Thursday, 29 May 2014

NOTD - Sparkly Mermaid Nails

Ok, not technically a "NOTD" because I'm not wearing this polish at the moment, I wore it last week and somehow haven't shared it's gorgeousness on the blog yet (I did go a bit nuts on Instagram though...).

"party in a bottle" effect nail polish by essence*

This polish has stacks of turquoise glitter in a clear base, and can be worn as a thin layer over another colour, or - as I chose - layered up until you are mesmerised by shininess! I did start with a base colour that was a similar turquoise so that I didn't have to do too many coats of glitter.

One of my fav things about glittery polishes? It's super easy to extend the longevity. Tip wear or small chip? Just dot on some more glitter and no-one will be able to notice it's a touch-up job. Case in point, my nails over a week later (maybe 8 or 9 days?). Some tip wear starting to appear again, but not bad, right? (Considering I didn't put any topcoat over this mani.)

What do you think? Are you a fan of glittery polishes or do you prefer your nails to be more classic?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

[Recap] 3 Goals for April (and May!)

At the beginning of April, I blogged about 3 goals I had for the month. Turns out, the universe had it planned that these three goals were going to be important for May as well, so I held back on my recap until now.

1. Be more organised for work.
This one turned out to be very important, because lately I've been struggling a lot at work (I didn't have the upper hand on my depression and anxiety that I thought I had). I implemented several things over the weeks. Firstly, reorganizing my desk and getting rid of all the clutter. Next, I streamlined my notebooks and notepads and post-its into one big book, so when I want to find my notes on something, I can. I also did a reorganising of my files on my computer (who else has complete chaos ruling in their "My Documents" folder?). Finally, I started using Evernote more consistently, which helps especially when I want to access my information from my laptop on my smartphone or tablet.

2. Journal more regularly.
I love writing, and I find journalling very therapeutic, even if it's just recording a train-of-consciousness. Yet somehow in the haze of things, I stopped doing the thing I love. A few months ago, my therapist suggested I started journalling again, and it took me a while to get back into the habit but I'm so glad I did! My absolute favourite journals are the A5 Buffalo Journals from Typo, and I always use fine-point Pilot BP-S pens. (Who else has an absolute favourite type of pen?) Since starting journalling daily at the beginning of April, I've already filled the half-written journal I was using and started on a new one. If you also suck at communicating your emotions (and, like me, tend to keep things to yourself until you're a meltdown waiting to happen), I highly recommend writing in a journal!

3. Make my bedroom a sanctuary.
I mentioned in my previous post that I'd gotten into the bad habit of coming home from work, heading straight for my room, leaving a trail of clothes across the floor and just collapsing into bed with my laptop. Obviously, this does not make for a happy lifestyle or a good night's sleep.
First things first, new sheets and pillowcases! The problem with white linens is that they tend to show wear-and-tear more easily (especially if you're spending a lot of your time in bed) (get your minds out of the gutter, people!), so replacing them with better quality linens was definitely in order. I was also fed up of my ceiling light - the silly energy saving bulbs take forever to warm up, and then when they do, they have quite a harsh quality. I now barely switch it on, instead relying on a lamp (with a soft, warm bulb) and several strands of fairy lights (around my headboard, my curtain rail and my full-length mirror). Changing the lighting has had a huge impact in the way I feel when in my bedroom.
I had also gotten a bit bored with my room, so one evening I decided to move all the furniture around! Having my bed on an opposite wall, and now having a dedicated nook to do my makeup, has been a pleasant change.
Most importantly, I try not to just collapse onto my bed first-thing (because then my evening is basically over). If I need to work, I take my laptop to the living room and get things done there. From now on, I'm going to try maintain a separation - bedroom is for relaxing only! It's probably not going to be perfect, and there will be bad days, but it's a start!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Sound Bites Society - May Dinner

"Sound Bites Society?" you ask? Here's the skinny:

"Hear the food. Taste the music.
Sound Bites Society is a pop-up dining experience like none other: gourmet food and drinks paired with music in unusual spaces.
Every month, radio personality Seano challenges celebrity chef Sue-Ann Allen to create a 4-course meal based on a unique music selection. From house to rock, pop to dance and even Irish indie folk, no two events are ever the same."

How amazing does that sound? Our venue for the evening was indeed unusual - we were hosted in Lights By Linea, a lighting showroom! While unusual, the venue made perfect sense as the array of different lighting added another dimension to the dinner. As we were all seated at one long table, there was another addition to your normal restaurant experience - meeting new people.

On arrival, we received our welcome drinks, with a cryptic twist - we had to guess the ingredients! Fear not, all my years of careful wine-tastings have not gone to waste, and my nose and taste buds managed to pin-point the cocktail's components - pineapple juice, mint, and vanilla-infused rum! Thanks to De Senic for the drinks (and for my prize for the winning guess!).

Then it was time for the meal to begin! We all took our places at the long dinner table, got to know our fellow diners and were introduced to the concept of the dinner. We were then treated to four unbelievable courses. 

First up - the amuse-bouche, inspired by "Spectrum" by Florence and the Machine, was a butternut, spinach and beetroot mousse shot served with a pastry crisp. The flavour of the colourful spectrum of vegetables was lovely.

Next up was the starter. This was served with another cocktail - this time cranberry-infused vodka with soda water and a slice of orange, very refreshing! Our dish was inspired by the song "Sail" by Awolnation, which has a rich, gotta-get-more/pump-it-up sound but rather dark lyrics. Sue-Ann decided to pair the song with crumbed mushroom risotto balls, black truffle aolli and a shot of pino noir - personally my favourite dish of the evening! As an added bonus, we blindfolded ourselves before the food was served. We could then use our other senses (such as touch and smell) to experience our food, only taking the blindfolds off once the lyrics of the song started.

Our main for the evening was set to "Burn" by Ellie Golding. This dish incorporated several components associated with the element of fire, with a touch of earth - rack of lamb with pommes pureé, watercress salad, apricot and rocket pesto and red wine jus - delicious! The main was also paired with beeeg glasses of wine from Stellenbosch Hills.

Of course, no meal is complete without dessert! Our musical inspiration for this dish was none other than "Royals"  by Lorde. Based on the song, Sue-Ann served us bread and butter pudding, crème patisserie and a gold dust sugar shard. Of course, this had to be accompanied with Méthode Cap Classique from Lords Winery - served in tin cups! 

We also were given a little something extra - macarons from Glaze Patisserie!

 After dinner, De Senic also allowed us to taste a variety of the Bear Hugs Infusions, my favourites included the papaya-infused tequila, the chocolate-infused vodka and the espresso-infused vodka, as well as the vanilla-infused rum from the welcoming drink (very good over ice!).

Thanks to the members of the Sound Bites Society Team - Sean, Sue-Ann and Martin - for an unforgettable evening! Thanks also to Lights by Linea, De Senic, Stellenbosch Hills, Lords Winery and Glaze Patisserie for their involvement.

If you're interested in attending a Sound Bites Society dinner in the future, be sure to go visit their website and follow them on Twitter!

Photos by L.J. van Laeren unless specified. Image tagged @SoundBitesSOC from their Twitter page. Images tagged VIN taken by V.I. Nikolayenko and used with permission.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Disappointing Products

I normally only post reviews of products I like (or, in the case of my most recent Lush post, ones that had disastrous but comedic outcomes), so I figure, for the sake of balance, it's time to feature some products that didn't knock my socks off.

1. Real Techniques Pointed Foundation Brush
I love my Real Techniques brushes, but this one I just cannot get to work for me. I find the bristles spikey and scratchy (which is especially weird because all the others are so soft?), and my foundation never gets a good finish when using this brush. It's just too narrow and pointy to do much. Right now, all I use it for is under-eye concealer. (Side note: if you would like to see a post about my favourite RT brushes, leave a comment!)

2. Maybelline Baby Lips Lip Balm in Quenched
I put off buying one of these for ages because of the hype. I eventually picked this up one day in Clicks because my normal lip balm had finished, and I figured I might as well give it a try. Out of all the varieties, I chose Quenched because it seemed the most promising. However: It completely failed to impress me, as it does not hydrate at all beyond the initial five minutes on your lips. Out of curiosity, I continued to reapply this lip balm as needed, and a few hours later, my lips weren't just dehydrated, they actually had blistered. I only held onto this product long enough to photograph it for this post, and then it went into the bin. Sorry to all the Baby Lips fangirls, but this one was not for me.

3. Essence Gel-Look Topcoat
I know, we're finally at an essence polish I don't love! This topcoat does nothing for me: it takes forever to dry (and even then, I often still wake up the next morning with sheet-print), it doesn't prevent chipping and (except for maybe the first two uses?) I get awful bubbling (you can see this in this mani). This one has been downgraded to stopping stocking ladders and sealing cheap jewelry.

4. Woolworths Volume Waterproof Mascara
It took me a while to figure out what it was about this mascara, but once I nailed it, I stopped using it - it was totally incompatible with my contact lenses. Every time I wore this mascara, teeny bits would flake off and sit on my lenses, fuzzing my vision to the point I had to excuse myself from work to go home and swap them out for my glasses. (It took me a while to pinpoint the problem, as it was particularly windy at the time and I initally thought I was just getting dust blown at me). It was weird because it was the first mascara that I'd ever had a problem like this with (and I almost exclusively wear waterproof formulas).

5. John Frieda Volume Refresher Spray
The idea behind this product is to refresh and lift lifeless fine hair, like a dry shampoo would. I thought this would work well on my hair, as it is fine, straight and prone to falling flat and lifeless.. Sadly, it did nothing for my hair, even on same-day hair, let alone second-day hair. For now, I'll be sticking to my Batiste.