“A pickle is just a cucumber with a little experience.”- Irena Chalmers

This week I was gifted a beautiful bag of fresh vegetables from B & D Nabuurs. It was teeming with green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, jalapeños and two of the biggest field cucumbers I have ever seen. The tomatoes are honestly some of the best I have ever had, I have had carrots everyday for breakfast and I plan on making a small batch of hot pepper jelly with the peppers. Veggies always taste so much better when they are fresh from the garden.

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Recently I was at a restaurant that served homemade refrigerator pickles with my meal. They were tangy and crisp and I thought of them instantly when I saw the giant cucumbers in the bag of veggies. After a little trial and error I think I have made the tastiest and easiest pickles I have ever had. I adapted the recipe from My Recipes but have made a few changes including adding a jalapeño for some heat, doubling the brine and changing the turmeric to cumin. You guys, they are seriously good! So good in fact that I have decided to keep the bottle I had planned on giving my sister for myself. There  was even a little brine left over which I poured over some thinly sliced carrots and added a little rosemary to. They are also incredible. I may never buy pickles again. So easy and so tasty! Find the recipe below!

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Thanks Benny and Dianne for the veggies!

-m


You will need:

  • 6 cups of thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (I used my mandolin to keep them super thin and uniform)
  • 2 cups of thinly sliced sweet white onion
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 2 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-  1 tsp crushed chili peppers (depends on how much spice you like)
  • 1/2 tsp of peppercorns and/or 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • A generous pinch of ground cloves
  • A generous pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 jalapeno thinly sliced, seeds in (may omit if you don’t like a little heat)
  • Optional- a few slivers of carrots or peppers to add a little colour

In a heatproof glass dish, layer cucumber and onions (2 cups of cucumbers, 1 cup of onions and repeat). Combine the rest of the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute and then pour over onions and cucumbers ensuring they are fully submerged. If you have any brine left, save to use in the future or pour over a jar of thinly sliced carrots or red onion (because pickled anything always makes lunch better!). Cover and let cool then refrigerate for up to four days. Divide into jars and keep in the fridge for up to a month (but I promise they won’t last that long!). So quick, so easy and so tasty!

“What is this wizardry?!”- Me (trying LipSense for the first time)

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I still remember my very first lipstick. My aunt and mother picked out a frosted pink CoverGirl concoction for me while back-to-school shopping in Halifax in the 90’s. That frosty lipstick made me feel like Shania Twain (who else would my lipstick goals have been?) and I was so excited that I re-applied it three times within ten minutes. I distinctly remember my aunt telling me to “slow down or you won’t have any left for tomorrow”.   That was the beginning of a long (and sometimes financially unhealthy) relationship with lipstick. Name a trend and I have likely tried it.

In recent months I had read about a relatively new formulation made in the USA called LipSense. This line has been gaining popularity in the past couple of years, to the point of not being able to keep inventory in stock and having to limit their colour range to enable them to keep with the demand. Why is it so popular? Well the company proposes it doesn’t wear off. It is marketed as a 4-18 hour wear lipstick that claims to go on and require no maintenance with the exception of reapplying a protective and hydrating gloss throughout the day to maintain it. Sounds easy enough and impossible all at the same time. Honestly though, how could a lipstick last through drinking coffee, eating, talking, working out and doing all of the things that people generally do throughout a day and not budge?Lipsense-1

How does it work? Well the brand says that you apply three thin layers, allowing each to dry for a few seconds. It uses medical grade alcohol that evaporates and adheres the colour  to your lips which is then sealed in with a gloss. The gloss comes in a range of formulas including glossy, matte, pearl and a handful of glittery and shimmery ones.

I won’t lie, I was extremely skeptical when I got my hands on a tube. First of all, I generally hate “pyramid schemes” or anything that remotely resembles them. Plus I like to be able to walk into Sephora or Mac and get the instant gratification of buying a lipstick while having the opportunity to try it on first.

The application also seemed like a lot of work with a handful of rules. You have to apply it in one direction, one layer at a time, not pressing your lips together throughout the process (which I was absolutely terrible at but spoiler alert: it was totally worth the effort). It felt both dry and sticky at the same time and I found it burned slightly the first time I used it (research told me this was likely due to my dry lips). Then you seal it in with a gloss, which is something that hasn’t graced my lips since 2001. After the process, which may have taken a minute total, I rubbed my lips together and was surprised at how soft and hydrated they felt once the gloss was on. The dry/sticky feeling was gone, as was any tingling I initially felt. They were smooth, not sticky at all, the colour had a great sharp edge with no bleeding and I was surprised that I didn’t hate the glossy look.  When I did the “rub your lips test”, which I have seen dozens of times online when debating buying the product, there was nothing on my fingers and the colour hadn’t moved even the tiniest bit. I then tried rubbing it off gently with a towel and all that happened was that the gloss had come off. The colour was intact and perfect.  I was shocked. Throughout the day I had a coffee date with a friend, I ate supper and I did some gardening. Six hours later it still looks great and all it required was a couple reapplications of the gloss to protect it and stay hydrated. Honestly, it was shocking. Taking it off was a little difficult (makeup remover and face wash don’t even begin to touch it) but I have since learned that plain old neutrogena soap takes it off with very little effort.

 

 

So is all the the hype worth it?

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Con’s to LipSense

  • The upfront cost is relatively expensive. It is $3o a colour, $25 for a gloss and $12 for the remover. A starter kit it $67 plus tax which seemed like a lot at first.
  • The application takes a little getting used to but it isn’t hard.
  • It “tingled” a little initially but I have since started using the gloss at night to keep my lips hydrated.
  • It was initially difficult to remove even with the remover (however, the remover is great for mistakes during the application) but once I tried Neutrogena soap it came off very easily.
  • Can’t try on colours prior to purchasing, but you can google the colour you like and see what it looks like on a variety of skin tones and lip shapes.
  • You have to wait to get it and waiting is hard sometimes. Not a real con, just me being impatient.
  • The packaging sucks. This also isn’t a real con, but it just looks a little “dated”.

Pro’s to LipSense

  • It really does last and not transfer. At all. It is magic.
  • The colour range is awesome. Thirty plus colours and new limited edition ones are launched every couple of months. There is something for everyone and it is broken down by undertones making it easy to find what you want. I haven’t tried one I didn’t love!
  • 1 tube of Lipsense colour has 2-4 times the amount of product than most popular liquid lipsticks and you will apply it a lot less. It will last forever and you only need one gloss regardless of how many colours you acquire.
  • You can layer more than one colour with another to create new looks. Two colours can give you eight options depending on the order you layer them in.
  • It is FDA approved, vegan, kosher, non-GMO, gluten free, lead free, it protects you lips from the sun (SPF 15 equivalent) and is NOT tested on animals.
  • My lips are more hydrated and plump than ever.
  • The fabulous return policy. SeneGence has a 100% guarantee which includes money back or a new product within 12 months of purchase if a customer isn’t happy with the product (this does not cover leaving it in a hot car and destroying it though!).
  • It is the ultimate lip product for brides, people who wear masks at work, mom’s on the go and anyone who doesn’t have the time to reapply it and check it throughout the day.
  • It is also red wine safe (I personally tested this theory) , it doesn’t come off on a coffee cup and it doesn’t travel around your face/get on your teeth. Win win.

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In my opinion, the pro list far outweighs the con list (lets be honest, some of the cons were far fetched to begin with). After a few months of using it, I am still hooked and have amassed a handful of colours. I initially signed up as a distributor for the discount (20-50% off) and have actually ended up selling it on the side after dozens of friends asked me about it and how to get their hands on some. It is very rare that I stand behind a product enough to sell it. I am a cynic 82% of the time and LipSense has blown any of my initial skepticism out of the water.

Interested in trying it yourself? You have nothing to lose with the money back guarantee! Check out Shabby Yet Chic Lips on Facebook or search Shabby Yet Chic Lips (username or hashtag) to find my page on Instagram! Interested in becoming a distributor? Just message me on any social media for more information!

Great long-lasting-lips for everyone!

-m

 

“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