The things that have caught my attention this month | April discoveries

I know… I missed posting on ‘discoveries’ in February and March, but I’ve got a very good reason – I gave birth to my baby girl last month and as you can probably guessed, she’s been keeping me really busy! Seriously! But now that she’s almost 2 months old, things do get better, and I hope it will continue to get better so that I can go back to blogging regularly. Anyway, enough about that… after all, this post is supposed to be about the things that have caught my attention this month; so, here they are:

1. Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation and Concealer

I got a sample of this foundation from one of the magazines I subscribed to and I took a liking to it immediately. That’s saying a lot considering that I’m not fond of liquid foundations – they always look greasy on my face and they never last all day (not on me at least). But this one is different. The texture is lovely – very easy to blend; it provides great coverage (medium to full) but it doesn’t feel at all heavy on the skin – in fact, for the level of coverage it offers, it gives you a surprisingly natural matte finish with a subtle glow; it also lasts all day without caking-up or making your face looks like a greaseball. That said, if you’re after a foundation that offers sheer coverage, then this one is probably not for you, but otherwise, I’d say, go grab one for yourself.

2. bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation SPF 20

Another new foundation on the market and this one is from one of my favourite brands, bareMinerals. It’s a mineral foundation and skincare serum in one – now we’re talking… whoever said make-up can’t be good for the skin, right?! It’s lighter than the Clinique one above, very natural looking and it also gives you a soft, silky finish, but coverage-wise, not as good in my opinion – which could be a good thing (or not) depending on what you want out of your foundation really. But it also doesn’t last as long, which is quite disappointing (but that could be just me and my problem with liquid foundations in general). To be fair, you’re supposed to apply the foundation with their special brush and I didn’t, I just use my fingers, and maybe that’s why. I might just give it another try because I really like bareMinerals products, and I do like how this foundation feels on my skin.

3. Neal’s Yard Remedies Beauty Sleep Concentrate

I’m obsessed with aromatherapy and organic products, especially when it comes to skincare – the power of plants on your skin… what could be better than that? And I love Neal’s Yard Remedies’ products – sure, they’re quite pricey but they actually work (and they smell amazing). I’ve been using their almond moisturiser for quite a while now and it’s one of the best moisturisers I’ve ever tried. So when I wanted to buy a new night cream, I looked no further than their website and decided to get one of these. Again, it’s one my best beauty buy so far. It’s thicker than your average moisturiser, but then again, it’s a night cream so I do want something heavier. Neal’s Yard claims that it supports your skin’s night time recovery and helps prevent premature skin ageing. Is it true? Hey, I’m no expert, but I can certainly say that my skin feels more hydrated and actually looks plumper in the morning, and that’s good enough for me. And because it’s packed with a lot of essential oils, it smells amazing and I find that it also helps me sleep better (although, this might just be psychological).

4. Botanics 100% Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz

Yes, we’re still talking about the power of plants and this time it’s about flower water – I love flower water; I always use it no matter what the season, wherever I am, wherever I go. And most mornings, I ‘wash’ my face with it (after all, your face doesn’t get dirty when you sleep at night so I don’t see the need to cleanse it with cleanser and/or water in the morning). Anyway, one of my favourites is Kats Kalma’s Geranium flower water, which you can get online or at Greenwich market. Unfortunately, she doesn’t produce flower water in winter, so I had to shop around for an alternative. I never realised how much people charge for flower water – some carry a price tag of more than £20! Needless to say, I decided to wait, until I saw one of these in Boots. It costs £3.99 for 150ml and it’s 100% organic. Perfect!

5. Balance Me Radiance Face Mask

This is a mask from another one of my favourite brands, Balance Me. Their Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm is divine (hands to heart!), and this mask doesn’t disappoint either. They claim that it’s quick to boost tired, lack-lustre, dry skin and not only that, it also gives you instant pick-me-up visible results thanks to a bespoke blend of purifying kaolin clay and a skin-brightening fruit acid complex. And they’re right – the first time I used it, my skin instantly looked brighter, felt smoother, fresher and more hydrated. Also, unlike most clay-based masks, it doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils (so you don’t end up with skin that feels awfully tight and looks awfully dry), plus it doesn’t ‘cling’ to the skin, so it’s really easy to wash off – I don’t know about you but I really dislike having to rub my skin raw just to remove my mask.

6. Uber

I’m sure you’ve heard of Uber. In fact I think almost everyone has, including me – I’ve heard of it for quite sometime now but only fairly recently I had the opportunity to use its service. In a nutshell, Uber is a private cab company, but unlike the conventional cab companies, you can’t hail Uber drivers on the street nor can you order your cab by calling the cab company with your phone. Instead, you have to download the Uber app from the App Store, Google Play or Windows Phone Store and request your cab through one of those apps. Don’t let that turn you off though – the apps are really simple and easy to use, and once you’ve set up an account, you can request a cab with literally one click. What more… you get an estimate of how much your trip is going to cost before hand (so no surprises when it comes to paying), you can link your credit card / PayPal account details to your Uber account (so no stumbling around for cash when you reach your destination), it’s much cheaper than the competition, and you can track where your driver is and his route on the map. That said, Uber is not perfect, and its drivers certainly do not know London as well as London Black Cab drivers who, after all, have to spend 3 years mastering its streets. In fact, the last time I ride with Uber, I had to use my Google Map and navigate along with my driver! Not ideal really. But it’s no secret that black cabs are expensive – of course, being a Londoner, I still use them; I think it’s the safest and most convenient way to get around London when you’re already out and need a cab (you simply need to hail down one) or if you don’t have a map of some sort and don’t know where you’re going. But otherwise, I’d say Uber is a winner. Plus, when you refer your friend to Uber, both of you will each get £10 Uber credit – refer enough friends and you could potentially ride for free everytime! Of course, if you’re thinking of signing up to Uber, please do use my code to get your free credit: e2qoc!

One week in Tenerife, Spain

Happy New Year, everyone! I can’t believe it’s almost mid-January and this is my first post of 2015! My husband and I kicked start our New Year with a one week trip to Tenerife and we just came back on Tuesday. We had an amazing holiday – it was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the weather was great (we had sunshine all week; temperature was in the region of 21 degrees celcius all day… not bad, huh?). I think Tenerife (south Tenerife, in particular) is a great destination if you’re looking for a bit of sun, sea and sand in the winter. It’s only 4-hour flight away from London and it’s a place that won’t break your bank account.

We flew British Airways and was treated to this view as we approached the island – it was a promising start to our holiday:

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We stayed in the south west of the island, around Costa Adeje, Playa de Las Americas and Los Cristianos – one of the most popular resorts on the Canary Islands and definitely the place to be for sun worshippers. I don’t recommend staying in the north if your purpose of going to the island is to escape the winter chill – we did a day trip there and it was freezing!

So, in the south, we love…

The beaches (of course), feeling the warmth of the sand under our feet, soaking in the sun, swimming in the sea, and just lazing around all day.

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The food… particularly tapas and fresh seafood! I love seafood! Two restaurants that we really like and highly recommend is Cafe Epoca in Los Cristianos and El Mago in Costa Adeje. Both are highly rated on Trip Advisor and rightly so. They serve great and tasty food minus the hefty price tag. El Mago is more expensive, but it’s not overpriced… we paid around 45 euros for 3 tapas, 2 mix paellas, and 3 drinks (the beer was 1 euro for a pint). And it’s a beach front restaurant, so the view was amazing. But if you’re after cheap eats, then go to Cafe Epoca – you probably won’t pay more than 15 euros for 2 persons for a decent lunch.

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I know I said that we went to Tenerife for the sun, and of course, we got plenty of that, but we also spent a couple of days exploring the north of the island and the mountain. We had to wear our winter coats most of the time, but these places were worth it. Rent a car – you’ll be glad you did, it’s the best way of getting around the island (we pre-arranged with British Airways when we bought our tickets and picked up our car at the airport).

So, away from the sun, we love…

The majestic El Teide – the highest volcano in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the Atlantic. It has a lunar landscape (a must-go if you want to experience how it feels like to be on the moon) and it has been a popular filming location for many sci-fi directors. Do take the cable car to the peak (well, almost… you need a special permit to climb to the actual peak), but a 10-minute ride on the cable car takes you close enough and it costs 26 euros. My husband went, I didn’t – pregnant women are not allowed on the cable car! There’s a cafe at the cable car station though and with a very good wifi connection too… so, it was okay.

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Pyramids de Guimar. These pyramid-shaped structures were built from lava stones; they were discovered in 1998 and have been dated to the 19th century AD though their origins remain a mystery. It costs 12 euros to enter and takes about 2 hours to explore. You can ask for an audio guide (or not)… I think it’s worth a visit if only for the views.

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The cliff of Los Gigantes. It doesn’t need much explaining. There’s a beautiful port and town at the foot of the cliff – popular with tourists and I think it’s a nice place to stop for lunch. We did; we had a paella at a restaurant called La Paella Rustica – it was really nice, but that was before we tasted the paella at El Mago. Still, it was a good lunch.

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The mountain village of Masca… simply stunning… enough said! My only advice is: go when it’s still bright… navigating in the tight twisty mountain road at night is really not fun!

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There you go… the highlights of our trip to Tenerife. We wished we could have stayed longer, but hey, London calling!

So, to wrap it up, here’s what we brought back with us…

The recipe for our favourite coffee ‘Barraquito’: coffee with milk, condensed milk, cinnamon powder and a slice of lemon. So yummy! I’ve been making it since we came back – a perfect winter warmer.

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And of course, souvenirs. We bought quite a few things (the usual: fridge magnets, arty crafty stuff, etc), but these are my favourites: raw pearls (and I even got the seller to give me the shell which still has pearls in it for free), a bracelet made of volcanic stones, and another bracelet made of Olivine or Peridot (that is, green minerals that grow inside lava stones in Lanzarote). I’m happy!

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Christmas in Paris

This year, I spent Christmas in Paris – something that I do every couple of years or so. My husband and I drove there on Christmas Eve and we came back to London last Saturday. Yes, it’s not a long trip, but still, it’s magical. As much as I like spending Christmas on my own, I was pleased to be able to spend it with my husband’s family this year, and of course, it’s always lovely to visit Paris.

We woke up at 5am on the 24th and made our way to Dover. We were supposed to board the 8.45am ferry to Calais, but we got there early, so they let us board an earlier one. Lucky us! The sea was a bit rough though – I got sick! But that’s probably because I’m more prone to motion sickness than others. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. We reached France at around 10am and then we just took our time and arrived in Paris with plenty of time to get ready for dinner, which was delicious by the way.

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Just look at all that food! And I didn’t even take pictures of our main course and dessert!

We didn’t get a chance to breakaway from the family and visit Paris until the 26th. Not that I’m complaining – going to Paris is like going home; we don’t really do all those touristy things people do when they go for holiday. But still, it’s nice to go for a walk, just because it’s really romantic and Paris is beautiful at this time of the year. So that’s what we did on Boxing day (even if there’s no such thing in Paris).

We started our day with a typical petit déjeuner parisian (gosh, I like the sound of that) – we had some parisian brioche and parisian hot chocolate at the famous Place des Voges. They were lovely – a bit expensive, but hey, we don’t do this everyday, and it’s Christmas.

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After breakfast, we went for a stroll in the city. We did a bit of sightseeing, a bit shopping, discovered new shops… I love shopping; there’s no doubt about that. Besides, I believe that when you’re in Paris, you should fully embrace the local culture… yes, yes, like going to the museums, of course (Paris is full of them), but Paris also is famous for its couture houses and luxury fashions: Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel, Louboutin, etc, etc. One of the best in the world really. Interestingly, when I talk about them, some people still roll their eyes (even French people) and I just don’t get it. If I were French, I would be very proud to have all those designers commanding the world’s attention. I mean, it’s what made Paris famous for being chic, elegant and glamorous. I can’t afford most of the things they sell, but it doesn’t stop me from admiring them (and wanting them) – hey, I love beautiful things. Anyway, here are some more pictures from that day (if you’re interested):

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The art installations in front of Centre Pompidou and musée du Louvre never fail to captivate… We didn’t go in to le Louvre this time, but if you haven’t seen the infamous Mona Lisa, you really should!

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Cécile and Jeanne are Parisian jewellery and accessories designers. They’ve got a workshop in Paris where they design and handmade all their products. I actually discovered this place by chance; my husband and I was just walking along the street when I was attracted by the beautiful jewellery displayed in the window and so I went in. They’re not cheap but I don’t expect them to be – they’re beautiful and very French. I didn’t buy any, but I just might very soon. They don’t have a store in the UK, but you can the products online.

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Don’t you just love Paris. Even at Ladurée, they’ve got super chic shopping bags! I always think their macaroons are a bit overpriced (they’re selling it for 5 euros per piece here), but still, I love those bags!

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This was the best cafe frappe I’ve ever tasted! Seriously! It’s so smooth, refreshing and not too sweet. I was in a desperate need of a cold caffeine that afternoon, and this frappe was just perfect.

After our afternoon coffee break, we decided to go see some Christmas decorations at Paris’s most fabulous places – where else… Galeries Lafayette, PrintempsChamps Elysees and Avenue Montaigne (of course).

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Look at all those lights…

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And that Louis Vuitton store on Avenue Montaigne!

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And of course… it’s Dior, darling!

… which was our last stop of the day. We had dinner with my husband’s family that evening and came back to London the next day. There was an hour delay at Calais due to the weather – they had to suspend all ferry services in the morning, but luckily, ours was in the late afternoon, so it was okay. I got sick again and it was worse than the first time. I’m definitely taking the Euro Tunnel next time! Anyway, we had an amazing time in Paris (as you can probably see), and in a few days time, we’ll be off to Tenerife for some sun! Yay!

Christmas trip to Paris by car: what’s in my bag

2 days until Christmas! How exciting! My husband is from Paris, so we’re driving down there tomorrow to spend Christmas with his family. I like travelling by car – I like the fact that we don’t have to rush and that we don’t have to worry about baggage allowance. Don’t get me wrong, I like travelling light, but let’s be honest, it’s not really possible to do that at this time of the year – what with all the gifts, etc. We have a large box dedicated just for them! Moreover, I’m pregnant! So, it’s probably better to just take the car. Personally, I’m still travelling light though – here’s what I’ll be carrying and wearing everyday: my new Burberry bag (Christmas gift from my husband), my trusted Ugg boots to keep me warm, a snood or a scarf (both from New Look), and a pair of legging (from Littlewoods) or bamboo tights (I love bamboo tights – they’re so soft and so lightweight; they keep you cool when it’s warm and keep you warm when it’s cold) from Boots.

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And here’s what I’ll be wearing them with: my favourite Sweaty Betty jumper over a tank top, which I’ll wear with the legging (I think it’s perfect for car travel – really comfy), Mango jersey dresses (which I’ll wear with the bamboo tights), a Zara top and a cardigan from Asos (which I’ll again wear with the legging). I’m in my third trimester now and I’m still really tiny, so I haven’t bought any maternity wear yet. I hope I don’t have to. So far, these styles work for me, and they’re all in my normal size 8. I suppose, dress smart (read: ditch the jeans, skirts, and anything tight for a while) and you don’t have to spend money on something that you’ll only wear for a few months or so.

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Oh, and the parka, of course. I bought this last year from Tesco F&F. It looks really good and is of surprisingly good quality for Tesco. In fact, it’s as good as the more expensive ones. I wear it all the time and with literally anything. Definitely my favourite winter coat!

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Anyway, enough with fashion. Moving on to beauty stuff now. I mean, it’s Christmas, and that means Christmas eve dinner and Christmas day brunch, and spending Christmas in Paris means… well, taking a romantic walk in the city and do what Parisians do (whatever that is). My point is, I need to look good, and so, it’s obviously important to pack the right beauty products and make-up. I’m sure you’ll agree. Here’s what I’ve decided to bring with me:

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1. Bare Minerals Active Cell Renewal Night Serum; 2. Neal’s Yard Remedies Beauty Sleep Concentrate and Almond Moisturiser; 3. Electric Hair Hydrate Shampoo (sample from Birchbox); 4. Organic Sweet Almond Oil from Naissance; 5. Balance Me Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm; 6. Pure Tea Tree Oil; 7. Organic Oatmeal; 8. Kats Kalma Geranium Water; 9. Avene eye cream

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1. Jean Paul Gaultier Perfume; 2. Waitrose Cucumber Facial Wipes; 3. MAC Lipstick; 5. Benefit Beautiful Eyes, High Beam and Ultra Plush Lip Gloss; 6. Bare Minerals Foundation, Warmth, Mineral Veil and Primer; 7. Lancome Mascara; 8. Eyeko Fat Eye Stick (sample from Birchbox); 9. Max Factor Eyebrow Pencil and Eye Liner

I did mention that I’m travelling light, right? Well, it’s true. It looks like I’m bringing a lot of stuff, but honestly, they all fit in my Cath Kidston ‘weekend bag’ – see:

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Finally, as you know, we’re travelling by car. That means, we have to cross the English Channel with a ferry, which takes around 1 and 1/2 hour; and it also means spending hours and hours on the road. Obviously, I need to keep myself entertained and what better way to do that than with the latest edition of Vogue and food, which go into what I called my ‘food bag’ from Cath Kidston:

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That’s it! I better go catch some beauty sleep and I’ll tweet from Paris tomorrow! xx

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