Sunday, 24 March 2013

My skincare routine

I've built up an enormous stash of beauty bits, makeup and toiletries, and at the moment I am trying to work through what I've got, destash, and streamline the amount of products in my cupboard, I've got far too many half finished bottles that I want to finally finish. My Boots expenditure is being kept to a minimum, I went today and bought only what I needed, cotton pads and deodorant, even though I had a purse full of No7 vouchers which I was tempted to use. Aren't I good?! Here's a bit on my current routine.
Exfoliating face disc - Sephora
I usually wash my face in the mornings when I shower with No7 Beautiful Skin Foaming Cleanser for Normal / Oily Skin, and recently have started using it with this Sephora exfoliating disc which I think is making a real difference to my skin, it certainly seems better than normal. I bought this on my recent trip to Paris so unless you're off to France soon, it's going to be a pain to order online so while I was in Boots today I looked for an alternative and found this Soap & Glory Face Massage Mini Mitt for £4. You are welcome.

At nighttime, I use makeup wipes to take off the day, and have been using No7 wipes for ages, but have recently switched to Champney's (currently 1/3 off), followed by DHC Make Off Sheets, available from BeautyMart. I find these 3 are the best at actually removing all your makeup including eye makeup. The DHC ones smell quite strongly of alcohol though, which might be something that puts me off buying them again although I will continue to monitor how I get on with them. The No7 wipes can be bought for as little as £2 a pack as Boots so frequently give away £5 off vouchers for the No7 range.

I also use No7 Eye Make Up Remover to remove stubborn eye-makeup that just won't come off. It's an oily one that you have to shake before use so that the two components mingle. I find it one of the best out there, and at £8.50, it's affordable.

One I've caught onto a little too late is the Avon Planet Spa Japanese Sake & Rice Luminous Face Treatment, which smells absolutely amazing and is definitely playing a part in the improvement of my skin condition of late. Unfortunately, it's no longer available through Avon, so when I'm finished with the current bottle and I've worked through the rest of my stash of products, I'm going to have to seek it out eBay. Has anyone else tried it, or do they have access to

While I was in Paris, swooning over Sephora I was given some sample sachets of the incredible Base Lissante/Smoothing Base. It felt amazing on my skin during and after application and had a lovely texture. It's only €10.90 for 15ml, and I was gutted I didn't try the sample whilst I was there otherwise I would have bought some. Oh well...maybe another trip is in order...

Triangle Initial Necklace

Off the subject of skincare, I treated myself to this sweet little Triangle Initial Necklace today from Urban Outfitters, only £8 in the sale! It was all I could do not to buy all the jewellery in there, there's a lot of goodies in the sale, but still three days til payday and I really should be putting some money aside, only 6 weeks til I go to Melbourne!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

See, Dance, Laugh, Buy.

My working week has been fairly meh. We are currently making a small number of redundancies, and working in HR, I get to do all the fun stuff. My boss has it a lot worse, poor mite as she's the one delivering the nasty messages, I'm just the one preparing the paperwork and holding everything else together. Whilst my job is safe (as one of the lowest paid members of the organisation, getting rid of me is hardly going to save them much money), it is still a depressing time, everyone else in the company is aware of what's going on, but they don't know who is involved. But we are not here to talk about work, we're here to talk about nice things. Here's what I've been doing this week.

Slathering: Dr Organic Manuka Honey Handcream (available from Holland and Barrett) all over my mitts. This weather is playing havoc with my skin health, espcecially the ever exposed hands. This hand cream is non-greasy, which means I can slather it on at bedtime and pick up a book without getting the pages all greasy. It smells delightful and feels like it is intensely nourishing my hands, they look instantly better moments after application. I am becoming a bit like my mother, who applies hand cream at every opportunity (i.e. at traffic lights) but I live in fear of grotty old lady hands. I have a small tube of the cream but it's lasting me forever, so it's super good value at £5.69 for 125ml.

Buying: I bought a lovely turquoise jumper in the H&M sale the other day for £10, great for the spring months as it's not too thick, and will be great for work or play, worn with black or blue jeans, or my lovely Next black peplum pencil skirt for office days. I might even try adding a bit of bling with my Talullah Tu necklace and earring combo.

I also picked up another four Wallpaper guides for Antwerp, Athens, Marseille and Warsaw. I can't resist them, especially when they are reduced to 99p in The Book Warehouse in Islington. I totally forgot when I bought them that I had a picture of my collection on my phone, so I ended up with 2 copies of Athens, so one has already been regifted to a charity shop. On Saturday I ended up in another branch on Southampton Row, picking up Prague, Venice and Madrid too!

Laughing: On Tuesday night I went to the Laugh Out London comedy night at the gorgeous Old Queen's Head in Islington, which was brilliant. Comedians included Suzi Ruffell, who we had bought the tickets to see after seeing her perform at the Stand Up To Sexism night at the Harold Pinter Theatre last year. We also go to see Tom Rosenthal (him off Friday Night Dinner), Australian Claudia O'Doherty's hilarious Lighthouse Keeper character, completely mental and random Holly Burn and American comic Rich Fulcher, who were all brilliant, sending us home with sore faces from all the giggling. The comperes kept things going and got the audience involved, with prizes (we got an Easter Egg) and a bizarre school assembly rendition of Lord of the Dance which I've now had in my head for days, but all in all a bargain at £5.50 in advance. The next Laugh Out London night is on April 5th at the Camden Head and is only £3 a ticket! On April 15th is Laugh Out London's second birthday at The Old Queen's Head, with Tony Law and Stuart Lee - it's currently sold out but they are trying to add more seats - Go, See, Guffaw.

Ogling: On Wednesday, my buddy Laurel got tickets for Burn The Floor at the Shaftesbury Theatre and so I accompanied her to that. I wasn't sure what to expect, knowing that it involved Strictly Come Dancing folk Robin Windsor and Kristina Rihanoff, I thought it might be a bit cheesy, in the same set-up as the show which I generally don't watch on TV. It was not. It was a spectacular show, perfectly timed and choreographed dance after dance, seriously sexy and upbeat with amazing costumes. Several times we gasped at the sheer bendiness of the dancers, and left the show vowing to take up dancing again (I did ballet, modern and tap as a kid). Definitely recommended. I'm off to find my legwarmers and get on down to Pineapple Studios...

Making: On the subject of Laurel, she's got herself involved in the White Stuff's Crafternoons, teaching some of their workshops taking place in stores this week. Crafternoons are free to take part in and most materials are provided (you may be asked to supply a needle and thread of your own), so sign up fast before places go, in Brighton, Islignton, Nottingham, Horsham, Belfast, Marlow, Beaconsfield, Newbury, Truro and Wilmslow! You can also check out the White Stuff's tip for hosting your own!

Sniffling: This weekend I've picked up a bad cold, but my mother-in-law-to-be is visiting, so we've been showing her the sights, here's a pretty picture of St Paul's Cathedral for you. Yesterday we went to the Tate Modern, and today, we're off to British'll find me by a trail of snotty tissues.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Spoilt Rotten

My recent trip to Paris was part of my 28th birthday celebrations, and that was a treat enough for me. We went away midweek so I also organised an evening out with my friends in London last night. We went to Meat Market first for some of my favourite dirty great burgers and I'd booked a table at Henry's which is fast becoming one of my favourite bars. I didn't expect to get so fantastically spoilt by my friends too.

Dave's cousin Kris came up to see us and brought with her a nice bottle of red. My friend and flatmate Anna met us at home before we went out, and gave me a lovely mug by Merchant and Mills and some beautiful chocolates from Fortnum and Mason, and a box of delicious cupcakes from Hummingbird Bakery, along with the Wallpaper guide to Melbourne. However, earlier in the week, Dave's dad had sent me not one but three Wallpaper books, for Melbourne, Beijing and Shanghai which is funny as I only added them to my wishlist last week when I blogged about them, he must have logged on just after I updated my list. So with two Melbourne books, Anna is returning her copy!
Merchant and Mills
When we settled down in Henry's still reeking of burger juice, Laurel gave me more presents, a very bling notebook and pen and a bottle of Guerlain's La Petite Robe Noire, which is a very sexy scent indeed and feels very luxurious. Ghazaleh presented me with a mini bottle of cava and two boxes of French Fancies which she'd had made to order for me at AE Barrow and Sons in Canterbury after I ranted to her last weekend that I couldn't find any in my local bakeries. My friend Danielle showed up, back from visiting her folks in the States with a packet of S'mores Pop Tarts and then Dave's brother joined us after the Sigur Ros gig in Brixton where he gave me a divine Clothbound Classics version of Les Miserables, straight from my wishlist - I am thrilled but also massively daunted by the sheer volume of it!

I feel very blessed, I got so much more than I anticipated for my birthday, and am very humbled by it. But while I've had an amazing week, one of my best friends has not. Her husband Ben died last Saturday, 2nd March, losing his battle with leukaemia. Ben was only 30 years old, and was father to their beautiful Joe who is 16 months old. So even though I've been given so many wonderful gifts this week, I have one further request: If you are healthy and able, please go to the Anthony Nolan site and sign up to be a stem cell donor.   We can't bring Ben back, but we can stop this from happening to more families.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A Parisian Birthday

THE Tower
Back in January, we booked a super cheap Eurostar deal to Paris for my birthday. It was only £59 return each, which was the cheapest I've ever seen it, and too good an opportunity to miss (although Eurostar are currently doing £69 return which is almost as good!). I was looking forward to this trip so much and this Wednesday it finally came! Being frugal as ever, we booked an early train on the Wednesday, and a late train coming back on Thursday so we could have two full days and only have to pay for one night in a hotel.
It was really nice of Eurostar to give his beard a free ticket
On day one, we walked everywhere, from Gare du Nord to the Arc du Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees, detouring to the Eiffel Tour (yup, walked up that too), back to the Champs Elysees and the Petit Palais (where there is free admission to the  permanent collections, stunning paintings by artists such as Nicholas de Largilliere, and amazing ceilings), along the Rue De Rivoli via the Louvre, to Le Marais and ending up at the Pompidou Centre before retiring to our hotel.
The Ceiling in the Petit Palais - breathtaking
One day two, we walked everywhere once again! Down from the hotel to Notre Dame, back up to the Rue de Rivola where we breakfasted at Angelina on their divine hot chocolate (basically: chocolate, melted) and a pastry (well, it was my birthday). Angelina is an infamous, gorgeous old tearoom, with queues out of the door at times and now we know why. We tried to get in on Wednesday afternoon but their was a long queue which the guidebook had warned us of. I am glad we went back to try our luck earlier on the second day as we walked straight in with no wait.
The signature Mont Blanc pastry
After that we walked to Montmartre to take in more stunning views of Paris from the Sacred Coeur before meandering back into central Paris with the sorest legs ever.
The Sacred Coeur
We ate some fantastic food, the crepes at Houblon & Sarrasin, near our hotel particularly stood out for me, alongside the delights of Angelina. Otherwise on the agenda, was plenty of beer, vin rouge and CHOCOLAT. Some of the goodies we took home were a meringue as big as my face and some Ovomaltine spread which we'd bought on a previously holiday to France and just had to have more of. We also bought some tea and coffee from the decadent Fauchon, which we were completely giddy over. Get this: salted caramel butter tea and noisette coffee. I know, right?! They both smell and taste amazing, best thirteen euros I've ever spent.
Giant Meringue and friends
We had booked Best Western Hotel Faubourg Saint Martin in the vicinity of Gare de L'Est, and it wasn't disappointing. While our room on the first floor was fairly small with a low ceiling, it was well decorated and clean, and came equipped with an iPod dock (not ideal for two Android users, but a nice touch nonetheless) and a Krups coffee machine. It wasn't noisy, despite being located near a fair few restaurants and bars, and was a perfect base for our one-night stay. The stay was £77.29, booked through Agoda, without breakfast.

The trip was great, two days was enough time to see everything, although it would be great to go back for longer and really take it all in. The Louvre is so very big that we didn't feel that we'd get our money's worth from the admission fee as we were so pushed for time so we spent some time admiring the scale of it, but didn't bother queuing and entering. Neither of us had been to Paris before in our adult lives, we'd been taken as children we were too young to remember. I'm looking forward to digging out the 1989 photo album the next time I visit my parents.

Nothing in Paris is particularly cheap, we managed spent about £250 in two days on eating and drinking, a few insignificant souvenirs, and the only thing we paid admission for was the Eiffel Tour. But it's such a charming city, with awe-inspiring architecture at every turn, and we really enjoyed scratching its surface.  My Lonely Planet Pocket Paris guide served us really well too, thanks LP, I know I can always count on you!

For shopping, we enjoyed exploring the stunningly decandent Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, just look at this picture from inside the former.
Galeries Lafayette - Debenhams it ain't.
I also relished having a good oold squizzy in Sephora (all the while whinging that we don't have it in the UK anymore). The Bearded One treated me to some bits for my birthday, including a caramel candle, some oil blotting papers, some handbag breath spray (sexy) and an exfoliating disc for my face and they threw in some samples too, which I am looking forward to trying.
What do we want? Sephora UK! When do we want it? NOW
It would be lovely to go back for a good week with money being no object...maybe in a few years?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Too many books, too little time...

I am in love with books. I can't stop buying them, collecting them, hoarding them. I reckon if I stopped working tomorrow due some unimaginable windfall, I'd still not be able to get through all the books I want to read/pore over in my lifetime. 

Fictionwise, I don't really buy books, I swap them. ReadItSwapIt is a great site, where you can list all of your books, then swap them with other users. They can request from your list and you see if there's anything they have that you want, and vice verse. Then you post them to each other, which means effectively new books for around £2.20 a piece. Brilliant! I've got a little obsessed with the site, I've had to ban myself from trawling it, although I do have certain books on my wishlist, so if they come up I get an email notification and I can pop onto the site and request them. Here's my list of books available for swapping. My current pile of books to read looks like this:
It's quite daunting, and yet I keep going to Foyles and making mental lists of the ones I want next. I can't stop myself. I also have so many beautiful craft, travel and recipe books, and combined with the fiance who collects comics, we have built up quite a collection. They are all stored, double stacked along with DVDs and games in our IKEA storage unit - you'll see that the left hand side is pretty much his side!

We currently flat-share, and will be for another year and a halfish until he finishes uni then we get married and set up a home again - when we lived in Sheffield we were living together as a couple for 5 years in much larger properties than London rents will allow, so it's been really hard to go back to living with other people, especially when that other person is really minimalist and doesn't understand why we like having so much stuff! When she moves in with her boyfriend is May, another friend is moving in who loves books as much as I do, so I am looking forward to not feeling guilty about owning stuff.

When we are settled and married, and of course rich, I look forward to having our books proudly displayed like this:
Design Milk

The latest in my collection, on my mind and on my wishlist are in the travel category.I am going to Paris this week for my birthday, which I am really looking forward to, I've not been to Paris as an adult so I can't wait.  I am also going to Melbourne in May! I am going with my mum and we booked it last week, we're going for 2 weeks to see my sister who is living there for a year. I am so excited to be going to the Actual Other Side of the World and to see my little sister for the first time since July last year!

Yesterday I trawled every charity shop between Archway and Covent Garden for travel books for these destination. I finally had some luck in the British Heart Foundation shop where I got this Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne for just £1, it's the 2002 edition, but the geography remains the same, and my sister can fill us in on the latest places to eat and shop. On the Paris front I admitted defeat in the charity shops and bought a mini guide by Lonely Planet from Foyles. I also have pictured above some books I got last Christmas, Markets of Paris, and Paris Made By Hand. I probably won't take these two with me as they'll weigh me down but I'm going to pore over them until our trip.

I also have a little obsession with the Wallpaper Travel Guides by Phaidon. I love that they come in different colours and can't stop buying them whenever I see them, even if I have no plans to go to that country any time soon! Gaps I have in my collection for places I have actually been to are Tallinn (I don't think they have one yet), Beijing and Shanghai, and now Melbourne, if I don't acquire it in the next couple of months! Here's my collection so far.

We also spent a large amount of time yesterday in the enormous Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road, where they have a stunning selection of books. I found this beauty: 36 Hours: USA & Canada, West Coast, produced by The New York Times which is a now firm feature on my wishlist as we are hoping to do a road trip for our honeymoon next Summer.