Birchbox December 2015: All That Glimmers

Birchbox seem to pull all the stops out for the festive season, so I was very excited by the concept of their December edition. Themed around All That Glimmers, it's a tribute to the sparkle and shine of Christmas, which led me to hope for luxurious-feeling, glamorous products - especially after November's box was a little disappointing.

This month the Birchbox has been transformed into a Birch-bag - a beautiful envelope clutch in emerald green velvet with black leather and gold glitter panels. It feels really luxurious and there's plenty of space inside for all your essentials, plus it would go with lots of different outfits as the green is so dark it could pass for black in the right light.

That's the bag - now let's see what's inside...

ModelCo Ultra Long Lasting Lipstick in Kitty

I've tried a few ModelCo products before and have always been impressed - they're good quality and well priced - so had high hopes for this lipstick. Thankfully they paid off! I often struggle with nude lipsticks as they either make me look dead or have too much brown in them, but the pinky tones of this one are absolutely perfect for that 'my lips but better' look. It also feels really nice and moisturising but without 'sitting' on the lips. In terms of durability, I wore it to a lunch with friends and it held up for around four hours, which I think is pretty good going. This is definitely going on permanent rotation in my makeup bag.

Skin & Co Sicilian Body Gel

Shower gel samples are always useful - especially at Christmas when you're likely to be travelling - and I was hoping that this orange and olive oil one from Skin & Co would both evoke the smells of the season and help to relieve dry winter skin. I have to admit I was disappointed. Whilst it did leave my skin in good condition and I didn't need to use body lotion with it, the lack of scent was a real let-down for me, though it does mean it won't clash with any other fragrances you might be wearing. I also felt like it didn't lather up very well and I had to use quite a lot to feel properly clean. Overall, a serviceable enough product but not one I'd fork out my own money for.

Roloxin Lift Instant Skin Smoothing Masque

Maybe I just have too high expectations, but I often find face masks disappointing - it's rare that I find one that lives up to its claims. Initially I thought this was going to be more of the same. It had a very odd smell - a bit chemically, a bit earthy - and rapidly made my face feel really tight as it set into a thick white crust. However, once I'd removed it and applied my moisturiser, I actually noticed a big difference in the depth of the wrinkles on my forehead and it left my skin feeling quite soft. The only thing putting me off buying it is the price but I can see it being good for special occasions if you need something quite heavy-duty.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

This is a bit of a cult product so I was delighted to get to try it. It feels really nice and soft on the skin, sinks in easily and has a nice scent to it - slightly sweet yet a little bit musky, like something your very glamorous mum or gran might use. The blue-green packaging and solid silver lid are nice touches too, making it feel very expensive. I haven't noticed it having much impact on my wrinkles and fine lines yet but then I've only been using it for a few days, so I'll keep you posted on whether it works. However, unless it makes a dramatic difference I think it's too far out of my budget for me to invest in.

Benefit They're Real! Push-Up Liner

I'm still very much a newbie to liquid eyeliner so am keen to try anything that makes it easier. First impressions were good - as you can see in the swatch the line was thick and very black. However I didn't find it particularly easy to use it on my eyes; it felt like it was dragging, the product clumped and was drying on my lids, and I struggled to do eyeliner flicks.. As I said though I'm not very good at doing eyeliner yet so it might be that if you're a bit more practised this is easier to use. It's a shame though as I felt it was a good quality product, just not in quite the right packaging.

Ciaté London Paint Pot in Pool Party

My previous experiences with Ciaté polishes has been really good - super-cute bottles, lovely long-lasting formula and really easy to apply. The fact that Pool Party is very similar to Nails Inc Baker Street, one of my favourite colours, makes it even better in my view. It does need two coats to go fully opaque but once it's on it lasts very well - I did mine on Sunday night and they're still going on Wednesday as I type with only minor tip wear. A nice way to inject a bit of brightness into dreary days and a polish that will see you through until summer (or alternatively whack a glittery topcoat over it to recreate a sparkly winter sky).

Benefit Puff Off!

Luckily for me under-eye bags aren't a major beauty issue, but sometimes I just want an eye cream that's going to perk up the area. This definitely did that - it was incredibly cooling and refreshing but equally didn't feel too tight, and made me look a lot more rested than usual. I love the retro-style candy pink packaging too, and the squeezy tube is great for dispensing just the right amount of product. It's lovely to use and a sample I'm very pleased I've got to try, but as it doesn't do quite what I need from my eye cream so I won't be replacing it when it runs out.

Overall I was really pleased with this month's Birchbox, especially the lipstick and nail polish - the only thing I wasn't keen on was the eyeliner. Plus there were lots of products I'll get the use out of, especially as I'm trying to cut down on my spending next month. Here's hoping the January box is just as good...

Happy Christmas!

Hello everyone! Just a quick post to say hope you all have a lovely Christmas (or, if you don't celebrate, have a great December 25th)! I hope Father Christmas brings you what you wished for...

Fashion Five: Christmas Jumpers

The opportunity to buy new jumpers is one of my favourite things about winter, so the fact that Christmas jumpers have become a thing in recent years makes me very happy indeed. I'm always keen to add to my collection - you can never have too much knitwear - and this year have been absolutely spoilt for choice. So this edition of the Fashion Five is showcasing my favourite Christmas jumpers! Hopefully this will inspire you if you haven't got one yet...

I'm a big fan of Christmas jumpers that aren't too Christmassy and this green H&M one is really good for that - you could get away with wearing this in November or January too. Plus I like that it could be dressed down with jeans and boots or glammed up with a big satin 50s-style skirt and sparkly heels.

There's something lovely about a snuggly white jumper at Christmas and this 'Love' one from Gap fits the bill perfectly. I've tried this on in the shop and it is so soft - perfect for curling up after a hard day's Christmas shopping or ice skating and sipping a hot chocolate. There are also blue 'Peace' and grey 'Joy' versions which are equally lovely.

If you like Scandinavian style, then I really recommend this jumper from Joy. It's got a slightly kitschy feel from the bear and star print and again is another jumper that you could wear for most of the winter. I'm a big fan of the beautiful royal blue colour too which is set off perfectly by the yellow star.

The Coca Cola 'holidays are coming' advert is the true start of Christmas for me, and what better way to show my love for it than via the medium of Christmas jumper? I've got it in a T-shirt (look out for that in a post coming soon!) but you could nod to the 90s trend and try this sweatshirt version from Truffleshuffle.

Finally, you can't have Christmas without glitter, and when I spotted this Topshop Christmas tree jumper on last night's Strictly Come Dancing I had to add it to the list. It's a bit different to a lot of the other jumpers out there and would go really well with loads of stuff; I'd wear it with my red skirt and riding boots but it would look just as good with jeans.

Have you got your Christmas jumper yet? Which of these is your favourite?


For my birthday a few weeks ago, I wanted to have a day of adventures, and that had to include breakfast. I've mentioned before on the blog that, for me, going out for breakfast is a hugely decadent treat, so it only made sense to take myself off somewhere nice first thing. After looking at several options, I eventually settled on Dishoom - and am very glad I did.

As usual, I am epically late to the party on this, as Dishoom has been going for over five years now (the shame!), but I've always walked past it in favour of flashier options whilst always thinking 'I must go there one day'. And so it was that, on a crisp clear autumn morning, I found myself waiting outside the Covent Garden branch with a small queue - around 10 other people - and excited to sample its legendary breakfast menu.

Inside it's all polished brass, dark wood and marble, much in the way I imagine old railway stations in colonial India to have been, offset with walls full of vintage photographs and brightly coloured advertisements. It feels completely like stepping into a bustling cafe somewhere in India and creates a brilliant atmosphere, even at 9 AM on a Saturday. I love the 'rules of the cafe' sign too!

Despite the temptations of the fairly extensive breakfast menu, I couldn't resist the legendary Dishoom bacon naan. An Indian version of a bacon sandwich, it is absolutely heavenly - fresh, slightly doughy naan wrapped around smoky streaky bacon so crispy you could snap it yet without feeling like you're going to break your teeth. Throw in cream cheese (I would never have put cream cheese with bacon but it offsets the saltiness of the bacon really well), chill-tomato relish and fresh herbs, and you've got an amazing breakfast that will fill you up yet doesn't feel overly heavy or stodgy. The only thing I would have liked is more cream cheese, but I say that as someone for whom all the cheese is never enough.

I went for masala chai alongside my bacon naan. I got slightly addicted to it when we were travelling in India (mainly fuelled by buying it as a morning drink on the train) and this was definitely as good as any I've had out there. Rich, creamy, warming yet spicy, it's like a hug in a glass. And best of all, they give you free refills, which will keep you lingering there long enough for just one more...

Overall I really loved my visit to Dishoom and would definitely recommend it for breakfast if you're in the area for a bit of shopping or to visit a museum. Now I just need to go back and explore their amazing-looking dinner menu...

Christmas Wishlist

I never know when we're allowed to 'officially' start Christmas preparations. After Bonfire Night? After the John Lewis advert (which I wept buckets at this year) appears? Or even not until December? Personally I have different start times for each thing - no Christmas music, films or decorations until December, but I can to start to plan and buy things a little earlier.

But whenever we're allowed to start, family members are asking me what I'd like (hi sis if you're reading this!). So today's post is a little Christmas wishlist of what I'd love to find under the tree. Unsurprisingly, this is mostly beauty stuff - I would ask for the entirety of Sali Hughes' Christmas gift guide if I could - but there are a few extras in there as well. Hope you enjoy it!

Christmas Wishlist 2015

Cambridge Satchel Company satchel
My beloved Joy bag (which I wrote about in a previous favourites post) is sadly starting to fall apart and so thoughts are turning to a replacement. This oxblood satchel from the Cambridge Satchel Company is absolutely beautiful - the leather is really soft and the silver buckles are a nice change from the gold you'd expect on a bag like this. Plus it's the perfect size to carry everything you need for the day but without being too big for the evening, and the colour means you can dress it up or down.

New running trainers
Another practical present but one I'd love to get. My current trainers are literally full of holes and the prospect of wet feet has forced me out of the park and into the gym, so a new pair of running shoes would be the perfect boost to get me back on track (see what I did there?). I do need to go and get my gait assessed to know what shoes would be right for me, but I find wearing bright colours really motivates me to exercise so have picked out this Asics pair to illustrate the post.

Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani eyeshadow palette
There are loads of utterly beautiful eyeshadow palettes out there at the moment - I also love these ones from Bobbi Brown and Lancome - but this is the one I'd most like Father Christmas to bring me. I'm a huge No Doubt and Gwen Stefani fan and love Gwen's look so being able to (attempt to) recreate it myself would be amazing! The packaging is tough yet feminine and all the colours in the palette look really wearable. Fingers crossed...

Burberry lipstick in Military Red
Burberry's Christmas beauty range this year is utterly gorgeous; I love the delicate gold speckles on the My Burberry perfume bottle, but this is the one I'd go for as for me Christmas is all about red lips. Their iconic Military Red shade has been repackaged in a stunning gold tube and is just such a lovely formula - it goes on smoothly and is incredibly buildable, so would be great even for those who are a bit scared of a full-on red. If I found this in my stocking it would be going on my face for the rest of the day, and probably the rest of the year.

Perfume: A Century of Scents - Lizzie Ostrom
There are loads of great beauty books out at the moment but I've gone for this one as it combines two of my favourite things: perfume and history. Lizzie (aka fragrance guru Odette Toilette) takes you on a whistle-stop tour of 100 perfumes and what they tell us about the changing times when they were made and worn. It's brilliantly readable, informative as well as entertaining, and one I can definitely see myself buried in in front of the fire after Christmas dinner.

Personalised Nutella
Yes I know this is a slightly ridiculous idea, but as a Nutella junkie I would love to unwrap this on Christmas morning. Personalisation is apparently the big trend for this Christmas (in the last week I've seen it on everything from bags to tea tins) and I have to admit there's something that's quite fun about seeing a jar with your name on it every morning when you make your breakfast. Plus it could be reused as a makeup brush holder or storage jar once you've eaten the tasty Nutella goodness.

Are any of these on your Christmas wishlist? What are you hoping to receive this year?

Empties: November 2015

A new month and a new empties post! It's been a pretty successful month for getting things used up, so here's what I've finished off in November:

Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara in Dark Brown
I'm lucky that as I have quite full brows they don't need much doing to them other than a few strokes of brow mascara to keep them in place. This is the first tinted one I've tried (previously I was using a Miss Sport clear mascara) and I really liked it; the sludge-brown colour was a good match for me and the rounded wand felt like I was more able to do short, feathery strokes. I think I'll be repurchasing this at some point as I'm currently using a brow mascara with a more 'traditional' wand and don't like it so much (though that could just be getting used to it).

Benefit Roller Lash Mascara sample
This was in my goody bag from when I went to a Birchbox event with Benefit a few months ago and has been a make-up bag staple since I moved and started having to do my make-up on the train (more on that in a future post). I've reviewed Roller Lash in full here and suffice to say it's still a favourite - I find it holds curl really well, doesn't smudge and separates lashes nicely. I do have a full-size version that I'm still working through and love but I do wish it came in this size generally as it's perfect for travelling.

L'Oreal True Match Foundation in N1 Ivory
OK, I know this looks full in the picture but I couldn't get any more out of it and couldn't get the pump off to decant it (though if you know how to do this please tell me!), so I'm counting it as an empty. I really like this foundation - it's a really good match for me, lasts well (around 6-8 hours, more with primer) and doesn't feel too heavy on the skin. I would say it's a 'good skin day' foundation though so if you're going through a breakout it might not be enough on its own, but definitely something I'd buy again.

The Body Shop Sweet Lemon Shower Gel
I love, love, love lemon-scented body products but struggle to find good ones - too often they smell like toilet cleaner. This is the exception and I'm gutted that The Body Shop has discontinued it, as it smells absolutely perfect. It's really clean and fresh but still has that little bit of sharpness that lemon scents need without being too sour. It also pairs really well with the Korres Citrus Body Milk I'm trying to use up, This is my last bottle that I've eked out and I'm gutted that it's now gone forever. The quest for a replacement starts here...

La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+
This is one of my absolute miracle products and one I am really paranoid about running out of. It targets blemishes but also the redness and marks left over from spots (a big issue with me as I used to be terrible for picking my face - yes I know, I'm sorry - and my skin takes ages to heal after a breakout). You can use it topically but I use mine all over as a substitute for serum or moisturiser, and find that it makes a big difference in terms of shortening the length of my breakdowns and reducing the marks on my faces. Suffice to say I've already bought another tube!

Colab Sheer Invisible Dry Shampoo in Rio
I've reviewed this product in the London scent here and Rio is much of the same - it absorbs oil and grease really easily and gives my hair a volume boost, but without leaving any kind of residue. The only difference is the tropical fruity scent which I am slightly less keen on than the London fragrance, but if this were the only one available I'd still quite happily buy it. Now I just need to decide which one to try next...

Have you tried any of these products? Which of them is your favourite?