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!

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

1. Micellar Water

I’ve heard of micellar (in French, pronounced “me-sellaire”) water for a while now, but (I don’t know why), I’ve only just tried it this month. “MODELS swear by them, every make-up artist has one in his or her kit and with their no-rinse, three-in-one formulas they’re perfect for travelling and late nights.” (Vogue). So what exactly is micellar water? Well, in a nutshell, it’s a soap free product that removes make-up and cleanses the skin without the need for rinsing, and also tones and moisturises it. It gets its name from micelles, that is, tiny balls of molecules that are made of fatty acid esters, which according to Bioderma, “are similar to the phospholipids of the skin cell membranes and naturally help rebuild the skin’s hydrolipidic film.” Sounds complicated, I know. I suppose, what’s important is that, I gave it a try and I absolutely love it. It’s very gentle yet very efficient in everything it claims it can do. It’s also really easy to use – I just have to soak a cotton pad with it and sweep it across my whole face, that’s it; I don’t have to rinse it off with water, I don’t have to tone my face after – perfect for lazy old me. Okay, I won’t replace my main cleanser with it; I still like to properly cleanse my face (especially at night) with my natural and organic product, but I use it most mornings and as a second cleanser (in place of toner) to wipe away any residue / dirt / make-up left by my first cleanser. So yeah, it’s definitely a product that I will continue using. I’m using Bioderma – a celebrity favourite and one of the first companies that came up with micellar water, but there are plenty of other brands out there you can try.

2. Nourish Kale Enzymatic Exfoliating Cleanser

This was one of the samples I received from my Love Lula January 2015 Beauty Box. I was (still am) really glad that I got this – it’s definitely one of the best cleansers I’ve tried so far. It’s 81% organic, which is a good start, and I absolutely love the smell – it’s very fresh – and the way my skin feels after using it. I like the fact that it’s multitasking – you can use it as a gentle cleanser, a daily exfoliating mask or a weekly revitalising facial mask. I’ve tried them all and I love them all, but I particularly like using it in the morning because, as I’ve said before, it’s very refreshing.

3. James Read Sleep Mask Tan

I first saw this product on board British Airways in one of their duty free magazines and I thought… hmm… that’s interesting – tan whilst you sleep and wake up to a golden glow in the morning. I almost bought it but a few things stopped me: (1) I was worried that it would have a strong smell (from my personal experience, self tan products can have an overpowering smell); (2) I was worried that it would stain my linen; and (3) I was worried that it would clogged my pores (I mean, we all know that skin cells do their repair work most effectively at night, and so I really don’t want to load my face with chemical-laden cream before going to sleep). However, on their website, they say that the formula is infused with skincare essentials, like aloe vera, cucumber, hyaluronic acid, red algae, etc. Sounds comforting enough. They then go on to say that you can also apply it in the morning to build a healthy glow throughout the day. Now that might actually sway me towards buying the product.

4. Priv: The On-Call Beauty and Wellness Professionals

Elle calls it “the beauty app equivalent of the taxi service Uber.” It’s an app that allows you to bring a trained professionals of your choice (be it hairdresser, make-up artists, masseuse, manicurist, etc) to wherever you are. I’ve downloaded the app but haven’t tried it out yet, or rather, I couldn’t, because there isn’t a single registered trained professionals within my area. I suppose the success of this app will depend on how many trained professionals they can recruit, but it’s still early days, so let’s see what happens. Priv is available to download from the App Store and Google Play.

5. Daisy Chakra Bracelet

Again, I saw this bracelet on board British Airways in one of their duty free magazines. It’s designed by London jewellery label Daisy and it’s worn by a number of celebrities, including Katy Perry, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Kanye West, etc. According to Daisy, “the Chakras are the manifestations of spiritual energies on the physical level, responsible for well-being and a happy, healthy life.”; and “The Chakra bracelets are designed to balance your Chakras and ensure your life force and vital energy.” Well, that’s lovely, but for me, I just think it’s pretty, and if it really balances my Chakras, then that’s a plus. Regardless, I’d love to have one.

6. Nutribullet

Of course, the superfood extractor! Which my husband and I received as a gift from a very good friend this month. I love it, we love it, and we highly recommend it! Enough said. I wrote a review here if you’re interested.

Nutri bullet review and recipe: banana blueberries smoothie with chia seeds

I’m sure you’ve heard of Nutribullet – the superfood extractor that is so in right now. It claims to “completely break down your food to get all the essential nutrition” (that you don’t even get by chewing) with its “super high powered motor” and “bullet cyclonic action”. So, no, it’s not your usual blender or juicer… it’s much better than that. My husband and I were very lucky to have been given one of these as a gift recently. We tried it for the first time last weekend and it was amazing. “Releasing essential nutrition” aside, it’s a very powerful blender, yet it’s smaller (and much more good looking) than most regular blenders. I like the fact that it’s easy to set up, use and clean. And I also like the fact that the jugs serve as cups, so you can use them to drink your smoothies (or whatever it is you made) on the go or store them in the fridge – they come with handles and lids, so it’s very convenient. With most of us leading a very busy lifestyle these days, we tend to forget to eat healthily, let alone get our 5 a day. But with Nutribullet, I believe I’ve found my shortcut to a healthier lifestyle!

Anyway, here’s the first smoothie we made with Nutribullet – we mixed two popular superfood (blueberries and chia seeds) with bananas and almond milk to create a smoothie that’s just full of goodies (that is, high in antioxidant and work as an immune system and energy booster):

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If you’re interested, here’s what you need:

2 bananas
A handful of frozen blueberries
A pinch (or 2) of chia seeds
Almond milk (filled to the line)

Serves 2

Disclosure: this is a non-sponsored post; all opinions are completely my own based on my personal experience.

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

Every now and then I discovered something new… something about me… something around me… be it interesting facts, places I’ve never been before, brands I’ve never heard of or tried… And I thought it’d be nice to record those discoveries – to have a kind of journal of the past and planner or to do list for the future – and share it with you every month. Today is the second last day of December (and 2014), so here I am, sharing the things that have caught my attention this month…

1. Daniel Wellington Watches

“When Swedish Filip Tysander met British gent Daniel Wellington…”

I first saw Daniel Wellington’s watches in Vogue and I immediately like what I saw. The brand was launched in April 2011 and since then it has received many great reviews from top fashion magazines and bloggers. And I totally can see why. The watches are simple, classy, well-designed and more importantly, affordable. They’re also very practical and versatile – all the straps are interchangeable, so you can change the whole appearance of your watch instantly to suit every occasion (or just for fun). It’s definitely a brand to look out for.

2. Labellov.com

A new online retailer based in Antwerpen, Belgium, which specialises in selling and buying luxury and high end vintage bags and accessories. Authenticity of items sold is guaranteed and they ship (with insurance) worldwide. I suppose, I don’t have to explain any further…

3. India Mahon

India Mahon is an independent British jeweller with a boutique in Cotswold where she designs and handmade her jewellery with ethically sourced materials. I’ve never actually visited her store before; I got to know her from Vogue (yes, again), but I’ve looked at her collections on her website and I think her designs are beautiful. I personally like the Carnelian bracelet, the Blue Peruvian Opal necklace and the Ivory Pearl and White Topaz necklace. She does bespoke jewellery as well (if you want something more personal).

4. Cécile et Jeanne Paris

Still on the topic of handmade jewellery, I recently discovered the Cécile and Jeanne brand (by accident) during my recent trip to Paris. I’ve mentioned it in one of my previous posts – my husband and I was just walking along the street when their beautiful jewellery displayed in the store window attracted my attention. They have a workshop in Paris where they design and handmade all their jewellery and accessories. They don’t have a store in the UK but you can buy their products online. My favourites are the Musthaves long necklace, the Sautoir Maitika necklace, the Cuff Paris and the Cuff Thousand and One Nights. Like India Mahon, they do bespoke jewellery as well.

5. Neal’s Yard Remedies

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m obsessed with aromatherapy, natural and organic products and I’ve heard of Neal’s Yard Remedies for a while now. But I don’t know why, I just never got around to actually trying it… until now, that is. I guess it’s because I’ve always associated organic products with a hefty price tag, but then the products that I usually buy are not cheap either. So I’m slowly changing my beauty regime and trying to incorporate more natural products into my life – it’s one of my new year’s resolutions! I bought the Almond moisturiser and the Beauty Sleep Concentrate from Neal’s Yard recently, and I’ve got some samples with my purchase (as you can see). So far, I’m very happy with them. I’m going to use them for another week or so and then I’ll post a review on my blog.

6. Lisa Hoffmann Fragrance Jewellery (exclusive to Scent City)

Eco friendly scented accessories… fragrance jewellery… fragrance + fashion… it’s a girl’s dream! Launched by Lisa Hoffmann, exclusive to Scent City and introduced to me by Vogue! I want!