Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Good Hair Days: Herbal Aloe

The rain and humidity haven't really made this a summer of good hair days so I was excited to try out Herbal Aloe's strengthening shampoo and conditioner in an attempt to make my hair a little happier.

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PR samples from the Herbal Aloe launch event I attended a few weeks ago


The shampoo and conditioner are designed to prevent hair breakage and make hair stronger and shinier. They are sulphate and paraben-free so better for us and the planet, too.

The fragrance of hair products is really important to me and these smell great, really fresh so perfect for making city hair feel clean again. I wasn't expecting the shampoo to lather much as its sulphate-free but it actually produced an impressive amount of lather and ticked another box of what I look for in a shampoo. The conditioner is thick and creamy but doesn't weigh my hair down like some conditioners do and I only needed a small blob to cover my long-ish hair.

At £9.22 each these are pricier than the hair products I usually buy but the big squeezey tubes are huge and will last for ages. Herbal Aloe products are sold exclusively through Independent Herbalife Distributors throughout the UK. For details of your local supplier please call 0845 056 0606 or visit the site here.

Have you tried Herbal Aloe?
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Sunday, 29 July 2012

NYC Shopping

You really can't go to NYC without having a good shop. Personally, I can't seem to go anywhere without shopping so obviously had to take big advantage of the shopping opportunities that NYC offers, along with quite a favourable pounds to dollar exchange rate (well, that's what I kept telling myself).

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1. Ferragamo bracelet - Macy's; 2. Pashminas - Battery Park Market; 3. Covergirl Lashblast mascara, Neutrogena SPF 100 sunscreen - Duane Reade; 4. Hershey's and spearmint leaves - Wallgreens; 5. Animal print dress and Hello Kitty tshirt - Forever 21

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1. Leopard Print bag - Victoria's Secret; 2. DKNY wristlet - Century 21; 3. Dooney and Bourke pouch bag - Beacon's Closet; 4. Rebecca Taylor dress and American Apparel - Beacon's Closet

Midtown is a good place to start your NYC shopping - Bloomingdales, Macy's, Bergdorf's and 5th Avenue will definitely result in some credit card abuse but it has to be done. 5th Avenue is very designer-focussed but if there's a particular item you're after then its definitely worth researching prices beforehand as some items are the same price in dollars as they are in pounds. Tiffany's is also worth a visit even if you're not a fan of the jewellery. The store itself is pretty amazing. Bloomingdale's is my favourite of the big department stores. On my last visit my 21 year old self delighted in the Bloomies merchandise department. This time round I wanted an Hermes bracelet but it was a little too expensive so "made do" with the Ferragamo one instead.

Markets are worth checking out for bargains. I picked up the pashminas for $5 from Battery Park Market, paid a quick visit to Hell's Kitchen flea market and for foodie treats Union Square farmers market is amazing.

Drugstores may not be glamourous but there are so many US finds to be had, especially if you read US beauty blogs. I had to buy Covergirl's famous Lash Blast mascara after seeing it on numerous blogs and could have spent a lot more money in the make up aisles. My pale skin means that I'm a little obsessed with suncream so the SPF 100 went straight into the basket too along with Crest White Strips, Sally Hansen nail wraps and Hershey's chocolates. The 35 degree weather also meant that I bought a lot of Vitamin Water Zero (um, why can't we get this in the UK?) and Diet Dr Pepper (quite glad that this is harder to find in the UK) to stop myself wilting in the heat.

Bargains were everywhere due to sale season being on but dedicated bargain hunters need to go to Century 21. Located just opposite the World Trade Centre site, think TK Maxx but less messy. On my visit there was a lot of designer stuff and if I hadn't had a million other things on my to-do list I could have spent a lot longer in here. H&M and Forever 21 are super cheap in the US and I may be turning 25 far too soon but definitely needed a Hello Kitty tshirt in my life.

Finally, vintage. It's definitely worth researching a few vintage shops before you head off. After reading Jen's post about Beacon's Closet I had to check out the Williamsburg store. I wasn't disappointed. Everything was so well organised and despite it being in hipster central the prices were amazing. I picked up the handbag, dress and skirt for only $70. I was super happy about the skirt as I was planning on buying it full price anyway.

What are your NYC shopping tips?
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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Summer, Is That You?

I bought this dress during the Jubilee weekend when I was optimistic that summer was right around the corner. At last, finally, the sun has come out and I've got a there-but-only-I-can-tell tan so this is my current favourite work dress:

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Dress: Closet at Debenhams

I love everything about this dress, the colour, the black panels, the pleated skirt and the fact that I can now actually wear it without getting hypothermia.

What are you excited to wear now that its not cold/grey/rainy?

I had a lovely weekend at the Bloggers Picnic catching up with blogging friends and meeting some new faces - more on that soon and I have a what I bought in NYC post coming up too. Right, I'm off to panic about the imminent Olympics chaos coming to London and contemplate locking myself in my flat for the next two weeks to avoid it all.
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Friday, 20 July 2012

What I wore: NYC

Shopping, galleries and amazing restaurants aside, one of the best things about being in NYC was the weather. It was around 30 degrees, blue skies and no rain (aside from a rather epic storm one evening!). Every time I felt like complaining about the heat and humidity, I thought back to grey, rainy London. I know what I'd pick out of the two!

I ended up wearing a lot of my summer clothes for the first time so I have a few new finds to show off. Everything else I wore has already been on the blog from previous holidays. Another thing I love about being away is that I get to wear two outfits each day although this did limit bag space for new purchases.

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Evening outfit: Dress - Louche @ Joy. This was meant to be a summer work dress but its not been nice enough for me to wear something this colourful in the office.

Day outfit: Dress - TU @ Sainsburys. This was only £10 but I love the print and it felt really novel to be wearing a strapless dress and sunhat in the city.

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Evenint outfit: Dress - Louche @ Joy. I had a credit voucher so picked this up in the sales for £30. I love the collar detail and this was perfect for summer evenings.

I apologise for the bare feet in the photos. I always put on shoes right before I leave so I wasn't walking around barefoot. I wore my Birkenstocks or trusty £4 Primark sandals during the day as I walked most places and my River Island heeled sandals at night.

What do you wear on holiday?
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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Diet Mountain Dew, Baby, New York City

I've just returned from a trip to NYC (this time yesterday I was sunbathing in Central Park). This was my second visit, I first went in 2008 with my mum for my 21st birthday (yes, I'll be turning 25 this year, I'm old) and it was lovely to go back as the city felt familiar but this time I felt as if I experienced it more from the perspective of New Yorkers rather than as a tourist. I traveled out by myself but had friends who live in the city or were visiting at the same time as me. Being a little older and having a little more cash to splash made it quite different to my first visit. I'll definitely be blogging more about my trip once I've caught up on sleep and can actually remember what I did but here are a few little highlights:

1. Grand Central Station

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Yes, its just a station but the building is so beautiful. There are cafes in the basement and an arcade on the ground floor too.

2. 5th Avenue

Probably the essential NYC destination for shoppers. I love the horse carts (remember Carrie and Big taking one through the park?) and the Trump Tower building on 5th has the most opulent Starbucks I've ever seen. Definitely the best place for a mid shop coffee break.

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3. Times Square

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Busy, noisy and rather dirty but you still have to see it (and then divert around it for the rest of your trip and definitely don't attempt to get a taxi through it!).

4. Work Trade Centre Site

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A thought-provoking must-see. The WTC site is a peaceful tragic reminder of what happened just over ten years ago. The floor plans of each of the towers have been transformed into giant fountains which really gives a sense of the scale of the buildings although its still hard to comprehend what it must have been like on the day of the attacks. Tickets are free so reserve in advance or turn up early on the day.

5. The Guggenheim

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The exhibitions change regularly but the architecture of the building makes this a must-see. Its $22 dollars to get in which is a bit pricey and is quite small but I think that's sometimes a good thing with museums as you could spend all day in the Met! Its worth Googling all the museums you're interested in before your visit as some a free at certain times. Don't expect it to be like London - we're so lucky that all our museums and galleries are free.

6. The Statue of Liberty

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Another stereotypical NYC site. The ferry to Liberty and Ellis islands is $17 dollars and the ferry ride provides great views of Manhattan. The free Staten Island ferry gives a good view of the statue without stopping on the island and on my first visit I did a Circle Line cruise. It's definitely best to book your tickets in advance or go early. I got to the ferry terminal at 9am and queuing was minimal but the queue barriers set up made it clear that this is not the case the rest of the time!

7. Brooklyn Bridge

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Take the subway to the Manhattan side and walk across - it takes about 40 minutes and the views are amazing. Afterwards, take a walk around DUMBO and the promenade. The Brooklyn Bridge park has free wifi (as do Battery and Union Square parks, very useful if you don't want to risk an extortionate bill by using data).

8. Iconic Movie Sites

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Before you go, look up the Friends cafe, Carrie Bradshaw's apartment and anything else from the movies that you want to visit. Some are a little far out like Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side, made famous in When Harry Met Sally.

9. Central Park

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I didn't really visit the park on my last trip but this time I took an early morning run (do as the New Yorkers do and take a cab to the 86th street transverse to run a lap of the Jackie Onassis Reservoir and then run down through the park) and the views were beautiful. In the morning the park is so peaceful and feels like a great break from the all too constant car horns in the city. It was great to see New Yorkers running, walking their dogs and roller skating through the park. The lawns are great for sunbathing, picnicing and people watching - a particular highlight was a man in his underpants cartwheeling through the park in broad daylight. Only in New York!

What are your favourite NYC sites?

PS. I traveled with Virgin Holidays which worked out the cheapest for flights but its definitely worth shopping around as the prices vary a lot. As I wanted to save money for shopping I stayed in the Flatotel which was really centrally located but not super swish. The hotel was a little dated but it was perfectly adequate and, lets face it, unless you're staying somewhere amazing you actually spend very little time in the hotel anyway! One more thing, July is hot. I knew it'd be warm but 35 degrees in a city is tough when you're used to London weather. Thankfully, Starbucks frapuccinos are practically half price!
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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

More "Summer" Fun

No, the sun still hasn't come out. Here's what I've been doing instead of sunbathing:

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1. Jumped on the 50 Shades of Grey bandwagon. I don't have a Kindle (other e-readers are available) so I'm stuck with the hardcopy. I like "real" books and couldn't care less about what strangers on public transport think of my reading choices.

2. Casual Friday. I did a college course with work last week and didn't have to wear "business attire" although I did find it hard to put together quasi-business-appropriate outfits. Top is from Topshop, skirt is vintage via eBay.

3. Watched the Wimbledon ladies' final with my mum at Duke of York Square.

4. Took my mum to Giraffe for dinner. We both had the Lebanese salad which was so good.

5. I visited a friend in Oxford on Sunday, we watched the Wimbledon final and went to Ask for dinner where we had to have the Wimbledon themed specials despite Andy Murray not winning! My friend's tennis pasta was so cute!

6. Feeling like I'm in Harry Potter. Same vintage skirt, H&M denim jacket.

7. Wahaca edible bowl salad. I can't get enough of Wahaca at the moment, the food is so yummy although I do always get a variation on this salad.

8. Discovering an unworn Oasis tshirt in my wardrobe.

9. Canapes at the Herbalife event. Being on a roof top garden during a torrential rain storm was a bit of an experience!

10. Herbalife goodies. I had a hand massage with the body lotion and it was lovely so I'm looking forward to trying the rest of the range. Reviews soon!

11. New Gellux manicure. I always get a gel manicure before a holiday as its so low maintenance and one less thing for me to have to do. This was £9 with a KGB deals voucher.

12. I dropped my diamond ring down the sink (don't ask) on Sunday and thought I'd have to wait a while to get it back but my plumber was able to pop round today and retrieve it for me so that was a nice surprise! Note to self: buy a proper plug.

I'm currently watching My Summer of Love on iPlayer and contemplating what outfits to pack for my trip to NYC. So excited but I can feel my credit card shaking with dread at how much its going to get used over the next few days!

How have you been spending our rainy summer?
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Friday, 6 July 2012

Tea for Three: W Rock Tea

When my dad complained that he had never had afternoon tea I had to change things pronto. Most afternoon teas are rather girlie, some excessively so with glittery pink cupcakes and kitsch vintage china as if only females can enjoy tea and sweet treats. Something a little more manly was in order and when I heard about the W Rock Tea I knew it would be perfect - afternoon tea served on a cake stand made of vinyls with courses named after classic rock songs. Not a glittery cupcake in sight.

My parents and I headed to the W on a Sunday afternoon for our 2pm reservation. The W is quite a "cool" hotel, its barely noticeable on the outside next to the garish M&M Store next door and the first lobby is rather dark and doesn't immediately scream "luxury hotel". We took the lift to the first floor with the lift carpet wishing us a Good Afternoon and headed to the lounge (the carpet wished us a Good Evening when we left at 5.30pm, love the little things).

Tea is served in a bright, high ceilinged lounge with comfortable sofas arranged around coffee tables. We ordered teas to start with but could switch between different types of teas and coffees so I also had a soya cappuccino once I'd finished my fresh mint tea. The waitress was always around to top up our drinks which scored big service points with me as there's nothing worse than having to wait around for a new pot of tea.

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Jumpsuit: New Look, Belt: Vintage, Bag: Luella

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We started with "Dark Side of the Moon", a nice selection of sandwiches each on a different type of bread. The smoked salmon ones were especially good.

The "Rule Britannia" scones were freshly made and had the perfect scone texture. We thne moved on to "Every Rose Has A Thorn" which had a lovely delicate rose flavour and "Sticky Fingers", a meringue in the shape of the Rolling Stones logo.

afternoon tea the W hotel

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After a bit of a break we tacked "Sweet Emotion", a mini chocolate and passionfruit mouthful and "Cherry Bomb" which had a surprising jelly-like texture and an alcohol soaked cherry in the middle. The "Purple Haze" battenburg was my favourite and I'm not usually a marzipan fan. We finished with "London's Burning", a chocolate moussse in a glass which was rich but not sickly.

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Everything in this afternoon tea was perfectly made and the attention to detail was amazing. Every cake had a really distinctive flavour rather than everything just merging into indistinct sweetness. At £25 each it falls in the middle of the price range for a London afternoon tea, an extra £10 gets you a gin cocktail. We didn't ask for and were not offered replenishments of anything but the amount of food per person was just right spread over a couple of hours, just enough to feel satisfied and worth the £25 but not so much that we fell into a sugar coma. There was nothing that I would fault with this afternoon tea; the service, food and mix of tradition and rock and roll was spot on.

Tempted to try tea with a side of rock and roll?
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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Night At The Museum

Quite a few of my Friday evenings this year have been spent at the V&A museum. At 6.30pm the hoards of school children leave, a bar is set up in the atrium and a Friday night with a difference begins. The theme for each Friday late is different and the majority of activities are free. Beats getting a pint spilled on you by a City worker in All Bar One.

Last Friday a friend and I visited for the latest "Late": Unbuilt. As well as being able to explore the whole of the museums galleries, the evening focused on architecture and the built environment. We made mini plasticine models with Drink, Shop and Do, did origami and experienced "Synaethesia in the City", a room of atmospheric photographs of London landmarks accompanied by tastes of food to reflect the experiences of synesthete Janmes Wannerton. Who knew that the Shard tastes of cream soda or that Bank tastes of Minstrels?

The chairs in the courtyard were also very entertaining:

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Outfit: Dress - H&M, Sandals - River Island, Blazer - Gap, Scarf - Galleries Lafayettes

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Making an origami map of the museum.

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My plasticine miniatures, obviously I attempted to make mini make-up.

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Synathesia and the City - our sweetie bags.

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The cream soda Shard.

We left feeling creative and cultured and, best of all, having not spend any money. The Natural History Museum and London Zoo Lates are next up on my to-do list.

Have you been to any museum lates? What's your favourite museum?
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