Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance


The Bucovina region is famous for its painted monasteries.  Here, at Mânăstirea Moldovița, it is believed that the paint on the exterior of the monastery has miraculously endured more than five hundred years of harsh weather conditions, remaining bright and colorful even today.  Considering that I can barely survive a typical workday or a trans-Atlantic flight, we’ve got to give these monasteries some credit (miracle or not!).

Unboxing: Topbox September 2014


Seeing as I brought you a full Ipsy unboxing two days ago, I thought I’d keep my Topbox September 2014 unboxing quick and dirty.  In summary, sometimes one big-ticket item makes an otherwise dull beauty box worthwhile.  Topbox rarely delivers a big-ticket item, so it was a pleasant surprise to find one in my tube this month.

Lancome’s Visionnaire Advanced Multi-Correcting Cream is a daily moisturizer designed to be used after a facial serum.  The full-size of this product is 50 ml and retails for $92, which makes this 15 ml sample worth $27.60.  As the entire box cost $12, I feel that I got my money’s worth this month.  And to be honest, it’s not just about the price, it’s about finally receiving the type of upscale, high-end, luxurious beauty products I was promised when I initially signed up for Topbox about two years ago.  Topbox no longer promises that the products in their tubes will be upscale, but they also haven’t openly explained to long-term subscribers whey they’ve gone so downmarket in the last eight months or so.

The other three samples are what I consider to be in line with Topbox’s more downmarket offerings.  I’ve seen the Amika dry shampoo in some US beauty boxes this month, so the brand is either doing a big blitz or dumping old stock.  It is apparently sold at professional salons, but I’ve been salon-shopping lately and not seen the brand in any of the upscale places I’ve investigated.  Topbox quotes the value by volume (per milliliter), but the packaging is labeled by weight (in grams).

I also received a 15 ml tube of Bioderma Sebium Foaming Gel, an anti-acne face wash.  In my next Empties post I will be reviewing the corresponding moisturizing cream, which I recently used up.  I don’t really have acne-prone skin but I might toss this in my gym bag or save it for period-related breakouts.  The value of this 15 ml sample is only $1.5, and it’s also worth noting that it contains the same volume of product as the Lancome cream (that shows what a little packaging magic can do!).

The last product is the biggest disappointment.  I received a bottle of Teeez nail polish in “Spa Retreat”, a metallic dark green.  Not only have I received a blue-green Teeez polish from Topbox before, but this is old stock from the brand’s 2012 City Trip collection.  Topbox used to promise to deliver new, exciting, on-trend beauty samples, which means two-year-old nail polish from a repeat brand is once again not in line with the service that I subscribed to way back when.

Although I’m happy about receiving a Lancome skincare product, I’m once again underwhelmed by my monthly Topbox.  I much prefer my Ipsy bag, which arrived more quickly, contained products that are new (to the market, and to me) and only cost a dollar or two more.  I only recommend subscribing to subscriptions I really love, so if you’ve been thinking about swapping your Topbox for Ipsy, or just signing up for your first beauty box (in Canada or the US), feel free to follow my link to Ipsy.


Unboxing – Ipsy September 2014


Things that make me happy: deliveries that arrive early!  Ipsy allowed me to take a sneak peek at what would be included in my glam bag this month, so I’ve known for a week or two what would be inside.  Initially I wasn’t particularly excited, but when I opened up the pretty pink envelope this afternoon I was pleasantly (un)surprised by the contents.  (I was also surprised by the cute gray bag they were packed in; I really like the understated look, and the weirdly-soft feel, of this month’s makeup bag!)


My Ipsy September 2014 glam bag included three different color cosmetics.  Cailyn is not a brand I have seen outside of Ipsy, but this tube of lipgloss (in the shade “Basic Instinct”) looks like the perfect neutral to keep in my desk drawer.  I also received a mini Pacifica eye pencil in “Fringe”, a basic brown.  It’s been a while since I used a liner that wasn’t black, so this might be a welcome change to my eye makeup routine.  Finally, I received a NYX eyeshadow in “Asphyxiation”, a shimmery navy blue.  I can definitely see myself using this with a damp eyeliner brush to line my eyes for an evening out.


My Ipsy glam bag also included two products that weren’t makeup.  First, there was an eyeshadow brush by Crown Brush.  This dual-ended brush has a regular shadow brush on one side, and a crease-specific brush on the other end.  I have a few eyeshadow palettes that I haven’t opened up yet, and this new brush will make blending and softening the colours that much easier.  The last product is a Briogeo “Don’t Despair, Repair” hair mask.  I still have a hair mask by Eva NYC that I received a few glam bags ago, but with winter coming up and my hair being colour-treated, I know this will be used very shortly!

Ipsy subscriptions cost about $15 US per month when shipped to Canada.  They always arrive promptly and they do consider your beauty profile when deciding which products to send.  It’s super-easy to subscribe here, and remember that you can usually skip the waiting list by sharing your subscriber status on Facebook.

WPC: Humanity at the Dolac Market, Zagreb

dolac market statue

My heart sank when I saw this week’s photo challenge was on the topic of humanity.  Throughout my travels I have noticed a trend to romanticize poverty, where travelers and photographers snap photos of the “contented” local youth, or pose with a crowd of local children supposedly saved by said traveler “volunteering” for a weekend in the middle of their round-the-world trip.  As I’m writing this I haven’t looked too much into what other people have shared, but I’m hoping that this week’s entries move beyond just photos taken by rich travelers of people in developing countries.

My contribution this week is of a statue in the Dolac Market in Zagreb.  I arrived in Zagreb so early in the morning that the market hadn’t even opened yet, so I was able to take this shot of the statue before the crowds descended on the vendors selling everything from turnips to Tupperware.  I wanted to share a photo of a developed, urban location because every person who passes through that market, whether they are wealthy businesspeople on their way to their offices, farmers selling their own crops, students grabbing lunch between classes, police officers patrolling the area, clueless tourists blocking pedestrian traffic as they take photos on their iPads, or anyone else, is as much human as the children at the African orphanage or the woman with “smiling eyes” who looks at you from behind her niqab.  Humanity isn’t about poverty, and it’s not about being different.  Humanity is everyone.

Mealtime Monday: Deconstructed Huevos Rancheros

huevos rancheros honduras

I like it when my breakfast is three-dimensional.  In Honduras I was served up “huevos rancheros” with soft-scrambled eggs on a thick tortilla.  The refried beans were on the side, with three spiky strips of crispy tortillas sticking up into the air.  There was also a little spicy salsa for dipping and drizzling, and a glass of pink lemonade for when the salsa got too hot!

When I’m traveling I I love to eat eggs for breakfast, whether it’s in huevos mexicanos, a vegetable omelet or a cheesy biscuit sandwich.  They really are the perfect source of vegetarian protein!

WPC: Adventure at the Black Lake in Montenegro

durmitor national park montenegro black lake

How about a time I was hoping for adventure, but just got ho-hum?  In Kotor, Montenegro, my hotel hyped up their “hiking” trip to Durmitor National Park.  They neglected to mention that it was more a like a three-hour drive in each direction, with a one-hour flat walk around a little lake (“The Black Lake”) in the middle.  The fog was so heavy that we couldn’t see the supposedly-picturesque mountains in the distance, and we were our guide’s first tour group ever (he made the bus do a detour past his house so he could wave to his mother and show her that he was really a tour guide!).  I will admit, however, that it was actually rather nice to visit the park in freezing cold weather on a day where you couldn’t see more than a hundred meters into the distance, because it made the woods, which would have otherwise been pretty boring, seem just a little bit spooky… Maybe I was adventurous to walk through after all!

Unboxing: My Free Ipsy Mystery Bag


A few weeks ago I saw a great deal on Ipsy.  By redeeming 1500 Ipsy points, I could receive a free mystery bag filled with five beauty products in one of the company’s most-loved beauty bags.  I earned the points by reviewing the products I received in my beauty bags, sharing updates on social media and recommending Ipsy to my friends and family, and it seemed like the perfect time to cash in!

The first item in my mystery bag was a duplicate product that I’d received in April: a Coastal Scents eyeshadow brush (shown above).  I was more than happy to receive a second eyeshadow brush as I literally used my original one this morning.


The second product I pulled out was this Starlooks eyeliner pencil in Amethyst.  This is a light lilac pencil with silver glitter.  I will setting this one aside for the holiday season, or other occasions where a little sparkle is called for.


Next up was a set of Klorane “smoothing and relaxing patches” for eyes.  I love Korean sheet masks (I even have some for my feet!), so I’m looking forward to trying these eye masks, which are designed to soothe and de-puff the sensitive skin around my eyes.


The fourth product I received was this Pop Beauty eyeshadow palette in Naturally Bare.  These look like shades I will actually wear (I wish I’d had them this morning!), and I will be applying them with my new Coastal Scents brush.


Finally, the last free product that I received in my Ipsy Mystery Bag was this Pacifica Indian Coconut Nectar body butter.  Pacifica isn’t sold in my area, and I’ve heard that they do great things with scented products, so this one makes me really excited!  I picked up a few samples of new gourmand perfumes, and this lotion will be a great base layer underneath the vanilla-y scents.


And of course, all of the products were packed in this Ipsy Mystery Bag “throwback” clutch.  I was not a subscriber when this leopard-print, neon-trimmed bag was first sent out, so I’m happy to add it to my collection.

Overall, this was an excellent way to redeem 1,500 Ipsy points.  I basically got all of this stuff for free!  If you live in Canada or the USA and you’ve been thinking of subscribing to a new beauty box, I would definitely recommend Ipsy.  Subscribe for yourself and you can start earning points towards free products too!

Mealtime Monday: Turkish Dreams

Turkish Food in Canada

After visiting Turkey and discovering all of their amazing vegetarian food, it was hard to go back to my old Canadian ways of eating.  Fortunately, a farmers’ market near my house has a Turkish food vendor who serves up amazing, authentic Turkish food every Sunday afternoon.  A vegetable-stuffed roasted eggplant, a bulghur-herb salad, and a fresh vegetable salad, topped with a dollop of herbed yogurt at a price that was embarrassingly low.   It’s not Istanbul, but Turkish food in Canada is delicious!

WPC: A Dialogue Between Statues



This week’s photo challenge is all about dialogue.  So, what do you think these two would say to one another if statues could talk?  Share your dialogue in the comments!

Mealtime Monday – Breakfast by the Beach

fruit salad for breakfast

In Kotor, Montenegro, a waiter happily said, “Enjoy your dessert!” as he dropped off my breakfast: a bowl of fruit salad.  In Paracas, Peru, the idea of eating a big bowl of fruit salad for breakfast seems to be more widely accepted.  That doesn’t mean it’s any quicker, though, as this bowl of banana, pineapple, strawberry, lucuma and alquequenje took about thirty minutes to reach my table even though I was the only customer in the cafe.  I enjoyed this on the boardwalk with the street dogs, pelicans and other tourists with nothing to do until the Coast Guard reopened the waters to the Ballestas Islands…