Saturday, August 30, 2008

Geisha Girls and Dragon Ladies

Tonight was my girl Laura's birthday party (she turned 21 three days ago) - Happy Birthday, Sweetums! My goodness, but I am intensely full. I always eat so well and so much when I go visit her.

So I've just begun reading this really interesting book that I must, must, must share. It's called The Asian Mystique by Sheridan Prasso, and I'd wanted to read it ever since I first saw it at my campus bookstore.

It sort of elaborates on Saïd's Orientalism, but its focus is on the mythologies related to East Asians (as opposed to South Asians). In particular, it looks at the myths of the "Geisha Girl" (subservient, docile, obliging, sexually available) and the "Dragon Lady" (domineering, hard, demanding, sexually insatiable), which are very pervasive in Western culture (especially in the media and, perhaps as a consequence, in the way people think), where these myths come from and how the people who inspire such myths actually are.

I loved the intro and was really interested in what she had to say, but I totally had a What the Hell Moment when I was a few pages into the first chapter and read that the Dragon Lady myth came from false publications about the Empress Dowager Cixi, who was actually a really softspoken, gentle person but had her rep ruined by lying authors. Um, what??? Sure, people in the west wrote all kinds of lies about her, but she was actually very ruthless and scary. It's well documented in history. She wasted a LOT of taxpayers' money and did all kinds of things to screw the country up for her own benefit; a shy, bowing lotus she was not.

Regardless of that, I read about a really interesting event that I'd never heard about before. In the 60's, a French diplomant named Bernard Bouriscot had an affair with a Chinese opera diva while he was stationed in China - but his lover turned out to be a spy. A male spy. They actually had sex regularly (though infrequently) and Bouriscot never even suspected that his lover was a man throughout their 20 year relationship until he demanded to see "her" body in the light during his trial for treason - he handed over a ton of confidential documents to his lover during their 20 years together because he said that he was made to believe that "she" and their child would be in danger if he didn't. That's right, their child. You see, his lover even claimed to be pregnant and "produced" a son the year after they met.

How can a man be intimate regularly with someone who doesn't have a vagina and still think that he's being with a woman? Supposedly, during a medial exam, the opera singer showed that he could retract his testicles into his body and he'd tuck his penis between his firmly clenched thighs. I still don't completely understand the mechanics of their lovemaking, but that's not the point.

The point is, Bouriscot basically brainwashed himself into thinking that something so ludicrous was true, that his lover was a woman, because he firmly bought into the Geisha Girl Myth. He believed that all Chinese women are super modest and shy, so they all keep their thighs firmly clenched during sex, they only make love in the dark and that they all keep their encounters brief and rare. He credited all the unusualness of their sexual relationship (and even his lover's physical discrepancies with real women) to cultural difference.

That's what shocks me. The power of these myths can cause extreme paradigm shifts (to the point of self-delusion), and these myths are still everywhere today. I live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and I still meet those gross idiots with Yellow Fever who will come up to me to say the stupidest things, like "Where are you from? No, really, where are you from?" and "Konichiwa, Chinese Princess" and "Say something in your language."

Can we start some discourse about this? Can we start talking and raise some awareness about this ridiculousness so that we can finally be on the path to getting rid of this absurdity?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Addition to Bag Harem - Laptop Bag

Hello! Begging your collective pardon - I totally meant to post earlier today, but I've literally been hopping from farewell party to farewell party tonight, and this is the first time I've been at my comptuer today.

I have four parties lined up in total (two more left - my goodness, I love all the people who love me!), plus some birthday parties and other get-togethers before I leave next Friday. Saying "Goodbye for now" is a little sad, but I'm always up for a reason to have fun!

I am christening my new laptop by blogging on it for the very first time - yay! I finally have it all organized and ready to go, you see: my awesome brother set it up for me with all the programs/security I wanted, and I finally transferred all my files from my old computer to this one.

And now I can tell you guys all about the new addition to my Bag Harem that I've been referring to. Those of you who've been following TSH since day one may remember that my very first post was about my bag crush, the Susan Komen collection version of the Milano laptop bag by Mobile Edge.

After I bought my new laptop, I just had to get a hot bag to put it in, of course, but I was struggling between the original Milano, which is black, and the special edition pink one, which I was also head-over-heels for, but was more expensive (albeit for a good cause). I finally decided on the black because it's more timeless (always superimportant to me) so I won't outgrow it so quickly, if ever, and so I could save some money.

It came really quickly and I am so, so happy I went with the black! It's really classy and besides, I think the pink would look really fake. It's not exactly the same as the pictures online, but I'm really happy with it nonetheless. It came with a dust bag, which is key for storage (although I'll be using it practically every day next year) and I love that it has feet - not that I'd ever banish it to the floor.

The red velvet lining is also very sexy and reminds me of Anna Karenina - remember how she had a red velvet handbag? It was such a defining moment when she tossed it out onto the railroad tracks before throwing herself in front of the oncoming train. But I digress.

So, I love this bag, because nearly everyone who's seen it so far exclaimed, "It doesn't look like a laptop bag at all!" I've always thought that traditional laptop bags are really ugly and clunky. To my delight, my brother even remarked that it looks like a bag a high-powered executive businesswoman would carry - score! Plus it's faux-croc, so it satisfies my skin fetish without sacrificing the life of an animal.

I also think that it was wonderfully designed and perfectly meets the needs of a woman on-the-go. There are all kinds of useful compartments (including one that will prevent your PDA/iPhone from getting hacked into or receiving viruses!) and it even comes with a detachable wristlet for makeup and such.

I love.

It also comes in two sizes - the regular can carry laptops up to 15.4" in width and the large can hold laptops up to 17". If you live in the States, you can get it at a discount at sites like (lucky you!), but if you live in Canada, is really efficient, even if it costs a little more.

I highly recommend it, or at least checking out other cute, non-traditional bags to carry your laptops around in. After all, there are so many choices out there now!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Trends, Money and Social Issues

I'm back - I've missed yous! Even with my week-long hiatus, I can see that you all have been making steady visits here anyway - you're so good to me, thank you! Of course, I've been keeping my eyes and ears open for things that I can tell you about.

I've decided to change my M.O. a little bit - instead of posting every day, I'm going to aim to post 2-3 times a week. That way, I can focus on quality instead of quantity; I find that when I try to write every day, the quality of my work isn't consistent, which doesn't sit well with me. I want to really be saying something in every post, you know? Besides that, school is coming up soon as well.

I've also received a question, which as you know, totally floats my boat. My girl Sabrina writes:

I was reading this story on Jezebel - Now, I know that you are all about having quality pieces when it comes to fashion, and staying away from lame knock-offs. But, should someone who can't afford designer trendiness steer clear of trends altogether then?

What is your "stance" on dressing in a very classic way vs. trying to keep up with trends?

AND, how does one stay fashionable while remaining socially aware of the environment and the plight of people in poorer countries?

Really good questions and SO relevant to me right now because I'm finding my closet stocked with a lot of great-quality basics right now - but it's also getting a little boring.

In answer to the first question, I think that we need to define knockoffs first. Many might think that it's straightforward, but really, everyone has a slightly different opinion.

To me, knockoffs are products that try to pass off as someone else's work. The stuff sold on Canal Street that can almost be mistaken for the real thing are knockoffs. Fendi monogram lookalikes that read FL are knockoffs. Chanel monogram lookalikes made of double G's are knockoffs. Surprisingly enough, at my very superficial school, someone even once spotted a "Channel" bag - that's also a knockoff. I think that knockoffs are copies of someone's design, products that are meant to look like someone's work, that are meant to pass off as the original.

But I think that products that are inspired by someone else's work are okay. In other words, homages are okay. Like, my boy Ramir and I once came across a textile artist at the One of A Kind Toronto Christmas show, who designed prints on fabrics and put artistically cut swatches of them onto greeting cards - I wish I can remember the name of the artist and her business. Anyway, a look at the shapes and use of colour of her designs shows that she is obviously inspired by Emilio Pucci - but she does not, of course, tell people they are Pucci greeting cards. What she sells is her work, which was artistically inspired by another artist. That's totally cool and a huge compliment to Pucci, in my opinion.

By the same token, clothes and accessories that are inspired by the bigwig designers are everywhere out there and don't cost a ton. Just look in any mall. For example, tartans and plaids are pretty popular this season - they were seen at such runway shows as Dolce & Gabbana, Requiem, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.

The left is from Dolce & Gabbana's Fall 2008 collection. That shirt probably costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The shirt on the right is from Forever21 and it costs $19.80, which allows you to partake in the trend without breaking the bank. It's the same idea as the Dolce & Gabbana shirt, but it's not exactly the same and it's not trying to be. And is it so eccentric that you'd never wear it again? I don't think so.

Which brings me to Question #2 - There are people who choose to almost never follow trends, who wear only classics - but that can get a little boring, as I'm discovering in my rut right now. When I choose trends to follow, I try to pick things that I wouldn't mind wearing even after it's no longer considerered to be in the first stare of fashion - in other words, styles that I really, really like and that aren't super eccentric or eclectic. That's my personal preference. It's also a lot easier on the wallet and decreases the chances that you'll hate yourself later when you see how you're dressed in pictures. ;P (Incidentally, that's why I ended up buying my faux-croc laptop bag in black instead of pink - more on that later!) Another option is to stick to classic clothes, but to keep up with trends via accessories, because they are cheaper, so you can buy more stuff to play with.

The last question is a huge toughie. I stay fashionable and remain conscious of the environment simply by only buying pieces that I love (and am borderline-obsessed with). If I want something, I usually wait at least a week or so before I go out to purchase it to make sure that my hankering for it doesn't wane, because sometimes, I just itch to spend money and this helps to curb impulse purchases. This creates less junk in my wardrobe and I save money.

But how to keep fashionable while keeping people in poverty-stricken countries in mind? That's really hard. I mean, if you're practically destitute (or even just plain dirt-poor), you don't have much of a choice, do you? By the way, I'd caution you against discussing this with my Aunt Nancy - she's the CFO of the Asia-Pacific division of Tommy Hilfiger - because she'd engage you in a heated discussion about how they're creating jobs in poor countries, etc.

The best advice I can give on this is, if you're super socially-conscious, to buy fair-trade, make your own clothes or shop at secondhand stores or thrift shops. I wouldn't be able to go with options two and three because I'm hopeless at sewing and because I'm allergic to Used Stuff Cooties (I know, I know, I'm a terrible person). Otherwise, you could do some research to find out which brands don't use sweatshops and only shop at those (no more Victoria's Secret!). At this point in my life I'm not in a position financially to be picky, but if any of you are, I would totally encourage you to be because, after all, socially-conscious shopping is très chic! ;}

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Hello darlings,

Hope you missed me yesterday, because I certainly missed all of you. Am currently brow-deep in prep for living on the Côte d'Azur next year - especially since the mater is hell-bent on making sure I don't leave my room looking like a sample sale whirled through. Begging your patience - I need a couple more days. Forgive?

Thank you!

As always, you rock my world and I'm here for you 24/7 at thesoapheiress(at)


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Essence of Garlic Bread

I got the ultimate compliment the other day - the gourmet cook of my family, my Uncle Frankie, asked me to show him how to make the cheesy garlic bread I made at Christmas. His cooking is among the best I've ever eaten, so I was totally flummoxed that he needed me to demonstrate something so simple to him - but he and my Aunt Shirley insisted that his garlic bread was not very good and that my 6 year old cousin actually complained about it being bitter.

Well! Who am I to refuse, especially when they showed so much sincerity by bringing me a loaf of bread and cheese as well?

The secret, as with any other culinary effort, lies in the ingredients. You can make decent food with limited skills and great ingredients (like me!), but you can't do much with great skills if you don't have good ingredients.

The foundation of a slammin' garlic bread is, of course, fresh, crusty bread. I prefer Italian because it's more substantial, but French is just as yummy, and twig-thin baguettes make great hors d'oeuvre finger foods.

Next is the butter. It's absolutely essential. Margarine is far inferior. You want to place thin slices of butter on the bread and try to conver the entire upper surface - otherwise, you'll have garlic bread that is yummy on some spots and bland in others. Beware of using too much (oil galore!) or too little (dry bread is not yummy).

If you're in a pinch or you need to cheat a little, Lactancia makes a decent garlic butter. If you're a pro, you can try to whip up your own by putting some chopped garlic and/or herbs (like tarragon or basil) in a blender or food processor with your butter. *A word to the wise: fresh garlic is often too strong or bitter for children's palates. If you're cooking for kids, be very light-handed with garlic, or use a little garlic powder instead.

If your butter is unflavoured, sprinkle the seasonings on top of the butter - that gives them something to stick to. Always be conservative and light-handed, because you can always add more if you think it's not enough.

Lastly - the best part! - there's the cheese. If you're particularly picky, shred the cheese yourself. I'm lazy, so I normally use those bags of shredded cheese from the supermarket. I like to get one with cheddar, for flavour, and mozarella, for the stringy yumminess. The "Tex Mex" kind with jalapeño adds an extra kick. Always top it with some freshly grated parmesan (the powdery stuff in a box really take away from the texture), because it's tasty and it browns beautifully. And if you want it to look even more impressive, sprinkle some dried herbs on top.

Broil it in an oven until the cheese bubbles and browns - keep a close watch though, because it burns quickly. Make sure you eat a sorbet or have some breathmints on hand afterwards!

Not mine but Martha's - mine are so good they rarely last long enough for a photo!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Defending Fashion

I've always felt the need to defend myself against those who think that I must be frivolous or superficial because I love fashion. Well, I probably am a little superficial, but it doesn't have much to do with loving fashion. :P

I think I've found a reason why people have this mentality. The word "couture" has now been equated with excess, over-the-top frippery. People tack it onto anything that's supposed to be impressive - supposed being the operative word. The word has lost its meaning because it's overused and abused. I mean, there are even condos named Couture these days - how ridiculous is that? How does a residential apartment (that anyone can buy as long as they have the money) have anything to do with couture?

Do people even know what couture is? It refers to the exquisite products from old school fashion houses - ateliers - where you'd go in and have everything tailor-made for you, pre-ready-to-wear and the only way the middle-class-and-up did things pre-industrial revolution. Style and quality (i.e. handiwork and materials) were prided above all else, and of course, the prices reflected it. That's what couture is. It's not a term to be thrown around lightly, and only the products of companies/fashion houses that meet really strict, high standards can be truly dubbed "couture."

And this is why fashion is not necessarily frivolous - fashion is art. When I say that fashion is art to me, I don't mean that I'm one of those people who drapes myself in fugly ensembles and turns my snobby nose up at those who don't understand my esoteric sense of style. I'm not. I like mainstream and my aesthetic is quite mainstream. Conventional beauty is considered conventional for a reason, right? Because it's pleasing to most people.

Similar to how some people like to hang Van Gogh, Monet or Degas on their walls, I like to hang Valentino, Marc Jacobs and Dior in my wardrobe. Same principle. Who is anyone to say that one art form is inferior or superior to another? Is fashion not as "serious" an art as painting because I can wear it? Makes no sense to me.

I love fashion because it reflects upon cultures and people and eras. Pants becoming mainstream to women's fashion heralded lots of development in women's lib. The costumes of women in the Tang dynasty were supersexy and adorned, which points to the (relative) peace and cultural prosperity of the time. And the photos of a 12-year-old me channeling Britney/Christina, donning my best low-rise bootcut jeans and a cropped wrap top with an all-around zircon belly chain and ultra-shiny pink lip gloss shows, in my opinion, when North American Corporateland first realized that selling sex to prepubescent kids is (unfortunately) very, very lucrative.

The great thing about fashion is that there are multiple ways to enjoy it. You can enjoy it on a rack, in a fashion spread, on a model, and on yourself. I'm a particular fan of enjoying fashion on myself not just because it makes me look nice and feeds my vanity (good cutting/tailoring is like magic!), but simply because I luxuriate in the feel of top-quality, lush material against my skin.

So no, fashion isn't just a frivolous interest; it's an art. How do you enjoy it?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Smut of Choice - Lainey Gossip

Someone once asked me who I admire most. Apart from a couple family members, I think the people who have inspired me most are those who were from where I'm from and have succeeded. Examples include Bonnie Fuller (I don't care what people say about her; she's a genius at increasing circulation), Jay Manuel (who is beautiful and went to my high school!) and Elaine "Lainey" Lui of Lainey Gossip.

Like me, Lainey is a Chinese girl from Toronto, and she also studied French like I do, at my university. She, too, grew up watching Miss Hong Kong pageants and has a mother with, um, strong opinions and a penetrating voice. Love her. Love her writing.

I first heard of her maybe two years or so ago when my mom read me a profile on Lainey in one of the Chinese newspapers. My mom absolutely loves to read the news to me - she would read articles to me about kidnapped children to scare me from running from away from her in public when I was small, and now she likes to read articles to me about successful people who were in a similar situation to me.

That was when I started reading Lainey regularly, and of course, I loved her column instantly. I got hoooked and had to have my daily fix right away. Then later, I realized that a couple other friends read her too, and my friend/roommate Sabrina and I loved to discuss the celeb gossip we read on Lainey Gossip together. Now, we've progressed onto reading the guesses for the blind items on the Lainey Lurv Facebook group. It's so much fun!

If you're interested in celebrity gossip written in a unique voice with really insightful analysis, along with a generous helping of "mom anecdotes" (any Margaret Cho fans out there?), definitely go check her out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boys & Travelling Light

This particular post is inspired by love! Well, actually, it's inpsired by the sight of the boy that I love effortlessly hoisting enormous luggages.

You see, in my very shallow way of seeing the world, there are two kinds of boys: the big, strong ones and the not so big, strong ones. And the beauty of nature is that most not so big, strong boys have a complex that compels them to prove that they are, indeed, big and strong. This is why girls should always leave the heavy lifting to the boys.

We picked up the mother of the boy I love yesterday at the airport from her month-long Hong Kong vacay with her daughter, and the two of them had four enormous luggages between them. Like, huge - which really is the only way to go when you spend a month in a shopping heaven. Each of those suckers took a gigantic effort from two of us girls to carry, just from the cart into the car.

However, with a simple "Here, let me," the boy that I love easily took one luggage in each hand and ambled along with utmost grace (well, the kind of grace a basketball player has, anyway). This reminded me of a scene four summers ago, when I was loading my suitcase into a bus to be taken to the train station after my five-week summer exchange program. My friend Justin, who is one of the sweetest guys I know but who probably weighed half as much as my suitcase, charged over to me and insisted on helping me. I wasn't really having any trouble, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. And that was when it hit me.

Girls should always leave the heavy lifting to the boys because, if the boy in question is big and strong (like my honey), he'd of course be able to do a fantastic job for you with little effort. He'd be pleased with himself and you'd be pleased with him because you didn't have to lift a finger. Win-win. However, even if a boy is not so big and strong, you don't have to worry - his complex will kick in (especially if he's the gentlemanly type - lucky you!) and he will bust his butt and exhaust every effort to do a fantastic job for you. And again, he'd be pleased with himself and you'd be pleased with him because you didn't have to lift a finger. See how awesome this is?

Of course, as with any community, there are the drones who have no complex and will hang back and let other people do it, even if they're girls. Or even worse, there are the ones that are perfectly capable physically but they're just lazy. Those ones are duds and not worth any consideration, in my opinion.

But unless you take one with you everywhere you go (by that I mean a boy), male assistance is not always guarateed to be available. The solution? Packing light, of course. Contrary to what most people would think, I'm an extremely light packer; it's been drummed into my head since childhood that this is the smart way to travel.

One of my favourite resources for tips on how to travel light is diva in a carry on - not only do they write about how to travel light, but they also write great product reviews and I love the tools they suggest. I also love One Bag, which is the ultimate how-to: what to pack, what to put it in and how to pack it. Am going to refer to them when I pack for my year in Europe later on this summer!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Re: Power-In-A-Tube

Yay, we have discourse!


I must emphasize just how much I love to hear from you - I love to hear from you a lot! You totally rock my world. I would equate the joy of getting comments/e-mails from you with the kind I feel when I go shopping and find the cutest, most well-made item ever, marked way down, with the very last article in great condition and in my size. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So after reading this post, the sweetness known as my friend, Ramir (who I miss ridiculously), wrote:

"...I was in Sephora two months ago and I saw this thing called Lip makes your lips gi-normous to right amount of volume and pout. So, what are your thoughts about that Soap Heiress?"

Okay, I'm going to address this to everybody because it's an interesting one.

Is it better than lip injections? Well, it certainly is less invasive and way cheaper. I can't attest to its effectiveness though, because I avoid all plumping products like the plague, since my lips are already huge enough to take over the world.

Let me give you a little bit of background. DuWop's Lip Venom was developed by two makeup artists working on a TV show, who wanted to re-create that red plumpness of the actors' lips after they do makeout scenes. So they set to work to develop a product with that goal in mind, and came up with Lip Venom. The ingredients that purportedly create that effect are cinnamon, ginger and wintergreen essential oils.

As the heiress of an all-natural soap company, I must tell you that you have to be very careful about putting essential oils on your bare skin, especially if it's a high concentration. Most essential oils are very irritating - only a few, like lavender and tea tree, are safe to use on bare skin.

But of course, it's the irritation that makes your lips look bee-stung. You have to decide for yourself if it's worth it. I've read online that some people experience a lot of pain using this product - I'd stay away from it if you've got sensitive lips, chapped lips or broken skin. However, there are also many women who swear by it and love the results.

From watching a ton of trashy reality makeover shows, the knowledge I've gleaned is this: you can't drastically change what you were born with, even with the most drastic procedures. I often think that makeup, hair and wardrobe work make a bigger difference than surgeries (e.g. a person with a huge schnoz usually still has a huge schnoz post-surgery) - and the confidence boost in thinking you look better makes the biggest difference. So I believe that, with regards to lip plumpers, if it makes a difference to you and makes you feel better about yourself (and you don't have sensitive lips/broken skin!), I say go for it.

Watch out about kissing someone with sensitive lips, though!

And my friend Sabrina, with whom I survived the sorority experience and the misadventures of living in a sorority house, showed me this "sorority-inspired lipstick personality test" which was featured on Jezebel.

Well, let me announce here and now that they did not come up with this. I've seen it before, in some women's magazine or other. Because Greeks (by that I mean collegians in sororities or fraternities) absolutely LOVE to copy things. Our song book had re-written versions of everything, from Grease tunes to Disney classics to pop songs, all edited to mention and praise the members of our organization - and of course, we were the only ones.

That said, I think it's a fun concept. For me, it's pretty inaccurate though - I think it's just distasteful to use your lipstick to the point of grossness by completely mangling the natural shape. Do most women mess up their lipsticks? You get better results by using them they way they were meant to be used, I can assure you.

And really, how can you clump all women in seven or eight categories? But it's the same idea with magazine personality tests and with astrology, I suppose. My high school science teacher used to tell us, "Always remember that you're unique - just like everybody else!"

Friday, August 8, 2008

Philanthropy & Colin Asuncion Art 2008

Pardon me for sounding like the worst person ever, but - did you also suffer from charity overload when you were in school? You know, where there are a million different groups out there trying to raise money, crashing your classes and stopping you on campus day in and day out to bug you for cash and inundating your life with ads?

For me, it began in high school. But at least people were earnestly raising money for the sake of their causes and doing charity work really for the charity (except those two or three jerks who were only actually just trying to pad their résumés - but they were never the ones to work hardest, anyway).

In university, I got pretty disillusioned about philanthropy because I felt that people were always using charity as an excuse to do stupid things and/or to make a fool of other people. But maybe that was just unique to my circles. For example, the organization I was in held a frat boy beauty pageant every year. It might sound like fun, but really, we were essentially humiliating people in the name of charity. Some guys liked the attention, sure, but most were forced to participate by their fraternities to make a showing, because they were "pledge bitches." The mentality was, if you have a philanthropy quota to fill every year, might as well make it fun, right? Raising lots of money for charity also gives an organization bragging rights.

I won't even begin to tell you what the fraternities did "in the name of charity." Their events weren't ALWAYS negative or demeaning to women or humiliating or completely assinine, but the vast majority that took place when I was at school were. My point is that a lot of the time, students lose sight of why they are doing charity work and instead use philanthropy as an excuse to do stupid things/have fun at the expense of others, or to party, or to beef up their résumés, or to somehow benefit themselves. And that just crushes the spirit of doing charity work for the benefit of other people out of the goodness of your own heart.

And then there are people like my friend Colin. He holds an art show every year to sell his paintings and display his other artistic work, and he donates the money to a different cause every year. This year the proceeds from admissions will go to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, which provides care and helps the 1 in 4 affected Canadians. Sure, Colin enjoys painting and creating, but he donates his time, energy and his work for causes he believes in because he wants to make a difference, and I really admire that. I also love to see how he develops as an artist.

He held a joint show earlier this summer, which was fantastic, and his solo show is taking place tomorrow! If you will be around downtown Toronto tomorrow and have some free time between 3:00-6:00pm, go check out his show, located in St. Michael's Choir School auditorium at 66 Bond St. Enjoy the art, the fantastic food and most of all, help make a difference.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

All-You-Can-Eat Japanese - Yang's Kitchen

I am helplessly addicted to all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Japanese cuisine.

It's a lovely phenomenon that has cropped up in Canada (and probably in other "New Worlds" where Chinese people have settled) in the past couple years. The beauty of AYCE Japanese is that it can perfectly satisfy all your cravings for any kind of Japanese food you may want to eat, at an affordable, set price (usually about $20CAD here in uptown Toronto).

But wait! Aren't I normally a huge stickler for authenticity, especially when it comes to food, and isn't AYCE Japanese obviously not authentic? Yes and yes, but since most (if not all) of these joints owned and operated by Chinese people and I am Chinese, I find that the menu items are very suited to my palate.

AYCEJ restaurants offer menus with hundreds of choices, and what I love about it is that you can order exactly how much of everything you want to eat (except maki rolls, which you have to order a whole roll at a time for each type). For example, if you were in the mood for three shrimp tempuras, four slices of salmon sashimi and two tuna handrolls, you can order exactly that. So that's just the amount of anything you want for $20, when previously at regular Japanese restaurants, you'd probably have to choose to order ONLY tempura or ONLY teriyaki or ONLY sashimi/sushi, etc. because it would be really costly to order everything.

The first AYCE Japanese restaurant I can remember going to in Toronto is Ten-Ichi, which used to focus on teppanyaki and was strictly à la carte. Soon after, as the popularity of this genre grew, these such restaurants started cropping up everywhere in Toronto like weed.

My AYCE Japanese joint of choice is Yang's Kitchen, this tucked-away hole in the wall at Hwy 7 and Kennedy, in a little plaza where there's also an RBC. I've tried a good seven or eight different AYCE Japanese places, and I keep coming back to this one for the following reason:

1.) Turnover is very quick, which means the food is really fresh and arrives promptly.
2.) The rolls are phenomenal - they don't scrimp on ingredients, but they also won't pack them down with a ton of rice to fill you up.
3.) There are a ton of choices and they vamp up their menu with new selections every so often.
4.) Even on really busy nights, the empty plates are cleared away really quickly.
5.) The food is just really good.
6.) You can almost always find a 10% off coupon in the Chinese newspapers.

I've read online that quite a few people aren't happy with the service, with one guy even going as far as calling the police - isn't that a little excessive for someone who's quibbling over a $3 mandatory gratuity fee that exists at every buffet? I've never had any problems there with the service besides the fact that they don't really have a system for taking down names when there are people waiting. But turnover there is so quick that it's almost a non-issue - and besides, I always go on weeknights because it's cheaper.

And the thing is - it's a cultural issue. Forgive me for making generalizations, but trust me when I say that I have it on very good authority to tell you that if you go to any casual Chinese-owned restaurant, you really can't expect too much from the service. We're all about efficiency. That's why the food arrives so promptly and why the turnover is so quick, which in turn ensures that the food is fresh and that they earn more money, of course. Being as efficient as possible and earning as much as you can is the name of the game. Time is money. That's also why they have a 1.5hr dining time limit but trust me, it's way more than enough.

So if you are looking to have really fresh, tasty AYCE Japanese for a decent price, I highly recommend Yang's Kitchen.

My picks:
*black dragon roll (BBQ eel and avocado slices over California roll)
*cubed steak (cooked with butter, garlic and black pepper - so good!)
*white tuna sashimi
*spicy crispy salmon or tuna rolls
*tempura shrimp
*any of the new items that are only available for dinner, like baked scallop, BBQ eel pizza and so on

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Backwards Self-Discovery/Reflections

Tell me: everyone has a black hole in their room, right? Right?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just kidding myself to assuage my guilt for my messiness. The black hole in my room is located in my closet - my clothes are kept on surfaces in my room, like my desk, my chair, my computer desk, the floor... Since grade 11 in high school (that would be junior year to you American It Girls), I'd clean out my locker and just shove all my stuff into my closet. In university (college, to you AIG's) it got even worse because I'd bring home even more junk.

In light of Retro Fashion Girl's impending arrival, I dove head-first into the abyss of the deepest bowels of my closet and finally cleaned it all up - and the experience was actually a lot more pleasant that I'd anticipated. In a way, I was almost sort of glad I left it all to do at a time, left a few years' worth of stuff to go through.

Going through my high school stuff was really poignant. I didn't so much pay attention to my work as I did to the evidence of how I enjoyed my high school experience, and through all this stuff, it reminded me of what sort of person I was.

I could clearly see that I was wildly creative and that I loved colour - my agenda and my binders were so spectacularly decorated! My agenda actually started a sensation, so I'm keeping it. I covered the front in dense, pink-sparkled nail polish and set it off with a gold, stenciled butterfly. It was totally worth the awful stink in my room that lasted a couple days. And if my sketches were any indication, I already had a wicked sense of style back then.

I plastered my locker with the characters of my favourite love stories, as well as my celebrity crushes. I found Lois & Clark fanfiction tucked into my notes, printed out on re-used sheets in the tiniest font and in the most crowded page setting possible to conserve paper. I had crushes on the most undeserving losers, but it was fun and totally overwhelming at the time. I could see that I had a ton of friends because I had a million candy grams, which I couldn't bear to part with then - I re-read them before I threw them out this time, of course.

I was superinvolved in extracurrics - somehow it was possible in high school (I find I can only concentrate on one or two in university). I had the lead in one school play and helped write another, both of which were really well-received. I thrived on being superbusy. And I effortlessly got really high marks - that I really miss.

I basically (re-?)discovered that I was a very vibrant, vivacious girl back in then, and I really like the high school version of myself. And the best part is, I realized that I'm still pretty much the same person. How awesome is that?

The whole experience showed me that it's so easy to forget how you were before because we get caught up in the present, and I think it's incredibly important to reflect on the past. It's both a great way to appreciate yourself and your previous accomplishments, as well as an opportunity to learn from your experiences and evolve as a person. Life passes by so quickly; it's such a rich treat for the mind to take a ride back to "before"!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Power-In-A-Tube, A (Brief) History

My lips will take over the world.

I surmised as much when I gazed upon my portrait three years ago in Montmartre, perhaps the third or fourth portrait I've ever gotten done. Somehow my lips are always one of the very first things people notice about me, which is evident by the fact that in each one of the three or so portraits mentioned above, there is always a pair of sausagey things on the area where my mouth should be.

And as I've said that I believe the right shades of pink can make a woman really powerful, I think the same is true of red - especially with respect to lipstick.

From junior high to maybe the middle of high school, my signature was supershiny, ridiculously glossed lips (sometimes with fine glitter in it) - kind of like Britney's in the first few frames of her Oops!...I Did It Again video (back when she was mostly sane - those were the days!). Then towards the end of high school, I graduated to matte, deep reds. Propriety for a teenager aside, it was my look and I rocked it.

Nowadays, I understand that the vampy pout is a little too intense and excessive for day/daily wear, not to mention the fact that lips piled a mile high with product don't look yummy to kiss. Besides that, it can totally send off the wrong message since, from a biological standpoint, the point of red lipstick is to imitate the deep flush we get when we're in the throes of passion. But every so often, when I'm heading out for a good time or at some chichi event with my girls, when I rock my bright red lips, people know I mean business.

Did you know that the first known lipstick was found in a tomb in Ur (now Iran) and estimated to be about 5000 years old? Ancient Egyptian Fashion Girls were buried with enough of the stuff to last through the afterlife. Cleo herself used to don this special paste made with henna and crushed carmine beetles. I wonder if they've run out yet in Ancient Egyptian Fashion Girl Heaven...

Lipstick became a fashion staple for both men and women in the 1600s but towards the end of the 1700s, the British parliament passed a law banning women from "tricking men into marrying them" through the excessive use of makeup. Hah! Then in the early 1900s women unknowingly slathered all kinds of toxic ingredients like lead, mercury and arsenic on their puckers to achieve that coveted Perfect Pout Power.

But luckily, these days we've moved on to using simply (and relatively not harmful) oil, wax and dye. A good thing too, because a study shows that on average, a woman consumes (as in eats) 4-9 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. Kinda gross if you ask me, but c'est la vie. There's no way I'd give up my lipstick. And thanks to Guerlain, who made the first lipstick in tube form, we now have the kind of lipstick we know and love.

My Power-In-A-Tube of choice? Deep scarlet, of course, and more precisely, MAC's Russian Red. It's just the right shade of red that is on the dark side, but still really bright. Best of all, it's not too orange and not too blue, which means I don't have to worry about looking like a Massage Parlour Special!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Newest Addition to My Tech Harem

In a perfect world, I'd have several harems. That's right, not one, but at least a few. One for men (hee!), one for clothes, one for shoes, one for bags, one for jewellery, one for cars, one for books (I believe they call those libraries) and one for techie toys.

I've very recently added to my tech harem - it's a compact, little Dell XPS M1330 laptop! (But mine is black.) 13.3" screen, 3G memory, 250G hard drive, 9-cell battery - pure hotness, and quite an upgrade from my current Inspiron6000 (15.4", 512MB memory, 70G hard drive, 7 freaking pounds - that's more than I weighed when I was born!). I can't even tell you how excited I am to get it on Tuesday. EEE!!!

As such, I must honour the occasion by naming my new laptop. I have a thing for names; I name everything, you see. My little green car is Grasshopper (although admittedly, my aunts who owned the car before me came up with that one), my iPod is Raoul, my teddy bear is Jean Claude...

I've decided to name my laptop Cerveau, which is French for "brain", in honour of me going on exchange this fall and in honour of my heritage, because the Chinese term for "computer", translated directly, is "electronic brain."

I'm really pumped because it's got some pretty good reviews, which in turn means it's got my brother's approval. Don't tell him I said this, but I listen to him about almost everything. The only two times I ever went against his advice (joining my sorority and calling a boy who was supposed to call me) I was SO sorry. Like, intensely sorry. So I generally try not to deviate from his suggestions too much if at all anymore.

Now that I have a respectable, little tech harem going on, I think I should get to work on my man harem, don't you? ;P

P.S. It's a civic holiday here in Canada, which means we have Monday off. Happy Long Weekend!