August 31, 2011

New York: A honeymooner's guide

The Big Apple is a city of contradictions. From the affluent Upper East Side to the bohemian beat of Greenwich Village to the perennial hipness of TriBeCa, this multi-faceted city-that-never-sleeps offers couples the chance to sample some of the world’s most exciting cuisine, culture and art scenes.

From the opulence of Fifth Avenue to the grittier underbelly of Hell’s Kitchen, you'd be hard pressed not to find something to pique your interest in New York, no matter what your pleasure. We look at the top five must-do activities for newlyweds in NYC.

Savoy Restaurant

For authentic farm-to-table fare right in the middle of the bustling metropolis, book a table at the charmingly rustic Savoy Restaurant.

Housed in a 1830s Federal-style townhouse, Savoy, with its front windows opening onto a cobblestoned intersection, exposed wooden beams and two roaring fireplaces, make it a welcomed burrow for couples, particularly during the city’s colder months.

This SoHo eatery has been faithfully patronaged by gastronomes seeking fresh yet original dishes for over two decades, with chef and owner Peter Hoffman’s focus being on high quality ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors.

Savoy offers daring variations on meat, poultry and fish classics, including standouts like salt-crusted baked duck, sautéed organic veal and roasted halibut in clam broth.

Staten Island Ferry

There’s no better way to take in the city’s soaring vista than via the Staten Island Ferry.

The ferry departs from the southernmost tip of Manhattan near Battery Park, and as it makes its way to Staten Island offers sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and landmarks like Ellis Island, the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

The ferry is so iconic that it is constantly referenced in films and TV shows, both past and present, including I Love Lucy, Sex and the City and Working Girl and was even the subject of a 2003 documentary called Ferry Tales, which follows the conversations of women in the powder room during the morning commute from Staten Island to Manhattan.

Better yet, the 25-minute journey is free of charge.

The Metropolitan Opera

There is something very “old-world glamour” about an evening at the opera; ladies resplendent in their pearls and long satin gloves, gentlemen dashingly decked out in tuxes.

And nowhere is opera more revered than at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

The Met, which plays host to some 220 opera performances annually, has seen the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Enrico Caruso and Placido Domingo, and divas Renata Tibaldi and Beverly Sills, grace the stage.

While offstage, conductors James Levine and Andre Previn enjoy celebrity status, and directors like Franco Zefferelli and Julie Taymor have been met with thunderous applause for their richly conceived operatic interpretations.

But even if you attend the opera sans these stars, an evening at the Met is always an enchanting affair.

Chelsea Wine Vault

Fancy a free tipple? The Chelsea Wine Vault in the Meat Packing District uncork their finest vino every weekend from 1-5pm for complimentary tastings.

The cavernous, brick-walled wine shop is home to over 3,000 local and international wines, which is an impressive collection for a store that was an afterthought for its owners.

Frustrated by lack of storage for his personal wine collection, Don Kurt teamed up with Dan and Sara Barteluce to launch Chelsea Wine and Storage in 1997, which offers rented storage for space-challenged wine collectors. This then led to a ground-level retail area – à la Vault.

Kurt’s personal stock still lurks below the shop, as does wine lists of nearby eateries, and is definitely not for sale, but there are plenty of labels available to satisfy the most passionate oenophile.

Hotel Giraffe

The perhaps somewhat oddly named Hotel Giraffe is nevertheless a sophisticated yet cosy den for newlyweds seeking refuge from the clamour of the city.

Located in the heart of NYC’s historic district, Union Square Park, Madison Square and Gramercy Park are only a brisk walk away.

The hotel’s 73 guestrooms and 21 suites are inspired by the rich lavish colors and textures of the Modern Period and maintain the sophisticated luxury of the 1920s and 30s, with high ceilings, velveteen upholstered chairs, sepia photographs, Juliet balconies and French windows.

At night candles softly light the hotel’s lobby and spotlight the baby grand piano, while cafe tables and clusters of plush sofas create a quiet area for a private tête-à-tête.

Kate Moss & Jamie Hince wedding: A documentary

Kate Moss' July wedding to Jamie Hince has been immortalised in this mini documentary, featuring some of the fashion world's most notable players including Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and Naomi Campbell.

August 21, 2011

Wedding gown inspiration: Kate Hudson

She played the ultimate bridezilla in the 2009 rom-com Bride Wars and is set to walk down the aisle very soon with Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy, but Kate Hudson has been channelling the bridal look for years.

We look back at some of her more bride-worthy red carpet looks.

August 17, 2011

Calling all Twi-Hard brides: You can have your very own Bella Swan wedding gown

If you're female, and well... have a pulse, chances are you're a Twi-Hard (that would be a "hardcore Twilight fan" for the uninitiated).

For Twi-Hards planning on walking down the aisle with their own "Edward Cullen", you'll be rejoicing over news US bridal designer Alfred Angelo has secured the role of exclusive licensed manufacturer of Bella Swan's (Kristen Stewart) bridal gown.

The label plans to market the replica dress under their Twilight Bridal line and have it ready in stores by late November – following the premiere of Breaking Dawn, the fourth instalment of The Twilight Saga which will see Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson) marry.

Author Stephanie Meyer describes the dress as:

"It’s a simpler style than the frillier Edwardian stuff.

"Elegant white satin, cut on the bias, with long sleeves."

August 11, 2011

Want Miranda Kerr's glowing skin? Here's how...

Every bride wants to glow on her wedding day. Our beauty blogger Laura Curtis shares her tips and tricks for achieving a flawless, luminous complexion.

1. It's all in the preparation! Try sticking to a skincare regime for the six weeks leading up to the wedding. A gentle, hydrating cleanser (Eve Lom Morning Cleanser), treatment serum (Perricone Cold Plasma is a great all-rounder, formulated by a dermatologist) and nourishing, non-greasy moisturiser (Darphin Hydraskin Light) should do the trick. Also remember to use an exfoliant at least once a week (MD Formulations Face and Body Scrub) to keep your skin smooth and radiant, and apply a generous layer sunscreen every morning (Becca Mineral Primer SPF30+) to protect your skin from uneven pigmentation.

2. If you have problem skin or you would like to see a drastic change in its condition, visit a beauty salon for treatments before your wedding day. Three to four weeks in advance is ideal; too close to the day and you may risk having an adverse reaction. Microdermabrasion, glycolic peels and omnilux treatments are all incredibly effective and will help your skin to look its best.

3. Choose your base well. If you have good skin, a tinted moisturiser will look natural and give you a soft, healthy glow. If you'd like more coverage, take your skin type into consideration. Dryer skins will do best with a creamy, hydrating base with a dewy finish; while oilier skins should choose a satin or matte finish, oil-free foundation. My tip for combination skin types? Invest in two foundations: a matte finish for the T-zone and a dewy finish for the cheeks and periphery.

4. Supplement your make-up kit with a few glow-inducing staples:
  • Liquid illuminator: Wear this underneath your make-up for a glow-from-within, or mix with your foundation to give it a sheer, luminous finish. My favourite is Mecca Cosmetica Lit From Within.

  • Blush with a subtle shimmer: I can't go past Nars Blush in Orgasm for a beautiful peachy-pink, fresh flush. Apply on the apples of the cheeks as you smile.

  • Highlighting powder: Dust this where the light naturally hits your face – on the temples, brow bone, forehead, through the bridge of the nose, the cupid's bow and your decolletage. I love Dior Shimmer Powder in Amber Diamond.
5. Finish with a fragranced body shimmer. Australian perfumerie Renee does a beautiful tropically scented Satin Shimmer Dry Body Oil. Oh-so-glamorous!
Laura Curtis is a beauty writer and make-up artist. To see more of her writing and beauty advice, you can visit her blogs One April Morning and Pretty Poesy, and follow her on Twitter (@laura_valerie).

August 09, 2011

Zara Phillips & Mike Tindall tie the knot

2011 is definitely shaping up to be the year of the royal wedding, with Prince William and Kate Middleton, Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Woodstock, and now the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips and former England rugby captain, Mike Tindall all tying the knot this year.

Phillips and Tindall were married July 30 at the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A grooms' guide to grooming: Get David-Beckham-dapper for your wedding

Long gone are the days when grooms simply had to slip into a suit and slap on some aftershave before fronting up to the altar. Today, grooms want to look just as sharp as their bride-to-be counterparts, and this means – preparation.

Your pending nuptials are a great reason to start a fitness program and adopt healthy eating habits, so see it as an opportunity to get motivated.

Just as your bride-to-be is whipping her body into shape to fit into her gown, grooms should also think about the figure they cut in their wedding suit.

Having a regular fitness routine in place at least six months before the big day will ensure you’re in shape, and also has the added benefits of helping to calm any pre-wedding jitters, as exercise is a great endorphin releaser.

As Fitness First personal trainer Chris Joblin says: “All it takes is some basic weight training and regular cardio to stay fit and keep any weight off. Aim for at least three times per week, but no more than five sessions.”

Now is also the time to think about diet and nutrition. Overindulging in rich foods and alcohol spells disaster if you want to look good on your wedding day – so think twice before having that second helping.

Too much alcohol will also wreak havoc with your skin, a problem that is difficult to hide.

If you’re experiencing problem skin it’s time to bring in the professionals. The day spa is no longer the dominion of women; many men have discovered the benefits of massages, facials and even manicures.

Paul Anderson from Sydney’s Mankind says he’s seen a huge influx in the number of grooms coming into his “man-specific-salon” to whip their skin into top shape for their wedding.

“We help men plan their skincare regime leading up to their wedding day,” says Anderson. “They come in for regular facials and then use our range of KiND products to continue the good work at home.“

As for your hair, “don’t deviate too much from your regular hairstyle,” Anderson advises. “And whatever you do, don’t attempt anything new too close to the day. Blond tips may seem like a good idea, but if disaster strikes, you won’t be very popular with your bride – remember, your wedding photos are with you for life!”

On the day you will no doubt be grinning ear to ear, and with your photographer catching every moment, it’s worth considering whether your pearly whites are in fact… white.

If years of coffee and red wine have left your teeth lacklustre, consider teeth whitening. You can opt for the at-home option, which involves wearing a specially fitted mouth guard, filled with whitening product for an hour a night, or for a much quicker solution (though considerably more expensive) try a professional whitening procedure like Zoom3! Tooth Whitening.

As for on the big day, opt for a subtle aftershave that isn’t too overpowering, go easy on the hair product and remember to flash that newly brightened smile.

August 01, 2011

Wedding beauty on a budget

When planning a wedding, there's no doubt the cost can start to mount rapidly; but beauty is one area where brides on a budget can afford to save a few pennies if they're savvy. Our beauty blogger Laura Curtis shares some tricks of the trade that will have you looking a million dollars for less than $100.

1. First of all, assess whether it will be more economical to do your own make-up or hire a make-up artist to do it for you. If you already have a comprehensive make-up collection, then doing it yourself won't set you back much at all. However, if you're a bit of a make-up novice, the advantage of having a professional is that he or she will provide all of the necessary products, the cost of which is part of their service fee.

2. If you have decided to hire a make-up artist, try asking friends or family if they know of a recently graduated make-up artistry student (preferably with some raw talent!). They would be thrilled to have wedding pictures to add to their portfolio. If you are specific about what you want (providing photos torn for magazines of looks you love is always a good idea), they should be able to create the look you want for a fraction of the cost of a seasoned artist. The same applies for a hairstylist.

3. If you don't already follow a skincare regime, it is important to start one at least a month before the wedding, so that your skin is looking its best. Cetaphil cleanser is cheap, gentle, suitable for all skin types and comes highly recommended by most Australian dermatologists. Rosehip oil, applied morning and night on your face and decolletage will you a super hydrated, radiant complexion. Bloom, A'kin and Trilogy versions retail for only $20-$25, and a little goes a long way. Hamilton's various sunscreen formulas are available at most pharmacies and will keep your skin protected all day long.

5. If you have opted to do your own make-up, the bare minimum is as follows:

A tinted moisturiser, to even out skin tone. Dove does a beautiful one for less than $10.
Concealer, blended under eyes and over any redness and imperfections, to give a flawless complexion. CoverGirl and Olay Simply Ageless Concealer is creamy and luscious, and under $20.
You can visit your kitchen pantry for this one... cornstarch! It is amazing used as a setting powder over make-up, with a big fluffy brush.
You can use the same brush to sweep bronzer on your cheeks and decolletage for gentle warmth, glow and definition. Australis does a lovely pressed mineral bronzing powder that will last you a lifetime - it is massive!
An eyeshadow palette will cater to all your eye make-up needs, including your eyeliner. Just wet a thin eyeshadow brush, dip it into a dark, dense colour and "push and wiggle" it along the lash line for definition. Revlon Custom Eyes Palettes include both eyeshadow and eyeliner shades. Sweet Innocence and Naturally Glamorous would be my picks for a beautiful wedding look.
When it comes to mascara, you cannot go past Maybelline for quality and value for money. Different formulas cater for desired results; but my favourite is XXL, for dramatic volume, length and definition.
Finish with a creamy, highly pigmented lipstick... on your lips AND cheeks. That's right, your lipstick can double as a lovely, dewy, radiant cream blush! Just dab it onto the apples of your cheeks and blend with your fingers. Revlon Colour Burst Lipstick in Blush is the perfect nude-pink for a classic bridal look, and retails for under $25.

6. Whether or not you do your own make-up, you will need a few products to touch up with during the day. Blotting papers are cheaper than powder and do the same job; refreshing and mattifying the complexion without disrupting your makeup. Also, keep your lipstick with you to refresh your lip and cheek colour.

7. It's all in the details. Don't forget to paint your nails the night before!
Revlon's Sheer Nude is chic and elegant. Finish with Sally Hansen's top coat to prevent chips and enhance longevity.

And that is wedding beauty on a budget! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask Laura in the comments section below. She will be more than happy to give you advice or point you in the right direction. All the best.

Laura Curtis is a beauty writer and make-up artist. To see more of her writing and beauty advice, you can visit her blogs One April Morning and Pretty Poesy, and follow her on Twitter (@laura_valerie).

July 21, 2011

Kate Moss & Jamie Hince tie the knot!

While the world continues to be Kate Middleton mad, it was another Kate that all eyes were fixed upon last week when waif-like model Kate Moss tied the knot with The Kills' Jamie Hince.

The couple wed in Southrop, England, with the bride donning a cream silk gown and a delicate floorlength lace veil with a vintage-inspired headpiece both by John Galliano.

Venice: A honeymooner’s guide

While Paris may be the City of Light, Venice is the City of Romance.

And it is truly a delightful city to uncover. Narrow canals replace streets, with arched bridges connecting the honey-coloured stone buildings. Alleyways wind through the city like a maze, unexpectedly opening up into sunny piazzas with stone fountains and colourful flowers cascading over balconies.

The most breathtaking view of the waterscape in Venice is by the Grand Canal. The largest and widest of the canals in the city it is lined with Gothic buildings which date from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

One of the most striking attractions in Venice is Palazzo Ducale (the Doges' Palace). Built in a typically Byzantine style, it houses paintings by Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese, which glorify the Venetian state. A tour of the palace gives you access to the famed Ponte dei Sospiri, or "Bridge of Sighs," which connects the Doge's prisons with the inquisitor's rooms in the main palace.

The palace neighbours the famous San Marco Square, thought to be one of the finest squares in the world. It boasts a number of famous cafes where visitors and Venetians alike enjoy the open-air atmosphere. While it is alive and brimming in the day with local vendors, restaurants, cafes and local artisan shops, it is magical by night when the square is alight.

The famed Harry’s Bar is nearby, where imbibing in a peach Bellini is on any tourist’s top 10 things to do, given the bar is the birthplace of the cocktail.

Ernest Hemingway was a frequent visitor, while the bar has also played host to Alfred Hitchcock, Truman Capote, Orson Welles and the Princess Aspasia of Greece.

A visit to Venice wouldn’t be complete without a gondola ride. Once the main means of transportation for Venetian nobility, nowadays it’s only the tourists who enjoy this sedate and romantic way of roving the hidden canals that run through the heart of the city.

When to visit: Venice draws legions of tourists during the peak travel months of June through September, so consider timing your visit from October to April. You may encounter fog or a little rain during the winter months, but mild and sunny days are also common.

Stay at: Boutique Hotel Ca' Gottardi, Venice.