Introducing Nadia Albano

Tucked away in the first floor of a heritage building on Granville and Robson, Nadia Albano Style Inc. is a haven for beauty and fashion lovers alike. The chic, cozy studio is filled with feminine touches: pink accents, black photo frames, shelves of fashion books, mirrors and chandeliers. I had a chance to stop by Albano's studio and check it out in person, as well as chat with the warm and personable Ms. Albano herself over espresso and a biscuit.

The studio is a veritable one-stop shop for women seeking a little makeover magic. Albano is a Jane-of-all-trades in the fashion industry with more than a decade of experience in the wedding industry, hair, makeup artistry, wardrobe consultation, photo shoots and fashion shoots. She is the founder and lead instructor of the makeup artistry certificate program at Vancouver Community College, and was a top 2 finalist in The Ultimate W Expert Challenge. Chances are if you have a style-related question, she can answer it.

For more information about Nadia or to book an appointment for a service, visit her website.


Product Review: Weleda Sea Buckthorn Body Oil

For 90 years, European brand Weleda has been a staple in the bathroom counters and medicine cabinets of many beauty addicts. Their products are made from naturally sourced ingredients and their legendary Skin Food is lauded and loved by many. Recently I had the chance to try Weleda's Sea Buckthorn Body Oil ($25 for 100ml), and if my experience with this one product is any indication, I'm starting to see why the brand is so beloved.

Made from sesame and organic sea buckthorn oils with a touch of citrus, the formula promises to deliver intense moisture along with a heavy dose of vitamins, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids. As great as it is for winter, the Sea Buckthorn Body Oil is supposedly very good for summer too: its high antioxidant content and richness restore damaged sun-parched skin.

I've been using this oil for the past month, and while I can't speak to its lofty antioxidant claims, I can attest to the fact that it moisturizes better than many lotions and creams. A little oil rubbed into my arms and legs after my shower and before I go to bed, and I wake up with silky smooth skin. Even the boy commented on how soft my skin was! As for the formula, it's lightweight and surprisingly non-greasy (as long as you don't overdo it). It warms on contact, feels luxurious and smells delectably citrusy. All in all, the perfect product.

Are you a fan of Weleda? Which products have you tried?

3 Launches in Vancouver

I sign up for flash sale and coupon sites all the time even if I rarely read the emails or buy anything. I just like having the feeling of being able to get a good deal on something I would've bought at full price anyway. For fellow Vancouverites who think the same way I do, there's a new deal site in town to join: An East coast fixture that's expanding outward one Canadian city at a time, FabFind is celebrating its Vancouver launch with a week of free deals. Here's what the site's founders have to say:

"With roots already in Toronto and Montreal, FabFind is bringing its giving ways to Vancouver with a week-long celebration of free deals. Each and every day, FabFind offers a limited quantity of heavily discounted certificates--50-100% off--to the city's best restaurants, spas, and retailers. For its launch, the deal site is offering freebies at a variety of local hotspots.

"If you happen to be the type of person who likes to share a great deal, you can even register for FabFind's Save-it-Forward program (which is also free) and earn 5% of everything your friends and family members spend on the site for an entire year. With this introductory week of freebies, FabFind will be delivering some much needed excitement to Vancouver's inboxes."

Excited? You should sign up today. P.S. The free deal for today is $10 off at Beyond the Rack.

Editorial note: This was a sponsored post.


Dace x One of a Few x Erin Templeton Sample Sale

Starts tomorrow! Click the flyer for details.


My Sabai Thai Experience

Nestled in the heart of Coal Harbour, Sabai Thai offers weary city dwellers a haven of relaxation, Southeast Asian style. It's a full service spa offering everything from facials to body wraps, exfoliation, waxing and pedicures. It's also renowned for its massage treatments, which draw on age-old Thai techniques to rid the body of muscle fatigue and tension. It was their 60-minute traditional Thai massage that I was there to try one Tuesday evening.

After filling out the requisite paperwork, my massage therapist Peerapan led me to one of the dimly lit massage rooms where soft music played and a faint scent of essential oils filled the air. I changed into a loose-fitting tunic and Thai-style wraparound pants and settled on the huge bed as instructed while waiting for Peerapan to return.

If the words "Thai massage" conjure up images of lying passively on your stomach while someone else kneads your back like bread dough, think again. Unlike the slow-paced massage practices of other countries, this is a rigorous process with intense pressure point work and stretching. As Peerapan put it, "It's like having someone do yoga for you."

Like yoga, Thai massage goes back thousands of years. With both of us on the bed, she used every part of her body--fingers, elbows, feet, arms--to target tense spots and contort my body. Yoga practitioners would feel right at home. Some of the postures she put me into felt like a wheelbarrow pose or a cobra--except in this case, she was pushing my legs over my head, or pulling on my arms to hold my body upright and yield more intense sensation.

At times I worried she'd push me too far and I'd sprain something, but Peerapan asked regularly if she was using too much pressure or putting too much strain on me. Don't worry if you're not flexible: Sabai Thai is used to working with people with limited flexibility, and their massage therapists will adjust to suit the needs and tastes of clients. Because I'm prone to severe muscle tension and I was curious about how deep the massage could be, I didn't ask Peerapan to lighten up on the pressure.

Some of the pressure point work bordered on uncomfortable, and the next day I had sore toes and glutes. (It's literally an all-over body massage.) On the bright side though, my neck and shoulders felt great. This isn't for everyone, but if you're prone to extreme tension and you've left massages feeling as though your muscles weren't worked hard enough, then perhaps one of Sabai Thai's treatments is for you.

A special thanks to Peerapan and Sabai Thai for letting me try one of their massage treatments. Sabai Thai has locations in Coal Harbour, North Vancouver and West Vancouver. To book an appointment or find out more about their services, visit their website.


Pinkberry Opens Its First Canadian Outpost in Vancouver

Judging from the enthusiastic crowd at last Thursday's grand opening of the first Pinkberry location in Canada, it was definitely frozen yogurt everyone was screaming for and not ice cream. Founded in 2005 and hailing from LA, the cult favourite dessert chain has finally made its way across the 49th parallel and set up shop in Park Royal Village, West Vancouver. When I arrived at the VIP party, the lineup to sample Pinkberry's fare was already hours long.

What sets Pinkberry apart from similar frozen yogurt chains? They offer the freshest fruit toppings and a wide variety of fun flavours. Besides the popular half tart, half sweet Original flavour, they also have an assortment of seasonal ones. I had a chance to try the pomegranate froyo topped with fresh blueberries, raspberries and mochi. The raspberries were plump and juicy, not tart or overripe, while the pomegranate frozen yogurt tasted fruity but not too sweet--just the way I like it.

Okay, there's a possibility that not all of the people who showed up were dessert aficionados. Some of them might have been screaming for Cory Monteith of Glee fame, who was performing there with his band, Bonnie Dune.

Cory Monteith on the drums

Bonnie Dune

Glee celebrity sightings aside, the Pinkberry party was a wonderful chance to see familiar faces and meet new ones.

"The Cupcake Girls" Lori Joyce and Heather White

Thanks to Pinkberry and Lisa Kwong of Tara Parker Tait PR for inviting me to the opening party! I had a wonderful time.


Today's Outfit: Summer Days

  • Cici dress and belt
  • Urban Outfitters straw fedora
  • Kelsi Dagger sandals
  • Lipstick: Stila Long Wear Lip Color Matte in 'Intriguing'

You're probably sick of reading my complaints about the cold, underwhelming summer in Vancouver. But seriously, I could use more balmy days this season if only because they're the perfect excuse to don short dresses, straw fedoras and chiffon ruffle-trimmed sandals. I wore this outfit two weeks ago for dinner at Campagnolo Roma with the boy and salsa dancing. (I left the hat in the car for the dancing portion of the evening.) The weather reverted to clouds and rain shortly after. Depressing, I tell you.


Product Review: Mary Kay Eye Makeup

My limited experience with Mary Kay products has exposed me to some products that I quite like. I love the Timewise Night Solution for its clarifying and anti-aging properties. Their eye primer and bestselling oil-free eye makeup remover work as well as similar products from department store brands. So when Mary Kay asked me to try some of their new eye makeup products, I was definitely game. The package I received in the mail included:

  • The Mineral Eye Colour Bundle ($22) for brown eyes, which consisted of Sienna (a matte dark beige), Silky Caramel a medium beige very close to my skin tone), and Midnight Star (a sparkly blue). These eyeshadow bundles are purportedly put together by makeup artists to intensify and flatter different eye colours. The mineral eye colour formula, according to Mary Kay's website, is long-lasting, crease-resistant and oil-absorbing.
  • The Shadow and Eye Line Duo ($18) in Brushed Copper, a combination shadow/liner pen with coppery eyeshadow on one end and a brown pencil liner on the other. This product promises convenience and superior blendability.
  • The Lash Love Mascara ($21), which contains an exclusive Panthenol-Pro complex and Vitamin E to nourish your lashes and claims to deliver 4x the volume of your ordinary lashes.

Before I share my thoughts on each product, here's a photo of what my right eye looked like sans makeup. I tried the Mineral Eye Colour Bundle on my left eye and the Shadow and Eye Line Duo on the right.

The "before"

As much as I like the Mary Kay products listed in the first paragraph, their latest offerings disappointed me for a variety of reasons.

The portability and convenience of the Shadow and Eye Line Duo pen are tops, but the eyeshadow wasn't very easy to blend and the brown liner smudged after a couple hours. The shadow's colour also seemed a bit off. I was expecting something more bronzy and shimmery from a hue called "Brushed Copper." The actual result: a bright pumpkin orange with very little shimmer. I had to rub my finger across my lid to mute the intensity of the orange.

I wasn't impressed with the Mineral Eye Colour Bundle either. Sienna and Silky Caramel are good neutral basic shades that would look great on anyone. Midnight Star, however, made me look like I had a bruised eye. Overall I found that the eye colours weren't as long-lasting, blendable or highly pigmented as other eyeshadow brands I've tried.

The Lash Love Mascara wasn't bad. Its flexible plastic applicator does a good job of coating every lash without clumping, and the formula stays put admirably instead of smudging or flaking. Nonetheless, I'd hesitate to purchase Lash Love Mascara just because there are plenty of drugstore mascaras that can do the same things (no clumps, smudges or flakes) at half the price.

Given my experience with these new Mary Kay eye makeup products, I think I'll stick to my tried-and-true favourites.

Any Mary Kay fans out there? Have you tried these or other products from the line?


Fantasy Cocktail Party Dresses

Have you ever played that game where you host a fantasy dinner or cocktail party? You know, the one where you invite any guest you want, dead or alive, and imagine whimsical foods and party surroundings. While the details of my fantasy guest list, menu and party theme are murky at best, at least I can say with some certainty that I'd love to wear any of these dresses from Shopbop.

Temperley London Mini 'Beatriz' dress ($1051.11)

Preen Envelope dress ($1071.14)

M Missoni sleeveless knit dress ($695.74)

MM6 Maison Martin Margiela striped dress with shoulder detail ($143.65)

3.1 Phillip Lim mix jacquard dress with open tie back ($332.85)

$1000+ dresses may not be the stuff of reality, but it sure is fun to dream. What would you wear to your fantasy dinner/cocktail party?


Solo Lisa Reads: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins

In high school, I was sometimes ostracized because I excelled in English class, which was an endless source of anxiety for classmates whose best subjects were math and science. Now my writing skills are the foundation of my career and have let me pursue what I love. They're part of why I'm valued in the workforce and outside of it. Stories like mine are the anecdotal underpinning of Alexandra Robbins's compelling new book, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School.

Robbins blends narrative non-fiction with social science research to explain why the "cafeteria fringe"--nerds, geeks and outsiders excluded from the popular cliques--excel once they leave the conformity-driven pressure cooker that is high school. Her "quirk theory" states the traits that make a high school student a geek become the traits that others prize most when the student leaves high school. Moreover, being an outsider develops characteristics that serve individuals well when they grow older: creativity, free-thinking, resilience, self-awareness, integrity, a love of learning and courage.

So why are these traits and characteristics being stamped out of students rather than encouraged? Robbins explores a host of reasons rooted in behavioural psychology, group dynamics and education system flaws. Along with her analysis, she follows seven real-life outsiders over the course of one year and chronicles their struggles. Their stories are compelling stuff as you follow them through heartaches and triumphs. For anyone who's experienced this firsthand, the quirk theory presented in The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff. But overall the book is an intriguing read for anyone who's interested in popular culture and youth psychology.


Native Shoes

As much as we girls love our stilettos, ballerina flats and every shoe in between, sometimes there are places where our beloved footwear fears to tread. Think muddy days spent gardening or doing yard work, camping trips, canoeing and kayaking, and walks along the beach. Instead of reaching for the ugly plastic shoes that fashionistas love to hate when you're about to embark on a grubby activity, why not opt for a pair of Native Shoes? Founded in 2009 right here in Vancouver, Native Shoes uses injection-molded EVA for their designs. The resulting shoes are lightweight, comfortable, odor-resistant and breathable. Best of all, their sleek styling mimics classic casual shoes like Vans, Converse low-tops, Keds, loafers and top-siders.

For a full list of stockists, check out their website. In Vancouver, Native Shoes are sold at Walrus Home.


Zara Double-Breasted Raincoat

Is it weird that I'm thinking of trenches when we're in the midst of summer? Not when the weather forecast this week calls for rain. I love the idea of a short trench: it combines the polished chic of a long trench coat with the sporty ease of a jacket or blazer, and it looks particularly charming with trousers and jeans. Zara's spin on the short trench uses a smooth mid- to heavy-weight cotton that feels much more expensive than its price tag, and it features all the earmarks of a classic piece of outerwear. Think shoulder epaulets, burnished buttons, double-breasted styling, a belt and a back vent. Yes, not bad at all for under $80.

Double-breasted raincoat ($79.90 at Zara)


Luxe or Less: Small Cross Body Bags

Keep your hands free and your essentials close by with a small cross body bag. They're the perfect size for toting around your cell phone, keys, lipstick and a few other sundries without weighing you down. I always love how I feel fancy-free and up for anything when I wear mine. A night out on the town or dinner and a movie. Lazy Sunday brunch or grocery shopping. Outdoor concerts or late-night walks with that special someone.

Because the bag is so small, I like the idea of upping the fun factor by choosing ones with unusual details and bright colours. Classic touches like chain straps and turnlock clasps add enough polish to take the bag from day to night. This style has been going strong for several seasons now, and for women who want panache and practicality in their bags, it shows no signs of slowing down.

Marc by Marc Jacobs round bag ($229.12)

Rebecca Minkoff 'Baby Belle' bag ($207.51)

Gorjana 'Madison' small cross body bag ($139.28)

Christian Louboutin mini 'Sweet Charity' glitter and suede bag ($795)

Zara studded messenger bag with bow ($99.90)

Zara embellished drawstring bag ($99.90)

Aldo 'Roches' bag ($17.49)


Solo Lisa Reads: Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Something funny happens to my spare time during the summer months. I have a million things on my to-do list and plans with dozens of people, but somehow I still manage to read. Let's just say my Kobo account on my iPad has seen plenty of action in the last few weeks.

I've always had a soft spot for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, so you can imagine my curiosity and excitement when I saw the latest book, Sisterhood Everlasting, on Kobo's new releases page. Ann Brashares resumes the story of lifelong best friends Tabitha, Bridget, Lena and Carmen ten years after the fourth "summer of the pants" in which the pants became lost forever.

Without the magic of the pants to hold them together, and with the demands of their individual lives pulling them in different directions, the once strong sisterhood has become a shadow of its former self. Tabitha has married longtime boyfriend Brian and moved to Australia; her messages are intermittent before she drifts out of their lives completely for two years. Bridget lives with longtime beau Eric in San Francisco and feels herself settling down but growing restless. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to a man none of her friends like. Lena immerses herself in art and teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design, trying to forget her ill-fated relationship with the love of her life Kostos.

Then mysterious messages arrive for the other three girls from Tabitha, who summons them to Greece for a reunion trip. An unexpected tragedy ensues, after which the sisterhood must grieve and figure out how they can move on.

For fans of the series, Sisterhood Everlasting is a sequel that satisfies. Brashares writes with grace and self-assurance, her deft prose sketching out the quirks of each character with loving detail. Of the four girls in the sisterhood, my favourite has always been Lena. There may have been some heartache and a few tears on my part when things didn't work out between her and Kostos in the first four books. Here their relationship finally reaches the happy resolution both characters deserve. I'd love to see what happens to the girls at a later point in their lives, but if Sisterhood Everlasting is going to be the last book in the series, well, it certainly ties things up nicely.

What have you been reading this summer?


July issue of Vancouver Fashion eZine is out!

This month, I had the privilege of profiling Lola Home and Apparel, a lovely lifestyle/concept store, formerly of Yaletown, now located in the historic Sun Tower in the up-and-coming Crosstown neighbourhood. Owner Christina McDaniel does a fantastic job of stocking Lola with unique and eclectic treasures. Think fragrances, candles, shoes and pretty stationery. So what exactly does Lola want? You'll have to read the article to find out.

Lisa's Most Coveted List

This month's Most Coveted list is equal parts wishlist and love list. Enjoy!

1. Contributor by Rachel Comey sandals ($49 online at Urban Outfitters). Flat and low-heeled sandals are much more interesting than flip-flops when it comes to summer footwear options, particularly when they have cool details like colour-blocking, strap loops and a low 1" wedge heel. If red is too bold for you, don't fret: the black version (featured in I'm the It Girl's latest Shoe Wednesday post) is just as stylish.

2. Alice + Olivia petal sleeve blouse ($221.08). Trends may come and go, but a black-and-white tie-neck blouse has perennial appeal. I like how the sleeves and tie have a soft fluttery quality in Alice + Olivia's version, probably thanks to the luxe silk crepe fabrication.

3. Juliet & Company Poudre Noir necklace ($72.35). Speaking of the appeal of black and white, how about this necklace? The design is simple and beautiful, evoking allusions to art deco and Coco Chanel yet still maintaining a sense of modernity. (Translation: I really, really love it.)

4. The trailer for Black Sheep. Has anyone seen this movie? It's a horror film about killer sheep. Set in New Zealand. And yes, I'm being completely serious. I laughed so hard when I first saw the trailer that I nearly cried. Then I forwarded it to my manager and coworker.

5. Goody spin pins. My thick unruly Asian hair decimates regular bobby pins. They either slide out or become splayed and useless after I stick them in a bun, and it always seems to take more bobby pins than I expected to achieve the perfect 'do. This summer though, I've been relying on the Goody spin pins to put my hair up quickly and easily. Just two corkscrew pins that never splay or bend out of shape, one or two bobby pins to tuck in stray ends, and I'm good to go. The spin pins create a bun that stays in place quite well if you're doing nothing more than sitting in front of a computer and going about your day, although it doesn't hold up to an intense workout or a slew of salsa spins. Oh well, you can't win them all!


Product Review: Dermalogica Blemish Fighters

My skin is pretty good for the most part, but that doesn't mean I'm immune from the occasional breakout. My pimples usually flare up quickly; they don't get large or inflamed, but they are stubborn enough to persist in the face of any anti-blemish treatment I throw at them and last about a week at least, only to leave behind a dark spot that doesn't fade.

Enter Dermalogica's Overnight Clearing Gel ($58; available at BeautyMark). Dermalogica headquarters was kind enough to send it to me after reading my not-so-great review of the Concealing Spot Treatment. (More about that later.) This clear gel contains the traditional skin-clearing ingredients salicylic acid and tea tree oil, as well as a slew of vitamins and natural extracts: vitamin B complex, zinc gluconate, yeast extract, caffeine rosemary, spiraea and nordihydroguaiaretic acid, a powerful antioxidant. It's a blemish-fighting cocktail that promises to reduce inflammation, zap bacteria, clear congested pores and inhibit sebum production.

I had a chance to try the Overnight Clearing Gel against a full-fledged breakout as well as a few bumps that seemed like they were on the verge of becoming blemishes, and an inflamed under-the-skin pimple on my nose that was red and swollen. (Okay, so my otherwise good skin didn't have a very good two months. I blame stress.) For the full-fledged breakout, the Overnight Clearing Gel reduced the duration and severity. I even avoided the post-pimple dark spot. For the blemishes-in-the-making, the gel cleared up the bumps overnight. The gel also reduced the redness, size and pain of the inflamed under-the-skin pimple overnight. In three days, what could've become an unsightly and painful mess on the end of my nose cleared up without a trace.

As effective as the Overnight Clearing Gel was, I also found it to be quite gentle and it didn't dry out my skin at all. The instructions say to apply it all over your cleansed face at night, which is good for someone with all-over acne. If you're like me and only prone to occasional breakouts, it also works well if you just apply it to specific spots. Yes, it's a pricey product, but the 50 ml bottle is huge and contains more than enough product to last you.

Of course, the miraculous disappearance of the inflamed breakout can't be attributed to the Overnight Clearing Gel alone. It had help in the form of the Concealing Spot Treatment ($42; available at BeautyMark), which I still had lying around despite my mediocre experience with it the first time. Remembering what Anya said in the comments about how the Concealing Spot Treatment stopped her pimples from getting inflamed, for three days I dabbed a bit of Concealing Spot Treatment on my nose. While the salicylic acid and tea tree oil in the Overnight Clearing Gel worked their magic as I slept, during the day the zinc oxide and sulfur in the Concealing Spot Treatment provided round-the-clock blemish-fighting. I still think the Concealing Spot Treatment doesn't do much for the sorts of pimples I usually get, but I'll go with Anya on this one: it's quite good for stopping a painful inflamed blemish in its tracks.


My Canada Day Long Weekend: Soulstice & Salsa

Where oh where has the Canada Day long weekend gone? It was so relaxing I didn't want it to end.

On Friday, the boy and I had a huge dim sum brunch with his brothers and friends, meandered down sunny Main Street, then made our way downtown for the Soulstice concert at the Orpheum Theatre featuring SWV, Ginuwine and Tony! Toni! Toné!.

To be honest, I know next to nothing about soul music and R&B, but the boy was pretty excited about the artist lineup. He even sang along with every word of "Weak" while SWV performed. Ginuwine finished off his set with his original hit "Pony" before Tony! Toni! Toné! brought down the house with their great energy and big live band sound. After the show we even made it backstage for autographs and photos. (Hooray for backstage media passes!) I only have a few photos that turned out well from that night; for much better photos, check out Rick Chung's recap post.

Inside the Orpheum before the show

The stage inside the theatre before the performances began

SWV performing

Backstage after the show

Even after a long show, the performers gathered around the piano for an impromptu jam session.

SWV patiently signing autographs and posing for photos after a long night

With D'wayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné!

Tony! Toni! Toné! signing autographs

On Saturday, the boy and I braved the rain in David Lam Park to hear Wil Campa y Su Gran Union play as part of the Jazz Festival. Holy Cuban salsa! These guys really knew how to put on a show. It was hard not to smile or dance to the beat. Sadly I don't have any photos or video, but here's an old clip of Wil Campa and his group performing on Urban Rush if you want to get a taste of what you missed.

More salsa ensued yesterday afternoon with the first Sunday Afternoon Salsa event at Robson Square. For Vancouverites who are unfamiliar with this event, it's basically a free afternoon of salsa dancing in the heart of downtown with a beginner lesson and performances. The Globe and Mail ran a short piece about it if you're interested in attending. See you on the dance floor next Sunday!

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