27 November 2018

Travel Guide: Tulum (and we're engaged!)


It's been a very exciting few weeks! We spent a week in Tulum, and much to my surprise WE GOT ENGAGED! That's right, while enjoying apps and drinks at La Popular beach bar (part of the Nomade hotel) Tyler proposed. I was so shocked and since then my mind has been going 100km/hr. thinking about wedding planning. So much so I almost forgot to write this blog.


First of all, we loved Tulum. We are already planning on going back in 2020! We met some amazing people (read more about them later on), ate at so many amazing restaurants, went on a few adventures through Mayan ruins and the Grand Cenotes, and RELAXED on a perfect, sandy beach.

Where to stay:



We stayed at Kore Tulum Retreat and Spa Resort, an adults-only all-inclusive RIGHT in the heart of Tulum. It's the perfect hotel for a beach bum or adventurer. The resort is small enough you never have to worry about not getting a seat by the pool, and close enough to beautiful beaches you can ride your bike or walk to a beach playground! Kore Tulum is located right on the water, with beautiful cliffs overlooking the ocean. The sun rises over Kore so if you wake up early you can catch a gorgeous sunrise. We made a few notes about things we loved (and didn't love!) about Kore... there is no Wifi in the rooms. If you need to use Wifi you have to go to the Lobby or Bar. Not a big deal since we were not there to be on our devices, but we thought it was important to let people know about this. Also there is no Beer stocked in the room fridges - something Tyler was quite upset about. The resort offers the use of free bicycles until sunset. We had read reviews that the bikes were poor quality prior to arriving, but when we got there we didn't see an issue with the bikes - we used them everyday, and went quite the distance with them with no issues. We even rode into Downtown Tulum to the grocery store to buy cheap beer - haha! The food was a big one for me. I found it pretty hard to find gluten-free options, so I ate a lot of yogurt, fruit and granola. Tyler loved the food though, so I wouldn't say it was BAD, it was just hard for me to find a lot of options. That being said, Kore is so close to so many amazing restaurants and Tulum is so health-focused, we were able to walk, cab or bike ride to eat at other places.

What to do:



The Grand Cenote is a 200-peso cab ride away - and only about a 7 minute drive. It is SO beautiful but go early. We went right at opening and were the only ones swimming. As time went on it got busier and busier, but we still left before the crowds! The water is warm, and crystal clear. You can swim with the cutest turtles, and swim beneath caves of bats. It was an amazing experience and so nice that it was so close. If the weather wasn't so warm, we could have rode our bikes there. That's the nice thing about Tulum - so many things to do are accessible by bike! The Grand Cenote cost 90-pesos per person for entrance.




The Tulum Ruins are an even closer adventure. Our resort was located right in the centre of Beach Road. If you ride North you venture towards the Tulum Ruins, and if you ride South you are greeted by beautiful hotels on white sandy beaches. We loved the location of our hotel because we could easily access everything! The ruins were definitely an adventure. We tried to go a few times but every time we went it was SO busy. Finally on our successful attempt we woke up early and got there for open. It was already HOT out, and there were already tons of people - including large groups of tours that had obviously been bussed in from Cancun. I will say the ruins were not a highlight of the trip for me, but I am glad we saw them. Their history was lost on me since I was so hot I thought I might faint. I quickly toured through the entire park before landing at the beach where we went for a swim and then quickly continued through the rest of the park. The views are absolutely stunning from the top! I am glad we saw it, but to be clear I won't go back to the ruins on my next visit to Tulum. The ruins cost $10 USD per person for entrance.

Where to eat:





Nomade Tulum has 2 amazing restaurants on site; Macondo and La Popular. I am biased to say you NEED to eat at La Popular because that is where we got engaged, but I am sure both are amazing. Macondo is Moroccan-inspired, and would be a great place to enjoy in the rain - when it rains it POURS in Tulum, and this roofed restaurant is the best place to hide from the rain. La Popular on the other hand is a seafood restaurant right on the beach. The drinks at both are absolutely amazing; I would highly suggest trying the Cucumber Margarita at La Popular.



The Real Coconut is the place to go if you have food allergies or sensitivities - like me! All items on their menu are gluten, dairy and sugar-free. It is located on the Sanara Tulum property, right on the beach. I was sad to see they removed Empanadas from their menu ... I have been dying for Empanadas ever since my gluten sensitivity was discovered! But the rest of the food is amazing. Our one complaint was the expensive beer...

Mateo's Mexican Grill offers authentic Mayan and Mexican fare. Mateo moved to Tulum and started his journey into the restaurant business with a tiny food stand on the side of the road. He hired a local to do all of the cooking while he squeezed fresh juice. Today Mateo's is one of the most popular restaurants for authentic cuisine in Tulum. A must-try for anyone visiting Tulum!



Le Zebra Beach Hotel has an incredible restaurant on site - with free wifi! They also have "the best tacos in Tulum" according to Tyler. I won't lie, I had a bite and he is probably right. They were amazing! The guacamole was also delicious, and served with plantain and corn chips. The best part about Le Zebra though, is the view. Located right on the beach, I now only eat at places with beachfront views...






If you are in need of a quick breakfast, or a midday snack you have to hit up Matcha Mama. We had spent hours walking along the beach one day when I suggested we go for Nice Cream at Matcha Mama. It's called "nice" because it's nice on the tummy. Made with a coconut base, their Nice Cream was perfect for both Tyler and I, and our dairy sensitivity. I enjoyed a bowl of coconut nice cream, while Tyler had chocolate. I tried both - and they were both to die for!




If you want a really awesome evening experience, along with great drinks, explore Azulik after dark. The restaurant and bar are suspended up in the trees, with nets for you to lay in. The drinks aren't cheap, but they are phenomenal and worth every penny. They also have an impressive wine cellar!

Shopping:

Tulum has some of the most incredible shops, many of which are owned by expats - jealous! Here are some shots from my favourite shops...





What we saved for next time:



Be Tulum - Our next trip to Tulum, we will definitely stay at Be Tulum. The grounds are so tropical and beautiful, and it is central to many of our favourite spots.

Pasha Tulum - a Cypriot-inspired mediterranean restaurant. It looks amazing, and I love mediterranean cuisine, so we will definitely try this place out next time!


Gitano - I got so many recommendations for Gitano but we didn't have time to go on this trip. They are known for their live music on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, and party vibe on Friday and Saturday nights.

We had the most amazing time in Tulum, and met the most amazing couple - Betti and Ryan - who happened to be wedding photographers. The morning after we got engaged they offered to take some engagement photos for us to commemorate such an incredibly memorable trip! On the last evening of our trip we climbed over a retaining wall and had photos taken on the very sharp and dangerous cliffs of Kore Tulum. When I saw the final photos all of the risk was worth it. I'll post a few here, but check out their website and Instagram for more of their incredible work! Thank you Betti and Ryan!






As always, thanks for following along. Check out my Instagram for more photos from our trip!

xo,
Sera
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22 October 2018

Four Weeks Later: My CounterControl Review


I’ve been using CounterControl for about a month now and I am finally ready to share the results. It takes 4-6 weeks for the outer layer of your skin to renew itself, so if you're trying CounterControl for the first time, give yourself AT LEAST 4 weeks before you say it doesn't work!

For those of you who don't know what CounterControl is, it's Beautycounter's newest collection targeted to treat oily/blemish-prone skin. It is meant to effectively control skin without irritating or overdrying it. And of course, it contains no harsh or unsafe ingredients!

Let me start by saying, I didn’t use the entire CounterControl collection because I know my skin well enough. The Matte Moisturizer is far too drying for my skin, so I swapped it for the Kora Organics Soothing Moisturizer. I also added the Charcoal Mask once a week, the Rejuvenating Eye Cream nightly and used a jade roller to help penetrate my moisturizer every evening before bed.


So, here is how the four weeks have gone down...

Week One:
My life was great. My skin was clearing up rapidly. In just days of using CounterControl I saw less redness, less oil production. CounterControl was the BEST thing that has every happening to me.... until...

Week Two:
CounterControl was the WORST thing to ever happen to me. My skin EXPLODED. Pimples were popping up in places I never got pimples. My skin was oilier than ever. So oily my makeup wouldn't sit right. I almost broke down into tears one day. But I knew this was a hump I had to get over. It takes time for acne products to work, and often times they make your skin worse before it gets better. I was convinced at this point that because I hadn't bought the serum (All Over Acne Treatment) that I wasn't getting the full results. So I quickly ordered the serum so it would arrive by end of week!

Week Three:
Once I added in the serum I started to see a big improvement in the overall look of my skin. I still had a lot of imperfections that I was hoping would be gone by now but the biggest change was the change in oil production. My skin usually needed blotting by 10 a.m., but now I could make it to lunch before needing a touch up. I was still determined to see more results and clearer skin so I kept diligently using the collection morning and night.

Week Four:
It's now the end of week 4 and I am seeing SO much improvement. Yes I still have spots on my face, NO this was not a miracle worker, but I am happy to say that over all less pimples have been sprouting up unannounced, and slowly I am healing the old ones. I definitely think adding the serum made a HUGE difference. Serums are so underrated, but they are so critical. They are made of smaller particles at a higher concentration so they deliver more goodness, deeper into the skin!

All of this to say, I am definitely happy with this new collection! I am going to use it until the bottles run dry and then reevaluate if I want to continue. I am hoping that by the end of week six I see even MORE improvement, because lord knows I am DYING for perfect skin!

Tips from Sera:
  • Be Patient - Remember it takes 4-6 weeks for your skin to renew itself. Give any new product time to really do work!
  • Use the entire collection - The collection is designed to work together to give you the results you want. If you find the moisturizer too drying at night, supplement it for a more moisturizing one, but the Matte Effect Gel Cream is an amazing makeup primer for daytime!
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04 September 2018

Summer Memories

There is something so somber about the last long weekend of Summer. It's like it almost instantly starts to smell like Fall outside, and everything seems to slow down. I am not saying the slow down isn't needed (it is! I am TIRED!) but I could definitely use the warm weather all year round.

We had a pretty incredible Summer -- as always. Here are some of the highlights:

We bought a new house!!!


We went on the annual Sherwin family camping trip - my 4th year!


We visited a Lavender farm in Prince Edward County!
<3 p="">

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And, celebrated some soon-to-be wifeys!


We had countless pool parties with so many amazing friends!


Colby turned 6!


My mom turned “29” so we took a road trip to Buffalo to celebrate!


And...

Wes turned TWO!


BRING ON FALL!<3 p="">
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23 August 2018

Why Do I Have Acne? And What To Do About It...


Let's talk about acne. Acne is something I am so used to talking about. I used to be so scared to talk about it out of fear that people would see beyond my layers of foundation and realize "this girl struggles from acne!" But now I realize SO many people have the same struggles as me, so why not talk about it?!

At different life stages acne can be caused by different reasons. I talk a lot about adult and hormone-related acne but I haven’t touched on teen acne, which unfortunately many school-aged children have to suffer with. During your teen years your body starts to change, your hormones start raging and you begin to enter “adulthood”. (Lame! Can’t we stay kids forever?)

Similar to adult-acne and hormone-related acne, as teens when your hormone levels become elevated they cause excess sebum (oil) production which can clog pores, eventually becoming infected causing a pimple / pimples to form. Pimples can come in the form of white heads, black heads or cysts. It’s a myth that if you scrub your face with harsh cleansers or wash clothes that you’ll clear your skin. What you’re actually doing is drying your skin out more, which tells your skin to produce more oil (because natural oil is the skins way of creating a protective barrier) so your skin starts to create even MORE oil, and as a result you have full blown ACNE. How annoying?!

Suffering with acne is so frustrating, and I so wish I was one of those people who woke up and didn’t have to put on makeup before I left the house. One day I'll get there. As a teen, I definitely made the mistake in listening to everyone's skincare suggestions. Product after product was recommended to me, when in reality I should have just been patient, ate well, moisturized often and drank LOTS of water to detox the excess hormones. Eventually it would have gone away. Instead, I used harsh cleansers with TONS of chemicals, which dried and irritated my skin. Terrible! The top layer of my skin was definitely damaged.

Over the past year I have been working to STOP using harsh cleansers, and instead nourish my skin with hydrating and calming oils to help rebuild it's protective layer. I always want to help others who have the same struggles as me, so if you suffer with acne, STOP what you're doing and listen to some of my tips. They are tips I wish someone would have to me when I first started getting pimples. Here are a few tips and tricks to clearing acne GENTLY without compromising your skins natural, protective oil barrier. No brands mentioned, just genuine suggestions from someone who knows what you're going through.

Use a gentle washcloth
I do use a lot of face masks (I am careful to choose which ones as many can be overdrying! Ask me if you want some suggestions on gentle ones. They can be great to detox your pores.) and I find some of them wash off most effectively with a towel. The problem is that towels are not made of the most gentle fibres, so to avoid irritating your skin use a warm muslin face cloth to remove your face wash or mask. Muslin is gentle enough that it won't irritate your skin. The bonus? They are quite cheap to buy! I always ensure I buy organic muslin to avoid any bleach that they sometimes use to make fabric white.

Embrace an evening face oil
I used to think that adding oil to my face would make it even more oily, but face oils are not just for dry skin. All skin types can benefit from face oils, you just need to find the right oil type for your skin. For dry skin, oils like Argan and Almond are good for obtaining deep moisture, and for oily or combination skin, use oils such as Jojoba and Rosehip. These are lighter oils that won’t clog pores and will encourage your skin to stop overproducing acne-causing sebum. Many natural skincare companies make oil blends specifically targeted for your skin type. Need some suggestions? This is my forte, just ask!

Tea Tree Oil
Used in moderation, Tea Tree Oil (or Maleleuca) can help kill bacteria. It is however extremely drying so make sure you mix it with a carrier oil or dip a cotton swab in it and gently dab the affected spot. I find Tea Tree toners to be too drying, even for my excessively oily skin, so avoid products containing Tea Tree and use it strictly as a spot treatment! Note: Buy good quality essential oils to ensure they are pure and organic. Cheap essential oils are often diluted and may cause more harm than good.

Use a gentle cleanser
I will never encourage a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, even though doctor's often recommend these products to teens suffering with acne. The only time MAYBE salicylic acid is okay, is in a spot treatment. Otherwise these products can over-dry and irritate skin causing more than just acne - think Rosacea. Yikes! Instead, cleanse your skin with oil. I know... I am back to the oil cleansing method. It's so effective and really affordable. In fact, lately I have been cleansing with pure coconut oil with a few drops of lavender oil. Why? Because oil binds with oil and balances the skin's natural oils. If you don't believe me, try it. I was skeptical at first too but am so glad I stopped using the harsh cleansers. A bonus? It also removes my eye make up so that's one less product I have to buy :) Note: Lavender oil is calming and reduces inflammation and redness.

At the end of the day, remember that no one else notices your acne and that you are your own worst critic. The more you fuss and pick and touch your skin, the worse it will get. So remember to eat a clean diet, drinks LOTS of water, don’t pick, and be patient. Your skin will clear up and you’ll laugh about the days when you thought your acne defined you. And remember to message me if you’d like product suggestions! I may have tried a few good ones ;)
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30 July 2018

Review: Sunday Riley “The Influencer” Foundation


I am always on the hunt for the next best foundation, so when I was browsing the aisles of Sephora looking through some of their new "clean" beauty brands and stumbled upon The Influencer, I had to try it. It's promise is to be clean, long-wearing foundation with medium-to-full coverage. Here's what I found...

The Feel
When I first applied it, the first thing I noticed was the feel. Before application, I thought it looked very pigmented and might be too heavy (especially in this current heat wave), but once it was on my skin it blended well and did not feel heavy at all. The colour was easy to match. I have become a pro at finding my match in foundation colours. Probably because I spend an hour a day inside various cosmetic stores trying out new products, reading ingredients and doing "research". 170 is a perfect match for my mid-summer skin tone. It didn't oxidize at all, but I did find my skin got pretty oily throughout the day -- probably because of the silicone in the product (more on that later).
The Look
I found there to be a very wide range of skin tones to choose from. I bought the 2nd one I tried on my arm and it happened to be a perfect match. My problem lies in that they say it's a medium-to-full coverage when it is more of a sheer-to-medium coverage in my opinion. I definitely needed cover up and setting powder with it, and in order to achieve even a medium-type coverage I had to layer it on quite a bit.
The Ingredients
Something I am really trying to encourage is for you to READ ingredients, and know what to look for. It's one thing to trust a company when they say their product is "clean" but just because you've removed Parabens or are free from animal testing doesn't mean a product is safe to use. This product claims to be free of Cyclopentasiloxine, synthetic fragrance, talc, gluten and Parabens. It is also cruelty-free. What is it not? It is not silicone-free (silica) and contains Dimethicone. The company claims that the silicone is mean to make your skin look fresh all day... but silicone is actually HORRIBLE for your skin. It creates a rubber-like barrier on your skin and traps oil and dirt sending it deep into your pores. This causes acne, and enlarged pores. So avoid any products with Dimethicone, Silica or any other form of silicone in the ingredients list!

The Bottom Line
I won't be buying a bottle of The Influencer. It's too bad because I was really excited that I found a true match for my skin tone so easily. But the right shade doesn't outweigh the ingredients, especially as someone very concerned about products which intensify my acne.

Tried it? Let me know what you think in the comments below...
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19 July 2018

Clean Perfume


There are so many synthetics in fragrance that we purchase. Chanel, Tom Ford, Hermes... these are all brands I am guilty of purchasing AND LOVING. I must admit, perfume is the last of my products to switch to "clean." Mostly because I LOVE the look of beautiful designer fragrances on my vanity. The bottles are such a lovely touch to the decor in my walk-in, and even if I don't spray them, I will continue to collect them there.

I have been doing a lot of research lately on clean perfumes, aka perfumes derived from essential oils. And it turns out there are A LOT of them, which naturally makes me VERY happy! These too come in beautiful glass bottles. The only difference? The aren't harmful to your health.

I haven't tried many, but I already have a short list of favourites. My #1 of course being from my girl Gwynnie. I LOVE the Goop line and there is no stopping when it comes to their perfume. Make sure you go check it out at The Detox Market, it's to die for. So let's start...

#1. Edition 04 by Goop
Inspired by orchards, this scent is largely fill with aromas from apricots and hay - weird right? But it is the perfect balance of musk meets sweet, and has been my go-to scent since I discovered it.
Shop Edition 04 by Goop here.

#2. Desire by Pura Botanicals
You'll know exactly why I like this once I tell you what's in it. Grapefruit, other citrus notes, Bergamot and Lavender. All of my favourite things. Perfectly packaged in an affordable body mist.
Shop Desire by Pura Botanicals here.

#3. Melpomene [beautiful] by IME
An empowering (but not overpowering) scent, with hints of wood, musk and amber. The entire line of IME scents is inspired by various Muse's - courage, intuition, beauty, etc. They are lovely to layer or wear alone. This scent just happens to be my favourite from the Muse Collection.
Shop Melpomene by IME here.

#4. Joyful by My Daughter Fragrances
Jasmine and citrus make up this lethargic scent which brings you back to your childhood. It reminds me of days spent in my grandmother's backyard. I am proud to say My Daughter Fragrances are also Canadian (with a perfumery in France), they are also free of phthalates, paragons and colorants.
Shop Joyful by My Daughter Fragrances here.
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