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The perfect gift for fine fragrance lovers

This is a sponsored post

Time is running out to buy those presents for your loved ones for Christmas, but there is still just enough time to be able to treat them to the gift of Michael Bublé for Christmas. Unfortunately you can't gift the man himself (I can hear a collective disappointed sign from ladies all around the world), but you can give his debut scent, By Invitation, which is available for a limited time in a gift set.

Please note my images are just of the fragrance on its own as unfortunately my gift set hasn't arrived yet. You can take a look at the gift set through the links in this post.

Michael Bublé By Invitation gift set
I recently posted about celebrity fragrances and how despite being a fan when they first became popular, I now don't usually give them a second glance. By Invitation is different to the typical celebrity fragrances you get now though. Firstly, By Invitation is certainly not cheap or tacky in any way. It's a fine fragrance with a premium bottle and Michael made sure he was involved in every step of the process; ensuring it was a fragrance that he loved to smell and that the women in his life would love to wear. I hadn't actually seen the TV ad that accompanies the fragrance before I started writing this post, but having seen it now there's a definitely West End/Broadway show feel about, which works for me as a dancer and show fan.

Michael Bublé By Invitation gift set
Michael Bublé By Invitation gift set

The bottle itself is large, weighty and gold with an unusual design where the bottle containing the perfume is suspended within a frame. The lid even features a little gold disc, which is a nod to the atomisers you'd find on vintage perfume bottles. It's one that will look gorgeous having pride of place on your dressing table. 

When it comes to the scent itself you'll find sparkling fruity top notes of bergamot, lemon and red fruits, elegant floral heart notes of lily of the valley, peony, rose and wild jasmine, and warm and comforting base notes of patchouli Indonesia, cedar wood, vanilla & praline and white amber & musk. This is quite a strong, crisp, oriental scent that lasts for hours and you can smell that it is a quality fragrance. 

In the gift set you'll find a 100ml By Invitation fragrance and 150ml By Invitation body lotion for £55. If you buy the gift set through the By Invitation website this is exactly the same price as the 100ml fragrance on its own, so you're effectively getting the body lotion for free. Even better it's currently reduced to just £49.50, so less than the cost of the fragrance on it's own. It is too late to buy the gift set from the By Invitation website for a Christmas gift, but you could always treat yourself!

For more info on the scent you can hop over to the dedicated By Invitation website and you can grab the gift set in time for Christmas from The Perfume Shop. Just make sure you select next day delivery before 4pm Friday.

*PR sample and sponsored post

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Lord & Berry Seta eye shadows

If you've been following my blog for any length of time then you'll know that I am a bit of a fan of Lord & Berry. However I've only really tried their lip products and a mascara so far. I received an email asking if I'd like to try out some of their eye shadows and although I'm not a huge eye shadow person (lack of application skills) I was definitely curious to see what they were like.

Lord & Berry Seta eye shadows
Lord & Berry Seta eye shadows

I received four very pretty shades to try; Silence* (matte), Pink Ribbon* (matte), Prince Charming* (shimmer) and finally Revival* (matte). I was really pleased when I opened the parcel and saw the shades I'd received as they're all really pretty. Each one comes in a simple black pot with a clear window on the screw off lid so you can see the shade and they each come in a white cardboard box. When it comes to Lord & Berry I think black packaging (which the pots are as I said) but the white cardboard boxes do work.  

As I mentioned above my application skills are seriously lacking so it tends to be something I wear occasionally and I'm far from an expert when it comes to eye shadow. Despite that I've been really impressed with these! There's very little kick-up or fall-out when you use them, they're pigmented (although the lighter two shades are obviously quite light) and they apply really nicely and blend well. I'm not at all confident with dark shades but the first time I tried them out I did actually use all four shades together (I didn't go out in public though!). I applied the lightest shade all over the lid, the slightly darker shade to the outer corner, the bluish shade right in the outer corner and the brown shade as a liner. 

Lord & Berry Seta eye shadows
Lord & Berry Seta eye shadows

Talking of the shades Silence is a very pale I guess what you might call egg shell kind of colour. It's looking like a pale pink in my swatch above but I wouldn't say there's any pink in there. It's definitely an all over the lid neutralising kind of shade. Next, Pink Ribbon is definitely a pink and is a light icing sugar kind of pink. Prince Charming looks like a dark cocoa kind of shade in the pot but as is often the case with dark shades it does come out lighter and is more of a medium to dark brown shade. Finally Revival is a slightly unusual shade, maybe what you might call a petrol blue or a grey based blue, and contains silver shimmer. 

Overall I'm really impressed with these eye shadows, love all of the shades and actually feel reasonably confident when it comes to applying them, which is a bit of a minor miracle when it comes to me and eye shadow to be honest.

Have you tried a Lord & Berry eye shadow?

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SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

I've only ever been for a professional gel manicure once and unfortunately it did turn into a bit of a disaster. I'd never had one before, so when the guys at Meadowhall in Sheffield asked if I'd like to go along to Nails Inc and have a manicure I jumped at the chance. When I got there we realised I probably wouldn't be coming back to have them removed professionally as at the time I lived about 50 minutes away. I also realised I might need to be able to remove it quickly for work purposes just in case I got a period role. So although I did have a clear gel base applied it was recommended that I just had a non-curing gel colour applied and standard top coat. The actual manicure was fine and off I went. It was when I came to remove it the problem arose.

I removed the top coat and colour as usual and then did the whole soaking cotton pads in acetone and wrapping my fingers in foil thing. It was only when I'd finished wrapping the last finger and sat back to watch TV that I realised my skin was starting to burn. So I quickly whipped all of the foil off, ran my hands under some cold water and thought 'Great! What do I do now?' What I ended up doing was picking, scraping and peeling it off. That is what I could get off. Some of it I just had to wait to grow out. This oviously did not leave my nails in a particularly good state and I resigned myself to never being able to have a gel manicure again.

A few months ago I spotted a tweet from SensatioNail looking for people to review one of their kits. I responded saying I would love to but am unable to wear gel manicures because I can't remove them. They asked why and when I explained a few people responded with 'You need nail shields!' I'd never heard of them before but SensatioNail offered to send me their Polish to gel transformer starter kit* and some Nail shields* to try, so I thought I'd give it a go.

SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

The polish to gel transformer starter kit is a gel manicure kit that can be used to transform any of your existing nail varnishes to proper gel cured varnishes. In the kit you get the UV lamp, a USB and mains adaptor, a gel cleanser, primer and polish to gel solution, a mixing pot, lint-free wipes, a double sided nail buffer and finally a manicure stick. There are two ways to use the set; either the mixing method or the gel top coat method. Mixing means mixing some of the polish to gel solution with some of your nail varnish (in the mixing pot provided) to transform it into a gel varnish you can then cure. The gel top coat method means paining your nails as usual and leaving to air dry and then curing the polish to gel solution over the top as a top coat.

The idea of nail shields is that they form a barrier between your nails and the gel manicure, so instead of soaking to remove the gel you just peel it off like a peel off base coat. This is good for people like me who can't soak off or people who might need to remove their manicure quickly, say for work reasons (again, like me!). If you've ever used nail wraps this pretty much what the nail shields are but thinner and clear.

SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields
SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields

Looking at just the lamp to begin with I was very impressed with it. It's smaller than I was expecting it to be so I don't think storage would particularly be an issue. It has a power cable that can be plugged into the wall or a USB socket, with the latter being useful if like me you often paint your nails sat in front of your laptop. I wasn't sure how you turned it on but you just pop your fingertips inside and it notices their presence and starts itself up. It then flashes after 15 seconds (the time required for the top coat method) and turns off after 30 seconds (time required for the mixing method).

As I mentioned the shields are like nail wraps and you apply them in the same way. You get eight strips with 11 shields on each strip. I have quite slim fingers but did manage to find five shields on each strip that fitted each nail well. That obviously leaves six shields on each strip but I think I would have to get into trimming them down to use the other sizes. So from one pack I can do four full manicures without having to do any trimming.

They obviously can be a little tricky to apply one handed, especially as they attract towards your nail as soon as they get close. To begin with when doing my thumb nail I was a little frustrated that they weren't more square to fit along my cuticle, but then realise I was trying to put it on upside down! But then when it came to my other nails the rounder end was actually more appropriate. You should have clean, dry nails when you apply them and you don't want any air bubbles under them, but I found this pretty easy to do. Like nail wraps you also trim these down by filing down against the tip of your nail. This wasn't particularly difficult to do but I will be talking about this more below. Once they're in place to be honest you can barely tell you have them on your nails.

SensatioNail polish to gel transformer starter kit & nail shields


First attempt - Curing just the top coat

On my first attempt I applied the nail shields, applied two coats of my chosen nail colour and let them both air dry and then followed this with the top coat that I cured. I wiped the gel cleanser over each nail after curing but something I noticed straight away was how much fluff was sticking to my nails? Did I do something wrong? All was good to begin with but I also quickly noticed that where I'd removed the excess shields at the tip of my nail had left a rough edge. By the following day this was, I assume, starting to peel back slightly and it looked like I had tip wear. After a couple of days the 'tip wear' was starting to look quite bad and as a couple of shields were lifting slightly I decided to just attempt to peel them all off.  

Peeling them off was something I was a little concerned about but they did come off with ease and didn't particularly leave any visible damage on the nail bed. I was also concerned that any cured polish left behind on my actual nail would be difficult to remove but this did come off easily just with some remover on a cotton pad.

Second attempt - Curing just the top coat and tipping

The instructions with the starter kit do recommend 'tipping' each nail (painting over the end of the nail and slightly underneath) but I hadn't done this because I was unsure about removing any cured varnish on my actual nail. Because of the 'tip wear' problem on the second attempt I decided to go ahead and tip my nails with both my colour and the top coat. I also tried trimming off the shields this time but that didn't really work so I used the file again and tried to be as neat as possible. I'd recommend to keep gently filing (just in one direction down over the tip) until the excess shield comes away on it's own rather then giving it a helping hand and pulling it away.

This time I didn't notice any fluff sticking to the top of my nails as soon as I'd done them but a little did stick underneath. Maybe I used more cleanser this time? Somehow though I managed to smudge one thumb nail and the tip went slightly funny on the other! I didn't worry to much though as I wasn't sure how long the shields might last on my nails. The first time I was a bit disappointed that I didn't appear to have the sought after high gloss gel finish, but the second time I did. Maybe again something to do with using the cleanser correctly this time? This time again it only lasted a few days before the shields started to lift around the edges.

Third attempt - Transforming colour to gel and curing colour and top coats

Although I did intend a third attempt transforming one of my existing nail varnishes to be honest I didn't end up giving this a try. There were two reasons for this; one was that I got really busy with a project I was working on and just didn't have the spare time to dedicate to a manicure like that. The second was that I didn't think this would make any difference to the wear time of my manicure because this is based on using the nail shields. If you're using shields you may well have an issue with 'tip wear' and they will inevitably start to lift around the edges within a few days, especially if you put your hands in water, which I'm pretty sure we all do at least twice a day to wash. 

In general I love the kit, but if I'm using it will nail shields I don't think the time it takes to do a manicure is worth it when it will probably only last a couple of days. I guess if you're going for the top coat method it's not much longer than a standard manicure, but you do need to add in curing time. I'm very tempted to very cautiously try applying it directly to my nails and see if I can do something like trim down some cotton pads so there's a minimal amount on my skin for removing. Maybe not just yet though as I am currently in the running for a period role in January!

Have you tried an at home gel manicure kit?


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Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright

I think December is the month when subscription boxes are really under pressure. December of course means Christmas and Christmas means expectations are set high with regards to the box design and the contents. Nobody wants a standard box that they get all year round and the products inside are expected to make you feel like Christmas has come early as you excitedly pull out the contents. 

My December Birchbox arrived on Friday. Has it delivered?

Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright

This year Birchbox have debuted Birchdrawers (I don't believe they're actually called this its just what I've named them) and although I wasn't keen on the designs on the drawers to begin with the last couple of ones have been gorgeous. For December 2016 Birchbox have introduced another type of box and I really don't know what type of box you would call this. Its still a box with a lid that you lift off, but instead of laying flat and having a large lid it stands up and has a smaller lid. It's similar to the box that Monsoon's Rose Gold perfume comes in if you read my review recently. 

In terms of pattern/colour scheme the box is just plain with a pale red coloured bottom part, berry coloured top part and a beige strip between the colours that a silver strip fits in to. Although the colours are quite festive I guess (although it's certainly not Santa red) I would have liked it to have been a little more festive. But it is intended to be kept and used as a keepsake or storage box, maybe to be displayed on your desk/dressing table, so maybe that's why it's not all out festive.

Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright
Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright

Onto the contents and I'm very pleased this month. I have two make-up products, two skincare products and a hair product, although I would personally say a Porefessional product would be closer to make-up than skincare.

If you're already a Birchbox subscriber then you would have already know that this month everybody will get a full size Ciaté London Fierce Flicks eye liner (full size RRP £15), which is a felt tip style liquid liner. After finally achieving one of my life's ambitions of nailing liquid liner application I've very pleased to see this because felt tip liners are my favourite and I love trying new ones. My current favourite are Soap & Glory's Supercat (the original version) and Bourjois' Liner Feutre in Nior Violine (a purple shade) but just maybe this can top my list. It doesn't appear to have a shade name on it anywhere, but it's basically black anyway. 

Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright
Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright

The next make-up product that I completely mistook as a Lord & Berry product at first is actually a Bobbi Brown Smokey eye mascara sample. When I realised it was Bobbi Brown rather than Lord & Berry looking up at me from the tube I got very excited as I haven't personally tried anything from Bobbi in the past and of course I want to. I also think Bobbi Brown isn't a brand you tend to see in beauty subscription boxes. For some reason I appear to have enough mascaras for about five sets of eyes (and I don't think I've actually bought any of them myself) but I always welcome a sample from a high-end brand to try.

The next product is the one I would personally call make-up but Birchbox, or maybe Benefit, have called it skincare. This is a sample size of Benefit the Porefessional: Matte Rescue. Now I'm one of those people that doesn't get on with Porefessional at all and am not a fan of silicone based primers in general. This one however is an oil-absorbing and pore-minimising gel, which sounds perfect for my chin. The rest of my face is dry but my chin is oily and usually likes to try and push off whatever make-up I've applied over it, which is frustrating when I suffer from scarring there and usually have to conceal. So I'll see how I fare with this one. I would class this as a make-up primer, so I guess it can fall in to skincare or make-up, depending how you look at it.

Birchbox December 2016 - Merry & Bright

The other skincare product is a sample of dr.brandt PoreDermabrasion. As a Dr myself that 'dr' is annoying me! This one is basically an acid exfoliator. I much prefer an acid exfoliator over a manual one now and I have several of them I'm working through so this one will probably pop to the back of the queue until I've got through a few of the others.

Finally, the hair care product in my box is the Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Balm. When I first saw this I did think I already had a larger size of this that came with a magazine, but it turned out that is the Overnight Recovery one and they're just both in the Perfectly Perfecting range. This is one you apply to towel dry hair to moisturise, boost shine, smooth, soften, protect and speed up styling. I do like trying products like this but I have so many little samples from previous Birchboxes (from other brands) I really need to try and use some of them up. 

So in general I'm very pleased with this months box and wasn't at all disappointed with any of the products I found in there. If you'd like to sign-up to Birchbox and receive the December box you can do so here.

What do you think of the December Birchbox?

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*PR sample. Post contains an affiliate link

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CaseCompany phone cover

I occasionally receive emails from different phone case brands offering a case in exchange for a review, but I usually have to turn down the opportunity because very few (in fact this is the only one I've come across so far) do cases for my unusual phone. I think the Samsung A5 was intended to be bigger than the S series and I was excited to get it on the day it was released, but how many people do you know with a Samsung A5? Yep me too! I don't think I've come across anyone else who has one. 

However I was excited to discover that CaseCompany do actually do cases for the Samsung A5, so despite the fact I am actually due to upgrade in February I decided to treat myself to a phone case for the first time. 

CaseCompany phone case
CaseCompany phone case

As with most brands of this type you can either create your own design for your case or choose from one of their existing designs. In general I prefer to choose one of their existing designs and I went for a pretty floral pattern.

I believe when it arrived it came in a little box, which I personally prefer over Jiffy bags as several products that I've received recently have been broken or damaged in a Jiffy bag. The case came in a little drawstring bag which would be good for storing your phone in if you don't have a screen protector and want to try and avoid getting scratches/marks on the screen in your bag. The bag is a natural off-white colour with little black doodles all over it. It also came with a little card with 'Hello Beautiful' on it, which was quite welcome when I received this just after having been ill. 

CaseCompany phone case
CaseCompany phone case

The cases are lightweight with a glossy surface and premium finish and made from solid PVC material. Obviously it was my choice to go for a light coloured design but I am a little disappointed that it doesn't really look right with the black edging. Black is the only option available but I don't think I would like white either, I'd prefer for the pattern to continue over the whole case. The finish definitely is premium; all gaps for buttons/ports/the camera etc are all finished perfectly and fit well so they don't obstruct anything in any way. The case pops on my phone very easily but it is a little on the loose side. It's not loose enough to fall off, it's been on my phone for a couple of weeks now and this hasn't happened, but my phone does rattle inside it slightly. 

In general I'm pleased with the case and even though it's not quite perfect I would say it is worth the £14.95 it costs. You can design your own case or take a look at the designs available over on the CaseCompany website.

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Soft & Gentle Hair Minimise and Garnier Minerals Invisible anti-perspirants

Anti-perspirant products are far from glamorous, but despite this for some people I think it's a product where you really do need to try and find the right one for you. If you hate white marks, suffer from sensitive underarm skin or maybe suffer from a problem like excessive perspiration, then finding a really good deodorant can be difficult.

I'm approaching my mid 30s and have tried several different products over the years and I think I've only just come across a product that I'm really happy with, although it's definitely not perfect. This is one of the products I'm going to be talking about in this post. 

Soft & Gentle Hair Minimise and Garnier Minerals Invisible anti-perspirant deoderants

I'm sure you really don't want to hear about my underarms but it is probably best if I let you know the sort of thing I'm looking for in an anti-perspirant. White marks on black and yellow stains gradually appearing on white tops really annoy me. I don't particularly have sensitive skin under my arms as far as I'm aware but I do sometimes suffer from itching, particularly after I've just shaved. Finally, and this is the biggest issue I have, I do suffer from excess sweating, which as I'm sure you can imagine (especially if you suffer from it yourself) can be really embarrassing at times.

The first product I want to talk about is the Soft & Gentle Hair Minimise anti-perspirant*. I received an email asking if I would like to give this a try and to be honest I jumped at the chance. Although it really doesn't take long to shave under your arms I hate having any hair there and this means I usually have to shave every other day. So an anti-perspirant that reduces hair growth sounds like a dream come true to me. This contains something called Kelisoft, which is apparently clinically proven to reduce the speed of growth and thickness of hair in eight weeks. I was surprised to find although it didn't work miracles it did indeed slow down hair growth and also make growth finer. It also appeared to do this straight away, but maybe the effect becomes greater the longer you use it. I think I got at least an extra day before I needed to shave again, maybe even two, but as the hair was finer and less obvious that also helped extend the time between shaves. 

I picked up the Garnier Minerals Invisible anti-perspirant when the one I was using at the time was leaving awful white marks on black clothes and I was going to be wearing a black top to a wedding (which was part of a dress with an amazing multi-coloured skirt, if you're thinking 'Black, for a wedding?). This promises no white marks, no yellow stains on white, anti-fading on colours and contains Mineralite, an ultra absorbent mineral. This product is pretty bloody amazing! This doesn't leave any kind of powdery residue on your skin and instead just leaves it feeling soft and smooth. I'm not sure about not fading colours or leaving yellow marks as I haven't used it for long enough, but it certainly doesn't leave black marks, so I'm reasonably confident it will deliver on the others. Finally, although no anti-perspirant will ever stop me sweating completely (I don't think that is possible without turning to something like botox) this does do a pretty good job of tackling it. I think my favourite thing about it though (apart from no white marks) is just how it makes my underarm feel. I hate having a scratch and ending up with a load of powder buried under my fingernails.

I won't bother linking to sites or discussing prices because they're both mainstream products that you can pick up in Boots or a supermarket for a few quid.

What is your favourite anti-perspirant?

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Busy B Desktop calendar

One thing I've noticed since I moved out earlier this year is that I've started forgetting birthdays. Technically I think the issue is that mum would always remind me when a birthday was coming up and keep reminding me because of my bad memory. But now I don't live with mum I don't have that constant reminder. This year I didn't buy a diary, which might have helped, but even then it would require me to remember to look in my diary to know that somebodies birthday was coming up.  

When I spotted on Twitter that stationery brand Busy B were looking for bloggers to review their products I took a look at their range and discovered that they do a desktop calendar. I thought this might be perfect for my little forgetting birthdays problem so I put myself forward and was sent a 2017 Desktop calendar*.

Busy B Desktop calendar
Busy B Desktop calendar
Busy B Desktop calendar

The Busy B Desktop calender features a built-in stand that means the calendar stands up and so can be seen at a glance on your desk. The cover of the calender is a lovely dark blue colour and it features a pretty Rifle Paper Co esq design on the front with the words 'hello 2017'. It's ringbound at the top so you can easily flip over each month as it passes to reveal the new month. On the back of the front cover there's a page that shows each month for both 2017 and 2018 so you can mark dates and see at a glance that there's something happening on that date.

Busy B Desktop calendar
Busy B Desktop calendar

The first new page you'll find is January. Each page features a white calender on alternating green and purple pages with a very subtle floral print. The boxes for each day are a little small but there is enough room in each box for a brief note on what's happening that day. One of the most handy things though is that each page has a little pocket that you can pop things in such as receipes, tickets, notes or whatever you want. I popped my 'to do' list in there to show the pocket, top of which is to get my post ready for this calendar!

To be honest there's not much more to say about the desktop calendar other than it's very pretty and very useful and although I don't want to wish the last part of the year away I am looking forward to popping it on my desk once 2017 rolls round.

The Busy B 2017 Desktop calendar is £8.99 and is available from the Busy B website.

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Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lipsticks - Worth the hype?

Like many people I was really excited to hear that Kat Von D make-up was heading across the pond and would become available in the UK in 2016. Just in case you're not aware who Kat Von D is she's an American tattoo artist who found fame on TV show Miami Ink. I was a big fan of Miami Ink and Kat herself. I know a few people aren't keen on some American brands (and now reportedly Sephora) heading over here because then their products are no longer something they can only pick up on trips over to the states or in reasonably sized international Sephora orders. However for me I can't currently afford to place a Sephora order or to go on holiday at all, let alone to the states (and don't currently have a passport) so US brands heading over here is a very big positive for me.

There were whisperings that Kat Von D make-up would be arriving in Boots, but in the end it was Debenhams that launched the brand in the UK in around September this year. Just before that main launch though Love Me Beauty offered mini versions of the Everlasting liquid lipstick, Studded lipstick and Ink linerin their monthly edit. I picked up one of each, intending to try out the liquid lipstick and then later treat myself to a full size one from Debenhams if I liked it. I didn't actually get time to try it out before the Debenhams launch and not wanting to miss out I ordered one anyway! So I have a mini size Everlasting liquid lipstick in Outlaw and a full size in Berlin.

Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lipsticks in Outlaw and Berlin
Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lipstick in Outlaw
Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lipsticks in Outlaw and Berlin

Although I haven't tried that many liquid lipsticks I am a big fan of them and do have a wish list as long as my arm of ones I would like to try. Of course I was aware that Kat's Everlasting liquid lipsticks were supposed to be very good so I was eager to try one and it was the product I wanted to try the most from her range. 

The full size liquid lipsticks come in a long, slim tube that is clear so you can see the shade inside and feature a tattoo type black and white design on the lid that stretches slightly down the tube. You unscrew the lid to reveal a long thin applicator with a fairly typical furry end for applying to the lips. The mini packaging is pretty much exactly the same just smaller and with a few details missing such as the tattoo design on the tube and the Kat Von D banner at the bottom.

Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lipstick in Berlin

Although as with any liquid lipstick product like this you do have to be careful when it comes to application I do find it reasonably easy with this applicator. I have quite full lips but the applicator covers them well and I usually just have to fill in a little on the middle part of my lips and then use more of the tip of the applicator for a precise line along my lip line. It applies pretty much opaque in one swipe and dries down relatively quickly to a full matte finish. I do have quite lined lips and this does show them, but you can only really see them if you get quite close to my mouth. From a distance I don't think you can really tell. I have naturally dry lips and I can't use really dry or drying formula's, but this isn't bad at all. In general I tend to forget I'm wearing it and I don't get the dry feeling I sometimes get on the sides of my mouth.

As the name of the product and other people have suggested these should be pretty long lasting, but that's where my disappointment in this product comes along. I really don't find them that long lasting. They probably fare better if I don't eat or drink, but if I do eat I find that the lipstick wears away in the middle of my lips and on either side of my mouth. With Berlin this is not quite as obvious, but with Outlaw it really doesn't look so good after eating. I haven't attempted topping up yet, so I don't know what this looks like if you attempt it, but with a product like this I prefer to apply it and pretty much forget about it until I come to remove it.

I do like these lipsticks, but I just wish they would last longer on me. I'm not sure I would purchase another one when I can go for a Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet instead which will last me through the day and cost about £7 less.

Are you a fan of Kat Von D's Everlasting liquid lipsticks?

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Tanya Burr Cosmetics 12 days of Christmas beauty calendar

I might be approaching my mid-30s but for as long as I can remember my mum has always bought me a chocolate advent calendar. She won't be buying me one this year as I no longer live at home (I finally managed to move out this year six years after I first planned to!) and I didn't have an advent calendar lined up at all, chocolate or otherwise. I recently received an email saying there were a few of Tanya Burr's advent calendars* available, so I jumped at the chance as I haven't tried any of Tanya Burr's products yet and have never had a proper beauty advent calendar either, only one my boyfriend created for me one year (which was so sweet).

Tanya Burr Cosmetics 12 days of Christmas beauty calendar
Tanya Burr Cosmetics 12 days of Christmas beauty calendar

This one has been a bit of a bugger to photograph, both for my post and for Instagram, because as pretty as it is it's very pastel and kept coming out very washed out. The design is very pretty featuring a pastel blue town house with pink windows, gold accents and Christmasy additions such as a wreath on the door and a snowman. 

As much as I want to open the whole thing right now to see what's in there and to show you, I know I'll regret it later when I have nothing to open. So what I will do is open the doors day by day and pop a picture on my Instagram to show the product behind each door. This is only a 12 day calendar, so I wasn't sure when I should actually be starting it, but after asking for advice on Twitter I've decided to start on the 1st December and open a door every-other-day. I believe you are supposed to start a 12 day calendar 12 days into December, but obviously I can't wait that long! 

Tanya Burr Cosmetics 12 days of Christmas beauty calendar

I won't tell you the shades included (although I believe some are special Christmas shades based on the names) but you will find three nail varnishes, two lip glosses, two glitter pots, two glitter liners, one matte lip product, one nail file and a mirror. I've particularly liked the look of a couple of Tanya's nail varnishes so I'm looking forwarding to discovering those. Don't forget if you want to see what is behind each door hop over and follow me on Instagram.

The Tanya Burr Cosmetics 12 days of Christmas beauty calendar is £25 and can be found online at FeelUnique and also on the Superdrug website where it is currently reduced but also out of stock. 

Do you have an advent calendar this year? Which one do you have?

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Fragrances that have taken me by surprise

When celebrity fragrances first became a thing I didn't have anything against them at all, in fact as a perfume addict I had several of them that I really liked. I believe Britney Spears was one of the first celebrities to release a fragrance and I had several different versions of Fantasy. Over time more and more 'celebrities' released their own fragrances and by the time we got to somebody who came 5th in Big brother I'd lost interest. Bottles/packaging got cheaper and tackier looking and I decided that was probably the end of celebrity fragrances for me.

When I was contacted by Hayley from Thirty Plus asking if I'd like to try out Michael Bublé's debut fragrance my first thought was to turn down the opportunity. For one, it was a celebrity fragrance (although good old Bublé I would definitely class as a full on celebrity) and two he's a male doing a female fragrance. Female celebrities doing female fragrances, fair enough, but male celebrities doing female frangrances doesn't sit well with me. I was really disappointed when I saw that One Direction were releasing a (cheap and cheerful) make-up range. The only reason I could see for doing it was to cash-in on their young fans who would buy anything with 1D on. However, I saw that it was described as a fine fragrance and had a price-point to match and I decided to give it a try.

Michael Buble By Invitation & Monsoon Rose Gold
Michael Buble By Invitation & Monsoon Rose Gold

Another type of fragrance I've always been unsure of is the ones released by high street shops such as Next or Topshop. A couple of clothes shops, namely H&M and Topshop, have managed to pull of very good make-up lines, but fragrance is another thing and I don't think I've ever smelt one I particularly liked. A few months ago I was offered the opportunity to try a fragrance from Monsoon and it was actually my Monsoon eBay habit several years ago that made me give it a chance. I went through a stage of loving Monsoon's gorgeous skirts but not wanting to pay Monsoon's prices. So whenever I spotted a skirt I loved I headed to eBay and would usually find it on there for much cheaper. I kept hold of them for years, although I'm not sure I have any of them left now due to space reasons, so I wanted to see what their perfume was like. 

Michael Buble By Invitation & Monsoon Rose Gold

When I first pulled By Invitation* out of the envelope I was surprised by the size of the box and then the bottle, but this is the 100ml size. The bottle itself is probably one of the most unique bottles I've seen while still actually looking like a bottle. The packaging is gold and has a 'frame' that the bottle is suspended inside. It has a lid with what looks like a fairground shooting stall target on it (which I've just realised is supposed to look like a traditional atomiser) that pulls off to reveal the spray dispenser. It's quite a large, heavy bottle but the design does mean it might be quite easy to knock over if you bump into it. 

By Invitation is described as a crisp, floral, Oriental fragrance. It has top notes of red fruits and bergamot with heart notes of lilly of the valley, elegant rose, wild jasmine and spicy peony and base notes of sandlewood-musks and vanilla praline. This is quite a strong fragrance that I can still smell on myself a couple of hours after applying and that lasts really well. It's quite a floral scent to begin with and I thought it settles down to an almost spicy based scent but I think I'm misinterpreting what is actually an oriental scent as described. It's possibly not quite my kind of scent, I can't quite make up my mind about it, but I can appreciate that it is a high quality fragrance. 

As I said this is classed as a fine fragrance and definitely has a price point to reflect that with the largest bottle costing around the same as a small bottle from a traditional high-end brand. Prices range from £29 for 30ml up to £55 for the 100ml. 

Michael Buble By Invitation & Monsoon Rose Gold

Monsoon appear to have jumped on the rose gold bandwagon by not only going for a white box with rose gold writing and accents but have also called the fragrance itself Rose Gold*. To get the bottle out of the box you just pull the top of the box and the lid slides off. However, this does mean if you do forget that and go to pick up the box from the top rather than just open it you might end up dropping the bottle. The bottle is pretty enough but not the best I've seen and I tend to store it in the box because I find that slightly more attractive for display purposes.

When it comes to notes this one starts off with top notes of sparkling lemon, soft fruits and ozonic scents. I did have to look that last one up and it means 'aquatic' or 'watery'; meaning it has a sea-like or fresh citrus effect. These are layered over velvety rose, tuberose, neroli and cyclamen and base notes of Eastern woods, vanilla, mosses, musk and balsamic amber. I actually thought that perfumes only tend to have three scents to each layer, so this one is quite jam-packed. I don't think this is quite as strong as By Invitation but it does last well and this one is a sweeter scent with a musky base. Again I'm not entirely sure this one is quite me, but I do find myself reaching for it here and there.

I was surprised to find that the 30ml size I have here is £24 and the 100ml £35. For a fragrance from a high street retailer I'd expect to pay a little less than that and I'm not sure I'd pay that much for it myself.

You can find Rose Gold in Monsoon stores or online and By Invitation on the dedicated website.

Are you a fan of celebrity or high street store fragrances?

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Black Friday shopping tips

To be honest I have absolutely no idea what Black Friday is all about. The only thing I do know is that it originates in the USA and like Halloween it has now become big over here in the UK. For us at least Black Friday is a day (or sometimes longer, especially in the case of Amazon) where retailers offer big discounts on products. Although I have no idea what Black Friday is based on I personally think it's great that we've taken up the tradition. For retailers it means they get a surge in sales in the run up to Christmas, with Christmas often accounting for a large portion of their yearly sales anyway, and for us it means we can grab some bargains. Last year I think I picked up two presents for family members in the Black Friday sales (and a little treat for myself too of course).



There are a few things you need to be careful of when it comes to looking at what's on offer for Black Friday though. A lot of people (I'm aware not all do) love spending money and buying things, especially when we think we're getting a bargain, but is it really a bargain when you later realise you don't actually need or even want the product you've bought. It's easy to get swept along in the excitement of thinking 'Oh wow that's cheap'.

Last year I set myself some rules for spending on Black Friday and this year I thought I'd add a few more and turn them into a tips post to try and help avoid the dreaded buyers regret once the day has passed.

Repurchases 
Make a list of the products you're currently using that you were already planning to repurchase at some point in the near future, maybe within the next month, and look out for those on offer. There may be no point picking something up that you're still not going to finish for another six months because depending on the product, by the time you open the new one it might expire quickly and then ay saving you've made will have been wasted. 

Wishlist
Make a wishlist ahead of time with specific products that you've wanted to try for a while and look out for them. This should hopefully stop you buying a product you don't really want just because it's cheap.

Brands
This one is a little more risky but if there aren't any specific products you want make a list of brands you'd like to try and browse those for discounts. Try and only buy products you will actually use though or again you could end up buying something just because it's cheap. Maybe make a quite specific list of the type of products you'd like to try within those brands such as oil cleansers or liquid lipstick and stick to those products.

Christmas gifts 
Make a list of the sort of Christmas gifts you'd like to buy each person and stick to it, even if you don't actually end up finding any gifts for anyone. You don't want to end up buying something that isn't really suitable for them because you convinced yourself it was perfect for them because it was a bargain.

Budget 
Set yourself a realistic budget that you can actually afford and stick to it, even if you later come across something else on your wishlist. There's no point getting into debt for a bargain.

Cashback 
If you're shopping online sign up to a cashback site and make sure you check if they offer cashback for the site you want to buy something from before you buy it. If they are offering big enough discounts they might well have put a hold on cashback offers for Black Friday, but it's worth a try. I've always used Quidco and find it very good. You can sign up for Quidco here

Avoidance 
If you really can't afford to spend anything and know that you won't be able to resist it on the day have an offline day or ask someone you trust to look after your debit/credit card and only give it back to you once Black Friday has passed. 

Happy shopping and I hope you find some bargains if you want them!

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The Body Shop festive scents 2016

The Body Shop has now released its limited edition festive scents for 2016 and this year there's been a little bit of a change. Last year saw the return of Glazed Apple, Frosted Cranberry and Frosted Plum replaced what was Vanilla Brûlee in 2014. This year we've seen a complete change with none of last years scents making a return this year. Vanilla is back in the form of Vanilla Chai, instead of cranberry or plum we have Frosted Berries and Glazed Apple has become Spiced Apple. 

The Body Shop festive hand creams
The Body Shop festive hand creams
The Body Shop festive hand creams

I have to say I'm really disappointed Glazed Apple hasn't returned this year as that was definitely my favourite out of their festive scents. I know it was very popular in 2014 as I only managed to get my hands on one hand cream before they sold out, but maybe it wasn't as popular in 2015. However, to be honest Spiced Apple is probably slightly more appropriate as a festive scent. Glazed Apple was a sugary sweet scent of apple whereas Spiced Apple is basically warm cinnamon apple pie. I don't know about your family but in ours those mini apple pies always feature in our Christmas dinner for the people who don't like mince pies.

I'm sure you know by now that I'm a big fan of The Body Shop's hand creams and it's become a tradition for me to pick up a few in the festive scents as soon as I can. I didn't get one in Vanilla Chai because I wasn't that blown away by it but I picked up the other two and was pleased to get them on buy one get one half price. As I've mentioned Spiced Apple is warm apple pie in a tube and Frosted Berries is a sweet berry scent. I haven't tried either of them out yet but I already know they're amazing! 

Products available in the festive scents include body scrub, body lotion, shower gel, foaming bath, shimmer mist, a fragrance oil and a candle. I think I might have to get my hands on that candle, although I am a little disappointing the actual candle isn't a little bit more exciting to look at as it looks rather plain. You can get your hands on the festive scents in store and online

Will you be picking up any products in any of the festive scents?

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Birchbox x Tatler November 2016 - Shake Your Tail Feather

This month Birchbox have teamed up with British magazine Tatler for a collaboration for the November box. Birchbox have previously collaborated with Tatler, but that was for an additional box you could purchase on top of your monthly subscription. The design of this months box is peacock feather and the theme 'Shake Your Tail Feather' is designed to get you ready for the party season.

Birchbox x Tatler November 2016 - Shake Your Tail Feather

Sadly you don't get a real peacock feather in the box, this is one my dad bought home for me last year, but as I had it and it's appropriate and beautiful I thought I'd pop it in the picture. I really need to find a little vase to store it in as it currently just lays on top of my jewellery box. Speaking of peacock feathers this months box is design is gorgeous. As I said in my last post I haven't been a fan of the designs of the drawer style boxes so far but October and November's box designs have been much more to my liking and when I get some time they will both be going on my desk as storage.

Birchbox x Tatler November 2016 - Shake Your Tail Feather
Birchbox x Tatler November 2016 - Shake Your Tail Feather

The first product I found in my box this month was a Nuxe Crème Prodigieuse Anti-Fatigue moisturising cream, which is for normal to combination skin. I tend to have normal to dry skin but as my skin does have problems absorbing products I'm definitely not opposed to trying products aimed more towards normal skin. I was a little disappointed to see a moisturiser sample in my box, but only because I have so many to get through and don't really need any more. Nuxe is a nice brand so I can see it being a nice product and to be honest with currently being ill and spending my entire life making puppets (hence the lack of posts recently) I might be needing an anti-fatigue product soon! This is a sample size of 15ml.

Next up I was excited to see an OCC product which is the Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar primer. I have previously tried a Lip Tar product, but I used too much and got in a right mess and threw it in a drawer and when I pulled it out again it had separated. This is actually a primer designed to help your lip product of choice stay in place for longer. As a big lipstick wearer I'm excited to try this. It contains Vitamin E, hemp and peppermint oil so it also soothes and hydrates. It's only a 2.5ml sample but you won't need to use much at all each time.

Birchbox x Tatler November 2016 - Shake Your Tail Feather
Birchbox x Tatler November 2016 - Shake Your Tail Feather

My next product is a full size one and is a High Definition Brow Define brow crayon in Vamp. I'm still yet to get on board with doing anything with my brows beyond tinting them here and there. I do actually have some now after managing to grow them out, but I'm not one for filling them in as I'm just not confident enough. It's probably something I should try though as they are a little sparse/bordering on bald in places. This is supposed to be enriched with oils so it glides on easily but after testing it on my hand I've found it quite hard and sharp with little colour payoff. It does come with a sharpener in the lid though, which is always handy.

Although I've tried a couple of different Tangle Teezers I'm yet to try a Wet Brush so I was pleased to see a Midi Wet Brush in my box. This is obviously full size as you can't really have a sample size hair brush, but I believe 'midi' means it's not the largest size one they do. I have heard Wet Brushes are supposed to be better than Tangle Teezers so I look forward to seeing how I go with it. My only disappointment with this is that I would have loved to have got the purple one!

Finally I found a 4ml sample of Darphin Rose Aromatic Care Essential oil elixir. I don't think I've tried anything from Darphin before and I do like trying out a new oil, but this contains lavandula, which is a type of lavender, so due to my allergy I won't be able to try this out. 

Although some of the products are not ideal for me personally, I think this month's box is a pretty good one. Highlights for me are the Wet Brush and the OCC lip primer, but the oil will be passed on, the eye pencil probably never used and the moisturiser will go to the back of the queue. If you'd like to sign up to get your hands on the Birchbox x Tatler box you can do so here. Oh and before I forget a sneek peak of the December box reveals it will contain a full size Ciate Fierce Flicks eye liner. 

What do you think of this months box?

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