The Friendship Test - Elizabeth Noble

They say to never judge a book by its cover.  But that's exactly what I did when I picked up a copy of Elizabeth Noble's The Friendship Test.  It's cute cartoony cover stood out amongst the sea bland looking covers in a display of 'beach reads' or some other such nonsense concocted by my local book store.  And I am glad to report to you that the book was just as enjoyable as it's cute cover.

According to the summary, this book is about four women.  We meet them at the dawn of their camaraderie in the 1980s and already each woman is distinguished from the other: Tamsin, the compassionate mother hen; Reagan, the brazen and clever overachiever; Sarah, the seemingly perfect beauty; and Freddie, who despite being far from her U.S. home, finds strength in her friends. We forward to today, and as promised they are still firm friends… that is until a crisis occurs and the principles that define their friendship test are challenged. 

In her subtly english manner, Noble tells a seamless story of four compelling women and their ever evolving friendship.  She guides us through a journey of love, loss, betrayal, family, and adventure.  Through all the curves in their life roads, the friendship between these four incredible women was often tested, yet always constant. 

This is the kind of book I love to relax with after a long and stressful day, in a bubble bath with a glass of wine.  It is a light and enjoyable read that allows you to immerse yourself in this very human story.  The Friendship Test is chick lit at it's finest, and I recommend it to you.  Definitely a good beach read - the folks at my local book store were right after all.

Note that if you're in the UK, this book is titled The Tenko Club.  I'm not quite sure why the two titles.  Annoying.

I will definitely be seeking out more books by Elizabeth Noble next time I'm in a book store.



My name is Bea, and I got this from Daisy.  This is my first one of these types of 'tags' and I thought it was really cute.

Never in my life have I been: to Hawaii.

The one person who can drive me nuts is: my little sister - but I think that's the 'Little Sister Directive'.

High school: was real, and fun, but not real fun.

When I’m nervous: I get fidgety.

The last song I listened to was: "Let Go" by Frou Frou

If I were to get married right now my best man/maid of honor: my little sister.

My hair is: Long and flat - and in need of a stylist.

When I was 5: My little sister was born.

Last Christmas: Was spent with family.

I should be..: Getting ready for bed.

The happiest recent event was: Enjoying the good weather with a long walk with the dogs.

By this time next year: I hope to be back in California.

There’s this girl I know that: drives trains for a living.

I like you when: You keep an open mind and have a sense of humor.

The world could do without: People who get off on making others miserable.

Most recent thing I’ve bought myself: Viva Glam Cindy lipstick from MAC.

Most recent thing someone else bought me: Passion fruit cleanser from the Body Shop.

The animals I would like to see flying besides birds are: People.

Once, at a bar: I ran into my advisor from school...and he was WASTED!

Last night I was: rewatching Queer as Folk - I love that show!

There’s this guy I know who: loves to gossip more than any girl I know.

Tomorrow I am: going to the movies.

Tonight I am: going to watch some more Queer as Folk, then head to bed at a decent hour.

My birthday is: April 13th


Cleaning Brushes with MAC Brush Cleanser

I can't start a brush cleaning tutorial without mentioning the anatomy of the makeup brush.  The bristles are glued into the metal ferrule, which is then attached to the handle.  It is important not to get any cleaning products or water into the ferrule as that may disturb the glue. 

I clean my brushes everytime I use them with MAC Brush Cleanser.  I also deep clean my brushes with soap and water every couple of weeks (depending on use).

I will show you how I clean my brushes with MAC Brush Cleanser in this tutorial.








Brush cleanser may damage some surfaces so be sure to protect your furniture.

Many companies make these types of brush cleansers.  I have not tried them, so I can't recommend them.

I know that there are people out there who put their brush cleanser into a spray bottle and spray the cleanser directly onto the brush.  I don't do this because I do not want to risk getting any cleanser into the ferrule, where it can disturb the glue. The few dollars I would save with the spray bottle method is not worth the potential damage to my expensive brushes.


Lush Big Shampoo - When My Hair Needs a Little Pep

When I my hair has the 'blahs' several days in a row, and I want to give it a little pep, I turn to Lush's Big Shampoo.  This shampoo looks like a salt scrub and smells like a margarita.  For the longest time, I didn't believe it would EVER lather when I picked some out of the pot.  In my world, salt scrubs don't lather.  But with plenty of water in my hair, Big shampoo gives me BIG lather, and it gives my hair BIG life.

Big shampoo is too harsh for everyday use.  But as a clarifying shampoo, it's a miracle.  I'm sure I've used more than 10 pots of this stuff over the years, and it's the first product that reached HOLY GRAIL status for me.  More on that later.

So here's a margarita toast to a week of good hair days!



DIY: The Vanity is Officially Finished!!

I'm really happy with how this turned out.  Here are a couple of pics of the finished masterpiece!

What do you think???

Although this is not the first piece of furniture I have refinished, I learn something new with each project.  Lesons learned with this project:

   ~ I heart Benjamin Moore melamine paint.

   ~ A good electric sander saves time and sweat, and increases the quality of the finished product - worth it's weight in gold.

   ~ Ditch the brush (even the expensive ones leave streaks) and use a small foam roller whenever possible.

   ~ Take more/better 'before' pictures.

I can't wait for my next furniture refinishing project! 

For the full story, check out the rest of PROJECT VANITY.


At the Movies - Alice in Wonderland

I FINALLY saw Alice in Wonderland tonight.  I felt like the last person on the planet who did not see it, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  I enjoyed myself - it was a fun movie.  However, I think I may have enjoyed it more if it wasn't so over-hyped.  Since I've been hearing about this movie for so long, my expectations were definitely not met.  The movie dragged at times, and Johnny Depp was much better in the Pirates of the Carribean movies, than he was in Alice.  Anne Hathaway was also not that great in this movie, though I suspect that her character died a boring death in writing, so Anne never had a chance. 

On the positive side, the set design made Wonderland come alive.  The makeup, costumes and special effects made for delicious eye candy.  Helena Bonham Carter made the role of the Red Queen her own, and did a fantastic job.  Mia Wasikowska did a great job as alice.

Go see this movie if:

 ~ You want to go to the movies with your kids.

 ~ You are looking for something 'light' and 'fun' and 'a bit quirky'.

 ~ You want to see what all the fuss was about.

 ~ You want to see the special effects on th big screen.


Review: MAC Brush Cleanser

A fellow tomboy is going to a wedding this weekend, and called me for a makeup consult.  I brought over some brushes and makeup to pick out some colors and teach her how to apply a total 'look'.  She pulled out her pithy makeup assortment and her single face brush.  I was appalled!  No, not because she only had one face brush.  It was the sad state of the brush that made me cringe.  You see, for the last one and a half years that this tomboy owned that brush (and used it every day to apply her mineral makeup), she NEVER washed it!  It was tattered and gross looking.  The bristles were frayed and uneven.  I would have taken a picture for you, but I didn't want to offend and upset my tomboy friend.  So instead, I decided to review MAC Brush Cleanser.

I resisted buying this brush cleanser for a long time.  But as time went on, and my MAC brush collection grew, I broke down and got it.  And now I can't live without it.

I have heard people complain about this brush cleanser, because it is too expensive and it is drying on the brushes.  My last bottle of brush cleanser cost me about $15, and lasted me several months of DAILY use.  I consider that a pretty good deal for ensuring that my brushes are well maintained.

I have also not experienced problems with the cleanser being drying.  I do condition my brushes (with hair conditioner) when I deep clean them. All of my brushes are as good as the day I bought them, despite the fact that some of them are over 5 years old.

I spot clean my brushes everytime I use them - and a brush cleanser is the way to do it.  I will post a tutorial on cleaning your brushes in the next couple of days, so keep an eye out for it.


DIY - Vanity is Almost Done!

Just like the weather man promised, it was a sunny day in Toronto today.  I took the opportunity to finish painting the vanity.  It still has to dry thoroughly, so it's in the garage at the moment.  The sales guy at Benjamin Moore told me that for best results, I should let the paint cure for about 1-2 weeks before I use it.  Just as well...I can postpone the necessary organization and cleaning to get all of my beauty products moved in.

Here is what the vanity looks like after two coats of paint with sanding in between.

I tinted a small portion of the paint with purple artist's oil paint, and painted the flower accents to bring them out a bit more.

I used Benjamin Moore melamine alkalyde (oil) paint.  It comes in a limited collection of colors.  I didn't like any of the premixed colors, so I bought a can of white and had them tint it their 'Antique White' color.  I have to say, I really like this paint.  It went on well with a foam roller and did not leave any bubbles.  It went on more streaky with a paint brush, I think because it's so thick.  So I say, edge with a brush, but then switch to the roller.  There were subtle roller marks at first, but they faded away as the paint dried. 

The paint dries to a non-shiny semi-gloss. And even though oil paint is a pain to work with, I would definitely use this paint again, especially on kitchen cabinets or other furniture that takes some beating.  I like the quality, the durability and the finish.

Oh yeah - and I ended up getting drawer knobs at Anthropologie today.  These beauties were the clear winner:

I can't wait to see it all together.  And I'll be sure to take lots of pictures of the finished product.

For the full story, check out the rest of PROJECT VANITY.


DIY: Drawer Pulls for the Vanity

It has been raining the last 3 days, so the vanity refinishing has been put on hold.  However, the weather is supposed to clear tomorrow, so I will be able to finish the project.  In the excitement, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at drawer pulls.  I have decided on Anthropologie - they have the most unique (and still reasonably priced) pulls I could find.  The above are the top contenders (the vanity is painted antique white).  I think the ceramic flower (top left) is my favorite.  I will have to see it in person to decide for sure.

Which one would you choose?

For the full story, check out the rest of PROJECT VANITY.


Recipe: Blueberry and Lemon Scones

I made super awesome blueberry and lemon scones.  The recipe is below - adapted from the fine folks at America's Test Kitchen.  Enjoy!

1 C Flour
3 Tbs Sugar
1 Tbs Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1/4 C Butter, chilled & cubed
1 1/4 C Frozen Blueberies
Zest from 2 Lemons
1 C Cream

Preheat oven to 450oF

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in butter until mix looks like bread crumbs.  Stir in Blueberries and lemon zest, then stir in cream.  Do not overmix.  Shape dough into palm sized balls, place on parchment lined baking sheet, and press until flattened (1 inch high).  These will look all cracked and messy at this point - that's ok! 

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.


Wishful Thinking

In my pefect world:

I would have a spinning bike in my living room.

Rick Bayless would come over and cook me dinner.

Sephora would give 50% Off coupons on your birthday.

Urban Decay would make a 'mattes and neutrals' book of shadows.

Email spam would not exist.

Sidi would make pink mountain bike shoes.

MAC would team up with Chloe for a collection.

There was a kick-arse dog park down the street from my house.

Chocolate would not have any calories.

Lush would make Snowcake soap a permanent item.

It was summer all year round.

What would you wish for in your perfect world????


Hiking with the Dogs

I couldn't finish the vanity today, because it was chilly, gloomy and very windy.  So instead, we decided to take the dogs hiking.  Here are some pics from today's romp in the forest.

Millie checking back where we were through the trees.

Sniffing the winter bunny dwellings - abandoned when the snow melted.

Kitty (yes, she's a dog named Kitty) checking out the trees for squirrels.

All three doggies sniffing around.  The black lab is my parents' dog - Ernie.

Though it was a bit muddy at times, and Kitty decided to get ready for hunting by rolling around in horse poop, it was a great hike.  And luckily, there was enough snow to wipe Kitty down, so the whole car did not smell like a horse's arse!


DIY - Refinishing the Vanity Day 2

Today I filled any holes and after the wood fill dried, I sanded it down.  I then wiped the whole thing down again really well and let it dry.  The first coat of paint also went on.  The guy at the paint store recommended Melamine Paint by Benjamin Moore.  It's an oil based paint, which is not my favorite to work with. However, I am really impressed with the way this paint went on, and the satin finish it's giving me.  I had it tinted to an 'antique white'.  The drawback to this paint is that it does not come in a huge variety of colors, and the colors are premixed.  I was told that a light color can be custome mixed, but they can't guarantee a match.  Since I wanted something off white, I wasn't too concerned.  I bought he paint because I was told it's very stain resistant and durable. 

Tomorrow, more sanding, then the second coat of paint.  Then finishing touches!  Oh, I can't wait!

For the full story, check out the rest of PROJECT VANITY.

OOH, and I have an appointment for some makeup at the Bobbi Brown counter!


DIY: Refinishing and Painting an Old Vanity

I bought this really cute vanity at a garage sale for $25 and it has spent all winter waiting to be refinished.  It's pretty beat up, and there are bits of the drawers that have broken off (luckily the previous owner saved them so they could be glued back).  I really like it though, and I will be able to fit all of my makeup into it.  It's one of those vanities that has a flip-up top with a mirror inside.  I love how girly and cute it is, but the yellow chipping paint had to go.

Now that the weather is getting nicer I was able to get on with this project.  I spent all day today sanding and gluing.  Tomorrow I will fill everything with putty, sand again, then paint.  Above is the BEFORE picture.  I will keep you posted on the progress.

For the full story, check out the rest of PROJECT VANITY.


How To: Organizing Computer Files

I recently got a new laptop and have been thinking of ways to name and organize my files.  I figure that it's better to begin organized than to try to sort it out later.  My new organization system is as follows.

Organize your files into functional folders.  So for example, I save my blog templates under ~

Documents > Blog > Templates

Then, and this is the cool part, I name the files with the date first (YEAR_MONTH_DAY).  So the template I saved today is called ~

10_03_17 blog template

By first listing the date, the files are automatically arranged chronologically.  So in my template folder I have the following three files ~

10_03_06 blog template_new fonts
10_03_12 blog template_new header
10_03_17 blog template

Now I can easily delete everything but the three most recent templates (just in case!).  This has worked very well with my resume and correspondence folders as well!  I'm loving this system so far!

How do you organize your computer files?


New To Makeup Series: Basic Tools

When it comes to beauty tools, the number one rule is: "Quality, not quantity".  I do believe that you get what you paid for. So you're better off getting one or two good brushes, than a whole brush set that may not be good quality.  I feature MAC brushes here because I am most familiar with them - it is what I use daily.  I know that Sigma Makeup makes a whole series MAC 'dupes'.  I have not tried these brushes, and I have heard mixed reviews, so I am reluctant to recommend Sigma brushes to you.

To get you started, there are only a few tools that are key to getting the basic face.

Click to Enlarge

The most economical beauty tool is the humble Q-tip, which can be used to smudge eye liner, apply shadow, blend shadow, and remove any mistakes (such as blobs of mascara).  I always have q-tips on hand when I'm applying makeup, especially since I have deep set eyes and my mascara often transfers from my top lashes to my lid. 

A pencil sharpener will keep your eye liners and lip liners sharp and precise.  Invest in a good quality makeup pencil sharpner, as they are designed to waste as little product as possible while sharpening.  A cheap sharpener will chew through your pencils quickly, and you will be throwing your money out with the shavings.

Curling your lashes before you apply mascara will open up your eyes dramatically.  My favorite eyelash curler is the legendary one from Shu Uemura.  This curler is great because it magically grabs every lash at the same time - even those little ones at the inner corner.

As a mineral makeup wearer, I can not imagine my life without a good kabuki.  The MAC 182 is so far the best kabuki I have tried.  Check out my kabuki review.  The kabuki is also great at blending blush, especially when you've overdone it.

The best eye makeup brush I have ever met is the MAC 217.  This brush does it all.  It applies shadow well, and blends like a dream.  You can use it to apply your cream shadow, or better yet, use it to blend the edges of the shadow.  You can even use it to apply and blend your concealer.  This brush does it all.

Most makeup artists will tell you that your eyebrows frame your face. As such, it is important that they are well shaped, but not over plucked.  Check out my mini review of my favorite tweezers by Anastasia.  Stay tuned for some tips on shaping your brows in an upcoming post.

And of course, the most important makeup tool you already own are your hands.  Make sure your hands are clean before you start applying makeup.   Your hands are great for cream products, because their heat gently warms the product, allowing it to apply smoother and blend easier.  Use your hands to apply and blend foundation perfectly.  I also almost always apply cream shadow, cream blush and concealer with my fingers. 

These are the basic tools to get you started.  I will talk about other brushes I use often in the next installment of this series.


My Beef With This Month's Issue of In Style Magazine

Reading a magazine while soaking in a Lush bath is one of my top guilty pleasures. Earlier this week I picked up a copy of the current In Style mgazine.  I love Anne Hathaway and was excited to see her on the cover.  Plus the cover promised some stories that I really wanted to read.  There was the '20 Amazing Heels You Can Walk In' story - I'm always on the lookout for fashionable heels I can wear to work without permanent damage to my feet.  Then there was 'Perfect Skin: The best Concealer for You' - I have such a problem with my concealer cakeying up on me.  And of course, the main promise - '425 pages of Spring Fashion - Best New Trends & How to Wear Them'. 

All I have to say is: WHAT A CROCK!!!

The shoe 'story' featured only a handful of lower heeled shoes - none of which were actally cute.  The rest of the shoes were super high heels that would only be appropriate for work if you were a Victoria's Secret model.  The concealer 'story' was just a chart talking about 5 different concealers and why they like them.  How about preventing creasing/cakey concealers?  How about application tips?  How about general guidelines for what to look for when buying a concealer?  Why just feature/advertise 5 concealers - one of which is $70 dollars?  Really, how many of us are really going to get that one anyway?

And let's talk about those 425 pages of spring fashion and how to wear them.  The magazine in its entirety was 425 pages, and at least 1/2 of those were ads.  I get it, the ads help pay the bills.  But so does the $5 I paid for this magazine.  And I did not pay for ads - and there was little mention of 'how to wear them'.  Imagine going to 2 hour movie and watching  2 hours of commercials between scenes.  You'd be walking out and demanding a full refund.  Then why accept it from a magazine.  It will be a long time before I buy another issue.  Perhaps if they spent more time on producing quality content, they would sell more magazines and need fewer ads to pay the bills. 
Clearly I'm looking for a new magazine for my next bath event.  What are your favorite magazines?


The Perfect Bedside Table

I really want a 'shabby chic' inspired bedroom.  I like the idea of finding old pieces and refurbishing them.  I love old furniture - it has so much character and presence.  I like to mix pieces from different periods.  I recently purchased a vanity at a garage sale that needs some TLC.  I plan on refinishing it as soon as the weather gets a little nicer.  I will be sure to post some pics of that project.

I was online the other day looking at furniture when I came across this picture.  I absolutely love this night stand. So much, that I would consider paying the big bucks to have a set made.  I think the little knob at the top is a leaf that pulls out for extra space to put something on. 

Do you ever look for decorating inspiration?  What are your most interesting finds?


My Favorite Tweezers

Since it has been raining, and therefore all outdoor activities have been suspended (the walk with the dogs left me DRENCHED), I went to the mall!  My sister was shopping for a new pair of tweezers.  Of course I had an opinion.  I love the Anastasia tweezers.  I have had mine for years and they're still just as good as the day I bought them.  There is no warping - the edges have remained true and sharp.  This allows so much precision, and easy plucking of even the finest hairs. These babies are totally worth their $30 price tag, because they'll last you for years and years.  And as a bonus, they're pink! :)

My sister got these tweezers and then called me about an hour after she got home to tell me how much she loves them.  I'm so glad she likes them too!


Hits & Misses

~ well behaved dogs - they're definitely growing out of their rebellious puppy phase

~ fresh banana bread

~ hot soup and watching movies on a rainy evening

~ my skin with the help of Bioderma skin care & Kiehl's eye treatment with avocado

~ remembering to apply cuticle butter/oil regularly all week

~ Kiehl's lip balm - expensive glorified petroleum jelly (stay tuned for review)

~ my neighbor hacking into our wireles internet

~ blog pages that blast music

~ not remembering to charge the camera battery AGAIN

~ a whole weekend of non-stop rain

What are your hits and misses this week?


I Have to Finish......Before I Try......

Do you sometimes see a review of a product and then are DYING to try it, even if you already have something similar?  Lately I've been trying to be really thoughtful of what I buy when I'm makeup shopping.  I don't want to have stuff sitting around unused.  Here is my list of things I have to use up and things I want to try:

I am currently using Mac Bronzer in Golden.  I like it - it's very sheer and the color very natural on my beige undertoned skin.  But when that's done, I'm getting NARS Laguna Bronzer because I have seen so many rave reviews and I really like the formula of NARS blushes.

I am about 1/2 way through my Too Faced Shadow Insurance.  It works well, but it's starting to separate. When I use it a bit of oily goo comes out before the product.  When it's done, I am buying Urban Decay Primer Potion, which apparently does not grab the shadow and does not separate.

Sadly, I have 1 and 1/2 of MAC's Brow Pencil in Lingering to get through (I got a backup at the CCO).  I like the formula of the pencil, but the color has too much reddish brown in it, so it doesn't blend perfectly with my brows.  It's just an OK color match.  I need something that is a cooler brown, and from what I've seen when I swatched it at my local counter, Shu Uemura's Seal Brown Brow Pencil fits the bill.

I love CoverGirl Lash Blast mascara so much I am currently on my 5th tube.  But for some reason, I can't fully commit.  Next mascara I want to try (due to some positive reviews, of course) is Rimmel's Sexy Curves.

What are you trying to finish before you switch?  What is on your wish list when you do? 


Shoe of the Moment - Sofft Candra

I've been sporting these mary janes lately.  They go with pants and skirts.  And now that the weather is nicer, I am enjoying a break from boots, and shoes that cover more of the foot.

I love love love love love Sofft shoes.  They are super comfortable.  No rubbing or foot pain even after a full day.  The cushioning on the insole makes you feel like you're walking on a cloud.  I also love the lower heels for work.  Some of their styles are a bit 'grandma', but some are super cute.  Definitely worth checking out if you like heels and still want to feel your feet by the end of the day.  They're definitely called 'Sofft' for a reason.

And the best part?  I picked up these babies for around $30 at Nordstrom Rack!  Sweet!

What shoes are you loving for work these days?


New to Makeup Series: Basic Face - Products to Get You Started

Click to Enlarge

This is a great day to day look that I often use to get me out the door quickly - my take on the five minute face.  It will not make you feel like you've overdone it - just accentuate your features in a few easy steps.  And the best part is that you can apply almost everything with your hands - only one brush required!

~ Start with a well moisturized face.  I really like Bioderma Sensibio Light (my review).  Apply lip balm.

~ To even out your skin tone, I recommed a mineral makeup.  It's easy to apply, feels light and looks natural.  To apply swirl a kabuki into the product (more on kabuki brushes I like), shake off any excess and buff into the skin in circular motions.  As a starter, I rcommend MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural.  It has a light to medium coverage, comes in a nice compact (as opposed to loose powder) and it's easy to get matched to the right color by the sales associate.  I also like Everyday Minerals, but it's tricky to find your shade.  I do not recommend Bare Essentuals because it contains the irritant bismuth oxychloride, which made my face itch like it was on fire!

~ Fill in any gaps in your brows with an eyebrow pencil.  Maybelline Define-A-Brow works well and is cost effective.

~ Apply a thin layer of cream eye shadow to your lids up to the crease with your finger and blend edges with q tip or clean finger befor it sets.  A neutral golden tone works well for me.  My favorite is MAC groundwork paint pot.  Benefit also has some great creaseless cream shadows.

~ Add a light highlight to the inner corner of the eye, top of your cheek bone, and under your brow.  I love Benefit Eye Bright or Benefit High Beam.  Just dab onto the skin and blend with your fingers.

~ Line the eyes as close to the top lashes as possible with a brown eye liner pencil.  Don't be afraid to be messy.  Then smudge out with a q-tip.  Only line the bottom lashes 1/2 way for a natural look.  I love Prestige Waterproof Liners - creamy, easy to blend, last all day and CHEAP (can be found at most drug stores and Ulta).

~ Finish eyes with mascara.  Make sure you start application at the base of the lashes.  I love Maybelline Lash Blast in Black.

~ Dab some cream blush on the apples of your cheeks and up towards your temple and blend up towards the temple.  Start with a little bit and add if you need to.  Dab some cream blush on your lips for some color.  I love Bobbi Brown's Pot Rouge in Powder Pink for a natural flush.

~ Finish with some gloss or more lip balm to moisturize lips - Burt's Bees is my fave.

And VOILA! You're done!

Let me know how this worked for you.  What are your favorite neutal colors?  What's your everyday quick makeup look?  How long does it take you to do your makeup in the morning?

Stay tuned for the next installment - makeup tools.


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver

This book is about eating locally.  In the case of Barbara Kingsolver, very locally.  In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver journals her first year of farm living.  Together, the Kingsolver family sustains themselves by living off of what they can grow and raise on their farm. 

I was skeptical about this book when I plucked it from my friend's book shelf.  I thought it would be another judgemental book attempting to guilt its readers into becoming vegetarian farmers.  Now, I have absolutely nothing against vegetarian farmers, I just am not one of them.  I am a city girl, I eat meat, and I rarely ate locally (note the past tense).  So I picked up this book, read the title, rolled my eyes and was about to shove it right back on the shelf, when my friend started to go on and on about how good it was.  I was interested, but not interested enough to actually read it.

Then one day I was at Costco, and they had NOTHING that I wanted to read or hadn't read already.  And there was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, staring at me.  Taunting me.  So I picked it up.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  It was an honest book journaling one family's experience.  The stories were wonderful, and it was a much easier read than I expected.  There was no judgement.  There were a lot of facts, many that I ddn't know.  For example, did you know that eggs from free range chickens who are allowed to forrage for their own food are not the cholesterol bombs that you get at the supermarket?  There are also some delicious recipes.

The bottom line message I got from this book is that we should eat locally.  Local ensures freshness (and hence better nutritional contents), supports the local farming community, and is fantastic for the environment.  Now does that mean that I'm going to be moving to a farm and living off the land?  Not likely - though my dogs would love it.  However, I do try to buy my produce locally as much as possible.  The first thing I did was find a family close to my aunt's house (about 1 hour away) who raises chickens and sells AMAZING eggs.  The yolks are orange and not yellow!  Right now it's winter here in Canada, and there is not much growing out there, but when things pick up, I'll be out there checking out the farms. 

Overall, a good book that's worth reading, and maybe even thinking about next time you're at the grocery store.


Argyle Dog Collars

I was at the local 'hoity toity' pet store the other day, and I spotted these amazying collars. They're from a company called Mascot.   At $80, they're way pricey for a dog collar, but they're SO CUTE.  And the leather is so soft.  And that super cute buckle!  AH-Dorable!


Bioderma Skin Care Review

I was cruising through our local drug store when I spotted some Bioderma skin care.  I thought that Bioderma was only sold in France.  And yet there it was, smiling down upon me from the shelf right here in Canada.  Since I've been DYING to try it ever since Gemma reviewed a cleanser on Youtube.

My skin is normal to dry, depending on time of year, climate and what skin care I've been using.  I the odd hormonal breakout around my chin.  But my biggest skin care issue is redness and skin sensitivity around the corners of my mouth and down towards my chin.  This area sometimes gets so irritated that the skin flakes.   As such, the two Bioderma items I picked out are both geared towards sensitive skin.

According to the Bioderma website "Sensitive skin makes its presence felt with feelings of overheating and diffuse or localised redness. It easily becomes dehydrated and the subsequent dryness contributes further to its weakness and is accompanied by feelings of tightness".  Yup.  Check.

Bioderma describes this as a Soothing non-rinse cleanser and makeup remover.  It is alcohol and fragrance free, and is supposed to completely cleanse the skin and remove makeup.  Furthermore it is supposed to soothe irritated skin and minimize redness.

Like others who have tried this product, I was a little skeptical about cleaning my face without the use of water and some sort of creamy and/or bubbly cleanser.  However, I was impressed with the way this product removed ALL of my makeup.  No racoon eyes in the morning from leftover mascara!  And I figure that if it can remove my makeup so well, it can also cleanse other impurities out of my skin.  So I have been using this product as a makeup remover and cleanser.  When I have makeup on, I cleanse with two cotton pads.  The first pass removes all of the makeup and the second ensures no residue.

The Bioderma H2O delivers on all of its promises.  It does not irritate my skin.  There is no stinging and tightness after cleansing (which is what I've experienced with irritating toners in the past).  And while it is gentle, it is also an excellent cleanser.  I do not have any congestion on my skin that would suggest my skin is not properly cleansed.

I usually tend towards heavier moisturizers when possible, because I find the light moisturizers are just white water that sinks right into the skin and does nothing in terms of moisturizing.  As such, I wanted to get the Sensibio Rich Cream.  However, the packaging is completely the same, so I picked up the light cream by accident.  I'm glad I did because the light cream is actually sufficiently moisturizing.  Bioderma recommends the Sensibio Light Cream for normal to combination skin.  It is supposed to restore the cutaneous barrier, allowing for a reduction in the penetration of possible irritants, and increasing the skin's tolerance threshold.  Translation: it strengthens the skin, allowing it to be better at it's main function - to be a barrier.  Bioderma also promises that this moisturizer is formulated with rigorously selected active ingredients, and is free of fragrance and preservatives.

To be honest, I am not sure if this cream delivers on all of these claims.  How does one tell if their skin has been restored and fortified?  The non-empirical evidence suggests that this claim has been met, since my skin is much less irritated and red.  The main thing I notice with this moisturizer is that my skin is well hydrated but not greasy.  And as an added bonus, it effectively moisturizes my skin without leaving my face greasy as an oil slick.  I should also point out that I have been using a smaller quantity of this cream than other moisturizers even though if I compare labels this one is 'lighter'.  This is great for my wallet!

All in all, I really like this skin care.  I am a minimalist when it comes to skin care.  I do not have separate products for day and night.  There is a mask with this range that I would like to try and also the eye cream.  I will definitely be keeping the cleanser and cream in my skincare routine permanently.  My skin has never looked better.


New to Makeup Series: Get a Little Help from Your Friends

You decide one day that you want a more polished look.  Or you get invited to a formal gala.  Now what???  The best way to get started is to get a litte help.

Do you have a friend or acquaintance who always looks polished and put together?  Do you wish you could get the look that they seem to effortlessly achieve every morning?  Then I encourage you to ask that person for help.  It can be intimidating to approach someone out of the blue and ask them for advice.  However, I can assure you that there is absolutely no better compliment than being told that you look so goood that someone else wants to look like you!  I am sure your friend would love to go to the makeup counter with you, and may even recommend a good makeup artist that they know at one of their favorite counters.  And if they're just an acqanintance?  Then this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

As I've previously mentioned, I my first makeup routine was care of a Mary Kay party, and it was a positive experience.  However, this may not always be the case.  Ask around for a good consultant in your area.   It may seem strange to seek out a Mary Kay party, but you can always bring a friend.  And don't feel pressured into buying a bunch of stuff you don't want or need.  You can also order online, though you miss out on the personalized makeup lesson.

On the whole I think the strength of Mary Kay makeup is neutral, wearable, everyday makeup.  They also have new looks put together by their makeup artists in each catalog, which are also available on their website.  They give you the colors they used in each look, as well as application instructons.  Check out their all in one compact, which is great for traveling and keeps all your colors in one place.  I also enjoyed their medium coverage foundation, which feels light on your face and gives you an even complexion.  However, beware of their bath and body products, which are very perfumey.

May Kay is quite a controversial makeup line in some circles.  Its poor reputation is mostly rooted in questionable business practices that have resulted in unhappy ex-consultants.  My experience with Mary Kay has been positive.  I really enjoyed the makeup I have tried, and the guidance I got from my consultant was great.

Most department store makeup counters have someone on hand that will be more than happy to paint your face.  And most will do just that.  Unfortunately, you will walk away looking like a clown.  I have had many such experiences.  In fact, just after Christmas I went to my local Clinique counter looking for a new foundation.  The sales lady gave me a sample of foundation and then showed me their limited edition holiday collection.  The collection was an absolutely lovely assortment of pink, plum, and purple hues.  The blush in that collections was absolutely fantastc - a very finely milled pinky plum that went on like a dream.  I was so impressed by that darn blush that I allowed myself to be talked into a makeup look using those colors.  My sister found me ten minutes later, looking so clownish that she had to walk away so that she wouldn't burst out laughing right in front of that poor sales lady.  There was a noticeable gap between my lashes and my cream liner.  My eye shadow was completely unblended.  My blush was applied too heavily.  I had on BRIGHT pink lipstick (the shade was actually called EXTREME PINK), and the highlight under my brows was WHITE.  If this was my first makeup experience, I would have left that store in tears of frustration and disappointment.  All the colors suited me well.  Yes, that includes Extreme Pink Lipstick.  The problem was that they did NOT all belong on my face TOGETHER!

Here are some tips on how to avoid a similar experience.

- Ask the person if they are a trained makeup artist.

- Ask around or search the web for recommendations of makeup artists in your area.  Check out makeup forums, such as Specktra.net, and don't be afraid to post questions.

- Take a look at the artist's makeup.  Look for makeup that is well blended (think GRADIENT of color, and not STRIPES), paying special attention to eyes and cheeks.  And don't worry, just because the artist is wearing really bright colors does not mean that she will apply those colors to your face, unless that is what you are after.

- When you find someone you like, make an appointment.  Avoiding peak mall hours will ensure that the artist has plenty of time to devote to you an is not constantly distracted by other customers.  Book the appointment during the day, so you can look at yourself in daylight.

- Tell the person that it's your first time getting your makeup done, and give them some guidance as to the type of makeup you are after (more polished, neutral, day-to-evening, formal event, bold lip, etc.) and ask for tips and techniques while they apply the makeup.

- If there is something you do not like, tell them.  For example, if the lipstic is too bright, ask for a more neutral one.  Alternatively, if the lipstick is so neutral it completely mutes down the color of your lips, ask for something with more color.  Too pink?  Too brown?  Too red?  Let the artist know.

- Once your makeup is done, go outside and look at your face in daylight.  How does that foundation look?  Foundation should even out your skin tone, but it should still look like skin.  It should feel light on your face.  There should be no color variation between your face, neck, and decollete.

- Keep in mind when booking your appointment that you will be expected to either pay for the appointment or purchase products.  For example, there is a $50 fee for a MAC makeup appointment, or you need to buy at least $50 worth of product.  Keep in mind that the artist just spent a significant amount of time with you when they could have been selling products to other customers. 

- You don't have to buy EVERYTHING the artist recommends.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask them to write down the names of the products you are not buying after your appointment so that you may go back and purchase them later.  If there is something you didn't like, don't get it.  And keep in mind that the drug store has lots of very good quality mascaras and plenty of brown eye shadow and liners, all for a lot less money.  However, foundation and concealer are very hard to match by yourself, and the drug store has thousands of lipstick shades that don't have testers. So prepare to be able to say NO THANK YOU to products you don't like or aren't sure about.

- Counters I recommend: MAC, NARS, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Estee Lauder and Laura Mercier.

I would love to hear how it goes, so keep me posted on your progress.  And come back for the next installment of this series, where I will recommend a handful of products that are a good starting point for an everyday look.

Best of luck!


Tea Overview

I am not a coffee drinker.  However, tea is my passion.  I enjoy trying new teas, and find the whole tea experience very soothing.  Of all the teas I have tried, below are some of my favorites.

Rooibos (Red Tea) - Rooibos has been my favorite tea since I discovered it about two years ago.  I'm not really a fan of herbal teas.  Other than an occasional Chammomile with cloves added to it, rooibos is the only herbal tea I drink.  It has a sligthly 'grassy' flavor, and the best caffeine free substitute for black tea I have found.  I love to drink it with milk.  Rooibos is high in anti oxidants, low in the tannins found in regular tea (even green), and may help with digestion.  I have yet to meet a rooibos tea that I didn't like, but I especialy like the selection of rooibos teas from Adagio Teas (check out the almond and vanilla ones - which are great when mixed together). And if you're in Canada (or an online shopper) check out the Rooibos de Provence from Davd's Tea, which combines rooibos, rosehip, black currants, rose leaves, lavender, raisins, red currants, rose petals and dried blueberries.  Rooibos de Provence makes a perfumey tea that tastes like a blend of earthy forest berries.

White Tea - White tea is made from young tea buds and leaves that have been left relatively unprocessed.  Though white tea has the same amount of caffeine as green and black teas, it is higher in antioxidants (which are more concentrated in the younger plants.  White tea brews to a very light color and delicate perfumey flavor.  My favorite white teas come from Adagio TeasI recommend the white blueberry and the snowbud. 

Green Tea - Green tea is processed in such a way that it is not allowed to oxidize, and hence its green color is preserved.  Green tea is high in antioxidants, and may decrease your chances of heart disease and certain types of cancers.  The highest brewing temperatures for green tea are 180°F to 190°F (81°C to 87°C), so let your boiled water cool for a few minutes before you brew your tea.  I sometimes find green tea to be a little strong and bitter, so I choose milder varieties.  My favorite mild green teas are Adagio's White Monkey and Pi Lo Chun.

Black Tea - Black tea is allowed to oxidize more than any other tea varieties.  As a result, it tends to contain slightly more caffeine and has a stronger flavor than its more green counterparts.  It also retains its flavor for longer than green teas.  To my palette, black tea tastes best with milk, though some also like to add a bit of sugar to counteract its strong flavor.  My favorite black tea of all time is Earl Grey, and my favorite Earl Grey is from Whittard of Chelsea.  Its virtually impossible to find this tea in North America, so it was the item I always requested from friends and family when they visited the UK.  This Earl Grey is so fragrant and delicious, it is the tea I will be brewing for myself when I finish this post.  Earl Grey is traditionally prepared with lemon and sugar, but I like mine with milk.  I also enjoy assam (my fave is from Taylors of Harrogate) and darjeeling (fave from Adagio). 

 When making tea...
I love to boil my water in the Bodum Ibis cordless electric tea kettle.  It was a little more expensive than the other tea kettles, it brings my water to a boil in a flash, comes in a variety of colors, and has lasted me a long time.  I also picked up a 'Perfect Cup of Tea Spoon' at David's tea, which is perfect for measuring just enough tea for one cup.  You will find me drinking my tea from either the glass Jumbo Tea Cup or glass Mug from Adagio Teas.  I love that these cups both have a fine stainless steel strainer that fits right into the cup, so I can just dump my looseleaf tea in and not worry about bits of tea in my teeth.  I also like the little glass lids that keep my tea warm while it's steeping.  If you plan on getting the mug, be aware that you can get it as part of a tea sampler gift (check under the 'gifts' tab).

And please note...
I do not work for Adagio, nor am I in any way affiliated with them.  I think their products are good quality, and I love their sample tins, which allow me to try many different types of teas.  The sample tins are only $2-$4, an last for about 8-10 cups of tea.  Not bad.

Are you a tea drinker?  If so, what are some of your favorite teas?

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