Friday, May 17, 2013
Make Up Store is a Swedish makeup brand that I don't hear about much on the blogosphere despite having a large selection of products and colors to choose from. I've seen a few of their products featured on mainly Asian beauty blogs. The Amsterdam store was having a 40% clearance sale a few weeks ago so I popped in and chose a few products that I've heard good things about.
Firstly, I remember Sophia raving about the eyeliner in Chocolate Cheesecake so I grabbed it, despite not needing anymore pencil liners in my stash. Surprisingly, none of the eyeshadows really struck me as being particularly unique so I moved onto cheek and lip products. The cream lipstick in Summer appealed to me as the coral, pink color is right up my alley as it's bright without being too over the top for everyday wear. The powder blush in Must Have also caught my eye as it's a matte, muted Tangerine and Wayne approved of the Make Up Store blushes in the past. The sales associate gave me a free tote bag, magazine and nail varnish in Nesja with my purchase which I wasn't expecting at all!
If there wasn't a 40% off sale, I probably wouldn't have picked anything up to be honest. The prices are a bit high for the quantity you get although the quality is better than average. Reviews and swatches of each product will be cropping up on the blog soon enough!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
When someone talks about travelling to Germany, cities like Berlin and Munich come to mind but I found myself in Cologne and Dusseldorf, two places I have never heard of a few months ago, instead. The main reason for the three night, four day trip was simply because the bus tickets were cheap and Cologne is only four hours away from Amsterdam.
The main reason many people visit Cologne is to visit the Dom Cathedral which dates back to the thirteenth century. The Dom is the largest gothic church in Northern Europe and has a spot on the Unesco World Heritage Site list.
While the exterior of the church looks quite worn and shows the toll that centuries have taken, the interior is beautifully preserved and pristine. The stained glass windows were mesmerizing but my lacking photography skills couldn't pick up the subtle hues.
I wish I had brushed up a bit on my gothic architecture studies from art history but alas, sitting in a pew and quietly admiring the decades and knowledge it takes to construct such a building was enough.
Smoked pork hock is a local specialty so my friends and I headed to Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten, a well reviewed eatery near the Rhine. The pork knuckle was a bit dry but the ham and sausage were mouth-wateringly juicy and delicious. The potatoes on the side were also great.
The Hohenzollern Bridge is another popular place to visit as it's covered with thousands of locks just like the Lover's Bridge in Paris. Apparently these lock bridges are quite popular in European cities.
A local recommended we visit the Chocolate Museum which was a nice way to spend a few hours. The position of the museum makes it a great place to sit indoors and watch the boats go by on the river.
You could also customize your very own Lindt chocolate bar which my friends indulged in but I passed on. I did allow myself a very naughty hot chocolate float with Belgian chocolate ice cream which was worth every single calorie.
After a day and a half in Cologne, my friends and I decided to hop on a train to Dusseldorf which is only about half an hour away. The Cologne train station is quite large and busy so it reminded me of what my everyday life used to be in New York City.
Dusseldorf was larger than I expected and thankfully I wore comfortable shoes that day. The Königsallee is a major avenue that resembles a much greener Fifth Avenue. From Zara to Prada, shoppers with a bit of extra euros will be happy with the selection here. Cafes can be found at almost every block which make window shopping much more enjoyable.
My sense of eating healthy totally flew out the window during my time in Germany and I selfishly ate this entire vanilla strawberry sundae by myself. Again, totally worth it.
The Altstadt, or Old Town, includes a charming walkway along the Rhine and is the perfect place to soak in some rays and people watch.
For dinner that evening, I had a German specialty, schnitzel. Schnitzel is pretty much the German version of Japanese katsu, or breaded cutlet. The pork was delicious, especially with the herbed butter which melted instantly on contact with the meat. The potatoes were equally as delicious and I finished the entire schnitzel and most of the potatoes. It is unusual for me to finish a meal this large in one sitting so that must tell you something about German taste!
On our last morning and afternoon in Cologne, we took a trip to the zoo. I was impressed by the size of the zoo and the play areas designed for young children. It made me wish I was about fifteen years younger.
Most of the signage was in German and only a handful of plaques seemed to have English translations. All for the better, I suppose, to watch the animals instead of reading every little detail.
The most popular exhibit at the Cologne zoo are the elephants who have a large compound at the furthermost point of the attraction. The youngest elephant was adorable and very playful in the water.
Although Cologne and Dusseldorf were not on my list of places to visit prior to being in Europe, they were both nice cities to see for a few days. I would recommend Cologne over Dusseldorf as the cathedral is not to be missed whereas Dusseldorf is more commercial. Both places would be perfect to add to your itinerary if you ever plan on going on a Euro-trip around Germany, though!
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Whether you're a makeup beginner or a seasoned artist, a pigmented, shimmery golden champagne eyeshadow should be a makeup must-have. I have my fair share of iridescent beige shadows but Yves Rocher's Beige Doré is quickly becoming one of my staples.
The eyeshadow is encased in a simple plastic compact with a clear window for you to easily see the shade. For the retail price of $14 you receive 1 ounce of eyeshadow which is about double the amount in a Mac or Urban Decay eyeshadow. The retail price is a bit high for Yves Rocher but the brand frequently does sales and you can easily score the shadow for about half price.
Yves Rocher claims that the shadows contain bamboo and silica extract but I'm not quite sure what benefits they entail besides an extra marketing point. The website also states that the shadows can wear for six hours although I have fared at least eight with an eyeshadow primer.
Like the previous Yves Rocher eyeshadow duo I reviewed, in Prune and Powdery Taupe, Beige Doré was impressive in terms of pigmentation and smoothness. This eyeshadow is lovely swept all across the lids and into the tear ducts as it brightens the lid without being glittery or over the top. The color and formula make it a no-fuss product that performs well. The brand is not really well known in the states, probably because they are only found online, which is a shame as they do some really nice products. I highly recommend the Yves Rocher eyeshadows, especially this shade, during a sale as the quality is fantastic.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
In Europe, big cross signs mark apothecary stores that carry not only medicines but various French skincare products as well. Every time I see an apotheek, my heart races a little and I can't help but want to browse the selection. Almost every apotheek caries La Roche Posay, Vichy, Avene but some even have Bioderma, Nuxe, Phyto and more. Many of the products I can easily find stateside at CVS or Duane Reade but the prices are generally better in Europe, especially in France, and some products are not available stateside.
The apothecary nearest to me had various Avene travel pouches for only a few euros so I was obviously intrigued. I have been wanting to trial some Avene products for quite some time and I reasoned that the sample moisturizers would be great to bring with me to Germany for a few days.
Only a few of the products overlapped so I have a lot of new goodies to test out! The moisturizers and masks are very small 5ml containers that are good for weekend usage while the cleansers and thermal water are generous 50ml sizes that can last perhaps one or two weeks.
As another bonus, the inserts in each kit are also coupons that pretty much cancel out the price of the kits. So if I purchase an Avene product, I pretty much scored a kit for free! I think this is quite genius for both the company and the consumer and wish that more brands did this.
What are your favorite products from Avene? Any recommendations for oily, dehydrated skin?
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Koninginnedag is undisputedly the biggest holiday in the Netherlands and takes place on April 30th every year to commemorate Queen Beatrix. This year's festivities were especially important since this will be the last Queen's Day for awhile as Willem Alexander has taken the throne as king and next year will be Koningsdag. On April 30th, the entire country becomes orange and Amsterdam is one giant party.
Large open areas, such as the Museumplein, featured large screens which televised the royal ceremonies. All of the proceedings were in Dutch but the general idea was that Queen Beatrix was abdicating the throne to her son.
It seems like everyone takes to the streets on Queen's Day and some smaller streets are almost impossible to walk through. Mini-stages were set up all over the city so music could be heard on every block. Some Amsterdamers specifically choose to leave the city during Queen's Day as to avoid the droves of people.
Boats also filled the canals and it was amusing to see people crammed onto tiny rafts.
Queen's Day is also special because anyone is allowed to sell their belongings in the free market. People had old clothes, baked goods and many miscellaneous things for sale. The cutest vendors were definitely the children who had plushies and other small knick knacks up for offer.
My favorite part of Queen's Day is definitely the food. Almost everywhere you turn you'll be greeted by some wonderful aroma of something delicious.
I could smell this Turkish pizza stand from blocks away and I knew I had to have one. The wraps are coated with herbs and spices and loaded with your choice of meat and tons of veggies.
Yum! I like my fair share of fancy schmancy restaurants but sometimes street food takes the cake.
Vietnamese leompias were also a hot commodity and I got a vegetarian one as a little snack. Ah, how I miss good, reasonably priced Asian food....
Last, but certainly not least, a Dutch treat: poffertjes! Stroopwafels seem to be the more popular Dutch sweet but I love poffertjes much, much more. These mini pancakes are fluffy pillows of doughy awesomeness doused in powdered sugar and butter.
Queen's Day was a fun experience but definitely not for everyone. The city is loud, sometimes chaotic and downright dirty. I probably would not want to celebrate another Queen's Day but for people who like to dance in the streets from dusk til dawn, Amsterdam would be the perfect place.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
My beauty routine has fallen into quite a rut these days despite my near constant hauling of products I can't easily find in the states. Here's a look at the mish-mash of beauty products I've been really enjoying and using a lot lately. I have done full reviews with swatches of several of these products which I will link accordingly so I don't have to sound like a broken record.
Hair-wise I'm a fan of the Number 4 Lumiere d'hiver Reconstructing Masque which instantly gives my locks a boost but the L'Oreal Elvive Total Repair 5 Hair Mask does a similar job at a fraction of the price. The L'Oreal hair mask nourishes the hair and feels like a supercharged conditioner which I like to use about once a week. Also in the bath time category is the Rituals Yogi Flow Shower Foam which is a unique gel-to-foam body wash that is incredibly fun to use. The scent is sweet and floral and the foam is dense and almost moisturizing. Rituals is a Dutch brand and unfortunately they only have stores in some European countries but I highly recommend checking them out if you ever happen upon a location.
In terms of makeup I have been loving the Stila Merry and Bright Palette which was limited edition but the convertible color is in Lillium and is permanent. The eyeshadows are very similar, if not the same, as the ones in the Stila In The Light Palette and are perfect everyday shades. The matte shadows are especially nice and make getting ready in the morning a cinch. I'm loving KIKO cosmetics and their Ultra Glossy Stylo in 807 and Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 05 are definitely my favorite things that I picked up from the Italian brand. Both are effortless colors that I can swipe on and depend on to look nice. Essence mascaras actually impressed me considering the relatively inexpensive price. I specifically like the Get Big Lashes Waterproof Mascara for my top lashes and the All Eyes on Me Waterproof Multi-Effect Mascara for my lower lashes. The only setback is that the Get Big Lashes mascara tends to clump and thicken after one and a half months of use but as a temporary substitute for my beloved Maybelline mascaras (which actually cost a pretty penny in Europe) I can deal.
Check out the video below to see my recent favorites up close!
What have you been loving lately in terms of beauty? Any European brand cosmetics you would recommend I check out?
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
On most days, especially when I'm not wearing any makeup at all, I swipe on clear lip balm and I'm good to go. My lips are quite sensitive and drying formulas are incredibly irritating and unpleasant. I love a bold lip color but the upkeep can be a bit too much for everyday. I love a glossy look but hate it when my hair gets stuck in my lipgloss. So you can see I'm a bit picky with lip products and only a select few lippies can be an "everyday" lip color.
The Kiko Ultra Glossy Stylo in 807 caught me by surprise as an incredibly wearable and comfortable lipstick and I'm currently kicking myself for not picking up a few more shades. The Ultra Glossy Stylo's are creamy, lightweight lipsticks that are moderately pigmented and leave a high shine sheen to the lips. The formula is a bit similar to the Revlon lip butters but I prefer the Ultra Glossy Stylos for their vanilla scent and even glossier formula.
The Ultra Glossy Stylo retails at a reasonable €4.90 for 2 grams or .07oz. The price is affordable and there is a wide range of shades from a cool lilac to shimmery pinks. I went for a somewhat bright shade with a hint of red, orange and pink and Red Coral is a pretty spot on name. One of the few pitfalls to the product is that the actual color name is not written on the packaging, just the number.
As you can see, about two swipes across the lips yields medium coverage. This particular shade has no shimmers but still reflects light and looks creamy. Although the color is a bit bright compared to a MLBB shade, I find that it pairs well with warm toned eyeshadow looks or just a bare face. My lips feel moisturized and never chapped when I wear this lipstick and reapplication is a breeze. Due to the glossy nature of the lipstick, the color stays on for about two or three hours which is perfectly fine in my books.
Do you like glossy lipsticks? What are your favorite everyday lipstick formulas?