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Friday, 27 June 2014

Guest Post - 4 Beauty Must Buys for Summer 2014

You know how it is. The whole of spring (and maybe even the end of winter) is tediously spent planning out your summer wardrobe and, if you’re anything like us, you start buying the hottest trends to fill up your wardrobe to ensure you’re a style leader and not a follower when the sun comes out.

You get to the end of June, the rain has cleared and you know it definitely isn't going to snow, so you can finally pull out the great outfits you acquired months ago. Suddenly, you realise your mistake; you forgot to pick up the summer cosmetics to go with your new-season wardrobe.  After all, why would you?  You usually compare make-up to what you’re wearing, so it’s natural that your look is more parka and knitted accessories than breezy summer goddess.

If this sounds familiar, fear not, for it’s not too late in the game.  Here are four beauty must buys that you can pick up quickly and get the look you want for the summer.  If you’re fast enough, no one will ever know...

The Santigolden Age by Smashbox

Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat, because we’re looking at a whole range rather than an individual product.  However, if you’re the sort of girl that loves her cosmetics to come from one brand so you know everything complements each other, this collection might just be the one for you.
Designed by American musician Santigold, The Santigolden Age Collection by Smashbox is a colourful and creative range perfect for making your eyes, lips, and nails turn heads this summer.  For us, the Eye Shadow Collage is definitely the one to buy if you’ve decided to be good.

Benefit: How to Look the Best at Everything

Benefit has been one of our favourite brands for a long time, and anyone that uses it usually can’t resist buying it and using it again.
You can see Benefit’s How to Look the Best at Everything Set at Shopcade, and we’re sure you’ll see why we love it so much.  Work on your T-Zone, prime your gorgeous skin, and get set for whatever the summer is going to throw at you with the confidence that you look amazing.

No 7 at Boots Protect & Perfect Advanced Serum

We still remember when the world went crazy for the original No 7 range at Boots, and the latest product, the advanced version of the world famous, anti-ageing (that actually works) serum, is an obvious summer must have.
The best thing about it?  It’s aimed at us younger girls, meaning we don’t have to wait for the wrinkles to appear before we start going to work.  Given the exposure to the sun our skin will see in the coming months, this is a must for your beauty regime.

Aveda Smooth Infusion

The second error we often make when it comes to summer cosmetics is forgetting that our hair needs some TLC, too.  No good getting the make-up right if we haven’t thought about how to best look after our hair in the summer!
Aveda’s new Smooth Infusion is great for girls worried about what consistent use of hair straighteners is doing to their strands.  Aveda says after five applications hair will stay straight for three washes.  If you’re smart and manage your hair without needing daily washes, this has to be worth a try!
It isn't too late to make sure your beauty regime is set for summer.  Get these four products and brands into your accessory collection today and add the final touches to the gorgeous fashions you've probably already gone out and bought.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Review - Dormy House Hotel and Spa

Like many Londoners with a fine love of the city and its bustling, eclectic ways, there comes a time when I yearn for a hearty dose of escapism in the countryside.

I start to crave rambling, tree-lined walks, childlike frolics in lush fields, quaint farm shops selling exciting organic cheeses and crackling log fires that beckon weary urbanized souls in search of rural solace.

It was during one of these moments that I booked a trip with a loved one to Dormy House  - a luxury boutique hotel with a brand new spa, nestled within the alluring green pastures of the Cotswolds, high above the historical village of Broadway.

When we arrived, weary-eyed from the journey and full of expectation, we were welcomed into an inviting reception area, which was the perfect example of charming countryside-chic.

This recently refurbished 17th century farmhouse still boasts the same striking stonework and wooden ceiling beams of the original building, so the effect is truly magnificent.

We were then shown to our 'Top Notch Room' - a homely haven of comfort with an enticingly plush king size bed, ample-sized sofa, free wi-fi, luxuriously fluffy bathrobes, soft slippers, iPad, seriously slick flat screen TV and a Nespresso coffee maker - perfect for rousing sleepy city-dwellers to a more alert state.

Freshly baked shortbread and crisp red apples were laid out temptingly on a sleek desk, along with a helpful information pack, explaining the hotel's amenities and services.

I especially adored the endearing finishing touches, which gave the room a warm yet stylish feel, such as the joyously kitsch owl doorstop with the words 'Nesting. Please do not disturb' embroidered on one side of its plump body and 'Out having a hoot. Please make up my room' on the other. I later found out that this charming character was handmade by eco-designer Sarah Ward, who uses recycled fabrics to make her adorable home accessories.

How could you say no to that face?
There was also a spacious balcony overlooking the lush Vale of Evesham, complete with tasteful outdoor furniture and cozy blankets for chilly evenings.

After an invigorating power shower with the foamy aid of divine Temple Spa bathtime products, we made our way to dinner in the hotel's very own high end gastro pub, The Potting Shed - famed for its hearty British cooking and unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere.

Our starters consisted of a flavoursome game terrine with watercress and the best chicken and duck liver pate I have ever had the pleasure of devouring in 10 seconds. Mains were a glorious celebration of rich rustic fayre and involved a creamy chicken and leek pie and a sultry slab of pan-roasted ribeye, pleasingly placed beside some hand cut chips and locally-grown organic spinach.

Oh lordy...
We finished off our feisty feast with a substantial sliver of dark chocolate tart and a happy trio of homemade ice creams, which tasted as if they had been lovingly churned in an idyllic riverside barn by rosy-cheeked milkmaids donning floaty gingham dresses.

Come to daddeh...
After such a bountiful meal, we decided to roll off with our food comas to Dormy House's gorgeous yellow lounge, where we lounged in front of a crackling open log fire, whilst nursing a couple of much-needed after-dinner drinks.

Somebody smell burning...?
We also spent time in Dormy House's red and blue lounges - which were equally elegant and also designed by renowned London interior design team, Todhunter Earle.

The next day, after waking from a blissful slumber in a ridiculously comfortable bed, we padded down to The Garden Room for breakfast and were greeted with a plentiful buffet consisting of various cheeses, meats, fresh bread and seasonal fruits.

Being a 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' type of person, I decided to indulge in the buffet and order an extra cooked dish of kipper with a poached egg too. Well, I did have a sprightly day ahead of me involving spa frolics and fresh country air - which is apparently meant to make you hungry.

Such buttery joy...
I must admit that dining in this artistically-designed room, overlooking a romantic, well-manicured garden, whilst gorging on truly exquisite food has to be one of my most finest breakfasting moments in a hotel...and I have had many of those I can tell you.

The perfect place for a proposal...or just pie
With slightly rounded tums, we plodded down towards the breathtaking House Spa for a rejuvenating soak in the glamorous outdoor Jacuzzi before swimming a few laps (OK, bobbing up and down) in the 16 metre long infinity pool. I then (with immense difficulty) pried myself away from this heavenly place to make my way to the treatment room area for my 'Really Relaxing' 60 minute full body massage, passing a very opulent looking Veuve Clicquot champagne nail bar along the way...

The best manicure of your life...
My treatment began with a warm welcome, a cool glass of fresh juice and a hot face towel, before my sleepy self was pummeled, kneaded and firmly stroked to a blissful yet invigorated state by my experienced therapist.

A deeply-nourishing, hand-blended oil was used, containing lavender to calm, black pepper to revitalize and myrrh for its restorative effects on the skin.

Afterwards, my serene self was led to a sun-drenched outdoor area, overlooked by the spa's lavish lounge - complete with a roaring wood-burning stove centerpiece, where I was presented with a glass of water and a refreshing raspberry sorbet.

Why is it always the little touches that make such a difference?

On our journey back to the big smoke, feeling mirthful and re-energized, we knew we would miss this soul-soothing sanctuary in the captivating Cotswolds countryside, with its friendly staff, eclectic little touches and beautiful rooms that tell an enchanted story of another era...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Musings from Cannes and Pomp in Paris

Yet again I have naughtily neglected my beautiful blog after jetting off to Paris and Cannes for a spot of shopping, sunbathing, art ogling, schmoozing and celeb-spotting. 

Paris was very much a family affair. Along with my parents and witty brother Martin (aka Brother Mart), I took in the Parisian sights with glee and feasted on fine cheeses and bloody organic meats, marveling at the magnificent architecture and masses of historical statues at every turn. Seriously. I had never seen so many statues in my life. They were everywhere.

Embarrassingly, this was my first trip to Paris (I hang my head in shame), and although I adore my city and all of its Londoney splendor, I must confess to falling in love with this historical, truly beautiful part of the globe.

I even spent a day larking about at the Lourve, where I gazed mesmerized and awe-struck at iconic paintings and sculptures, before deciding to pose for some shamelessly silly photos with the aid of my reluctant photographer Brother Mart.

I'm an arty one me.

Apologies to my lovely vegan readers
We then all made our way to Meze - a quaint, although slightly dull seaside village in a random part of the South of France (nowhere near the glam side. Oh no). Yes, this place was easy on the eye and relaxing, which is all very well for those in search of lonesome scenic solitude, but for us convenience-loving city folk, it was a tad boring.

Wary locals would eye us suspiciously, shops would shut at 5 pm sharp, whilst local eateries would close their doors on a whim, leaving us last-minute foodie foragers in deep despair, clutching our grumbling tums as we pondered our next feast-finding move.

When we finally found the food it was good though. Oh yeeeeah....

DO I?!
In all fairness to Meze, Sunday perked up tremendously, when the harbour suddenly filled with a mass of excitable people surrounding a hub of mysterious musical activity. Brother Mart and I approached the hub with stiffed curiosity. Was it a band? Was it a beret-donning dance troupe? No. It was a random child holding a red flag. Whilst being sung at. Badly.

Anyway, enough with my pretentious London pomp. There was a refreshing beauty in the way these mellow folk lived a calm, drama-free existence, and I admit that I felt slightly envious. Us Londoner's are so addicted to the fast pace of urban living, reveling in a whirlwind of social occasions and excitement-induced exhaustion, that we forget the joy to be found in the simple pleasures of life.

A-meze-ing (sorry)

...And forget the simple pleasures we did, as brother Mart and I decided to swiftly shun Meze and embark on a fabulously frivolous last minute trip to Cannes, after being invited to stay with our talented composer friend Tandis Jenhudson - who was there to network at the film festival. Ok, we may have invited ourselves with excessive hinting, but it all worked out in the end and we made a happy team, aptly attending glamorous parties suitably filled with gloriously egotistical actors and film directors in search of that make or break contact.

Tandis has composed the music for numerous acclaimed features including the thought provoking 'Statue of Liberty' and 'The March' - a BAFTA nominated documentary narrated by sexpot (do people still use that word?) Denzel Washington, chronicling the events leading up to Martin Luther King's iconic 'I have a dream' speech.

You can check out his impressive showreel here

Talented Tandis and I
During the film festival, Cannes transforms into a truly mesmerizing place. Gorgeous girls mince about in stunning floor length dresses, the flash of numerous cameras cause temporary blindness, drinks are poured in a generous manner, blagging skills are enhanced - and you learn the very fine art of head tilting combined with copious amounts of nodding and smiling.

Me? Posing? Nooooo
Being a self-confessed beauty addict, I still maintained an impeccable skincare routine during my sun-drenched time away. Admittedly, there were a few days of dark clouds, rain and an actual rampant storm in Meze (you're killing me Meze!), but Cannes was gleaming from head to toe in sunny goodness - so the right skin-protecting products were merrily unpacked from my massive fluorescent pink suitcase (travelling light is not how I roll).

Before I left London, I applied a hearty dose of Jane Iredale's Self Tanner and Bronzer, Tantasia all over to avoid pasty beach frolics. This zesty-fragranced lotion is tinted with a deep bronze hue for an instant effect and can be applied daily until you reach your desired intensity of colour. I smoothed this on after a hefty bout of exfoliation and topped up the colour everyday for a week, so by the time I got off the Eurostar, I was a luscious shade of brown.

I am also addicted to the brand's Lash Extender and Conditioner, which doubles the length and thickness of your lashes when used under mascara. Perfect for that fluttery bambi-eyed look (without the aid of scary TOWIE-style falsies). I get mine from my favourite online beauty store, Feel Unique.

During my holiday, I cleansed with the deliriously rich, Tatler award-winning Purifying Cleansing Oil by renowned skincare range Su-Man (recently launched in Selfridges), which contains wintergreen, antioxidant-rich rosehip oil and dragon's blood extract - a revitalizing ingredient derived from plants (not from a scary ass dragon as the name misleadingly suggests) and said to regenerate skin cells, reinforcing the skin's natural barrier against the elements.

I cannot stress enough how important antioxidant-rich products are during the summer months. As well as a good (mineral) SPF, it is essential to protect against free radical damage, which is what antioxidants do if used correctly.

This is why my next summer skincare step was to apply the truly amazing Super C15 serum by my favourite cosmeceutical brand - SkinPep. This non-oily, antioxidant-abundant liquid is a powerhouse of UV-protecting, anti-ageing, hydrating ingredients, including vitamin C to inhibit UVA/UVB damage and promote collagen synthesis, hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and vitamin E to protect from naughty free radical damage. It provides 8 times the skin's natural photoageing protection and a 96% reduction of sunburn cells in UV irradiated skin. It's the perfect pre-SPF holiday serum in my opinion.

Next I would slather on an ample amount of SkinPep's Hydra-Sun Defence SPF 30 - a moisture-boosting sunscreen made with protective zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, vitamin E and extracts of green tea and grape seed - for an extra boost of antioxidants. This is by far my most beloved SPF product as it's easily absorbed and doesn't leave a ridiculously chalky-white mask.

After lengthy sunbathing sessions at the sultry La Gold Plage on the Croisette, I would retreat to the cool marble floors of the apartment and soothe my sun-parched skin with organic beauty brand Primavera's Rose Sallow Thorn Body Oil whilst my skin was still damp after showering. I would then layer this product with the restoring Rose Sallow Thorn Body Lotion to lock in the moisture. These divinely-scented products are 100% natural and have been formulated with nourishing organic rose oil and equally organic sallow thorn oil, which has restorative qualities to help prevent wrinkles and sun damage.

My hair usually turns into a mournful heap of hay after sun-drenched beach wallowing, so I made sure I adequately moisturized my mane with the gloriously rich, tress-transforming Masque Quintessence by Parisian natural hair brand Leonor Grey - who were responsible for styling many a finely-coiffed actress and model at numerous Cannes film premieres.

Hair nourishing creamy goodness? DO I?!

Our final evening in this fantastical adult playground was a lavish combination of laughter, blagging, helping Tandis network, beachside afterparties, sushi and celebrities. Our night of (respectable) debauchery ended at the infamous Carlton Hotel at 5am, where sozzled film folk lounged about on the open air terrace, pleading with exhausted waiters to re-open the pitifully closed bar.

I noticed a ludicrously dashing Ryan Gosling at the table next to ours, sitting with Doctor Who actor Matt Smith and felt a (slightly brazen) urge to approach him in hope of a cheeky photo. Like many smug Londoners, I usually make the effort to appear unfazed by famous people, even going as far as to pretend I don't know who they are. But this was Ryan Gosling people. I felt obliged to make the walk of potential embarrassment for the whole of womankind. I felt it was my duty.

I ignored the desperate pleas of exasperated Brother Mart to not 'embarrass myself for goodness sake' and started to hover off my seat, turning towards the direction of this ridiculously suave man, before noticing that an iPhone-clutching blond had beaten me to it.

Quite unfortunately, suave Ryan awkwardly shook his head at the heavily bejeweled girl's simple request, bearing a cringeworthy look of mock sadness on his face before the girl skulked away, sporting a slightly pained expression.

I was suddenly relieved that I had not made my move, yet felt a secret admiration for the sparkly-clothed girl who took a chance.

Well, 'If you don't ask, you don't get', that's my motto.