Restaurant Review: ZPIZZA – Gluten-free, vegan options

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I have not had a ‘real’ pizza in so long. It has been SO long that when I took a bit out of this pizza, I actually had tears in my eyes. Serving in US, Vietnam, South Korea and UAE, this pizza joint has stolen my heart (and my stomach). Thin gluten-free crust that tastes delicious, fresh tomato sauce, topped with delicious zucchini and olives – ah, pizza pizza pizza! Guys, you have definitely got to give this gluten-free pizza a try! The crust was so delicious. I wouldn’t even mind eating it plain! It was that good! They even give you the option of having vegan cheese, which I have yet to try. They were out of it the last two times I visited. Here are the pizzas I tried:

  • California Veggie Pizza: My favourite out of the three. Topped with zucchini, tomatoes, and olives.
  • Tuscan Mushroom Pizza: Had it without mushrooms since I’m not so fond of them. The caramelized onions and garlic sauce was fantastic! Tasted so good! A little too garlic-y and onion-y for me but still pretty damn good.
  • Napoli Pizza: I’m guessing it would’ve tasted much much better with the cheese but since they were out of vegan cheese, it was basically garlic sauce, and tomatoes so I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

Located in Dubai Marina. Gluten-free crusts available in Regular size only. Ingredients and prices listed on the website here.

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Gluten Free Muesli! Finally!

Gluten Free Muesli - Food For Health

Gluten Free Muesli – Food For Health

I am so glad that I have finally found gluten free, corn free, AND oat free muesli! This muesli is AMAZING! I absolutely love it. Ever since I started eating it, digestion has felt a little better. It’s so good to snack on during the day as well. Perfect for the munchies and if you need to increase calorie intake like I did. It tastes amazing! I can’t go a single day without eating it anymore. I tried it with some goat yogurt but I didn’t like the taste all that much. Haven’t tried it with camel milk yet. I just eat it as is! Sooooo goooood! With 3.9g of protein per serving, this is fantastic for vegetarians/vegans!

Available in Spinney’s and Waitrose for AED 33.

Review: “Superfine Eyeliner,” “BB Cream” and “Stay Natural Concealer” from Essence

essenceAfter checking the ingredients of several eyeliners, I found out that a few select Barry M and Essence eyeliners contain no tocopheryl acetate. If I can’t confirm the source of the tocopheryl acetate, I avoid using the product. It could be where gluten is hidden!

I usually wear liquid eyeliner – never use eye pencils. I find liquid eyeliners have a more defined, precise and neat look. I checked out the Barry M Wink eyeliner. The nib was too thick for me, and the tip was far too flimsy to be able to draw a proper defined line. It cost 30 AED here in Boots.

My next option was to try out Essence. They have an online booklet where all product ingredients are mentioned. After poring over the ingredients for days, I made a list of all the items that would be safe for me. Since they haven’t replied to my email yet, the ingredients I was on lookout for were: tocopherol, tocopheryl acetate, denatured alcohol, and of course gluten, soy and corn.

eyelinerThey have quite a few makeup products that are safe from these ingredients. I chose Superfine Eyeliner because the name fit what I was looking for. I wore the eyeliner today and I don’t know why, but for the first minute or so, it tingled and I felt a slight burning sensation. It went away after that. I hope this eyeliner is okay for me – I don’t want to go hunting for another gluten free eyeliner again!

Anyway, so the eyeliner is pretty nice. It creates a nice, dark line and it’s very easy to use. The nib is also pretty sturdy, unlike the flimsy Barry M one. The nib is very thin so you can create a well-defined line. It cost 17 AED. If I have no adverse reactions to this product, I’m going to stick to it. I quite like it! I also like how I don’t have to keep dipping my eyeliner brush into a bottle. This just makes life so much easier. Also, it dries up pretty fast. No need to wait a few minutes before using eyelash curlers! Give it a few seconds and it’s set!

Since I contacted MaxFactor and P&G replied, asking me to look at their website for information about the source of tocopheryl acetate, which I haven’t been able to find AT ALL, I have decided against using my MaxFactor foundation. Gluten free foundation and concealer is rather hard to find. Almost all of them contain wheat. I accidentally even tried on some Essence foundation that had gluten! Thank goodness I had only tested it on my hand! I was terrified though.

I tried on their BB cream in shade 02 Natural. It was quite nice. It minimized my pores, and kind of created this dewy look. Gave a little glow. It only cost 25 AED, so that was a bargain. The good thing was that their BB cream was fragrance free. The downside was that the BB cream had a funky smell. The smell wore off after a few minutes but it was still a bit odd. Moreover, later I noticed that my skin was a tiny bit itchy. However, that could be due to how hot and humid the weather was. I was about to buy this product but upon looking at the ingredients list, I noticed that it contained sorbitol. Sorbitol can be derived from corn and I’m sensitive to corn. I figured it would be better if I stayed away from it, as I have reacted to corn in my makeup before. Better safe than sorry! Really wish I could have bought it though! Seemed to give decent coverage. It wasn’t perfect, but workable. Better than no foundation!

concealerSo I ditched the BB cream. Now what the heck was I going to use on my face? I figured I’d just buy the “Stay Natural Concealer” and use that to cover up. It worked quite well actually! Again, the coverage isn’t that great. It doesn’t make my blemishes disappear, and when I tried it on in the store, along with the BB cream, coverage was quite good. On its own, it’s okay. Just kind of reduces redness and makes blemishes a little less prominent. It comes in a nice little pen-type tube. You have to twist the bottom quite a bit before the concealer comes out. You can apply it directly using the brush tip or apply a little on your hand and then use your finger to dab it onto your face. Cost 16 AED. Pretty good for the price! It will make do for now – until I find some actual gluten free cosmetics with non-threatening ingredients.

Essence is supposedly “hypoallergenic” and it’s aimed at young teens. I find it odd though that their products contain parabens (just like so many other brands out there). Even so, apparently no one has had any complaints about Essence products with regards to allergies, accordingly to what the sales lady told me. Hope that’s true! I wish I could confirm if these products were manufactured in a gluten free facility, and if there was no risk for cross contamination. I figured I’d just check the ingredients carefully since almost all cosmetics companies cannot guarantee being gluten free. Essence products are very affordable and they do the job. Not as well as I would’ve liked but fair enough – it’ll do for now.

Red Apple Lipstick just wowed me!

Is this what it feels like to have a voice as a customer?

If you read my previous post about the Red Apple Lipsticks I ordered, you’d see that I wasn’t quite happy with 3 out of 5 of the items. They turned out to be very different from what I was expecting. The colours looked very different on me and they didn’t quite look like the demo images online when I tried them on. That could be due to my skin tone and base lip colour. But RAL just completely amazed me when they refunded me for the items I wasn’t happy with. I really wasn’t expecting that at all!

RAL is very open about their money back guarantee – if you’re not happy with a purchase, you simply send it back in exchange for another item or you can get a full refund. I really wasn’t expecting much because I couldn’t send the item back. It would cost me a lot to ship the items to the US from Dubai. Honestly, I am just amazed that RAL refunded my purchases. I don’t know of any companies that do this! Maybe a credit note or a discount or something like that but not a full refund! They had even given me a free sample with my order which literally made me squeal with joy. It’s really so nice to get a little gift, right? They are so awesomely personalized in their approach with dealing with customers. They are actually very much in line with my ideas of how a business should be. I write about stuff like this on my other blog Let’s Get Down To Business. I’m thinking I should write a post on that blog and use RAL as a case example of how I think businesses ought to be.

Honestly, after I made the purchases and wasn’t too happy with some of the products, I was thinking it would be really unlikely that I would purchase make up online again since I wouldn’t be able to know for sure how it would look on me and I don’t want to end up spending money on something that I’m not going to love using. But after seeing how my rights as a consumer was protected, and how they stayed true to their promise of a money back guarantee despite the fact that I couldn’t send the products back, I don’t feel hesitant about purchasing from them again. Obviously, I’d never simply buy a product and say I don’t like it to take advantage of them. That would be wrong. But I know now that if I ever bought a product again and didn’t like it, RAL would help me out. It’s so nice to finally be heard as a customer, you know? After having so many doors shut on me (figuratively) when I ask companies about their gluten status, or ingredients, etc., being heard like this means so much more.

Thank you so much, Red Apple Lipstick!

Might I also add that today, for the first time in years, I woke up with smooth lips after having worn their Rallye Balm all night. I didn’t worry about dry lips the entire day! My lips just felt so good! When you purchase from them, be sure to try out the Rallye Balm if you haven’t already. It’s a miracle worker! I just cannot wait for their mascara to come out! Oh gosh, I’d be so thrilled if they release liquid eyeliners and foundations and blushes… wowza!

Review: Just got my Red Apple Lipstick orders!

I’ve been excited all day! I ordered 5 items from Red Apple Lipstick: 4 lipsticks and 1 lip balm which came up to a total of 247 AED ($67.10). It came in a cute little package and Red Apple Lipstick even threw in a lipstick sample of the ‘Secrets’ shade, along with a lip brush! That was so cool! Thanks for that, RAL 🙂 They also wrote a cute little note on my invoice which I thought was really sweet.

The sweet little note 🙂

Free Sample and Lipstick Pouch

Free Sample and Lipstick Pouch

Green wrapping paper!

Green wrapping paper!

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Red! 101, Coral Crush, Petal Pusher, Pinky Promise, Rallye Balm

Swatches: Red! 101, Coral Crush, Petal Pusher, Pinky Promise

Swatches: Red! 101, Coral Crush, Petal Pusher, Pinky Promise

The texture of all the lipsticks is really nice. They go on smooth and they’re very easy to apply. The ingredients are absolutely safe and allergy-friendly. Also, RAL has the best customer service, hands down. They are so quick with answering queries. Customer service at RAL is actually like communicating with a real live human being, if you know what I mean. It’s none of those standard replies that most industry people give you. You feel like you’re just talking to a friend, which is great.

I have no problems with the lipsticks except for the fact that some colours ended up looking rather different from what I was expecting based on the demo photos. For a clearer picture of what these colours actually look like, I will compare them to images from colour charts online. (Note: These are as close a match as I could possibly find. They are not necessarily a true representation. Click to see Chart1, Chart2 and Chart3.)

  • RALLYE LIP BALM: Goes on smooth, feels rather nice. I wore it under my lipstick today and it felt comfortable. I love how it’s actually shaped like lipstick for easy application. Although, for some weird reason, I don’t know why my lips started tingling after I tried it on :S That’s a bit odd. It went away quickly though. But I cannot tell you how glad I am that I finally have a gluten free lip balm! Hurray! Update: I wore the lip balm all through the night and today for the first time in ages I woke up with super smooth lips! They stayed so incredibly smooth all day long! I have very chapped lips almost all the time but not today! If you’re looking for a good lip balm, THIS is your answer!
  • PETAL PUSHER LIPSTICK: Lovely pink colour. Bright enough to be noticed. I wore this to the mall today and I noticed quite a few people were staring at my face. My friend also commented that the colour went really well on me. Happy with this one! It goes on so smoothly as well. Don’t need lip balm under this lipstick! I was however hoping for a colour more like “Deep Pink” below. The colour is buildable though, which is the greatest thing about RAL lipsticks so by applying more coats, I figure I can make it a deeper shade. Haven’t tried it yet. Either way, I’m quite happy with Petal Pusher.
Petal Pusher

Petal Pusher

What it looked like

What it looked like (Chart1)

What I wished it looked like

What I wish it looked like (Chart1)

  • CORAL CRUSH LIPSTICK: When I opened up the lipstick, the colour looked far too dark. It looked almost brown. It looked so different from the demo images posted online. I never wear brown lipstick. I was starting to feel upset about it. I couldn’t try it on my lips since I had already applied the Petal Pusher shade, so I tried it on my hand. It looked like it had a hint of this dark rusty colour. It’s a rather natural lip colour – kind of like a deeper, tanner shade of the natural colour of my lips. Not too fond of this colour. I was looking for more of a peachy shade, like the online photos.
Coral Crush

Coral Crush

What it looked like

What it looked like (Chart2)

What I wished it looked like

What I wish it looked like (Chart3)

  • RED! 101: Wasn’t entirely pleased with this one. As soon as I opened it, the smell of vanilla hit me. I like vanilla scents but only when it’s very, very faint. If you’ve got a sensitive nose like mine, this vanilla scent could be a bit too overpowering. It’s like I open it and immediately hold my head back to avoid being hit by the scent. I don’t know how vanilla does this to me but when it’s too strong, my stomach feels really sick for the next few days. I checked the reviews before purchasing where it mentioned that the fragrance was very faint, but I guess it’s a bit too strong for me. I’m just hoping I don’t get sick. The colour of the lipstick wasn’t a “red” like I was expecting. It looked more like a deep cherry red – I don’t like cherry reds on my lips. Not so crazy about the colour.Update: it’s the next day and I am actually feeling ill. I’ve been feeling odd and stuffy since I woke up and my stomach feels uncomfortable – same symptoms I have when I have far too much vanilla. I usually add a few drops to my baked goods and those don’t affect me. Strong vanilla perfumes do and I think this lipstick’s vanilla scent was way too strong for me.
Red! 101

Red! 101

Taken from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-C_N8WTKtrz4/ThkE7DzA8aI/AAAAAAAAANs/XXgHSrywDRs/s400/colour-chart.gif

What it looked like (Chart2)

What I wish it looked like

What I wish it looked like (Chart1)

What I wish it looked like

What I wish it looked like (Chart2)

  • I was looking for something like the one I’m wearing in this post. The one I’m wearing there is by Flormar and it’s a proper red colour – a brilliant red. It’s not overly bright and doesn’t look like dark pink, cherry or maroon after applying.
  • PINKY PROMISE LIPSTICK: This lipstick upset me when I tried it on. It looked so different as compared to the demo images online. This was the first lipstick I opened since it was the one I was most excited about. I was looking for a lovely nude lip colour. I have been searching high and low for a nude pink shade, and figured I could use a nude colour mixed with a little pink to get the perfect shade I want. That was the reason I selected this shade – to mix with Petal Pusher to get a nude pink colour. It was either this or French Skirt, but I opted for this one since it looked less frosty but this turned out to be far too frosty. Too much glitter for me. I really don’t like frosty lipstick at all. I have a lip balm like that and I rarely ever use it. I’m guessing I’m just going to be using this one under other colours to get a little shine perhaps. Can’t wear this on its own. Guess I was wrong.
Pinky Promise

Pinky Promise

What I wish it looked like

What I wish it looked like (Chart1)

RAL has this moneyback guarantee where if you’re not happy with a purchase, you can send it back within 90 days and get a full refund. I would actually do this but it would be quite expensive for me. I had to pay 43 AED (around $12) to get the items shipped to UAE from USA using Shop and Ship by Aramex. If I had to send the lipsticks back to the US, I would have to pay 77 AED + 43 AED for shipping them here again. That’s  120 AED! Really wish I could send back the ones I’m not so crazy about. The lipsticks were just fine. Very comfortable to wear and the best part is that they’re safe for me and all the others out there with food sensitivities. I was just not happy with some of the colours. I guess that’s one of the hard things about shopping online – sometimes the product ends up looking quite different when you’re holding it in your hands. I was only happy with 2 out of 5 of the products I ordered. Really wish I could get it exchanged or refunded but it would cost so much to do so.

Overall, my transaction with RAL was smooth and I had no issues. They even have monthly discounts if you join their VIP club (for free) which is absolutely fantastic. The lipsticks cost about $17.50 – $23.50 and honestly, their lipsticks are amazing. They really really are! The best thing is that I will finally have peace of mind and stop worrying about my lipstick making me sick. Now I know that I definitely will not get glutened by my lipstick anymore and that is such a relief! I am so glad that I finally have some gluten free lipstick! FINALLY!

If you plan to buy from them, don’t worry at all about the texture or quality of their lipsticks. It’s great, hands down. I’d only suggest that you choose your colours carefully and google for other reviews and photos so you know what the colours look like!

Update: RAL just refunded me for the items I wasn’t satisfied with! I wasn’t expecting this at all! Do I need to say again just how AWESOME this company is? Read my blog post about it here.

Review: GF Vegan Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes

I went to the Spinney’s store today while I was at the mall with a friend and picked up a box of this gluten free, vegan snack: Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes. Pretty tasty! It was nice to have something to snack on. I really miss the luxury of just hopping into the store and coming out with a packet of crisps or biscuits, maybe chocolate, and washing it down with a carton of flavoured milk. I want my childhood back!

Gluten Free, Vegan Mrs Crimble's Apple Flavour Rice Cakes

Gluten Free, Vegan Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes

Anyway, have a look at the nutrition information.

9g per packet. Quite a fair bit of sugar, right? It actually was very sweet. Because of the cover image on the box, I assumed that each packet would have 2 rice cakes. When I opened up a packet, I was so surprised to find 5 in there! Holy Jalapeno! FIVE cakes?! WOW! Talk about value for money! The box cost 9.75 AED ($2.65) for 4 packets of 5 cakes each.

I found an offer on Amazon for Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes. 6 packs for $21.60. That’s $3.60 per box. Cheapest I’ve seen online so far! Click on the image below to know more.

Click on image: Mrs Crimble's Apple Flavour Rice Cakes - $21.60 for 6 boxes

Click on image: Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes – $21.60 for 6 boxes

There was another brand of rice cakes there called Kallo. I avoided that one though because on the label, it said that it was manufactured in a facility that also handles dairy products.

Mrs Crimble’s Rice Cakes were quite nice. Tastes so much like apples. It’s quite nice to pack with you on the go since they come in little packets. Drop one into your purse or keep some in the car and have a cake every now and then – travelling and working gets hard with gluten intolerance since snacks aren’t readily available when you’ve got the munchies. Long gone are the days of glorious Nature Valley and Alpen cereal bars! This is a good alternative for when you’re wandering on the city streets and there isn’t a gluten free restaurant in sight and your stomach starts making noises you didn’t think your body was capable of. I found it far too sweet though. By the time I reached the 3rd or 4th cake, I was starting to feel like I had just gulped down spoonfuls of sugar. It was like that sick feeling you get after eating too many chocolates. I would suggest eating it with something else to sort of lessen the sweet taste. I’m thinking of having it with a glass of almond milk, kind of like having cereal. Except I might have to mix it in my mouth. OR I could break it into smaller chunks and drop it in a bowl of almond milk. Yes, that makes so much more sense than mixing it in my mouth.

Review: Essie Nail Polish

After having heard so much about Essie nail polishes on several fashion blogs, I decided to finally try one. I’ve got several bottles of Essie but had never tried them. I looked into my nail polish box and found a colour I liked.

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It’s called Fifth Avenue. The colour is darling! I was shying away from my dark reds and cherry reds because I wanted something bright and summery. This shade is a nice bright red that really pops. I thought it was going to be a coral colour that leans towards red but it turned out to be good old pure red. It was easy to apply. I applied 2 coats. It wasn’t thick and goopy like some nail polishes are. But this nail polish chips fast. And I mean really fast.

After a day or two of applying it, I started to notice that the nail polish was chipping! I was sorely disappointed. I had heard so many people praise Essie nail polishes and I thought they’d at least last a week without chipping! It wasn’t just chipping at the tips of my nails, mind. It was chipping at the sides and the base as well.

My suggestion would be to use Essie with an anti-chip coat on top. The colours are adorable but I’m not impressed with how quickly it chips. Might as well buy a cheaper brand that lasts just as long.