TGIF Tidbits

Lola Home & Apparel (510 Beatty St.) is giving readers and followers of Solo Lisa an additional 20% off their massive year end sale this weekend. Just mention "Solo Lisa" to get the discount. Happy shopping!

And speaking of shopping, in case you haven't heard Dakota Group is having another one of their amazing sample sales today and tomorrow. I always love these sales for their amazing selection of deeply discounted Pour La Victoire, Kelsi Dagger, Faryl Robin, and Matiko shoes. Click here for the full details.

If you'd rather hibernate at home than shop (especially after getting that post-holiday season credit card bill), how about catching up on some blog reading? I've been busy contributing to features on some fantastic blogs: a round-up of fashionable New Year's resolutions on The Anthology as well as a health and fitness feature on Miss Melissa.

Have a great weekend!

Simple DIY: Necklace Pendants Turned Brooches

Do you have necklaces that you rarely wear and too much time on your hands? Here's an easy DIY idea that even the clumsiest of non-crafters can do: Remove the chains and turn the pretty pendant components into brooches. All you need are pin backs (available at craft stores), Krazy glue, and pliers (they make removing chains and jump rings much easier). And presto! Suddenly necklaces that never see the light of day become brooches that add the perfect finishing touch to blazers, sweaters, and coats.

Have you attempted a DIY project recently? Are you crafty or clumsy? Do share in the comments.

Lisa's Most Coveted List

It's time for another edition of my Most Coveted list! Here are five things I'm loving or lusting after right now.

1. Homemade pesto. Laugh if you want, but I was really sad when I used up the last of this summer's homemade pesto and had to resort to the storebought stuff. Browsing the grocery store aisles and perusing the ingredients list on multiple jars of pesto left me disappointed. Most of them didn't even use olive oil, just soybean or sunflower oil. I came home with a jar that I'm not completely satisfied with, so if you have any recommendations for a tasty storebought pesto brand, I'm all ears.

2. Speaking of food, have you heard of Slop Press? This newly launched site aggregates the content that used to be published separately under Vancouver Slop, Toronto Slop and New York Slop. Residents of these cities should check it out to keep up with all the gastronomic developments in their hometown, whether it's Asian fusion food trucks or family-owned Italian delis specializing in house-made salami. I had the privilege of attending their Vancouver website's launch party last Thursday. Judging from the delicious food and drink that they had (Benton Brothers cheese spread, Roaming Dragon appetizers, Re Up BBQ, just to name a few of the generous sponsors), the writers at Slop Press really know their stuff. (Hmm maybe they'll have a pesto recommendation.)

3. NARS velvet matte lip pencil in 'Cruella' ($30 Cdn at Sephora, The Bay and Holt Renfrew). This pencil was also featured in my last Most Coveted list. Little did I know when I bought it exactly how much I'd come to rely on it in the next 1.5 months. That's just how fantastic the colour and formula are. A classic red with depth and sophistication, 'Cruella' adds drama to even the simplest of looks but is subdued enough to work well for the office. It's the go-to shade I always keep stashed in my purse these days.

4. Brooches. Inspired by the way my friend cwangdom always pins a sparkly brooch on her black blazers and coats to brighten them up, lately I've taken to doing the same. My small collection comes from a variety of sources (more about that in an upcoming post this week), but if I had unlimited funds I'd be very tempted to splurge on a vintage Chanel cross brooch or two.

5. Badgley Mischka 'Melissa' bag in leopard. Last but certainly not least on this list is the newest addition to my little purse family, found while browsing Winners last week. I wasn't actually looking to buy anything, and even with the discount this bag cost more than I was prepared to spend at the moment, so I twitpic'd it and put it to a vote on Twitter. A huge thank you goes out to the ones who replied with a unanimous "yes" because otherwise I'd be kicking myself for not getting it. The gold hardware is just chunky and sparkly enough to add a sense of fun to this otherwise classic chain-strap turnlock clasp bag, but not so oversized that this bag will look dated anytime soon. It's a crossbody design and the perfect size for an evening out. I also love the leopard-print ponyhair flap (the rest of the bag is black leather).

Today's Outfit: Easy Work Ensemble #2

  • Banana Republic cardigan
  • Mexx necklace
  • H&M striped tee
  • Timex watch
  • Joe Fresh skinny patent belt
  • American Apparel trousers and patent oxfords

Like my previous work ensemble, this one revolves around a cardigan and pants and also features my new favourite watch. But what a difference a chunky necklace, stripes, and black patent oxfords can make. Didn't I tell you that during the work week I'm all about the fail-safe fallback outfits? I think I'm going to keep posting work outfits for the next little while and alternate them with other outfit posts, just because it's kind of interesting how they're all variations on the same five outfits but manage to look quite different. What do you think?

From Solo Lisa's Kitchen: Porcini Mushroom Soup

Last year the boy's brother went on a trip to Florence with his fiancée and they returned bearing gifts for everyone, including porcini mushrooms for me. Having never cooked with them before, I cast about Epicurious for a recipe and found a delicious-sounding one for porcini mushroom soup. The recipe also called for white mushrooms; I used organic instead of the normal variety because they had better flavour. The result: a hearty, satisfying vegetable soup so full of savoury goodness that my mom asked if I'd put meat in it (I hadn't).

Have any of you tried cooking with porcini before? They're an ingenious ingredient: first, because the mushrooms themselves add a lot of depth to the dish; second, because the boiling hot water you pour over the porcini to soak them in can later be used in soup broths and such. A dual purpose ingredient that adds twice the flavour to anything you cook, and is easy to use to boot. I approve.

And the winner is...

...shortwidenails! Congratulations on winning a $50 gift certificate for the Tension Clothing Sample Sale. Here are the two items that she'd love to find:
  1. a simple work top that I can dress up and down. Not so simple that it is 1 color and has sleeves and a v neck..but maybe with a simple design or something
  2. soft pleather moto jacket
Someone from Tension will be contacting you shortly with details on how you can claim your prize. Happy shopping!

Geek Chic Guys' Tees on

Tthe boy will always remain a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy. When we first began dating, I had secret visions of transforming him into a suave facsimile of GQ fashion spreads, visions which have since vanished. But if he were to change he wouldn't be the same guy I fell for, right? (Plus I'd probably lose respect for him if he were backbone-less enough to let me make him over completely.) These days we're more likely to be found shopping for the perfect tees to replace his worn-out ones than pocket squares and suspenders.

Speaking of the perfect tee, do you know how hard it is to find one? The boy refuses to spend more than $20 on a tee that will get worn to shreds and he regards those from mainstream retailers with disdain. "They're so generic," he complained the last time we shopped. "Every other guy has the same shirt." Add to that issues of quality control (hello, shrinkage) and we have a serious challenge on our hands.

Enter I'd heard great things about their tees from the software developers at my previous company, but never looked at the site until now. What I found there delighted me. The graphics were unique and sometimes dorky but rarely douchey or overly ironic. The prices were reasonable, plus having seen the T-shirts' quality firsthand (i.e. admired them on my coworkers) I knew they weren't flimsy.

In other news, guess what the boy's going to get this Valentine's Day.

Have you ordered anything off Threadless before? What do you think of their tees?

Today's Outfit: Sunday Brunch

  • Forever 21 blouse
  • Dominic Design bamboo earrings
  • Uniqlo denim leggings
  • Joe Fresh moto boots

A patterned blouse, denim leggings, and moto boots felt just right for a relaxed meal of blueberry waffles and prosciutto eggs Benedict at Browns Social House, followed by a casual stroll up and down West 4th. The boy and I kept browsing novelty and kitchenware stores, although I couldn't resist a stop at Gravity Pope to ogle the Marc by Marc Jacobs mouse flats. In the end, the only things we bought were a multi-purpose pasta pot/strainer/steamer (on sale!) at Ming Wo and a wooden spatula.

What did you do on Sunday?

Today's Outfit: Easy Work Ensemble #1

  • Joe Fresh cardigan
  • American Apparel lace tee
  • TNA racerback tank
  • Uniqlo denim leggings
  • Timex watch
  • Kate Spade rainboots

Two things really stood out about my first week of work. First, it rained a lot, which meant I wore my Kate Spade rainboots for most of it. Second, getting up early and undergoing endless hours of training was a lot more exhausting than anticipated. As discussed in Tuesday's post, most days I went for easy, comfortable outfits that I was sure would work. This is one example of a surefire outfit combination that I fall back on when I can't think of anything else to wear: a cardigan over a top, skinny jeans, and boots. I like how the dashes of red in the rainboots' bows and the watch strap add colour along with the yellow cardigan, while the pearl buttons on the cardigan and lacy pattern of the top provide points of visual interest. It proves that "easy and comfortable" doesn't necessarily equal "boring."

From Solo Lisa's Kitchen: Beef Chili and Chicken and Pasta with Homemade Pesto

New year, new job, and along with all these changes, a plunge back into cooking at least once a week. Making a week's worth of lunches and packing them into containers is my way of eating out less and saving more money. The day before the boy and I returned to work from the Christmas holidays, we shopped for ingredients to make this delicious-sounding beef and bean chili recipe I found on The amount of fresh jalapeno it called for turned out to be too much and we left out the chili powder completely for fear that the chili might be too spicy. But next time we might halve the amount of jalapeno and substitute chili powder instead. As good as this chili was, it lacked the smoky depth that chili powder probably would've provided.

After the chili was done, I took some homemade pesto out of the freezer to defrost and made quick lunches out of pennette pasta and chicken breast. I tweeted a photo at the end and someone commented that the chicken still looked raw. It does look really pink in the photo, but rest assured that it was fully cooked in real life.

Are you into cooking? What have you made in your kitchen lately?

Tension Clothing Warehouse Sale & Giveaway

It's that time of year again! Tension Clothing along with sister lines Sweet Chemise and T by Tension are having their amazing annual warehouse sale. But that's not all: Tension's designer has taken a foray into designing kids' clothes through the Mochi Ga Ga and Sweet Chemise Princess lines, so it's worth checking out the sale even if you're shopping for a little one rather than yourself. Enjoy up to 80% off these locally designed labels. See the flyer above for details.

Wait--there's more! The generous folks at Tension Clothing are offering one lucky Solo Lisa reader a $50 gift certificate to be redeemed at the sale.

To enter the giveaway, you must:
  1. Be a Lower Mainland resident.
  2. Leave a comment on this post telling me what you'd love to find at the sale.
Did yesterday's post inspire you to stock up easy-to-wear pieces for work? Are you finally going to get in shape this year and are in desperate need of new workout clothes? Or maybe there's a specific item you've spotted on the website that you fell in love with at first sight? Do share in your comment.

The contest closes Wednesday January 19th at 12pm Pacific time, after which a winner will be chosen randomly. Good luck!

Easy Outfit Solutions for Early Morning Commuters

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to become a morning person: get to work early and leave by 5pm. This is no small feat considering that starting at 10-10:30am and ending around 6:30pm was the norm for me at my previous company. A new job provided the perfect excuse to adjust my schedule and have my evenings to myself again. After a few exhausting days last week, it seems to be working out well. I get so much done before noon and when I come home I can work on my blog or go to yoga and dance classes.

The only downside: to maximize sleep and minimize prep time, I have about 3-5 minutes to get dressed before moving on to the rest of my morning routine. Rifling through drawers, flipping through hangers, and pondering what to wear is a luxury reserved for someone who can afford to hit the snooze alarm a couple of times.

That being said, here are my tried-and-true strategies for putting together a stylish outfit when pressed for time:
  1. Check the weather forecast and lay out your clothes and accessories the night before. (If you do this the battle is already half-won.)
  2. Stock up on variations of the pieces that you wear most often. For some it might be dresses, tights, costume jewelry, and waist-cinching belts. For others it could be delicate blouses, cashmere cardigans, and skinny trousers.
  3. Try to work in some pattern and/or colour.
  4. When in doubt, have a "fallback outfit" (or five).
What is a fallback outfit, you ask? It's that easy, comfortable outfit formula that you know is guaranteed to work 100% when you're too tired to layer and tuck, experiment and accessorize. Here are some fallback outfit formulas that work for me and my work environment (casual, no dress code), courtesy of Polyvore.


easy work ensemble 2

Early Monday mornings are particularly brutal if you've had a full social calendar all weekend. A colourful cardigan, simple blouse, and dark wash skinny jeans look put-together and are a no-brainer to throw on. Feminine accessories complete the look.


easy work ensemble 4

With Monday blues wearing off, Tuesday is bound to be more productive and busy. Look chic but stay comfortable in a sweater dress cinched with a red patent leather belt and tall black leather riding boots.


easy work ensemble 3

Reuse the red patent leather belt from yesterday's outfit to give a patterned blouse and camel trousers a slight jolt of colour.


easy work ensemble 1

Over-the-knee boots, a patterned shirtdress, leggings, and a crossbody bag are low on fuss and high on style.


easy work ensemble 5

Lace tops are surprisingly demure with a cami underneath and a blazer on top. When it's time meet up with friends or that special someone for drinks or dinner after work, put on a sparkly necklace and some bright lipstick.

Do you have any tips or tricks to get yourself ready and out the door in no time on early weekday mornings? What are the fallback outfits that work for you?

The View from the Hot Seats

Confession: Before attending the Canucks vs. Oilers game last Friday as a guest of the Metropolis Hot Seats program, I'd never been to a Canucks game. (It seems kind of sacrilegious coming from a born-and-bred Vancouverite, doesn't it?) For those of you unfamiliar with the Metropolis Hot Seats program, it's a recurring contest that gives customers the chance to win exclusive Executive Suite tickets to concerts and Canucks games. The program began last August and has already provided numerous winners the chance to see Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, and Jack Johnson--just to name a few of the big-name performers--as well as a slew of sporting events.

The Hot Seats promise an incomparable experience. Instead of the noisy din and bad view you get from, say, the nosebleed section, you're ensconced in an intimate box high above the crowds with a sweeping view of the entire arena. Behind the seating area, black leather couches and bar stools offer a place to socialize between periods or have a drink. The Suite is also equipped with a small kitchenette and its own private bathroom--no need to suffer long lineups.

The other highlight was the food. Platters of fresh fruit and veggies, crackers and cheese, as well as an unending supply of popcorn and chips, were already set out for the Metropolis Hot Seats winners to enjoy when I arrived. Non-alcoholic beverages were cooling in the fridge. Later in the evening we enjoyed delicious sliders, chicken wings, and battered fried prawns. And to top it off, we had fresh warm cookies for dessert! Everyone exclaimed over the warm cookies and the comforting sugary smell wafting from them. Between the amazing view of the ice and all the food, the Canucks' 6-1 victory over the Oilers with a hat trick by Kesler, and the infectious enthusiasm of the fans that filled the arena, it was a wonderful evening indeed.

Many thanks to Sarah Wong of Metropolis at Metrotown for this fantastic experience! If you're curious about upcoming contests, check out their website for details, follow them on Twitter, or find them on Facebook. To get your own chance to be in the Hot Seats, inquire at the Metropolis at Metrotown customer service kiosks and fill out a ballot. Good luck to you if you do!

Today's Outfit: Baby It's Cold Outside

A while ago a reader asked me how I dressed for the cold and layered without bulking up. Here are my rules of thumb for getting dressed on brisk mornings:
  1. Fabrication matters. Silk, angora, lambswool, merino wool, and cashmere are all good materials to look for in tops, sweaters, and sweater dresses.
  2. Wool coats should have an interlining (a thin insulating layer between the outer wool layer and the inner silky lining). Unfortunately many fast fashion retailers don't take this extra step of putting in an interlining, so a quality winter coat that will keep you warm will also cost a pretty penny.
  3. Opt for fine knits that fit close to the body instead of chunky ones.
  4. Layer a cami under thin tops or sweater dresses for extra warmth.
  5. Don't underestimate the power of accessories. Boots, cozy socks, scarves, gloves, earmuffs, and hats will keep your head and extremities feeling toasty when you're out and about.
To illustrate, here's an outfit I wore during a recent cold snap in Vancouver and what I layered on top.

  • Banana Republic merino wool cardigan
  • Forever 21 plaid shirt
  • Uniqlo denim leggings
  • t o o d l e s by Toodlebunny cameo earrings
  • Timex watch
  • O by Oscar de la Renta floral silk scarf (wrapped around my neck to keep myself extra warm under my coat's foldover collar)

What are your secrets for staying warm when the temperature drops?

January issue of Vancouver Fashion eZine is out!

For this month's issue, I had the pleasure of profiling one of my favourite Gastown boutiques, LYNNsteven, and interviewing owner Nicole Dennis Durnin. How did she manage to start her own business in the midst of a recession and still achieve success? What sorts of hard-to-find labels and items does LYNNsteven stock? And what's the scoop on that changing room made entirely of paperback novels? You'll have to read the article to find out.

Vlog: Boxing Week Shopping in Seattle

Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for the outpouring of support in the blog comments and on Twitter. While I'm keeping busy with my new job, Solo Lisa is kicking off 2011 with a vlog recapping the spoils of a Boxing Week day trip down to Seattle. The mission: hit up Madewell, J. Crew, and Anthropologie. The result? Well, you'll have to watch the video or refer to the collage below to find out. (I realized afterward that you can't see the Anthropologie pieces properly, so I found web images for each item.) Enjoy!

Did you find any great deals during Boxing Week? Please do share in the comments.

P.S. In case you haven't seen it, gorgeous blogger Kelsey of The Anthology asked a bunch of Vancouver bloggers what their stylish New Year's resolutions were for 2011. Click here to find out mine.
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