Monday, December 21, 2015

Outfit: Christmas Party

My husband had his work Christmas party this past weekend. Luckily, our winter this year has been fairly mild (I mean it was -10 degrees celsius instead of -20!), so I felt like I could wear what I wanted instead of trying to keep warm.

I only had two Christmas parties to go to this year, my work party and my husband's. I actually enjoy going to Christmas parties. It's fun to see my work colleagues in a different context and get to know them better. And of course, I like getting dressed up.

I found this dress on The Real Real. The neckline is more plunging than I'm comfortable with so I put a bandeau top underneath. I love the embroidered flowers and the tulle skirt. 

I've had this Sophie Hulme purse for at least 2 years and it shows almost no signs of wear. It's on the smaller side but easily fits my phone, a lipstick and a cardholder. It's well-made and I love the distinctive details like the keyhole closure and the chain strap.

Outfit details:
Dress: Oscar de la Renta (similarsimilar)
Purse: Sophie Hulme (similar)
How many Christmas parties do you have to go to this year? Do you love them or hate them?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Post: Flowers and Ruffles

An outfit post! Surprise!

I went to the mall for the first time in months to do some Christmas shopping. I also made a stop at Lululemon, and snapped this outfit photo in the dressing room. I find it really hard to take outfit photos in the wintertime. It's too dark and cold outside!

You might remember the skirt from this post. It's still going strong. This is pretty much the same outfit, except with a button-down shirt and booties that fit snug at the ankles.

Anthropologie had a similar skirt earlier in the fall. I'm pretty sure it was featured in one of the catalogs. Unfortunately, it looks like it has sold out. I've linked to the Primrose Midi Skirt, which is similar and very pretty.

Outfit details:
Shirt: H&M, old, (similar)
Skirt: Petaluma Skirt, Anthropologie (similar)
Boots: Frye, old (similar)

 Incidentally, the Zone In Tights and Crops at Lululemon are on sale, marked down from $128.00 to $39.00. These are relatively new to the site and very heavily marked down, which makes me wonder if something is wrong with them. The sales associate told me she thinks it's because they tend to create a "uni-butt", which you can totally see in the model shots. On the plus side, they're very compressive and supportive, and I really like the higher waist. The reviews on the website are pretty polarized, with some people saying they run small and others saying they run true to size. I took my usual size 4 without any issues. 

How has your winter been treating you?

Monday, November 23, 2015

On Meditation and Mindfulness

Yup, you've come to the right place. I realize the title of this post is pretty different from anything I've ever written about on here before.

I started meditating 2 years ago after reading Dan Harris' book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. Yes, Dan Harris, the ABC anchor and correspondent.

The book showed up on my Kindle recommendations. I have no idea why, since I'd never been remotely interested in reading about anything spiritual. The title was intriguing though, so I ended up  reading about Harris' drug-fueled panic attack on national television and how meditation was helpful for him.

Like Dan Harris, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. I don't think I've ever told my family or my friends that I meditate daily because I'm pretty sure they will think it's weird. People assume that meditation is about trying to stop the thoughts or clear the mind. From my limited experience, I've found it's more about awareness and focusing attention. There are many different types of meditation out there, but I usually just sit for 15-20 minutes each day and focus on my breathing.

Meditation has not been a magic cure-all for me but I find that I notice and enjoy the beautiful things in life more. My husband has told me that he has noticed that I have fewer meltdowns and rant less. Honestly, I view it as a form of mental exercise rather than a spiritual or religious practice.

If you're interested in meditation, Dan Harris' book is entertaining and non-threatening. You might read his book and come away convinced that meditation is not for you. At least you'll have read a good story.

Here are a few other resources which I've found useful:
This is a free online self-guided mindfulness based stress reduction course with readings, videos and guided meditations. After reading Dan Harris' book, I really wanted to attend a MBSR course, which is an 8-week course that was developed by a doctor at the University of Massachusetts many years ago. Unfortunately, for the longest time, I couldn't find a live course that fit my schedule. The Palouse course has been a great alternative.

Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
There are lots of books out there about meditation and mindfulness. I like this book because it's very simple and straightforward. Other authors who have been highly recommended to me include Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chodron, Mark Epstein and Tara Brach. I have downloaded their books onto my Kindle but to be honest, I have never managed to get more than a few chapters into their books. I actually finished Real Happiness though, and found it very useful.

OMG I can meditate
This is an iPhone app and also a website. The first week and some of the basic meditations are free. You can pay a monthly fee to continue with the rest of the 12-week program and access all of the meditations. I initially found the woman who narrates the meditations and videos very annoying but she doesn't bother me as much anymore. The full access version is on sale through to Cyber Monday.

Have you ever tried meditating? Have you noticed that mindfulness seems to be trending lately?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Outfit: Assiniboine

I bought this dress on The Real Real a few months ago. It came new with tags, and was 60% less than retail. My husband definitely made fun of me when I insisted on taking oufit photos in the snow, but I think it was worth it!

Outfit details:
Dress: Oscar de la Renta, similar at The Outnet in pink floral, blue floralblack and white; similar at The Real Real in blue and green floralpink and white but sleevelessblue, white and red print)
Shoes: Puma, very old
Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Do you like going back to the same places over and over again or would you rather go somewhere different every time?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

And... back to Assiniboine

You might remember that last year, our plans to climb Mt Assiniboine got shut down by the weather. Not to be deterred, we decided to make another attempt at the end of August.

My mom turned 70 this year and my dad will be turning 75, so to celebrate, we brought my parents along. This time, instead of camping, we stayed at the beautiful and historic lodge. I honestly believe this is one of the most unique and picturesque places to stay in the Canadian Rockies. It can be accessed by a 5-hour hike or a 15-minute helicopter ride. Once you arrive, the staff spoil you with gourmet meals and snacks. The days are spent hiking along ridgetops, watching grizzly bear cubs playing in the meadow and relaxing in the sauna. At night, the private cabins and lodge rooms are snug and cozy with real mattresses, fluffy pillows and down duvets. 

Our plan was to climb up to the Hind Hut after my parents left and climb Assiniboine the following day. Unfortunately, the day we landed, we were hit by a blizzard... and it then proceeded to snow and/or rain every day for the next week. Fortunately, the lodge had a free room that we were able to snag as camping in the snow would have been pretty unpleasant. We still enjoyed ourselves, and it's a good excuse for another trip next year.

The cozy Strom cabin. Home away from home.

Delicious butternut squash ravioli. This was just the appetizer!

Lovely views from the Nub (or was it the Nublet? The Nib? The Niblet? Who names these places...)

Grizzly bear cubs with mama not too far behind. Needless to say, this was taken with a telephoto lens!

The mighty Mt Assiniboine, looking very wintry and unclimbable. We'll try again next year!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Outfit: Willow Lane Barn wedding

I love Oscar de la Renta dresses, but I'm not as fond of the designer prices. And while I've noticed that stores like Anthropologie and Banana Republic often carry very similar prints and styles, I was very pleased when I discovered The Outnet and The Real Real

The two sites are very different. The Outnet is the discount version of Net-a-Porter. I've noticed that styles tend to show up on there about 1-2 years after they were current. They stock handbags, shoes and accessories as well as clothing. There are usually a range of sizes available. The items are new with tags, and as such, the discounts are not usually as steep. They occasionally will have additional promotions, like 30% off selected items. You have to pay for shipping and duties, but returns are free and very convenient and easy. 

The Real Real is primarily a consignment site, although I've found new with tags items and sample items on the site which have never been worn. Each item has measurements listed as well as a description of the condition of the item. I've generally found these to be accurate. The prices are quite a bit cheaper than retail, and there is a mix of older items (ie up to 10 years) and current season items. They seem to constantly have an extra 20% off promotion running, and at the end of the month, items are often marked down 30%. Shipping and duties are again extra, and returns are not included. I have only returned one item so far, and I found it to be a hassle. Whereas with The Outnet, you just slap on the DHL label and call for pickup, with The Real Real, you have to make all the arrangements on your own.

I thought this dress would be perfect for my cousin's fall wedding in rural Alberta. It was held in a beautiful wooden barn in the middle of the prairies, only an hour's drive from Calgary. I love how from Calgary you can be in the mountains, the prairies or the badlands in just an hour by driving in completely different directions.

As you can see, the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous autumn day. Some of my family came all the way from Korea for the wedding and it was great to see them again and celebrate with my cousin.

Outfit details:
Dress: Oscar de la Renta from the Real Real,(similar in pink at the Outnet, also reminds me of the Baikal dress from Anthropologie last winter)
Shoes: Nine West, (similar)
Scarf: from Cambodia
Purse: Sophie Hulme, (similar in green at the Outnetsimilar in black at the Real Real

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tanzania, again: Part 2

I only had 2.5 weeks in Tanzania this time, compared to 1 month last year. Also, the work week is 5.5 days which makes weekend trips difficult. 

However, I did manage to cram in a 1-night trip to the Serengeti. We went with Mosses from Sange Safaris. The company is locally owned and run, and I was very happy with the experience. We got picked up from Mwanza around 2 PM, drove to the Serengeti and came across a group of lions napping.
They're like giant housecats!
We spent the night at a gorgeous lodge on a hilltop. They were doing a controlled burn of the grass in order to control the tse tse flies (they can transmit sleeping sickness) and all of the smoke in the air created a gorgeous sunset. 

Almost every book about Africa seems to have a picture of a sunset and an acacia tree on the cover. Here's my version, and a few other examples
In the morning, one of my friends had a terrible migraine. While we waited for his meds to kick in, my other friend and I had amazing Swedish massages in an open-air room overlooking the Serengeti. We could see and hear zebras on the grasslands below. Because of our late start, Mosses told us we would not be able to make it to the central or northern parts of the Serengeti. Luckily, we spotted this guy when we were leaving the lodge, right by the side of the road.
My first cheetah!
We spent the rest of the day looking at lots of other animals like zebras, giraffes, elephants, hippos, wildebeast, and crocodiles before making our way back to Mwanza. 

After I finished working in Mwanza, I spent 5 days in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is well-known for its beautiful beach resorts and diving, but I chose to stay in Stonetown. Stonetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it's easy to spend hours exploring the twisting streets and wandering past colourful markets, carved wooden doors and coral stone buildings. 

Zanzibar used to be a major hub for the slave trade, and there is a church and a memorial built at the site of the old slave market. Underneath the church, you can see the tiny cells where dozens of slaves would have been crammed together while waiting for transport. It was very sobering to think about how many people suffered and died there.
Monument to the slaves
There are many spice and fruit plantations on Zanzibar. I toured a spice plantation one day, and it was interesting to learn what actually goes into all those little glass jars on my spice rack.  

Fresh nutmeg
I also did a day trip to Prison Island, which is visible just off the shore from Stonetown. Prison Island is home to a colony of Alhambra tortoises. You can feed them and pet them.

Finally, I went to Cheetah's Rock. The website says that it's not a zoo or a wildlife sanctuary, and I would agree that it's something that's hard to define. Many of the animals have been rescued or donated, and the owner teaches about the animals while allowing guests to interact with them. For some of the more dangerous animals, like the hyena, that meant feeding her chicken through the bars of her enclosure. We were allowed to hold and pet some of the other animals, like bush babies, lemurs, monkeys, and a cheetah. It was fun and I was sad to leave at the end of the tour.

I could hear the cheetah purring as I was petting her.

Feeding the bush babies. They liked cooked spaghetti.
I think this will probably be my last visit to Tanzania for a few years, but I'm looking forward to going back again someday.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tanzania, again, and an outfit

I was lucky enough to go back to Tanzania this summer for work. Most of the time, I was in Mwanza. It's not a particularly touristy town, but it's on the shores of Lake Victoria which is very lovely and picturesque (although teeming with schistosomiasis, a nasty parasite that enters through the skin and makes swimming a bad idea).

Mwanza means "Rock City", and true to its name, there are boulders and rocks everywhere. Some of the rocks have names. Dancing Rock overlooks the city and the lake, and it is named that because they have filmed music videos there.

There were no music videos when we visited, but it's an awesome spot to watch the sun setting over the lake.

The skirt I'm wearing in these photos is an African wax print. There are tailors in certain areas of town, and they can make clothing from photos. I found a photo of a skirt I liked on Etsy and picked the fabric at the tailor's shop. She took my measurements, and then the skirt was ready 2 days later.

Outfit details:
Shirt: very old, Smart Set
Skirt: handmade, from Tanzania (wax print but maxi length)
Shoes: Naturalizer
Purse: very old, Banana Republic
Closeup of the fabric

Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Oldie, but a Goodie

As I've mentioned several times on this blog, it's been a long time since I bought anything at Anthropologie. Rising prices, declining quality and uninspiring designs are the main reasons why my Anthro obsession has faded.

I bought this dress in 2012. I fell in love with the pretty, romantic red colour, the feminine details like the ruffles and the tie-neck. Plus it's silk! On sale, I'm pretty sure it was $119 or something similar. If it pops back, the price listed is $9.99 which would be amazing. This is the type of dress that I would love to see Anthropologie offer again...

Yesterday, I pulled it out of the closet for a date with my husband at the Trough. With the ruffles and the tie-neck, I felt like it didn't need any accessorizing. I paired it with simple grey suede pumps.

The Trough is our favourite restaurant in Canmore. The food is amazing and the service is always without fault. There are other restaurants in Canmore which also have good food but the service is often slow and lackluster.

The best part of the meal: dessert. I love sticky toffee pudding!
Outfit details: Anthropologie, Ruffled Oska Dress
Shoes: Nine West, old (similar)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Frock and Bike

After 25 years of riding a heavy bike I got from Canadian Tire for $65, my husband bought me a new bike for my birthday. It's from Mountain Equipment Co-op, and has all kinds of fancy features like an integrated hub. Thank you, Jeff!

Despite living in a city that is pretty anti-bike, I cycle almost everywhere in the summer: to work, to get groceries, to visit friends, to go out for dinner or to go to the theatre. I've learned over the years that wearing a skirt or a dress should not be an impediment to bike commuting. 

Here are my tips for riding a bike in a dress:

If you have a longer skirt (ie below knee length), it helps to gather up some of the fabric and tuck it under your bum on the seat. This prevents your skirt from getting caught in the spokes or the chain. It also makes it less likely that your skirt will fly up.

If I'm going a short distance, sometimes I'll cycle with one hand holding the front of my skirt down against the seat.

Another good option is to hold a coin or button behind you, in about the middle of the skirt. Then, take a rubber band or hair elastic and wrap it around the coin from the front of the dress. If this is clear as mud, you can check out this article on Slate for a better explanation.

Finally, you can wear shorts under your skirt or dress for better coverage. This is a good option if you're wearing a tight, short skirt as I've found they tend to ride up as you're pedaling. 

I wore this Club Monaco dress to dinner with my husband a few weeks ago. It's made of silk and cut on the bias, which it makes it really lovely and drapey and flowy. The cutouts are perfect for summer. This dress also comes in pink and a very pretty white and pink floral pattern. I highly recommend it.

A girl and her bike
I love the pretty straps at the back on this dress.
(Husband's fixed gear bike is in the right side of this frame... we're not hipsters, honestly!)
Cycling with my skirt tucked up
New bike even comes with a convenient water bottle/clutch holder!
Exploring new options for clipless pedals
(A word of caution when wearing Charlotte Olympia shoes and cycling: the raised spiderweb on the bottom of the sole actually got stuck on the pedal! It took some very careful wiggling to get it free!)
(Also, if you're curious, the bruising on my back is from cupping.) 
Outfit details:
Dress: Trina Silk Dress, Club Monaco (floral pattern is on sale now!)
Clutch: Arc clutch, Nina Ricci (similar in brown, mine was heavily marked down during Black Friday last year)
Shoes: Day of the Dead shoes, Charlotte Olympia (sold out)
Do you bike commute? Do you live in a bike-friendly city? Have you tried riding a bike wearing a dress?

(PS: I always wear a helmet... just took it off for the photos!)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Another (very) belated birthday post

I'm 35! I had another great birthday. If you can swing it, I would highly recommend making your birthday your own personal stat holiday. I took the day off from work, went to the mall for some birthday freebies, had lunch with my brother, went for a massage, went to a yoga class and then had a beautiful dinner with my husband at Vero Bistro.

This dress was my present to myself. I totally fell in love with the pretty flowers and when it finally went on sale, I couldn't resist. I got this bag during the Black Friday sales last year and it is beautiful and very functional. It's become my go-to bag for traveling because it has so many pockets and compartments. The leather scuffs a bit easily, but apart from that, it's been a good purchase.

Outfit details:
Dress: Oscar de la Renta, sold out
Bag: Proenza schouler, sold out (second hand in jacquard on The Real Real)
Shoes: Nine West, old (similar without an ankle strap, in white)
Do you have any birthday traditions?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Anthro: Tag Sale Reviews

I've been pretty busy lately so today was the first opportunity I had to check out Anthro's tag sale. They are running an additional 20% off sale items so I'm glad I waited!

I tried on this shirt dress first. It has lots of pretty details, including the lovely light blue pattern and the eyelet along the sides and back. I also love the collar. I found this dress fit true to size, and the slip inside is integrated into the dress rather than being a separate piece so it's really easy to put on. I seriously considered getting this dress but the volume of the skirt is just a bit too overwhelming for me.

Seapane Dress
Next up was this pretty dress with ties on the straps. The pattern is pretty and for some reason makes me think of summer trips to Europe. Unfortunately, although the dress is silk twill, the lining is made of polyester. Hot, heavy, scratchy, cheap-feeling polyester. Boo.

Tied Acionna Silk Dress

I also tried this lovely dress on in a size small. It was too big, unfortunately, and the neckline was pretty low on me. I did like the draping around the hips as it gives the dress a unique silhouette. I think I would have taken this home if my size had been available. I could not find this one on the website which may mean it's already sold out. Not surprising, since it is very pretty and feminine.

I tried on this dress by HD in Paris. It's made of a stretchy knit material, but fortunately the seams are not as lumpy as other stretchy dresses I've tried on in the past (Tanith dress, I'm looking at you). This is a nice, versatile basic that I can wear to work now and in the winter. For $49.95 minus 20% off, it was an easy decision to bring this home.

Marceline Flounced Sheath

I've seen this dress all over the blogosphere and Instagram. The halter neck has buttons on it rather than a tie which keeps the look very clean and graphic. The horizontal stripes might be intimidating but they're actually very flattering. I love how the black stripe in the middle defines the waist. Unfortunately, the dreaded polyester curse stirkes again. If I can be very whiny for a moment, "Whyyyy, Anthro??? Why? Why make such a beautiful, unique dress in such a cheap material?" Sigh.

Candymint Halter Dress
Have you found any good deals at the tag sale? How do you feel about polyester?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Blue floral

I've always considered Banana Republic my go-to for classic, work-appropriate staples. I am not exaggerating when I say that at least 60% of my work wardrobe comes from Banana Republic. 

I was interested to see how things would change with Marissa Webb taking over as creative director. The new collections seem to be edgier and more contemporary. I had kind of gotten bored with what I was seeing at Banana Republic and this dress is actually the first thing I've bought there in a long time. I like the pretty floral pattern and the subtle high-low hem. I also like the material, which is kind of like a fancy sweatshirt and is super comfortable in addition to draping really nicely.

This dress is sold out, unfortunately, but there is a similar dress in black and white floral which is on sale for 30% off. The black and white version is made of a textured cotton silk blend so it feels a bit more formal.

Outfit details:
Dress: Banana Republic (sold out, similar)
Cardigan: Banana Republic, old (similar on sale)
Shoes: Aerosoles, old
Purse: Lanvin Trilogy (on sale)
Do you ever shop at Banana Republic? What do you think of the new collections?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Reviews: May at Anthro

It's sale season! Lots of retailers are having big sales right now and there are some good deals out there. Sales at Anthropologie seem to have become more common, but you know what? It has been a really, really long time since I've bought anything at Anthro. I can't quite put my finger on the reason why. It might just be that my store doesn't get as much selection as bigger stores in the U.S., or it might be because I'm put off by fit and quality issues.

For example, I saw the Sonora Dress online and was instantly drawn to the pretty colours and loose breezy shape. When I saw it in the sale room last week though, the polyester material felt so cheap and uncomfortable that I didn't even try it on. 

Moonsong Dress
I usually really like Maeve dresses. This one has a pretty, unique pattern and the colours are different from what I tend to gravitate towards. It's made of cotton, fits true to size and has an exposed, contrasting zipper in the back. I like the knee length skirt as well. I wanted to like this dress but it didn't seem to fit quite right. I found the waist of the dress was placed higher than my natural waist, and this made the dress feel really boxy. I think Roxy at Effortless Anthropologie has commented that this seems to be a common Anthro failing lately. Back to the rack for this one.

Pippa Romper
I don't own any jumpsuits. (Sorry, I just can't call them playsuits or rompers... both sound ridiculous to me.) But, I'm trying to be openminded and push my boundaries so I decided to try on this one. Most of the jumpsuits I've tried on thus far have been drapey and have not won me over. This is completely opposite, with thick and substantial fabric and a structured feel. It has pockets and like the dress above, also has a contrasting back zipper. It also felt a touch short waisted. I think it might look better with a belt? I'm not sure about this one. It just reminded me of a post-apocalpytic dystopian uniform.  

I could not find the name of this dress anywhere, but I did actually consider getting this one. I love the neckline and how it draws attention to the shoulders. The colours are pretty, and the length was pretty much perfect... no hemming required. I found it fit true to size. I gave it a pass though because the synthetic fabric felt like it'd be really uncomfortable on a hot summer day.

Fleur Blanche Embroidered Top
This top is so pretty. The details are hard to make out in this photo, and I'm not sure the Anthro website photos are much better. It is covered with embroidered white flowers and lacy details. I found it billowy but not boxy. I didn't get it because I wasn't sure what I would wear it with. 

Pieced Brocade Dress
This dress is basically a variation of the popular Carissima Sheath. It's made by the same designer, Byron Lars. It's definitely a dress that will get attention because of the striking colours and design. It comes with a knotted belt which the model is not wearing on the Anthro website. I found this dress to run a bit smaller than the Carissima Sheath and would probably size up although like the Carissima Sheath, I found that the bum area was a bit loose. It has a nude liner so no need to worry about a wardrobe malfunction. I'm not sure I like the contrasting front zipper, but it's definitely more functional than all of the little hooks on the Carissima Sheath which tend to unhook themselves. I didn't buy this because I already own the Carissima Sheath and can't really justify buying two similar dresses, but this is very pretty and definitely worth a look.

Have you bought anything from Anthropologie lately? Any other sale purchases?