Friday, September 27, 2013

Mussels look like tiny brains + Bon weekend!

What are you doing this weekend? I'm going to hop on a ferry to Gozo, Malta's sister island, and eat mussels until I burst. I just got over the fact they look like squishy little brains started eating them and I'm convinced they taste better if you eat them in tiny villages by the sea, washed down with wine, in the middle of the afternoon.

Unrelated to mussels, the switch to The Stroke seemed to be going off without a hitch until my feed and email subscriptions broke. I rolled up my sleeves and (sort of) fixed them last night, but if you were an RSS/email subscriber you'll need to resubscribe using the tools on the sidebar (sorry).

And to send you off into the weekend...

stupidly simple and delicious
i'm about three years behind but it's fabulous
the equivalent of a 'beach read' documentary
COVET: birkenstocks
doesn't it seem like suddenly everyone and their grandpa is wearing them?
What's the one food you might try if it just looked different (i.e. not as gross)? I still can't get over geoducks.

A little housekeeping note - Rachel M. - please contact me to collect your giveaway prize! Or, as per the fine print, I have to draw another winner tonight. And that would be sad.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I've got new legal rights! But, wait a minute...

A lot of people are surprised to learn that my husband and I wanted to get married for 50% romantic reasons and 50% legal reasons. And while I'm happy I now enjoy a few extra legal rights I feel guilty too.

For us, marriage is a legal institution. Living abroad, being married affords you important rights. Like the right to live in the same country as your partner and the ability to put them on your health insurance plan. In a medical emergency it gives you the right to be your partner's advocate. In some countries it gives you tax breaks. In fact, in Malta you get the tax back on all of your wedding expenses!

But then after we got married and everyone kept asking us 'do you feel any different?' I started thinking about what was truly, legally different in our lives.

Assuming a new 'married' identity what would legally change for me? In Malta? In Canada? What if I was to find myself in Saudi Arabia, Denmark, China? Why was it my husband would get more rights than me in some countries? Why was it I enjoyed new rights that non-married people couldn't? What made me more special than them?

Malta has recently enacted co-habitation laws that allow people living together - including brothers and sisters, which I had never considered before - some of the legal rights I mentioned above. It was hailed as a big step forward in giving more rights to people who co-habited in relationships that weren't necessarily romantic. For Malta, on paper, it sounds surprisingly forward thinking. (In reality, it is seriously flawed, but that's another story.)

In a perfect world we would all enjoy the same rights. I think it's unfair that I get more rights than non-married people now. But how could that system change? Eliminate special rights for married people? Give the same rights to non-married people?

What would a legally equal world look like? Where would we draw the lines?

Think about it. Then comment below.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The next big honeymoon destination is...

I don't know if anyone has officially predicted it yet, but Iceland is going to be the next big honeymoon destination.

I haven't met anyone who has been to Iceland who hasn't become enamoured with its vastness and wilderness and weirdness. 

Sure, there are no palm trees or colourful drinks (unless you count the many caramel-coloured beers, which I do). But there are ponies! And the sweetest woolly sheep. And the world's best hot dogs. Ever. Hands down.

There are lakes and waterfalls, and rocky landscapes covered in glowy green moss. There are glaciers and black sand beaches, fields and fjords. There's rain and sun and whisps of fog. There are milky blue geothermal pools and mountainous landscapes. Road trips that last for hours without seeing another human. Hills that are home to faeries.

There's Reykjavik: The hipsterest, cutest city you've ever seen, full of art galleries and design shops and stores stocked to the ceiling with wool sweaters. And the best sushi I've ever eaten.

There's waking up from a nap in your hotel room, perched up on top of the city, to the sounds of seagulls and sight of the sun breaking through storm clouds.

There are friendly locals, with impeccable English and impeccable style.

There are pubs where Icelanders of all ages drink and play card games all night (seriously.).

There's the best tap water you'll ever taste in the world. It's scientifically proven or something. Most restaurants and cafes serve it free from big, communal pitchers.

It also has excellent coffee (maybe it's the water?) and a healthy coffee culture. 

Even if you're an East Coast Canadian and you find its coastlines strangely familiar, and even if you're fairly well travelled, Iceland feels somehow exotic. It's romantic and dreamy and intoxicating.

It's the kind of destination you buy a guide book for, sit in an Icelandic coffee shop to read (planning before you arrive somewhere is overrated) and then realize that you could quite easily travel for an entire month and never get bored, never tire of the landscapes, or the people. 

It's the kind of place that has you looking at return tickets before you even leave. 

And isn't that the kind of place you want to spend your honeymoon?

CenterHotel Thingholt
pretty, centrally located boutique hotel

Fish Market - incredible tasting menu!
Baeharins Beztu Pylsur
best hot dog in the world!
LAVA Restaurant
at the Blue Lagoon

The Laundromat Cafe
quirky and fun

on the street by the hotel, overnight. free of charge

Monday, September 23, 2013

And the winners are...

I'm pleased to announce the winners of The Stroke Re-Launch Giveaway with Zinio!

If you didn't win this time Zinio is still offering you a fabulous magazine subscription deal. Z-Pass: Pay $5, get three titles each month, swap them out for other titles if you get bored. Easy peasy.

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What do you call your significant other?

I'm curious, what do you call your significant other?

In Canada, even before I was married, I referred to Mike as my partner. In my experience it's not uncommon to do that in Canada. My mom always called Mike my partner and I had heard it repeatedly before that. I liked the neutrality of the word. I hated the word boyfriend, which always felt inadequate after so many years together. Plus we were partners - common law, in every sense, according to Canadian provincial law. I liked the seriousness, the legality-sounding of the word. I liked that it connoted equality and accurately described our relationship.

I would have probably referred to Mike as my partner forever, but then we moved to Malta.

When we first moved to Malta I would sometimes get strange looks when I referred to 'my partner' or people wouldn't understand (or would pretend not to understand) what I was talking about. I switched to 'boyfriend' and later, 'fiancé'. It was just easier.

Now I call him my husband because I think it's a pretty word and because it's always understood. But sometimes I still throw in the word partner, too, because I think its important that people get used to hearing it so we can all (regardless of our sexuality) have a vocabulary for love that is normal and useful and doesn't raise any eyebrows.

When I talked to some American friends about this they thought it was strange that I had ever used the word partner, and I thought it was strange they never had! So what do you call your significant other and in what situations (and languages)? I'm genuinely curious.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Honeymooning at Iceland's Blue Lagoon

I want to start telling the story of my wedding at the end, at the top of the world: Iceland. (I'm waiting for some of our wedding photos before I share more about the wedding itself).

Twenty-four hours after our wedding party we boarded an overnight plane for one of two on our honeymoon destinations: Reykjavik, Iceland. Our red-eye landed at 5 am local time (which felt like 2 am to us) and our hotel check in wasn't until 3 pm. Starting off our honeymoon on a totally glamorous note, we slept off some jet lag in our rental car in the parking lot of the Blue Lagoon before it opened as it poured rain around us. It felt like a strange dream.

When the doors opened at 9 am I pulled on my suit and blearily showered with tourbusloads of other shivering tourists, before wrapping myself in an oversized robe and meeting my husband at the wall of steam that hangs in front of the waters' edge. 

And then we soaked. We soaked in these otherworldly waters all day, carrying a secret no one else there knew: We were married. 

When we needed a break from the steam and heat, we ate. The Lagoon has two dining options: A self serve cafeteria and a nicer, upscale restaurant. We splurged on the nicer option, and were treated to an excellent spread of all you can eat sushi, smoked fish, roasted meats, root vegetable salads, and good, strong, Icelandic coffee. All of it consumed in our housecoats, which felt like quite the novelty.

Tired and full, we sank back in the waters. The temperature varies in different part of the lagoons, so we settled into a cooler part to treat each other with silicon and algae face masks and body scrubs. As we exfoliated the skies cleared and the water somehow became bluer and brighter. How lucky we felt to see the Lagoon in stormy skies and rain and sunshine, all in one day.

Undoubtedly, this isn't a rare occurrence in Iceland, home to the moodiest weather I've ever experienced. 

The steamy atmosphere, strange colours, the housecoats in the restaurant, and the jet lag made the entire experience wonderfully surreal and dreamlike. There could have been a hundred thousand other holidaymakers in the Lagoon that day, without our photos I would never know. To me, it was just the two of us and those milky blue waters.

We emerged from the lagoon somehow both pruney and silky smooth, and luxuriated in hot showers in the way that only road-weary people can. Dressed and feeling totally blissed out, we wandered around and snapped photos of our surroundings before our drive through the mossy landscape that separates the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavik.

The sort of landscape that says, Yes, the locals are right, faeries just might live among these hills. 

  • Yes, you've gotta get naked and shower before you go in the Lagoon. Yes, there are private shower stalls if you're shy. (But they are just bodies, guys!) Shampoo and conditioner are provided. There are also hair dryers, but bring your own brush. 
  • The silicon in the Blue Lagoon makes your hair feel really weird and plastic, so smooth conditioner over it and pile it on top of your head before you get in the water.
  • If it's super cold out, enter the pool in the indoor area, rather than running outside in your swimming suit. There's a hidden door that connects this indoor pool to the outdoor lagoon, saving you from the shocking blast of cold Icelandic air freezing the (let's be honest) parts of your body that rarely see the sun, let alone Arctic air. 
  • Pros and cons of the Premium Blue Lagoon package: The housecoat and towel are necessities if you don't bring your own (and what tourists do?) but the €5 discount coupon for the gift shop is useless (nothing costs near €5). It is, however, worth splurging for a good meal at the restaurant rather than the cafeteria, which comes included in the Premium package. The face masks included in the Premium package were lovely, but could easily have been purchased separately. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Stroke relaunch giveaway: Win 1 of 9 magazine subscriptions

To celebrate the relaunch of The Stroke this week Zinio approached me to giveaway 9 digital magazine subscriptions to titles like Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, The Economist, Vogue, GQ, Lonely Planet Traveller, and National Geographic. Readers rejoice!

I bit the bullet and got an iPad this year and love the magazine reading experience they provide, but I find the Apple Newsstand experience to be clumsy. Zinio - a free app - puts all my digital magazine subscriptions in one place on all my devices and provides me with access to free and discounted magazine titles, too. What really sold me on the app was its free articles (from the very best magazines out there) that you can access without committing to a subscription. It's great for me because I'm rubbish at reading a magazine cover to cover anyway, and it's a nice way to discover new magazines, writers and photographers. 

free article on Zinio: "The Girl Just Wants to Have Fun" by Cathy Horyn, Harper's Bazaar
free article from Zinio: "Cinderella Story" by J. J. Martin, Harper's Bazaar

To enter to win 1 of 9 digital magazine subscriptions to a title of your choice, scoot over to Zinio and browse their available titles, then come back here and tell me which magazine you would choose if you won! Please enter using the Rafflecopter entry form, rather than commenting on this post.

In the interest of full transparency, Zinio was also gracious enough to offer me a free magazine subscription. Subscription lengths vary by title (e.g. Vogue subscriptions are for 12 issues, Economist subscriptions are for 51). Contest closes Friday, September 20th, and winners will be selected randomly. I'll announce the winners right here and on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brush Strokes: Memory landscapes by Mary Reardon

As I drift farther from art school and deeper into the business world, I find myself yearning more for art than ever before. I'd like to start sharing Brush Strokes in this space from time to time as a way of allowing myself to return to the art world, if only for an hour or two. And to turn your attention towards interesting artists, who are filling the world with interesting work.

When I worked at the Art Sales & Rental Gallery in Halifax I was lucky enough to interact with over 200 artists (god, I loved that job). Just like when someone asks me if I love one of my dogs more than the other, it was hard to pick a favourite artist. But one who continually took my breath away was Mary Reardon.

Reardon's rich, painterly oil paintings are variations on a theme; arrangements of mundane and mysterious objects set against neutral backgrounds or calm cloudscapes. In art-speak Reardon's works try to give form to the process of remembering and forgetting. When viewed through this lens, the objects in her paintings take on obvious symbolism. Vessels become memory containers. Feathers and marbles mark events, people, feelings.

According to Reardon, each painting is an image of what the brain might look like when we remember or forget something. A visual representation of an abstract process.

It's lovely to think about, and even lovelier to look at. The sort of images that you can appreciate without an art history degree, but that become so much richer as you dive into them and digest them slowly, over many viewings.

My favourite art is always beautiful at and below the surface, and Reardon's is no exception.

You can purchase Mary's work at: her own studio gallery, the Art Gallery of Hamilton Art Sales & Rental Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's Art Sales & Rental Gallery, Lyghtesome Gallery, and Secord Gallery. Reproductions are available to purchase through her web site.

All images reproduced with Mary Reardon's consent. Thank you, Mary!