Julia Landry


Splitting hairs in the Quebec provincial election


Perhaps you’ve heard, or not, what is going on in Quebec right now? After Ontario, it is now Quebec’s turn to elect a new government and there are quite a few options available to the voter. But, without talking politics, what I find most interesting in the 2018 Quebec provincial elections concerns one candidate in particular: the co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire—and the only woman running for the position of Premier of Quebec—Manon Massé.

Massé and Québec Solidaire have, for sure, left-leaning ideas and want to shake things up by offering substantial tax reductions for everyone, accessible public transit, and free schooling, from daycare to the doctorate level. They have a different approach to doing politics, starting with the idea that there should not be a single party leader, but rather two co-spokespersons. What drew me to Massé in particular, though, was not her separatist stance, but how people reacted to her looks. Yes, if you look carefully, you will see in interviews and pictures that Manon Massé has visible facial hair and wears it with pride.

Her ‘moustache’ has been talked about in the past and ridiculed to such an extent that, for some in the media, it is now considered old news. However, I was in the belle province this summer and I realized during discussions that her permanent movember is still the subject of some dire remarks, and that it, quite frankly challenges people’s expectations of what should be the outward appearance of a politician. One thing I noticed in those discussions this summer was that certain people cannot get past the capillary facial fence, a fact that prevents them from even considering the party’s political message, so offended they were by it.

Such an attitude truly saddened me, since I realized that some people’s notion of a woman’s appearance is so restrained and controlled by social normative expectations that this prevents them from listening and questioning the political message at hand. The silver lining, however, to such political entanglements with family and friends, was that my curiosity was piqued: I had to read up on the subject and see if Manon Massé had ever spoken up about her appearance.

Manon, an intelligent and articulate woman with experience in the political arena, is very conscious that she sports a white ‘stache’, but she has decided to remain true to her idea of what it is to be a woman and not fold under the pressure of public expectations and gender conceptions as prescribed by the media and the general public. Not considering her political agenda, I find such a position a strong and admirable one that should perhaps even serve as model for generations of younger people.

This issue touches me in particular because, when I was twelve years old, I was mocked once by someone for having a moustache. I was so offended and hurt by the boy’s comments that I came home crying and feeling that the core of who I was at that time had been attacked. As a result, I proceeded to dye my own upper lip capillaries, only to learn a few years later that one could use wax (my first attempt at this was a disaster). Usually, at a very young age, indeed the very age my son is now, we teach our children the differences between the sexes. In my household, we were confronted with this when my son asked where my ‘penis’ was. Point being, when quite young, we come to learn our gender and what constitutes the outwards signs that define these concepts. In Western cultures, feminine hair is one of the most recognizable differences between the sexes. And, yes, if I let all my body hair grow, I will have less than my partner’s, but it is still expected that what partly defines me as a woman is that I don’t have a beard, or chest hair, as my two year old so aptly pointed out.

But, as a mother, I find myself too busy sometimes to shave my legs. And yes, I’ll admit, I sometimes walk about with hairy legs. When I do, I feel a sort of guilt and shame and I crumble under the pressure of our Western notions of feminine beauty. Women in Canada no longer follow rule books on good behavior such as L’Encyclopedie de la Femme Canadienne, and yet we still operate under certain unwritten rules, perhaps one of the cardinal ones being facial hair. It seems as though facial follicles are undermining the very nature of what it is to be an independent, intelligent, woman nowadays.

And this is why, if only for this gesture, I admire Manon Massé’s demeanor, integrity, and respect of her own set of standards for what constitutes being a woman. In this day and age, when we proclaim that we accept trans-gender people and non-gendered people, I wonder to what degree do we also accept ourselves, our appearances and those of others. Specifically, I think it is important to question those insidious beauty norms that have been imposing themselves over the centuries so that the choices we make are not those of a beauty industry but truly led out of our own accord.

Mood Lighting-Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell Inspires

After recently indulging in some dim sum on Dundas street I took a spring stroll and headed towards the 401 Richmond Building. Located next to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the refurbished industrial building houses galleries and studios. There I encountered Open Studio, an artist run center dedicated to the making and promotion of contemporary fine art prints. To my surprise, I was unable to resist going in and visiting Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s latest show Mood Lighting, which was exhibited in its gallery space from March 23rd to April 21st.

Like a moth to a flame, the luscious, sparkling colors, beckoned me. There, I found silk-screened and subsequently hand painted prints that have such a lush quality I was immediately drawn into their low-lit world.

As I entered the gallery space, the first thing that caught my attention was a wall entirely covered with a  chocolate brown, honeycomb patterned paper where a large work was hung  Dinan-Mitchell is conscious of the environment where her works are shown,  and often exhibits her single-edition prints as part of installations that include other objects and elaborate decors. Here, in the gallery’s white cube, Dinan-Mitchell broke the dynamic of the clinical gallery space by presenting a central piece, Blinded Falcon (2018)

The dramatic inclusion of a gallery wall covered in a dark tapestry contributes to enhancing the chiaroscuro lighting effect Dinan-Mitchell explores in her prints. Contrary to her previous pieces, I find she has chosen to depict her subjects in high contrasts. Her use of lighting recalls the work of later 18th-century English painter Joseph Wright of Derby.

Like Wright, who depicted technological innovations of the day lighting up their surrounding subjects, Dinan-Mitchell’s light sources are also evidently man-made. In her works,  find a whole slew of varying types of lamps, bulbs and spot lights, that act as luminous origins lighting their surroundings.  When these electrical devices are considered alongside the skulls she includes, such as in Feathers and Flora (2018), these are no longer engines of artificial lighting but instead like signs warning of man’s destruction of nature.

At first the works appear deceptively decorative, due to their ornamental arrangements,  but the amalgams of symbols and art historical references play off each other. I could not escape the allusion to Dutch vanitas paintings. 

Like Golden Age Dutch still life painters, Dinan-Mitchell has a similar visual vocabulary that also includes skulls, fruits, birds, flowers and symbols of time passing, as in Pink Petals (2017). And, like these Dutch masters, Dinan-Mitchell also makes use of symbols to emphasize life’s ephemeral quality. There is a juxtaposition of the objects  that allude to man’s intervention in the natural order of things.

Typically, Dutch still life paintings portray objects arranged on a table in a manner that each is seen and credibly placed.  Dinan-Mitchell similarly brings together elements that intertwine with one another in her artwork in order to compose a new ornamental structure.

An oasis of calm, serenity and quiet awe, I greatly enjoyed my time at Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s Mood Lighting at Open Studio. 



Why drinking natural wine is worth it

When I lived in Europe I was introduced to natural wine and this changed my palate forever. Although it is a little harder to come by when I am in Canada, the situation seems to be changing. The LCBO magazine Food and Drink published an article in its winter 2018 edition about the top trends in wine, and natural wine was # 2. It also now carries a few organic wines. But does organic necessarily entail natural? What, is the difference and does it matter?

Although there is no board that will certify a wine as ‘natural’, unlike organic or biodynamic wines, I understand natural wine to be altered as little as possible throughout its making process. This means the vines are not  sprayed with pesticides, the grapes are harvested by hand, often in a biodynamic manner, no artificial yeasts  are added, it may be unfiltered and, most of all, little to no sulfites are added. In short, all the additives found in conventional wines are removed so that instead, the ‘natural’ microbiological process of wine making takes place.

This is why most natural wines are also organic and biodynamic, but the reverse may not be true. Unlike natural wine, conventional wine makers add chemical agents, such as sulfur dioxide, to create a uniform product from year to year. These additives are the reason why after drinking a couple of glasses I might get a headache the next day. And most of all, they alter the taste of wine—drastically!

The first time my husband and I brought home a bottle of natural wine  I wondered why it was so fizzy, and why some even taste a little ‘funky’. But with trial and error I learned that to appreciate a natural wine it has to decant for at least an hour—minimum. Countless times I have opened a bottle, tried a few sips, thought it was a bad choice, only to try it a few hours later and discover an amazing new wine. And what a difference in taste! Natural wine really tastes like fruit, and it is not tainted by the vinegary, acerbic taste sulfites bring.

Although natural wine only accounts for 1% of total wine production worldwide, there is a whole array of natural wines that vary in quality, taste, and prices. The bottom line is that the quality of wine does not have to be lesser when drinking natural wine.


How to get rid of that pesky spring cold with 6 home remedies

Spring is officially here! This means warm sunny days are more frequent, and at my own home we all pulled out our spring coats. But, then, snow came once again to throw us back into a second winter. And —oh no—the prickles started! The onset of a cold is here! My throat now burns and feels tight, swallowing is harder, a headache weighs in, and all I can think is ‘where is my bed?’.

‘Tis the season for spring colds and flu! When traditional medicine like cold and flu pharmaceuticals don’t seem to do the trick here are a few remedies to help you and your family through this period, like they do mine:


No, it is not medicine, but it is the first thing we should do and yet, I am exceedingly bad at it. I tend to go on and on until I fall apart. But resting goes a long way, especially when you start hearing the warning signs that your body is about to enter a fight against a pesky virus. Sleep can do wonders and allows your body the time it needs to gather its strengths and repair itself. So first off, hit the pillow, if you can.

Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) and Oil of Oregano

When my throat is itchy one of the first things I do is a mouth wash, several times a day, with either of these products, and it works! But make sure you actually rinse your throat and not just the interior of your mouth. Both of these natural extracts are not only powerful disinfectant but also antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial. Only a few drops mixed in less than a quarter cup of water will suffice. Just rinse and spit out!

Hydration and citrus water

Though I constantly drink water, when sick it is easy to forget to hydrate. Yet water helps flush out the body’s toxins and sometimes even helps get rid of headaches. But what is even better than water is drinking citrus water and I cannot recommend it enough. Lemons and limes boost the immune system, are a great source of vitamin C and are antiviral and antibacterial. Simply add half a freshly squeezed lime or lemon to 750 ml of water.


If the above fails and I am getting sicker, then it is time to pull out the big guns: garlic and ginger. Yes, raw garlic is hard to swallow down. Granted, I might have terrible breath, but, at this point can I still smell? Raw garlic may taste a bit pungent but it is a very effective remedy. It is a super food that is a natural antiseptic, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal. It is also a food that can prevent a whole slew of other ailments, amongst which  are cancer, Alzheimer and dementia. So go ahead, have some garlic!

In the recipe below, raw ginger is also added. Ginger not only helps with nausea but also clears the microcirculatory channels. In other words, it helps with soar throat and blocked sinuses.


In a container add the juice of two lemons, 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic and a knob of fresh ginger. Use a hand mixer to obtain a smooth texture. Add a touch of honey so as to dimer the sour taste and help sooth the throat. This can be taken as is in small doses, or added to hot water and drunk as a tea.

Mustard Plaster or ‘Mouche de Moutarde

When we were young and in bed, feeling miserable, my father would make us one of these and put it on our chest to provide some much- needed heat. To this day, he still makes this mustard plaster when he is sick. This recipe uses mustard, a rubefacient, which means it stimulates blood flow and will therefore clear the congested airways while providing heat to the chest. However, use with caution as it does get hot and can even burn the skin!


-Mix 2 tbsp. of powdered mustard with 2tsp. of flour or corn starch

-Add water to the mix in order to make a paste

-Deposit the paste on an old piece of cloth to be thrown out afterwards and wrap it up in the cloth so that the skin does not come in direct contact with it.

-Put the cloth on the upper chest

-Leave on for 5 to 30 minutes

WARNING: check every 5 minutes so that the skin is not burning!

Chicken Broth + Love

Should I be visiting my family while sick, my mother will then supply me with her wonderful homemade chicken broth which I sip as I am usually watching some Netflix. I highly recommend homemade chicken broth, if at all possible, as it is a means to warm you up, hydrate, and provide some vitamins. What ever you do, make sure you get yourself some much needed loving, whether it be from a partner, a family member, a friend or a pet, a cuddle always helps!

Keep those sniffles away, but if that is not a possibility follow these tips and you’ll be back to your amazing self in no time.