Saturday, May 28, 2011

Books on decorating & Inspiring decor from blogs I follow

I'm still immersed in setting up our new house - so I've been reading skimming a lot of decor books for inspiration. I'm not trying to design the whole house at once. Rather, I'm trying to get the best foundations to build-upon, so that I can achieve my desired look over time. My two current goals are furniture and wall colour - we're getting some of the rooms painted this weekend. Here are the Benjamin Moore paint colours we'll be using:
While the internet is a never-ending source of inspiration, there is something more peaceful about flipping through a book rather than scanning frantically through website after website until your browser freezes up (or does that only happen to me?)  I searched on Amazon for popular decorating books, and checked them out from my local library (sneaky and thrifty, huh?).

House Beautiful The Home Book: Creating a Beautiful Home of Your Own - House Beautiful publishes a multitude of decorating books, and I think that this book captures the best mix of all topics. It has beautiful and classic inspiration pictures and tutorials on how to design each aspect of your room from window treatments to furniture to flooring. Verdict: I love this book so much, I'm buying myself a copy. I can see myself referring to it time and again.
House beautiful colors for your home : 300 designer favorites - this is a handy little reference book featuring many swatches from different paint companies, divided up by colour scheme and room. Since it's very small and light, a lot of interior decorators keep it in their handbag at all times!  Verdict: Was VERY useful to refer to but I don't need to own it now that I've selected my paint colours.
House Beautiful 500 Sensational Ways to Create Your Ideal Home - There is some overlap between this book and the first book, but it's not as comprehensive. Has lots of pretty interiors with relevant decorating tips but nothing too ground-breaking. Verdict: Good to flip through and bookmark pretty pictures, but no need to own.
 Domino: The Book of Decorating - So instructive, reading it is like taking a mini interior design course.  Breaks down featured rooms into their floor plans and colour palettes - which helps you learn how to create your own. Contains a lot of information but is presented in a very easy-to read manner. Verdict: A great reference book and a must-buy, especially if you were a fan of the now-defunct magazine.
Style and Substance: The Best of Elle Decor - Elle Decor magazine seems to be the holy grail for interior decorators, so I had high hopes for this book. While there were lots of opulent pictures, most of the interiors seemed too arty or bold for my taste - I hardly bookmarked any inspiration pictures. Verdict: Doesn't appeal to my decorating taste - not a must-buy OR even a must-borrow for me!

Blogger Inspiration:  Some of the blogs I follow have done amazing interior renovations.

Check out Ashley's entrance way renovation over at Marchlela Vintage - Before:

I love Veronika's elegant decor:
Bubblegarm's cheery bedroom (how I love wallpapered "feature walls"):
Lena's W Hotel inspired bedroom (I adore her quilted leather sofa):

Do you have any good decor-related books or websites to share? I'd love to see pictures of your renovations!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

J Crew bubble necklace dupe

I thought the necklace in this H&M ad looked familiar:
It's a lot like J Crew's famous bubble necklace...but much cheaper: $14.95 rather than $150.
J Crew
When I went to the H&M downtown - I was able to only find ONE necklace - it didn't even have a tag, and one of the dangly beads was missing. They said that they were all sold I didn't want to let go of the one that I had. I bought it and just took off the matching bead on the other side...but if I ever find this necklace at my local H&M store, I'm snapping it up too. Apparently it also came with a black bead option:
Do you own this necklace or the original one by J Crew? I bet the beads on the J Crew ones don't fall off as easily...

Beautygirl24 has the H&M necklace too - posted here. She also received her contest package - as did JCHokie and Ashley - thanks for posting pics!

Pure Love: Chanel Precision lip definer in Vamp

I was in downtown Toronto today, and I couldn't resist wandering around the huge beauty department at the Bay near Eaton centre. I've been wanting to try Chanel's two most popular lip colours: Rouge Coco Lip colour in Mademoiselle and Rouge Coco Lipshine in Boy (seen below on Vanessa Paradis).
Rouge Coco Lip Colour in Mademoiselle
Rouge Coco Shine in Boy
These two shades are designed to be universally flattering - I found Mademoiselle very wearable - and while Boy made my lips look very fresh and pink, I wasn't too sure about its slightly cool bluish undertones. But the item I completely fell in love with was the lip liner the SA tried on my lips. I was a bit surprised to see her pull out such a dark colour (I had scary visions of the whole 90s dark lip liner/light lips trend). But she insisted that the darker colour would produce a subtle plumping effect when used lightly around my lips - and she was SO right. She applied it to my lip line - and even though she stuck to my actual lip line rather than tracing outside it, somehow the colour subtly made my lips look larger and plumper. It was a no-brainer - I had to purchase it right away (and I don't feel guilty either - a darker lip liner was on my to-buy list for this year).
At CAD$26, I think this is a very reasonable price for the product you get - it comes with a sharpener and a lip brush (which you can use to blend the lip liner or apply lipstick). You can use it with both light and dark lipshades (I promise - there is no scary and obvious dark outline). The shade also works beautifully as a base under clear lip gloss - it's a flattering reddish berry lip colour that doesn't look at all goth. It's a definite must-have!

After I finished paying for my make-up, the SA told me that I had beautiful skin and she liked my make-up application...of course she must have been feeling complimentary since I had just purchased something from her - but it's been a while since I've had clear and blemish-free skin - so dear Mr Dermatologist - thank you so much for prescribing my antibiotics - the results are finally kicking in!
Have you tried Chanel Lip Products? Do you remember how popular Vamp was in the 90s?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's for Dinner and Dessert

It's been a while since I did a "What's for Dinner" post - and I have a backlog of meals to share.
The first is a dinner I've featured before: Beef Galbi with dressed salad and white rice. The beef marinade is from my local Asian grocery store - I just marinate the ribs overnight and grill them. The salad has "Gochujang" sauce in it - this is the sauce they serve with Bibimbap at Korean restaurants. I make my version with Chili paste, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds and sugar.
I also used the Gochujang sauce for my next dish. This is made entirely from frozen items (frozen tilapia and mixed veggies) - so it's a great back-up option. I coated the tilapia with olive oil and seasoned salt then pan-fried it on a skillet. I stir-fried frozen veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, beans, carrots, corn and peas) with salt and lemon pepper. When mixed with brown rice and the spicy Gochujang sauce, this makes for a satisfying meal.
Here's the dinner we had tonight: Firecracker shrimps with stir-fry. I marinated the jumbo shrimps in olive oil, sri racha paste, soy sauce, sugar and minced garlic (for an hour). I stir-fried the veggies (fresh and prepackaged from the grocery store) with lemon juice, garlic powder, and soy sauce.  I served it over brown rice.
I also made iced lemon green tea to go with our dinner. I made a strong mug of green tea, added 1 TB of honey and poured it into a pitcher. I topped it up with water and put it in the fridge. I served it with ice and lemon slices - it's slightly sweet, very refreshing, and much better for you than coke!
Now for the not-so-healthy food. I made Pioneer Woman's "Best Chocolate Sheet Cake" - and I HIGHLY recommend it - it tastes amazingly good (nobody can take just one square) and is ridiculously easy to make - I had all the ingredients on hand.
I also made butter cookies for my kiddies - I use a simple recipe with butter, sugar, vanilla, egg and flour...but something about homemade baked goods - they're just irresistible!
What are your go-to healthy meals? I need variety and am always looking for new recipes!

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Top Pregnancy Tips

Let me start off this post by saying - I am NOT pregnant - no bumpwatch needed here! Four years ago my life changed forever when I gave birth to my lovehearts- my son and daughter (they're twins). As they've gotten older, it has become less exhausting and more interesting. While I did cherish their infanthood, it's so much easier now that they can communicate their needs clearly and understand directions (rather than crawling to the nearest plug point and playing with the safety covers!).

My Twin-Bump the morning before their birth
I could talk about my kiddies forever (I already keep a diary of all the funny and sweet things they say - yup, I'm THAT mom) but that's not the point of this post. I wanted to share here the top things I discovered or wished I had known when I was pregnant.

1) The looped hair-elastic trick - this is mainly for the first and second trimesters, when your bump is small but you can't button up your trousers. You can still wear your button front/zip trousers - just take a hair elastic and loop it around the button hole. Keep the zip open and fasten your button through the hair elastic - and then wear a LONG tank or tunic to cover up your exposed skin. If you're not a fan of DIY, you could buy something like a Belly Band.

2) Have a sufficient number of cute post-delivery clothes -  It's important to feel good about yourself as your body is going through so many changes. This is one thing I wish I had focused more on. I didn't purchase a lot of maternity clothes - I bought some maternity dresses (like the black one in my picture above) and layered them with pieces I already owned. This was fine during the pregnancy, but after the birth, my pre-baby clothes didn't immediately fit me, and my maternity clothes were too loose. You're already feeling exhausted - you don't want to feel frumpy too - so a little pre-planning and pre-shopping can go a long way. I'd recommend purchasing a couple of flowy tops and stretchy pants - keep it cheap and cheerful, as you're probably going to get spit up on....a lot!


3) Wear a bra ALL the time - Your cup size will change repeatedly - during pregnancy, during nursing and after you wean your baby. If you're well-supported during all these changes, you may be able to prevent sagging. I wore cotton sports bras a lot during my pregnancy, since I couldn't keep up with all the different cup sizes. As there is no underwiring, it was quite comfy to sleep in. Here's some more info on preventing sagging by sleeping in a bra.

4) Quadruple up on stretchmark prevention - I used bio-oil twice a day during my pregnancy - without skipping a single application. However, two weeks before my due date, purple marks appeared on my sides: the dreaded stretchmarks had arrived. Stretchmarks may have been inevitable for me, since I was carrying twins, but I wish I had hedged my bets and used a couple of different creams rather than pinning all my hopes on one. If I had to do it again, I'd switch between MustelaBio Oil, Palmers Cocoa Butter and Clarins.

5) Get a wedge pillow - Sleeping when you're pregnant is uncomfortable enough (with the frequent potty breaks, limited sleeping positions and extra generated body heat). You should do everything you can to make sure you're comfortable and getting enough rest. I didn't know wedge pillows existed when I was pregnant, and drove myself crazy arranging my pillows around me every time I got back in bed (2-3 times a night). I purchased a wedge pillow at Thyme Maternity (my exact one pictured below) AFTER my delivery to help with back pain, and it was a HUGE help...I can only imagine how great it would have been DURING my pregnancy under my bump.

6) Regaining your pre-baby body - it's very important to keep fitness and healthy eating in mind - without obsessing over it. It's better to focus all your energy on your newborn, and let your body naturally settle down after birth. By the time your baby is sleeping through the night, you'll probably have the time and energy to focus on exercise (after getting your Dr's permission). Since the stomach muscles have been put under so much strain during pregnancy, you need to strengthen your core and be VERY aware about the way you exercise. Conventional sit-ups can lead to "tummy-pooching" as you have to firm up your deeper abdominal muscles first. I HIGHLY recommend Lindsay Brin's Core Firing Sequence method. This program is designed for mothers - and offers maximum results with minimum effort. She has 3 levels of exercises. Each level takes 10 minutes: you only need to do one level, and move up as you get more confident. I've done level 1 and 2, and find that I get surprisingly defined abs even when I just stick to level 1. Combine these tummy exercises with cardio a couple of times a week, and you will get great results.

Do you have any pregnancy tips to share? Did you get stretchmarks? Do you know how to get rid of them?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What make-up products Princess Catherine used for the Royal Wedding: have released an article with face charts from Bobbi Brown showing what make-up Kate Middleton and Pippa Middleton wore during the Royal wedding. I'm so excited because I REALLY wanted to know what make-up Kate used - especially her lip colour and blush.
Kate Middleton's Wedding Make-up: 

All over: Ivory Eyeshadow (a creamy white)
Lower lid: Rockstar Metallic Eyeshadow (a medium metallic grey)
Crease: Slate Eyeshadow (a medium grey)
Eyeliner: Black Ink Long-Wear Gel liner (a jet black)
Mascara: No Smudge

Pale Pink Blush (a bright pale pink) + Pink Quartz Shimmer Brick

Sandwash Pink Lipcolor (a beige pink) + Crystal Lip Gloss

(Non-Bobbi Brown products used :
Nails: a custom blend which included Essie's 423 Allure (a sheer with a natural finish) and Bourjois' no. 28 Rose Lounge (milky pink sheer).
Perfume:  White Gardenia Petals by Illuminum: described as "the clean, fresh scent has a note of coconut bursting into ylang ylang, lily of the valley and jasmine, with amber wood as the base note."  )
Pippa Middleton's Maid of Honour Wedding Make-up: 

All over: Bone Eyeshadow (an offwhite)
Lower lid: Ash Long-Wear Cream Shadow (a medium brown)
Eyeliner: Black Ink Long-Wear Gel liner (a jet black)
Mascara: Lash Glamour Extreme Lengthening

Sand Pink Blush (a medium sandy pink) + Bronze Highlighter Pen (a golden bronze)

Blondie Pink Lipcolor (a medium nude pink) + Confetti Shimmer Lip Gloss (a light shimmery pink)

Note: the shade descriptions are from the Bobbi Brown website.

Have you tried Bobbi Brown make-up before? I've had a make-over done at the counter, and given Bobbi Brown products as gifts, but for some reason I've never purchased anything for myself. I have a feeling this will change very soon - guess that's the power of the "Princess effect"!

For more Kate Middleton Beauty Secrets - click here!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tutorial: How to create the perfect make up palette for $1

My most-used eyeshadow is a tiny gift-with-purchase set. Over time the hinge has broken off and I have to hold it closed with an elastic band - but there is still a lot of eyeshadow left. One of my favourite powder blushes fell on the floor and shattered into many pieces. What should you do with broken products? I decided to create the perfect make-up palette!
The palette I chose was the ELF $1 Essentials Compact with Mirror. It's very well-made and the mirror is very useful when you're on the go. There are many other companies that make magnetised 4-pan refill palettes including MAC (CAD$9) and Annabelle (CAD$5.50).

 The first step is removing the 4-pan insert. I just wiggled and lifted it out. The metal sheet underneath is not attached, so I used super-glue to fix it in place.

Then I got all my palette pieces together. At the top you can see my shattered blush, as well as an eyeshadow trio that dissolved in the mail (a gift from my friend). I'm using one of the empty eyeshadow pans for the blush, since it is smaller. Below you can see my much loved Lancome shadows as well as my Sephora shimmerbrick. Also pictured is magnetic tape - but it ended up being too thick to use.

To depot the make-up, you'll need some rubbing alcohol, a small cup and a dropper (I took my dropper from a Burts Bees serum that I no longer use). A lot of people use heat to depot - but I've found this method simpler.

Pour the alcohol into the cup. Use the dropper to drop it all along the edges of your make-up pan - don't worry if some alcohol gets on your make-up - it evaporates quickly. The alcohol dissolves the glue holding the pan in place. After waiting for 30 seconds, CAREFULLY use a flat object to wiggle the pan loose (I used a fruit knife). I washed out the pan and used alcohol to remove glue residue from the back of the pan.

Then I placed fragments of my blush into the empty pan. I ground up the blush into a fine powder and added drops of rubbing alcohol until the shadow looked like a paste (I might have used a little too much rubbing alcohol!). Leave the newly potted blush to air-dry (it could take around 24 hours).

Use rubbing alcohol to depot all the other pans that you want to include in your compact. Since the other items stayed in their original pans, the process was much faster and easier. Then attach thin magnets to the underside of the pans. As mentioned, the craft magnet strips I bought were too thick, so I cut up a fridge magnet (this one was an ad from my dentist's office LOL!) and super-glued them to the back of the pans.

Finally, arrange your pans on the metal surface of your palette. Since the pans are magnetised, you can rearrange and add more pans whenever you want to.

 See how securely the magnets hold the pans in place?

I'm loving my new palette - customised JUST for me and ONLY containing items that I love!

I hope that you found this tutorial useful - do you plan on creating your own make-up palettes?

Here are some helpful posts from other blogs:
-From Head to Toe: Depotting eyeshadows using rubbing alcohol
-Miss Natty's Beauty Diary: Depotting using heat
-Makeup Savvy: Creating a custom palette using pretty tins

If you want to purchase ready-made customizable empty makeup palettes (I'm not affiliated with either site):
-Z-palette: Has a clear window so you can see your products. I'm not sure if the packaging is secure enough to travel with.
-UNII: Brightly coloured and sturdy. Just the right size to store a full-face of makeup products.


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