“Summer means happy times and good sunshine. It means going to the beach.”-Brian Wilson

Summer vacation is the best. Summer vacation spent on the quiet, little island I grew up on is even better than the best. Sandy beaches, old friends, lazy mornings and lush fields all that have in recent years become punctuated with microbreweries, fabulous restaurants and local coffee roasters. It is the same quaint and friendly place but with a little more oomph. Almost as if the freckled red head the island is known for has grow-up into a slightly hip, more self-assured version of herself while keeping her friendly sense of adventure. It is the Prince Edward Island I love but ever so slightly enhanced.

When vacationing on the island it is important to take lots of pictures of your adventures, to have at least one big feed of seafood and it is also imperative to have a few books on hand for when your adventures land you on a secluded beach or in a coffee shop alone. Here are some books I have thoroughly enjoyed while listening to the surf on red sandy beaches this summer as well as a few snaps from my adventures! Happy reading, happy beaching and happy summer!

  • The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood-
  • The Magpie Murders by Anthony Harowitz
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zuask
  • The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
  • Himself by Jess Kidd

“She is aging as gracefully as an old banana”- Elderly Woman in Tim Hortons lineup (hands down one of my favourite overheard quotes!)

My post last week not only garnered a lot of traffic but I was also sent 100,000 questions about how to navigate The Ordinary’s website. That is a little bit of an exaggeration but I did have a lot of inquiries and ended up helping a lot of you lovely people find the right skincare regime! Since there were likely people who were too shy to message me or some who wanted to figure it out on their own I thought I would do a follow-up post to help everyone out a bit.

The website is very confusing. It is divided into categories which include direct acids, hydrators and oils, vitamins and retinol and then more molecules. All of the products have scientific names and unless you carefully read the description and google them (like I did!) is is almost impossible to figure out what to buy! I am far from an expert and it has been trial and error but I have managed to find an affordable regime that is made up of high quality, plant derived, non-gmo, vegan, paraben free products that are not tested on animals and that are produced in Canada.

*Note: This is not sponsored, I am just skincare passionate and want to share this with all of you!

Skin care basics (self -educated, not an expert!)

  • Vit C is great for improving texture, reducing the signs of aging and brightening skin (The Ordinary offers several but the Ascorbic Glucoside Solution 12% is less likely to cause irritation and absorb quickly based on the product info!).
  • Retinol (Vit A) is harrowed for reducing the signs of aging, decreasing pore size and improving texture.The Ordinary offers two but the one that should be the most gentle is The Advanced Retinod 2%. Just be sure to wear SPF and apply only in the evening. If you are just starting to use a retinoid you may want to use it every other evening until your skin is used to it!
  • Gylcolic acid is amazing at improving skin texture while gently exfoliating and deep cleaning. The toner offered by The Ordinary  is full of glycolic acid and other great properties. Please wear SPF when using glycolic acid!
  • Caffeine can brighten skin and reduce puffiness (perfect for your peepers).
  • Hyaluronic acid attracts 1000x it’s weight in moisture making it amazing for dry skin. It can also help to ‘plump’ dry and tired skin.
  • Oils are key for maintaining skin moisture and integrity. Many are suitable for use with combination and even oily skin! Rose Hip oil is encouraged for hydration/anti-aging while Squalene provides intense hydration for every skin type.
  • Argireline can help reduce “dynamic’ wrinkles and folds found on the forehead and around the eyes.
  • For problem skin lactic acid and AHA/BHA can provide peeling and deep exfoliation.
  • Salicylic acid is perfect for spot treating blemishes.
  • Niacinamide and Zinc can help reduce skin congestion, decrease breakouts and reduce the amount of oil your skin produces.

Clear as mud? There are a ton of products for almost every skin concern, basically you have to identify your needs. Some example regimes I made up follow below.The Ordinary recommends applying the lightest/water based formulas first and fishing with heavier or oil based products as well as allowing five seconds for absorption between products.

Example Regimes 

My regime.I personally have dry skin and I also want to slow down the aging process (’cause why not!)my regime2

Blemish prone skin (you may also want to explore the direct acids and peels a little more as well!)blemish-prone-skin21.jpgGeneral Anti-aging anti-aging21.jpg

Hydration.hydration2.jpgBasic regime for beginners!beginner2

 

 

“I really regret taking care of my skin.”- said No-one Ever.

Well known fact: In the last two years I have become passionate (obsessed?) with a good skincare regime.

Little known fact: One can have a comprehensive skin-care regime, made up of clinical grade formulas, for an extremely small investment. You just need to know where to look.

My skincare motto: Wash your face before bed, wear sunscreen and generally take care of your skin because it is the only one you will get. Taking care of your skin includes using decent products to hydrate and maintain skin integrity. Drinking lots of water (which I am inconsitent with!) never hurts either.

Have you heard of The Ordinary ? It is a sub-company of Deciem (the skin-care giant) and their motto is “Clinical formulations with integrity”. What they harrow is high quality, clinical grade formulations at an affordable price. They offer a product for every skin concern and I am obsessed. OBSESSED. They are ridiculously affordable, made in Canada, paraben free, non-GMO, vegan etc. I have replaced 80% of my products with The Ordinary’s version and not only is the product high quality and comparable to what I was previously using but I can honestly say that my skin looks better than before. My new vitamin serum absorbs faster than my old one and the new retinol is very gentle on my sensitive skin. Here is the kicker, most of their prices are one tenth the cost of products you can find at Sephora, your spa and even your dermatologists office (honestly a comprehensive regime will set you back $50-$90 TOTAL). I am saving hundreds of dollars a year and my skin is better for it! The packaging is great and shipping is free over 25 dollars in Canada!

If you don’t believe me, here is some background for you. Over the years I have tried an exhaustive list of products, an embarrassing amount really, to find the best and most affordable skin-care regime for myself. Some of the brands I have explored include…..

  • Clinique
  • Fresh
  • Origins
  • Ole Henriksen
  • Proderm
  • Caudalie
  • Arbonne (which was possibly my overall least favourite for quality and price- don’t hate me Arbonne die hards but it just didn’t jive with my skin at all!)
  • Vivier
  • Skinceuticals
  • Boscia
  • First Aid Beauty
  • Glamglow
  • Kate Sommerville
  • Keil’s
  • Josie Maran
  • Sunday Ridley

I have loved many of the products I have tried, even used some in my rotation for years. My skin is dry and I am my thirties. My goal is dewy, blemish free skin that requires minimal amounts of makeup on a day-to-day basis. My other goal is to maintain my skin and to age as gracefully as my genetics allow (as opposed to as gracefully as an old banana). Basically, I don’t want to look like a raisin or a prune when I retire. Not vanity, just realness. What I have been looking for is a good cleanser, decent moisturizer/oil, something to de-puff my eyes when I wake up looking like a troll in the morning, a vitamin heavy serum, some gentle retinol and a sunscreen. All without spending a fortune. The Ordinary has made this a reality.

Interestingly enough, I am not the only person who feels this way. The Ordinary recently launched a foundation line that had a wait list of almost thirty-thousand people (spoiler alert it was totally worth the wait!). They unfortunately sometimes have trouble maintaining stock because there is such a high demand for their products but they are totally worth the wait. Later this month they are launching an SPF line (yay!) and have just opened their first store in downtown Toronto. I just wish they had a cleanser and maybe a moisturizing eye cream!

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Here is my current regime…

(*which set me back less than $80 shipped to my house!)

Am: After washing my face I apply the “Buffet” serum (which is a heavy hitting vitamin and peptide combo) followed by their moisturizer. I also gently apply the Caffeine serum around my eyes (this product is probably my favourite one) to de-puff and brighten! If I am super dry which I am often, I put a few drops of the Hyaluronic Acid +b5 on prior to the moisturizer.

Pm: After washing my face I apply the “Buffet” serum again followed by the advanced retinol (* please wear SPF if using retinol and say away from your eyes when applying it). Then I seal it all in with a few drops of the cold pressed rose hip oil. I also apply an anti-aging eye cream by Caudalie that I love but would be happy to replace if they launched one! If I have blemish I spot treat that bad boy with a little of their salicylic acid (R.I.P pimples!),

My morning and evening routines take less than five minutes including washing my face and applying the lotions and potions. That is pretty small investment of time for big pay-off in my books! In the future I am looking forward to trying the toner and SPF.

Happy Monday everyone!

-m

 

 

 

So many chives, so little thyme…(ha!)

Summer is here. She snuck in overnight; hidden until today by rain, wind and booming thunderstorms. The sun is shining and my gardens are teaming with mint, basil and chives; all ready to be muddled, minced and whisked into mojitos, salads, dressings and omelettes. My potted chives are back with a vengeance this year. They are full of blooms and for about a month now I have been snipping off stalks to add to my salads and eggs.

Fun chive facts:

  • Did you know the entire plant including the bulb and flowers are edible?
  • They generally grow back every year and are so hard to kill many refer to them as the “gate-way herb” for helping people find their green thumb!?
  • Don’t have a garden? Stick some in a pot and they will be just as happy on your balcony or in a sunny window!
  • Chives like full sun, they enjoy being well watered and the more you cut them back, the more they continue to grow.
  • They have a light onion flavour that adds a fabulous summery taste to anything from potato salads to homemade salad dressings.

Last week I was touring around Instagram (as I do) and was too busy admiring a pretty flower filled mason jar to realize that it was full of chive blossoms. Honey and Butter, a local company known for their beautiful cakes, inspired jellies (like lilac and champagne!), cookies and curd had filled a jar with white wine vinegar and chive blossoms to make an infused vinegar. It was brilliant and beautiful.

Taking a page out of their book, I filled up jars with my myriad of blossoms (which I de-bugged and rinsed thoroughly), a sprig or two of thyme and I promptly drowned it all in white wine vinegar. My plan is to let the jars infuse for a week or so (it gets more purple with each passing day!) and then strain them with a cheese cloth. I figure the final product will elevate my salad dressings, roasted veggies and anything that vinegar generally tastes good on! Small jars would make beautiful and thoughtful gifts for friends and the hosts of summer BBQ’s.

Happy infusing all!

Ps. I am officially finished of the first year of grad school and work is providing a little extra downtime- expect more posts!

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“Bad weather always looks worse through a window.”- Unknown

Last week we had a snowstorm. When I say snowstorm, what I really mean to say is that we got close to 70 cm’s of fresh, white powder in less than 24 hours. That is enough snow to fully bury a car, to close schools, to stop busses and enough to form snow banks taller than a person.

Working as a nurse, I am considered an essential service worker. This means if I am scheduled to work I am expected to make it work. Hospitals don’t close, patients continue to need care. Many times I have found myself shovelling out at 5 am and travelling to work with a shovel in the backseat and a bag of traction sand. I always seem to make it.

Last week was a different story. I was not scheduled to work and happened to have company staying from out of town. We picked up essentials in advance, planned some meals, dug out the board games and my sister trudged through the thick of the storm to join us and have a sleep-over. It was the best snow day I have ever had and luckily we didn’t lose power.

It was so fun that I decided to produce a “Snowstorm Survival Guide for Grown-ups”. Adults only because there was a lot of liquor involved….

Snowstorm Survival Guide for Grown-ups

1: Prepare in advance.

Get groceries, plan meals, have candles and batteries incase the power goes out. Our shopping list included..

  • Breakfast foods- Bagels, eggs, avocado, cheese, coffee, cream and all the fixings to make spicy gin caesars (gin is superior to vodka in my opinion- try it for yourself!). Gin, Clamato, lemons, celery salt and seasonings.
  • Snacks- storm chips, water, pop and gatorade (you know, incase you get a hang over).
  • Supper- Pizza dough or the ingredients to make it (I get mine from a pizzeria up the road for $2 a ball- can’t beat it!) as well as toppings to dress it up (we used pesto, mozzarella, onions, shaved summer sausage and fresh basil).
  • Liquor store run – besides your gin, you may also want beer, baileys, prosecco and wine (like I said this is a grown-up snow day).
  • Make sure you have cat food. They will resent you if you don’t.
  • Also note: calories and grams of carbs do not count on storm days. Look it up, that is the truth.

2: Be comfy.

Lay out your comfiest sweats so you can roll out of bed and into them while the coffee is percolating. Place winter gear on radiators so they are warm. This will make going out to shovel- which you will have to do, a tiny bit easier. No need for makeup, bathing is optional.

3: Plan activities to pass the day.

Pull out board games, plan a special cocktail recipe, have a great play-list on hand and maybe a movie or two to fall back on.

Our day went like this…

We woke up, had coffee and delicious egg sandwiches with spicy avocado and havarti on bagels. We played a game of crib and then my sister arrived and we began to make (and drink) caesars- they were delicious and went perfectly with a couple of intense games of Settlers of Catan. 

 

Next we made French 75’s- Graeme brought the fixings, all we had to do was make some simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar brought to a boil with lemon zest on the stove until sugar has dissolved – then cool). These are delicious, simple and taste even better when garnished with sugared lemon zest and served in vintage champagne glasses- we are fancy like that.  We made the cocktail in bulk, served it with a ladle and kept it chilled on the front step.  Recipe is as follows…

  • 1 pint of gin
  • 1 bottle of prosecco or champagne
  • 200 mls of fresh lemon juice (6.6 ounces)
  • 120 mls of simple syrup (4 ounces)


 

After all of the caesars and French 75’s we had some snacks- aka storm chips, and the group began to shovel out the five foot drift that had formed in the driveway. My little car was utterly buried and in the end there were six foot banks towering over the sides of the driveway- with that much snow there becomes a point where there is nowhere left to throw what you are shovelling!

Next up was wine and pizza followed by a few games of Wizard and Sequence.  It was a wonderful day and it ended with everyone going to bed full, warm and just a little buzzed.


Hopefully this can inspire your next storm day and I hope you are able to have at least half as much fun as we did!

-m

 

 

 

“Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.”- Johnny Carson

Trust me. I am not one of those people who starts Christmas just as the Halloween candy is just being discounted. I am a mid-December decorator, firmly believing that less is more and that Christmas music shouldn’t be blaring in malls country-wide until December 1st is upon us. That said, I have a tendancy to get most of my shopping done over the year, slowly picking away at it as inspiration (and sales!) comes my way.

In mid fall I try to get a little preserving done and that usually comes in the form of hot pepper jelly (find recipe here) . Every single year my stove top almost catches fire as I try my best to catch the boiling point of sugar just before it hits the “raging inferno” territory. Every single year I have delicious hand-made hostess gifts and neighbour gifts that almost cost me my stovetop. They are also a perfect stand-by for people who stop by your house unexpectedly with a gift for you (we have all been there). This year I decided to step away from the fussiness of jelly (sometimes it doesn’t set properly /sets your stove on fire) to try my hand at a holiday chutney. What inspired me were the enormous bags of cranberries that were on sale for less than two dollars after Thanksgiving and the fact that my love of a bargain left me with twelve pounds of cranberries taking up almost every square inch of freezer space.

Turns out chutney is far simpler to make than jelly, you can easily double the recipe as it relies soley on natural fruit pectins to thicken it and the flavour combinations are endless. Chutney makes an incredible addition to any charcuterie board, pairing well with a variety of cheeses and even standing up to heat when baked on a brie. Chutney is great served with pork and/or chicken and when it combines cranberries, fragrant spices and a touch of cognac, it pretty much sings out Christmas spirit.

Find the recipe below and happy holiday prepping everyone!

-M

Christmas Cranberry Chutney

Yields 12 1/2 cup mason jars

(adapted from American Heritage Cooking but some “artistic liberties” were taken)

You will need:

  • 3.5 cups of whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3/4 cup of seedless raisins (you can omit if you hate them)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups of white, granulated sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground all-spice
  • 6 ounces of water
  • 3 teaspoons (you can omit, use less or use more!) Grand Marnier or cognac/brandy
  • 1/2 cup of finely sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced hello onion
  • 3/4 cup of diced apples (peeled and cored)

Method:

  • Combine cranberries, raisins, water, sugar and spices in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until berries really start to pop.
  • Add celery, apples, onion and liquor. Stir well and return to simmer, simmering for at least 15 minutes or until the celery, onion and apples have broken down. I personally chopped my apples roughly so they held a bit of their shape- your call.
  • If processing and canning, pour hot chutney into sterilized/still warm jars, apply lids and process in a hot water bath for at least ten minutes. Follow other processing rules you prefer, that is just how I do mine. Jars that have sealed (lids popped) properly can be stored in a cool dark place for a year or so. Ones that did’t seal properly will be good in the fridge for a few weeks.

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“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”-F.Scott Fitzgerald

It is finally starting to feel like fall in Halifax. Last week it was 15 degrees and the crocuses were peeking their purple heads up two seasons early. This week there has been rain and when there isn’t rain we are hovering just above zero at night. This makes for marvellous sleeping, rain boots and tartan scarves (my fav). It also makes for dry skin.

My face gets dry starting around Halloween and ending in May. Like clockwork. Every year. I am talking crocodile skin and only on my damn nose. Yes, there are likely far worse things but NOTHING has helped. I have even sought professional advice BEYOND the doors of Sephora. I have educated myself about the benefits of almost every aspect of skin care in the last year and have tested approximately 1,587 products (maybe a slight exaggeration), all in the hopes of preventing the flakey nose situation.

I have learned a lot, my skin looks better than ever, I finally have a routine and I have found a couple incredible products that I thought I would share with you all. Before you say it or judge me, I know what you are thinking; A skin care regime is expensive and many products don’t have visible results. This may be true but you only get one skin, one face and you may as well treat it kindly. Many of you pay a lot to maintain your hair and that is technically just dead keratin. Your skin is the largest organ your body has, it prevents against infection/disease and it makes you look damn fine when it is glowing and healthy. Good quality products last a long time (months and months), a little can go a very long way and there is nothing wrong with prevention.

I am far from an expert, my routine is incredibly basic and limited but here it is as well as some products I love. If you are going to grow your skin care regime I highly recommend testing products before purchasing as well as building it up over time (your bank account will thank you).  As well as below, I also exfoliate every week and try to drink buckets (well lots!) of water everyday.

#1- The most important thing about skin care is… wash your damn face. Don’t sleep in your makeup, don’t be lazy, please wash the day away (makeup, environmental contaminants, sweat). If you have to skip washing your face, do that in the morning. Some people like gels, some like creams, some like miceller water and lately people have bee raving about oil cleansers. Use something you like that doesn’t dry out your skin or leave a residue (i.e. cleansing wipes). It doesn’t have to be expensive, Iris Apfel, the queen herself, uses Cetaphil. Spectro-Gel is also highly recommended. I personally have been loving Pro-Derm’s Gentle Cleanser. It is plant based, oil free, made in Canada, takes off every lick of my makeup and it smells like lavender. Only catch is that other people love it too, it is currently sold out country wide.

#2- Moisturize before you put on your makeup. I personally don’t use a primer but I prep my skin pre-makeup with a decent “light’ cream or oil . If you want to use a day serum (I use a vitamin C one) apply it before the moisturizer. You may want to consider a moisturizer with SPF if your makeup is lacking it. The sun causes not only wrinkles and dark spots but more and more young people are experiencing skin cancer. No one needs that. I personally use a tinted moisturizer that has SPF in it and I like to use Josie Maran Light Oil during the day (expert tip- the travel size bottle will last about a year, you only need a couple of drops).

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#3- Don’t forget about those peepers. The skin around your eyes is very thin and very delicate.  Applying a moisturizer to the area before concealer will not only prep and protect it but it will also (depending on what you use) minimize the fine lines that makeup likes to get caught in and may reduce puffiness. I have been using Origin’s GinZing around my eyes in the am and I LOVE it. It has caffeine to de-puff and it is sightly illuminating which helps when covering dark circles. I have also switched up my everyday concealer. I have used Benefit for years and just about concealer in their repertoire. They are great for occasions where you really need some mega coverage (aka no sleep for a week, or maybe if you go to a ball with Prince Charming) but they are heavy on your delicate skin. Lately I have opted for Sephora’s Bright Future concealer. It’s light, it colour corrects, it doesn’t cake in fine lines and it has a serum built in. It is also half the price of most concealers and you need very little. Tip- use your ring finger to gently pat on eye creams and blend concealer for less pulling.

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#4- Night-time. There is a million recommendations out there for pre-bed skin care. I say “wash your damn face”. That is the most important step. If you want to get fancy, use a gentle retinol and/or peptide containing serum. Retinol is basically high dose vitamin A. It will promote collagen production and prevent fine lines. If you are using retinol, which is recommended for anyone over the age of 30, wear sunscreen. It will make your skin more sensitive to UV. After the serum (or after washing your face if you are skipping the heavy hitting vitamins) apply a cream. Maybe one that is heavier than your day cream depending upon your needs.  My dry nose requires a little uuuumph so I have been using Pro-Derm’s Regenerating Cream (and it has been working!!!!!!). Don’t forget about moisturizing your neck (it needs love too) and you may want to try an anti-aging eye cream or gel.

Tah-dah. There you have it, that is what works for me and honestly my skin is 10000X better than it has ever been.

PS.

For the fall I am obsessed with MAC’s lipstick in “Craving” – it is the perfect pop of plumb and far deeper than it appears on the website- see my mug below. I am also loving a cheapie blush from Milani in Dolce Pink (which is almost identical to Nars Orgasm) and in Barry Amore. They clock in under ten dollars, they are highly pigmented and they rival any of the MAC baked blushes.

-m