Since hitting the big 3-0 I have officially found myself at the stage of life where my entire yearly holiday allowance is spent attending friends weddings which is how a little over a month ago I found myself and the boy headed to New York for ten days of sightseeing, shopping and a Central Park wedding.
I will happily admit that previous to my trip, visiting New York was never particularly high on my ‘must do’ list. Yes I know it’s meant to be one of the best cities in the world and as a Gossip Girl addict and fan of all things Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blondie related you’d think I’d have a burning desire to visit but for some reason the urge to jet across the Atlantic had never struck me. An invite to my friends’ wedding in NYC however finally gave me the push I needed to ‘cross the pond’ and I’m now kicking myself I never visited sooner as it’s now possibly my new favourite place in the world and I’m trying to figure out how I can justify another trip…
Having debated going down the Air B&B route when it came to accommodation, me and the boy eventually settled on Yotel which was located only a few minutes from Time Square and proved the perfect base for exploring the city. I’d heard nightmare stories of the tiny amount of square footage to be found in central New York hotel rooms but the clever use of space in our ‘Premium View Cabin’ meant that, although compact, it never felt cramped and gave more than enough space to stash away the multiple outfits, shoes, toiletries and books we’d both bought. Yotel’s bar also served a great selection of food, cocktails and craft beer (oh how I miss the happy hour!) which meant we didn’t have to drag our jet lagged asses too far to find nourishment on the first night. The Yotel was also just round the corner from a supermarket which was great for stocking up on yet more craft beer and nibbles as well as fresh croissants every morning.
Although we did a lot of the touristy stuff – Times Square, Top Of The Rock, Grand Central, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (which we definitely needed at least another day to explore it was so big!), Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History, the ‘Ghostbusters’ Fire Station, a performance of Cabaret on Broadway and catching a free gig by the ever amazing We Are Scientists (seriously, those guys haven’t aged in 10 years!), the majority of our time was simply spent wandering around the city taking in the impressive range of buildings and sites it has to offer. We also decided to hit The High Line which is a public park built on top of a former freight rail line which snakes along the West Side of Manhattan and is a great way of getting a slightly more elevated view of the city. I’d thoroughly recommend hoping off at Chelsea Market for great food and even greater jewellery. It’s safe to say we definitely got our money’s worth out of our 7 day Metrocards which gave unlimited use of the subway and made getting around a doddle.
No write up of my NY trip would be complete without a mention of all the amazing food and drink we encountered. Aside from working our way through the US McDonalds’ menu and a good chunk of the Grand Central food court, we also ate and drank in the following amazing places – The Dead Rabbit, Blind Tiger, Hudson Malone, Beer Culture and Flatiron Lounge (fantastic for cocktails!).
Our amazing 10 days has cemented NYC in my heart and this is definitely the start of a beautiful love affair. xoxo
As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to skin care I’ve always been a bit reluctant to try out new brands and products for fear that I’d spent a fortune on something that would make my sensitive skin flare up and therefore languish at the back of my bathroom cupboard cruelly mocking me whenever I went to get a new bar of soap. That said, I’m also Northern and love a freebie so when the lovely people at Balance Me got in touch to ask if I’d like to try some of their products I wasn’t exactly going to say no!
Founded in 2005 by sisters Rebecca and Clare Hopkins with an emphasis on creating natural skincare products, Balance Me is now a multi-award winning enterprise which is stocked in over 400 outlets including Debenhams, Waitrose and John Lewis (another beauty bugbear of mine is always reading about amazing brands and then never being able to find anywhere that stocks them!). Balance Me’s website also stocks the full range of their products and I love that you can search by skin type as well as by product which ensures that those with tricky skin end up buying the best products for them.
First up is their Rose Otto Hand Cream which won ‘Best Inexpensive Hand Cream’ (although on my budget I wouldn’t consider £14.50 ‘inexpensive’ but welcome to the world of fashion magazines…) at Instyle’s Best Beauty Buys 2014. I’m a bit rubbish when it comes to remembering to moisturise my hands even though my eczema means that they really, really need it so when I do remember, I need something extremely hydrating and nourishing to tide them over. Containing kukui nut and camellia oils combined with organic shea butter and smelling, shockingly, of rose, the cream has a smooth, rich formula which left my hands feeling extremely nourished and, more importantly, didn’t cause any reaction with my skin. It didn’t sink in as quickly as other brands I’ve tried (although perhaps I’m using too large an amount) but other than this, I can’t fault it!
Next up is the Natural Protection Moisturiser SPF 25 which is a new addition to the range for 2014. I always try to make sure that any creams, foundations or powders I use on my face have an SPF in them but very few I’ve found have an SPF as high as 25 which, combined with its anti-oxidant properties, makes this moisturiser a very attractive prospect. It can be used on its own, over your normal moisturiser or under foundation and I found that formula-wise, it absorbed very easily and didn’t feel heavy on my skin. Seeing as I decided to test this during one of the hottest weeks of the year, I’m more than impressed with how it performed and I didn’t have that ‘greasy’ feeling that you can get with normal sun cream when you’ve been out in the sweltering heat.
Finally, I have the Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm. Being a bit rubbish when it comes to beauty, the only other balm I’d ever used was lip balm and although I’m no stranger to cleansers, I’d never used one quite like this before. Obviously, consistency-wise it’s a balm but the texture is slightly gritty due to the oatmeal it also contains. Of the three products I tried, this is definitely my favourite. It felt wonderful on my skin and the oatmeal helped to remove all the grime built up over the day (so nice to use when it’s been so hot outside!) whilst the shea and coco butter left my skin feeling incredibly soothed. Once again my sensitive skin had no reaction to it (other than being left looking A. Maze. Ing.) and a little goes an awfully long way so at £10 for 40ml, this is definitely something that won’t be languishing at the back of my bathroom cupboard!
Overall, I’m massively impressed with the Balance Me products that I’ve tried and, as I’ve previously mentioned, I love how their website guides you by skin type to ensure you buy the best combination for your skin. Each product page also has a ‘Savvy Shopper’ tab with tips on how to get the best use from products which as a bit of a beauty and skincare dunce, I found really useful.
If, like me, you’re a bit reluctant to splash out on new brands without knowing how they’re going to react with your skin then you’re in luck as this month’s Marie Claire comes with a choice of two Balance Me products (the Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm or the Moisture Rich Face Cream) as well as a 20% discount code for their products online. I’ve already stocked up on another face balm as it’s the perfect size to pack for my holiday to New York in October. Oh and the magazine’s only £2.50 this month so MASSIVE BARGAIN!
As Manchester is for once bathed in glorious sunshine which makes my thoughts turn to spring, it seems a bit unfair to still be banging on about all things wintery but as I’ve *finally* got my hands on some full size bottles from Essie’s Winter 2013 collection, I thought it would be rude not to share some swatches!
First up is ‘Toggle To The Top’, a dark red glitter in a dark red base. This was my first experience of using Essie polishes and I have to say, despite the gorgeousness of the colour, I was a bit disappointed as it chipped horrendously and for £7.99, I want something with a bit more durability. Determined not miss out on having such a lovely shade on my nails however, I decided to layer it over two coats of Barry M’s ‘Red Wine’ which not only gave it staying power but also means that the polish will go much further! The above photo is two coats of ‘Toggle To The Top’ over two layers of ‘Red Wine’ and sealed with a top coat. The glitter distribution in the polish is fabulous and gives a sophisticated sparkle to brighten up dull days.
The second polish I bought from the collection is ‘Parka Perfect’ which is a greeny grey shade with a subtle shimmer. Although my best description of it as ‘somewhere near the colour of blu tack’ doesn’t perhaps make it sound very appealing, this is one of my favourite polishes for a long time and I’ve already stocked up on a couple of bottles before it’s discontinued! Unlike ‘Toggle To The Top’, I had no chipping issues with this polish (I’m typing this wearing a five day old application of the polish and aside from a little wearing at the tips, I’m still chip free!) and it’s so flattering on the nail. The above photo is three layers and a topcoat although you could probably get away with two coats on smaller nails.
So whilst my first foray into the world of Essie polishes was a mainly positive one, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing out to buy more in future unless the shade was spectacular or different enough to warrant it.
When the lovely people at oNecklace asked if I’d like to review one of their products I jumped at the chance. Although Juliet might ask ‘What’s in a name?’ during the famous balcony scene in Romeo And Juliet, I’ve always loved a bit of personalisation when it comes to fashion so I was thrilled to add another trinket to the stash of items bearing my name.
When it comes to name necklaces, I’ve never been a massive fan of the Carrie Bradshaw font style as I find it a bit too ‘girly’ but thankfully with oNecklace there’s plenty of choice for those who want something with a slightly tougher edge with ‘Bold Print’, ‘Elephant’ and ‘Block Letters’ being amongst my favourites. Plus if silver isn’t your thing, they also offer a variety of finishes including 24K Gold Plated, 14K Gold and 14K White Gold as well as a myriad of other goodies just waiting to be personalised. In the end I opted for the ‘Italic’ style in sterling silver as I loved the slightly 80s neon lettering vibe it had going on (unless that’s just me?!?). Delivery was free and it arrived stupidly quickly, despite being custom made, in a beautiful presentation box.
With Christmas just around the corner I’m tempted to invest in a few more of these for family and friends (although if they read this blog, that’s the surprise ruined – whoops sorry!) although narrowing down the endless combinations of fonts and finishes might take me until Christmas 2014…
*The necklace was provided by oNecklace free of charge as a review sample but all opinions expressed and photos taken are my own (not that my photos would ever pass as ‘professional’ – thank goodness for Instagram!).*
Now it’s no secret that I love a bit of Barry M when it comes to nail polish. Not only do their polishes come in a massive selection of colours and finishes but when it comes to wear and tear, they’re pretty indestructible and I can often get through an entire working week chip free! Although I love experimenting with polish, I’ve tended to stay away from textured polishes as I’ve worried the ‘gritty’ texture might start to get on my nerves after a few hours wear. That said, when Opi released their ‘Bond Girls’ collection of textured polishes earlier in the year, the jewel like tones almost tempted me to take the plunge if they’d been a tad cheaper (I love Opi but I’m not prepared to pay £10+ for something I might not like!). Thank goodness then for Barry M who seem determined to push the creative boundaries at the lower end of the nail polish market and have brought out a collection of textured glitter polishes at a purse friendly £3.99 each (plus some of the colours are pretty good dupes for a few of the Opi ‘Bond Girls’ polishes…).
I picked up three of the five polishes in the ‘Royal Collection’ – ‘Gold Majesty’, ‘White Pearl’ and ‘Purple Countess’ – on my lunch break last week and I think I can now declare myself a textured polish convert!
‘Gold Majesty’ is a textured polish packed full of, shockingly, gold glitter. I love, love, love this polish and it was the perfect shade to dip my toe into the textured polish water with! The glitter pieces are very small and densely packed together so not only do you get an amazing sparkle but the overall texture is like fine sandpaper. It went on without too much trouble (it’s a bit thicker than a normal glitter polish) and I used two coats although I could probably have gotten away with one as it covered so well.
Second up is ‘White Pearl’. Although I loved this colour in the bottle, on the nail it didn’t feel very ‘me’. Containing a mixture of white and iridescent glitters, it’s a very pretty shade and possibly once the weather becomes more wintery I’ll want something a bit more ‘Snow Queen’ but at the moment I’m just not loving it. The glitter pieces in this one also seem to be bigger than the ones in ‘Gold Majesty’ which means that the application wasn’t as easy and the final texture was a bit rougher than I would have liked.
The final polish I picked up was ‘Purple Countess’ which is a shade I think proper beauty bloggers would describe as ‘complex’. Although primarily a purple based glitter, it also has hints of browns, pinks, oranges and golds which catch the light and shimmer beautifully. I also tried this one with a top coat which really brought the glitter to life but sadly it didn’t photograph well (or at least the photos of no topcoat and topcoat didn’t look as different as they did in real life to make them worth posting). This is a great shade for autumn and also subtle enough for everyday wear if you don’t want to be too OTT but still have a hint of sparkle. Due to the finer glitter, ‘Purple Countess’ was much easier to apply than ‘White Pearl’ and took two coats to become opaque.
Overall I’m really impressed with the polishes and whilst I’m still not convinced about textured polishes in non-glitter shades, I can’t wait to try some more textured glitters. I might just have to purchase some of those Opi shades now…
As much as I love fashion and beauty, I’ve always been a bit rubbish when it comes to skincare. That’s not to say that I don’t look after my skin – I always make sure I remove all traces of make-up before bed and I love to treat myself to a Lush fresh face mask when unwinding after a long day but when it comes to the products I actually use on it, I’ve definitely always been at the budget end of the market. I’ve suffered from eczema for the majority of my life which has meant that not only does the skin on my face get dry and therefore needs a lot of moisturising but because it’s so sensitive, I’m reluctant to spend a fortune on ‘miracle’ creams and serums that might bring me out in a rash! Previously I’ve mainly stuck to Simple products but since moving into town, Aldi has become my local supermarket and their extensive Lacura skincare range has been catching my eye. Ever since the furore that Boots Protect & Perfect caused a few years ago, budget beauty brands have been in the spotlight and, it would appear, can give the more expensive names in skincare a run for their money. Having heard good things about Aldi’s offerings, I decided to pick up a few products along with the rest of my weekly shop.
My first pick is Lacura’s Daily Face Cream. Not only is this an amazing £1.49 but it’s also SPF 15 which means it moisturises AND protects your skin at the same time. I try my best to use products with an SPF but they can often be hard to find when you’re on a budget. The formula is a little bit thicker than the daily moisturiser I normally use (think sun cream consistency) but it sinks in well, moisturises brilliantly and so far I’ve not had any reaction to it.
My second buy was the Multi Intensive Serum Renew for £3.49. I absolutely LOVE this product. It’s a lovely consistency and makes my skin feel really nourished. I was initially using it at night before I went to bed but due to its general amazingness and price, I’ve been using it as a normal moisturiser (the Daily Face Cream layered on top) now that the temperature has decided to turn a bit more autumnal. Despite being very rich, it’s light on and a little goes a long way. My only complaint is that it seems to sell out very quickly so I must remember to stock up when I’m next in!
My final purchase is the Pro-Vital Hand Cream. I always seem to have a million hand creams on the go – in my bag, on my desk at work, by my bed, on the arm of the sofa – so I need one that not only moisturises but also won’t break the bank! Lacura have several in their range, all priced at 75p and I picked this one as the combination of beeswax and vitamin E really appealed. It sunk in very quickly and left my hands really soft (my eczema also means that my hands dry out very quickly too so it’s really nice to not feel that they look like an OAPs for once!).
Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of the products as well as the price and best of all, Aldi don’t test their products or ingredients on animals. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of the range, especially the cosmetics as I’ve heard that Lacura’s concealer pen is a very good dupe for YSL’s Touche Éclat…
I have a bit of an obsession when it comes to nail polish and not content with owning the majority of what Barry M has to offer (seriously, their polishes are amazing and can go a whole week without chipping), I’ve recently turned my attention to the amazing indie brands coming out of the US at the moment. New York based brand Cirque have recently launched their 12 piece ‘Arcus’ collection and when I saw the amazing glitter polishes online, I knew I had to have them I my life!
Lullaby is packed with various shapes and sizes of satin-finish pastel glitter suspended in a clear base. The above photo shows two coats over Barry M nail polish in ‘Black’ (np47). I absolutely LOVE this nail polish – normally I’m not overly keen on glitters with chunky pieces in them as I have fairly small nails so the larger pieces don’t tend to sit flat and have a habit of catching and coming off but I had no such problems with ‘Lullaby’ to the point where I managed to go five days without a single chip! It looks so pretty on the nail, especially contrasted against a darker base coat and the satin-finish of the glitter really catches the eye. The glitter distribution is great although I had to move some of the bigger star shaped pieces around to get them into a better position. I really wish I’d bought two bottles of this as I know I’m going to be wearing it a lot this A/W!
Kaleidoscope is another satin-finish but this time with multi-coloured brights in a clear base which, according to the Cirque website, contains over 30 different types of glitter. Again the above photo shows two coats over Barry M ‘Black’. The colours in this one remind me of the circus and children’s birthday parties and whilst I love the colour combination when it’s in the bottle, on the nail I’m not sure it’s really ‘me’. Possibly I need to try it over a different colour or add more layers for extra intensity but I’m not sure how often I’ll be reaching for this polish. Once again the glitter distribution is good but unlike the big pieces in ‘Lullaby’, I found that the larger pieces didn’t sit very well on my nail (despite a couple of layers of a top coat) and after a couple of days a few of them had come off.
Out of the three polishes I bought from the collection, I thought Electric Circus would probably be my least favourite but, despite my initial hesitance, it really grew on me. It’s another satin-finish in a clear base but this time has smaller sized neon glitter pieces in red, yellow and blue. As the glitter pieces were smaller, it needed three – four coats over the Barry M ‘Black’ to build up a decent amount of glitter (unless I was just unlucky with the distribution) but once layered up, I loved the subtle, spray paint effect it gave.
Of the three colours, ‘Lullaby’ is hands down my favourite as it’s so lovely on the nail and very different to anything else I own. I’m going to persevere with ‘Kaleidoscope’ though as it looks so amazing in the bottle, there must be a way of making it look equally show stopping on my nails!