Monday, 31 January 2011

'Allo, Vera

As you've seen from my Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation review post, sans concealer I have fairly dark circles under my eyes. It's something that plagues a lot of us, and especially those with Asian skintones (the yellow tones of our skin emphasising the blue of veins and capillaries). And, as far as my hunt for a solution has reached, it seems that pretty much no (at least, affordable) eye cream really helps.

So the only option for a lot of us has been to conceal away. Which is counterproductive in some ways, with the heaviness of some formulations probably adding to the problem despite temporarily improving the cosmetic look of them.

I hesitate to say this, because I have no proof, but I do believe I've found something that helps. The dark circles I have now ain't nothing in comparison to the darkness I used to have. This is confirmed by Bartimaeus, who actually asked me recently what I'd done to get rid of them. And as I've changed only major one thing in my beauty routine that could explain this, I am led to believe that it is the solution.

The miracle elixir that I believe has faded them is none other than the healthfood store staple: Aloe Vera gel. For the last eighteen months, I've stopped using an eye cream at night. Instead, I've been applying Aloe Vera gel around my eyes.

This is a bit of a shaky recommendation as I can't quite prove its efficacy, and I have no before/after pics. But I have the confirmation of Bartimaeus who does look at my face a lot. And I have two theories that support my case. The first is that the lightness of the gel versus heavier eye creams. I read somewhere that you shouldn't use heavy eye creams at night, that they prevent the skin from breathing and thus renewing itself. The gel dries to a very light, slightly tacky consistency whilst creams often 'sit' on the eye. Secondly aloe vera gel contains vitamins and anti-oxidants, stuff you could pay a lot more for in creams, but in a higher concentration than many of them would. I don't know the science of these at all, but it sounds good, right?

I've been umming and ahhing over this recommendation because I can't prove it works. But it's made such a difference that I wanted to share it. A tube of aloe vera gel costs about £3-£5 depending on the size, from Holland & Barratt and Superdrug, so it might just be worth a shot if you suffer from dark circles.
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Friday, 28 January 2011

NARS Lipgloss Friday: Strawberry Fields

I have accumulated quite a few NARS lipglosses of late (in part due to being the lucky recipient of the Crazy Hear lip gloss set from my lovely sister for Christmas). So I thought I'd feature one every week for the next few weeks and then do a side by side comparison. I took all the shots in one go (poor scrubbed lips!) so that lighting would be the same and so you can see the difference between them all. Quite a few are berry-toned (ahem) so I think it's nice to see the comparisons!

First off, I present a new addition to the family, and a limited edition from summer that's still available on the NARS website and some other places. It's a gorgeous, juicy, warm bright pink (warmer than the picture below). It's so pigmented! (this is the gloss that meant I had to get a foundation, but it's worth it! It's got that great NARS non-sticky texture, but none of the plasticky scent of older formulations (some are a bit stickier than others too, I've found, but this is very good). I'm not used to uber-bright lipstick on me, and think gloss is a nice easy way to wear brights if you're a bit hesitant about them like me. I love this shade, it makes me happy!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

NOTD: OPI Pamplona Purple

Once upon a time, the Rabbit was almost wholly uninterested in nail varnish. She had two or three bottles, mostly picked up on a whim in Superdrug, for her toes in summer.

Then one day, a nail polish knocked on the door and changed everything. It transformed the way the Rabbit viewed polish (stuff to cover ugly toes) into a way of life.

The polish, ladies and gentlemen, was OPI's Can You Dig It? from their 2009 Psychedelic Brights collection. The quality of the polish paired with the fact that it was the most perfectly achieved purple creme, ever, totally changed my view of nail polish. What that view now is, is hard to put a finger on (ha!) Perhaps it is that the right shade and texture can complete an outfit. That looking down at your hands to see that flash of the perfect colour applied well makes you feel groomed when you might not have a scrap of makeup on. That a bright shade can lift flagging spirits, a dark one make you feel like a vamp, and glitter, absurdly happy.

Sadly, my bottle of Can You Dig It has now gone to to nail polish heaven (a few mishaps with the top hastened this, weep) and it went long before I started blogging. It's proving hard to replace but you can see a swatch here:

http://clumpsofmascara.com/2008/12/amor-de-lacquer-opis-can-you-dig-it.html

Pamplona Purple isn't a dupe by any means. It's considerably warmer and a lot less unique for it (Models Own Purple Poppy is a brighter version, and I've seen similar shades in Barry M and Boots 17). But the quality is stunning and it's a much more refined a shade than the ones I've seen in its colour family, with an inner richness and depth not seen in the cheaper purples (don't get me wrong, the high street is starting to do original nail colours well, but some just aren't quite there yet). And that's the lethal combination was what got me sucked into nail polish addiction in the first place. Unusual, well-blended shades, and a lovely application. Pamplona, you'll do. You'll more than do.




Also, I've rediscovered my love of Seche Vite. I forgot how intensely glossy it makes nails, and how much time it saves me (and how many wrecked manis!)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

OOTD: Neon Wilderness

Not my favourite Verve song but still a good one nonetheless, and pretty appropriate for this bargain French Connection dress I picked up in the sales. It was reduced to £20 from £55, but because of a tiny pinhole in the back the sales assistant took another 20% off, so it was £16. I liked this when it came out last spring, but I've never bought a full price French Connection dress because their sales are too good and I waited it out. I'm not a neon girl (I prefer jewelled brights) but something about this print makes me really happy - like it was coloured in by a child with a bunch of highlighters.

  
Orange and pink stud earrings:

and close up of the highlightery print:

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Hair (and the most basic tutorial ever!)

A couple of you wanted to see my new hair and as I said before, I don't like to disappoint! Here are some pics taken on Mac Photo Booth (not the best but easier for hair shots) of the way I get my straight thick hair to go wavy. My fringe is a bit longer than it was, I prefer it slightly shorter than this.

Firstly, when just blowdried, I put my hair into two low bunches-type buns:


Then I leave for a couple of hours, and then undo:


It looks a bit mad at first:


But some teasing with fingers and the weight of my hair means it drops into waves in a matter of minutes. This is the way it ends up looking:

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ups and Downs

Well, a new year brings new highs and new lows. Here's my first lot of 2011:

Hair

After a year of having no fringe or layers, I finally got my hair cut into choppy short layers with a side fringe again. I didn't realise how much having a decent cut affects my style and confidence, I assumed it was the length that defines me but it's actually the fringe just as much. Since my cut I've felt like my clothes look so much quirkier. Definitely going to try to maintain it better this time and be really clear on what I want when I go to the hairdressers.

Teaching

I love this aspect of my job more than any other. I had a wonderful class today, and it was energising and rewarding. It was difficult material but together we got to the bottom of it and thought way beyond it. Of course there are also impossible classes too that drag and drag, but the key to getting through is enough prep. And I always prep!

Cashmere Stole

I allowed myself a bit of a luxury purchase during the sale, in the form of a massive grey 100% cashmere stole from Warehouse. I think it's singlehandedly the best purchase I've ever made! I've had a successive series of colds and am travelling back and forth from Kent, Southampton and Surrey so much, and it's been a saviour: super-soft, super-warm, super-snuggly. It's rarely not around my neck, but luckily the grey looks good with everything.

New Perfume

My amazing present of Jo Malone's Rosewater and Vanilla has brought my fragrance wardrobe to a grand 4 bottles, the other three being Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb, Flowerbomb Extreme, and L'Occitane Honey and Lemon (discontinued, boo!) I do love my gourmand scents (all four above are practically edible) and this is the perfume equivalent of turkish delight, in all its fragrant, nutty and unctuous glory. It's a stunning winter scent, sweet, exotic and smoky and feels like luxury whenever I wear it. (I'd like some Turkish Delight and cocoa now please, scary wintry lady.)

Blogging

After almost a month off, my mojo has definitely returned! I'm finding ways to shorten the time it takes me to write entries, so hopefully should be posting more often (and commenting when I can!)

Plans

Some exciting times ahead for the Rabbit, fingers crossed. A little daunting, but Rabbits hop over obstacles, don't they?!

Downs

Immune System

I've had four colds in a row and a cough that's lasted six weeks. I genuinely have forgotten what it feels like to be well!

Things I Can't Control

Not a good thing for a control freak (or as I see it, someone who likes to be prepared). But I'm doing my best not to be too phased.

Trying To Make Everyone Happy

Is not always possible. But I really hate to disappoint, so this is very hard for me to come to terms with.
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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tangerine Dreams

It seems a bit ridiculous to be even considering summer outfits right now, but these ridiculously Rabbit shoes (not just in terms of the print - but, oh my, I'm glad I resisted the Kurt Geigers! -, but shape too, I'm a sucker for a big clumpy slingback platform) are to blame. Bad, bad Mango (lots of good, good prints this season...)

I can't decide, though, whether I'd pair them with a brick red dress or a patterned dress in co-ordinating or clashing colours. I love this River Island piece of Parisian romance:
  
But this would be very sweet for a simpler look which is all about the shoes:


Which would you opt for? the clash or the match?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation

I got my first proper foundation a couple of weeks ago. I usually just wear my MAC MSF Natural which I love but I bought a very bright lipgloss (NARS Strawberry Fields) and it just wasn't up to it. On many Asian bloggers' recommendations I headed to the Bobbi Brown counter. MAC and I are just about working out in terms of concealer shades (well, I have to mix two of them to get the right shade!) but I'm not really an NC (too orange) or an NW (too cool), somewhere in between. I told a MAC SA that it seemed MAC SAs really couldn't figure out my shade group, and she took real exception to it, saying they weren't wrong choices and that I'm able to wear both. Which was pretty absurd, surely your skin colour is not two shades but one?

Anyhow, my experience at Bobbi Brown was so different. I was a bit bewildered (a rabbit in the headlights!) and a little concerned that I might be throwing more good money away. But the SA was very professional, efficient and matched me in a matter on minutes (I'm 6 Golden). I am lucky to have pretty good skin (my major problem is dark shadows under my eyes, and some variation in tone all over) but I don't need a heavy coverage foundation and hate the feeling of heavy stuff sitting on my skin. So the SA chose the Skin Foundation for me - which is sheer (too sheer for some MUA reviewers). But perfect for me. I ran outside with her mirror to check it looked right in daylight (it looked a little yellow under their shop lights but is perfect in daylight, and makes me wonder how she matched it in those light conditions!) and I love the sheer ultra-natural effect. My skin looks just like my skin but better. Result! Alas, their concealers are too drying for me, I really wish they'd bring out an equivalent of MAC's Select Moisture Cover for use under the eyes specifically.

You want to see it in action?

Voila. Here are some pictures of me, first, totally sans makeup (eek), then with concealer + MSF (a real difference - and perfect for everyday, it's a magical powder) and then with concealer + Skin foundation, and then fully made up. It's a transformation! (also check out my eyebrows, which were threaded for the first time ever last week!)




Wednesday, 19 January 2011

OOTD: Liberty for Gap dress

This is what I'm wearing today. I love my Liberty for Gap dress, I've worn it before here with hot pink tights and bronze flats but I've styled it a bit differently here with a polka dot berry cardigan and pewter flats. My hair is in Minnie Mouse style double buns because this is how I get it to be wavy! (I'm rubbish with curling tongs). But I think it's quite a cute style in itself, too.


The contrast of the two prints is better seen in a pic I'm using for FOTD to come:



These pewter leather flats were an Office sale purchase. I love metallic flats, they're so useful. And check out the bows on these - my feet look like presents!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Wicked, by Gregory Maguire



As a lover of fantasy writing I'm a little surprised that I've only read this book so very recently. I love the film of The Wizard of Oz, perhaps the most glorious example of the magical possibilities of Technicolor, and my childhood was haunted by the utterly terrifying 1980s sequel Return to Oz (not a children's film, in my opinion!) I've always been obsessed with red glitter heels (and am the proud owner of my own pair).

The truth is, I've picked up Wicked on many a bookshop-browsing trip. I could feel myself getting drawn in each time I did, but I put it down because I wanted to save it for a special occasion. I read all the time, for work and play, but rarely get the opportunity to read just one novel for pleasure from morning to evening, days in a row. That is a treat I only get when I'm on holiday or set aside time for myself.

So I picked this book to read over Christmas. I ended up being both happy and slightly rueful with my choice.

I've not read the original book of The Wizard of Oz, so I perhaps don't get all the intricacies of Maguire's rewriting. But I was truly captivated by his vision of Oz and world beyond, a raw, cruel, unjust world, yet not without its own primitive magic. The character Elphaba, the "Wicked Witch of the West" is rendered as a complex, embattled figure, both intensely sympathetic and at times incredibly frustrating as a protagonist. The story is a powerful allegory on the nature of 'wickedness' (political corruption, abuse of discrimination of Others, betrayals by loved ones) and the experience of being Other in a strictly ordered society. The novel wears its intentions on its sleeve - breaking off to ruminate at points on the possibility of redemption, of the nature of sin, and the role of religion. I sighed a bit at these points (I don't like novels that spell things out for me) but I wasn't excessively put off by it, because I was very intrigued as to where Maguire was taking his story.

There are many strands to Maguire's ambitious novel, both in terms of plot and theme. It is a disjointed, fragmented affair - the story jumps about in time and space, with only Elphaba holding the thing together. As I read further on and the pages remaining began to diminish, I started to feel increasingly uneasy. How was he going to resolve all the many stories he had started? How would everything fit in place? WHERE WAS DOROTHY?

The last tenth of this novel is frenetic. Dorothy arrives, worlds fall apart, old lost friends reappear or cannot, and Elphaba starts to find out who she is. You can almost feel Maguire's desperation to finish (perhaps for an overbearing publisher?) and of course it doesn't realise the scale of its initial ambition. Yet in many ways this is a novel about failure and disappointment, so this is strangely apt.

It's a powerful, tragic and moving novel. It goes to the painful heart of the original story of Oz (a story after all of not belonging, of feeling inadequate, of the grief and terror of losing home and family), and lays it bare. (It's partly why I was rueful about reading this over the holidays: it's not the cosiest of holiday reads!) Maguire's imagining of Elphaba is one of the best female fantasy protagonists I've read in a while: brittle, brave, vulnerable and awe-inspiringly strong and defiant.

I enjoyed this novel very much, but like its protagonist it is not without its flaws. I recommend it on that basis, for patient readers who appreciate fantasy stories for the journey as much as the final destination.

On a final note, I'm going to see the musical soon. I'm very intrigued to know how they've adapted the novel!

I'm back!

Apologies for the hiatus, dear readers. December and January up until now have been a flurry of snow disruptures, unending sickness, present-buying madness, book proposals and research fellowship applications. And some much needed time away from the computer when I could. But happy New Year, and thanks for sticking with me.

I promise to be much more prolific and have some lovely sale and beauty acquisitions to show you - including a whole bunch of NARS glosses and my first foundation in ten years! Another feature I'm planning is a Rabbit Shopping Directory, listing some of my favourite online shops. I do love a good browse of pretty things!

But to kick things off, I have a book review for you all, of the "treat" book I read over the break - Wicked by Gregory Maguire.