Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life lessons from a Beauty Blog

It dawned on me as I sat sorting out the labyrinth of folders and files that make up my beauty photographs, how much my life has changed since embarking on this blogging journey. On the surface, the day to day tasks of shopping around for new products, editing photos and trying out that latest lipcolour seem trivial and even frivolous. Yet looking at my surroundings today, my life is evidently reflective of the experiences I've gathered through out the days, months and years of running a blog.

It seems rather counter intuitive at first but sharing with others has, in its own secretly rewarding way, led me to discover more about myself. This is especially true when it comes to finding my personal style in both beauty and fashion. In this every changing kaleidoscope of visual imagery, it's hard to define where to fit in and in fact, it may often be easier just to follow the crowd. But taking on the task of blogging has, by the nature of necessity, pushed me to try out new styles and aesthetics that in an alternative universe I might never approach. Whether I'm writing for a new challenge on FASHION Magazine's Beauty Panel or just pulling ideas for a new video, it's trained my mind to always search for something new to share.

It's also very realistic to say that my current blogging life is fully entangled with my personal life and for once, I am embracing this growth instead of being apprehensive. In the pursuit of being a better blogger, I've set my goals on always improving my skills be it with photography, organization or even just speaking on camera and these seemingly disconnected categories have come together in the past year to lead me to some amazing life opportunities. When you focus on bettering yourself, the world notices that energy and (as cliche as it sounds) the right people will be attracted to your life to help you achieve your goals. But the key game changer is to be open and receptive to these (sometimes small) opportunities for you never knew where they might lead you.

Be not afraid of the world for in it's depths you shall find great treasure.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Soap & Glory | Heel Genius Foot Cream

Wrapped up in fuzzy socks and thick slippers or boots, my feet are the last thing on my mind between chapped skin problems and frizzy hair during the winter months. Yet the drier they are, the less I'm enthused to deal with them and sticking my feet into a pair of woolies seemed to be the easiest way to make the issue temporarily disappear. But with sandal season fast approaching, it's time to reaccess the situation.

Brand: Soap & Glory
Product: Heel Genius Amazing Foot Cream*
Size: 125ml
Price: $17CAD
Availability: Shoppers Drug Mart locations across Canada
Would I (re)purchase: Yes, probably.

Scented with a heady floral fragrance, Heel Genius is a lightweight gel/balm that smoothes easily over the skin without any greasy residue. With ingredients like macadamia seed oil, sugar cane and various fruit extracts this "miraculous moisturizing mix" as it is named is formulated to be an easy nighttime treat for your feet. Now for something that sounds so intensive I was surprised to find the texture so light, turning from the gel/balm in the tube into a lotion like consistency once I start rubbing this onto my feet.

What I really enjoyed about this compared to other products I've used it that instead of just sitting on top of my skin, Heel Genius actually sunk in completely overnight. It has just a hint of minty coolness (thought nothing stands out from the ingredients list) without being terribly off putting. Pair this with my thick bedtime socks and my heels were noticeably softer the next morning. In fact, in three days time my feet were completely back to their normal bare worthy state.

If you're suffering from very dry cracked heel or rough spots, I recommend having a good scrub down with a pumice stone in the bath before massaging this all over from toes to ankle. As this is so refreshing and lightweight, I can see this serving me well into the summer months for heel maintenance as well.

As a whole, the markup price for Soap and Glory products in Canada makes this a little less affordable than it would be if sold in the UK and that would be my main reservation about repurchasing this product. Those sensitive to heavy fragrances should approach this cautiously as it is richly scented, as most products from this line tends to be.


A surprisingly refreshing and lightweight cream that will help to smooth over dry patches and revive tired feet quicker than you can get that pair of summer sandals delivered in the mailbox. Heel Genius will make a great pairing with your winter body care routine or used in the summer to keep your feet bare worthy. Because this spreads so easily, you don't need to use very much of it to get the full benefits so if you're ready to shed those winter socks, this is definitely a good place to start.


Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Isononyl Isononanoate, Cetyl Alcohol, Urea, Allantoin, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Oleic/Linoleic/Linolenic Polyglycerides, Acer Saccharinum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Extract, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Menthyl Lactate, Menthol, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Dipropylene Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum), Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Geraniol, Blue 1 (CI 42090), Yellow 5 (CI 19140)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cellphone Photograph | Tips, Tricks & Image Making

In this tech age world of ever growing megapixels and hefty awe inducing dslr gear I am here to make a stand for the humble cellphone camera. Now, 4 to 5 years ago this conversation would be  irrelevant but that little dot on the back of your cellphone has come a long way since then. In fact, beyond snapping a photo of your morning meal and a quick makeup selfie in the bathroom mirror, you can take some very blog worthy images using nothing more than your phone.

My current device is a Samsung Galaxy S3, which due to certain technical details, I have chosen over the ever popular iPhone option. It features 8MP in the front with auto focus (as well as tap focus), flash option and a self timer. For regular everyday lighting conditions, any camera with 5-6MP is a good start. Up to a certain threshold the megapixel isn't going to magically give you exceptionally better photographs but one aspect that you should look into is the aperture specifications (mine is f/2.6). This will determine how much depth of field you can achieve to give you more control between foreground and background in multi-layered photo scenes.

Now let's get into some nitty gritty examples, all of which were taken with my cellphone camera to illustrate some ideas to keep in mind as you snap away.

While there are many approaches to creating an eye catching image, the easiest place to start is looking for setup that give yous maximum contrast and to let the shape of your subject define the image. This is where the metering mechanism on your cellphone camera can be manipulated to great effect as it will often auto-adjust brightness depending on your point of focus. For this image (above) my daffodils were actually in front of a beige wall but with the direct sunlight streaming through the window to the top right corner. I tap focused on the flower which caused my camera to expose for the flowers while leaving the background completely black.

This is the exact same setup and background as the last image but this time I used a reflector (any shiny foiled surface will do) to create a ray of light on the left hand side to counteract the sun light from the right. I tap focused on the front flower that was not in direct full sunlight which prompted the camera to give a more balanced exposure reading. Then with an in phone app, I merely faded the image a little to give a more moody appeal.

Put harmonious colours together and you get a feeling of calm. Put bright contrasting colours together and you get an image that really grabs your attention. Sometimes you just happen to be in the right setup but you can create this scene like I did by putting down some hot pink tissue paper to bring out the yellow in the daffodil.

Natural objects such as trees and plants can be great subjects because their leaves and branches create direction and movement in your image. The various thick and thin branches create lines that the viewer's eye can follow when looking at your photograph, going from one area to another. If we break this down by isolating the foreground or these two clusters of flowers, the branch on the left actually leads the eye into the image while the the branch on the left leads the eye out in a fluid movement.

What most people tend to love about fancy dslr cameras is their ability to create a bokeh effect, otherwise known as the 'fuzzy background' but this can easily be done by many camera phones as well. Remember the aperture specs I mentioned earlier? This helps to determine how much depth of field you can create between your closest object and your farthest object. My camera was able to capture the fine sand grain details in the glass bottle while fading out the background.

These days while I still squeal over the latest releases by the big name camera companies, I've grown a real appreciation for the convenience and the surprising quality produced by my cellphone. In fact, not only do I use them for Twitter and Facebook pages but they have made their way into the main feature of some blog posts as well. Don't forget that your camera just is a tool through which you are the composer, creator and editor of your photographs.

Have a great cellphone photo tip? Do share it below!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let's Cook: Spice Party Dry Rub Oven Chicken

Minimum effort, maximum deliciousness. Today's Let's Cook recipe can be prepped ahead of time, needs no grand kitchen mastery and is perfect for dinner as it is for a mid day snack. It's an impressive looking dish that's spicy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

The main portion of this recipe is a dry rub spice blend so dig through that pantry and grab yourself a handful of these.

6 tablespoon dark brown sugar
4 tablespoon (smoked) paprika
1-2 tablespoon salt/sea salt
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoon chilli powder (optional)

This ratio will give you approximately 1.5 cups of rub when mixed together, you don't have to use it all at once and since everything is dry you can easily store it in an airtight jar for next time use.

Note: I had garlic salt on hand instead of plain garlic powder, so if are using that as well then cut down on your actual salt portion. Being a non-chili eater, I also left out the chili powder but it will definitely give this recipe an extra kick.

The beauty of this recipe is that it's very adaptable, add a little something, take a little away. In fact, the majority of this spice blend is adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Slow and Low Oven Chicken which involved brinning and then a cover and bake dry rub method. Using just the spice rub alone still produced a wonderful dish in much less the time. I like to make a big batch of the rub and keep it around for last minute food decisions.


1) Cut, wash, drain your choice of chicken meat. I've tried this recipe with both chicken wings and drumlets. Both are great but the wings will give a more crispy taste and crust better if that's what you prefer. Try to drain the meat well or even pat dry with a bit of kitchen paper as you don't want this to be too wet when we start.

2) Coat the chicken pieces liberally with your spice rub blend. I like to do this in 3-4 times, stopping to really massage the meat and to make sure every crevice is evenly coated. There's no real ratio of spice to chicken per say but you'll know it's enough when the meat turns an reddish orange hue all over. Cover and let marinate for 1hr minimum but 3-4 hours ideally.

3) Preheat the oven to approximately 425F (225C). Line your tray with aluminum foil and brush the surface with cooking oil. This will prevent the chicken from sticking when you flip it later during cooking. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the pan and into the oven it goes for 20min.

Note: If you are using wings, put the top side facing down first so that when you flip it later for the final bake and broil, the top skin crisps up and looks super impressive.

4) When the timer goes off, carefully take out the tray and flip each piece over. Then brush on a thin layer of cooking oil and sprinkle the surface with the spice blend. This little extra step gives each piece an explosion of flavour and makes a great crust if you're using wings which tends to crisp a little better.

5) Back into the oven for 10-15 min if you're having wings or 15-20min if you're having drumlets. For the last 10 minutes, turn it up to broil and watch the spice and fat dance on the surface but keep an eye that it doesn't burn. Remove from oven, plate and dig in!

Not that I think you'd have any leftovers from this one but in case you do, they sit just fine overnight and can be eaten again either heated or chilled from the fridge. You could even try barbequing these after the marinate but I find it such an easy prep any time of the week once you have the spice blend all done up in a jar. If you try it, let me know how it goes!


Monday, April 7, 2014

AVON | Clearskin Black Mineral Mask

Mud and clay based face masks have always been a hit or miss item in my skincare journey. On one hand they are know for detoxifying your skin, drawing out impurities and minimizing pores but they can easily make skin dry, irritated and sometimes down right uncomfortable.

Brand: AVON
Product: Clearskin Pore Penetrating Black Mineral Mask*
Size: 75ml
Price: $7.99 CAD
Availability: Avon (online) or your independent Avon Rep
Would I (re)purchase: Maybe

For the past few months I've been going steady with this clay based mask from Avon and as any skincare relationship begins, we were a little apprehensive about each other at first. I've avoided most acne based skincare products for the last few years due to their tendency to be rather harsh on the skin but after quick patch test on my skin, I decided to go in for the full dive.

Meant to help treat spots and pores, the Clearskin mask boasts 0.5% salicyclic acid, a common pore unclogging / exfoliating ingredient and is often an additive to anti-acne products. It also features bentonite, a powdered clay used for oil control. Fresh from the tube, this mask has a gel cream consistency which spread easily over the skin and had a very faint scent. Give it 15 minutes and it begins to dry, the dark grey mask turning a lighter grey, with a slight tightening sensation though nothing uncomfortable compared to the likes of Glamglow or Lush's Mask of Magnaminty.

This was also surprisingly easy to rinse off (did not pull my eyebrows off) and didn't burn or cause any visible irritation at all. In fact, this is one of the most comfortable clay masks I've used to date and easy on my skin as well. Immediate results included a slightly brighter and smoother complexion plus some notable temporary pore shrinkage while long term use seemed to result in balancing my skin, keeping the oilies away without further drying my easily dehydrated skin type. The instructions suggests 2-3 sessions a week but I usually do this once a week when I feel the need for an instant refreshment on days my face just needs a wake up call.


Affordable clay based mask with a lightweight texture that is gentle on the skin while helping to balance oily spots which is extra great for combination skin. Quick and easy to use in the mornings before makeup to perk up your complexion, leaving skin fresh and comfortable. Wouldn't rely on this solely for treatment care but is a nice simple addition to your everyday skincare routine.



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Haircare Routine | March Edition

I'd like to think I'm a simple girl when it comes to my hair. I wash, condition, mask (if I remember to), air dry and fluff it up with my fingers. In fact, even though I own quite a number of hair brushes, few of them ever make it to my daily routine. For those who are like me and prefer a simple but effective routine, here are the hair care products I've been using.

  • JOICO | K-PAK Haircare | Website
  • GIOVANNI | Tea Tree Trip Treat Invigorating Shampoo | Website
  • RENPURE ORGANICS | Amazing Mircale Deep Penetrating Reconstructor | Website
  • PANTENE | Shaping Hairspray* | Website
  • L'OREAL | Elnette Satin Hairspray | Website
  • CLAIROL | Perfect 10 Hair Colour* #5A "Medium Ash Brown" | Website
Joico: Salons, London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Winners
Giovanni: London Drugs, Whole Foods, iHerb
Renpure: London Drugs, CVS (in USA)
Pantene | L'Oreal | CLAIROL: Drugstores nationwide

3020 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada. V5Z 2V9
(between W14th & W15th Ave.)
Tel: 604-876-5580
Stylist: Kazue

Even though I only cut my hair every 6 months, I do believe in finding a style which grows out nicely over time which means I can maintain it without needing to hit up the salon so often. If you like to wear your hair in curls when styling, ask for some slight layering at the ends (not heavy razoring, just a bit of longer layers) which will help give lift to your curls instead of dragging them down.

I'm also a girl who can't keep her hands away from hair colour, it's just so much fun and adds a whole new feel to your overall look and mood. This before and after photo (above) shows my virgin soft black hair and my new colour with the Claroil Perfect10, a little lift but not too much and still very natural. While I've never been faithful to any colour protecting haircare line, I find a good moisturizing routine along with less heat styling on a daily basis will make sure your hair is spectacular when it really counts.