Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beautiful Lady

I took this at the AGO opening. It's part of the permanent exhibit. Do you know that the Art Gallery of Ontario has the largest public collection of Henry Moore sculpture anywhere in the world? I've been looking at it all for 30 years now and I never tire of this piece.

It encapsulates the steely strength and elegant grace which coexist in so many women.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mega Sale Alert

Club Monaco is having the sickest sale ever today and tomorrow. Most everything in the store is 30% off (except the 20 things that just arrived on Thursday) and everything that's already on sale is another 30% off.

So you know that cashmere scarf I paid $100.00 a month ago? It was $40.00 today. Natch, I bought 2 - one for my mother or father (unisex) and one for Scott. Oh, and they wrapped for free. Very classily.

It was such an awesome, adrenaline pumping sale - and I'm almost afraid to tell you this - I ended up buying Scott's Xmas presents for me (well a couple of them anyway). I figured, there they were and by the time he gets around to buying them they could be a) gone or b) back at full or not as deeply discounted price. Of course, I can't say anything about them now because they're gifts I haven't received yet.  But I will say I saved him $120.00 before tax.

Oh, and BTW, I'm finished the Xmas shopping altogether. Tout finit. I have to stay out of the stores now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

...Unless you love shopping and you have no impulse control.

Then it's the most dangerous time of the year.

Yes, I know, I'm breaking my own Xmas shopping rules left, right and centre. I'm a bad role model. But I have some cool stuff.

While sourcing some great loot for great friends, I discovered - and yes, purchased - this:

The piece, by Polli is actually much more delicate and lovely than this photo suggests. The chain, in particular, is much better... Each stainless steel pendant is thinner than a credit card but strangely tough. This one lies very nicely against my chest without calling too much attention to either itself or to my tits (except Hilary disagrees, she wants you to know, that it doesn't call attention). And yet it's substantial. I love its nod to the natural world, though it's constructed from a very industrial product.

Polli, which I had never heard of until a couple of weeks ago, is an Australian company comprised of two Sydney-trained industrial designers who bring sustainability and a Danish-meets-Japanese sensibility to their rather broad-ranging collection. Can the Aussies do nothing wrong?!?! One of my absolute fave TO stores bar-none, the chameleonic design stuff-meets-everything else Ziggy's at Home, sells a number of these pendants and earrings at rather reasonable prices. And Polli's website also provides a well-organized online shop.

Maybe one of the women in your life needs a little bauble over the holidays? Maybe you do?

I keep telling myself I'm going to give it to someone who's been really good...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In the Bag

Meet my latest "lunchtime Xmas Shopping, theoretically for others" purchase for myself:

Zara Sac with Chain Handle, $49.00

It's made of fake cow-hide but I can tell it will be one of those faux skin bags that lasts in spite of my torture. And it's got a wonderful way of being small until you start filling it up. At which point it seems to hold umbrellas, magazines, kid mittens and one's lunch (not that I ever bring mine to work).

And did I mention that I adore the light grey colour. And the chain. So "rock star on her day off, wandering the streets of Paris, smoking Gauloises and eating pastries".

The most fun part, other than that I own it and love it, is that I discovered it (the only one in the store) in the hands of another woman who was carting it around, putting it up against other merch, looking for a match.

With steely intent, I willed her to put it down. And 2 minutes later I succeeded.

Waiting the appropriate 5 second grace period (ya know, for second thoughts), I swooped in around her and grabbed it with contortionist precision. I mean, the woman gasped audibly.

Alas, her time was done. And I ran off to the cash with nary a look behind me. (Does this make me coldblooded?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How To Get With The Season Without Going to the Poor House, Part 2

The art of shopping will not be disputed by me. Not to be all braggy, but I actually think it is one of my great life skills. Oh, I know, it's shallow and meaningless compared with, say, helping starving people and educating children. But it is a necessary activity and one which we should aim to do intelligently - if not ecstatically.

So Xmas is coming. Geese are starting to freak out. So are most men. This year, I've advised my very generous but not-given-to-gift-buying-when-the-target-holidays-occur husband that I need a little something other than a nicely wrapped computer battery. Of course, I don't need a thing. But, when everyone else is opening those gorgeous, thoughtful gifts I've lovingly sought out with just them in mind, I'd really appreciate a bit of the same.

My husband is intimidated by holiday shopping. He loathes it. He's afraid of stores. He's afraid to buy things for me because I do all the discretionary purchasing in our lives (and 90% of the rest of it) and he hasn't needed to develop the skill. Secretly, I enjoy being the boss of the shopping. But it doesn't bode well when I want a little treat. Note: Scott has given me some of the most lovely gifts I've ever received - from jewels to, ahem, electronics. He just only buys when the inspiration hits him. Otherwise it's just not his thing.

While it vaguely defeats the purpose, I feel so responsible to help him get through the challenge that I have a) presented him with a list of stores containing items I enjoy, b) spoken with a couple of key SA's who have kindly offered to guide him if he visits them and c) explicitly indicated the kind of items I like - and "need" - in various colour palettes that might be useful.

"Why don't you just go buy the things, wrap them and give him the bill?", said my mother good-naturedly. You see, she knows me. And she knows him. And trust me, I'm tempted to do it. But I have to let the little tadpole swim into the sea.

It's times like these, I recognize my bourgeoisie is painful.

But here's the thing. I don't want something cher. (Cher, of course, is relative and I'm obviously speaking only from my own economic perspective... What's affordable to me may be out of someone else's price range. Lord knows, much of what I see is out of mine.) I'd just like something lovely and thoughtful. One thing. And preferably it should smell, feel or fit nicely.

A propos of giving gifts - let's focus on the giving rather than the buying - you do not need to spend a lot to thrill someone you care about.

To wit, here are some reliable stores for gifts at various price points:

Club Monaco
J Crew
Holt Renfrew (Canada)
Ziggy's At Home (Toronto)
Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal)
The Gap (for Ts, jammies, kid's stuff, undies, skinny turtlenecks and scarves)
David's Tea (Toronto)
AGO Gift Shop (Toronto) - or any good gallery gift shop
Chapters/Indigo (Canada) / Borders (US)

You will note that many of these are rather lovely stores, selling rather lovely merch. But you don't have to buy the evening gown for 15K. You can buy a lipstick from the Bobbi Brown counter and have it nicely wrapped for free. You can buy the cashmere socks or a well-designed tube of hand cream and save approximately $14,970.

And here are a just a few gift options for the various people in your life. Please remember - it's not about how much you buy or what you pay. It's about how thoughtful and sensory - and beautifully presented - your token of affection manages to be. If you wouldn't want to receive it, please don't give it:

For your kids' teacher, housekeeper, daycare staff - and anyone else who helps you to logistically function in your life:
  • Fine chocolate - the bigger the box the better.
  • Hand milled soap and body products made with fine essential oils.
  • Gift cards (Chapters, iTunes) - but only if you can't be more personal.
  • A spa treatment - but only if you know the person fairly well.
  • A book about a subject that interests the giftee.
These gifts can range in price from about $20.00 to $200.00 and up. Here are a couple I've bought for various peeps:

Savon de Marseille

For Your Mother:
  • Really the choices are endless, but how about fine leather goods (bags, wallets)
  • Lovely tea pot and cups - don't forget to include some tea.
  • Cashmere scarf
  • Unique jewelry (it comes in all price points)
  • Clothing if you are sure of her size and style
M0851 Bag

se gifts can get pretty pricey. But I've bought my mother some beautiful antiques, over the years, that are treasured and yet cost less than $30.00.

For the Men:
  • Wallets and other leather goods
  • Gadgets (iPhone, video games, techy stuff)
  • Hats, scarves - preferably merino or cashmere! (Remember you can find this on sale.)
  • Leather gloves
  • DVDs
  • Cologne - something you know he likes
  • Affordable crystal wine glasses
Riedel O Wine Glass

These gifts can also range in price quite substantially. I just bought 4 Riedel cabernet glasses for my father, wrapped by the boutique in a fantastic tube to look like a Christmas cracker, for $40.00 all in. And they're crystal.

the Kiddies:
  • Books, books, books!
  • Educational toys from Chapters and the like
  • Diaries with keys
  • Webkinz
  • American Girl stuff (My daughter calls hers a Canadian Girl!). Not the least $$ on the list. So maybe leave these for the grandparents!
  • Clothing from H&M Kids, Gap and other affordable stores
  • Boots and slippers
  • Gorgeous iced cookies
  • Lip balm and hand cream - little girls love this!
  • Special outing to see a musical, ballet or special Christmas movie (or other cultural event)
  • Puzzles
  • Art Supplies
This list really does go on and on. The great thing about kids is that they love anything as long as it's wrapped!

The price point here is often very reasonable. You can get a nice kid gift for $10.00. Or spend a living fortune...

PS Happy Almost Thanksgiving to my American family and friends!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dulce de Letdown

Hopes and Dreams Spoiler Alert...

Nice photos notwithstanding, the President's Choice Dulce de Leche cheesecake sucks.

I'm sorry to disappoint you. I only hope that, if you have access to this piece of genius marketing, you read the reviews before you go out and spend your hard earned money. And/or try to fob it off on guests. Next time I might try that.

The fulsome story:
  • This thing is the size of a pancake. Not that this mattered to us, because we threw half of it away.
  • One piece is insanely small (presuming you actually opt to eat it). The photo below shows it on a freakin' salad plate!

  • The cheesecake has no bite (though it is on the dry side - rather than whip-y - the way I like it).
  • Cake surrounds the cheese, rendering it the majority of the dessert. And the cake bit is one part stale-seeming, one part unimaginative and one part cake around cheesecake?!?
  • As Steen said: It's a marketing vehicle for the Dulce de Leche sauce which, btw, you can buy in a jar. That's one fine product, for what it's worth.
  • We all decided that, next time, I'm going to artfully swirl a little ddl around my world-famous poundcake. (Now, that's got me excited.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dinner at Eight

You know how the uber-glamorous, Swedish blogger Sandra at niotillfem seems to live fabulous party-to-party. (I have this, likely unfounded, impression that she hasn't spent an evening that doesn't involve a martini glass in 3 years!)

Well, here's my riff on the high-life... PS: I think it might be more exciting when the liner notes are in Swedish.

Dinner Party

Peeps: Me, Scott and our great friends Steen and Nicole

Scene: Freezing misery outside, warm cheery fun within

Menu: Hors (brie, applewood smoked cheddar, sesame crackers, olives, walnuts and dried fruit, Ksar mix), green salad with bacon, seeds and tomato, lemon roast chicken and veggies, dulce de leche cheesecake

Wine: Cannoneau de Sardegna granache, Dame de Briante brouilly (award winner!), Marques de Riscal sauvignon

Let the games begin:

The Table:

I particularly love my red-light lamps which make me feel like I'm dining in a famous steakhouse.

The Snacks:


The insanely delicious chicken Scott made:

Have you ever noticed how, in Sandra's blog, the gorgeous partiers are always kissing? As an experimental homage, we decided to get physical :-)

Scott machinates about how he's going to get out of cleaning up the kitchen...

Old friends make great company...

I know, I know, you're thinking - where's a shot of the freakin' cheesecake? Well, Lovelies, please stay tuned for an entire post on just that topic. Coming soon. (Ooooh, suspense!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How To Get With The Season Without Going to the Poor House, Part 1

You know I love to shop.

You know I love to give gifts.

So, it would stand to reason that winter holiday season is the most excellent time of the year for me.

Thing is, I hate crowds. I hate shopping with the newbies and the novices (and, heaven forfend, the shoppers who shop as professionally as I do). I hate the marketing machinery which turns us all into static-charged lemmings, running headlong for the cliff of unnecessary debt.

First rule of shopping Krissie-style (and, in case you have been wondering, Krissie is indeed my princess alter ego) is: If you really cannot afford it, really do not buy it.

There is no mystery to this. Unless - come June - you still want to be anxiously over thinking that item you bought for someone else and will probably never have the opportunity to enjoy except via the fast-fading love rush of generosity, then put it back. I assure you, your mother will adore some other thing you can afford just as much. And your 8-year old does not need an iPod Touch.

Right now you may be thinking this is rich advice coming from me. I'm not known for bramacharya. I am known for thrilling to the chase and reveling in the spoils of war. But my spoils are all, relatively speaking, within the realm of my financial solvency.

I have a lot to say about Christmas buying. So much that I'm going to say it over two posts. This post, in addition to proselytizing that overwhelming debt is entirely contrary to the spirit of the season, will discuss how best to shop the stores during a time frame actually constructed to make you crazy, and therefore spend-y.

This isn't rocket science, but it's worth repeating:
  1. Inasmuch as holidays should be a joy for those receiving, it should also be a joy to give. Joyful giving depends on you having fun from the get-go. Shopping should be flanked by lunch (to protect blood sugar) and a glass of wine (or other enjoyable treat) when it's all done. Including friends can make a potentially stressful activity more pleasant. (More hands and eyes make for more efficiency.) Unless you are one of those shoppers who must be alone to find the zen.

  2. If you shop on Saturday afternoon in mid-December you will want to slit your wrists within an hour. And that's if you have fortitude. If you're a wuss, you have 20 minutes tops. Go at lunch hour or - better still - Friday mornings. And, though it sounds ridiculous, start now.

  3. Do not imagine, unless you're buying for 3 people and/or you are extremely fortunate and kickass, that you will get it all done in one shot. Expect to shop a number of times over the span of about 6 weeks. Then you can a) carry it all home and b) take your time in reflecting about possible options and the merits of spending on any one thing.

  4. Aim to catch the pre-Xmas sales. I'm on the Club Monaco promotions-alert. When they do mid-week sales knocking 30% off the price of some cashmere scarf, I'm going to know.

  5. The more you shop, the better you fare. (Notwithstanding some sort of shopping addiction, natch.) Only experience can teach you the rhythm of shopping: sale cycles, making friends with SA's who put stuff aside for you while you consider options, turnover patterns, getting special sale opps because you are a special client etc.

  6. Make sure you can return it, whatever it is. And get gift receipts.

  7. Shop in places that wrap for free. Generally, the fancier the store, the more likely free wrap is to be available. And the more classy it will look. Of course this is not always the case. Boutiques tend to wrap for free too. Some things are the same price wherever you buy (cologne, anyone). So if you can get it at Shopper's or Holt's, choose the latter. Unless Shopper's is offering 5000 Optimum points.

  8. Keep some lovely wrapping (or gift bags) and some generic, affordable gifts on hand at work and at home. Don't go out to a holiday lunch without one stashed in your bag - just in case. (I'll go into more detail about this next post.)

  9. Though it's very challenging - this one tests me tremendously - you cannot buy one for you and one for____. The time for self-shopping is after Christmas, when you don't get that thing you desperately wanted and now it's on mega-discount. (Did I mention there's a whole other system for Boxing Day shopping. This one isn't for everyone...)

  10. And finally, though I could go on, bring a list. When 16 people are jostling you for a swipe at the same one remaining item, do you really think your brain is going to be able to remember the 15 other prezzies you're on the hunt to buy? Answer: No way.
Please stay tuned for my next installment, wherein I will advise about what gifts are perfect for what category of giftee. Guaranteed to please!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Here's What I Walked 3 Miles in the Freakin' Cold For

And on the heels of Sal's post, it's rather scandalous.

I'm having friends for dinner tomorrow and the TV commercial (in which subliminal messages compel me to want this vat of calories and sugar) has finally worked its magic. I submit.

I'm usually a "make your own dessert" girl. I'm a good cook in a 1970's saturated fat kind of way. You will always find whipping cream in this house (and some berries to pour it on). I serve red meat and things with melted brie. (Portion controlled, natch :-))

Label this food architecture (in keeping with the theme week) or food porn - your call. But on a gorgeous winter table, it's gonna be art.

(Please big box food gods, let it taste as good as it looks!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Up in Arms

A few times a year, and especially in the miserable, freezing winter, I try to get to afternoon tea at the famed boutique hotel, the Windsor Arms. This chic and elegant bastion of Toronto the Good is a pleasant reminder of my youthful affluence, and a place I can pull out all the anachronistic mannerisms I so rarely have a chance to flaunt.

I lunched, with my great, long time childhood friend Hilary, on delightful spiral sandwiches topped with coral-hued caviar and amazing scones, clotted cream and pastries. It was a veritable festival of carbohydrates (though I did manage to eat my body weight in various permutations of cream).

Hilly, who arrived first, was shown into the fireplace room, to a choice table in the fray. But, with the wisdom that comes from being the mother (of a preschooler and a toddler) liberated from parenting for 3 short hours, she requested instead another table just as far away from a two-year old as we could possibly get! And when that Burberry-dressed little scamp started screaming, well, we were at the best table in the house.

The conversation wandered - as it does with old friends - to family and shared history. But we hit on the high-points of feminist parenting, the things we've managed to accomplish and the ways in which we continue to strive, the challenges and joys of daily life. I am so grateful to have her as my friend. She is a stalwart constant amongst shifting markers and tides and priorities. She is the object of my great affection and love and respect.

But, a propos of great design - this week's theme, here are a couple of photos of the tea salon:

These lovely teapots held aromatic lavender and rose blends.

Turns out, the Dupuis people were having a little diamond auction in the main restaurant next door to the tea salon:

At one point, I considered sneaking my way in, picking up a paddle and bidding 32 grand on a jewel. But then I remember I need to get WendyB that little Brigid Berlin pillow for her bday so I really should maintain a smidge of liquidity. Man, the recession is such a bore! :-)

Here's a shot of the hotel cocktail bar. This photo doesn't do justice but it's a silvery lavender colour.

And finally, here's a shot of Hilly on the street ouside the entrance. Not only does she look lovely, but it's a great shot of a very elegant coat her mother (perhaps the chicest woman in the world) recently bought for her as a gift. It's cashmere, vintage and Italian. Biggen up the picture to see it's gorgeous lines.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Geh-reat

I spend a lot of time talking about how I'd love to live in Montreal or New York. About how nothing much exciting is going on around me. About the relative joylessness of Toronto - a city associated with commerce, order and the middle of the road.

Then recently, it occured to me that, in lieu of complaining, I should (perhaps) attend some of the big deal events that are free to everyone. We are, after all, a people of street festivals and "grand openings", new buildings and artists.

When Belette suggested that she loves Frank Gehry and that she envied my opportunity to see his new add-on at the AGO, I was all "I hate additions." and "I hate the new facade." (which, rather interestingly, I've been able to watch go up because it's on my walking route to work) and "I hate November. Why didn't they open in August?"

How snivelly.

But jury duty dispersed at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and the free, open-to-the-public AGO reopening was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. I was walking right by. There were reporters and news trucks and large TV screens displaying intriguing details about the project. I would have been stupid not to join on in.

Now, I didn't expect the line to end 2 miles from the front doors. I didn't expect to wait 90 minutes on the queue. Old, cynical Krissie would have said "Um, excuse me. I'm from Toronto. I don't wait on lines! I make reservations. (And if you choose to keep me standing there because of your wretched planning, I will bestow upon you long, whithering looks before huffily walking away.)"

However, the new me made friends with a little old lady who knew a lot about British crime fiction and Rothko and the time went by. At 4:30 still a mile from the entrance, dismayed, I thought I'd have to leave in order pick up M from daycare. Then I noticed a message on my cell phone from a mom-friend inviting M over to her house for dinner and a sleepover. Egad, responsibility absolved! I mean, seriously, the art gods wanted me to see this thing.

Finally the time came. I made it inside and thought - I'm like a big city journalist with my camera and my notepad. (Of course the real journalists saw it last week and they didn't wait.) That's till the security guy told me no photos were allowed. So I just pretended I was talking on the phone while surrepticiously snapping away.

For starters, the line up:

Here's a gloomy pre-dusk shot of the facade. Yes, that's TO in November at 4:15...:

On entering the building I was presented with this guide:

Which I didn't really need because it's much the same inside - except for the big, new, fancy glass part:

In truth, the wood (all douglas fir) is beautiful. Cool glass and warm, soft wood are delightfully juxtaposed...

Here's a shot of the cool new winding staircase:

And another of this wood branch sculpture suspended high up the wall. Note the different wood tones and the light where the glass meets the rafters...

Interesting Canadiana sculpture:

And view from the North facing windows:

So, Belette: Though it's not the same as being here, ceci est pour toi! xo

Monday, November 17, 2008

We, The People

As you may know, last week I had the intriguing opportunity to perform everyone's most inconvenient civil responsibility - jury duty. In the end, 3 of the 4 panels into which we summoned citizens were segmented, got called to court at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, the culmination of a week of sitting and waiting in the lounge. Amazingly, mine was the unchosen panel that got released shortly after. In brief: I am liberated from the call for 3 years more and I will not have to return to act on a jury next week.

This is useful from the perspective of living my life and performing my job.

Alas, I didn't have that Law & Order moment I have secretly imagined lo these many years.

How does this relate to Art & Design Theme Week?

Well, here's a photo of a rather interesting sculpture in front of the court house steps. I like the way 12 jurors make up the pillars (get it?) of the structure. (You'd think, given how important this function is, the court might have supplied us with a free coffee in the morning...)

Anyway, I got these shots while waiting on the daily 10 minute line up to go through security (you know, like at the airport):

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three Lamps I Want and One I Already Have

I used to have a lamp like this one (above) only it was from Ikea and probably cost 12 bucks. It lasted a decade at least, and it cast starry shadows on the wall...

I do enjoy shadow-casting column lamps, apparently. This one reminds me of an office tower.

Alas, don't get too excited by this one. It's still in the prototype phase. Honestly, I have no idea how I'd work this into my minimalist home but I would find a way. Because it's hilarious. (The kid might have to use it as her bedside lamp. Is that questionable parenting??)

This lamp, by Pablo, is happily mine. Except I have the clear plexi base and white shade. The quality of light it casts (on very cool dimmer) is unparalleled. It's chic, clean and it works anywhere.

Oh, and it's affordable (for "design", you understand, not abstractly). In Canada, where I bought mine, it was $140.00 CDN. I've seen the same one online, on sale, for $100.00 USD (for the small one). Of course, intl. shipping to Canada being what it is, between the exchange rate, shipping cost and customs, the online lamp would have cost me at least $140.00 by the time it got here. So I've got to be grateful to have found it at a store down the street.

Top 3 photos are courtesy of

It's Like Clothing for Your City...

This week, in deference to the (re)opening of a premier architectural landmark (the Gehry AGO addition), I thought I'd focus a bit on spaces and interiors that appeal. Please stay tuned for Art and Design Theme Week, sure to appeal if only for my decidedly unsavvy (read: "real layperson's") perspective.

I didn't do architecture at university and I don't know much about interior design - unless my natural flair and fierce opinion count for knowing something, that is. And I'm gonna hedge that, since it is my blog after all, they do! :-)

PS: I've been tagged with a few great awards and fun games over the past couple of weeks, super lucky me! Just want to let my generous tagging friends know that I haven't forgotten and I am intending to post and send the love along to others soon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beige Turtleneck: Bloomingdales circa 1990

To call this piece ubiquitous is kind of understating it. I've had this Bloomie's sweater forever. It cost $50.00 on sale at Xmas almost 20 years ago. It has weathered many seasons, fluctuating weight, every trend you could imagine. And it's still here...

Necklace: From Ewanika. It's two separate stones on either end of a chain, which you tie.

Short outdoor/indoor wool jacket, 3/4 sleeve, inset belt by Club Monaco

3/4 black wool wrap evening coat by Kenzie. It's weird poodle-y fabric. Shoes: Vintage YSL