Monday, May 31, 2010

Need inspiration? Hello Europe!

So who watched the Eurovision Song Contest? A bit of history for you: this annual singing competition started back in 1956 and has launched several big careers - ABBA won in 1974 (with 'Waterloo') and Céline Dion in 1988.

This year, 39 countries participated. They use a rather loose definition of 'Europe' - included are Russia and Azerbaijan, for example - but who cares about the politics?!

I never used to watch this - tacky! embarrassing! - and never admitted to it if I did, but I thought Norway did a great job of hosting this year's contest. And the participants were um... inspiring!

Does your guy want a bold, new look? Go for a blonde fringe - Serbia shows you how!

Look to Turkey for your next party: blinding lights and Stars Wars fashion.

Want to know how to wear this summer's blue eye make-up? Look no further, Moldova has the answer!

So that's where Lara Croft from Tomb Raider has been hanging out! In Armenia and she now sings, too.

There were also serious performers. I quite like it when they sing in their own language but most of them choose English. And this bit is embarrassing: my husband voted! As in, he actually called, and not just once but three times! (for Albania)

I don't know how they organised these but they showed huge crowds in European cities doing choreographed dances together. (Think Austin Powers.) We just thought: all this fun, excitement and joy across Europe, it's so much better than killing each other in pointless wars!

The winner was Germany: sweet 19-year old Lena with the song 'Satellite'. She was a nobody before Eurovision! And now she's a star! 

Did you watch it? What was your favourite song? Did you vote?! 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scrub your lips with Lush

Mad about Lush? Nah... been there, done that. I went through a Lush phase about two years ago and tried the bath bombs (or whatever they're called), the soaps, the massage bars, the hair products, the foot cream... you name it, all the bestsellers. I tried them for a few weeks, then gave everything away to friends. I don't like their packaging and the smells are sometimes too overpowering. Lush is not really my thing.

But never say never. I recently read about the new Mint Julips Lip Scrub. Now, I don't usually need to exfoliate my lips but the past few weeks they've not been as soft as I like them to be... so I thought I would give this a try.

Because it is a sugar scrub, and I am paranoid of having ants and other sugar-loving creepy-crawlies in the house, for my first try I stood at the kitchen sink and applied a tiny bit (you really don't need much) to my lips. I have since given it a home in the bathroom so I can scrub away in the bath or after I've washed my face in the morning or at night.

And what can I say? Wow! It's an exfoliator all right, the bits are big enough that you can really 'scrub' your lips with them. The sugar dissolves after about 20 seconds of rubbing. At this point, I'm not sure if other people lick the rest off?... but I rinse my lips with water. It leaves an oily film behind - that's the peppermint oil. The fragrance is quite nice (I'm sure many would say delicious), it reminds me of After Eight mints.

There was a pleasant tingling sensation for about three minutes after scrubbing. To finish, apply the Baume de Rose lip balm by Terry and voilà, perfect lips. Amazing scrub!

This is much better than the only other lip scrub product that I own - a limited edition thing from MAC, called Prep and Prime Microfine Lip Refinisher, that is half scrub, half lip balm. Nice idea but the black bits don't dissolve and it's not as creamy as the Lush one.

What is your favourite lip scrub?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blog award!

Who wants to talk awards?! I'm very pleased that I have received another blog award - this is my second one. I have a lot of friends and readers to thank, and I shall start with... Mr Pineapple Man, who gave me this bright orange sunshine award! Thank you! I'm not sure it really goes with my pink and white blog background but I'm proud to display it nonetheless!

I'm so happy that my blog is off to such a good start. It's proving to be a lot of fun. Every day I can look forward to beauty, inspiration, pictures of deliciousness, product reviews... from all over the world! The best part is... the dialogue, the interaction with all of you. I'm grateful to all my lovely followers who read and comment regularly - I love to hear from you!

The rules are:
1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers.
3. Link to the nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and the link to the person from whom you received this award.

I am passing this award on to these lovely followers first (rest will follow... some other time):

Lipstick Rules
The Alternative Wife
The Zhush


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Glow with sun protection

I hope everyone uses sunscreen when they're outside. As nice as the sun feels on our skin, it can do serious long-term damage. I don't want (premature) wrinkles. I definitely do not want skin cancer.

SPF 15 is obviously not enough for serious sunbathing but I like to think it's fine for my kind of weekends. My favourite is Estée Lauder Re-Nutriv Sun Supreme for Body.

"Special ingredients help guard against the appearance of sun spots and other visible signs of sun damage--even helping prevent patchiness. Sun Supreme formulas allow a natural tan that's incredibly even-toned, golden and radiant."

It is very smooth and has a light, pleasant fragrance. I like it because it contains tiny golden particles that reflect the sunlight, making the skin 'glow'!

For my face I'm currently using Sun Supreme SPF 15. I've only just opened it but I bought it last summer (it's my second jar). It looks like there is a newer one on the market now with SPF 30 - even better, I say, because I use this as a daytime moisturiser only in summer.

Golden sparkles!

I also have the Sun Supreme Rescue Serum but I'm not really convinced it's necessary. (Tell me if you are!)

When it comes to skincare I do like to use Estée Lauder products and I think the Sun Supreme series is one of the best and certainly one of the most interesting.

What are your favourite summer skincare products?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mini update: White leather is out

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice on my Mini. Most of you said that the white leather would be a problem: high maintenance, hard to keep white, eventually the inevitable patina. Although I knew this, a part of me was still attracted to those 'limited edition' seats in black and white (with pretty turquoise stitching! do you see?), and I had several sleepless nights agonising over the decision.

We went to the showroom again and looked more carefully at the car. We've been so many times but we see something different and important every time we go there! This time we instantly zoomed in on the seats and... look what's happened to the white leather. I swear they weren't half as 'dirty' when we went last time so I was surprised.

Hence I have decided to go for black leather seats. This is the most sensible choice. I won't get so stressed out trying to keep them clean. And I will be able to continue wearing blue/black jeans - for a while I was thinking I might have to ditch all dark clothes and make white my new black (that would help keep white leather seats white).

There has been a new 'development', though, so it's not a straightforward 'I've chosen alternative one' (Mini Cooper + integrated navigation system + leather seats). Once we've ordered it - hopefully this week! - I'll be back with details!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nature and food

It was finally sunny here and we spent most of the weekend outside. We went cycling, met up with friends, listened to jazz at an open air concert. I was feeling creative with the camera - hence the close-ups of flowers, grass and even the sky!

I also found a meadow (middle left pic) - with flowers, surrounded by tall, thick trees - that reminded me of a scene out of the first Twilight film. It's just after Bella's found out the truth about Edward and they are lying on their backs, wondering about the future - Twilight fans, you know what I'm talking about?

We went to an Italian restaurant. The prawn salad was delicious. There was also prosciutto with melon as a starter, pasta and Bellini of course. We had the watermelon at home - for me it is the perfect summer fruit.

It's another beautiful day today so I am going to sit outside... with a diet coke, maybe. I hope you had a great weekend with lots of sun, too? This will be a good week - not least because I have an award to pass on. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 21, 2010

To collect or not to collect

Perfume bottles are so romantic! Take the pink Miss Dior Chérie bottle with the ribbon detail, for instance (at the top). I adore the bottle - it's feminine, pretty, and hey, it's Dior. The problem is that I can't stand the smell of it... but I would still love to own the bottle. Imagine a row of beautiful perfume bottles in the guest bathroom!

Should I start collecting?

Or will guests help themselves to a squirt and make me gag in my own house? 
All images from the internet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mascara trial and error

Do you buy department store or drugstore products? I tend to only buy higher end stuff but when it comes to mascaras I do like to try different things. Years ago as a student I loved 2000 Calorie mascara by Max Factor. At the moment I love False Lash Effect. I think their mascaras are still some of the best.

I also used to have a favourite from Rimmel that had a comb brush (I can't remember what it was called, though). I've also quite liked Bourjois. 

I've hated all the Maybelline mascaras, though, including the famous Great Lash. I've tried a lot of the L'Oréal ones, too, but when I discovered that they really sting when they get in the eyes (I cried wearing one), I chucked them all out. 

Here are the mascaras I currently have in my drawer - only two are drugstore at the moment.

From left to right:
Max Factor False Lash Effect
L'Oréal Voluminous
Estée Lauder TurboLash
Chanel Exceptionnel
MAC Prep and Prime
MAC Pro Lash
MAC Zoom Lash
MAC Studio Fix Lash
MAC Dazzle Lash
MAC Fibre Rich Lash
Diorshow Black Out
Bobbi Brown Everything / Lash Glamour
Bobbi Brown Party

Max Factor's False Lash Effect has a plastic brush that I like. It lengthens and defines very well, with absolutely no clumping. I prefer it to L'Oréal's Voluminous, which I find clumpy. I had to try it, though, because a friend of mine swears by this.

Estée Lauder's Turbolash is battery operated so it kept on moving around as I photographed this! It's EL's best mascara but it's only okaaaay (because the others are all crap). The vibrating wand doesn't do anything a normal wand wouldn't do. If I had to buy another vibrating mascara I would go for Lancôme, as they generally do much better mascaras.

Exceptionnel de Chanel has an 'innovative six-sided application brush' that is part plastic comb and part normal brush. This means you have to rotate the brush as you apply it and this can be a bit tricky. I wasn't impressed at first but the more I use it, the more I like it. Here is a close up of the brush:

Of the MAC mascaras:
Prep and Prime doesn't really count because it's only a primer and a crap one, too (hate the corkscrew wand), but to be fair I'm not a fan of primers (you can always still see the white).
Pro Lash defines and separates. It's nothing special but good, if that makes sense. The brush is an odd shape, though.
Zoom Lash really combs your lashes, it feels a lot harder than most other brushes, and it's quick - it's not a mascara that you can re-apply and layer. I like it.
Studio Fix Lash is one of the newer ones from MAC. I like it because it has a plastic brush, which usually works well on me. It's a lot like the Max Factor False Lash Effect.
Dazzle Lash has a brush that is way too small, I find, so I only use it on my lower lashes.
Fibre Rich Lash is my least favourite.

Diorshow Blackout has a huge brush and it's for volume, volume, volume. A bit too much for my liking.

The two-in-one from Bobbi Brown was a limited edition from ages ago (yeah I still have it and it's still fine!) but they are sold separately in their permanent line.
Everything is quite good, it's supposed to do everything (volume, length, definition), hence the name, but as with anything Bobbi, it's understated. You'll never get the same kind of volume as with the Dior one.
Lash Glamour is waterproof and has a corkscrew brush that I don't like at all.
Party mascara is their newest one and it's supposed to add incredible volume... but still not like the Dior one. I don't really see a huge difference between this and Everything but maybe that's just me.

Today I used Exceptionnel de Chanel, added Max Factor's False Lash Effect over it, and applied MAC's Dazzle Lash to the lower lashes.

Mascara is one of those things that you just have to try yourself. What one person likes could be the worst mascara you've ever tried...

What's your favourite?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Counting our blessings

"It's human nature not to be appreciative of what we have. We take so much for granted."

This is what Maya Fiennes says in her book, "Yoga for Real Life". When I read this two or three months ago, I actually stuck a post-it note on the page because I thought it was important. In fact, the entire book is full of wisdom and it's become one of my favourites... but I completely forgot about it and it took me several minutes to find the book this morning - I couldn't remember where I'd put it. Typical.

"Say thank you for being who you are, for being alive. To me, there's no better way to start the day." This is what I want to do today. To write down three things I'm thankful for.

"When everything is fine and beautiful, it's easy to be grateful. When things are more challenging, you need to trust, to have faith. Say thank you, and things will change." For me, life couldn't be any better at the moment so it's easy to do this but I still want to put it in writing.

1. I have a wonderful husband. He's kind, patient, hard-working, family-oriented, fun to be with and lets me do what I want. He lets me go shopping with his credit card and doesn't bat an eyelid when he gets the bill (I watch him out of the corner of my eye!).

2. I have a beautiful son. I'm already dreading the girlfriends that he'll be bringing home.

3. We are all healthy and happy!

What about you? Are you grateful every day? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My latest yoga inspiration

I haven't been doing as much yoga lately as I should / want to be and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don't like the first two chakra DVDs by Maya Fiennes. (It was her detox and de-stress DVD that got me hooked so I've also bought 'A journey through the chakras' on seven DVDs.)

It's not fair to dismiss the second one so quickly, actually, because I've only done the first section. This consists of the Five Tibetans. I start off thinking, "Ha ha, this is so easy" but by the time I've reached the fourth or fifth exercise I'm feeling slightly nauseous. Does this ever happen to you?

I don't want a difficult DVD to put me off yoga, though, so I've turned to another one for now: Yoga for stress relief. This made a magazine's top ten of the best fitness DVDs and it has lots of positive reviews on amazon.

You can choose from 20 routines, depending on your 'issues' and how much time you have (very useful info!). For example: exercises for insomnia issues (35 mins), tension headaches (45 mins), mood uplift (30 mins), anxiety relief (40 mins), indigestion (25 mins)...

The setting couldn't be prettier. In the background you can see white sand, turquoise water and palm trees swaying in the wind (Antigua, apparently).

I wish they had turned up the volume on the music, though - it is far too faint and I can hardly hear it. I also wish it would let us know when a routine has come to an end. I tried out the 20-minute "deep rest" and fell asleep. I don't like to sleep during the day without setting an alarm because... consider my nightmare scenario: I'm snoring away on the floor in front of the TV, whilst my son sits all alone in a dark, empty kindergarten because I forgot to pick him up! 

Can you recommend any other yoga DVDs? 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A yummy escape

Who knew that food on the moon was so good?!

On Saturday we had Cajun food (think New Orleans and jazz). Every time I taste bacon-wrapped dates, I think it's one of the most fantastic flavour combinations ever. We also ordered chicken gumbo; next time we must try jambalaya. We shared two cocktails: a Caipirinha (a Brazilian invention made with rum, sugar and lime) and a Margarita. And for dessert we had heaps of ice cream.

On Sunday I chose a healthy salad with grapefruit and walnuts so I could then enjoy a strawberry tart. My husband had a club sandwich with chips. Our main dishes were both enormous portions, only the cocktail wasn't... The Bellini looked like juice in a fancy glass but it tasted fine.

Did you eat out this weekend? What was the yummiest thing you had? 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quote: Don't tell the aliens

How are you going to spend the weekend?

My four-year old has an idea (and you can tell he's really proud that he's thought of this). He sits up straight, his eyes open wide.

"I know!" - dramatic pause - "We'll have hot chocolate and yummy things on the moon. But don't tell the aliens!"

Got that?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How well are you sleeping?

It's been raining a lot lately, which is a bummer because it's too cold and wet for my spring clothes and open-toe sandals. But the one good thing it's done is wash away the pollen that was giving me such a hard time.

Just to show you how much health damage - including lack of sleep - the pretty flowers and trees were doing, I thought I would share my graphs from the Sleep Cycle app on the iPhone. I'm still fascinated with the app and use it every night - just out of curiosity, really. Three graphs from the worst week are in the column on the left. And on the right I've included the 'after' graphs.

And here's what I had to do. I went to see my doctor, who prescribed me some drugs and a nasal spray that cost a whopping EUR 60 / GBP 51 / USD 76! For a tiny 6ml bottle! Absurd. (but who's the fool? Me, for buying it?!)

Spring cleaning also helped. My cleaner happened to bring someone (to be her substitute whilst on holiday) and I got both of them to stay for four hours. That's eight hour's worth of cleaning! I felt so much better afterwards :-) And the substitute (who has come again on her own since) does a better job - she doesn't just clean, she also tidies up. Hmm I feel bad about getting rid of the usual cleaner and employing someone she introduced but...? I'm still thinking about it. Should I do it?

And those nose plugs... I tried some one weekend when I had a terribly runny nose and I quickly discovered that they can't replace tissues. But they weren't as uncomfortable (or visible!) as I'd imagined them to be.

One other thing I'd started taking were homeopathic tablets but I kept on forgetting (three times a day is such a hassle) so I've now given up. I'm not sure they do anything, anyway... Do you believe in homeopathy?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My fridge must-haves: Bubbly + Umeshu

What are your must-have products for your fridge?

For me it's not particularly food - we can always improvise or go out to a restaurant. It is a bottle of sparkling wine (not necessarily champagne, unless there's a celebration coming up, but a Prosecco or Sekt) and a bottle of Umeshu, a Japanese ume fruit liqueur. 

This stuff is so versatile - you can have it straight, or mix it with hot water to warm you up in winter, or drink it on the rocks. I like the variation called "Choya Royale: Sparkling Sensation" - that's sparkling wine and umeshu mixed together.

They have so many other serving suggestions on their website. For example, desserts:

I have tried several other "plum wines" - often cheaper ones served in Chinese restaurants - but they're never as good. So make sure you try this one from Choya.
All images from the internet. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sharing my dessert

Who doesn't like a bit of gâteau, especially if it's warm and chocolatey?

It was rather clever, having the fruit in one corner because that distorted the dessert=calories image (in my head); I felt I was eating something healthy and I quite happily stretched that logic to the rest of the plate (vitamins, not sugar! right...).

In the other corner, in case you're curious, is a mango something (not ice cream but something cold like that).

If you go out for a nice meal, do you always order dessert?
If you could only choose two courses, would it be starter+main, or main+dessert? 

MAC's To the Beach: Haul and Review

I never thought I would say this... but I am a bit disappointed with this collection. It's mainly because of one product not living up to my high expectations: Marine Life highlight powder.

Here are the three powders that I got. I photographed the swatches in different lighting to give a better idea of the colours. Hipness is quite a bright pink blush with only a hint of shimmer (even though it's a Frost). It's pretty, it's girly. I was surprised with Get-Away Bronze blush; it also has a frost finish (but it's more visible) and I immediately adored the colour. I applied these over MAC's NC30 Studio Sculpt foundation.

L to R: Hipness, Get-Away Bronze, Marine Life

* * *

Marine Life is really quite pink. I've tested it as a blush, this on one cheek and Hipness on the other. At first I couldn't tell much of a difference - they're similar - but when I took my mirror outside and looked again, I noticed that Marine Life is more pink and more pigmented. Hipness is smoother, more of a coral tone and suits my skintone better. I don't think you will need to get both. Also, if you're looking for a pink blush, there are better ones out there.

Here are more swatches (of Marine Life only): I dipped my brush in the light pink (left in picture), then the darker pink (middle), and finally all together (right). These swatches are not as golden-shimmery as the first one above, do you see? It's because...

... the gold on the seahorse is only on the surface! It disappears very quickly, leaving only the two pink tones. I find that it loses all its charm and I am so disappointed (sigh). I got a back-up of Marine Life because it looked so gorgeous untouched; I can tell you now that I will never touch it - it must stay perfect! (what for? don't ask - I'm a bit of a collector.)

Before and after

* * *

The nail lacquer in Scorcher is probably my favourite product (of the haul). I'm not sure how to describe the colour - sort of light red/orange meets pink?? Does that make coral? Anyway, it's cheerful. I applied two coats and it's more pink than it looks in the photo.

* * *

To conclude... I thought this was going to be a fabulous collection (I do like the green packaging) and I had high hopes for Marine Life... but I'm disappointed. Pret-a-Papier turned out to be so much better - maybe because I wasn't expecting it to be that great?

Will you still get Marine Life?

P.S. If you haven't voted on my Mini yet, please do so - every opinion counts! I'm still undecided!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Proud to announce my first ever blog award

I've been meaning to do this for a while... a post about my very first blog award

A big thank you to Mimi, who gave me the award. And to all my friends and readers - it's really exciting when someone leaves me a nice comment or follows me. Thank you! 

Here are the rules:

1. Give this award to ten sweet and friendly bloggers
2. Make a post about the award including the picture and mention the person who gave it to you
3. Put the award on your blog
4. Let your nominated ten know you have awarded them by leaving a comment

I'm going to pass this on to just five bloggers first.

So get ready, Ladies and Gentlemen, the award goes to:

1. Mr Pineapple Man's Adventures - who left me the first comment and shocked me into action when I was still quietly building up my blog (a special thank you to you!)

2. Vivianna, Vivianna Does Makeup - who was my first ever follower 

3. Jennifer, Legallyblonde21 - another newcomer, make-up addict and regular visitor :-) 

4. Liberty London Girl - a bit of this and a bit of that; I never know what's coming next

5. A Page of Inspiration - who loves glamour, luxury and afternoon tea - just like me (and it rhymes!)

A round of applause! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mini obsession: Help, I can't decide!

I went for a test drive in the Mini this weekend! It was oh so exciting. I got used to driving it really quickly, it just felt so right. The interior of my Mini will look something like this.

We went through all the details - yes, lots of optional equipment to order - with the sales guy afterwards and there are several things I cannot decide on. I need your opinions!

Basically it comes down to either (1) or (2).

1. Mini Cooper (122 hp) + black leather seats + integrated navigation system

  • Black leather seats are obviously much more practical. 
  • The Cooper actually looks nicer / more elegant - the chrome slat grille (apparently that's what it's called) is simpler and silver, which blends in nicely with the white.

2. Mini Cooper S (184 hp, mega sporty) + limited edition upholstery (white leather and black cloth combination) + portable navigation system

  • Hopefully I won't need a GPS after the first few months when I know my way around so this might be all I need.
  • I really like the look of the white leather but keeping the white looking nice for years will take more effort. 
  • The Cooper S looks sportier / more aggressive - black meshed grille - but it's a great engine. Turbo! Not that I'll need it much because I'll just be driving in the city but it's cool... 

I can't decide between the two 'combinations' that I've created. Which would you choose? Please tell me!

(Most photos are from the internet.)

Quote: Putting the exercise back in

Once upon a time... there was a little boy and an exercise bike.

The boy is climbing up it so he can hang off the handles like a chimpanzee. I try to ignore this. Until it becomes suspiciously quiet - and then I instantly think he's up to no good. As it turns out, he is studying its design - men, I think. Always wanting to know how things work.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

He looks at me innocently. "I'm putting the exercise back in there for people who are not strong."

I guess that's sort of logical... or not? Well, at least it's a nice idea.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Spot the skull in the aquarium

This is the scariest aquarium 'accessory' that I've ever seen. A log-type thing that looks harmless from this side. But look at the reflection and it looks like a skull or an evil monkey. Can you see it? Eeeek!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Trophy life pictures + Thomas Goode teacup inspiration

In "Trophy life: Ruffles and rocks, frills and fur - meet spring's high-maintenance woman" (May issue of Tatler) there are some beautiful and creative pictures. I just wanted to share these. 

It depicts a lifestyle that is far from my - and I'm guessing most people's - reality. Haute couture and long evening dresses, with not a strand of hair out of place... (People like this must go through loads of hairspray.)

Love the make-up. Note: lipstick, not lip gloss! 

In the bottom right corner of the collage, I've zoomed in on the teacup from the last picture. It instantly caught my eye. It's slim and elegant. The small print says that it's by Thomas Goode. Ever heard of it? Anyway I think I am now leaning towards slim teacups like that, not the big round ones... In any case, I have totally gone off mugs. 

Are there particular brands I should look at when I go shopping for new teacups? They need to be dishwasher safe! 

For the record it was Heidi Klum on the cover of this issue.