Of Bell Sleeves And Bucket Bags

Bell Sleeve Top from Banana Republic; Furla Stacy Bucket Bag

Summer is passing by so fast and, before it’s over, I want to share a few of my favorite fashion trends. In this post, I’m combining bell sleeves and bucket bags, because, well, time.

Bell sleeves are making a comeback. I remember bell sleeves being big more than ten years ago. I had a super stylish blazer that I hope I haven’t given away – you may see it in an upcoming post! And, I’m seeing more bell sleeve jackets on websites for the fall.

This top works for me because it’s petite. It’s hard to get the right length on the bell sleeves if you’re short and I find that the sleeve length is key in getting an outfit to look proportional. I love the light blue color and the oxford fabric, which gives the top some weight and shape. I’ve paired it with white jeans because that’s mainly all I wear in the summer.

Bell Sleeve Top from Banana RepublicThe bucket bag is a classic style. I love bucket bags because they tend to be roomy and easy to reach into. This one, from Furla, is always in their lineup in various color combinations. I like this bucket bag because it’s a good size for my frame, and it’s easy to wear as a cross-body or can be carried with just the short strap. It’s also a lightweight leather. I love how this neutral colored bucket bag goes with white, blue, and navy colors.

Stacy Bucket Bag from FurlaBell Sleeve Top from Banana Republic and Stacy Bucket Bag from FurlaI’ve linked a few bell sleeve items below, if you’d like to try this look:

What about you? Have you tried the bell sleeve trend?Bell Sleeve Top from Banana Republic

Bell Sleeve Top from Banana Republic

(Photos by Lauren R; Bell Sleeve top: Banana Republic; Bucket Bag: Furla; Jeans: Gap; Sandals: AGL; Bracelet: Thomas Sabo)

 

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My Delicious Chocolate Orange Cake!

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

Almost everybody loves a good chocolate cake, but last week, I made a simple addition to my usual recipe to make an amazing chocolate orange cake. For some reason, I can’t follow a recipe without making a small change, adding a twist, or substituting an ingredient. It’s more fun that way, and I get to experiment in the otherwise strict domain of baking!

The following recipe is based on my go-to chocolate cake recipe, the ‘Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake’. I love that name. I’ve made it for guests and they love it, too. It’s very chocolate-y and it uses cocoa powder in both the cake and icing.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

For some reason, I’ve been putting citrus zest in everything I make these days, so why not into a chocolate orange cake? I zested one orange into the batter and half an orange into the icing. That’s it. The taste of orange was incredible, making the cake seem like it was a specialty cake made by a pastry chef, served in a restaurant as the feature dessert! It tastes like Grand Marnier liqueur or Terry’s Chocolate Orange chocolates. I’m not one to boast about my baking abilities because I just follow (and change) recipes I find. Instead, I let my husband and kids tell me what they think, via unsolicited compliments! And, they loved this chocolate orange cake.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake
Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

Chocolate Orange Cake
Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 6 T oil, 2 T yogurt)
2 tsps vanilla
Zest of one orange
1 cup boiling water

Method
Mix dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients, except for water. Mix for 2 minutes. Add water and stir into batter. Batter will be very thin, so be careful if you incorporate the water with the mixer – it will splatter.

Bake in 2 greased and floured 9 inch pans, at 350, for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.

Chocolate Orange Frosting
Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of half an orange

Method
Melt butter in saucepan and stir in cocoa. Remove from heat and add in icing sugar and milk, alternately. Add vanilla. Adjust milk and sugar to get the right consistency. Stir in orange zest.

Assemble and ice cooled cake. Sprinkle with more orange zest. And, there you have a chocolate orange cake, made with zest and not orange flavoring.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake
Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

(Recipe adapted from Hershey’s)

What additions, twists, or changes do you make when you’re baking? I’d love to hear what works for you!

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Fun With OTS (Off The Shoulder) Tops!

Rayon Top From Reitmans

The ‘Off The Shoulder’, or OTS, trend has been around for some time now and it’s nearly impossible to go into any store without seeing some variation on this theme! Simply put, an OTS top exposes your shoulders. I love this trend.

There are also ‘cold shoulder’ tops where just the top of your shoulder is exposed in an otherwise regular style top. I think that’s an even sexier look than the straight across OTS look because it’s just an ‘exposure’ of the shoulders and not the whole décolleté!

There are also ‘OTS’ tops that expose one shoulder, keeping the other arm totally covered or somewhat covered with a long or cap or short sleeve.

And, there are lots of other design styles around the basic OTS, like ruffled shoulder lines, spaghetti strap additions, bows, and material density (from rayon, to cotton poplin, to wool)! The trend includes tops as well as dresses.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see me in a few different Off The Shoulder styles, including the one shown in this post. Here I’m wearing a rayon, navy and white, long-sleeved-with-bows-at-the-cuffs OTS top. I liked this one because of the flowy fabric and the bow detail on the sleeve. I also liked that it was navy, because I already have a white and light blue striped one that I had purchased in the fall. I like how it stands out against white jeans.

Rayon Off The Shoulder Top From ReitmansRayon Off The Shoulder Top From ReitmansRayon Off The Shoulder Top From ReitmansThere are two main challenges of wearing OTS tops. One is finding the right undergarment, or strapless bra. There are many options and you’ll have to find the right one for you. Some people prefer underwire ones, but I’m more comfortable with a tube-top type strapless because I find it shows fewer seam lines and gives me more support. The second challenge is that the tops can ride up the arm. You have to simply give them a tug or ‘set’ them a bit lower on your arms.

Rayon Off The Shoulder Top From ReitmansI’ve linked a few options for you to consider as well:

Have fun with this trend and let me know how you like to wear your OTS top or dress!

Rayon Off The Shoulder Top From Reitmans(Top: Reitmans; Jeans: Jessica Simpson Collection at Hudson’s Bay; Straw Purse : Talbots – similar; Photos by Lauren R.)

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Monochromatic Linen Scarves In The Summer

Kala Scarves
Handpainted Linen Kala Scarf

In my last post on scarves, I showed how a contrasting scarf adds interest to an outfit. Well, a monochromatic scarf can also enhance an outfit!

The scarves here are by the Canadian-based Kala Scarves. The Spring/Summer 2017 collection includes a wide range of fabrics, from lightweight wool/silk, modal/silk, to linen. There are many colors and designs, some abstract and some with summer themes like boats. In the warm weather, I love wearing linen for its lightweight texture.

Kala Scarves
Handpainted Linen Kala Scarf

In these photos, I’m wearing two different rectangular linen scarves with the same jacket. Because the scarves are handpainted, each one is unique and a piece of wearable art. No two scarves are exactly the same! I love the pink/red patches of color on the neutral cream and beige backgrounds. The tweed jacket has pink and red threads in it and I think the linen scarves dress up the jacket even more. On its own, the jacket is smart casual and can make any jean outfit look put together. By adding the linen scarf in the same tones, there’s that extra layer of color and richness. Plus, if you tend to run on the cold side like I do, you can use the scarf as a wrap in the air-conditioned indoors! Continue reading

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The Best Shortbread Sugar Cookies For Canada Day!

Canada Day Cookies
Canada Day Cookies

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation! As an immigrant to Canada, I cannot be more grateful that I live here. I’m more proud every year and I love celebrating everything about Canada. When I first moved here, I kept asking people how Canada was different from the United States, where I had lived prior to moving. It was a lot of fun to hear what each person thought was the major difference. After living here for more than 25 years, I can tell you what is different, but that would be the subject of another post! Let’s just say that our cities consistently rank as the top livable cities in the world and that, along with Canada’s diversity, is one of the reasons I love living here.

This year we’ve seen lots of fun activities going on around the country in celebration of Canada’s 150th, also called Canada 150 by the Government of Canada.

For my small part, I made these Shortbread Sugar Cookies and decorated them with red and white icing and the word ‘eh’, which is very Canadian! You can read more about the word ‘eh’ here. The word is basically used as an engaging word when you’re speaking with someone. I love these cookies because they’re more butter-y than plain sugar cookies and they’re not as rich as pure shortbread.

Canada Day Cookies
Canada Day Cookies

If you’re Canadian, I wish you a very Happy Canada Day, and remember that there are celebrations going on all year in our great country. If you’re not Canadian, perhaps you’ll be inspired to try making a version of these cookies to celebrate your country’s independence day!

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My Basic Morning Skin Care Routine

Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, Reversa Cleansing Micellar Solution, Reversa Solution for Oily and Acne Prone Skin, Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen
Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, Reversa Cleansing Micellar Solution, Reversa Solution for Oily and Acne Prone Skin, Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion

This is my first beauty post!

I thought I’d dip my toe into the beauty blogging world and share some of my favorite go-to products, starting with five that are part of my morning skin care routine. I’ll share more in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

I wouldn’t describe myself as having beautiful skin. I battled acne as a teen and in my early twenties and I was very self-conscious about it. It defined who I was for a few years. I was on a couple of different medications until I found the right one. And, finding the right one was a game changer for me. Then, things settled down, acne-wise, but I experience breakouts from time to time. Over the years, I’ve figured out what works for me and why. I’m very picky about the products I use in terms of how they address acne and oily skin: they can’t feel oily on my skin. The less greasy they feel, the more likely I will be to incorporate them into a regular skin care routine!

Let’s start with these five items that are part of my daily skin care routine. Continue reading

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Current Fave: Floral Embroidered Jeans

Floral Embroidered Jeans
Floral Embroidered Jeans

I first started blogging about two years ago, as part of a Digital Strategy Certificate I was getting at the University of Toronto. I had a lot of support from family and friends and a lot of input. One of the comments I got was that blog posts can be short and sweet. That’s what this one is!

There’s not much to say about these floral embroidered jeans, other than that I love them and that I get lots of compliments on them, from friends and family. Unsolicited compliments, too!

Floral Embroidered Jeans
Floral Embroidered Jeans

I got these at a local boutique in Toronto. I tried them on and then walked out of the store because I’m not an impulse buyer. But, I walked right back in because I didn’t think they’d last and because they hit a few summer trends: light wash, skinny, ripped, embroidered, and floral embroidered jeans. They’re so easy to style, too: with a plain white t-shirt, scarf, and sneakers; with a navy classic blazer and flats/mocassins; with a long-sleeved shirt in navy or white; and, with tanks and flip-flops. Continue reading

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(Vegan) Chocolate Banana Muffins

Chocolate Banana Muffins
Chocolate Banana Muffins

You know that feeling when you want to try a recipe but don’t have all the ingredients? Well, that happened to me yesterday, which is why there are parentheses around the word ‘Vegan’ in the title of this post.

My neighbor dropped off two chocolate banana muffins on Sunday, made by her vegan daughter. They were delicious: moist, dense, and super chocolate-y. And, because they’re vegan, you can safely lick the batter! I had to make these asap, because the two muffins didn’t last more than an hour, and, well, a craving is a craving.

When I looked up the recipe for these chocolate banana muffins on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog, I knew that I didn’t have white whole wheat flour nor did I have almond milk on hand. I stopped off at the drugstore to pick up milk and took a quick look in the baking section. As I sort of expected, they didn’t carry these items so I was going to make do with ingredients I had at home. It was too early for the natural food store to be open. Continue reading

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The Adidas Stan Smith Cutout Sneakers

Adidas Stan Smith Cutout SneakersI’m sure you’ve noticed that fashion clothing and shoes these past few years have been made of mesh, see-through fabrics, and cutouts. I’m not sure what to make of this trend. I think it says something about the need to share even more of ourselves in an effort to be unique. Any deeper discussion on this topic goes beyond the scope of this blog, so I’ll stop right there! Let’s just say that when I saw these Adidas Stan Smith Cutouts, I decided to give them a try.

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Kala Scarves: Wearable Art To Change The Look Of An Outfit

Kala Scarves
Kala Scarves

I consider myself to be a conservative dresser: classic, simple, easy style. One of the best ways to dress up a plain outfit is to reach for a scarf. I have quite a collection of fashion scarves that I tend to wear with plain t-shirts, sweaters, and blazers. And, yes, they’re mainly in blues and browns!

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with the designer and owner of Kala Scarves, a Canadian-based company that makes beautiful, hand-crafted scarves using premium quality natural fibers. After seeing the extensive collection of Kala scarves, it didn’t take me long to consider stepping outside of my comfort zone in terms of color and design.

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