Merry Christmas and My Best of 2015 Countdown!

Merry Christmas everyone!! At this moment I am likely still asleep, but about to be woken up in 3 hours by 3 little gnomes, aka my nieces and nephews. The holidays are a huge event for me and my family and is my favourite time of year as I love to get together with all my family for good food and good cheer.

2015 was a big year for me, seeing as it was my wedding year. There were a lot of ups and downs for me personally and professionally, but I'm ending 2015 feeling positive for the future.

As a way to look back at the year that was, I thought I'd pull together a listing of my top 12 posts from 2015, care of Google Analytics....

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January's top post: Guerlain Spring 2015 Les Tendres Makeup Collection | First Impressions + Look - for whatever reason I'm ridiculously happy with this post. The photos turned out just how I wanted them to and of course it's hard for them not to with packaging this pretty! I was over the moon to try my first Guerlain products and many of these I haven't even touched because I don't want to disturb their prettiness!

February's top post: L'Occitane Shea line | Review + giveaway - one of my favourite skincare lines, this shea focused skincare regime literally pulled my skin back from the brink. Must try!

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March's top post: Estee Lauder Spring 2015 Makeup Collection Preview - this one was just full of makeup porn. There were so many gorgeous things in this collection and Estee Lauder has since become one of my favourite luxury brands. The oddest thing though is that at the time I was super lusting for the Sephora exclusive shadow palette from this season, yet a few months later, I had totally forgotten about it! Just goes to show that I have way too much makeup to occupy my thoughts.

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April's top post: Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer Review | My first foray into full coverage makeup - my "before" face in this post just makes me cringe so hard!! But it just demonstrates so much better the awesomeness that is this foundation. I LOVE this foundation so so much. It is my HG option when I need something that will last all day, not look cakey and just give my skin the most flawless finish I've ever had. I wore this for my engagement shoot in 28 degree weather and it didn't melt at all!

May's top post: Make Up Forever Pro Sculpting Duo | A contour or a bronzer?  - It was about at this time that I realized what the big shiz was about with contouring and bronzing. I don't know why, but I was all about that bronzey, sun-kissed GLOW. While this bronzer duo was a bit of a dud for me, the brush has since found its way into my staples as it's a great multi-tasker for bronzer, blush and highlight!

Clinique pop lip color and primer in poppy pop

June's top post: Clinique Pop Lip Color + Primer review | Can the Clinique Pop line do no wrong? - I think it's safe to say that the answer is no! I guess gushing equates to pageviews because a lot of my popular posts seem to be of products that I love, like this line of lipsticks! The only bad thing about this post is what is up with my super short brows?!

July's top post: Review + Swatches: Burberry Kisses Lipstick in Pink Peony and Burberry Lip Mist in Pink Camellia - 2015 was a year of first for me in makeup: my first taste of Guerlain, my first bronzer, and my first Burberry anything. If you haven't tried Burberry makeup yet, then you don't know what you're missing. It's rare that I read any review anywhere that is negative about Burberry products and these lipsticks are no exception.

August's top post: Avene Triacneal Expert Emulsion Review | Erase away those pesky scars - now this product was a real diamond in the rough as it's one of the ONLY products I've ever tried that has had an effect on my blemish scars and hyper-pigmentation. It's super gentle, yet really works, although it's most effective on new scars. Since I've been using this, my skin has gotten significantly clearer and more even.

Hylamide Subq eye serum

September's top post: Review Re-do: Hylamide Subq Eye Serum - September was a bit of a low month for me traffic-wise, but since it was the month before my wedding, I couldn't care less! This was my first time doing a second pass on a product that I've reviewed and it's something I'd like to try more of next year as it was actually pretty fun comparing my initial impressions against my later ones. With skincare especially, depending on how and when you use it, the effects can be so different; in this instance, I just had gotten a dud the first time round and the second time round, I loved it!

October's top post: Guest post | Jodi of Up the Rollercoaster on her favourite Canadian bloggers - I was MIA from blogging most of October due to my wedding, but luckily I had some amazing blogger friends to fill in for me, like Jodi with her guest post sharing her love for fellow CBB members.

lush cranberry festive mask

November's top post: Mask Roundup | Types of masks and when to use them - masking was huge in 2015 and with so many different types out there, it can be a bit bewildering for a beginner to know where to start. I like writing this type of advisory post, so hoping to do more of these in future (if I can ever think of anymore ideas!)

December's top post: Top 10 Wedding Planning Tips and Tricks - I felt bad that I didn't really keep up with my wedding planning posts while I was actually planning my wedding, so I've been trying to make up for it with post-wedding posts instead. For some odd reason I felt really protective of my wedding ideas so I didn't want to give them away beforehand. I should have written tip #11 to be "nobody is a special snowflake" as it's something I definitely needed to learn!


I'll be taking the next week off from blogging as I'll be out of town visiting friends and family. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this little blog. I deeply appreciate every one of your comments and I feel so privileged that anyone would choose to follow me out of the gazillions of bloggers out there. I hope you'll continue to stick around in 2016 and I'll be using my time off to recharge and think of fresh new things for you in the new year!

XO

MizzJ






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PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo and Condition Review

parlour shampoo and conditioner review

Launched in 2015 by NYC stylist Jeff Chastain, PARLOR is a new haircare line predicated on simplifying your hair routine. Having heard the gripes of his clients for years, Chastain realized that what women needed wasn't more wonder solutions - they just needed a few key products that worked. Quality over quantity right? So he set out to create just that and so PARLOR was born.

Each PARLOR product is designed to provide multiple benefits to your hair for maximum time-savings. Recently I was sent a couple of products from PARLOR to try: the Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo and the Moisturizing & Repairing Conditioner.


PARLOR Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo
Price: $22 for 237 ml
What it is: a triple-action shampoo that moisturizes, cleanses and repairs damaged hair.

What's in it:
  • Water
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate - a surfactant (cleanser)
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine - a surfactant that has anti-static properties and is known to be a mild cleanser. There is a low risk of skin irritation though.
  • Decyl glucoside - derived from sugar, this gentle surfactant is commonly used in baby products and also moisturizes skin
  • Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate - another surfactant that specializes in removing grease from hair
My take: The first thing I noticed about this shampoo is its smell, which is a mix of peaches, fresh cut grass and white woods that smells just lovely and refreshing. The shampoo itself is thick and foams up nicely, though I find that if my hair is pretty greasy and has some build-up, that I do need to wash twice to get it all out. This shampoo is designed to be color safe and I think that claim is true since its main surfactants are pretty gentle. After having tested out a couple of shampoos and hair treatments that just stripped my hair of moisture and smoothness, the Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo was just what I needed. This shampoo has literally restored my hair to its previous condition. My hair feels soft and shiny and I can run my fingers through my hair without catching on any knots now, which I haven't been able to for months! 

Final Verdict: Buy


PARLOR Moisturizing & Repairing Conditioner
Price: $22 for 237 ml

What it is: a light-weight, yet deeply moisturizing conditioner.

What's in it:
  • Water
  • Cetearyl alcohol - an emulsifier, thickener and surfactant. 
  • Behentrimonium chloride - provides moisture with smoothing properties. Take care not to get this into eyes as higher concentrations of this ingredient could be harmful. I'm not sure what exact percentage this conditioner contains, but better safe than sorry!
  • Cetyl alcohol - an emollient (helps lock in moisture) and emulsifier that helps condition the hair
  • Dimethicone - a silicon that probably helps smooth hair and lock in moisture
My take: Not too much to say about this one except that it works? The Moisturizing & Repairing Conditioner has a nice, lightweight texture that rinses out easily and doesn't weigh my hair down, which is a plus for us fine-haired ladies. The conditioner has the same scent as the shampoo and has a very similar appearance which actually is a downside as it's easy to mix the two up when in the shower. There's been a couple of times when I've mixed the two products up and applied the conditioner as my shampoo because the two products look the same and the tubes look exactly the same too! Hopefully future packaging comes in different colors to alleviate that issue!

Overall I wasn't blown away by this conditioner, but it did fulfill its promise of leaving my hair soft and tangle-free. You also don't need to use much conditioner as it spreads really easily. However, if your hair is particularly parched, then this conditioner won't cut it.

Final Verdict: Ditch


Overall, I thought both the Moisturizing & Repairing Shampoo and the Moisturizing & Repairing Conditioner worked pretty well for me. The shampoo especially was a win as it really cleanses well while not irritating my scalp. I would definitely recommend trying these out if you're looking for a rebalancing line of products.

Both these and other PARLOR products are available exclusively online via BirchBox.


PS. 2 more sleeps till Christmas!

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Vancity Box Review | Explore your city from the comfort of home!

vancity subscription box review

Vancouver has a funny reputation as a no-fun city where not much goes on except hiking, skiing and rain, but that could not be further from the truth. Kinda like its citizens, Vancouver is one of those places that you have to put a little effort into getting to know, but once you do, all its awesomeness comes spilling out.

As a medium-ish sized city, Vancouver is bursting with creative people and we're a hotbed for entrepreneurs in every industry. Services like the new Vancity Box hope to help new and old Vancouverites discover these hidden gems and help spread the word on how unique Vancouver really is.

Each month, Vancity Box delivers their subscribers a box filled with fresh new finds from around the city. Some brands you may recognize, but you're bound to discover a few you've never heard of. As a concept for a subscription box, Vancity Box is definitely singular in its uniqueness. It's such a cool way to discover new brands and I could totally see this scaling to other cities. I for one, would love to get a box that's all about Montreal, or New York. It's like going on a mini-trip without all the expenses and hassle!

december vancity box
December's Vancity Box

Here's a sneak peek at what's inside the December box, which is still available for purchase online!

batch sweet kitchen popcorn

I LOVE caramel popcorn. It's the perfect snack for snuggling around a warm fire, or if you're really a true Vancouverite, our beloved Shaw firelog on the TV. If you note the ingredients on this popcorn, it's super minimal and every item is recognizable with no chemical preservatives!

chocolatas handmade chocolates from vancity box

This mini quad of chocolates from Chocolatas would make a great stocking stuffer. The flavours shown here, going clock-wise from the top left are: a tomato raspberry basil ganache, salted caramel rosemary, traditional caramel and milk ganache and peaches. So far, I've limited myself to just trying the milk ganache and peaches, which tasted really creamy with a hint of sweetness. It didn't have a crazy peach flavour which I was grateful for as I'm not a huge fan of fruit-flavoured chocolates.

greeting card from vancity box

This cute greeting card is perfect for December's box! Definitely will be putting this to good use for the holidays!

Karla's specialty teas

To pair with the delicious popcorn are the comforting tastes of this 8-sampler tea pack. As a tea lover, I was all over this sampler and am super excited to try out the vanilla honeybush and fireside blends!

whipped baked goods marshmallows

For the sweet lovers, there were these cool handmade marshmallows from Whipped! These have got to be the prettiest marshmallows I've ever seen. The wedding planning fiend in me can think of so many possibilities for these marshmallows. Brides, take note!

loyal coalition toque from vancity box

Last but not least, the December box also included a winter essential in the form of a toque from Loyal Coalition. This toque is super thick and stretchy so it's sure to fit anyone's head. I've got lots of toques already, so I'm giving this one to Mr. Artist!

Loyal coalition toque
Don't ask me why this photo. I was bored and getting snap happy!


And that concludes the contents of the December box! It was pretty food-heavy this month, but then December is really all about the food isn't it? I think this box would make a perfect Christmas gift, or as a source for some really unique stocking stuffers for multiple people on your list.

If you're intrigued by what you see here, then there's still time to sign up for January's box, so go visit Vancity Box today!



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Clarins Joli Rouge Lipstick in Rosewood and Soft Plum Review | Lipstick for the Angelina Jolies' of life

clarins lipstick review

Clarins is one of those brands that doesn't get a lot of hype in the makeup world. They're a classic brand that is more well known as your mom's department store go-to than a haven for the young and trendy. To me, I visualize the Clarins women as being elegant, cultured and probably someone who travels a lot and isn't fussy about makeup. The Clarins woman is someone who's as comfortable at a charity ball as hiking in the mountains and she's sure to look just as stylish doing both.

If you are just such a woman, or aspire to be one, then the Joli Rouge lipsticks are designed for you. These creamy lipsticks come in 25 tasteful shades and are enriched with salicornia and mango oils to condition while providing you with rich, never-fading color for 6 hours.

clarins joli rouge lipstick

Encased in shiny and sleek gold plastic, the Clarins lipstick definitely get my heart beating a little faster! I'm a sucker for gold anything and the packaging of the Joli Rouge lipsticks remind me of a more grown-up version of the Charlotte Tillbury lipstick packaging.

The shades I received to try were:
  • Rosewood, a soft medium-tone pink 
  • Soft Plum, a rich burgundy plum with pink undertones
clarins joli rouge lipstick review

Both shades were a cream lipstick lover's dream. They applied evenly and easily across lips without catching on any dry patches or lines. I was quite impressed with the color payoff as well. Sometimes creamier lipsticks can be on the sheerer side, but both Rosewood and Soft Plum offered great pigment with just a couple of swipes. The swatches you see here are done with just two swipes!

clarins joli rouge lipstick swatches
Left to right: Rosewood, Soft Plum

Rosewood is a beautiful MLBB shade on me that has just the right amount of pink to it to give some lift to my features. It's a great girly shade for those days when you just want to feel pretty and innocent, or if you need a foil for heavier eyeshadows.

clarins joli rouge lipstick in rosewood
Wearing Clarins Joli Rouge lipstick in Rosewood

Soft Plum is a totally wearable plum that is a great option for someone wanting to try out the berry trend, but who needs to look professional. I think the darker your skin tone, the more closer to a MLBB this will be, but for fairer skinned people, this is just dramatic enough for that perfect winter vamp look.

clarins joli rouge lipstick in soft plum
Wearing Clarins Joli Rouge lipstick in Soft Plum

In terms of wear time, both shades were pretty average. I don't think I got a full 6 hours wear as they do fade after eating and drinking and I rarely pass 6 hours without doing both! 

clarins moisturizing long wear lipsticks
Rosewood and Soft Plum

I really like the cut shape of these lipsticks as they are slightly concave, which helps them hug closely to your lips. The pointed tip also helps get those crispy lines. My only complaint with these lipsticks is that there's no way to tell which shade you're grabbing without reading the label, but that's a pretty minor hassle. 

At $27 a tube, the Joli Rouge lipsticks aren't cheap. It's hard to justify paying a ton for lipsticks because I don't find much difference between high and low end brands, but if you are looking to gift this to someone, or just need a little retail therapy for yourself, then these are perfect. They look gorgeous in your vanity, come in a variety of fail-safe shades and feel so comfortable on the lips.


Final Verdict: Buy




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Derek Cardigan 7020 Glasses Review c/o Clearly | Starting 2016 early with a fresh new look!

clearly prescription glasses

I was nine when I got my first pair of glasses. Although amazed at the sudden clarity of my world, I immediately hated having to wear something so "nerdy" especially when I was deemed nerdy enough at school already! Couple that with the fact that my glasses were always slipping down my non-existent Asian nose bridge, and glasses were just the bane of my so-called teenage life.

Fast forward many years later and suddenly, glasses are in! Nerd chic is de rigeur and all the hottest celebrities have been spotted wearing specs at some point or another. It also helps that lens fashion has finally caught up with sunglasses and now come in a variety of cool shapes, finishes and colors.

Recently I was contacted by Canadian online prescription lens retailer, Clearly to try out their latest trends in frames and I have to say I am seriously impressed.

Clearly has a huge variety of glasses that could suit anyone's tastes. They offer styles for men, women and children from tons of different brands like Derek Cardigan, Anna Sui, Balenciaga, Givenchy and even Hello Kitty (surprisingly very classic looking)!

To help you peruse through their enormous catalog, Clearly has a nifty Style Finder quiz that asks you a few simple questions about your style preferences and prescription type and then narrows down your results to the ones that match you.

Clearly Style Finder

Clearly Style Finder

To help you narrow your picks down even further, just switch on the Try On view to see what each frame looks like on various shaped faces. You can even upload your own photo to personalize it even more!

Clearly Try On view

I knew immediately that I wanted plastic frames with a tortoise shell finish and inevitably was drawn to one of my favourite frames designers, Derek Cardigan. Known for his vintage style, Derek Cardigan frames offer classic shapes, with geek-chic finishings and a dash of tongue-in-cheek whimsy. Out of all the Derek Cardigan styles available, I absolutely fell in love with the marbled wood tones and warm colors of these 7020 Wood glasses.

derek cardigan glasses from clearly
Derek Cardigan 7020 Wood glasses

Purchasing my frames was a breeze and a week later I received my new glasses! Not to brag, but I'm quite pleased with how these look on me. Unlike a lot of other pairs I've purchased in the past, I think the 7020's really flatter my face and don't hide my eyes too much. They even don't slip down my nose as much as other frames, which for me, is amazing! At only $89, these glasses were positively cheap compared to ones I've bought in the past from brick & mortar stores and there are even cheaper frames available online.

derek cardigan 7020 review

derek cardigan glasses review from clearly contacts

If you've never thought to purchase glasses online, then Clearly is a safe bet to try. With a variety of features to help make finding glasses easier, tons of designs and a 365 day return guarantee, Clearly takes the anxiety out of shopping for the perfect fit. Now, if only they could do the same for bathing suit shopping!




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Guest Posting a Green & Red Holiday Party Look on Up the Rollercoaster!

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Is it bragging to say that I love this look that I put together? This past weekend I went to two Christmas parties and I wore this one out to one of them. I love going to Christmas parties! As you know, I LOVE any excuse to dress up! Like literally, I could just show up, grab some mash and cheesecake, snap a few #OOTD photos and then go home happy. Socializing is way overrated.

Anyhoo, find out all the details on how to get this look and see more pics over on Up the Rollercoaster!



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Jouviance Restructiv SRD Review | A gentle retinol wonder cream!

Jouviance Restructiv face cream review

As I get older, good skincare becomes more and more important. If you're going to shell out big bucks for anything, then skincare is worth it. Although I'm sure most women would agree with me on this, not everyone has the means to pay for pricey cosmetic treatments and $100+ serums, including me, so I'm always on the hunt for effective drugstore solutions. Recently I was introduced to Canadian skincare company Jouviance and their Restructiv SRD anti-aging daily moisturizer.

Restructiv SRD is designed to target multiple signs of aging with its potent omegas 3 and 6, ceramides and retinol; in fact, Restructiv SRD contains twice the concentration of retinol than other non-prescription retinol products. The SRD in Restructiv SRD stands for Sustained Release Technology as this cream has a unique delivery system that allows its retinol concentration to increase dramatically without risk of irritation. Over time, regular use of Restructiv SRD will help fight all the major signs of aging: wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dullness, dehydration, enlarged pores and hyper-pigmentation.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this cream are:
  • Water
  • Glycerin - a humectant
  • Decyl isostearate - an emollient
  • Coco-caprylate/caprate - an emollient
  • Isostearyl Isostearate - an emollient that can sometimes clog pores
Other notable ingredients are Imperata Cylindrica, aka cogon grass, root extract (moisturizing), Plukenetia Volubilis seed oil (moisturizing), retinol (antioxidant) and Sodium Hyaluronate (moisturizing).

Price & Packaging
The Restructiv SRD comes in a 30 ml tube and retails for $55 from drugstores like Shoppers Drug Mart. Since this is an anti-aging cream, packaging becomes quite important so that the ingredients don't oxidize or evaporate away. Thankfully, this cream excels on all fronts. The packaging is opaque and uses a pump dispenser. Sadly, the downside of this type of packaging is that it's hard to tell how much you have left!  

Effectiveness
It's been about a month since I started using this day cream and my skin is LOVING it! Winter time is a great time for me to be using retinol products, which can make your skin more sun-sensitive, as Vancouver is pretty much a vampire's paradise right now - aka we get zero sun. 

I like to be pretty generous with my moisturizers, so I've been using 2 half pumps for my cheeks and forehead and 1 full pump for my neck. 

The Restructiv SRD cream feels so good on my skin and it slides across my face like silk. My skin eagerly drinks this moisturizer up and it leaves behind no tacky feeling, but rather just a soft, moist finish. I was actually really surprised that the Restructiv SRD didn't contain any (or at least obvious) silicones as I've never had a non-silicone product feel this good before. 

As for the anti-aging claims, while I personally haven't noticed too much of a difference on that front, I seem to be getting more compliments lately on how good my skin looks, so I guess it must be doing something! 


Final Verdict
Buy - at $55, this cream is on the high end for a drugstore product, but it's so worth it as it is chock full of solid ingredients and makes your skin so smooth you won't be able to stop touching it!





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Top 10 Wedding Planning Tips and Tricks

Now that my wedding is finally over and I've had a chance to take a nice break from all things wedding-related, it's time to get back to it and start writing up those last wedding posts that I've been meaning to do! It's funny how sick you get of wedding planning and yet when it's over, you kinda miss the anticipation and excuse to look at pretty things like ribbons all day long.

Since a few of my friends are now on their way to planning their nuptials, I thought it would be timely to write down some of the learnings I gained through my wedding process. Every wedding is unique and has its own special challenges, but I think there's enough similarities that anyone can relate to these tips and tricks. In no particular order...

Tip #1: Determine your wedding vision
Having a clear vision of what your day looks like is so so important and helps make all the decisions easier. Do you want a big, grand, ballroom type wedding or are you more of a rustic backyard or barn wedding girl? Do you see yourself on a beach, or a garden, or an intimate church? Is a religious ceremony important to you? Who do you see standing beside you or sitting in the audience? Answering all these questions will help put some constraints on you and give you a goal post to align your food, decor, clothing and activities around. Without knowing your vision, you can easily get distracted by the innumerable and equally gorgeous options out there.

Our initial vision for our ceremony!

Tip #2: Have an honest conversation with your partner
It's really easy to think the wedding is all about you, but in case you didn't know, there's someone else in this wedding too! A wedding is just one day, but the process of it is your first real test as a couple. You'll experience stress, big decisions, financial strain and heartache during your wedding, so you had better learn to LISTEN and to COMPROMISE. Although your partner likely hasn't been thinking about this day since forever, they will still have a vision in their minds of what they wanted this day to be like. Don't you want to make them happy too? And if your answer is no... well, repeat after me: the wedding is not just about you! 

Mr. Artist was happy to let me make all the decisions because he knew I was considering him too. We both knew I was more into the particulars, so he let me obsess over those, but the overall feel of the day... how it was set in nature, cute, a touch silly and not too fussy, was equal parts both of us, and I felt so much happier knowing that his blessing was in every part of it. In turn, he was my rock that held me safe through all the dramas of the past year from work and family on top of the wedding.

Tip #3: Make and stick to your budget!
Seems like a no-brainer, but budgets and vision can often conflict. It's important to start early with a realistic idea of what you need to be working with. Mr. Artist and I worked out our budget right away and a savings plan that we needed to make to get there. Lover of spreadsheets that I am, I made a spreadsheet for our wedding that detailed out everything in related sections (clothing, venue related, trip related costs) with columns for budgeted price, actual price, savings difference and who paid for what with a final summary tab to keep tally of our overall spend. It seems anal, but it really helped me feel organized as it also doubled as a to-do list!

We also tried to be very pessimistic with our budgeting by over-estimating costs. It can be easy to underestimate how much you'll need to spend because the end number is just too shocking to contemplate, but you need to be realistic. Everything to do with weddings is jacked up, so you might as well plan to over-save and then celebrate your extra cash later.

(If you're getting married, email me and I can send you a template of my budget spreadsheet!)

Tip #4: Get yourself a planner
Now, I don't mean a wedding planner (although I had one and she was a godsend!), I mean a planning book. Few things are more satisfying than crossing off a to-do list and this is the biggest to-do list of your life! Organizing can be fun if you splurge on a fancy planner that's so pretty that you actually enjoy using it. I got a big leather-bound planner for myself and broke it out into multiple sections:

  • a section with an overall timeline with key dates marked out such as guest rsvp deadline, rehearsal dates, payment due dates, etc.
  • a month by month task list
  • a list of contact info for everyone in the wedding party and all vendors
  • a section for meeting notes with various vendors
Usually you'll have at least a year to plan your wedding and it can be easy to procrastinate. Do not procrastinate! If you break your humongous to-do list into monthly chunks, then it becomes easier to tackle and you won't ever free stressed by leaving everything to the last minute.


Tip #5: Know what is important and let the other things go
Yes, everything to do with the wedding is important, but it's more important to pick your battles. You may think the wedding is about the two of you, but let's be honest - it's not. Odds are at least one of your parents or immediate family members are going to drive you crazy trying to make it about them and they'll definitely try to foist something on you that you "absolutely must do" whether it's some lame family tradition or expense that's necessary to "save face." As tempting as it is to tell those people to go shove their faces up their asses, you can't, so you've got to prioritize. Know the things that you absolutely, positively have to have your way and let the others slide. By giving away small victories to these people, you'll pacify them while you still get the bigger things you want. Lose the battle, win the war my friends!

Tip #6: Don't DIY everything
Lots of brides might think that DIY'ing means instant savings, but that's just not true. Be honest with yourself: are you really that crafty? If you've never opened up a Martha Stewart Living before in your life, what makes you think you can handle a hot glue gun now? Do the words "Pinterest Fails" mean nothing to you?? I knew that my crafting skills peaked at age 7, so I avoided DIY'ing as much as possible. It's just a lot of stress and time that you may not have and you need to preserve your skin for the wedding! 

Also, DIY can be expensive. Again, if you don't own a bunch of crafting supplies, you're going to have to buy everything to make anything and that can be just as expensive as renting something pre-made. So what's a better solution? Finding a crafty family member or friend to help you out! 

Tip #3 for DIY - it doesn't always look good! I was considering this paper fan backdrop, but when taken in consideration of my other decor and venue, this whimsical look just didn't fit

Tip #7: Delegate
People who care for you love to help out. This is your time to take full advantage of people - within reason of course. If you know someone would love to help you out, or you have willing bridesmaids, then delegate small tasks to them so that you have time to focus on more important things. For instance, if you're thinking of a destination wedding, delegate someone to search for hotel deals for your guests; or if you have a foodie friend, ask them to help you figure out a dinner menu for your reception. My mom is a crafting genius, so I asked her to come up with some handmade party favours and decor, while my dad is always on the hunt for flight deals so I asked him to hunt for Hawaii packages.

Whatever you do ask people to do, be very specific about what it is that you're wanting and when you want it by. People may not feel the urgency for things as you will, so it's best to inform them up front. And always, always be very appreciative of anyone who helps you out. I asked Mr. Artist to put together our wedding slideshows and although they didn't turn out exactly to how I would have done it, I kept my mouth shut because he spent weeks working on it. In the end, everyone thought it was great anyways, so I would only have caused stress between us by opening my mouth!

Tip #8: Done is better than perfect
When you work so hard on something, it can be hard to let go. I found myself just going crazy if the slightest thing wasn't working out how I wanted it to, or feeling anxious over whether I chose the best thing, but really I was just causing myself undue stress. You don't have to pick flowers that are the absolute exact blue that is your wedding color. You don't have to have the exact rendition of "your song" played to the exact tempo of your steps as you walk down the aisle. You don't need vintage bone china with scalloped edges and engraved napkins because trust me, on the day of, nobody is going to notice. I barely remember the details of all the things I agonized ages over and made Pinterest odes to. All you and anyone else will remember later is the food, the booze, the music and how happy you and your partner were. 

Simple tablepieces are easier and quicker to put together, look just as elegant and often cost less! Quadruple win!

Tip #9: Include personal touches
It can be tempting to try to compete for the "best" wedding and just doing things that you think will impress others, but the best weddings are the ones where the day truly encapsulates the couples' personality. Mr. Artist and I chose our venue because Hawaii was a special place for us and we just loved the intimate setting and easy-going Hawaiian culture. Our cake was a naked cake, which matched our no-fuss nature and our ceremony songs included a ukulele take on Adam Sandler's "Grow Old with You" to reflect our silly sense of humour. Our wedding invitations were also designed by Mr. Artist and included our dog, as did our engagement and save the date photos. These were things that nobody else could duplicate and to us, were priceless.

Tip #10: Enjoy the moment
Even in the worst of times, I really enjoyed planning my wedding. I was in love with the idea of having a big celebration with Mr. Artist and everyone we loved. Although it was a shit ton of work and the last month was just a big ball of stress, in the end it really all came together - and I only had 3 or 4 crying breakdowns! The day of, I just felt so relaxed and let everyone else take care of everything. Like a general, I had made my battle plans, deployed my troops and now I just needed to see how it all went down. A wedding isn't everyday, so savor the moment, embrace your loved ones, forget what everyone else thinks and smile your face off!



Now I want to hear from other married ladies! What is the #1 wedding planning tip you wish someone had told you beforehand? 



All images via Pinterest




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Bliss Fabulous Makeup Melt Gel to Oil Cleanser Review | My favourite Bliss product!

Bliss makeup melt review

The Bliss Fabulous Makeup Melt Gel to Oil Cleanser is a unique all-in-one product that is designed to melt away dirt, impurities and makeup to reveal clean, bright skin in just a single step! Similar to a cleansing oil, you apply the Fabulous Makeup Melt to dry skin and then start massaging away. In Bliss' user testing, over 84% of testers said that the Fabulous Makeup Melt removed dirt, excess oil and even waterproof makeup.

I've tried a few Bliss products before and had varying results, but I love cleansing oils, so the Fabulous Makeup Melt sounded right up my alley!

The Guts
First up, the ingredients. The Fabulous Makeup Melt primarily contains:
  • Cyclopentasiloxane - a silicone that gives products a slippery texture
  • Caprylic/Capric triglyceride - gives products a thick, slippery texture
  • Octyldodecanol - another thickener and lubricant
  • Stearyl heptanoate - an emollient
Other notable ingredients include olive oil (emollient), Prunus Insititia seed oil (moisturizing), sage leaf oil (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant), jojoba (moisturizing). For those with sensitive skin, watch out as this cleanser contains lavender, orange peel and peppermint oils, which are fragrances that can cause irritation. 

Price & Packaging
A 125 ml tube costs about $28 USD, so $30 something for us Canadians. 120 ml is a generous sized tube, but I find I'm using this up fairly quickly as I use about a quarter sized amount each time. I'm probably over-applying, but I feel anything less just doesn't clean as well with a full face of makeup. 

Bliss fabulous makeup melt gel to oil cleanser

Effectiveness
As I wasn't sure whether the Fabulous Makeup Melt was meant to be used as a single step product or as part of a double-cleanse routine, I tested it both ways. My usual weekday face includes foundation, powder, mascara, brow powder, eyeliner, blush, sometimes shadow and definitely lipstick, so needlesstosay, that's a whole lotta face! I like my makeup removers to be super thorough and if something is going to claim to be good enough to both remove makeup AND cleanse, then it had better be able to pass my toner test! Sadly, the Fabulous Makeup Melt totally failed. It did a great job at removing all my makeup, but it couldn't move on further and penetrate that last layer of dirt and oil from the day. My toner pad was looking pretty beige after using just the Fabulous Makeup Melt on it own.

As a cleaning gel-to-oil though, the Fabulous Makeup Melt excelled. The gel feels like a super thick oil that smooths on easily and starts breaking down makeup immediately. Within seconds, it melts into a thin oil that rinses away easily. When paired with my current evening face wash, the Fabulous Makeup Melt leaves me skin feeling soft, cleansed and refreshed.

Besides using it as a makeup remover, I've been loving to use the Fabulous Makeup Melt as a morning cleanser; it's just gentle enough to cleanse off any overnight residue without stripping my skin of moisture.

Bliss gel to oil cleanser

Overall I'm pretty pleased with this cleansing gel! Even though it's not much of a night-time cleanser, it works great as part of a double-cleanse routine and I think it would work pretty well as a regular cleanser for anyone who doesn't wear makeup.


Final Verdict
Buy - a gentle and effective cleansing oil that can also be used as a regular cleanser for light-to-no-makeup days.





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Bioderma Sebium Pore Refiner Review | Finally, a good shine eliminator!

bioderma pore refiner review

I don't know what it is about getting older, but let me tell you: the "fun" that you had during your teen years doesn't end at 25! This time last year I was going through the worst breakouts I'd had in over 10 years and thankfully while my skin has recovered since then, it's definitely edged into more normal/combo territory than normal/dry. As such, I've been constantly battling daily shine that lurks up on me past the 3 pm mark. I try to pass it off as "glow" but when you're soaking through 2 blotting sheets from just your forehead and nose alone, it's not attractive!

Enter in Bioderma's Sebium Pore Refiner. This multi-tasking treatment is designed to combat oily skin conditions on multiple fronts:
  • Tightening oversized pores
  • Smoothing and refining skin texture
  • Mattifying
  • Prevent future breakouts
While the Sebium Pore Refiner is intended for blemish-prone skin, it's gentle enough for most skin types to use except if you're particularly sensitive. 

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this product are:
  • Water
  • Methyl methacrylate crosspolymer - a film former that absorbs excess sebum (oil)
  • Dipropylene glycol - a solvent with properties that help give products a slippery, spreadable texture
  • Cyclopentasiloxane - a silicone that gives a light, spreadable texture and which helps fill in fine lines
  • Cyclohexasiloxane - another silicone that basically does the same thing as cyclopentasiloxane and acts as an emollient thanks to its film-forming properties
Other ingredients of note are Fomes officinalis, aka mushroom, extract (skin conditioning), Salicylic acid (fights blemishes), Gingko biloba extract (anti-aging), Laminaria ochroleuca, aka brown kelp, extract (anti-inflammatory and moisturizing). For those who are also on the watch for these things, this product does contain mineral oil near the end of its ingredient list.

Price & Packaging
A 30 ml tube is available at drugstores like Shoppers Drug Mart. I couldn't find exact pricing, but this sells for around $26 on Amazon. I like how slim this tube is as it makes it easily stowed in a purse for touch-ups. 

bioderma sebium pore refiner

Effectiveness
Thankfully I didn't have to test this out on any actual blemishes at the time, so I mainly wanted to try this for its skin refining, pore and shine minimizing properties. 

Since it's not scientifically possible to "close" pores, I wasn't expecting much with the Sebium Pore Refiner and I was right. At the very least, it's salicylic acid should help keep pores from clogging, which can give them the appearance of being enlarged. 

In terms of skin refining and shine minimizing, I think the Sebium Pore Refiner actually performed decently well. Although the instructions say to apply the Sebium Pore Refiner before your moisturizer, I prefer to apply it after, similar to a primer. With all its film-formers, if you apply this before your moisturizer, you could dry out your skin as your cream won't be able to penetrate. 

The Sebium Pore Refiner gives my skin a nice smooth base that helps foundation apply easily. It also gives my skin a velvety finish that lasts for a good 4 hours. Even past that 4 hour mark, my skin is markedly less shiny than without the Sebium Pore Refiner.

As a straight-up skin treatment, I wouldn't say the Sebium Pore Refiner had any long-lasting change on my skin's texture. Instead, I'd say it is more similar to a mattifying primer, but unlike the primers I've tried, it feels super lightweight and absorbs well into skin. 


Final Verdict
Buy - serves as a great mattifying primer with skincare benefits




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A Book Devoured: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Nothing is better on a cold winter's night than a fantastical story to make you forget the chill and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is just the read for that.

It's difficult to say what genre this book falls into. Perhaps circus fantasy is the most appropriate? The Night Circus follows the lives of its two protagonists, the beautiful Celia Bowen and orphan Marco Alisdair and their work at a traveling circus. On the surface, the two could not seem more unalike; Celia is charming, beautiful and a natural performer thanks to the (often ruthless) tutelage of her famous magician father, while Marco is the quintessential studious orphan who is raised by a mysterious benefactor who surrounds him with books, food and nothing more, but they are actually very alike. Both Celia and Marco have a special talent for magic, a skill that the two don't realize will cause their fates to be inextricably intertwined forever. Pitched unwillingly against each other in a battle of wits, magical skill and creativity, the two start off as wary adversaries, but when they finally meet face to face, the competition turns to passion and the consequences for those around them change everyone's lives forever.

One part love story and two parts fantasy with a dash of historical drama, The Night Circus can only be described in fancy adjectives like wondrous, dream-like and ethereal. The prose is pretty flowery so at first I thought the author to be pretty pompous, but I persevered on as I wanted to understand where this story would go to next. I suppose the use of such contrived language is to try to convey, without just telling you, how unusually unique the Night Circus is. The circus is singular in all the circuses in the world and is in its own rights, a main character of the book just as Celia and Marco are. It has the best snacks, the most exotic performers and its tall black iron gates swing open only from dusk to dawn. No other circus in the world can match its wonders, but the real wonder is just how it is all made possible.

Originally written as a NaNoWriMo project, The Night Circus is Morgenstern's first published work. The Night Circus has received many accolades and comparisons to series like Harry Potter, but unfortunately wasn't as thrilling or as compelling. Morgenstern excels at painting mental pictures of her world and conveying the crazy embellished inventions inside the circus, but she doesn't explain enough about each character's back story to make you feel invested. When a couple side characters die off, it just feels like an after-thought and nowhere near the gut-wrenching ache as when Fred Weasley or even Dobby dies. I'd say The Night Circus is a good read if you just want some distraction, which makes it the perfect book for a commute, plane or just curling up for an evening on the couch.



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Pur Minerals Air Perfection CC Compact Cushion Foundation with SPF 50 Review | My first encounter with cushion foundations!

pur minerals air perfection cushion foundation

In the best type of war possible, beauty brands everywhere have been really upping their game when it comes to that most important of base products: foundations. In the last few years there has been a literal explosion of new formulations, packaging, shades and formats in the industry and as a gleeful consumer, I am loving it! First there were BB creams, then CC, DD, EE (maybe I'm just making that one up) and then foundation+concealer combos, then foundation serums, and now CC cushion foundations.

Originally made popular in Asia, cushion foundations are slowly making their way to product shelves. I've only ever seen them at higher end and more specialty type beauty stores, but I'm sure a budget drugstore offering is on the horizon. CC Cushion foundations are designed to give its wearer the most sheer, true-to-skin finish they'll ever have in a foundation. Unlike conventional foundations, CC cushions borrow from the packaging of cream foundations and come in a compact form. The cushion part comes from its unique interior, which houses a sponge that has been infused with foundation. Usually, cushion foundations will also include a puff, that is pressed against the cushion and then applied to the face. The idea, is that the cushion will gently dispense a light "spray" of pigment onto the puff, and the puff will then buff that into your skin for an airbrushed look.

While it's been primarily Asian brands pioneering it here in the West, Pur Minerals has now entered into the category with their Air Perfection CC Compact Cushion Foundation. Available in four shades, this foundation claims to provide buildable sheer to medium coverage while also conditioning and improving skin with Babassu oil and provide sun protection with SPF 50. With continued use, Pur Minerals claims its Air Perfection CC Compact Cushion Foundation will:
  • Eliminate irritated skin
  • Plump skin and remove fine lines
  • Fight signs of aging with natural antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins
These are rather tall claims for a foundation, so I was eager to see what was inside this wonder cushion.

Pur Minerals Air Perfection CC Compact Cushion Foundation

The Guts

The primary ingredients in this foundation are:
  • Water
  • Phenyl trimethicone - a silicone with emollient properties. Like most silicones, it helps smooth skin and create a light, airy texture
  • Isododecane - another emollient
  • Glycerin - a humectant
  • Cyclopentasiloxane - another silicone that is known for creating a silky texture in products and acts as an emollient
  • Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide - physical sunscreens
Other ingredients of note are denatured alcohol, Orbignya Oleifera Seed Oil aka Babassu seed oil (moisturizing), Niacinamide aka vitamin B3 (fights hyperpigmentation), Tocopheryl acetate aka vitamin E (antioxidant), Sodium hyaluronate aka hyaluronic acid (moisturizing), and Mango seed oil (moisturizing).

pur air perfection cc cushion foundation compact

Price & Packaging
A single compact costs $43 and you get about 10 ml oz of product. I've always loved compacts as there's just something so glam about them. Blame it on old Hollywood movies, but I've always dreamed of touching up my makeup with a compact in the middle of a fancy-ass restaurant!

The Air Perfection compact is a cute pearlescent white and has an interior mirror and an ingenious hinged lid on the inside to separate the cushion from the puff. Sadly, the puff is probably the least squee-inducing part of this product. Oh it's definitely nicer than your run-of-the-mill foundation sponge, but it's kinda dull looking, like a pink flappy pancake.

pur minerals cc cushion foundation

Coverage, Texture & Wear
On a regular day, I like to wear a thin layer of foundation across my cheeks, nose and chin. My primary uses for foundation are to eliminate any redness and to cover any scars or blemishes. I found the Air Perfection CC Compact Cushion Foundation adequate at doing all three, with a caveat that I didn't have any major blemishes present while testing this product.

The coverage was surprisingly decent too, BUT only if you already have really good skin to begin with. My aforementioned scars and redness is pretty minimal as my skin is behaving awesomely these days, so I don't need much coverage. One light layer of patting immediately brightens and evens my complexion. Two layers gets me so that I feel more comfortable and is enough to get to the regular coverage level of say, my Burberry Fresh Glow.

In terms of application, using a CC cushion takes some getting used to. The puff is bigger than the sponge and the sponge is quite pliable so when you press down, you really only get one splotch in the center of your puff rather than a fine spread. It was also difficult to press down evenly across the entire surface of the sponge, so I liked to focus my presses on different areas of the sponge to ensure I use it up evenly. The puff acts pretty well at buffing product into my skin. All you need to do is lightly pat and it just becomes one with your skin in a really lovely way.

pur minerals cc cushion foundation in light

The shade Light is definitely a winter shade for me, as I veer more towards NC20 this time of year. Light is just a tinge lighter than my skin, making it look brighter; in fact, it's such a good shade match that I couldn't get any decent swatches!

I love the dewy finish the Air Perfection CC Compact Cushion Foundation provides and on me, it lasted well throughout the day, although you do need to be careful not to brush against anything as you may leave a foundation streak for the first while. Because it's advertised to be a dewy foundation, I didn't expect this one to have any oil control properties... and I was right.


Final Verdict
Buy - a fun concept and great ingredients, but something I'd recommend only if you're curious about CC cushions and you only want the lightest of coverage.





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Unboxing: My JORD Wood Watch | Timeless elegance paired with natural materials

cora jord watch
Jord Cora Maple & Silver Watch, $275

If you were born at a certain time then you may still remember when everyone had a watch. Before cell phones, the only way to tell time when out and about was either with a watch, the sun, or the kindness of strangers. Now though, most people use their phones and few still follow the practice of wearing a watch. One would think then, that watches would eventually just cease to exist, but fortunately for watches, although they are no longer necessary everyday items, they still retain a place in our lives as valued keepsakes that speak to their wearers' style, mark special occasions or act as heirlooms.

What is it about watches that give it this mystique, this air of prestige? Perhaps it is the level of craftsmanship that is required that makes it seem so magical. After all, few can decipher its intricate mysteries. When you hold a well crafted watch it feels more like a piece of mechanical art and takes us back to our childhood attraction to all things whirring and clicking and levering away. This is why things like steam-punk are so popular - we all love a good set of gears!

jord watch in maple and silver
Jord Cora Maple & Silver Watch, $275

Recently I was offered the chance to obtain a piece of watch craftsmanship when I was approached by JORD Watches. You may have seen this brand featured on many a blogger (I highly recommend reading Jayne's detailed review) and it's easy to see why. Unlike any other watchmaker I've seen, JORD Watches manages to perfectly marry nature and mechanics into one harmonious product. Made out of raw natural woods and sapphire crystal plating, JORD Watches standout from the crowd of cold metallic and ceramic watches that have dominated the fashion landscape in recent years.

Although I was a huge fan of the Michael Kors watches when they were all the rage, and still am, I was immediately drawn to the organic feel of the JORDwatches. Lately, I've been feeling more drawn to delicate, minimal style and JORD complements this type of look quite nicely.

jord maple watches
Jord Cora Maple & Silver Watch, $275

While looking through JORD's catalog, there was so much to choose from. If you feel like something dark and rugged, then there are the ebony watches. If you want something more exotic, then there's zebrawood or koa. For my personal tastes, it's all about light, golden woods so I was immediately drawn to the maple collection.

JORD's maple watches are constructed from the outer rings of the maple tree and feature straight grains and a light yellow color. Out of the maples watches, I settled in on the Cora, a delicate looking watch that comes in multiple colored faces (silver, turquoise, rose gold, pearl and lavender).

cora maple and silver jord watch
Jord Cora Maple & Silver Watch, $275

The Cora Maple & Silver watch features an automatic drive system, meaning there's no batteries; instead you just periodically wind up the watch using the discreet dial on its side. The Cora also has sapphire crystal glass plating and Swarovski crystal markers for that discreet luxury feel.

Sizing my watch was easy as JORD provides handy instructions and a printable guide to help you measure your wrist. There are also extra links provided in the packaging in case you need it.

jord wood watches review

When I received my watch, I was almost as enamored, if not more, with the gorgeous wood engraved box that the watch came in. Featuring a sleek pull out lid, this was truly a treasure. My only wish was that the box was much larger so I could use it for storing fancy stuff, like luxury lipsticks or my makeup brushes!

unboxing the jord watch

jord watch review

If you're stuck on what to get a special someone for Christmas, then I highly recommend checking out JORD Watches. Few gifts can be as personal and elegant as gifting a watch, so it's the perfect item to get for a loved one!




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