Category Archive for How-Tos
Why Travel to Slovenia? The Mediterranean beaches of Portoroz, Slovenian food, Fonda sustainable fish!
Ah, there’s nothing like the Mediterranean coast in summer. Could this be the Italian Riviera? Dubrovnik in Croatia? Surprise… I’m standing in Slovenia!
Before my trip, I knew very little about this tiny European country — and I’m guessing you’re in the same shoes. To my surprise, I discovered a world class beach town, creative restaurant scene, and ethical food produced by Slovenians with passion.
On our first day, my filmmakers and I learned straight away that Slovenia is a travel destination full of surprises.
But first, a style revelation: there’s a dyed skull underneath my hair!
If you’ve been following my social media, you’ll have seen images of my skull-shaped undercut, which is the work of stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio in Vancouver. I’ve trusted her with my rainbow hairstyles throughout the years, and am thrilled with this big change.
Want to know how to achieve a skull shaved hairstyle like mine? Then watch the video of my hair transformation, step by step! You’ll see how Stephanie used clippers to sculpt the shape, then bleached and dyed the skull and crossbones. (Watch it on LaCarmina Youtube.)
(Shop more designs by Long Clothing with a click below — this nu-Goth brand rocks!)
My nail art is Miffy meets the devil. They’re by Glam Nail Studio, an award winning salon located in the Vancouver area, specialising in Japanese nail art.
My head feels so much lighter, after taking out the lower layers of hair. I like how I can wear it up to show off the skull, or leave it down to cover it. Perfect for my summer travels.
Slovenia is an easy, quick flight from most European countries (it only took 2 hours for me to get here from Amsterdam). The country is also within a few hours drive of Austria, Italy and Croatia — it’s possible to visit all three by car, in a single day!
Many people assume that Slovenia is a land-locked country, since it appears to be that way on the map. In fact, there’s a warm and gorgeous coastal stretch along the Adriatic Sea. (How glorious is this waterfront view from my hotel window?)
My filmmakers and I started our journey in Portoroz, one of these seaside towns known for wellness. We stayed at Hotel Slovenija: beautifully designed, luxurious and modern.
Their spa offers therapies related to the surrounding nature and healing mineral waters. I was glad for a massage after multiple flights and jetlag.
Crowds of tourists can ruin experiences for me. In Slovenia, there’s nothing of this sort. No Starbucks or McDonalds. Not a single bus tour in Tartini Square.
I loved walking around and seeing the layers of history in the architecture. Slovenia was once part of the Eastern Bloc, so travellers might assume that the country has a “Soviet” character. On the contrary, Portoroz feels more like an undiscovered seaside town in Croatia or Italy.
I stopped to take a Vine video of the red roofs overlooking the Adriatic. (I’m @lacarmina on Vine, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.)
Perhaps this gorgeous country is overlooked by travellers because it’s so tiny. It only has two million inhabitants, over 20k square kilometers.
The small size is a big advantage, when it comes to food production. Slovenian ingredients are outstanding because locals can take their time and use natural methods to bring out the best possible flavors.
My travel film team and I visited Soline / Sečovlje Saltworks, the famous evaporation pond located in Piran. At these saltworks, everything is done in the traditional method.
Saltmaking is one of Slovenia’s oldest economic activities. At Soline, the process is the same as it was centuries ago: the sea, sunshine, and a lot of muscle work. The salt flats also have an ecological benefit, as they encourage flora and fauna.
I pretended to be a salt-worker, and failed. Let’s just say that I only managed to push the cart a few inches on the track!
Slovenian salt also has health benefits, since it’s high in minerals and crystallized naturally.
I’ve tried a number of gourmet salts, but Sečovlje’s product is outstanding. The taste is light, with hints of minerals. Since the crystals are enhanced by the seawater captured inside, flavors are nuanced rather than explicitly “salty.”
Slovenian salt gets my “Miffy two thumbs up!” If you’re curious, you can order Piranske Soline salt through their website.
My next stop was again an eye-opener. I always thought of “fish farming” as bad for both the creatures and the environment, and preferred the taste of wild-caught. However, at Fonda Fish Farm (Ribogojnica Fonda), I met a woman who is taking a very different approach.
Dr. Irena Fonda (molecular biologist and award-winning researcher) joined her family in raising fish via the free-floating method, or cages in open water. The rich sea water, continuous movement, and natural environment result in sea bass that are ethically raised — and recognized as the best quality in the world.
Dr. Fonda took us on a boat ride through the warm and beautiful Piran Bay. As the waters deepened, we came across what looked like yellow caterpillars, floating on the gentle waves. It turned out to be Fonda’s mussel farm! Ropes hang down from these buoys, and the mollusks grow on them.
We arrived at the pens, and they were nothing like the crowded, dirty “fish farms” that I always heard about. The sea bass swim freely about in the fresh Piran waters, which have an ideal balance of salt and minerals. The cages also become homes for other underwater organisms, supporting the local ecosystem.
Every day, Fonda’s team comes to feed the sea bass (they grow for 2-3 years). I got to give it a try: you can watch me tossing food to the fishies, in this Instagram video!
Dr. Fonda impressed us with her heartfelt dedication to every aspect of her work, including education and package design. If you see Fonda sea bass on a menu, you’ll know this means the highest grade. The body had a clean, pleasing smell — nothing “fishy” is going on.
(On the boat ride, I wore this exact Sorel Torpeda sandal, which is both stylish and practical — you can walk all day long, and they match most clothes. I also love Sorel’s studded sandals. See more of their footwear below.)
It doesn’t get any fresher than this: sea bass carpaccio, straight from Slovenian waters. With a sprinkle of Soline salt (from the flats we visited) and local olive oil (which was better than any I’ve had in Italy or Greece, no joke).
“Na’zdravje” or cheers to Fonda fish farm for the enlightening tour and snack.
With our appetites whetted, it was time to sit down for lunch. Our guide and driver Ales took us to Domačija Šajna, which is the definition of a charming Slovenian village. We passed through these big doors into an open courtyard with a flowering garden.
Yet another pleasant surprise: Slovenian cuisine has a lot of seafood and Mediterranean influences. It’s certainly not the “central European” stereotype of meat and potatoes.
We started with farm-fresh cheeses and prosciutto, paired with Slovenian wines (all were outstanding). At the bottom right, I could have eaten ten services of this shaved truffle gnocchi.
The chef used local fruit and wines to add both color and flavor. He served aged beef steak in wine sauce, poached pears, and millefeuille with strawberry.
Everything is close by in small Slovenia, and Domacija Sajna is well worth a drive for a meal like this.
Our road trip continued with a few more scenic stops. In the Littoral region (Municipality of Komen, in the Karst plateau), we walked around Štanjel church.
This Parish Church of the Prophet Daniel was built in the 15th century. It has a Games of Thrones feeling, doesn’t it? I half expected the High Sparrow to step out.
Are you surprised by what we found in Slovenia? This is what I love about off-the-beaten-path destinations: they’re full of hidden treasures, which surpass our expectations about a place.
In a single day, I had my eyes opened in many ways. Coming up, I’ll show you what we found in the capital of Ljubljana, the island on Lake Bled, and more.
If you’re digging my outfit, you can shop these same items below:
And here’s the DIY tutorial hair video of my skull shaved cut. Would you do an undercut style like this?
Winter is coming… and autumn has most certainly arrived!
My friends and I love this time of year because we can finally take out our leather jackets, and vamp up our wardrobes with cold-weather accessories such as gloves.
I was excited when Farfetch invited me to create an Autumn / Winter look from their latest collections. This online fashion portal carries an immense selection, including a lot of independent and Japanese designers — and you know I’m all about that.
I love taking walks outside any time of the year, but there’s a particular joy in crunching through autumn leaves, and breathing in the crisp air. So I thought I’d show you what I wear on one of my outdoor excursions.
In the Farfetch workout essentials section, I found this cut-out Michi top that doubles as a sports bra. It’s perfect for wearing under a leather jacket, and if you start to feel cold, you can simply zip up your coat.
I love these black leggings with white line details — they’re Y-3 by Yohji Yamamoto. I usually have a hard time finding activewear that I love, but this Japanese edgy label is right up my alley.
I paired my Gothic activewear with a studded, dark blue leather jacket from Hong Kong. It’s by the brand Bauhaus, which is only found in Asia.
In the wintertime, it’s still important to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses. The glare from the snow can be blinding, and the harsh weather can dry out and irritate your eyes.
Happily, Farfetch has a treasure-trove selection of sunglasses. I picked out Linda Farrow x Phillip Lim sunglasses: I adore retro accessories, and couldn’t resist these round glam-hippie frames. I also thought the blue color was a nice fit for winter.
Finally, my hands get cold easily, so I’m always in need of gloves. Many people think of winter accessories as “utility garments,” but why not get something with style?
When I saw these Moschino gloves on Farfetch, I couldn’t resist. The style is 100% “me,” with a red heart, leopard print, and black leather!
I hope my outfit post got you inspired to revamp your autumn / winter wardrobe. There’s no need to stick to black colors and boring accessories… have fun with this season!
If you liked these looks, you can get everything I’m wearing (plus much more) on Farfetch. They invite you to share your finds on social media with hashtags #farfetch #myfarfetch.
During the winter months, you’ll inevitably be spending more time inside.
Instead of seeing this as a negative, I make this an opportunity to re-boot my workouts. Keeping fit also helps me feel energized, even if I’m staying indoors.
Have you heard of the term Health Goth? The media has been talking about the trend of people wearing black, Gothic-looking activewear. But in fact, this has nothing to do with the subculture, and the sportsgear is still by mainstream brands.
Nevertheless, I like the general idea of “health Gothic” — in the sense that you can work out hard, and still dress and feel like yourself. I don’t think any of you could picture me in a pink yoga outfit, right?
I’m wearing black workout leggings with a stripy twist: Y-3 by Yohji Yamamoto. They’re functional for all types of fitness activities, and well made so that they won’t thin out or stretch out of shape (two of my pet peeves about leggings).
This Michi sports cropped top fits my aesthetic perfectly. I’m a big fan of cut-out designs, and the bra has built in support.
I hope these outfit photos give you some ideas for how you too can be Goth at the gym.
What type of workout routine do I have?
When I’m home for an extended period of time, I enjoy taking fitness classes. This month, I did a mix of pilates, yoga, and TRX (a Navy Seal suspension training method that’s brilliant for core).
I also work out on my own. I do bodyweight exercises, videos (such as Tracy Anderson), and high-intensity interval training. I choose cardio that is gentle on the knees, such as sprinting on an elliptical or rebounding on a trampoline. And, as mentioned before, I go on long walks.
Overall, I mix up my workouts and try to maximize efficiency (no moderate chronic cardio for this girl). I focus on exercises that build up my core, flexibility, and balance. This all works toward my goal of “functional” strength and endurance, which helps me on my sometimes grueling travels.
Now, let’s talk about food and diet! When I’m home, I try to eat “clean” about 80% of the time. It’s not complicated: I focus on high quality whole foods (especially organic / grass fed / free range / seasonal / local). Everything is prepared simply (baked, steamed, poached, stir-fried) with simple flavors.
I eat a lot of vegetables, healthy protein and fats, and low-glycemic fruits. I love my raw cheeses and organic plain yogurt / kefir. I avoid “junk foods” (with chemicals and unrecognizable ingredients), added sugars (including fake sweeteners), and empty carbs / gluten (I stick to brown rice, sweet potatoes etc). The above sashimi salad from Hong Kong’s Sushi To is a great example.
However, it’s important to stay flexible, and thoroughly enjoy the other 20%! (Coco Ichiban curry gets a thumb’s up and bow, during our Norway travel TV shoot in Tokyo.)
Now, when I travel, I don’t stick to the 80/20 equation. I consider food to be a huge part of the traveling experience, and eat my fill of local dishes while I’m there. (It’s actually good to mix things up, to avoid having the body adapt and stagnate. You can Google “leptin reset” for more on this phenomenon.)
Eating freely while you’re overseas lets you learn so much about the local culture. I often didn’t realize certain ingredients or dishes existed — or that the Japanese were this creative at cute food design!
Did you enjoy reading about my diet and workout? What do you think of my fall / winter “health Gothic” outfit?
Morocco art & culture tours with Plan-It Fez: Drum-making workshop in the Medina! Palais Faraj hotel.
Those majestic doors can be found nowhere else… We made it to Morocco!
I have to admit: I felt a bit of trepidation before arriving in Fez. I’d heard quite a few stories from travelers who felt uncomfortable in the markets, especially if they were women traveling solo.
It turned out that my experience was the exact opposite. I felt relaxed walking through the souks: nobody bothered my filmmakers and me, or called out comments harsher than “Nice hair!”
I now realize how lucky we were to have Plan-It Fez Tours with us. Thanks to our Arabic-speaking guide, we were able to meet artisans and discover the rich culture of the medina — without ever feeling lost, or at the mercy of touts.
In this photo diary, I’ll expand more on what we did and saw in the Fes medina. And I’ll take you inside Palais Faraj, the most palatial hotel in the city.
This view of the Old City gives you a sense of what it’s like to be in this labyrinthine market: it’s an Aladdin or 1001 Nights fantasy come to life.
Fez (or Fes) was the medieval capital of Morocco, and feels preserved in time. Spice markets, twisting narrow alleys surrounded by high walls, hidden prayer halls, and ornamental doorways add to the mysterious atmosphere.
It’s easy to get lost in the sprawling pathways, so use the Blue Gate (Bab Boujloud) as a landmark. The blue color on one side symbolizes Fez, and the green represents Islam. This area is surrounded by street food stalls and restaurants.
From the Blue Gate, you can explore the many winding side streets — and maybe take a magic carpet for a ride.
Let’s go back to the safety question for a moment. I’ve spoken to travellers who had unpleasant experiences in Morocco: scammers would aggressively approach them, try to lead them to dead ends, and even yell or spit at them. My friends Cohica Travel wrote about the difficulties they encountered on their trip (which took place one month after ours).
I was surprised to hear this, since we felt entirely at ease in Fez’s medina. We were able to browse shops at leisure, and not a single tout came up to us or pressured us into following him.
(If someone comes up to you and offers something, or wants to take you somewhere, just say no immediately and be firm.)
Upon reflection, I realize what a difference it made to travel with Plan-It Fez Tours. The business is run by two women, and they specialize in private, custom trips that immerse you into Moroccan food, art and culture.
Since we had our local guide with us, we never drifted into sketchy areas and the “unsavory characters” left us alone.
Plan-It Fez took away the stress of watching our backs at all times, meaning we could relax and learn about the rich heritage of the Medina. Their tours are customized for every client, so we got to explore at our own pace, and focus on the topics that interested us the most.
Having a driver and car also meant we didn’t need to worry about Moroccan public transportation, which travelers can find challenging (I’ve heard unpleasant tales of bus and train rides).
A note on dress code: Morocco is a Muslim country, and the local women generally wear headscarves and cover their arms and legs. Out of respect, I’d suggest wearing something that at least covers your limbs (I brought a light scarf for my shoulders). At the same time, don’t stress too much about wardrobe, since tourists in revealing outfits are a common sight here.
The weather is almost alway hot, so I recommend wearing a long maxi dress made of lightweight cotton fabric. My outfit is from Pretty Attitude, who also sent me the pentagram swimsuit that I wore in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon!
● Shop my favorite”Rock the Casbah” dresses below:
Some people assume that a tour takes away from a local experience. That’s not at all the case, with Plan-It Fez. Through their private workshops, we got to meet Moroccan artists, bakers, beauty experts and more — and communicate with them, through our bilingual guide.
If we had explored the Medina on our own, we would have never wandered into this workshop — let alone sit down, speak to the artisans, and join in their work!
Our guide took us to try a unique activity: a drum-making workshop. We learned how to make traditional Moroccan drums from start to finish, beginning with painting the ceramic jugs in the Berber style…
… then scraping the hides and adding the leather “skin” on top, which is bound in place with needle and thread.
Filmmaker Melissa and I are not the most “handy” people when it comes to tasks like these…. We had a lot of laughs while we attempted to paint the drum!
What an incredible feeling, to be crafting a musical instrument in the traditional method, right in this UNESCO heritage site.
We learned how to draw blue decorative lines around the jar, using a manual pottery wheel and brush.
Then, I used a brush to draw X shapes, circles, and other Berber designs. Don’t laugh! It’s harder than it looks to create an even thickness.
A child peeked around the corner and watched me work. (Photos by Borderless Media.)
I looked up, and saw more children waving at me. They live in apartments that overlook the Medina.
My drum is a little shaky, but finished! Our guide suggested that we paint half of it in the traditional way, and half in our own style — so I added a certain Scottish Fold cat.
Filmmaker Melissa completed the other drum, and the two were bound together with camel skin and leather ties. You also have the option of putting goat or fish skin over the drum, which creates different sounds. And of course, you get to take the instrument home with you.
We ended this happy day by playing drums with the musicians. One of them was a percussion marvel — we’ll soon release a video that shows off his skills!
So happy that we were able to experience music and life in the Medina, thanks to our guides Plan-It Fez. I now realize how easy they made it for us to meet artisans and explore the marketplace.
Time to take a break from the hot weather, and relax back at our glorious Palais Faraj hotel.
I adore Moroccan art and architecture, and staying here felt like being in an enchanted Arabian palace. The front entrance alone is a work of art, with royal horseshoe arches and thousands of colored tiles.
My Egyptian eye and pyramid dress, from Pretty Attitude Clothing, adds to the magic and mystery.
You can shop for more spooky long dresses by clicking below:
Palais Faraj is designed by Jean-Baptiste Barian, a famous architect and interior designer known for his Andalusian Arabic style.
The orange henna on my hands matches the giant double doors. I got henna for the first time in a beauty workshop organized by Plan-It Fez (I’ll show you the entire process, in an upcoming story).
Every room at Palais Faraj is decadent, but nothing beats the Suite Royale, where the Rockefellers stayed. High ceilings, stucco lace, heavy drapes, and even a private terrace that overlooks the Medina.
The floors and walls are brilliant examples of Moroccan zellige, or terra cotta tiles that are painstakingly set in plaster to form mosaic patterns.
Everything in the hotel reflects the culture and history of Fez. At the same time, the amenities are ultra-modern and WiFi is free.
Every evening, we looked forward to dinner at L’Amandier Restaurant. As the sun set over the hilltops, we watched the old city light up while we dined on Fassi cuisine (the local flavors of Fez).
My new favorite appetizer: Moroccan salads. The waiter brought out this rainbow spread of vegetarian dishes, including eggplant and carrots in the highest quality honey. We loved this assortment so much that we immediately ordered it the next day.
L’Amandier is one of the top-rated restaurants in the city, and for good reason. The menu included Moroccan favorites such as couscous, tagines and pigeon pastillas, paired with local wines. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, it’s well worth coming here for dinner with a view.
Palais Faraj treated us to traditional massages and hammans (a steam and scrub, similar to a Turkish bath), which left me smiling.
One of my favorite moments: reflecting on life’s possibilities while relaxing at the Sky Bar. There are no words to describe drinking a cocktail made from fresh peaches, while taking in this 360 view of old Fez, and listening to Berber music… Perhaps the St Augustine quote puts it best. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Have you been to Morocco, or heard stories from travellers? How did your experiences compare with ours?
I picked out some of my favorite Gothic fall fashion for you. I’m all about dark lace dresses for holiday parties, and chunky black shoes. Remember, it’s all on sale!
1) Off the shoulder lace dress with scalloped edges
2) Cameo Gothic dress with embroidered lace and transparent panels
3) For Love and Lemons dress with zig zag mesh panel
4) Rock star buckle boots
5) Black buckle creeper shoes
Let’s talk about makeup! I recently got some emails, asking about my cosmetics routine. It’s changed over the years, but I currently have about 10 steps to get photoshoot-ready, using a minimum of products and brushes (since I’m often traveling, and can’t over-pack). I’ll also share some bonus, behind-the-scenes modeling photos from Portland.
My overall makeup tips: invest in quality products, especially your “base” (foundation, powder). Start with a light SPF moisturizer, and let it dry before applying layers gradually. Obviously, for day-to-day wear, I don’t do all these stages, but for special occasions these are my 10 steps of prep…
1) Apply Make Up For Ever HD foundation with a stipple brush. This foundation is a little pricy, but by far the best I’ve used. With a stipple brush, you’ll get a natural-looking effect. It stays on all day without feeling heavy, and looks great on camera. I use shade “Marble” #117.
(If you need concealer, try Make Up For Ever’s full coverage one. I skip this, and simply dab foundation onto uneven areas.)
2) Make Up For Ever’s HD powder is also a winner. I brush it on lightly after I finish my full face, but it’s worth mentioning here.
3) Next, I define my eyebrows with a brown pencil. I trace the line below and above the brow, and slightly extend the ends.
4) For a more natural fill, I use an angled brush to apply eyebrow powder, working from a dark to light shade. I also highlight right below the eyebrow.
5) Don’t forget to define your face, or else you’ll wind up looking a bit flat. I adore YSL Touche Eclat, a highlighter pen. It brightens up the area below your eyes, and whisks away shadows.
6) Then, apply contour and blush to bring out angles (around the cheeks, nose, jaw) and add a bit of rosiness. I like having both in a single compact, saving time and space in my luggage.
(I should mention that a travel brush set is a wise investment. They last forever, and fit snugly in a single case.)
7) I like to experiment with different lip colors, sometimes using a lip brush or pencil to create an ombre fade-out. However, my default is a caramel rose lipstick, such as NARS Pago Pago. They have a superb matte application, and there are many shades to fit your skin tone. Wearing a subdued color keeps the focus on your eyes.
8) I recommend carrying an eyeshadow palette like NARS Narcissist, so that you have a variety of light-to-dark tones to play with. If you want to minimize even further, pick something like this set of 4 blue eyeshadows, which you can use to define and highlight your eyes. I tend to extend the colors out, with dark shades at the outer edges, and white for the inner corners.
9) Then, use a black eyeliner pen for a cat-eye effect. I prefer pens to pots and brushes because they are quick and precise.
I hope you find this 10-step guide with recommended products helpful! Let me know if you have questions or tips about makeup. It’s fun to discuss in the comments.
The above images are by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann. They photographed me for the cover and spread of Rebelicious Magazine. During the shoot, First Mate Naomi Rubin took behind-the-scenes photos of the action.
Here are some of Naomi’s shots. My handmade silk flower clips are works of art by Angelica Brigade — check out her site for gorgeous accessories.
My blue-to-green ombre hair is by Stephanie Hoy at Avant Garde Hair in Vancouver.
And these are my Alphonse Mucha x Innocent World stockings! I bought these special edition tights at the Tokyo Mucha exhibit.
The cut-out knee boots are Yosuke, from Marui One Shinjuku
We were in Portland to shoot a travel episode (watch it here), and decided to do the magazine photos at Steel Bridge. I like to incorporate my destinations into my shoots.
It takes a village… Eric holds up a reflector, to get the lighting just right.
The autumn leaves created a beautiful backdrop. I like shooting outdoors, for the light and atmosphere. Fortunately, it didn’t start raining until we were wrapping up the job!
Sometimes an idea doesn’t work out. We had some Goth balloons, but they didn’t look right in the images.
The blues, whites and greys of the bridge and water match my outfit’s color scheme.
This white disco-era coat is from Hattie’s Vintage (see more of Portland’s secondhand shops in this post).
Both of my velvet dresses were lent by Vaute Couture — the collection is inspired by Sailor Moon. My faux fur scarf is from Holt Renfrew.
What are your favorite makeup products and techniques? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments, or on my Facebook!
I also did a blog post about how to pack stylishly — take a look, for tips on how to create cute outfits on the road.