Best of Blog 2010

I hope that you're enjoying the holidays and that Santa brought you everything your heart desired! Solo Lisa will be on hiatus from now until the New Year. I'll still be on Twitter and checking for comments, but there won't be any new posts until January 2011 (more about that later). In the meantime, if you're unlucky enough to have to work on the days between Christmas and New Year's and you're bored out of your mind while everyone else is on vacation, why not take a look at what's in the archives?

This year started with a resolution to become a better cook and to try one new recipe a week. Cooking once a week wasn't always possible, but my culinary skills have improved from month to month. My first cooking attempts eventually led to roast chicken, lemon ginger bundt cake, and, more recently, Chinese egg tarts and apple pie.

I also had the chance to read some great books in 2010. From a hilarious style advice tome written by a blogger to books about narcissism, the history of glamour, the beauty industry, and the savvy female entrepreneurs right here in Vancouver, there was no shortage of stylish reads.

Who could forget the Winter Olympics? The highlights of my experience: venturing downtown on the night of the opening ceremonies and brunch at Birks with medallist Jennifer Heil.

2010 will also be known as the year I abandoned lip gloss for lipstick. And speaking of beauty products, I just can't get enough of nail polish! Butter LONDON, Spa Ritual, and American Apparel were just some of the brands I tried.

Out of the many events I attended, Eco Fashion Week and the grand opening party for the Joe Fresh Granville store were particular standouts.

Trips taken this year: Saltspring Island and New York.

In other news, I also started doing vlogs and haul videos.

Are you still searching for those perfect denim shorts or that cute pair of rain boots that aren't Hunters? I'm just asking because I've found mine.

So, about January 2011: I might be a little scarce on the blogosphere because I'm starting a new job on the 4th! It's a very exciting opportunity and I'm thrilled. But a new job also means new responsibilities and a steep learning curve, so if I'm not commenting on blogs as much or posting as frequently, I apologize in advance.

See you in the new year!
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Season's Greetings

Photo by jekert_gwapo


Wishing you and your loved ones a Christmas filled with warmth, laughter, good food and great companionship.
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Moisturizing Solutions From Head To Toe

Whether it's the natural consequence of getting older or of the harsh winter weather, these days my hair and skin tend to dry out easily. I've become a conditioner, lotion, and lip balm fiend to counteract it. "Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize" is an oft-uttered tenet when it comes to beauty basics. Whether or not regular moisture really is the secret to longlasting beauty, it's worth the trouble if it prevents dry frizzy hair, itchy skin, and a sallow complexion in the short run.

Effective products can range from cheap thrills to mid-market and high-end products, so finding something that works doesn't have to cost a fortune. My routine combines a mix of drugstore deals as well as more luxe options from BeautyMark.

Hair

Most days I'm content to use Pantene Pro V 2 in 1 in the "frizzy to smooth" formula, work a nickel-sized dollop of Frederic Fekkai COIFF Perfecteur Anti-Frizz Silkening Creme (approx. $35 at Shoppers Drug Mart) into towel-dried hair, and call it a day. But winter calls for more moisture, hence the addition of Dove Daily Moisture Therapy conditioner to the shower routine. This lightweight conditioner softens hair without weighing it down or leaving residue behind. After shampooing with Pantene, I work the Dove conditioner into the ends and let it sit in my hair for the duration of my shower, rinsing it off at the very end. The conditioner has more time to work its magic this way.



Lips

I have no loyalties when it comes to lip balm brands and like keeping one on my dresser, in my purse, on my desk...anywhere handy, in fact. The one in my purse is currently Deserving Thyme lip care balm with SPF 15 ($7). It soothes dry lips and has SPF, making it the perfect lip balm to wear when out and about. Its smooth non-greasy feel also makes it a great lip primer under lipstick. At work, I keep Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil in a desk drawer. Out of the three lip balms I'm using currently, Nivea's Essential lip balm has the heaviest, creamiest consistency, making it an ideal option for applying at night before bed.



Face

My Consonant Body 30 day skincare challenge may be over, but I am still using and loving the products I got to test courtesy of BeautyMark. The Ultra Moisturizing Organic Face Cream ($54) is suitable for daytime and nighttime use; it moisturizes without clogging pores or causing breakouts. Meanwhile, the nighttime Ultra Moisturizing Organic Eye Cream ($36) and daytime Ultra Firming Organic Eye Cream ($36) take care of the delicate eye area around the clock.



Body

London Drugs aloe vera moisture lotion is surprisingly good for a drugstore find and one from the store brand at that; it's just a good basic body lotion that keeps skin soft all day long. My feet, however, have gotten used to a more luxurious product in the form of Principessa Beauty Pretty Piede foot balm ($18). This Canadian line is a Vancouver favourite for its delicious scents, pretty packaging, and emphasis on using natural ingredients. The foot balm's sugary gourmand fragrance is pleasant and not at all overpowering, while its formula is non-greasy and fast-absorbing. It'll probably be a favourite well into spring and summer when pedicure season is upon us. UPDATED TO ADD: BeautyMark owner Marc Brunet reminded me on Twitter that the Pretty Piede foot balm is great for rough knees and elbows too.



What are you using to moisturize these days? Are there any products that you swear by?
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Today's Outfit: Material Girl



I love getting parcels and letters in the mail and it's even better when they're a surprise. So imagine my astonishment and delight at coming home to a parcel from The Bay containing a black sequined racerback tank top from Material Girl, the clothing line by Madonna and her daughter Lola. The Bay is slated to start carrying the Material Girl clothing line in spring 2011, but in the meantime they're selling these limited edition racerback tanks available in 9 different colours.

The tank is fully lined and the sequins are sewn on quite well--they lie flat and don't come off easily or scratch my skin. All in all, it's surprisingly good quality for a tank priced at $19.99. The rest of the Material Girl line is priced at $12-68 and is intended to "offer fashion lovers savvy style with amazing value" according to Bonnie Brooks in the accompanying press release. I'm usually pretty indifferent towards celebrity clothing lines, but if what Brooks said is true and Material Girl features some interesting pieces at good price points, I'd be curious about what the rest of the line looks like in-person.

  • Material Girl sequin tank
  • Zara black cami
  • Aritzia shirtdress
  • American Apparel leggings
  • Matiko over-the-knee boots
  • Timex watch
  • Wendy Brandes OMG rings


    • Wearing sequins in the evening is a no-brainer, but how do you wear a revealing racerback sequined tank during the day in a way that's work-appropriate? That was the challenge I set myself to prove how versatile this piece was. The solution: Layer a cami underneath and a shirtdress on top.

      While we're on the topic of the outfit above, how about those gorgeous OMG rings by Wendy Brandes? She's donating partial proceeds from jewelry sales to help a blogger in need. You can read more about the campaign here. $200 from the sale of every F#@!/OMG ring set will be donated, so if you've ever admired these rings on my humble little blog and wished for a set of your own, now is the time to buy them!
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      Today's Outfit: Those Boots!

      • Necklace and tunic (Forever 21)
      • Sweater (H&M)
      • Belt (from a CiCi dress)
      • Leggings (American Apparel)
      • Boots (Matiko)


      You know, those boots I blogged about in this post. As you may remember, I tried on a pair at the first Dakota Group sample sale in the fall. That pair--a production sample--was too tight around the leg and I couldn't pull up the boot shaft completely. But the second Dakota Group sale had a lot of wholesale stock including my beloved Matiko OTK boots in a variety of sizes. I tried on one of the wholesale pairs and they fit! It was meant to be, I told myself as I handed over the cash for them. Lesson learned: Samples and the boots that are actually produced and sold are not the same.
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      Lisa's Most Coveted List

      It's hard to believe that I haven't published a Most Coveted List since the one in May, but it's true! Here's a list of of the five things I'm loving right now.

      1. The Samsung Galaxy S Captivate. After making do with a Sony Ericsson for the longest time that did little more than dial and text, I finally upgraded to a smartphone. The Galaxy is thin and light, and the Android OS is comparable to an iPhone for ease of use and access to tons of apps. The 4" screen is also slightly bigger than an iPhone screen, which makes typing on a touch screen keypad is much easier. I'm starting to wonder how I ever lived without a smartphone; it's great yet worrisome at the same time. Checking my email on the go, adding twitpics to my tweets, downloading apps, and playing Angry Birds are all highly addictive pursuits.



      2. NARS lipstick in 'Viridiana' ($30 Cdn) and NARS velvet matte lip pencil in 'Cruella' ($30 Cdn). They're the new additions to a growing but carefully curated lipstick wardrobe. 'Viridiana' is a deep berry shade that's matte yet creamy and ideally suited for day-to-night. 'Cruella' on the other hand is a versatile classic red that's a bit more subdued than Sephora's Hot Tango, my go-to red shade which is a blend of red and hot pink. So far I'm pretty impressed by NARS's formulas for their staying power and creamy consistency.



      3. Timex Modern Originals Grande Classics watch ($75 Cdn). One of the best gifts I ever received from my parents was a Baby Kermit watch for my eighth birthday. I think I was the only third grader who wore a watch to school every day, let alone one that had to be wound up manually, but I loved it. Over the years I've fallen out of the habit of wearing watches, but a gorgeous one could tempt me back into it. I love the cherry red patent leather strap, oversized face, and sans serif numbers on this particular watch. It's fashion forward and modern yet retains the classic charm of old-school Timex designs. "It's very you," the boy said when I showed it to him as a possible Christmas gift contender. "It's just a straightforward watch but with a twist."



      4. Starbucks's caramel brulée lattes. They're my holiday addiction and indulgence, although I try not to have one more than once a week, two tops. And I order a short size: you get the same amount of caffeine and the fun of indulging in a sugary milky drink with whipped cream on top, but it's less sugar, fat, and calories than a tall latte, plus it costs slightly less. Talk about a win-win.



      5. Time with friends and family. There's something about winter and the holiday season that makes you want to stay indoors and spend as much time as possible talking and laughing with loved ones. Whether it's craft fairs and parties or catching up over coffee or lunch, I'm really grateful that I can spend time with the people who matter to me.

      What about you? Are you an iPhone addict or an Android convert, or are you sticking to a non-smartphone phone? Are you a fan of NARS lipsticks or any other lipstick brand, and if so, what are the shades you're craving this season? What's your favourite part of the holiday season?
      14

      Product Review: Ray-Bans From ShadesDaddy.com

      Blame it on the Asian genes, but I've always had trouble finding sunglasses. I don't want anything with a wire frame and plastic nose pads, which limits my choices to one-piece plastic frames, which are then further restricted by the fact that very few stay put on a flat nose. For these reasons, I've saved myself strife (and money) by faithfully sticking to the pair of Chanels I bought in New York.

      But what's a girl to do when offered a pair of free sunglasses to review from the generous folks at ShadesDaddy.com? Why, accept, of course. The website features dozens of discounted pairs of designer eyewear from Bottega Veneta, Coach, Chloe, DKNY, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and Oakley, just to name a few. ShadesDaddy.com offered me a pair from their Ray-Ban, Versace, D&G, Ralph Lauren, or Carrera collection to review. After some careful deliberation, I chose the Ray-Ban Wayfarers in tortoiseshell--a classic go-with-anything alternative to my black Chanel sunnies.

      ShadesDaddy.com was prompt and responsive in providing me with a tracking code and emailing updates after I placed my order. The sunglasses arrived in a timely manner and came packaged with all the Ray-Ban paraphernalia (case, box, polishing cloth) promised on the website. I'm very pleased with the quality and authenticity of the sunnies. However, I kind of wish the tortoiseshell colour is as light in real life as it is in the product photo. As you can see below, in real life the Wayfarers look pretty dark. That hasn't stopped me from growing to love them though.



      They didn't fit correctly straight out of the case, but then again, I really don't expect any sunglasses to fit perfectly. A local optician re-aligned the frames for me. Now they fit just right.



      So, how do I feel about ShadesDaddy.com overall?

      Positives:
      • They provide prompt delivery and good customer service.
      • Their products are authentic and arrive in good shape.
      • Their discounted prices are very reasonable.
      • The website is easy to navigate and use.
      • Free shipping is available for purchases over $99 (US only).
      Negatives:
      • Based on my own experience, the product photo can be slightly misleading.
      • Aside from some oversized black frames, aviators, and the Ray-Bans, the selection of eyewear seems a bit dated.
      • The return policy is very restrictive. Some brands are final sale, and the ones that can be refunded or exchanged must be received by the company within 7 days of you receiving the parcel. This means that if you're an international customer, you're stuck paying for expedited shipping or keeping sunglasses you don't really want.
      • The shipping policy doesn't explain the costs of shipping internationally.
      The bottom line: As a prospective consumer, I appreciate the company's honesty and responsiveness, but I'm also wary of the restrictive return/exchange policy and the prohibitive cost of shipping something back. Research your dream designer shades and try them on in person at a local store if possible, then check ShadesDaddy.com to see if they have those same shades for a lower price. Read the fine print on their shipping and returns pages carefully. You don't want to be stuck with sunnies that don't fit or flatter.
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      Birds Of A Feather


      Black Swan has fashion editors' hearts aflutter over anything ballet-inspired and feathered. And while we can't all swan around in fabulous Rodarte tutus like its stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, we can still evoke a bit of Swan Lake style in our holiday party looks. This feather collar from Forever 21 is one affordable way of doing so. The grosgrain ribbon tie, intricate beading, and fluffy blush pink feathers would provide a gorgeous dramatic accent for an LBD or a simple tee. If blush pink is too innocent for your tastes, it also comes in gray. The innocent white swan or the sensual black swan--which one are you? At the not-so-princely sum of $26 Cdn, you can afford to skip that decision and get both.

      Have you seen Black Swan yet?
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      Today's Outfit: Lace And Pearls...

      • Cardigan (Joe Fresh)
      • Lace top (CiCi) and cami (Zara)
      • Necklace (Spring)
      • Skirt (Target)
      • Tights (Dynamite)
      • Boots (Miz Mooz)


      ...make for a very prim and proper outfit. It's a strange process getting dressed in the mornings sometimes. Some pieces seem to want to go together despite my best efforts to break them up, style them differently, or wear them in a fresh way. I think this outfit was the result of being too tired to fight all-out girliness. Sure, I could wear the cardigan with a slouchy tee, cuffed jeans, and black patent oxfords. The necklace could go with the aforementioned slouchy tee, a pencil skirt, tights, and ankle booties. And those Miz Mooz boots that have been worn to death--I probably could have swapped them out for different shoes. But doing that would've contradicted whatever vibe I was feeling that day and thrown me off completely. "I dress according to my moods" may strike some people as odd justification for sporting radically different looks on different days, yet it's always made sense to me.

      Do you have a consistent style or do you dress according to moods? Are you dressed according to a certain mood or vibe today? Do you ever try to resist "logical" groupings of items in your closet so that you can put a fresh spin on something?
      16

      Blanche Macdonald 2010 Grad Show

      For Vancouver's fashion enthusiasts, the Blanche Macdonald grad show is always a November highlight with its high production value, upscale Westin Bayshore venue, and amazing display of fashion design talent. This year forty-five graduates presented two outfits each in a show titled "Fashion Forecast," and as always, the calibre of the graduate collections was bar none. I'd be hard pressed to choose a favourite designer among them, but here's a round-up of the show's highlights.

      Baby it's cold outside

      Many student designers showed strong outerwear pieces this year with crisp lines and tailoring and a touch of menswear inspiration. Whitney Phuong channeled equestrian and military influences for both of her looks. Stella Ho showed a wearable cropped sleeve jacket that looked cozy and chic styled with knits. Sabrina Tang's oversized belted blazer took the boyfriend blazer to the next level with its soft lines and oversized belted fit. Shelley Dee Ediger put a unique spin on men's outerwear with an oversized asymmetrical shawl lapel. Beau Muncer's brown waterproof trench formed the outer layer of a dapper ensemble that drew appreciative murmurs of admiration from the audience.








      Lovely in leather

      Although quite a few students used leather in their grad collections, my personal favourites were from Lorraine Cadena and Jillian Zdunich. Cadena showed a dramatic floor-length cutout gown over a tulle crinoline with artful gashes, a bandeau bikini, a hood, and deep side pockets. Both of Jillian Zdunich's outfits exuded relaxed ladylike seventies glamour. The leather insets in the trousers and the belted navy dress are wearable and on-trend with this season's looks.





      Jumping for joy

      If this year's Blanche Macdonald show is any indication, jumpsuits aren't going anywhere just yet. Designers are experimenting with new silhouettes and details to update the ubiquitous one-piece. Katsuki Shimizu combined wide trouser legs with a puffed sleeve and one-shoulder silhouette. Wendy Man opted for a halter neckline and the elegance of beige silk and ivory lace. Yolande Eastwood chose to make her jumpsuit summer chic with a short bottom and boatneck on top.





      Ladies of the night

      What would a fashion show be without some glamorous evening wear? Thia Nguyen's looks combined dreamy blues with airy yarn passementerie, creating an impression of coziness and ethereal lightness at the same time. Angela Lin demonstrated skills worthy of haute couture with her cage overskirt looks. Richard John Talay constructed a black wool fitted gown with exaggerated shoulders and smooth seams that proved minimalism, when done right, can be more eye-catching than any froufrou frock. But the showstopper dress had to be Erin Johanson's: her cowl neck corset and ostrich feather skirt floated down the runway and back to hearty applause.








      Marching to a different beat

      Finally, a shout-out to Jill Kelsea, whose looks were so unique that I had a hard time fitting them into any one category. Her clothes showed playfulness and a skillful attention to detail. The contrasting insets and rows of carefully constructed seams gave the pieces an armor-like appearance.




      Congratulations and best wishes to this year's Blanche Macdonald grads.

      All photos in this post by Wayne Mah.
      4

      Luxe Or Less: The Roundabout Rainboot Quest

      Rain, snow, and more rain seem to be the norm in Vancouver these days, and along with all that precipitation comes a deluge of Hunters, Tretorns, and brightly patterned rainboots. After the torrential downpours of late, I'm finally throwing in the towel: I need rainboots too. Tall leather boots just won't do for the "Noah, get your ark" sort of days.

      Now, I have nothing against Hunters and the people who choose to wear them. But after spying the fifth pair of Hunters in as many blocks walking down Robson, they begin to lose their special appeal. My Holy Grail rainboots would be classic, feminine, and versatile with visually interesting details that set them apart from the sea of more common rainboots.



      With that in mind, I met gorgeous blogger and friend Carolina to try on Chanel rainboots one lunch hour. The shiny patent-like surface of these camellia-adorned beauties is gorgeous, as far away from the funny-smelling patterned rubber used to make cheap rainboots as you can imagine. Carolina ended up getting the red ones while I put myself on the waitlist for the black ones with the white camellia and sole.

      Deep down though, doubts still lingered. The boots were so colourless and my winter coat was black (the other one was black-and-white plaid). Did I really want my head-to-toe outerwear look to be so monochromatic? The red Chanel boots would've been perfect (red is bright yet as versatile as most neutrals), but they didn't have any left in my size. Then while browsing Piperlime, I saw the Kate Spade 'Randi' rainboot ($125 US) and my heart gave a funny lurch.



      That shiny patent-like surface! The red bow and heel providing the perfect accent of colour! I was in love. The use of colour contrast is similar to the Chanel pair but these Kate Spade boots can stand on their own design-wise. And at $125, the price is comparable to a standard pair of Hunters and considerably less than the Chanels. They've been ordered; I can't wait until they arrive. Find feminine, classic, versatile alternative to Hunters? Mission accomplished.

      P.S. For those on a similar quest to mine, consider the leather-trimmed Tory Burch buckle rainboot ($225 US). I love how they combine design elements from duck boots and riding boots, and the leather details make them look much more luxe than your run-of-the-mill rainboots.

      UPDATE [November 28,2011]: Well, that was a bust. After less than a year--a very blissful year--with my Kate Spade rain boots, I was less than happy to find that the rubber was cracking at the ankle. Talk about shoddy quality! The search is on for a replacement pair.

      14

      Today's Outfit: Bundled Up

      • Long-sleeve tee and sweater dress (CiCi)
      • Maroon skinny belt (Joe Fresh)
      • Leggings (American Apparel)
      • Boots (Blondo)

      Snow and sub-zero temperatures in Vancouver in mid-November? That's crazy talk--or so it seemed until last week when the mercury plummeted and everyone was left freezing, myself included. The only solution was to layer, layer, layer. This sweater dress by local label CiCi is one of my favourites because it's cozy and comfortable, but the oversized argyle cowl neck gives it some preppy polish. (If you're not into preppy, it's also available with a gray or yellow leopard print cowl; check the Two of Hearts Boutique for sizes and styles.) The way the boots gape at the top makes me a little sad. I bought them last year because they were fleece-lined and waterproof with a good tread on the bottom--perfect for snow. They fit almost perfectly then, but I must've lost weight without meaning to because they're very loose around the calves now. Oh well. They're still great for snow.

      What's everyone up to this weekend?
      8

      Vincent Park Launches Cheap Monday Cult Club

      Owners Lauren and Cara Stryner


      As much as I love the idea of premium denim, sometimes all I need is a basic pair of well-fitting skinny jeans that won't break the bank. That's where brands like Cheap Monday come in. The Scandinavian label took its name from the phenomenon of partying too hard and on the weekends and being flat broke on Mondays because of the partying. Cheap Monday's loyal fans love the great designs at affordable price points, but surprisingly enough their clothes aren't carried at very many Vancouver stores.

      Vincent Park is one of the few Vancouver boutiques that does, and with their new Cheap Monday Cult Club, they're hoping to make your next denim fix more affordable. When you purchase your first pair of Cheap Monday jeans from Vincent Park, they'll give you a loyalty card that will be stamped for this and subsequent purchases, eventually earning you a free pair of jeans. Other perks of being in the club include special offers and event invites. Check out their website for more information.

      In the meantime, here are some photos from the speakeasy-themed party that Vincent Park and Vanguard PR threw last week to celebrate the launch of the Cult Club. Channeling the old-school appeal of the boutique's decor (which was inspired by the fact that the space used to be an antique store), the bartender served whisky drinks while a girl with cotton candy-coloured hair walked around offering guests sweet kettle-popped popcorn. This was my first time in the store, and I have to admit, the retro touches (ornithology illustrations plastered on the walls, framed maps, the deer head on the wall, the vintage photobooth in perfect working order) really charmed me.



      Stylist Paulo Vallejo and makeup artist Mary Ann Richardson



      Thanks to Vincent Park for a great party. I'll definitely be back the next time I need jeans.
      6

      Got Craft? Holiday Edition



      Got Craft is returning just in time for you to find some unique treasures and gift ideas. Details are in the flyer above and listed below. Happy shopping!

      When: Sunday, December 5th, 2010 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
      Where: Royal Canadian Legion – 2205 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
      Admission: $3.00, kids under 10 FREE
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