Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Maman Toronto

Oh what a difference beautiful, thoughtful design makes! For the past few weeks my husband has been bringing me home delicious little treats from a new cafe that opened around the corner from his office - Maman. Intrigued by their beautiful floral label and branding, I'd looked them up and on seeing the images of their space, became in instant fan. I finally got to visit their downtown Toronto location yesterday and was completely charmed. 

Right in the middle of a busy office lunch space, you are transported to a quaint kitchen in Southern France. The aesthetics are thoughtfully and beautifully put together - all white with a theme of rustic wood combined with blue and white patterns flows throughout - from a wall covered in a blue and white ikat style paper as you walk in, to the blue and white patterned tiles and chinaware used to serve their dishes, to their patterned paper cups - probably the prettiest I've ever seen (I couldn't bring myself to chuck it out in the bin and brought mine home with me.) Pots of ivy and small wild floral arrangements housed in white bunny vases only serve to increase the charm factor. Maman transforms a simple coffee stop into a delicious and aesthetic experience, with no detail overlooked.

Maman also carries Sloane teas - another favourite Toronto brand of mine - to put in your very pretty blue and white cup.

1, 2, 4, 6, 8 - Maman Toronto, 3, 5, 7 my own

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Imire: Wildlife and Rhino Conservation

Over the past few weeks the news of Cecil the Lion's death at the hands of an American hunter has swept the newsreels worldwide. Together with so many others, I shared the outrage on the taking of this beautiful creature, especially under such circumstances. But as the fervour dies down I feel it's especially important to reflect on the bigger issue at hand - the circumstances that led this to happen, and a way forward to help prevent it happening in the future. 

Wildlife conservation has always been something I've been quite passionate about. As a young teenager while other kids had pictures of pop stars up on their bedroom walls, I had pictures of animals. I was lucky enough to grow up in Zimbabwe during one of its most idyllic periods, during the 80s and 90s and frequently spent weekends going out on game drives in the parks surrounding Harare, and visiting Hwange National Park (where Cecil lived) during school holidays. Being able to see these magnificent creatures first hand gave me an unshakable awe and respect for both them and their natural habitat. 

Over the past few decades, both big game trophy hunting as well as illegal poaching have become rampant across Africa, and Zimbabwe has been affected particularly so. Increasingly difficult economic circumstances have led to a greater desperation, and the vast wealth that is Africa's natural wildlife is systematically being stripped for parts and sold off to the highest foreign bidders. Sadly, there is no real purpose or benefit in these hunts, whether they are wealthy big game hunters looking for a trophy for their mantle, or poor local poachers lured in by the hefty paycheque from a foreign market hungry for useless trinkets or ineffectual cures, the core driving factor behind them is simply human ego and narcissism. 

While the economic architecture surrounding this issue is an ongoing struggle, there is still something that can be done right away to help to pave a better way forward. Much support is needed by local organizations who are making tremendous efforts to conserve and safeguard these treasures. I'd like to highlight the work of one of them in Zimbabwe here. Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation has been run by the Travers family for over 30 years. They boast a large collection of animals including lions, elephants and rhinos. Nestled within the game park is Sable Lodge, a beautiful accommodation comprising of seven lodges and offering horseback safaris as well as special walks with rhinos or elephants. I have very fond memories of staying here and going on a horseback safari with my mum and siblings right before I left Zimbabwe. 
In addition to traditional safaris they also offer volunteer experiences to work with rhinos first handThe work they do is so important and while there are enormous challenges, they've had many successes - just this past December Shanu, a female black rhino (who are notoriously slow breeders), gave birth to a calf named Tafika. If anyone is planning an African safari  or thinking about volunteering with wildlife, I highly recommend Imire

Majestic Mambo the Lion

Duck-face rhinos :)

Hands-on with elephants

Shanu with baby Tafika

Sweet baby giraffe

If you shared in the outrage about Cecil the lion, and would like to make a donation to positive conservation efforts in Zimbabwe for lions and other treasured wildlife, I would strongly encourage you to do so here. With World Lion Day yesterday and World Elephant Day tomorrow, any contribution would be a fitting tribute.

All images from Imire 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Pier 1 Picks

The other day while helping my sister source some pieces for her new apartment, I found myself in Pier 1 Imports - a store I hadn't been inside for years! I have a history with Pier 1, as I'd worked at one for some time during my school years over a decade ago. It was amazing how it still smells exactly the same as you open the door after all these years. Pier 1 is an almost overwhelming inundation of products and colour, almost impossible to take in all at once. In terms of store design, they definitely are on the bohemian and  maximalist side of the scale.While some of the items lean towards garish and gaudy (sorry Pier 1!), there are definitely some great finds for even the most minimalist of palettes. I was also reminded of some of the staples they do so well and at a fantastic price point. Looking for a starburst mirror - this is your place to go, they must have over a dozen different styles and sizes! Here are just a few of my favourites -

Clockwise from top:

Wood framed round mirrors - round mirrors are often difficult to come by, especially in a clean modern style. I love the thick wood frame around these. Would be great grouped together or separated and used in different spaces. 

Jute rugs - they have a great selection of jute rugs in lots of different size and colour options.  I love this thick grey popcorn jute (and the price is right!)

This ceramic elephant stool would be a fun piece to use as a side table or to hold some plants. I also think it would be perfect in a nursery next to a rocker or lounge chair.

Chloe etched mirror - this Venetian style piece would look beautiful juxtaposed against more modern pieces in a bathroom or entrance.

Storage baskets - Pier 1 has always had a fantastic selection of storage basket styles, and often at a better price point than many other stores. I love these thick chunky baskets in water hyacinth - perfect for gathering up all sorts of clutter.

Hammered silver stool - this pretty piece is perfect for indoors or out to add a little touch of sparkle to a space, loved the Moorish tile shape.

Probably the coolest indoor / outdoor rug I've seen - this zebra rug is loads of fun. Fantastic for summer patios or super practical to bring inside for a kid's room.

Moroccan side table - this carved wood table adds a little global glamour to a space with modern lines.