Monday, August 31, 2015

Buki Koshoni - Functional Art & Clothing

Today is all about the tees, but not just any old ordinary tees, these are from the amazing photographer Buki Koshoni.

Buki Koshoni - Functional Art & Clothing
If it wasn't for my other half I would be wandering around looking a right state, after all I have eyes that would have been rejected if there was some form of quality control at birth - I'm colour blind and struggle with shades of red, green, blue and brown (so just most colours around). Combine that with a middle age taste in clothes and you have a fashion mess if I choose clothes on my own.

This is what is says about the brand over on the Buki Koshoni website here:

'The Brand was founded on the art, design and ideals of photographer Buki Koshoni. Our "functional art" ethos looks to challenge the symbiosis of art, design and fashion, forging a truly global, entertaining and progressive brand.
Apparel, art and designs, that not only beautify a person or space, but also create and encourage “active participation” Functional Art, whether it be upcycled funiture, an expertly sewn shirt or a fine art print, we encourage active participation between the art and its owners'.

Fortunately, there are people out there trying to help fashion paupers like myself and the wide range of classic yet edgy clothing from the Koshoni range really does appeal to me. When asked if I would like to try and style some of the tees it took me ages to choose two but in the end I went for the Leaving Las Vegas tee and the A & O 'Splash' Print. Both are £45 each.

At £45 for a tee these are expensive but the images are stylish, look great (I think) when paired with a pair of classic skinny jeans and a pair of boots. I feel confident that I don't look like a school teacher (no offence intended teachers) at an end of term disco when wearing these and will be picking up a few more to add to my huge collection of tees.

Buki Koshoni - Functional Art & Clothing
Buki Koshoni - Functional Art & Clothing
Buki Koshoni - Functional Art & Clothing
Buki Koshoni - Functional Art & Clothing


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Sunday, August 23, 2015

FIT Skincare Moisturising Ultra Serum

Beautykinguk, looking a state so you don't have to......

So it came to pass, I was offered the chance to try out FIT Moisturising Ultra Serum, a rather expensive moisturising cream type thing in an attempt to get this old face of mine looking as good as possible. I’ve had it for some time but waited until I had the chance to give it a try on my recent break to Suffolk (after all what better place to try it than the seaside).

At £50 for a 30ml tube saying that its expensive in my view is an understatement, but hell, I find everything expensive these days (I'm firmly putting this down to my northern roots and our rep for being tight fisted but also the fact I'm getting on a bit).

With this is mind I expected miracles from this serum, and after having a good read of the marketing blurb waited a few days where I applied nothing to my face to get it prepped for one heck of a testing. By the time I used this I looked awful around the eyes and after squinting in the nice Suffolk sunshine the lines around my eyes and forehead were looking tasty - when I say tasty, what I actually mean is deep.

This is what they say about the serum over at the FIT Skincare website here

'Moisturising ultra serum intensely hydrates, repairs, protects & refreshes skin. Packed with premium performance active ingredients, vitamins and utilising OXY-FIT-10 technology it recharges & stimulates the skins natural repair mechanisms. Non greasy and lightweight the ultra serums molecules are quickly absorbed deep into the skin to act faster and work for longer.'

So, what does this actually having going for it? Well, the serum has a thick consistency and despite this it is absorbed into the skin really quickly. At first it looked like it would leave a greasy residue on the surface but this actually dried out within minutes of application. 

First of all let me explain something about my eyes - they often look swollen (thank you Richard Padgett for smashing with full force a cricket bat into my face when I was aged seven - oh dear god that was thirty years ago!) and have really dark bags. If you follow through the images you can see the effect that the serum has had and I admit it, even with the hefty price tag I was blown away with the results, particularly on the fine lines and deeper numbers - this knocked years off me (and for this I am truly thankful)

In the words of Rod Stewart, ‘every picture tells a story’ (it was his third studio album released in 1971) so rather than endlessly describe the process this is what the serum did for me, so prepare yourself for images of face, and my eyes…..Taken before application, twenty minutes after and a couple of hours later. 

My skin feels and looks plumper and hydrated, fears of an oily or greasy residue were unfounded and after three days of using this in the morning my the swelling around my eyes wasn’t as bad (the usual recoil I suffer with that first look in the mirror in the morning stopped).

Yes this is a bit on the steep side but for results it knocks the socks off the Clarins Eye Serum and seems to last for ages. That 30ml tube will last for months if used sparingly and that is all you need - a little goes a long way and it isn’t something that actually needs to be used on a daily basis, instead it compliments my already huge and extensive grooming routine.


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Friday, August 21, 2015

National Grooming Day - my routine

When I started writing this blog back in January 2014 I had what I considered a bit of an over the top grooming routine to try and hold back the ravages of time (and alcohol and cigarettes). The use of a shampoo and conditioner was a given, but from time to time face scrub, moisturiser and more care in the shaving stakes formed a routine that took minutes each day. Fast forward to today and it takes bloody ages…and that’s without all the face masks I keep slapping on!

So, what has been part of my grooming routine over the last few weeks?

National Grooming Day

Take two bottles into the shower (remember that advert folks?), not me, I take a bag full!

With all of the gunk that I add to my hair, particularly recently with the longer locks I do need something to strip it out before styling again. In the past I’ve been a fan of and written about Osmo Detoxifying Shampoo as a way of removing residue from waxes, gels and clays, but step aside…..I now have…..

Fish Soho Fiercefish De-Gunking Shampoo

A 250ml tube of this costs just £3.99 here. It promises to cleanse and remove product build up without leaving hair looking fluffy. Now I like this, it has a lovely fresh aroma that starts to wake me up in the shower, lathers up brilliantly and doesn’t morph into some chemical nightmare. That to me is a massive plus, but here it is, it actually does remove even the most stubborn hair product and does so without the need to endlessly massage your scalp and the strands of hair. 

If you haven’t tried it, you really should and soon.

Then it’s onto the face and prior to shaving I either use the awesome Face Scrub from Cornerstone (it’s soooo cool) to open up the pores on my face or alternatively….

Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub

This has a delicious citrus aroma and the scrub itself has the same properties as an orbital sander - the grains really do smash the dead and dry skin from your face as it removes any hints of dirt that can build up. As the grains are really abrasive little effort is required (always a bonus in my book) and as soon as it is rinsed off my face always feel so much cleaner, smoother and soft to the touch. Maybe its all in my head (a lot of stuff is) but it I swear using just this knocks years off me.

L’Occitane Cade Reinvigorating Shower Gel

The entire Cade range is fantastic - the aftershave is actually one I’ve written about before and is actually a good one for daywear. The shower gel however is a deep woody number that banishes body odour and lasts for ages. The fragrance of bergamot blended with juniper really does pack a punch and screams “I am rugged man”. 

At £14 for a 250ml tube of Cade this it does class it as expensive but a little goes a long way and it does last for ages (well over two months). If you haven’t smelt or tried this yet then why not?  

National Grooming Day

The Beard Doctor Forest Fuel

At £9.99 for 30ml this is quite reasonable and I’ve included it here as without this my shaving experience would probably be more brutal than normal. This is what they say about Forest Fuel over at the Beard Doctor site:

‘The Beard Doctors signature scent; Forest Fuel Beard oil conditions and nourishes the hair with vitamins. This promotes further hair growth. Forest Fuel will soften your facial hair which prevents irritation, beard itch and beard dandruff. The oils used in our formula are the closest match to oils that your skin naturally produces.

This scent oozes 'Alpha Male'.

Smells like: A fresh, deep spiced forest.’

As my beard grows I do suffer with that dreaded itch on my face - this does soften the bristles and I find that shaving after using (and once full beardage has been achieved and I’ve got bored of it) is a breeze, it also has a cracker fragrance to it and when they say it oozes alpha male they aren’t kidding. The blend of sweet almond, jojoba, cedar wood and pine really do gives this an earthy feel as soon as it wafts up the nostrils. That said, it isn’t actually that overpowering and doesn’t seem to interfere with aftershaves or colognes that are applied afterwards.  

Got a beard? Grab yourself a bottle of this beauty here

Wilkinson Sword Shaving Soap & Shaving Brush

After spending twenty years using gels and foams I’ve really gotten into using the old school brushes now and shaving soap. The shaving soap from Wilkinson Sword however is ridiculously affordable and a 125g bowl of the soap is just £2.29. The brush however will set you back £4.29.

The brush is actually much smaller than the other two that I have but I prefer this, it makes applying the soap far more precise and even when too much pressure is applied you don’t find rogue soap in your hair/ears/eyes because of long bristles. Good call designer type R & D people….

I really like the soap - it could be rubbish (it isn’t) but for me the fragrance is the clincher - it reminds me of my late grandfather. Don’t ask me why but it does and I can’t for the life of me put my finger on what it is. It is clean and fresh, subtle yet strong enough to leave just a hint on the skin for a good half an hour after shaving. In terms of how it helps with shaving, well it lathers up with minimal water, creates a good consistency and doesn’t clog razor blades which cuts down on actual shaving time.

Well worth a punt.

Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 Groomer 

I was in two minds whether to try this razor, I’ve been really enjoying using a safety razor recently but thought what the hell. I haven’t used a Wilkinson Sword razor since I was about twenty and their ‘safety’ disposable razor resulted in me slashing my face to bits. Boy they have come on a bit and this new offering is actually a good razor - with as the name suggests five blades. On top of this, it also has a built in trimmer for those sideburns and beard.

The trimmer is perfectly sized and after having my hair cut at the weekend I used it to square off my beard with my sideburns and I was pleased with the results.

At £14.99 for the shaft and one blade and with a four blade refill pack costing £9.99 it’s a on par with other similar products and thankfully for my wallet I still have some RazorBrite solution left that makes my blades last even longer.

The razor slices without dicing and as you would expect delivers a cool and clean shave. You won’t get that cut-throat razor shave feel but you won’t in my view with any razor like this on the market so you really can’t knock it for that. 

National Grooming Day

I’m all about the face contouring……erm…..not…..but I do now apply all sorts of lotions and potions. For the last week or so I have been using….

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Dynamic Hydration Rich Cream

This came into my collection of lotions and potions after the other half attended a blogger event. It’s not a brand I had heard or, cared for or would be likely to just pick up but I have to say it does have a lot going for it. You can pick up a tub for under £20 and it promises to provide continuous hydration, for up to 48 hours intense comfort and protection against daily aggressions. 

It won’t stop a vicious mugger outside King’s Cross station on a dark December night but it does pack the skin with hydration and personally my skin looks revitalised after applying this. The dry patches of skin at my hairline were gone in a matter of hours and when looking in the mirror I think I look better at the end of the day so it does seem to keep on hydrating without leaving any greasy residue.

Rogue Lifting, Brightening Eye Serum

I have written about this before and it is still managing to hold back the years - it reduces the bags under my eyes, rivalled only by another brand I will be writing about soon (one to look forward to). Fine lines and blemishes are kicked well and truly into the long grass and that makes this one to definitely look out for if you suffer with dark or patchy eyes. 

You can read the full write up here

L’Occitane Eau De Cedrat EDT

I will be writing a full analysis of this beautiful fragrance from L’Occitane soon. In the meantime my first impressions! This is summer in a bottle, so light, fresh and packed with citrus it is perfect for long summer days and would work for daywear and those special occasions. 

A 100ml bottle of this baby will set you back £42 here.

This is what they say about the EDT over at the L’Occitane website:

‘The first impression of Cedrat Eau de Toilette is a cascade of freshness: a green, citrusy, joyful, sparkling scent. Then, very quickly, the undeniably delicate nature of the fragrance is revealed through the bitterness of the woody rind. Fine and distinguished, cedrat asserts its innate elegance, which blends harmoniously with that of bergamot. Aromatic spices and a slightly smoky, woody base enhance the overall impression of sophistication.’

I’m inclined to agree with that analysis to a point but actually I don’t think it dries down that much from the initial fresh citrus blast, but for me that is no problem, I love it. The absence of a woody base makes this a rival to a fair number of far more expensive aftershaves that have similar compositions.

Structure Transform Spray Clay

Clay? In a sparay? It'll never catch on......or will it? Well this has been keeping my locks firmly in places for weeks now. Even when my hair was really long this kept each strand in place, but it is short styles where this comes into its own. 

With spikes about two to three inches in length this is exceptional. After drying my hair it is simply a case of three sprays and then running my palm through my hair and it's done. No faffing, the spikes look choppy and they hold in an instant, the spray drying so quickly you really do have to act fast.

You can pick this up for around £7 for a 150ml tube and it is worth every penny.

I have written about Structure hair styling products before here and I'm yet to be disappointed. No residue, no mess, just a style that will stay in place for well over ten hours. 

So there you go, it’s National Grooming Day today, hence why I’ve decided to share my current routine. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t still be using these products if they were a bit rubbish but actually each one surprised me, particularly the Wilkinson Sword Shaving Soap.


Both the actual grooming and the products themselves!   

National Grooming Day

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Monday, August 17, 2015

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

Let me tell you a story…..

I’m a big fan of bars opened by Drake & Morgan. I instantly fell in love with the d├ęcor and cocktails on offer at The Refinery, and was dazzled by the food and cocktails at The Drift Bar, so when I was asked if I would like to try the brunch menu at The Fable Bar I immediately thought “this could look like a romantic gesture” and arranged to pop along to the bar with the other half on a lovely sunny Sunday (she cottoned on that it wasn’t a hopelessly romantic gesture very quickly!). 

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

Based in Farringdon just on the outskirts of the city, The Fable bar sits over three floors and is situation right next to the stunning Holborn Viaduct. Every Drake & Morgan establishment has a theme, and at The Fable Bar it is literary - there are famous quotations everywhere you look, a cool booth made out of stacked books and on the second floor an enormous bookcase. 

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct
The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct
The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

This is what Drake & Morgan say about the bar…..

"Once upon a time in a land far, far away The Fable Bar was created for the Drake & Morgan collection. 

Inspired by the fantasy world of fairy tales, the fabulous fables of Aesop & influences from around the globe, it is a bar & restaurant out of the ordinary, where every detail tells a story. A veritable jewel box brimming with unexpected surprises, The Fable offers seasonal food & sensational cocktails alongside bespoke events, fascinating masterclasses & unique customised experiences.

From a writing desk complete with vintage typewriter to the wine shop & florist, ‘Bottles & Blooms’ & the library lined with leather bound story books sourced from vintage markets across the country, expect to be entranced & enthralled".

When we arrived the bar was quite quiet (something I like, so I can hear what people are saying) and the music was at just the right level - after being seated I opted to start with green tea before moving onto a cheeky cocktail, opting for an original Mojito while Rachel went with a passion fruit Mojito. Both were stunning (as I have come to expect from D&M), mine was packed with mint and it packed a punch, they certainly hadn’t been shy with the rum! Now that’s a way to start the day!

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

The food menu is awesome and there really is something for everyone, but after taking a peek at the menu online before setting off I knew what I was going to be having, and I plumped for the salt and pepper calamari/squid for a starter and the roast beef for my main.

The squid was crispy and well cooked - with a touch of lemon to season the rich batter this had me worried that I would be able to finish my main. The plate was rammed, and as a nice touch there were tentacles so like a child I could wave them in Rachel’s face while making strange noises. It’s the little things that amuse me!

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

Rachel’s starter looked amazing - she went for a scotch egg with piccalilli. She said that the egg was perfectly cooked and perfectly runny and the piccalilli was spicy enough not to overpower and dominate the taste, but give enough kick that there was a gentle heat. There you go (ripped off directly from her thoughts on brunch).   
The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

For her main she went with a Wagyu Burger served with a blue cheese dressing with a rich tomato chutney. The burger also came with a portion of Cowboy fries which are drizzled in honey, chilli and garlic. I didn‘t like the sound of these but only managed to get to try one before she demolished them. 

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

As my dish was served my first thoughts were “where’s the beef”, it looked like a bit of a tight fisted portion at first, but then all of the other components of the dish arrived and I immediately thought “oh, sh*t, how am I going to eat all of this”.

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

The beef was actually just the right amount and cooked to perfection - mine was slightly rare and tender. It was easy to cut, not a hint of sinew and it just melted in the mouth. The vegetables were crunchy, the gravy lovely and rich. Everything had a full flavour and these blended with the honey coating on the carrots to create an absolute taste sensation. I have to confess, I couldn’t eat it all and even worse, I was so stuffed I couldn’t fit in one of the awesome sounding puddings. Instead I went for a pudding cocktail! 

Rachel went with a Tipsy Affogato with vanilla ice-cream, Amaretto and Kahula with a side helping of espresso while I had a Raspberry ripple which is a mixture of Johnny Walker Black, Drambuie and Honey Liquor was topped off with Raspberries and Cream. Holy Jesus! This starts off as a nice creamy number before boom - the Johnny Walker is almost hidden until the end, and as you work your way through you hit a bed of raspberries - it’s sweet, then strong, then sweet again, all topped off with rich cream. It is like a course in itself! 

The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct
The Fable Bar - Holborn Viaduct

The food and cocktails at The Fable Bar are out of this world - I have been back since and can’t get enough of those pudding cocktails. This is the perfect place to drop in and read a book over a pint, come for dinner in the evening or just for a bite to eat during the day. It’s clean, the staff are incredibly friendly and the dishes are reasonably priced while the meat is sourced from local butchers. 

The Fable Bar has everything.


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Freemans Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Face Mask

Face masks, I'm yet to find one that didn't have a positive effect on my skin so it pretty much comes down to a few things when I decide whether it’s one I'd pick up and try again. Many moons ago, actually in May time Freemans sent me their Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Face Mask to try and try it did.
Freemans Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Face Mask

So what are the factors do I take into consideration?
  • How much mess it makes when applying
  • Cost
  • How smooth my skin feels after
  • Does my face look more radiant
This is what they say about the face mask over at the Freemans website here:

‘Pollution…debris…it's a wonder skin can breathe! This unique mask and scrub works double time to detox skin. First, naturally purifying Activated Charcoal helps absorb oil and impurities without over-drying. Then, Black Sugar helps exfoliate away dulling skin cells for softness and clarity. Perfect for all skin types.’

With that in mind I couldn't wait to slap this stuff on and give it a try. The sachet I received from the company to test out stated that it was good for three applications - that might be for normal folk but I have a huge face. The sachet eeked out two applications - this could be because I like masks to have obviously covered my face bit also the fact that this is fiddly to apply.
Freemans Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Face Mask
Freemans Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Face Mask
Freemans Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Face Mask

On opening the first flashback I had was of the old school Blackjack sweets - the sugar in the mask blended with the charcoal and oils leaving this looking like a gloopy and tarry mess.

While sweet smelling I followed all the instructions and even though I continually cursed as I stood on a towel trying to catch the bits falling off my face I finally managed to get it on and then left it for a good ten minutes.

Washing off was a breeze and then all that faffing seemed to become worthwhile. It was like I was looking at different person in the mirror - my face was visibly far more radiant, glowing in fact. To the touch my cheeks felt plump and smooth. The oils had been absorbed and my forehead was as smooth as sheet ice - perfect.

Yes it's a faff to apply but this product is not to be underestimated, it is a little cracker that smoothens the skin, leaves your face feeling and looking great, and best of all, you can pick up a 175ml tube for under $5. The sugar in the mask acts as a fantastic exfoliator and after using there was no need for a moisturiser - there was no drying effect, in part to the oils making this one that I will be using again. 


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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

AB Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem

I remember the 'good old days' when deciding which shampoo and conditioner was a choice between about three products. No, I didn't grow up in Communist Russia, I'm just old, and remain constantly staggered at the explosion of brands and products to choose from. Today I will be giving my thoughts on AB Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem, one of the items that arrived in my recent Selfridges&Co grooming bag of goodies.

Ab Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem

Ab Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem
Ab Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem
Ab Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem
Ab Crew Nitro Conditioner by Deciem

Hands up here, while it made be brightly packaged I can honestly say that the chances of me picking this up while shopping were zero - it wasn't on my radar and normally I condition my hair probably once, twice a month which usually means I just steal whatever conditioner the wife has left closest to hand after I have dived into the shower.

At £17 for a 120 ml tube of the conditioner this isn't cheap in my opinion, but the marketing write up promises good things. This is what they say about it over at the AB Crew website:

If you thought you have tried conditioners that cool the scalp, get ready for a freeze. One use and you'll wake up in an instant. And obviously it's a good conditioner. Instead of a bunch of synthetic chemicals, we mixed up a conditioning Amazonian palm derivative and exotic mushrooms to make the hair super soft as you enjoy aromas of Spanish rosemary and field mint. The girls who find this in your shower will keep coming back for more.

First of all with a name like 'Nitro Conditioner' I had to try it out straight away - and the fragrance instantly reminded me of Tea Tree Original Source Shampoo, it is so fresh and minty! So minty in fact that once it has been rinsed off it actually helps clear my sinuses (which is never a bad thing - being able to breathe normally tends to be a bonus).

After washing all of the gunk applied to my hair out using my current fave shampoo it was time to test this baby out. This has almost a creamy consistency and only a small amount is needed to really cover quite of lot of hair (I'm currently rocking lots of hair and a mighty mullet)

It spreads brilliantly and is absorbed into the hair quickly. For the first few minutes nothing and then BOOM.......the strangest, weirdest sensation ever! My head started to feel really cool and then cold.....

I first started using this in June during the stupidly hot weather and I have to say, just the conditioning experience had me hooked on this - it was so refreshing and the cooling sensation does have the effect of spanking you awake in the shower - bonus!

In terms of how it leaves hair feeling this again gets top marks - my hair looks hydrated and shines. To the touch my bonnet feels silky smooth and my longer hair before applying any styling products has an almost flyaway property to it. 

All in all, while it might cost a bit more than I would usually spend (i.e anything at all) I have to say this has impressed me and possibly saved the conditioners of my other half from being plundered - it is brilliant, has a great effect when using and provides excellent results.


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