intense days with 150 000 fans dedicated to all things sci-fi, fantasy, and super-heros!  Some were there to buy comics, art prints and toys, some were there to test out the newest video game designs and some were there to meet the celebrities who work on their favourite T.V. shows and movies like Milla Jovovich, Carrie Fisher, Ethan Hawke, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, and the cast of The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, to name a few.

The juxtaposition of being immersed in the heart of nerd culture for 12 hours a day in one of the coolest and most admired cities in the world was a mad mind trip to say the least. There were people of all ages, demographics and walks of life all there to celebrate a common love that seems to speak to every type of person. One second I would be talking super-heros with a teenage cosplayer decked out in a costume that must have taken weeks to create, and the next, with a t.v. crew member who’s currently working on several Netflix shows, and then an Emmy nominated creative director/producer who’s worked on several HBO t.v. shows, produced concerts by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones and worked with Disney. Each of them bought art and books from my Husband. Say whaaat?! Never have I been in a situation where perceived opposite sub-cultures interacted and blissed out together so seamlessly.  It was inspiring and humbling to be a part of!

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Gregory and I at his Comic Con booth

“In New York, you’ve got Donald Trump, Woody Allen, a crack addict and a regular Joe, and they’re all on the same subway car.” – Ethan Hawke

“I love nerds. Comic-Con junkies are the tastemakers of tomorrow. Isn’t that funny? The tables have turned.”  – Kristen Bell

“What was previously perceived as nerdy is now viewed as original. What I like about nerdiness, geekiness, is it doesn’t really matter what you’re into – it just means you’re not a follower.”  – Kristen Bell

New York City is a sexy beast, there’s no doubt about that!  I have never been happier to be in a city that truly doesn’t sleep so that I got an opportunity to see some sights, eat some amazing food and flow with the pulse of the city into the wee hours every night after the convention.  Some cities shut down after 11:00 p.m. on a weekday, so there’s no chance to see anything other than the inside of your hotel room. New York is definitely not that kind of city.  We ate dinner at 9 p.m., strolled through Times Square shoulder to shoulder with hoards of people at midnight, hung out on the rooftop of the Empire State Building at 12:30 and then had a dance party…I mean shopped, at H&M at 1:00 in the morning.  Followed by a quick stop at a busy grocery store for healthy snacks for the next days convention, and back to the comfort of our hotel The Staybridge Suites to finally put up our aching feet and crash from blissed-out exhaustion.

My entire New York experience can be summed up in one word.  Diversity.  I saw and met every kind of person in a chaotic fast-passed haze.  I talked fan-art politics, super heroes and fashion in the same conversation. I had dinner one night with a filmmaker, and a 5th generation New Yorker who introduced us to the best pizza in the world, and then was invited to a loft apartment to smoke weed (which I didn’t)  with a Harry Potter star (who shall remain unnamed).  We walked passed beautiful people in designer clothes, homeless drug addicts, regular folks who were more than willing to recommend great places to eat, and every once in a while, a storm trooper.

All in all, it was an experience steeped in humanity.  It was all about people.  Lots and lots of people, all living life and being their unapologetic selves in a city where anything goes, and you are free to be yourself. We are all in this together after all.

NEW YORK CITY

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THE HOTEL

THE NEW YORK COMIC CON

THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

PHOTOGRAPHY and VIDEO BY: Gregory Chomichuk and yours truly. All on my iPhone 6, raw and un-edited.

THRIFTED: Hats, jackets, palazzo pants and yellow skirt.

FEATURED FASHION: Lennard Taylor Brenda swing shirt, Tony Chestnut pink jumpsuit, American Apparel body suit, and my Dr Marten boots that went the distance on this trip and saved my feet!

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The Spectre of Self

Spec*tre

a ghost.

  • something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurance

e.g. “the spectre of war”

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“We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we’re capable of.” – Phil McGraw

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” – Jim Morrison

It can be the most difficult thing in the world to honestly be yourself.  Being who we truly are begins to be socialized out of us in early childhood.  We learn how to please others because we are taught that pleasing others is more important than pleasing ourselves.  We are taught that we are better people if we put ourselves aside and present to the world what the world wants us to be.  We learn how to wear masks to suite the people, places and situations in our lives.  We learn that being ourselves can be excruciatingly painful, because being ourselves makes us vulnerable.  If they see our true colours, they can criticize us, laugh at us, or reject us.  We are social creatures, so we begin to believe that fitting in and being the same is safer and more comfortable. The truth is, it causes more damage to us and those around us than being ourselves ever will.  When we are our truest selves we have so much more to offer the world that only we can give.  Wearing masks to protect our vulnerability dims the powerful light that is within each of us and weakens our ability to let it out and benefit the world.

So we suppress our truest spirit.  We put on a brave face when we are scared, a happy face when we are sad, an agreeable face when we are angry.  We pretend that we like things that we don’t, we compromise when we are fundamentally opposed to something that’s important to us, and we tell ourselves that we are being nice, and keeping the peace.  We wouldn’t want to rock the boat now would we?  But is it actually being nice and keeping the peace, or are we just trading the potential conflict with others with a very real and very immediate conflict within ourselves?  We are so afraid of what others might think of us, that we have given them all the power and have placed more significance on what they think than what we think of ourselves, and it slowly eats at our spirit.  In reality, we end up more lonely, isolated and insignificant by letting that fear rule us, than we would be if we just allowed ourselves to be authentic.

I am not saying that we should all air our dirty laundry, or go around telling everyone the details of our exceptionally crappy day when they ask how we are.  You can be real without being negative, complaining or wallowing in self pity. You can look your unhappiness or discomfort in the face, admit to it, talk to a friend or loved-one about it and then, put your energy into a solution. I do believe in the power of positivity.  I do believe in looking for the good in all situations, and I do believe in compromise for the greater good.  I don’t however, believe that these things should be done when they are in direct conflict with your truest self.  If the foot you put forward for the world to see requires you to lie to yourself about who you are and how you really feel, you do the world a great dis-service.

It’s time to throw off the veil.  Time to come out of the shadows and let the world see you.  Time to take off all the different masks we wear and be brave enough to look criticism and conflict in the eye and realize that avoiding it is not more important and less painful than being honest with yourself and finding your true place in the world.  The world needs you.  The authentic you.  The most beautiful part of this is that all we really want is love and belonging and the more of us that throw off the veil, the more authentic people there will be in the world to have real and meaningful relationships with.  The more we allow ourselves to be known, the more we allow others to be known.  Freedom and authenticity are contagious.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS, HAIR & MAKEUP: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING: Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: White dresses, shawls and scarves from The Goodwill Store in Winnipeg

CRYSTALS and STONES: Shakti in Winnipeg