Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Destination: Sofia

Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia
I've lived in the Balkans for almost two years at this point, and it has afforded me the opportunity to travel to a lot of places that are off the so-called beaten path. But since the Balkans seems to be an up-and-coming travel destination, I thought I would start to share with you some of my favourite places in this region of the world. Spoiler alert: my all-time favourite place in the Balkans/the world is the Albanian Riviera and I plan on writing about that soon, but for now...First up is Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

For the size of its population, to me Sofia seemed like quite a sprawling city and I was massively impressed with how much green space the city has! There seems to be a park on every corner in this city, which is a feature I personally love. In addition to its many parks, the thing that struck me most about Sofia is the juxtaposition of it's socialist/communist architecture with its many Orthodox Churches. Overall I think it makes for a very interesting city.

Ornate Gates Outside of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral
Being in Eastern Europe, it's of course much, much cheaper than cities in Western Europe. And it's not all that difficult to get to. Already being in the Balkans, I drove to Sofia, but it's easy enough to fly into Sofia, including on low-cost carriers like Easy Jet. For accommodation, we decided to stay right in the city centre at Hotel St George, which was comfortable and clean—and had a great location.

What really made Sofia a great weekend destination were the restaurants & bars, and the many beautiful churches. Here are some of my recommendations:

St Nikolas Russian Church
What to Visit: Alexander Nevski Cathedral is probably the most well-known and iconic location in Sofia. And for good reason: it is one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches I've ever been in. Even if churches aren't your thing, I would say that this one is worth a visit (especially as there is no entrance fee, so you can come and go at your leisure).

St Nikolas Russian Church, featuring Russian-style 'onion dome' architecture, is another beautiful church. It's not far from the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and on a sunny day it offers some benches in a cute garden where you can sit, surrounded by tulips, and people watch as Sofia-ians (Sofi-ites? who knows) walk by.

Statues at the Museum of Socialist Art
If there is one thing I recommend doing while in Sofia, it is to visit the Museum of Socialist Art. It's a little bit outside of the city center, but it's well worth the short jaunt—especially if you are a student of history. The museum features a sculpture garden, a gallery, and a documentary on the Bulgarian socialist experience. It's surreal and a bit bizarre to see the this much socialist/communist art assembled in one place, but it's a truly fascinating experience.

The most beautiful coffee in the world
Where to Eat: For lunch, you should definitely check out Hlebar (the name is a play on хлеб—bread—and бар—aka bar). They have a selection of tasty sandwiches that are made to order (featuring some amazing bread, btw!) and delicious desserts. Try the ginger cake!

For dinner, I really recommend you make a reservation at the Little Things, which is a quirky and cute restaurant located in an old house. The different rooms of the house have been converted into different dining rooms, and the menu at the Little Things is equally eclectic. It's a perfect place to share a bunch of starters and small plates with friends. The food was fresh and flavorful, and was a nice change of pace from traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

Where to Drink: If cocktails are your thing, visiting Raketa Rakia Bar is a must. Although it's advertised as a rakia bar, their drinks selection goes far beyond rakia (a type of brandy that is ubiquitous throughout the Balkans). My personal favorite might have been the absinthe cocktail that featured a side of cotton candy to wash it down. Sugar truly is the way to my heart.

Hopefully this helps give you a little bit of an overview of what Sofia has to offer. Let me know below if you have ever visited—or where your favorite place to visit is!

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Omorovicza Hydra Melting Cleanser

I must admit that I'm a bit confused by the Omorovicza Hydra Melting Cleanser: it's not a terrible product, but I'm not sure I really like. And I am sure that at $110 I do not think that it is worth the price.

The Hydra Melting Cleanser is marketed as a 'triple-phase cleanser' that 'removes all makeup and impurities'. In the jar it is a gel-like consistency (it reminds me of something like the Belif Aqua Bomb in its appearance, only a bit thicker). It purports to then turn into an oil once in contact with the skin, but on me at least this never happens. So rather than effortlessly rubbing an oil onto my skin to remove makeup, I find myself trying to spread a not-so-viscous gel all over my face. Once you add water to emulsify the gel it does turn into a milk that washes off the skin easily and does seem to remove makeup effectively. But the whole experience is decidedly less than pleasant, and for $110 I want it to feel like baby kittens are rubbing my face with their soft paws.

Ultimately, I much prefer a cleansing oil (such as MAC Cleanse Off Oil, The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil, or Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil) to the Hydra Melting Cleanser. But if you are not a fan of cleansing oils and instead prefer balms, perhaps you will have more luck with this one. I can say that it doesn't feel stripping on the skin (great if you are prone to dryness) and doesn't leave a residue on the skin. But for the price, I'd much rather stick with a less expensive option that gets the job done more effectively.

The Omorovicza Hydra Cleansing Balm is available at Sephora for $110. Or you can order it off of some British websites for a lower price—it's around $78 on CultBeauty (the VAT comes off once the item is in your cart and you list a U.S. shipping address, making the price even lower than listed). You'll have to wait longer to get your item, but they do free shipping and often have coupon codes available.

What are your favorite cleansing balms or oils? Let me know below!

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Burberry Lipsticks & Glosses

When talking about Burberry Beauty, most bloggers and youtubers seem to rave about the line's eyeshadows (Pale Barley, anyone?) and blushes, but I find that the lip products are largely overlooked. I think that much of this is attributable to the fact that Burberry lip products—sticks and glosses, alike—used to have a very strong floral scent. But Burberry has revamped many of its lines over the past year or two, and with that they have eliminated the scent in their lip products. Because I bought three of the products above before the revamp, these have the old floral scent (which doesn't actually bother me). My three newest additions are completely scent-free, however. 

L to R: Burberry Kisses Lipstick in Military Red, Rose Blush, English Rose;
Burberry Lip Glow Balm in Orange Poppy; Burberry Lip Glow in Mallow Pink, Hibiscus
Burberry excels at lip products within the neutral, pink-y range. Apart from a few bold reds and deep berry tones, most of the shades that they offer are a variation on a 'my lips but better' color. In short, if you are looking for a neon orange or wacky blue lip, look elsewhere. But if you want a range of wearable, sophisticated lip colors, look no further. 

Because Burberry has discontinued some lines and introduced new ones while discontinuing certain shades and keeping others, the realm of Burberry lip products can be a bit confusing. But as far as I can tell, here is what they currently offer:

Lip Velvets: These lipsticks are highly pigmented and have a velvet (aka demi-matte) finish. 
Kisses: These bad boys are also very pigmented, but they have more of a satin finish than their Lip Velvet kin. Three of the shades I have are from this line. 
Full Kisses: This is Burberry's newest offering and although I haven't tried them yet myself (the shade Nude Blush is currently en route), they are purportedly more creamy and less matte than the Lip Velvets.
Kisses Sheer: As the name implies, these offer a sheer wash of color. They seem to have replaced the Lip Glow Balm formula. 
Kisses Lip Gloss: These are the lipglosses in the range, which used to be known as the Lip Glows. 
First Kiss Glossy Lip Balm: These bad boys round out the Burberry line, and seem to be very similar to the Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfectors. 

Burberry Kisses in Military Red No. 109
Burberry Kisses in Military Red No. 109 is a neutral red that flatters a range of skin tones. If red normally make you nervous, this is a great one to try as it's not too deep or too bold. Plus the formula is really comfortable: creamy, but not too heavy on the lips. 

Burberry Kisses in Rose Blush No. 89
Burberry Kisses in Rose Blush No. 89 is a mid-tone rose shade with a slightly brown undertone. It's a pretty, non-offensive shade that might seem a bit bland to some, but that works with a wide range of looks. Because my lips are naturally pigmented, shades that are too light make me look strange and washed out. So a shade like Rose Blush, which has a bit more color to it, suits me better than truly nude lipstick. 

Burberry Kisses in English Rose No. 17
Burberry Kisses in English Rose No. 17 is a warm almost peachy pink nude shade. It's considerably lighter than Rose Blush, and frankly, I think it does not suit me as well. But it's still a lovely color—one that could be combined with a wide array of lip liners to create a multitude of looks. 

Burberry Kisses Sheer in Orange Poppy No. 273
Burberry Kisses Sheer in Orange Poppy No. 273 (technically the lipstick I have is a Lip Glow Balm in Orange Poppy No. 1, but it appears to be the same color and formula as the Kisses Sheer in Orange Poppy No. 273) gives a beautiful sheer pop of color to the lips. I find that these are more pigmented than the YSL Sheer Candy formula, but they are still not a lipstick that is going to last all day. You will definitely need to reapply, but they are super easy to throw on. Sheer lipsticks like these—especially this shade which is simultaneously bright but subdued—are perfect for summer. 

Burberry Kisses Lip Gloss in Mallow Pink No. 57
Burberry Kisses Lip Gloss in Mallow Pink No. 57 (again, this is technically the Lip Glow in Mally Pink No. 19 as I bought it before Burberry renamed their lines, but it appears to be identical to the Kisses Lip Gloss in Mallow Pink No. 57) is a pigmented gloss and is the most 'in your face' color I own from the whole Burberry line. It's a warm almost strawberry pink and I utterly adore the formula of these glosses. They have almost a jelly-like finish, which masks any lip lines or dryness you may have. They are not sticky, which is a bonus for some, but it means that you will likely need to reapply these every couple of hours. Not a deal breaker, but it's something to keep in mind. 

Burberry Lip Glow in Hibiscus No. 13
Burberry Lip Glos in Hibiscus No. 13 was the first Burberry Beauty product I ever bought, and it is the only one of my lip products that is sadly no longer available! It has less pigmentation than Mallow Pink, but offers the same jelly-like finish, which gives a shiny and plump look to the lips. I'll be continuing to use this bad boy until it is pried from my cold dead hands. Just kidding. Sort of.

Whew, that brings us to the end of my Burberry Lipstick & Lipgloss collection. As I mentioned, I've just ordered one of the Full Kisses, in the shade Nude Blush, so I plan on having swatches and a review of that in due course. In the meantime, from the items that I already own, I would have to say that the Kisses Lip Gloss in Mallow Pink is probably my favorite item, followed by the Kisses in Rose Blush. Perhaps none of the Burberry lip products are absolute must haves, given their price point, but they are definitely nice to haves!

Let me know what your favorite Burberry lip products are below, and if you've ever tried out any of these items. And as always, you can also find me here:

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Friday, 15 April 2016

The Beauty Lover Tag

After seeing two bloggers I closely follow, Beti of Makeup-Sessions and Steffanie of Brighter, Darling, do the Beauty Lover Tag, I felt compelled to do it myself, particularly since the questions are a bit different from the normal tag. I would love to see everyone else's answers, so if you do this (or have already done it) please send me a link!

Without further ado...

If you could have anyone in the world do your makeup, who would it be?
This is a tough question, but probably either Mary Greenwell (I adore every look she does on Cate Blanchett) or the goddess that is Lisa Eldridge. I've only had my makeup done by another person a few times in my life, but it's always been so fun to see how they do my makeup compared to how I normally do it. So, I'd love to have it done more often if I had the opportunity. 

What’s your top makeup tip?
Focus on the condition of your skin—it will make the biggest single difference in how your makeup looks. A lot of people (myself included, once upon a time) will splash out tons of cash on the latest makeup products but will be stingy on the skincare front. Really, if anything, it should be the other way around. Having a good canvas on which to apply your makeup will make a world of difference. Trust me...I speak from experience!

What one makeup item could you not live without?

Mascara. My eyes are quite hooded and my eye colour is very dark (dark greenish blue), so I feel like my eyes get lost if I don't bring some definition to them. In my opinion, mascara dramatically changes the appearance of my entire face and I would be lost without it. 

What one skincare item could you not live without?

An acid toner. My skin has dramatically transformed since I discovered it responds very well to all sorts of chemical exfoliation. So now I get as much of it as I can! Acid toners, serums, masks, etc. But on a day-to-day basis I would say the toner is the aspect that I couldn't live without. 

What are you worst at when it comes to applying makeup?

I'm terrible at doing a winged liner (I blame my extremely hooded eyes, which just don't suit it no matter what technique I use). I'm also pretty bad at applying false lashes. That might improve if I practice more, but I always feel so self-conscious when I wear them and constantly worry that they're going to fall off at any moment.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to beauty?

It would either be foundation that isn't blended along the jawline or unblended eyeshadow (I have to fight the urge to run up to them with a MAC 217!) For the most part, though, I live by the motto "you do you." If a certain makeup look makes someone happy and they feel good about how they look, who am I to judge?!

What’s your favorite makeup era?

The 1940s. I love the glamour—the red lips, the sculpted brows, the chic hairstyles. To be honest, I also love the current makeup era we are in! There are certain aspects of it (aka 'instagram' makeup on a day-to-day basis) that I don't love. But I do love that there are so many exciting and innovative products to try. The internet has opened up a whole world of information about makeup and techniques for applying it. And there are so many different looks being experimented with. I just can't get enough. 

What’s your guilty pleasure product?

My Tweezerman Slanted Tweezers. I don't know why this feels like a guilty pleasure to me, but I love tweezing my brows. I never get them done professionally, but instead I pluck rogue hairs that pop up overnight each morning. It's such a satisfying feeling and if I run my finger over my brow bone and feel a stray hair, I become fixated on plucking it!

What’s your underdog product?

The Surratt Relevée Eyelash Curler. All the lash curler love seems to go towards either Shiseido or Shu Uemura, but the Surratt is life. changing. Ok, I'm being a bit hyperbolic, but not really. If you are still on the hunt for your perfect eyelash curler, try this one out. It fits my smallish hooded eyes perfectly. 

What’s your favorite makeup product of 2015?

Why you gotta make me choose?! I'm going to go with an entire beauty line rather than a single product. For me, 2015 was the year that I was introduced to Colourpop. The price point is spot on (less expensive than many drugstore products) and I think the brand is very innovative. I might not be their target market (being a professional woman in her early 30s) but I nonetheless really love many of their products. Their Super Shock Shadows are amazing (the shades I <3 This, Partridge, and Gecko are my faves), as are their Crème Gel Liners. I also have some highlighters, blushes, and Lippie Stix that I love. I've just ordered some of the Ultra Satin Lips, which I'm excited to try. The one product I have avoided are their Ultra Matte Lips, as these haven't gotten the best reviews. 

All right, folks, that is it! I'd love to read your answers to these questions so I tag everyone. 
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