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Friday, 19 December 2014

Aveda Full Spectrum Hair Colour...and a cheeky touch of volume

If you’re a regular reader of my beloved blog, I’m sure you’re used to reading my numerous blatherings on the toxic nature of chemicals in mainstream skincare, how they are so readily absorbed into the bloodstream - and therefore how terribly harmful they can be to our innocent little bodies. 

After thorough research on the matter, I now feel the need to indulge in a satisfactory rant on the dangerous effects of both domestic and salon based hair dye, before discussing the much kinder, botanically derived natural hair colouring treatment by Aveda – pioneers in plant-based, ethically produced skin and hair care.

Firstly, I want to emphasise that chemical-based hair dye has been proven to cause carcinogenic effects in some people.  This isn’t airy fairy speculation or exaggerated scare-mongering. A report from the National Cancer Institute in 1994 clearly states that long term users of dark synthetic hair dyes have an increased risk of cancers, such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In 2001, a study in the International Journal of Cancer discovered that those who regularly use chemical-based permanent hair dye to colour their hair are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as those who don't use such toxic colouring products.

Many of us are now thankfully shunning the dreadful risk of potentially developing cancer in the quest for the perfect colour or to cover those pesky gray stragglers, and are looking for safer alternatives.

I booked an appointment for an all over colour at the Aveda Institute in London's Covent Garden after learning about their Full Spectrum hair colour, which is composed of plant and non-petroleum based minerals, rather than an abundance of hazardous chemicals.

During a colour consultation a week before my actual colour treatment, I discussed my colouring concerns with the creative technician who reassured me that I would achieve the desired effect. I was told that a slightly darker colour (very on-trend dahlings for Autumn/Winter) with a warm, golden tone would be a rather flattering look for me and would compliment my olive skin and dark brown eyes perfectly.

Where did errybody go?

On the day of the colouring treatment, I was welcomed by my warm and cheery creative technician, who nestled me in a comfortable chair with a much needed cup of tea and a pile of glossy magazines to flick though whilst she expertly cocooned each strand of my hair with the botanically-enriched colour.

A permanent colour was applied to my roots, comprised of 97% naturally derived ingredients and a 99% natural semi-permanent colour throughout the lengths and ends of my long hair. Due to the vast number of times the lengths of long hair have been dyed and the absence of greys, it is not necessary to colour this area with a permanent dye. 

I was told that a permanent colour is only required to cover re-growth and greys at the roots and a semi-permanent, glossing colour is used simply to ‘refresh’ the colour of the rest of the mane.

After an invigorating shampoo and head massage, my hair was spritzed with Aveda’s Damage Control spray to prevent tangling, protect against heat styling and breakage from combing. I was excited to see my new colour but had to patiently await the results whilst experiencing a root lifting, volumising blow dry.

Arty natural decor sadly not included...

Finally, I admired the finished result in the mirror. Shiny, voluminous locks, dark, rich brown in colour with shimmering tones of gold that caught the light mesmerisingly

I was thrilled with the colour result and vibrant shine emanating from my glossy locks, and even more so when told that I could maintain this ‘just coloured’ lustrous look by using three of Aveda’s haircare products from the Colour Conserve range.

The Colour Conserve Shampoo, which contains green tea and grape seed extract gently cleanses coloured hair and effectively protects it from environmental aggressors to prevent fading. I relished in the amount of SLS free lather produced as I washed my freshly dyed hair a couple of days after my colouring treatment.

The conditioner of the range is extra nourishing, as dyed hair requires more moisture to lock in colour and maintain a glossy appearance. Bitter orange peel extract and jojoba oil help to hydrate dyed hair that tends to be dryer and more porous.

It was recommended that at least once a week I use the Colour Conserve Strengthening Treatment to envelop my hair in intense moisture and strengthen each hair shaft with sunflower and macadamia nut oil, to ensure stronger hair and enduring richness of the colour.

Due to my ardent love of extra hair, I finished off my new look with the addition of some sultry, yet delightfully discreet extensions from the aptly named Secret Extensions  (previously blogged about here) - famed for their tress-transforming abilities and celeb-heavy clientele. 

Merry Christmas! 

The final festive look.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Made in Chelsea...for Food Lovers - The Phene Chelsea

Lovers of the drama-filled reality TV show Made in Chelsea will have heard of The Phene - the quaint West London pub famed for its enticing dishes, charming (heated) garden and well-heeled clientele.

During the summer months, I would often pop in for a quick alfresco drink with friends and would be tempted by the mesmerising foodie aromas wafting towards me from the stylish dining area - so when I was invited to sample the delights of their autumnal kitchen with a friend for dinner, I eagerly accepted.

I arrived with an empty tum and my identical food twin Melissa. I refer to her in this endearing manner due to the fact that our friendship was forged as a result of our ardent love of similar culinary delicacies. 

We bonded at work over fine cheeses, juicy meats and sultry sushi, marvelling at how similar our food tastes were as we feasted on bountiful platters of fine wares, whilst our colleagues looked on enviously from behind their unappetising Pret sandwiches. 

Due to our mutual tendency for developing severe bouts of food envy, we decided to share everything we ordered, as we sat in the plush dining seats of The Phene.

A generous starter of Tuna Tartar and Avocado Salad arrived first, drizzled lovingly with cajun dressing and topped with a thin sesame cracker in a rather dramatic fashion.

Holy mother of....

Next came a happy mass of beef carpaccio - embellished with salty slithers of parmesan and garden-fresh herbs.

These was devoured in a shamelessly hasty manner before we were presented with our mains - half a lobster drizzled with chilli and lime butter and a 6oz fillet steak with a golden hollandaise sauce - all served with the best tasting hand cut chips I have ever had the pleasure of noming.

Both dishes were so good that conversation dwindled to a minimum. We then started to feel slightly saddened that our once smugly heaving table was no longer heaving, so we decided that the only way to quell our mournful foodie longings was to order yet another main!

Oh the joy...

Sorry vegan readers!

Our friendly waiter recommend that we try the slow cooked lamb, which arrived nestled on a green mound of wholesome vegetables and a pleasingly decorative adornment of ruby red pomegranate seeds.

This dish was of such an epic nature that no words can describe its true splendour. I can only urge you to seek out this fine meal with haste and bask in its exotic meaty glory.

A third main? Why not?

At this point we were ready to roll off home, but decided it would be rude to not stay for pudding - especially when there was a rich Malteaser cheesecake paired with a Valrhona chocolate sorbet on offer.

After a quick Google, I discovered that Valrhona was a French manufacturer of luxury chocolate - and luxurious it was....

The smoothness of the sorbet was the perfect match for the moreish maltiness of the cheesecake, which vanished within minutes - again in serious silence.

Meal-loving Melissa and I

My beloved identical food chum and I left The Phene in a happy haze of gastronomical wonder, clutching our food babies and pondering on when to arrange our return...

Friday, 7 November 2014

Organic Cleansing for Hair, Body and Face

Merrily cleanse away the day from your face, body and hair with sublime natural and organic products blissful enough to transform the dowdiest bathrooms into a seriously sultry spa...

The first time I used this 100% natural foaming unisex body wash, made primarily with lush organic ingredients, I was transported to a period of my childhood where I would eagerly pick ripe blackcurrants on country walks with my daddy. The intoxicating blackcurrant scent was so realistic, it had such a profound memory triggering effect. I was told later that the New Zealand based skincare brand employ a French ‘nose’ to choose their natural fragrances.  Not just a blissfully smelly experience, moisturising hibiscus flower and antibacterial harekeke oil ensure that skin is deep cleansed and seriously hydrated.

Yes. I am a lover of John Masters Organics. After trying oodles of organic and natural hair care products, I am adamant that former New York eco-hair dresser, John Masters has created the best range of premium quality organic hair care on the market today. His vitamin and amino acid enriched Evening Primrose Shampoo for dry hair is a godsend for those with dry, lacklustre locks yearning for much needed moisture and a good cleanse that doesn't strip excess oils.

For me, the balm is the future of effective cleansing. Forget wash-off, foaming face cleansers that dry the skin and cause the dreaded 'tight face.' Inlight’s 100% organic, silky-smooth, golden cleansing balm is truly exquisite. It's suitable for all skin types (including acne and rosasea prone) and removes both organic and synthetic makeup effortlessly. A soothing blend of coconut oil and shea butter are expertly combined with astringent green tea and purifying rosemary for an optimum cleansing experience. Remove with a hot damp muslin cloth or ideally, with a cotton wool pad infused with Inlight’s refreshing floral face tonic.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Review - Douvall's Organic Argan Soap Set

Regular readers of my blog will know I've had a hearty obsession with the organic argan oil brand Douvall's for some time now.

I interviewed the lovely Alicia Douvall for my beauty column in Yoga Magazine many years ago - shortly after the launch of her ethical beauty brand, and was impressed by her passion for this golden, skin-smoothing saviour. 

She spoke ardently of the oil's multiple beauty benefits and regaled me with inspiring tales of female empowerment in Moroccan women's co-operatives - where the product is ethically sourced.

I left Alicia with a bottle of her argan oil to try (which I wrote about here) and the rest is history. I became addicted to its silky feel and was amazed at how the condition of my skin improved after just weeks of use.

After using it morning and night on my face and body, I noticed that my acne started to clear up and my complexion was smoother and had a luminous glow, which made me feel somewhat jubilant upon looking in the mirror after a lengthy slumber.

The soaps are all infused with moisturising olive and cleansing coconut oils, beautifully presented in a set of three - rosemary and argan oil, lavender and argan oil and a simple argan oil bar.

Argh! To disrobe or not to disrobe?! Tis a conundrum.
Argan oil - so gentle on the skin.

Lavender - to 'calm, balance and invigorate'

Rosemary - to 'refresh, rejuvenate and energise'

Now that's my kind of soap...

They are not overly perfumed (which I love!) and create a gloriously rich foam to envelop you in serious sudsy joy every time you shower.

Just like the brand's now iconic Argan Oil Moisturiser - these soaps contain natural antioxidants, vitamin e and essential fatty acids to nourish and condition as well as cleanse the skin.

The only problem may be your reluctance to disrobe them of their opulently bejewelled packaging, which add a touch of spa-like chic to your bathroom...but I joyously unveiled them anyway! 


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Traditional Italian food in London - Briciole

Sometimes I yearn for the type of hearty Italian fayre that only ample-bosomed Sicilian women make in their rural sun-soaked villas for their noisy, hand-gesturing families.

Luckily, I recently stumbled across a quaint Italian deli and restaurant by the name of Briciole, which serves exactly this kind of food, in a homely, non-pretentious atmosphere. 

I took a fellow food-lover who used to refuse to dine in Italian restaurants, believing he could make the generic pasta dishes better himself, so I knew he would be the strictest critic.

We arrived disappointingly full at the bustling restaurant, having previously devoured an epic kebab-laden feast for lunch earlier that day (hey, we're Persians, its how we roll), yet we were impressed with the pleasant summer scene of Mediterranean-style outdoor and indoor tables heaving with tanned diners and adorned with charming pot plants.

As I scanned Briciole's enormous menu - a combination of traditional italian dishes and copious varieties of fine cheeses, I began to slowly regain my appetite (this is also how I roll).

To start, we indulged in a delightful cheese-fest...

There was a walnut, gorgonzola and fig salad that disappeared within minutes and a mesmerising menarche of moreish morsels on a plate - consisting of cured Italian meats, sweet potato bread, truffles on toasted ciabatta and the most exciting grilled slabs of cheese I have ever tried in my cheese-obsessed life. It was a smoked cows milk cheese called Scamorza Affumicata. Order this when you visit and thank me via an abundance of complementary Tweets. 

Such cheesy splendour...

By the time the mains arrived by our slightly protruding bellies, we were slightly fearful of further gorging, yet in the name of honourable food blogging, we ploughed on remarkably.

A whole roasted sea bass with red peppers and olives appeared, which was outstanding and made eating on a dangerously full stomach an effortless affair.

The sides of dark wilted spinach and cheese-drenched (ok, I have a cheese addiction) baked asparagus were also rather splendid in nature.

I'm not usually partial to pasta when I dine out, yet I found the tagliolini with red Sicilian prawns and sweet cherry tomatoes to be a fetching flourish of flavours that reminded me of balmy Sardinian summers consisting of long evenings feasting in candlelit trattorias that would never seem to close.

Luckily, my dining companion also found that the wares presented to us met his refined Italian dining tastes, leaving me basking in a pool of merry smugness at being the one to have discovered such a foodie gem.


We finished our feast off with an ample portion of sublime coffee panna cotta and a satisfyingly golden-topped creme brûlée infused with aromatic bergamot. 

"Sorry, I don't have room for pudding", said me, NEVER

Overall, our evening at Briciole was an exquisite eating experience, which I would thoroughly recommend to those who seek home cooked Italian food minus the pomp...and ample bosoms. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Review - Hotpod Yoga

I've always believed that yoga needs to be a blissful, somewhat unworldly experience. A much-needed break from the mundane, a welcome moment of escapism - a rejuvenating end (or start) to hectic urban days.

This is why I was intrigued by the chance to practice my wobbly warrior pose at Hotpod Yoga's brand-spanking new 'Pod' nestled high above the city on a quirky East London rooftop. 

For me yoga needs to feel special. And gazing at pink-hued clouds floating around the hazy London skyline was a truly enlightening yogic experience indeed...

I became a fan of Hotpod yoga a few months ago when I tried one of their famed heated classes in Notting Hill after work one day.

I was invited to join a gaggle of lithe-limbed girls in an enticing inflatable studio, which was comfortably heated to a pleasing 37C - to aid flexibility, warm the muscles and boost circulation. 

As soon as I stepped foot in this warm (slightly womb-like) sanctuary I started to feel at ease. 

Soothing spiritual music cooed seductively from mini speakers, miniature candles twinkled mesmerisingly on the floor and the evocative waft of sandalwood from burning incense sticks washed over me in a delirious haze, coaxing me to release my tangled maze of negative thoughts and let go of the day.

With the wonderful Charlie Morgan

Like all of Hotpod Yoga's classes, this one taught invigorating vinyasa flow, which focuses on breathing, toning and correcting body alignment. The hour-long session was everything I craved - energetic, reviving and seriously stress-releaving.

Bali-trained Charlie Morgan led the class with expert instruction and a warm heart - the perfect combination for a yoga instructor in my opinion.

The heat enhanced the whole experience for me and was not at all uncomfortable like Bikram Yoga (i'm just saying...).

Back to the rooftop pod....

With pleasant memories of my last Hotpod experience still in my mind, I yelped with joy when I was invited to try out the company's brand spanking new rooftop pod, joyously nestled high above Netil House. 

This sky-skimming setting is a stone's throw away from London Fields - the leafy hangout of ridiculously tight jean-wearing hipsters who act like they are 'proppa East Landan', when really they hail from somewhere hearty and middle class like Norfolk. 

I took my fellow yoga blogging buddy Katie Poole, who writes an entertaining blog which goes by the merry name of Bending and Booze - a fabulously frivolous celebration of all things yogic...and boozy.

We arrived rather naughtily, frazzled and ten minutes late but were (thankfully) not met with judgemental stares or any form of mocking from the lovely teacher, Catherine Weston - who was instructing the class with a laid-back tone of voice that instantly calmed our flustered selves.

The class was perfect. Strenuous enough to feel the burn in a satisfying way (oh yeeeah) yet sublimely relaxing due to the striking view of the glorious urban landscape in front of us - shrouded in the subdued rays of the evening sun.

I will definitely return.

Nobody touch meh!

At Hotpod Yoga's swanky rooftop launch party

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

My ultimate top three natural facial oils

As the warmer weather plays havoc with my complexion, I choose to lavishly slather on a deeply-nourishing facial oil at night to infuse my skin with age-defying, natural goodness. After long days basking in the sun (I’m a bit of a sun basker me), I also massage in a night cream on top to lock in moisture for an extra skin-quenching boost.
After sampling a ridiculous number of facial oils from a variety of well-known (and not so well-known) brands, I’ve finally decided on my top three…

With an ingredients list that reads like a who’s who of skin-perfecting organic oils, including jojoba, almond and avocado, this product certainly means business. Certified 100% natural and 99.7% organic by ECOCERT, this skin-reviving facial oil smells like a thousand rose petals and sinks in effortlessly, without a greasy residue.  Containing one of the world’s most precious essential oils – rose otto - known for its superb anti-ageing properties, this wonder product effectively revitalises sorry skins traumatised from the drying effects of the sun. My skin looked smooth, glowing and clear when I woke from my blissfully aromatic slumber.
£31.50 for 30ml 

Ethical skincare brand Liz Earle are not only creators of incredibly effective natural skincare products, they are also certified cruelty-free by the BUAV (the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).  It only takes a few clicks on Google and a read of all the rave reviews to see that their award-winning Superskin Concentrate truly is a cult product that delivers serious results. Best massaged in at night, this skin-plumping, evocatively-scented oil contains an anti-ageing  powerhouse of active natural ingredients including organic rosehip oil, Moroccan argan oil, neroli and natural vitamin E.
£40.50 for 28ml 

I have shamelessly bleated on about this skin-transforming bad boy of the facial oil world many times on this blog. The truth is, this silky-smooth, 100% organic argan oil makes my skin glow with the kind of healthy plumpness one usually only experiences after a hearty holistic facial at a ludicrously wholesome spa. Ethically sourced from a women’s co-operative in Morocco, this luxurious skincare product is naturally rich in vitamin E and antioxidants - essential for fighting free radical damage. I love using it under my SPF for an extra anti-ageing boost.
£25 for 50ml 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Restaurant review - Latium Italian Fine Dining

As my blog title suggests, I am an addict of all things beauty-related and reside in the splendid city of London.

I feel that I must also confess to being an addict of fine foods of a hearty nature, which is why I decided to sample the gastronomic delights of Latium, a chic fine dining establishment in the west end, famed for its immaculately presented dishes, exceptional selection of fine wines and delightfully overzealous obsession with ravioli.

I arrived ravenous and slightly flustered - having just been screwed over by Google Maps yet again (damn you Google Maps!) by being directed to a drab 1970's-esque office block.

All was good yet again once I found the place (close to The Sanderson Hotel) and nestled into the chair opposite my dining companion, excited about the frivolous feasting that was due to commence.

An enticing selection of antipasti was swiftly laid out in front of us - cured Italian meats, freshly baked bread, a shiny selection of olives, creamy Burrata cheese from Puglia and vibrantly green olive oil that smelt of a thousand Sardinian olive groves.

We had to fight the temptation to keep snacking on these heavenly offerings in order to preserve our appetites for the filling fayres to come. I kept silently repeating my 'bread is evil' mantra over and over again to prevent me from devouring the soft, fragrant ciabatta chunks and seductive slivers of Italian flatbread.

Our starters were a truly extravagant affair. A refreshing cold soup of potato cream, mushroom risotto tuille and summer black truffle, garnished with half a quail's egg was so good it nearly made me laugh out loud like a deranged convict upon being presented with a final meal on death row.

A colourful assortment of flavoursome fish-filled ravioli was also eagerly devoured, whereas the artistically-presented chard and ricotta ravioli lay shamelessly uneaten for some time due to the copious number of Instagram-worthy photos that were enthusiastically taken prior to its consumption.

The tuna tartare with broad beans, salmon caviar and pea shoots was slightly bland for my eccentric ethnic palate, yet I do have a rather unrefined habit of having to drown any raw fish in copious amounts of soy sauce (sushi fanatic that I am) before I can attempt to eat it.

Gah! To eat or mount on the wall?

Purely for the avoidance of dreaded steak envy, my dining chum and I both opted for the grilled fillet of beef served with fresh herbs, roast new potatoes and wild rocket salad - lavishly adorned with pungent Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings, which pleased my cheese-loving self.

The meat was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, which made me happy (overcooked steak makes me want to weep profusely into my napkin before calling over the waiter and blurting out, 'You call this a steak? More like a MIS-steak!)

Such meaty succulence...
Just when we thought we couldn't possibly nom any more, along plodded the puddings...

I'm still not quite sure how it happened. Everything was a sugar-fulled blur. I just remember being served a pleasing plethora of various Italian desserts until I felt my tummy yelping desperate pleas, such as 'make it stop,' and 'why isn't anybody stopping this?'

I don't usually consume sugar. Along with bread,  I believe it is the tooth-eroding, skin-aging, cancer-causing (yeah I said cancer) devil, yet on this rare balmy summer night in London, in this wonderful little Italian restaurant with the pretty artwork on the mosaic walls, I let go of such anal thoughts and merrily gorged on the divinely sweet offerings laid out in front of me for my eating pleasure.

The eye-catching selection of sweet ravioli, with fillings such as apple, raisin, coconut, mint and candied fruits were slightly too 'experimental' for our savoury pasta-loving tastebuds, yet the creamy white chocolate mouse with strawberry puree, caramelized popcorn, licorice and mint was extremely well received - although we felt the mint was slightly overpowering. Still, it made the plate look rather pretty so we grew to accept its unusual puddingy presence.

We were then presented with a bowl of (incredibly indulgent) tiramisu each, which was the creamiest version we had ever tasted. I actually felt rather sad that the protruding presence of my food baby prevented me from finishing it. But hey ho, so is life...

Just when we thought it was all over, the sugar-barrage continued as we were served a plate of handmade chocolate truffles and petit fours with our extremely strong double espresso (hey, eating makes you sleepy and when in Rome...).

Get in mah belleh...

As if by magic, our appetites returned slightly, so we readily hoovered these down graciously, marveling in particular at the dark chocolate and cardamon truffles, which tasted as if they had been lovingly made by golden-haired, culinary-minded cherubs in foodie heaven.

With Latium's very attentive general manager, Alex

Shameless posing in Latium's kitchen with head chef Maurizio Morelli and team

If you seek exquisite fine dining with a modern twist and warm Italian hospitality in unpretentious surroundings, visiting Latium is a must.

Just be prepared for a food coma of a truly epic nature...

A meal for two at Latium including wine costs approximately £120