Monday, 18 February 2019

6 Lightweight Travel Totes that'll do Double Duty as your Gym Bag


I'm always looking for bags that'll do double duty, and in particular modern lightweight totes that can double up as my gym bag when I'm away

I'm not talking about the type of gym tote you leave your trainers in - for ever - and never clean out, but more of a bag that you'll be happy to take pretty much anywhere that you'll simply have to sort after each trip.  Prada gym tote anyone?  That's my lust for the day.











Some of these bags are designer, some not, but all are roomy and light enough to take all your gear and then take on the plane, train or in to town.

I particularly love - other than Prada's metallic nylon tote - Ted Baker's navy and black nylon tote with leather handles which would do perfectly from travel to town and Liphault's City Plume Duffle which along with being as light as a feather has a sewn in strap on the back so you can hook it over your wheelie - I have one and wouldn't go anywhere without it.










Longchamp's Le Pliage Tote is one of the best because you can take it in one of your other totes all folded into its little pocket for when shopping gets the better of you. It'll take you to the gym, out for the day and carry it with you all the time.....just in case.

It's great to have a collection of bags to change as and when the mood takes you, but when you're on the move, travelling, nothing works as well as a double duty lightweight tote.















Sunday, 17 February 2019

How to Make a Perfect Margarita


The Margarita is a popular cocktail everywhere, but anyone who spends a lot of time in Texas will know that it's as popular there as anywhere else, and they probably make the best.....or do they?

There are many versions of the Margarita but to my mind simplest is best - take four ingredients -
2 oz of Tequila such as Patron Silver Tequila,
1 oz fresh lime juice,
1/2 oz sugar or agave syrup and
1/2 oz orange liqueur such as Triple Sec or Cointreau. 
Pour into a shaker over ice and shake until properly chilled then strain into a glass over ice, crushed or otherwise. 
Salt is traditional but optional.  I prefer it without.  If you don't have sugar syrup or agave to hand just add extra Cointreau or Triple Sec.  And please don't go out and buy a Margarita Mix - it is not at all the same as the real thing.

The Margarita cocktail goes way back and there are many trying to insist theirs was the first, however Jose Cuervo (think Tequila), was running ad campaigns for the Margarita in 1945, with the slogan, 'Margarita; it's more than a girl's name.' According to Cuervo the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a bartender in honour of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.
So it may all be a little fuzzy, but whatever the history this is one of the most popular and well known cocktails and it couldn't be easier to make.

If you're interested in iconic cocktails and their background have a read @liquor.com 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Should you Trust Wine Ratings? - Where to find them and what to look for

2018 wines
Wine ratings can be very confusing.  It’s like comparing the Michelin Guide for hotels vs Trip Advisor – one is offering you ‘official’ ratings and reviews and the other, user ratings and reviews. 

The problem now is how much time do you have to spend to cross reference and compare, remembering that the Michelin Guide’s 5* ratings are usually carefully considered against a lot of different factors, and some top ratings on Trip Advisor don’t have anything like the same level of detail, and may be giving a 5 out of 5 rating to a B & B.  The only thing that works is to set your filters carefully on Trip Advisor and then compare.  Then they’re both excellent.

I know, I shifted off topic at high speed, so let’s go back to wine.  Wine ratings can also be extremely confusing.  Firstly you have the most well known Wine Critics, three of whom I have listed below:

Robert Parker – probably the most famous of all although he has now retired.  Robert Parker founded The Wine Advocate, a bi-weekly wine newsletter, and invented the 100 point scale www.robertparker.com

Jancis Robinson – the most famous British wine critic and Master of Wine who writes a weekly column for The Financial Times and whose ratings can be found on the Pro version of Wine Searcher www.jancisrobinson.com

James Suckling – with 30 years experience James Suckling now offers wine masterclasses and you can subscribe to all the information on his website at www.jamessuckling.com

When writing about a well known wine these three, long with Jeff Leve www.thewinecellarinsider.com and www.winemag.com – the online magazine of Wine Enthusiast are incredibly useful if you want to know what the experts think.  If you want to be able to see all the ratings from the experts, not just one of them, use the Pro version of www.winesearcher.com which I find incredibly useful.  You can, of course, subscribe to each individually but this can be very costly.

User Ratings….ok, so on to the Trip Advisor of the wine world, but of course there isn’t just one place to find them.  The best is www.vivino.com which I’ve written about before and this is the one I use the most.

Most importantly go for the ratings where there are hundreds of ratings together, not just a few.  Many Vivino writers rate a lot of wines, and where you find 800 giving a wine 4.2 out of 5 you can be pretty sure it’s a decent wine.  But check on Wine-searcher as well, there’s nothing like cross referencing.

Most wine websites give you reviews, particularly the supermarkets, but again I would double check on the Vivino app for a decent number of user ratings.

It’s hard to keep up, and in the end it’s about what you enjoy drinking, not what the experts tell you to drink, however, when offered a Chateau Latour just go for it.  Some wines are an experience not to be turned down.

Finally – I’m currently testing 3 new wine apps – I’ll be back shortly…… Find me in the meantime on Instagram at Glamoursleuth.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Four of the Best New Accessories for your iPhone 8 and Beyond



I resisted changing from my trusty iPhone 6s to one of the new iPhones for one simple reason, that I wanted to hang on to my headphone jack.  And yes I am a confirmed iPhone addict. 

Having taken the plunge I realise that there are benefits from a much faster phone, wireless charging – love this – a better camera and ways around the lack of a headphone jack. 

Here are my five favourite new iPhone accessories.



Yootech's wireless charging pads are small, lightweight and come in packs of two.  Once you've tried wireless charging, where you simply plonk your phone down on the pad (as long as the USB is plugged in) you won't want to fiddle around with plugging your charger into your phone again.





Again from Yootech this wireless stand charger is excellent when you want to charge your phone and have it sitting on a stand rather than flat.  I have this one sitting on my desk.




This headphone jack/lightening port to new iphone is perfect if you're someone like me who still has Bose wired headphones and all their running headphones need a jack.  You can charge charge your phone and play your music through your headphones at the same time. 

I've tried bluetooth headphones and frankly?  They're another thing to keep charged, and as for the new bluetooth earbuds I simply can't wear them. 



Wireless compatible Tough Armor phone case by Spigen with a kickstand.  This is a brilliant phone case and there's one for most other types of smartphone.  It's very lightweight, comes in lots of colours, is protective all round and the back of your phone and you can use the kickstand to stand your phone up.  What more could you ask for.

When you're choosing your new iPhone case make sure that the one you choose is wireless charging compatible and don't think of getting one that isn't.

I easily set up my new iPhone on the day I got back from the US – it’s so simple with side by side setup (basically you just put one phone next to the other and follow the instructions).  With a new kickstand case and wireless charging, plus the headphone jack lightening adapter I haven't looked back.  This is the best iPhone yet.  For me.

My son asked me why I hadn't invested in the iPhone X - to which there's a very simple answer, I have small hands and use my phone a lot for photographing inanimate objects (usually wine) for my Instagram feed, frequently using one hand.  I didn't want anything larger.

If you're thinking of upgrading from one of the older iPhones size and cost are the main issues.  For me the iPhone 8 is a perfect solution.

Monday, 4 February 2019

10 Essential Cold Weather Accessories Now on Sale


When the only thought is how to keep warm, create an upside to the downside of freezing weather and invest in essentials and accessories that'll keep you warm right now and for many winters to come.

The great thing about these is not only that you 'need' them at this very moment, but they're all (bar one) at discounted prices in the sales.

Fitflop's diamond quilted faux fur booties are the perfect footwear for a chilly day, not only will they keep your feet warm, but they have built in arch contours and non slip soles.  Reduced from £130 to £78.





Hobbs padded jacket has a detachable fur trimmed hood and a snap and zip fastening.  Wear it for walking the dogs or going out to lunch.



Celtic and Co Ombre roll neck jumper.  With a high neck to keep you cosy this is a lovely sweater for every day. Made in 100% Geelong Lambswool.  Now 25% off.



If you're remotely thinking of investing in a sheepskin coat - and trust me there's nothing warmer, then this could be your find of the day.  In 100% sheepskin it's fully reversible and perfect for chilly days or evenings.  Now 20% off.  Yes this is a real investment but it's one that'll last you for year after year.




Sorel Kinetic Boot - this boot will keep you dry and warm, not to mention gripping the ground in any weather and you'll get lots of comments for wearing a snow boot that not only does the job but looks chic.




Ted Baker's Soft Leather faux fur trim gloves are the real deal for going out on the town when it's chilly outside.  S and L available only at this point.  Half price....


I freely admit I've sneaked this wonderful lip treatment in and it's not on sale - it never is.  But Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Lip Treatment is an absolute must when it's really cold and your lips get dry - or at any time of year.  I keep one in my bag and one on my desk at all times.















There's nothing more useful when it's cold than a cashmere stole.  Wrap it round your neck, over your shoulders, snuggle up on a plane or tie elegantly over your coat.  These are the highest quality cashmere from Perilla - who also make wonderful alpaca socks - and come in colours such as black, charcoal, silver, mushroom and chestnut.  These are now reduced by £50.



A pure cashmere beanie will keep your head and ears warm like nothing else.  This one by Brora is reduced from £139 to £79.  Go for it.  There are only two left.



This scarf again by Brora ticks all the cold weather boxes, it's reduced from £129 to £59, it's in a soft wool and mohair blend and best of all it'll keep your neck warm.  Only two left.......

Monday, 28 January 2019

Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 - Responsive, Cushioned and Light as a Feather




A few years ago I walked into Dolce & Gabbana on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris wearing an old style pair of white and blue trainers that I used to walk everywhere in.  Forget mesh, knit, flyknit, metallic - these, I shudder to remember, were heavy, inelegant and  had never heard of chic. 

The woman in the store gave me that 'Pretty Woman' look which had me out of there in seconds.  I'm sure you know the look. If you don't send me an email and I'll explain.  These new Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14 trainers are chic and almost space age looking - and trust me, you could go anywhere in them.  And I will be taking them to Paris with me.....

I've always been a Nike wearer  and wrote recently about my Air Zoom Pegasus 35 trainers which I love for walking and take with me pretty much everywhere I travel.

When I noticed that my Air Zoom Vomero 10's which I have in my gym bag were looking a little weary I decided to invest in the latest model, the Air Zoom Vomero 14.  This trainer clocks in at about £120 which obviously isn't cheap, but when you're talking about comfort in the gym or if out for a run, let alone looking good, you need to make an investment which will support your feet and fill your needs totally.  Having had foot problems a few years ago I know these things.

                                                        

In my case this means plenty (and I mean plenty, of cushioning) arch support, width at the front of the shoe and a trainer that looks good if you're out and about - think athleisure - as well as in the gym.

These trainers are the perfect solution for anyone who wants a cushioned trainer which you can wear anywhere.  I was able to walk a few miles in these the first time I put them on in total comfort.

To me these feel lighter than the Pegasus 35 although they're supposed to weigh the same, they're certainly less bulky despite the look of the built up sole unit.  My only complaint is the lack of the same colour choice of the Pegasus, although that may change, and there are more colours online in the US store than there are in the UK - but you can't really beat black and white, can you?



Wednesday, 23 January 2019

4 of the Best Hand Creams for Freezing Days

Neutrogena's Norwegian Formula Concentrated Hand Cream has to be the absolute best for repairing seriously dry or chapped hands.  And best of all it'll only set you back around £3.  My advice?  Buy two or three tubes, keep one in the car, one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom and you'll never have dry hands again.


Clarins Hand Cream is my go to every day hand cream to make sure that my hands never get to the stage where they need a full on repair.  Make it part of your morning and evening ritual.  It's not sticky, it goes in beautifully and it's unscented which I prefer.  A bit more expensive than the Neutrogena but to me worth every penny and one I am never without. 



Elizabeth Arden is famous for their Eight Hour Daily Moisturiser - the Eight Hour Lip Balm is incredible as well, so if you're looking for a new hand Cream give this Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Hand Treatment.  Again it's not sticky and non scented and will give your hands the necessary protection from the cold weather.

                                               

Burts Bees Hand Cream is another I've tried particularly when over in the US, where it's everywhere.  It's reasonably priced and does what it says on the tin.  Expect to pay between £7 and £9 a tube.  It's well worth giving this one a go if you don't want to shell out for Clarins or Elizabeth Arden, and you don't need the full-on repair of the Neutrogena.

One thing you have to remember about hand creams is that although they will do the job, you have to do yours, and if you have seriously dry hands, or you wash your hands often, you'll need to re-apply more often than if you've been taking care of your hands all through the year and avoided the 'desperately needing repair' stage.

Do you need expensive hand creams?  Not necessarily, but a seriously good hand cream will keep your hands soft and smooth all year round.  So find your favourite and do the work......