November Beauty Favourites

It’s been a really long time since I’ve done a post about my beauty favourites! Here are a few things I’ve been loving this November:

Lush Haul

I’ve repurchased the Big sea salt shampoo from Lush. It’s without a doubt the best shampoo I’ve ever tried – the sea salt is great for exfoliating the scalp, and it smells absolutely divine. The sea salt gives your hair volume, too – what more could you want? I tend to use it once a week, alternating different shampoos so as to avoid drying out my hair but it’s definitely a product I’ll be getting again and again.

Lush Jungle Solid Conditioner

The next item from my mini Lush haul is the Jungle solid conditioner. I was really intrigued by the concept, and I really like the scent of avocado and banana. I’m not fully sold on the texture, but it does a good job of conditioning the ends.

As mentioned in my last post, I’m ridiculously excited for this holiday season – and I LOVE Lush’s range of seasonal products. Snow Fairy smells like all the good smells from childhood – like cotton candy, or bubblegum.

They're Real Mascara

The next product up is Benefit They’re Real mascara. I recently had this brought over from America for me, and I am loving the brush in particular, and how it lengthens my lashes. My only gripe with the product is that it’s not easy to get off – this has lasting power, so make sure you have some good eye makeup remover to hand. I know Benefit sell their own remover, which is specially formulated to remove it but something about that just doesn’t sit well with me particularly – I don’t like being forced to buy an entire range of products.

They're Real Mascara

Next on my list of November favourites is Bourjois’ Happy Light Matte serum primer. I much prefer the consistency of this to Maybelline’s Baby Skin primer – it feels less greasy, and I like that it is light and mattifying. I like this product as a drugstore alternative to Maybelline’s primer, which I wasn’t a fan of.

Bourjois Matte Primer Elie Saab Perfume

I haven’t found a new scent I’ve liked in ages. I’ve been wearing the Chloe perfume for ages, and while I love it, I was looking for something a bit different. I always associate the Chloe scent with summer, and the patchouli, jasmine and orange blossom of this Elie Saab perfume is deeper – it has a smokier quality to it which makes it perfect for winter. If you are a fan of Vivienne Westwood’s Boudoir, or Calvin Klein Euphoria then I think you should put this scent on your Christmas wishlist.

Nars Orgasm

This Nars blush is a cult favourite, and something else I had brought back for me from the States. Nars blush in Orgasm looks really natural, but with tiny flecks of shimmer which creates a really lovely glow. My one is becoming a little worn because I’ve been using it so much – it’s definitely been featured on other beauty blogs so much for a reason!

Zoeva Brushes

My final favourite this month has been the rose gold brush set from Zoeva. It’s my first proper brush set – previously, I’d been using my bare minerals brushes and I finally couldn’t resist these. They are the softest brushes I have ever touched. They don’t look quite so nice at the moment as they do in the picture above, but I have it on good authority that they wash incredibly well – and for under £7 a brush are more affordable than ones from MAC. The case is great, and there’s a lot of room for other products too.

What products have you loved this month? Anything you’ll be putting on your Christmas wishlist?

Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair 2014

I love Christmas – it’s without a doubt my favourite holiday, and it’s only 35 days away! In less than a month now, I’ll be heading to Cambodia for my very first tropical Christmas. Although I am unbelievably excited, I’m not going to deny that part of my affection for Christmas is centered around all the food, so having barbecue instead of turkey with all the trimmings is going to be a bit of a culture shock for me!

Country Living Christmas Fair 2014 Country Living Christmas Fair 2014

Luckily, I’ve managed to get some Christmas food in early, thanks to Joy, who invited me to go with her last Thursday to Country Living Magazine’s Christmas Fair in Islington.

The Christmas Fair featured various stalls and exhibitors presenting their Christmas homewares, food and gift ideas. Joy and I explored the centre, sampling a few glasses of prosecco until we found the food section, where we were really in our element. It was really nice to see and discover small UK independent brands that I hadn’t known about before.

Country Living Christmas Fair 2014

Joy is also a big fan of gin, so we sampled various kinds, until we came across rhubarb gin made by Kentish Tipple. I’m not usually a fan of overly sweet drinks, so I wasn’t prepared to particularly like this rhubarb gin liquer, but I was completely won over. I can’t wait to try it with some tonic or prosecco!

Kentish Tipple Rhubarb Gin

Another stall I was really taken with was Hogben Pottery’s terracotta stall. Hogben Pottery make some really sweet jugs and mugs, which remind me of Beatrix Potter. I had to restrain myself, and tried walking away from the stall only to rush back to get this sweet pug milk jug. I couldn’t bear to see someone else take him home!

Hogben PotteryHogben Pottery

The third stall I really liked at the Country Living Fair was run by Norfolk-based company The General Store, who specialise in vintage collectibles and fine food kits. I thought that their food kits were a really sweet idea – perfect for people who want to cook (but are too lazy/might not know how to!). I came home with their gluten-free holiday cookie mix. The jar of gluten free flour, chocolate and dried fruit seemed too cute to bake with, but temptation got the better of me.

The General Store The General Store

I was seriously impressed with the mixture – all I had to do was add some vanilla, butter and an egg, and it is without a doubt the BEST gluten-free cookie I have ever made (even better, I might add, than my kinako ones from a few months back!)

The General Store Gluten Free Holiday CookieThe General Store Gluten Free Holiday CookieThe General Store Gluten Free Holiday CookieThe General Store Gluten Free Holiday CookieThe General Store Gluten Free Holiday Cookie

Although I had a great time at the fair, I must admit I was disappointed with their tree – poor effort!

Country Living Christmas Fair 2014

And, if you follow me on instagram, you might have already seen this picture – but what great words to live by!

Country Living Christmas Fair 2014

ArtRabbit Art Trail: Tab’s Tour

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of going on the ArtRabbit Art Trail tour lead by Tabish Khan, who writes for the Londonist as an art critic. I met Tab at the Moroni event, and was excited for his tour of the trail. ArtRabbit has collaborated with 18 galleries around London (N1) with a mission to promote the discovery of contemporary art.

Haggerston Thomas Mailaender cyanotypes

On his tour, Tab guided us round 4 of the exhibitions open for the three-day Art Trail event, although unfortunately I was only able to make it to the first three. The tour began at the Proud Archivist in Haggerston, where the ArtRabbit team had created a visual installation for the duration of the trail, which ran from the 6th – 8th of November.

Thomas Mailaender cyanotypes

Our first stop on the tour was the Ditto Gallery, for Thomas Mailaender’s Cyanotypes. This exhibit was the first time I’d ever experienced cyanotypes – a photographic printing process that produces brilliantly blue prints used by 20th century engineers (in this context, often referred to as blueprints). I found Maliaender’s work to be playful, rather cheeky – one particularly memorable piece uses the technique to reproduce the image of Putin with bunny ears. I enjoyed seeing contemporary images and issues recreated in this outdated manner, as well as the effect of the cyan-blue.

Thomas Mailaender cyanotypes

Our next stop was at Gallery One and a Half, for Robert Wilson’s Helmand Return. The exhibition showed photographs taken by Wilson in April 2014, documenting the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. As an official war artist, Wilson’s work gives a unique perspective and insight into the process of ending war. It was even more significant, perhaps, to see it the weekend before Armistice day, to see a beautiful side to the controversial conflict.

robert wilson helmand returnRobert Wilson Helmand Return

Tab started a really interesting discussion with the other members of the tour group around the complex relationship between art and advertising. Some of Wilson’s work for this exhibit had previously been used in ads, and Tab asked us our thoughts and opinions around this subject – and whether advertising co-opted art. To one extent, advertising has the opportunity to make art more accessible: but to what cost? The discussion went further, to discuss space – does art need to be confined to galleries, which are essentially commercial spaces, to be appreciated? We considered the Art Everywhere initiative – a national outdoor art exhibition that takes place across the UK each year, by taking over spaces usually dominated by advertising – billboards, bus stops and poster sites. I like to think of myself as someone who is interested in art, so I really surprised myself when I realised that I had missed this completely.

Although I agreed with the point that art should be widely accessible, I also think that people won’t be as receptive, or pay attention unless they are open to it. The discussion really reminded me of the DC subway experiment with renowned violinist Joshua Bell. Bell sells out countless shows, but when he was busking no one paid him any attention. As cynical and depressing as it is, I personally do think I try to shut out the OOH advertising – which might explain why I missed, or even ignored the Art Everywhere campaigns.

robert wilson helmand returnrobert wilson helmand return

Gallery One and a Half was a beautiful space – I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit, and the gallery has worked closely with the artist on this body of work which is visually and emotionally stunning. It’s running until the end of November, and well worth going to – my photographs of the work and space really don’t do it any justice.

robert wilson helmand return

My final stop on the tour was BAG, at the Atrium, which showcased a diverse range of works by artists from the Hertford Road Studios. At this stop, Tab talked about the importance of collaboration and constructive criticism, particularly for emerging artists. Artists who have just come from an art-school environment, where there is a lot of guidance, particularly when receiving criticism from their peers can find it somewhat jarring when they leave. As with anything, people are only going to talk about something if they love it or they hate it – and in this context even negative press has value. This exhibition, which allowed different artists to share a space encouraged more open discussion, criticism and collaboration between the artists which was refreshing.

BAG at the atrium BAG at the atrium

The tour and the Art Trail was a great way of exploring a new neighbourhood, as well as seeing new galleries too. I really enjoyed the tour and hope there will be more in the future!

Several of the galleries and exhibitions are still open – for a full list, visit the ArtRabbit website here.

Introducing: Old Tom and English

London – have I got a treat for you. I was so excited to come home and write up this post because I’ve just come from the incredible soft opening for the Old Tom and English, a new restaurant opening up on Wardour Street in Soho.

Old Tom and English Old Tom and English

In contrast to the ‘no-reservations’ policy of many popular restaurants these days, the Old Tom and English take a much more civilized approach, with quite the opposite policy: they take reservations only. Personally, I’m a fan of this – you can enjoy your meal without the curious eyes of the next party angling for your seat, as well as getting the ‘private members club’ feel without the extortionate membership fees. Through a speakeasy-style front door, you are led downstairs to a charming bar and dining room done up in exquisite ’60s style, with little alcoves for a few parties who might enjoy a little privacy. My date for the evening was the lovely Joy from the Joyous Living, and we both remarked on how it would be an amazing place for a romantic date – the sharing plates and soft lighting in particular.

Old Tom and English Old Tom and English Old Tom and EnglishOld Tom and English

So far, so good – we were really impressed with the ambiance of the place, and we’d hadn’t even looked at the drinks menu yet. For those of you who might not know, the ‘Old Tom’ refers to a particular gin recipe – or the Cockney rhyming slang for prostitute (perhaps the cheeky pun is alluding to the reputation of its location in Soho?) As someone who is obsessed more than a little partial to a nice gin, I was really impressed with their cocktail menu, of which there are several containing my favourite spirit. I found a kindred spirit in Joy, who is also a gin fan, and we started off with a Wardour (for me) – a gin cocktail infused with basil and black pepper, and the South Side of Oxford Street for Joy, a gin and sherry cocktail which were both amazing.

Old Tom and English Old Tom and English Me and Joy

The Old Tom and English specialise in sharing plates, or an English take on tapas. Coming from a Japanese family, where eating ‘family-style’ is a massive part of the culture, I love sharing plates, and Joy and I ordered several between us.

For an extremely new restaurant, and despite the fact I hadn’t called ahead to enquire about anything gluten-free, the staff at the Old Tom and English were amazingly accommodating and helpful – the service was spectacular. Our waitress was really attentive, and I really felt looked after – which is something you definitely want if you have an allergy or an intolerance of any kind! Everything I tried was gluten-free – anything that wasn’t I’ll mark with a *.

Old Tom and English Our food came in waves – we started with the beer sticks, Old Tom’s salmon tartar with poached egg and pan-fried kings scallops with courgette and black pudding.

Old Tom and English: salmon tartar with poached eggOld Tom and English: scallops with black pudding

It was incredibly hard to decide which dish was my favourite as they were all virtually faultless, but I was extremely fond of those scallops, which were really flavourful. They even impressed Joy, who by her own admission isn’t the biggest fan of the mollusc.

These were followed by the egg and mushroom on a bed of pureed jerusalem artichoke, with a touch of marmite butter. This was served with melba toast*, but can be served without. Although braised gem lettuce with anchovy and garlic might not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, even this defined the word umami for me.

Old Tom and English: mushroom and egg with melba toast

My second favourite dish was the slow smoked guinea fowl with anchovy mayo. The skin was light and crispy, yet the meat fell off the bone – the slow cooking and smoking technique they used made this dish really memorable.

Old Tom and English: smoked slow cooked quail

Our final two savoury dishes were the triple cooked chips and the smoked wood pigeon. I’d never quite understood the appeal of triple cooked chips before, but these were so light – almost like tempura. The wood pigeon was served rare with some grated beetroot and samphire.

Old Tom and English: smoked wood pigeonOld Tom and English: triple cooked chips

At this point, we were well and truly stuffed – but couldn’t resist another cocktail: a fragrant elderflower collins for me, and the OT&E gimlet for Joy, as well as a look at the dessert menu. Not a massive fan of chocolate, or cake, I was really impressed with the flourless chocolate cake – it was deliciously rich and simply delectable. Joy sampled some of the other desserts on offer – including the banana bread and lemon and thyme doughnuts. The only fault I heard all evening was the fact that Joy found the cream slightly too rich for the banana bread, but the dessert menu certainly didn’t disappoint.

Old Tom and English: flourless chocolate cake

Without a doubt, this has been the best meal I’ve had out in 2014 – bravo, Old Tom and English!

Old Tom and English is located on 187b Wardour Street, W1F 8ZB – you can book via phone 020 7287 7347 or at info@oldtomandenglish.com.

Old Tom and English: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Although my meal was provided free of charge, all opinions are fully my own.

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Dressing an Italian Countess: Moroni at the RA

I spent Halloween this year at the Royal Academy of Arts, at an exhibition of little-known Italian renaissance artist Giovanni Battista Moroni. The exhibition showcases some of the painter’s best works, including several altarpieces and portraits. As it was a blogger preview event, I met several bloggers (including Tabish Khan from the Londonist, Joy from The Joyous Living, Lizzie from Lizzie’s World and Nigel), who can without a doubt provide a more academic review of the exhibition, which is curated by Arturo Galasino. Galasino is clearly passionate about the artist, and the conservation of his work – naming him among the greatest 16th century Italian painters.

Gian Girolamo Albani, c.1570 Oil on canvas, 107 x 75 cm Private Collection Photo: Private collection

Gian Girolamo Albani, c.1570
Oil on canvas, 107 x 75 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Private collection

Giovanni Battista Moroni Young Lady, c.1560-65 Oil on canvas, 51 x 42 cm Private collection Photo Private collection

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Young Lady, c.1560-65
Oil on canvas, 51 x 42 cm
Private collection
Photo Private collection

Although skilled in execution, the altarpieces didn’t appeal to me as much as the portraits did – as a former student of anthropology, I’ve always been interested in what portraits can say about the context they were created in. The most striking aspect of the collection was the use of colour, and how skilled Moroni was at capturing textures – the different shades of black he used added to the realism of the work, and the folds and patterns on the material in his work are so impressive – you’d never know there were so many shades of black!

Giovanni Battista Moroni The Tailor, 1565-70 Oil on canvas, 99.5 x 77 cm The National Gallery, London Photo © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni
The Tailor, 1565-70
Oil on canvas, 99.5 x 77 cm
The National Gallery, London
Photo © The National Gallery, London

A review of the collection wouldn’t be complete without the impact of fashion and tailoring on the artist. The image of the Tailor, the portrait of a worker as a gentleman, as well as the exquisite details in his work really show how respectability was shown through dress.

Moroni at the RA

Before previewing the exhibition, I was invited to a lecture given by the curator, as well as former Director of Theatre Design at the Globe, Jenny Tiramani and actor and former Artistic Director Mark Rylance. Rylance was dressed in his outfit commissioned for his role as Countess Olivia, an exquisite garment that cost in the tens of thousands to create. Although beautiful, it was an absolute mission to get on! It was really interesting to discuss how garments were developed by male tailors, for women – and how corsets could often cause miscarriages in noblewomen. Although beautiful, I am more than a little glad that corsets are not in style.

Moroni at the RAdressing an italian countess

The Moroni exhibit is on until the 25th of January 2015, between 10am – 6pm. Prices range from £13.50, although concessions are available and children under 16/Friends of the RA go free.

Moroni at the RA