A weekend in Scottsdale: Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa Review

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A couple weeks back, I took advantage of the long weekend hopped on a plane to visit my boyfriend, who’s currently spending the summer working in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since both of our schedules are quite hectic, I had booked the trip last minute and was a bit worried about finding a place for us to stay while I came to visit. To my surprise, I discovered that June to August is actually the off season for Arizona (I didn’t realize quite how HOT it would be – it is the desert after all!), and for that reason there was a fair bit of choice when it came to choosing a hotel.

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa immediately caught my eye while browsing vacation packages. The resort is beautifully designed and modern, having opened recently in the Fall of 2016. Typically, my accommodations when traveling play a secondary role, as I usually spend more time exploring the area than relaxing at the resort. However, as temperatures in Scottsdale reached 40+ degrees Celsius during my stay (making exploring during the daytime a difficult feat), the hotel played an extremely important role.

The Room

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We were lucky enough to be upgraded to an XL King Room, which was more than enough space than the two of us. The rooms at the resort are set up “casita” style (like a little house), making it super private. The room featured a king-sized bed, wooden beam ceiling and was tastefully and simply decorated. We were greeted with a thoughtful card and cactus-shaped macaron on the bedside table – my idea of the perfect warm welcome. There was also a gigantic television hung on the wall opposite the bed, which made for great binge-watching/snuggling sessions when it was just too hot to go outside. The resort offers Chromecast (allowing you to project anything you’re streaming on your phone onto the TV), which I hadn’t previously used before. We had some difficulty setting it up, but the resort was quick to send a technician out to our room to help us figure it out! Once it was set up, it was honestly life changing to be able to watch whatever we wanted on the big screen.

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The best part of the room? The swoon-worthy bathroom! The modern, beautiful space was flooded with natural light thanks to a skylight and patio entrance, and the gorgeous, white subway-tiled double shower was big enough for 10 people. I often find myself frustrated that there aren’t enough mirrors or natural light in the hotel to do my makeup comfortably when traveling – but this was definitely not the case here. The room also had a nice closet area, vanity space (perfect for doing your hair and not hogging the bathroom), and mini-fridge area with a Keurig.

The Resort

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An open concept style lobby that leads into the resort’s restaurant made for a grand entrance when checking in. The resort itself was absolutely stunning and felt completely secluded, with Camelback Mountain providing the backdrop. The bungalow style rooms make the property feel more like an exclusive neighbourhood community than a resort, dotted with adorable cacti, palm trees, and desert-native plants. The Andaz is equipped with three pools (the main pool was located near our room, and the other two by the spa), a gym and a restaurant.

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The Turquoise pool (the main pool) was definitely the star of the resort, situated in the centre and a popular spot during the hot, sunny day. I loved the cactus and pineapple shaped pool floats they provided for resort guests, and there were more than enough lounge chairs and cabanas to accommodate everyone. My favourite feature was that the pool was salt water, which I prefer over traditional chlorine. I wish it could have been kept at a cooler temperature (I love a cool, refreshing swim in the heat!), but it’s unrealistic to keep a pool cooled in such intense weather conditions.

Location

Scottsdale is a relatively small city in comparison to the big cities I’m used to – meaning everything is located conveniently close together or just a short drive away.  The resort provided a complimentary car service (in a Tesla!) to shuttle guests to downtown and Oldtown Scottsdale, or anywhere within a short drive away. We used this to get downtown each day, and then used  Uber to get back to the resort, which was very affordable due to its central location.

Since I was in Scottsdale for only three days, I didn’t get to visit all of the spots on my wishlist – however I did get to try a few cafes and restaurants I had researched beforehand. I highly recommend stopping by these places if you’re ever in the area:

  • Diego Pops: an adorable Mexican spot with a cute patio & yummy food
  • Sugar Bowl: an old-school cafe and ice cream shop that’s been in Scottsdale since 1958. Also home to the most perfect pink wall for Instagram opps!
  • Ruze Cake House: the cafe of my dreams! This little spot serves boba and other sweet treats
  • Sprinkles Cupcakes: not unique to Scottsdale, but adorable nonetheless

Within walking distance of the resort, there’s also a Walgreens, Trader Joe’s and a casual but tasty Mexican spot (Blanco Tacos + Tequila), which basically covers all the bases.

Dining

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The resort’s restaurant is the Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, which serves up farm-to-table dishes and features an awesome “glass box” kitchen. We received a $50 credit for the restaurant and used it to grab a lovely Sunday morning breakfast. I’ll admit it was a bit on the pricier side, but everything was delicious – especially the avocado toast!

Overall, the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa was honestly one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had! The staff was friendly, attentive, and more than ready to help with any special requests or needs my boyfriend and I had. The weekend truly felt like our own private getaway and was just the escape I needed! I would highly recommend staying at the Andaz – and if you’re working with a tight budget and can brave the Arizona summer heat, booking during the off season is a great way to save.

Feast in the Fields

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When Robyn of Simply Fresh Dinners reached out to me a few months ago about joining the “Feast in the Fields” event she was hosting in collaboration with Barrie Hill Farms, I was so excited to hear from her! I may be a city girl at heart, but I do love a relaxing day at the farm. Some of my favourite memories are actually connected to the farm, spending time with family and loved ones picking fresh fruit, and just enjoying the quiet of the countryside.

This is the second year Robyn has hosted the feast, a series of events that celebrates the start of the harvest season for a variety of fresh and local Ontario produce. I attended the second event in this series, which was all about raspberries and blueberries! I brought my mom along (who’s always been passionate about gardening and the outdoors) and was joined by some fellow influencers who also made the trip out to Barrie from Toronto.

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The day started with a tour of Barrie Hill Farms, led by owner Morris. You could see the passion behind his love for farm fresh produce, and all of the work that goes into growing his product. After taking a lovely wagon ride through the property, we were met in the blueberry fields with a yummy plate of appetizers: blueberry pizza with bacon and goat cheese, and some lovely little skewers of raspberries, bocconcini and mint.

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After the tour, we headed to a beautiful table for our feast, set with the perfect country tableware and adorable pops of blue. The menu was simple and delicious, showcasing the beauty of the ingredients. We were served family style, which kept the occasion casual and made it the ideal setting for great conversation!

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The food was beyond tasty – my favourite dish had to be the sugar snap peas, which were finished with a healthy dose of butter and olive oil! There’s something special about eating farm to table food; all of the flavours seem to be fresher, tastier and more pronounced. In fact, the carrots we had were so sweet, they were mistaken for sweet potatoes!

Barrie Hill Farms is such a beautiful destination, and perfect for a weekend getaway from the city. Whether you’re spending time with the family or just want to get your hands on some unique, local Ontario products, it’s truly worth the trip. I had an absolutely amazing time learning more about the farm and of course feasting on delicious food! A huge thanks to Barrie Hill Farms for hosting us and to Robyn for having me.

Rose gold hair with Redken

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I recently had the opportunity to team up with Redken for their Style Transformation campaign, which launched in May. This series is all about expressing yourself by transforming your hair and not conforming to any labels or limits! When I was first approached with the concept, and given the freedom to try something new with my hairstyle, I immediately gravitated towards adding a pop of colour.

I’ve always been pretty guarded when it comes to my hair (it was my safety blanket for many years), and was never comfortable taking risks with it. That is, until the winter of 2016 when I decided to chop 12 inches off! Since then, I’ve definitely been more open to the idea of having fun with my hair and using it to express my personal style.

I was introduced to the lovely Marie-Eve Faucher, a Redken Artist who also works out of Salon Tocci in Liberty Village. I’ve been absolutely lusting after the rose gold hair trend and took this as the perfect opportunity to try it out. After meeting with Marie-Eve and showing her a few inspiration photos, she let me know that a super pastel look I was after would be a bit of a challenge to achieve considering the dryness of my hair. My natural texture is actually quite coarse and wavy (unusual for Asian hair), so I’ve always used hot tools for styling, causing damage over the years. Although a little disappointed, I trusted her advice and settled into my chair for the five hour appointment.

The end result was more vibrant than I imagined, and definitely out of my comfort zone! Marie-Eve used a combination of Redken City Beats (a semi-permanent dye) in Chelsea Coral and City Ballet Pink to achieve the striking colour. What I love about this style is that it starts out bold, but will fade with washing and time, making it the perfect solution for someone like me who’s just starting to experiment with colour and isn’t super committed.

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I also picked up a few tips about protecting and caring for my hair, especially since I’m hoping to grow it long again. Marie-Eve used some awesome Redken products to tame frizz and protect my hair from heat while styling, including the Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express Primer Spray, which I loved and smelled amazing!

This was a super exciting experience for me, and I love how it turned out. It was refreshing to take a risk and I’m actually proud of myself for doing it! I can’t wait to see how the colour fades over the next few weeks, and who knows – I may try another fun colour this summer. Have you ever taken a risk with your hair? Let me know about your experience in the comments below!

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Souk Tabule

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of brunching with a group of awesome Toronto bloggers at a popular spot in the Canary District, Souk Tabule. Souk Tabule is a fast casual location under the Tabule family of restaurants, serving up delicious Middle Eastern and Lebanese dishes. Of the huge selection of places to brunch in Toronto, this was a refreshingly unique option, and definitely worth the visit!

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We arrived bright and early at 10:30 am to beat the crowd, and basically had the restaurant to ourselves, which was lovely. I loved the decor of the restaurant, which was a beautiful mix of modern design, blue and white accents, and the most gorgeous wall art!

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Guests order and pay for their food off the extensive menu at the front counter, and then have seat where the meal is served to them. Souk Tabule offers a regular menu along with all-day brunch. We ended up ordering a wide selection off the menu, including the Chef’s Sampler to share. This included a variety of vibrant and flavourful Middle Eastern dips and starters: babaganouj, labni, muhamara, beet mutable, quinoa tabule and arabic slaw. This was served with the restaurant’s house-made saj bread.

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Amongst our table we had a mouthwatering spread of the Shakshuka, Hallum on a Brioche, Canary Salad, Phoenician Fries and the Akkawi and Roasted Tomato Omelette. The restaurant also has a great drink menu, including the refreshing mint lemonade that I tried.

I had the Shakshuka, a dish of eggs baked with roasted tomato and red pepper sauce. This is one of my favourite things to eat at brunch, and Souk Tabule’s version did not disappoint. It was tangy, filling, and luscious from all the egg yolk and the dollop of labni (a creamy yogurt dip) it included.

I also have to mention this one of the first times I’ve gotten to hang out with other Toronto bloggers – and it was such a blast! There’s nothing like being with like-minded people (who are just as serious about taking pictures of their food as you are). It was an amazing feeling to take a million shots of my meal without being judged, lol!

Check out some of the awesome ladies I brunched with and send them some love:

 

Bedroom Décor Ideas: Cozy Corner Finds Under $30

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I’m super excited to announce that I’ve partnered with Sleep Country Canada for the launch of their Bloom mattress – a new “mattress-in-a-box” product that’s delivered to your door and blooms in only 15 seconds! As an advocate of all things convenient, I love the idea of a mattress that’s easy to set up, can fit into tight spaces (like up a flight of stairs or in the trunk of your car), and is super comfy to boot. You can view a video of me setting up my own mattress here.

To celebrate the launch, I’ll be doing a series of blog posts over the next few months highlighting different ways to decorate your bedroom, from the affordable cozy corner finds listed in this post, to simple DIYs you can use to spice up your space. I personally like to change up my decor quite frequently, so I love finding affordable ways to add a personal touch that won’t be hard to switch out over time.

All of the items in the photos below were under $30, including the pieces I used to serve as my bedside table! Keep scrolling to see more, and for a list of the products featured:

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Cozy Corner Finds

1. BEKVÄM Step Stool, IKEA ($19.99)

This step stool poses as the perfect faux bedside table – the steps serve as shelves, and for $20, it’s super affordable and low commitment. I had already had the stool in the birch coloured wood lying around the house, but actually would have preferred the white wood that’s currently available online.

2. VÄNSKAPLIG Cushion, IKEA ($9.99)

One of the easiest ways to personalize a space is to add accent pillows or cushions in fun shades and patterns. I love a great pop of colour and couldn’t resist this adorable heart shaped cushion I picked up at IKEA.

3. String Lights

A classic Pinterest bedroom staple! Any shape, size or style of string lights will instantly add a dreamy, cozy vibe to your corner. I just used a standard string of white Christmas lights that I already had on hand to dress up my area.

4. Mason Jar

There’s something about a mason jar that just has awesome aesthetic appeal. You can find them new for next to nothing at your local dollar store, or you can hunt for vintage jars (often tinged a pretty blue colour) at the flea market like I did. Use them as a vase for flowers, or fill them with fairy lights for a swoon-worthy nightlight.

5. Succulents

I love succulents! I actually scored the artificial one I used in the photos above from the Dollar Spot at Target, but you can find tons of cute options online for cheap. Whether plastic or the real deal, these little guys breathe life into your decor and provide a much needed dose of greenery.

6. Wooden Crate

This was the other piece that acted as a furnishing element of my setup. Wooden crates are super inexpensive at your local craft store and add a rustic chic touch to your design.

7. Faux Fur Throw

An easy way to make your cozy corner super comfy? Incorporating your favourite throws and blankets. Storing them beside your bed makes them easy to access while also prettying up the space. The one I featured is actually a faux fur rug that I like to keep clean and out of the way for flatlay backdrops!

8. My Cinema Lightbox Mini, Indigo ($29.50)

I’m totally loving the lightbox trend, and this mini model is only $30 at Indigo. Besides adding an awesome retro feel to your bedroom, the best part is that you can customize the message to say anything you’d like.

9. SMYCKA Artificial Leaf, IKEA ($9.99)

Another affordable way to add some greenery into your space, this artificial palm leaf is a great statement piece that will totally make you feel like you’re relaxing in a tropical destination.

10. Photos

Photos instantly personalize your bedroom, and surrounding yourself with pictures of the memories and people you love can really help build a positive environment. I’m a sucker for these little instant photos and the look of the classic Polaroid frame.

11. Your favourite coffee table books

Coffee table books serve double duty – practical to read, but also super pretty to look at! If you have a collection of your favourite books, your cozy corner is the perfect place to display them. I’ve been loving “Capture Your Style” by Aimee Song.

I’m really looking forward to continuing to decorate my space over the next few months, and hope you’ll be able to find some inspiration for your own bedrooms throughout the process! If you liked any of these ideas or have your own cozy corner favourites, let me know in the comment section below.

 

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Review: MissFresh Food Subscription Box

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Working a full-time job, balancing a social life, and trying to eat healthy is no easy task – so when the concept of ready-to-cook food subscription boxes started popping up everywhere recently, it definitely peaked my interest! The idea behind a food subscription box is that you can choose a meal from a list of options, and you’ll be sent all the ingredients you need (in the precise proportions) to cook a quick, healthy meal at home.

Montreal based company MissFresh recently reached out to me, offering me the chance to test out their service and some of their recipes. The menu changes each week, and offers a range of different cuisines and dishes to suit your individual tastes. All of the ingredients come in an insulated box (so they don’t spoil while being shipped to you), and are accompanied by a recipe card with the instructions on how to cook each meal.

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A funny (mostly sad) story about my experience – the fridge in my home broke the day after I received my shipment! I was able to cook the first meal without a problem, but unfortunately lost the meat and dairy components of the second and third dishes. I picked up what I could of what was missing from the grocery store, and I think the recipes still turned out quite well. Of course this detracted from the convenience of it all, but I still wanted to see the dishes through and to test the recipes out.

Read my review of each dish below, as well as the MissFresh service as a whole!

Recipe 1: Lemony Rapini and Sausages

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This meal was tasty and easy to make, however I noticed immediately that the instruction cards that come with the ingredients aren’t as in depth as I’d like them to be. I found myself wondering what heat to have the pan at during some stages, and ended up Googling at times to compensate for the recipe. That being said, I’m definitely a novice chef, and I think more experienced cooks would have an easier time. I ended up overcooking the veggies a bit, sacrificing some of the texture of the meal. The dish had quite a tart finish (from the lemon juice), but the sausage meat added a flavourful punch against the slightly bitter rapini.

Recipe 2: Creamy Leek Polenta

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This was the most difficult dish of the three to make. Again, I felt the instructions on the card could have been more clear (especially since I’ve never made polenta before!) and I ended up with a bit of a hard, lumpy mess instead of the creamy texture that it was supposed to be. Oh well, you live and you learn! The dish still had good flavour, and was definitely filling, but unfortunately I struggled on execution.

Recipe 3: Calamari Whole Wheat Pasta

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My favourite of the three recipes, this surprisingly hearty dish hit the perfect balance with wine, garlic, and tender calamari. The instructions were easy to follow, and the portions were generous. The recipe called for raisins, but I ended up leaving them out as they’re not my favourite ingredient to use.

Overall I was pretty happy with my experience, although I did notice some of the ingredients that were sent weren’t the best quality. For example the rapini that arrived had already started to go bad in parts, and I ended up having to toss half. If I had paid full price for the service, I’m not sure it would have been worth it. However I do love the idea of being able to create healthy meals at home, under 30 minutes – especially with a busy schedule. Skipping the line at the grocery store is definitely super convenient!

There are a number of food box subscriptions on the market now that often offer a discount on the first order of the service. If you struggle with meal planning and have difficulty finding the time to cook for yourself, I definitely recommend you look into the different companies out there!

Do you have experience with food subscription boxes? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!

 

Spring Outfit Inspiration

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Spring has finally sprung in Toronto, and one of my favourite things about the warmer weather is the outfits! It’s finally time to break out the colour, pretty blouses, and to ditch the winter coat. Cherry blossom madness recently hit the city, with hoards of people flocking to High Park, Trinity Bellwoods and other popular spots to get a glimpse of the pretty petals. I did venture one weekend to High Park, but was disappointed to find that the blossoms hadn’t fully opened yet. I had heard that Robarts Library near the U of T had some stunning trees of their own, so decided to stop by – it definitely lived up to the hype!

The outfit I styled below is an easy spring look, incorporating two trends I’m currently loving: off the shoulder tops and frayed denim. My favourite thing about this blouse (besides the pretty colour) is the sleeves – they add a feminine boho vibe to the look, perfect for the spring!

Top – Forever 21 / Frayed Denim – Zara / Blush Slip-Ons – Target

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