Buy or Ditch: Marcelle Essentials Purity Soothing Cleansing Water review

The Product
Described as "a soothing and refreshing cleansing water that gently cleanses and tones the skin", the Marcelle Essentials Purity Soothing Cleansing Water promises to be a gentle toner that truly refreshes, cleanses and moisturizes.  This toner also claims to remove all sorts of makeup, including pesky eye makeup.

The Guts
The first ingredient in this toner is water, so they've definitely got that "cleansing water" claim down.  The second ingredient is caprylic glycerides, a fancy term for coconut oil, which forms a protective fatty acid barrier to prevent moisture loss.  After these two major components, the next ingredient is Aloe Vera juice, which according to Cosmetics Info and here, is a common ingredient in makeup removers (who knew?).  So far Marcelle is 3/3 on their claims!

Price & Packaging
A 200mL bottle of this toner will cost you around $16, which might seem steep at first, but trust me, is well worth it.  I've been using this bottle for the past 2 months everyday, once a day, and I've only used up a couple of inches!

Another reason why the price shouldn't sway you is because this product is awesome!  If you want a toner that sweeps away oil and grease, while not parching your skin with harsh alcohols, than this toner is for you.  After a long day, this toner preps my skin for my serum and moisturizer, while also washing away any residue leftover from my cleanser.  I even wipe it across my eyes to get off the last bits of mascara and it doesn't sting them one bit.

All the gushing aside though, when compared to another alcohol-free toner that I love, the Nivea Gentle Toner, which is also awesome and half the price, it can be hard to argue for the Marcelle.  If memory does serve me correctly though, the Marcelle does a much better job at removing makeup.  Since I use toners primarily to remove any excess makeup gunk from my face, or as a quick oil reducer on those extra-hot days, the fact that Marcelle does a great job at both is a big factor in why I might favour this product over the Nivea.

Love this product.  Great at refreshing your face and removing makeup residue, but if you're on a budget, there may be cheaper options available.

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#365outfit Challenge recap: my favourite outfits

After spending just over a year taking outfit photos of myself, I realized that I had a ton of photos to go through and it was pretty tricky picking this final set.  These are what I consider my favourite outfits for every month that I did this challenge, which spanned from January 2012 to March 2013.  

It was interesting to look back at it all and reflect.  I highly recommend anyone slightly interested in fashion and self-expression to try doing a project like this because it's quite fascinating (and admittedly narcissistic) to actually see your evolution over time.  Over the span of the year and 2 months of this challenge, I can see some very consistent themes in my photos.  

In 2012 I saw my vintage freak flag fly high as I had ready access to some fabulous vintage stores thanks to my office being situated in the heart of Gastown.  I also extended my love of florals and patterns by adding in zebra prints, hounds-tooth and polka dots to my closet and then mixing them all together into a delicious stew of patterns.  Strong solid colours also were very prevalent for me throughout the year, particularly in winter where I think I purposely wore bold colours to alleviate the endless gray days of Vancouver winters. 

Despite my inclination towards colour in winter though, I realized anew with this project that I am much more of a summer person.  When it's warm and sunny out, I just feel more alive and inclined to think about my outfits.  Although one could argue that winter is more conducive to fashion due to the fact that you have to layer so much and there are so many outerwear accessories, I personally find winter to be uninspiring.  It's probably due to more my state of mind than the available fashion, as winter makes me want to curl in a ball and I express this through wearing over-sized sweaters and leggings. Everyday.  Dressing for winter required a significant effort whereas summer was quite the opposite and I would merrily throw on sandals, dresses and any one of my seemingly zillion weekend purses to run out the door.

Anyways, check out the results for yourself and let me know which, if any, are your favourites from the year!

January 2012: kicking things off with some vintage flair 

February 2012: Going va-va-voom in camel and leopard print 

March 2012: layering a sweater to make a summer piece work in winter

April 2012: I discover chambray 

May 2012: brogues and a pop of colour make everything extra special 

June 2012: more chambray and vintage! My take on the Canadian tuxedo 

July 2012: apparently July is my favourite month because I couldn't decide on just 1 photo! 

July 2012 part 2: I had to include this one because this outfit is just so me, it has to be here 

August 2012: I bought this vintage dress that nobody else liked, but it just spoke to me. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

September 2012: I can't remember where I was wearing this outfit too, but I feel like Mr. Artist should take me out on a date night, so I can wear this again! 

October 2012: was very uninspired and this was the best outfit of the bunch 

November 2012: my winter uniform - sweater, leggings, booties 

December 2012: of course I had to include my Clueless inspired look!

January 2013: fine dining with my blogger gals

February 2013: taking advantage of the benefits of my new healthy regime by squeezing into these high-waisted pants, which are now wearable rather than a torture device

March 2013: harking back to when I used to be obsessed with lace and anything cream and blush - aka 2011

Stay tuned for the next #365outfit challenge recap, where I tell you what are the essential closet items to get you looking fabulous and always fresh 365 days of the year.

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My attempt at "Everyday Korean inspired makeup"

Right now, Korean anything is all the rage everywhere in Asia.  Whether it is music, fashion, beauty, or movies, the hallyu wave is everywhere.  Korean beauty products and makeup especially is something that I'm absolutely drooling over lately and I've always been curious how to recreate that painstaking "natural" (sans surgery) look that Korean idols wear.

Korean makeup, or the natural look described here, consists of the following aspects:

  • pale, flawless skin
  • lush, straight eyebrows
  • nude, or softly pink lips
  • eyelashes and softly accented eyes
So scratch the pale skin - I'm a few shades too dark for that!  The rest of this look though, I'm confident I could try.  For inspiration, I went to my Youtube subscriptions and came upon this makeup tutorial by Xteener

Looks simple right?


While I was able to get the techniques down for this look, I found the color palette that Xteener used to be entirely wrong on me.  Where it looked natural and just the right amount of smoky on her, it looked ashy and super heavy on me; more like clubbing makeup than fresh-faced and girlish.  After 3 frustrating attempts, I decided to recreate it using my own products in colors that I know always work for me.

Here is what I used instead:

  • Face: Vasanti liquid cover up in V3; Physicians Formula Mineral Wear talk-free face powder in Beige
  • Eyes: Urban Decay Naked Palette 2, shades YDK on lid, Tease on outer crease, Blackout on outer lashlines; Loreal Lineur Intense liquid eyeliner in Black, Covergirl LashBlast Fusion in Black
  • Eyebrows: MAC Veluxe brow pencil in Deep Brunette
  • Cheeks: Stila One Step illuminator; Smashbox Blush Rush in Chiffon
  • Lips: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable balm/stain in Charm all over lips; Loreal Colour Riche lipstick in Fiery Veil blended in the center of lips on top and bottom
And here is the end result:

Once I got the colours right for my skin tone, the trickiest part of this look were the brows.  I don't have full brows like Xteener does.  My brows are quite sparse and have a slight arch to them, so I was only able to decrease that slightly without ending up like Groucho Marx.  If anyone can recommend a tutorial for filling in your brows naturally, please hook me up!

Anyways, I hope this is helpful to any of you out there looking to attempt this.  Maybe my problem was that I was using too heavy a hand with the eye-shadows and that's why it looked so "night-time" on me, but I've always found that taupes do that to me, even when applied lightly.

What do you think of either of these looks? Would you try it?

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Before and after: outfit photos from Hawksworth

A couple weekends ago, I had a lovely lunch at Hawksworth with my favourite blogger ladies.  I was quite excited as I've always walked by Hawksworth and the decor inside looked gorgeous (never mind about the food!).  As expected, the food was quite tasty, if pricey and the decor did not disappoint. The color palette of soothing greens and cream of the furniture and leather chesterfields was perfectly elegant and I loved how it contrasted with the silverware.  Also, the restaurant was filled with tons of natural light, so of course we had to take full advantage by taking lots of outfit photos!

Upon editing these photos later, I realized that although window light is amazing, it can also be just as overpowering as direct light.  The intensity was quite surprising to me as I'd always thought window light was very gentle, seeing as it's coming at your subject from the side.  In this case, I felt it was a bit too blue and intense, causing each subject's face to be washed out.  While a little whiteness is nice to blur out those imperfections, too much white just makes you look like a ghost.  Since I wanted to bring back in a warmer feel to these photos and reduce the highlight as much as I could, I played around with adding in some color tone filters, producing a more sepia/pink effect.  Finally, I cropped these photos so that the subject fills the frame and added in some slight vignetting.  I would have tried reducing the highlight itself, but to do these edits I was using the PixlrExpress app, which does not contain that function (although I do highly recommend this app).

Admittedly, I'm still trying to get the hang of this photography thing, so please let me know your constructive criticism.  Which look do you prefer - the before, or after?

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#365outfit Challenge Week 52!!!

Sweater: Urban Outfitters | Pants: Aritzia | Belt: H&M 

Blouse: Club Monaco | Coat: Zara | Boots: Urban Outfitters 

Sweater: H&M | Dress: Top Shop | Boots: Hush Puppies 

Cardigan: Aritzia | Top: Zara | Jeans: Jessica Simpson 

Top: Club Monaco | Denim shirt: H&M | Leggings: Costco | Socks: Betsey Johnson | Booties: Kenneth Cole Reaction 

Dress: Top Shop | Cardigan: Zara 

Sweater: Club Monaco 

Omg. I never imagined I would ever reach this point, but it has finally come. 52+ weeks later and 365+ outfits later I have completed my #365outfit challenge!!!  What began as a challenge to myself to try to get my new blog going turned into something that became a (small) part of my life.  Thank you to everyone who tolerated taking my narcissistic selfies when I was out, especially Mr. Artist.

For those unfamiliar with the challenge, the purpose was to see if I actually did wear enough items in my closet to justify my shopping habits and to see if I could shop within my own closet and save myself some money by utilizing each item more.  I think it's safe to say that I was surprisingly successful!

Here are some of the top learnings and challenges I encountered over the past year:

Top learnings:

  • It actually isn't that difficult to create different outfits.  Even if you were trying to be as non-creative as possible, but still qualify, then you could wear jeans everyday and just swap out the top.  It's basic combinatorics.  While I would recommend that you try harder by trying different accessories and shoes, this example is just to illustrate my point that nobody should complain about it being too hard to wear different things everyday.
  • Think outside the box.  Don't just stick to basic colors.  Branch out into reds, or greens, oranges, or yellows; these colors are often neglected, so wearing them instantly makes you special.  Same thing goes for patterns; just check out my Clashtastic series for tips.  If you don't want to run out of options fast, you're going to need to step out of your black/navy/white/khaki/grey/boring as heck comfort zone.
  • Peer pressure definitely works.  If I had just been documenting this challenge privately, I probably wouldn't have made it through February, but since I was tweeting, instagramming and blogging my experience, I felt that social pressure to follow through.  Thanks guys!

Top challenges:
  • Winter is really hard.  Getting through those months of November to March was really tough for me.  Vancouver's dreary rain turns your entire world grey and all you want to do is wear giant grey sweater cardigans everyday, which is what I often did.  Doing this challenge made me realize that I'm very much a summer wardrobe girl.
  • Taking photos consistently is very hard and requires a lot of leisure time.  With the way the lighting is in my apartment, good natural light can only be really had in 2 locations and only at certain times of the day.  I work full time, so taking photos was dictated by my work schedule.  Before work often didn't work as I was in a rush and by the time I got home, it was usually too dark.  Only recently with my current job am I close enough to come home at lunch to take photos.  
  • You need a good photo posting process to post regular outfit photos.  When I began, I switched from my cell camera to my DSLR, which obviously took way better photos.  Unfortunately, the process of setting up the tripod, playing with the self-timer, taking down the tripod, uploading the images to my computer, editing them on the computer, sending them back to my phone to get posted onto instagram and twitter was just WAY too much.  Now I just do cell phone -> automatically uploaded to my tablet a la Android wizardry -> tablet photo editing app -> posted!  Sorry Canon.
  • Thinking of pithy photo captions is hard.  Surprisingly it can be quite difficult to think of something to write for outfit captions.  You don't really want to write anything more than a sentence, but you also don't want to write something stupid, like a song lyric (which I'm guilty of), or something self-absorbed like "I'm so fat" when you're obviously sucking in your gut and posing at your thinnest angle. Most of the time, I just want to write, "meh".  

If you've enjoyed following my #365outfit posts stay tuned as I'll be writing retrospective posts documenting my favourite outfits of the challenge and also a countdown of the most versatile items in my closet, that you should get for yours!

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In shoe heaven thanks to Zara online

If you've been on Twitter at all the past few days, you'll have seen many a tweet all in a flutter about how finally, FINALLY Zara has put up an online store.  Zara has got to be one of my favourite affordable retailers, hands down.  I've even told Mr. Artist that he could probably walk in with his eyes closed, pick something up and chances are that I'd like it.  I've always found my Zara purchases to be instant closet favourites and while I have heard of others having quality issues, I haven't hit any bad luck with mine yet.

As you can imagine, I was quite excited to check out the site when it debuted a few days ago.  Strangely enough, it wasn't as thrilling as I had hoped.  Maybe it's just that each page is SO LONG, or that the model they used looks half-dead most of the time.  After scrolling through what feels like hundreds of images of her deadpan face and clothes-hanger posing, you kinda start to feel lifeless too.  To be fair to her  though, I suppose if you had to try on every single piece of Zara's massive collection you wouldn't be "smizing" too.  The end result of all this was that I felt underwhelmed.  While walking into a Zara store fills me with an urge to lighten my wallet, the online store lacked any zing at all in favour of a utilitarian aesthetic.

Dutifully though, I worked my way through dresses, shirts, skirts, blazers, and coats before finally hitting upon shoes.  Thank god for shoes.  I've never purchased any Zara shoes before - mostly because they are snatched up so fast - but here online one can be assured that you can peruse shoes at your leisure without having to dig around on the floor trying to find the last pair of size 5s.  From your sky-high power heels, to casual and cute weekend shoes, Zara's online selection is quite amazing - and all at their affordable prices.

Here are just a few of the beauties I found:

I love these classic black heels.  The pointed toes add a bit of sassy elegance, while the mesh cut-outs tone down the formality and provide touches of sporty edginess that is spot on with current runway trends.  Perfect for walking around in skinny jeans, or with your Saturday night best, it's guaranteed that you'll wear these shoes to death.

These simply titled, "medium height" sandals are simple and sleek.  I think these would be perfect as a go-to summer heel that looks great with shorts, pants and skirts.  Although typically I would avoid thick ankle straps since they tend to chop off your legs, I think the nude tone of this one would help prevent that problem and I like how the minimalist design of this sandal elongates your foot.

If you know anything about me, then you know that polka-dots are kinda my thing.  These adorable ballerina flats literally jumped out at me and squeaked "buy me!" when I saw them.  Too bad the smallest size is only a 6!

Similarly, I found myself instantly drawn to these studded nude pumps.  Pumps are difficult things for me to find as not only do I have quite tiny feet, but I also have very narrow feet.  Most pumps I try on are either too big, or too wide and when I do find size 5's a lot of the time my toes will be cramped to death, while my ankles swim at the back.  Thus, when I spotted these gorgeous nude pumps, with its delicately studded ankle strap, it seemed like someone out there had finally heard my prayers.  I am very, very tempted to buy these!

Last, but not least, are these velvet slippers, or smoking shoes.  I've been looking for a pair of this type of shoe for a very long time and am quite tempted to buy these as well.  Besides the bordeaux shade shown above, these puppies also come in black.  I think the black would be the winner here if it had a gold trim to break up the plainness, but with such a simple design, having a vibrant color just calls out to you so much more.

Any item purchased (with the exception of undergarments) can be returned, or exchanged, at a physical Zara location (unlike at stupid, shitty American Apparel!!).  As well, shipping is dirt cheap for Canada at only $4.95, but you don't even have to pay that if you ship your purchases to a store, or if you spend over $50, which you know, is very very easy.  Really, there's no reason why not to try out the Zara online store, so what are you waiting for?

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Buy or Ditch: Organix Creamy Oil Body Lotion with Morrocan Argan Oil review

The Product
Argan oil is renowned for its moisturizing properties for dry, damaged hair, but can it also be used for your skin? Organix is betting so with its Creamy Oil Body Lotion.  Known primarily for their nourishing hair products, Organix also has a line of bath and body products in lush scents like cherry blossom and coconut.

The Guts
The "seller" ingredients of this lotion are Argan oil, rice milk, bamboo, sugar cane and willow bark, which are supposed to make your skin softer and more radiant.  The actual largest components of this lotion however are the less glamourous glycerin and glyceryl stearate.  The product does also contain a healthy dose of caprylic/capric triglyceride, aka. coconut oil, which serves as a moisture-binding agent and gives the lotion its thick consistency.

Price & Packaging
A 385 mL bottle will set you back around $8, which is quite affordable.  I also like how the lotion doesn't utilize a pump system, which means you won't have to drain out that pesky last drop later when you reach the bottom of the bottle.  One con though that I've discovered with flip top dispensers is that you then have to use a Heinz glass ketchup bottle method of getting product out - namely you turn it upside-down and shake the lotion out, which is kind of annoying.

Organix claims that this lotion is quick to absorb while providing long lasting moisture and I'd have to agree. After using this product for a month, my skin definitely feels softer judging by the comments I've been getting from Mr. Artist.  The scent is also quite relaxing and not overpowering.  I just wish the bottle were bigger because I found that I would use quite a bit of product per application!  A quarter sized amount would barely be enough to cover one leg, but then again I love to slather my moisturizer on, so I tend to go through lotions quite quickly.

Definitely worth buying!  I enjoyed this lotion so much, I went out and bought 2 Organix shampoos!

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