Baked: Christmas Cupcakes

 Can you believe it's Christmas Eve already? Today two of my best friends came over for a couple of hours. It's became tradition for them to visit on Christmas Eve when we were at sixth form and we kept it up when everyone left for uni because sometimes it was all we got to see of each other for months. So today we had a nice catch up and they both awed at my mum's handy work with the Christmas tree (she's Queen of Christmas Decorating!)

I love Christmas. This year I've been trying to get Callum in more of a jovial Christmas spirit so I decorated his house and made him watch Christmas films and listen to Christmas music (he obliged, I didn't have to tie him to a chair in front of the TV or anything...) I also convinced him to bake some Christmas cupcakes with me! Here's the recipe, it's just a simple vanilla cupcake recipe but we had fun baking them (and I had tons of fun taking the photos!)

We bought the cupcake cases from Home Sense, which came with the little decorations too. We also bought a new piping gun, a bit like this one. It was fun to play around with and we were able to do the really big buttercream swirls on top (finally, like a proper cupcake!) I love how festive they look! 

Now I'm going to go enjoy what's left of Christmas Eve with a big hot chocolate and a Christmas cupcake! Merry Christmas everyone! 

Winter Night Reads

I'm really disappointed with how much reading I've done this year. Usually I read about 15-20 books a year. This year I've read about six, not including all the books I've started and failed to finish. Even now, I'm reading about 4 books at the same time and it's not looking like I'll finish any of them by New Year. 

Lucky for you, since I've been sticking my fingers in all sorts of book pies (weird), I have a few to recommend to you that are perfect for these long winter evenings. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone | J. K. Rowling I've read this a few times, as I'm sure you have too. But in October an illustrated version of the book was released. The illustrations are beautiful and I have to try really hard to not skip ahead to see the next double page spread. It's a large hard cover book so it's ideal for coffee table/bedside reading. I leave mine by the bed so when I crawl under my duvet at night I can read a chapter or two before I go to sleep. And let's be honest, who doesn't want to read about magic at Christmas?

The Wizard of Oz | Frank E. Baum It's a book, who knew? Reading children's fantasy books at Christmas has become a bit of a tradition for me. Last year I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This year I went for the Wizard of Oz. We all love the film so that book has to be good too, right? It's a quick read, ideal for a Sunday afternoon in with a cup of tea and a blanket. 

Stardust | Neil Gaiman Just to continue along this magic/fantasy Christmas (but not really) theme,  number three on my 'currently reading' list is Stardust. Stardust is one that has been collecting virtual dust on my kindle bookshelf for a while now, like years. I bought this just after I watched the film because I enjoyed it so much but I've only just got around to reading it. If you like fantasy/romance novels then you might want to give this one a go. 

Next year I'm challenging myself to read more. I have stacks of books on my shelf that I'm yet to read and I can't wait to get stuck in. Hopefully my reading habits will pick up again next year. Please feel free to leave a comment on any winter/christmas reads you like or want to read!

Merry Christmas!

Contouring Made Easy: B. Sculpted

I know I said I was holding off on using highlighting products through the winter but I came across this product on instagram and I was really intrigued by it. I think B. is an incredibly underrated high street brand. They do great lipsticks and blushers and their nail polishes are lovely too, so I feel pretty safe when trying their new products. The B. Sculpted 2 in 1 Blush & Highlight stick looks like a simple, easy to use product and I thought it would only feed my highlighter obsession. But I didn't love this product as much as I thought I would.

I love the idea of this product in theory. It seems foolproof, right? One sweep across the cheek and you have perfect highlight/blush contour that just needs a little bit of blending out. I like the colour. It's a lovely coral/peach tone. The highlighter is pretty neutral too so I think it'd probably suit most skin tones. I can't fault the packaging either. First of all, the colour. I'm loving all things gold/rose gold/copper coloured lately (seriously, you should see my pinterest). Secondly, the wheel at the bottom allows for easy control over how much product you push up, which hopefully means no product wastage!

Unfortunately I just can't get this product to work for me. I tried it over the top on my foundation and it just scraped the foundation away. Then when I tried it blend it with a brush, it made it even worse (tip: as it's a cream blusher, using your fingers to blend out the product works best!) Wearing it under my foundation didn't work too well either as you couldn't really see the effects of the highlighter. I can imagine this will be a better product for the summer when I'll be wearing less face make up or just a tinted moisturiser. 

If you want to try this product for yourself, it's exclusive to superdrug and can be found for £10.99 on the website. It comes in three shades; light, medium and dark so you should be able to find a shade most suited to your skin tone. 

Skin Pampering: Origins Active Charcoal Face Mask

I've recently switched up my skincare routine and my skin looks and feels a thousand times better than it has done in quite a few months. I've been trying different cleansers and moisturisers and I seem to have found a product selection that is working for my skin. One of my new skincare loves is this face mask from Origins - the Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask. These dark, cold evenings are perfect for a bit of a pamper and there's nothing like pulling out your favourite face mask and grabbing a good read to relax for a while. 

I bought this after my birthday when I went a bit mad on the Origins website. It came as a gift set which included three other masks - the Ginzing Refreshing face mask, Drink Up Intensive overnight mask and the Out of Trouble 10 Minute mask. The Active Charcoal mask was the first I tried because I'd read such good things about it online, it seems to be one of the Origins products that every blogger raves about. 

It's not often I'm impressed by a face mask. More often than not they don't seem to really do anything and don't seem worth using. This is a completely different story. After I used this for the first time my skin felt really clean and refreshed. I try to use it at least once a week, usually towards the end of the week when late nights/early mornings are making my skin look tired. It just gives it the little pick-me-up it seems to need. Plus, my skin looks clearer than it has done in a while. Bonus!

I'd definitely recommend this face mask to anyone who likes to spend a little bit more on their skin care. You can buy the full size for £23 from the Origins website

The Body Shop Shimmer Lip Balm

My lips are dry at the best of times. Throughout winter I have to make an extra effort to keep from them from becoming too dry and chapped (I've given up on them ever being normal) so I always keep a couple of lip balms in my bag and coat pockets. I bought the Shimmer Lip Balm from The Body Shop a few months ago but haven't used it much. When I was last clearing out my makeup drawers, I found it still packaged in the depths of all my other lip products. I decided it was time to give it a full test run. I have to say, I'm in two minds about it. But then again, I always am with The Body Shop lip balms. I want to love them but for some reason they always fall short.

For those of us that don't always like to wear a bold lip, a lip balm with a little extra something is the perfect substitute. I love the colour of this one from The Body Shop because it has a hint of natural colour and just the right amount of shimmer. Nothing is ever perfect though and this balm doesn't last very long. If it's the only lip product I have on me I'm forever taking it out of my bag to top it up. It's not particularly moisturising either so it's not often I opt for this over a Carmex or Vaseline.

I couldn't just let it lay in my makeup drawer though. I liked the colour enough to start wearing on top of other lip colours. I generally wear it with nude colour because it matches well with a more subdued look. But as much as I love the colour, for £6 I wouldn't say it was worth it. You can have a nosey at it on The Body Shop website here but I'd definitely say that there are much better lip balms out there (for a better price too!) 

Origins Skincare: First Impressions

Last week I turned 22. Yep, I promise you I really am 22 years old. As has become tradition now, in the weeks leading up to my birthday I started browsing some of the beauty hotspots online (Space NK, Origins, Feelunique) and listed some of the products that I've been wanting to try for a while but haven't been able to without sacrificing the money I'd done so well to save for a car. Origins was my first pit stop and I managed to narrow down my choices to a couple of blogger favourites as well as some of my own 'just give them a go' choices.

Original Skin Renewal Serum | £15 Now that the sun has well and truly nestled itself away for the winter, it was time to invest in some skincare that would keep my skin healthy and moisturised in the face of the cold weather. It is designed to de-stress and smooth skin as well as helping it to keep it's glow and shrink pores. I've been using this under my moisturising in a morning and evening and I love how smooth my skin feels lately. 

Make a Difference Plus Rejuvenating Moisturiser | £35 This is the moisturiser that I've been using on top of the serum. It's got a bit of an odd smell, quite medicinal. It's easy to get used to though and after a while I stopped noticing it. Despite the smell, this might just be the best moisturiser I've ever used. A lot of the time I struggle with combimation/dry skin but my skin has been relatively well behaved since using this moisturiser and my makeup sits really nicely on top of it too. It's a winner in my book.

Mask Marvels | £30 Face masks are a really simple and easy way to give your skin a bit of a pick-me-up. I couldn't decide which mask to go for but found a set that had four of the best Origins masks, each 50ml. I've tried the Active Charcoal mask and really liked it. My skin looked and felt really clean afterwards. Hopefully after a few more uses there will be more of a noticeable difference. I've always tried the Out of Trouble 10 minute mask but I didn't like that one so much. It stung slightly (which is usually a good sign) but I didn't think that it did all that much. I might give it another go but I don't hold much hope for it. I am looking forward to trying to Ginzing Refreshing face mask and the Drink Up overnight mask. I'll let you know how I get on with those! 

Have you tried any of these Origins products? What are your skincare must-haves? 

New Reads: October

I have a mass of unread books in my bookcase. Probably enough to stack a whole other shelf or two. But my list of 'To Be Read' books increases every time I go on Bloglovin and read a glowing review of some weird, wonderful and obscure book that I'd never have heard of otherwise. The point of this post is not to tell you all how big my collection of books is getting but to instead tell you that I'm really weak willed and went and bought even more books at the weekend. So I'm going to share them with you! They're all completely different genres and moods so it's quite a mixed bag.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham | I've never watched Girls but I've seen Lena Dunham on TV a few times and every time I see her she makes me laugh. Like when she did the lip sync battle on Jimmy Fallon. You know when you catch yourself smiling at your computer screen? That. I spotted her book in Waterstones and decided to give it a go. Why not? I love these type of books that are just a collection of stories/advice/anecdotes, it makes for easy reading. I started reading this one first and so far I'm really enjoying it! If you liked Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? then you'll probably like this one too.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami | I was intrigued by this one because it had black pages. Why would a book have black pages? What does it mean? The novel sounds like a bit of a mystery, one that is based around Tazaki whose best friends, all of which have a colour in their name, stop speaking to him one day. Why? Why? Why? He eventually meets someone named Sara who reveals all. I read the first page while I was browsing and I was hooked straight away. I can't wait to read more! 

New York by Edward Rutherford | I went through a phase of being obsessed with all things New York. Well, I wouldn't really call it a phase since it plagued my whole life. I'm talking framed photographs, notebooks, pens, tshirts, Everything! I still obsess now. I thought going there this year would get the obsession out of my system but if I see anything New York related I still feel like I have to have it. Anyway, I spied this book on the bottom shelf of Waterstones and I was intrigued by it for two reasons. First, it's New York. Obviously. Second, it's historical fiction. The history nerd in me did a little happy dance when I picked it up. The book starts somewhere in the seventeenth century and continues through until the present day. It's fictional but it's based around real, historical events from the civil war up to the events of 9/11. 

Now that the temperature is dropping and nobody wants to be outside, it's the perfect time to buy a few books to read on the long, dark evenings. I can't tell you which book I'm most excited to read. Have you bought any new books lately? What books would you recommend? 

The Perfect Evening Scent: Si by Giorgio Armani

It's not often I do fragrance posts. Mostly because I just wear the same perfume every day - Cheryl Cole's Stormflower which is light and sweet and, despite the name, isn't overly floral. It's the perfect scent for day-to-day wear. If I go out on an evening I like to wear something a bit different, something that's a bit richer. Which is why I always reach for Giorgio Armani's Si fragrance.

The scent: 'It combines an inflection of three accords: blackcurrant nectar, modern chypre and light musky wood. The fragrance opens with notes of Sicilian Bergamot, Mandarin oil and blackcurrant liqueur which is supported by a heart which bursts with Rose May, Neroli and Egyptian Jasmine. Warm undertones caress the unique chypre base notes of Patchouli oil intertwined with Blond Woods, amber and musky undertones known as OrcanoxTM. Finished with a sweet animalic accord of Vanilla which gives this fragrance, longevity and unforgettable sillage.' -, £47 for 30ml.

Again, this isn't an overly floral scent, which is why I like it. It is very intense though, the complete opposite to my signature daytime scent. I generally go for one spritz on my wrists which is enough and it lasts all evening too. It's strong and classy and perfect for a night out. There's not much to say about the bottle really. It's Practical. Simple. Elegant. Very much unlike Stormflower which I often find without a lid in my toiletry bag because it's huge and impractical and just plain irritating. 

The only thing about this fragrance is that is has a very mixed bag of reviews. Some people love the strong scent, others hate it. I do think that it's important not to overdo it with this one but if you're sparing with it, the scent should linger without being overpowering. 

What's your favourite evening scent?

Makeup Revolution Blush Lacquer

Blusher is the easier way to add colour to a makeup look and generally requires little skill or practice. Just dab a brush in the pan and apply to the apples of the cheeks or cheekbones. The trouble is that the simplicity of applying blusher doesn't extend to liquid colour. I've tried a few cream blushers and found them quite difficult to use but I'd never tried a liquid blusher before. This lacquer from Makeup Revolution was no different, if anything is was actually harder to use. 

When Makeup Revolution first popped up, I was intrigued by their products. They were cheap and the quality was and still is comparable to higher end brands. This Vivid Blush Lacquer was one of the first products I tried from Makeup Rev but it's one that I don't particuarly love. I did quite a bit of research of these products as I was writing this review because I wondered whether I was the only person to not get along with it. Turns out that a lot of the issues I had with it, others had too.

The colour is amazing, I'll just say that. 'VIVID' is definitely the right word. The deep pink/red nature makes it a perfect autumnal colour. It comes with a handy pump but a not-so-handy portion is released if you press the pump all the way down. It only needs a tiny pump for you to get enough colour for both cheeks so you have to be really careful otherwise you'll end up wasting a lot of product. The formula also dries really quickly, making it hard to blend out and hardly suitable for those with dry skin. I'd say that the easiest way to blend this product is with a buffing brush. Ideally you need something that is sturdy and is quick to work with. If I ever use this product (on occasion I give it another go hoping that it will be the day I finally fall in love with it... Never happens) I'll apply three small dots of product on the apples of cheeks and blend around with my Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. The good thing is that when you do master the art of applying this product, it has a finish like a stain so lasts all day!

It's such a shame that the product is hard to use because the colour is beautiful. It just feels like too much to contend with when I'm applying my makeup. I want a blusher that's as easy as swirling a brush in the pan and swiping across my cheek bones. I think I'll be sticking with my powder blushers from now on. I can only find a few of the shades online on the Superdrug (£3) and Makeup Revolution (£1) websites.

Have any of you tried this product? What is your take on the Liquid vs. Powder Blush Debate?

Seventeen: Base, Lips & Cheeks

I'll be honest, I haven't tried many Seventeen products until recently. The vibe of the brand is quite young and it seems like a brand I'd have been drawn to when I was thirteen and just starting to wear makeup. Also having worked in Superdrug for over a year (hello staff discount) I sacrificed sampling Boots brands for Superdrug brands. I'm always open to shopping around brands, especially for good items that are a bit more budget friendly. Seventeen is a brand that you should check out if you're on a student budget or just want to save a few pounds here and there. The Boots beauty team were kind enough to send me some items from the brand to check out and I really enjoyed giving them a test drive.

Cheek Stamp | £4.99 This was the first product I tried because I was so fascinated by the packaging. It comes with a handy little mirror on the lid which you twist off to find a sponge on one side and the actual blusher hidden inside the lid. The basic idea is that you just stamp the circular sponge on the cheek but by doing this you run the risk of looking like coco the clown.  So it's best to go in with a lighter hand and swipe across the cheekbone. I thought the stamp concept was good at first but quickly changed my mind about it. In the future I'll probably even opt for just dipping my blusher brush in the lid.

Wow Skin Primer | £5.99 I wasn't so sure about this one when I first saw it. It looked a bit too shimmery. But I actually really liked this product. It's thicker than other primers, more like a cream in consistency. As soon as I put it on I noticed that my skin looked a lot brighter. If your comfortable in your skin I'd say this was good enough to wear on it's own, for a healthy glow. I wore it under foundation and found that my complexion looked a lot brighter even then. This one gets a thumbs up from me.

Stay Pout Lipstick | £4.49 This is by far my favourite from the bunch. My main issue with lipsticks, usually, is finding one that won't dry out my lips. When I first applied this and it almost immediately started to dry, so I worried. I was also concerned about the colour (shade: Just a Fling). As you can see it looks more like a brown/nude colour, one that I immediately thought would end up in my mum's hand bag, not mine. It actually wound up being really comfortable to wear, not drying at all. And the colour was lovely too. It looked more pink/nude on the lips than it does in the bullet so it ended up being a good colour match. The staying power of this is unbelievable too, I've never known a high street brand to last like this one does.

Let me know if you've tried any of these products and what you thought of them! I'd also love to hear more Seventeen recommendations if you have any.

The Guys Behind the Blog: September

The questions in this post were created by Betsy from Heavens to Betsy. Each month she and Laura from According to Laura Jean come up with a few questions for the boyfriends/husbands behind the women who run these blogs! I decided to join the link-up and ask Callum some questions from the September edition of The Guys Behind the Blog.

What's the silliest thing you and your significant other have needed to compromise on?
Not texting unless it's lunch time because my texts are so sporadic through the day... I just forget, that's all. I read it and think 'I'll text back in 5 minutes..' and you just forget, don't you? I'm also only allowed to have a very specific length of beard and can't wear my black skinny jeans any more. But they're more like demands.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 must haves would you bring with you?
Pen and paper so that I keep track of my own mental state on this stranded island. I'd have to have my guitar, always have to have my guitar. I gotta have a Jess there too. However if Jess was on her way anyway I would have to bring sunglasses (I'm awful in the sun..)

Talents aside, what is your dream job?
That's a difficult one because there's loads of things I'd love to do. I reckon a pilot would be pretty cool. The obvious one would be a musician, playing at festivals. Barack Obama's right hand man, or his chauffeur, his photographer, basically along the lines of a 'fly on the wall' kind of job for someone fairly up there. Maybe for me and Jess to own a bakery, a business of any sort - seen as though we make a decent team.

What are three things on your bucket list?
Northern lights would be pretty cool to see, always wondered what it would look like through your own eyes. I've always wanted to visit all the States in America, I'm a 1/5 of the way there I think! Visit Australia and see family out there, it'd be good to do that at some point.

What kind of date is your favourite to go on with your significant other? (Romantic, fun, spontaneous etc.)
Holiday dates (expensive I know..) When we're on holiday and we're wandering around and exploring places that neither of us have explored before. That's my favourite time when I'm with Jess. 

... Cinema is alright.

I hope you enjoyed reading Callum's answers, it was a struggle getting him to think about a bucket list. Come on, Callum, have you got no hopes or dreams? If I can rope him into answering some more questions, there'll be another edition of The Guys Behind the Blog 29th October!

By Terry Ombre Blackstar Cream Eyeshadow

Twitter is the worst for making me spend money. Every day another brand announces a not-to-be-missed discount on a new product or a 30% off voucher that is too good to pass up. When a fellow blogger tweeted that Space NK had gifted all N.Dulge card owners with £5 credit, I immediately took to the website to decide what to buy. 

By Terry is brand I've been hearing about for a while but couldn't really justify splurging on any of the products. With £5 off, how could I say no? The Ombre Blackstar Cream eyeshadows caught my eye and they looked like my kind of product. Simple. No fuss. Nothing to add to the makeup application time and take away from my sleep time. I went for the colour Blond Opal because I found that cream/white shades suit me better.

With it being a bit shimmery, I tend to avoid wearing it on an average day. I might wear it when I'm going out for an evening or when I'm having an afternoon out with Callum. If I wear it on an evening I use a darker shade from my MUA Heaven and Earth palette in the crease of my eye and the outer corners just to give a bit of definition. When I first tried this out I had a bit of difficulty getting it on evenly. I'll put that down to it being the first cream eyeshadow I've used in a pen form. It became easier with a bit of practice and it goes on a lot smoother with an eyeshadow primer. The colour lasts all day too.

This is quickly becoming my favourite eyeshadow, alongside this little beauty from Topshop. I'm forever looking for an excuse to wear it! The great thing about the colour being neutral is that I can pair it with a lot of the shades I already have in my makeup collection.

It does have a hefty price tag and will set you back £29 if you buy from Space NK (or £24 if you still have the £5 treat to use!) I'm really glad I bought it and now I'm hoping to get at least one more shade from the range.

Have you tried any products from By Terry? What is your favourite eyeshadow?

A Weekend in Barcelona

I've been incredibly lucky to be able to do so much travelling this year. I went to New York in February which was nothing but incredible and I had a little weekend in Amsterdam not so long ago. Last Friday Callum and I went to Barcelona for four days with his brothers and we had a really lovely weekend. It was hot without being too uncomfortable so we were able to forget the cold autumnal start in Britain and enjoy the sunshine for a weekend longer. 

We spent a big chunk of our time at the beach in Barceloneta. On the first night we went down to the beach to enjoy the fireworks that were part of La Mercé Festival. From where we were stood it wasn't particularly atmospheric. There weren't a lot of people around and it seemed fairly quiet but the fireworks were lovely! The next day we went back down to the same place and strolled along the sand for a while. We ended up finding a very lively beach side cafe and had some really nice food. After that it was back to sit on the beach and soak up the last few hours of sunshine.

The highlight of the weekend, for me anyway, was seeing La Sagrada Familia. I don't think I've ever seen anything that I've been so astonished by. Neither me nor Callum took many photos but the photos we did take don't do it justice. It's huge and it's the most beautiful detailed building I've ever seen. With it being quite gothic looking on the outside, I wasn't expecting it so be quite as light and delicate as it was on the inside. Again, I don't have any photos that do it justice but believe me when I say that Gaudi really knew what he was doing. It was just so beautiful. 

On Sunday evening to made our way to Nou Camp, no doubt the highlight of the weekend for the lads. Needless to say I wasn't exactly excited to go watch a football match but it was an experience. I think I was more taken with the sunset than the stadium. Callum, who felt antsy sitting on the balcony of the third floor apartment we were staying in, didn't exactly enjoy being so high up and spent the first few minutes clutching my hand (I think it was actually payback for my nervous hand-squeezing during the dodgy plane landing we had on the way to Barcelona.)

Compared to the other holidays we've had this year, this was the most relaxing. In New York and Amsterdam we were constantly walking around, finding things to do and things to see. We were conscious of having a lot to do in such a small space of time. Barcelona was much more relaxed and easy going and I think part of it was due to a lack of planning. But that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Not having researched anything meant that we could freely wander around and just stumble across things that ended up being special parts of the weekend.

Have you ever been to Barcelona? What has been your favourite holiday to date?

The Fashion Edit: 70's Vibe

The playsuit and shoes in these photographs were gifted to me from Boohoo

Last week Boohoo got in touch with me and asked if I'd like to take part in their 70's Vibe campaign. After spitting my tea out and rushing to tell my family, of course I said yes, absolutely, definitely, without a doubt. After composing myself I sent a message to my friend Olivia and asked if she'd be the photographer and she was more than willing. She has some serious skills with a camera so I was really excited to get her involved! 

I chose a couple of items from their 70's/Boho items (which you can shop here) and it was not an easy task. There are so many items I love including this cute open shoulder kimono and these skinny trousers. In the end I settled for this gorgeous printed playsuit and the suede gladiator heels.

I am in love with this playsuit. First of all, it's so comfy and such a flattering cut too. The neckline allows for a bit of a longer necklace so I went with a cute feather and arrow necklace that I bought last year. The pattern of the playsuit is beautiful and the variety of colours makes it really easy to accessorize. I chose to add a couple of brown/blue toned chunky bracelets, a gold necklace with a hint of blue as well as a tiny Michael Kors clutch to offset the bolder blue in the pattern. I'm planning on taking this playsuit to Barcelona with me at the weekend and I think it'll make a lovely outfit for an evening out! 

The shoes were really comfortable and I know they're going to look lovely dressed up with a playsuit like this or dressed down with a pair of skinny jeans and a white top. The heel was just the right size too - big enough for a lift and to add a bit of something to the outfit but not too big that I couldn't walk down the street without clutching Olivia's arm. Perfect size. The suede material also make them perfect to add a touch of the 70's to any style.

I tried to channel my inner Farrah Fawcett with my makeup - I went for a bit of winged eyeliner as well as a big brush of peach/coral blusher and a sweep of a similar coloured lipgloss. I also curled my hair and back combed it for some extra volume but the rain had it's way and flattened it (you can always count on the British weather to ruin something!) 

I owe a massive thank you to Olivia for taking these photos. You should check out her website and also give her facebook page a like too. She also has a blog full of her university photography work so give that a peak too.

Also big thanks to Boohoo for getting me involved in this campaign, it has been an immense pleasure!

What do you think of the 70's Vibe trend? I definitely recommend checking out what Boohoo have to offer. They have some really cute pieces in at the moment that have made me fall in love with the 70s era. Speaking of which, off I go to binge watch That 70's Show on Netflix!

Rituals 24 Hour Hydrating Cream

I'm always on the hunt for a really good moisturiser. Since it's a product we all use everyday, I think it's important to get it right. I've tried my fair share of high streets brands and a couple of higher end brands but I haven't yet found my perfect product. I always try to mix up my moisturisers depending on the season. I use a more heavy-duty product in the winter when my skin needs an extra drink but for Summer and the transitional seasons, I'm still struggling to find the one.

That being said, I do love the Rituals 24 Hour Hydrating Gel Cream. I got this as a sample when I bought a scrub from Rituals in Amsterdam (which is AMAZING, by the way, keep an eye open for that review) so it was only enough for about four uses. It just about saw me through the weekend but I have to say, it was a pleasure to use.

The gel/cream is a light blue colour and you can tell straight away that the texture is different from an ordinary moisturiser - it's more gel than cream. It soaks in fairly quickly but it leaves the skin feeling smooth and hydrated. My main issue with moisturisers is that they don't always sit well on my skin, so when I go to put a primer on and then my foundation, it ends up looking patchy and uneven. But this didn't do that at all. It sat really well under my primer so my foundation application was a breeze.

The full size 50ml jar costs £26.50 which I think is a bit steep to have as an everyday moisturiser. However I would definitely consider repurchasing this as a birthday treat (to myself, obviously. Does anyone else do that?) I'm beginning to really love Rituals as a brand, they have some lovely products and the quality is good too. They give you what you expect for the price you pay.

What is your go-to moisturiser? Do you have any recommendations for me?

A Pink Lip for Everyone

If you regularly read my blog you might remember I wrote a post on my favourite red lip colours not so long ago. Each applied differently and each had a different finish so there was a little something for everyone! Since you all seemed to like it so much, I though I'd do a second edition including my favourite pink lip picks. 

I'll warn you now, this post heavily features Revlon. I didn't even realise I had such a love affair with the brand until I started to write this post. Apparently they're my go-to for a pink lip and you know what, I'm okay with that. The first is the Revlon Colour Stay Moisture Stain 010 LA Exclusive. this is probably the most gloss-like of the lot, I wouldn't argue it was anything like a stain. The colour is sheer and the finish is a bit sticky but it's lovely for a wash of colour. The Revlon Colourburst Lip Butter in 080 Strawberry Shortcake is probably the best for day-to-day wear, alongside the Carmex Moisture Plus balm (featured in the glass jar above). Both are super easy to just pop off the cap, swipe along the lips and throw back in your handbag. Or place neatly, whichever you prefer. The Carmex is a bit of a deeper pink but both have a moisturising, buttery finish. If you're looking for something with subtle-ish colours and a product that won't dry out your lips, go for either of those ones.

I went through a stage of loving lip crayons. I bought my first from the Revlon Colourburst Balm Stain range in the colour 001 Honey. I love this product because it lasts ages. I went to a wedding last year and this was my lip product of choice. I applied it at about 2pm and by the morning after (I know, I didn't take my makeup off... Gross. Feel free to judge) it was still there. It does have a tendency to dry out my lips a little bit but it's nothing a bit of prep and extra balm (usually vaseline) can't handle. As I loved this colour so much, I went and bought a lip crayon from the Revlon Colourburst Lacquer Balm range in the colour 105 Demure. This is more of peachy shade, especially in comparison to the others and it has a slight shimmer to it so I think it wears best over the top of another colour. It does have a balmy finish though so perfect for if you need something a little less drying. 

The Too Faced Melted Peony lipstick is my favourite of the bunch. It dries matte, unlike the others, and the colour is the most pigmented of them all. The soft sponge applicator makes it really easy to apply on the go and the colour is beautiful. Read my full review of it here. I'm dying to buy more from this range but until then I'll be wearing this to its death. 

What are you perfect pink lip shades? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

The Body Shop Japanese Camellia Cream

I have a terrible habit of going into The Body Shop when I have absolutely no money and just testing everything. I usually find a product I love and can't get out of my mind so I always, without fail, end up going back at some point to buy it. I did it with the Drops of Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask and I did it again with the Japanese Camellia Cream. Part of the larger Spa of the World range, the Camellia Cream claims to be 'a rich body cream with a light, velvety texture.' (TBS) It is designed to moisturise as well as relax and I can just imagine that this product is going to be  a staple on a home pamper evening.

Inspired by the Japanese Camellia flower, the scent is subtle and soft and very feminine. I'd even go so far as to say classy. The Camellia scent isn't at all floral like you would expect, which is good for me because I'm not the biggest lover of floral scents. It just smells so good. The great thing about it is that the scent lingers for ages after you've used it. I tested a little bit on my arm one morning and hours later I was still catching the scent whenever there was a light breeze (sounds pretty dreamy) and shoving my arm under Callum's nose saying 'doesn't it just smell amazing?' (not so dreamy.)

The next best thing about The Body Shop's latest addition to the moisturising family is the texture of it. It's really light and fluffy. Think a Mr Whippy, only a non-edible version that you smear all over your body. I fear it has been released at the wrong time of year because it feels too light to be a winter moisturiser. Hopefully it will do the job for the transition between seasons and I'm really looking forward to properly digging into it now that my blog photos have been taken. See that self-control?

The only thing I'm not happy with is the packaging. It looks good, don't get me wrong. I love how different it is from everything else that The Body Shop sell but it's so impractical for travelling. I still have a weekend trip to Barcelona to come this year and I was hoping to take this with me. However the hefty 350ml tub is mega heavy and bulky. I will probably resort to transferring some to a smaller tub because I just can't bear the idea of leaving it behind.

Of course it does the job of moisturising pretty well too.

It does cost £23 but definitely worth it as a gift or a treat! Have you tried any of The Body Shop's Spa of the World range?

Amsterdam Mini Break

I've been fortunate enough to have done a fair bit of travelling already this year (I'm counting my lucky stars!) I went to New York in February and the New Forest in July, both of which you can read about by clicking the links. Callum's new job took him to the Netherlands in August for a month and we quickly agreed that I'd go see him one weekend, talk about gate crashing a business trip. Amsterdam is a place we'd both been wanting to go for a while so there was no discussion, I booked my flights asap and almost immediately started fretting about the journey. It was going to be the first flight I'd taken on my own and I'm not a good flyer at the best of times, generally I have Callum's or a friend's hand to squeeze during take off and landing but I wasn't so sure the strangers sat next to me would appreciate the unnecessary physical contact from the girl with nervous clammy hands. 

Thankfully the flight there was pleasant and short and Callum was waiting on the other side with a bag of goodies - white chocolate covered oreos, um yes please. We went to the hotel to drop off my bags and made our way into the centre of Amsterdam to grab some food. We ended up doing a lot of walking and exploring and spent a good few hours at Hard Rock cafe filling each other in on our weeks. We were both exhausted as it approached midnight and we made our way back to the hotel.

From the stories Callum had told me from the time he'd already been there, it was going to be a rainy and chilly weekend. It actually turned out to be beautiful weather. Warm and sunny but not too uncomfortable so we could still enjoy walking around. And that we did. The first photograph above was taken in Vondelpark and we spent the afternoon sat watching a theatrical orchestra play music and perform little skits in the bandstand. We had planned to visit the Anne Frank House in the morning but the queue was huge so we decided to wait until the evening. After we'd eaten we gave it another go. No luck. By 8pm the queue was still winding around the streets so we decided to just continue walking and exploring. We did lots of nipping in and out of shops and lots and lots of walking. Did I say that already? We had a little wander around the Red Light District which was an experience in itself. It was daylight when we went so obviously it didn't have quite the same affect as it would've if we'd have gone in the evening but it was interesting nonetheless and I do think if you're going to go to Amsterdam then you might as well have a walk around. Just prepare yourself!

Sunday was a very similar affair. We hit the Anne Frank house in the morning but it was still massively busy and we decided that since we only had a few hours left that we'd skip it altogether and enjoy the nice weather. We found a lovely little secluded side street to sit by the canal and just enjoy each other's company in the beautiful setting. It was busy everywhere in Amsterdam that weekend so as soon as we spied a quieter corner of the city, we took advantage. More shopping was done before heading to the airport to fly home. Nobody warns you how bad airport goodbyes are. There should be a public warning in airports about crying women and children.

I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked, I was too busy just enjoying the little bit of time I had with Callum. I did have a lovely weekend though and we've already decided we'll go back one day and do all the things we couldn't do last weekend. Have any of you been to Amsterdam? What did you get up to?

My Top Highlighting & Illuminating Products

Not so long ago I wrote a post containing my favourite skin brightening products so I thought I'd follow up with some cosmetic partners that give a lovely glow. I have been higlighter obsessed lately, I really don't know what came over me but in the past few months I've accumulated quite a collection of highlighting products.

Let's start with my most recent purchase and most recent love - the Topshop Glow highighting pot. First of all I love this because it's a cream highlighter so it blends in really easily with foundation, perfect for those of you who like a dewy finish. I also love it because it's a neutral colour.

Let me explain further. The Makeup Revolution Baked Highlighter featured on my blog a few months ago. While I still love it and while it's still my most reached for highlighter (powders tend to be easier and quicker to apply - lazy!), it's a peach/pink toned product. Therefore I only really wear it alongside pink-toned blushers. I just think it ties a look together that way. The Topshop highlighter, however, can be paired with any blusher. A little dab along the tops of the cheekbones is just enough for a subtle highlight that looks lovely on it's own or paired with your favourite blusher. I like to wear it alongside my Hourglass blushers.

The B. Sweet Illuminating Serum is another product that featured on my blog this year. This is a good one for an all over glow (maybe for the new strobing fad that I've been reading about everywhere rather than just highlighting). If you wear it on it's own or under foundation, it gives a soft, healthy glow. I tend to still go in with the Makeup Rev highlighter on my cheekbones for a little added glow.

The Sleek Contouring and Blush Palette is probably my least reached for product. But I like it because it's really handy for travelling. I also already have the Rose Gold blusher that features in it so I use it less than my other highlighting products. All that being said though, it's ideal for a three step contour, highlight and blush in one go. Quick, simple and no fuss. The colour pay off of this highlighter isn't as good as the Makeup Rev product but it's a relatively neutral shade (well, more so than the Makeup Rev highlighter) so it has it's pros and cons.

I'm slightly sad that summer is ending and I'm having to fade out my highlighters in favour of a more autumnal makeup look. Well, we'll see. I might cave in every now and then. It's going to be a hard love affair to end!

What are your favourite highlighters?

Topshop Makeup: 'Stripped' Eyeshadow

It's been a while since I've dabbled in Topshop's makeup collection. I think I bought a lip crayon a few years ago and didn't love it so never went back to buy anything else. However lately I've had a bit of an obsession with highlighting products and I'd seen the Topshop Glow pot on a few blogs and I knew it was something wanted to try. So while I was in Topshop gifting myself with a new highlighter that we all know I didn't really need, I also bought a single eyeshadow cream and and an eyeshadow palette. I thought I'd love the highlighter more than the others but it turns out than the eyeshadow cream was the winner for me.

I bought it in the shade Stripped and it's a lovely pink colour. It's one of those shades that you can get way with wearing through the day because it's fairly neutral. I gave it a test drive when I was in Amsterdam at the weekend and I really liked it. I've been wearing it on it's own through the day and then spicing it up a little bit in an evening with a bit of a darker colour in the crease of my eye and a bit of black eyeliner too. Everyone loves a diverse product, don't we?

The only issue I had with it was the creasing. When I went without an eyeshadow primer, by the end of the day there wasn't much colour left on my lids. But I'll just point out that I had been wearing it 12 hours and it was a hot day in Amsterdam so I don't really blame it for melting off a little bit. That being said, it does obviously wear better with a good primer. I've been using one from Smashbox and just applying the eyeshadow with my finger over the top. One sweep over my lips is enough for a light wash of colour but I usually go in with another layer so the colour is a bit more intense.

As for the other products I bought - I haven't had a go with the eyeshadow palette yet and I'm in two minds about the highighter. I'll update you when I make up my mind about them both.

Have you tried any of the Topshop makeup? What are your favouite products? 

A Red Lip for Everyone

Everyone has a lipstick preference - everyone loves a different shade of red and everyone loves a different finish. Whether it be a bright red with a sheer finish or a deep red with a matte finish, there's a red lipstick to suit everyone. Today I'm sharing with you some of my favourites and hopefully there's something for everyone in this bunch!

First up - the brighter reds. The Revlon lip butter in 035 Candy Apple is a favourite for a moisturising, sheer cover. Perfect if you're just starting out with a red lip and don't want to go too bold. It wears really nicely but obviously doesn't last so long due to it's balmy consistency. It's much better for daytime wear too! If you want something equally as bright but with more intense colour and a longer wear time, try the Rimmel Provocalips in 500 Kiss Me You Fool. This is a two step /double-ended system - colour first and balm second (to lock in the colour and add shine). This is great because it lasts as long as matte colours but with added shine! Bonus! 

For a deeper red, try  Rimmel Apocalips in 402 Across the Universe. This lip lacquer really makes me wish I went more places that require a red lip (along with places that require giving my Kurt Geiger heels a night out). It's a beautiful colour and lasts forever. If you forget to take it off before bed, it will still be there in the morning. It just doesn't budge. It does dry quite matte after a while but the shine should last long enough (at least long enough for you to spy a bathroom and do a quick touch up!) Also along the deep red route is the Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet in 08 Grand Cru. It's a matte colour and a really deep red, almost burgundy. If you prepare your lips well, yeah you know the whole scrub and moisturise palaver, then it should wear well. One warning though: don't leave the cap off. Mine dried out pretty quickly whilst I was taking these photos, when I went to swatch it on my hand the product came out clumpy and uneven. Pretty disappointing!

The most average lipstick of the bunch is probably Eva's Pure Red from the L'oreal Color Riche collection. If you want an ordinary lipstick with good colour, then this is the one for you. It's wear time is average and it's neither moisturising nor drying. It's average. But it's a lovely colour! It's one of those staple products so if you're just starting to dabble in the reds, try this one.

What are you favourite red lipsticks? Do you prefer a bright red or a deep red? Matte or shine?

End note: I completely didn't realise how much I loved the Rimmel Apocalips range until I wrote this post. Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about this lip lacquer and now I just want to go out wearing it every day and also purchase ALL the colours in the range. Every single one. But I won't... Probably. Maybe. We'll see.

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller

I usually entitle these posts 'Books to Love' and I so badly wanted to love this book but I just didn't. I first heard about it over a year ago and it's been on my 'To Read' list for all that time. In true book hoarder fashion, I had so many other unread books on my shelf so I never bought it. Then one day as I was wandering around Waterstones, my favourite way to kill time, I spotted it straight away and because I had a gift card, I picked it up and headed straight over to the tills. I didn't even think twice.

What's it About? Jess is from a Christian family who are embarking on a cross-country road trip to witness the rapture. Over three days the family get themselves into all kinds of situations, as you can imagine when there are four people in a car driving that kind of distance. Jess is only 15 years old and her only sibling, Elise, 17 years old, is her only real companion. Their parents seem to be in their own little world. Together they deal with religion, family, boys, drugs, alcohol, all the issues you would expect teenagers to face.

It wasn't a bad book. It had it's funny moments and it definitely had it's relatable moments. But I think I assumed it was going to be more serious than it actually was. It didn't really resonate past a 'been there, done that' kind of feeling. I just didn't feel connected to any of the characters and I didn't feel that much really happened, certainly not enough to get invested in it in any kind of way. Neither of the parents were particularly likeable, both Jess and Elise seeemed to swap and change personalities at any given second. I like a character I can root for but I just felt disconnected the entire way through this book.

I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either.

It was an easy read, one of those read-in-a-day holiday books. And who knows, maybe I'm just past the age of reading those kind of teenage angst books now. Have you ever read The Last Days of California?

If you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments below. I'd love to know what your favourite reads are!

Where to Find Your Favourite Brands

When I was working in Superdrug, a lot of people would come in asking about makeup from brands that we didn't sell. Some brands sell exclusively through particularly stores which means that the stuff you want to get your hands on isn't sold everywhere. Don't worry though, I've compiled a list of the biggest brands and where to find them so your next shopping trip will be a little bit easier. We're talking strictly makeup in this post ladies and gents but if you'd like a skincare/bodycare/etc then I'll do one of those for you too! 

Boots | As well as the usual big brands - Maybelline, Rimmel, Collection, Maxfactor, L'oreal, Revlon, Bourjois, Barry M, Sleek - you'll find exclusive brands such as Soap & Glory, No7 and SEVENTEEN. You can also gets your hands on some of the higher end brands in Boots too such as Clinique, Benefit, Estee Lauder and Smashbox.

Superdrug | Here you'll find all the usual high street brands - Maybelline, Rimmel, Collection, Maxfactor, L'oreal, Revlon, Bourjois, Barry M, Miss Sporty, NYC and Sleek. Exclusive brands include Gosh, MUA, Beauty UK, Tanya Burr Cosmetics, Makeup Revolution, Models Own, 2true, Lottie London and of course B. 

Debenhams | This is one for the higher end brands. So you'll have Mac, Benefit, bareMinerals, Tom Ford, Estee Lauder, Urban Decay, Too Faced, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Make Up For Ever, Dior, Clinique, theBalm, Illamasqua and Thierry Mugler (basically all the brands I wish I could afford but can't. Sob.)

Space NK | This is another for the higher end brands and usually stuff that isn't sold elsewhere. So  have a browse through Space NK for brands such as Hourglass, Laura Mercier, Nars, Becca, By Terry and Beauty Blender.

I think that covers the most popular brands and where you can hunt them down! Also, if you're in doubt then all of the websites have a brand list and also a list of which brands are exclusive. If I've missed anything off then let me know and thank you always for leaving such lovely comments on my blog. You all make my heart happy.

Rimmel '45' Kate Moss Nude Lipstick

You may have noticed a lot of focus on nudes on my blog lately (strictly of the makeup variety, of course). I've always thought understated makeup was the best direction for me, especially for daytime wear. My makeup, nail varnish (example: here and here) and a lot of my clothes are all very neutral, nude tones. So when I saw Kate Moss's new nude lipstick range for Rimmel floating around twitter I knew I had to check them out.

It took a while. I went in and out of a couple of Boots and Superdrugs and while they had a couple of the shades left, they didn't have the one that I wanted. The one that I thought would be perfect for me - we're talking that muted mauve/dusty rose kind of colour again. When I did eventually find it and took it home to try, I loved it. So did my mum too, apparently, who saw it lying on my bed while we were on holiday and decided she'd give it a try. Sneaky! 

Rimmel have a reputation for good lipsticks. Everyone loves the autumnal 107 shade and it's a staple in many girls' makeup collections. They have good wear time, they apply nicely and there's a good range of shades too - even better now that there's a nude to suit everyone (so they claim). There are five shades in the nude range each adapted to suit cool/warm/neutral skin tones and cost £5.49.

For a high street lipstick I often recommend Rimmel for quality and price point. Even if nudes aren't your thing, stop by the Rimmel stand if you're looking for a new lipstick! 

Have you tried any of the Rimmel lipsticks? What is your favourite nude?

Baked: Swiss Roll

Callum and I saw this on Bake Off last year and immediately took to the kitchen to give it a go. Now that Bake Off is back (wahoo!) we decided to bake another classic Swiss Roll! The good thing is, it's really easy to make and looks pretty fancy. Here's the recipe if you want to try it out:

75g Self Raising Flour
75g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs
Double Cream
Jam (we went for strawberry but whatever takes your fancy!)
Icing sugar

What To Do
Preheat oven to 200C
Grease/line baking tray with greaseproof paper
Whisk eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy
Fold in flour
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 7-10 minutes
Whip up your double cream
Take the sponge out of the tray and spread jam and cream
Roll up your swiss roll
Sprinkle on some icing sugar and serve it up!

Have you ever tried making a Swiss Roll? We've only made it twice and each time Callum has been the one to do the fun bit i.e rolling it all up. Next time, it's my turn! What are your favourite things to bake?

Tip: if you roll your sponge up while it's still warm, it takes the curved shape without falling apart. Then you can unroll it, add your fillings and it will be easier to roll it all up at the end.

Original recipe: BBC Food

My Favourite Core Makeup Brushes

I don't do a lot of fancy artwork with my makeup so the extent of my makeup brush collection is tiny. For me, it basically comes down to getting the perfect base so my favourite and most used brushes are face brushes.

Real Techniques Duo-Fiber Face Brush | For a long time I used a really thick, heavy brush for applying powder. Then I learned that using such a heavy duty brush was displacing the foundation and concealer I'd so carefully applied underneath. This Powder brush from Real Techniques is perfect from loosely applying powder to stop shine or set foundation/concealer in place.

Avon Blusher Brush | First of all I love this brush because it's really soft. Second of all, it's shape is tailored to make blusher application incredibly easy. It's a bit cheaper that some of the other blusher brushes from other brands but it's quality is still top notch.

Real Techniques Cheek Brush | Again, another super soft brush. This one is a bit thicker and I often use it to either 1) blend in some blusher if I've been a bit over generous or 2) apply highlighter. It's a thick-headed brush so it holds a lot of product too which makes it perfect for applying a bit of colour whether it be blusher, highlighter or bronzer.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush | I used to apply my foundation with my hands and it was a sticky, messy way of going about it. I eventually bought a sponge but I just felt like it ate the product and I didn't get much of a finish. Then I went and bought the RT Expert Face Brush and it transformed my foundation game. I squeeze a bit of foundation onto the back on my hand, dab my brush in it and then apply by 'buffing' in small circles. It gives a lovely even finish.

For a flawless base, I don't think you can go wrong with these brushes. Avon's brushes are really good quality to say they're pretty cheap and you know you can't go wrong with Real Techniques!