Make Me Blush

Now that we are a few weeks into 2018, I wanted to take a moment to put together a brief post about why last year was such a significant year for me. I had a lot thrown at me in 2017: I got laid off from my job of 6+ years, I had a flood in my apartment that rendered it unliveable for 2 months, and I dealt with a considerable loss that brought grave disappointment and uncertainty. I also traveled to amazing places, started a new job, and began to take charge and ownership of my life and the direction it was going in. Looking back on it all, everything I went through made me stronger and more confident that I can handle all of the ups and downs that come my way. Over the last year I threw myself into my passions, overcame anxieties, stood up for myself and my ideals, and of course made a lot of mistakes. When I needed people to lean on, I was so incredibly lucky to have the best family and boyfriend a girl could ask for, plus the most amazing and supportive friends both old and new. I’ve never been one for resolutions, but it’s funny how much the beginning of a new year can feel like a brand new chapter full of hope and opportunity. In 2018 I want to keep pushing myself to do better and to get outside of my comfort zone, but also not let setbacks and things beyond my control get the best of me. I want to use the start of a new year as an opportunity to have a more positive outlook overall, one that consists of mindfulness, gratitude, and composure.

With all that said, this was my New Years Eve look! A little blush velvet wrap number from Tobi. I layered a blush mesh bodysuit underneath to make it a bit more weather-appropriate, and added in some star earrings and a pair of thigh high boots. Rung in the New Year in style and good spirits.

Elizabeth Arden's Legendary Eight Hour Cream

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Well here we are in the dead of winter… the coldest one in 60 years they say! That means plenty of windburn when outdoors and cranking the heat when indoors. A perfect recipe for THE WORST SKIN EVER. This winter has legitimately been the hardest on my skin, it’s freaking out. I have horrible dryness on my forehead (make up basically just flakes off) and the most chapped lips ever (applying lip balm every 10 mins), while my chin has been breaking out like crazy. My saviour has absolutely been Elizabeth Arden’s cult favourite Eight Hour Cream… this formula has been around since 1930 and there’s a reason why it’s still hailed as a miracle solution. I’m always sceptical when trying these iconic products but this one completely lives up to the hype. I have been using the classic Eight Hour Cream liberally on my forehead and my make up is finally able to glide on with ease. Word on the street is that Kim Kardashian’s make up artist Mario Dedivanovic also uses it for an additional glow wherever highlight is applied and YES I can confirm that it looks amazing. The Eight Hour Cream is also available in an unscented version, which I far prefer as the classic scent is way too reminiscent of a dentist’s office for my liking. I’m also using the Eight Hour Cream Intensive Lip Repair Balm which is targeted specifically for dry lips, as well as the face oil because I’m a total oil convert now. Thanking the heavens for the Eight Hour line & Langton PR for bringing my skin back to life during these frigid months! 

Blizzard Attire

Happy 2018 guys! It's been a while since I've posted... The holidays and work have totally taken up my time but I'm hoping to get back on track with regular posting. I have a few posts lined up over the coming weeks! These photos were taken over the holidays at Elliot's family cottage in Muskoka. I have always been a warm weather person and I liiiiive for the summer. Winter and I just aren't meant to be, but the beauty and allure of winter up north is undeniable and this year I finally can say I appreciate it. 

We drove up from the city late one night and the forecast was clear. As we drove further north, however, we were suddenly enveloped into a complete whiteout. The snow was falling fast and heavy, it completely shrouded our vision to the point that we could only see a few feet ahead of us. The storm was completely mesmerizing and it felt like a winter fairytale. Pine trees heavily coated with snow tightly surrounded the road and everything was so quiet. There was something so magical and ethereal about it all and as corny as it sounds, I felt so at peace and lucky to be able to experience winter at its finest. It was probably way more nerve-wracking for Elliot since he was behind the wheel, but I trust his driving and the fact that our lives were in his hands haha. We made it to the cottage safely and went straight to bed, and the cold morning came clear and bright. During our stay, we headed to a nearby road to take some pictures in my very appropriate winter attire. I'm wearing these jeans by Tobi. Love the wash and the rise! So easy to wear, even in the winter... toss on a cute pair of booties and a cool coat and you're set :)

New Skincare Routine With Miracle 10 (Botanical Oil Concentrate + Eye Treatment)

Upping my fall skincare routine with the help of Miracle 10! The air is getting colder, the wind is picking up, days are getting shorter… all of which is having a negative impact on my skin. Miracle 10 just launched their Botanical Oil Concentrate, which I was super excited to try. I had never used any oil on my face, but had heard they can do wonders. I also tried out their Eye Treatment to see what it could do for my pesky dark under eye circles. Both products became part of my nightly skin routine. I washed my face with my usual cleanser, applied the eye treatment, applied the face oil, and then applied my night cream. Right off the bat I fell in love with the smell of both the eye treatment and the oil. Application was super easy and both products felt amazing on my skin. I could feel the soothing and hydrating effects right away. But the real magic happened overnight! My skin still looked super hydrated, glowy, and smooth, and my under eye area became firmer and brighter. I have only been using the products for 5 days so far but am super excited to see their continued positive effects on my skin! 

Fall Style with Zaful

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Teamed up with Zaful on a style post to make my fall looks shoppable. I have recreated all of my looks with items available on Zaful, plus you can use code brandrewardZF for 12% your entire purchase (including sale), in case you weren't tempted enough by their prices already! As you can see I have been pretty enamoured with my beret and newsboy cap so far this season. As sad as I am to say goodbye to summer, fall has been pretty fantastic so far and I have definitely felt a shift in my style towards layering and texture. Read on to see the looks and click the links below each collage to get shoppin'!

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Cinque Terre Travel Guide

Just about the most charming and picturesque region you could travel to in Italy, the colourful cliffside towns that make up Cinque Terre are a dream destination. In my previous post from the area, I outlined where we stayed and a few other noteworthy bits. This post will focus solely on the 5 towns in the Italian Riviera which are (from N to S): Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Aside from the obvious beauty of the towns, one of the major reasons they have become so adored is due to the seaside hike that takes you from one town to the next. Due to the earthquakes in 2012, some of the hikes are still undergoing remediation and are closed to the public. As of currently, the closed trails are between Riomaggiore & Manarola, and Manarola & Corniglia. Unfortunately, those are said to be the least challenging of the trails. Clearly for me an easy jaunt > a strenuous hike. The only one I personally did was one of the most challenging, between Levanto (NOT one of the 5 towns) and Monterosso. Honestly it was a pretty tough hike, but luckily you are shaded for most of it, and Monterosso waits at the other end! For those who want to avoid hiking altogether (like I did every other day), the train system is easy, reliable, and fast. Make sure to stamp your day passes though because they are always patrolling the train cars! And word to the wise: do not use the boat system! It sounds great in theory but we decided against it. When we were in some of the towns we saw the insane lines of people waiting for the boats… it looked like mayhem and far too crowded to be enjoyable. 

The region is known for white wines, limoncello, seafood, focaccia, and pesto. And probably some things other than food & alcohol, but who cares about those? To be honest, I find the food in southern Italy just incredible and way more to my own personal liking, but who can hate on pesto and focaccia? Though after a week it did get a bit tiresome, and almost all restaurants have a slight variation on the same menu, but you will definitely enjoy it while you are there! See below for restaurant recommendations by town, as well as any other town-specific info I picked up on while there!

Monterosso: The largest of the 5 towns, situated right on the seaside, with a small but very recognizable beach covered in orange and green striped umbrellas. This town is possibly one of the busiest, although they ALL get very busy which is a shame. We came here most often, as it was the closest to where we were staying in Levanto. It is not worth it (in my opinion) to try to lay out on the beach here. It is all paid spots and they fill up so early in the morning. It is also super overpriced (in Levanto we paid half of what we would have paid in Monterosso for a beach chair). Two restaurants that were fantastic were Torre de Aurora (just opened this summer, in a castle on a cliff top with different patio levels all the way down) and Miky (a Michelin starred restaurant that was incredible).
Vernazza: Did not have the best luck in Vernazza! I wanted to do a partial hike from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, as supposedly the best view of the town is about 30 minutes into the trail, but it was ridiculously hot that day and we got too frustrated trying to find the start to the trail. We were also dying to eat at Ristorante Belforte (in my photos, it’s the place with the blue stripey umbrellas. SO DREAMY.) but we learned that most people make reservations months in advance so we were SOL! We ended up having dinner at a cute spot called Gianni Franzi that overlooks the main beach.
Corniglia: The only town I did go to. Corniglia is the only town of the 5 that is not on the sea. It is high up on a clifftop and has incredible views. My family ended up doing the hike between Corniglia and Vernazza and their photos were pretty incredible.
Manarola: Painfully perfect. Like, I look at the photos I took from the lookout point in Manarola (facing back towards the town) and feel physical pain at how pretty it is. It looks like a painting! Colourful buildings spilling down the cliff to the rocky sea where people swim. It is heaven. Two restaurants that you can’t miss are Trattoria del Billy (great views if you can get a spot out on the patio, amazing food) and Nessun Dorma (the best view you could ask for of Manarola… the entire restaurant is on a patio covered in tropical flowers and plants, and the food is so delicious and fresh. After eating pesto and focaccia for days on end, we were able to get amazing salads and bruschettas here, along with ridiculously good drinks).
Riomaggiore: Started our day here one day and did lots of wandering. So many pretty look out spots! Did not do much in Riomaggiore other than walk around, but it’s just as pretty as the rest of the towns, and I love the photo of the little harbor with the bright buildings snuggled up around it.

La Dolce Vita

Naturally, Italy is one of my favourite countries to visit, being the (half) Italian that I am. In all honestly I could go every year and never tire of the energy, food, beaches, architecture, history, style, people.... and so on. This year, my family rented an Airbnb villa in Levanto to explore a region we hadn't been to before, Cinque Terre. I'll dedicate an entire post to the 5 towns, but in this post I wanted to focus on the area and house we stayed at in Levanto. When travelling to Cinque Terre, the options for entire homes to rent are pretty slim. Each town has small apartments and hotels, but we wanted a larger house with an outdoor space as there would be 6 of us traveling together. We came across Villa Mesco, which is right at the edge of Cinque Terre, in a town called Levanto. The villa is literally at the start of the hike between Levanto and Monterosso (the first of the 5 towns, heading from north to south). It looked absolutely beautiful on the Airbnb listing, with a sprawling yard covered in plants, archways, flowers, and a huge patio, plus a pool. We were absolutely not disappointed upon arrival! It was such a perfect place to stay and use as a base to explore the entire region. The house itself is a very traditional, classic Italian style home, so we didn't expect anything too updated. This suited us just fine. The pool and patio were perfection, and the house was very spacious. It's at the top of a hill so the views were just incredible. The only downside was having to hike up and down the hill to get anywhere, but we definitely were able to work off all the pasta and gelato so no harm done! Levanto itself is bigger than any of the 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre, so there were many grocery stores, shops, restaurants, etc., and the town never felt too crowded or busy as it doesn't draw the crowds as much as the 5 towns do. This was great because Levanto has a large, beautiful beach that we could ALWAYS get a spot on (you won't get a chair in Monterosso, the only town with a full beach, unless you get there first thing in the morning). A few other things we did in Levanto that were so enjoyable included renting a small boat to explore the coastline by sea, trying nearly all of the gelato and focaccia shops in town, and exploring the streets. There was also an amazing restaurant in town that we loved called La Loggia, with a gorgeous stone patio, and a bar with delicious cocktails that we went to one night, called Controvento. Levanto was such a great area to stay in and explore the entire region from! Our Airbnb made the experience an absolute dream.

(Wearing a Whistles striped linen/silk blend midi dress, ASOS nude flat ring sandals, Karen Walker Helter Skelter tortoiseshell sunglasses, and a Forever 21 black straw hat + a Shine & Gold romper "Spell on You", Zara white sneakers, and a Forever 21 tan straw hat)

Ios Island Travel Guide

Prior to going to Santorini, we stayed on the heavenly island of Ios. We arrived right at the beginning of September and immediately noticed how quiet the island felt (in the BEST way possible). We asked our taxi driver about it as she drove us to our hotel, and she said that during June, July, and August, Ios is a party island filled with students, but as soon as September rolls around, the island becomes a lot more calm and quiet. Um, literally music to my ears. The island was not dead by any means, but in September there are a lot more couples and mature groups of friends. Absolutely ideal if you ask me. We stayed at Ios Palace Hotel, which is right on Mylopotas Beach (Mylopotas Beach is the main “tourist” area, and Chora is the main town). The hotel was clean and comfortable with two beautiful pools and a great bar/lounge area that we had breakfast in every day. Also, it was beyond affordable. Really great value for how fantastic this place was. Read on for other tips and recommendations for Ios!

Eat/drink:

Harmony – such a little gem. This place serves Mexican, which you might not think you want when you’re in Greece, but trust me when I say you do haha. The food is so fresh and healthy with tons of vegan options, and they even have acai bowls. The atmosphere is so chilled out and relaxed, it’s a place you could just hang out at all day. It’s a bit up on the rocky cliffs, so you get a stunning view of the sea. They have hammocks all over, tons of tables low to the ground with cushions to sit on, lots of white curtains, hanging lanterns, rugs, and plants scattered around. It’s dreamy.

Salt – just about the most chic and bohemian open-air restaurant I have been to. White wicker and wood furniture, plants and bougainvillea everywhere, striped pillows, loungers hanging from the ceiling by ropes… the décor of this place is what really drew me in, but the food and drinks are great as well.

Cantina Del Mar – the food here is just amazingly fresh and delicious, as well as ridiculously affordable. We were only on the island for 3 days and we ate here twice. I had the best Greek salad with tuna I have ever had here, as well as a really great grilled halloumi and avocado sandwich. They have delicious cocktails, juices, and smoothies too.

Grandma’s – if you’re looking for an elevated culinary experience on Ios, Grandma’s is the best bet. It’s located in the Liostasi Hotel in Chora which is just exquisite. It’s the most high-end accommodation you can find on Ios, way up on a cliff with a huge pool and enormous patio right at the edge for prime views and sunset-watching. We came here on our last night for dinner and let me tell you, it.was.perfect. The service was almost TOO good, the food and drinks were amazing, and the atmosphere of the hotel was beautiful.

The only other advice I can give is to really just relax and enjoy. The beaches on Ios are positively stunning with soft golden sand and warm, clear water. On Mylopotas Beach, you’ll have to pay a few euros to lay out, but it was definitely worth it as you get a comfy lounger and an umbrella. There is a section on the beach that is public and unpaid, but you’ll just be on your towel with no shade. There are also countless rocky cliffs and swimming spots all around the island.  When we got to our hotel, we were given a map of the island (it’s quite small) showing where all of the lesser-known beaches were on the island, and I can pretty much guarantee we would have had a lot of them almost to ourselves. Also, rent an ATV and go exploring! It’s the best way to see the island. Just make sure you get a good one with a stronger HP as we unfortunately got stuck with a dud that could barely get up a hill. I had imagined us whipping around the island happening upon glorious beaches, but unfortunately our ATV wasn’t cooperating so that vision of mine did not come true haha… the only disappointment of our entire time on the island. Overall, Ios was so uncomplicated, beautiful, and laidback, and I hope to visit again someday!

Santorini Summer

Santorini has been one of my dream vacation destinations for years now, so I had my expectations set sky-high for our trip there. I went with my boyfriend after parting with my family in Italy and we were so excited to get there. So umm... Without sounding like a complete whiner, I was unfortunately underwhelmed by our experience. Don't get me wrong, the island is absolutely beautiful and photos can't do it justice. It's pretty magical being in the whitewashed towns just barely clinging to the crumbling cliffsides. The landscape is absolutely surreal... the island is literally a massive red rock rising from the sea, created by a volcanic eruption a bazillion (approx.) years ago. We kept looking around in amazement wondering how the heck they even decided, "hey, let's build some white houses in the side of the cliff OF A VOLCANO!" Of course, this is an amazing sight to see, so Santorini has become a worldwide destination for honeymooners and also anyone else with a pulse. I'm not sure if this revolving door of tourists has led to the inhabitants becoming hardened jerks, knowing that their hospitality (or lack thereof) will not affect vacationers from visiting, but I sadly found that the a lot of people on Santorini were not the friendliest. Obviously this did not apply to everyone and we DID have encounters with some absolutely lovely people at some restaurants and hotels. Will give recommendations on these spots below. However, this leads me to my next issue (I PROMISE THERE ARE SOME REDEEMING FACTORS COMING UP!): the ASTRONOMICAL prices of everything. I know, I know, Santorini is not the place to visit if you're on a budget (unless you want to stay somewhere not central, use the bus system to get around, and seek out inexpensive meals). I am by no means a cheapskate, but we felt like we were getting ripped off at every turn. For example: a taxi from the airport to the port was quoted 30 euros by our taxi driver. First of all, it's only a 10 minute drive. On top of that, we asked another couple who was also heading to the port if they wanted to share a taxi with us, and the driver says "IF YOU SHARE IT IS 25 EUROS PER COUPLE, TOTAL 50 EUROS." I'm sorry but that is notttt how taxis work sir. We are all going to the same dang destination. Meals, hotels, and excursions are all also off the charts expensive. Finally, Oia (the main town), while absolutely stunning, is too crowded to be able to enjoy yourself. The streets are narrow, winding, steep… and completely clogged with people. If you value personal space and sanity, you will likely not enjoy yourself. Imerovigli/Thira have a very similar look to Oia, and they are located near the middle of the island (Oia is on the north part). These two towns are much quieter and more pleasant to walk around. A lot of the most amazing hotels are in Imerovigli, and both Imerovigli and Thira have their share of great restaurants. Much more enjoyable!

OK, now that I have explained why Santorini is THE WORST PLACE EVER IN THE WORLD (it's not.), I will say that there were several places/experiences that made our time worthwhile. See below:

Santo Maris Oia: My heart swells when I think about this hotel. No, it is not on the cliffside, but trust me, unless you either want passerbys peering onto your patio all day or want to spend $2500+ a night for a little privacy, you do not want to stay directly in Oia. Santo Maris is just off to the side of Oia main town, connected to it by a footpath that gets you into Oia in less than 5 minutes. The staff at Santo Maris are absolutely lovely. The resort grounds themselves are extremely spacious with 5 pools, a few bars, plus one restaurant that was very good. The suites are large, beautifully designed, and decorated in the most chic boho style you could imagine. We sprung for a suite with its own plunge pool, and it was absolute heaven. We seriously lucked out with our room as it was on the very edge of the property so we had complete privacy as well as panoramic views of the sea and insane views of the sunset. The wisest thing I did when we stayed here was take advantage of the proximity to Oia and head there at 8AM by myself one morning. The streets were blissfully quiet. Literally the only other people around were shopkeepers opening up, couples in their wedding dresses & tuxedos taking wedding photos, and some bloggers prancing around on rooftops with their photographers (lol, wish that were me. Darn Elliot just had to go to the gym.) I walked around and took tons of photos, admired the views and the town, and was able to seriously enjoy myself. By 11AM, Oia is too packed with people to even move around. 
La Maltese: This is not a recommendation for the hotel (which we stayed in and did not enjoy), or the restaurant, or even really the bar haha (super overpriced)… this is a recommendation for the view from their rooftop bar/restaurant. La Maltese is one of the highest up spots on the cliff in Imerovigli, so this lends to some amazing views. I would suggest going for sunset if possible, and I suppose just suck up the cost of a cocktail and take in the views. Actually, our breakfasts here every morning were pretty fantastic, so that is certainly something I could recommend doing at La Maltese (double check to see if its available if you are not staying there). If you do go in the evening, be warned as this hotel closes down for private events very often. The 3 nights we were there, they were closed for 2 of them. Super annoying as we could not even enjoy the main area when it was booked out.
Anogi: One of my best memories from Santorini is having dinner at Anogi in Imerovigli. It is super authentic and affordable, and the food is delicious & traditional Greek. The staff were so wonderful and kind. We ordered wayyyy too much food and wine and spent a few hours eating and drinking. Cannot recommend this place enough.
Onar: Upscale restaurant in Imerovigli with a large outdoor space and beautiful views. The food is inventive and so good. The prices are a bit on the high side but we found it was well worth it as the portions were larger than we expected and the quality was there! The service was great as well.
Skaros Rock Hike: Easily accessible from any hotel in Imerovigli and well worth doing! The big rock in the background of lots photos of Santorini is Skaros Rock. There is a path you can follow all the way down through the streets in Imerovigli. Go past a church and the hike starts! It is not long or particularly difficult, unless you want to go to the very top of the rock which I probs don’t recommend unless you’re an avid rock climber. Instead, keep going on the main path to the very end. You’ll notice it continues downward towards a tiny church, called Ekklisia Theoskepasti. I think a lot of people miss hiking down to the church because you literally don’t know it’s down there until you start the downwards portion! It was amazing and I was so happy we kept going and found the church. I couldn’t believe that they had built one in such a remote cliffside location. The roof of the church is easy to climb on to fulfill all of your blue-and-white church rooftop photo dreams! Or am I the only one who really wanted to do that while on Santorini…

OK. Some final pieces of advice... we did not go to the red or black sand beaches while on Santorini. We had been on Ios prior to arriving, and the beaches there were incredible. Santorini is definitely not a beach island and I have heard that the beaches are not worthwhile. Santorini is better for shelling out some big bucks on a hotel and enjoying the pool and outdoor spaces there. That being said, make sure you have complete confidence in what you are booking. Read tons of reviews and pay attention to complaints. We unfortunately found that the other hotel we stayed in, La Maltese, did not look much like the photos and had inaccurate room descriptions. This was very disappointing as the place had a lot of good reviews, but upon digging deeper we noticed a few people had the same complaints as we did.

So, in conclusion... Based on our own experience, am I glad we went? Yes. Would I rush to go back? I don’t think so. Hope I'm not coming off as unappreciative… Just trying to keep it real! Honesty is key right? Not everything in blog land is magical sunlight, skipping blissfully through the streets, snapping picture-perfect moments! Although sometimes the stars align and you do get that ;)