Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

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.

Unboxing – Ipsy April 2015


Another day, another unboxing!  I will try to bring in a wider variety of posts in the upcoming days.  I had been waiting (for months!) to hear about a summer travel opportunity through my employer, and this morning I learned that it fell through.  That means I will be spending the next 74 days (which is only 52 weekdays!) scrambling to pull together some kind of seven-week summer vacation.  I’ll keep you in the loop (and I’ll keep setting aside all the little sample products I receive!).

This month my Ipsy bag arrived in a very timely manner, which confirms my suspicion that when it arrives late, it’s probably because I’ve redeemed some points for a bonus item.  As you can see from the photo above, the bag is a cute, woven texture (on both sides!), and you can’t tell from the picture that it’s a big larger than the other bags I’ve received, which makes it a nice addition to my collection.


The item I was most excited about receiving this month was this Hikari blush, in Tango.  This looks like a bright, bubble-gum pink shade in the full-size compact.  I’m hoping it strays true to its pink tone (because I’ve got enough peachy-pink Orgasm blushes, and dupes, to last a lifetime).  This sells for $15.


I’m also happy to give this Theorie Argan Oil Hair Serum a try.  I’m surprised by the bottle opening (it’s a tiny hole in the inner plastic cap, like you tend to find on essential oil bottles) but have high hopes for the product inside.  This is a fantastic size to throw in my travel kit over the summer, as a little bit of hair oil goes a long way.  It’s worth about $4.


I’ve got a lot of shimmery nude lipgloss (hence the blog name!), so this Starlooks gloss in Cuddle isn’t going to go into heavy rotation any time soon.  I don’t think of Starlooks as being the kind of high-quality brand that I tend to gravitate towards, and suspect that the stated value of this sample ($4) is a bit high.


Along with shimmery nude lipgloss, I’ve also amassed quite the collection of shimmery nude shadows.  I’ve received a few other ones from Ipsy in the past, and most of them sit unopened in my makeup storage room guest room.  I can see the novelty of rubbing your shadow brush over an (implied) naked man’s torso appealing perhaps to a twelve-year-old (or an eighty-year-old?), but this sample of theBalm’s Nude Dude eyeshadow in Fit just feel a bit done.  This sample is worth about $3.


The fifth product in my Ipsy April 2015 bag was this Mullein and Sparrow Mini Lip and Cheek Tint.  This is an interesting product in that it’s all-natural and clearly doesn’t contain any preservatives.  The brand has also added an essential oil with a strong, herby smell that might appeal to earthy types.  This is a full-size sample and retails for $10, though I’m not sure where.

All in all, my Ipsy bag this month cost $15 USD and had a value of about $36 USD.  Shipping to Canada is included in that price, though with the exchange rate the actual amount that appears on my credit card can vary from month to month.  While I wasn’t blown away by the products I received this month (except the blush, perhaps) I also wasn’t disappointed, and am looking forward to continuing my subscription.  If you’re interested in signing up you can get all the details here (remember that if it says there’s a waitlist you can almost always skip it by doing a social media post or two).

Unboxing – Birchbox Canada March 2015


This is another late unboxing, but I have a good excuse: I found the Birchbox Canada March 2015 box so boring that after I immediately unsubscribed, I forgot about the box entirely.  I had to dig around my house to find it in order to write this unboxing post.  Birchbox Canada costs $15 CAD (billed in Canadian dollars so no exchange rate fluctuations) and is shipped via UPS.  They will not ship to the territories or to PO boxes.

The first thing in the Birchbox Canada March 2015 box was a BeautyBlender and solid cleanser.  These little sponges are quite popular (and valued at $25), but I wear so little makeup on my complexion that I would never get any use out of these.  I gave them to my sister.  This product went out to all subscribers in March, and they are continuing to promote that all new subscribers will receive it in April.  So much for personalization!

The next product I received was a Mirenesse Mattifinity Lip Rouge in New York.  This is a no-name brand riding the current liquid lipstick wave, and the shade was an unflattering orange-based red.  I have exceptionally cool coloring and can’t imagine how this was “personalized” based on my response to Birchbox Canada’s questionnaires.  It looks like US subscribers received a different shade last year that would have been a much better fit for me.  This sample is valued at $7.

I was only subscribed to Birchbox Canada for four months, but in that time I received two unappealing Harvey Prince products.  This month I received a sample of the Harvey Prince Ageless perfume, which claims to make the wearer smell eight to twelve years younger.  This is a cheap-smelling, brash, sweet citrus scent, nothing like what I’d usually wear (for example, I have a decant of Chanel’s Cuir de Russie on the way!).  This is worth $1.

On to the one thing I’ll use!  This Paula’s Choice Resist Barrier Repair moisturizer contains retinol, which might actually help me give off a younger vibe (unlike the aforementioned perfume!).  I’ve often gone to the Paula’s Choice website, loaded up my shopping cart and hesitated to hit “purchase”, because I’ve never had an opportunity to “try before I buy”.  I hope this product works for me and I can become a long-term customer in the future.  This sample is worth $10.

And last but not least, a surprising addition to my March 2015 Birchbox Canada.  Last month this exact No 4 Hydrating Shampoo sample showed up on the Birchbox website as a product that I would receive in February, but while the box was in transit to my house they changed my preview to show yet another black eyeliner.  I’m disappointed that they didn’t send the conditioner as well, because I feel it’s only fair to assess half of a product line in conjunction with its intended other half.  This is worth $3.

The total value of the box this month was about $43, but there is only one product I will use (the ten-dollar moisturizer).  This month offered little personalization, as I can see other bloggers received the same box here and here, and when I do see examples of different March boxes they usually contain products that I have already received from Birchbox in earlier months.  I have now unsubscribed and will stick to just getting Ipsy… I am already excited about the blush I will be receiving from Ipsy this month!

Unboxing – Ipsy March 2015


Once again I’m super-late with my unboxing.  This time it’s because I was on holidays when my Ipsy March 2015 bag arrived.  Lately my bag has been arriving later than my friends’ bags, and I’m wondering if it’s because I’ve redeemed some of my Ipsy points for free products that they haven’t been receiving?  It seems weird that every month my neighbors get their bags about a week before me, but I’ll let it slide since I’m getting extra free stuff!


This month I had to scramble around my house looking for the products that were in my Ipsy March 2015 bag, because I’d already opened up most of them and started using them!

The first product that I received was a Pur-Lisse soy-based facial cleanser.  I’ve received this product from a different beauty box in the past and found it to be a great, gentle skin cleanser.  I will definitely be packing this one-ounce sample in my carry-on baggage on my next trip.  This is worth about $6.50 (I’ll share the values in US dollars, even though I’m a Canadian beauty box subscriber…)

Next, I received a Dr. Brandt anti-aging mattifying lotion.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I liked the texture of the last Dr. Brandt product I tried (the microdermabrasion scrub) and will give this a shot when the temperature rises and my skin looks a little shiny.  The value of this sample is about $9.

I’ve already opened my tube of Boo Boo Cover concealer in medium.  I got a little bit of color on my recent holiday (even though I applied and reapplied SPF 60 all day, every day!) and this concealer was a good match for my skin.  I was surprised that the texture was a little bit runny, but the coverage provided was good.  This one is worth $8.

I had also already tried out my new NYX Butter Lipstick in Hunk.  This one is dark purple in the tube but a wearable grape-berry shade on the lips.  The formula feels soft (and buttery, I suppose!) on my lips, but I am definitely jealous of the Ipsters who received a more spring-like shade.  I’ll be saving this one for fall; it’s worth about $6.

Up front there is a little compact full of Vintage by Jessica Liebeskind  illuminating face highlighter .  This isn’t a brand I’ve heard of and I wasn’t able to find a price online; I’m going with an estimate of about $5.  I think there’s something kind of funny about receiving a mattifying lotion and a shimmer powder in the same bag.  I will probably hold off on using this… indefinitely.


As I mentioned, I redeemed some of my Ipsy points (which you can get from reviewing products and sharing what you get on social media) for this Malin + Goetz mojito lip balm.  Some subscribers received this a month or two ago, and I was so jealous that I had to get one of my own!  It’s already become one of my favorite balms.  This retails for $12!

Overall, the value of my regular bag (minus the bonus balm) was about $35 US, while I paid $15 US.  With the plummeting value of the Canadian dollar Ipsy bags have been a little bit more expensive lately, but my last two bags have been so full of good products that I don’t mind.  If you’re interested in subscribing, head straight to Ipsy.

(Check back later in the week for my Birchbox Canada March 2015 unboxing, which inspired me to cancel my subscription that that beauty box!)


Mealtime Monday – Desayuno Tipico

honduras breakfast desayuno tipico

If you’ve been following the action on Instagram and Twitter, you’d know I was recently in Roatan, Honduras.  Now I’m back home, sorting through photos of my trip and carefully unpacking (I found an unexpected souvenir in my suitcase: a little cockroach!).  This was actually the last breakfast that I ate on the island.  The restaurant called it the typical Honduran breakfast (or desayuno tipico), and it featured refried beans, scrambled eggs, sliced avocado and sour cream, which I wrapped up into little breakfast tacos inside the three homemade corn tortillas.  Honduras is also well-known for its coffee, so I had to have a latte on the side.

WPC – The Graffiti of Cluj-Napoca, Romania

wall in cluj napoca romania

In the spirit of my recent posts about new year’s resolutions, I had to post this follow-up to go along with this week’s photo challenge on the topic of walls.  When I was traveling through Romania, one of my favorite cities turned out to be Cluj-Napoca.  One of my favorite things about Cluj-Napoca was the never-ending graffiti that seemed to appear on every block.  This particular piece of street art resonated with me, a young(ish) woman getting more into health and fitness.  I wasn’t sure if it was poking fun at women worrying about how their body looks, or if the artist actually thought that women shouldn’t wear long tops, but either way it remains one of my favorite street surprises ever.  (And no, I didn’t stop wearing long tops with leggings!)

Resolution Reflections


About two months ago, I wrote about my new year’s resolutions.  I talked about the fact that I’d been making the same resolutions, unsuccessfully, for the last year or two.  I knew that it was my attitude that was holding me back.  I also knew that I was going to have to face up to some bad habits if I was going to be successful.  It’s been seventy-four days since I faced up to those habits, and I’m happy to report that I finally feel like I’m back on track!

January coincided with the end of the course-based component of my graduate degree.  For the first six months of 2015 I would be generally left alone to do my thing and write my thesis.  Suddenly, I couldn’t use the excuse of having to attend classes or work on group projects to justify my lack of gym attendance.  I started going regularly during the last week of December, and have averaged four workouts per week for all of 2015.

I also knew that there was work to do on my diet, as well.  I don’t think of a diet as being a calorie restriction.  Instead, I use the word to refer to all of my food choices every day.  I realized that I was using coffee as a caffeine and sugar crutch on workdays, so I cut it out entirely for the first six weeks of the year.  I also cut back on unhealthy snacking, and instead tried to plan better meals that would keep me feeling fuller and more energized.  For example, I’ve been eating lots of homemade muffins for breakfast (sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, but always made with healthy ingredients), soups and salads for lunch, and different combinations of grains, vegetables and vegetarian proteins for dinner.  When I’ve needed a pre- or post-workout snack I’ve been turning to low-fat Greek yogurt, apples or small portions of cheese.  Instead of having dessert, I’ve spent my time after dinner writing my thesis and then going to bed with a cup of herbal tea.  Sure, there is the occasional treat, but the satisfaction of fitting back into a cute dress outweighs the satisfaction of a glass of Moscato (albeit only slightly!).

My goals were to fit back into my tiniest pants and to be healthier on my upcoming beach holiday.  I am happy to report that I can fit into some of my old pants quite comfortably, although others are still too small.  At this rate I should definitely be able to fit back into all of them by the time I submit my thesis, though!  My beach holiday is coming up in just over a week, and I’m confident that I will look good in my bikinis (and one-pieces!) and won’t be too bouyant when I am scuba diving.

For me to be successful I had to recognize my unhealthy attitudes (making excuses because I was wallowing in self-pity) and make a conscious decision to change my habits.  Once I started getting into better habits, my attitude also started to shift.  In early January I wasn’t sure that I would ever be truly fit and healthy again, but when I did five perfect full-body pushups last weekend I realized that getting back to the body and lifestyle I had in 2012 is well within my reach.

WPC – In Canada, Spring is the Reward

blossom prairies

It’s been a while since I’ve done a weekly photo challenge!  This week’s theme is reward, and it took me a little while to think of a photo that I associated strongly with rewards.  I finally settled on this photo, taken in a local park one March or April a few years ago.  We tend to have long, cold, dry winters, and when the snow melts it’s so gray and dusty that it’s hard to imagine anything could ever live here.  But if you look closely you might see a tiny little blossom, like this one, peeking through the dry, dead grass, and you’ll know that spring, your reward for sticking around through yet another winter, is about to arrive!

Unboxing – Ipsy February 2015


I received my Ipsy February 2015 bag on Thursday, and by the time I decided to do my unboxing this morning (Saturday) I had to run all over my house looking for the different products, because I liked them so much I’d already started using them!  In other words, this month’s bag was a definite winner!  Everything came packed inside a front-zip pink and gray bag (the back is solid pink as you will see from my last photo), and there were a number of fragile items that had been carefully packed inside individual plastic bags to prevent leaking, spilling and breaking.  Smart move, Ipsy!


The first item that I pulled from my Ipsy February 2015 bag was this Model Co. blush in Peach Bellini, a soft, peachy-pink shade with just a touch of shimmer.  I can see why some people compare this blush with the famous Nars Orgasm shade, and because I could tell right away that this shade would be universally flattering, I wore it to work on Friday morning!  Model Co. blush retails for $22.


I also received a Mitchell and Peach face oil.  I hadn’t heard of Mitchell and Peach before, but I am a huge fan of facial oils.  I truly believe that there is a face oil for every skin type, and after reading the ingredients on this product I was comfortable applying it to my face right away.  I’ve worn it to bed two nights in a row, and both times I’ve felt that my skin was soft and healthy in the morning.  I was inspired to learn more about the company, and found that they are a family-owned company that makes bath, body and beauty products using ingredients grown on their own farm in the UK!  This sample is half the size of the full-size product, and when you factor in the exchange rate it’s worth about $23.


A third product that I am literally wearing right now is this China Glaze polish in Marry a Millionaire.  This is a clear polish with very dense purple, green, blue and silver glitter.  I did one coat of purple polish as a base, and one coat of this glitter on top, and the effect was fully opaque and brilliantly dazzling.  It’s also quite pretty; not so much Studio 54 as sunlight reflecting off dew-covered flowers in spring.  This shade is a few years old, so it can be found online for about $7.


I was really excited to receive my second perfume sample in my Ipsy February 2015 bag.  I’ve been a subscriber for almost a year, and I’m a huge perfume fanatic, so I’ve always felt a little sad when I’ve seen other people receive scents that I haven’t.  Based on the description on Ipsy, Joya Composition No. 1 perfume oil has a fresh fruity opening, middle notes based on white florals, and then a sandalwood-musk finish.  I haven’t applied this fragrance yet, but sniffing the little rollerball suggests a very soapy opening, which would appeal to people who like clean scents (such as Aire Loewe or Prada Infusion d’Iris).  This sample is worth $15.


The last product, and the one that I hadn’t touched until this unboxing, was an eyeshadow single in the shade Headhunter, by a company called Medusa’s Makeup.  I’m not familiar with this brand and this particular product is made in China.  I highly prefer matte shadows over shimmery ones, and I’m worried that the eggplant shade will make someone with my coloring look like they’ve got a black eye.  If I do end up wearing this eyeshadow I will probably use it as a liner, by dipping a cotton swab (or liner brush, if I can find one!) into water and applying it damp.  This shadow retails for $8.


I also received a bonus item in my Ipsy February 2015 beauty bag!  I know that some subscribers received this Ayres Patagonia Body Butter in their bags a few months ago, so when I saw that I could redeem some Ipsy points for my own little tub I had to click “redeem”!  This body butter has an earthy, organic scent that really brings to mind an upscale spa.  It probably wouldn’t layer well with many perfumes, but it’s a great texture and the scent is indulgent when worn alone.  Subscribers can earn Ipsy points by reviewing products and sharing their bags on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (sadly, you don’t get points for writing unboxing blog posts!).

Overall, this was a fantastic month for my Ipsy bag.  Unlike the lackluster Birchbox Canada (my February Birchbox hasn’t even arrived yet!), Ipsy sent me a beauty bag that I feel is highly personalized and that has already been put to good use.  The value is outstanding as well; I paid $15 USD for the bag, and (excluding the bonus item) it was valued at $75!  I know the exchange rate isn’t great for Canadians, but when you are getting high-quality products that you will actually use, Ipsy is a real bargain.  You can subscribe or find out more about Ipsy here.