Sunday, August 2, 2015

So Spa at Sofitel Downtown

I don't care if every other blog post has begun with how hot it is BECAUSE IT IS REALLY VERY HOT. I’ve grown up in Dubai and thus have spent many summers romancing the Dubai heat (it’s complicated) but this summer has really got me closer to being medium rare.

So if you share these heat woes and don’t want to hide out in a mall, head down for a spot of relaxation to a good ol’ spa. Feel like that’s always a good idea in any situation.

I visited So SPA at Sofitel Dubai Downtown recently for an Oriental massage and first impression - their spa reception is absolutely gorg! Textured stone walls, candles, a mini shop of products lined on one side of the wall and a small couch seating area on the other. 


Not to mention - a lovely statement set of tear-drop lights! (don’t know if that’s a thing but that’s what they looked like to me) I’m very used to warm lighting at spas but as you can see from the picture below, it was quite different here. Overall, quite modern and elegant. 


I was served a green sweet beverage along with a cold towel and asked to fill in the usual spa questionnaire. I was then led to my wonderful massage room which was quite simplistic keeping in theme with the rest of the spa. After I changed into my robe, my therapist offered me a selection of oils to choose from for my massage. I chose one of my favourites - Rosemary - and we began with the massage.


So the main function of an Oriental massage is to relieve pain and tension in the muscles, so there was kneading and treading movements which my therapist really knew her way around. As always, the one time you wish time would go slow, it flies by! At the end of my 60 minutes, I felt absolutely energised yet relaxed. 

After the massage, I was served another sweet beverage and a bowl of mixed nuts to munch on. Overall, a great experience - it’s a lovely spa, not over the top. Honestly though, it’s not your typical indulgent spa IMO where you would spend the day getting pampered but it’s a good luxurious option to get your quick but relaxing massages, facials and so on.


However, I do wish I had planned to spend more time there as they have a jacuzzi, hammam, sauna and access to the hotel's infinity pool with a superb Burj K view… maybe next time as there will definitely be one! 

They have a 2-for-1 offer on spa treatments this month, so dare I say this is perfect timing!

Oriental Massage, AED 475 for 60 minutes, contact 04-5036666

Mona xo

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Current Favorite Face Masks

When it comes to face masks, I love that they serve a lot of purposes - they unclog your pores, clear out your face, help maintain healthy skin and the best part, it's a wonderful relaxing 20 minutes. And once they come off, it almost feels like you just shed skin, like you just got a new face - so clean and fresh!

My kind of masks are the ones with natural ingredients, like the DIY ones. But as I'm rubbish at DIY, I've managed to find the closest alternatives to those. So without further jibber jabber, here are some of my current favorite natural face masks! This list is constantly evolving as are all lists beauty related, amirite?

Balanced Guru - Spiced Up Berries Antioxidant Masque


What: Spiced Berries Antioxidant Masque by Balanced Guru. All their products are organic and 100% natural!

Has: Acai, clove, cinnamon, rosemary, amla, vitamin C and more goodies

How:  It comes in a powder form, so I recommend mixing it with yoghurt for a cooling effect (especially in this heat). You can expect a slight tingling sensation right when you put it on but it goes away after a few minutes.

Post-mask: Reduced redness, brighter skin

Bonus: Smells ah-mazing! Puts you straight into spa mode.

Where: The Farmers Garden, Greenheart Organic Farms and online at Youmah


Pharmaclay - Clayspray Red Clay


What: Clayspray Red Clay by Pharmaclay. It's a face mask in a can! Basically, it's emulsified clay that comes in a can which keeps it incredibly fresh and clean. This range has clay masks for all different skin types and is paraben-free among other wonderful things.

Has: Red Clay, Cacao

How: While I was totally up for spraying myself in the face with clay, that's not how this works. It's surprisingly fuss-free - there is a neat little pump which gives out a sizeable portion of fresh clay which has a mousse-like texture and is wonderfully easy to apply. It dries quite quickly once you have squeezed it out, so make sure to apply it onto your face quickly. It dries out almost as quickly on your face as well but it's recommended you leave it on for 15 minutes before you wash it off.

Warning: the clay does look (and sorta smells) like chocolate mousse so cravings might be activated.

Post-mask: Less sebum/oil, reduced breakouts and super soft skin

Bonus: So travel-friendly, no worries about explosions and all that.

Where: Bloomingdales, Dubai Mall


Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay


What: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. This little guy is no secret despite the title. The Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay is almost a cult favorite by now, I would think! If you looking to spring clean your face, then this is the mask you have been looking for. The back of this box says.. feel your face pulsate. Need I say more?

Has: Bentonite Clay. That's it - so it literally takes dirt to suck out all the dirt out of your pores.

How: This comes in a powder form and for mixing this, make sure to use only plastic/rubber utensils - no metals. I recommend mixing this with apple cider vinegar for best results. Once you have this on and it starts drying, your face will start 'pulsating' and tightening quite a bit but don't worry, it's not an unpleasant sensation. I usually put this on before I take a shower so that I can get my face completely wet before I slowly scrub it off, I've found that it's slightly painful doing it otherwise.

Warning: Don't plan to talk or eat during this time because it's actually not possible (I tried and failed miserably) 

Post-mask: You might experience some redness after but not for long. Apart from that, this will be one of those times that you wash off your mask and you have a new face - SO clean. Smaller pores and fading of acne scars/blemishes is what you can expect.

Bonus: Pocket friendly!

Where: Online at Souq


Herbline Essentials - Apricot and Honey Face Scrub


What: Apricot & Honey Face Scrub by Herbline Essentials. I know what you're thinking - this is a face scrub. But what you don't know is that this product works just as wonderfully as a face mask as well. This one is my go-to mask for when my face needs a pick-me-up.

Has: Apricot, maize, honey, walnut shell and some more things that sound edible

How: It's got a nice paste-like texture and so it's quite easy to apply it onto your face. Once it's, it has a lovely cooling effect. This is most relaxing of the four masks and it helps rejuvenate tired skin.

Post-mask: It's one of those masks where you can see a difference as you soon as you wash off - smooth, radiant skin. It has done wonders with evening out my skin tone as well as reducing my pigmentation.

Bonus: As you already know, it doubles as a scrub!

Where: All pharmacies across UAE and online at Herbline Essentials


Aaaand I'm done. Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below as always!

Mona xo

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nominated for a Liebster Award!

So, I've been nominated for my first ever Liebster Award (squee!). If you're like.. nominated for the who? Then read on!


The Liebster Award is a tag that's passed on by bloggers to bloggers who are up-and-coming. I was nominated by the lovely Arti over at Diva Beauty, so it's safe to say there is at least one more person who has read my blog. (just kidding, thanks Arti!)

While usually I'm the first to rain on a chain letter/post parade, I like the thought behind this one - supporting other bloggers! 

So, here's how it works

Step 1: I answer 11 questions that Arti has posed

Step 2: I, then, come up with 11 questions

Step 3: And I nominate 5-11 bloggers (with less than 1000 followers) to whom I pose these questions

My answers

1. How did you choose your blog name?
    I knew my blog was going to be about a bunch of things and so I wanted a name that was neutral.
    I honestly just stumbled onto the name it is now.

2. If you would have to give one tip to new bloggers, what would it be?
    Don't be scared to put yourself out there.

3. Which eyeliner do you prefer - liquid, gel, cake or pencil and which brands and what style?
    I definitely prefer liquid. I'm loving the Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner at the mo.

4. If in the future, you decide to move, would you sell your blog? If yes, then for how much?
    I wouldn't sell my blog.

5. Which is your favorite clothing store?
    New Look is my current favorite.

6. Your brands of makeup brushes are?
    MAC

7. How often do you clean your makeup brushes and with what?
    Every week or so with baby shampoo!

8. Which do you prefer - tinted moisturizer, BB cream or foundation? Which brand?
    I prefer foundation - I'm liking the Rimmel Stay Matte Foundation right now, great coverage and
    it's holding strong in this heat!

9. One makeup essential you can't live without?
    Eyeliner.

10. What tool do you use for blogging photography - mobile, DSLR? Which brand?
      A mix of mobile and my Canon Powershot (in desperate need of an upgrade)

11. What are the goals of your blog and how has your life changed being a beauty blogger?
      My blog goals are to be as resourceful as possible. Being a blogger has changed my life in
      terms of how I evaluate things - everything takes a lot more time and thought.

And the nominees are.. 

In no particular order:

Sadia at Nomsville
Daniel at The Modern Tourist
Anna at Lipstick Locker
Judy at Food She Blogged
Saloni at Taste Charades
Savannah at Easy as Pie in Dubai
Becky at Etched In Me
Cindy at Liloneoftheashes
Monica at Do In Dubai
Sharon at Pickle My Fancy

Nominees - of course, you are under no obligation to accept this award and carry it forward. Just know that this nomination means that I enjoy reading your blog!

And finally, here are my questions

  1. What is the story behind your blog name?
  2. What is your go-to comfort food?
  3. What's your one tip for other bloggers (seasoned/new)?
  4. What is your dream travel destination?
  5. How much time do you spend blogging in a week? What time of day?
  6. What is your favorite app at the moment?
  7. What platform do you blog on?
  8. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
  9. Books or movies?
  10. What's a life essential for you?
  11. If you had to recommend just one TV show, which one would it be?
And that's it for this post. Thanks again Arti for your nomination and nominees - if you do carry it forward, link me to your posts below so I can check them out!

Mona xo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Music Streaming with Deezer

We've come a long way! From good ol' cassettes to burning playlists on CDs to music on iPods and now, we've really arrived in the digital age with music streaming. (I swear I'm not that old)

Seriously though, I honestly can't remember the last time I downloaded a song! I haven't found the  need to - I usually listen to the radio in the car so I can hear some new tracks and when I'm on my laptop, I stream music on Youtube which is quite the pain but I've powered through. I survived and thrived on Spotify when I was living in NYC but unfortunately, it does not work in this region unless you have a Premium subscription.

BUT just recently, I discovered Deezer and I'm a happy camper once again! Deezer is a music streaming service available (yes, legally available) in the UAE (and other countries)! I've been using the service for about two weeks now and have to say - it's pretty great.


So here's the lowdown - I'm currently on the free plan which means ads and being able to play them on only one platform at a time, both of which are no biggie IMO. They do also have a paid Premium+ version ($9.99/month) which has no ads, unlimited plays across platforms and being able to access your music offline as well. It's available on web, PC/Mac, iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry.

They have some cool features like 'Flow' which suggests music based on your current favorites and 'Mixes' which are genre based playlists. You can also make your little playlists and here's my favorite part - you can choose to have people collaborate on your playlists! Fun right? I was even able to import my Spotify playlists quite easily using this website!


The library is quite impressive - I've been able to find all of the music that I listen to including the Bollywood tracks even. The interface is also quite easy to use which is definitely a bonus. So, I completely recommend giving Deezer a go if you're looking for a music streaming option - it's very similar to Spotify if you've used them before.

Here's a little summer playlist of songs I've had on loop for the last few weeks, you'll get a 30-sec preview if you're a not a Deezer member.



What are some of your favorite tracks right now? Let me know in the comments below! :)

Mona xo

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Staycation: Anantara the Palm

Who doesn't love a little break? I know what you're thinking - I was just in Turkey. BUT I feel like when you travel to a new place, you're constantly on the move trying to cover everything possible, planning everything to the T with a serious FOMO cloud over your head. Is this just me?

This is exactly why a staycation is my number one way to just RELAX followed very closely by a spa day. My most recent need to unwind led me to Anantara The Palm Resort and Spa for a weekend escape. Now, fair warning, this post is going to have way too many adjectives because this place was so god damn wonderful.


I jumpstarted my staycay by switching up my regular ride - I was packed off on a little tuk-tuk to check out the resort and man, just the tour had me straight into my holiday mode (I mean staycation mode). They have a whole bunch of things to do and places to eat which I'll get into in a bit - stay with me.

Once we entered the lane which led to my room, it really felt like I was transported to some part of Thailand (in my head, this is what Thailand looks like).



The cheese on my french fries was this gorgeous room! I had the premier room which had direct access to the simply divine lagoon that I spent so many (MANY) hours floating in. I was there around mid April and the weather just made this experience even more heavenly than it already was.


So after I managed to drag myself out of the lagoon, I went around exploring the resort. If you're the active kind at resorts, they have a gym, tennis courts, a watersports hut and even a kids club. While I didn't try out any of the activities (saying that I was lazing is an understatement), it's safe to say you're sorted if you feeling adventurous. More up my alley was the Anantara Spa but sadly they were closed for renovations at the time. They also have the resort staple - a lovely infinity pool along with a private beach.

And last but not the least, no staycay is complete without some good food - lazing can really bring out your appetite (teehee). I demolished the lovely breakfast at Crescendo but otherwise, sticking to my staycay theme, I thoroughly enjoyed some delish room service.

But if you feel like venturing out of your room and into the wilderness that is the resort, you're spoilt for choice between their Asian restaurant Mekong, Ozzie steakhouse Bushman's Restaurant and Bar (they even serve Kangaroo meat) and their Mediterranean option The Beach House


So if you're looking for your next mini getaway, I cannot recommend Anantara the Palm enough. I know I definitely did not want to leave and I absolutely can't wait to go back there.


This post is giving me serious staycation blues - any recommendations for my next one? Tweet me @MonaGir and leave a comment below :)

Mona xo

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nighttime Skincare Routine

I've been getting quite a few compliments on my skin lately and those are just the best kind of compliments, am I right? Tell anyone their skin looks great and you're in!

I've been painstakingly following a strict skincare routine over the last few months, so it's good to know that it's paying off. My skin was acting up in all sorts of ways and these products have been helping me nurse it back to health.

It's pretty basic stuff, I have kept it short and simple because that's the only way I can make sure I do it every night and not laze out of it. Keep in mind, I have combination skin which is quite prone to acne and pigmentation.

So here goes: presenting my current nighttime skincare routine! 

Step 1 - Cleanser

I start off my trusty Bioderma Sensibio H20 Cleanser. What timing - I just finished my previous bottle a few days ago and this landed up in my Bioderma Glambox this month! 

I like this cleanser a lot - it's good with sensitive skin, does a great job with makeup removal and the big plus is that it's not at all sticky. My only qualm with this product is that sometimes if you're wearing heavy eye makeup, it takes a little longer to get everything off completely but it gets the job done!

Available in all pharmacies across the UAE. AED 35 for 100 ml.
I also found it online here.

Step 2 - Toner

I follow that up with Herbline Essentials Cucumber and Rose Water Skin Tonic. Doesn't the product already just sound so wonderful? I'm in love with quite a few of their products but let's talk about this one for now.

This tonic is so soothing, it's like a mini-spa for your face at the end of the day. It's 100% natural, smells delicious and cools down your skin beautifully. Love, love, love.

Available in all pharmacies across the UAE. AED 105 for 120 ml.
I also found in online here.

Step 3 - Serum



Step 3 is the one and only Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate. I know I'm probably way late to this party but seriously.. what is this magical elixir? I put a few drops of this on my face at night and I wake up with my skin in a good mood. This serum is super hydrating and so thus I usually skip the moisturizing step (if you noticed)

It has solved so many of my problems - pigmentation, scars, dullness - you name it. It's a one stop shop for for anyone looking to repair their skin. I have the 50ml bottle at the mo which will easily last me five months as you really to use only a few drops every night. So if you're a little iffy about the price tag, remember that it's going to last you A WHILE.

Available in Kiehl's stores in Dubai Mall & Mercato, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales. 
AED 321 for 50 ml.

Step 4 - Eye cream



So, until recently, I didn't understand what the big deal was behind using an eye cream. Doesn't your moisturizer cover your under-eye needs or whatever? But as always, you read one too many beauty blogs (story of my life) and there I was buying the Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado.

And of course, it works! The cream is quite thick with a slight green tinge (owing to the avocado) and it takes a while for it to absorb into the skin. So, allot absorption time if you plan to wear this during the day. 

You feel a burst of coolness under your eyes the minute you put it on which is a welcome surprise and overall, the skin under my eyes is now nicely hydrated and also brightened up, thanks to this one. Note that it is recommended for younger age groups as it doesn't have any anti-aging properties. 

Available in Kiehl's stores in Dubai Mall & Mercato, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales. 
AED 150 for 28 ml.


And then I go to sleep! Let me know your night time routine and if there are any other awesome products you recommend.

Mona xo

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pub Quiz Roundup

I'm a BIG BIG (BIG) fan of pub quizzes. What's not to love - it's the perfect marriage of fun + competition + food & drinks, all of which are totally up my alley.

If you're not familiar with the pub quiz concept - JUST GO TO ONE ALREADY! :) Okay alright, this is how it works - your willing friends/family and you head to one of these places on a quiz night, get some food & drinks, answer some trivia, get into some friendly competitive arguments (or more), have fun and if you're good - win some prizes!

I've been to my share of pub quizzes in Dubai and thought I'd share some of my favorites. For the love of quizzes, here we go!

Sundays - The Stables 

This has to be one of the harder quizzes I've been to but nevertheless, entertaining! They give out prizes each round such as dinner or a bottle of wine etc and a final cash prize as well. You also get to keep Winston LeQuiz (the dinosaur mascot) with you if you win any round. If that's not enough for you to try this quiz, I don't know what is.

The Stables, Sheikh Zayed Road
Free entry. 7.30 PM onwards. 

Other quizzes on Sunday night: Girders at JA Ocean View Hotel, 7.30 PM onwards.

Mondays - McGettigans DWTC

Fun quiz - you can win brunch vouchers every week and take part in the finale quiz every month to win an iPad. They have some interesting rounds which they keep switching up - we once had a 'where in the world' round in which we were presented with names of airports and had to guess the country to which it belonged, proved more challenging that you would imagine it to be!

McGettigans, Dubai World Trade Centre
Free entry. 8 PM onwards. 

Other quizzes on Monday night: Carters at Wafi Pyramids or UBK at Movenpick JLT, both 8 PM onwards

Tuesdays - Fibber Magee's

This is my favorite-st quiz of them all - great atmospherem the quiz itself is so much fun and one of the easier ones in town. Apart from the usual rounds such as general knowledge and music, they also have a round where you have to guess movie posters and a craft round where either you are presented with clay or some sort of art supplies and have to make something related to a theme.

Some of our 'interesting' attempts at the craft round - themes were St. Patricks and gifts for Obama
An all around good time and it's ladies night on Tuesday, so ladies get 3 drink coupons for the night! It gets quite busy, so it's a good idea to get there before 7.30 PM to get a table.

Fibber Magee's, Sheikh Zayed Road
Free entry. 8.30 PM onwards.

Other quizzes on Tuesday night: McGettigans JLT, 8 PM onwards

Wednesday - The Underground

Hosted by Danny C and Ross MacDonald from Radio 1, this quiz is a toughie. The time we were there, it was quite sports heavy and we ended up crashing and burning quite a bit. However, it is the quiz for those who like a challenge and some great prizes such as brunch and more up for grabs!

The Underground, Al Habtoor Grand
Free entry. 8 PM onwards.

Other quizzes on Wednesday: Double Decker at Al Murooj Rotana, 8 PM onwards

And that brings me to the end of this roundup. So if you're looking to do something different on a weekday than just go to the movies or the mall, head down to one of these and have some fun. If you are a fellow pub quizzer, let me know if there's any I should try out!

Mona xo

 
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