September 2013: What I bought, watched and read
FAVOURITE BLOG OF THE MONTH: TRAVELISTA
I think in addition to what I watch, read and buy, I should also highlight a favourite blog of the month (not necessarily money ones).
This month, it’s Travelista.
If you like to travel like I do, and you love fashion / style as much as I do, this is the perfect marriage of the two. You get great ideas on how to pack, what to wear, and how to make the most of your trip.
I really like how practical her (Josie’s) advice is, and it’s stuff I find myself nodding along to, saying “Yes, yes..”
I am also a sucker for pictures and showing me how everything is paired together. She does them really well.
WHAT I WATCHED
A lot of Top Chef Masters, Suits, and Project Runway.
WHAT I READ
Kabul Beauty School [WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN – TRUE LIFE]
I got this book without knowing what it would be about.
I just read “Kabul” and “Beauty”, and it was enough for me to throw it into my e-book Kobo Glo library for “just in case”.
Turns out, it was a VERY good decision because it is one of the best books I’ve read all year and it has nothing to do with beauty as I expected, and you aren’t really going to pick up beauty tips in this.
It’s beautifully written by a lady named Debbie, who talks about how as a hairdresser from the U.S., she went to help in Afghanistan after the tragic events of 9/11, and found what was essentially her true life.
It’s not as fluffy and as biography-ish as I am making it out to be, because although she talks a bit about her life and why she left her abusive Christian preacher husband in the U.S. for a totally different life in Kabul, she goes into astonishing, in-depth detail about how the WOMEN of Afghanistan live.
A lot of it shocked me. Even knowing what their Muslim culture is like, and that there are varying degrees of conservatism within Muslim culture (much like in any religion), a lot of it made me cry.
Maybe it’s all my womanly hormones swilling about, but I just felt so bad for the women there who didn’t end up with good husbands, and outraged at the way they are treated like slaves or condemned to be whores and indecent women if they (by no fault of their own) were cast aside by their husbands or if they were raped by other lecherous, disgusting, creepy men.
I also felt a lot of sadness and disgust at girls as young as 14 being married to men of 30 or even older. I understand that this is their culture and I have no right to judge them, but in the book it reveals that not every woman in such a position is happy to be forced to chirp in a gilded cage, which is something I remember a conservative Muslim girl I knew telling me a long time ago.
..then the beatings. The accounts of the beatings the men are allowed to take out on the girls, children, and women around them without any recourse horrified me.
Needless to say, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year, and this is not just about beauty, but about life in Kabul, Afghanistan and talking about the one side of society no one ever gets to hear about or seems to care about — the girls and the women they become.
Chic and Slim Connoisseur [GENERAL SHOPPING GUIDE]
I got this book thinking it would be about style, when in fact it is everything I have been preaching about since I started REALLY paying attention to what I buy, namely items from China, toxic cosmetics and so on.
It talks about how you should live your life in terms of a philosophy or a principle, to make the most of it for yourself, like buying less items but of a higher quality and what to look for when you choose items.
This is the book I wish I had read before I came to my own conclusions that buying cheap crap especially from China is not worth it.
If you are interested in reading a far more concise, properly written version of my rant below, I highly recommend this book.
No more dirty looks [NATURAL BEAUTY GUIDE]
This is a good companion book to Chic and Slim Connoisseur, because it goes more in-depth about the makeup and beauty side of things. It doesn’t cover teeth (a shame, because commercial toothpaste is filled with a lot of disgusting things you can’t imagine), but it covers everything else, and best of all.. RECOMMENDATIONS!
Real names of products, online beauty shops, where to find these things, and what to look for.
I especially appreciated the long list of chemicals to avoid at the back of the book. EVEN IF some of them turn out to be harmless, I can’t help but be a bit appalled that while the European Union has banned thousands of toxic chemicals from beauty products sold to women there, the U.S. and Canada have banned a total of 9.
A pathetic total of 9 toxic chemicals with possible health hazards versus 1000s in Europe.
That’s enough to make me want to turn even more paranoid (not that I wasn’t before).
I like that the book talks about YOU the consumer, taking responsibility for not buying those items, writing to companies to tell them why you’ve stopped purchasing them (a fab idea that I’ll start), and to tell you to take everything with a grain of salt, even what they are saying. Use your good judgement and if on your list of otherwise “clean” beauty products only has one little niggling toxic chemical, understand why it’s there, and how far down the list it is.
Also, they don’t judge you if you do decide to keep colouring your hair anyway, because even the author of the book couldn’t give up her professional, possibly cancer-causing highlights 😉
Now that’s a book I approve of — one that tells you to make your own decisions for yourself, which I hope is something I am also doing as a blogger even if I come off a little fervent (rabid?) at times.
Secret Lives of Dresses [FICTION – SORT OF CHICKLIT-ISH]
You should know something about me — I am generally quite wary of fiction in general genres, that is, if it isn’t chick-lit, I don’t know what to expect as a theme or an on-going type of story; this bothers me mostly because I am someone who CANNOT stop midway in a book.
Even if I hate every word, and wish I could stop, I am THAT bookworm that has to finish every single book she starts, even if it’s years later from reading into a few boring pages.
With that said, I found this book immensely enjoyable, which surprised me.
It is not conventional chick-lit, as in the girl is looking for romance and finds it falling into down unexpected rabbit holes, but more about a girl finding her true self and life, circled around dresses.
Of course, it’s a story about a girl trying to find her way in life, there’s a romantic connection or two, and a sad history that brings about sad circumstances, but what I enjoyed the most is being a lover of dresses, the description of vintage dresses in rather fantastic detail made me swoon.
If you’re a dress-lover, vintage connoisseur and like diving into general fiction, this is a good read.
Becoming Marie Antoinette [FICTION – HISTORY / BIOGRAPHY]
It is a piece of fiction written from the perspective of what it must have been like to grow up as the duchess of Austria with crooked teeth and a lack of interest (and intelligence) in studying or languages, to transform into who we now know as “Marie Antoinette”.
As a lover of fiction and history, this was a great marriage of the two, sprinkled with actual historical facts to create a truly believable account of what it must have been like through her young eyes.
I really liked the book, learned a lot about and in some ways, grew closer to the understanding of who the true Marie Antoinette was at the start. It is interesting as a fictional work of biography.
WHAT I BOUGHT
DEVITA NATURAL SKIN CARE SOLAR PROTECTIVE MOISTURIZER SPF 30 REVIEW
I like physical, not chemical sunscreens because they won’t absorb into your body.
So I made it through my Pure and Simple SPF 30 sunscreen, and realized that every time I wore it, I would break out in little pimples on my forehead. I liked the price tag better at $27 for 2 fl. oz, but wanted to see if I could find something better.
I looked at the John Masters natural suncare suncreen but was not thrilled to see how many ingredients were in there, and it was pricier at $32 for 2 fl. oz.
Then I found for $27, 2.5 fl. oz of Devita Natural Skin Care and I liked how few ingredients were in there (the less to irritate my skin with), with a base of aloe vera:
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Zinc oxide 19%.
- Aloe barbadensis (certified organic aloe vera gel)
- Purified Water (aqua)
- Capric/caprylic triglycerides (derived from coconut oil)
- Glycerin (vegetable)
- Hyaluronic acid (vegan source)
- Glyceryl stearate SE (derived from vegetable oil)
- Stearic acid
- Lecithin phospholipid
- Tocopherol (vitamin E)
- Vitis vinifera (grape) seed extract.
So it’s not perfect but it has a lot less junk in it than in other natural skincare lines. I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far it goes on well, dries quite matte and doesn’t make me oily.
I’ll be using this in place of moisturizer in the morning, as it has hyaluronic acid which I really like as a moisturizing agent.
78ISL NAVY BLUE SMALL ZIPPERED PURSE — 65 EUR
I forgot to post about this lovely bag I bought near the Berthillon ice cream shops at 78ISL (OMG. SO. GOOD.) in Paris.
Here’s the actual one I bought, in the navy blue:
(I had to lighten it so you could see the details but it is a deep rich navy blue)
It’s much smaller than I am used to, which is the reason why I bought it, so I would have an option to carry a small purse with just the essentials when I leave the house.
It has a pocket for the flap (you can see the zipper), then when you flip it up, it has another mini pocket, and another pocket at the back, PLUS it zippers shut at the main compartment with another inner pocket.
Sure, they’re small, but I like how many different areas there are.
VINTAGE COLE HAAN LAPTOP BAG LIKE NEW – $350 (original retail price was $1200 way back when)
I CANNOT believe I found this laptop bag.
It was instant love. Instant shopping KISMET I tell you.
I am still in shock at my good luck. Look at how beautiful it is. It has a big front pocket (nothing in the back).
Vintage Cole Haan, made in Italy of the finest leather and it must have cost about $1200 when the lady first purchased it before Cole Haan became more mass-marketed and cheaper with lower price points.
It is perfectly made, a stunning laptop bag, and like NEW. It doesn’t look like anyone really used it to be honest.
When you open it, it has a nice hard separated compartment, it comes with a shoulder strap (too skinny for the bag, it kind of sucks), and it has 2 large pockets inside, a cellphone pocket and a pocket for pens as well as business cards.
The handles are not long enough to be around my shoulder but you know what? It’s for the best. I should really hand-carry things that are heavier.
Just look at how much I can stuff in there.
A huge book, a notebook, moleskine notebooks, 2 large file folders, papers.. and it all zips up easily. NO STRUGGLING.
The front pocket is also properly designed so it STILL has space even if the main part is crammed full of crap, it doesn’t lie flat and empty just because the main compartments are full.
It actually reminds me a lot of this TravelTeq Trash Original laptop case I was lusting over for a while that’s also made in Italy and sells for 545 EUR or about $720 USD.
It looks just about the same, except mine is of course.. better.
This is one of my best buys all year, I’m beyond happy.
VINCE GREY CIRCLE CARDIGAN – $400
I am totally claiming this purchase under maternity wear because what baby WOULDN’T want their mother to be happy, comfortable, chic and warm at the same time?
I figured no baby in their right mind would, so I’m doing my baby a favour and buying this for myself.
Soft, cuddly, and amazing, made out of mainly wool, some cashmere and 5% polyamide made in Peru.
It’s sort of replacing my other cardigan from Abercrombie and Fitch that has seen better days from 10 years ago and has been matted down to nubbins (I’m not getting rid of it, but I will wear it only when this cuddly number won’t do the trick).
It looks just like my old A&F sweater but in a lighter grey, and it is so incredibly awesome I can’t stop petting it. I LOVE IT.
ARITZIA BOWIE TANKS (GREY AND WHITE) – $35 EACH
Due to my growing baby bump, my tank tops are starting to look a little short. They show about 1″ of skin and I am constantly pulling them down which is becoming exhausting.
I got a great tip from Fab Frugirl about these stretchier tank tops that a fellow co-worker wore while pregnant, and I picked up two after seeing that they did indeed stretch quite nicely, and were long enough to continue stretching even up until full-term.
I picked them up in grey and white, and will live in them along with the one, sad little blue ruched maternity top I bought that is more modest than these tanks.
They are not 100% cotton but they are SUPER STRETCHY and I think I can forgo not wearing cotton if it will give me some belly modesty.
Plus they go great under my *ahem* maternity Vince circle cardigan pictured above.
Also, they are not “maternity” tank tops which means I saved about a bajillion dollars just to avoid a hideous design with a lot of ruching on the sides.
WOLFORD THIGH-HIGH SEAMLESS STAY UP BLACK 80 DENIER OPAQUE TIGHTS – $55
Made in Austria, Wolford is my go-to brand for tights. Even if they pill or get snagged (which my tights have already done so), you can’t tell until you run your fingers over the pilled area. THAT IS HOW AWESOME THEY ARE.
They haven’t ripped or stretched even from my excessive, aggressive, pull-on motions.
With my new bump on the way, there is no way I can stand having a band across my stomach now, so I had to buy either maternity tights (made in Turkey or China) and can only be worn after pregnancy if I turn them around so that the looser front for the bump ends up going on my butt, or thigh highs.
I decided on thigh highs which look like this:
I am going to wear them during pregnancy, after, and forever beyond for the price I paid (well worth it).
I wore them today, and they’re simply super comfortable even with a thick silicone band going across, and far more practical than trying to find nice maternity tights that will accommodate my bump during autumn, winter and spring months.
They didn’t cut into my thighs at all, and they didn’t slip, not a ONCE.
MATERNITY BLACK LEGGINGS – $25
I caved. These are kind of see through, so I can’t really wear them outside the home, which is why I bought the black Wolford thigh high stockings instead.
I just needed them for the house. My regular leggings / tights were just getting too tight around the belly.
CANADA GOOSE TRILLIUM PARKA IN GRAPHITE – $650
I am not excited about paying this much money for a jacket, but there are some days in Canada where you simply cannot get away with a chic, gorgeous wool coat and a snuggly Vince circle sweater underneath.
Enter: Canada Goose!
I have resisted buying this jacket for many years, partly because I am really against the use of fur, and they use coyote for the ruff which pains me greatly.
My problem is more that we don’t even EAT coyote, at least we eat cows, and their hide can be used as leather…
I wish I could have purchased it without that coyote fur ruff but I am stuck with it, and.. that’s that.
It is actually not cold enough in Toronto these days to warrant this jacket, but I am moving back to Montreal where the weather is decidedly frostier, with a lot more wind.
I really wanted the Trillium version for these reasons:
- Made in CANADA
- Long enough to cover my butt and part of my knees
- Has snaps
- Has the side pockets up by the boobs so you can put your hands in (surprisingly comfortable and very practical)
- Adjustable hood
- Adjustable waist (the inside can be tightened or loosened)
- Great double lining at the wrists to keep your fingers and hands warm if you forget your gloves or just feel a bit cold
- Deep front pockets
- Has an inner pocket
- No stupid buttons or weird elastic enclosures because it’s so annoying to button up and unbutton
- No velcro enclosures for the front (when your fingers and hands are VERY cold, even the lightest brush against that grippier part of the velcro is agony)
The other version I was looking at was the Kensington, but it has stupid button enclosures that look very annoying.
My ONLY downside to all of this is that stupid coyote ruff.
I can and will remove it of course, but that’s not the point. I didn’t want it in the first place and it irks me I didn’t have the choice.
Still, this will be perfect for those bone-chilling days, and as my bump grows bigger, I will use the snaps to leave a little space for my baby bump, which I will take care to swathe in a cashmere pashmina.