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Best host(ess) gift ever….

1 Sep

Teroforma Whiskey Rocks… ’nuff said

Available locally at: Homewerx, Call the Kettle Black and Chapters.ca

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A VERY Late Xmas Wishlist & Gift Ideas pt. 1

23 Dec

The older I get, the less I buy for myself and the more I buy for others. I’ll buy you what I think you’ll like or need, or I won’t buy you anything at all. If I see something I think you’ll like, I probably won’t be able to wait till your birthday/anniversary/Christmas – it’ll just show up at your door. I’ve bought stuff for everyone else but myself this year, but think I’ll start my wishlist around Xmas and hopefully acquire it throughout the year.

Here are a few things I’m lemming, and hoping that if you’re stuck for some last minute Xmas gifts, my list will give you a few ideas.

  1) CHOCOLATE – you can NEVER go wrong with chocolate, unless it’s Black Magic or Ferrero Rocher (not that I’m a chocolate snob, but these are GIFTS, you see). I always go local (no Godiva) because the local stuff are more artisan and tend to be fresher (there IS a difference). My go-to places for impressive, unique, local artisan chocolates are Thomas Haas (they also have the most buttery pastries) and Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France (new on the chocolate scene). Like last year, order a day or 2 ahead at Thomas Haas (they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays, unfortunately), but I spotted their gift boxes at Whole Foods on West 8th and Cambie Street. If you want to impress someone, the Earl Grey chocolate at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France is to die for.  

2) LOLLIA WISH PARFUM – I’ve always loved the Lollia line, especially their Shea Butter handcremes (the perfect hostess gift) and their candles. I was in a store the other day and overheard 3 different people inquire and rave about the Wish parfum (which were conveniently sold out, by the way) and they were added to the waitlist. I have the Wish handcreme, and it dawned on me how dreamy it would be in a parfum (a sweet bouquet of sugarcane, vanilla bean and jasmine). Now on the hunt for it. Get on the list at Beautybar, U Life and Nikaido Gifts. Or online at Anthropologie.

3) URBAN DECAY NAKED PALETTE – This gorgeous neutral palette has sparked a lemming and buying frenzy almost as crazy as Chanel Vamp (’94)and Black Satin (’06) which went international. No, it’s more of an underground lemming craze a la Bobbi Brown’s Shimmering Nudes Palette (’08) that’s not based on the current fashion craze or fad but because it’s timeless. This palette was released at the end of summer and is completely SOLD OUT.

I have to admit I’ve lapsed on this beauty thing, but when I saw Jen from FrmHeadToToe.com use it (I’ll write a post on her later – she’s my newest makeup guru), I just HAD to have it, only to add myself to the waitlist of 300 at Sephora at Pacific Centre. Want to know how many people want it? I posted on Twitter that I was going to look for it and 4 girls joined in on the conversation – everyone wants it! I stood in the UD section just looking over the collection when the salesperson approached me and said “let me guess, you’re looking for the Naked palette too. Let me add you to the list, we should have some coming in after Christmas.” The proof is in the pudding. If I ever get my hands on it I’m buying 2. I can’t review it because I’ve never held it in me hands (there wasn’t even a tester at Sephora! Guess someone pried it out of the case and swiped it!) but Temptalia, Makeupgeek, MusingsOfAMuse and many other beauty sites gave it full marks, no cons and pretty much a must have in everyone’s collection!

Gem of a Find: Devil May Wear

20 Jun

I love shopping along Main Street – love the boutiques, the originality and the one-of-a kind finds. Favourite haunts are Front and Co. (I can always find something to buy there) and the Barefoot Contessa (great dresses)… not just for clothes, but for interesting and affordable jewelery by local or Canadian designers (Simply Sublime and Toodlebunny come to mind). Now I have one more boutique to add to the list – Devil May Wear. Stephanie, the Owner, was in the shop and we chatted a bit about her jewelery pieces – all one-of-a kind, handmade (by her) and affordable. I was immediately drawn to the origami crane on a gold chain and snapped it up immediately. She was folding a stack of really cute frilly panties, which she sews herself, are made from sustainable fabric and spandex free. More about Devil May Wear in this Georgia Straight article and her store can be found on etsy.com. Visit the store on Car Free Day today!

Devil May Wear
3957 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604.216.2515

How to make Taiwanese ZhongZi (or ZongZi) 粽子

16 Jun

Today is the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in Chinese calendar, aka The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival 端午节 in Chinese). I hardly look at the lunar calendar but only know when it’s coming when T&T starts selling 粽子 (ZongZi or ZhongZi), lychee is in season or when Grandma starts making zhongi. I asked her to teach me how to make it this year, and she was glad to pass down the tradition to me. It’s actually quite easy, but the preparation process is complex and the wrapping needs to be practiced.

What this is great for, is getting friends and family together to make it and eat together – and that’s what it’s really about.

粽子 / ZhongZi / ZongZi Recipe

(courtesy of and featuring my Grandma)

Ingredients:

If you are comfortable with cooking and experimenting, discard all my measurements (as usual), but use it as a reference.

  • 1.3 lbs sticky rice
  • bamboo leaves as needed (and string)
  • 1/6lb peanuts (optional, as much as you like)
  • 0.65oz dried miniature shrimp
  • 0.65oz dried chinese mushrooms
  • 1/2lbs pork (fatty, belly, whatever… chunked)
  • fried shallots as needed
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp rice wine (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or brown sugar syrup. DO NOT use Taiwanese black sugar)
  • salt, white pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Salted duck egg, chestnuts, dried minced daikon radish.
  • Serve with: sweet chili sauce or sweet soy sauce.

Preparation:

  • Soak overnight: peanuts, dried chinese mushrooms, dried miniature shrimp
  • Wash bamboo leaves thoroughly and till pliable. Remove stems and leave in bowl with some water to keep moist but not soak.
  • Wash rice thoroughly and rinse 3-4 times. Add 3 tsp of salt and mix. Update: soak for at least half an hour if you are planning to use a pressure cooker, 3 hours to overnight if using a steamer
  • Peel cooked salted duck egg. Remove the white and the membrane around the yolk. Toss with a tbsp of rice wine for flavour.

Methods – meat filling:

  1. Heat oil in wok. Add pork chunks and stirfry till fragrant. Remove from heat.
  2. Add more oil to wok if necessary. Stirfry shrimp and fried shallots, then add mushrooms and stirfry till fragrant. Add peanuts and mix.
  3. Add meat, season with soy sauce, rice wine, sugar. Saute rapidly over high heat until boiling (add enough soy and rice wine so that there is some liquid). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. ALWAYS TASTE and add more if necessary of any ingredient.

Methods – wrapping:

  1. Take 2 leaves, one larger than the other and opposite end to opposite end. Overlap, with the smaller leaf on the top, line the edge of the leaves up but with the smaller leaf a little higher. (You’ll need to watch the video to know what I mean).
  2. Fold and form a funnel shape, with the left end longer than the right.
  3. Place rice, filling, and more rice as in the video.
  4. Fold the bottom over, pinch the sides in and push the rice and filling upwards. Make sure it’s tight or else when it’s cooked the rice will turn into mush. Pinch the top and fold. Secure with cotton string.

Methods – cooking – 2 ways:

  1. Boiling in pressure cooker: Put dumplings into pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook until boiling and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. But always test first to see amount of cooking time depending on heat source, pressure cooker etc.
  2. Steaming: Bring water in steamer to a boil, and steam over low heat for 1 hour or until done.

Serve with sweet chili sauce or sweet soy paste.

I Spy: Eminence Organic Skincare

8 Jun

 

You’ve no doubt seen Eminence Organic Skin Care around  a lot lately. Pretty much because it’s based out of Vancouver, but mostly because they have great products that are natural, organic, not tested on animals and free of fragrance, mineral oil, petroleum, parabens, sodium laurel sulfate and other harsh chemicals.  With ingredients like coconut, mango, guava, pineapple, chocolate mousse and ice wine, it’s hard to resist not licking your face!

Why the “I Spy”? Because I spotted a brand new building across from Lululemon Lab at 530 West Broadway with an ‘Eminence Organics” temporary signage. Could it be an office, flagship store or even better… a SPA????

Well before their doors open, you can still buy their products locally online, at spas or try their treatments:

Where to Buy Online:

Spas:

 

Some of the products that you should check out or get a sample of:

Cleansers:

  • Coconut Milk Cleanser
  • Eucalyptus Cleansing Concentrate
  • Sweet Red Rose Cleanser

Moisturizers:

  •  Mango Night Cream
  • Pink Grapefruit-C Gel
  • Guava & Bamboo Age-Defying Moisturizer
  • Wild Plum Eye Cream

Scrubs and Peels:

  • Pineapple Enzyme Pro Peel 10%
  • Yam and Pumpkin Enzyme Peel
  • Blueberry Soy Sugar Scrub

Masques :

  • Quince and Ice Wine Masque
  • Pink Grapefruit Clarifying Masque
  • Chocolate Mousse Hydration Masque

Suncare:

Smells Like a Beach

5 Jun

I can’t believe it’s June already. And like you, I can’t believe that though it’s technically summer, it’s still raining. Accuweather predicts that in the next 15 days, 11 will have some form of precipitation. *sigh* There goes half of June. With that said, as a seasoned Vancouverite, I just shrug my shoulders, make sure I’m properly layered for the day and pack an umbrella.

But don’t despair! Summer will come soon – it has to eventually. All I’m doing is mentally and physically preparing for it because when it hits, I will want to enjoy every moment of it. How I’m physically prepping for summer? Getting highlights, a layered cut for those easygoing waves, putting on a touch of bronzer everyday and starting the self-tan process. How I’m mentally preparing for summer? By smelling it.

As I get older, it’s less important for me to smell good than it is for the fragrance to conjure up a mood,  invoke a feeling, rekindle a memory or transport me somewhere other than here. I wear Hermes Un Jardin sur le Nil on those cold rainy days because it adds a warmth to the dampness, prefer Carriere by Gendarme for those morning meetings and dab on Comme des Garcons Kyoto as it reminds me of my grandfather. But I’m digressing… again.

During the summer, I don’t let Coppertone do the talking, I get my fragrance to. Here are my picks for summer, or for now if you want to sniff, close your eyes and dream of sunny days to come.

Estee Lauder Azuree from Tom Ford Collection (fragrance and body oil) – when this launched in 2006, the perfume forums went crazy, it instantaneously sold out, there were waiting lists at all the department stores, eBay was selling at ridiculous prices and I stocked up like a mad woman. Why? It wasn’t because it was by the sexy Tom Ford, or because it was in stylish retro turquoise/gold packaging, or that it was limited edition… it was because it smelled like “white sand beaches, azure waters and sultry afternoons that go on forever.” It didn’t smell like the beaches of Miami or Mexico, but of beautiful, tanned people without a care in the world sunning in St. Tropez or the Cote d’Azur. It’s my staple fragrance for summer because the fragrance is sophisticated and subtle enough for work, and layered with the body oil it’s sexy enough for play. In 2008 it was reincarnated as Bronze Goddess (without Tom Ford), which it still remains today, but was reformulated with less Tahitian gardenia and more coconut.

Beach by Bobbi Brown – this is a more sophisticated beach scent that’s more Atlantic East Coast than West Coast or anything tropical. Think sea and salty – the Hamptons or Nights in Rodanthe.

At the Beach 1966 by CB I Hate Perfume is Bobbi Brown’s Beach + (more) Coppertone.

Miami Glow by Jennifer Lopez – I would never admit  that I own a JLo fragrance, but I have a soft spot for this one. It’s perfect for those really hot days/nights when you’re drinking sangria on the patio at Havanas with your girlfriends, smokin’ a cuban or flirting with a hot boy toy. It’s exactly what the name implies: Miami = coconut + suntan lotion + fruity drink with a cocktail umbrella. Wear it anytime or anywhere else, and you’d be deemed a social and olfactory menace. Yes, it’s that offensive. Sadly, it’s been discontinued but you can still find a few bottles at Shoppers Drug Mart and other drugstores.

Articles:

If you’re interested in reading more about scents and places, you’d like this article by Chandler Burr. He has also written about the conceptualization and development of Hermes Jardin sur le Nil for the New Yorker, and recently published the ‘must have’ list of salty/beachy/ocean scents for summer. If you want to get away, Elle magazine has a great perfume guide for travelling around the world without leaving your desk.

Wax on, wax off

27 May

I believe that an aesthetician who is a pro at waxing should receive the same level of reverence as a hairstylist.  I don’t know what it is about hair (maybe because it is such a large part of our identity), but when you find ‘the one’ that you trust and who understands your needs, they inspire fervent loyalty. Though you see them every 4 or 6-8 weeks, you spill the beans about everything in the 20 minutes or the 3 hours that you spend with them. They know all your secrets – things about your family, significant other, dating history, what your real haircolour is etc. … from that ‘scar’ behind your ear down to your netherregions. They won’t judge if you had a mishap with at-home bleach or have an ingrown – they’re there to hold your hand as they make it all better.  

If you find ‘the one’, the relationship and friendship that you develop with them can last longer (and could be more fulfiling) than the one with your significant other. And unlike your significant partner, they will know if you’ve cheated. =)

I will never go to another as she is the best:

Amy Luong
Aesthetician, Som Visao Spa
8-3195 Granville St.
Vancouver BC
604-732-9901

Getting Lashed – where to get your lash fix in Vancouver

17 May

THE places for lashes:

  1. Wink Beauty Lounge is the original Vancouver lash lounge. Focuses on lashes but has other services as add ons. Your go-to place if you want to have everything done at the same time for a night out on the town: lashes, facial, wax, spray tan, mani/pedi. I am slightly dismayed by the ‘U.S.-type’ pricing for the lashes, as in ‘per lash’ though. *shudders* Edit: After some thought, they are just being honest and giving you an idea about the number of lashes applied as a half or a full set or more. But it gets us thinking: are you really counting the number of lashes being applied? (Gastown)
  2. Noir Lash Lounge – This is a successful local company that has given new life and new hype to lashes. It’s quite obvious that the proprietor is an addict herself, as her marketing, services and pricing reflect years of experience of being a lash extensions customer. Borrowing the business model and marketing tactic from Blo, Noir offers a menu of lash styles, so it’s a no-brainer.  Pick what you want, and get what you expect. Prices are $35 for a half set, $65 for a variety of full sets. Quality at a reasonable price, but I am somewhat sensitive to the lash glue and the removal solution that they use.  (Yaletown, South Granville)
  3. Tiffany’s Spa – I’m all about the deal, as well as the quick and dirty. This was my go-to place when I had my lash extensions for a year. You might want to communicate to the owner of how you want your lashes (the curl, length, volume, flare) if you’re picky, or just let her go at it for a natural look, but at $35 for a full set, it’s a steal. Like Noir, She to Shic and a couple of other places, a ‘set’ means as many lashes as it takes to get the look. Get a massage and your nails done while you’re at it as well. (Vancouver)

Places to try: (I welcome your reviews!)

  1. She to Shic Beauty Lounge  – Might try this place because it’s a 10 minute walk away and it’s all eco-friendly. Full set synthetic $55. Silk set (ooh!) $70, mink $80. I’ve never seen Mink lashes so affordable before! And get my nails done as well. (Kerrisdale). Sign up for the Kitty Card and you get 50% off your 2nd service.
  2. Elan Beauty is more of an ‘cosmeceutical spa’ offering permanent makeup (aka permanent eyebrow/eyeliner tattooing), laser hair removal, lasers and peels and teeth whitening. Uses US-made NovaLash’s premium products, notably the Platinum Bond Lash Adhesive, the only eyelash extension bond that is U.S. Pharmaceutical Grade tested (U.S.P. Class VI / ISO 10993 Certified), formaldehyde-free, and physician formulated for safety. No more red eye for me! Pretty pricey at $99.95 for a full set (as in doubles your lashes), but offers student discounts.
  3. Sweet Nail Salon Also sorta does the per-lash thing, but also has a menu of lash styles so prices vary. (Richmond)

Notes:

  1. I also highly recommend using some sort of lash conditioner when you have your extensions in. My product of choice is Rapidlash. Though I haven’t noticed a growth spurt of lashes, they look healthier and don’t fall out as much. It’s important to maintain your lashes when they’re under so much stress with the extensions on! Found at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  2. If you want to remove your lashes, first rule of thumb is DO NOT REMOVE THEM YOURSELF. With the obvious said, because different places use different glue, the removal solution is different. So go back to the same place. Most places offer free removal, but call and check. If you get a new set at the same time, full removal should be free. But don’t take my word for it. Hey – I still don’t understand why some places charge for a blowdry when you go in for a colour or cut – so I should walk out with wet hair if I don’t want to pay the extra $30-45? But that’s another rant/entry in the making.

My disclaimer: I’m not here to promote or discredit any institution. I’ve been a patron of all and would like to remain that way. Thanks. =)

Secrets of the City: Blow out edition

10 Apr

Blo is *the* place to get your hair blown out in Vancouver – with multiple locations, the convenience of online booking, opens early (by appointment), closes late (even on Fridays – by appointment), a can’t go wrong menu of hairstyles, $30 for 30 minutes and you’re out the door looking like a superstar.

However, I recently discovered the Happy Hour blow out. Every day of the week (except Saturdays), 1-4pm and it’s only $15. Well, plus $5 for a curling or flat iron. So if you’re ever in the South Granville area, taking a late lunch or a break from work, head to Caramel Salon. Just call ahead to make sure this promo is still on and to make an appointment.

Since I’m only a 5 minute walk away, I’ll be taking “extra long” meetings out of office on Friday afternoons.

Blo
multiple locations
varying hours

Caramel Salon
2342 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC Canada
V6H3G3
Phone: 604.731.5112
Hours: Tuesdays 10am-7pm, Wednesdays to Friday 8am-10pm, Saturdays & Sundays 10am-6pm.

Secrets of the City: Eyebrow threading

8 Apr

I haven’t had a chance to make the trek to Yaletown yet to check out the new Bombay Brow Bar. It’s quite a treat at $23 for the Bombshell Brows that is more than just brow shaping, but also includes: brow gossip, calming forehead and eyebrow indian massage, soothing rosewater eye gel application, brow finishing, a complimentary makeup touch-up upon request and chai to sip on.

For those who just want a quick and dirty threading job, I’d recommend my regular place. All I have to say is:

eyebrow threading
Vancouver Westside
$5 $7
…unheard of
I know!

at:

Dona Lucia Esthetics
2813 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC. (at Macdonald St.)
604-736-5460
Hours: Mon to Fri 9AM – 8PM | Sat 9AM – 6PM | Sun 10AM – 6PM

Bombay Brow Bar
1056 Mainland Street (across from Glowbal Restaurant)
604-683-BROW (2769)
Hours: Mon to Sat 10AM – 7PM | Sun 11AM – 5PM |

UPDATE June 7, 2010: The Style Spy and their readers agree too!!

UPDATE November 14th, 2011: one of Dona Lucia’s best eyebrow threaders started her own salon a few blocks away. Ask for Rani at Deux Chic (3216 West Broadway, 604-569-3502) eyebrows are $7 (Tuesdays are $5), threading combos and daily specials. http://www.deuxchic.ca

Manjeet is still at Dona Lucia, Kitsilano.