Sunday, January 19, 2014

Corral the Corals and Pick Up Pinks for Spring!

Okay, so it's not even the end of January yet, but magazines have been projecting and brands have been releasing the latest and greatest for Spring 2014 beauty since just after Christmas.  I suppose this is the way of all things, especially marketing.  The phrase, "the early bird gets the worm" sure is taken very seriously.

So, what's in stores and what can you expect to see in the next few weeks?  Lots of pinks and corals!  Think flowery hues, sheer washes of colour and tones that are surprisingly neutral and easy to wear.  Cheeks and lips are full of soft petal shades, and eyes sport watercolours and silvery greys and browns.

1.  I picked up a coral-y apricot-y toned blush from Anna Sui recently.  Rose cheek color in #301.  It's one of the standard line up of blushes shaped in a cute raised roses motif, each rose being a slightly different shade of the same base hue.  The centre rose-shape of this blush is mainly shimmer, creating a nice optical dimension to the colour on the cheeks.  I find it really brightens up my face.  You can even wear the colours individually if you want to fuss with a small brush and dab into only one or two selected "roses".

2.  Laura Mercier has come up with a few new sets which are both easy on the eye and easy to use.  The Enlightenment palette comes with two blushes and four coordinating eyeshadows that are apparently "complexion-boosting".  Basically, sweet cheeks and easy to wear neutral eyes that are bright but not overwhelming.  "Natural glow" anyone?

Also released at the same time were the Perfection Lip Trios--lipstick, lip liner and lip gloss in coordinating colours that take the guesswork out of achieving the perfect lip.  Comes in red, pink, natural and nude.  Perennial favourites!

3.  Dior really takes the Spring trend to a luxurious level by channelling Marie Antoinette and the pastoral elegance of her Petit Trianon retreat.  Hey, if you can't afford an haute couture dress, you can at least still wear the haute couture brand on your face. :)  Link to the collection on Dior's website HERE.

Canada will only be getting a couple of the glosses, lipsticks, nail polishes, one blush, one eyeshadow palette and four cream eyeshadows.  Buu.  So those with Asian or European connections might want to hit them up for the super cute fontange bow-shaped silver and rose gold makeup palette which contains a blush, coordinating eyeshadows and eye liner, or one of the other colours Dior doesn't deem necessary to release in the great white North.

I picked up the eyeshadow palette in #234, Pastel Fontanges, which, in addition to the regular palette design reminiscent of some wickerwork chair found at Versailles, also has adorable bows embossed onto the pan eyeshadows.  The fontange bow was named after the mistress of Louis XIV when she apparently tied up her hair with ribbon in such an alluring shape that pleased the king so much, it was copied throughout the whole of Europe.  Aah, those pleasure-loving royals! The colours are very sheer, and I'd recommend wearing them with a primer or one of Dior's mousse-gel cream eyeshadow monos to make the colours pop more.

I also grabbed the gloss in #442, Petillante, and nail polish in #457, Bouquet, which help to complete my Spring beauty collection.  Petillante is very, very close to Springball (one of Dior's regular colours), except that instead of gold glitter, it's pink and blue glitter, cooling down an otherwise warm toned coral gloss.  Bouquet is a coral-y pink which is adorably sweet and looks good on my skin as it's not too orange.  It's for those lolitas who want a cute light pink, but don't want to go all-out-Barbie.

All in all, these Spring colours, like most things in fashion and beauty, are just slightly different reincarnations of colours, textures and looks that have gone before (sometimes many times before).  Coral was very popular in the 80's, but now it's been significantly softened to a much more, in my opinion anyway, wearable blush shade, reminiscent of rose and peony blossoms.  The frosted shades of eyeshadow are now more shimmery and veil-like and less like the metallic flake car paint colours of the mid 90's, though I can recall the blues and greys appearing in my mother's makeup repertoire too.

Now the pastels are all macarons, pistachios, cafe au lait and chocolate.  Girly, but sophisticated.  More natural than specifically neutral.  Definitely of-the-moment and desirable!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thirsty winter skin? Get thee some oils!

As winter really sets in, our skin starts to crave several things...sun, warm wind, an end to all the ice storms, and moisture, moisture, moisture!  I find that using beauty oils are a great addition to a skincare regime (especially for wintertime) because they not only moisturise, they often act as a bit of a skin barrier, great for when the cold wind starts whipping your face.

Sephora is having a special highlight specifically about all the beauty oils available from now through January 12, and there's a special online sample pack gift featuring their 12 top moisturisers (and oils) too, so I thought this would be a perfect time to do a little run down of the ones I've tried and liked.

I use these oils after I cleanse and tone my face, and before I put on a cream moisturiser.

1.  Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil

This was the first beauty oil I ever used, and I'm still very attached to it.  The argan oil craze started a couple years ago, and I think Josie Maran was one of the first brands to carry a beauty oil.  Argan oil comes from the kernels of the argan tree, which is endemic to Morocco.  Josie Maran's argan oil is apparently sourced from women's cooperatives in Morocco, and the trees are protected and maintained under a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

It was recommended to me for rebalancing my skin after being abroad.  A change in water and climate always makes my skin unhappy, with dry patches AND oily breakouts both.  After 2 weeks of using this oil, my skin was perfectly moisturised and supple!

2.  Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil Light

I bought this when I had an impromptu overnight stay out of town and subsequently had none of my regular beauty and skincare supplies on hand.  This lighter version of the oil is definitely light.  Good for those with oilier skins prone to breakouts, and sensitive skin.  A bit too light for me at this time of year, but I will give it another go when the weather warms up, as this oil is actually supposed to reduce sebum production.

3.  Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil

When I first put this on, both Bfj and Dhj said, "what did you put on your face?  Smells like curry!"
Not a promising start, I know, but this oil is pretty good for its moisturising properties...and if you want to smell like a yummy curry.  After a while, the scent does dissipate, but the moisturising properties don't!  This is an oil blend, using seabuckthorn, cranberry seed, camellia seed, grapeseed and sweet almond oils, and is supposed to help protect skin against free radical damage.

This leaves my skin very soft and smooth, and I would say that it's a medium weight oil, sitting nicely in consistency between the two Josie Maran argan oils.  I don't know if I'll keep using it once my sample is finished though, as the smell does get a bit tiring after a while.  If you like Fresh products however, it is another winner in their skincare lineup!

4.  Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil

Speaking of smells, this oil is much easier on the nose, carrying a very light floral scent.  It also comes in an attractive pink bottle, which is always a plus in my books.  I haven't had a lot of luck with Boscia, to be honest.  I've tried many of their products, and the results range from doing nothing much for my skin to OMG breakout!  But, I'm always willing to give something that both looks and smells pretty a chance.

This oil contains camellia (tsubaki) oil for free radical fighting, wakame for collagen production and rice bran oil for skin softening.  It does absorb into the skin very well and I've seen reviews saying that it helps makeup glide on better, though I haven't tested those properties myself yet.  All in all, a good oil for those with normal skin types looking for a little extra hydration.

There you have it!  Just a small sampling, but hopefully this helps shed some light on how to keep our skin happy and balanced through the dry, cold winter months. :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Tis the season!  Fall brings not just frosty mornings and golden coloured leaves, but yummy Thanksgiving dinners filled with turkey, stuffing, gravy and for dessert...pumpkin pie!  Also, along with pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks and pumpkins sold for jack-o-lantern carving, Halloween is another perfect excuse for indulging in pumpkin flavoured sweeties.

Here's the recipe I use every year, gleaned off the internet, paired with my trusty pie crust recipe (from Chef Michael Smith).  Onwards!

Prep your pie crust dough (makes two pie crust bottoms):

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup frozen butter
8-12 tbsp ice water

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Grate the frozen butter into the flour and toss to combine thoroughly.  It'll look like bread crumbs.  Sprinkle or dribble in ice water a little at a time and with hands knead quickly till dough comes together, and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Don't spend too much time working the dough because you don't want the warmth from your hands to melt the butter.

Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap each in cling film, punch into a 1 inch thick flat disk, and pop into the fridge for 1 hour to rest.  Resting helps the dough become more elastic and easy to roll out.

After an hour, remove one of the disks from the fridge and roll out and turn onto your pie dish.  Trim and fold the edges and pinch out a decorative edge if you wish.  (I'm not going into much detail here 'cus I'm assuming everyone knows how to do this step, but if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.)

Blind bake in a 400 F oven for 10 mins with pie weights, remove weights for an additional 5 mins to firm up the bottom.  Cool on rack.

Prep your pie filling (makes one pie):

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin puree
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup light cream (I use whipping cream, but I suppose you can also use half and half)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

If you want to decorate your pie with a design, make a slightly runny cream with 2tbsp sour cream mixed with 1 1/2 tsp of milk (or a bit more if it's not runny enough).

In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly.  Blend in pumpkin puree, sugar, light cream, spices and salt.  Pour into pastry shell.

For the decoration, put the runny cream in a small funnel with a narrow spout.  Seal the bottom with your finger until you have it over the pie.  Make a spiral pattern with the cream on the filling.  With a knife, draw the tip shallowly through the filling.  To make a web pattern, start from the centre and move out to the edge at 8 equally spaced intervals.  Then, move from the outside back into the centre between the lines you've created.  (I had a cream drizzle crisis, which is why my pie decoration looks gimpy.)

Cover the rim of the pie crust with tin foil (remove at the 30 minute mark) and bake the pie at 350 F for about 1 hour or until the filling is set and the point of a knife inserted into the middle of the pie comes out cleanly.  Let cool on rack and serve with maple flavoured whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Rosy Tea Party

On a rather rainy Monday, several lovely girls got all dressed up and arrived at a pretty little restaurant called Rose House in Kerrisdale to celebrate a birthday.

The birthday table had been decorated with rose petals, and there were sweet party favours for all the guests. A perfect setting for elegant lolitas.

I had the rose afternoon blend because I love rose in black tea. The tea seemed like a ceylon in body, and boasted whole dried rose buds. It was very nicely balanced. Rose House started in Taiwan, and is a chain focusing on the love of roses and a Victorian tea aesthetic.  Apparently the owner of the chain has painted over 300 paintings of roses!

The tea cups featured at Rose House are all from various Ansley collections.  They were all stunning, and I wanted to take more than one home with me!

Everyone had the afternoon tea service. The savouries weren't the standard finger sandwiches, but featured filo wrapped quiches, a mini shrimp cocktail, and deviled egg among other delectable treats. The sweets were more usual--mini cupcakes, shortbread, fruit jelly and macarons. I didn't eat all the sweets as the set was very filling. The scones were nice and light, but the highlight was the rose jam that went with them. Delicate and delicious!

Of course, being lolitas, we took the opportunity to take lots of pictures in the rose bedecked restaurant. It is quite spacious and even a tiny bit bare. I prefer a more cosy atmosphere personally, but the place is still very pretty.

The lovely birthday girl in her new Halloween print from Baby the Stars Shine Bright.  Her beau bought her some glorious blue roses!

Beautiful hime Tamie posing with me by the tea service display just inside the entrance to Rose House.  She is always dressed impeccably, and this location with its luxurious interior suited her well.

All of the guests save one (who was taking the picture) posing in front of the huge vase of roses that seems to be required decoration for all Rose House locations.

An outfit shot for good measure, Angelic Pretty's Day Dream Carnival special set, because no self-respecting lolita would dress up and NOT take a picture or two or three...or five.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, but the highlight for me was the great conversation which made the time fly by. The servers are discreet and don't rush you, so I felt like a proper Victorian lady entertaining with her friends!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Tutorial: Polka Dot Nails 4 Ways

Nail art!  It's another crafty thing!  A logical development for Lolitas who love arts & crafts too. :)
Rilly and I have gotten pretty inspired since our trip to Japan, seeing all the wonderfully accessible nail stickers, tools and polishes, in particular a visit to Okadaya, a huge craft, cosmetics and fabric store.  (Click website HERE)

I've been on a mission to combine my love of nail art with Lolita, and am slowly creating nail designs for the prints in my closet, but that's another post.

Here's simple tutorial to start the ball rolling:


The materials you'll need:

Always start with a good base coat.  This smooths the nail surface and makes it easier to apply your polish coats.  There's great ones out there for filling in ridges and imperfections on the nail surface, like Mavala Ridge Filler.  I use O.P.I.'s Natural Nail Base Coat as a basic undercoat.

Click on the image to enlarge the photo set to see the details more clearly.  I'm sorry I used such light colours.  Will improve upon this with my next tutorial.

1.  Two coats (or three, if your base coat is streaky like my mint colour turned out to be) of your base colour.  Let dry as completely as possible, because this will help when you start on your nail design.  Occasionally, I will do the base colour the night before to make sure it's completely dry when I start my design the next day.

2.  Take your dotting tool and grab a small amount from the brush of your design colour polish bottle.  You don't want to put too much on because you'll get uneven dots.  You can always go over with another coat of polish to beef up the colour (which is what I ended up doing as the pink I used was too light).

3.  Start in the center of your nail, working from the nail bed up.  This helps your design remain symmetrical.

4.  Apply the next line of dots to the side of the middle row, staggering the dots so you form an 'equilateral triangle' with the dots representing each point of the triangle.  Do the same for the other side of the middle row.

5.  Another way to do polka dots is to use two different sizes of dotting tool.  Start with the large dots up the middle and do small dots up each side.  Continue to the outside edges of the nail.  It's okay if you don't make a complete dot because you've run out of nail surface.  It actually helps the design look complete.  Any polish you get on your finger can be removed with a cotton bud or brush dipped in a little bit of polish remover once your design is finished and dry.

6.  A cute use of the small dotting tool is to make a mini designs.  Four dots in a diamond shape laid down in a larger diamond pattern.  Or try 5 dots in a little flower pattern.  One other way to use the small sized dotting tool is to follow the same pattern as with the larger dots in your basic polka dot pattern.  This makes a good design background over which roses, hearts, bows can be painted or stuck on.

7.  Let your polish dry to the touch and finish with a coat of good top-coat.  I'm currently using a topcoat that gives a gel nail type finish.  Some unknown brand I picked up from Okadaya, but it's really durable.  If you're in a hurry, you can always get a quick dry spray or oil.  These work pretty well and dry your nails to the touch without smudging within 10 mins or so.  If you want to keep your manicure from chipping for as long as possible, apply a layer of top-coat every few days.

And we're done!
I hope you enjoyed, stay tuned for more to come...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hey sonny, it's the 21st Century!

Now I'm by no means a self-professed Luddite, but I am in the slow lane of the technological highway and one of those Christian motorists on the road to popular culture.  Even in terms of Lolita fashion, I'm often passed by those quicker on the uptake about dress reserves and lucky pack deals than I.  But though I may arrive a little late to the party, I sure have fun once I get there!

We have so many wonderful technological marvels now that there's always something new to discover, and even if what is discovered is something many others have already tried their hand at, the personal journey of exploration through all that the 21st Century has to offer is still a fun ride.

Now, you must be wondering what the hell I'm talking about.  The 21st Century's already over a decade in, you say!  We're used to all these conveniences like smartphones, GPS and Wi-Fi. What's new and fun about something you use everyday?  Oh yes, and you probably also read many blogs touting the latest this and that in the Apple Store, and the scathing reviews about, oh yawn, nothing new and innovative ever happens now.  But perhaps therein lies the problem.  We're so soaked in the hysteria of acquisition--the need for some thing new! New! New, now! Now! Now!--that we kick our heels like spoilt children who are never satisfied instead of what we should be doing, which is channeling that childhood wonder and love of exploration.

Well, I've decided to channel that childhood wonder into exploring the wonders of my very first smartphone--the Samsung Galaxy S4.

It's larger than is absolutely convenient and I'm still struggling with the concept that mobile versions of websites, pages and email have reduced functionality, and if you edit something on your mobile and then head to your computer, you'll find that sometimes the changes aren't exactly correct.  But the screen is lovely, the ability to have internet even at the beach is a novelty, and all those photo apps are the most enjoyable time suck I've experienced, ever!

Whilst I cogitate on the remarkableness of the device in my hands, I find it simply incredible that not only is there a world full of information about practically everything under the sun at our fingertips, but that we also so readily volunteer a wealth of information about ourselves. One could equate it to those olden days when people lived in small towns and never bothered to lock their doors, and neighbourly visits were welcomed. Or perhaps a more sinister aspect should be revealed. That by posting what we do every hour of the day, letting our devices be tracked over GPS, and putting pics of everything from our pets to our lunch online, we are exposing ourselves to harmful and compromising attention. But of course everybody wants their 15 seconds of e-fame. Even if there can only ever be one George Takei god of memes, or Justin Bieber-esque YouTube discovery, we all post and check statuses and followers and re-post again,  in the hopes of gaining a huge number of likes and fans, and of feeling that human attention we all crave like the drug that it is.

I'm still getting used to the feel of a tiny haptic keyboard and navigating my way around all the different applications and their idiosyncrasies, and I know my kiddy pool exploration into the world of the smartphone (and all that's associated with technology like this) is redundant.  I know I really don't have anything new to say, and if you're looking for a proper review on the new Samsung Galaxy S4, there's certainly more elucidating blog reads out there.  But that's the point isn't it.  With all this technology and connectivity and social media sites nowadays, anybody can be a self-professed expert or genius on any subject.  And anybody can have an opinion about everything.

So what's my verdict as a nasant techno junkie? I'm hooked for life and never looking back! And oh, once you're done reading this post, subscribe to this blog and tell all your friends about it (online, of course)!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Afternoon Tea Reviews VI: SalonTea

Groupon is a wonderful service for testing out new places to dine, especially when one isn’t sure if the full price of a meal is worth all the effort and expense.  Unfortunately, I felt that this was true in the case of SalonTea, which we visited about a month ago.

Now, I don’t want to give dear readers a purely negative assessment as there were some things about SalonTea that warrant a re-visit.  However, we were there specifically in our capacity of ‘Lolita Afternoon Tea Investigators’ if you will, and even if this tea is supposedly sipped by Hollywood bigwigs like Oprah and music stars like Rihanna, and hails from ooh la New York, if it hasn’t got that Loli-Loli Rabu factor, it ain’t got nothing in our books.

SalonTea is located in uber chic South Granville, where I guess all the soccer moms of Shaughnessy shop.  The café is next to Meinhardt’s Fine Foods at 3010 Granville Street.  Click HERE for the website and hours.  Its full name is Tracy Stern Salontea, and the predominant company colours are orange and brown, though one wouldn’t be able to tell that from the café’s first impression, being rather overwhelmed by the large expanse of plain white bathroom tile all along the walls.

I like the idea of Tracy Stern’s “Salon Tea”, where she’s named all her signature teas some personality type or other—The Artist, The Romantic, The Fashionable Dandy—in an attempt to recreate the ‘salon’ of 17th and 18th Century France (it was actually a 16th Century Italian invention, but in both countries was a place where people came together for amusement, conversation and the exchange of ideas).  It’s the execution of this particular location though, that leaves much to be desired.  Something seems to have gotten lost in translation.  Researching Tracy Stern, her idea for her company seems to be ‘children playing tea party’, which may seem to be at odds with the idea of an intellectual salon, but could work, given a creative mind and a superb interior designer.  This location seems to have had the benefit of neither.

Even before actually seeing the place, I was filled with a sense of foreboding when a fellow Vancouver Lolita commented that the place “isn’t pretty”.  No surprise then that what attracted us most was the kiddy tea set placed alongside a couple board games on the back counter and not the ambiance.

The tea pots were very pretty, though their baroque flavour seemed incongruously out of place in the rather sterile bathroom tiled interior.  I had The Dancer, “a compelling blend of honeybush and rooibos tea with flavoured fruit accents of strawberry, raspberry, floral notes of safflowers and marigolds.  Spinning its flavours with the grande dance of rich chocolate”, and Rilly had The Romantic, "Chur She green tea with jasmine flowers...completely unfermented and not oxidized.  Delicate and fragrant brew...Spark some romance while sharing this tea!"

Neither the seats nor the tables looked particularly comfortable or inviting, giving the whole café an air of rather bleak utilitarianism, and what was with the bare concrete floor?  It was as if the tea shop had moved in recently, but had lost in the move all its luxurious furnishings, oriental carpets, gilt mirrors and Louis XVI chairs.

You can see here clearly how the elaborateness of our Lolita outfits stands in stark contrast with the plain furnishings in the background.

On to the food which is provided by an in-house chef (who incidentally doesn’t have a kitchen, in house).
High tea service is $30/person and the menu is apparently a surprise every time.

Schnitzel finger sandwich
Smoked salmon and fig compote on corn cake
Smoked turkey and cucumber croissant

Shortbread and icing sandwiches
Marshmallow and chocolate cupcakes
Lemon custard squares
Pistachio macaron and signature tea macaron

Scones with Devonshire cream and jam

The food came in your usual 3 tiered tray arrangement, decorated with a brightly coloured tissue paper flowers.  Tissue paper flowers seemed to be de rigueur here and 3 large flowers made up the entirety of the table display, giving the customer an odd feeling of the café not being cleaned up after a kid’s birthday party.  This seemed to be the rather sadly literal manifestation of Tracy Stern’s ‘children’s tea party’ idea.

The combinations of flavours brought to my mind the unique concoctions invented by hungry teenagers after school everywhere.  Growing bodies constantly need nourishment, and if there’s nothing but some ham, strawberry jam and cheese in the fridge, and some saltines, canned tuna and peanut butter in the cupboard, all will go into the mouth at the same time.  Often, this cuisine is strangely delicious even if the ingredients list looks a bit nauseating, but nobody wants to see ‘oddly creative’ takes on everyday foods, especially at high tea prices.  The sweets were frankly too sweet and too boring.  Icing filled shortbread sandwiches are fine for 5 year olds, but seriously couldn’t the chef have provided some proper petit fours?

All things being said, SalonTea does have good tea with well-thought-out blends.  The whole line is attractively packaged stressing ‘tea as a lifestyle’, and includes teas for dieting and health, candles and even perfumes.  Plus the mirrors are pretty cute too!

Rillystar says:

Taste: 2.5/5 
Presentation: 2/5 
Service: 3/5
Price: 2/5
Decor/Ambiance: 1/5
Location/Transitability: 3.5/5
Loli-Loli Rabu Factor: 1/5

Overall Score: 2.15/5

Comments: As kurasune mentioned, this establishment was sadly lacking in the decor and ambiance category. We really were quite out of place, and I almost wonder if the startled initial look on the staff member's face when we got there was more of an indication of what type of clientele they typically deal with. Definitely worth trying the teas, but I'd pass on a $30 set for the the food and just grab a single tea or a package of tea blend. Some interesting tastes with the food,but the presentation was lacklustre and menu nothing out of the fact quite pedestrian (shortbread cookie sandwich filled with glacé icing, really?) for the price tag. the up side was we were able to take home some a sample of their teas as part of the package. I feel like this was all set up to be more of a coffee shop a la Waves or Starbucks where you come in, grab your drink and leave...oh and those seats and chairs more of an afterthought so you have a place to sit if you're not on the run.

Kurasune says:

Taste: 2/5
Presentation: 1.5/5
Service: 3/5
Price: 2/5
Decor/Ambiance: 1/5
Location/Transitability: 4/5
Loli-Loli Rabu Factor: 1/5

Overall Score: 2.07/5

Comments:  I think the décor was the most disappointing thing about this place.  It does not match Tracy Stern’s marketing spiel about SalonTea being a comfortable, inspiring place to come together to discuss art and creativity.  Everything seems hurried and not properly thought through, and the interior has not been renovated sufficiently to erase the feeling of the café before it, which had a more bistro feel, if I remember correctly.  Overall a disappointment.  Go there to buy some loose teas to take home, but don’t bother making it an outing, and definitely don’t bother dressing up.  Vancouver’s ubiquitous Lululemon yoga pants and tank top ensemble is more than adequate.

Joint overall score for SalonTea:  2.11/5
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