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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Something Beginning With... A: Ardell Lashes

A little while ago, I was flicking through a magazine (can't remember which one now, but I will add it when I find it again), and I came across a rather intriguing A-Z feature. As a blogger, I'm always on the lookout for inspiration, and this really captured my attention. I thought it would be fun to translate the feature into a blogging series, so that's exactly what I'm going to do. This post marks the start of a collection of 26, in which I will pick a new topic every week to correspond with each letter of the alphabet. Whether that be a brand, a product, a makeup technique, or something else entirely, I thought it would be such an interesting concept to explore, as well as being a new challenge for me. A little disclaimer: as I've already stated, I came across this in a magazine and it was wholly through my own ideas that I've decided to start featuring it on the blog. I haven't seen it elsewhere in the blogging community, although I don't doubt that, through sheer probability of numbers, someone has done it before me. So I just wanted to say that if you have done this also, I apologise - I'm not trying to take credit for somebody else's creativity - I just thought it would make a fun little project.

So here goes - the first of my brand spanking new series. Although I think I might struggle when I get to letters like Q, it was a pretty easy to decide on a topic for the first letter of the alphabet. There are plenty to chose from; great brands like Alpha H, or soothing ingredients like Aloe Vera, but I've chosen to go for something I haven't yet covered on this little old blog of mine; false lashes - namely my favourite lash brand, Ardell.

Their Demi Wispies seem to get the most coverage on YouTube and, although I do have some, I find them a bit too 'wispy' for my liking. Every one loves long, feathery lashes, but on me, these look so long and feathery that it borders on ridiculous. Having slightly hooded eyes and quite long lashes naturally, I tend to favour falsies that give me a bit of extra volume, and for that I find myself reaching for two particular Ardell offerings again and again.
The first, and my absolute favourite, are the Babies lashes. The perfect faux lashes for giving your real ones a little oomph whilst still looking fairly natural, I find that I can wear these for pretty much any occasion. Day or night, these are natural enough that you almost look as though you're just blessed with that fluttery framework,  but at the same time, they provide the a good amount of lift and really fill out the lash line. They give you that little something extra, without looking too fake, a quality I think we all desire in our falsies.
Still trying to work out how to make my camera pictures more true to life - they're a lot thicker looking than this really. P.S. I had a haircut! You like?
Secondly, I always have a pair of Demi Pixies to hand for when my glamorous night out look feels a little lacklustre. These are very much a statement lash when compared to the Babies, and I really feel like they help to take a makeup look from great to showstopping. They do add length, but the reason I reach for them so much is the thick, luscious feel they give to my eyelashes. They look a little odd in the packaging; thicker, choppy looking chunks of lash interspersed with more natural hairs, but when applied, this helps them to look less over the top and I think it's what keeps them from becoming too lengthy for me. They're the perfect lash for giving you that mesmerising gaze.

I've always found Ardell lashes easiest to apply. It's simply a matter of applying a small amount of adhesive, curling them around with your fingers a little, then resting them on the lashes with a pair of tweezers, manipulating them into the best position for your eye shape. Couldn't be simpler! Another pro is the invisible band, as I often like to wear falsies without eyeliner, particularly during the day, and this is something I absolutely couldn't get away with where other brands are concerned. I also find that having an invisible band means that you can reuse them more for some reason - I get about 4/5 uses out of a pair - fantastic value for money really! Just make sure to clean the band when you take them off, for ease of use the next time around.

And that completes the first of my 'Something Beginning With...' series. I hope you enjoyed it and I'm really looking forward to the next 25 posts! 

Do you like the idea of a 'Something Beginning With...' feature? What would be your 'something beginning with A' be? Are you a fan of Ardell Lashes? Let me know!

S.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Eye of Horus Goddess Mascara


The notion of beautifying is one that's been around for almost as long as we have. Stemming from the Ancient Greek word, kosmetikos, makeup is a concept that's transitioned through the ages, but that doesn't mean that those ancient civilisations always got it right. The Greeks, for example, favoured a mono-brow, the more follically-challenged women using charcoal to fill the gap. Now, I know fashions are forever changing, but I can't imagine that ever being a trend I'd want to rock. Boy, that Helen must have been a looker! The Romans did one better, the elite painting their faces with white lead to give themselves that pale, ethereal look. As you can imagine, smothering your face with poison isn't the best idea and, as a result, Roman women rarely made it past the age of 30. The Egyptians, however, seemed to have a little more sense in the beauty department, using plants, waxes and oils to adorn their faces for an altogether more aesthetically pleasing look. Australian brand, Eye of Horus have taken a leaf out of the Egyptian's ancient scroll, replicating the gentle, natural, yet wonderfully effective cosmetics of those winged liner pioneers. One such product is the Goddess Mascara*, a beautifully separating, fantastically long lasting product that has become my new go to daytime mascara as of late.

The first selling point for me is the brand's natural approach to beauty. As well as being able to boast cruelty free production (a huge plus in my opinion), their products are paraben free, and contain an impressive list of organic ingredients, perfect for those of us with more sensitive peepers. Prominent in the formulation of the Goddess Mascara, is Moringa Oil, discovered in the tomb of the legendary Tutankhamun. Packed with an abundance of antioxidants and vitamins, it promises to strengthen lashes whilst giving your eye it's all important framework. And hey, if its good enough for kings, it's most certainly good enough for me!
Odd close up, but this is one coat ladies and gents. One coat!
With some natural products, I find that the organic ingredients sadly compromise their performance, but that's definitely not the case with Eye of Horus. In fact, as far as mascaras go, it's one of the best new products I've come across in a long time. The mascara gives the lashes a great lift whilst lengthening and separating, and I find one coat is enough for me to brave the outside world. It is very easy to layer for a more full on effect, but I do think I prefer this product for a natural daytime eye, reserving my MaxFactor favourite for the evening. The aspect I found most impressive was the product's outstanding durability. Claiming to be water resistant, I was told that all you needed to remove the product was a little warm water. The fact that you don't need make up remover to shift it, I'll admit, made me a little apprehensive about smudging. And as someone with quite long lashes and a slightly hooded eye, I'm often plagued with that oh so irritating mascara transfer. But once it's on, this stuff doesn't budge at all - it's amazing! Goodbye, panda eye! In addition to the product itself, the flexible silicon wand is perfect for separating the lashes and wiggling your way right down to the roots. The fact that it has a little more give makes for an almost foolproof application, greatly reducing the number of times you get a little too close for comfort, jabbing yourself in the eye and having to rectify the mascara mayhem you've inadvertently caused. You know we've all been there.

Although I swore I'd never be swayed from my love of all mascaras MaxFactor, I must say that this has found a welcome home for itself in my everyday makeup routine. It's a fantastic daytime mascara, which makes me wonder why we ever tampered with the beautiful, natural formulas passed down to us by our Egyptian ancestors in the first place. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Have you tried this mascara or any of the Eye of Horus products? What's your mascara of choice? Let me know!

S.

*PR sample

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Book of the Week: Captain Corelli's Mandolin

"Did you know that childhood is the only time in our lives when insanity is not only permitted to us, but expected?"

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a story that's been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time now. I've been meaning to read it for well over a year, but it has remained there, unread and neglected, for rather too long. For some reason, I had the urge to pick it up last week and have spent most days doing not much else but losing myself in its pages. It tells the story of a little Greek village called Cephallonia, occupied by Italian armed forces during WWII. Captain Antonio Corelli is one of the soldiers posted to the island, where, at first, he is naturally ostracised by the locals. However, he soon charms his way into their lives and their hearts with a little help from his mandolin. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but what I found was a tale of battle and romance, equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, which really makes you lament the futility of war.

There's something of a musical flourish to Bernieres' writing that had me hooked - not one to read without dedicating your full attention, it's easy to get lost in the fanciful language, and the wonderful descriptions of both countryside and countryman. I love all the funny insights; the amusing little windows into domestic households. Like old man Stamatis, for example, who has been deaf in one ear since childhood, only to be miraculously cured when Dr. Iannis extracts a pea that's been lodged in the orifice for decades. It's little things like this that I found really enjoyable, and also absolutely necessary in balancing out all of the bleak events that befall the charming Greek village.  

Another point of enjoyment for me was the abundance of historical references. Set in Greece, with a healthy dose of Italian influence, it was inevitable that Classical times would make rather a few appearances. Being a graduate of Ancient History myself, I adored all of the ancient anecdotes, and the allusions to the Greece and Rome of a bygone era. For me, they all felt like little in-jokes, and reminders of my university education. For those who are perhaps not as well versed in the Classics, the book is full to the brim of fun facts and interesting mythical stories, and is definitely worth a read if this is something you find intriguing. 

An aspect which I don't think anybody would find particularly enjoyable, but one I found so very poignant, was the insight into the nature of war. It rips apart families, changes people, and makes a misery of lives that once had such happy prospects. The destruction of the picturesque Greek countryside, steeped in history and culture, really is upsetting, and all because of a few megalomaniacs who have seen fit to seize power. One particular scene that really struck me was Captain Corelli's discovery of a little Greek girl's body amidst the rubble of her former home. He thinks of a girl he knows of a similar age, and is overwhelmed by the realisation that this is somebody's daughter. The statistics that we always hear are people - a father, a sister, a lover - all just innocent victims of war. I also really felt for the soldiers on both sides. I'm a rather empathetic person, and it really saddened me to think of all of those men, Italians in particular, who knew they were dying for the wrong cause, but were forced to kill and be killed anyway. 

A character I really enjoyed and admired was Carlo Piero Guercio, one of the Italian soldiers, and closest companion to Corelli. This gentle giant believes that he is a degenerate because he is gay, but he's actually the bravest, most loving, wonderful character in the book. I find it a little sad that being ashamed of your sexuality was just a part of life at the time, especially as, in Carlo's case, it almost wholly contributes to his biggest assets. He compares his disposition and it's relation to the army to the Sacred Band of Thebes, an ancient army of 150 male couples who were near undefeatable on the battlefield. Protecting the man they loved blessed them with unparalleled bravery, and the desire to prove themselves a worthy partner equipped them with the ability to embrace a glorious death, if this is what circumstance called for. When paired with his love for the Greeks, his friendship with Corelli, and his inner turmoil in fighting for a cause that he didn't believe in, he is, for me, the most interesting, loveable and sympathetic character in the book - and in a war story, it's not like he's lacking for competition on the sympathy front! 

After putting off reading Louis de Bernieres' novel for so long, I think I may have found a new favourite. An emotional, charming and, at times, tragic novel, it's absolutely one to add to the reading list if wartime love is your thing. It's a real gem.

Have you read the book? Seen the film? What did you think? Let me know!

S. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bare Legged Beauty: My Go To Products For Perfect Pins

Admit it, we all spend most of the Winter months in a Yeti like state of being - woollen tights and comfy jeans mean that we don't really have to worry about the state of our overgrown legs. But with Spring (hopefully) just around the corner, shaggy chic is no longer acceptable. And if we want to dig our long forgotten Summer glad rags out of the depths of the wardrobe, and start parading our perfect pins around in the Spring sunshine, then it's time to start thinking about preening them to silky smooth perfection again. Here are the few of the products I turn to when I dare to bare.

Exfoliating

In order to ensure a silky smooth finish, it's important to exfoliate. Scaly is not a good look, my friends. My favourite product for doing so is Soap & Glory's Flake Awaya super effective body polish that smells divine, and couldn't be easier to use. Just massage it into your legs and then hop in the shower to wash it off. My skin has a habit of being quite sensitive, so I don't like products that are too abrasive, but at the same time, there's no point in spending money on a gentle exfoliator that doesn't do a thing. This, I find to be the perfect balance between the two. The grains are quite fine, not like rubbing gravel into your legs, but still substantial enough to make a huge difference to their appearance. And with shea butter and almond oils included in it's list of snack-worthy ingredients (sugar and peach powder? Yes please!), it's not at all drying, something I have previously found to be a big issue with exfoliators. 

Moisturising

Equally as important as exfoliating before shaving, is moisturising afterwards. For this, I like to use Soap & Glory's The Righteous Butter Body Lotion. Can you tell I'm having a bit of a moment with Soap & Glory products? I think it's got something to do with the mouthwatering scents. One of my favourite things about this product in particular, apart from it's fabulous fragrance, is the pump dispenser. I, like many others, am guilty of being a lazy moisturiser. I just want baby soft skin with none of the work - is that really too much to ask? Apparently so, but I find that having a product in pump form on the shelf of my bathroom makes moisturising a lot less of a chore, as it takes no time at all. Just jump out the shower and slather it on, baby! Another huge pro for me is the fact that it sinks in immediately, and doesn't leave a sticky residue. I hate having to wander around, partially nude and freezing cold, because I have to wait until my moisturiser doesn't double as an adhesive before I can dress myself. So a product that eliminates this ritual gets a massive thumbs up in my book. Bravo, Soap & Glory. Bravo.

Tackling that pesky cellulite!

A huge part of looking good is eating well and exercising regularly, and I do try to stick to a healthy diet and stay relatively active. Unfortunately, however, I've never met a pastry I didn't like. For that reason, whenever I want my legs looking picture perfect, I like to have a quick fix product on hand to give my cellulite an extra kick in the nads, if you will. My weapon of choice for combatting the dreaded orange peel is Bliss' fatgirlslim. A skin firming cream with QuSome-encapsulated caffeine (no clue, sorry!), you just work it into your troublesome areas for about 30 seconds, and watch this magical cream take effect. It's quite an odd sensation as you can really feel it working when it's on - the only thing I can compare it to is the mentholly feeling you get when you apply that 4head relief stick, but on your legs.  I enjoy the fresh feeling, and this stuff really packs a punch! Of course, it's no substitute for a good old-fashioned healthy lifestyle, but it's nice to have that fast working product to give you a little more confidence in your bum-skimming party dress. 

And there you have it; my go to products for when I want to flash some flesh and need the perfect legs to do so. Which products do you reach for when you seek photo ready pins? Have you tried any Soap & Glory or Bliss products? Let me know!

S.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review: Loreal True Match Foundation

A dedicated fan of the bareMinerals Original Foundation, it's been a while since I picked up a new skin base. As I'd heard so many great reviews of the L'Oreal True Match Foundation, and I was a huge fan of the mineral powder equivalent in my heyday, (it was actually my first ever foundation - such fond memories) I thought I'd give it a try. 

The biggest and most frustrating problem for me when looking for a new foundation, is getting a shade light enough for my skin. Lucky for me, I do know from experience that L'Oreal are actually quite good at catering for paler skin tones, and this foundation is no exception. In fact, they've gone a bit 'MAC' in the way that they offer a warm, neutral and cool version of each shade, which I think is fantastic. I usually struggle with the fact that my skin is more on the neutral to warm side, and the majority of lighter foundations are quite pink. Surprisingly, however, the shade that matched me best was Rose Ivory, which is certainly more pink than I'm used to. But hey, if it works, it works!

Through trial and error, I've found that the best way to apply is with fingers. Offering a satin finish bordering on the matte side, I would say that it has a medium coverage and, although I can't speak for oilier skin types, it looks immaculate all day. It does sit in my pores a little upon application, which is a bit irritating, but I think that's more an issue with my primer, and a good thorough blending session does the trick.

One grievance I do have is the pump. I usually like pumps; they're hugely preferential to other drugstore foundations where you just pour the product from the bottle to your hand and hope for the best. However, this particular pump dispenses way too much foundation for me, less than half a pump being sufficient. As a result, I waste quite a lot of product, and I'm developing a bit of a complex - my face can't be that tiny, can it?! Who are these large faced people using a whole pump?
The whopping half-pump
As a sidenote, bloggers like Amelia Liana claim that it's a great dupe for the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation. I can't testify to that as, sadly, the Armani foundation shades were a little 'off' on me (wahh!) so I was never able to try it.  What I can tell you is that the L'Oreal foundation is a beautiful foundation in it's own right. I haven't abandoned my bareMinerals baby, but this is definitely my new go to alternative for those higher coverage days. And an SPF of 17? Well, that's just the icing on the cake really. 

I'm wearing the foundation in my previous Valentine's post, if you're interested in seeing what it looks like on me, although with all the gloomy weather, I've been struggling to get good enough lighting to capture it in all it's satin glory. But there you are, the new foundation that's succeeded where others have failed, and made itself a permanent fixture in my makeup bag. And for £9.99 at Boots, you can't go far wrong.

Are you a fan of L'Oreal foundations? How do you like the True Match foundation? What's your favourite base? Let me know! 

S.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Book of the Week: Chocolat

"And now? What do I believe right now?
'I believe that being happy is the only important thing,' I told him at last.
Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or torturous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive."

I read Chocolat by Joanne Harris almost a year ago now, and I still get a little nostalgic for its delicious descriptions and beautiful, warm simplicity. It tells the story of Vianne Rocher and her daughter, Anouk; nomads who settle in the quaint French village of Lansquenet, and open the most mouthwatering chocolate boutique you will ever read about.  Arriving at the beginning of Lent, she is greeted with whispers of disapproval from many of the village's church going citizens, including their priest, whose point of view intersperses Vianne's throughout the chapters of the tome. However, she soon makes lifelong friends, and her spirituality, along with her delightful confectionary, make quite an impression on the sleepy little town. So who will triumph? Church or chocolate? Well, I think we all know the answer to that! ;)  

To start, it is a book of beautiful and succinct observations. I adore the wonderful descriptions of   people, places and practices, going so far as to say that I would recommend the book purely for the poetic way in which Harris writes. Vianne spends a lot of time watching her new neighbours, picking up on all the quirks and nuances that make them interesting, and the tantalising way in which she paints a picture of the window displays, the alchemy of couverturing, and the delectable shop counters is enough to make you grab the nearest chocolate bar, just to curb the craving her words ignite.

Before very long, we learn that Vianne has a magical ancestry. This doesn't become a focal point in the story for me, it's just kind of an underlying, ever present fact, but this whimsical magicality adds a wonderful warmth to the book, transforming it from your standard story and leaving a faint trace of fairytale. I find it particularly endearing that Vianne uses her gifts, not to pry or meddle in the lives of her new acquaintances, but  simply to tell what their favourite chocolates are. There's something I find really sweet about the gesture (pun intended).

Another thing that struck me was the timelessness of the story. Little clues anchor it somewhat; the mention of a New York event here, the passing Nazi joke there, but really it could be set down in any decade of a timeline and still the story would remain exactly as it is. I'm not sure why, but for me, this adds to the sense of fairytale. Although Vianne is very well travelled, the village she is in now seems to stand alone, apart from the world beyond. Like a Disney movie, the anonymity of it all, for me, only adds to the magic.

Although I find all of the characters to be perfectly imperfect in their own unique ways, there is one that stands out in particular for me; Armande Voizin. At 80 years old, she's stubborn, opinionated and mischievous, and she really knows how to live. I love her independence and her fierce loyalty to those who treat her as equal, not just as a crazy old woman, and, odd as it sounds, I envy her view of death. Dying is not something I like to think about too often, but Armande's is actually quite a touching tale about the prospect of passing on. A diabetic with a love of chocolate, she would, quite admirably, rather enjoy the naughty little treats that life has to offer until her dying day, even if it means that day will arrive a little sooner. She puts it so well herself, arguing, "After a five-course banquet you'd want coffee and liqueurs, wouldn't you? You wouldn't suddenly decide to round it all off with a bowl of pap, would you? Just so you could have an extra course?" Again, I don't like to dwell on the notion, but I really think she has the right idea of it, and admire her brave determination to enjoy life until the (not so) bitter end. And enjoy it, she does! She sees in her 81st year with a luxurious banquet, no expense spared, in which they gorge themselves on luscious meals and fine wine. It is, quite simply, a literary feast for the senses, and one of my favourite passages in the novel.

Despite her outsider status, and her tendency to be filled with a little 'gypsy wanderlust', Vianne really finds her place among the people of Lansquenet, and I think that's what I so love about the tale. Unlike it's wonderful movie equivalent, the book is not a love story. It's a story of family and home. Of belonging and of friendship. And, of course, it is a story of the most wonderful thing of all - Chocolat.

Have you read this book? Seen the movie? Does it make you wish you owned a chocolate shop as much as it does me? Let me know!

S.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Be My Valentine: Girly Face and Nails for Valentine's Day

I love getting dolled up. Any excuse, however small, and I'll dress to the nines, spending hours playing around with my favourite makeup, rediscovering old gems, and concocting new colourful combinations. And with Valentine's Day just a day away, what better excuse to dress up!  Excited to create a style to complement the occasion, I had a rummage through my trusty make up storage, and came up with this pretty pink look, which I think is suitable for both day and night, along with four cute nail colours to make your digits look sweet as sugar. So, whether you're in a relationship, or a happily single pringle, have a wonderful Valentine's Day, and I hope you enjoy my attempt at a seasonal look. Here's what I did:

To begin, I primed my eyelids with NARS Pro Prime, and washed Soap & Glory's Minky, a beautiful light shimmeracross the inner two thirds of my lid. I then placed another Soap & Glory shadow, Dandy Plum, a pretty aubergine shade, on the outer third of my eye, blending it through the crease and layering up the colour until I got the intensity I wanted. I also swept a little of this shade into my lower lashes. I didn't really want a strong liner with the look, so I went for a soft and subtle off-black shadow, also by Soap & Glory, called Black Gold and smudged it into my lash line.

I next moved onto my base. After wiping away the plum shadow that had dropped down under my eyes, I primed my skin with Benefit's Porefessional Primer. I blended Loreal's True Match Foundation in the shade Rose Ivory into my skin, using the warmth of my fingers to give myself a natural, well blended look. I corrected under my eyes with the Bobbi Brown Corrector in Light Bisque, and layered YSL Touche Eclat in 01 on top. I also put the YSL product in all the areas I wanted to highlight - the top of my cheekbones, my cupids bow, down my nose and above and below my brow bone. I went in with a third concealer, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage in SC2 to cover any spots, and then set it all in place with a light dusting of Rimmel Stay Matte Translucent Powder. 

For definition on my cheeks, I used my sweet pink Maybelline Dream Touch Blush in 07 Plum, which offers a beautiful glow as well as a lovely soft pop of colour. I contoured under my cheeks with the tiniest amount of Hoola Bronzer by Benefit, and highlighted the tops of my cheekbones with the Dior Nude Shimmer Instant Illuminating Powder, popping a little in the inner corners of my eyes for good measure.

Finally, I ran some of MAC's Charcoal Brown shadow through my brows. A slick of Revlon's Colourburst Lip Butter in Sorbet, and lashings of MaxFactor False Lash Effect Fusion on the lashes, et voila. You're ready for whatever Valentine's Day is going to throw at you with this sweet, fresh, pink look.
As you can probably tell from the mess, I used the bottom 3 shades from this Soap & Glory palette.
Now that you've got your makeup looking beautiful, here are a few nail varnishes which I think are the perfect Valentine's colours.
More day date appropriate are the Models Own polish in the shade Utopia, and Clinique's A Different Nail Enamel in Pinkini. A beautiful nude with a lilac hue, and a Barbie pink that is perhaps the most girly shade in my collection, both would be perfect for a more casual Valentine's, whilst still looking the part. 

If a vampy night time look is more what you're after, Maybelline's Forever Strong Super Stay Gel Nail Colour in the shade Berry Stain, or the No7 Damson Dream are ideal for adding a more daring, sultry vibe to your ensemble. Perfect for adding a bit of edge to a sweet and innocent look.

What are your plans this Valentine's Day? Have you got any special look planned for the occasion? Let me know!

S.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

January Favourites

Ok, so I'm aware that my January favourites are a little on the late side, but I've been so excited to  share these products that I thought I'd rather write this post a little late than not at all. January was quite a busy month for me, and has been as up and down as the banks of the Thames. For starters, I passed my driving test! First attempt, I might add! :) It's something I'm immensely proud of, and I'm so glad that it's now ticked off my to do list. However, due to the diabolical weather conditions, I've not been able to do much driving with my shiny new licence, and on top of that we've been treated to power cuts and floods all over the place. As a result, most of the back end of the month was spend literally holding down the fort through fear that it might blow away, and, the icing on the miserable cake, I had a stinker of a cold. Things are finally starting to resemble normality here, however, despite the fact that one more inch of rain will mean I may have to swim to work. And although I cannot wait to see the back of this abysmal weather, here are a few of the beauty products that I'm happy to have stick around.

I discovered Liz Earle's Colour collection at the end of last year, and as a result, this little blending dream crept into my brush collection. It's quite a long, tapered brush with a definite point to it, which I find absolutely amazing for blending eyeshadow on my slightly hooded eyes. You literally place the tip in your socket and move it backwards and forwards - no skill required - and you're left with perfectly blended shadows. It's revolutionised the way I apply my make up, so much so that I actually struggle to use my old blending brushes now without making a terrible mess of things. I'm not a huge fan of the clear handles, I feel it's more childish than stylish, but I can definitely deal with the less than pleasing aesthetic when the results are so good!
Ever a lover of MAC eyeshadows, I've been pining after this particular colour for a while. I finally caved and added it to my collection last month, and I was right to want it so badly. A dark shimmery reddish brown, it looks fantastic on blue eyes. I've been loving coupling it with MACs Patina, (the pair blend together seamlessly) blending it through my crease for a beautifully smoky daytime look. 
Jo Malone//Pomegranate Noir

This beautiful fragrance was a Christmas present, and let me tell you, I cannot get enough of it. Fruity and quite spicy at the same time, it has that perfect rich wintery undertone, whilst still packing that delicious juicy punch.

I've never been one for nude lips, and I think I'm only just realising that this is because I hadn't yet found the right nude colour for me. That is, until now! I've recently dipped my toes into the realms of Soap & Glory makeup, and found rather a few gems, but this gloss stick is by far my favourite. Quite a pinky nude with a beautiful shine,  this glossy pencil is the perfect 'your lips but better' shade for me.

Now, I don't usually go for pink on my cheeks, but I've been having a bit of a moment with this blush over the past month. I love the texture of the Maybelline mousses, and I'm a massive fan of this blush's peach counterpart, which I reviewed last summer. These blushes have quite a bit of sheen to them, making them the perfect pick me up in these dreary Winter months. Didn't want my complexion to mirror the dullness of my mood now, did I?

I often suffer from awfully dry lips, and am constantly searching for the best products for keeping them soft and supple. This beautiful balm has done an amazing job of keeping my parched peckers in ship shape this winter. Not only that, it's the most wonderful coral shade which is a lot more than just 'tinted', like a lot of the sheer lip treatments on offer. Although not as long lasting, it's as pigmented as lipstick, and I love wearing it as one when I want that pop of colour, but my lips are feeling oh so dry. This product comes in quite a range of colours, so I'm absolutely going to be expanding my collection. Plus, it has an SPF of 15 built in: always a bonus in my mind. 
L'Oreal Paris//Black Laquer Super Liner

Eyeliner is definitely not my forte. I can never get a straight line, I always end up messing something up and don't even get me started on feline flicks. As a result, I've always got my badly lined eyes peeled for a product that's really easy to use, as well as being really pigmented and having some stick. This month I found it, in the form of L'Oreal's Black Laquer Super Liner. It's got a very narrow sponge applicator which, as well as being fine, is quite sturdy, making it so easy to use. It dries to a kind of vinyl finish, which I love, and it's made my make up routine just that little bit easier this January. 

I used to use Urban Decay Primer Potion religiously, but when mine ran out, I fancied a bit of a change, and I'm really loving the alternative I chose. I found that the Urban Decay primer left my lids looking a bit dry and patchy as I got through more and more of the product, but I haven't had that issue with NARS (yet - it is still early days). Additionally, my eyeshadows blend a lot better on top of this product, and I love the doe foot applicator, as I find it very difficult to waste product this way. So far it's a winner in my books.

What were your favourite products this January? Were you loving any of the same things that I was? Let me know!

S.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Book of the Week: Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual

"Makeup artistry is incredibly gratifying. So be open, have fun, and never stop learning."

First of all, apologies for the distinct lack of beauty related posts this past week or two. I've been rather poorly, and as a consequence, I've been feeling insanely unattractive, and couldn't bring myself to contemplate writing about beauty. I'm feeling a lot better now though, and I promise I'll be back on form next week, but for now, I propose a compromise: here is a review of one of my favourite beauty related books. 

A staple in any makeup fanatics collection is the Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual. Packed full of tips and tricks for the perfect makeup, I love flicking through it's pages for inspiration. I adore the step by step instructions and the beautiful photography, but I have to say that my favourite thing about it, and the aspect that I have found most useful, are the trouble shooting guides. Gone are the days when I wondered why my under eye concealer was going cakey, and I couldn't work out why my lippy just would not stay put. All of the answers are right here in this trusty manual, and for that, Bobbi, I am eternally grateful.

I also really appreciate how thorough her explanation of beauty is. Beauty isn't just skin deep after all. I'm abysmal when it comes to sticking to a healthy diet, although I must say, I have improved as I've grown older. Enter Bobbi Brown's lifestyle tips, in which she breaks down just what you should be eating and the specific benefits it will have for your appearance, as well as tips on how to get to know your skin and give it the proper tailored care it needs. I don't know about you, but sticking to healthy eating is a lot easier when I know exactly what each morsel is going to do for my complexion. I've definitely started to drink a lot more water now that I understand a little better exactly how the skin works. Little tip - drink a glass of water for every caffeinated beverage you have, to flush out toxins and start your journey towards clearer skin. I was a bit sceptical but it actually makes a world of difference. You're welcome.

Finally, I find the colour charts a really useful addition. The manual explains not only which shadows work best for which eye colours, but also which correctors work for pale/dark skins, and which lip colours are going to work best with light to darker lips. I mean, obviously it's not gospel, and experimenting with different tones, shades and colours is so much fun, but I do love consulting the pages of my Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual whenever I'm contemplating a new purchase. Forewarned is forearmed after all.

The perfect coffee table tome, I'd highly recommend Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual to anyone interested in make up. Whether a beginner or a makeup artist yourself, this beautiful page turner will  give you great insight into the ins and outs of makeup application. There's a reason why it's a bestseller, you know!

Have you got any of the Bobbi Brown books? What's your favourite makeup manual? Let me know!

S.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Book of the Week: City Of Bones (The Mortal Instruments)

"Humans were so stupid. They had something so precious, and they barely safeguarded it at all. They threw away their lives for money, for packets of powder, for a stranger's charming smile."

The past week or so, my bloglovin' feed has been packed full of bloggers doing the TMI tag. It seems like everybody who's anybody is having a go, and I did toy with the idea of getting involved myself. I decided against it, however, and instead chose to focus my attention on a different TMI - The Mortal Instruments.

I think it's fair to state that the series by Cassandra Clare is a somewhat guilty pleasure of mine. One of a plethora of young adult franchises capturing the attention of teens the world over, it boasts a movie translation, along with some rather entertaining spin offs and prequels (one of which I review here) and holds it's own amongst heavyweights like The Hunger Games and Twilight. At the grand old age of 23, I probably should have started to outgrow these sorts of books by now but, if I'm honest, I'm not sure I ever will. I recently devoured the latest published novel - City of Lost Souls - and was really keen to review it, but I realise that it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to those who aren't familiar with the stories at all. So I decided to start from the beginning, sharing with you my thoughts on the first of the series; City of Bones

I'll set the scene for you - Clary Fray is your typical teen living in New York. She spends her time sketching, hanging out with her best friend Simon, and constantly begrudges her mother for stifling her. That is until one day when she accidentally stumbles on another world; a world full of demons and downworlders, where a race of half angel, half humans known as Shadowhunters protect 'mundanes' from evils they aren't even aware exist. When Clary's mother goes missing, she finds herself more and more involved with these demon hunters, and has a lot more in common with them than she could have ever imagined.

Th first thing that caught me about the book, and the stories that followed, was the rather complicated relationship between Clary and Jace, the Shadowhunter who introduces her to her new reality. With so many teen love stories doing the rounds at the moment, it's imperative to have that little something to make a pair stand out, and these two have definitely got that something. Apart from their clashing personalities, and the fact that they really wouldn't suit each other in ordinary circumstances, makes for some really compelling chapters, and the obstacles they face are a lot more interesting (even controversial) than other iconic romances within their genre. Jace very nearly gets my vote for favourite character too. He has such an arrogant humour, so snarky and wry,  at the same time as being a total badass. Anything slightly more exaggerated, and he would be a very unlikable character, but Clare has written him absolutely perfectly. 

Jace is pipped to the post, however, by Clary's best friend, Simon. A bit on the geeky side, and an absolute hoot in my opinion, I just love him. With his ironic slogan t-shirts, and his band that don't actually play music but spend their time sitting around thinking of absurd names (I think Sea Vegetable Conspiracy is a personal favourite), he never has any idea what's going on, and being so out of the loop is actually really endearing.

Like most writers, Clare's style has definitely matured with each book, the later being a lot richer and steeped with little nuances and finer details. But I, for one, always prefer the beginnings. When everything is an exciting discovery and nothing has become jaded or overcomplicated yet. I loved learning all about the Shadowhunter world alongside Clary, and I have loved the journey that these books have taken me on. The Mortal Instruments is a must read for those who are fans of the genre, and I cannot wait for Clare to publish the sixth and last in the series, City of Heavenly Fire

Have you read the series? Which is your favourite book? Let me know!

S. 

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