Monday, March 31, 2014

Review and Swatch: E.l.f. waterproof eyeliner pen

While I usually use my elf traditional style eyeliner; the whole felt pen eyeliner idea intrigues me. So, I decided to pick up a cheap version.
The elf eyeliner pen retails for $2 (in comparison to the basic version’s $1 pricetag). It is a felt tipped marker like eyeliner pen. The idea is that you can get more precision from this tip and a steady stream of eyeliner so you don’t have to re-dip.
When swatched on my hand or my eye, it is not very black; it looks almost dark grey. It also is a bit dry for my tastes. It also calls itself waterproof; but if I dab a bit of water on with my fingers it starts to fade away quickly.

The tip is also a bit stiff for me; this makes application to my delicate eyelid a bit uncomfortable. Because of its dryness, stiffness, and lack of pigmentation it barely shows up on my eyelid.

Overall, this product is a not very good version of a good product idea. I would be curious to try a slightly higher end or better done version of this product. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lush Haul Reviews Part 2: Bubblegum lip scrub and Ultra-Bland Face cleanser

I had a great time at the Lush near Oxford street which you can read about in Part 1 of this. While I was there I made one main purchase: Bubblegum lip scrub.
I had come to lush with the intention of buying a lip scrub. I really needed one because my lips were starting to dry and flake and I had heard they were really great and fun. Before I got there, I had thought of buying the mint julips variety, but was won over by the bubblegum scent. The scrub comes in a cute glass jar and contains 25 grams; this costs 5 pounds 50. When I first bought it I thought this was a little pricey, but after using it, I realized that you only need the tiniest bit (like a grain of rice small) and as such it will last a long time. I’m thinking at least 6 months or so which will make this a good price to pay. The bubblegum scent is really sweet and very fun to have. It is also a bright pink color and tastes good too! To use I just picked up a tiny bit on my fingertip and rubbed until I felt my lips were smooth and then licked the rest off!  My lips felt fantastically smooth afterwards, and I also topped them with my Vaseline rosy lips to moisturize. The ingredients for this is very simple; sugar, jojoba oil, flavor, color, and methyl ionone (which apparently is part of the scent).  Because of this, I am tempted just to make my own once I get home and had some peppermint flavor or something, but while I might try it, there is something about the fun bubblegum scent and color in the cute lush glass jar that is so fun and enjoyable to own.

Ultra-Bland: I got this as a sample from the girls at Lush, and the sample they gave me was very small, like maybe 5 grams of product? Since I use very little product when I use face wash I estimate I can get about 3 uses from this. The product has a very light scent that I can’t really place. The texture of it is like a waxy cold cream. I was told I could use this to remove my makeup or as a plain face wash. The first time I used it was in the morning and I actually forgot you had to use it on a dry face, so I first put it on a wet face that I then dabbed off the water from the rest of my face the product wasn’t on. Rubbing it in, I don’t like the waxy texture very much, and removing it was a bit of a pain. I was told to take a hot, damp, washcloth and wipe it off that way. Maybe I was too vigorous trying to get the wax off, but my face got a bit red after the exfoliation. My face did feel very clean (and I even used it on my eye area because one of the lush employees said they use it to remove their eye makeup) and when I went to put on my makeup it applied very well and evenly. I don’t know if it was because of this product specifically, or if it was Fresh Farmacy the night before, or a combination of both.  The next time I tried it to remove my makeup. I rubbed it all over my face, and then took a warm, wet cotton pad and wiped it off. It seemed to remove my makeup, but since the cotton pad had to remove the cleanser in addition to my makeup, it wasn’t able to remove all of it in one pad. I didn’t feel like getting another one, so I just used a damp washcloth. It took a few washes, then, to remove all of the cleanser and the makeup. For me, this cleanser is both too much work to use, and is uncomfortable to feel on my face. I will not purchase a large bottle, especially since it is pricey. Utrabland is made of primarily almond oil, rose water, beeswax, and honey. It cost 6 pound 95 for 45 grams or 10 pound 95 for 100 grams. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lush Haul, experience, and reviews Part 1: Oxford Street Lush, Fresh Farmacy and Charity Pot

For a few years now, I’ve heard a lot of good things about LUSH Cosmetics. I’ve heard that they are cruelty free and homemade with fresh ingredients and that their products (like their face masks) are wonderfully decadent.  Unfortunatley I cannot no get readily get them where I live. The closest LUSH store is in Philadelphia which is quite a drive and a place my family doesn’t go (we’ve been there once) and I wouldn’t like to buy them online because I want to be able to smell my body products before I buy and I hate to pay shipping prices when I know I don’t have to. So, since London has several Lush stores, I decided to pick up some things while I was here.
The Lush store I went to is near Oxford Street, but not actually on it so be careful and look it up first. I had actually just heard that the store was on Oxford street and walked the entire length of it before giving up and going home. The second time I was more prepared; I knew that is was on a street just off Oxford street near the Bond street station.  I went in the wrong direction first, but then tured around and found the street, I believe it’s called “South Molton” or something like that. The trick is to go out of exit one at bond street (the “oxford street exit” ) and to turn right and sharing the same wall with the station is an Omega watch shop. If you do not see the shop go to the other corner and see if it’s there or check street names; it’s the first street by the station. Then walk a bit down the street (it’s like the 5th shop or something) and then there’s the shop.
When I walked in I was greeted by several members of staff (they had two or three walking around and two behind the counter even though the shop is very small) and was asked if I had ever been in a Lush before. I said no, and they wondered if they might show me a few things. I agreed and they proceeded to show me the bath bombs they are famous for (and invented apparently!) by dropping one into a bowl of water and show the scent and the fizziness of it. I was surprised they used an entire bath balm; I hope it was a defect or something because otherwise I would have preferred for them to just cut off a bit of one and give the rest to the customer! They showed me a few other things and then I asked where the lip scrubs were (my reason for going). They have three lip scrubs in cute glass jars: milt julips, popcorn, and bubblegum. I had thought I would go for the mint julips, but I was won over by the bubblegum scent.
I also then asked about the face bars; I had hoped to be able to get a small hunk of it to pay for (like a pounds worth or something) but instead they decided to give me a small sample. I had been thinking about the coalface for my oily skin, but after talking to the cashier, who was very knowledgeable and used many of the products herself, she decided that the Fresh Farmacy would be the best fit for my only, acne prone, skin.  She also gave me a small sample of the ultra-bland face cleanser, a cream cleanser that she said also should work well with my skin.  When I went to pay she asked if I wanted to give a pound to charity, and I said yes, so she gave me a small tin of their Charity Pot lotion.
Overall, the staff was wonderful. They were friendly and very knowledgeable, and the fact that they gave samples (two, one I didn’t even ask for!) was very nice. The store itself was a bit cramped, but it seemed like they had all their products and was pretty organized with a lot of testers.  It also smelled fantastic! So then… onto a few reviews!
In this first part I will be reviewing Fresh Farmacy and Charity pot. Part two will include the bubblegum lip scrub and the ultra-bland cleanser.
Fresh Farmacy: This is a soap bar like cleanser which is meant for the face. It was recommended to me by the staff based on my oily, acne prone skin which I use a lot of acne stuff on. According to the booklet that they gave me it is “a mild calamine and chamomile soap with cooling and calming properties”. The chunk they gave me for free as a sample and it is probably around 10 grams; it is about 1.5 inches by 1 inch and about ¼ an inch thin. You only need a very small amount so this will probably last me a good 10 washes if not a bit more. The normal price is 4 pound 75 for 100 grams. When using this is took a few shaving off the end and rubbed it with warm water between my hands until it lathered and then applied it to my wet face.  The lather was decent for a natural product and the smell was okay. I think the main scent is a slightly herby calamine which isn’t the best. Whine I washed it off I was surprised at how clean my face was. It actually squeaked which I heard wasn’t necessarily a good thing for your skin, but I liked the feeling.  I’m not in love with this product, but I could see maybe buying a 50 gram piece for a new thing to try.
Charity Pot: this is a hand and body lotion that they sell in small tins of 10 grams for a pound (which I got) or 6 pound 75 for 100 gram or 12 pounds 95 for 240 grams. All of the profit from this goes to charity. It is supposed to have floral scent, but upon application all I smell is cocoa butter (a main ingredient).  After is soaked in though, I could smell a bit more flower. At 10 grams, it isn’t a lot. It will probably last about 10 applications. It is very softening and moisturizing for the hands which is nice and since it goes to charity too, it is well worth a pound.

Overall, I am pleased at these lush products (especially since one was a pound and the other free) but are not products I absolutely love. I definitely think though, that there is a love product at lush somewhere because with such a high quality and wide range of products and scents, it would be hard not to love something.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review: Garnier micellar cleansing water (Bioderma dupe?)

                When I was in France, one of the things I really wanted was to buy some of the Bioderma cleansing water. I had heard great things about this product; that is was a favorite of makeup artists and models; that it cleansed gently but thoroughly etc. but, as you might know if you read my rant post about Paris, I was unable to buy some. It is cheaper in France in case you were wondering and is also available at some very select retailers in the UK (not boots or Superdrug) for a high price; the same with ebay. It is not available in store in the US.  There are no cleansing waters available in the US that I know of even.
So, since I couldn’t get bioderma I went on a search for a similar product and found this; the garnier version. The bottle I got has 400 ml (a big bottle of bioderma is 500 ml) and is supposed to last 200 washes. The purpose of this solution is to clean your face of all face, eye, and lip makeup products without having to rinse afterwards.  It is both clean and scentless, but tastes bad.
To use this, you simply pour some onto a cotton pad (it doesn’t say how much really, I just went with enough to thoroughly dampen a good 80% of the cotton pad) and then swipe the pad across your face.  This product does its job. It removed all of my make up with ease; including my sometimes tricky eyeliner and waterproof mascara, and I was able to do all of this with one pad that I used both sides of. As the water evaporated on my face there was a nice cooling sensation.

Overall, I really like this product and wished this, bioderma, and other similar products were more readily available in the US. I can definitely see myself using this technique to remove my makeup instead of makeup wipes. In fact, I’m already addicted! The price also isn’t bad at 3.32 pounds (it was on sale 33% off) for a big bottle plus a few pounds for cotton pads. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

British candy review: Cadbury Flake and Crunchie Bar

I foresee this just being one of many candy and food reviews to come out of my time in Britain.  Both of these candies are Cadbury brand (the main candy brand here in the UK from what I can see) and thus mainly chocolate.
The first candy I’m going to talk about is the Cadbury flake bar. This candy bar is actually completely chocolate (which I didn’t know when I bought it) but the chocolate “stick” is made of folded shavings of chocolate and as such isn’t solid and “flakes”. The stick itself looks a bit like tree bark from a distance.
Flavor wise it takes fantastic because Cadbury is great chocolate (better than the usual US fare like Hershey). The actual concept though is just a gimmick to me. It also is hard to eat because it is fragile and must stay inside the wrapper. When you bite into it it kind of shatters and the chocolate flakes everywhere onto you and into the wrapper. Because of this it gets progressively messier and you cannot just rip open the side of the wrapper without these bits falling out.
Overall, just but a regular Cadbury bar; they are cheaper and you get more chocolate.
The crunchie bar is made of honeycomb covered in a layer of milk chocolate. Honeycomb is a sort of candy made with caramelized sugar and baking powder which caused the sugar to foam and gives the candy little holes so it can actually be bitten into. It is crunchy (like the name suggests) but not hard.  The flavor of the honeycomb is like caramelized sugar, but not caramel. It had a slightly burnt sugar flavor like the top of a crème brulee.  The topping is just a good Cadbury chocolate and evens out the honeycomb flavor.

Overall, it is a very nice candy bar; probably my favorite so far. A good, unique thing to pick up in the UK.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review and swatch: Calvin Klein Tempting Glimmer Sheer Cream Eyeshadow 2.5g in Sage Shimmer

 The CK Calvin Klein range of cosmetics had apparently been discontinued for a while, but I was able to find this cream eyeshadow at a British store called “pound land” which, as you can guess, in equivalent to our dollar trees and 99 cent stores.  It came in a small bag sealed by the store with the label “name brand”.  It was amongst some OPI and Revlon, and the usual cheap no name brand cosmetics found at this type of store. For just a pound I was willing to buy any cream eyeshadow (I forgot to bring one with me!) but for Calvin Klein I was excited.

The color I got (and the only color that was there) is called sage shimmer. It is a warm, reddish copper/brown. It is a complex color and very pretty. It also has very good pigmentation. The container of it though, is very small and thus there isn’t a lot of product; only 2.5 grams. But for only a pound, it is still a good deal. Apparently the full original price was more around 15 pounds.

I tend to use cream eyeshadows as a base for similar colors; I usually let the cream show through for about half of the look, and then add a powder shadow to the outer third and into the crease.  This product applied well and even and can be built up to a very deep color. I then added on top some of the duo chrome in the wet n wild comfort zone palette. Unfortunately it seemed to crease after just about an hour or so, but since there was also powder, it maybe wouldn’t crease so bad on its own.  The color lasts well.

Overall, this was a good product and a great find for just a pound! The color is beautiful, and I’ve been meaning to expand my collection of crème eyeshadows. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Laduree at Harrods and Laduree tea review

Since I wasn’t able to go to laduree in Paris, I decided that I would go to a Laduree in London. Specifically I wanted a cute laduree container and when I saw the tea online I thought it was a good way to get one. I really do love tea, so I thought it would be a great early birthday present to myself.  The store I went to is the Laduree inside Harrods. I thought this would be a good one to go to because I then can wander around Harrods and look at all the things I cannot afford to buy.  It took be a while and asking a cashier to find the laduree. It’s on the ground floor like the food halls, but it is not in the food halls. You have to go through the food area and into the watch section, and after turning left through there you hit Laduree with its classic green and gold sign. I also found out on my way back to the tube station (knightsbridge station by the way is almost attached to harrods it is so close) that there is a separate enterence if you just want to go into Laduree. The store has a small café where you can by some (expensive food). Beware though; because I have heard rumors it’s not very good.  There is also the counter where you can by sweets and behind the counter on the wall it the tea. I could not read the sign labeling the types of tea though because the print is small and far away, so I asked for the tea list. I advise asking for this list because it says the prices, the color of each tea container, and all the elements of the tea.  Most of the tea containers are green, but there are a few other colors (black, purple, red and pink). There are about 15 or so flavors to choose from. I chose the purple container called Mathilde. Most of the tea comes in either loose (11.95 pounds) or a box of 20 tea bags (9.95 pounds). Mathilde only comes in loose but I would have bought it anyways because for a small extra charge you get a lot more tea. The container has 125 grams of tea which is quite a large amount of tea and will make way over 20 cups. The Mathilde tea contains “china green tea with magnolia, china black tea, and orange blossom petals.”

The tea is supposed to be brewed for about 5 minutes according to the label. When brewing it releases the most wonderful smell of orange blossoms; if I could I would have my house smelling like this constantly. The flavor of it is not orangey; it just had a mild tea taste that is very pleasant.  Because of the mild flavor I didn’t add any sugar or milk to it. The tea leaves you can tell are high quality because after brewing they reconstituted completely; they actually looked live leaves and you could even see their veins.  They also made a good second cup of tea (I just let them soak a bit longer than 5 minutes) but the third one tasted like nothing, so feel free to try for a second brew but not a third.
Overall, this was definitely a splurge item, but in London 12 pounds isn’t that much; I can rarely get a restaurant meal for that price. And since the tea is so good and I get a good amount and I am keeping both the tea container and the bag it came in; I consider it worth the money.

P.S. on the tea container: it isn’t a tin but a very solidly built cardboard type cylinder. It has gold embellishments and is very sturdy (it even got rained on but still remained pristine. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: King Lear at the National Theatre London, February 2014

King Lear is playing at the national theatre in London and is extremely popular.  As of February, it is sold out through the end of May.   The only way to see it is with either with day tickets or standing tickets. To learn more check out my previous post. I was able to get a standing ticket and saw in on the 15th. While I am not familiar with King Lear specifically, I do enjoy Shakespeare a lot and my father loves King Lear, so I knew I had to see it for him at the very least.
The show has all the lines of the traditional play, but the setting is modern without having a specific date. The feeling of the play is also very dystopian and Lenin-esque.  King Lear apparently is sometimes portrayed as just an angry character or completely insane.  In this production there is a good medium; it is insinuated that King Lear has dementia and sometimes forgets what has happened previously or he reasons why he or others have done things.
My overall feeling of the play is positive. The actors do very well in their parts and it was easy to understand the general plot, but some things I was confused about having not have read the play. I was confused about how Cordelia died or when her sisters decided to fight against their father, whose side everyone was on etc.
The set was generally minimal, but I think well done. The special effects I think were very good (many people die of course!) but can be graphic. Some warnings about the play is that is does involve full frontal male nudity, and some very bloody, graphic violence.
The most violent part of the play is when Glouster gets his eyes ripped out. At this part there is blood everywhere and since he survives without his eyes, he wanders about with bloody sockets.  This actually caused the girl beside me to feint and the medical staff said that this has happened several times, so if you are squeamish, do not see it.

I definitely enjoyed the play and I think it was worth it to stand for over three hours to see it; my feet were just tingling at the end.  Just a note on the attitude of the staff; when I bought my ticket the lady who sold it to me was very nice and patient even though it took me a bit to find my phone number. When I got to the theatre for the show though, I thought the staff acted a bit snobbish to me when I tried to figure out what entrance I was allowed to use and the time the doors opened etc.  The lady who sold the playbills in the theatre asked me if I was standing space and when I responded yes, actually congratulated me on finding a good spot, so not all the staff was snobbish. Most of the theatre goers just ignored us standing, but there was one lady who pushed through us (even though there was plenty of room) to her seat and gave us a sneer. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Backstage Tour of the national Theatre and on getting cheap tickets

On the 15th of February I was able to take a backstage tour at the National Theatre on the Southbank of London. I was able to do this for free through my school (CAPA international education), but the price for a group ticket is 7.50 pounds and an individual ticket would probably be more.  As part of the tour we started in the Olivier Theatre; NT’s biggest stage. This is where they host their biggest shows. The tour guide was very nice and explained how the theatre was designed and how different parts of the tech worked (like the lifting stage). We then were able to go into the backstage area and see some props for King Lear and another show call Emile and the Detectives. We then went to see the smaller stage they have and took a tour of the workshops where they make and store the props and into a rehearsal room.  We also were able to visit their temporary theatre. The tour was extremely interesting, especially for me who is in to and has done some work for the theatre. I think this would be interesting though, for most people and the tour guide kept us entertained with stories about actors and productions. She was also available for any and all questions and it came up that “standing seats” and “day tickets” are a thing. So…
How to see the theatre for cheap
At the National Theatre shows taking place in their main stage, aka their big productions cost from 15 pounds to 50 pounds. These tickets also often sell out quickly depending on the show.  Tickets for King Lear, for example has been sold out until the end of May since mid-February.  The way to get seats for popular how then is to either get day or standing tickets. For every show every day, NT holds back some tickets. I do not know if these are only the 15 pound tickets that are on the upper balcony (there are two levels and the prime seats are on the lower level) or if other seats are also available. Getting these tickets can be a bit of a struggle. You have to queue early in the morning before the box office opens and 9:30am. Apparently for popular shows, like King Lear, people start lining up at 5:30 am and the last person to get a ticket had been there before 8 am on the day I went.
Another way to get to see a show for really cheap is to get standing tickets. Standing tickets are all 5 pounds and can only be bought on the day of the show. Furthermore, they can only be bough if the show is completely sold out, day tickets and all. There must be a limit on how many can be bought, but I do not know.  What happens when you get a standing seat is you must stand on the top level in the back for the entire show, no sitting or kneeling. This means that you must stand for over 3 hours to see King Lear.  Overall though I think this is a good deal.

To learn more check out my King Lear review; this will be out soon. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review and swatch: Vaseline Rosy Lips

                While this product recently came out in the US; it came in an ugly, little plastic tub which was very vertical (meaning I would get more under my nail than on my lips). Even so, I was tempted by it until I found out it came in a cute tin in the UK, and I was willing to wait a few month until I was able to buy it here.
Vaseline rosy lips is part of the Vaseline line of petroleum jelly based lip balms. Other flavors include original, aloe, and cocoa butter.  It is a solid “cake” of rose scented petroleum jelly in a very cute retro style tin. It is also advertised as having a slight tint of color.

As a lip balm I like it a lot. It moisturizes well and smells fantastic (the main reason I got it was because I love rose scented and flavored things).  The tin also is easy to grab product from; simply rub the pad of your finger in it, and since it is a shallow tin it doesn’t snag on your nails.

If you are buying for the tint though, you will be disappointed. In the tin it is a very pretty pink color, but when swatched the color turns to a barely noticeable hue, and on the lips it is invisible.

Overall, I think this is a cute product to throw into your purse on have on your nightstand; you always need lip balm, right? But do not get it if you wanted a real tinted lip balm. This was also only a pound and 99 pence, so not very expensive. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Paris part 3: The Rant

Paris is a great city to visit and can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, most of my time in Paris was miserable. This is a bit of a rant to explain it and some advice on how to avoid it. 
Transport in Paris is not the most convenient in the world. The drivers are crazy and follow no rules of the road, so I would not advise driving. Unless you want to pay for a taxi, you are probably going to use the metro. There are also busses apparently, but I don’t remember seeing that many that were for tourists, and I cannot imagine how confusing busses would be for tourists if I find the buses in London confusing after being here for over a month.  The metro wasn’t that different from the tube; it’s like the tube’s smellier, less organized little brother. The Metro is often hard to find because they have no real signs to designate where they are; you have to kind of stumble upon them; not all even have the little “Metropolitan” banner above them; they are just stairs underground. There also doesn’t seem to be that many actual stations; at least not as many as London. Transferring and getting to that platform also takes longer and is more confusing. The trains themselves are often very crowded and not all trains announce the station they are at; you have to look out of the windows and hop you can see the station names written in the tiles on the walls. The metro does stink sometime; mostly if you have to go down deep to transfer. It is also dirty; but all of Paris is pretty dirty. Because of this travel problem; I spent a lot of time both walking around and getting lost.
After all of this walking ( a good 5-8 hours straight everyday) my feet hurt very badly so, I would recommend taking regular breaks and planning out were you want to go on a map so you don’t get lost or have to backtrack.
Most of my problems though, weren’t because of Paris itself but because of the people I was with. My tours were really nice and so were my guides, but we had mostly free time to do as we wish.  I didn’t go on this trip with any of my friends or flat mates; just people I knew from school. Because of this I had no idea what they wanted, and since I usually was with a big group, there was a lot of indecision and confusion.  So, needless to say, I was not in charge and didn’t get to do many things I wanted to do. They also all seemed to want to rush (we seriously ran down the champs elysee) and not take breaks even for food. I ate no lunch really Friday (just snacks) and didn’t have dinner (pizza) until 9 pm. The next day I had a decent lunch at around 2 pm, but didn’t have dinner that night. The next day I didn’t have lunch or dinner; just a crepe at around 1pm. I get really tired easily even though all I need at like 10 minute breaks, and when my blood sugar goes down I get even more fatigued and quite bitchy frankly.  
Basically, for three days I was drug around by people who couldn’t decide what they wanted and didn’t to seem to understand basic ideas (like food is expensive in the champs elysee). There were other pains like waiting over 2 hours to get up the Eiffel tower, and being with people trying to buy longchamps bags only to find out that they are just as expensive in France as in America.
My advice: Go with people you like and know and know you. Bring water with you and take regular breaks. Plan stuff you want to do before hand and do some research; plan out the route you want to do. My biggest regret is the amount of running and rushing; just calm down and maybe have a coffee and enjoy yourself. You can’t do that run ragged.