Amara Living Valentines Gift Ideas

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Amara Living Valentines Gift Ideas
Valentines Day is almost here and to me it is a time to treat your loved ones, personalised gifts say so much and they are more special too although luxury gifts would be perfect for valentines day as well. Luxury items are usually products that people don't want to buy for themselves as they are a special treat so valentines day is the time to treat your partner, friends or family.

There are two brands that I personally have wanted to try for so long but they are also luxury brands so I'm always hesitant to spend the money on treats for myself. I was SO excited when this package arrived from the lovely people at Amara! The package from Amara came quickly, well padded and beautifully presented.

- *Neom Tranquility English Lavender, Sweet Basil & Jasmine Travel Candle (£16, 75g): Neom is an almost cult brand in the beauty and blogging world, everyone raves about their products, especially the candles. I chose this scent as I adore lavender and it doesn't disappoint - the candle smells incredible! It is floral, calming and relaxing, it would be the perfect candle to use on a pamper night. The candle feels like such a luxury item, not just because of the wonderful scent and packaging but the container is made from frosted glass. All Neom products come beautifully packaged and designed so they would make gorgeous gifts for anyone!
Amara Living Valentines Gift Ideas
- Kate Spade New York Spiral Notebook - So Well Composed (£16): Kate Spade is another cult and much coveted brand in the blogging world, anything from Kate Spade is minimal, high quality and beautifully designed. I have a Kate Spade necklace and it's gorgeous! I chose this notebook as I think luxury or more high quality stationery isn't something most people would buy for themselves so it would be a lovely, luxury and practical gift.

I'm a bit of a candle and stationery addict *as most bloggers are* so both of these gifts would be absolutely perfect for me! Kate Spade and Neom are such famous and high end brands, I think they would make perfect gifts for valentines day. Here are some of my other valentines day gift picks from Amara:
Amara Living Valentines Gift Ideas
What do you think of my valentines day gift picks? Have you bought anything from Amara?

UK Flooding

Friday, January 29, 2016
Image from Google
If you don't live in the UK then you probably don't know about all of the awful flooding across the country since around Boxing Day; certain areas of the country will always be more prone to flooding than others but important questions have been raised - can more be done to prevent or reduce flooding in future? Is anyone to blame? Has enough been done to help those affected? Is enough money being devoted to flood prevention and warning?

The town in which my grandad lives was affected on Boxing Day by the flooding and the council weeks before had opened up the river running under the town which I think was part of a re-design and re-development of the town centre but in hindsight it may have made the flooding worse! The images of the town on social media were shocking, I've never seen the area like that before and the damage caused was quite far reaching. Also the photos on social media of Hebden Bridge, not far from were my grandad and other members of my family live, was even worse as well as Leeds were my sister is living for university. Thankfully my grandad's home wasn't affected but so many businesses and other properties in the area were, particularly the town centre and it doesn't seem like that much is being done and it seems that there wasn't much of a warning beforehand either, in my opinion.  

I think more needs to be done in terms of prevention and also warning so that people living in those areas to be affected can prepare their homes as the damage from the flooding must be awful to witness and to try and repair as well as pay for, particularly just after christmas. There are ways to help reduce the effects, the Home Owners Alliance suggest air brick covers and stocking up on sandbags just in case as well as excess damage prevention suggestions such as moving plug sockets higher, fitting water resistant skirting boards, sealing exterior walls and protecting the doors and windows. Flood gates or floor barriers may be useful too; also the government suggests making a flood plan although a better warning system would be needed for a flood plan to work!

One point that is useful from not only a design perspective but protection perspective too is smart storage (a point raised in my previous post about interior design trends). I'm all about interesting and unique storage solutions which is something I've tried to incorporate into my office as it has just been redecorated with simplistic and easy to move units and copper wire wall storage. I think wall storage, whether it's wire racks, floating shelves, boxed wall shelving and more are perfect ways to display valuable and interesting items as well as storing them in a safer place in the home. This is a collaborative post. 

The images of the flooding have been awful and so many people and businesses are still being affected by the damage caused by the flooding and I hope everyone gets the help and support they need. 

Were you affected by the Boxing Day flooding? Do you think enough has been done or could the flooding have been reduced? 

Interior Design Trends 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016
Interior Design Trends 2016
All of the above images are from Pinterest
If you have been following me on Instagram or especially on Pinterest then you may know that I'm in the process of redecorating my blogging space/office and it's made me become even more addicted to Pinterest than I already was - the home and interior design photos on Pinterest are so inspirational and gorgeous! I have been scrolling through stores and Pinterest most days for design and product inspiration not just for the office but we are thinking for redesigning the kitchen this year too.

This is a sponsored post but as I've been a little obsessed with interior design recently and I ran a poll on Twitter about the topics I should blog about more and a lot of people voted for lifestyle topics, I thought this post would be interesting. Todays post is all about interior design trends, especially kitchen trends for 2016 from an article on the Better Decorating Bible by the kitchen worktop specialist, Mayfair Granite.

- Smart Storage: I think this concept applies to every room, not just kitchens, smart and space saving storage is such an important aspect of any home. I've been trying to find new and interesting storage ideas for my specialist vegan and vegetarian products in the kitchen for a while and it's not easy! Also in the process of redecorating the office, I've been trying to find smart storage for one of the smallest rooms of the house. De-cluttering and keeping things minimal will help and a new year is the perfect time to organise and sort, well I do this all of the time but for most normal people the new year or the spring is the time to sort out the home and storage solutions.

- Pendant Lighting: If you look on Pinterest you will not only been consumed by the amazingness of it all and you won't be able to leave but you will also have home envy as the kitchens on Pinterest are heavenly. I especially love pendant lights *they feature heavenly on Pinterest* and they look so futuristic and striking in a minimalistic way that I adore. Also as I am a blogger, I naturally adore rose gold pendant lighting! I think pendant lights would also be perfect for a breakfast bar or dining room table and I'm currently looking for a pendant light *rose gold, of course* for the office. They don't necessarily come cheap though but this is a trend I'm all for!

- Colourful Cabinets: I am a big fan of neutrals and white walls but even I think there needs to be a least some colour in every room and as the kitchen is the heart of the home, it should be an inviting and also interesting and fun place to be. Colourful cabinets, appliances and sinks would make a great feature in a more neutral and minimal kitchen space - injecting some life and vibrancy into one of the most used and loved rooms of the home.

Also the combination of mixed materials in the kitchen, statement bathroom mirrors, charming fireplaces, luxury worktops and open shelving are set to be big interior design trends for 2016. What do you think of the new and upcoming trends for 2016? Where do you get your home and interior design inspiration from?

The Fragrance Shop Classics Collection Discovery Box

Thursday, January 28, 2016
The Fragrance Shop Classics Collection Discovery Box
If you don't know, every quarter The Fragrance Shop releases a new Discovery Club box which contains a selection of the latest male and female fragrance samples as well as so many amazing money off vouchers that can be used instore and online for the fragrance samples in each box. I have the new *The Fragrance Shop Classics Collection Discovery Club Box (£5) which contains classic, famous fragrances rather than new releases - it's an interesting idea and I love it as I always tend to go for the newer releases rather than well know and well loved classic fragrances. 

The box this month contains ten fragrance samples, there are six womens samples and four mens samples. Out of all the womens samples, I've only tried one (the Lacoste Touch Of Pink EDT) which shows how useful this classic theme is!  

- Nina Ricci - Nina EDT: I've wanted to try Nina Ricci fragrances since I was a teen and I still haven't bought one so I was excited to find this sample in the box. Sadly the fragrance isn't what I expected, it is quite musky, old fashioned and cloying, to me anyway. Overall rating: ★★☆☆☆, 2/5. 

- Paco Rabanne - Lady Million Eau My Gold: This is another fragrance that I've wanted to try for ages but I never have. It is such a gorgeously fresh fragrance - it would be just perfect for spring! Overall rating: ★☆, 4/5. 

- Jimmy Choo EDP: I've seen this fragrance everywhere but I just seem to ignore it, I don't know why and I especially don't know why now that I have had a sniff - to me it smells so unique! It's sweet and fruity but spicy, I love it! Overall rating: ★★, 5/5. 

- Dolce and Gabbana - Light Blue EDT: Now this is a classic, it was release in 2001 and it has been a staple sight in Boots ever since. I've always thought that this was an old fashioned fragrance, without smelling it, but now not so much. It is a very fresh fragrance with the main notes of lemon which I love. Overall rating: ★☆, 4/5. 

- Lactose - Touch Of Pink EDT: As I said, this is the only one I've already tried and I still really like it. It's girly, sweet and musky - it's quite generic but I think it will appeal to a lot of women, particularly young adults. Overall rating: ★☆, 4/5. 

- Hugo Boss - Woman EDP: Just a side note, the final three womens fragrance samples are not spray bottles which is so annoying - I wish they all had spray dispensers! Rant over, the fragrance is actually so nice! It is sweet and fruity *very berry like* but it's musky too. Overall rating: ★☆☆, 3/5. 

- Hugo Boss - Bottled: My dad really likes this fragrance, it's rich and heady as well as musky and masculine. He said that he'd definitely buy! Over rating: ★★★★☆, 4/5. 

- Issey Miyake - L'eau d'Issey Pour Homme: Compared to other men's fragrances, this one is light, refreshing and citrusy with a hint of musky - it's quite different but I think it would be a great option for the spring/summer. Overall rating: ★★★★☆, 4/5. 

- Lacoste Eau de Lacoste - Blanc Pure: My mum actually hated this fragrance, she says its too sweet for men but my dad oddly liked it, it's clean, fragrant and citrusy - not a generic typical men's fragrance. Overall rating: ★★★★☆, 4/5. 

- Paco Rabanne - Million: My dad already has this fragrance and he loves it - it's fruity, unique and unlike the others. My mum loves it too but I personally hate the bottle! It's quite distinctive and strong. Overall rating: ★★★★★, 5/5. 

Overall, the discovery club is a fantastic idea! This is the second box I've tried and it has given me new fragrances to add to my wish list and best of all, now I know which fragrances my dad likes *he is so fussy* so I don't need to guess when it comes to his birthday! This box theme is fantastic as I've been able to try some classic fragrances that I probably wouldn't have look at. The next discovery club box will be the spring box and it will be available from the 1st March. 

Have you tried The Fragrance Shop discovery club box? Have you tried any of these classic fragrances?

The Best Smoothie Ever ft. Indigo Herbs

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
The Best Smoothie Ever ft. Indigo Herbs

I love smoothies but the one thing that puts me off is that most smoothies made at home can be gritty and bitty but since buying my Nutribullet last year I have been drinking them much more! I cannot recommend the NutriBullet enough, I use it so much especially for vegan meals, smoothies and soup.

Over the past couple of months I have only been making one smoothie as I can't get enough of it, it's so yummy, simple and very healthy! There are only four ingredients and it takes about two minutes or so to make!

- One mango
- Half a tub of raspberries (approx. 75g)
- 150-200ml of orange juice
- One teaspoon of Indigo Herbs Protein Powder

I start by chopping the mango into small pieces and place in the NutriBullet with the raspberries. The amount of orange juice depends on how thick you want the smoothie to be. I usually use about 200ml for a large smoothie - as you can see from the large NutriBullet container, it's almost full! I blend everything for about 20 seconds then I add in one teaspoon or just less of the *Indigo Herbs Superprotein Powder (£5.99, 100g) which is a vegan protein blend of organic chia seed powder. It has a nutty, slightly chocolate scent to me *maybe that is just me* but it's fantastic in smoothies to add a hint of flavour but mostly a boost of vitamins and protein.

I love this smoothie as it is smooth, unlike most homemade smoothies, thanks to the amazing Nutribullet; also I love the mango and raspberries as it makes it sour and yummy rather than overly sweet. It's a filling and super healthy smoothie, especially with the addition of the vegan protein powder.

Have you tried anything from Indigo Herbs? What are your favourite smoothie recipes?

Firmoo Prescription Glasses

Monday, January 25, 2016
Firmoo Prescription Glasses
If you have been reading my blog for a while then you may recognise this brand as I have worked with Firmoo a few times in the past, reviewing their prescription glasses. I think this is the fourth pair of Firmoo prescription glasses I've been sent and I have also purchased a pair myself as I've been really happy with the others I've had from Firmoo.

I wanted a change so I chose the *Firmoo Unisex Full Frame Memory Plastic Eyeglasses #FRM8827 ($33) in the matte black shade as they are unlike in shape, style and finish to the other glasses I have. Firmoo glasses always arrive quickly, safely and well protected; also the past couple of glasses I've had from Firmoo have come with a gorgeous glasses case with an antique map design *love*.

The glasses are prescription and they work so well and they are a little lighter than the other glasses I wear so they are more comfortable and less likely to give me a headache. I love the design, they are more rounded and larger which I will have to get used to but so far I'm loving them. I also love the matte black finish which is really unique and unusual.

Overall, I love the style and design of my new glasses and from my experience of being sent a few pairs to review from Firmoo and the pair I have purchased, I genuinely cannot recommend Firmoo glasses and the service enough! Overall rating: ★★★★★, 5/5.

Have you tried any glasses from Firmoo? What do you think of these glasses?

Wake Up Ready Ft. Kalms

Sunday, January 24, 2016
I've always had problems sleeping, it takes me hours and hours to fall asleep and it has been an on and off problem since I was a child. I've come to the conclusion that my brain just doesn't want to switch off and it doesn't help at all that I am a worrier and I have anxiety - go me!

The Kalms Wake Up Ready campaign focuses on making yourself aware of your sleep patterns, what you could change in order for you to have a better nights sleep and to wake up ready for the next day. I have been filling out a basic sleep diary over the past three or so weeks in order for me to keep track of how well I've slept, my sleep patterns and what factors might be affecting my sleep, positively or negatively.

Firstly, I think monitoring your sleep patterns, the effect of your sleep each day and the factors that influence you having a good or bad nights sleep is important for understanding and also how you can change for the better. Just a side note, the campaign is related to Kalms but I have not been taking the Kalms night tablets for this campaign.

One main factor that I have found to be negatively affect my sleep is one of my biggest media. I go to bed at a reasonable time, probably far too reasonable for someone in their early 20's but then I spend maybe three or so hours on my iPhone, iPod or iPad either watching Youtube, reading via my Kindle app, scrolling through Twitter or Instagram or more recently Pinterest which is the place my productivity and need to sleep go to die. It's become quite a big factor as to why I don't get as much sleep as I probably should so from now on I'm going to keep all of my electronics in my office *when it has finished being redecorated which I'm super excited about* to see if that change can help me sleep more.

Another main factor that affects my sleep is two fold - my anxiety/active mind and my eczema - both are so distracting and keep me up at night. Anxiety is something I've always kind of had *I'm a worrier by nature* but over the past year it has become much worse and it can affect my sleep. Anxiety also triggers my eczema, it's like a vicious circle, I am anxious then I get eczema, then I can't sleep which makes me focus on my burning face as I try to sleep then I become anxious that I won't be as productive the next day - you can see the problem. I have downloaded a few mindfulness apps and books to try and help and one thing that definitely does help me is breathing meditation and yoga so I plan on starting a nighttime routine of yoga and or meditation before bed to see if it helps, fingers crossed.  Also baths before bed, pillow mists and lavender essential oils around my room seem to help too.

When I've had a bad nights sleep, naturally I can't function as well the next day and I reach of the coffee, which I should probably cut down on. I don't want to do anything but watch TV or a movie or play on the Xbox so I don't have a productive day at all. So it is definitely important to have a good nights sleep so you can wake up ready for the next day.

I have found the past three or so weeks helping in at least confirming what I thought was negatively and positively affecting my sleep and I now know what I need to do to help me sleep better although it will be easier said than done. This is a sponsored post.

Check out the Kalms sleep tips:

  1. Always get up at the same time - even at the weekend.
    It might seem like you need a lie in to make up for the sleep you haven’t got, but to break a cycle of sleeping problems you need to train your body into a good sleeping pattern.
  1. Avoid catnaps during the day.
    It’ll only make it harder to get into good sleeping habits.
  1. Replace caffeine and alcohol with hot milky drinks.
    Alcohol won’t help you sleep properly. If you are having trouble cutting out caffeine, set yourself a time in the day past which you don’t have it.
  1. Unwind with a hot bath and lavender bubbles.
    Both will aid sleep by helping you feel more relaxed.
  1. Exercise during the day.
    Exercising at night will actually make you more awake and you’ll find it harder to get to sleep.
  1. Get to bed at the same time every night.
    It’ll help your body prepare itself for sleep.
  1. Make your bedroom a shrine to sleep.
    No TV, no smart phones!
  1. Alleviate your worries. 
    Try writing them down before you go to bed.
  1. Try a traditional herbal remedy.
    Valerian root has been used for centuries due to its natural sedative effect.
  1. Don’t lie there frustrated.
    If you can’t sleep, get up and do something (non strenuous) for a while.

What do you do to sleep better? What factors affect your sleep pattern? 

What To Wear On Your Graduation Day

Friday, January 22, 2016
I graduated three years ago in June and to me it feels like it was last year, I genuinely wish I could go back to university again as I loved my time there even though it was incredibly stressful and nerve wracking at times *presentations, cries*. I didn't even want to go to my graduation if I didn't get a first, thankfully I did but then came the dread of what to wear. The university I went to had a dress code of a white shirt and black pants...I only found out on the morning of my graduation that we could wear whatever we wanted, you can imagine my stress levels.

I wore a plain navy skater dress for my graduation day with black tights and black wedge heels and looking back it wasn't an awful outfit and it did fit the occasion but I wish I had been able to choose something different - I just didn't have time! Choosing an outfit for your graduation day can be so difficult as it has to be formal and practical (as you will be struggling to keep the gown and cap on at the same time), also it has to match the colours of your gown and there is no point in picking a dress or shirt with an intricate print or embellishments as you won't really see them because of the gown.

House of Fraser have some fantastic dresses and formal/workwear options that would be perfect for graduation. Here are my picks:

- Biba Lace Button Up Shirt Dress: If your university allows dresses for graduation then I think this one would be a great formal but colourful opinion - although make sure it complements the colour of your gown. It is such a fun, cute opinion.

- Yumi Net Lace Skater Dress: This is a dress I would have picked for my graduation as it is simple and black so it will go with the gown and the skater dress fit is so flattering. The lace adds a nice touch of detail and the dress could be worn to other occasions.

- Dorothy Perkins Lace Pencil Dress: Another gorgeous but formal dress would be great for graduations as the colours won't clash with the gown and it is more feminine and figure hugging compared to most formal or workwear dresses. This would be a great opinion if your graduation is in the summer as mine was as wearing a gown and cap can be a bit much!

- Warehouse Mix Lace Prom Dress: I think this dress is my favourite from the ones I have picked, it is simple but cute and formal. I love the lace detailing and navy will go with everything, that's one of the reasons I chose a navy dress for my graduation...that and I didn't really have many other choices with a hour or two to go until graduation!

- Ted Baker Crepe Suit Trousers: Some universities have a dress code for graduation as mine did until the last minute so you might have to wear a shirt and trousers. As I'm petite and I am a bit picky when it comes to clothes, it took me ages to find a decent pair of black trousers that didn't give me horrendous flashbacks of secondary school days. I love these Ted Baker trousers, they would be perfect with a cute blouse or shirt and heels although if your university has cobbled streets around it as mine does then opt for wedges - there were quite a few people falling on my graduation day thanks to stilettos!

What do you think of the items I picked? What did you wear to your graduation? 

Amphora Aromatics Face Mask

Monday, January 18, 2016
Amphora Aromatics Face Mask
I don't know about you but when I use a face mask or a hair mask, it instantly feels like I'm having a pamper night. The process of using masks feels relaxing and pampering in itself to me especially growing up with american tv and films were girls always used green clay or mud masks. I have a few masks that I like although over the past year or so  I've become a big fan of multi-masking where you use a couple of face masks at once on different areas of the face. For example, I use a moisturising and gentle mask on my cheeks and a detoxifying mask on my t-zone to suit those areas of my skin more than one all over face mask. 

I was recently sent the *Amphora Aromatics Frankincense and Rose Clay Face Mask (£7.95, 100ml) which claims to detoxify the skin and draw out impurities from blocked pores while leaving the skin radiant and hydrated. There are so many lovely natural ingredients in the mask such as sweet almond oil, shea butter, rosehip seed oil, frankincense oil and many more. 

The mask doesn't feel like a clay mask, it almost has a whipped body butter consistency but when applied it looks and feels like a traditional clay mask I used as a teenager - although this one is much better for the skin than the cheap ones I used to use! It applies smoothly with no mess and it rinses off easily too. You can see it drying and being absorbed, like the Caudalie detox mask which makes me think that it is definitely working. The mask leaves my skin very smooth, cleansed and my pores do seem smaller, less noticeable or less clogged up. 

Overall, both myself and my sister really like this mask, it isn't the most amazing mask I've ever tried but it is fantastic, especially for the price and the wonderful ingredients. I would definitely recommend it and I do want to try more from this brand - they have recently launched a home fragrance range which looks interesting. Overall rating: ★★★★☆, 4/5.

20% off code: BLOG20

Have you tried anything from Amphora Aromatics? What is your favourite face mask? 

Finnish Pulla Bread Recipe ft. Lavazza

Saturday, January 16, 2016
If there's two things I love, it's bread and coffee. So working with Lavazza and trying out recipes with coffee and bread is my idea of a perfect day. Today's post is a little different as Lavazza is celebrating their 120th anniversary and I've found a gorgeous recipe for a traditional Finnish bread called Pulla which is the perfect accompaniment to a good cup of coffee and I have also made a sweet coffee flavoured icing spread to go with it.

I haven't made a braided loaf before but it turned out SO well and family, neighbours and friends have all loved it! It is a traditional cardamom bread and I have adapted it from this recipe. I was a little clueless  at first but all the hours of watching The Great British Bake Off paid off *I knew it would obvs* and I'm definitely going to make this recipe again and again so here it is:


*ps. if you are going to try this then be prepared as it takes about four hours and it makes one monster loaf*

  • 2/3 cups of warm milk
  • 1/3 cup of caster sugar
  • 5/6 cardamom pods 
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter or soft spread/margarine 
  • 3 1/2 cups of plain flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of table salt
  • 7g packet of dry active yeast 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 1 tablespoon of single cream

Step One: Using a mortar and pestle, crush the cardamon pods and remove the seeds, then grind the seeds to a relatively fine powder. Combine the warm milk, cardamon (not the pods, just the seeds!), yeast and caster sugar. Stir then leave in a warm place until the mixture is foamy - I placed the large mixing bowl in a larger bowl of warm water to speed up the process and to make the yeast very active (don't make the mixture too hot otherwise it might kill the yeast). Leave to foam up for about 15 minutes but it might take longer depending on the yeast and the temperate. 

Step Two: Add the eggs to the mixture and stir well. Then add in the plain flour and salt; mix until a dough forms. The dough will be quite wet and sticky but that is how it should be. Knead the dough on a well floured surface for about three/four minutes and add a small amount of extra flour to help you knead the dough. 

Step Three: While kneading, add in the butter into the dough in small amounts *ps. it doughs the dough feel and sound gross!*. I used soft spread which is a type of margarine and it worked really well. Knead until combined (about four minutes) and add to a lightly greased bowl covered with clingfilm for an hour in a warm place.

Step Four: After one hour the dough should be double in size or more; punch down the dough lightly and leave for another 30 minutes in a warm place - the dough should be even larger.

Step Five: Heat the oven to approx. 180 celcius for fan. Remove the dough from the bowl carefully and transfer to a floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll out each into a rope approx. 16 inches long. Transfer the dough to a lined or greased baking sheet. You can google how to braided a load of bread, I just did what I thought was right and it turned out well...I think!

Step Six: Cover the braided dough with a tea towel and leave for a further 20 minutes until it has risen slightly (mine turned out like a monster loaf). Combine the one egg yolk and a tablespoon of single cream and brush all over the top of the dough then bake for approx. 25 minutes. Leave to cool for 15/20 minutes before cutting.

Step Seven: This is optional but I also made a coffee icing/spread using icing sugar and Lavazza ground coffee - I don't have quantities as it is always a trail and error process making icing.

The bread turned out so well and everyone has loved it which is fantastic so I'll definitely make it again. I love the cardamon flavour, it makes this sweet loaf taste so unusual *but in a very good way*. I've been having a couple of warmed slices with butter and my Lavazza coffee every morning and they are perfect today. The coffee icing also tastes so good with this loaf!

I used the *Lavazza 120th Anniversary Ground Coffee for this recipe and it is gorgeous, as expected and I love the special anniverary designs on the tins. The white tin design is definitely my favourite and when they are empty, I will be re-using!

Check out the Lavazza site for more coffee recipes! 

Have you tried this recipe? Do you love Lavazza coffee? What are your favourite coffee recipes? 

Initial Impressions: Instant Whites

Thursday, January 14, 2016
Teeth whitening is something I've been a little obsessed with over the past year or two as I do drink coffee once a day and since doing so I have noticed that my teeth are definitely not as white as they were. I have tried four at home teeth whitening kits now and I am still on the hunt for one that doesn't produce any sensitivity at all but in the mean time this one is definitely the quickest, easiest and most comfortable kit I've tried.

I was kindly sent the *Instant Whites 7 Day Whitening System (£29.99) which is a safe, peroxide free teeth whitening system that claims to have zero sensitivity; also you are supposed to be able to see visible results in less than five minutes which is a very impressive and bold claim. Unlike the other teeth whitening products I've tried, it is not a strip or a mouth guard - just seven neat swabs with the gel inside.

Myself and my sister tried one each as an initial test and to be honest I am always a little sceptical about teeth whitening products as well as a little cautious so naturally I volunteered my sister to try it first - she is a very good guinea pig. To use, push the top part with the swab down into the neatly contains gel in the bottom half of the swab and some of the gel will appear on the swab which you then lightly rub into each tooth. This system has to be the easiest, quickest and fuss free at home teeth whitening product I've tried!

My sister saw results within about four minutes or so of applying the gel to each tooth and we were both definitely impressed with the results *although it wasn't a dramatic change*. I did notice a change on my teeth but it wasn't as noticeable.

Overall, my initial impressions of this teeth whitening system are surprising and very positive. I love how incredibly easy and quick the process is, unlike most other teeth whitening kits which are usually messy, time consuming and uncomfortable. I also love that as they are individual swabs, all of your teeth aren't affected at once, you can apply more to some areas and less to others which is great for me as some of my teeth are naturally whiter than others. We were both happy with the initial positive results and even though I did experience a small amount of sensitivity (my sister didn't at all), I'm looking forward to using them fully and to see the results. I will have a comparison post between the at home teeth whitening kits I've tried on my blog next month so stay tuned! Overall rating: ★★★★☆, 4/5 although my sister would definitely rate the kit 5/5.

Have you tried this kit or any at home teeth whitening kits? Have you had your teeth whitened professionally? 

New in @ Debenhams

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Debenhams is one of my go to places when it comes to sales, gifts and of course beauty products, especially recently as they have started to stock new products that I cannot seem to find elsewhere and also new brands such as Make Up For Ever as well as exciting brands that I've loved for a while including Burberry, Kiehls, Mac Cosmetics and Too Faced.

Vince Camuto Fiori EDP 

I don't need any excuse to indulge in my favourite hobby...trying out new beauty products but new products always entice me! Vince Camuto is a brand I haven't heard of before but as well as fragrances, they also make gorgeous boots and heels, some of which are in the current sale. The *Vince Camuto Fiori Eau de Parfum (£55, 100ml) has one of the most beautiful fragrance bottles ever, especially as it is rose gold and as you know, bloggers love a bit of rose gold! The notes are as follows: pink grapefruit, white nectarine, iris, freesia, sandalwood and cedarwood.

The perfume is gorgeous, musky and feminine with sweetness; perfect for everyday wear and I know my mum has been looking at buying this fragrance since I received it! It is a hit with everyone who smells it. The longevity is reasonable at about six or seven hours on me. I'd definitely recommend this fragrance, it would be a lovely valentines present or just a treat for yourself. When you are next in Debenhams, give it a sniff. Overall rating: ★★★★★, 5/5.

Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons Palette

Next up, a couple of new launches for one of my favourite brands, Too Faced. The product designs are very appropriate considering what holiday is coming up soon! I have the Too Faced Semi Sweet Palette which I adore and use so much but their latest one is even cuter. The *Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons Palette (£39) contains 16 eyeshadows shades ranging from mattes to metallics and shimmers. As with the two previous chocolate bar palettes, the eyeshadows themselves are infused with rich cocoa powder *how amazing is that!*.  Here's a breakdown of the shades:

- Almond Truffle: Mink Brown (matte) ★★★★★
- Satin Sheets: Champagne Beige (metallic) ★★★★★
- Sprinkles: Soft Baby Pink (satin - matte looking with micro shimmer) ★★★★☆
- Molasses Chip: Bronze Brown (shimmer) ★★★★★
- Malted: Rich Cocoa Brown (shimmer) ★★★★★

The first row of shade is just gorgeous and besides the soft baby pink shade, they are all so wearable and shades I would reach for time and time again. The matte shade blends just as well as the shimmer and more metallic shades which isn't always the case as matte can tend to be patchy but not in the Too Faced palettes I've tried. The Almond Truffle, Satin Sheets and Molasses Chip shades are my favourites from the first row.

- Cashew Chew: Light Beige (matte) ★★★★★
- Cotton Candy: Bright Candy Pink (metallic) ★★★★☆
- Cafe Au Lait: Silver Taupe (metallic) ★★★★★
- Bordeaux: Red Toned Deep Brown (matte) ★★★★★
- Mocha: Milk Chocolate Brown (matte) ★★★★★
- Blackcurrant: Rich Aubergine Purple (shimmer) ★★★☆☆

The Too Faced shadows on the whole are incredibly buttery, smooth and so easy to blend, however the Blackcurrant shade does have fall down and the shimmer feels chunky - all of the others shades are a dream though. My favourites from this second row have to be: Cashew Chew, Cafe Au Lait and Mocha as they are all so wearable and versatile.

- Dark Truffle: Dark Rich Brown (metallic) ★★★★☆
- Pecan Praline: Beige Grey (matte) ★★★★★
- Totally Fetch: Vivid Electric Pink (metallic) ★★★☆☆ *Means Girls nostalgia moment*
- Earl Grey: Grey Toned Navy (shimmer) ★★★★★
- Divinity: Light Cream (matte) ★★★★★

A couple of slightly disappointing shades on this row as the Dark Truffle shade isn't as buttery and smooth as all of the others and the Totally Fetch shade is too soft and produces fall down - although it looks so pretty with a gorgeous iridescent shimmer. However the Earl Grey shade is all kinds of beautiful and it's quite unique too, I don't think I have a shade like it in my collection. My favourites from the final row of shades: Pecan Praline, Earl Grey and Divinity.

Overall, the palette is incredibly cute, versatile and it would be great for travelling as you have such a great range of shades and finishes to create countless looks. The majority of the shades are a dream to blend, pigmented and buttery smooth although there are a few shades that are a little disappointing, in my opinion. I would recommend this palette, even just for the heavenly chocolate scent and freakin' adorable packaging!

Too Faced Hangover Primer 

Last but not least the *Too Faced Hangover Primer (£27, 40ml), now as with all Too Faced products I am kind of in love with the packaging - it's so cute! The primer contains coconut water, probiotic-based ingredients and skin revivers and best of all for me is that it doesn't contain silicone...yes, that's right, a primer that does not contain silicone. You can probably guess that I am not a fan of silicone primers - they feel so greasy on my skin so this primer is fantastic!

It has a pump dispenser *praise the makeup gods* and it has a light lotion consistency which is such a nice and welcome change to the heavy, greasy silicone primers on the market. It absorbs almost instantly leaving my skin feeling smoother without greasiness so it leaves my skin looking like skin. I find that it does make my makeup last all day and then some, I haven't been as impressed with a primer before. Overall rating: ★★★★★, 5/5. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Here's a short video of the products as well as swatches of all the shades in the palette - sorry for the awful lighting *damn English weather*:

Have you tried any of these products? What do you think of the Debenhams beauty section?

De-Clutter January

Sunday, January 10, 2016
Image from Google
De-cluttering, tidying and organising are in all honesty some of my favourite things to do every few months and especially at the start of a new season or new year as it makes space for christmas presents or new buys, it keeps everything looking tidier and neater and it keeps my mind clearer and less cluttered too, if that makes sense. I find that if I have too many things on my desk then I can never concentrate, having my desk neat and tidy means that I can carry on with what I need to do. Here are some of my de-cluttering tips:

1. Don't hold onto things if you haven't used them in a year: I am not very sentimental about most things but oddly when it clothes, bags and shoes, I cannot seem to get rid of them very easily. So every two or three months, I go through my wardrobe and I get rid of at least a few items to sell or to donate and it keeps my wardrobe less cluttered and it means that I have space for new clothes.

2. Buy a file box: I recently sorted through uni, student finance, banking and blog paperwork and shredded lots of it that I didn't need and the rest I put into a file box (I bought this one from Amazon) and I'm really happy with it. It stores all of my papers in a neat and tidy way that doesn't look or feel too bulky. I'd definitely recommend a file box!

3. Get rid of old or worn out items: This point is similar to the first one although I include bathroom and beauty products. As a blogger I am very kindly sent products on a regular basis so the items I don't want or don't have room for go to family and friends. However I always end up with half used products piling up so I have to throw them away as they just take up room and they will quickly be replaced by newer products.

4. Give products/items to friends, family or sell them: eBay, blog sales and Amazon trade in are great for selling your unwanted products - especially blog sales as then you don't have to pay eBay seller fees! I'm awful at holding onto items for 'just in case' reasons and it's usually best to just give them away to friends or family or sell them.

5. Make the most of your storage and use dividers: I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to storage and organising - gotta love organising. So I have lots of boxes and dividers for items - H&M have great storage boxes/tin/plates as does Ikea and Muji. Instead of having items laid out, I put them together in a box as I do with DVDs, makeup and items to review/photograph. Also during the winter I keep my summer clothing in storage boxes on top of my wardrobe so they don't clutter up my wardrobe then every season I change it around and end up discovering new items that I forgot I had!

6. Don't tackle everything at once: It can be a little overwhelming if you have a lot to sort through, organise and then potentially to photograph and sell so try dealing with one area at a time such as the bathroom cupboards, papers or your wardrobe.

Check out this quiz by Wardrobe storage system provider Bedroom Storage Maker to see what your wardrobe says about you! This is a sponsored post.

What are your organising and de-clutering tips? Are you, like me, having a new year de-clutter?


15 Beauty Favourites of 2015 *well almost*

Thursday, January 07, 2016
I cannot believe and I refuse to believe that it is 2016, that's madness, it's like 2015 didn't ever exist! Anyway, as it's the end of 2015 I have put together my 2015 beauty favourites and instead of having a product or two for each category and the post being very long, I thought I would just pick my top 15 products of 2015 which is so difficult to do as I've bought and I've been sent so many amazing products this year - so I have cheated slightly and at the end I have five honourable mentions. 


Firstly, skincare and the one brand that has stood out throughout the whole year has been Antipodes. I adore all of the products I've tried, I never thought I'd be able to find a complete brand or skincare range that my temperamental, sensitive, eczema prone and sometimes incredibly dry skin would love but I have! I would highly recommend their products, especially the Hosanna Serum, Vanilla Pod Day Cream and the Butter Cleanser. I need to purchase the day cream as soon as possible!

Also for skincare, I was kindly sent the Oilixia Brilliance Facial Oil back in September and I have been using it on and off since and my skin loves it. Eczema can make my skin feel incredibly tight and dry but this facial oil instantly relives that uncomfortable feeling and it gives my skin a much needed boost of moisture - I cannot stop raving about it. 

Lastly for skincare, the Jurlique Balancing Mist which is such a fantastic multi-use product. I use it as a toner, refreshing facial spray and to give a boost of moisture to my skin before applying my foundation. I'm so surprised that I haven't finished the bottle yet as I use it so much. 

Bodycare and Fragrance 

I was over the moon when I was able to work with Molton Brown this year, I did squeal a little when the email came through. I received three products from their gorgeous ylang ylang range which smells heavenly and all of the products are so luxurious and work so effectively - especially the body lotion which is one of my most reached for body products of 2015. A close runner up was the Clarins Tonic Body Balm

The final bodycare product is also from a luxurious and famous brand, the Mio Liquid Yoga and yes, I was initially just drawn to it because of the name but it is such a surprising product. To me it is a green bath milk which doesn't really add bubbles or anything special to your bath but the effect of it on my muscles and my mind too was so unexpected and amazing! It leaves me more relaxed and less tense than any other bath product I've tried - highly recommend. 

I have two fragrance favourites this year although I love perfume so I could have mentioned pretty much all of my collection. My first fragrance favourite *say that ten times fast* is the Library Of Fragrance Lavender Cologne which is so cheap, it smells amazing and even though the longevity isn't great, I loved it and used it up within about one month - I do need to buy it soon. My second fragrance favourite is at the opposite end of the price range, the Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb EDP which has to have the prettiest bottle ever! I've wanted to try it for ages and I'm so lucky to have been sent it last year; it smells so unique, feminine and gorgeous *that's vague I know* so you definitely need to give it a sniff next time you are in House of Fraser. 

Hair and Makeup Tools

I don't have many hair product favourites this year but one of my main favourites was Moroccan Oil...again. I adore Moroccan Oil as when I use it on my damp hair and leave it to dry overnight, it transforms my hair and makes it so much smoother, softer and tangle free and the results last for days. 

My final hair product favourite is a relatively new find, The Wet Brush which I have been using every other day and it works so well. Gone are the days of wincing and watery eyes when I brush my knotted, thick, long hair all thanks to The Wet Brush. 

I've been loving Tweezerman products throughout 2015, not only because I was one of their ambassadors but I genuinely love their products - I've had my mini Tweezerman ladybug tweezers since before I started my blog and they are still going strong. I also love their lash curler, as I have fairly deep set and almond shaped eyes, it can be difficult for lash curlers to fit properly but these ones do and I definitely prefer them over my expensive Shu Uemura lash curlers *gasp*. 


Now onto the main category, makeup! I have five makeup products that stood out to me, some have been included in multiple favourites posts in 2015. First up, the Benefit Gimme Brow which initially I didn't like but now I love it. When I want a no makeup day or I want very natural but beefed up brows then I'll reach for this as it adds volume, colour and definition but it's so natural and so quick/easy. If you love brow products or if you are just starting out using products like this then I'd definitely recommend the Benefit Gimme Brow - you won't be disappointed. 

Sticking with the brow theme, I have also been loving the Eye of Horus Brow Pencil when I want fuller or bolder brows. The shade matches me so well, it is quick and easy to use, it can be built up to Cara Delevingne level brows and the brow gel on the other end of the pencil is the best brow gel I've ever used! If it can tame and hold my unruly brows in place then it can hold anyones in place. 

Kiko has been one of my favourite cheaper brands since I discovered the brand in Taormina, Sicily about six years ago and I've been obsessed ever since. One of my favourite products from Kiko is their shadows. In 2015 I made up my own palette using their Clic system which sadly I don't think you can buy anymore which is a shame as it's such a great concept and I love the neutral palette that I made. 

Even though strobing was a big trend last year, I was never really that interested in it as I'm pretty much addicted to contouring and I really don't think that strobing can give you anything like the shape, definition and dimension that contouring can - unless it's a strong editorial look. The main contour product I used last year was my trusty NYX Taupe Blush but it has been surpassed by the MAC Sculpt and Shape Powder in Accentuate/Sculpt which is amazing for my super pale skin. 

The last makeup favourite is the much raved about Maybelline Fit Me Concealer which I finally bought and I've been using it almost every time I wear makeup since. It works well on my dry skin, on the whole it doesn't emphasis dryness and it covers pretty well too; also it's SO cheap and I'd definitely recommend it. I don't think it's a dupe of the Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer which I also have as the coverage isn't as good, it isn't as thick and it is more suited to dry skin in comparison to the Nars concealer. 

Honorary Mentions 

Now onto the products that didn't quite make the cut but I've still been loving and I would still definitely recommend:

YSL Touche Eclat: I wasn't sure about this product for a while when I received it back in September but now I don't know what I did before it; it adds so much brightness and radiance without glitter or greasiness. 

Elemental Herbology Hydrator: I had a tube of this for a while but when I started to use it, it changed colour so I emailed Elemental Herbology to ask if it was still ok to use and they were so kind and generous to send out a full size (worth about £40) to me! I've almost finished that tub and I need to repurchase sometime this year as it is an amazing facial moisturiser. 

Dermatique Recuperating Cream: I have eczema on my face and also on my hands which can be awful as it means that my hands are usually bright red, very dry, tight and horrible to look at so I'm always looking for something to help. When I tried this cream on my hands, I was shocked as the next day the eczema on my hands was so much better than the day before. 

EOS Lip Balms: One product I'm very good at hoarding is lip balms, I have quite a few and most of them are fantastic, as the EOS balms are. I have three now and they are all so quick and easy to use especially on the go and they are very effective too. 

La Vanilla Deodorant: Last but not least, the deodorants I've used solely last year and I'm surprised at how long they actually lasted were from La Vanilla. La Vanilla deodorants are raved about by American youtubers, I know Essie Button used to talk about them all of the time and I had wanted to switch to natural and aluminium free deodorants for a while. Thankfully you can get these from Net-a-Porter at £10 each *wince* and they are fantastic. I have used up my 'fresh lemon' one and I'm now onto my lavender one, both of which I would highly recommend. 

Phew, that's a lot of typing and a lot of products although I think I've done well to narrow it down to twenty products from the whole year. If you have any of these let me know your opinions! What were your favourite products from 2015?

Initial Impressions: Mr Blanc Teeth Whitening Strips

Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Teeth whitening is something I've always been interested in since I started drinking coffee about four years ago as it does stain my teeth so they become slightly yellow which I don't think most people on a day to day basis would really noticed but it's something that I noticed often and it does bother me so when I received the *Mr Blanc Teeth Whitening Strips (£24.99) from Boots late last year I was so excited to give them a go!

As much as I want to try new and exciting teeth whitening products I am a little cautious about it as I don't want to have any negative side effects and I have slightly sensitive teeth anyway and I don't want to make it worse. The Mr Blanc strips do NOT contain hydrogen peroxide (bleach) which most teeth whitening products do which is fantastic as it can be harmful and cause sensitivity. It contains ingredients that are enamel friendly, safe to use and they have been tested and approved by EU and UK cosmetic laws. I think the price is fantastic, I thought they would be much more expensive.

The strips come in individual packets so you can use them as and when you want to and they would be great for traveling. The strips come as a bottom strip and top strip and you peel them off the plastic and place onto dry teeth. It looks and feels strange as they have gel on them so it looks like jelly sticky tape to me.

For my first use, I left them on for about 15 minutes which is half the time that is recommended as I hadn't tried them before and I'm glad I did as I experienced some sensitivity which lasted for a day or so but it wasn't that bad. Also I noticed a couple of whiter areas on my teeth which I can occasionally get anyway, even when I'm not using any teeth whitening products and after a quick google search I didn't have any answers as to what it was but on the Mr Blanc website it says that it is normal and temporary. After a day or so the white marks on my two front teeth had faded so much.

Even just using the strips once and for half the time I should have, I noticed whiter teeth! My two front teeth were about a shade lighter and my other teeth were also lighter but not as much. In terms of the whitening effects, I'm incredibly impressed. However the sensitivity and white marks that appeared on a couple of my teeth does put me off using them daily but I will continue to use them and I'll report back. Also the gel that is left behind is so gross, I washed it off in record time!

Have you tried the Mr Blanc teeth whitening strips? Do you use any teeth whitening products, if so do they work?