Monday, June 30, 2014

Benefit Pop-Up - Gabbi's Head

At the weekend a friend from Uni popped down to London and we indulged in some Hen antics which included a visit to Blow in Covent Garden, sipping Champagne in Selfridges and hunting down lingerie. During my research of fun bits and pieces to do, I discovered that Benefit had a BenePub which is situated on top of the Prince of Wales in Drury Lane and thought this sounded like to perfect place for some girly fun.
The concept is that it's a safe haven for world cup widows and lovers of all things pink as the walls, bar, the toilets and even the seating are bright pink! If you wanted to bring your man, I am happy to confirm that the Gabbi's Head is dude friendly, both Ad and my friend's husband to be were warmly welcomed by the ladies.
There's an exclusive selection of specially created pink Benefit Cocktails including a Benetini which only cost £15 for two, there's a picture below.
In the interests of ensuring I sampled as much as possible, I also tried the Rasp-Bene Mojito which was delicious with a lovely pop of pomegranate and came served in a jam jar.
If cocktails aren't your thing, then how about indulging in a treatment or two while you're here, yup, you read right, you can even get treatments while the football is on! While we were there, a lucky lady was having her eye-brows expertly waxed.
Waxing not your bag? Then how about a free make-over or even a chance to try a product or two? Oh yes, this BenePub is Benefit galore with a lovely team (in special Benefit Football shirts - I want!) who are more than happy to help with your make-up needs.
The counter is certainly well stocked with bits and pieces and, in the event you fall in love, the cupboards are full of Benefit make-up treats which you can buy to take home. In keeping with the pink theme, even the drawers and dressing table are pink! 
If make-up isn't your thing, then how about some skincare to wet your appetite? How about getting your mitts on the best selling pore-fessional? Seriously, all of your Benefit needs are catered for at the Gabbi's head and it really is a wonderfully chilled atmosphere. 
During my time here I also spotted a pink football table, a pink dartboard, a giant Connect Four, Jenga and lots of sweet jars dotted around with boiled sweets to indulge any sugar cravings (much better than your usual free bar snacks!).
It just so happened that while we were there, it was Bingo night with all of the proceeds from the sale of the tickets going to charity and amazing Benefit goodies up for grabs. I myself am not a fan of your usual bingo, but this was Rock 'n' Roll style meaning you crossed off the songs for prizes. Despite some initial resistance, we dragged the boys in to help.
I was rather jammy and won one of the new Beauty Scores kits for my sins! Ad and I shared a card and he almost jumped off his seat when we won, much to the amusement of the other ladies, I think he may have been more excited than me! There's lots of goodies in here I'm quite excited to try and I think this was a fabulous prize! As an added bonus one card had the potential to win two prizes, one prize for a horizontal line and another for a full house.
I also mentioned to the manager that I was here with my friend on a mini-hen and much to my surprise she proceeded to bring out an entire bottle of Pink Champagne and some mini pouches stuffed with lots of Benefit minis to try!
It was a wonderfully generous gesture and really made the evening that much more special! I was really really chuffed and incredibly tipsy.
I had only expected to stay for a cocktail or two but we were here from about 6:30 until 10:30 just enjoying the company and having a good old giggle.

The Gabbi's Head will be at the Prince of Wales until the World Cup is over (fingers crossed it stays for longer, it really is wonderful) so I'd recommend heading down there ASAP. You don't need to book, entry is free and it's open from 12pm till 12am every single day.

Have you been to the Gabbi's Head? What did you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Tasties No.39 - My Dream Kitchen Goodies

Being a big food lover often means there are some weird and wonderful gadgets floating around my kitchen. Most have been purchased on the off chance they may come in handy, but lets face it, their real appeal is that they're just plain cool albeit slightly unnecessary.

Okay, so first up is this Garlic Zoom Chopper which takes the fuss out of garlic chopping/mincing/slicing or whatever you want to call it. You just peel your garlic cloves, pop them in the top and roll this nifty thing around your kitchen work surface (is it just me, or does this look like a hamster wheel for garlic?). The awesome gadgety part is that as you're rolling the garlic zoom around your garlic is being chopped into teeny tiny pieces, the more you roll, the finer your garlic, simples. Once your done, just tip the gadget upside down and your nicely chopped garlic will be in the lid ready for you to add to your dish.

Moving on, we have the Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer , sadly I couldn't find this exact shade of pink in the UK, but this one still looks pretty peachy. Keen bakers will know enough about the Kitchenaid that I don't really need to say much here. All I will say is, it's frikken expensive, looks beautiful and is totally necessary in my kitchen if I'm to keep baking cakes. A generic £10 electric hand whisk just doesn't cut it. *Sighs whistfully*.

Ad and I have always said that when we eventually have some spare cash, we'd really like a Japanese Chef's Knife and to be more precise, a whole set of Japanese Knives, they're stunningly crafted and incredibly durable, they won't corrode and the steel is very long lasting. Yes, they are crazy stupid expensive, but these things will last a lifetime if looked after correctly. I mean, as far as kitchen knives go, this one is pretty to look at, and apparently it's ergonomic as well, not that I'm 100% sure how that'll affect my dicing skills. Guess I'll need to buy one to find out?

Lastly, we have two products from Joseph Joseph which you'll spot a mile off thanks to their brightly coloured kitchen goodies. One being the Joseph Joseph Nest Set ideal for those of us with limited kitchen storage space as everything sits nicely inside the mixing bowl. The larger set which I've linked to includes some measuring spoons, a sieve, a colander and a mixing bowl all in one compact little set. I actually own all of these things individually, but I can safely say, they're are thrown around my kitchen in a rather chaotic, whatever space I can find sort of manner. Who knows where that sieve is hiding right now?

The final item is this Joseph Joseph Mezzaluna or fancy herb chopper thingie to you and I. I am quite capable of chopping herbs with a knife, I've got my technique down to a T. I'm serious, I can roll the knife around the chopping board pretty darn well but it'd be so much easier with this fancy chopper that's actually  been designed specifically with the task of herb chopping in mind. Not kidding anyone am I?

What kitchen goodies do you find yourself longing (yes, I said longing) for? Do you buy kitchen gadgets just because they look awesome? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some Awesome Reads - Just In Time For Summer!

For those of you lucky enough to have some holidays planned for the summer months, I thought I'd put together a list of books which I've really enjoyed over the last few years (including my all time favourite). I've got a little bit of everything, there's a good horror novel, something for those of you who felt Twilight didn't quite hit the mark, a good old weepy and something from the Victorian era. I'll try not to give the game away, but I've done a wee synopsis and my final verdict so you can see if it's something you'd like.
First up, we have Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which is my Victorian Era book of choice. In short, this book tells the story of two orphaned girls who are leading very different lives. One of these girls, Susan spends her days living with pickpockets (or fingersmiths as they were called in those days) and the other, Maud is a wealthy heiress who Susan's adoptive mother and a chap called the Gentleman plan on defrauding.

The plan is for Susan to instill herself as a maid in Maud's house and to convince her to marry the Gentleman before they leave Maud in an insane asylum allowing them to split the fortune between themselves. As Susan becomes closer and closer to Maud, all is not as it seems.  It soon becomes clear that it isn't just Susan who's playing a game. This book has it all, intrigue, deviousness and a pretty wicked twist at the end. It captures the essence of Victorian London with ease and you really do feel as though you're there on the grimy streets of London with them.

Next up, it's a weepy one, I watched the movie adaptation of this at the weekend and I thought it was brilliant. I am of course talking about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you were a fan of Everything Is Illuminated then you'll enjoy this as well as it's on a similar vein with a journey of self-discovery driving the plot forward. The hero of our story is Oskar Schell who it's implied may (or may not the tests were inconclusive) have Asperger's syndrome. As such, his Dad sets him on expeditions to help him to interact people and build his confidence. When his Dad looses his life in the 9/11 attacks, Oskar is desperate to keep the connection with his father. Whilst rummaging through his Dads belongings, he stumbles across a key which sets Oskar on a mission to find what, amongst the millions of locks in New York it opens.

This is a really touching story and is so well written that you will be in tears while reading, the paperback does come with pictures and notes to help tell the story so the Kindle version may not be the best. When I picked up this book, I was concerned that there would be a focus on 9/11 but this is more of a passing detail than a key plot point. What really gets you is the desperation that Oskar feels in trying to keep his Dads memory alive.

If you found that Twilight didn't quite cut the mustard, then A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is going to be one for you and is part of the All Souls Trilogy. It tells the story of Diana Bishop, a witch with an impressive lineage and Matthew Clairmont, a very old and seemingly gorgeous vampire (obviously this is relevant to your enjoyment of the book). Naturally supernatural creatures tend to keep to their own and maintain their distance from others so you can imagine what happens when two groups collide. What I loved about this was that I personally found that when reading the Twilight books it felt as though nothing really happens until the final few pages, however, with this, whilst it certainly isn't action packed with all guns blazing there is enough mystery, intrigue and other weird and wonderful supernatural creatures to keep you gripped.

In addition, Diana is strong, confident and incredibly likable as a character, to boot she doesn't spend the entire book complaining about how dreadful life is when you're torn between two men who want to devote their every waking moment to making you happy. No, instead, Diana has Matthew who's mysterious past and interest in Darwinian theories have her hooked from the get go. Oh yes, this is an adult version of Twilight and will have you hooked. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the final instalment!

My final recommendation for you, my lovely readers is the classic that is Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice. I'm sure I don't need to give much of a synopsis as many of you will have no doubt either read this or seen the movie (Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt!), but this book is what started my love affair with supernatural horror stories. Essentially, Louis decides to tell his story to a newspaper reporter. The reader follows Louis life from his human years, to his creation right through to the current time. Anne Rice is a fantastic author and the book really sucks you in, there's something quite romantic about the style in which this is written without needing a heavy reliance on gore to keep you intrigued.

If you haven't read this, then you really need to, it's kinda what started the whole vampire craze!

What books would you recommend reading over the summer? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Body Shop - Nutriganics Drops of Youth - A Review

Despite being a complete beauty addict, I am usually pretty good with certain products, only buying what I actually need, one such product being a serum. I have one for day time use and one for evening use, the latter being the good old Estee Lauder concoction that most ladies own.

When I finally ran out my Murad serum, I'd decided that whilst I loved it, I wanted to replace it with a serum that would leave give my skin more of a hydration boost. All the sunshine, humidity and constant air conditioning seem to be reeking havoc on my skin and it doesn't feel quite as plumped up as I would like.

Lovers of the Body Shop will know that they almost always have some sort of deal going. Recently I had a voucher for £20 off when you spend £40 (que girlish squeals!) and thought to myself what the heck, lets get back into some Body Shop skincare. As a teen I was a huge fan of their Aloe Vera range and their Vitamin E Night Cream but I honestly haven't use their skincare for around 8 years! My how things have changed.
I spotted that the Nutriganics range was something new and opted for the Nutriganics Drops of Youth which contains ingredients which are 99% of natural origin (big plus for fans of natural beauty) and 20% of the ingredients are organic to. This alone makes the serum sound pretty darn luxe, but at £22 a bottle it's pretty affordable.

The serum claims to help tackle the early signs of aging, make your skin smoother, make your skin look fresher and provides much needed hydration.

The bottle looks very luxe coming with a pipette in the lid much akin to products three times the price. My only gripe is that the pipette doesn't seem to work particularly well, I was only able to get three or four drops into the pipette at a time. I appreciate that this is more than enough for a single use but it would be nice to be able to get a little more in there if need be.
Texture wise (and colour wise for that matter) this is akin to the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair II. Your skin feels as though it is drinking it up from the first use and it doesn't leave your skin feel tacky or tight.

There is a slight smell, but I couldn't tell you what it is, all I can say is that it's not at all unpleasant, I just know that it's there.

I've been using this for over a week now and I've really been enjoying it, my skin does feel plumper and more hydrated which is exactly what I was looking for. In terms of smoothness, I'm not 100% convinced this is down to the serum alone as I do exfoliate at least twice a week so it's pretty difficult to give you guys an accurate indication of how well the serum works on this particular aspect.

All I can say is that at £22 for a 30ml bottle, I will seriously consider repurchasing this once I'm through, it all depends on what my skin needs of course. Two to three drops is all you need to do your entire face so I can see this one lasting me for months!

Have you used any products from the Nutriganics Range? What did you think of them?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tasties No.38 - My Favourite Food Bloggers

Recently I have been sharing with you, my lovely readers, some of favourite sources of inspiration when it comes to concocting recipes. A couple of weeks ago I shared some of the cookbooks which I've relied on time and time again for tasty mid-week meal ideas but there is another source of foodspiration which is totally free.

We all know that blogging is a labour of love, so what better to way to get inspired in the kitchen than by scrolling through the writings of food bloggers and lifestyle bloggers who not only share hints and tips for daily meals, but they're also a great source for desert ideas and even cocktails. You just need to know where to look.
First up we have the awesomeness that is Domestic Sluttery which I read on almost a daily basis. Their food offerings range from these delightful looking Charoset Truffles, (I stole the picture above from their website BTW, I haven't gotten around to making my own yet!) to Gin & Tonic chicken kebabs. As a cheeky bonus, these guys also do a regular feature called The Boy & His Poison which provides handy cocktail ideas for those who are after something a wee bit different. This website is an absolute goldmine for foodspiration and the lovely people that write it have an awesome sense of humour to boot. 
Next up we have Naturally Sassy whose recipes focus on unrefined and nutrient packed ingredients. Most of the recipes will be gluten, dairy and sugar free, but don't think for a second this means the recipes you'll find here aren't tasty. There is an enormous repertoire of ideas ranging from the Raw Chocolate Fudge above (again, the picture is taken from the Naturally Sassy website, I mean look at it, doesn't it look amazing, there's no way my food would be presented that well) to a sweet potato salad with an avocado mayonnaise. Whilst I do eat meat, I find it pretty easy to just add some grilled chicken or fish if I feel the need to satisfy my meat based cravings.
You might recognise this next site from one of my recent wishlists as the writer has just released a cookbook. We're talking Oh She Glows which is another amazing resource for vegan recipes including this scrummy looking  chickpea burger (just in case you hadn't gathered yet, this picture isn't mine! It was taken by the lovely Angela Liddon who is the writer of Oh She Glows) which is made with garlic and jalapenos and general yumminess. Again, if I am craving meat or fish then the recipes can be easily adapted to suit. As well as savoury recipes there's an entire section full of desserts which you just need to take a peek at NOW if you do nothing else today. These Peanut Butter Balls are the absolute shizzle and most of the ingredients are pretty easy to find.
My final blog of choice is Deliciously Ella who you may have spotted on Sunday Brunch recently. Again, the focus is on whole foods so no processed rubbish in sight. The picture above features one of my favourite foods, pizza (this photo is taken from the Deliciously Ella website for the sake of completeness) and the crust is actually made with Cauliflower, you can find Ella's recipe HERE. Other scrummy recipes to check out include a Raw Blueberry Cheesecake and in all honesty this website tends to have me drooling on most days.

I hope you've enjoyed this post on other blogs to check out for some inspiration in the kitchen, all of the websites have amazing recipes and they're all so colourful, I hope they inspire you to try something new!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Learn Something New - FutureLearn Courses

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have no doubt noticed some rather unusual and perhaps uncharacteristic pictures popping up in my feed. This is because over the last few weeks I have been doing a course in Creative Coding with FutureLearn.
I actually discovered FutureLearn by chance and thought I'd check it out for myself. What really suckered me in was that they were offering FREE online courses from Universities all over the world from Monash University in Australia (the guys behind my Creative Coding course) to Glasgow University. They're not just limited to the UK either so those of you in the USA etc. who are interested in learning something new, take a look!

As FutureLearn is actually owned by the Open University, I was confident that any course that peaked my interest would be of good quality and that any skills I learnt might actually come in handy. If nothing else, I just wanted to learn something new without having to spend a fortune. I mean, on a personal level, I think education should be free and not just for those who have the funds but that's a whole other story!

Most of the courses seem to be around six weeks long (some are shorter, some are a wee bit longer) with the average course requiring about three hours a week of your time. I've been fitting this in during my lunch hour at work, after Game of Thrones and generally whenever I have 20 minutes or so to spare. It's that flexible, I don't need to set specific time aside to study on a certain night every week, nor do I feel like I am sacrificing my day!

Most of my course has been done through videos and articles (the whole course is online) giving me pointers and exercises to try at home to test my knowledge. What I have noticed with my course is that there is a lot of focus on Social Learning, basically if I get stuck, (which is a lot, I like controlled specific and defined steps and coding requires some creativity and random thinking, totally outside of my comfort zone) then you simply post a comment in relevant activity and someone else on the course will come back to you to help. The great thing here is that there aren't just beginners on the course, some people seriously know what they're talking about and are more than happy to point you in the right direction, be it through videos that break down the basics even more, or articles they've discovered elsewhere on the net that are more akin to an idiot guide for people like me!

I shall stop waffling for now, but to give you an idea of the range of courses available, I'm doing Creative Coding but other course include Forensic Psychology, Mathematical Symbolism and even An Introduction to Journalism.

If you'd like some more information, then be sure to visit the FutureLearn website. I've not been given any incentive to post about FutureLearn but I've just been so impressed I thought it selfish to keep it to myself.

Do you use free online resources to learn new skills? Have you used FutureLearn? What do you think of learning online?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Key Ingredients to Look For When Dealing with Problem Skin

Whilst I am fairly lucky in that my skin behaves most of the time, I do suffer from hormonal blemishes and the occasional breakout, normally around the cheek area which can be a real blow to my confidence. We're talking really angry blemishes that feel as though they're about to take over my entire face.

I can always tell when all hell is about to break loose as I can feel the lumps and bumps under my skin when I'm cleansing my face. I've learnt over the years that there are a few skincare ingredients to keep an eye open for which will help to clear my skin and keep things in check. I've also included some other handy tips that may help to reduce your blemishes in future.

Why?  Whilst it's more commonly found in your BBQ, this actually works wonders on your skin. To be a little more specific, keep your peepers peeled for products which contain activated charcoal as this is the good stuff! Charcoal by it's very nature is a great absorber and it has been found to help draw out bacteria, toxins and all other manner of nasties from the skin which is why it's so great when your skin is looking congested. Charcoal has even been found to help with stings, bites and all manner of 'digestive issues'.
My product of choice? This has to be the Origins Clear Improvement Mask which is a steal at only £22. The active charcoal really helps to draw out impurities and whenever I use this my skin is ten times better by the following morning.

Why? You've probably spotted a lot of products which contain clay in all sorts of forms, white clay, earth clay and even red clay. Regardless of what kind of clay you are using, the basic principles are pretty much the same, it will decongest your skin and draw out impurities and most clay products will help to reduce redness and inflamation. The main difference between clay and charcoal is that clay products tend to work in two phases, the first being when the clay is damp and your skin is sucking up all the good stuff, namely the minerals within the clay, and the second phase when the clay is drying (don't let clay dry completely) and it's contracting.  
My product of choice? This obviously has to be the Murad Claryifying Mask which I have previously raved about HERE. Whilst it is a little pricier than other clay masks on the market, I've always found this works a treat, helping to clear up my skin and even keeps down any oiliness for a good few days post application.

Salicylic Acid
Why? This helps to open clogged pores, remove excess oil and is even helps to exfoliate your skin. This is normally used in blemish treatments as it helps to keep pores clear and neutralises bacteria without over drying the skin. Please ensure that you don't use this everyday, having the occasional blemish does not mean you have acne.
My product of choice? This one goes to La Roche Posay and their Effaclar Duo (+) which I tend to use as a serum 2-3 times a week if my skin is showing it's usual tell tale signs. This does an amazing job at helping to clear out my skin and keep the blemishes at bay. It's great at helping to clear up existing blemishes as well, just try not to use it everday (unless you have acne prone skin). At only £15.50 it won't break the bank.

Whilst these are some of ingredients which I've found work best for me, other handy tips I've picked up over the years are:
  • Always aim to wash your make-up brushes once a week, if you're suddenly breaking out quite frequently take a look at your brushes as these could be spreading oil and bacteria around your face
  • Drink lots of water or if you can't stand plain water, add a slice of lemon or orange, this will help to flush out toxins from your system
  • Try exfoliating with an acid based exfoliator once to twice a week, this will help remove dead skin cells
  • Try drinking chamomile tea, it's a natural calming remedy
  • Try snacking on nuts and healthy snack bars such as Nakd bars instead of sugary treats and crisps, these are full of nutrients that your skin will love!

I hope you've found this post helpful, do you have any key ingredients you look for when your skin is misbehaving?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tuesday Tasties - No.37 - The Lunchtime Edition

At lunchtime, I'm keen to avoid anything overly heavy for fear a super dodgy meal will give me a slump come three in the afternoon. Today, I thought I'd share some ideas for lighter lunches which are super scrummy (in my opinion anyway) and should give you everything you need to keep you going until dinner.
Just looking at these photos is making me hungry. In case you hadn't gathered, I frikken love food, like seriously LOVE my food. Most of my day is spent thinking about my next meal and to me that's ok, I really don't get people who just see food as sustenance.

Moving on, above, I've posted photos of three different lunch time yum-fests I've been indulging in.
Trout with Horseradish New Potatoes and Beetroot- The flavours here work so well together. I just boiled the new potatoes until they were cooked before leaving to cool. Whilst the potatoes are cooling, pop on the pan and cook your trout. Once that tatties have cooled, I stirred through some cubed beetroot, a big dollop of crème fraiche and some horseradish to taste (I really enjoy a bit of zing). To serve, pop some rocket on the bottom, your new potatoes go next and top with your trout.
Butterflied Sugar & Spiced Chicken with Curried Slaw - I actually butterflied the chicken myself before marinating it for as long as possible with smoked paprika and sugar amongst other things (if you want the recipe let me know!). By roasting in the oven, the smoky notes are really heightened and the sugar ends up caramelising. It's the perfect compliment to some home-made coleslaw, I added some sliced apples to give it some bite. By making your own slaw, you can control what goes into it as opposed to buying from the store where it'll inevitably be packed with full-fat mayo and preservatives. YUCK. 
Ciabatta with Roasted Courgettes & Peppers - I start this dish by roasting courgettes and peppers in the oven for around 30 minutes so they're soft and gooey. Then I layer up the sliced ciabatta with some tomato & basil sauce on the base (we make our own but store bought will do) and then placing some of the peppers and courgettes on top before topping with some crumbled feta and popping everything back into the oven for 5-10 minutes to get some colour.

What do you enjoy for a light lunch meal? Do you have any suggestions for me to try?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Stila - Convertible Colour in Petunia - A Review

Lately I've fallen back in love with my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser, the dewy finish it gives my skin just goes hand in hand with humid showery evening. The SPF is obviously just an added bonus here. What I have not been loving however, is how the humidity has been affecting my pores ergo, the finish of my make-up.

It seems that lately whenever I wear my go-to Soap & Glory blush, by mid-afternoon it has taken to sinking into my pores leaving me looking as though I've gone a little crazy with the old blusher brush. Not really the most attractive of looks.
As such, I set about on a mission to find a reasonably priced cream blush. I'd never used a cream blusher before so had no idea how to go about applying and/or blending. As such, it needed to be something that would allow me a bit of time to work with it before setting ONTOP OF my make-up, not into my face.
As M&S were doing a 20% off beauty voucher, I headed in to see what I could spot, I'm normally a Boots girl but it's good to step outside of the old comfort zone every now and then.
They've recently installed a huge Stila stand in my local store and thought I should have a wee poke around.Their Convertible Colour Dual Lip & Cheek Cream was the first thing to catch my eye given it's super bright packaging. It actually reminds me of the Tarte blushes in that the colour of packaging matches the colour of the product inside. This in itself is pretty handy, sometimes it's a pain to open up lots of different containers to check what colour is actually inside.
Moving on, the texture seemed to be pretty blendable whilst I was swatching in store so I headed home with Petunia which is a pink coral shade and exactly what I was looking for. I think there were around 9 shades in total within the collection ranging from colour popping brights through to darker contour shades.
Having had a nose online, I noticed that you can apply this with fingers (win) and gently tapping the colour into your cheeks for a sheer pop of colour. Don't try dotting big blobs onto your cheekbone and then blending out like I did , it looked like I'd smudged something on my cheek as I don't think I worked it out quickly enough. The colour itself is highly pigmented so a little goes a long way, I clearly went a little crazy when a lighter touch was all that was needed. It's my first time, cut me a break.
Whilst it did take me a couple of attempts to get used to how to use this correctly (work the colour between your ring finger and thumb before applying GENTLY to your face), I really do like the colour pay off. When applied in the appropriate manner, one is left with a natural looking flush which sits nicely with products (such as the Laura Mercier) which are designed to give the skin a more luminous finish. Sometimes powder does look a little unnatural with luminous finishes and cream finishes just seem to sit nicer with dewy skin.
This didn't sink into my pores and was long lasting, despite things feeling pretty sticky up in London. There's nothing worse than make-up melting off your face. Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, there's a wee mirror built into the lid making this ideal for touch ups on the go!
As this is a dual purpose product, I feel I should say that on the lips the shade was very sheer, but I did find it to be a little drying. Nothing that a lip balm wouldn't cure. Given that this isn't why I bought the product, I don't feel like this is the end of the world.
Have you used the Stila Convertible Colours? What did you think?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Em - Chiaroscuro - Contour & Highlight Stick - A Review

So, I've finally gotten around to doing a post on this. As you know, I indulged myself and ordered a few Em goodies from the States last year which included some make-up bits which I've already featured on my blog (obviously!) but this was my favourite piece out of everything.
I ordered the Chiaroscuro as I've always wanted to learn how to contour my features and make them more defined and, well chiselled. Seriously, I have no idea how to do this, I know people like to use bronzer but this scares me no end given my rather pale complexion and most of the powders seem to be a little cray cray on the glitter front.

The Contour & Highlight stick comes in 4 shades, and naturally I opted for the lightest tones that Em offer.What really appealed to me about this was the fact that the stick itself is double ended, meaning the contour and highlight shade should, theoretically, compliment each other so no worrying for me about getting two separate products.
In addition, as both ends looked as though they were a cream based formulation (as opposed to powder based which I've mentioned above, kinda scare me) I was hoping they'd be easy to blend and it'd be pretty easy to rectify if I happened to make a rather glaring mistake.
The highlighter end does have some shimmer, but it's pretty subtle all things considered, it's in no way glaring or in your face.
The contour shade does look a little bit scary in the stick, but it's not what you'd expect once it's on the skin. If you want more definition, you can simply press harder or add a couple of layers.
This is a swatch taken in day light and as you can see the shimmer is pretty subtle. I've only done one sweep with each end of the stick here so it's certainly not a swatch done to any sort of intensity.
The above is with two sweeps of each end and you can see the colours have much more intensity so it is buildable.

My favourite place to use this is on my nose, I use the contour down the outer edges and around the tip, and the highlight down the centre before blending out with my fingers. It really adds some subtle definition. I've also used the highlighter on the tops of my cheeks (it peeks through my blusher), and the contour around my jawline. I've not used this in the hollows of my cheeks just yet, I reckon I need a wee bit more practice before venturing out in public.

The texture of both ends is amazing, it feels like a cream, but once it's set, it's so light it could be a powder for all I know! I certainly don't feel like this is sitting on my face, and I've never had any issues with it setting into my pores as some powder based highlighters can do. 

Another thing I love is that I don't need to use a brush to blend it out, my fingers do a great job and I'm never left with any residue on my fingertips either. I use light pressure at first and can use a wee bit more force if I've over done it with the application.

All in all, I think this is a really great product, I love the idea of having both a contour and a highlight in one handy stick (this would be amazing for travelling!) and both ends do work well together. It's amazing for us contour-phobes and is a good starting point for those of us who'd like to be a little braver with our make-up but aren't brave enough to invest in bronzer just yet (I'm sure it'd be harder to correct a mistake that's for sure!).

My only bugbear? I have to order it from the States as I'm yet to find anything quite like it in the UK. Ah well, I'll just have to build up an Em wishlist before re-ordering!

Have you used the Chiaroscuro Contour & Highlight Stick yet? What did you think?  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tuesday Tasties No.36 - Some of my Favourite Recipe Books

I've shared a heck of a lot of yummy recipes over the last few months and I bet you guys have been wondering where I get most of my foodspiration from. To be honest, a lot of it comes from recipe books, I always make the dish as per the recommendations and give things a taste before tweaking things to my liking.

Today I'm sharing with you a couple of books which I use every week as well as those I depend on for foolproof dinners, puddings and a book to add something a little different for when things seem as thought they're getting monotonous.
So, first up we have the Jillian Michaels - The Master Your Metabolism Cookbook which is full of healthy recipes for breakfast lunch and dinner. As this is an American book, the recipe measurements are all in cups, but you can get your mitts on cups for very little on the internet. In addition, you have to get used to American names for ingredients such as cilantro instead of coriander but once you get past this there are such staples as nut encrusted chicken, black bean chilli and the scrummy pork loin recipe which I featured HERE.

Next up, the James Duigan - Clean & Lean Diet Cookbook which I've been using pretty much every week since I purchased it. This book features recipes such as the Cajun Chicken recipe I made HERE as well as plenty of breakfast ideas (pancakes anyone) lunch ideas and treats for when you're feeling naughty. The joy of this book is it's designed for those who are a little more health conscious and looking to avoid putting processed rubbish into their systems. I'm yet to find a recipe I don't enjoy and it's a staple when making up the shopping list. If your vegetarian, you can substitute the chicken/fish etc for other protein sources.

Now for the pudding side of things, everyone knows I have a serious sweet tooth The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days is full of really scrummy recipes. Every single time we make something from this book, it turns out wonderfully, case in point, the Chocolate & Lime cheesecake which Ad made me for my birthday. Just look at it in all it's wonderfully gooey loveliness. Seriously, you need to give this book a go, especially if you're nervous about jumping onto the baking bandwagon.
Last but certainly not least, it's Jamie's 30-Minute Meals which will be fantastic if you're looking to try cooking for large groups for the first time. Whilst I only manage to cook the main side of things in 30-minutes the meal ideas are easy and not all that challenging to complete. You might recall the Jerk Chicken and Rice I did HERE which was packed full of flavour and did not cost the earth to make. I'd seriously recommend this book to everyone as it's not only full of ideas for new ways to everyday ingredients but everything is really yummy and looks fantastic when plating up.

What are your favourite cookbooks? 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nuxe - Prodigieux Eye Contour - A Review

I've been a bit of a floozie when it comes to eye creams, relying solely on free samples to get me through the better part of a year. A 2ml sachet of the stuff can last me at least a month and I've had a whole box full of the things to work my way through. Eye cream is expensive don't you know, I've certainly not been in a hurry to part with my cash.
Sad to say, the point of my story is that whilst there were some nice samples, nothing really wowed me you know? This means I've actually had to dive into finding a new eye cream relatively blind, I knew I wanted something hydrating but I didn't want it to leave the delicate skin around my eyes greasy. I also wanted something to tackle puffiness and the occasional dark circles and I wanted something that was light enough to use during the day but also nourishing enough to use in the evening as well.
I don't want much eh?
Anyway, people have been raving and raving about French skincare in general, it's relatively cheap and produces good results. As such, for my first blind test, I picked up the Nuxe Prodigieux Eye Contour Cream, a steal at only £18.50.
So which aspects of my lengthy 'want' list did this tick off? The Nuxe website said this little pot of joy:
  • moisturises (thanks to Hyaluronic Acid amongst other things)
  • is non-greasy
  • is de-puffing (good old Plant Caffeine)
  • helps to reduce the appearance of dark circles
  • and finally is anti-aging which isn't a big requirement but you can never start to early
all for £18.50!
Naturally I added this to my basket fairly swiftly, hit pay and it arrived a few days later with lots of free samples to add to my stash.
I've been using this both morning and night and I have to say, for the price, I am impressed. It sinks in really quickly which is obviously essential during the morning rush and it is definitely not greasy at all. I get quite oily eye lids so greasy eye creams are a big no-no for me.
I've also been very naughty and not just using this under the eyes and around the brow bone, I have been sweeping this over my lids as well as it seems to be gentle enough that I can get away with that. The cream has certainly not caused any irritation.
It is certainly moisturising, I've not had any issues with dry skin around my eyes at all (sometimes my eyes do get a little red and dry towards the outer corners) so in terms of hydration, I've got no complaints here.
Is it de-puffing? Oh yes, during the summer I do struggle to drift off if our bedroom is a little humid, (blame being on the ground floor), which leaves me with lovely puffy lids first thing in the morning. After cleansing I sweep on half a pump of the Eye Contour around my eyes and 5 minutes later, bye bye puffy eyes.
On the dark circle front, whilst things have improved slightly I've not noticed a massive change here but given this beauty bargain has been pretty darn effective on all other fronts, I can't really complain!
All in all, I think this product is fabulous value for money, £18.50 is a steal, I really cannot emphasise how pricey similar products on the market are. I'd definitely grab this again, it's a great all rounder and does the job which is all you can ask. As you only need half a pump, the 15ml size will last me for months, I say months because Ad uses it as eh? Always stealing your skincare stash.
Have you used any of the Nuxe skincare before? What's your favourite product to use? Is there something I should try next?
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