Friday, 31 January 2014

January on my mind

January - the first month of a new year is apparently the most depressive month of the year, and I for one can relate to that. Already at the end of November we start ramping up for Christmas, and when the ball has been set in motion it just keeps on rolling, faster and faster and before you know it Christmas has been and gone, and so has the New Year. It's the month after the year before and all the fun and decadence is over, and it's time to start a brand new chapter. A new year is almost always influenced in some way by that horrible thing called Resolutions, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed or restricted by all these expectations and demands you have on yourself. Personally I only make positive resolutions like Drink more champagne, Take more photographs, Experience something new every month or Appreciate something every day.

In the spirit of those resolutions - so far I've had a respectable amount of bubbly, I bring my camera with me every day wherever I go in the snazzy little camera bag that Him Indoors got me for Christmas, I've tried chocolate wine (and I won't be doing that again any time soon), and every day I write in my diary something that I really appreciate - like a sunny day down by the lake with a spicy vanilla latte, a shopping trip into town, an amazing meal at Wagamama or the budding daffodils in the garden.

I also think that the never ending dark and horrible weather doesn't help to lift the spirits, but here in the South of England the sun has actually started to show itself and we've had some amazing mild and sunny days when the promise of Spring in the air, and you actually start to see a light at the end of this dark winter month, and after a fairly joyless January I'm definitely looking forward to a fun filled February!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bon appétit!

I love food - not only to eat it but also to read about it and to drewl over recipes (now that's a pretty picture) for inspiration and ideas, so to receive a food box every month from Kitchen Nomad focusing on different countries with recipes and ingredients representative of that country is an absolute dream. For a while now I've had a longing to go to Paris so imagine how happy I was to discover that this month's theme was French food - oh yum. If I can't explore the arrondissements for fabulous little bistros, then at least I can try and bring a bit of France to our dining table.
Sardine Fillets in Sunflower Oil
Traditional Sea Salt
Clear Honey
Puy Lentils
Mediterranean Salad Croutons
Dijon Original Mustard
Walnut Pieces

So what French delicacies can we cook up with these ingredients?
Tomate Slices & Sardine Paté -  sardine paté made with cream cheese, parsley, capers and lemon, served on slices of tomato 
Carrot Tarte Tatin -  tarte tatin with carrots, honey and thyme

Chunky Savoie Salad - rustic salad with radishes, apple, cucumber, bacon, cheese and croutons with a walnut vinaigrette
Beer-Doused Ham Hock - beer and lemon infused ham hock, roasted in the oven with honey, mustard, onions, carrots and celery and served on a bed of puy lentils
Walnut & Caramel Tarte - walnuts and salty caramel on bed of puff pastry
I love the Kitchen Nomad concept and always look forward to opening the new box every month, however I have to say that I am a bit disappointed in both the recipes and the ingredients of this month's box. France has such a rich and fantastic food tradition but the recipes included are very middle of the road, they could be from any European country with basic ingredients that I can pick up from any corner shop in the UK. With the exception of the Tarte Tatin I don't get the sense that the ingredients or dishes are very typically French and I guess that for me the element of the new, different and exciting is missing. Oh well, one disappointment out of the five boxes that I've received isn't too bad, but fingers crossed that next month's content is more up my street.  

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Ever ours? Ever MINE!

Regardless of the season or what I wear  I'm rarely seen without a chunky piece of statement jewellery - preferably a nice ring or a necklace, and my philosophy is that you can never have too many of either. I've been a big fan of statement pieces since well before it became so trendy and now fortunately, or unfortunately for my bank balance, it's very easy to find stand out pieces on the high street or online. I always know that I won't walk away empty handed and that I'll find great jewellery in ASOS, Zara or New Look, but now I've added another bookmark to my long list of trusted treasures chests on the internet - the online store Ever Ours.
Ever Ours has been around for a few years and sells both clothes and accessories, although for me it's the jewellery range that impresses the most - more specifically the necklaces that remind me of considerably more expensive brands like J.Crew and Baublebar and when the whole range is priced between £4-6 I'm like a kid in a candy store, not quite knowing where to start picking. The current range has a mix of styles from over the top sparkly to tribal inspired torque or bib necklaces and I bought a little bit of everything and I've also already some ideas of what to do with this loot.

I think I'll wear the blue floral necklace with a burnt orange top and skinny white jeans, the pastel necklace with a romantic lace top or dress and some gladiator sandals, the tribal bib with a classic monochrome look and the purple necklace with a sunny yellow jumper and a tan leather skirt - what do you think? If you'd like to see any of the necklaces in an outfit of the day post, please let me know which necklace I should wear in the comments below. 
From left to right:
Purple floral necklace (£4) - no longer available, but similar here

Ever Ours ships worldwide and if you're in the UK, the delivery is super fast e.g. I usually get my items no later than within a day or two max. If you're looking for a statement necklace and you haven't heard of Ever Ours before, you should definitely pay them a visit. Ever Ours? - no chance, I'll fight you for it - it's all ever MINE!!!  

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

January favorites

First bunch of favorites for 2014 and even though I'm slowly shedding my winter clothes and makeup for lighter and more colorful Spring looks I still feel a strong need to nourish and comfort my skin and body, to keep the cold and darkness away. It's been a bit of a wet and miserable start to the year so I've craved warm, soft perfumes to heat me up from the inside and luckily I've had two amazing scents to help me with that. To start off I've literally bathed in the lovely Bath & Body Works Fine Fragrance Mist ($14) in Warm Vanilla Sugar. If you like foodie, cookie type scents you'd probably love this. It's a very harmonious and well balanced mix of light and sparkling vanilla sugar, subtle coconut and tonka bean - gorgeous! A lot of body mists don't last very long after you've sprayed it, but the warmth of this makes it last surprisingly long and when you've sprayed it, the whole house smells as if you'd been making vanilla cookies, oh yummie! It's also worked really well in combination with the Jo Malone Rose Water & Vanilla Cologne (£100) from the sophisticated Cologne Intense range. This is another warm and vibrant scent that makes me think of expensive truffles or Turkish delight - the rose water adds delicacy and freshness while the vanilla makes the cologne creamy, refined and luxurious. I love this extravagant and lush scent that lingers on your clothes and hair long after you've sprayed it, and it seems I'm not the only one since I've received so many compliments for it.
My skin has behaved quite well this season, for which I'm very grateful but instead I have struggled a little bit with finding the right lip balm and some of the products that I've used previously, all of a sudden aren't doing it for me anymore so the past months I've to turned to my trusted Gatineau Defi Lift 3D Revolumising Lip Care (£28). This product is so much more than a lip balm - it does contain lovely smoothing and moisturising ingredients like shea butter and jojoba oil like many other balms, but it also has a collagen stimulant to create a subtle plumping effect and which helps to redefine the natural lip contours so you'll find that in addition to a moisture boost your lips have a little bit more volume for a few hrs. It's an amazing silky and light product that you can use as a primer or a lip gloss on top of lipsticks, and I also use it as a mask on the lip contours, letting it sink in for about 15 mins or so. Since it's quite an expensive lip care product I usually use this in the morning as a lip primer to plump my lips and as an overnight treatment, however since I've really needed something deeply hydrating lately I've also used this generously throughout the day and I love its plumping effects.

Next product may not be very exciting but for me it's an absolutely essential part of my nail care routine - Sally Hansen's Miracle Nail Growth Treatment (£9.99) which is applied every other day to bare nails to help them grow longer and stronger in no time (apparently you should see a 30% increase in nail growth in 5 days). A lot of products promise the moon and more, and I'm always very skeptical towards marketing fads, but I have used this strengthener a couple of times every week for well over a year and it actually does work - and if you use it as a base coat you'll treat your nails with minimal effort every day under whatever lovely shade you're wearing.
 Violet Freeze
Passionate Pink

If you read my recent post on some of my latest purchases from Avon, you might be surprised to find that one of my favorites this month is the Avon Color Trend Color Me Pretty Wet-Look Shine Nail Enamel (£3) in Violet Freeze. You may remember that we got off to a very rocky start because of some very misleading color swatches, however I won't hold that against this innocent little polish and after we passed that initial hurdle I actually really LOVE this shade. It's a wonderful shimmery light lavender blue and for me it's got just the right depth of color that at the same time gently nods to the pastel trend that I'm completely embracing this Spring. This shade turned out to be an unexpected little ablessing in disguise!

The last product this month is a wonderful creamy lipstick that has really cheered me up these rainy days and it's the The Body Shop Colour Crush Lipstick  (£10). This range has an impressive 26 different shades to choose from, and Passionate Pink is a gorgeous shimmery juicy and highly pigmented rose color with a slight blue undertone that packs enough of a punch to brighten a look, but is still versatile and soft enough that you can easily wear it during the day. The lipstick is very moisturising and gives a velvet long lasting smooth satin finish and I'm looking forward to pick up another shade from this great range this Spring.

That's the end of the favorites for this month. When I first started doing these posts last year, I fully expected them to be quite repetitive and that I would stick with the same old products month after month, but every time I think back at what I've actually really used the most - I surprise myself by how much the favorites change from month to month and I'm already curious about what goodies I'll be drawn to in February.  

Monday, 27 January 2014

Manic.Monday: Keep calm and paint on + Winner of international giveaway

Before we talk about this Manic.Monday's beautiful nail polishes I want to quickly mention that the international giveaway to celebrate 1000 followers has been closed. Thank you very VERY much for all the lovely comments of support and to everyone who entered the giveaway, I'm so happy that there were so many entries. I'm very happy to announce that the lucky person to win the five L'Oréal Glam Shine Balmy Glosses is Anastasiya Klimova - massive congratulations to you, and I hope you'll enjoy the balmy glosses!

I think it's safe to say that I've shed the dark and vampy berry Winter nail polish shades and have moved on to lighter brighter and happier shades, I guess I'm celebrating Spring a tad bit early. When it comes to clothes I'm not really a pastel girl and while I think it looks fabulous on others I'm more into mono chrome or earthy tones, but pastels on my nails - that's a different story altogether and you could say that I'm an equal polish shade opportunity girl. This year I've been organised enough to plan ahead a little bit so in the sales I managed to pick up some gorgeous shades that will be right on trend this Spring & Summer and one of those bargains is the lovely China Glaze Keep calm and paint on (£6.36).
I discovered China Glaze fairly recently and was so impressed by it that I quickly got myself another couple of polishes - after all there are more than 300 shades to choose from so there's bound to be something for everyone and for a polish-aholic like myself it's an absolute dream brand. The formula is great and easy to work with; it has just the right consistency and a wonderful wide brush - the type that fans out covering more or less the entire nail, which means that you get a lovely and even coverage in one quick brush stroke. This was the first lighter shade I had tried from China Glaze so I was a bit worried that it would be very sheer, however I soon discovered that it has the same rich pigmentation as the darker colors so it quickly gives a nice opaque finish. You could wear just one coat even of this lighter shade, however as you'll know by now I like my finish nice and solid so in the photo I'm wearing two coats. The China Glaze nail polishes contain China Clay, which is a high shine ingredient which also strengthens the nails, so you won't really need a separate top coat and it lasts 4-5 days before it starts to chip, which is above average in my book. Keep calm and paint on (love that name...) is a gorgeous pastel shade - a shimmery mint green with a blue undertone that looks so crisp and fresh without being sugary sweet and I know that this is going to be one of my favorite shades this season.
To add another dimension to this fresh and clean look I've applied a coat of the Ciaté Confetti (£9) which is a stunning glitter polish with millions of tiny holographic sparkles that give a brilliant shine and radiance. The glitter is so dense in this polish that it's easy to spread it evenly across the nail and you also only need one coat for a highly luminous finish and you can use this either as a top coat or on it's own (I would recommend using at least two coats) for a truly gleaming look. Since the particles in the polish are so fine, it's surprisingly easy to remove this glitter coat - no need to bring out the strongest, nastiest acetone or to use other tricks to get rid of it. It's such a pretty effect polish and I don't think there's a base shade in the world that it wouldn't work great with.

If you were to only have one single glitter polish, for me it would need to be Confetti because of the amazing lustre, and if you were to have only one single nail polish for Spring - I would be very happy with this beautiful crisp honeydew color, and since I have both I'll just follow the advice; Keep Calm and Paint On!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturiser - Guest post by Saida Cane

Today I'm so pleased to present a guest writer on my blog - Saida Cane from Saida Cane Photography. If you haven't read any of Saida's posts before you absolutely have to visit her blog; Saida is a great blogger and a wonderful photographer and has a lovely mix of posts on everything from beauty to lifestyle and today Saida shares a review on the Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturiser - I hope you enjoy it! 

Ever since I tried my first Tinted Moisturiser, I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. They looked so natural and felt great on the skin but they didn’t provide me with enough coverage so I felt as though it was a bit of a waste of money for me. Saying that, I probably shouldn’t have tried it when my skin was going through the classic teenage phase, and now that it’s looking much better and generally a lot healthier, I thought I would give tinted moisturisers another go, because if you can get away with less, why not right?

After looking at dozens of reviews online, I came across the Bobbi Brown Tinted Moisturisers with SPF 15, which come in normal and oil-free formulas, and my t-zone suggested the latter was probably the best option. I purchased it in the shade Light to Medium tint, and I was really impressed with the range of shades – there is definitely something to suit all skin tones. 
The consistency of it is very thin but not watery and a bit all over the place like some tinted moisturisers can be. As you can guess, the thin consistency makes it an absolute dream to apply to the skin and there’s no need for tugging or dragging around any delicate areas, it really does just glide on beautifully. The finish is neither dewy nor matte, it’s what I would describe as natural, which I think looks lovely on the skin. I’ve always had the great privilege of having a mixture of oily and dry skin so picking skin products has always been an absolute nightmare to say the least, but this product doesn’t accentuate any dry or oily areas so I seem to have got the best of both worlds with it.

As I said before, this tinted moisturiser isn’t something you will want to spend your money on if you have skin problems that require a full coverage foundation, but if you have a blemish here or there and the rest of your skin is in good condition, then I think you’ll like this because there’s no need to cover your entire face in a full coverage foundation just because of a few spots that can be blurred away with some trusted concealer! If your skin is looking a little dull and you want a light pick-me-up, then something like this will do the trick for you as well.

At £29 it can be a little steep but if you are looking for a lovely alternative to foundation when the spring and summer comes around then I think you will really like it, and a little bit really does go a long way.

I’m really glad I gave tinted moisturisers another go because I feel as though I have definitely found a staple product for days when my skin doesn’t need to look ‘flawless’, and even though full coverage foundations make your skin look amazing, sometimes you gotta cut it a little slack and let it breathe a little! 

I’d love to know what your favourite tinted moisturisers/sheer foundations are?

Saida x

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Winter Magnolia

I've been in a Spring mood lately - I know we haven't even finished January but the shops are already filling up with lovely pieces from the Spring & Summer Collections and cosmetic brands have also released their new products for new exciting looks and I already know some of the items that I'll pick up - Yes Dior Trianon, I'm talking about you and your gorgeous pastel shades and I've also seen some amazing nude colors from my BNFF - Best Nail Friend Forever, Zoya. Until I've got my paws on these amazing shades, I've polished off an old favorite that to me captures spring and the colors that are so on trend this year - it's the amazing Zoya nail polish (£11) in Jacqueline.  
There are so many reasons why I love Zoya nail polishes - let's start with the amazing range of shades and effects on offer, from the delicate sheerest nudes to the most outrageously sparkly and gritty vibrant Pixie dusts that I've raved about on more than one occasion. Then we have the wonderful wide flat brush that makes is to easy to get an even coverage with minimum effort and brush strokes. Of course we also have to mention the nice and creamy formula that also with the sheerest of shades is so highly pigmented that you won't need any more than max two coats for a perfect, opaque finish (unless you're brightening your day with a Pixie dust polish which needs at least three coats).

Regardless of how many coats you prefer to use, you can quickly perfect the look you're going for since the formula dries very quickly without any streaking. I often link how long a nail polish lasts with how many coats you need for a nice solid shade, and most of the time the more coats you apply the more sensitive you make the polish to chipping, and the slightest nudge can cause flakes of color to fall off. With Zoya you'll get at least 4-5 days wear before you really need to touch up your nails and if you decide to take it off completely, it's so easy to remove.

The shade Jacqueline is a gorgeous soft and warm magnolia color with a sleek and glossy cream finish. This is a very clean and fresh look with a lot of substance to it, and as well as being a great option to an all white polish I also think it works really well if you're going all out with pastels this season, without it being sugary sweet.
Unfortunately it's not all that easy to get the latest collections from Zoya in the UK, but I get my fix from LoveLula where you get free delivery worldwide, and in the UK you'll get your products super fast. The magnolia trees won't be blossoming for another few months, but until then this gorgeous unique shade brings a little bit of Spring into Winter and I can almost smell the delicate magnolias already... 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Natural edition

As you know I love to experiment with different colors for makeup and nails, but sometimes it's also really nice to strip everything away and go back to basics for a very natural look. But what does natural actually look like? I associate natural with colors that are similar to my skin tone like buff, beige, tan and wheat, but at the same time no one wants to look washed out or anonymous. Isn't it ironic how the "no makeup" makeup look really is quite difficult to do, and how we take great care to apply products and shades, sometimes lots of them that make us look as if we have absolutely nothing on? Regardless, here are some of my favorite products to achieve that deceptively effortless natural look.

A great foundation is the base for all makeup, and it's even more important when you're going for a nude, bare-faced look and for me the YSL Serum Foundation (£37) is perfect for achieving a flawless radiant look. Since I have reviewed this foundation before (see here) I won't go into too much detail, but it's a wonderful product that combines anti-aging and rejuvenating skincare with a medium-full color correcting foundation coverage. The formula has just the right light weight consistency and it's easy to blend into your skin using either fingers or a brush for a subtle and natural radiance. This is a very long lasting product and on me the coverage lasts about 9-10 hrs without any need to correct and it also moisturises the skin throughout the day. There's no denying that this is a luxurious product, but when you barely wear anything on your skin it's even more important to be 100% confident in the product that you do wear, and YSL makes your skin look and feel amazing.
The high street is filled with lots of wonderful eyeshadows, but finding one in a light natural shade with decent pigmentation can be difficult, but one of my favorites is the Bourjois Little Round Pot (£6.99) in 08 Beige Rose. For me this is such a classic and reliable makeup product and I have tried lots of different shades and effects and I've always been happy with the results. The powder is very soft and fine, but it doesn't crumble and it's easy to apply and blend. This shade is a great warm sheer vanilla color with a slight pink undertone and shimmer that looks very light luminous and natural on - perfect for an au naturel look.

Having found a great natural looking eyeshadow, you want to make it stay on as long as possible, and to help with that I use the amazing Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (£15) that helps your makeup last all day. The consistency is wonderfully smooth, creamy and quick drying and with this product a little goes a long way, so you could say that it's long lasting in more than one way e.g. I've had mine for almost a year... It comes in four different versions; the transparent original and three others that all have a very subtle color. I absolutely love the shade Eden, which is a nude matte color that looks so natural that sometimes I have even worn it just on its own on the lid without any eye shadow.

One of the easiest and best tricks to achieve a wide-eyed fresh and natural look is to apply an eye pencil on the lower waterline in a light shade. You can go for white if you wish, but personally I think that a nude shade works even better. Lately I've been using the Isadora Inliner Kajal in Blonde which is a soft and creamy kajal, and although it's not specifically smudge- or waterproof it's very resistant to daily wear and it stays put for hrs before you need to touch it up so it's perfect to use on the upper or lower waterline to add that little extra brightness to the eyes.
From left to right:
L'Oréal Color Riche Collection Privée Lipstick - Julianne Moore
Isadora Inliner Kajal - Blonde
Bourjois Eyeshadow - Rose Beige

For me the tricksiest product to find for a perfect no make up look, is a nude lipstick. I see so many brown and pale shades that look amazing on others, but they rarely work on me and most of the time I look completely washed out. So when the L'Oréal Color Riche Collection Privée (£8.19) was released I thought: finally, I'll be able to find a shade that's wearable. There are six different nude shades intended for different skintones, all embodied by a different celebrity spokesperson and since my colorings are fairly similar to Doutzen Kroes' that was the shade I immediately honed in on. As lovely as it was, it didn't however tick all the boxes for me and in the end I ended up with the Julianne Moore shade which is a very grown up and sophisticated gorgeous delicate peachy pink with a brown undertone. The formula is creamy and moisturising, and it wears really well throughout the day even after eating and drinking. The only thing I don't like about this product is the typical L'Oréal lipstick taste that I find quite plastic, strong and old fashioned, but the shade is absolutely stunning and for me it's also the first nude shade ever that I'm actually comfortable and confident wearing. I like it so much that I've already bought a few spare ones, just in case this limited edition disappears from the shelves any time soon - which would be a real shame.

Last in this row of natural looking products is a nail polish that I picked up fairly recently - it's the  Maybelline Color Show Nude Nail Polish (3.99) in the shade In Your Flesh. It's a wonderful, classic nude shade that creates the illusion of longer fingers and it's a very clean, understated and chic look that would go with most outfits. The formula is a little bit thicker than most nail polishes, but despite this it's actually very easy to apply evenly and even though nude colors are by nature quite sheer, the formula is pigmented enough that you'll get a nice opaque look after two coats. Since I'm going for a paired down finish, I'm not wearing a top coat in the photos and there's enough shine in the polish for a fresh natural sheen. The polish will last for about 3 days before you need to touch it up and it's nice and easy to remove.
It's taken me a while to find products in nude shades that I'm comfortable in wearing and that look just like my natural colors - only better. After many frustrating visits to MAC I have also accepted that more often than not, the most popular nude shades don't work as well on me as they might do on others and I've had to look for other color options. But a natural look doesn't have to be just beige colored and the key to carry it off and to avoid a bland, non descript appearance - is to find products that work with your own skin tone, that blend in seamlessly and that also enhance your colors in a subtle "je ne sais quoi" way. Have you found the colors that work for you? What are your favorite natural shades?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Makeup by numbers with Avon

Hands up if you like makeup?! Yep - that's what I thought, far too many to count and for the avoidance of doubt, I put both of my hands up... Somehow I've stumbled my way through doing my makeup for years and even though I usually wear neutral shades most days, I love to experiment with different colors and looks and it's not unusual that I buy eye shadows, lipsticks and nail polish thinking that I'd wear them all together for a certain look. So I may be a beauty junkie, but I'm far from a skilful makeup artist. I'm definitely what you might call a happy amateur, a very happy one in fact - but still an amateur. That's why I'm a big fan of palettes with ready made combinations of shades, and little instructions on what to do with them - basically make up by numbers, and with the Avon True Colour Eyeshadow Quad (£9) available in 9 different color combinations, you just can't get it wrong.
The packaging is the standard basic black plastic that most of the Avon makeup comes in, so it's nothing fancy but it does have a great sized mirror in the lid and a generous amount of product too. Each of the shades are numbered from 1 to 4, and when you turn the packaging around there are instructions on where you should apply which shade; 1 is a highlighter for the brow bone and inner corner of the eye, 2 is a base shade for the entire lid, 3 is to emphasize the outer corner of the eye and the crease, while 4 is an eyeliner to add some depth to the root of the lashes - but obviously you can be as creative as you want with the colors.

I'd been wanting to try this quad for a long time but I couldn't decide which shade to get, so in the end I ended up going for something completely different from all the other colors that I have in my collection. This palette is called Jeans and it has four slightly shimmery shades in blue hues - all of them (even the more pastel looking shades 1 and 2) are very well pigmented, they are easy to work with, buildable, they don't crumble and they last really well throughout the day. I was quite impressed with the quality of this formula and would definitely try it in other colors too. Blue isn't always an easy color to wear and I can't say that I have many blue eye shadows, but as we're moving into Spring these blue shades might prove more useful and less outlandish than I initially thought and I can see myself using especially shades 2 and 3.

I've always thought that Avon do great lip products and this latest addition - the Avon Perfect Kiss Lipstick5) in Racy Raspberry is no exception. Unlike the very basic eye shadow quad it comes in a lovely, sleek and modern looking metallic packaging and I hope that Avon extends this shiny new look to their other makeup packaging, that frankly needs a bit of va-va-vooming. It's a gorgeous creamy and moisturising formula that contains essential oils and that gives super coverage with a plump satin finish. The finish lasts for hrs and fades evenly without any dry patches. Racy Raspberry is a wonderful French rose pink shade with a definite blue undertone, very soft feminine and versatile. 
Shades 1 to 4 as in the eye shadow palette Jeans + Racy Raspberry

The nail polish is the Avon Color Trend Color Me Pretty Wet-Look Shine Nail Enamel (£3) in Violet Freeze, and this is actually the second time that I've bought this color. As you can see in the photo, in the catalogue it looks like a fabulous cool and frosty Alice blue shade and in my mind it would look perfect with the blue and pink tones of the makeup, but when it arrived it was more of a lilac shimmery multi tonal color almost like the shade called Blue Morph. Never mind I thought and ordered it again, to find exactly the same thing! I can accept that there's always a certain subtle difference between the print of a swatch and reality, but the shade Violet Freeze is nothing like what is shown in the catalogue - I'm sorry Avon but you should fix this since clearly it wasn't a one off!

Moving on from this issuette, it's actually a really lovely nail polish. The formula has just the right consistency, it's quick drying and the standard width brush doesn't leave any streaks or marks in the finish. You easily get an even coverage although it is a fairly sheer polish, which personally I don't think works at all with just one coat, so I would recommend that you apply at least two coats and in the photo I'm actually wearing three coats. The shade Violet Freeze in reality is a sheer blue mauve with a pearlescent look, and despite not being at all what I was after I really do like the shade and think it has an interesting dimension to it. The formula lasts about 3-4 days before it starts to chip and it's very easy to remove. 
In the end I pretty much achieved the look that I was going for - frosty cool shades on the eye with a contrasting soft but intense lip color, and despite some minor bumps in the road getting there: all's well that ends well. And on the journey I not only discovered an interesting new nail polish shade but I was also positively surprised by the quality of the eye shadows and I definitely recommend this painting by numbers palette.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sunny Sunday stroll

We were off to a rocky start this year in the UK with some horrible storms and rain that just wouldn't stop falling. But on a sunny Sunday with gorgeous Spring like weather everything comes alive; the daffodils are almost up and ready to spread some yellow joy, the city is filled with people going for a leisurely stroll, people are sitting outside in cafés and bistros and it's easy to forget that it is actually still only January - tell that to the shorts wearing guy I saw in town...
Blazer & Jumper: H&M // Straight Leg Jeans & Boots: Next // Scarf & Purse: Mulberry // Sunglasses: Gucci // Watch: Guess // Ring: New Look // Nails: Maybelline Color Show Nudes - In Your Flesh  & Maybelline Street Artist Top Coat - White Splatter

So we're literally shaking off our winter clothes, and at the moment it's enough to wear just a light jacket or even a warm jumper, and this navy collar less blazer from H&M is great for transitioning into Spring. I love the gentle nod towards military style with the single row of bronze buttons and even though it's casual it's stylish enough that you can wear it for work as well. Under the jacket I'm wearing a long sleeved cream colored angora mix jumper from H&M which is so soft and lovely. Since I'm wearing my jeans tucked into the boots, I'm wearing a pair with straight leg from Next and the boots (also from Next) are so practical and comfy, even I put my high heels aside every now and then. Sitting out in the sun can get a bit chilly in January so in addition to a hot chocolate to keep me warm, I've also got my Mulberry scarf - on one side it's wheat colored with the logo in beige and on the other side it's the other way around. Since I love chunky accessories I'm rarely seen without some form of statement piece and here I'm wearing a big bronze colored cocktail ring with a rusty red stone from New Look, a chunky gold boyfriend style watch from Guess and my Gucci sunglasses. I'm sure there are some more cold and miserable days in store for us, but Spring is in the air and I for one can't wait to slip into some delicious light pastel colors to celebrate the return of the sun. Have a wonderful day everyone! Xx

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Rapunzel, let your hair down!

In October last year I set out on a mission - Operation Rapunzel, to try and grow my hair a bit longer, but also to better look after my hair in general. As part of that, I've tried to limit how often I wash my hair every week (my current allowance is max 3 times), I'm usually good with conditioners but I've also really focused on using hair masks and other treatments, oils for a little pre-wash moisture boost and to help detangle my hair (using the amazing tangle teezer) and of course the all important heat protectants when I've styled my hair. All in all, I think I've done fairly well and the quality of my hair seems to have improved - I have fewer broken, crazy hairs and haven't lost much hair this winter either. So far so good, but did I manage to grow my hair?
To encourage my hair to grow I got the Lee Stafford Hair Growth Treatment which is a protein based complex that you use after shampoo but before conditioner, that moisturizes the scalp and helps to keep the follicles healthy so they can produce long luscious healthy locks. The formula is very rich and it feels quite heavy on the hair, but it's still easy to wash out and it doesn't leave any residue or film on the hair. When I've used it, I've applied quite a lot because I have a lot of hair, and then I've scooped up my hair in a shower cap to let it do its magic for about 15 mins before rinsing. It's made my hair feel so nourished and smooth, and my hair has also behaved much when I've heat styled it.

Since hair grows about 1.5 cm every month by now my hair should have grown more than 4.5 cms, so it should be about a bit below my elbows, if not longer so let's look at the evidence:
 Exhibit A: Photo Oct 13 2013
Exhibit B: Photo Jan 18

Just looking at my hair, and not actually measuring it has grown about 5-6 cms, and it now reaches below my elbow, which is great and seems to be a bit more than I would have expected based on avg growth/month. I can't of course say that it's all down to the Lee Stafford treatment, there can be other factors that have impacted as well e.g. diet etc, but what I can say for sure is that this is a wonderful creamy treatment, with a nice nutty scent that feels lovely and soothing on the scalp and it leaves your hair nourished, soft, sleek and glossy. I will definitely continue to use this treatment weekly, in fact I have already bought my third pot of it, and if my hair continues to grow even more over Spring and Summer (which it should with the change in weather), I'll live happily smooth, sleek and detangled ever after!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Manic.Monday: Terra Crystal

One of my most recent additions to my nail polish collection is a cute little kit from Models Own that I'd never tried before. It's a duo product along the same lines as Revlon's Moon Candy, so you get a plain base shade in one end of it, and on the other is a fun effect top coat. The Artistix Duo (£8) is available in twelve different combinations where the top coats comes in a variety of different effects e.g. heavy glitters in varying shades and colors, crushed opal candy or pearlescent multi tonal shimmer. This duo is called Terra Crystal, and the base shade Terra Firma is a muted dark coffee brown with a slight red tint to it, and the top coat Pink Crystal is a glitter polish with beautiful pink hexagonal particles and tiny silver specks scattered throughout.
The formula of the base coat has just the right consistency - it's not gloopy but it's not watery either and it has a wonderful depth of color with a great high shine, without having to use a top coat. The brush is of standard width, but it seems to be of fairly good quality and doesn't streak or leave any pesky stray hairs in the polish. The polish dries fairly quickly and although the coverage is good enough with just one coat, I prefer to apply another coat for the shade to really develop and to get a solid opaque look. For me Terra Firma is a great classic and stylish brown shade, a softer option to black and you can definitely wear this on its own, however since I am a total magpie let's move quickly on to the lovely glittery top coat... ooooh, me like...

The top coat is a gorgeous glitter polish, very rich on lovely large pink shapes and tiny silver fragments which helps to get a fairly even spread of the glitter across the nail, although you may need to do some adjustments of the glitter placement. As you can see in the photos I've experimented a little bit with the amount of layers of the top coat, and the density of the glitter is so high that you can definitely use just one coat for a more sparse and sleek look. If you use two coats, you'll get a grittier textured look that reminds me a bit of what I call glam concrete - it's a coarse glittery texture with a very urban look and feel. Should you go for three coats, the nail will be almost completely covered in the hexagons, and it's a much heavier and opulent look than the other two.
From left to right (in natural light):
Terra Firma (2 coats)
Terra Firma + 1 coat of Pink Crystal
Terra Firma + 2 coats of Pink Crystal
Terra Firma + 3 coats of Pink Crystal
From left to right (in artificial light):
Terra Firma (2 coats)
Terra Firma + 1 coat of Pink Crystal
Terra Firma + 2 coats of Pink Crystal
Terra Firma + 3 coats of Pink Crystal

As with many effect polishes the consistency is a little thicker and it takes a few mins to dry so if you do decide to layer it, I would recommend that you let each coat dry properly before applying the next one, so you don't unintentionally end up moving the particles around before they've set properly. I haven't tried this on my nails yet, so I don't actually know how easy it is to remove the polish, but something tells me, it takes a fair bit of effort. If any of you have tried the Artistix Duo, please let me know in the comments what it was like to remove.  

All the looks are lovely in their own way, so which style you go for is really dependent on your personal preference. As you know I'm not shy with my nail polishes and I also really like contrasts so I would probably wear two coats for an urban look and feel - which one would you go for?

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Falsifeye mascara by Seventeen

A few weeks ago I was in Boots for the sales, not really looking for anything in particular when I passed the Seventeen stand and there was an offer on mascaras - which was perfect since my L'Oréal Butterfly (review here) is about to run out. I've never really tried much from Seventeen in the past, however they've re-branded themselves, vamped up their packaging and released some new products e.g. the lip crayons that have really impressed me. Since I couldn't decide which mascara to get and they had a great offer I ended up getting two, an one of them was the Seventeen Falsifeye Mascara. There are so many mascaras that promise to either lengthen or volumise the lashes, but just to be difficult I want my mascara to do both those things and if it also flares out the lashes - then even better. That's exactly what Falsifeye promised, so I was very excited to see what it was like. The mascara comes in 3 shades - blackest black, black and brown and I went for black, which gives enough contrast for me, although I think that blackest black would be really lovely for a more dramatic evening look.
From left to right:
Falsifeye Mascara Brush
YSL Baby Doll Mascara Brush
L'Oréal Falselash Flutter (Butterfly) Mascara Brush

Let's start with the packaging. Packaging definitely isn't everything and although I probably will be drawn in by a sleek, stylish looking product, for me in general it's not nearly as important as e.g. the scent of a product. Having said that though, if there's something about the packaging that effects the practicality or use of it, that will be a minus point in my book and that's exactly the case with this mascara. The packaging is quite chunky and because it's rectangular as well, it takes up a lot of space in your makeup bag or in your makeup storage, and more importantly - and this probably sounds like a silly detail, but the handle of the wand doesn't sit very comfortably in your hand since it's angular and pointy.

Most mascaras don't really come into their own until after you've used them for a good few weeks, but after almost three weeks of use, the formula of Falsifeye is still quite wet and in order to volumise the lashes, you have to work at it for quite a while, but this could also at least be partly because of the brush. The brush is very VERY thick, and personally I think it's too thick. In theory a really thick brush should give great lash coverage, but when it's too thick like this one and the wand is also very stiff, it's difficult to get to all the lashes from the tiniest ones at the inner corner of your eye, to the outer ones. In short the coverage isn't great and when you go back in to cover the inner corner lashes, you have to be very careful not to smudge all over, since the angle is a bit tricky and there is zero flexibility of the wand. With a brush of this width I think it could benefit from having some kind of flex function, to make it easier to work with. On the other hand, it's probably this stiffness that helps to easily extend the lashes and create a wonderful fanning effect that really opens up the eye, and is flattering on everyone.

Even though the mascara isn't water- or smudge proof, it still lasts really well throughout the day and it's very easy to remove without any pulling on the lashes. To sum it up, the mascara does lengthen the lashes and the fanning effect is lovely, however for a volumised effect you really need to put in some effort. Overall it's an OK mascara and it's an ambitious attempt at a product that does it all - lengthen, volumise and fan, but for me it does fall short especially when you look at competing products in the same price range from Maybelline and Max Factor.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Cosy up with Warm Vanilla Sugar

Here in the UK we've had an utterly miserable start to the year with storms followed by rain, storms, rain and more rain, there just seems to be no end to it. On top of that I am also struggling with the lack of sun light - it's dark when you get up and go to work, and it's dark when you finish work and come home. In short, I want to hybernate and not come back out again until April, just in time for Easter so I can enjoy some chocolate eggs. Since that's not really a realistic option, I've turned to things that give me comfort and heat me up from the inside like a cosy evening in. As we all know, these type of evenings have to start with a lovely warming bath and for me the perfect bath products to lift my spirits are from Bath & Body Works (B&BW) Warm Vanilla Sugar range - a sensual but uplifting and deliciously yummy scent that reminds me of home baked cookies.
I really like a B&BW Shower Gel. They have a nice thick and silky consistency that makes you think that it's actually a high end product you're using. You can tell that they contain all sorts of moisturising products like aloe vera, vitamin e and shea butter since the skin feels soft and smooth after the gentle cleanse, and not irritated or stripped back in any way. The scent is surprisingly fresh and sparkling - in addition to warm and sugary vanilla notes, there's also a hint of coconut left on the skin and it prevents the fragrance from getting sickly sweet or heavy. When it comes to body moisturisers I usually prefer butters and creams over lotions, but the B&BW Body Lotion is so rich in shea butter and jojoba oil that it almost has the consistency and feel of a body cream. It feels luxuriously luscious and velvety on the skin, and although the lotion contains oil it absorbs quickly and easily into the skin without leaving any greasiness or shine which is great for when you're in a rush in the mornings. What I like the most is that unlike a lot of body lotions that only skim the surface and then disappears, this really sinks deep into the skin and keeps it feeling soft and hydrated for hrs and hrs afterwards, which is also great for locking in the delicious sugar vanilla cookie scent - making it last even longer.

The Fine Fragrance Mist is perfect as a final layer of scent after the bath, and although these B&BW sprays are usually very light and evaporate quickly, the combination of these particular scent notes linger much longer than usual. When you've first sprayed the mist, it's a very fresh, light and sparkling sugar vanilla scent, but it deepens almost straight away and brings out the notes from the soft, milky coconut and tonka bean together with a slightly dry sandalwood that keeps it from overpowering. It's a beautiful restoring and harmonious scent, perfect for this time of year - the only thing about it is that it makes me crave cookies, but I think I know how to fix that...

I keep hoping that B&BW will open store in the UK, but until then you can find a limited selection of products on The Bath and Body Shop website, or everyone's favorite marketplace - eBay. Now that I'm all wrapped up in a warming, comforting scent after a lovely bath I think I'm all ready to cosy up in front of the TV. So let's see - have I got everything? Snuggly faux fur throw - check, Him Indoors - check, vanilla latte - check, cat - check... yep I'm ready and I'm not going outdoors again until April! 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Fave 5 MUA products

As if it wasn't bad enough to be a beauty junkie, I'm probably also a shopaholic (as you can tell I still haven't quite accepted or embraced my condition) which is a lethal combination for any bank balance and very difficult at this time of year when a lot of us are on a spending ban, to recover from the Christmas excesses. Fortunately there are makeup brands on the high street that seem to cater to people with my affliction and one of them is MUA (Makeup Academy). MUA's philosophy is that makeup shouldn't cost a fortune and that to get affordable products you shouldn't have to compromise on quality - no arguments here! I first discovered MUA a few years ago and I'm very pleased to see that since then the range of product has grown so much, and includes more or less everything that you could possibly want, all for under £5. I've certainly made the most of the purse friendly prices and tried quite a few things from the ever expanding range so today I'll show you my fave 5 MUA products starting with the famous Undressed palettes.
The MUA Undressed eyeshadow palette (£4) - the first MUA product I ever bought, is famous for being considered a dupe for Urban Decay's Naked palette. It combines twelve nude, neutral shimmering and matte eye shadows and it's a great starter kit for creating both everyday natural, and smokey smouldering eye looks which I'll try to describe since they don't have any color names:

Shade 1 - Matte vanilla, Shade 2 - Shimmering wheat, Shade 3 - Matte tan, Shade 4 - Shimmering dark ecru, Shade 5 - Matte camel, Shade 6 - Shimmering copper, Shade 7 - Shimmering russet, Shade 8 - Shimmering dark chocolate, Shade 9 - Shimmering mahogany, Shade 10 - Shimmering chestnut, Shade 11 - Shimmering charcoal, Shade 12 - Shimmering blue grey

All of the shimmering eye shadows have great, strong pigmentation and they are easy to work with to build up color with no fallout (I've only noticed that for Shade 11), and they wear well throughout the day - on me they last for about 5 hrs before they start to fade. In general I find it difficult to get affordable good matte eyeshadows on the high street, and while these are OK, the pigmentation isn't strong enough for me and they start to fade after only a few hrs. That doesn't mean that I like the palette any less, and because of the compact format it's easy to take it with you and retouch whenever needed. I love to combine shade 4 and 6, or 7 and 9 for variations on everyday looks, and in the evening 8, 10 and 12 make a dramatic smokey eye - all in all, it's a great buy!
From left to right:
Top row - Shade 1, Shade 2, Shade 3, Shade 4, Shade 5, Shade 6
Bottom row - Shade 7, Shade 8, Shade 9, Shade 10, Shade 11, Shade 12 

The other eye shadow palette is Undress Me Too (£4), again this is considered a dupe (for Urban Decay's Naked 2) and the eye shadows are lovely warm and golden in a mix of matte and shimmering textures, perfect for a paired down subtle eye with a statement lip: 

Naked - Matte blonde, Devotion - Shimmering bronze, Shy - Matte buff, Fiery - Shimmering golden brown, Lavish - Matte fallow, Dreamy - Shimmering sepia, Tranquil - Shimmering russet, Exposed - Shimmering taupe, Reveal - Shimmering ecru, Wink - Shimmering cinnamon, Obsessed - Shimmering coffee, Corrupt - Matte gunmetal

We have the same situation with pigmentation in this palette as with Undressed - all the stronger colors are excellent and gorgeous to work with, and I'd even say that the Undress Me Too shades last longer on me than the Undressed ones do, however the matte ones are weaker, but to have 10 excellent shades out of 12 certainly isn't bad. In all honesty it took me a little while to start appreciating this palette properly after I got it, but now I LOVE to use it and it's my go to box of tricks for a "no makeup" makeup look, and I much prefer the golden undertones of this palette to the colors in Undressed, it's a beautiful little bargain.
From left to right:
Top row - Naked, Devotion, Shy, Fiery, Lavish, Dreamy
Bottom row - Tranquil, Exposed, Reveal, Obsessed, Corrupt 

Moving on, we actually have some more eye shadows to look at since for me MUA is particularly strong in this area and I was so excited when I saw that MUA also jumped on the chubby stick wagon a while back with their version of the eye crayon, the Colour Blast Eyeshadow Tint (£3). The formula of the pencils is lovely and creamy, and you get a nice sheer coverage without having to be heavy handed or pull on the eyelids. The color is really long wearing and doesn't crease, which is super for any product, but especially one at this price point. There are six lovely shades in the range, but I'm showing you Diamonds, a subtle shimmering girly pink which is perfect as a base shade and Bring it back which is a golden rusty brown, also with a subtle shimmer and I love to wear this just on its own all over the lid, with some black eyeliner, lashings of black mascara and a red lip - classic and simple.

Out of all the products in this post, the next one is my absolute favorite - it's the Bronzer in Shade 1 (£1). The packaging is as basic as it can get, but if you can see past the uninspiring plastic packaging the pigmentation is amazing and it gives a gorgeous natural subtle apricot glow, without any hint of orange (never a good look, unless you're a clementine...). It's easy to apply, it feels lovely and light on the skin and wears well without getting cakey. This product is an absolute steal, and I've repurchased it three times already - says a lot about how well this product is working for me.

My favourite MUA lip product is the Intense Kisses Lipgloss in Kiss and Tell (£1). This formula is very similar to Rimmel's Apocalips and it offers excellent pigmentation, high gloss and long wear (up to about 4 hrs). It's perfect when you're looking for intense opaque coverage with a glossy, glamorous finish and you can't be bothered with adding a separate gloss to a lipstick (yep, that's me). Other selling points for me are that the gloss isn't sticky, it has a subtle candy like vanilla scent and the applicator seems to get just the right amount for nice and even coverage without any bleeding. I've really enjoyed wearing Kiss and Tell which is an intense, warm fuchsia pink and when it fades, it leaves a stain like look that you can easily re-apply the gloss over.
From top to bottom:
Colour Blast Eyeshadow Tints - Diamonds
Colour Blast Eyeshadow Tints -  Bring it back
Bronzer - Shade 1
Intense Kisses Lipgloss - Kiss and tell

As you know, I love my manicures and one of my most loved nail effects is the caviar look. Ever since I first saw Ciatés original caviar manicure, I've been collecting different colored bead mixes that I add every now and then to a standard mani for a more fun, frivolous and whimsical effect. As much as I love Ciaté (and I really REALLY do) and the caviar mani, even I have to say that the standard price (£20) for some micro beads is pretty hefty, and there are other more budget friendly options available. MUA was probably the first brand on the high street to come up with a more affordable alternative, the Nail Constellations (£3) and I have of course added some of them to my caviar collection:
Pisces - a fresh and sporty mix of silver and turquoise, great as an accent to a white nail
Scorpio - an interesting mix of warm gold, copper, forest green and lilac - lovely with a dark green or purple nail
Libra - a dark black and turquoise mix, and for me this works best with plain black
The MUA range continues to grow and fairly recently the MUA Luxe range was introduced with some lovely new products, that are still affordable with no item more expensive than £9. If you haven't already tried MUA you can get the products from your nearest Superdrug or directly from MUA online, so why not make your next makeup haul not only beauty friendly, but budget friendly too!