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Product review: Summer is time for sandals

- May 10th, 2012

To me, summer is synonymous with sandals. Whether lounging on the beach, heading to a campsite or just relaxing in your backyard, warm weather just begs for this easy, breezy, sock-free footwear option.

When I received an invitation from U.S.-based footwear company OKA b. to test a pair of what they call one of the “most durable beach accessories,” I kicked aside my winter footwear and quickly accepted.

OKA.b sandals are made from recyclable Microplast and are water, odour and bacteria resistant. Clean-up after a day at a campsite or on the beach is easy: they can be washed by hand or in a dishwasher.

OKA.b’s Daisy sandal in Cherry – $30. (Courtesy OKA.b)

OKA.b's Alexandra sandal in Pearl - $40. (Courtesy OKA.b)

The sandals are made from a single piece of material for comfort and come in a wide array of colours, with different designs, embellishments and uses – including sandals for brides and men. The company also sells wedges and ballet flats.

All OKA.b footwear incorporates massage beads into the design.

OKA.b's Sandy sandal in Pearl - $35. (Courtesy OKA.b)

TEST DRIVE

I slipped on my pair of Sandy Pearl thong sandals – a shimmering white sandal with a sand dollar medallion on the strap – and hit the streets of Toronto to really test how the sandal would hold up against dirt and pavement.

What did I like? The sand dollar design was super cute and these sandals are definately durable. I have the feeling I could wear them all summer and they’d still be in great shape for use next year. With prices at $45 or less, OKA.b sandals are a great deal.

I also liked how dirt washed off easily in the sink with just some water, though it took some effort to clear all the dirt away from between the massage beads.

What didn’t I like? I initially found the built-in massage beads soothing, but they hurt the bottoms of my feet after a few blocks pounding the pavement. It just wasn’t for me.

And, though the sandals were a size large and meant for my foot size, I found them to be a bit snug and a tad too tight width-wise. Customers should check their size before purchasing on the OKA.b website.

EMANCIPATE YOUR FEET

This summer, OKA.b is offering customers the chance to save 40% on their orders when they donate to Souls4Shoes with the “Emancipate Your Feet” promotion.

Souls4Shoes collects gently used shoes to donate to people who are in need or affected by disaster around the world. The organization accepts all international donations through mail and Canadians can claim their discount with the code provided after they make their donation.

OKA.b ships to Canada at a cost of $15 per order. Browse styles and purchase OKA.b sandals online at their website, oka-b.com.

Get glossy on the go with GLOSSYBOX

- February 7th, 2012

Making its Canadian debut this year is the GLOSSYBOX, a subscription-based service that’s been all the rage in Germany and the U.K., delivering sample-sized luxury make-up and body products to consumers’ homes monthly.

Perfect not only for the woman who loves to experiment and sample products without commitment or high price tags, the GLOSSYBOX is also great for the frequent traveller.

GB

Arriving in their signature pink GLOSSYBOX package, the sample products are all travel sized. The woman-on-the-go will appreciate these small sizes, great for when she wants to pack a luxury moisturizer in her carry-on that won’t be tossed out at an airport security checkpoint. 

Each GLOSSYBOX contains five luxury samples. Mine – which arrived last week – features an Ahava mineral hand cream, Elizabeth Grant lip moisturizer, Essie nail enamel, Oscar de la Renta lotion and Prevage night cream. All were under 100 mL in size and travel ready.

GLOSSYBOX occasionally adds a sixth product to their monthly delivery. I received Beauty So Clean’s make-up sanitizing spray and wipes as a bonus in my package. Both are perfect for removing bacteria and germs from make-up and brushes, especially after returning from a trip and unpacking a travel make-up case.

The pink GLOSSYBOX arrives at the door once a month for a cost of $15, including taxes and delivery. When subscribing, you will be able to fill out your personal beauty profile to ensure you receive the make-up and product samples best suited to your style.

GlossyBox6

For more information on GLOSSYBOX, visit glossybox.ca.

Soothing sounds of W Hotels

- October 13th, 2011

W Hotel CD Symmetry

You may not always notice it, but the music playing in the background of hotel lobbies, elevators, spas and gyms contributes in a major way to the ambiance of the entire property.

W Hotels enlisted the help of their global music director Michaelandelo L’Acqua to compile a collection of songs that is extremely upbeat, with a relaxing vibe that transitions from bed time to spa time.

The artists on the album range from international acts to more obscure indie artists, while the song choices are a smooth mash of remixes and exclusive cuts. Personal favourites include “Four Letter Word” by American group Gossip, “Impossible” by Aussie singer/songwriter Daniel Merriweather, “Paris” by English group Friendly Fires and “Until We Bleed” by Swedish producer Kleeup with Lykke Li.

Inside the CD cover, it says L’Acqua selected each piece on the album ”to represent the aural symmetry between the W lifestyle, our worldwide destinations and guests from across the globe. Mix and mingle as you play the soundtrack day and night. Whether lounging poolside, or indulging in cool cocktails as the night begins, W Hotels sets the tone with Symmetry.”

W Hotels Presents Symmetry is available at whotelsthestore.com for $15.

Review: The Venice Experiment

- September 16th, 2011

VeniceExperiment
The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad
By Barry Frangipane with Ben Robbins
Savory Adventures Publishing, 2011

I think it’s normal to feel jealousy when others return from a fabulous travel experience armed with glossy photos and stories of adventure in far-flung destinations. Even if you had just returned from your own trip, the travel buzz starts again and you feel a desire to head out and explore.

If only time and money weren’t an object, survey after survey shows, Canadians would fulfill their number one dream to travel more. How amazing would it be to throw aside all responsibility and worry and leave for a year of travel and exploration?

Each time you turn a page in Barry Frangipane’s memoir, The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad, be prepared to feel a little twinge of jealousy.

Frangipane tells the story of how he convinced his Louboutin-wearing wife Debbie to quit her job, pack up their lives in Florida and leave to live for a year abroad in the sinking city of Venice, Italy. 

Think Eat, Pray, Love without the long spiritual lessons or post-relationship re-awakening.

Of course, as any North American who lives abroad for an extended period of time will affirm, Frangipane and his wife experienced their own, very personal transformation. There’s something about the easy pace of life and joie de vivre found in countries abroad that can change even the busiest or most frazzled North American for the better.

Frangipane’s story captivates from the start, as he describes problems many North Americans face while adjusting to life abroad, before adapting to the laissez-faire attitude of locals that reminds us perhaps we, too, shouldn’t sweat the small stuff so much. In Venice, he found electricians never returned to finish the job, stores to be closed at the oddest of times and discovered a bevy of local rules and regulations that no one really seemed to follow.

This novel is quick and easy to digest, though some plot details appear unexplained at times and are repeated unnecessarily. This is part of the charm, though. You almost feel as if you’re reading a travel diary where thoughts have poured onto the page unfiltered.

It’s the community Frangipane describes and the people he and his wife become intertwined with in Venice that are the heart of this story. Friends are made instantly in Venice and are counted on in a variety of situations — whether that be borrowing a hard-to-find working oven to cook a turkey or when looking for an apartment recommendation.

The Venice Experiment will immerse you in the everyday world of a destination so exotic to some, but proven through Frangipane’s book to be so warm, welcoming and full of the pleasantly unexpected.

Save on summer travel with CityPASS

- March 9th, 2011

It’s been just over two years since my friend and co-worker Marianne and I visited New York City, guidebooks in hand and CityPASS at the ready.

Our CityPASS, a coupon book full of deep discounts on popular attractions, was all the trip planner we needed. All New York’s must-see attractions were featured in the booklet, all at discounted prices or already completely paid for with the cost of the New York pass ($79 for adults, $59 for youth). A cruise to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island? Why yes, CityPASS, don’t mind if we do! Admission to the Empire State Building and Metropolitan Museum of Art? Why not?

With the summer travel season sneaking up, now is the time to secure your own CityPASS.

CityPASS offers discount booklets for 11 cities, including Hollywood, Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Southern California. Toronto is the only Canadian destination offered by CityPASS at the moment, with admission to the CN Tower, Casa Loma, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Ontario Museum and the Toronto Zoo included for just $58.40 per adult or $34.50 per child.

The CityPASS is valid for nine days after first use and allows tourists to skip most ticket lines.

Visit CityPASS.com for more information or to get your own CityPASS.