Mirror Mirror in my hand, what are the best beauty products in the land?
After years of testing products, both on the shows The Shopping Bags, and Anna and Kristina's Beauty Call, and now on my own, I can safely say I've tried LOT of potions and lotions.
Many might be surprised to see my beauty and make-up drawers. There's not much in them. I have a very few select products that I use day in and day out. Here's my list of favourite beauty, skincare, and makeup products. I may be fickle with some products (shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, moisturizers) but I've purchased all of these multiple times, with only two exceptions. Read on!
I've been using Cetaphil for probably 35 years now. Dermatologist recommended and priced right, this is a light, gentle cleaner that can also double as a makeup remover. Dab onto a cotton pad and wipe.
New on my Love It list is the Riversol Refreshing Gel Cleaner. Also very light, but it's a bit more of a serious clean than Cetaphil. You can't go wrong with either.
Stila's cream blush in peony has been in my makeup bag for years. (I think after a certain age, a cream blush looks better than a powder one because it gives you an extra bit of hydration.)
Peony is a browny-pink shade. I've also used the shade Petunia in the summer, but I keep coming back to this one. I dab it on my cheeks and away I go. It also does double duty and can be used as a lip stain.
My only beef with this product is that the compact itself is quite delicate. I hardly ever make it through the entire thing without breaking the hinge in the back.
GOOP's Exfoliating Instant Facial has a bit of a love it or hate it reputation. I'm in
the former camp. (I wonder how much of that flack is due to the product or
Put a generous layer on your face, massage in a circular motion, let sit for a minute or two, and rinse off. After, I do find my skin softer and smoother looking.
One important note: More is not more. I've used this too many days in a row, and on other occasions, left it on for too long. It has caused some temporary redness and irritation. Use only as directed.
I like to wear eyeliner on my waterline, for a more dramatic look. For that it needs to go on easily and smoothly. The Annabelle Kohl Eyeliner (I use shade 73 - Black) delivers and is one of the very best that I've ever used.
Best of all, it's only $6.
Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth every drop? Also yes. I'm on my fourth or fifth bottle now and I panic when I get close to empty. (I've even scooped it off the countertop when I spill a drop.)
Cult favourite Vintner's Daughter is an all-in-one product that aims to improve the appearance of breakouts, fine lines, texture, brightness, and hydration.
I can't speak to the breakouts, but I do love it for all the other selling points. I only use it at night and my skin feels dewy, fresh, but never greasy.
Another constant go-to is my Fenty Beauty lipgloss in Glow. It's a fairly translucent shimmery rose nude, with just a faint hint of colour, making it an excellent choice for many a skin tone. I've gone through numerous tubes of it, and even got my 76 year old mom hooked on it!
It's great by itself during the day, and I also like to put it over other lipsticks for some serious GLOW.
I'll spend a fair bit on skin care, but much less on makeup. There are just so many great products at the drugstore, I don't see the need.
One of my favourites is L'Oreal's Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara. It performs as advertised: It volumizes, thickens, and lengthens.
And at just over $10, what more can you ask for?
I do my own nails a lot, mainly because I'm too lazy to make an appointment to get it done. After trying CND Vinylux polishes, I'm not going back to any other brand.
The polishes last longer than other brands, and, they go on more smoothly. The brush itself is thicker, making applications (especially hurried ones, my style) sooo much easier.
When I do get a proper manicure, I love the brand's Shellac line which also goes on faster and is easier to remove than any other shellac/gel that I've tried. AND, my nails are way less damaged after.
This is a new find - BeautyCounter's Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer. (For reference, I wear shade #2.) This product delivers lightweight hydration, a hint of sheer coverage, and SPF 20 protection.
I wear SPF 365 days a year. In the spring/summer and on brighter days, I go with a 30+. But in the fall/winter, I love this product. It's light, gives just a dab of colour, but most definitely lives up to its name by providing a dewy glow.
VITAMIN C SERUM
I've been using SkinCeuticals Vitamin C serum every morning, underneath a moisturizer or sunscreen, for years. It is supposed to provide protection from the elements, and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles, help with loss of firmness, as well has having skin brightening properties.
Would I be wrinklier if I wasn't using it? 🤷🏻♀️
With preventative products, it's hard to tell if they're working or not. But I'm not going to risk it by stopping. It goes on easily, absorbs quickly, and I like it a lot better than many other similar products that I've tried.
Where does the time go?
One minute it's the end of July and I'm writing about some of my go-to brands and the next minute it's mid-October and I realize I haven't blogged in ages!
I am not one to sing Autumn's praises: It makes me think of endings and of having to wait six months for spring. I'm a warm weather girl all the way. But one bonus of dipping temperatures is that I get to snuggle up in cosy knits. Here are seven that will help keep out the chill:
The Wilfred (Aritzia) Cyprie Cashmere Sweater
It has a mock turtleneck, and it's slightly cropped, making it a good pairing with higher waisted pants and jeans. It comes in three colours and at $168, the price is pretty good for cashmere.
Wilfred (Aritzia) Jara Cashmere Sweater
Aritzia has a lot of pretty sweaters this season, including this one. I bought the same style last year in light grey and I love it. Yellow doesn't look great against my face, but if you can pull it off, GET IT. It's soft, it's luxurious, it's buttery delicious. $198
Rails Green Leopard Sweater
Animal print how I love thee, let me count the ways! Leopard truly is the new neutral, and I can't seem to get enough of it, especially now that we're seeing it in other colours. This green leopard Rails sweater is a wool blend, and also a bit cropped. (Seeing a trend here?) Available at Things We Love for $200.
Rails Percy Sweater
Another piece from Rails, a brand that started out by making super soft plaid shirts and is now killing it in the sweater game too. The artfully-placed stars give an otherwise basic grey sweater some sparkle. If I didn't go a bit overboard on the star motif in the past couple of years, I would snap this up. Available at Twist.
Gap Multicolour Stripe Crewneck Sweater
There is something about a brightly coloured striped sweater that really lifts my spirits. (I have one from last season, but the stripes are a bit thinner.) This one is a soft wool blend and a reasonable $89.
White + Warren Puff Sleeved V-Neck Cashmere Sweater
I borrowed this one for the shoot and fell in love. It's a beautiful warm tobacco (a big colour this season) and it's completely luscious and luxurious. It's also a pretty penny. But I do believe it will be a piece that you'd wear for years to come. Available at Twist Fashions $515.
Everlane Cashmere Rib Boat Neck Sweater
Of all the necklines, I find the boatneck is the most flattering on pretty much every body type. (V neck is another good go-to.) This icy blue number also comes in grey and black. (I'm trying to tell myself I don't need another black sweater.) Everlane is available online but is currently having a pop-up in Nordstrom $215.
When it comes to buying sweaters, a few shopping tips:
- I do find that paying a bit more for quality generally gives you a better sweater that will last longer and look better over time.
- A tighter weave usually means less pilling.
- While cashmere is often more expensive, because it's hand washable, I end up saving money with the cleaning costs in the long run.
- I recommend a sweater comb that can help remove pilling. The one from Laundress works quite well.
- And of course, fold your sweaters, don't hang them, so that they don't stretch out.
I think there comes a time in every woman’s life when she asks, “Am I too old to wear this?”
For me, it’s not so much an age thing, but a comfort level thing. I think you should wear whatever the heck you want, as long as you’re comfortable and feel yourself in it. These days, when I put on an overly short skirt, or a dress that’s too body-con, I do think, "I’m not comfortable in this any more."
There are tons of cheap and cheerful brands out there that cater to the youthful among us. But when it comes to the over 40 set, I do have a few go-to labels that I feel are stylish and (generally) age appropriate. AND, they aren't super crazy expensive. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen these names appear again and again.
I like this brand for its youthful pretty vibe and I have many dresses from them, like the black silk one seen at the top of this post. (The skirt above is also from this brand.) Items fit true to size, I’m generally a small or a medium. Granted, Joie can be a bit pricey but if you’re patient, you can often find their dresses, blouses, and sweaters on sale. And, they also have a killer outlet store in Cabazon near Palm Springs, if you’re ever in the hood.
Velvet By Graham and Spencer
Similar to Joie, this brand has a ton of pretty boho style blouses and dresses, like this blue blouse above. Something anyone of any age could wear and not so trendy that it will go out of style in a year or two. Many stores and boutiques carry Velvet, and they also make nice men’s wear.
J Crew is one of my favourite sites to browse online. They have a vast inventory and frequently add new styles. I buy a lot of swimwear from J Crew because I like the fit. Many of their suits offer enough coverage that I don't feel overly cheeky at the beach. The other great thing about J Crew is that you can order swimwear online but return in store! J Crew generally fits true to size, but another great feature they have is customer reviews: Be sure to check those out to see if an item is fitting larger or smaller.
A lot of this Vancouver-based chain's clothing is too youthful for me (short, tight, cropped) and I often find the fabrics a bit flimsy. That said, I like their work wear - so pants and blouses. Both of the pieces above are from Aritzia. The blouses, which often come in a variety of colours and styles, and are a good way to inject some trendier pieces without breaking the bank. They also have a great coat selection every winter.
Club Monaco has a beautiful line of cashmere sweaters that I drool over every season. I also like their basic pants, though I do find they fit small and often size up. Their T-shirts are super soft and make for great layering pieces. And, don't forget to check out their shoe selection. They often feature good designer dupes - styles that look like well-known designer pieces but cost a lot less. I have a great pair of Club Monaco suede booties that are dead ringers for Isabel Marant's famous Dicker boots. The above dress is from Club Monaco, the jacket is Velvet and the runners are New Balance for J Crew. How's that for a real mixed bag!
If you are open to spend more and/or looking for investment pieces, here are a few more brands I recommend and the types pieces I think they do best:
Theory - Great pants, suits, and sweaters.
Vince - Sweaters that you'll treasure for years. Well-cut pants. I have sweaters and pants from them that are almost 10 years old.
Rebecca Taylor - Floral dresses and blouses, with a very feminine edge.
Xirena - Fabulous thin cotton shirts, both short sleeved and long. (I'm obsessed with these as I hate stiff shirts and these are so lovely and soft. (White Xirena blouse above.)
After you've been around the block a few times you know that everything old is new again, especially when it comes to fashion. (I swear I had the very same outfit about 30 years ago!)
With the 80s fashion resurgence we've been seeing, it's not surprising that combat-style boots are back in vogue. Though for me, they never went out of style.
I've had the pair seen above for about 10 years. i bought them in Paris at an Italian boutique (go figure) and I've been wearing them non-stop ever since.
Now I'm looking around for a replacement pair and I'm happy to report that are many great options available, at a myriad of price points. I like them clunky, but not too clunky, with a bit of heel, which gives them a more feminine look.
The combat boot that started it all. Doc Marten's are back in full force, with a number of styles and options, most featuring the trademark yellow stitching. I like the Lenora boot above, which feels a bit more modern with its thicker platform-style sole.
The Zara Micro Studded Leather Biker Ankle Boots (there's a mouthful!) are a great option at a good price point. Plus, these do feel more casual and would pair well with jeans or dresses. (They look a lot like a Stuart Weitzman version, that was available last season... then again, Zara is known for "imitating" designer pieces.)
This pair from Marc Fisher (the brand has a few style options) have more of a hiking boot vibe and a serious heel. I like the pebbled leather which makes them look a bit more casual. Not to be worn on the trail, of course.
Another one in the combat boot meets hiking boot category is the Miu Miu Chunky Heel Combat Bootie. I have a serious style crush on these! I do think the ones with a chunkier lug heel are slightly less wearable (you likely won't be throwing them on for a trip to the grocery store) but they would look great with boho-style skirts and dresses.
Seen a pair that you love? Be sure to let me know below!
Few fabrics say summer quite as much as eyelet, especially when it comes in white. Eyelet is a type of lace, made by creating holes in the fabric (usually cotton) which are then finished off with stitching. The holes are usually made into a pattern, most often floral or another geometric design.
The beauty of eyelet is that the holes provide ventilation, making it a breezy fabric for the hottest of days. One note, if the holes are too big, you may need a slip to wear underneath a piece so that it isn’t too see-through.
The above eyelet dress is by Molly Bracken and now on sale at Hudson’s Bay for just $38! The great thing about eyelet is that it doesn’t have to be expensive to look like it’s a good quality item. Pair it with sandals or espadrilles and you’re good to go.
If you’re looking to add some eyelet to your summer wardrobe, here are a few of my current favourites:
I love the longer length of this eyelet dress available at Zara. I’d wear it with flat sandals or a scrappy heel, like the ones shown here. Super thin, barely there sandals are very on trend this season.
Yellow isn’t the easiest colour to wear, especially close to the face. But this strappy dress from H&M is such a lovely buttery colour, I think it would look great on any number of skin tones. And a tiered, A-line skirt is such a flattering shape.
If you’re looking for eyelet this summer, be sure to head to J Crew, eyelet headquarters! They have a ton of different pieces, including dresses, skirts, blouses, and even swimwear. The laser cut eyelet of this one piece makes it so much more interesting than the average maillot. I have two bikinis made out of this fabric, one in orange and one in navy. I also have the matching cover-ups, in orange and in white, see below. And the best news is, this one-piece is now on sale and it comes in a number of colours. (The light blue is very pretty too.)
If I didn’t already have an eyelet dress, this is one I’d snap up. Currently on sale at Club Monaco, I love that this piece could work as a cover-up or a dress. The deep V neckline and detailing on the hem makes it such a pretty and unique piece. There aren’t too many sizes left so someone better snap it up!
Proof that eyelet doesn’t haven’t to be saccharine, I love this romantic black lace and eyelet blouse from Rebecca Taylor. It also comes in white and both colours are now on sale at Nordstrom. (I prefer the black, the white looks a bit too much like a tablecloth.) Clearly the time to shop for well-priced eyelet pieces is now!
We were looking for something a little bit off the beaten path on our trip to Europe this year when someone suggested Malta. I hadn’t heard much about it before. South of Sicily, north of Africa and west of the Middle East, influences of all three are felt in this small island country.
Malta is made up of three islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta is the largest of the three and we made that our home base.
For lodgings, I choose the Hotel Phoenicia, the oldest hotel in the country. Completed in 1947, it was renovated two years ago and now tastefully decorated and full of modern amenities. While our superior room was small, the bathroom was ample, the bed comfortable, and the air conditioning sufficient. The lobby is a nice place to grab a morning coffee and the pool, the perfect place to relax at the end of the long sweaty day of sight-seeing. The grounds are beautiful and it’s not surprising that it’s a popular locale for weddings.
The hotel is situated just outside the Valletta city gates, right by the taxi stand, and across from the bus terminal, which makes it incredibly handy and yet also away from the fray.
I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in Malta. The local transit system is excellent, with city-style buses making frequent trips to other towns and attractions on the island. It’s affordable and it’s easy to figure out timetables. Another reason not to rent a car here is that they drive on the left-hand side of the road, which makes it a bit harrowing for North American drivers.
The walled city of Valletta is not to be missed. Built high on a hill, the peninsula is full of shops, restaurants, bars, and historic buildings. Many of the streets are remarkably steep and the old pavers quite slippery, so be sure to bring your sneakers. We spent many hours wandering the alleyways, getting a bit lost, and then easily finding our way back to home base.
Republic Street (featured in the first image) is Valletta’s the main pedestrian-only thoroughfare and yes, it’s chalk full of tourists. But the thing that surprised me the most in Malta is that as soon as you take one quick turn, you can find yourself blissfully alone.
FOOD AND DRINK
The first few days we ate in the rather touristy restaurants on Merchant Avenue which offer the usual, generic fare - basic salads, pizzas, and pastas. The meals here were adequate and unexceptional. (And in some cases, not good at all. Like the breakfast above.)
Foodies should explore the little side streets to find more modern, or more rustic eateries and bars. One that I’d recommend is Rampila, a restaurant in the fortress wall with a terrace perched above the dry moat at the city gates.
I can’t say I got a true taste of Maltese cuisine. Rabbit stew is a local specialty but my partner and I don’t eat rabbit so we can’t speak to it. In general, the food and drink prices are relatively reasonable, and less than in most European tourist destinations. For reference - a cappuccino is about 3 Euros (about $4.50 Canadian) large bottle of water 1.5 Euros, a glass of wine 5 Euros, and a pizza 12 Euros. The Maltese wines are pretty good, and be sure to try the local Cisk beer which we found quite tasty.
Matsaxxlokk is a very sleepy little fishing village about 40 minutes away from Valletta by bus. Aside from taking a boat trip from further here to other fishing and swimming spots (which we didn’t do) there isn’t much to do here but sit back and admire the colourful little fishing boats bobbing in the harbour. We had a very peaceful, relaxing, and tasty lunch and headed back to town.
Mdina is a small walled town in the interior of Malta and a must-visit, especially if you’re in search of quiet. And I definitely am! Europe can be so busy during the summer, it’s very fleshing to find spots that aren’t completely overrun by tourists.
Also known as the Silent City, there are just under 300 full-time residents here and no cars allowed (though they are allowed to drive and in park). It’s quaint, super clean, and almost every alley way, building, and view is picture perfect.
Gozo Island is a lot smaller than Malta, only 14 kilometres long and just over seven kilometres across. I wish we’d had more time to explore it. We went on a boat/bus cruise from Sliema (which is across the bay from Valletta) with Captain Morgan tours. The tour takes you by boat and bus to Gozo and Comino.
While I’m glad I saw all of these places, in my books, this type of cruise isn’t the way to do it. We were packed onto a boat with limited amenities, tons of people, and not enough shade. The buses they used on Gozo were rickety to say the least, with no air conditioning. (It was 32 degrees in the shade while we were there.) The Gozo tour takes you to a tomato paste factory for a 10 minute stop. (What the ?! Clearly they’re hoping you’ll buy some goods.) Then there’s another 10 minute stop at a newish but impressive Catholic Church, and a one hour stop in Victoria, the main town. All in all, not enough time to take in Gozo properly. Captain Morgan, if you’re reading this, ditch the factory in favour of more time in Victoria!
Comino is the smallest island of the three and is uninhabited, save for a few caretakers. The final stop on the boat tour was at the famous Blue Lagoon. To say this swimming hole is popular is like saying that Disneyland is for kids. You can barely make your way down to the water, let alone find a spot for your towel. If this is going to be your only chance on your trip to swim then go for it. If not, I’d consider giving this whole tour a pass and finding another way to explore Gozo.
We spent five nights in Malta, exploring as much of this interesting country as possible. I found it beautiful, welcoming, and a unique place to visit. Check out some more of my photos below and please feel free to message any additional questions below.