Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vacationing in Punta Cana: Now Larimar Resort Review & Travel Guide

Every winter many Canadians ditch their winter jackets in favor of swimsuits and escape to warm, tropical climates. While planning my recent vacation I considered Madrid, Budapest and Amsterdam but decided on a sunny Caribbean destination popular with travelers from all over the world. Punta Cana is situated at the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic and is known for its white sandy beaches and beautiful blue water. Although I have been to Samana before, it was my first visit to this part of the island and the warm sea breeze and swaying palm trees was a welcome retreat from Toronto’s snow storms.

January is a wonderful season to visit. The average temperature during my stay was 27˚C or 80˚F with very little humidity. After a 4 hour flight (with jaw-clenching turbulence) I touched down in the small airport and headed to baggage claim. The first thing I noticed was a sea of porters randomly taking luggage off the conveyor, piling them up and watching over them with odd possessiveness. When the owner of the bag approached to retrieve it, the porter would insist on carrying it for a tip. I understand the need to make money but I’m not big on pushiness and while exiting the airport sales people also tried to persuade us to visit their resorts by offering discounted excursion rates. Needless to say I was in no mood for a sales pitch after getting one hour of sleep and feeling jet lagged.

As you exit the airport there is a board which conveniently lists most major resorts and the price it costs to get there which prevents swindling by sneaky cab drivers. The Now Larimar resort is 30 minutes from the airport and the cab ride cost $35.00 U.S. (each way).

Resort Overview
The Now Larimar is a 5 star all-inclusive beach resort featuring 540 rooms and suites, 7 restaurants (specialty cuisines and buffet) 11 bars and lounges (including a swim-up pool bar), expansive gardens and many fun activities.

Pricing for this resort may vary by season and booking website. During our stay the price for a garden view room started at $422.00 per night (based on double occupancy via When you check-in they might also ask if you’d like a room upgrade to the members only area for $40 per person, per day. 

Here’s what’s included:
*All meals and snacks at the restaurants (no reservations required) + access to the restaurants at Now Garden Resort. (Dress code is casual elegant at most restaurants)
*All drinks + alcoholic beverages (top-shelf spirits and cocktails)
*All day entertainment and activities
*24 hour room service
*Daily replenishment of your mini bar with alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, juice and water
(The tap water is not safe to drink. I also chose to brush my teeth with bottled water)
*Daily maid service
*Teens and kids clubs
*Pool and beach waiter service
*Themed parties and ocean front bars
*All taxes and gratuities
Not included:
*Spa services and treatments
*Bowling alley ($10.00 U.S. per game)
*There is no shuttle service to the airport, shopping centers or city which is inconvenient
*No access to members only areas

After the 30 min ride to the resort, our baggage was promptly tagged to be taken to our room and we were welcomed with sparkling champagne. The front desk and concierge staff were courteous and while our room was prepared we had lunch at the Carnival Buffet.

The biggest downside to this resort is the pestering sales people. After lunch a staff member told us that our room was not ready (when in fact it was) and then proceeded to persuade us into attending a breakfast meeting so he could try to sell us membership to the resort’s club. The place is crawling with sales people who constantly asked us to attend the sales meeting in order to gain commission (similar to a timeshare). They popped out at us after lunch and even bothered us while we were trying to relax on the beach. I expected 5 star service and found this behavior downright annoying! I was also surprised at how much of the staff didn’t speak English. Some of the baggage handlers also seemed to latch on to us and consistently inquired about our departure time in an effort to get tips when we left (although gratuity is included we did tip some staff which is probably why they bothered us).

Our room was quite spacious with a king size bed, walk-out terrace and a large bathroom with jacuzzi tub and glass enclosed shower. The bed was a bit too hard and the pillows weren’t very comfortable. I also found out the shower head was broken with it fell on me the first night and I had to ask the maid to clean the jacuzzi properly since I found traces of hair. Other than that our stay was enjoyable.

Resort Layout
This resort has one of the nicest layouts I’ve seen. All walkways to public areas and guest rooms are open to the elements on either side but still covered to provide shade and let in the wonderful Caribbean breeze. 

You can get anywhere rain or shine while being totally covered and not having to walk outside although the garden paths are lush with greenery, very well manicured and brimming with flowers so I suggest exploring.

The main plaza is a large open space with plenty of seating shaded by palms trees and surrounded by restaurants, bars, boutiques and lounges. This area is a popular guest hangout in the evening. Workers clean, mop and tidy the public areas all day so they are always immaculate.

The resort shares its facilities and beach area with its sister property called Now Garden. Despite this there was no overcrowding or noise issues during my stay.

The pools are very expansive with lots of deck space and lounge chairs. The beach is located at the back of the property and there are thrilling water sports and equipment available.

Shows and Entertainment
I was very impressed with the resort's effort to keep guests entertained and having fun. A nightly schedule/newsletter was delivered to our room at turn-down service outlining the events planned for the following day. The night of our arrival they hosted a Golden Globe Party with red carpet, photo area, big screen, champagne, snacks and seating. They also screened movies in the theater and had a magic show, belly dancing and a Multinational show featuring beautiful carnival costumes and acrobatics. On Dominican night a talented Latin singer performed in the plaza while local vendors set up booths selling handmade souvenirs, jewelry and paintings – similar to an outdoor craft fair. They also had a foam party in the pool, a beach party and a many games, trivia and group activities like beach volleyball. The Moments Lobby Bar also featured live entertainment so there is never a dull moment and no reason to leave the resort.

Other Amenities
I’ve already mentioned a few amenities but the resort also has a roof top night club with pool. The sports bar has games like fuse ball, pool, PS3 and Xbox along with a popcorn machine and the bowling alley.
There is also:
*An excursions desk if you want to plan a day off the resort
*Gym/fitness center
*Tennis court (lessons are free)

Food, Dining & Restaurants
As mentioned there are several restaurants on the property including:
*Barefoot Grill (located by the pool) ~ burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, fries etc
*Blue Water Grill Seafood & Steakhouse (American Cuisine)
*Carnival International Cafe/ Buffet (open for breakfast, lunch, dinner & late night bites from 11 pm - 6 am). If you like hot or even warm food I recommend getting to the buffet early as everything gets cold very quickly. There is a pasta station, pizza bar, coffee area, salad bar, bread area, dessert and hot dishes that vary each day. Overall I found the food at Carnival rather bland (which is quite typical of resort buffets) but there were always a few good dishes.
*Castaways Beachside Restaurant
*Coco Cafe – a great place to enjoy delicious iced coffees and specialty brews with pastries or cake.
*Mercure French Restaurant
*Spice (Japanese Cuisine)
*Tamarindo (Mexican Cuisine) - I recommend the fried chicken tacos and fajitas. The restaurant also has its own margarita bar!
*Capers (Italian Restaurant located at Now Garden) - At the front entrance you can take a golf cart shuttle or walk to the Italian restaurant at the other resort. I highly recommend the salad bar and tiramisu, they also have a selection of pasta and pizza.
*24 hour room service (included)

Swim-up pool bar

Overall the food at the resort was good with many options including gluten-free meals but I found most dishes very under seasoned and even the cultural specific restaurants seemed to share a very monotone flavor palette throughout. Almost all of the chicken I had on and off the resort was very overcooked. 

Things to do off the resort
The sightseeing tours and activities in Punta Cana are typical of many Caribbean islands.
*Zip lining
*Snorkeling & scuba diving
*Whale watching 
*Swim with the dolphins
*Water sports
*Various tours including: jeeps, buggies, jungle/wildlife expeditions, party cruises, horseback riding and more.
These activities are offered in many places so shop around online before you travel, check prices with your resort and read customer reviews on Trip Advisor.

Playa Blanca Beach (close to the airport)
If you spend time away from the resort I highly recommend a trip to Playa Blanca aka White Beach. The crystal clear water is warm, shallow and calm. You can walk for quite a distance before the water even reaches your waist and the sparkling white sand and swaying palm trees is picture perfect!

We missed our flight and ended up staying an extra day which was fabulous! We booked a room last minute at Four Points by Sheraton in Punta Cana Village which is just minutes away from the airport. Across the street from the hotel there is a great selection of restaurants so we had a chance to enjoy some Dominican food at La Casita de YeYa.

Mofungo (seen below) is a dish made with crushed seasoned plantain (a type of cooking banana) served with your choice of meat and a delicious garlic sauce. I first had this dish in Puerto Rico (where it originated) and trying the local food is always a must!

I had a fabulous time in Punta Cana and will definitely be back again!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

NEW Urban Decay Makeup Setting Spray, Complexion Primer & Prep Priming Spray

Many of us are familiar with Urban Decay’s famous All-Nighter Makeup Setting Spray and it has even helped me prevent a complete facial meltdown during my trip to the beautiful deserts of Dubai. In collaboration with Skindinavia, the brand has repackaged the spray and released an impressive range of new skincare to help maintain a flawless complexion.  

Gone are the days when women set their makeup with hairspray. These innovative formulas are designed to mist on weightlessly and last all day!

All Nighter is the spray you need when partying or travelling to humid destinations where perspiration is inevitable. It also comes in handy on long, stressful days and keeps makeup looking fresh by preventing it from settling into lines, melting and fading for up to 16 hours. The mist has a very faint scent and makes my skin feel and look smoother but sometimes a few large droplets have to be dabbed or blended away so my foundation doesn’t appear spotty.

The De-Slick Spay helps makeup last longer while controlling oil, diminishing surface shine and preventing smudging. This works wonders with oil-based foundations that oxidize and tend to make you look slick and sweaty (especially during the summer). The formula does a good job at mattifying for fewer touch-ups during the day and dries very quickly.

Chill is great for dry winter skin because it cools, refreshes and lightly hydrates while giving you that “just applied look” for up to 12 hours. All of the sprays are infused with aloe and feel incredibly breathable so I don’t even notice them on my skin! There is no stickiness, tightness or residue and they keep my makeup looking incredible. Tip: When you first use the sprays, mist the first pump into the air. They apply more consistently after the liquid has passed through the nozzle at least once. The Setting Sprays retail for $39.00 each and are also available in travel sizes for $18.00.

There are also 3 new Complexion Primers to choose from based on your skin’s individual needs. The first time I tried De-Slick I was impressed, a little shocked and instantly hooked! My complexion transformed from dry and dull to completely smooth, even and silky. Once applied it looks like there is a perfect, poreless, matte layer of skin on top of my real skin and I love it! This primer works like magic and the lightweight gel formula absorbs oil to control shine (even in hot, muggy, extreme conditions), helps makeup go on a lot smoother (I’m talking flawless coverage) and prolongs wear (especially when paired with the setting spray). The primer retails for $38.00 and I predict it will reach “holy grail” status.

The Optical Illusion Complexion Primer blurs flaws “for your most perfect-looking skin.” The pink tint initially appears a bit white but once blended it evens out and dries translucent while illuminating the face. The optical illusion creates a veil of scattered light, giving skin a soft-focused effect and poreless, “porcelain-like” finish. It also reduces fine lines and the creamy texture is infused with argan, rosehip and meadowfoam seed oils for moisture and antioxidants.

The Self Adjusting Complexion Primer (above) has an opaque formula with little flecks of pigment. When applied, the color-correcting pigments burst and adapt to your skin tone. Initially the cream applies white and although it does seem to adjust with some blending and patience, the finish still remains slightly lighter than my natural complexion but not enough to alter the shade of my foundation. Like the other two primers, this one has all the same smoothing benefits for even application and a flawless, matte finish.

There are also 2 new Prep Priming Sprays. B6 is a vitamin infused complex that balances, evens, smooths and absorbs oil. You can use it in the morning to revitalize and hydrate or spritz it on during the day to refresh, energize and soften without messing up your makeup. I like to keep it at my work desk for a little pick-me-up and you can use a generous amount without the formation of sticky residue. The nozzle emits a light, cooling blast of micro-fine mist that dries almost instantly and when you travel to the tropics (as I did last week), it feels amazing after a long day spent outdoors in the sun. The spray retails for $39.00.

The Quick Fix Hydra Charge Priming Spray balances and reinvigorates tired, lackluster skin. Use it post-cleansing to reduce pores, brighten, smooth and moisturize. Like the B6 you can also reapply as frequently as needed throughout the day and at night before treatments. It retails for $39.00

You can find Urban Decay Cosmetics at Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart, UD freestanding stores and online at

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Marcelle Cosmetics Spring 2017 Collection: Review & Swatches

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already begun featuring spring collections when winter is still in full-effect but a new year means fresh pigments and catchy trends. Today I’ll be sharing some fabulous eye and lip products from Marcelle along with the amazing cleansing pads that were my go-to makeup remover while on vacation last week.

The Rouge Xpression Velvet Gel Lipsticks are part of the Karine Vanasse Collection - a French Canadian Actress who is also the brand's new ambassador. The lipsticks are available in 5 shades with an ultra-lightweight texture that glides on smooth and silky for full-coverage, buildable color.

Like many of Marcelle’s products, the lipsticks are 100% hypoallergenic, perfume-free, gluten-free and tested under Dermatological control which makes them safe for everyone and ideal for sensitive skin. The first thing I noticed after marveling at the flattering hues was how comfortable the gel formula feels on the lips - almost like I have nothing on but a light layer of moisture to keep my skin supple and soft. Although the finish is classified as velvet-matte, the lipsticks have more of a satin effect with a hint of luminous shine and good longevity.

There aren’t a lot of colors in the collection but there is a nice range of neutrals, deep plum, classic red and a bright bubble gum pink. Both 755 Buff Nude and 855 Rosy Nude are very flesh tone and mellow on my complexion but every shade is very wearable. The lipsticks retail for just $11.95 each.

There are also many fabulous liners in the spring collection and the pencils from Marcelle have been some of my favorites for years. The Velvet Gel Waterproof Lip Liners ($11.95) have a smooth gel based formula, 8+ hours of hold and vibrant color pay-off. The creamy texture glides around the lip contour effortlessly for sharp definition that improves the appearance of application. The white pencil in the photo is actually a clear/invisible anti-feathering lip liner that can be used with any lipstick to keep pigment in pace and prevent bleeding.

 Each of the lipsticks above matches the liner with the same name.

Vivid Plum

Buff Nude

If you are looking for eyeliner that will last as long as your day does then you need to try the Velvet Gel Formula with 24 hour waterproof hold. There are 5 timeless shades including: Dark Chocolate, Deep Navy, Jet Black, Twilight Purple and Intense Grey. I absolutely love the rich, highly saturated formula and I even use them under my liquid eyeliner for neatness and line reinforcement. The pencils aren’t twist-up (as I’d prefer) but they are easy to work with and accentuate the eyes beautifully without skipping, drying-out, smudging or running.The deep browns also make great brow pencils because they don't fade. The liners retail for $11.95 each.

If you prefer anti-oxidant benefits in your eyeliner try the Kohl Collection deemed “the safest eyeliners on the market” and recognized by the Dermatology Association. These provide 8+ hours of coverage (or 4+ hours on the waterline), intense one-stroke coverage and waterproof hold. They retail for $9.95 each.

To remove all those amazing water-proof formulas, the new Gentle Eye Makeup Remover Pads work wonders! I took these with me on vacation last week to Punta Cana and just a few swipes quickly got rid of eye shadow, liner, mascara and even my eyebrow pigment which drastically cut down on cleansing time. The pads are soft, non-irritating and thicker plus I also use a couple to emulsify and loosen the top layer of my full-coverage MAC foundation. The jar contains 85 pads and retails for $9.95.

Marcelle Cosmetics can be found at major drug stores including Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart and online at

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pür Cosmetics The Perfect Matte Velvet Liquid Lipstick Review

If you haven’t tried any of the Pür Cosmetics lip products you are missing out on some seriously gorgeous pigment! The vivacious Lip Lures are some of my favorite bold lip creams on the market so when the brand released a matte collection I had to have it!

The set comes with 4 liquid lipsticks (2 neutrals, 1 bright red and 1 deep burgundy) plus a translucent agave lip oil for shine, comfort and moisture. When it comes to color, these babies are beautiful! I’m totally obsessed with every shade in the kit and the formula is luxurious and ultra creamy.

If you wear the lipsticks without a base, the smooth, rich texture provides enough hydration and a nice matte effect without drying out the lips. You can also apply the oil under the pigment as a conditioning base or as a top coat for a pop of shine and color revival. For the most consistent coverage layering works best but when used sparingly you can achieve a beautiful sheer stain or blend a small amount in the center of the lips for a soft blurred effect.

The pigment layers very well and it doesn’t take much product to achieve vibrant, full-coverage color that makes lips appear full and pouty. Although the texture is thicker than the average cream formula, the consistency isn’t heavy and spreads well. I absolutely love the intense color pay-off and bold saturation. I’ve even used a dab of the deepest hue as blush to perk-up my dull winter complexion.

Unlike some matte lipsticks these don’t dry down to a flat, non-transferable finish that accentuates the texture of your lips. They remain quite moist, smooth and light but they may smear onto surfaces while eating or drinking. For the most part I didn’t have any issues with feathering and after hours of wear I can simply rub my lips together and add some oil to redistribute the color.

Even though I’m not always the biggest fan of neutrals or nude lipstick I love the 2 flattering hues in this collection. The deep burgundy is vampy and very trendy while the glamorous red is sexy and perfect for Valentine’s Day or girl’s night out. My only complaint is that sometimes the applicators are a bit stiff when pulling them out of the tubes but overall these are definitely keepers! The set is valued at $100.00 but retails for just $34.00, you can find Pür Cosmetics/Pür  Minerals at Shoppers Drug Mart, and

Friday, January 6, 2017

Smashbox For Twenty Five Years Our Lips Have Been Sealed Lipstick Palette Review

Last month I attended a fabulous holiday party hosted by Shoppers Drug Mart & There was champagne, sparkling white Christmas trees decorated with makeup ornaments and even a gingerbread ice cream sandwich station! In the press bag I received some beautiful personalized presents and a gift card to do some shopping (not that I needed any motivation).

Being a Beauty Editor and testing new products means that I have enough makeup, skincare and fragrance to last a lifetime so I had no idea what to get. After adding some everyday essentials to my online cart (the Urban Decay Primer Potion and a new bath puff) I saw this gorgeous Smashbox Palette! I hadn’t heard very much about this limited edition collection when it launched but the variety of colors intrigued the lipstick junkie in me and I found them irresistible!  

This beautiful range was released to celebrate the brand’s 25 year anniversary and their influence in photography, fashion and beauty. The palette contains 25 of their most beloved, bestselling cream and matte shades inspired by style icons. I like the idea of lip palettes because the variety is very appealing but they aren’t always practical for reapplication on-the-go. This one is okay for travel and totes but too large to lug around in my purse. I really chose it for the stunning shades since there isn’t one lipstick that I don't love.

For personal or professional use this palette is great! The selection includes everything I look for: trendy flattering hues mixed with bright tones, deep rich creams, a few neutrals, dark vampy effects, plums, reds, corals, pinks and shades for all seasons and occasions. The large mirror is a nice touch but the lip brush is small and the thin shape makes application seem tedious so I don't really use it.

Although I'm obsessed with every color, the coverage is surprisingly inconsistent. I expected intense, buildable saturation throughout and what I got was 10 amazing mattes with medium to full coverage high intensity pigment and 15 glossy creams with sheer to medium color. Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled with the sheer tones since some show up as tints rather than lipstick and require a lot of layering to transmit the vibrancy and pureness of the color. When applied very generously, most of the shiny shades still look beautiful but I would have appreciated an entire palette of mattes and full-coverage creams instead. I also recommend keeping the plastic sheet covering since lip palettes have a tendency to dry up if not closed and sealed properly.

The mattes hold-up well enough (usually a few hours of wear) but the glossy shades don’t last as long so once I leave the house (without the palette) I need a backup lipstick if I don’t want to go bare-lipped all day.

Below I've swatched some of the lipsticks to demonstrate pigmentation and finish. Dean, Robert, Kelly, Davis, Kim and Angie are the sheer-medium creams and the mattes go from Lori to Peggy.

The formula contains nourishing butters and oils that provide moisture for comfortable wear and I think most of the pigments are suitable for all complexions. The palette retails for $79.00 and is still available at should you wish to indulge before it's gone.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

NEW Urban Decay Store & Makeup: Naked 3 Palette Review

Before Christmas, when the malls were bustling with shoppers scrambling to find last-minute gifts, I attended a private party to celebrate the opening of Urban Decay’s new flagship store in Square One Shopping Center. When one of your favorite brand’s gets a beautiful new store jam-packed with gorgeous makeup it’s a pretty big deal and that night I chatted with friends and sipped cocktails while checking out the limited edition collections and exclusive items!

In true Urban Decay style the purple carpet was rolled out as beauty gurus and press strolled in with glittery eyelids and edgy lipstick.

I received a shiny new Naked 3 Palette (which I didn’t have) and got it personalized with graffiti style paint.

I know this fan favorite has been around for awhile but since it is a new addition to my Naked Palette collection I decided to do a quick review.

At first glance these shades appear mild and quite neutral but once applied the colors are fresh, luminous and very trendy! With the exception of a deep matte brown (which would have been a nice addition) these brilliant hues are perfect for everyday wear and glamorous events of all kind. One end of the palette contains silvery pinks, vibrant gold, rosy-champagne, and creamy mattes while the other end is a tad darker with bronzy tones, deep silver and a smokey black embedded with dazzling red sparkle.

For the most part the texture is smooth and silky but the shade Dust is flaky and a bit gritty so it doesn't apply as consistently. The pigmentation throughout is soft and nicely saturated with the ability to be intensified and blended well. I also think these particular colors are ideal for most complexions.

I like to enhance the shimmers by patting them on instead of swiping and the effect makes my eyes appear bright, bold and beautiful! I would have liked a bit more variation among the matte hues for more sculpting but overall this is a great palette to have in your collection. It retails for $66.00.

At the event I also received a few Moondust Eye Shadows which I am very familiar with. These babies are not for glitter haters, they are bold, high-impact and kind of out-there (but in a good way). I highly recommend using a base so that the particles adhere well, apply consistently and stay put. The pigments start off with sheer to medium coverage (especially the silver hue) but you can intensify them by simply layering the color and dampening the brush to pick up and transfer more glitter. The Moondust shadows retail for $22.00 each and you can read my review on the new Moondust Palette by clicking HERE.

From top left to bottom: Chem Trial, Crux, Interstellar and Vortex

When it comes to eye shadow base my all-time favorite is the Urban Decay Primer Potion. I have tried countless primers from many different brands and although there are a few decent options out there, this one has been my go-to product for about 10 years. This creamy formula intensifies all pigments (no matter which brand or formula) so they appear bold rich and saturated. It also prolongs wear so that my shadows last all day without fading even in heat and humidity. I’m not a fan of the packaging because it makes extracting the product difficult when it’s almost finished but no matter where I travel this primer goes with me. It retails for $26.00 and I just got a new tube online at

I like the Afterglow Blush but X-Rated is not a shade I’d choose for myself. The pale pink just doesn’t have the bold punch of color I usually prefer but it may be suitable for fair complexions. The blush retails for $32.00 and is available in 14 shades. 

I have quite a few eye shadow brushes from UD but this was my first experience with their face brush and I am very impressed! The cruelty-free, environmentally friendly large powder brush is definitely pro-quality and the bristles are soft, fluffy and well crafted which allows you to achieve a flawless finish. The larger surface also picks up and transfers the perfect amount of product and blends it effortlessly. It retails for $59.00.

If you haven’t read my previous review on the gorgeous Vice Lipsticks you can check it out by clicking HERE. My extensive collection gained two new hues over the holiday season – Jawbreaker (matte purple) and Ex-Girlfriend (nude-rose pink shimmer). There are 100 shades to choose from in a variety of finishes and textures. The lipsticks retail for $21.00 each.

I also received these glam, full-track lashes called Tricked Out. The hairs criss-cross for a natural, wispy look and the kit comes with glue for $20.00.

If you haven’t visited the new flagship store yet head on down to the mall! You can also find Urban Decay at Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart, and

NEW UD Beauty Junkies Rewards Program! 

When you join the new UD Beauty Junkies Rewards Program every purchase made at or freestanding stores earns you points that are redeemable for special rewards! As points accumulate ($20 and $30 rewards) you can use them to buy the products you crave. Membership also includes special access to limited edition items, promotions, gifts and more! For program details click HERE

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