Monday, 24 March 2014

Style | Slogans

*Taps on the screen and waves sheepishly* Is anyone still there?

Synopsis of life of late: work has been insane, and I have invested far too much of myself and my sanity in it at the expense of almost everything else. I say 'almost' as I have successfully managed to cultivate a Wahaca habit and completed a wardrobe overhaul to the tune of seven bags to the charity shop. *Smug satisfaction at decluttered living coupled with terror at discovering that I had retained a Lily Allen-era prom dress* #horror

Speaking of being so five minutes ago on the fashion front, I have returned to my most-beloved teenage trend: slogan t-shirts. After spotting a picture on ASOS's instagram some months ago which made me gasp aloud on the commute (shame), I found myself hauling all the tees that I'd seen on fashion blogs about a hundred years ago: FELINE MEOW, More Issues Than Vogue (thanks, Laura) and the daddy of them all, the double Cs Glen Coco affair. 

Mature, non?


I could insert a vague promise about blogging more, blah blah, but that doesn't make for good content. You all know I've been wrestling with the need to find my inspiration for my blog for ages, so perhaps the next few months ought to be a bit of a marriage guidance exercise. You know, spend more time together, rediscover the reasons you first fell in love, and try things that push your boundaries (I'm thinking maybe vlogging over role play, but you get the picture!)

Image (left): Pinterest
Image (right): ebay

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Life | Pink Sky

If I was starting to get the spring feeling in my last post, it has well and truly taken over this week. Stephen and I spent a long weekend in his home town of Sheffield, and we decided to spend Saturday in Whitby on the north Yorkshire coast. Just us, two dogs, and two enormous portions of fish and chips from the delicious Magpie Cafe. After a bracing walk, we dropped down to the beach just as the tide was starting to go out, and we had a rather eventful time: I misjudged the tide and found myself with ankle boots full of sea water, and he jumped up on some rocks, which turned out to be a mound of clay. We like to think of ourselves as tough northerners, but by the time our walk was over and we were wet through and caked in mud, it rather appeared that London has rubbed off on us a little too much!

On our walk back towards the town, we turned back to be greeted by the most beautiful sunset, which intensified with every passing minute. Utterly stunning.


We returned to London on Monday, and I was reminded why I love my street so much: who needs a trip to Japan when I have five cherry blossom trees (plus a magnolia) in full bloom. There are few things more beautiful to me than the soft pink hue of this fleeting blossom, so I'm making sure to keep my weekend clear so I can spend time reading my book and gazing out of the window, before they disappear altogether. Next week, I'll make sure to have my camera with me at all times, as last year, I was caught in a confetti-like swirl as the spent petals descended from the trees in the breeze. It was one of the most magical walks I've ever had.


While I adore pink, it seldom finds its way into my wardrobe, but I have to admit, this rosy haze has me feeling more than a little inspired.

Clockwise from l-r: Jonathan Simkhai top, £325; Linda Farrow sunglasses, £350; Lanvin silk top, £740; Elizabeth and James bag, £445; Nina Ricci skirt, £1000; Thakoon shorts, £430. All from www.net-a-porter.com

Oh, I should add that it pains me to always include such expensive clothing in my edits, but net-a-porter is, without question, the best site for images of clothing rather than models in clothing. I love my edits to be simple, which means that I'm constrained by what's available online. I promise that I will try and find another way to do this (maybe Polyvore?) to showcase some cheaper alternatives. I will try Zara next time, although their occasional grey backgrounds jar with my desire for a pure white background! Serious OCD alert.

Hope you're all having a wonderful week!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Favourites | February


It's the first of March and I'm starting to get that spring feeling, and it goes a little something like this:
  1. Commuting in daylight feels novel and exciting
  2. However much black you've worn over the past few months, you feel an almost irresistible pull towards pastels
  3. You have been shocked at how pale your legs are (reaches for fake tan)
  4. You've got the urge for a new routine
I'm definitely feeling the latter point strongly, and the next few months is going to be focused on shaking things up, starting with the blog. If spring is a time for light and new life, so it should be here. So, without further ado, let's get started on my first monthly favourites!

Nars Orgasm Illuminator
£22.50 at Nars counters

As much as I love a pretty cheek highlight on others, I've never found quite the right product for my pale skin. I bought this Nars tube last summer after I found myself powerless to resist the pretty rose gold sheen it imparted as I swatched it in Selfridges beauty hall (why is it that everything in there is irresistable?). Sadly, when I applied it over my blusher the next day, I found it lifted too much of the colour, and this tube was quickly relegated to the 'maybe I'll use this one day' cupboard. Following a recent stash-shopping extravaganza, I've been pairing this with Sleek's Flushed blush, and it looks dreamy. It's such a subtle effect that instantly brightens my face, making it perfect for the office.

3LAB Perfect BB SPF 40
£72 at www.net-a-porter.com and Harvey Nichols

The beauty blogging community is divided on BB creams, with many of the view that they're just glorified tinted moisturisers. As someone who will reach for a lighter base over foundation 99% of the time, I have found my nirvana in 3LAB Perfect BB, and in my opinion, the name is no exaggeration! The coverage is light, even and absolutely flawless. The masking-effect of foundation is not really something I enjoy for day time: I want to see my skin underneath and for my base to just look like really great skin. I've found myself reaching for this everyday for work, and I feel like it transforms my face immediately, evening out the tone whilst keeping a sense of the skin underneath. For the office, I will still lightly contour my cheekbones, but the difference between this product and foundation is that I would happily wear this without any additional makeup, whereas I would look ridiculous with a blanked-out foundation face. The only draw back is the price, but initial outlay aside, this tube has lasted over a year as you need such a tiny amount. Having spent the past few weeks working through a large pile of samples to see if I can find a dupe, I've found nothing that comes close. It's looking like I'll be repurchasing when this tube finally runs out!

Dybrow by Eyelure
£7.50 at Boots and Superdrug

The only thing that irks me about this product is the lack of an 'e' in Dybrow. Dye has an 'e', eye ends in 'e', but I'm being pedantic as this product is amazing. I was into a great routine of dyeing my brows a few years ago and then for some reason, I stopped. I was then paying somebody to dye my eyebrows, which is truly the most ridiculous thing to spend your money on. From opening the box to brushing out your finished brows, this takes all of ten minutes, and although the prospect of a Scouse Brows error looms large on your list of anxieties, taking it slowly and wiping the dye off every couple of minutes to check the tone removes the risk of them getting too dark. I use brown which is sufficiently ashy to suit most complexions, and can of course be left on longer for a darker shade. 

Lasting Perfection Ultimate Wear Concealer by Collection
£4.19 at Superdrug

I first heard about this product in one of Tanya Burr's tutorials, and if Tanya says she loves it, it's pretty certain I'll buy it. Even with her seal of approval, I am absolutely astounded by the quality of this concealer: it beats absolutely everything I've tried, well, ever. Prior to buying this, I had been using a combination of high end corrector and concealer that had worked well for years, but had begun to exaggerate those fine lines around the eyes that come from 31 years of life. My assumption had been that the Collection concealer would be better for younger skin, but boy, was I proved wrong: it never creases, lasts all day (I haven't worn it for the 16 hours it promises but I don't need to touch up at all) and absolutely annihilates dark circles. There's a tiny bit of luminosity in there, meaning it's great for under eyes, and the overall effect is one of being exceptionally well rested. The doe foot applicator is ideal for under eye use, and I always finish with a bit of Rimmel loose powder. In my makeup-obsessed life, I've always found high end concealers to be much better than their drugstore counterparts, but this one bucks the trend and beats everything I've tried hands down. 

The only downside to this product is the quality of the ink on the tube which always rubs off over the first few weeks of use. I've taken to scrubbing the tubes as soon as I buy them so I don't end up dotting myself with ink smudges! Needless to say, I bulk buy this when it's on three for two: I know it's cheap to start with, but it's even better when it's cheaper!

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters
£6.99 at Boots and Superdrug

I should start this section by saying that I have never been a lipstick wearer. My Mum, by contrast, is a lipstick fiend, operating something akin to her own Estee Lauder counter at home, and could never understand why she didn't pass on that particular gene. I have always felt that lipsticks wear me, and have instead gravitated towards peachy pink glosses and balms: boring. All of that changed when another Tanya Burr tutorial led me to Revlon's Lip Butters, and Pink Truffle in particular. It was, of course, sold out for several weeks before I managed to get my hands on it, but when I did, it was love. These butters seem to sink into the lips, staining them ever so slightly and giving great longevity of wear, but are just as moisturising as a balm. As many other reviewers have said, their texture is somewhere between a lipstick and a lip balm, but the colour pay off is so much more than a balm could ever impart. I asked Mum to choose a few shades for me at Christmas as she bought Berry Smoothie and Wild Watermelon, both of which I adore. She followed these with Cotton Candy, Sweet Tart, Candy Apple and Peach Parfait, the latter being my favourite of the whole collection. I now have ten shades and plan to swatch them all for a full review soon. If you want to add a bit of colour to your lips but hate that heavy lipstick feeling, these are definitely for you. They're nearly always on three for two at Boots and Superdrug, and who doesn't love a freebie?

Beauty Blender sponge
£16, available online

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet, but whether you're a foundation or a tinted moisturiser/BB kinda gal, this is a brilliant bit of kit. This tear-shaped sponge should be used damp, and I find that I get the best results from putting a pump of base product onto the back of my hand and then dabbing/bouncing the sponge over my face. It gives skin an almost airbrushed finish, and the narrow end of the sponge is absolutely perfect for applying concealer. The fact that it's used damp means I give it a good wash every morning, which makes me feel much happier than using a brush that is cleaned only weekly. I haven't tried the Real Techniques version which is much cheaper, so perhaps I'll pick one of those up soon and do a comparison post. This definitely isn't an essential, but if like any other beauty obsessive, you find yourself day-dreaming about makeup brushes, this is certainly worth a look.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my first monthly favourites! I'd love to hear whether you'd like to see more of this kind of post, and even if you might like a favourites video at some point soon...!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: Edward James salon


There are relatively few universal truths, but I think we can probably all agree with the following:

  • Triangular sandwiches taste better than square ones
  • Putting kittens in the oven doesn't make them biscuits
  • It is impossible not to feel better after some good quality pampering/grooming

While I tend not to dabble in the baking of felines, at-home or salon maintenance is a non-negotiable for me, particularly when I'm busy. When work is hectic, life can feel as though it passes by in a haze of meetings and deadlines, punctuated by the occasional nap in front of Gardener's World or some other televisual tamazepam. Although taking time out can often seem like too great a luxury, treating yourself to a salon visit almost forces you to relax: there's nothing to do, nothing to think about. You can just be.

This was just the experience I had when I visited Edward James London salon in Clapham last week. After an immensely busy few weeks, and on the night before a big presentation, I stepped off a perishingly cold Northcote Road and into the warm, Aveda-scented glow of this small yet bustling salon. As soon as I'd made myself comfortable, restorative glass of prosecco in hand, I was greeted by Craig, the salon manager, who was to provide one of the bounciest blow dries I'd had for a long time. After a chat about my hair and the products I normally use, he gave me some excellent insights into my hair type that have been entirely absent from previous consultations. We agreed that a blow dry with some movement was the order of the day, and then I settled back to enjoy a wonderful head, shoulder and neck aromatherapy massage which is included with all treatments.

The stresses of the day already dispensed with, I was then seated in an incredible massage chair while my hair was washed and treatment applied. The chair creates the feeling of floating on a gently undulating sea - chairs which just enable you to have your feet up are now very much yesterday's news in my book! It was then back to Craig, via a chat with Edward, the salon's charming owner. I'd noticed Edward chatting to all of the salon's 'guests' (everyone in the salon uses this over the slightly seemy 'clients'!) and it all felt like we were at a rather laid back party; the ever-present host ensuring that we were all enjoying our experiences. I felt so welcome, something which I'd never really thought about when visiting a salon, but Edward's easy manner creates the most wonderful, friendly atmosphere, something that is extremely rare in salons of this standard. It feels very much part of the community, and it is easy to see why the salon recently won a Best New Business award. Being there really made me want to move to Clapham!

Finally, it was back to Craig to impart as much gloss and bounce into my hair as I've seen in a very long time whilst we swapped stories of being northerners in London, and I was subject to yet more relaxation in the form of a hand massage. If I wasn't sufficiently fond of him for giving me great hair, I will love him forever for telling me that he liked this hat!

After saying my goodbyes, I stepped back into the cold feeling altogether restored, and after looking at the time, I was shocked to see that little more than an hour had passed. It reminded me that it really doesn't take long to bring some balance back to your life, and when it leaves you coiffed and confident, so much the better.

Edward James London is at 18 Northcote Road, Clapham. Blow dries start from £28.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Life | Be Grateful

image source: pinterest.com
*Blows dust off blog*

2014 is 34 days old and yet here I am, only just putting finger tips to keyboard. It's taken some time to figure out, but I want this to be the year that my blog changes direction: less about things and more about things that matter. My passion for writing is stronger than ever, and that means exploring new subject matter, becoming inspired again, and feeling like I'm doing something that contributes more to the world than just recommending a new shade of lipstick (not that a new lipstick can't make you feel great: it's some of the best medicine there is).

So, today's post is about gratitude. Watching this TED talk earlier gave me an amazing insight: that in choosing to be grateful, we put ourselves on a fast track to happiness. Yet how many of us practice gratitude with any frequency (beyond saying 'thank you' for the things others do for us) and how often are we truly grateful for the things we have? I know that I spend a good portion of my time getting stressed about the things that concern me, or the things I haven't yet achieved, so my challenge is to start acknowledging where I am, and why it's a great place to be. Here are a few tips from a range of sensible people (only one of them is from me!) to help get you started:

1. Every day, write down something that you are grateful for. Read it after a month and realise that there are a lot of wonderful things in your life

2. Be mindful. Take a few moments every day to stop and appreciate what's going on, whether it be a peak of sunshine on an otherwise grey day, or the feeling of finishing work on a Friday evening

3. Stay in touch. Speak to your friends and loved ones often, and listen as much as you talk. Always send birthday cards: texts aren't nearly as much fun to receive

4. Do something good. Volunteer your time for a good cause, give to charity (even if it's just donating some old clothes), or go and help your friend put up their latest Ikea purchase

What are you grateful for today? 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

First thoughts: Sensational at-home gel manicure

If you've read a beauty blog in the last five days, I'm pretty certain that you know that Boots is currently offering the Sensationail deluxe starter kit for an amazing £45.

If you've had a blog-reading holiday, just scroll down to my previous post where you'll find all the info. For those of you who don't know about Sensationail, it's an at-home gel polish system that promises up to two weeks of chip-free wear for about £10-15 more than your average salon treatment. I received my kit at lunchtime and I've been clock-watching all afternoon on a countdown to trying it.

Before I start this 'review', I will caveat it by saying that this is very much a first impressions post: the polish has only been on my nails for about two hours. I normally don't write about a product so quickly because I prefer to test it long enough that I can give you a balanced view, and to make sure that it does what it promises. The thing is, the Boots offer, and indeed, my first impressions of the kit are just so good that if you're thinking about having a gel manicure at any point in your life, I would recommend you pop out and buy this kit or add it to your Christmas list before the offer ends on Thursday. To reassure me in my very early posting, many other bloggers have written about the kit and given it positive reviews, so I feel happier to throw my hat in on this one.

So, here's the finished manicure, with apologies for the crummy phone photograph (I will update with a better shot tomorrow once I have some daylight). I'm wearing the shade Raspberry Wine which has a very slight shimmer: perfect for the festive season.


Onto the kit and application. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow and Sensationail have a couple of helpful instructional videos on their YouTube channel (which I have been watching obsessively for the past few days!) The complete manicure took about 30-40 minutes because I was being extremely careful, but I suspect this will get quicker as I get used to using the product.

After buffing the shine from your nails and cleaning with the gel cleanser, you apply a small amount of gel primer around the outer edges of the nail. Thumbs should be completed first as your whole hand won't fit into the LED lamp, and this is the part that feels like it takes the most time as you're going back and forth from one hand to the other much more frequently than you would when you're painting with regular polish. Once the thumbs are done, it feels much more like a normal manicure.

The process is basically four coats which are each cured separately. The base/top coat is applied and cured for 30 seconds, two coats of colour polish have a minute's curing each followed by a final coat of base/top coat and another 30 second cure. It's very simple, but it's good to take it slow and steady to start with so you get a neat application: you'll hopefully be wearing this for two weeks so it's important it looks good!

Once the final cure is finished, wipe your nails over with the gel cleanser and that's it: process complete. You can tap, scratch and generally do as you wish with your nails which are now completely hard. It's amazing stuff: very quick, easy and they look so shiny. You can also wear another shade of regular polish over the top if you fancy a change, and can remove it without damaging your gel manicure underneath. If this lasts well, I'll see you in Boots where I'll be buying all the other shades. Of course, I'll review in two weeks to show you how it's worn.

In terms of tips and tricks, apply the polish in as thin a layer as possible, and take your time with the application. At first, you'll be tempted to work quickly, but once you realise that the polish on your nails isn't going to dry, you can take your time working it into an even finish. There's no need to worry about dragging when you apply an additional layer after curing as the polish is fixed where it is. Make sure to 'cap' each nail by pulling the brush horizontally across the tip of your nail to minimise the potential for wear and do this with each coat of base/top coat and polish. I felt like the polish seemed to slip down my nail after I capped it on the first layer of colour but it was completely even by the time I applied the second coat. Make sure not to get any polish on your skin or cuticles and remove any smudges before curing as you don't want the polish to harden on your skin.

If you've tried Sensationail, I'd love to know how you got on with it, and also, what your favourite shades are!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Offer: Sensationail Deluxe Starter kit- £45 at Boots!

For those of you dreaming of long-wearing nail polish without regular (and expensive) salon trips, your prayers have been answered! For this week only, Boots is offering the Sensationail gel deluxe starter kit for an amazing £45, down from it's normal price of £105! Sainsbury's had a starter kit offer earlier this year and I stupidly skipped over and have been regretting it ever since, so I'm so glad there's a second chance!

The kit contains everything you need to create your gel mani and enough polish for 20 complete manicures: all for about £10 more than a salon gel polish would cost. Such a bargain! Plus, if you combine this with the Triple Advantage Cards points offer, you'll collect £5.40 on your card. This is the gift that keeps on giving!

This is the perfect Christmas gift for mani lovers, or even better, a treat for yourself! I can't wait to try it.

Update: I've now tried the kit. See my first impressions of it here.

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