A sunny day for a photoshoot feat. Maddy Loves and Style Love!

Clear blue skies and a crisp spring breeze - what better conditions could you ask for?  Sheila, Rosie, and I certainly couldn't as we came together for our first blogger photo shoot!  Armed with suitcases of outfits (well, at least Rosie was), and me with my new camera lens, we made our way out to my building's patio for a private, well lit area to take a few photos.  It was tons of fun and a big learning experience for me, having never shot any "models" before!  Sheila was kind enough to take some photos of me as well, which you guys will get to see next week - here's a hint: it will be "clashtastic."

Thank you Sheila and Rosie for letting me take your photos!  
You can check out the full set on my Flickr here.
 If there's any other brave volunteers out there wanting photos, do let me know, I would LOVE the practice!

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Shadow art by Rashad Alakbarov

Azerbaijan artist Rashad Alakbarov creates art using the play of light off of ordinary objects.  Once the light shifts, these things are turned into trash and shards of glass again.  The transient beauty and delicate patience required to make these installations never fails to amaze me.

Images via My Modern Met

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365 Outfit Challenge week 11

Last week was a jam packed week!  Besides the usual work and gym business, I also had a really great meeting with the Schema team.  Sounds like I'll be participating editorially again by having my own weekly post!  It's just going to be a collection of interesting weekly links I come across, but it will be fun to see my name in a byline again.  Be sure to watch out for my new column on Fridays starting next month!

Also I was super excited to receive my brand new 35mm lens! I've been wanting a new lens since forever as I quickly realized the limitations of my kit lens and I managed to find one online for sale, thanks to my photographer coworker!  While a great general purpose lens, I found the standard kit lens included with my DSLR kinda limiting with its poor performance in low light.  Since I'm often at events and indoors, lighting is always an issue, so I wanted a lens that could perform better, produce sharper results and kick-start my photoshoot hobby!  Does anyone want to be my model? hehe

Anyhoo, here's the weekly recap:

Ruffled tank: Urban Outfitters | Blazer: Zara | Jeggings: Aldo

Business casual for me. Well everyday is casual Fridays in my line of work. Yay no dress code!  If I had to shop all the time at Banana Republic I think it would kill me. 

Top: Old Navy | Cardigan: Zara | Denim: Citizens of Humanity

See that glow out there? I believe it's this thing called sunshine!  The weather has been a real tease with us lately, giving us a few brief days of warmth before plunging right back into darkness again. 

Sweater dress: Tension | Watch: Invicta

I took this photo, but didn't have time in the morning to take another when I added a much needed belt.  Adding a wide black belt to this outfit really pulled it together, giving it shape.  This is an interesting outfit because I think if I had worn the collar in the intended off the shoulder way, the lack of a belt may not have been as noticeable.

Poncho: Forever 21

For some reason I was feeling rather uninspired so I copped out and put on a poncho.  I think February was a good month for outfits, but seems like March has been rather boring outfit-wise. I blame the constant rain. Some sunshine always gives me much needed inspiration.

Be sure to follow my daily #365outfit updates on Twitter!

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Buy: Kiehl's Abyssine cream & serum

The Product
Awhile ago I received some samples of Kiehl's Abyssine line after attending a Kiehl's blogger event.  At the event I got a free skin consultation and this line was favoured for my skin due to its anti-aging and moisturizing properties.  As a mid-20s female, my objectives with my skin care is to replenish, moisture, and prevent those first signs of aging.  Using natural ingredients and Kiehl's science, this line promises to do just that.

The Guts
According to Kiehl's the key ingredients in this line is a molecule called abyssine.  Apparently abyssine is the Bear Grylls of molecules and is made to survive.  This hardy molecule lives its days in the dark overheated vents of deep-sea geothermal vents - conditions which 99.9% of the rest of life on Earth cannot take and therefore I suppose the idea is that this would make it excellent for preserving your skin too!  

The other super ingredient in the Abyssine line is apricot kernel oil.  Though it has a less exotic name, apricot kernel oil is nothing to laugh at, as it is jam packed with Vitamin E and a myriad of fatty acids that help to plump up and nourish the skin.

Price & Packaging
Unfortunately, skin care don't come cheap.  Both the serum and the facial cream will set you back around $60 for a 50mL bottle.  I cannot comment on the packaging in this review as I was using sample packets.

Though it may come pricey, investing in your skin can only be a worthy investment - provided that the product works.  In this case, I will gladly shell over my hard earned money for both these products.  

I had never used serums before, but after learning that they work to moisturize the deeper layers of your skin that regular moisturizers didn't, I was very curious and after using this product, I am hooked.  I am seriously a serum convert now.  The Abyssine serum is amazing - within days my skin felt softer and plumper to the touch!  

The Abyssine cream is just as amazing.  It's kinda thick for a day cream, so I wouldn't recommend this for anyone with oily skin, or as a summer face cream, but for my winter parched normal skin, it was fabulous. Your skin will feel sticky for a bit after while it absorbs, but I was able to apply makeup a couple minutes later and my skin felt soft and smooth all day!

In 140 characters or less: Amazing! Why aren't you buying this already?

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365 Outfit Challenge: week 10

Recently a friend and I were having a conversation about the differences between when you're single and when you're in a relationship; namely the desire to go party.  Both of us used to have regular party phases, but now neither of us partake quite as much in nightly festivities.  It's a combination of being older, being there and done that, and our relationships.  I've always wondered what it is that makes taken people.. kinda boring?  Is it that you no longer have a need to pursue new sexual partners that makes you more content to just stay in?

Of course I had to bring it up to Mr. Artist.  I can always count on him to give me an objective opinion.  His answer? Yeah, it does become less fun to go clubbing if you're taken, but he said it was less fun for him because his FRIENDS weren't single mostly anymore, meaning they weren't as funny to watch running game.  I suppose that's a good answer???

While I (and you) ponder this, here is this week's outfit recap:

Sweater: H&M | Skirt: Aritzia

Mint sweatshirt: Aritzia | Leather leggings: Urban Outfitters | 

Finally bought a mint item! It's soft, it's pretty and it's glorious.

Sweater: F21 | Jeans: Citizens of Humanity | Shoes: Toms

Sweater: Aritzia | Jean shorts: Forever 21 | Pocket watch necklace: Front & Co.

Vintage silk shirt: Community | Leggings: Costco | Bracelets: vintage, Ishara, Pandora

Picked up this new baby while doing some lunch time shopping. $12 for a silk shirt!  Love the large floral print.

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St. Patrick's Day Potstickers

I wonder if this post title will bring in a lot of really disappointed people because this post has nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day themed potstickers?  Does the fact that I made and ate them on St. Patty's day count?  In any case, I made this recipe this past weekend for a potluck party and it seemed to receive accolades, so I thought I'd share it here with you!

I got this recipe of Epicurious who originally got it off chef Ming Tsai, who is a much hunkier Asian chef than the more well known, Martin Yan.
Disclaimer: I love Martin Yan 

Potstickers are a popular Chinese dumpling made primarily of pork, similar to gyozas.  There are many varieties to what you can put into the stuffng and I'll add in the ingredients list the ingredients I traditionally like to have in mine.  Not all the ingredients listed below were included in this particular rendition of the dish as some of the potluck attendees had allergies, but it seemed to work just as well.   

If you're making this recipe, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time as you're literally making each dumpling by hand.  I'd say give yourself a good 3 hour span to make the entire batch.  The recipe says it makes 30 dumplings, but my gyoza wrappers were smaller than usual, so I probably made around 45.

To make this, you'll need:
  • 1/4 small head (2 cups) of napa cabbage, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, or a tad more if just using regular
  • 1/3 lb of ground pork
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 small carrot, coarsely shredded into 2 tbsp
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (I used 2)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 egg, lightly beaten (I left this out and subbed in more soy sauce and sesame oil)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 package of gyoza or wonton wrappers - be sure to get the circular ones!
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped water chestnuts
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp 5 spice powder
In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and salt and set aside for 30 minutes.   Transfer to a cheesecloth or gather it all in your hands and squeeze the life out of it until no more water drains from the cabbage into the bowl.  Drain the water out and put the cabbage back in.  Add pork, ginger, carrots, green onion, water chestnuts, cilantro and 5 spice powder, and mix with your hands in a kneading motion to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, egg.  Add to meat mixture and stir to combine.  Stir in salt and pepper, a few shakes of each.

On a dry surface, get a small bowl of lukewarm water and set beside you.  Take out a single gyoza wrapper and lay it in your hands.  Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture into the middle of the wrapper like below:

Now comes the tricky part.  Dip one finger lightly in the warm water and trace a water line along the top half of the wrapper on the upward facing side.  Then, to seal, using the thumb of your right hand and the fingers of your left, fold the two sides together in a pleating motion, using your thumb to form the pleat.

See this youtube video for tips:

I didn't quite fold mine exactly as shown above, but you get the idea.  Eventually you'll end up with a little dumpling army like this:

Now it's time to cook!  Take a flat skillet and put over med-high heat.  Once the pan is nice and hot, add the oil.  Turn the heat down a bit if you have a gas stove as gas runs quite hot.  Add the dumplings, arranging them in a circular pattern, with the folds facing up.  Pan-fry until golden, about 1 minutes.  Flip them over onto their other side and let it fry for about a minute till golden again.  Take your skillet lid, and pour about 1/4 cup of water into the lid and turn the lid over the pan - you're going to get a lot of spitting oil so this technique should spare you getting any burns!  Turn the heat down a tad more and let cook until the water has evaporated, meaning it's done!

Now go out and amaze everyone with how wonderful you are!

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Calling all fashion lovers! Nifty for Fifty is back April 22, 2012!

I'll see you there competitors friends

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Wedgewood high tea with the Vancouver Beauty & Lifestyle Bloggers!

Though I may come across (somehow) to people who don't know me very well as extremely dainty, I am most definitely not a person with very dainty tastes.  Here are several reasons why I am NOT dainty:
  • Most mornings I feel like death and roll out of bed like a zombie
  • I'm usually covered with a slight dusting of golden retriever hairs a la Mr. Artist's dog and I'm too lazy to brush them all off 
  • I like to eat anything straight out of the jar.  Not cartons though, that's gross.
I could go on, but that would be boring (and way too revealing).  What I mean to say by telling you all this, is that I don't usually do classy things like going for high tea.  Usually I can be found drinking my tea out of a plastic cup and usually of the HK milk tea variety, but dressing up and drinking from delicate china? Never.

So it was with great relish that I left my house one wintry afternoon to join a few other gorgeous ladies of the Vancouver Beauty & Lifestyle Blogger network for high tea service at Wedgewood Hotel.  Located just beside Robson Square in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the Wedgewood Hotel has a gorgeously old-fashioned facade and interior - the perfect setting for tea.

Since I was determined to dress the occasion, no matter what, I left my house in this outfit:

Little did I realize that it would be slightly rainy and that my purple flats, which incidentally matched my purple tights, were a little too big.  At one point I almost lost one flat in the middle of an intersection and got some strange looks from passersby!  

Once inside though, I fit right in.  There was 10 of us girls, so we were lucky enough to get our own private room.  The decor of course was luxurious and traditional.  Each of us got to choose our own tea, which arrived in a charming French press pot.  I seem to remember choosing a citrusy green tea, which was light and refreshing.  I would gladly have drank 3 pots of this!

The food of course is what we all came for:

Arriving in a traditional 3-tiered platter, this serving was enough to thoroughly stuff 3 people.  The bottom tier was a layer of delicious sandwiches, consisting of traditional egg salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese, prawn salad - and my favourite of the meal - a chicken Tandoori style sandwich.  The middle tier housed a variety of tarts and a lemon cake.  The tarts were just the right amount of crunchy crust and sweet cream filling, but the lemon cake proved too sugary and tart for most of us.  Finally, on the top layer sat the traditional english scones with jam, honey and clotted cream, as well as some choclate eclairs.  I tried everything with relish except for the eclairs.  The scones were pretty tasty and not overly heavy, but I preferred the fresh baked scone set at Apres Midi in Gastown better.

In between daintily stuffing our faces, there was much gossip and giggling to be had - we are beauty bloggers after all!  It was a lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon and I would gladly do it again.

Ashley of Makeup Kismet and Rosalia of Style Love

Alison of Alison*Elle and Sarah of Makeup Shoes & Fashion

And.. I'll end this with some food shots!

If you're a local fashion/beauty/lifestyle blogger in Vancouver, we'd love for you to join our network!  I can honestly say nobody is a catty bitch.  Check us out on Facebook!

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365 Outfit Challenge week 9

This week was pretty boring although I did go for tea recently with a bunch of blogger friends!  Post coming soon ;)  School has started up again and it's actually pretty interesting.  The course is all about leadership and management.  Not to sound super smug, but theoretically I think I have skills to be a pretty good manager.  I'm good at multi-tasking, I'm organized, and I know how to prioritize things.  The question is if I can learn to be the other part, a leader.  All my life I've self-described myself as a second-in-command.  I don't really like being the center of attention and while I do enjoy having the ability to run things and make decisions, I don't like being at the point.  However, it seems in life that you can't just be that, so I guess I have to learn to be a leader.

In traditional Western business culture, it seems to me that often the loudest are seen as the leader, but that's not always the case.  Why follow the loudest, instead of the correct?  I like leaders who are yes, confident, but who also are intelligent and see all points of view, but yet know how to keep focused on the end goal.  I'm hoping I can strive to be that as I progress in my career and hopefully people will recognize that you don't have to yell to make yourself heard.

Sweater: Gap | Wool coat: Soia & Kyo | Leather gloves: vintage via Shoppalu |  Bag: Urban Outfitters

My typical winter outfit.

Plaid shirt: TNA | Sweater coat: Urban Outfitters | Leather shorts: Bedo

Thought I'd go all 90s this week and wear plaid!  Lately the playlist at work has been very 90s alt-rock and I've been eating it up.

 Shirt: TNA | Jeans: William Rast | Belt: H&M | Watch: Invicta

I'm really loving this simple orange belt I bought at H&M awhile back.  I had actually forgotten that I owned it as I keep all my accessories like belts and scarves in 1 giant wicker basket.  While digging around for my favourite woolen scarf, I unearthed this treasure.  It makes a simple outfit a tinge nicer with its pop of color.

Mustard sweater: BDG | Dress: Urban Outfitters

I love this combo of floral and mustard!! Total color combo that I need more of in my life.  Seriously, what wouldn't look good with mustard? Oh right, orange pants. 

Cardigan: Forever 21 | Striped top: Zara | Bag: Longchamp 

Can I be any more preppy looking?? Yay for yet another 90s reference - can you spot it??

Floral dress: random place in LA | Cardigan: Zara

I was trying to be prematurely springy here so I wore this with purple tights and matching purple flats.  Yes, I got a few strange looks from the sea of black and grey drones, but HEY at least I'm being ballsy, not boring!

Thanks for tuning in for this week's #365outfit recap!  You can keep on top of my daily updates via Twitter. I'd love to hear your feedback on this little experiment as well as if you have any ideas for me on how to keep things fresh!  
Until next week!

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Buy: LUS Foot exfoliation peeling sheets

The Product
A couple weeks back I mentioned how I was undergoing a horrific, yet ultimately beneficial experiment.  That experiment was to try the LUS (Lovely Your Skin) foot exfoliating peeling sheets.  These sheet masks for feet promise to leave your feet feeling baby soft, but were they all what they claimed to be?

The Guts
The ingredients list for these sheets contain various plant-based extracts like willow bark, cactus flower, ivy leaf, sage, grapefruit, orange, apple, lemon, and lime.  The latter few I suspect to be more for the peeling aspect while the others are more soothing.

On Glow & Glamour this box of 2 sets of sheets costs $15.90, so just under $8 a pair.  A lot more than your average face masks, but since you only use this once a month, it doesn't seem that steep a price to pay.

Holy cow is it effective!  In my previous post I mentioned how my feet were molting like I had a disease a few days after application.  The product is designed to cause all your dead skin cells to peel off to reveal the fresh, new skin underneath.  I guess I must have a huge-ass layer of dead skin on my feet because they were peeling for days.  DAYS.  It's only within the last few days that I seem to have stopped peeling and am now enjoying the benefits: noticeably softer feet! I cannot wait to use this treatment again for increased results.  WIN.

In 140 characters or less: Terrifying, but effective.  Kiss those scales goodbye!

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Delicious dining care of Drew Cooks!

Most of the time I count myself as unlucky, not because I don't have a great life, but because I just have an acute absence of winnings.  I never win at lotto, or raffles, or even when I duck my hand into a jar of gummy bears and hope to find my fave color inside.  But sometimes, sometimes, I strike it lucky and during the past holiday season it was one of those times.

It was while reading through my Twitter stream that I saw one of my friends RT'ing a contest by a local catering company called Drew Cooks.  All you had to do was leave a comment on their blog about what seasonal ingredient you were nom-ing on and RT; easy-peasy, so I did and said I was obsessed with anything pumpkin.  A few days later, I received a winning email message telling me I had won a free catered home dinner for me and 5 others! I was ecstatic.  Anytime someone mentions free anything, I'm happy, but if it's free food?? 100x better.

Zoom ahead a couple months later and I was finally able to nail down the ever busy Drew Cooks on a date. Myself, Mr. Artist, and 2 other couples were the eager diners.  Drew Cooks does everything from fully catered events like weddings, down to private dinner parties similar to mine for parties as small as 8.  Here's a sampling of what you could be noshing on, should you decide to call upon them:

Starter was this deliciously cute duck croquette with Okanagan cherry.  Crunchy, rich, but not overwhelming.

Please excuse me if I don't recall all the ingredients exactly as I forgot to write the menu down. Blame the copious amounts of wine.  I believe this was a lamb tataki dish.  

Another lamb dish, which was pretty yummy, but what really stole the show on this one for me was the French bean stew underneath. Composed of baby vegetables, cherry smoked cassoulet, yellow tomato consomme, and crispy sage, this stew was tangy and bursting with subtle flavours!

The main event!  An absolutely incredible beef short-rib in fig Cabernet sauce, that literally was no-knife-required.  The meat just fell off the bone and straight down my throat.  It was excellently paired with the most delicately scalloped potatoes done in blue cheese.  I hate blue cheese, but I literally lapped this one up super fast, it was so delicious.  

By this point we were stuffed to the gills and drowning in wine, but somehow we all manned up for the crowning piece of the evening: the dessert.  On paper, this ginger vanilla cake sounded boring, but when paired with apple rum sauce, vanilla bean ice cream and roasted apple cream, this simple dessert turned into STUPENDOUS dessert.  Even though I felt close to being sick, I could not stop myself from downing it all and even eyeing others' leftovers 5 minutes later.

By the time we finished, every single of us was probably at one of the fullest points of their lives.  Utterly satisfied and utterly exhausted we didn't even notice our 2 fabulous cooks efficiently cleaning away and then disappearing into the night like a pair of fabled shoemaker elves.  In the hopes they read this, thank you so much for a lovely evening!

Roomie with the awesome Drew Cooks guys!  Drew himself is on the left.

Next time you're planning an event or private dinner party, give Drew Cooks a ring.  You definitely won't be disappointed.  This is food coma guaranteed!

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Nail of the day: splatter chic with American Apparel

I guess I was bored the other day so I decided to get high off nail polish and do my nails in my little room with just a bathroom fan for ventilation.  Possibly not the brightest idea and it probably explains this mistake turned inspired nail look.  Using American Apparel's Nail Lacquers in Make Up for the base and then Malibu Green for the top layer, I cut out a thin roll of paper to act as a guide for the off-kilter top coat and then used the excess paint on that paper to sorta splatter the rest of my nails.  At the time I thought I was being incredibly avant-garde and punk, but probably everybody else just thought I couldn't paint a straight line. 

What do you think?

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Kiehl's Metrotown - the friendliest Kiehl's in Vancouver! *pic heavy*

Doubt my claims to being a product whore? Well doubt no more as I made my way out on a rainy evening all the way to Burnaby's Metrotown mall for an exclusive evening of pampering, champagne and discounted beauty products alongside my favourite blogger buddies all in the name of beauty.  Talk about sacrifice.

Just in case my dripping sarcasm is lost on you, I'll stop being silly and just gush about how lucky I felt to be invited to an exclusive after hours party at Kiehl's Metrotown.  Myself and 10 other bloggers were in attendance to learn more about this international beauty brand, and to you know, get free samples.

I'm sad to say that I had never stepped into this Kiehl's location before, but I must say that next time you're in Metrotown, definitely take a side trip inside as the decor alone is worth the visit.  Every Kiehl's store is filled with interesting art and vintage finds that speak to its quirky and rich history.  I especially liked the large chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the apothecary shelves lining one wall - wouldn't that just be such a neat way to store accessories and shoes?

Since many of us weren't totally familiar to the brand, Kiehl's had a full staff in store of super friendly, gorgeous consultants who each did personal consultations with all us guests, advising us on how to resolve each of our unique skin issues.

For myself, though I have pretty good normal skin, I am nearing an age where I do have to watch out for those first signs of aging.  Primarily, my concerns were moisturizing, brightening and preventing age spots and fine lines.  I'm already pretty good with the sunscreen, moisturizing and exfoliating, but what I hadn't realized was that I needed to use a serum in my daily routine.  While regular creams will moisturize the top layers of your skin, a serum is formulated to penetrate the inner layers and help to provide total moistening of your skin.

For my skin's needs, my consultant recommended I try their Midnight Recovery concentrate which is one of their miracle line products.  I also snagged a bunch of samples of their Ultra Facial cream and the Abyssine Repairing serum, which I've been using the last couple days to amazing results!

While Kiehl's products are of the highest quality, they are also quite pricy, so when purchasing I would strive to get the most value for your dollar.  The nightly serums and treatments are a great way to invest in a long-lasting product that works.  The highly popular Midnight Recovery and their new Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution for hyperpigmentation both sell for around $50-60, which for products of this type isn't that extravagant!  

I ended up purchasing the Midnight Recovery serum as well as some of their popular lip balm and a bunch of a free samples as seen above.  What really topped the evening off though was that Kiehl's was kind enough to give each of us bloggers a free full sized bottle of their Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution!!  I am so excited to try this product as I have a few pesky age spots I desperately want to get rid of.  Clear luminous skin here I come!!

Sheila of MaddyLoves and her helpful consultant

Elisse of FurElisse and I. Photo courtesy of Sheila

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