Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Pure + Simple – A Holistic Guide to Natural Beauty by Kristen Ma

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have recently read the above mentioned book. I needed to educate myself more on skin care and I spotted this book at my local Pure and Simple Spa. Another skin care book I have reviewed is The Skin Type Solution by Dr. Leslie Baumann.

As you may know, I am not new to skincare regiments and lingo. I’ve been suffering from acne since grade 7, and have gone through my fair share (and then some), of dermatologists, estheticians, beauty products and prescription medicines. But I am always open to learn more about anything, and due to my vanity, I am especially interested in learning about skin care.

I wanted to read Kristen’s book, but I did not want to plunk down the $30 to buy the book. A quick search on my local library system showed there were a number of copies available. ūüôā

Onto my review.

Chapter 1: What is Natural Skincare?

Ma talks about what is natural skincare and stresses the importance of reading labels to truly determine the natural content amount. She also talks about various reasons to go natural with our skin care, including: absorption of chemicals, social responsibility and being more aware of our bodies.

Chapter 2: Skin Basics

Ma introduces us to the functions of the skin, as well as the skin’s structure. She talks about skin classification vs skin conditions.

Skin classifications are what is typically used to describe the skin, such as the following:

  • Dry skin
  • Normal skin
  • Oily skin
  • Combination skin

Skin conditions describe the condition of the skin and can vary with environment and other factors. They are as follows:

  • Dehydrated skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Unbalanced skin
  • Problem skin

Chapter 3: Ayurveda

Ma believes that Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are very important to achieving beautiful skin as these are more holistic treatments and focus on preventative manners.

Ma goes into a bit of history regarding Ayurveda and introduces the Three Doshas: Kapha, Pitta and Vata. There is also a Ayurveda questionnaire at the back to determine your individual dosha.

Chapter 4: Our Bodies Tell us So Much

Here, Ma introduces two face maps: Ayurveda and the parts of the face, and the Chinese Face Map.

The Ayurveda face map is broken into 3 parts. The forehead is the Vatta region. The cheeks and nose is the Pitta region. And lastly, the lower cheeks, jaws, lips and chin are the Kapha region. Blemishes or inflammation in each of these face regions indicate an imbalance related to a separate cause or region of the body.

The Chinese face map is more comprehensive and shows different areas of the face relating to specific organs. For instance, under-eye circles indicate weak kidneys and frown lines between the eye brows indicate an overworked liver and spleen.

Chapters 5 – 12: Various topics on how to protect and care for your skin

These chapters include the following topics and are pretty self explanatory:

Chapter 5: Ingredients to avoid. (Mainly petrolatum/ paraffinium liquidum and sodium laurel sulfates.)

Chapter 6: The importance of calming down.

Chapter 7: Glow

Chapter 8: Protect yourself (Use sunscreen, preferably a physical sunblock as opposed to a chemical sun screen.)

Chapter 9: Be Gentle (Do not use abrasive or harsh chemicals on your skin.)

Chapter 10: Decongest (Basically, a combination of natural chemical exfoiliants and physical extractions via facials)

Chapter 11: Beauty 911

Chapter 12: Skincare 101


I thought that Ma’s book was an easy and quick read. Ma touches a lot of good points about how our perspective of beauty has changed and her thoughts of natural vs “man made” beauty. She gives some background to approaching beauty in a more holistic manner, which I am huge fan of.

I think the book reads more as a magazine article than a reference book, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was reading marketing material. I learned some new things, but overall, I wasn’t overly impressed and didn’t find it as informing as I had hoped.

I hope you don’t take this review the wrong way, as it is strictly a review on the book itself – I am a huge fan of Pure and Simple spa and their products (as you will find out from my holy grail items). But this book…

I found Ma’s discussion of Ayurveda wishy-washy and I didn’t get much out of it. For me, there was a lack of information and connection between the general introduction and the explanation. Even though I found Chapter 5 – 12 had some helpful information, but I felt a lot of the information overlapped, and could have been presented more cohesively.

If you are looking for a quick and light read on natural skin care, this might be the book for you, but if you are looking for more information intensive read on skin care, I’d recommend Baumann’s book over this one.

Side note: I am a (pretty) loyal client at Pure + Simple (P&S) spas, and with the amount of P&S toiletries in my vanity, you’d think there was a mini P&S spa in my apartment. I am a huge fan of P&S products. But I wasn’t overly impressed with the book and didn’t find it as informing as I had hoped.

Have you read Kristen Ma’s Pure + Simple? What are your thoughts on the book or on natural skin care products and holistic skin treatments?



Filed under Book Review, Health

Book Review: The Entertainment Book

As you know, I’m not a big fan of Groupon and there are certain things that I will not consider a Groupon for. Though I’m not much of a coupon clipper, I still like saving money ūüôā

Enter, the Entertainment Book (EB). It is my answer to dining out and enjoying my city, without breaking the bank and IMHO, much better than Groupon.

The EB has the following sections: Casual and Dining out, Fast Food, Entertainment & Sport, Golf, Hotels, Travel and Retail. The sections with the most number of coupons are Casual Dining out and Fast Food. ūüôā

How to use the EB

The 2012 EB comes with a membership card and a smaller card that attaches to your key chain (sorry, not sure what that’s called), and of course, the book itself.

One can use the EB in 2 ways.

  1. Clip out the desired coupon and use. You don’t need to show your membership card to use the coupon, so feel free to give them to friends ūüôā
  2. Certain deals require the membership card. These deals are listed in the EB book. Just show your card and mention the deal – you don’t need to present the EB page.

Yes, it’s really that easy. And I like the EB more than Groupon because I am not bombarded with daily deals and I don’t have to pay anymore. Just a one time fee of $35 ūüôā

The Most Bang for your Buck

Dining out

Most of the dining out coupons are Buy 1 Get 1 Free. Sometimes there is a limit to one coupon per table, so you get the most bang for your buck by going with one other person. However, there are some restaurants (usually buffets) that offer the same deal for up to 4 to 6 people in a party. Make sure you read the fine print!


They have great rental car rates (from personal experience) from almost all the major car rental companies. For example, Budget has a deal where you get 20% off plus your 3rd weekend day free, and it’s reusable ūüôā

The EB has a list of hotels and their numbers for almost all the provinces (except East coast) in Canada and many US states. I haven’t tried their hotels personally, but my co-worker used it for her trip and got $60 cash back just for booking through them.

You can also order the EB for the area you are traveling to! I haven’t done this, yet. Has anyone had experience with this and would like to share?

How I use EB Coupons

The book is the size of a 400 page novel, so it’s not really convenient to carry around. Also, since the EB are usually for a “greater area” of a major city, there can be a lot of coupons that may not be my vicinity.

I like to go through the EB and clip out the coupons I will likely use. Maybe they are restaurants I frequent, or I’d like to try. Maybe a cinema close by. Or my favourite shoe store. Then, I keep that stash of coupons in my purse, so that I won’t be caught off-guard.

Even though BF also likes to save money, he doesn’t like to go to a place just because I have a coupon for it. Understandable. So I try to only use the coupon to a place that we would go anyway. Whether we had a coupon or not.


In the time that I’ve had my first EB, I find that it pays for itself easily and then some. It is most helpful for at least 2 people using it, or if one has a family. You won’t save much money from the EB by just dining out alone (unless you usually have 2 entrees).

There are a lot of admission discounts to science centers, zoos, cinemas, kids special events that would be great for families.

I haven’t figured out the online membership, yet. Last year, I think there was an extra fee of $5 to sign up for additional coupons, online so I didn’t do it. Not sure if it’s the same this year. Does anyone know?

Disclosure: I bought my first Entertainment Book from a co-worker last year for $35. This year, I got the 2012 Entertainment Book online for $30. Both with my own cash. I have not been compensated by Entertainment Book for this review, nor am I affiliated with them in any way. However, if they’d like to give me free book of better yet, offer a free one for one of my readers, that would be AWESOME!! ūüôā

Do you have the Entertainment Book for your area? What are some of your money saving tips?



Filed under Book Review

Book Review: The Skin Type Solution by Dr. Leslie Baumann

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have recently read the above mentioned book.¬† I needed to educate myself more on skin care and a friend introduced me to Dr. Baumann’s book.

As you may know, I am not new to skincare regiments and lingo.¬† I’ve been suffering from acne since grade 7, and have gone through my fair share (and then some), of dermatologists, beauty products and even prescription medicines.¬† But I am always open to learn more about anything, and due to my vanity, I am especially interested in learning about skin care.

Chapter 1: The Skin Type Revolution

Dr. Baumann is a dermatologist, researcher, and associate professor of dermatology.¬† She explains why one product that “worked wonders” on your friend, sister, co-worker, etc., may not work for you.¬† It’s because we all may have different skin types, and what works for one skin type may not work for another.

She gives some background on her credentials and explains that people usually fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • They don’t know their skin type
  • They use the wrong products for their skin type
  • They use the wrong procedures for their skin type
  • They spend much more than they should on products because they don’t know what will or will not work for them.

Chapter 2: Skin Type Categories

In order to determine our skin type, Dr. Baumann presents the 4 categories that Skin Type Solution uses to evaluate one’s skin type, and gives a description of each one.

They are the following:

  • Oily vs dry
  • Sensitive vs resistant
  • Pigmented vs non-pigmented
  • Tight vs wrinkled

Chapter 3: Discover your Skin Type

Take the questionnaire to determine your skin type.

You answer a series of questions, one category at a time based on a point system.¬† At the end of each section you tally up your scores and kazaam, you’ve got your skin type.

Chapter 4 – 19: Skin care for each of the 16 combinations of skin types

I am oily, sensitive, slightly-pigmented and tight (OSPT) type of skin (corresponds to Chapter 5 & 7).  I am on the cusp of pigmented and non-pigmented, so I will include both here.

In each skin type chapter, she has a brief section describing your skin type and what she would expect you to experience.

About your Skin Type

For my skin type, she recommends dealing with one problem at a time Рoil.    This is because by dealing with the oil, would hopefully lead to less acne and therefore, less pigmentation from acne.   Pigmentation can be caused from acne, hormones, and sun exposure.

The bad news is that acne does not end from adolescence and continues (if not treated) into our 20s and 30s.¬† The good news is that as OSPT approach their 50s and 60s (with good protection of skin), the oil production will slow down and this type usually age better than other types.¬† “Minimal wrinkles, decreased oiliness and reduced tendency to form dark spots, you enjoy skin that resists aging better than many other types.” (Baumann 82)


Baumann also talk about inflammation in the skin since acne is a form of inflammation.¬† I learned that heat sources outside of the body can also increase inflammation inside the body – such as prolonged sun exposure, sun burns, hot climates, waxing, saunas, steam rooms, steaming one’s face (i.e., facials), waxing, spicy and hot foods or chemicals peels that are too harsh.¬† These procedures or environments should be avoided.

Baumann shares different stories of her clients and techniques she used to help them deal with their problem.¬† Usually, it’s avoiding of the above procedures which lead to inflammation.

Everyday Care for your Skin Type

For my skin type, Baumann recommends:

  • preventing and treating pimples
  • preventing and treating dark spots
  • managing redness

Baumann includes a “daily skin care” routine for both a.m. and p.m. for “Stage 1: Non Prescription Regimen” for:

  • treating acne and dark spots
  • for skin redness and dark spots without acne
  • for skin redness and dark sports with acne

Baumann also includes a “daily skin care” routine for both a.m. and p.m. for “Stage 2: Prescription Regimen” to treat acne.

She includes various lists of products for each recommended cleansers, toners, acne controlling products, spot treatment products, skin-lightening gels, moisturizers, and eye creams.  She also provides recommended producs for sunscreen, foundations and facial powders.  Obviously, one may only use a few items from the list, depending on what you are treating.

Baumann also breaks down her recommended products based on approximate price categories ($, $$, $$$), and she also provides her choice and why.

Baumann also includes a list of skin ingredients to use for the following purposes:

  • to decrease skin inflammation (i.e., aloe vera, chamomile, cucumber, tea tree oil, zinc, rose water)
  • to lessen acne (i.e., benzoyl peroxide, retinol, tea tree oil,salicylic acid)
  • to prevent pigmentation (niacinamide)
  • to reduce pigmentation (i.e., cucumber extract, salicylic acid)

Baumann also includes a list of skin ingredients to avoid for the following reasons:

  • if acne prone (i.e., cocoa butter, jojoba oil, peppermint oil)
  • if you have skin allergies (i.e., benzoyl peroxide, parabens, fragrances)
  • lactic acid (if OSNT)

Further help for Oily Skin

Baumann goes further and discusses:

  • using retinoids
  • Intense Pulsed Light & Vascular Lasers
  • Botox
  • life style recommendations

What I found really interesting was eating a diet with a lot of glycemic foods can lead to acne.¬† “High glycemic foods, such as sweets, soda, certain fruits, refined grain products and cold cereals, cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels.¬† Blood glucose stimulates the release of insulin and excess insulin production can contribute to acne.” (Baumann 170)¬† It also lists fermented foods – such as cheese, cured meats or sausages as no-nos.¬† Le sigh.

Baumann recommends a diet to decrease inflammation should include eggs, fish, cool salads and zinc rich foods (i.e., oysters).


I thought that Baumanns book was very thorough and easy to understand.  She breaks down skin care into something that manageable by the individual so they can be more informed when making decisions in a market that is bombarded with promises of lotions and potions that will solve our skin care problems.

I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of her products are everyday products from my local drugstore and a lot of them are very affordable.  It seems that my dermatologist uses a similar philosophy as her, and as prescribed a very similar routine.

I won’t go into detail of the products that I use in this post.¬† But I will share it in a separate post.¬† I hope this review was helpful for the ladies and gents out there.

Have you read Leslie Baumann’s The Skin Type Solution?¬† Did her recommendations work for you?¬† If so, please share you tips and your skin type in the comments.



Filed under Book Review, Health

Book Review: The Joy of Less

This Christmas, I bought myself Francine Jay’s wonderful book to help me on my journey to a more minimalistic life. ¬†This book is great for beginner aspiring minimalists, such as myself. ¬†Reading this book, felt like having a conversation with Francine, she is witty and funny and breezes through each chapter with great tips.

Book Set-up

Francine starts with a philosophical introduction to why we can benefit by living with less.  Then, Francine goes through rooms, one-by-one to de-clutter and offers tips to keep this newly cleaned space clean and un-cluttered.  Rooms covered include: the bedroom, washroom, closets, kitchen, living room, garages, attics and basements.  Each chapter covers one room, and Francine gives the readers tips for each individual room.


Francine uses this acronym for de-cluttering each space.

S – Start over
T – Trash, Treasure or Transfer
R – Reason for each item
E – Everything in its place
A – All surfaces clear
M – Modules
L – Limits
I – If one comes in, one goes out
N – Narrow it down
E – Everyday maintenance

Trash, Treasure or Transfer

This is my favourite part of STREAMLINE. ¬†Francine recommends de-cluttering prior to re-organizing your space. ¬†There is no point in re-organizing your stuff and storing it, if your stuff is mostly junk. ¬†Better to get rid of the things you don’t use, and organize the things that serve a purpose in your life.

Your stuff should be grouped into one of the three piles. ¬†Trash pile is for things that are useless or broken (and will not be repaired). ¬†Treasure pile is for things that you use or it’s really really important to you. ¬†Transfer is for things to be given away to charity or things that need to be returned or gifted.

Francine also recommends having a temporary pile for things that you may be on the fence about.  She recommends giving a time line for how long things can stay in the temporary pile, after that, the items must either be trashed, treasured or transfered.


This is my second favourite part of STREAMLINE. ¬†Francine recommends grouping similar items and¬†similar¬†function items into “modules.” ¬†For instance, keep all your knitting stuff in a box or drawer, and that is your knitting module. ¬†This prevents your various hobbies from being strewn all over the room, and also keeps a check on how much you have for that purpose.

Clutter Attracts Clutter

This is repeated throughout Francine’s book, and it is so true! ¬†As soon as there is a bit of clutter on a surface – any surface, more things will generally land on that surface. ¬†The next thing you know, you’re digging your dining room table out from underneath a pile of junk. ¬†By completing regular sweeps of any clutter on your surfaces, you can keep your rooms tidy and clutter-free.

I think that sums up the key points of what I learned from The Joy of Less. ¬†It’s a quick and easy read for any beginner who would like to live happier with less. ¬† It’s got some pretty easy to follow guidelines, and I highly recommend to anyone who would like a bit of direction with their de-cluttering.



Filed under Book Review, Minimalism

Book Review: Money Sense Guide to Retiring Wealthy

A week ago, I received a copy of the above book from the Canadian Capitalist giveaway. ¬†¬†This is my first book review, so please bear with me. ¬† I will briefly summarize the topics covered and list what I like and didn’t like about this book. ¬†Let’s begin.


This book introduces us to the idea of retirement and breaks it down to different stages of our lives. ¬†Generally, it focuses on a “typical” couple living in Canada, and what they can expect living and working from their twenties until they reitre. ¬†I’ve ¬†briefly summarized each chapter below.

Ch. 1 Retirement Made Easy:
Figure out costs of your basic needs and what would be luxuries.  Count on the government for Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payments.  Factor in pensions (if any), and Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).  Figure out your level of risk.  Balance your present with what you want to do in the future.

Ch. 2 Your Twenties:
Spend less than you earn and invest in yourself. ¬†Your earning potential is your biggest asset. ¬†Start to pay off your student loans, and learn how to make and follow a budget. ¬†Avoid consumer and credit card debt (“bad” debt), and if you must take out a loan (i.e., for a new car), know what your options are and do your research before you set foot in a car dealership.

Ch. 3 Your Thirties:
You will have a lot of expenses – try to stay afloat without incurring “bad” debt. ¬†Your mortgage, RRSP’s, TFSA, car payments, RESP, home expenses – you cannot do it all, all at once. ¬†Embrace “good” debt (i.e., your mortgage), and focus on paying that down. ¬†You will need to prioritize RRSP, and RESP. ¬†You may also have one spouse stay at home after a child is born – make sure to explore the tax benefits of this. ¬†Have an emergency fund for at least 3 – 6 months of expenses.

Ch. 4 Your Forties:
Your expenses will (likely) be less than your thirties. ¬†Your home is most likely paid off, and you have more flexibility to save towards RESP and RRSP. ¬†Check in with a (fee based) financial advisor to make sure you’re on track. Life changes may happen (i.e., divorce), so you may need to re-visit your budget and adjust accordingly. ¬†Consider a line of credit if you need money, and can pay it back relatively quickly.

Ch. 5 Your Fifties:
Even if you haven’t saved much towards your retirement, in your fifties, you have more flexibility to save very aggressively. ¬†Likely, you have no mortgage, and your kids are out of the house. ¬†Fuel your additional disposal income towards your retirement savings. ¬†Know what your investments are (i.e., risk factor, MER) and have a back-up plan. ¬†Know the perks of a pensions and be realistic about your retirement needs.

Ch. 6 Your Sixties:
Evaluate all your sources of income: CPP, RRSP, OAS and any pension. Evaluate what your needs in retirement are. Evaluate the benefits of retirement: no more CPP payments, lower tax bracket, etc. ¬†If you don’t have enough to cover your expenses (both basic and luxury), consider working part-time. Know how much you can safely withdraw each year.

Ch. 7 Your Seventies:
Focus on enjoying and simplifying your lifestyle.  Plan your legacy.  Be aware that the government will force you to withdraw your RRSP in the form of Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) or convert it to an annuity, and know your options.  Consider the options of a retirement home, and how it compares to a nursing home.

Ch. 8 Self Test:
This chapters pulls a bunch of data from Statistics Canada and the reader can compare themselves with the rest of the nation.  One thing is for sure, wealth is not balanced in our nation.

“The richest 20% of Canadian household control about 69% of the wealth. ¬†The next quintile down possesses a further 20% of our national net worth. ¬†There is not much left over for the other people. ¬†The bottom 60% of households control only 11% of Canada’s wealth. ¬†In fact, the bottom 20% of the population posses no wealth and actually owes a few thousands dollars more than it owns.”


I like that this book gave a very general overview for the general population, and has current data. ¬†It gives sound advice for all ages, and gives a reality to check to what we should all think about for retirement at each different stage in our lives. ¬†It reminds use, that we may not need millions of dollars, but we would like to do in our retirement will affect how much our nest egg needs to be. ¬†The book doesn’t try to go beyond the most basics, and advises consulting a lawyer or financial planner.


This book is primarily geared towards a “typical” married couple who will be working from their twenties to their sixties. ¬†It assumes they buy a house and will have it paid off by the time they retire. ¬†We all know that most peoples’ lives are not “typical”. ¬†Life happens, divorces happens, illnesses happen. ¬†And while the books briefly touches on the “non-typical” topics, we are mostly left to our own devices to figure that out.

This book also doesn’t provide too much insight for the Twenties. ¬†That was the shortest chapter, and since I am in my twenties, I would have liked to see more on that stage.

This book also makes the assumption that the government will help you out to cover basic¬†necessities¬†when you age. ¬†It also briefly mentions that there are fears of CPP drying up, or payments may not be available for our generation. ¬†Yet, thoughout the book, it assumes the maximum CPP and OAS payment for a “typical” couple (i.e., two incomes).

Verdict: Recommend

This is a great beginner book for any savvy personal finance person. ¬†For me, I didn’t learn too much for the early chapters, but I learned a lot about what to expect later in life, and how I can educate and help my parents figure out their retirement. ¬†I learned how great a pension can be, what an RIFF ¬†and annuity is, and how to protect my estate.

Hope this helps!






Disclosure РI received this book from a giveaway from Canadian Capitalist.  I am not affiliated with Canadian Capitalist or Money Sense in any way.  I do not earn commission from either parties and my review of this book are my honest opinions.


Filed under Book Review