Beauty & More Haul (Crown, Origins, Maybelline, Yankee, Cocoa Brown)

It's been a long time since I've done a haul but I'm really enjoying seeing them on blogs and YouTube at the moment. I like to see people's first impressions of new products or why they decided to repurchase something so hopefully this post will give you a few ideas for things to consider when you next feel a spree coming on!

The first group of items were purchased from Amazon with a gift card that was kindly provided by Zeek.

Cocoa Brown Regular and Dark Versions £7.99
No matter what brands I try I always go back to Cocoa Brown and the dark version is my favourite (but the regular shade is good for a light tan too). I tend to leave them for around three hours so I can get a good colour going on my pale skin and then wash off without shower gel whenever I can so the colour keeps developing. The tans dry quickly, don't streak and fade the most evenly from all the brands I've tried so if you haven't given them a go yet then you definitely should, plus the gradual tan is lovely too.

Yankee Candle Orange Splash £11.05
This is my first 'real' Yankee Candle, I've tried lots of scents before but they've all been in tart form. I love the fresh orange smell of this jar and it's a must try if you love fruity smells, but I feel a little let down as the jars have nowhere near the same scent throw as the tarts which can fill up the whole main floor of my house. I've also found that this candle tunnels no matter how long I burn it for, but I am really enjoying having a yummy orange smell in my bedroom.

Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom £3.99
Colouring was never my artistic forte but I've been enjoying settling down with this book and filling in the beautiful animal illustrations. The spaces are very small and intricate so you need to have a good eye and steady hand but that makes it perfect to concentrate the mind and forget about worries or distractions. I'm really regretting that I gave away my coloured pencils not long ago as fine liners just don't look quite right!

Crown Brush C405 Angle Contour Blush Brush £8.29
I've been seeing lots of people on YouTube recently using the Mac 168 brush to contour, apply bronzer and blusher too, but I knew I didn't really want to spend £27 on one brush. The Crown version is just what I wanted and is the perfect size and shape for all three cheek jobs. It also blends everything out really nicely and I wouldn't swap back for any of my previous bronzer or contour brushes.

C433 Pro Blending Fluff £6.09
I'd read that this brush was a slightly flatter dupe for the Mac 217 and it does do a lovely job of blending but I feel a bit disappointed because the hairs are quite stiff and scratchy. I've tried soaking it in conditioner for a few hours but it hasn't helped much. I do like it and will continue to use it but after all the good reviews I'd expected something a bit softer.

SS027 Syntho DLX Blending Crease £4.99
This is a really soft fluffy brush and if only it was a bit smaller, it would be perfect for the eyes. I've been using it for highlighter and it does a great precise job at applying and blending. I regret not buying a smaller version instead of the C433 but I'll definitely be getting more of the Syntho range if I put in another Crown order.

Origins Make a Difference Plus Rejuvinating Treatment £34.50
This has been my moisturiser of choice for the last year or so and I can definitely tell the difference in my skin when I run out and have to use something else. It's great for oily skin but still provides a good amount of moisture and never clogs my pores.
Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof £4.99
I've loved this mascara for years and particularly love the bristled brush. It is always my waterproof mascara of choice and the dense black colour is good for layering over another if the first doesn't quite have the impact I want.

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara £7.99
This is my second tube of the Lash Sensational and I find it gives a seperated, fluttery look that is great for during the day or can be layered up in the evening. It doesn't weigh my lashes down like a lot of mascaras can but my lashes do need a very good curl before application.
Maybelline Brow Satin £5.99
It was 3 for 2 at Boots so I decided to grab this eyebrow pencil and powder duo to give it a try. I bought the colour Dark Brown and I'm really enjoying the twist up pencil end so far which gives precise smudge proof colour. I'm undecided about the powder end at the moment as I usually use brow powder with a damp angled brush to get a defined shape, but with a few more uses it might grow on me!

Have you tried any of the products above?

Taupe & Pearl: UK Affordable...


Soap & Glory One Heck Of A Blot

Described as a super-translucent mattifying powder for all skin tones, One Heck Of A Blot promises to degrease shiny skin with 'world-class shine control and oil absorption'. The powder is fine with a milky colour in the pan and translucent finish that reduces shine without adding coverage to the skin.

I'd read many reviews that said the blotting powder was almost undetectable over foundation, but I've found that it depends on how much you need to apply- for oily skin like mine I find quite a lot needs to be applied when setting makeup to keep it in place so at first it can look a little powdery. However, after the application of a setting spray (or an hours or so later when oil starts to creep through) the powderiness disappears. One Heck Of A Blot really helps to keep my makeup in place and can be re-applied if needed throughout the day without making foundation look cakey or heavy. 

I'm onto my second compact of One Heck Of A Blot and, as well as the application, I really like the compact's typical Soap & Glory vintage style image on the lid which is both whimsical and hard-wearing! The embossed 'powder' design on the actual product is a nice touch (even if it doesn't last very long!) and a very good sized mirror helps with touch-ups. 

I apply the blotting powder with a small brush like the Real Techniques Setting Brush under my eyes and around my nose, but I've found applying to the rest of my face with dense brush like the Eco Tools Retractable Kabuki Brush patted onto my skin actually helps make the product look less powdery than a fluffy brush. Once you've used this powder for setting, your makeup really is set in place so you need to be sure that your base is perfect and doesn't need any liquid or cream products added!

I would really recommend this powder for both setting makeup and controlling oil throughout the day. If you have normal or combination skin then I'd imagine a light dusting would be all you need to keep any oil at bay. Soap & Glory One Heck Of A Blot is available for £12 from Boots.

Taupe & Pearl: UK Affordable...


10 Of My Favourite Accessory DIYs

Every now and then it can be great to sit down and try your hand at something new, whether that's creating something out of base materials or taking an item you already own and adding a bit of personality to the piece. Accessories are a brilliant place to start if you're new to fashion DIYs (or just fancy a quick project) and I've put together 10 favourites to get your creative juices flowing!

Perfect for both summer and winter, flats are an all year round staple. But have you ever seen a pair as pretty as these? Click the link above for an easy and almost mess free DIY!

Hanging Chains Headband
Sometimes long hair needs a little jazzing up and this chain headband is brilliant for adding texture and interest to your locks.

Glitter Sole Shoes

Forget red soles, we want glitter soles! These are sure to turn heads (and use up that glitter hanging around at the back of your cupboard).

DIY Silver Leaf Temporary Tattoos

Metallic temporary tattoos are so popular right now, try this cool DIY before the weather cools down so much that we have to start covering up!

DIY Appliqué Headpiece

Make a classy statement with this easy headpiece project.

Got a plain clutch that needs jazzing up? Look no further than stick on glitter sheets!

With a little nod to Jason Pollock and a lot of splattery fun, you can have a unique designer-looking dress for a fraction of the price.

Winter in the UK is always a wet affair, but how cute would a fruity umbrella look on a grey day? These are easier to make than you think!

Give an old jumper a quick and fuss free makeover with this DIY.

Got a jumper that's too small? Transform it into an autumn cardigan with this brilliant tutorial.


Buy & Sell Discounted Vouchers With Zeek

I think it happens to many of us when we get given money for birthdays, special occasions or even a bonus at work that we say we'll hang onto it and save it for something special that we really want, but we actually end up spending it on transport, bills or even the boring weekly shop.

Having a brand- or shop-specific voucher can really help when it comes to making sure that we don't spend all our money on necessary but boring things and that we keep a little left over for ourselves. For that reason I think vouchers make better gifts than money in a lot of cases, and my sister has started asking only for vouchers at Christmas and her birthday because she knows she'll spend actual pounds on the boring stuff!

I was recently contacted by Zeek and asked if I'd like to try out their app which enables people to sell their unwanted vouchers so they can earn a bit of money and someone can buy a voucher with a bit of a discount.
Zeek is free for both iOS and Android and has a super simple interface- forget eBay or any other marketplace app you use, it would be easy even for a complete technophobe to understand how to use it. There's a large range of discounted vouchers on offer from Ticketmaster to Amazon and lots for fashion lovers like River Island, New Look and Urban Outfitters, as well as for beauty lovers like John Lewis and Boots. 

Zeek generously offered me a £50 discount code so I could properly try the app out and I went for an Amazon voucher as I thought it would offer quite a lot in the way of options when it came to spending the voucher. My voucher had a discount of 6%, but I have seen discounts of up to 27% which means you could end up with a real bargain!
All the vouchers have been verified as real by Zeek and you can pay by credit/debit card or PayPal once you've chosen one you'd like to purchase. The Amazon voucher I chose was an electronic voucher, so after checkout (which look literally less than a couple of minutes) the details appeared in my account almost immediately and I could start shopping right then!

I haven't had experience of using Zeek to sell a voucher but if it's anything as easy as buying then I'll definitely be putting a few unwanted gifts up for sale soon. Zeek charges £3 to the seller regardless of the voucher amount and buyers don't have pay to processing fees, even for postage.

If you'd like to check Zeek out you can download the app for iOS here and for Android here, plus if you use the code 2WFFFH Zeek will kindly add £5 to your account to spend on your first voucher purchase! I'll also receive £5 to my account too (think of that as a little gift from you to my sister!).

How do you feel about shop-specific vouchers, are you happy to receive them or would you rather just have the cash?


Foundation Always Too Pink? Make Up For Ever Yellow Chromatic Mix Review

When I first started buying foundation everything seemed too dark and orange, but as the years have gone on it now seems that all the shades that are light enough for my skintone always pull too ashy and pink on me. No matter what the shade name- sand beige, buff, naked, ivory or vanilla, when dry these foundations just don't look quite right against my neck but the darker more yellow colours are just too dark.

My skin is naturally yellow toned but self tans (which I wouldn't be without) seem to make my undertone a lot stronger. Don't get me wrong, I don't walk about with the body of a Simpson, so it's annoying that brands think that when you're pale (even with self tan) your skin must be pink or beige coloured.
Make Up Forever Chromatic Mix in Yellow is a liquid pigment that aims to change the tone of makeup, allowing you to mix up your perfect shade with perfect undertone. The Yellow colour isn't a bright banana or Simpson colour but more a mustard yellow with a very slight green tinge that matches self tan well.
The pigment is in a small dropper bottle and is very liquid so I need just under one drop to mix in with my foundation for a full face. I find it makes my foundation a little looser and easier to blend, but it also dries a little bit quicker and smells a little strange once the product is mixed in. I've found it really helpful to counteract the ashy tones that beige and pink foundations can bring to my skin without darkening the foundation too much, and the colour blends easily into my neck to create a more seamless finish. The small bottle contains 13ml and although this doesn't sound like a lot, you need such a small amount that it will last for months.

I bought the water based pigment as my current favourite foundation Revlon Colorstay for Normal Skin is water based, but MUFE also do an oil based version for oil and silicone based foundations. I will probably purchase that too as the majority of foundations are oil based, especially from more affordable high street brands which seem to pull the pinkest on me in the lighter shades.

In addition to yellow, the Chromatic Mix liquids are also available in white, brown, black, red and blue which perform different functions from making make up lighter (white), darker (black) to removing luminosity (brown). I've heard the red and blue colours are very good for mixing the perfect foundation shade for dark skin tones, and I think a tiny drop of the black or brown colours would be helpful for anyone who tans well in the summer but hates having to buy a whole new set of foundations.

Make Up For Ever Chromatic Mix liquid pigments are available in the UK for £12.95 here.


#WrapMe Photo Wrapping Paper

I came home a little while ago to find an unexpected parcel waiting for me and I never would have guessed what was inside! After tearing through the outer wrapping I saw my cats' faces staring back at me straight from the wrapping paper of a little gift!

The gift inside was absolutely perfect for me. If you know me in person (or follow me on Twitter) you'll have already got the sense that I'm a bit of a crazy cat lady, so I'm not going to pretend that I won't be flicking through Homemade Treats For Your Furry Friends any time I get the urge to cook and whip up a treat for my fur babies.

The real treat though was the photo wrapping paper. I'd seen personalised wrapping paper, phone cases etc before and to be honest thought they were a bit gimmicky but when I saw the pictures of my kitty cats on this paper from Wrap.Me I was genuinely excited and thrilled that someone had gone to the trouble of choosing the photos. For that reason I think it's a brilliant way to dress up a gift, especially if you'll be sending it through the post (although I'd love to see a friend's face as they pulled the present from a gift bag!).

The paper is matte which gives it an expensive look and it has the Wrap.Me logo on the back which actually looks very useful to use as a guide for cutting straight lines. On the Wrap.Me website you can upload up to 30 photos to use on your paper, either from Instagram, Facebook or your desktop, and you can also choose different border styles. The paper costs from £4.99 for a single sheet up to £14.99 for a large roll and Wrap.Me offer free delivery in the UK.

If a friend has a birthday coming up I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Wrap.Me website and maybe making your own wrapping paper creation for their gift. I'll definitely be hanging onto the paper that I received as it reminds me of the cute times I've shared with my cats (however soppy that sounds!). So some fun or meaningful photos of memories you've shared with a friend would go a long way to making their gift even more special.

What do you think of the idea of personalised photo wrapping paper?


February Birchbox- The New Slimbox!

There's more than one reason that I love this month's Birchbox*; not only does it contain some genuinely squeal-inducing products, but it is super slim and tiny so fits through letterboxes with ease! 
My postman loves to throw things over the 7ft gate at the side of my house when no one's in, and it upsets me inside to come home to dented and lonely looking packages wrapped in soggy carrier bags abandoned next to an old dustbin. But with the new Slimboxes that measure just 3.5cm high, February's box dropped onto my doormat and was met with delight when I opened my front door. The new smaller boxes contain the same value of products as the larger ones and if you're a new Birchbox subscriber you can choose your style of box when you sign up, or if you're an existing subscriber you can opt-in to switch your box type this February.

In honesty, and as is sometimes the way with subscription boxes, January's box wasn't really my thing. However the February box is full of products that I was so excited to try and features brands such as theBalm, Liz Earle and Caudalie. Read on to find out what my box contained.

Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner in Black (£11)
Cynthia Rowley is a brand I've been hearing quite a lot of recently and I was really pleased to see a black eyeliner in this box as I tend to get stuck with strange shades in beauty boxes when it comes to colour cosmetics. This pencil looks lovely with its shiny gold dots and the eyeliner glides smoothly across the skin with ease. You get a little bit of smudging time before it sets but when it has set it lasts really well.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum (Full Size £45)
I received a tube of this serum in last months box and have been using it on and off since then. The oil free serum promises to reduce the appearance of dark marks and scars plus boost radiance. I haven't seen a huge difference to my skin yet but I stopped using this product through a breakout so hopefully when I get back to testing it again it will help reduce any marks that are left.

T London Darjeeling Hand & Body Lotion (Full Size £6.50)
My hands have suddenly become desert-like in the past couple of weeks and I've been slathering this cream on since I opened the box. It contains aloe and jojoba oils but feels very plumping and non greasy which is exactly what I want from a hand cream. The lotion is supposed to have the scent of darjeeling tea, but I think it smells very zesty which I love and I wouldn't at all begrudge paying £6.50 for a bottle double the size of this sample.

Liz Earle Botanical Shine Shampoo (Full Size £10)
I haven't tried this yet but I am dying to as it smells so fresh and lovely. This shampoo contains shea butter and vitamin E that aims to boost shine in hair of all types so I can't wait to get in the shower and lather it up.

theBalm Cosmetics Cindy-Lou Manizer (Full Size £15)
Is this not the dinkiest little powder sample you've ever seen? The cardboard packaging is like a full product in itself with full on illustrations and magnetic closure, but I've got eyeshadows bigger than this tiny little highlighter! I'm not really complaining, I think the sample packaging is wonderful!
Onto the actual product- I love the Mary-Lou Manizer and thought this would be similar but with a sheen in a different shade, however Cindy-Lou is much more pigmented and is more of a subtle blush than a highlighter. Applying high on the cheekbones makes this powder look a little misplaced but swept back from the apples of the cheeks it looks glowing and natural (plus I it makes a lovely eyeshadow).

The Chia Co Oats + Chia Porridge (Pack of 5 £4.95)
It's quite rare that I get sent food that I can actually eat, but this lovely mixture of oats, fruits, chia and coconut oil went straight in my breakfast bowl and it made a sweet and fruity treat for the morning. I've always considered porridge to be quite bland but this has a lot of flavour and a richness that fills you up. Now that I've learnt about the wonders of The Chia Co I'm wishing they did a bigger pack size than 5 because I would be eating this all the time!

What are you looking forward to trying from February's Birchbox?


Decluttering & Letting Go

While I'm not the type of person to sit and make a list of New Year resolutions, I think January and the start of a new year can create a great excuse to make some changes, whether big or small and physical or mental. Over the last few weeks I have been trying to downsize the amount of things I own, rearrange my bedroom a little bit, and generally declutter my storage areas in the hope that I will not only have a clearer room but also a clearer mind.

I've had the chance to put up the lights and pictures I've been meaning to put up for ages, but one of the biggest changes I've made decor-wise is to move my bed off the side of the wall and into the middle of the room. Even though I have a perfectly good desk and chair, more often than not I find myself using my bed as a desk, and being stuck in a corner felt just as much a reflection on my mental state as it was a description of the bed. It has meant I've lost a bit of floor space, but I have to say a shift of just 40cm has really changed my perspective of the room and opened it out, making my white metal bedframe actually seem like a purposeful design feature with clear open space to each side.

Of course, this change has meant I've had to sort through and consolidate everything lurking under my bed, as well as in my door-less wardrobe (no room for a waist high clothes pile at the bottom of the bed anymore!), and a sudden need for clear surfaces has meant drawers, cupboards and shelves have had to be attacked too. There's a lot to be said for decluttering small areas as well as making larger space changes, in fact it can be a bit like decluttering your mind- letting go of all the extra 'stuff' makes room for the things you really need.
One of the things I've really struggled with is the idea that I might use/wear/need something in the future, despite not having even looked at the thing for months. Ruthlessness needs to be your best friend when decluttering, letting go of the things that you keep hold of just in case is a really liberating feeling and asking yourself "would I actually notice if this disappeared?" is a good way to distinguish between 'want' and 'need'.

The big sort-out isn't just for aesthetics and peace of mind (tidy room, tidy mind- or so they say) but also because I'm planning to move this year. Although I don't have concrete dates yet, having a reduced amount of stuff to take will definitely make my life easier now and in the future.
Even if you're not planning to move house, a good spring clean at the start of the year can do the world of good physically and mentally, and the infographic* below gives some good decluttering tips. I really like the idea of separate 'sell' and 'donate' piles in particular as I tend to do either one or the other, but creating two piles would make sure things go to the appropriate place (especially for items like bras and cosmetics which are actually very gratefully received by the right charities as donations).

Whether moving or staying put, a sort-out might be just what you need at this time of year- never underestimate the power of a good declutter!

Curlers for Long & Shorter Hair- Babyliss Curl Secret and Nicky Clarke Diamond Shine Wand

I've learned the hard way that not all curlers suit all lengths of hair; some will easily create a smooth flowing spiral on long hair, while others will (quite literally) chew it up and spit it out!
Because electricals tend to be on the pricier side of beauty products, I want to make sure that the tools I'm using are right for my hair, especially when it can bounce between lengths and textures. The two curlers I've chosen for todays post are the Babyliss Curl Secret for shorter hair and the Nicky Clarke Diamond Shine Pro Salon Styling Wand for long hair.

Babyliss Curl Secret (£119.99)
We'd all seen the videos of women effortlessly creating perfect curls with the Babyliss Curl Secret, so I was super excited when I received this glittery purple gadget as a present a year or so ago and I thought I'd be using it pretty much every day. The problem is that the tool isn't meant to be used on hair that goes down past the bust and (disregarding the fact that everyone has a different length torso and boob height so the thought of a 'universal bust' is impossible, and weird) my hair did. 

I really wouldn't recommend the Curl Secret for long hair- this tool works by automatically rolling a section of hair round a barrel in the 'ceramic curl chamber' when its clamped against the hair, and I suppose the barrel is just too small to cope.
I found the tool was constantly beeping at me to let me know the hair hadn't been wrapped properly and I needed to re-clamp, or it was getting stuck in my hair and pulling it out when I went to release the curl. A couple of times it got so stuck that I had to unplug it out of fear of burning my hair off as I tugged hard to release my locks from the thing. The sections of long hair needed to ensure the curler works properly are so small that it makes it more time consuming and prohibitive than using a normal curling tong or straightener (especially as it's quite heavy to hold in the air for a long time), which in my eyes defeats the point.

However, after I had an extra big trim not too long ago, the Curl Secret worked much more as it should and does prove to be a useful tool that makes life much easier. I need to have a mirror handy to make sure the hair sections are tangle free and inserted correctly, but with the heat on high and the time option set to the middle of three, I get bouncy and long lasting alternating curls that can be separated with my fingers or brushed out to a lovely wave. 
I love curly hair but the constant wrapping and waiting can be difficult to master with some wands, so a curler that produces consistent results with less effort is exactly what I needed, even if I can't use it when my hair is at its longest. 
Its a bit of an investment, even though you do get a free heat mat and dust cover, but if you have short to mid length hair then the Babyliss Curl Secret is a tool you'll definitely reach for in order to make curling an easier task. 

Nicky Clarke Diamond Shine Pro Salon Styling Wand* (£34.99)
I'm always up for trying out new hair tools but it was the inclusion of real diamonds in this wand that intrigued me the most. The Diamond Shine Pro Salon wand has a diamond infused ceramic coated barrel that uses tourmaline technology to help transfer heat evenly, avoid damage and moisture loss, and leave a smooth shiny look to the hair.

While this wand would also work well on short hair, the 25mm barrel is exactly the right size for my hair now that it has grown out. Smaller sections produce tighter curls but the barrel can quickly heat through larger thicker sections of hair and its easy to get the hair flat against the barrel and avoid twists that produce an uneven curl.
The Diamond Shine wand reaches a maximum of 210⁰c and I use the middle of the five heat settings at around 170⁰c. With my hair held for 15 seconds against the barrel and a few seconds resting in a gloved hand, I get a really nice curl that doesn't drop too much. I'm not convinced that there's all that much diamond in this curler, but it's doing something right as it produces curls which are much more even and uniform than some I've tried. I get trouble with visible split ends and increased dryness with some tools, but thankfully with the Diamond Shine the ends of my newly bleached hair look smooth rather than frazzled.

For longer hair, the Nicky Clarke Diamond Shine Styling Wand is a hit- the high heat transfer of the barrel but lack of damage makes it a really useful tool and, if like me you're not a pro with hair styling, it will definitely speed up your curling routine! 

Which tools do you find work best for your hair length?

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