Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Terre Bleu Lavender Farm

I am always looking for interesting summer activites and recently I discovered Terre Bleu Lavender Farm just 45 minutes outside of Toronto.

As the city fades in the background and you exit the highway into Milton, there are long country roads surrounded by nature. The air seems cleaner, the landscape is splashed with vivid greens and you can spot a few animals grazing in the distance.


Bask in the warm sunshine as the scent of fresh lavender envelops you. The beautiful fields have a calming effect. 

Rates vary between $8.00 during low season, $20.00 on weekends and $15.00 on weekdays but you can usually visit the shop for free. Last entry is 4:30 pm but I recommend arriving early to avoid the crowds.


The guided tour includes a visit to the essential oil distillery, art exhibits, honey house, equestrian ring, herb bar and 200 year old cedar forest. On weekends there are a number of events including yoga in the fields and live music on the outdoor stage. If you have any questions the staff is always eager to help and exceptionally welcoming.



Explore the entire farm at a leisurely pace, there are various types of lavender in the fields and you will notice an abundance of little honeybees happily pollinating the vibrant buds. There is also an apiary on-site where fresh lavender honey is produced. All of the products are handmade so stop by the store for some lavender cheese, souvenirs, candles or beauty products that promote good health, rest and relaxation.



The art installations found throughout the farm symbolize new beginnings and peace. The big yellow door has a quote that reads – “walk through the door, your worries behind you, your joys are ahead.”


To escape the summer heat find a shaded bench or grab some tasty lavender lemonade and hang out on the patio. The cedar forest is usually a few degrees cooler with a light breeze that flows through the trees. Sit back, unwind and find your zen.



I enjoyed snapping photos among the wildflowers and indulging in delicious lavender ice cream! The flavor is mild and refreshing. 


For more information, visit the website at terrebleu.ca

Monday, July 30, 2018

It Cosmetics Naturally Pretty Eye Shadow Palette & New Superhero Liner

The weekend is over and I have another busy Monday ahead of me with a press trip in a few hours. Needless to say I have no time for a big makeup production (as my mom calls it) so I need a palette that can create a quick, professional look in less than 20 minutes (no easy feat for someone who usually spends more than an hour on her face).


After digging around in several over-stuffed drawers, I decided it was a good time to break out my Naturally Pretty Matte Luxe Transforming Palette ($55.00) featuring 14 anti-aging eye shadows that range from pearl to deep java. Like most products from the brand, the pigments were designed by plastic surgeons so each cool toned, velvety shade is infused with hydrolyzed collagen, real silk and peptides to keep your lids healthy.


The texture is luxuriously soft and smooth which is perfect for seamless blending and although these colors are a bit tame for my taste, they form an excellent base. The light beige tones mixed with peach and pink are great for transitioning and accentuating while the orange and browns are perfect for crease sculpting and definition. Use the navy blue and black to deepen and intensify your look for a smokey edge.


For a wide-eye effect, apply the Transforming Pearl shadow under the brow bone and around the inner corners. I recommend a good primer to prolong wear and prevent fading but the shadows are crease resistant and ideal for travel.

The Elastic Stretch Volumizing Mascara ($32.00) “is like skincare for your lashes” with no parabens, sulfates or phthalates. The formula stretches the look of each hair while thickening, lengthening and conditioning.

Infused with biotin, protein and fortifying peptides, you will experience minimal lash loss with more lift, fullness and separation. For best results I usually apply a few layers but the wand and pigment really does take your lashes to a new level.


The last thing you want on a hot summer day is messy eyeliner running down your face so It Cosmetics has created the Superhero 24 Hour Waterproof Easy Glide Liquid Gel Super Liner (try saying that 3 times fast). I was able to create a dramatic cat eye in less than 3 minutes and the “heavenly skin” hair tip brush is so precise and smooth that it literally does all the work for you. The saturated color glides on with no gaps or skipping so you can draw any size line from ultra thin to thick. This is the only eyeliner in my collection with so many nourishing ingredients. It contains peptides, collagen, biotin, and kaolin clay to fortify and preserve delicate hair. The liner retails for $32.00.


It Cosmetics is available at Sephora, The Shopping Channel and itcosmetics.ca

Friday, July 27, 2018

Urban Decay Lo-Fi Lip Mousse – Review & Swatches

Nothing makes me happier than pretty new lipstick... except for maybe pizza, shoes and traveling. When I received the new Lo-Fi Lip Mouse from Urban Decay my first thought was – OMG these shades are stunning! If you’re looking for recommendations I can’t help you. There is way too much gorgeousness to choose favorites and each scintillating shade is totally wearable no matter what your skin tone.


I love that the brand decided to package each color individually instead of popping them all in one bulky palette that you’d never want to carry around. Each compact has a mirror and easily slips in your purse without melting or breaking on hot summer days.

They also come with a small applicator that reminds me of the old school eye shadow sponges people used before brushes and blending became popular. It slides out automatically when you open the lid but seems to absorb a lot of pigment before depositing it on the lips. The lush texture is velvety and whipped to perfection but extraction is a bit tricky so you really have to dig in to pick up enough color. The size and shape of the applicator is not the greatest for coverage and blending but the end result is totally worth it!

AMPLIFY

The color payoff is muted, sheer and buildable so it takes a few layers to really enhance the pigmentation. The mousse is not full-coverage but the soft-focus, blurred effect and powdery matte finish looks effortless and sexy. Get creative by applying one shade around the outer edges of the lip contour and a deeper hue in the center for an ombré gradient. 

HALO

BOOM

FREQUENCY

For a just bitten look, tap it on with your finger or apply generously for a vivid stain. Once set, the color holds up for hours so you can make-out, stuff your face or party all night with minimal transfer.

FADE

Unfortunately it’s true what they say - “all good things must come to an end” but the mousse does so gradually (over several hours) and fades evenly so it never looks patchy. The waterproof pigment feels light as air for a “barely there effect” but there isn’t much hydration so remember to exfoliate and moisturize the night before. To revive the color and alleviate dry skin you can always layer on some gloss but my lips remain relatively smooth and chap-free.

NOISE

WAVELENGTH

The formula may not provide much suppleness but it adheres well without slipping, sliding or smudging and there is no need for liner or meticulous precision. You can also pat them on your cheeks to create pretty, long-wear blush that matches your pout.

ECHO


Urban Decay is available at freestanding stores, Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart, and online at urbandecay.ca. Don't forget to sign up for the Beauty Junkies Rewards Program to earn and redeem points.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Bangkok Thailand Travel Guide & Must-See Attractions

After spending a relaxing few days on the beaches of Phuket and swimming in our private pool at the beautiful Wyndham Sea Pearl Resort, I felt somewhat revitalized and ready to take on Thailand’s bustling capital city.

Bangkok has been featured in many films but the media often depicts the city as grungy, noisy and overcrowded. If you believe everything you see on TV you may get the impression that Bangkok is teeming with prostitution, run down street markets and soliciting “ladyboys” but the city is so much more than its seedy underworld. I did notice some questionable public behavior but no more than I see in Toronto and there is so much beauty to discover!


After a terrible cab ride with a driver who had no idea where he was going, I arrived at the spacious Rembrandt Hotel conveniently located near public transit. If you’re looking for an awesome budget-friendly destination, Bangkok is the place to be! There are skyscrapers as far as the eye can see and an abundance of great hotels in all price ranges. It is obvious why this destination is so enticing to travelers. You can live large with very little money and indulge in delicious meals for less than a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.

The best thing about the Rembrandt (aside from the magnificent rooftop view and amazing restaurants) is the complimentary cell phone in each room. We got free international calls and Wi-Fi which was very helpful when navigating and translating. It was also programmed with tourist info, maps, guides and recommendations for attractions and dining. If you stay here make sure to check out the Mexican restaurant (one of the best I’ve been to) and the trendy Indian restaurant serving authentic dishes.


Transportation
Bangkok is one of the busiest cities I have ever visited. At all hours of the day there is a constant stream of traffic with bikes, tut tuks and pedestrians weaving in and out. Your best bet for getting around quickly is the MTR or Sky Train. 


The day pass takes you almost anywhere in the city and if you need to cross the river simply hop on a ferry that costs just 50 Bhat per trip or $1.97 CAD.


Late April was extremely hot in Bangkok...I’m talking sweltering heat and heavy humidity that lingers in the air and zaps your energy. To keep cool I recommend scarfing down lots of ice cream like the handcrafted gelato at Stick House. The recipe contains no preservatives, artificial aroma or gluten and there are many fresh flavors to choose from including: mixed fruit, mango sticky rice, purple sweet potato, matcha and passion fruit brownie. I had strawberry cheesecake dipped in chocolate and crushed pistachios.



Travelers Tip: Remember to bring lots of sunscreen, a hat and maybe even an umbrella for UV protection. You will need to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes. 

The Grand Palace was first on my list but the heat was getting to me and I couldn’t walk much further. Thankfully we found a great tuk tuk driver just outside the gates who offered to take us anywhere we wanted for just 100 Bhats ($4.00 CAD). Compared to tuks tuks in Portugal that charged more than 80 Euros, this was an incredible deal and he waited patiently while we toured.



A bit of advice - tuk tuk rides look much cooler when you aren’t a passenger because being at street level means inhaling vast amounts of car exhaust and other unpleasant aromas. Nasty smells and pollution aside, is was fast and fun!


We attempted to visit the Standing Buddha at Wat Indrawiharn not knowing it was under construction and obstructed by scaffolding and tarps. The people at the gate did not mention this when we pulled up in our tuk tuk and they charged us the entrance fee knowing that we would not have a clear view (very dishonest for a place of worship). There isn't much to do in the area but I did snap a photo of Buddha (one of many).


Our driver also took us to a secluded little Buddhist Temple rarely visited by travelers. Unfortunately I cannot recall the name but we spoke to a friendly local who gave us a few recommendations for our itinerary. I found it quite amusing that many Thai people thought I was Thai but with a mix of South and East Asian ancestry (among many other things), I guess they saw something familiar in my gene pool.


I’ve toured many breathtaking buildings worldwide including Versailles in France and St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City but Wat Phra Kaew (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha) is spectacular in a glamorous way. Every inch of the facade is adorned with intricate jewels that look like they were carefully placed by hand. The pillars, roofs, statues and monuments are covered in colorful mosaics, marble and painted tiles.









The Grand Palace is located close to the temple and is the official residence of the King of Siam. If you’re lucky you might even see the guards marching through the palace grounds and performing drills.


 Grand Palace


Just outside of the palace there are small shops and everyone highly recommends the fresh coconut ice cream which is served in the shell with jelly and roasted peanuts.


I have deep respect for the teachings of Buddhism and I find the statues and paintings of Buddha elegant, exotic and peaceful. Many tourists flock to Wat Pho to see the large Reclining Buddha that engulfs the entire temple. There is a small entrance fee which includes a free bottle of water.




Travellers Tip: When entering places of worship you are required to dress appropriately (no sleeveless tops, mini skirts or shorts) and you may be asked to remove your shoes out of respect.

Shopping
Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise with incredible deals everywhere you look. Even if you hate the mall it is hard to resist being sucked in and going home with a suitcase full of stuff you didn’t intend to buy. I have never seen so many large shopping malls in one city. Every train stop we exited and every corner we turned led us to more shops.

One of my favorites was Siam Paragon – a trendy upscale mall in the heart of Bangkok. 


There is also a fabulous food court inside so make sure to stop by After You Dessert Cafe for Kakigori (Japanese Shaved Ice). This mound of icy goodness feels like fluffy snow and melts in your mouth like ice cream. I got the strawberry cheesecake with sweet fruit topping and in the base there was actual cheesecake!


BMK Mall is the place to score affordable souvenirs, luggage, clothing, bags, shoes and pretty much everything you can imagine. There are several floors of merchandise and I was told that the higher you go, the better the deals.

Travelers Tip: Many stalls sell knock-off designer purses but these items are usually illegal to purchase and transport so be careful what you buy.


While shopping at BMK you might as well try the food. The options are much better than Terminal 21 (a popular lunch spot for locals). My husband and I ordered the green curry fried rice and chicken Pad Thai with veggies.



Vertigo Moon Bar
We only had 3 days to tour and explore but the highlight of our trip was having cocktails 61 floors above the city at Vertigo Moon Bar in the Banyan Tree Hotel – the highest rooftop bar in Bangkok. My ears popped around the 43rd floor but the view is well worth the pricey drinks and the skyline stretches endlessly into the horizon. We went up just before sunset which was a romantic way to end a wonderful day.




If you get tired of Thai food (not sure if that’s even possible) Little Italy Restaurant at 2 Sukhumvit is open all night and serves decent pizza and pasta.


Wat Arun
Wat Arun, located on the Chao Phraya River is one of Thailand’s most important religious sites. The pearly temple is encrusted with porcelain that glistens in the sun. I spent time climbing the steep steps and taking photos (it was an excellent workout).




There is a lot more to see and do in Bangkok but I made the most of my short stay and fell in love with the upbeat, energetic vibe of the city. Will I visit again...possibly, but next time I’m in that part of the world I would love to explore Japan!

If you missed my guides on Shanghai, Singapore and Phuket you can find links under my travel tab and please stay tuned for the last stop on my Asia tour – Hong Kong!
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