Mealtime Monday: Eastern European Airline Food

turkish airlines vegetarian istanbul chisinau

When a Mealtime Monday falls before a Travel Tuesday, the only way to celebrate is with a shot of some airline food.  Here’s the Turkish Airlines vegetarian meal that I was served between Istanbul and Chisinau.  A few cooked vegetables were served with a dollop of hummus, a whole-wheat roll, crackers, fruit salad and a sealed container of water.  Yeah, it’s obviously nothing special, but I appreciate the availability of a vegetarian choice.  It amazes me to think that Turkish Airlines can put together a vegetarian snack between Istanbul and Chisinau, but the American Airlines flights I will be taking tomorrow from Canada to Peru (via Dallas – Fort Worth) do not offer a vegetarian option.  Hear that?  Yeah, that’s the sound of me “harrumphing”, mid-air.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts in Kosovo

contrasts in pristina kosovo

I didn’t know what to expect when I visited Kosovo, though I’d kind of expected there to be some sign that the community truly valued peace.  I was surprised, then, to see these toys being sold by a street vendor.  While the first thing that caught my attention were the contrasts between the “girl toys” and the “boy toys”, I found myself wondering whether selling such realistic toy guns would help “newborn” Kosovo achieve its long-term dreams…

Inspiring Travel Books: Factory Girls

factory girlsI am embarrassed to admit that I own a pair of pink Nike running shoes with a breast cancer ribbon on them.  This is embarrassing for a few reasons: I’m lazy, the running shoes are pink, and I have shoes with a breast cancer ribbon on them.  But even more than that there is the feeling of gross hypocrisy that comes with the realization you just bought a pair of shoes that are designed to “raise awareness” of an issue everyone is aware of, yet that were inevitably manufactured in a facility that is harmful to the physical and mental health of the people who work there.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the very conditions in the factory where my shoes were manufactured led to increased rates of breast cancer amongst the women working there.

And that’s what Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China by Leslie T. Chang is all about.  Suddenly, the thousands of women working in Chinese factories are no longer nameless.  They have ideas, they have words, they have interests, they have passions, they have frustrations.  As travelers we are often looking for the cheapest options: cheap airfares, cheap sleeping bags, cheap food, cheap hostels, cheap flip-flops, cheap mobile phones, cheap bottled water.  Sometimes, we even justify our purchases of these cheap products with the idea that our travel is doing good (“I’m volunteering at an orphanage!”  “I’m going to spend a day picking up trash on the beach!”  “I’m going to teach English so that locals can find better jobs!”).  We rarely consider the impact of our choices on anyone beyond ourselves, and but Factory Girls clearly shows us that we need to be much more responsible not just with our attitudes, but also our behaviors.

Mealtime Monday: Dessert for Breakfast

fruit salad

In many parts of the world breakfast is nothing more than a cup of coffee and slice of toast.  When you’re traveling, it can sometimes be hard to find a cafe or restaurant serving anything substantial for what some cultures consider to be the most important meal of the day!  In Kotor, Montenegro, I learned that sometimes you can find a great breakfast… on the dessert menu!  That’s where I found this mix of kiwi, apple, banana, pineapple, grapes and walnuts.  As the waiter placed it down in front of me he (at 10:00 am!) he even said, “Enjoy your dessert!”  Fruit salad for breakfast can actually be a healthy choice, especially if you’re able to top it with a bit of yogurt, nuts or seeds.  Enjoy your dessert, too!

Unboxing: Topbox June 2014

topbox june 2014

My June 2014 Topbox arrived yesterday!  The shipping was predictably strange again this month.  I received an emailed shipping notification on June 13th, which indicated that a shipping label had been prepared on the 11th.  It wasn’t until the 17th that Canada Post showed any indication they’d received the package, and then it arrived chez moi the next day.  The box was heavy this month, and a quick look above should suggest why!

The first thing I pulled out was a tiny Barefoot Venus lip balm in Knock Out Mint.  This is a fairly natural product, which is good, but I’m not a big fan of sticking my fingertips into lip balm containers… it seems a bit unhygienic to me.  This is worth $7.50.

Next was the main source of the tube’s weight this month- a full-size sample of Derma-E Age Defying Hand Cream.  I received a full-size tube of hand cream as my $10 beauty surprise a few months ago.  I haven’t even opened that one yet, but I might open this one first as the packaging hints that it might be less strongly-scented than the last one I received.  I received a different Derma-E product in an Ipsy box last month and haven’t tried it yet.  It seems like this company is really doing the beauty box rounds!  The full-size of this product sells for $9.50.

Up next is an interesting product- KMS California’s Hairstay Style Boost.  The instructions say to dispense the product into your hand and let it “crackle and expand”.  I assumed it would be like a normal mousse, but I was wrong.  This is like mousse on crack(le).  It comes out like a mousse but then crackles- loudly- right there in the palm of your hand.  This is like a primer for your hair, helping other products and your style last even longer, and this 71 ml sample is worth about $8.

The last product in my box this month was a Teeez nail polish in Jealously Jade.  Topbox recently sent me a dark, greenish-blue polish from another line that was a discontinued shade, so I was kind of disappointed to receive another blue-green shade this month.  On the plus side the Teeez polish this month is a bit more on-trend for summer.   Originating in the Netherlands, this polish retails for about $15.

Once again I preferred my June Ipsy bag to my Topbox June 2014.  With Ipsy I have the chance to submit feedback on three elements of each product I receive: the type of product, the brand, and the specific color or formula.  Ipsy takes my feedback into consideration and each month the bag gets closer and closer to “perfect”.  On the other hand Topbox sends out somewhat random surveys (often they won’t have any questions about any of the products from the selection I actually received) and doesn’t seem to use the collected data to better match customers with products.  Still, Topbox is only $10 and getting mail is fun.

Unboxing : Ipsy June 2014


My June 2014 Ipsy bag arrived yesterday!  This time of year is absolute, total insanity in my life; on top of working full-time and studying full-time I seem to have at least two extra evening commitments every single day.  That’s why I didn’t get this post up yesterday and that’s why it was especially nice to receive a nice little treat in my mailbox.   Check out the beautiful Rebecca Minkoff-designed bag this month; the print is eye-catching and summery, and the fabric feels nice as well.


The product that I reached for first was this NYX Butter Gloss in the shade Eclair.  I was really happy to receive this cool-toned pinky-beige, as it’s an absolutely gorgeous neutral that looks fantastic with a slightly-smoky eye.  I wore it yesterday evening and again today, even having to fish it out from my purse in order to photograph it for this post.   This retails for $5.


Up next was a Realtree perfume sample.  I have never heard of Realtree before (though I’ve seen some other girls’ posts about them selling “cute” camouflage clothes?) but I’m opening to giving it a try.  Supposedly the perfume opens with a few sharp fruit notes, passes through some florals and settles into a mahogany and amber scent.  I read some online reviews saying that it was hard to work the spray pump, so I tried the tiniest little spritz and fortunately had no problems.  From that tiny spray I definitely felt the sharp and tangy fruit opening and also got a few floral notes, but I might need to spray a bit more in order to really feel the base notes.  There’s no quantity listed on this one, but if I estimate it at a very generous 5 ml then this sample is worth $1.


Next I found a Carol’s Daughter Sacred Tiare styling cream.  I have never tried Carole’s Daughter before, and that’s kind of why I love Ipsy.  A few months ago I got to try Pacifica products for the first time, and now it’s Carol’s Daughter.  Both are reputable, widely-available brands with strong followings and actual retail presence.   This leave-in styling cream has a delicious tropical scent, and it’s the perfect size to pack in my bag when I head to Peru.  This small sample is worth about $1 as well.


The fourth item in my bag is an Ofra “universal” brow pencil.  I don’t know how universal it actually is (especially for pale blondes), but as a dark brunette it looks like it will be a good color for me.  I’m addicted to my Anastacia brow pencil but excited to try a new brand.  This is full-sized (I believe) and sells for $13.


Last but not least is something I’ll probably set aside for Halloween.  I got a Nicka K Shimmer Eyeliner in blue.  This is a liquid liner with a very metallic finish.  It applied quite fluidly when I swatched the back of my hand… and it lasted long enough for me to feel uncomfortable about the shimmery blue stripe on the back of my hand.  Nicka K is not a brand that I’ve seen before but apparently this retails for $5.

The total value of my Ipsy June 2014 bag is about $25, and I paid $15 USD including shipping to Canada.  Once again I think it was a pretty good value- I love the NYX lip gloss already and the Carol’s Daughter styling cream smells so good that I’m going to want to eat my hair (I will probably order the full size… and then eat it with a spoon…).  The rest of the stuff I could take or leave, but that’s exactly the point of Ipsy- to try out new products without having to invest in the full size.

Oh, and I almost forgot!  More freebies from Ipsy this month!  You can collect Ipsy points by reviewing the products that you receive and by recommending Ipsy to friends.  I redeemed 1000 Ipsy points this month in exchange for four Baksshi sheet masks (last month I got a free Bare Minerals Marvelous Moxie lipstick in a vibrant coral shade).



What Are Your Peru Itinerary Tips?

salt flats peru

This July I will be visiting Peru for three weeks.  So far I don’t have much on my Peru itinerary: I’ve booked my first night’s accommodation at a hostel in Lima, and then a few days later I have a two-night booking at the Hotel Paracas near Pisco.  After that my schedule is wide open until I fly out of Cuzco on the 23rd.

I’m open to pretty much anything, as long as it’s logical (I don’t want to fly across the country a bunch of times to do this or that).  Hiking the Inca Trail isn’t a huge attraction for me, but I was thinking of visiting Machu Picchu for a day (it seems criminal not to go, right?).  I’m also trying to decide if it’s worth going into the jungle for just a few days, or if I’d be better off returning in a year or two and visiting the Amazon and/or Pantanal properly.  I would also like to spend at least one day and night in a town or village that doesn’t see a lot of tourism, and of course, I’m always on the lookout for interesting local beauty treatments.

If you’ve been to Peru and have any suggestions about how I should design the ultimate Peru itinerary, please share below!  If you’ve blogged about your own trip, share that too!

Photo Credit

WPC: Wine with Ice is Extra, Extra


On a scorching hot day in Podgorica, Montenegro (Europe’s least-visited capital city!) I ordered a glass of white wine.  It came with a little something extra, extra!  When you get wine with ice cubes you’ve got to drink it fast so that it doesn’t get watered down!

Mealtime Monday: Volcano Salad

volcano salad

When I’m traveling I always love finding a great, meal-sized salad for lunch or dinner.  Far too often “salad” consists of a few colorless lettuce leaves beside a big slab of something greasy.  Not at Tierra Viva in Sayulita, Mexico.  Here, a “Volcano Salad” is made from fresh lettuce leaves topped with avocado slices, sprouts, cherry tomatoes and black sesame-crusted goat cheese, then drizzled with a soy-herb dressing.  It sounds a little weird, I know, but it was so good!

Empties / May 2014

empties may 2014

I deserve a Nobel Prize (or at least a round of applause) for using up so many beauty products in May!   Some were stellar, some were horrifying.  We’ll go left to right, back row and then front row, to see which empties made the grade.

Skin Food Facial Water Vita-C Gel Mask.   This was the biggest disappointment in May.  Unlike other sheet masks with a pliable cotton base, this mask was made of thick, squishy plastic that made it hard to stay affixed to my face.  It was even harder for it to stay on my face in light of the fact that nearly all of the essence had dried up.  I ended up throwing it in the garbage and applying the next mask instead…

Etude House Zucchini Sheet Mask.  After the previous mask didn’t work I got out one of my trusty Etude House sheet masks.  This mask is supposed to be dense in nutrients and very hydrating.  I can’t speak to the nutrients, but it did leave my skin feeling softer for the rest of the day.

Holika Holika Baby Silky Foot Mask Sheet.  I finally caved and put on sandals.  This required extensive preparation, including painting toenails and hydrating heels with this mask.  It contains two sock-like masks that are safely sealed inside waterproof plastic bags.  You can slip your feet into the inner sock and walk around your house without getting the moisturizing cream onto the floor.  My feet were definitely softer but next time I will do more to prep the rough, dry skin on my heels first.

Guess Girl Belle Perfume.  This smelled a bit… inexpensive.  Opened heavy with berries then settled into florals.  Then disappeared, within a couple of hours.

Sally Hansen Maximum Strength Nail Polish Remover.  It got the polish off my nails.

The Face Shop Seaweed Mini Capsule Pack.  I didn’t know what I was buying when I ordered this.  It turned out to be a mask that targets acne-prone skin.  I would recommend it for anyone dealing with oily or acne-prone skin, but it wasn’t great for me.

Secret Smooth Solid Anti-Perspirant with Outland & Olay. This is my go-to antiperspirant and deodorant.  It fights odor and sweat, and has a neutral scent that doesn’t clash with my perfumes.

Madly by Kenzo Perfume.  This was shockingly unpleasant to my nose.  It was extremely heavy on the incense, leaving me smelling like a spice market all day.  I asked a few people if they liked my perfume and they all found it unpleasant as well.  This sample isn’t empty but I am throwing it out regardless.

Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2.  This is a classic, old-school toner that I used when I felt like my cleanser hadn’t quite removed all of my makeup.  It works, but not so much better than drugstore toners that I would repurchase.

Escada Cherry in the Air Perfume.  This perfume sample was much more pleasant.  It was almost a single note of bright, fresh cherry that was perfect for fresh spring days.  I would definitely repurchase, but as it was a limited edition it might involve some hunting.

Kerastase Bain Satin Shampoo.  This was absolutely amazing, especially when used in conjunction with the matching conditioner (I am hoarding the last few drops of the conditioner but will share it next month).  It had a surprising herbal scent and left my hair feeling soft, hydrated and full of life.  I will definitely be repurchasing this set shortly.

Narcisso Rodriguez for Her Perfume.  This was another enjoyable perfume sample.  It’s a musky rose scent that smells expensive.  I’d wear this to a gala… if someone invited me.

KMS Free Shape Blow Dry Spray.  This spray is supposed to reduce blow dry time by up to 50%.  I definitely noticed that it reduced drying time during the winter, but now that it’s late spring and the air is humid I haven’t been seeing as much difference.  However, if I saw this on sale I would probably grab a full-sized bottle.

Macadamia Healing Oil Treatment.  A nice serum that is on par with Moroccan Oil and similar treatments.  The smell is a touch masculine, though, so I would probably buy Moroccan Oil over replenishing this.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate.  This was a wonderful exfoliant that lasted forever.  Even with weekly use this little tube lasted about a year, faithfully using its powerful enzymes to slough off any dead skin on my face and leaving my skin ready for anything (serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, makeup, etc.).  I will definitely repurchase this size next time I’m at Sephora.