Tuesday, 29 April 2014

beauty: Witch Hazel BB Cream

Since I returned to London my skin has been playing up big time. I am not sure whether it the was plane air, the change in environment and water, change in diet or pollution, or all of the above, but my skin is not happy at the moment. I have blemishes, spots, patches of dry skin and an oily combination complexion, all of which are putting me through my paces. 

As such I decided a lighter base was needed to ensure my skin had some room to breathe without sacrificing coverage; I am not a fan of the bare face look on myself! So when I stumbled across the new Witch Hazel BB cream on offer in Sainsburys for a mere £2, I thought it was worth giving it a try. 

Witch hazel is a natural ingredient that works wonders for oily and blemish prone skin and has astringent properties which is perfect when you have a random spot outbreak. All of that teamed with UVA and UVB as well as SPF15 made me pretty happy with the little blue tube I took home. 

Overall the product is ok; it has no weird smells, it has good coverage and it's natural ingredients seem to be working wonders for my skin as my blemishes are slowly leaving my face. Another reason I wanted to trial this product is because I am looking for a base to take to Dubai with me that can cope in the heat, humidity and dusty climate. But unfortunately it wont be coming with me; the shade is too light and will not blend well once I am tanned and the consistency is a little thicker than I would want. 

However, for £2 and considering the fact that it has great natural ingredients to help fight oily skin problems, this is worth a try if it matches your skin tone. 

Monday, 28 April 2014

writing in the real sense


I have talked about writing, why I write about what I do and how much to share (any bloggers inner demon), here and here. But writing is not just something that keeps me sane. It is a skill instilled into me from a young age and one that has so much attachment to my personality. Sure shopping, a cup of tea and girlie wine time also do the trick, but writing is a personal and individual thing that can sometimes feel like a sort of self-help, internal therapy. Writing this blog is a little bit of a personal passion and has in turn allowed me to make some wonderful blogger friends and have some work published along the way.

But I was writing well before the blog took over my life. Since I can remember, I wrote. As a kid I wrote, or at least tried to write stories and my mum actively encouraged us to write thank you notes to friends and relatives after birthdays and christmas. It was part and parcel of the present opening process; unwrap, sit in awe of unwrapped gift and write down the name of the giver. It was just the way it was done in our family because from a young age my parents taught us manners and to show gratitude and thanks to people.

You would think that with the abundance of instant communication tools out there, like email and facebook and whatsapp that my thank you note writing days were over. But you would be wrong. As I got older and friends moved countries and I moved countries, the letter writing seemed even more poignant. I say that because when you're trying to maintain long distance relationships with friends, it is easy to rely on technology and forgo personalised interaction. But I know myself that receiving a handwritten letter carries with it much more weight than an email ever could.

There are many reasons for this; the effort someone incurred to actually post the letter for a start because it is all to easy to tap away at a keyboard and then press send. But the personal touches like handwriting, scribbles and mistakes not to mention holding pieces of paper in your hand that the writer held in theres, really gives you a sense of connection with that person. I have never cried over a whatsapp message but I sure have over a letter. 

“It is so important, in a digital world, to have the dignity to sit down and write something in your own hand,” (Cristiano Magni, a New York fashion publicist, nytimes.com, april 2014). 

As an expat, sometimes friends and family may not feel involved in your life anymore as you flit between countries. Writing a letter that smells like the beach when it is opened, or sending a postcard of the view you're staring at as you write it helps the receiver feel that connection to your life. 

“Like a lot of people in my generation, I might think, ‘Oh, just send them a text,’ ” said Ms. Gelderman, who is 20. “But I actually enjoyed writing the notes because in the process of opening a note, feeling the paper, seeing the imperfection of the writing, reading the message in another person’s voice, you actually feel like you have a piece of that person in your hand.” (Carroll Irene Gelderman, nytimes.com, april 2014). 

Where did this post come from? This great article published a few weeks ago on the NY Times website which notes that handwritten letters are on trend and that recent scientific findings have linked gratitude to increased optimism, stress reduction and a better night’s sleep. 

Do you write the old fashioned way? If so, tips on where you stock on up stationary would be greatly appreciated, oh and I have thing about finding the perfect pen so suggestions welcome. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Life Lately: London #2

There are several things I have forgotten about London. How busy Oxford Street is during Easter holidays, how expensive bottled water is and how sweaty the tube is. I had also forgotten how amazing London is in the sunshine, how beautiful the architecture is and what great cultural events the city has to offer. London, for the time being, I feel at home. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

expat life: tough decisions make for a great future.

For the last few weeks months, there has been a lot going on behind this blog. Firstly as you will have noticed I have been in London. And without my favourite person; no not the boyfriend, the dog!

Everyday I sat at the keyboard and my fingers wanted to type so badly but what was going to come out wasn't ready for public viewing. 2014 started with the boyfriend leaving to go back to Germany, a situation neither of us were happy about. And we figured, sometimes you have to take a shot in the dark to reap the rewards. We are not strangers to sacrifice; we have lived in different countries on a regular basis, we have endured many periods of separation and we have often take serious decisions to ensure a better future. Because, as I always like to say, good things come to those who wait.

But for a very long time, I have not been 100% happy in Cyprus. It all started when the boyfriend left for Germany. And 2013 has probably been one of the most challenging yet. But there was always going to be light at the end of the tunnel and the 31st December came and went, bringing a new year with it. And like I said, 2014 should be the year to take back control right. 

And that is exactly what we are doing.

There have been some tough, anxiety ridden, stress inducing decisions to make that have made me realise how grown up we are. Being in a relationship since the age of 15, it is quite easy to forget that we are not teenagers anymore and that we have seriously grown up! Adult decisions like which country should we live in, really put everything into perspective.

With that being said, there are going to be some pretty important changes coming. I have already packed up everything and jumped across the water to London as you may have noticed. And now I am going from one expat existence to another and will shortly be packing up and hoping on another plane headed towards another adventure.

This time, it will be Dubai. Well you know I never really did like the rain anyway. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

beauty: Neal's Yard Bee Lovely Hand Cream

Neal's Yard is a fantastic organic beauty brand, driven by the ethos that beauty should be more natural and less synthetic. Started in 1981, Neal's Yard has grown with force as more and more people become aware of the chemicals in our beauty products and look for natural and organic beauty brands who dont compromise on the quality of the products. And they have something for everyone, with skincare, hand and body creams, make up, products for men, mother and baby and an aromatherapy range. 

The Bee Lovely hand cream is a rich moisturising hand cream that smoothes into your hands and leaves them feel soft and nourished without the greasy feeling. As you know fragrance is a big sticking point for me but the combination of sweet organic honey and organic orange essential oil is warm and zesty and not overpowering. 

Made in England with no synthetic fragrances or colours, this cream is perfect for anyone looking for affordable, locally made organic skincare products. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

stripped back: images and postmodernism

Everyday we are bombarded with hundreds and probably thousands of images, all with the purpose of making us want and when we want, we purchase. Our society has become more and more concerned with consumption and the transition into postmodernism, it could be argued, was the driving force behind the transformation of our attitudes regarding the issue of consumption. Richard Hebdige, who wrote a book in 1979 entitled Subculture: The Meaning of Style talks about postmodernism as an arena where competing ideas, definitions and social tendencies are active. And with technological developments occurring at the speed of light, out society has become more concerned with fantasy desire and the visual, than reality and needs.

The reliance we have upon mass media images and the false representations they offer, mean society has developed an inability to distinguish between the 'real' and the 'hyper-real'. This could be attributed to the prevalence of advertising and the forceful nature of images and branding which goes hand in hand with the promotion of product or company. Which brings us to Antrepo, a design agency whose recent project was all about simplicity and stripping back branding. I wonder if all packaging was stripped back and a basic approach taken to all product design, whether we would purchase the amount, or types of products we do. 

A company's branding is one of the most fundamental things, but in essence, the below images show that the branding can still be achieved with a simpler format. In some cases I feel the simple design elements give the product a more sophisticated and high-end feel, like the Mr Muscle, Red Bull and Evian. But you can decide for yourself. 


Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Weekend the London way

I haven't done an Easter Weekend in London for three years and I have forgotten how dangerous it is. No, not dangerous like in Cyprus where kids have a tradition of collection wood and making bonfires and setting off fireworks. 

No, England is dangerous for my waist line. The supermarkets are filled with bargain chocolate easter eggs, the family is all together in England for once and there will at least one roast dinner this weekend. Expat easters in Cyprus were very different: there is a huge religious context given that Cyprus is such a strong Greek Orthodox community. And with that comes many traditions including red eggs, cheesy easter flaoune bread and a big BBQ feast to celebrate the end of the fasting period. 

In England our traditions are different within each family, but in mine, Easter means the smell of daffodils, a roast dinner, hopefully having both of my brothers in the country, chocolate easter eggs and well, more chocolate easter eggs. However you celebrate I hope you had a happy easter. I am sure everyone is in a chocolate coma right now.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

food: butternut squash risotto

I have a new food crush; risotto. The first week I was back in London, my friend made me an amazing butternut squash and sage risotto and ever since I have been hooked. So much so that I have made it twice in the past two weeks. I always thought risotto was one of those tricky, time consuming dishes that under my hands, would turn into a glue like mushy mess. But it turns out it isn't so hard.

I was too busy chatting away to pay attention to the specific ingredients or the process my friend followed, but found this little recipe on BBC Good Food website, which has been tested twice now and has worked perfectly each time. I like this recipe because it is very simple, there are a handful of ingredients, several of which (olive oil, vegetable stock, butter, white wine, cheese, onion...) you will probably already have in your fridge or cupboards. 

The whole cooking procedure for this risotto is pain free; 
  1. Roast the butternut squash with garlic and sage
  2. In the meantime, fry onions and garlic
  3. Add the risotto rice, add the wine and cook down until its absorbed
  4. Then start adding the stock
  5. Mash half of the roasted butternut squash and stir it into the risotto once done. 
  6. Add the cheese (by the way, I used cheddar because I didn't have parmesan but it worked perfectly) add the chunks of roasted squash. 

Et voila; butternut squash and sage risotto. 

What I have realised quite quickly about risotto is the versatility of it. I mean you can make a base risotto and then throw in whatever you have left over in the fridge and you have a comforting and warming meal ready in no time. Try it with mushrooms, peas, green beans and mint, bacon and sweet potatoes...the possibilities are endless. 

And the great thing about risotto is that there will always be some leftover because the rice puffs up a lot and I can never judge proper quantities. That means last nights risotto will see us through the easter weekend long after the roast dinner has been devoured.