I’ve made some holiday mixes for all y’all! They mostly include 2012 discoveries with a few goldy oldies thrown in. “Surrender to the Dream” may be my favourite track of the year. Solange’s “Losing You” is a stellar pop tune. If you haven’t seen the music video, do yourself a favor and watch it, even if just for the stunning South African visuals and wicked styles. Azaelia is my bad girl inspiration; every time I hear “1991” I feel a deep desire to be voguing in my illest 90s gear. This was a big year for hip hop too; I discovered Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul and Danny Brown! “Grown Up” by Danny Brown is a true hip hop anthem if I’ve ever heard one; the flow, the beats and the rhymes in ”Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” are perfection and “Terrorist Threats” gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. It’s so dark. I love it.  ”Basehead Jazz” has to be one of the smoothest songs, umm ever; “Your Two Choices” by B. Lewis takes a close second.  This year I started taking African dance classes, so I had to throw on one of my favourite new African jams by the Zimbabwean legend Thomas Mapfumo. I could go on and on but I won’t - I think you should just take a listen and see if you find yourself any new gems for 2013. 

Mix Number One:

Mix Number Two:



On a rainy Thursday morning in early November, Caroline, Graham and I buckled into Carl Wagan, a 1988 VW Westfalia campervan that became a mobile project space at the hands of Shannon Gerard and her OCAD U Nano Publishing class. Since June, Carl has been a studio, library, gallery and classroom. The van has value as a fluid, physical space; however, what’s transformative and urgent about Carl is the book-centric ethos of community and collaboration that drives him.

As Shannon pulled away from the curb and cranked the disco, I turned to see the caravan of students, designers, artists and friends that we were leading to North Adams, Massachusetts, where the largest-ever survey of contemporary Canadian art is currently on view at MASSMoCA. Through Carl’s rear-window, I saw a travelling circus of creative misfits on a patriotic mission of inquiry and experiment. It sounds twee, I know; but everything is rose-tinted when you look at the world through Carl’s eyes.

Maybe that’s because Carl is a vehicle for nostalgia. His retro shell conjures a spectrum of memories, from a family vacation to the last scene in Freaks and Geeks, which sees Lindsay and Kim jump into a campervan bound for the Grateful Dead tour circuit. Carl transports us to the comfortable past, and also to the uncertain future, from which we know we’ll look back longingly to the version of ourselves that participated in screenprinting wars, played the ukulele around a cardboard campfire and got carsick on pretzel gems.

This collapse of time and space won’t surprise those familiar with the project’s namesake, astronomer Carl Sagan. Sagan is well known for his 1980 television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which meditates on, amongst other things, time travel, the beginning of the universe, evolution and extratererestrials. Sagan helped produce the Voyager Golden Record, a time capsule of sounds from life on earth that was launched into space in 1977. This year, the Voyager spacecraft carrying the record of birdsongs, baby cries, breaking waves and spoken greetings in over fifty languages, left the boundary of our solar system. The hopeful and celebratory nature of Sagan’s Voyager Golden Record lives in Shannon’s van, which is subtitled: The Spaceship of the Imagination. We mayn’t be able to produce anything in gold or travel to the edge of the universe; but we can take cultural critique to Massachusetts in the form of photobooths, zines, badges and Kraft dinner. 

In episode 9 of Cosmos, astronomer Sagan tells his viewers: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Is it any wonder then that I found the meaning of life in Carl’s backseat whilst eating a steaming, oversized apple cinnamon muffin purchased at a roadside bakery in the Berkshire Mountains?

Written by Vanessa // Photos by Caroline


Dave found these incredible cards at the Junction Flea. I’ve never been, but mark my words, I will be at the last one of the season on Sunday October 14th! I wish I had the whole set of these West Graphic cards from, surprise, surprise, San Francisco; the tag lines are hilarious and the photos are utterly fab-u-lous. Dave gave me the “Get Over Yourself” one, but I still love it!






My hand delivered copy of TAPPA, TAPPA, TAPPA, a zine project by my brilliant English friends, Amy and Jess // Empty glittery Mexican matchboxes from Courage My Love // Polaroid of Caroline and Bonnie at Grapefruit Moon after our field trip to A Nerd’s World // Collages by Caroline // Postcards from my friends Amanda and Simon // XOXO banner that Caroline bought me in New York // Jade Rude trophy that Caroline gave me for my last birthday: so do what you must, do all you can // Minna Gilligan collage that traveled all the way from Australia // Eunice Luk ceramic coral // Dear Sister from the Sweet Valley High series, which I’ve since gifted to my friend Raven who’s in a band of the same name // ROOKIE flower crowns of love // shadow box inhabited by bedazzled, pink parakeet cut-out sent from the UK by my best pen pal, Simon. 



** Tavi Gevinson + Lena Dunham **

** Supercute **

Sitting down to write this, I am decidedly paralysed by the overwhelming feelings of gratitude, praise, respect, joy and community that spring forth whenever I try to describe Rookie. I don’t even know where my love for this magazine/movement/project begins. Does is start in grade school with the sleepover club that taught me about sisterhood? Does it start in the ninth grade when I battled anorexia and felt alone? Does it start in university when I read Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth and suddenly saw everything differently? Does it start with my first kiss? Let’s just start in New York.

A few weekends ago, I made an impromptu and whirlwind pilgrimage to McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street in Manhattan for the launch of Rookie’s inaugural yearbook, which is a lovingly produced record of the teen interest website’s first year. Between the bookshelves, a crowd of bright, fearless, excited girls and women wearing crowns, tutus and smiles sat on the carpet and waited. What followed was a teenage dream.  

Readings by Rookie contributors Amy Rose, Emma Straub, Arabelle Sicardi, Hazel Cills, Jenny Zhang and Marie Lodi covered the gamut, from girl gangs and making-out to being yourself and coming-out. Guest readers Dave Hill, Lena Dunham and Sarah Sophie Flicker also wowed with essays on innocent high school love conquests, running away from home and being imperfect, respectively. Flicker was evidently emotional during her reading; and before passing the torch, she admitted to her nerves and explained her tears by saying that she felt so moved to be speaking to a sea of smart, expressive girls with an interest in feminism. She recalled how she had lamented the seeming crisis of feminism at her daughter’s birth five years ago; and then she closed by thanking Rookie’s founder and Editor in Chief, Tavi Gevinson, for reviving her faith in the movement. Lena Dunham also finished her reading by saying: “I hope that I have daughters and I hope that they grow up in a world where this exists; and thank you Tavi for doing this.” 

Tavi was the last to take the microphone, and she read from her essay, “How To Not Care What Other People Think of You”. This is definitely one of my favourite Rookie essays, thanks to excerpts like this: I think a big reason why so many girls shy away from calling themselves feminists is that they’re worried they won’t be able to live up to this idea of a Strong Woman, and that there’s no room in this club for anyone who isn’t 100 percent comfortable with herself all the time. You can totally be a feminist who has insecurities. Feminism isn’t about pretending we all feel like Wonder Woman, it’s about being honest when we don’t, and having the conversation on why that is. 

This brings me to the proverbial gemstone in the flower-crown-of-love that was the Rookie yearbook launch party. During the question and answer period, which started with a heated debate on the merits of Taylor Swift, one girl asked the Rookie team about an anti-pop-culture blog that she wants to start. She expressed her anxiety over the blog’s negative angle, and Tavi responded with a beautiful, simple thought that I’ll cling to forever: FEMINISM IS ABOUT LOVE. She sympathized with the blogger-to-be by saying that she understood how easy and tempting it is to get mad at the world and to criticize television, movies, magazines, politicians and the like. In the end, however, she made a moving case for positivity and acceptance by pointing to her Rookie team. After all, the brilliance of the magazine lies in its unapologetic, bedazzled worship of girldom in its many shapes and forms. 

My love for Rookie is layered, but this steadfast acceptance of its audience is paramount; and I think it accounts for the website’s following of grown-women. I was a teen during the post-Sassy cultural apocalypse in which Seventeen and YM ruled; and now Rookie is helping me reconnect to that scared, lost girl who would have really benefited from articles like “How Not To Care About What Other People Think of You”, “Never Been Kissed”, “How to Bitchface” and “How to Make a Zine”. To that end, the common ground that adults, teens and girls find in Rookie is significant; especially when one considers that feminism has often been divided along generational lines. We all love, laugh and feel free in this clubhouse where discussions about masturbation, outer space, Joni Mitchell and sexual harassment can coexist with glitterbombs and sticker albums.

Between the program and the book signings, I was able to give hugs to two very special, inspiring and talented ladies: Sonja Ahlers, my friend and hero, who’s work as the Lead Artist on the Rookie website and yearbook is nothing short of absolute, pure magic; and Petra Collins, another friend and serious superstar who works for Rookie as a photographer. For the record, I’d like to say thank you to both Sonja and Petra for inspiring me nearly everyday; I’d also like to thank Tavi and the rest of the Rookie team for everything they do. Finally, I’d like to acknowledge all of the people in my life that help me live my new mantra: FEMINISM IS ABOUT LOVE.

** Me + Sonja **

** Me + Petra **



I used to go to “The Ex” every summer with my dad and my little brother, until I had a bad fall in the “fun house” and cut my knee. Since my “injury” I’ve been too scared to go back … until this year. When I went to ”The EX” with my friend Claire on Labour Day weekend, I was  thrilled to find that it hasn’t changed a bit over the years. The dreaded fun house is still going strong! The rides are exactly the same and certainly just as cheesy and sketchy as I remember them; the prizes for games are still Carebears, Smurfs and stuffed Rastafari bananas! The food is greasy,  artery-clogging and I’ll admit, delicious; think corn dogs and deep fried unions, candy apples and cotton candy! There is loud music playing from each game tent and the sound of screams and cheers never stop. I was even lucky enough to witness an ACDC cover band while I was there! Unfortunately, Claire and I missed the wonder dog show by just a few minutes. There were a lot of couples walking around holding hands and kids with ice cream covered faces pulling their tired parents from ride to ride. I felt like I was walking around a movie set. At night the CNE turns into a festival of lights - neon lights, coloured light bulbs, glow sticks, etc. It’s pure kitsch and pure eye candy. Although “the Ex” is weird and wonderful, crazy and colourful it’s always a little bit sad too, as it marks the end of each summer. 

I recently discovered this gem of a commercial for the CNE from 1986. It’s so dated and therefore so awesome.


When I was a kid, it was ALL about clubs. You may remember my fairly recent post on the sleepover club that defined my childhood, for example. Well, what could be better than a sleepover club?! Um, LIP SYNC club — obviously!!

Every Friday morning at 8am, the middle school at Lambton Kingsway Elementary would convene for an obscene and wonderful celebration of pop music, which we somewhat misleadingly called Music Club. We worshiped at the altar of BSB, Spice Girls, All Saints, 98 Degrees and N SYNC, and bustin’ a serious move before math class was nothing short of heaven. 

It came to my attention last week that the annually released Music Club highlight reels, as compiled by our dedicated gym teacher, are ALL ON YOUTUBE!!!!!!! I’m hardly exaggerating when I say that many of these costumes and dance sequences are burned on my brain and soul; and so these videos have opened a nostalgic can of worms, to say the very least. My stoic roommates bore witness to my high frequency freak-out and subsequent short-lived return to ‘Wannabe’, and I love them for it.


If you want to sing-a-long, watch the videos from 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999



 These pics are from the Sheroes Music Festival, which took place during a Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington market in July. The festival was another fabulous afternoon of art and music making put on by the Whippersnapper team. The parking lot behind El Gordo Fine Foods was an explosion of creativity. A team of some of my favourite local artists (Nicholas Robbins, Alexandra Mackenzie, Ginette Lapalme and Fiona Smyth to name a few) painted an En Masse mural together as local musicians and bands played on stage. It was a thrill to watch the mural progress and transform as the artists improvised and collaborated on the wall together. I danced to the enchanting music of Lido Pimienta as the sun set behind the painted masks of Erykah Badu, Dolly Parton and Debbie Harry. As we approach the last weekend of August, I’m already feeling nostalgic for sweet summer afternoons like this one. 



My last mix was all boys, so this one is all woman baby!

Some of these tunes I’ve been listening to for years, while others I only discovered recently. Either way, I’m a huge fan of all the ladies on this compilation. There’s some “rude bitches” on this mix and some bad girls drippin swagoo too! Some of these songs are about heart break, others are about breaking hearts and quite a few of them are about dealing with boys and wanting a man. Rye Rye rhymes about “doing her thang”  while Lauryn warns us that some guys and dolls are only about “that thing, that thing, that thiiiiing!” Sistah Nancy sings “I never trouble no one. I’m a lady, not a man, MC is my ambition!”, according to Speech Debelle “overstanding is the key,” for Sarah Jones “the revolution will not happen between these thighs” and Bjork’s says “You can’t say no to hope; you can’t say no to happiness; tomorrow has never happened before and it doesn’t scare [her] at all.” This mix is a little all over the place in terms of genre but what these senoritas all have in common is they make friggin’ great music but also that they excude some serious girl power as soon as they open their mouths to sing or rap. Just listening to these songs makes me feel a little stronger, sassier and ready to take on the world. 

Listen to it here.



Last Monday I spent my birthday on “the island”. Honestly, what could be nicer than spending your birthday with your best friends, swimming in a lake, eating liquorice and ketchup chips, frolicking in the waves, drying in the sun and doubling on bikes? I am so, so, so very lucky that these are my friends, and this was my birthday and this is my life! 



This is Kenny. I spotted him from across the street on Spadina. His ghetto blaster was resting on his shoulder (classic) as he walked down the street with some serious bounce. I literally ran after him so that I could photograph him for the blog. When I caught up to him, panting hard, I asked to take his photo and complimented him on his old skool ensemble. As we chatted, I felt like I’d been transported to New York circa 1991. Apparently Kenny wears this stuff everyday; his ghetto blaster is an essential accessory. I friggin’ love it. To me, this is street style at it’s finest. If The Sartorialist ever comes to the T dot, I hope he finds Kenny. He makes Toronto look funky as hell.



This summer, Caroline and I spent every Friday at Alexandra Park pool as part of our OCAD U Student Gallery SUMMER CAMP program. These poolside days are largely indecipherable, defined by little beyond the simple joy hanging out with OCAD U friends and observing the pool’s regular cast of funny families, sun worshippers, hot hipster and teen groups. That all being said, there is one afternoon that I will remember distinctly as it involved an underwater photo shoot. In my opinion, the silly straws, beach balls, hair-flips, bubbles and submerged laughter all make a compelling case for living under the sea forever. 



Just a few days after I lamented the state of Toronto’s electronic music scene on our blog, my prayers were answered when a friend connected me to a small but growing organization called StudioFeed. StudioFeed is a Toronto music collective made up of artists, producers, DJ’s, promoters, labels, venues and anyone else who supports independent music and wants to be part of the crew. Their mandate is to “unlock the energy of the local music ecosystem in pursuit of an increasingly supportive and collaborative music community where artistic, social, and technological innovation can thrive”. They make videos, produce really cool podcasts, run festivals, and (wait for it) they’re creating tactile sound in their very own sound laboratory. All of this happens in one small office in Chinatown.   

I met John, one of the founders of StudioFeed, in May to discuss ways in which OCAD U students and local artists could become more involved in Studiofeed projects. I immediately warmed to his enthusiasm, openness and drive to champion the independent music scene that exists here that most of us are unaware of. When I met John, the whole Studiofeed team was working their butts off to prepare for Sound in Motion, a non-profit electronic music festival that happened between July 13-15 across a number of different venues including warehouses, galleries, patios and Sugar Beach. Cool, right?!  

Sound in Motion is unlike the many other electronic music festivals happening in Toronto this summer, which are sponsored by corporate giants and support big name DJs. Sound in Motion brought independent artists from abroad to preform alongside local talent such as Knowing Looks, Arthur OskanPheekZeina and Fairmont, to name a few. 

While I was only able to attend the event on Sugar Beach, I’m happy to report that it was  beyond sweet. The sun was hot, the sky was clear and the music was stellar from noon through sundown. There was freshly squeezed lemonade and local beer, healthy snacks, an ice-cream truck and FREE WATER. The stage was no more than a foot above the dance floor, which was made of white sand. There were umbrellas and adorondack chairs, a fountain to cool off in and willow trees to lie beneath. The crowd was diverse and friendly.  The music was fresh and the sound was just right — loud enough to seriously get down too, but not so loud you couldn’t chat with friends.  At one point during the day, a friend of mine visiting from Paris turned to me with a look of amazement on her face and exclaimed: “I didn’t think events like this existed in Canada! I wish we had more festivals like this in Paris!” I smiled back at her and acted nonchalant while in my head I was aggressively high-fiving Studiofeed for impressing the pants off a Parisian.

Dancing to really good techno and house music in bare feet on white sand, while watching the sun set behind the Redpath Sugar factory was an unforgettable moment. I’m thrilled to have been there for the inception of Sound In Motion. I think it’s only a matter of time until the festival becomes Toronto’s version of Mutek.  I’m so grateful for StudioFeed. They are one more reason why I’m so excited to be living right here, right now. 



Back in March, local artist-wonder Rajni Perera stopped by the OCAD U Student Gallery to drop-off Legs 2 (2012), a small, jewel-toned painting that she’d made specially for mine and Caroline’s Electric Circus exhibition project. Her use of vibrant pinks and bold patterns inspired a colour love-in, and prompted us to lament the lack of bright, rich colours our daily lives. Rajni then proceeded to tell us about Nor Black Nor White, a Toronto team of designers working with Indian textiles in Bombay. Caroline and I were intrigued as we’ve both long been craving juicy fabrics and vibrant colours. The remainder of that workday was spent drooling over the collective’s clothes, which mix traditional fabrics and processes with a bold contemporary sensibility. When we learned shortly thereafter that the NBNW Spring 2012 collection would be available at Miracle Thieves for a few short days in July, we started saving our money.

Caroline and I happily exchanged those funds for beautiful clothes this past friday, the opening day of the BOM » YYZ pop-up sale at Miracle Thieves. The two of us were literally the first people to press our noses against the glass that morning; and our looks of desperation were seemingly enough to convince Tiffany (of Mircale Thieves) and Amrit (of NBNW) to open the door six hours before their official opening time. The racks were everything we’d been dreaming about: fiery pink and saffron yellow, Ikat prints, fringes and bold shapes. We tried dresses, skirts, jumpsuits, tops and jackets on for an hour: a dress-up dream.

These clothes are special for meaningfully infusing past and present, as well as east and west. The designers source their fabrics from hand-weavers in India, including Suraiya Hassan, an 88 year old “textile guru” whose own father advocated for the revival home-grown fabric processes and the eradication of English made cloth from Indian production. Suraiya’s story and her life-long dedication to the hand-loom are powerful reminders of the people and politics attached to each of our material things. NBNW’s interest in and dedication to India’s national textile community reveals the collective’s conscience, curiosity and holistic vision. 

The substance carried by these garments was made heavier and yummier at the opening event, which took place on Friday evening. It was a festive fete of flowers, beer, shrines, vodka lemonade, bunting, ribbon and neon tape. Managing sales, drinks and line-ups was a friends-and-family affair that included the proud, warm and beautiful mothers of the NBNW designers. The fab-five formed a street-food production line on the sidewalk, assembling newspaper cones filled with a delicious mixture of chickpeas, herbs, chutneys and other magical food-stuffs. The intergenerational, international party was joyous and inclusive; and I left happy and hopeful.

Though it’s dramatic to say so, I feel that the NBNW project revives some of my faith in humanity, which is constantly shaken by the ignorance and indifference that’s brought our planet to its breaking point. If we all looked forward with the same sense of history, play, acceptance and innovation as the NBNW team, the world would be a better place.  

And so, in short, I beg you to haul-ass to Miracle Thieves in time to check out some inspiring clothes, as well as some fabulous art — by Rajni herself! Funnily, the Legs 2 painting that started mine and Caroline’s love affair with NBNW is being sold as a limited edition print. YUM!!

Vanessa’s (writer) + Caroline (photographer) xo