Reminder: Brave Belts Giveaway Still On!

This is just a reminder to the lovely readers who haven't entered my Brave belt giveaway yet. It's still happening! Enter now! Here's another look at the prizes.

The 'Amana' ($135) features a minimalist origami-style closure. It would look stunning cinched over your favourite shift dresses or any skirts or trousers with a paper sack waist.

The 'Makani' ($125) has been the runaway favourite among giveaway entrants so far. This classic leopard print style is on-trend without being overly trendy.

Edgier girls will appreciate the charms of the 'Chim' belt ($110).

The 'Delphine' ($120) would look great with summery maxi dresses and silk tunics.

Brave Leather's belts are leather (obviously), valued above $100 and made in Canada. They would make a lovely addition to any wardrobe. If you're imagining all the lovely outfits you'd wear with any of these belts, enter the giveaway now. One winner will be chosen for each belt style when the contest ends on February 14th. Good luck!

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In Praise of Short-Sleeve Sweaters

From top left corner, left to right, clockwise: Banana Republic short-sleeve button back sweater ($68), J. Crew cashmere tee ($148), Banana Republic sequin-pocket top ($61.99), Jacob short-sleeve sweater ($19.99)

As I mentioned in my last outfit post, I've become sort of obsessed with short-sleeve sweaters as layering pieces. I don't know if I'd wear one with bare arms or under a cardigan (that seems matronly). But they're perfect for adding a bit of warmth when worn over long-sleeve tees and button-up shirts and aren't as stuffily preppy as a sweater vest. A quality merino wool or cashmere number can last for years and be a wardrobe staple for many winters to come. And if you already have a neutral one in your closet, you can get one in a bright hue like orange, turquoise or fuchsia for a fresh take on a classic piece.

If you're shopping for the latest in spring fashions, a short-sleeve sweater might not sound like an exciting purchase. But if you're making an investment in your long-term wardrobe and you don't already have one, a short-sleeve sweater can be pretty exciting stuff.

Would you wear/buy one?

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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Today's Outfit: Shirtsleeves

  • Uniqlo faux fur scarf
  • Lover coat
  • Vintage Coach bag
  • J. Crew white shirt
  • Banana Republic sweater
  • Fine Finds necklace
  • Nicholas Kirkwood flats
  • Lipstick: Stila Long Wear Lip Color in 'Intriguing'

Subsisting on a diet of soup, congee and Halls cough lozenges for two weeks has a funny way of wearing you down. After a prolonged bout of illness, I've become more of a weenie than ever about posing for outfit photos outdoors without a coat. I'm also a lot more diligent about bundling up and keeping warm.

Normally "bundling up" translates into cardigans worn over short-sleeved or sleeveless tops, which means that my lovely silk blouses, button-up shirts and long-sleeved tees don't get worn nearly enough. I spent last autumn and winter wanting a good quality knit vest or short-sleeved sweater--preferably cashmere or merino wool--to layer over long-sleeved pieces. Not wanting to settle for anything less than perfect, I despaired of ever finding what I was looking for until I saw this sweater on the Banana Republic website. Cashmere, black, perfect weight and neckline and sleeve length for layering. It was fate, I tell you.

As I mentioned before, dark winter months plus indoor lighting produce some pretty grainy photos. Being at work 9 to 5 doesn't help either. I tried taking pictures in the morning before work to take advantage of the natural light, but unfortunately none of them turned out quite right except for this one of my Nicholas Kirkwood flats. Aren't they beauties?

I'm slowly getting back into the routine of work, salsa, yoga, cooking, blogging, fashion events and writing that this horrible cold disrupted. One step at a time, I guess, one step at a time.

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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Product Review: Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eyeshadow Quad

As promised in my last product review, January's product reviews will feature drugstore finds in light of the belt-tightening this month usually inspires (credit card bills, New Year's resolutions, etc.), and, in particular, Revlon's newest offerings. The next product up for review: their new ColorStay 16 Hour Eyeshadow Quad in 'Decadent' ($12.99 at London Drugs), which I received from the Revlon media preview.

Drugstore eyeshadows have disappointed me for one reason or another in the past: unflattering colours, too much shimmer, not enough pigment, little to no blendability. I wasn't expecting anything different from the ColorStay palette despite its lofty claims. Like almost every other eyeshadow, it supposedly stays put and blends easily without fading or creasing. Each colour-coordinated compact comes with a paint-by-numbers diagram on the back to show you exactly where to apply and blend each shade.

To get the full benefits of the ColorStay quad, you have to do what I did and forget everything you've learned about applying eyeshadow as a grown woman. There is little benefit in fussing around with multiple expensive brushes and primer. Instead, you should apply this stuff with the inexperienced zeal of a middle schooler. Use the sponge applicator that's included and load it up with as much shadow as possible.

But rather than streaking the shadow across your eyelids in straight lines and blending after, hold the applicator vertically and move it in small, vibrating circles from one side of the lid to the other. This vibrating motion blends as you go. It also happens to be the technique demonstrated to us at the media preview, and results in a perfectly blended eyelid with minimal fuss.

The ColorStay eyeshadows did give me crease-proof colour as promised, but I don't know about that "no fading" claim. Even though the colour remained until I removed my makeup at night, it did fade noticeably in intensity as the day wore on. Give this palette a shot if you're looking for a cheap thrill, but don't expect miracles.

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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From Solo Lisa's Kitchen: Turkey and White Bean Chili

Still determined to save more money, eat out less often, be healthier and cook more at home in 2012? Accomplish all of these New Year's resolutions at once with this simple turkey and white bean chili recipe from Martha Stewart. I tried making it twice last year and both times it turned out wonderfully. Letting the chili simmer for an hour instead of the recommended 15-20 minutes results in a thicker, leaner chili (all the fat floats to the top and you can keep skimming it off). Oh, and if you double the recipe you can freeze the leftovers for easy-to-reheat lunches.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, diced (seeded for milder taste)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cans (19 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced sodium chicken broth [I substituted homemade chicken stock instead]
  • 1 cup water
  • Sour cream, cilantro, and radishes (for garnish) [I used grated cheddar instead]

Instructions

  1. In a large, deep, skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up turkey with spoon, until browned, 9 minutes.
  2. Add onion and jalapenos; cook until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in cumin and tomato paste; cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add cannellini beans, chicken broth, and water; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thick, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and radishes, if desired.

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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Lisa's Most Coveted List

It's been ages since I've done one of my Most Coveted lists, so let's kick off the year with a list of 5 things I love at the moment, shall we?

1. The Laundress Wool and Cashmere spray (available at Kiss & Makeup) is a godsend for dryclean-only cashmere sweaters that are likely to shrink in the wash. The anti-bacterial, non-toxic formula contains cedarwood, pine needle oil, spices and lemon zest and is designed to repel moths, remove odor and condition yarns. Spritz some on your favourite sweater and steam it to cut down on trips to the drycleaners. This also brings me to the next item on the list...


2. The Rowenta steam brush (available at London Drugs) turned out to be $50 well spent this summer as I steamed my way through delicate silks, wrinkled shirts and creased bottoms without ever touching an ironing board. It's just big enough to steam an entire garment in less than a minute but small enough to travel well. If you're still contemplating whether to take the plunge and purchase a steamer, I highly recommend it. It'll be a game-changer in your laundry routine, promise.


3. As a hardcore stationery hoarder, it's pretty hard to resist the nostalgic charm of Rifle Paper Co. Florida-based illustrator Anna Bond infuses just the right amount of childlike whimsy and homespun stylishness into her greeting cards and paper products. Pick up a Valentine's Day card for your sweetheart or stock up on pretty all-occasion note cards.


4. Finding new ways to wear sterling silver jewelry I already own: creative, yes, but also a way to keep me from becoming bored and wanting to shop. Pictured above: Filou acorn necklace and bunny ring, Wendy Brandes squirrel necklace and exclamation point ring.


5. My Joules 'Evedon' wellies. I know I've already talked about them here and here. But whenever it rains really hard and I wear my wellies, I feel extra smug and cozy knowing that my feet and legs will stay dry.

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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Happy Year of the Dragon

Photo by Paolo Camera

I wish I could say I have the day off to celebrate in style, but unfortunately I'm working and still getting over that horrible cold.

To all my readers who celebrate Chinese New Year, have a prosperous and happy Year of the Dragon!

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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KNOWSHOW Autumn/Winter 2012 Sneak Peek

Attending a tradeshow like KNOWSHOW is bittersweet. On one hand, you get the inside scoop on what's coming to stores in autumn/winter 2012. But on the other hand, the spring/summer 2012 merchandise is only just trickling into stores, and with snow on the ground and dreams of warm weather far away, who knows when you'll be able to wear those sandals and sun dresses? You could really use the autumn/winter 2012 stuff now, except as you make your way from vendor to vendor examining their wares, you're reminded constantly that this isn't available until the latter half of the year. Bittersweet, I tell you.

Okay, crazy ramblings aside, here's a glimpse at what you can expect in stores during the latter half of the year.

VESTAL is known for their eye-catching oversize watches. The latest introduction to their collection: a gunmetal grey matte finish with a matte clockface (bottom left).

I confess, I judged Yoga Jeans by their name long before I knew what they looked like. Unlike what their name implies (some stretchy, slovenly jegging monstrosity for the Lululemon crowd), the jeans themselves are surprisingly normal-looking and even come in trendy pastel colours.

Classic cool shoes by London-based Pointer Footwear.

The coloured leather insets and contrasting textures in these Penfield down vests might be just enough to turn me into a puffy vest-wearing girl.

Waterproof, fleece-lined and ultra-light. Yup, this snow boot from Vancouver-based Native Shoes would be pretty perfect for the weather we're having.

Cozy and covetable knits, striped socks and ties, camel and navy coats...it was hard not to want everything in sight at the Lifestyle Collective booth.

I love the old school vibe of Herschel Supply's bags. For autumn/winter 2012, they're introducing a couple of new styles inspired by the bold stripes on English rugby jerseys (bottom right).

Love the highly individual look of these shoes by gram.

Surf, skate and apparel brand Sitka is launching a higher-end capsule collection called Crown this fall. They've also collaborated with local knitwear label Granted on some specially designed Cowichan sweaters.

I've always been impressed with the fabrications that COMUNE uses and these men's shirts are no exception. You have to see them up close to appreciate the flecks of colour and the textures.

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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Today's Outfit: Rain City

  • Lover coat
  • Gap 1969 jeans
  • Joules wellies

My unexpected hiatus from blogging this week came courtesy of the worst bug I've encountered in ages. The past few days have been a blur of nose-blowing; coughing; headaches, chest pains and insomnia brought on by too much coughing; congestion; and all-around misery. Needless to say, it left no time and energy for work or anything else, let alone blogging.

This evil cold did make me count my blessings and take comfort in small things, namely:

  • 3-ply tissues--I've gone through two boxes in the last week and counting.
  • Halls Vitamin C citrus-flavoured lozenges--hey, if I'm going to be this sick, I deserve my vitamin C in yummy candy form!
  • Prescription cough syrup/decongestant and anti-inflammatory meds from my doctor, which finally let me get the rest I needed. (This was after the Benylin that the boy got for me stopped working.)
  • Hot tea with lots of honey.
  • A boyfriend who will drive to a late-night pharmacy at midnight in the snow to pick up Benylin.
  • Finally regaining my voice and losing the sore throat.

Anyway, these photos were taken a couple of weeks ago on a casual Sunday after brunch, before the incessant rain turned into snow. I really wanted to show you the burnt orange cocoon coat I bought at One of a Few during the Gastown Shop Hop, and the Joules wellies the boy bought me for Christmas as a replacement for the Kate Spade ones that cracked.

With snow on the ground and me on the mend from this nasty cold, I doubt that I'll be standing around outside without a coat for outfit photos anytime soon. It's too bad because the light has been gorgeous for the last couple of weeks: no precipitation and clear skies.

P.S. If you haven't entered my Brave belts giveaway yet, do it now!

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Brave Leather Belts Giveaway

Any style aficionado worth his/her salt knows that belts can tie a whole look together. From defining waists to giving oversize garments some shape, the right belt makes an outfit. This is why I'm very excited to partner with Brave Leather--a Canadian leather goods company that produces all of its accessories in Canada--to offer 4 lucky readers a beautiful leather belt valued between $110 and $135:

  • The Amana has a minimalist origami feel with its foldover leather clasp and complete lack of hardware. Belt it over an oversize oxford shirt or a tunic.
  • You can't go wrong with classic leopard in the form of the Makani. Use it to add a touch of animal-print luxe to ladylike ensembles.
  • The Chim is a great choice for adding edgy polish to a dainty look.
  • The luxe bohemian vibe of the Delphine would go well with silky summer dresses.

Here's how to enter:

  1. This contest is open to Canadian Solo Lisa readers only starting from January 13th. The contest closes on February 14th, 2012 at 12pm PST. 4 winners (1 for each belt style) will be chosen when the contest closes.
  2. Follow @BraveLeather on Twitter. (required)
  3. Leave a comment on this post telling me you've followed Brave Leather on Twitter, your Twitter handle, and your favourite belt. Any comments missing any of the pieces of information listed above are disqualified, so make sure you have everything! (required)

For additional entries, you can do any or all of the following:

  1. 'Like' Brave Leather on Facebook and leave a comment telling me you've done so along with a means of contact (Twitter, blog, or email). (optional, +1 entry)
  2. Check out the Brave Leather online shop and leave a comment telling me your favourite belt along with a means of contact (Twitter, blog, or email). (optional, +1 entry)
  3. Tweet: I just entered the @BraveLeather x @SoloLisa belt giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/7xk2ck7 (optional, +1 entry)

Good luck!

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Today's Outfit: Sugar Plum

Overcast skies, perpetual rain and busy schedules have driven me indoors, so bear with me as I revert back to grainy indoor photos and my little point-and-shoot camera. (I should really get a remote and a tripod for the Lumix.) I wore this outfit on December 30th to attend an evening performance of The Nutcracker. The boy's sister-in-law bought us tickets as a Christmas present knowing that we both enjoyed live ballet. The production was beautiful. And of course, as a fashion blogger, it gladdened my heart to see notoriously casual Vancouver dress up for a change. It seems that live theatre, dance, and opera are the only occasions where people even try anymore.


Madewell ring. Manicure: Deborah Lippmann 'Happy Birthday' layered over OPI 'Kyoto Pearl'.
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Product Review: Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter

January's usually a sobering month for finances. As soon as the Christmas decorations come down, thoughts of income taxes and RRSP contributions invade. Then there's the New Year's resolutions to save more money: pack lunch more often, cut down on shopping, etc.

All this belt-tightening might prompt beauty lovers to start scouring drugstore aisles for their product fix, which is why I'm going to be reviewing the newest products by Revlon this month. I first saw Revlon's spring/summer 2012 offerings at the media preview they co-hosted with London Drugs and was pretty impressed, but I wanted to hold off on commenting until I'd had a chance to really try them.

Emma Stone in an ad for Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter

First up: Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter ($10.49 at London Drugs), a lipstick-balm hybrid that delivers moisture, glossy shine and sheer to medium colour in one swipe. Its combination of mango, shea and coconut butters purportedly boosts moisture as much as 156% immediately upon application. The result: smooth, lightly tinted, soft lips.

I was doubtful at first that ColorBurst Lip Butter would measure up to the lipstick-balm and lipstick-gloss hybrids offered by higher-end brands. After all, these sorts of lip products have been a major trend since last spring when Chanel introduced Rouge Coco Shine and NARS launched the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil. Meanwhile, Ilia Pure Lip Care captured the hearts of organic beauty buffs in Vancouver and beyond.

But ColorBurst Lip Butter is pretty impressive compared to its more expensive counterparts. It moisturizes as promised. Usually I have to prime my lips with balm before applying lipstick, but with ColorBurst Lip Butter I only have to use one product. The colour I've been using, 'Berry Smoothie', is a brightening, flattering pink that looks pretty and natural.

While the moisturizing hint-of-tint formula doesn't disappoint, the packaging isn't as good as it could be. The translucent lid extends all the way down the tube, leaving only a thin black rim for fingers to grasp when removing the lid. I found it difficult to get a good enough grip on the rim and remove the lid initially; even now it's a tad harder to take the lid off ColorBurst Lip Butter compared to the other lipsticks I own. All in all though, it's not a bad lip product at all for $10.49.

Would you try a lipstick-balm or lipstick-gloss hybrid?

9

New Year, New Shoes

"New Year, New You" is a phrase that's trotted out every January and splashed across the pages of fashion magazines as they advise us on how to lose weight, eat better, and be more stylish. While the new me--the home-owning, fitter, more successful me who knows how to shop wisely--may not materialize right away, the current me can at least take comfort in a twist on that motto: "New Year, New Shoes."

As it turns out, end-of-season designer shoe sales are a goldmine for tiny-footed girls. I found the Nicholas Kirkwood flats I'd been eyeing for months at deep discount. The same with the Maison Martin Margiela booties, which I mentioned as one of my Shopbop sale picks in this post. In both cases, they were the last pairs in my size; it was simply meant to be. Both pairs of shoes have smooth leather soles and are pretty slippery to walk in, so I'm having my cobbler put rubber soles on them before their first wearing.

Have you been shopping the end-of-season sales or treated yourself to a new pair of shoes lately?

P.S. For those who want their own Nicholas Kirkwood tassel loafers, look out for the pink pair in his spring/summer 2012 collection.

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Shopbop Sale Picks

If you have some funds left over after the holiday season, you're in luck: My lovely sponsor Shopbop is having quite the sale. Now, people tend to fall into one of two camps when they're shopping sales. They buy something crazy and trendy that they would never purchase at full price, or they look for quality basics at a discount. Either way, you can't go wrong with a pair of shoes or a piece of outerwear you can wear right now as we ride out the last of the cold weather.



4

Today's Outfit: Thoughts on 2012

Who's as sad about returning to work and/or school after the Christmas holidays as I am? This was the first vacation in a long time where I didn't have to go anywhere or get anything done; I could simply do nothing. And what glorious nothingness it was! Days filled with big dinners, movies watched on screens big and small, glittery manicures, quality time with the boy, intimate gatherings with family and friends. The boy and I even managed to fit in a small day trip to Seattle, which is where I found this J. Crew wool pencil skirt on sale. (The Bloch flats were another sale purchase, but from The Block in Gastown.)

Now it's time to put my nose to the grindstone again. 2011 was such a big year. While blogging and freelance writing gigs kept me busy, I also switched jobs and began working at a new tech company. My relationship with the boy deepened and we're now at the point where we're talking about buying a home together. My goals for 2012 :

  • Professionally, I want to keep doing what I'm doing now, but better. That shouldn't be too hard with no shortage of hardworking and inspired individuals in my life whom I can emulate.
  • Personally, I want to take better care of myself by finding a balance between a hectic work schedule and my own fitness/nutrition needs. There were times in 2011 when I let the latter take a hit because the former was overwhelming. As a result, my overall well-being definitely suffered.
  • Financially, the boy and I are going to take our first steps towards buying a home. This means saving more money, finding a realtor, and getting pre-approved for a mortgage this year.
  • Fashion-wise, I want to stick to the adage "Buy less, but buy better." Sometime between my 2008 shopping ban (during which I stopped buying any clothes and accessories for 5 months) and now, I feel like I lost sight of that motto. The past few months have seen quite a few closet cleanings, prompting thoughts like "I could have saved all that money for something else!" I'd like to have a closet of well-loved pieces I wear often and find different ways of wearing, rather than random blouses and dresses that only see the light of day once every year or two years. Plus, learning to limit myself to a smaller, more versatile wardrobe is going to serve me well when I have to share teensy condo closets with the boy.

What are your goals for 2012?

P.S. Thanks to Julie of Pop Champagne for taking these photos for me! We had a great time hanging out on the afternoon of NYE. Clear skies, window-shopping along Robson and Granville, checking out the sale at The Room...what's not to love?

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