Mealtime Monday – Oatstravaganza

Oatmeal for Breakfast at Cactus Cafe in Chisinau Moldova

At my house this morning I actually had “apple, pear and cinnamon baked oatmeal” for breakfast, which sounds like it should be fancy but was actually more like a soggy granola bar.  It got me thinking about oatmeal’s better days, including this recipe, which I’ve mentioned before, and the big bowl of jam-topped oats you can see in the photo above, which I ate at the Cactus Cafe in Chisinau, MoldovaMoldova actually turned out to be one of the most vegetarian-friendly places I’ve visited, and it was never a challenge to find beautiful fruit, vegetable and grain dishes such as this one.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Broken


In Antalya, Turkey, there is a minaret that is almost seven hundred years old.  Called The Broken Minaret (or Kesik Minare in Turkish), it stands on ground that was a Byzantine church as early as the second century AD, and was only later converted to the mosque whose minaret has survived both attack and fire.  You’ll find it in Kaleiçi, the city’s historic old town, and you can tell it from other minarets due to its broken top.

Empties – May 2015


I had quite the collection of used-up beauty products lurking in my bathroom, seeing as I haven’t done an empties post since the end of January!  As I was cleaning the rest of my house today I found a few more items, but this makes up the bulk of what I’ve used up this season!  Back to front (as best I can) and left to right.

  • My round brush died!  The brush fell off its handle.  I replaced it with a ten-dollar brush from the drugstore and suddenly realized why salon brushes are awesome.  My new brush has a smooth handle that slips right out of my serum-y hands when I’m trying to blow out my hair.  Next time I go to the salon I’ll get a better brush.
  • L’Oreal Elnett hairspray.  I stockpiled this when it was on sale for more than 50% off.  I don’t have strong feelings about hairspray but do find this holds things in place when need be.
  • I don’t use mouthwash very often (toothpaste is all I need) but figured that if I was going to use it every now and then it would be nice to choose one with whitening properties.  I haven’t noticed any changes to the color of my teeth with occasional use of Crest 3D White mouthwash.
  • A bottle of Olay body wash that must have been almost ten years old.  I figured it was safe to use since I’d never opened it before, and I seem to have survived the experience.
  • A bottle of body wash from The Body Shop.  I think it was cocoa scented?  I like stocking up on their body washes when they have great online sales.
  • An Etude House sheet mask in Bulgarian Rose.  It smelled nice but didn’t do anything special for my skin.
  • I love swapping out my regular antiperspirant for a natural deodorant on the weekend, sweat stains be damned.  I loved this Alba Clear Enzyme deodorant in a lavender scent, but I haven’t seen it on the shelves in a year or two.
  • And another Secret anti-perspirant.  This one had a vanilla scent that I found a bit cloying.
  • There are two little sachets of Roger & Gallet Fleur de Figuier products back there: one is body wash, the other body lotion.  I loved the texture of both these products but hated the rotten fig scent.
  • My first Birchbox Canada contained the Vasanti Brighten Up Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator.  I liked this exfoliating face scrub and would consider repurchasing it, but not from Birchbox (as they charge ridiculous processing fees to Canadian customers)
  • There is also a travel-sized tube of St. Ives Exfoliating Apricot Scrub.  I know that the ground apricot shells can be damaging to skin, but I still love these little tubes for travel and bring one with me on every trip.
  • I’ve mentioned my Etude House Milk Talk body wash samples in a previous empties post.  Yummy strawberry smell.
  • I’m not sure where I got that random Olay lotion sample, but I do know I’ve never used it and it’s been kicking around forever, so I’m throwing it away.
  • The next row starts with a L’Oreal polish in Trust Fund Baby.  I liked this color but the lid broke and the polish dried out.
  • The Origins Ginzing moisturizer sample seemed like a normal moisturizer to me.
  • I received a sample of a Clarins eye makeup remover from Hudson’s Bay, but didn’t like it as much as my Roc micellar water for eye makeup removal.
  • I also had a sample of Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair from the same Hudson’s Bay event.  I don’t have any serious skin concerns and thus didn’t see any noticeable improvement when I used this serum.
  • The cute little lip-shaped container is a lip scrub by Tony Moly.  I’m pretty sure it had apricot shells in it, because it was similar in texture to my St. Ives facial scrub.  This dried out in the tub before I got the chance to use it up.
  • The big round tub is the Honeymania body scrub from The Body Shop.  I have used their body scrubs before, but this one had a different, creamier texture than most.  It seemed to hydrate better than it exfoliated.
  • In the front row there is an EOS lip balm that I received as part of a gift.  It wasn’t wrapped, though, so I’m tossing it.  When you’re gifting someone beauty product please make sure they’re in their original, sealed packaging!
  • I decided to toss my Live Clean night cream because there was very little product left, and it was getting old.
  • I used up a sample vial of Shalimar Ode de Vanille Sur la Route de Mexique from My Perfume Samples.
  • And a final good-bye to a B. Kamins lip balm tube that I must have received at least two years ago in a beauty box.  Again, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t a fave.

Mealtime Monday – Hot Snacks

Peruvian Canchas - Toasted Corn Snacks

Canchas are a popular snack across Peru and Ecuador.  Restaurants and bars take the dried kernals from a special variety of corn, toss them in oil and then fry them in a hot, hot skillet until they puff up.  I suppose they’re like corn nuts, but ten million times better (especially when served like this, with a heavy sprinkling of coarse sea salt).  I ate all of these while waiting for a meal that never arrived at a little restaurant in the Paracas Natural Reserve, just a few hours south of Lima.

Unboxing – Ipsy May 2015


Now that I’ve canceled my Birchbox Canada subscription, Ipsy is the only beauty box I am still receiving each month.  This month I received my shipping notification on the 11th and my bag arrived at my house in Canada two days later!  I love fast, cross-border shipping!

This month my Ipsy bag contained five products, plus a cute little bonus.  Three of the products were long and narrow: a Luxie eyeshadow brush, an Urban Decay lip liner and a Chella brow pencil.


The eyeshadow brush is probably my least favorite product this month.  I have already received a handful of shadow brushes from Ipsy in the year I’ve been subscribed, and to be honest I rarely use them.  I would love to receive some different brushes, rather than more of the same type.  How about a lip brush to go with the bonus sample this month?  The Luxie eyeshadow brush retails for $12.

The Urban Decay lip liner isn’t necessarily something I would have paid for myself, but I think it will actually be quite useful when I’m doing my makeup for an evening out or other special event.  I own quite a few deep nude lipliners already, but this clear version will work with a wider variety of lip colors (including some of the neons I’ve been into lately).  I’ve read that this 0.8 gram sample has a value of about $15.

Last, the Chella eyebrow pencil in Tantalizing Taupe is something I’m definitely willing to try.  This is a full-size product worth $18. At first glance the color doesn’t look too warm or orange (a problem with many one-size-fits-all brow pencils), which is a plus.


The other two products in my Ipsy May 2015 glam bag were Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing patches for eyes, and Cotz Face tinted sunscreen.  I received two sets of the eye patches (worth about $5 total), which promise to “refresh, moisturize and brighten tired eyes”.  I have a feeling I’ll be packing these on my summer holiday!  I have never heard of Cotz Face before, but I am always happy to receive sunscreen samples that I can throw in my purse while I’m traveling. Exactly one year ago I received a fantastic sample of Jersey Shore Sans Tan mineral sunscreen, which has traveled with me to two continents and provided exceptional sun protection; I’m hoping this Cotz Face product will be just as awesome.  This sample is worth about $4.


The Urban Decay lip liner came packaged with two little foil samples of a new Urban Decay lipgloss.  These are bonus products on top of the regular five that all subscribers receive.  I can’t wait to try the purple!


And of course, all of my products this month came packaged inside a cute little makeup bag.  There were three different versions this month, each in a cloth bag featuring images and text by Breakups to Makeup.  These are mini versions of the brand’s full-size makeup clutches that retail for about $40!

The total value of my bag this month was about $55 USD, and I paid $14.95 USD (including shipping to Canada).  As always, the fluctuating exchange rate means that Canadian subscribers see varying amounts on their credit card bill each month, but regardless of how low the dollar drops I still think Ipsy is worth it.  After all, I’ve cancelled Topbox, Glymm, Glossybox Canada, Luxe Box and Birchbox Canada, but stuck with Ipsy after all of these months.  That’s got to say something, right?

If you’re interested in subscribing, follow my link here and remember that you can usually skip the waitlist with a simple share on social media.  If you’ve got questions about subscribing to Ipsy as a Canadian, leave a comment and I’ll get right back to you!

Upgrade Your Toothpaste with Marvis

Marvis Toothpaste

Considering how much money (and effort!) I spend on everything from touching up my roots to painting perfect toenails, it’s kind of weird that I’ve never paid much attention to my toothpaste.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when Nail Polish Canada let me know they were now selling Marvis toothpaste to their Canadian customers.  Could this be the perfect opportunity to find a toothpaste as glamourous as my skincare and makeup collection?

I decided to sample two different flavours of Marvis toothpaste.  The first was Aquatic Mint.  Seeing as I love both aquatic perfumes and actually spending time in the water, this was an obvious choice.  The toothpaste itself turned out to have a slightly-sweet flavor that helped mellow out the mint undertones.  It was cool and refreshing, but also quite subtle, and I would recommend it for anyone who is turned off by too-strong toothpaste.  The second flavour I tried was Classic Strong Mint.  It had a much stronger mint flavor to it, and I liked that it was distinctly pepperminty, rather than tasting like spearmint.  While I think Aquatic Mint would be the perfect everyday toothpaste, Classic Strong Mint is the one you want to keep in your desk drawer in case you get called into an important meeting right after lunch.

Both flavours of Marvis toothpaste had a nice texture that was less foamy than most other toothpaste that I’ve tried, probably because it has less sodium laureth sulphate than some other brands.  As well, both flavors were packaged in chic silver tubes that made me want to clean my bathroom (you can’t put such a pretty tube on a cluttered counter!). The full range of flavours (including Jasmine Mint, a celeb favorite) is available for $10.50 CAD from Nail Polish Canada, and I think they’re a great buy for anyone who wants to add a little touch of luxury to their morning routine.

Thank you to Nail Polish Canada for providing the Marvis toothpaste. 

Mealtime Monday – My Perfect Pizza

Vegetarian Pizza in Gdansk Poland

As a vegetarian, it’s sometimes hard to find the perfect dish on a restaurant menu.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was in Skopje I asked a restaurant if they could prepare a vegetarian meal for me.  The server said, “I can make a plate of mushrooms.”  I said, “Well, I see you have a few vegetarian side dishes on the menu.  Could you choose two or three and put them on a plate for me?”  He agreed.  I was served a plate of mushrooms.

When I went to a pizzeria in Gdansk, Poland, that promised to serve authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas, I was happy that they had lots of pizzas with vegetables, but sad that none contained the exact mix of vegetables that I wanted.  So, I sheepishly asked the server if I could take this vegetable from Pizza A, this vegetable from Pizza B, and add them both to the other vegetables from Pizza C while also removing Pizza C’s meaty ingredients.  Unlike in Skopje, the server agreed without hesitation, and as you can see, I received a perfect vegetarian pizza.  If you’re heading to Gdansk and want classic Italian pizza, don’t hesitate to stop at Sempre Pizza e Vino.

WPC – The Intricate Art of the Merry Cemetery

The Merry Cemetery in Romania

Stan Ioan Pătraş was a Romanian woodcarver who lived in the Maramures region of the country, close to the Ukrainian border.  For more than forty years Pătraş carved and painted intricate tombstones to commemorate the lives- and deaths- of the people in his community.  Each tombstone features an image of the person buried beneath (often showing how they met their demise), as well as a short, poetic tale of their time on earth.  In total, Pătraş erected more than 700 of these tombstones in what is known today as Romania‘s “Merry Cemetery”.  If you’d like to visit, head to the nearest major city (Sighetu Marmației) and hitch a ride down the road to the village of Săpânța (it’s sort of pronounced “suh-poont-suh”).  On my visit, the male driver picked up me and a group of nuns, and we drove out together listening to Akon songs!

WPC: Water in Motion in Lima, Peru

Magic Water Circuit Lima

In a rather plain park in an untouristy neighbourhood just outside of downtown Lima, you can find one of the city’s most popular attractions: the Magic Water Circuit.  There are a few different fountains throughout this park, and the highlight is the evening show featuring fountains and lights choreographed to traditional Peruvian music.  Time Magazine calls it “surprisingly awesome”, I call it the only picture of motion I could think of to share with you.

Mealtime Monday – It’s Almost Salad Season

salad gjirokastra albania

It’s almost salad season here in Canada, so I thought this week I’d do a throwback to a salad I ate in a slightly more temperate climate!  The day I went to Gjirokastra, Albania, it was about 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).  It might have also been a Sunday, as pretty much every shop and business- along with the town’s information center- was closed.  One little restaurant seemed to be open, and the tiny, narrow room seemed to be packed with people trying to escape the scorching heat outside.  When a table in the darkest (and therefore coolest) recesses of the back corner finally opened I sneaked in and explained, much to the owners’ amusement, that I was a vegetarian.  They hummed and hawed for a few minutes before deciding that they could serve me this salad: a mix of juicy tomatoes, cool cucumbers, tangy onions, fresh lettuce and creamy, soft cheese.  It was pure heaven.  All across the Balkans I ate simply but deliciously, enjoying fresh, healthy ingredients that stood on their own, without elaborate preparation or seasoning.  I was worried that being a vegetarian in Albania would be difficult, but it actually turned out to be a pleasure.