Unboxing – Birchbox Canada December 2014


Oh, hi there, Birchbox Canada.  Nice to meet you!

Canadian beauty box subscribers have been burned by Gymm, left behind by Glossybox, had their shipments reduced by Luxe Box and been disappointed by Topbox.  It seems that for Canadian beauty box addicts, looking to well-known US boxes (like Ipsy) is the only answer.  Starting this month, Canadian subscribers now have access to one of the biggest beauty boxes in the USA- Birchbox.

My Birchbox Canada shipped via UPS and arrived above five days after I received the initial shipping notification.  The box cost $14.95 USD… let’s look inside and see what fifteen dollars will get a Canadian!


The first thing I found inside the box was a sample of Benefit Lollitint, a lip and cheek stain in a bright pink color.  This 2.5 ml sample has a retail value of about $8.


The Lollitint was packed in a separate cardboard pouch along with this Cynthia Rowley eyeliner pencil in black.  It’s great to get a chance to sample this exclusive brand in Canada!  This travel-sized sample is worth about $12.


When I signed up for Birchbox Canada I had the opportunity to tell them my fragrance preferences.  If you could see my vanity you would know that in my world there is no such thing as too much perfume!  Rather than get a sample of one of Harvey Prince’s famous perfumes, I received a sample of their Hello Body Cream in a fresh lemon scent.  It’s hard to know the exact value of this sample, but similar sized products are sold directly by Harvey Prince for $1.


Next up was a Vasanti Exfoliating Cleanser that helps renew skin with the help of papaya, microcrystals and aloe.  This product has appeared in other beauty boxes before (including Birchbox USA in February 2013!), but it’s new to me and I love exfoliating, so I don’t mind.  This one is worth about $5.


The last product inside my Birchbox Canada for December 2014 was this Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle Leave-In Conditioner.  I like the idea of packing this for my upcoming beach holiday, as it looks like it would help revive my hair after exposure to the sun and sea.  This sample is worth about $4.

Overall, the total value of my Birchbox Canada in December 2014 is about $30.  I will probably use all of the products at least once or twice, which means that Birchbox Canada is off to a really good start!  If you’re in Canada and want more information about this new beauty box subscription, visit Birchbox Canada!

(Check yesterday’s post if you want to compare Ipsy’s bag in December 2014 with this month’s Birchbox Canada… it’s impossible for me to decide which one I prefer this month!)

Unboxing – Ipsy December 2014


I think I forgot to do my unboxings last month, which is unfortunate as it was a pretty good month for Ipsy and I also got to celebrate my final Topbox.  I replaced my Topbox with Birchbox Canada; my first Canadian Birchbox is in the mail and should arrive this week (for details on this new Canadian beauty box check out Birchbox’s Canadian site).

I was happy as soon as I cut into Ipsy’s signature bright-pink bubble envelope, as I could see my beauty products were packed in a tasteful black bag with a cute pink zipper that added a little pizazz.  Inside, I found the following products:

Sexy Hair 450° Blow Out Heat Defense Blow Dry Spray Mini.  I already have quite a few different heat-protecting products that I like, but none in a perfect travel size.  I will take this with me when I travel over the Christmas holidays!

Beauty Without Cruelty AHA 3% Facial Cleanser.  I’m kind of obsessed with acids at the moment, so I’m really excited to give this facial cleanser a try.  Alpha-hydroxy acid is great for exfoliating and removing impurities; I might pack this when I travel to Central America next spring as it will be perfect for cleaning up salt- and sunscreen-coated skin.

Cailyn Cosmetics Just Mineral Eye Polish in Orchid.  I am not a big fan of shimmery eyeshadow colors, but this is an interesting product in that Cailyn has managed to make loose eyeshadow practically mess-proof in this inkwell-inspired pot with a wand applicator.

Tarte Deluxe Lights, Camera, Action 4-in-1 Mascara.  I just used up a sample of Benefit mascara and might open this one next.  Tarte promises that this black mascara is going to increase the volume of my lashes by 330%… hopefully I will still be able to open my eyes!

NYX Butter Lip Balm in Marshmallow.  I first became addicted to NYX’s Butter Gloss through Ipsy; now I own a handful of different shades.  I’m really looking forward to trying their version of a lip balm.  I received Marshmallow, which is described as a pure nude shade, but all of the options that Ipsy sent this month look awesome.  If this feels as good as Butter Gloss then I might have found an upgrade for my Baby Lips!

Ipsy costs $15 USD including shipping to Canada.  For more information or to subscribe visit Ipsy’s site.

2015 Travelers’ Color of the Year

So I heard that Pantone had decided that marsala, a muted shade of crimson, would be 2015’s color of the year.  When I think about the year ahead and my planned travels, I don’t expect to be seeing a lot of marsala.  I decided to make an official list of the 2015 Travelers’ Color of the Year.  You might not see these on the Gucci runway, but I’m pretty sure you’ll encounter them at some point during your upcoming adventures!


Hostel Linens is that perfect shade of not-quite-white.  It’s the color of wanting to believe that the sheets on your bunk bed were washed after the last backpacker left, but of never quite being sure.


Rough Waters is the shade of the sea when you’ve saved up all ten of your vacation days for a beach holiday, only to find your resort being battered mercilessly by a totally unseasonal tropical storm.


No alcoholic beverage ever should actually come in It Helps Digestion!, yet no matter where your wanderlust takes you it is inevitable that some weird old guy in a bar will try to force you drink something this shade of chartreuse, promising that it will cure your stomach ailments and help that dinner of undercooked guinea pig make its way through your bowels in no time flat.


Shade #442, I Didn’t Pack Any Bandages, is the color that your now-drying blood turns after you’ve spent the last fifteen minutes digging through your pack looking for bandages, only to find a travel straightening iron and Hindi guidebook.  You’re in Prague.  This shade is not to be confused with #445, I Didn’t Pack Any Tampons.


Designed to evoke feelings of hard, cold cash, Please Officer is the shade of the US cash you need to keep stuffed in your bra for those times when your tourist visa ran out or you “forgot” to buy a metro ticket.


Inspired the color your cheeks turn when you slink back into your dorm bed at 6:30 am after getting hot and heavy with a German backpacker on the wooden table in the hostel’s kitchen, if you play your cards right and return before sunrise then it’s unlikely anyone will ever actually see you in Dorm Room Walk of Shame.

Mealtime Monday – Mexi-Romanian Taco Night

Vegetarian Tacos at Casa Lavric Iasi

Because I spent some time living in Mexico, I often like to sample Mexican food when I’m in other countries.  I had a horrifying Mexican dining experience in Poland, and rather odd one here in Iasi, Romania at a restaurant called Casa Lavric (owned by the famous Romanian singer Laura Lavric).  I ordered the vegetarian tacos, which basically came with Romanian-style stewed vegetables atop plain flour tortillas.  On the side there were Romanian-style beans with a sprinkle of cheese.  Even though it’s been several years since this meal I will never forget when I ordered a margarita off of the menu, and the server asked me how to make one!  You can see the end result in the martini glass!

Some places get multicultural cuisine just right.  Ooloonthoo, on Roatan in Honduras, does the best Indian food outside of India.  Peru is famous for its chifa, or Chinese-Peruvian fusion.  Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found that special place outside of Mexico where Mexican food (especially Mexican vegetarian food!) is done right…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

taquile island peru

One of the most interesting things I did in Peru was a homestay with a local family who lived on one of the many islands in Lake Titicaca.  On the second day we said goodbye to the family who had been hosting us and headed to Taquile Island, which is famous for having many male knitters in the community.  I snapped this photo outside the main knitting cooperative, where a group of women had converged on the window, presumably to scope out the guys inside!

Holiday Gifts for Vegetarians

I recently wrote a post featuring holiday gift ideas for beauty-obsessed travelers (like myself… hint, hint).  However, this morning I got yet another email from a distant family member asking what I wanted for Christmas, as apparently my original list wasn’t enough.  I thought I’d take a different spin this time around and share a vegetarian gift guide with some of the things that I think are most useful in a vegetarian kitchen.

A Magic Bullet Blender

magic bullet

Although I own two blenders and a food processor, when it comes time to grind or blend something I almost always turn to my Magic Bullet.  From grinding flax seeds to making fresh almond butter to preparing a morning smoothie, this device is kept front-and-center in my kitchen.

Glass Food Storage Containers

When I was younger I used to microwave not only in plastic, but even in styrofoam (maybe that’s why I only grew to be 5’4″…).  Now that I’m an adult I know better, and only use glass or ceramic dishes in the microwave.  A few years ago I invested in about a million Ziplock storage containers, so I tend to pack food in these plastic containers and then transfer to a proper plate when I get to a microwave.  If only someone would buy me a beautiful set of glass storage containers with snap-on lids, like these from SnapWare, I would have half the dishes to wash!

Fragrant Spices

spice market istanbul

I don’t miss that (supposedly) delicious meaty taste anymore, because all of my vegetarian dishes are seasoned beautifully.  Just today I made a vegetable tagine with cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron, cardamon and black pepper (check my Instagram to see what’s happening in my kitchen).  A new vegetarian would love this McCormick Gourmet Spice Rack, which comes fully-loaded with twenty-four different herbs and spices (help mounting the wall rack would be appreciated, too!).  Someone looking to broaden their cooking horizons might prefer this Indian Spice Set or a Mexican Spice Set from the same company.  The advanced chef might prefer a single, hard-to-find flavour like vadouvan, shichimi togarashi or zaatar.

A Vegetarian Cookbook

istanbul 1

  • I’ve already mentioned how much I love Jamie’s Italy.  It’s not fully-vegetarian, but it’s got lots of great vegetarian dishes.
  • The Rebar Modern Food Cookbook is my most-used, most-stained, most-wet-then-dried-then-wetted-again-then-dried-again cookbook.  It’s taken a beating in my kitchen over the past ten years, but every recipe has been worth it.  This cookbook has a very small number of recipes (like, three or four?) that include fish, but at least half are vegan or have modification instructions for vegans.
  • For the vegetarian (or pescatarian) whose New Years resolution is to get healthy, the Eat Clean Vegetarian Cookbook is full of wonderful dishes made from whole, healthy foods.
  • Mark Bittman’s definitive How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a must-have for vegetarians wanting to expand their culinary horizons and learn to cook intuitively.  He starts with a basic ingredient like cauliflower, and then describes a number of different ways to prepare it, from simple to complex.

Stocking Stuffers


Round out your gift-giving with small tokens of vegetarian appreciation.  Try a vegetarian ninja coffee mug, or a vegetarian princess travel mug.  See if you can squeeze a vegetarian t-shirt in there, too!  Hurraw makes raw vegan lip balm for dry, winter lips.  And of course, nobody was ever disappointed to find vegan chocolate truffles under the tree!

What do you want for Christmas?  Share in the comments!

Image Credits: Magic Bullet via Gwen, spices via Frank Kovalchek, stockings via Jim the Photographer.

Top 10 Places I’d Never Heard Of (Part 2)

Once again I thought I’d play with random.org’s geographic coordinate generator to find ten random spots around the world that I’d never heard of before.  The first time I did this I learned about everything from Cochabamba to Dossor, so let’s see what previously-unknown places might pique my interest (or not) this time around.

10.  Louisa, USA

louisa kentucky

Image via OzinOH

My gut is to call this Louisa, Kentucky, but when I identify other cities only by country (as opposed to state) then I feel I should do the same for the ol’ USA.  Louisa is connected to Fort Gay, West Virginia by a quarter-mile bridge.

9.  Boa Visa, Brazil

Boa Vista

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Boa Vista is a city in northern Peru.  It initially grew around the local mining industry; the statue above is in honor of the region’s mining tradition.

8.  Ha’il, Saudi Arabia

hail saudi arabia

Image via Samira

Ha’il has roundabouts with big statues of traditional objects like coffee pots and animal-skin canteens in the centers.

7.  Ile d’Yeu, France

ile dyeu

Image via Steluma

One of France’s greatest haiku writers used to live on this island.

6.  Arba Minch, Ethiopia

arba minch

 Image via Jim

This city’s name translates to “forty springs”.  The town’s residential district is also the gateway to Nechisar National Park, where you can see zebras, crocodiles and hartebeest.

5.  Tahoua, Niger

tahoua niger

Photo via Julian Pierre

Tahoua serves mainly as a market town for the farming communities nearby.

4.  Wenzhou, China

wenzhou china

Image via Bert van Dijk

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure that I haven’t heard of Wenzhou.  Maybe I have?  I mean, it is the hometown of people such as the creator of China’s flag and Sui He (the second Chinese model ever to walk the Victoria’s Secret catwalk!).

3. Salekhard, Russia

Salekhard Russia

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Salekhard is in Siberia.  Some of its suburbs stretch north into the Arctic Circle.

2.  Agios Efstratios, Greece

agios efstratios greece

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Two islands this time around!  Do you think random.org is trying to tell me something?  This island is named after Saint Eustratius, who ran away from home at a young age in order to live off bread and water in a monastery.  Runaways sure have come a long way.

1.  Banswara, India

banswara india

Image via Ankur Dave

The metropolitan region of Banswara is home to 51,941 males and 49,236 females.  In case you were wondering.

WPC – An Angular Bus Interior

transit in the morning

I didn’t own a car until my mid-twenties.  As a young adult I had lived in Europe where transit was more than sufficient.  When I moved to Canada I thought I could continue relying on transit to meet my needs; I quickly learned that while this was possible, it was not enjoyable.  I would have to leave my house hours before work in order to arrive on time and often the roads were too snowy for the bus to even get up the hill to my house.  As you can see from this photo of the angular bus interior, not a lot of of other people relied on transit as their main source of transportation.  After about ten months of using transit I bought a car, which I have been driving happily to and from work every day since!

Mealtime Monday: Colca Canyon Trekking Food

colca canyon soup

I promised my thousands of Instagram followers* that I would show what kind of food vegetarians could expect to eat during a two-day Colca Canyon trek.  On the first day, our early breakfast was scrambled eggs and fresh white bread with jam.  We then trekked for about four hours before stopping for lunch.  The vegetarian lunch option is shown above.  It was a simple broth-based vegetable soup, also served with fresh bread.  I believe that tea was free, but I opted for a bottle of Coke (best decision ever!).  After hiking for a few more hours we stopped for the night.  Dinner was pasta with a simple tomato sauce, and I think I had a beer or two as well (probably not the best decision ever!).  The following morning we trekked up the canyon on empty stomachs, then had a similar breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee in a village at the top.  Overall, the meals were pretty good as far as trekking food goes, and they did seem to provide the right hit of carbs to keep me energized without feeling weighed down.

* Possibly a slight exaggeration.

WPC: Achieving the Colca Canyon Challenge

colca canyon peru

The theme of this week’s photo challenge is achievement.  At the moment, I feel like my most significant achievement is being within a few months of completing my masters degree, which I have been doing while also working full-time.  However, nobody wants to see a photo of the APA Style Guide, so I went with this photo from Peru’s Colca Canyon.  I took my coursework on the road with me last summer and traveled around Peru for three weeks.  When I was in Arequipa I learned about the two-day treks through the nearby Colca Canyon, and thought it would be nice to get outside of the city.  The trek ended up being more challenging than I, or the other hikers, had expected, and while several girls in my tour group opted to take a donkey back to the top of of the canyon on Day Two, I braved the pitch-black trails at 5:00 am and walked all the way to the top.  I celebrated my achievement with a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies and two months of exercise-induced asthma.

What is your favorite travel achievement?  Share it in the comments!