Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bitch Nail Polish

Baby Smiley says “You gotta make sure that your ah-browns scream, ‘BITCH!’”

Similarly, I sometimes turn to cosmetics to imbue power in me when I feel like I need a little lift. My favourite is using dark, dark nail polish – not black, because that’s too emo, but black-red, because I once read that powerful women in history liked to paint their nails dark red. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I like to do it anyway.

Enter Chanel.

In ’94, a makeup artist coloured models’ nails with black marker before a photo shoot, and then created an almost black polish for that season’s runway. After that Chanel show, there was a huge frenzy for that nail polish and it quickly became a cult favourite. Originally named Vamp and later re-named Rouge Noir, it was designed to look like dried blood. See? That’s the power thing. It tells the world – Don’t f*ck with me. I paint my nails with dried blood. It’s sexiness, aggression and sophistication in a bottle.

However, Chanel USA “re-released” a nail polish called Vamp some years later, but it’s not the same. The new Vamp has a shimmer finish to it and doesn’t hold a candle to the original Vamp/now Rouge Noir, in my opinion. So caveat emptor: The colour I’m referring to is Rouge Noir today – look for the bottles that say Made in France on the back.

My Aunt K has a bottle and was kind enough to share with me once, but I can’t keep mooching off her because she’s usually countries away from me. It applied just a little bit streaky, but I have a feeling it’s because her bottle’s ancient. She didn’t know that it was such an iconic polish until I told her, apparently.

At about $30-40 a pop, it qualifies as an “affordable luxury” but I really can’t justify spending that much on nail polish, so I’ve set about looking for a substitute, and luckily, there are many dupes out there.

My personal favourite at the moment is Essie’s Wicked (pictured above). It’s a bit darker than the original Vamp but it comes very close and I like how it’s just a shade away from black. It’s sort of a cross between a creme and a gel. It applies slightly streaky but many dark colours are difficult to apply, and this one isn’t as bad as some others I’ve come across. It dries to a beautiful, glossy finish, but I always use top coat with it, so that’s a moot point. And at $11 a bottle ($9 at Wal-Mart) – or less when there’s a sale – the price is right!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Great Equalizer

Remember my epically amazing job interview? (If you haven't read that entry before, I highly encourage you to do so - it was like an out of body experience for me!) An article I read on HuffPo recently reminded me of my own, very humbling job hunt experience.

As a recent grad just breaking into the work force, my heart sinks a little every time I read an article like this. According to the girl in the article, it's been increasingly difficult for young people to find work (even seasonal positions) because many employers are demanding experience. To me, that just means there's a lot of competition - a lot of people are looking for work because the job market is bad, so the bar is raised higher. Last year I had a temporary telemarketing gig that required three interviews!

When I was looking for my Big Girl Job earlier this year, I remember the helplessness I felt every time I was told that I didn't have enough experience for a position. How was I to acquire any if I couldn't get started anywhere? I wondered. No one cared that I speak five languages and my international experience seemed to count for nothing. If only someone would just give me a chance, I thought.

Eventually someone did, thank goodness, and right in the nick of time too, because it was right before my student loan payments were to start. And fortunately, it was also in one of my chosen fields. Many of my postgrad classmates ended up doing generic administrative ot reception jobs because they couldn't break into the industry. I even know some people with degrees doing retail and restaurant jobs.

I've also come across several articles about Ivy League graduates who have been paying off their loans forever and can't see a light at the end of the tunnel - many of whom are graduates of professional programs like law and medicine.

It's so ironic because many (if not most) people go to school to get that piece of paper that will enable them to find a job and make money later on in life. But that piece of paper can become an enormous and often lifelong burden.

And that's when I realized how lucky and grateful I am to be Canadian, because in Canada, postsecondary education is The Great Equalizer. Unlike the States and many European countries, there are no private universities in Canada. I went to public elementary and high schools and then I attended university with both people like me as well as people who went to the most expensive, exclusive private schools in the country. We all end up in the same place.

I have a cousin my age in the States who went to Boston University, which is a decent school, but not really an Ivy League - it's not some of the first schools that pop in mind when people talk about The Best American Universities, you know? But a year of undergraduate tuition at her school costs more than all the money I had to borrow from the government to finance my undergraduate degree (so the price of my education minus my scholarships, grants, bursaries and RESPs). In other words, a year of tuition for her costs almost as much as three years of all my university expenses put together. If I grew up in the States, I wouldn't be able to afford to go to a top tier school, and I'd hate to feel like I couldn't have the same opportunities as other people because of my family's financial situation.

So while Canada's education system isn't perfect (especially since it's so expensive to go to university!) I'll take what I have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Mofo-Delish Ramen?

Red-Blooded Canadian Girl Ethnic Food Cravings, as I've established, can be rather aggressive sometimes (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B), and a while ago I found myself desperately craving ramen, a Japanese noodle dish that's served in luscious, savoury broth. So I did my research on Yelp, CHOW and Google and came up with a To Eat List of eateries to try (story of my life).

Since I was heading downtown that weekend, like I usually am, I decided to hit up the place that was in that general area - Kenzo. It's not really known as THE best ramen joint in Toronto, but it has a solid reputation and a lot of people have said that the quality is decent. Plus one of their locations was on my way to Kensington Market, which was perfect.

It was the first nice day after about a week of rain, and I was happy to be able to rock a sundress for the first time this season - this dress, by the way, earned me a honk when I was walking in the Yonge & Eglinton area earlier that day, which reminded me of when I used to go to school in Nowheresville, Ontario ('cause it was something of a party school) and made me wonder if I was looking like a prostitute...

But I digress.

So the sun was beating down quite relentlessly and I was very relieved to finally find the restaurant, which had a very narrow front and was basically a hole in the wall (but there's a lot of depth inside). I was the second party in line, which meant that the people behind me had to wait outside the doors and couldn't bask in the air conditioning. I wasn't surprised to see that nearly everyone inside was Asian and about my age. :P

The party in front of me consisted of a Cantonese-speaking couple and a Mandarin-speaking couple. They ended up sitting next to me and my keen, professional eavesdropping skills let me know that the jagged-haired, toothpick-thin Cantonese boy was the one referring his friends to the place. He was going on about how amazing that restaurant was, how it was on a par with the ramen places in Japan, how no one can say they've lived until they've tried I was giddy with anticipation!

Their food came and upon arrival, Canto Boy announced that he was going to take a sip of the broth first. That experience was apparently so world-rocking that he shouted something kind of rude in Cantonese that roughly translates to, "HOLY SH*T, THIS IS SO MOTHERF*CKING DELICIOUS!" He then proceeded to inhale his meal like a tornado.

I ordered a tonkotsu miso ramen (noodles in pork bone and miso broth) and...well, I didn't think it was mofo-delish, exactly, but it was good. Decent and solid, just like the reviews said, but nothing east of Vancouver is on a par with actual restaurants in Japan, in my opinion. The broth was super rich and flavourful, although I think there was a fair bit of MSG in it (but not, thankfully, nearly as much as Ajisen, which my family and friends affectionately call "MSG ramen" - 味精拉麵, a play on their real name, 味千拉麵).

The serving was decent - I was reasonably full afterwards - and the noodles were fairly good quality, cooked al dente just like it's supposed to be. The broth was very rich, a delicious, heavy punch to the tastebuds, if a little salty. The tonkotsu soup tasted like it was actually simmered for hours, which was good, because nothing's worse than ramen soup base that's from concentrate/originally powder. And the soup to miso ratio was most satisfactory.

The egg was cooked just right, with a medium-boiled yolk and all complementary ingredients were standard - green onions, bean sprouts and kamaboko. The chashu - the rolled pork - wasn't rolled, so the presentation was a little lacking, but they used a nice cut of pork belly that wasn't too fat or too lean, and the flavour was done well. It was also sliced paper thin, which is how it's supposed to be.

Many reviewers have complained about the service but I didn't find it to be that bad. Like I've said before, there's a general understanding that less-than-stellar service is tolerable in certain (usually inexpensive) restaurants if the food is really good. The food at Kenzo was slightly above average and the service slightly below. But there were only two servers working the entire restaurant, so I chose to be understanding. Besides, the male waiter was kind of cute. :P

This cost me about $9.95, I think, before tax, so it was not bad at all, and it did satisfy my craving. But was is really mofo-delish? I wouldn't say so.

The location I went to was:
138 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
M5G 1C3

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Nails & Giant Marshmallows

L-R: China Glaze Rich & Famous, OPI A Grape Fit, CG For Audrey, CG Re-Fresh Mint, CG Lemon Fizz
When I was archiving the posts of my old blog onto this new blog, I realized all of a sudden that The Soap Heiress used to be a fashion/beauty blog! Somewhere along the way it morphed into more of a travel/living abroad/culture blog and now it's very food-oriented, in addition to all of the above. It's funny how things change and take on a life of its own, right?

So yesterday I was doing my nails and I decided to show all of you my picks for the best nail polish shades for Summer 2011, since they look so great together. As pictured above, they are:

(thumb) China Glaze Rich & Famous: A bright, hot pink cream. This shade, as with many CG polishes, looks way more subdued in the bottle and much brighter on. It takes 3 coats to be opaque but is easy enough to work with.

(index) OPI A Grape Fit: I am so in love with this lavender cream! As with most OPI colours, this self-levels beautifully and is a dream to apply. The colour is also super pretty - fun and feminine but not too wild.

(middle) China Glaze For Audrey: Tiffany blue! They've captured the colour perfectly. I recently brought a friend to Sally Beauty Supply to buy this colour because she's been looking for it forever and she's very happy with it. This cream also applies very well and self-levels.

(ring) China Glaze Re-Fresh Mint: I had to pick up a mint green because this colour's so hot this season. This one, also a cream, is a bit streaky to apply, like many pastel colours, but after 3 coats it was perfectly opaque and even.

(pinky) China Glaze Lemon Fizz: I was looking for a pale yellow colour originally after hearing about Illamasqua's Load (gross name but such a cool colour). This was the closest I could find that wouldn't break the bank and I didn't have to have it shipped to me, which was great. It's such a gorgeous colour and it's ideal for the summer! It's sort of a butter yellow cream - well, maybe slightly brighter than butter yellow. Yellows are notoriously streaky and this one is no exception, but it looks acceptable after 3 coats, I think. I'd suggest waiting for it to dry completely before applying top coat or else it'll be even streakier.

Bonus shot - I was at a summer barbecue yesterday and I brought over the biggest marshmallows I have ever seen. They were literally a handful each, see (below)? Eating and roasting them was lots of fun, but I think I'll stick to the regular jumbo marshmallows because this product wasn't engineered very well. Our marshmallows would melt and get all goopy before the outside had a chance to brown, you see, so these are more for novelty.

*Huge thanks to Karl for the pictures! :D

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This is Courage

Every time I think of and see this image, I ask myself if I’d be brave enough and strong enough to die for something I really believe in; I’m not sure I would be.

On this day (it says June 5th in the video but I think it’s North American time – it was June 4th in China) 22 years ago, a large group of university students and intellectuals held a protest in Tiananmen Square, because they were pissed off about the bullshit the government was pulling, because they wanted democracy, because they wanted a better future for themselves and for future generations.

So the Chinese government sent in armed troops in tanks to get rid of them. Many civilians were killed and imprisoned because they dared to have a mind, to think, to demand better from their government.

Some journalists staying at the Beijing Hotel managed to capture footage and photos of this man, who faced off with four tanks and exercised unviolent protest by blocking their way, even when they tried to drive around him. A name for this civilian was circulated in the press, but nobody knows if that was his true identity. The Chinese government has never been able to present this man to the public, so no one knows what happened to him after he got dragged away from these tanks – some say he was dragged away by comrades, some say he was imprisoned, and others maintain that he was executed by the government, along with many others.

I can’t tell you how much this famous image touches me. I didn’t discover the video until a few years ago, which had an even larger impact on me because I didn’t know that he kept stepping in the way of the tanks as they tried to steer around him and that he eventually climbed onto the tank to reason with the soldiers.

Many young people in China grew up having never seen this image image before because of censorship, but there are still tombstones as well as many disabled survivors around to prove it happened. A man who had both his legs crushed by a tank recently appeared in a memorial event in Vancouver and held a talk about it.

This is courage. This is strength. And this piece of modern history makes me proud to be Chinese.