Beauty Review: Andrea Fulerton Eliza

Continuing my quest to use (or at least try) all my nail polishes, and in honour of the fact that we've had something that can actually be called a summer - which I have no doubt now jinxed, sorry! - I decided that today felt like the day to try Andrea Fulerton Nail Boutique Colour in Eliza, a beautiful shimmery aqua blue which (I think) is named after the pop star Eliza Doolittle. Incidentally, if you haven't heard her new song, 'Big When I Was Little', you should - it's a 90s childhood in three awesome minutes.

I'm actually really liking the photo on the notebook background, I think it looks pretty cool. I'm currently trying out a few ideas for new backgrounds for my nail pictures so please let me know what you think of them!


First of all, I love, love, love this colour - it's a beautiful shade of blue. I actually think this is a really good dupe for Chanel Azure - certainly based on the photos I've seen of the latter it seems to be pretty similar colour-wise. It also has a fantastic duochrome effect where it looks much more purple in certain lights. I like the fact you can build it up as well - the photo on the right is with three coats, the photo on the left is with two, and you can really see a difference in the colour as it gets more intense with each coat but still gives a good level of coverage and sheen with two.

In terms of coverage, I actually found this polish to be pretty good; as you can see from the second photo it looks pretty decent with two coats, although I think I prefer it with three just because I like that richer more intense colour. The formula was a little bit gloopy, but I think that might just be because I've had it for a while so will add some Seche Restore to try and thin it out a little. Durability-wise, it was really good - I did this on Saturday morning and there was tip wear on Tuesday morning, but the first small chip didn't appear until Thursday and there were no big chips by the time I took it off next Saturday, so I'm quite impressed with that!

Overall: beautiful colour, decent formula and coverage, so a good little buy to keep the summery mood going - I think it'd look fantastic on toenails with white or silver sandals, or in the sand on a beach somewhere. Highly recommended.

If you fancy trying Eliza you can pick up a bottle at Superdrug for £3.99, which I think is an absolute bargain for such a good quality polish in a lovely shade.

What do you think of this colour? Have you tried any other Andrea Fulerton polishes? What's your favourite blue polish that you own? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

What I Wish I Wore: Glamour and ELLE September Covers

I've never really been a fashion blogger - I openly admit I'm not cool enough for that. However, at the moment there are so many great things in the shops, as I blogged about previously, and that has of course transferred to the covers of various magazines. The September issues have been out for about a month, filled with lots of gorgeous clothes, but there were two that really stood out on the rack - including one that compelled me to buy the magazine for the first time - and so I had to blog about them!

The first is Glamour, which I've bought on and off for years - mostly for the articles, occasionally for the free gift, but this time I bought it solely for the cover. How amazing does Lily Collins look?! I am a sucker for a red fit and flare dress, and that Dolce & Gabbana number is just gorgeous. The shape is beautiful, particularly in the skirt, and I love the overlaid pattern which gives it a slight Victorian edge whilst stilling looking fresh and modern. Frankly, I'm amazed I haven't see a high-street copy of it yet - although if you do, please let me know! Combine that with her gorgeous porcelain skin and very simple make-up, plus the amazing beehive (a hairstyle I always desperately want to achieve but never can) that brings yet another retro element into the look, and I just love everything about it. It looks like something that would be absolutely perfect for a winter special occasion, such as a wedding or a Christmas party, and is something I'd love to try my hand at recreating. The only thing I'd really like to see is the shoes they put with it - I can imagine it working really well with a classic Mary Jane for the ladylike edge or something with a bit of sparkle as a 'party' outfit.

If Lily's Glamour cover is picking up on the vintage ladylike vibe of the coming season, then Katy Perry's cover for Elle is all about the rebellious, punky side of things. I'm not quite sure I'd be brave enough to wear the Dolce & Gabbana checked peplum top and shorts she does (have I unwittingly outed myself as a Dolce fan in the course of this post?), but I really like those Louboutin boots - they look so awesomely bad-girl and would actually go with quite a lot of things I already have in my wardrobe. Equally I also love the rock-chick vibe of her hair in its long, choppy, messy layers and the smudgy 60s-style eye make-up. And it's certainly easier to achieve than Lily's look, at least for someone like me who is ridiculously lazy and cack-handed. I have bought a very similar dress from New Look (see my AW Top Six post for more details!) so can see myself rocking out that hair and make-up with the dress to make it a bit more casual and relaxed, or working the look on a night out. Or, for the hair, even just everyday - I think when I next get it cut I might ask for that kind of layers put in.

Overall, I think these two covers both do a great job of conveying the vibe of the season in brilliantly different ways - both taking the 60s influence that has been huge on the catwalks and taking it in opposite directions. Plus, providing you're more adept at hairstyling than me, both looks are really wearable and have lots of elements that could transfer well to a 'normal' outfit. And now I want to go out and buy All The Things.

What do you think of these looks? Would you take any aspects from them and use them in your own outfits? And which September covers were your favourites? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

What I Wish I Wore: Autumn/Winter Top Six

I always get much more excited for the autumn/winter collections than I do for spring/summer. I don't know if that's my heritage coming into play - I grew up in the north of England, which is normally pretty cold and wet, so spent my childhood and teenage years wearing winter clothes most of the year anyway - but there's something about the possibility of being able to buy jumpers and coats and boots and woolly accessories that makes me so much more enthusiastic than looking at shorts and sandals.

Most of the magazines have now published their September issues, which means lots of lovely new AW things to drool over (there's a dress from Oasis I'm already eyeing up!), and the collections are already starting to creep into shops too. I went to Westfield yesterday and the big trends seemed to be all shades of red, lots of royal and navy blue, leopard print and lace, all of which are Very Good Things. But there are some pieces I've had my eye on for a little while now which will be key for my look in the next few months. So without further ado, here's my Autumn/Winter Top Six!

Apologies there aren't pictures for all of them by the way - quite a few websites have that zoom function thing where basically you can't select a photo. But please do click the links and take a look, I promise they're worth it!
 
1. Gatsby Patent Heels (Schuh, £20 down from £50)
The shoes that inspired this whole post! I spotted these weeks ago and fell in love, because I am a sucker for Mary-Janes and love pairing them with my various dresses and tights for outfits that mean I can go straight from work to a night out if needed. However, at £50, and already in possession of a pair of serviceable if slightly falling apart Mary-Janes that I've had for years, they were far too much. And then they went down. And down again. And before I knew it they were selling out, and I had to buy them or they'd be gone for ever! So they were a bit of an impulse purchase, but I think a brilliant one as they'll go with so many things I already have, and that's something I tend to look for in my shoes. They only have size 3s left on the website though so if you want to get your hands on a pair of these then get in there quick!

2. Holly Willoughby Tartan Frill Hem Dress (Very, £55)
I love, love, love this. I just think it's a really great winter dress as it looks lovely and warm, but the grey colour means it's still smart enough for work or for a night out (Christmas party anyone?). Yes £55 is a lot of money, but for something like this that could go anywhere and would have a life for many winters to come I think that's worth it. I've already got my eye on this for Christmas - this year we're off to the nice hotel near my parents' house for a big lunch with all my dad's side of the family, and as my aunties and female cousins on that side are all very glamorous (as are my mum and sisters) I need to pull out all the stops! So I'm thinking if I invest in this I'll put it with black or lace tights and the patent Mary-Janes, and possibly rock out a bright lip such as Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Anarchy.


3. Monochrome Check Dress (New Look, £23)
I first spotted this on the lovely Chelsey Prentice's blog Fashionista on a Budget and thought it was a great piece that would be really transferable between seasons - for example now you could wear it on a warmer day with a black cardigan and ballet flats, and then once it gets colder I'll put it with a long sleeved black top underneath, tights and (you guessed it) my patent Mary-Janes. I'd rock it either with black eyeliner and big long eyelashes, or with a slash of red lipstick to add a dash of colour, and finish off with my old Topshop black and white spotty Alice band.

4. Leather Turnlock Handbag (Cath Kidston, £95)
I know, I know, it's crazy expensive, but for a classic handbag that will go everywhere and (hopefully) last for years, I think this is definitely worth the investment. It's also not too 'showy' as well which I like - Cath Kidston has some lovely things but often it is very clear where you've bought it from, whereas you'd have to get very close up to that to know it was from there. I am not a handbags girl so for me it's really important to have one bag that I can grab and take with me wherever I'm going, and this bag certainly ticks that box!

5. Peter Pan Collar Skater Dress (M&S, £49.50)
Even working in relatively casual environments, like I do, sometimes you need a smart dress and this definitely ticks all the boxes. It's the kind of shape I normally go for - fitted top half, flared skirt - and I like the detachable collar as well, meaning you can wash it with the whites and it won't end up going grey. It's a fantastic little dress for those days when you need something a bit smarter and I can imagine it working well for lots of different things like interviews and big meetings as well as going from work to meet friends for drinks or dinner.

6. Funnel Neck Double Breasted Coat (M&S, £49.50)
There's something inherently cheerful about a red coat for winter, as a little pop of colour in the world at what can be a drab and dreary time, and this is just perfect. I love the fact that it's petite - so often I find coats I love but then the sleeves are too long or the waist is in the wrong place on 5'3" me. Plus the classic shape and style means that it's something I would have for ages. Not surprisingly it's sold out in almost every size, probably in no small part due to the fact that this is the coat Tracy Emin wears in the new ad campaign which has been all over the internet in the last week, but I'm really hoping M&S get it back in based on its popularity so far!

So that's the top six for my AW13 wish list :) I've bought the shoes and the New Look dress already, and am saving money for the Very dress for Christmas, but the others might have to just stay as wishes. Oh well, a girl can dream, right?

What pieces are you loving for autumn/winter? How do you feel about the trends for the coming season? Are there any shops that you think have particularly great clothes in at the moment? Leave a comment and let me know!


Beauty Review: Balance.Me Daily Essentials Pure Skin Face Wash

I've been a bit slack with the empties posts of late, mainly because I had loads of things that were on the verge of being used up and then suddenly they all went at once, so I have a few to catch up on! This is the first, and it's my first skincare one: Balance.Me Daily Essentials Pure Face Wash.
I got this free with Glamour magazine, as a replacement for the Himalaya Herbals face wash I bought in India, and admittedly I mainly bought this for the price - at £2 for a 50ml size bottle, when the full size (125ml) is worth £16, I thought that was pretty good. The product describes itself as for normal to combination skin, which is very close to my skin type; I tend to get quite dry cheeks but my forehead and nose can get a little bit greasy and shiny, so I was quite keen to try this and see if it actually did balance my skin.

I have to say that it was a bit of a mixed bag in the end. Whilst it did make my forehead feel a little less greasy, it also made my cheeks feel quite dry and tight. Although once I'd applied my serum and moisturiser my skin felt OK, it's still not ideal, so that was something of a black mark against the product from the off. I also found that it smelt a bit medicinal, almost chemically, which is a bit of a turn-off for me. I'm aware that the brand prides itself on being (almost) fully organic, so that could explain why it smells as it does, but it still feels a bit like it's almost gone too far the other way. I don't mind products that smell of something but I do like it to be a nice smell!

That said, it did help to clear up my skin a little bit. I've had pretty terrible skin since I came back from travelling, which I think is mostly due to the water in India and then switching back to London water, and using this twice a day did help to improve things. (For the record, I use the hot cloth cleansing method as recommended by the Guardian's beauty writer Sali Hughes - flannel soaked in hand hot water, apply cleanser all over dry face, remove cleanser/make-up/dirt etc with hot flannel. You can use a muslin cloth and/or a separate eye make-up remover if you'd prefer.) So on that front, it did do what it said on the tin!

However, I have to say I don't think I'd buy this, mainly because of the price and how it made my skin feel - it just wasn't comfortable, and frankly that's where I draw the line in terms of whether a product works for me. Plus, £16 feels like a lot for a product that I don't love. In comparison to Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, which is in a similar price range, this just doesn't have that same luxurious feel and creaminess that would make me come back to it.

Overall, as a £2 freebie it's worth a try and would make a good product to stash in an emergency travel/weekend beauty bag, or for refreshing your face between work and going out (or is it just me who likes to take one load of make-up off before I do another one?) but I'm not sure I'd use it as my proper cleanser again. But if your skin is a little more oily than mine, then it might work better for you.

If you fancy trying this cleanser, you can buy it from the Balance.Me website or from a wide range of other stockists, including John Lewis and Lookfantastic, where it costs between £13 and £16 for a 125ml bottle. Glamour also quite often includes the 50ml size as a freebie (along with other Balance.Me products) so it's worth keeping an eye out for that.

An update on my goals

I'm aware that I promised a monthly goals update post when I came back to the UK in May, and didn't do it for June or July, so this is the update for those last two months...

Get a job
This has been moderately successful. I'm currently two weeks into a six week temp placement as a PA/administrator so at least I have money coming in, and I've had quite a few interviews since I last posted. Sadly most of them have been unsuccessful (at the time of writing I'm still waiting to hear back from four - two of which are about second rounds the week after next - and have one next week) but I've still got a few things on the go so hopefully something will come of that. Depending how the placement goes the PA thing is something I might consider doing in the future. I do like working in media relations but equally the organisation side of things and being able to have that close working relationship with someone is something I really enjoyed about my old job, when I was in a tiny comms team and it was me and the head of department, so effectively I was her PA. But we'll see how it goes...

Cook or bake something new every week
Big fat fail on this one I'm afraid! I know it's a lame excuse but job hunting really does take over your life, and so I haven't really had time to do this. However now I'm back in work, and starting to get sick of cheese sandwiches but not wanting to spend money on shop-bought lunches, I'm going to get back on the nice lunch wagon. I got paid yesterday (yay!) so tomorrow will head over to Tesco armed with a couple of recipe ideas and hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be able to put some photos of things I've made up for you :)

Reduce the beauty product stash
Now this one I'm pleased to say has gone well. I started seriously doing this as a challenge on the 28th June, when I had 138 products in my stash, and I'm now down to 132 in just over a month. That includes a spend of £11.54 on a hair oil, cotton buds and a face wash. The goal is to not buy any new toiletries until I've used up the ones I've got and don't want to keep, so I'm thinking I'm doing all right so far! The only thing is I haven't really been able to try any new nail colours with having lots of interviews, but hopefully in the next couple of weeks that should calm down as I'm not applying to anything now until I've finished the placement.

Read three books a month
Yet again interviews have put this on hold, because my bedtime reading has been replaced by interview notes. And Middlemarch is long. But I am slowly working my way through it, and really not finding it all that bad after the horror stories my uni coursemates told me about it! I'm aiming to get it read by the end of the month and will hopefully do a review in the next few weeks. Thankfully the next few books I have to read are a lot shorter and easier so hopefully I'll be more able to achieve the goal next month.

Taking photos
Still haven't started on this I'm afraid. I think part of what's putting me off is the pressure that my photos should look perfect - every time I go on Twitter it's all Instagram and these amazing shots and I feel a bit like there's not much point because mine won't look like that. Which I know is silly and I should just get out there and do it, so starting today I'm going to restart this challenge and try and take a photo every day, even if they're not brilliant. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

Complete Zombies, Run! 5K
I'm still sticking with this and so far I think it's going OK. Admittedly I had a week off last week because I was away at the weekend and swamped by interview prep, and I'm not necessarily as fast as I was, so I'm thinking I might redo one of the weeks before I started to struggle to help build myself back up and then just keep going. Admittedly distance rather than speed is the goal, and I feel OK about that, but I'd like to be a little bit faster. So we'll see how I get on.

Clearing out my flat
Happy to say this is pretty much done! OH and I took a big load of clothes to the charity shop the other week and managed to get around £35 for the bag of DVDs and games we sold, so that's a good start. Next step is actually posting the Give and Make Up box that's under my bed and rapidly filling up with stuff to give away and going through my CDs to see what else I can sell.

So, it's been a bit of a mixed two months - wins on the clearing and the gainful employment, less so on the photos and the reading. So the goal for August is to keep on keeping on (or, in some cases, starting). I'll keep you posted with another update in September.

Do you set yourself personal goals for what you want to achieve in a month? What kinds of goals are they? And how do you motivate yourself to achieve them?

Music Review: Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm

The recent heatwave has brought out my inner love of summery music. There is certain music that is designed for long summer afternoons, and for me that's either wall-to-wall Britpop or 'folky guys with acoustic guitars'. As the first rays of sunshine sweep away the grey winter - and this year, with a winter that seems reluctant to let go (as I write it's blowing a gale outside and raining at Wimbledon), we've needed it more than ever - certain artists start creeping back onto my iPod and Spotify playlists. It started with Jack Johnson and Newton Faulkner, then last year they were joined by Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka who soundtracked eight months of long bus journeys. This year, there are three albums I intended to download before I went away and forgot: Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning; James Vincent McMorrow's Early In The Morning; and Benjamin Francis Leftwich's Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm. (For those of you playing along, the theme of this is mornings and middle names.) As Leftwich seemed to have flown under the radar in comparison to Bright Eyes, who have been around for years, and McMorrow, who shot to fame with his version of 'Higher Love', it only made sense to choose him for (what I think is) the first edition of What I Heard. Plus, he's a York boy - I went to uni there - so I couldn't not champion him.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.co.uk
Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm is an absolutely gorgeous album. It's music for lazy mornings, for those days when you don't have to do anything and there are endless hours stretching out before you, for drives cruising down long roads (well, maybe if you live in California or have miles of Aussie motorway to eat up). The album is packed with beautiful strummed guitar melodies that just make me want to go outside and just wander aimlessly, like those perfume ads where the wavy-haired girl in the white dress is strolling through the waist-high grass and it's all perfectly lit, and when that's coupled with the twisty-turniness of his rhymes - something I always have a soft spot for in these kinds of artists - it's completely lovely and a little bit magical. It is indeed quite Bright Eyes-esque in a lot of areas, coupling jangly tunes with surprisingly dark lyrics that has become a bit of a hallmark for acoustic guitarists, and yet it doesn't sound dated. In fact, quite the opposite - the slightly retro vibe makes it feel like something I could whack on in five, ten, twenty years and it would still be a good listen.

Standout tracks for me were 'Atlas Hands', 'Stole You Away' and 'Shine' - 'Atlas Hands' for its jauntiness, 'Stole You Away' for its slightly Eagles-esque backing track and 'Shine' for pure sing-a-longability (I can quite easily imagine a crowd swaying to it in a tent at a small boutique festival). Admittedly the songs do merge into one another after a point, as acoustic guitarists are a little wont to do, but I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing, especially for a debut. It's a calling card, after all - you're trying to say 'this is who I am' and a consistent musical style helps with that in my book. Save the experimental stuff for when you're a bit more established. That's not to say they're samey by any means though.

It's not going to rock the world by any means, but Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm is a solid whimsical debut album of gentle melodies and lyrics that are poetic in a slightly teenage way, and it has found its way onto my summer playlist. I'll definitely be listening to this when I'm sitting in the park on warm sunny days - if we get any more of them, that is.

If you fancy checking this album out it's available on Spotify, or £4.49 for the MP3 download on Amazon and iTunes - iTunes includes a bonus track (and two videos, although I'm less bothered about those) so I'd go for that version.

Beauty Review: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Shampoo

First of all, yet again (I know, I know) I'm sorry I haven't posted an update for a few days. I've just been mad busy with interviews in the past few weeks and so unfortunately blogging has been put on the back burner a bit. However, I did score a six week temp job - starting tomorrow - so hopefully that means I can relax from the job hunt grind a little bit and start to blog a bit more.

So today I have another empties post for you, and this time it's a haircare one - Herbal Essences Hello Hydration shampoo. As well as writing about products that might have gone under the radar, I wanted to write about classic products, and Herbal Essences definitely falls into that category; it's been going since 1972 and has won rave reviews from beauty editors and users alike, as well as spawning many own brand imitations. Put it this way, you know you've made it when both Boots and Tesco are copying your packaging...

Photo courtesy of herbalessences.com

Hello Hydration is one of 12 Herbal Essences ranges, and is designed for dry or damaged hair, which right now sounds ideal for me. My hair is in desperate need of some tender loving care - I haven't cut it since December, which is the longest I've ever gone between haircuts (although once I get my first paycheck a haircut is the first thing on my list!), and it's showing as it's turned into a dried-out frizzball from travelling and crazy UK weather. So I had high hopes for this product to help restore my hair's condition.

First of all, one huge point in Hello Hydration's favour is that a 300ml bottle lasts forever. I bought the bottle I've just finished in New Zealand in December after the aforementioned haircut and have only just finished it (although I should add it was supplemented with a few hotel shampoo sachets whilst I was away). It also smells lovely, mostly of coconut but a little bit fruity as well, which is always a nice bonus.

However, I don't think it's done a massive amount for my hair in terms of making it feel less dried-out. Just after washing it goes lovely and soft and shiny, and my hair does feel cleaner, but by day two it's gone back to the dried-out frizzy stage again. So on that note, I'm afraid to say this one is a big fat fail for me as it simply isn't doing what it says on the bottle. Which is a shame really, as normally I try to find a positive in every product I try but this one just doesn't work as anything other than a basic cleaning shampoo, so I'd probably just use this for after the gym or swimming.

Overall: A decent cleaning shampoo that's cheap, lasts for ages and smells decent, but just isn't moisturising enough for me.