Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fashion for All from Vokt'Nach

I am always excited to learn about new creative ventures and people, in my own city and beyond. Although, particularly in my own city. Luckily there are so many talented artistic people here that there is always something or someone new to check out.

The most recent of these artists that has intrigued me is Victory Okorafor - a local fashion designer who is launching his clothing line, Vokt'nach, this weekend. This is how Victory describes his line in his own words:

"The line is classy and formal, but still appealing to every individual despite their class in society. It will inspire customers to look nice and presentable in their every day lives. The pieces are affordable but designed and made with a mindset to perfection. My goal is to change the perspective people have of the fashion industry, and also to challenge the idea that only the rich can dress nice. My vision is to bring both worlds together and provide a way for everyone to dress with self-satisfaction and confidence, without having to spend a lot."

What has stood out most to me from what I've seen of the line is the wearability of the pieces. You won't find any loud prints or unorthodox shapes in this collection, but a series of simple but tailored items that would be easy for anyone to incorporate into their wardrobe. As someone with a busy lifestyle I appreciate clothes that are versatile (but still cute!).

When asked about what inspires him, Victory says it can be impromptu and come in various ways. "It could be when I am asleep, in the shower, or while at a fabric store. I am inspired by my surroundings, my cherished memories, music, art, nature, culture and religion. I appreciate the little moments in my everyday life."
Here are the details of the Vokt'Nach launch presentation:
The fur stole in this photo looks deliciously warm!
Alas, I am going out of the country and won't be able to attend (*sadface*) but I encourage you to go and admire the clothes for me! Although we have an amazing community of artists here in Halifax, the infrastructure really is not there for them to make a long-term career of it. This makes it all the more important for art-lovers like you and me to support these designers as much as possible. I will be sending Victory some good vibes from the US (although, with a name like that I don't think outside motivation is needed!). 

After all, the art that people like Victory make enriches all of our lives. As this up-and-coming designer states, "I believe style is a way of saying who we are, and we want everyone to have a say fashionably". 

For more information on Vokt'Nach, visit the Facebook and Twitter page or the website.

Update (Oct 22nd, 2013): I received a note from one of the models involved in this show, and I felt his review of his experience with Vokt'Nach was worth sharing. You can read it here. Considering I was not able to attend the show, nor see any of the behind-the-scenes first-hand (and because all of my interactions with Victory were positive), I do not feel I can provide an informed opinion on this matter. That said, I will say that I was disappointed to read this. Also, just to make a general comment without pointing any fingers, I feel it is completely unprofessional to treat people you hire with disrespect and to not compensate them properly. I do not have respect for people that do not give respect to others, especially those that take time out of their life to help you.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Driving Fusion

I do not own a car, nor have I ever owned a car. This is purely thanks to lack of budget rather than lack of interest. Believe me, if I could find a way to not rely on Metro Transit to get back and forth to work, I would (YES). Unfortunately, that is not in the cards at this stage in my life so if I want to drive I have to subsist on borrowing cars belonging to others.

This weekend I was lucky enough to test drive a brand new car. Don't get me wrong - my mom's and boyfriend's cars are just fine, but they are not new, nor do they have what I would call "fancy" features. Do I need fancy features? No, of course not. But let's be honest - they are nice to have and it's safe to say I could get used to having them.

I picked up my Ford Fusion at Steele Ford on Friday night and returned it Monday evening so I had lot's of time to get used to it. Over those 3 days, I drove to Dartmouth and back twice (once for some shopping and errands, and once to a friend's house for some evening fun), to the Annapolis Valley for blueberry-picking and sight-seeing, and to work and back on Monday.

There were things I liked about the car, and things I didn't like. Let's start with the things I DID like!

First of all, the colour:

Is it "burgundy" or "eggplant"? Not sure but I love it. Classy but also fun and different (not the usual grey or black).

Second, Sirius Satellite Radio:

Keeping it old school, homies.
Oh Sirius, where have you been all my life! Hundreds of channels are at your fingertips - literally ANY kind of music you could possibly want to listen to is just a dial turn away. Don't want to listen to music? There are tons of talk options, too! I am really moody when it comes to music (I change my mind daily, even hourly, about what I want to listen to) so having endless options is just perfect. I could browse through the stations all day long. Perfect for a road trip (I should know, we went on one!).

I'm also a fan of the back-up camera.

I always thought these things were kind of hokey - another excuse to be lazy (God forbid I have to turn my head/upper body around!). However, I found it did actually make backing up the car easier - not only because you can see behind you, but you can also better see the sides and front, which increases your chances of seeing other cars and/or people in your path. It beeps at you manically if you get too close to anything on any side, which is a tad annoying in the moment, but a good safety feature, especially when you are trying to park. I really liked the computer screen in general and the fact that you can control everything from here (climate, entertainment, navigation).

Heated seats. Oh yeah.

I liked the easy controls to move the seat up, down and forward. I am really short (barely 5 feet tall) so I have to sit up pretty close to the pedals to be able to drive properly. In my mom's and boyfriend's cars I have to lean far down, practically with my head under the steering wheel to yank up a handle and then use my legs to hitch the seat forward. In the Fusion, all I had to do was touch the buttons on the side and the seat moved itself. So much easier and less awkward! The seat even automatically moves back when you turn off the car so that you don't have to adjust again before getting out. I also liked all the compartments and cup-holders inside - I am a bit of a pack-mule so I like having lots of places to put things.

A few of the things I didn't like were - the curvature of the seats (I found it curved back too far in the middle and forward too far at the top, sort of forcing me to slouch), the GPS was not very user-friendly (it was really difficult to find landmarks - when you do a search by name, for some reason it assumes what you are looking for and "blocks out" certain letters (?). It was difficult to search for places and so we ended up not using it), and the trunk is almost too large (although I like how deep it is, it makes the back end of the car large/long and the back window smaller. Fine, just not ideal for me). 

Finally, it was hard to tell only having it for a few days, but I'm not quite sure it is the cheapest in terms of gas - I used approx. 1/2 of a tank over the 3 days and $30 did not quite top that back up. I found this a tad pricey (usually $20 fills my mom's tank over 1/2 way and I can sometimes go a week before refilling again). But again, there are lots of factors at play here, so I think I would really have to drive it more to get a better sense of the mileage.

All in all, I would seriously consider buying a Ford Fusion...if I had the money to buy a car. Someday, I'm sure :)

Thank you SO much to National PR and Steele Ford for this opportunity!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Big Day Downtown #4: Pick a Card, Any Card (Part 2)

So, you already read about my "inspirational" experience, now it's time to recount what I chose for "social" and "dramatic".

For me, socializing usually involves great food and drinks. I love to go out for snacks and cocktails with friends and family whenever possible. However, since I was trying to push the envelope a bit for BDDT, I didn't want to just go out to eat. I wanted to do something a little different.

I have been hearing a lot of great things about Local Tasting Tours, so decided this would be a great "social" outing. Owner Emily Forrest runs several tours, but considering our theme we chose the Sunday afternoon "Downtown Halifax Food Tour". Well, we met up with Emily outside the Seaport Farmer's Market and it turns out we were the only ones who booked that day! Ergo? Private food tour! Just me, the boy and Emily. I was excited - this meant we could really get up-close with the tastings and ask whatever questions we wanted! Huzzah!

We sampled organic greens and baguette at Selwood Green/Norbert's in the market, rum cake at Rum Runners, chocolate at Sugah, olive oil, spices and New York-style bagels at the old brewery market, corn chowder and biscuits at Chives, shwarma at Mezza Lebanese Kitchen, spicy salsa at Burrito Jax and an iced chai latte at World Tea House!

Needless to say I was stuffed by the end of this tour! I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the samplings - some were quite large! And everything tasted really fresh. We went back after and bought a Garrison Brew Bar (dark chocolate with Garrison brewing malts - yum!) at Sugah, two rum cakes (whiskey for me, traditional rum for him) plus a pint glass at Rum Runners.

I was impressed with Emily's local food knowledge and organization - you can tell she prepares a lot before a tour and has taken time to develop relationships with each vendor. They were all ready for us at every place we stopped, and some even gave us the VIP treatment, including Chives - who opened their doors JUST for us (they weren't opening for dinner for a couple of hours!). At World Tea House, Phil, the owner, not only made our drinks personally but he also sat down with us to talk about his business and answer questions. During the tour, Emily stopped periodically to talk a little about the history of the street, and the specific business we were visiting next, so we were filling our brains as well as our bellies! Definitely recommended!

After finishing our tour, I headed down the hill to Little Mysteries on Barrington St for the "dramatic" part of my BDDT - a personal tarot card reading! I have visited psychics before (one in particular, Edna Aker, is quite incredible - seriously, look her up), but I've never had a tarot reading done. I thought this would be a fun and different dramatic experience, and less regretful than dying my hair orange.

I was paired with Amanda, who was very warm and open. She let me ask all the questions I wanted and took time to explain each card's meaning and how it related to what I wanted to know. My cards basically said that I am in a good place in my life at the moment, I have resolved a lot of issues and past hurts, and although I am not quite where I want to be, I am embracing opportunities to connect with my passions. The energy is there for new opportunities to come along, she said. She warned me against neglecting relationships with loved ones, feeling guilty for not being able to do everything, and internalizing emotions or acting out of emotion. She also saw new people entering my family and an emotional upheaval of some kind in the near future, but indicated that I have the tools to be able to deal with this, I just need to use them.

All in all, it was a neat experience! I enjoyed browsing the store as well - it's not as intimidating as you might think for a spiritual novice. The staff are really friendly and helpful and you can buy a lot more than spell books - they carry beautiful jewelry and great books and products (candles, balms, etc) that promote natural healing, stress relief and generally bringing positive energy and mindfulness to your life. There is something for everyone here, not just wiccans!


So, that is all for my inspirational, social and dramatic Big Day Downtown! Guess what?! You can have the chance to enjoy your own Big Day because the Downtown Halifax Business Commission is giving away $100 Visa cards every day for three weeks! Check out the details here.

Thank you SO much DHBC for allowing me to explore downtown again this year!!

Big Day Downtown #4: Pick a Card, Any Card (Part 1)

It's the most wonderful time of the year again - no, I don't mean back-to-school or Christmas. I mean, Big Day Downtown time - YAY! 

This is my 4th year participating (you can read up on past year's here, here and here), and I think this year was the most fun yet - we were given a stack of cards and we had to randomly choose any 3 and base our experiences around them.

I ended up with:

A very cool twist, but I have to say, I had trouble finalizing my plans! I had ideas, but I really wanted to do things I hadn't done before, visit new places and try new things rather than go with the tried-and-true. Might as well make the most of the experience, right?

I decided to plan one activity related to each word. First up is "Inspirational".

A place I am inspired by but have never visited is Pier 21 Museum of Immigration. What is more inspiring than people starting a whole new life in a foreign country? Over 1 million people came through here to rewrite their life stories, and many left loved ones behind in the process. Sacrificing everything safe and familiar in order to build a better life for yourself is an incredibly brave thing and I have a lot of respect for it.

Our visit started with a film that gave us some history about the museum throughout the decades and outlined some stories from specific immigrant families and their experience entering Canada. There were couples with children from Eastern Europe and Italy, English war brides, many of whom hadn't seen their Canadian husbands in over a year, orphaned children from Europe, and wounded war veterans returning home.

I was surprised to learn that the Pier was not only an entry point for immigrants to Canada, but also the main deployment site for troops heading over to Europe for the World Wars. Coincidentally, the Amazing Race Canada teams visited the museum on this week's episode (did you watch?).

After the film, I loved reading all of the old travel documents displayed throughout the main museum- passports, medical records, luggage tags and even menus, etc, from the ships the immigrants would have arrived here on. I also loved the stacks of vintage suitcases covered with worn labels and painted on numbers. Walking through, I felt what the place must have been like 50-100 years ago when it was teeming with men, women and children, waiting and hoping.

The museum is currently open 9:30am-5:30pm, and admission is very reasonable (only $7.80 for an adult). They also have a small shop with some great handmade items from around the world.

I say this often, but I feel pretty lucky to live in Canada. We aren't perfect, but every time I take a trip, I am happy to come home to a place where I have the freedom to live the life that I want. Not everyone is so lucky and my outing to Pier 21 reminded me of that.

Next, it's time for Part 2 - Social and Dramatic!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

White Sails

I am always on the look-out for new places to eat and drink. Places I have never visited - it is rare for my boyfriend and I to frequent the same place more than once (although we do have a few tried-and-true's). I have a mental list of places that I hear about and would like to visit sometime, and it only seems to get longer by the week (why this list is in my head and not on paper, I couldn't tell you).

I visited a new place I discovered through Facebook this past weekend - White Sails Bakery and Deli on Peggy's Cove Road:

It's hard to miss, that's for sure! Not just because of the vibrant stripes, but also because the parking lot is almost always packed with cars and motorcycles. They certainly picked a great spot for the place - directly on a main thoroughfare to one of the most iconic and visited landmarks in Nova Scotia (the Peggy's Cove lighthouse). And check out the view:

Another smart thing they did was install a speaker outside, so that you can hear your order called even though you are sitting outside staring over the water! Because, I mean, where else would you be sitting, really?

I was surprised to see that they offer more than just sandwiches and baked goods - you can get a great hot lunch here, including a delicious burger and poutine. The boy and I had their daily special, a peanut butter burger, loaded with toppings and condiments. $6.50 may seem a little steep for a burger but it was so filling I didn't need anything else. We didn't get a chance to try any baked goods on this visit for that reason, but don't worry, we will be back for our sweet fix.

I was disappointed to see that there were no mango and coconut biscuits left because those sounded amazing - I have a feeling you need to get here early in the day to get the fresh stuff! However, they did have some yummy-looking donuts, oatcakes, cookies and pies for the tasting. They also offer lattes and caps and coffee if you're looking for a hit of caffeine with your sweet snack.

White Sails - carry me away to my happy place.