Saturday, December 19, 2015

Last-minute vegan and gluten-free gift ideas

By Giselle Wedemire

So you've waited until the last minute to grab gifts for your loved ones this holiday season. No worries, I won't judge you. 

Maybe you've had a lot going on in your life this month and gift shopping fell on your list of priorities. Or maybe you're one of those weirdos who thrive on the adrenaline rush that shopping on Christmas Eve provides. Like I said, I won't judge you.

What I will do is help, because just the thought of someone having to face the massive crowds packing into the malls this time of year gives me hives. If you find yourself at a loss for easy gift ideas that require no trip to a Calgary mall, I've got you covered. Here are some simple, budget- and time-friendly vegan and gluten-free gift ideas for when you've waited until the last minute:

Chocolate bark

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cruelty-free curls that are smooth like BuhTah

By Giselle Wedemire

About two years ago, I made the decision to go au naturale with my hair. It took a few stops and starts -- and a whole lot of soul-searching and self-acceptance -- to completely kick my flat iron habit to the curb and embrace my naturally curly hair.

But I can now say with complete confidence that I regret nothing and I am 100 per cent in love with the curls I once fought so hard to hide from the world.

On my natural hair journey, I've learned that my curl pattern is 3b, which means I have defined ringlets that are prone to frizz if left to dry without any product in them. It also means that if humidity gets anywhere near my hair, it turns into a fantastic ball of fluff. So, naturally, anti-humectants are my best friends because they help to block humidity's brutal effects from ratcheting up my hair. 

I've been looking high and low for a great all-natural, vegan, and cruelty-free miracle product that'll allow my hair to dry faster, and transform it into well-defined, healthy-looking, frizz-free spirals. After all this time, I think I've finally found that product.

BuhTah All Natural Shea Mix is a miracle-working product created by an independent startup company based in Georgia, USA. Made of all-natural shea butter, and jojoba, coconut, castor, and avocado oils, Buhtah is a sealant rather than a moisturizer -- which means it'll keep any and all frizz at bay. In short, it's a curly girl's dream come true.

How cute is that packaging, though? Love it!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Warm your bones with new winter brews from DavidsTea

By Giselle Wedemire

Temperatures are dipping, and mitts and toques are starting to make their annual return to Canadians' outfits. With this increasingly nippy weather, snow is inevitable, so I've got my winter jacket on stand-by just in case I wake up to a blizzard one day (which, truth be told, is always a terrible sight to behold first thing in the morning).

Softening the blow of winter's return is the allure of warming and comforting beverages of any kind. Whether your poison is a mug of hot chocolate, a pot of tea, or a gigantic thermos of coffee (no judgment), there's plenty of choices out there for those of us who constantly need to warm our bare hands against a hot mug of something in the winter.

I'd make a predictable Game of Thrones joke, but instead I'll say this:
just looking at this picture is making me crave a hot cup of tea.

Picture via Pixabay

Friday, October 30, 2015

Homemade beauty remedies for the lazy vegan

By Giselle Wedemire

The new Neal's Yard Remedies store in Southcentre Mall will be opening its doors today. It's a very exciting time for both the NYR team and Calgary's NYR fan base, and to celebrate this new store, the good folks at NYR are running a contest for shoppers to win prizes.

While we discussed the rules for the contest here yesterday, it's worth repeating: starting today, NYR will post a weekly remedy on their Instagram and followers are encouraged to share their own favourite at-home remedies (and the hashtag #MyNYR) to the company's Instagram for a chance to win an exclusive prize.

I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring for this prize because I love all things free, and also because I love spreading the gospel of homemade beauty products. So, without further ado, here are my favourite at-home remedies:

Disregard the terrible lighting in this picture and focus instead on these everyday
pantry items that make some of the best (and easiest) DIY beauty products.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New NYR store means Calgary just got a little more beautiful

By Giselle Wedemire

Neal’s Yard Remedies, the British purveyor of all-natural, organic beauty products, is expanding its reach in Calgary. 

On Oct. 28, it was announced via press release that the chain will branch out of the trendy Mission neighbourhood (where its first Canadian store is located) by opening its second shop in Calgary in Southcentre Mall, thus marking the second phase of CEO Lisa Costello’s plan to expand the brand and open 10 new locations of NYR across Canada over the next five years.

Screen shot via Neal's Yard Remedies' Instagram account

The new store will open its doors on Oct. 30 and, while it won’t have spa treatment rooms like its sister store in Mission, it will be stocked with its usual, full selection of natural and organic essential oils, skincare, cosmetics, etc. (much of which is vegan and gluten-free, HOLLA!). 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tea-infused hand creams are your dry hands' BFFs this season

By Giselle Wedemire

My hands are almost reptilian in nature: unnaturally cold, sometimes scaly (depending on the outside temperature), and impressively dry. This only gets worse as temperatures drop and the cool fall air starts demanding that I dig my mittens out of storage. 

I have no idea why my hands are that way since the rest of my body doesn't resemble a dinosaur's hide at all, but such is my lot in life. The best I can do is moisturize them as often as I can to curb the problem before my hands go all Jurassic Park on me.

On June 13, Bare English & Co. announced on their Facebook page that their brand new hand cream had just hit their online store. I am a huge Bare English & Co. convert ever since I reviewed their lip balms last winter, so I immediately got in touch with them to see how and where I could get my (dry) hands on this new product.

Each Green Tea Infused Hand Cream retails for $8.99 on their website, and they are currently available in three scents: lavender, vanilla coconut, and juicy peach. While you might guess from the name that it contains green tea (which acts as an antioxidant), the ingredient list also boasts a slew of fantastic moisturizers like oat protein, aloe juice, coconut oil, almond oil, and shea butter. 

Bare English & Co.'s Lavender Green Tea Infused Hand Cream. The only thing better than the hand cream itself is the packaging. I love that the cruelty-free bunny is right on the front of the tube!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fall-tastic fare for all at Wild & Raw

By Giselle Wedemire

While most may think of fall as a time to indulge in assorted sinfully sweet pumpkin-spiced delicacies, one Calgary entrepreneur is setting the bar high for healthy autumn treats. Jenn Silver, owner of Kensington's Wild & Raw Superfood + Juice Bar, is aiming to complement sweater weather with delicious lattes, elixirs, milkshakes, and smoothie bowls that'll warm you from the inside out.

"We're taking an alternative approach to the fall drinks that they do at Starbucks," Silver said. 

And that's exactly what it tastes like!

Wild & Raw has changed up its menu to feature two regular items and introduce four brand new offerings that are all perfect for autumn. From Sept. 18 until Dec. 21 (the first day of winter), these fall-themed items will be available. And best of all: they're all 100 per cent vegan and gluten-free (much like the majority of Wild & Raw's menu).

On a cold and windy day earlier this month, Silver invited me out to her store for a complimentary sneak peek of Wild & Raw's fall menu, and it was absolutely fantastic. Everything I tasted was delicious and packed with fresh, subtle, and warming flavours that made me feel at home in the little store. They also had the added bonus of perking me up and fortifying me with the strength to better cope with the nippy air and frigid rain I faced on my walk home. 

A few of the fall-tastic offerings available at Wild & Raw as of Sept. 21.
From left: the Pumpkin Milkshake, the Pumpkin Parfait, and the Golden Guru.
Photo by Jennifer Brazil, courtesy of Wild & Raw.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Fall' in love with new flavours from DavidsTea

By Giselle Wedemire

Fans of sweater weather and all things cozy, rejoice! With September just a few days away, DavidsTea has released its fall collection of teas. 

And even though weather experts are predicting unseasonably warm temperatures for Alberta this autumn (with many days expected to peak in the 30 degree-range), there's something incredibly comforting about sipping a cup of tea while marvelling at the changing leaves outside. 

Just looking at this picture makes me want to don my favourite sweater and leggings, STAT.

Whether you reach for a cup of tea this fall in a sweater or a tank top (because Alberta weather can be a cruel and unpredictable mistress sometimes), it's important to note that not all of DavidsTea's offerings are vegan. Some are enhanced with not-so-vegan ingredients, as we found out earlier this year. Here's the 411 on which of the five DavidsTea fall collection teas are vegan-friendly*:

As a chai tea lover, I'm bummed out that I can't try their new Pumpkin Chai (because it contains milk and butter). However, I'm kind of relieved that I can't try their Peanut Butter Cup flavour because even though I love anything that's peanut butter and chocolate flavoured, there are some things that just shouldn't be in a cup of tea....

Have you tried out any of the new fall-themed teas from DavidsTea? Let us know by tweeting us at @PickyBitchez or by commenting below.

*No worries for the gluten-free Picky Bitchez: DavidsTea blends are gluten-free.

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's a date: a roundup of YYC gluten-free date spots

By Casey Knoll

There are lots of decent dining options for gluten-free eats in Calgary. But when it comes to date night, finding a place where celiacs and their romantic partners can have a tasty -- and not just a “decent” -- gluten-free meal takes some digging. Here are some great date night (or morning) spots I've discovered so far, where I haven't just eaten, but inhaled the food I've ordered (because when I come across great gluten-free eats, my appetite goes into overdrive). 

The Dinner Date

Double Zero Pizza
Various locations

I've been to both Double Zero locations in Calgary (Chinook Mall and Stephen Avenue), and both are great choices for a date night. The interiors are modern, sleek, and with interesting lighting and art. But don't be fooled by its ambience -- the best part of the Double Zero experience is the pizza. You and your date will enjoy tucking into a variety of gourmet pizzas, which can be made with gluten-free crusts (which doesn't fall apart. That's kind of a big deal for me!)

A look at the interior of Double Zero's Chinook Mall location.
Photo via Double Zero Pizza Chinook Facebook page

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sweet treats for a sweet cause: another vegan bake sale hits YYC

By Giselle Wedemire

In case you missed the Sixth Annual Calgary Vegan Bake Sale in May (or if you just couldn't get your fill of cruelty-free sweets the first time around), fear not! Another vegan bake sale is coming to town this weekend.

Event poster via Facebook

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Some of these teas are not like the other...

By Giselle Wedemire

It seems like everywhere you look, there's a Davids Tea store popping up. While that might be a bit of a hyperbole, there are currently eight Davids Tea retail locations in Calgary at the time of writing this post. (Another shop may very well open up tomorrow for all I know.)

Here's a look at Calgary's eight DavidsTea locations.
Screenshot via Google Maps

Suffice to say, there are a lot of DavidsTea stores in town (and, in fact, across Canada and the U.S.). And with a seeming endless list of tea flavours ("over 150" according to its website), it can be kind of overwhelming when shopping for tea as a celiac or vegan.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The best Stampede breakfast ever is back!

By Giselle Wedemire

As a vegan and animal rights advocate, I'm very much against the Calgary Stampede. But what I'm not against is pancakes. And if those pancakes are free, slathered in maple syrup, and vegan, then you'll have to knock me out (or distract me with videos of cats) to keep me from getting at those flapjacks.

I'm choosing to believe that that's actually pats of vegan margarine on top of those pancakes.
Photo via iStockphoto

Which brings me to my main point: Community Natural Foods' annual Stampede breakfast will be making its tasty and triumphant return this summer. From 7-10 a.m. on July 11, the good folks at CNF will be serving up traditional (yet organic) Stampede breakfast fare, as well as vegan and gluten-free pancakes and vegan/vegetarian sausages.

CNF's Stampede breakfasts are phenomenal (and phenomenally popular); they've regularly been voted as the Best Place to Snag a Stampede Breakfast in the (now defunct) FFWD Weekly's Best of Calgary annual polls. 

Between its green incentive of rewarding a lucky diner who brings and uses a re-usable plate with a gift basket and the fact that most attendees rock up in plaid shirts and ear gauges rather than plaid shirts and cowboy boots, CNF's Stampede breakfast has got a great alternative edge that sets it apart from other, more traditional Stampede breakfasts happening in the city.

A word to the wise, though: make sure to get there early (and bring some coffee or tea with you if you're not at all a morning person) because the lines tend to be on the longer side, and they don't move all that fast. But once you make it to the front of that line, it is so worth it! 

What time are you planning on lining up at CNF on July 11? If you're not going, what's your favourite Stampede breakfast the city has to offer? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us at @PickyBitchez.

Friday, June 19, 2015

All-natural headache relief that works

By Giselle Wedemire

HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead! HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead! HEADON, APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!

If you don't know that inane infomercial from 2006 or 2007, how is it living under a rock for so long? Is it chilly? Cramped? How's the wi-fi there? If it's pretty good, I suggest giving the infomercial a quick watch:

When my youngest brother was a toddler, he was obsessed with that commercial, and would recite the ad's cheesy script verbatim even when we were miles from a functioning TV. So I guess you could say that that ad has been ingrained in my brain for a while.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Top five goodies perfect for a vegan bake sale

By Giselle Wedemire

For the past three months, we at Picky Bitchez have been on hiatus.The reason for that has mostly been because of time constraints, but also because I made an impromptu decision to step away from the blog until I had had enough time to properly test out some products I'd been sent by some great vegan and gluten-free companies. (Hint: reviews are on the way!)

However, time waits for no picky bitch, and it's about time I get back in the blogging game!

With the Sixth Annual Calgary Vegan Bake Sale just a week away, the vegan community here in Calgary is abuzz and I'll be reprising my role from last year as a volunteer baker. But I'm kind of freaking out because with just a week to go, I still haven't decided on what I should make for the event. Ugh, indecisiveness is the worst!

Event poster via Facebook

Friday, February 27, 2015

Summery haircare to get you through gloomy winter days

By Giselle Wedemire

It's the end of February, and this winter is really starting to grind my gears. Lately it's been gloomy and chilly and exceedingly lame. I mean, just look at how terrible it looks outside:

Photo via Flickr

Just kidding! It's actually nowhere that bad here in Calgary. But still, I am so over winter right now, and summer just can't seem to come soon enough this year. Even though I'm really not the biggest fan of the heat, this drab winter has really got me itching for summer -- or at least for spring. All I really want is to be able to walk without having to watch my every step for potential death traps ice patches or worry that my just-washed hair will freeze and snap off during my walk to work.

What can I say? I'm a simple kind of gal (sometimes).

One thing that's been helping me out with this seasonal wanderlust of mine is the fantastically tropical scent of what's soon to be my new favourite haircare duo: Live Clean's Coconut Milk moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.* 

With its creamy, dreamy coconut scent, it feels like my shower is right across the way from a white sand-filled, resort-like beach -- the kind you'd expect to receive impeccable service and even better pina coladas.

As far as aromatherapy goes, this duo helps me dream a little dream that warmer days on their way. And as far as formulation goes, this collection is fortified with -- you guessed it -- coconut milk, plus other nourishing ingredients like Vitamins C, E, Provitamin B5 (all plant-sourced), rice protein and (curiously) "milk protein".

Reading that last part on the bottles' labels originally had me pouting so hard that I looked like I was duck facing for some unknown photo. Fearing the Vegan Police from Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World would be in hot pursuit of me if I even entertained the idea of using something that had traces of dairy in it, I immediately touched base with my contact at Live Clean and shot him this email:

The Live Clean rep got back to me the next morning with this short but effective (and, frankly, endearing) response: "Hi Giselle. Coconut milk!  Cows milk – yuuch!"

With my anxieties soothed, I set to work and tried out the newest addition to Live Clean's haircare roster.

Here's what I thought

LC Coconut Milk moisturizing shampoo
Thick in consistency and creamy, opaque white in colour, this shampoo is definitely different than any other Live Clean shampoo I've ever tried. But it's different in a lovely and luxurious way. It lathers beautifully and makes it feel like you're using a much more expensive product -- almost as if you're lavishing in a seaside salon or some other mythical setting I just made up.

True to its claims, this shampoo is cleansing without over-cleansing, and it leaves my hair feeling supple yet clean each time I use it.

LC Coconut Milk moisturizing conditioner
Like the coordinating shampoo, this conditioner** is on the thicker side, and as far as texture and consistency goes, it reminds me of Live Clean's Age Resist conditioner. It provides a good amount of slip and it seems to hydrate my slightly thirsty late-winter mane very well. 

But beware! A little of this conditioner goes a looooong way. I suggest using about half your regular-sized dollop of conditioner when trying this product on for size, and if that isn't enough for you, then add a bit (little by little) if you need more moisture.

I first tried this haircare duo out on February 13 in anticipation of rocking a super sexy Victoria's Secret model-inspired blow-out on Valentine's Day. It worked beautifully and my overall look was straight up Kardashian-like. Though this collection is deeply moisturizing, it never felt heavy on my straightened hair, nor did it make my hair greasy quickly, which I think is a hard balance to strike sometimes especially when dealing with a blow-out. 

A week later, I used the shampoo and conditioner once more to return to my natural curls and I was surprised that curls were so well-defined and almost Tracee Ellis Ross-like in how rad they looked.

All in all, I am a fan of this haircare duo and its heavenly scent, and I'm really hoping it sticks around for a long time. Because lord knows we all need a little help remembering what summer smells like while we're slogging our way through interminable winters.

You can find Live Clean Coconut Milk moisturizing shampoo and conditioner at Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, Jean Coutu, and Lawtons stores across Canada.

Have you tried Live Clean's Coconut Milk moisturizing shampoo and conditioner? Do you have any amazing products that help you forget that it's still winter outside? Let us know by commenting below, or by tweeting us at @PickyBitchez

*Live Clean Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner were sent to me to review
**This product contains beeswax, which may conflict with some vegans' ethics. Depending on your views as it pertains to beeswax, this product may not be a good fit for you

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Natural perfumes to unleash your inner goddess

By Giselle Wedemire

You're never fully dressed until you've applied perfume. That's the advice my mom gave me when I was around 10 years old -- right before I was given my very own (and very classy) bottle of Cinderella perfume for my birthday. 

Since then, fragrance has played a big role in my daily beauty routine, and I never miss an opportunity to give myself a quick spritz -- even when I'm at home with the flu. For me, a splash of my favourite scent instantly classes up any outfit I may throw together, even if I'm rocking a lazy day ensemble of sweatpants and a tank top. 

The problem with many perfumes and colognes is that they're synthetic in the worst possible way: they often contain harmful ingredients like parabens and phthalates, which have been linked to hormone disruption and carcinogenic side effects, respectively.

Years ago, I made the switch to all-natural products for all but one aspect of my beauty regimen. I've simply found it too hard to let go of my favourite perfumes (I'm looking at you, Flowerbomb!), but this year I've vowed to kick the synthetic scent habit and stock my dresser with natural perfumes from companies like Grasse Roots Perfumery.

Based in Stratford, Ontario, Grasse Roots Perfumery is a vegetarian (and mostly vegan) perfumery that crafts luxurious perfume blends with pure natural essences and botanicals. Often times, these blends are even made with certified organic essences whenever possible.

I contacted Grasse Roots in an effort to broaden my natural perfume horizons, and they generously sent me samples of each of their pure perfumes to test out. Each one was lovely in its own way, awakening old memories in me with every fragrant application, and I found that natural perfumes don't last as long on the skin as their unnatural cousins. However, there's something to be said for knowing -- and being able to pronounce -- a perfume's ingredients. It's very liberating.

Photo courtesy of Grasse Roots Perfumery

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A clarifying shampoo that's perfect for us hairspray addicts

By Giselle Wedemire

January is all about new beginnings and clean slates, and lately I've been taking that to the literal extreme with my haircare routine. One day not too long ago I came home to find a lovely package sticking out of my mailbox.* The return address indicated that the package was from Live Clean -- one of my absolute favourite vegan personal care brands -- and I was immediately as giddy as a schoolgirl. 

I ran inside and ripped open the package to find a single bottle of Live Clean Apple Cider Clarifying shampoo which, I learned, is a deep cleansing shampoo packed with Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, making it ideal for daily use on oily/greasy hair and perfect for weekly purges of product buildup. 

Once I read that last bit, I accepted the challenge that 350 mL bottle of shampoo had set before me: I was going to test this bad boy out after getting my hair as filthy as possible.