Beauty & The (Edible) Beast

In elementary school, I always liked the weird girls: the ones who would make strange faces on demand or collect slugs on the playground while talking to themselves in made-up dialects. I was in good company, you see: I was usually pretending to be a dinosaur of some kind or making Valentine's Day cards for the other boys in the class with my strawberry-scented marker. Now, as a fully-bloomed adult, it is clear that I was right to be drawn to those weird girls: they grow up to be princesses - weird, macabre, artistically-brilliant princesses with fearless attitudes. One such fearless princess is Christine McConnell.
The photographer and baker, who lives in South Pasadena, Los Angeles, has been called "Tim Burton with a pastry bag" and her rise to quasi-fame has been almost meteoric. She opened an Instagram account last year and has since accumulated more than 100,000 followers. Her Flikr account is equally magnetic. She has been featured in several magazines and prominent websites and book publishers are now hounding her to make a creepy-cookie cookbook. Sounds good to me!
Christine's claim to fame is her peculiar but always-beautiful approach to her photography and her perfectly bizarre confections. (It doesn't hurt, either, that she is a tall, raven-haired beauty with a body to die for!) For her photographs she uses her imagination to its fullest potential but reigns it in with carefully-styled compositions that often reference her favorite films or pockets of popular culture that tickle her fancy. In the photograph directly above, she is channeling Sigourney Weaver in full-on Zuul mode from the Ghostbusters film.
It would be enough if her talents began and ended with photography and modeling. But the real cherry on the cake is...well... the cake! She is a formidable baker who comes up with the most incredible confectionery creations: edible monsters straight out of her imagination or a classic sci-fi hit. (When I saw the sugar cookie she made to look like the facehugger monster from the Alien films, I knew I was in love.) She almost always incorporates her cakes, cookies, pies and tarts in her surrealistic photographs, lending a further layer of scintillation.

(Yes, friends, it's a cookie!)
I suppose this all sounds like ''geekery'' to some of you. But when you live so much inside your head, as I do, it is always inspiring to see the unleashing of an imaginative soul. It is refreshing, too, that this slender, LA-dwelling beauty has the courage to be totally-out-there nuts in a time and place that so often rewards conformity and predictability. I hope she never stops. I'm addicted. And I want to be her friend.


Annie Lennox: Nostalgia

By this point in my life, Annie Lennox really is like an old friend. She has accompanied me on road trips, lulled me to sleep, made me get up and dance and, on quiet grey days, made me cry a little. Musically speaking, she articulates my soul in a way that no other musician has been able to do. Her new album, Nostalgia, is a collection of blues and jazz tracks from the Great American Songbook (Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, etc.) and I was not really expecting to be all that moved by it, to be perfectly frank. The reason I say that is because so much of what makes Annie Lennox my go-to soul sister is her way with words. She expresses so poetically through her song lyrics exactly what I seem to be feeling. It's that mix of fire and ice with her, the sharp cut paired with the warmth of a loving embrace. That's Annie. Traditional jazz and blues have never really reached me on that same level. I can enjoy the songs, objectively, and perhaps tap my shoe to an old-fashioned bossa nova but they don't get inside me. 

I was happily surprised by Nostalgia. It is short and sweet (and bitter, as all Annie Lennox albums are) but there is a rapturous and storied depth to the way Annie interprets these songs that just pulls you in and takes you back, exactly as the album title suggests it will. The album is quite downbeat with plenty of that Lennox melancholy that has made her so beloved to her fans, but there are also up-tempo tracks to lighten the dark. Therein lies the key to Nostalgia: it is light playing with dark, just as life itself is filled with such sweet contrasts and contradictions. The music and Annie's voice are spellbinding and hypnotic. The album has become a part of my story. It is available on limited-edition vinyl, CD and deluxe-edition CD.

Memphis in June
Georgia on My Mind
I Put a Spell on You
I Cover the Waterfront
Strange Fruit
God Bless the Child
You Belong to Me
September in the Rain
I Can Dream, Can't I?
The Nearness of You
Mood Indigo

Anthropologie Shower Curtains

I'm a big believer in footed tubs and shower curtains. Anthropologie shower curtains, in particular, strike a chord with me: all those fantastical, imaginative designs that make a 5:00 AM rinse a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Below are nine of my favourites.


The RRL Ranch in Colorado

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love a great cabin in the wilderness. Maybe it's my Canadian lineage, but there is something so comforting to me about geographical isolation: being surrounded by nature and its unbridled beauty, by things that are made by hand and rustic textures that captivate the eye. I could do very well with only the barest essentials. I could live for a few weeks with just a Coleman stove, a tin pot, an enamel mug and plenty of simple ingredients, with a few blankets and a cot. But, if given the choice, I'd rather have the best of both worlds: the best of nature and the best of home comforts. Plumbing, a comfortable bed with luxurious linens and a gas range sound pretty good to me. Nothing epitomizes this pairing of rugged American geography and pared-down luxury more than Ralph Lauren's Colorado ranch, known as the Double RL Ranch. (The two R's stand for Ralph and Ricky, his wife.) With over 16,000 acres of unspoiled landscape in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, it is as remote as one can get. And yet, the series of cabins and small farm houses on the property are all outfitted beautifully, with nods to Native-American heritage and Old-World Americana. Below are several photos of this iconic place...Settle in and stay awhile.



It's his courage that I find alluring. Michael Sam - the first openly-gay man to be drafted into the National Football League. Read his story in the August issue of Out magazine, on stands now. Photography by Richard Phibbs.



The House of Hackney

I first heard about The House of Hackney after a friend had visited London a few years ago. She had wandered into a fabulous shop that sold textiles and fabrics with bold, graphic, colourful prints and left feeling totally inspired. She was quick to tell me about it and I've been watching this emerging brand ever since. It was founded in 2010 by a husband-and-wife team (Javvy M Royle and Frieda Gormley) who wanted to resurrect the English interior-design traditions (think exuberant chintz upholstery and vibrant wall coverings) while simultaneously subverting those traditions by making them modern. Over the last few years the small company has grown to include a line of clothing, dinnerware, lighting, wallpapers, furniture and outdoor furniture to complement the existing upholstery/fabric business. I long to visit this shop in person. They also now offer two store locations situated in Central and East London. The House of Hackney Flagship store is located in vibrant Shoreditch , a short 10 minutes walk from London’s Liverpool Street Station. Housed in a spectacular 2000sq foot townhouse, the brand's products are available for the first time under one roof in the award-winning store. It has a second location featuring a limited line of 'best-ofs' with a much smaller store-in-store boutique housed in the Liberty London department store near Oxford Circus. Click here to explore their website.