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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Empties | December 2015

So, here we are ladies and gents - the final Empties post of 2016! Goodness me that's rolled around fast. I feel like I'd had a good month in December in terms of finishing things off - a few hands creams, cleansers, exfoliators and hair products are all making their way to the recycling bins as we speak! Read on to see what I've used up and what I thought...
December 2015 Beauty Empties
December 2015 Empties
Naked Shine Buttermilk & Green Tea Hydrating Conditioner | I'm pretty sure Naked have been discontinued now which is a shame as I really liked their range; this conditioner worked well to hydrate the often-dry ends of my waist-length hair, without weighing it down or making it greasy. It's also silicon-free which is a massive bonus for me, as I do notice an increase in break-outs on my chest, shoulders and back when I use hair products which contain silicon.
Repurchase? Sadly probably not, although I still have one tube to use up.
Superdrug Lemon Sherbet Dry Shampoo | This was a total impulse purchase as I love anything lemony, although I wasn't really expecting great things from it - it was definitely more of a novelty purchase! It did indeed have a really nice citrus-sweet scent but unfortunately it wasn't really much use as a dry shampoo.
Repurchase? No, and I don't think I could anyway as it was Limited Edition!
Burt's Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream | I actually finished this up a lot more quickly than I expected! I did enjoy using it, it had a lovely scent and a nice thick, luxurious texture which worked well to remove dirt and grime, leaving my face feeling clean and soft. My only issue with this was the inclusion of Alcohol Denat. in the ingredients, although I didn't notice it to try my skin out at all, so I can't really complain!
Repurchase? Maybe.
Original BeautyBlender | I received this in a Birchbox and it was the first proper sponge-style make-up applicator I've used. Whilst I was impressed with the foundation application it gives (a lovely smooth, even, almost airbrushed base), I found it started to crack and fall apart quite quickly, and having since purchased the much more purse-friendly Real Techniques Foundation Sponge, I can't honestly see much difference.
Repurchase? No, considering there are alternatives for less than half the price that work just as well for me!
Nip + Fab Glycolic Fic Scrub | I adore the fresh grapefruit scent of this particular one, and the glycolic acid means it has a twofold exfoliating action; it works really well to leave my skin feeling smoother and looking brighter.
Repurchase? Already have; this was my second tube and I'm into my third now!
Batiste Tropical Dry Shampoo | Not my favourite dry shampoo (that crown has been taken by COLAB for sure!) but one of the more readily-available ones, I can pick this up pretty much anywhere these days! I do like the tropical scent and find it's one of Batiste's better ones in terms of actually freshening up my roots on second-day hair.
Repurchase? Yes, but only when I can't get into town to buy COLAB.
December Beauty Empties
W7 Photo Shoot Foundation | This isn't the best foundation I've tried from W7; the bottle lacked a pump so we were off to a pretty poor start, and I found the formula quite greasy and sticky. That said, it gave a reasonable level of coverage and was a decent shade match, so I could definitely work with it by powdering it down after application.
Repurchase? No - there are similar products which are way less faff!
Boots Botanics All Bright Cleansing Foam Wash | I really enjoyed using this as a morning cleanse and as my second cleanse in the evenings; it had a lovely scent, worked well to leave my skin feeling clean and fresh, and didn't cause any irritation or break-outs. I'm not sure how well it worked to brighten my skin, to be honest, but that would be an added bonus.
Repurchase? Probably, it's a really lovely budget cleansing option.
Sure Maximum Protection Stress Control Anti-Perspirant | I think this is my second or third of these deodorants and I've been well and truly converted; working as a carer is often a hot and sweaty job, and this is by far the most effective anti-perspirant I've tried. I'll admit I'm not a massive fan of the cream format but if that's what it takes to keep me fresh, then that's what I'll use!
Repurchase? Already have.
Sweet Cecily's Almond & Elderflower Hand Cream* | The pretty packaging and gorgeous scent made this one a winner in my book! It's been living on my bedside table and has been my bedtime hand cream of choice for the past few months, leaving my hands feeling soft and hydrated. It has a lovely light texture which didn't feel greasy, and did I mention it smells amazing!?
Repurchase? Maybe; if this was available in a tube rather than a jar, I'd be all over that!
Burt's Bees Coconut & Pear Lip Balm | This was purchased on a total whim but has actually been a firm handbag favourite; it doesn't contain petroleum and I found it worked really well to hydrate my lips and keep them soft and smooth. I enjoyed the coconut & pear flavour, too - it's not a combination I'd have thought of myself, but it works!
Repurchase? Maybe, although I have no shortage of lip balms, so it won't be anytime soon.
The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion | This is one of my favourite manual exfoliation products; not only does it smell amazing but it has a lovely fine texture which offers a good level of exfoliation without being harsh or irritating to my skin. A little goes a long way with this and I can really see the difference in my skin.
Repurchase? This was my second tube and yes, I can see myself buying another! I do think it's expensive at full-price but there are frequent offers at The Body Shop so it's all good.
Neal's Yard Remedies Geranium & Orange and Wild Rose Hand Creams | I love NYR hand creams, both of these were magazine freebies and both were equally lovely in terms of keeping my hands in reasonable shape and, of course, smelling gorgeous. I still have another tube on the go, the Garden Mint & Bergamot version, which is just as nice.
Repurchase? Maybe; definitely if they're free with magazines again!!

So there we have it, the beauty products I've finished off over the last month; not a bad month at all, I'm sure you'll agree! Have you tried any of these products? Any you'd like to try?
I just want to take a moment to say I hope everyone has a great time bringing in the New Year tonight, whatever your plans might be - have fun and stay safe, and I'll see you in 2016!

[*Product provided for consideration.]

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 Favourites | Books

I set myself a target at the beginning of the year to read 50 books during 2015; sadly, I wasn't anywhere even close to that target, but nonetheless I did read some good ones, so I decided I'd share a few of my favourites. I've actually barely used my Kindle this year which is something I need to rectify as we head into 2016, I'm really hoping to read a little more next year. Anyway, without further ado...
2015 Book Favourites
2015 Favourite Books 1
Daphne du Maurier; The House on the Strand | I was inspired by Bee to pick up some du Maurier and I didn't regret it! This pulled me right in; it was a book that took me a while to get through but in a good way - because I kept going back to re-read paragraphs that I'd loved. It is seriously so beautifully written, and I really loved the story too. I definitely want to read more du Maurier in 2016, I've heard Rebecca is good so that's next on my list.
Ransom Riggs; Hollow City | I adored this - it's even better than the previous book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, in my opinion! Just the right amount of creepy, plenty going on, and really believable characters. I've been waiting for the follow-up, Library of Souls, to come out in paperback, and I'll be picking it up ASAP.
Kazuo Ishiguro; Never Let Me Go | This was a weird one. I didn't know anything about the story before I started reading and it wasn't at all what I expected, but I did still find myself enjoying the concept.
2015 Favourite Books 2
Jennifer Donnelly; A Gathering Light | I picked this up on a total whim and really got into it; I believe it's based on a true story and I found it to be just the right mix of murder mystery / historical romance. This was one that really made me appreciate how lucky I am, especially as a woman, to have the rights and opportunities that I do.
Lucy Atkins; The Other Child | This was quite predictable and I'd guessed the ending about halfway through, but I still found it to be an enjoyable read. It wasn't anything ground-breaking, or a particularly brilliant concept, but it was still well done and I found it easy to read. I did feel like the ending let the story down a little but I could live with it!
Emma Donoghue; Room | I loved this; it took me a little while to get into it but then I really really enjoyed it and was genuinely a bit sad when I finished it. From a psychological perspective I found it fascinating, as it looked at a hostage situation where the woman has the child of her captor, and the little boy has literally never seen outside the four walls of "room". They hatch an escape plan which goes a bit wrong but ultimately still works, and seeing how the two of them adapt to life outside "room" was really interesting too.
2015 Favourite Books 3
Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter; The Long Earth series | I've never been a fan of Pratchett but I'm beginning to wonder if I've been cutting off my nose to spite my face - I've almost finished the second book in this series in collaboration with Stephen Baxter, now, and I'm really enjoying it! I have the third book, The Long War, lined up and ready to go once I finish The Long Mars - kindly lent to me by my Uncle. I think there are five books in total in the series so I will be reading them all!
David Adam; The Man Who Couldn't Stop | I really loved this insight, written in layman's terms, into what it's like to live with OCD; it's become such an over-used term these days, bandied around by anyone who likes a tidy bedroom or an organised desk, so I found it refreshing to read this. Definitely one I'd recommend!
Tanya Byron; The Skeleton Cupboard | Another psychology-based book, about the author's experiences of training as a Clinical Psychologist - as that's something I hope to achieve in the future, I found it particularly interesting, but I lent it to my Mum who also really enjoyed it. I found that the introduction of six different "patients", based on amalgamations of Byron's experiences in her placements, worked really well to convey the issues involved.
2015 Books
Penny Hancock; A Trick of the Mind | An honourable mention here for a book I thought had a lot of potential, but turned out to just be a bit... Rubbish. Another one based on living with OCD, this could have worked really well but I found it just came across as too far-fetched, it almost seemed like a parody, and the writing wasn't great either. I finished the book but I did find it disappointing.

What's the best book you've read this year? Have you read any from my list? Any recommendations to add to my list for 2016?

[Post contains affiliate links.]

Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 | Looking Back

I've been having a little look back at my post from the beginning of the year, where I shared some hopes and goals for 2015; if you want to have a look at that post, you can find it here. It's weird how a year can go by so quickly that it feels like five minutes, and yet looking back so much has happened; highlights include a weekend in Milan with my best friend, a night out with my little brother, visiting my housemates from Uni in Sheffield, and a weekend away in Edinburgh with my Total Warrior family for the first-ever Scottish Total Warrior event. I managed to see a few gigs including McBusted, The Used and The Blackout's final tour. And today, I thought I'd share how I've got on with my goals over the last twelve months!
2015 Looking Back
Clear the overdraft and start saving. Unfortunately this one didn't happen; I'm still horrifyingly far into my overdraft. I was doing quite well and was on target for having it cleared by the end of the year, until I bought my car... I have, however, set up a standing order to my savings account. It's only a few pounds each month moving across but it felt like a good start, it's nice seeing the numbers start to add up, and I plan to increase it when I can afford to do so. Maybe I'll call this half-done.
Get a full-time, paid Assistant Psychologist job. Again, unfortunately I'm still working on this; I've had a fair few interviews and my feedback has been good but each time, there's been someone with more relevant experience than me, which is annoying but I can't really argue with it! On the bright side, I'm just waiting for confirmation of a start date of a one day a week paid Assistant Psych role which has come about through some voluntary work I do, so I am super excited about that! Small steps.
Improve my decision-making skills. I don't want to say this is an outright failure, but... Well, I've just started seeing a new guy and he already thinks the most hilarious thing in the world is making me make decisions, so... Clearly, this one needs some more work!
Pass my driving test. Finally, a goal I actually achieved! I am proud to say I passed my driving test first time at the end of February and it is honestly one of the best things I've ever done. I know exactly why I put it off as long as I did and I don't regret that, but I am so glad I overcame the fear and learnt - since I'm living with my parents at the moment, it is so nice to have the independence of being able to drive.
Complete Total Warrior in under two hours. Well, my planned run actually took two and a half hours (long story but basically I ended up running with someone I'd never met before and she injured her knee only a couple of km into the run which slowed us down considerably!) but I ran a second time in September and am proud to say we went sub-two hours that time - despite it being a totally spontaneous decision and not having trained!
Read 50 new books. Sadly I am nowhere near completing this one; since I've been driving to work rather than spending three hours a day on the bus, I don't seem to be reading nearly as much! I have read a few good books, however, and I'll be sharing some of my favourites in the next couple of days.

All in all, I'm disappointed that I didn't manage to achieve all my goals, but still proud of the ones I did achieve, and of the progress I've made with the rest of them. I'll definitely be carrying a few of these over into 2016 so hopefully this will be the year! Did you have any specific goals for the year? How did you get on with them?


Saturday, 26 December 2015

2015 Favourites | Beauty

As 2015 draws to a close, I'm having a little look back on the year that was, starting today with some favourite beauty products; we've got skincare, haircare, body products and make-up here! I've tried to pick products that I've discovered this year, rather than ones I've liked this year, to help me narrow the list down a little...
2015 Beauty Favourites 1
COLAB Dry Shampoo | COLAB has swayed me from my previously-beloved Batiste dry shampoo; I find this so much more effective in terms of leaving my hair feeling actually cleaner, rather than just looking a bit more presentable. I also love that it's sheer so there's none of the unappealing white cast in my roots to deal with.
Merumaya Hydrate & Protect Hand Cream* | Merumaya is a brand I've enjoyed getting to know more in 2015 and their hand cream is incredible, with a silky balm-like texture which absorbs quickly and leaves my hands feeling hydrated. It helps to soothe itching and dryness, with the added bonus of containing SPF to protect the often-exposed skin of the hands.
Tangle Teezer | I hailed this as a haircare hero and I'm still loving it; so much so, in fact, that I bought my best friend one for Christmas! I have long, thick hair which seems to tie itself in knots within minutes, but the Tangle Teezer makes untangling easy and pain-free. My hair still sheds at a ridiculous rate but I think that's just one of those things that's always gonna happen with me.
Wild About Beauty Creme Eyeshadow in 'Edna' & GOSH Forever Cream Eyeshadow Stick in 'Beige' | I have been loving these two the past couple of months as a base for powder eyeshadows; they add a little bit of shimmer as well as really bringing out shades that aren't quite there in terms of pigmentation, helping my eye make-up to look more striking. They're both quite similar shades and whilst I often go for the GOSH stick for convenience, the Wild About Beauty one is just as lovely when I can be bothered to apply it with a brush! Both also look really pretty worn alone.
Beauty Kitchen Love Me Caring & Anti-Aging Body Polish | Beauty Kitchen have been a new brand to me this year, introduced via a PR sample, but I have gone on to buy several products myself; I think that's testament to how much I like them! This body polish smells lovely, has gorgeous packaging, and works really well to smooth and soften my skin. Recently I've been using it a couple of times per week on my shoulders and décolletage, and have found it's really helped with the number of spots I get in those areas.
The Body Shop All-in-One Instablur Universal | A firm primer favourite for me, I love the way this evens out the appearance of my skin, blurring imperfections including enlarged pores, and helps keep my skin matte for hours longer than any other product has ever managed.
Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream | This is a new one for me, I actually only reviewed it a week or so ago, but it's the first eye cream where I've ever noticed an actual improvement. I'm currently using this miniature version which came with a magazine but I'm pretty sure I'll be buying the full-sized product once that's used up - again, a first for me, as I don't tend to buy eye creams because there are so many sample-sized ones around which always seem to last ages.
Have you made any beauty discoveries in 2015? What have been your favourite beauty products of the year?

[*Product provided for consideration.]

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas! | Five Things I Love About Christmas

Just a quick one from me today to wish you all a very Merry Christmas; if you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day, and if you don't, I hope you have a wonderful day regardless! If anyone needs me, I'll be drowning in a pile of tinsel, Quality Street and pigs in blankets... If you get chance, leave me a comment and let me know your favourite part of today, your favourite gift, or the best reaction to a present you chose for someone - let's share the joy! I'm sharing five quick things I love about Christmas - although I hate it for most of the year, by the time it actually gets here I do really enjoy it...
Merry Christmas
Family time | Whilst my family wind me up something chronic, I do love them, and it's nice to have a whole day which is basically dedicated to spending time together. My brother lives away at Uni so it's always nice to have him home for a few days at Christmas, my Nan comes round to drive us all potty, and we usually have at least one set of aunties, uncles and cousins - there's usually at least ten of us for Christmas dinner, which I love! Having a house full of noise, laughter and love is definitely the best thing about Christmas.
Food! | I cannot lie; I love food. I am one of those people who is basically always thinking about the next meal, so Christmas, being essentially a day-long meal, is great in my opinion! Christmas dinner is never a let-down in my house, with my Mum, my brother and I (usually along with an auntie or two, and my Nan tripping us all up left right and centre!) spending a couple of hours prepping veg, making our own pigs-in-blankets and balancing what seems like hundreds of dishes on the table. I love it!
Log Fire Christmas
Seeing people open their gifts | I love watching someone open a gift which you've carefully chosen for them. There's something so satisfying about having chosen something you know they'll love, and seeing their reaction as they unwrap it. Whilst Christmas shouldn't be about the material things and how much you've spent, it's still lovely to show the ones you love how much you appreciate them with a little something.
Family traditions | These range from the lovely (choosing a real tree the weekend before Christmas; opening our stockings in my parents' room before breakfast) to the downright silly (naming the turkey - he always has a name beginning with 'T'). To me, these little traditions are the most magical part of Christmas and are the reason it feels so special. Even the traditional jokes about how late my Nan will be are all part of the fun!
Board games | This is technially a family tradition I suppose, but if someone has received a new board game we usually have at least one game, and if not we tend to get Scrabble out and have a ridiculously competitive hour or two of spelling-based entertainment. I really enjoy getting to spend time hanging out with my family doing something that everyone enjoys and having a good laugh - and the odd argument over what is considered a word in Scrabble and what's "not allowed". As long as we don't end up resorting to Monopoly, it's all good!
What are your favourite things about Christmas?


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Wish List | Winter Footwear

My beloved winter boots which I've had for about six years are finally starting to look a little old and battered; I've had them re-soled and heeled twice and have been on the look-out for a replacement pair for the last couple of years, but I find it really hard to find a pair that I like, that also fit me nicely. With the sales already starting online, I've been having a little look at some options, and may end up treating myself after Christmas!
Winter Boots
Faith Black Leather Lace-up Ankle Boots, £69 £34.50 // These look sturdy and sensible, great for slippery pavements when it's wet or icy. I must be getting old, I'm choosing sensible footwear!
Clarks Reunite Up GTX Dark Brown Leather Boots, £120 // So much cosy!! These would be perfect with skinny jeans and the tops can be turned down as shown, or pulled up for a taller boot.
Schuh Jem Burgundy Boots, £75 // I love the colour or these, burgundy is one of my favourite colours, and it's certainly a little more interesting than plain black or brown boots!
Divine Factory Madras Boots, £55 £38.50 // I really like the ankle detail here and you can't go wrong with a nice pair of black knee-high boots.
Steve Madden Chestnut Leather Pistol Boots, £29.99 // A little different, these are an absolute steal from TKMaxx!
Topshop Betty Star Boots, £39 // How cool are the stars!? These would be perfect to make a simple outfit a little more snazzy. I can see them with dark blue jeans and a white tank top - and obviously a warm jumper and/or coat!
J By Jasper Conran Black Leather Mid Heeled High Leg Boots, £99 £79.20 // Again, I love the ankle detail on these, although I can't help thinking that the chain would jingle as I walked and drive me mad...

Which are your favourites? Have you bought some new boots this winter, or are you yet to invest? Where is your favourite place to buy boots and shoes?

[Post contains affiliate links.]

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Review | Born Pretty Lip Liner Pencil*

One of the products I was recently sent to try from Born Pretty was a lip liner pencil*; now, I'm not a massive wearer of lip products and didn't previously own a lip liner, so this seemed like a great opportunity to try one out! I went for a fairly safe shade choice with #2, a mid pink which I thought would look nice on its own as well as going well with my most-used lip products - I'm definitely a pink lip kinda gal!
Born Pretty Lip Liner Pencil #2
The crayon-style lip liner has a metal cap which I think is nicer than a plastic one, it certainly makes it feel a littler better quality. My one complaint is that this is a product which you'll need to sharpen regularly, which seems wasteful and, more importantly, is massively inconvenient because I can never find a sharpener when I need one! That aside, how have I been getting on with Born Pretty's Lip Liner Pencil?
Born Pretty Lip Liner Swatch
I've found that the tip is firm enough to draw a nice precise line, although I have to admit that I'm not very good at keeping it even, and the fact that my lips are wonky to start with certainly doesn't help! The liner goes on smoothly without too much tugging at the lips, and the colour pay-off is quite nice. It feels quite nice on the lips although I do find that it dries them out as the day goes on, so I'd definitely suggest pairing this with a good lip-balm. It has a matte finish, which can accentuate any lines or dryness in the lips.
Born pretty Lip Liner Lip Swatch
In terms of wear-time, I've found the colour does start to fade after a couple of hours, although it stains my lips nicely so there's still a pretty tint to them even after 10+ hours of wear. I paired it with my Deborah Milano Shine Creator Lipstick in Shade 8 (see the photo on the right below); I found this to be a good combination, with the liner helping the lipstick to last a little longer and leaving me with a hint of colour even after the lipstick had faded.
FOTD Born Pretty Lip Liner FOTD
I've actually been pleasantly surprised by my first lip liner experience, finding it easier than I anticipated to slot into my routine, and I really like that the liner stains my lips to leave a hint of colour behind. Born Pretty's Lip Liner is available here, priced at £1.36; with five shades available, there's a good chance of finding one you like the look of! Remember you can get 10% off site-wide at Born Pretty with my discount code; just enter 'JESSMK31' at the checkout. Do you use lip liner regularly? Any tips for getting it even, or is it just a matter of practice?

[*Product provided for consideration. Prices correct at time of writing, but may vary with fluctuations in exchange rates.]

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review | Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream

I don't know what it is but recently, I've been struggling with eczema on my eyelids, despite never having had a problem with it on my face before. My usually oily eyelids were becoming flaky and, aside from not looking very nice, it was bloomin' sore too! So you can understand why I was keen to clear up those little patches of eczema. This is where Balance Me's Wonder Eye Cream came in; a miniature-sized tube which I believe came as a magazine freebie, the Wonder Eye Cream claims to, "Help revitalise weary eyes, smooth away dark shadows, and reduce the visible appearance of fine lines."
Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream Review
The full-sized product comes in a pump-action bottle, but the miniature version I have is in a squeezy plastic tube with a screw-cap and a thin nozzle, which means that as long as you're careful you don't get too much product at once. The white cream is thicker in texture than I anticipated, somehow, and has a slight scent of lavender which doesn't linger on the skin. A small amount of product is all that's needed to tap gently around the eye area (under the brow and along the eye socket); I've been using this tube daily for around a month and I've still got plenty left.
Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream
99% natural, Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream features key ingredients including Cucumber Oil to refresh the eye area and disguise signs of fatigue; Hyaluronic Acid to help prevent premature ageing by intensely hydrating; Virgin Coconut Oil to create a smooth, hydrated eye area all day long, and Arctic Cloudberry to plump and reduce fine lines and crow's feet. I've found that my eye area feels less dry and tight immediately after using, and I do think my dark circles have been reduced (though definitely not eradicated entirely!); I don't yet have crow's feet but the beginnings of the fine lines below my eyes also seem visibly plumped and generally more hydrated. I really do feel like this eye cream has worked well for me and lived up to its claims!
Balance Me Eye Cream
I'm often dubious of the claims eye creams make but this product really has helped to hydrate my eye area, as well as lessening dark circles and plumping up the fine lines beneath my eyes. I've been really pleased with the effects I've seen and whilst I don't tend to purchase eye creams as samples are so readily available, this one has worked so well for me that I'm seriously considering buying the full-sized product. Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream is priced at £20 for 15ml of product, available from Debenhams here or direct from Balance Me here. What's your favourite eye cream? Have you tried Balance Me's Wonder Eye Cream?

[Post contains affiliate links.]

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Christmas Tag

I'm finding myself starting to get into the Christmas spirit a bit now, I've got most of my gifts wrapped up but I think the main contributing factor was visiting my best friend (she's just bought a house!) and spending an evening putting up her tree, making paperchains, and covering her front room in fairy lights. I think stealingborrowing this Christmas tag from Emily Hearts is helping, too...
The Christmas Tag
1. Do you like to stay in your PJs, or dress up for Christmas?
I definitely dress up! Our family tradition is opening stockings in pyjamas in my parents' bedroom, which we still do even though my brother and I are 21 and 24 now. Then we were never allowed to open any more presents until we were dressed and had had breakfast... We usually have family round on Christmas Day too, and quite a big Christmas dinner, so I like to dress nicely for that.
2. If you could only buy one person a present this year, who would it be?
My mum. I love my mum to bits and love choosing presents that will make her smile!
3. Do you open your presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Christmas Day! It's usually something that gets spread out over the whole day and it's also my brother's birthday on Christmas Day, so he gets his birthday presents and cards after dinner usually.
4. Have you ever built a Gingerbread house?
I haven't! They look super cute though.
5. What do you like to do on your Christmas break?
I don't get one! I have to work my regular rota over Christmas and I'm very lucky this year that my days off fall on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - I'll be back in work on Boxing Day!
6. What’s your favourite Christmas meal or treat?
That's definitely a toss-up between pigs in blankets and Terry's Chocolate Orange. I love Christmas food!
7. What’s your favorite holiday/Christmas movie?
I'm struggling to decide between Home Alone, because it's an absolute classic, and Love, Actually, which I seem to watch with my Mum pretty much every Christmas.
8. Candy Canes or Gingerbread Men?
Gingerbread men for sure, candy canes are so over-rated! I've always found they just go sticky and blergh. Plus decorating gingerbread men is so fun!
9. Have you ever made a snowman?
Of course! My brother and I always used to build one when it snowed as kids and to be honest, if I had time and it snowed enough, I'd still give it a good go! I tried to build an igloo in the park with my uni housemates one year but we never finished it unfortunately...
10. Which do you like better, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
I like both! We're a last-minute kind of family so we're usually baking mince pies and decorating the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, but then Christmas Day is so lovely with the fire lit, and seeing everyone opening presents, and of course Christmas dinner! I don't know how I'd choose.
11. White lights, or coloured lights?
Again, I like both. I love the look of white lights as they're so minimalistic, but then for me Christmas is all about colour and being a bit over-the-top, so... I don't know!

Have you done any Christmas-themed tags? I'd love to see if you have! Are you all ready for Christmas yet?


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Five Things I'd Like To Tell Beauty Brands | A Rant

I'm sure I'm not the only one here but there are a few things about beauty that really get my goat - you know, those little things that make you irrationally angry? Yeah, those. Here are my top five things I'd like to tell beauty brands, in hopes they'll get their acts together and sort it out. I'd like to say this is a tongue-in-cheek post and isn't to be taken seriously... but if you happen to work for a beauty brand, I absolutely mean every word of this post!
Five Things I'd Like To Tell Beauty Brands
1. When I use foundation, I don't like to break my hand in the process. I am so done with bashing foundation bottles on the back of my hand, trying to get product out. Please, for the love of all that's holy, provide me with a pump! It's not that difficult. If a £4 foundation can manage it, I'm pretty sure anyone can. On the subject of foundation, when I choose a shade, I expect it to stay that shade on my skin. Foundation that oxidises within an hour? Not cool.
2. Stop making massively exaggerated claims. No-one really thinks your lipstick is going to last 25 hours and, let's be honest, no-one really wants it to. We'd be quite happy for you to say, "This lipstick will last 4-5 hours so carry it with you for a touch-up." Can you imagine how a lipstick that lasted 25 hours would make your lips feel!?
3. Please stop making ridiculous claims about your product that make us think it might be the Holy Grail of primers/mascaras/whatever, and instead spend your time creating a product that actually lives up to these claims. This is how you will make your fortune! I might spend the tenner "just to see" if your primer really does keep my skin matte all day, but if it doesn't, that's that. Make something that does and I'll re-purchase it for life and recommend it to everyone!
4. Unless you have created a product that will literally Photoshop out all my flaws in real life, stop Photoshopping your ads! We're not stupid, we know the difference between a good base product and a metric f*ck-ton of expert editing; the former sells itself, the latter really doesn't give much indication of what your product is going to do for me so I'm not likely to buy it, now am I?
5. Please, let me shop in peace. There is nothing worse than quietly trying to browse the aisles of Boots, only to have to repeatedly tell various beauty counter staff that I don't want a makeover, am not interested in their free gift when I buy three products I'm never going to use, and don't want someone with eyebrows like that anywhere near my own brows! If I wish to buy something from you, I will do so. If I have a question, I will ask. There's really no need to tell me about your offers, I can read your notices, thank you. Pushy salespeople do nothing but put me off buying from your brand.

What would you like to tell beauty brands? Anything to add to my list, or have I got it covered?


Monday, 14 December 2015

Review | Acne Ultra Clear Cream*

A few weeks back, I was sent a jar of Acne Ultra Clear Cream* to try out; now, I wouldn't say I suffer with acne but my skin can be pretty horrendous at times so I was keen to see what kind of an improvement this cream might make. I tend to get spots on my chin and jaw, as well as my cheeks, and I have a constant struggle with blackheads on and around my nose and chin. With ingredients including Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Beeswax, Calendula Extract and Rhus Cotinus Leaf Extract, Acne Ultra Clear Cream claims to provide a visible improvement within weeks. What did I think?
Acne Ultra Clear Cream Review
I'm in two minds about the jar; I quite like the mirrored effect (though it proved a nightmare to photograph!), but the branding to me is a bit excessive and kind of ruins the higher-end effect - I'd prefer something a little more subtle. Basically I'd prefer my face cream not to say 'acne' on it in big purple letters - I don't think that's unreasonable! I'm also not keen on the hygiene aspect of having a product like this in a jar, which you have to dip your fingers into every day; I'd definitely prefer a tube in that respect. The cream itself is light brown in colour, which I wasn't expecting, and I admit that did take a few days to get used to. It smells absolutely gorgeous, really cinnamon-y, which makes application enjoyable - if you don't like cinnamon, you're not gonna like this cream!
Acne Ultra Clear Cream
I find the texture of the Acne Ultra Clear Cream really nice; it's light and smooth, spreading easily over the skin and absorbing easily. I've been using it alone in place of moisturiser in the morning, and the same way in the evening, occasionally adding in a facial oil. The cream leaves my skin feeling smooth and hydrated and, as promised, there's no greasy feeling. Now, starting to use this cream coincided with coming off the Pill I was on, so I'm not sure if that may also have had an impact on my skin. However, I do feel like I'm getting fewer spots, and the ones I do get seem to take less time to heal. I'd have liked to see an improvement in the blackheads on and around my nose and chin, but unfortunately I haven't really seen any difference in those. I'll definitely be continuing to use this cream to see if I notice any further improvements, and I will consider re-purchasing once I finish this jar.
Acne Ultra Clear
Acne Ultra Clear Cream is available on Amazon, priced at £15.99 for 50ml of product. I've been using this twice a day (most days) for around a month now and have barely dented the surface so I can see a jar easily lasting six months or so. I think it's quite a reasonable price for a nice moisturiser which feels lovely on the skin and may help with spots - it's full of nice, skin-friendly ingredients so there's definitely worse you could do for your skin! Have you heard of Acne Ultra Clear? Would you try a product like this?

[*Product provided for consideration. Post contains affiliate links.]

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Christmas Jumper Round-Up 2015

With less than two weeks to go til the big day, I can't really get away with ignoring Christmas any longer! Christmas jumpers have become a real "thing" over the last few years and it doesn't look like they're going to be going anywhere soon; here are my picks for this year...
Christmas Jumpers
Cracker Jumper, £39, Topshop // Going all-out tacky with sequins, the lot. I think this is over-priced and hideous - exactly what you're looking for in a Christmas jumper, amirite!?
Sparkle Jumper, £12, George at Asda // A much prettier option, and you could probably get away with wearing this at times other than Christmas.
Seasons Tweetings Jumper, £14.99, New Look // The little robins are just too cute! I couldn't leave this one out.
Reindeer Jumper, £8, George at Asda // This is like cheesy in a good way, in my book - and I love that the reindeer has Christmas lights strung in his antlers.
Penguin Pyramid Jumper, £11.24, New Look // A penguin pyramid! We're getting a bit silly now but I don't mind because a pyramid should definitely be the collective noun for penguins. A pyramid of penguins, can you imagine!?
Red Winter Patterned Jumper, £18, Tu at Sainsbury's // This is actually from the men's section but who cares?! Red is nice and Christmassy but it's not too tacky and again, you wouldn't be limited to wearing it just at Christmas.
Jewel Fairisle Jumper, £24.50, M&S // Possibly the prettiest of the bunch, this is made from Merino wool and I imagine I'd want to wear it 24/7, it just looks so soft and fluffy.
Christmas Swing Dress, £29.95, Joe Browns // Okay so this is a dress, not a jumper. Can we let me off because of the cute little floating snowmen and Santas!? Very much limited to Christmas wear but I'm tempted all the same because it's just so ridiculous!

Have you got a Christmas jumper? Will you be treating yourself or any of your loves ones to some festive knitwear this Christmas?


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Review | Rimmel Match Perfection Silky Loose Powder

Having super-oily skin as I do, I find that setting my foundation is an absolute must if I don't want it to have slid off my face altogether within a couple of hours. I tend to go for loose powders over pressed as, although they can be a little messier, in general I find them easier to use - and you don't have the problem of them shattering, or disintegrating as you hit pan! Recently I've been using this Rimmel Match Perfection Silky Loose Powder in the shade 001 'Transparent'. Rimmel claim, "Lightweight, smooth and soft face powder. Matches skin's texture for a flawless and natural looking finish. Wears up to eight hours."
Rimmel Match Perfection Silky Loose Face Powder Review
I find the packaging to be quite basic but mostly pretty functional; the clear jar allows you to see how much power is left, the blue cap screws on securely to prevent any spillages, and the built in sifter theoretically makes for easy dispensation. I have found that the apertures in the sifter are a little bit too big, so it's easy to end up with way more powder than intended in the lid. It has also fallen out on one occasion as I removed the lid, which was exactly as messy as it sounds, so I've found I need to be quite careful when opening the jar to ensure I don't end up with powder everywhere!
Rimmel Match Perfection Silky Loose Powder
The powder itself is finely milled, feels smooth on the skin, and works well to set my make-up in place; it isn't amazing at keeping my skin matte and I do find that shine comes through within a couple of hours, but that's nothing new for me. I'm pleased to report that this powder doesn't look dry or cakey on my face, as many can, and it doesn't seem to oxidise on my skin, so no going orange, which is always nice! Rimmel Match Perfection Silky Loose Powder is priced at £6.99 for 10g of product, which makes it a lovely budget option in my opinion, especially as there are often offers and discounts available! It's lasting me well and it does what I need it to do. What's your favourite powder? Any recommendations for keeping my skin matte?

[Apologies for the photos in this post. My camera just wasn't playing!]

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Winter Skincare Edit

Winter is entering full swing here in the North of England thanks to Storm Desmond (seriously, have you seen Lancashire and Cumbria!?) so, in an effort to keep my skin looking human as opposed to reptilian, I've been making a few skincare switch-ups! It's a common misconception that oily skin by definition can't be dehydrated - let me tell you, that is not true! Oily skin definitely needs hydration just as much as any other skin-type, and my skin seems very prone to dehydration even in the oiliest areas on my forehead and nose, which can lead to dull, flaky areas. Lovely.
Winter Skincare Edit
Working in care, my hands are one of the first areas to feel the change in the weather; they literally just start to flake and crack, becoming really dry and sore. I keep a tube of handcream in my pocket while I'm on work and usually reapply about every half an hour - that's how dry my hands are! Two of my favourites are those from Neal's Yard Remedies, and The Body Shop's Hemp Hand Protector which I reviewed here. My lips are also prone to getting quite dry and chapped as soon as the weather cools down and the wind picks up; I always carry a lip balm and use it frequently on the go, but I've been using Dr Lipp's Original Nipple Balm For Lips at bedtime and in the morning, and I've found it works so well to heal any cracked areas almost overnight. I also find my eczema starts to play up through the colder months, which I've been trying to pre-empt by slapping on body butter at every given opportunity; I adore the scent of the Chocomania body butter but I can't actually find it online at the moment, I'm hoping it hasn't been discontinued! However, the whole body butter range at The Body Shop is pretty fab, I always stock up in the sales.

I love Origins's Drink Up™ Intensive Mask all year round - read my full review here - but in the winter time I step it up a notch, using it every other night rather than just once or twice per week. I can really see the difference this makes to my skin; I wake up looking a lot brighter and fresher-faced than I otherwise do. It certainly doesn't hurt that this smells gorgeous, too! I also love introducing oils into my skincare routine in the colder months; even with my oily skin, I find they work really well for me, and certainly don't make me any oilier. I've been using this tiny sample bottle of Trilogy's Rosehip Oil which is sadly all but gone now, alternating with a more purse-friendly facial oil from the Boots Botanics range which I also love - see my review here. I generally pop an oil on under my moisturiser at bedtime, and have actually been mixing a couple of drops into my L'Oreal Infallible 24H Matte Foundation as I've found it helps it sit much more nicely on my skin! Finally, another product from The Body Shop; I recently rediscovered their Almond Nail & Cuticle Oil (review here) amongst my stash and have been loving this at bedtime to give my nails a little treat. I do think this is expensive for what it is (£7.50 for 1.8ml!!!) but if you see it on offer I'd recommend picking it up.

What are your skincare must-haves as the weather gets colder? Do any of these products have a place in your routine? I'd love to hear about any essentials you crack out to beat the winter skin blues!!

[Post contains affiliate links.]

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Review | Born Pretty Cheek Color Blusher*

I was recently sent some lovely goodies from Born Pretty, one of which was this Cheek Color Blusher* in shade #27; what I was really intrigued by with this blusher was the inclusion of the applicator, which is a little powder puff that clips into the base of the product. When it comes to blushers I generally find myself favouring quite deep shades that give a nice contrast on my pale skin, so I went for something a little brighter with this one...
Born Pretty Cheek Color Blusher
Packaging-wise, I think this is quite cute but not really anything special; the applicator makes it a little bulky and means it takes up more space than it probably really needs to. The lid clips closed securely so I wouldn't worry about throwing it into my makeup bag for travelling or on-the-go touch-ups. I like that the lid is clear so if you had a couple of these you could easily see which shade was which at a glance.
Born Pretty Cheek Color Blusher #27
Cheek Color
Shade #27 is quite a bright, matte Barbie-pink shade which looks a little scary in the pan - and indeed, on the face as well, until you realise it blends out really well. I tend to place a couple of dots on my cheekbones or just beneath them with the applicator included, then blend out with either my blusher brush or powder brush. I kind of feel like the applicator is a waste of space when you bear in mind that I still need to use a second tool to blend the product out once applied. However, once blended, I do think this gives a lovely flush of colour to the cheeks, and it's a shade that would be flattering on most skintones in my opinion.
Born Pretty Cheek Color Swatch
FOTD Born Pretty Cheek Color Blusher
[Products used: MAC Prep + Prime; L'Oreal Infallible 24H Matte Foundation in
10 'Porcelain' mixed with Amie Morning Light Moisturiser; Rimmel Match Perfection
Silky Loose Face Powder in 001 'Transparent'; Elizabeth Arden Pure Finish Highlighter
in 'Rose Illumination'; Makeup Revolution I ♥ Brows in 'Fairest of them all';
Born Pretty Cheek Color Blusher in #27; Wild About Beauty Creme Eye
Maybelline Full 'N Soft Mascara]
Born Pretty's Cheek Color Blusher is available in six shades here, priced at £2.95 - remember you can get 10% off site-wide when you enter my code 'JESSMK31' at checkout! I do think this is a lovely product for the price and you get a nicely pigmented blusher, although the applicator is nothing to write home about, and still requires a brush to blend - unless you like the clown look with a circle of blusher on each cheek... What do you think of products which include this style of applicator - are they handy for on-the-go, or just a gimmick?

[*Product provided for consideration.]

Friday, 4 December 2015

Introducing | Beauty Kitchen

Having reviewed Beauty Kitchen's Inspire Me Brightening & Toning Body Polish a few months ago, I'd been really missing have a good body scrub in my routine - so I decided to try another one from Beauty Kitchen. I ended up ordering a few bits and pieces from the brand to try, and thought I'd share them all together as a little bit of an introduction if you're not familiar with the Glasgow-based brand. Beauty Kitchen's goal is to offer affordable beauty products smell great, look great and are great for the environment; a winning combination, to be sure!
Introducing Beauty Kitchen
The packaging of the Body Polish and Body Soufflé is just gorgeous; these heavy glass jars make the products seem quite luxurious and, of course, the jars are perfect to re-use for storage once the products are finished. I can't help feeling that the Body Wash lets the side down a little in its rather ordinary blue plastic bottle, but there are more important things than the packaging!
Beauty Kitchen Inspire Me Body Wash
The Inspire Me Brightening & Toning Body Wash (£7.99/300ml) is apparently, "Super soft and moisture-packed for dull and tired skin. Awaken your senses with this uplifting, rejuvenating, firming body wash, made with renewable, moisturising and skin-purifying algae oil. Antioxidant and Vitamin C-loaded Grapefruit blends with Lemongrass to help firm and brighten your skin." This has a beautiful herbal/citrus scent which I was familiar with from the Body Polish I'd used previously. It's perfect for waking me up in the shower in the morning! The Body Wash gives a gentle foam rather than lathering up like a traditional shower gel, which I quite like; it leaves my skin feeling clean and soft without being dry or tight. I'm still not sure about the firming and brightening claims, although I'm not sure my skin needs that just yet, but it certainly can't do any harm!
Beauty Kitchen Love Me Body Polish
The Love Me Caring & Anti-Aging Body Polish (£14.99/200g) claims to be, "Bursting with minerals and oils full of antioxidants for a deep moisturisation. With natural smoothing oils, cranberry seeds and detoxing mineral-packed pink rock salt, this body polish is perfect for cellulite or stretch marks on arms, legs, bums and tums!" Now I didn't buy this for the anti-aging effects and that's not really something my skin needs just yet - I just wanted to try a range aside from the Inspire Me, and liked the sound of this one. The exfoliation comes from the salt and cranberry seeds (obviously!) which are in an oil base - I find that they tend to separate and the oils end up floating on the top, so I do have to give it a good stir with my fingers before scooping some out of the jar. I find this works best on slightly damp skin as the polish spreads more easily that way than on dry skin, meaning I need less product per use. A good scrub on my arms and legs and a rinse off leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth, but not at all dry or irritated, thanks to the oils it contains. I find there's a slight residue left on my skin after rinsing, but it's not sticky or greasy so I don't mind. I really like this one!
Beauty Kitchen Inspire Me Body Souffle
The Inspire Me Brightening & Toning Body Soufflé (£14.99/200ml) is described as, "Luxurious skin-soothing moisture in a jar. Your skin will love this silky luxurious moisturising soufflé. It's packed with super effective shea butter, grapefruit, and lemongrass, leaving your skin brighter, firmer, and subtly scented." This has the same lovely scent as the body wash and a gorgeous silky texture; it spreads easily over the skin, absorbs quickly, and a little goes a long way. It leaves a beautiful lingering scent on the skin and I find it hydrates quite effectively too. I've been using this on my arms and legs after showering, as they're the areas I tend to suffer from dryness, and I've found my skin hasn't been getting itchy and tight as it can when I don't moisturiser.

I really like the Beauty Kitchen products I've tried so far; I think they're great quality and live up to their claims. They're effective without being overly fancy, smell lovely and leave my skin feeling happy which is always a bonus! I'll definitely be re-purchasing the Body Polish and Body Soufflé, though I may try these products from the other ranges to find my favourite scents... It's always nice to support British brands and Beauty Kitchen are a lovely alternative option; I think the posh packaging means they'd make great gifts, too! Have you ever tried any Beauty Kitchen products? Do you have a favourite brand for bath products like these?


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Hello December!

Well, folks, here we are - the twelfth and final month of 2015 is now underway! I'm really not sure how I feel about this, to be honest; I think we're probably past the point where I can pretend Christmas isn't just around the corner, and it's time to start thinking about New Year's Resolutions and suchlike.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves; there's still a whole month of 2015 to enjoy!
Hello December
You can see the goals I set myself for November here if you like, but here's how I've got on with those...
Renew gym membership & keep going regularly: I'm giving this one a big fat tick as I've been swimming three or four times a week in November, which I'm pretty pleased with! It's been an effort sometimes to drag myself out of bed while it's still dark outside and it's so cosy under my duvet, but I almost always feel better for a nice swim to wake me up, and it's nice seeing my fitness improve as I stick with it.
Start Christmas shopping: I started. I did. I bought one gift on a total whim while I was in Asda towards the start of the month, then promptly forgot about it until the weekend just gone, when I actually had my annual Christmas shopping weekend (a little earlier than usual, admittedly) with my best friend; we went to York on the Saturday then visited my brother in Leeds on the Saturday night, which was lovely. So, yes, I've started my Christmas shopping!
Have a clothing clear-out: I've definitely thrown away a couple of socks with holes in... I have also taken two bags of stuff to the charity shop, including a few tops, dresses, cardigans and bags, so I'm considering this one completed. It was actually harder than anticipated to choose items to lose, apparently I get weird sentimental attachments to clothes. Right then... I am appreciating the extra space in my wardrobe though - I can now remove one hanger without six more coming out attached to it, which is a bit of a novelty!
Have a general clear-out: I've thrown away a lot of packaging. Like, so many empty Birchboxes and the like. Why do I keep them? What do I think I might be going to do with them? It's a mystery! They've gone, now, anyway, which is quite satisfying.

I'm calling that four out of four for November! I've found December a tricky month to set goals for to be honest, as there's such a lot going on as it is... I don't want to commit to things that I'm going to struggle to achieve, I'd like to finish the year on a high note! So these goals are really things I'd probably be doing anyway. But there we are.
Bake: I haven't been baking anywhere near as often since moving back in with my parents last summer and I really miss it; it's definitely a favourite pastime for me and something I find really enjoyable and relaxing. Christmas is an easy time to bake and I'm intending to at the very least make the mince pies!
Throw more things away: I still have a lot of stuff and I'm quite sure I can stand to lose a lot of it. I think the run-up to Christmas is a great time to reassess my possessions and streamline a little; I'm really trying to think about what I actually want/need to keep, and what I'm hanging onto for the sake of it.

I'm going to stick with just the two goals, I don't see any point in setting goals just for the sake of it, and as I said there's going to be enough going on as it is without me trying to achieve things just so I can tick them off. Are you setting yourself any goals this month? Do you have any tips for streamlining your belongings?

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