July 31, 2007

The Scout Tee from Bamboo Styles is the Perfect Year-Round Accessory

Bamboo Styles offers comfortable clothing options for men and women, made out of my very favourite new fabric - bamboo!

If you haven’t tried wearing bamboo, you are truly missing out. It is soft and ultra comfortable, stretchy and Bamboo Styles GUARANTEES that their clothes will be “extremely soft, anti-microbial, moisture wicking, thermal regulating and made from bamboo grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers.”

And I know that a lot of companies claim to have moisture wicking products, but check out what the company says about their clothes:

“Unlike many wicking shirts that soak up moisture from your skin but hold the sweat in the fiber, our bamboo clothing draws moisture away from your skin and bamboo's micro gaps allow the moisture to evaporate quickly so the sweat dries faster.

Woo hoo!

Their Bamboo Scout Tee is a perfect choice for all year-round and this is the lightest version yet, which is great for this kind of insane hot weather we’re having right now or to have under sweaters and jackets come fall and winter, and not feels all bulgy and bulky, which I often find can be a drawback to layering.

The Tee is 70% Bamboo, 30% Organic Cotton and is not only prewashed/preshrunk and form fitting with cute cap sleeves, but it’s tagless, which I so appreciate – all those years of scratching at the base of my neck, gone!

Bamboo Styles clothing is so comfortable that I am going to stock up on basic tees, tanks and yoga pants for myself and I think I’ll surprise my fella with some tees and polo shirts to keep him looking (and feeling) cool all year long.

I wish my all my clothes were made from bamboo! The softness and comfort is just unbelievable.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and Bamboo Styles will start making office and party attire…

July 30, 2007

Dog & Pony Show Offers a Card for Every Occasion

Recently, I have needed some cards for occasions in which the Hallmarks of the world cannot offer.

A good friend just moved to New York last week to become a star on Broadway, my best friend’s father passed away and many people are in such a stage of transition – moves, new jobs, breakups, etc. – that I have needed some really great cards to send to these folks that mean so very much.

Thank goodness for Melissa Altman and her dog & pony show, where not only her birthday and thank you cards rock (I love the “Thank You Sweetie Pie” with the birds picking away at the scrumptious cherry (?) pie), but they offer cards that say what you need to say – there’s the “Let’s get together,” one which I need to send out to a bunch of folks (summer events make it hard to stay in touch), the “where do I begin?” one is what I’m sending to my friend about his father and the “I know, I know,” with the cigarette burning over the ashtray is perfect for trying to tell someone something that you’ve been meaning to for a long time (I don’t need this one quite yet…).

There are other perfect captions – the loveable, scruffy dog’s “Hey,” the rhino to the squirrel, “hello, dear friend,” and the “I picked you out of a hundred,” branch that allow you to just say hi to someone who's been in your thoughts. There are also beautifully drawn Thank You and Happy Birthday cards, which you'll need so often throughout the year, that I suggest buying at least 20-30 of each.

Homemade certificates are perfect to show someone you care and these are especially cool – Certificate of Special Recognition; Congratulations. You’ve won my heart! and my personal fave, you Rock! (Let’s just say that there’s going to be a lot of mail going out of the house this week)

As you know, I love homemade cards, and the incredible illustrations (this woman should be doing books and art shows and a line of dishware - mmm!), quality of paper and really unique way of looking at what we say when we send someone a card makes these cards a must for anyone sending out their thoughts the old-fashioned way - through the mail.

July 28, 2007

Blends for Friends Is Tea Made Especially for You

In my career as a writer and journalist, I have had the great opportunity to do some extraordinary things.

And I’ve just added one more thing to the list.

Alex Probyn is a master tea blender, who, upon asking you a number of questions about yourself through his website Blends for Friends, will blend a tea for you based on the answers to those questions.

Part intuitive, part craft, this incredible experience is not only neat to do for yourself, but makes a great anniversary or wedding present for couples and a very personal gift to a dear friend.

The tea arrives in an exquisite brushed silver tin contained in a thick black box. It includes a booklet that says in part:

“Your tea has been carefully chosen, tasted, blended and hand picked based on information regarding your personality traits, kindly provided by the person who gave you this gift. Try as you may, you’ll never be able to buy this in the shops, as it is totally individual and bespoke to you, but don’t worry, whenever you run out, I’ll be happy to make you more…”

So like your horoscope, this tea is indicative of your personality and preferences.

And if you get this tea as a gift, you can email Alex and he’ll tell you what the person said about you. Full disclosure – I like that.

“Steph’s Own Brew,” as Alex called came out to be “a blend for one who enjoys the finer flavours in life. A well-mannered and good-natured infusion with a curious character that has golden tips and green visual features – the perfect accompaniment to a good book or creative thought.”

And the ingredients for my tea?

“Only the finest quality tea: Chinese Yunnan for vibrant green colour and good-natured character. Bai Hao Silver Needle for the finest flavour, Italian Calendula for golden tips and Chinese Chrysanthemum for a touch of the more curious.”

My brewed cups were interesting as I paid so much attention to the tea – all the meanings swirling around to evoke a little bit of me – that it was a little overwhelming.

But the tea was simultaneously refreshing and soothing with layers of flavours dancing upon my palate. And the quality of the leaves? Incredible. The Chrysanthemum flowers were fully intact when I popped them into my teapot and watching all of the different tea leaves swirling around was a little like looking into a crystal ball, waiting to see what would be revealed.

I think Blends for Friends is one of the greatest gifts to give or receive. I certainly feel honoured to have had a tea made especially for me.

Just imagine how your friends and family will feel!

July 26, 2007

Fun Treats to Eat

I love little things I can snack on – either between meals or saved for something special after dinner.

Sometimes I feel like something sweet and then a mood will strike where I want something heartier - something with nuts - or simply something carefree like interesting candy.

I have compiled a list of a few great recent finds and wanted to share them with you – after all, it’s no fun eating alone!

Enjoy!

Stephanie

Isabella’s Cookie Company

All the way from Redondo Beach, California, Jennifer Palmer makes and sends out her amazingly thick homemade cookies, breads and granolas.

I was lucky enough to try Isabella’s Original and The Muffy Cookies.

Each Original cookie weighs “at least 1/3 of a pound,” so they are by far the heartiest cookie I’ve ever had. And with the brown sugar, walnuts and chocolate and peanut butter chips, you get a lot of cookie flavours in one, making it a great all-around choice for either yourself or as a gift.

The Muffy Cookie is the answer to wanting a blueberry muffin, but having it in a cookie instead. It has dried blueberries, milk chocolate covered blueberries and white chocolate chips so it satisfies your sweet tooth without having too much in the way of chocolate or maple, etc.

And there are tons of varieties to try – The Sugar Rush, Rocky Road, Apple Fritter are just a sampling of what she offers.

Jennifer uses real butter and wholesome chocolate and peanut butter and they contain no preservatives. Every order is handmade and baked-to-order.

Now think about all of the hard work and love that goes into each cookie – wouldn’t you rather buy these than a bag of machine-made cookies from your supermarket?

The Honey Wafer Baking Company

These large wafer discs filled with honey or chocolate candy are so much fun to eat and a light, delicious snack that you’ll wonder how you’ve gone without them this long!

An old European treat since 1925 (thanks to Mama Anisi), this thin wafers are 3 to a pack and only 90 calories per pack! When my neighbour read that, he ate the whole pack with no guilt. Well, until his husband came home. Then he felt a little guilty…

These amazing wafers have no preservatives, saturated fats or cholesterol and are great on their own, or as the family suggest, are a great “compliment to ice cream, hot chocolate and yogurt.”

I know you’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I think the original ones would be great crushed up atop a seared halibut fillet and sliced into strips for a baby spinach salad… I know, I know. But I think I’m onto something here.

These lovely treats come from a family-owned business where all they do is make these wafers.

It’s hard to imagine that in this fast-paced world. But I am grateful to the entire Anisi clan because now I can say I am a Honey Wafer Lover!

BumbleBar

I have had a lot of nut bars and some are better than others, but I think I have found some of the best.

BumbleBar are organic, vegan and gluten-free and come in really fun flavours so you don’t have to live with just the plain nut taste that can quite honestly, get pretty tired if you’re having a bar a day, like I do.

I love that they have a Chai flavour (mmm!), their Almond is plenty delicious with a cinnamon flavour throughout and Tasty Tropical is a combination of Pineapple, Coconut, and Almonds. This is a company that’s doing something different!

And if you love them as much as I do, you can join the Bar of the Month Club, to ensure that you are getting the bars you love on a regular basis.

These sesame seed-based bars are not only delicious but filling. They invoke instant energy and allow you to go throughout your busy day without eating poorly or subsequently, starving.

I am forever grateful to Liz and Glenn Ward, BumbleBar creators and owners. Their bars get me through the day. And because they are delicious, I look forward to them.

That’s a first!

Nunuttin’ Foods Inc

Okay, so say you want something like the bar above, but you’re allergic to nuts or other foods?

Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

Nonuttin’ products contain none of the following ingredients: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Dairy,Eggs, Wheat, Barley, Rye, Trans Fats, Colours, Artifical flavours, Preservatives (including sulfites), Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Animal By-Products and many Nonuttin’ products are also sesame free.

They carry granola bars, cookies, trail mixes, granola clusters and even dried apple.

I love the Nonuttin’ Trial Mix – Original without raisins. It contains salted soybeans, cherry fruit chips, dried apples, and 70% dark chocolate chunks. What a refreshing change from the Youth Mix I’ve been buying from the bulk store since the early 90s! Chocolate, fruit and soy, oh my!

The Nonuttin’ Granola Clusters – Vanilla Cinnamon are great if I’m craving something sweet, as are the Nonuttin' Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. I mean if you’re going to have something chocolatey, you might as well make it good for you at the same time. Just look at these ingredients - Pure, rice syrup, expeller pressed canola oil, organic crisp brown rice (organic brown rice, organic brown rice syrup, sea salt), pure oat bran, brown sugar, semi-sweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, anhydrous dextrose, soya lecithin, vanilla extract).

Hungry yet?

I am not allergic to anything other then a few antibiotics, but I love Nonuttin’ for their purity and great taste. A wonderful combination if you ask me.

And they’re Canadian! Woo hoo!

Jones Soda Co.

I have been drinking Jones Soda on and off since they first started back in the late 80s. Sure you can enjoy their cream soda, grape or strawberry lime – all delicious! – but I am still partial to their wonkier flavours that are limited editions (they come out and then are gone like white blouses at Winners, so get ‘em while you can!)- like the Turkey & Gravy pack that Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry, Mashed Potatoes with Butter, and Fruitcake flavoured sodas.

I think that ROCKS!

So I was pretty excited to see the release of Jones Carbonated Candy because I knew they’d do it up right!

I received all of their flavours – Green Apple, Fufu Berry, Berry Lemonade and their new flavours, M.F. Grape (love the name!), Orange & Cream and the classic Cream Soda, which tastes like the vanilla-y old fashioned cream soda of my youth. They are also carbonated just enough, so you get that fizzy sensation without the explosive results of candy like Pop Rocks. Perfect!

I shared them with my neighbours who loved them too. So much that I sent them each home with a tin.

And my favourite feature of the tin? When you flip open the top, there’s a quote from some random person.

That’s what I love about Jones – they’re slightly cheeky and so good at what they do.

I’m off to have some M.F. Grape. I can’t wait for the next person to ask me what that stands for…

July 25, 2007

Speaking My Language with Vintage Slang

My fella and I collect slang dictionaries as we’re both writers and fascinated by language.

We also like to keep up with what the kidz are saying, so I was thrilled to find Vintage Slang Flashcards by Knock Knock.

Done in large 5 x 7” laminated cards, the 58 terms complete with funny definition and useage and hipster illustrations will surely impress both your friends and neighbours!

I now know my onions, but I’m no prom-trotter. This is so off the cob, y’all, but at the same time just the most! I could chin all day but I’ve got to get my chassis to a restaurant before the chef casts a kitten.

To learn what I just said, you’ll have to get your own deck of cards. It’ll be such fun, I swear! And check out the rest of Knock Knock’s site for fun gifts and home and office accessories that are bound to keep your days lighthearted and the workday a little bit brighter.

You’ll never use a plain post-it again.

July 24, 2007

Making Life Easier With Great Beauty Finds!

I know that it is difficult to mine through the aisles of the despartment/drugstore and try to figure out what products work and that you really like.

That’s why you have me.

I’m here to try the products and then tell you what I love and hopefully that will make you want to try it too! I know all products don’t work for all people, but if I can help by describing the feel, smell and results of a product, then I consider it a good day’s work!

And besides, I know how expensive and how much time all of that takes. And what if you could get it online and save yourself even more time?!

These, I think, might just make your day!

Enjoy!

Stephanie Dickison
CEO and Beauty Editor of the knack

Fresh Scents by Terri

I prefer fresh, clean scents and Terri has it down pat. Her Tangerine Kiss Shimmer Spray is light and playful – perfect for warm summer nights!

And I am in love with her Zoe Eau de Parfum which is a light sheer musk that is perfect for day or evening wear.

Terri clearly has a talent for scent. If you are looking for something light and lovely, this is your girl!

Purity Cosmetics

If All Natural and Organic are what you’re looking for, Purity Cosmetics is a perfect place to get your face and body products.

I got the try 100% Pure Pink Grapefruit Body Butter which is packed with potent and anti-aging antioxidants and is 15% vitamin C and 15% vitamin E, so you know you’re doing your body good. And it’s concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Finally! A body product that isn’t used up in a week – yay!

I also loved the 100% Pure Eucalyptus Seafoam Purifying Facial Cleanser which is incredibly refreshing and light. It also invigorates your skin thanks to the eucalyptus, tea tree and peppermint and feels great.

They also have Fruit Pigment Cosmetics, which I think will be of great interest to a lot of gals…

Juara Skincare

What a great idea – a skincare line is inspired by Indonesian botanicals and ancient, tropical beauty treatments.

I tried their Candlenut Body Cream and loved its richness and velvety finish. I also like that they have a lot of stuff that I haven’t seen elsewhere. As a beauty editor, you see a lot of the same ingredients used over and over, but with Juara, you are sure to find something that you’ve never heard of before!

Alison Raffaele

As I get older, I flip back and forth from wanting to conceal certain areas to allowing my true self shine through.

Two products from Alison Raffaele speak to those concerns beautifully:

True Concealer is one of those products that once you start using it, you won’t be able to stop. Rich coverage is a given along with aloe and vitamins A, C and E. It is Makeup Artist Developed with 100% Mineral Oil. It is also fragrance free.

Transparent Finish Invisible Face Powder is so lightweight, you won’t feel a thing. But you’ll notice that you have a shine-free face that lasts all day. It is also fragrance and pigment free.

Lola Cosmetics

You’ve got to love a company whose tag line is Lust Often, Love Always.

Lola has a great line of cosmetics and I tried their Highlighter Pencil. It’s really neat. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to describe it, but I think Lola (read: Victoria Jackson) says it best on the thick red box it came in:

“Think of this pencil as Mr. Fix-It. Just a dab here, a stroke there and you’ve brightened and you’ve lightened all those problem areas.”

I used it along my brow line to highlight the area and used it to cover a very light sun spot on my cheek. It really is a great tool and I love having the control of the pencil tip as I find if I’m using a cream with my fingertip, that I often do a larger area than necessary. This was perfect.

I can’t wait to check out the rest of the line.

July 23, 2007

Ducti Makes Duct Tape the Hottest Fashion Accessory of the Year

For Christmas, my Dad got me a roll of camouflage duct tape and I just love it! I used it as trim on a plain silver messenger bag and on the handle of our luggage and my fella used it on the spine and cover of the journal he used to make notes for his second novel!


Let’s just say that we love using duct tape as a fashion accessory as opposed to fix something around the house.

That’s why I was so excited to find Ducti a company that makes wallets, purses and other accessories out of actual duct tape!

And do not for one minute think that their products look anything what you would concoct out of duct tape – their stuff looks fantastic!

I was thrilled to find the Men’s Classic Bi-Fold and Hybrid Undercover 100% Duct Tape Wallets! What fantastic gifts! I gave the Bi-Fold to my Dad, as I was lucky enough to have been given a duct tape vest from the set of The Red Green Show on the last day of taping (my fella wrote for the show) and gave it to my dad to go with his antique fishing collection. The Undercover I’m going to give to a friend who hasn’t changed his wallet since 1983.

Not only are the wallets well made, but the Bi-Fold actually came with a repair square that you can use to mend your wallet should it get torn. You don’t get that with a department store wallet!

And ladies, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you – not only do they have lovely wallets and checkbook covers (you know that metallics are the hottest trend even into winter, right?), but I got the Chaparral Purse, which is the perfect evening bag and you’re sure to be the only one at the party with one. It has a superstrong silver chain and a new expandable cloth liner. And as the website says, “It looks great with jeans or that famous little black dress.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And it comes with a LIFETIME GUARANTEE! How cool is that?!

There are clutches and laptop bags and skins that allows you to add colour to your wallets. It’s so great!

I love Ducti and can’t wait to see what they do next! In the meantime, I’m going to work the crowd with my awesome handbag.

Just wait. It’ll be on the cover of W and InStyle in a month’s time…

July 22, 2007

Summer Benefits

I love everything that Benefit Cosmetics does. So much so that I wrote about them before.

And once again they have come up with innovative and fun products - this time focusing on bringing out the glow of summer.

And whether you have pale skin like me or have a glow already, these products are sure to make you look - and feel - your very best!

If you are wanting the sun-kissed look, but are under wraps from the rays, Jiffy Tan and Glamazon are for you!

Jiffy Tan is a tinted body lotion that gives you that sexy glow without having to spend hours in the sun. It is fantastic and gives a really nice look (no orange streaks here!) and I used it to fill in the tans lines from my tank top when I wanted to wear a strapless dress to an event. My shoulders looked good enough to eat!

Glamazon is kind of the same thing, except you use it on your face - likely your forehead, nose and cheeks. After all, you wouldn't want to be all glowy and have it all end at your neck! It is a thin liquid so be sure to really blend it in - you don't want to be all stripey!

To further the G-L-A-M-O-U-R-O-U-S look may I suggest lining your lips or eyes with the gold Gilded pencil. It really makes your tan pop and made my green eyes even greener. Very cool!

And if you want something softer, Georgia's lightly scented peach powder is perfect for warming your skin in any season.

And don't forget your Smile Brightener! This unique gloss has a blue tinge going on, but results in making your teeth seem whiter and brighter and includes a minty taste that also freshens breath. That, accompanied by a healthy tan, is sure to turn some heads!

And of course, as always, the quality and fun, flirty packing of Benefit remains.

I just love their stuff.

And if the next time you see me, I'm all glowy, it's thanks to those lovely folks at Benefit.

p.s. This just in – their Gee… that was quick! Oil-free makeup remover for eyes and face works like a charm. It removed eyeliner, mascara – everything – in one fell swoop! My new favourite must-have!

July 21, 2007

My Eyes Light Up The Room With ZuZu Liquid Eyeliners

I have small eyes, so I have always depended upon the Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor line of eyeliner on my top lid.

I've worn it this way since I was a teenager, and although I do try to change it every once in awhile, I always come back to the look that I believe suits me best.

Because I have smallish eyes, the Cleopatra-ish line opens up my eye and makes them look a little more Sophia Loren, less Jennifer Jason Leigh.

And with the ZuZu Luxe line of Liquid Eyeliners from Gabriel Cosmetics, my eyes are more noticeable, brilliant and colourful - it's like a picture that's finally been framed.

I was unsure about the brighter colours - coppery Luxor, teal Nile, Tuareg - a rich brown, and the bright Azure blue - but each one seemed to not only complement my blue green eyes, but brought them front and centre. Luxor especially, which was a complete surprise.

And it was such a surprise because liquid eyeliner has the tendency to look very Las Vegas-y and showgirl-ish. It's not usually a very subtle look.

But with ZuZu Luxe, it goes on so smoothly and with a nice pearly finish, that it just looks like you've done your makeup well. Like a professional.

And with the Black Pearl and Raven colours, I just looked like my usual self - but with a little something extra - like when you get new glasses and people ask you if you've lost weight or had your hair cut: they know something's different, they just can't say what.

I am completely shocked by how much I love these, as I had always shied away from liquid eyeliners because they always ended up looking so harsh.

I love the different looks I can quickly achieve with a simple wand of colour.

And if you are still unsure about making the leap, they are Vegan, Opthalmologist Tested, Cruelty Free, Hypo Allergenic, Fragrance Free and Water Resistant.

And creator and CEO Gabriel DeSantino made the ZuZu Luxe luxury line from his inspiration of the European spa tradition and "blends soothing, clean and all-natural ingreidents such as spring water, herbs, vitamins, as well as rare and exotic essential oils."

Some of the ingredients in the liquid eyeliners are water (1st ingredient), jojoba oil and grapeseed extract! You won't get that in your drugstore eyeliner!

So not only are they gentle and non irratating, but the eyeliners are enriched with vitamins and herbal extracts, so even people like me with sensitive eyes and a contact wearer can feel that you look and feel good!

I can't wait to try the rest of the line!

July 20, 2007

Signolia's Makes The Best Balsamic Vinaigrette!

I am a huge salad lover, and although I do love my veggies, I have a penchant for dressings that can really make or break the bowl!

Recently, I had the opportunity to try Signolia's Hand-Blended Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Not only does the bottle come with it's own batch number (I love that!), but it can also be used as a dipping sauce (I'm thinking spring rolls and rustic loaves of bread, to name just a few) and/or a marinade -chicken breasts, pork loin, lamb chops, tofu steaks, roasted red peppers...!

With only natural ingredients, the vibrant taste is reminiscent of Italian cobblestone streets and kitchens where homemade breads, pizzas and pastas are the norm. It is rustic Italy brought right to your table.

Signolia's contains no added sodium, sugars or artificial additives or preservatives and is gluten, cholesterol, trans fat and nut free.

The dressing is hand-blended and bottled, so you know that you are getting great care from Eve and Jerry Martin, the owners of Signolia's.

And what I liked most about it, other than being handmade, is that it really livened up anything that I put it on, but didn't overpower the food, like some dressings can.

I used it on pasta and roast vegetables and bread. Mmm. I even think at one point I was going to put it on my eggs! Then I made an organic bean salad for a party for our friends and neighbours a couple of weeks ago and used Signolia's BV on it. The next day I got 2 emails asking for the recipe!

Yup. It's that good.

I'm going to have to order it by the case now.

July 19, 2007

Mixed Chicks Shampoo & Conditioner Restores Thirsty Curls

Finding a shampoo and conditioner that works for your hair is a very personal thing. What may work for one person won't necessarily work for another.

But I found that Mixed Chicks Shampoo, Deep Conditioner and Leave-In Conditioner wowed the crowd across the board!

I shared my hair products with my friends and neighbours and what is great about Mixed Chicks is that they have a line called His Mix, which is the same product as the women's but packaged under a different name for the men, so that they don't feel like they're using a "girly" product.

Brilliant.

So we shared and shared alike.

I loved the fresh, clean smell that each product had and the light feel that they had on my hair. Nothing heavy or cloying here.

Although this is formulated for curly hair (which some of my hair is), I found it to work with my straight locks too!

My hair was detangled, quenched and smelled lovely and clean, which makes me feel good all day long.

Because I colour my hair, the deep and leave-in conditioners did a great job of quenching my hair and elimating the frizz that would have otherwise accompanied me on these recent hot and humid summer days.

I love my Mixed Chicks and last night when everyone came over for a drink, we didn't talk about our work as much as comment on one another's tresses!

July 18, 2007

Bazura Bags Are The Perfect Eco Accessory

As you might have guessed, I love bags and I love recycling, so I was thrilled to find Bazura Bags!

The bags are made in the Phillipines by a woman's cooperative. The materials they use? Used juice containers!

Because the containers are non-biodegradable, this is a wonderful, environmentally and fashion-friendly way to reuse them! And it's so much fun to see what they drink and also the marketing used - my large Grocery Bag has a chocolate milk panel with a smiling cowboy cow on it!

There are a number of different styles to choose from - there are camera bags, aprons, change purses and a variety of totes to suit your mood or destination - and they are extremely colourful, which is a nice change from the one or two colour purse you're probably using at the moment!

I also am enamoured by their Banner Bags, which are recycled advertising banners and made in Vietnam.The push to stop using plastic bags is on.

But there's nothing that says you can't do it with extreme style and colour, reuse a material that would otherwise cause harm to the environment and employee people in both Vietnam and the Phillipines.

That, to me, is the best kind of bag around.

July 17, 2007

Suki Skincare Improves Your Look

I am a low maintenance girl.


While I enjoy trying new things, I am not often one for systems or things that involve a bunch of steps. To clean my face, I want to do one or two things and be done with it.

So when my suki mini skin care kit arrived in the mail, the first thing I thought was “Oh oh. What have I done?”

I set up the 8 little bottles in my bathroom cabinet and fought the overwhelmed feeling and thought, “Just try it. It’ll be fine.”

Although it took a couple of days to not feel self-indulgent using more than one product at once, I was amazed to see how immediately they worked and how improved my skin looked.

Not that I have bad skin, mind you. But it was lackluster and needing a little boost, and with the suki kit, that’s exactly what I got. The kit included:

Exfoliating lemongrass cleanser

Concentrated facial toner with shitake, burdock and olive leaf

Facial moisture serum with carrot, myrrh and sandalwood

Complexion brightening cream

Hand and body velvet cream

Hand and body butter cream

Delicate moisture body oil

Moisture-rich cleansing lotion

These 100% clean, holistic skin care products were great to my skin and though I had to follow the instruction booklet for the first week, I got into the routine after that.

My favourite of them all, though, was the lemongrass cleanser. It took away all of my dry skin and left me with the skin of a newborn. I couldn’t believe the different in both look and feel! And it smells so lemony fresh that I found myself looking forward to using it every morning.

Although I will probably not keep up the pace of using all the products in tandem, I am enjoying using them on their own or in combination with a couple of the others in the kit.

I like that I can use them to fit into my constantly changing schedule and needs.
It’s a system that works with you.

Huh. How ‘bout that.

July 16, 2007

Vermintalicious!

In 2003, a small silver tin containing mints – Vermints - circulated around Vermont.

Four years later, there are 6 flavours, the tins are larger and all varieties have natural, organic ingredients for you to enjoy!

Breath mints and pastilles are generally pretty boring and intense. But Vermints are incredibly tasty and come in flavours that I am truly grateful for. I love the Wintermint for when I’m interviewing chefs or after visiting a restaurant for review, and the Cinnamint and Gingermint are great if you’re in the mood for something less minty.

But my very favourites are the Chai and Café Express as they satiate my love for all things coffee and chair! And not only do they taste authentic, but they are authentic! The Café Express pastilles are flavoured with Fair Trade Coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the Chai are flavoured with Fair Trade Tea from Honest Tea, so you are definitely getting the real thing!

All of the mints/pastilles have no artificial flavoring or coloring, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, animal products, are nut and gluten-free and Kosher certified.

They are only 1 carbohydrate per serving and each piece is only 5 calories, so you don’t have to have just one (trust me, you won’t be able to resist!).

Vermints are one of those things that you can’t believe you’ve lived without this long.

And thank goodness, now you don’t have to!

July 15, 2007

Egg Press Delights and Delivers with Handcrafted Cards

Handmade items are all the rage now, but not everything is suited to your style or need.

Egg Press cards are perfect for whatever you need to say and/or write and are suited for any occasion.

There is a Botanical Collection with willowy flowers, ferns and even enoki! The Sweet Collection have smiley-faced skunks (“Happy Stinkentine’s Day”), lady bugs, pumpkins and even muffins and cupcakes for your friends with the insatiable sweet tooth!

There are cards with heavy graphics and ones with specific people in mind – Mom, Happy Couple Congrats, and even one for the hipsters: Daddi-o. And if you want single cards, boxed cards or small everyday notes, Egg Press has the card you are looking for.

I love their invitations (they make me want to have a dinner party just to be able to send out the cards!) and I think I’ll send out their dog and cat face Christmas cards this year – I mean, why do the sheep and the snowmen get to have all of the fun?

There are a lot of card companies out there, but only one Egg Press. With these handmade cards, you know you’re getting something special as you’ll read on the sticker on the back:

“Each piece produced by Egg Press is printed by hand on antique letterpresses. Illustrations are engraved into magnesium plates. The cards are placed by hand into the press where the images are transferred by relief method, creating an impression you can see and feel.”

So you are not just giving someone a card. You are passing along a work of art.

Heartfelt, handmade art. Now that's a card you can feel good about.

July 14, 2007

MoonBox Makes Our Lives Easier All Month Long

I can’t stand commercials about your period. They always have women in white pants dancing, jumping and riding horses.

It’s insane.

But it continues to be bad when it comes to lugging around our pads, tampons or pantyliners.

Companies just don’t make anything for us, so we end up stuffing them in our cosmetics bags, briefcases and purses and then, when we need them most, we have to hunt for them.

Ugh.

But all that has changed now that Béatrice Braun has created the MoonBox.

Funky little plastic boxes with little holders to keep your stuff together make life so much easier and the designs to choose from are fabulous! I like the one with the dog on it, “Fashion Victim,” the Fifties Pin-Up girl and the black and white mosaic of flowers that is oh-so-contemporary!

The box is small enough that you can take it with you in your purse and sturdy enough that should you be traveling, your tampons will safe as well as close at hand.

I know it’s not something we talk about often, but I have always wanted a place that is dedicated to our “feminine products,” as they’ve been deemed, and finally my dream has come true.

Thanks, Béatrice. You’ve just made life so much easier. And funkier - which box shall I take with me next month? I’m thinking either the bees with honey one or the one called “Trash Girl” with the skull on it!

The coolest boxes around! What are you waiting for? Go get yours now!

July 13, 2007

Juice For Your Skin!

I am thrilled with how the Juice Organics: Healthy Beauty brightened my skin!

And knowing that not only what you eat but what you put onto your skin is important, I love that these products are up to 95% organic!

They also offer age-defying results, thanks to ingredients, like coenzyme Q10, fat soluble vitamin C, vitamins, antioxidants and hydroxy acids. And their ingredients are 100% vegetarians as well, with a strict no animal testing policy enforced.

There is no petroleum or petroleum derivatives, artificial colour or dyes, pesticides, synthetic fragrances or other harmful ingredients.

From the Green Apple line – all paraben free - , I tried the Green Apple Antioxidant Moisturizer and Green Apple Nutrient Eye Cream. And from the Juice Organics line, I tried the Brightening Cleanser and Vitamin Antioxidant Serum.

My favourite was the Brightening Cleanser, which with its apple and lemon juices really refreshed and cleansed my skin. I finally enjoyed washing my face every evening and felt like I really was able to remove all of the impurities of the day.

After cleansing, I applied the Vitamin Antioxidant Serum which I felt really helped my smooth fine lines and plump up my skin.

I also really enjoyed the Green Apple Moisturizer and Eye Cream, which I applied in the morning. Their fresh scent and lovely, smooth feel made them easy to apply and felt light on my skin all day and the whole combination did leave me feeling that my skin looked younger and brighter!

A winning combination if you ask me.

July 12, 2007

Happy Feet Can Now Be Had Thanks to These Neat Socks!

I know that you might not think much of your socks.

They sit in the drawer, a mere necessity and convenience. But I have found 3 socks that will change all of that. Check them out!

Teko Socks

The company calls them the “best socks on the planet,” and you’ll see why.

Teko Socks are not only made to stand up to wet condition but will protect your blister-prone fee. They have support and padding all over the place to create a lovely home for your feet.

And depending which sock you choose, they have an assortment of bonuses such as:

planet friendly, no herbicides, no pesticides, non-toxic dyes, uses 100% recycled polyester, high performance, super soft, naturally wicking and they offset the impact of our energy use with clean, sustainable American Wind electrical power.

And I got a pair made from corn! Isn’t that neat?

But the real bonus is putting them on. They are uber comfortable and my feet feel swaddled with softness!

So they are good for you and good for the planet.

You can’t beat that.

Toe Sox

I wore toe socks back when I was taking Japanese dance, but there was just one indent, between your big toe and index toe.

Now there is a craze for toe socks. I first heard about them from my sister-in-law Paula, who had asked her husband for a pair for Christmas. She loved them so much that I decided to get a pair.

Toe Sox are not only amazing for walking around the house, but with their non-slip sole are perfect for yoga and pilates classes or stretching at home. There is also an arch support strip and seamless design so that you can workout in ultimate comfort and the toe dividers also allow for “toe flexibility and dexterity.”

These comfortable socks might just start out as part of your workout routine and end up a part of your daily wardrobe!

Happy feet, here you come!

Achieve O2 Socks

If you want socks that perform, then these are the socks for you.

The Ao2 Eco Anklet not only wicks away moisture, but is antimicrobial and antibacterial!

But that’s not the best part – they are made from 100% recycled soda and water bottles and are super comfortable and cushiony - don’t worry, you wash them with your other laundry – no special requirements needed!

They use something called Holofiber, which as you’ll see, does your body good. Basically, Holofiber actually recycles energy that the human body releases.

These socks are really amazing.

I am forgoing regular cotton socks from now on. When you have these cool ones to choose from, why would you use anything else?!

July 11, 2007

Sweetriot Are Addictive!

But don’t worry – they’re good for you!

sweetriot are chocolate covered cacao nibs that are truly delicious and incredibly addictive.

I ate the whole container in one afternoon of writing – thank goodness they are only 140 calories per tin!

sweetriot are all natural treats which satisfy any craving for sweets, and cacao nibs contain more antioxidants than any fruit of vegetable, according to the Department of Agriculture, so they are a considerably healthy treat.

You can choose from 50, 65 or 70% percent dark chocolate and each tin features the designs of emerging artists!

Sarah Endline, The creator of sweetriot “encourages consumers to reuse, recyle or return their tins” as part of her environmentally friendly company philosophy and works with growers in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

I like that this is a not-too-sweet treat and satisfies my occasional need for something dark chocolatey.

And I love that I can reuse the tin afterwards - I’m using them for paperclips, bobby pins, anything that is small and I need to find a home for!

They also come with a little slip of paper – a fortune of sorts with your lucky numbers (one tin included all of my lucky numbers!) on one side and a cool fact about cacao on the other. Neat-o!

I am a sweetrioter now - you will be too once you give them a try!

July 10, 2007

Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill… And Made the Best Cosmetics!

Some makeup companies create wonderful lines but don’t think about how it’s going to be bumping around our bags, totes, purses and luggage.

Jack & Jill Cosmetics, created by incredible make-up artist Jill Ventimiglia, is makeup that is actually portable!

In slim little cases with a quote on each mirror that will make you smile, you will find everything you need to look good on the go, at work or once the sun sets – Jill has thought of everything!

Though Jill is currently known for her Hollywood and red carpet events and creating Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson’s makeup for Dreamgirls, it’s us regular, everyday girls that are looking for secrets to looking good.

Jill’s makeup is mineral based and enriched with vitamins so you know that what you are putting on your skin won’t cause you harm – and hopefully no breakouts.

She has created palettes for specific skin/hair/eye colourings, so you don’t have to wonder, “What colours should I wear?” Jill has taken out the guesswork and giving us makeup that we can actually use and apply like a professional.

Face in a Case contains powder, 2 blushes (that can be worn alone or together), 3 high-pigmented eye shadows and an eyeliner in either black or brown.

The Eye Palette has 5 shadows that can be used either wet or dry. The Lip Palette offers 2 lipsticks and a shiny gloss. They can be used on their own or mixed for your own personal mash-up!

And for a lip treat, try the Lip Palette. Your lips never looked so good.

The Shea Butter Foundation stick is oh-so-creamy and comes in a thick stick that allows for all over coverage or if you want to use it as concealer, you can easily pinpoint your problem areas. It contains no mineral oil and is SPF 18. It comes in 12 colours and was “formulated with sensitive skin in mind, so it won’t break you out.”

Thank goodness.

I love that I don’t have to worry about what colours to wear, but I can still mix and match the colours offered to personalize it further.

I am a totally spaz when it comes to applying makeup, so the simpler the better for me.

And with Jill’s palettes, for once I don’t feel like a spaz when I’m applying it.

I loved the Lucy blushes as they complement my skin better than the bronzer I’ve been using, and the Girl Next Door eyeshadows are subtle, but really make my green eyes pop.

Jill is a makeup expert and now thanks to her, I am too.

July 09, 2007

Shopping and Storage is So Easy With Reisenthel!

I don't have a car, so anything to make grocery shopping and errands easier can quite honestly change my life!

Because I love to cook and entertain but have limited pantry space and prefer fresh to frozen, I shop every couple of days for food and other necessities.

That means that I'm schlepping a heckuva lots of bags around.

Over the years the bags have changed but the comfort level hasn't. I actually have a small indent in my right shoulder from the straps digging in.

That has all changed now due to the incredible ingenuity of reisenthel bags.

Not only do they look fantastic (People comment on them all the time! It's like walking a Great Dane and having to stop every 15 minutes due to all the admiration), but they hold a lot and yet are incredibly easy to use and easy on my body.

The cityshopper is tres long and sits on my shoulder comfortably despite the bottle of wine, tetra of soy milk and cans and jars of assorted gourmet goodies.

If you're picking up a lot of bottles, may I suggest the chic and oh-so-smart bottlebag, which has 6 divided sections in which to keep your bottles upright and free from clanging. Absolutely brilliant!

And if you're looking for a bag that can hold your groceries along with handling bottles, then the bottleshopper is for you! It is superfantastic and I think one of the best bags that you can use for grocery shopping that will not only hold up to the heft of your shopping need, but look smart and are comfortable to use.

Another great helper is the mini maxi troll – a foldable shopping cart . Not only does it come in fun fabrics, but it is strong and sturdy and won't take up the whole hall closet like the more traditional carts! It holds the mass of fruits and veggies that I buy every couple of days, which most bags and carriers can’t handle. It can get pretty crazy - I’ll get some fennel and then pick some sweet potatoes and 20 minutes later, I’ve got 4 bags of fresh produce that I will then transform to smooth purees, stews and sides. It’s all very exciting, but awfully heavy. My cart is like another pair of hands and you know how helpful that is!

So basically, if you ever require carrying groceries, books or picking up bottles of sparkling water or wine reisenthel has what you need.

But they don't stop there!

Organizing your home can be the most challenging task because new things are always coming in, but rarely do things leave.

Two items I've found most helpful in this category are the magazinboard wall magazine rack and the wandboard closet organizer for all of those pesky little bits that seem to float around the bedroom, but never find a home.

I love reisenthel because they make products that I not only use, but make my life a hell of lot easier.

Hallelujah. And finally I have beautiful looking shoulders again!

July 08, 2007

Rock Your World with B. Kamins Chemist!

B. Kamins, Chemist products totally surpassed my expectations.

I wasn’t too sure about the Bio-Maple Body Lotion. I mean, I’m not a big food-fragrance girl, so when it arrived, I was a little wary.

I didn’t need to be though – it rocks! First of all, it doesn’t smell anything like maple or rich, sugary scents. It has a subtle, clean fragrance and absorbs into the skin quickly. I apply it as soon as I come out of the shower and I have to say, I’m a little addicted.

The same with the Bio-Maple Bamboo and Rice Facial Polisher, which I was shocked worked at all, as it seemed to gentle to do a good job. When I first applied it, it felt like rice krispies soaked in milk – nothing like the intensity of my apricot facial scrub! However, it worked better than my old apricot standby and I loved it so much that I took it to New York with me, not wanting to miss a day of my lovely rice scrub. It got taken at the US border because of the new liquid ban, so I have had to go without. I won’t be the same until I order some more. It is now my new standby and I wouldn’t consider leaving home without it again – border or no border!

And I love the Bio-Maple Day Cream SPF 15, which is both nourishing and helping to keep my dry skin moist and the Bio-Maple Oxi-Defense Hydrating Eye Care, which is taking care of the fine lines and puffiness around my eye area.

B. Kamins, Chemist is a line that really proved itself to me. Both in its ingredients and its affect.

p.s. If you’re wondering what Bio-Maple is, it’s a compound that B. Kamins, Chemist has creates that is “a moisturizing, penetrating, anti-oxidant physiological humectant.”

What does that mean exactly? I’m not a chemist, so I’m not exactly sure. I just know that the products work and that all B. Kamins, Chemist products are tested for purity, dermatologist recommended and not tested on animals. I hope that helps…

July 07, 2007

Spices: One Spoon and Sheet at a Time

Katie Luber and Sara Engram have created a line of fresh organic spices that are perfectly measured one teaspoonful and come 10 to a tin.

tsp spices are great if you are traveling or short on space in the cupboard. It also cuts down on using just a little bit from your jar and then the rest drying out beyond belief. This allows you to have fresh organic spices on hand at all times, ready for your next occasion, whether that’s tomorrow or at Thanksgiving. And just think – no spoons to wash!

Their spices are pure spices – no fillers or additives here. And they carry boxed sets as well as offering them on their own.

I got some great choices to perk up meals – organic korintje cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, dill weed, rosemary and oregano.

I think I’m going to add the cardamom to rice for a little something difference, all of them for a spice-rubbed chicken and might some chai or spiced pancakes. The possibilities are endless!

Fresh organic spices can now be had one teaspoon at a time.

I’m thinking of carrying some in my purse - By the way, would you like some fresh organic dill on your sandwich and some rosemary for your soup?

- - -

Flavor Magic Gourmet Seasoning Sheets for meat, fish and poultry are a great option if you don't want to futz around with sauces, marinades, etc.

You simply place the flavoured sheet underneath your meat on a plate, wrap in cling wrap and put in the fridge for half an hour.

You don't even have to turn them over if you don't want to - the flavours come right through!

I like the ease of use and convenience of them. If you are looking for something quick and hassle free, these sheets are the way to go.

I did pork tenderloin in the Thai Red Curry & Basil one and it was delicately flavoured - not overpowering at all like some marinades but enough that you could taste it.

I did the Zesty Buffalo Wing with chicken thighs and it was equally as moist and delish!

You get 12 sheets per package, so they last a long time, and for me, I was thrilled to not to have to house another opened jar of sauce in the fridge!

There is no added fat, clean up is easy – just throw the sheet away – and you’re ready to go!

Both tsp and Flavor Magic spice ideas are a great way to cook if you’re looking for full flavour and convenience.

Happy Cooking!