28 Feb 2014

The Culture Feature: Oscars 2014 Special

Every year I try to get as many Oscar nominate films in as I can before the big day. I never manage to see them all. I'm not sure that's humanly possible. I know hundreds/thousands of people around the world have the same pointless goal and to be honest, I'm not too sure why we do it. It's not like we're Academy judges. It's not like I'm even going to have the Oscar conversation with more than three people max. Still.

For once I figured I'd combine this time-consuming quest with a little blog post and release a Culture Feature Special: Oscars 2014. So here goes.

American Hustle
I'll just say it: boring. My original Twitter review was actually "meh." I just didn't get into it, and I'm frankly quite surprised so much of the Academy is. While the con story is interesting, I found it much too long and very complicated. I'm still not entirely sure what happened. Even JLaw didn't get me back into it, and that's saying a lot.

12 Years A Slave
Wondering why there are so many five stars ratings on this poster? Because this movie is absolutely terrific. There are few movies that can get to you the way this did, while teaching you, showing you beauty and pain and the human nature, all that with incredible cinematography and beautiful movies. This film deserves all the Oscars, no jokes. Ejiofor and Nyong'o especially were remarkable and should really be recognised for their performances. Masterpiece.

August: Osage County
I wasn't too sure what this would be like, and didn't expect this much drama from watching the trailer. But then, drama is what family is all about, isn't it? Drama and broken love stories. August: Osage County is the story of exactly that, told in a honest, sometimes brutal but strangely warm manner. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to people looking for a beautiful film that'll make them think a little. Cast wise, I was surprised to see how well these completely different actors fit together. A word has to be said about Meryl Streep, obviously, but what hasn't been said about Meryl Streep... Once again, she blew my mind and managed to become someone completely new. What a lady.

Who knew Sandra Bullock could act, is what this film probably caused many people to wonder. (I'm awful, I know, but really!) Gravity is worth the hype in my opinion: a film with a really original story, technically outstanding, carried by two actors who did a fantastic job considering how little they could interact with, and visually kinda magical. I feel like Gravity really took me to space (and I didn't even see it on 3D! Can't imagine.) Also I never want to go to space.

Such great actors in this year's Oscars! Phoenix is alone on screen 75% of the time, but somehow manages to create this story, this world, this love just by his presence. I hope his performance isn't forgotten because of the ScarJo 'is a voice-over really acting?' crisis. The real star is Phoenix, whose face can convey emotions like no other. Plus, what a truly original and quirky story, one which I'm sure will be real before long.

Dallas Buyers Club
The one true outstanding thing about this movie is its cast. A good movie can't exist without a good cast, but I think brilliant casting really makes a difference; and it did here. Incredible performance from Matthew McConaughey (whom I just googled thinking 'I've never seen this guy before' — but he actually just went through an unbelievable transformation for this film). Jared Leto is unbelievable as trans Rayon, and I really liked Jennifer Gardner's role who I thought felt a lot like a representation of the audience. AIDS is a tough topic to talk about and do it "right", and I think this film did it. It's informative, intense, entertaining and doesn't get out of your head. Watch it!

And if I was the Academy...

Best picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best actor in a leading role: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best actress in a leading role: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Best actor in a supporting role: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best actress in a supporting role: Lupita N'yongo (12 Years a Slave)
Best original screenplay: Her

Catch you Sunday night to check if the actual Academy agreed... x

21 Feb 2014

Beauty Corner #2 | My favourite skincare and haircare products

I discovered in Gem's column in the Paris issue of Company magazine that Brits don't really do body hydration. I'll be honest: I was kinda shocked. Growing up, my brother and I always had a tub of body moisturiser in our room (yes, even when we were young enough to share a room.) It might just be a family thing, but I doubt it; this being said, my mum was nice enough to pass on to me her crocodile skin. Yay for extra dry hair and itchy legs!

So moisturising was always a thing, but to be honest, this is as far as I went skincare wise for a long time (and don't get me started on hair: I used to bleach my hair and NOT use conditioner. Can't believe I didn't go bald.) Fortunately, I grew up, got into beauty and can now properly take care of myself. To the point it's a slight obsession (no one let me into Lush or Aesop.)

So here are my favourite skincare and haircare products! As I mentioned above, I have very dehydrated skin, and even dryer hair since it is curly and coloured. If you're like me, I'd say go for anything that says 'shea butter' or 'almond' — but if you need a little more guidance, read on!

Le Petit Marseillais nourishing balm for extra dry skin
This is the best stuff ever. It is the creamiest, dreamiest, most nourishing body butter I have ever used. One application of this stuff will make the driest legs go super smooth, and it smells de-li-cious. I really love Le Petit Marseillais and especially their shea butter nourishing range. This one's also got sweet almond and argan oil in.

Le Petit Marseillais nourishing hair mask
I said above I used to bleach my hair and not used conditioner... Don't focus on that, focus on this hair mask: it saved my hair! I use it once or twice a week and it really makes a difference. My curls are much bouncier and my hair really healthier when I use it. Plus, it smells divine (shea butter again, with honey) and leaves my hair super soft.

Lush Oatifix fresh face mask
Lush masks aren't the sexiest thing (not that any face masks really are). Covering your face in oatmeal is a bit special, and it does take some getting used to to apply it without getting it all over the place. But it does a great job. I can feel it work when it's on, especially on the driest areas of my face, and it leaves my skin really hydrated and smelling like yummy oatmeal.

Lush Let the Good Times Roll cleanser
This is a very exfoliating cleanser. If you have super sensitive skin, try and resist its delicious smell and do not use it every day. Once or twice a week is enough to get rid of dry skin and make your face brighter. Did I say it smells perfect? It smells perfect.

Neutrogena concentrated hand cream
I started using this when I worked at Starbucks last year. Washing up all winter really damaged my hands, my knuckles were bleeding all the time. I got this and in a few days they got back to their normal happy state. This cream is magical, the tiniest amount will go a long way and can be felt for several hours. It's also great to massage in cuticles.

René Furterer curl enhancer leave-in fluid
My hair stylist recommended this to me four of five years ago and I have never looked back! After washing my hair, I comb it then scrunch it with a towel before applying 2-3 pumps of this fluid on each side of my hair. I simply rub it between my hands then scrunch my hair. It really defines my curls and makes my hair glossier and less frizzy. I've started alternating it with Bumble & Bumble Curl Conscious Creme but... René Furterer's just better.

& Other Stories hand lotion in Couture Carnival
This is my bedside table hand cream (we all have one, don't we?) Mostly because it looks great, but also because it's quite light I love falling asleep to its fruity fragrance. I bought this for the first time a few weeks into dating the man and without fail when I apply it, he goes 'mmmh strawberries!' I call this a winner.

I'm sure I'll have more on the list soon. I'm still looking for a good budget-friendly and silicone-free shampoo & conditioner combo for coloured hair and the perfect face moisturiser... Suggestions welcome! x

13 Feb 2014

La Pâtisserie des Rêves comes to London

Remember when I told you about La Pâtisserie des Rêves, almost exactly a year ago? Well here I am again, but this time I come with exciting news for my Londoner readers: the little dream cakes have crossed the Channel! The shop opened a couple weeks ago on Marylebone High Street, so I headed there on its second day to get my hands on some tasty things... 

It was my first time on Marylebone High Street and, oh my, I recommend you all go because it is truly the closest you'll come to being in Paris on this side of the Channel! It was quite incredible, so many shops were French ones, there was even a French pharmacie and a very Marais vibe to it.

The shop was exactly like the Parisian ones, which I loved. It is such an important part of the experience! Buying a cake is so much more intense when it's staring at you from the inside of a glass bubble.

I had been lucky to win a free small cake in a competition organised on the Pâtisserie's Twitter account but bought three other small ones to give the man a taster of real, fabulous, dreamy French pâtisserie. Needless to say, he was impressed.

From bottom left, clockwise: Lemon Tart, Paris-Brest, Saint-Honoré and Grand Cru Vanille.
They were obviously all incredible, but I ended up being particularly impressed by the Grand Cru Vanille (which I had initially completely left out of my selection but the salesperson highly recommended it) which was incredibly flavoursome. I had never tasted such strong vanilla in a cake, but not in an overpowering way, it was just a brilliant ode to vanilla. My other favourite was the Saint-Honoré. I have to admit it's not the easiest cake to eat (especially when you have to cut it in half first) but it was incredible, such a delicious mix of textures and the choux were to die for.

In the spirit of Valentine's Day being tomorrow, I am posting this tonight for all significant others of a sugar-loving foodie: you'll win their hearts (yet again) with these cakes. Promise!

3 Feb 2014

SC#36 | Layered lemon and chocolate fudge cake

Mmmh, just typing up the title makes my mouth water. "Chocolate fudge" — there aren't many lovelier words than that. And look at this:

It was my friend Gamel's birthday the weekend before last, so I made him a cake. We used to work together, and Gamel's thing was stealing food. You would not be able to leave food unattended without it disappearing. I once brought in biscotti to prove the office I could actually bake (these were early days.) He devoured them all in about ten minutes. Long story short: he likes food.

This was also a sort of personal challenge. I've been on a massive cooking kick recently (more posts to come!) and wanted to get out of what I know. And I'd never made an iced layered cake before! So here goes.

I pretty much used this recipe from Love and Olive Oil, only cutting the icing by about half as (a) I only made two layers and (b) I had next to no butter and icing sugar left. Oopsie! I'd recommend keeping with the original proportions if you like a thick filling and icing, but half does nicely for thinner layers.

The cake was super moist and really nicely flavoured, and the icing was just the right amount of chocolate. I've always been big on chocolate + lemon (one of my favourite chocolate bar flavours) but Britain is used to orange being chocolate's citrus pairing. Well, friends, lemon is the way forward.

I unfortunately have no photos of the inside or my friends enjoying it, but the man did say it's the second best thing I've ever made (should I share no.1 soon...?), even topping my ultimate favourite cake recipe. That's one for the books... x