Thursday, 23 June 2016

Places to Stay on Nosy Be

Sakatia Lodge Nosy Be
The beach from Sakatia Lodge. Dreeeaaammmyyyyy. 

Yup. It rhymes. Say "be" like "bae" and you're there.

Where on earth is Nosy Be, right?! I had no idea either. It is a beautiful, lush, tropical island, just a 20 minute speedboat from the north-west coast of Madagascar, snuggled in to the side of the main island. It's pretty protected from the cyclones which batter the east coast in rainy season, and has slightly more predictable weather. In June till about September - IT IS GLORIOUS. A healthy 30 degrees today - but a with a sea breeze. Perfection. (For a few general tips on travelling in and around Madagascar, see my previous post here.)

Oh, and the name? In Malagasy, Nosy = island and Be = big. Big island. Simples. Makes sense! 
Snoozy Boa in a tree

Excuse my goofy face. I'm overjoyed!
The sunsets from Nosy Be are unrivalled, the sea is like a warm bath, and there are loads of things to do - from guided walks in lemur-filled rainforest (where we met this Brookesia chameleon above - she's in the genus of the smallest chameleons in the world); to some beautiful diving and snorkelling, you won't be bored. I've sampled three fantastic, won't-break-the-bank hotels - there's something here for everyone.

Sakatia Lodge Nosy Be
The super-cute bungalows at Sakatia Lodge
Sakatia Lodge - ok, ok, so I lied. This isn't technically on Nosy Be. It's on Nosy Sakatia, a little island just off Nosy Be. This hotel is an absolute gem. For about 200,000 Ariary (40 pounds at time of writing) you can stay in a beautiful little bungalow a stone's throw from the ocean. It's beachy, rustic, and the staff are wonderful. No air conditioning here, so bear that in mind if you can't take the heat, but there's plenty of shade and fans! Of an evening, you'll almost definitely have some wild black lemurs eating bananas just outside your bungalow door. If you love pretending to be David Attenborough, you're in heaven here.
The food is nothing short of incredible - particularly if you're a seafood lover - and the evening set menu is just out of this world. There are a few little gargottes on the same beach too, if you fancy a change of scene one evening - the food is equally great there!
This place is also absolute paradise for a diver. Even if you're just an avid snorkeller like me, there's a lovely coral reef 200m from the shore - it's like swimming in a fish tank! If you're lucky, you might end up swimming with some of the grazing sea turtles nearby. Bliss! 

Vanila Hotel and Spa - back on the "mainland" Vanila Hotel is a really chic boutique hotel right on the coast. The manicured tropical gardens and super-cool infinity pool are the perfect setting to relax in. The rooms are massive (and have air-con) and the communal areas are airy and spacious. There's also an on-site spa, again beautifully decorated, with a great choice of massages and treatments available. A slightly more up-market option than beachy Sakatia Lodge. 
Vanila Hotel Nosy Be
A typical Vanila Hotel room. Note gargantuan bed.

The gardens at Vanila
Hotel Arc en Ciel - this is another hidden gem. Down a dusty track, off the main road, if you're not used to Madagascar travel you could be forgiven for having misgivings. These will soon disappear, I promise. This little place is a time warp to a 70's Bond film. Parquet floors, all wooden er'thang (but not in a tired, dated way. You're just expecting some long-haired cat-eyed sex kitten to wander round the corner brandishing a Harvey Wallbanger) and a bar with in-pool seats - helloooooo Madagascar retro luxe.

Arc en Ciel. 70s. In a good way.

The owner is Italian and super lovely - it does help to have a little Italian, French or Malagasy if you're staying here, but everyone will try in English! Again, loads of trips can be easily organised from here.. Though you'll want to spend some time on those comfy coral loungers!

Arc en Ciel Nosy Be
The night-time view from Arc en Ciel. Nae bad.

It is a bit of a hike from the UK, but if you're looking for a little slice of paradise (but maybe not quite so sun-bathing orientated as your classic beach holiday) you'll find it here. 


Friday, 17 June 2016

Orly Color Care Bottom + Top Coat Review

Orly Color Care Bottom + Top Coat

Just a very speedy post today as I'm currently on a tropical island off Madagascar. Life's hard innit. A little note on what may seem like quite a beige product. I know, I know, I’m thrilling you already. Hold on. It’s worth it. Promise.

As a vet, I don’t get to paint my nails very often (sob) so when I do, it’s a real treat! Usually, I only paint them for holidays or long weekends – as otherwise after forty eight hours the full shabang’s got to come off again. Life’s tough, isn't it. Sympathy please.

I am also massively impatient on the whole drying thing, and smudge/chip my nail varnish quickly. Those lucky girls with perfectly manicured paws – I am not one of them. Never will be. I wish I was, but its just not a thing for me (well, unless I use Illamasqua's incredible nail varnishes). Or so I thought, until I actually bothered to use a top coat for the first time in my life.


Orly Color Care Bottom + Top Coat is a great little unsung hero. It is pretty quick drying, and does both jobs – leaving a high-shine top coat finish on your nails. No more stained nails from weird pastel colours (yup, I’ve been there. Pastel yellow. Looked like I smoked 4000 a day for about two weeks) and even the dreaded glitter is easier to remove with a layer of this underneath. It also seems to smooth out the nail's surface to a degree - great if you've got naturally ridgy nails.

 It’s a nifty little top coat too – lovely and shiny if you’re into that sort of thing, and definitely improved nail colour longevity and durability. It’s the kind of product I’ve just always ignored and thought wouldn’t really make any difference (and would force me to sit still for longer while another layer of nail product dried) but it is definitely worth the extra 5 minutes!

You can find this little beauty at Kohls in the U.S., or the above link in the UK. I'm pretty sure I got mine at Boots or Superdrug, but I can't seem to find a link anywhere. I am in sub-saharan Africa currently, so it could just be a sneaky international Boots site hiding it from me.

Do you use a top or bottom coat for your nails each time you paint them? Or can you not be bothered with the faff?

This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Soothe Dry Lips with Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Moisturising Stick

Nuxe Reve de Miel Lip Moisturizing Stick
'Scuse the avocado crushed sheets. I'm in the jungle. #doingmybest

Skin is weird. Why is it that some of us (i.e. me) have got oil galore on the ol’face, but lips as dry as the desert? I’m talking extreme here. Like, cat’s-bum-appearance if I’m not careful (or go crazy on the matte liquid lipsticks. Yowza. Not hot.).

That being said, it does mean I have tried just about every lip balm there is on the market. From horrifically expensive, but effective (By Terry Baume de Rose springs to mind) to cheap and cheerful Vaseline, I’ve given ‘em all a go. As a general rule, I find that non-petroleum jelly based products work a little better for me, and require less re-application.

My all-time favourite before-bed lip balm is Nuxe Rêve de Miel. This lovely little pot contains shea butter, almond oil, honey, and grapefruit essence. it’s ultra-rich, super moisturising, and really does the trick. However, the pot does get a bit gross after a while, and it’s really not a travel friendly option.

Behold: My French pharmacy win.

I picked up a tube of Nuxe's Lip Moisturising Stick in Nice this summer. Rêve de Miel in stick form?! Sold!
Nuxe Reve de Miel Lip Moisturizing Stick

It’s very slightly more affordable than its' potted sister, and infinitely more practical for carrying around. Nuxe’s Lip Moisturising Stick is enriched with loads of oils like the original – including the ever-famed argan oil – and feels very comfortable and moisturising on the lips. Its quite firm – you’re not going to get a huge glob of this deposited on your lips on application, even in really hot, lip balm melty weather. It is not at all sticky, though is does leave a perceptible layer on the lips – it’s not one to leave a matte lipstick alone.

I have to confess, I had completely forgotten about this and found it at the bottom of a bag, being neglected, but it has shot right back up to the top spot.

All said and done – a lovely lip balm, and a really practical option if you’re a long term Rêve de Miel fan!

Has any one tried Bite Beauty's Agave Lip mask? It's next on my list!

Links above are affiliate links.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

E-Bay Bargain Brushes - Are they actually a bargain?

E-bay bargain brushes

We’ve all been there.


 You know. You buy one bargain, and then it just snowballs in to loads of little things that individually don’t cost that much, but before you know it – you’ve ordered five zillion of these bits and bobs, and have a hefty dent in your bank balance. Oops.

One such item which always catches my eye are these unbelievably cheap brush sets you see kicking about on there constantly. Fee from MakeupSavvy is an avid Ebayer and seems to find some absolute gems on the site, and it was through one of her posts that I ended up ordering one of these super-cheap brush sets, partially as a bit of an experiment, and they were perfect for coming out to Madagascar – the Suqqu cheek was not coming on a 6 month holiday to Sub-Saharan Africa!

Anyway. These took about 3 weeks to arrive, which was within the time-scale set at the time of purchase (but is a long time for me to wait for anything – hello impatience). They were packaged very simply, and my first  overwhelming impression of these was a pretty strong chemical smell on unpacking the parcel. Nice.

I gave them a good wash with my usual Dr. Bronner’s Soap, and this banished the chemical smell. The brushes all dried really quickly, too. Often on the ads on Ebay for these, they are described as “hair” of many kinds – let me assure you, these are synthetic brushes!

E-bay bargain brushes

The brush heads are all pretty large – no use for detail work at all, but they are really, really soft. Like, kitten paws soft. I was surprised by how pleasant these are to use. Some of them have quite long bristles, and as such can kick up quite a bit of dust from cheaper powder eyeshadows, but they pick up and deposit a nice amount of product. I find where these perform just as well as more expensive brushes is with liquid or cream formulations – they blend out any cream product beautifully.

I’m glad I bought these brushes, and have got good use out of them, but I’m not sure I would purchase again – partially as I think these have quite a bit of life to go before conking out!

Granted, they are not as beautifully blendy as Wayne Goss’s gorgeous eye brushes, nor are they as soft – but they’re about a millionth of the price. You’re getting good bang for your buck.

Have you bought any E-bay brushes? What did you think?

Some links above are affiliate links.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

MAC Must-Have Blushes

MAC Must Have Blushes - Breath of Plum

MAC is quite the brand. Huge global reach, seemingly constant limited editions, a whole ton of hype for big releases; and some iconic, must-have classics.

 I remember buying my very first MAC lipstick (Kinda Sexy – still hate the name. Still love the colour) and vividly recall feeling extremely proud of my first higher-end makeup purchase. These days my MAC collection is an absolute embarrassment in it’s enormous size, but I’ve still got more than a few favourites which I always reach for first.

The same goes for MAC blushes. On the whole, MAC blushes are blendable, easy to use, and nicely pigmented – there are exceptions in every line, but as a general rule, you can’t go too far wrong. I rarely hit pan on anything, or, for that matter, repurchase anything; but the three lovely blushes I’m about to tell you about have all been re-purchased at least once. For reference, I’m a rather olive-y NC25-30 for most of the year, broadly speaking, and these are all super-flattering. 

Oh, and none of them are limited edition!

MAC Must have Blushes
Top - Springsheen, Left - Breath of Plum, Right - Blushbaby

MAC Blushbaby – possibly the most boring looking blush you will ever see in the pan (bottom right of the picture above). This looks seriously uninspiring, even by MAC’s description of “Beige-Pink”, and even quite brown, in the pan. On a snazzy MAC display stand, it’s easy to overlook. But let me tell you – this bad boy goes with just about anything. If you’re rocking a crazy lip/eye combination and not sure what to do for cheeks (but need a little life there) this is your man. It’s a Sheertone formula, so you can really build it up slowly, and there’s very little risk of overdoing it. It’s extremely user-friendly for those who are new to blush, or a little scared of it!

MAC Springsheen – MAC describes this as a “peach with pearl” which is a pretty accurate description (top of picture above). It’s a pink-coral (though more coral to my eyes) with noticeable shimmer – though not disco-ball, its very “sheeny” and with a bit of buffing is almost a highlighting blush. It’s got a beautiful, soft, blendable formula which is easy to build (again, this is a Sheertone) and on a medium skintone is extremely flattering. I’ve got mega-pores and I don’t find that Springsheen sits in them at all, despite the shimmer. Springsheen is a perfect summer blush.

MAC Breath of Plum – This “light plum” is, again, a Sheertone (you’re noticing a theme here, yes? Thought so. I am nothing if not predictable) but in a matte finish. Breath of Plum is probably one of the most aptly named beauty products out there – with a light application, this really is a breath of colour on the cheeks. A little darker than most blushes I own, but very flattering – particularly with a tan, or on a darker skin tone. This doubles as a really nice wash of colour for the eyes too – if that doesn’t justify your next purchase, I don’t know what will!

Do you have any MAC ride-or-die favourites?

Links above are affiliate links.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed - Champagne Pop

Becca Jaclyn Hill Champagne Pop Shimmering Skin Perfector

Jaclyn Hill can do no wrong. She is beautiful, she is talented – and she is a sassy, smart businesswoman to boot. Since her initial praise of Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Opal back in the day, she has since been catapulted to interweb-fame and ended up collaborating with the company on her own Pressed Perfector. Dreams.

Unless you are clinically dead, you’ve probably seen her most recent release with Becca popping up everywhere. The original Champagne Pop is now available in Pressed and Poured form, and there’s an eyeshadow palette and face palette (with some of Becca’s lovely blushes) to boot! We are patiently waiting for this release at Space NK in the UK – however, you can currently pre-order on their website. Quick UK beauties, QUICK!

The original Shimmering Skin Perfectors in Pressed form are by far my favourite highlight formulations from Becca. As an oily gal, I find the poured and liquid formulas (unless I’m extremely careful) are a bit too glowy for me. Too glowy!? Sacrilege, I know. Such is the struggle.

Champagne Pop is a really beautiful, warm, shimmering light golden-peach. If applied with a fan brush and a light hand, this can be quite subtle, but you can ramp up the highlight as much as you wish using a slightly more dense brush. I think on a very dark skin tone this may come off as very bright-white and be a bit too shiny for day to day – but you do you. On fair to medium skin tones, this is a truly beautiful highlight. If applied very lightly, it just makes you look well – y’know? Great for those lacklustre skin days. If you’re a little more tanned, this is truly beautiful atop a little bronzer.

Becca Jaclyn Hill Champagne Pop Shimmering Skin Perfector

 The powder itself is finely milled, almost creamy to touch, and super pigmented. It is, however, quite lightly pressed, so be aware – these do not tend to travel well! My SPP in Opal disintegrated when it came on a trip to France with me, and I had to have a minute’s silence.

I find that this lasts for a “normal” length of time on top of a liquid foundation base – 7-8 hours before starting to fade, which is about right for me.

This is definitely high-end, but you really do get a fantastic product here. One pan will last you for ages (unless you glow all out, all day er’day) and you look glowy without being glittery. I would hands down recommend this – if you own only one highlight, make it Champagne Pop!

Some links in this post are affiliate links. 


Friday, 3 June 2016

Frugal Fitness vol.2 – New discoveries

Fitness Apps

As I mentioned in my last installment of fitness chat, I really actively dislike the gym. Sweating in a room full of also sweating people just doesn’t do it for me (much to the horror of my personal trainer sister). I think this stems from having an “athletic build” at school, in the age of size zero being the thing. Enter years of self-consciousness re: bubble butt and thunder thighs. Thanks a lot, media.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that I am your lady on the prowl for any and all fitness kit that can help you to get in a really good workout without setting foot in a gym. Here’s the latest few obsessions that even I, in the middle of absolute nowhere in Madagascar, am managing to keep up with.

Emily Skye’s Fitness App – Ooh gosh. I have such an Emily Skye girl crush. How? How is she physically possible? She is incredible.
 Anyway, she’s also stuck her name on this pretty good little fitness app. It includes daily workouts, with instructions and videos if you’re a dunce like me. Some of these need some equipment – calling for kettle bells and the like – but I use cookbooks! There are in-app options to access her fitness programs, but I’m a massive cheapskate so I’m just rollin’ on the free stuff right now.

Madeleine Shaw’s YouTube Yoga – Madeleine Shaw is something of a superwoman. Her yoga videos are nothing short of glorious – they are generally quite short, so if you don’t have the necessary time for a delicious Yoga With Adriene session, this is the next best thing. A lot of her practice is based around Yin Yoga, which is apparently all about the sloooowwww. Not necessarily a cardio thrill, but I tell ya – you’ll sleep well after this. Her Glow Guides App is also available – this is more of a structured program, including meal plans and cardio sessions, but its easy to dip in and out of too.

Just go outside. G’waaaaan. Go. Out your door. Right now. Just have a peek. How’s it looking?

In the words of Billy Connolly  - “ There’s no such thing as bad weather. There’s just the wrong clothes. So get yerself a sexy raincoat and live a little!”

Get yourself sorted out with footwear, and get on the cheapest piece of kit you’ll ever buy – your feet. Going for a walk, a run, or a hike, costs nothing at all, and cost-per-wear of your kit will decrease with every step. I promise. It’s not so bad. And sometimes, you get views like this:

Off road running hiking

Before coming out to Madagascar, I bought a Lifestraw water bottle, which has an inbuilt filter, sophisticated enough to filter out almost all scary things from river/questionable tap water. 

Lifestraw Go Water Bottle Review

This is great, as it means I can fill up my bottle in questionable places when out running and not worry about the consequences later! Be sure to change your filter regularly, but this has been a real lifesaver for me. Clean water is a) hard to come by here and b) stunningly expensive in a plastic bottle. This Lifestraw bottle means I can get myself up hills like that majestic number above without buying water all the time, or worrying about streams!

Are you a gym bunny? Or are you a gym-o-phobe like me?
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