Monday, 23 May 2011

The best exhibition I've seen in ages

If you like modern architecture to the point of being slightly geeky about it then get yourself down to Domusae - in the old Museo del Ejercito on Calle de Méndez Núñez 1 (nearish to the Prado) before 16th June 2011 when the exhibition is gone forever! It's a stunningly exhibited selection of cultural buildings (libraries, museums, public archives) from around the country. All of the projects are gorgeous and are either new or older buildings that have been rehabilitated with a modern edge. Models of the buildings and in-depth interviews with the architects are presented beautifully in the old Salon de Reinos - picture below. It made me realise that often when visiting famous Spanish cities I made a beeline straight for the old classics missing out on many modern gems. Definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

3 beauty bummers and what I do about them

I have a dear friend who loves to rifle through the make-up bags of her best chums, trying out tubes of lipstick - ooing and asking where you got certain products and what they are for. I can totally relate to this sentiment. The things I learn about cosmetics, lotions and potions (and trust me, I don't know that much) I always tend to pick up from friends and peers and hardly every from glossy magazines which I can't help but feel are encouraged to gush over new products by PR people. Websites like my old favourite Make-up Alley with its hundreds of reviews - mean that the group of 'peers' with whom to share knowledge is bigger than ever, and I won't splash out on expensive slap without consulting there first. So, in the spirit of 'sharing' I thought I'd post on my own beauty problem areas and how I address them - little things that are part of my routine, help me look and feel a bit nicer and might work for others out there that have the same issues.

1. The frizzies. This is going to sound PATHETIC but buying a professional hairdryer has changed my life! I have hair that manages to be both straight and frizzy at the same time and so porously dry that soaks up all the water and takes fooorrevvveer to dry. That was until I splashed out on a professional high-wattage Valera hairdryer. It saves me 15 minutes in the morning on hairwash days and makes my hair so much shinier and more manageable. On a recent work trip I had to take my old travel hairdryer and it was like a sparrow was blowing on my hair.. took forever and looked crap. I'm afraid next time the biggie is going to have to come with me - even if that means chucking out a pair of shoes. The only disadvantage is that I have to be more careful about drying my hair out - I always make sure I use a good serum and do a hair mask once a week.

2. Teenage breakouts in my 30s! Some people suit cream cleansers, I don't. Although they leave my skin lovely the first week in time they give me breakouts. On the other extreme I find gels and soaps can be a bit harsh and drying. My halfway house is what the beauty gurus seem to be calling 'hot cloth cleansing'  - in other words using a flannel good old-fashiones style. I slather on a lightweight cream cleanser - I like Avene's Gentle Cleanser - then wipe it off with a hot damp cloth or flannel. The trick is to use a clean face-cloth every day to avoid breakouts and nasty bacterial transference. This may sound a bit extravagent, but what I have are 7 identical super-cheapy flannels from Tiger - I use the same one morning and night (turning it over) and chuck them in the wash with the 2 loads of washing we do per week at home. Skin feels lovely and clean and you get a daily exfoliation too. I'm told Liz Earle has a hot muslin cloth system that's very nice - also for more see Sali Hughes video in the Guardian - as she says, no wasteful cotton wool involved.

3. Yucky morning face. You know those days when you wake up and look pasty, dully and pretty much poo? Well late nights and frequent travel mean I have them more often than not! I think all women who use cosmetics probably have their own particular make-up tricks for these days, and here are mine. Firstly, hot-cloth cleanse and give your skin a good massage with warm water to help smooth out any puffiness or lines - now for the cover-up job: 1. I swap foundation for tinted moisturiser which doesn't sit in 'cracks' - for me this just means mixing my MAC Studiofix foundation with a bit of moisturiser. 2. Concealer - possibly the most important step - I get scary dark circles, but find Bobbi Brown's Creamy Concealer covers the worst of them. I dab it into the shadows and also onto the upper eyelid to even out the colour. Finally I take a shimmery ivory coloured shadow and lightly dab it into the inner corners of my eyes and just a hint under the brows - really opens the eyes up. 3. Cheeks - a bit of Guerlain's Terracota bronzer follwed by a touch of pink blush - just a little to avoid ther Aunt Sally look - gives a look that's somewhere between sunkissed and rosy-cheeked healthyness. I also pop a bit of bronzer on my chin and the bridge of my nose. 4. Eyes, with a sharpened eye liner I draw a very very thin line next to my upper lashes from the outer corner to the centre of the eye and blend with a brush, depending on my mood I'll repeat for lower lids too. Mascara - 2 thin coats. 5. Lips - I line them with a pencil the same as my natural lip colour and blend in with my fingers - I then add a tinted lip balm by Korres or MAC or fill in with a pale baby pink Clarins Rouge Prodige lipstick + blot.

All this might sound a lot, but it takes only 5 ninutes and very little colour is used as less is more on a tired face - a spritz of something that smells lovely and I'm ready to face the day!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

5 things I loved about Paris

We've just come back from my first time in Paris. Needless to say I'm in love with the city, there was so much I liked that it's hard to know where to begin but here are 5 favourites to start with...

1. Staying in a cute Parisian apartment. One thing I’ve learnt on my travels is that if I can’t stay in a lovely hotel I’ll stay in a rented apartment and live like a local! I can’t begin to describe how much more pleasant it was to pick up croissants and pan aux chocolat from the bakery below rather than the hotel buffet.

2. A cliché but… the Eiffel Tower. Not on top of it – 1.5 hours is just too long to queue for lazy old moi. However, we passed a happy hour or so sat on a grassy verge (unexplicably free of other people – I guess they were all queueing) gazing at the lit up tower by night. At 11pm the sparkly light show began, and I couldn’t help but shed a little tear – then a storm brewed up and we had to run off into a little café for shelter just like in the movies!

3. The supermarkets. Sorry to say it but Spain’s supermarkets can be somewhat limited (unless you go to the Corte Inglés)… We had a field day browsing the aisles of goodies both French and stuff that I miss from back home… rillete, maple syrup, buttery biscuits, stinky stinky cheeses, smoked mackerel, North African spices, red wine… and best of all the beauty counter – not for fancy international names like Dior (which you can easily pick up here) but the cheaper local brands that feel and smell divine but won’t break the bank balance (Le Petit Olivier's fair trade shea butter body lotion was a particular favourite). Also, check out this Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site for her tips on French pharmacy brands. Wanting to extend our Paris experience beyond the 5 day break we brought along an extra case to fill with cheeses to take home – said suitcase is still on the balcony being aired – as despite double wrapping all the munsters and camamberts the smell still steeped through – just glad we didn’t put any clothes in there!

4. Montmartre. A hilly district in the north of Paris with a slightly boho villagey feel – little lanes and streets full of boutiques, delicatessens, pavement cafes and the setting for the film Amelie – need I say more :-) See fruit stall above)

5. Seeking out the best views – here are the best we found (apart from Sacre Coeur in Montmartre) in no particular order: 1) On top of the Galeries Lafayette department store – I was also stunned by the amazing stained glass cupola seen from inside (photo below). 2) On top of the slightly posher Printemps department store next door. 3) On top of the Pompidou centre (above) – if you want to go up without going into the gallery at the front of the building to the left you’ll see a security guy sat by a lift – tell him you’re going to the café and he’ll unlock it for you – go up to the 6th floor to enjoy the view.

5 days really wasn’t enough to even begin to scratch the surface of Paris, but as it’s next door there’s really no excuse not to go back soon - a driving tour round France next summer perhaps?!
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