Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Mini Home Haul And Lou On Beauty

Having spent most of the last week wandering around IKEA and building flat pack furniture you could say that I'm a little bit sick of houses and home renovations . After recent living room and bathroom changes, the house is still upside down and my plans for my own bedroom and my office space have been shoved right on the back burner. Their time will come though  and in the mean time instead of buying sensible things like more coat hangers, storage and paint, I will continue to buy pretty, if not necessarily practical things.

The bulk of this haul comes from H&M, and despite my need for prettiness and frippery, the first couple of things are pretty sensible, we'll always need bedding so I took advantage of the sale section on the website and ordered a few things.

A little while ago now I ordered a gorgeous lilac, grey botanical print duvet set (read about it here), I loved it and it's been on my bed almost constantly since I got it. In the sale section there were a few matching items so I decided to get them and build up my botanical print collection. The first thing that I got was a lovely, soft matching fleece blanket. It was £6 and although it's big enough to cover my double bed, it's quite warm so I think I'll be using it as a bed runner in the colder months.

As well as the fleece blanket I also got a couple extra pillowcases to match my duvet set, which were £3 each. Since I sleep with both a top and a bottom sheet, I don't change my duvet cover any where near as often as I change my sheets and pillowcases, so they were a good investment.

The next couple of H&M items were full price but I couldn't resist. It's a bit of thing at the moment to be a blogger and to be obsessed with pineapples, but I've loved pineapples for as long as I can remember. I love the taste and I love how they look, I had a soft toy pineapple when I was younger, and I was lucky enough to inherit my grandmas kitsch 1960's plastic, and glass pineapple ice bucket, so it's fair to say I've got history.

I bought the silver pineapple glass jar a little while ago (see it here) but when the gold version came back in stock I couldn't resist ordering it. The top and the bottom of the pineapple are slightly different shades of gold but it quite like it that. Unfortunately I can't find it online anymore but if it does come back into stock it was £7.99 and it actually a decent size so it's well worth the money.

Sticking with the pineapple theme my last H&M buy is also associated with this tasty tropical treat. This first appeared on the website quite a few months ago but it disappeared pretty much straight away and I thought I'd missed out. Thankfully it's now back in stock so I snapped it up as quickly as I could.

Quite a bit smaller than it's sparkly gold cousin, this white ceramic pineapple is actually a candle. With a removable lid, the bottom half of the pineapple contains a unscented candle. I'm not that bothered about the candle so I'm trying to think of a way to remove the wax without lighting it, so I an use it as a trinket box. This is £4.99 and it's currently available on the website.

My final purchase just for me was a cushion. Yes my cushion obsession strikes again and it's another blogger that's to blame. I'll let her off this time because I really do like it x Recently a lovely north east blogger Katie (follow her here if you haven't already) appeared on a local news programme, and in the background there was a fleeting glimpse of a cushion on her bed.

Loving cushions like I do, I tweeted her and asked her where it was from and the answer was Tesco. Needing it then and there I didn't want to take the risk of trailing up to my local Tesco Express so I had a look online and there it was, and it was in the sale for just £6. Unfortunately it's sold out online now but it's definitely worth having a look in a larger store if you're interested.

It's just a plain white cotton style cushion, with a black trim, a pink frame print and the words "Be Your Own Kind Of Beautiful" in black. The words are so poignant and so, so very true. Words can really hurt and I've been told all my life by idiots that I'm ugly because of my facial paralysis and whilst I'm never going to be conventionally beautiful (is anyone?), my imperfections make me who I am, in fact at one point I debated changing my blog name to Imperfect Beauty to reflect the real me.
At the risk of sounding big headed, I am beautiful inside and out, I'm a good person and so what if my face is a bit lop sided, and my tummy is a bit bigger than a supermodels, we should accept people, their flaws, and their quirks as a given.

Argh that got a bit heavy didn't it, never mind for a bit of light relief though you can watch this little video that I made to show you all of the items in this haul x Don't forget to subscribe to my You Tube channel if you haven't already x

There is one little item that I didn't feature in the video because it's something that me and Mummy Lou paid for together. I don't want to go into too much detail but we haven't had the best of times lately. I'm not really going to put too much on the blog if I can help it but be all means keep an eye on my twitter (I'm @LouLou699) if you want to keep up to date. We're both feeling a little fragile though and for us candles are a nice way to relax so we decided to treat ourselves to this Yankee Candle gift set.

The Cafe Culture collection from Yankee Candles contains some of the nicest fragrances that they've released in a long time. Whilst we both enjoy floral fragrances and I don't mind fresh scents on occasions, our real love is foodie fragrances. As the name would suggest Cafe Culture is all about the posh cafe experience. This embossed tin box contains 3 small jars that burn for around 25 - 40 hours each. The 3 fragrances are Cappuccino Truffle, which has a gorgeous creamy coffee and chocolate scent; Pain Au Raisin, a combination of buttered dough, cinnamon, and juicy brandy soaked raisins and finally Tarte Tatin, a combination of apple, sugar, spices, and buttery pastry. We got the set from this seller at Amazon and it was just £14.99 including postage x

Yummy we haven't burnt them yet but the smell when you open the tin is incredible. The intention was to buy the small jars, to help us decide which of the larger jars to buy, but at this rate I can see us buying all 3. I love my Yankee Candles and I'm really looking forward to seeing some more yummy scents in the upcoming Christmas collections.

So that was my mini home haul and a bit of an emotional outpouring all in one x Gotta love hormones haven't you ;) Thanks for reading, don't forget to watch the video and if you have any questions please let me know xx

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Nude Eyeshadow Palette With A Twist - Smashbox Double Exposure Palette*

If you're as addicted to nude eyeshadow palettes as I am then you'll know that at some point you need to draw the line and say enough is enough! I have a drawer full of neutral eyeshadows from all price points and as much as I'd love to keep adding to my collection, even I know that I've got to stop somewhere.

It doesn't stop me wishing and wanting though, and I've currently got my eye on some of the palettes that I passed on including Urban Decay Naked 3 , the Too Faced Chocolate Bar palette and the Smashbox Full Exposure palette.

I must admit that the Smashbox Full Exposure Palette was one that initially passed me by, but every time I go into Boots now I can't help looking at it and thinking how pretty it is. Full Exposure and now it's mini travel sized sibling, looks to be the perfect nude palette and features a combination of matte and shimmery shades in various neutral and smokey colours. For a neutral lover, and a Smashbox fan like me, it looks to be a must have.but I just can't justify it. If you're like me though and you're stowed off with neutral palettes but you fancy a little bit of a Smashbox splurge the Double Exposure palette might be right up your street..

The Smashbox Double Exposure Palette is very much Full Exposure's, braver little sister. Yes you have a few everyday neutral shades, but you also have a wider range of shades including silvers, blues and purples that take you from day to night, with the sweep of a brush.

Boxed and packaged in a magnetic fastening, plastic lined cardboard palette, Double Exposure contains 14 eyeshadows and a full sized double ended brush.

Unlike with some palettes this brush isn't an afterthought, it is identical in size and appearance to the standalone brushes in the Smashbox line. The brush is double ended and features a domed end, and an angled end for precise application.

The box also contains an exclusive #Shapematters insert which gives you instructions and a tutorial for a day look, a dramatic look and a defined look, for 6 different eye shapes.

Okay on to the shadows themselves, and as I say the palette contains 14 matte, satin and shimmer shades, ranging from browns, taupe's, and nudes, to lilacs, purples, mauve's and even a navy blue. The top row of shadows gives you a row of lighter shades, where as the second row gives you some more dramatic colours.

From left to right - Silver, Mauve, Peony, Blanc, Quartz, Flushed and Veiled.

and from left to right - Midnight, Temper, Haze, Noir, Copper, Fig and Espresso.

As you can see the pigmentation of all of theese shadows from the lightest to the darkest is excellent. There isn't a dud shadow in the palette they all blend really well and the staying powder is superb. There is a little bit of fallout on application but that's only to be expected when shadows feel as soft and silky as this.

Impressed so far? Well you've only seen half of it. Yes you get 14 eyeshadows in this palette, but what I haven't mentioned it that with the addition of water you can produce a further 14 shades! Yes that's right every shadow in this palette contains special coated pigments that transform the shades in one of 4 ways when they're used wet. Add a little bit of water or as I've been doing the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water (read my review here) and the shadows will either deepen, turn metallic, become more sparkly or the colours will become more vibrant. Not only that but the addition of water or liquid won't damage your palette, just wet your brush and use the shades straight from the palette without any fear that your shadows will harden or glaze over.

Hopefully from these swatches you can see just how the shadows transform when you add a little bit of liquid - it's almost like foiling or painting! Again on the top row from left to right - Silver, Mauve, Peony, Blanc, Quartz, Flushed, and Veiled.

and on the bottom row from left to right - Midnight, Temper, Haze, Noir, Copper, Fig and Espresso.

The liquid makes a big difference doesn't it? and it really adds to the versatility of this palette. It isn't cheap at around £37-38 but your really getting 28 highly pigmented, versatile, blendable and wearable shades, and a full sized, superb quality brush. I was kindly given this palette way back at the end of January and I've used it pretty much solidly since then. This is a picture of my palette taken about 2 weeks ago - it doesn't look anywhere near as pretty or pristine as it once did but it has been very well used.

If you want to branch out from the traditional nude palette without being too brave then this palette could be worth a try. The colours can take your from day to night, and you can be as subtle and neutral or as daring and dramatic as you like. Smashbox Double Exposure Palette retails between £37 and £37 and is available from various retail outlets including Boots, Sephora and from the Smashbox website. Have you tried any Smashbox eyeshadows? Let me know your thoughts below x


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Hair Removal For Scaredy Cats - Nair Argan Oil Shower Power Cream*

Although the weather over the last few days feels more like January than July, it is officially summer time. It hasn't all been bad though, we have had some nice days, and hopefully there are some more to come, and whether your staying at home in the UK or your lucky enough to be heading off for some guaranteed sunshine, you can pretty much guarantee that most of us will at some point be revealing a little bit more skin than normal.

Like most things, whether or not you remove your body hair has now become a big issue, and whilst I'm very much in favour of people doing what they want to do with their own bodies, personally I'm not a fan. In the winter I must admit that I'm a bit lazy but in the summer I want smooth and silky skin, so off it comes.

Of all the steps in my beauty routine hair removal is probably the biggest chore of all time. It takes forever but thankfully times are changing and modern hair removal methods are quicker and easier than ever. Whilst I swear by waxing and epilation for my legs, I do have a bit of a soft spot for hair removal creams when it comes to my more sensitive bits.

Okay using a hair removal cream doesn't offer any long term solutions, and yes they can be a bit smelly and a bit messy but they're ideal for sensitive areas, and for people who just don't like the idea of pain.

If you haven't used a depilatory cream for a while, maybe it's time to give them another try. Modern day hair removal creams are a world away from the smelly, eye watering, drying products from yesteryear.

Nair are one of the best known names around when it comes to home hair removal, and their range includes everything from wax strips, to shaving products and of course depilatory creams. They recently launched their Argan Oil Collection which is a range of products which harness the powerful skin care benefit of this cult Moroccan oil.

I was sent a few of the products to try and the first one that I tried is the Nair Argan Oil Shower Power Cream. Formulated for the legs, bikini line, and underarms, it contains extracts of Argan Oil, Jojoba Oil, Cocoa Butter and Orange Blossom. It also contain an exclusive patented "odour control technology" to cut down on the nasty smells that we normal associate with hair removal creams. It's designed for dry and sensitive skin and it's both clinically and dermatologically tested.

The 200ml tube is boxed and comes complete with full instructions and a plastic spatula. The cream itself is slightly, off white in colour and has a thick creamy texture. It has a subtle almost face cream type aroma with virtually no hint of the familiar rotten egg smell that you traditionally associate with products like this.

It's recommend that you do a small patch test 24 hours before you use the cream just to make sure that it doesn't cause any allergies or irritation. My patch test was fine so I decided to try it out on my legs. Whilst the hair on my legs is dark, thanks to years of waxing and epiliation, it's quite fine and I do actually have a few bald patches, this though is probably a couple of months growth (blushes).

The cream is quite simple to use, you just spread an even layer of cream over the areas that you want to treat, avoiding any broken, sunburned or inflamed skin.

You can either use your fingers, or for larger areas it's much easier to use the spatula, as it makes it easier to achieve an even layer. Although it's quite a thick cream it does still drip a little bit so I would either do it in the bath or shower cubicle or I would cover the floor with an old towel.

Then you just leave it for a few minutes, after that what you can do is actually get into the shower, hence the name shower power, and you can have a shower as normal providing you don't direct the shower head at the area your treating, Then after 3 minutes use the spatula to remove a little bit of the cream, and then you can either wash the cream away or do what I did, I actually preferred to gently remove the cream with the spatula. The shape of the spatula means that it fits the contours of your
body perfectly and it also helps to remove the final stubborn hairs. Then you just finish your shower and you're left with hair free skin. I would recommend you give the shower or bath a good rinse when you're done though, as well as all of those nasty hairs, the cream itself can leave it a bit slippery under foot.

My legs were left a tiny little bit pink after I'd removed the cream but that could have been down to the heat of the shower. They felt smooth and almost as though I'd used a body lotion. There was no dryness and no irritation whatsoever. Nair claim that the effects of this cream can last up to 7 days but I think that very much depends on your own hair growth cycle, for me it was about 4 days before I noticed any real regrowth.

This product certainly doesn't offer a long term hair removal solution but unlike a lot of similar products in the past it's much easier to use, it smells nicer, and it leaves the skin feeling soft, smooth and comfortable. I'll definitely use this product again and I would thoroughly recommend it for anyone who doesn't want to shave or use any of the more painful methods, or for treating more sensitive areas such as the bikini line. Nair Argan Oil Shower Power Cream has a RRP of £6.69, and is available from Boots, Superdrug, and Tesco. If you have any questions on this review please let me know x


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A Belated Birthday Haul And Some Mini Book Reviews - Sali Hughes And Fleur De Force

I'm almost embarrassed to post this but I did promise that I'd show you some of the things that I got for my birthday. Life got in the way unfortunately but way back in May I celebrated my birthday x As per usual I was very, very spoiled by my amazing friends and family and I'm eternally grateful to have them. Since so much time has passed though  instead of doing a proper post I thought I'd do a couple of videos to show you my pressies x

I'm going to be doing a full review of the Benefit Do The Hoola kit in the next few weeks, and I'm going to be doing a video review of the Laura Geller Life In Rose kit, so make sure following both my blog and my You Tube channel x

As well as the things that you can see in the videos I also got a few other bits and pieces, including some Lush items, some money, some jewellery, lots of sweeties and some beauty books - Sali Hughes - Pretty Honest, and The Glam Guide by Fleur De Force. 

I would thoroughly recommend the Sali Hughes book to anyone who has any interest in beauty, whilst I don't agree with everything in it, I love her no nonsense attitude and after reading it I really felt as though I'd learnt something. It covers everything from skin care, to make up, to salon etiquette and beauty and illness.

Fleur's book on the other hand is everything that I thought it would be. I've watched and enjoyed Fleur's videos for a long time, and this is an  easy to read book, that seems to embody Fleur and the variety of her videos. The Glam Guide  covers everything from beauty, and fashion to lifestyle content including food, relationships, self confidence, and blogging and You Tube advice. Unlike some of the other You Tuber books I think that Fleur's book is pitched perfectly for readers of all ages, I'm in my 30's and I enjoyed reading it x I loved the illustrations and I'm definitely going to be giving some of her recipes a try x 

Apologies again that this post has taken so long but if you have any questions on any of the goodies that I received please leave me a comment xx

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Foodie Friday On A Saturday - My Hello Fresh Experience

I think at some point we've all pondered the question - what do I have for dinner? It's one of the most obvious questions we ask ourselves on almost a daily basis but sometimes it's one of the hardest to answer.

How many times have you stood in front of the fridge, and all of a sudden your mind goes blank. Even if there is food in there, you can sometimes feel uninspired when it comes to food. Don't get me wrong I love cooking and I do experiment occasionally with food, when I have the time, but more often than not I make, and eat the same things over, and over again.

So what do you do when you're bored, the fridge is empty and you're lacking in inspiration? Well the most obvious answer is to let somebody else do the cooking, and go out for a meal or have a takeaway, but if you love being in the kitchen, there are other ways, you can read through some cookery books, you can take a trip to your local supermarket or farm shop or you could try one of the many meal delivery or box schemes that are out there.

Probably like most of you I'd seen the adverts for Hello Fresh on TV but it wasn't  something that I'd never thought much about, that was until I received a £25 gift card in a recent Glossybox. An odd collaboration with a beauty box but after a little discussion with Mummy Lou and a look at the Hello Fresh website, we decided to use the voucher and order a box.

Some meal boxes on the market deliver ready prepared meals but Hello Fresh is a little bit different. Every week the chefs at Hello Fresh create delicious, and nutritious recipes in their own kitchens, and instead of being sent a ready meal, you're sent the freshest and best quality ingredients to make the recipes in your own kitchen, usually in less than half an hour.

There are a few different boxes to choose from a Classic Box, a Family Box, and a Veggie Box. Obviously being a vegetarian, I went for the Veggie Box, which is ideal for lacto ovo vegetarians like myself - It contains no meat or fish but it does potentially contains eggs, and dairy products. My one issue is that some of the recipes do contain wheat or gluten but as you'll see there are ways round it.

The Veggie Box that I got costs £36 and comes with the ingredients to make three, generous main meals for 2 people, but you can also get a Veggie box that makes 3 meals for 4 people if you have more mouths to feed. The Classic Box works in a similar way and you also have the option of getting a 5 meal box, and the Family box provides 4 meals a week for 4-5 people.

The good thing about the Hello Fresh scheme is that it flexible, you don't have to buy what you don't want, you can pause and stop deliveries at any time or you can just get a one off box when you feel like it. All the boxes are delivered on a Monday and then you can see a preview of the next weeks meals and if you don't want them you can just pause your account.

I enjoyed my first box so much that I got another one delivered on Monday and this was it.

My boxes were delivered by DHL and I received emails from both them and Hello Fresh ahead of my delivery. My goodies came in a strong cardboard box divided up into a couple of section depending on the food type. All of the chilled items came with ice packs and well wrapped up in insulated packaging, and the rest of the items were well protected with brown paper.

All of the vegetables, fresh herbs and tinned items arrived in excellent condition.The vegetables were firm and unblemished, I received pasta that was made in Italy and the tinned tomatoes and lentils that I got were organic.

I also received a paper bag containing two fresh garlic cloves, and little individual, portion controlled plastic pots of spices.

Finally I received an insulated bag, filled with ice packs and my refrigerated items - fresh peas, real Cypriot Halloumi, a small tub of Creme Fraiche and some real Italian Buffalo Mozzarella. No smart price items here - just good quality, premium, authentic products

So you've got your ingredients then what ? Well for every recipe you received a full colour recipe card, that gives you full instructions on how to prepare every aspect of the dish. The card also provides allergy advice, and nutritional and calorie information. It also gives you a little bit of inspiration behind the dish and an idea of what to expect from it.

The first recipe that I tried this week was Lentil And Charred Vegetable Halloumi Salad.

I am probably the worlds biggest halloumi lover (read my post in praise of the squeaky cheese here) so this recipe was right up my street. Basically you char grill the red pepper and the courgette in a little bit of olive oil, before mixing with the drained green lentils and rocket. You then top it with an
easy salad dressing made with a sprig of thyme, some lemon juice, seasoning and olive oil. Then you toss the halloumi in a little olive oil and some lemon zest before frying it till golden. Top your salad mix with the halloumi and you're done x

In a word - amazing - The saltiness of the halloumi combined perfectly with the tangy dressing, the earthiness of the lentils, the pepperiness of the rocket and the sweetness of the peppers. This was a really nice, and surprisingly filling dish that I'll definitely make again. The only things I needed to add were some salt, pepper and olive oil, and I had some thyme and some lemon left over.

The next meal that I made was something I wasn't sure about at first but it's something that I will definitely make again - Mustard Seed Green Bean Salad With Roasted Sweet Potato.

This was probably the most complicated of the 3 recipes, because you were really making three separate things, it was still pretty simple though and the step by step instructions were easy to follow.
Seeing as I'm a bit of a sweet potato addict the wedges were easier enough to make and they were served with a creamy creme fraiche, lemon and ginger dip. Alongside that you made a salad with fresh peas, sugar snap peas, and green beans, with added red onion, red chilli, garlic and lemon zest, all topped with mustard, nigella, and coriander seeds roasted in oil.

This dish was a real taste explosion that made the most of some really fresh ingredients. The sweet potatoes were sweet and caramelised, the dip was zingy and creamy, and the bean salad was full of fresh flavours, with a hit of warmth from the raw onion, garlic and chilli, and spiciness from the roasted seeds. As I say this dish really surprised me by just how good and how filling it was, and by the multitude of different flavour sensations. I didn't use all the chilli as it was a little on the warm side and I had some ginger and some lemon leftover, and again the only thing I needed to add was oil, salt and pepper.

The final recipe was a nice quick and filling Italian meal, Rigatoni Caprese With Olives And Mozzarella.

This recipe came with a packet of Italian made dried rigatoni pasta which was obviously crammed full of wheat and gluten so I substituted it for the same amount of gluten free pasta. I couldn't find any free from rigatoni but pasta is pasta so fusilli it was. All of the recipes list the allergens quite clearly and it's pretty easy to substitute or replace your own ingredients if your don't like something or if you are allergic.

This was probably the quickest and easiest recipe of the three, you just a really basic tomato sauce, with organic tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic, black olives and lots and lots of fresh basil. Just mix your sauce in with pasta and top with some fresh basil and torn up buffalo mozzarella.

This was a really simple recipe but again it was a recipe that came into it's own because of the freshness and quality of the ingredients. The olives were strong and salty, the basil was hot and peppery and the mozzarella was incredible and easily the nicest that I've ever had. It was firm on the outside and beautifully creamy on the inside. The only additions were salt, pepper and olive oil but I have to admit that I add the a little bit of red chilli to give it a bit more of a bite. This wasn't the most exciting recipe of the 3 but it was a good staple recipe that could be the base for many more meals.

My Hello Fresh experience so far has been a good one,  the quality of the ingredients has really, really impressed me and the recipes have all been tasty, plentiful and easy to follow. Even if your not a regular cook I don't think you'd have a problem following the recipes and if like me you are a dab hand in the kitchen then these recipes will hopefully inspire you to experiment and try out new things and different ingredient combinations.

The boxes aren't cheap but with the box that I get each meal works out at around £6 per potion, per person which isn't that bad when you consider what you spend on a takeaway or in a restaurant. That said I won't be buying a box every week but for an occasional treat or for a when time is precious or when I'm lacking in inspiration, I'll definitely indulge again.

If you fancy trying out a Hello Fresh for yourself, just go to the Hello Fresh website, sign up using my referral code A2NEYL, and get £20 off your first box x  Whether you're a hardcore foodie or even if your just a lazy, this could be the answer to your stomachs prayers. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please leave me a comment x