Saturday, 23 July 2011

July's Glossybox - first thoughts

Yesterday, July's Glossybox arrived. After the controversy of June's Glossybox (Batiste you say? BATISTE?!) I think everyone was waiting with baited breath. The subscribers were waiting to see if it was worth continuing with the service after many of them were disappointed with last month's box. Glossybox was waiting anxiously to see whether they had got it right this month or whether they were sitting on another Batiste faux pas (note to Glossybox... the great PR fail afterwards is what will lose you customers, not the mistake itself. Ignoring bad feedback seems the easiest option, but in reality, it never goes away, it just gets louder). Those who unsubscribed after receipt of June's box were waiting to see whether they were going to be insanely jealous of those holding onto this month's samples.

The first thing that greeted me on the card were these words of warning:

"The products you receive this month pack quite a punch... Please remember that Glossybox is a luxury sample and product miniature subscription service. Wherever possible, we are happy to place full-sizes in Glossybox. We hope you appreciate it when you receive them, without expecting it to be a regular feature"

Ok, Glossybox, message understood loud and clear. But please don't forget that this is a service your subscribers pay £10 (soon to be £12.99) for. You are not doing them a favour, you are asking them to pay to be marketed to by luxury brands who are providing samples as part of their marketing budget and strategy.

So what was in my glossybox this month?

Firstly,we have Nouveau Lashes fake eyelashes. The last time I tried a fake eyelash I was 21 and made a huge mess with the glue. Ten years later and fake eyelashes are hot, hot, hot; not just for a night out but for many people they are also essential every day wear. I have had fake eyelashes sent to me as extras in Big Wardrobe and Make Up Alley swaps before, but they have always looked cheap and a bit clunky. I have flirted with the MAC false lashes when in the MAC store, but always back away at the last minute. These babies look very soft, very natural, and are reusable. I am still feeling the fear of battling with lashes, but you know what? These are tempting me into giving them a whirl. I'll let you know how I get on.

Secondly we have Illamasqua Sheer Lip Gloss in 'Explode' which is a pale pink with a blue tinged shimmer. It's a good sized product and a well known brand, but I know it won't suit me so I'm not even going to attempt it. Part of me thinks that this is the reason for Glossbybox and I should really do it justice, but I don't want to waste what looks like a quality product by using it once. Luckily for the Illamasqua, I have a make up junkie cousin who will adore this and I have already put it in a box ready for her to pick up and love.

Next we have Weleda Pomegranete Body Oil. On first glance it looks a little bit clinical in it's blue glass bottle. I associate Weleda with hair dye, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I also don't use body oil. So with this in mind, the Weleda very nearly finds itself on my swap pile. But looking through the Glossybox facebook page, I see that everyone loves the body oil and that lots of people have already gone on to buy it. Is it that good? My curiosity peaked, I take my natural suspicion about Body Oils and give it a good hard talking to. After all, the point is to try new things, not get freebies of things you already love. And what do you know? It smells LUSH, it applies easily and sinks into my skin instantly leaving no hint of greasiness and the softest skin I think I have ever had. Now that's what Glossybox is all about.

Next we have Ciate long lasting full coverage nail enamel in 'Kitten Heels'. Until the beginning of this month, I had never heard of Ciate, but Marie Clare magazine recently had a freebie Ciate lipgloss. Are they a new brand or have I just missed them? I can't give you the low down on how the nail varnish applied and how it wore because I haven't got around to trialling it yet, but you can be guaranteed that this little red beauty will be finding itself onto my nails very soon. It is a stunning colour, beautiful packaging, and I'm pleased with the size of the bottle. If it turns out to be as good as it looks like it is going to be, Glossybox will have introduced my to another product I will go away and stock up on.

Lastly we have Xen-Tan fake tan in dark. To start with, I am porcelein pale, which is not going to work too well with a dark fake tan. Also, this sample (although a fairly substantial amount) looks as though it has the danger of running out half way through application. Imagine if you got cracking with your sample fake tan and ran out leaving just one foot porcelein pale and the rest of you golden brown? It's a chance I'm not prepared to take! Having said that, if I was already blessed with a sun kissed glow, I would maybe try it on a smaller area (say legs or face). This will find itself a happy home, however, as I have already put it in a package going to one of my favourite Big Wardrobe swappers who I know will appreciate it.

Overall, I think last month's products were probably of more use to me than this month's. However, that is a part of the deal and perhaps it could be argued that my reluctance to try things (fake tan and pale lipgloss) is totally against the Glossybox ethos. Certainly, the products are all tempting and a decent size. I'm not overly concerned about how much the box itself is worth in relation to my £10 paid, but I think the point of a box like this is not to give you the kind of samples you can pick up in magazines or in department stores. You should be getting something that you don't normally come across.

I would hate to think that I was missing out on a fabulous product I had never heard of and that might become an all time favourite of mine because Glossybox was afraid to add it as the sample might be considered too small. Having said that, I do also believe that it is in the best interest of the company providing the sample to make sure that there is enough product to make a decision on. It is in Glossybox's best interests also to keep the wow factor. After all, there is a lot of space in those little pink boxes and it doesn't look so exciting when you open your box to a great expanse of black paper cuttings with a few tiny samples dotted around.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Non surgical brow lift... yes please...

It's been awhile since I used Avon products. I'll admit it, I'm dazzled by the big name brands - the MACs and BeneFits that promise to do the beauty impossible whilst being packed in kitsch. I'm also genuinely loyal to my skincare holy grail (Clarins day and night creams) that I have been using since I was 21. But Avon? Well, it's something my mum used... That was until one of my favourite Big Wardrobe swappers introduced me to the Avon range and before long, I wasn't only swapping, I was buying!

I have been absolutely blown away by this product "ANEW Clinical Eye Lift Pro". Costing a hefty £19.50 (rivalling the prices of many of the big skincare brands), this little pot offers two distinct products in one. A brow lift using surgical grade technology to improve hooded eyes; and an under eye cream to deal with fine lines, sagging, and dark circles. The reviews on the Avon website are very favourable and this is one of their best sellers. Not only that, there was a special offer of £10 for the cream, sunglasses AND a mascara. It had to be worth a try.

The Brow life (labelled 1 on the photo) feels instantly tightening and it does actually seem to lift and tighten my brow. I have naturally deep set eyes and they tend to appear hooded, especially as my skin is now beginning to show signs of aging.

The under eye cream (labelled 2 on the photo) also has a slight tightening and cooling effect on application. It doesn't bunch the wrinkles, making your eyes puffy (and your wrinkles therefore more pronounced, just taking up less space); or worse - smear your undereye down across the top of your cheeks giving you dark hollows that give you a skeleton look. What it does is much gentler than this, smoothing and softening. As a base underneath concealer, powder, and eye shadow, this makes an absolutely amazing transformation on my eyes. I do have an issue with the pot itself however; although it comes with the inner lid, this isn't really going to be enough to make sure that the two products stay apart in transit, which means I can't throw it at the bottom of my make up bag and forget about it.

As you can see from the photograph, there is a definite (if small) difference. The brow is lifted, showing more of my eyelid; and the wrinkles underneath my eye are reduced and smoothed. It hasn't totally changed things - my eye is still hooded, but the difference, albeit slight, is enough for me to keep spending on the product. (In both photos I am wearing MAC Select Cover Up Concealer in NW20 under the eye, and MAC Select Moisture Cover Concealer in NW15 above the eye)
I have tried a few 'miracle' eye creams in my time.
The second best product I have tried is BeneFit's Ooh La La Lift which smoothed my lines away, and diminished the effect of dark circles, but seemed to spread my under eye area out across my cheeks leaving skeletal hollows. It also seems to have a strange reflective quality in flash photography which makes it obvious that someone is wearing it in night out photos. I have also tried Clarin's Eye Revive Beauty Flash Balm, MAC Prep and Prime Eye Vibrancy, Lancome Renargie Yeux, and BeneFit Eye Con (which looks discontinued now). All of these seemed to have no obvious effects. If they were doing something, I missed it. Each of them I forgot to keep wearing after about a week and didn't notice the difference when I stopped.

There are a lot of eye creams out there, with some very big promises. Time and time again, these promises just don't seem to stack up when it comes to my eyes. However, this time, I think Avon's Anew Clinical Eye Lift Pro really has come up with a product that makes a noticable difference to my eyes. And that, to me, is a reason for you to give it a whirl.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Today... for your Kindle pleasure

I am an avid reader. I have a long commute to and from work in the morning. Luckily, the journey I take and the times I take it means that most of the time I have a nice comfy seat and a cosy journey. After I have put my make up on for the day (yeah I know....!!!) I settle down with my Kindle for some quality reading time. I thought I would share a few of my latest reads:

In the Darkest Corner, Elizabeth Haynes:
This is currently just 99p on Kindle which I have to admit was pretty much my sole reason for picking it up. Plus, it looks like it has some excellent reviews. The book starts with a court scene which I found difficult to follow and get into. Luckily I persevered through it and by about twenty pages in I was 100% hooked. This is the tale of a vibrant, vivacious young woman who meets and starts a relationship with an abusive man. Her memories of this relationship are told in tandem with the story of her present, where she is an anxious and deflated woman who is struggling with the symptoms of OCD and PTSD. The stories are woven together, intermingling between the two very different women. The end is delightful.

The Sick Rose is Erin Kelly's second book. Her first, The Poison Tree has already found it's way into the Amazon top 100 bestsellers. Just like 'In the darkest corner' this story revolves around tales that weave in and out of each other. Firstly you have Paul, whose life on an Essex council estate sees him struggling to avoid trouble and finding himself wrapped up in something that means he is relocated by a witness protection program to the Midlands. Here he meets Louisa, a member of staff, who has her own story. Her story takes place in London ten years earlier and takes her through teenage romance and obsession through to her own personal nightmares. The tales weave together, creating a plotline with a whole heap of twists, turns, and suspense.

Do not lick the Phones by Britney Bronte is available on Kindle only. It is an expose into a psychic tv channel, and I presume that Britney Bronte is a pen name as she says she has kept everything as truthful as she can... and not be sued! This is a fabulous read and incredibly well written. It contains the best of chick lit comedy with entertaining characters, developing friendships, and a budding romance. The psychic tv channel (and psychic phone lines that support it) are written about in gory detail, as are the 'babe' tv channels and phonelines on another floor. This is the kind of book that really champions from Kindle - independantly authored, no publishing houses looking for a safe profit, and available to read soon after it has been written.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Budget beauty treats

You've probably seen the adverts; and if you haven't you might just have heard of Groupon-style bargain hunters KGB Deals. Log on to their website and program it to remember your nearest town and it will give you a plethora of lovely offers at a fraction of the price you would usually expect to pay. There are also national deals for money off of websites, products, and holidays. Even better, you don't need to hope that other people see and choose to buy the deal for it to become a deal. All it takes is for you to hit the button, give the Paypal readies, and claim your deal. I've tried a few of the beauty deals over the last few months, so here's my thoughts so far:

The Pros:
  1. Ridiculously low prices for beauty and hair treatments that are usually way beyond my budget
  2. A cheap introduction to new beauty treatments that you might not have paid the higher prices for to start with (hello fishie pedicure)
  3. It's difficult to work out which salons offer wonderful, gorgeous treatments and perfect customer service. Here you can find out by trialling a few without having to pay full price for potential bad service and a bad job
The Cons:
  1. The sheer numbers of people buying the deal means that you are going to have to either book the second the deal is released or wait at least a month, if not longer to get your deal. Not so good if you wanted a fast appointment.
  2. You'll be getting the google maps out and going down a LOT of back streets - the salons are often way off the beaten track
  3. Some salons can be snobby and treat you like a freebie bargain hunter rather than a potential repeat customer
So there you have it. If you don't mind slogging down a few back streets clutching your voucher, and you are happy to book in advance, you can get some pretty impressive deals.
Such as: Colour, Cut and Blowdry for £29; facial and laser hair removal also for £29; or a facial, pedicure, manicure AND brow shape for £15. KGB will email you every morning and let you know the deals of the day, and each deal gives you three days to buy it and usually about three months to book it.

THE DEAL: 30 minute facial, luxury manicure and pedicure for £28
THE PROMISE: Shake off the winter blues with today's stellar deal. For just £28 you can enjoy an express facial, luxury manicure and luxury pedicure worth £115. That's a 75% saving!
THE REALITY: St James Hair and Beauty is almost empty as I turn up on a rainy March monday afternoon. It's looking a little run down but the woman doing my facial for me is absolutely lovely. Really chatty, explaining everything as she goes along. The facial is very relaxing and the pedicure and manicure are both wonderful jobs, using an OPI nail colour in a coral hue. I am not offered any vouchers or given a price list for my next visit, but I am left with a feeling that I have been welcomed and looked after like any other customer

THE DEAL: Half-head of highlights, wash, cut and blow dry, Wella SP conditioning treatment and a scalp massage for £35
THE PROMISE: This kgbdeal includes a half head of highlights, wash, cut and blow dry, Wella SP conditioning treatments, scalp massage and a £20 voucher for family and friends to spend on any treatment over £50
THE REALITY: First of all, it took a long time for someone to get back to me in order to book my appointment. I sent emails and left messages on the answerphone of the Tache Hair Salon but to no avail. They finally DID get back to me, once I had put in a dispute with Paypal in order to get my money back. Not off to a great start. I totally understand that salons are overwhelmed by the amount of people getting in contact and booking appointments, but leaving me feeling as though I have been ripped off before I even get there is not a great start. The salon itself was within a gym and a small, but smart and well looked after establishment. The half head of highlights was throughout my hair and took a long time (I have very thick hair and lots of it) and the cut and blow dry was good. The Wella conditioning treatment was really just a conditioner after the shampoo and the scalp massage was three minutes whilst the conditioner was taking effect. I expect this to be a part of a colour and cut service and to have it listed as an extra as part of a deal is a bit cheeky I feel. Besides, the hairdresser had big acryllic nails which, along with the fresh bleach on my scalp, made it more like a form of torture than a relaxing addition. The Tache hairdressers were polite and did a good job with my hair, but I always felt like a 'KGB cheapie' and I didn't get the promised voucher at the end.

THE DEAL: A £40 waxing voucher for £8 at the Phoenix Beauty Point
THE PROMISE: Phoenix Beauty Point offers caring, luxury treatments that are designed to soothe and pamper. Your waxing voucher covers all available treatments and gives you the chance to mix and match if you wish.
THE REALITY: I chose a full leg and eyebrow wax and was able to book an appointment fairly quickly. The salon itself was locked up when I arrived and very small. I rang the doorbell and was greeted by a friendly beauty therapist who sat me down with some magazines while I waited (I was early) and went back to her client. The treatment was excellent and the beauty therapist was lovely and friendly and explained that she ran the salon on her own, which is why it was locked when she was with clients. She did everything herself - answered the phone, opened the door to the next customer, and did the treatments; whilst at no time making me feel like I was in the way or ignored. When I left she gave me a very generous loyalty card with discount which meant that every single treatment would be less than half price. Six weeks later and I'm about to book my next wax. When you find a gem like this one, you keep coming back; whether or not KGB has deal after deal for waxing or not.

THE DEAL: Hair package: includes full head of colour or half-head of highlights, cut and blow dry, shiatsu massage, treatment and a drink for £29
THE PROMISE: This kgbdeal includes a full head of colour or half-head of highlights, cut and blow dry, shiatsu massage, treatment and a glass of wine or beer
THE REALITY: GF Salons is a fairly new salon in the back streets of Central London. It is difficult to locate and you can imagine that it is easily overlooked by customers. It is a well run and organised salon and they give me a profile to fill out, as a new customer. As I arrive I am offered my drink (I choose sparkling water rather than beer or wine) and seen by the stylist very quickly, despite being about ten minutes early. The stylist is friendly and chatty and I feel like a regular, no hint of snobbiness whatsoever. The half head of highlights advertised in reality becomes just the top few layers of my hair and my fringe. I am offered two colours of highlights; but on the proviso that I pay an extra £10, so I stick with the one shade. The treatment is (you guessed it) in reality just the conditioner after my shampoo, and likewise the Shiatsu massage is a scalp massage whilst the conditioner does it's stuff. Again, I really do feel that conditioner after a colour treatment, a scalp massage, and a drink (alcoholic or not) are not extras. They are lovely additions, but they aren't anything special and shouldn't really be considered part of a deal. The haircut and highlights is wonderful - the stylist did a really good job. I am left feeling that I have got a really good deal for my £29, despite the mis-selling of the Shiatsu massage and treatment. As I leave I am handed a little envelope with money off vouchers and price lists for myself and 'recommend a friends'. If I could afford more than £30 for a haircut I really would come back here, but these deals are more of a necessity than a bonus extra for me right at this moment and I already have my next colour and cut booked for September (as discussed earlier... you have to do it in advance!) curtesy of KGB deals.

Have you ever booked a KGB beauty deal?
What was your experience like?
Are you planning to book one in the future?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sunny afternoon jam session

I'm one of those people who get migraines. One of my migraine triggers is orange, as in the fruit, which means that I go out of my way to avoid oranges and orange juice. Sadly, this also means that I also avoid jam as some jam is made with pectin that comes from orange. It's almost impossible (apart from the crashing migraine afterwards) to tell which jams are likely to contain secret orange (although usually apple jams are safe) and therefore I tend to just avoid all jam. Which is a big shame because I love jam, and the good things in life (scones and sponge cakes) are all the better for a big dollop of jam.

Which is why I make my own. I'm rubbish at saving and sterilising jars so I just make a big glass bowl of it once every four weeks or so and keep it in the fridge. Today was a jam making day. I tend to stick to the same formula more or less of:

* 4 parts fruit (it helps to include a small amount of fruit that is naturally high in pectin such as apple or quince)
* 4 parts caster sugar
* 1 part lemon juice

Today's jam was strawberry with a small apple (for extra setting power). I started off de-greening my strawberries with this handy device from Firebox. It grabs the stems out quickly and easily leaving you with most of the strawberry left. It certainly takes some of the tedium away from preparing a 1lb of strawberries!

I then mushed all the fruit up with a hand blender, stirred in the sugar and lemon juice, and slowly brought the jam to the boil. I turned up the heat and fast boiled until the jam was ready. Basically, the jam gets darker in colour and stickier and reduces and well, starts resembling jam rather than fruit mush. The longer you leave it boiling for the better the set of the jam will be. I find it tends to take about twenty minutes of fast boil. You can check that the jam is ready by dripping a small amount on a cold plate. If it begins to set straight away, you know that the jam is ready to go. If it doesn't set at all, it's going to need a lot more boiling. Pour the jam into containers (glass is best - believe me I found out the hard way why plastic isn't a good idea and so did my cooker when the jam melted its way through). If you are a lot more prepared and less lazy than me, or are planning to keep the jam for a long-ish time you will already have sterilised a set of glass jars in boiling water first. I clearly didn't (and don't) so it gets tipped into glass bowls.

And in my fridge the jam sits, waiting to make my toast happy in the mornings! The bread roll in the photo is home made too. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I love food, and love to have a pile of home baked rolls waiting to be enjoyed! Unlike many unloved breadmakers that sit lonely on the kitchen shelf, mine is always on the go! This recipe is made using the dough cycle. I use fast action yeast and let the breadmaker do all the hard work to mix and knead. When the dough is ready, I shape it into balls and stick cling film over the top and leave it on top of the oven while it heats up. When the dough has doubled in size, I then brush the tops with milk and put them in the oven until they brown. This is my own recipe and uses a little rye flour for a slightly more nordic taste. The ingredients are:

* 300ml liquid including 50 ml milk, 1 tablespoon melted cooled butter, and 1 egg (I put the milk, butter, and egg in a measuring jug and then top it up to 300ml with the water)

* 400g strong white bread flour

* 100g rye flour

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon caster sugar

* 1 and a half teaspoons fast action yeast

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Well, I think Glossybox over the last few months have become slightly infamous across Twitter and Blogspot. Firstly, everyone wanted to praise them. Brand new concept to the UK (although the US have Birchbox), beautiful packaging, full size NARS Illuminator in the first box. Lots of people signed up, many of whom were too late to get the second box, and some of which were even too late to get the third box. That's success for you. They could do no wrong. Or so it seemed.

Cut to the delivery day of June's box. Plenty of eager bloggers desperately awaiting their pretty pink box full of goodies. By lunchtime, the glamour was beginning to wear off. Messages began appearing on the facebook page from disgruntled customers. Was this just greedy people expecting something for nothing and finding no NARS in their box, or was there really a serious issue happening?

Firstly, the box itself didn't have the wow factor of the first box. Now that didn't mean that the box wasn't worth as much, or even that it wasn't as good. But it didn't wow. Secondly, and perhaps most damningly, sitting in the beautiful pink box was a travel sized can of Batiste. That's right, Batiste. The little green bottle of dry shampoo that you pick up on a whim from your local chemist for £2.99 (and that is for a FULL sized bottle). As the Glossybox facebook page errupted, amid cries of 'you can buy Batiste in Poundland' (and I have to say, I'm jealous here. I have never once seen Batiste in the Brixton Poundland, otherwise I would be stocking up), Glossybox happily sent an email to their subscribers warning them that from September the box will be £12.95 including postage and packing, rather than £10.

Well, at least those waiting two months for their first box might find that they get one a bit sooner, what with all the unsubcribing.

So, was June's Glossybox REALLY that bad?
Ignoring the Batiste (yes, it's a great product but to be honest, a travel sized can of Batiste is more suited to a freebie bag at a summer festival than to a sample box you have paid £10 for); the first product was Bio Effect EGF Serum. This little bottle of goodness (and believe me, it is teeny tiny) is marketed as Iceland's best kept secret. If anything is going to make me excited about a product, then it is hearing that it is Scandinavian, and sadly, I'm not being sarcastic here! I have used this little bottle twice (and knocked it over the first time I used it) so at a guess I would say that at using once a week, I have maybe two months more usage in this. Not bad. The dropper is attached to a syringe which gives you the opportunity to carefully measure your dose. This product is designed to make your skin cells rejuvinate, which is great for slightly aging thirty-something skin like mine. Maybe not so good for younger skin that is prone to breakouts. It feels light on the skin and although it is slightly sticky, it does help to give the skin a fresh, glowing look (see right). I'm not sure I would be able to afford the price of this serum, but I am certainly sold on the use of serums, something I had never tried or even considered trying before. Result!

The second product in my Glossybox was a mini OPI nail varnish. As you can see from the photo (pictured handily next to a full sized bottle I happened to have lying around), it is mini. To be fair though, I don't remember ever finishing a bottle of nail varnish. Some of the Glossybox's had a silver coloured OPI so I am very glad that I received the burgandy, and as you can see, it looks good on. Another product I am happy with and which I will reuse again and again.

The third product was a rather delightful perfume. Perles de Lalique from Lalique. Another tiny bottle, and a product from a brand I had never heard of, and therefore never tried. This is a typical sample sized bottle and as such is a bit of a pain to get the lid on and off of. Why do they make samples so difficult to actually use? On first whiff it's not impressive. The top note is alcohol closely followed by rose. On contact with my skin however, the smell changes dramatically and it is as though it has become a completely different perfume. This is the kind of sample that Glossybox will really have success with. If I came anywhere near this in a department store, it would never make it onto my skin. In a sample, it's worth a try. On my skin (and I feel I must admit here that I make all citrus bases turn into Jif lemon and sweet scents into cheap gin. I don't know why. Possibly I am a changeling) it transforms itself into a deep musky, intoxicating peppery smell with a hint of Patchouli. Perfect. I'm sold. I'm a fan and will more than likely be acquiring a full size bottle at some point. However, there have been some really mixed reviews over this one, with many people thinking it smells old fashioned. I'll admit, I enjoy a good 'grown up' and complex perfume. My 'go to' perfumes are Bond No. 9 Nuits De Noho and the (now sadly discontinued) Jean Paul Gaultier Fragile, both of which also get very mixed reviews.

The final product in the box (again, I'm ignoring the Batiste - I'm sure most people know what Batiste does) is a Mama Mio exfoliator. The final product was different from box to box with some people getting a lip gloss, and some shower gel. I'm pleased with my Mama Mio. This is another once a week product and the first time I used it I absolutely slathered it on and used about half of the bottle. The next time, I was a lot more sparing and therefore this is going to last me a bit longer than I first anticipated. This is an incredibly fine exfoliator with very small (but effective) granules of pumice stone. The formula is gentle with a delicate fragrance that is reminiscent of lemon squash. The box suggests that it is gently enough to use on your face and indeed it is, even for sensitive skin like mine. I mixed it with my usual cleanser (Clarins gentle foaming cleanser) and have used it once a week for the last few weeks.

Overall, I'm happy with this month's Glossybox. I have used all of the products more than once and have no plans to swap/ sell/ or give away any of them. It's a shame the same can't be said for my own shopping sprees. It's a good, useful range of products, many of which I would not have bought for myself. It's doing what it set out to do and introducing me to new products.

Am I happy with the new inflated £12.95 price tag? I have to say here that I'm not. £10 a month is acceptable, but in reality, the box is a marketing tool for brands to sell their products to me. The idea is to get it out to as many people as possible and market the products inside to a new audience. I get that it costs to run something like this, not to mention the postage costs, but part of me can't help thinking that the business plan should be to reach as many people as possible and that your customers are also doing you a favour by exploring and reviewing the products. For that reason, from September, I'll be getting my samples from Boudoir Privee instead.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

How to Be a Woman

Caitlin Moran's 'How to Be a Woman' is disguised as a light hearted chick-lit flavoured celebrity biography. To be fair it is autobiographical and written in a light hearted style, but it certainly isn't the kind of book you can write off as 'just another' of 'those' books. For one thing, it actually is funny.

Caitlin Moran is a journalist who started her career at Melody Maker and progressed through to the broadsheets. She can often be found twittering alongside the likes of Stephen Fry and Giles Coren.

Moran talks about her experiences of being female. From her teenage years, passing through relationships and childbirth, through to ageing. She voices things that other's shy away from, such as fantasy relationships. I'm sure I didn't think I was the only one to process these things through my mind and take them right through to the gut wrenching break up conclusion. Ok. Maybe I did. It's refreshing to hear that even if Moran is the only one as mental as I am, at least I'm not on my own.

Throughout the book she takes a look at feminism and asks some important questions such as 'Why on earth is it suddenly uncool to be a feminist?' and 'Why do we spend so much money waxing our pubic hair?' Important questions. I remember as a teenager in the late 1990s being confused and surprised that my declaration of feminism led others to ask whether I was a lesbian. Ok so I was rather parcial to my Doctor Marten boots at the time, but surely ALL women should love themselves and champion other women without wanting to sleep with them?

On the pubic front, Moran suggests that the reason the Brazilian has become so fashionable is in fact due to pornography - the camera needs to see exactly what is going on down there. Part of it is clearly also due to women being very concerned about what other women think (and therefore being their own worst enemies). Let's face it, unkempt underarm and pubic hair suggests lack of looking after oneself and therefore a lack of hygiene. Something no one wants to be accused of. But let's admit also that pubic hair growing back is one of the itchiest things known to ladykind.

Moving on to the end of the book, Moran talks about the plastic surgery generation. Once a woman who has enough money gets to a certain age, the nips and tucks start appearing. The botox, the breast lifts, the chemical peels... they all start turning women into identikit robots. A sort of Stepford Wife conveyor belt of pre menopausal ball breakers. Is growing old also considered to be unhygienic in 2011? And are we tweaking and nipping to look good for men or because we are scared of the disapproving looks of other women?

Friday, 8 July 2011

MAC Semi Precious Collection haul!

Yesterday, MAC's new make up collection launched. I have been waiting for this one for some time. It boasted eye shadows, mineralised face powders, gorgeous blushes, and lipsticks, among other things. All around the theme of semi precious stones. You don't need to tell me about this collection twice!

In preparation for this new collection I have spent the last few months clearing out my make up bags, swapping things I only managed to use a few times for clothes for myself and toys for my daughter; as well as selling make up and anything else I could find laying around the house not being used to raise the funds for this collection. I've hauled a few things from this collection. Here are my thoughts on my haul:

Hint of Sapphire and Blue Sheen mineralised eye shadows. MAC mineral eye shadows often seem to be the Marmite of make up. You are either a super fan, or you have no time for them.
I'm a fan and these particular shadows seem to hold just the right amount of shimmer without being glittery. The colours themselves are a lot less bright than they appear in the pot, but this is expected as they swirl together to create a colour that has depth and texture. There are twelve of these eye shadows in the collection. I chose the two blues. I am a sucker for blue eye shadow but find it difficult to get just the right colour for my eyes as often I end up with a clash or with an "Abba classic" look. I'm pleased with the way this colour combination worked out.
I also went for the 'Gem of Roses' lipstick. This is a classically simple design - gentle pink with slight shimmer. Yet, simple though it is, it manages to be quite an unusual colour. It is very understated and pretty and works well with my skin tone, although it doesn't have that 'wow' factor that some of the recent MAC lipsticks have had. I'm not 100% sure I'll be keeping this colour. It's probably one of the closest things I'll ever find to the 'My Lips But Better' holy grail of lipsticks, but I just can't see myself remembering to go looking for it and fear it may well find itself next discovered when I am looking for funds for the next MAC Haul.
The final product from my Semi Precious haul is MAC Mineralised Skin Finish in 'Rose Quartz' - this is a beauty powder with a rosey blush, implanted with a shimmery mix of colour in the centre, rather like a chunk of cut... well... quartz. I'm in love with this MSF. The colour is slightly more of a bronzer on my NW20 skin (for those of you not used to the MAC system - NW is 'not warm'... ie cool toned and the 20 is the second palest foundation colour available). The shimmer highlights my cheekbones well, which is no mean feat when you consider that I have one of those faces with slightly pudgy round cheeks. It also manages to shine without falling in every single pore and highlighting them. BeneFit take note!

Getting started

So here I am. Part of me is wondering why in fact giving myself another reason to be surgically attached to the internet is a good idea. After all, it's not exactly as though I have any TIME to sit and blog. And besides, I have projects coming out of my ears that might just, at some point, contribute positively to my ever spiralling into minus figures budget. Blogs that are there to bring PR to the already published books, and to direct unsuspecting internet dwellers happily towards workshops.

So with this in mind, I choose a rainy Friday morning to start a blog, the sole purpose of which is to bitch, whine, brag, and laugh at my life. To be honest, I'm quite excited about writing for fun again. The prospect of chatting about the things that actually aren't really of interest to the wider world, yet unashamedly sharing them in a way that suggests that actually I think the world NEEDS to know it all.

I am a thirty something woman with a scarily intelligent husband and a busy three year old daughter, a four day a week 'day' job working as a trainer, and a seven day a week 'hobby job' that shares my slightly geeky passion with others. The day job pays, the hobby job covers it's own costs. Sometimes. Due to this slightly non-sensical division of time, I am also on a ridiculously tight budget which means I am constantly finding newer and more innovative ways to live in a cheaper way. Or rather, finding crazy ways to get the things I want/ need for cheaper.

I am heavily addicted to my Kindle, as well as to make up and fashion. I am also heavily addicted to wonderful food. I love to cook and bake and to revel in great food. This has the unsurprising side effect of leaving me fighting to stay the right side of a size 12. Thank goodness for the free gym at work. Well, when I say free gym... what I really mean is.. slightly smelly classroom with a few bits of exercise equipment the majority of which are broken.