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HOLIDAYS

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The Answer To All Your Last Minute Holiday Shopping Needs

The idea of going into the final week before Christmas without one gift being purchased yet would cause most folks insane anxiety. Rightfully so, if you expect to be picking up all the gifts on your list from *gasp* the MALL! I have learned from years of unnecessary panicking that last minute mall shopping is not the way to go if you want to enjoy the holidays without getting high blood pressure by December 24th. My motto has simply become this…No mall. No lines. No stress. It’s really just that simple and it means I get to chill and actually enjoy the holidays.

 

There are a handful of online retailers that I rely on during this time of the year, but I swear, Best Buy is the move for last minute shoppers. Why? Their “Reserve + Pick-Up” service is the ultimate destination for all the tech-obsessed people on your list, even the youngest ones. It’s actually brilliant and so incredibly efficient. A couple of days ago I reserved some items online and seriously within 20 minutes, I had received a confirmation notifying me that they were not only set aside at the store but also ready to be picked up at the Best Buy location closest to my house.

I got a chance to test out the service earlier this week when I ordered a special little pre-holiday surprise for my little girl that was delivered to our home by a Best Buy Blue Shirt employee. I partnered with Best Buy to add an extra-special step to this already awesome service – even though this is a service they don’t offer, we had the opportunity to have the gift delivered to our home by a Best Buy Blue Shirt employee to capture the full-effect of the surprise. It was actually really cute. We cruised the website until she found something that made her squeal and giggle. Not surprisingly, it was the Spin Master Zoomer Playful Pup. A bit of a mature toy for her but the kid is obsessed with dogs and a toy robot dog that can roll over, bark and answer to commands is the coolest gift ever, so I could never say no.

Reserve + Pick-Up is available all the way until December 24th, so Best Buy has you covered down to the wire. Just find the items you want, click the “Reserve in Store” icon and choose a location nearest you for pickup. An email confirmation is sent shortly after notifying you that everything is good to go for pick-up and will be kept on hold for you to pick up within 24 hours.

Ok guys, its probably time to stop reading about how to shop stress free this season. Let’s get you actually shopping and crossing items of your gift giving list right now by heading to BestBuy.ca.

7 Ways to Avoid The Festive 15 This Holiday Season

It has arrived. The time of year that I like to refer to as the “Danger Zone“.  Sure, we’ve attended a handful of pre-holiday parties and most of us have done a great job in pacing ourselves when it comes to our food and cocktail intake. Until now. The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years is when most people are likely to succumb to their weaknesses and over indulge. And how can we not…? If you’re lucky, during the holidays you are spending more time at home if you have taken a few days off, however that can mean unlimited access to the kitchen. Family and friends you go all year without seeing, invite you over and how could this not be a cause for celebration, right? Pair that with the temperature dropping far below zero, hectic holiday schedules, cocktail parties, dinner parties and missed workouts – it’s virtually impossible to escape the dreaded Festive 15. Ok, so calling it the “Festive 15” may be slightly dramatic because who really gains 15 lbs in the span of two weeks BUT by the time the New Year rolls around, it can sure feel like you have.

After feeling like complete and utter crap come January 2nd due to self induced food comas, a couple years ago I vowed to never start off the New Year feeling like I have to put in work to get back to my pre holiday weight. So, consider this my prezzie to you all, here’s 7 full proof ways to avoid weight gain during the holidays:


START YOUR DAY WITH PROTEIN

The way you start your day, is the way you live your life. Eating a protein-rich brekkie combined with some complex carbs, is like a match made in heaven.  Not like you need another reason to devour some Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs, otherwise known as the most popular meal posted on Instagram! This approach will help you feel full longer, prevent you from unhealthy snacking and give you the energy to tackle the day. You’ll also have enough energy to exercise and have the confidence to say “No” to unnecessary sweets.

A SHORT WORKOUT IS BETTER THAN NO WORKOUT!

Let’s not fool ourselves, most find fitting in daily workouts a challenge, so when the holiday season rolls around it seems virtually impossible to get to the gym. The only way to avoid skipping workouts when your schedule is tight is to make them both convenient and accessible.  For those days you can’t make it to the gym or your favourite class, make sure to have a backup plan to workout at home using your own body weight and minimal equipment. Exercise videos and apps, like my faves on AppleTV, are amazing options too. Invest in a medicine ball, resistance bands, skipping rope and/or a kettle bell that can you give you an effective total body workout right in the comfort of your living room.

AVOID BANKING CALORIES

I remember my younger days when I somehow convinced myself that if I cut back on my calories throughout the day, I could indulge at an event later that night. DUMBEST IDEA EVER! This theory, fuelled only by ignorance, just leads to pigging out. Why? You’re effing starving! It’s easy to get out of control when you’re faced with so many delicious options at a party. Always, and I mean always, eat a little something prior to leaving the house. First and foremost, if you’re a picky eater or have food restrictions, you won’t die of starvation for example if the hostess forgets that you’re a vegan or gluten intolerant. More importantly, it will take some of the hunger edge off but still leave you with some room to eat only what you need and nothing more once you arrive.

A mini plate of protein and veggies are my go-to; a salad with chicken or a piece of salmon with veggies. In my personal opinion, this is single-handedly the most underrated tip to avoid a weight gain, bloating, indigestion and binge eating during the holiday season.

CUT BACK ON BUBBLY BEVERAGES – OF ALL KINDS

Yep, I bet you never believed me – the lover of all champagnes and Prosecco, would be saying this however sadly it’s true. Bubbles are not our friends and is the biggest culprit of belly bloat. Even soda and sparkling mineral water like my current obsession Bottle Green, can be an issue. The carbon dioxide trapped in the bubbles of fizzy drinks causes a build up of air, which can often lead to gas.

AVOID MORNING-AFTER FOOD

Are you hosting family and friends at your place this year? Allow yourself to enjoy the meal you prepared or the items your visitors brings as part of a potluck but be sure to send your guests home with food filled tupperware. You may feel as though the tasty leftovers should be your compensation for being such a gracious host, but believe me, it’s the leftovers that will do you in!

BREW SOME HERBAL TEAS

Photo by Jess Baumung

This one should come as absolutely no surprise but research shows that herbal teas like peppermint and ginger, in addition to chamomile,  can help calm stomach muscles and reduce gas. No teabags in sight in your pantry? Boiling a knob of raw ginger in a pot of water or a cup of hot water with lemon can also do the trick.

DON’T SWEAR OFF DESSERTS

Remember that time when Mariah Carey was doing the “morsel diet” a decade ago where she would literally eat only three bites of any food she wanted, before discarding it to limit her intake of calories? Definitely not a healthy or recommended approach for weight management, but this method is quite effective and the perfect plan of attack for the dessert table during the holidays for people like me, who have a wicked sweet tooth. You’ll get that amazing first taste, a satisfying middle one and then the lingering third bite – that should have you satisfied.

Taking My Look from Day to Night with First Canadian Place

Toronto’s Financial District is famously known for its architecturally stunning office towers, restaurants and as the shoot location for cult fave legal show “Suits” but unbeknownst to many, the city’s best kept retail secret lives underground inside First Canadian Place and Exchange Tower. I discovered this gem a couple years ago while trying to seek refuge from the cold winter temps after a workout at Equinox down in the PATH. What I found that day below the cluster of buildings was almost another world in itself, with stores satisfying all one’s needs.

First Canadian Place Exchange Tower

First Canadian Place #MyFCPEx

First Canadian Place Exchange Tower

It is not unusual for me to not have time to go home between work and evening events, so I make an extra effort to dress in an outfit that can easily be transitioned from day to night with just a few simple edits – like the change of a jacket, accessories and lip colour. Located conveniently in the downtown core and close to many of my client’s offices, First Canadian Place has become my one-stop shop for clothing, footwear, accessory and beauty needs when I’m on the go.

The success of a transitional look for me starts with colour. Blacks and neutrals are by far the easiest to dress up and dress down – and seriously nobody ever looks bad in black. Second, you can never go wrong with leather when it’s done right folks. Leather pants and skirts, the latter at an appropriate length of course, has become acceptable for daywear in the office and with just some minor changes to your outfit can be chic and even sexy for the evening. Last but not least, a black turtleneck will always be a standard item in my closet. It works well no matter what proportion you’re wearing on the bottom. They are light enough to be layered under a warmer coat but generally warm enough to be worn under a leather moto jacket. These two looks were pulled together in a pinch from two of my go-to boutiques at First Canadian Place – Hangar 9 and Sisley/Benetton.  If you were born in the 80’s and the 90’s was a time you got to first express yourself with fashion, you will remember Benetton for it’s classic Rugby shirts and colourfully diverse campaign ads. The brand’s older, more refined sibling, Sisley, is the perfect spot for office separates and more. If you have yet to step foot into Hangar 9, then I highly suggest you rank it high on your list of things to do this month and brace yourself friends, you will be overwhelmed by the pieces from Derek Lam, Maison Marie Saint Pierre, Missoni, Iro Paris, Helmut Lang, Carven and more carefully curated by the boutique’s owner Rachel.

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My Rag and Bone leather jeans, turtleneck from Sisley and black shoes works quite well for my day to night look. I paired a long vest as my outerwear for my day look and since I am not a fan of briefcases or standard laptop bags, I opted for this beautiful oversized clutch, that is actually large enough to fit my MacBook and other small personal items. And of course sunnies. I never leave home without a pair (or two) and this Chanel pair has a dramatic mirrored lens that I love.

First Canadian Place

First Canadian Place Exchange Tower

FCP

First Canadian Place Exchange Tower

Opting for more a more street than chic look for after work cocktails or an event, I replaced the long coat with a buttery soft pink lambskin leather moto jacket from Iro Paris and ditched the oversized clutch for a smaller bag for evening that comes with the cutest fur accessory. And even though the black Chanel’s would have worked well with my night look, I just couldn’t resist these Miu Miu’s and it’s pink velvet case. If you love sunglasses as much as I do, you will find endless pairs you will want to add to your collection from Specs and Contacts, also inside Exchange Tower.

First Canadian Place Exchange Tower

First Canadian Place

First Canadian PlacePhotography by Lindsey Drennan

What I’m Wearing: Leather Jeans (Rag & Bone), Black Coat, Leather Iro Paris Jacket, Handbags courtesy of Hangar 9. Turtleneck courtesy of Sisley, Sunglasses (Chanel and Miu Miu) courtesy of Contacts and Specs all at First Canadian Place

Close to Toronto’s financial district? Make First Canadian Place your first destination for all your shopping needs this holiday season. For shopper’s convenience, First Canadian Place and Exchange Tower will be open Saturday’s starting this Saturday November 19th until Saturday December 17th with FREE parking . Retailers will be open from 11AM – 5PM. Enjoy the holiday shopping without the holiday stress!

Home for the Holidays inside Shangri-La Toronto’s Winter Wonderland Suite

ShangriLa Winter Wonderland

There is something very special about Shangri-La hotels. The Toronto property is one I frequent quite often whether it be for drinks in the lobby bar with friends, a meal at their signature restaurant Bosk, a leisure afternoon enjoying their famed high tea service or for a quick staycation when I’m in need of some R&R. All the guest rooms and suites are roomy and well appointed here but there is one suite that has a special place in my heart. The Garden Suite, which you may have seen covered here earlier this year, has become my “home away from home”. For the very first time, the suite has been transformed into a luxurious Winter Wonderland by the renowned design team at House & Home magazine and is the perfect oasis for visiting family members from out of town or the perfect gift to yourself, if you’re looking for our own personal retreat during this busy time of the year.

Winter Wonderland Suite Living Room

Close up of living room Winter Wonderland Suite

After an intense travel schedule over the last couple of months, my little family and I checked into the Shangri-La for some quality time and relaxation. Even with so much going on around the city during this time of year, we enjoyed just lazing around in our robes, watching Netflix, and using the properties amazing amenities and facilities. As per usual, there was nothing overlooked during our stay. The Shang staff pays extremely high attention to detail and never fails to surprise me when they go the extra distance during my stays. Even our pup was set up with an oversized plush dog bed, beautiful feeding bowls and bottled water to ensure she had the comforts of home.

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Close up of master Bed in Winter Wonderland Suite

ShangriLa Winter Wonderland

ShangriLa Toronto

ShangriLa Winter Wonderland

Private Patio Winter Wonderland Suite

Decorated in just the around amount of holiday accents; including a collection of books and decor from Indigo’s holiday collection, classic wreaths, pine cones, icy hues, faux fur with hints of inspo from the Great White North, makes this the perfect space to get into the holiday spirit. Every square inch of this Winter Wonderland suite oozes comfort and style and designed to make you forget that you are not a home. With an oversized walk-in wardrobe, four poster bed, chevron wood floors – usually a favourite of guests staying here, a master bathroom that drips in natural sunlight with floor to ceiling cararra marble and a secondary full sized washroom; I can guarantee that this suite is nicer than most condos in Toronto.  And if 800 Sqft of living space inside wasn’t enough, the re-styled accommodations also boasts a large private patio overlooking central downtown and features hints of festive magic. With this mild winter weather, one could easily host their own mini holiday cocktail party under the stars or enjoy a hot-toddy alone with their special person:

We are thrilled to be partnering with House and Home and Indigo to decorate the hotel’s first ever Winter Wonderland suite” says Shangri-La Toronto General Manager Richard Cooke. “We see this collaboration as an opportunity to delight our guests with a one of a kind experience whilst providing the unique Asian hospitality we are known for throughout the world.”

Check out the video below to get some behind the scenes access into the creation of the Winter Wonderland suite by House & Home’s Joel Bray (Editorial Design Team) and Reiko Caron (Stylist for House & Home Online TV)…

One of my favourite things to enjoy when I’m home and have a day off is high tea at Shangri-La. From now until January 3rd, their tea service is extra special  with a “Nutcracker” themed menu where each delicious item reflects a different a part of the famed ballet production. You can expect all the usual high tea extravagances such as clotted cream, house-made berry jam and honey, to go with classic and warm candied ginger scones. The selection of finger sandwiches is just incredible with my personal faves being the roasted turkey with cranberry preserve on herb country bread, truffle poached egg salad on granary bread and the lobster with herb mayonnaise on brioche buns. All followed by delish Nutcracker inspired pastries. You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy this afternoon treat and it’s the perfect add-on to a day of holiday shopping or after taking in the Nutcracker ballet across the street at the Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre.

Winter Wonderland Shangri La

Winter Wonderland Shangri-La TorontoPhotography by Teddy Chau and Nathalia Allen

Want a chance to experience a night in this heavenly oasis for yourself? Throughout the month of December, to celebrate the launch of the newly re-designed Winter Wonderland suite, The Shangri-La Toronto has created the “Wish Me A Winter Wonderland Stay” contest on Instagram for a chance to win a luxurious weekend stay in this signature suite, that also includes dinner for two at Bosk. To enter all you will need to is:

1) Follow @ShangriLaTo on Instagram

2) Post a photo of your “Winter must-haves” and tag @ShangriLaTO and use the hashtag #OasisAtShangriLa

*Contest ends December 21st, 2015. Click here for additional contest details and best of luck!

Current rate for the Winter Wonderland suite is $3,030 CDN and includes breakfast for two and valet. For additional information on the Shangri-La Toronto property, pricing, and availability, head to Shangri-La.com/Toronto or call 647-788-8888.

7 Ways To Avoid Weight Gain This Holiday Season

weight-management-scale

The holiday season is here and with it comes copious amounts of calorie laden drinks, home baked goods and carb filled sides. You don’t have to stay away from these items completely, but you will need to at least be conscious of your “holiday habits if you want to come out on the other side the same size.  Here’s 7 tips to help you keep off the extra weight during the holidays!

1. Never go to a party hungry. Eating a small snack or even a piece of fruit before heading to a holiday party can certainly take the edge off hunger and help you from overeating on carbs. Drinking 1-2 large glasses of water can also be beneficial.

Holiday Spread

2. Scope out the buffet table. Check out the healthiest choices before filling up your plate. Then, aim for filling half your plate with veggies and the rest with lean protein like skinless roasted turkey or seafood.

3. Escape the couch and get outdoors. Get out of the living room and get active with your friends and family. Choose fulfilled activities that encourage you to venture outdoors such as skating, sledding or venture for a walk to take in the neighbourhood lights.

Equinox TorontoPhoto by Nathalia Allen www.amillionminds.ca (@amillionminds)

4. Get moving inside. If staying indoors is the only option, there are plenty of ways to stay active.  Hit up a class at your gym that you’ve never tried before. Having an instructor and fellow classmates will help keep you motivated. No access to a gym? Try one of the “Get Focused” 15 minute workouts on the Nike NTC+ app. Hosting a holiday party? Get in a good workout prepping for guests arrival…did you know heavy duty cleaning can burn up to 300 calories an hour?

5. Try the one-a-day program. Limit yourself to one indulgence per day. Don’t deprive yourself of all sugar for the entire holiday break, that will just lead to a binge disaster between now and January 31st. Be moderate in your thought process – one cookie, one eggnog, one slice of cake, just not all at once.

Eggnog Getty Image

6. Be mindful of the liquid calories. Festive drinks may be fun to sip, especially the bubbly kind but make sure to drink in moderation as they can be full of empty calories and tons of sugar (it pains me to admit that one cup of eggnog contains 340 calories).

7. Sleep. This is so underrated. Studies show that a lack of sleep can actually slow the metabolism and increase cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that prompts your body to store fat and gain weight. Sleep isn’t just for your mental health, but also for your physical health so be sure to get 8 hours of rest a night.

2014 So Sasha Holiday Gift Guide For Him

2014 Holiday Gift Guide For Men

Coming up with your own personal wish list is always easy and fun, however not so much when you need to buy for someone else – especially when it’s for your beau who has everything. I have carefully curated a small list of  items from my favourite stores and online shops that will no doubt make your man extremely happy (and very stylish!)

1. Aether Cone Wireless Speakers ($399).  Wireless speakers are nothing new but Cone’s capabilities will blow you away. It learns what, when and how someone likes to listen to music. When it’s turned on, it will automatically play what the listener loves with amazing sound quality. Small enough that it can be brought anywhere. Simple to use. Beautifully crafted and if that’s not enough, it even responds to voice commands.

Aether Cone Speaker2. Rag & Bone Cashmere Beanie ($135).  Crafted from extra soft ribbed cashmere, this grey beanie from cult contemporary brand Rag & Bone is a fall/winter wardrobe essential. Both comfy and snug, you will have to beg him to take it off.

3. Nike Flystepper 2K3 ($125). Whether he’s a lover of basketball or simply likes the swag and off court fashion of a ball player, there is no doubt he will be into this street wear sneaker inspired by the basketball shoe with the same name.  The Nike Flystepper also comes in a Black/White/Grey colour way but the all black version is classic and can be dressed up or down.

Nike Flystepper 2K3

4. Rimowa Topas Multiwheel 55cm Carry-On Case ($875). Perfect for the savvy traveller who believes that style should still exist when traveling, Rimowa’s compact rigged aluminum carry-on case is the ideal hand luggage choice. It’s spacious, light, has 360 swivel wheels and an extendible handle for easy  manoeuvring. Crafted to the German company’s high standards, it makes an outstanding gift for any man with a case of wanderlust.

5. RW&Co Reversible Puffer Jacket ($140). Not every single day during winter calls for a parka. Some days call for a lighter jacket that your guy can layer over his go-to cashmere sweaters for a casual yet chic look. And the bonus, this topper from RW&Co is reversible, so it’s basically two jackets for the price of one!

RW&Co Reversible Puffer Jacket

6. Byredo Sunday Cologne ($250). I am not sure why Byredo called this scent Sunday Cologne because I am pretty damn sure he will want to wear it every day of the week. Buying a scent for someone else other than yourself can be a bit challenging but this one is so versatile and timeless, anyone can easily make it their signature scent.  With a patchouli base and mixed notes of incense, lavender, cardamon and bold bergamot, it’s the type of cologne you want to spray on your clothes as a reminder of your guy when he’s not around.

7. RW&Co’s Canvas Knapsack ($70). This versatile backpack from RW&Co is ideal for both weekdays and weekend getaways with tons of room. For those who have a laid back office style, it could even be used as a computer bag. The canvas and vegan leather details on the exterior will be sure to grab some attention but not to be out down by the unique paisley print interior.

Men's-Blue-Theme-BackPack-

8. Leica x “Edition Moncler” Camera ($2,950). The ideal gift for your gadget loving dude or fashionable friend who prefers to capture images with a real camera instead of his iPhone. With a leatherette stripped cladding in the classic Moncler logo colours, 16.5 megapixels , this cam also includes a special edition white leather carrying case.

Leica x Moncler Camera

2014 So Sasha Holiday Gift Guide For Her

So Sasha Holiday Gift Guide For Her 2014

Another holiday season is upon us and during this time it’s easy to get sidetracked by year end work deadlines and an obscene amount of  seasonal parties. So where does this leave the task of purchasing gifts for your loved ones? I think it’s safe to say that it falls pretty low on the list of things “to-do” and when left for last minute, it can lead to a lot of anxiety. Although I can’t physically go out and buy the gifts for your loved ones, I can certainly help out with some gift ideas that may be helpful when you begin your shopping. I’ve rounded up a lust list of items that would make perfect gifts for the gals in your life and perhaps you will even find something you want to add to your own wish list!

1. LITTLE BLACK DRESS  A crucial part of getting through the holidays is having the right pieces in your wardrobe and the perfect “LBD” can be a lifesaver. Although you may be a busy bee in the coming weeks shopping for family and friends, I am a big advocate of buying a little something for yourself  along the way…it’s harmless.  Whether it’s a work holiday party, cocktails with girlfriends, a chic Christmas Day dinner or a New Year’s Eve fete, the  textured dress with plunging neckline I’m wearing above from the Elle by RW&Co Limited Edition ($169.99) collection is perfect for any festivity and can be worn for seasons to come. View the entire fashion forward capsule dress collection here.

So Sasha Holiday Gift Guide For Her

2 & 3. FOR THE BEAUTY OBSESSED Every beauty obsessed babe has a fave scent and “go-to” beauty makeup products that can make them smell and look fabulous in a pinch. My adoration for Diptyque candles has now turned into love for the brand’s perfume. Eau Duelle Parfum by Diptyqye ($165) is currently my favourite and has rich and deep notes featuring a sensuous bourbon vanilla scent. Makeup is a great as a stocking stuffer and Make Up For Ever’s “Beauty Kit” ($45) offers 6 of the brand’s iconic products that can create the perfect holiday look. Enclosed is the Mini HD Microperfecting Primer, Mini HD Microfinish Powder, Smoky Extravagant Mascara, Mini Aqua Eye and Lip Pencils and the perfect red lippy.

4. CAN’T GO WRONG I don’t think it matters whether a woman lives in a city with four seasons or it’s hot all year round, if she’s seriously into fashion then she will need a statement leather jacket. And seriously who does moto’s better than Scandinavian brand Acne? Their Shearling Trimmed Leather Biker Jacket   ($1,950) is a modern classic. It comes with a detachable shearling collar, luxe oversized hardware and premium lambskin leather. It will no doubt bring a smile to whomever receives it and they will be set to start the new year in style.

Holiday Gift Guide For Her Luxe City Guides

5. FOR THE HOSTESS OR SAVVY TRAVELER The ideal gift for a hostess, co-worker or a fashionista who is a well heeled traveler. This LUXE City Guides gift set ($60) will assist in navigating the fashion capital cities of the world; London, Paris, Milan, New York and Sydney. These pocket (or clutch) sized guide books advise on the best shopping, eats and drinks each city has to offer.

6. FOR THE COOL DOWNTOWN GIRL The right pair of sunnies sometimes is just the thing you need to transform an outfit and it’s better than any beauty secret when you want to cover bags under your eyes or go makeup free.  Sure, traditional black sunglasses are cool, but nothing is cooler than The Row’s Tortoiseshell Round Framed Acetate Sunglasses ($400).

Bathnogg Holiday Bath Bomb Gift Set

7. BATHROOM BLISS There is undoubtedly items that we don’t necessarily buy for ourselves but would LOVE to receive them or would definitely purchase for someone else. Bath Bomb’s products are my latest obsession and I couldn’t think of a more thoughtful gift for someone you know is in desperate need of R&R during the holiday season.  Dense in essential oils, butters and other rejuvenating components, adding one of their bombs will transport you to a beautifully smelling parallel universe. BathNogg Holiday Gift Set ($25.95).

8. SPORTY SPICE There is not much of a separation between fitness apparel and street fashion these days. For the “Sporty Spice” in your life, Nike’s Tech Pack Butterfly Hoodie ($160) is the perfect gift. It can be worn to exercise in or can be a transitional piece to take you throughout the day paired with her regular street wear. *Can be found in Nike Retail Stores, Sport Chek, and Sporting Life locations in Canada.

9.  SECRET SANTA Always get stuck with when it comes to Secret Santa gifts? I will be honest, it can be tricky to find something chic to give to someone for under $20. RW&Co has come to my rescue this season with their extensive accessories collection with luxe looking jewelry. These Vintage Inspired Button Earrings ($16) has a stunning faceted center stone flanked by a micro pave rhinestone hailo border.

Make sure to stay tuned as I will be launching a contest to give away one of these amazing gifts to a lucky follower. The giveaway will be announced on Monday December 1st at noon.

Getting To Know Ann Taylor’s Creative Director Lisa Axelson

Lisa Axelson

Not too long after launching my site I was blessed with the opportunity to partner with Ann Taylor so the company is very near and dear to my heart. Living in the U.S. for several years I was already familiar with the brand but became an official part of their family when I was named a Brand Ambassador a year and a half ago. Over the course of this time, I have seen the brand transform from creating classic workwear collections for the mature career women to really providing chic and comfy separates that fits into the lifestyle of every woman, of any age. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the woman that dresses America (and now Canada), Ann Taylor Creative Director Lisa Axelson, and got to pick her brain as to what inspires her day -to-day, insight into her personal style, current obsessions, things she can’t live without and a sneak peek at the upcoming holiday collection!

SE: Each season I look forward to seeing a new twist on the brand with the launch of each collection, with of course a few classic mainstays. What can women expect to see with your upcoming Holiday collection?

LA: I grew up between Seattle and Vancouver and there’s something about the holidays that get me nostalgic about home. Rustic and authentic rugged textures are the main theme but it was important that we made it really modern and urban for today’s woman while keeping it comfy and chic. It is all about bringing the texture into the brand that was inspired by mountains and tress. You will really see my love of knitwear this season. Taking traditional woollens and tweeds and transforming them. We have a plaid coat in black, grey and white, very traditional colours, but the wool is brushed at the mill, pressed and the inside is bonded to neoprene. Neoprene is really huge right now and gives the jacket a really great sculptural look.

Ann Taylor Winter Holiday Collection 2014

SE: Let’s chat about fabrics. There’s seems to be a wide variety of them in your upcoming holiday collection. Probably more than I have seen in any of your past collections…

LA: I love fabric in general and doing new things with fabric, especially at our price point.  You always see fabric experimentation at the high end and I feel that it’s so hard to get that level of experimentation at a lower price point. You will see quite a bit of vegan leather next season…animal friendly AND at a great price point.

SE: I took a sneak peek of the holiday collection before our chat and clearly have my faves. What pieces are near and dear to your heart that you feel will be must-haves?

LA: We have a white textured sweater that I adore and I feel resembles cracked snow. There is also a backless tuxedo jumpsuit that I wore to this year’s CFDA’s. Olivia Palermo was my date for the evening and I felt so cool and chic in my look beside her which is amazing. The bootie is my absolute hands-down favourite shoe from the entire collection. You name it; the “Biker” bootie, the “Quilted” bootie…I love them all. The leather jogger will be my go-to travel pant this Fall with a cashmere sweater and trainers. I am not schlepping around Paris in high heels…I’m just not! *laughs*

Ann Taylor 2014 Holiday Collection

Ann Taylor 2014 Holiday Collection

Ann Taylor 2014 Holiday Collection

SE: I love how passionate you are about these items. What are some of your other current obsessions these days?

LA: I am obsessed with all things comfortable. Sweatshirts in brocade fabrics, leather that is comfy and not restricted and outerwear. No closet is truly complete without a few key outerwear pieces!!!

Ann Taylor 2014 Holiday Collection

SE: I have to be completely honest, I really love your style. You seem to have perfected the “Effortlessly Chic” vibe. Can you share more on your personal style?

LA: Some days call for me to be a bit more formal, so I’m more tailored and pulled together, while on other days I’m the happiest in jeans, a cool top, a jacket over top and some sneakers. I show up to the office looking different every day depending on my work day. There are those days where I have to dash off to a dinner party afterwards in which I throw on some jewellery and exchange the sneakers for a pair of heels.

SE: In the last year or so I have noticed the brand has gone from workwear for the corporate woman to now creating chic and comfortable separates that fit into every woman’s lifestyle for a much wider age demographic. Do you feel pressure to keep up and top every season?

LA: Yes and yes. I don’t know if any of us would be any good if we didn’t feel some sort of pressure. I’ve always felt some sort of pressure since my days at design school.  I frequently have that moment and say to myself, “Oh my God, what if I don’t have the next idea? What is I can’t come up with that moment, that colour, that something that lights my fire?” To help with the design process my team and I  frequently go through the different scenarios of a woman’s life to help in developing a collection that mirrors today’s woman’s lifestyle…which is a bit of a challenge with there being little separation between work, home life and social. And it can be daunting because the deadlines come faster and faster and there’s pressure to deliver for a brand this big but we just have to get passed it and not dwell on it so we can find the inspiration.

SE: Speaking of inspiration, I have always wondered how designers and creative directors do it; find inspiration that is. Do you go out of your way to find it or do you just let it come to you?

LA: I think every designer is different, but for me I almost always have to be out of the office, like away from deadlines, tasks, like out of the work environment and from people asking me questions. *giggles*

SE: That’s pretty funny…but I am guessing you are being dead serious…

LA: Yes…it could be 3am and I’m half asleep and something hits me, a trip to Europe or a week off on Summer vacation. I just find that I have to get away from it and let my mind relax and the ideas just float to the surface. Interior design and architecture tends to flood my inspiration a lot in credit to my parents. My Dad was an Architect who owned his own firm and my Mother worked for him. I was always around it so I often look to that to get my first spark of inspiration. I actually love starting with something that’s non-fashion related because it forces you to think more openly, instead of combing the catwalks because then you are just repeating something someone already did. So I prefer looking to art, books (I love to read) that get me thinking about a storyline. Hemingway’s Moveable Feast was the inspiration for a Fall collection a few seasons ago.

Ann Taylor 2014 Holiday Collection

SE: Outside of the collection, what are three things that you just couldn’t live without?

LA: Ha…there are quite a few things that I can’t live without. First, maybe Summer vacay. Family…because without them I would never get through the hard times and my iPad – the device for all things inspiring. It’s single handedly changed my life *laughs*. Maybe not for better because it’s with me all the time. Between blogs, shopping, email, music. I do so much research and get really inspired. I mean…forget about it…Pinterest! Once I start, I can’t stop. It is like the rabbit hole.  If it’s 3am and I can’t sleep, there I am tapping and pining my life away.

After viewing some of the key pieces and what Axelson believes are the pillars to the upcoming 2014 Holiday Ann Taylor collection, I am convinced that they will have all your office party, cocktails with the girls, date nights outfit needs and everything in between covered this holiday season. I will be sure to give more updates before the collection hits stores and online. For more information on Ann Taylor and to view their current collection click here – and make sure to follow the brand on Instagram and Twitter for some style inspiration!

So Sasha 2013 Holiday Gift Guide For Her

So Sasha Holiday Gift Guide For Her

Procrastination is oh so common during this time of the year…finding the right gift for your loved ones can be a difficult task – and leaving it until the last minute can cause even the most zen person anxiety. For all of you last minute shoppers out there, I’ve rounded up some of my ultimate favourite things from this past year that would make perfect gifts for your Mother, Sister,  Besties or perhaps you will find something  that you want to add to your own wish list!

1. Byredo Eau de Parfum 1996 Inez & Vinoodh – $175: Launched late into 2013, this unisex Oriental woody fragrance is currently my favourite scent from Swedish perfume house Byredo. Founder Ben Gorham teamed up with Inez & Vinoodh for this special collaboration inspired by a photograph of a young girl entitled “Kristen 1996” taken by the fame photog duo in that year.

2. Mackage Jori Medium Crossbody Bag – $495 : Although Mackage has just entered it’s second season of accessories, one could easily believe that this leather and outerwear brand has been creating gorge, must-have bags for years. This season, the Jori Crossbody Bag was the standout star of the collection. *Also available in a black & blue combination and all black.

3. “It” by Alexa Chung – approx $20: Already a Model, TV Personality, and Designer; “Brit-It” girl Alexa Chung can now add Author to her list of achievements. Chung’s newly released hardcover book shares her influences/inspirations, musings and gives readers a glimpse into her life via drawings, pictures and personal writing.

4. Acne Studios “Merci” Leather Jacket in Grey – Original Price $2,068 Sale Price $1,448: I don’t think I’ve ever met an Acne piece I didn’t like. The brand seems to have nailed down leather moto jackets with the quality of materials used, cut and design. The proof…the brand’s “Merci” loose fit moto. The rich leather in a grey colour is absolutely stunning and allows the jacket to be worn in any season.

5. Samsung Galaxy Optical Zoom Digital Camera – $499: Shoot, edit and share your pics and videos with this tablet-like digital camera. With 16 mega pixels, it delivers crisp and clear photos and stunning Full HD video, this camera is a must for documenting special moments or for taking the perfect selfie. Best part…using the 4.8″ touchscreen , you can edit your photos to ensure they are Instagram worthy and share them immediately on your social media accounts or via email.

6. Caravelle Oversized Men’s Gold Watch – $85: There is nothing more sexy than a classic, over-sized Men’s watch on a woman and in my opinion, the bigger the better. Bulova’s newly launched watch collection inspired by New York City has beautifully crafted watches guaranteed to enhance any outfit with unbelievably attractive price points. The collection can be purchased at Sears and Ben Moss locations.

7. Thierry Lasry Deeply Sunglasses – $440: Handmade in France, Thierry Lasry frames are the epitome of chic. I got introduced to the sunglasses brand at Pink Tartan’s flagship location and immediately fell in love with the line’s aesthetic. Totally crushed out on this pair’s thick ombre frame with scaled-down lenses.

8. Mulberry Textured Leather Jewelry Case – $600: What better way for a gal to pack and carry her prize jewelry possessions than in this luxe textured leather case? The ideal gift for any savvy traveler, the case has three separate components to keep all delicate pieces separated.

Dressing for the Holidays With Pink Tartan Part One

Pink Tartan

Last week I posted about my latest visit to Pink Tartan’s flagship which included some gift ideas from the brand’s lifestyle concept store and Founder Kimberley Newport-Mimran’s top picks for dressing during the holidays. However, I have some favourite pieces of my own and worked alongside Pink Tartan’s Shane Coleman to curate four insanely amazing looks appropriate for the festive season that will be a four-part So Sasha blog series.

Pink Tartan Mongolian Fur Vest

Pink Tartan Florence Pants & Shirt

Within my circle of friends we use any and every opportunity to get together, especially during the holidays – whether for brunches, apres work cocktails, Christmas shopping dates and dinner parties. We pretty much look for any excuse to dress up and this bright look is perfect for any of the aforementioned occasions, but I would most likely wear it out for early evening cocktails. Plus, wearing colour will be sure to make you stand out amongst the crowd. Pink Tartan is known for their classic separates and these blood orange cropped pants are ultra comfortable and chic. Plus, even as a full monochromatic look paired with the matching top,  it’s somehow not overbearing.

Pink Tartan Mongolian Fur

Neutrals paired with brights work really well so we chose this beautiful Pink Tartan Mongolian fur vest, stunning Mark Cross two-toned “Scottie” bag which is sold exclusively at Pink Tartan in Canada, gold accessories and a beautiful watch from Caravelle New York.

Mark Cross Scottie Bag

Caravelle New York Gold Watch

Photography by Talya Macedo // Outfit co-styled by Shane Coleman and Alanna Levine

What I’m Wearing: Florence Pant in Blood Orange c/o Pink Tartan // Round Neck Top in Blood Orange c/o Pink Tartan // Mongolian Fur Vest (available only in Pink Tartan – $895) c/o Pink Tartan // Two-Tone Scottie handbag by Mark Cross also available in store at Pink Tartan // Gold Watch c/o Caravelle New York // Shoes by Zara (old) // Accessories c/o Ann Taylor and Karatoya

Stay updated on new items and get style inspiration for these fabulous brands on social media: Pink Tartan Twitter and Instagram // Mark Cross Twitter and Instagram // Caravelle New York Twitter and Instagram

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