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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?

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.

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 me 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?

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?

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!

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?

You don't have to spend a ton of money to look great or be comfortable. Nothing is more important to a successful day than having happy feet. In a demanding world where from the moment we wake up to the time we lie down to sleep, we're constantly on our feet. While perhaps the most important aspect of comfortable feet is the shoe and to find the perfect one, those shoes won't soak into your skin morning, day, and night and bring a smile to your face!

There are as many foot creams available as there are flavours of tea. Consumers looking for dry or uncomfortable foot relief can pay as much as £100-200 for what appears to be a simple foot cream. If used enough, one could zip through a container a month. But is it necessary to spend such money for real comfort and relief? According to reviews and professionals, it is absolutely not needed.

Soap & Glory makes a foot cream called Heel Genius Amazing Foot Cream that runs less than £20 in most outlets. Even more budget friendly is a foot cream by Eucerin that will put a consumer back around £10, and is reviewed as one of the best creams for fast absorption (meaning little slipping and sliding after application) with excellent results. Elemis Spa offers a foot cream known for a pleasing lemon oil and eucalyptus scent for about £33, enriched with Shea butter and jojoba oil. Another option in this middle cost area for the budget minded, and those who often prefer natural exfoliating products, is H2O Spa's foot and hand collection for about £45.

There are many foot cream reviews that revealed rubbing the cream over the feet at night rejuvenates the skin and heels so that by morning, they are soft and feel light. These particular foot creams are used by men and women alike, which for couples makes an even more pleasurable way to end the night. Some skincare practitioners suggest it isn't necessary to use foot creams if you own hand creams. But the logic doesn't hold up as foot creams and hand creams tend to have different consistencies. Many quality hand creams aren't formulated for use on tougher, and often less absorbent, skin surfaces like the foot.

For any budget there are quality foot creams available and easily available by online ordering or visiting your local spa or salon. No reason to walk day after day with cracked and achy feet regardless of your budget!

This is a guest post

When I was asked recently if I wanted to try out a shampoo from Faith in Nature I jumped at the chance- I'm very cautious of highstreet shampoos because of allergies, but I can't tell you how bored I'd become of baby shampoo! It does the job, smells nice and is easily available, but after about a year of use it has become seriously dull!

I chose the Pomegranate & Rooibos Shampoo (£5.50 for 400ml), and Faith in Nature were also kind enough to send me the matching conditioner. These products are vegan and cruelty free, don't contain artificial colours, fragrances, parabens or SLES, and in each of the list of ingredients there are only two (Sodium benzoate and Potassium sorbate) that aren't either vegetable derived, organic or from essential oils.

I find the scents quite unusual- quite herbal and earthy but they seem to change each time I open the bottle. Sometimes I can smell orange peel, sometimes cut grass and even a few times I've smelled Christmas trees as I massaged the shampoo into my hair. I can't remember the last time I actually ate a pomegranate, but that's definitely in there too! 
I like the smell a lot but if I'd sniffed them in a shop I might have gone for something just a little more sweet and fruity, even though it doesn't really last on the hair.

The shampoo lathers up well which I really like in a hair product, and it makes my hair feel super clean and light after use. I chose one of the range that was 'for all hair types', but other Faith in Nature shampoo scents like Rosemary are designed for normal to dry hair. 
Over the past few months I've cut down hair washing from 7 days a week to 4 or 5 days a week (a big deal for me and it took a while!) but the cleaning and de-greasing power of the Pomegranate and Rooibos means that 2 day hair is easy and even 3 day hair is possible for my oily noggin. It also detangles really well which makes life easier as my hair is so prone to knotting.

The Pomegranate & Rooibos Conditioner (£5.50 for 400ml) is light in texture and coats the ends of my hair easily. It also helps to detangle not just while in use but also afterwards so I can get a brush through my hair even after it's been dried. I've been using this a few times a week for about 3 weeks and although it hasn't made a difference in the way my hair feels, it does look shiny all down the lengths and ends. 

Faith in Nature also make a wide range of other scents of shampoo and conditioner such as Chocolate, Hemp & Meadowfoam, Pineapple & Lime and Seaweed & Citrus, which all sound delicious, as well as skin care, baby products and soaps. 
You don't have to be into natural or organic products to give this shampoo and conditioner a go, but the Pomegranate & Rooibos would be great choice if you have oily and easily tangled hair like mine.

TheBalm Mary-Lou Manizer
I've wanted to try the TheBalm Mary-Lou Manizer since seeing Shannon Harris rave about it quite a while ago. The packaging is really fun and has a 50s style illustration on the outer box and compact showing poor Mary-Lou's mugshot after being arrested for being too pretty and too popular, which definitely makes it stand out among other products. 

Inside, the silver compact is a large mirror and 8.5g of silky slightly textured highlighter. The shade is a very peachy golden colour and, although much less yellow than other golden highlighters, it makes the rest of my highlighter collection look frosty silver or very pink. 
The powder is very fine and blends out into a lighter but very flattering colour that sits really well on my skintone. Only a small amount of the fine shimmer is needed on the face as too much can look a little too glossy, so with my heavy-handedness I use a stippling brush (my favourite for highlighters is from MUA) to create a perfectly blended sheen. You can see the powder in action in the photos above of me and my sister!

As the Mary-Lou Manizer can also be used as an eyeshadow, it can be packed onto the lid to create quite a strong colour that is definitely 'there', and I've been loving it patted onto the centre of the lid over other colours to create some lightness and dimension. It also makes a really gorgeous inner corner highlight that puts most of my other eyeshadows to shame!

TheBalm Mary Lou-Manizer can be purchased from the Birchbox website for £15.

September 'Happy Days' Birchbox
I like the brown Birchbox boxes but this lively green and pink affair would be really nice to use as storage or to make into something (I've seen ideas floating around Pinterest). The theme of this box is Happy Days and the card insert describes 5 'happy day hacks' which I think is sweet. The box also came with a Birchbox Happy Days Photo Clip (£10 for a set of 5) in a bright green colour which is currently sitting out of reach of my cats who like to play with (read: destroy) little pretty things when they get their paws/teeth on them!

Urban Fruit Magnificent Mango 100g (£13.20 for a pack of 6)
I was really hungry when I found this box behind my plant pot (thanks postman) so I ripped into this packet straight away. Then threw the empty packet in the bin because I forgot I'm a blogger and immaculate photos must be taken! While the packet is sitting in a landfill site I'm reminiscing about those big dried chunks of mango. I love dried fruit and they were soo good, especially as I'm not really allowed mango on the low FODMAP diet (boo!). 

Benefit It's Potent! Eye Cream Mini (full size £25.50)
I've tried this eye cream in the past and liked it but it started to break me out around my eyes. I already have a couple of milia that look annoyingly like sleepy dust under concealer so I think I might pass on trying this one again. However this is generous sample for eye cream and the little pot is so cute!

Premae Mild Dermabrasion Face & Body Scrub Mini (full size £25)
This dermabrasion scrub is meant to be used for the face and body, but I think I'd stick to the body with this one. This is natural, vegan and allergy-friendly so doesn't have much scent about it which I actually quite like for shower products. It doesn't feel overly grainy but which is probably why it's called a mild scrub but it's good for removing those final bits of patchy fake tan.

Agave Healing Oil Treatment Mini (£16 for 60ml) 
There are two things I know about agave- you make tequila from it, and bats use the crops to navigate in the night. Hair oil however has nothing to do with tequila or bats and instead it aims to smooth and restore hair through hydrating agave plant sugars. The oil is apparently based on a centuries old mixtec indian recipe! I thought this would smell a quiteearthy but actually it's quite fragrant and smells a bit like melon sweets, it's also not a pure oil like I was expecting but contains silicones along with fragrance and other ingredients. So far this has made my locks feel nice and smooth, plus made my hair dry quicker than normal as silicone based products tend to do. 

ModelCo PowerLash Black Mascara Mini (full size £24)
I'm a big mascara lover but this brush really scares me! It's very loaded up with product and I'm not sure how it will look on my lashes as they're easily weighed down. I haven't had the courage to try this yet but I will do soon. I'm a fan of bristle brushes but I like dry formulas so I think this mascara would be good for shorter lashes.

Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip Plumper in Rio Mini (full size £22)
When I opened the tube the first thing I thought was chocolate- this really is quite a melted chocolate colour with just a hint of red. On its own, the shade washes me out a bit and makes me look like nothing but dark lips, eyeliner and eyebrows. But with a lighter colour layered on top, it's transformed into a more wearable shade- think Rimmel 101, Mac Snob or even Sleek Minx Pout Polish to knock the brown down a little.
I've worn this a couple of times and the formula is smooth, creamy and has a satin finish. I didn't see any noticeable size difference in my lips but it does have that mild minty feeling similar to old school plumping glosses.

Birchbox have been kind enough to provide a discount code which will give £5 off your first box- use code BBX5PEARL until 6th October to take advantage of this great offer!