Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In Praise of the Luxe "At-Home" Wardrobe



I've been steadily making my way through political and legal dramas - namely, Scandal, Suits, and The Good Wife - and one thing I always notice (besides the catchy dialogue), is the impeccably luxurious at-home wardrobe every lead female character seems to have!

As soon as the Louboutins are kicked off, it's all about sexy (but oversized, always oversized) off-the-shoulder mohair sweaters in blush-pink and grey, waterfall cashmere cardigans, cloud-grey sheepskin slippers - all worn while cradling a large glass of red wine (see: Rachel Zane and Olivia Pope).

This casual-but-oh-so-luxe "at-home" look is in sharp contrast to the fitted and tailored Dior dress suits and jackets that each heroine power-walks her way into the office in, but still says, "Hey - I can still look effortlessly chic and expensive at home."

I. LOVE. THIS. LOOK.

In reality, I wear a fleece robe from Primark 99% of the time. But, when I feel like making an effort, I'll drape myself in what my friend and I dub our "at-home" cashmere (slightly worse-for-wear but still soft and comfy), snuggle my feet into a pair of sheepskin slippers, and pretend I'm Meghan Markle for the day (minus the being engaged to Prince Harry bit).


Just Sheepskin's slippers feel especially heavenly when I've returned home after pounding the streets of London. The DREAM step gel memory foam insole makes me feel like my feet are enveloped in clouds - and the fact that they're waterproof means that I don't have to worry about dripping water on them while I'm fixing up some dinner in the kitchen.

I have the Duchess Sheepskin Slippers, which I'm a huge fan of (mostly because they, um, glitter).


And don't ask me why, but sometimes, I like to sleep or nap with a dim light on (or the curtains open) with an eye shade over my eyes. I know, it makes no sense. But I do it (especially if John's away for work and I'm feeling scared of the dark).

I saw this one from Oliver Bonas in a magazine and treated myself to an impulse purchase (something I'm trying to cut down on this year but nevertheless fall victim to!).



Other places I love for luxe "at-home" items are:

  • The White Company (their waterfall cardigans are both luxurious and comfortable, plus they're smart enough to wear outside the house in case you accept a last-minute invite to lunch/brunch/dinner)

  • H&M's Premium Quality line - I buy a lot of my cashmere here (especially when it's on sale!) and the quality is really, really good.

  • COS for oversized sweatshirts in quirky silhouettes.

  • Petit Bateau for Breton tees and comfy sweatpants.

Are you a fan of this luxe at-home look? What do you like to wear in your downtime? I'd love to know!        

Sheepskin slippers courtesy of Just Sheepskin - shop the collection here. All opinions are my own.                           


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Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year's Resolution: Shop Small


Over the past year, I've undertaken several wardrobe culls and participated in this eye-opening review of our finances - both of which have made me take a more critical view of how I shop and where I shop.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I love fashion, trends, and accessories, and that they form an important part of who I am - there's no point in denying that. But in order to keep a closer eye on my spending and to invest in quality items that will last a long while, I've drastically reduced my fast-shopping purchases and, instead, focused on buying quality, artisanal pieces ... after giving them a lot of thought.

One of my favorite destinations for accessories-browsing is Postcards Home. Their global-outlook on homeware, stationery, accessories and kids' products are especially appealing as they remind me of our travels. And because they work directly with independent designers and illustrators, each item is unique.


I've had a lot of compliments on my Sari Bead Necklace from the House of Wandering Silk - a social business based in New Delhi, India that partners with handpicked NGOs, cooperatives, women's groups and artisans to produce beautiful, ethical products.

These sari bead necklaces are made from small wooden prayer beads which are then wrapped in vintage silk sari remnants - how cool is that? No two necklaces are alike. Since my wardrobe color palette is pretty bland (think lots of black, grey, and, um, greige), this necklace always manages to stand out.

What are your favorite independent shops to buy from? Have you discovered any new ones lately? Let me know!

Huge thanks to Lucy Coleman, founder of Postcards Home, friend, and beautiful business-woman extraordinaire for sending me this gorgeous Sari Bead Necklace. Without a doubt, all opinions are my own. Shop the rest of the collection of  Postcards Home here. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile. 
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Friday, January 5, 2018

The £300 Hair Dryer - Is It Worth It?



Of all the tech products we own at home, the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer seems the most extravagant. After all, my eyes bulge at the thought of spending even £80 on a curling iron, let alone £300 (the Dyson Supersonic currently retails at £299.99 at John Lewis) for a hair dryer.

But one year on, what do I really think about it?

We were driving up to my father-in-law's last weekend, when I mentioned that I'd "packed the Dyson". John frowned. "What do you mean?" He thought I meant our vacuum cleaner (that's "hoover" to you Brits), which would have been funny - showing up at his dad's house with a vacuum in hand. "I mean the hair dryer," I said.

Because really, if we're travelling within the UK, I take it with me everywhere (I even took it with us to Lime Wood). As luxe as any hotel may be, I know the hair dryers in the rooms and spa just won't cut it against the Dyson Supersonic.

Just to give you a bit of context, I have short/shoulder-length thick, straight hair. It takes quite a while to dry, but I use one of those quick-dry turban towel things as soon as I step out of the shower to absorb most of the moisture.


I also wash my hair most days, so that's something to consider as well as you read my review. John hated the sound of my Babyliss hair dryer and the length of time it took me to dry my hair, particularly as I shower in the evenings and it would often drag bed time into the late hours, despite him having to get up for work at 5:30 a.m.

So, one day, he marched us over to John Lewis and demanded (more like, asked politely, because it's John) to try the Dyson Supersonic. The funny thing was, their display model wasn't working that day, but we were so insistent about trying it that the John Lewis staff ended up calling an electrician to fix the electrical outlet so we could give it a test run!

A few minutes later, John headed to the till, Dyson Supersonic tucked under his arm.

So, here are some facts about this pricey gadget:

- 3 precise settings for fast drying, regular drying, and styling
- 4 precise heat settings 
- Airflow of 41 litres per second
- Weight of 618 grams
- Negative ions to reduce static

The Dyson Supersonic comes with a non-slip mat and a storage hanger, plus three diffusers (one for curly hair).



Pros:

- Significantly reduces drying time. While it previously took me about 10 - 15 minutes to thoroughly dry my hair, it now takes approximately 4 - 5 minutes (I've timed it!).

- Comfortable to hold. As the motor's in the handle, the dryer has a nice balance to it - my arm doesn't get tired holding it up!

- Relatively compact and stylish in design. It's easy to pack because it's not long or heavy.

- Magnetic nozzles/diffusers. I love the magnetic nozzles that are easy to pop on/off. On most days, I don't bother using the narrow diffuser (because I'm lazy), so I keep the wider nozzle on (though John takes it off every time he uses it, grr!). But when I want my hair to be shiny, sleek, and pin straight, the narrow nozzle really does the trick.

- Quieter than most hair dryers. The noise is definitely more pleasant than the roar of my previous hair dryer.

Cons:

- Chips easily. If you're clumsy like me, then you'll need to be careful - I've dropped this twice by my dressing table and a bit of the paint has chipped off (don't tell John!).

- It's not that quiet. I think one of the earlier claims (though I'm too lazy to Google the quote/article to support this claim) about the Dyson Supersonic was that you could hold a conversation with someone at a "normal" volume while using it. You can certainly do that at the lowest setting, though you do need to raise your voice on the middle setting (which I use most) and you'd certainly be shouting if you were chatting on the highest setting. Still, it's much quieter compared to the previous hair dryers I've owned (plus, because the drying time is significantly reduced, you're using it for less time).

So, would I recommend the Dyson Supersonic? Yes, yes, yes - a thousand times yes. Especially if you have thick hair like me and you spend a lot of your time washing, drying, and styling it. Is it worth the price point? If you use it to the extent that I do, then yes, but if not, then maybe stick with a Babyliss or GHD model.

Do you own a Dyson Supersonic hair dryer? What do you think of it? If not, would you think about buying it? I'm curious to know!
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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

10 Things I'm Grateful For in 2018


1. Having a job that I secretly look forward to going back to after the Christmas break. When I was making dinner yesterday, John came up to me, all sad looking, and said he had a "case of the Mondays". First, I corrected him and said that he actually had a case of the Tuesdays, since that's when we were actually heading back to work, but then I felt bad for him because it made me realize that - sure, I was sad that our lovely holiday was over - but I genuinely wanted to go back to work again (and to see my friends there!). "Never leave that place!" he said, like a puppy that had been kicked. Poor thing.

2. Having a husband who puts Frozen on BBC iPlayer on his phone for us to watch when our flight's delayed (and who laughs at all of Olaf's jokes). Our recent flight from Innsbruck to London Stansted was delayed, then eventually cancelled (we had to take a bus to Salzburg in the end) due to "poor weather conditions" (i.e. fog). As I wasn't feeling great already, John wasted no time in distracting me with Elsa's magical ice kingdom. And I might have caught him crooning, "For the first time in foreverrrrrr ..." when we got home like, six hours later.

3. Peppermint tea. An all-around winner. Digestif and anxiety-reducer all-in-one.

4. Underfloor heating. We returned from our week in Austria with cold bathroom floors after turning off the underfloor heating before we left and I bellowed, "THIS IS INHUMANE!" (Yes, I absolutely realize that underfloor heating is a luxurious privilege and has nothing to do with human rights, but just roll with me for a moment on this one ...)

5. New technology. My UK driving test is scheduled for later this month and can I just say how much I'm looking forward to having driver-less cars in our lives? Every time I approach a roundabout, I feel like closing my eyes and hoping for the best (please don't tell my driving instructor that. Please.). For now, apps, Google Home (who provides witty answers to questions like, "Hey Google, do you want to build a snowman?" with, "Sure, the cold never bothered me anyway!"), etc. are making my life so much easier (which is all great until we begin to encroach on Black Mirror territory, at which point it all becomes a bit terrifying).

6. Our neighbors. They take in our oversized post when we're at work, put our trash bins back in their place when we're away, and popped around on Christmas Day for a chat and a drink. They cook for me when John's travelling for work and bring champagne over to share when it's their birthday. They shared their shower when our boiler was broken. WHAT KIND OF STREET IS THIS?!?!

7. London bus drivers. They deal with drunken abuse, the narrowest of streets, and cyclists that come out of nowhere (and I mean, nowhere - it's like they've Apparated ala Dobby in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) with the patience of saints. 

8. Pubs. It took me over a decade of living in the UK to finally appreciate them, but yeah, I was the one who brightly suggested we stop in for a drink at the local pub on our muddy country walk to the next village last weekend when we stayed with John's dad. Back in London, we have our favorite (with our favorite table), and heading there on a frosty (or sunny) evening for delicious food, friendly company, and (sometimes) live music, is such a lovely treat.

9. Our new sofa, arriving February 2018. It's gonna be large, it's gonna be comfy, and I'm gonna disappear into it all day long.

10. Netflix, for introducing me to Korean soap operas. Thank you for providing endless hours of entertainment, which I listen to at a high volume despite not understanding a word and relying completely on subtitles.

What are you grateful for in 2018, whether or big or small? I'd love to know!
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Travel Link-Up: Je Reviens


If 2017 was all about discovering new lands (Iceland and Morocco, to name a couple), then I think 2018 will be focused on returning to the places we loved most. Every time John and I fall in love with a new destination, we invariably say, "I can't wait to come back." But we never do.

So, I'd like to make 2018 a year of "returns":

A return to the vineyards of Bordeaux, perhaps; the memories of sand whipping 'round my ankles at the Dune du Pilat and people-watching in outdoor cafes still imprinted on my mind.



Or a return to Iceland, where we'll attempt to chase the Northern Lights once again - this time, hopefully, with more success - and an irresistible visit to the milky thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.


A return to Hong Kong is definitely on the cards - my visit earlier this year a mere taster of reunions and adventures to come.


And I loved our recent visit to Mayrhofen so much, I'm tempted to spend next winter in the Alps as well - whether that's French, Swiss or Austrian.


At some point, I'd love to return to the New Forest (although, who am I kidding - what I really mean is that I'd like to go back to this hotel) and be enchanted by the ponies once again.


Cornwall is a favorite of ours, and I know I'll be longing for these coastlines in the not-too-distant future - perhaps when it's nice and warm.


Finally, John and I were so besotted with Sri Lanka when we went in 2015, it's bound to be on our list, although India is calling to me too, after last year's whirlwind trip to Bangalore - this time, Rajasthan is my dream destination (and, you know, if someone wants to invite me to a wedding so I can wear a sari again, that would be great - thanks).


Where are you headed to in 2018? I'd love to know!

This post is part of January's Travel Link-Up, hosted by Emma, Angie, and Polly. Head over to their blogs to read more about their travel wishlists!
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Friday, December 22, 2017

10 Things To Do On a Ski Holiday ... If You Don't Ski


This morning, I waved my husband and his friends goodbye before settling in to finish my mint tea and warm croissant at our hotel breakfast table.

"Guten Morgen!", the waitress trilled as she came by to clear our plates. "And what are your plans for today?" she asked eagerly.

"Well," I said, scooping up the last bit of strawberry jam with my finger. "I think I might go to the 10 o'clock yoga class. Then I might have a swim. Then I'll read, probably. Then I'll take the gondola up to the top of the mountain and meet the others for lunch."

"It sounds wunderschoen!" she exclaimed, smiling as she whisked away an empty mug.

You see, I'm Day 5 into what might be the best holiday I've ever had: a ski holiday in the Austrian Alps, minus the skiing.

It's not that I haven't tried: I took lessons, struggled down a few baby slopes - literally struggling past babies - before calling it quits and accepting that skiing (or snowboarding, as the case may be) and I just don't get along.

Which is fine, except that my husband loves - I mean, LOVES - to snowboard. Past years have seen him take off on a week-long holidays with friends, but he's admitted that it just isn't the same without me (aww!).


Cue this year: we booked a lovely hotel in Mayrhofen, just an hour's coach ride from Innsbruck, complete with a well-equipped spa and a cute little town buzzing with cafes and shops less than a minute's walk from the front door.

I was skeptical, but sold.

And now I think I might be in heaven.

So, here are 10 things to do on a ski holiday - even if you don't ski:


1. Spa

Duh. This one happens to have a beautiful pool that is empty in the morning (because everyone else is trying to hit the slopes before the ski school descends) and most of the early afternoon, plus several saunas, steam rooms, and a generously-sized hydrotherapy hot pool, plus an extensive menu of treatments. Am pondering a neck and leg massage for tomorrow. Hmm.


2. Have a hot chocolate in town

I was told that Kostner Heimat had the best hot chocolate in Mayrhofen, so I decided to sit outside one morning (with the assistance of a heater aimed directly at my head and sheepskin-lined chairs and blankets) with a heisse schokolade mit whipped cream (naturlich!) while watching the snow fall. I nearly cried, it was so delicious.


3. Read

I downloaded 5 books to my Kindle before I left - an appropriate mix of Christmas-themed 'chick lit' (I do hate that term) and literary fiction (I'm half-way through The Power by Naomi Alderman and am addicted!). When I'm not lolling about in bed, I take my Kindle with me to the spa or the lobby, where I spend a few luxurious hours reading - entirely undisturbed. It's bliss.

4. Nap

No explanation necessary. Nap as much as I want, whenever I want. With no alarm to set - ever.



5. Meet the others for lunch at the top

A couple of days, I took the gondola/lift up to the top of the peak to meet John and our friends for lunch. I hadn't quite anticipated just how high or steep the first gondola would be, and I was in one on my own, so by the time the doors closed, I didn't have time to panic, but just focused on my phone, while sneaking the occasional peek to my left and right (which offered beautiful views, btw).

6. Gym

The treadmills here have Netflix. If that's not enough motivation to work out for a full hour or however long an episode of Riverdale or whatever it was I've been binging on lately - then, I don't know what is.

7. Take a class

Our hotel offered a complimentary hatha yoga class this morning and - guess what - I was the only person who showed up, so I ended up getting a private lesson. On my way out, the pool looked so enticing, I ran upstairs to change into my swimsuit before jumping in - and yes, I had it all to myself.



8. Arrange a horse and carriage ride

Lots of ski resort towns have horse and carriage rides you can organize during your stay. We took a lovely little loop through town and next to the woods, after the snow had just fallen. It was fun and very romantic!

9. Go on a hike

I noticed quite a few trails for walking up on the mountain as well as in town, which looked fun. I took little strolls with John when I went to meet him for lunch at the top of the mountain - the snow made it an extra workout (especially when trudging uphill)!

10. Shop

There are some very sweet little boutiques here in Mayrhofen and we picked up a cute little ceramic decoration to take home as as souvenir last night. It's fun to browse the shops with the sheer intention of browsing - not necessarily buying.

Would I take a trip like this again? You betcha. We lucked out on the beautiful and well-equipped hotel, though, which has been a constant source of entertainment. And every time I felt a little stir crazy, I'd just take the ski lift up to the top for some wintry views (and apple strudel!).

Are you a skier/snowboarder? Or are you more into apres ski, like me? Let me know!  
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Floral Street


Nestled between Petersham Nurseries and Sandro on Covent Garden's fashionable King Street is the newest kid on the block, Floral Street - a gorgeous fragrance boutique founded by Michelle Feeney (best known for her role in bringing MAC cosmetics and that St Tropez glow-in-a-bottle to the UK).

You might have seen their beautifully designed bottles on Instagram already (which is where I originally spotted them), but the store itself is a treat to explore, especially if - like me - you've grown tired of the same fragrance brands popping up everywhere.

I've been wearing Neon Rose lately: a fresh, clean fragrance that's wearable in every season. Not too sweet or overly floral, it smells sophisticated - the kind of scent that makes your head turn when someone walks by. Its "hero flowers" are cyclamen, apple blossom, and bergamot, but its ingredients also contain a delicate blend of peach nectar, crisp amber, juniper berry, cassis kir, jasmine Egypt, white cedarwood and Sichuan pepper, for added depth and dimension.


Floral Street's fragrances range from fresh and flirty to dark and intriguing. I sat at their fragrance "bar" last week and sampled every bottle, wrinkling my nose at the thought of "Wild Vanilla Orchid" but exclaiming, "Wow!" as soon as I tried it, as none of the scents in Floral Street's collection can be placed in the box their names suggest. In this instance, the sweetness of vanilla is offset by bamboo, jasmine, sandalwood, lemon, patchouli fraction and red orchid, making it one of those scents you return to sniff again and again, because you couldn't quite believe it the first time around.

So, if you've been pounding the streets and department stores searching in vain for a new "signature" fragrance, I'd highly recommend a visit to Floral Street for something a bit different - and something you'll fall in love with, as I did.

Did I mention they also make scented stationery? The Wonderland Peony scented notebook smells like a dream and would make a great gift (the candles are on my wishlist too, and the perfume is sold in a purse-friendly 10 ml size as well).

What are your favorite fragrances?

Neon Rose perfume courtesy of Floral Street. All opinions are my own. Shop the collection online and at Floral Street, 30 King Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8JD.
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