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A VERY Late Xmas Wishlist & Gift Ideas pt. 1

23 Dec

The older I get, the less I buy for myself and the more I buy for others. I’ll buy you what I think you’ll like or need, or I won’t buy you anything at all. If I see something I think you’ll like, I probably won’t be able to wait till your birthday/anniversary/Christmas – it’ll just show up at your door. I’ve bought stuff for everyone else but myself this year, but think I’ll start my wishlist around Xmas and hopefully acquire it throughout the year.

Here are a few things I’m lemming, and hoping that if you’re stuck for some last minute Xmas gifts, my list will give you a few ideas.

  1) CHOCOLATE – you can NEVER go wrong with chocolate, unless it’s Black Magic or Ferrero Rocher (not that I’m a chocolate snob, but these are GIFTS, you see). I always go local (no Godiva) because the local stuff are more artisan and tend to be fresher (there IS a difference). My go-to places for impressive, unique, local artisan chocolates are Thomas Haas (they also have the most buttery pastries) and Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France (new on the chocolate scene). Like last year, order a day or 2 ahead at Thomas Haas (they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays, unfortunately), but I spotted their gift boxes at Whole Foods on West 8th and Cambie Street. If you want to impress someone, the Earl Grey chocolate at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France is to die for.  

2) LOLLIA WISH PARFUM – I’ve always loved the Lollia line, especially their Shea Butter handcremes (the perfect hostess gift) and their candles. I was in a store the other day and overheard 3 different people inquire and rave about the Wish parfum (which were conveniently sold out, by the way) and they were added to the waitlist. I have the Wish handcreme, and it dawned on me how dreamy it would be in a parfum (a sweet bouquet of sugarcane, vanilla bean and jasmine). Now on the hunt for it. Get on the list at Beautybar, U Life and Nikaido Gifts. Or online at Anthropologie.

3) URBAN DECAY NAKED PALETTE – This gorgeous neutral palette has sparked a lemming and buying frenzy almost as crazy as Chanel Vamp (’94)and Black Satin (’06) which went international. No, it’s more of an underground lemming craze a la Bobbi Brown’s Shimmering Nudes Palette (’08) that’s not based on the current fashion craze or fad but because it’s timeless. This palette was released at the end of summer and is completely SOLD OUT.

I have to admit I’ve lapsed on this beauty thing, but when I saw Jen from FrmHeadToToe.com use it (I’ll write a post on her later – she’s my newest makeup guru), I just HAD to have it, only to add myself to the waitlist of 300 at Sephora at Pacific Centre. Want to know how many people want it? I posted on Twitter that I was going to look for it and 4 girls joined in on the conversation – everyone wants it! I stood in the UD section just looking over the collection when the salesperson approached me and said “let me guess, you’re looking for the Naked palette too. Let me add you to the list, we should have some coming in after Christmas.” The proof is in the pudding. If I ever get my hands on it I’m buying 2. I can’t review it because I’ve never held it in me hands (there wasn’t even a tester at Sephora! Guess someone pried it out of the case and swiped it!) but Temptalia, Makeupgeek, MusingsOfAMuse and many other beauty sites gave it full marks, no cons and pretty much a must have in everyone’s collection!

(Almost) Perfect ‘Curls’

3 Jun

My quest to achieve perfect waves/curls (subject to personal opinion, of course) was not inspired by the current ‘it’ girl with the hair “that all women want and men want to run their fingers through” Serena van der Woodsen (aka Blake Lively). With her perfect blonde touseled waves that can go either Park Avenue Princess or beachy Hamptons socialite, she inspires both admiration and envy every Monday night.

No – my obsession with waves started out with the original Serena, Tinsley Mortimer. As known as the “girl with the curls” in NY society pages, I have written about how to achieve her hair in a previous post, and to this day I still stand by the Infiniti by Conair Instant Heat Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron (in 3/4″, 1″ and 1.5″). As it’s very reasonably priced (less than $30) you can buy all 3 sizes for different looks – it works so well that I’ve actually brought it along to my hairstylist to use.

But I have a new hair icon. As where there’s Serena, there’s Blair, Tinsley also has a social and fashion nemesis, the one everyone loves to hate – Olivia Palermo. If you’ve ever followed the now defunct Socialite Rank, you’d know the infamous rivalry in which the website did play a part in escalating. I’ve always loved Olivia’s hair and style, but on this season of The City, it is, dare I say… PERFECT. To achieve her style, you’d need a center part layered cut, at least shoulder blade length all around, and the use of up to 3 sizes of curling irons. Complicated? Perhaps. Showstopping? YES!!!! (I was so taken by her hair in Season 2, Episode 3 that I had to screencap it. Yes, I’m that much of a geek).

But not only was this post inspired by Ms. Palermo, but it’s also dedicated to my new Moroccan Oil Luminous Hairspray. I already swear by the Original Oil Treatment and use the Glimmer Shine Spray to enhance highlights and protect colour in the summer, but one thing about living in rainy Vancouver is that no matter how much Bumble & Bumble hairspray or the cult fave L’oreal Elnett I spray on, minutes after I step outside my waves frizz out. Not to mention that I have thick, coarse, over processed dry hair. But that all changed when I used the argan oil infused Luminous Hairspray that claims to “offer a long-lasting natural hold without stickiness or build up… this humidity-resistant hairspray leaves a veil of luminous shine.” This claim, dare I say, holds true. Proof? It’s becoming the ‘it’ product at all the runway shows. Around $20 – I got mine at Pompadours on 4th, which carries the whole Moroccan Oil collection.

I would usually never post my photo, but I just had to show that it works!!!! My hair looks healthy and shiny, unlike the tumbleweed it usually is. Moroccan Oil Original Treatment + T3 hair dryer + Infiniti by Conair 1.5″ + Moroccan Oil Luminous Hairspray. Total drying time 5-8 minutes. Total curling and styling time 5-10 minutes. Bonus? It also smells like summer.

Update: Thanks to Nicole (www.lemodedujour.com) I am more curls than waves. If you want waves check out her site!

Going Back to Basics: Skincare

28 May

Twice a year when the seasons change, my skin becomes problematic. I get dehydrated oily skin – an oxymoron, for sure, but a seasonal menace. Some years I break out, but this year it materialized in the form of dry patches. No amount of scrubbing or chemical exfoliation worked – I just get drier and *gasp* scalier. Even my winter skin saviour, Kiehl’s PCA Oil-Free Moisturizer was no match – I still ended up dry and flaky by the middle of the day. No amount of Dior/Shiseido/Lancome/Estee/Guerlain could save me. You can’t combat it by fighting with extreme measures, kind of like if you have oily skin and use a harsh alcohol based toner to dry it out, it will wreak havoc on your skin – your skin will produce more oil, but your epidermis will be dry and well, frankly it’ll be a mess. Sloughing on a heavy moisturizer like anything by Guerlain won’t work – it’ll just make me break out, and I’ll still be dry. My new Nars skincare regimen didn’t help, and was probably partially to blame. I should have stuck with the Aesop line as it kept my skin healthy and balanced, but with the state that my face is in now, I’ll have to take other drastic measures.

It’s time to go easy on the skin. Whether this is due to seasonal or hormonal changes, like one of those Cosmo makeunders, I have to make under my skincare. Take away all the fancy cleaners, toners, creams etc. No more fragrances, AHAs, chemicals and what not. It’s time to go back to the basics.

Johnson & Johnson’s Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash – I know the most popular non-irritating cleanser out there is Cetaphil, but I’ve always felt that it never left my face clean. You can’t find this in Canada (I don’t think), but head down to Target or Walgreens. The big size is less than $10 so it’s super affordable. Cleansers shouldn’t be expensive – they should be gentle and leave your face clean. Besides, it’s never on your face long enough for any of the claims to work and that’s why the investment should be in the serum and/or cream. Ivanka Trump swears by this, and believe me this is a great basic no-nonsense cleanser.  If you’re going to do any at home scrubs, this is a great base.

Linacare Transforming Face Cream – For serious skincare, I never go to a department store or Sephora. For the serious stuff, I walk into a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon’s office and see what they have on the shelves. They carefully pick out a few lines and products that work and may recommend the pricier stuff, (always do your own research though), but it’s better than trying a lot of products till you find something that works. Linacare was developed by a Harvard-trained research scientist/physician for his own patients (for eczema, dry skin due to diabetes, postpartum, chemotherapy and radiation) until the word got out that it works. It doesn’t claim anything miraculous, but it does what it claims to do – it moisturizes, and it does it VERY well without the heaviness. It’s very La Mer, but it’s more affordable and made in Canada. $25-$58 cdn, retailers in Canada and HK or buy online.

Aquaphor –  Does this product even need an introduction? It has a cult following larger than Rosebud Salve‘s, and may rival L’oreal’s Elnett Hairspray (European formula). It’s in every makeup artist’s arsenal, been mentioned in countless fashion and beauty magazines, a staple at any Fashion Week but it’s still a beauty secret. As the ‘duct tape’ of beauty products, followers have claimed that it makes your eyelashes grow longer, it helps the healing of tattoos and burns, prevents chafing, can be mixed with loose mineral eyeshadows to make a cream e/s, used as a face highlighter, for the prevention of stretch marks, as a makeup remover and it’s been used for everything from as an itch reliever to eye cream. It does what it does – it moisturizes, and I use it on the drier flaky patches on my face and sometimes as a hydrating masque. I applied a very thin layer of the Healing Ointment all over my face today under foundation and powder and it gave me a beautiful dewy glow. It never became oily and I still haven’t broken out *knock on wood* and it may be a suitable primer replacement for those colder and drier months.  People are always finding new uses for this versatile product. Most recently reported in the In Style Magazine June 2010 issue, Beyonce uses Aquaphor over makeup for that dewy look, as lip gloss and to slick back her hair. Enough said.

Wax on, wax off

27 May

I believe that an aesthetician who is a pro at waxing should receive the same level of reverence as a hairstylist.  I don’t know what it is about hair (maybe because it is such a large part of our identity), but when you find ‘the one’ that you trust and who understands your needs, they inspire fervent loyalty. Though you see them every 4 or 6-8 weeks, you spill the beans about everything in the 20 minutes or the 3 hours that you spend with them. They know all your secrets – things about your family, significant other, dating history, what your real haircolour is etc. … from that ‘scar’ behind your ear down to your netherregions. They won’t judge if you had a mishap with at-home bleach or have an ingrown – they’re there to hold your hand as they make it all better.  

If you find ‘the one’, the relationship and friendship that you develop with them can last longer (and could be more fulfiling) than the one with your significant other. And unlike your significant partner, they will know if you’ve cheated. =)

I will never go to another as she is the best:

Amy Luong
Aesthetician, Som Visao Spa
8-3195 Granville St.
Vancouver BC
604-732-9901

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

13 May

So I’m hosting a cheese and wine thing this Friday – doing the usual pairings: 

  • meats from Oyama Sausage Company on Granville Island – wild boar procuitto and lamb chorizo.
  • condiments – Silkameen honey, spanish peppers, cipollini onions, date bread, quince paste
  • cheese – a blue, stilton, cheddar, riopelle, a spanish hard cheese.
  • fruit – pears, dried figs and cranberries
  • drinks – a Moscato d’Asti (my drink of choice for a sunny Sunday afternoon), Golden Star White Jasmine Sparkling Tea and a Kettle Valley Starboard (port).

So what am I missing? Dessert! Which will be Lavender Honey Ice Cream. Variations of the recipes below. Bon appetit! 

Lavender Honey Ice Cream – from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz  

  • ½ cup good flavored honey
  • ¼ cup dried or fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  •  5 large egg yolks

1) Heat the honey and 2 tablespoons of the lavender in a small saucepan until the honey is fluid. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for one hour. 

2) Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the lavender infused honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the bowl. 

3) Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan. 

4) Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. (UPDATE: Don’t think that it’ll turn into a thick custard! Just when it starts to get glossy and thick, get it off the stove or in a few seconds it’ll turn into scrambled eggs!) Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers. Refrigerate overnight. 

5) Before churning, strain the mixture again. Press the lavender flowers to extract as much of their flavor as possible. Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

TOPPINGS: Roasted Blueberries :  spread fresh or wrinkly blueberries out on a cookie sheet, sprinkled them with sugar and roasted them at 400F until they soften and release their juices. OR throw them into a pot of maple syrup and warm it until they pop. 

NOTES: Since whipping cream comes in 355ml(?) and it calls for 275ml, what to do with the 80ml? Dump the whole thing in I say, cut down on the milk if you want to. More lavender better than less. Infuse the lavender and honey overnight if you want, final infusion 12 hours at least. Don’t overdo the sugar.

Update: This is my go-to HG recipe! HG in makeup speak = holy grail. The honey binds the flavours together creating an all rounded taste. Best part is, no one can guess that it’s honey.

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