Beauty Review: Lush Creamed Almond & Coconut Smoothie

I'm trying out a couple of new ideas for the blog as a means of developing it further, and one of those is empties posts. I've done a couple of reviews of beauty products that weren't nail polish (as hard as that is to believe!) but it's something I wanted to do more of. Having seen empties posts and videos on a few other blogs, particularly over at lilmisschickas, I thought this would be a good thing for me to do so I wouldn't forget what products I've tried and whether or not I liked them. I've also started working on using up all my old beauty products, as part of a means of saving money whilst I'm still job-hunting, and starting a series of empties posts seemed like the best way to tackle both of those!

Photo courtesy of

The first post for this column is going to be Lush's Creamed Almond and Coconut Smoothie, for the simple reason that it was the one I most recently used up. It does also have some sentimental value for me as it was one of the first products I ever bought when I was first introduced to Lush. I never shopped there much when I was younger - the product of growing up in rural Lancashire - but when a schoolfriend moved to Leeds and couldn't stop singing its praises I had to try it. Admittedly in recent years I've fallen out of love with it, due to over-elaborate stunts and discounting a lot of products I loved (I'm still in mourning for Tramp shower gel and 25:43 perfume), but when they got it right in those early days, they got it so right.

Creamed Almond and Coconut Smoothie is pretty much what it says on the tin - think of it like putting soap into a blender and mixed with natural oils to create a very thick liquid. The first thing I have to say is it smells absolutely amazing. As well as the almond and coconut, it also contains vanilla pod and ylang ylang, creating the most beautiful rich, sweet smell that's really unusual too - I'm still sniffing the pot for those last lingering traces of the scent. It's also fantastically moisturising. As someone who's suffered from dry skin patches since I was little having a product like this, packed with lovely ingredients that feed your skin, is brilliant, especially in the winter. The fact that I don't have to use a body lotion with it is testament to the fact that this stuff works (although I would have loved a body lotion or a perfume of this scent), and I am absolutely bereft that it's gone.

Yep, you read that right - sadly, I'm afraid to report that Lush discontinued this product a little while ago. :( I'm sorry to start this series off with something you can't get any more, but I love it so much that I just had to share it with you guys! A quick Google reveals that it is still available in the US though, so if you're heading over there on holiday (or know someone who is) hopefully you might be able to pick some up if you fancy trying it. And you never know, if you keep an eye out on the Retro section of the Lush website they might just bring it back...

Have you tried this product? What did you think of it? Does it sound like something you'd use? What other Lush products do you love? And please let me know what you think of this as a new feature, I'm always keen to get feedback!

Topshop Mannequin and Andrea Fulerton Annie

I'm not normally the type for nude polish - I prefer having something bright and cheerful on my hands - but as the saga of trying to reduce down my nail polish box continues I thought I'd finish a blog I started many moons ago on Mannequin, a peachy nude polish from Topshop's phenomenally successful make-up line.

In the three years since Topshop Make Up (has it really been that long?), it's become known for its quirky polka dotted and striped packaging and for great quality affordable products. I have a ton of stuff from there - their Saddle eyeliner is my go-to weekend make-up and I'll be bereft when I eventually finish my Brighton Rock lipstick. But one area where they've really excelled is their nail polish, specialising in on-trend funky colours with brilliant names. So Mannequin is a little bit of a departure for them as it's definitely more of a classic shade rather than a fashion one.

The first thing I have to say is that it applies really nicely. I am the least dextrous person ever and the fact that I managed to do two coats of this with only marginal scraps going onto my fingers speaks volumes about how easy it is to apply, so points for that. It is however slightly thin for my liking in terms of coverage - two coats does leave a little bit of streakiness, although as I've said before I suspect this is an issue with paler polishes in general and not necessarily specific to this shade or brand. The other issue is that it seems to be a much different colour once it's on. I'm not sure how much you can see in the photograph but it is much peachier on my fingers than it is in the bottle, so just to be aware of that if you do want to invest.

I haven't done a top coat on this, for reasons you'll see in a moment. Base coat is Revlon Post Trauma Nail Treatment as usual - although my nails are in pretty good condition right now I used to have terrible ridges, particularly on my thumbnails, and this has helped sort them right out. Plus the fact that you can put polish on top of it, unlike some treatments, is a bonus (it dries into a slightly milky colour so doesn't work too well on its own).

One of the great things about more neutral nail polishes is that they give you a nice base to play around with some more interesting effects, and whilst I thought Mannequin was OK I wanted to liven it up a little bit. I'd spotted the idea for silver laid over nude in a magazine and thought this was the perfect opportunity to experiment, so I grabbed a bottle of Andrea Fulerton Annie - a sparkly silver polish - from my kit and applied a very thin coat of it over the top of Mannequin. This was the result (with added Seche Vite top coat):

I have to say I'm a litle undecided on this. On the one hand, it feels like a good way to grunge up a polish that could potentially be quite prim and proper but without it being too in-your-face (I'd like to see it with a pale blue), as well as the fact that it can look very different depending on how the light hits it. But then at the same time, I'm not sure I like the messiness of it close up. With crackle, that messiness is part of the effect and it tends to be that it adds edge because of how it's formulated. This to me just looks a little bit sloppy when I look at it closely (though I should add it looks much better on the photo).

In terms of durability, I painted these on Friday afternoon - when I wrote most of this post - and there was marginal tip wear on Tuesday morning. First proper chip was spotted Thursday lunchtime (although I did manage to hack a lump out of it on Wednesday fiddling with keyrings, but that doesn't count as it was something I did not just natural wear and tear). So I'd say that's pretty good; clearly the Seche Restore is working!

Overall, I actually liked Mannequin a lot more than I thought I would once it was on. I think it's something that could potentially become a great staple polish, especially if you worked in a fairly corporate job where bright colours were frowned upon for nails. I like Annie as well - it would be a brilliant shade with, say, an all-black outfit for an evening out, or perhaps for a holiday if you want something that really grabs the light - but I'm just not sure that these two do actually go together all that well. It's a bit like when you were a kid and mixed red and purple thinking you'd get this amazing colour, and what you ended up with was brown. But oh well, at least I tried it!

If you fancy picking up a bottle of Mannequin, it's £5 from the Topshop website but check in stores as well as sometimes they may have it (in the unlikely event you're not near a Topshop John Lewis also stocks it). Annie is available in Superdrug stores and on their website - it's currently £3.99 as opposed to the usual £5.10. I'm also prepping a blog on Annie on its (her?) own, so look out for that in the next few posts!

What do you think of this manicure? Would you try a similar effect with your polishes? Let me know in the comments (and please share pictures, I'm always keen to see other people's nail art!).

Film Review: Hot Fuzz

Firstly, apologies that this has been so late in coming. I know it's a lame excuse but I've been so busy with applying to jobs and preparing for and going to interviews (I've had a fair few in the last month but not got myself hired yet), which is a full-time job in itself, and by the time all that's done I've got various life stuff going on - relatives and friends to see, errands to run etc - so unfortunately blogging became one of those things that fell by the wayside. But thankfully that seems to be winding down a little bit at the moment, so now I'm going to try to be much more regular about writing my blog. And with that, on to today's post!

I am a big, big fan of the film Shaun of the Dead, described by its creators as a 'rom-zom-com' where the titular Shaun (played by Simon Pegg) sets out to win back his girlfriend and generally get his life sorted in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Shamefully I have never seen Spaced - one day I'll sit down with 4oD and gorge myself on it - which was a 90s sitcom starring Pegg and formed the basis of the later film, but Shaun is brilliantly funny, inventive and heartwarming, and I really can't recommend it enough if you haven't already seen it.

Pegg, Nick Frost (his co-star in Shaun as Ed the lazy flatmate and who also appeared in Spaced) and Edgar Wright (who co-wrote and directed Shaun and Spaced and may also be known to you as the director of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which I will blog on another time) have since produced two further films tied to Shaun as part of their Cornetto Trilogy - although I prefer its original name, 'Blood and Ice Cream'. The final film (sniff!), The World's End, has just been released in cinemas and according to the reviews is very good indeed, but before I watched that one I wanted to see the second of the three, Hot Fuzz, and that's what I'm blogging about today.

Hot Fuzz stars Pegg as PC Nicholas Angel, a London copper who's so good at his job that he gets promoted to sergeant and transferred to Sandford, a sleepy Gloucestershire town where seemingly nothing happens and the local police - including Frost as action film-obsessed PC Danny Butterman, the son of the local inspector - spend their days eating cake. However, after a series of mysterious deaths, Angel and Danny begin to suspect there's more to the town than meets the eye...

Watching the film now, which was made in 2007, you get a sense that it is a little dated - the scene where Angel arrests the entire clientele of the local pub for underage drinking, some of whom are shown to have been born in the 1980s, stands out for me. The ending also feels a little dragged out- whilst it has its moments of brilliance, including a fight in a model village and what can only be described as death by swan, a lot of the last 35-40 minutes feels like the filmmakers had a lot of ideas and decided to shoot them all, which was probably a lot of fun to make but feels like it could have been a good few minutes shorter, especially the fight in the supermarket. And, considering it's a buddy cop movie, I was really surprised there was no 'two days away from retirement' gag.

That said the first hour is really strong - the jokes come thick and fast and the small-town mentality is captured perfectly, particularly in the scene where Nicholas eventually discovers the reasons behind the spate of murders, plus several brilliant action movie cliches for those of you who like your trashy film nerdiness. Plus there's some brilliant casting, particularly Timothy Dalton as the suspiciously slick manager of the local Somerfield, Jim Broadbent as Danny's dad Inspector Frank Butterman and Olivia Coleman in a small but very funny role as Doris Thatcher, Sandford's foul-mouthed lone policewoman (or 'police officer' as Nicholas refers to her).

Overall verdict: Hot Fuzz has a lot of funny moments, but it definitely could have lost a good quarter of an hour and starts to lose its way a little bit towards the end. That said - and I haven't seen The World's End yet so please do correct me on this - it is weaker than Shaun and I don't think you particularly need to watch it to complete the set, but if you've already seen Shaun then there are definitely worse ways to pass a couple of hours.

TV Review: The White Queen

I'm going to shock you again, dear readers: two blogs on something relatively current in one week! And now that you've picked yourselves up off the floor...

I am a sucker for a good costume drama. When I was a kid I would be completely glued to those BBC adaptations of various children's books that were always on at Sunday teatimes in the depths of winter, and as I've got older I've amassed a steady collection of DVDs of every possible version of classic novels brought to the small screen. (For the record, if I had to pick one, the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice wins hands down.) So when I spotted the BBC's production of The White Queen, based on Philippa Gregory's series The Cousins' War, I knew my Sunday nights were block-booked for at least six weeks.

The series' USP is that it focuses on the women involved in the War of the Roses - the titular White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, is the daughter of a Lancastrian lord and Jacquetta, descendant of the Dukes of Burgundy and a practitioner of magic. Whilst out walking she meets the young York king Edward IV, who falls head over heels in lust with her and eventually ends up marrying her, to the consternation of his right-hand man, the Earl of Warwick. On the flip side of the coin is Margaret Beaufort, a devout widow remarried to an out-of-the-way lord and separated from her young son Henry, the Lancastrian heir. And then there's Warwick's daughter Anne Neville, who's drawn to Edward's youngest brother Richard. Still keeping up?

I have to say the Beeb have done a fantastic job of mixing three of Gregory's novels to create the series, keeping the stories running parallel and fitting together; although the series is called The White Queen, it's actually a mixture of three books from her Cousins' War series and seems to have been blended brilliantly well. I admit I've seen very little of Game of Thrones but there isn't that mixing of the books as there is here, particularly in terms of bringing characters to the fore. This does however mean it plays less like an ensemble piece, as GoT does, and more like snippets from each character's lives overlapping with one another. But equally it doesn't feel disjointed - quite the opposite, actually, with the three stories flowing together as the plots of each book overlap. There also seems to be much more emphasis on certain characters being brought to the fore as the series goes on - episode three, for example, is dominated by the Neville sisters, as well as Margaret coming to the fore, where Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta take a step back from their leading roles in the earlier episodes, giving each family their moment in the sun as well as their fall (and, in the case of the Lancastrians, their rise - surely that doesn't count as a spoiler?).

I've read a couple of Philippa Gregory's books before, including The White Queen, and actually quite liked them. I can hear the proper historians sniggering as I type that but I think if you take them with a pinch of salt they're actually not bad reads, especially if you want something a bit escapist. The TV show, on the other hand, seems to have succumbed to that thing that all historical dramas feel like they've had to do in the wake of Game of Thrones - that is, up the violence and the gratuituous nudity. OK, it's been a while since I read the book but I definitely don't remember it being that graphic. That said though I really do like the political intrigue that's going on and the shifting family allegiances running as an undercurrent to everything, which is one of the things that has been kept from the books and in turn from the actual history. I didn't know an enormous amount about the Plantagenets and the background to the War of the Roses prior to watching the series, although it's definitely sparked my interest in them. So if that's what you like in a TV drama then this is definitely worth a look, and even if it's not it's still a pretty good bet for switching your brain off for an hour before the madness of a working week starts again.

If you're not watching it already, the first three episodes of The White Queen are currently on BBC iPlayer, with new episodes on BBC Two every Sunday night at 9 PM.

Zombies, Run! 5K Training

Couch to 5K has become a huge thing in the past couple of years, and as part of my attempt to get fit on a limited budget I've decided to get back into running. I tried the NHS podcast before I went away but have to admit I struggled to get up the enthusiasm to do it regularly enough - not entirely sure why other than I think I just wasn't in the exercise mindset. But now I'm back on the exercise wagon, partly as a kick up the bum to get in shape for the wedding (I should add I'm not planning to drop loads of weight - I think the pressure on brides to drop several dress sizes is ridiculous - but I do want to look the best I can and frankly it's an incentive if nothing else) and partly as something to keep me busy whilst I'm job-hunting so I'm not sat in front of my laptop all day.

For those who may not know, Couch to 5K is basically a training programme designed to get you from no exercise to running 5K or 30 minutes, three times a week. There are loads of versions out there - if you type 'Couch to 5K' or '5K training plan' into Google and you'll find a ton of them, from running magazines to charities (unsurprisingly, in the wake of these plans becoming popular charities are jumping on the bandwagon and encouraging people to do a 5K for them) but I have chosen the Zombies, Run! 5K training. The reason I picked this one is because I'd heard great things about the main app but wanted a halfway house between the 'proper' runs and something I could do as a beginner, so this was perfect.

Zombies, Run!, as the name suggests, is a running app where the plotline is that you are Runner 5, carrying out various missions around a fictional town called Abel which has succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. Like many other 5K training plans, this one involves interval training (with the occasional bout of supply-collecting and running away from zombies!) where you walk for a set amount of time and then run, then back to a walk, and over a set amount of weeks your walks get shorter and your runs get longer until by the end you're running the 5K. As I said I've only tried this one and the NHS one so far but this is definitely my favourite of the two for so many reasons. I can listen to my own music, there's a ten-minute free-form run at the end where you can walk or run depending how you feel (helpful yesterday when I got slightly lost and had two hill starts together at the end!), and the app tracks your runs so you can see how far you went, your speed and your route. That last one is great for me because I run in Greenwich Park, where it's surprisingly easy to get lost, so it's fantastic being able to see where I went and to develop a good running route. Although I should add that getting lost is part of the fun :)

There is an initial outlay of £1.49 for the app, although there are plenty of free programmes out there such as the NHS podcast if you don't want to pay for it. Personally though I wasn't so keen on the NHS one as the music was a bit bleepy (for want of a better word) and it felt very repetitive, but each to their own - if that's what works for you then great. Exercise you enjoy is better than no exercise, after all.

I'm about a week and a half into it at the moment - the programme's supposed to take eight weeks but there are others that apparently can get you there in a month - and I'm still really, really enjoying it. The rest days, for example, I'm itching to get back out there, and I genuinely can't remember the last time I felt like that about an exercise programme, which can only be good. I think a huge part of that is the game element; it feels like you're achieving something and the fact you're getting little bits of the story every time you run. Plus hearing zombie noises in your headphones is pretty much guaranteed to make you sprint for your life!

So overall, I'm really enjoying getting fitter and having an excuse to get out in the fresh air, and now I'm just hoping that lasts. I don't have any specific targets other than get to the 5K, as unfortunately I've started the programme right around when all the 5Ks are being run, but I'll keep you posted with how I get on. Wish me luck!

Are you a runner? Have you done any of these programmes? What do you think of them - do they make a difference or are they gimmicky and easily forgotten? Or maybe you do something else?

Beauty Review: OPI Pink Flamenco

Yet again, I've been shopping in my nail polish stash as I endeavour to get the box cleared out and narrowed down to ones that I'll get the most use of and that I like the best. OK, that's a lie - the actual reason is because I want to buy new ones, but I'm being very strict with myself and not letting myself get any more until I get rid of some of the ones I've got!

So I did what anyone else would do when narrowing down their polish stash - I reached into my nail polish box, rummaged around a bit and went for the first one I pulled out, which was OPI's Pink Flamenco. Like a lot of my polishes, it's one that I've worn a couple of times but hadn't blogged about so thought it was a perfect pick for the blog, especially as (unlike a lot of the ones I write about, I know) you can still get it!

I'm trying a couple of new ideas for the pictures so you can get the best idea of what the polish looks like; I really like it against the white background, or the wooden one I've used before. (Oh, that's my engagement ring in the one on the right, by the way. First wedding post coming soon!) Surprisingly the one on the left, which made the polish look really when I took it, has actually come out quite well. Now the weather is hopefully starting to improve a bit - well it was before I no doubt jinxed it by saying that - I may also try taking some pictures outside using the brick walls all around our flat or the grass on the heath.

The first thing I have to say is I love, love, love the colour. It's just so bright and fun but is actually the kind of thing that would go great with lots of different things. I've worn it with a beautiful willow-pattern dress for a wedding, but equally it would work really well as a nice pop of colour with a little black dress or a monochrome outfit, or to girlify a rockier outfit.

Application was OK but a bit messy. The photos are post-tidy up so they actually look quite neat, but I did have to get seriously busy with the cotton buds to make them look like they hadn't been done by a five-year-old. Admittedly I'm not sure if that's because it's an old polish, so I've put a few drops of Seche Restore in there to see if that improves it.

The other thing I really like about this polish is it lasted really well. I did this manicure on Thursday afternoon and wrote most of this post on Saturday afternoon, by which point there was a little bit of tip wear. The first small chip appeared on Sunday night but it was minimal - I think the polish could have hung on for a couple of days longer before there was any truly significant damage. A small warning though - it did need a fair bit of scrubbing to get the last bits off. And this appears to be proof that Seche Restore works; I mixed a full pipette's worth into my Seche Vite and this is the best it's lasted in forever. So that's money I don't have to spend on a new top coat, at least for a while :)

Overall verdict: I really like this. It's a really versatile colour, applies well, lasts for ages and is all around a great quality polish. Can't recommend it enough.

If you fancy picking up a bottle, Pink Flamenco is available pretty widely at around £11.50 for a 15ml bottle - try John Lewis (not on the website but certainly the Oxford Street store stocks it), Sally Salon Services (again not on the website but check in store) or