Mistero: An exquisite Italian perfume based on Basmati rice

Basmati rice in a perfume? That was definitely a first for me and the reason I initially gravitated towards the display of Calé Fragranze d’Autore when in Milan. And this is where I discovered Mistero – the heavenly men’s fragrance that has become a staple on my husband’s dresser (from which I sneak spritzes all the time!).

mistero perfumeDry, woody and fiery, this robust fragrance is peppered with the smokey woodiness of agarwood, which melds with a comforting, semi-sweet rum accord. To this are added hints of Basmati rice, saffron, mint, rhubarb, pimento and hazelnut – all of them combining to create a warm and spicy composition that conjures up smoky campfires that have been dampened by the rains… the same rains, probably, which drench India’s rice fields to nourish the precious Basmati.

Distinguished by its long, slender grains, Basmati rice has been grown in India since the 19th century and is revered for its nutty aroma. Its name means “the fragrant one” in Sanskrit, and Basmati is the world’s most sought-after rice because of its delicate flavours – it can fetch 10 times the price of other rice grains. India, happily, is the largest producer of this aromatic and flavourful goldmine.

And this is the note that appears half-way through Mistero’s development – slightly powdery and comforting, made even more interesting by the presence of spices. It’s perfect for a boutique brand whose creations are inspired by stories and narratives. Silvio Levi, President of Calé, calls the creations “olfactory poetry”, aimed at people who like to “listen” to perfumes and follow the narrative that unfolds from within.

Italian nose Maurizio Cerizza has beautifully interpreted Levi’s stories, transforming them into perfumed poems that raise this boutique Italian brand head-and-shoulders above today’s far-too-generic and commercial compositions. Mistero, for me, is just the beginning of a storyline I hope to explore more deeply in the coming days!

Blog? Or mom? What would YOU choose?

You know your life has gone beyond crazy when the only time you can sit down peacefully for half an hour is 35,000 feet up in the air. I don’t know what Michael Douglas was wailing about… give me an airplane journey any day, the longer the better. As frequently as you can. Not only because I love travelling but also because this has to be the least distracting workplace ever. If you can just ignore the siren call of inflight entertainment (for which you need to avoid Virgin Atlantic, since they have the very best movie selection in the skies!). For instance, these 8 hours from London to New York are utter bliss, with no phone calls and nowhere to dash about.

Which is why my first post in almost a month comes from Seat 3A on flight VS003. For all those who’ve been asking about the silence, my mom was rushed in for a triple stomach surgery a month back and life came to a standstill. You know how moms are, right? Turns out she was living through the most gruesome pain for more than a month till it became beyond bearable and then had to undergo emergency surgery.

I remember being this scared only once before in my entire life: When we had to make a similar dash to another hospital in another city after she had a heart attack. Mom’s supposed to be the strong one, the one who keeps us going. Holding her hand through a night of pain that couldn’t be mitigated even by the strongest injections medical science has to offer was heartbreaking. So is the fact that she’s only allowed liquids for the third week in a row now. My last couple of weeks have been spent blending veggies in the Vitamix and straining tomatoes and spinach into clear concoctions. Finally, tomorrow (fingers crossed!) she moves onto semi-solids, which is a relief by sheer comparison.

And that’s why I’ve had neither the time nor the mental or physical energy to as much as craft a sentence for this past month. And I don’t regret it because I would happily go like this for another decade if it just means that mom is smiling and back to her old cheerful self.

Mom & me... in another decade!

Mom & me… in another decade!

And this airplane journey, ironically, is the only one in years that I would have happily skipped – because it means being half a world away from the parents right now. Ultimately, I was emotionally blackmailed into going by the very same mom, who threatened to give up food and medicines if I skipped what is the world’s most important blogging conference. BlogHer, as it’s known, is where online ninjas from across the world unite – this time in New York – to work with a diverse cast of experts ranging from Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop.com) and Christy Turlington Burns (Everymothercounts.org) to Melinda Gates and Ava DuVernay.

It’s going to be an intense four days of geeking out over SEOs and personal branding and better headlines (I definitely need that one!) but I promise to come back better and stronger after it’s all done and dusted. Till then, please bear with my long drawn silences and continue to send mom all the healing energies.

12 seriously strange skincare secrets the experts swear by (I kid you not!)

Having beautiful, glowing, flawless skin is not always about rigorous dermatological treatments or expensive products. Sometimes, simple goes a longer way and every skincare pro I’ve ever spoken to has sworn by at least a couple of kitchen shelf DIYs they call upon in their own life. Some of these secret rituals are merely curious, while others are downright bizarre. But they are all underlined by serious doses of skincare science and the experts promise they perform miracles. So, here you go!

skincare tips1. Do shots… with chlorophyll: Don’t really relish those green juices and salads seem too much of a bother? Just stock up on liquid chlorophyll. This most essential of plant nutrients detoxifies the body, oxygenates the skin, boosts tissue repair, steps up digestion and restores our acid-alkaline ratio to keep the complexion clean, healthy and glowing from the inside out. Added bonus: It works fast and tastes like mint.

2. Order the guac: Or just go straight for the avocados, which are loaded with healthy fats and phytonutrients that nourish skin from the inside out and bring back your glow.

3. Bring on the beer: Beer isn’t just good for your hair, it’s also a powerful skin ally. All those B vitamins, hops, saccharides and yeast help dissolve dead cells, balance pH levels and bust acne-causing bacteria. Simply mix together half a cup of beer with one egg white and slather on your face. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Now say hello to radiant, fresh skin.

4. Freeze up: Late night? Crying bout? Sun scorched? Beauty pros always keep a few sheet of aluminium foil in the freezer. Simply take one of the chilled sheets and put them on your face for a few minutes to de-puff, tighten pores and bring back the glow.

5. Eye it: If it’s your eyes that need the de-puffing and redness relief, pop some eye cream in the  icebox and apply to lids for turbo-charged results.

6. Tea time: Skin more irritated than puffy? Chill some green tea bags and gently press them onto the inflamed areas – the antioxidants will soothe a sore complexion.

7. Tropical treat: Another refrigerated treat for your skin? Pineapple juice. Freeze some fresh pineapple juice and then rub this “ice cube” over clean skin. Let the liquid dry on your face for 5-10 minutes, then rinse away with plain water. Pineapple’s natural enzymes exfoliate, improve hydration and boost elasticity. Hello, luminous skin!

8. Dairy goodness: Swap the hot water with freshly boiled milk while steaming your face for the ultimate skin detox. Simply boil the milk, pour into a bowl and let the vapours float over your face as you lean in under a towel. Milk is full of lactic acid, which will decongest the pores, leaving your skin beautifully clear.

beauty hacks9.  Hydrate NOW: Dewy, glowing skin equals hydrated skin and when you’re sorely lacking in the latter department, whip together an egg yolk and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Apply a generous layer of this mixture all over your face and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.

10. Acne Rx: Need to bring down the redness and inflammation of a pimple right NOW? Dab a  bit of Visine on the blemish. This won’t make your pimple smaller, but it will definitely look less obvious for a few hours.

11. Scrub-a-dub: To banish dry, cracked heels, mix a handful of sea salt with enough almond oil to make a thick paste. Use this to exfoliate your feet and toes; say hello to smooth, sandal-ready summer feet!

12. Thigh high: For legs that tend to rub or chafe in summer, apply deodorant to the insides of your thighs… this sounds weird but it works!

What’s the strangest beauty tip you’ve ever heard? And how did it work out for you?

Heat got you down? Make a keep-your-cool face mist

As a kid, all I wanted to do on hot summer days was run through every sprinkler in the neighbourhood. Thankfully for my current day self, there does exist a grown-up version of those cooling, refreshing blasts of goodness – called face mists, they allow you to spritz your overheated skin without getting chased off a stranger’s lawn!

Added bonus: these face mists also help tone your skin, wards off excess oil, hydrate a sun scorched complexion, soothe irritation and restore skin’s pH balance. And they help refresh your mind and soul with a hefty dose of fragrant aromatherapy. So, if you have issues with acne-prone or dehydrated skin, or if you just get extra-toasty in the summer heat, this may be your ticket to relief!

Yes, you can pick up one of the branded face mists off the shelf. But if you want something sans all that drying alcohol and other additives, try one of these DIY versions, which are ridiculously simple to whip up!

DIY face mistAloe face mist for dry, sensitive or sun damaged skin skin

How-to: Fill a small spray bottle halfway with aloe vera juice. Then add enough orange blossom water to nearly fill the bottle to the top. Add 3 drops of lavender essential oil; shake well.

Why it works: Orange blossom water calms and tones with its gentle astringency, lavender essential oil helps reduce inflammation, while aloe vera moisturizes and encourages skin’s healing abilities.

Citrus face mist for acne-prone skin

How-to: Add one grapefruit (cut into chunks with the skin still on) and two tablespoons of rosemary (fresh or dry) to two cups of distilled water. Bring this mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and let everything steep for another half hour. Finally, strain the liquid to remove the grapefruit and rosemary, let it cool, pour into a spray bottle and refrigerate.

Why it works: Grapefruit’s natural cleansing action helps battle blemishes, while refreshing the face and giving the complexion a nice pick-me-up. Rosemary,  in the meantime, helps fade existing acne scars.

Rose hip & chamomile face mist for dull skin

How to: Blend together 3.5 oz of strongly brewed rose hip tea, 3.5 oz of strongly brewed chamomile tea and 2 oz of aloe vera juice; pour everything into a spray bottle. Store in the refrigerator; mist on generously through the day.

Why it works: Rose hips contain nature’s highest concentration of vitamin C, which strengthens collagen and perks up the complexion. Chamomile soothes and calms, while aloe vera is lightly hydrating and eliminates redness. Result? This energizing face mist is perfect for use as a skin brighter or a quick pick-me-up.