The Friday Five: Waterloo Region’s ION

Every since I moved to Waterloo, people have been talking about The ION. They were probably talking about it before I arrived, too. At first, I had no idea what people were going on about because nothing was visibly happening in my neighbourhood. Then last summer, King St. was ripped up completely while the ION crew was working away, This is when I really noticed that things were a-changin’ in the region.

The ION, for those of you outside the Waterloo region, is our new light rail system. It will connect one end of the region to the other. The first ION train came to the area just a couple of weeks ago from Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant, and they hype has been growing.

Last weekend, the city hosted an open house so that the public could take a tour of the first ION train. I opted to take mosey on over, and I was surprised by the crowd of people! There was an incredible turnout on a sunny Saturday afternoon! This was history in the making, and it was interesting to see the public’s enthusiasm as well as all the different people and organizations who have been part of the ION journey.

Today, I’d like to spread the news and share with you some photos along with five things that I learned about the ION during the open house.

1. The ION’s light rail transit (LRT) is made up of 19 kilometers of rail which goes from the Conestoga Mall transit terminal in Waterloo to the Fairway Mall transit terminal in Kitchener.

2. There are about 60 seats in each LRT vehicle. Each vehicle can carry about 200 people.

3. The LRT vehicles are build by Bombardier. The Waterloo Region has purchased 14 vehicles. The first has arrived at ION’s Dutton Dr. headquarters (aka The site of the open house.).

4. ION riders and Grand River Transit riders (bus system) will pay one fair to use both services.

5. Stage 2 of the ION development will include a link to Cambridge. In all, there will be a 37km route connecting Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo.

I think developing in public transit is a smart option for our region. Yes, it is costing a ton of money (and I’m sure my taxes are paying for it), but in the long run, I think it makes sense for a region as developed – and developing – as this one!

Learn more at RideION.

Photos by Jordana.

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Food: Langdon Hall + Shoushin

I absolutely do not know how to begin this post. Do I start by telling you about the 10-course menu? Or maybe about the first time I sipped on sake? Perhaps I could tell you about how I shared an evening with a group of strangers. A good place to start might be to tell you about how two celebrity chefs came together to plan a unique dining experience. Okay, you want me to just get to it, don’t you?

You already know that I’m a big fan of Langdon Hall. Ever since I drove up the winding driveway and saw Langdon Hall for the first time in June 2015, I’ve been hooked. It’s not just something in the water. There’s something in the air, the food, the surroundings, the garden, the architecture, and the people. The place is special.

A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to be a guest at an exclusive dinner prepared by Chef Jason Bangerter of Langdon Hall and Chef Jackie Lin of Shoushin. This dinner was a celebration – and collaboration – of two cultures. It was a dinner that brought together tradition from the Japanese and French. It was a unique feast that showcased the culinary art of two incredibly talented chefs as well as incredible sake and wine pairings from Kado and Halpern, respectively. It was certainly a night to remember!

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A 10+ course meal? I trained for it! I only ate breakfast that day in preparation for the event! (Although I did have some Terroir upon arrival…do you blame me?). I’m pretty sure my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the extensive menu. Chef Jackie Lin prepared fish that was flown in from Japan for the occasion. Chef Jason Bangerter worked with Jackie to prepare and pair the fish with French flavour and flair, and, as per usual, he sourced many ingredients from Langdon Hall’s gardens. It was inspiring, educational, and delicious! It was chemistry. It was art.

British photographer Simon Boucher-Harris snapped a collection of beautiful photos that I’m thrilled to be able to share here.

Behind the scenes…

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(Simon took this photo of Chef Jackie during the cooking demonstration the following day, but it’s such a great photo that I had to include it!)

The dinner…

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Each course – as you’ve seen in the photos above – was paired with sake or wine. I had never had sake, so I was a bit hesitant, but since I was sitting beside Kiyoko Miyashita – sake expert and owner of Kado – I was given excellent explanations of what I was drinking. Sake has a higher alcohol percentage than wine, and it has a unique flavour. I thought I had tasted anise, but Kiyoko assured me that there was no anise in the drink. Althought I was told that the flavour is even better after the drink sits for a while, I could never seem to let mine sit for too long since it was so delicious!

As the evening was a celebration of two cultures, we were also lucky to sip on French red wine for some of the fish courses and the venison course.

It’s hard to put into words how special this evening was. Although many of the 30 people in attendance started the evening as strangers, after clinking glasses to toast, sharing travel stories and laughs, we ended the evening as new social media friends and conversations continued after the evening ended. To have two remarkable chefs collaborate to create a menu just for us, share their recipes, and mingle as they put finishing touches on our meals at our tables was extraordinary. Shoushin at Langdon Hall was a very good idea!

This event was a partnership between two well-recognized establishments – Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario and Shoushin in Toronto.

Photos by Simon Boucher-Harris.

Thanks to Langdon Hall for inviting me to be your guest.

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The Friday Five: What’s On at the Stratford Festival

Last year marked only the second time I had ever been to the Stratford Festival. When I lived outside of the Waterloo region, Stratford was rarely on my mind. Now that I live in Waterloo, I go to Stratford several times a year.* I feel so lucky that such a unique, quaint, pretty city is only about  a 40-minute drive from my home. I don’t even need to get on the 401**.

Stratford has much to offer year-round, but summer is definitely its busiest season because of the Stratford Festival. I offered up some Stratford travel advice last year in this post. Since that post, I’ve returned to Pazzo (for pizza) and Balzac’s (for coffee) several times, and bought my crepe pan from Bradshaw’s after being inspired by this event. It’s really a special little place, and I’d encourage you all to go for a visit if you can!

I’m heading to Stratford this weekend to see A Little Night Music, which looks like a fun musical featuring romance, sparkles, and humour. It stars Cynthia Dale – one of Canada’s favourite actresses.

Cynthia Dale (left) as Countess Charlotte Malcolm and Alexis Gordon as Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music. Photography by David Hou.

Look at all the detailing on these costumes. Wow!
Cynthia Dale as Countess Charlotte Malcolm (left) and Alexis Gordon as Anne Egerman (photo)

Rosemary Dunsmore as Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music. Photography by David Hou.

champagne + a white fancy dress = a perfect show for me!
Rosemary Dunsmore as Madame Armfeldt

In addition to A Little Night Music, here are four other Stratford Festival shows that I think I would enjoy.

The Hypochondriac was one of my favourite Molière novels when I was completing my French undergraduate degree. I actually laughed out loud – yes, as I read in French – when I was reading the book and then again when I saw a film version. It’s sure to be a great show!

Members of the company in The Hypochondriac. Photography by David Hou.

members of the company; photo by David Hou

I love the story of Shakespeare in Love, and I’d be interested in seeing a live version. It looks like it’s a real crowd-pleaser.

Luke Humphrey (centre) as Will Shakespeare with members of the company in Shakespeare in Love. Photography by David Hou.

Luke Humphrey as Will Shakespeare; photo by David Hou

I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe long after my childhood ended. I loved it when I read it, and I think I would have really enjoyed it as a child, too (but I definitely wasn’t a reader when I was a kid). It’s a beautiful, imaginative story that takes the reader on an adventure. I think the show would entertain both kids and adults, and I’m sure it would spark a lot of conversation post-show, too. What a great show to introduce kids to theatre! The show has been extended until November 13th, so there’s plenty of time to go this fall.

Yanna McIntosh as White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Photography by David Hou.

Yanna McIntosh as the White Witch; photo by David Hou

Finally, A Chorus Line has been garnering quite a bit of media attention, and it looks to be a jazzy musical. Check out this trailer. Doesn’t it make you want to get up and dance?

Members of the company in A Chorus Line. Photography by David Hou.

members of the company (photo)

In addition to these five shows, there are some other productions. View the full show calendar for more info.

*Yes, yes, I love living in Waterloo. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again!
**Ugh – the 401. Who designed that highway anyway?

Thanks to the Stratford Festival for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

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The Friday Five: 5 Things to Do in Kitchener-Waterloo This Long Weekend

Happy Canada Day! What goodness are you planning this weekend?

I’ve said it so many times here and in real life – I really enjoy living in Waterloo. This city – and region – has so much to offer, and I live such a happy, rich, and pleasant life here. Summer, of course, makes everything that much better, and this area has a lot of offer its residents and guests.

As we have just begun a long weekend here, I’m offering up five suggestions of things to do this weekend.

1. Go for a bike ride.

The Spur Line has recently opened up, and it’s a great way to take a ride to/from Kitchener/Waterloo. The trail is smooth, wide, flat, and lit, so it’s ideal for daytime or nighttime rides.

Alternatively, take a cruise down the classic Iron Horse trail to/from Kitchener/Waterloo. This was the first path I went on when I moved to Waterloo, and it’s still one of my faves. It’s great that it takes riders from uptown Waterloo (e.g., take a gelato break at Vincenzo’s) to downtown Kitchener’s Victoria Park in no time at all. The trail is smooth, flat, and surrounded by greenery.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventures, and are looking for more nature, then head over to Cambridge and ride to/from Cambridge to Paris along the Grand River. The ride is easy, but long (maybe 40+km). I suggest wearing padded shorts. 🙂

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Here I am riding my oldie-but-goodie bike down the Iron Horse trail in Waterloo. It’s such easy living!

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Here I am last summer on the Cambridge to Paris trail with the same oldie-but-goodie bike. I earned my lunch calories in Paris that day!

2. Stay cool at a public pool.

I grew up at public pools…first, as a youngster taking lessons, then, as a teen hanging out with friends, finally as a teenager/adult teaching swimming. I love having access to a pool, and luckily, there are few great ones in the region.

Moses Springer outdoor pool is large, clean, and definitely worth a visit.

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The lifeguard tower at Moses Springer.

3. Celebrate Canada Day with fireworks at Columbia Lake.

Although this will be my third summer in Waterloo, I have yet to enjoy Canada Day fireworks. Tonight, however, I’m hoping to head over to Columbia Lake to check out the action and colourful sky show.

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Canada Day Celebration – UofWaterloo Field Map

4. Try a new café.

My two current favourite cafĂ©s are the Berlin Bicycle CafĂ© in Belmont Village the Smile Tiger Coffee beside the Via Train Station. Both are accessible via bicycle, and both offer good coffee and atmosphere. The food at Berlin Bicycle CafĂ© is fresh and delicious, and I always find something good to eat. The egg salad is delicious, and the croissant sandwiches are good, too. Both cafĂ©s have outdoor patio space, so they’re great options for sunny days.

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The Berlin Bicycle Café

5. Take a drive into the countryside.

There are so many options for short road trips in the region.

  • Stay close and head to St. Jacob’s for a visit to the market.
  • Take a ride to Elora, pop into the sweet shops, and walk along the water.
  • Drive to Cambridge and pop into Monigram Roasters for a treat.
  • Drive over to Stratford and check out the first Balzac’s or grab a chocolate treat at RhĂ©o Thompson, then stroll around the lake.
  • Eat ice cream in any of the above towns!

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If you’re looking to learn more about what to do in the Waterloo region, please check out my Waterloo City Guide over on Design*Sponge.

Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone!

Happy Canada Day!

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Travel: Review of the Delta Waterloo

When I wrote my Waterloo region city guide for Design*Sponge, the Delta Waterloo hotel had only recently opened. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to stay the night and experience the hotel first hand. It might seem a little odd to some readers that I opted to have a little vacation within my own city, but every once in a while, I feel that it’s quite the luxurious adventure to leave behind weekend chores in search of rest and relaxation in a new environment.

So, I crossed King St. in Uptown Waterloo and checked into the Delta Waterloo for a little #WhiteCabanaStaycation.

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Although I had watched the Delta be built, I had never been in since I moved here three years ago. It’s the only 4-star hotel in Waterloo, so I assumed it would have quite a lot to offer.

I confirmed my reservation over the phone and requested an earlier check-in and later check-out if possible. While neither could be guaranteed, in the end, the Delta staff were able to accommodate both requests. I really appreciated that the Delta staff worked to accommodate these requests.

Parking was straightforward as was check-in. I was welcomed by Matt at the front desk, and he answered my initial questions about the hotel in a professional manner. The lobby of the Delta Waterloo is chic and sleek, and the lighting caught my attention.

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The Delta Waterloo generously offered me a corner suite. From my room, I had views of two of my favourite Waterloo buildings – the Perimeter Institute and CIGI Campus.

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My suite was bright, and with the sun shining in through the soft drapes, the room just felt warm and light. The suite had a king size bed – definitely a comfy hotel bed! – and a pull-out couch. It also had two TVs – yes, two! – and a desk area with a charging station (so convenient), great bedside lighting, and a bathroom outfitted with modern fixtures. The coffee station included a selection of teas and coffees, and the mini fridge was a useful addition.

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The bathroom was right up my design alley. The wood vanity, the white tiling, and the glass shower doors made the space really modern. Toiletries were by Apothia.

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The bed sheets were crisp, the bath towels were plush, and the hotel robe was cozy (I do love a good hotel robe!). Honestly, I can’t say anything negative about the room – or my stay, in fact. I had everything I needed for my #WhiteCabanaStaycation, and my room was a stylish and comfortable place to relax (I finally got through reading a few magazines that have been waiting for me at home!). Oh – and I loved that there were windows that I could actually open! (Am I the only one who gets annoyed when they don’t?) Good design feature, Delta Waterloo!

As far as hotel amenities go, the Delta Waterloo has a fitness centre, pool, hot tub, and sauna on the lower level. Even though the hot tub was off-duty due to a maintenance issue, I put the pool and sauna to use. As you can imagine, a trip to both added pleasure to my stay!

Dining out – and in – was easy at the Delta Waterloo. While there are many restaurant options in Uptown Waterloo, I decided to have dinner at Proof Kitchen & Lounge, which I have heard quite a bit about, but I had never been. Proof isn’t just for hotel guests; many local residents regularly go here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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Proof was definitely more stylish and design friendly than I had originally thought, so my first impression was a good one. When I was inside, it did not feel like I was in “small town” Waterloo. The hexagon graphic theme works well, and there are many clever names on the menu items that made me smile (e.g., the OMG chocolate cake, the Big Pimmpin’ Pimm’s Cup). I opted for the Big Pimmpin’ Pimm’s Cup and the Proof smoked Berkshire pork chop with fingerling potatoes for dinner. Yum. Yum. It’s not cheap, but it is delicious! (See all the menu items.)

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For breakfast, I ordered room service – which I rarely do, actually – and my meal arrived right on time. It was a basic breakfast of eggs and bacon, but I think it tasted better than usual because I didn’t have to make it myself (insert huge smile), and I could stay in my pyjamas (insert second huge smile). My #WhiteCabanaStaycation could have easily been called #WeekendofLuxury2.0.

For those of you who are new visitors to the region, you’ll be happy to know that the location of the Delta Waterloo could not be more perfect. Uptown restaurants are within walking distance as is Waterloo park, the Clay and Glass Museum, and the Waterloo Recreation Centre.

Guest rooms start at $169 per night, and deluxe rooms start at $189 per night. Read more about rooms and rates if you’re planning a trip to the Waterloo region.

Honestly, dear readers, there’s something just fabulous about traveling within your own city! I feel very fortunate that I got the opportunity to do so, and I’d encourage you to consider doing the same thing! (p.s. I’ve added a few more photos on Instagram and Twitter using #WhiteCabanaStaycation.)

Many thanks to Elaine S. and Delta Waterloo for sponsoring my accommodations. All opinions and photos are my own.

Celebration: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Oh, St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never been into the ol’ St. Patrick’s Day parties, and around these parts, the university kids pretty much go wild, it’s all very chaotic, and I think it’s bizarre (yeah, yeah, bah humbug).

But…

At the St. Jacobs market last weekend, I couldn’t resist buying  a sweet shamrock plant for only $2 (!). It’s just so delicate. I can totally get behind St. Patrick’s Day green when it’s as pretty as this!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! May the day be a lucky one for you!

Marketplace: Chair Table Lamp in Cambridge, Ontario

You likely already know that I have really enjoyed my move to the Waterloo region. For a relatively small region, it has so much to offer, and the people I have met and the places that I’ve been to continue to impress me. A couple of months ago, I visited Chair Table Lamp in Cambridge after seeing a cool photo of the store from Rox-Anne, and I was in furniture heaven.

I was in awe as I stepped in the massive space. Owner Terry was ridiculously knowledgeable about everything antique, and we had a delightful conversation about furniture, design, and travel. On a subsequent visit, I met co-owner Katie who was equally enthusiastic about all things furniture! I really enjoy meeting people who are so passionate about what they do.

The inventory at Chair Table Lamp is incredible. There’s honestly something for every design lover – from art deco chairs to gorgeous Chinoiserie pieces to mid-century modern dining sets to gorgeous French armoires. Honestly. This place is a treasure! (I adore this piece and this one, too). You’re not going to find garage sale prices here, but you will find fair prices for the uniqueness and quality of the pieces.

Amongst the black credenzas and the wood dining sets, I spotted quite a bit of white (mostly newly painted), so here’s a tour of Chair Table Lamp through this white-lover’s lens…

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Friday Five: Flowers From the Potting Shed

I first met Elaine of Cambridge, Ontario’s From the Potting Shed a couple of months ago at Langdon Hall. I was in love with so many of the arrangements she and her team made for Langdon’s wedding open house, and I wanted to see more. So…I recently headed over to her studio space, and after driving up the long country drive, I found myself in another world. From the Potting Shed took me back to France, in fact! The lavender, the terracotta, the casualness of linen coverings, and beautiful copper pots all reminded me of being in France.

I was warmly welcomed by Elaine and her team (hi team!), and I went exploring around the studio. Considering the recent snowfall and freezing rain we’ve had this week in Waterloo, I thought it was perfectly appropriate to share some floral gorgeousness this Friday. Shall I fill you in on five things that I learned about From the Potting Studio?

1. I loved all the flowering trees that Elaine had scattered throughout the studio.

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2. The dining space in the studio included one of Elaine’s signature flower garlands (or trains!) across the fireplace mantle. So beautiful! White-Cabana-From-The-Potting-Shed-5

3. Elaine does quite a bit of work with lavender. From sachets to wreaths to bouquets, if you’re looking for lavender, this is the place to come!White-Cabana-From-The-Potting-Shed-3

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4. From the Potting Shed offers many floral design workshops through its School of Flowers certificate program (I’m attending one in May, so I’ll be sure to report back!). These workshops are ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about floral design, but it would also be a fun activity for mother’s day  or a celebration with bridesmaids.

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5. In addition to the School of Flowers, Elaine and her team host a set of cool events throughout the year. I’ve got my eye on the Champagne Garden Party in June!White-Cabana-From-The-Potting-Shed-4 White-Cabana-From-The-Potting-Shed-6

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If you’re planning your upcoming wedding and you’re still looking for a florist, I would encourage you to meet with Elaine at her next Wedding Open House (March 19-20) and learn more about her wedding services.

For everyone else who is not getting married, but who wants to be surrounded by beauty, visit From the Potting Shed.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thanks again, Elaine, for being such a gracious host! Thanks also to Simon, Greg, and the floral team for adding to the fun of the afternoon!

The Friday Five: 5 Reasons Why I Signed Up for the Hourglass Workout

I’m not a gym-aholic. Heck, ever since I moved to Waterloo, and I walk everywhere, my official exercise time is non-existent. I’ve never been a lover of the gym or workouts, but I do like activities and routine. I used to run quite a bit (slowly, I assure you), and even finished a few half-marathons. I felt really fit and strong when I was running regularly, and I felt healthy. So why did I decide to sign up for the Hourglass Workout? Why? Why? Why?

Let me share 5 of the reasons that led me to this decision.

1. It was recommended by friends: Over Christmas, two of my Toronto friends (Hi KS and SM!) raved about Lyzabeth Lopez’s Hourglass Workout program that they had been doing for the last few months. “The workouts are fun, challenging, and different,” they said. I applauded their efforts and commitment, of course, but didn’t think too much of it at the time.

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2. It was meant to be: Last week, I got a text from one of said friends (Thanks, KS. Look what you’ve started.) with news that Hourglass was opening a Waterloo location. A day or so later, I randomly ran into the Waterloo instructor, Iman, at the cafĂ©, and had a really great initial chat about Hourglass and its expansion to Waterloo. Random, I tell you! If this wasn’t a sign, what is?

3. It’s convenient: I am a fan of convenience, and once I did a bit of research on the classes, their times, and the location, I determined that the options were convenient for my lifestyle.

4. Hourglass supports bloggers: In addition to some common interests like growing up in Toronto and what we like about Waterloo, Iman and I connected over our interest in blogs. I love it when people appreciate bloggers’ work*.

5. It’s a new addition to Waterloo: I’m always keen on supporting local businesses in the Waterloo region. This region has hooked me in, and I’m pleased to share news of all that it has to offer. Heck, I even wrote a Design*Sponge city guide about Waterloo, remember? As such, I’m happy to share news of Hourglass’s launch in our region. (By the way, Hourglass’s grand opening in Waterloo is on Sunday, February 7th in case you’re local and you’d like to attend the event.)

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Hourglass Waterloo classes begin on February 1st, so sign up here if you’re interested. Hourglass is currently offering 25% off, so it’s a great time to register.

The workouts look interesting – and tough – but I have no doubt that Waterloo’s instructor, Iman, will motivate me to put in my best effort. She’s recommended that I attend 3 classes per week, but given my hectic life, I’m going to definitely commit to 2 classes, but I’ll try really hard to attend class 3. I’ll be sharing a few updates about my Hourglass Workout journey over the next few weeks, so I hope you’ll come back and check on my progress**! Wish me luck – I start next week!

*Thanks to Iman and Hourglass Workout for offering a discount on my membership. All opinions are my own.
**I’m aiming for general toning and tightening, rather than the Kardashian booty.

Beauty: Manicure Time in Waterloo

Soon after making a connection on Twitter with Waterloo’s All My Nails‘ owner,  Peter, I stopped in the salon for a gel manicure and pedicure. Gel manicure, I learned, is similar to the Shellac manicure. (Gosh – this reminds me that I know very little about the beauty department.) Since I’m generally up for trying new things, I accepted Peter’s invite for a gel mani-pedi.

My nails were in desperate need of attention, that much I knew! Here’s what All My Nails had to work with:

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The staff at All My Nails are very friendly, and during my visit, a lot of repeat customers came in. The staff called them by name, and I appreciated the personal attention that was given to each customer. The staff who worked with me were friendly and did a good job getting my nails back in a decent condition.

Here are the dramatic after photos:

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As you can see, I opted for a very light shade of pink for this manicure because I don’t like having colour on my nails when they’re in short, rough shape. Once they get a bit stronger and longer (which I’m hoping will happen after the gel polish experience), I can opt back into a red or another (slightly darker) neutral. My toes, on the other hand, got a hot red coat of pomegranate, and it’s a perfect winter shade.

Before I left the salon, I was also given this little bottle of cuticle oil which should help with my dry cuticles this winter.

white-cabana-nails-1CND SolarOil Nail and Cuticle Conditioner

A gel manicure and pedicure will cost you about $75 at All My Nails, which is generally more than I’d spend regularly, but maybe that’s the going rate? I’m not so sure. That said, I loved the quick drying time of the gel polish (impatient me!), and my nails are still shiny days after my polish was applied. I’m a touch worried about the removal process, but I’ll deal with that in 2-3 weeks, once my nails have grown, and the polish looks worn. Any advice, dear readers?

For those of you in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, did you know that All My Nails has been in existence for 18 years (wow!)? It is located at 22 King St. South in Uptown Waterloo (in the same building as Café22).

Note: I received a discount on my services. All opinions are my own.

Update (Feb. 11, 2016): My fingernail polish held up well for 2.5 weeks, which I was very pleased about. Then, I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do – I peeled off the polish. Terrible. I shouldn’t have. But I did. Against all the recommendations. It’s true. My nails were obviously in somewhat poor shape, but I took care of them, they grew quickly, and they were back to normal in about 2 weeks. My toe nail polish is still going strong. No chips. No peeling. Nothing. I’m way too lazy to go to the salon to remove or change the polish. I’m realizing some beauty routines are just hard for me to upkeep!