Monday, 23 February 2015

Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow

I have found my go-to daily primer and foundation combo. Without doubt, I have loved every single product I have tried from Charlotte Tilbury - they just work. 

Although you don't have to use them together, the results when you do are outstanding. The Wonderglow primer features a fluorescent core light diffuser that basically uses the UV light around you to reflect back beautiful looking luminous skin. It really is quite marvellous. You can use it on its own for a hint of 'you, just with slightly better skin' or under the foundation. I'm told you can also use over make-up, but I haven't tried that yet. It's easy to apply and sinks straight in to the skin - I apply just with my fingers. It's worth every penny of the £38.50. 

The Light Wonder foundations comes in ten shades - mine is 2 Fair. The shade match is absolutely spot on and the coverage is good. At the same time, the consistency of the foundation is fairly liquid - no caking here. It's extremely flattering - it provides great looking, dewy skin without screaming 'I'm wearing foundation!'. It's a joy to wear. The claim is that 'it illuminates, smoothes, hydrates, minimises pores and reduces wrinkles'. The claim is well-founded. I apply mine with my Real Techniques stippling brush, but you could just as easily do this with finger tips. Oh, and as an extra benefit, it has SPF 15. Because hopefully, spring is well and truly on the way. Well, a girl can hope. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow

Hurray! It's Friday. It seems to have taken quite a while to get here this week. 

I got this contour set for Christmas, and I have literally used it everyday since. Charlotte Tilbury's Filmstar Bronze and Glow is one of the jewels in the Tilbury crown. As you'd expect, it's not the cheapest contour set you're ever going to buy - it's £49 - but it is worth every penny, I promise. As always, the packaging is spectacular - even the box it comes in is worth a mention. It folds out, around the palette, as if you're unwrapping a present. And there are handy instructions to remind you what to do (in case you've forgotten, or bought this by mistake and don't actually know what a contour set is for). 

Second up: the palette is great. No brush because, let's just be honest, who really uses the teeny tiny brushes that ever come in these kits anyway? It feels quite sturdy without being overly heavy and has a large mirror for application on the move. 

I'm not going to lie: I am a sucker for embossed make-up. Is it really necessary to identify each powder by telling you what to do with it? No. But it does look lovely. (Also, I can reassure you that after a few uses, the words fade away, so there you go.)

According to Charlotte Tilbury:
  • the bronzer is the perfect universal blend of pearl and pigment to contour features and mimic a sun-kissed complexion
  • the highlighter is built up from a golden base that flatters any skin tone and uses Light Flex Technology to capture light and radiate it out for a luminous complexion

The contour shade goes on well and lasts all day - and it's buildable so if you really want to go for a hardcore contour, you can. It blends out well too, so you don't risk looking rather similar to an oompa loompa (never a good look). 

The highlighter might be a touch shimmery for some, but I find it works very well on my skin tone. I think it's far more subtle than Benefit's High Beam

If you're in the market for a really good contour kit, you won't go wrong with this one. Go on - treat yourself. Well, it is Friday. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

My Little Box - The Frenchie

I received my first Little Box in January and it was good enough to have me pretty excited when this month's edition dropped through the letter box. This month the theme is 'French' - definitely more appealing than the healthy theme in January.

So, let's cut straight to the good stuff. This month features a full size By Terry waterproof khol pencil - mine is black. This baby retails for a mega £23.50 so you're already in credit without anything else in the mix. I'm a bit fan of By Terry make-up; I've not tried the Terrybly Khol Pencil range before, and I'm excited to try it. 

In terms of beauty products, the box also contains a brow product, some blotting paper and a complexion enhancer. 

Super liner brow artist plumper by L'Oreal Paris - this product claims to combine the roles of pencil, powder and brush in one go. It comes in three shades - mine is clear. Although completely understandable, that's not so useful for me - I'd prefer to have a brown one. I've used this a couple of times already - it's okay, but I wouldn't rush out to repurchase. It retails for £5.99.

DHC blotting paper. I'll be honest, I've never seen the need for blotting paper, and I'm not convinced that February is the best month to be embracing these for the first time. These are 100% natural hemp fibres and claim to be more effective than synthetic alternatives when it comes to oil absorption - as per my previous sentence, I'm in no position to judge that statement. The packaging is pretty though and I'll keep these stashed to try out when summer arrives.

My Little Beauty complexion enhancer - My Little Box's own range. This cream, which contains apricot kernel oil (hence the beautiful smell) claims to bring skin back to life. It also contains edelweiss extracts and while these are unlikely to turn you into a singing nun, they do claim to protect your skin. It's definitely lightweight and easily absorbed, but I'm still trying to work out exactly where it fits into my skincare routine. My first attempt has been to use it after moisturiser, but if you have a better idea, do tell!

The box contains two further products: a pot of messages and a smartphone case. The pot of messages is a small, dainty pot with a cork stopper that contains 28 scrolls of paper, each with a different message. Think fortune cookie, but with way more style. I was a bit skeptical of this, but actually, so far I've been enjoying them every morning. I'm not sure I'd pay £6.50 for these for myself, but I'd definitely get these as a gift for someone in the future.

The smartphone case is a bit like the bag in January's box. It's okay, but I most definitely would not pay anything for it - and certainly not the £16 that it's claimed to retail for. It was created with Ines de la Fressange - which the whole box centres around (she's the cover on the accompanying magazine)  - so I get the point, but it's not a main draw for me.

The box also includes a flyer to advertise the company's new app My Little App. It basically sends daily updates with information about sales, beauty tutorials, competitions, discounts and a whole load more - I've downloaded it, but haven't really explored it properly yet. If it's good, I'll do another post on that. 

Overall, a good box - mainly because of the eyeliner - so I'll keep my subscription live for another month and see how it goes. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Commuting - the seventh circle of hell

I'm a reasonable person. Well, most of the time. But if there is one thing that's going to induce serious violence within me, it's commuting. Yes, Waterloo & City Line, I'm looking at you. Second only to South West Trains. The closure of London Bridge has provided the final straw. That we choose to pay thousands (yes, really, thousands) of pounds for the privilege of standing throughout an entire 60 minute journey, most usually in closer proximity to total strangers than I often am with my own husband, is entirely incomprehensible. And yet, every weekday, there I am. Ready to do it all over again. 

The French wouldn't put up with this.

What in particular annoys me so much? Let me tell you.

1. Parking.
Before you even get to the lovely train station, I have to battle with the parking. Not find a space - oh, no. They've got that totally nailed. Any opportunity to make an extra few quid. No - it's the method of payment. Via an app. Naturally. 'Simple, quick and easy' they claim. What a load of old rubbish. The app constantly crashes. It remembers the wrong car details. It remembers the wrong car park. It remembers the wrong payment details. In fact, if it remembered anything at all correctly, I'd die of shock. I've paid for whole sessions in completely the wrong place, only to be welcomed back to my car with a ticket. I've argued with so many tickets since Christmas, I'm practically on first name terms with the parking enforcement team in Elmbridge. 

2. Completely oblivious commuters. 
You know the type. They step onto the train as if it's some magical new world they have entered and need to stop and stare in complete awe. The desire to shove these people extremely hard in the back and knock them back into some sense of the real world is almost overwhelming. It's just a train, people. Move along. And do it quickly.

3. Really loud music. 
Yes, your beats headphones are cool. But do you have to play your music so loud I can heard it too? It sounds like a din. And who knows what damage you're doing to your ear drums. And if it's in a 'Quiet carriage' - well, they started it...

4. People who think they are still on the train when, in fact, they are not
When did it become okay to walk along the platform still reading your kindle or your phone? Put your phone away and walk properly, with purpose, like the rest of us. Or, stay on the train and keep reading your book, if it's so good. Just don't randomly walk along like you have all the time in the world, getting in my way. With any luck, some of these people will be so preoccupied, they'll walk straight off the platform and onto the track*. 

5. People who are shocked they need to produce their ticket to get out of the station
What is WRONG with you? Have you never travelled on a train before? Did the queue of people waiting to exit not give it away? What do you think they are doing? Why then, do you not find your ticket before you get to the gate? Tourists, fair enough. You can't be expected to know these things. But commuters who do this everyday? Sort yourselves out. We all have places to get to. 

Usually late, because the commute has been delayed. 

*Please note: I don't really want people to end up hurt, I just want them to focus on where they are going

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Aldi's Lacura Multi Intensive Serum

I'm always on the lookout for a bargain and when my Clarins serum ran out, I decided to try a completely budget alternative. I'm not a fan of the Boots No7 Protect and Perfect Serum (I know, I know - everyone raves about it, but it just doesn't work for me) but when I researching some alternatives, I discovered that Aldi actually has it's own skincare range. Would it make my face fall off? Bring me out in hives? For £3.49, it was worth finding out - I could bin it at the first danger sign. 

I couldn't decide between Aqua-Complete and Renew - so I got both. Aqua-Complete is 'a special amino acid moisturising complex, providing rapid moisture replenishment and improves the skin's moisture binding ability in the long term through the restructuring of the skin's uppermost layers'. It's recommended for younger users; from around 20 to 35 years old. (I'm just out of that bracket, so I figured I should start with this one - I'm not getting any younger.)

It's both light and hydrating. The scent isn't great, but it's not too overpowering and doesn't last long - so I can put up with it. It's moisturising enough that I wouldn't necessarily need to use moisturiser in the morning - unless my skin is particularly dry, which it is at the moment. I think it would be fine in summer though - I'd just use this and then my SPF cream. It is absorbed by the skin easily and quickly. Somewhat unbelievably at this price, it contains hyaluronic acid - which basically helps skin cells retain more than 1000 times their weight in water. As well as being super moisturising, this acid provides increased smoothness. It's a winner. I only wish I'd bothered about things like this when I was 20.

Lacura Aqua-Complete
Renew is aimed at the more experienced lady; from 35 to 50. Aldi claims that: 'the bio peptide Mimox promotes active skin relaxation and helps reduce the appearance of fine lines.' How? Well, it contains Coenzyme Q10 - which helps boost skin repair and regeneration. When you're younger, your body creates this on it's own; after you hit 30, the ability to do this drops, and so any extra help you can get it a bonus. I didn't personally notice a huge difference immediately - I'll have to report back after long-term use. This one smells a bit nicer though - that's probably the macadamia nut oil, which is also quite moisturising too. 

Overall, if you're looking for an absolute bargain I can say with certainty these won't make your face fall off. Give them a try - I'm glad I did! Think of the savings that can be spent elsewhere...

Monday, 9 February 2015

Charlotte Tilbury Revolutionary Youth Boosting Lip System

After my fave review of the amazing Supermodel box (Mr. M. must once again get snaps for such a fantastic Christmas present), it will come as no surprise that I am unable to leave a Charlotte Tilbury counter empty handed. Obviously the answer - if I'm attempting to save my bank balance - is to stay away from said counters. Which, of course, means I was at one earlier this week. 

I really must look into measures to improve my willpower. 

Needless to say, there's a whole new system that was crying out to be tried - just in time for Valentine's Day. Let's dive in, shall we?

This new, 'revolutionary' system features four stages; Lip Love - a scrub to prep the lips, Lip Magic - a moisturising lip balm, lip liner and then a lipstick. 

“When you are talking to someone the two areas they focus on are your eyes and your mouth. That’s why a good lip system is just as important as a good eye cream to make you look 10 years younger. I always apply the same routine to the lips as I do to the face: Prep, Prime, Colour & Kiss! It’s youth-boosting magic for lips.”...Charlotte Tilbury

I really do suffer with dry, chapped lips, so matte lipsticks are generally more difficult for me to wear. Lip Love contains sugar crystals to remove dead cells and boost circulation. I have been using a Lush scrub - but, as you might expect, there's no comparison. Especially given that the Lush scrub is £5.50, whereas Lip Love will set you back £20. 

Charlotte's scrub is almost balm-like - it has jojoba seed oil, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa seed butter and beeswax, so it's extremely moisturising whilst simultaneously scrubbing. For an extra hit, it also contains Vitamin E, which helps to naturally condition and protect the lips. And, it smells delicious too. 

Lip Magic is a fantastic lip balm. It claims to protect and strengthen the lips by creating new cells and reducing water loss - by 34% don't you know. I have no idea if that's true, but my lips are definitely in better condition after a couple of days of using this. The magic ingredient is propolis - a resin created by honeybees to protect the lining of their beehives. Apparently it boosts the immune system too. It also has hyaluronic acid, to help plump out the lips, Vitamin E and argan oil. Blimey - it sounds like it could cure all the world's ills in one simple step. Okay - that's a bit over the top - but it is a great lip balm. 

Lip Cheat is the range of lip liners and although lip liners is not essential, it definitely helps the staying power of the lipstick. Plus, it helps reshape and resize if that's your thing. I already had Pillowtalk; this time I picked up Kiss 'n' Tell. I'm sure you can guess what's coming next. 

And finally, the last step. The lipstick. Charlotte's  lipsticks are absolutely phenomenal - very pigmented, completely buildable and absolutely not drying on the lips at all. They also stay put for at least four hours - which is pretty impressive. They've been hugely popular and I haven't stopped wearing Confession since I got it. But I wanted more - and it had to be Matte Revolution Red Carpet Red. The range of matte lipsticks has been raved about since it was launched - so I decided I had waited long enough. It was worth the wait. 

Standard with anything from Charlotte Tilbury - the packaging is beautiful and everything works together perfectly. Expensive? Eye wateringly so. A lip balm that costs £25 needs to be considered carefully. But, if you suffer with chapped lips like I do, and you still want to wear bold lipsticks (like I do!) then this is a good investment. Plus, if you get it in time for Valentine's Day in store at Fenwicks, you'll also get a free lip pouch - very cute!

All products are available online. Lip Love is £20, Lip Magic is £25, Lip Cheats are £16 and the lipsticks are £23. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Sticker books: the stuff of genius

Whilst perusing a post on 'from a whisper to a roar' on sticker books I realised: I love sticker books. I really, truly, definitely L-O-V-E them. 

I first discovered the joy of sticker books for toddlers when travelling to the US and literally trying every available activity to distract the children for five minutes on the plane. Sticker books were the hands-down winner throughout. The only problem - if you can call it a problem - is that the kids seem to complete the entire book in ten minutes. However, you'll find this is no problem at all if you travel with a library of sticker books. Which I now do. All. the. time.

Meg raises a good point, though. While I may think that doing a sticker book consists of, well, sticking, my children seem to think the main aim is to stick and then peel off each sticker. If they can find a piece of furniture - or a wall - to stick the sticker to, so much the better. (Sorry, British Airways.)

I find stickers everywhere. In my handbag. In the washing machine. On the walls. Even on my work notebook, which I pulled out in a meeting and then quickly had to retreat for fear of the supplier (I won't embarrass him by mentioning him by name) realising I was not the high-flying corporate wonder woman he obviously thought I was, but in fact I am a mum trying to fit everything in (and, on this particular occasion, failing. But let's ignore that). Personally, if I was putting stickers on my notebook, it would not be Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It would, in fact, be these babies from Anya Hindmarch. But I digress. 

A random sticker, on a random wall. There's no escape.

Given that the youngest Martini isn't even close to sticker books, I am already resigned to several more years of finding stickers in places they really shouldn't be. But - they love it. And that's all that really matters. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Fresh as a daisy

Fresh is one of those brands that I've heard a lot about, but never tried. It's not that easy to get hold of in the UK (and although there is one shop on Marylebone High Street - number 92 to be exact - it's currently closed for renovations, so even more difficult than usual) - so I roped in the help of Martini Sister to hand deliver some goodies for me to try direct from good old NYC. 

In fact, I'd actually only asked her for the Sugar Lip Treatment - you must of heard of that, right? But she went one step further and picked up the Skincare All-Stars gift set, to give me a real chance to check out the brand. Unfortunately, this limited edition set seems to have sold out on Sephora - but you might still get lucky in a store? Worth a shot. 

The brand, which 'mixes ancient beauty rituals with modern technology', basically follows a natural philosophy, with a focus on high-quality, high performing ingredients. Sounds good, smells even better.  

What's in the kit?

Let's be honest - these are the best sellers from their skincare range - and there's a reason for that. Every single of of these are fantastic - I especially love the face cream that is both really hydrating and sinks straight into the skin. It's perfect for this time of year. 

I'm only disappointed that it didn't include Sugar Face Polish - which is supposed to be amazing - but using the performance of these products as a basis, I'll be adding that to my shopping list for my next US trip. Either that, or Martini Sister will have to make another trip home PDQ. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Spotify - is premium worth it?

Spotify overhauled its almost a year ago in April 2014, and its taken me a good while to properly get to grips with the programme. Initially, I just used the free option, but while we were on holiday I decided to upgrade to the 'premium' version, mainly to avoid the adverts. But, because I had some time on my hands, it also gave me the chance to play around with the new version and I haven't looked back. Spotify is absolutely brilliant.

Let me tell you why.

First, it has a great catalogue of music. To be honest, my tastes are fairly mainstream, and I haven't done a detailed comparison with the likes of Napster and Google Play, but I've never had a problem. No complaints from me on that front.

Second, once you get the hang of it, it's simple and easy to use. Playlists, albums, artists: build your own library however you like. Personally, I love the playlists and have created a lot - some for the kids, some just for me and obviously, some for Christmas. Winner.

Third, the android app is brilliant. With Premium you can download 3,333 tracks to sync with your mobile (or tablet) so you can listen offline. That's right - offline. You can do this for up to three devices - which covers my laptop, my tablet and my mobile. I have a whole wealth of playlists to help get me through my daily commute. One is called Nine Circles of Hell. South West Trains, take note. 

And, finally, fourth, you can follow other people's public playlists. Don't fancy building your own workout list? No problem - just follow someone else's. Have a light 'Stalker' tendency to certain celebrities? Chances are, they've created a public profile sharing their own favourite tracks - yours for the taking. 

There are two main account options: free, which is paid for by adverts and doesn't allow you to download your music, and premium, which costs £9.99 a month and means you can play your music anytime, anywhere. For the average price of an album, you can have pretty much an unlimited music library at home, on the move and at your destination. What more could you want?