Thursday, February 25, 2016

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View of the American Falls, taken from the Sky Wheel attraction.
We are officially back in Ottawa after a fantastic trip to Niagara Falls! What an incredible place! Certainly unlike anywhere I've ever been in Ontario before!
We boarded the bus at 1:00 am on February 14th, arrived in Niagara 10 hours later, and headed straight to our hotel. Since we arrived early, we couldn't check into our room, so the hotel staff graciously stored our luggage while we went out to explore.
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The front lobby of The Hilton Double Tree Hotel.
The downtown district of Niagara Falls is full of activities and entertainment, not to mention a variety of restaurants and hotels. Since we decided to visit in winter, rather than summer, we missed out on a few seasonal activities like the boat tours or mini golf.
Even though it was incredibly snowy, seeing the falls in winter was certainly a memorable and enjoyable experience none the less. We had a really fun time exploring the Clifton Hill area and sampling the food from restaurants that we don't have here in Ottawa.
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Some of the local birds at the Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls.
 *We actually went to Margaritaville twice and ate at the hotel restaurant three times
*We had planned on going to the Butterfly Conservatory, but unfortunately the bus was cancelled due to weather conditions
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Overall, we had a really wonderful time, and we are so thankful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip and see one of the greatest natural wonders in the world!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Skincare Review: Shiseido Ibuki Set

Good morning! I hope everyone is having a nice start to the week?

I decided to kick off this last week in January with a skincare review, specifically of the Shiseido Ibuki skincare set that I have been using now for about 6 weeks.

You may recall a post I did about my Sephora mini haul back at the end of November, and if you're interested, you can check it out here.

According to the Shiseido website, the word ibuki means "inner strength" in Japanese, and the products in the skincare line are therefore designed to help " correct imperfections, dryness and roughness while providing optimal hydration".

The set I picked up included three products:

1. Ibuki Gentle Cleanser

2. Ibuki Softening Concentrate

3. Ibuki Refining Moisturizer

Now that I've had a chance to test out all three products, I think it's time to give them a proper review!

1. Ibuki Gentle Cleanser

Rating:5 Star Rating System 5 stars

First up, let's start with the Ibuki Gentle Cleanser. Oh my goodness, this has fast become my absolute favorite cleanser! For a long time, that spot was occupied by Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, but I have to admit, the Shideido Ibuki Gentle Cleanser is (in my opinion) superior. I've tested it out on my face following makeup removal and exfoliation, as well as on a full face of makeup, and it performs equally well in either situation!

Summary: You only need a very small amount of this stuff to get your whole face nice and clean! It lathers up beautifully and has a soft creamy texture. It's not too strong or drying for sensitive skin, and it really gets deep down into your pores for that nice and clean feeling.

2. Ibuki Softening Concentrate

Rating: 5 Star Rating System 3 and a half stars

Second on the review list is the Ibuki Softening Concentrate. When I first started using this, I really liked it and thought it was going to be my favorite product from the set. However, after a few uses it started to lose its luster. There isn't anything specifically wrong with it, but it just didn't impress me that much. On especially cold and dry winter days I found it helped add an extra shield of moisture for my skin, which is great, but I can't ever really see myself using this product in the summer unfortunately!

Summary: It certainly has a noticeable perfume scent, which might irritate people with sensitive skin. Great for people with normal/dry skin, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone with oily skin.

3. Ibuki Refining Moisturizer

Rating: 5 Star Rating System 1 star

Finally, the last product in the set, the Ibuki Refining Moisturizer. Ultimately, this product was the most disappointing for me. The consistency is too similar to a serum (almost the exact same as the Ibuki Softening Concentrate), which immediately had me doubting the product. The scent is also quite strong, which again, isn't a good thing for people with sensitive skin. When I went back online to check out some reviews, I was not surprised to see lots of complaints about it being greasy and causing people to break out.

Summary: The consistency is far too much like a serum, in addition to having a heavy perfume scent. It doesn't seem to work well for oily or sensitive skin, nor can I imagine it being sufficiently moisturizing for dry skin. Overall, this one was a big disappointment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ringing in the New Year in Quebec City

Quebec City! It's been nearly a month now since we were there, but it still feels like we just got back! 

After spending the Christmas holidays with both sides of the family, Ryan and I took the train to Quebec City for a mini-vacation. Our trip centered around ringing in the new year, and oh my goodness was it a memorable one! 

Before I get into that, I should start out from the beginning, namely, the journey there! We had bought our tickets way back in August, but unfortunately had not verified the departure times before we left for the train on the 31st. Turns out, we missed our train! The usual protocol dictates that we were supposed to have been notified about the departure adjustment, but sadly, we never got the call. In any case, the train attendant was incredibly apologetic and helpful about the situation, and booked us on the next departure to Quebec City...only this time we would be going FIRST CLASS! 

We quickly got over our initial disappointment about missing our train, and excitedly made our way to the first class lounge. Getting to Quebec City from Kingston required us to take two trains, so it was a pretty long trip. However, being served snacks, meals, and an unlimited supply of whatever we wanted to drink (whisky for Ryan and vodka-crans for me), certainly turned it into an enjoyable journey!   

Once we arrived in the city, we took a short taxi to our hotel, right in the heart of the Old City. We stayed at the Hotel Clarendon, and had a lovely time! The hotel is incredibly proximate to all of the major sites and attractions in the city, and is a beautiful old building with nice rooms and spacious bathrooms! 

Since we were only in Quebec City for a short time, we didn't spend too much time in the hotel, as there were lots of things to see and do on our to-do list. 

First on that list, after checking into the hotel around 10:30pm on the 31st, was walking over to Grande Allée, for a spectacular party to ring in the new year! The streets were filled with people as we walked up the hill towards the live music concert beside the ferris wheel in the middle of the street. When we arrived, there was a French-Canadian band playing some very up-beat folk music. I wouldn't normally say it was my style, but it was really quite good, and certainly kept everyone pumped up while we stood in the cold waiting for the clock to strike midnight!

At about 11:30, they had a DJ come on, and he played some dance music until about 11:50, when the French-Canadian band came back on stage for the final 10 minutes left in 2015. Right at midnight, everyone turned around to watch an AMAZING fireworks show over the water! I have pretty high standards when it comes to fireworks, and these were certainly impressive! As Ryan puts it, "the entire show was like one big finale". Once the fireworks show concluded, we decided to head back to the hotel and get to bed, since we had already had a pretty long day, and staying up till midnight is not something we usually do! I'm not normally a big New Year's Eve celebrator, but I had a really great time in Quebec City, and would definitely recommend it! I've spent New Year's Eve in a few places throughout the country, and Quebec City has absolutely got the most fun party I can think of! 

After sleeping in a bit later than we usually do, Ryan and I headed off for breakfast at a really quaint little restaurant called Le Conchon Dingue. Ryan ordered a verty hearty breakfast poutine, and I went with a more traditional classic of eggs, hash browns, and sausages. 

Once we were finished eating, we spent the morning walking the Plains of Abraham and exploring the area around our hotel. Since it was January 1st, most places were closed unfortunately, so most of our time was spent outdoors. It wasn't too cold while we were there, so it was really quite nice to walk around and explore for hours on end! 

The only downside to visiting Quebec City over the holidays, was that a number of the restaurants that we had hoped to check out, were closed. We still got to sample lots of great food from the restaurants we did end up eating at, but they weren't our original top choices. Ryan and I agreed, another trip to Quebec City will have to be in order, just to eat more of the delicious food alone! So, even though it was a very short trip (we checked out of our hotel at noon on the 2nd), we still had a fantastic time! Quebec City is such a beautiful place, with a rich culture and history that is definitely worth exploring. I didn't mention it earlier, but I had the flu for the entire time we were there, and even that didn't stop me from having a great time! It certainly made the long trip home pretty uncomfortable, but that's all in the past now!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Top 10 posts from 2015

I started Sweet Pea Afternoon Tea back in April 2015, and it has been quite an incredible experience so far! I am still very much in the early phase of working as a blogger and consultant, but I have been enjoying every step forward. As a way of celebrating the new year, I've compiled a list of my top 10 favorite blog posts from 2015. Even though I only had to sift through nine months worth of articles, it was really quite tough because so many great things happened last year! I got engaged, we moved into a new apartment, got married, and got our dog Rocky, just to name a few! 

Without further adieu, here is the list, in chronological order from oldest to newest! Enjoy!
*Note: Click on the title of each article for a link to the post!

1. Mother's Day Gift Ideas

I was fortunate enough to have my mum visit us in Ottawa for Mother's Day, so I had to include this one! I love shopping for women, but my mum is by far my favorite person to shop for (sorry boys, but I don't think this will come as that big of a surprise!). I really enjoyed putting together this post and coming up with a variety of gift ideas to suit different styles and budgets. 

Obviously, none of you will be surprised to see that my engagement announcement is on the list! Even though it wasn't a complete surprise since we had discussed marriage prior to the big proposal, I was still so shocked and excited when Ryan got down on one knee and pulled out the ring!

I am so happy that I was able to have documented the whole thing not long after it all happened, because I know in the years to come it will be harder and harder to remember the details. 

So I included this one because of two reasons...the first being that I really love the two outfits I put together, and the second being that I am currently craving hot summer days now that winter has finally arrived and I have had to wear leggings under my jeans just to stay remotely warm! I know, I'm a big baby and it's not even that cold!

I should really clarify that I did not go to South Africa in 2015, I went in 2013. I did however, finally get around to documenting my trip in 2015, and I am so glad that I did! Volunteering was such an amazing and challenging experience, and I would definitely recommend that everyone try it at least once in their lives. It doesn't have to be half way across the world, but giving your time and putting your energy into helping others is one of the most amazing things we can do as human beings.

Needless to say, this past year has included plenty of wedding planning! I'll be completely honest, I was a bit hesitant about it at first, but I have really come around and have been thoroughly enjoying all of the planning and wedding activities! For this post, I had a great time researching dresses and discussing different looks and body issues with my mum and her friends. 

I think it goes without saying that by far, one of the best moments from 2015 was getting married to Ryan!

We had a beautiful little civil service ceremony at the courthouse, followed by a delicious lunch at The Lord Elgin. 
I am so happy to be married to my best friend! I love you so much and you make every day special!

Next up, I've included my first article featuring the latest addition to our little family, Rocky! 

Ryan and I have always wanted a dog, but we hadn't planned on getting one until we had a house with a big back yard. 
Those plans changed in the fall, when we saw Rocky on the SPCA website, and quickly fell in love! He's a 3 and a half year old German Shepard/Husky and we love him so much! 

If I had to pick one word to sum up the year 2015 for me, it would definitely be "Love". Aside from getting married, love has played such a major part in my life this year. It reveals itself every day that I spend with Ryan, as well as the love that we both share for our dog Rocky. 2015 also marked a year full of the love of our friends and family, who have showered (bridal shower post, get it? I crack myself up!) us with so much support and generosity! We are truly grateful! 

This was so much fun! The photographs turned out beautifully, and we are so thankful to now have such excellent quality photographs to capture this time in our lives. We have a few of them framed and on display in our apartment!

Last but not least, I've included the article I wrote about my experience at David's Bridal for my bridal consultation. Since this past year has been all about love for me, I thought it would be fitting to cap off this list with a wedding related article! 

I had a really great experience at my bridal consultation, and after two visits, have finally found my perfect dress! Even if you don't end up finding your dream dress, I would highly recommend that every bride-to-be go for a professional bridal consultation!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Nature Museum Date Night

Happy Monday! 

I hope everyone had a restful Christmas and a great start to the new year! Mine was busy to say the least, and unfortunately, also included catching the flu. So there you go, that's my excuse for such a long absence! 

We spent Christmas with Ryan's family this year, and had a really nice and relaxing time with them in Richmond. After that, we headed down to Kingston, for a holiday visit with my family, before taking the train back up north to Quebec City for New Year's Eve. I'll be posting more all about that later this week, but since I've been either away or sick for the past month, I'm a bit back-logged with posts! 

So in any case, today's post is about a date night that Ryan and I went on back in the first week of December. Since I now have evenings free from work, we took the opportunity to swing by the Nature Museum for a little date. 

The museum happens to be less than a 10 minute walk from our apartment, which was great since I recall it was a bit colder that evening. Every Thursday, after 5:00 pm the museum has free admission to all of its usual galleries, so if you happen to be free during that time, I would highly recommend checking out the museum. 

My favorite exhibit is probably the mammal gallery, although I'm also a really big fan of the dinosaur gallery too! It took us just over an hour to tour three galleries (mammal, dinosaur, and water) before we decided to head home for dinner! All in all, a great date night activity! Bonus for being free too!