Saturday, February 28, 2015

Battle of the Toners: Pixi Glow Tonic Vs Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner


For years now, I have been incorporating the Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Toner into my skincare regime. At one stage, when my skin wasn't so good, I was reaching for it on a daily basis, but nowadays it's a once or twice a week treat. It's great for when my skin is feeling dry or looking dull and lacklustre, and a quick sweep of it before bed, using a cotton pad to ensure that my entire face and neck get their hit, is all it takes to wake up with softer, smoother and brighter skin.

While I have always been more than happy with the effects of this particular toner, I have been wanting to get my hands on the Pixi Glow Tonic for longer than I care to remember. With higher levels of AHA than its Clarins counterpart, it promises more dramatic effects, and has become a cult product amongst bloggers and skincare experts alike. On a recent trip to London, I couldn't resist popping into Libery and picking up a bottle - but is it impressive enough to dethrone the Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner?

Let's begin with the science.

The Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner is a fresh, fluid exfoliating lotion that brightens, smooths and softens the skin. Tamarind fruit acids eliminate impurities and dead skin cells, boosting cellular renewal, while white nettle extract helps to tighten the pores, ensuring that they appear smaller.  Regular use encourages cellular renewal, strenghtening the skin's resistance to premature ageing and leaving you with a healthy, glowing complexion. Containing glycolic, salicylic and tartaric acids in much smaller quantities than many other popular toners, this is a great option for anyone with sensitive skin. Although it does contain alcohol, this is nicely counteracted with glycerin, and there is no sense of dryness following application.

It's recommended to be used 1-2 times a week, but personally, I have used it on a daily basis with no problems.

The Pixi Glow Tonic, on the other hand, is oil and alcohol-free, which does make it that little bit more suitable for sensitive skin than its Clarins counterpart, but again, I'd recommend using it no more than  a couple of times a week if this is you.

Containing ginseng, fructose and soothing aloe vera, the Pixi Glow Tonic is also laced with witch hazel, making it slightly astringent, and better for those with acne or frequent breakouts. It does

Personally, I'm not at all a fan of the smell of this one - it's potent, and overly floral, which is not what I was expecting at all. I'm not generally keen on particularly fragrant products, but I do like a fruity aroma, and that's what I was expecting from this.

The verdict: For me, it's got to be the Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner. I'm surprised to hear myself saying so, as I had great expectations for the Pixi Glow Tonic, but in all honesty, I haven't seen a great deal of difference in my skin since beginning to use it. Clarins's offering, on the other hand, is guaranteed to leave me with a soft, smooth and glowy complexion, and I can see myself continuing to repurchase it for a long while.

Do you have a favourite resurfacing toner?


Friday, February 20, 2015

Latest in Beauty: Get the Gloss Beauty Insider Box




I'm not usually one for beauty subscription boxes. For a long time, I have watched on from afar, keen to sign up to one but forever disappointed with the monthly reveals. Generally, I don't find that there is much in them to tempt me, and on the rare occasion a product does, it seems to come in an underwhelming sachet size, which for things like skincare and foundation, is nowhere near enough to get a real feel for it.

Browsing the latest offerings a couple of weeks or so ago, however, I spotted something that I just couldn't ignore - The Get the Gloss Beauty Insider Box, from Latest in Beauty. I almost did a double take when my eyes zeroes in on the contents, and then again when I spied the bargain price - £19.95 (plus £3.95 shipping) for NINE luxury samples, and not a sachet in sight. And as if that wasn't enough, the collective total value of the products comes to a whopping £116 - need any more convincing?

If you do, then a run down of the products should do it for you.

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer
A lightweight gel primer, enriched with vitamins. Apply prior to foundation or tinted moisturiser for a flawless base that lasts the distance. I've been using this for the past couple of weeks, and it definitely helps to improve longevity.

Eyeko Skinny Eyeliner
This is a full-size sample. A felt-tip pen-style liner designed to create the perfect cat flick with ease. This is great for getting a precise line, whether thick or thin is your thing.

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate
A strengthening and repairing concentrate to reinforce skin's immunity and resist the premature signs of ageing.

Glam Glow Supermud Clearing Treatment

A detoxifying mud mask to brighten, even and smooth the skin. This one also aims to unclog pores by drawing the toxins out, improving elastin and collagen levels to boot (!?).
I'm not 100% sure how this one works, but it's been on my list of things to try for a long while - watch this space.

Therapie Roques ONeil Cherish Skin Repair Serum

A concentrated daily serum to boost moisture and revitalise cell function to improve the micro-circulation of the skin. Fortifying and nourishing, this is a luxurious product which protects the skin from everyday environmental stressors. Show me a person who couldn't do with a bit of extra help in that department.

Daniel Sandler Concealer Brush

An award-winning, handbag-sized taklon concealer brush that fits perfectly under the eye for concealing dark circles and bags. Definitely something I will benefit from!

Essie Nail Lacquer in Parka Perfect

Who doesn't love a new Essie nail polish? This one is a lovely opaque grey.

Essie Nail Lacquer in Shearling Darling

Not just one, but two. Shearling Darling is a rich wine shade, and perfect for the remaining weeks of Winter.

Balance Me Radiance Face Oil

A hydrating and replenishing face oil - 100% naturally active 'nectar for the skin'. This aims to plump, smooth, and address dull, dehydrated and uneven skin.

James Read Sleep Mask Tan

A hydrating overnight tanner which guarantees a subtle, golden glow by morning. Infused with soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, cucumber, hyaluronic acid and red algae.

So there you have it - the nine beauty products that we should, apparently, all be reaching for in 2015. I have to say, I don't think they're far wrong, as half of these have been on my hit list for some while now. As for those that haven't, I'm looking forward to trying them out, and seeing what all the fuss is about!

Do you subscribe to beauty boxes? If so, what has been your favourite beauty discovery so far?


Sunday, February 15, 2015

New in from Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury Filmsar Bronze & Glow, Iconic Liquid Eye Pencil in Barbarella Brown and Luxury Eye Palette in Bronze Goddess

During a recent trip to London for the #nyLDNmeet, I couldn't resist popping along to Selfridges to check out the now infamous Charlotte Tilbury counter. Having already given myself a good talking to about how much I was allowed to spend, I came to the decision that I would simply try out a couple of eyeshadow quads and choose one, but when I approached the ladies at the counter, I found myself swiftly being swept into a chair to have a full Charlotte Tilbury makeover. I can't say that I was upset - the chance to try out the full range of products, from skincare right down to the finishing touches is every beauty fiend's dream. So, I readily obliged, and let her get to work.

I won't go into all of the products used in this particular post - it seems futile, given that I don't have any accompanying pictures of the end result. What I will say, however, is that I left that counter with a list as long as my arm of products to try. I was particularly impressed by Charlotte's Magic Cream, the Wonder Glow Primer,  Light Wonder Foundation ( I was number 2) and The Retoucher (number 2 again), all of which worked together to create a perfectly dewy, flawless base.

In the end, I caved in, and while I managed to talk myself out of buying the base products just yet due to having just replenished my usual stocks from other brands, I couldn't resist treating myself to a Luxury Palette in The Golden Goddess, Rock 'n' Kohl Iconic Liquid Eye Pencil in Barbarella Brown, and the Filmstar Bronze & Glow Face Sculp and Highlight (which only as I'm writing this, have I realised is Bronze & Glow as opposed to Killer Cheekbones, which is the one I really wanted! Oh well - half the price, and all that).

I'm really excited to put these to the test and to see whether they live up to the huge amount of hype surrounding them, as well as everything else Charlotte Tilbury. If I'm honest, the packaging itself was enough to entice me - shallow, I know, but let's hope the products are up to scratch.

I'll keep you posted on how I get on. 

Have you tried anything from Charlotte Tilbury? If so, do you have any recommendations?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentines Giveaway: Win The Bluebeards Revenge's limited edition Eau de Toilette Gift Set

Men are notoriously tough to buy for, so this Valentine's Day I've got a little giveaway for you to ensure that the guy bloke in your life has got a smile on his face. Not only that, but he'll be smelling his absolute best for the big night - a win-win, by all accounts.

The limited edition Eau de Toilette Gift Set from premium men's grooming brand The Bluebeards Revenge contains a fresh and masculine shower gel and their iconic eau de toilette, and comes beautifully presented in a branded gift box, which means you don't even have to put too much thought into wrapping it up!

If you haven't heard of The Bluebeards Revenge, I want to be completely transparent here and say that I do work for the brand, but after winning the coveted FHM Grooming Brand of the Year Award for 2014, it's a name that's on everyone's lips. The brand offer a wealth of traditional wet shaving gear along with haircare, fragrance, skincare and bodycare, so if your other half is none the wiser and you've had enough of him getting his hands on your expensive beauty products, then point him in the direction of The Shaving Shack.

Before you do, though, why not try your luck in my Valentine's giveaway, and see whether you can win him the manliest of prizes? The Competition closes on 14th February, so get in there while there's still time!

Please be sure to leave your email address AND Twitter handle in the comments below so that I can get in touch with the lucky winner.

Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 7, 2015


#nyLDNmeet bloggers drinking cocktails

#nyLDNmeet cocktail making at blogger meet

#nyLDNmeet blogger event cocktail making

Loved by Laura making cocktails at #nyLDNmeet blogger meet

Loved by Laura, Mirror on the Wall, Lola and Behold and It's Just Philippa at #nyLDNmeet blogger meet

#nyLDNmeet blogger meet at Bittersweet Soho

Byron burgers after #nyLDNmeet

Byron burger after #nyLDNmeet blogger meet

Bloggers at Byron #nyLDNmeet

#nyLDNmeet goodie bag

Last Saturday, I made my way to a blogger event in London, otherwise known as #nyLDNmeet . As the event was due to begin at 1pm and I live some distance away, I was up bright and early, and got myself onto the first train so that I'd arrive in the capital with plenty of time to spare. Whenever I go to London, I always like to have a bit of a browse in the shops, and on this occasion, it seemed to be inkeeping with the theme of the day.

While some people hate travelling by train, I personally quite enjoy it, as it means that I get a bit of me-time in which to read, listen to music and just generally chill out. Thankfully, the other passengers were all fairly considerate on the journey up, so I was quite happy to sit back and watch the world go by. There was Twitter talk of snow in London, so when I passed through Reading and caught site of a covering of white, I began to worry somewhat about my choice of high-heeled footwear.

The train arrived in London at around 11.30am, and top of my agenda was a quick trip to Liberty. I took the tube as far as Oxford Circus, and from there it was simply a case of popping across the road. I had a few items on my mental shopping list, but wasn't intending to buy much as I'm currently doing my best to save the pennies, so when I approached the Nars counter and they didn't have the palette I'd had my eye on, I was - in some ways - a little relieved. I'd also been intending to pick up the Creamy Concealer, but as my shade was out of stock, I gave it a miss, deciding instead to replenish my stock of the infamous Eye Primer.

After a quick scan for the Charlotte Tilbury counter, I was told that I'd need to go to Selfridges, so I picked up a bottle of Pixi Glow Tonic, before heading out and back up Oxford Street in search of the department store.

Although it wasn't snowing, the weather definitely wasn't on my side, as it was raining heavily all the way. For a moment, I was relieved to have brought my umbrella, but it wasn't long before I realised it was actually broken. I did my best to keep under the shelter as I hurried along, and managed to get away virtually unscathed before taking shelter inside Selfridges.

It was with more of a browse in mind that I headed for the Charlotte Tilbury counter, but when I asked if I could try out one of the eyeshadow quads, I found myself being swept into a chair for a full-on makeover. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy about this, as it meant that I got to try out a full face of Charlotte Tilbury makeup from start to finish, but I was a little bit pressed for time so had my fingers crossed that it wouldn't take too long. Luckily, it didn't, but seeing all of the products in action had me hankering to whip out my bank card and pick up a few pieces, so I ended up treating myself to the Golden Goddess Luxury Palette, Filmstar Killer Cheekbones and the Rock 'n' Roll Barbarella Brown Iconic Liquid Eye Pencil. Oops.

After my makeover, I rushed to the event, Citymapper acting as my guide the whole way. It wasn't far, but unfortunately for me, the rain was now even heavier, and by the time I arrived I was soaked through, boots included. Feeling a little bit flustered and desperate to get to the bathroom and sort out my hair, I made my way into the venue - a little Soho cocktail bar called Bittersweet. The event was already packed, and I got talking to a few bloggers I hadn't met before on my way in.

There were lots of activities already underway, with the lovely Henna (by name and profession) doing some amazing henna designs and the guys from Fordham Soho on hand to sort out everyone's hair. Moo Goo, an Australian skincare brand that provides natural and safe products for people with skin and scalp problems, were also around, introducing everyone to their range and to their brand new Dusty Girls mineral makeup line. Personally, I'm a huge fan of natural and organic skincare and do my best to avoid unnecessary additives wherever possible, so I'm really looking forward to trying out the samples I received - I will, of course, update you on how I get on.

Another highlight of the event was the cocktail making, and after missing the announcement for our slot, Laura and I found ourselves waiting at the bar, eager to get in on the action. It was the first time we had met, though we had been chatting on Twitter prior to the event, and were pleased to find that we were both equally as short as each other. Why? Because it's not often you come across someone else who just about makes 5ft, and while at my age I'm no longer bothered by my inheritance of the short gene, it was great to meet someone who shares the same shopping and photo dilemmas!

After chatting over some cocktails at the bar, we finally got the chance to make our own, so we snapped and laughed our way through a recipe that consisted of gin, cucumber, sugar syrup and prosecco. At some point, Philippa came to the bar to buy a drink, and though we had never met she was happy to play paparazzi as we brandished our cocktail shakers and pretended we knew exactly what we were doing. I didn't catch her name, but the lovely lady who gave us our lesson was brilliantly patient and accommodating, so a big thanks goes to her and all at Bittersweet.

Another highlight of the event was finally getting to catch up with Lola and Behold's Laura, who I have known via Twitter for the past few years but have never quite had the chance to meet in person. I had never realised that Laura was just as small as we were, so once again, we pleased to be able to exchange notes on living the short life!

Towards the end of the event, Lauren, Tamsyn and Amy held a charity raffle, in which a number of generous prizes were given out, although sadly, I wasn't one of the winners! By that time, it was gone 4pm and the end of the event was upon us, so we headed across the road to Byron for some gourmet burgers. Though there were over sixty bloggers at the event, many had to leave to begin the journey home, but there were around ten of us at the restaurant where we enjoyed a much needed meal after the cocktails that had been sunk earlier in the day. I had a chilli burger and courgette fries, which were a great novelty - I have long been replacing chips with the likes of sweet potato, so this is another lighter alternative I'll be trying at home.

After the meal, we took a few photos and caught up with some of the other bloggers we hadn't managed to speak to, and then the two Lauras and I had a wander round the Oxford Street shops again before it was time for all of us to say our goodbyes and head home.

I'd like to say a huge thanks to Lauren, Tamsyn and Amy for organising the event and for all of the hard work that went into it. I know they were feeling a little bit flustered on the day due to one or two things not going according to plan, but I want them to know that nobody noticed a thing and that we all had a fabulous time. Thanks girls - very much looking forward to the next event.

Also, a great big thank you goes out to all of the brands involved, and for their generosity in contributing to the raffle prizes and the amazing goodie bags we were each lucky enough to walk away with. Keep an eye out for some product reviews, coming very soon!

If you didn't make the event this time around then make sure that you're following @LDNmeet on Twitter - there are more meets in the pipeline, so I'm told, so stay updated - I'd love to meet some more of you next time.

Lauren - Blonde Vision
Tamsyn - Peach Pow
Amy - Beauty Glamorous

Laura - Loved by Laura
Laura - Lola and Behold
Philippa - It's just Philippa


A Long Weekend in London, Part 2

winter walk in Kensington Gardens

Winter walk in Kensington Gardens

Swan in Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens

A squirrel eating a cracker in Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace gates

If you read the post entitled A Long Weekend in London, Part 1, then this one won't seem quite so out of leftville as if you haven't, but I'll fill in the blanks for you nonetheless.

A couple of weekends ago, the husband and I decided to head up to London for a long weekend, as not only do three of my best friends live up there, but it was also our wedding anniversary. If you're interested in what I got up to in the first two days, then please do head over and read the first installment, which went up last Tuesday, but today's post is to round off proceedings with a quick run-down of our final day and night.

Monday was our anniversary itself, so we got up bright and early, wanting to make the most of the day. After several cocktails and a fairly late night the evening before, we would have been forgiven for feeling a little bit hungover, but somehow, we had both managed to avoid that fate, and were raring to get out and about as soon as we could. The weather was still bitterly cold, so we wrapped up warm and headed out in the direction of Patisserie Valerie for a spot of breakfast. I had already looked it up on Citymapper and established that there was a branch fairly nearby, and after a quick stroll in the sunshine, we found ourselves outside.

Breakfast, at the weekends or on holiday, is my absolute favourite meal of the day, and I eagerly went ahead and ordered my favourite - Eggs Royale, to be washed down with a pot of English Breakfast tea. The husband plumped for the Full English, and as we waited for the food to arrive, we chatted about our plans for the rest of the day. 

The food arrived quickly, and certainly didn't disappoint. Mine was served on brioche instead of the usual English muffin, and suffice to say, I'm an absolute convert! All Eggs Royale should be served like this from now on, and I'll be very disappointed if it isn't. We ate quickly, enjoying every bite, and treated ourselves to a slice of lemon cheesecake to share. Granted, it wasn't quite lunchtime, but if you've ever visited Patisserie Valerie yourselves then you'll know how impossible it is to resist. That, coupled with the fact that it was a special occasion, somehow made it an acceptable choice, and a delicious one, at that.

Once we were suitably fed and watered, we paid the bill and headed outside, meandering through Queensway in the direction of Kensington Gardens. It was a beautiful day for a stroll, and as we were heading towards Kensington anyway, it would have been rude not to go via the park. There were ducks, geese and other birds all over the grass, and given the proximity to some royal digs, the obligatory swan sunning itself on the lake. Rather than cutting straight across the gardens, we decided to have a little bit of a nose at Kensington Palace itself, though we didn't go in, content to observe from the outside. The squirrels were remarkably tame, and we were surprised to see how close they would edge to the people around them, in hope of a few crumbs. We even saw one that was so unafraid, it was taking pieces of cracker from a woman's hand and casually perching to eat them nearby. Incredible!

After we were done with the gardens, we went for a long walk, via Knightsbridge, until we arrived at the Science Museum. We spent a couple of hours wandering round inside, as though I had been before some years ago, my husband never had. One of the things I really love about London is the sheer number of cultural and educational activities you have right on your doorstep, but better than that, the fact that many of them are absolutely free to partake in.

By the time we left the museum, it must have been nearly four, and conscious that we had a special meal booked for early that evening and that we'd need to get ready, we decided to take the tube back to Bayswater. Before returning to the hotel, we stopped off for a drink or two in a pub along the way, and were astonished to find that drinks were half the price than anywhere else we'd been! I wish I had taken note of the name, as although it was a little bit tired looking, it's places like this that can make expensive weekends away that little bit more doable. I'm going to try to find out, and if I do, I'll be sure to share it with you.

A couple of games of pool later, we were still in the pub, and it soon became apparent that we wouldn't have time to go back and change before our meal. Instead, we decided to make the most of the situation and have another drink, before getting the tube to Piccadilly and making our way to the restaurant. We were lucky enough to be going to Gaucho, an upmarket Argentinian steak house, after a work colleague had very kindly donated me a £50 voucher he had been given, and as soon as we arrived, we wished we had found the time to go back to the hotel and spruce ourselves up a bit. Usually, we'd never go out for a meal without making the effort, so we felt a bit silly to have made such a faux pas on this occasion!

While we were studying the menu, a waitress appeared with a board bearing several cuts of raw meat, and proceeded to explain each one to us in a bid to help us in making our selection. In the end, we both opted for rare sirloin steaks, with sides of roasted field mushrooms and baked sweet potatoes.
The steaks on their own were around the £25 mark each, with side dishes charged at £5 each and drinks costing around a tenner, so it certainly isn't a cheap option, but given that we had our voucher in hand, we were fairly relaxed in treating ourselves.

The steaks were superb - there's no other word for them. I'm not the hugest fan of red meat, and it's very rare that I select it when given the choice, but having tried steak Gaucho style, I'm absolutely a convert. Yes, they're expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for. The restaurant itself looks impeccable, and the service was outstanding - I've never had better.

We were keen to enjoy the evening after our meal, but were conscious that we had a long coach journey home the next morning. I'm not sure whether I mentioned this before, but while travelling by bus takes a fair while longer than train, it's also a great deal cheaper. I doubt this is news to the majority of you, but for anyone wondering, you're looking at £30 return versus £95 on the train. Given the choice, I'd go for the train every time, as it gets you there in 3hrs 40 rather than the five and a half on the coach, but when you're paying for two it does tend to bump the cost of a weekend away up much further than I'd like. So, on this occasion, we went for the cheaper option.

As we were nearby, we made our way to Soho, which is only a short walk from Piccadilly on foot. Our luck was in, as we managed to find a couple of bars - including Gem - which had half price cocktails on offer, so we sipped our way through a couple each before admitting defeat and getting the last tube back to the hotel.

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend, and definitely squeezed the most out of it we could. A long weekend in London is never enough though, and I'm certain we will be back for more, very soon indeed.

You might have noticed that I haven't included any evening photos here, which is largely down to the fact that I didn't want to carry my good camera around at night, so I'll be popping up a few of my Instagram and phone photos over the weekend of anything you haven't seen yet.

What are your favourite things to do in London?


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Elemis Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules



Skincare has got to be one of the most important things to make time for in your daily routine, regardless of age, lifestyle or inclination. Although I'm far from perfect, and occasionally suffer from the odd slip-up - usually after one or two glasses of wine - I make it a priority to remove my makeup before bed and to ensure that I give my skin a good old cleanse, tone and moisturise. In fact, if you've been reading for a while, then you'll know that I'm quite the skincare connoisseur, and am always trying out the latest lotions, potions and treatments to see whether they have something special to offer. Of course, some make it into my regular routine, while others are cast aside a few weeks in. So, on the rare occasion that I do discover a real gem, the first thing I want to do is to share it with you.

Most recently, my secret weapon of choice has been the Elemis Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules*, which were selected as QVC Beauty's pick of the month for January. I'm actually really upset that I didn't get to share these with you before the month was up, but a number of factors came into play to make it impossible. That said, you can still get your hands on these little capsules of goodness at QVC Beauty, and for the month of February, a brand new hero product has been nominated. This time around, it's the Philip Kingsley Neroli & Geranium Elasticizer, and it's available at a heavily discounted price if you buy directly through their site. It's a fantastic opportunity to invest in those pricier beauty products and make a really good saving, with a different product taking centre stage every month throughout the year.

So, onto the Skin Bliss Capsules themselves.

The  Elemis Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules are designed to aid the detoxification of the skin, containing moringa oil to balance and protect it from the stresses and strains of everyday life. Packed with anti-oxidants, the nourishing ingredients endeavour to physically diminish the visible signs of ageing, targetting everything from wrinkles and fine lines to dull and lacklustre skin.

The treatment aims to create an effective base for the nutrients from your moisturisers to be absorbed, ridding the skin of any remaining impurities before your creams are applied. As if that wasn't enough, these small yet mighty little capsules use signature aromas to provide a sensory experience - in fact, they even claim to increase the production of the 'bliss' hormones, endorphins. Need any more convincing?

The pink capsules are designed to be used in the morning, and are formulated with a rose absolute to provide skin with maximum renewing and revitalising energy throughout the day

For night time, the green capsules are packed with relaxing lavender oil to help renew cell equilibrium and increase cell repair throughout the night.

Both have the added benefits of being able to target blemishes and breakouts while soothing and hydrating the skin, ridding you of dry,dull skin to make way for radiance and youthfulness.

To use, the capsules are easily twisted open, and after a few moments warming the oil between your palms, it is ready to go. Whether morning or evening, it's advisable to apply after cleansing and toning, massaging into the skin with the fingertips until fully absorbed.

So, with all of the benefits I've outlined in mind, it's clear that these small yet mighty capsules have got a lot to live up to, but in reality, do they really cut the mustard?

For me, they absolutely do. I've been looking really quite run down recently, and although I haven't been using the capsules every day, the difference in my skin since on the days that I do is noticeable - I've had more than one person comment on how clear it has been looking. Granted, my skin is pretty normal to start with, but to me it feels a great deal smoother, softer and plumper. It drinks in the oils upon application, and generally looks a whole lot healthier afterwards. It doesn't end there, either, as applying the evening capsules before bed and taking the time to massage them into the face has become my favourite nightly ritual. The soothing lavender oils are perfect for inducing the bed-time wind-down, and I adore waking up to brighter, radiant skin in the morning.

As for the anti-ageing benefits, it's really too early to comment, but I will be continuing to use the Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules, this time on a daily basis,and will most definitely be updating you on my progress. If you know me, you'll know that I'm paranoid about ageing prematurely, so I certainly don't need telling twice to stick to the straight and narrow and give these the best possible chance of turning back the clock!

Do you shop at QVC Beauty? What are your favourite products from Elemis?


Thursday, January 29, 2015

The January Beauty Selection

Favourite January Beauty Products, including Origins Calm to Your Senses, Bumble & Bumble,YSL, Nars and Olivia Burton

There was a time when I'd do weekly favourites posts, but it isn't something I'll be starting again. These days, I find that I'm far more selective with my beauty purchases, and equally, they tend to remain in my affections for a great deal longer. I've long been one to do my research when it comes to beauty shopping, but at one point I was so eager that I'd buy several cleansers or lipsticks all at once, meaning that none of them received the chance they deserved, and my skin and hair had no opportunity to reap the benefits of the products I was putting on them. So, it's back to monthly round-ups, which personally, I find far more telling. If something has been able to hold my attention for several weeks or more, then it has to be worth some consideration.

Suffice to say, my favourites for January are all very well loved, and I can say with certainty that I won't be casting any of them aside the moment that February shows its face. All of my chosen five for the month have been featured here on the blog quite recently, and I like them so much that they definitely deserve a second outing. If you'd like to read the original reviews, then simply click on the names below.

The new Origins Calm to Your Senses stress relieving facial mask has become a firm bedtime favourite, with relaxing lavender and chamomile to soothe your skin as well as your mind. Although reasonably light in consistency, it's rich enough to pack a real moisturising punch, and a light layer massaged in before turning the lights out is all it takes to send me into an easy, peaceful sleep. In the morning, there's no sign of any residue, and skin is brighter and softer. This certainly isn't as rich as the iconic Intensive Overnight Treatment Mask, so if you find that one too heavy then don't be put off. A perfect multi-tasker for those who want to pamper themselves effortlessly, the Calm to Your Senses mask is a surefire winner.

The Nars Sheer Glow foundation is a repurchase, after I originally fell in love with the dewy yet flawless finish it provided back in October. Sheer Glow is absolutely one of those rare 'wow' foundations, and I can remember literally marvelling at the results in the mirror on the very first application. The only downside with this is that it doesn't come with a pump applicator, so I often find myself pouring too much of it out at once. That said, the medium, buildable coverage it offers is more than worth the hassle, and this is set to stick around my makeup back for years and years to come.

I received Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium for Christmas, and have been keenly spritzing it on ever since. It's been a while since I opted for quite such a sweet fragrance, but the undertones of vanilla and spices make this a sophisticated and mature scent that I just keep finding myself going back to. The packaging is definitely a plus point too, as in its glamorous black bottle with a subtle hint of sparkle, it looks the part as well as smelling it.

I certainly won't be the last person to sing the praises of Bumble & Bumble's Pret-a-Powder. This is one hair product that has achieved cult status for all the right reasons, and has become my trusted secret weapon against flat, oily or lacklustre hair. Perfect for freshening up a lank looking fringe, Pret-a-Powder's real power lies in its root-plumping qualities, and a light sprinkling of product massaged into roots equals instantly volumised hair.

Finally, a non-beauty item, which comes in the shape of my beloved Olivia Burton watch. With a large, rose-gold face and navy leather strap, it has instantly converted me from a non-watch-wearer to a wristwear obsessive, and I adore the way that it adds a simple air of sophistication to even the most casual of looks.

What have your favourite beauty products been for January 2015? 
Do you have any non-beauty picks?


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Long Weekend in London: Part 1

It's always a pleasure visiting London, but each and every time I do, I have a list of things I'd like to see, do and eat that is as long as my arm - if not longer. It's one of those places that is permanently buzzing with activity and newness, and I suspect that even for those who live there, it's difficult to keep up. There are the pop up shops and the new restaurants, and then there are the up-and-coming areas that two years ago, no one would have set fut in. It's forever changing and evolving, and that's just one of the many reasons I love it.

Last weekend, we headed up for a long weekend, the first night of which was to be spent staying with friends. Upon our arrival into London, we headed straight for their place, and after a good catch up and plenty of tea, we decided to take a trip down to London fields and Broadway market. This was a first for me, and in spite of the biting chill in the air it was a joy to walk the narrow streets, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. There was vintage clothing and home-cooked food, and it was tempting to empty my purse right there and then. After a meander down to the end of the market, stopping to browse the stalls and sample homemade veggie scotch eggs and oysters, we ducked into a nearby pub for a glass of prosecco and the hance to warm ourselves up. There was a one man band putting on a fantastic show on his double bass, and despite the fact that it was still only around 3pm, most people were entirely on board, drinking, dancing and having fun.

After a while, we decided to head back to the flat and prepare ourselves for the night ahead, and it was there that I was met my the best of surprises - another of my friends was visiting from Manchester, and they had all kept it under wraps just to see the look on my face. It's very rare that we all get to see each other, so suffice to say, it must have been a good one.

That evening, we went for tapas in Stoke Newington at a restaurant called ....., washing them down with yet more prosecco, before heading to a nearby pub for more drinks and games. The plan was to end up at a club called Oslo, but our luck was out that night as we arrived to find it wasn't open to the public. The result? Much walking around, looking for somewhere to go. Eventually, we found a jazz bar and popped in for a drink or two, but the cold had been a bit much for us all, so we soon decided to call it a night.

The next day, after an amazing cooked breakfast courtesy of our hosts, we packed up our bags and travelled across London to the London Premier Notting Hill hotel, where we had booked in for two nights to celebrate our anniversary. I've found that although London hotels can be really pricey and a quick search of can turn up nothing affordable, it's well worth scouring the site a few times in the lead-up to your planned trip, as they do sometimes drop when you least expect it.
The Premier Notting Hill is a four star, but we got it for a really good price - if you've got a trip on the horizon then keep an eye out, as I'll be reviewing the hotel soon.

After checking in and dropping off our bags, we took a walk down to Portobello Road and perused the market stalls, taking in the beautiful vintage crockery and Banksy artwork and once again trying not to open our wallets. I could spend hours wandering round the London markets, and it's another case of never getting to do them all. There are just so many to choose from, and I love the variety they offer. There's a certain charm about them that is so much more than you could ever get from simply walking down the high street.

We stopped off at a pub and ordered a Bloody Mary for me and a pint of cider for him - we were both in need of a hair of the dog after the night we'd had, and a charcuterie and cheese board was just the job to accompany our drinks.

In the evening, we decided to head for Shoreditch, but unfortunately it was easier said than done due to the fact that it was a Sunday evening and several of the tube lines were being worked on. Eventually, we figured out that we'd have to get to Liverpool Street and walk from there, but we ended up getting completely lost in the freezing cold night. Before long, I began to notice that there were a lot of Indian restaurants around, and suddenly cottoned onto the fact that we were actually on  Brick Lane - I remembered it from last time, but it definitely wasn't where we had been heading for! We actually relied quite heavily on an app called Citymapper while we were away, and for the most part it is excellent - all you have to do is pop in your current location and where you'd like to go, and it'll map out a route for you, telling you how you can get there by bus, tube, car and on foot. It was pretty much our saviour, but there were times when it wasn't quite up to date with the goings on with that day, which did throw a spanner in the works once or twice.

Eventually, we did find Shoreditch, and we decided to walk on to Hoxton and have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant called Cyclo. We shared sweet potato and prawn fritters to start, both opting for a monkfish dish for mains, and all of it was delicious - not to mention surprisingly affordable.
Once we'd finished, we headed into The Shoreditch to make the most of happy hour (actually, it went on all night), before finally ending up in a little club called Cargo where we danced and laughed until we had no energy left. We managed to get a night bus home, and fell straight asleep when we got in - if there's one thing that's a certainty about London, it is that is has the power to exhaust anyone in a day or so!

I've got lots more photos of the trip, and another couple of days to share, but rather than make this post any lengthier I'll leave the rest for another day this week. There aren't any night time photos in this one, as I didn't fancy carrying my decent camera around that late, but I did take plenty of snaps on my phone, which will come in an Instagram updates blog post at the weekend.

What are your favourite London haunts? I'm always keen to get recommendations, as there are just so many options that it's often difficult to know where to go!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Olivia Burton Rose Gold Watch


Just a short and sweet one today, I'm afraid, as I'm off to London this morning to spend a few days visiting friends and soaking up the sights and sounds, as you do. Judging by the weather forecast, we would have been hard pushed to choose a worse weekend to go, as there are severe weather warnings all over London for the next few days. But hey - we'll make the best of it. I'm really looking forward to some tapas and drinks with some of my best girls, and a couple of nights in a plush hotel (you really can find some great deals if you don't mind spending hours shopping around!), and it's our anniversary over the weekend too, so we will be celebrating that. I'm taking my new camera with me in the hope that I'll manage to get lots of lovely snaps, but I'm still getting to grips with it - take this image, for example, which is not nearly as in focus as it looked on the screen itself before I uploaded it onto the computer. Sigh.

Anyway, getting to the point of this post, which is to introduce you to my favourite new accessory..

I received this beautiful rose gold Olivia Burton watch for Christmas after having pined after the entire collection for longer than I care to remember. The thing about Olivia Burton watches is that every single design is beautiful, so choosing the right one is no easy task. The one thing I was always sure of,however, is that I definitely wanted a large, rose gold face, and in the end I plumped for this one, which has a navy blue leather strap. My thinking was that this one is perfect for the current season, as I do tend to wear darker hues in the Winter. Come summertime, however, I'll probably want to change things up a bit, so it's the ideal excuse for starting a collection! I have already spotted a mint pastel strap that, when paired with the rose gold face, will pretty much make up my perfect warm weather watch, and after that? Who knows.

If you'd like to have a look at the selection of Olivia Burton watches, then ASOS have some great ones. Most are only £95, which I think is a fantastic price for such a good quality, attractive timepiece.

I'm not sure that I'll have the chance to post again before Tuesday, so until then.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Achieving Big Hair with Bumble & Bumble Pret-a-Powder


While many of you may brandish the straightening irons on a daily basis, my days of sleek, smooth locks are long gone. I'm not saying that every day is a bad hair day - though I definitely have my fair share of those - but that nowadays, I'd much rather plump for bouncy, voluminous hair with a bit of a wave or a curl.

Achieving lasting volume is no mean feat. Over the years, I've tried root-boosting sprays, mousses and powders alike, but the goal has never quite been in easy reach. Many of them - much like my hair - fell flat, leaving my hair limp and crispy with product. Or worse still, they left me with greasy-looking locks, despite having just stepped out of the shower. The closest I ever came to success was the TreSemme plumping powder, which when sprinkled into the roots and rubbed in, gave me the big hair I'd always dreamed of. It wasn't long, however, until my hair began to feel sticky and greasy, so much so that I'd race straight to the shower each evening after work to wash it out. So, it's fair to say that when the Bumble & Bumble Pret-a-Powder came onto my radar, I wasn't exactly racing to Boots, eager to join the queue.

Months later, things changed, and after hearing a torrent of complimentary conversations about the hair powder, I finally caved and bought it.

Bumble & Bumble Pret-a-Powder claims to be equal parts dry shampoo, style extender and volume, which immediately sets it apart from the other hair powders on the market. Priced at £21.50 for 56g, it's far from cheap, but given that you get the benefits of oil absorbency and volume all in one, it's a product that's worth a few moments of any beauty lover's time. If, like me, you are still putting off learning to blow dry your hair properly, or like most of us, you simply don't have the time, then Pret-a-Powder will be your best friend, adding extra oomph to lacklustre locks, and filling in the gaps between washes. 

To use, I sprinkle liberally through my roots and massage in with my fingertips, and hey presto, big hair is mine. You can use a fair amount of product before you start to look as though you've been antiqued, which means that you can go a little bit crazy in your bid for extra oomph, should your style require it.

While I don't find the volume this provides to last all day per-se, all it takes is a quick scrunch of the roots to get things looking as they should again. I tend to do this several times throughout the day, and never find it necessary to apply any more product once my hair is styled. Pret-a-Powder does an excellent job of freshening up day-old hair, and I keep a bottle in my handbag for those moments when you catch sight of yourself in the mirror and have a sudden urge to run home and start again.

In spite of the price, this has become a hair-styling staple for me, and although the bottle is a little bit on the small side, it seems to last a remarkably long time. It's ideal for anyone with oily, fine or lacklustre hair, and it definitely gets the seal of approval from me.

What are your favourite volumising products? Are there any other Bumble & Bumble products you can't live without?


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Winter Fragrance Line-Up: Jo Malone and YSL

Winter-fragrance-Jo Malone-Pomegranate Noir-Blackberry and Bay-YSL-Black Opium

I'm the sort of person who will find a fragrance I like, and hold onto it with both hands. In the past, I've had certain perfumes that I would spritz on month in, month out, without giving the season a second thought. There was a time when Ana Sui's Dolly Girl would see me through the entire calendar, no questions asked, before eventually being replaced with the likes of Escada's Rockin' Rio, and DKNY Be Delicious after that. Of course, I have moved onto some more sophisticated fragrances since the early days, but the basics of what I like in a scent have remained the same. I've always been one for a fruity fragrance - juicy, and just sweet enough, but never sickly or overpowering.

Last winter, I finally treated myself to a perfume I had had my eye on for an age: Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir. I had fallen into the habit of awaiting birthdays or Christmas in order to replenish my fragrance collection, so much so that buying one for myself was almost out of the question. With the exception of duty free shopping, that is but I have never yet stumbled across some of the brands I now tend to gravitate towards when browsing pre-holiday.

Pomegranate Noir was one of those perfumes I just knew I would love, to the point that I was happy to order it online and face the consequences. Thankfully, my judgement had been spot on, and it continues to be my all-time favourite winter scent. The fragrance professes to combine the 'ruby rich juices of pomegranate, raspberry and plum' with pink pepper, Casablanca lily and spicy woods. Now, putting scents and aromas into words has never been my strong point, but Pomegranate Noir certainly does scream rich, juicy winter fruits. In fact, the best way I can describe it is to say that it smells just like mulled wine. You've got the hint of cloves and cinnamon in there, and a subtle woodiness that is reminiscent of November bonfires.  A sophisticated fragrance for all occasions, for me it is simply perfection in a bottle.

More recently, I added another Jo Malone offering to my repertoire of fragrances, and this time, it was Blackberry and Bay that made the cut. Once again, I was confident enough to order online, and once again, my selection didn't disappoint. A 'vibrant and verdant' scent that conjures up images of blackberry picking in the forest, this is tart and juicy, yet simultaneously woody and green. It's a lovely alternative to your typical winter perfumes, but it does have a surprising sweetness about it. Not in the sugary sense, but it is perhaps slightly more floral than I would have expected.

The most recent addition to my shelf, however,  has been the lovely Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium. I must admit, this was not a perfume that had yet appeared on my radar, so it was a complete surprise when I unwrapped it at Christmas after receiving it as a little extra from my husband. Thankfully, though, surprises often lead to the best discoveries, and this was definitely one.
Black Opium is a sweet and spicy vanilla-based fragrance, which is also said to contain hints of black coffee and white florals. Personally, I can't detect the coffee, which is probably a bit of a relief, but there is a certain but very subtle bitterness in there somewhere, concealing itself beneath the ever-so-sweet top notes. This is quite a sugary scent compared to the others, but again, it isn't overpowering and the longevity once applied is excellent. Add to that the beautifully sparkly bottle it comes presented in, and it has to be a winter winner for me.

So there you have it, my winter fragrance line-up in all its glory.  Do you have any favourite perfumes for the colder months?

Have you tried anything from Jo Malone? Let me know which scents are your favourites, as I am forever browsing the website looking for my next 'must have'.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Health Files: Tips and tricks for eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle

      Making new year's resolutions is a great way to wipe the slate clean and begin to introduce some positive new habits into your life, but traditionally, come February 1st, the resolve you strode into January so full of has dwindled to almost nothing.

Often, our resolutions can prove harder to maintain than we might have imagined, and it only takes one bad day to have you taking a detour to the nearest shop as you head home from work,  in search of that emergency bar of chocolate. A huge part of the problem, in my eyes, is the approach that many of us take to achieving our goals - leaping in head-first with a complete lack of forethought. It might be tempting to think that you can change your entire life overnight, but realistically, it's unsustainable.

One thing I have learned the hard way is that you need to create your own support network if you really want to succeed. I'm not talking friends, but rather, looking at what needs to be done in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success, and putting measures in place before you begin to provide support as you go.

It's never an easy feat, but there's no such thing as can't. I've fallen off the wagon all too many time myself in the past, but I have slowly learned that the best way to achieve your goals is to be your own biggest cheerleader, and let go of the self-sabotage. We are all guilty of it, and it does us no favours at all.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the handy tip and tricks I have picked up along the way - tips that I have found work for me, and ones that I hope will have us all waving out 2015 with a smile of satisfaction on our faces.

Here goes.

1. Plan and prep your meals for the week

Knowing what you're going to be eating for the days ahead helps you to stay focussed and prevents situations where you might find yourself reaching for a less than healthy option simiply because nothing else is available. Ensure that your fridge is always stocked with a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, and fill your cupboards with staple foods such as quinoa and brown rice. Spend a couple of hours cooking up some one-pot meals on a Sunday, these can be stored in the fridge and dipped into as needed throughout the week. I tend to do this for lunches, so that all I have to do each evening is pop a portion into a plastic container along with some fresh salad, and grab it on my way out the next morning.

2. Be prepared

To give yourself the best possible chance of maintaining your healthy lifestyle, ensure that you are prepared for every eventuality. Pop your gym gear in the washing machine after each session, and make sure that it is dried and packed into your gym bag before you go to sleep. If you exercise after a day at work, then make sure you keep the necessaries in the car so that you can head straight to the gym, as often, coming home and sitting down will mean that you are far less likely to get back up again!

In term of eating, number 1 will have already tarted you off on the right foot, but it's a good idea to make sure that you always have some healthy snacks close at hand so that you're never tempted to reach for that chocolate bar. Empty your desk drawer of anything that might pose a risk to your eating plan, and instead, fill it with nutritious and low sugar alternatives. I keep bags of mixed nuts, sachets of miso oup, gluten-free oatcakes and Nak'd bars in mine.

3. Include complex carbs in your lunch

A sure-fire way to fall off the wagon is to deprive yourself completely of energy-providing carbohydrates. Cut out the white, refined baddies such as white bread, rice and pasta, as these are of little nutritional value and will cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar. All very well if you're after a quick energy hit, but it is soon followed by a crash and will leave you feeling lethargic and sleepy for the afternoon. Instead, replace them with high-protein grains which provide complex carbs and a slower stream of energy. Quinoa and bulgar wheat are both good options, as well as daily staple of mine. Alternatively, try sweet potato - I roast a few in tin foil in the oven each Sunday, and keep them in the fridge until needed.

4. Have a green smoothie every morning

The majority of us lead busy lives, and it can be difficult to find the time to ensure that you're getting your five a day. One of the best solutions, I have found, is to drink a green smoothie for breakfast each day. Every evening, I throw a handful of kale or spinach in the blender, along with a selection of berries, a spoonful of wheatgrass powder, some ginger, and some flaxseed or chia, and whizz them up, ready for the following day. The Blend Active has to be one of my best purchases, as you simply attach the blade to the flask provided, replacing it with a lid once done. It's a quick and easy way to make and store a smoothie until you need it, and saves on the washing up, too.
If I fancy something a bit more filling, I'll add some avocado to my smoothie, or sometimes I'll pop in some banana and a spoonful of almond butter.

5. Swap coffee for green tea

There's no excuse not to like green tea these days, as with the multitude of flavours now available on the market, there is something to suit even the fussiest of tastes. Personally, I gave up coffee some while ago after realising it exacerbated the anxiety I was suffering from at the time, and it continues to serve as a trigger. I don't miss it at all, and I enjoy the gentle uplift I get from a nice, hot cup of green tea. I do love my English breakfast tea though, and I will always have a cup or two to get me going each morning. After that, it's green tea all the way, and with the added benefit of health-boosting antioxidants and - so they say - a slightly accelerated metabolism, there's very little not to like about it. I often go for Matcha green tea, but if that' not to your taste then try my favourite flavoured versions - I like Twinings orange and Lotus flower or mango and lychee.

6. Bake some healthy treats to have on hand for weak moments

Like it or not, there are going to be time when you feel your willpower beginning to falter, and the best way to deal with it is to have something on hand that will satisfy a sweet craving without the high sugar content. Recently, I have started making brownies with sweet potato and avocado, which might sound odd but taste delicious. You wouldn't have a clue there were veggies in them, and the best bit is that they tate wonderfully chocolatey without the calories or sugar. I use raw cacao for the flavour, and add fat free natural yoghurt and honey, swapping plain flour for spelt flour or almond meal. There are lots of recipes out there for sugar free, clean-eating desserts, and the recipe I use i very much an improvisation based on several. If you'd like the recipe, then let me know in the comments.

7. Plan your exercise schedule ahead of time

I wish I could be one of those people who bound out of bed every day for a pre-work gym session, but alas, cold, dark, winter mornings are not for me. To ensure that I still get my exercise in following a tiring day at work, I take steps to plan exactly what I'm going to be doing, so I carry a screenshot of my gym's class timetable on my phone for reference. It's all too easy to arrive without a plan and to end up wasting valuable time as you um and ahh about which machine you want to go on or which body part you are going to target. I tend to choose which classes I'm going to be doing the weekend before, and choose suitable workouts for the days in between - so, for example, if the classes I'm doing don't involve much work on my legs, then I'll do some squats and lunges and try to focus on that area on a day where I'm doing my own thing.

If you don't have a gym membership, then hop onto Youtube via your TV - there are some brilliant channel which offer a range of fitne videos and programmes that you can do in your living room. A personal favourite of mine is Fitness Blender, but Blogilates and Tone It Up are also popular.

8. If you do slip up, then get straight back on the wagon.

So you caved in and ate that bar of chocolate. One little mistake doesn't have to mean throwing in the towel completely, and if you're serious about your goals then you shouldn't let it deter you. That said, nor should you simply use it as an excuse to continue the run of bad eating for a few more days. Tomorrow is another day, so get straight back into your healthy routine in order to minimise the impact. Having a cheat meal once a week is fine, a long a it doesn't signal the beginning of the end -  and a wave goodbye to your resolve.

What are you doing differently this year to help you to keep your resolutions?

Please leave a comment, I read every last word and love hearing your views! It really brightens up my day.

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