Canadian Beauty Blogger Mask Off Challenge: Montagne Jeunesse Apricot Scrub review

Just J: Montagne Jeunesse Apricot Scrub review

It`s week 4 of the CBB Montagne Jeunesse mask off challenge and this week the girls of the CBB are reviewing the Apricot Scrub mask from drugstore beauty brand, Montagne Jeunesse. If you`re just joining along with this series, each week we all try the same mask and compare reviews so that you can see how each one reacts to our different skin types. Follow along with our reviews on Twitter and Instagram via #CBBMJMaskOff and read my past reviews. 

You may purchase any of the MJ masks at Walmart, online or at drugstores like Select Pharmasave.

The Product
Looking for a deep-down clean feeling? Then this apricot and mango facial scrub/mask is for you. Scrub away dead skin cells first with this mask's apricot kernels, then let it rest on your skin while mango deep cleanses and aloe vera soothes and calms. This mask has some pretty big promises to live up to as it's essentially two products in one!

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this product are:

  • Water
  • Kaolin clay - a natural deep cleaning ingredient that sucks out excess oil and dirt from pores
  • Walnut shell powder - a natural exfoliator, however walnut is also said to leave micro-tears in your skin, which can eventually lead to damaged skin or wrinkles
  • Glycerin - common moisturizer
Other interesting ingredients in this mask include evening primrose (moisturizer), green tea (antioxidant), apricot (antioxidant) and mango (fights blemishes).


Aroma and Texture
The thing I dislike the most about this mask is its scent. Personally, I found it absolutely HORRIBLE. This mask is supposed to smell fresh and tropical, but instead it was overly sweet and overpowering. That might be just my own sensitivity to fragrances though as I have heard other reviewers say it is fresh and invigorating.

Texture-wise this mask fared better. Since it contains such a large exfoliator, this scrub felt very grainy and rough, so I had be very gentle when scrubbing. Besides the graininess, this mask felt creamy and quite similar to the Nut Oil mask.

Just J: Montagne Jeunesse Apricot Scrub review


Effectiveness
After some tentative scrubbing, I left this mask on for 10 minutes while in the shower. I found it rinsed off quickly and easily without residue. It did leave my face feeling very clean, but a tad tight and I didn't notice any brightening or tightening of pores.

Final Verdict
Ditch






PS. Don't forget to vote for me in the VanBloggers x Lacoste challenge!


Update May 1, 2014: The notes on aroma were updated to reflect that my opinion on the scent are my own and do not necessarily reflect the experiences of others.

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Win over $100 worth of jewelry from Olive+Piper!

Just J: Win over $100 worth of jewelry from Olive+Piper


This is major. One of my favourite online stores, Olive+Piper, is hosting an amazing April giveaway to celebrate their refreshed website and all the new Spring goodies in store. Three separate winners will win a box containing specially selected Olive+Piper jewelry valued at over $100!

This giveaway is open internationally and closes May 4, 2014. All you have to do is enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And just in case you're not convinced yet, here are a few of the things I would buy if I had $100 free to spend!

Just J: Estelle drop earrings from Olive+Piper
Estella drop earrings, $18

I love love love these drop earrings! The gold, the clear crystal and the tiny pearl beads set in that vintage-esque setting all have me swooning. What's great about fancy earrings like these are that they actually don't look out of place with more casual items, like blazers, tees and jeans. You could even rock these with tailored sweats, a leather jacket and booties!

Just J: Olive+Piper blush arizona triad strand necklace
Blush Arizona triad strand necklace, $36

Say what you will about the tribal trend, but when it's done up in a thick gold chain and blush pink stones, it becomes utterly classy. Do it up with your best crew neck, LBD or white tea dress.

Just J: Olive+Piper garden party statement bib necklace
Garden party statement bib necklace, $52

However, if subtle isn't your thing, then say it loud and proud with this mint and lavender bib necklace. This type of necklace has always mystified me; I love the look and drama of it, but still I hesitate actually trying any out. This one has me seriously tempted though.

Just J: Olive+Piper onyx cluster stud earrings
Onyx cluster stud earrings, $28

Last, but not least, are these onyx cluster earrings. You can never go wrong with black and white and I think these earrings are a great balance between elegance and edginess.


Which piece is your favourite? Don't forget to enter now!



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Buy or Ditch: Lise Watier Age Control Supreme The Eye Care review

Just J: Lise Watier Age Control Supreme The Eye Care review

You all know how I'm constantly on the lookout for an eye cream that actually works. I've tried many along this journey and the latest is Lise Watier's Age Control Supreme The Eye Care cream. I received this product for review a couple months ago and have been using it daily in the morning and night, so what are the results?

The Product
I'm not sure, but it seems like this cream may be designed for maturer skin judging by the messaging online. After 28 days, the product claims that wrinkles will be visibly lessened and your dark circles eliminated. This product is part of the new line of Lise Watier products featuring Labrador tea, a naturally sourced super ingredient that contains powerful antioxidants.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this cream are:

  • Water
  • Dimethicone - a silicone based ingredient that provides a silky smooth application and prevents moisture loss, but could possibly clog pores
  • Isododecane - similar purpose to dimethicone
  • Butylene glycol - a moisture-retaining ingredient. May cause slight skin irritation in very sensitive skin.
Nothing too interesting so far except a lot of "slippery" ingredients. What is more interesting is that this cream also contains cabbage rose extract (moisturizing), ash bark extract (antioxidant), and watermelon extract (antioxidant). As well, Labrador tea is pretty high up in the ingredient list, which is always a good sign.


Price & Packaging
I received this product in sample packaging, so thus the stock photo above. Trust me, the sample packaging is quite ugly, so you don't want to see it! In its normal packaging though, this cream will set you back $67, which isn't too bad as far as high-end eye creams go. Assuming that my sample size is the same size as the regular package, I can confidently say that this product is high value for money. I've been using this product for over a month and have only used up 1/3 of the bottle.

Effectiveness
Two words sum up this review: holy shit. This cream WORKS. It has a thick, yellowy-white texture that feels sticky on, yet it dries quickly enough that I'm able to apply makeup a couple minutes later. This cream feels thick and luxurious and just what you want an eye cream to feel like. And boy does it work! Well, maybe it's not a miracle worker, but I can't help but gush as this is the first cream I've ever used that has noticeably reduced the fine lines under my eyes. Before writing this review, I double-checked my eyes in the mirror and voila! Only one, very faint, line! I will definitely be purchasing this one once my review sample is used up.

Final Verdict
Buy buy buy!


You can purchase this product at London Drugs and other drugstores.




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Guest post: Megan of Megan Joy

I am very excited today to introduce you to this month's CBB guest blogger, Megan of Megan Joy. I found Megan's blog through the CBB and am very glad that I did as she has quickly become one of my favourite blog reads. Her blog is a beautiful mix of product reviews, makeup looks and life tidbits. With her recent move to San Francisco, I'm looking forward to her posts exploring her new city. Without any further ado, Megan!

(left to right) MAC 138 Tapered Face Brush, EcoTools Skin Perfecting Brush, MEGAGA Professionals Liner Brush, MAC 187 Duo Fiber Face Brush
Hi everyone! I'm Megan from MeganJoy.ca and I am so excited to be guest posting on MizzJ's blog this month! I am going to be sharing with you the brushes that I am currently loving. Makeup brushes are not always necessary (I'm a big fan of blending with my finger tips) but these brushes can help the job go faster and sometimes smoother  - literally!
Let's jump right into it :)
Just J: Megan of Megan Joy loves the MAC 138 tapered face brush
MAC 138 Tapered Face Brush
"Use chiselled side for contour shaping of facial planes; the pointed tip for applying and blending powder blush, highlighter or face powder." -MAC
This is my go-to brush for contouring. I use it daily to apply my bronzer under my cheekbones and along my temples. It also serves as my blush brush! Two brushes in one? Alright, alright, alriiiigggght... #matthewmcconaughey
I have noticed that some of the bristles have started to fall out, but it's rare. It's a little disappointing as I expect more from a MAC brush, but overall I still really love it.
Just J: Megan of Megan Joy loves the EcoTools Skin perfecting brush
EcoTools Skin Perfecting Brush
"Specifically designed for use with popular BB/CC creams to create a smoother application and eliminate oil transfer from hands to face." - EcoTools
I don't normally use foundation brushes, and while I don't use this one daily, I have found myself reaching for it when I want to apply a BB cream or tinted moisturizer. The bristles are stiff, but still soft and they blend my foundation really well! To boot, all of EcoTools' brushes are synthetic and cruelty-free!
Just J: Megan of Megan Joy loves the MEGAGA Professionals liner brush
MEGAGA Professionals Liner Brush
"Brushes are made of quality nylon and plastic for lasting performance. Eco-Friendly, high quality makeup case designed for professional use." - MEGAGA
This brush originally came in a set I got as a Christmas gift from my friend years ago (thanks Erin!), but over the years and many apartment moves only a few lonely brushes remain : ( I think the reason this brush never got lost amid my apartment moves was because it was always in my makeup bag. It's great for applying gel liner and also for filling in my brows! I've had it for years and it's never started to shed or fall apart. I still have the shadow brush from this set as well and I've just never had the need to replace them.
Just J: Megan of Megan Joy loves the MAC 187 Duo Fiber face brush
MAC 187 Duo Fiber Face Brush
"A large full circular brush used for lightweight application and blending of face powder or pigments. Use to create soft layers or add textures." -MAC
This is my brush for applying setting powder after the rest of my makeup has been applied and blended. I use this to apply a thin layer of setting powder and it helps my makeup to stay in place all day and also helps to absorb excess oil! This brush is so super fine it feels like feathers when I'm using it. It's also great if you don't wear makeup but just want to brush some powder on your face to keep your skin looking matte.
That's all from me, I hope that you enjoyed reading this post, and thank you again to MizzJ for having me!




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Fashion challenge: Go sporty-chic this Spring with Lacoste

When you think of Lacoste, what comes to mind? If you think tennis, crocodiles and the Hamptons, then you're not alone. That's just what I was thinking as I walked into the Lacoste boutique in downtown Vancouver a couple weeks ago. Why was I there? I was being asked to stretch my style boundaries as I was chosen to participate in the Lacoste challenge as hosted by the Vancouver Beauty & Lifestyle Bloggers network. My task? To take Lacoste's new Matchpoint collection and make it my own.

For their SS 2014 collection, entitled the Matchpoint & Maritime collection, Lacoste put their cultured finger on the pulse of fashion's obsession with sportswear. Merging sporty classics with urban style, the resulting pieces are vibrant, body-conscious and dare I say, a little edgy? Whatever your style, there's a little something for everyone in this collection, from Lacoste's classic polos and tennis skirts, to loose cotton pants and office-ready silk blouses.

My style is a mix of downtown chic crossed with hipster-granny, so I was intrigued by the thought of taking a classic Lacoste piece and mixing it up in a trendier way. Surprisingly, the answers to my entire outfit were from Lacoste itself thanks to a beautiful jacquard sweater. My eyes were immediately drawn to this sweater as its bright rainbow of colors and loose fit totally epitomized my style. I decided to pair it with a crisp white tennis skirt as a nod to Lacoste's roots. Paired with my favourite English Laundry sunnies, a delicate gold chain necklace and some cute Aldo flats, I was ready for dancing among the flowers.

Just J: Go sporty chic with the Lacoste Matchpoint SS 2014 collection

Just J: Go sporty chic with the Lacoste Matchpoint SS 2014 collection

Just J: Go sporty chic with the Lacoste Matchpoint SS 2014 collection

Just J: Go sporty chic with the Lacoste Matchpoint SS 2014 collection

Just J: Go sporty chic with the Lacoste Matchpoint SS 2014 collection
All photos by Mr. Artist

 Want to see more? Check out the entire collection online or view it fresh off the runway in the video below:



Thank you to Lacoste and the challenge organizers for choosing me to participate. I had a fabulous time choosing this outfit and gaining a new appreciation for the brand.

If you like the outfit I chose, I would really really appreciate if you could vote for my look as your favourite in the Lacoste Challenge!

To send your vote, simply go to the Maddy Loves Facebook page and give your “like” or comment on my outfit. By voting, you'll also be entered to win a special Lacoste prize!

A huge thanks and virtual hug for voting for me!



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Canadian Beauty Blogger Montagne Jeunesse Mask Off Challenge: Nut Oil

Just J: Montagne Jeunesse Nut Oil with Baobab oil and Marula nut oil review

It`s week 3 of the CBB Montagne Jeunesse mask off challenge and this week the girls of the CBB are reviewing the Nut Oil masque from drugstore beauty brand, Montagne Jeunesse. If you`re just joining along with this series, each week, 17 of us are blogging about the same masque and comparing reviews so that you can see how each one reacts to our different skin types. Follow along with our reviews on Twitter and Instagram via #CBBMJMaskOff and let us know what you think!

The Product
The Nut Oil masque is a lovely combination of moisturizing Baobab and deep-cleansing Marula oil. Both oils are derived from nuts sourced from Africa and have been used for generations by locals. Unlike the chocolate and Manuka honey masques I reviewed previously, this one is formulated for all skin types.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this masque are:

  • Kaolin clay - the minerals in this clay are said to help reduce inflammation and to suck out oil and dirt. A great deep-cleansing ingredient.
  • Bentonite - another natural clay, this negatively charged clay works similarly to Kaolin clay and draws out impurities from the skin
  • Glycerin - moisturizer
  • Shea butter - super moisturizer!
So far so good - all the primary ingredients are actively doing what this masque claims to do. Other interesting ingredients are sea salt (cleanser), Baobab oil, Marula nut seed oil, and aloe vera juice (moisturizing, reduces inflammation). I'm not sure how much of Baobab and Marula ones needs in a masque to be effective, but to me, I think the kaolin and shea butter are probably doing more of the work than these "star" ingredients!


Aroma and texture
Since all the MJ masques come in the same paper packet and are all priced the same (~$2 from Walmart, Loblaws, and online), I will be concentrating instead on the aroma and texture of this masque.

Unlike the previous two, the Nut Oil masque had a very light, pleasant smell. It reminded me especially of fresh avocados, although over reviewers have noted that it smells similar to macadamia nuts.

If you've used clay masks before then there won't be any surprises here. The masque is thick, creamy and spread easily over my face in a thick layer. I could probably have stretched this out into 2 applications, but I didn't have an extra jar handy so I had to throw the leftovers away.

Effectiveness
This mask is designed to be left on for 15-20 minutes and then rinsed away, which is perfect timing for a shower! I prefer to use my masques in the shower as the steam opens your pores and helps your masque really get rid of all the gunk in there. I found this masque easy to rinse away and it didn't leave any residue.
Just J: Montagne Jeunesse Nut Oil with Baobab oil and Marula nut oil review

Hands down, this is absolutely my favourite masque so far in the series. It left my face feeling refreshed, cleansed and tighter, but without dryness. My skin felt super soft and smooth to the touch as if I'd just moisturized and the effect lasted till the next morning.

Final verdict
Buy.






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A Book Devoured: Review of Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

Just J reviews: Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

Sorry, again another food history book! I think I really need to take a hiatus on this genre as you can only take so many food books. Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat tackles food history from a different standpoint from my previous foodies reads, Cooked and A History of the World in 6 Glasses. Instead of contemplating history through the lens of particular cooking and drinking styles, Consider the Fork posits the effect of how food and culture and irreversibly intertwined and that affect on the technology of how we eat.

Whether it be the documentation of how the shape of spoons followed the rise and fall of British monarchy or how chopstick culture is so vastly different from fork culture, this book is interesting, but also kinda dull. One can only find examinations about how refrigeration got started and why a butter knife is so useless interesting for so long. This book probably needs to be about 300 pages shorter - not a good sign. To be perfectly honest, I think this book would be better served as an hour long TV special as visuals are pretty integral to understanding the evolution of food implements and seeing how kitchen design reflects the society of its time. Hopefully someone at the Food Network reads this and takes heed as I think that channel could really use less Guy Fieri and more food culture.


If you've read this book, what did you think of it?


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Buy or Ditch: The Body Shop Olive Beautifying Oil review

Just J: The Body Shop Olive Beautifying Oil review

Whether for cleansing, or moisturizing, or both, oils are the hot topic of the beauty world right now. These once maligned products are now revered as protectors of moisture and dissolvers of pesky long-wearing and waterproof makeup. The only tricky thing? Finding the right oil for your needs! Many are overpriced marketing gimmicks, while others can be too heavy and smelly for everyday use.

The Product
The Body Shop has tried to fill the market desire for gentle, light facial oils with their Olive Beautifying Oil. TBS has been in the oil business a long time and I fondly remember using their amazing Manoi oil years ago, so you know you can trust their stuff. The Olive Beautifying oil is a multi-purpose oil that you can use for the face, hair and body. You can use this oil as a skin moisturizer, or to fix split ends, and for those rough patches like elbows and knees.

Besides containing all natural ingredients that are good for your skin, this product is also good for society. The marula oil in this product is ethically sourced from the Eudafano Women's Co-operative in Namibia, which helps over 1750 women become self-sufficient.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this product are:

  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: an emollient that's gentle enough for even sensitve skin types. Derived from coconut oil.
  • Dicaprylyl Carbonate: another moisturizing type ingredient.
  • Fragrance
  • Sclerocarya Birrea seed oil: aka marula oil that has been used as a skin softener for generations in its native Africa.

Other key ingredients in this product are olive oil, almond oil and macadamia nut oil. Lastly, I have to point out how awesome the TBS website is as it not only lists out each ingredient, but also translates what they actually are for!

Price & Packaging
A 100 mL bottle will cost you $15. I actually got this one on sale for $8, but even at full price, this product gives you fantastic value. I use this primarily for my face and you need very little to cover your face in a light coating of oil. The actual packaging itself is pretty horrible as it's really hard to control the amount poured out of the bottle at once, so I transferred about a third of it to an old washed out bottle of Kiehls Midnight Recovery! Since the Midnight Recovery has an eye-dropper, I found that a much easier way to control the amount I wanted to use. Yay for product recycling!

Effectiveness
My favourite thing about this oil is its light, floral scent. I was a little skeptical at first because olive based products don't smell very nice, but the dominant scent is actually a little fruity and floral, with a bit of a deeper vanilla base from the almond oil is my guess.

I use a large drop on each cheek and forehead and another one to fill in the gaps between on my face. This oil is very light and absorbs quickly, but I still would caution using this for daytime. Instead, I used this in place of a night serum and layered my regular night cream on top. The end result was waking up each morning with amazingly soft and plump skin. While this routine worked for my normal-dry skin, I would recommend that those with oilier skin try just using this oil by itself at first until you know how much your skin can handle.

The Verdict
Buy



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Meet Lise Watier spokeswoman Jessica Kruger at Coquitlam Centre April 17


This Thursday, London Drugs and Lise Watier are hosting a special makeover and meet & greet event with Lise Watier Something Sweet spokeswoman, Jessica Kruger. Something Sweet is the name of Lise Watier's fragrance for young, positive women and Kruger totally embodies the brand.

This special 21-year-old from Coquitlam has shown herself to be a role model already at her young age. When she was 15, Jessica fainted and fell from a ladder while painting a house. She became paralyzed as a result of cracking four vertebrae in her neck. However, Jessica has never let her disability affect her life. She is the youngest female rugby player in Canada and she has become an inspirational speaker on behalf of Worksafe BC and the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Whether you go simply for the makeup or just to feel inspired by Jessica's words, this is an event you don't want to miss!


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Canadian Beauty Blogger Montagne Jeunesse Mask Off Challenge: Manuka Honey Peel-off

Just J: Canadian Beauty Bloggers review the Montagne Jeunesse Manuka Honey peel-off masque

For 5 weeks, I and my fellow CBB members will be reviewing 5 different masks from the Montagne Jeunesse face mask line. Montagne Jeunesse is a maker of natural, eco-friendly skincare products out of the UK. Each mask comes in an individual paper packet and retails for around $2. You can find their products at Walmart and Loblaws in Canada and in various UK drug stores.

For week 1 of the challenge, we reviewed the deep cleaning, self-heating chocolate mask. To be honest, I wasn't impressed as I didn't see any noticeable effect and I actually broke out after! I rarely get any zits of any kind, so I'm positive it was due to the mask; thus I was a little nervous for this week's mask, the Manuka Honey peel-off

The Product
The Manuka Honey peel-off mask is a deep-cleansing, antibacterial mask designed to remove dirt, oil and pore clogging impurities that cause blemishes - perfect timimg for me! It is designed for oily and combination skin.

The Guts
The primary ingredients in this mask are:
  • Purified water
  • Polyvinyl alcohol - a binder that provides texture
  • PVP - another common binding agent. This is derived from petroleum, so if you're trying to avoid those, be forewarned. Although there are ample warning online against this ingredient, it only seems harmful if inhaled, which I doubt you're going to do here
  • Parfum - fragrance
It's a little concerning that the "star" ingredients here (honey, caramel, aloe vera juice, chamomile, vanilla and jasmine) don't come until mid-way in the list, but I guess that's not unreasonable since this is a self-peeling mask and the first ingredients are used to create that peeling ability.


Texture & Aroma
If you had told me this was made from pure honey, I would believe you. Not only is this mask honey colored, but it smells a lot like, and feels just like, honey! There is also a strong jasmine scent to this mask that I disliked. I would have preferred the more natural scent of honey, but the jasmine here was overpowering and kinda artificial to me.

Since the mask is so sticky, you have limited time to apply it to your face before it begins hardening. I would recommend squeezing all of the mask onto your hand, rubbing your hands together and quickly smearing it all over your face. However, this approach has its complications as well.

Effectiveness
To use, you're supposed to leave this mask on for 15-20 minutes, then peel off to reveal your renewed, radiant skin. Unlike, the self-heating mask, I felt this one was far more sensory inducing. There was a slight cooling sensation that was quite pleasant and you can literally feel this mask tightening onto your skin like shrink wrap. Do not try to move or give any expression while wearing this mask as it will get increasingly difficult as time wears on - this must be what it feels like to have extreme Botox!

Just J: review of the Montagne Jeunesse manuka honey peel-off mask
I can still move my face!!

When the time is up, simply peel off. Yeah right. There is nothing simple about taking off a peel-off mask and I was immediately reminded of why I'd never used one since I was a teen. This mask is a pain in the ASS to remove! I got a few good strips off my cheeks, but for my nose I basically had to scratch away to get anything and my forehead... oh god. My forehead was the worst to remove. It seemed that in my haste to get the mask on, I had managed to catch every single baby hair along my hairline and my eyebrows as well. Let's just say, I plucked my brows and deep cleansed my face at the same time that night. After another agonizing 20 minutes, I finally got it all off. Although annoying, I would say it wasn't the mask's fault for being so tricky; that's just the nature of peel-off masks. Next time, I think I would try to be more careful where I applied it and to go over my face with a thicker layer so it's easier to pull off.

The end result though made all the work worth it. This mask left my face feeling super soft and clean. It cleared up my zits right away and my skin was left smooth and even. My face even smelled like honey! This mask was waaay better than the chocolate. If I could make one change to this mask at all, I would recommend that it be tinted darker so you can tell how much is left on your face. Since the mask and my skin are similar shades, I could only tell where it was on my face through touch.

Final verdict
Buy!

Next week, the CBB will be reviewing the MJ "oil" mask line!






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UK trip recap!

A full week after returning from the UK, I finally feel like I've gotten over my jet lag and have caught up on my laundry, housecleaning and unpacking. Although my trip was primarily for work, it was also a great experience for me to visit a new country! Beware: this post is likely to be image heavy.

For most of the week, I was staying outside Oxford, a charming little city known of course for its abundance of old colleges. While I didn't get to do too much sight-seeing here, I would love to come back and visit again. Oxford is full of charming old buildings and cobblestone alleys. Plus, I was very surprised by the variety of ethnic restaurants available! Polish, French, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Lebanese - you name it, Oxford seems to have it. During my visit, I checked out 2 local restaurants:

Pasta at Jamie Oliver's restaurant, Jamie's Italian
Pasta at Jamie Oliver's restaurant

The first was Jamie's Italian. I'm a huge fan of TV chef Jamie Oliver, so of course I had to try this! The restaurant itself was quite cute with lots of homespun touches like herbs hanging from the ceiling and wooden furnishings. Above is my shell pasta with prosciutto, peas and fresh mint in a cream sauce; it was delicious, but nothing spectacular. As well, the service was super slow, so I'm not sure I'd come here again.

My next outing in Oxford was a little more successful. I found the Cote Brasserie randomly while wandering around the city center. Since I was dining alone, I wanted an intimate place to catch a quiet meal where I wouldn't be surrounded by rowdy diners. Cote fit the bill and I was very pleased with the result, this beautiful roasted sea bass with fennel and a slightly cream champagne beurre sauce with tomatoes. While the side veg was awfully salty and unpalatable, the sea bass was perfect with crispy skin and moist meat. I even enjoyed the fennel, which I usually don't!

Roasted seabass at Cote Brasserie

The dessert though is something that cannot be missed. Marked as a house specialty, the creme caramel is a seductive mound of creamy custard, fresh vanilla bean and dark caramel. The creme even sits in a little pool of fresh cream and caramel and I literally wanted to pick this up and lick the bowl to get it all.

Delicious creme caramel at cote Brasserie

Besides eating my face off, I also managed to do a little beauty shopping thanks to Boots Pharmacy! Of course I couldn't miss this opportunity to try some brands that we don't get in Canada:

UK drugstore beauty haul
Drugstore haul

After my week in Oxford, I opted to spend a weekend in London. The weather was amazing and totally atypical from what I had heard of London. It was sunny and warm at 20 degrees with a light breeze - perfect walking weather for strolling through London's famous Portabello Market.

Known as a haven for antique hunters, foodies and fashion lovers, Portabello is a treasure trove for unique finds. There is so much jewelry and silverware everywhere that it's a little hard to focus!

Teapots at Portabello Market
Teapots at Portabello Market

Delicious waffles at a stand in Portabello
Delicious waffles at a stand in Portabello

Dog face rugs at Portabello market
Not sure what you are supposed to do with these?

London haul part 1: goodies from Portabello market, a leather wristlet, and verbena hand cream from a Notting Hill boutique

The next day, I visited the British Museum where I totally geeked out all morning ogling ancient sculpture and artifacts from Egypt, China, Japan and Korea.

Outside the British Musuem
Outside the British Musuem

Cleopatra's mummy
Cleopatra's mummy

Hand crafted ceramic flowers in the Korea exhibit at the British Museum
Hand crafted ceramic flowers in the Korea exhibit

Ancient Japanese makeup kit - the kabuki brush looks quite similar to today's!
Ancient Japanese makeup kit - the kabuki brush looks quite similar to today's!

Japanese laquered jewelry box
Japanese laquered jewelry box

Jewelry likely worn by noblewomen in ancient China
Jewelry likely worn by noblewomen in ancient China

After the museum, I walked over to Covent Garden, a popular chic shopping and open market area. Here is where you can find everything from local artisans, to pie shops, tea shops, high street shops like Zara and designers like Dior. Sadly, I restrained myself from buying too much as the exchange rate was killing me, but even just to window shop is quite fun.

British Museum and Covent Garden haul

And that's a recap of my UK trip!



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1 item, 3 ways: How to wear a pleated summer dress

This spring, bright, fresh colors and pleated everything are big trends. A classic, button-down pleated dress should be a staple in every closet as it is perennially stylish and easy to wear year-round. I'm a huge fan of this vibrant emerald Propaganda Yumi dress from Vancouver label, PLEN+Y and it's easy to see why:

How to wear this pleated summer dress

Made of a polyester and silk/chiffon blend, this dress gives you that wonderfully fluttery feeling that you want in spring, while still providing the ease of wash-and-go polyester.

So what are some ways you can incorporate this lovely dress into your life?

Look #1: Office ready

How to wear a pleated summer dress: office appropriate colors
Coach Bleecker Zippy wallet, $108 / Nine West Docile flats, $120 / PLEN+Y Monk & Lou Rory cocoon blazer, $209 / Olive + Piper Lilac Dome earrings, $8

Office wear doesn't have to be boring! Bring a little color into work with this fresh combo of green, cornflower yellow and lilac. Ground these springy colors with a basic black blazer and chic, but conservative flats.

Look #2: School ready

How to wear a pleated summer dress: quirky and whimsical touches for school
PLEN+Y Monk & Lou Armor cropped pullover, $69 / ModCloth Only a Pastry pin, $11.99 / Olivia Burton Mink Hummingbird watch, $151.88 / Steve Madden Nonstp bootie, $115.54 / Herschel Supply Co. City backpack, $49.99

This dress also works seamlessly for the classroom too! Layering things over the top or bottom of a dress instantly doubles its versatility. Cropped sweaters make for perfect layering pieces over dresses and this comfy Monk & Lou sweater is a prime example. Pair with equally whimsical and earthy touches to create a sweet, brainy-girl-got-style look.

Look #3: Bar ready

How to wear a pleated summer dress: black and leather take this dress to night
Danier Georgia lamb leather jacket, $299 / Zara leather bucket bag, $129 / Zara leather wide heel sandal, $59.90

This look is simple. Take this dress to your favourite concert bar or pub by adding black everything. Finish the look off with sexy, piecy waves, smokey eye-shadow and red lips (MAC Ruby Woo is a great choice!)


What do you think of these 3 looks?




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Buy or Ditch: Marcelle DD Cream Daily Defense

Buy or Ditch: Marcelle DD Cream Daily Defense

BB, CC, DD... what's with all the letters? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?! Well, with the exception of minor differences, not a hell of a lot to be honest. After my initial love for BB creams, I've come around to the fact that this letter craze is 80% marketing gimmick and 20% legit. That being said, I'm still a fan of using these multi-tasking products for their ability to provide moisture, SPF and coverage all in one.

The Product
The Marcelle DD cream is part of Marcelle's line of letter-ized skin makeup products and has a 10 item long benefits list: This product claims to:

  • tighten pores
  • improve skin texture
  • even and smooth out the look of skin
  • promote skin renewal process
  • control shine
  • provide long-term hydration
  • protect skin from environmental stressors
  • prevent signs of aging
  • sooth and calm dry skin
  • brightening
Most of this translates to "make skin look good". Beyond that, this cream, like many Marcelle products, is also hypoallergenic, paraben-free, oil-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic.


The Guts
The top ingredients in this DD cream are:

  • Aqua/water
  • Cyclopentasiloxane - a common silicone derived product that gives this product a silky, spreadable texture
  • Octyldodecanol - mostly a structural ingredient, but also an emollient (keeps moisture in). Some studies have found that this ingredient can cause skin irritation
  • Glycerin - run of the mill moisturizer
This cream also contain aloe vera, camellia extract and oxtinoxate (sunscreen ingredient).


Price & Packaging
This product will cost you $26.95 for a 30 mL bottle. I've been using this product daily all winter and haven't seemed to have gotten even close to finishing!

While the size of the bottle is great, the packaging otherwise is terrible. The bottle is opaque, so you can't see how much product you have left; this is rather tragic as it also uses a pump system and you all know how much I despise pumps! The pump on this DD is especially horrific. Either you have to do multiple half pumps to get enough product out to cover your face, or you get one humongous squirt if you do a full pump and have tons left over. There is no winning. Opt for the half pump.

Effectiveness
With all the silicones in this product, you would expect it to have a very silky texture, but I actually found this cream to be rather thick and viscous compared to a liquid foundation. It does however blend nicely and provides excellent medium coverage that truly evens out all my redness and decently conceals my freckles. I just layer this on, finish with some pressed powder and I'm good to go!

Buy or Ditch: Marcelle DD Cream Daily Defense
Unblended

Buy or Ditch: Marcelle DD Cream Daily Defense
Blended

This DD does contain moisturizing ingredients, but I found that I needed to layer my regular day cream underneath this in order to prevent dryness. If you have oily skin or live in a humid climate, then you might be okay going solo on this.

The major downside with this DD is that it only comes in 2 shades: light-medium and medium-dark. I'm not quite sure which shade I am using (I received this in a gift bag and it doesn't seem to say the shade on the bottle), but I'm guessing that I'm a medium-dark, which makes this DD really unusable for anyone who has a darker than NC25 skin tone. Pretty poor of Marcelle to be so exclusive with their skin tone options! DD/BB and their ilk do tend to be more limited for whatever reason in terms of shades, but this is getting almost insulting.

Overall though, this DD provides great coverage, decent SPF and wears well all day.

The Verdict
Buy


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Canadian Beauty Blogger Montagne Jeunesse Mask Off Challenge: Hot Chocolate self-heating face mask

Canadian Beauty Blogger Montagne Jeunesse Mask Off Challenge: Hot Chocolate self-heating face mask

Phew is this a long post title or what? Well, it's all for a good reason I can assure you! After coming back from my UK trip last week, I was greeted by a massive pile of beauty mail. One of those packages was my eagerly awaited set of Montagne Jeunesse face masks! Alongside the other lovely ladies of the Canadian Beauty Blogger network, we will each be reviewing 5 face masks over 5 weeks. You may follow our hashtag #CBBMJMaskOff for all the posts and read the overall recap on Fun Size Beauty.

The first mask up for review is the Hot Chocolate self-heating face mask. This deep-cleansing mask contains mediterranean clay to suck out dirt and oil, and rich dark chocolate and orange oil to soften skin. Using these types of masks once a week is a great way to tighten pores and provide a detox for your skin to get out all that gunk and dirt that your usual exfoliator misses.

At first I was a bit concerned about using this mask as I have normal-dry skin and this is formulated for combo-oily, however I'm glad to say that this mask was nothing a good night cream and face oil couldn't fix.

The best part of this mask was the smell. This mask smells, looks and feels like slightly melted Nutella. It smells amazing!! You almost want to eat it. It was a little tricky squeezing it all out of the pack, but spreading it on was a breeze.

I usually wear my masks in the shower so they're easier to wash off and I'm glad I did as this mask will definitely stain your sink. I had a little left over on my hands and it left my basin full of brown streaks.

Once on, this mask feels tingly and pleasantly warm, but after a few seconds, the heating sensation left. I find this common with self-heating masks so I'm used to this disappointment. 15 minutes later, my face felt a tad bit dry and tighter, but no more radiant.

Pros:

  • fantastic smell
  • did tighten pores a bit
Cons
  • messy to apply and clean up after
  • left my skin feeling cleansed, but dry


You may purchase the Hot Chocolate self-heating face mask online for around $2 or at your local Walmart.


Stay tuned for part 2: Peel-off and read the rest of the CBB reviews below:





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A Book Devoured: The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak

Just J reviews The Winter Palace: A novel of Catherine the Great

Historical dramas are books that are in my opinion perfect for travel and cozy winter nights. Not knowing anything about Catherine the Great, I was curious to learn more in this novel by Eva Stachniak, which was a recommended read for me via my Kobo. Described as a "passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history's boldest women," the story of The Winter Palace revolves around the arrival of a young German princess named Sophie in the 18th century to the Russian court and how she eventually becomes one of Russia's greatest monarchs.

The story is told from the point of view of a young orphan called Barbara, or Varvara, as she is known in Russia. Varvara is a young servant at court who in her struggle to simply survive, becomes a "tongue" or court spy for the old queen, Elizabeth. Varvara's loyalty quickly shifts though as she strikes up a friendship with Sophie and she becomes utterly devoted to her.

With its lush descriptions of gowns, palaces and gossip, The Winter Palace is kind of like a more gossipy version of Game of Thrones without the magic and less killing. Although Sophie is depicted as an innocent whose political skills are forged in a trial by fire, the book continuously foreshadows that Sophie may not be everything she appears. In the end, it is Varvara the spy who is left caught out.

Thoroughly entertaining and a light read, The Winter Palace is a great intro to Russian history. I found myself reading up on Catherine the Great after reading this book and would definitely read more of Stachniak's tales of courtly intrigue!



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