Birchbox June 2015: Step Outside

Apologies that this month's Birchbox post is a bit late - for some reason mine didn't turn up until the end of last week and I wanted to do a proper review of the products before I posted. But it's here now! This month's box was in partnership with the shoe company French Sole, who make the most lovely ballet pumps in every colour and pattern you could imagine, and the theme was 'Step Outside' to coincide with the start of summer and taking advantage of all the outdoor opportunities the season has to offer.

This month Birchbox let subscribers pick their box design, and I went for this adorable 'From Paris With Love' option. I'm a sucker for anything French-themed, red and/or striped so it was a no-brainer really!





Looks like a pretty good selection this month! Here's what was inside...

Beauty Protector Protect & Oil





I've really liked the previous Beauty Protector products I've got in previous Birchboxes and am a sucker for a good hair oil; as I use straighteners on an almost-daily basis I'm always looking out for something that will still leave my hair feeling nourished after heat styling. So I had high hopes for this product - and they were fulfilled. Firstly it smells amazing (sort of like vanilla but in a deep, rich way rather than overly sweet), which alone would sell me, but the fact it left my straightened hair feeling soft rather than the straw-like effect I sometimes get from other heat protector treatments. I haven't tried it for blow-drying yet but am hoping it will make my hair feel just as lovely.

Balance Me Super Moisturising Body Wash




I will admit that initially I was a bit disappointed to get this because I already have a bottle when Glamour magazine did their Balance Me freebie a few months ago - I'd been hoping for the Cowshed body lotion instead so I could try something different. However, for those with dry skin on the body like me, this is a really great product. It's really moisturising but without being too rich or sitting on your skin after a shower, lathers up nicely (is it just me who hates shower gels with no bubbles?) and has a nice scent that's slightly citrus-y but 'clean' at the same time, making it a really great base for summer perfumes. I also found I didn't need body lotion after using this which is always a bonus for me! So not the most exciting product but I'm quite pleased to have a spare - not that I'm short of shower gel mind...

Penhaligon's Iris Prima





I was really excited to get this because Penhaligon's is one of those brands I've wanted to try for years (yes, I'm a nan) but haven't had the budget to stretch to it. However, after trying this I might have to try and scrape together the pennies. Inspired by the English National Ballet, it's a lovely balanced fragrance with a fresh top note and then settling down into a creamy, grown-up scent that's floral from the iris but not overly girly. I think this would be a great all-round perfume; you could wear it to go to important meetings at work in the day and then for a nice dinner or drinks in a bar afterwards. Definitely my favourite thing in this month's box - now I just have to resist the urge to wear it all the time!

Premae Mild Dermabrasion Face & Body Scrub





I'm not normally big on scrubs - I prefer to use flannels for my face and bath lilies for my body - and I'm not quite sure this is the one that's changed my mind. It's quite a 'thin' texture (I suspect because of the olive oil) and the pieces of scrub aren't very big or dense, so it means you have to use quite a lot of it to feel like you're getting a 'proper' scrub. That said, it did feel really gentle on the skin, had a nice sort of neutral scent and wasn't too drying or harsh, so I think if it had a bit more scrub in it it would be ideal for me. Plus it would be really good if you were going on a trip somewhere as you can use it for your face and body.

Mirenesse iCurl Secret Weapon 24Hr Mascara







(Top pictures with mascara, bottom pictures without. Apologies for terrible eyebrows!)

This is the second Mirenesse product in my Birchbox in two months and I have to say they've both been pleasant surprises. In beautiful sleek black packaging, the mascara claims to curl and separate lashes, so I was intrigued to see how it would compare to my Benefit Roller Lash. And so far, it seems to deliver - as you can see in the pictures my lashes definitely look more 'full' and have a bit more curl to them. I also found that it didn't flake off during the day (even though it was really hot when I was testing it!), so bonus points for that. But, as it doesn't have quite the same 'wow' factor for me as Roller Lash, I think this will stay as a sample rather than purchasing the full size.

STYLondon Temporary Metallic Tattoos



This month's extra product was these temporary tattoos from STYLondon. I haven't tried these yet (not sure they're entirely work-appropriate) but I like the simple designs of them - they would be a great alternative to bracelets on holiday or at a festival.

Birchbox x French Sole Shoe Bag



Finally, the box also contained this super-cute shoe bag to match the design. I've been using this to carry my shoes in my bag for work (I usually wear trainers to walk to the office and then change them once I get there) and it's been really useful - rather than scrabbling around for them it means I can find my shoes really easily. It does look a bit less pristine white now though!

Overall I was really pleased with this month's Birchbox; there wasn't anything I wouldn't use apart from maybe the temporary tattoos, and I haven't had any huge disappointments. I really loved the hair oil and the perfume though so those will be going on the 'to-buy' list once I've finished the samples (and all the other stuff I own. I am not looking forward to the pre-move declutter...)

Did you get the June Birchbox? What did you think of it?

Five Summer Dresses For All Occasions

As the summer gets into full swing, my thoughts are turning to summer dressing - not just the onslaught of weddings and parties, but also things as simple as what to wear to work (which, given the changeable nature of the British summer, often feels nigh-on impossible). That, coupled with an itch to shop but a lack of funds, led me to today's post: five of my favourite dresses this season, no matter what you're doing. So without further ado, here they are...


Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of Joy, and they've just brought out a new Louche Luxe range of occasion dresses. There's a particularly pretty blue one with a flower pattern, but my favourite is this green one - I love the bow detail at the waist and the colour is just beautiful. Admittedly it's not cheap but if you had a few events to go to this summer then it would be well worth the investment. I'd wear this with metallic 20s-style shoes and a fake fur wrap for added glamour.


Collectif has some really gorgeous clothes in their summer collection - I'm a big fan of this sea-creature print dress which would be lovely to swish around in on a sunny day - but I've gone for this pretty pink number. If you've got a school prom coming up or are still hunting for bridesmaids' dresses, this would be a lovely option with some soft grey ladylike shoes and a cream wrap. It also comes in white - which would make a lovely wedding dress if you were so inclined - and navy for a version you could take through to winter.


I am a huge fan of Cath Kidston's prints and this cowboy dress, which is part of their autumn/winter preview, is particularly brilliant. The vibrant reds and greens really pop against the dark background and it's relaxed enough to wear for a casual summer occasion now, yet layered over a long sleeved top and worn with riding boots it could go through to winter as well. My one caveat is that it's a little long so if you're short you might want to get it taken up a bit.


I'm always on the hunt for smart dresses I can wear to work in the summer and this one from Topshop ticks all the boxes. It's got a lovely classic shape that would work well for going from day to night and I love the slightly nautical theme going on with the stripes. I'd wear this with a navy blazer, smart black heels and red lipstick for a meeting then swap the shoes for white ballet flats to meet friends for drinks.




Finally, this Oliver Bonas dress is very 'business in the front, party in the back' thanks to the tie neckline and open back. I love those bright stripes on the silky fabric too - it's luxurious, but playful at the same time. This would be great for more relaxed days with white Birkenstocks and a denim jacket, but equally it could be great for holidays with some pretty metallic sandals and a bright pink lip.

These are just some of the lovely summer dresses out there at the moment - I struggled to get it down to five! - but if I had to choose one I'd probably pick the Cath Kidston for its multi-purpose options, with the Topshop coming in a close second. What do you think of these dresses? Will you be buying any of them?

Favourites: May 2015

It's that time of the month again: monthly favourites! May has been a bit of a full-on month for me as work was really busy and then we went down to Cornwall for a week, plus have had loads of stuff going on with our house purchase, but on the other hand that's given me plenty of material for today's post. So here we go again...

Favourite item of clothing: New Look electric blue mac
I must admit I haven't been spending a massive amount of money on clothes lately but that's given an opportunity to rediscover old favourites - including this beautiful bright mac. I bought it years ago when Giles Deacon did a range for New Look and it has been my favourite coat ever since; getting it out every spring is a welcome antidote to dreary rainy weather. Plus it's really good at keeping the water out but without being too heavy on sunny days. I've tried to extend its life with new buttons - these are from Sass & Belle - but it really is on its last legs now, so I've enjoyed giving it a last hurrah before it gets packed away in the hope of warmer weather.

Favourite beauty product: Guerlain Rouge G Complete Lipstick in Gracy
From an old favourite to a new purchase! I had been eyeing up the Guerlain Rouge G lipsticks for years so, after a particularly hectic work event in April, I thought I'd treat myself. There are so many beautiful colours in the range but I opted for Gracy, a lovely summery grapefruit-pink that adds a nice extra touch but isn't too overwhelming. Even though it's not the cheapest, it's really moisturising and the colour lasts for around six to eight hours even through eating and drinking. And it has the most beautiful packaging: a beautiful heavy silver bullet with a built-in mirror that flips up when you take the lid off. If you're in the market for an investment lipstick that's still wearable I'd definitely recommend this.

Favourite book: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca has been on my to-read list for years, but whilst I was on holiday I finally bit the bullet and picked it up. And I'm really glad I did, because it's wonderful. From its opening sentence, 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again', you're plunged into a darkly romantic world of intrigue and mystery. The book is loaded with atmosphere and the sense of oppression felt by the second Mrs de Winter permeates through every page, helped by the brilliantly villainous Mrs Danvers. I also loved the layers in the complex relationship between the characters, particularly the second Mrs de Winter and her husband Maxim, and the whip-smart pace the book moves at - you feel like there's no such thing as a wasted word. Plus, as someone who normally likes loose ends tied up, its final lines left me wanting even more. So far this is my book of the year.

Favourite music: Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
I loved Florence's first two albums, Lungs and Ceremonials, so had high hopes for her long-awaited third album - and thankfully those hopes were justified. It's loaded with the same sing-along anthems we know and love but there's a lot more of a rock influence this time; an angrier edge sits alongside the dreamier melodies, particularly on tracks like lead single What Kind of Man. My favourite tracks are Ship to Wreck - I can imagine a crowd of thousands singing this back at a festival over the summer - the wonderfully wistful title track underscored by a driving beat and dramatic string section, and the unusually uptempo Delilah which I wished had existed in my indie club student days. Overall it's a fantastic album and one that I'll have on repeat all summer.

Favourite TV programme: Empire
Sometimes you just want a TV programme to get into that's a million miles away from whatever else is going on, and Empire is that in spades. It follows hip-hop mogul Lucious Lyon (a brilliantly smooth yet sinister Terrence Howard) who, after being diagnosed with ALS and given three years to live, pits his three sons against each other to decide which will inherit his company. When his ex-wife Cookie comes back from 17 years in prison, things get very complicated very quickly. It's ridiculously over the top with every issue possible thrown into the mix, but if you need some escapist telly then it's brilliantly addictive and keeps you coming back to find out what happens next. Plus Taraji P Henson as Cookie gets all the best clothes and all the best lines.

Favourite thing to do: Going to Cornwall
As it took up a huge chunk of my month, my holiday in Cornwall was definitely a highlight. It was really nice to get a break and spend some time with my parents and sisters, especially as I don't get to see them as often as I'd like. Plus it was a great opportunity to explore new places which is always something I really enjoy about being on holiday, and I loved being surrounded by beautiful scenery; even the train journey passing through Dawlish is just brilliant. I came back feeling very refreshed and at peace, but equally looking forward to hopefully going back next year. Be aware that this has been a fairly huge source of blogging material so expect there to be a lot of holiday-themed posts coming your way in the next few weeks!

What did you get up to in May?

Empties: May 2015

It's the start of a new month, and that means the latest empties post. Despite having been away and so leaving most of my current in-use products at home in favour of samples (more on that later), I actually managed to make a reasonable dent in my stash which I'm very pleased about! So read on to find out what I've used up this month...

Skincare


Garnier Skin Naturals Moisture Match Illuminating Light Lotion SPF20
Do you ever have those products that you really want to like but just don't work for you? That was me with that mascara. Although it sank in really well on my skin and had quite a nice fragrance, unfortunately it just made my skin feel really clogged up and kept making me break out. So I'm afraid I'll be sticking with two of the other moisturisers from the range which work much better for me, despite not containing SPF (because, y'know, I'm essentially lazy). That said, it is a great budget option for an everyday moisturiser if you want something with SPF in it, so if your skin doesn't react too badly to creams that are on the heavier side then this might work for you.

Body products


Lush Prince Charming Shower Gel
By far and away my favourite thing about this product was the smell - a lovely fruity but not too sweet fragrance that adds to the incredibly girly vibe of the product. This was a limited edition for Valentine's Day 2014 (I think Lush brought it back this year but don't quote me on that) and it's one of my favourites out of their recent smells. I also found that it lathered up really nicely yet didn't dry out my skin too much; I still needed moisturiser but my dry patches were no worse for using this product. Just wishing I'd bought the bigger bottle now...

Nivea Smooth Nourishing Hand Cream
This is a really lovely hand cream, I won it in a pass the parcel game at my hen do and have used it a lot since then; it was particularly nice in the winter to put it on under my gloves before I left home or the office so it would sink it on the journey (similar to applying foot cream before bed and then putting on bedsocks). It's rich without being greasy and sinks in quickly, as well as being fairly lightly scented so it won't clash with any perfume or other body lotions you're using, and works really well at tackling dry skin. Definitely worth a go if you're looking for an effective yet affordable hand cream.

Hair products


Colab Sheer Invisible Dry Shampoo in London
I've always been a bit of a Batiste loyalist when it comes to dry shampoo, but when I spotted this one from Colab and the lovely Ruth Crilly of A Model Recommends I thought I'd give it a go, and it has been a really worthwhile purchase. It feels like it's genuinely working at absorbing the oils and making my hair feel fluffier and fresher but without the slight residue that other dry shampoos often give. I also really like the fragrance which is lovely and fresh but without being too overpowering. Would definitely recommend this one!

Boots Baby Sensitive Conditioning Shampoo
This is the shampoo I use for washing my fringe on a daily basis and also for cleaning my makeup brushes. As well as being really affordable, I like it because it's gentle on my hair and, although it's moisturising, doesn't make my hair feel too greasy or difficult to style in the mornings. Plus a big bottle goes a long way so it makes a great affordable alternative to posh brush cleaners. A really nice product and one I think it's worth getting over the embarrassment factor to pick up.

Number 4 Lumiere D'Hiver Reconstructing Masque
I got this in my May Birchbox and talked about it in more detail there, but suffice to say that this is a lovely product. It's rich without weighing hair down, smells amazing and, although it's not cheap, you only need a tiny bit to give you lovely smooth sleek hair. I'll definitely be buying this when I've used up all my current hair masks.

Samples



Benefit The Porefessional
This was actually a really pleasant surprise. I was a bit worried that it would make my skin look a bit 'fake' but actually it was just a really nice, soothing product that did what it said by tackling the pores around my nose but without making my skin feel clogged up or cause breakouts. Plus it helped my makeup stay on a lot better throughout the day - up to about 12 hours which is always a bonus! Have a couple more little tubes in my stash so now slowly working my way through them.

Catherine Malandrino Style De Paris Eau De Parfum
This was in my March Birchbox and I really liked it; it's fresh yet sophisticated and one of those perfumes that you could wear on lots of different occasions, from going to work to heading out for the evening. Whilst I love the balance of fruitiness in the top notes with the richer oriental scent underneath, it's a bit on the pricey side for me so I think for now it will have to stay as a sample. But if you like multifunctional fragrances with a bit of depth then this could definitely be worth investing in.

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Eau De Toilette
I'd been keen to try out some of the Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire fragrances for a while, so when I received this in a swap recently it was nice to try it out. A fresh, feminine floral with light top notes, it's a lovely spring daytime fragrance as it's not too overwhelming or heavy but equally not too sweet. The one complaint I have is that it doesn't last very long but as it's an eau de toilette this isn't hugely surprising, though does mean I got through the sample quite quickly, I'll be interested to explore the range further but on first impressions I think it's definitely one I'll like.

Have you tried any of these products? And what have you used up this month?

English Seaside Holiday Wishlist

I've always loved the English seaside - there's something about walking along the front eating ice cream, spending silly money in penny arcades and paddling in the sea that's just ridiculously fun - and, as I have trips to Brighton and Whitstable planned this summer (look out for them on the blog soon!) plus have just come back from a trip to Cornwall, I thought I'd pull together a wishlist post of all the stuff I'm lusting after this summer.

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Let's be honest, it's Britain; at some point it is inevitably going to rain. I have been after a fisherman's mac for years now and this one from Seasalt is a great version. In sunny yellow - designed to brighten up the dreariest of days - and with a fleecy lining for added warmth, it's a great spring coat to throw on against showers but without being too heavy to carry round if the weather warms up.

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A good T-shirt is always a staple on holiday and I like the quirky touch that the sequin pocket gives this one from Superdry. I'd wear this with denim shorts and Stan Smiths in the daytime and then dress it up with a tulle skirt and pretty metallic flats for the evening.

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Birkenstocks are by far and away the best sandals I've ever worn - they're comfortable for days walking around yet look good with lots of different things, from pretty summer dresses to flared jeans and flowing tops for a full-on 70s vibe. My favourites are these Madrid sandals in white.but if you prefer something a bit more neutral I'd go for the Arizona sandals in brown.

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I always seem to need loads of stuff for the beach - swimwear, a towel, sunscreen, a good book - and a big bag to put them in. Alphabet Bags has a lovely collection of seaside-themed bags, which are super-strong and very roomy (believe me, I've tested them) and will hold up to being lugged around for days on end without wrecking your shoulders. I particularly like this one - guaranteed to have you humming the song!

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There are loads of lovely sunglasses in the shops at the moment, especially if you have a bit of a thing for retro-style pairs. These H&M ones are my particular favourites - very Lolita-esque - and I've got my eye on them for when I inevitably break my current pair or leave them on the bus (though Zara also has a similar pair, whilst Topshop has a tortoiseshell version). They'll add a touch of Riveria glamour to even a cloudy weekend in Cleethorpes.*

What's on your holiday wishlist this year? Are you going anywhere in Britain this summer?

* Nothing against Cleethorpes by the way for anyone there reading this...