Tuesday, 31 December 2013

December on my mind

It's the end of December, and even if it's been an incredible month, it's with mixed feelings that I look back on it. I started already at the end of November preparing for first of advent, and then most of December has really been a run up to two days of Christmas, that fly by far too quickly. When you're done with all the practical things that are needed - decorating the house, getting and decorating a tree, making home made truffles and goodies, cooking etc, there's nothing so cosy and relaxing as coming home from a Christmas market, lighting all the candles, sitting down with some mulled wine (or Glögg in my case), wrapping some presents and just enjoying everything around you - and I've definitely enjoyed every second of December.
Tradition is an important part of Christmas although most of us probably tweak traditions a little to suit our needs best. This year we had my family joining us here in the UK, which means that we celebrated two Christmases - one in Swedish style on December 24th with all the traditional foods; pickled herrings, smoked salmon, gravad lax, eggs, Janssons Temptation (a potato gratin with anchovies and onions), ham, meatballs, ribs and sausages, beer and schnapps and we also opened our presents then. As if we hadn't already eaten enough on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day we then also had a traditional British Christmas meal with turkey, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, stuffing, brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, and Christmas pudding, none of which I eat by the way so now we have enough left overs to feed a small army! Ultimately Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones over a massive plate of food and it's been amazing to do just that.

I just wish that Christmas wasn't over so quickly and if it was up to me I would keep the Christmas tree and all the lights all year around, and just swap the decorations to be more seasonal e.g. having Easter eggs in April, flowers for Midsummer, a pumpkin or so in October etc... No? Ah - just me then... After my family went back to Sweden, Him Indoors and I have also managed to get some quality time together with nice meals, cinema and of course some shopping in the Sales, and I plan to show you the stuff I got in a post in January.
Not only is it the end of a wonderful month, it's also the end of the year and I guess it's only natural to reflect on what has happened in 2013. For me it's been a very eventful year; I've been fortunate enough to do a bit of traveling and despite the fact that I live in a different country than my family and many of my friends I've managed to see them a fair bit, which I value a lot and we've also been good at appreciating and celebrating the small everyday things that you can quickly forget, but that after all is what life is all about. 2013 has also been filled with lots of new undertakings and one of them obviously is this blog, which I'm really looking forward to continue to focus on next year when I'll also introduce some new kinds of post and more fashion related content as well. But before we throw ourselves into 2014, I'll be celebrating the New Year tonight with some Japanese food and barrels of champagne before I take a few days break and return with new posts on January 5.

I wish you all a Happy New Year with lots of new and exciting things to look forward to! Xx

Monday, 30 December 2013

Manic.Monday: Bling on the New Year!

Yes I know what you're thinking - another post about nail polishes...? Well, what can I say except that it is Monday again, and while it may be less Manic than usual since I have some time off from work, there are still manicures to be had and polishes to be shown off in all their glory! Tomorrow it's New Year's Eve and I'm sure I'm not the only one planning for an outfit, wondering what to do with my hair and what makeup look to create. To be honest I haven't quite decided on a lot of those things yet, but at least I have decided what to do with my nails and I'm going posh with the shade Toff from Butter London (£12).

I don't actually have many nail polishes from Butter London and every time I wear one, I ask myself why I don't have more of them when they have so much going for them. First of all the formula is free from all kinds of chemical nasties, which is great and I hope that more brands choose go the same way, particularly since Butter London shows that the formula doesn't have to be compromised in any way. The texture is rich, smooth and creamy with so much pigmentation that you only actually need one coat to achieve a nice opaque look. The brush is of fairly standard width, but of great quality and together with the creamy texture you'll easily get a streak free even finish that dries quickly and lasts about 5 days, which to me is longer than average when it comes to nail polishes. Regardless if you go for one or two coats you'll get a very glossy, high shine finish. I'm not really one for making New Year's resolutions, but one that I think I could actually stick with is to get some more polishes from Butter London for my collection.

Butter London has well over 100 different gorgeous colors to choose from and they all have quirky, fun names inspired by British culture like Cream Tea, Pimms, Thames or like this one - Toff (slang for someone with an aristocratic background or who dresses very smartly). It's a gorgeous old fashioned muted dusty rose pink which is a very sophisticated, stylish and timeless shade and I think it's so versatile you could wear it with any outfit or look that you're going for.
Now if there's any occasion for which you can really bling it up, it is definitely New Year which is why I decided to also add some crystal gemstones from Andrea Fulerton (£7.99) to the look. I've kept it quite simple with just a single stone which I think is quite an interesting, Asian inspired look but you can of course be as creative as you wish and perhaps do a gem French manicure or even cover an accent nail completely with gems - the possibilities are endless. I find that the best way to firmly attach gem stones to the nails is to work on each nail at a time, and to make the final coat of the base shade quite thick, so you can press the stones down firmly into the polish. I then apply a high shine top coat before moving on to the next nail, and this way the gems will stay in place for about 3-4 days. All I need to do now is decide what to wear and then I'm ready, so just Bling on the New Year!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

December favourites

It's almost the end of December and there's been so much to like about this month. From a beauty point of view I think I knew already at the beginning of the month at least 3 products that I would be wearing non stop and loving in December and they are all unfortunately limited editions, specially for Christmas. If you're read some of my earlier posts in December, some of the favourites this month won't come as a surprise to you - let's start with the make up products that have been used more often than not. 
I've added a few new products to my make up bag this season and one of the products I've loved the most in December is the amazing Gelée Powder EyeShadow from Estée Lauder (£19). Overall I really enjoy using these lightweight creamy eye shadows and this particular product takes the formula to the next level in terms of quality, intensity and longevity. The consistency is wonderfully smooth and creamy to apply and it quickly dries into a powder form that wears really well for at least the next 8 hrs. This lovely shade is Cyber Red, an intense and vibrant metallic cranberry shade that's been wonderful for a berry winter look.

Another new addition this season is a few new shades of the Color Boost Lip Crayon from Bourjois (£7.99). As you'll probably know by now I absolutely love this formula that not only gives a great satin like smooth coverage but also moisturises and keeps the lips nice and cared for. In December I've worn the shade Rouge a lot, it's a lovely scarlet red that's been perfect to wear with a winged eyeliner look.

So I've loved some of the new additions to my makeup bag this month, but I've also rediscovered an old favourite, which is almost as nice as picking up something new, in Rimmel's Glam Eyes Mono Eye Shadow (£4.49) in the shade Smokey Quartz. It's a nice and silky powder formula that's easy to apply on the lid and to build for intense color without any fall out and it lasts for at least 5-6 hrs without any creasing. The shade Smokey Quartz is a lovely slightly shimmery soft nougat, which is perfect to wear on its own all over the lid or as a base color. It's a great every day eye shadow and after having reminded myself of how much I actually like it, I will now definitely pick up some more shades of it.
From left to right (in natural light):
Rimmel Eye Shadow - Smokey Quartz
Estée Lauder Gel Eye Shadow - Cyber Red
Bourjois Lip Crayon - Rouge
At the beginning of December I mentioned that I had already found my favourite nail polish, which was quite a statement to make considering I also had the wonderful Ciaté advent calendar to look forward to - but as it turns out, I was right! I have worn the gorgeous Nails Inc Kensington Church Street Snowflake Effect nail polish (£10.80) almost every single day in December in one combination or another. It is a polish, however I think it's best used as a top coat since it's rich with glitter and sequins that look like snowflakes, and you could probably wear this over any color and the effect would be dazzling and beautiful. Personally I've preferred to wear it over icy cool pastels shades in light frosty blue or metallic foil like silver or gold shades for a festive look. This is a limited edition polish that has sold out in most places where they stock Nails Inc, but if you hurry up, you might be able to get hold of it in your local Nails Inc Bar, Boots or online - and believe me, it's definitely worth a little bit of effort to hunt it down!

I'm sure you won't be surprised to see that the Lush Snow Fairy Shower Gel (£10.95) and EdT (£25 for 30 ml) have landed themselves a very safe spot amongst my December Favourites. As you probably know by now Snow Fairy is released every year by Lush as part of their Christmas collection and ever since I first tried it many, many moons ago it's been a firm Lush favourite of mine. Snow Fairy is a one of a kind scent that somehow manages to be both sweet and freshly crisp and fruity at the same time. It has a very distinct candy like bubblegum scent with a subtle warm undertone of white musk which makes is perfect to wear in the winter time. The shower gel has a rich and creamy texture with a lovely pink shimmery color and the beautiful scent lasts a few hrs on your skin after you've used it, perhaps even up to about 4 hrs when you layer it with the EdT.
I'm so glad I stocked up on Snow Fairy as soon as it was released since as with a lot of seasonal favourites, it sold out very quickly and unfortunately neither the shower gel nor the EdT are available from the Lush online store anymore, but you might get lucky and still find Snow Fairy in your local Lush or of course on eBay. What seasonal or limited editions do you have as part of your December favourites?

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Ciaté Advent calendar Dec 19 - 24

I realise that December has been fairly heavy with the ol' nail polish posts and that's partly since I've not only had my regular Manic.Monday posts but I've also wanted to show you what the wonderful Ciaté advent calendar has had in store for me this year. Well we've now come to the end of the advent calendar - all the doors have been opened and these 24 days of  new interesting shades and polishes every morning have been so much fun. But before we put all the new polishes away and start experimenting with the new shades, let's have a look at the last ones that I received this year:
Dec 19 - Underwear: A base coat that contains lotus flower to help strengthen and protect the nails and the polish to last longer (not shown in the photos below)
Dec 20 - Ivory Queen: A sheer, shimmery pale pink nude color
Dec 21 - Confetti: A gorgeous sparkly glitter polish to use either as a top coat or to wear on its own for a radiant look
Dec 22 - Christmas Tree: A lovely, fun caviar mix of shiny green, red and silver beads for a festive accent nail, or maybe as a French tip on a silver base. 
Dec 23 - Locket: A beautiful, silver polish, that gives the impression of crushed crystals so the glitter is a bit more rough cut than Confetti
Dec 24 - Serendipity: A stunning old fashioned rose pink glitter polish
From left to right in artificial light:
Ivory Queen
Christmas Tree
From left to right in natural light:
Ivory Queen
Christmas Tree

This year's calendar definitely had a lot of lovely polishes and it was great to have both a base and top coat included too. I love that there was a few effect polishes and caviars in it too, but personally I would have liked e.g. a mini velvet, and also some more variety in the shades, perhaps a vibrant seasonal green or a lovely deep midnight blue. Saying that, don't for a minute think that I'm disappointed - for me there's no better way to start every day than with a brand new nail polish and you can already sign me up for next year's amazing advent calendar!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Dolce Christmas!

Today is Dec 24 - Christmas Eve, and for Scandinavians today is also the day when we celebrate Christmas. It's not because we're so impatient that we want to open our presents a day early, the reason is actually because back in the days of the Vikings a new day started at sunset, so the 25th started at sunset on the 24th rather than at midnight and Scandinavia has kept to that tradition when it comes to Christmas. So tonight I'll be celebrating with my loved ones, having far too much food and drink and giving presents. A couple of days ago I did a post on the color red, which is my preferred color of my Christmas outfit this year, so today I thought I would show you what I'm planning on wearing tonight.
Lace dress with belt: New Look // Shoes: Hobbs // Cameo earrings: ASOS // Bracelet: Dune // Ring: Yves Saint Laurent

After I've finished the preparation of all the Christmas food, it's time to swap the festive penguin leggings and Santa socks for something a bit more decent, and this year I'm taking inspiration from the stunning Dolce & Gabbana A/W collection by wearing a red lace dress from New Look. It comes with a black belt as you can see in one of the photos, but I don't think that the dress actually needs a belt so I won't be wearing it. Lace can be quite racy, but the overlay together with the 3/4 length sleeves shows just the right amount of skin for me. To stick with the red theme, I'm wearing red suede shoes with a shiny tip in the same color from Hobbs and with the 9 cm (3.5 inch) heels it's a very practical and comfortable height for running around doing my Hostess with the mostess duties. To add a feeling of the infamous Dolce & Gabbana opulence to the outfit, I'll be wearing statement earrings with a Cameo motif, a sparkly wide gold coloured cuff with crystals in an intricate pattern and a heavy cocktail ring. 
Dolce & Gabbana A&W 2013 Campaign photo

I hope you like the Dolce & Gabbana inspired look, for me it's perfect for Christmas and I might just add a chunky necklace as well. As it is the Christmas holidays I'm now taking a few days break from blogging to spend with my family, but I'll be back on Dec 28 for the last few posts in 2013.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you have a wonderful time with your loved ones! Xx

Monday, 23 December 2013

Manic.Monday: Blue Christmas

As you may know from previous posts I love to experiment with nail polishes and there's no shade or effect that I won't try. Not all of my explorations of the weird and wonderful world of nail polishes are equally successful and there are - believe or not - looks that I just wouldn't EVER try again e.g. the color changing chameleon effects, or the crackle which never worked for me and I'm not sure that it really ever worked for anyone... On the other hand there have been looks that have been love at first sight and which I keep coming back to in different shades, and one of them is the textured look, which I know isn't for everyone but ever since my first Zoya Pixie Dust I'm well and truly hooked. Today's polish is a version of  that formula, but this is from Isadora's Sugar Crush range in the stunning shade Sky Crush - an icy arctic glittering blue that makes me think of frosty mornings.  

Judging by the finished look you might think that the consistency of the polish is quite thick and gloopy, however it's got the same fluidity as an ordinary nail polish and it's until it dries that you get the wonderful shimmery sugared look and the formula is easy to work with especially since the brush is nice and wide. Luckily this is a quick drying formula since the key to this look is in using several coats. With one coat you do get a subtle textured finish, but for a distinct crystallized luxurious look you need at least 2 coats, and I'm actually wearing 3 in the photos.

You can wear a top coat with this which would bring out the sparkle even more if you wish, however personally I think some of the gritty effect is ruined by it and it's exactly that roughness and look of unevenness that make it come alive on your nails. The finished look will last for 3-4 days, which is good for a textured polish, and the only down side of using several coats of it is that it's more difficult to repair seamlessly once it starts to chip. On the other hand, unlike most glitter polishes this is fairly easy to remove, especially if you're wearing more than 2 coats, since you can then easily peel off the entire coating without damaging your nails or having to scrub away for ages.

The amazing brilliant blue and the texture creates a very extravagant look and I have received so many compliments for this shade. I love, love, LOVE this look and since my life approach is all about abundance I'll probably end up getting every color of the rainbow in similar formulas so I can be sure to match or contrast any outfit with it...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sunshine award

I've had the great honor of being nominated for the Sunshine award by some lovely bloggers; Lucy - The New Northerner, Evi - Evi the Fashionista, Maya - It's a Femme Life, Carly - Sunday's Grace, Jacquelyn - The Little Scottish Corner, Elli - According to Ellie, Yasmin - Be You... and Amy - Face it Amy. The Sunshine award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” and I'm very happy and proud that they thought of me.

Since I received a lot of questions I will however do a modified Sunshine award: I'll give 5 facts about myself, give answers to 11 questions which are a mix of all the different questions I've received and I'll ask 11 new questions for 5 lovely bloggers that I nominate. 
What's to know about little ol' me then... :
1. I love to read cook books, recipes and menus. There's something about reading about the flavors, imagining them and almost tasting them in your mind before you eat them.... is that weird? 
2. I play the piano
3.I have been on 2 flights that were both struck by lightning - no wonder I don't like flying!
4. I used to be a jeep safari driver in Greece
5. I absolutely love to dance and am usually the first and the last person on the dance floor, and I particularly love doing latin

My answers to a mix of 11 questions from lovely bloggers:
1. What did you want to be when you grew up? That actually changed a lot as I got older, but the very first thing I wanted to be was a geologist. I've always been fascinated by stones and gems, in other words I was a magpie already as a child and it was probably the bling I was after!

2. In your opinion what is the funniest word to say? Octopus!!!!! I don't know why, but it always makes me smile.

3. What is your favorite Christmas movie? I think everyone in the UK will know this one - The Snowman. If you've never seen it, it's about a boy who makes a snowman and in the night he comes to life and they go off on a wonderful adventure together but in the morning the the boy wakes up again back in his bed the snowman has melted away. It's the most lovely and slightly sad film with haunting music and Christmas just isn't the same without it. I love it so much I've even seen this as a ballet - 3 times...

4. Have you ever walked out on a film? Several times - life is far too short to lose 2.5 hrs on something you really don't like. I don't like films with excessive gore and splatter when it doesn't really add anything to the story so one film that I walked out of was Sin City.

5. If you could live in any era in history, when would it be? The 1920's - I love love LOVE art deco and just look at the amazing flapper dresses and cute little fascinators, what's not to like?

6. If you could interview anyone (I mean serious Piers Morgan style interview) who would it be? Nelson Mandela

7. One place in the world you really want to go? The North pole - the landscape is just astounding and humbling and I think it would be a once in a life time experience.

8. False nails or real nails? Definitely real nails. I would use nail press on's if I had really short nails and just wanted to hide them away while they were growing, but using glue and things like can be really bad for your nails.

9.  Gold or silver? I wear both, and I think it all depends on the outfit and it's fun to contrast rather than match cool shades in an outfit with gold and the other way around.

 10. If you could have one superpower, what superpower would you want to have? Easy!!! I would want to be able to fly so I don't have to worry about getting on an airplane.

 11. What is your most favorite thing to eat? This is so difficult because I love to try different types of food, but I'm actually going to say roasted butternut squash risotto with blue cheese, which is one of Him Indoors' favorite recipes. Not only is it absolutely delicious, but having someone prepare and cook a home-made meal for you is a treat, it's so relaxing and enjoyable. All I need to do now is show Him Indoors where the dish washer is as well...
My 11 questions: 
1. What's your favourite type of food and why?
2. What do you like to do in your spare time?
3. Heels or flats?
4. Which make up brand do you own most product from?
5.If you could be someone else for the day - who would you be?
6. Lush or The Body Shop?
7. Who's had most influence on who you are as a person today?
8. What's your favourite book?
9. If you could only by one single thing next time you go shopping, what would it be?
10. Starbucks or Costa?
11. Where are you going on your next holiday?

.... and I nominate the following bloggers to join in:
Laura from Pink Frenzy
Tamanna from Tiny Small Wonders  
Shubha from Blue Velvet Addict

Have a great day everyone! Xx

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Red edition

For me the color I most associate with the festive season is red. As a primary color it's a forceful and dynamic shade that is often linked with strong emotions like love, passion, action, courage or even anger but at this time of year for me it evokes feelings of joy and hope. There are so many shades of red in the spectrum from the lighter, softer shades that are almost coral pink to the dark brown blood red vampy shades, which is why the hunt for the perfect red lipstick or nail polish is never really over, something I think every beauty junkie will agree with. Red is definitely my shade of choice this season and here are a few of my favorite red products that will be worn a lot this Christmas.
There are so many gorgeous red nail polish shades this season but as soon as I saw China Glaze (£4.95) in the shade With Love, I knew that this would be my Christmas polish. I was really looking forward to wearing this shade since I'd never used China Glaze before, but had read some great reviews of this US brand and I'm sure I'm not the only one. China Glaze has an enormous range of shades in every color of the rainbow and there are over 300 to choose from. With Love is a true glamorous red shade with a hint of orange that creates the radiant, almost scarlet color. The formula is just the right density - not too watery, not too thick and together with the lovely wide brush it's easy to get an even streak free coverage that dries quickly, with no effort at all. It has a rich pigmentation so one coat of this fabulous red is actually enough for an opaque finish, however personally I prefer to wear two coats.

All the China Glaze nail polishes contain something called China Clay, which is the same material that adds shine to porcelain and it also strengthens the nails, so you'll automatically get a high shine finish without using an additional top coat. On me the finish stays flawless for about 4-5 days, which I think is quite good and then I might need to top up the high shine with a top coat. I love this nail polish and have worn it both on its own (getting so many compliments for it) and as a base shade for festive nail effects and if you haven't yet tried China Glaze, I highly recommend it - you won't be disappointed.
From left to right (in artificial light):
China Glaze - 112 With Love
China Glaze 112 With Love & Nails Inc Snowflake effect
China Glaze 112 With Love & Nails Inc Snow Globe
China Glaze 112 With Love & Nails Inc Party Shoes
China Glaze 112 With Love & Rimmel Disco Ball
From left to right (in natural light):
China Glaze - 112 With Love
China Glaze 112 With Love & Nails Inc Snowflake effect
China Glaze 112 With Love & Nails Inc Snow Globe
China Glaze 112 With Love & Nails Inc Party Shoes
China Glaze 112 With Love & Rimmel Disco Ball
If you've read some of my latest eye makeup posts, you'll know that I've been experimenting with using a lot of red and darker berry shades and I've also tried some new interesting formulas. First we had the well known and loved Maybelline 24 hr colour tattoo, then for me Bourjois' 24 hr cream to shadow proved to be even better than that, and now we have the creme de la creme with Estée Lauder's Gelée Powder EyeShadow (£19) in Cyber Red. It comes in a stylish little compact and has a lovely multi dimensional pattern to us, that's almost too pretty to mess up and the concept behind it is very interesting; gel, powder and liquid in one. It has an incredibly soft and smooth consistency that easily glides onto the eyelid and stays without any creasing or fading all throughout the day. There are 6 metallic, intense shade in the range at the moment and they can be used either dry or wet, depending on which color intensity you're going for. This is a lovely warm and dynamic burgundy red with incredible sheen to it, and I've loved wearing it with just a dark eyeliner and lots of mascara. After a recommendation from one of you lovely readers, I use an almost white base shade before applying Cyber Red and the shade really pops and comes into its own. Thanks for that great tip!

As I've started to wear a red statement lip a lot this Christmas season I've also realised the importance of using a lip pencil, something I didn't use to bother with. But when you wear a vibrant red, or another strong shade a lip pencil is almost a must, not only for defining and maybe even correcting the shape of your lips but also to prevent any bleeding and to make the shade last longer. I've invested in some of the No7 Precision Lips Pencils (£6.75) and for me they are just perfect; soft, smooth and moisturising and they don't dry or fade in a horrible way. For a punchy red statement lip the shade Fire is perfect and it would work well with a range of red shades both lighter and darker and I've paired this lip pencil with the Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer (£6.49) in Big Bang. I've mentioned this amazing Rimmel product a few times before, and I'm sorry for repeating myself but honestly this is one of the best lip products on the high street. The formula is so moisturising but still intense and it gives a lovely high shine. Big Bang is a glorious, vivid clear red shade which is so lovely with a neutral or even nude eye look and with this shade you don't need anything else, it does all the talking. 
From top to bottom (in artificial light):
Estée Lauder Eye shadow - Cyber Ruby
No 7 Lip liner - Fire 
Rimmel Apocalips - Big Bang
From top to bottom (in natural light):
Estée Lauder Eye shadow - Cyber Ruby
No 7 Lip liner - Fire 
Rimmel Apocalips - Big Bang
Last among some of my favourite red products is the fantastic EdP from Tom Ford - Jasmin Rouge EdP (£140 for 50 ml) which I have done a review of previously. It's a wonderful and sensual exotic blend of different types of jasmine, spice and clary sage that creates a very bold and glamorous statement. It's floral but not sweet, intense but not over powering and classic and contemporary all at the same time. This is the purest jasmine scent that I have ever tried and it's completely intoxicating. As you probably know I LOVE perfume and have quite a collection and I usually wear something different every day, but if I had to choose just one single scent to wear for the rest of my life, this would be it - and for me to say that, really does say something about this scent.

A warm, vibrant red is indeed the primary festive color above all, and although it may be a predictable color to wear, it's a classic - after all I wouldn't want to criticize what Santa wears since I hope he'll bring me something nice in a few days...

Friday, 20 December 2013

My big fat Greek food box

I know that we're all looking forward to some lovely Christmas food and right in the middle of all the preparations, I get a delivery from Kitchen Nomad, my monthly subscription of a box of food from somewhere exciting in the world and this month the focus was on Greek food. Greece is a country very close to my heart since I've been very fortunate to not only travel around a lot in Greece but I've also lived there, on an island in the Cyclades called Naxos. It's not always easy finding good food that doesn't contain meat or poultry in some countries in the world, but in Greece it was a doddle since a lot of the cuisine is based on fantastic fresh vegetables and fish flavored with wonderful herbs and spices. So what's in the box to recreate some food memories this time around?
Kalamata extra virgin olive oil - from the Kalamata region on Peloponessos (Southern Greece), known for its peppery and herbal flavor
Vine leaves in brine - essential for Dolmades, yum yum
Pickled capers - use in salads, or with fish or as a pizza topping. Oh, I love the saltiness of these!!
Orzo pasta - almost looks like a big grain of rice, but it is actually a type of macaroni and it's perfect to use in soups or stuffing
Kalamata black olives - dark purple olives
Cassia bark - similar to cinnamon but much more intensive, used for marinades and infusions
Organic pressed tomato sauce
Dukkah spice mix - spicy blend of nuts, seeds, herbs and spice used for dips
Dried Greek figs

What feast are we cooking up this time?
Dolmades (Stuffed vine leaves) -  Vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint and lemon juice - simple but incredibly flavorsome
Dip with dukkah spice -  you can sprinkle the dukkah over yoghurt or just dip bread in olive oil and the dukkah
Youvestsi with orzo and cassia bark - protein (it's supposed to be lamb really), onions, tomato sauce, garlic, cassia bark, orzo and feta cheese
Prawn saganaki with tomato sauce - prawns in a garlicky olive and tomato sauce, sprinkled with feta cheese and baked in the oven
Tarte with black olives and capers - puff pastry covered with olives, capers, fresh tomatoes, basil and rosemary
Fig and walnut bake - figs and walnuts baked in honey, cassia bark and served with yoghurt
Cafe frappe - Ice coffee with lots of froth. I take mine medium sweet with milk - oh the memories...
This food box certainly brought back some lovely memories of the amazing tasty food that Greece has to offer, and after Boxing day when we're all fed up with Christmas food and leftovers, I think a big fat Greek buffet with lots of ouzo and wine will be a welcome change. We might even leave all the dirty Christmas plates and do some plate smashing... Opa!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Winner of 700 follower giveaway & Ciaté Advent calendar Dec 11 to 18

Before we look at the beautiful mini's that Father Ciaté has given me lately I want to say thank you to everyone who entered the UK giveaway I held to celebrate that I reached 700 followers on Bloglovin'. I so appreciate all the support you all give me and I wish I could give a little something to everyone, but  unfortunately there could only be one winner this time, and that is Emma B - another wonderful blogger (Fab Head to Toe). Big congratulations to Emma, I hope you enjoy the Bourjois Iconic Glam set which is on its way to you.

Well, I think it's safe to say that the Ciaté advent calendar just keeps getting better and better. The first batch was OK some fun reds and oranges, the second batch was even better with some lovely metallics and muted shades and this week - WOW is all I say! I'm a very happy polishaholic at the moment with such an amazing selection of shades, effects and textures - just look at these beauties:
 Dec 11 - Jingle Belle: A gorgeous loose glitter in soft pink and effervescent gold and crystal. In the photo I'm wearing it on top of the Ciaté Kiss Chase I got last week. I would wear this either as an accent nail or as the tip of a pink version of a French manicure.
Dec 12 - Pepperminty: A stunning cool, fresh and crisp mint shade with a slight light blue tint. In one word - FABULOUS!
Dec 13 - Ferris Wheel: A subtle creamy pastel blue, very much a spring shade, but also perfect for cool snowy winter manis
Dec 14 - Party Shoes: A beautiful gold glitter polish, that works well on it's own using several coats to build up the density or as a top coat. 
Dec 15 - Play Date: A vibrant, punchy fuchsia pink
Dec 16 - Members Only: A very sheer, shimmery and delicate pale ballerina pink

Dec 17 - Frost Yourself: Finally I got some new caviar beads in this Christmas mix of silver, grey and bright blue.
Dec 18 - Amazing Gracie: A milky off white shade with a faint nude pink hue, great for a natural look or a French mani. 
 From left to right in artificial light:
Jingle Belle on top of Kiss Chase
Ferris Wheel
Party Shoes
 From left to right in artificial light:
Play Date
Members Only
Frost Yourself 
Amazing Gracie
 From left to right in natural light:
Jingle Belle on top of Kiss Chase
Ferris Wheel
Party Shoes
 From left to right in natural light:
Play Date
Members Only
Frost Yourself 
Amazing Gracie

We have sooo many beautiful shades this time around and I genuinely LOVE every single one of them, but for me the jewel of the crown has to be Jingle Belle. I'm completely in love with the gem crusted, glittering but matte look and think it's so eye catching. The only thing about these loose glitters is that even though you are very careful to gather the excess when you've sprinkled it to put it back in the bottle you almost always loose a little bit of the glitter, which is a shame and I wish that they could come up with a better way of dispensing it. But the look is simply stunning - well done Ciaté!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

December empties

I can barely believe that there's only one week to go before Christmas! I've spent the last few weeks bringing home so much stuff for Christmas that the cupboards are filled to the brim of food and hidden away presents. Well, good thing then that I've also tried to make some space by finishing up a few products.

As you may know Operation Rapunzel to get my hair to grow even longer has been in action these last few months, so you probably won't be surprised to see that there are 4 empties today that are related to hair care. The first one is the Kérastase Elixir Ultime hair oil (£27.60). It's a wonderful light oil with a gorgeous scent of sweet and rich moringa that is great for repairing and nourishing damaged hair. Like most hair oils you can use this for some many purposes, as a conditioner, treatment, detangler or as a styling products. I only use a few tiny pumps of oil, and my hairs feels so smooth and silky and cared for. Out of the hair oils I've tried, this is one of my absolute favourites and despite the price tag I would definitely buy it again as it's a real investment in your hair.

Next up is the dry shampoos of the month and both are from Batiste in the scents Cherry (£2.99) and XXL Volume Big & Bouncy (£3.99). Batiste will always be a brand I turn to for dry shampoo because of the wide range of scents that they offer, and they keep re-inventing themselves with new and exciting releases. The cherry scent comes in a cute retro bottle and it has a sweet, fairly intense cherry scent and although it's nice it's almost a little too heavy for me since I prefer lighter scents on my hair that won't interfere with whatever perfume I'm wearing. Big & Bouncy is more of a fresh floral and it's very effective for adding texture and extra body to the hair at the same time as it refreshes and controls oil and I would definitely get it again to help create updo's that stay in place all day.
Key to my routine to encourage my hair to grow is using the Lee Stafford's Hair Growth Treatment which is a protein rich mask that you use as a treatment in between your shampoo and conditioner and you apply it not only to the ends of your hair, but to the scalp as well and a healthy scalp is important for healthy hair, after all the hair grows from the scalp - not the ends. It's a wonderful rich cream with a lovely nutty scent that makes the hair feel very soft and volumized. I've really enjoyed using this every week and I'm already working on my second tub so that I can give you an update next month on how it's worked for me - and if my hair has grown longer which I really hope.

That's the hair products out of the way, so let's look at the others starting with the Gatineau Floracil Eye Makeup Remover (£17.50). It's a non-oily very gentle but effective remover that contains camomile to sooth and refresh the eye area but that also cares for the eyelashes at the same time. In the evening I usually take two cotton pads, soak them with Floracil and put them over the eye lids for a few seconds, and it's as if all the makeup, even water resistant mascara just dissolves and gets wiped away. There's no rubbing or pulling of the delicate skin and no stinging sensation in the eyes. If like myself you spend most of your day in front of a computer screen, your eyes might get a bit tired and weary, and just relaxing with a few pads of Floracil, is a few minutes of every day luxury.  This is without a doubt the best eye makeup remover I have ever used and I will definitely get another jumbo sized one in January and since it should last me about 5 months, the current offer on Salon Skincare really is excellent value for money.

One of the nail care brands that I completely swear by is Sally Hansen and I have used the care range for years now. I must confess that I have strayed and used other brands in between that promise miraculous nail growth, but I have always come back to Sally Hansen since I find that the products actually work and one of the products I've used almost non stop the past year is the Nail Growth Serum (£6.95). The serum contains Biotin, which is famous for helping hair and nails to grow and also for improving the quality. You massage it into both the nail and the cuticle and it certainly helps your nails to grow and I also find that the nails feel stronger and more even. I do prefer the Nail Growth formula that you can use as a base case, but both products are great and if you find it difficult to grow your nails, this might be a great product to try.

Just as I had planned on wearing a lovely glamorous Hollywood look with red lips and a winged eyeliner, my Avon Glimmerstick Liqui-glide eyeliner (£2.50) gave up the ghost. Timing couldn't have been worse! The product has the consistency of a liquid eye liner, but it's in a pencil form and has great precision, which is great for me since I find that liquid liners can be quite difficult to work with. The liner lasted really well throughout the day without any smudging but it was also easy to remove in the evening. I wore the shade graphite - perfect for creating a flick but not quite as harsh as darkest black, all in all a very nice and budget friendly eye liner.
The last empties is one of the winter scented candles I recently bought from Lily-Flame Candle (£8.50). Winter Wood was a fresh, but woody and aromatic scent, almost like the scent of Christmas tree. In the tin it was a bit soapy but I was very positively surprised and it filled the room with a lovely homely scent. I'm usually never disappointed in the candles from Lily-Flame - the scents are great, the candles burn a long time and they usually burn really well. This time however I wasn't pleased when the candle after about 15 hrs refused to burn any longer and had turned into the shape you see in the photo. A bit disappointing, but at least the other candles that I bought haven't let me down, and are just as great as I've come to expect.

I didn't manage to finish as much as I had hoped this month, but I'm sure I can find space somewhere if Santa is kind enough to bring me some lovely beauty bits and pieces this Christmas...

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Rudolph the red nosed Lush mask...

Well, it had to be done... what else could I possibly name this post about the most festive skin care product at the moment, it is of course the Lush Fresh Face Mask in Rudolph (£5.50). Since I use some form of a mask at least twice a week I'm always on the hunt for something new. I've tried quite a few of the Lush masks with mixed success to be honest, but after a few trial and errors I have found my firm favourites that I stick to e.g. Cupcake and BB Seaweed. It's so much fun going into a Lush store and browse the fresh masks - it's a bit like a salad bar, and for me they are great value for money and my only issue is that because they only contain natural ingredients I don't always manage to finish them before the expiry date, but that's a small price to pay for natural fresh skin care.
Rudolph is a calming and soothing mask specifically intended for winter and cold harsh weather, and it's rich in ingredients that reduce redness and restores the skin e.g. cucumber, lavender oil, oatmeal and tofu. Even if we have been lucky enough not to have your typical winter weather, this mask is still lovely to use if your skin feels a little tight, irritated or dehydrated and I would imagine this would be great for sensitive skin as well. The mask is nice and creamy and holds together well, so unlike some of the other fresh masks it's fairly easy to apply an even layer all over the face, although there might be some little drops of it that fall off - so don't use this wearing something delicate or fancy. Leave it on for about 10-15 minutes or so before you take it off and enjoy the lovely fresh, watery smell of cucumber on your skin. It doesn't really dry into a different consistency so it's easy to wipe it off with a hot cloth for a gentle exfoliation at the same time and your skin should feel very moisturised, nourished and less angry.

Since I spend all of my day in front of a computer screen, I sometimes feel that my skin gets a little prickly and Rudolph is a wonderful, fresh relaxation in the evening and even though BB Seaweed is another great skin calmer I actually prefer the aquatic scent of Rudolph, which just adds to the sensation of the skin being refreshed, soothed and restored. Yet another fun product from Lush this Christmas season and I'm very happy to let Rudolph and his cute red jelly nose guide my skincare this winter.   

Monday, 16 December 2013

Manic.Monday: Essie Raisinnuts

December is just flying by - yesterday it was already the 3rd of advent, which means that again it was time to light candle no 3, eat some ginger bread and crack out another bottle of Glögg. Some of you may remember that I have mentioned Glögg before in a post, but if you didn't see that one I can tell you that it's a traditional Swedish hot winter drink, quite similar to mulled wine i.e. it's based on red wine and it's rich with invigorating and warm spices like orange, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and cognac. You usually serve Glögg with raisins and nuts, so I can't think of a more suitable nail polish for this Manic.Monday than Essie's Raisin Nuts (£7.99).

I know I recently did another post on an Essie nail polish (St. Lucia) that wasn't entirely positive, but since I then also mentioned that for me the more pigmented Essie shades are - the better the quality is, I wanted to balance my previous review by showing a good shade with lots of pigmentation... and Raisin Nuts is a really good one.
There's no denying that the formula still is quite thin, but it does feel a little bit more creamy when you apply it. The brush is also still the same, i.e. quite narrow and when I apply it I need about 4 streaks to get a good coverage. Now had that been in a lighter shade, I know from experience that the first coat would have been streaky, however the pigmentation makes all the difference and with Raisin Nuts I get a really nice and even finish. Raisin Nuts is a warm, sweet dark red shade that creates a lovely satin finish. For me it's not opaque enough when I just use one coat and since I really want to bring out the lovely depth of the color, I always apply two coats with this shade. The formula dries very quickly and evenly without any gloopyness and in the photos I've also followed up with a high shine top coat.

I love to wear Raisin Nuts and the sophisticated deep wine shade really reminds me of the color of Glögg and for me it's a great soft shade for autumn and winter that goes with most outfits. This particular shade from Essie lasts about 3 days on me before it starts to chip even if I'm wearing a good base coat and top coat, so for me long wear is still an issue - but not a big one so let's call it an issuette. It's not going to stop me from getting any Essie shades that I really like, however I have to be honest and say there are other brands that I prefer to use. If you have any tips on how to get Essie nail polishes to last longer, I'm all ears!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Wondrous winter warmers

I've always loved Christmas, and this year I don't know what has come over me, but I think it's safe to say that I've taken it to a different level! Not only have I decorated the house much more than I usually do, and started hoarding Christmas food early on, but I've also bought special Christmas snuggly clothes - yes... really... On the other hand I don't think it's just me. I can't remember the last time that every single shop on the high street had such a range of cute, adorable and silly but wonderful Christmas themed clothes. During one of my recon missions a few weeks ago to everybody's favourite budget palace - Primark, I picked up some cute Christmas winter warmers: leggings, socks and slippers. Considering the prices were so low, I actually think I was quite restrained only getting these few items. I did also pick up a plain basic new red top from Zara because after all what is Christmas without a red top, and a lovely black fluffy and warm angora jumper from A-Wear to complete my lounge wear look for the season.  
Red baggy jumper: Zara // Black angora jumper: A-Wear // Slippers & Penguin leggings & Polar bear leggings & 3 pairs of Christmas socks: Primark 

As much as I love my penguins and polar bears leggings I have to point out that I had never actually planned to go out in public wearing any of these. It was just going to be for nice and cozy evenings after a long day's work, and after the reaction from Him Indoors to my fabulously chic penguin leggings - 10 mins of rip roaring laughter, I'm definitely sticking to my original plan. But then again - what do men know?!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Kiss from a winter rose

Christmas time is the season for all things party, and it's a chance not only to dress up in glamorous outfits but it's also a time to be creative and have fun with makeup, trying on some looks that you might not normally go for. I'm definitely not a professional make up artist but I love to experiment and try on different looks, and since berry and plum shades are on trend I wanted to do a smokey rose eye look using some new shades that are a bit richer and darker and which would work well for an evening winter look. 
Usually I would start by applying my foundation however since I did a smokey eye, I actually left this to after I'd finished my eye makeup to avoid fall out and tedious corrections under the eye, so let's go straight to the eye shadows that I used. I started with applying a wash of The Body Shop Colour Crush Eyeshadow* (£7) in Grape Expectations all over the lid and even a little bit winged on the outer eyelid. It's a great silky eye shadow, that's very rich in pigmentation. You only need very little of this eye shadow, so I would recommend that you start lightly and then build it up and blend it out, which is nice and easy to do because of the lovely texture. The shade Grape Expectations is a beautiful truly matte, deep plum purple with a faint red note that I think would work for most eye colors. I also used what was left on the brush after all the blending and used that to line the lower lashline. To deepen the look I then added DAMS eyeshadow* (£16) in Damson Black to the socket line and also to the wing I created with Grape Expectations for more contrast with my blue eyes. The DAMS eye shadow is another creamy and very pigmented product where you only need very little for a dramatic impact, and I was positively surprised that there was hardly any fall out at all, despite all the blending that I did and the finish turned out very even and intense without looking heavy or cakey.

For definition I added Avon Glimmerstick Eyeliner (£3) in Blackest Black which is a wonderful smooth eyeliner that is long lasting and waterproof so you can also use it on your waterlines for even more impact. I applied the eyeliner on both the upper and lower lashlines and then it was time for the key to the smokey look - the smudging. In a way a smokey eye will hide all sorts of make up sins if you just smudge it enough and unlike blending which softens everything - smudging adds an edge, an attitude: "I slept in my makeup and I look fab" kind of feeling... I used The Body Shop Smudger Brush* (£9) which has a generous soft foam tip that is so flexible to work with and it creates that wonderful fused and slightly messy smokey eye look. I was really impressed by this brush and as much as I love my Real Techniques brushes I will definitely try some of the other brushes that The Body Shop offers. To finish the eye area I had to use the amazing butterfly effect mascara False Lash Flutter from L'Oréal (£10.99). I've mentioned this so many times before so I'll just say that it adds length, volume and flares the lashes all at the same time - perfect when you're going for a heavy eye look.
Having finished the eye area, it's time for foundation and I used The Body Shop All-In-One BB Cream* (£12) in shade 3 Beige. I had never used a BB cream so I don't have much to compare with, but it contains hydrating qualities as well as pigmentation to even out your skin, in short it combines skin care and make up in one products. From the tube the cream looks white, but as soon as you start massaging it in, the pigmentation is released and this will adapt to your skin tone. When I first saw the pigmentation appear on my skin - a rosy terracotta, my heart almost stopped because that is as far away from my natural skin color as you can get. Luckily it did somehow miraculously adjust and gave a light-weight even coverage that not only felt very pleasant and natural on the skin but it also looked very natural. It lasted well throughout the day without transferring onto white clothes and when I removed it, my skin felt hydrated and smooth, as if I'd just moisturised. The only thing I'm not keen on is the scent which gets quite distinct as you work on getting an even coverage partly because I don't find it quite synthetic and  also because it changes into a more dry and powdery scent. I do however like the BB cream and since the scent is fades quite quickly it won't stop me from using it.

I didn't apply any blusher because I wanted the eye makeup to all the talking, but that of course is a personal choice and you could easily wear a berry shade to match. For my lips I used The Body Shop Colour Crush Lipstick* (£10) in Innocent Pink which is a light pale delicate pink with a slight shimmer that gives an almost nude look, great for contrasting a heavy eye. The lipstick feels very moisturising and it fades well and evenly after a few hrs, without any horrible dry patches. 
A smokey eye isn't always easy to carry off in the day time, but depending on which shades to choose, it's less of a vampy look and using the berry shades give depth, without being too dramatic, so for me the look works in the day time as well. If you're looking for inspiration The Body Shop has a wonderful series of mini tutorials to create different Smokey Eyes; Intense, Nude, Subtle, Jeweled or Rose. What do you think - do you like a smokey eye and a nude lip or have you created another look recently that's your new favourite?