Saturday, 17 December 2011

My top ten make up products this year

As we near the end of 2011 and the winter solstice in just a few days, my thoughts go forward to longer, brighter days and a brand new year .. hopefully full of happiness and good health for everyone. I know we still have the worst of the cold weather yet to come in the northern hemisphere but there's always light at the end of that tunnel!

Here are my personal top ten products that I wouldn't be without .. some I may have mentioned before but always worth a reminder .....

Smashbox Brow Tech To-Go is my absolute favorite .. Everyone I have recommended this product to is blown away by it but I have read some negative reviews about it.  Being a make up artist doing this every day, naturally I find it very easy to use.  As with everything, practice makes perfect and the best way is always to start off lightly, feathering natural strokes into the brow and building on it until you have the shape and colour depth that you want. The more you do it the easier it will become .. it's all in the technique.

M2Beauté Eyelash Activating Serum - If you want gorgeous long, lush lashes this product definitely works!  Applied every night like a liquid eyeliner at the base of the lashes it takes 4-6 weeks before you will notice a difference and at around 16 weeks they will achieve their natural growth potential.  However, if you want to keep your lashes this way, you will have to keep using this product. When used correctly it will last for about 6 months but it is not cheap at £128 for 5ml!  When you compare this to the price of eyelash extensions, this definitely is the cheaper and more natural option in the long term.

Elemis Lip Revive 7ml - This is a rich petroleum free lip balm which moisturizes and conditions your lips leaving a subtle taste of mint.  I found it particularly good whilst flying as this is when dehydration is most noticeable in lips, skin and nails.

Kiehl's Lip Balm No.1 15ml - Another favorite of mine, this helps protect lips from the drying effects of wind and cold weather with SPF 4 sunscreen.  Contains petrolatum and lanolin so if you are sensitive to either of these ingredients it's probably best avoided.

Chanel Vitalumiere Satin Fluid Make up SPF 15 - I use this foundation almost every day as I like the light to medium coverage and the natural dewy finish it gives. As my skin is a little on the dry side it's perfect for me.  If you have a slightly oilier complexion I would suggest trying the Vitalumiere Aqua Ultra-light Skin Perfecting Make up.

Chanel Illusion D'Ombre Long Wear Luminous Eyeshadow - I am a huge fan of this product.  I love the soft, long lasting powder-cream texture and can absolutely confirm it does what it promises.  It lasts, does not crease and can be applied with ease.  You can go for an ultra sheer hint of colour or build on it to give a more intense look if you prefer.

Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner - I have been using this eyeliner for a number of years both on myself and my clients. It gives the appearance of a liquid liner but the gel formula makes it easier to apply and you have a few seconds to rework it before it dries.  It can also be smudged a little (before it sets) to give a smokier look.

Benefit the POREfessional pro balm - this silky gel cream minimizes the appearance of pores and fine lines. It can be used under or over make up but I use it as a primer as it gives a perfect base for make up application.  It gives the skin a youthful radiance which is something we all want!

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation primer - I use this regularly on men and women as it gives a perfect shine free finish .. it can be worn alone or as a primer for make up base application. It has been a staple in my kit forever and I'm not surprised that it is a best seller for the Smashbox brand.

Estée Lauder Double Wear Maximum Cover Camouflage Makeup for Face & Body SPF 15 - A perfect product for concealing imperfections.  It is long lasting, water resistant and a little goes a long way.  It's great for covering thread veins, blemishes and birthmarks. (I find if I mix this sparingly with a little photo finish primer, it is the perfect texture and density for concealing under eye dark circles!) This has also been a long time resident in my make up kit therefore well deserved of making it into my top ten.

There you have it!  Of course there are many other products I wouldn't want to be without, but I don't want to be here all night or bore you with too much information overload! 

Thanks for all your support and encouragement over the past few months. See you all next year for more of my flip flop travels, guest blogs and hair and make up tips!!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Taming of the Frizz

While I was in Barbados I trialled a few products to see if they actually worked on my curly, coloured hair.  I had heard about and been recommended by a friend who runs the Gidore website to try the Philip Kingsley range of products particularly the Swimcap and decided to invest in a tube.  At £18.40 is is not cheap but the results speak for themselves.  I applied it to my hair before heading out each day and I can honestly say my hair felt softer, less frizzy, did not fade (despite the red tones which fade with every wash as a rule) and was easy to style out in the evenings. Before blow drying I used Original Sprout Tahitian Hair Oil, applied to damp hair .. you can also use it on your skin!  It's great for detangling, smells gorgeous, is 100% vegan and doesn't leave an oily residue. I would highly recommend both of these products. Product description for Swimcap as follows ...

Suitable for all hair types. Originally developed by Philip Kingsley at the request of the first US Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team, Swimcap’s formula is both a summer saviour and a must-have for swimmers. Containing UV protection, Swimcap cream protects against the damaging effects of the sun which leads to hair breakage and colour fading, making it a holiday essential for healthy, beautiful hair. It also protects against the drying and damaging effects of both chlorinated and salt water, as well as discoloration from swimming pool water. 
Swimcap deeply conditions your hair as you wear it, leaving it in better condition than before. Finer hair types may worry about the conditioning element but due to its unique formulation it washes out without leaving the hair heavy or greasy. 

I also tried the same brand of shampoo in the Smoothe and Shiny Jet Set Kit for £19.50 which I also loved.  I alternated with the Kiehl's Superbly Smoothing Argon Shampoo and Conditioner and although I normally love the Kiehl's brand I wasn't overly impressed with it and personally preferred the Philip Kingsly for my hair.  Product description below ...

For coarse, curly or frizzy hair types. Leaves hair soft, shiny, smoother & more manageable. The combination of products in the Smooth & Shiny Jet Set, reduce frizz and add moisture, making styling easier. They also deeply condition the hair, improving its elasticity, tensile strength and texture. These products are approved for airline liquid carry-on.

As for make-up, I would be bare faced during the day with only my Dr Nick Lowe Anti Age Super Charged SP15 Day cream protection liberally applied every day and I'm happy to say I did not have a problem with any sunburn. I did top it up with a factor 55 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock which is not available in the UK but I buy it in the USA in quantity as I'm a big fan of their range of sunscreens. 

After a day in the sun my favourite body cream is most definitely Kiehl's Creme de Corps ..again at £44 for 500ml it's not cheap but a little goes a long way and it really does work when it comes to keeping the skin hydrated and silky smooth.

It's no wonder I'm always just skimming in under the maximum weight allowance when I travel with all these products in tow but a girl has to try to look her best wherever she is in the world!!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Winter sunshine and tropical rain

My recent week in the Caribbean is almost a distant memory now as the end of 2011 approaches!  December has only just begun and I feel like I am being pushed headlong into 2012 .. busy times ahead but I'm making the time to write while I can!  There's always a chance of rain and we had the odd shower during the week and a full on downpour on the Friday before we left. It all adds to the experience of a tropical paradise and is the reason why the island is so green and lush.
Having been to the gorgeous island of Barbados before, going back for another visit was no disappointment. We stayed at the Crane Beach Resort this time .. the first operating hotel on the island, which was established in the nineteenth century and situated on the South West coast. In the "Red Book of the West Indies" it was described thus ...

"The Hotel occupies about nine acres on top of a high cliff on the Southeast of the Island and is swept by fresh, invigorating breezes from the Atlantic. From its windows is displayed the beautiful sea, fringing with exquisite colors the white soft sandy beach of the hotel's superb bathing place, that has no superior anywhere in the world."

Our accommodation was superb. It was essentially an apartment by any other name .. two bedrooms, three bathrooms, sitting room, kitchen (fully fitted) a balcony on each side and a private plunge pool. For three of us it was more than enough space - truly a home from home - only set in a tropical environment. The Crane is like a village in itself and if you choose, you could stay there and not leave the grounds as everything is provided. The restaurants are diverse .. Italian, Japanese/Thai fusion and Bajan cuisine. There is a general store and a duty free shop offering a wide selection of goods.

Crane Beach
The beach is accessed by an elevator or a few flights of stairsIt never gets too crowded as it is mainly used by Crane residents although it is not a private beach.  The beach attendants are extremely helpful and friendly .. which is actually the Bajan way all over the island .. and if you like a fun beach with waves to play in, it's great for boogie boarding and body surfing.  If this is not your thing, there are beautiful swimming pools on the resort or you could go to the west of the island where the seas are calmer.  I enjoyed waking at sunrise and watching the day begin before going down to the beach to jog or walk and take in the gorgeous fresh air before breakfast.  Something I could definitely get used to!!

We took a day trip to the city, Bridgetown which is colonial in style and has an abundance of duty free goods again on offer as it's a major cruise ship stopover.  There are also safari trips, round the island tours which include the St Nicholas Abbey Plantation house where they produce Rum, a major export.

All of the restaurants we tried were exceptional .. and of course the highlight of any week in Barbados is attending the Friday night fish fry at Oistins. There are countless vendors grilling or frying fish, lobster and chicken in the outdoors .. along with music, dancing and art and craft stalls.  The atmosphere is fantastic and definitely should not be missed. Don't forget to try the famous Rum Punch ... mostly they have a mixer already prepared which I personally don't enjoy as much as a 'start from scratch' original preparation or if you're not into rum, there's the locally produced Banks beer which I hear is very mellow.

This is one place that I definitely will be returning to as often as possible .. I love it!!  Oh, just one more thing .. don't forget to take insect repellent or you are likely to get eaten alive!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Southern Italy - Bari (Puglia) and Matera (Basilicata)

Here's another guest spot from Karen B. who has been sampling the delights of a region you may or may not have heard of.

The Sassi
Here I am again sharing two more off the beaten track cities in Southern Italy. Perfect for a long weekend .. Bari and Matera where the old town The Sassi is a Unesco World Heritage Site. I was lucky enough to stay there with a friend's family .. a little insider knowledge comes in handy!!

To get there you fly into the city of Bari then a short hop on the shuttle bus takes you into the city which is situated on the port.  Bari was invaded by the Germans in the 13th Century (and others over the centuries) so today you still see tall Italians with blue eyes .. something I wasn't expecting.

The city is compact and everything is within walking distance. Like most Italian cities it has the old and the new. However, until approximately ten years ago the old city was out of bounds due to gun violence.  Grants were giving, the old town was restored and it is now full of life. As you would expect from southern Italy, the food is amazing.  We stopped off for lunch (sitting outside in late October without heaters) in the old town at La Cecchina. The owner and the waiter speak English but this is where the locals eat.  Their first question is always 'do you prefer meat or fish?' They only serve ingredients that are in season and fresh .. another reason why the food is buono.

The shopping is also good and it has the same variety as Milan but a lot cheaper.  Check out the shop Donna.. this woman is like a stylist and she stocks a lot of Italian designers ..great designs without the price tag! I had just met her but on leaving gave her a big hug. I also noticed the men were impeccably dressed .. they love cashmere and quality suiting. My friend told me it's important to look smart .. my head just kept turning!

The town of Matera is only 1 hr 15 mins by train from Bari but well worth a visit.  The Sassi the old town is famous for its cave dwelling. This link gives you a good insight into the town. 
For me it is a great place to sit, eat, drink wine and people watch!

I'm already planning my next trip back and will take a bigger suitcase to bring back more oil, cheese and biscotti. Hmmmm .. I think I may have to diet before I go which will allow me to sample even more of the local cuisine.  Buon appetito! 

Visit Giovanna Caivano at Donna, via Principe Amedeo 77, 70122 Bari

Le Cecchina Ristorante Pizzeria - Piazza Mercantile 31, 70121 Bari 
Tel - 080 5214147

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Caribbean Queen

Only a week to go and the flip flops can make their escape from the confines of the shoe closet! 

Sunset on Accra Beach
The Holiday Queen is jetting off again for some winter sun on the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados! I visited there last year by default having originally booked to go to St. Lucia, a place I always wanted to visit.  However, nature had other ideas when Hurricane Tomas hit the island at full force just days before the trip, killing 14 people and generally wreaking devastation on a large scale. Three days before the departure date the hotel called saying there was no running water, no restaurants open and no beach - so recommended that we not go! Quel désappointement!! The airline also called advising us not to go but thankfully offered an alternative flight to Barbados. There was literally no inconvenience at all as the flight left around the same time and they organised accommodation which we gratefully accepted! It was such a fabulous place it's definitely worthy of another visit!

Thankfully the hurricane season is at an end for another year but Barbados usually avoids them anyway - it only tends to experience occasional tropical storms. The climate is sunny and warm year round with cooler nights and sea breezes making it the ideal place for a relaxing winter getaway. 

Can't wait!!

(A more comprehensive blog will follow soon!!)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bonjour Paris!

This is a fab little piece written by my friend Nigel who is my guest blogger for this week!! 

Wasn’t it in the classic Audrey Hepburn movie, Sabrina, that they said that “Paris is always a good idea”? I seem to recall it was, and I have to say they were tres tres right. France’s capital is an absolute joy to behold and having just recently visited it for the first time since 2004 I have to say that I have fallen in love with it once more. Oui, mes amis, je suis tombé amoureux!
The reason we headed to gay Parie was to meet some lovely American friends who were weaving their way across France with their mum, which was reason enough in itself for le voyage. Delicious food, the tastiest wine, the most atmospheric of bars and the most joyous of conversation were an absolute treat and it’s lovely when you can share so many fabulous things with people you adore. But how anybody can fail to enjoy the majesty and the grandeur of the city of Paris itself is beyond me.

As my partner has never been to Paris before this was the perfect opportunity to really hit the tourist trail and visit as many of the city’s massive attractions as possible. First stop was Notre Dame, the gargoyle-bedecked cathedral famed for its two striking towers and its love affair between a beautiful gypsy girl and a hunchbacked creature. Staring up at the huge round window on its facade you can’t help but get swept away by the romance of it all. I was ready to reach for my tambourine and start dancing as soon as I spied it on the horizon.
The same has to be said for Paris’ most famous landmark, La Tour Eiffel. It is truly amazing and deserves its accolade as the most visited paid-for attraction in the world. One of the most famous erections on Planet Earth (yep, hands up if you’re expecting a cheeky quip from me now!) the journey to the top within the windowed elevators as you stare down across the intricate layout of the city takes your breath away (and in my case takes my mind off the fact that I’m not overly good with heights). Having booked in advance there was no need to queue (the best move ever – especially as you breeze past the ever-lengthening caterpillar of visitors) and as you peep through the meshwork nearly 900ft above the ground, you can’t help but wonder how Gustave Eiffel even began to imagine the construction of “The Iron Lady” back in 1889. Although in a completely polar-opposite point of reference I was also busy picturing Grace Jones as Mayday the Bond villainess as she launched herself from La Tour in A View To A Kill. But that’s moi for you…

I could spend les heures trying to persuade people to visit the Parisienne joys of the Sacre Coeur, how climbing the 300ish (I think) steps to the top of the Arc De Triomphe was so worth it (there is a lift, but it ne marched pas when we were there) and how a visit to the decadence and opulence of the Palace Of Versailles is nothing short of spectacular. Strolling around and feasting your eyes on the feather-decorated boudoir of Marie Antoinette and the magical musical fountains in the Versailles Gardens are an experience that tout le monde should try.

I am not employed by some French PR agency whose job it is to big up the sights of Paris, although I would thoroughly enjoy the job and do it with ease. I just think it’s fabulous that there is so much wonderment and grandiose joy a mere train journey away from the UK. It has everything you need and is accessible with no baggage allowances, no lengthy check in queues and no trying to squeeze your hand luggage into an overhead locker. J’adore la France! Especially if I have some comfortable walking shoes and some fabulous friends alongside me.
The only trouble is I’ve been speaking ‘Franglais’ ever since I arrived back home…but you may have noticed that, n’est ce pas?

Nigel is a TV Presenter, writer and Craft Personality 


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Perfect Short Break – San Sebastian (Donostia) North West Spain

A little travel taster from guest blogger Carey Hawkins who has just returned from a short vacation!

San Sebastian (or Donostia to the locals) stands on the edge of the Bay of Biscay, just a few miles from the French border. With stunning architecture, stylish Spanish women and wonderful food, it really is a people watcher and foodie’s paradise!

The gorgeous Concha bay is surrounded by dramatic cliffs which can be reached on one side by an amazing Victorian built ‘Funicular’ – a sort of steep cable railway - and there are two clean, golden sandy beaches to choose from, all within a 10 minute walk from the city centre.  The old town is filled with amazing bars serving the famous Pintxos, similar to Tapas and equally delicious and many Michelin starred restaurants can also be found amongst the cobbled streets.  

I would recommend San Sebastian as a great place to visit for couples, single travellers or families.  There are also plenty of activities for the little ones – a state of the art Aquarium, miles of golden sand and a retro ’70’s style fun fair.

Carey stayed with her husband Tom and 3 year old daughter Isabelle at the Irenaz Resort Hotel Apartamentos 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Greek Island Hopping

Now that summer has officially ended I thought I would reminisce in summers past for inspiration. I remember a lovely holiday some years ago when 5 of us flew to Athens at the end of August and chartered a sailing yacht to cruise the Peloponnese. One of our party held a skipper's licence, two others had crewed before so we didn't have to hire any extra help. We had two whole weeks of fabulous weather, including some days of very little wind when we were forced to use the motor to get to our next port of call. 

It seems like all of Europe is visiting the islands in July and August. This if fine if you enjoy the busy environment but for those who value their privacy and are looking for a more unique experience, these are definitely not the months.

The winds can be quite strong during mid summer - the 'Meltemi' is the NW wind which can blow for days and make your voyage quite unpleasant so we were lucky but in any event our skipper was quite experienced and had encountered heavy gales before so we felt reasonably safe. I'm not the best sea-farer as I suffer from motion sickness but after the initial day of hanging over the back of the boat, I soon got used to it and acquired my sea legs with only the odd day of sea swells putting me off balance again! Our route took us around Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses.  All beautiful islands, particularly Hydra. We would often find a secluded bay where we could spend the day and sometimes the night, hop in the tender and find a nice little taverna to have dinner.

The harbours can get quite crowded so you often have to 'park' in rows and step over other boats to get to the shore!  You can replenish fuel, water and empty the waste tanks at these moorings then stock up on your supplies and explore the islands or just take a day out to laze on the beach and do nothing if you choose!

I'm now looking forward to some pre-Christmas sun in just a few weeks .. top up the tan and those vitamin D levels before we plunge into another predicted icy cold winter!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Eat. Drink. End Hunger!!

What a great way to end a fabulous vacation in New York .. enjoying a gastronomic blow-out at the New York City Wine and Food Festival ... Eat. Drink. End Hunger!  The event I attended was entitled 'The best thing I ever tasted between bread' based on the prime time series of the same name and took place in the Highline Stages on West 15th Street in the Meatpacking District.  It was essentially a sandwich heaven hosted by Duff Goldman, the rock 'n roll chef of Charm City Cakes and star of the Ace of Cakes on the Food Network.  All were mouth watering creations ranging from grilled cheese to meat and mushrooms, spicy chicken biscuits, lobster rolls, bacon-apple-dill combos and pot roast style Italian beef to name just a few. There were a few wines to try along with Liptons iced tea varieties and a particularly outstanding concoction of thyme infused lemonade.  And if you didn't already have enough to eat after sampling all of these goodies, at the end of the line was a Sweetstreet stall with a selection of desserts to die for.  My personal favourite was a cheesecake wrapped in a thin pancake, which I am guessing was delicately deep fried and dusted in cinnamon sugar .. a close second was a peanut butter and jelly cupcake .. so typically American!

After such a satiable feast it was all we could do to try to walk it off a little by following the Highline, stopping for a caffeine hit and doing a little retail therapy ... finally ending our day with a drink at the Rooftop bar of the Gansevoort Hotel where the views of the Hudson River and surrounding areas are quite spectacular!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Musical Inspirations and Beauty 'Saloons'

I know I've spent a lot of time in New York City of late but for those of you who visit every now and then or have never been there is a lot on offer that's a little different to what you would normally expect.  New York like London is home to many theatres and productions .. the choice is varied and almost limitless!  It stands to reason then that there are talented actors, singers and dancers who aren't always in regular work.  From this talent pool there are many who work in bars, not necessarily as bar attendants but as performers in their own right - playing piano, singing and creating shows of infinite variety.  I attended one such show last night in a bar at 343 West 46th Street, in the heart of the theatre district "Don't tell Mama Piano Bar and Cabaret".  There is a regular slot in one of the rooms out the back called "Hole-o-matic" which features Michael Holland (currently doing the orchestration and vocal arrangements for the upcoming Broadway revival of Godspell) and Karen Mack. They perform medleys of well known songs chosen at random by members of the audience from a roladex on each table at the start of the evening. I couldn't put it better myself so I extracted a review written by Darron Cardosa which reads as follows ... 

"... expect lush vocals and comic mayhem in what is always a spontaneous and one-of-a-kind musical experience. The show is an all request evening so each week the performance is completely original. The two sing medleys (or "mash-ups" for you Glee fans) of songs from the 70's and 80's and each one is creatively arranged by Holland. Some of the songs are solos, some are duets, for some he plays the piano for others the guitar...but all of the songs are great. Holland and Mack explain that neither one of them ever knows the complete lyrics to any one song so their only choice is to do bits and pieces of a lot of songs."

There is no cover charge and the only stipulation is that you buy a minimum of 2 drinks per person ... and I should warn you that the cocktails are quite lethal!!! When the show was over we moved into the main restaurant/bar to hear some more music and grab a bite to eat. Such a fun night and thoroughly recommended if you like that sort of thing!

The Beauty Bar
Another great idea which will probably catch on everywhere if it hasn't already is the "Beauty Bar"  situated at 231 E14th Street and at other locations around the US .. quite literally a Bar which was originally a Beauty Salon 40 years ago! A lot of the original features are still visually intact (although of course not in use) and you can even have a martini and a manicure for $10!  Whatever next??!!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

It all happens in New York!!

Sunrise after the storm
The New York US Open experience is now over for another year .. and what fun it was!!  The flip flops made an appearance on the practice courts just so they could prove they were there!  
With Hurricane Irene making such an impact just prior to it all starting we imagined we would be delayed and out there longer than we expected, (which we were) but nature is a strange thing and by Sunday evening you would hardly know anything had happened in that part of the country aside from a few twigs and leaves scattered around the place.
We had fabulous weather for the first few days, hot and humid (which always makes it feel hotter than it is) and we battled with hot studio lights, shiny faces and unruly hair! (The Sally Hersberger range of hair products was a great find .. works amazingly well on curly flyaway hair .. I'm even using it on myself now!) Then it all changed and rained incessantly for two days which we knew then would definitely set us back at least an extra day. Our make-up and green room under the studio was wet where the water had seeped through overnight and I spent some time mopping up and making it useable for when the presenters arrived. (Luckily I had kept my kit off the floor!) The cover on the overhang at the end of the studio had filled with water too and started leaking into the back of the set so it was eventually removed and we were without it for the second day of rain which then brought about another set of problems .. wet chairs, presenters getting spray on their jackets etc etc  ... oh the joys of location shooting!  
Guest presenter Boris Becker 
It had stopped raining when it was finally replaced and they got the air conditioning sorted out and mostly it was problem free after that. The weather remained warm and sunny with just the threat of an occasional shower or two but generally things went ahead as planned for each day. The on-site catering was pretty good and we had a great choice of food every day. 
We also had great guests, great tennis and long hours but it was a wonderful experience. I had to use the subway system when it was raining because it was nigh on impossible to get a cab .. a 10 minute power walk, 5 stops on the 6 train downtown and able to get the bus to the grounds which took on average around 25 minutes on a good day.

I did manage to get a bit of shopping done too .. the stores stay open late on a Thursday and Friday and some stay open all the time. Duane Reide which is a large pharmacy chain selling everything from make up to food stay open 24 hours!  There's one on almost every few blocks!   And despite my gruelling schedule I still managed to get to a friend's birthday celebrations at a new restaurant in the West Village, Fatty Cue which is South East Asian barbeque cuisine, although I was late and missed the food! Another little find was a bar in the neighbourhood where I was staying, Brandy's Piano Bar on 83rd street. It features live music every night until 3am.  You are encouraged to request songs and sing along although it is not karaoke! Every so often a jar gets passed around so the piano player can get paid!  A great way to end an evening!

I also managed to squeeze in a visit to a FNO event at Saks Fifth Avenue with some NY friends after work last Thursday.  The store was buzzing with people, in fact the whole city was packed with fashionistas with it being New York Fashion week!  Everyone eager to collect as many samples and photos with designers and models as they could. There were DJ's on every floor pumping out club music at high volume.  It was all a bit much for me after a long day so my friend's 16 year old daughter and I bailed and got a cab home .. however, I did manage to score a few samples for myself!
I have visited New York many times but this time I really felt like I was living there .. buildings and surroundings became very familiar and I feel more in touch with the city than ever before .. and I still love it!!  I don't think I will ever tire of it. I am back there next week for a well needed few days off but New York is never a holiday .. it's a vibrant place with lots to do, a city that never sleeps.  I guess Irene was a bit of a blessing in disguise for me .. two days of being indoors with nothing to do but relax before the onslaught of over two weeks of twelve hour days without a break .. I have returned home absolutely shattered but extremely grateful for the opportunity I have just had.

Friday, 2 September 2011

I Love New York!

Lexington Ave
I have always loved New York even before I ever saw it for real! I remember as a child seeing a picture of the Empire State building and deciding there and then that I would go one day! Countless visits later and here I am actually working here! Ok it's only for a couple of weeks but I'm having the experience and loving it. Maybe it's not for everyone but I am a city girl and I love the buzz ..  for me NYC has an energy like no other place I know.
Hurricane Irene came and went without too much of an impact on the city itself so I finally managed to get out of the apartment on Sunday afternoon and head down with the crew to check out our studio location in Queens. Apart from no public transport and most of the shops being closed you would have been unaware that there had been a storm if you didn't know better. It was slightly eerie as there was hardly any traffic on the roads and I had the quickest cab ride back into Manhattan ever. By evening the skies were clearing to reveal a beautiful sunset and by Monday morning a crystal clear day dawned with a sunrise to match! The city pretty much returned to normal very quickly.

Work has been good .. a lot of teething problems on the first day but as each day comes and goes it gets better.  We struggled with the lighting and heat in the studio on the first day meaning lots of blotting and powdering of faces but now the air-con is sorted (well as best it can be in a semi outdoor studio!) and it's a lot better! Heat and humidity have played havoc with the curly hair of one of our presenters but we've tamed that now with a great product I found by Sally Hershberger .. Hyper Hydration .. 'rehab for stressed out locks'.  At only $12.50 for 150ml it seems like a bargain to me!!   I'll let you know more about it as we go along and see how it performs over the next few days!

Our bus (which takes us to and from Flushing Meadows) dropped us back in midtown on Lexington and instead of getting a cab straight 'home' tonight I decided to walk the 40 blocks uptown while it was still light and warm.  I stopped into Bloomingdales and had a wander around the bag department .. did a little price comparison and a lot of drooling then the myriad of make up brands appeared before me!!  It really is make up heaven there!!  I was quite restrained and only allowed myself to buy some Kiehl's travel sized products .. Creme de Corps (my fave body moisturiser) and the Superbly Smoothing Argan Shampoo and Conditioner (also in 75ml sizes) .. they have obviously listened to their customer's suggestions!  So nice to have all your toiletries in containers under 100ml - perfect for your carry on luggage!!
When I came out of the store it was already dark, so I headed up Third Avenue, past groups of people and couples sitting in little restaurants, cyclists, yellow cabs beeping their horns and the odd enraged driver shouting obscenities at the workmen digging up the road blocking a lane and imagined that this would be what it would be like if I actually lived here .. not so different from London really!  For now I think I will just continue to visit and experience the best New York has to offer .. that way I hope I never get tired of it.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Day Two .. Solitary Confinement!!!

Hurricane Irene has now held me captive, on my own for nearly two days!! I can't imagine what it would have been like without tv, internet, email, skype, facebook, twitter etc etc .. how lucky are we in the twentyfirst century to have all these means of communication at our disposal!! I could probably even shop if I cared to - don't have to set foot outside the apartment. I can watch anything I like on tv .. (although as you can imagine I have hurricane watch on all the time in the background!) ... in fact I got through a couple of movies yesterday, read magazines, books .. physically talked to friends and family on the phone, Viber and Skype. Thanks to Irene I actually have had to have enforced downtime .. something I don't take the opportunity to do often enough. And I'll have to do it all again today!! 
My view
The wind is thrashing the rain onto the windows, howling around the building. Every now and then I hear little creaks which suggests how forceful it is at times but I get the sense that it is nowhere near as powerful and damaging as the tornados that ripped through some states earlier this year.
I'm also taking a rough guess that the planned visit to the studio and site this evening will probably not go ahead?  Not so much Flushing Meadows but flooding meadows perhaps!!

Watch this space ....

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Home Alone New York .. waiting for Hurricane Irene

Thanks to the threat of Hurricane Irene making it's way up the east coast of America my travel plans had to be changed so as to arrive a day earlier... and thank goodness as the airports here are all closing today and I would never have made it.
I started out having a leisurely day off yesterday, doing a few last minute things before getting packed for my trip.  I had most of my make-up kit organised as I had spent some time breaking it down into a smaller one (always difficult .. who knows what you might need right?) the day before.  I was still doing laundry when the call came in asking me if I could get on a plane asap.  Luckily I'm not one to panic and it does pay to be a little bit organised in advance for such eventualities.  I had spent days working out my pack list in my head so I got myself into gear and threw everything I needed (and more, just in case!) into the largest piece of luggage I have!  The baggage allowance is 23kg per piece and I think I just scraped in by the skin of my teeth!  Well now I'm bringing wet gear, boots etc when it's supposed to be hot hot hot - and I'm going to be here for more than 2 weeks!
My guardian angel was definitely on duty yesterday .. my cab picked me up in good time but it was raining and being a Friday AND a bank holiday weekend every man and his dog was trying to get away.  The traffic was horrendous and I almost resigned myself to missing my flight as it was the last one of the day. Then it was like the parting of the Red Sea .. the sun came out, the traffic eased and I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 fifteen minutes earlier than planned!  Sometimes things just work out.  I tried to check in at one of the self help booths but it wouldn't check me in .. an assistant came to help, did it all for me and upgraded me in the process!!  Result!!!  Quite made my day.
Peridot and Graphite
I really like Terminal 5!  Spacious, nice shops, restaurants and everything runs smoothly. And true to form I headed for the make-up counters to see what extra goodies I would 'need' ... couldn't resist another new Chanel nail varnish .. this time in Quartz. The sales assistant told me that Peridot is now sold out!! Quell horreur!!!  Glad I've got mine!!
Because of the upgrade I got fast tracked on to the plane .. found my little compartment with the chair that reclines to a flat bed.  Oh bliss .. I've always said as I've walked enviously past these before that one day I would have the experience .. now I've been spoiled.  Not to mention that your bags come through first on the carousel!  The immigration line was the shortest I've ever known (through in 5 minutes) and the experience is just so much more enjoyable.  I'll just have to work harder!!
I'm up early .. it's looking very grey and misty outside (it was still 24C/75F at midnight last night) and Irene is set to attack the city with force later today. The show I'm working on has been cancelled - for now anyway - and I will be stuck in my ivory tower (39th floor) on my own as my friends are away till Monday.  My phone is charged, I have supplies of food, torches, batteries etc. Let's hope the power doesn't go out otherwise I'll be doing my workouts on the stairs!!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Weekend shopping in Milano!

I've just returned from the annual girls' shopping expedition to Milan which began in the year 2000!  As usual the weather was hot and sunny - if slightly humid - but that never deters us from bypassing the last of the summer sales and concentrating solely on acquiring our new wardrobe from this coming winter's new collections.  Judging by the weather back in London at the moment it won't be long before I get a chance to wear my new things!! 

My journey began on Thursday morning with a slight delay of an hour and fifteen minutes when we were waiting to taxi onto the runway at London City Airport. Another aircraft had broken down and was blocking our exit so we just had to sit and wait just offside the runway until it had been checked and removed.  My connection in Zurich was tight but I managed to make my flight to Lugano with a few minutes to spare - no time even to stop for a coffee!  Lugano is only a 25 minute flight away, but I swear I could feel the speed this time .. it felt like we had been catapulted onto a roller coaster as we hit some clouds and bumped around for most of the journey and landed with a thud in Lugano as if we had been slammed to the ground by a giant hand.  But hey, we made it safely so I was glad to be getting off that baby and heading into the terminal to pick up my bag. Those small planes always worry me slightly but once you're on board you just have to hand over control of your life to the pilot and whatever the universe has in store for you.  I'm always grateful to land safely!!

(You may wonder why I go to Lugano if the ultimate destination is Milan.  I have a friend who lives there and Milan is an hour away.) 

Friday morning we were up early and heading to the station to catch the train to Milan.  It's a lovely trip .. the track follows the shores of Lake Lugano, a beautiful body of water surrounded by picturesque mountains where you can camp, water ski, fish and sail .. then on to Chiasso, which is located on the border of Switzerland and Italy, Como and final destination Milano Centrale Station.  From there it's a quick Metro ride to the centre of Milan .. the cost only €1 .. a bargain considering what it costs just to ride a bus in London! 

Most European cities have almost everything that we have in England now due to the larger retail chains expanding onto every inch of the globe .. we're not interested much in these shops but only the one's which are still unique to Italy or parts of Europe.  It's much more fun to buy something that no-one else has so hopefully my acquisitions will be a little different from my friends' and colleagues'!

Managed to get hold of the new Chanel nail colours duty free in Zurich airport on the way home and I can confirm that they are absolutely stunning!!  I bought Graphite and Peridot .. gorgeous metallic shades with silver and gold tones .. the new long wear luminous eye shadows are also rather beautiful!  I also bought the Illusion D'Ombre in no. 4 Epatant .. it's a smooth as silk, soft sparkly luminous powdery cream which comes with a small angled brush to line above and below your lashes if you like - simply devine!!

Tom Ford also has a new make up collection!   My personal favourite is bound to be the new Brow Sculptor which comes in a pencil form not unlike the Smashbox Browtech to go.  The difference is that this pencil comes with a brush and a precision sharpener (more like a shaver) within the casing ensuring a perfectly fine application.  Can't wait to check out the whole range!  I already lurve his fragrances!

Back in rainy London .. it's always good to come home to something familiar!! Getting ready now for New York and trying to decide what to take .. I don't think I will get much time to shop on this trip!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Hill that Breathes - Tuscany

It's a beautiful description isn't it .. the hill that breathes .. in fact it is a real place situated in the hills of Tuscany, Italy.   A friend of mine went there a couple of months ago and highly recommended it as she had a great time and met some lovely people. 

The Hill is essentially a centre for yoga and alternative holidays so I thought it may be an idea to think about if you are looking for a break away next year with something a little different in mind, particularly if you are planning to go on your own, although it would be just as well to go with a friend or partner.  The weeks run Thursday to Thursday and the nearest airports are Ancona and Bologna and they will arrange transfers .. Ancona is 90 minutes away and Bologna 2 hours .. or you could choose to go by train to Pesaro then take a taxi.  Hiring a car is also an option.

The courses provided this year included a week with the Barefoot Doctor, Yoga and detox (various styles of yoga to choose from) and F**k It weeks which tend to sell out months in advance!  In their words Realizing that things aren't so important; taking things less seriously; and making life more like a game and less like hard work (yes, saying 'F**k It').   

The holidays start from €895 per-person, per-week (see each holiday week for price) and the price includes shared accommodation, full board and classes.
There is a Day Out on a Monday for guests to visit the beautiful surrounding areas, when there are no classes.

Their website provides all the information you could possibly need from programmes of events to FAQ's and everything in between.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Home, heart and wanderlust

Finally!!  A beautiful day in London and I'm feeling better after a few days of being under the weather.  Spent the day doing a bit of shopping, gardening (well mostly sitting in it!) and baked an apple tart .. very homey for me!!! Since the summer has decided to kick in for a few days we're planning a barbeque with the neighbours tomorrow .. got to make the most of it while it's here.. you never know how long it will last!!  

Watched a dvd tonight .. 'Due Date' .. a very funny film but set me thinking again about my road trip in North America next year. All those long seemingly unending highways crossing hundreds even thousands of miles of country. Gets my mind working overtime trying to figure out which route I will end up taking. 

My trip around Europe some years ago took the best part of three months. There were initially six of us - all friends from school.  We bought two old VW camper vans, stocked them up ready to leave London in mid July.  The night before we left, one of the vans was vandalised and set alight .. could have been a hindrance but undeterred we all piled in the one van, bought two tents and headed off across the English Channel to Calais.  We travelled leisurely through France, Spain and Portugal and crossed the sea to Morocco in North Africa for a couple of weeks. Our journey then took us back to Spain, South of France (almost forgot Monaco) and Italy where the van eventually died on us and we all split up and went our separate ways. Three of us stayed together and we bought train tickets back to England, stopping off in Austria, Germany (for the Oktoberfest) and Belgium - returning to London flat broke.  It was an unforgettable experience and I'm so glad I did it.

Did you know that the word 'wanderlust' originates from the German words wandern (to hike) and lust (desire)?  ..source Wikipedia.. well I don't plan on hiking much but there certainly is the desire, a craving for travelling, seeing new places, meeting interesting people. I won't ever be one of those people who sit there at the end of their life saying 'I wish I had done that!'

Thursday, 21 July 2011

London can be beautiful even in the rain!

Up with the larks this morning to get myself down to the US Embassy at Grosvenor Square to queue with all the other hopefuls for an I-visa.  It was a dull, misty morning with a fine spray of light rain in the air.  The walk to the underground evoked a hint of nostalgia for me (I rarely use the tube unless I have to) as it reminded me of days gone by .. the grey skies, the aroma of fresh coffee emanating from the various cafes and the smell of cigarette smoke from people walking in front of me!  Some things never change!  The tube was surprisingly uncrowded .. perhaps the school holidays have kicked in and people are away.   Coming out of Bond Street Station it was so refreshing to see Oxford Street devoid of people bar the few going to work and the occasional tourist ambling down the street obviously excited to be here.
The line at the Embassy was not too bad and thankfully I sailed through the security checks ... at the end of the process my visa for work in the USA was approved!!  Yippee!!!!  First stop the US Open Tennis championships at Flushing Meadows at the end of August.  I am really looking forward to it .. at least the weather should be a whole lot better than it is here!

Feeling slightly elated as I left the embassy and as it was still relatively early and quiet, I strolled into Selfridges and had a look at the Bobbi Brown make up counter where they have some lovely new tortoise shell eye palettes in colours that would easily take you from late summer to autumn. There are two to choose from .. sand and bronze .. I went for the bronze as the colours are a little richer for warmer skin tones .. The palettes are double decked so no problems fitting it into your make up bag .. nice and compact and at £48 good value for money!

To see Bobbi's video on how these shades can work for you, go to ....
I predict that this is going to be a new fave in my make up kit .. or better still perhaps I will keep it just for myself!!!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Lake Constance: Switzerland, Germany and Austria all in one day!!!

Karen B. is on the razzle again .. here's another little trip she has just done!!

Yet one more hen's party (Swiss German style) that I attended with a difference!  Location - Lake Constance which is situated in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.   The German city of Constance (and the lake) is off the beaten track but well worth a visit during summer.  My day started in the Swiss city of Kreuzlingen, just a walk across the border into the City of Constance where I and my eleven companions took an excursion boat (not the standard ferry) to the small German town of Meersburg.  We meandered through the cobbled streets of this medieval town up to the Hotel Weisshaar.  What awaited us there was a magnificent view of the lake from the terrace and fabulous freshly made cakes.  (You may just have to have another cheeky little slice of the plum crumble!)  

From there it was a short walk down to the thermal baths where you pay by the amount of time you wish to spend there but we decided our fingers would look like prunes if we stayed longer than 3 hours!  There is a lovely warm indoor pool which leads to an outside pool where you can relax while your body is massaged by jets along the wall .... all of this and a view of the lake as well!!  Blissful!!!  An important point to remember though - in Germany saunas are usually mixed sex and bathing suits are not worn ..... keep this in mind when in Europe.
Throughout the day we saw a zeppelin flying back and forth over the lake.  Flights are available and prices for 30 minutes start at Euros 200 but unfortunately we didn't have time ..... oh well .. maybe next time!
After our pampering it was back to Constance by boat for an aperitif and a bite to eat.  There are plenty of restaurants to choose from.  To end the day we had a tour of Constance by the Night Watchman.  (At one time the town of Constance had a bigger population than Berlin and Cologne.)  This walking tour takes  hrs and is Euros 6.50 per person and it is taken by a local historian.  The night watchman was responsible for telling the time (before clocks) and getting people up in the morning (6am), putting out fires and was also the local policeman.  As this role was a lowly role he was not allowed to live in the city.  If he fell asleep during his watch the local towns people took a dim view of this and would kill him (as they did to a night watchman in Bern, Switzerland).  He was not allowed to do his rounds with people (unless he was collecting the dead) so took animals for company.  The most popular animal (or bird) was a goose as it appears to sense danger ahead of time.  There were lots of other little interesting stories and some explained how certain German phrases originated.  Unfortuantely this particular historian only spoke German but it gives you a taste of what is available on a cultural note in some European cities/towns for a very reasonable price .. and usually the guides are multilingual.

Train to Constance:
Zeppelin tours over Lake Constance

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Vintage inspiration

I would like to share a piece that was written by my friend and colleague Sharon for her blog a while ago. She runs the Vintage Hair Lounge in Southampton which specialises in vintage hairstyling and barbering.  If you are interested in brushing up (no pun intended) your hair skills they also run weekend courses in vintage hair styling for camera .. contact for more information.

"With new Besame stock on display at Vintage Hair Lounge this week, it's about time we told the story of the influence these beautiful vintage inspired cosmetics have had on the development of the Vintage Hair Lounge brand and vision.

Tinks Reding introduces Besame

Back in 2007, when I (Sharon Holloway) was a fellow Hackney resident with tv and film make-up artist Tinks Reding we often shared our thoughts of the future, and over a drink one day Tinks enthused about developing a professional make-up store with a glamorous vintage feel. Besame, she told me, was the brand leader of vintage make-up products, and she'd seen it in the States and fallen in love with it. She was determined to bring it to the UK. I listened intently, went home, and googled the Besame website. I too fell in love with the brand, but no matter how hard I tried, including pacing up and down through Selfridges who were rumoured UK stockists, I couldn't find a single Besame product anywhere in London to actually look at."

Subsequently Sharon went on to import and supply this wonderful brand to the UK and now uses it extensively for photo shoots and films as well as selling it to the public at the salon.

For product information go to