Festive Feel

While this little dress has been my go-to this holiday season, I can see myself wearing it year-round, too — the gold and black pattern is festive without screaming “Christmas!” like so many party dresses I’ve come across in stores. If you’re in the market for a cute going-out dress, be sure to hit up Vancouver’s own Mimi McQueen at Metrotown or take a peek at their website — they have a seriously impressive selection of dresses in every colour and style under the sun; something to suit every taste!

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Dress — c/o Mimi McQueen
Heels — Winners, Fergalicious (similar here)
Tights — H&M
Lipstick — Red Lizard by NARS

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Stripe City

This stripy dress and chunky cardigan combo has been something of a go-to outfit for me of late; perfect for these early autumn days when there’s a slight chill in the air but it’s not too too cold yet. And I’m so excited about being able to dig my black tights out of hibernation! Because most dresses tend to be a little on the short side for me, I prefer pairing them with tights — a look that doesn’t really feel seasonally appropriate in summer (which is why during the warmer months I almost exclusively wear maxi dresses), but is perfect for fall.

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Dress — Old Navy
Cardigan — Old Navy
Hat — Topshop
Boots — Vince Camuto (similar here)
Tights — H&M
Lipstick — Majella by NARS

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Autumnal Attire

I’m a big fan of fitted little crop tops during the heat of the summer, but as soon as September 1st rolls around, my big, bulky sweaters and scarves come out in full force (sometimes prematurely, I must admit — I get a little too eager and end up sweltering when a day that starts off crisp switches back to summer mode by the afternoon).

I’ve also gotten really into hats of late, and this aubergine coloured gem from Dynamite is my new favourite… On days when my hair won’t cooperate (read: every day), I just toss it on and feel that little bit more put-together.

IMG_5618IMG_5614IMG_5635IMG_5649Sweater — Dynamite (similar here)
Skirt — Banana Republic (similar here)
Scarf — H&M (similar here)
Hat — Dynamite
Boots — Steve Madden (similar here)
Tights — Primark
Lipstick — Lingonberry by BITE

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Shop Spotlight: Topshop

I’m so excited to introduce this new series to the blog! Once a week or so I’ll be giving the lowdown on one of my favourite clothing stores, including a round-up of some current in-store items that caught my eye. (I had a similar series on my old blog, but this is a revamped and more thorough version — I hope you’ll enjoy 😉 )

The Shop: Topshop
The Vibe: Trendy, edgy, quirky, British
The Location: Worldwide
The History: Founded in Sheffield, England, in 1964, Topshop now has over 500 stores in more than 40 countries
The Goods: Unique pieces that are fashion-forward and distinctive; big on colour, print & texture
The Price Range: $$$

Topshop
1. Gypsy Lace Dress by Sister Jane // 2. 70s Floral Print Wide Leg Pants // 3. Neat Wool Cape // 4. Highland Check Sweater // 5. Wrap Front Culotte Jumpsuit // 6. Pastel Stone Hand Chain //  7. Lips in Temptation // 8. Floral Overlay Dress // 9. Gold Flamingo iPhone 5 Case by Skinnydip // 10. KATHY Luxe Ghillie Pointed Shoes

 

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Thursday Travels: Havana, Cuba

As I mentioned in last week’s post on Varadero, the real highlight of our visit to Cuba was the day trip we took to its enchanting capital, Havana. While booking our holiday, we had initially looked into dividing our time between Havana and Varadero, but it proved to be too complicated and expensive, so we went for the more straightforward option of spending the week in Varadero.

Nevertheless, we got a real feel for Havana during our day there, and it definitely was the highlight of our entire vacation. It is by no means a city of creature comforts (you can forget about shopping, and finding a decent restaurant/cafe is difficult), but what it lacks in the kind of things we take for granted in other parts of the world, it makes up for in sheer visual stimulation. I think “haunting” is how I would best describe Havana. It is by no means a feel-good kind of place (I mean, it’s not a feel-bad kind of place, but, given its troubled history, there is a bittersweet kind of energy in the air. I mean, you are in a Communist country after all). Given that we visited back in February however, shortly after Obama announced the overhaul in US policy towards Cuba, there was a real sense that this was a place on the brink of huge change.

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{View at a stop midway between Varadero and Havana. The drive took about 3-ish hours.}

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{The San Francisco de Asis Square, home to the touring Buddy Bear Exhibition when we visited (hand-painted bears from 150+ countries)}

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{Of course we had to seek out the Irish one ;)}

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{The 18th century Havana Cathedral}

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{We stopped off at an atmospheric little outdoor cafe for cappuccinos and Cuban-style hot chocolate (it was this straight-up, unsweetened cocoa mixture with sugar served on the side for you to stir in yourself. Surprisingly delicious!}

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{Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope — Cuba and Ireland}

 

 

 

 

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{As a colour fiend, I was in my element in Havana 😉 This striking salmon-pink building is the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway lived during his time in Cuba}

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{The interior of another hotel — spot the Cuban flag! Havana’s buildings are stunning, both inside and out, but there is a real sort of decaying grandeur going on; most are in pretty poor condition}

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{The Castillo de Real Fuerza — the oldest fortress in the Americas; built in the 16th century to defend against pirate attacks}

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{Revolution Square/Plaza de la Revolución, featuring the man himself, Che Guevara.}

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{Fidel Castro (who, by the way, is alive and well and just celebrated his 89th birthday)}

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{José Martí Memorial}

Stay tuned for next week’s Thursday Travels post, where I’ll be sharing our little observations of Cuba and its people in greater depth…

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One Last Summer Dress

This little photo shoot was actually one of the first we ever did with my new camera…so please excuse the graininess going on 😉 Despite my intense love for autumn and the wealth of new wardrobe options it presents, I always feel a little bit sad saying goodbye to my summer clothes, including this tea dress from the now defunct Jacob (I’ve had it for 5+ years and it’s still going strong). Sadly, it doesn’t cross over well into fall though (I don’t think it would look great with tights), so I’m trying to get as many wears out of it while I still can! I love pairing it with a simple pair of ballet flats and vintage earrings, and I think its bright orange-y red colour looks great with a burgundy lip and nails.

IMG_4801IMG_4789IMG_4798IMG_4809Dress — Jacob (similar here)
Shoes — J. Crew (similar here)
Earrings — vintage clip-ons
Lipstick — Majella by NARS
Nail polish — Fallen Angel by Estée Lauder

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Recommended Reading

Jenna Alcala Photography Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle shoot

{I don’t know what I want more — her outfit or that library! Image by Jenna Alcala}

I love reading and I love making lists, so I had a lot of fun coming up with this list of some of the best books I’ve read over the past decade or so. I’m pretty selective, so I’ve only included the ones that really moved me in some way; the ones I found truly touching, thrilling, terrifying, hilarious, heartbreaking, or, in the case of the last section, aesthetically pleasing. I’ll be updating this list frequently (…I hope!) with new favourites as I discover them 😉

I always love hearing recommendations, so please feel free to tell me some of yours! And if you have strong opinions on any of the books listed here, please share…

CONTEMPORARY

  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier
  • The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • White Oleander – Janet Fitch
  • Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Ross O’Carroll-Kelly series – Paul Howard
  • The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
  • Shopaholic series – Sophie Kinsella
  • Twenties Girl – Sophie Kinsella
  • The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing
  • A House in the Sky – Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
  • Sold – Zana Muhsen
  • The Book of Awesome – Neil Pasricha
  • Perfume – Patrick Suskind
  • Adrian Mole series – Sue Townsend
  • The Samurai’s Garden – Gail Tsukiyama
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

CLASSIC

  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
  • Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  • Persuasion – Jane Austen
  • Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
  • David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  • Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Passage to India – E. M. Forster
  • A Room with a View – E.M. Forster
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Goodbye to Berlin – Christopher Isherwood
  • The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  • Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  • Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  • East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  • Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  • Native Son – Richard Wright

FASHION/LIFESTYLE/TRAVEL

  • How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are – Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret, and Sophie Mas
  • Style – Lauren Conrad
  • The One Hundred – Nina Garcia
  • What to Wear for Every Occasion – Nina Garcia
  • The Cities Book – Lonely Planet
  • The Travel Book – Lonely Planet
  • Domino: The Book of Decorating – Deborah Needleman and John Middleton Murry, Jr.
  • Cupcakes & Cashmere – Emily Schuman
  • The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style – Lilliana Vazquez
  • The Body Shape Bible – Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine
  • Who Do You Want to Be Today? – Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine
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Transitional Dressing: Summer to Autumn

While I can’t help but dream of thick, chunky wool sweaters, moody floral prints, and sleek leather boots, the reality is that the current weather doesn’t quiiiiite lend itself to such dressing…yet. Seeing as we’re likely to get another few weeks (maybe even a whole more month!) of summery weather, I’ve come up with ways you can incorporate two wardrobe staples — a maxi skirt and a breton top — into outfits that can be worn both now and on chillier days.

Breton Top -- Summer to Autumn

Jaeger top // Topshop sandals // Lucky Brand shorts // Marc by Marc Jacobs tote bag // Illesteva sunglasses // Givenchy bag // Uniqlo trousers // Grenson brogues // Intermix suede jacket 

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Lipstick of the Week: Heat Wave by NARS

While I’ve tested out probably hundreds of lipsticks over the years, it’s rare that I’ll come across one that I completely fall in love with immediately. This shade happens to be one of those rare gems; the second I put it on I knew I’d found a real winner. The colour is a rich, tomato-ey orange-red that has a carefree, summery feel to it (sometimes I find a classic, true red can feel a little prim and proper, but this shade totally pairs well with more casual attire). I’m also a big fan of NARS’ semi-matte finish: it gives you that cool matte look without being the least bit drying (Schiap is another shade I love with this same finish).

The Lowdown on Heat Wave
Brand: NARS
Product Type: Semi Matte Lipstick
Shade: Bright orange-red
Price Range: $27 / $$
Vibe: Fun, happy, summery
Celebrity Fans: Zooey Deschanel, Kate Bosworth, Jessica Alba

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Thursday Travels: Varadero, Cuba

This past February we went on a family holiday to Cuba, spending the bulk of our time in the resort town of Varadero, with a day trip to Havana (which, as you’ll see in next week’s Thursday Travels, was the highlight of our visit).

We went for an all-inclusive (pretty much the only way to go in Varadero), which was an…interesting experience. I’d never stayed at an AI before so had nothing to compare it with, but Claudia, who has been to a few in Mexico, said the standard was definitely not as high in Varadero. All I know is that I probably had the worst food week of my life while there (and that’s saying something, as I’m the kind of girl who actually likes airplane food and is a big fan of theme park cuisine). The buffet consisted of stodgy, mystery-meat stews, extremely dodgy looking fish, tasteless bread, and sickly sweet desserts, while the food at the “themed” restaurants that you had to book in advance (Italian, Chinese, Mexican) wasn’t that much better. But hey, I guess it was a bit of a blessing in disguise — this was an all-you-can-eat after all, and had the food actually been good, I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze into my bikini 😉

Food aside though, the rest of our stay was fun; largely spent on the beach or by the pool of course! The weather while we were there was pretty pleasant for the most part (high 20s), though some days were pretty chilly and breezy, and the beach would be off limits because the water was so choppy.

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{hey}

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{Totally candid, definitely didn't beg Claudia to take a covert picture of me reading ;)}

{Totally candid, definitely didn’t beg Claudia to take a covert picture of me reading ;)}

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Apart from our beach excursions, we did do other things in Varadero…

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{…like hop on the “Blue Train” to the Plaza America…}

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{…a shopping mall…of sorts}

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{Its offerings sadly didn’t tempt us, however}

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{FYI this is basically what we existed on during our stay. Also, FANTA!!! I don’t think I’d had a can of Fanta since maybe Ireland circa 1992, but it’s alive and well in Cuba}

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{Guantanameeeerrraaaaaa}

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While Vardero largely consists of dozens of big beachside resorts, there is a sort of town…and one day we decided to get the bus in (it was maybe a 20-minute ride) and investigate.

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{A Beatles-themed restaurant in the heart of Varadero. Because gringos love the Beatles!}

One of our favourite things to do was wander down the side streets, admiring the city’s dogs. Pretty much every house we passed in Cuba had a resident dog keeping watch on the roof– so cute!

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{Sometimes they’d be so tiny and silent (see above) that it would almost become a game of finding the dog…}

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{…but there would always be one…somewhere}

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{Those “cocotaxis” (so-named because they resemble a coconut) are everywhere in Cuba}

And then we somehow wound up in what may be the creepiest park I’ve ever ventured into (the Parque Josone if you’re interested)…

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{I mean, it wasn’t thaaaaat creepy…}

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{…but this abandoned mini-golf section *did* send a shiver down my spine}

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{Chao, Varadero! You were…an experience ;)}

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