Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mark by Avon MOD Collection Review – Holiday 2017

Even though fall has just begun, it’s never too late to start thinking about the holidays! I have already started checking people off my gift giving list and testing exciting new beauty products. The mark MOD collection features fun graphic prints, comforting winter scents and bold pops of trendy color.

I’m the kind of girl who is not afraid to wear vibrant shadow and make it look perfectly acceptable for all occasions. The key is applying a good primer, using shades that match well and blending until your arm falls off to create the perfect gradient. The Mod Pop Eye Shadow Palette ($25.00) has a variety of playful shades including orchid, glistening pink, sparkling orange and bright aqua contrasted with neutral hues like navy, soft pink and silver. The formula is silky, smooth and soft but I recommend a color intensifying base and applying a few layers to enhance the color.

I am totally obsessed with Avon’s Cherry Jubilee Lipstick and Nail Polish because the sultry, dark wine color is perfect for fall! I received these items in the Joyful Makeup Collection 5-Piece Set but the lipsticks usually retail for just $10.00 and I love the moisturizing satin finish.

The polish matches the lipstick perfectly which is stylish for holiday parties.

The MOD collection also includes fabulous body products with the same geometric print. The fragrance ($38.00) is composed of capucine florals and rose spiked with scrumptious nutmeg. Don’t be alarmed by the spicy notes, the aroma is pleasantly sweet, well balanced and surprisingly comforting. For some reason I just can’t get enough of this scent! It is fades beautifully and makes you smell very alluring. The Body Lotion ($14.00) has the same great aroma and the rich, creamy texture leaves skin feeling soft and hydrated.

Avon is available online at and through independent consultants. 

12 Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

I travel frequently for work and leisure so you may be surprised to learn that I used to have a fear of flying. It's true, even people who spend a lot of time on planes can be totally uncomfortable in the air and all it takes is one scary experience to trigger ongoing panic.

The problem I had was not a phobia since it did not disrupt my life or stop me from boarding an aircraft but it still made me very uneasy in the air. 

My issue isn’t really the height (although I’m not a fan of that either), it has more to do with the idea of plummeting to the earth from 30,000 ft with no control. Every bump, air pocket and bad weather system made me nervous but I’ve gone from clutching the armrest in panic to coping increasingly well.

Since this fear is very common, I’ve decided to share some tips on how I dealt with the anxiety because life is too short not to explore the world.

(Photo edited from Google Images, original source unknown)

1. Identify the Source of Your Fear
As mentioned above, my problem has more to do with the idea of falling out of the sky and turbulence than it does with heights. I’ve been to the top of the tallest building in the world and watched the sun rise from mountain peaks above the clouds even though it made me weak in the knees to look down. Once you identify what particular aspect of flying scares you, it may be easier to deal with the root cause and learn to understand it.

2. Put Things in Perspective and Think Rationally
When you leave home you enter a world full of dangers beyond your control. Your environment can be perilous yet you find the courage to live. If you consider the statistics you’d realize that there is a higher chance of being injured in a motor vehicle or crossing the street than being in a plane crash. The conditions you face on a daily basis may be more hazardous than flying; in fact it is still one of the safest ways to travel. Take solace in knowing that there is a higher probability of arriving at your destination safely. You can’t predict or control the future and worrying about it is a waste of mental energy that causes stress. 

3. Relaxation
One of the worst aspects of flying is not the flight itself but the anxiety you feel beforehand. Anticipation of getting on the place can be worse than the actual journey. Before your trip do something enjoyable to help you relax whether it’s going to the gym, meditating or taking a hot bath. I can’t condone self-medicating but you can see a doctor for a prescribed sedative and over-the-counter meds that cause drowsiness may help calm the nerves. Keep in mind that you must be alert when checking-in at the airport and this method should not be used frequently nor is it a permanent solution.

4. Breathing Exercises
When turbulence gets rough and panic starts to set in, I do simple breathing techniques. Take a deep breath in, hold for 4 seconds and release while counting down from 10. When you get to 1 begin again and repeat if necessary. Often times I am more focused on counting than the turbulence and eventually it stops so I can relax.

5. Understand That Turbulence is Normal
On a stop-over in Switzerland on my way to Florence, a flight attendant said something that really helped me. She told me to think of turbulence as road bumps. It is completely normal and quite harmless. Even while driving the journey isn’t smooth so don’t expect the air to be. Thinking of it this way helped put my mind at ease and sitting at the front of the plane where turbulence is felt less may also help.

6. Occupy Your Time
One of the worst things you can do is sit idly and worry. Take your mind off the fear by reading, working, playing games, watching movies or sleeping and you may forget your discomfort altogether. Listening to your favorite music or something soothing can help you relax.

7. Travel with a Companion
Having support is always helpful and if need be your travel buddy can talk you through it and be a familiar point of stability when you feel on edge.

8. Find Motivation
It could be a big job interview, wedding or a dream vacation but sometimes air travel is the only option. The places I’ve visited and the amazing experiences I’ve had ignite my passion for travel even more. Focus on the destination and remind yourself that it will all be worth it. This may not eliminate your fear but positive thinking is highly underrated. 

9. Keep Flying
The more flights you take the more comfortable you may become with the idea. It may never feel natural (we aren’t birds after all) but start small by venturing to closer destinations and when you’re ready, begin extending your journey and flight time. “The best way to treat the symptoms is to bring on the symptoms and do it anyway” meaning flying is the best way to overcome your fear of flying. The longest I’ve ever flown was 14 hours to Dubai but I’m psyching myself up for a 17 hour trip to Asia in the near future (wish me luck). If you have the means to splurge on a first class ticket a little luxury can make the trip more relaxing and enjoyable. When I book a personal pod I can lie down to sleep, stretch out and get comfortable. To read my article on flying first class click HERE.

10. Know How Things Work
Sometimes knowing a bit about aviation can help put your mind at ease. My friend Jason is a pilot and I learned that there is a lot of continual training that goes with the job. Pilots and crew are trained and tested to handle emergency situations including flying in turbulence and bad weather. The planes are highly advanced and Jason even learned how to recover, regain control and prevent disorientation if the plane flips or nose dives. Most pilots never experience a crash in their entire career so chances are you won't either.

11.  Face it Head-On and Don’t Cower
I find that if I face things head-on it helps me feel in control of what is happening to me. I usually opt for a window seat and instead of closing the shade I open it wide so I can see what is going on during take-off and landing. 

12. Pay Close Attention to the Safety Instructions/Video
You don’t actually have much control over what happens to you once you step onto an aircraft but knowing what to do in case of an emergency can help put your mind at easy and make you feel more prepared.

Keep in mind that almost everyone feels uncomfortable during a rough flight and it is completely normal.  

Disclaimer: Although I have a degree in Psychology this article is based on personal experience and should not be used in place of seeking medical help for your individual problems, fears or phobias.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NEW From Lancome: Advanced Génifique Sensitive Dual Concentrate, Absolue Precious Cells Revitalizing Rose Mask & La Vie Est Belle L’éclat Eau De Parfum

We’ve all suffered from bad skin days. It could have been seasonal changes, a nasty breakout, pollution, fatigue or in my case the sunny beaches, long nights and jet lag from my recent trip to Portugal, but occasionally we all need a little rejuvenation. Lancome has recently released new skincare dedicated to replenishing the complexion, correcting irregularities and promoting a youthful glow.

The new La Vie Est Belle Fragrance is opulent, sophisticated and intoxicating for a sensory experience that it truly decadent.

Advanced Génifique ($99.00) is a luxurious serum rich in probiotics that revive fragile skin, hydrate, protect against daily aggressors, soothe and deeply nourish when you need it most. What makes this formula unique is that the concentrate is kept isolated from the serum until you decide to use it so the active ingredients remain fresh and potent. The serum is viable for approximately one month which means that once you blend the two parts together, you must continue using it every day until the bottle is finished for best results.

Clear, unmixed serum

When you have a bad skin day simply push and twist the cap to release the blue concentrate, shake until mixed, unscrew and dispose of the cap (including the blue portion) and replace with the medicine dropper. The concentrate is composed of 98% pure antioxidants (Ferulic Acid & Vitamin C) to speed up healing and regeneration.

Mixed with concentrate

The serum feels refreshing, cool and soothing on parched, tight skin and melts in quickly with no greasy residue. I apply it in the evening after cleansing and layer it with the Absolue Night Precious Cells Recovery Cream to create the ultimate hydrating night treatment. If you suffer from dry skin and need an excellent winter moisturizer, read my review on the Precious Cells Collection by clicking HERE. It is my favorite skincare range from Lancome.

After a hectic week the Revitalizing Rose Mask ($185.00) enriched with rose water and nutritive extracts is the perfect way to energize, plump and hydrate the skin. You can actually see fresh rose fragments floating in the cool gel and in just 15 minutes my complexion is bright, clear, smooth and incredibly supple. Just sit back, relax and let the lush formula and amazing scent pamper and revive you.

After your skin is glowing and you’re ready for a night out, the new La Vie Est Belle L’éclat Perfume ($85.00) puts the perfect finishing out on any outfit. The elegant bottle is a masterpiece in itself featuring 221 twinkling facets designed by the best French glass maker. I love that the liquid appears to be encased in crystal and elevated by a solid base embellished with a simple pearlescent bow.

La Vie Est Belle is radiant, uplifting and boldly feminine with notes of delicate iris, sweet pear, ripe blackberry, luminous orange blossom, fresh jasmine and a base of patchouli essence. The fruit and citrus accords balance the robust undertones for the perfect blend of sweet and sensual. The aroma is elegant, long lasting and refined – ideal for daily wear and special occasions. It also makes a great gift for the ladies on your holiday list!

Lancome is available at department store counters nationwide, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sephora and online at

Monday, October 16, 2017

Benefit Cosmetics Foolproof Brow Powder, Pore Minimizing Makeup & NEW Punch Pop Liquid Lip Color

Well sculpted brows have been all the rage recently so Benefit has created a range of products to help make grooming easier. They have also released a new Pore Minimizing Primer, vibrant Punch Pop Lip Gloss and fun Go Go Tints for lips and cheeks.

The Foolproof Brow Powder ($32.00) comes in a cute silver tin with mini applicator and is available in 3 shades (light, medium and deep). Each powder has two tones designed to mimic the gradual look of natural brows and the silky pigment applies smooth and saturated for easy blending and fullness. The 12 hour formula adheres to the hair and skin so you can deposit color where you need it most with minimal fading or transfer. I chose the deepest shade and I am able to layer and intensify the color to thicken my arches and enhance coverage. I still use a brow pencil for shaping but the powder fills-in sparse areas to accentuate and define.

The Punch Pop Lip Gloss packaging reminds me of the Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum from my childhood. The flirty lip color comes in 5 fruity shades providing lightweight, creamy shine that softens and quenches dryness with nourishing Vitamin E. Although they look like candy, they don’t smell like it (total bummer) but the sheer, moisturizing color makes lips appear plump and juicy with no stickiness. The bold pop of Barbie Pink instantly perks-up a dull complexion.

A good primer is a must if you want a flawless finish but large pores and rough, uneven skin can ruin your makeup. The Pore Professional Primer ($40.00) is available in 5 tints (fair, light, light-medium, medium and deep). The medium shade helps brighten my complexion without altering the finish of my foundation and it doesn’t cake or flake. The texture is quite liquidy so you need to shake the tube before use and there is a flat top applicator sponge that pops out of the base. The formula blends well and coats the face in a lightweight matte layer that controls oil and shine without clogging pores. It instantly transforms the skin by creating a smooth, even canvass, filling in lines and diminishing textural irregularities so makeup applies seamlessly.  

I have the Go Go Tint Lip & Cheek Stain ($40.00) in Bright Cherry and I think the concept is very cute. The bottle and applicator looks like nail polish and the pigment is very versatile. Simply dab some onto the cheeks and blend to create the perfect rosy glow with a natural faded flush. Once set the color does not transfer or fade and lasts all day! The thin brush is a bit difficult to work with for lip application because it flexes and bends too much when tracing around the lip contour but the color is buildable. Once dry the stain becomes kiss-proof for hours of wear.

Benefit is available at, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sephora and Benefit Boutiques/kiosks.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lisbon Portugal Travel Guide & Must-See Attractions

I am fortunate enough to say that I’ve already checked off all of the top travel destinations on my bucket list which inspires me to add new countries each year. Now when I plan a trip, I often choose a city at random based on recommendations, photos I see online or travel lists of the most beautiful places on the planet and Lisbon was one of them. The more I learned about the culture, history and architecture, the more intrigued I became and a few weeks ago I touched down in Portugal’s capital city.

Praҫa do Comérico (Commerce Square)

The coastal cities are always my favorite with their sparkling harbors alongside colorful villages and Lisbon’s beautiful castles and sunny terraces are picture perfect.

The Best Time to Visit
Since Lisbon is a tourist hot spot, the summer months are very busy. There are long lines at all major attractions, and public transit is usually overflowing. I recommend visiting before or after the summer rush. September in Lisbon was lovely! The weather was sunny and warm (25˚C most days) with a cool breeze and the crowds had thinned substantially.

Where to Stay
It is always best to stay in the city center so I booked a beautiful, luxury apartment on historic Rue da Prata – just down the street from the river and Praҫa do Comérico (Commerce Square). Since the accommodations in the older part of the city are mostly small hotels and apartments, I booked the beautiful 3 bedroom suite below on Airbnb. (To read my review on using Airbnb click HERE)

Lisbon in 4 Days – Top Attractions
I only had 4 days in Lisbon before heading to the Algarve Coast and then on to Madrid so I’ve created a list of must-see attractions and restaurants. If you only have a few days in the city, this guide will help you make the most of it!

Pena Palace – Sintra
When you get to Lisbon you will hear a lot of talk about Sintra. I didn’t think taking a day trip was in the cards but when I saw photos of the countryside I just had to visit and even our taxi driver recommended it!

Getting to Sintra
Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Portugal’s mountains and the journey by public transit is 40 mins – 1 hour. There are several ways to get to Sintra – you can book a tour or take the train. We were quoted €65 for a tour bus which was basically just a ride into town and back. The train from Lisbon (located in Rossio Square) leaves the station every 30 mins and cost just €4.40 with return. When you arrive at the train station in Sintra, exit to your right and take bus 434 which drives along a tourist loop of major attractions and palaces. The bus cost €5.50 and after the summer rush it is much less crowded. 

The bus makes several stops but I only wanted to see Pena Palace. If you want to do more in Sintra you will need an entire day. Entrance to the palace is €14 and an additional €3 to a take a small shuttle bus to the gates if you don’t want to walk 15 minutes uphill.

Travelers Tip: It can get very cool in the mountains so when visiting in late summer/early fall remember to bring a light jacket or sweater.

I’ve seen many palaces and amazing buildings during my travels but the facade of this castle situated atop the mountain peaks took my breath away. The dramatic design is like something out of a fairytale with vibrant color, intricate mosaic tile and layers of stone work all nestled into lush green hills.

Elegant chandeliers cascade over luxurious chambers.

Jeronimos Monastery
Jeronimos Monastery in the Parish of Belem features a beautiful courtyard and cathedral with sprawling arches and impressive carvings. Entrance to the cathedral is €10.

Travellers Tip: The ticket line for the monastery can take hours. Instead, head to the museum entrance near the middle of the building to purchase tickets. Lines are much shorter since most people aren’t aware you can do this!

Pastéis de Belém
When you visit the Monastery make sure to stop at Pastéis de Belém just down the street. These world famous custard tarts were created at the bakery in 1837 and still remain one of the most popular Portuguese desserts. Despite trying many versions of this tart throughout Lisbon, the original recipe is definitely the best. The pastry is buttery, light and flakey while the custard is creamy and lightly sweetened. The tarts retail for just €1,50 each and you also can buy gift boxes.

Travelers Tip: If you want to have lunch in the area, check out Pao Pao Queijo Queijo a few shops over from the bakery. They serve large, tasty wraps, pitas, salads and sandwiches at very reasonable prices.

Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
Tower of St. Vincent

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)

Barrio Alto
The heart of Lisbon’s cultural and entertainment district with many luxury hotels, restaurants and shops.

Rossio Square

Alfama District & Portas do Sol (Doorway of the Sun)
Alfama is one of the oldest districts in Lisbon and probably one of the prettiest. The terrace has the best view of the town overlooking winding, maze-like streets and vivid red tiled roofs that slope gracefully towards the sea.

Parque Eduardo VII
This beautiful park overlooks the center of Lisbon and Marques de Pombal Square. I recommend starting at the top and walking through the garden to the square’s monument.

Santa Justa Lift
This iconic elevator in the heart of Lisbon provides a wonderful view of the city.

Pink Street
Pink Street is a local hangout with bars and restaurants. It may not be the cleanest area in the city (it was a bit grungy) but something about it reminds me of the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz so I had to see it.

La Puttana Restaurant
A couple minutes past the bridge on Pink Street there is a great Pizzeria called la Puttana. My love of Italian food always leads me to the most delicious places and this cute eatery features delicious wood burning pizza.

São Jorge Castle
I saw Jorge Castle from my apartment in Lisbon on a daily basis but I didn’t have time to visit. This attraction is highly recommended so you may want to add it to your list.

Transportation & Tours
If you only have a few days in the city one of the best and most efficient ways to see all the major attractions is from a tour bus. We booked our 2 day excursion with Living Tours (Grey Line Hop on- Hop off Bus) since we couldn’t possibly walk to all the sites. The open top busses take you to all major points of interest and it can be a very relaxing way to see the city with historical commentary in various languages.  

I purchased tickets at the Living Tours Office near my apartment (Rue da Conceicao 1100-151 Lisboa) walking distance from Commerce Square but you can also buy tickets online. It included 2 major routes for €20 per person (not including entrance to attractions) and a free 15 min Tuk Tuk ride with participating divers.

Travelers Tip: This tour company also provides private cars for airport transfers for just €20 (up to 3 people) which is about €10 cheaper than a taxi. For more information you can visit the website at:

Another popular way to see Lisbon is by Tuk Tuk - a small, motorized vehicle that reminds me of a bicycle – golf cart hybrid. The price is about €70 for an hour tour but a cheaper way to travel is by taking Tram 28 which gives you a great city tour for just a few Euros. The trams get crowded in the summer months but try to get a window seat and it the entire route.

Lisbon has many steep cobblestone streets that give your legs a good workout but walking is one of the best ways to discover the city off the beaten path. Wander around without a map, shop and enjoy a tasty meal at one of the many outdoor patios.

Aside from the few restaurants I’ve mentioned above, I wasn’t a huge fan of many of the local delicacies because I don’t like the taste of most meat including pork, fish, beef, lamb etc. Seafood is very popular in Portugal and fresh fish can be found at almost every restaurant. It was a bit difficult to find foods to try since some of the vegetarian looking dishes also had ham or tuna hidden beneath the tomato and cheese. One thing I was excited to try was the Piri Piri – a seasoning made from crushed chillies, onion, pepper, salt, lemon, bay leaves, paprika, pimento and a variety of other spices.

Miguel Laffan Chicken All Around at Mercado da Ribeira
Before I left for my trip I researched where to eat and decided to try the Piri Piri Chicken at Chicken All Around in Mercado da Ribeira – a food market that is popular with locals and tourist. You can order the dish with sides like crunchy potato crisps and basmati rice. This was the best Piri Piri I had in Portugal so I highly recommend stopping by.

I went to the market a couple times during my visit and also tried the Pad Thai at Asian Lab.

Don’t miss out on the delicious chocolate candied, roasted nuts at Frutos Secos (also located in the market). I got a mix of Macadamia and Hazelnut – very addicting!

Travellers Tip: Some restaurants will place appetizers on the table before the meal but these apértifs are not free. If you don’t want them, don’t eat them or ask the waiter to take them off the table.

Ginja is Portuguese cherry liquor that is very popular in the region. To me it tastes like sugary rum. I bought this large bottle at a local grocery store for just a few Euros.

The Algarve Coast – Portugal
After 4 wonderful days in Lisbon and Sintra, we rented a car and drove to the Algarve for a few relaxing beach days before flying to Madrid. Stay tuned to read my travel guide on the best places to visit on the coast including coves, tours, beaches, towns and scenic spots!

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