The Season of Giving, with Edo.

If you're not familiar with Edo Japan, or Edo for short - they are an Alberta born company that was founded in Calgary 30 some years ago. They offer affordable, fresh Japanese Teppan-style dishes and meals.

I discovered Edo when I first moved to Edmonton, but it's only recently that I discovered how great of an option their food is for when I want something quick, delicious and healthy. They launched a bunch of fun "food bowls" this summer and I am obsessed with them.

This holiday season, and because community involvement is a huge part of Edo's identity year after year, they are donating 25 cents to a local food bank for each spring roll they sell.
You may not know this, but money is so much more useful to food banks than actual food donations. People tend to give a ton of canned foods, not knowing exactly what the most needed items are. With a money donation, food banks can buy those items at bulk price and in turn, can help out more people in need.

And on December 9th, Edo will donate 25 cents to a local food bank each time the hashtag #EdoalittleHelpalot is used on social media - so make sure to tweet it!

* This post is sponsored by Edo Japan.

Book Review: The Burning Girl, by Claire Messud

I haven't had much time to read lately, but I wanted to share my thoughts on The Burning Girl while they are still somewhat fresh.

You know those childhood friendships that are passionate, foundational and toxic all at once?
The friendship Julia and Cassie share is just that. Intense, beautiful, yet unbalanced and fleeting.

Julia tells the story of this friendship, of one magical summer adventure, of her teenage years, of the elements leading to one pivotal moment in her teenage life. It's her story. Biased, subjective, with the kind of naiveté we can only have when we think something will last forever. Her voice rings true, hurt by the realization, years later, that not many childhood friendships last forever, no matter how important they felt at the time.

This is the story of the two young girls over the years, through the lens of their friendship. A friendship that fades with time and teenagehood, yet somehow still shapes Julia's life despite it all. Julia desperately clings - not to Cassie herself - but to that perfect, pure childhood friendship, before boys and makeup tarnished it all. 

The author not only captured the teenage girl's mind with perfection, she also managed to write about that wonderful childhood game we all had for one day, one week or one summer. A game or an adventure that was so magical because it was never destined to last or be recreated. 
Claire Messud also perfectly painted with words the  feeling of disappointment and disbelief when you realize something you shared with someone is way more important to you than it is to them. 

The books reads easily. The writing is unpretentious and very entertaining. The storyline, while simple and authentic, was captivating. I tore through The Burning Girl - perhaps because it resonated quite a bit with the previous book I had read. I just recently realized I had read two books about adolescent friendships in a row, both with a reference to fire in their title. Funny coincidence, since the books are so similar yet very different in the way they are written and the feelings they make you dig up within yourself.

I wasn't familiar with Claire Messud's work, but I definitely want to read more from her after having read The Burning Girl.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a complimentary copy for review purposes.

Meet the Girlbosses: Missy, founder of Squish & Sprout

It's been a long time since I've done one of these features and I have missed them so much! From the beautiful shops and great businesses, to their inspiring owners and founders, I love everything about this series and it is with great joy that I have the pleasure to introduce you to Missy, founder of Squish & Sprout. I came across one of her perfect mugs on Instagram, loved it instantly, followed the link to her profile, then her shop, and knew I had to bring back the #meetthegirlbosses series for her! Thank you so much for answering my questions Missy, you are an inspiration and a true #girlboss! 

✦ Could you tell us about your business?

Squish & Sprout is my photography business as well as an online shop. I specialize in newborn, children, and family photography and my shop features handmade and unique items for babies, Moms, and nursery decor. I recently started up a blog as well, which can be found on my website. I’m posting DIY projects, recipes, home décor inspiration, lifestyle posts, anything related to motherhood and my life at home with my kids.

✦ When did you start? 

I was a practising lawyer for 5 years (criminal defence, to be exact) before I had my kids. I don’t know that I ever really thought about whether or not I’d like to be a working mom or stay at home mom, but as soon as the idea became real that my husband and I were going to start a family, it became immediately clear to both of us that we wanted for me to be able to be home with our children.

✦ How did you decide to start? Were you inspired by your product and the need for it or did you want to start a business first and thought of the product second? Is it a full time job for you?

I started out as a photographer only (under a different name, “Little Bear Photography") in 2015 in Vancouver, BC, soon after my first son was born. I relearned photography when I was expecting and when he was born I was determined to take amazing photographs of every little detail as he grew. I bought better and better equipment as time went on, started to invest in nice lenses, online courses, and studio equipment. I studied not only photography, but posing techniques, safe and proper handling of newborns, and business. My friends started asking me to do their Christmas photos and newborn photos and it went from there! After I had my daughter I had gotten very interested in making her teethers by hand as well as hand-lettering prints and other fun items for her nursery. I decided to open up the shop and rebrand everything as Squish & Sprout. The names “Squish” and “Sprout” were the names we had given to both of our babies while I was pregnant. We didn’t find out their genders before birth so we gave them cute nicknames so that we wouldn’t have to refer to them as “baby” or “it”. The name felt right for the business and I’m still in love with it. It started out as something I could do while staying home with the kids but it is now becoming a part-time and ALMOST a full-time job, on top of my Mama-duties. I don’t get much sleep!

stay tuned for new Squish & Sprout items, Missy updates her shop with seasonal goodies!

✦  Was it hard to get things started? Can you describe the process?

(See above) The hardest transition for me was when we moved from Vancouver to Toronto last year. I basically had to start the business from scratch because all of my past clients and networks just vanished when we moved across the country. Now that I’m a bit more established here I’m loving my new clients and things have really taken off.

✦ How did your family react? Your husband?

My family has always been supportive of me. I don’t think anyone was particularly excited that I left my career as a lawyer but I don’t think anyone argues that I’m not doing important work. Besides, everyone who knows me recognizes that my calling in life was to become a mother. In the end, I know that I’m doing the most wonderful and important job in the world (raising my kids and making that my priority) and to be honest, its not important what other people think. My husband has always been my #1 supporter and biggest fan. He is always complimenting me on the new things I’m able to learn and execute and he is always encouraging me to do whatever makes me happy. 

my kind of evening - loving those Holiday glasses!

✦ With social media, it is easy to fall in the comparison game. I believe women entrepreneurs (and women in general!) should lift each other up - what has your experience with social media been like?

So many people HATE social media but I think it is wonderful. Aside from the ins and outs of the latest algorithms and the struggle to gain and maintain followers (which sometimes feels like a job in itself!), I’ve had nothing but positive interactions and experiences with my followers and other women in business. I’ve met some amazing and inspiring people and I feel like social media is a great way to inspire and lift you up, if you just look at it from the right perspective. Comparison is an evil and ugly beast - we have to try and focus on what matters to us personally and not what others are doing/not doing, what others have or how someone else looks.

how cute is this basket? it comes in different colors, too! 

✦ What are your hopes for 2018?

In 2018 I hope to get a better handle on balance and I hope to grow the business. I would like to connect with other women (particularly Canadian women or those doing similar things) and I’d like to spend more quality time with my kids, scheduling my “work” time in specific windows. 

✦ What advice to you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I don’t have much advice for aspiring entrepreneurs because I don’t pretend to know more about it than the next person, but I think you have to focus your energy on what you’re good at and what makes you happy. Don’t waste time trying to please everyone and don’t be afraid to say no if you need a break! It is ok to grow slowly and steadily, particularly if you have other interests and priorities that you don’t want to let fall by the wayside. Stay positive! Believe in yourself. All of that sounds really cliché, I know :)

Beauty: Benefit SF Winter Wonderglam Holiday 2017 Gift Sets

You can probably tell by now I'm obsessed with holiday gift sets, ha ha! They are such great value, and the best way to try out a bunch of products you wouldn't normally buy. And the pretty packaging is definitely an added-bonus! 

One of my favorite brands for gift sets every year is Benefit. Like many things, they just get it right. Now is the time to stock up on your favorite Benefit goodies! 

This year's theme is centered around the city of San Francisco, where the brand originated, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

- full size Hoola bronzer
- full size They're Real mascara
- full size POREFessional primer
- travel size Gimme Brow gel

- full size Precisely, My brow pencil
- travel size They're Real mascara
- travel size They're Real lipstick
- travel size Dandelion Twinkle highlighter

There are many more sets to choose from. At time of posting, the ones above are still available, however they are selling fast, especially with the Black Friday sales and offers, so hurry if you've got your eyes one one! Some of the sets were pulled from the shelves due to a voluntary recall, more information here

Other sets include: 

Hello, SanFrancisGLOW (C$35 - $55 value) - Dandelion Twinkle highlighter (pan), travel size Watts Up Cream highlighter, travel size Shy Beam Matte highlighter, travel size High Beam Liquid highlighter.

I Left My Heart in TanFrancisco (C$59 - $121 value) - travel size POREfessional Primer, Hoola bronzer (pan), travel size Rollerlash Mascara, travel size Gimme Brow, travel size Browvo Brow primer.

B.right by the Bay ($55 CAD) - full size Browvo primer, full size Total Moisture face cream, travel size It's Potent eye cream, travel size Instant Comeback Facial serum.

Golden Gate Glam ($50 CAD - $81 value) - travel size They're Real mascara, travel size They're Real lipstick, travel size Gimme Brow gel, travel size Rockateur blush, They're Real eyeshadow duo (pan).

Beauty and the Bay (C$49  - $115 value) - full size Hoola bronzer, full size They're Real mascara, full size High Brow highlighting pencil, travel size High Beam highlighter.

Galifornia Love (C$39 - $83 value) - travel size Galifornia blush, full size Rollerlash mascara, full size Gimme Brow.

Cable Car Cuties (C$29 - $45 value) - full size Rockateur blush, travel size POREfessional primer, travel size Gimme Brow.

* I received the products pictured above complimentary for review purposes. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Beauty: Man Ray for Nars Holiday 2017 Collection

Nars' holiday collections are stunningly gorgeous, featuring the works of amazing artists - and this year is no exception. The Holiday 2017 features the work of visual artist Man Ray, making each piece a work of art. 

Here are a few of the items from the collection, along with my first impressions & swatches. Just a quick warning, it's going to get picture heavy! 

The little Love Triangles (C$32 - USD$24) feature a travel size blush & lipstick in cult shades like Orgasm, Audrey or Dolce Vita. They would make the perfect stocking stuffers!

The Veil Cheek Palette (C$62 - USD$49) isn't your typical boring matte contouring palette. It features 3 gorgeous shades, 2 of which are limited edition, that contour, highlight and pop. The shades are described as buildable, however aside from the bronzer I found them to be quite intensely pigmented with one swipe! It is compact but the pans are big enough that you can use your regular makeup brushes. Just make sure you use a very light hand if you want to create a more natural, diffused, healthy looking skin.

highlight: Surreal (light bronze with rose undertones)
blush: Lovesick (bright satin watermelon pink)
bronzer: cult favorite Laguna (diffused brown with golden micro shimmer)

L-R: Laguna, Lovesick, Surreal

The Kiss Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Set (C$62 - USD$49) is a gorgeous golden cosmetic case filled with 4 of the brand's famous Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. Featuring two new shades and two existing, this is one set you should get your hands on while you can! 

I've been a fan of the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils for many, many years. The formula is ultra-pigmented, it is comfortable on the lips, and the staying power is incredible. 

L-R: Toundra, Wild Ways (LE), Spell Bound (LE), Endangered Red

Next are a few limited edition items from the Color Collection. 

First up is a new blush called Fetishized (C$38).

Described as a "pink grapefruit" color, you might find it very similar to the Lovesick blush in the Veil cheek palette I mentioned above. And you'd be absolutely right!! The two are 100% dupes in my opinion. 

Fetishized blush

 L-R: Fetishized and Lovesick, side by side. 
Similar, right? Fetishized is very slightly lighter, and a bit more pearly. Lovesick is a tad brighter with less of a shimmery finish. Whether it's grapefruit or watermelon, both feel more like summer blushes to me, but I do love the unexpected, healthy flush they bring to my pale winter cheeks.

The Duo Eyeshadow (C$43) I received is called Montparnasse and with this name, I couldn't not love it! Montparnasse was my old neighborhood in Paris! 

 The shades are described as a shimmering gold and an iridescent orchid. They are buttery and blendable enough to create a smokey but polished, unexpected look.

 Duo Eyeshadow in Montparnasse

The Santiago Velvet Eyeliner (C$31 - USD$24) is a rich and creamy chocolate brown.

I was surprised by the intensity of the Photogloss Lip Lacquer (C$33) in the shade Muse: I was expecting a clear gloss speckled with golden shimmer, but it's ultra pigmented and very opaque. The limited edition formula is saturated in color and shine and comes in 4 new shades.

 L-R: Santiago Velvet Eyeliner, Muse Photogloss Lip Lacquer

Last but not least is the Love Game Eyeshadow Palette (C$70). Now this one is tricky because it is only supposed to be sold internationally, so US folks will have to find some Canadian friends to get their hands on it. I sure wish I knew why!

Here's what's in this gorgeous 12 pan palette.

Overall the shades are beautiful and you can create many, many looks, both neutral and colorful with it. I will say, however, that the darker shades were not as buttery and easy to blend. Two in particular were downright disappointing. See the swatches below for more details.

L-R: Lady Killer; RendezVous; Dominant

L-R: Submissive; Your Move; Hard to Get
(You can tell from the swatch that Submissive is a bit uneven. The formula was somehow more difficult to build up and blend)

L-R: Tryst; Dirty Talk; Long Game 
(I had such high expectations for that gorgeous blue shade, unfortunately it applied patchy, was hard to blend and the pigmentation was so disappointing)

 L-R: Blind Date; Play Me; Momentum
(Blind Date was not as patchy as Long Game, but a bit more powdery than the other shadows in the palette)

And that's a wrap! Phew! Which item(s) would you put on your Christmas wishlist?

* I received these items complimentary for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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