Musings of a self-confessed beauty addict from the heart of London!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Rhubarb Rubacuori

Possibly a contender for the most bizarre blog-post on the entire world-wide web, but bear with me on this....

Tis the season for rhubarb. Today I picked up a massive bunch of the stuff at the supermarket, so enchanted was I by its glorious pinky corally reddish hue.
What is that? asked Mr P, grimacing somewhat.
It's rhubarb!
What are you going to do with it?
I don't know, probably make a crumble. But really,  I don't care what I do with it,  I love the colour so much, I just want it!

So ok, this isn't a foodie blog but I can't stop being inspired by food, and somehow that inspiration seems to lead me to make-up on a very conscious level. Hence Blossoms and Brownies
After all, nature produces some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring colours, so why not?
As I chopped up the magical pink batons it occurred to me that the colour reminded me of something I had in my make-up box. At the time I couldn't think what it was.
Later on I went to get myself ready for going out, and it hit me. My blush (MAC Springsheen) was the exact same colour as the magic rhubarb. I was filled with joy, simple creature that I am. I applied it liberally to the upper part of my cheeks and worked it into the skin to give me a healthy peachy (or rhubarby) flush. To complete the look I used gold and bronzey brown eyeshadows  from my beloved Sleek Storm palette and my Jemma Kidd "Bridgetown" lipstick, my current favourite nude colour. I didn't want to go all pinky rhubarb all over, the cheeks were enough.
I came downstairs, and pouted at Mr P.

What do you think of my make-up?
Nice... you look like Ruby Rubacuori!

Cue a little paranoia. Had my pouting gone too far? Had I indeed transformed myself into Berlusconi's "stealer of hearts" herself?
What on earth do I do with all that rhubarb?!

Well no, not exactly. But the pouty nude lip look is one that Ruby often sports (as well as other 'nude' looks, but we won't go there...). Men can be very observant!
Still, never in a million years did I think that the pure and simple inspiration I took from the humble rhubarb would lead to a comparison like this. I'm just thankful I don't have the Italian prime minister on speed dial.
What started out as a look based on pretty pink innocent flushed cheeks had ended up being about a sexy fleshpot pout. No bad thing I guess. But couldn't Mr P have said Angelina Jolie instead???

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Walk like an Egyptian

Actually if you were to walk like an Egyptian at the moment you would probably need some sort of placard and an expression of angry defiance. I suppose what I want to say is bathe like an Egyptian, but that doesn't really have the same ring to it...
So where am I going with this? On my way to catch the tram most days I pass a small beauty salon specialising in treatments based on completely natural products only. It's quite an expensive place, but has that aura of health and tranquility about it as you might expect. Normally I don't take much notice of it, but today I saw a big poster in the window promoting a new treatment. The announcement went something like this (in French obviously):

The Bath of Cleopatra
A bath using real asses milk!
Excellent for treating psoriasis, eczema, healing scars, and for old people and children

I have ways of making you pretty

 Mon Dieu! How on earth could I ever justify taking an afternoon out to bathe in asses milk?? Try explaining that to the other half.  I'm not sure that I would ever need something as drastic as that, my skin being generally ok, nothing my Clarins moisture-rich body lotion won't sort out anyway.  Still, I'm so intrigued! There's one side of me (the dumb one) which imagines a palatial room with a magnificent plunge pool filled with a rose-scented milky-water, a few maidens leisurely playing the lyre whilst I step elegantly into it, letting the towel slip seductively from behind me as I immerse myself in the elixir of beauty. As I emerge, all sublimely soft and beautified, a handsome, muscular slave enrobes me in a towel and leads me to a massage bed (obviously he'd be a eunuch, just to keep Mr P happy).
And then there's the other side of me.... which to be honest has got so caught up in the Cecil B. DeMille image that I can't imagine what the reality would be. 

Thank Isis for waterproof make-up!

I suppose the sensible thing to do would be just to go in and inquire, and then I'd be able to give you all the lowdown like a proper grown-up beauty-blogger. The thing is, I know that there is a clear and present danger I'll end up being talked into making an appointment and then my Claudette Colbert dream may be ruined for ever, plus there'll probably be a huge gaping hole in my wallet where my money used to be, especially if I ask them how much they want for throwing in a slave or two.
So, if the whole milk bath thing floats your boat (sorry), then here are some alternatives to milking that donkey down at the local city farm:

Elemis Milk Bath:  a totally luxurious product which smells totally delicious and very expensive, which it is unfortunately, but you do get a whopping 400ml of the stuff and you only need to use a cap-full in the bath. I have to say that when I had a bottle of this stuff years back I used to slosh it in the bath like it was a 99p bath foam. Oh the indulgence. Leaves you feeling incredibly soft and scented like a millionairess. 

Home-made milk bath: There are so many ways of doing this and many 'recipes' to be found on the web. Here's one that I think looks good, although I'm not sure where you can find "powdered honey", am pretty sure a spoon of the regular runny kind would be just fine.

Weleda also make lovely products, all-natural/organic, including a range of scented bath milks. I'm sure they don't actually contain milk, but if you just want a milky sort of bath rather than a bubble or oil kind then I'm sure they'll give you your hit. At under £9, they won't make your wallet wince either. 

As a last resort, and not really a bad way to go, I think that just a cup of powdered milk and a few drops of your favourite essential oil would be just as effective as the more complex recipes out there which seem to require you to get the pestle and mortar out. Pestle and mortar? For a bath? Now that's what Cleopatra had slaves for. 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

My Funny Valentine

Tomorrow brings yet another Valentine's Day upon us, and I have to say I'm really looking forward to it. Well, something has to brighten up a Monday, don't you think? It's not that we've planned anything, or that I'm expecting anything at all, it's more a state of mind. It's the idea that hearts, flowers, and all that is cute and kitsch can reign supreme on this one day in gloomy February.
When I was younger in my many years of singledom, I dreamed of the day when Valentines would actually mean something to me. I imagined all the loved up couples in the world cooing at each other over a chocolate fondue, surrounded by rose petals, scented candles and the dulcet tones Celine Dion (cut me some slack, it was a good few years ago). I used to get incredibly sad in the run up to V-day itself at the prospect of another year without a secret admirer to send me roses and poetry. On occasional years I would indeed get a card, clumsily scribbled with From guess who...

I really had to beg my parents to stop doing it. The shame of getting a card from them was even greater than the stigma of being unloved. Boohoo.
So when I finally did have a Valentine, in the shape of Mr P, there was much rejoicing although it wasn't actually reserved for the day itself. Each year, as Valentine's came round once more, we found ourselves awkwardly trying to negotiate the situation without much success. He thinks it's a load of commercial rubbish, I think it's not about the commercial side, it's about the gesture itself. So, not really being able to define verbally what I wanted on V-day, Mr P would take it as meaning I didn't really care and therefore put it on the back burner until the day itself would come round and I would inevitably get into a major strop about the lack of effort or enthusiasm on his part. Very romantic indeed.
This year, I had an epiphany. Or to be more precise, today I had an epiphany. I was making myself up for the day and having a little more time at my disposal I decided to work an understated look (the kind where you use loads of products and take loads of time to make it look like you haven't tried) and I dug out a lipstick (Laura Mercier in Courtisane) which I hadn't used in ages.
I better make it last, I just found out it's been discontinued. Not cool.

I put it on, and I realised why I'd bought it in the first place. It was such a gorgeous colour, a neutral pinky red shot through with gold shimmer, but at the same time quite understated and unassuming to look at in the tube. I guess because of this it had been relegated to the bottom of a handbag only to be re-discovered in a recent 'handbag autopsy'. It gave me such a lift to wear this beautiful and luxurious lipstick and for some inexplicable reason I suddenly felt very disposed to the Valentine's spirit. I don't want to go out anywhere special tomorrow, I don't want my husband to buy me presents, but I do want to feel like it's a special day and I know that it will be. I realised that tomorrow's romantic feeling was entirely in my hands, and the mundane act of slicking on a luxurious lipstick showed me how simple it was going to be. I want to put some effort into tomorrow, to dress a little sassy, to wear the cuter boots, to style my hair, to wear the prettiest lipstick I own, to bake some heart-shaped cookies (these ones) and maybe buy a beautiful little pot of violets. It won't really be an effort though. Tomorrow will be my Valentine's Day and if Mr P wants to partake in my celebration, he is more than welcome, there'll definitely be enough cookies to go round. He will appreciate my efforts and that's enough for me. As I said at the beginning Valentine's Day is a state of mind rather than a state of heart, so who could blame him for not feeling the V-day vibes. It'll be a funny sort of Valentine's day, but at least it will be all mine.
With love, Pandora xxxxx

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Project Slim

In the name of truth and science (and sheer desperation) I have decided to trial a product which claims to get you beach ready in two weeks. It's been a good few months now that I've felt and looked like a dumpling. I've never been one to subscribe to the "one is need, two is greed" ethos (except when we're talking packets... or tubs) and the freezing weather has not enticed me to move my gelatinous behind from the sofa much this winter. For the meantime I can wrap up my dumpling self in duvet coats and jumpers and pretend I didn't eat half a pack of Hobnobs the night before, but when Spring comes knocking there ain't no pretending.
A few days ago an email popped into my inbox from a company called Rodial offering a huge reduction on one of it's bestselling products, Skinny Beach sticks,  for one day only. Instead of paying a whopping £48.00 for a box they were offering it at only £14.95. This is supposed to be both a slimming and sun care product rolled into one. 14 sticks of powder (one per day) which you dissolve in water to make a fruit-flavoured drink, which has the dual purpose of getting rid of water retention and prepping your skin for the sun so that it tans faster without burning. This is what they say:
Active ingredients, including betacarotene and lycopene, help to build up the tanning pigments in the skin, which provides a powerful layer of antioxidants to protect skin from free radical attacks. What’s more they help to build your natural UV protection levels. Green tea extracts are teamed with meadowsweet which will encourage fat combustion and limit the absorption of lipids.
Well here's hoping. I wonder what would happen if I mixed the sachet with Haagan Daz's Cookies & Cream....

Only Joking.

Still, I impulsively clicked and purchased. Not only did it seem like a good opportunity to put the product to the test, but also the idea of being harpooned on the beach this summer was just not sitting well with me. Mr P tells me it's because I'm a delicacy in some countries.... well, who doesn't like a dumpling?
I couldn't seem to locate many reviews of the product, other than on the site itself, and let's face it, they're not going to post anything non-positive, are they? So I decided to conduct my own study and document the trail on a day-to-day basis, complete with measurements. It doesn't really make sense to start drinking the sachets as soon as I get them, so I'll wait until I know I'm going away somewhere where there'll be sun. Not sure I can wait as long as August, but perhaps April when I go to Barcelona... we shall see! So the results will be in two phases: Phase one, when the two weeks are up pre-holiday I'll measure the amount of weight lost (if any). Phase two, after the holiday, I'll note if I've tanned easier and quicker.

Please note, I'm in no way advocating weight-loss supplements as a replacement for healthy-eating and exercise and this product is not marketed as such. My interpretation of it, is that it the results it could potentially have can be the icing-on-the-cake of weight-loss achieved through diet and lifestyle changes.
Just don't eat the cake in the process. :)

Monday, 7 February 2011

Puss in boots

Despite still feeling a bit worse for wear, Mr P and I managed to get over to Italy this weekend to see his folks as planned. To be honest I wasn't relishing the idea of traveling. Me being me, preparing for a weekend away is nothing short of a military operation and I just didn't have the energy for it. The packing must be precise and I must be prepared for every eventuality... that is, when it comes to my vanity case. Clothes, underwear, shoes.... they can be thrown in willy nilly. My cosmetics however, now that's a different ballgame. A few years ago, when the airports first imposed the liquids rule I went into a near state of panic. As ludicrous as it may sound, my hand luggage has always been a vanity case of sorts, or at least a giant make-up bag filled with everything I could possibly need, all too precious to be put in the hold. I know, it's nuts. It's all stuff that can be re-purchased easily if it ever got lost, but for some reason I actually get separation anxiety if parted from my products. Even when they eventually allowed liquids under 100ml (and only one measly bag's worth) I rushed about in a state of angst trying to purchase my favourite creams and shampoos in mini sizes, and decanting those which didn't come in pixie size into regulation-sized bottles from Superdrug or Muji. With make-up there was always a blurry line of what counted as liquid.... lip gloss, mascara, various compact products. At one point I tried to use only mineral make-up so that security would clearly see that I was carrying powders which would not be included in the stingy liquid limit allowed for carry-on baggage. Oh the stress....
So having carefully, and wearily, packed my beauty case I realised that I should probably cut down on the 3 12-colour eyeshadow palettes I included (really, it was probably the codeine...). I reasoned that I probably wouldn't even get round to applying one colour, let alone 36. So out went the palettes and I decided to take a liquid liner instead, minimum effort, maximum effect, no blending required. I found it. It had dried out. Shopping opportunity ahead.
It turned out to be quite a fruitful weekend in the shopping stakes. I managed to nab two pairs of beautiful boots for the price of one. One pair was in a buttery dark brown suede with a high wedge heel and round toe, and the other, a chestnut brown leather with a kind of broderie pattern for every-day wanderings. The shop assistant called them "English style" boots, because of the design. I couldn't quite relate the pattern with English style, but hey.... English = exotic in Italy, and that's fine with me!
I also picked up a new liquid eyeliner (L'Oreal carbon gloss) and an extra black volume mascara, also by L'Oreal. Not a brand I like that much generally, maybe because it's so BIG and so EVERYWHERE, but I'd heard good things about the liner so I thought I'd give it a go. Plus, I don't think Mr P could physically watch me hand over a sum of more than 2 digits for a designer liner. On the other hand, if he wasn't with me....
That night we went out with friends, and I hadn't really brought anything to wear for going out. (Out? Out?? I'd kind of forgotten the meaning of the word recently) My new liner came to the rescue. I wouldn't have been in the mood to start blending eyeshadows anyway, so I decided to dress myself up with a cat-eye. The long felt applicator pen looked like it was going to be a challenge to handle, but it was surprisingly easy to get a good even application and I was feline in no time ( Fe-LINE... geddit?)... Sorry.
I wore my new suede boots which were so comfortable and yet so elegant (IMO obviously, others may disagree) and I felt quite re-born prancing around in them before going out. All of a sudden my cough which had been plaguing me for a almost a week had disappeared. All hail the miracle of new footwear.
Stepping into the lift, Mr P looked at me and said: "Wow, sexy eyes. Is that the new liner?" All hail the miracle of new make-up.
We ate, laughed and generally made merry and we forgot all our woes of the week that had gone.
All hail the miracle of the company of good friends.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Green eyed monster

After a brief spell of good health, the plague returned in full force this week. Both Mr Pandora and I have been feeling pretty rank again, and my initial optimism that spring was just around the corner had died a brutal death. Typical. I'd just gotten used to braving the cold with a smile (courtesy of MAC Plumful) knowing in my heart that keeping up in the glamour stakes would make the remaining winter days just that bit more bearable. But no. From Glamourpuss to Bagpuss.... how the mighty have fallen.
From this... this

And so it was, tucked up in my dressing gown and track pants that I decided to take action, albeit before the virus hit at full tilt. A glance at my pallid and exhausted face in the mirror convinced me that I at least had to pretend to be well, that way maybe I could trick the germs into thinking I was an impenetrable barrier of health and strength. Out came the make-up box, and the battle began. Earlier in the day when I had bravely tried to venture outside I had applied very little make-up, just enough to give a bit of definition, with a very light neutral brown in the crease of my eye and a slick of mascara. On a well woman this would be fine, but a well woman I was not, and neutrals were certainly not enough to fight the germs. There would have to be brights. And bronzer. And a lot more concealer. Delving into my eye palettes I found my secret weapon. The greens! I needed colour and green is my absolute number one choice for perking up my eyes. Ever since my first, albeit misguided, foray into green eyeshadow with Charles of the Ritz  I have forever been in love with the way green makes me feel. It sounds weird to say that a colour can alter the way you feel, but I really do believe to a certain extent in colour therapy. In the periods of my life when I used to wear head-to-toe black every day (a brief mid-90's goth faze, best forgotten) I was at my most miserable. Now I have an aversion to buying clothes in black unless it's really necessary. Slimming it may be, cheering it is not.
So anyway, I dug out a gorgeous YSL palette which was bought for me by my beloved godmother (my first ever make-up guru, about whom more will certainly be written).
YSL Ombres 5 Lumieres (Garden of Eden)
I'd used the palette before on occasion, but only wearing one, or maximum two, shades at a time. This time, my mission was to use all five...why not live dangerously?  I began with the brightest green shade (bottom left) all over the eyelid, just going above the crease line. Then I took the bronze-green shade (bottom right) onto the outer corners and slightly into the crease, blending it well into the bright green. I took the forest green shade (top left) onto the lower lashline and over the bronze-green to create more depth. The pale lime green shade (top right) I used in the inner corners of the eye, top and bottom, and the highlight shade in the middle I placed on the centre of the eyelid just to add a little sparkle. I then lined my waterline top and bottom with a black kohl pencil and applied lashings of mascara.
I was so pleased with the way it turned out. The colours blended together beautifully and the texture of the shadows was soft and satin, not too shimmery, which kept the look really chic and not garish at all. I completed the look with a generous swipe of pink coral blush (NARS Orgasm) on the cheekbones and a soft nude toned lipstick (Jemma Kidd "Bridgetown"). My beloved MAC Plumful lipstick also worked really well, as pink lips look fabulous with green eyeshadow in my opinion. 
Underneath all this cosmetic armour I was ready to do battle against the virus. I felt monstrously bad, but I was HOT. I would not be taken down, I would stare into the face of sickness with beautifully blended green eyes, and laugh those germs away.

Suffice to say, the germs had the last laugh...