Category Archives: Art

Cheap art: 9 tips on how to decorate without breaking the bank

Everyone wants to have pretty things on their walls but most people don’t have the money to buy expensive works of art. This lack of funds does not have to mean that you can’t own nice, original art to display in your house.

Here are 9 tips that I live by in order to decorate without breaking the bank.

1. Buy drawings instead of paintings

Drawings are much cheaper to produce then paintings, so the price tag goes accordingly. Some artists specialize in drawing, while others will sell sketches and preparation studies that were done for future artworks.

Where to find some on the Internet: numerous Etsy shops like Old Passion, Amelia Herbertson and Teva Gallery. The Untapped Cities Shop on Society 6.

Where to find some in person: Decorating stores, Art Galleries (In Montreal: Galleries at the Belgo Building)

Etsy drawing poster

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The quirky buildings of Montreal: Expo 67

This week, Untapped Cities published a piece I wrote about the quirky buildings of Montreal. It will become a series and in this first installment, I wrote about the installations that were built for Expo 67 (the 1967 World Fair). To read it, click here.

Here are a few photos that I took in the same photo-shoot but that didn’t fit in the article:

Biosphere detail Montreal

The Montreal Biosphere

Saint-Lawrence river between Saint-Helen Island and Notre-Dame Island

The Saint-Lawrence river, passing between Saint-Helen Island and Notre-Dame island.

Notre-Dame Island

Winter at Park Jean-Drapeau.

Park Jean-Drapeau

Park Jean-Drapeau.

Montreal Casino

The Montreal Casino.

Park Jean-Drapeau

Park Jean-Drapeau.

Pont de la Concorde vue de Montréal

The view of Montreal from the Concorde Bridge.

Ice Saint-Lawrence river Montreal

Ice on the Saint-Lawrence river.

View of Montreal Saint-Lawrence river

A view of downtown Montreal taken near Habitat 67.

Things that remind me of him: dealing with loss

For my latest post, I’ve decided to write about something very personal and important for me that I had yet to share on here.

A few days ago marked the one year anniversary since my father passed away, after a long bought with cancer. I won’t get into details about how it’s affected me because grief is complex and it is a long process, but I thought that as a tribute and a way to meditate on the past year and the time we had together, I’d share a list of common everyday things that remind me of my dad, along with memories to go with them. Many of these are silly but that’s what life is. It’s often the most mundane things that will get you reminiscing, making you smile or starting the waterworks.

coffee in a bowl

The taste of coffee. My father loved coffee. He loved it even more than most regular coffee aficionados do. He abhorred Nabob and Nespresso, preferring strong Colombian or Ethiopian brews. Every morning he’d have a cup, or two, or three. When I turned 12, he started to make a cup for me before school. That new habit didn’t last for long because we learned that coffee gives me terrible heartburn and palpitations. I was sad, as I loved the moment we shared each morning. Eventually, I began preparing his coffee. It was a simple gesture but I was glad to make it for him because I new how much he loved it and that it was an important part of his morning schedule.

funky fabric

Funky clothing patterns. His wardrobe was filled with many tee-shirts and blouses with patterns each more colorful than the other. When I was a young kid in elementary school, I’d get really embarrassed at his taste in clothing. One childhood memory that I particularly recall is the time when my father came to a school assembly and went up to the front of the group to receive a gift in return for driving us to a book conference. I was super happy for my dad, but he was wearing a bright pink shirt so I cringed badly and actually felt a bit angry. Later in life, I came to love his kooky clothes and I’ve now adopted some of the patterns myself. I recently bought one pair of pants (seen on the right) and every time I wear it, I get lots of comments and I tell people that I was inspired by my father.

nutritional yeast

The smell of Nutritional yeast. My dad would probably be saying: ‘Yeast, really, that’s what reminds you of me?’ (followed by a laugh). I hadn’t seen this pungent yellow, unfortunately named powder in years but a week after my dad died, during dinner at a friend’s house, someone prepared salad dressing with it. Upon tasting and smelling it, I immediately imagined my dad. I didn’t know why but the strong, very particular odor and taste brought me back to my childhood. Weeks later I told my mom and she said that it was because my dad used to put some in his popcorn.

In October, I started working at a grocery store with a large bulk section, and among the various and spices and flours, I found the yeast. Right away, I bought a bag. Now, every time I open the bag, just to smell or to grab a bit to sprinkle on my salad, I remember us turning on the popcorn machine and putting in an old Chaplin film in the VCR. It reminds me of fun times.

mad magazine monty python giles

Dry humor.  My father had a great sense of humor, for years treating us to his bad joke of the day (he was only aloud to tell one). His type of comedy was a sort of cross between satire, sarcasm and wordplay. Like many other boys of his generation, he grew up reading MAD magazine so I believe this had quite an effect on shaping his view of the world. He also developed a fascination with comedy from Britain,  especially when he spent some time living in London. Because of that, my brother and I grew up reading Giles and Doonesbury cartoon books and watching Monty Python films.

Cesaria Evora. Her soft voice cradled my childhood. My father was always humming and often times, he’d be singing the melody of one of her songs. The Barefoot diva was one of his favorite singers. None of us had any idea what she was singing about (in Portuguese creole), so to make us laugh,  my dad would change the lyrics to some of her songs so that they were talking about us kids (Léa is too tired, Manu is too excited). 

He was an avid music fan with a vast collection of CDs ranging all genres. At any time of day, our 5-CD player would be turned on, skipping seamlessly from the crooning saxophone of Louis Armstrong to the playful guitar of Georges Brassens.

Most nights, when we were all going to bed, he or his girlfriend would choose 5 albums to create a beautiful soundtrack to play along while we all fell asleep. The song that I most loved hearing was Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Nowadays, I can’t hear this beautiful, haunting melody without getting a bit misty.

Posters and paintings. On the one year anniversary of his passing, my aunt wrote that his gentle spirit was still with us. Even though I’m not a spiritual person in general, I do feel him still being there in many ways. He’s constantly in my thoughts, in my memories and in my heart. He’s also on my walls! Despite the fact that he never made a career out of it, my dad was very creatively inclined and he explored a few artistic practices, namely photography. I inherited this beautiful photograph that he took on the Champs Élysées in Paris. He’s right there, standing on the left, wearing his big beard, curly head of hair and over-sized glasses.

Paul in Paris

He was also very much attracted by creative people, with many of his friends being artists of some kind. His girlfriend of the last decade masters the paint brush very well and she made this funky family portrait (seen below) as a gift for my 20th birthday.

Paul in new york Paul in New York detail

After he died, she spent months painting portraits of him, including this one which captures the deep bond between a father and his daughter.

Father and daughter painting

I love this photo and have it up on my refrigerator. It is comforting to see the calm, loving energy he had, which shines right through his big brown eyes.

Father and daughter

Loss is hard, without a doubt, but my father had an extremely positive and easygoing outlook on life and this optimism has stayed and blossomed in me. I’m thankful to have had such a wonderful father and to have had the chance to spend 24 years with such an incredible human being (who’s been called an angel on earth by atheists and believers alike!).

I love you Paul!

Christmas at home: last minute hosting and decorating ideas

Christmas came so fast and it’s already over.

I learned less than two weeks ago that I’d be having 10 people for lunch on Christmas eve, a challenge that I gladly accepted. It was the first time that I was the one hosting Christmas for my family.

I was psyched, but had a lot of work to do since there were no decorations installed and I needed to prepare a menu. Generally, I do pretty well with last-minute decorating and cooking so the event was very successful and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Here are a few snapshots from that day, along with tips:

Funky paper christmas tree

Funky christmas tree

I have to be honest, Christmas wasn’t really on my mind this year for various reasons that I won’t get into. That’s why we hadn’t decorated at all before December 23rd. I didn’t have the time or money to go out looking for a tree so I decided to get creative with some funky paper that I had in my craft drawer. Does the job pretty well doesn’t it?

Vase with christmas ornements inside

Mason jar christmas decorations

In 2010, I worked for 6 months at a year-round Christmas store. A year-round what????? you ask.

Yep, a store that sells Christmas ornaments and other holiday related items, 365 days a year. It was fun! Amazingly, I never got annoyed about the constantly playing holiday music, or the fact that I was being called an elf. We, Santa’s helper’s, spent our days decorating trees, drawing on glass balls and setting up  Christmas villages worth thousands of dollars.

In those short six months, many funny things happened, like the time when I had to run after Denise Richards into the street when she left half her things on our store counter, or the other time when I recognized and caught a frequent robber (at one of my former jobs) trying to steal a 50$ Stanley cup shaped ornament. Just another day at the Christmas store!

Needless to say, that is where I stocked up on my own (small) collection of Christmas things. I have a few pieces, most of which are actually too fragile to set out because of my cats. Putting a couple of them inside mason jars makes for a nice and safe display!

funky gift wrapping

Tree design wrapping paper

The pretty blue and red wrapping papers were created by graduating design students at Concordia University. They were picked up at a vintage event. For the other gifts I covered them in silver tissue paper, then used pictures that I had cropped out of a local theater venue’s brochure.

Sprout salad Purple dinner table

The food we prepared was about as far away as you can get from tradition. My mom and I forgot to consult each other before we prepared our dishes, so we ended up making something incredibly similar, but everything was good nonetheless. Everyone seemed happy with the food, including my stepbrother, a chef, so YAY!

The menu:

Butternut squash purée

Quinoa with lime and cilantro

Beet salad with tomatoes, lentils and goat cheese

Beet salad with mackerel

Spreads on crackers: Olive tapenade, creamy salmon

Jalapeno poppers (stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon)

Sprout salad


Pear tiramisu (the ladyfinger cookies where covered in apricot/apple jam and apple cider)


What did you guys eat for Christmas? Any tips for last minute decorating?

Street photography in Europe: France

A few years ago I really got into street photography, specifically, capturing portraits of strangers on the street.
I’ve decided to do a series of posts sharing these pictures, going country by country.

First is France.
France is the country where I’ve spent most of my life after Canada. I’ve both traveled and lived there over the last 6 years (in 2006, 2007 and 2009-10).

When I go to Europe, it’s always the first place where I land (the plane tickets are cheaper due both to the number of french people that want to come live here and the Quebecers that want to visit the Old World countries).

Europe, for a north-american gal like me, is a treasure-trove of architectural gems, fascinating museums, poetic languages, varied scenery and gastronomical mastery. OK, so that’s definitely the simplistic, fully idealist portrait of what is a large and complex continent, but it represents how I imagined it when I was a young girl, reading my National Geographics, dreaming of the day that I’d set foot there.

I just want to keep a bit of that beautiful naiveté. So far, I’ve managed pretty well.

These are pictures of people on the street in France.

Let’s start by Paris, the mecca for people-watching.

Stylish people, tons of tourists and loads of adorable children floating their boats on the city’s many beautiful fountains.

Young girl dancing in Paris

Tourist in ParisHandsome man in Paris

Bordeaux is another city that I love.

Like Paris, it is a great place to sit down and just watch the world go by. The first picture shows a young girl playing on a public art installation.

The second image is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever photographed. I was sitting down at place de la Victoire, relaxing after a long walk. As I played with my camera, trying to be subtle whilst captured the faces of the people surrounding me, I noticed this man. He was just standing there, with a sort of perpetually pissed off look on his face, not aiming it at anything in particular. I was fascinated not only by his attitude but by his very particular physiognomy. Each time I stumble upon this photograph, I study it for a few minutes. It just puts me in a good mood.

GIrl playing in the street Bordeaux


Britanny is where my workcamp friend Sarah lives. We met in Bordeaux in 2006 and I went to visit her in her native region in the summer of 2007. Though the geographical region they live in is rather cold, even in the middle of summer, I must say that Bretons struck me as a warm and friendly population. It also helps that the area is strikingly gorgeous.

Playful girl in Concarneau

Poney and man in Britanny

I never planned on going to visit La Rochelle, I just sort of ended up there when my travel plans got shuffled around. It was a crazy move on my part, because I ended up in this beautiful medieval town during the popular Francofolies festival, with no place to sleep. I worked it out and ended up having a blast. I also got to take some pictures of a few rather famous artists (in France).

The first two images show street performers.

Street performer La Rochelle

Street Performer in La Rochelle France

I caught a free outdoor show organized by local TV station France 4 where artists featured at the fest were invited to play one or two songs.

Some of them were relative unknowns, but others were household names. Here are photos of three of those artists (click the name to hear a song of theirs)

Laurent Voulzy

Laurent Voulzy La Rochelle

Ours (Charles Souchon)

Ours- Pierre Souchon



I hope you enjoyed these pictures. Soon I’ll be posting more from other countries in Europe.