Solo Lisa Reads: December 2020

Covers of December 2020 recommended reads including Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella, The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons, Eighty Days to Elsewhere by KC Dyer, Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell'Antonia, Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao, and Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

We're now in the lull between Christmas and New Year's where we have no idea what time it is, let alone what day it is. So what better time is there than now to get lost in a book? Reading was one of the few bright spots in a bizarre and difficult 2020 (there were many moments where I was intensely thankful for my Kobo reader and OverDrive access via the Vancouver Public Library), so it seems fitting that I close out the year with one more book review round-up and 9 new recommendations. Fingers crossed that 2021 is kinder to us all.


Drugstore Delight: Derma E Hydrating Eye Cream

Derma E Hydrating Eye Cream

Another quick Drugstore Delight spotlight to close out my product reviews for the year! Truth be told, this pandemic funk + thinking about work + staying home all the time + not wearing makeup = not a lot of mental bandwidth left to think about beauty. Instead of testing lots of things, in the past couple of months I've switched up my skincare once, tried a new-to-me body butter...and used up two tubes of Derma E Hydrating Eye Cream ($23 at London Drugs). The fact that I haven't deviated from it for months on end should tell you how good it is.


Drugstore Delight: Weleda Skin Food Body Butter

Weleda Skin Food Body Butter

Beauty blogging tends to focus on the new and the buzzworthy. Weleda isn't new (they've been around since 1921), but their longevity, their status as a natural beauty pioneer, and their upcoming 100th anniversary should be buzzworthy. My friend Anya swears by Weleda Skin Food as a winter staple, which was what inspired me to pick up Weleda Skin Food Body Butter (approx. $22, available at London Drugs) when my last body moisturizer ran out.


In-Depth Review: My Experience

Skinceuticals products from

How many times have you had a skin issue during this pandemic and wished for a virtual face-to-face with an expert, right from the comfort and safety of your own home? Newly launched Wonder Skincare does just that. The brainchild of experienced medical aesthetician Sarah Kurmis, this Ontario-based online business offers online consultations and product recommendations, and is a one-stop shop for well-known medi-spa brands like SkinCeuticals and Colorescience. I was recently invited by Wonder Skincare to try their end-to-end virtual consultation and online retail experience firsthand. So how did it go? All the details after the jump!


Solo Lisa Reads: November 2020

Round-up of 4 book covers featuring Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams; If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha; Salt by Mark Kurlansky; and A Duke, The Lady, And A Baby by Vanessa Riley

This month I watched a lot of TV (hello, The Queen's Gambit and The Crown season 4) in between barre, work, and the stress of living in 2020. It was hard enough to focus through the brain fog, let alone pick up a book. That's why November's book review round-up only features 4 reads, and for each one, I couldn't help thinking of a corresponding movie or TV show. This post marks my first time making streaming recommendations alongside the mini book reviews—kind of like a pop culture wine-and-cheese pairing. Enjoy!


Solo Lisa Reads: October 2020

Round-up of book covers: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee, The Marriage Game by Sara Desai, I'll Be The One by Lyla Lee, Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power, With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo, My Summer Of Love And Misfortune by Lindsay Wong, Tools Of Engagement by Tessa Bailey, A Rogue Of One's Own by Evie Dunmore, Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim

Without meaning to, I've let almost 3 months go by without doing a book review round-up because I was stressed out of my mind with work. During that time, I've been going to a lot of barre classes (exercise was one of my few healthy stress relievers), ordering a lot of takeout (cooking and meal planning felt overwhelming), and obsessively seeking out nostalgic and/or feel-good pop culture. That meant a Sex and the City rewatch and Baby-Sitters Club reread, as well as as inviting YA novels and romances when I was in the mood for something new. May this reading list bring you a few moments of joy and escape as they did for me.


My At-Home Barre Setup

Vancouver beauty, life and style blogger Solo Lisa stretches at the Bootykicker portable barre.

This post is for the fellow Bar Method enthusiasts working out at home and trying to figure out an optimal setup! As I mentioned in my last post, I recently upgraded what I use for livestream classes. Before this, I was MacGyvering with whatever I had around the condo: a chair instead of a real barre, throw pillows instead of risers and mini mats, an old yoga mat that wasn't cushy enough for my joints. That was okay for the short term, but over time these improvised solutions didn't support me in trying to get into my best form. I could feel myself holding back (not great for maintaining strength and trying to get stronger), and the limitations of my equipment were starting to create bad muscle memory habits and imbalances. The new gear definitely helped me achieve a more intense burn in tilted seat, a more balanced posture in foldover and arabesque, and a deeper ab contraction in curl work.


Quarantine Life Lately

Vancouver beauty, life and style blogger Solo Lisa sits on a rock at Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, looking out to the ocean. It is a cloudy day.

Looking back at recent posts, I realize that I've done a lot of grumbling about work and being at home 24/7. But hey, life wasn't all bad! I'm grateful that I'm still gainfully employed, my loved ones are healthy, and I can WFH safely during a global pandemic. Plus, there were a few bright spots this summer. Here's a quick look at some highlights that occurred away from the laptop and the Zoom calls.


Product Review: AG Hair Natural Collection

AG Hair Natural Collection sample sizes featuring Balance Shampoo, Boost Conditioner, Remedy Leave On Mist, Rosehip Balm Hair Dry Lotion

While WFH and riding out summer's heat waves sans air conditioning, I've been air-drying my hair whenever possible, and reaching for the AG Hair Natural To Go Kit ($29.95) to keep it from turning into a frizzy mess. Full disclosure: I received this gifted PR sample ages ago—so long ago, in fact, that AG has since changed the mix of products in their Natural To Go Kit. (The newer version includes the same shampoo and conditioner, but different styling products.) This kit may have languished in my beauty stash for eons, but good products speak for themselves no matter when you get around to testing them and these AG haircare products are incredible.


Empties: August 2020

All of the products described in this post featured together. Affordable natural and drugstore beauty, skincare, body care and haircare products by Nivea, Garnier, Herbal Essences, Not Your Mother's Naturals, BVSpa, Woodlot, Herbivore Botanicals, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Trader Joe's, Derma E, Saje, Fresh, The Face Shop, Bliss.

Ugh, this year. Before I recap the empty products I've used this summer, I need to get something off my chest. When the pandemic started, I have to admit, the bizarre novelty of the situation didn't faze me. Asking an introverted homebody to spend even more time at home? Okay! I still had my job and could WFH; I could do barre classes over Zoom; and my husband and I were spending more time together than ever. I found ways to fill my time, from reading more books and discovering new TV shows to trying different recipes. But as time wore on and the novelty faded, between the perpetual stress of 2020 humming in the background, and the work burnout I alluded to in previous posts, I've been pretty depressed this summer.


Product Review: Mamonde Rose Skincare

Mamonde Rose Trial Kit

In mid-July we were lucky enough to go to Tofino, where we stayed at the Wickaninnish Inn and celebrated Lawrence's birthday in style. Long walks on the beach, a couples hot stone massage at the spa, a romantic dinner and brunch at The Pointe and room service in was exactly the restful and luxurious reset we craved. (The trip highlights are saved on my Instagram if you want a peek!)

When it was time to pack skincare for the trip, I reached for the Mamonde Rose Trial Kit ($22). This trio of mini K-beauty skincare goodies seems tailor-made for summer weather thanks to lightweight textures and rose-infused scents. I'd originally bought the kit for my workout bag, but with the pandemic and my barre studio closing, I stopped using the products in mid-March and hadn't had a chance to revisit these products until now.


Solo Lisa Reads: July 2020

Round-up of July book recommendations featuring Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore, The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley, It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood, Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory, The Swap by Robyn Harding, Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice, Beach Read by Emily Henry, Parachutes by Kelly Yang, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This month has passed by so quickly: A huge software release at work, vacation days, a quick getaway to Tofino, and now a heat wave as we both WFH. I've just been trying to relax as much as possible and curl up with a good book in between, which explains why this month's round-up contains 9 recommendations. And true to last month's pledge, I'm trying my best to diversify my picks. July's round-up contains books by a Black writer (Jasmine Guillory, a recurrent favourite in these book review posts), an Indigenous Canadian writer (Waubgeshig Rice, who might be the first Indigenous author I've featured here), and two Asian writers (Kelly Yang and Min Jin Lee, who have written two very different novels about very specific Asian experiences). I hope you'll find something intriguing enough to add to your reading list!


Drugstore Delight: Summer Skincare

Round-up of affordable drugstore summer skincare products featuring La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF, Trader Joe's Hyaluronic Moisture Boost Serum, and Derma E Vitamin C Renewing Moisturizer

When I pictured my 2020 summer, I did not foresee so many long WFH days and so little travel or vacation time, nor did I anticipate how tired and burnt out I'd feel. It seems as if all my brain bandwidth has gone towards work and just getting through the days and not much else. To save myself from daily decision-making fatigue, I've defaulted to variations on the same lounge-at-home outfits (Roots sweatshorts with a tee, or a loose and flowy T-shirt dress), and I've forgone experimenting with tons of new skincare. Instead, I've opted to add just a few products to my routine that are making my summertime complexion happy. Think lightweight textures, SPF protection, and an antioxidant boost. The best part? These products are affordable and accessible Drugstore Delights.


Empties: June 2020

Round-up of empty beauty, skincare, body care and makeup products from a mix of Korean, natural, drugstore, luxury and French beauty brands including TONYMOLY, The Face Shop, Innisfree, Not Your Mother's Naturals, Bioderma, Dermalogica, Mifa and Co, Biore, Lavanila, Pixi, Scentuals, Ulta, Rocky Mountain Soap Company and Caudalie.

I meant to post this empties round-up in May, but, well, life happened. In total, there are 26+ products from a mix of Korean, natural, drugstore, luxury and French beauty brands. As you can imagine, most of them are skin and body care, including plenty of moisturizers, sheet masks and hand lotion. Ready?


Solo Lisa Reads: June 2020

Round-up of YA, romance, and thriller book recommendations featuring Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn, The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary, The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton, You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson, The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa, and The Happy Every After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

My social media and blog have been pretty quiet lately for a number of reasons. I've been WFH all this time, on a team that is committed to delivering a lot and understaffed for what we have to do, and I've just been feeling burnt out from 2020 overall. I've also been listening and learning as much as possible about Black Lives Matter and anti-racism, reflecting on my own behaviours and possible biases and where I can do better. And while learning to become a better ally can be a lifelong journey, I immediately identified one small area where I could improve right away: Featuring more books by Black authors in these monthly round-ups. Going forward, I'm going to try to feature 1-2 books a month by Black authors, and true to my literary tastes, the books will probably be a mix of YA, romance, and pure escapism. So if you're looking to add something light and joyful to your summer reading list, might I recommend these 6 books?


Solo Lisa Reads: May 2020

Round-up of book covers

Here in Vancouver, businesses are just starting to reopen, and as excited as I am at the prospect of a facial and maybe a haircut, things are still going to be dodgy for everyone until a COVID-19 vaccine is found or herd immunity is achieved. That's why I'm continuing to stay at home as much as possible, but at least I have some excellent books to distract me while I self-quarantine. What are you reading right now?


Drugstore Delight: Avene Cleansing Foam

Avene Cleansing Foam

I've tried my share of cleansing waters, jellies, balms and oils, but there is something atavistically satisfying about a foaming face wash. Maybe it's the way the texture taps into nostalgic comfort and familiarity? Something about a sudsy face cleanser reminds me of younger and more carefree days, tickling the same pleasure centres in my lizard brain as teen rom-coms and Disney movies and Oreos. It just feels good and I can't explain why. Evidently the skincare geniuses at Avene felt the same way, because instead of making a jelly-like cleanser for sensitive skin, they gave us Avene Cleansing Foam ($23 at London Drugs).


Product Review: Megababe Deodorant

Megababe Rosy Pits Daily Deodorant

What does self-care look like while in quarantine? For me, it has been sweaty Bar Method classes via Zoom, followed by a refreshing shower that feels oh so good and a few swipes of Megababe Rosy Pits Daily Deodorant ($14). In my quest to try different natural deodorants, I picked up this new-to-me product during my last trip to Seattle, before COVID-19. Megababe Rosy Pits has since become one of my favourite body care essentials.


Solo Lisa Reads: April 2020

Book cover round-up of the books in this post

This month, I visited a Silicon Valley robotics lab and a late-night talk show host's Long Island mansion, joined a book club in Nashville, got behind-the-scenes looks at a yoga studio's grand opening and what it's like to work on Wall Street—all without leaving the comfort of my couch or bed. Books let our minds transcend the confines of quarantine when our bodies can't. If you're looking to do the same, here are 6 reads I enjoyed recently.


Drugstore Delight: Garnier Bio

Garnier Bio Skincare

With the economic turmoil happening right now and non-essential businesses being closed, drugstore beauty products have really come to the fore. I've always loved a good Drugstore Delight, but going forward (at least for the next little while) I'll focus on even more of them. After all, they're relatively affordable, easy to purchase at your local grocery or pharmacy, and they're a great way of adding a few moments of self-care and normalcy to stressful days. First up? The natural Garnier Bio skincare range, which just launched earlier this year. Garnier kindly sent me a box of samples a couple of months ago, so I'd already incorporated the products into my routine for long-term testing before the lockdown began.


Things I Love: Quarantine Edition

cherry blossoms

In a time where people are struggling with health, economic uncertainty, and the stressors of a global pandemic, I realize how incredibly privileged I am to be writing something as fluffy as a "things I love during quarantine" post. I keep counting my blessings: My husband and I still have our jobs; we can work from home; we are quarantining together instead of alone; we have our health. But even in our relatively fortunate position, prolonged self-isolation can take its toll, which is why today I'm compiling a list of the small purchases, rituals, and things that are sparking joy and helping us stay sane. If you have your own recommendations or tips, I'd love to hear them!


Solo Lisa Reads: March 2020

Round-up of books

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic! Although our bodies may be self-isolating, at least our minds can wander and escape the relentless news cycle by diving in the pages of a good book. My March book review round-up offers plenty of escapism: dystopian fiction, YA coming-of-age stories, and lighthearted adult romances. If you're looking for more recommendations, you can check out my past book posts here.


Lazy Girl Approved: Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel

Lazy Girl Approved highlights long-lasting, goof-proof, fuss-free products that can fit into the most minimalist of regimens. If you consider yourself a low-maintenance beauty lover, these product reviews are for you!

Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel

Did you know that you could be over-exfoliating or under-exfoliating? That was my main takeaway after attending an exfoliation masterclass hosted by my longtime facialist, Kathryn Sawers of Collective Skincare. If you take a closer look at your skincare routine, you might be surprised by all the sources of exfoliation there are. Scrubs provide physical exfoliation, while many of the cleansers, toners, and moisturizers that promise to "renew" skin and improve tone and texture contain acids that act as chemical exfoliants. And then there's retinol, which is (you guessed it) also an exfoliant. All of this is enough to trigger skin irritation at worst or serious consumer confusion at best. So what would a Lazy Girl to do? She'd turn to a quick, easy-to-use product like the Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel ($12 for a single tube, or $116 for the kit at Varnish) that's guaranteed to work.


5 Face Masks To Try For Your Next #SelfCare Session

Round-up of 5 face masks featuring Fresh Beauty, Pixi, Dermalogica, and Avene

Happy first week of March! Here at Solo Lisa headquarters, I haven't been that focused on blogging lately. A new CEO and a new boss at work mean I have loads of projects on the go; consequently, my brain bandwidth is usually maxed out by the time I get home and all I'm good for is curling up with a good book and doing a face mask. The masks featured in this post, most of which are gifted PR samples, have taken up permanent residence in my bathroom cabinet. They have a slight edge over sheet masks in some ways: They usually don't take as much time to work their magic (ideal when I'm in peak Lazy Girl mood); they don't generate as much single-use waste; and they allow me to multi-mask, addressing different concerns in different areas.


Empties: February 2020

Round-up of empty beauty, skincare, body and hair care products from Pixi, The Face Shop, Tata Harper, Saeve, BV Spa, Garnier, EOS, Dr. Jart, Marius Fabre

After the bewildering number of empties in December and January, February seems so tame by comparison. There are only 12 in today's post and 2 are duplicates. Most of them are affordable drugstore and naturals-heavy brands, with a couple of purchases from last year's trip to Paris thrown in. I realized as I was compiling this post that many of these products have never been featured on the blog before, and only a few are gifted PR samples, so going forward I'm going to be a lot clearer about labeling everything in the mix. Now, let's get to it, shall we?


Solo Lisa Reads: February 2020

Round-up of books for February 2020 featuring The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, The Assistants by Camille Perri, Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, and The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

A new boss, lots of work projects, the Bar Method Fitness Challenge, my second cold of 2020(!), persistent neck and shoulder pain, domain issues on the blog, regular old adulting...February was a lot to handle. But whenever I craved an escape at the end of a long day, I knew that I'd have a hot cup of tea and a juicy read on my Kobo reader waiting for me at home. My book selections for February offer plenty of escapism, whether it's in the form of romance and "happily ever after" endings, or narratives that tap into nostalgia for the past. What are you reading these days?


Drugstore Delight: Not Your Mother's Naturals Scalp Scrub

Not Your Mother's Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Restore & Reclaim Scalp Scrub

Are you a fan of scalp scrubs or do you think they're a gimmicky and unnecessary product? I was in the latter camp until just recently when I noticed that no matter how thoroughly I shampooed my hair, my roots were limp and my scalp didn't feel clean. The feeling persisted even when I switched shampoos and conditioners. That's why I picked up Not Your Mother's Naturals Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Restore & Reclaim Scalp Scrub ($8.99) during my last cross-border Ulta pilgrimage. I was already a big fan of NYM's hair masks (they smell amazing, the formulas are mostly natural, they're affordable and get the job done) so I figured their scalp scrub was worth a try.


4 Facial Oils To Revive Winter Skin

Face oils from Scentuals, Juice Beauty, StriVectin, The Ordinary

Facial oils make a lovely addition to any skincare regimen, and not just during the winter! I've been rotating between the ones featured in today's post all season long. Facial oils can give regular moisturizers a skin-softening boost, layer over hyaluronic acid and serums to better lock in hydration, or provide plenty of slip for facial rollers and gua sha tools.


Drugstore Delight: Nivea Pure & Natural Body Milk

Nivea Pure & Natural Body Milk

One of the quickest, most dramatic changes you can make towards a more natural beauty routine is switching to a natural body lotion. The skin covering your body amounts to a larger surface area than your face, and unlike something that can be rinsed away like soap, body lotion absorbs and stays. Since I decided to green up my beauty routine I've really enjoyed the natural body lotions and body butters I've tested, and there are a handful of affordable and effective options I keep returning to. (Rocky Mountain Soap Company, I'm looking at you.) But I don't love the fact that I have to go out of my way to specialty stores or websites when I run out, often paying $15-30 for what amounts to very little product volume-wise. It sometimes makes me nostalgic for more innocent days when I waltzed into any drugstore and picked up the biggest pump bottle of whatever was on sale and smelled good.


Empties: January 2020

Empty skin and body care and beauty products from The Face Shop, Tonymoly, Labotica, Not Your Mother's Naturals, Scentuals, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Dior, Omorovicza, Fresh, Pixi, Korres, Deborah Lippmann, Avene, Juice Beauty, La Roche Posay

After my last Empties post in which I reviewed 2 months' worth of empty beauty products, I thought this month's round-up would be relatively small. What I didn't anticipate was the deluge of snow Vancouver got (resulting in major sheet mask usage), or how a bunch of almost empty products would all run out at once.


Solo Lisa Reads: January 2020

Round-up of books read and recommended by Vancouver life and style blogger Solo Lisa in January 2020

Re-activating my library card and reading more often were two of the most positive changes I made in 2019, and I hope to keep up the reading in 2020! January is a time for new beginnings, and true to the spirit of this month, I've been drawn to stories about characters pursuing fresh starts. If you're looking for a new read, here are six that I enjoyed recently.


Drugstore Delight: Ulta Ultra Slim Brow Pencil

Ulta Ultra Slim Brow Pencil

Dior Brow Styler was one of my favourite beauty products of 2019, beloved for its superfine tip, ease of use, staying power, and natural effect. You know what I didn't love though? The price tag. As much as j'adore Dior, at the end of the day this was just a retractable, micro-tip brow pencil in dark brown, with a spoolie brush. Surely there was a more affordable dupe out there. And once I started looking, it didn't take me long to find one: the Ulta Ultra Slim Brow Pencil ($10).


3 Muscle Pain Roll-Ons To Try Post-Workout

Muscle pain relieving roll-on products from Yuni, Saje, and Stond

January is almost over—how are you doing with your fitness goals? I have to admit, between my New Year's cold and a week of unexpected snow, my intention to exercise fell by the wayside. But all that is about to change when February 1st hits and the Bar Method Fitness Challenge kicks off! 40+ classes in 90 days can take its toll physically, which is why I'll be relying on the three pain relief remedies in today's post. Together with my trusty foam roller and some stretches in the evenings, they'll get me through the worst of the muscle soreness.


2020 Reflections

Vancouver beauty and lifestyle blogger Solo Lisa poses with the Urban Light art installation at LACMA.

Happy 2020, everyone! Without meaning to, I've let half of January pass by without posting on the blog once. Our holiday season was pretty quiet and uneventful. We kicked off the New Year with a long weekend in Seattle (yay!) and me catching a cold that I'm still not completely over (boo), so I've just been working and resting whenever I can for the past couple of weeks. Now that I'm on the mend though, I wanted to take some time on the blog to reflect on the past year and the past decade.

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