Style: A Cute Top, Skull-studded Ballerinas and a Pearl Ring

I love it when I have lots to write about and the time to write about them. There is nothing better than typing away, scheduling posts for the next few days, and generally feeling like maybe you're not as crap at this blogging lark as you suspect you might be *contented sigh*

So, what have I been buying? It's fair to say I've been on a serious purchasing sabbatical of late, and I can't quite pinpoint the reasons why. I've been trying to be less frivolous with money, and combined with what's seemed like a total lack of time, getting back into the shopping groove has proved challenging. All this changed when Mum took me shopping this weekend and insisted on helping me rediscover my mojo. Here are a few of my favourite new things:

I'm obsessed with skulls, and after I featured these Zara pumps in my 'Must Haves', well, I had to have them!

My birthday is fast approaching, and this gorgeous grey pearl ring from Links of London will mark the occasion. Hurry up, 17 August, and then I can wear it!

And finally, this adorable 'Little White Tank' from H&M (worn today for work with a little black pencil skirt!)


Nailed: Mavala The Elle Orange

I got this polish free with Elle magazine last year and I've never tried until this week: how had I not?! For some reason, I just didn't think it'd look great on, and yet here I am admiring my nails as I type, which means I'm having to go back and amend lots of poor spelling!

The reason for trying it now is that I'm on a bit of Mavala bender at the moment. I've fallen hook, line and sinker for the cuticle remover, and now I'm trialling the hardner in the hope of combating my slightly flaking tips (damn you, Seche Vite!)

The Elle Orange was created alongside the Elle Grey and Red to celebrate the magazine's birthday last year. I remember hoping for the grey, but as a subscriber, the choice was out of my hands. Maybe bitterness and resentment were factors in not trying it!

The Elle Orange is an intense red-orange, almost tomato-ey. It's the perfect summer pedicure shade.

Mavala's polishes all come in dinky 5ml bottles, because seriously, when have you ever run out of nail polish?

It's finished with Seche Vite, as always, which dries quickly and leaves your nails super glossy. The downside is that it does dry your nails, and some people have issues with Seche Vite's use of toulene. I won't reinvent the wheel as there are plenty of bloggers who've covered this issue at length.

Absolutely love this!

Unfortunately, as Elle Orange was a limited edition, it's no longer available. That said, it looks like their Nice polish would be a good substitute.

I'm so excited to try more of Mavala's shades. What are you favourites?


Style: The Friday Edit - Warehouse

Well butter my bottom and call me a biscuit.

(That's what I like to say when I'm pleasantly surprised by something)

Why the surprise? I've spent half an hour scanning websites to decide which brand I should feature for this week's TFE. I went to Topshop, Miss Selfridge and River Island, and found myself completely uninspired by clothes photographed against a white background and not on a model. Asos and net-a-porter.com have set the bar so high (I know they're only online so they need to make the most of the platform, but it works so well), that I have to question why other brands don't at least get a model to actually wear what they're trying to flog. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like this.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. I ended up on the Warehouse site, and the frenzied click, click, save of so many images is what led me to the bottom-buttered biscuit situation (rest assured, the butter remains in the fridge: it's just an expression). I have not been into Warehouse in forever, and yet in my absence, it seems they've designed everything I've ever wanted. For example, I love leather. Hardly anyone on the high street has a decent selection of leather, yet Warehouse have some of the most beautifully stylish leather pieces I've seen since the world went cow-crazy a couple of seasons back and I spent months looking like something from an 80s tribute band.

So, this is something of a bloated edit. I'm telling myself that because Warehouse don't do shoes, you need to see double the amount of clothes. The rules have been broken, and I don't care. Warehouse: I'm in love.

Belted shirt dress, £65

Cross back leather top, £75

Floral shorts, £25 reduced from £45

Fringe panel leather skirt, £90 
Leather full skirt, £80

Long biker coat, £95

Micro pleat shirt, £48

Pleat panel leather dress, £140

Silk Ikat print jacket, £45

Simple clean shopper, £50

Stud front t-shirt, £40

Tejal scarf print skirt, £45

Zip back dress, £48

Zip back dress, £48

Zip pocket t-shirt, £18
I can't wait to go into Warehouse on my next shopping trip with my very long shopping list!


Haircare: Percy & Reed

How often do you find yourself wanting to change your hair but you just don't have the products to do it? Step forward, Percy & Reed and their mini Trend Kit!

From left to right: Volumising No Oil Oil, Bodifying Cream, Volumising Mousse, Texturising Spray, Dry Shampoo, Finishing Polish

The Texturising Spray and the Volumising Mousse aren't available in the kit, but there is a hairspray, which I used so quickly! All the products are available in full size, so you can buy the biggies if they're not included in the kit. 

The illustrations on the products are fabulous. I want to be her:

 And her on weekends:

Cute marketing ploys aside, how do the products perform? The Volumising No Oil Oil is by far my favourite product in the range. It says it's for fine hair, but it copes pretty well with my thick locks, boosting volume and leaving my hair lovely and glossy. I use this with a ball of the mousse and there is no stickiness at all: just great height.

I love this photo - the packaging really is just beautiful.

What I've loved about these products is that they're so easy to use, and so portable. I've had the Finishing Polish in my bag since day one and whip it out whenever touch-ups are required. The dry shampoo has been used in the same way, but it isn't a challenger for Batiste's crown. The main selling point for me is that this kit is the perfect introduction to salon-performance products, that you may not use on an everyday basis, and all for £20 (see note above: not everything photographed here is in the asos kit). It's perfect for holidays, and perfect for when you just fancy a bit of a change.

Percy & Reed have also produced some brilliant demo videos to help you along in creating your new 'do. Here's the perfect blow dry made easy:

The kit is available here for £20 and you can view the rest of the videos here.


Style: Best of Autumn/Winter 2012

It's coming up to that time of year when I start fantasising about next season's wardrobe. I always get most excited about autumn/winter which generally means gorgeous tailoring, luxe layers, and happily for me, monochrome is everywhere. Here are a few of my favourite looks from the shows.

Slouchy cream sweater and embellished trousers from Balmain

I love this Burberry Prorsum quilted velvet coat, and the boots are to die for

Celine's winter white cocoon coat is my idea of heaven (and I could even be tempted to a bit of colour with the blue scarf!)

Beautifully elegant pencil dress from Erdem. Wouldn't be surprised to see the former Ms Middleton rocking this one at some point

Dear High Street: please do capes again this season. I'm still kicking myself for missing the Zara beauties last time around. This one's by Gucci

You can tell a Lanvin show just by the lighting. Love this futuristic 50s look

Theysken's Theory: one of my favourite labels. Only he could make a double breasted coat and sheer black tights so covetable

Theory again: love this skirt

More Theory. Drop the hem on these shorts slightly and I'm there. Adore this look with the gloves

Valentino went crazy for leather this season. Again, I'm hoping the high street picks up on the capes!

Victoria Beckham. Just look at that belt. So perfect

VB again. I'd do bad things to have this dress in my wardrobe!

All images courtesy of style.com


Beauty: The Weekly Facial

If I had a bottomless budget, I know what I'd go crazy on. It wouldn't be shoes or holidays or dinner out all the time (although I'd do those things, obviously!) My number one indulgence would be skincare, and facials in particular.

I love having a good facial. I love being pampered, adore the relaxation (yes, I even find extraction strangely calming), and all that followed by plumped and gorgeous skin? Sign me up! I'd happily hand myself over to a professional every couple of weeks if I could justify the extravagance.

As you'll gather from the proliferation of 'ifs' in this post, I have neither a bottomless budget nor the ability to convince myself that having my face kneaded bi-monthly to the sound of wind chimes is a sensible use of my money. So, how do I cope? Why, I invested the cost of aforementioned good facial on a selection of lovely 'do it myself' products! Ta-daaaah!

My weekly facial takes place on Grooming Night aka Sunday evening. TV is generally crap, you're back to work the next day so going out is unwise, so why not spend it beautifying? Sundays' long candlelit soak in the bath followed by buffing, plucking, moisturising, painting and general preening has been my end-of-weekend routine for as long as buffing, plucking, moisturising etc have been high on my priority list.

Here's the current product line up:

From left to right: No 7 Beautiful Skin Radiance Exfoliator, Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, Bliss Steep Clean, No 7 Beautiful Skin Energising Mask, Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask, Estee Lauder Triple Creme 
Here's how I do it:

Step 1: Prep

Remove any makeup with Cleanse & Polish (tip: even if you haven't worn makeup, it's good to 'take the day off' with a cleanser first). You all know that this is my absolute favourite cleansing product. It leaves your skin brilliantly clean but with absolutely no irritation and without impacting on the natural oil balance of your skin.

I generally complete step 1 in a hot bath which obviously helps to open your pores. If you want to do this facial without bathing/showering, it's worth steaming your face over a bowl of hot water (boil the kettle and then let it cool for a few minutes so the steam doesn't burn your skin)

Step 2: Exfoliate

Although C&P exfoliates well, I like to use a grainy scrub once a week as to me, they really feel like they're doing something extra for my skin. I'm currently using No 7 Beautiful Skin Exfoliator and I'm completely in love with the smell. I'll definitely be repurchasing this one.

Here's how it looks:

Starting from the base of my neck, I sweep both hands quickly upwards over my neck a few times before applying a little more product and making small circles along my jawline, up over my cheeks, down my nose and the from the centre of my forehead outwards. Remember not to exfoliate the skin around your eye, which is my thinner and more delicate and therefore won't benefit.

Step 3: Cleanse

This is my favourite step, because this is probably my favourite product. It took me a while to find my groove with Bliss Step Clean, but once I got into the habit of using it once a week, the clarity of my skin improved dramatically (it's now very rare for me to get blemishes, although this is probably a combination of skincare, age and diet, so I'm not placing it all on this!)

The bottle has two tubes inside - keeping the active ingredients separate.

You pump a grape-sized amount onto the back of your hand. You can see the blue and green gels here.

You then blend them together with your finger, which produces a pretty aqua-coloured gel which you then apply to dry skin, again, avoiding the eye area.

This is left on for 15 minutes, at which point I remove it with a muslin cloth. It should be noted that this product really doesn't like water. If your face is wet, you can feel it slipping off, and that's not really where you want it to be. I tend to make sure my bath has cooled down by this point, or even wait until I'm out so that the steam doesn't interfere with the product doing it's job.

Step 4: Moisturise

Now for the moisturiser. I have quite dry skin, so depending on how it's looking (and how much time I have), I either choose Bliss Triple Oxygen Energizing Mask or Estee Lauder's Triple Creme (clearly good moisturisers do things in threes!) Let's start with Bliss.

The pictures below show the product on the back of my hand so you can see how it works, but you should pump the product onto your fingers and apply straight to your face. You can put this one near your eyes, but apply slowly at first, for reasons that will become clear in a moment!

Triple Oxygen is a pretty pink gel when it comes out of the pump. This mask is great as it only takes five minutes, making it perfect when you're short of time, or if you need a quick skin-boost before work.

Apply the product to your face and massage in small circles to activate the product. It's not long before this happens:

See how much foam there is from such a tiny amount of product? This is why application near the eye needs to be done delicately as you risk short-term, foam-based visual obstruction! There's never a time I put this on when I don't end up with little foam dots all over my lashes, making me look like I've just returned from the arctic. As the skin absorbs the product, the foam starts to disappear (this happens more quickly the drier the skin). Again, remove this with a muslin cloth or water (it does leave quick a slippy residue on the skin so make sure it's all off).

Now to Triple Creme. This is much, much richer, and is thick cream formula. It smells beautiful and feels utterly luxurious. Estee Lauder recommend leaving this to work for 20 minutes, but I often like to put this on when I know I won't be going out or use it instead of my night cream for bed. This can be gently tissued off the skin but no need to worry about removing all traces as it's just a very rich moisturiser. It leaves skin beautifully plump, and is one of my must-have products.

I haven't used this for at least a week and finger marks are still clear in the cream, showing just how thick it is.

Also, it was my Mum who tipped me off on this product, so it works brilliantly on mature skin, too.

Step 5: Finish! 

Follow with your usual serum and moisturiser, using the technique from facialist Vaishaly's website.

Image courtesy of vaishaly.com

If you find yourself needing a boost in between facials, the No 7 Radiance Boost mask is a lovely peel-off gel formula which really does brighten skin.

As always, remember that these are products I've selected for my skincare concerns. If you're thinking of purchasing anything I've recommended here, have a look at my 'about' page so you can get a sense of what my skin type is, and see whether they might be suitable for you. I don't have any qualifications in this field, but the above method really works for me.

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