Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Top 20 Travel Experiences & Adventures

Many of my readers and followers know that I travel a lot for work and leisure. Jetting off to exciting destinations and exploring countries and cultures different from my own makes me feel truly alive! There are adventures around every corner, exotic cuisine and historical treasures to discover in fascinating architectural wonders. What amazes me most is how different daily life is for people in other parts of the world and it has made me realize how amazing and important diversity is among cultures and ethnicities. Our uniqueness as human beings is what makes travel exciting and worthwhile. Visiting other parts of the world teaches acceptance and appreciation for life.

Today I will be sharing some of my top travel experiences and adventures.

1. The Sunrise at Haleakala in Maui
While vacationing in Maui my husband and I woke up early to visit Haleakala summit which rises almost 10,000 feet above sea level. Haleakala means “house of the sun” and as we drove towards the sky, the warm island heat turned to freezing wind and thin air. Watching the sun rise at the peak was like standing at top of the world. The sky blazed bright red and orange as the sun slowly rose up around the globe’s edge, illuminating the earth and warming our faces. The impressive height of our expedition was even more apparent as we drove down the mountain through the clouds looming below us.

2. Camping in the Deserts of Dubai
In Dubai I booked a 4x4 jeep tour and desert camping trip without knowing how terrifying it would be! The tour guide let air out of the car tires to gain traction on the smooth sand and we plunged into the mountainous dunes like a roller coaster, rising to the top and falling over the precipice with gut wrenching uncertainty. In some areas the dunes were so steep that we saw nothing but blue sky over vertical peaks so the guide couldn’t drive straight down without flipping the jeep. Instead he quickly turned the car and we skidded down the dune sideways! After the unnerving yet exhilarating experience we watched the sun set over the desert before stopping at a camp to ride camels and have dinner.

3. The White Water Rapids in Niagara Falls Canada
Niagara Falls is a short road trip away from Toronto and I love spending time there in the summer. When I booked the Jet Boating trip I had no idea what to expect but it was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had! The open top boat went speeding down the Niagara Encampment skidding over the water and hitting bumpy rapids like they were made of cement. As the boat dove into deep pits we were hit by heavy waves that completely engulfed the boat, forcing us to hold our breaths underwater until we emerged. Sometimes the water in the boat was waist high and everyone had to hold on for dear life!

4. Whale Watching on Bay St. Catherine Quebec
Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated with marine life, particularly dolphins and whales. While vacationing in Quebec City I embarked on a tour that took me through the gorgeous Laurentian Mountains to Bay Saint Catherine. On the trip I saw a variety of whale species feeding in the water around us. It was amazing to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat instead of some small park enclosure.  

5. Private Island Tour in Exuma
Exuma Islands off the coast of Nassau Bahamas has some of the clearest water on the planet! The water is so crystal blue that you can see straight down to the ocean floor which is covered in nothing but sparkling, powdery white sand. We booked a small tour which took us to an uninhabited island paradise in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. With only 8 others we had the beach to ourselves and ample time to explore the spectacular postcard scenery. We also spent time picnicking, feeding the sharks and deep ocean snorkeling where I saw an abundance of the colourful fish and sting rays.

6. The Florida Everglades Alligator Tour
Florida is one my favourite places to visit in the U.S and Miami feels like my home away from home. On one trip I walked the swampy Everglades alongside monstrous alligators (the smell was atrocious) and went air boating in the marsh - home to a variety of wildlife including large Burmese pythons.

7. The Eiffel Tower
Before I went to Paris and fell in love with the city I had seen the Eiffel Tower in many movies, books and TV shows. It wasn’t until I was standing at the top observation deck looking out over all of Paris did I realize just how impressive and iconic the structure really is. The Palace of Versailles is another must-see attraction when visiting.

8. The Serpentine Road in Kotor Montenegro
While on a trip to Dubrovnik Croatia I took a bus tour to the beautiful town of Kotor in Montenegro. The small village is surrounded by picturesque alpine-like lakes and sprawling mountains. We drove to one of the highest peaks via the Serpentine Road – one of the most dangerous roads in all of Europe! Admittedly the narrow, winding paths and death defying vertical drops down the mountain with no barriers was a bit terrifying but I will never forget the unbelievable view!

9. Monserrat Catalonia Spain
While vacationing in Barcelona I took a day trip to the rocky mountain peak of Montserrat. The cable car ride up the side of the mountain was a bit daunting but the view from the top was breathtaking and I was able to visit the Black Madonna (a statue of the Virgin Mary who brings luck to those who touch her). I also bought some fresh honey and cheese from local farmers at the market.

10. The Burj Khalifa In Dubai (tallest building in the world)
Despite my fear of heights, or more specifically falling from high places I try not to let it get in the way of my adventures. While in Dubai I visited the tallest building in the world and took the elevator to the observation deck soaring 125 stories (10 meters per second). It only takes about one minute to reach the top making the elevator one of the fastest in the world. The panoramic view of the city below is incredible! The buildings look like a miniature architect’s model and sometimes the clouds are beneath you!

11. Exploring the Jungles of Honduras
Roatan Honduras is rich with vegetation and wildlife so on a short visit to the island I decided to explore some of the jungle instead of lounging on the beach. I saw a variety of birds, lizards, monkeys and tropical flowers while making my way across a swaying bridge above murky jungle rivers. I felt like I was in one of those National Geographic or Discovery Channel nature documentaries I watch on TV but experiencing it in person was magical.

12. Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu Hawaii
One of my favorite things to do in Hawaii was breaking free from the city and driving along the coast to enjoy the stunning landscape. My journey led me to the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple which is nestled at base of lush green mountains and surrounded by calm streams, coy filled ponds and flowers. It was one of the most beautiful and serene temples I’ve seen and the landscape reminded me of Jurassic Park – wild and exotic.

13. St. Peter’s Basilica Vatican City Rome
I’ve visited many places in Italy and I’ve seen many cathedrals and magnificent buildings throughout the world but the one that tops my list is St. Peter’s Basilica. Every inch of the ceiling, floor and pillars are covered in intricate carvings, embellishments and art with a dome twice the height of the Statue of Liberty!

14. The South of France
When I recommend a honeymoon destination to new couples it is usually a trip to the French Riviera. Renting a car and cruising the incredible shores and rocky lookout points was a dream come true. We stopped in Monte Carlo, Marseilles, Nice, Menton, St. Tropez, Ville Franche Sur Mer, Saint Maxime and more. These were some of the most scenic cities I’ve ever been to.

15. The Splendours of Italy
Italy is one of my favorite countries to visit in terms of amazing landscape, history, beaches, coastline and attractions so instead of choosing just one thing I will list a few of my favorite moments from various trips throughout the country.
*Cruising the canals in Venice
*Exploring the small villages of Cinque Terre
*The Leaning Tower of Pisa
*Wine tasting and lunch in the hills of Tuscany
*The Statue of David
*The Coliseum, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain in Rome
*Touring Florence and the amazing art galleries with my sister
*Shopping for local delicacies on the Italian Riviera (Sanremo)
*Spending the Day on Lido Island (Venice) with my family
*Shopping for souvenirs and makeup in Sienna
*Eating the best gelato in the world in San Gimignano

16. The Desserts of Nevada
On a trip to Las Vegas my husband and I were rerouted to Phoenix Arizona and it turned out to be a wonderful adventure! We drove from Phoenix to Vegas through the dessert’s dry rocky landscape which was astounding! We also stopped along the way to have lunch and visited the Hoover Dam. It was one of the best road trips I’ve taken!

17. Manatee Watching in Belize
Belize has the region’s largest concentration of manatees and since I’m attracted to anything that has to do with marine life, I took an air boat tour through the marshland to see these gentle giants bobbing around in their natural habitat along with an array of birds and other wildlife.

18. Climbing Dunns River Waterfall in Jamaica
I’ve been to Jamaica numerous times and I love the beaches, food and culture. On one of my first visits to Ocho Rios I climbed Dunns River Falls which is a lot harder than it looks! The rocks are slippery, the water cascades forcefully and there isn’t a lot to hold on to but I love the secluded resting pools along the way.

19. Cruising the Bosphorous Channel in Turkey
Istanbul may not be high on your travel list since there has been some political danger recently and back when I visited in 2015 the situation was still quite volatile. That being said the city is brimming with friendly people and beautiful mosques. Taking a boat tour along the Bosphorous Channel is a great way to appreciate the city’s beauty.

20. Time Square New York
Although it has been a while since I’ve been back to New York nothing captures its lively buzz like standing in the middle of Time Square and marvelling at the excitement around you. The architecture, shopping, restaurants, shows and cultural diversity make it a great place to visit if you love city life.

Next on my list of places to visit: Morocco, Phuket Thailand, Japan, The Maldives, Egypt, Budapest, Vienna, Portugal and Greece.

UPDATE: I went to Budapest and Vienna this summer (yay!). To read those articles check out the links below:
*Budapest Hungary - Travel & Tourism Guide
*Vienna Austria - Travel & Tourism

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lancôme Energie De Vie Skincare Review

Winter seems to be winding down but we are still in that awkward phase of seasonal transition where freak snowstorms can hit at any moment followed by on the onset of spring temperatures. Unpredictable weather can wreak havoc on the skin which is why I decided to enhance my daily routine and test out the Energie De Vie Collection from Lancôme.

The bright green packaging definitely reminds me of warm summer days and the range includes serums, lotion, a night mask, cream and cleanser to help revitalized dull, tired skin and boost vitality. The Smoothing & Plumping Pearly Lotion ($61.00) is infused with Goji Berry, Lemon Balm, Gentian (a flowering plant/herb) and illuminating pearls that refresh, energize and balance. At first I was a bit confused with the world “lotion” because the formula is a water based gel that absorbs quickly. I love how cooling it feels on parched skin and I notice immediate improvement in texture. Rough areas and pores appear smooth and my complexion is vibrant, healthy and glowing with no sticky residue. Although the lotion has an ultra lightweight texture, it still hydrates well and seeps in efficiently for long lasting dryness relief. If you have very dry skin you may need to layer it under a heavier moisturizer.

One issue I have with Lancôme bottles and packaging is the lack of directions, you may need to visit the website to learn how to use them. In the ingredient list I don’t recognize many of the additives and most products have a very strong perfume scent which tends to mellow substantially after application. The fragrance may be an issue for sensitive skin so I recommend doing a patch test or getting samples.

The Liquid Care ($60.00) is an all-in-one lotion, serum and cream that protects the skin from environmental assaults, nourishes to treat dryness, heals and recuperates. The light liquid melts in and makes my skin silky, youthful, bouncy and luminous! It works wonders when used with the Pearly Lotion and together they make a wonderful base for flawless makeup application.

If you like the results of a night mask but prefer a light formula then the Energie De Vie Overnight Recovery Sleeping Mask may be just what you need. Like the other products, the consistency is gel-like and water based so it isn’t thick and doesn’t clog pores. The strong scent dissipates with wear so it isn’t bothersome and my skin feels dewy, resilient and moisturized. It is also light enough to combine with serums and night treatments. The mask retails for $90.00.

The Rénergie Multi-Lift Multi Action Gel-In-Lotion is not part of this collection but I’ve been using it as well. Along with hydrating the skin it also tightens, lifts and shapes to diminish fine lines, wrinkles, sagging and crows feet. The finish is matte, soft and velvety plus it helps improve elasticity while repairing the epidermis. Although I like the texture I don’t have any visible signs of aging so I can’t attest to all the benefits. The lotion retails for $61.00.

What impressed me most about these products is how instantaneous the results are! They rejuvenate my complexion and help reverse the effects of winter. Lancôme can be found at department stores, Sephora and lancome.ca.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Vasanti Synchronicity Eye Shadow Trio Kit: Review & Swatches

I’ve been a fan of Vasanti's lipsticks and skincare for years so when I saw the new Synchronicity Palettes I just had to have them! These glamorous all-in-one kits come with everything you need to create stunning eye looks including a trendy eye shadow trio, full-size angled brush, false lashes and glue.

The kits come packaged in stylish magnetic boxes that are great for storage, travel and gifting.

The flattering pigments create a variety of lust-worthy looks from soft and elegant to dramatic and sexy.

Each shadow palette contains 3 rich metallic hues made with wet powder-vacuum technology to ensure professional quality, intense pigmentation, blendability and silkiness.

Inevitable features majestic metals in champagne gold, rich copper bronze and antique bronze. These dazzling shades have a high-impact shimmery finish with lots of eye-catching sparkle. Because the luxurious formula is velvety and smooth, the micro-fine glitter suspended within the color applies consistently which reduces fall-out and scattering when swiped on evenly. When layered well the shadows are highly saturated and using a good primer improves adhesion and longevity.

The bronzy-golden hues compliment all skin tones and although the palettes lack a matte crease shadow for sculpting, the colors are expertly matched. The angled brush is great for blending but the fluffy bristles don’t pick up enough pigment for full coverage lid application and tends to disperse the color thinly. I use a flat shadow brush for best results and dampening the bristles improves transfer and concentration. 

Serendipity is my favorite palette because I love the antique plum with garnet undertone and it looks lovely against the metallic rose and pink champagne. The middle pink is the only shadow that has sheer pigmentation and minimum buildability so I usually blend it out for a softer effect.

Destiny contains cool neutral tones that are eye-catching and radiant. The gold-vanilla, holographic taupe and antique gunmetal are ideal for day wear and you can always transition the look for a night out by deepening the crease and adding falsies.

The voluminous lashes accentuates the shadows for a seductive look.

The gold and champagne pigments in any of these palettes can also be used to highlight the face. When blended well the shimmer spreads into a sheer, glittery layer creating a luminous glow.

The Synchronicity Palettes retail for $57.00 each at Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, Pharma Plus and online at vasanticosmetics.com, birchbox.com and amazon.com.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lise Watier Rouge Intense Supreme Lipstick Review

When it comes to elegant packaging and trendy hues the new Rouge Intense Supreme Collection by Lise Watier does not disappoint! With 15 highly saturated hues and a nourishing formula enriched with conditioning oils, antioxidants and tea extract, these beautiful shades transition your look from winter to spring with effortless flare.

The magnetic packaging and slender tubes are chic but what’s inside is even better! If you’re looking for bold, flattering pigment that moisturizes dry lips without accentuating lines and roughness, then these are fabulous! The luxurious texture applies rich and buttery yet light and plush for a smooth coat of satiny shine.

The range of color is versatile and classic so there are stylish shades for every complexion including neutrals, bright tones and deep sultry hues. My favorite shades are Mary (sexy red-brown), Kelly (sophisticated nude) and Brooklyn (dark wine).

Zoe is a soft peachy-pink that is great for spring and Clara balances dramatic eye shadow with subtle flesh tones.

The color payoff may differ by shade but most are medium to full-coverage with the ability to be layered and intensified or toned down for a sheer wash. The creamy formula is easy to apply and I didn’t experience any feathering or bleeding. Like most lipsticks the color may transfer during meals and with extended wear but the longevity is good and the cushiony formula leaves lips soft and plush.

These lipsticks are perfect for those who appreciate vibrancy, comfort and quality and most of the shades are great for everyday wear. They retail for $27.00 each at Hudson’s Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sears, London Drugs and online at lisewatier.com with shipping to the U.S. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

LUSH Lipstick Review

I’ve used many bath and body products from LUSH so I thought it was about time I try some of the pretty lipsticks. Showcasing their colorful creativity, the brand packages these handmade pigments in cute glass jars and infuses them with nourishing jojoba and rose.

The collection includes a versatile range of bright, deep and neutrals tones in a variety of fun finishes. Although the caps resemble medicine droppers they are actually standard gloss applicators and the formula is very lightweight.

The first thing I noticed was how smooth the color glides across my lips before it melts in comfortably and sets with lacquer-like precision. The texture isn’t slick or glossy but the natural oils maintain a nice level of moisture to keep lips soft and hydrated with a hint of glistening shine.

Passionate is a bright fuchsia pink with micro-fine sparkle that blends in undetectably to create a luminous effect. The color is very buildable so layering subtly makes it appear light and soft while applying more makes the pigment stand out vividly for a bold look. The color payoff is full-coverage and quite intense which is great for spring and suitable for all complexions.

Out of all the color swatches online, Decisive was the one that stood out most. I expected it to be deeper but the classic pin-up red is beautiful and never goes out of style! The silky formula applies effortlessly and lasts a few hours before fading into a nice stain. The bright red is highly saturated with a mild undertone that works for all skin tones. I love pairing it with gold or neutral eye looks and a sharp winged liner.

Bubbly looks different than the swatch online but the frosty pink has a nice layer of shimmer that creates an iridescent, multidimensional effect. Unlike the other two shades above, this one has sheer coverage but applies consistently and looks quite dazzling.

The great thing about these lipsticks is that they are all-natural, non-sticky, gentle and non-drying plus blending a little onto the cheeks creates a nice blush! You can pick them up for $19.95 each at LUSH stores and lush.ca.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Make Up For Ever Artist Acrylip & Pro Sculpting Brow Palette Review

After attending my first few press events I’ve realized that 2017 may be the year of vivacious lip paints! Many brands are releasing a selection of bold, beautiful pigments that promise unstoppable color and I absolutely love this trend!

The Make Up For Ever Acrylip formula is inspired by the versatility of high pigment acrylic paint and is available in 10 vibrant hues that make your pout the center of attention. The color is packaged in squeeze tubes with angled felt tip applicators that effectively fill-in, blend and spread the product. Despite the bright lacquer-like finish, the Acrylips are non-drying with a hint of satiny shine and buildable coverage.

The shades are all gorgeous but I chose 401 Raspberry Red, 500 Lilac and 201 Fuchsia Pink. The consistency is weightless, non-sticky and breathable so I often forget they are on my lips and the stain is very pretty. Like many lip products that don’t have “stay all day” formulas, the color does transfer while eating and gradually fades with wear so reapplication is necessary throughout the day. For more longevity, adhesion and coverage I layer well and use a lip primer paired with feather-proof translucent liner.

If you love vivid pigment then you will probably like these but I recommend swatching a few since the colors may not always appear exactly as they do in the tubes. The Acrylips retail for $29.00 each.

The obsession with perfectly arched brows is still going strong and my all-time favorite product is still the Make Up For Ever Aqua Brow Gel. The brand has recently released the all-in-one Pro Sculpting Palette that contains everything you need to fill, shape, define and groom including: 3 powders, wax, dual ended applicator (spoolie + angled brush) and highlight.

I have palette 2 which is brown to black and palette 1 is suitable for blonde to dark brown hair. The powders range from light, medium and deep with the right amount of ashy undertones to appear natural and enough saturation for definition and buildable coverage. I usually have an issue with brow pigments appearing too light against my black hair but these work well and provide the perfect amount of intensity.

Although I prefer to outline with a liner, these highly blendable powders are great for filling in sparse areas to create fullness. The wax is a tad difficult to use from the pan and I would have preferred a powder highlight instead of a cream but I do like how subtle and soft it is. This travel-friendly brow palette retails for $52.00. 

You can find these great products at makeupforever.ca, Sephora and MUFE boutiques.

Monday, January 23, 2017

LUSH Toothy Tabs Review

If you’ve read my review on the new Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Electric Toothbrush then you know that I’ve made a resolution to enhance my oral health routine. After reading and hearing about some of the harmful side effects of toothpaste ingredients I also made the switch to all-natural toothpaste and I’ve stuck with it since the year began.

Giving up the ultra minty, creamy brand of toothpaste I’ve used for years was a difficult transition but once I adjusted there was no looking back! My Natural toothpaste of choice is the Toothy Tabs from LUSH because they are easy to use and come in two forms - pills and powder. It took about a week for me to fully accept the taste of Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) which is slightly salty but once I did the benefits were evident very quickly. Baking Soda has natural teeth whitening and plaque removal properties which prevents tooth decay, cavities and gum disease.

The Toothy Tabs are available in a variety of flavors like Dirty (loaded with spearmint and neroli oil), Miles of Smiles (organic peppermint oil and wild mint), Oral Pleasure (a blend of orange oil, rose oil, vanilla and almond oil with a fruity scent) and the bestselling and most popular flavor of all - Boom (made with activated charcoal, lime oil, black pepper oil, tea and organic ground chili). These ingredients may sound weird but they are gentle on enamel and have wonderful health benefits.

The tabs come in small, almost sample-size bottles with 50 g of product but they last a long time. This packaging is also very convenient for travel and carry-on luggage because they are not in paste or gel format. To use the tabs you simply chew one (don’t swallow) wet your toothbrush and clean away! The formula does foam up slightly but not quite as much as regular toothpaste. If you prefer more foaming action use two.

You can also try the Tooth Powder packaged in little jars. The formula is loose so you must wet your brush and dip it into the powder to coat the bristles. Tooth Fairy is strawberry flavored and Ultrablast has a mint-wasabi combo.

Compared to the Colgate Optic White Toothpaste I’ve been using for years, the Toothy Tabs whiten my teeth much more effectively over a shorter period of time and when used with my amazing new sonic toothbrush I’ve notice significantly fewer surface stains. Although many of the tabs do not have the blast of mint I'm familiar with, they still freshen your breath and do a great job cleaning the teeth and gums.

Boom is my favorite formula because the charcoal gets rid of germs and impurities while cleansing the tongue very well. It also helps diminish some of that morning breath effect. These tabs do turn your mouth grey while brushing but it rinses clean so don't freak out. My favorite in terms of taste is Ultrablast but the scent alone may not give a good indication of flavor since many have an aftertaste. At my local LUSH store I was able to get samples.

The most common complaint about these is the taste. Some like it and some don’t (which is the case with almost everything). The minty flavors tend to taste the best and although they aren’t delicious by any means they aren’t bad either. Many Toothy Tab users I’ve spoken to report fewer cavities and much happier dentist visits which is motivation enough for me!

The tabs retail for $9.95 per bottle and the powder is $9.95-$10.95 per jar. You can find these products at LUSH stores and lush.ca.
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