Recommended: Instagram Artists by Deborah Clague

Growing up, there weren't a lot of avenues to express myself as a budding artist. The internet was in its infancy and social media was a good decade away. Rather, my "audience" consisted of those who sat next to me in class and teachers who took notice of the ever more elaborate doodles that accompanied my homework assignments. This is all it took at the time though; those same individuals were the ones to guide me into a profession that would best allow my talent to flourish. 

Today, Instagram is the perfect tool to build that base to exposure. I often marvel at the work I encounter on it. In between food porn, memes and pictures of adorable puppies, my Instagram feed is also full of doodle art by upcoming female illustrators. They are inspiring in their honesty. vulnerability and skill to narrate visually what it's like to be a single, modern female during an era where we STILL have to fight for equality (and also fend off fuckboys). I admire their hustle in using social platforms to build a following and a business. I feel like the next Lynda Barry is just getting started here. 

I recommend the following:

@marcella.draws:

@vicscribs:

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Philando Castile by Deborah Clague

One summer evening last year, I was scrolling through my social media feed and came across a tweet by a prominent hometown journalist that stated simply: "this is actually happening right now". A video was linked and the curious side of me decided to take a breather from the rest of the noise and watch whatever was happening in real time. It turned out to be the Philando Castile Facebook Live video. 

I couldn't quite comprehend what was going on and I wasn't entirely certain at first that what was happening before me wasn't a movie clip or some other form of staged "entertainment". I didn't want to believe I was watching someone get murdered right before my eyes. But it was real. Philando Castile's murder by the hands of a Minneapolis police officer was captured on film and broadcast to the world. 

It happened just one day after the murder of another black man, Alton Sterling, also at the hands of a police officer in the United States of America. Amateur video of this was also shared with media. They weren't the only ones, of course; from inception, America's history is inseparable from racism. It is a country that touts rights and freedom for all, but erects invisible barriers to limit it for some.

Prior to today, the officers involved in the Alton Sterling shooting faced no charges. Despite there being video and eyewitness accounts. 

Today, the police officer involved in the Philando Castile case was cleared of all charges. Despite there being video and eyewitness accounts. 

This is an act of injustice. Nothing but systemic racism will be accepted by me as the reason this man died. 

In skimming over the CNN.com homepage this evening, I notice that this is not the feature article but rather a subhead lost amidst all of Trump's many scandals. As I watch my nation's evening newscast, there is no mention of it at all. Granted I'm in Canada but if I can hear about Michael Phelps upcoming race against a shark, surely a verdict in a previously well-publicized, highly political, highly relevant story such as this one merits inclusion.

Unfortunately, for anyone black living in America that absence of coverage hangs as a "to be continued". 

Father's Day by Deborah Clague

I originally had something much lengthier written. I could write for hours as the words flow through me by way of his muse. I was going to share how he still visits me. Still protects me. Still delivers me signs that there is more to life and death than we could ever comprehend.

But I don't want people to think I'm crazy.

To think that I am making stuff up to make my writing more dramatic or engaging. For even I am not that imaginative. 

But the bigger reason may be because I don't want to share. In a world where most just survive their days, I want to hold this bit of magic close to my heart as a secret only I and his spirit know.

He visits me still.

He protects me still.

The power of love is unbound. 

Prix D'Excellence by Deborah Clague

Very proud for the continued success of the team I have the opportunity to work with. We recently picked up another award, The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) Silver Prix D'Excellence for Best PR/Marketing/Communications Initiative for "Catch Your Career Dream", a campaign promoting Indigenous student success stories. The campaign included a wall calendar, social media component and web presence. My role was art/creative direction and design. 

Guided by the principles of reconciliation and a goal to create long-term positive change, the indigenization efforts of the organization I work for holistically integrate Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching and learning into practices, procedures and services. Indigenization is our social and collective responsibility and it enriches and benefits all aspects of our institutional culture.

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Recipe: Dark Chocolate Lavender Cookies 🇫🇷 by Deborah Clague

Throughout my travels, I've had the opportunity to try many new foods and unique flavour combinations. One country in particular has really opened my eyes and palette to a new world of culinary possibilities: birthplace of Le Cordon Bleu, France. 

France has not only mastered taste, but also visual presentation. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the tongue. A plated dinner is a work of art that elicits a gasp; walking into a French bakery is sensory overload with beautiful, unexpected bursts of colour hinting at the explosion of flavour to follow. Now that I'm learning to cook and bake, I want to bring this experience to my own kitchen. 

I recently put this into practice by baking dark chocolate lavender cookies. France incorporates a number of floral notes into its cuisine and while some are an acquired taste – I've had a rose spread from Versailles that has lingered, for the most part unused, in my cupboard since forever – lavender paired with rich dark chocolate makes for a heavenly, decadent dessert. Primarily cultivated in the Provence region of the country, the herb is a member of the mint family and adds a sweet, citrusy note to cooking. 

I scoured the internet for a recipe to use as a base and then modified according to my own preferences (bit more chocolate and of a richer variety; slightly less lavender as I didn't want it to overpower). One bite of the finished product and I was transported right back to the banks of the River Seine. Enjoy!

Ingredients: 
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 6 tbsp red dutch process cocoa powder
• 4 tbsp lavender buds
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
• 1 1/4 brown sugar
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 large omega-3 eggs
• 2 1/2 tsp organic Madagascan vanilla extract
• 1 3/4 cups 70% dark chocolate chips
• powdered sugar for presentation

1. Lightly crush lavender buds.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and lavender. Stir until mixed well. 

3.  In a large-sized bowl, whisk softened butter with brown and granulated sugars. Add eggs and vanilla extract and then whisk more until it develops a creamy texture. 

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Add dark chocolate and mix until blended. 

5. Let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours for flavours to settle. 

6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray with tinfoil and then scoop approximately 12 balls on top. Bake for 12 minutes. Repeat until all dough is used (should make approximately two dozen cookies). Sprinkle with powdered sugar for presentation. 

Manchester by Deborah Clague

The first real concert I went to was the Smashing Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" tour. I was sixteen. My mother - yes, my mother - accompanied me. The music was as good as it could have been in an arena that lacked proper acoustics but it was memorable moreso for these two occurrences:

1) when the band's bassist, D'Arcy, decided to make fun of my home and native land (and the crowd appropriately booed her in unison); and, 

2) being thoroughly mortified after running into a much cooler classmate who appeared to be there without either of his parents acting as date for the night. 

The cool. The uncool. Showing adulation or heaping scorn. The concert is a great uniter of people from all backgrounds seeking a common, shared experience through the power of music. Years later, I would return with my mother – yes, my awesome mother – to Winnipeg's newly built arena to witness the commander of Beyoncé in person in which 16,000+ people of all colour and creed danced along to every single beat. Heck, I STILL practice those moves to this day in the privacy of my condo (with the blinds closed). Or how could I forget the epic Paul McCartney show when 33,000+ people filled the evening's amethyst sky with harmony while singing along to "Hey Jude"? I felt chills! It was magic. And I haven't even gotten into the M.I.A. and The Hives shows that have provided some of the greatest moments of my life. 

The concert allows people to unwind together and to dream together, amongst strangers, amongst friends. It invites new memories, while a lyric may initiate reminiscing over old ones. It is supposed to be a safe space for all, if only for one night.

As the world seems to become darker day by day, we must remember that light. 

Playing with the Universe by Deborah Clague

Ask and ye shall receive.

I've noticed that when I start to desire something in life, the universe somehow conspires to make it happen. This is rather fortunate, even though it may not always be exactly what I want (or initially expect it to be). Case in point, over the past few weeks I have been vocalizing my desire within the office to become more involved in international assignments. I met with the department manager to learn about specific qualifications required and where my current skillset needs further refinement. I even started researching degrees I could obtain to help become successful in the area, such as in the International Relations or Political Science fields.

Just a few days ago, I even posted a story from Humans of New York that described a longing to take on new challenges and become "a tourist in one's own life". It spoke to me deeply. It was incredibly reassuring to know that others feel this need for adventure and risk, that to most may seem foolhardy. My siren call to the universe was growing louder and louder. 

And then, just yesterday, I received a response. 

Yesterday, I was contacted by a senior recruiter at a foreign university informing me of an available position I might be interested in. The position is similar to my current role in design and would be a lateral move. The country, however, would provide plenty of the "challenges" I seek; located in the middle east, the country is one of the wealthiest in the world – and the remuneration received, including accommodation, would be reflective of that. However, it is also a place where my gender is not treated with equality. While the University compound and surrounding area itself appear a bit more "liberal", this would counter my own beliefs and expectations of freedom in society. 

Part of it feels right. But it doesn't feel right now. The experience, insight and understanding I could gain by living in a foreign country, even if only for a year or two, would be immeasurable to my personal growth. And, to be honest, the opportunity to make more money than I've ever dreamed is also very intriguing. But leaving people I love and need to care for right now is also not negotiable. I feel very conflicted. 

I am comfortable but I am complacent. I don't know which will influence my decisions in life moving forward, but part of me knows the universe is listening and will give me what I need. 

A Tourist in Your Own Life by Deborah Clague

Humans of New York started out as a blog dedicated to showing street portraits of the city's diverse inhabitants. It has since expanded globally and also shares stories as well. Some are humorous. Some are heart-warming. My favourite, though, are the poignant, revealing confessions that normally remain buried in our hearts and hold weight on our souls. The confessions that delve deep into what it actually means to be human. 

The following was posted on the blog this week. As I read it, I felt pause and then an overwhelming sense of empathy. I feel like I could have written it myself: