Fall Fashion: Making an Easy Transition

As far as seasons go, summer is certainly a fan favourite. People seem to be at their happiest, basking in the sunlight, enjoying the outdoors, traveling, drinking and loving life. But as August creeps on, there are a select few of us who anticipate the beauty that is Fall fashion. No other season gifts us with as much variety, as much texture and as much rule-breaking. Those few months are the only ones where Summer shorts, Spring shoes and Winter wools can all be worn at once, and when so many trends come and go, that it’s all up to you to find that signature look.

Although it surely is exciting, it can also be a bit daunting. Your overly summery pieces need to find their place in storage, and many of your Winter favourites creep back  into your mind space. How does it all come together? Here are a few things you’ll need to stock up on to ensure Winter hibernation is without interruption.

More is More
Rather than setting out to purchase dozens of large wool sweaters, look to your summer knits, and pair them with a denim jacket or a buttoned up blouse.  Truth is, no matter how many people try to force minimalism on the fashion world, the layered look will never go out of style.

Top it Off
A great jacket is key in every season – there’s the Summer trench, the Winter down, the Summer linen and the Fall leather/military jacket. If you’ve got a versatile piece to throw on over just about anything, you’ll be cozy all of autumn. Venture outside your comfort zone and look to all those Fall textures that make it the most exciting season for fashion.

Quick Fix
If you think about it, it’s slightly humorous that we consider this barely-there material to be a key transition piece. But truly, nylons and tights can make most summer dresses and skirts cool-weather appropriate, keeping your mind and budget at ease. Choosing between sheer and opaque can depend on the occasion, the outfit and the weather, but I’d say that a fancier occasion calls for sheer, while opaque can take on more of a daytime role – and thrives in our Canadian winters.

Key Investment: Great pants
I hate buying pants. Always have, always will. That’s why I’ve accumulated so many tops throughout the years, because they’re simply more fun to peruse the racks for. But let me tell you from experience, a person in serious need of new pants will not survive the Winter. Invest in pants you’ll be proud to show off, because once the snow gets here, they’re really all you’ve got. Try new colours, patterns, cuts and brands…Your Fall/Winter wardrobe will improve tenfold as a result.

Images via

Summer Loving These

Happy Hump Day! In order to get us over the mound and into weekend bliss – two days that may or may not be filled with shopping, reading, listening and more – I thought I would highlight a few of the items I’ve been loving lately. Similar to Kaylee’s midday musings or Meghan’s must-have cosmetics, here is a glimpse into six things that I’ve pondered greatly, and happily indulged in, throughout the blazing heat wave:

JOE FRESH’s NEW LINE: Shockingly, most of the line isn’t for sale online yet – but if you head to the freshest Joe Fresh near you, you’re bound to get a glimpse of the delicious work/play clothing combinations stacked on the affordable yet trendy racks. Unfortunately (but not really), good ol’ Mr. Fresh is my corner store (sigh) along with an LCBO parked next to it (sigh) and one of the city’s largest Loblaws below – making it incredibly difficult to pick up a bag of grapefruits…without grabbing a bottle of Cab-Sauvignon…without pitching for a flirty new work skirt. It’s a problem, but I’ve come to terms with it. Right now at Joe Fresh, this August’s silky blouses, skinny and vibrant Audrey Hepburn slacks and imitation leather bits spattered throughout the collection have made it increasingly impossible to walk out empty-handed.

Joe Fresh Fall 2012 runway show

GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN ALMOND THUMBPRINT COOKIES: I’ve been a gluten-free and soy-free (as well as many other uncategorized “frees”) vegan for the past three months in light of some testing, and although I likely won’t be that combination for much longer, I’ve learned to love cooking more than I already did. The common (and exhausting) question is, of course, what can I eat? My answer – just about anything I want. For instance, this past week I had “mac” (brown rice pasta) and “cheese” (cashew cream sauce), lasagna (using zucchini, squash, homemade marinara sauce and almond milk/nutritional yeast “cheese”), countless savoury stir fries and tasty desserts – all mimicking the real deal and leaving me oh-so-satisfied. As for these comfort cookies, Kaylee can attest to the very best part of the recipe being the finger-licking homemade jam. You can find the jist of the recipe here (I played around a bit with my own ingredients).

THE LUMINEERS: If you’ve yet to hop on this friendly folk-rock collective‘s ramblin’ train, do so immediately. This summer has been an eclectic one, since both the indie, hip-hop and electro genres have been heating up with tastes of new releases – however, their romantic front-porch Americana takes the (gluten-free) cake as one of the most played albums of the month. Nights parked on breezy balconies with these stomping folk stories are just about as lovely as it gets. Two other fun facts: the threesome is currently touring with another favourite band of mine, The Civil Wars, overseas – and someone I know will be playing the below (favourite) tune of mine during their wedding first dance with her new husband. Precious.

The Lumineers get a lot of play out here.

2012 POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE SHORT LIST:  I’m pretty pleased with the ten artists who made the coveted Polaris Prize short list this year, and like every other year, even more excited to hear which act takes the cake for best full-length Canadian album of the year. Featuring Canuck music veterans like Drake, Feist and Kathleen Edwards, the list also includes a few stand-up rookies, including Cold Specks, Grimes and Japanroids. I can’t wait to be there on September 24th when the notable jurors decide this year’s lucky winner. Who do you want to see take it?

Arcade Fire accepting last year’s 2011 Polaris Prize

NIKE SPORTBAND When I purchased the new Nike Sportband, the salesperson fulfilled his duty in thoroughly explaining the limitless funky features of the running gadget. But what I remember most in the blur of information overload was what he called out to me as I exited the store. “You’re going to have so much fun,” he exclaimed. I figured I might, of course, or else I wouldn’t have bought it. But, wow – I had no idea what I was in for. This multifaceted little bracelet connects to a chip I slide into my Nike shoe, tracking my distance, pace, calories, time and more throughout the jog. When I come home, I unhinge the face of the watch, plug it in the USB port in my computer and read all about my mileage, splits, and progress from other dashes – before gathering suggestions for routes in my area, competitions with other runners and goals I might want to set. I’m addicted to both the online and offline experience already, and highly recommend it for anyone looking to measure themselves accurately or have a more social running experience. It knows me better than I know myself at this point.

My favourite toys.

THIS NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE (Elissa Gootman’s “Maternity Leave? It’s more like a pause“): I thought this was an incredibly interesting piece inspired by Marissa Mayer, a lady who’s the talk of the town these days for a number of reasons. Firstly, the blonde 37 year-old powerhouse was named CEO of Yahoo last week, which came before her promptly announcing she would be giving birth in October and only taking a few weeks of “working” maternity leave. “I like to stay in the rhythm of things,” she told Fortune. This NYT article is in response to dueling internet reactions of scorn and praise for the young executive – referencing the recently written Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and arguing whether short or “working” maternity leaves are empowering or frowned-upon in our hyper-connected, overworked society. Although this is no reflection of what my own approach would be, I, personally, think Mayer is fabulous – and who are we to judge how good of a Mother she’ll be? Strong women are worked to the bone everyday to juggle overwhelming commitments – whether you’re a single mother working in retail with no option of maternity “leave” or the CEO of a multinational internet company who is prepared to stick her nose to the grind. What do you think?

Yahoo’s Newest Queen of the Crop

What would be on your summer favourites list? Leave us a comment below or tweet it at @inanutshellca!

Beauty on a Budget

Alright readers, I’m just going to throw this out there – being on a budget is NOT fun. Whether you’re paying back student loans, starting out at a new job with a tiny salary or trying to save for your first home (or all of the above!), being in your twenties is a time where money matters. For women, cosmetics and beauty products can be so frustrating; not only are they huge money-suckers, but half the time you feel like they don’t give you the results that you anticipated. I’ve put together a list of some great products that are inexpensive and will cover most elements of your beauty regime – in fact, you can purchase everything on this list for under $100!

1. Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation ($14.99)
Used by multiple nuts, Maybelline’s Dream Matte Mousse Foundation is creamy and leaves a nice matte finish on your skin.

2. Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips ($19.99)
These shimmer strips are great because they are multi-purpose. Use each shade individually as eye-shadows and then use them together for a great, shimmery bronzer or blush

3. MAC Fluid Line ($18)
This gel is by far the best and longest lasting eye-liner I’ve ever used. Once you get used to applying it with a thin-angled brush, it will change your life. Perfect for creating a dramatic cat eye or a simple every-day look, this eye-liner is great on both upper and lower lids and is definitely a staple of mine. (Plus, it doesn’t smudge constantly like some pencils do!)

4. L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Mascara ($10.49)
This mascara is a fan-favourite. Kate mentioned it in the past and I have since converted to it after trying it once. Use one sweep for a simple look or load it on for dramatic lashes.

5. Rimmel Vinyl Lip Gloss ($6.49)
One of inanutshell’s #1 supporters, Kelly, went on a quest for lip gloss and after trying multiple expensive brands, decided to give this a shot. After trying it over the weekend, we’re glad she did – it’s awesome and a great value!

6. Treseme Volumizing Dry Shampoo ($5.49)
I’ve blogged about dry shampoos in the past and at the time I wasn’t impressed. But, after trying Tresseme’s Volumizing Dry Shampoo, I can say that it’s now a staple in my beauty regime. Not only useful if you sleep in and have to skip a full wash, but also a great tool for creating a bit more volume if your hair falls flat.

7. Mini Body Shop Almond Hand & Nail Cream ($10)
This hand cream has been a staple in my purse/home/office for as long as I can remember. A light moisturizer with a sweet fragrance, this product not only targets dry hands, but moisturizes your nails as well! The mini size is perfect for taking on the go.

8. Essie ‘Fiji’ Nail Polish ($10.99)
It’s no secret that we nuts LOVE Essie nail polish. And now, you can get the look that Emily Maynard rocked all season as The Bachelorette by sporting the shade ‘Fiji’. It’s a light pink that’s great for everyday because it goes well with just about anything!

And there you have it nuts, some great bargains that will keep you looking great on a budget. Happy shopping & happy saving!

Balcony Buzz

As mentioned in Kate and Kaylee’s posts, it’s undeniable that a weekend escape into the wilderness is one of the most beautiful (and necessary) parts of summer. If we’re lucky to steal away, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll see any of us piled into a car, blaring those classic open air tunes with our arms whipping in the wind outside of the rolled down windows.

Then again, during those (many) in between weekends – the one’s where you’ve just finished a draining week, finally retreat back to your little haven for a long overdue sitdown meal and glass of red wine – my idea of one of the best ways to escape the city summer heat is any chance to perch on a balcony while the newly warm evening breeze rolls in.

My balcony is a little…empty so far. Kaylee and I have plans to get our patio goods in the coming weeks, so hopefully it won’t look as drab as it does now – but regardless of its bareness, it is absolutely the reason I settled on my current apartment. Nestled high (very high) up in the skyline, I almost forget I live at an incredibly noisy intersection that’s always filled with commotion, horns and a constant sea of people packed onto each corner. Up there in the sky, it’s almost only silence and lights. Two things that go very well with that glass of red wine and toasty summer nights overlooking the bustle.

In light of the impending patio season and the fact that not many of us are homeowners with extravagant backyards to decorate, let’s take a look at some of this summer’s tiny outdoor accessories – perfect for all kinds of high-in-the-sky nooks.

For the hip young thing looking to make a colourful blend of sangria while the upbeat electro-rock pours out onto your fire escape nook, these are the pieces for you. Punches of colour, goofy accessories and a whole lot of character are the perfect hosts to your laid-back guests.

Urban Outfitters Cafe Chairs
Urban  Outfitters Amigo Table
Anthropologie Beneath The Stars Lanterns
CB2 Tic Tac Toe Set
Crate and Barrel Recycled Glass Bottle Pitcher
IKEA Balcony Planter
Pier 1 Celeste Dinnerware

For the young professional looking to doll up their industrial outdoor space, these bits of edgy urban decor are practical and sleek. They’ll successfully add a little glamour to the concrete and stainless steel downtown surroundings, while still letting the colour of the city steal the show.

Pier 1 Cocktail Accessories
CB2 Eddy Outdoor Round Table
IKEA Vino Chair with armrests
West Elm Trellis Planters
A+R Hurricane Lamp

For the daydreaming, cottage-loving, new-to-the-city free spirit, these stylish bits of the country will bring your memories of packed porches and waterside revelry back to life. Any of these nautical and rustic staples paired with a tray of cool pints and finger foods will set the scene for the perfect summery gathering with loved ones.

CB2 Glass Beverage Dispenser
Ikea Applaro Chairs
CB2 Serving Tray
Bouclair Viva Lantern
Anthropologie Vernazza Canapé Plates
Ikea Diod Glasses
West Elm Yarn Dyed Napkin Set

 

 

*Top image via

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Ever find yourself one week before a holiday, special event, birthday, without a gift in sight or in mind? Haven’t we all? Consider this your reminder that Father’s Day is four Sundays away, and now’s the time to start hanging onto his every word (for clues) and keeping an eye out for the perfect pressie. Sometimes the best way to surprise your old man is by thinking far enough in advance to order something special online. This way, rather than buying from the mall nearest to you, you’ve browsed countless retailers from the comfort of your home, likely finding something he’s never seen before.

The Foodie: He’s the master of the grill, knows exactly how you like your steak, and he’s the king of cocktails. Sometimes a kitchen gadget can seem more like you’re gifting him with a chore than a treat, so be sure to choose carefully! As a recent Nespresso convert, I’d say this is a perfect gift for you and your siblings to go in on. It’s the gift that keeps on giving…each morning when he sips that delicious espresso (cappuccino, latte…) he’ll be reminded of his thoughtful children. If you’ve got a beer lover on your hands, why not gift him with a memorable experience? Like brewing his own beer perhaps? Finally, for all that summer entertaining, a salad bowl and servers with a twist (add a cookbook for the perfect set!)

1. Joseph Joseph’s Salad Bowl + Servers, $42
2. Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit, $40
3. Nespresso Citiz & Milk Server, $299*

*If you live in Montreal, visit 1101 Laurier for endless Foodie ideas for dad! You won’t leave empty handed.

The Intellect: He’s taught you every historical fact you know, he’s an avid traveler, and his book shelf resembles your neighborhood Chapters. Even if he loves to collect novels, a Kobo reader will become his saving grace when it comes to traveling. Thin, light and easy to read…all you have to do is show him how to download the latest bestseller. If you happen to know where his next trip will be, Palomar’s maps are the perfect gift. Rip-proof, waterproof, fade-proof..they are made to be stuffed into that last crevice of a suitcase, making them the ideal road maps for his next tourist moment. Lastly, the more golf tidbits he can share on the course, the better…so why not gift him with the latest read?

1. American Triumvirate: The Modern Age of Golf, $18
2. Palomar Crumpled City Maps, $19.95
3. Kobo eReader Touch, $99.99

The Groupie: My dad is the ultimate groupie – he’ll spend hours editing playlists, seeking out new music, and searching iTunes for that jam he listened to at summer camp in the 70s. I’ve already given him two things on this list, and both were very well received. A Pink Floyd t-shirt is the ultimate groupie gift, he’ll wear it proudly and look hip and young doing so. I’d be surprised if your groupie dad didn’t already own an iPod, so Apple TV is the next best thing. Ever since I gave my dad this Apple gizmo, the TV situation at my home has changed drastically. Access to Netflix, your iTunes library and most importantly…the iStore, he can watch and/or listen to just about anything he desires. Finally, “1001 Albums you Must Hear Before You Die” is the perfect coffee table piece, and will likely remind him of a few (hundred) bands he had long forgotten.

1. Pink Floyd T-Shirt – Wish You Were Here, $20
2. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, $22
3. Apple TV, $109

The Fashionisto: While yes, my dad definitely fits in the Groupie category, he also fits in here. For the pop that likes looking dapper, a new watch for his collection is always fun to mix things up, and he may just like it more than his current one! (Here I’m assuming that every dad owns a watch…it feels like a staple). Next up, a crisp button down for everyday wear or a special soiree. Just like women and their shoes, he can never have enough shirts. Finally, show him that you really care by proving exactly what he’s been telling you all along; “Dads are the original hipsters” – seriously, this is a hilarious read!

1. Fossil Men’s Machine Taupe IP, $135
2. Polo Ralph Lauren Check Cotton Shirt, $90
3. “Dads Are the Original Hipsters” by Brad Getty, $12.95

Father’s Day is June 17th! Happy Shopping.

Notable Knits

When it’s too chilly for a sundress and too balmy for wool, the morning routine becomes that much more challenging. The first signs of warmth appeared on our weather apps quite early this year, and many of us instinctively packed up the winterwear to make room for silk, cotton, florals and brights. A tad premature? Not at all. Winter’s chunky fabrics have no place in Spring’s chill – neither do your furry boots, nor do your down jackets. Perhaps the solution is coming to terms with the fact that Spring is an unpredictable season that demands all kinds of dress. Yes, we all dream of corals, color blocking, blossoms and glimpses of bare skin. But alas, we are Canadians. And aren’t we known for being prepared for any spike in temperature?

‘Tis the season of transition, and nothing makes things easier than a wardrobe staple that’s cozy and versatile. Enter the summer knit – ideal with jeans for May’s cool shade, and picture perfect with shorts and sandals, when the summer heat offers a cool breeze. Not to mention, absolutely key when office AC gives you goosebumps galore. Worn over a little dress, you’ve got yourself reinvention with a touch of whimsy.

In a season that is synonymous with everything but long sleeves, it’s easy to forget just how far a little piece of grandma’s knitting will go. So next time your browsing for shorts, skirts, tanks and dresses, think about the power of a cute jumper  … and cozy up to Spring’s fresh air, without a case of the chills!

Six adorable options that will take you from Spring to Summer to Fall, in a nutshell…

1. MANGO decorative print jumper
2. Topshop knitted ombre jumper
3. MANGO multicolored jumper
4. ZARA sweater with macramé front
5. Carven cropped mint map sweater
6. ASOS bonjour sweater

A statement with simplicity

Although I am often guilty of shopping in Rideau Mall and pry my wallet open to the usual suspects ( Aritzia, Zara, Club Monaco), I also am completely obsessed with the few boutiques that are scattered throughout the Byward Market. There is something fun and frisky about hitting the pavement to zig zag across town to places like Victoire’s, Milk and Trustfund.

The catch 22? These sweet spots contain prices tags that are not nearly as affordable as the ones seen in the mall emporium. But, on the positive side, the fashions of boutiques are not mass produced and are usually quality product.

Juggling this “catch” one day as I stopped for my daily dose of caffeine at Planet Coffee, I decided to check out a new boutique called Roadtrip (keep in mind this was about 3 years ago). Roadtrip is funky, free-spirited and hits the nail on the head when it comes to a flirty, yet sophisticated style. Roadtrip also hosts a number of designers, all of whom bring a unique perspective to fashion and it shows in the diverse selection of pieces. I could spend hours in that place. Aside from the most intricate frocks and dazzling jumpers , Roadtrip has a beautiful collection of jewllery.

As you can see, Roadtrip loves their chunky statement pieces with brightly coloured earrings, over sized rings and loud necklaces. Each of these pieces are ideal for pairing with a simple, monotone top to draw attraction and make the outfit come together with your “statement piece”. I do have a soft spot for chunky necklaces too, but to my delight I happened upon a collection of necklaces that represent Roadtrip’s softer side. Immediately I was dishing out the cash, bought two of the necklaces and have fallen completely in love with them. One in particular wins compliments no matter when or where I adorn it and the other is a truly unique necklace but doesn’t lie boisterously around my neck. Sometimes when it comes to neck glam, less actually IS more as these two tiny peices seem to draw the eye of even strangers (sliiiightly creepy).

{Price tag: $25 each}

It is definitely more difficult to make a “statement” with necklaces that are smaller scale, but when compliments are delivered to such a delicate and tiny piece you know that you’ve made a statement with simplicity.

Which necklace do you like best? Do you have any miniature pieces that you simply can’t get enough of? Leave a comment and let us know!

Image 1 via

Wardrobe Makeover for 2012

The best thing about ringing in a new year (aside from champagne and a major excuse to celebrate) is the chance for a fresh slate. Although we all make heaps of resolutions we may or may not keep, there is one thing that can easily be achieved with a few simple steps and a bit of time spent in your very own chaotic closet.
This is your chance to de-clutter, reorganize and rethink your wardrobe altogether, changing the way you dress throughout this fresh new year.

1. Get RID of anything you haven’t worn in two years.
I read that piece of advice in a magazine once, and I think it’s a great rule of thumb. I continually keep clothing that I think I’ll one day wear (I even have pairs of jeans I’ve kept for when “I’m painting my first house”…so ridiculous.) There are, of course, certain pieces that should be kept, like ones that were an investment or ones you may want to pass down generations some day. But all the rest; the ripped, the stained, the too small, big, long, short, get rid of them now, because all they’re doing is clogging up your closet and making it more difficult to find what you really want to wear. They’re just clothes (gasp!) and if you aren’t wearing them, get rid of them.

2. Find out what your closet’s missing.
Evidently, there is no science to dressing, but there are certain items that we can incorporate that will make outfits more complete, and make those difficult morning decisions much easier. We all have our own styles, so these closet essentials are all relative, but finding items within these categories that fit and flatter you, will definitely give you the boost you’re looking for in 2012.

Topshop blouse / American Eagle sweater / AllSaints leather jacketMango blazer / Hue leggings / Zara top / BCBG dress / Levi’s jeans / Gap skirt / Urban T-shirt / Old Navy cardi

  • A solid blouse is great with jeans or tucked into a skirt with a blazer.
  • A chunky knit is perfect for Winter or a breezy Spring day paired with shorts.
  • A leather jacket for Fall and Spring – or a trench if you’re more of a classic gal.
  • A fitted blazer for any dressed up occasion, a black one is preferable for versatility.
  • Leggings for comfy soirées or even a night out with heels and some sparkle.
  • Speaking of sparkle, an embellished top is great for dressing anything up.
  • A little black dress, obviously. Accessories change an LBD in a cinch.
  • Slimming jeans can be hard to find, but the perfect pair are so essential.
  • A flattering skirt is different for every body type, find the shape that best suits you.
  • A graphic T is great for throwing on with jeans but also gives your skirt some edge.
  • A cardigan is essential for every Canadian who needs to throw on some warmth.

Forever21 EarringsZara clutch / Mango bracelet / Nine West pumps / Forever21 necklace / Forever21 scarfForever21 ring / BCBG boots / Dolce Vita flats

  • Statement earrings are vital for adding some bling to an LBD or a casual outfit.
  • A clutch is necessary for any night out & ‘dutches’ (day clutches) are all the rage.
  • A cuff or bangles are so easy to throw on and mix up.
  • Nude pumps are critical, they match with everything and will become your go-to.
  • A statement necklace transforms any outfit – casual or classy – it always works.
  • A pattern scarf is perfect for a relaxed day or accessorizing a lacking outfit.
  • A statement ring spices up just about anything – try a combination of styles.
  • Warm boots are necessary for any Canadian, heeled or flat, find your poison.
  • Colourful flats are a great accent for a neutral outfit – red ones give the best pop.

3. Organize your closet
Take the time to fold and classify your things, this will be your best asset for those daily choices. Seeing what you own in an orderly fashion is crucial. Visit Ikea for budget-friendly solutions to your closet woes!

 4. Break the Rules
I’m always a big advocate for breaking the rules and taking risks. Once you’ve built up your closet essentials, be sure to incorporate that edge that makes your collection of clothing all yours. Every once in a while, remember to reach beyond your comfort zone and bring your closet to new heights…2012 can be your most fashionable year yet!

The Best of Boxing Day Sales (Going On Now…)

It’s that time of year, once again! We’ve spent our last few shopping trips perusing the racks for our loved ones, for once never thinking of what we need (or most importantly, want). Christmas Day has come and gone, and we’ve received plenty of gifts from distant family members, close relatives, friends and plenty of knickknacks from acquaintances. Enter the most genius of Holiday traditions: a Sale period that allows us to gift ourselves with the things we really wanted, at prices we only get to see biannually. Online and in-store, there are plenty of Sales to chose from, it all really depends on what you’re looking for. In an effort to organize your frantic Boxing Day (and beyond) shopping, I give you a review of some current sales and a little bit about what you’ll find…so that you don’t waste your ‘me-time’ on a Sale that’s not worth your energy …in a nutshell. 

Looking for: Anything and Everything
Best Bet: Shopbop.com

With over 400 designers ranging from 3.1 Phillip Lim and Jil Sander to Splendid, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Free People, Shopbop’s wide range will have you browsing for hours. Aside from the endless goggling that will take place, you can also righteously spend your virtual time in their Sale section, which includes some great deals for you closet and/or jewelry box. For example, the following items are considerably marked down and each under $100. Browse away!

See items here: necklace, ring, skirt, top, boots

Looking for: Quality Workwear and Cozy Sweaters
Best Bet: Banana Republic 

Two of my finds!

Contrary to popular belief, Banana Republic offers a great range of prices and the quality is always topnotch. If you’re really looking for a deal, head to the back where Sale racks are divided by size and overflowing with cardis, jeans, blazers and tops. For a limited time, all items are an additional 30% off, so feel free to roam the new collections too. A big majority of my costume jewelry comes from Banana, so be sure to peruse those unappealing plastic bags that are actually filled with little treasures, all on sale.
I visited Banana on Boxing Day and picked up 4 lovely items, two of which are pictured at right (and were an additional 30% off!) See the items here and here.
Shop the Banana Sale here or visit a store near you!

Looking for: (Literally) Piles and Piles of Clothing- different styles & seasons
Best Bet:  Zara

If you’re a Zara girl like me, you know what I mean by literal piles. Come Sale season, the (somewhat) orderly scene at Zara becomes complete and utter chaos. Every table in the store is filled with piles of turtlenecks, long sleeves, t-shirts, sweaters, jeans and the like, priced by a large sign found on each table. Be sure to double check the prices before you hand over your credit card, because it’s often the case that things end up where they don’t belong. However, if you’ve got the patience, the time and the will power, you’ll definitely find some great staples at this time of year, with prices that won’t come back ’til summer Sale season rolls around. These three items are cute and versatile, at under $40.

See items here: dress, jeans, sweater

Looking for: Quirky Accessories & Unique Party Dresses
Best Bet: Asos.com

Asos.com offers its own one-of-a-kind brand (which essentially dominates the website) as well as other reasonably priced lines such as Jeffrey Campbell, American Apparel, Cheap Monday and Sam Edelman. This is an online store that offers cute, eccentric, on-trend fashions that surely fit your budget (assuming you have one for impulse purchases). The shoes, dresses and accessories will have you mirroring style mavens like Zooey Deschanel, Alexa Chung and Kelly Framel. These three lust-worthy garments are all $50 and under…can you say “at to shopping bag?”

See items here: 1 2 3

Looking for: High-End Designer Duds
Best Bet: Net-a-porter.com 

A sale at net-a-porter only comes around a few times a year and after that, their Sale section literally disappears, as though no prices had ever been reduced. So, if you’re looking to treat yourself to a designer item in 2012, now is truly the time. With items at up to 70% off, you’re sure to find a piece that you’ll cherish for years to come. Each of these lovely pieces (Pierre Hardy wedges…hiiii) are marked down by 70%, so you’re guaranteed to find a steal of your own.

See items here: wedges, sandals, dress, blouse, sweater, skirt

Man’s Digest: Gift-Giving

"You got me WHATTT?"

Besides endless Sex and the City reruns, the time it takes us to get all dolled up and ‘that time of the month’, I’d say the biggest struggle a man faces in a relationship is picking the perfect cadeaux for any given celebration. There are, of course, some men who are genius at this art, and to them, I say kudos. To you other boys who dread the thought of jolly old Saint Nicholas or the day your girlfriend begins to countdown to her birthday, and even that mark on the calendar indicating your anniversary, this postaroo is for you.

Here are 7 Gift Ideas that will have any woman smiling no matter the occasion: 

1. Concert Tickets
Even if your girlfriend isn’t music-obsessed like some of our nutshells, every woman has a favourite band or singer, and it’s worth a shot to check out tour dates and upcoming events. Plus, it’ll give you both something to look forward to in the future, and she’ll love the thought you put into it all. Plain and simple, this is a great gift.

2. A Day/Weekend Trip
In the end there’s nothing we want more than to spend time with you, and a romantic weekend away is the perfect excuse. A place like Le Nordik or Chateau Montebello are especially beautiful this time of year, and no material item will compare to those memories. If you don’t have the time or budget to allow for this kind of thing, even a hotel near home will give you that touch of extravagance and escape.

3. A Card & Dinner Plans
This is not your ordinary “Merry Christmas. Love you.” card. For this to give her just the right amount of butterflies, you’ve got to work for it. Put some thought into it, make a draft and think over the things you’d like to tell her. Most girls I know keep all of their greeting cards, and this one will be at the top of the pile. Include a little IOU to her favorite restaurant on a certain date, and then make sure you own up to it!

Cat's words get me every time.

4. Vintage Keepsakes
This one is dependent on your girlfriend’s hobbies and interests. If she loves fashion, dig around an antique store or eBay for vintage Vogue covers, they will make for great wall art, and she’ll remember the effort you put into finding them for years to come. If she loves music, find some antique records or an old record player; either of these will be a pleasant surprise, and she’ll have them forever. Other ideas are: a vintage sewing machine (for design/DIY lovers), an old polaroid or film camera or the first edition of her favorite novel.

5.  Perfume
If you’re afraid to buy the wrong one, make note of the bottles she already owns and bring the list to the department store. An employee will surely steer you in the right direction based on the notes she already loves, and she’ll think of you every time she spritzes it on. Read about each of our favorite perfumes here. 

6. A piece of jewelry (certain conditions apply)
This can be tricky. And there are a few circumstances to consider: 1) She eyes something while you two are shopping and you return later to pick it up – this will have her grinning for hours. 2) You invite her best friend on a little shopping trip to help you pick something out. She’ll actually love that you got her bestie involved and that you care enough to make sure it is bff-approved. 3) You got it alone. You either blow her away with your eye for bling… or you fail. You’ll only know you failed until a few months later when she hasn’t worn it since the night it was unwrapped.

The bracelet: perfect!

*Some sparkle advice:
– Take notice of whether she’s a gold or silver kind of girl. Stick to what she loves.
– A chain-link bracelet (like this or this) or a charm with a simple chain (like this or this) are usually safe bets.
– Sometimes the smallest stores have the best finds, and you’ll be giving her something she’s never seen before. Try antique or artsy jewelry stores.

7. Photo Albums/Frames
If you’ve just returned from a memorable trip, or you’re celebrating a milestone in your relationship, a photo book from iPhoto, Shutterfly or Picaboo is an amazing keepsake. These books are fully customizable if you have an idea in mind, or you can select from any theme and simply drag and drop your favorite moments. Read more about photo books here.  An enlarged and framed photo is also a great gift if a photo book seems like too much.

 

STEER CLEAR of…

1. A ring
Boys, we dream of the cut, clarity and carat of that other life-changing ring, but we do not want to feel dread, excitement or shock when we’re handed a velvet box that contains a ring that is only meant to adorn our index finger. Just steer clear of that whole experience. It’s what’s best for you both.

2. Lingerie
Some girls may love this gift. But in my humble opinion, it seems like a bit of a selfish offering. If you’ve got a card and dinner to pair with your premeditated desert, then this will pass for Valentine’s Day.

3.  Household Equipment
This one’s for all those mom’s out there. I personally don’t have this problem yet but I know from first-hand experience that sons seems to think there mom’s are in need of these types of things. Yes, that broom is polka dotted and this soap smells very nice, but mom does not want to be reminded of her kitchen floors on Christmas morning. Lastly, any store with the words “Tire” or “Hardware” are not shopping hotspots for the women in your lives.

4. Excuses
“I have no money” or “I’m so busy these days, I didn’t have time” or “I left my gift at home”…all these things can very well be true, but they’re also inexcusable. There are plenty of great gift ideas that do not involve money, time, effort or a calendar. If you remember an event the day of, make it a point to come up with something (planning a weekend away takes just a few minutes online and you can decide on the date together). If you are short on money, try to make her something…developing a picture costs about 5 cents and an IOU for dinner can be contingent on your next paycheck. If you’re a busy guy, watch one less hockey game and I’m sure you’ll miraculously have some time on your hands.

In the end, us girls are all different and I’m sure you know your lady much better than I do, (unless you happen to be dating a nut!) but usually the simplest thought is the greatest gift of all and is unlike any large expense or extravagant purchase. Simply put, if you tailor any of the items on this list to your girl, I’d say you’ll pass with flying colors. Happy Shopping!

We also love sparklers...just sayin'.