Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ringing in the New Year - Resolutions, Retrospectives and the like

I can't help but feel a tad sentimental whenever the year comes to an end. Admittedly, New Year's Eve has got to be the most anti-climatic night of the year for me. You clutch your champagne prosecco in your newly bought dress with hair/make-up/nails that took forever to perfect, count down the seconds and then... nothing. The world still carries on as normal, so you decide it's time to get disgustingly drunk, cause hey, January is all about the detox anyway! But, on the other hand, any excuse for a good party and gawping at some fireworks is fine by me!

Either way, it's always a good opportunity to look at your life a little bit and see how far you've come and which areas might need improving. It's like starting with a clean slate and even if some resolutions won't make it past the second week of January, you've got a whole year to catch up with them again.

2013 has been an amazing year for me. I made a lot of new friends (and lost some along the way) and to be honest the majority of the year has just been one massive party. I was quite possibly the happiest I've ever been and a lot of the time it felt like I was truly living the dream. I was doing exciting things and meeting exciting new people on almost a daily basis, not stopping once to catch my breath. I also managed to lose over a stone in weight without even particularly trying - just by listening to my body more like I set out to do at the beginning of the year!

2014 however, is probably going to be more about growing up than the previous year. As much fun as it was, I feel like it's time to take some steps towards being more of a grown-up and doing grown-up things rather than party every day. Maybe cut down the partying to every other day instead, haha.

So, in easily digestible chunks, my resolutions for this year are as follows:

1) Get more organised

This one's top of my priority list. I've always been a very organised person, but in the last year organisation has kind of fallen by the wayside in favour of spontaneity. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being spontaneous, but a lot of times it's actually come to bite me in the back. Like when I had those awesome ideas of what I'm going to get people for their birthdays, but left it too late and couldn't follow through with my plan. Or all those exciting opportunities I've had for my blog that have just been falling by the wayside, just because I forgot to reply to an email or left a blog post unpublished for weeks. The trick is to strike a balance between having a plan for... well, life, but not getting too upset when things don't always go according to it. This afternoon I'm going out and getting myself a fancy diary for 2014 and I'm actually going to use it again this year!

2) Make my home a home

The plan is for me and my boyfriend to finally move into our first proper flat this year. Living in a flat share was fun when we were living with friends, but things eventually took a turn for the worse and now it's just more stress than it's worth. I need to be able to know that if I leave the kitchen in pristine condition before I leave for work, it's not going to be a mess when I come back, not have to argue about chores and getting money for bills on time and all that other crap that simply gets cut out when you have your own place. Most importantly, I want my home to feel like a home, look after it and decorate it exactly the way I want to and make it feel like a little part of me. It's not going to be cheap, but it's definitely something worth saving the money for.

3) Eat more healthily

By that I don't mean diet. As I mentioned before I actually managed to lose over a stone in summer (whoop whoop) and even though my weight has pretty much been the same since October, that's completely fine. By eating more healthily I mean that I want to start paying more attention the quality of my food, cut down on processed foods and takeaways and focus more on fresh, seasonal produce - organic where possible. It's something I've started doing in the past month or so anyway (even though all that festive food has made it pretty hard to stay on track), and I feel so much better now than I used to when I was living off £1 burgers from the shop across the road. There's no saying that I won't treat myself to some cake from time to time, but when I do, I want it to be one I've made from scratch, so I know exactly what's gone in it.

4) Read more books

With two of my favourite magazines going bust this year, my magazine consumption has been drastically cut down, but in return I've rediscovered the beauty of settling down with a good book in my spare time. What I'd like to do this year is to tackle some more classics along with the usual picks of the best seller chart or random chick lit I usually go for. Maybe even pop some book reviews on my blog if you'd be interested to read them?

5) Get more pro at blogging

Speaking of blog, I feel like it's time to up my blogging game a little. Rather than just say I'm gonna post more like I did last year and then not following through because I was too busy having fun in life, this year I want to focus at just getting things a bit more right. I've dabbed in Instagram, done two or three YouTube videos, and my Twitter has managed to completely dry out. The plan for the next year is to set up a little blogging corner just for myself, where everything is in one place and I can just work without getting distracted all the time. I'm also considering just paying somebody a bit of money to get a decent layout and design for my blog, to sleek it up a little. Anyone got any recommendations?

Have you made any resolutions for the upcoming year? If you've made a blog post about them, please leave me a link in the comments below. I'd love to have a snoop!

And in other words, hope you all have a wonderful 2014 filled with happiness and all the things you dream of!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Fashion Post: The tag necklace

I got this necklace ages ago and haven't given it anywhere near the attention it deserves. I've actually been wearing this on almost a daily basis, that's how much I've been loving it!

Anna Lou of London makes some absolutely gorgeous pieces of jewellery, hitting that perfect balance of girly and edgy that I look for in all of my accessories. With a studio in Earlsfield, which is literally ten minutes down the road from me, you couldn't talk more about supporting small local businesses!

My necklace came beautifully packaged in a cardboard box with a black bow and a little velvet pouch, where it now lives when it's not around my neck. I opted for the rose gold version with my initials engraved on the back. The beautiful thing about these necklaces is that as they're all hand made, you can have yours personalised to say anything you want, be that your initials, a positive message or your twitter handle.

The chain is delicate, yet very durable and despite my heavy wear and tear it's shown no signs of snapping. I love how it goes with almost everything I wear, whether I'm feeling girly, want to look sophisticated or even if I'm having a more grungy day.

You can find the personalised tag necklace over on the Anna Lou site here.

I've also got my eye on this beautiful name double ring, the crown earrings and the aztec bracelets.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Review: Murad Pore & Line Minimizing Hydrator

It's been a few months ago now that I popped along to the launch of this product and now that I've had a good and proper chance to use it on my skin and see its long term effects on my face, I can't wait to share it with you!

Now, I'm not usually one for technical details on apparent new breakthroughs in cosmetic science, because quite frankly, I find them incredibly dull. It's usually something along the lines of "Scientists have uncovered a new rare plant somewhere far away and developed some sort of amazing process to extract its healing properties yada yada yada...". For all I care, brands could be claiming that there's fairy dust in their creams and it still wouldn't make a difference as to whether or not I'm going to purchase a product.
But I'll make an exception this time, because I found the new RepleniCell technology used in this cream quite interesting, really. I'll try to make this as simple, short and straightforward as I can, however.

You may have heard already that water is actually quite drying on our skin - just think about how rough your skin can feel after a long shower! However, most creams and serums consist of a huge chunk of water, as all the skincare ingredients have to swim in something. Dr Murad and his team have now found a way of turning this water, which just floats around rather pointlessly, into skin healing goodness that actually penetrates the cells and moisturises together with all the other inredients.

The result is a product kind of like a runny, slightly sticky gel. It's quite slippery, but absorbs extremely quickly into the skin. I've been using it at night times as it doesn't come with an SPF, but it's certainly light enough to be used in the mornings as well without any greasiness or stickiness left on the skin. There's no denying that my face feels really nice, smooth and moisturised straight after applying this. Long-term, however, the story is a tad more complicated.

I've always had a bit of an issue with Murad products which is why, for quite a while, I avoided their products altogether, no matter how much some other bloggers seemed to love the brand. With this product, it's exactly the same problem as with all others that I've tried. A week or so into using this, my skin became horrendous - I had breakouts, a random dry patch on my cheek and my pores were in a state where I could physically feel lots of little lumps under the skin every time I applied something to my face. It took another week or so for my skin to settle again and it was only after that that I started seeing the benefits of this products.

Once it had pushed through that week of nastiness, my skin became lovely again: soft, smooth and even. As for the size of my pores (and lines?) I can't say that I've noticed any difference, but by now it's become a product I enjoy using now and a little goes a long way, so this tube is going to last me ages.
Murad are currently working on integrating their new RepleniCell technology into all their moisturisers and serums, but this was the first one and I have to say I really like the light but nourishing texture.

Just be aware (particularly if you have sensitive skin), that your skin might rebel a little at first, just like mine did, but it's worth pushing through and just sticking it out for a bit.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Love Me Beauty Box December 13

Love Me Beauty Box December 2013

Let me start off by saying that I was going to write a pretty angry post about this month's box. The December box featured two Lord & Berry products once again, as did two previous boxes and each and every time those products were completely useless, effectively leaving me with three products for £12.95. The third product that was consistent through all three options was a Headline Colors nail polish - again, Headline Colors is a brand that has featured in Love Me Beauty before and I still haven't even touched the Models Own polish that came in last month's box. Fortunately, I was positively surprised by a few of the products, so my initial frustration has passed.

1) Lord & Berry | Intensity Lipstick in Glazed Pink
Full size: £12

Lord and Berry_Intensity Lipstick Glazed Pink

There was a Lord & Berry lipstick in the August Love Me Beauty box (back then known as Beauteco) and I think I've used it twice and then abandoned it in the back of my make-up stash. There wasn't necessarily anything wrong with the lipstick, but the colour made me look as if I'd drowned in a river several days ago. That's why I'm not such a fan of receiving make-up in beauty boxes - I know which shades suit me and which ones don't, so I'd rather pick my own products.
But this made me change my mind about this month's whole box. When I saw it in the bullet and swatched it on my hand it looked horrendous - a frosted pale pink, like something straight out of the 80s. But on the lips, this is a whole different story. It's a colour I've been looking for forever, but could never find. The perfect shade to blot out the natural colour of your lips, but with enough pink undertones to stop it from looking like "concealer lips". I would imagine it to be stunning with a smokey eye or graphic 60s style eye liner. I can actually imagine this becoming my favourite lipstick ever!

Lord and Berry Swatches
Left: Lord & Berry Lipstick in Glazzed Pink | Right: Lord & Berry Lip liner in Romantica

2) Lord & Berry Kiss Proof Lip Liner in Romantica
Full size: £7.50

Lord and Berry_Kiss Proof Lip Liner Romantica

Again, this is another repeat product, just in a different shade. Romantica is what I'd describe as "Barbie pink" with some very apparent blue undertones. While the shade suits me a lot more than the one I received in August, I don't have any lipsticks that match this liner, so I'm going to struggle to find a use for it. It does say on the card that this can be used all over the lips and I've used it in that way before and found that while it stayed on for ages, the pencil is just a tad too hard, meaning it drags the skin and really emphasises any existing dryness.

3) Headline Colors | Nail Polish in Quicksand
Full size: £9

Headline Colours_Nail Polish Quicksand

Aaaaaaand guess what? Another repeat product. I got a golden Headline Colors polish in my first ever Beauteco box and now I've got another one in this murky nude shade. I don't mind that much as my nail polish collection consists predominantly of reds and neon brights, so it's nice to have a colour that's a little more muted for a change. The golden shade I received before applied pretty streaky, but that could be due to the fact that it was a metallic, so I'm hoping that this one will apply a little better.

4) S5 | Vitality Mask
Full size: £42 for 100ml (??) / Sample value: £6.30

S5_Vitality Mask

Now, this is an interesting one. On the card it says that this mask is an exclusive to Love Me Beauty and while I did find press releases online discussing a launch for March 2013, but it's not available to buy anywhere. I found the pricing information on a blog after a quick Google search, but I don't know how accurate it is. I've had an S5 product in another Love Me Beauty box before (no surprises there, again), but I quite liked it, so I'm happy to try this one. It's a bit annoying that I got two face masks with this box option, as I would have much preferred two different skincare products, but as it was still the option that suited me most, I'm in no position to complain.

5) Rodial | 5 Minute Facial
Full size: £35 for 50ml / Sample value: £7

Rodial_5 Minute Facial

This is another fairly interesting one. I've never owned or used any Rodial products before, but they've popped onto my radar with their rather questionable marketing (Diet powders, anyone? Or how about size zero cream?). Now, I've actually already had a chance to play with this a little bit and slathered it on when I got home from work and I'm loving the results so far. I suppose you shouldn't knock something until you've tried it - and I'm quite glad I got introduced to this product through a beauty box, as I would have never picked it up in a store!

Total value: £41.80

As mentioned before, I actually like this box a lot more upon better inspection than I thought I would. This is mainly due to the absolutely gorgeous colour of the lipstick. Nevertheless I have a few negative points that I feel need mentioning. Most importantly, what drew me into Love Me Beauty, or Beauteco box, was that they weren't so full of marketing speak and empty promises as other beauty boxes and right now they've fallen into that exact same pattern again. The Rodial sample this month was meant to be a deluxe sample - it contains 10ml, which is anything but deluxe. All boxes were meant to have a value of at least £50 - they didn't. And apparently there was meant to be "a little something extra" in my box as well according to my card, but once again, nothing. I don't mind the value of my box, I don't mind the Rodial sample being the size it is and I don't mind not having an extra - but don't promise things you're not going to keep.
I also feel that the repeat products are really starting to become an issue now. If I see any more Lord & Berry I don't think I'm going to keep up with my subscription. It's a shame, really. A beauty box that started out so strong and had me completely swooning over it and praising it to anyone who would listen is starting to become "just another subscription service". I would hate to see that happen.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

NOTD: Models Own Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights1

I think the closer we get to Christmas, the more we all just get cravings for glitter and sparkle. I actually used to hate glitter nail polish, but a stunning Deborah Lippmann polish I received in a Glossybox two years ago changed all that and slowly but surely turned me into a nail polish magpie!

Boogie Nights2

Boogie Nights3

I'm always intrigued by polishes with odd shapes of glitter, as they make for a more interesting and unique effect on the nails, so I was all over this polish as soon as I spotted it.

Boogie Nights4

As much as I love the odd shapes of glitter in this polish and the gorgeous mix of royal blue, red, fuchsia, hot pink and mauve glitter, I feel that the polish to glitter ratio is a tad too high. Upon first application I applied several coats to get the glitter a bit more concentrated, but the polish it's suspended in ended up feeling really rubbery and thick.

Boogie Nights5

In the pictures I've just embraced the sparsely glitterated (technical term) look and applied one coat over MAC's Hyper (sadly a limited edition shade). Beware that Boogie Nights will make the polish underneath look a tad more matte than a regular top coat.

Boogie Nights6

It still makes for a very pretty effect, especially when worn over a shimmery nail polish. Unfortunately the spiky bits of foil do tend to get caught on a lot of stuff quite easily.

Boogie Nights7

On the plus side, it's a lot easier to remove than regular glitter polish due to the smaller concentration of glitter particles. I'd still recommend using the tin foil trick to make your life a lot easier.

Models Own Boogie Nights is part of their Mirrorball collection and retails at £5 each.

Review: Rimmel Scandaleyes Lycra Flex Mascara

Here's a fun fact: I'm a little bit known for buying things for absolutely ridiculous reasons. The reason I bought this mascara? The packaging was bright green. I like bright green things.

Rimmel_Scandaleyes LycraFlex1

You certainly wouldn't have to worry about it getting lost in your make-up stash among the tubes and boxes of predominantly black and perhaps silver!

Rimmel_Scandaleyes LycraFlex2

Anyway, for me there is rarely a mascara that I will repurchase - there are about three that are my all time favourites, but being a beauty blogger there's just too many new ones to discover all the time!

Rimmel_Scandaleyes LycraFlex3

To cut a long story short, this was a rather average mascara for me - it did its job, didn't do too bad at it, but I'm definitely not going to buy it again. It gives a decent amount of length and volume to the lashes, but nothing that really blew me away.

Rimmel_Scandaleyes LycraFlex4

The brush is also a little on the larger side which makes it tricky not to smudge any mascara onto your eye lids (especially when you've got shaky hands like me). On the plus side it delivered really nice, black pigment with only minimal flaking during the day. But take a look for yourself.

Rimmel Scandaleyes LycraFlex Before

Me without any mascara. (How do you take pictures of your eyes without squinting? I can't seem to do it!)

Rimmel_Scandaleyes LycraFlex After

Me with Rimmel Scandaleyes Lycra Flex mascara. As you can see there's a little bit of smudging on the bottom eye lid.

I'd say that bright green packaging aside, this is a pretty average mascara. If you're looking for a cheap-ish mascara I'd still recommend MaxFactor False Lash Effect over this one any time, or if you've got some cash to splash, why not try Benefit's They're Real! (the next one I'll be reviewing) or Lancome's Hypnose Doll Eyes?

What are your favourite mascaras?

Rimmel Scandaleyes Lycra Flex mascara retails at £6.99

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Love Me Beauty Box November 13

Love Me Beauty November 13

Another month, another Love Me Beauty box. I seem to be the complete opposite to most other beauty bloggers and was actually a tad disappointed to see a heavily make-up based beauty box this month. Give me skincare and hair care as much as you want, but with make-up I much prefer to pick my own shades after swatching them in a shop. Thankfully you were able to pick your preferred nail polish and lipgloss colours from one of three editions (formerly known as "menus"), so I still had some choice and opted for edition 1.

1) Absolution | Le Soin Purifiant
Full size: £24 for 50ml / Sample value: £19.20

Absolution_Le Soin Purifiant

I can't say I've ever heard of this brand before, so testing this was quite the novelty! The mask feels very smooth and soft on the skin and is nowhere near as messy and sticky as most other clay based masks I've tried. You can definitely feel this working, as it made my face a bit hot towards the end of the 10 minutes you're meant to leave it on for. Afterwards, my skin felt thoroughly clean and my moisturiser sank in in record time.

2) Jelly Pong Pong | 2-in-1 Bronze Shadow/Liner
Full size: £10.50

Jelly Pong Pong_2-In-1 Bronze Shadow Liner

The colour of this shadow and eye liner stick is absolutely stunning: a deep rich brown that leans slightly cranberry red and is shot through with golden shimmer - absolutely perfect for this time of the year! The big pencil glides on without tugging the lid, but I found that on its own or even over a primer it creases very easily. It lasts much better if you set it with a powder eye shadow, but will still crease after about four hours. If it wasn't for the stunning colour, I would have been pretty gutted about this, as the quality simply isn't there.

3) Mitchell and Peach | Shower Wash
Full size: £20 for 250ml / Sample value: £4

Mitchell And Peach_Shower Wash

Last month I received a Mitchell and Peach body lotion as an extra product and this month I found the matching shower wash in my box. Once again, the packaging may be pretty looking, but makes getting the product out a bit more difficult than it needs to be, especially when your hands are all wet and slippy from the shower! Thankfully the shower gel is runnier in consistency than the body lotion, so I am yet to give myself a black eye trying to squeeze this out. It's a nice shower gel with a very pretty herbal/floral scent, but I'm not sure I'd spend £20 on a full bottle of this.

4) Models Own | Nail Polish "Hot Pink"
Full size: £5

Models Own_Nail Polish Hot Pink

I'm a huge fan of Models Own polishes and would be quite happy to own every single shade in their collection, so I was rather excited to see their polishes pop up in this month's boxes. They're great quality and pack a lot of pigment at a very reasonable price. I have to admit that I was a tad gutted when I opened my box and realised that the colour I picked, "Hot Pink" is almost identical to another Models Own polish in my collection, "Pink Punch". I've not yet worn it on my nails, however, so it might look completely different on!

5) Art Deco | Hydra Lip Booster "36 Translucent Rosewood"
Full size: £11.50

Artdeco_Hydra Lip Booster Translucent Rosewood

Now, usually I get a little annoyed when there's too many repeat brands in a subscription box, but Artdeco is a brand I literally can't get enough of and this lip gloss only adds to that sentiment. It glides on silky and smooth, actually feels quite moisturising on the lips and is just the perfect shade of nude: opaque and milky enough to make lips step into the background and really bring out the eyes, but sheer enough to let some natural lip pigment shine through and prevent that "undead" look. Absolutely brilliant!

Edition 1 swatches
Swatches: Left - Artdeco Hydra Lip Booster in Translucent Rosewood, Right - Jelly Pong Pong Bronze Shadow/Liner

Everyone who received last month's Love Me Beauty Box also got an extra Lord&Berry lipstick to make up for last month's underperforming mascara and eye liner. Well, not everyone, because I didn't. And when I sent an email to customer services about that and the fact that I keep getting charged twice a month for my subscription, they sent me a rather moody email back which completely ignored the issue of my missing lipstick. Can't say I'm impressed!

Total value: £50.20

Once again I've more than made my money's worth with this month's box, but I can't help but feel a tad underwhelmed. The mask is really nice and the lip gloss is amazing, but the other products haven't really blown me away. Add to that my rather mediocre customer service experience and I feel my love for Love Me Beauty waning slowly. I hope they can get themselves back in the game with another knock out box next month!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland


I'll let you all in on a secret. I'm absolutely OBSESSED with Christmas. As soon as Halloween is over, there's no more excuses and no holding back and my festive preparations are in full swing. I've turned the living room into Santa's little grotto, bought some ridiculous looking Christmas jumpers and there's tinsel EVERYWHERE. So imagine my excited little face when me and my boyfriend decided to pay Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park a visit yesterday.

We started off by browsing the stalls which had lots of cute hand made Christmas decorations. I found them all to be rather pricy, but then they were all hand made goods, so I suppose that justifies the higher price tags.


Lots of pretty snow globes...


... and some happy Santas!


Look at the gorgeous boxes that these hand made chocolates came in!


There was a stall selling Swedish Moose burgers, but as tempting as that sounded, we opted for something slightly more German and shared a Currywurst.


... which turned out to be the worst spent £5 of the night. Look at that measly little portion, it didn't even come with a bun!


I wish we'd had some of this awesome looking salmon instead, which was just slowly roasting/smoking by the fire pit!


These mountains of marzipan also looked very appetising... shame I don't like marzipan!


The cute little market stalls eventually morphed into loud, flashy and buzzy funfair rides with a sort of festive theme. I found myself entirely mesmerised by the huge, glowing white ferris wheel and had to be dragged off my staring spot after a good five minutes.


And yes, that's Santa in his sleigh right at the bottom.

Moving on, we decided to make friends with the locals, such as this friendly snowman.


I also tried to high five this polar bear, but failed miserably.


It's a lot easier when you're 6'5"!


Thankfully the penguins were a lot more height appropriate for me.


If there's one thing you want to spend extra money on while at Winter Wonderland, make sure you get some tickets for the Magical Ice Kingdom. At £7 per person at off-peak times, or £9 each during peak hours, it's money well spent. Prepare to freeze your tits off as soon as you enter, but for that slight inconvenience your greeted with sights like this one.


Or this....


You basically enter a carefully crafted fairytale of ice and snow - beautifully lighted and enhanced by sound effects all around you. Not all creatures were particularly friendly. Look at this guy...


I don't even want to know what he was brewing.


Some creatures were very majestic...



... others not so much.


The minute we stepped back outside it felt as if we'd entered a nice warm room lit with a log fire. All that exploring definitely warranted some refuelling. We were still slightly gutted that we hadn't tried that moose burger, so jumped at the chance when we found a stall selling buffalo, ostrich, springbok, wildebeest and wild boar. We opted for springbok, which albeit a little firm, was actually rather tasty!


We then ventured on to a huge Oktoberfest-style beer tent, where we drank some horrendously overpriced mulled wine and quite possibly the worst beer we've ever had in our lives. In the mean time, this dude was tearing up the stage with his performance. Imagine your awkward, embarrassing uncle (everyone's got one of those!) singing Black Eyed Peas in front of lots of people.... Having said that, the crowd there seemed to love it, so fair play to him!


It was almost at the exit that we finally found a worthy opponent in the sausage department. Look at this beast!!! (I mean the sausage, not my boyfriend)


Compared to actual German Christmas markets that I'm used to, Winter Wonderland turned out to be a little too loud, a little too try-hard, and way too overpriced, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't quite magical anyway. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area, even if it's just to have a wander round and to inhale all the delicious Christmas smells while listening to cheesy Christmas music!