No7 Beauty Advent Calendar: the best bits

no7-beauty-advent-calendar-2014

So by now we all know that I love Christmas. We also know that when I say I love Christmas, what I really mean by that is that I just love the run-up to Christmas. Sure, the big day itself is exciting and I love it, but I love the three weeks leading up to it and all the build up that brings even more. Especially when it comes to advent calendars.

Advent calendars are a tradition that’s hard to break. Yes, I know I’m probably the wrong side of 25 to be having one still, but every year I end up with one. Except for this year, when I actually ended up with four (completely by accident, I might add); two of the chocolate variety (obviously) and two of my new yearly tradition – the beauty variety.

After the success of last year’s You Beauty Advent Calendar, I bought another this year. At £50 for nearly £200 worth of stuff I thought it was a no-brainer. Except this year’s has sorely disappointed me. Either last year I was under a wow-this-is-amazing haze of lust for beauty advent calendars, or this year’s really IS a let down, but either way I’ll be reconsidering my options with that one next year (FYI, the samples were tiny this year and it felt like there were a lot of ‘filler’ products between the really good ones. Just my opinion there though!).

But not content with that, I also succumbed to the hype of the Boots No7 Beauty Advent Calendar. I couldn’t get my mitts on one of these for love nor money last year, so there I sat this year, poised over every single social media outlet, anticipating its arrival online. And I got one. And you know what? It’s actually pretty damn good. At £35 it’s cheaper than a lot of other beauty advent calendars out there and the mixture of sample sized products to full size is actually pretty well mixed. AND it goes up to Christmas Day, where a lot of others stop on Christmas Eve. I’ve still got three more windows to open, but seeing as I’ll be taking a little break over Christmas (and, you know, because when else can you use your Christmas tree as a photo backdrop?!) I thought I’d share my favourites with you now…

boots-no7-advent-calendar

boots-beauty-advent-calendar

Of all the products so far, these are the ones I have been using daily and will definitely be replacing once they’ve run out. In no particular order of favouritism, here’s what they are:

1. No7 Gel Look Shine Nail Varnish in Deep Wine: This could not be a more perfect product for me. I established around the time of my wedding that I actually can’t wear gels at all – within 48 hours of getting married my wedding manicure had all peeled off, and the ones I had after my honeymoon didn’t last much longer either. My toes are fine but my hands, it seems, are not so compatible (something to do with having oily skin, apparently!). So I love a good fake gel polish. This is one of my absolute favourite colours – I wear red all year round, but more so at Christmas time, obviously. At 4ml it’s not full size, but still big enough to get a fair few uses out of all the same.

2. No7 Nail Effects Nail Varnish in Disco Ball: Again, another great inclusion. Whether it’s fingers or toes you can’t really go wrong with sparkles, and this will definitely be making an appearance for New Year’s Eve.

3. No7 High Shine Lip Crayon in Daydreamer: I’m not much of a lipstick person on a day-to-day-basis, but this might mark the start of me trying a bit harder where that’s concerned. This is a generously sized sample that will last (me, at least) a long time and is the perfect nude shade – essentially it just enhances your natural lip colour and adds a bit of shine. Best part about it? It’s not sticky like lip gloss and doesn’t smudge like lipstick; it’s more the consistency of a lip balm, just a nicely coloured one.

4. No7 High Shine Lip Crayon in Delicate Pink: Again, another generously sized lip crayon. This one’s a light pink colour, with undertones of blue (great for making teeth look whiter, evidently!). I quite like how bold this is, so I’ve been building it up for a stronger look, but it can equally be used to create a more subtle hint of colour.

5. No7 Stay Precise Felt Tip Eyeliner: A full sized product that’s had so much use already that I’m having to ration myself in case it runs out over Christmas and I’m stuck without a replacement! The pigmentation is really strong and once it’s on there’s no smudging or flaking.

6. No7 Stay Perfect Metallic Eyes Pencil in Blackest: Contrary to the name, this is actually a very dark brown (yeah, I’m confused about that one too). I’ve been opting for brown eyeliners and mascaras for a while now; they’re slightly more subtle than black but still create that smoky effect perfectly. This has tiny flecks of silver glitter running through it, so is great for adding some sparkle to your eyes without going OTT. On the other end there’s a smudging brush, which is handy. The only thing I can’t work out is how to sharpen it – can you even sharpen a crayon?!

7. No7 Protect and Perfect Intense Night Cream: I adore the Protect and Perfect range, and at 25ml this is a pretty generous sample of face cream. I definitely believe the hype around this product; my skin certainly looks fresher and tighter when I use it, so it’s been nice to have a good quality night cream to treat my tired skin to in the run-up to Christmas.

8. No7 Skin Illuminator: At 10ml you’d be forgiven for thinking that this sample won’t last long. However, you’d be wrong – a tiny dollop of this goes a long, long way. The directions state to use under foundation for a ‘natural glow’ but seeing as I create my own glow on a daily basis anyway thanks to the wonder that is oily skin, I’ve been using this as more of a highlighter instead. Although not strictly a highlighter as such, when applied over blusher or just above the brows this does a fairly similar job by creating a nice subtle shimmer. Definitely one I’ll purchase in full size once it’s run out.

Despite there being the odd thing I wasn’t so fond of (eye make up remover, body lotion and shower creme, I’m looking at you here) and despite the fact that not one but TWO of the items were missing from this advent calendar (a mistake swiftly rectified by Boots when I contacted them), I will definitely be buying this one again next year.

Anyone else bought a beauty advent calendar this year? Got one you’d recommend me trying for next year? Or were you as disappointed as I was with the You Beauty offering this year?!

 

 

Christmas 2014: Scandi style all the way!

I can’t believe there’s just a little over a week until Christmas day is upon us. I feel like the whole festive season has just crept up on me this year, even though I spent most of November thinking about it!

We’re hoping to move house next year, so this Christmas is extra sentimental for us as it’s the last one in our current home – the one we’ve lived in together for nearly seven whole years. I’m sad to go, but equally excited for a new beginning; it’s a strange feeling. With that in mind, I’ve been soaking up the festivities and going all out with the decorations this year. I mean, I always go way overboard anyway, but this year is something else. And, of course, this year I’ve gone for another new theme when it comes to Christmas decor (does anyone else do this? No? Just me?!) – Scandi style has won my heart this year, so much so that I think it might be my favourite EVER Christmas theme (until next year. I’m fickle like that).

So here’s how Christmas 2014 looks in our house at the moment:

scandi-christmas-2014

Apologies if you follow me on Instagram, because you’ll already have seen these pictures. But if not, here’s the lowdown on where everything comes from:

1. DIY Christmas baubles. The easiest things ever – the clear baubles are from eBay, the mini baubles inside from Paperchase and the labels made with my new obsession: the label maker. I wrote a little tutorial on this in more detail over on the Bellaboo & Beau blog last week.

2. Our tree. For the first couple of years we lived together we had a fake tree, but it just wasn’t the same and now we always have a real one. Granted, it’s slightly messier – especially with two inquisitive little cats running around – but I can’t imagine not having a real one now. Even when it does droop after two weeks and I constantly have to rearrange baubles that are sagging on branches (number one pet Christmas hate right there).

3. Presents all wrapped under the tree. I’ve gone with gold polka dots alongside my usual kraft paper this year. The star shaped labels are from eBay, and the tags all made with my new best friend, the label maker.

4. A selection of this year’s wrapping items. The gold polka dot paper was £1 a roll from Sainsburys and although it looks good, it was a nightmare to work with. It’s so thin that I had to double wrap some presents as they were showing through the paper after one layer. Awkward. The silver sequin ribbon is from eBay, as are the rubber stamps, and the craft strips were bought in PoundLand back in the summer (on a total whim – I had no idea what I’d actually use them for at the time I bought them!)

5. Styling up the dining table in preparation for some festive drinks last night. Not that we actually used the dining table, but you know, any excuse to buy flowers and sequins. The silver sequin runner was from The Sweet Hostess, the flowers from my local florist and those adorable little hexagonal candle holders? 50p from a local charity shop. Steal of the year.

6. Leftover flowers that wouldn’t fit in my table arrangement. Flowers (much like cake. And biscuits) never go to waste in our house. The paper star (my absolute favourite new Christmas item this year – why did I only by one?!) was £4 from Primark and the silver stag tealight holder was a Christmas present from my Mum last year. Tempted to keep it out all year though, what’s the deal on that?!

7. Our living room this week has been my favourite place. It’s so cosy and warm and I’m going to miss it when we move. Especially our little balcony – where the hell am I going to hang all of those again next year?! All of the paper snowflakes and honeycomb balls are from eBay. The wicker stars are from Dunelm Mill (last year, unfortunately) and the baubles are just from my ever-growing and slightly obsessive collection.

8. The kitchen looking cosy last night before some serious Prosecco drinking got under way (headache central today – I’m eating Twiglets and praying for the best). The blue mercury style fairy lights were £5 in the Wilko sale a couple of years ago and the wicker stars are from eBay. I’m hoping our next kitchen will be big enough to house a second Christmas tree – slightly wishful thinking there though I think!

 

How are you decorating this Christmas? Do you love Scandi as much as I do? Are Twiglets the best hangover cure ever?!

2014 Christmas decoration haul

It’s no secret that I love Christmas. It’s also no secret that every year I go mad buying decorations. I don’t need any more. I don’t even really want any more, but you know…they just kind of find their way into my home somehow.

Last year I was all about red. And after a brief flirtation with the idea of having neon pink, this year I’ve actually settled with a palette of mixed metallics – gold, silver, white, grey and, my latest obsession, copper. Ultimately, I’d love to build up a proper decoration collection – something I can use every year, just adding the odd trinket to (this will never happen FYI, but you know, it’s good to have goals). And while I’m aware that by this time next year I’ll be coveting something completely different for now, at least, I’m really happy with my 2014 selection.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ve bought in and where I bought it…

knitted-advent-calendar

metallic-baubles

rustic-wooden-letters

rustic-wooden-stars

hema-christmas-decorations

1. So the first item is a bit of a cop out in terms of buying. My mum is an ace knitter – I don’t even know how she does it – and every year she knits us something at Christmas time. Last year we got cushion covers, but this year? Well this year she went above and beyond, knitting us this amazing advent calendar. I can’t wait to use this every single year, especially when children come along one day and we can fill it with all sorts of fun treats 🙂

2. I bought these tiny baubles on a whim. I was on the Paperchase website searching for a diary and ended up with £25 worth of un-diary related products. Obviously. You should know that these baubles are tiny though; so small, in fact, that I didn’t end up putting them on my tree. But I did do something pretty awesome with them that you can see here. The larger ones on the right are all from B&Q, and were all 99p. FYI, B&Q has really come up in my estimations this year with regards to Christmas – well worth a look if you’ve exhausted every other avenue in the hunt for decorations!

3. So I really wanted some of Anthropologie’s rustic wooden letters for my tree. But I REALLY didn’t want to spend £6 per letter. Cue a desperate eBay hunt, where I tracked these beauties down for a mere 99p each. To make them a bit more unique, I dug out a favourite Christmas staple of mine – metallic twine – and wrapped it around each letter a few times, alternating between silver and gold.

4. What is Christmas without several hundred thousand stars around the house? These wooden stars came home with me during a routine food shop at Sainsburys. I can’t remember exactly how much they were, but know they were on offer at the time and were around £5 (ish) for the pair. The small fabric stars are from an independent shop in Rye called Concepts. It’s basically my Mecca and if I’m ever missing, that’s where I’m to be found. These were £2 each.

5. One word: HEMA. Have you checked it out yet? I discovered Hema one lunchtime, when I was idly browsing Twitter, and I haven’t looked back since. In fact, I have to actually limit myself to going on the website once a week, such is my newfound love for it. If you haven’t heard of it yet then I apologise; your life (and bank balance) may never be the same again. All of these decorations came from Hema – the gold sequin baubles were £1.99 each, the pack of paper stars were £1.50 and the stamps were £2.50. Oh, and did I mention they send you caramel waffles FREE with every order?!

Life Lately {November in Rye…and a little bit of London}

So it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts…over six whole months in fact – how did that happen? And now we’re in December and I honestly don’t know what I’ve done with myself this year (other than eat a lot of granola, watch a lot of TLC and, um, grow a slight obsession with anything remotely Bake Off related).

November was a mixed bag for me; by far my least favourite month of the whole year, for various reasons. But amongst some of the toughest times I’ve ever experienced in all my 28 years, there was still time to stop and appreciate some loveliness. In fact, if November 2014 has taught me anything at all, it’s that no matter how hard life gets at times, it’s these lovely moments that keep us powering through…

rye-in-november

1. I started the month with a new ‘do, courtesy of the Rye Retreat. And when I say new, what I really mean is that I took the plunge and actually got my roots done for the first time since July. And it was good. There’s just something about new hair that makes me feel completely refreshed!

2. Sundays were made for tea and cake. I spent a lovely day wandering around the town with my aunt – rarely do I ever take the time to go out and explore the town I live in these days, but days like this make me appreciate where I live. And make me grateful there are so many places I can stuff my face with delicious cake. If you’ve never been before then definitely check out Edith’s House, everything here is to die for.

3. After a not so pleasant morning being robbed having some work done at the dentist, I spent a much nicer afternoon playing around with flowers for a top secret project I’m working on (to be revealed soon!). This is what was left over, and coupled with my new paper star, kicked off start of the festive decor in our living room.

4. One of my favourite November days was spent with one of my most favourite people ever up in London. Polly and I literally shopped ’til we dropped; I think we must have walked about 50 miles that day up and down Oxford Street. Mostly because I decided, half an hour before my train was due to leave St. Pancras, that I wanted to go back to the Marble Arch Primark and ‘definitely-buy-that-coat-that-I-don’t-think-will-suit-me-but-that-I-love-so-much-it-would-be-a-crime-not-to-anyway*’ (we’ve all been there). Sorry Polly!
*FYI, it turned out to be a good call – nearly everyone since has asked me “which M&S did you go to to get that coat because every store I’ve tried AND online has sold out?” Me 1-0 Primark.

5. The haul (minus said coat) I got from Primark. Absolutely loving that jumper, those boots and that blusher. Absolutely not loving that mascara. Undecided about the jeans.

6. This year’s Christmas cards, from Marks and Spencer. They are SO pretty that I’m holding one of each back to be worked into the future gallery wall (the winter version, obvs. Yes there will be seasonal amendments. Not even sorry).

7. How Christmas *should* look this year in my house. How it will really look? Nice for about 10 minutes, until the cats realise the tree is up and try every trick in the book to destroy it without me noticing. I can dream though. Or just basically drool outside the window of The Shop Next Door every time I walk past it (which is a LOT at the moment).

8. Garden centres. The nemesis of my five year old self, who detested spending weekends being dragged round one of what felt like hundreds as my parents looked at things I deemed unnecessary to life as I knew it. Yeah, I ate those words about two years ago. And I haven’t looked back since. If I met me now I wouldn’t even know me.

9. So the tree is yet to arrive. But that didn’t stop me making my poor husband root around the loft (twice) last Sunday so I could, you know, just casually peruse my Christmas decoration collection. And, you know, casually just throw up a few paper snowflakes and the like. I’m definitely going to miss this little balcony window when we move next year.