My Favourite Candle.. Ever?!

It's no secret that I have a penchant for candles, and this winter I've been burning absolutely loads. There has, however, been one absolute stand out that I picked up in the Boxing Day Sales. Enter: Space NK's Shimmering Spice Candle

Aside from candles, I also have a huge love for Christmas. Anything festive and I'm just sold on it, and this is a festive candle so what more can you ask for? I've been burning it since I bought it and it just smells absolutely incredible. Think cinnamon mixed with citrus and spice, with a hint of vanilla and an undertone of woodiness, this candle just evokes festive feeling, and creates a gorgeous cosy atmosphere. Despite the fact that it lends itself to the advent season, I'll be burning throughout winter and spring, and probably autumn too. 

I wasn't really too sure what to expect of a Space NK candle, because they're probably not best known for having their own brand, but for selling others. Regardless, the formula has seriously impressed; it burns very evenly and cleanly, and the scent just gradually fills the entire room perfectly. Other than the fact that it doesn't photograph very well, my only qualms are that it is teeny tiny and limited edition, meaning that it is currently sold out online, although there is another suspiciously similar sounding candle in black casing that looks a bit bigger (I may have just clicked 'Add to Basket' on that one...).

You might still find this in stores but hopefully they'll also be bringing it back later on this year so definitely keep an eye out for it. Right now though, I'll make the bold claim and say it's my favourite candle to date. If you have any other recommendations then please do leave them below! I'm especially looking for something to add to my summer scent roster.. hint hint

Best of 2013: Tools and Brushes

Firstly, I'd just like to apologise for the unintentional brief hiatus that I've been on over the past week or so (has it been that long? *slaps wrist*). I've been really busy lately, and I'll still be busy over this upcoming week too. I have a lot going on at work and my driving test is on Wednesday so I'm trying to get in as much practise as possible! Anyway, onto today's post: my favourite brushes and tools of last year..

One of my favourite and most 'umm'd and 'ahh'd about purchases of the year was the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler. I knew that this was supposedly the best eyelash curler ever but it was also a pricey one, and I didn't really think I needed it, but on an impulsive whim I picked it up and haven't looked back since. It just gives the perfect amount of curl and really opens the eyes, prepping them perfectly for mascara, although I even use these on days when I don't fancy wearing mascara and it still makes the lashes do that fluttery thing. #1fan.

The next favourite is naturally, a MAC 217 brush, fluffy and tapered, this is perfect for blending eyeshadows and is just an absolute staple of my aforementioned eyeshadow kit. There are dupes on the market but I don't really think you can beat the real thing- if you are considering the purchase, I'd wait to see if it turns up in a sale anywhere because it is pricey- I got mine 15% off in the Debenhams sales so heads up!

The last makeup related item is my Real Techniques Expert Face brush, a.k.a my perfect go-to partner to foundation. I have yet to invest in the Core Collection, just because I don't think I'd use all of the brushes but the Expert Face Brush is just so perfect for buffing foundation into the skin. The size is also perfect for under-eye concealing too so think of this as a multi-purpose wonder product. Not too pricey either, considering it will last for ages with good care (it washes well too).

The Body Shop's Facial Massager is making the cut; I've been rolling this over my cheeks and neck a couple of times a week and it just leaves my skin feeling much smoother and more elastic, a very satisfactory dupe to that coveted jade roller. A few more miscellaneous bits include flannels (self explanatory, currently perched next to my cleanser in the bathroom ready for today's pampering session), matchsticks that I use constantly to light my candles, and my absolutely beloved crocodile clip that keeps my hair pinned up in a perfect messy bun (my standard hairstyle for whenever I'm at home).

Finally, I've got to show some love for my techy blog-related tools. Props to my MacBook Pro for just being generally great, this arrived at my house at the start of January but I did order it in 2013 so technically it counts. And of course, where would I be without my Canon 600D?! It definitely was my absolute favourite purchase of the year, without it, and of course the kit lens, my photo quality would still be horrendously bad and  I doubt I'd have as many readers as I do today.

What were some of your favourite tools and brushes of 2013?

Battle of the Clarifying Shampoos

Lately, I've been stuck in a bit of a rut with my hair- do I go for the chop, style it differently, just change it somehow? I've decided to reserve those thoughts for a later date though, because my current issue is oiliness. I'm not sure what it is about winter, but my hair seems to need washing much more than it does in summer, so I'm partly attributing that to the fact that I've been using more styling products to get it to through the whole 'non-frizzy mane' phase. Either way, I've turned to clarifying shampoos as my potential saviours, so here's the lowdown..

I'd been after Bumble and Bumble's Sunday shampoo since Anna mentioned it eons ago, but I hadn't needed something clarifying until a couple of months ago so I turned to it straight away, with the hope that it would balance my hair, remove any product build up and generally make my hair do that swishy thing for at least two days. But did it? Unfortunately not, it really didn't live up to my expectations. It's a bit of a strange one, because I find this to really make my hair feel super squeaky clean in the shower (which, as I discovered, is a feeling I'm not too fond of at all), but after combing it out and drying it, I found that my hair got.. wait for it.. greasier even quicker. Literally a day later, and my hair was looking so lank that I just had to wash it again.. with something a bit less clarifying! I really don't know why this didn't work for me at all, but I've heard that it works wonders for others, so maybe it's just an individual thing. On the plus side, I have seriously long locks, but I didn't need to use much of this at all which is a bonus if you do fancy picking it up, as I can see the shelf life of this massively outlasting Phyto's offering.

Phytocedrat was one of my Boxing Day Buys. It's strange and interesting but equally lovely- and it's the weirdest concoction that has ever braced my hair. Phytocedrat puts more of a focus on regulating the production of oils and excess sebum, and, whereas the Sunday shampoo had the typical gel-like shampoo texture, Phytocedrat is, quite astoundingly, a liquid. Just like water, with an orange tint, I had the shock of my life when it spilled everywhere in the shower, because I wasn't expecting anything as messy as a down-and-out liquid. I found it quite difficult to apply because it was so watery, but once on the hair, it lathered up surprisingly well and left my hair feeling really nourished and soft despite the clarifying edge that it also performs very well on. This kept my hair feeling very balanced, soft and clean for a good three days- guys, I think it's love- I've been using this as a once weekly treatment shampoo, and it has been serving me very well indeed. The chaps over at Phyto really know their stuff when it comes to hair, so I'm definitely going to be picking up a few things from them soon (any recommendations?)..

Ultimately, I'd go for Phytocedrat every single time. Although you don't get quite as much product, and it is quite a bit messier, it's considerably cheaper from a price point, so you really do get more bang for your buck.

Have you used either of these? If so, how did you get along with them?

The Face Mask Duo

Since receiving Aveda's Intensive Hydrating Masque for Christmas, I've discovered it's perfect pairing. It's still great by itself for a hydrating boost, but coupled with Aesop's Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque (which I am almost all out of, but a repurchase is on the cards), they are a dream team for a smoother, softer, calmer complexion.

Firstly, post-cleanse, I like to take a hot, damp flannel/cloth of some sort and hold it over my face- not only does it feel immensely relaxing, but it really helps the Aesop mask to cleanse a little deeper, and it's a fantastic little trick for softening the skin. I'll then go straight in and apply a 'not too thick, not too thin' layer the Aesop Parsley Seed mask all over my face, concentrating it particularly on the centre of my face, where I am currently suffering from quite blemished, irritated skin. Then I'll wait for it to dry- the instructions recommend no longer than 15 minutes, but I usually wait for it to dry completely which takes a little longer. I'll then remove this by firstly using the damp flannel, and then rinsing off any extra bits with my hands. Instantly, my skin feels smoother and softer and just deeply cleansed in a way that doesn't leave my skin feeling stripped at all.

For the second step, I'll slather on the Intensive Hydrating Masque, in all of its transparent gel-like glory. My skin drinks this up completely, and is not irritated in it by the slightest, it just feels so soothing and calming and it just feels like such a treat to use. Again, I'll leave it on but this time only for about 5-10 minutes as it doesn't need as long. I'll remove this mask the same way as the first, by running a flannel under hot water and placing it on the skin (no rubbing motions), dabbing away at my face until most of the mask is off. Then I'll just use my hands to rinse off any extra- as it's a clear mask, there's usually some parts I miss with the cloth. My skin just feels incredible after this little dual step pampering session, totally soft and smooth and cleansed- I usually reserve this combination for Sunday evenings only, but lately it's been slipping into part of my midweek cleansing routines, it's just so darn addictive!

To whack things up a notch, you could sandwich an exfoliating mask in the middle and really give your skin a good sloughing, but for now, this is enough for me.

Do you have a two-step face mask system? Which products do you use?

The Sunday Post: Looking Back At The Year

With 2013 well and truly over, I've been contemplating the happenings of last year, and making a mental mindmap of the things that I'd like to accomplish this year. Some call them resolutions, but I'm just putting them out there as general concepts. Anyway, I tapped back into all of last years memories to give you my review... of the year 2013. (Swift apologies for not having the creativity to spell this photo out in beauty products. Unfortunately, we can't all be Anna!)

To be honest, 2013 brought about some real highs and lows. Some of those highs included: beginning this blog- I'm feeling quite happy with how things have been working out lately, I've worked out a schedule that has enabled me to blog fairly regularly and I'm really enjoying the whole 'community feel' as such of the blogosphere; finishing school back in June was quite an exciting time- I wasn't really sure what to do as I'd chosen to take a gap year but I quickly found a job and despite having no friends in my town (they're all at uni, sad times), I've never been closer to my family so that is a real positive aspect of taking a gap year; and overcoming anxiety- I've blogged about it before, but I suffered from anxiety for years before realising that a change in attitude was all that I needed to overcome it.

Some of the lows, however, included: deciding not to go to university- I sometimes wish that I hadn't taken a gap year but I hadn't been certain about a course and I didn't really want to go to uni at the time; making the choice to retake my A-Levels- this year I'll be retaking two of my exams in the hope of improving my results, it'll be a lot of studying and I still haven't quite worked out how I'm going to handle my time; and suffering a pretty huge loss of confidence- it sounds hypocritical but this isn't directly related to anxiety... if you've followed this blog for a while and/or read any of my skincare posts recently then you'll know that my skin has been bothering me, and, as much as I'd like to- and often do- just brush it off and not let it affect me mentally, sometimes I find it difficult to cope with, so hopefully everything will begin to clear up this year.

I'm eagerly anticipating 2014, and hopefully it will be the year that I: go out of my comfort zone- I really want to start going out of my comfort zone more, whether it be trying new foods, talking to new people or going to a new place; make the big move to university- I reapplied to university a few months ago and have had some unconditional offers meaning that I can definitely go.. I'm sure I'll be really nervous when the time comes though as I'm a tee-total homebody vegetarian (i.e not everybody's ideal flatmate haha) but for now I'm just looking forward to a few more structured, purposeful years; pass my driving test- I'm all booked in for January 29th so it'd be nice to pass it; and oversee the potential growth of this blog- this one speaks for itself, I started this blog back in February and it's reaching a larger audience every month- for which I am incredibly thankful- because, dear reader, it's all down to you.

What did you think of 2013, and what are your goals for 2014?

My MAC Palette

If you read my recent beauty haul post, you'll know a bit about this impulse purchase. I think I got the combination pretty bang-on for what I would personally use- nothing too extreme, all fairly neutral colours.

I have discernibly bad circulation so, please, let's just ignore my hands...

I didn't think I'd get much use out of All That Glitters but it is just my favourite shade ever. It's slightly pink-toned with a touch of shimmer running through it (don't worry, it's not rose gold) and just looks so gorgeous either swept all over the lid by itself or used as a highlight for the middle of the lid/inner corner. It's such a versatile shade and it's great for eyeshadow newbies like me that don't really want to try anything too daring, I particularly love to pair this with a peachy-pink lipstick on days that I'm not up to a great deal.

Sumptuous Olive is an eyeshadow that I'd been lusting after for a seriously long time. It's a deep 'on the browner side' of moss green shade with a slight gold hint that is just absolutely stunning on every eye colour. Seriously (although I would say that it looks particularly great on brown eyes, mine are green and it still works). It's nothing too intense, and you can either a light dusting all over the eye for a pared down natural look, or you could pack it on to set the scene of a more intense smoky eye- although I'm currently too scared to venture into smoky eye territory!

The only matte shade in my collection, Cork is a haze of very neutral-friendly light taupeish brown that works perfectly as an all over shade, smudged in underneath the eyes as an eyeliner alternative, used to define the crease, maybe even as an eyebrow filler if you fancy, although it's slightly warm toned so be wary of that. Ultimately it's a great shade for anybody that wants to pick up a neutral non panic inducing eyeshadow that they can reap the benefits of.

The least used shade- so far- by an absolute mile has to be Club. I whimsically clicked 'add to cart' with this one after hearing that it's a slightly mysterious shade that isn't quite what it appears. In the pan, it seems like a dark navy-brown threaded with multi-tonal shimmer, but when applied, the colour blends out into an interesting bluey-greenish-taupe shade that can be built up to a more intense navy-grey with a glorious hint of something something extra. I seriously haven't worked out what to do with this, how to wear it, where to put it etc, but I'll endeavour to work it out.. Any tips?

I apply all of these with a MAC 217 brush which is not so great for packing on shadows but brilliant at blending things out, and for a girl like me that is hugely new to the eyeshadow category, I'm all about the blending. Although I have still been quite smitten with my bare eyed go-to, having this palette in my stash has given me a reason to actually attempt to make my eyes a little more interesting. I've done some experimenting over the past couple of months and I've gone out of my comfort zone and quite liked it.

What do you think of this colour quad combination? Feel free to leave any other eyeshadow recommendations down below..

Boxing Day Buys

Post-Christmas holidays obviously brings with it the Boxing Day sales. I woke up on that morning to about thirty odd emails from brands with their latest deals, and couldn't really resist having a sneaky peek into the online world of sales- after all, you'd be mad to think that I would actually make a trip to the real-life shops! Five or so hours later and I'd ended up with a large dent in my bank account but an equally large amount of satisfaction. Here's what made the 'added to cart' edit':

I repurchased one of my favourite cleansers, REN's ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser, which is just absolutely fantastic.. and currently on a 33% extra free deal. It feels so smooth and creamy on the skin and always leaves my face feeling cleansed, soft, and balanced but not at all stripped- there's a full review here if you want it. Whilst perusing the REN website, I also spotted that there is a mask to match the cleanser; the Clarity Restoring Mask, so I picked that one up aswell. A girl can never have too many clay masks, right? Stay tuned on this one.

The next site I hit up for it's online sales was, naturally, Space NK. I ended up purchasing their very own candle offering in the form of the Shimmering Spice Candle. Just the description alone sold it to me, but with a whopping 50% off the price making it a very reasonable £7.50, paired with the fact that Anna raved about it in her December favourites video.. well I just couldn't resist. Another Space NK buy was the Phytocedrat Shampoo, which I recently heard about from the lovely Jen's blog. It's supposed to be pretty good as a twice-weekly clarifying shampoo for oilier scalps. I've been in a slight rut lately with my hair, it's just been all over the place, from frizzy and dry, to oily and limp, most days I've just been slinging it on the top of my head in a messy bun and being done with it. I'm incredibly tempted to go for a chop and get a good few inches snipped off but the last time I went to the hairdressers, I left with an ear-level cut that just looked absolutely horrendous. That was three years ago, I've since grown out my hair to a length that is now too long and difficult to maintain, so watch this space- the new year could bring a new haircut!

 Feelunique was the last website that I got my debit card wielding claws on, and they had a pretty great sale on, but I resisted temptation and just picked up three things that I'd been craving for a while. Korres' Vanilla Cinnamon Shower Gel made it into the theoretical basket- I don't look for much in a shower gel, as long as they smell nice and do the job. A sweet vanilla scent paired with spicy cinnamon? I'm not sure how it's taken this long to be in my possession... After reading a lot of hype about the Caudalie Beauty Elixir, I thought I'd pick it up in the little 30ml bottle. I'm still not sure how I intend to use this, it'll probably fit in quite nicely as a hydrating toner but it's early days with this one- it smells absolutely divine though. Lastly, I picked up This Works' Deep Sleep Stress Less. It's pretty well known in our family that I just don't get much sleep due to pent up stress, I really do have some pretty rough nights that end up heralding me with as little as three/four hours a night, and I've not branched into the world of aromatherapy before so fingers crossed this'll have me out like a light in no time.

Did you pick up any bits in the Boxing Day sales?

The Best Of 2013: Bloggers

Well hello there New Year! I hope you all had a lovely time celebrating last night and aren't feeling too worse for wear this morning, but for this year I wish you all good health and happiness in abundance. Before I get too soppy, next up in the 'Best of 2013' mini-series is bringing you a compilation of my favourite bloggers. These are the main five that I go to every day without fail, these are the girls that could sell me anything and I treasure each of these blogs equally so they're all my favourites. Oh, and don't forget to pay attention to the couple of extra special mentions at the end...

Please do your best to excuse the bed head, the featured blog here belongs to the lovely Jen

Vivianna Does Makeup: If you're new to the world of beauty blogs, then this is your go-to. Start here, rifle through the archives, gaze at the gorgeous photography, have a hearty chuckle at the witty repartée and you're all set. Anna covers all of the bases, and if I ever need a product review or makeup suggestions, whether I have a beauty-based question, need some fashion know-how, or am in a techy situation, this is my primary source. Follow this blog and you'll be surrounded with regular posts about new launches, luxury and drugstore posts, and of course, let's not forget that YouTube channel. Those get ready with me videos? Just perfection. 

Jennypurr: I truly do feel as though me and Jen were separated at birth, we are that alike. I think that we have a really similar skin type, as her skincare recommendations always seem to work for me, and whenever I've been let down by a product, she usually has been too so this is where I always head for my skincare fix, although the makeup and haircare posts that are interspersed also make for some really lovely reading. I feel like this blog has really come into its own this year, and I'm so excited to see what 2014 brings for Jen- the rumour mill brings with it whispers of a possible YouTube channel which I am more than ready for. 

I Covet Thee: Another beauty blogger and not-so-secret vlogger is the gorgeous Alix. Ever classy, flawless and just so sweet, Alix's writing style is on point, personable yet professional, and her haircare posts make for some seriously envious reading. Her blog layout and photography are just completely neat and seamless and to round it all off, the videos that grace my YT feed are always impeccably edited and a delight to watch.

Hello October: Suzie's videos are the first thing I watch on Sunday morning. This is one girl with immaculate style, which is very evident in her gorgeously filmed outfit edits. The makeup tutorials (particularly the Lily Collins one) have just been on replay, plus all of the lovely hauls and monthly favourite videos just hit the nail on the head- she's one to watch for sure. I peruse Suzie's blog daily too, it's definitely one of my must-reads but be warned as this girl is a huge enabler... I've made quite a few H.O-inspired purchases over the past few months!

Bonjour Luce: My usual morning consists of my bowl of cereal, flicking on the radio, and browsing Luce's blog. She really does know her makeup so well, and applies it beautifully. Despite the fact that any 'make up look' post is sure to evoke the green-eyed woeful stares from me as Luce always looks flawless and effortlessly sophisticated, I really do love reading all of her posts, they're well-written and full of important detail, yet succinct enough to keep things interesting. Oh, and that perfectly tousled ombré hair? I'm not sure how she does it either but it's pretty darn good.

I'd also like to give a special mention to two other people that have been top of my bookmarked list this year. First up, Faye's YouTube channel has just made me really quite happy lately. Not only do I love all of the products she mentions and her videos are well-edited, but Faye just seems like the nicest person ever. My must-watch videos? It's gotta be her American road trip vlogs- so jealous! Secondly, where would I be without Caroline? Her cheat sheets alone have made for hours of leisurely reading, and I feel like I know my skin a ton better now that I know how to take care of it properly. If you've not heard of Caroline's blog then climb out from underneath that rock because this one is taking the blogosphere by storm- expect big things. 

Who are your favourite bloggers? I'd love to have some more recommendations!