Monthly Archives: March 2011

OPI Sparkle-licious nail polish review

Remember in my first nail varnish reviews, how I revealed my disdain for glittery nail polishes? Well, it’s only taken six months or so, but this contempt has been well and truly left in dust – and what better way to celebrate than with one of the sparkliest, shiniest, glitteriest polishes on the block, OPI Sparkle-licious.

OPI are renowned for their fun names yet Sparkle-licious could not be any more accurate unless it involved copious amounts of exclamation marks. It’s a veritable Mardi-Gras on the nails – large showy particles of gold, pink, blue and purple all joining together for a riot right on your fingertips.

One of my previous objections to glitter polishes was that they tend to look like a pre-schooler ran riot in the art cupboard, with pots of glitter just dumped haphazardly on the nails. And Sparkle-licious looks pretty much exactly like that – the mixed-up multi-coloured bags of glitter you’re left with once kindergarten kids have got a bit too enthusiastic with your craft supplies. Although the bottle makes it look like purple might be the predominant colour, once it’s on the nails it seems to burst into a brighter golden glow. So whether you love it or loathe it, this look is a difficult one to ignore!

If only getting this intense sparkle showdown was as easy as letting a child run amok with some PVA glue and a wild imagination. Unlike another recent OPI glitter polish, Teenage Dream, which had a coloured base, the particles in Sparkle-licious are suspended in a clear liquid, so I had to go four coats to get full coverage. I also found Sparkle-licious’ formula to be gloopy and very runny, meaning (in true kindergarten style) that I got glitter absolutely everywhere.

However, it didn’t have the overly gritty feeling of glitter polishes of yore, even if it’s obviously not an entirely smooth surface without a top coat. And, despite the four coats, it generally didn’t feel too thick or heavy either. The downside of this pure glitter hit that required plentiful coats? Brittle nail polish that chipped off in chunks sooner rather than later.

Another memory of glitter polishes that did unfortunately prove correct – they’re hell to remove. Don’t even bother trying a non-acetone remover with Sparkle-licious, as it merely laughs in its face and stays sparkling steadfastly into the night. The best way of putting out the party on your nails is to employ the foil method, which entails wrapping nail polish remover-soaked cotton wool around the nail, then wrapping foil around the whole fingertip and leaving it a few air-starved minutes to do its work. This removes the glitter in a fuss-free fashion but thanks to the acetone – the magic ingredient that does most of the removing but certainly doesn’t go about it quietly – your fingers will probably sting, tingle and remain highly sensitive for a while afterwards (and be prepared for a lot of wincing if you have any cuts!).

Sparkle-licious is an ostentatious glamorous glitterbomb that’s not for the faint-hearted or vanilla-loving amongst us. I also tried it as a top coat over The Show Must Go On  and it didn’t seem too happy to share the spotlight – frankly, I found it a bit too busy and overpowering to work with just one colour as its backing singer (shown below, although I think it looks better in the picture than it did in real life!).

Whether you look at Sparkle-licious and think ‘Too Much!’ or ‘Not Enough!’ rather depends on your feelings about glitter as a whole; honestly, for me, it was just too much for wearing round the house doing nothing more exciting than the washing-up. This baby packs more bling than the brightest Bollywood musical and more glitter than the wardrobe department for a beauty pageant. Be prepared for the term Sparkle-licious to sound like an understatement!

Looks good with: parties, more bling, your inner diva
Drying time: 3-5mins
Coats required: 3-4
Chips: 2 days

OPI Sparkle-icious nail polish, Winter 2010 Burlesque Collection, $132, selected Mannings

Hong Kong Flower Show 2011: It’s all coming up roses (and tulips… and orchids…)

Forget the Botanical Gardens. Forget the overpriced, increasingly tat-filled Chinese New Year Flower Market. Forget the Chelsea Flower Show. Because for technicolour horticultural goodness, the Hong Kong Flower Show 2011 beats them all. (Well, it beats watching Chelsea on television anyhow).

The Hong Kong Flower Show is apparently an annual event held in Victoria Park that my auntie only piped up about this year, my third in HK. Thanks a lot! Oh well, at least she piped up eventually, as this was a sight I’m definitely glad I didn’t miss out on.

I love flowers – I love them even more when I don’t have to put in the hard work of maintaining them – so the Flower Show was absolutely perfect for those who want to feast on the visual delights of plants in all colours, shapes and sizes without getting your green fingers dirty! As someone who quite often misses her garden in the UK, this happily quelled any longings in some serious style!

For just $14 entry, you can wander around the countless show gardens, exhibits, displays and gardening stalls that take over the entire grounds to your heart’s content. It’s also free for the over 60s on weekdays; my auntie wasn’t sure whether she should be happy she saved money or upset that she looked old enough for no-one to check her ID!

This year’s theme was Symphony of Spring Flowers, hence all the floral pianos, harps and music notes you see scattered around – a bit cheesy in places, but generally too beautiful and immaculately-executed for you to care. There were also special displays by some of HK’s botanical societies (the orchid ones are always amazing enough to warrant a gander) whilst there were also some more modern, edgy and striking displays to cut through the cutesiness of the giant instrument-playing animals (oh who am I kidding, they were my favourite part!).

I also loved the numerous stalls selling plants and gardening supplies; if you can get past the crowds who mill around treating these as further photo opportunities, there are some really reasonable deals to be had on stuff that can be more difficult to unearth in HK. I bought a fuchsia for $30 and two violas for $10 each (and would have bought many more if I didn’t have to think about carrying it all home), whilst many orchids were only around $100. Basically, screw you CNY Flower Market, I’ll never be buying your overpriced tat again!

Anyway, enough of my rambling, I think the photos are gorgeous enough to speak for themselves. So fire up your monitor, click for enlargements so huge you can practically smell them and enjoy!

My favourite photo, taken at one of the show displays

How cute are the baby chicks?!

Ocean Park Garden

Love the creativity of these two, designed to look like music staves

Some of the more contemporary displays

Macau Garden

I think these ghostly pianos look like they were made from a skeleton’s bones!

Just can’t resist me some orchids!

Some of the more structural displays – note the number of OAPS enjoying a sit-down in the branch dome!

Mini gardens! Love the hydrangea tree and the cute little chicks and bunnies made from flowers!

After all that, I think we need a rest…

Hong Kong Flower Show 2011, Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, 11-20 March 2011. $14 entry fee, free for over-60s on weekdays ($7 on weekends). See their website for further details.


Flakies FTW – a trip to the vats of Sasa

Back when I first started writing nail varnish reviews, I promised myself that I would never start using the polish jargon so beloved by many beauty blogs. Holographic this, duochrome that… and what’s the difference between a crème and a jelly anyway? After all, it’s nail polish, not quantum physics! I describe it as I see it, and if that means I’m calling something a glitter when it’s a foil or a shimmer when it’s a glass fleck then so be it!

However, one mystery elixir continued to tantalise me – the flakie. Flakies, or as I know them ‘amazing shreds of rainbow awesomeness’, are probably one of the most lusted-after types of polishes in the blogosphere. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate many of polishes that blogs frequently mentioned (Gosh Rainbow, Sally Hansen Hidden Treasure, Andrea Fulerton Gemstone, Nubar 2010) in Hong Kong, whilst although the brand most famous for them (Nfu-Oh) boasts Ebay sellers seemingly exclusively from HK, I’ve so far had more luck finding The Holy Grail than their lacquers in a real-life shop here. I began to doubt that I knew what flakies really looked like – basically, they’re confetti-esque shreds of iridescence, with rainbow reflections similar to the flashes in an opal gemstone; had I been passing by flakies all the while, mistakenly thinking they were mere glitters or shimmers?

But thankfully, my quest for flakies – and as you know, my make-up quests can get a bit obsessive – has a vaguely happy ending! All thanks to Sasatinnie, the own-brand sold by cosmetics behemoth Sasa.

My first post about nail polish already told you the state of Sasa – namely, huge tubs of bottles, piled high and haphazardly with little rhyme or reason (the picture below is from Bonjour but the effect is the same!). Consequently, I took refuge in the calm of Cher2, with its well-ordered selection of premium brands, and have been a bit snobby about the drugstore stuff ever since. Yet my quest for flakies meant I (and my reluctant boyfriend, who received a crash course on what to look for prior to the search) finally dove fist-first into a Sasa vat… and came up trumps!

For just $24 a bottle (or $40 for two), these three flakie polishes come from Sasatinnie’s Super Dolly Fantasy Quick Dry Collection. They weren’t quite what I was looking for, as they all have coloured bases rather than clear ones so I can’t layer them over just any colour to get the full flakie effect, but they’ll definitely do for now. Unlike many of the big brands, they’re probably not ‘3 Free’ (see here for details of what chemical nasties are probably lurking under that awesome flakie finish, especially if the more pungent-than-usual smell is anything to go by) but I was actually surprised with how well these applied – despite seeming pretty thin and watery, they all became opaque in a standard two to three coats and stayed chip-free for a positive aeon.

I’ll be treating each polish to their own review fairly soon but suffice to say, I can’t get enough of these amazing shreds of rainbow awesomeness. So if anyone has any tips for getting my mitts on more flakie fabulousness in Hong Kong, do let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, my lesson has been learnt – no more Sasa snobbiness! And I’ll be the one jumping headlong into the tub of nail varnish on your next visit.

[Incidentally, if you do want to swot up on nail varnish jargon, check out Lacquerized’s fantastic post here].

Life Café restaurant review – the perfect place to veg out

UPDATE: Life Café is now closed.

Having just had another one of my increasingly-frequent 1 AM bacon fry-ups, I feel the need to make it up to my cholesterol-addled arteries. So here’s a write-up on what may be the healthiest place I’ve ever eaten at – Life Café Organic Restaurant & Bar.

Given that one of my childhood nicknames was ‘Red Beef Girl’, you can probably work out that a vegetarian and vegan joint would not be my first port of call. However, one of my friends (Ka Ming, known to me as Bob or Yeh Yeh for reasons too long to detail!) has recently converted, hence how I found myself chowing down on a meat-free meal at Life.  And, far from being the joyless experience I might have imagined, it was actually very lovely indeed.

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OPI The Show Must Go On! nail polish review

I seem to have been on a bit of a roll with OPI lately – my recent-reviewed Not Like The Movies, Miami Beet and most of all, Parlez-Vous OPI, now rank as some of my favourite polishes period. So let’s usher in another OPI instant classic – The Show Must Go On!

I’ve read lots of posts comparing The Show Must Go On to Mac’s Bad Fairy from its Disney-themed Venomous Villains collection, a magical glittering red-orange-pink concoction in everyone’s photos yet, from when I tried it at a Mac counter, a streaky gritty hellish mess to apply. Whilst The Show Must Go On and Bad Fairy are certainly not identical judging from the pictures, by my reckoning, The Show Must Go On is a simply beautiful colour in its own right.

Not that OPI would have you know. Never have I seen bottle pictures more inaccurate. Google Image this baby and you’ll more than likely see a bright but boring fuchsia staring back at you. The bottle photo at the top of this post is slightly more accurate but still doesn’t nearly capture the depth and brightness of colour, nor the brilliance of its foil-like sparkle.

The Show Must Go On is primarily a metallic pink-based red, with a gorgeous shimmer that seems to come bursting from within the polish itself. It has a fantastically clean and bright finish, jumping straight off your fingers to instantly work its way into any nail polish lovers’ heart. But what makes this polish truly incredible are the subtle shifts in colour that flash at you throughout the day. Red, scarlet, coral, pink, copper, orange, gold – practically every colour from the warm end of the spectrum is there, winking at you like you’re sharing a particularly juicy secret. Needless to say, I couldn’t capture it in photographs, though I’ve tried to compensate with quantity over quality for the sake of this review (though I urge you to click and check them out close up)!

I was also quite impressed with the formula, despite a thin first coat that gave me bald patches all over. Somehow, it worked out its problems by the second coat to give me a truly flawless finish, as clean bright and shiny as a child all smartened up for her first day of school. Sadly, it did the trademark OPI thing of chipping slightly by the third day of wear, but I find their polishes self-levelling enough to fix relatively easily.

This is definitely one of my favourite polishes so far. It’s slightly reminiscent of Zoya’s Gloria, except warmer-toned, multi-coloured and with a more low-key approach to glitter (so not that similar at all then!). Whilst The Show Must Go On definitely boasts a certain shimmer, it doesn’t feel like an additional ingredient, more that it was an inseparable part of the polish all along. It’s festive without being singularly so and unusual enough to distinguish it from the stocking-load of other red foils out there.

Like a flickering flame of the most entrancing candle you’ve ever seen – we’d all be moths if flames were this gorgeous! – The Show Must Go On is a must-see. Get your tickets now!

Looks good with: your inner diva
Drying time: 5-7 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: 3 days

OPI The Show Must Go On nail polish, Winter 2010 Burlesque Collection, $168 for pack of four Mini Teasers, selected Mannings

OPI Teenage Dream nail polish review

My rant about the anticlimactic OPI Katy Perry collection over (see here for the colours that should have been), it’s time to deliver a nail polish review proper. Namely, OPI’s Teenage Dream.

Not Like The Movies, a shimmering silver chameleon is definitely the star of the collection (alas, definitely not the star of the album itself!) but from other bloggers’ photos, I thought that Teenage Dream might give it a good run for its money. A dreamy glittering pale pink, it captures the rose-tinted romance from the song itself with oh-so-pretty results.

Too pretty, in fact. The near-translucent peachy pink base of the polish is such a girlie colour to start off with that once you start tipping in sparkly silver micro-glitter, never mind the further dose of twinkle supplied by a scattering of larger round iridescent pieces, that it begins to verge on children’s party territory. Think Hello Kitty, unicorns and the girls clothing department in Mothercare and you’re pretty much there.

In Teenage Dream’s favour though is that, for the many lovers of glitter polishes out there, this is definitely one of the best formulas around. Usually, coloured bases of glitters are so sheer that by the time you’ve layered it to any semblance of opacity, your nail is almost as thick as the Yellow Pages. Not so with Teenage Dream. I was amazed when the pink became perfectly lovely in two – yes, TWO – coats. That’s opaque enough to ensure no Visible Nail Line (i.e. being able to distinguish the white tips of your natural nails), yet not so opaque that the delicate wistful qualities of this unusual pale pink are completely lost.

Secondly, the amount of glitter has been calculated to professor-like levels of precision. It’s easy for glitter to be either so sparse that you once again end up with more layers than a wedding cake or so dense that your nails look more bling-heavy than J.Lo’s jewellery box but Teenage Dream’s clever mix of a wash of peachy silver micro-glitter with the occasional bigger rainbow-reflecting piece floating through makes for a lovely multi-dimensional effect that’s both dazzling yet still reasonably subtle. As subtle as a glitter polish can be, that is.

Like most glitters, it’s anything but a dream to remove, but I expect you all knew that already. And whilst I was impressed by the formula, finish and staying power of Teenage Dream, it’s just not the colour for me (I also have very pale skin, meaning these pale pinks tend to blend in with my fingers!). My eight year-old self, however, would have been all over this like it was the latest princess Barbie. So if you have a pink-loving eight year old crying to get out or simply can’t get enough of glitters, Teenage Dream might just be your year-long Valentine.

Looks good with: sugar, spice and all things nice
Drying time: < 3 mins
Coats required: 2
Chips: +5 days

Read my reviews of the rest of the OPI Katy Perry Collection:
     The One That Got Away
     Not Like The Movies

OPI Teenage Dream nail polish, Spring 2011 Katy Perry Collection, $168 for pack of four minis, selected Mannings

Red Carpet Rundown: 2011 Oscar Parties, Part III

Looks like you made it through the sea of bad taste, the Muppets outbreak and the ocean of yawn through to my final red carpet rundown from the 2011 Oscar Parties. Your reward? A dozen or so more dresses to cast judgement on, of course.

Lea Michele in Roberto Cavalli – There’s something slightly schizophrenic about this dress, like it was designed by a Mormon who raved it up in Studio 54 when his parents weren’t watching. For me, the uber-high neckline and long sleeves just don’t work with a dress that’s had Taylor Swift’s entire wardrobe of sequins flung at it. The pattern looks like it’s desperate to become a Union Jack but hasn’t quite made it, and although there is a slight 70s diva charm to it, my overriding feeling is one of ‘ugh’.

Taylor Swift in Zuhair Murad – Taylor’s here to reclaim her sequins. ‘They’re mine, all MINE! …Even the blue ones!’ ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else wore us… just once’ begged Baby Sequin to Poppa Sequin. Pretty enough but even the sequins are starting to look bored of Taylor’s signature look.

Selena Gomez in Dolce & Gabanna – This is also standard for Selena, namely wearing dresses that are more grown-up than she is. I think this red gown is gorgeous (particularly the double straps) but I think I’d love it even more on someone taller, older and who isn’t dating Justin Bieber. How about giving it to me?

Kate Beckinsale in Julien Macdonald – If this was America’s Next Top Model, Kate would be receiving first call-out for this picture. Girlfriend is working it! Putting away my inner Tyra for a minute, this is a smouldering number that takes the basic shape of Lea Michele’s misfire and remembers to add some sex to the equation. Add Kate, who exudes a sense of stardom strong enough to make you forget she’s never really been in any good movies, and you have a winner.

Anna Kendrick in Marchesa – They say that ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’, so Anna came dressed as one. Specifically, a Valentines gift box. Needless to say, what works for a Thorntons shelf doesn’t necessarily translate to the red carpet.

Emma Stone in Chanel Couture – I don’t think I even need to mention the hair anymore so let’s head straight to the outfit. A top with a print that looks like it was made with 90s Clipart pictures of fireworks, a lace skirt that’s sprouted a ponytail and all in dark colours that seem at odds with Emma’s typically sunny disposition (and sitcom hair). And yet… perhaps I’ve been writing too long, perhaps I’m just willing to forgive the lovely Emma anything (including hair made of straw) but colour me crazy, I think it works.

Zoe Saldana in Prabal Gurung – I never thought pink and red were a great match yet Zoe carries it off with such aplomb that I almost wasn’t reminded of a Hallmark display. However, the ruff?! There’s a reason no one but clowns have worn these since Tudor times. I do applaud the candle holder/ornamental Turkish Delight box as a handbag though. In fact, I’m not sure it’s even supposed to be a handbag… just Zoe trying to extract some sort of use from the pretty frippery you find scattered in aspirational lifestyle stores and find yourself buying even though they have no other ostensible purpose than to sit and look pretty. Much like Jessica Biel. Ornamental Turkish Delight box may even have had more charisma in The A-Team too.

Emma Roberts and Ashley Tisdale in Jenny Packham – I really love Jenny Packham dresses. They don’t involve models wearing gimp masks down the catwalk, they don’t require “directional” (e.g. freaky scary) make-up to look their best and they don’t try and hit so many trends that they look like a fashion editor’s mood board just vomited itself onto an unsuspecting passer-by. They’re unashamedly pretty, feminine, feature liberal use of sparkle and are all the better for it. Emma Roberts’ dress is probably my favourite of all the Oscar party outfits (and indeed, edges out most of the gowns from the main event); I just love the way the sleeves sit and how it seems that a star is exploding from the gown’s middle. Shame it’s on Emma, who excites me about as much as a film starring Jessica Biel, Elizabeth Banks, Kate Bosworth AND Jessica Alba (in case you’re new here, that’s marginally less than staring at a blank screen). I like Ashley Tisdale a whole lot more but like her dress a little bit less – but it’s still a gorgeous shimmering champagne colour and I love that twisted shoulder detail.

Kerry Washington in Escada – Having sported thick heavy bangs (or as it was known then, a fringe) for most of my youth, whenever I see this hairdo, I immediately start having traumatic flashbacks to the pain and months of impaired vision that growing it out entailed. So, I’m not usually a fan (see Sandra Bullock at this year’s Golden Globes). But I actually like the blunt bangs on Kerry and it plays in well with the metallic line details on her glittering diva gown. I’d say it was sassy if I didn’t hate the word.

Paz Vega in Giambattista Valli – This is just lovely, soft and unexpected. It feels a little more suited to a charity lunch or a day at the races but it’s still a stand-out amongst all the sequins and vampy colours. Pretty yet directional thanks to the strong but squishy shape, the romantic ruffly skirt makes me thinks of pillows, clouds, marshmallows and meadows of spring flowers. All good connotations, let me assure you.