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Nail art - Matte lace and bows

I don't think I've featured any nail art on my blog for a while now. I do attempt new designs quite regularly but often it doesn't work out quite how I wanted it to and if it's not good enough for my high standards I won't feature it on my blog. I attempted a new look today (I first attempted it last night and it went slightly wrong) and I'm really pleased with how it turned out so I thought I'd share with you.

Lace and bows nail art

Lace and bows nail art

Lace and bows nail art
As always I started with a base coat. I wanted a nude look so used Ciate's Amazing Gracie, which is a very pale ballerina type pink, as a base colour. This is a very thin colour so I used four coats to get it completely opaque. I usually only go for three coats as I quite like that you can still see your nail through the colour slightly but for this look I didn't want to see the nail.  I then applied a top coat to seal the base colour.

Next I used a Sharpie to draw on the lace effect. You can obviously use a nail art pen but I often prefer to use to use my Sharpie as I feel like I have more control.  I left my nails for a while to make sure the ink had dried (I've had a problem recently with designs smudging when I apply a top coat) and then applied Rimmel's Pro matte finish top coat over the top. I did then realise that I'd set my ring finger with a glossy top coat when I could have just gone straight in with the matte top coat on that particular nail!  

I then put a small blob of nail glue (I used a Nails Inc one that came in a Bling it on set for attaching studs but you could use false nail glue too) where I wanted to position the bow (just sticking it to your wet top coat isn't good enough) and using tweezers I placed the bow on the glue and then held it down, again using the tweezers (I've glued my fingers together too many times!) until it had set. I've used the bows for designs before and thought that they would pop off quite easily but actually they really do stick down and I usually have to pull them off when I remove the design.  

I wanted a matte look to the design, as lace is matte rather than glossy, but you could use a glossy top if you wanted to.  I think the nude look really suits this design but I think it would also look nice with something like a bright pink with white lace.

What do you think of matte lace and bows?

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Clear gel nails

A few weeks back I posted about the gel manicure I had at Nails Inc over at Debenhams in Meadowhall (post here).  I explained in that post that I didn't actually have a full gel manicure as I was going to be removing it myself and also needed to be able to at least remove the colour quickly if I needed to for work. Unfortunately I did remove the colour after just a week in case I did get a role that nail varnish would have been completely inappropriate for (I didn't get it in the end!) and I was surprised to find that I love the look of just the clear gel base on my nails.

A picture of my nails taken in the pub while I waiting for my boyfriend to order our lunch. I had ribs, chips and coleslaw and it was lovely!  I've never particularly been a fan of having just a clear nail varnish on my nails, in fact I don't like the way it looks, but a clear gel varnish is just so glossy it looks amazing.  I'm actually considering buying a gel top coat specifically for creating this look, although I would obviously use it over the top of coloured varnishes as well.  Any recommendations?  I have my eye on the new Models Own one.

On another note, when I did come to remove the clear gel I soaked cotton pads in nail varnish remover, popped them on my nails, wrapped silver foil round to keep them in place and sat back to wait for it to work.  It only took about 30 seconds before I started to feel the burning sensation on the skin around my nails.  I quickly pulled off the foils and got my fingers into some water.  So I think I can safely say I won't be having a gel manicure again as I don't know how I'd remove it.  I ended up having to pretty much peel and scrape the rest of the gel off, which didn't leave my nails in the best condition, and even a few weeks later I think some of it is still on my nails. 

Oh and while I'm talking about my nails, if you have problems growing your nails try taking a Calcium and Vitamin D supplement.  I've started taking them because I'm concerned about my bones and they've done my nails the world of good, they're currently about double the length they are in the picture above.  

Are you a fan of clear varnish on nails?

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My recent empties #2

In my last empties post (which was also my first) I said I don't do empties posts because I don't finish products very often and I don't have the space to store empties to save up enough to do posts like this.  A few days ago I noticed I actually have several products that are all going to finish around the same time so I thought I might as well do an empties post.

Considering this is only my second empties post, both of them have featured Bioderma Sensibio H20 solution micellaire.  I won't talk about this again here as I talked about it last time but you can check out my previous post if you want to know what I thought.

Would I repurchase? As I said last time yes I would but I still have another 500ml bottle to get through and then I think I might try a few cheaper versions to see how they compare.

At the very end of last year I took part in the Area H20 healthy hair challenge and tried out the Area H20 hard water shampoo for coloured hair*.  I also tried the matching conditioner but as is always the case the shampoo has run out first.  I know technically this hasn't actually run out yet but there's only a couple more washes in it so I thought I'd include it.  I've really enjoyed using this and always find that my hair is much softer and just generally feels nicer after I've used this.  I've also been trying out reverse washing with this and the conditioner and I've found it to work really well.

Would I repurchase? Although the packaging is not the most attractive (I know, I'm shallow) I like how it makes my hair feel so yes I would.  It's more expensive then I would usually spend on a shampoo but I wouldn't say it's overpricedI have some other shampoos to get through first though.

The Yves Rocher Cacao Collection cocoa and pistachio hand cream came in a Glossybox back when I still received them.  This absorbs quickly, smells really nice and the best part was it was only a couple of pounds. However I think this was limited edition and I can't find it on the website so I don't think you can get this anymore.

Would I repurchase?  If it was still available yes I definitely would but in the raspberry version they also had available at the time.

As I said in my post back in April (post here) I used to use Lush Aqua Marina face and body cleanser but had not bought it for a few years.  I like this because it helps to calm the redness on my cheeks and is great for sensitive skin.

Would I repurchase? Yes definitely. As I said I've repurchased it several times in the past and will again in the future but I do have another Lush cleanser to use first.

Do you use any of these products?    

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Long Tall Sally High summer collection - Pocket detail linen trousers

If you read my last fashion post then you may know that I'm tall.  Although I don't mind being tall so much now, as there are a lot more taller people around than when I was younger, at school I hated it.  Girls grow taller quicker than boys anyway, so being a tall girl meant I was taller than pretty much everyone else, including some of my teachers.  Luckily my best friend was pretty much exactly the same height as me, so I didn't feel too much of a freak.  One of the worst things about being tall back then, apart from the usual 'What's the weather like up there?' and similar comments, was trouser lengths.  I just had to live with the fact that my choices were skirts or trousers that flapped around my ankles.  As I've got older I've been delighted to see high street stores such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, New Look and even Primark introducing tall ranges.  Some still need to follow suit, but I have a lot more options now than I did as a teenager.  What I still don't understand is that we're gradually getting taller, but yet some stores only offer standard and petite ranges, it just doesn't make sense to me. 

I can't remember exactly when I discovered them, but at some point I came across Long Tall Sally, a shop that only sells clothes for taller ladies and that has actually been around for over 30 years.  When it comes to making longer length clothes it's not enough to just stick a couple of extra inches on the bottom of a pair of trousers, all proportions have to be adjusted for a longer body, and this is what Long Tall Sally do.  Their jeans and trousers are available in 34", 36" and 38" lengths.

As I was already a fan of Long Tall Sally I was delighted to be contacted by them asking if I would like to attend the launch of their High summer collection.  Unfortunately I was unable to make it down to London to attend this as I can't currently afford to make the trip down from the Midlands unless it's for paid work, but instead I was asked if I'd like to review one of the items from the collection.  After having a look through I decided to try the Pocket detail linen trousers*.  Although I love wearing skirts when we do actually get some sun in the UK you don't always want to have your legs out (of course I mean when you can't be bothered to shave them!) and jeans are far too hot in the summer so linen trousers are perfect.  I had a couple of pairs of linen trousers a few years ago (one of which were from Long Tall Sally) that I had to give away when I lost some weight and could no longer keep them up anymore.  I haven't been able to replace them since so I was excited to be getting a new pair.  

These are available in five different colours (black, white, blackcurrent, ultramarine and clay) and I decided to go for the white (I've got my eye on the blackcurrent ones as well!).  Obviously with white there's always the worry that it might be see through but these are fully lined and although I wouldn't recommend wearing dark underwear underneath, they aren't see through.  Apologies that they look a little creased in the pictures but linen trousers do crease easily and I'd sat down in them before taking the photos.

These are a size 10, which is my usual size in trousers (for some reason in jeans I'm usually a 12) and they're very comfortable.  A problem I sometimes have with clothes that aren't cut for taller people is that there's not enough length between the waist and the tops of the legs, to try and put this as politely as possible, the crotch of the trousers is too close to your underwear.  I don't have that problem with these trousers because there's extra length between the waist and the crotch. They're very well made, all the stitching is neat and doesn't look like it will unravel and the waist is finished with a ribbon effect securely stitched all the way round.  They fasten with two hooks but also a button to make them feel secure. 

Although I'm tall, coming in at about a cm under 6ft, I haven't actually got particularly long legs and some tall ranges are too long for me, although obviously standard length ranges are too short. So I'm kind of a short tall person!  My inside leg measurement is probably between 33.5" and 34" and these are about the perfect length, maybe just slightly too long as they do actually sit on the ground.  They will probably fray over time, but I don't mind this for having the length and I also could have them taken up slightly if I wanted.

I usually like to wear linen trousers with a simple T shirt or vest top, although I wore a black T shirt for these photos I wouldn't usually wear black when the suns out as it's far too hot.  These would also look nice with one of the really pretty cami's that are in the shops at the moment, either in a summery print or a bright block colour.  I'll hopefully be heading into town this week to find one I like.  Shoes wise I go for a pretty pair of ballet pumps or some delicate strappy sandals.  

Although Long Tall Sally items are a little more expensive than you might pay in most high street shops you are paying for good quality.  I've actually had a couple of pairs of their jeans for around three years now that I wear a lot in the winter and they're still going strong.  Before these ones I had some other pairs I'd also had for years and the only reason I got rid of them was because, as I mentioned above, I lost weight and couldn't keep them up anymore. I also regularly receive 30% off with free delivery and returns offer codes which is a fantastic saving and makes them a little more affordable.   The Pocket detail linen trousers were £60 but I'm delighted to see they've now gone in the sale with prices ranging from £35 to £50.  If you'd like to grab yourself a pair you can find them here

Do you have any problems with finding clothes to fit?

* PR sample
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Soap & Glory Kick Ass concealer stick

Has anybody else noticed that Soap & Glory seem to be sneaking out new makeup releases without promoting them in any way?  A couple of weeks ago I wandered past the Soap & Glory stand in Boots and noticed a new cheek stick that I hadn't seen advertised or on any blogs.  A few days ago I wandered past the stand again and spotted a new Kick Ass concealer stick which I also haven't seen advertised or on any blogs.  I wasn't keen on the look of the stick blushes but I did get one of the concealers.

This isn't a review, as I've just bought this and have not had a chance to use it properly yet, it's more of a 'Did anybody else know this was coming?' post and to let you know about it in case you weren't aware.  As it's not on the 'New arrivals' section of the website I'm not even sure what this is actually called, so I've just gone for Kick Ass concealer stick.  However thanks to the display and the back of the packaging I can tell you that this is supposed to blur and brighten.

Having a quick swatch in store I like that this is in stick form, so very easy to use especially on the go, and also that it's buttery soft, so great for the delicate under eye area.  There was only two shades on display, light and medium, and I believe this may be the only shades they are doing as there wasn't an empty section for a dark shade to sit in.  I'm currently having a problem with really dry/eczema skin on my face that is really red and in the short term (obviously I'm hoping my skin improves again soon) I'm hoping that because this is so soft it will help to conceal the dry redness I'm suffering from.  I will of course update you with my thoughts on this after I've had a chance to test it out.  Oh and I nearly forgot to mention this is just £6.

Would you consider trying out Soap & Glory's latest concealer offering?

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Floral and pleats

I don't buy new clothes very often at the moment but I've had some early birthday money (my birthday isn't until the 21st) so I thought I'd buy a few new bits for summer.

 Shirt: Miss Selfridge (here)
Skirt: Asos (sold out, other colours here, here and here)
Hat: Accessorize (old but similar here)

I often see somebody on the street or on TV wearing something that I instantly know that I want.  I saw a girl on Secret Eaters wearing a very similar shirt to this, except hers was black, and I set about trying to find a similar one online.  I hadn't been able to find one but then one day I found myself on the Miss Selfridge website and I came across the Botanical Print Shirt.  This was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for so I ordered it straight away.  You can't tell in the pictures but this is actually sheer, not so much so that you would really need to wear a cami or something underneath, but you can see through it.  I'm happy to just wear a bra underneath and that's how I wore it to the pub quiz recently.  I actually got two compliments from a couple of male friends when I wore it.  However I think it may be possible that 'You look nice' and 'Your tops nice' actually meant 'I can see your bra'!

Obviously I like to have a browse around ASOS and I took a fancy to their Pleated Midi Skirts.  They've got them in several different colours (although I don't think my colour is available anymore) and they're also available in petite and tall.  Despite being tall I actually went for a standard length one because I wanted the berry colour, which wasn't available in tall.  I took a chance, my only requirement being that it was longer than knee length (I'm not a fan of skirts shorter than knee length unless I have tights on) and as you can see it's fine.  I love that ASOS put the height of the model on each item so can judge how long it should be on you.  This is invaluable for me as it stops me wasting my time ordering dresses that won't even cover my knickers!  I don't normally tuck anything into skirts because I have wide and also visibly wonky hips thanks to Scoliosis but the way the shirt naturally hangs over slightly hides this.

Also please ignore the dye that you can just see around my hairline (you hadn't actually noticed had you?).  I don't know what Schwarzkopf have done to their XXL Live Colour dyes, as I never used to have a problem, but now it takes between two and four washes to get it off my head and as hard as I try to be neat, I never am!

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Birchbox June 2014 - Global Strikers

I don't actually subscribe to Birchbox, or any other beauty subscription boxes, but I do obviously see pictures of the contents of peoples boxes popping up each month and if I particularly like the look of a box I might order it as a one-off.  From the first picture I saw of this months Birchbox I knew I wanted it, so last week I ordered one.

As I'm sure you're all aware this month is The World Cup (you can't really hide from it can you!).  Although beauty and football don't usually mix Birchbox has used The World Cup as inspiration for a theme of Global Strikers; top beauty products from around the world.  The outside of the box is, as far as I'm aware, the standard box you would normally receive but when you open the box you're then greeted by a green and yellow inner bag, of course inspired by the colours of the flag of the host nation Brazil. The products I've received originate from the United States, France, Spain and kind of Brazil.  

Beautyblender & Blendercleanse Solid - This was one of the items I was really hoping I would receive.  I've tried the Real Techniques version but have yet to try the Beautyblender.  I don't tend to use my RT sponge because my two go to foundations are a compact powder and a liquid mousse I apply with my fingers, but now I have this I will be pulling out some of my liquid foundations and getting some use from them.  Beautyblender is made in the USA, but is easily available over here.

Full size £26

OPI Nail lacquer - There's a little Brazilian flag next the OPI nail lacquer on the information in my box but OPI is actually an American brand.  The flag might be there however because this one is from the Brazilian collection.  I really wanted one of these in my box, as I'm a big fan of OPI, but unfortunately yellow nail varnish really does not suit me.  It's the perfect shade for The World Cup though!  This one is called You're so Flippy Floppy, don't you just love OPI shade names?  I would have much preferred any of the pink/red/coral shades available in this collection, but that's the risk you take with a surprise beauty box.  

Mini varnish £3.50 (full size £11.95)

Caudalie Vinoperfect SPF15 day perfecting fluid - I was hoping I would receive the Caudalie Divine oil in my box but I'm happy to receive any kind of Caudalie product (except for their Beauty elixir!).  Caudalie are a French pharmacy brand that I'm sure you'll probably have heard of.  This is described as a light oil-free facial moisturiser to hydrate, brighten and even skintone. Sounds perfect.

Sample size 10ml £9.50 (full size 40ml £38 currently available on Escentual for £30.40)

Naobay Body radiance lotion - I haven't heard of Naobay before but they are a Spanish brand and as this is part of a Global Strikers box I'm assuming this should be good.  A quick blob applied on my hand revealed this has a light citrus scent and appears to have a firming effect.  This contains Olive oil, Avocado oil, Shea butter and Aloe vera and this is a natural and organic product.  

Sample size 30ml approx £1.70 (full size 250ml £14.00)

The Balm Cosmetics How 'bout them apples? - I haven't tried anything from American brand The Balm but have heard good things about them and have seen the How 'bout them apples set on a couple of blogs.  This is a cheek and lip cream housed in a little book style cardboard compact.  I believe in the full size version you get six shades in the book but this is a mini version containing one shade, my shade being Pie (Apple pie, geddit?) which looks like a red/orange shade (think rosy apples).  The outer design on the packaging is ok but when you open it up it's a bit tacky with topless cowboys next to each shade.  The sample is just about large enough to get your finger in but having just given this a quick try it's very soft and creamy (although that might be partly due to the heat) and I love the look of this, I can't wait to give it a try.

Sample size 0.57g worth less than a pound (full size 20g £26)

Lifestyle extra - Each month Birchbox include a lifestyle extra which might be a mini bar of chocolate, some tea or something along those lines.  This month the extra is a very cute little Birchbox branded flip flop, of course in the Brazilian colours of green and yellow.  I don't actually have a keyring on my keys so I'll be popping this on very soon.

Overall I'm very happy with my box.  There's only one full size product in there but it's a pretty impressive one.  The only thing I'm not keen on is the nail varnish, but that's only because of the colour, but I will give it a try and you never know it might be the first yellow nail varnish to look ok on me.

Do you subscribe to Birchbox?  If you'd like to subscribe you can do here.

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Recent The Body Shop purchases

I realised I've bought several products from The Body Shop over the last couple of weeks so I thought I'd do a quick post to show you what products I've chosen.  Full reviews will of course follow in the future when I've had a chance to test out each product.

I've seen the Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil (£10) popping up on several blogs and have read nothing but good things about it, so I was curious to give this a try.  I don't tend to use cleansing oils so this is a bit of a first for me.  I probably won't use this to remove my makeup, as I usually use a micellar water, but I will use this either for my second cleanse or maybe as my morning cleanser.

I don't think I've seen the Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-oil (£12) on many blogs but nevertheless I'm still curious about it. A serum in an oil? I wasn't sure what this would be like but after putting a small drop on the back of my hand in store I discovered it's a very light, quite runny oil that feels and smells very luxurious, although it only has a very light scent.  I'm really looking forward to trying this one out.  I actually got both this and the cleansing oil on a buy one get one half price offer and I was also allowed to use my Love your body card for a further 10% off.  So I got both for £15.30 and the fact that I had a £15 gift card meant I actually got both for just 30p!

I'm a fan of Tea Tree and for quite a while now I've had my eye on the Tea Tree Pore Minimiser (£7.50).  Although this isn't actually sold as a makeup primer (you'll find it under skincare on the website) I know this is how a lot of people use it.  I really haven't got on with makeup primers in the past but I do want to find one that will provide a good barrier between my chin and makeup on set to try and stop MAC foundations keep breaking me out.  I have high hopes for this one, please live up to them little primer.

I'm certainly not a fan of BB creams at all, having not liked a single one I've tried (admittedly I've not tried many but that's because I don't like them!) but as soon as I saw The Body Shop were releasing a Tea Tree Flawless BB cream (£8) I immediately wanted to try it.  Isn't it strange how you can really not like one type of product but then find yourself lusting after a new release?  This is available in three shades and obviously I picked up the one closest to the shade Casper (the friendly ghost).  I've tried this once so far and lets just say I don't hate it, in fact I actually quite liked it, but obviously more testing is required.  

Have you bought anything from The Body Shop recently?

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Nails Inc goody bag

I mentioned in yesterdays Nails Inc manicure post that I was given a goody bag with a few products in to take away with me.  Here's what was in the bag.

The first product was a Gel effect polish in Porchester Square* (£14).  I felt a little guilty as when I was choosing the shade for my manicure I said I wasn't really a fan of nude shades and when Sarah pulled this one out of the bag she said was regretting the shade she'd chosen.  I did reassure her though that actually this shade looks really pretty and looks like it would make a good neutral base for nail art so I am looking forward to giving this one a try.  The next product was one of their new Floral nail varnishes in Chelsea Embankment Gardens* (£12) which includes large blue and yellow matte daisy shapes and smaller white and pink matte shapes.  Sarah actually chose these two varnishes because the shades complement each other and give a very pretty look.  Finally I was given a Kensington Caviar 45 second top coat (£12) which I have actually used before.  

As I said in my previous post Sarah gave me some tips for the best way to apply these polishes to make them look their best and obviously I want to pass on these tips on to you.

I have to admit that I've only recently discovered that with some nail varnishes you can actually pull the lid off and it leaves behind a much smaller lid for you to hold to apply the varnish, how did I not know this?!  I've never really had a problem applying any nail varnish with the full lid still attached but with a much smaller lid to hold this can only make application even easier and more precise.

In general with nail varnish it's usually best to apply several thin coats of varnish to build up a colour rather than attempting a thick layer as thin layers will dry much more quickly and are more likely to dry to a smooth flat surface.  However the Nails Inc gel varnishes are supposed to be applied in a thick layer.  Sarah advised that it's best to wipe off the excess from one side of the brush but leave the other side fully loaded, as I've shown in the second picture above.  This may take a bit longer to dry but I believe gel varnishes do take longer to dry than standard nail varnishes anyway (someone correct me if I'm wrong?).  I assume this helps with the whole plump effect that gel varnishes are supposed to provide.  

I haven't really tried a varnish like the Floral varnish before but when I've read posts about varnishes that provides similar effects I've noticed that people have commented that you have to 'fish out' certain pieces of glitter to make sure you get some on the nail.  With the Floral varnish this is apparently what you're actually supposed to do.  To begin with you use the brush to grab a flower and place this on the nail where you want it. It can be a bit fiddly, but doesn't usually take long to find one.  If you have shorter nails it will look best with just one flower but if your nails are longer you could go for two.  Once your flowers are in place you then dip the brush into the varnish, take it out again and dab or press the brush onto the nail around the flowers.  You may have to dip the brush into the bottle a couple of times per nail but this means you get a good coverage of the pieces all over the nail.  So you know when you're trying to paint on that new special effect varnish you have and you end up with about five bits sparsely dotted around?  That's because you should dab not brush.  Repeat after me, dab, not brush!      

Although the Floral varnish could be seen as a top coat as it's bits suspended in a clear varnish I would always go in with a standard top coat to seal everything down and in place or pieces could end up catching and coming off.  I haven't made a particularly good job of it on my example above as the flowers are sticking up slightly but I did this in the dark (well I mean at night, I did have the light on) so I didn't actually notice at the time!  So there you have it, the correct way that both of these nail varnishes should be applied.

Have you tried either of these nail varnishes?

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Nails Inc Gel manicure - Debenhams Meadowhall

I was recently asked if I'd like to go along to Debenhams in Meadowhall to have a complimentary Nails Inc manicure. Despite being a big nail varnish and nail art fan I've only actually had a manicure once before when I was a bridesmaid for my friend, so of course I jumped at the chance.

I was completely rubbish and forgot to ask the names of the two Nails Inc ladies that were there but I believe their names were Sarah and Nikita (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong).  Nikita was doing a manicure for a lovely lady next to me who was a personal trainer and Sarah did mine.  

When I got there I was very excited to hear I'd be having a Gel manicure*.  I don't think I even have any gel nail varnishes at home (ones that you cure under a lamp or self dry ones) so this was definitely a first for me.  Nails Inc offer several different types of manis/pedis including monogram manicures and crystal pedicures (the last one being £120 but the finished effect is beautiful!) and details of all of them can be found here.  The Gel manicure takes 45 minutes and will last for up to three weeks.  There's over 150 different shades to choose from and thanks to being cured (dried under a UV light) this dries quickly to leave a chip resistant super glossy finish. 

I picked out the shade I wanted and surprise surprise I forgot to ask what shade it was.  I believe it may have been St James which is a quite traditional pillar box red shade and is one of their hero shades, meaning it's one of their most popular.  Sarah started off by shaping my nails, sorting out my cuticles and applying something to my nails that would balance their PH to make it easier for the gel to adhere to them.  She then applied the gel base coat and I popped my hands under the UV for it to cure.  Then my chosen colour was applied to my nails.  As she was painting my nails Sarah suddenly asked me if I'd be coming back over to have it removed at a later date.  If you've never had a gel manicure before this isn't like standard nail varnish and can't be removed by just swiping a remover soaked cotton pad over your nails, it has to be 'soaked off'.  It is possible to do this at home as you can now get at home gel manicure kits with UV lamps, but if you don't know what you're doing you can risk damaging your nails.  As I wasn't going to be coming back to have it removed, and also I realised I needed to be able to get it off quickly if required for work (period roles and nail varnish don't mix!), we decided it would be better if I just had a standard top coat applied over the top rather than a cured gel one.  So my nails were finished off with two coats of Kensington Caviar top coat. I sat and chatted with the ladies for a while to make sure my nails were reasonably dry (as my top coat wasn't being cured) before heading back to my car to drive home.

When I got home I was a little disappointed to discover that some of my nails had dried a little bubbly, which you can see on the picture above.  The squiggly lines are just where the light is reflecting of the glossy surface. I believe the reason this happened was because I didn't have the full gel manicure and instead had two coats of standard top coat.  I do sometimes have a problem where my top coat dries bubbly if I've accidentally applied a bit too much when doing my own nails.  If you had a gel manicure yourself this would include a gel top coat which would be cured, so this wouldn't happen.

When I left the lovely Sarah also surprised me with a goody bag (the picture at the top is the logo on the goody bag) which contained a few sweet treats (including a Kinder Bueno, yum), a bottle of Nails Inc branded water which everyone gets on the desk when they have their manicure but I'd not drunk mine and finally a few nail varnish goodies. Sarah also spent a little while giving me some tips on how to use the products she'd given me.  To stop this post getting too long I'll save details of the products I was given and how to use them for another post so make sure you watch out for that one.

I'm the sort of person that is always itching to change their nail varnish shade or try some new nail art out but if I was going on holiday or away somewhere for a number of days and I just wanted to not have to worry about my manicure lasting then I would definitely consider a Gel manicure.  

Have you ever had a Gel manicure?

*PR sample - This was a complimentary treatment

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Selfridges Birmingham - The beauty personal shopper experience

Last week an email dropped into my inbox from the lovely Rose who blogs over at Mixed Gems.  I've spoken to Rose briefly before when she worked for Illamasqua but Rose now works as a beauty personal shopper in Selfridges Birmingham.  Rose asked if I would like to head over to Selfridges for a complimentary consultation so I could see how the personal shopping service works and have a tour of the beauty hall.  So yesterday I took a slight detour on the way home from my boyfriends to meet up with Rose. 

I'm sorry my pictures really aren't very good.  I was so busy chatting away to Rose that I completely forgot to take any so I rushed around quickly to snap a few in-between a break to grab a drink from Starbucks and a consultation I was booked into with Jo Malone.  I picked out a few of the not so bad pictures, the rest unfortunately were all a bit blurry or too dark. 

As was also the case with my recent trip to Meadowhall for Ladies Night, things didn't quite go to plan at the beginning.  It's several years since I've been over to Birmingham and when I did visit I always took the train.  I was a little later than planned arriving after there were accidents all over the place on the motorways and once I'd parked up my car and come out of the car park I completely lost my bearings, headed off in the wrong direction and got myself lost!  I managed to find my way in the end but turned up 15 minutes late and looking a complete state, all hot and bothered after my dash from wherever I'd managed to get myself lost.  I'm sorry Rose!

So a beauty personal shopping experience is the same as a fashion one, but instead of telling you what sort of clothes you should be wearing Rose tells you what sort of products would be best for you or what shades you should be wearing.  If you have any specific concerns, such as really dry skin that just doesn't seem to hold onto moisture, then Rose can recommend and take you to sample products that should help.  

We were so busy chatting away (we even went and found a couple of seats so we could have a really good chat) that we did drift away slightly from the personal shopper side but Rose did take me round showing me the various different counters they have and some of their standout products.  What I like about Selfridges beauty hall is they have the usual counters dedicated to one particular brand, such as Clinique, Clarins, MAC, Bobbi Brown etc, but then they also have a kind of bazaar that has a few products from a number of other brands such as Ciate, Steamcream, Carmex and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (this one I was particularly excited about and I did make a cheeky purchase with some birthday money before I left!).  So although the counters are more high-end there are some much cheaper products for you to take advantage of if you want to.

As I mentioned briefly above, Rose arranged for me to have a consultation with Jo Malone where I had a lovely hand and arm massage.  Jo Malone fragrances can be layered to create a more individual scent and the consultation looks at the sort of scents you like (fruity, floral, spicy etc) so they can recommend which different scents you could layer.  After Rose had shown me a couple of her favourites I'd already fallen in love with Blackberry and Bay (I would offer my first born child in exchange for a bottle of this!) so I asked for that one.  The massage was so relaxing and cooling on such a warm day and I left feeling ready to take on the rush hour traffic coming out of Birmingham to head home.  

Just a note on the picture of the Shu Uemura mice.  I saw a photo on the internet somewhere showing that in Japan you can get Shu Uemura false eyelashes from a vending machine and each of the different types of lashes are displayed on a mouse at the top of the machine.  So when I saw the eyelash bearing mice in the display cabinet I had to get a picture of them!

If you want to go along to Selfridges and use the beauty personal shopper service this costs £30 but this is redeemable against purchases.  So you could treat yourself to a high-end product from one of the counters that Rose has helped you chose or you could grab a few of the cheaper products available.  Rose is probably one of the loveliest people you'll ever meet and boy does she know what she's talking about, so the £30 charge is worth it just to meet her and take advantage of her knowledge and advice.  Thank you so much to Rose for inviting me over and I hope to be returning to the Selfridges beauty hall for some events in the near future.

Would you use a beauty personal shopping service?

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Mr Nutcase personalised phone case

When an email popped into my inbox asking if I'd like to review one of Mr Nutcase's personalised phone cases it was a definite yes from me. I've had my Samsung S3 mini for quite a while now but I haven't got round to getting a case for it.  I've been using one of my brothers slightly grotty old (phone) socks and to be honest it's been cramping my style!  As well as not being particularly attractive it was also a pain trying to get my phone out of it every time I wanted to use it.

To make your personalised case on the Mr Nutcase website you select your make and model of phone, select the sort of case you want (this is the Ultra lightweight slimline*) and then you're given the options for personalising your case.  You can have just one picture on the case or you can chose from several different collage designs for multiple pictures.  You upload the pictures you want to use and are given the options to add text, clipart and change the background colour.  Once your order is submitted your case is despatched the next day (I assume only if it's a working day) and mine then arrived the following day.

Despite being a fan of taking photos I actually struggled to find a one that I wanted to put on my case.  The one I really wanted to use, that I have on the desktop on my laptop, isn't actually my picture so I couldn't use it and when I tried to access some backup CD's of old photos I found that there was something wrong with them so I couldn't get to the pictures.  In the end I settled on the last picture above of some flowers that I took at Cambridge University while I wandering around bored while my boyfriend was doing something there.

When I first opened the envelope this came in there was a quite strong smell of what I assume may be a material used to make the case, but this is fading and I can only smell it if I actually sniff the case.  My case only covers the back of my phone, so the front won't be protected in anyway, but I do have a screen protector over my screen to protect from scratches.  Although the flowers on the case in the pictures above do look blue they are more of a lilac colour like in the picture I used, but the case has come out darker than the original picture so you need to bear this in mind when choosing the picture(s) you want to use.  If the picture is already dark you may want to consider adjusting the brightness before uploading.

The case is indeed very lightweight and hardly adds any extra 'bulk' to my phone.  It fits in place securely and feels good quality.  Obviously as it's made of a plastic type material it might chip or crack if you did drop it.  The edges are finished off well, there's no slightly raggy looking edges and the cut out sections for the speakers, camera lens, flash and buttons on the side are perfectly positioned so they won't get in the way of anything.   

Overall I'm really impressed with my case and would definitely consider buying one for a present for somebody or another one for myself in the future with a different design.

If you fancy your own personalised case Mr Nutcase have kindly given me an offer code for my readers for 10% off your order, just enter the code THANKU10 at the checkout.  Oh and you also get free standard delivery.

Let me know if you decide to order a case for yourself.

* PR sample
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Meadowhall Ladies Night

Last Thursday I jumped in my car and made my way up to Sheffield for Meadowhall's Ladies Night.  Ladies Night was from 6pm to 9pm but as one of Meadowhall's blogging ambassadors I was invited to head to the bloggers hub for 5pm so we could be treated to some Prosecco (which I couldn't have as I'd be driving), canapés and the chance to meet Amy Childs and ask her a few questions.  This didn't quite go to plan for me, but more about that after some pictures from the evening.

It's about a 50 minute drive for me up to Sheffield (a bit longer at the moment as most of the way up the M1 has a 50 limit due to road works) but despite setting off about 40 minutes earlier than I needed to I ended up 40 minutes late after my journey took two and a quarter hours!  So by the time I got there I'd missed most of the parts set up for the bloggers *sad face* But I did eventually get there and after I finally arrived we all set off to explore.

The first stop we made was at the Polaroid dress, which was a piece of art by Charlotte Armitage and Wayne Sables that took shape through the night.  The dress started off as just a wire frame and then Polaroid snaps of shoppers were gradually added to the frame as they were taken to create a dress. We passed the dress again later in the evening and it looked like it was making quite slow progress (maybe because people aren't keen on having their picture taken!) but I believe by the end of the night it was completed.  I didn't get a picture of the finished dress but I think you may be able to find this on the Meadowhall website or blog.   

Next up we headed over to what I believe was called the beauty circle (or something similar) where various brands had stalls to show some of their products, any offers they had available on the night and some also had competitions to enter or offered quick treatments such as hand massages.  We then decided to check out the guide to see what tutorials or treatments might have been on offer in Debenhams and House of Fraser.  For some reason when we got to House of Fraser it was baking in there so after a few minutes of sweating we made a hasty retreat before our makeup ended up sliding off our faces!  Debenhams was a much more appropriate temperature but we were a little disappointed to find that either there was nobody on a particular counter, they were fully booked for whatever treatments they had on offer or there wasn't enough people around for them to start a tutorial.  This was also the case in the short time that we stopped off in House of Fraser.  A few of us did make some purchases though and I made sure I convinced Lucy to buy a lovely pastel nail varnish in Illamasqua for just £6.75.  What a bargain!  Obviously it was my duty to make sure she bought it!  I think Georgina is still slightly regretting the last time we were in Debenhams together with a group of bloggers as we convinced her to buy a £65 MAC palette.  

We had a final wander round to see what else was going on and stumbled across 'If the shoe fits' which was a Cinderella style competition where you could win some shoes if the box you picked had your size inside.  This had a kind of a Take Me Out feel to it complete with a Paddy McGuinness style presenter but with the single boy being a girl and the single girls being shoes!  None of us had a go as the queue was pretty long and even though I work in front of the camera it was a little too 'look at me' for me.  There was some designer shoes available from brands such as L.K.Bennett, but just as we were walking away someone missed out on a pair of Primark flip flops! 

I think the most random sight of the night was at least three men (I think they were men anyway!) dressed as granny's sat on top of giant shopping trolleys that motored round with music playing.  Yeah, I'm not entirely sure what that was all about either...

Although we were disappointed that we didn't find much going on in Debenhams and House of Fraser we've obviously been able to feedback to Meadowhall what didn't quite work on the night so this can be improved in the future.  It was lovely to see Lucy, Jade, Georgina, Jemma and Bethany again and I'd love if you'd head over and take a little look at their blogs.

Were you at Ladies Night?

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