Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dinner at Luckee

Run, don't walk, to Luckee... Susur Lee's new restaurant!

I took my friend there for her birthday dinner last night and we were both wowed by the food, the ambience, the decor, and the service. Luckee is an all-day dim sum restaurant but there is an additional (sizeable) menu consisting of other Asian-inspired dishes, including the peking duck inspired Luckee Duck, which was unfortunately sold out last night. I literally wanted to try everything on the menu but we only have two stomachs between us so we opted for the Chef's Choice... basically our waiter asked us our preferences and worked with the chef to bring out a series of dishes to suit our tastes. If ordering a la carte, our waiter recommended we order one dim sum dish per person and then around 2 main dishes to share. He ended up bringing us 3 dim sum dishes and 3 main dishes. Everything was very flavourful and incredibly delicious.

We started with a little amuse bouche type dish. These are soy marinated wood ear mushrooms with pickled cucumbers and bean curd skin (I think)... very tasty with a hint of spiciness. We were also presented with three sauces including a house made Sriracha.

The dim sum menu is on a little tick-off style sheet that is separate from the main menu. I read on blogTO that there is a cart service on the weekend between 11am and 3pm. Here are the dim sum dishes that were chosen for us!

Swatow Chicken and Preserved Vegetable Dumplings - these are very similar to Ham Sui Gok except they are made with chicken & preserved vegetables instead of pork & mushrooms. These were very yummy - but this is one of my favourite deep fried dim sum dishes as is, so I may be biased.

Long Xia Gow (lobster and asparagus dumplings) - this was my favourite dim sum dish we sampled. I prefer dishes that are steamed rather than deep fried and the flavour of these dumplings was mild yet delicious. I could probably eat 10 of these.

Chicken Cheung Fun (rice roll with tofu, ginger, green onion and soya juice) - this was an interesting take on classic cheung fun. This was one of the more generous dim sum dishes and it was very filling. I think I would have preferred it without the crispy tempura, but that's probably because I prefer a lightly filled cheung fun as I love love love the outer rice layer. Can I just say how much I love the cake-stand-esque plates!

We had a welcome break before our next courses - the pacing of the meal was just right. Next up were our 3 main courses. We had indicated we liked tofu but there wasn't a tofu dish in sight. We didn't miss it though because the dishes we sampled were all on point!

Cantonese Style Ginger Fried Rice (with egg white, dried conpoy scallop, asparagus and bacon) - I love fried rice so this was one of my favourite dishes. I loved the addition of the bacon and the fried rice was also dotted with edamame, which was a welcome surprise. My friend was just ok about this one but I was bonkers over it. I wish I had more of an appetite so I could gobble it all up.

Spicy Hunan Style Fried Lotus Root and Chinese Celery - this was the biggest surprise for me and another one of my favourite dishes. I did not expect to love this dish so much because I am just ok about lotus root. I would have never ordered this off the regular menu so I'm happy this was chosen for us! The lotus root was perfectly cooked (not too hard, not too soft) and the sauce was perfectly spicy. Our dish was garnished with a chrysanthemum leaf.

Sweet Soya Glazed Scallops with Asparagus - this was our waiter's favourite dish and I am so glad we got to try this! The flavours were incredible. The scallops were very lightly battered and cooked to perfection. You could still taste their sweetness despite the strong flavours in the sauce. I'm sad I only had enough room to eat one of these. Next time, next time.

The rose scented sangria deserves a special mention! Oh my goodness, if I wasn't pre-cleansing this week (I'm doing a three day juice cleanse next week... yup, it's finally happening), I could have drank an entire pitcher on my own. As it was, I was lemming for a second glass but it's good to know I have some degree of will power.

We saved a little room for dessert... we both had the mango pudding with coconut cream. It's served in a little cup with a garnish of mint and it was divine... not as sweet as the mango pudding you're used to but the tartness/acidity was a welcome reprieve after a decadent meal. The texture of the pudding is a thick creamy consistency and I would order this again.

Here we are after our meal! We had a bunch of food left so we asked our waiter to split it up so we could doggy bag every last bite. Needless to say, Hubs was a very happy camper when I got home.

Oh, and did I mention Susur Lee himself was in the house for a short while last night! We wanted to take a photo with him but by the time we were finished our meal, he was no longer in sight, gaaaaah! Luckee has not had its official grand opening (the soft opening was in early April), but both the kitchen and the front of house staff seem to be in a harmonious groove. I'm excited to eat there again. In fact, I am going to pencil in some regular visits to Luckee so we can make our way through the entire menu... and then some. Hope to see you there! :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 2014 Dior Polished Diva Unboxing

I've been a bad, bad blogger. I don't know why I can't seem to stick to a regular schedule when it comes to blogging. I've tried writing posts in advance and scheduling them, I've tried setting aside time to blog, I've tried marking my calendar with posts I want to do on specific days... still, I fall behind. How do you amazingly consistent bloggers manage to post so frequently? Please share your secrets!

Here is my long overdue Dior Polished Diva March unboxing. I received a beautiful shade called Bouquet, which is also from the Spring 2014 Trianon collection. It's a gorgeous bright coral-pink with a cream finish. The application is lovely - the big brush and highly pigmented polish allowed for opacity in 2 coats. While I love this shade, I think it would be quite easy to find a dupe for it. Once I finish swatching my nail polish collection, I will see if I can indeed find one.

In case you'd like to see my thoughts on the first 3 Dior Polished Diva polishes in video format, here is my Q1 unboxing! :)

For more information about this and the Secret Diva subscription, please click here!

Click here to see all my Polished Diva boxes
Click here to see all my Secret Diva boxes

Sunday, March 16, 2014

January 2014 SeasonsBox - Last One!

I am so glad this is my last SeasonsBox! If you have been following the saga, you'll know that this used to be my favourite subscription service, but it is literally now at the bottom of the barrel. Over the past year, the quality has declined, the price has increased, the owners have changed 3 times, and the value of the boxes is inconsistent... and quite frankly highway robbery in certain months. For example, the January box. The value of the January box was approximately $21, compared to a price of between $39.95 to $49.95 depending on where you live.

Note: Many subscribers (including myself) found unauthorized charges from this company on our credit card statements. Even though I cancelled via e-mail and changed my credit card information online, I was charged $250 USD for another 1 year subscription. SeasonsBox has since refunded me but do check to make sure you do not have any unauthorized charges on your credit card statements.

Oddly enough, the January box included the old-school inner craft boxes, which was something I loved about the first few SeasonsBoxes. This has since changed as the February box (which was sent to me in error) did not have the inner gift box.

While I do not recommend this subscription service, the products contained inside this box were actually quite nice.

1. Unearth Malee Jasmine Sticky Rice Mango Handmade Soap
4.5 oz // $6.95
We've received a product from Unearth Malee before and I really like the brand. I am excited to try this soap. It smells like jasmine, which is a scent I really like.

2. Puur Lemonade Natural Lip Scrub
1.25 fl oz // $5
This product is made in Boise, Idaho and is sold online via Etsy. It smells like lemon candy! It looks a little dry but I haven't tried it yet. Temptalia has done a review of this product in case you want to read more about it.

3. Fabulous Frannie Lavender Essential Oil
10 ml // $3.95
I love the scent of lavender so I was happy to receive this product. A few of my viewers suggested I put a few drops in my bath water so I am going to try that tonight!

4. Chocolita Pine Pollen and Lemon White Chocolate
35 g // $5
This is a raw and vegan chocolate bar that is handmade in Sedona, Arizona. While this is a "white chocolate" bar, the colour is a light brown, just like milk chocolate. Since it doesn't have any milk or cream in it, the texture is a little crumbly but the flavour made up for it! This chocolate bar is very fragrant and it has a very interesting yet pleasant flavour. My hubby enjoyed it as well!

Bottom line: If this had been a $10 box, I would have been very happy with it. However, if I had paid $40 to $50, I would have been furious.

That is it for my SeasonsBox reviews!! I'm sure you're as happy about that as I am, hehe. :) Hope you're having a relaxing Sunday evening!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Brunch at La Neuf Café

My friend and I had a very nice brunch today at La Neuf Café! I had heard good things so when she suggested it for our March get-together, I quickly agreed. The restaurant is located in a little house and is quite small but we arrived after the first wave of brunchers so we got a seat immediately. The decor is absolutely perfect - so French! The ambiance is very Parisian (I so miss hearing people speak French around me) and it made my heart ache for a trip back to France.

I ordered the croque madame (I'm a creature of habit) and my friend ordered the french toast with some delicious looking caramel on the side. My sandwich was quite flavourful but alas it was a little dry. My friend said her french toast was delicious. I want to go back for brunch again pronto as there are a gillion other menu items I want to try.

Next time, I am going to pick up some pastries to go. I regret not buying any today - I was hardcore eyeing the religieuse, which I have not had for years and years. That was one of my favourite discoveries during my 6-week sojourn in France in 2004 and it's a shame more of them don't make their way into my belly. Oh, and La Neuf Café is also open for dinner... I'd like to try that down the road too!

2014 Goals Update - February

1. Beauty - be more thoughtful about purchases
- Annual goal: reduce spend on beauty and skincare products by 50% in 2014 (vs 2013)
- Annual goal: purchase only cruelty free beauty, skincare, and household products
- Biweekly/weekly goals: to be set throughout the year

UPDATE: I'm still doing very well with my goals in the beauty category! Towards the end of February, I definitely started feeling the urge to spend but I mostly resisted. 
- I'm well into using cruelty free toiletries and various products for the home and I'm hoping to do a video soon on some of my finds!
- I purchased 2 cruelty free brow products (Tarte Brow Mousse and Anastasia DipBrow Pomade) because my eyebrows have been looking a little sad lately and I want to give them some TLC. 
- I forgot to mention in January that I upgraded to the February Polish Lover Julep box... mostly to earn points so I could get a March box for free.
- In the first 2 months of 2014, I only spent 49% of what I spent in in the first 2 months of 2013 on cosmetics and toiletries. In light of my beauty ban success, I recorded a video with 5 of my tips and tricks to stick to your "no buy" or "low buy"... please let me know if you have any tips and tricks to share!

2. Home - continue to organize and declutter
In order to focus more attention on organization, I am increasing my budget for home spend this year. I plan to use the additional budget room for organization, whether it be buying more storage solutions, switching out our furniture, etc.
- Annual goal: none
- Biweekly/weekly goals: to be set throughout the year

UPDATE: I haven't been too diligent with setting biweekly goals so I will have to try a little harder on that front. Here are some things I accomplished in February:
- I dyed my Balenciaga Pompon as planned and I absolutely love my "new" bag!
- I'm planning to dye a pair of Birkenstocks - they are white and I think I would wear them a lot more if they were black.
- I'm continuing to swatch my nail polishes - I'm nearly done all my Juleps!
- We rearranged the living room a bit and got rid of a bunch of old junk we had lying around. 

On the list for March:
- I'm planning another de-stash giveaway - I'm hoping to do one every month or two.
- I'm going to bring out my spring/summer clothing soon (enough with winter, already!) and I am going to be very selective when editing my wardrobe.
- I'm going to continue swatching my nail polishes.

3. Financial - continue to save money
- Annual goal: meet my annual savings goal
- Biweekly/weekly goals: none

UPDATE: I'm only at 9% of my savings goal so I'm a little behind.

4. Petite Pear Style - create more synergy among PPS channels
I am really good at keeping up with my YouTube channel, but my blog and other social media channels are often neglected. For this goal, I'd like to work on creating more of a brand and synergy around PPS.
- Annual goal: none
- Biweekly/weekly goals: to be set throughout the year

UPDATE: I think I made some progress in this area, although the blog and Instagram are being neglected at the moment.
- I started using Google+!
- I updated my profile pic for the first time since starting my YT channel.
- I'm still thinking about what I want to do for my YT channel trailer. 

- I'm starting to share a little more on my Facebook page... if you don't follow me there, I just posted a link to this fun interview with one of my favourite celebrities:

5. Photography - focus on personal projects
- Annual goal: photo-a-day project of Hubs and me
- Annual goal: take annual family portraits for (1) Hubs and me with our pets, (2) my side of the family, (3) Hubs' side of the family
- Biweekly/weekly goals: none

UPDATE: Still doing well... didn't miss any days in February for my 365 project. :)

Did you set any goals for 2014? If so, how are you doing so far?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

February 2014 Empties

Happy March!!! You know what this means! Spring is just around the corner... and not a moment too soon... I am so tired of winter. I'm starting March on a positive (or should I say, productive) note... I am posting my February empties relatively early this month. Not too many empties in February but I finished a ton of shampoo and conditioner samples! I think I only have 2 or 3 travel size shampoos left. :)

* = Disliked the product - would not repurchase
** = Liked the product - might or might not repurchase
*** = Loved the product - would repurchase

I am going to go through the shampoo & conditioner samples rather quickly because they were all pretty small and I don't have too many thoughts on them. I was really just trying to get through them!

1. Clear Scalp Therapy Shampoo for Men
Source: Free sample
Thoughts: I only used this once or twice. It was alright.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: No (Source: PETA - see results for Unilever)

2. MGM Grand Jasmine Shampoo X 2
Source: Hotel samples from Las Vegas
Thoughts: This shampoo smells nice but I found it drying. I also hated the bottles because you can't squeeze them to get the product out.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Unknown

3. Pharmacopia Verbena Shampoo & Conditioner
Source: Hotel samples from Halifax
Thoughts: I liked these - loved the scent!
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Unknown

4. Damana Shampoo with Extracts of Juniper
Source: Hotel sample
Thoughts: This was ok for me. My hubby really liked the scent.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Yes (Source: Damana website)

5. Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo
Source: Hotel sample
Thoughts: Another product my hubby likes but I found the scent too medicinal. It was also drying to my hair.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Yes but parent company Estee Lauder is not (Source: PETA)

6. Tresemme Platinum Strength Shampoo & Conditioner
Source: Free samples
Thoughts: I liked this shampoo & conditioner duo. Both products smelled really nice, the shampoo did a good job cleansing my hair, and the conditioner was thick, creamy, and moisturizing. The samples were small though so I only got around 3 uses out of them. I often change my mind on products after using them longer so I'm hesitant to give 3 stars...
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: No (Source: PETA - see results for Alberto-Culver)

7. Judith Jackson Spa Citresse Conditioning Shampoo
Source: Free sample
Thoughts: This was alright, but nothing special.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Unknown

8. June Jacobs Citrus Clarifying Shampoo
Source: Hotel sample
Thoughts: This product cleansed my hair very well (think, squeaky clean) but I found it very drying even though I tried to pair it with a deep conditioner.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Unknown

9. Simple Refreshing Facial Wash Gel
Source: May 2012 Glossybox
Thoughts: This is a thick gel wash that I found was not very gentle. It was also a little drying, which surprised me. I didn't like this product.
Rating: *
Cruelty Free: Yes (Source: Paula's Choice)

10. The Body Shop Aloe Calming Facial Cleanser
Source: May 2012 Glossybox
Thoughts: I love this facial cleanser! It is thick, creamy, soft, and soothing... plus it is not difficult to wash off. I love this paired with my Clarisonic.
Rating: ***
Cruelty Free: Yes but parent company L'Oreal is not (Source: PETA)

11. Marcelle Essentials Gentle Make-Up Remover for Sensitive Eyes
Source: I received this from Marcelle as I was testing the product packaging
Thoughts: This was my second bottle of this and I tried to use it up quickly because I'm not a fan. I found this product really irritated my eyes. I was disappointed because I usually like Marcelle products.
Rating: *
Cruelty Free: Yes (Source: Paula's Choice)

12. Clarins Extra Firming Day Cream
Source: Murale bonus
Thoughts: I loved this day cream! It was thick and creamy yet light enough for me to put on in the morning and immediately apply my makeup. I thought I noticed a difference in my skin after using this. It seemed, dare I say, a little firmer??
Rating: ***
Cruelty Free: No (Source: Paula's Choice)

13. Olay Ultra Moisture Moisturizing Bar in Vanilla Indulgence
Source: Purchased by Hubs
Thoughts: I really like these bar soaps! They are very creamy, lather well, and moisturizing. They smell good and are ergonomically designed so they fit in my hand. I also like that they last quite a long time and don't just melt away in the shower. I am upgrading my rating for these!
Rating: ***
Cruelty Free: No (Source: PETA)

14. The Body Shop Shower Gel in Papaya and Mango
Source: Gift from one of my sisters
Thoughts: I really liked the formulation of these but they smelled less mouthwatering than your average product from The Body Shop. Perhaps I kept them for too long. I liked the mango scent the best and I will probably buy a full size down the road (when I am done all my other body washes and soaps).
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Yes but parent company L'Oreal is not (Source: PETA)

15. Kosé Cleansing Sheet Type
Source: Hotel sample from Japan
Thoughts: Same comment as last month... These are cleansing cloths that I used as body wipes. I've had them since 2009 (oh dear) but they were still very moist! There were two wipes in the packet and despite not being resealable, the second wipe did not dry out after 1-2 days. I liked these.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Unknown

16. La Fresh Travel Lite Facial Cleansing Wipes
Source: Not sure but it must have been a beauty box... most likely Beauty Box 5
Thoughts: I used these as body wipes and I liked them.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Yes (Source: My Beauty Bunny)

17. Beauty So Clean Cosmetic Sanitizer Wipe
Source: January 2013 Glossybox
Thoughts: These little wipes come in really handy. I'm so happy this company is cruelty free - I use the Cosmetic Sanitizer Mist and Conditioning Brush Cleanser regularly.
Rating: **
Cruelty Free: Yes (Source: PETA)

18. Nivea Essential Lip Balm
Source: January 2013 Glossybox
Thoughts: Besides the Maybelline Baby Lips in Quenched, Nivea definitely makes my favourite lip balms... and you can't beat the price!
Rating: ***
Cruelty Free: No (Source: Paula's Choice)

19. Essence Sun Club Matt Bronzing Powder for Blondes / Lighter Skin
Source: Purchased by me
Thoughts: I finished a 15g bronzer!! So proud of this!! :) I really loved this bronzer - it is matte and perfect for contouring.
Rating: ***
Cruelty Free: Yes (Source: Essence website)

20. Rexall Cotton Swabs
Source: Purchased by me
Thoughts: What can I say? These were fine. :)
Rating: **

21. Scentsational Candles Natural Soy Premium Candle in Fearless
Source: Purchased by me
Thoughts: This candle is lovely! It burns and long time and the throw is excellent. These candles are marketed towards men and the scent while burning was definitely more masculine than the solid wax in the canister. The only thing I didn't like about this candle was the wick. It was quite smokey when I blew out the candle.
Rating: **

That's it for February! I'm going to continue trying to work on my massive collection of samples and travel size products so these empties posts are going to be a little light on commentary for the next few months. I'm slowly working my way through a few full size products too so hopefully I'll have some of those to share in the next little while.

Friday, February 28, 2014

February 2014 Dior Secret Diva Unboxing

The Secret Diva subscription service provides you with 12 Secret Admirer boxes, one for each month of the year in 2014. This service is intended to be gifted to a loved one (hence, Secret Admirer), but I just bought it for myself. Products can range from skin care to cosmetics to fragrances. Dior is expensive and this subscription is no exception. The auction priced the 2014 Secret Diva subscription at $600. You are not guaranteed a value in each box, but judging from some of the 2013 unboxings from likesthelook, there are a number of months where the value of the product exceeds the monthly "price" - in any event, 100% of the proceeds go to charity so I view the price tag as a donation and I am not too concerned about the value in each box.

The Dior Secret Diva box is supposed to arrive on (or before) the eighth of every month, since 8 was Christian Dior's favourite number. Once again, it arrived a few days ahead of schedule! This box was shipped via UPS and it contained a letter informing me that I have a secret admirer, hehe. There was one full size product included in this month's box. It was packaged beautifully in a "luxe couture gift box" and tied with a ribbon. The box is really thick and heavy duty... photos don't do it justice. I am definitely going to re-use the boxes for storage or gift giving.

My second Dior Secret Diva box contained the Backstage Eye Prime, which is a "Long-Wear & Smoothing Eye Primer." I haven't tried this product yet, but if it's anywhere near as good as the Pore Refiner I received last month, I will be in love!

The letter I received in the box notes the following:

This new eye primer has a weightless, creamy texture that glides onto the skin creating the perfect base for the eyelid. It instantly helps to smooth the eyelid and prep the lid by evening the complexion. This universal shade not only extends the wear of your eyeshadow, it also keeps the color even, prevents creasing and helps eyeshadow colors to appear more intense and true.

All of the products I've received so far (including the nail polishes from my Polished Diva subscription) are from the 2014 Spring Trianon collection. I love that I am getting current products, some being limited edition. This is a really fun way to try out new products I wouldn't typically think to purchase for myself.

For more information about this and the Polished Diva subscription, please click here!

Click here to see all my Polished Diva boxes
Click here to see all my Secret Diva boxes

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