Last Minute Girly Gift Guide

                   Topshop Reindeer Sweater  /  Cath Kidston Freston Rose Handbag Set  /  New Look Cat Cupcake Cases                    Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow  /  Toadstool Nightlight  /  Meringue Girls Cookbook

This year, I've been well and truly swept away with the Christmas rush. In between creating orders for my handmade holly garlands, I've been planning presents, food and decorations. I'm now all shopped out but there are plenty of girly gifts that I've discovered for those of you who still have last minute gifts to buy.

I've been lusting after Charlotte Tilbury's much coveted makeup range.  Her Bronze and Glow compact is so luxurious and would be perfect for any beauty junkie.

Those who love a bit of baking would love the Meringue Girls Cookbook.  Ideal for those who like to whip up something tasty in the kitchen, this book has loads of creative recipes and the photography is lovely!

I think these bits and bobs would be perfect for best friends and sisters.  My personal favourite it the toadstool nightlight - amazing for snuggling up in the Topshop reindeer sweater!

2True Voluptulash Mascara

2True Voluptulash Mascara - £1.99
In my last beauty on a budget post I mentioned that I was on the hunt for beauty bargains in the run up to Christmas.  Now that the majority of my Christmas shopping is done my purse is definitely feeling a bit sorry for itself.  So when my mascara was on its last legs I knew I would have to switch to something cheaper.

After asking for recommendations during a #bbloggers chat, I went for 2True's Voluptulash mascara in Carbon Black (big thank you to Rosie who suggested trying out 2True)!  I was curious about how good a £1.99 mascara would be.  In an ideal world, I'd like my lashes to be voluminous at the roots whilst simultaneously lengthened, separated and able to hold a curl.  This mascara does all of that.

I maybe wouldn't recommend this to anyone who was looking for dramatic volume for a night out, but for day time wear it's perfect.  The small bristle wand is fab for coating the roots and extending the outer lashes.  I'll definitely be checking out more of 2True's range in the future!

The Cricut Mini Electronic Cutting Machine

Christmas Gift Idea Cricut Mini Electronic Cutting Machine
Cricut Mini *
I have a small confession to make, when the Cricut Mini arrived on my doorstep I squealed like a kid at Christmas!  This nifty little machine hooks up to your computer, just like a printer, and allows you to cut out perfect shapes from a wide range of craft materials.  The Cricut Mini is the ideal Christmas gift for the craft enthusiast.

The machine works by placing your cardstock (or vinyl, craft foam, fabric...) onto the cutting mat, which is sticky to keep your material in place.  The cutting mat is fed into machine with the touch of a button.  You can adjust the depth of the cutting blade and its pressure depending on the material you are using.  On your computer, decide which of the thousands of shapes on the Cricut Craftroom software you want to create and click 'Cut'.  Simple.

Setting up the machine and software is really easy - I was all ready to go in about 15 minutes.  In the box is your Cricut Mini, along with cutting mat, instruction booklet and card to get you started with your first project.  The Cricut Craftroom has lots of shapes and fonts to get you started and you can purchase further cartridges or single shapes to add your cutting repertoire over time.

I've already had a go at a couple of quick projects, including a glittery feather mobile and an adorable Rudolph who will be adorning a Christmas card very soon!  The crafting possibilities with the Cricut Mini are endless and I'm already planning lots of gift tags for presents and also backdrops for photos for my online shop, Isobelle's Pantry.

I think the Cricut Mini is a great investment piece for any crafter and would make a lovely gift, if it's within your budget.  I can see I'm going to get a lot of use from this fab machine.  Expect to see more projects popping up on here soon!
*This post contains a PR sample.  All opinions remain my own.

ESPA Optimal Skin ProSerum Review

ESPA Optimal Skin ProSerum *

Serums are something I've been coveting for a while.  Although having oily skin, I was apprehensive about applying more oil to my face.  For the past three weeks I've been using ESPA's latest release, their Optimal Skin ProSerum*, as part of my bed time skin routine. 

After I've cleansed and donned my pyjamas, I grab my little pot of night time treats.  First up is the ProSerum.  I squeeze out a few drops onto my fingers and press the serum onto my face and neck, paying particular attention to any dry areas.  The blend of natural oils and natural extracts sinks quickly into the skin and feels really luxurious to apply.  After a few minutes, I smooth on a layer of The Body Shop's Vitamin E Moisture Cream*.  Despite it being intended as a day cream, it seems to be doing the trick for now - and it helps me free up some space in my overflowing skincare drawer!  I follow up with Green People's Rejuvenating Eye Cream* that is perfect for sensitive eyes.

Since using the Optimal Skin ProSerum, I've seen a noticeable difference in my skin.  It's not as oily as it was before, and feels plump and smooth in the mornings.  The amount of breakouts I've experienced have been fewer and any scars from blemishes fade quicker too.

I also really love the smell!  The serum contains a blend of various oils - evening primrose, clove and orange to name but a few.  There's also rose, patchouli and tumeric packed into the bottle, along with a host of other botanical oils and extracts.  The scent is warm and calming.  I've been really enjoying using the serum on cold nights.

Although this is only my first venture into the world of serums, I can see that this is only the start!  The benefits of the Optimal Skin ProSerum have certainly won me over!  The only draw back for me is the cost.  At £48 for 30ml, it doesn't come cheap - but then the best things never do!

What's Made Me Happy #4

What's Made Me Happy #4
November is whizzing by and I've mostly been snuggled in a blanket, out for a walk or doing a spot of Christmas shopping in my spare time.  I'm a bit of a packaging geek and LOVE the Cath Kidston gift wrapping!  Adorable tissue paper, paper bags and stickers with Santa on - perfect!

I finally decided to delve into A Game of Thrones, very late to the party, I know!  Although it's not my typical genre, I really enjoyed reading the first book of the series and can't wait to start watching its TV counterpart.  I developed a bit of crush on Jon Snow and am looking forward to swooning over Kit Harrington!

I've been enjoying lots more autumn walks.  My particular highlights have been discovering lots of mushrooms and toadstools.  I like to imagine they come to life at night and dance like the ones in Fantasia.  How stunning have the sunsets been recently too?  I like the ones that look like clouds of candyfloss!

I sadly lost my kitty at the start of the month.  It's been horrible without her following me around the house, but I've been cheering myself up by looking at this photo of her sleeping like a prawn!

What's been making you happy?

GOOD THINGS Miracle Mattifier Moisturiser

Good Things Miracle Mattifier Moistuiser - £7.99
In an effort to save money during the run up to Christmas, I've been hunting for beauty bargains.  The first item on my list was a moisturiser and the Good Things Miracle Mattifier Moisturiser has become a staple product over the past month or so.

This moisturiser is part of Good Thing's range for blemish prone skin.  Although it's targeted at teens, it works just as well for us twenty somethings too! I use this in the mornings and after a few seconds I can feel it sinking into my skin and working it's magic.  I've really noticed a difference in how matte my skin is throughout the day - and how long my make up stays put.  As with all Good Things products, the moisturiser contains natural ingredients which have both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

At £7.99, this moisturiser certainly isn't the most expensive out there - it's also not the cheapest either.  I think it's really good value as it does exactly what it promises to do.  It's also often in skincare offers in Boots and supermarkets, so it's more than worth keeping an eye out!

Isobelle's Pantry Christmas Crochet Garlands

Christmas Gift Idea for the Home
Christmas Star Garland in Red  /  Christmas Holly Garland  /  Christmas Star Garland in Red & White
The John Lewis and Coca Cola Christmas adverts have made their debut and I'm starting to make my way through the Christmas drinks menus in both Starbucks and Costa.  The top of my wardrobe is starting to fill up with bags of gifts.  Next on my list is to start to think of things we need for making the house nice and festive!

I've been making crochet garlands for my Etsy store, Isobelle's Pantry, and I can see myself making a few to keep!  This Christmas will be my sister's first in her new flat and I'll be sending her a garland too.  As they're handmade, it's something special for her to keep.

Each garland features either five stars or five pair of holly leaves - the stars are available in different colourways too.  The garlands measure approximately 115cm and are perfect for hanging on the mantlepiece.  I'm also open to commissions, so if you have something in mind send me an email and I'll see what I can do!

October Favourites

October Favourites Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow in No Pressure
I'm still as besotted with MAC's Cranberry as I was last month.  No Pressure is a taupe-brown shade with a subtle shimmer.  I apply this over my lids with my fingers and softly blend Cranberry through the outer corner.  It's such a quick and easy everyday look.

Patisserie de Bain Strawberry Cupcake Lip Balm
I received this yummy scented lip balm in my welcome box from Access All ASOS and have been wearing it every day since!  It's so moisturising and smells amazing too!

Topshop Nails in Eyes of Steel
I've been favouring metallic nails this month and my favourite has to be Topshop's Eyes of Steel.  Sadly, this shade isn't available anymore but Wisdom looks to be similar, if a tad darker.  I've currently got my eyes on Shearling Darling and Toggle to the Top from Essie's winter collection.  They look perfect!

What have your favourites been this month?

Masters Of Sex : Style Inspiration

1 H&M Angora Cardigan  /  2 Warehouse Skirt  /  3 M&S Shoes  /  4 Zara Bag
I love my historical dramas and I'm by no means fussy as to what period in time they portray.  My current weekly portion of the late 1950s is served up by Masters of Sex (Tuesdays at 9pm, Channel 4).  The series is based on the biography of William Masters and Virginia Johnson - an American gynecologist and his assistant, whose pioneering research explored the human sexual response.

Virginia is by far my favourite character.  She's a forward-thinking, independent and determined woman.  Her costumes set her apart from the other female characters as her outfits often have an androgynous edge.  She's the perfect inspiration for workwear with a vintage twist!  I adore that Angora cardigan, and can imagine that's really easy to throw on with different outfits.  If forest green isn't your colour - it's also available in black!

Is your wardrobe inspired by TV characters?

What's Made Me Happy #3

A rainbow of tomatoes  /  Cheering up the garden
#todayisscaryselfies  /  Preparing for Halloween with Access All ASOS

My tomato plants started to look a little worse for wear a couple of weeks back.  I picked the remaining fruit and left them on the kitchen windowsill to ripen.  They've been ripening at different stages and there's all sorts of bright colours  - they almost look like sweets!  I've also planted up a pot with some new plants and placed it where I can see it from the kitchen window.  The bright pink cyclamen are putting a smile on my face while I do the washing up!

I was so excited to find out I'd been made an ASOS Insider last week.  I've been loving getting involved in their Halloween activities!   I may or may not have been wearing my bat glasses round the house while singing This Is Halloween to myself...

Green People Age Defy+ Organic Skincare

Age Defy+ 24 Hour Brightening Moisturiser 30ml* /  Age Defy+ Hydrate & Renew Serum 5ml*
Age Defy+ Line Eraser Lip & Eye 5ml* (full size)
This week, I've started planning which gifts to give family and friends for Christmas.  I like to plan ahead and get it over and done with so that I miss the crowds of Christmas shoppers on the hectic last few weekends before the big day. 
Personally, I find it quite challenging when it comes to getting something for my Mum.  I usually end up gifting her something mundane that she's asked for out of necessity - last year's silicone whisk that made it into her stocking is a good example.  Although she was all smiles as she ripped open the paper and is regularly whisking away in the kitchen, I think Christmas should be about treating those we care about and making them feel special.  So I've decided to try harder this year...

Over the past year, Mum's been sneaking into my room to trying out different beauty products.  She's not one to splash out on them herself though and she certainly doesn't coo over the skincare aisle in Boots as much as I do.  However, her covert attempts at dipping into my skincare stash have given me a few gift ideas. It also turns out that her Christmas came a little early, as she was asked to try out some products from Green People's new Age Defy+ range*.

Age Defy+ is targeted at women over 35 and promises to firm and brighten the skin.  The key active ingredients in the range are sea holly stem cells, argan seed extract and baicalin.  All three work together to ensure that skin is hydrated, firmed and it's elasticity is improved. 

So how did Mum get on with the products?  After using them for two weeks, I've noticed that her skin looks plump and fresh.  Her favourite was the 24 Hour Brightening*moisturiser.  This works by using pineapple and bamboo stem extracts to help lift away and release dead skin cells.  She really likes that all three are non-greasy and keep her skin hydrated throughout the day. 

I know that this range is a winner as all three are still out in pride of place on Mum's bedside table.  Most items get put in a drawer and are forgotten about after a few uses!  Green People even do stocking-sized 'try me' versions if you've been tempted to treat your mum this Christmas!

Innocent's #bigknit for Age UK

For the past few years, Innocent smoothies have teamed up with Age UK to raise money to help older people keep safe and warm during the winter.  Anyone can knit or crochet a cute little hat, these get sent to Innocent's HQ and in November they'll be paired with a bottle of smoothie and on sale in major retailers.  For each behatted bottle sold, 25p is donated to Age UK.

My crafty weapon of choice is the crochet hook and I managed to whip up these in a couple of hours.  Whether you're a beginner or a wizard with a pair of knitting needles, there's still a couple of weeks to send in your wooly efforts.  The deadline for sending in your hats has been extended until 31st October.  You don't need to be an expert either - Innocent have a range of patterns for different skill levels for you to have a go at. 

Will you be making a hat to send in?  Or will you be waiting to snap one up when they hit the shops?

Fossil Sydney Zip Clutch from Bagable

I like to keep organised when I’m out and about.  Fossil’s classically chic Sydney Zip Clutch*, from Bagable, is perfect popping in my bag and keeping my cash, cards and piles of receipts safe and sound.  There are plenty of card slots and compartments to keep all my bits and bobs nice and tidy.  It’s the perfect sized purse for me and fits like a dream in my trusty vintage bag.

The camel leather and gold stamped detail makes this purse feel luxurious and a bit special.  I chose this simple but timeless design as I know it will last me a while.  I love that there’s a splash of bright colour when you open it up – all the other colours options have contrasting cotton twill linings too.

Among other brands such as Kipling and Nica, Bagable stock more of Fossil’s sophisticated Sydney collection.  I love that you can mix and match the different bags and purses to create your own personalised look.  FYI, Father Christmas - I’ve got my eye on the Sydney Satchel Handbag!

September Favourites

I've heard a lot about the L'Oreal No Sulphates range on the blogosphere and decided to give the Ever Riche conditioner a go.  The Ever Riche range is for very dry hair and I can honestly say that my hair has changed for the better.  It's so easy to manage now and my ends look nourished and shiny!  The effects of the conditioner seem to last until my next wash.  I've been won over by this conditioner.

As it's started to get colder, I've felt my skin changing and becoming dry at times.  I stopped using this cream over the summer as it was a little heavy for my oily skin.  However, I've been using the Vitamin E Moisture Cream every other day to combat the dryness I've been experiencing.  My skin certainly feels a lot more hydrated after adding back into my skincare routine.

I've wanted to add Cranberry to my MAC palette for a.g.e.s!  During one of the #bblogger chats at the beginning of the month Hannah from Cagney and Lace mentioned that she was selling it her blog sale and I immediately snapped it up!  I've loved using it to add depth to a plum smoky eye and also as liner with Twinks.  It's such a great shade for autumn and I'm so glad I finally managed to get my hands on it!

Breakfast Flapjack Recipe

Sometimes breakfast can be a bit of a chore.  In an ideal world, I'd have poached eggs on homemade bread - but neither time, nor my patience, allows this very often!  However, the other week I stumbled across a flapjack recipe that I thought would be perfect for early morning munchies.  It's fast become my favourite flapjack of all time!

I added in pumpkin seeds and the dried fruit mix I use contains figs, prunes, pears and apricots.  I also like that this recipe uses honey, rather than golden syrup, as it seems like the slightly healthier option.  These are really easy to make, so now there's no excuse for a boring breakfast!

Breakfast Flapjack Recipe
150g butter
80g light brown sugar
80ml honey
250g oats
80g dried fruit
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
50g chopped nuts or seeds
- Preheat oven to Gas 4 and line a baking tin with parchment.
- Heat the butter, sugar and honey in a pan over a medium heat.
- Transfer into a large mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix together.
- Tip the mixture into your baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.

What's Made Me Happy #2

Going on autumn walks  /  Seeing pretty sunsets
Crumble and custard  /  Blackberry picking again

Finding fungi on more walks  /  Fallen trees in the woods

Autumn is my favourite month, and as much as I like to be snuggled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate, I also love getting outside to see the changes in the landscape.  It's amazing how quickly the leaves have begun to crisp up and change colour.  It seems it's not only the leaves that are providing a colour spectacular either - I witnessed a pretty impressive sunset as I emerged from Tesco the other week!

I've also been picking more blackberries.  This time I popped them, with some apple, into a crumble. Along with some custard, it was the perfect pudding for a cosy evening and I'm hoping to make it again soon!

I've been enjoying getting out and about in my wellies for long walks.  The extensive woods that are five minutes from my house were once part of Windsor Great Park.  As you meander through the towering trees, your imagination starts to wander.  I got to thinking about how many Tudor hunting parties had passed this way.  It's amazing how much inspiration comes from natural sites such as this.

What's been making you smile?

Getting Cosy with White Stuff at John Lewis

1. Large Check Shirt  /  2. Sausage Cat Scarf  / 3. Hatchet Jumper  /  4. Cloud Divine Jumper  /  5. Apple Blossom Jumper
Recently, whilst having a peek on the John Lewis website, I discovered that White Stuff's autumn and winter offerings are perfect for staying cosy as the weather gets colder and the leaves start to fall.  I was particularly impressed with their selection of knitwear which includes chunky jumpers, fisherman's stripes and cute pockets.  With origins in outdoor sports, the folks at White Stuff certainly know how to keep nice and toasty.

I seem to be favouring all shades of grey this season and particularly like their Hatchet jumper.  I imagine that it would be ideal for popping over a shirt and teaming with jeans and wellies for an autumn walk.  I couldn't resist the collar on their Apple Blossom jumper either.  Too cute!

Lightweight scarves are a great transition piece to have in your wardrobe.  I've fallen for this adorable sausage cat printed scarf!  The little cat reminds me of the cats in the Billy Blue Hat books - anyone else remember those?  Dog lover's, don't despair!  There's a scotty dog scarf too, which is just as cute!

What have you been filling your A/W wardrobe with?

*Sponsored post

Arbonne Skincare (...or How I Discovered Greenwashing)

I hadn't heard of Arbonne until a few weeks ago, when an email appeared in my inbox from an Arbonne Independent Consultant.  She explained to me that Arbonne's products are "botanically based, chemical free and 100% vegan".  I liked the sound of this and asked if I could try out some samples.  A few days later, an envelope containing sachets of Arbonne's RE9 Advanced line and tiny tubes of their Calm range dropped through my letter box.  So far, so good.  

Then it came to trying the products.  According to their website, Arbonne's Calm range contains "extra gentle formulas [which] help calm and soothe sensitive skin that is easily irritated".  I have sensitive skin and was keen to test the claims.  I was sent a mini version of the entire range, consisting of a cleanser, serum, moisturiser and eye gel.  The products all seemed really lovely to use.  I experienced a slight tingling upon application of the serum but I put this down to the natural ingredients it contains.  After using all four as my night time routine my face was hot and tingly.  I also experienced prolonged redness (read beetroot face for at least half an hour).

I emailed the Independent Consultant to raise my concerns and in her reply she stated that this was normal, it was just my skin trying to "push out and remove any built up toxins from other products containing harmful products".  She explained that this would stop after two or three weeks of using the Calm range.  Firstly, my samples only contained enough for about three days use and secondly, her explanation seemed more like an excuse.  And that's when I took to Google and read the term 'greenwashing' for the first time.

I found articles that highlighted the reality of Arbonne's 'botanically based' ingredients.  Although they are using natural and plant based items in their products, they are also using other nasties that by far outweigh the good of the natural ingredients.  I read the following comment on a post, written by an Arbonne rep; "Anyone looking for all-natural or organic products should not consider Arbonne as their skin care/nutrition brand."  Why, then, do use words in their marketing which suggest they do?

During my mini investigation, I also realised that none of the samples or the company's website displayed neither the Leaping Bunny nor Vegan Society logo.  This is the response I got on Twitter...

I decided to check this for myself and, yes, they are registered on the Leaping Bunny website but not as a licensee of the logo.  No sign of them on the Vegan Society site though, which could verify the information I received.

In the mean time, I had another email from the Independent Consultant, who had passed my concerns on to her line manager.  I found her reply the most baffling of all and certainly didn't come any closer to getting a clear and simple explantion.  On explaining how Arbonne don't use Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, she said this; "What Arbonne does, if they want to use that particular ingredient, they design it and create something to do the same job, but using far safer, more expensive, and mainly botanic ingredients to do that. It is hard to explain, but just because we might contain an ingredient generally thought of as harmful, does not mean we created ours in the same toxic ways".  Now, I'm no scientist, but from what she's saying, the processes involved don't sound very pure or natural.   

What is Greenwashing? 
Greenwashing is defined as 'disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image'.  So it's the fancy and misleading marketing language leading the consumer to believe that a product is more green or natural than it really is.
extra gentle formulas help calm and soothe sensitive skin that is easily irritated. - See more at:
extra gentle formulas help calm and soothe sensitive skin that is easily irritated - See more at:
extra gentle formulas help calm and soothe sensitive skin that is easily irritated - See more at:
extra gentle formulas help calm and soothe sensitive skin that is easily irritated - See more at:
extra gentle formulas help calm and soothe sensitive skin that is easily irritated - See more at:

How to spot Greenwashing:
- Read your labels - really carefully!  Just because the packaging has the words green, pure or natural all over it doesn't necessarily mean that the contents are green, pure or natural.
- Look for proof.  Companies who are proud of their green ethics will happily share their accreditation and approvals.
- Ask for the truth.  You should be able to receive a comprehensive answer to any of your concerns.

I hope this post has been useful, but please remember that I'm no expert in this area.  However, my experience with Arbonne has taught me to be sensible and really think about my decisions as a consumer.  The bottom line is that greenwashing allows companies to financially exploit the public's green ethics, and that is wrong. 

Wish List 007

With autumn fully upon us, I've been coveting transitional pieces to add to my wardrobe.  For me, autumn fashion is all about layering and dresses are the easiest to create an outfit around.  This Topshop Smock Dress caught my eye as it's such a versatile item.  I can see it working well with a chunky cardigan and ankle boots for an every day look.  For more formal occasions, I'd team it with a statement necklace and sweep my hair into a messy bun.

Secondly, this Jack Wills Cadmore Bunny Charm won my heart as soon as I saw it!  It's so adorable - I love his little tail!  I'd probably pop this onto a silver chain and wear as a necklace, rather than have it on a bracelet.

My feet are rarely seen out of ballet pumps, but this year I've been seduced by the hoards of ankle boots that have made their way onto the shop shelves.  The heel on these Topshop Alter Chelsea Boots is just the perfect height and I can see these going with everything!

I seem to be a bit obsessed with garden birds at the moment.  Not only have I been painting them but now I want to wear them too!  I've fallen for both this cute Cath Kidston jumper and also a striped one by Joules.  I can't decide between them!

Finally, I've been sniffing a sample of  Marc Jacobs Honey Eau de Parfum in a magazine for the past few weeks.  I can't get enough - it's gorgeous!  Marc Jacobs perfume bottles are always so much fun and I love the bumblebee butterflies!

What's Made Me Happy This Week #1

Seeing my tomatoes start to ripen  /  Such pretty reds
Sitting down with my watercolours  /  Cosy hot chocolate

I was completely inspired by Rosie to start documenting the things that have made me smile every week.  It's such a lovely idea and I'm hoping it will fill my days with all kinds of positive vibes!

I've had a tomato plant of tiny green baby fruit for a while now and I'd been getting increasingly impatient, waiting for them to finally ripen.  This week, they did just that!  Now my plant is full of tiny spheres of different shades of red!

I finally plucked up the courage to dig out my watercolours - nine months after I made it one of my New Year's resolutions.  Sitting for a few hours with my paintbrush in hand has been really calming.  I'd certainly recommend it if you've had a busy or stressful time.

Lastly, the emergence of the leather skirts, Zara's coats and ankle boots galore has left me highly anticipating the seasonal drinks in Starbucks and Costa.  For now, hot chocolates have been satisfying my sweet cravings!

What's been making you happy this week?

Soap & Glory Supercat Eyeliner Pen Review

Soap and Glory Supercat Liquid Black Eyeliner Pen
A signature cat flick is a daily look for me and, consequently, a liquid liner is a staple in my make up bag.  Over the past couple of months, I've been using Soap and Glory's Supercat eyeliner pen.  I'd read positive reviews and was keen to see if it lived up the hype.

As my first foray into the world of pen style liquid eyeliners, I was seriously impressed with just how darn easy a pen applicator is to use.  I managed precision cat flicks first time round, which is a first for me when trying out a new liner.  A quick swipe with this and I was good to go with no more faffing about uneven wings.  It's definitely a winner on those mornings when I hit the snooze button more often than I should.  The felt tip applicator is incredibly versatile, making this perfect for a subtle day time look and a more dramatic style for night time. 

My only issue with Supercat is the pigmentation.  Some days it can look a little grey and patchy.  This is easy to resolve, with another layer.  However, I'm not keen on carrying it around with me all the time, just in case I need to top up.

For the price, £6, I think it's really good value for money and I've had no problems with it drying out as I initially thought I would.  Overall, I would recommend this for pen style liner newbies.  It's certainly been a lifesaver product for busy mornings!

On Role Models

The topic of role models has been bandied around the press recently, thanks to a certain Ms Cyrus, and it's got me thinking about what I look for in a role model.  Having the independence and drive to succeed in something that you are passionate about is certainly a quality I look up to.  Another trait that I admire is having the confidence to be yourself. 

Yesterday saw the launch of Marks and Spencer's Leading Ladies campaign, in which twelve women from various walks of life and professions are celebrated for their personal achievements.  Of those featured in the campaign, both Helen Mirren and Tracey Emin stand out for me.  They are both women I respect for embodying what I think a role model should be.

Marks and Spencer's Autumn/Winter campaign has been somewhat controversial due to it's choice of inspiration women.  I personally find it incredibly refreshing to find these twelve inspiring women adorning advertising space and I'd love to hear what you think about this too.

Blackberry Picking and Recipes

An image of blackberry yoghurt cake and yoghurt coated frozen blackberries
This weekend I decided to go blackberry picking in the spot I discovered last year.  There were plenty of blackberries to be had and I spent a relaxing half an hour filling my tub with fruit and watching butterflies dance at the top of the bushes.  It's amazing how calming spending time outside can be!

An image of Brighton Girl UK Lifestyle Blog
An image of Blackberry Picking
Last year I made blackberry jam, but this year I decided to be a bit more adventurous with my recipes and took to Pinterest for inspiration.  You can see my Blackberry Recipe board here!  I ended up making frozen berries covered in yoghurt for a quick snack (although I've been eating them for breakfast, with a sliced banana).  Simply pick up the blackberries using a cocktail stick, coat them in yoghurt and place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper.  Then place them in the freezer until they have frozen.

Frozen Yoghurt Coated Blackberries
Blackberry Yoghurt Bread Cake
I also couldn't resist making Blackberry Yogurt Bread, which was so simple to make and really yummy!  The recipe on Pinterest is American and uses cups.  After some baking stress and lots of Googling, I translated the quantities and below are the measurements that I used.

250ml yoghurt
75ml vegetable oil
225g sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
185g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2 large handfuls of blackberries

- Preheat the oven to 190/Gas 5.
-Whisk the yoghurt, oil, sugar and lemon.
- Add in the eggs.
- Sift in the flour and baking powder and gently fold in.
- Finally add in one handful of blackberries and stir before pouring into a lined loaf tin.
- Sprinkle the other handful of blackberries on top, gently pushing each one down into the mixture.
- Place in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Let me know if you have any other yummy recipes for blackberries!

August Favourites

Good Things Fresh Start Creamy Cleanser
This cleanser from Good Things is making it's second favourites appearance this month.  It featured in my May Favourites, but since then I changed up my skincare.  Needless to say, I've come running back this!  My skin feels so smooth and nourished after use.  I can see this becoming a skin care staple!

No7 High Shine Lip Crayon in Delicate Pink
I picked this up on a whim using my Advantage Card points and have been wearing it almost every day since!  The formula is really lovely and glides on easily.  It's highly pigmented and this shade is perfect for an everyday look.  It's got great lasting power too.

Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray
I know, I know!  Another mention in the blogosphere of this gem of a magazine freebie!  I couldn't resist including this wonder spray!  Although I have thick hair, it can become a little lifeless in the summer heat.  A quick spritz of the Thickening Hairspray onto damp roots is all that's needed for added volume.  I'll most certainly be purchasing this once I've run out!

What have your favourites been this month?

Festival Essentials

I'm writing this post from the depths of my festival blues.  Is anyone else wishing they were at Reading or Leeds this weekend?  Instead of being there, I'll be watching the BBC highlights - kitted out in my Hunters and flower crown of course!  If I was there, however, this is what I would have packed...

Wellies are a festival must.  It will rain at some point and there's nothing worse than having soggy feet.  I usually wear my original green Hunters, but these navy striped boots are a lovely alternative.

Denim shorts are a festival favourite of mine.  Layering is ideal for the unpredictable weather.  Make sure you've got tights, a pair of super cosy tights and even leggings.  These will keep your pins warm and take up minimal space in your luggage.  Topshop's acid wash offerings are my favourites.

And then we come to the Pac a Mac.  Not the most glamorous of outerwear but anything that's lightweight and waterproof is perfect festival attire.  This lace version from Warehouse isn't exactly the most practical, but it sure is pretty!  Have a peek in Primark for one too, I have a navy one with white horses on that is super cute!

Keep beauty products simple.  Dry shampoo, concealer and a cheap waterproof mascara should make up the bare bones of your make up bag.  If your foundation is packaged in a glass bottle, decant some into a small plastic tester pot.  If you're feeling fancy, add in some colourful fake lashes and neon facepaint.

It can be easy to worry about what to take to a festival.  But remember that you don't need to dress up.  Don't take clothes that you spent a lot of money on.  You probably won't even wear half of what you take anyway.  You'll be thankful that you only took the essentials when you carry everything home after your amazing weekend!

Visit to The National Trust's Cliveden

Last weekend, I ventured to Cliveden, both a National Trust property and working luxury hotel.  There have been three houses on the site, the first being built by the 2nd Earl of Buckingham for his mistress in the 1660s.  House fires have given way for alterations to the original design and the house that stands today was lived in by the glamorous Astor's until the 1960s.  

I was keen to explore the interior of the house, but guided tours are only available to National Trust members for a few hours a week.  The 25 minute tour does provide you with the key historical details of the house, however you are led round to different paintings which provide a visual narrative of Cliveden's past.  The highlight of the tour for me was seeing three original sketches of Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent.  You can catch a glimpse of a full length oil portrait too, however up close and personal viewings are reserved for hotel guests only.

If you're after a National Trust house that you can look round at your own pace, Cliveden probably isn't for you.  However, the final part of the tour takes you to a room whose interior once called a French hunting lodge home.  The room is stunning and there are boars, deer and gold leaf aplenty. However, I would have like to have seen more than just paintings in corridors beforehand.

Where the house tour left me slightly disappointed, the gardens at Cliveden have far more to offer.  They contain a mix of woodland, country style borders and a more formal parterre.  The Long Garden was my favourite, and it was delightful to see so many bees, busy bumbling away over the echinacea and sea holly.

If you do decide to visit Cliveden, make sure that you pay the chapel a visit.  It's only tiny but is definitely the most impressive part of the estate!  It's perfect for a few moments calm to admire the beautiful stained glass windows and mosaics that cover the entire walls.

I may have had mixed views about my visit, but I'm certainly glad I went.  It's a National Trust property I can tick off my list.  If you enjoyed reading this post, why not take a peek at what I thought about my trip to Basildon Park?

July Favourites

The items in my July favourites all have one feature in common, and that's their lasting power.  During this very un-English summer heatwave, I've been reaching for products that I know I can rely upon to stay in place.

Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation - £28.50 for 30ml
I've been wearing Double Wear daily for a few months now and am so impressed with how long it lasts on my oily skin.  Compared to my other foundations, this is the only one that can go the distance.  During the very hot weather, I've been ditching my RT Buffing brush and have applied this with my fingers achieving near-on flawless results.

Dainty Doll Blusher in My Girl - £1.99 from Fragrance Direct, no longer available
I adore my Dainty Doll blushers.  For a fresh look, I've been using My Girl to add a hint of pink that lasts All. Day. Long.  I'm so disappointed that the Dainty Doll line has been discontinued as I would have liked to try out more items from the range.

Rimmel Salon Pro Kate Moss Nail Polish in 317 Hip Hop - £4.49
I'd had my eye on the Kate Moss Lycra nail polishes for a while and Hip Hop jumped into my basket when it was on offer at the beginning of the month.  It's the perfect summery shade for my toes, and stays chip free for ages!

MAC Lipstick in Ruby Woo - £15 for 3g
As a payday treat to myself, I finally purchased my first MAC lipstick.  Ruby Woo is a gorgeous vintage red and certainly makes a statement.  I'm now hooked and can't wait to start a MAC lippie collection.  Impassioned, or Lady Bug next?  Decisions, decisions!

Girlz Nailz Nail Wraps

Leopard print nails were the first nail art design I ever tried.  These days though I don't have the time to wait for layers of nail polish to dry.  Nail wraps are perfect for when you don't have time to spend to faff with polish and dotting tools.

I had the opportunity to try out Girlz Nailz gold cheetah wraps*.  In the pack are stickers for both fingers and toes.  All you need to do is select the correct size for your nails, line up the nail wrap with your cuticle and press on.  Then trim with scissors and file to shape.

Once applied, the Girlz Nailz wrapped looked really impressive.  The only issue I had was a few bumps along the side of my nail, but on first glance, these weren't noticeable at all.  Available in a range of patterns and finishes, I'd definitely use these again for a festival or holiday.

Do you use nail wraps?