Thursday, 31 October 2013

October on my mind


Wow, what a fantastic month this has been! I feel as if I say that every month and maybe I'm just easy to please but on the other hand, if you're able to appreciate the small things - there's sure to be something good about every day. I really have had so many things to appreciate in October - first of all I've celebrated 200 blog followers on both GFC and Bloglovin', which was a huge milestone for me. I never thought for a minute that I would get that far and all the support I've received just encourages me to keep going.

I spent a wonderful afternoon at Jo Malone's at John Lewis in Southampton, learning more about their products and the approach to layering different scents, to create something very unique just for you. If was an eye opener and a real learning experience, that's made me question how I have approached perfumes up until, and as crazy as it may sound - blind testing is the best way to find something that you genuinely like, for the right reason - the scent itself.

One of the most exciting things that happened this month was that I had the privilege of spending a day behind the scenes at QVC (a TV shopping channel where you can buy products that are demonstrated), visiting the Gatineau Salon and the shows to celebrate 17th anniversary of being available on QVC. Since I have used Gatineau for many years I actually also spent an hour in front of the camera as a guest on the show, talking about my experience as a "real client and user" of some of the products that were demonstrated that day. It was an amazing experience, that I'm so lucky to have had.

Last but not least it was also my birthday this month, and Him Indoors had organised a little surprise for me that involved a nice hotel, champagne, great food and a visit to the zoo! How well Him Indoors knows me - as an animal lover I couldn't have spent my birthday a better way than in the company of Big Cats; snow leopards, leopards, cheetahs and tigers, and there will be a post soon with some pictures from the day.

I hope you have all had a great month as well, and what do you know - today it's only 54 days left to Christmas... not that I'm keeping track or anything...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Put your best foot forward

Foot care, perhaps not the most exciting part of a beauty routine, but oh so important. If you think about how much we put our legs and feet through every day; we squeeze our feet into fabulous and narrow shoes, walk in towering high heels, stand up for long periods of time - that's a lot of pressure and weight, so no wonder that they get fatigued or the skin hardens to help act as a shock absorber. For some reason it seems more fun to take care of your feet during the summer since they're always more on display, but it's also important not to forget about them in the wintertime - keeping the skin nice, smooth and moisturised so when it's time to show them off again in strappy gorgeous heels at the seasons parties - you're well prepared.

Having a professional manicure or pedicure is very pleasant and relaxing but to be honest I do the same at home at least once a week, so it made sense to invest in some kind of tool to help with the buffing part. I must confess that I have a healthy respect for most types of electrical beautifying equipment, and for me using heated rollers is taking a giant step into the wonders of modern beauty care, but after much looking around I decided to get the Scholl Express Pedi, which is a tool to help smooth and soften skin quickly and effortlessly. It reminds me a little of an electrical shaver, but it has a buffing roller that you can easily replace when it starts to wear down. I use this after a long bath, when the skin of my feet is nice and softened, and after a couple of minutes of buffing they are left so smooth and any unevenness or hard areas has been gently removed. I was skeptical about it in the beginning and worried that it would be very rough or painful on the skin, but I was completely wrong. You'll get a gentle but effective buffing and it's great to use once or twice a week to keep your feet nice and soft.

After exfoliating, I like to use a nice and reach cream that softens even more any dry or rough spots, and Avon does a really lovely and affordable foot care range. A product that I've used for a long time is the Avon Heel Softening Cream which is a wonderful buttery and thick formula that  will help to soften the most stubborn of dry patches. It has a fresh and minty scent and the texture feels surprisingly luxurious to massage into the heels. I actually use this on my elbows as well as a treatment every now and then, and it make them very soft and supple.

Having given the heels some TLC, it's time to apply a generous layer of a foot lotion over the rest of the feet. There are a lot of foot lotions available, but a lot of them seem to contain lavender. Lavender in itself is a lovely scent, but it can be quite strong which is why the Burt's Bees Peppermint Foot Lotion is perfect for me. It's a gorgeous aromatic lotion dominated by the scent of peppermint oil and menthol, making it very invigorating and refreshing with almost that icy cool feeling you get from menthol. The peppermint helps to relax tired feet, but it also contains coconut oils to nourish, soften and hydrate any dry patches and beeswax to seal in moisture for a deeply moisturising sensation that lasts. 

To finish off my mini pedicure I'll spray on some of the Avon Watermelon Cooling Spray, which is a product that does exactly what it says on the bottle. It's nothing fancy and nothing complicated - it's a wonderful soothing and cooling spray that you can use at any point; either in the morning, during the day, in the evening, after a pedi - whenever you feel like it. As you may know with Avon they change their product range fairly regularly, so if you can't get hold of the Watermelon scent, there will be others, equally nice to use, but in a different scent. This is particularly lovely to use when you're in a hot climate, or if you've been out trekking, or wearing gorgeous but uncomfortable heels to relax and refresh your feet. After that, it's snuggle time with a warm and cozy pair of socks preferably worn overnight, to help the moisture cream really sink into the skin. In the morning you'll wake up with nice and soft skin, feeling refreshed as if you'd had a professional pedi - well close enough...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Beauty TAG! Skin care

TAGs - they are fun to do because you get to know bloggers a little bit more and it also makes you think about some things when you look at the questions, and they are not always straight forward to answer. Every time I'm lucky enough to get tagged I'm very grateful that someone has thought about me, and I will always join in. However, I also try to keep my content balanced so it may be a while before I do the tag. Quite a while back I was tagged by the sweet Michelle from Virgos and Kisses, to do a TAG about Skin care, which I'm passionate about so this was so much fun to do. Let's have a look at what Michelle asked:

Describe your skin care routine in 5 words?
Cleanse, Exfoliate, Nourish, Moisturise, Pampering. Even though my morning routine is a little bit different from my evening routine, and Is quite often - it's all based on these principles. Personally I also believe a lot in the actual experience of your skin care routine. If you enjoy the textures and the scents, it'll almost boost the effects - you'll feel great and relaxed, and it'll show outwards!

What's your skin type?
My skin is actually normal to combination, but like a lot of other people it tends to get dehydrated for lots of reasons; part of it is genetic, the weather, sitting in from of a computer screen all day long, air conditioning, general well being and sometimes it's even caused by certain skin care products. That means that the majority of my skin care products focus on retaining or restoring moisturise to the skin and for me some of the best brands for dehydrated skin are Gatineau, Caudalie, Estée Lauder and Clarins.

Top blemish zapper?
Aftershave! I don't often get blemishes, but on the other hand when I do - they tend to be bad and enough to ruin my day. So when I notice that something is brewing, I'll take a little bit of aftershave (it has to be something with a high alcohol %) on a cotton top and treat that area a few times a day followed by a dab of a rich moisturiser to avoid the area getting dried out. Fortunately Him Indoors has a nice selection of lovely after shave to borrow from and actually some of them are really wearable for women too!

Face wipes, yay or nay?
Njaay... I wouldn't use face wipes on an every day basis, and personally I prefer to have separate products for a gentle good cleanse that's adopted for specific needs e.g. eye make up remover, cleanser, toner etc and I don't see how different types of needs can be met in just one product. However if you're traveling or if you can't be bothered with a micellar water or cleansing solution and cotton pad, it's very practical, quick and easy to use facial wipes.

Toner, yay or nay?
Definitely! it's one of the beauty products I started to use, I still remember my first basic trio of products: Cleansing lotion, Purifying toner and a Moisturiser. I like to use a toner and for me it's like making absolutely sure that you remove every particle of makeup that you've used. I also like that it makes the skin feel very refreshed between cleansing and moisturising and it's also lovely to use a facial spray at this stage.

High-end skin care or high-end makeup?
I do have make up favourites from premium brands, that I wouldn't want to be without, but there is also an excellent range of more purse friendly makeup options on the high street, with great pigmentation and shades. So for me I'm more willing to splurge on high end skin care and I actually think of it as an investment. That doesn't mean that only high-end skin care is worth getting. We all know that we pay more for premium brands, not always because of how effective they are but because of the label, the packaging and the marketing - which all add to the price tag. If you strip out those costs, you'll get a different price and there are definitely budget brands that have lovely products, e.g. Garnier. For me it's not necessarily about using high-end or not, I think we all have a mix of products in our cabinets and drawers, but what it is about is getting the basics right. If you don't treat your skin well - it doesn't matter how much money you spend on makeup, since you'll only try to cover your skin rather than enhancing it, and the make up won't look as lovely as it could. 

What's the most unusual skin care product you've tried?
Since I love to try new products I have a long list of things to choose from, but it would need to be a face mask. It wasn't the texture or the sensation as such that made it unusual, it was that one of the  main ingredients was bee venom. It was supposed to deeply hydrate and rejuvenate the cells as well as help with scars. I don't know if it actually did that, but since bee venom has a plumping effect the skin did look nicely hydrated and smooth, which of course will help to smooth out any imperfections. 

Tell us your top skin care tip:
Sleep, sleep, sleep. Him Indoors jokingly calls me the Champion of sleep, but it's a well known fact that sleep is essential not just for general well being, but for the cells to regenerate. It's also the time when your skin is most receptive to treatments and creams, which is why a lot of products intended to be used overnight are richer than products intended for day wear. So make sure you get your Zzzeds.

Thank you again to Michelle for tagging me and to keep this going, I'm passing this on to the following lovely bloggers, who you must go and check out:

Lucy from the New Northerner
Rachael from All the Little Things
Jackie from Beautify
Ambi from Ambi Fashion

Have a wonderful day everyone! Xx

Monday, 28 October 2013

Manic.Monday: Loden Green by Isadora

When I visit my family in Sweden I always try to pick up products from Scandinavian brands that I can't easily get hold of in the UK. So usually I leave with a fairly empty suitcase, but coming back it's always filled to the brim with clothes, shoes, makeup, and even some food. You may remember from my Sweden haul, that I stocked up on some makeup from Isadora which is one of the most popular brands in Scandinavia. The brand reminds me a little bit about Maybelline both in terms of price point and range of products which are great value for money and they have a wide variety of shades available. It goes without saying that I got a couple of different nail polishes, and the first one I've tried was from Isadora's Wonder Nail range.

The Wonder Nail range seems to want to target all the key selling points for nail polishes; it's extra long lasting, quick drying, hard wearing and also has an extra wide brush - but how good was it really? 

First of all the formula is nice and quite thick without being gloopy, and it works really well with the wide brush. I love wide brushes that you can fan out to cover the whole nail and that's exactly what this one does, and together with the thick formula it gives perfect coverage in one simple sweep very easily, creating an almost perfect opaque finish in one coat. The down side with thick polishes is that it can take a while for them to set and it increases the risk of smudging, but the Isadora polish delivers on this point as well. It's dries quickly and you can apply a second coat if you wish in case you don't find the coverage enough. Another common issue with thick polishes is that if you have more than one coat, it can easily chip and that is exactly what I find with this polish as well. In the photo below I'm wearing two coats and as you can see it's started to chip ever so slightly on the thumb already after a few hrs wear, which is a bit disappointing.

This particular shade is called Loden Green which is an unusual deep bronze olive green with a lovely metallic look and feel to it. Unlike many darker polishes it has a warm undertone to it, and that for me makes it a little bit more wearable and it also works really well to contrast any pastel colors you might wear, particularly pink.  
Loden green

Overall I'm very happy with the Isadora nail polish and I would say that the only point it didn't deliver on for me was in terms of being long lasting. I did try it as well using only one coat and even though it lasted a little bit longer - perhaps 3 days before it started to chip, to me that's pretty standard for a lot of nail polishes and I wouldn't call that extra long lasting. Since I change nail polish very often anyway, the long wear isn't exactly an issue for me and I would still buy other Wonder Nail shades, however I think it's important to be clear on the expectations in case you decide to test it yourself. I do like to wear it and for me Loden Green is an interesting and slightly softer and modern alternative to black nail polish.   

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A scentsational afternoon at Jo Malone + Winner of International Barry M Giveaway

When I found out that Jo Malone had just opened a store at John Lewis in Southampton, I was absolutely thrilled, although my bank balance won't be - and of course I was very quick to accept an invitation to a relaxing hand and arm treatment, accompanied with some bubbly and nibbles to celebrate the opening. I'm definitely one of Jo Malone's biggest fans and was really looking forward to getting something new from their gorgeous line up of scents, ranging from the light and fruity to the aromatic and woody, and the intense and dramatic.

One of the main concepts of Jo Malone is that you can tailor the scents especially to you, by layering them - combining perhaps with other colognes or other products like shower gels and body lotions, to create your personal scent. In my case we decided that we would experiment with layering different scents using a bath oil, a luscious rich and deeply moisturising body crème and finally a cologne. This sounds pretty straight forward, but the intriguing twist to this is that I wouldn't know which scents we were using - it would be a blind test. We had a discussion about what type of scents I like in general, and then four different unnamed scents were chosen. I tested them separately, in combination with each other and we identified likes and dislikes.

The interesting thing was that I couldn't recognise some of the scents that I had already picked out as possible buys that day, and in some cases all of a sudden a scent wasn't as appealing to me as it had been before. 

This little experiment made me realise that it's not just what we actually smell that decides whether we like a scent or not, but it's also what else we know about it. E.g. if you like rose, and you have been told or know that a scent has an element of rose in it, or it might be called Red Roses or the bottle might even be in the shape of a rose, then you may have already subconsciously decided that you like the scent. But if you did a blind test with nothing else to guide you than your nose - no name of the scent, no bottle and no description, you might very well come to a different conclusion. It's fascinating when you think about it!

At the end of the afternoon I might have accidentally bought a little something with me home. So, what did I end up with after a lot of testing and consideration? - well a combination I had not expected at all... 

The bespoke combination I eventually chose was the Wild Bluebell Cologne and the White Jasmin & Mint Body Crème. As you massage in the luxurious body crème you of course pick up on the delicate, soft and feminine floral scent of the jasmine, but it's not as dominant as it can sometimes be and instead it's surprisingly fresh and light because of the exhilerating, icy cool mint. The bluebell cologne is very subtle and personally I detect more of the sweet lily of the valley and the crisp sweet but zingy persimmon than the bluebell. I had tried the bluebell cologne previously, but it had never really whispered: "I'm perfect for you - buy me", until now. In combination - the graceful jasmin, herbal mint, zesty persimmon and faint bluebell create an elegant, timeless and crisp scent. I'm so pleased with this fusion which I think could be my very own signature scent for a long time to come, and I can't stop smelling myself...

A big thank you to Jo Malone and especially the wonderful Holly for making a very rainy afternoon, an exceptionally lovely one! If you don't have any plans for the weekend, or you're looking for something fun to do with your friends - book yourself into the closest Jo Malone for a nice treatment and some perfume testing, and if you walk out of there with a bag filled with goodies - you can always blame me!

As you know I have run an international Barry M Giveaway for the past nine days to celebrate that I had reached 200 followers on both GFC and Bloglovin'. It was an amazing turnout with so many entries and I want to thank everyone who entered and sent me your details. The amount of support I have received from everyone is just fantastic and I appreciate it so very much. I'm very happy to announce that the winner is Judy Thomas. Congratulations and I hope you'll enjoy the products!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

October favourites

It's almost the end of October and even though it's been a beautiful autumn so far and you still don't really need to wear warm jackets and coats, the colder times are definitely here. Just like most people my skin reacts in all sorts of ways to the changes in weather, but this year I'm taking a more pro-active approach. So instead of treating dryness and any sensitive areas when they occur come December time when it's really cold, I've started to plump my skin with as much moisture as possible to prepare, and this is also why all of my favourites this month are related to skin care in one form or another.

Moisture, moisture and moisture is the key to keeping your skin soft and supple. However it's not just a question of adding moisture - drinking water by the buckets, and moisturising your skin properly, your skin also needs to retain it. To help with that I use the Gatineau Aquamemory Moisture Replenish Eye Roll On. This eye cream uses seaweed extract which is well known for its water retaining qualities to not only drip feed the skin with moisture throughout the day, but also to lock it into the sensitive eye area. It's a very light cream which comes with a nifty little roller ball applicator to massage it into the eye area. It feels very soothing on the skin and also helps to get rid of puffiness or dark circles and I actually keep mine in the fridge for an extra cooling sensation in the morning. The packaging is very slim and lightweight so it's easy to take with you in your handbag and you can re-apply it during the day, even on top of your makeup to refresh your skin.

Another product which is perfect to carry with you for a boost to your skin and your mood during the day is the Caudalie Beauty Elixir - Limited Edition. It's exactly the same formula as before, but this one has a pretty design from L'Wren Scott on the bottle. This is an old time favourite of mine since with just  a couple of sprays, a wonderful fine mist adds moisture and radiance to your skin, as well as refreshes you with it's herbal aromatic scent of invigorating mint and warming rosemary. I always have one of these in my handbag, and when you're out and about it's a quick and easy way to maintain moisture levels, and your spirits too - accompanied with a skinny decaffeinated latte of course...

The next product that I have truly loved this month is the YSL Forever Youth Liberator Serum Foundation and it's also perfect for this time of year since not only does it give amazing coverage, it also cares for your skin at the same time, helping the skin cells to renew themselves. I'm not going to go into too much detail on this product since I've recently done a detailed review of it, but having used this product now for more than a month I am - if possible, even more happy with it than I was then. Despite being fairly full coverage it's so light to wear that it's not even noticeable, the longevity of it is great and I no longer worry about having to retouch my foundation throughout the day. I also think that its nourishing qualities are showing on my skin e.g. after removing my make up in the evening, my skin feels just as moisturised and smooth as it did after my morning routine. That is the sign of a quality product!

Since the YSL serum foundation is high coverage already I don't need much concealer, and my Rimmel Wake Me Up Concealer is just perfect. I have used it previously to get good coverage on blemishes, but for me the best bit now is the illuminating effect it has. It's brilliant to use under the eyes to make you look wide awake and energised, and perhaps also around the nose to brighten that area a little. The concealer also has moisturising qualities and at least for now it's an excellent and a more budget friendly option to the YSL illuminating concealer which is on my list of things to try.

Since my beloved Rimmel Stay Matte Powder broke during my travels last month, I had a real reason (for once) to go and get a new powder and I already new what I was going to get. I'd read raving reviews of the Soap & Glory One Heck of a Blot and am very happy to say that it fully met my expectations. It's an incredibly fine and light mattifying powder that absorbs oil and creates a perfect matte look. Just like my previous Rimmel powder it's transparent so it would work with any skin type or tone. What I particularly like about it is that unlike some powders it doesn't feel like a masque - not even after having re-applied it a few times throughout the day and evening, and it sits lightly and evenly on the skin. I was already a fan of the Soap & Glory body care range but this was the first make up product I'd tried, and now I will definitely try other things from their make up range and fingers crossed those products will be as great as this one.

Since I had to buy a new powder I thought I would also invest in a proper brush for it. I went straight to the isle where my new found love - the Real Techniques is, to find a new member for my brush family. I ended up getting the Powder Brush 1401 and I'm happy to say that the new family member fits right in and gets along really well with the others. The brush is so soft and supple and it's perfect to get a light and smooth coverage with just a simple sweep.

With all this focus on skin care products, I feel quite well prepared to combat the effects of any cold or snowy weather that might eventually hit us and actually I'm kind of looking forward to December - particularly since my Ciaté advent calendar arrived today!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Spa treats from St. Grape

A little while ago I was one of the lucky winners of the five St. Grape gift sets from the giveaway that Miss Budget Beauty held at the beginning of the month and I was really excited to get to try their products. St. Grape is a new brand that launched their products in August this year, and they only sell their products in the UK at the moment. The St. Grape concept is all about natural and organic skin care, based on ancient traditions and rituals to create modern holistic skincare - looking after both the body and the mind.

The gift set I got contains four different products; bath salts, bath scrub, foot scrub and a massage oil - perfect for an indulgent evening of some relaxing pampering. I am all about pampering, and several times a week I ensure that I get some me time to enjoy a nice long soak in the bath with lots of bubbles - ideally both in the bathtub and in a champagne glass. Despite being a bath girl I must admit that I don't often use bath salts, but as soon as I saw the Exotic Pink Bath Salts I was curious to try it.

It's made from Himalayan salt, which is very rich in minerals that not only makes the skin velvet soft, but it also detoxes your body and to have nice long soak in a bath must be the easiest way to detox ever. I poured a generous amount of salt into the bath and by the time I'd finished running the bath the majority of the salts had more or less dissolved. The scent is not so much exotic as it is aromatic and I would say that it's a menthol like subtle lavender smell, so it's relaxing as well as invigorating but not overpowering in any way. The salts were great for softening up my muscles, but the menthol oils are so reviving that I'm not sure this would work for me as a pre-bedtime relaxer, but except for that it's a lovely product.

While I was enjoying my bath I also used the Aqua Bliss Bath Scrub which contains natural mineral sea salt, essential oils and vitamin e. The scrub has an incredible consistency, and I've never tried anything like this before. It's soft and creamy but finely grainy from the salt at the same time, and it feels very light and fluffy on the skin - it's like scrubbing yourself with a granita, it just dissolves beautifully. It's a really lovely exfoliator and it leaves the skin feeling very soft and smooth with a faint smell of jasmine, although for me it is a little bit on the soapy side. According to the description you can use this on your face as well as your body, however I won't be able to comment on that since I've only used it as a body scrub so far. I absolutely love this product - it's great value for money and I would definitely repurchase it.

The next product in the gift set is also a scrub, but for the feet. The Ancient Foot Scrub uses the same ingredients as the Aqua Bliss, and the consistency is wonderful although more than a little bit different. It has a soft but dry, grainy and fluffy texture that reminds me of couscous but it's very relaxing and soothing to use, and even better if you can get somebody to do it for you... Take a a handful of the scrub to massage all over moist feet, and it will easily get rid of any rough or dry skin. I also tried this on my hands during a manicure and it works equally well, and you can follow up with a rich hand cream or even a moisturising wax treatment for silky smooth paws.

Using this is quite messy, so I would recommend that you do it over the bath tub or something similar, so you don't get it everywhere as I did the first time I used it. It's a pleasant product to use, however it is VERY strongly scented. The scent could be from the essential oils; jasmine, rose and lavender, each of them distinct and potent in themselves. As you know fragrance is a very important product aspect for me, and it can sway me either way when I'm testing a product. For me personally this scent is far too strong, even over powering and unfortunately it would keep me from buying the product again - even though I really did enjoy the actual scrub. 

To finish the bath routine I used the Invisible Skin Massage Oil to moisturise every part of my body that had been soaked and scrubbed. The oil comes in a lovely apothecary style, heavy glass bottle with a stop which is too chic to be hidden away in a bathroom cabinet. The oil is a blend of Camellia Seed and Extra Virgin Oil with an impressive 9 other kinds of 100% pure essential oils from; lavender, lime, basil, grapefruit, mint, rose geranium, eucalyptus, chamomile and bois de rose. All together, they create an aromatic, soothing and relaxing scent that is still fresh thanks to the zesty citrus fruits. The oil is fairly rich without being heavy and it leaves your skin nicely moisturised. You can use this as a serum on your face as well, but since you should only use a tiny drop of oil, it would have been useful if the bottle came with a pipette, or something to help with the dispensing.

We all have such busy lives that it's important to take some time every now and then to just relax, and what better way to do that than turn your bathroom into a relaxing home spa; light some candles, put on some music, have a lovely bath and finish with some of your favourite products. If you're on the look out for something new to try, why not check out the St. Grape, and make use of the 50% discount code from Miss Budget Beauty - BUDGETBEAUTY5

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Fiesta time with the October box from Kitchen Nomad

One of the places in the world I had always wanted to visit is Mexico. I'm fascinated by its history and culture, and earlier this year I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Mexico on Yucatán. We had an amazing time exploring the mayan temples of Chichén Itzá and Tulum, taking in the sun, doing some latin dancing, and of course enjoying the fantastic food. So when I opened the October box from Kitchen Nomad and discovered that the theme was Mexico I was absolutely thrilled.

At the beginning of the month I shared with you the first box I received from Kitchen Nomad, which focused on Pakistan It was a slightly delayed review since the box arrived when I was in Sweden but if you haven't read that post, I'll just remind you of the fabulous concept of getting a selection of ingredients from a different country each month, together with a suggestion for a menu and you also get some interesting facts about the culture and food from the particular country. So vámonos, let's see what Mexican delicacies Kitchen Nomad has in store for me this month:

Chilli de Árbol - deep rep chilli fruits used for chilli sauce
Chipotle Sauce - medium hot chilli sauce with smoked paprika, garlic and cocoa
Anchos Chillies - mild, dried chilli with a slightly smokey fruity flavor
Jalapenos Chillies - pickled snacks
 Masa Harina - maize flour used for making soft corn tortilla
Mexican Oregano - aromatic but spicier and stronger than your usual oregano
Bay leaves
Black Beans - as a dip with tortilla chips or to put in tacos
Pumpkin Seeds
Chilli Honey - honey with a smokey chilli flavor
With all these wonderful ingredients, this is the feast you can make:
Soft-baked feta - feta cheesed backed in the oven with garlic, chillies de árbol, thyme, and lime. Eaten with soft tortilla
Stuffed Chillies - Chillies stuffed with cream cheese, parmesan, chives and fried. Served in soft tortillas and sour cream, but since none of us like sour cream we'll swap this for a cooling tomato salsa.
Rajas tacos - soft tortillas filled with a sauce made from ancho chillies, garlic, creme fresh, cheese, onions and since I don't eat meat, we'll make this a prawn taco
Black bean soup - soup with black beans, chillies, chipotle sauce, oregano, bay leaves, tomato, garlic, onion, stock and lime. Served with crumbled feta cheese and coriander
Autumn stew with pipián - vegetarian stew with pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, cumin, ancho chillies, pumpkin seeds, chiles de árbol, garlic, onion, coriander and basil
Chilli honey crumble - made from apples and blueberries

I don't know about you, but after this I'm already ravenous! So I have a cunning plan for this weekend; we'll turn up the heat in the living room, we'll post pictures from our holiday all over the walls, play some mariachi music, have a big jug of frozen strawberry daquiri, eat this amazing food, and it'll be just like being back in Mexico - well not quite, but we can dream...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A stain you'll want to keep

You may remember that I went a bit shopping crazy in the duty free about a month ago, and since I came back to the UK I have slowly but surely tested my way through the products - it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it! One of the products I picked up was the YSL Lacquer Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain which I had had my eye on for a very long time, so you can imagine how excited I was to finally try it.

When the YSL glossy stains were launched last year, this was a concept that hadn't been seen before. It gives the coverage of a lipstick, with the consistency and shine of a lipgloss and it sits like a stain on your lips, i.e. it's not going ANYWHERE. But before I move on to the formula, let's just admire the packaging for a second. As with all YSL products the glossy stain comes in an elegant and stylish format that adds a little bit of luxury to your everyday, and there's nothing better to cheer you up on a rainy Monday morning. 

The glossy stain is a creamy format, a bit thicker than a lip gloss, but it still feels very light on the lips and it comes with a nice wide doe foot applicator that makes application quick and fuss free. It gives beautiful glossy, satin smooth coverage without feeling sticky and after a few seconds the color sets on your lips like a stain, but it still keeps that lovely initial shine. Once the color has fused into your lips it just stays put and it's very long lasting. It will eventually fade into a more matte look and you do need to touch it up, but personally I find that it doesn't transfer the same way as lipsticks or lip glosses do. Another great thing is that it never looks patchy and it doesn't make your lips feel dry so it's a very lovely product to wear.

I know that a berry shade would probably have been more suitable for autumn and winter, but I decided to go for shade 12 - Corail Fauve, which is a gorgeous warm tint of coral that has a tiny bit of rose pink to it. It's a dynamic and vibrant shade without being sharp or overpowering, and it's very wearable since the stain blends so well with your lips.
Shade 12 - Corail Fauve

The only thing about this product that I'm not very keen on is that it both smells and tastes quite perfumed and in fact it's one of the strongest scented lip products I've tried for a long time. I don't actually know if it's the same for all the shades, but this one has something sweet and sharp rose-like over it. I don't mind too much about the scent, and it's definitely not enough to put me off the product since the taste disappears after 5-10 mins, but it is noticeable and I would have preferred to be without it.

I have always been very happy with the YSL products that I've tried, and I had every expectation that this would be no exception. The YSL glossy stain is a great product that creates a lovely finish, is light and pleasant to wear and that lasts really well throughout the day. I suspect that this won't be the last glossy stain for me, and I think I've even decided which shade to get next.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Bath & Body Works Pumpkin Patch

There are not many things that invoke images and thoughts of autumn as much as pumpkins, and this year I've definitely indulged in all things pumpkin. I've had more spicy pumpkin lattes than I can count, I've baked some yummy spicy pumpkin cookies with cinnamon icing, carved a few scary pumpkin faces and made a delicious pumpkin & sunflower seed soup. You could say that I've been bathing in pumpkins, and actually I have - literally - using Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin products from Bath & Body Works (B&BW)! For me this is the most seasonal and delicious scent that B&BW offer from their gourmand family of good enough to eat scents.

The scent is a warm, sparkling and spicy but fresh mix of ingredients. First you'll notice fruity and juicy apples followed by zesty ginger and fragrant cinnamon. To add some depth to the fruit and spiciness you'll also find sweet vanilla, earthy sandalwood, a hint of rum and there's something else as well... ah yes, PUMPKIN.
As you may know I prefer to use a shower gel and body cream in the same fragrance because I find that the scent lasts longer when you layer them since products will enhance each other The Shower Gel feels surprisingly expensive to use because of it's silky texture and also since it contains several moisturising ingredients for a gentle clean. To me the shower gel is more fruity and sweet rather than spicy, since you can clearly pick up the note of the apples and the rum - it's a bit like showering in a delicious cocktail.

Using the Triple Moisture Body Cream after a shower really intensifies the lovely warm autumnal scent, and emphasizes the spicy pumpkin and cinnamon. The body cream is luxuriously rich, creamy and packed with moisture that makes your skin feel deeply hydrated, pampered and smooth. If I just use the shower gel and the body cream in the morning, there's still a hint of warm spice and apple that lingers later in the day, so I'm positively surprised at the longevity of this scent, and it's better than many of the B&BW products. Luckily I don't have to rely on just these two lovely body care products, since I also have the Fine Fragrance Mist as a finishing touch to this pumpkin extravaganza. Wearing all three products strengthens the different notes, and you end up with an inviting, piquant, fresh and lavish fragrance that captures the essence of autumn perfectly.

If you've read my blog previously you'll know that I have a thing for B&BW products and just can't get enough of them - which is really unfortunate considering there are no B&BW shops here in the UK. Not only do we not have any stores in the UK, but as luck would have it - they don't ship to the UK either. However the situation isn't completely hopeless because you can find a selection of B&BW products on The Bath and Body Shop website, and there is of course also good old eBay.  

Monday, 21 October 2013

Manic.Monday: Commander in Chic

I have always been a fan of the Sally Hansen range of nail care products. I have tried several of them and find that they do exactly what they claim to do, and some of them have been staple items in my nail care drawer for a few years; e.g. the Nail Growth Miracle and the Miracle Cure - both excellent products! But it wasn't until the beginning of the year that I tried my first Sally Hansen nail polish and it was such a pleasant surprise that I have bought quite a few of the nail polishes since then (surprise, surprise - spot the polishaholic).

The product in today's post is the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure Nail Colour in Commander in Chic 370. It's a beautiful pale rose khaki brown with a faint mauve undertone that makes it a really soft and feminine shade. It has something of a pastel tone over it, and it would look gorgeous to wear with an oversized pink coat or jacket to be right on trend.

The Sally Hansen Salon Manicure nail polish range is marketed as a bit of a technological marvel - yes... we are still talking about a nail polish... First of all they are a 5-in-1 product i.e. they contain base coat, strengthener, growth treatment, color and top coat - that sounds very promising! Then the formula contains a "patented micro-encapsulated time-release technology" of caring ingredients that infuses the nails, nourishing them throughout the wear. I really like the fact that brands are trying to make the nail polish formulas as gentle and caring as possible for your nails, but since I apply a new shade every few days I simply haven't worn the Sally Hansen polishes long enough to be able to comment on whether I've noticed any significant improvements in quality to my nails - but the concept is definitely great.

The formula is nicely opaque and already after one coat you'll have a glossy satin look, although for a truly thick color I would recommend that you apply two coats. It comes with a very nice wide brush that fans out beautifully, which means that you get excellent and smooth coverage of more or less all of the nail.   
Commander in Chic - 370

Since the polish is a 5-in-1, in theory it's a real time saver and you can tell that Sally Hansen has tried to create a polish which can be used on the go. You can definitely wear the polish as it is with no separate base coat or top coat, without your nails being stained and the finish is also nice and glossy enough. Personally I always use a separate base coat and cop coat anyway, and I also like that the separate top coat adds even more high shine to the finished look. It could be that doing this, there's a little bit of an impact on the wear. On my nails the polish lasts approx 5-6 days before it starts to chip a little bit, which I think is really good, but I know that the product claims to be chip resistant for up to 10 days. I don't know about you, but I've never had a plain polish that's lasted that long with a perfect finish.

To sum it up - the Salon Manicure is a great formula that also cares for your nails and there is a rainbow of colors to choose from. If you haven't already tried this polish, have a look at all the tempting shades they offer, the next time you're in Boots or Superdrug - and that's an order!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tame your mane with hair oils

One of the most frequently sold hair care products in the world is hair oils and you can't open a magazine without there being some promotion about the latest miracle in oils. The reason oils are so great for your hair is that they contain essential fatty acids, vitamin e and anti-oxidants from various types of oil. Essential fatty acids help to control your hairs hydration and elasticity, vitamin e helps to heal damaged hair and anti-oxidants helps to reduce discoloration. Most hair oils are multi-tasking and can be used on both wet and dry hair; as a pre-cleanse, intensive conditioning, heat styling product or for finishing touches but regardless of how you prefer to use a hair oil it will sink into your hair, treating it and conditioning it at the same time.

There are so many types of oil available so I wanted to do a comparison to see if there was much difference between them, and how they worked on my hair. Most oils target different types of hair so it's definitely worth while doing some research beforehand to make sure that you get a product that is right just for you, and the products I've tested are all aimed at dry and/or damaged hair. As usual when I do a product comparison, I have a selection of products from different price ranges so let's get started - bring on the oils.

First out of these oils is Kérastase Elixir Ultime which contains ingredients that actively repair and nourish damaged hair. It comes in a large plastic bottle with a pump, and for me it's always a bonus when a product has a pump, so it's easy to get exactly the right amount of product - particularly important when it comes to oils since we don't want greasy hair! I use about two small pumps of oil - no more, heat it up between the palm of my hands so it absorbs better into the hair and comb it through my hair with a detangler, but never anywhere near the scalp. Elixir Ultime is a very light oil and it has the most amazing, sophisticated scent of exotic moringa which luckily stays on your hair for a while. Since the consistency of it is so light, it works great both as conditioner, treatment, detangler or as a styling product without leaving any greasiness or dullness at all. When I've used a tiny drop of Elixir Ultime, my hair feels silky and smooth and more well behaved, and it stays that way for several days afterwards. 
The second oil in this line up is a product you'll find on the high street, and I had some high hopes for it - it's the L'Oréal Elvive Extraordinary Oil, which is suitable for all hair types. Reading about it before I tested it, it sounded like a more affordable alternative to the Kérastase Elixir Ultime. It's marketed as a 5-in-1 "miracle hair perfector" which is supposed to give hair a glowing shine, nourish, make your hair silky and soft, smooth and perfect your hair. It comes in a stylish and heavy glass bottle which looks very nice, but may not be very practical and I'm worried it'll break on the floor of my bathroom at some point... Anyway, it comes in a very generous size and with a pump that dispenses exactly the amount you want, which is great. Another bonus for me is the gorgeous warm and floral scent of white flowers. So far this oil is reminds me a lot of Kérastase, but this is where the similarities end. The texture of L'Oréal Elvive is quite strange - it's definitely an oil, but to me it's much more like a serum with its gooey, syrupy consistency. I've used this as a conditioner and a detangler and it feels lightweight on the hair, distributes easily and it does add shine. Unfortunately I don't find it non greasy at all - it makes my hair look matte and unwashed and I just can't get used to the texture. Out of the oils I've tried this was the one I least enjoyed using, and to be perfectly honest I doubt that I will use up the bottle.

Next up is a product from one of my favourite hair care ranges - Macadamia Natural, and it's the Healing Oil Treatment which I got in a Macadamia Get Hooked package. This is a wonderful rich oil with quite a strong, but lovely nutty and slightly masculine scent. Because it's so thick I really enjoy using this particularly as a nourishing treatment before shampooing or added to a masque for that extra boost of hydration. I absorbs beautifully into the hair without leaving a greasy feeling and it's also light enough to use it as a styling oil for some extra finishing shine. Using this makes your hair feel silky and light and I've even surprised myself with how much I enjoy using it. The travel size also makes it very practical to bring in a handbag for any touch ups when you're on the go.

The last oil I've tested is the Body Shop Coconut Beautifying Oil which is a multi purpose oil, so it can be used both for your hair, face and body. It's a fairly light dry oil, which means that it absorbs straight into the skin so you don't have to worry about staining your clothes if you use it as a moisturiser, and it has an amazing warm soft authentic scent of coconut - delicious. I must admit that I find it difficult to understand how one oil can be multi purpose since at least my hair, skin and body need different things, and this is why this product doesn't work for me. As a body care product this is a lovely hydrating oil that illuminates your skin and I will definitely continue to use it like that, however I really don't like to use it either on my face where it feels far too heavy and almost fatty or my hair. I tested it using a tiny drop of oil at the ends of my hair and also to smooth down fly aways and kinks, but I felt as if it made my hair greasy, matte and weighed down and unlike the other oils this doesn't work for me as a product to perfect your styling. I still think it's a gorgeous body care product that I would buy again, but I wouldn't use this for hair care when there are much better options available.

Out of the different oils I've tested there are two products that stand head and shoulder above the others; Kérastase Elixir Ultime and the Macadamia Healing Oil Treatment, and I would repurchase both of these products faster than you can say follicle, however if I had to pick just one favourite it would be Elixir Ultime. 
It's a gorgeous, light and beautifully scented hair oil with just the right consistency for you to use it both on wet and dry hair. I have used Elixir Ultime since Spring time, and even though I found it difficult to get my head around all the different ways I could and should use it, it is now an essential item in my hair care routine. I also feel as if it's made a real difference to the quality of my hair and it's more nourished and tamed. As you may know I have long hair that gets put through a fair bit of wear and tear, but I have fewer split ends than before and it looks less frazzled after heat styling. I thoroughly enjoy using this oil and for me it's definitely the Ultimate Elixir.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Instant Radiance with Gatineau Activ Eclat

If you read my post on October empties, you'll know that I finished my KIKO Skin trainer this month. Towards the end of using the Skin Trainer my skin felt nice and supple but a little bit on the tight side and as the weather turned a bit colder I started to notice dry patches and that my skin looked a bit dull in general. So having finished that product, I turned to an old friend to re-balance my skin: the Gatineau Activ Eclat Flash Radiance.

This is an energising skin serum which contains vitamins and other ingredients to add not only an intense boost of moisture, but also instant radiance to the skin. The increased moisture will help to plump up areas of dryness and even out any fine lines or wrinkles, and a Light complex helps to brighten the skin.

The serum has a lovely milky white, light and silky texture that feels luxurious to apply and it's easily massaged into the skin. Another thing that I love about it is the wonderful and delicate scent of zesty orange peels which just adds to the pure indulgence of this product, and luckily that fresh citrus note stays on your skin after you've applied the serum.

Like with most serums, you can apply it in the morning and/or evening before you moisturise, but personally I use this mainly as part of my morning routine and I actually like to use it after I've applied my moisturiser. This might sound a bit strange, but the serum adds a lot of radiance and I prefer to benefit from that during the day particularly if I'm having a no make up day. Your skin won't look shiny or shimmery in any way, but it looks brighter, it has a noticeable warm glow and your skin just looks a wide awake and rested. I also find that when I use the serum on top of the moisturiser it works a little like a primer, helping your makeup to stay put a bit longer - and let's face it, most of us need all the help we can get in that area.

Regardless of how you prefer to use the serum, it gives a deep sensation of hydration that lasts throughout the day, which is exactly what I'm looking for in a skin care product. Having used the Activ Eclat serum for a few weeks now my skin feels invigorated and strengthened, moisturise levels are back up again and I feel much better prepared to battle any dryness when get weather gets colder again.

I realise that the Activ Eclat serum isn't exactly a budget buy, but on the other hand it is a multi purpose product for your skin; it moisturises, protects, adds radiance and acts as a primer - all at the same time. Now you don't often get all those qualities in one single product and for me every glowing orange smelling drop of the serum is definitely worth it.

Friday, 18 October 2013

October empties

I don't think anyone will be surprised when I say that I like to shop - particularly beauty products. To get some brand new interesting things you've never tried before is so exciting. But having your bathroom cabinet full of lovely stuff that's not used is rather pointless, so I'm trying to be really good and to finish up products that are half full before I move on to my brand new toys. I've even been so organised that I've put all the stuff that needs to be used up at the front of the cabinet, and made a little list for me to track my progress. Talk about taking your beauty seriously!

The first empty of October is a dry shampoo. As most of you will know by now, I think dry shampoo is a girls' second best friend, and absolutely perfect for a quick on the go freshen up of your hair. I am a big user of the Batiste products and the Dry Shampoo XXL Volume not only refreshes and gives texture it also give a lot of volume, which for me is perfect e.g. after a gym session or if you're going out somewhere straight after work. Like all of the Batiste products it comes with a smell which is distinct for this particular bottle - it smells intensely of red berries, sweet floral and has almost a salty liquorice after smell. I have to say though that for me it is a little bit too strongly perfumed, and not one of my favourites which is a shame since I like the volumising effect, but I probably won't repurchase because of the artificial scent. 

Next product is the Urban Decay De-Slick Oil Control Makeup Setting Spray which is supposed to help your make up set and to stay on for longer by regulating the temperature of the skin, keeping it looking lovely and matte, without having to do any touch ups. I had never used this before and it took a little bit of getting used to, and to figure out how get it to work for me. I didn't think that it came with very good instructions, so I tried a couple of different approaches until I found what seemed to work best. I actually spray it on both after having put on my foundation, but before using powder and also when I've finished doing all my makeup. The spray function is quite good and gives a fine mist, and I use about 3-4 spritzes for every application. It definitely helps to keep your make up in place, however on me it doesn't work nearly as long as it claims (up to 16 hrs), in reality it's more like 5-6 hrs before I need to fix any shine. It's a good product and but before I repurchase it, I'd first like to try the All Nighter version to see how that measures up. 
I have also finished my KIKO Skin trainer. You may remember that I did a trial, during which I would only use this particular serum to see if it would live up to the miraculous results that it promised within 30 days. After the 30 days I did notice that the skin felt very firm and taut, which is exactly what was promised, but for me the sense of hydration wasn't as good as I would like it to be. It's a good, affordable serum that does firm your skin, but if you have tendencies towards dry or dehydrated skin, I would definitely recommend that you use intense hydration masks and a rich moisturiser to boost moisture levels. I do have other serums that I'm using at the moment and I'm not sure I would repurchase this, simply because of the tightness that I started to experience at the end of the 30 days. If KIKO releases a new version of the Skin Trainer to up moisture, I would definitely try it out.

It was a sad, sad day when I finished my Jo Malone Redcurrant & Cream Cologne. This was part of the limited edition collection called Sugar & Spice which was released earlier this Spring. It was a gorgeous collection with cake and dessert inspired fragrances and this was my favourite out of the five scents. To me it captures British summer perfectly with it's mix of tangy piquant red currants, juicy sun kissed strawberries, sweet crushed raspberries, lots of light, fluffy whipped cream and a subtle touch of warm musk that really rounds the scent off, preventing the berries from completely taking over. It was a delicious scent and even though I have enjoyed wearing it, I doubt that I will get it again since it's now only available on eBay at extortionate prices. Redcurrant & Cream, I will miss you!

Let's move from indulgent, unique fragrances to a complete makeup steal on the high street - the MUA Bronzer in Shade 01. MUA offers a number of products for £1, which is almost embarrassingly cheap, but despite the low cost the bronzer is actually a great product. It's one of my favourite bronzing products because not only does it give a lovely natural, golden shade with a very subtle shimmer, it's also light and pleasant to wear. The bronzer lasts for a good chunk of the day and works really well for scultping too. In fact, I like this so much that I feel like throwing in another £ coin every time I buy it, it almost seems rude for it to be that cheap. If you only wear bronzer occasionally and you don't want to go for the more costly options, I highly recommend the MUA bronzer.

The last product among the October empties is the Clarins Water Comfort One-Step Cleanser with Peach. It's very similar to a micellar water, i.e. it will remove eye make up and cleanse your face at the same time. I will never use only cleansing waters of this type (not even Bioderma) since I feel that I need, and enjoy a thorough cleanse of my face every evening, but it's a wonderful and gentle option as part of my morning routine, to get rid of any impurities from over night. What I particularly like with this Clarins product is the refreshing sunny scent of peach that lingers on my skin, setting me up nicely for the day and how soft it makes my skin feel. I do have a few other cleansing waters that I need to use up, but I will definitely be getting this again at some point soon.

I feel quite pleased that I have managed to take off six items from the list of products to finish up this month. It took a lot of focus and determination, let me tell you. Besides, you have to use it all up to make space for all the stuff that's on my other list - the one of things to get!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

This past week has been a time of celebrations since I've recently hit a few milestones. You may be aware of the International Giveaway of Barry M goodies that is going on at the moment (closes Oct 25), and today's post is actually the 100th I'm publishing - time just goes so quickly, it's downright scary! So I thought it would be quite appropriate to celebrate no 100 with doing the Versatile Blogger Award.

"The Versatile Blogger Award is an award given to you from your blogger peers, for writing quality posts that have somehow touched them, having good quality photographs, and the uniqueness of the subjects covered. The award is to honour the bloggers who bring something special to your life."

I'm actually really touched and honoured that I have been nominated by some lovely people whose own blogs have lots of great articles that you should absolutely go and check out! So a big thank you to the following beauties: 
Alice from Making me blush

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are as follows:
  • Display the award certificate on your blog
  • Announce your win and thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award
  • Link your nominees in this post and let them know of their nomination with a comment
  • Post 7 interesting things about yourself

7 facts about me: 

1. I was born in Sweden and after a bit of traveling around I ended up in the UK, where I'm now firmly rooted with Him Indoors, a house and the lady of the manor - our cat
2. I'm a huge animal lover and am involved with several charities working with animal welfare.
3. I have a serious nail polish addiction, and I could probably wear a different shade every single day of the year without using any of them twice. I should seek help for this
4. I love to read and often have 2-3 books on the go at the same time. For me snuggling up in bed with a hot chocolate and a good book is a great evening - talk about rock n' roll lifestyle...
5. I am terrified of spiders but I would never kill them. If Him Indoors is not around to remove them, they will spend a day or so under a glass until someone can take them outside. At one point we had 3 glasses with 8-legged monsters on the floor in the the living room.
6. I absolutely love to travel but I am a baaaaaad traveller. I get car sick, sea sick, bus sick and I'm a tiny bit scared of flying, so basically I can't wait for teleportation to be invented
7. My favourite beauty thing to buy is perfume. I enjoy many different scents for different reasons. I could never name just one single perfume as my favourite and instead I have a selection of scents that I'll always have. Every now and then I'll try something new and if I love it enough, it might get a place in the core collection.

This was so much fun to do and I hope you enjoyed reading it and to get to know a little bit more about me. Now it's my turn to nominate and I hope the following wonderful bloggers will share 7 facts about themselves:

Charlee - Charmed Charlee
Zuzana - BlueButtonBox
Kate - Simplicity
Jess - Just Jess
Ashley - Unicorn Meat
Hester - Hester Lierre

I wish you all a wonderful day, and I'll be back again tomorrow! Xx

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The blue edition

If I was to ask Him Indoors what his favourite color is - he would without a nanosecond of a doubt say blue, just like most men and even women. Blue is a color often associated with harmony confidence, trust and loyalty. It's also very often linked with natural elements like the sky, sea, and coldness - all of them with a slightly melancholy note, but to me that doesn't give blue as a color full justice since it can range from the light, soft and cuddly baby blue to dark, vampy golden, glorious blue. I know that for many, even the idea of using blue as part of your makeup screams 80's garishness, but the updated and modern version of blue is cool, sleek and unexpected and today I'll show you some of my favourite blue products.

The first product in this line up of blue items is the The Body Shop Shower Gel in Blueberry. For me most shower gels are pretty much the same. If it offers a gentle cleanse without stripping my skin and leaves a lovely scent that lingers for a long time afterwards, I'm happy - and that's exactly what this one does. This shower gel is soap free but still manages to work up a good lather for that ultimate shower experience and the delicious sweet and sour scent of blueberry, very slightly reminiscent of the old classic Dewberry but with less musk, is uplifting and it lingers on your skin for a decent amount of time.
As usual I have to have a matching set of scents - shower gel and body lotion/butter so of course I've also got the Body Butter in Blueberry. As with all the Body Shop Body butters, the texture is wonderfully thick, rich and luscious to use. I love to scoop out a dollop, heat it up between my hands and then to massage it in. I find that doing this will release the oils, enhance the scent and help to effortlessly blend the butter into the skin for hydration that lasts a good few hrs after you've massaged it in. The blueberry scent is fruity and piquant, but without any sweetness to it at all. Instead it's slightly sour, crisp and very refreshing.

Let's move on to makeup and one of my favourite high street brands this year - Bourjois. This is an example of a palette that does the whole "painting by numbers", i.e. giving you instructions on when and how to use which shade - it's the Smokey Eyes Trio Eyeshadow in Bleu Rock. I love a smokey eye, and I don't know about you but I sometimes think that to always use dark natural shades gets a bit predictable, and to instead go for blue shades adds an extra little something. This trio contains shades of blue that includes pale alice blue with a subtle warm grey undertone, warm bondi blue with a golden undertone and matte UCLA blue with a slight teal-green shade. The eyeshadows are lovely and light, smooth, buildable and easy to work with. For me this is one of the best Bourjois trios and the combination of matte and slightly shimmery shades works really well for a twist on the classic smokey eye look.

My next item is another budget buy, it's an Avon Glimmerstick Diamonds Eyeliner in Twilight Sparkle. The glimmersticks are very popular products from the Avon range, and no wonder - it's a lovely creamy formula that is so smooth to apply, it's longlasting and waterproof. This particular shade is a dark steel blue with a metallic and sparkly element to it. This looks wonderful as an alternative to black eyeliner for a feline flick or even to fill in the lower waterline. Even though this is currently listed in the most recent Avon book, unfortunately I couldn't find a link to it for Avon online, so my recommendation is to either check with an Avon representative or go to eBay, where I know for sure that you can get it at a very low cost - so go on, treat yourself to an amazing sparkly eyeliner that will look stunning for the festive season!
From left to right:
Bourjois Smokey Eyes Trio Eyeshadow 07 Bleu Rock - Illuminating shade
Bourjois Smokey Eyes Trio Eyeshadow 07 Bleu Rock - Blend & Stretch shade
Bourjois Smokey Eyes Trio Eyeshadow 07 Bleu Rock - Sculpting shade
Avon Glimmerstick Diamonds Eyeliner - Twilight Sparkle

For me to pick just one single nail polish in blue is simply impossible. Partly because I am always on the hunt for that PERFECT blue shade which is why I have loads of them, and also because there are so many different shades of blue, all beautiful in their own right. As a compromise I have therefore chosen two different shades of blue from our old friend Barry M, which is probably one of the most budget friendly brands on the market that offers not only a polish range in all the colors of the rainbow, but also a great formula. The Barry M Nail paints as they are called, are easy to work with to get a streak free finish, they're fast drying and long lasting. Seriously, there are not many brands,  about which you can say all those things regardless of price point. Not only that, but Barry M really keeps up with the trends and you can find any type of effect you want - plain, shimmer, sugar-coated, crackling top coats, metallic, magnetic, foil, matte or concrete - you are spoilt for choice.

The first shade I have chosen is Navy which is an amazing, vibrant, true blue shade with a slight golden undertone to it. It's a stunning, timeless shade of blue with a lovely satin sheen that would work with any outfit or occasion and for me, this is a must have in a nail polish collection. So if we started at the classic end of the spectrum, now we'll move to the other end with more playful effects. The second shade I have chosen is Atlantic Road which is a light, soft and warm powder blue with a textured effect. With this type of polish you really need to apply at least two coats to create that interesting, raspy, grainy and raw concrete effect. I also find that even though it sets very quickly on your nail, it takes a few hrs for the effect to really come into its own. It's a fun way to add a lighthearted and spirited edge to a look or an outfit. 

I've mentioned some wonderful products already, but for me the real gem (if you'll excuse the pun) amongst these blue pickings is the fragrance from La Prairie - Life Threads Sapphire EdP. La Prairie is probably best known for their highly scientific and luxurious top of the range skincare, but they also do some amazing fragrances. First of all, let's take a few seconds and talk about the bottle. It's a gorgeous, strict geometrical shape with whimsical web like threads throughout it, and scattered gems in brilliant white and sapphire blue trapped in the web - it's like a tiny sculpture that deserves to be displayed on a dressing table.

The scent itself is a lovely warm, sensual and elegant floral with a very slight oriental twist to it. It's a rich mix of faint orange flowers, balmy rose, sweet and fresh lilac, seductive jasmine, soft animalistic, golden amber and dry, spicy wood. You might think that these are all too over powering, but the combination is so well balanced and subtle that none of the notes dominate or over power the others. For me this is a one of a kind scent that really stands out, and it's the height of sophistication. Since this is a high quality EdP, you only need very little to make it last all day and this captivating scent is perfect for this time of year, warming you up from the inside out.

This was a small selection of my most loved blue products, but of course there are so many shades that probably deserve an article of their own, e.g. teal, baby blue etc. Although plum and berry shades are all of the high street at the moment, I hope this has inspired you to perhaps introduce a few elements of blue into your A/W beauty and makeup routine, and that you're not left feeling blue.

Also, just a reminder of the international giveaway that is going on at the moment, which is open until Oct 25.