8.29.2011

A View of London



It hasn’t felt much like summer here in England- it’s been cold with heavy rains and thunderstorms! Unfortunately I did not pack accordingly. I did pack a 10 item (ish) wardrobe but sadly most of the items I’ve packed are summer attire. Thankfully I had the foresight to bring two Tippi sweaters from J. Crew (one in navy, one in black) as they’ve really come in handy.

I’m staying in the countryside and have ventured into London a few times, dining first at French restaurant (of course) Aubaine (I had a delicious smoked salmon salad), then doing a spot of shopping on New Bond St. and finally dragging my husband and daughter to the Sherlock Holmes museum (pictured above)- which I have been to before and I must admit isn’t quite so much a ‘museum’ as a marvelous recreation of what 221b Baker St. would have looked like. There is something about that space that I just love and naturally I went a bit mad in the gift shop. Also there was a very large line to get into the museum proving that I am not the only mystery buff that loves all things Sherlock Holmes.

And even though my Twitter friend and fellow blogger Mr. London Street heckled me a bit for not taking public transportation into the city, I did shoot this week’s video, which I quite like, out of the car window. I call it A View of London… in it you see a tour of the beautiful city and a rare glimpse of Mr. Connoisseur. I hope you like it!



If you are not able to see the above embedded video, A View of London, you can see it by clicking here, looking in the sidebar of this blog or by visiting my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

I hope your summer is going swimmingly...

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8.25.2011

On Skincare: How I Control Breakouts and The Brazilian Peel



This week’s video (which I shot before I left for England) is a review of the Brazilian Peel Clear Acne Control System being launched at Sephora. (I will spare you the suspense and tell you flat out that I adore this highly effective product). To see the video, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

And now for this week’s post:

I have a confession to make- my skin has suffered from breakouts my entire teenage and adult life. This now probably explains to you my near obsession with skin care. When I was a teenager I just figured it was normal to have my skin break out- I didn’t have a bad case of acne but the odd blemish every few days or so that would irk me to no end. I used a few things to remedy the problem- mainly products from the drugstore- but nothing I tried actually worked. So as a teenager I decided to wait patiently until I ‘grew up’, turned 20 and would no longer have to deal with those pesky breakouts.

Ah, if only. I had never actually considered that the breakouts might continue into my adult years. Looong into my adult years- which, of course, they did. Sadly, they did not magically go away when I turned the big 2-0 and even still hadn’t gone away when I turned the big 3-0! (In my upcoming book I have a humorous anecdote about what happened in Paris when my skin misbehaved.)

Now again, I never had a severe problem- but even one small blemish can wreak havoc on one’s self confidence so I have made it my skin care mission to banish them once and for all. And it has taken over a decade for me to figure out how to do it but after tweaking my skincare routine ever so slightly- by Jove I think I’ve got it!

Here are the top things that have contributed to my clear skin:

Cleansing: I no longer cleanse my skin in the morning. When I get up I just pat it with warm water and put a moisturizer and then sunscreen on. I made this change because I recently read an article saying that if you cleanse your skin too much it does not get to produce its natural oils and then goes into overdrive producing too much oil- hence the breakouts. Reading that was a majorly illuminating moment for me. It makes perfect sense! And just by doing this one thing- not cleansing in the A.M. I have already seen a major change in the amount of blemishes that come my way.

Clarisonic: I use the Clarisonic every (or every other) evening in conjunction with my cleanser to help remove makeup. I think a main part of my problem- other than hormones was insufficient cleansing of the skin. If you would like to see my Clarisonic video, click here.

Diet: My eating habits are the best they’ve ever been and I can thank pregnancy for that! When I was expecting my baby I added more fruits, vegetables and water into my diet and have continued the good habits- I feel great and the nourishment has had an impact on my skin.

Brazilian Peel Clear Acne Control Kit: One of the great things about doing this blog is I am introduced and allowed to try products I might otherwise never have known about. The people from Brazilian Peel- who have just launched their revolutionary acne control kit at Sephora sent me their Clear Acne Control Kit to try out. I jumped at the opportunity because even with the above three changes to my lifestyle, I would still get breakouts- especially in the chin area. So I tried the one month supply and can honestly declare to you that this is the best acne control system I’ve ever tried (and I have tried so many). The peel successfully thwarted two potential blemishes on my chin area by literally fighting them away. It is not harsh, doesn’t dry out my skin and the peel (in conjunction with the booster pads) actually feels like it nourishes my skin- thanks to the açai berry extract.

The kit sells for $60- which is pricey, I know- but depending on what kind of blemish problem you suffer from it could benefit you. If you have severe acne you could use this kit every month and it could seriously help you. If you are like me and get an occasional breakout every now and then you do not need to purchase the product every month but rather only use it when you feel your skin is getting out of control- which is exactly what I intend to do. If you are interested in seeing the product and learning more, my above video should be really informative. To learn more about the product you can visit Sephora, Brazilian Peel or Advanced Home Actives.

There you have it… I would love to know… do you suffer from breakouts? And if so how do you control them?


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8.22.2011

Kew Gardens and the Clarisonic Mia



Hello everyone- I’m writing to you from England…

We’ve spent the week mainly adjusting to the new time zone (the flight was a bit of a cauchemar) and since I am staying in the countryside I have not made it to London yet but have spent a lot of afternoons eating roasts and sipping cups of tea (it’s been raining).

This weekend I went to Kew Gardens- the beautiful Royal botanical gardens in Richmond- unfortunately I was caught in a torrential downpour of rain the entire time I was there but did take refuge with my fellow companions in the beautiful Victorian greenhouse (pictured above) to see the lovely rare plants and the magnificent architecture of the century + old building. It's the biggest Victorian era greenhouse in the world (it took 38 years to build!)

Even though it was raining I couldn’t have been happier to be stranded in the greenhouse because along with loving the Art Deco period I have a dear love for the Victorian era as well. I love the architecture, the sentiments, the customs… so I was in heaven wandering around learning the Latin names of my favorite plants, gazing at the rotund fish in the Koi pond and pretending I was a Victorian lady strolling in my botanical haven. Sigh!


Up the spiral staircase:



A view from the top:



The Erica plant with its delicate pink blooms:


Caught in a downpour. Le no makeup look= all washed up!:


I hope to go back one day when the sun is out and explore the gardens further.

Meanwhile this week on The Daily Connoisseur will have a skin care theme to it. Josephine from the wonderful blog Tale Peddler requested that I do a video on my Clarisonic Mia- which I’ve been blogging about for some time. To see the video you can click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Later this week I will post a blog and video on how I keep my skin clear and free of breakouts, including a review of an impressive new acne control product that has recently launched at Sephora.

And you’ll be interested to know that I am in the midst of trying out an all natural skincare line made from an ancient berry that could quite possibly become the Holy Grail of skincare for me (I’ve been using it for two weeks and have already seen incredible changes to the texture of my skin). I won’t post my review until I’ve tried the line for a whole month but when I do I can’t wait to share it with you.

I would love to know... do you have a Clarisonic? What are your thoughts on it?

Until later this week…

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8.15.2011

My Trip to England, A Trio of Discoveries, and The Neutral Dress


Hello dear readers...

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer- and that you are having a chance to rest, relax and rejuvenate.

I will be spending the next month in jolly old England (which wasn't so jolly last week with all those riots but hopefully things are on the mend!)

While I'm there I will continue to blog but might not be as punctual with my posts and videos so thank you in advance for your understanding. I'm really looking forward to going to England again, seeing family and hopefully do a bit of traveling while there. I will, of course, keep you updated on all my adventures and observations.

Speaking of England, this week's video is called The Neutral Dress. Inspired by the Duchess of Cambridge and her love of neutral, subtle glamor, I show you my favorite neutral dress and the many ways in which I wear it. To see the video click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

And now for this week's post on a Trio of Discoveries:

Film:


Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s latest film Midnight in Paris is not really a discovery as most of you have probably seen this already! But oh what a wonderful film it is so for those of you that haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it- especially if you are a Francophile like me. This is the first film I’ve seen in the cinema since having my baby. My husband stayed home with the baby and I met a girlfriend at our local theater. I got a hot tea and some nachos (don’t ask- I wanted to be naughty at my first cinematic experience in a year) and we settled in for the ride.

I knew I had made a good choice in movies right from the opening scene which is a musical and visual love letter to Paris. Seeing so many of my favorite old haunts brought back a painful and delicious nostalgia. The opening sequence is set to a highly moving saxophone piece (see second discovery below) and then the movie begins.

I do not want to give too much (or anything really) away but can tell you a brief and vague synopsis. Gill Pender (played by Owen Wilson) and his fiancé Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) are in Paris for a short holiday before going back to the states to get married. Gil is a writer who is fascinated by nostalgia and the time period of 1920s Paris- the age of Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso and Gertrude Stein (amongst others). Not quite satisfied in his current relationship, Gil goes on midnight walks in the city of Paris when a mysterious event keeps occurring…

Do go see Midnight in Paris to find out what happens!

Music:

Sydney Bechet Petite Fleur Album

As mentioned above the opening sequence in Midnight in Paris is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a film and part of it was due to the melodious and moving saxophone song it is set to. After seeing the film I searched high and low for the artist (Literally. It took me forever to find this guy) as there is no Midnight in Paris soundtrack available. But eventually I cracked the case (and thank you to all of my twitter friends who helped me along the way!) The opening song in Midnight in Paris is Si Tu Vois Ma Mère by Sydney Bechet.

I immediately looked up the song on iTunes and came across Mr. Bechet’s incredible album Petite Fleur. Sidney Bechet was not only a highly talented African American saxophonist who often collaborated with Louis Armstrong- but was also one of the first prominent jazz soloists of his time. His album Petite Fleur (which includes the great song Si Tu Vois Ma Mère) is like melodic sunshine. If you love Art Deco music with a French twist you must listen to this album. It is only $5.99 on iTunes. I listen to it while making breakfast in the morning and it starts off my day very pleasantly indeed. As a side note- this would also be excellent to play at your next dinner or cocktail party.


Television:

Tommy & Tuppence

Speaking of Art Deco… Have you all seen the Tommy & Tuppence series from the 1980s starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick? You all know that I have a borderline obsession with everything to do with Art Deco England (have you seen or read Mapp & Lucia yet?). I never quite got into the Tommy & Tuppence books by Agatha Christie as I was more of a Poirot person myself but this series is so delicious I will have to give the books a try again.

Tommy and Tuppence are a high class crime fighting duo that have an eccentric approach when it comes to solving crimes. Start with The Secret Adversary movie to see where it all began and then watch season one and two of Tommy & Tuppence Partners in Crime.

Watch it for the beautiful Art Deco costumes and styling (although I will grumble that they put far too much makeup on the beautiful Francesca Annis in the series- If you watch it you’ll see what I mean- a le no makeup look was definitely in order there!) Watch it for the dashing James Warwick who is the quintessential English gentleman (and whom I have a hopeless crush on- don't tell my husband). And of course watch it for the intriguing casework that only Agatha Christie could cook up. The Tommy & Tuppence movies and TV series are available on Netflix.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my trio of discoveries this week.

Gatsby is pictured above :)

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8.08.2011

Cultivate an Air of Mystery- Self Observation



Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them.
-Agatha Christie

I’ve discovered a bad habit of mine- nervous laughter. It is not exactly a recent discovery. I’ve always had a penchant for laughing in awkward moments (remember conversations with my mysterious neighbor?)- it is a coping mechanism of mine. But when watching myself in a video taken at a recent party I held for family and friends I noticed I did a lot of nervous laughing. Particularly when the spotlight was on me.

Now don’t get me wrong- I am all for laughing if something is amusing or if one feels like laughing. I love to laugh and laugh a lot (it is, as they say, the best medicine!) but when I was laughing in the video- nothing in particular was funny. I was laughing to cover up my social anxiety and using it as a coping mechanism.

You see I do have a bit of social anxiety. I have hermetic tendencies. To put things in perspective out of all the characters in The Wind in the Willows I most identify with the Mole. I am perfectly happy at home with a book and a cup of tea rather than in a large crowd or party atmosphere. Being around a lot of people in social situations stresses me out and to atone for the stress? I giggle nervously in an effort to appear up-beat and au courant with all of the excitement.

The trouble with this nervous laugh? It is so not mysterious.

Sometimes we use habits of ours (like my nervous laughter) as a crutch to help us get through difficult situations. The question is- what am I afraid of? If I didn’t laugh when I felt anxiety what would happen? Would I actually have to have a real conversation with someone? Would there be moments of silence? Would people have a look at the real me instead of the jovial, constantly bubbly me? Yes! And would that be so terrible? No!

Now that I am aware of my nervous tendency I can take some action to fix it. This does not mean that at my next social gathering I am suddenly going to sit in the corner with a smoky eye, a cocktail and a scowl in an effort to be mysterious. I am just going to be myself- with no apologies, no people pleasing behavior and no armor (in the form of nervous habits). As a result I might seem more mysterious and maybe even intriguing (which can never hurt, in my opinion). But mainly I will be ultimately more authentic- more myself.

I highly recommend watching yourself on camera to figure out your nervous habits- and possibly discover ones, as Agatha Christie says, you never knew you had. Self observation can be very valuable tool.

So whether it's anxious giggles, biting your nails or over-sharing, I would love to know… do you have bad habits that compromise your air of mystery?


Apologies to those email subscribers who did not receive last week's special Thursday video on Skindinavia Makeup Finishing Sprays. To see the video click here.


A Chinoiserie commode and two French Rococo chairs are pictured above. I love the porcelain lidded bowl, which is from China and dates from the Xanghi Reign 1662- 1722. Isn't the color celadon divine? These objects can be viewed at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.


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8.03.2011

Skindinävia Makeup Finishing Sprays

This week's special post is on Skindinävia Makeup Finishing Sprays. At the end of this post I have embedded the video where I show you the sprays I describe below and how I use them. If you are unable to see the embedded video, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur



Skindinävia recently contacted me to review their makeup finishing sprays on The Daily Connoisseur. Their offer could not have come at a better time as I have been searching for just this very product but didn’t know if there was anything out there on the market like it. You see, every day I apply some variation of le no makeup look. It can be anything from a two minute application of under eye concealer, mascara and lip balm to a ten minute version that includes everything from foundation to blush to eyeshadow and eyeliner.

I usually apply my makeup early in the morning and then am out most of the day playing with the baby, running errands, exercising and working. By the time my day is done I usually go from wearing le no makeup look to wearing- no really I have no makeup on because it all melted off look.

So I was very interested to try Skindinävia's makeup finishing sprays which have gotten terrific reviews online from happy customers. They sent me two of their products- their Makeup Finishing Spray- which they call their ‘original makeup saver’ and the Moisture Lock Makeup Finish- which is made for dry skin types and adds a luminosity and glow to the complexion.

Both products work great and really perform well. The sprays are very light and go on like a fine mist to the skin. They are fragrance free and not heavy or sticky. In fact you don’t notice them on your skin at all once applied. They are hypoallergenic, oil free and paraben free. They have also been eye tested, dermatologist tested and are not tested on animals.

The correct way to apply them is as follows: apply your makeup as you normally would- and put on everything except for mascara. Then, holding the spray eight inches from your face spray two to four times (they recommend spraying in an X motion and a T motion). Once the spray is on, you can apply your mascara.

If you wear mineral makeup a handy trick that I've found works is to spray your skin twice before applying makeup and once or twice afterwards. This helped my mineral makeup (which is generally quite fickle and doesn't have much staying power) stay fresh much longer.

I have tested both sprays out for several days in a row and each time I’ve used them at the end of the day my makeup still looks fresh as though I’ve just applied it- even my blush, which is usually invisible by 5pm, is still going strong.

Here are two pictures to demonstrate:

This first picture was taken at 7 in the morning with a freshly applied le no makeup look:

And this second picture was taken 10 hours later at 5pm with absolutely no touch ups done to my makeup whatsoever throughout the day. Because I wear a no makeup look it is hard to see if the makeup is still on (since I do not want to appear as if I am wearing makeup in the first place) but I still felt as though I had freshly applied makeup 10 hours later. And oddly enough I am less shiny in this picture than in the first, which is a testament to the spray because normally by 5pm I am a shiny disaster without a powder touch up:


As for the The Moisture Lock Makeup Finish, it is very similar to the Makeup Finishing Spray but it gives your skin a dewy, luminous finish to it- ideal for people with dry skin or if you are going for a casual, fresh face Summertime look.

I am very interested to try the No More Shine Makeup Finish as I have noticed that I’ve been a bit shiny in recent family photographs…. They also have a 10 Years Younger Setting Spray for mature skin that diminishes the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles as well as a Bridal Finishing Spray that controls shine and is tear resistant (I wish I’d known about that for my wedding!)

The pricing for the products are as follows: 2oz for $19, 4oz for $29 and 8oz for $39.

Click on the link below or in the sidebar of the blog to visit their website and see their current promotion which gives you 20% off orders over $40 and free shipping.

20% Off + Free Shipping

I hope you like them as much as I do!

I would love to know... do you have trouble keeping your makeup on throughout the day?




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8.01.2011

On Cosmetic Laser Treatments


When recently visiting the Beauty Culture exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography there was a section on plastic surgery- images of people going under the knife- everything from tummy tucks to face lifts. The pictures were very graphic and chilled my squeamish constitution to the bone.

I’ve always said I would never get plastic surgery. And I know one should never say never but for now I am sticking to my guns. I know you might find this hard to believe (as I mainly blog about beauty and appearance) but I’m simply not vain enough to get cosmetic surgery. My major flaws do not bother me enough to actually get surgery to correct them.

Plus I subscribe to the French philosophy that a quality of jolie laide (which translates literally as ugly/ pretty) in a woman can bring out her uniqueness. A big nose, a small chest, a less than flat stomach… these ‘flaws’ add character! After all we don’t want to all look alike do we?

But what about those pesky wrinkles, sagging skin, sun and age spots and other less than desirable signs of aging? How will I feel when those start to affect me? While I still say I’m not vain enough to get plastic surgery… I am vain enough, however to try a non-invasive procedure.

I am speaking of Cosmetic Laser Treatments- and the future technologies of the beauty industry.

My only experience with lasers has been laser hair removal (I know I’m venturing into the realm of over-sharing but this is a blog after all and I feel it my duty to let you know- plus you might be interested in hearing my verdict on the subject). I got it done four years ago and have had an overall good experience with it. It removed 80 – 90% of the unwanted hair in the areas targeted. The technology improves and advances everyday so I imagine that now, four years later, the hair removal would be even more efficient.

I have heard that lasers can do so much more than remove unwanted hair though. I recently had the opportunity to ask some questions to Alma Lasers- one of the leading cosmetic laser companies in the country, some of my pressing questions with regards to cosmetic laser therapy. Here is our Q and A:

Why are women using lasers? To improve their skin’s color, tone, laxity and texture.

How do lasers work? Every laser has a wavelength that targets a specific depth in the skin to hit the desired trouble area to create improvement.

What are the most popular laser treatments? Laser hair removal, pain free hair free.

What is the quick lunchtime laser fix?
For Alma lasers it’s “Accent your body”. More information about the treatment can be found at www.accentyourbody.com

How long do the results last? Laser treatments can last years, however protection against sun exposure is imperative to keep the skin looking its best.

How much pain is involved? If no pain, how is this possible? The heat is applied gradually until the therapeutic temperature is reached to avoid pain.

How much does a treatment cost? (price range)
anywhere from $250-$2000

Where is the cosmetic laser trend headed in the next few years? In the next few years cosmetic lasers will have longer lasting results with less downtime.

Where can you get laser treatments done? In an aesthetic physician’s office- all across the country.

Voilà their response.

I would love to know… what do you think of cosmetic laser therapy. Would you have it?

For more information on Alma Lasers and to find a practitioner click here or visit: www.accentyourbody.com

The long case clock pictured above is from Paris and dates back to 1744. It is oak veneered with ebony, tortoiseshell and brass with bronzed mounts. It can be seen at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

This Thursday look for a special review of Skindinävia Makeup Finishing Sprays...

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