Pretty Lattes in My Favorite Stylish Boutique

February 18, 2018

What happens when your favorite boutique opens a café?  You get one happy gal!  This weekend my favorite apparel boutique, Morning Lavender, just opened their lovely café within their boutique in lovely Downtown Tustin.  I couldn't be more happier because it's rare to find a café that serves two things I love, lavender + rose, not to mention in a form of lattes and milk teas.  You can now shop their stylish boutique whilst enjoying their delicious drinks and snacks served in pretty dining ware.  As pretty as their lattes are, I think it's worth mentioning that the Morning Lavender OC Café interior design is a great melange of elegance, sophistication, modern, fresh, and French-inspired with crystal chandeliers and Parisian bistro chairs that I'm always crazy about!  I think Marie-Antoinette would approve!  Just see below...

As my family relaxed in the café and took pictures in front of the wall of roses, I did a little shopping.

I purchased two sweaters I've been eyeing for a while:  the Roxanne Black Off-the-Shoulder Sweater and Carly Blush Twisty Sweater.

It's fun to watch Morning Lavender grow from an online women's boutique to opening two brick and mortar stores, one in their homebase in Downtown Tustin and the other in San Francisco.  If you're in Southern California and in the mood for some coffee and tea and can squeeze in a little shopping, you must stop by!



Guide to VAT Refund for EU visitors

February 7, 2018

The new Louis Vuitton boutique in Place Vendôme in Paris

If you're planning to make big purchases in Paris or London this post is for you.  Lots of people leave the EU not claiming the VAT (value added tax) refund.  Either they don't want to go through the trouble or they are not aware that it is even possible to get a refund.  I've been to Paris many times, but I never really had any big purchases until recently.  Below is how you can get a VAT refund.  Keep in mind that the amount of the purchase varies from country to country, but for the UK and France you can claim a VAT refund on purchases over £30 in the UK and €175 in France.  In order for your purchases to qualify for a VAT refund, the purchase needs to be a single transaction from a retailer.  You cannot add up all your purchases from various retailers to reach the required amount.  Depending on the country, the refund can be up to 12%.

1.  Get a Global Blue Tax Free Form from the store you purchased your item(s).  This must be filled out prior to arriving at the point of departure.

Since I purchased my super cute Louis Vuitton clutch in Selfridges in London I was able to get my Tax Free Form filled out for me thanks to the Tax Refund Lounge in the 4th floor.  My husband made a purchase in Paris so he had to fill out the Tax Free Form himself, but it wasn't complicated.

2.  Plan to arrive at the airport an hour earlier than usual.  There is almost always a queue to get the Customs stamp and refund.

3.  Make sure to get a Customs stamp.  Bring the following with you to get your Customs stamp:
  • purchases
  • receipts
  • completed Tax Refund Form
  • passport
You must show your purchases and receipts to the Customs Officer to get a stamp.  Do not check-in your purchases yet.  A good example is a lady who was standing in line in front of me waiting to get a Customs stamp.  She said she bought a bunch of expensive face creams from La Mer, but had to check it in her luggage and wasn't aware she had to present her purchases.  The Customs Officer couldn't give her the Customs stamp so she didn't get a refund on the VAT.  If you need to check-in your purchases due to TSA restrictions, you need to get a Customs stamp before check-in.  You should ask an airline employee where you can do this.  If you're traveling within the EU like I did, get the stamp on your Tax Refund Form at the final point of departure from the EU.

Since our final point of departure from the EU was London, my husband received his refund from London, not where he made his purchase in Paris.

4.  Go to the Refund Office displaying the Global Blue logo.  You have a choice to receive the refund in cash or to your credit card within five days.  If you decide to receive the refund back to your credit card, mail your completed and stamped Tax Refund Form in the envelope they provide to you.  It is advised that you write down the Tax Free Form number (DOC ID) of each form for your reference before mailing the documents.  I received a credit refund back to my credit card within 3 days.

Do you want to know how much your refund will be?  Click here for the Refund Calculator.

Keeping That Natural Glow While Traveling

February 5, 2018

Traveling can affect your skin.  From the pressurized environment in the plane to the differing climates from your hometown to your destination.  Every time I travel I feel like the moisture gets sucked out of my skin making it feel dull.  So this time I wanted to try something different.  I was on a quest to find tips and products that will help improve moisture and retain it while traveling.  Then, I came across Pour Moi, which I started using about a month before my trip back to Europe.  I did some research and I found out that Pour Moi is basically the world's first skincare system based on climate.  Whether in a tropical, desert, or cold, whatever climate you're in they've got you covered.  And being a francophile, I was even more thrilled that Pour Moi is also made in France!

Here is how I used Pour Moi's 3-step skincare system in two places with extremely different climates (Los Angeles and Paris/London) and while traveling:

Los Angeles - At the time I tried Pour Moi, it was December in Southern California.  It was unusually warm averaging about 73°F most days in December, but cold in the evening (about 50°F).

London and Paris - At the time I used Pour Moi, it was raining most days and definitely chilly.  Average temperature was 42°F.  Some days were windy with hail.  We spent a couple of days in Normandy, France and it was gusty.

Step 1:  Hydrating Balancer

I use this after washing my face.  It helps restore healthy pH levels and remove any remaining traces of makeup.  This toner is essential and leaves your skin refreshed, not stripped, and prepped for the next step.  I also use it on my neck.

Step 2:  Black or White Serum

It depends on your skin type.  The Black Serum is for dry to very dry skin types.  The White Serum is for combo, normal, or oily skin types.  Since I have dry skin, I'll only talk about my experience using the Black Serum.

A little bit goes a long way with this serum.  I apply a small amount all over my face after the hydrating balancer has set in my skin.  The serum is enriched with anti-aging, collagen boosting, and hydrating ingredients.  It feels light and silky on my skin.  With it's brightening properties, it gives a youthful glow.

Step 3:  Day Cream (Temperate for Normal/Mild Climate)

I used the Temperate Day Cream for the warm climate in Los Angeles.  The Day Cream locks in the moisturizing properties from the serum and creates a moisturizing barrier.  Day creams are enriched with anti-aging properties improving the skin's surface.

While I was in London and Paris, I switched to the Polar Day Cream.  I was pretty amazed how my skin stayed soft the entire day!  And keep in mind, I am an urban photographer so I'm up early in the morning walking around town taking pictures until the evening.

In the evening, I repeated steps 1 and 2, but used the Night Cream for step 3.

This 3-step Pour Moi routine is followed by my usual makeup routine, which is generally not heavy.  Also, I did not use foundation or blush during my flight to London.  However, I did use makeup (again not generally heavy) after following the 3-step Pour Moi routine during my flight back to Los Angeles.    I'm really happy with how my skin adjusted to the climate.  I don't think my skin would have stayed hydrated if I used my normal moisturizer, which was an over-the-counter unscented moisturizing cream.  In conclusion, whether you travel a lot or not it's worth the investment to take care of your skin.


Thanks Pour Moi for sponsoring this post.

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