The Red Bow: Newer + Simpler

Fashion & Beauty, Giveaways, Products and Brands

-3

I love pretty things and this love brought me into contact with The Red Bow almost two years ago. Since then I’ve written about them several times, shopped on the website on numerous occasions, and even teamed up with them to host a giveaway or two. The mastermind behind The Red Bow is Karen Viray : a smart, passionate, kick-ass woman who has been a source of inspiration time and time again.

I connected with her recently to talk about Th Red Bow. When I asked her what her favourite pretty things are she replied: It is really difficult to choose but I love pretty books, desserts and wallpaper. On The Red Bow, I’d have to say our new macaron-shaped mini boxes. They are honestly so pretty and real looking, I love just having them on my desk or on my vanity. They are actual macaron-size and can hold small things like earrings or breath mints (or Advil, if you’re like me and keep them at your desk – it’s definitely a way prettier way of storing them lol).

When I heard that The Red Bow was getting a facelift and a complete relaunch my excitement was taken to the next level. When I asked Karen why she decided to change things around she told me that since she wants to keep The Red Bow a small business, she thought it would be best to make it as uncomplicated as possible. Simplifying the website and narrowing down the products to better reflect who she is will not only give her time to connect with her customers in a personal way, but it will also help her manage life/work and everything else in a more sane and (healthy?) way. It also gives her the time she needs to keep up her hand-written notes and personal wrapping for her customers.

That, that right there is why I’ve continued to be a huge fan of The Red Bow AND Karen. She says, I see The Red Bow as more of a community, rather than just another dime-a-dozen online shoppe selling similar things as everyone else. I want to grow the trb community with more online engagement, collaborations, blog content, local events and charity outreach.

The store will include three simple sections: PRETTY ACCESSORIES (statement pieces, old favourites, and new goodies), PRETTY BEAUTY (yummy fragrances and the very best Korean beauty products), and PRETTY HOME (art prints, stationery, journals, and even home decor accessories). I have earrings, a clutch, a bracelet, notebooks, art prints, and an iPhone case from The Red Bow and cannot wait to see all of the new products they have in stock. Karen is super excited to share some NEW favourite things with her customers too. Karen divulges that she’s MOST excited about the pretty beauty section, since beauty, make-up and skin care have always been an obsession hers. The newest products that the red bow will be carrying is a small selection of my favourite, and a few cult favourite, beauty products from Asia, she says. I for one cannot wait to get my hands on some of these products!

As for the future of The Red Bow, Karen says; I definitely look forward to seeing how it will transform in the next 5 years. Small businesses grow, just as the people behind them grow as well.  It’s a creative synergy. I couldn’t agree more! I was given a sneak peek of the new site – which will officially launch on June 1st, 2015 – and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it. Everything Karen set out to accomplish with the relaunch has been brought into fruition and I cannot wait for other lovers of pretty things to check it out!

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Pai Skincare [Product Review]

Fashion & Beauty, Products and Brands
From the Pai Skincare Website

From the Pai Skincare Website

I very rarely post beauty product reviews on my blog simply because I don’t try them out very often. I have super sensitive skin and tend to break-out when I try anything new. When I was sent a press release for Pai Skincare I thought I’d give them a try. Why? Well, their slogan is We Understand Sensitive Skin, and I’m a sucker for a good slogan.

Pai Skincare is a line based out of London and has officially landed in Canada. Their products are certified organic by the UK Soil Association. Their products are synthetic-free and made with ingredients proven to sooth the skin. They ensure that their products are free from irritating chemicals and alcohol. If that’s not enough to entice you to give Pai a try, check out what the CEO and creator has to say:

“Having suffered with extremely reactive skin, I know exactly what it needs and how it can make you feel,” said Sarah Brown, CEO and creator, Pai Skincare. “Pai is about products that you can not only trust, but really love to use. And thanks to the high quality, super-soothing ingredients, they’ll help you fall back in love with your skin too.”

-1

I was sent Pai’s Geranium & Thistle Rebalancing Day Cream, Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, Muslin Face Cloth, and Echium & Argan Gentle Eye Cream. The cream and cleanser have a lovely scent to them, both natural and light. The camellia and rose really shine through and sooth you inside and out! Normally it only takes a few uses for me to break-out after trying out a new product, but I’ve been using the day cream and cleanser for almost a week and find my skin to be softer, blemish free, and more radiant than ever before. I have yet to try out the eye cream but I can’t see it being anything less than magical.

To learn more about Pai check out the links below!

Website:      PaiSkincare.com
Twitter:        @PaiSkincare
Facebook:    PaiSkincare
Instagram:   @PaiSkincare

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

I Can See Clearly Now [Again] with @ClearlyContacts

Fashion & Beauty, Products and Brands

Three years ago I won a pair of glasses from Casie Stewart and Clearly Contacts. I wore those Derek Cardigans nearly every single day and even when my prescription changed in May of last year, I continued to wear them. The trouble is that I updated my contact lens prescription but didn’t change the lenses in my glasses, this equalled many headaches and an appalling amount of eye aches. After an intense inner-battle, I finally went over to Clearly Contacts and virtually tried on any pair that I found sale.

B7qrgqwIcAEgH1W

Within an hour I decided on the pair that I wanted, the Dakota Smith Valor Brown, and placed my order. Within a week they arrived at my doorstep! For under $70.00 I got a brand new pair of glasses with the correct prescription, scratch-free lenses, and a repair-kit to boot! Since they’re men’s frame I find the bridge width a little too big but I think if I get them tightened they should be okay. I am loving these new frames and cannot believe how good they make me feel! Change your glasses and you can change the world, that’s they say right?

unnamed

Putting on a new pair of glasses or sunglasses is a simple way to completely transform your look – just like a new hairstyle. Brad Goreski

 

Love Always, 

Vanessa Xo

*Disclosure: Although I’ve worked with Clearly Contacts in the past, they had nothing to do with this post. I searched for and purchased the glasses on my own. I wrote this post because I love their products and my new glasses.

El Camino Bracelets — How one young Canadian turned her passion into a business

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands
Photo taken by Candace Kellough

Photo taken by Candace Kellough

Imagine walking up the Costa Brava, Spain with a heavy backpack on your back, a skateboard in your arm, and the love of your life by you side. You’ve just walked 15 miles, up and back down mountains, and are ready to call it a day.

You find the perfect spot to set up your tent, have a snack (most likely something to do with peanut butter), and start bouncing ideas off one another. Just as the sun is about to set you come up with an idea that will transform you from wanderer to entrepreneur.

Candace Kellough and Tom Lane were backpacking from Barcelona to Monaco when they came up with El Camino Bracelets, a unisex bracelet for travelers. With the idea fresh in their minds and the knowledge that there wasn’t a product out there like the one they wanted to launch, they hopped on a train back to Barcelona and flew to England. There, they lived, worked, and saved for the start-up of their business.

El Camino bracelets represent your story and your journey around the world, according to the website. One bracelet easily replaces all of those knickknacks and dust collectors that many travelers accumulate while traveling. You can see every place you’ve travelled just by looking at your wrist.

Click on photo for original link.

Click on photo for original link.

“It takes about 20 minutes to make a single and about 30 minutes for a double,” said Kellough. “And of course, lots and lots of love goes into each El Camino. We’ve become quite attached to them and are always very curious where in the world they are going to end up.”

So far, El Camino bracelets have traveled to Canada, USA, Mexico, Ireland, all of the UK,

France, and Spain, she says.

Kellough and Lane make each bracelet by hand, and say they are proud of it. They keep everything local, says Kellough, and like knowing where all of their products are coming from. This is the basis of their business and something they want to hold onto as their company grows.

“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing and stay true to our roots. We want to expand organically by word of mouth and people spreading their love for everything we make,” Kellough said.

The bracelets can be double or single and are made from four high-strength woven cords available in black, turquoise, chestnut brown, red, steel blue, forest green or purple.

Each bracelet comes with a first ‘step’, which is stainless steel and engraved with El Camino. In order to start saving memories, you need to purchase what they call ‘steps’. They are engraved with the names of countries on them, with over 240 to choose from.

There are also ‘small steps’ which cover popular places that aren’t countries, like New York or Hawaii.  Next are the colourful ‘regional steps,’ which add a little excitement to your wrist and your travel story. Each ‘region’ is handmade in England and then sandblasted with the El Camino logo.

Finally, you can space out your steps and regions by adding wooden spacers, which are laser cut and made from mahogany or oak.

It’s a souvenir for travelers, by travelers.

Lane and Kellogg -- Photo from Candace Kellough

Lane and Kellogg — Photo from Candace Kellough

A native of Caledon, Ontario, Kellough says she became obsessed with traveling in her last year of university. She studied abroad in Alicante, Spain and says that teachers are so laid back when studying abroad.  They understand that the students are there to travel, learn, and experience new things. Being able to hop on a plane or train for a few hours and be engulfed by a different language and culture was exciting.

“I met so many people and experienced so much,” she said. “I realized that there is so much to see and do. After living in Alicante, I knew that there was no way I was ever going to be able to settle in one place for a long time.”

After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier’s business program, she worked two jobs and saved enough money to head to Europe. She spent some time backpacking, and eventually settled in Barcelona for a year and a half.

But Kellough’s Canadian blood missed the snow. Her next move found her in a tiny ski town in the French Alps, where she worked and snowboarded. It was there that she met Tom Lane, future business partner and beau, and fellow gypsy soul.

It was his messy hair that first caught her eye, says Kellough. They hit it off and soon were inseparable. The pair woke early to ski or snowboard, went to work, and met up after. Their days were long, and sleep was nonexistent, but it was worth it in the end.

When Kellough and Lane met, Lane was already in his fifth season in Meribel. Born in England, he spent his summers in Ibiza and his winters in France. He has been traveling for ten years, and both Kellough and Lane say it’s in his blood. His travels were originally limited to England, but that changed in when he decided to move to Spain.

Part of what drives their shared passion for travel is a thirst for new experiences.  Both of the young entrepreneurs admit that they get bored easily. They like to meet new people and try new things, and say travel is the best way to do that.

Since the start up of El Camino, though, Kellough says her lifestyle has done a complete 360.  There isn’t much time to bounce from country to country these days. The pair went from traveling ‘gypsies’ to working twelve-hour-days, every single day, she says.

They don’t mind though – they’re doing something they love, and are seeing the results of their hard work. They’re overwhelmed with such positive feedback and repeat orders. And with the job market the way it is in Canada, Kellough says she would still have gone the entrepreneurial route if she remained here.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. It’s been in the back of my mind since I was young, I just never knew what that thing was going to go be or where it was going to happen” she says.

Working out of ‘The Treehouse,’ Kellough and Lane say they are learning something new every day, and firmly believe that passion dictates the success of any business. Their door is always open to the fresh air, something that helps calm their restless hearts. They love travel and everything that goes with it: long work days, bandaged fingers, and all.

http://elcaminobracelets.com

https://twitter.com/@ElCaminoB

https://www.facebook.com/ElCaminoBracelets

– Vanessa

** This article was originally posted on CANCULTURE.COM in April of 2013. It was edited by the talented Natalie Berchem. It got lost in the shuffle when the website was redesigned so I decided to share it here, on My Pen, My Voice.

** After this article was published, the owners of El Camino sent me my very on bracelet as a thank-you. I love it.

 

Taste Canada: The Food Writing Awards [Event Recap]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

On Monday I attended Taste Canada’s Food Writing Awards Gala. Since I’ve never been to these awards before, my nerves ran high the entire subway ride. I got downtown faster than I anticipated so I took my time walking to the venue. Even though it was spitting and the other pedestrians were running passed me, I couldn’t help stopping for a moment to take in the sights. Toronto is beautiful even with mist, fog, and rain clouding my view. When I walked into the venue my nerves finally made way for excitement. Arcadian Court is a gorgeous space with high ceilings, crisp white walls, and breathtaking chandeliers. I grabbed myself a beer (Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA) and sat down to take everything in.

Taste Canada — The Food Writing Awards is a not-for-profit organization. Founded in 1998, it recognizes and celebrates superior writing and publishing throughout Canada’s culinary world, both English and French.

The Gala was hosted by celebrated Chef, Ricardo Larrivée. He was witty, sentimental, and an absolute treat to listen to. It’s clear that he believes in the power of making memories in the kitchen, something I’m sure all food writers can agree with. Although I enjoyed learning about new cookbooks, listening to the winners’ speeches, and watching the tribute to The Cookbook Store, the best part was the reception afterwards. It featured an open bar and several food stations to test out and enjoy. The food was prepared by culinary students from various schools who were partnered with a mentor chef.

With a glass of Samuel Adams in hand (this time OctoberFest), I tried out all of the stations I could. My taste buds relished in the house cured duck prosciutto, tagliatelle topped with willowgrove hill pork and fennel sausage ragu, maple and espelette smoked Ontario pork shoulder, and finally chocolate raspberry buttercream squares. Beer isn’t usually my go-to beverage, but I’ll definitely be reaching for one more often. Samuel Adams OctoberFest has a deep flavour that goes down smoothly. Whether salty, savoury, or sweet, it paired nicely with every dish I tried. The beer enhanced the flavour of the food rather than changing it or distracting from it. There’s even a hint of caramel in the beer that added a balance to my palate and kept me satisfied between stations.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

I spent my Monday night surrounded by people who love food, books, and beer – what more does a girl need? Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you for sharing your food with me. Check out the list of winners below!

Vanessa Xo

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan. Courtesy of Samuel Adams.

Disclosure: I was compensated for attending this event but only wrote about it due to the amazing time I had, the wonderful food I ate, and the tasty beer I drank. Also, I love anything books so this event was a MUST-attend for me!

_______________

Winners

Culinary Narratives/Narrations Culinaires 

The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis

Les saveurs gastronomiques de la bière by David Lévesque Gendron et Martin Thibault

General Cookbooks/ Livres de Cuisine Générale

The Flavour Principle: Enticing Your Senses with Food and Drink by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol

Dans la cuisine de Danny St-Pierre by Danny St Pierre

Regional/Cultural Cookbooks

Toronto Star Cookbook: More Than 150 Diverse and Delicious Recipes Celebrating Ontario by Jennifer Bain

Single-Subject Cookbooks/Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique

Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals by Ted Reader

Les Règles d’or des épices, recettes et récits de Ethné et Philippe de Vienne, chasseurs d’épices by Ethné et Philippe De Vienne

WATCH IT! MAN.

Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Products and Brands

Date-nights with my man are my favourite nights for many reasons, I like to dress up, I like to see him dressed up, I love our no cell phones /talking only rule, and well, I love spending some quality time with him. As far as the dressing up part goes, he looks so handsome with his dark jeans and black shirts, dress shoes, and swanky jackets BUT there is one thing missing. A watch. I know, I know, what the heck do you need a watch for when you have a cell phone? Who really cares about the time anyways? Time doesn’t run my life!  Even so, it’s something he’s always wanted and it really completes an outfit! So, since Christmas is creeping up on us I thought I’d share my favourite men’s watches with you. It’ll make a fabulous gift for the special man in your life.

Hugo Boss Orange $160 – for the sporty guy that brightens your world 

Michael Kors Oversized Lexington $335 – for the gold-lover 

Vestal Plexi $400 – for the guy that could actually pull this off 

Diesel Daddy Radar $420 – for the complex fellow

Emporio Armani $495 – for the simple and understated

Now ladies, I know what you’re thinking — what about ME? WATCH IT! has put together a CELEBRITY COUPLE ALTER EGO gift guide to help your man find YOU the perfect watch!

k2PqI6cPQqpMzZHtZ8ofv4kE5LBqsBbUWtwu8oRn0wU

Which celebrity couple are you?

Let me know in the comments!

Talk soon, 

Vanessa  Xo

Twitter for the WIN — a #SparkSessions Recap from someone who didn’t attend

Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures
 

It’s nearly impossible to recap an event that you didn’t attend. Nearly impossible, unless you follow the event’s hashtags all weekend (even when you’re relaxing at the Mohawk Inn & Conference Centre in Campellville Ontario). I’m not a Beauty or Fashion blogger, even though some of my posts tend to lean that way. I’m a Lifestyle blogger who loves to write and even though Spark Sessions is geared towards Beauty and Fashion bloggers, I think any type of blogger could gain something from their event.  With the amazing panels, various brands, and numerous bloggers in attendance, I’m quite sad I missed it. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it and am so glad I had Twitter to help me learn a few things from some of the greats!

Here are my favourite quotes/tweets from the event, search #sparksessions on Twitter to view more.

Anum Khan ‏@summerxskin
Kamilla Berdin ‏@KamillaBerdin#sparksessions
  • “Blogging is not a set it and forget it business” @DaintyGirl_TO
Stephanie Fusco ‏@stephaniefusco
  • Bloggers: be honest. If you didn’t love something, say so or don’t say anything at all. Free for you, $150 for someone else. #sparksessions
Chic Darling ‏@ChicDarling
Spark Sessions ‏@SparkSessions
  • Blogging is a career that comes out of passion. It is never a choice you make for financial gain. @LaineyGossip #sparksessions
  • Even if you’re not a journalist, editors work with you to become better writers as long as you are eager and willing #sparksessions
  • Be honest. Don’t over-inflate your writing experience. #sparksessions
  • Bloggers should check which posts get most traffic and have the lowest bounce rate for each style or type of blogpost #sparksessions
  • Just because you’re not a perfect writer now doesn’t mean you can’t work your way to be there. #sparksessions
 

Did you attend Spark Sessions? Tell me all about it!!

 

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

 

Christmas is coming….

Family Time, Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Products and Brands

I know that it’s only November but it’s never too early to think about your Christmas shopping list! I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I do Kris Kringle with my family and with my boyfriend’s family. This not only limits the amount spent per person but it limits the number of people I have to buy for. Not that I don’t want to buy gifts for everyone, it just gets extremely expensive and stressful! Since we’re going to be picking names for Kris Kringle soon, I thought I would put together a little Holiday Gift Guide for Her (and under $100).

Good Morning Beautiful Mug $10

Rouge Peony iPhone 5 Case $17.95

Pure Heroine CD $18.28

Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines $23.95

Bare Love Beauty Full Collection $28 – $58

GUESS Cross Studded Foil Tee $49

Michael Kors SEXY AMBER Perfume 50mL $75

Hillberg & Berk Aurora Lux Ring $95

So what if this list doubles as my personal Christmas wish list 😉 ? So what if all of the products are from my favourite brands and stores (Chapters, Michael Kors, The Red Bow Shoppe)? I’m sure a few of these products will be loved by someone on your “TO BUY FOR” list! The best part about this list is that no matter your budget, there’s something here for that special friend/girlfriend/bestie/sister/mom/random.

largeHappy shopping and don’t forget to add a personal hand-written note with every gift you give. It’ll make your special someone feel that much more special. It’ll show them that you’re buying them something because they MEAN something to you, not just because it’s Christmas!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Fall Fashion, Fall Love, Falling for it all…

Fashion & Beauty, Products and Brands

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple…” 
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

And so it has! My favourite season is upon us, which means I’ll be wearing my jeans, sweaters, scarves, and boots for the next few months. I LOVE FALL WEATHER. I love bundling up, I love feeling cozy in my clothing, and I am absolutely obsessed with fall fashion. The best part about fall fashion (for me) are the jackets. They’re warm enough to keep you toasty and they’re more form-fitting than winter jackets (Michelin Man). Here are my top five favourite jackets for fall.

PicMonkey Collage

Pink Martini What a Catch Up Coat ($165)

This is by far my favourite coat EVER. It’s not something you’ll see in my closet, even though the price tag isn’t too steep, but I LOVE it. It’s sweet, feminine, and vintage. I can just see myself walking the streets of Toronto in this jacket, wearing black skinnies and heels, enjoying the crisp air and the warm autumn sun.

GUESS LS Military Jacket ($138)

I like this jacket because of the length and where it flares out. Longer jackets always make me feel cozier and a military jacket is a great way to add a bit of “edge” to your look. I kind of wish I had a jacket like this for my trip to NYC in November.

Canada Goose Palliser Jacket ($800)

I’ve heard that Canada Goose jackets are the warmest in the land and this particular one will still let everyone see your wicked curves too.

Raindrops Ruffles Anorak Jacket ($675)

Don’t you hate when it rains in the Fall/rains at all? Well, with this jacket you won’t have to worry about a thing, you’ll look so cute you may start singing…

GUESS Brittney Denim Jacket ($138)

Denim jackets rock. They’re casual, cute, and this particular jacket will add a little something extra to a simple outfit.

Which jacket are you hoping to rock this season?

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” 
― William Cullen Bryant

___

Love Always

 Vanessa Xo

Tiny Devotions – Mala Beads

Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Products and Brands

TDHome

I was introduced to beautiful Mala Beads by Tiny Devotions a while back and haven’t been able to get them out of my mind.  Tiny Devotions is a Canadian company that creates mala beads for the bohemian girl (or in my case a girl who loves wearing jewelry with a message).  Their mala beads and accessories represent “the free spirited lifestyle of living your dreams, following your passions and looking good as you do it”.  Since I’ve been struggling a little lately with following my dreams, or following a path that with lead me to the amazing moment of living my dreams, I’ve been looking at the Tiny Devotions website on a daily basis looking for the perfect mala beads to inspire me. Here are the four that I’m torn between — for their messages, for their mantras, and for their beauty.

Tabula Rasa: Luck, New Beginnings, Potential.

Tabula Rasa — Luck, New Beginnings, Potential

The Law of Attraction Mala -- Friendship, Growth, Love

The Law of Attraction Mala — Friendship, Growth, Love

Ashley Turner: Urban Priestess Mala -- Heart Chakra, Meditation, Self-Reflection

Ashley Turner: Urban Priestess Mala — Heart Chakra, Meditation, Self-Reflection

Hamsa Silver Intention Necklace -- Luck, Protection, Strength

Hamsa Silver Intention Necklace — Luck, Protection, Strength

I love the beauty, simplicity, and meaning behind each of these malas/necklaces. They have so many to choose from and I’m sure you’ll be able to find the perfect mala for YOU, for this point in your life, and for what you want out of life. If you’re struggling, there’s an article that can help you choose your very own mala beads here. To connect with Tiny Devotions check out their website, Twitter, and Facebook. Let me know what you think about these beads in the comments — which one would you choose if you were me?

___

Love Always

Vanessa Xo