Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's for Dinner

 I've tried some new recipes recently - it is always nice to add some healthy variety to our weekly menu.

Beef Stroganoff with Zucchini Pasta - the other night, Hubby requested slow-cooker Beef Stroganoff for dinner. The recipe is ridiculously simple - season beef with salt and pepper, sear on all sides (optional step), and cook in a slow-cooker on high for 6 hours with Cream of Mushroom soup, chili flakes, garlic powder and onion powder. Serve with pasta (Hubby prefers farfalle/bow-tie pasta - though most people use egg noodles). This is a great comfort food - but it's carb-heavy. So I substituted zucchini pasta in my portion (recipe here). I've used spaghetti squash as pasta before - but I much preferred my zucchini noodles - way less effort - and very satisfying too.
Chicken and Shredded Cabbage Salad - This is the first recipe I've made from the Low-Fat No-Fat Thai & South-East Asian Cookbook (only $7 at Winners!). The components are simple: finely sliced Napa cabbage, mint, grated carrot and shredded chicken dressed with a lime, fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, chili and shallot dressing. I didn't need any specialty ingredients - I found everything at my grocery store - yet the dish had a very authentic Thai flavour to it. There was a lot of prep work with all the slicing and shredding, but it was worth the effort - the dish was super-tasty and very filling. I've bookmarked several more recipes in this book, and can't wait to try them out!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Barbie and other Fashion Dolls

One of the (many) fun parts of being a parent - is the opportunity to revisit your own childhood when you play with your children. My mother recently brought back my childhood Barbies from storage to give to my 3-year old daughter.
Skipper, 80s Barbie, 90s Barbie and a 90s Prince Charming Doll (whom I bought because he was cuter than Ken)
Until recently, I had only let my daughter play with Kelly (Barbie's toddler sister) because I thought that Barbie's figure was too "mature". However, since getting my Barbies - my daughter is more concerned with brushing their hair than worrying about their curves!
My daughter's Kelly dolls (the one on the left is a UK doll made by Simba, the floral and gingham dresses were sewn by me!)
When my daughter is a little older, I plan on getting her a Barbie House - and I thought it would be fun for her to have a variety of fashion dolls living there. For now, I've picked out some re-issued Sindy dolls (from the UK) and a Licca-chan Takara doll (from Japan). Both these dolls were produced for local markets as an alternative to "sophisticated" Barbie. They replicated teen figures and had softer-looking features.
Re-Issued Sindy's next to my childhood Barbie. I love their big heads, side-glancing eyes and rosebud mouths.
Licca-chan doll is still in transit. She resembles my 80s Skipper doll.
By the way - is it just me, or has Barbie gotten less cute over the years? They keep making her eyes wider and more made-up, while her features have gotten a bit harsh - and dare I say - chintastic!
Gifts given to my daughter. Stacie and Kelly are cute - but Barbie looks a little severe.
I know there is a lot of controversy about giving Barbies to children and exposing them to unreal body-shape expectations. But I think it's the parents' responsibility to teach their children what is unreal (dolls, photo-shopped models etc) and give them healthy role-models to emulate. Let them enjoy fashion dolls for their play value - while understanding that they are not an ideal to measure themselves against.

Did you have any Fashion Dolls as a child? Do you collect any now? I'd love to read about them in the comments.

If you want to learn more about Sindy, check out this informative site.

Hana Flat Iron Contest Winner

The Hana Flat Iron was won by entry #4: Lindy May. Please e-mail me at ellaprettyblog AT gmail.com with your mailing address so that I can pass it on to Misikko.com. Congratulations!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nailpolish Review: JOE FRESH colours and Chanel JADE dupes

 JOE FRESH is a Canadian clothing and beauty brand sold at the LOBLAWS chain of grocery stores. I believe the founder of this brand is the head behind CLUB MONACO as well. They have a clever marketing strategy - I usually end up with one or two unnecessary beauty items in my grocery cart! The nail polishes are especially hard to resist - as they come packaged in the cutest little chubby bottles.

Colours:  They have a great selection of colours including pastels, metallics and more traditional reds and pinks. I picked up a mint green (I think it's their most popular shade, as it is often out of stock), lavender and hot pink.
Application: I find these polishes VERY easy to apply. The consistency is perfect - thin enough to glide on smoothly, but thick enough to only need 2 coats. The hot pink colour was especially easy to apply - it looked great even with one coat.
Durability: These polishes aren't super long-lasting, but perform fairly well when used with a topcoat. On my fingernails - without topcoat - the colour lasted 3 days without chipping. On my toenails - WITH topcoat - the colour lasted for a week.
Price: These cost $4 each (or 3 for $10) for a 6ml bottle. Most polishes (such as OPI and Essie) contain 15ml, while this polish would be $10 for 15ml. It's not really a bargain - but I hardly ever finish a full-size polish anyway, so I'd prefer getting 3 of these JOE minis rather than 1 full-size polish.
Would I buy it again? Definitely! I have my eye on a wine/maroon shade that would be perfect for fall.
Ever since Chanel came out with their JADE polish (in Fall 2009), I've been obsessed with green nails. It's not the most flattering shade - especially with my skin tone - but I'm drawn in just the same. I missed the boat on the actual Chanel polish (along with the people who are bidding $200-$500 for it on eBay!!!). I'd rather spend that money on a nice handbag, and wear a dupe instead. Two of the closest dupes are: Milani's Dress Maker and Claire's Dream Catcher.
I own Dream Catcher, and have swatched it above (on the left side) along with my mint green JOE polish and Revlon's Minted. As you can see, Revlon and JOE's colours are not that similar to Jade - they are pastel, while Dream Catcher is warmer and has subtle shimmer. The JOE colour has aqua undertones - and is reminiscent of Chanel's Nouvelle Vague and China Glaze's For Audrey. Of the 3 green polishes, JOE has the best formula. The Revlon one is quite gloopy, and the Claire one took 4 coats!

If you want to see some more swatches of Chanel Jade and Nouvelle Vague (and their dupes), check out the links here and here.

Do you wear green polishes? Have you seen Milani's Dress Maker in Canada - tell me where - I'd love to try it!

DISCLAIMER:  I purchased these items myself and was not paid to review them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blog Contest for Hana Mini Flat Iron - Pink CLOSED

I've been in touch with Misikko.com - and they have generously offered this LOVELY prize for one of my subscribers:

It is the Hana Mini Flat Iron - Travel Size.
It's so cute and tiny - measuring 5 inches.
But unlike other mini irons - this extends out to a length of 8 inches (the standard iron length) so it's quick and easy to use. Hana irons feature ceramic and tourmaline technology. And most importantly....it's PINK!

So if you want a chance to win this adorable pink iron - here's how to enter:
1) You must be a follower of this blog. (If you're not already, you can use the Google Friend connect button on the right-side of this page, under the "FOLLOWERS" heading)
2) Only open to readers from U.S. and Canada (due to voltage and postage issues)
3) For 1 entry - follow Misikko on Twitter and post a comment below
4) For a 2nd entry - post about this contest on your own blog and comment below linking back to your post
5) For a 3rd entry - sign up for Misikko's newsletter and post a comment below stating that you've done this.

Remember to include your email address with each entry. You are allowed a maximum of 3 posts/entries. This contest will be open until August 26 at midnight EDT. I will use random.org to pick a winner. Good Luck!

DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am NOT being recompensed for running this contest. I just thought it would be a great opportunity for one of my subscribers. Misikko had sent me a hairdryer to review - and that was disclosed in this previous post.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Product Review: SuperSolano Hair Dryer

Misikko is an online hair & beauty store that has been featured a lot in the blogging world - especially for their Hana Professional Best Flat Iron - which a lot of bloggers reviewed and did giveaways on. Here are some posts featuring them from Canadian blogs that I follow:



I prefer to keep heat-styling to a minimum - but for special occasions, I like to achieve Gossip Girl/Kardashian inspired hair (with volume at the crown and beachy waves). So I asked Misikko if I could review one of their professional hairdryers - since heat is required to create volume. They sent me the SuperSolano 1875 watt professional dryer (model 232K).
So far, I've mainly been using it on the cool setting, when I don't have time to air-dry my hair. I've found that it works quickly - even without the heat(!) - to dry my hair and leave it looking silky. This model features ceramic and tourmaline technology - important options to consider when buying a hairdryer, as they ensure even heat distribution, faster drying time, and shinier hair. It has 3 temperature settings, 2 speeds, a cold shot button and an extra long cord. I've found the motor to be very powerful, yet quiet. The dryer is well-balanced and easy to maneuver without making my hands tired - I really enjoy using it!

Since I don't frequently use a hair dryer on my hair, I wanted to feature a second opinion on this product - from a more experienced user. I asked my sister (who has thick, gorgeous hair and NEEDS to use a hairdryer after EVERY wash) to try this as well. She also found the hairdryer very lightweight and easy to use. However, she personally uses a RUSK hairdryer and prefers it to the Solano, as she found the cool setting on the Solano to be a little too cold (she actually said it felt like air conditioning!). Maybe her scalp is more sensitive than mine, as I found the cool setting very comfortable.

If you're in the market for new hair tools - it is worth checking out Misikko's site. They have a wide range of items, including Hot Tools Curling Irons (another must-have for Kardashian-inspired hair) and a Pink T3 Tourmaline Dryer (I wish my Solano was pink!!!) Also, check back soon, as I will be holding a Misikko product giveaway!

 Disclaimer: This hairdryer was sent to me to review by Misikko.com. This post reflects my personal opinion, and I was not compensated for writing this review.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Anti-Aging Facial Massage

As I'm 32,  I'm very interested in anti-aging skincare and treatments. I would love to retain a youthful appearance for as long as possible - WITHOUT resorting to injectables, fillers or surgery. I've previously posted about Facial Exercises (here) - a  method of building up muscle to replace declining facial fat. I still do these exercises weekly, and find them very effective.

Another self-treatment I've become interested in is facial massage. Apparently this can prevent the sagging and drooping skin associated with aging, while preventing naso-labial lines and wrinkles. I first read about lymphatic drainage facial massage in this informative book by Chizu Saeki. She details steps you can add on to your cleansing routine to keep your skin tight and firm.

The Japanese Skincare Revolution by Chizu Saeki

A lot of the steps she described were familiar to me, as I've had them performed on my skin during facials. Since I only get facials a couple of times a year, I wanted to learn more about these techniques, so that I could do them more frequently on myself.

In my Internet/beauty forum research, I kept hearing about "Tanaka Facial Massage". This massage  was created by Yukoka Tanaka, a Japanese make-up artist who used it to help actors maintain their youthful looks. There is a very helpful YouTube series where Tanaka demonstrates her massage technique. Here is a link to the first part (there are 4 clips in all).

Of course, there are many different variations of lymphatic massage (just google and see!) but I think the basic techniques have been around for a while. In fact, my mother recently gave me a beauty leaflet that she received while living in Hong Kong in the 1970s. It is from the "Sylphy" skin care company, and it demonstrates massage techniques to use while applying their products. A lot of the steps are similar to the Tanaka massage.

Scan of Sylphy Skincare Leaflet
As a beauty junkie, I enjoyed learning a new technique - I love that I can incorporate facial massage into my nightly routine (when I have the time!).

Do you do any facial exercises or massage?  Have you had any positive results?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Contest Winner

The contest ended last night - and this morning I searched for a winner on Random.org.
The winner is z1477 who chose these dream items from the CSN sites:
Diaper bag:

Hope you're able to put your $40 to good use! Please email me at ellaprettyblog AT gmail DOT com for your gift certificate.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blog Contest for $40 Gift Certificate! CLOSED

 I've been contacted by CSN stores about doing a giveaway for my readers. They have a network of Internet stores covering a wide variety of items including cookware and home decor. They will email a $40 gift certificate to the winner of this contest - this amount can be used towards purchasing ANY item on their website - and can be applied towards shipping costs if the item amount is less than $40.
How to Enter:
1) Visit the CSN Stores website (link here)
2) Pick 2 "dream" items that you like (can cost more than $40 - we're dreaming here!)
3) Comment on this post - with your 2 picks and an email address (only 1 entry per person please)

Here are my 2 dream picks:
1) Venetian Bedroom Vanity - I'd love to have a place to sit and do my make-up. And this piece looks sleek, yet has a lot of compartments to store my palettes and brushes.

2) Le Creuset French Oven in Cassis - I already own this pot in the classic Flame colour - but this purple is *so* gorgeous - sigh!

1) You have to be a follower of my blog (If you're not already, you can use the Google Friend connect button on the right-side of this page, under the "FOLLOWERS" heading)
2) You must have a U.S. or Canadian Shipping address (Canadian winners are responsible for any potential international fees/charges)

The contest ends a week from today at midnight EDT (August 10, 2010). I will go through the list and use random.org to pick a winner. GOOD LUCK!

DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am NOT being recompensed AT ALL for running this contest. I just thought it would be a great opportunity for one of my subscribers.


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