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Just got back from a week in France - lots of reading and rating to catch up on!

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since 25/03/2005


Chanel Coco Eau de Parfum 24/03/2015

Timeless, Classic Coco

Chanel Coco Eau de Parfum I love perfume. Smells are so evocative and stir up the clearest memories of places and times in our life we associate with them. I genuinely believe that the best way to purchase perfume is to spray it, see how it develops and lasts. Expensive perfumes that is. So I always feel slightly apprehensive when gifted perfumes. Especially ones as expensive as Coco by Chanel. So that explains my reasons for purchase - I had no reason to purchase and indeed I did not purchase. I had never smelt this perfume, nor was I even aware of its existence before I was presented with it. Chanel Chanel are a luxury French fashion house, founded by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. Known for the little black jacket and the quilted handbags, Chanel also developed a number of scents - arguably Chanel No. 5 being one of the most famous perfumes in the world. There have been numerous additions to the range of perfumes - this particular fragrance was added to the line in 1984 and was created by the current parfumier for the house - Jacques Polge. Chanel is a luxury brand and as such, the perfumes come with a luxury price tag. Chanel do not test their perfumes on animals although they cannot rule out their raw ingredients having been tested on animals. The Packaging The packaging for the Eau de Parfum is suitably luxurious. Simple, classic and chic - Chanel all over. The Eau de Parfum bottle is the same shape as the classic Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum bottle but with black and gold. The bottle is ...

Real Techniques Nic's Picks Brush Set 22/03/2015

A Great Starter Set

Real Techniques Nic's Picks Brush Set Real Techniques A couple of years ago I started watching some of the more well-known so-called Beauty Bloggers on YouTube. They are some pretty big names there now, all of whom have made their name by posting online, either on their blogs and/or YouTube. Pixiwoo is probably one of the bigger names to come out of YouTube and they were probably the start of the merchandising which has now taken over at an incredible speed. Pixiwoo is sisters Nic and Sam Chapman - who started their YouTube channel in 2008. They make tutorials showing women of all ages how to create red-carpet looks, how to do the perfect winged eyeliner or what the latest new releases are in the make-up world. Having seen some of their videos, I can understand the hype. They’re both talented make-up artists who share their knowledge in an accessible way that women (and men) can relate to. After watching a few of these tutorials I noticed the colourful brushes that were being used and it was only one day when Sam made a comment about being biased that I realised that she might be affiliated with these brushes in some way. I then found a video that explained, that yes, Sam Chapman is behind Real Techniques brushes. At the time, her sister Nic was not part of the venture but that has since changed and now both sisters work together with a company called Paris Presents which is behind EcoTools and other brushes to create Real Techniques brushes. One can never be too sure how hands on any kind of ‘celebrity’ ...

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm 18/03/2015

Amazing Face!

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm Why Did I Buy? In the last few years, I’ve really come to take my skincare routine seriously. I’ve always gone through phases with it, but this time I decided enough was enough – I was fed up of my tired, dull and dry skin and wanted to make sure I was using products which were right for my skin. I did my research and came across a number of blogs – arguably the most ‘famous’ being that of Caroline Hirons – skin care expert. I eagerly read her posts and started making a wish list of products. Most importantly, I realised that it didn’t matter about spending a fortune on the most high-end products, but just making sure the products were effective and that I was using them in the right way. I very quickly came to hear of the Emma Hardie Cleansing Balm but it was probably about 18 months before I purchased. The idea of something so oily and greasy in texture just didn’t seem right and even though I don’t have oily skin, I do get the odd spot and I just didn’t think it was a good idea. Reading about the much cheaper Botanics offering intrigued me and once I’d been converted to that, I was a little more open to trying Emma Hardie. Yet still it remained on the wish list as I already had several cleansers on the go. How wrong I was to wait. The Brand Emma Hardie is a British skincare specialist with her own brand of products – the Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm probably being the most cult in the range. Her products are touted as natural and are designed to sculpt and ...

Ghost Eclipse Eau de Toilette 07/03/2015

Eclipse - When Darkness Meets Light

Ghost Eclipse Eau de Toilette Ghost perfumes have been on my radar for a while and whilst I’ve always liked them, I’ve never owned one. The first was launched in 2000 from the Ghost fashion house - a British brand established in 1985. It was such a success, as what its successor - the equally iconic Deep Night - that the fragrance and fashion houses are now two distinct houses, which collaborate closely. It'd probably be fair to say that the fragrance house has now eclipsed (no pun intended) the fashion house and is the more well known of the two. I read a blog online which mentioned how amazing the newest perfume - Ghost Eclipse - was and something piqued my interest. When I saw it in Duty Free, I couldn’t resist giving it a spray. When it comes to perfume, I’m not normally one for buying on a whim and actually do what is recommended – I spray the perfume on my wrist and leave it to develop before I buy. No impulse buying from me. When it comes to trying perfume in Duty Free that can be a bit of a pain as well and I’ve ended up pining after perfumes for months because I didn’t buy it at the time. On this occasion I was flying out but travelling back via other means, so no opportunity to pick up the perfume on the way back. So I went off my gut instinct and bugged my boyfriend whilst at the till paying for another purchase to let me go back and grab a bottle of that too, which begrudgingly he agreed to. And I’m so happy I did. Perfume is such a personal purchase. It’s so difficult to describe smells and ...

By Terry Ombre Blackstar Color Fix Cream Eyeshadow 01/03/2015

A Star is Born

By Terry Ombre Blackstar Color Fix Cream Eyeshadow The first time I heard of the brand By Terry it was reading about one of their foundations. When I found out it was £75, I figured this was a brand I’d do well to steer clear of. No good could come from reading anything about their products. I’m sad to say that there are two products which made their way onto my wish list. Whilst the £75 foundation intrigues me, you’ll be pleased to hear that that is not one of them. The first is a lip balm, but there are several other, slightly more affordable ones which I’m interested in so that’s just a ‘would be nice to have’ as opposed to the second product on my wish list. Enter By Terry Ombre Blackstar. An intriguing name for a product, I’m sure you’ll agree. One review I read described the name as sounding like a super hero name, which made me smile. The Brand Although the name doesn’t give it away, By Terry is a French brand, created by Terry de Gunzberg. The brand is very easy to get hold of online, a little harder to find on the high street – in the UK it is stocked in Space NK and Harrods. You can find your nearest stockist on the By Terry website, which annoyingly isn’t the easiest to navigate, but once you’ve managed to find the ‘languages’ button and selected that, it’ll automatically direct you to the English page and from there you can find which shops stock their products. By the way, Harrods isn’t listed as a stockist, so may be just an online stockist. If you’re looking for a good read about Terry de Gunzberg’s ...

Black Swan (DVD) 23/01/2011

The Ugly Duckling

Black Swan (DVD) When I saw the trailer for Black Swan a couple of weeks ago, I knew immediately that it was a film I wanted to see. Plot Nina is an aspiring ballet dancer, who, after years of being overlooked, has been cast for the part of the Swan Queen - she must play both the White Swan and the Black Swan. Despite her perfect technique, there are doubts over whether she has it in her to play the evil black swan. Nina has to visit her dark side and overcome the fear that other dancers are out to get her, in particular newcomer Lily. Cast & Characters Nina - Natalie Portman The main character Nina is portayed by Natalie Portman. I'm not really hugely familiar with her work, I've only seen her in short clips on TV or in trailers, but I could see that she was perfect in the role of Nina, a determined and highly competent dancer (well, I'm no expert, but you can see that she's supposed to be) who is fragile and lacks confidence in her abilities, always striving for absolute perfection. I always wonder for these films why it is that they don't choose someone who is already trained in the skill - in this case ballet - but of course that wouldn't be a very Hollywood thing to do, and most viewers wouldn't really notice the difference. Natalie Portman did spend the best part of year training for this role and from what I've read and heard from experts she is pretty darn good considering. Apparently her footwork could do with some work, but for someone who has no real knowledge of ballet, I ...

Lush H'Suan Wen Hua 14/01/2011

God of Hair

Lush H'Suan Wen Hua I've been meaning to buy H'suan Wen Hua for a long time, ever since reading a review of it here back in the day. A few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and treated myself, mainly due to my dissatisfaction with my shampoo and conditioner and wanting to put a bit of life and gloss back into my hair. Here are my experiences: THE PRODUCT AND ITS PROMISES H'Suan Wen Hua is one of Lush's hair conditioning products. This one describes itself as a hair moisturiser - moisture is something most hair craves, as showers and baths are actually quite dehydrating to our skin and hair, and my hair especially really benefits from products with moisturising properties. The moisturising treatment comes in quite a large pot by Lush standards - 225g in total - however, apart from the size, the packaging will be familiar to regular Lush shoppers. As packaging go, it's simple and to the point - it's no larger than it needs to be, refreshingly the pot it filled to the top and lid screws on securely. I've travelled no further with this than from the shop to my home, but this will travel well, I believe. Of course, I would never take the chance with this and would definitely put it in a plastic bag to protect the rest of my belongings if I were to travel with this. From an environmental standpoint, this packaging is as friendly as possible, with no unnecessary extras. Lush also offer a free face mask to anyone who returns 5 black pots to store, which is a great initiative. A full list of ...

Lush Bubblegum Lip Scrub 29/12/2010

Bubblegum Lip Scrub - Scrubs Up Well!

Lush Bubblegum Lip Scrub With the cold spell every year comes…for me at any rate…dry lips. This year has been particularly unforgiving and so I have really tried my best to stick to my resolution of regularly applying lip balms to alleviate the problem, rather than my usual trick of aggravating the problem by biting my lips. When I heard through the grapevine about Bubblegum Lip Scrub from one of my favourite places ever – Lush – I decided to treat myself. And I have recently done just that. A Brief History of Lush I jest, of course. The most important things you need to know about Lush is that it’s a company which makes hand-made cosmetic products which contain, where possible, natural, ethical ingredients. All of their products are suitable for vegetarians, and the vast majority are suitable for vegans too. This is all helpfully indicated on their packaging, which is, as it happens, rather environmentally friendly as packaging goes. They encourage recycling of their packaging, using incentives such as a free face mask for every 5 black pots you return to the store. The products are responsibly labelled so that you can exactly what goes into the product, when it was made (and who by) and it has a best before date on it. Bubblegum Lip Scrub The lip scrub comes in a small glass pot containing 25g. Being glass, you can see the product, the bright pink was certainly enough to catch my eye. The lid is a screw-on lid which will stay firmly in place if you screw it on tightly. However, you need ...

The Sanctuary Spa Instant Hydrating Toner 15/08/2010

Atoning for my Skin Sins

The Sanctuary Spa Instant Hydrating Toner Towards the end of 2009, I decided that enough was enough. I needed to overhaul my skincare routine and start using something new. After searching the usual aisle in Boots, to no avail, I decided to head towards the mid-range section and after a fleeting glance at the Soap & Glory products, found myself in front of Sanctuary's section. Needless to say, I came away a few pounds poorer but full of expectation. I decided to go back to basics and bought a cleanser, toner and moisturiser. Why tone in the first place? While the mantra of cleansing, toning and moisturising might be imbedded in the heads of many girls, not many would really know why it's important. I have certainly been one of those girls for a long time. From what I gathered, it was to help remove all traces of cleanser that might remain on the skin and to really get down into the pores. Though this is true to some extent, I've learnt that there's quite a bit more to toning than just that - toners come in different forms and have different functions depending on your skin type. More about this later... Why Sanctuary? Sanctuary is a brand I am familiar with, although I think of them more as making luxurious products for pampering your body, not everyday skincare products. This is why I was intrigued and willing to see how their skincare products fared. Other things you might like to know about the brand: - All of their skincare products are dermatologically tested. - Their products are not tested on ...

Tesco Strawberry Crisp cereal 01/08/2010

A great start to the day!

Tesco Strawberry Crisp cereal For me, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although I occasionally mix it up with toast or fruit or something else, I always end up coming back to cereal and having tried Jordan's Country Crisp, it wasn't long before I decided to give Tesco's own brand version a try. In The Box The cereal contains cereal clusters – predominantly oats but also puffed rice - and freeze dried strawberry pieces. A quick read of the packaging tells us that the cereal clusters are sweetened too. The ingredients list sheds a little more light on what exactly goes into the box. Sugar being the second ingredient on the list might be a cause for concern for some, as well as additions of glucose syrup, honey and plain caramel colouring. Looks like it'll be quite sweet then. Though I see no need to include a full breakdown of the ingredients here, it is clearly presented and the separate allergy advice section is useful, making it clear that this product is not suitable for those allergic to wheat, gluten (as they are added ingredients) or nuts (as neither the ingredients nor the factory can be guaranteed to be nut free). I also thought that barley was an allergen that should be declared in the allergy advice, although it isn't in this case. However, a quick read of the ingredients list will clear up any confusion. The product is suitable for vegetarians. I must admit that I'm not one to pay much attention to nutritional information. My job has made me much more aware of food ...

James Brown Richly Moisturising Shampoo 14/03/2010

James Brown? Let Down!

James Brown Richly Moisturising Shampoo Despite having found what I still believe to be one of the best shampoos ever, I do like to chop and change from time to time to avoid my hair getting too accustomed to one particular brand. The time came to change once again and I decided to go for a brand I wasn't familiar with whatsoever. The shampoo caught my attention on the shelf in Boots amongst the famous hairdressers and though I haven't heard of James Brown, the packaging looked very sophisticated and I was willing to take the gamble. When I got home and read a couple of reviews about the shampoo, I was convinced I'd made the right decision... James Brown When deciding whether to purchase a James Brown product, there are undoubtedly a few things you'll want to know: - James Brown is a hairdresser to the stars, best friends with Kate Moss and has Creative Style Director for GHD on his CV. - His range of haircare products is quite an extensive one for a celebrity hairdresser. He caters for pretty much all hair types. - I haven't been able to ascertain whether or not his products are tested on animals. A pity, since I would imagine that anyone concerned about this would not buy the product until they were confident that the product was not tested on animals. The Packaging As packaging goes, it's fairly simple yet elegant. I wouldn't be ashamed to have this sitting out in full view in my bathroom, but at the end of the day, if it were hideous, these things can be hidden away, so it's not the be all and end ...

Lush Soft Coeur (The Honeymooner) Massage Bar 24/01/2010

I *heart* this massage bar!

Lush Soft Coeur (The Honeymooner) Massage Bar I've been a fan of Lush products for some time but always tended to stick to the same sorts of products - normally soaps and shower stuff. I've read reviews about nearlly all their products and the Lush Times (their catalogue of products for those not in the know) and my wishlist of products to try are pretty much one and the same. Soft Coeur has always been a product I'd like to try but given that it would be 100% indulgence (well, I NEED the bath stuff because I need to keep clean...), I've never succumbed to temptation. However, when purchasing one as a gift for a girlfriend, I discovered that buying two massage bars would get me a free tin. And so it was, that with little hesitation, I added another heart-shaped delight into the basket. (In case you're wondering, the small amount of hesitation was just me umming and aahing over which massage bar to try). So, as we've established, Soft Coeur is a massage bar, designed to be used by yourself or on someone of your (and their) choosing. Lush currently offer a good range of massage bars in various shapes and sizes to cater for all sorts of tastes and requirements. I think it would be fair to say that Soft Coeur is primarily aimed at couples, although this needn't be the case. THE SENSORY TEST APPEARANCE - At a mere 30g, this is one of the smallest massage bars available. It's heart-shaped, and creamy in colour, with several brown patches of something that looks suspiciously like chocolate. Aesthetically pleasing though ...

Bostik Oodles Pencil Case 16/01/2010

Oodles of fun!

Bostik Oodles Pencil Case Me and my sister really enjoyed arts and crafts when we were young and just generally liked to make a mess wherever possible. Great fun for us, not so much for our poor ol' mum (ahem, I mean, poor YOUNG mum) who had to clear up after us. My dad used to work for an adhesive company, and for years, the funnest thing my dad would bring home for us was glitter glue. More mess. So you can imagine how thrilled my sister and I was, and how relieved my mum was, when my dad brought home an Oodles pencil case for me and my sister. Although me and my sister have perhaps outgrown these kits now, they're still a popular choice amongst younger members of the family and just as importantly, amongst the parents - a stress-free, mess-free way to have fun and make things! Bostik Bostik are probably most well-known for Blu-Tack, but you may well also be familiar with the huge range of adhesives they make - from stationery and crafts, right through to DIY and trade adhesives. They might not be a company you immediately associate with children's craft kits - unlike a company such as Crayola - so it's important to mention that this product is CE approved (which means it means EU health, safety and environmental requirements) and is safe for children, stating that it's suitable for children aged 5 or older on the website, but stating 6+ on the packaging. I think that, despite the confusion, this is about the right age for this product - perhaps 5-year-olds could use this with supervision. ...

Bourjois 1001 Lashes 13/01/2010

A Name or a Score line? : Bourjois 10 - 01 Lashes

Bourjois 1001 Lashes I have a long list of mascaras that I wish to try, and though this one was quite a way down, it was one of the first to be crossed off the list, due to it being on promotion in Boots a few months ago. The Brand Bourjois is my favourite cosmetic brand. Innovative, affordable yet chic - what's not to love? Bourjois products aren't tested on animals, but I'm afraid that doesn't mean that they don't use ingredients which have been - a full list of ingredients for each product can be found at each and every one of their make-up stands. This mascara has undergone ophthalmological testing, as stated on the packaging, and therefore should be suitable for contact lens wearers and those with sensitive eyes. With this product, Bourjois claims to make each and every lash count by using a double helix brush, as well as 'multiplying the number of lashes' - a claim also taken from the packaging. Packaging As mascaras go, this one is pretty bulky. It's no longer than your average mascara, but it is definitely wider. It gets wider towards the bottom, both ends are eye-shaped. Advantages, should you wish to see them as such, are that you can stand this mascara on its end, and when you do lay it on its side, it won't roll. Disadvantages include the fact that it will take up a lot of room in your handbag. Also, unlike most Bourjois products, this mascara isn't shade-matched. The actual packaging is white and the only clue to the colour of the mascara inside can be found on the top ...

The Diving-bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby 05/01/2010

Simply Beautiful

The Diving-bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby I love to read and sadly don't do it anywhere near as often as I should. It takes me a long time to find a book that really captures my imagination. I first came across this book in 2006, when a friend at university brought it up in conversation. She's the kind of person who loves to read books that pull on your heartstrings or deal with difficult, hard-hitting subjects - not the kind of reading material that I actively seek out. My friend thought that this book might appeal to me because it was written by (and about) a Frenchman. Anyway, it's fair to say that I didn't really think much more about it, until about a year later, when I stumbled across an article on the BBC about a film. The title rang a bell and I soon realised that it was based on the very same book my friend had recommended to me. The director, Julian Schnabel, was originally planning to make the film with Johnny Depp as the main character, but when Depp had to withdraw due to commitments with Pirates of the Caribbean, Schnabel decided that the only way forward was to make the film in French. He resisted a lot of pressure for the film to made in English, and even went as far as learning French in order to make the film. It was at this point that I realised that this could be something special. I have since read the book in French and English and I have also seen the film. Plot You could say that Jean-Dominique had it all - he'd carved out a career in journalism, and was editor-in-chief of Elle magazine ...
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