Thursday, June 21, 2018

Cirque du Soleil Crystal Review

Last week I attended the opening performance of Crystal by Cirque du Soleil. Although it was my fourth show, there is always something new and exciting to look forward to. I’ve experienced the vibrant colors of Mexico in Luzia, the thrilling world of extreme sports in Volta and I will never forget the death-defying stunts of Saltimbanco.

Photo by Matt Beard

The FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton lacks the traditional tent setting that helps set the mood for a night at the circus but once the show begins, everything around you seems to melt away.

As guests take their seats, a silly clown interacts with the audience and starts a hilarious snowball fight which was a fun escape from the warm weather.

The tale unfolds on a frozen playground of ice, combining high-speed skating with thrilling acrobatics. An artistic young woman named Crystal is desperate to escape the constraints of daily life and unleash her creativity. Unable to fit in or conform to societal norms, she runs away from home and ventures onto a frozen pond where she plunges into a parallel universe. In the fantasy she meets her alter-ego who is carefree and spontaneous - leading Crystal on a journey of self-discovery where she learns to write her own destiny.

Photo by Matt Beard

The skating reminded me of a typical ice dance show and although it wasn’t on-par with Olympic standards (you won’t see many triple axels), I enjoyed watching the characters slide down skateboard-like ramps and complete fast-paced spins, back flips and lifts.

The first half of the show didn’t really showcase the daring acrobatics and “wow moments” you’d expect from Cirque du Soleil and despite the mediocre mime comedy that dragged on a bit too long, there were some phenomenal stunts. I particularly liked the sequence featuring Crystal soaring high above head on a giant swing and the twists, jumps and flips in the spontaneous hockey game. Juggling is also part of the show (as it often is) but I think this classic act needs to be upgraded or retired all-together. 

Photo by Matt Beard

Photo by Matt Beard

Surprisingly, much of the music was pre-recorded (I expected live singers) but the upbeat pop music from Sia was well coordinated and the talented little band definitely added intrigue to the visuals.

In the second half of the show, the story gains momentum. The jaw-dropping balancing sequence on teetering chairs will leave you speechless and the actors exhibit incredible strength while climbing and flipping off of perpendicular poles that precariously sway back and forth.

Photo by Matt Beard

I also liked the graceful aerial acrobatics of the ballroom scene where Crystal’s suitor whisks her off her feet and rises into the sky - flipping and twirling in a blur of astounding gymnastics. 

Photo by Matt Beard

There is a lot to take in as her dream begins to incorporate dance and hand-to hand trapeze amidst a mesmerizing light show. I have no idea how the artists manage to pull off superhuman stunts while wearing ice skates but somehow they make it look effortless.

Photo by Matt Beard

Since the stage is and ice rink, there weren't many set changes except for projections on the mountain and movable equipment, but there are spectacular feats of bravery that will impress the whole family.

The artistic direction was quite ambitious and unlike any of Cirque's previous productions. If you’re looking for something unique to do this summer Crystal definitely entertains, just remember to bring a sweater because the auditorium is quite cool.

Photo by Matt Beard

The show runs until June 24th, 2018 and tickets range from $45 - $165. For more information visit the website at cirquedusoleil.com.

Singapore Travel Guide & Must-See Attractions

After touring Shanghai, my second stop before heading to Phuket, Bangkok and Hong Kong was an exotic destination I’d been dreaming about since I became addicted to watching travel documentaries.


Singapore is a city of wonder and intrigue – where nature and technology co-exist harmoniously and a melting pot of Asian cultures form a beautiful community. The air is warm, the food is flavorful and various religious groups practice side-by-side without conflict.

The Amazing Airport
After a quick stop-over in Malaysia, I touched-down at the best airport in the world, voted #1 for six consecutive years. Usually I think of the airport process as the worst part of my trip. All the waiting, long lines and checkpoints can be exhausting but Shanghai’s Changi Airport is a sight to behold!

Getting through immigration took just a few minutes and the courteous officers were waiting with delicious bowls of candy (yes, you read that right). I was happy to be treated like a human being again after being pushed around Shanghai like a hockey puck and the amenities are amazing!

If you find yourself stranded at Changi due to cancellations or delays, consider yourself lucky. You will have access to a free movie theater, rooftop pool, a variety of enchanting gardens, 24 hour spa, a 1960’s themed food court, relaxing lounges (voted the best airport in the world for sleeping), koi pond, free city tour, and more! In addition to the incredible activities, it is the cleanest airport I’ve ever seen, (the floors literally shine and sparkle).

Photo credit: changiairport.com

Photo credit: changiairport.com

I arrived in Singapore late at night and it was still incredibly hot. It is the most humid city I've ever visited – the kind of heat that dampens your clothes and makes you sweat instantly. The Canadian in me started wishing for spontaneous snow squalls but like a champ I soldiered on and tried not to dry up like a prune from dehydration.

Accommodations
We stayed at Hotel Nuve Urbane on St. George Ave (located at the Lavender metro stop – green line). Admittedly my husband and I did not spend very much time searching for hotels like we usually do and many of the rooms online were barely larger than a matchbox which seems to be quite standard.

Nuve offers cozy boutique-style rooms that look larger on Expedia but we made it work for 3 nights. If you travel like me with enough makeup, clothes and toiletries to supply a small village, then you might have issues cramming your suitcases into the bedroom.


The hotel’s location is pretty good - close enough to public transit, within walking distance to a few restaurants and the most important thing – it was clean and comfortable with great service. The lobby offered free fruit juice and snacks plus the complimentary mini bar was a nice touch. There is also a rooftop patio and pool area which is a quiet place to relax and unwind after a long day of walking around in the heat.



After a good night’s sleep we awoke somewhat refreshed and ready to start the day. The first order of business was finding brunch and the building across the street had a food court, money exchange booth and a wonderful Indian restaurant called Kopi Roti. This place is unassuming but the food is tasty and cheap. We ordered soft buttery chapati with curry, spicy noodles, veggie fried rice and Milo on ice - all for just over $20.00.


After a wonderful meal we walked over to the Blue Mosque and then on to Arab Street a few blocks away. This area is also known as the “Muslim Quarter” and it is a great place to buy souvenirs. You will also find an abundance of indie boutiques, bars and great restaurants serving an eclectic mix of cuisine including: local dishes, Thai, Malayan, Chinese, Indian, America, Italian, Arabic and more.


Arab Street

I suggest stopping at the gorgeous Masjid Sultan Mosque, browse the narrow streets and check out the brightly colored fabric, Persian rugs, aromatic teas and awesome street art.


I had lunch on Arab Street the very next day after scoping-out some of the most popular eateries. Zam Zam Restaurant on North Bridge Road (close to the mosque) is popular for their Chicken Murtabak or Mutabbaq which is also commonly found in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, India, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand. The dish is basically a large, pan fried bread (similar to a flaky chapati or roti) stuffed with your choice of meat or veggie filling (I chose chicken in a tasty sauce). If it is too hot to dine on the lower level, head upstairs to the air conditioned area.


Transportation & Tourist Cards
Getting around the city is easy since Singapore has an excellent public transit system. The Tourist Pass includes unlimited travel on basic buses, MTR and LTR trains. You can pay for the number of consecutive days you require with a $10.00 refund when you return the card at the metro station.

Travelers Tip: The Bugis Metro stop has a great food court with a variety of restaurants that sell pizza, curry, pasta, Chinese food and baked goods.


I also stopped in Little India to see the colorful Hindu temples and street art. There isn’t much to do in this district so I only recommend stopping by if you have time.



Hindu Temple

After being outside in the blaring heat I felt drained but we decided to visit Clarke Quay and Promenade – a colorful little village within the city featuring a variety of restaurants, patios by the river and trendy shops.


From here you can take a short river cruise to see the famous Merlion – a popular landmark representing Singapore’s origin as a fishing village. Images of the Merlion (half mermaid, half lion) can be spotted all over the city and the locals really love this little guy.


The cruise is short but much more exciting than the metro and along the way you can enjoy Singapore’s remarkable skyline.



If you’re in the mood for some serious retail therapy, take the water taxi to Bayfont Mall and revel in the abundance of high-end shops and mid-range retailers. This shopper’s paradise is expansive (I think I saw two Chanel stores and two large Dior boutiques) and when you need a break, relax on a gondola ride along the indoor river.


The mall also has one of the coolest fountains I’ve seen. It shoots water up into a huge globe where it circulates a few times before falling back through and you can also view it from above.


At night there is an exhilarating free light and laser show called Spectra. For a good view head to Event Plaza (just outside of the mall), there are usually two show (8 pm and 9 pm daily). Most people arrive early to get a good seat at the amphitheater but for an unobstructed view stand at the rail in front of the semi-circle. The show features amazing laser images projected on vertical water walls and mist that shoots high in the air to form complex patterns.

The main reason I went to Singapore (aside from the city’s effort to go green and build rooftop gardens on skyscrapers) was to visit Gardens by the Bay. I remember seeing this beautiful park on a travel program years before and immediately added it to my bucket list. 


The colossal solar-powered super trees are covered in tropical plants and exotic flowers that provide sanctuary for birds. I traveled a great distance to see these Avatar-like trees so I purchased a ticket to the treetop canopies and waited just before the light show so I’d be on the bridge when the magic happened. The ticket is just $8.00 but once you go up, you are limited to just 15 minutes.


Travelers Tip: The canopy walk may close during high winds or rain so plan accordingly. If you fear heights, walking along the treetops might not be a good idea. The bridges sway slightly and it can be a bit daunting. You can also get a good view of the show from the ground and it’s free!


If you visit the garden (and I’m sure you will) you must (I repeat, must) visit the climate controlled Biomes or as I like to call them – Biodomes.

The Cloud Forrest is the most breathtaking garden I have ever seen! Upon entering you feel the cool mist of the tallest indoor waterfall in the word (35 meters high) and smell the refreshing breeze of the dense rainforest. 


The diverse vegetation is astounding and the Cloud Walk is thrilling! The floating walkway juts out from the mountain suspending you high above the forest floor for an amazing birds-eye view. This adventure is not for the faint of heart but it is an experience you will never forget.


And now get ready to be bombarded with flower photos...

Next head to the Flower Dome and be prepared to embark on a wondrous journey of color! There are so many interesting displays and fresh flowers that you’ll want to spend hours strolling aimlessly and enjoying the uplifting aroma. 








Another reason people visit is to see the impressive Marina Bay Sands Hotel which boasts a 360˚ observation deck with an infinity pool overlooking the horizon. The buildings are 55 stories high and crowned with the Sands Sky Park which resembles a celestial surfboard or spaceship. Visitors not staying at the hotel can buy tickets to enjoy the view.


I only had 3 days in Singapore but it was amazing! If you haven’t read my guide on Shanghai click HERE and stay tuned for my article on Phuket Thailand!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NEW Hair Care from L'Oreal – Protein Treatment and Masks

When people ask how I’ve grown my hair so long and silky, I always suggest deep conditioning. I use a treatment mask at least twice a month to improve the health of my hair and help undo styling damage.


L'Oreal has created a few new products specifically formulated to reinforce the cuticles, intensely hydrate and enhance manageability.

The Extraordinary Oil  Mask ($8.49) is infused with extra-fine coconut oil to restore and mend brittle strands plus the jar has enough product for 1001 treatments! The rich conditioner smells amazing and blankets hair in dense moisture for easy detangling without weight. I comb it through thoroughly (focusing on my ends) and pin my hair up before covering it with a disposable shower cap and microfiber hair towel for about an hour. This method traps in heat and increases absorption for better results. To speed up the process you can also apply blow dryer heat directly to the plastic cap for 5-10 mins. The directions only indicate a treatment time of 5 minutes but my hair is long and thick so I usually need more time. After rinsing, my mane is shiny, soft and free-flowing for days!


The new EverPure Sulfate-Free Hair Sheet Mask ($5.99) is perfect for weekend getaways and overseas trips. After shampooing simply wrap your hair in the cap and seal it with the sticker. The inside is coated in nourishing cream which is activated by shower steam and warmth for deep penetration. I leave it on for 10 minutes and it makes my hair feel smooth and supple. The packet fits in your gym or beach bag and helps resurrect shine and silkiness after exposure to sun, salt water and chlorine from the pool.


When I'm not flat ironing my hair into submission, my ringlets require a good leave-in, and even if you aren't a curly girl, the Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge ($8.49) is a fantastic moisturizer. Although I don’t have damaged hair (which is what the treatment is designed for), the formula strengthens over processed strands that have been weakened by styling, environmental elements, coloring and improper care. It fortifies the fiber’s structure beyond the surface, conditions, softens, prevents split-ends and reduces breakage by up to 97%. The lightweight finish is non-sticky so I can use as much as I need to protect against heat and sun damage.


Summer usually means humidity levels are on the rise and this can lead to poofy, poodle-like hair. Looking like I was hit by lightening is not an option so I’ve been using the Smooth Intense Frizz Taming Serum ($8.49). This leave-in acts like an anti-humidity barrier that controls frizz and increases brilliance while retaining natural movement. Hair is never stiff or crunchy and flyaways are smoothed down for a neat, polished finish.


L'Oreal is available at drugstores nationwide.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Shoppers Drug Mart Summer Beauty Picks

In the next few weeks I have plans to embark on a few road trips, travel and attend shows, parties and picnics. Summer is short so get out there and enjoy it while you can! Today I am featuring some of Shoppers Drug Mart’s top beauty picks to help you navigate the season with confidence.


After a long day of fun in the sun, let your skin breathe by removing all that makeup, sunscreen and sweat. The Life Brand Micellear Cleansing Wipes ($9.99) gently lift away dirt, oil and impurities with a paraben-free formula and soft plant-based fibers. These refreshing towelettes are great for travel, the gym or your beach bag.


The Lip Smacker Lippy Pals Balm is my beauty pick but they are available at drugstores nationwide. The hydrating formula nourishes dry lips with smooth, supple oils and the packaging is totally adorable! With fun flavors like Foxy Apple, Hoppy Carrot Cake and Cuddly Cream Puff who can resist?!


Sun exposure can be very damaging so your skin needs weekly replenishing treatments to maintain youthfulness. Thankfully Shoppers carries a wide range of rejuvenating face masks including brightening eye pads ($8.00) detoxifying mud ($1.99) and purifying charcoal ($1.99). These are also very convenient for travel.


If you need a pretty new beauty bag for your daily essentials, the Quo Rose Gold 3 Piece Set ($18.99) is super trendy! I use the smallest bag for jewelry, the floral pouch for makeup and the clear one for toiletries.


You may be hitting the beach or pool this summer and fuzzy legs are not cute. For a close, smooth shave try the Life Brand 3 Blade Pivoting Razors ($7.99). The botanical strips contain aloe and shea butter to hydrate sensitive skin and they glide over every curve to eliminate prickly hair with one swipe.


If you value your complexion and want to avoid looking like a wrinkled old catcher’s mitt, do not leave home without sun protection. The Sunthera Mineral Lotion ($12.99) with SPF 30 reflects the sun’s rays like a mirror to shield you from damaging UV. The oil-free formula is non-greasy and gentle on sensitive skin with up to 80 mins of water-resistance.


The black metal-free hair clips from Stylize ($9.99) are always in my purse. They come in handy when humidity poofs out your hair and create quick updos to keep you cool.

The Quo Lip Balm & Scrub ($14.00) is a must for dry, chapped skin. Shea butter, jojoba, rosehip, and avocado oils seal in moisture and keep your pout kissably soft all day. The Pomegranate flavor smells delicious and the gentle scrub buffs away rough skin so your lipstick applies perfectly smooth.



Get your glow on with the No7 Early Defence Serum and recharge your skin in just 7 days! The potent formula is infused with:
*Vitamin C and Ginseng: Restores radiance and leaves skin energized.
*Antioxidants: Protects against pollution and neutralizes free-radicals.
*Salicylic Acid: Promotes cell renewal and unclogs pores.
*Matrixyl 3000 Plus: Helps reduce signs of aging.


The serum melts in quickly with a non-greasy, silky finish and can be worn under sunscreen and makeup as an extra layer of protection. I like to apply it at night before bed and often layer it with my No7 Youthful Replenishing Facial Oil for even more luminosity. 

For more great beauty finds head to your local Shoppers Drug Mart
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