Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Aromatherapy Associates

So, the festive season has passed, but I am definitely still enjoying some sneaky benefits.

One of these comes in the form of this beautiful limited edition star from essential oil experts Aromatherapy Associates, London. Every year they bring out a few pieces in their Christmas collection and this usually features a sweet little star that is the perfect edition to hang on your tree. The Star (£10)* contains a 9ml bath/shower "revive oil" that is perfect for the holiday season, when you are kickin' back for some R "n" R. The scent contains pink grapefruit, rosemary,and juniper berry and will be ideal for adding a little pep to your step after the festive slump and will ensure that you are raring to spring into 2016.

So, how is the quality?

First things first, I can testify that when it comes to this brand, good things really do come in small packages. Aromatherapy Associates are renowned for the quality of their oils used in each blend. They have almost been going for as long as I have, so after thirty years in industry I trust that they really know their stuff. Each blend of oils is honed for maximum effect and transformation of body and mind. The blend is extremely concentrated which means that the star will allow 3/4 baths depending how sparingly you use it.

The oils can be purchased individually and centre around different needs- revive, de-stress, inner support etc depending on what you need a little helping hand with. They can be snapped up throughout many luxury/high-end spas across the country or you can stop by Liberty London or Selfridges to pick one up a little closer to home.

Like I ever need an excuse to drop by!

How should I use it?

If you are anything like me, I try to ensure that I get maximum use out of each tiny bottle because quite frankly, this stuff is liquid gold. Just add a few drops into your bath under a running tap, swirl and let the uplifting scent fill your bathroom allowing the stresses and strains of daily living to simply drift away (well, for half an hour at least!)

Alternatively, I found that the oils are equally useful for a quick morning pick-me-up (before my first few swigs of java.) If I don't have time on my hands for a leisurely bath, especially on weekdays, I place a few drops between both palms and cup them around my nose and inhale deeply whilst in-shower. The heat of the shower water has the same effect and is the perfect way get a great start on your morning or to combat a strong case of "Mondaze". Oils like this can also be especially powerful for clear breathing if you are battling the last of that winter cold.

I would definitely recommend picking up a little something to try from Aromatherapy Associates as they certainly aren't widely hyped within the beauty blogosphere without good cause. Maybe you can't afford to splash out on one of their larger sets this time, if you act fast you might even grab The Star from your local Space NK or on-line at discount (£5). Now that I have sampled something from the range I will be sure to add it to gift ideas and wish lists of the future, oh yes.

Em, how long until my birthday?...

*I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes only. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*

How can I connect with Aromatherapy Associates?
Facebook: Aromatherapy Associates
Twitter: @AromaAssoc
Instagram: aromatherapyassociatesuk


Friday, 22 January 2016

Micellar water: The low down

Previously the market was a slave to massively hyped formulations such as a Bioderma that beauty fanatics could only ever hope to pick up on a Parisian holiday, however now the drugstore is awash with many brands doing their own take on micellar water, the latest craze to flood the industry.

So, what is it exactly?

On first glance it appears to be a lazy girl's go-to for rapid make-up removal. It is a designated staple in most French pharmacies and models appear to swear by the stuff, but should this be something we are working into our daily routine?

The science? Well, the liquid is clear and consists of cleansing particles, or micelles that are suspended in soft water. The micelles act as teeny, tiny magnets that stick to and dissolve make-up leaving clean, hydrated skin. It won't sting or strip your skin or leave it dry like the Kalahari.

What I love is that due to the magnetic effect it attracts the make-up/dirt and removes it swiftly without dragging everything around your face. Plus it is sensitive enough to be used on the eyes. It is also the perfect travel companion or can easily be decanted for that long haul flight. You can purchase a variation dependent on your skin type, however it is fairly suitable across the board due to its gentle nature. My skin type veers towards the drier side when winter kicks in and I don't find it to be tightening at all. You might find that a particular brand has just the right balance for you, so read the small print.

Micellar solutions seem to pack a punch if you need a helping hand to streamline your skincare routine. They are powerful, quick and effective, whether you want to breakdown a heavier eye make-up look or just need a quick morning refresher to perk things up and carefully coax yourself out of that tired slumber.

I received a sample from Avène, who are the skin-care queen for those sensitive issues and that inspired me to pitch it against some more widely available drugstore options, from Nivea and Simple, to see how things held up.

Simple Kind To Skin Micellar Cleansing Water, £4.49

For me, this is the most hydrating option on my mini menu. All you need to do is soak a couple of cotton pads in the solution and place them on your eyes to break up the majority of your eyeshadow/liner/mascara. It isn't irritating in the slightest and doing this at the end of the day is so soothing. I find the cleanse to be effective and extremely gentle. After sorting my eyes, I just need to take a couple of new pads for the rest of my face. Job done. I love how hydrating and fresh my face feels after use. The price point is super affordable at normal retail of £4.09. This is also frequently on deal/special offer meaning that you can pick up a bottle for as little as £2.99. I swear by this stuff and I will always return to it. Simples.

Nivea Daily Essentials 3 in 1 Sensitive Caring Micellar Water 200ml, £4.09

The second in line for my budget selection is from Nivea. I selected the Dry Skin formula because we are currently in the middle of an icy Scottish winter, and frankly I will take all the help I can get. As the name suggests, this lotion promises 3 main benefits and all with the addition of soothing Almond Oil to leave things feeling smooth, soft and comfortable. It will remove eye make-up in a flash whilst caring for lashes, offers deep and effective cleansing of face make-up and all this with an injection of moisture.

This is highly comparable to the Simple formula in my opinion and I tend to switch between both depending what is currently on deal of the day. This also comes in a sensitive or normal skin formula so you might want to alter your choice slightly depending on season to ensure that your skin continues to be on best behaviour. I find it performs well removing eye make-up and don't particularly mind if I need to let those cotton pads linger for a few extra seconds like a cold compress. Truth is, it feels quite relaxing. Neither of these drugstore options carry any fragrance at all so a great choice if highly perfumed products aren't your bag.

Avène Cleanance Micellar Water 400ml, £16.00*

When it comes to skincare, the gurus at Avène usually have a few lessons up their sleeve to teach all of us. I have used several of their products in the past and was kindly sent a bottle of their micellar water for review. This particular formula was from their special Cleanance range which caters for blemish prone skin. Personally, I don't suffer from oily/blemish prone skin but wanted to trial it for general effect and thought I could reserve it for those times when my skin was acting up or breaking out.

The Cleanance solution has a very fresh fragrance almost reminiscent of a beach walk or ocean mist which I liked, but again something to consider if you don't find that heavy scents mix with your skin. The solution aims to regulate oil production and keep things on any even keel with a focus on leaving skin with that clean, fresh feeling. As with all Avène products, you don't have to worry your pretty little head about nasties in the form of parabens or harsh alcohol.

As this wasn't necessarily tailored exactly for my skin type I stuck to using it once a day or less frequently, but if it's the correct fit, you should be able to use freely for both morning and evening application. You can't argue that compared to our high-street hits this offering from Avène clocks up a few extra numbers on the till. As we pay more attention to what we are putting on our faces it would seem that we are frequently viewing a skincare regime and holy grail products as an investment.

I enjoyed using this micellar water but found it slightly drying for my personal taste and skin type. That being said, perhaps I will try their Eau Thermale Avène Micellar Lotion Cleanser and Make-up Remover in future for a better fit. This rings in at a little less (£13.00), but for half the volume. Avène are a tried and trusted brand and I am always prepared to give them my time and attention, because let's face it...they know their craft.

It seems that our beloved French pharmacy now faces some pretty mean rivals, but I will leave it to you to select one for what feels appropriate for you. You might find that your loyalty and allegiance remains with timeless favourites which you won't mind splashing that extra cash on (and that's ok). On the other hand perhaps you would prefer to try something new on the shelves that could keep your face clean and fresh and a few extra dollar in the bank.I just wanted to highlight that we always have options, so it wouldn't hurt to get down to your local Boots or Superdrug and get testin'. The crux is efforts made in streamlining our skincare doesn't have to be synonymous with "cutting corners". Best add a bottle to your bathroom cabinet or bedside table... just in case you, you know, fall asleep in your make-up. Whoops.

The competition is fierce. Let's hope they keep it clean....

*I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes only. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

CND Vinylux

December has fled, with its reds and golds and pretty much any excuse to rock a festive party nail. Is anyone else missing those vibrant colours? Has life lost a little bit of its shimmer/sparkle?

Let's get one thing clear. I am not a self confessed glitter junkie and I don't particularly buy into nail art. I quite possibly don't possess the skill or patience and I don't think it totally jams with my style. One thing I do enjoy are red nails. Red nails/lips are the ultimate statement and perfect for parties or when you want to amp things up a notch.

Recently I have been all kinds of obsessed with the 1 week polish from CND. CND brought us the popular Shellac nail craze. This promises to last 2 weeks, but I find it a little too indulgent for frequent use and it requires extra removal time.

CND offer a 1 week polish called Vinylux* which retails for £9.95. This is the perfect half-way house between a polish that will most likely have chipped within a couple of days and a full blown 2 week manicure.

I selected the shade "Crimson Sash" to try on for size. The shade is a mixture of red and maroon which makes it eye-catching with an elegant edge. This offers beauty buffs an alternative option from the classic bright, Hollywood red. Personally, I prefer wearing colour on short nails. It immediately adds interest to any outfit choice and is especially flattering against a black or monochrome ensemble.

I found the polish a dream to use. There is no difference in applying a normal varnish, it just has the promise to hang around a little longer than other efforts. Two coats of colour can be applied in relatively quick succession and finished off with the glossy top coat.

The polish is extremely fluid in texture and the brush size is ideal for colour placement.

A personal tip is to apply a stripe down the centre of each nail before working the colour out to the side. Don't venture too close to the cuticle edge and if you are feeling extra profesh you can be sure to "cap" each edge to further prevent chips of flakes.

I also found the polish to be fast drying which means you aren't left at a loose end as things dry and it will ensure that you can dig deep into your bag for those set of keys in no time.

I have to say, this is a win for me.

The polish looks like you had a professional job when what you really did was bop around your room to your favourite playlist. The product is also slick to remove, taking you back to a blank slate in no time.

Vinylux will keep your nails in tip top condition and you won't be left in a mani-panic if you need polished paws on the go...

*I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes only. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*

How can I connect with CND?
Facebook: ilovecnd
Twitter: @ilovecnd
Instagram: @cndworld

Saturday, 9 January 2016

January Blues

We might just be approaching the end of the toughest week of the calendar year. Who's with me?

The turkey is done, the tree is packed away and we've eaten more items from the selection box that we care to admit. The echo of blenders whizzing up healthy potions can be heard all over the land as we try to erase a little of the damage and reset the clock for the year stretched out before us. 

There is absolutely no doubt that with the cold creeping in and looming January skies stealing our daylight, things can be left a little lack lustre after we have chinked those champagne glasses at New Year and the last of the confetti has settled.

So, whether you feeling a little flat, (or fat) or just need a boost to kick start your year, I thought it would be fun to share a handful of handy hints we could all use to frame 2016 in a positive light.

We are often told that we ought not to "sweat the small stuff", but if you flip it around you frequently find that it is those small, simple details that make the difference between a good day and a great day. These could also be that something that pulls you back from the brink if you are having it a lil' tough.

Remember, this is as much for me as it is for you guys... 2016 is upon us. So with no particular order or agenda, let's jump in.

1. Set your alarm earlier than needed. Give yourself a "wake-up window."

2. More light. Light a few extra candles. Treat yourself to a Lumie lamp if you struggle with those early rises. January is stingy on the daylight so you might want to try a little light therapy to combat feelings of S-A-D. If all else fails? Fairy lights.

3. Drink good coffee. Enough said.

4. If you are a coffee noob, see point 3. You can start with an entry level classic mocha and work your way up!

5. Get a good skin care routine down. You don't need to use 100 lotions and potions, but we should always invest in the basics of cleansing and moisturising and maybe a touch of eye cream. Take a lesson from those Frenchies. It's clear that they know how to look after themselves to keep faces looking pretty as a picture. Your older self is thanking you already.

6. Bold lip colours. Wear them more often. You are afraid they don't suit you. Or you are walking around with it smeared on your teeth, but experiment and do it anyway...

7. Switch up one thing in your normal get ready routine. Repetition makes things easy and breezy when we need it to be, but sometimes we get bored. Stray outside the lines a little...

8. Streamline your morning routine. Ensure that you are never constantly rushing out the door. Save those extra minutes to linger over that first morning brew, and breathe.

9. Write lists. Use them to your advantage. Tidy your mind. Organise your thoughts. Plan your time well. Know what is coming up, and when. Maximise your free time doing things that you love and that bring you joy.

10. More sleep. Scrimping on our bed zeds is one of our top mistakes, and we keep repeating it. Why?! Skip that TV show or get off the computer. Always head to bed a little earlier than you actually want to fall asleep. Remember that "wind down window?"

11. Focus on your 5 a day. Ok, so most of us never manage it, but find creative ways of sneaking a little more fruit and veg into your diet. Santa popped a Breville Active Blend under my Christmas tree and so far it is going rather smoothie-ly Get it? You don't have to rush out and snap up the most expensive one on the market, and hey... I won't judge you for having a few pieces of Christmas chocolate when my back is turned. We are only human, right?

12. Start and end the day with a positive comment. You don't have to stand in the bathroom and look in the mirror feelin' all Beyonce and saying you are sassy/fierce or other weird mantras. Chances are you are pretty incredible. You may have just forgotten...

13. Nail an easy FOTD (face of the day.) That's right, I'm talking simple base, a slick of a nude-toned shadow and a natural lip that you can throw on anytime, anywhere in the space of 5-10 minutes tops. The rewards of this will pay for itself...

14. Find a new hobby. This might come to you in a flash or might take a little self-searching, but I bet there is a lot of untapped potential if you take the time to look. For me, for 2015 it was my blog of course and the benefits have been unimaginable. It is worth taking the risk...

15. Spend more QT with your friends. STOP being so busy. Working in time with those you love shouldn't feel like a chore or cause extra stresses. They are the ones that bring joy, laughter, light, colour and energy after all. So leave your phone in your handbag or shove it a drawer for a while and be present with them.

16. Mini pamper routines. I'm not talking about a weekly trip to The Scotsman here, but a minimum once a week face mask or nail painting sesh oughta do the trick. Or how about laying in the bath reading your new book love? In case you are wondering, this is currently "How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are".

17. Pick out a print. There is nothing better that popping an inspirational print up on your bedroom wall or adding a little something special to that gallery wall you are carefully curating in your lounge. I would recommend taking a browse over at Nouvelle Daily or Old English Company and I challenge you not to swoon a little. Everyone needs a visual sometimes to help them be a little more up and at 'em.

19. Whack on some tunes. Plenty of options for all tastes and styles. Even the totally embarrassing ones. Save a few go-to playlists on Spotify and get ready to wake up the right way and bop along your commute. Music changes everything.

20. Relax. Let go of past niggles. Leave those things in 2015 that will only hold you back in 2016. Give yourself a break in the present. You have a lot going for you and if you surround yourself with the right people you will continue to you grow and flourish. You should also relax about your future. Believe that your best days lay before you. 

Ok, that's a wrap. I really hope these have helped inspire a little 2016 pep. Now I am itching to hear yours. Go ahead. I'm listening...


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Edinburgh Coffee Festival

At the beginning of October as our beautiful city began to chill down for winter, Edinburgh played host to its very own coffee festival. Colour me interested, intrigued and all kinds of excited. Latte loving Edinburg-ers flocked to the atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful Mansfield Traquair to soak up the buzz and satisfy those caffeine cravings.

This stunning venue became a forum for exhibitors, talks and demonstrations accompanied by a little live music allowing excited little beans to jump from stand to stand to learn more about their favourite vendors, grab a bag of java-to-go or perhaps get a taste for something fresh.

I was delighted to instantly spot a few of my own personal favourites such as Artisan Roast, Brew Lab and Machina Espresso and chat with newbies Mr Eion and Obadiah.

There were snacks and sweet treats on offer from Pinnies and Poppyseeds and The Marshmallow Lady to name but a few, and the talented folks at Pickerings Gin even crafted a coffee cocktail for the occasion with a little help from boffin, Mr Eion and a bespoke blend he had created for the event.

Personally I adore coffee, if a little late to the party myself, on admission. Over time I have gathered bits "n" pieces of equipment; deepened my knowledge and truly had my fair share of lattes and flat whites.

I've weighed and extracted. I've dabbled in cold brew and I finally know my Chemex from my Hario. Hurrah! I feel like this was the perfect timing for such an event. Edinburgh has been gasping and this went some way to satisfy my personal cravings.

The Edinburgh scene has been gently brewing in the background. It was good to take a moment to celebrate long standing roasters and encouraging to see budding businessmen and women in the city take a leap of faith to finally open that espresso bar in the hope that it It's got to be worth a shot?

Baristas and shop owners alike shared tips and tricks to improve what they do and collectively rejoice that it is indeed a fantastic time to be part of the coffee industry. We can feel this in Edinburgh, stretching down throughout the UK and extending to most major cities within Europe.

In recent times we were happy fuelling up on cheap instant just to get us through a tough day at the office. Fast forward to the present day: equipment is portable (Hario V60/Aeropress) and good quality coffee can be ordered direct to our doorstep and is always at our fingertips. People of Edinburgh- we have no excuses!

I stopped by to say hello to Eion Henderson who keeps pep in the step of caffeine hungry residents in Stockbridge via his own shop, Mr Eion.

Both Eion and I have a heart for Aberdeen. I studied there and he worked on the cafe scene in the city for the guts of a decade. Like me, he swapped the "Granite City" for "Auld Reekie" and now imports green coffee beans from London to roast on site for his cafe. This also helps him to supply other cafes with quality coffee as part of his retail empire. He is forever in hot pursuit of the perfect cuppa and will tweak technique to get something to suit every taste.

Chatting happens best over a cup of something you love. I further discovered that while Mr Eion is happily roasting coffee and sharing his wealth of expertise around the city, Mrs Eion is multi-tasking as teacher, business parter and personal sidekick by day and blog enthusiast by night.

Eion chatted with customers and invited me to taste his latest cold brew concoction created by infusing the coffee with Nitrus Oxide.

Weird Science, indeed.

I also made sure to say "G'day" to Aussie origin Sam Young, who was proudly showcasing his baby, Obadiah.

Obadiah is new on the Edinburgh bean scene and they were fortunate enough to sneak a last minute slot at the festival to let the city get a flavour for what they are about.

Sam developed his knowledge whilst working in the coffee industry back home in sunny Australia and was advised to check out a roastery in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Since landing this side of the globe he has done just that and forged a beautiful partnership with them. This fine pairing enables the roastery to positively transform disadvantaged and struggling communities in Sofia.

In exciting news, Obadiah have just secured a prime pitch in Edinburgh's historic Grassmarket to set up shop, infusing an iconic area of the city with their take on speciality coffee at its best. This could be exactly the caffeine injection that the area needs!

All in attendance would most likely agree that the event was a roaring success. I fully expect to see similar events bloom within the UK as the caffeine craze firmly takes hold.

Thanks to the organisers for inviting me along for a taste. Scotland has spoken, and she clearly love nothing better than a tasty cup o' joe!

How can I connect with Edinburgh Coffee Festival?
Facebook: Edinburgh Coffee Festival
Twitter: @edinbcoffeefest
Instagram: @edin_coffee_fest

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