From Solo Lisa's Kitchen: Pasta Puttanesca, Fish En Papillote, Pesto

I don't know whether it was cool temperatures or the urge to save money before New York, but the cooking bug bit me shortly before I left on my trip. I made pasta puttanesca twice: once with the boy (who did very well for "someone who doesn't cook," as he put it), and once on my own for lunch. The Epicurious recipe I used is extremely easy and yields a tasty sauce--garlicky, tomato-y, spicy with fresh basil, capers, and olives mixed in. Yum!

Since I didn't want to have pasta for lunch every day of the week, I made a different lunch to alternate with the puttanesca: fish en papillote. I seasoned white fish filets with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and paprika, then wrapped it in in parchment paper with sliced red, yellow, and orange peppers. Each packet was packed with leftover rice.

With tons of fragrant fresh basil left over from the pasta puttanesca recipe, I cast about for another recipe that could use it up and came up with pesto. It sat in an airtight container in the fridge with plastic wrap on the surface for several days before I transferred it to the freezer. I finally used it as a sauce for spaghettini and chicken breast. Next time I might use it in baked chicken.

Product Review: Spa Ritual Nail Polish

After seeing my review of butter LONDON nail polish, the generous folks at local boutique BeautyMark offered me the chance to try one of the other brands they carry: Spa Ritual. Spa Ritual products are vegan (which means they contain no ingredients derived from animals) and their nail polishes are free of toluene, DBP, and formaldehyde. I deliberated over the gorgeous selection of colours and chose Kiss the Cook (a creamy deep red) and Drop Dead Gorgeous (a shimmery medium berry purple). BeautyMark threw in a complimentary bottle of Gentle Conditioning Lacquer Remover as well.

If there's such a thing as a perfect nail polish, Spa Ritual might be the closest thing to it. Aside from the 3-free vegan formula and selection of beautiful colours, this nail lacquer also boasts superior chip resistance. Five days passed before the first chip appeared in my manicure, after which the chipping accelerated until I removed the polish at the 10-day mark. As usual my pedicure held up much better and lasted for 2-3 weeks. The formula is creamy and pigmented enough to provide decent coverage with one coat, although two coats are required for a flawless look. I liked the soft rubbery grip on the brush and the fact that the brush wasn't too small or too wide, allowing for precise application in a few strokes. And the polish remover? I usually have a problem with dry nails, but it left my nails in better shape. Spa Ritual polishes retail for $16 Cdn while the remover sells for $6.50. It's expensive compared to other brands but completely worth it.

Thanks to BeautyMark for letting me try these products!

Greetings, Gossip Girl fans!

Gorgeous blogger Anya of I'm the It Girl asked for my help with her weekly Gossip Girl fashion round-up while she was away. It's one of my favourite features on her blog and I always enjoy reading the hilarious recaps after a new episode, so needless to say I jumped at the chance to do the guest post. You can read it here. Enjoy!

A Bite Of The Big Apple (Part 2)

  1. The amazing banana tart at Union Square Cafe
  2. View from 86th floor of the Empire State Building
  3. Together and on top of the world!
  4. Times Square at 1:30 in the morning
  5. Exploring the Arms and Armor room at the Met
  6. Giant tortoise fossil at the American Museum of Natural History
  7. Tapas lunch at Despana
  8. The amazing Prada building in SoHo
  9. Having a drink with Oh Lady E and Wendy Brandes on the Upper West Side after a, uh, interesting walk through East Harlem
  10. Colourful handmade magnets in Little Italy
  11. Mukmuk (a gift for my friend Andre) at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park
  12. After a five-course meal at L'Ecole, drinks with Mark, the boy and Andre (as well as Quatchi and Mukmuk) at the Spotted Owl in the East Village

A Bite Of The Big Apple (Part 1)

Greetings! I'm back after a wonderful week in New York with the boy celebrating our one-year anniversary and my birthday. It's back to the daily grind and my everyday routine, but not before sharing snippets of my trip with you and reliving favourite vacation memories. I couldn't narrow down my photos any further so this will be a two-part post. Enjoy!

  1. Early start to the day at the airport
  2. Salchipapa (sausage and French fries) at Peruvian chicken chain Pio Pio
  3. The ceiling of the manually operated elevator in our hotel, Hotel Deauville, a refurbished turn-of-the-century brownhouse
  4. Giant Hello Kitty statue!
  5. Inside MoMA
  6. Modern furniture design
  7. Mid-century building blocks
  8. Taking a ride in the Apple store's glass elevator
  9. Goofing off at FAO Schwarz
  10. Outside the Plaza Hotel
  11. Chanel haute couture wedding gown in the window of Bergdorf Goodman

On Vacation

Just a quick note to say that there will be no new posts between September 19th and 26th. A one-year anniversary with the boy, my birthday, and a week-long trip to New York are all very good reasons for a vacation. Have a great week, and I'll see you when I get back!

One Of A Kind Vancouver Media Sneak Peek

Fellow blogger Nicole, OOAK show manager Allison Day, and Filou designer Fiona Louie.

The holiday season is still months away, but Allison Day and the other organizers of One of a Kind Vancouver want us to start thinking about gifts early. OOAK is one of the biggest craft shows in Vancouver and will be happening on December 9-12 this year at the Vancouver Convention Centre. They were kind enough to hold a chic little media premiere at ORU in the Hotel Fairmont Pacific Rim, where guests sipped on cocktails and wine and sampled hors d'oeuvres as they got a sneak peek at what's in store. The artisans and vendors at this year's show promise a bewildering range of goodies for the young or the young at heart, the foodie or the fashionista alike. Here's a look at some of the things that caught my fancy.

Organic chocolate from Whistler Chocolate

Delicious handmade shortbread from Coach House Shortbread Co. in Toronto. According to Allison, this vendor has long lineups from day one and usually sells out quickly!

Christi York uses vintage and reworked components for her BuenoStyle jewelry line.

If you feel a twinge of guilt every time you toss a piece of cling wrap or aluminum foil in the garbage, consider getting some Abeego wraps for your kitchen. These reusable coated hemp/cotton containers are perfect for wrapping cheeses, fruits, leftovers, and whatever else needs storing in your fridge. They're a great gift idea for home cooks.

If the media premiere is any indication, OOAK should be a great event. Thanks to the organizers for the invite!

Today's Outfit: FMA Fashion Week Opening Gala

It's no fun being sick, particularly during September when events such as FMA Fashion Week are happening and you have to miss shows that you were looking forward to. On the plus side, at least I had the privilege of attending the opening gala on Sunday night before lymph node pain, dizziness, and congestion took over. To celebrate the fact that one of my favourite local designers, Malene Grotrian, was showing her F/W 2010 collection as part of FMA Fashion Week, I laced myself into her black sweetheart neckline bustier. Since 2009, it's become one of my favourite dress-up options because it's versatile enough to go with any skirt. (I last wore it for the JK Models one-year anniversary party.) I pinned the H&M brooch featured in this haul video to the front to match the skirt. Apparently it was a styling job well done because when I said hello to Malene, she didn't realize that I was wearing her design! But that's the genius of her creations--they integrate beautifully with what you already have.

I had a great time meeting new faces and saying hello to familiar ones at the opening gala. When I wasn't saying hello to Vivian from Wink Beauty Lounge or admiring the new jewelry and clothing at the Kiss and Makeup pop-up shop, I was busy taking photos and taking in the night's festivities. Here's a look at the night in snapshots.

Jacqueline Conoir designer RozeMerie Cuevas accepts her FMA Fashion Achievement Award honouring a 25-year long career in Vancouver's fashion industry. "Support local!"

One of Jacqueline Conoir's evening gowns

The epitome of elegance, beauty, grace, and poise, Chan Hon Goh accepts her FMA Art Achievement Award. Goh is a former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada and the founder of Goh Ballet Academy.

Sandra Garcia from Middle Child Marketing and musician Chance Devlin

Introducing Green Sapphire

If you're looking to invest heavy coin in the statement necklace trend this season, look no further than Green Sapphire eco jewelry. At $140-170 apiece, they are definitely a splurge. But consider the drama that this strand of oversized beads can add to simple minimalist ensembles, neutral-coloured outfits, a little black dress or a camel-coloured wool sheath. They're the perfect length to be paired with anything.

And then there's the fact these necklaces are handmade by renowned Brazilian artist/designer Patricia Moura from sustainable eclectic materials such as acai berry seeds, fiber, semiprecious stones, coconut, wood, mother-of-pearl, seashells, abalone, ceramics, and bamboo. The seeds themselves are non-germinating and harvested from the Amazon by indigenous tribes. By using them in her designs, Moura hopes to encourage the cultivation and preservation acai trees in the rainforest and prevent the destructive logging that makes way for cattle farming. These necklaces are versatile, original, high-quality designs that support a plethora of social and environmental causes. I'd say that's money well spent.

Green Sapphire eco jewelry by Patricia Moura is available in Vancouver at body politic, Jeweliette, and Tenth & Proper.

Crème de la Crème Grand Wedding Showcase

If yesterday's post sparked or renewed your interest in weddings and you happen to live in the Lower Mainland, mark the Crème de la Crème Grand Wedding Showcase on your calendars; it's happening at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver on Saturday October 30th from 11am-6pm. I had the opportunity to attend last year and really enjoyed seeing the gowns, floral arrangements, cake, food, and various vendors in attendance. As apathetic as I am to wedding planning stuff, I was still ooh-ing and aah-ing over almost everything I saw.

According to a press release sent out by organizers, attendees can expect a lot out of this year's event too:

"Complimentary services, which include bridal hair consultations, manicures, make-up touch-ups and glam shots, will give brides an unrivaled wedding show experience. Other highlights include a Haute Couture Fashion Show, boasting New York runway designers Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier, along with tastings of the city’s finest cuisine and elixirs, a diamond auction and a new Destination Wedding category, featuring top resorts from around the world including Four Seasons properties, Cayman Islands and Air Canada Vacations."

General tickets (which include a fashion show, gift bag and tastings) are $35, while VIP tickets (which also include a keepsake bag and a consultation with a wedding stylist) are $45 if you buy them in advance online.

Style Advice: What To Wear To A Fall Wedding

Reader Sandy T. recently left this comment on my "what to wear to a wedding" style advice post from last year:

"I am going to a wedding on September 18th. It is an afternoon wedding. What is appropriate to wear? Please help me."

Sandy, I still stand by the original advice I gave in reference to the Polyvore set above:

"Save the sequins and skin-baring numbers for the raucous bachelorette party! Daytime weddings call for something more demure. This full-skirted colour block dress is bold yet classic and feminine; add a silver pendant and pearl stud earrings for some subtle polish without detracting from the impact of the dress. Black peep-toe flats walk the fine line between casual and dressy, while a cropped cardigan will keep bare shoulders warm. I added the Chanel purse because the textured cream-and-black tweed is so lovely."

But an afternoon wedding in autumn calls for some tweaks. Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind for your outfit, accompanied by inspiration collages to help you on your search for the perfect ensemble.

All dresses in this collage from Anthropologie

The dress. A dress that isn't too sparkly, shiny, or revealing is still your best bet for looking put-together at an afternoon wedding. For a fall wedding, look for jewel-toned colours and patterns featuring a light or neutral background. Fabrics should be thicker than spring/summer cottons and luxurious to the touch. If it's a chilly day, you can always wear dark tights with your frock, but make sure you do a test run at home first to see if the dress clings to your tights. You don't want to spend the entire evening tugging your skirt down and fighting static electricity.

All necklaces in this collage from Forever 21

The accessories. A delicate silver necklace and some pearl studs suffice for summer, but fall is a time when fashion becomes bolder, richer, and much more dramatic. Up the ante in your outfit by adding some bling. Put on a statement necklace to bring attention to your face and add visual interest to the neckline of your dress, or slip on a cuff bracelet to play up bare wrists.
All cuff bracelets in this collage from Forever 21

All flats in this collage from Net a Porter. Bloch, Christian Louboutin, Lanvin, Miu Miu, Tory Burch...hey, a girl can dream!

The shoes. In my experience, unless you're going to a Chinese wedding reception and are expected to stay seated through umpteen different courses, you'll most likely be on your feet standing around or dancing. Heels can be painful when worn for hours at a time, and if the wedding's outdoors you definitely don't want your lovely stilettos sinking into mud and grass. The solution? A really pretty pair of flats with interesting details--bows, jewels, ruffled chiffon. Everyone will be enamoured with your shoes while you gloat about how comfortable you are--talk about a win-win.

Sweater, blazer, and coat from Gap. Miu Miu clutch from Net a Porter.

The extras. Autumn can be chilly, so layer accordingly. Aside from wearing tights with your dress, bring a fine-knit cardigan, blazer, or chic trench to wear on top. If you tend to get really cold like I do, wear the cardi under a blazer or trench. Bring along an evening clutch big enough for your essentials and you're good to go.

Sandy, I hope this post has helped you. Readers, do you have any other style advice for her? What would you like to wear if you were going to a fall wedding?

First Vlog Ever!

All the cool kids like Erica from The Style Spy and Nicole from Le Mode du Jour were doing it, so why not? Shooting the video was a lot of fun...uploading a 783 MB file over the course of several hours and having it fail the first time around, not so much.

In this video:
  • There's a shout-out to Nicole.
  • You'll be hearing my voice for the first time (if you've never met me before, that is). How weird is that?!
  • I blather on about why I tend to buy two of something.
  • You can hear my mom yelling something about dinner at one point. Try to pinpoint the exact second this happens.
  • I sound more obsessed with socks than I actually am.

TGIF Tidbits: Vancouver Fashion eZine & FMA Fashion Week

Thank goodness it's Friday! I don't know about the rest of you, but the four-day work week following a long weekend always feels much more tiring than it should. If you're dragging your heels this afternoon and looking for an excuse to procrastinate at work, check out the latest issue of Vancouver Fashion eZine. This month I had the opportunity to interview makeup artist and bodypainting specialist Dana Mooney who's already accomplished a lot in her field at a very young age. Click here to find out how she got into the industry and what her top fall/winter beauty and hair trends are.

Craving more local fashion? Then mark your calendars for FMA Fashion Week. This event kicks off with an opening gala on Sunday September 12th and continues for the rest of week, combining musical acts, fashion shows, dining, shopping, and special events. Check out their website for all the details and to purchase tickets in advance. Personally, I'm looking forward to the JC Studio and Malene Grotrian shows already.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Generation Next New Designer Competition

The Honey Mustard's Sarah Murray announces the winner while Sofia, Jenna, and Marla (from left to right) eagerly await the results.

It's the new designer competition that's launched the careers of luminaries such as Nicole Bridger, Lara Presber, Red Jade, and Two of Hearts, so it comes as no surprise that lovers of local fashion were looking forward to this season's Generaation Next show. As in previous years, Gen Next provides a platform for emerging designers to showcase their work in a runway show. Before the audience ever gets to see their work, contestants are vetted by a panel of fashion industry insiders who look for innovative design and a well-developed marketing and business plan. From there, three finalists are selected to stage a runway show. Typical shows require at least 30 outfits, which is nearly impossible for a new designer to achieve. But Gen Next's format lets the three finalists show 10 outfits each and can therefore give newbie designers the exposure that a runway show brings, sans the expense of staging a full show on their own.

This year's show took place at Performance Works on Granville Island and was organized by local fashion PR agency The Honey Mustard. The obsessive-compulsive side of me couldn't help but admire how well-run the event was: the assigned seating was clearly laid out, the event ran on time, the silent auction was a huge hit, and once the show began each segment flowed smoothly.


First up was Sofia Clothing from Victoria, BC. Sofia's spring/summer 2011 collection featured wearable, on-trend pieces in a neutral palette of black, white, pewter, teal, and cornflower blue. Shift dresses with different details and silhouettes--tank-style, cap sleeves, contrasting colour insets or trim, tulip skirt--were diverse in their range of looks without sacrificing the overall cohesiveness of the collection. I was definitely impressed by the construction, fit, and conceptual integrity of this collection; its polish and maturity reflected a defined vision.



Designer Marla Lede's spring/summer 2011 collection resembled two separate capsule collections and lacked the cohesiveness of Sofia Clothing, although it was still a great effort. Lede opened with a floor-length purple jersey maxi dress followed by more jersey separates, another dress, and even a romper in the same royal hue and a lighter lilac shade. Just as I thought the entire collection would be made of purple jersey and casual to the core, Lede sent some more structured dresses and denim skirts down the runway and finished the show with a floor-length floral maxi.


Madame Wolf

According to designer Jenna Etcheverry's website, "Madame Wolf is an adventurous, confident female that isn’t afraid to be on the provocative side while keeping a sexy, nonchalant attitude. With her boyish charm and love for life, she is low maintenance but high on image. She works hard and plays even harder." Although Etcheverry's vision seems clear enough, the collection lacked cohesion, with looks ranging from black sheer mesh to stripes and more girlish abstract painterly florals. It was a collection that spoke to rocker girls, sailor girls, and girly girls, and in the end its indecisiveness lost me. In spite of this, I still loved the opening look: a strapless sweetheart neckline romper with a long-sleeved sheer overlay that bloused over the bodice.

Madame Wolf

While the judges deliberated, last year's winner, Ella Peru, presented her spring/summer 2010 collection, and what a collection it was! Khaki, olive green, black, and lively floral prints with a dash of pink in the pattern all conspired to create a collection that was at once tomboyish and feminine, tough yet endearing. There was a lot to love: solid-coloured bustier tops, tailored floral shorts, and floaty tops and skirts. I was particularly intrigued by the unusual construction of the pockets on the dresses and bottoms. Instead of being a straight pocket slit or curving in a C-shape, the pocket's top line curves inward, resulting in a pocket that resembles a flower petal unfurling from the garment.

This look and the next two, Ella Peru

So, who got to take home the big prize in the end? It was Sofia Clothing. Congratulations! Lucky Sofia received a prize package full of opportunities and tools to launch her brand, including a solo fashion show at next year's Gen Next event, publicity from The Honey Mustard, a mentorship with JC Studio, a String Magazine photoshoot, and much more. She should prepare herself, because this is surely the start of something big.

Special thanks to Wayne Mah for the beautiful runway photos used in this post.
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