2018: The Best of Books, Beauty, and Balance

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday break. Out Christmas was busy this year, punctuated by a quick overnight trip to Langdon Hall in Cambridge (lovely!) and a staycation at the Omni King Edward in Toronto on Boxing Day (so much easier to brave the crowds at the sneaker store when a lovely suite and room service awaits.)

I’ve been eating well over the holidays, since not doing so has consequences. Just as 2018 cemented my belief in vitamins, it also cemented my belief in clean eating.

2018 was a springboard year in so many ways. 2018 was the first year my daughter’s fructose intolerance was under control, which made a huge difference in her life. This year, I had my endometriosis surgery and found a protocol to help me manage my adenomyosis that both my alternative-leaning functional-medicine MD and my deeply traditional OB/GYN agree is good. The only downside is it can affect mood, which I’m hyper-aware of since I was, after-all, the poster girl for post-partum depression back in the day and we are playing with progesterone fire. That’s why this year, I’ll be focusing a lot on balance, in addition to beauty and books.

But before we get into 2019, I want to review my favourite books, beauty products, and ideas to help with life balance in 2018.


There were so many beautiful books out this year, but these were my 10 favourite.

The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters: The Tragic and Glamorous Lives of Jackie and Lee by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. I love books that pull one into another world and this biography of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwell does exactly that. This is a book about glamourous living, but also about family and sisterhood. This is a wonderful read for a snowy winter’s day.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. If you want a juicy beach read a la Dynasty, you will love this book. I highly recommend it for a week at the beach.

The Break by Marian Keyes. This is a late 2017 release but I love Marian Keyes for her humourous way of approaching just about everything, including heartbreak. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Marian at a reading years ago and I can hear her voice on every page. If you’ve not read her work before, this is a great place to start. Then, read her backlist.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. This memoir is not a new release (although it’s sequel came out this summer) but it is so good. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, or loved someone who has, this is a beautiful read. It’s also a gorgeously written memoir from the popular novelist. And, it’s a love story to the written word that any writer can appreciate. One of my favourite reads this year.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I adore Liane Moriarty, who brings a light touch and caustic wit to her page-turning stories. This is a bit of a departure from her other books in terms of plot, but the characters are wonderful. Plus, you’ll have something to talk about at dinner parties since she’s quite zeitgeisty now.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Although it was written in late 2017, it was certainly buzzed about a lot this past year. It’s absolutely terrific and she captures leafy suburbia perfectly.

Family Trust by Kathy Wang. I adored this novel about a dysfunctional family as the patriarch sorts out his end-of-life affairs. This is a fun, gossipy read about the Silicon Valley suburbs that makes meaningful points about the way we live.

The High Season by Judy Blundell. I really loved this book about class and family, set among the Cheever set near the Hamptons. I love books about what we can gain through loss and this novel is a great example of that. Perfect beach read.

Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife by Cheryl Richardson. This is another late 2017 book that is perfect for this time of year. This is different that Richardson’s other books as it reads more like a memoir. If you are in middle age, this is a must read.

My favourite coffee table book of the year was Mother and Child by Claiborne Swanson Frank. It’s sold out in many places but hopefully there will be another printing by Assouline before this Mother’s Day. It’s well worth setting up an email alert since the book is simply gorgeous.


I started the year on a mission to find clean beauty products that worked as well as their not-so-clean luxury counterparts. I focused on skincare, since when your skin is good, all you need is blush, mascara, and lip colour. These are the top 10 of everything that I tried.

Farmacy Honeymoon Glow. This is billed as a “powerful night serum that resurfaces skin and reduces the look of pores and fine lines, formulated with a 14 percent AHA/BHA/gentle flower acid blend to exfoliate and honey to hydrate.” If you have mature, prone-to-hormonal breakout skin, this is your magic potion.

REN Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial. This is marketed as a “transforming, multitasking overnight treatment that leaves skin brighter, revitalized, and deeply hydrated by morning.” I find that this overnight cream leaves my face feeling soft by morning with a lovely glow. It’s a winner.

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Exfoliating Cleanser. I’m obsessed with this cleanser from Tatcha, which is a fabulous luxury clean brand. This smells lovely and works very well to get all the makeup off.

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask. This is a “natural beta-hydroxy treatment for an instantly refined and radiant complexion.” This leaves a gorgeous glow and the only thing to not love is the price. I try to find it in kits like this one.

Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask. This mask makes the following promise: “A truly natural clarifying and cooling gel face mask, features white willow bark (natural BHA), fruit enzymes (natural AHA), and blue tansy to gently exfoliate, smooth, and resurface the skin.” I’ve been using this one for a while and have re-ordered it twice. I love the smell of blue tansy and this one really does seem to help keep skin clear.

Beautycounter No. 3 Balancing Facial Oil. This is billed as “Lightweight and silky smooth, this proprietary blend of seven natural oils moisturizes and smooths.” Although I’m less loyal to Beautycounter than I was a year ago, I still love their facial oil. The scent is fabulous and it’s a lovely way to bring some moisture to winter-dry skin.

Ilia Multi-stick in A Fine Romance. This is a gorgeous multi-stick for cheeks and lips. This colour gives you that English Rose glow. So pretty. I wear this every day.

Blinc Mascara. While this is not clean beauty per se, it’s worth it to me to wear this since – post bad LASIK – I need a mascara that does not flake off in any way (contact lenses over two surgeries equals unhappy eyes.) I’ve used this brand since it was called Kiss Me back in the late 1990s and while I’d love a thickening mascara, this one is perfection in terms of comfort.

Tatcha The Pearl Tinted Eye Illuminating Treatment. Eye cream plus concealer: this is sleep in a jar. Love.

RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek in Diabolique. This is another two in one product that makes a great cheek and lip tint. The shade looks almost black in the jar but is a nice reddish berry wash. I apply with a cream blush brush to the cheeks.


Anytime you are battling chronic pain, balance is essential. I spent a lot of this year finding things that work for me to create wellness. Here are my top 10 finds.

Sloane Vanilla Bean Rooibos Tea. I’ve enjoyed Sloane’s Heavenly Cream in the past but since I’ve switched to decaf, I thought I’d be denied this flavourful goodness. Enter their decaf Vanilla Bean Rooibos tea, which I was introduced to at Langdon Hall. It tastes rich and creamy without any milk or sugar and makes a healthy afternoon treat.

Young Living Frankincense Essential Oil. I love the smell of this oil (weirdly, it reminds me of Joop for Women that I wore to go out clubbing in the 1980s.) It’s heaven when diffused. It’s also great when added to skin creams (I swear it’s anti-aging) and I think it helps with pain. It’s my secret weapon and I diffuse it, or its cousin Elemi, every day.

Saje Essential Oil Diffuser. I mostly use Young Living Oils but I cannot resist the pretty that is the Saje Aroma Breeze Diffuser. I have the models in black marble and matte cranberry and love them for their strealined look and ease of use (as well as quality guarantee.) Saje is a Canadian company and they are such a pleasure to deal with. When I wrote to tell them they’d mistakenly sent me two sets of products, they were insistent I keep the extra in a very kind email. I will always be loyal to businesses that have a personal touch and treat their customers well. Plus, the diffusers are simply gorgeous.

Rose Quartz Crystals. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a certified crystal reader (so much more useful these days than my MBA!) I swear by rose quartz as a calming and healing stone.

Dark Chocolate Squares. I have had to cut down on most days, but a square or two of dark chocolate is a needed daily luxury for me. Green and Black’s Organic 85% is a winner but any dark chocolate will do!

Oat Milk. I’ve spent a while trying to find non-dairy alternatives since, pre-diagnosis, my diet was probably 95% cheese. I’m turning into an almond and try to avoid soy, so oat milk is very welcome. I love it in lattes as it has a nice creamy flavour.

Magnesium. This makes me go to sleep and stay asleep. And every doctor I’ve ever had says I need to take this. I take a zillion supplements, but this is essential.

Peppermint Tea. I love peppermint tea in the morning as a way to get the day started on the right foot. It’s energizing without making me jittery. Plus, it smells delicious.

Mary Queen of Angels Cards. 2018 was an interesting year for me spiritually. I was on a Christian tv show, which brought me closely back in touch with my Christian faith and the Word. But there is part of me that also welcomes a broader faith experience involving the Holy Mother, Mother Nature, and a belief in all-encompassing, universal love. I’ve been free to practice my faith in all its broadness this year and that’s been a helpful thing in terms of balance. These Mary cards are so beautiful and, while I don’t believe in divination, I do believe the God speaks to us in our language. My language is high church Anglican with a double side order of woo woo. These cards fit the bill.

Non-Toxic Living. The biggest change I made in 2018 was rejecting anything toxic: food, skin care, and people. There are so many great and enriching people, practices, and products on the planet and shedding the toxic elements in your life is one of the most freeing things you can do. I highly recommend it!

I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve. I hope tonight finds you feeling hopeful and optimistic. I wish you all of the blessings in the world for 2019.



  1. Hi Jen, Happy New Year to you too! Your breaks at Landon Hall (I know it only via Dani’s much-missed blog) and in Toronto sound great. I’m not much of a fiction reader (apart from dutifully buying every Ian Rankin Rebus book that comes out), but I do have Family Trust and can’t wait to dive in – I have been reading Kathy’s blog Feather Factor for years. Another Christmas gift is Tish Jett’s Living Forever Chic – I have her first book and really enjoyed it. I love the rest of your ‘Best of’ recommendations,; the Jackie and Lee book is right up my street, and I’m interested in the Ilia multi-stick. I highly recommend Kusmi peppermint tea – expensive, but it’s lovely, smells like a stick of gum, the mint flavour is so pronounced.

    I’m so glad that your daughter’s and your own health issues have been sorted out somewhat. Something like that takes quite a toll and it’s great that you are finding ways to feel balanced. This year I’m looking to get back into a better exercise regime, and to take care of my sleep hygiene – I usually go to bed very late, but will try to settle in earlier with a good book, as long as my husband’s sleep mask works well enough!


    • Happy New Year to you too! I think you will love Family Trust. I like Tish Jett. I’d love to know how you like her newest book. I will look at that tea as well. They sell the Kusmi teas at a shop near me, but I’ve not tried them yet. Good luck with your 2019 goals. Better sleep and exercise are always worthwhile goals! Xx


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