Last-minute gift ideas for some of the people in your life

The Body Shop Holiday 2014

The Body Shop Holiday 2014

I realise I really don't need to tell you how to shop or even what to buy, but just think of this as the 'Cover Your Bum' list for the time poor in need of a few ideas for Christmas shopping.

The Summer Beach Bag - ($39.95 AUS / $9.00 USD similar) - chock full of Summery/Coconut/Mango goodness. Did I mention the bag is plastered with the iconic Brighton Beach boxes? Heck, I might grab this when I get back from Hawaii to let the holiday times roll on.

Modern Gent's Shaving Kit ($49.95 AUS / $24.00 USD) - I have a thing for buying Scott shaving product, especially stuff that'll leave his face feeling softer than usual. Bonus points if the scent plays well with his cologne.

Keepin' it clean - Vanessa Megan's Lemon & Eucalyptus Foaming Hand Wash

Keepin' it clean - Vanessa Megan's Lemon & Eucalyptus Foaming Hand Wash

Vanessa Megan's Lemon & Eucalyptus Foaming Hand Wash* ($54.95 AUS) - Tis expensive, however if or when this bottle starts riding side saddle to your dish detergent, I can guarantee a line forming at the kitchen sink for the ultimate hand washing experience.

Aesop's Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash ($40.00 AUS / $39.00 USD) - Another good one for recreating the spa experience.

Other Body Stuffs

Other Body Stuffs

The Body Shop's Body Sorbet* in Strawberry or Mango or Moringa or Satsuma or Pink Grapefruit ($19.95 AUS / $14.00 USD) -  The scents are amazing, but don't count on this formula to bring the moisture at the height of Winter. Stow this bottle away for hot Summer days or warm getaways.

Anara Spa's Coco Mango Body Lotion ($20.00 USD for 8 fl oz. / $54.00 USD for 34 fl oz.)  - If you can't make it to Hawaii, bring Hawaii to her.

Holiday Candles

Holiday Candles

Byredo Parfum's Cotton Poplin Candle ($90.00 AUS / $80.00 USD) - Give me a warm summer breeze over Caramel Nutcracker Hot Toddy any day of the year. I recently splurged on the smaller sized candle (retails for $44.00 AUS), because the shocking price tag of the larger version made my eyes bulge in the most unflattering way. I think I had to scoop my eyes off of the floor before leaving the shop.

Bath & Body Works Wallflowers ($4.95 for the cheap and cheerful plug-in unit and 6 for $24.00 for the oil filled pods) - Fire not required. I picked these up last month in a fit of excitement, but soon remembered the electrickery would not work here in Australia without a converter. Back they went.

Finally, here are a couple of tips from a former retail girl who busted her butt during the height of the holiday shopping season:

  • Asking for my favourite colour won't help your situation when you're told her favourite colour is sold out.
  • The stack of sweaters those old ladies are riffling through might not be the thing to keep her warm.
  • Britney Spears and my Nana like velour. Enough said.
  • If I see your face on the 24th, run like the Dickens to your nearest Tiffany or liquor store to grab a bottle of Veuve, Moet or Ballatore (if you're budget-conscious).
  • In January forgo saving up for presents and agree to put that money toward an amazing holiday instead. I'd gladly exchange all of the things for memories with my loved ones.

*PR sample provided  –  Thoughts and ramblings written here are completely my own.

Did I just shave with Coca-Cola?

Being married to a makeup and beauty expert is an interesting experience.  I often joke with Nicole that by learning as much as I have about her world, her interests, the makeup and beauty products that she likes, I've indubitably forgot certain key bits of information from my own life.  Were it not for 1Password, I'm pretty sure I'd have learned 50 Shades of Lipstick and forgot how to check my email.

On the plus side, I've also been exposed to products which have enriched my own life...

Case in point, sure, I might have inhaled deeply whilst walking by Aesop, as their shops really do smell good, but, were it not for Nicole, I doubt I ever would have ventured past the threshold.

Rewind a couple of weeks back and Nicole and I were spending the weekend in Sydney to celebrate my birthday. During one of our shopping-wanders, we went to the Strand Arcade and stumbled across the Aesop presence tucked away within.  Their shop layout is quite nice, which is part of what caught Nicole's eye, but she's always enjoyed their products as well.

As she wandered around the store, I noticed they had a few things sitting out by a basin; one of which claimed to be a "shaving serum" -- I must admit, I have no idea what a serum is in this context.  I see the word a lot when Nicole goes wandering through makeup counters, but, I honestly didn't know what it would be when applied to shaving.

I picked up the small container, pushed the pump, and a thickish gel-like substance was produced.  Huh.  It smelled fantastic, and definitely had the right consistency to imply a great shave.  

As part of the Birthday Extravaganza Weekend, Nicole bought me the "kit" which Aesop sold - which is officially known as the Moroccan Neroli Shaving Duet.  

The box, contents, and the little cloth bag it all came in.

The box, contents, and the little cloth bag it all came in.

The serum is the container in the middle.  It's not a vast quantity (60ml), but, you don't need a huge amount (more on that in a bit).  To the right you can also see the "post-shave lotion" which is included in the duet kit.

Okay, so, I have to admit, I have no idea what neroli oil is.  I'd never heard of the stuff until I actually read the label.  Which I did about 10 minutes ago as I was preparing to write this story for Bagful of Notions.  I've used the Aesop shaving serum several times already, but, it was only just now that I had any idea what it was called.

Which allows me to digress:  I can't (and shouldn't) speak on behalf of all men, but, I get the feeling that most men may not care what this (or most) products like this are called.  If I wanted to get some more of this serum in the future, here's exactly how the conversation would go:

Aesop Staffer:  Hello!  Can I help you with anything today, sir?
Me:  Yes please.  I'm looking for some more of your shaving gel stuff.
Aesop Staffer:  You mean our Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum?
Me:  No idea.  Small bottle, gel, smells nice.  Good for shaving.  (Said in voice of Ron Swanson)
Aesop Staffer: <stiffling a sigh at the Typical Male response> Yes, that would be our blah blah blah blah blah.
Me: Here's my money.  Good bye.

I feel bad for the patient staff having to deal with what I perceive to be a typical response as I'd give.  But, really, I don't care what it's called - the lovely staff assistant in Sydney no doubt told me the glorious history of this miracle shaving serum and I have already forgot it.  Nicole probably paid close attention to every word and could tell you how this stuff once stopped a war and was personally used by Marcus Antonius...

Anyway, let's get back to the review.  Here's a close-up of the serum:

Serum, with the cap removed.

Serum, with the cap removed.

So, where was I? Oh, yes, Neroli.  I had to go and look this word up on the Internets.  I'm told by Wikipedia, which is the single greatest source of truth and lies (simultaneously) online, that this stuff is, allegedly, one of the secret ingredients in Coca-Cola.  I'm not making this up.  Wikipedia might be, but I'm not.

Since Neroli is made from the blossom of a bitter orange tree, it makes sense that the aroma has a slightly citrusy slant to it.  I wouldn't call it sweet, but, you get a wisp of citrus on the nose; a bit like someone opened an orange on the train a carriage away from you, and as the connecting doors briefly opened, you caught a hint.

To me, though, the stronger scent is one of dried wood.  Like taking an exotic hardwood branch, setting it in the Australian summer heat for a few weeks, then bringing it inside.  It's not overpowering, it's not as it would smell in the forest, but it's also unmistakable.

All a fancy way of saying:  It smells good.  Masculine, but not ostentatious.  

Okay, enough on that side of it, how does it work?

First thing I have to tell you is to Learn From My Fail and don't use it this way:

Do not take two small pumps of the serum and place it on your hands, lightly coating your face, and waiting about 20 seconds before trying to shave.

That is the wrong way to do it.  The instructions are clear about this as well.

So, why did I do it that way the first time?  Largely because the only other shaving oil/gel that I've used actually recommended that approach.  A few drops, spread it over your face, wait a bit, then shave.  The important lesson here, kids, is that serum != oil.

Instead, what you're meant to do is make the face damp (I prefer hot water, and the instructions are vague on this point), then use the serum to create a "low foam" - again, the instructions are vague as to how much to use, but, I found through trial and error that four pumps was the right amount for me.  Aesop's website offers different instructions than the serum bottle itself, implying it's best to lather it in your hands, or, a shaving bowl with a brush (I might try this)...point is, whatever you do, don't let the serum dry on your face before you try to shave with it.

I use an electric razor, one that can be either wet or dry, which may also impact the use of the serum.  Aesop recommends that you only shave with the grain, and, rinse the blade after each stroke.  That's not terribly practical with an electric razor, so I used my own technique.  This serum needs moisture to keep its lubrication working right, so, I did make an effort to regularly rinse the razor head under the hot water tap.  

After using the serum four or five times now, I'd say that I've got the right combination of quantity of product, water and shaving technique nailed down.  The first few attempts were not brilliant, and I did manage to irritate my face slightly.

Thankfully, the "duet" comes with the post-shave lotion, which worked great at cooling things down.  It's not greasy, and a little does go a long way, so you don't need much of it to cover your entire freshly-shaven face.

Post shave lotion.

Post shave lotion.

One other point:  I tend to shave before I shower.  I've read that this is not the preferred order of operations for certain shaving products, but, this is a routine I've had for decades and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Since I tend to use a wet-ish shave somewhat regularly, I appreciate the shower as the opportunity to get rid of anything left over on my face/neck.

To that end, the post-shave lotion ends up having to wait till I'm done in the shower to hit my face; I have put a tiny dab on right after shaving to see how it felt (recommended), but the last couple of times I waited until all was said and done.

So, wrapping it all up - I really like the Aesop shaving serum.  I don't know what about it is Moroccan, and I really won't be dwelling on the Coca-Cola secret ingredient, but I will say it works great (when used as directed) and makes for a superb shave that is Wife Approved.  

Can't get better than that!

The non-gift guide

Treat Yo Self.jpg

With Christmas practically upon us, the interwebs have been aflutter with loads of gift giving ideas -- but what about you? What if you're out of ideas on what it is really want? Or, better yet, do you even want for anything?

Out of frustration from all the pressing, you blurt out gift cards. Come December 26th and the months to follow, it'll be time to Treat Yo Self.

Here are a few ideas on how to spend those gift cards you "asked" for..

  1. Aesop's Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash - unadulterated citrus-y goodness for your hands; I find any excuse to wash my hands with this stuff.

  2. Bauble Bar's Dual Cone Cuff - punk chic.

  3. Lululemon's Run: Inspire II Crop - the most comfortable pants you can't see your roos through and they stay put while you workout.

  4. Asics' Gel Phoenix 5 - New sneaks for the gym and perhaps your New Year's resolution?

  5. Essie's On a Silver Platter - Van Gogh in a bottle.

  6. Daiquiri Leather Barrel Bag in Black from Bagaholics - a classic leather bag at an affordable price.

  7. Halogen's Cat Sweater - Meow. It also comes in pink.