Friday, October 29, 2010

October Favorites with a Twist

... meaning, there's no make-up, no skincare, not even a bath product! I'd say completely non-beauty related if it weren't for that one perfume, but I just had to include it. I've simply been quite a good girl recently and haven't bought any new cosmetics, and the stuff that I have... didn't really inspire me all that much. You know how it is sometimes.

Oh, and because it's October, I had to throw a pumpkin in there as well.

Something for the smell... This month I've been loving my new Cacharel Amor Amor eau de toilette which I got at TJMaxx for mere $20! I used to have a sample of it around wintertime a couple of years ago, and I like this sweeter, stronger scent with an edge a lot for the colder season. A quick search tells me Amor Amor is based around the notes of mandarin, black currant, melati blossom, lily of the valley, white musk and grey amber.

Soy Scentsations candle smelling deliciously of snickerdoodles is another strong favorite: I just love the cinnamony sweetness, and I think it's a perfect choice for this time of year.

Something for the mind... 'A Vintage Affair' by Isabel Wolff is a great, relaxing read for a rainy October evening. If you like fashion, and especially vintage fashion, touching wartime stories, a touch of romance and a serious feel-good factor, you're going to love it! This novel has clearly been behind some of my latest outfits.

For music buffs or simply fans of Kazuo Ishiguro (like me), I'd recommend 'Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall'. I usually prefer novels to short stories, but this has been a truly beautiful read which stayed with me for days after finishing it. I loved the range and atmosphere of these pieces together with the laconic yet revealing emotional portrayal of the main characters.

Something for the hearing... Sam Sparro by Sam Sparro (2008). Let alone for the unforgettable Black & Gold (have you seen the choreography to this song on the latest 'Fame' movie?). Before I got my hands on this record, I'd been 100% sure Sam Sparro must a singer of color, he just has this perfect deep voice... I've been really into electro-pop lately, maybe because of the weather related lack of energy.

Something for the sight... My Christmas cactus, which reminds me so much of mum, who used to have a lot of these around the house. It's called 'grudniaczek' in Polish, which means a 'December plant'. These beautiful fuschia pink flower buds start to blossom around the time of year when it's dark for more than 12 hours. It's fascinating!

Something for the taste... Valrhona Caraïbe dark chocolate and Jivarra milk chocolate. The first one for its voluptous notes of dried fruits, the second for its creamy aftertaste of vanilla and malt. Chocolate lover's heaven!

And something for the vanity... Alice in the Wonderland themed stud earrings from Claire's. They came in a set of three pairs, but these two have been my favorites. For the price, they're surprisingly good quality. I just love those dinky clockfaces and little pink magic potion bottles, perfect for a fun but subtle accent to an everyday look.

What has been on your favorites' list lately? Have a thrilling Halloween weekend! xxx

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Neem oil: a cure for acne?

Every couple of months, a new acne-fighting ingredient appears on the market. Be it tea tree essential oil, activated charcoal, jojoba oil or rhassoul clay... Each and every claims to be the most effective, natural, no side effects miracle worker. Being forever on the lookout for an acne solution suitable for sensitive skin, it's no wonder I was immediately sucked in when I first heard about neem oil.

Neem oil is a base oil extracted from Azadirachta indica (Neem) tree which is native to tropical climates of countries such as India, Burma or Malaysia. It's also called Indian Lilac in English and Muarubaini in Swahili, which means the tree of the 40, because the plant is said to treat 40 different diseases. All parts of the neem tree have medicinal properties, ranging from antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral to even antidiabetic, and have been a major component in Ayurvedic medicine for centures, especially for skin diseases.

I've been roadtesting the pure unrefined neem oil by Allafia for over a month now, dabbing it on pesky spots, bumps and scars. Here are my pros & cons:

The Good:
- 100% natural, sustainable and certified fair trade
- inexpensive (I paid about $7 for 24 ml) and readily available (e.g. at Whole Foods)
- has a variety of uses apart from fighting acne: it protects against chapping, cracking and itching due to dry skin and is said to repel insects
- has excellent antioxidant properties
- non-irritating
- moisturizes the skin beautifully
- brings inflammation and redness down
- soothes painful cystic breakouts
- speeds up the healing process

The Bad:
- the smell!!! Imagine putting a paste made of garlic and chives on your face and you'll get a pretty good idea of how neem oil smells like.
- consistency: at room temperature, it's mostly runny with some solid nuggets at the sides of the jar, making it difficult to apply topically on affected areas. It tends to move around and slide off a lot.
- doesn't absorb very well into my oily skin (it might be different if your skin is dry). There's no way I could use it under make-up and also due to the smell, I only tend to reach for it when I'm alone at home.
- packaging: while the glass jar is eco-friendly and ensures that the product won't get contaminated with plastic particles, it's not the most hygienic or travel-friendly. I've seen this product sold in dropper bottles and regret not buying that instead.

Will I repurchase? No. I might be a sissy, but I like my cosmetics, natural and organic included, to smell at least decent. Taking care of your skin should be a pleasure and not an ordeal! Also, I don't feel this performs any better than my jojoba-based Angel Face Botanicals Blemish Soother Spot Treatment which smells beautifully of lavender and bergamot essential oils. However, with scents being an individual thing, I'd recommend to check neem oil out in person; I know they have testers of it at Whole Foods. And, answering the question from my post's title... no, this is no miracle cure. Sure it helps a lot with hydrating and healing my skin issues, but for me, it doesn't prevent new spots appearing.

Hope that was helpful, lovelies! What are your favorite spot treatments? xxx

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rocaille of the Day: Purples'n'Berries

I'm on the Outfit of the Day roll! Here goes another autumnal look from last weekend when we headed to Botanical Garden. It was very chilly and I regreted not having taken a scarf with me, but still, I was quite happy with the outfit: simple and comfortable with trendy touches, just how I like my weekend wear.

Light grey tee: C&A, last seen here
Purple cardi: H&M
Skinny jeans: Hollister Co., Laguna Skinny
Boots: Aldo, last seen here
Purple glass beads: Primark
Leather belt: Hollister Co.

Lips: NYX Long Lip Pencil in Deep Purple, last seen here
Nails: China Glaze 'Frostbite', see my review here
Hair: Air dried and styled with hair spray

As you can see, my skin is back to its pale, wintery self, but I quite like how it looks with a darker lip. What is your favorite dark lipstick at the moment? Hope you enjoyed this one and have a great weekend! xxx

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eyes of Fashion: Richard Avedon

For the past couple of weeks, I've been increasingly interested in photography, both in theory and practice. Following your feedback to this post, I've decided to start a new series, Eyes of Fashion, featuring profiles of the best of the best in fashion photography, who created many of the most memorable and iconic images in the whole industry. Whether you're a fashionista, a vinatge lover, a shutterbug or simply like to admire beautiful photos, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!

For the first installment, I've had to choose Richard Avedon's work. Avedon was born in 1923 in New York; his first photography job involved taking crewmen identification pictures for the American merchant fleet. in 1944, he began working for a department store, where he was discovered by Harper's Bazaar art director. He soon started working for this fashion magazine, and after setting up his own studio in 1946, also started taking pictures for Life and Vogue. His approach was very innovative at the time: he photographed his models in action, smiling, laughing, jumping. From then on, his career in fashion photography continually flourished, and Avedon also branched out to shoot major political events, music bands as well as ordinary working people. He was a master of portrait photography, seeking to capture his models' personality by evoking different emotions. He died of a brain hemorrhage in 2004 at the age of 81.

Famous examples of his work:

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, 1955

Homage to Munkacsi. Carmen, coat by Cardin, Place François-Premier, Paris, August 1957

Marylin Monroe, actress, 1957

Audrey Hepburn, New York, January 1967

Twiggy, hair by Ara Gallant, Paris Studio, January 1968

Nastassja Kinski and the serpent, Los Angeles, California, June 1981

Kate Moss, January 1997

Which one is your personal favorite? I cannot decide between Homage to Munkacsi and Audrey Hepburn. Let me know if you have any suggestions for the series, my lovelies. Stay put for another installment next month!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bioelements Skincare Routine: Final Review

It's now been good 3 months since I first started using my individually tailored skincare routine by Bioelements, which you can read about here. My basic skin concerns were sensitivity, uneven tone and texture, blemishes, oiliness and dehydration. You're right, that's a lot to cope with! On top of that, I asked my Bioelements esthetician, Teresa, to include as many organic products in the routine as possible, so I guess I really was a tough cookie!

So, has my Bioelements routine stood to the challenge? Read on to find out!

All things considered, my answer is yes, Bioelements products helped to balance and improve my skin during those 3 months of everyday use. However (aha!), the routine isn't a miracle worker. I can't say my skin is now smooth as baby bum or that I never get blemishes any more, but I can say it is smoother and I get less unfortunate skin surprises. As always, there's been some things I liked and some that I didn't. Here's the breakdown:

What I like about the routine:
- easy to follow
- mostly organic
- pleasant, earthy scents
- convenient and eco-friendly glass packaging
- you need only a tiny amount of product, so I'd say you get good 6 months use if not more
- cleanse effectively without SLS
- the products feel lovely on the skin and leave it feeling comfortable and soft
- I have experienced minimum skin irritation
- any issues I've had healed faster and left less of a mark
- my skin has become well hydrated and more balanced
- any make-up base applied on top looks much better than before

What I dislike about the routine:
- if I hadn't won the products in the giveaway, the price point would unfortunately be a huge obstacle for me
- I wish All Things Pure organic line carried more products!
- some of the products in the All Things Pure line such as the moisturizer or eye oil, despite being marketed as suitable for all skin types, felt too rich for my oily skin and therefore could only be used at night-time. I'd love to see an organic moisturizer from Bioelements aimed more at oily skin!

If I were to recommend just one product from Bioelements...
I'd say if you're oily like me, definitely try the All Things Pure Clay-Based Deep Pore Face Wash. It's the best cleanser I have used so far!
If your skin is dry, I'd recommend the All Things Pure Hydrating Creme with Emollient Shea Butter. Beautifully rich and moisturizing, it has made my face look plump and glowy!

I hope this was somewhat helpful to you, ladies and gents :) Once again, I'd like to thank Teresa from Bioelements for bearing with me and tailoring the routine to my skin's needs. It has definitely taught me a couple of things!

Thanks for stopping by, lovelies, and have a great weekend xxx

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rocaille of the Day: 50's Inspired

This is what I wore to a dinner with Mr on Saturday. I have to admit, a full high waisted skirt with a fitted top is my favorite silhouette of all time, amazingly flattering for hourglass shapes. I'm lusting after a cupcake dress for Christmas...

I'm still struggling a bit with walking in these heels even despite all the advice my incredible husband has given me; and no, I have no idea how he knows how to walk in high heels! I love those laced booties though, simple but eye-catching. Any practical tips for a beginner heel-wearer like me, ladies?

Fitted top: Amisu for New Yorker
High waisted skirt: H&M, Divided
Black tights: ?
Laced up boots: Forever 21
Bag: H&M
Necklace: RE Reserved, last seen here

For those of you in the US, H&M are currently celebrating their 10th US birthday with some great sales - lots of items are either priced at $10, or are $10 off. I got my olive green skirt for just under 15 bucks! Check them out if you have a store near you!

Which vintage clothing decade inspires you the most? xxx

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vintage Inspiration: The Glorious 1950's

I've been somewhat lacking in the outfit inspiration department recently and frankly speaking, quite dissatisfied with my looks. However, after reading Isabel Wolff's 'Vintage Affair' and watching 'How to Marry a Millionaire' (1953) starring the fabulous Marylin accompanied by Lauren Bacall, I think I'm getting my fashion mojo back. Let's just admire these glamorous shots, ladies and gents.

Photos' source: Google Images

Photos' source: My Vintage Vogue

I'll be posting a 50's-inspired outfit next week, so stay tuned if you like that! I've been also thinking about starting a series featuring work of some famous fashion photographers, especially from 1940's-1960's. Would you be interested in seeing it on the blog? Have a wonderful weekend, lovelies!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NOTD: China Glaze 'Frostbite'

A very cool polish with a wintery sounding name; a lil' bit early, perhaps, but I couldn't wait to try it.


'Frostbite' is a deep cobalt blue with lighter azure shimmers, although not as icy as my camera would like you to believe - there's no trace of green in this one, just pure, bright blue. I got a lot of compliments wearing this shade with a notable mention of our Thai waitress, who exclaimed enthusiastically: 'I don't know how to say this in English... It's just... BOOM!'. Hell yeah.

Direct sunlight

Easy to apply with just a tad of dragging at the cuticle, opaque in 2 coats. You can see some tip wear in the close-up photos, which were taken on the 4th day of wear, so not bad at all. I got a random chip on my index finger on the second day, but I'm blaming all the different ways in which I shouldn't but do use my nails rather than the quality of the polish.


It's definitely a shade I'll go back to no matter the season. What are your thoughts on blue nail polish?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rocaille of the Day: Lincoln Park at Sunset

I haven't done one of these in ages! I'm hoping to restore my outfit posts in the near future with a little help from the Mister, so fingers crossed for that.

This outfit is a premium example of my relaxed casual/weekend wear. Soft and comfortable jeans and a simple top accessorized with flat shoes and usually a scarf. I liked the combination of olive and pastel turquoise on the top, I think this gave the outfit a bit more freshness.

Long sleeve top: Promod
Turquoise scarf: Six
Jeans: Big Star
Flat boots: Aldo
Belt: Hollister Co.
Earrings: Claire's

If you ever visit Seattle, I highly recommend going for a stroll at Lincoln Park. The views onto Pudget Sound are simply breathtaking, and the path along the beach reminded me a lot of Vancouver's Seawall. Even if this Lincoln Park here wasn't the one that inspired the famous OPI nail color, it's still worth visiting :)

What's your usual weekend wear? xxx

P.S. How are you liking the layout changes? I'd been meaning to switch to 3 columns for a looong time and finally took the plunge. What do you think?