Archive / October, 2011

Oooh La La… Luxe Box!

In my travels around the interwebz, I’ve come across a multitude of things that are just plain spiffy. One of spiffiest was a site/product called Birchbox. Described as a smart, streamlined, and fun way to try and buy high-end beauty products, Birchbox is essentially a subscription that allows you to try out beauty products before shelling out the big bucks that they tend to cost.

Imagine my delight! But, alas, it was a short-lived thrill as, with many things online, it was only available in the U.S. Because, apparently, shipping north of the border is a hugely taxing ordeal. But I digress.

Instead of lamenting my misfortune, I instead turned to my good friend, Google. The simple phrase “Canadian version of Birchbox” brought me to the most wondrous of websites: Luxe Box by Loose Button.

Luxe Box is a monthly subscription service that allows you to try out high-end beauty products – in actual useable trial sizes. I think we can all agree that there is nothing more irritating that receiving one of the so-called trial samples from online offers or department stores that – if you’re extremely lucky – will do you one application. And the perfume samples that amount to the equivalent of a scented wet-nap are particularly charming.

I mean, we all want the high-end beauty products. But who can afford to dish out that kind of cash on something without knowing if it’s even suited to our body chemistry? Luxe Box has created something that I think most women will agree – has been a long time in the works.

Luxe Box offers monthly ($12), quarterly ($36) and yearly ($120 – which actually gives you two free boxes if you do the math) subscription plans; I signed up for the quarterly as I wanted to really get a feel for the program… but I wasn’t quite ready to commit to an entire year. Oh yeah, shipping is included. How often does that happen?

My first Luxe Box arrived this week and, I think it’s safe to say, they’ve acquired a new fan.

Behold the shiny goodness!

Yes, that IS a full-sized bottle of nail polish.

Included was:

Missing PhotoSmash gallery: 8

Oh – if you sign up, tell  ’em I sent you; for every three people who do so, they’ll extend my subscription for a month… for free!

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Twenty One Point FREAKIN’ One!

That’s how many kilometres I ran! I didn’t do it swiftly. And I didn’t do it elegantly. But I did it! I set my mind to it, did my research & training… and finished a FREAKIN’ Half Marathon; the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon, to be precise (which, incidentally, raised more than $3.5 million for 164 local charities – suck on that, Rob Ford.)

Yes, it's on a fuzzy robe background. Yes, I wore both for the entire day.

If you had told me, 10 years ago, that I  would ever accomplish that lofty a goal, I’m almost certain my response would have been colourful and would have involved inviting you to attempt some variation of sexual relation with yourself. I know – classy. But I’m a Martimer and an army brat;  it’s who I am.

But I did it. And I’m proud.  I won’t lie, though.  It wasn’t easy.

There’s an epithet that gets bandied about on fitness and running websites: Respect the Distance.

I’m here to  tell you that it’s not just a clichéd expression for Nike or New Balance to sell more shoes and running gear. 5K is a challenge. 10K even more so. But once you start logging past that distance, it’s no longer a matter of simple math. Each additional kilometre gets exponentially harder (especially if you’re packing more junk in your trunk than recommended.)

And self-imposed dry Saturdays are not my most favourite thing ever. But I learned the hard way that, if you have a 10k training run on a Sunday morning, wine the night before (even if it is to celebrate your first wedding anniversary) is not the wisest of decisions.

But, in the end, all the blood, sweat and jacked up toenails were completely worth it.

The folks at CNW had a MUCH better vantage point, not to mention camera (I only had my phone) than I did at starting time.

I’d run the risk (no pun intended) of sounding like a Hipster Emo Poet if I were to try describing the rush of being in a crowd of 22,000 people — everyone from Olympic qualifiers and World Record breakers to average shmoes like me — all with the same goal in their sights. So I won’t try. But I will say that the high experienced while running right down the middle of Lakeshore Blvd., rather than along the Martin Goodman Trail (which is my usual route) was a surreal and astoundingly profound experience. And one I’ll hold onto for a long time to come.

So many people take on the challenge of a Marathon or Half Marathon and it’s always incredible to hear all of the various reasons why. Some do it for glory. Some do it for charity. Some do it in memory of lost loved ones. Some do it in celebration of overcoming adversity. Some do it in honour of their own reclamation of health.

I did it for that girl right there with the bad blonde dye job and the drink in her hand. She was a helluva chick. But she didn’t love herself very much.  I did, though. So I changed her. I gave her back her health. And yesterday, I gave her a giant helping of pride.

Also? I wasn’t last. But you know what? I hope whomever was, is feeling as proud as I am right now.

Missing PhotoSmash gallery: 7

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Hooray for long weekends! Hooray for mid-summer weather in mid-October! And hooray for tasty, tasty feasts of far too much food after a far-too-long run. Okay, not really. But it was the farthest this girl’s ever run; and it did have the bonus of pre-emptively burning off a whole dinner’s worth of calories (ish).

We had our Fiesta of Yums yesterday with LX’s family. And for my contribution, I brought dessert. It was a creation of my own based a couple of different recipes I’d found. But mine was better (feigning modesty in your own blog just seems gauche.)  And had half the calories & fat. I know. I think I’m pretty awesome, too.

Caramel Pecan Apple Crisp

Ingredients:
Apple Filling
5 large Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup Splenda
1 tbsp. whole wheat all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 cup Smuckers No Sugar Added Caramel Sundae Sauce
2 tbsp. chopped pecans

Crumble
1 1/2 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Irresistibles brown sugar blend
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup applesauce

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • In a medium bowl, toss apples with Splenda, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice, and water
  • Spread apple mixture evenly into a 9 x 13″ pan
  • Drizzle caramel sauce, then sprinkle pecans over apple mixture
  • In another bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar blend, oats, and applesauce
  • Spoon mixture evenly over apples
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes (apple mixture will bubble and topping will be golden brown)
  • Breyer’s Smooth & Dreamy Half-Fat Vanilla Bean ice cream is a PERFECT topper (in case you were at all curious)

A snap to whip up & it tastes FAR more decadent than it actually is.

I made this the night before and popped it back into the oven at around 300°, so it was re-heated thoroughly by dessert time 🙂

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Here’s to a Round Peg in a Square Hole: Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

While I’m the furthest thing from an Apple fan, I think it’s important to give credit where it’s due.

And whether your preference lies with Apple, Microsoft or Linux, you have to agree that Steve Jobs truly was a trailblazer of technology. He didn’t just change the way we think about technology, he changed the way in which we interact with it; the way in which we consume media has changed forever because of his forward thinking. He made technology a part of pop culture. He made it cool. He made little kids and grandmothers want to get involved and learn.

In the ’70s, he designed, developed, and marketed the Apple II – the world’s first successful line of PCs. We all know where his career went from there. And when you consider that the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc. was a college drop-out, I think it’s fair to say that there’s something to be said for determination and ingenuity over degrees and internships.

I could go on and on about Jobs’ accomplishments and successes, but I’ll leave it up to you to use your Google prowess. Besides, there are a lot of people out there who will say it a lot better than I could.

Instead, I’ll simply leave this:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)



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Weezie’s Reading Roundup: End-of-Summer Wrap Up

I played a bit of literary Russian Roulette during the months of July, August and September. My To Read pile grew exponentially without a whole lot of investigation into what was being added. I know. Risky, right? As a result, I wound up with a few choices outside my usual realm of interest:  some I’m happy about, some… not so much. But I think not sticking to any one specific genre and sometimes diving in blind is a fantastic way to discover some pretty random and fun escapes. Of course, it also helps to uncover some appallingly wretched bits of dreck. But, as we all know, those judgements are all quite subjective. Nevertheless, I do like to judge.

The Cinderella Pact
By Sarah Strohmeyer
New American Library

I recently discovered an AMAZING online book retailer (BookCloseOuts.ca) that deals exclusively in discounted and so-called “scratch & dent” items. Imagine my delight when I also discovered that they have a warehouse that ships from right here, in Ontario! One of my finds was this fun little bit of chick lit. Nola (our frumpy protagonist) is an editor at a gossip magazine who longs for something more. So, when she’s denied the opportunity to helm a new column, she creates a new alter-ego, Belinda, who – naturally – lands the gig. Thin, gorgeous and fabulous (everything our heroine thinks she isn’t), her new alter-ego becomes the toast of the town… while Nola scrambles to keep the truth about ‘Belinda’ from being leaked. Side plots involving BFFs whose perfect lives aren’t nearly as perfect as they seem and a charming-yet-mysterious new potential love interest (it is chick lit, after all) help this add up to a great Sunday afternoon read.

The Condition
By Jennifer Haigh
Harper-Collins

At first glance, one would assume that the titular condition is that of Gwen McKotch (who is diagnosed with Turner’s syndrome – a chromosomal irregularity that prevents her from ever physically maturing), the only daughter in a dysfunctional New England family. As it turns out, however, it really is  so much more than that.  Each and every character introduced suffers with their own personal condition in a way that is unique to them and, at the same time, so universally human. Ordinarily my work and life schedules preclude me from finishing most novels very quickly (usually a week and a half, at best.) This one, though, I devoured in two nights.  It’s author Haigh’s third novel and you can bet I’ve added the  first two to my To Read pile… and I’ll be keeping an eye out for any subsequent releases.

DEAD[ish]
By Naomi Kramer
Amazon Digital Services

I won’t lie – I totally got sucked in by the über-cute cover art and the comically creepy premise of a dead girl/ghost hiring a detective to find out what her dead-beat, murdering boyfriend did with her body after snuffing out her life. Neither were enough to detract from a poor writing style, unfortunately. Oh well. My own fault for falling into the old cliche: I should have known better than to judge a book – in this case the first novella in a series – by its cover.

Declaring Spinsterhood
By Jamie Lynn Braziel
AmazonEncore

Two words: Christian. Romance. I’m neither Christian nor a fan of romance novels. You do the math.

 

 

 

The Demon Queen and the Locksmith
By Spencer Baum
CreateSpace

If Stephen King wrote YA novels, this is what they’d be like.  I actually didn’t realize this was a YA novel, when I grabbed it for my Kobo. And, honestly, I didn’t really care once I started reading. The classic Good versus Evil plot is definitely firmly in place here. And it’s joined by all of the juicy over-the-top Sci-Fi/Fantasy nuggets (disappearing radio announcers, shape-shifting middle-aged women, giant town-destroying fire ants, secret codes, super powers) one would expect of a story geared toward the attention deficit disorder set. Honestly? I hope this becomes a series. I’d keep reading.

The Devil’s Lover: The Wish (Book 1)
By Dahlia Lu
Amazon Digital Services

I honestly have NO idea what this book is about because, by the third chapter, the only things that had been revealed were enough typos and spelling/grammar mistakes (mismatched tenses? really?) to make an English professor prematurely gray. Confusing and illogical plot progressions didn’t help, either. But what really stood out in this book were the blatantly misused words; it makes me wonder, actually (without the slightest bit of facetiousness), if English might not be a language recently learned by the author.

Fall Girl
By Marybeth Smith
Marybeth Smith

This was another accidental YA selection. My how things have changed since the days of Sweet Valley High and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Then again, teenagers aren’t exactly the sheltered creatures they were back when I trod amongst them. I tried to put myself into the head space of a teenager while I read this – and, honestly, I quite enjoyed it.  Annabelle is a 16-year-old girl who feels the need to always clean up after her bi-polar, older brother’s debacles.  Her constant need to fight his battles for him keeps her from seeing that sometimes people need to be allowed their mistakes in order to move on and grow up.  While a bit predictable, it’s definitely something I’d share with any teenagers looking for something to read.

Falling Star
By Diana Dempsey
Diana Dempsey

I’m pretty sure this novel was, once-upon-a-time, a pivotal Melrose Place (the original; not that 2.0 nonsense) story arc. And, if not, it certainly could have been. A female news anchor (Natalie), in the super-competitive news world of Los Angeles, finds herself at the mercy of a cut-throat news director looking to replace her with a young and ruthlessly-ambitious former Playboy playmate who now fancies herself a reporter. Also – Natalie’s marriage to a wildly successful sitcom writer has fallen to pieces while something seems to be a-brewin’ with her happens-to-be-drop-dead-gorgeous-with-a-to-die-for-Aussie-accent agent. Scratch that: this wasn’t a Melrose Place story arc. It was a Harlequin made-for-TV movie of the week.

Following My Toes
By Laurel Osterkamp
PMI Books

Faith gets itchy toes when good things are about to befall her. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the extent of her so-called psychic ability. Which is too bad as, I’m sure, she would have liked a bit of a heads up with regard to her boyfriend’s impending heave-ho. But, as she picks up the ruins of her life, she muddles through the motions of rebuilding friendships, learning to accept siblings and, generally, accepting her world for what it is – rather than trying to change things that don’t necessarily need changing. This is a cute take-it-to-the-cottage read. I don’t have a cottage. But if I did, this is the sort of novel I’d bring along for the weekend. It’s not amazing. It’s not horrible. It is, however, a great accompaniment to a sunny deck and a glass of chilled Chardonnay.

Heidegger’s Glasses
By Thaisa Frank
Counterpoint

I’m a sucker for any fiction set during World War II. I don’t know why; I just am.  And this novel grabbed me because it enlightened me with regard to an atrocity to which I’d previously been unaware: Briefaktion (Operation Mail) wherein concentration camp victims were required to write postcards or letters to home indicating that all was well with their ‘resettlement.’  Pretty grim. So that alone should have been premise enough for a piece of fiction to have been set. Unfortunately, the author felt it necessary to expand upon this grisly bit of history by creating a fantastical underground world (an abandoned bunker, to be precise) where select prisoners were able to escape the horrors of the internment camps as they were able to help assuage the fears/superstitions held by high ranking officers who believed that letters to the dead needed to be answered (playing upon the Nazi preoccupation with the occult and the aforementioned Briefaktion.) It just seems to me that so much of what went on during this time was already so unimaginable that creating an even more over-the-top scenario in which to set your human drama… just doesn’t make sense. That said, I didn’t hate this book.  I just didn’t find the fantasy aspect all that necessary.

Innocent Monster
By Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books

If you’re a fan of mysteries or crime fiction (which – I’ll be honest – I’m not, for the most part) then you’ll appreciate this whodunnit. Retired gumshoe Moe Prager gets dragged back into his former line of work when his estranged daughter comes to him for help; the eleven-year-old art prodigy daughter of her childhood friend has been abducted and is presumed dead. Naturally, he unearths all sorts of seedy, sordid details and dark secrets a number of unsavoury characters would rather were kept hush hush.  And, while there were certain plot points that weren’t entirely surprising, the story’s climax did not disappoint.

Nerd Do Well
By Simon Pegg
Century

This is a must-read for fans of Simon Pegg, Star Wars, or underdogs of any sort. Subtitled A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid, Nerd Do Well takes us from Pegg’s obsession with Star Wars (which started in childhood and, as with all true nerds, exists to this day – despite what George Lucas continues to do with the franchise) right up to his blockbuster successes with Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and, most recently, Paul. This book made me giggle out loud. Repeatedly. It also made me want to re-watch Spaced in its entirety. Hmm… it might be time for another Amazon order.

Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family #1)
By Melissa de la Cruz
Hyperion

Take The Witches of Eastwick, throw in a little Norse mythology and pepper it all with a few nighttime soap opera-esque antics and you end up with a tasty little treat to get you through the daily drudgery of your public transit commute. It turns out this is the first in a planned series, as well. Which is good. Traffic & the TTC seems to be getting worse every day. I’ll need something to distract me from its painfulness.

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