Monday, January 30, 2017

Why the Blogger Beef?

Being a blogger is now a job possibility and one that you can earn money to pay your rent, it is an industry but for some reason if you are earning a living from your blog, or take on a sponsored post or two you are being chastised and spoke about like you have jeopardised your integrity.

My blog and others when I first started over ten years ago did certainly have a more personal feel than they do today, they were less polished, blog headers were created and shared for free, photos varied from dark grainy snaps to stock images and perhaps more of what would be something like a weekend update to our friends via email, but lets say we were the early adopters of the 'lifestyle blog' but now there is a more professional approach to blogging and money has become involved and that appears to be a problem.

The content of my blog back in the early days and those I read was of a vintage, home making nature with a heavy focus on crafts. We shared books we loved, recipes and in many cases there were bloggers creating items which would be sold via blog shops or as early adopters of Etsy. I was no less inspired back then to make purchases from other bloggers than I am today, the only difference now is that instead of Martha Stewarts' latest book it's a lipstick from Charlotte Tilbury and chances are the link I clicked was an affiliate link (as these two are) or maybe the blogger was paid to promote the brand.

Today's rambles are inspired by the above Tweet from Adrienne at The Sunday Girl. I've seen a lot of conversation recently with bloggers saying they are always happy to support fellow bloggers and their sponsored content, liking the Instagram post with #AD or clicking their affiliate links to make purchases. Whilst on the one hand I do not personally believe in blindly 'liking' posts because they are #ADs, I don't actively ignore or avoid them because they are and support their right to and ability to earn a living by why are others not?

We are all subject to and 'guilty' of advertising, whether it's the supermarket carrier bag you use, car you drive or that swanky designer handbag you're swinging on your arm. As I sit and type and look around my lounge I can see 'advertising' from Fortnum & Mason, Disney, Apple, Kate Spade and much more. In this instance this advertising is for free but for some reason when bloggers, influencers or whatever you choose to call them are openly advertising we are calling them out for all manner of reasons.

Becky Bedbug recently tweeted an affiliate link to a rather fabulous leopard print bomber from Marks and Spencer which I subsequently purchased by clicking her affiliate link and thus crediting a little commission (and if my understanding is correct affiliate links earnings are small in many cases) into Becky's account and I have no problem with that. Becky effectively did some personal shopping for me. She hadn't purchased it herself (as far as I'm aware) and beyond expressing that she thought it was nice was still advertising Marks and Spencer and that 'advertisement' led to my making a purchase. M&S was paid, why shouldn't Becky have a little bit of that action because it's highly unlikely I wouldn't have made that purchase unless I'd seen that tweet.

The issue really seems to be a sense of distrust. Your favourite blogger has made the big leagues and has 'changed' and instead of the budget brands they once used it's now all high and luxury that you perhaps cannot afford, perhaps 'every' blog post is sponsored. If you no longer enjoy the blog or trust what they're saying why are still reading? Surely no matter whether the content is paid for or not their voice is not one you trust? Of course if a vegan blogger publishes a sponsored post talking about how great a certain meat product is then you have reason to doubt their ethics but is there really reason to be suspicious of a blogger because they are paid to talk about certain brands or products?

Just because a blogger chooses to purchase for themselves budget products can they not have a 'paid for' opinion about a higher end brand or vice versa? I have a post coming up shortly which features a gifted mascara that I love but having seen the price when I went to (affiliate) link it I was shocked and know that I don't expect I will repurchase. I will speak of that in the post but nonetheless I still love that higher end mascara as much as the budget one I am using and will be more likely to repurchase. I don't believe that makes my opinion or review any less valid or honest.

In blogging circles I'm a small fish but I am lucky enough that I have a  good relationship with brands and PRs and receive products 'for free' (if free is photographing, testing, writing about). Some I like, some I don't but I also give products a more thorough testing process when gifted, those purchased myself I can often dislike and cast aside immediately when us I'm sure many of us know it can often be after the second or tenth use/day/week when we find what works or really doesn't and I'm more likely to experiment with a product that has been sent to me. Similarly I know many fashion bloggers are criticised for featuring products they have subsequently sold on the likes of Depop or perhaps the item is never seen again. As I say I'm small fry and if you could see even my stash of beauty products I can only begin to wonder what comes through the big hitters doors and sometimes despite liking or loving a product I will pass on to friends and family so it doesn't gather dust or expire. The question, more so I imagine in fashion blogging circles is the ethics of selling clothing you have been gifted but if they have served their purposes isn't it your right to choose what to do with your belongings? How many people work in stores and have used their discounts to the benefit of friends, family or to financially benefit them?

The are certain products that I don't have to purchase for myself, usually skincare, because I receive enough to cover my needs. Readers could suggest I only use things I've been given by the brand but wouldn't it be more distrustful for me to buy products to appease an audience? And as I mentioned above, just because a product no longer appears on the blog nor makes an appearance in an empties post doesn't mean it wasn't one I loved just perhaps it went on to a better whilst I did move on to the next product.

I'm not perfect and nor is every blogger, I have my niggles too. I can't stand It drives me nuts and doesn't really work 'for me'. Often I'll click a photo to see where something is from and there isn't any tagged information unless I like it and receive the subsequent email. By the time the email comes through I often hit delete because I've lost interest or suspect it's out of my budget range anyway but I completely understand why bloggers use it. I know it is frustrating when a blogger shows an item of clothing and say 'links below' or I've 'tweeted a link' and you're screaming just tell me its from ASOS because they want to affiliate link it and earn money from however many people will make a purchase based on their recommendation by why shouldn't they? I'm sure it's easier than replying to every tweet or comment asking the same thing (and how often do bloggers ask where something is from in instances when ALL THE INFO IS THERE!). These activities do not they are money hungry, not that I see any shame from wanting to earn a good living, and I'm not sure why bloggers must always be the individuals that are out of pocket and deemed to be taking advantage of their audience unless they truly are being deceptive if so I return to my earlier point. If you feel they are then remove them from social media.

Yes there are 'shady' bloggers in the same way there are shady lawyers or crooked accountants and I too get frustrated when little old me receives a product and another blogger suddenly talks of how they popped into Boots because they had to pick up 'Product X' and you are sure they're on the same press list as you are or you read 'sponsored post' on one blog and on the other they are not declaring as such but let's not judge every blogger just because some do earn a living from their jobs. You wouldn't do yours for free and I'm sure come appraisal time are requesting a pay review if you've been given additional duties.

If you don't trust a blogger then unfollow but don't simply mistrust them because they are speaking about a product they are paid to do. Remember next time you Instagram your Starbucks coffee that is the same thing. The only difference is you paid them to advertise not the other way around.

I'd love to know your thoughts on the topic.

*this post contains affiliate links

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Travel | Center Parcs Elveden Forest

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

This time last week I was travelling to Center Parcs in Elveden Forest, my first visit to any Center Parcs for a weekend of fun with my 'holiday family'. Prior to arriving I wasn't sure what to expect and whilst everyone I had spoke to about their Center Parcs mini breaks talked highly of them I had already vetoed riding a bike and knew that participating in activities of a sporting or 'outdoorsy' nature weren't really my things so what it would offer me beyond time with friends I was keen to find out. Be warned this is a photo and word heavy post so make yourself a cuppa before reading. 

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Our chosen Center Parcs location was Elveden a short hour drive from home although after a work emergency from Ben, my spending the morning booking a holiday to Walt Disney World and subsequently rushing around to pack and managing to flood my bathroom Ben and I headed off a little later than intended. 

We arrived at nightfall and joined a small queue of cars to enter the property and I was immediately impressed with the setting, I appreciate this is stating the obvious but you really are entering a forest village that you can imagine yourself in a film set. For those of you who love the experience of the Disney or Harry Potter Worlds you receive a similar feeling albeit on a different scale and theme. 

Arriving at night was somewhat troublesome but did provide our first laughs of the weekend. Center Parcs is car free. You are allowed to drive your car on site from 3pm to unpack at your villa and must have it returned to the car park by midnight. There the car remains until you pick it up the morning of your departure. The forest is dark, very dark, which after navigating the one way system trying to avoid those on foot, some of whom seem to be mindfully ignorant of the cars on the road, we managed to miss our villa and had to do a loop back round. 

After unloading our car and greeting our friends, with special thanks to Lewis and Rob who completed the task of returning my car to the car park I looked around Maple 740 and was very impressed with what I saw, expecting something between a caravan and Butlins (no disrespect to either intended!) but instead was greeted by a very modern and perfectly pleasant home for the weekend. Our villa had three bedrooms, two doubles and a twin for Ben and I, all with en suites - and all with the most comfortable beds to the point I have returned home and the fact I need to replace my pillows is never more evident. Whilst not the largest of rooms they were perfectly sufficient for our weekend and I was most impressed with a very modern and spacious bathroom

The living area had enough space for the two children to potter around and sofa big enough to allow the six adults to kick back, and my only critique would be a very small tv although I expect they are not expecting many people to sit round watching Celebrity Big Brother every night! There is also a DVD player which if movie nights are you thing you're sorted.

There is a dining table which we were all able to sit around comfortably and the kitchen was very much more than a kettle and two ring hob - there was even a dishwasher. I'll provide some further insight into the kitchen facilities and how the boys faired cooking our meals in there towards the end of the post.

For our first evening we decided to order takeaway. Available to order from 5pm and with a menu that covers everyones needs from your typical indian and chinese to fajitas and burgers and delivered to your door this seemed a perfect way to kick off proceedings. We settled for chinese although loved that you wouldn't be required to all eat the same style of meal. We ordered around 730-8pm and had an hour wait, I imagine with everyone arriving that day they had a similar idea as us although I certainly felt it was worth the wait. Often a chinese takeaway seems a good idea until you've eaten what can often be a meal that is very cloying and I'm reaching for gallons of water to dehydrate myself. Center Parcs chinese offering whilst I'm not suggesting is the best meal I've ever had nor of a gourmet variety it was certainly a good meal that I devoured greedily.

We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a breakfast cooked by Ben and Lewis, watching muntjac and squirrels playing in the 'garden' before getting ready to explore Center Parcs. As I mentioned I'm not one for activities so our stroll in the forest took us to Starbucks, how basic, but the warm drinks were needed against the biting cold. 

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Our next stroll led us to the Sports Pavilion where we enjoyed some cocktails as the children enjoyed the soft play area, its worth noting that every bar or area of its type has one of these soft play areas so both children and adults can enjoy their time together. The parents in the group decided to take the kiddies to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise whilst Ben and I decided to have a walk through the shops, nice enough to poke your head in but nothing groundbreaking, take some photos and return to the villa where I'd be embarrassed to say I dragged my duvet onto the sofa and slept for three hours had it not been a wonderful nap.

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

The crew returned from their fun time in the pools and then once again it was men to the kitchen and prepare our evening meal of fajitas and more fun with Heads Up - anyone else as obsessed with that game as I am? 

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Sunday morning the girls and I were booked in at the Aqua Sana Spa for a morning of relaxation. The only fly in the ointment for me is that I find spas the least relaxing activity and whilst I was keen to experience the spa I decided that I was becoming more stressed out thinking about going than necessary so left Jo and Lavinia to it and joined the boys in the Sports Bar.

The girls returned from the spa looking and feeling suitable relaxed and spoke very highly of both the experience and treatments and did say I wouldn't have been too bored with the variety of rooms to explore and should've given it a chance. If spas are your thing definitely treat yourself and I can honestly say the girls looked radiant after their Decleor facials. 

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Next stop was the Foresters Inn at the The Country Club for Sunday lunch which I'm sad to say was a disappointment. Anemic roast potatoes, beef sliced thinner than I've seen on a deli counter and a portion not much larger than the child's one. I couldn't even bring myself to share an image in this blog post but if you would like you can take a look at it here. Sadly what I didn't get was a photo of the burger that Rob picked as it was a far better choice than our roast. I will commend our waitress Jade who was amazing the duration of our meal.

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

We woke to our final morning in 'Elf Town' and after picking up cars, packing and dividing the food we had leftover and drink it was time for a breakfast pit stop in Cafe Rouge before making the drive home. Once again the parents of the group made use of the swimming pool leaving Ben and I to visit the service station and tackled the 'check tyre pressure' warning appearing on my dashboard!

I loved Center Parcs it was such a peaceful and enjoyable place to spend the weekend and a perfect post Christmas break. I'm sure some of you might think but you didn't do anything but I think that is part of it's beauty whether you are the active or inactive type you have the opportunity to do as little or much as you wish.

Some additional things of note which I hope help you if you're planning to book a trip to Center Parcs this year.

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

We selected an Executive Villa which I believe is a location closer to the center pavilion and we also had maid service who hoovered, made beds and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom during our stay. I must also give them a special shout out as when they arrived at 10am on the Saturday morning and we were not yet ready for them they agreed to come back over lunch and even made a special effort to look for my friends earring she had lost at some point. 

Much like Tania mentioned in her review of the Woburn branch and the space for her wheelchair there isn't much room to store two buggies although otherwise the open place living space was perfectly safe for the children to toddle and crawl around without parental fear of them bumping into anything dangerous. 

The kitchen was impressive from it's dishwasher (3 tablets were supplied and served us for the trip) to the wine cooler (that came in very handy). The only critiques from our handy chefs was that the frying pans and such were a little small based on the number of people occupying the villa, breakfast was something of a challenge and the fajitas were cooked in a mixture of pans and batches.

Lewis also made sure I mentioned that whilst the gas oven took some time to heat up once it got going it was a fiery beast and the heat once opened even managed to singe his arm hair off.

My mum often visits with friends and they tend to take along prepared foods such as lasagnes and shepherds pies that just require reheating so it's something to consider or perhaps if you're at one with a slow cooker taking one along could be useful. I'm quite interested to see how she fairs on her next trip when apparently she is cooking Christmas Dinner!

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

There is a supermarket on site which is of course more costly than your local offering but I wasn't as horrified by the prices as I expected and they have a nice offering from COOK if you're familiar with them. 

I'm sure you will forget something, in amongst the ingredients for the perfect morning fry up and selection of fine wines to keep us hydrated we forgot salt and pepper and if using the dishwasher more frequently than we did you might require more tablets than the three supplied. 

I have already spoke favourably of the bedrooms with their en suites and comfy beds but possibly the biggest tick from me was a plug socket by the bed. We all suffer the frustration of having to regularly charge our iPhones served from the shortest leads known to man so this was perfect and something I wonder why more hotels aren't adopting. 

Perhaps when visiting Center Parcs you might like to offline but if you're keen to Instagram your trip I was pleased that the free wifi worked with no issues over the weekend. Considering we were in the middle of a forest I was expecting that there would be some problems, especially when inside our villas but that was not the case.

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Food and Drink
Our chinese on the Friday night was £99 for six of us which whilst not the most expensive meal for the few dishes we had it could be a little costly especially if not split amongst 'the couples' like ours was and instead you're feeding a whole family.

As I've said all the bars we frequented were designed for families so it's certainly not somewhere for those looking to perhaps escape children for a few days. The Sports Bar was well set up with multiple screens dotted around so that you couldn't fail but find a good view and if you had small ones needing entertaining  there was always a soft play area to hand.

Unfortunately the bar which also housed the bowling alley and overlooked the swimming pools wasn't quite prepared for their Saturday service. We stood at the bar for some time whilst the one of the two servers handled bar duties and another was continually called away to deal with issues on the bowling alley. It did take longer than we expected especially when ordering items such as cocktails and in most instances you're not dealing with one or two drinks but larger parties. I was especially sorry for the woman next to me being served who was told that they had run out of Prosecco. They did track some down in the bar next door but instead of being 'allowed' to have a bottle brought over the customer had to go and purchase there, but was allowed to bring back with them. Somewhat strange practice.

Most impressive to the mums in our party was the Baby Stations dotted around the bars with free Heinz baby food. Jars of baby food, a microwave, everything you'll need when your little one feels the pangs of hunger and perhaps my cynical side showed that I was impressed that it wasn't a case of people grabbing numerous jars to take home and actually making use of them in the moment.

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

Subtropical Swimming Paradise
Aside from the aforementioned baby food the one downside of Center Parcs is that everything has a price. Any activity you want to participate in will require payment, and in many cases, especially at peak times booking in advance. 

The swimming pools are free and you are able to access them before check in and after check out and of course most children do love the swimming pools. I'm not a fan of the water so I didn't dive in but even my mum who cannot swim talks highly of the pool areas and how she takes up residence on one of the seats with a newspaper. 

The enjoyment was only marred by a very busy and small family changing room and that more than one locker was needed, which when you take into account a families belongings and the rummaging round for additional £1 coins can make things a little stressful. 

Center Parcs Elvedon Forest Review

If you've made it this far well done; it's no wonder I've been writing this blog post all day I did quite expect it to be so long and I hope it's not just mindless ramblings and if you're considering a trip to Center Parcs you find it interesting.

Are you a Center Parcs fan? I'd love to hear your thoughts on any trips you've been on. 

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Giveaway | Lee Stafford Hair Straighteners

Everyone owns hair straighteners right? Well not little old me over here so when Lee Stafford got in touch and asked if I wanted to try the Lee Stafford Academy Iconic Flat Iron Hair Straightener* before offering another to giveaway to one lucky reader I of course said yes.

I've spoke on numerous occasions how lazy I am with my hair, even more so lately just washing and going but it was time to take a little bit more pride in my appearance. Even my dad asked what was up with my hair when I was observing my wash and go technique over Christmas.

I've never had a need for straighteners in their traditional sense and I don't favour the sleek poker straight look, but for curls it is always straighteners my hairdressers use as the curls tend to hold better and I was keen to try at home.

The first point of note for the Lee Stafford Hair Straighteners is their LED display which shows the temperature increasing for you to then manage the heat needed for your hair or style of choice. I think many of us have fallen fowl to brands with a 'one size fits all' approach that is damaging our hair even more so than needed.

Unlike ceramic coated brands the plates on your Lee Stafford Hair Straighteners are made from nano silver titanium to glide through my, or your hair. Again I've dabbled in the past and found myself pulling and tangling my hair and simply abandoning as it's just all a little too much to bother with.

I favour a wave as opposed to a curl in my hair and whilst I still need a lot of practice I am finding the Lee Stafford Hair Straighteners one of the better I've worked with and I'm sure in another couple of weeks I'll have my waves styled in mere minutes.

You can find the Lee Stafford Hair Straighteners on Amazon retailing for £69.95 at the moment which is a comparable price for the high end brands but with those extra touches they don't have. If you're looking to upgrade or invest in hair straighteners in 2017 then check out the Lee Stafford brand.

Before you hit buy now you why not try your luck to win a pair but entering my giveaway which will be running till the 13th February. Simply fill in the form below to be in with a chance to win. Good Luck!

Win a Lee Stafford Academy Straightener #14

*this post contains press samples and/or affiliate links

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Review | LED Magnifying Mirror

Having just begun, once again, watching Sex and the City today's post reminds me of the episode when Charlotte describes her 'Secret Single Behaviour' as looking at her pores in a magnifying mirror for today I'm sharing with you my thoughts on the Sara LED Magnifying Mirror* from Pebble Grey.

Prior to receiving the mirror from Pebble Grey I had the No 7 Illuminated Make Up Mirror so I was keen to see how they would compare especially as there is a significant price difference. The Pebble Grey mirror retails at around the £80 mark which is somewhat eye watering I must admit and luckily it has been available half price recently which unfortunately is why it is currently out of stock so you this is one of those frustrating reviews where I'll sing the praises of a product you might struggle to get your hands on.

Initially I'd say there was nothing overtly different in the two mirrors but when you lift Pebble Grey's version it is far more weighty attesting one presumes to higher quality materials and standards. Both mirrors are on a chrome base, Pebble Grey's being 'high quality polished chrome', Boots make no reference to the materials of the base nor the lighting for that matter although we'll get to that shortly and the first difference is that Boots offer a dimmer and Pebble Grey do not, theres is simple an on/off switch. For me a mirror of this type is used when plucking eyebrows and such, not to create ambient lighting so a dimmed light is not something I need. In fact as the dimmer is turned completely for it to be off on the Boots mirror you need to ensure you hear the off click or you can find your mirror on at a dull light if rushing off in a hurry.

On the subject of light source the Pebble Grey mirror was noticeably brighter. I can put this down to the 'LED technology' or my Boots mirror's age and I'm not a professional enough to comment on either (I actually googled LED technology to try and shed some light and I'm none the wiser) beyond saying again that the Pebble Grey lighting was brighter and gave a clearer view, which was a little scary but great as I got sidetracked pulling my face around looking for things to pick or pluck at thanks to the magnifying mirrors.

The brighter lighting, and lets be honest this is a swanky luxury priced mirror means it's now found it's home on my dressing table but it's not without some faults. The power cable is shorter than the Boots version which has meant I need to reshuffle things on my dressing table and it doesn't sit exactly where I'd like it. Obviously first world problems and it's only as I sit typing this post I'm consciously reminded of this fact but I do wonder when electrical companies, when we're in a world of 'wireless' they insist on chaining us within feet of plug sockets.

My next grip is in part due to where I've had to put the mirror in situ and a design 'flaw'. I stand at my dressing table so it was always helpful that the Boots mirrors 'head' would swivel so I could move to a placement that suited me. The Pebble Grey offering does not move. In fact when I first started using it I wasn't aware that the mirror swivelled so I thought it was static and I was actually ready to swap the mirrors back over as I was finding myself in an uncomfortable bent position. I then realise the mirror would tilt which has made things easier but it's not perfect. I can till back or forth and it is useable but the light is static and it would be far easier if the whole head moved but it's something I can get over for the length of time I will be using it for certainly tasks but paired with the short electric wire it does mean it's not very flexible.

As I already said the Pebble Grey mirror is sadly out of stock but it's certainly worth holding out for if you are looking for something higher end and the lighting is second to none you might want to check out the full range of LED mirrors if you're in the middle of bathroom renovations.

Do you have such a mirror on your dressing table?

*this post contains press sample and/or affiliate links

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review | Seven Seas Perfect 7

Seven Seas Perfect 7

Over the years I've received various supplements, vitamins and the like and whilst the intent is there I often forget to take them for one reason and another. Often it's their requirement to be taken 'with a meal' and usually I'm too keen on enjoying said meal than popping a pill of some form or another.

Thankfully Seven Seas Perfect 7* don't have such restrictions, you simply take one tablet and one capsule with a cold drink per day - easy although as the festive photo will elude I'm late in hitting publish on this post but we'll consider this a good thing as I can add more weight to my review because in addition to forgetting to publish during a 'tidy up' pop the tablets into a draw and forgot about them and my skin didn't thank me for it.

As the name suggest Seven Seas Perfect 7 works with a blend of marine oils 'on the inside' providing a special formula towards seven key needs of the body; Skin and Nails, Hair, Energy, Brain, Vision, Heart and Hormonal Activity.

Whilst I don't have the structure of full time employment in your traditional sense and my current lifestyle is no less, if not more hectic in parts than when I was I was keen to see if I could benefit from a little extra help.

Your box of Seven Seas Perfect 7 contains a 30 day supply of which I'm half way through and able to share some thoughts. Firstly my word of caution on the size of these tablets and capsules, they are large. I can usually 'pop a pill' without a glass of water, even managing two at a time of your regular paracetamol, antihistamine or the like. I cannot with this, which is probably more sensible in any case. I leave the blister packs along side of my kettle so when I wake in the morning and am waiting on my morning cuppa I can swallow the pairing with a glass of water.

My time at home should mean I'm far better with eating habits and skincare regime but it is not the case. On one hand I'm not wearing make up as frequently so my skin is able to breathe but combined with the cooler temperatures it drier and certainly less radiant without the lotions and potions being piled on.

I can honestly say that the time I was using the tablets and forgoing regimented skincare regimes my skin looked better than it does as I type and have forgotten them for a week or two. In fact I have paused from my typing to go and take today's tablets and returned them to their place alongside the kettle.

In addition to the skincare woes my sleeping patterns have wavered of late and I'm still struggling with the post Christmas slump. Now the skeptical could argue that is just January but for me the obvious difference personally has been forgoing the daily dose of Seven Seas Perfect 7.

My plan now is of course to diligently finish the course and I will report back on the changes but I'm positive I will see a difference and that omitting these from my daily routine has been cause for the recent changes.

Do you ever take supplements and have you tried Seven Seas Perfect 7?

*this post contains press samples and/or affiliate links
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Lorac Pro Palette 3 UK

I hadn't originally intended to make my 2016 Favourites into a two parter but when I found what is now Part 1 taking on a long life of it's own I decided to carry on today with the eyes and the lips.

Lorac Pro Palettes are well known in blog circles and they are still one of the now few US releases that are difficult to get hold of in the UK, and even if you're lucky enough to head to the US tracking down an Ulta that have them in stock is your next problem. I'm lucky to have a US Beauty mule in the form of my friend Rose who placed an order for me and shipped it over and I'm so thankful she did. On first impressions I thought the Lorac Pro Palette 3 was a little disappointing compared to Lorac Palettes 1 and 2 which I also have. Was this palette just a little too neutral and boring for even little old me who is not skilled with eye make up. The answer is not at all and this is a palette I reach for, and have reached for on an almost daily basis. So much is the love that I'm due to embark on a declutter of my make up and think it's time to part ways with some of my eyeshadows that are left behind and unloved.

One eyeshadow range I will not be parting with are my small, but growing collection of L'Oreal Infallible eyeshadows. I first picked up Amber Rush and Bronze Taupe in the US during ravings years ago and since then Amber Rush, a US exclusive at the time although it seems the range has been discontinued in the UK completely now,  has appear in favourites posts for March and June last year.

These pressed pigments are amazing and really pigmented and one of the few ranges with some shimmer that work with 'older eyelids'. I added another couple to my collection in October when I visited Las Vegas with Iced Latte the pictured shade and a favourite during December. This in particularly is apparently a dupe for Urban Decay Kitten which I can neither confirm nor deny but I can tell you its a wonderful shade that worked perfectly over the festive season.

Interestingly I have found myself neglecting my favourite Mac 217 of late for the Zoeva 227 Brush*. I find this softer than the 217 and therefore easier for blending and creating the look with my unskilled hand. I still of course have love for the 217 and it's still the product I always treat myself to in Duty Free but I think it's time to add a few more 227 to the mix.

Finally it's the brows. I know brows have been big and I should really be singing the praises of various brow pomades and the like, which I do use but it's the L'Oreal Brow Artist Plumper that I've reached for this year. Taking the place of my previous favourite, Maybelline's Brow Drama the L'Oreal addition to the line up of such products has a much more appropriate brush to work with. I have dark and thick brows so I find a sweep of this product is sufficient for 'every day make up' looks. Yes if I'm putting more effort in I'll reach for products such as the Anastasia Brow Wiz but it's not something I favour working with.

I've tried to work through my mascara stash during 2016 but the favourite product which has already been repurchased on two occasions and heading for it's third purchase is the Tarte Lights Camera Lashes. I'm tempted with the duo available on QVC such is my love although I've just seen there is one available with a bottom lash mascara which is very temping to try as I've been applying mascara to my bottom lashes more often than I have previously. This is one of few mascaras that I find gives my lashes that false lash effect and doesn't have any fall out. If I have a long night ahead this is what I'll reach for.

That said a good competitor is the L'Oreal False Lash Superstar Red Carpet Mascara which isn't as good but at a drugstore price it hits the spot. I'm even more tempted to try the Superstar X Fibre version which has been released recently as it offers a black primer as opposed to the formers white. I don't find any issue with the white but I wonder if the black improves things. If you've tried both I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Mac 217 Dupe

2016 Lip Favourites

As I enter 2017 I do want to address my make up collection and lipsticks is one of those areas where I have certain favourites and therefore wonder why I have so many others. Here are some picks which have been in steady rotation starting with the KIKO Impressionist Red* which was part of The Artist Collection. This is the perfect red for Summer and one I took on holiday with me loving it's staying power and creamy formula that does not dry out lips. I've only tried two lipsticks from KIKO and this collection but I would be interested in trying more based on this foray. I'll also give special mention to the complimenting lip liners which work just as well on their own if you're looking for a more matte look.

Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip in Devotion has fallen out of favour recently but was a lip product I'd often reach for on working days when I didn't want to think about my make up too much nor worry about keeping a red shade topped up. For a matte lip they are not drying at all and if you're a fan of Rimmel East End Snob Liner (which is another favourite I recently finished) you'll love this.

A more recent favourite has been the L'Oreal Gold Obsession Lipstick in Rouge Gold. This is a wonderful shade of red shot through with a gold that adds a shimmer you don't often find in a red but doesn't give off an old fashion glittery look. I have travelled with this shade as I find it works well for as a red for all seasons thanks to the 'hidden gold' element.

Finally for lip favourites are the Maybelline Color Jolts or Paints depending where you are in the world. Mine have come from the US and the shade names certainly vary. These aren't the longest lasting lip products but they last longer than I expect for a product of it's type and I like the ease of which they're applied. I do fear their size and my usage means these will be used up very quickly.

Maybelline Setting Spray UK

Finally the products that finish off any make up look. I've used some artistic licence and have photographed the Maybelline Setting Spray when it has been the L'Oreal Fixing Mist I have in fact used and recently made its way to the empties pile. That said both my versions which were picked up in the US, and again I believe are different from the UK equivalents do have the same ingredients so I assume they are one and the same bar branding.

I was unsure how I felt about setting sprays and how much of a difference they make but they sit on my dressing table and I give a spritz before walking out the door. Mac Fix Plus has made more of an impact that latter half of the year about seeing Laura discussing the various ways she's been using and I've adopted one or two myself. I've gone so far as pop this handy travel size into my make up bag and it really does perk up the skin on a long day. I feel this could be a staple for 2017.

That brings a close of my make up favourites in 2016, don't forget to give Part 1 a read if you haven't already done so and do share your favourites for the past year and any thoughts you have on my picks.

*this post contains press samples and / or affiliate links

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Monday, January 16, 2017

2016 Favourite Favourites | Part 1

2016 Make Up Favourites

Happy New Year! I appreciate we're halfway through January so missed the boat on such greetings but as this is my first post of 2017 I think I can be forgiven - let me tell you if you think returning to work after the holidays is a struggle its even harder to become motivated when you don't have a job!

Like my opening greeting I may well also be late posting my 2016 Favourites and as such you are somewhat bored with them but as Favourites posts are those I enjoy writing, particularly when I need to get back into the swing of things here they are.

I am only focusing on make up for my 2016 Favourites as I have found products that I have loved throughout the year, am still reaching for and are those that I can reach for without thinking when I want to put my face on in a hurry. With skincare and other such products I hold my hands up and say I'm something of a floozy, not particularly brand loyal and through the nature of beauty blogging am lucky to have a lot of skincare come through my door for testing that whilst I can could pinpoint 'favourites' there is nothing that I stopped myself from moving onto the next product through my door.

Enough of my ramblings lets start with Dermalogica Hydra Blur Primer* which first made an impact appearing in my February Favourites and has been my go to primer throughout the year. Prior to this introduction I was reaching for Benefit Porefessional which is hit and miss depending on whether you're a fan of silicone primers. Dermalogica Hydra Blur Primer has a similar yet less silicone feel to its application and will offer moisturisation to your skin rather drying it out as some primers are prone to. During Winter when my skin is dryer this has been the right product to create the perfect base for my foundations. As I mentioned in its initial review my only complaint is the price tag which would prevent my repurchasing in the immediate future. 

I would hand over every foundation I own to keep L'Oreal Infallible Matte Foundation, the US version, as it really has been my stand out product of 2016. My friend Rose, who resides in the USA, gave this to me in place of the L'Oreal Infallible Glow Foundation I'd asked for that she couldn't find and I'm so glad she did. I have reached for this foundation on so many occasions, taken on holiday and without a doubt whenever I've admired my flawless appearance in selfies it's been when I've worn this foundation. My current tube was showing signs of finishing soon and I was starting to panic, not a feeling I often have usually happy to skip onto the next product. I was also concerned that I'd read posts from Emmys Beauty Cave about how the UK version just didn't compare. Luckily a friend headed to the US over Christmas and was instructed to buy a back up for me so I will not run out any time soon.

As for my reasons for such declarations of love, this is a foundation that will give you a medium coverage that will last all day and from what I see the finish is flawless. My other August Favourite that I pair with this foundation is the Primark PS Pro Oval Brushes, such was my love I brought the Rose Gold set before Christmas. I've found I'm reaching for these and my Beauty Blender over any other foundation brushes in my collection. 

Final base favourites is a duo you'll always find in my handbag, Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Powder and the Bourjois Radiance Reveal Concealer. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Powder is a beautiful product inside and out. Whether I'm setting my concealer for a full face of make up or in a pinch using only the powder and aforementioned concealer I feel more alive. I'm always conscious of finding a concealer that doesn't crease under my 30+ eyes and Bourjois Radiance Reveal does not. When I initially reviewed I wasn't so sure but that was simply due to lack of eye cream so I do find I need to ensure my eye area isn't dry before application but it made such an impact last year that it appeared in April and May's favourites posts. 

Wet n Wild Highlights UK

Bronzing and contouring is definitely not something I'd call myself skilled at but two product that help me look like I have something of an idea are the Maybelline Fit Me Foundation Stick in the Shade 330 Toffee Caramel and Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer. Since rediscovering and appearing in my February Favourites I've found the Maybelline Fit Me Foundation Stick to be a firm staple in my make up. Hailed as a dupe for the Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick (I find that to be a less greasy formula) I picked this up in its darker shade in the US and find it makes contouring a breeze. It also pairs wonderfully with one of the Primark brushes I've already mentioned. I don't reach for this on a daily basis as who has time for that but when I'm giving myself a 'serious' full face this is a given and so easy to use.

You may be surprised to find the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer in my 2016 Favourites as when I first purchased it I was most underwhelmed. Firstly I hated, and still do hate the scent which months later hasn't waned although it's not something that I notice unless, as I did just now, stick my nose into it. 

The Glow-Booster from Physicians Formula was my favourite bronzer prior to this purchase but interestingly over recent months I've bypassed that and instead reached for the Butter Bronzer so much so that it came on my holidays and to date I am still using. 

As I talked about in my initial review one of my gripes was that it is a subtle bronzer and only available in the one shade. Paler skin tones will surely love this and perhaps my love for it has stemmed from just looking for a dusting of warmth and glow during the Winter months than too much bronzing. You can purchase in the UK from The Vitamin Shop and I'm currently waiting to see if the Butter Blushes hit the site as I'm keen to try them out. 

Like the L'Oreal Infallible Matte Foundation the Make Up Revolution Rose Gold Lights Blush would be the blusher I saved in a fire. I love love love this and have recommended to everyone and anyone insisting they need it in their collections. Technically referred to as a highlighter this is perfect for me as a blush which I don't have to worry about layering with another product. It's literally sweep and go and looks fantastic whatever make up look you're going for. For £3 this is positively a steal and despite my frequent use it looks like I've barely touched it.

Highlighters are something I'm still finding my way with. My favourite highlighter has to be Charlotte Tibury's Bar of Gold which usually only makes an appearance in stores seasonly, I joined the Becca Champagne Pop bandwagon and am still undecided how I feel about it and others have come and gone throughout the year but one that has been reached for often is Wet n Wild Boozy Brunch, or in my case its original incantation, Hollywood Lights. Interestingly Boozy Brunch has been hailed a dupe for Champagne Pop but I certainly prefer this golden highlight which is more in keeping with my favoured Bar of Gold.

This was another gift from my friend Rose and it sat for some time in the draw as I was a little scared of using it but now nothing can stop me. Again this is a product, albeit only available in the US, that is only $5.99 for a whopping 11g of product. Admittedly the side does make it somewhat cumbersome to travel with but I can forgive that for the highlight it gives to my cheeks.

Well if you made it this far well done and needless to say my musings have required this post to be in two parts so come back tomorrow for my favourite eye and lip products from 2016. Don't forget to let me know what your favourite products have been.

*this post contains press samples and / or affiliate links

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