Best of Netflix: What Maisie Knew

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¬†One of my favorite things about Neflix is stumbling across amazing, little-known movies that I never would have encountered otherwise. Whenever I find myself with a couple of hours to kill, with bad weather outside and my husband away at kung fu practice, I make a big bowl of popcorn, pour a glass of white wine and take a chance on a movie that I’ve never heard of. Tonight it was What Maisie Knew, an adaptation of the Henry James novel which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. It stars Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgard, so I’m not sure how it flew under my radar while it was winning rave reviews.

Onata Aprile turns in a remarkable performance as Maisie, a six year old girl at the centre of a bitter custody dispute. I can’t remember the last time I saw a child character so compellingly and completely developed in a movie. The story is told entirely from her point of view and is anchored in strong, heartrending performances and beautiful cinematography. This movie is a total tearjerker but never comes across as manipulative; instead it feels sincere and well worth the emotional investment. I won’t say too much about the plot because part of the impact of the movie is watching the events unfold alongside Maisie. You’ll just have to take my word that it is worth 100 minutes of your time on a winter evening.

Have you already seen What Maisie Knew? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it!

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Jumping on the Natural Beauty Bandwagon

I recently devoted an entire evening to reading about the harmful chemicals that are found in most cosmetic and bath products. I don’t know how I fell down that particular rabbit hole but I found a wealth of resources and information to keep me interested. I’ve had some basic science education so I’m not the sort to use “chemical” as a catch-all dirty word for toxic substances, but at the same time I’m becoming increasingly aware that the government and cosmetic companies are not nearly as invested in protecting our health and safety as most people would assume. The David Suzuki Foundation offers a great list of dangerous substances commonly found in personal care products, and I recommend you go read it now. No really, right now. I’ll wait.

Done? After reading this article, I went through my bathroom cabinet and carefully read the labels of all my cosmetics and bath products. I was mildly horrified by what I found. Even products from high-end companies, that claim to be “natural” (an ambiguous term at best) were loaded with nasty things that I wouldn’t want to be absorbed by my skin. There was propane in my hair mousse! Parabens and sulfates in all of my body washes and bubble baths! Into the garbage went three years of accumulated products. Most of them were expired anyway (oops). But now what? I am not the crunchy granola hippie type. I have no interest in smelling like nettle and patchouli. I like to be pampered. I like nice scents and luxurious lathers. Are there any safe products out there for girls like me?

Thankfully it’s 2013 and the internet has made people increasingly aware of these issues. As a result, the market has been flooded with safe alternatives to conventional bath and beauty products. All it takes is a bit of research and some careful label reading to track them down.

The first thing that I wanted to replace was my body lotion. I had a cupboard full of heavily-scented body butters that I never used, and for the past few months had been waiting to hit the bottom of a bottle of gifted body lotion from the Israeli version of “The Body Shop”. Calgary is currently a winter wonderland so a good, effective body lotion is a must, but I wasn’t particularly enamoured of any of the products I was using, even before I realized they were loaded with parabens.

live clean came to the rescue. I’ve used their shampoo and conditioner in the past, with mixed results. However when I found their (Sensitive Skin) Fragrance Free Body Lotion on a bottom shelf at Shoppers Drug Mart, it was like I’d found the Holy Grail. For $6.99 (on sale) I got 500ml of unscented lotion that is fragrance-free, paraben- and phthalate-free, vegan goodness. It is light, effective, and absorbs quickly. It’s not going to interfere with my perfume. It’s from an ethical Canadian company. I’ve seen live clean products at almost every major drug store and grocery store, so it won’t be hard to track down. It comes in a handy pump bottle (not gonna lie, I’m too lazy to open jars). It meets all of my needs and I couldn’t recommend it more. They’re not even paying me to say this. Throw out whatever over-priced, toxic crap you’ve been using and go buy a bottle while it’s on sale. You can thank me later.

Why would they put this on the bottom shelf?

Ingredients: Water, Camellia Sinensis Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Cocoglycerides, Dicaprylyl Ether, Vegetable Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Xanthan Gum, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate*Certified organic

Why Calgary?

Because it’s beautiful.

Because of our awesome mayor.

Because it’s the perfect size.

Because it’s close to the Rocky Mountains.

Because the people here are young, fit, and educated.

Because there are tons of excellent restaurants to try.

Because of the wind-powered C-train.

Because of the dog parks, and the bike paths, and the Bow River.

Because the warm chinook winds save us whenever the winter starts to feel unbearable.

Because of the long, sunny summer evenings.

Because of the Big Rock and Wild Rose breweries.

Because of the strong economy and endless opportunity.

Because of the wide open spaces.

Because I grew up here, and my mom grew up here, and I see it getting better day-by-day.