Saturday, 31 December 2011

A glass and a half

We had these glasses in our dining hall at school. If I'd know then how much I would have loved them in later years, I'd have stashed a few in my satchel.

{Gigogne tumbler}

Of all the excellent Duralex glassware out there, the Gigogne is my favourite and would cut a dash on any dinner table, whether for water or wine or a cheeky G&T.

Nicknamed "the glass that bounced", this French company was recently saved from the brink of collapse - astonishing really that it ever came so close, when the brand was recognised as such a bastion for simple and clean design. Loved by the French for sipping a pastis, the glass was also a popular in the Middle East, where it was favoured for drinking hot tea out of - indeed, Osama Bin Laden was famously pictured taking tea in a Duralex Picardie tumbler.

{Picardie tumbler}

These scented candles by Grand Illusions use the famous Duralex Gigogne glass as the votive and burn for 60 hours, in a whole range of fragrances, for £10. My favourite is Fig (but then, it always is. I'm Miss Figgy).

{fig candle in Gigogne tumbler}

Thursday, 29 December 2011

My pen is my sword

I have a very favourite pen, and this is it - the Papermate Flair. All of mine recently ran out, so I have been searching high and low for a replacement, but had no joy - these bad boys are difficult to get hold of. I had wanted one to write all my Christmas cards with, as this is one of the only pens that makes my handwriting anywhere near nice. It has a felt-tip style nib and if you buy the blue one (my fave) then it looks like proper fountain pen ink, but this dries instantly, without any of the mess.

{Newly acquired Papermate Flair}

I was at a meeting, and the person I was meeting with produced this pen from his pocket. I pounced on it, demanding to know where he got it from. We had a good old chat, with the both of us extolling the virtues of said pen for quite some time, and then he said "you can have the pen, I have boxes of them". I didn't need to be told twice, and stashed it in my handbag straight away. Christmas had come early.

I've since tracked them down and put in my order, on this brilliant website, Cult Pens.

{Available in four colours}

Write with Flair. x

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Desperate Scousewives

I haven't tuned in for this new series yet, but I must, because I'm intrigued to see how my fellow townsfolk will be portrayed.

I've not lived in Liverpool for a while, but nonetheless feel a Scouser through and through. I don't sport the hair, nail or eyelash extensions, and I tend not to visit the supermarket in my hair rollers, but if there's one thing that bonds me with our Desperate Scousewives, it's BRONZER.

I love a bit of bronzer, and despite working for a while in the make-up industry, I flout all the advice, and powder it all over my face, rather than just in the strategic "where the sun would catch your face naturally" areas. Spring, summer, autumn and winter - the bronzer goes on all over, every day.

Part of the reason for this is that I am pale - almost see through. The inside of my arms look like motorway road maps, my veins are that blue and skin so pale and thin (don't I sound attractive?). And the other part of it is that I find that if I use a little bronzer, then I don't need as much foundation. Also, the right bronzer will have a mattifying effect which means I don't need to wear powder as well.

One MAJOR requirement is that my bronzer must not have any shimmer in it whatsoever. If you're wearing bronzer, you want it to look natural, and shimmer is just not one bit natural, so why would you even think of putting it in a bronzer? Why?

My all time favourite is Guerlain Terracotta Moisturising Bronzing Powder which comes in different shades - I'm 01. It says it's moisturising, but I don't really see a difference from other normal powders, and certainly it's fine for my combination skin.

Guerlain Terracotta Moisturising Bronzing Powder £28.05

I'm using a freebie bronzer at the moment from Bobbi Brown, which is great - nice texture, nice compact, but the shade I'm using is Light (1) and is just too dark for me - I try to use it lightly to tone it down a bit, but really I should just go back to using my trusty Guerlain.

Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder £22.10

I also used Hoola by Benefit for a while, currently £19.98 from John Lewis, and despite looking very dark, the bronzer is apparently subtle when you apply it, and is a bit of a "one shade suits all" wonder. But the packaging was a bit inconvenient - I much prefer a compact, and so it was back to Guerlain for me. 

Chanel's bronzer is lovely - a nice compact, which includes a brush inside, which is actually suprisingly good, and saves space in your handbag, rather than carrying a separate, larger brush in your make-up bag.  Soleil Tan de Chanel is £32.50 and comes in a range of shades.

Soleil Tan de Chanel £32.50

Dior Bronze Matt Sunshine is my last recommendation - comes in a choice of two shades, with a great matt texture, and also SPF 20 - important all year round.

Dior Bronze Matt Sunshine £26.55

You'll notice that I've offered no cheap alternatives - I have never found a good one.

These are expensive looking tans.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Little red book

I do enjoy a perusal in a stationery department, and when I went to visit my friend in London at the weekend, who proclaimed that she needed a new diary, we hot-footed it down to Liberty before you could say 2012.

We fell in love with this excellent specimen:

{Moleskin Weekly Planner, Red}

It has your diary days down one side, and then a whole page for notes on t'other. There's a pocket at the back to shove your receipts, stamps and business cards in, and an elastic band to keep it all together. You can get it in three different sizes, but we liked the pocket size best. And it's a lovely, cheery red.

And I've just found it in the sale at Waterstones for £5.99 with free delivery (rather than the £13.50 that Liberty are charging) - you're welcome.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lunch time love affair

Oh hello. What did I find when I popped into M&S to purchase a humble wholemeal roll to go with my soup yesterday? What's that? Knitwear? And stripes too? Yes please.

{Pure Cotton Chunky Striped Jumper, £35}

Nothing says Christmas like a new piece of knitwear, and I love this nautical number, which comes in navy and white.

But my preferred colour is the beige and orange version - it's 100% cotton, and I think it looks a bit more Whistles than M&S.

Pair it with your skinny or straight-leg jeans, or a slim pair of navy trousers.

I'll be stalking this one after Christmas, to see if it goes into the sale, and when it does, don't you worry, I will pounce.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

An angel at my table

So I found these in a little shop just down the road from me in Amersham, called Whippet Grey. Whippet Grey started as, and still is, a mail order company, and the shop in Amersham is their first. If you're not local, order their catalogue or have a look on their website.

These paper angels can be used as name place cards for your dining table, to decorate your tree, or to make angel bunting. They're £9.95 for a pack of seven, and if you're careful, I reckon you could re-use them time and time again.

{Paper Angels from Whippet Grey}

It's the first time Popeye and I are hosting Christmas dinner this year, and I think I'm getting a little carried away with all the frippery!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Black and white and blue all over

So, as you may have already read, I am very much enjoying my own interpretations of this fabulous outfit as seen on Miss Carey Mulligan.

Black and white takes on a whole new dimension when you team it with a bold, strong royal blue.

I've put together a day look and an evening look - in fact, I wore the evening look to a wedding recently. I know, black at a wedding, but there wasn't very much of it, and I thought the whole combo together looked wedding-y enough to just about get away with it.

The shoes basically make the outfit, as they do on Carey (we're on first name terms now you see) - I bought these in the sale from Carvela five years ago for my brother's wedding. They've been quiet for a few of years, not wanting to get rid of them because of them featuring in such an important occasion, and it's just as well, because just look at what a good job they're doing for me now!

The outfit was made up of:
1. a blue cap sleeved top from a charity shop
2. a black and white striped skirt in the sale from Hobbs
3. my blue Carvela shoes
4. blue accessories

The accessories make the outfit. Mine were:
1. a vintage blue leather clutch bag
2. my all time best charity shop find, my blue and green Liberty shawl
3. Blue ring and earrings from Dorothy Perkins

{blue accessories}

For a day time look, I wear the accessories with my most recent purchase, which is this top from H&M. I love this top, and lo and behold, it even has side pockets, tucked into the seams. I wear it with skinny jeans and gold ballet pumps. H&M don't have it online, but this top is similar, in the sale for £12.99, and is a silk and viscose mix.

{new H&M top}

These outfits look best topped off with a bright and bold red lipstick. I bought this one in complete last minute panic, when I arrived in Winchester for a wedding, realising I'd forgotten my lipstick. I legged it to Boots and grabbed this lippy - what a choice. Red with a slight hint of orange, good strong pigment, doesn't dry, and looks glossy. Good work, Trayns.

{new lipstick}

{Elizabeth Arden's Exceptional Lipstick in Marigold}

Monday, 19 December 2011

Bottom drawer

I have a drawer full of half-used, abandoned products and make-up, which makes me shudder a little every time I open it. Some of the products are even unopened.

So I made a little pact with myself a few weeks ago to use them all up.

I am enjoying the challenge - the feeling of having a clear out always cheers me up no end, and I've also made some great discoveries amongst my hoard. And some disappointments too. I'll keep you informed of how I'm getting on.

My biggest disappointment so far is Laura Mercier Thickening and Building Mascara.

I have never experienced the panda eye effect which is much talked about in beauty circles, until I tried this. Good golly, I looked like I had two black eyes. I knew the time had gone to chuck the mascara out, when my boss said to me "You look tired - did you have a heavy weekend?". Erm, no. I did not. Unless you count my Strictly / X-Factor TV marathon.

So I raided the drawer again and found a sample-sized (I love these tiny tubes, perfect for your handbag) mascara from Estee Lauder. This is great - stays on, not a bit of drop or flaking, and comes off very easily with standard eye make-up remover. Makes lashes very defined and amplified, with no clumping. Lovely.
Estee Lauder Sumptuous Mascara £17.55
Lastly, I dug out a tube of Clinique Almost Makeup.

I remember buying this (I am embarrassed to admit) over four years ago! And it's lasted all this time - everything about it is just like I bought it yesterday. I am loving using this product - I remember ditching it because my skin wasn't good, and it just wasn't enough coverage for me, but with a little concealer, and then a dusting of bronzer, this is perfect for me.  It's SPF 15 and also contains antioxidant. The shade I use is 01 Fair. However, I have just learned that Clinique have discontinued it! Just as my love for it had been rekindled. Oh, the tragedy. The general public are so devastated that there is a Facebook campaign to bring it back - come on people, let's get behind this!

And that got me thinking, about what it was that has made such a difference lately to my skin, which has meant that I'm happy with wearing such a light coverage. As well as dreaded spots, flaky skin and large pores, I also get really bad pigmentation on one cheek in the summer, which never completely fades. Although having said that, on inspection today, I can't see it at all. My pigmentation could get so noticeable, that friends and colleagues used to try and wipe it off my face, thinking it was a huge splodge of foundation or concealer! I bought this Estee Lauder Idealist Skin Refinisher after reading up a lot about the product and I do think it's made a real difference to the quality of my skin.

Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher

Thinking about it, since using this, my pigmentation has faded little by little - yes, I know this would happen anyway in winter, but the extent to which it has disappeared is the best it's ever been. Every now and then, Estee Lauder do a 75ml version, which is by far the best value, around £58 - I found it at Boots. Expensive, but it lasts ever such a long time.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

All white on the night

Kirsten Dunst is a marvel. And her recent bout of favouring head to toe white at red carpet events has not gone unnoticed by yours truly.

Here's a little photo album to show you how fabulous she looks.

{just add sequins}

{simple and understated}

{with hair braids for a Grecian look}

{classic details - a read lip and black clutch}

Keep your M&S Stain Removing Wipes in your handbag at all times.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Stop-gap skincare

You've budgeted every penny this month, to make sure you've got cash for all the presents you need to buy, and parties you're going to. There's not a penny left in your purse unaccounted for - and then your moisturiser runs out.

It's always at the most inconvenient time, when the option of buying your usual more expensive moisturiser just isn't an option - even your advantage card points can't save you.

So, here are my tips for stop-gap skincare which will tide you over into the New Year - who knows, you may just find one that you stick with for a while.

My top pick is L'Oreal Youth Code Anti - Wrinkle Day Cream. The texture is lovely - quite thick, but it's not a heavy or greasy cream, meaning it's perfect for all but the very dry skin. It sinks in nicely, giving a good base for make-up. My only concern is that I'm pretty sure there's no SPF* in there, but as long as you're getting this from something else, like your foundation perhaps, then you're covered. This is a good option for anyone approaching or over 30, who is looking for an anti-ageing product.

I've tried the eye cream too and love it - I haven't tried the serum yet (but hello Santa, I would like to) and there is a separate night cream, although you can use the Day Cream day and night.
The whole range is currently 1/3 off at Boots and Superdrug, making the Day Cream and Eye Cream just over £10 each.

£10.31 from Superdrug

Another moisturiser in the anti-ageing category, if you're around the 30 mark, is L'Oreal's Revitalift Repair 10. And the bonus here is that this one has SPF20. It's slightly heavier than Youth Code (and has a stronger smell, it's quite perfumed) but if your skin verges on the dry side, then this could be the cream for you.

£9.99 from Superdrug

If you're in your twenties, and not yet concerned about anti-ageing, then this Triple Active Day Cream from L'Oreal is ideal for you, which is full of anti-oxidants. This cream will combat the effects of UV rays, stress, free radicals and pollution. It is a UV filter, but I can't find out the SPF, so make sure you're getting sun protection from your foundation or powder. This is on offer at the moment, at just over £5.

L'Oreal Triple Active Day Multi-Protection Moisturiser

Then as a treatment, I use Superdrug's Vitamin E Skin Oil - it is £1 off at the moment, down to £1.99. You can use it morning or night, but I use mine at night, instead of a night cream. It has a very light texture, and doesn't feel heavy on the skin. I have combination skin this suits my skin well, even though the packaging recommends this product for normal to dry skin.

I love this Eye Make-Up Remover - it gets every trace of mascara off (although I don't use waterproof mascara - if you do, you might have to find something more industrial). It's always cheap, and you can normally find it in the supermaket too, for about £2.75.

I've just discovered this Simple Vital Vitamin Foaming Cleanser, around £4 from all the usual suspects. I love cleansers which come out like a mousse, and was surprised to find this one was so cheap, and yet so effective. I normally use these foaming cleansers by Vichy and Caudalie, but this one has really won me over.

With all the above products, you can find them in Boots and Superdrug, but also most large supermarkets, and they always seem to be on some sort of offer, so shop around to see what's the best deal. And are you thinking of saving all those Clubcard and Nectar points for your Christmas food shopping? Pah! Don't be ridiculous - moisturiser, serum and cleanser is a far better use of your hard-earned points.

* For those of you who think an SPF isn't important in winter... you couldn't be more wrong. In winter, UVB rays (which cause burning) are weaker, so obviously you won't get sunburnt, but UVA rays (which cause ageing) are as strong as ever, and this is what you need to protect yourselves from with a good SPF. Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

All dressed up

You got your Christmas Day outfit sorted? No, me neither, but I've just put in a sneaky order on ASOS, as I've found these fabulous dresses which I think are the perfect Christmas Day option. Knee-length, with sleeves, and none of that dry-clean nonsense, which means those gravy spillages can be dealt with no probs.

They are low in stock so get your order in ASAP. These pictures aren't the greatest - use the links and have a look on the website instead.

Motel Belinda Dress With Low Neck Midi Length 
In Leopard £52

Motel Bree Dress Starry Night Print 
in Midi Length £52

Motel Indiana Spots Scoop Neck 
Chiffon Knee Dress £36 in sale

Motel Indiana Silhouette Rose Chiffon 
Knee Dress £36 in sale

Motel Bree Dress in Midi Length £52

They are the perfect versatile dresses - wearable in winter, with tights, a cardi belted over the top, or even a long-sleeved tee shirt underneath. Footwear options could be heels or boots - both would work, depending on how dressy you want to be. And light enough to wear in summer, with bare legs and a ballet pump.

I've blogged on here before about my love of natural fibres, and refusal to buy anything polyester. These dresses are all 100% viscose, but viscose material is a little bit of a mystery to us all. In fact, viscose sits somewhere in between natural fibres and synthetic fibres, and is created from natural cellulose (wood pulp), and produces a fabric that hangs well, washes well and is comfortable to wear. Modal, which you see a lot of in the shops, falls into the same category.

I'll let you know how I get on with mine when it arrives in the post - fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Cha cha cha

As in tea.

Can't sleep? The Christmas to-do lists running endlessly through your mind as soon as your head hits the pillow? I'm a big fan of all three teas below. Pukka's my favourite flavour (and packaging), Dr Stuart's is the most effective, and M&S is the cheapest of the lot, and easy to get hold of.

Any of these would make a nice stocking filler too.

Calming Tea from M&S

Pukka Night Time tea bags

Dr Stuart's Valerian Plus tea bags

You can order them online, but I can usually find Pukka in Sainsbury's and Dr Stuart's in Waitrose.

Brew's up.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Stocking fillers

Marks and Sparks is coming up trumps with the stocking fillers this year. As well as their tremendous tights (I like the Merino Wool Blend) and socks, I have found some other little wonders on the shelves.

M&S travel dental floss - 10 meters for 70p
M&S stain removing wipes - 5 for 70p
(and both on 3 for 2)

I've added in a five pence piece in the photo below to give you an idea of scale - have you ever seen a dental floss more tiny? And the stain removing wipes for me are a god send. I tend to get more food down my top than in my mouth, so I have stashed these in my handbag and am ploughing through them.

This year I've found M&S's Floral Collection, and the whole range is on buy one, get one half price. And it's so reasonably priced to begin with: the large bath cream is just £3 for 500ml, as are the boxed soaps, and the packaging is lovely - very vintage. My favourite fragrance is Iris, closely followed by Lily of the Valley, although if you're a Rose fan, this one also hits the spot. The range is massive, and also includes shower cream, hand wash, body lotion and hand cream, with prices starting from £2.00.

I've also purchased the Floral Collection mini candle gift set, for £7.50, which comes with four candles, each in a floral fragrance, in a fluted glass votive. 

London Bus Shortbread Tin £4 (half price at the moment)
Iris Florentina Foaming Bath Essence
Iris Florentina Soap
Floral Collection Candle Gift Set

And I couldn't resist the shortbread in a London Bus tin - once we've troughed all the biscuits, this will become my new cracker tin.

Just the ticket.

Friday, 9 December 2011

All wrapped up

{supplies at the ready}

I've got the presents sorted, it's now time to start the wrapping, which is a task I do not enjoy. It is quite, quite boring. Deciding what to wrap the presents in - that's good, but the executing of the task? Dull.

To aid my progress this year, I have splashed out on these Sellotape Spots which are worth the money, and speed things up a treat. 

{Emma Bridgewater Starry Skies Tissue Paper}

I've decided on a red and white paper theme, with red and white candy stripe paper from M&S for a mere pound, and red paper with white stars on, which was one of my last purchases from high-street hero Woolworths (SOB!). For more delicate items, I have splurged on this tissue paper by Emma Bridgewater, which is red stars on a cream background.

The ribbon is plain white satin from good old John Lewis, with cardboard luggage tabs from Rymans.

{Muji Alphabet Stamp Set, 7.95}
I've used a "Christmas" ink stamp, with a dictionary definition on it for my gift tags, which I found in a random old-fashioned stationery shop in Cheltenham, but this one is similar. And my A-Z ink letter stamps from Muji never fail to come in handy.

Get your wrap on.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Out damned spot

It's the time of year when spots tend to rear their ugly heads. We're drinking too much, eating too much, and staying out late. I've tried many a spot treatment, including the much lauded Origins Super Spot Remover Blemish Gel and Dermalogica Overnight Clearing Gel . They've never really worked for me. In fact, the only thing that I've ever found to make a difference is Darphin Purifying Balm.

You can buy it from a few places online, but they also sell it in Space NK, and here's my top tip - Darphin do excellent samples, so go into your nearest branch of Space NK and as for one nicely. Here's a pic of mine below. You only need a tiny bit of this balm, so even the sample pot will last you a few months, and the full size one will last years I reckon. 

{sample pots}

Depending on your type of spot, and the stage it's at, this product will either draw it out or shrink it down. Better out than in.