Friday, July 26, 2019

New Eye Shadow Palettes from NYX | Summer 2019 Makeup Trends

NYX Cosmetics is popular among makeup artists, influences and beauty junkies all over the world because the products are good quality, trendy and affordable. I've visited their stores in many countries and while browsing the website there is always something new to discover.


Summer is a great time to experiment with bold color which is why I love the Off Tropic Palette ($24.00). Hasta La Vista is inspired by the heat and hues of island paradise and features 10 bright pigments that make me want to go on a cruise. Most of the shades are matte (which I love) but they’ve also included shimmery gold and satiny blue.


I’ve been looking for bright orange eye shadow for a while and this little palette has an eye-catching array of dramatic color. The peach looks stunning with the bold pink (I’ve been wearing this combo a lot lately) but some shades apply patchy and faint so a good primer and a few layers is highly recommended.

I tested all of the pigments on my eyes (without irritation) before reading the package and discovering that only 4 shades are eye shadow while the other 6 are intended for face and body makeup. It does not specify why they cannot be used around the eyes or if doing so is dangerous but NYX might want to rethink the labeling and marketing of this product.

I also have a few of the Ultimate Shadow Palettes ($22.00) in my collection because they are handy for travel and color coordinated for effortless looks. To create a beautiful smokey eye the Ash compact is a great choice. It has a nice selection of cool tones including silver, blue, deep navy and charcoal. Unfortunately three of the greys are almost identical and the texture is dry. To intensify the effect use a smoothing base and layer well. Once you’ve applied enough, the shadows appear sharp and well pigmented with no creasing and minimal fading.


I don’t know many people who can resist a stunning sunset and for a sultry night out the Phoenix Palette ($22.00) is super sexy with excellent color payoff. The brilliant coral, metallic gold, bright yellow and matte orange look stunning together and I can’t get enough of the rich burgundy.



The Ultimate Edit Petite Palettes ($12.00 ea) are simplified, travel-friendly versions of the Ultimate Palettes with a little less pigmentation. I like the color combos but there is some fallout. The red, coral, yellow gold and plum palette is also called Phoenix. When layered generously the shadows appear quite prominent.

The Warm Neutral Palette is ideal for anyone who likes to keep things simple with a range of classy shimmers and crease defining mattes.


NYX is available at drugstores, freestanding NYX stores and online at nyxcosmetics.ca

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Glitter Makeup You Need to Try | Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Gel and Pixi Glitter-y Eye Quad

There are many exciting events happening in Toronto this summer so I’m getting ready to party like there’s no tomorrow! Up next on my schedule is a fun night of live music, food and beauty to celebrate the Caribbean Carnival. I am also planning another vacation (it will be hard to top my trip to Belgium last month), a couple road trips and this weekend my sister and I will be enjoying dinner and a show. 

To get ready for upcoming events I’ve been planning my makeup looks and I think it’s a good time to break out the glitter! Whether you’re attending a concert or clubbing with the girls, a splash of sparkle is a great way to accentuate your best features.


Urban Decay’s Heavy Metal Glitter Gel ($25.00) can be used on the eyes, face, body and lips with minimal transfer or fallout. The translucent, non-sticky base disperses in a smooth, high-coverage stream that you can pat or swipe on to adjust coverage. Clumping or inconsistency can be easily corrected with a little blending and once this stuff sets, it stays put all evening! Apply it sparingly for a subtle effect or use a lot for an eccentric disco ball look.


I think the glitter looks best layered over eye shadow or used as an overlay for your favorite lipstick (if you aren’t planning to eat or drink). Saturday Stardust (my personal fave) has large, multidimensional chunks while most of the others contain smaller particles.  

To prolong wear, spritz your makeup brush with UD’s All Nighter Setting Spray and pat some on top to hold the glitter in place. The reflective shine is mesmerizing!

If you prefer a subtle pop of radiance, try the Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner ($23.00). The sheer, fluid base makes it tricky to draw a consistent line so you might have to apply a few layers or use it over the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil ($25.50).


I don’t know if I’d wear the Hi-Fi Shine Ultra Cushion Gloss ($24.00) with the glitter gel but if you want to enhance your glow, go for it! There are 24 brilliant shades to choose from and the iridescent formula has a long-lasting, non-sticky finish that illuminates your pout. It also contains vitamin E and peppermint oil to nourish and plump.

Wild Side is a vibrant gold that looks fabulous layered over wine, plum or red lipstick.


Urban Decay is available at Sephora, freestanding stores, Shoppers Drug Mart, Ulta Beauty (in the U.S.) and online at urbandecay.ca.

Most days I stay away from glitter because of the mess. I hate when it scatters all over my face and mysteriously ends up all over the house. Pixi’s Gitter-y Eye Quads ($22.00) are gorgeous but I was a bit concerned about the loose, dry particles. I assumed it was going to be a disaster but this stuff is amazing!

Simply swipe it onto your lids (a little or a lot depending on the look you’re going for), let it set for a few seconds and you’re done! The glitter seems to have a built-in primer that holds everything together all day. I can touch or rub my eyes without transfer or smudging and the coverage is surprisingly consistent with no patchiness or clumping. If you're looking for glitter that is easy to work with, these palettes are awesome!



Pixi Beauty is available at Shoppers Drug Mart, Target and online at beauty.shoppersdrugmart.ca

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Maui Moisture Curl Quench Hair Care Review

My hair loves winter. There is no heat, zero humidity and minimal perspiration so my blowout lasts for days! When the temperature drops I use my flat iron to create low maintenance, sleek styles that can be finger combed and tousled before I’m out the door living my best life.

When summer rolls around things get complicated. The UV index rises to unbearable levels and I can barely walk a block without feeling sticky, tired and miserable. My hair seems to reflect the weather and respond accordingly so I embrace my natural curls and try to control the frizz.

Don’t get me wrong, I like curls... on other people but I don’t have the patience to wet my hair every morning, detangle, slather on conditioners and apply leave-ins that keep my spirals from looking like a fluffy mess. On the bright side, taking a break from heat styling gives my hair time to recuperate and grow.


Another way I’ve been coping with the heat is by using products specifically designed for maintaining the health of my ringlets. Maui Moisture’s Curl Quench Collection is infused with coconut oil, papaya, flower extract and nourishing emollients to prevent dryness and enhance body, bounce, shine and strength. The entire range contains no mineral oil, silicone, gluten, sulfates or synthetic dye and the first ingredient is always 100% pure aloe juice.

The shampoo is a treat for the senses! It makes my bathroom smell like a tropical oasis and I love the rich frothy bubbles. The lather cleanses from root to tip, breaking down build-up, rinsing away sweat and eliminating impurities without stripping natural oils, drying out my scalp or causing brittleness.


The luscious conditioner is great for detangling, moisturizing and softening without weighing down my strands. Comb it through evenly and leave it on for about 10 minutes in the shower to enhance your curl pattern and smooth roughness.

If you want amazing definition, apply the Curl Quench Smoothie to damp hair and style as usual. The thick cream functions as a leave-in conditioner but hydrates like a treatment masque without stickiness or heavy residue. It revitalizes my spirals, enhances springiness, prevents frizz, and keeps things neat, supple and super shiny. I don’t think my hair has ever looked so curly!


If you need lots of hydration with anti-breakage protection, one of my favorite collections is Maui Moisture Agave. The shampoo and conditioner smell amazing and together they cleanse, refresh moisturize and reduce shedding.

The invigorating formula is infused with hibiscus oil and pineapple extract to fortify and replenish chemically treated, damaged hair. It also works on healthy hair in need of a little rejuvenation.


The Agave Mask works wonders and I highly recommend it if soft, manageable hair is something you strive for. I leave it on for about 2-3 hours and my tendrils feel incredibly supple, bouncy and light with lots of movement and shine. When used frequently it also seems to prevent split-ends, static and flyaways.


These products retail for about $10.99 each at major drugstores across Canada and online at ca.mauimoisture.com.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Conair True Glow Glam Vibrating Makeup Brush Set and Blender

Have you ever been too tired to do your makeup in the morning? On average it takes me an hour to get ready (If I know what look I’m going for and have my clothes picked out) plus an extra 20-30 minutes if my hair is curly. I love testing new products and experimenting with color but sometimes I wish I could snap my fingers and look runway ready without all the effort.

I am always on the lookout for beauty tools to improve application and save time, so when I heard about Conair’s True Glam Glow Collection I just had to test it.


The Vibrating Makeup Brush Set ($18.99) comes with two interchangeable makeup applicators designed to give you a flawless finish. It runs on one AA battery (not included) and has one speed setting for liquids, creams and powders.

To use: Dampen the sponge, apply your foundation, press the power button and blend. The vibrations are supposed to smooth and perfect for a 3D airbrush finish with seamless layers.


Most of the pulsations are generated in the handle rather than sponge itself so all I really felt was light buzzing that did not seem to improve or affect application. Despite this, my foundation still looked pretty awesome and the oval shape is useful for manoeuvring around the nose, jaw line and under eye area. The sponge delivers a sheer finish so I prefer to use it for tinted moisturizer, primer or CC creams that can be layered thinly. It is also useful for buffing out harsh contour lines.

The texture reminds me of those old-school wedged sponges from the drugstore. It isn’t particularly plush or porous but it gets the job done relatively well if you are patient.

The blush brush is great for sweeping on powdery pigment because the synthetic fibers are soft and flexible. The vibrations don’t quite make it to the end of the bristles but I love the natural finish it provides.


Most days I use the original Beauty Blender to apply foundation so I was more comfortable with Conair’s egg shaped Makeup Blender ($14.99). This sponge takes 1 AAA battery (not included) and has its own stand for storage and drying.

For best results, dampen the sponge and pat your foundation on in stippling motions. The material is a bit dense but the coverage is smooth and even.


Application took a bit longer because the sponge is bulky and expands even more when wet but I do like the vibrations that resonate from the blender’s core. It doesn’t seem to have a dramatic effect on the end result but after a couple layers of foundation (a bit more than I normally use) I was able to achieve a beautiful finish that was almost flawless. If you have fine lines, wrinkles or uneven skin texture, the gentle vibration might help fill in gaps and spaces to blur imperfections. Overall I think this is an innovative concept that will inspire the next generation of makeup applicators.

Conair is available at Walmart, amazon.ca, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canadian Tire and conair.ca

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Brussels Travel and Tourism Guide | Attractions, Food and Day Trips

Brussels has been on my bucket list for years but it was placed near the bottom in a category referred to as “time permitting.”  There were many other cities I wanted to explore first but some of those trips require long flights, lots of preparation, visas and vaccinations.

Every time my husband and I get a few days off work, we take the opportunity to go on another adventure and Belgium suddenly seemed like the perfect destination for a quick 6 day getaway.

Before I knew it I had over-packed (again), booked 2 first class tickets with Air Canada and we were touching down in the land of waffles, chocolate and beer.

Belgium is nestled between Germany, France, Amsterdam and Luxembourg so the official languages are Dutch and French. Quite recently there has been an influx of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East so many people are multilingual. Most of the locals speak fluent English and I noticed a diverse range of ethnic cuisine and pop-up street markets selling everything from clothing and household items to produce and beauty supplies.


Brussels is a great destination for short trips because the city is relatively small and very walkable. There are captivating landmarks, beautiful art galleries, fabulous dining, endless shopping and lush green space.

My first impression was tainted by the abundance of garbage and grime on the outskirts of town but as you venture uphill towards Mont des Arts, the neighborhood is clean and modern.

For some reason I expected Brussels to be luxurious and maybe even a little posh but the heavily armed police patrol was definitely noticeable. Despite aesthetic and political issues, I was able to appreciate the city’s beauty and see why so many travelers are drawn to the stunning renaissance architecture, trendy cafes and bustling streets.


Brussels is bursting with small town charm and you can probably visit most of the main attractions in just 2-3 days.

Travelers tip: Remember to bring comfortable shoes because the stonework is old, cracked and hard on the feet.

The weather in early June was a bit wet and unseasonably cool but the rain rarely lasted more than 20 minutes and the sun always made an appearance. The average temperature during our trip was about 18˚C with a comfortable breeze that made it easy to do a lot of walking.

Transportation
If you eat too much frites and start feeling sluggish, take the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus. I liked this tour because I could sit back, relax and enjoy the historical commentary while scoping out all the places I wanted to visit. We covered a lot of ground by using the bus but the company has no signs in the city center and the starting point can be difficult to locate.


The easiest way to find the first stop is by making your way to the Central Train Station and veering to the right. The buses are usually parked along the road in front of a townhouse complex. Tickets cost 25.00 per person for 24 hours and 32.00 for 48 hours but make sure to check the schedule because the tour ends quite early.

Public transit is another affordable option. We stayed near Midi Tram Station at an apartment style hotel called Flat Midi 33 (2 stops from the center) and it cost just 2.10 one-way. You can also purchase a day pass for 7.50.

Attractions
Grande Place in the heart of Brussels is usually the first stop on everyone’s list. It is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe with architecture from the Baroque and Gothic eras. Historically, this area was where locals traded their goods so most of the surrounding streets are named after food.



Make sure to visit the square at night when the buildings are lit up. It is a beautiful place for a romantic stroll.



The Grand Palace is a magnificent structure that reminds me of the royal residences in Budapest and Vienna. It is not open to the public until late July.


No trip to Belgium is complete without visiting the Atomium - a unique architectural masterpiece known as the symbol of Brussels. The shiny spheres represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times and similar to the Eiffel Tower, photos don’t do it justice.


Entrance to the panoramic viewing deck is 15 per person and Mini Europe theme park featuring historic landmarks from around the continent is also in the vicinity.


For a spectacular view of the city, head to Mont des Arts Garden (Hill of Arts). During the day this is a wonderful place to unwind while munching on a waffle and at sunset the landscape looks magical.



There are many stunning churches in Brussels but one my favorites is Our Blessed Lady of Sablon.


If you visit, make sure to check out the lovely park across the street - Jardin du Petit Sablon. This little oasis is a great place to escape the crowds and enjoy nature.


Other popular churches include Eglise Notre Dame de Laeken, St. Michaels (seen below) and the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart.


The Royal Gallery of St. Hubert is a gorgeous glass roof shopping arcade featuring luxury brands and elegant cafes. Even if you aren’t in the market for high-end trinkets, the building is definitely Instagram-worthy.


I’m not sure why Manneken Piss is so popular (the sculpture is small and overrated) but people seem to love this little guy. Replicas of him holding his junk and relieving himself can be seen all over town. It was actually quite challenging to find souvenirs without him on it (trust me, I looked).


Great Places to Start Your Tour
My husband and I toured most of the city in just two and a half days on the 48 hour bus tour and by simply walking. A couple good starting points are Grand Place and Place de la Bourse adjacent to the Brussels Stock Exchange. From these two points there are avenues in every direction that lead to attractions, shops and restaurants. Start in the middle of these squares and explore each street until you’ve exhausted all possibilities.

Day Trip to Bruges
If you are planning to stay for more than 3 days, it is a good idea to take a day trip. Another popular destination is Brugge/Bruges in Northern Belgium. This picturesque little town is well known for its charming cobble stone streets and winding canals that flow between ancient buildings.



From Midi Train Station it takes about an hour to reach Bruges and cost 15.20 round-trip. Once you exit the train terminal there are buses that go directly to the city center for 3 per ride or you can simply walk the short distance. If the mood strikes, horse and carriage tours are also available for about 50.00.


When we arrived the streets were overflowing with tourists but it was definitely worth the trip. The first thing we did was buy tickets for the 30 minute canal tour (10 per person) because the line is usually long. The boat ride provides a unique perspective of Bruges and the captain was very informative.




In the past (way before people knew anything about sanitation), the river was a reservoir for sewage run-off and the polluted water was used to make wine. Thankfully those days are over but just like the canals in Venice, you wouldn’t want to go swimming.

Many people also choose to tour the brewery and visit popular landmarks. I spent most of the day shopping, eating and strolling around with no plan or schedule (it was quite liberating).



The colorful buildings in the town square are similar to houses found in Amsterdam. It is a great place to test your photography skills.


All that sightseeing will probably make you hungry so it’s time to talk about food - one of the best parts of traveling!

Here is my list of the top 5 foods/drinks to try in Brussels - drum roll please...

1. Chocolate
Belgian chocolate is known as the best in the world and with over 2,000 chocolatiers to choose from, you’ll have to make some difficult decisions and put your diet on hold.



Before I left Toronto I did some research and noted a few popular shops to visit. My plan seemed simple but there was chocolate on every corner and I went a bit crazy. Did my husband have to stage an intervention and drag me out...maybe, but there are hundreds of mouth-watering flavors – passion fruit, strawberry, matcha, cherry, banana and anything you can possibly imagine!



Most stores let you sample the chocolate and handpick your favorites to create a customized box. I prefer dark chocolate with strawberries and pistachios (not easy to find), chocolate covered cherries swimming in liquor and anything with hazelnuts. If you really want to immerse yourself, book a chocolate tasting tour and worry about the calories later.


2. Waffles
I like waffles but I was never a huge fan until I went to Belgium. In Brussels this scrumptious street food can be found everywhere and people eat them all day (not just for breakfast).

There are actually 2 types of waffles made in Brussels. The first is rectangular with light airy dough that is typically less sweet. The second and more popular of the two is a round waffle with dense batter infused with sugar crystals that melt in your mouth. These are sold all over the city including waffle trucks that often park near tourist areas.


Locals prefer to eat their waffles plain or dusted with powdered sugar which is how I like them too. The outside is warm and slightly crunchy while the inside is soft and sweet.


In Bruges I stopped at House of Waffles and ordered the Chocolate Madness topped with ice cream, whip cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries. It was delectable but a bit messy to eat on the street. If you stop here for lunch expect a long line.


The topping combinations are virtually endless so mix and match until you discover the dessert of your dreams.


3. Belgian Frites
One of the most popular street foods in Belgium is frites. In fact, you’ll notice many people walking around Brussels with huge cones overflowing with delicious fries.

The thick cut potatoes are first fried in beef mallow at a low temperature so the inside remains soft and then deep fried again at a higher temperature for maximum crispiness.

At Fritland for just 4 you get a heaping amount of thick golden fries topped with your choice of sauce. I chose spicy cheese for a hint of savoriness but mayonnaise, ketchup and garlic aioli are also very popular.


My husband and I shared because we don’t eat much fried food and found the frites a bit heavy. Many restaurants serve them with a large plate of fresh mussels if you like seafood (I don’t).

4. Beer
I enjoy a glass of wine or fruity cocktail every now and then but I am not a big drinker (I get drunk fast) and I don’t know much about beer. Stella Artois (which just happens to be Belgian) is my favorite but I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try a different kind each day (they were all good).


I had no idea how to pronounce most of the beers so I made random selections or asked the waiter to bring me whatever was popular. I usually opted for light/blonde brews and tried fun flavors like apple and cherry.


Some pubs offer hundreds of options so you might have to do a little research to make an informed decision. You can also book a brewery tour to sample Belgium’s finest and learn about the entire production process. Don’t be surprised if you see locals guzzling beer with breakfast. Where there is a lot of alcohol there are a lot of intoxicated people...I saw things...

5. Nona Pizzeria
Pizza has been my favorite food since I was a kid so every time I visit a new city I try the local version (even if my husband is sick of it). I've been to Italy several times and the best pizza I ever had was in Florence at a small restaurant called Gutsa Pizza.

When you’re in Belgium, the place to go for authentic Neapolitan wood fire pizza is Nona’s. The organic ingredients are sourced from local farms and the flavors are incredible! I went 2 nights in a row and the lineup was down the block. The service is also fantastic and while you wait for a table, you can order beer and drink it on the sidewalk (in Toronto you’d be fined for that).


There are also many Thai restaurants in Brussels but none of the places I tried were as good as the ones in Bangkok, Patong (near Phuket) or even here in Toronto. My Pad Thai was a bit salty but I’ve had worse.


Day Trip to Luxembourg
On our last day we decided to take a day trip to Luxembourg – a small country surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany. The train from Midi Station cost 39.50 per person and took about 4 hours because there was construction on the rail (usually it takes about 3 hours each way). I only recommend this journey if you have time because it was slow and boring. Luxembourg is also quite rural with rocky gorges and dense forest. The terrain is picturesque but there isn’t much to do and it seemed like the entire city was under construction.



We kept it simple and went to the park, had lunch on a patio, did some shopping and took photos at the lookout point. The palace is not open until late July and the streets were very quiet.



The next time I’m in that part of Europe I’d like to visit Amsterdam but I'll definitely stop in Brussels again to stock-up on chocolate.

For more vacation inspiration check out my travel page HERE

Bon Voyage!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...