What I Wore: Flower Child

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It’s a crappy rainy day, so I thought I’d share photos from my amazing day trip to Bogle Seeds sunflower field near Toronto. After finding out that the sunflowers were in full bloom, le bf and I set off on an adventure of sorts, determined to find this magical place and take as many photos as my camera could hold.

To be honest with you, even though I had high expectations, I was still floored by the sight in front of us – an endless sea of yellow and green, framed by blue skies with an occasional pop of white clouds – it was beautiful. We roamed around a bit stunned, took photos, then took some more. Other visitors were more prepared, bringing step stools and mini ladders – anything to capture the “money” shot. In lieu of a ladder, I ended up jumping up and down wherever the sunflowers were a bit too tall to the amusement of some Chinese tourists. Whatever, not embarrassed.

I’ve seen so many beautiful flower fields photos on Instagram and online, and I’m so happy that I was finally able to find something just as wonderful so close to home. Sunflower and lavender fields in France may look like an unattainable dream, but a quick drive outside of Toronto, there are local gems just waiting to be discovered. One down, many more to go!

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What I Wore: Bluffin

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It’s been a crazy few weeks…first, a clay pipe burst at our house, flooding our basement, then work got super stressful, and finally I got a killer cold. After working all last weekend, I have to say I am ready for a break…perhaps another trip to Scarborough Bluffs is in order.

A couple of weekends ago, le bf and I set out to find the infamous cliffs, and after a couple of hours of hiking and a couple of misses, we finally stumbled upon the spot. With breathtaking views of turquoise water below us, I couldn’t believe we were actually in Toronto. After spending some time at the top, we tried hiking down one of the steep cliff sides to get to the beach, but my sandals weren’t exactly proper climbing gear, so we decided to call it a day. Next time, we will start at the bottom.

So tell me, have you ever visited this Toronto gem? Share you experiences in the comments.

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Travel: CHANEL Saint-Tropez Ephemeral Boutique

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If you needed another reason to visit the South of France, CHANEL may have just given you one. This summer, CHANEL set up its ephemeral bouique at the private mansion La Mistralée in Saint-Tropez, showcasing Ready-to-Wear, accessories, watches, and fine jewellery collections, as well as fragrances, skincare, and beauty.

Taking inspiration from the iconic CHANEL handbag interiors, the floors of the mansion are painted burgundy red, while the tiles around the pool remind visitors of the signature CHANEL quilting. A huge white and gold camellia can be found adorning the sunroom’s ceiling, while floral wallpaper adds a splash of colour to various rooms of the mansion.

The nearby pool house, stocked with beauty, fragrances, and beachwear, overlooks the the luxurious pool with an oversized floating camellia. It looks so tempting, but I’d imagine that taking a dip would be frowned upon.

So if you find yourself in sunny Saint-Tropez this summer, make sure to do some shopping at the ephemeral boutique, snap a photo of the floating camellia, and relax poolside surrounded by everything CHANEL…The boutique will be open until October 2015, so there’s still time!

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What I Wore: Belong Anywhere

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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending one of the funnest events in a long while! Airbnb hosted a little lawn bowling tournament and we had a blast learning all about this fun sport, while hanging out with blogger friends and Airbnb Canada team.

Dress code for the event was all-white-errythang, so I wore one of my fave LWDs, and my new “catlady essential” Charlotte Olympia kitty purse. It was an easy-breezy outfit for a fun day outside. Our team ended up winning at lawn bowling, and we all slowly but surely improved our game, in between taking silly photos with the Airbnb bus, of course.

If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it’s truly groundbreaking! I’ve used their services several times in different cities – each a huge success. This past March, le bf and I stayed in a stunning Parisian flat owned by a bridal designer. We were located steps away from the Eiffel Tower and had the entire 2 bedroom apartment to ourselves for around CAD $300 for 3 nights…total! In Paris! If you were to book a similarly situated hotel room, it would be a lot smaller and A LOT more expensive. Thanks to Airbnb, it’s never been easier and more affordable to travel the world, and feel like a local at the same time!

If you’ve never travelled with Airbnb before, you can sign up using this link and get $32 off your first booking. And trust me, once you try Airbnb, you won’t look at travel the same way again.

So tell me, have you ever used Airbnb? Share you experiences in the comments.

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Travel: Hotel Sahrai in Fez, Morocco

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After experiencing a few nights at an authentic riad in Marrakech, le bf and I were eager to check out the promised luxury of Hotel Sahrai in Fez. While our riad in Marrakech was quite lovely, and we felt safe and welcome at all times, we were growing weary of the paper-thin walls and lack of hotel amenities – spoiled travelers that we are.

Once we got to Hotel Sahrai, we literally had nothing to complain about. From the minute we stepped through those glass doors, we were ushered into the luxurious oasis in the middle of the bustling city. From smooth and welcoming check-in, to our stunning suite, to the abundant daily breakfast buffet, we felt like royalty at all times.

Little extras went a long way – swanky Acqua di Parma toiletries perched on the side of our glass-enclosed black marble bathtub, complimentary bottled water delivered with turn-down service every night, delectable fruit and local desserts to welcome us on our first day – all of these things made our stay feel more special.

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And those amenities we were starting miss? Well, at Hotel Sahrai, we had access to a couple of breathtaking outdoor pools, state-of-the-art gym, 2 amazing restaurants and a roof-top bar, as well as an indoor pool at the Givenchy Spa. Speaking of Givenchy Spa…it was transformative…and surprisingly affordable. Even if you weren’t planning a stay at Hotel Sahrai (and why not?!), Givenchy Spa is a must-visit while in Fez.

The day we arrived, I booked an in-room blow-out which set me back all of $20, and lasted me our entire stay! Le bf and I also tried hammam treatments, which were ridiculously affordable (around $40!!!) – in Toronto, the same treatment would set you back at least $150. Also, the scrub-down that we received at Givenchy Spa was not only more vigorous, it felt a lot more like a massage than the similar treatments I’ve gotten in Canada. My only regret is that I didn’t visit the spa more often. The staff were lovely, helpful, and tried very hard to make sure that we received top-notch service.

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What I Wore: Jardin Majorelle

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After months of dreaming about visiting the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, le bf and I have finally made it! With shocks of saturated blue, yellow, and orange all around us, fountains, birds, and all kinds of cacti on display, the botanical garden was even more beautiful in real life than I’d imagined. Owned by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé since 1980 (memorial erected in his memory can be found at the garden), Jardin Majorelle was teeming with tourists, but even with a line-up to get inside, we still had a lovely time exploring the grounds.

For fans of Yves Saint Laurent, the Love Gallery is a must-visit. The designer created the colourful “LOVE” posters, which he sent every year as New Year’s greetings to his friends and clients of his fashion house. At the gift shop, I was trying not to go crazy, but the “LOVE” postcards were so beautiful…I probably got way too many, intending to one day frame my faves.

After an hour or so at the garden, we jumped into a cab to go back to our riad…we chose a freezing day to visit the garden, and were definitely not dressed appropriately for the chilly weather. But even with my teeth chattering…I had a tough time leaving this enchanting and peaceful place behind. I’ll always have these photos to remind me of its beauty…and hopefully will have a chance to visit again.

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What I Wore: Beautiful Marrakech

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Last month, after the whirlwind Discover CHANEL program in Paris, le bf and I took some time off to travel to Morocco. I’ve always been intrigued by this North African country, hearing stories of delicious food, beautiful crafts, and breathtaking locales, so the excitement factor was high. Since our schedules were pretty tight, we decided to spend our time in Marrakech, Fez, Chefchaouen, and Casablanca. And while I’ll be sure to share my faves from each city later on, today, I wanted to focus on what I ended up wearing.

While planning our trip, I was googling anything and everything I could find about Morocco and the appropriate way to dress there. As a predominantly Muslim country, yet time and time again described as “not so conservative”, Morocco was a mystery to me…as was the “dress code”. I knew that local women mostly covered up head-to-wrist-to-ankle, but that tourists were technically allowed to wear whatever…though wearing things that expose too much could lead to potential harassment.

My goal on this trip was to be respectful of local customs, while looking cute, and staying comfortable. There’s no way I was going to cover up wrist to ankle in 30-degree weather, but shorts and strappy dresses were out too…or were they? To stay true to my style, I ended up packing my fave slip dresses, but brought a few printed caftans to throw on top, creating somewhat modest-looking outfits. I also packed a few midi and maxi dresses, ones I could wear with a leather jacket on cooler days, or with a scarf draped around my shoulders and cleavage. For train rides, I made sure to bring a few pairs of comfy, loose-fitting pants and tees. I also brought my wool fedora, both to cover up my hair, and to shield my face from the sun.

Another thing I was grateful to have read about before my trip is footwear. Word of advice – don’t bring open-toe sandals to Morocco, unless you plan on spending time poolside or on the beach. Don’t bring your fancy shoes either, because if you plan on wearing those in the medina, you may end up ruining both your shoes and your feet. Most streets in old towns of Marrakech and Fez are paved with slippery cobblestones, and with streams of people everywhere, there’s a good chance your feet will be stepped on, and if that’s not reason enough, I have two words for you – donkey droppings. I brought an old pair of comfy ALDO shoes that were pretty worn out, and on our last day in Fez, after they’ve served their purpose, I threw them out. Highly recommended.

In the end, our trip was lovely. I avoided the harassment that I’ve read so much about, and felt comfortable and confident throughout. I did see tourists in short-shorts, strappy camisoles, and skimpy dresses, but was happy that I chose the more modest route. At the end of the day, I think Morocco is progressive enough for you to wear whatever you like, so it really is up to you and what you’re comfortable with. I’ll be posting more looks from my Moroccan adventures throughout the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

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Discover CHANEL: CHANEL Handbag Factory

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On the final day of the Discover CHANEL program, my fellow bloggers and I were whisked away to a super-duper secret location outside of Paris to visit the CHANEL Handbag Workshop…aka the place where the brand produces their timeless bags. It was the very first time that CHANEL had invited bloggers to visit this workshop, and I can’t explain just how lucky and grateful I felt to be able to see and experience the step-by-step process from development to quality control.

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After being greeted by a giant CHANEL bag installation in the lobby, we were ushered into the room where the development phase takes place. With prototype bags lining the walls, sketches and photographs strewn across a table, we were told that this was the first step in creating a bag. Sketches come to life as prototype bags, before it’s decided whether they’ll actually be produced. With 6 collections per year, this is a busy place, where a bag can go from sketch to production in days.

Moving on, we stopped by the raw materials and hardware rooms. One was full of various skins, leather, and signature chains, while the other had trays of iconic CHANEL bag closures that are put through stringent testing, along with chains and leather, to ensure the highest quality and durability. Being in the raw materials room was so tempting…I was dying to create my own bag out of all the components on hand.

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Next, we popped into a room where leathers like lambskin, calfskin, and others are carefully inspected under special lights that mimic daylight. Each piece has to look and feel perfect before it’s allowed to continue on to production. There’s zero tolerance for imperfections, as expected.

After the hardware and the leather have been thoroughly checked and tested, the next stage of production is cutting. There are three different ways that CHANEL bag patterns are cut: by hand, digitally, or using special metal plates. We watched various methods at work, fascinated by the amount of accuracy it takes to cut those patterns. When dealing with hand-cut exotic skins, precision is even more important, to ensure a symmetric end result, and zero imperfections.

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The most fascinating room of all was the assembly/production room, where CHANEL craftspeople split leather (to make it thinner and smoother), assembled bags, stitched and hammered. It takes 4 to 5 years for each specialist on the site to learn how to perfectly master the techniques necessary for the manufacture. Those working with exotic skins wear masks and gloves to ensure that no droplets mark the delicate surface, even going so far as to use plastic wrap on top of skins to protect them further.

What I learned in the assembly room is that CHANEL bags are actually put together using one of two methods: inside-out, and molded techniques. Most iconic bags are made using the inside-out method, where all of the components of the bag are stitched inside-out like a Ready-to-Wear piece, so that the stitches are on the inside when the bag is turned the right side out. The body and base are brought together with the “bag in bag” technique: the interior bag is mounted inside the exterior bag, assembled by hand, and ensuring a luxurious finish inside and out.

When working with more delicate materials like alligator, and turning the bag inside-out is not an option, the moulding method is used. The outer part of a bag is put together around a mould, and hand-stitched, before the inner flap can be dropped in and stitched together with the outer flap.

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All in all, it takes over 180 manufacturing operations to create one iconic bag, with 80% of the total production time spent on the assembly table. Once the bag is finished, it is then sent to the quality control room, where a team of testers painstakingly check each bag by hand. But thanks to the attention paid in all the other parts of the manufacturing process, the success rate is very high, and most bags that reach this phase of production meet the CHANEL standard.

This room was amazing, as we were faced with rows upon rows of finished CHANEL handbags everywhere – what fashion dreams are made of! And just like that, our magical tour was over. Talking to the passionate craftspeople, seeing the extensive step-by-step process, and learning just how much work and intricacy goes into each and every CHANEL bag made me appreciate the few bags that I do own that much more…and fuelled my desire to run to the nearest CHANEL boutique right after our visit. These bags are truly investment pieces that never go out of style, and knowing that they are made with so much love and attention to detail makes them that much more special.

This was the last day of the Discover CHANEL program – three unforgettable days spent with my favourite luxury brand in my favourite city. From the fitting at ave Montaigne, to the breakfast at Brasserie Gabrielle, to Mademoiselle’s apartment, to the CHANEL handbag factory outside of Paris…it’s definitely one experience I will never forget. And I truly hope that my recaps of the program gave you a fun little glimpse into the beautiful world of CHANEL, so that you could discover it along with me. Thanks for reading, and share your thoughts in the comments!

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Foodie: Easter-Inspired High Tea at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto

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Last weekend, I took my mom to the Shangri-La Toronto to try the hotel’s latest Easter-inspired High Tea menu. Having already experienced the regular High Tea at Shangri-La last June, I had high expectations for the revamped menu. As we arrived at the Lobby Lounge, live piano music playing softly in the background, we settled into the comfy couch overlooking a fireplace, and took our time selecting our teas. Once our tea selections were made, we impatiently waited for the delicious tower to arrive. The menu promised a selection of the usual mouthwatering staples like Atlantic lobster brioche roll, honey baked ham with caramelized onion on sourdough bread, Pacific smoked salmon on dark rye, and warm English scones, with Easter-inspired additions of spiced hot cross buns, tropical Easter egg (coconut cream, mango curd and crispy meringue), and the religieuse profiterole (baked choux pastry with white chocolate orange blossom cream and lemon glaze). It all sounded and looked amazing.

I let my mom judge each plate, her enthusiasm growing with each bite. It was her first time experiencing the Shangri-La High Tea, and she was loving every minute of it. With our scones, we were served caramelized white chocolate jam, strawberry preserves and Cornish clotted cream, and I have to tell you that caramelized white chocolate jam was divine. I am not even embarrassed to share that we totally polished off the entire ramekin…with a spoon. Delicious!

By the time we got to the last plate – the prettiest of them all, we were almost hesitant to cut into the exquisite-looking desserts…almost! Of the four desserts, my favourite was the tropical Easter egg, which looked like a fried egg, but was instead a combination of delicate coconut cream, tangy mango curd, and crispy meringue. It was so good! Obviously the milk chocolate and raspberry verrine, Simnel fruit cake, and the religieuse profiterole were delicious as well. With the last dessert finished, we settled back into our comfy couch, chatting, sipping our White Rose tea, and enjoying the rest of our perfect afternoon at Shangri-La.

If you would like to try some of the limited-time offerings served at the Easter-inspired High Tea, it will be available until April 6 and is priced at CAD$42 per person or CAD$25 per child, served daily from 2-5 p.m. in the Lobby Lounge. And if that’s not enough, with the purchase of a chocolate Easter Egg ( the “Golden Egg” or “Toy Egg”) or the Easter-inspired High Tea, guests will receive a complimentary petite milk chocolate egg with the chance of receiving one of five winning ”red tickets” placed among the petite milk chocolate eggs. One winning petite chocolate egg will be revealed every other day throughout the Easter promotion period from 28 March to 6 April, 2015. “Red tickets” will signify that the person who received the petite egg has won the prize. The prize includes a tour of the pastry kitchen at Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto with pastry chef Kate Seigel for one person (the prize winner) and complimentary High Tea for a year in the Lobby Lounge of Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto for the winner and a guest (two people) once a month for twelve months (May 2015 – April 2016). Free High Tea for a year?! May the odds be ever in your favour!

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What I Wore: Something Borrowed, Something CHANEL

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When CHANEL offered to dress me for their Fall 2015 runway show, I couldn’t believe my luck. Feeling like Cinderella for the day, I picked out this stunning tweed and lace blazer, paired with a patent red cross-body bag, matching pearl cuffs, and of course, my recent fave CHANEL ankle booties. There were lots more options at our fitting, but sadly, as someone who’s no longer a size 2, fitting into samples presented a bit of a challenge. Where is the fairy godmother to shrink one a size or three, when you really need her?!

But no matter, I still loved the outfit I ended up choosing, and happily wore it to the show, to visit Coco Chanel’s apartment, at Cafe Marly, and back at the rue Cambon boutique, giddily running around Paris in CHANEL. I paired the blazer with my fave top from the Canadian brand Pink Tartan, because even during Paris Fashion Week, it felt right to #WearCanada.

At the end of the three-day Discover CHANEL program, I had to hand over the borrowed things, feeling a little sad to say good-bye to the beautiful pieces I had a chance to wear. Regardless, I was still so happy that I got to have a bit of a celeb experience…on a much smaller scale, of course, but still…borrowed clothes or not, the memories are forever.

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I Wore: Jacket, Bag, Shoes, Cuffs, Earrings – CHANEL; Top – Pink Tartan; Pants – Zara; Sunglasses – Dior