Friday, January 31, 2020

Valentine’s Day Essentials and Date Night Makeup

Valentine’s Day may be commercialized but it is a great excuse to dress up, buy new makeup and eat lots of chocolate. Take a break from your hectic work week and plan a fun date to rekindle the romance.

Today I’m sharing a few beauty essentials that are perfect for a night of passion.

Recently I discovered a collection of vibrant red polish from Bio Sculpture. The Nourishing Nail Care range is formulated with multivitamins and plant hardening agents derived from Aloe, Lemon and Ginseng. Instead of leaving your nails brittle, yellow and damaged, the pigment hydrates, hardens and protects them with a built-in UV filter for long lasting manis and pedis.

Bio Sculpture holds a 5-star safety rating and their products are “ten-free” - meaning they are vegan, cruelty-free and do not contain 10 of the most common toxic chemicals found in nail polish.

The thick brush delivers the perfect amount of color in neat even strokes and I love the high-shine finish. For more information visit

A bold red lip looks great with this manicure and Laura Mercier has some sexy options. The Rouge Essentiel Silky Creme Lipsticks ($42.00 ea) are infused with Mediterranean Sea Algae to moisturize dry skin and smooth fine lines. The curved bullet tip is designed to hug the lip contour and deliver intense, vibrant color in a single swipe.

I like the slick buttery texture and semi-opaque satin finish. You might need a couple coats to achieve consistent coverage but the buildable color keeps lips soft and supple. Laura Mercier is available at Sephora, Saks, Nordstrom and

Rouge Electrique (orange-red) and Rouge Muse (classic red)

Sultry red lipstick looks amazing with glitter eye shadow and for a night on the town, Urban Decay’s Party Favor Palette ($38.00) is a great choice. Each shade is laced with micro-fine sparkle for a diamond-like 3D effect.

The shadows are semi-sheer so you can layer generously or apply them over solid colors to fill in the background. Use a good base or glitter primer to keep the particles in place and enhance vividness. My favorite shade is Power Trip – a gorgeous coppery gold with flecks of pink.

Urban Decay is available at Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Shoppers Drug Mart, freestanding UD Stores and

If you prefer soft, romantic makeup, Shiseido’s Essentialist Palette ($48.00) in Jizoh Street Red is lovely. The silky spherical powders create a smooth second-skin effect that lasts 12 hours with no creasing or fading and the pigmentation is quite good. The deep rose pairs beautifully with the radiant gold or elegant champagne and the compact is great for travel. Shiseido is available at Hudson’s Bay, Rexall, Sears, Shoppers Drug Mart and

Enhance these feminine shadows with Estee Lauder’s bestselling shade – Rebellious Rose. The Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick (32.00) has a creamy satin finish with a hint of moisturizing shine for effortless application and luxurious comfort. I can see why this shade is so popular. The saturated pigment looks flattering on all skin tones and lasts up to 6 hours.

Rebellious Rose is also available as a Paint-On Liquid Lip ($40.00) with an intense full-coverage matte finish. The rich velvety texture is hydrating and flexible with no flaking or transfer. I prefer this formula because the color lasts longer and has a deep mauve undertone.


Estee Lauder is available department store counters including Hudson’s Bay and

Thursday, January 30, 2020

3 Skincare Products You Need This Winter

Next week I am heading to a tropical destination, but before I go my skin needs a winter rescue treatment to prepare for the temperature change and jet-lag. This time of year it is easy to become dehydrated without realizing it and dry, flaky, rough skin is one of the first signs you need more moisture in your life.

After cleansing with a good face wash, pat dry and apply a generous layer of Clarin’s SOS Hydra Mask ($34.00) infused with Organic Leaf Of Life Extract and Hyaluronic Acid. This super-quenching cream-gel formula smooths fine lines, alleviates irritation, boosts radiance and locks in moisture for hours! After 10-20 minutes my face feels soft, supple, plump and refreshed – great preparation for a cold day or long flight.

The GLAMGLOW SuperSerum 6-Acid Refining Treatment ($84.00) is something you’ll want to keep on your bathroom counter for bad skin days. 

Dull, rough, bumpy skin is often caused by a build-up of dry, dead cells so resurfacing the top layer is the best way to achieve a clear complexion. The SuperSerum contains a potent blend of Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Pyruvic Acid and Activated Charcoal Powder to clarify pores, detoxify, renew, exfoliate, smooth and fade scars.

The blue-grey serum may look a bit clumpy (because of the charcoal) but it blends evenly and absorbs quickly with no greasiness or heavy fragrance. Refrain from using exfoliating acids after clinical treatments, hair removal, face scrubs or microdermabrasion as it may cause irritation and sensitivity.

Before going out in the bitter cold, pair the serum with Nivea’s Essentials 24 Hour Moisture Boost Day Cream ($11.49). It shields from icy winds, hydrates sensitive skin and protects from pollution and UV with SPF 15 (you don’t always need a high SPF on gloomy winter days). The formula is infused with Grape Seed Extract and antioxidants to smooth, soften and relieve tightness.

These products are available at Shoppers Drug Mart and online at

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

NYX Born To Glow Naturally Radiant Foundation Review

I don’t usually wear drugstore foundation but NYX has really stepped up their game. Last year they released the fabulous Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Concealers with full-coverage camouflage and this year the new Born to Glow Foundation is quickly becoming a bestseller.

There are 45 shades to choose from (chances are you’ll find a good match) and for just $14.00 a tube you can’t go wrong.

What I like most about the formula is the consistency. The pigment is liquidy (be careful when squeezing the it out) but the fluidity is what makes it easy to spread and blend. You get a smooth, even-toned finish with lightweight medium coverage.

Last weekend I put it to the test and my family agreed that the skin-like finish looks natural with no harsh undertones. The color is buildable with no caking or creasing and it doesn’t clog pores.

Based on the name I expected radiance and dewiness but the foundation is quite matte with no glow or luminosity. I like that there is no shine (shimmer is being overused these days) and hours after application my makeup still looks freshly applied.

My shade is Warm Honey 15.9. It has a golden base with a hint of yellow to diminish discoloration.

If you’re looking for an affordable everyday foundation with just enough coverage this is a great option.

Born To Glow is available at drugstores nationwide, NYX stores and

Friday, January 24, 2020

Prague: A Travel Guide for Europe’s Best Destination

There are many beautiful cities in Europe but right now Prague is one of the most popular destinations, receiving approximately 21 million visitors each year.

I first learned about The Czech Republic in third grade, when it was still known as Czechoslovakia. My teacher was born there and she taught the class about her culture and traditions.

Prague - “the city of a hundred spires” should definitely be on your bucket list. Vibrant baroque buildings line cobble stone streets and the historic center is surrounded by impressive Gothic churches, modern art installations and charming bridges that arch gracefully over the Vltava River.

I traveled from Berlin to Prague with Side Trip Tours. The company takes small groups on one-way trips between cities so you don’t have to waste a whole day in transit. I love this idea because instead of idly watching the world go by from a plane, train or bus, you can explore the sights along the way with a knowledgeable guide. The tour from Berlin to Prague is 10.5 hours and tickets cost 65 - 75 per person.

On our way to Prague we stopped at Moritzburg Castle in the German state of Saxony.

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxon Switzerland.

And our last stop before arriving in Prague was Dresden. To learn more about this interesting town check out my Berlin Travel Guide.

Since Prague is a walkable city, I suggest staying close to the historic center. We booked a room at The Grand Majestic Plaza, right around the corner from Palladium Shopping Mall and close to the iconic Powder Tower.

We visited in the fall for our anniversary and the weather was fantastic. Like most European countries, summer is busy season and winter is low season so hotels are much cheaper.

The best way to see Prague is on-foot, but if you get tired the tram system can take you almost anywhere in the city.

My private tour guide advised me not to use taxis because they usually rip people off. If you must take a cab, make sure to agree on a rate before getting in or a 20 ride may end up costing 200. We booked a hotel car back to the airport for 30.00.

The Transit Pass includes all modes of transportation (trams, metro, and Petrin Funicular). It cost 24 CZK for 30 minutes, 32 CZK for 90 minutes, 110 CZK for 24 hours and 310 CZK for three days. All tickets must be validated before riding and can be purchased at metro station machines, newsstands, snack shops and tourist information offices. More details are available online at pragueguidefm.

Currency Exchange
The Czech Republic uses the Koruna – abbreviated as Kc or CZK. 100 CZK is approximately $5.71 Canadian or $4.40 USD but make sure to check updated rates online.

It is a good idea to get money exchanged in your home country prior to departure because most places in Prague only use local currency. If you find shops and restaurants willing to take Euros, be careful. They often create their own exchange rate which is usually unfair.

If you need to change money in Prague, avoid random ATMs scattered around the city. It is better to use machines attached to official banks. Exchange Kiosks are usually safe because it is illegal for them to charge processing and handling fees.

Old Town Square and Surrounding Attractions
An excellent place to begin your tour is the Powder Tower – a monumental entrance to the old town which was completed in 1475.

As you walk through the archway, there is a picturesque boulevard lined with stores and restaurants. Keep straight and you will end up at the Old Town Square – located between Wencelas Square and the Charles Bridge.

Old Town Square

In this area you will also find Town Hall, Tyn Church, St, Nicholas Church, the Jan Hus Memorial, Kinsky Palace National Gallery, The Stone Bell House and the world famous Astronomical Clock.

Every hour on the hour a huge crowd gathers around the clock to watch the gears change and enjoy the procession of the apostles. This is the third oldest Astronomical Clock in the world – installed in 1410.

**Travel Tip: Be extra vigilant when standing in crowds around the Astronomical Clock, Royal Palace or Charles Bride. Keep purses, backpacks and bags in front of you at all times. Pick-pockets are active in these areas and often blend in with tourists. For more safety tips read – Tips for Planning a Great Vacation: What Every Traveler Should Know.

It is free to enter St. Nicholas Church so stop by and admire the gorgeous alter and glamorous chandeliers.

St. Nicholas Church (to the left)

For the best panoramic views of the city, I highly recommend the observatory deck atop the Old Town Hall Clock Tower.

View from the Clock Tower

To purchase tickets for the tower, make your way to the red building left of the Astronomical Clock. Tickets cost 250 CZK and there is an elevator to the top.

**Travel Tip: Close to the Square you will also find the Municipal Library of Prague. Many people pass by it without a second glance but in the lobby there is an amazing book tower designed to look like an endless tunnel.

When you need a break, find a seat in the little park near St. Nicholas Church. Tourists and locals stop for the roast pig and local beer but I prefer fresh fruit from the Farmer’s Market.

The market is also a great place to find deals on local goods, produce and souvenirs. I became obsessed with this delicious chocolate bar. It tastes like a cherry Oh Henry with chunks of yummy fruit and nuts.

Tips for Visiting the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle
The bridge and the castle are the most popular tourist attractions in the city so visiting them may require some planning. Most days there are so many people you can barely see the bridge and security lines at the castle can take up to 3 hours.

I suggest touring these historic sites on the same day since you have to cross the Charles Bridge to reach the castle. The best time to go is early in the morning. We arrived at 7 am and were among the first people there. I was able to get some great photos and enjoy the scenery without anyone in my way.

You can also enjoy aerial views from the Old Town Bridge Tower but it doesn’t open until 10 am and tickets are 100 CZK per person.

On the castle side of the Charles Bridge you will see an area where all the trams converge. Take number 22 uphill and get off at the Pohorelec stop. From there it is an easy walk downhill and the scenery is amazing.

If you don’t mind sweating, you can also walk uphill to the castle but the climb is steep and long so be prepared.

Once you reach Prague Castle the entrance will be on the left and like most buildings in Prague, it opens at 9 am. As mentioned, you will have to go through security and tickets for various tour routes can be purchased inside.

I chose Circuit B for 20 / 250 CZK. It includes Golden Lane, The Old Royal Palace, Basilica of St. George and St. Vitus Cathedral. In my opinion the only structure worth seeing is St. Vitus (the most beautiful church in Prague). The other buildings are less intriguing and a few are under construction.

Golden Lane is a small, colorful street that was built to house the guards in the 16th century. It was named after the goldsmiths who worked there.

Basilica of St. George

**Travel Tip: On your way back to town, stop at the Garden Cafe for a sweet treat, coffee or cool drink. The view is spectacular.

Closer to the Charles Bridge (on the street directly in front of the crosswalk) there is the small snack stall selling fresh fruit juice and large pizza slices for just 2 (I always find the pizza).

Vlata River Cruise
When you make your way back to the Charles Bridge, you will notice several cruise companies trying to get your attention. The Prague Venice Boat Cruise has the only fleet small enough to access the narrow canals. Ticket agents are dressed in white sailor uniforms at the foot of the bridge.

The Tour cost 340 CZK and includes ice cream or gingerbread, a hot drink or beer and entrance to the Charles Bridge Museum which is actually quite interesting. 

This is one of the better cruises but I suggest skipping it altogether. You won’t see anything you can’t see while standing on the riverbank and the “Venice-like canals” they advertise look more like abandoned back alleys. Your best bet is to take a stroll along the Vltava River at sunset or enjoy the view from a waterfront patio with a glass of wine. The boats don’t venture very far upriver.

Cool Things near the Charles Bridge
At the foot of the Charles Bridge (right before the intersection) there is a narrow covered walkway to the right. This well placed tourist lane has shops, currency exchange kiosks and a Robotic Bar! Entrance is free and you can order drinks on the computer.

Next door there is an Ice Bar claiming to be the fifth largest in Europe but there is a cover charge to get in.

The Dancing House stands out against the skyline because the design and color is unique. Inside there is a restaurant, art gallery and conference center. Most people stop to have a drink on the rooftop terrace overlooking the city.

From The Dancing House cross the street, walk along the river and enjoy the vibrant colors of Prague. You will pass beautiful parks that are perfect for picnics and relaxation.

If you continue towards the Charles Bridge, you will see the Prague National Theater. The river side of the street (by the paddle boat rentals) is the perfect place to capture a photo.

I didn’t make it to Petrin Hill or Letna Park but I heard they are worth visiting for amazing sunset views and beer.

Wenceslas Square is the center of the business and cultural communities in the new town of Prague. Many events occur here including demonstrations, celebrations and public gatherings. You will also find stores, theaters, hotels and restaurants.

The best way to spend your time in Prague after visiting all the attractions on your list is to wander around aimlessly and sample local treats. I recommend the Choco Topia Chocolate Museum. They sell a wide variety of sweets from all over the world and the adjoining wax museum is pretty good.

My husband is obsessed with Trdelnik – a soft, flaky pastry cooked over hot coals and rolled in crushed walnuts and sugar. You can have it stuffed with ice cream and fruit or slathered in Nutella. This delicious dessert originated in Budapest which is where I first tried it. In Hungary they call it Kurtoskalacs and here in Toronto it is commonly referred to as Chimney Cake. For my fellow Torontonians who are not planning a European vacation any time soon, try Eva’s Original Chimneys in Port Credit. Their traditional recipe is the best I’ve had in Canada.

There are also luxury candy stores where you can buy palm-sized gummy bears and other over-sized sweets.

When you’ve had enough sugar, enjoy the art installations around town. The Head of Franz Kafka (a German language writer) is 11 meters high and made of 42 rotating panels that are constantly in motion.

Around the corner from the Franz Kafka piece you will find a trendy mall with a food court offering a variety of cuisines. I had a delicious chicken tikka wrap at Bombay Express and there is a vegan bistro, fast food, sushi, a creperie and a Thai restaurant serving savory rice and noodle bowls. This is a great place to rest and have lunch.

Outside of Palladium Shopping Mall there is usually a small pop-up market selling street food and snacks. I tried the fried spiral potato which tastes like a combination of chips and French fries.

Inside the mall there are many floors and stores. 

For more vacation inspiration check out my Travel Page.

~ Bon Voyage!
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