16 Unique Last Minute Gifts for Women from UncommonGoods

Anyone who’s ever shopped with me knows that I’m a sucker for a great gift store. The more quirky, handmade goods, the better. The Secret Agent learned this when we travelled to California last year, and I dragged him into every cute looking gift store from Venice to Palm Springs.

Usually I buy my gifts in brick and mortar stores, so my curiosity was peaked when UncommonGoods contacted me about their products. UncommonGoods is an online store that carries creatively designed products from emerging designers, seasoned artists and artisans working collaboratively in a low income countries. The result is an online community chock full of fun, quirky and beautiful made products that each come with their own story. A quick peruse of the site and I found everything from unique Home Decor  and Personalized Wedding Gifts to gorgeous handmade jewelry.

UncommonGoods is also a socially responsible company that sells sustainable, ethical and cruelty free products – something that’s very important to me. They founded the Better to Give Program in 2001, which allows you to select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation at checkout. They’re also a founding member of B Corporation, an organization created to help customers understand the social and environmental impact of their purchases. You can read more about their story here.

If you’re still looking for the perfect last minute gift, here are some of my favorite gifts for women (or men!) from the store. 
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For the friend who’s always instagramming tacos.

  • Mismatched Taco and Hot Sauce Earrings: Does your BFF hashtag everything with #tacosarelife? Do you want to let them know that you think you guys go together like Carne Asada and a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce? These adorable taco & hot sauce earrings should do the trick.
  • Break the Bank Piñata: Help your taco-obsessed buddy save up for more tacos with this handy piñata piggy bank. Because #financialresponsibility and stuff.
  • Tacosaurus Knee High Socks: If you have someone in your life who writes or reads a lot…or maybe just really, really loves tacos (me!), these cozy socks are perfect for keeping warm.
  • DIY Tamale Kit:  Fun story: I love tacos (duh) and I love Tamales. One of the things I miss most about Toronto is the Nicaraguan restaurant near my old house that made amazing jumbo sized Tamales. I’d eat them at least once a week. Sadly though, it’s next to impossible to find a good tamale in my hometown. Enter the Tamale making kit! This is perfect for your friend who loves Latin American comfort food or is a total foodie (or both!)

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For the woman who loves reading in bed  and a night of cocktails in equal measure.

  • Bedside Essentials Pocket: I love to read and binge watch shows to my heart’s content, but I hate it when I misplace my remote, headphones or e-reader. This elegant grey felt much helps keep all of your bedside or couch-cuddling essentials handy. Slide the sturdy flap between your mattress and foundation or under your couch cushion, and the soft, open pocket holds everything from books to remote controls.
  • Pineapple Tumbler: Perfect for the hostess with the mostess, this gold pineapple shaped tumbler screams tropical inspired glamour.
  • Simple Sun Studs: I adore these gorgeous gold earrings. They’re incredibly minimal, but I can’t help but think of the Great Gatsby whenever I see them.
  • Simple Sun Necklace: Annnnnd….there’s a necklace too! Both of these pieces are perfect for anyone who loves a touch of understated glamour.

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For that special lady friend who enjoys meaningful, handmade items.

  • Rough Diamond Solitaire Ring: If I was to buy myself a diamond ring, it would look something like this. I adore the combination of organic, imperfect lines and a sparkling stone.
  • Serotonin Necklace: This modern sterling silver pendant is a sophisticated interpretation of our “happiness” molecule, serotonin. As someone who is serotonin deficient, this pendant seems extra special to me and serves as the perfect reminder to be kind to myself when it comes to my mental health. Run your fingers over the braille whenever you need reassurance that everything is going to be OK.
  • “She Believed She Could” Sterling Silver Ring. I love, love, love jewelry that comes with extra meaning. This handcrafted silver ring that’s engraved with the words “she believed she could, so she did” is a wearable reminder to chase your dreams.
  • Floral Batik Kimono Robe. I love me a good robe. Wrap yourself in a bouquet of lush lilacs, blushing hydrangeas, and fuchsia orchids with this gorgeous abstracted robe handmade by artisans in Indonesia.

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For the quirky home decor junkie.

  • Handwoven Friendship Basket: Hand-woven by craftswomen using traditional techniques, these cathedral-shaped “friendship” baskets are the signature vessel of Rwanda and add a beautiful, unique touch to any room.  While you’re at it, check out some of the other gorgeous handmade baskets available.
  • Neon State Art: Let your love for a beloved state shine with this neon wall art. The iconic silhouettes of your choice of New York, Florida, or California are rendered in radiant neon tubing accented with an illuminated heart. I’m biased to the California one, natch.
  • Hand Embroidered State Pillow: I saw these vintage inspired embroidered State pillows at a store in Santa Monica and have been obsessed ever since.
  • Black Cat Pillow: a cat lady at heart, I couldn’t resist this pillow that looks just like my Matilda. The pillow is knit from 100% baby alpaca wool by a self-managed collective of women in Bolivia. Production of these pillows provides a living wage that helps bring health care and education to their families.

Which gift is your favourite?

*This post was sponsored by UncommonGoods. All views are my own because that’s how I roll. Thanks for supporting the branded posts that support this blog. 

Shoe Addicts: Meet the Shoes.com Store in Toronto

When people ask me what I miss most about Toronto, I usually mention the shopping. During the time I lived in the city I was extremely spoiled when it came to my retail options. I never shopped online because if I needed something, I could literally step out of my door and find it. My office was located a stones throw away from stores like Zara, H&M and Holt Renfrew (Canada’s answer to Neiman Marcus or Saks.) If I wanted to browse Chanel and Prada on my lunch break, I could. Even when I started working from home, I could easily walk down to Queen St West or take a short subway ride to a bunch of different shopping areas.

While shopping in Victoria, BC isn’t terrible – we have a decent selection of vintage stores and indie boutiques – when it comes to name-brand items (like finding that sought after pair of Nikes that you’ve been jones-ing for), the selection often leaves a bit to be desired. Since moving back to the West Coast, I find that I do way more shopping online.

Since Zappos no longer ships to Canada and buying from the States can involve hefty duty fees and/or ridiculously pricey shipping, I do a lot of my shoe shopping via SHOEMe.ca – a Canadian online retailer based out of Vancouver. So, I was really excited to find out that that ShoeMe.ca had recently opened a brick and mortar Shoes.com store on Queen West (my old stomping grounds!) Since I wasn’t able to be there in person, their lovely PR manager gave me a tour of the new space via FaceTime.

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The 3000 square foot space, designed by Canadian architecture and interior design firm, Dialog, originally opened as a pop-up shop in November 2015 and has since become a permanent store.

It probably seems counterintuitive that a company would open a physical store after achieving online success (isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?!) but Shoeme.ca wanted to bring the digital experience to life for their customers.  By the sounds of it, they’ve done just that.

The front space of the Toronto store is named the ‘Home Room’ and reflects the products and messaging of the Homepage on SHOEme.ca. The mirrors in the Home Room create an optical illusion of an endless selection of shoes, just like the online experience.

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The middle of the store is called the ‘Dressing Room’. This space host 5-6 new brands every two months with the goal of allowing customers to discover the styles, stories and the people behind new brands, while rediscovering brands they know and love.

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However, my favourite part of the space has to be the ‘Editors Room’ which is located at the back of the store. Designed as a community space for workshops, speaker sessions and/or taking a break from shopping over a coffee with friends, the Editor Room also displays curated collections of local handmade products by well-known Toronto makers.

Coffee + Shoes = Swoon.

Behold this South Western themed curated vignette that makes my West Coast girl spidey-senses tingle.

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Also located at the back of the store are computer stations where you can access the Smart Shopper tool. Instead of browsing through 1000’s of shoes, Smart Shopper is an AI-powered shopping experience that uses visual intelligence technology to show right product, to the right consumer, at the right time. As you click on product images, Smart Shopper rapidly learns your unique style preferences. The tool identifies and draws connections between hundreds of shoe attributes, creating a deep understanding of the individual’s personal style preferences.

To fuel my shoe addiction and so I could test out the Smart Shopper tool for myself, the lovely team at Shoeme.ca sent me a gift certificate. A few minutes and clicks later, I was lead to the Steve Madden Nilunda sandals – a gorgeous pair of shoes that I didn’t even know I needed.

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About a week later, my shoes arrived and I was able to wear them out for drinks with friends to celebrate my 36th birthday. Made of real suede, the leather is super soft and the heel is the perfect height. These are honestly some of the most comfortable heels I own.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my SHOEme.ca shopping experience (both virtually and online.) I try to always support Canadian retailers, so that my money stays in Canada. So, while I probably won’t be able to stop by the brick & mortar Shoes.com store anytime soon, it’s great to see companies pushing the envelope when it comes to creating new and better shopping experiences for Canadians.

Why I Stopped Drinking & Started Buying Art Instead

I have a complicated relationship with alcohol. While I really enjoy a good craft cocktail or glass of wine every now and then, there’s been times when alcohol wreaked havoc on my life – namely my early 20’s when I used booze to self-medicate; drinking myself into oblivion on a regular basis. It wasn’t that I couldn’t stop drinking – I didn’t want to. I liked the feeling of being out of control. However, after a lot of soul searching, growth and (let’s be real) therapy, I’m much better at setting healthy boundaries.

Although I can have one or two drinks and stop – the urge to just keep drinking is still there (& probably always will be) and it’s unnerving. Last year I slipped back into my old habits for a month and frankly, it scared me. So, combine that with the fact that booze makes me feel terrible in the morning (hangovers when you’re 30+ are no joke); it’s just easier to avoid drinking.

Lately I’m like the opposite of a Drake song: I’ve been working hard, wearing more clothes and going out less. 

The upside of not going for drinks and/or buying wine on a regular basis is that it’s freed up some money to put towards other pursuits – like building up a small art collection. I’m not yet at the place yet where I can buy a lot of original art works (unless they’re made by family members) but I have been investing in prints of pieces I really love.

My taste is art is pretty eclectic, but I’ve noticed that I tend to be drawn to pieces that are bright, modern, pop-art influenced and/or California-esque. I love images of influential women, men, palm trees and pools. Always lots of pools (I blame my grandparents.) Anything quirky and colourful is also fair game.

Here’s some of the artists I’m really into lately.

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M. Tony Peralta of The Peralta Project  is a New York born artist that “mixes New York City Latino grit with hip-hop culture to create designs that resonate with people from all walks of life.” The result is art that’s bright, pop-y and irreverant. I just purchased this Frida Con Rolos print and am eyeing up his take on another icon: Selena. He also makes pins & a host of other clothing + accessories!

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Kii Arens is an American contemporary graphic designer, pop-artist best known for his concert prints. He’s created visuals for everyone from Diana Ross to Radiohead. I discovered his work on Instagram and fell in love with his Sade & Lauryn Hill prints (two of my all time favourites.) I visited his LA LA LAND gallery when I was in LA and was able to pick up both for my collection.

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Scott Listfield is another artist I love. I discovered his astronaut paintings on Pinterest and have been obsessed ever since. His work is full of pop culture references that beautifully illustrate the feeling of being alive in this time and place – connected yet disconnected. Also, I discovered that he has a painting named Simone (!!!) and used to carry around a small plastic dinosaur (a la Joe the Intern) whenever he’d travel – so, basically I have a major artist-soul-crush on him. I recently added the pieces above to my collection.

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I also really enjoy the work of LA-based illustrator Chris Turnham. His work focuses on everyday scenes around Los Angeles that aren’t typically illustrated – like the 6th street viaduct. All of his illustrations have an authentic dusty, smoggy quality. I have his Two Palms (above) but I’m dying to get my hands on his Yuca’s Taco stand print. As someone who recently spent 12 days in LA eating almost nothing but tacos, it feels very…essential. 

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 1.04.25 PMMy current big ticket dream purchase? This oversized print by photographer Max Wanger, appropriately titled “The Dip.” Someday it will be mine. Oh yes, someday it will be mine.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to shift my focus to making some art myself. Ever since I saw Judy Ragagli’s work in Palm Springs, I’ve been toying with the idea of turning some of Joe the Intern’s photographs into full sized art pieces.  So, I was happy when the team at BestCanvas.ca got in touch with me. BestCanvas.ca takes your favourite photos and turns them into canvas prints. Whether it’s photos of your wedding, vacation, pets or (in my case) a very muscly GI Joe, BestCanvas.ca transforms your favourite memories into ready to hang art for your home.

When I told Joe about my plans to immortalize his image on canvas, he responded with his own set of demands. (“My one request is that you prominently display my image in a place of leisure – preferably over the bed.”) Joe and I don’t always agree about everything.

While I won’t be hanging Joe’s anywhere in my bedroom (I’m really trying not to alienate future suitors), I do think there’s potential to make some great wall art.

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(photo credit)

What do you guys think?!

This post was brought to you by BestCanvas.ca. All views are my own because that’s how I roll. Thanks for supporting posts that support Skinny Dip. 

Favorite Things: July Edition

IMG_3862Image source: pensando la bronca

Does anyone else feel like they’re suffering from a permanent heavy heart this summer?  Between Orlando, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile & Dallas (+ other things), it feels like the world needs a giant get well soon card (heck, say what you will – I’m still reeling from the passing of Prince.) I imagine many of you feel the same way. So, in lieu of a more serious blog post, I’ve decided to keep things light today. I’ve learned that it’s important to stay politically engaged but also participate in things that make you feel joyful whenever you can. For me, this means spending time with people I love, tuning into my favorite podcasts, listening to amazing music & reading good books. In the spirit of sharing, here’s some of my favorite things this month.


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Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 8.33.59 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-11 at 10.36.16 AM1. Becca by Rebecca Virtue swimwear – In case you haven’t heard, I’m all about one-piece bathing suits.  bought this gorgeous black lace (crochet?) bathing suit when I was in LA and it’s honestly, the most comfortable, flattering piece of swimwear I’ve ever owned. It manages to be sexy while at the same time “sucking everything in” (without making you feel like you’re wearing a sausage casing.) The fabric is gorgeously soft & the plunge neckline is all kinds of magic. As someone with larger boobs, it’s still super supportive and keeps everything in place just like in the photo. Like I said – magic. I’d never heard of this line of swimwear but now I’m completely obsessed.

2. Kimonos – I’m late to the kimono scene. I did however, pick up a really cute one (like the one above) to wear as a poolside cover up.

3. Retro lapel pins – Raise your hand if you’re also excited about the return of lapel pins! As a kid I had a bunch of lapel pins that I would attach to my denim jacket – making me feel totally bad-ass. I’m particularly excited about this Prince pin (naturally) from one of my favorite stores in LA, Hemingway & Pickett and this Frida Kahlo pin (via Found Retail.) I’m eyeing up this Larry David pin for my sister.

4. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti – Not exactly light reading, but I could not put this book down. Some people may find Valenti’s experiences with sex, violence, sexism and feminism disturbing or jarring, but I recognized so much of my own experiences within the pages of this memoir.

5. I Will Find You by Joanna Connors – One of the best books I’ve read this year. A Cleveland journalist who was brutally raped in her early 30’s by a stranger, goes back 21 years later to investigate the man who raped her and find out who he was. The result is a memoir that’s totally riveting and full of emotional gut punches.

6. It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright – Spanning centuries and cultures, this laugh out loud book covers some of the historically worst breakups from ancient Rome to 1950’s Hollywood. Witty and informative, this is history of heartbreak-replete with be-headings, uprisings, creepy sex dolls, and celebrity gossip-and its disastrously bad consequences throughout time.

7. 2 Dope Queens – Most of the podcasts I listen to are…how should I put this? Very murder-y. I love true crime and legal podcasts like Undisclosed and Truth & Justice. This podcast hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson is the polar opposite (and let’s be real – probably good for my mental health.) Along with their favorite comedians, Jessica & Phoebe discuss dating, sex, race, pop culture and more. The result is totally hilarious & life-affirming. I highly recommend it & literally cannot wait for season two. Joe the Intern is also a fan.

8. Dear Sugar Radio – How did I not know that one of my favorite authors Cheryl Strayed co-hosted a podcast?! I’m also late to the party here, but this podcast gives me all the feels and is just so, so, good. If you loved Dear Sugar the book, you’ll enjoy this too.

9. Reply All: On the Inside podcast series OK, so this one is totally murder-y. If you’re looking for something to soothe your cravings for Serial Season 1, this four part series (“On the Inside”) is the closest thing I’ve found yet – and it’s fantastic. Listen. You won’t be disappointed.

10. Gavin Turek – Love soul music? You need to check out Gavin Turek. She’s a mix of disco/soul and toured with Mayer Hawthorne. I went to see her twice while I was in LA because she was doing a residency at a local club. She’s amazing. I’ve had her “You’re Invited” album on repeat ever since.

What are you loving, listening to and/or reading this summer?

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Favorite Things: Valentine’s Edition

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 12.17.41 PMValentine’s Day has meant many different things to me over the years. Good times. Bad times. Awkward dates. I’ve embraced it wholeheartedly some years (planning a weekend away with friends) and scorned it other years (stayed at home eating chocolate and watching The Hurt Locker.) I’m sure as I continue to grow and evolve, so will my relationship to Valentine’s Day. Now that I write about love, sex and dating for a living, Valentine’s Day feels more like a two month long work event – not that I mind. I actually think that Valentine’s Day is really fun – after all, it is the season of one of my favorite color palettes. So, I’ve decided that going forward, I’m going to make a point to enjoy Valentine’s Day in all it’s puffy heart glory – no matter what.

My best friend and I have a fun getaway planned for the following weekend, so I’m going to spend Sunday being cozy and enjoying some of my favorite books, shows and podcasts. If you’re looking to inject a bit of fun or pampering into your V-day this year, here are some of things me and the rest of the team at Skinny Dip are currently obsessed with.

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1. This Betsey Johnson “Pop Art” Robe – While sexy lingerie is great and all, never underestimate the awesomeness of a cozy bathrobe. This pop art inspired robe by Betsey Johnson is perfect for a sex and relationship writer like me, who probably spends more time than she should in cozy lounge wear.

2. The perfect work bag – If I was going to plurge on anything this Valentine’s Day, it would be this bag by Rebecca Minkoff. I spend a lot of time going to and from the coffee shop, meetings and traveling, so I’m always on the lookout for a sturdy, stylish tote to cart my laptop and other necessities around in. I like how the bag is just structured enough without being bulky. However, if I was to actually purchase one, I’d get the larger MAB tote in black to match my heart. (Kidding. About the heart, not the bag.)

3. The Giving Keys (Jewelry) – I’m a huge fan of jewelry that has meaning. Based in downtown Los Angeles, The Giving Keys employ people transitioning out of homelessness. They engrave recycled keys that are then turned into jewelry. When I read about the company’s story online, I fell in love with the idea and ordered myself a key necklace that says “Brave” as a Christmas present. If you’ve ever been to Downtown LA or the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, you’re aware that homelessness is a very real problem. So, I really like supporting a company that is making gorgeous products infused with personal meaning while helping the community. I think my next purchase will be a bracelet or something from the love collection.

4. Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour by Dita Von Teese – If what you’re after is the perfect retro glamor beauty look, Dita’s new book is right up your alley. I really liked Dita’s coffee table book Burlesque & The Art of Teese and am curious to see what this one has in store. At the very least, I think it will offer some alternative beauty inspiration for those of us out there who prefer a classic red lip and arched brows, to the ubiquitous, airbrushed and contoured-to-hell, Kardashian-esque makeup look that seems to be all the rage right now.

5. Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney – “I’ve been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face.” So begins Heaney’s memoir about being very unlucky in love. I haven’t actually read this one yet, but it’s sitting on the top of my to-read pile. By the sounds of it, this laugh out loud memoir is the perfect anti-love story to indulge in this weekend.

6. I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner – I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but this memoir about dating disasters and all the life lessons that can be pulled from the wreckage, is still one of my favorites as far as anti-Valentine’s day reads. It’s a must-read if you enjoy this blog.

7. And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould – The title says it all. Although the book got mixed reviews, I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. Gould perfectly captures early 20-something angst & everything that goes along with it.

8. Lianne La Havas – Blood As far as albums go, this one is nearly flawless. Lianne’s voice – which is equal parts strong and breathy – is simply gorgeous. I can easily listen to this album on repeat without ever pressing skip. Also, the cover art? Swoon.

9. Jane the Virgin – I am completely in love with this show. It’s tongue in cheek, ridiculously addictive and features a host of strong female characters. It’s also not hard to love Gina Rodriguez’ performance as Jane. This show reminds me of another favorite: Ugly Betty. I can’t believe it took me this long to start watching.

What are you currently obsessed with?

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