Sunday 28 February 2016

Cutting Out Caffeine*

This year I didn't give anything up for lent, I've been there and done it (chocolate, if you were interested) and there wasn't anything that sprung to mind that I needed or wanted to give up. However, when it turned New Years I decided to give up high caffeine drinks, namely Coke and coffee, and it has proved to be a major benefit for my day-to-day life, both in obvious ways, and the more discreet.
Let me start off by saying that neither of the high caffeine drinks I gave up are particularly bad for you, and what works for some people works for others. Since we all have different minds and bodies it make sense that we would react in different ways to certain foods and drinks, and before I gave caffeine up I didn't even realise the negative aspects. There have been two major benefits I've noticed:
  1. My skin has cleared up SO much. Over the years I've had problematic skin, and if there's a change I can always pretty much find the source of the change. Since Christmas I always have at least one day a week when I go completely make-up free and feel comfortable doing it, as my complexion has evened out a heck of a lot. I think I would relate this change to the decrease in sugar, since for the most part I don't drink as many fizzy drinks in general, but it could be the caffeine, as it disrupts hormones and can be a trigger for acne.
  2. My sleeping pattern has become more balanced - instead of lying awake at night and then feeling exhausted during the daytime, especially in the afternoon, I feel refreshed as I get to sleep at a normal time. This I can almost definitely say is down to the caffeine, as its the only change I've made that could be a direct link to sleep, as caffeine gives you energy and its designed effect is to keep you awake.
Obviously, I'm not a nutritionist and I don't claim to know everything about the affects of caffeine. I just thought it might be helpful to anyone considering giving it up, to see the difference it has made to my skin and sleeping pattern. Also, I am aware that some of the alternatives I mention may be slightly caffeinated, for me the big step was cutting out high levels of the substance.

I've also had to come up with alternatives to drinking my favourite fizzy drink, and although it has largely increased the amount of water I drink in a day, sometimes you want something yummy to drink. Lemonade (such as 7Up) is a good alternative, but I like to try alternate flavours, and the best brand I've found for that is Fentimans. Their drinks feature in my local coffee shop which I visit every week, and I've been a fan of their Elderflower and Rose Lemonade flavours for years.
It was so coincidental, but as I was drafting this post I got an email asking if I wanted to try their brand new flavour 'Sparkling Lime and Jasmine'*, and since I was going to need recommendations for you guys to try instead of Coke, I obviously said yes. Flash forward a week, and I received bottles and bottles of the new drink to enjoy (and my whole family has had a taste as well - thankyou to the team at Fentimans!) The new flavour is a 100% natural, botanically brewed drink, with the initial refreshing bitterness on the tongue becoming swiftly balanced by the sweetness of Hyssop, Lime flower and Juniper berries, and the crisp aroma delivered in the form of white Jasmine flowers. They advertise this as a 'credible alternative to alcohol', and although that isn't what I've given up, I can see this as a stylish drink to take to parties, and I have a lot of friends who don't drink that I know would be impressed by this.
I would compare this new flavour as similar to tonic water, if you've ever tasted that. My Grandparents love this new drink for that reason, and I am a huge fan of the initial sourness of lime when you first take a sip. Almost all of the drinks from this brand are what I look for when I go out now (minus the cola, since that's caffeinated), and as I said before, look out for not only this new flavour, but the others too! Literally, the rose lemonade is so blogger, what more could you wish for? 
These new Fentimans drinks are a lovely alternative to Coke, but to satisfy your hot drink craving, I would obviously recommend hot chocolate, or some form of the drink. I'm also loving Ovaltine, since it isn't too unhealthy but satisfies my need for a warm drink on a cold morning. It's the best feeling to curl up with a mug, grab your laptop and have a little blog post reading session.
I hope you found this post interesting, and consider trying these alternatives. I understand that for most people cutting out caffeine isn't needed, but if you do feel the need (or even if you don't), don't be scared to try new things, as their are always ways to switch things up.
Thanks again to Fentimans for supplying me with plenty to sip away at during spring, and feel free to check out their twitter and instagram for more info and pretty photos of their huge array of drinks. I would put the usual disclaimer about all thoughts being my own, but I think my obvious enthusiasm shows that this brand has been in my life long before I got an email.
Have you ever tried this brand, or made any dietary changes?


Wednesday 24 February 2016

Trying Out Kiko Milano

Since February has apparently been a major month for me in terms of trying out new products, I decided to continue the trend and pick up a few items from Kiko whilst in Amsterdam. I was so overwhelmed by the variety of products whilst I was there, and despite the fact that they had the new campus collection in stock, I decided to start at the very beginning with some classic Kiko favourites, and do a haul and first impressions for you guys. 
As per usual for me, the majority of my chosen products are all lip related. I knew I wanted to try a particular Velvet Matte Satin Lipstick in the shade 601 (nude rose), which is a gorgeous nude shade perfect for everyday wear. I wore this for the first time yesterday and found the colour ideal for college (your lips but better kind of vibes). I was seriously impressed by the moisturising formula of the product, and I absolutely love the rose gold packaging. 10/10 for first impressions.
The other lipstick was one that Harry bought me as part of my Valentines gift, and I presume that it was limited edition as I can't find it on the website anymore. The product is a lipstick from their endless love collection, with valentines packaging, beautiful pink and red shades and an interesting take on the normal lipstick shape - a heart. I got the shade 06 'passion plum', which looked to be the most realistic and wearable shade for me, a dark pink nude. I love the slight sheerness to this product and will be wearing it all the time; the only slight downside for me is that the heart applicator makes it a little bit more difficult to apply.
Time to reveal the shocking truth - I've never owned a lip liner. I always intend to buy them and end up going for a gloss or a lipstick, but when I visited the Kiko store I bought one of their Smart Lip Pencils in the colour 'light Sienna', a pretty brown nude that goes well with so many of my nude lip products. I genuinely can't believe its taken me this long to invest in a product like this - its so buildable, and made my lip colour on Saturday night last a whole lot longer. I originally lusted after one of their creamy lip liners, but none of the shades drew me in so I went for something different. 

I was almost on my way out of the store when I noticed the crayon lip glosses, which were too intriguing to not pick up, since I love the look of glosses but often not the sticky texture. I bought one of these for my sister as well, and she gives them rave reviews. My crayon glosses are in the shades 02, a beige sparkly nude and 04, which is darker and more brown. I am yet to try these, so I'll report back!
Whenever I hear about this brand, I always hear people gush about the long lasting eyeliner sticks, so I went in there with the intention of grabbing one, and grab one I did. I'm very much into golds and browns lately eyecolour-wise, so after many swatches instore I eventually went for 06, a warm shimmery golden brown that I know I'll get a lot of use of, especially when paired with my Make Up Revolution eye foils.
So far I'm highly impressed with this brand, in particular the sleek and sophisticated packaging and the reasonable prices. I know I'll definitely visit Kiko again in the future, what would you recommend I go for next?
Have you ever tried this brand?


Sunday 21 February 2016

Falling in love with a new city || Amsterdam

Hey guys!
I recently got back from my long awaited trip to Amsterdam - and I absolutely freaking LOVED it. I had no idea what to expect, since it was Harry's idea to visit, and I'd never considered going there before. The city has such a subtle beauty, not in the delicate, elegant way that Paris does, or the hectic way that Barcelona is a wonderful place to visit. My tour guide on our moonlit canal cruise told me that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam, and I can definitely believe it - I feel like you have to be more on the lookout for bikes than any other transport vehicle.


To me, Amsterdam is probably completely different to anyone else, its one of those cities where you take away something unique. For some people, its the flexible substance laws that are attractive, and I was a bit apprehensive for that reason (I mean, how do you know what cake you can trust?) To be honest, I think if you don't go looking for those aspects, you rarely come into contact with them, and that's what I loved most I think. The city doesn't ask for anything from you, you just take from it what you want and leave feeling so content - if you couldn't tell, I had a whale of a time!

In terms of what I would recommend doing when you're there, I think it's difficult to say because everyone has different expectations of a city visit. For me, I don't prioritise museums and art galleries, because I find it very challenging to focus in that respect. I would definitely recommend however, the Iamsterdam sign outside the Rijksmuseum, and the Anne Frank House (although PLEASE try and book online beforehand, I stood in a 2.5 hour queue in -3 temperatures and I barely escaped with my toes intact.) I would say to visit Damrak, and Vondelpark is so tranquil that its a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle. My favourite part of the trip was 100% a canal cruise that we went on during our last night, which involved a 1.5 hour cruise through the lit canals, with pizza and Ben and Jerry's - how can that not sound appealing??
There is no doubt in my mind that I want to go back to this city someday, and experience it a second time around, on a more personal level. Have you ever been to Amsterdam, or another beautiful city?

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Olivia Palermo || Ciate

So I recently took a trip to my favourite shop to find absolute beauty bargains - T K Maxx. I'm on a tight budget at the moment because of my trip to Amsterdam, but I managed to pick up this beautiful Olivia Palermo Ciate lipstick, which has the most amazing packaging - I had to photograph it for the blog! 
The lipstick originally retailed at £19, which is way over my budget, but I bought this for £6 in perfect condition, so I think we can consider that a job well done. The range consists of four shades; a light nude called 'Cashmere', a slightly darker brown nude in 'Truffle', 'Praline', a deep nude, and a dark red in 'Velveteen'. Since this range is heavily nude based, when I heard about it months ago I was instantly intrigued - especially since I'd never heard of Ciate doing make up products instead of nails. In an ideal world I would have picked up both Truffle and Praline, and luckily for me, Truffle was in stock!

For me when I choose make up products I'm primarily superficial - it's all about the initial impression of the packaging. I always think packaging is a winner when you immediately know how you'll tie a blog photo together, and when I saw this gorgeous gold packaging I knew I was on to a winner. I love the incorporation of bows into the actual product and the outside packaging, its such a pretty touch that will go down well with girly girls like me.
I think this lipstick screams luxury, right down to the sweet smell that I would usually associate with my beloved MAC lipsticks. I've only worn this once (had to wait to get a pristine photo obviously), but I love the formula - not too drying and not sheer at all, highly pigmented colour. The colour of Truffle is such a lovely brown-pink nude, the shade that suits me best and works with the make up I like to wear. If it wasn't rock expensive, I would definitely go out and pick up praline - but if I spot in it T K Maxx next time I go, I can't promise that my bank balance with remain unscathed. 

Have you tried any products from this range, and would you pay that much money for a quality lipstick?
(P.S. The next post you'll see from me is an Amsterdam vlogpost!)

Sunday 14 February 2016

Make Up Revolution Haul

HAPPY VALENTINES. I hope you're being pampered, and have eaten your weight in chocolate!
Make Up Revolution is a brand that's been circling the bloggersphere for a long time now, and, like everything even slightly worth having, I'm turning up to the party way too late. I think I need to face the fact that, for the most part, I'm a bit of a make up snob (so I've been told by Mum anyway.) I've never been someone to obsess over designer clothes, but big brand make up - I'm drawn in by the large price tags. One of my goals for this year is to try more value brands and find the quality that works for me - this is as good a place to start as any I guess!
I decided to make an order a few weeks ago after a pretty hectic day on a bit of a whim, and since then I've made another and I'm planning what goodies to pick up next. These products are amazing quality, and dupes for high end brands that I'd usually go for but which hurt my wallet big style. Everything I'm about to haul in this post came to £31 after discount, and I can't believe its taken me this long to catch the Make Up Revolution bug. 
Products that I knew I wanted to try were the blush, highlight and contour palettes - I've heard that the bright white highlighter is an excellent dupe for MAC, and since my NARs bronzer is reaching its final days *sob*, I needed to look for a reasonably priced replacement. After lots of internal debating, I went for the 'All About Bronze' bronzer and highlight palette, and the 'Sugar and Spice' blush and highlight palette (the highlight and merged blush in this palette are possibly two of the best face make up items I've ever tried!)
I also picked up one of the Blushing Heart highlighters in 'Goddess of Faith'; these products are almost identical dupes for TooFaced, and the pigmentation on the highlight I bought is unreal. Like, seriously unreal. I've been reaching for this every day since I got it, as its so easy to apply compared to my liquid highlighters. 
Since lip products speak to me on a close personal level, quite a few ended up jumping into my basket. I've been loving lipgloss lately, so I got two in 'Natural Pink' and 'Raspberry', which is a lovely dark pink on the lips. My pet hate in life is sticky lipgloss, so I was over the moon to find that these aren't sticky in the slightest (£1 I cannot even), and that they smell like those little multi-coloured sweets, kind of like parma violets but colourful? You know the ones.
With a cynical mindset I picked two Ultra Velour lip creams, which, being only £1, I wasn't expecting much from. I ended up getting a pinky nude ('Why can't we make love instead' ) and a brown nude ('Their eyes can't find us') and I absolutely love them! The brown nude is a brilliant dupe for the NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in 'London'.
I also bought a Lip Lava (I accidentally misplaced it, so no photograph - eek) in the shade Forgiven, which, as you could probably predict, is a brown nude. These are meant to be a dupe for the TooFaced melted lipsticks, but to be honest I wasn't impressed with the product. Its the only let down, but I'm holding out hope that it might grow on me like make up products do over time. I would be interested to try a melted lipstick, and see whether its just the nature of the product that I don't like, or the formula of this particular brand. 

I had to get the Chocolate palette, which is another TooFaced dupe, and I haven't been let down. The pigmentation, especially of the shimmer shades, is gorgeous, and the colour range is right up my alley - there's a khaki shimmer in there that I am dying to try out. The eyeshadows from MUR get so many good reviews that I also picked up a couple of singles, a frosted pink shade and a cool brown tone.

The final product I got was an eye foil in the shade 'Rose Gold''. I was so confused about what this product entailed, but I completely fell in love with it when I used it for the first time last night. I might just have to do a separate review, and purchase some more colours - it's a wonder product!

Have you ever purchased anything from this brand, and is there any specific products you'd like me to review?

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Using a Bloggers Planner

Hi Guys!
I'm pretty much known in my family for being the queen of organisation when I set my mind to the task; to-do lists, daily plans and schedules are just part of the routine. When I received a daily bloggers planner for Christmas I was sceptical as to how much it would sculpt my organisational ways - but I was so wrong. Without being sickeningly OTT about this - I would hand on heart say that this daily planner from TheBloggersPlanner has made significant positive changes to my life. Here's seven reasons why you should convert to the planner lifestyle and never look back.

1. Your to-do lists will finally be organised. I used to write on scraps of paper and leave them lying around everywhere, forget where I put them, and just write another trillion zillion lists. What I love about my planner is that every day has a space for a to do list - and I can actually look at my week in advance and write down the things I want to achieve on each day (and have the satisfaction of putting a bit fat tick next to completed tasks.)
2. The Stats Page. I'm not sure where every planner stands on this, but since mine is designed for bloggers, there's a page after every month to write some statistics - Bloglovin followers, page views, subscribers etc. I'm so excited to see how things progress over the year when I look back at the months. These are the little things that you'd never remember to jot down if it wasn't in the planner!
3. Blog post planning pages make life a heck of a lot easier. Would you believe me if I said that before January (bear in mind that I've been blogging for 18 months now) I never ever made a plan for posts? I didn't plan my posts out for the next month/week, and I never wrote down a full post plan (in hindsight this definitely would have soothed my frazzled blogger brain.) In the planner there's space to plan all your posts, and a checklist of social medias that you should be advertising your blog posts with - you can't get away with it if it's written in the planner, so it actively, by way of subconscious blackmail, forces you to advertise via instagram, twitter and all that jazz. So freaking handy.
4. It's the perfect unwinding ritual. Every night, before I go to sleep I fill in my planner for the day (including my meal plans - it literally thinks of everything you could ever wish to plan) and use colourful markers to spice up the pages. The routine lasts about ten minutes, I whack on some classical piano, and bam, completely relaxed and ready to go to sleep. For someone that could lie awake for hours staring at the wall, to get me to fall asleep quickly is a pretty impressive feat.
5. It just makes you feel like a blogger. You know what I mean, right? It looks all fancy in blog photos and you can print the name of your blog on the front of it to personalise it. I'm not going to lie to you here, when I mentioned it in passing to my Mum my mind was completely focussing on how beautiful the planner would look in photos, not how useful it would be. There are some things in life that scream blogger: rose gold, marble backgrounds, bright aesthetics, endless arrays of lipsticks - and to be honest, I don't think anything could fit in that category more like a personalised daily planner.
6. The little details you'd never think to write down. Goals for the month/week, wishlists, financial incomings and outgoings etc etc etc. I've never felt so organised in my life! There's even a little checklist that insists that every week you treat yourself, and start commenting on more blogs to spread some positivity. Every month you also get a cute little motivational quote, and a spreadsheet of the whole month to see every day on one page and write in important dates. I also find the 'notes' page useful to jot down blog post ideas, before they officially make it to the blog post planning stage.
7. It's so rewarding. I feel like I can actually say that getting off to such an organised start to the year is making me feel so happy and enthusiastic. When I pinpoint any time in my life where I've felt a bit low, it's always slightly related to lack of control and organisation - I'm such a planner girl at heart, if everything isn't organised my head feels like its such a mess! Starting the day with a plan makes a lot of difference to me, and my outlook for the day ahead.

Have you ever tried using a daily/bloggers planner, or are you more of a spontaneous, unorganised gal? (This genuinely interests me so please comment - sometimes I wish I could be more spontaneous, without planning every detail!)


Sunday 7 February 2016

Baylis and Harding Valentines Collection*

Happy Sunday, I hope your week has been kind to you!
Valentines is swiftly approaching (catch my gift guide here), and as you could probably tell from my ongoing theme of all things pink, its a holiday I adore. As girls/bloggers, we're obviously very in the know about everything limited edition for Valentines, and know what we are wishing for when it comes to the special day. For some of us, it may be a good idea to give the men in our life a nudge in the right direction - and with this Baylis&Harding set of candles I know I could help you give him the push he needs.

Baylis&Harding is one of those luxury brands that you always know will go down well at Christmas, with their Beauticology flavours such as gingerbread and peppermint. Until I was contacted to see if I wanted to review a product, I wasn't aware that they produced other seasonal collections - and let me tell you folks, if you haven't smelt/seen their 2015 Valentines range then you are missing out.
Lately for me scent-wise, its all about the fresh and fruity; as soon as it hit January 1st I was well out of that overpoweringly sweet door (sometimes all that chocolate just goes to your head!) The other weekend I purchased a Pear and Magnolia deodorant and LOVED it, so when I saw that this 3 Candle Gift set had the same scent, I was all over it. To be frank with you, I'm not about that floral life, but when you match the scent of fresh magnolia with the sweetness of pear, golly gosh it is a delight for the nostrils. So the verdict for scent for this product (and lets be honest, for a scented candle this is a pretty defining factor) is a strong 10/10.
This product is around £15-20 depending on where you pick it up -  I found this exact candle set here from Argos, but there are zillions of places you could find it! It's a three candle luxury gift set, and the presentation of the packaging, not to mention the actual candles, is beautiful. I'm a sucker for prettiness, and when I saw the collection my eyes were drawn right away to the gorgeous metallic look of the candles. Although I love a good Yankee Candle, the packaging just doesn't do it for me in the same way that this shiny baby pink/silver packaging does - I would happily put this on my dresser and use it in blog photos (in fact, I had SO much fun taking the photos for this post - how cute does the product look next to those flowers?!)
All in all I would say this is a wonderful luxury product, and definitely not a faux-luxury item (you know the type.) The baby pink, rose gold and floral box is too pretty to throw away, and the actual candles smell so refreshing, and I think that this would make a lovely gift to give a loved one this Valentines. I'm genuinely over the moon that I have these, I burned one this afternoon whilst revising some Chemistry and it definitely calmed my frustrated nerves!
Thanks a million to Colbert Macalister PR for getting in touch and sponsoring this post - although I was gifted this item, you guys know that I don't say yes to any old collaboration and that I post genuine and honest reviews. The B&H range this year is, in my opinion, better than it ever has been, and I encourage you to go check out the rest of the collection (I'm loving the heart gift set - so cute!)
Have you ever tried this iconic brand, and what are you wishing for this Valentines?


Wednesday 3 February 2016

Affordable Gift Ideas || Valentine's Day

I don't know about you guys, but I'm 100% a Valentines day fan (and I was way back before I was in a relationship.) There's something so lovely about a day centred around the one thing we all long for, and despite the fact that we should share our love daily and not just on the 14th of Feb, I think it's so special to get one day in the year to make time to celebrate our emotions (and not just romantic relationships; there is more than one type of love!)
I thought I'd share with you some cute ideas for Valentine's day gifts that are affordable, because:
1) We're all still a bit skint following the Christmas period.
2) It definitely isn't about how much you spend. Believe me, it doesn't matter how much cash you chuck at a special day, its the people and the moments that make it memorable. If you are with a person that wants to spend the day with you, then that should be enough.
These posts all come near to the price of about £5-10, but you can spend much more or much less depending on how you adapt the gift (or if you use a combination of all three.) I think these gifts are so adorable, and I hope Harry isn't reading this any time before the 14th, because one of these is his!
1) The Date Jar (Photographed above)
This is so tumblr/pinterest. I love this gift possibly the most out of all three, because its so simple but thoughtful, and also because it cost me £0, as I had all of the components already in my house. Basically, this gift is a jar (or mason jar style glass - which can then be re-used as a drinking glass once the jar is empty) filled with fun date ideas for you to do with your significant other. Admittedly, this seems very romantically orientated, but you could fill it with movie names and use it for a movie night with your gal pals! I tied a red ribbon around the jar and used pink card to be all festive, and a nice touch would be to add some Hershey's Kisses in there (get it?) as well. Things like this are so meaningful, and leave a lasting memory.
2) A 'Box of Chocolates'
Everybody knows that Valentines deserves a bit of sugar, right? Instead of the typical box of Thorntons or Heroes, where there's always a few eclairs left at the bottom (why do they even put them in? My retainer cringes just thinking about them.) why not personalise a box and tailor it your friend's favourites?! This again is a super thoughtful gift, and doesn't have to break the bank. I found this pretty red and pink box at the card shop in my village for about £1, and filled it with Harry's favourites; some strawberry creams, Hershey's Cookies and Cream, Reeses, Lindt etc etc. When you know someone like the back of your hand - prove it! Show them that you know them inside and out. 
3) Photographs/Polaroids
Since I document a lot of my life in photos, it will come as no surprise to you that for me, an exciting gift to receive from anyone would be a set of polaroids, or printed photographs. In a digital era its so special to hold memories in your hand, and they look amazing dotted around a room to add a personal touch. You could print polaroids from a professional company (see my post on Cheerz here - I'm sure they have some Valentines deals on at the momento) or, if you want to save money you could edit the photos on PicMonkey to look like polaroids, pop some photo paper into your printer, and print some out in your own home. You could even add a set of photos to the Chocolate box, to make it even cuter. I know that there are actually some polaroid size photo frames out there at the moment as well that you could add to the present to dress it up a bit more - I got one for Christmas from Urban, and it was one of my favourite gifts! 

There are so many affordable gifts available, and I can't stress enough how important it is to spend time with your partners, friends and family. A thoughtful gift or a few hours of your time shows a lot more than spending a wad of cash and not caring about the actually-spending-time-together part.

For me, this years Valentines will be a super exciting one, since at 3am on the 15th I'll be getting up and setting off on a trip to Amsterdam with my boyfriend for our first holiday together. EEP.

What are you doing to celebrate?
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