Picture-perfect Crayons

Friday, 9 November 2012

Crayon art: cool, contemporary and colourful!

Back in the Summer BB and I had a bash at making homemade crayon discs and these were the rather artistic - if I do say so myself - results!  BB helped shell the paper wrappers and break up his old, worn-down crayons and I took charge of the 'grown-up' part of the project when he was safely at nursery; and I could hear myself think.

I followed this tutorial but used the wells of a mini silicone muffin tray as a mould instead of muffin cases. The swirls were a last minute brainwave after the tray had been removed from the oven, created with a wooden skewer.

The end result is a crayon that, to be fair, isn't the easiest to draw with but does tick all the boxes on artsy appeal. These are BB's favourite's from the batch because, he says, 'they look like planets.'  

Crayon craft: to infinity and beyond

* Wax - including wax crayons - reaches a flammable flashpoint at certain temperatures. When melting crayons use a low heat, monitor closely and do not leave unattended. 

P.S: This amazing digital frame is free to download for non-commercial use from Shabby Blogs. I followed Megan's brilliant tutorial on customising a blog header and used the same principles to layer my images within the frame using Fotoflexer. It was easy and it worked!

Turning A New Leaf

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Here we are again approaching Winter, my absolute favourite time of the year. I was born just past midnight on an icy November morning and do believe (well, almost), that somewhere within my DNA is a cold-comfort gene code curled up cosily, nose tucked into its tail, softly snoring. Where some people find the dark nights and dawns relentlessly deflating I love the clear, crisp days peculiar to the season. Even the dreary rain-soaked ones do good things for my mood. Winter just makes me happy. Weird, huh?

The seasons changing also provide a natural pause for reflection, which brings me neatly to this blog and where it's now headed. Lately I haven't had time - or more honestly made the time - to update posts. If I'm truthful it's because things have changed (I've changed damn it! *bangs a fist on the table*) since I started Mama Loves Pretty. Which all sounds very dramatic and late-30-something crisis-y but is, in actual fact, just an acknowledgement that there are other things I'd like to bring to my life and blog. 

This mama still loves pretty things so there will continue to be beauty reviews - you can't kick a hardcore product habit overnight - but I'll also be posting on other subjects that pique my interest and hopefully yours, too. Look out for complementary therapy news, vintage collectibles, style snippets, well-being, kids stuff and - get this - crafting! x

Lovea - Natural Sun Care For Kids

Friday, 3 August 2012

Wow, I can't believe that a MONTH has flown past since I last updated my blog. Shesh.

What can I say in my defence? A run of illness, a stint of solely manning the parenting fort and the seed of a business idea, demanding eyeball-burning nights of research, has meant that this little blog has sadly been sidelined. But I'm back, willing and able with a post touching on the issue of children's sun care. 

Lovea kids: fragrance, silicone and
paraben-free mineral sun care

Before BB was born I had it fixed in my mind that the only thing applied to his beautiful skin would be a 100% organic product, until said 100% organic product (with lavender oil) caused a nasty reaction that only aqueous cream could finally take the sting out of. Hmm. 

To date we have muddled along with a half-and-half approach. I use natural or organic paraben-free shampoos as he's still prone to patches of eczema on his face but, where sunscreen is concerned, I have at times resorted to easy, off-the-shelf buys after finding it difficult to source a non-chemical alternative with a decent SPF rating.

So, when we were asked if we'd like to trial Lovea Kids SPF30 Natural Sunscreen Spray we jumped at the chance and then waited (several weeks) for the rain to stop and the sun to shine. 

But why choose a natural or organic sunscreen for your kids? Well, they tend to fall into the barrier sunscreen camp, using mineral filters like zinc oxide and titanium oxide to reflect UVA/UVB rays rather than a chemical cocktail sunscreen which absorbs rays. It is this questionable absorption into the skin that has raised concern surrounding potential carcinogenic toxicity and prompted call for a review of ingredients. 

Protecting my sunshine from too much sunshine

Specifically, oxybenzone - a chemical commonly used in ray-absorption sunscreens - has been described as a 'hormone-disruptor' with research in animals revealing some estrogenic activity. This link, it should be pointed out, hasn't been proven in humans. However, a 2008 U.S study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did conclude that 96.8% of participants urine samples contained oxybenzone, supporting the fact that it is capable of entering the blood stream.

Happily, Lovea Kids is a mineral sunscreen without fragrance, silicones or parabens. Although it's certified organic, as a French product - the top selling organic sunscreen in France no less - the certification comes via EcoCert which requires a lower percentage of ingredients of organic origin than the UK's Soil Association certification. Therefore, 10.9% of ingredients are organic with 98.9% being of natural origin.

Pro's: We found this sunscreen applies without slithery greasiness but, as a sun-conscious mum, I like the fact that there's still enough residue left behind to be able to feel where it has covered. For a mineral formulation - notorious for making the skin appear ghostly - Lovea leaves only the merest hint of white on initial application. On a glaringly bright, hot day in the park it protected my son's skin perfectly causing no sensitivity or heat rash. 

Scooter fun in the sun :)

Con's: Although the bottle is described as a spray the action is definitely that of a pump. Psychologically, this takes a bit of getting used because you're expecting the delivery system to work in a way that it doesn't; however it does mean a controlled dose with no splatter-factor. Because of this, children who are keen to apply their own sunscreen might find it difficult to decant and it also takes a little bit more time to rub in than a non-mineral sunscreen -  but really not that much. 

As debate rumbles on about the safety of oxybenzone - not only in suncare but also as an additive in beauty products - skipping it in your child's sunscreen (and your own) with an effective alternative could be wise. I know it's got me thinking.

Lovea Kids SPF30 Natural Sunscreen Spray is £12.99 for 125mls and available at My Pure.

Frugal Friday: A Sight For Sore Eyes

Friday, 15 June 2012

Cool balm: straight from the fridge...

I don't know about you but hot weather does nowt for my eyes. They get sore, swollen and generally irritable and under-eye concealer (which I need in my life like oxygen), slides off and creases. In summer I tend to skip anti-aging eye creams during the day to try to keep any puffage (technical term) to a minimum.

This year I got lucky with a press sample of Simple Soothing Eye Balm, in the post. The timing was perfect; just as that brief sweltering spell hit and my eyelids were painfully inflating. I didn't spend a great deal of time poring over the packaging - after all Simple is, err, simple - I just wanted to get that product around my eyes like antihistamine cream onto a son-of-a-gun insect bite.

What can I say? instant ahhhhh... The texture is calming and balmy with a slight firming action, it blends away to the perfect base for concealer or eye make-up and, most importantly, feels comfortable and pleasant to use. With an absence of alcohol (which is a good thing), you don't get that astringent sensation that some anti-swelling eye products offer, so I've been keeping mine in the fridge to up the cooling-quotient which seems to work nicely.

This is WAY too much product for the under-eye area
 but gives an indication of texture

Although I find it hydrating enough for fine lines, I do wonder how it would fare on deeper wrinkles. During summer it's a balancing act between overly rich products triggering puffiness and those with not enough moisture magnifying dehydration. You could easily blend it with a small amount of a thicker textured eye cream though, if needs be. 

To be blunt, there are no frills with this little eye balm. The ingredients are pretty standard: jojoba oil, pro-vitamin B5, vitamin E, glycerin etc. But when a product is effective, affordable and does what it says on the tube I guess there's no need for bells, whistles and - ultimately - a higher price-point. x

* Simple Kind To Eyes Soothing Eye Balm is £3.99 for 15mls.

My 50th Post - And A Thank YOU

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

*hark, is that a fanfare I can hear?* 

Okay, okay. As posting statistics go, 50 pushes of the Publish button is a piddling drop in the online ocean; I know. Perhaps almost laughable. '50 posts, pah. I'll match that and raise you 75 in ONE month kiddo and then - and only then - come and tell me about achievement'. 

But still, it really does feel like an achievement. I never thought I would get this far, stay up so late tinkering with html coding, or enjoy cultivating my little corner of the t'interweb so much. 

To those of you who take the time to regularly read my ramblings a heartfelt thank YOU. This blog is a big deal to me (and my spare-time sanity), and knowing that there are lovely people who actually read it makes me very happy indeed. 

And now, for the cheeky bit. If you're on the fence about following, but at some point might *coughs* like to, I've splashed out on brand spanking new shiny social media buttons for additional easy ways and means to do so. Eyes right, scroll back up a tad, they're in the sidebar over thatta way... ;) 

Finally, if you have a new or established blog that I haven't yet come across, but really should know about, then do shout out. I love adding to my Blog'Lovin reading list. x

* Picture credit: Shabby Blogs Vintage Freebie With Keren - Adorable Bluebird Clip-Art

Mane Message: Summer Hair DO!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The fresh tie-dye collection

Last week, when temperatures in London climbed to an out of character 28 degrees and wearing my long hair loose definitely felt like a hair DON'T, I spied a sponsor box on one of my favourite blogs - Creature Comforts - for the Etsy shop Mane Message. After heading on over and scrolling through the sun-soaked wares on offer I couldn't pass up on posting about these gorgeous, mood-brightening hair accessories. 

The premise of the line couldn't be simpler. Soft elastic hair bands and headbands that don't crimp unsightly creases into the hair and double as bracelets whilst they're waiting to be called into action. How's that for functional chic?

Hair candy: a small selection of the sweet things on offer at mane message

The hand dyed colour combinations, inspired by current fashion trends and boho beach culture, really caught my eye - so fresh, breezy and buyable. After much deliberation I opted for the Tie Die Starter Package (below) priced $7.00 or approx £4.67. This includes four of Mane Message's most popular ties with the choice of 4 options for colour combining. I chose the shades pictured (left) and asked for the fourth tie to be nude or peach toned. This seemed like a good way to sample the range and to gauge how the bands would sit on my small-ish wrists. There are mini bands available should you prefer a snugger fit. 

Mane message began as a dormitory sideline for student Olivia Hayward but has now become a successful business in its own right. Love that young, entrepreneurial spirit.

I'd highly recommend a look at Olivia's Etsy shop or her website to view the full range of pick 'n' mix colourways and package options on offer. Sometimes buying from overseas can be prohibitive on cost but these ties seem very reasonable. Shipping to the UK costs $3 (approx £2) on a single order with a 47p postage charge on each additional item. 

I'm so looking forward to receiving my purchases, binning my scrappy clips and bobbles and bringing a slice of Californian sunshine to (err) South East London. x 

* The images in this post are reproduced with kind permission and are the work of photographer Cara Robbins

If 1950s Nail Polish Could Swatch

Thursday, 24 May 2012

One of my favourite evening pastimes is firing up the iPad and sofa-surfing eBay for vintage cosmetics and collectibles whilst the husband scours eBay on his iPhone for bike parts. Hey, we all have hobbies :)

Two recent wins have caused great excitement (for me, not him), especially as they were both under £5 including postage. I love the thrill of a fiver find (p&p included) on eBay. One is quite unlike anything I've ever seen before and needs more research before I post about its provenance, the other is this rather beautiful example of L'Onglex nail polish.

Floral fancy: a blast from nail polish past

Retro magazine adverts I've unearthed online date similar L'Onglex Polishes to around the 1940s/1950s. I've got a feeling this is mid to late 1940s but will hedge my bets and plump for early 1950s.

The bottle is heavyweight, glamorous glass and the reverse has a sophisticated cross-etched pattern. There's also a genius indent designed to steady the fingertips during painting. How very ladylike.

From the typography on the front of the bottle, to the illustrated Adele-esque nail (which admittedly looks more like a candle than a human digit), this is vintage beauty perfection and makes 21st century nail polish packaging seem bland by comparison. 

What it does appear to have in common with its contemporaries however is the formulation; a bright, glossy candy-apple red tint that I reckon would apply - saturated but sheerly - like the current Jelly nail trend.

I tried (and failed) to twist open, steam open and finally prise open the cap thinking it would be fun to flout health and safety rules and swatch a piece of 60-year-old nail polish history. But damn it, it wouldn't budge. The vintage genie in the bottle remains disappointingly corked. Some you win, then you lose. x

Frugal Friday: *Jergens Naturals Extra Softening Moisturising Hand Cream...

Friday, 18 May 2012

...With Shea Butter (*longest product description ever - maybe)

Frugal friday: the first worthy contender 

Welcome to a new regular post that I hope to bring to you every Friday (crosses fingers, but not behind my back OK) celebrating the 'cheap seats' of beauty. The budget buys, purse-friendly pick-me-ups and supermarket sweeps of the cosmetics world. Every product featured on Frugal Friday will be priced under £10 and my aim is to stay nearer the fiver mark. After all, who doesn't love a bargain?

Today we're kicking off with an everyday essential - hand cream - and this one is seriously good. I'm not familiar with the Jergens brand (other than having seen it advertised in American magazines), but my hands have been crispier than a Peking duck, it was on offer at Sainbury's and the USP of 95% natural ingredients suckered me in. 

From top left: a creamy consistency; emulsifying to a liquid lotion;
 non-slippy hands 15 seconds later; smoother, fresher skin

The good stuff: LOVE the texture. It's moisturising but not greasy and straight away emulsifies into a light/liquid lotion significantly cutting down on the hand-wringing, jeans-wiping activity often required with thicker, waxier formulations. I counted 15 seconds from 'wet' hands to dry, slip-free hands. Impressive.

At this price point - £2.99, I REPEAT £2.99 - the ingredients are surprising. Water and glycerin (one delivering moisture, the other attracting it) are at the top of the list. Soya oil, shea butter, yoghurt extract, chamomile extract, lavender extract and cottonseed oil are other interesting additions that caught my eye. Despite the 'naturals' tag there are still chemicals and preservatives in the formula but they feature much less (and presumably at a much lower ratio) than you might expect to see in a generic, bog-standard hand cream. 

Budget beauty: an out of the ordinary ingredients list
(click on image to view - sorry, slightly out of focus!)

The not so good stuff: I really (and this is my personal opinion) dislike the fragrance. It's very sweet. Think vanilla sponge, drizzled with thick caramel, piped with Chantilly cream and topped with forest fruits. Bleurgh. However, since scents are so subjective - and I'm a weirdo when it comes to fragrance liking masculine, smoky, leathery notes - this feminine, bakery confection was never going to do anything other than make my kind of nose nauseous. It is fair to say that someone who likes fruitier/sweet scents might find it nothing short of dreamy. I think one of my bestie's Kerry *waves* would absolutely love it :)

The final verdict: Brilliant price, fantastic skin-softening performance but not so keen on the fragrance. 

Do you have a #FrugalFriday favourite product? x

Pukka Ayurveda Nourishing Brightener - The Nitty Gritty

Friday, 11 May 2012

I shed tears (almost) when The Body Shop discontinued their Aduzki Bean Facial Scrub. Ah, the nostalgia of the talc-dispenser tub, the technicality of mixing powder with water to a skin-smarting consistency. Adzuki treated your face like a meanie but boy did it get a dull complexion looking lively. This was an iconic, tough love scrub and there has forever been a gap in my beauty treatment arsenal. Until now...

Pukka Nourishing Brightener is nowhere near as abrasive as Adzuki (which is probably a good things since Adzuki was a baaad thing), but it's the nearest I've come to grain-based exfoliation in a long time. It leaves your skin seriously soft, matte - something that I've never come across in an exfoliant before - and as smooth as a baby's bottom.

Pukka Skincare follows the principles of Ayurveda, reflected in the concentrated herbal blends. To smell (and in the case of Nourishing Brightener) feel something that is proudly pungent, earthy and slightly twiggy, we're talking ground roots, spices and nuts here folk, and to then contemplate rubbing it onto your face seems refreshingly back to basics and novel.

Of course, you do need to mix it with a carrier before putting 'soil' to skin. The directions recommend water or cleanser but I would definitely advise mixing one teaspoon of powder with a good dollop of cream cleanser before you set to work. For me, the water option is a little too scratchy. How times have changed.

There are some really interesting potent ingredients packed into the pot. Almond seed powder - the base of the brightener - replenishes, moisturises and is probably the ingredient that leaves the skin feeling so matte and silky smooth. Bilberry fruit extract and Licorice root powder have an antioxidant and brightening effect whilst Gotu Kola, Manjishtha root powder and Asparagus powder all have anti-inflammatory, purifying properties. Neem leaf powder has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial benefits whilst turmeric helps to even skin tone and fight acne infections. Finally, Nourishing Brightener also contains Spirulina, an all round skin superfood.

On the downside, this exfoliator doesn't apply to the skin in a particularly aesthetically pleasing way. Mixed, it has the appearance of the end result of a dog's troubled digestive system after eating berries. It also turns the sink/bathwater green-ish.

On the upside, it is one of the best exfoliators I have ever used. Like compost for your complexion every ingredient - did I mention it's 100% organic - is there for the greater, face-fuelling good. There are no fillers or chemical synthetics.

I'd highly recommend a look at Pukka if you fancy slotting some genuinely high-percentage organic products into your regime or, if what you put on your skin - for whatever reason - matters. x

Pukka Ayurveda Nourishing Brightener is £13 (15ml) from www.pukkaherbs.com

When I Thought I Could Be A Make-up Artist

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Found in a dusty box in the loft: contact sheets from a photo shoot that formed the final assessment of a short Introduction To Film Make-up course I took at The London College Of Fashion in 2000. The 'concept' of the maquillage and styling was Geisha meets Dior (John Galliano) and now I'm wondering why I didn't print a couple of frames as the result wasn't as bad as I remember it being. 

Geisha girl with a touch of boy george

At the time I was in my mid-twenties and working in my first job as a magazine beauty editor. I wanted to learn, understand and absorb everything I could about make-up application and technique and how it related to lighting, film and processing. These were the days when photographers were holding-out against expensive digital set-ups and you never quite knew what would be captured on film. I remember warming developing Polaroids under my armpit impatient for the magic to unfold. It was what made editorial so exciting. 

It didn't take me long to realise that I wouldn't be giving up the day job - I was never going to be an actual make-up artist - but the course did help me to appreciate the huge talent and versatility of those I was lucky enough to go on to work with. 

I can't remember the name of the model (who was a LCF degree course student), the photographer or the hairdresser, so am unable give credit other than to say they were all very patient and professional.

If I were to do it again I'd keep the make-up exactly the same (I remember using a lot of white Kryolan Aquacolor, M.A.C and Make Up Forever) but would lose the flowers in the model's hands, pull-up on the posture and crop in tighter. One of the hardest lessons to learn as a stylist is recognising when what you think is just about enough is really a tiny bit too much. But hey, I was only starting out and now I know better. Mostly. x

Sweets For My Sweet

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

When last weeks rain stopped play BB and I turned our hands to baking. I use the term 'baking' lightly as this generally involves him purposefully stirring a few ingredients around in a separate bowl with the wrong end of teaspoon - which drives me nuts - whilst I provide the elbow grease and clear up the mess.

These little cakes were destined to go into the oven in pirate cupcake cases but, at the last minute, BB came over all red-of-face and shouty when pressed to part with them (as 3-year olds do), so I unearthed some mini silicone muffin moulds whilst thinking calm, loving thoughts

Raindrops outside, sprinkles inside: BB samples his work

We used a basic, fool-proof BBC Food fairy cake recipe but replaced the self-raising flour with a wholemeal version after discovering that the former had a sell-by date of May 2010. Let's not talk about my cupboard-keeping shall we...

His lordship isn't a fan of icing but was quite specific about requiring sprinkles, which presented a small challenge. I offered up a dilute lemon icing drizzle that had just enough stickiness to catch the sprinkles but not enough of a traditional icing appearance to be detected by BB's hawk-eye and jabbing, judgemental finger. 

And the verdict from himself? 'Mmmmmm.Yummy.'

Do you have a child-friendly, easy-peasy recipe you like cooking on cabin fever days? x

Darphin Purifying Balm - Spa In A Jar

Friday, 27 April 2012

Having a history of acne and reactive skin I have never believed, even from the mouths of 'industry insiders', that oil formulations and oily skin could co-exist in anything other than a squelchy, hellish union. It was very much a case of tra-la-la experts, talk to the hand 'cos this face ain't listening. To my grease-phobic mind the thought seemed ridiculously counterproductive

However, and it pains me to say it as I hate being wrong, having trialled Darphin Purifying Balm (a press sample) over the past six months I'm seeing method in the madness.

A match made in skincare heaven? Well, oil be damned (couldn't resist)

Since kicking my spot-prone complexion into touch with Alpha-H skin care, I've found I'm able to use richer, treatment products - on occasion - without ill effect. Result. I can't go bonkers and baste my face in oil every night ( now that would just be asking for trouble) but I can enjoy the pampering benefits that balms and the like offer.

You'd be hard pressed nowadays to find a skincare range without a balm of some form in their line, but not all are born equal or have the same uses. For example, many cleansing balms at both the high and low-end of the market contain ingredients likely to unbalance the skin such as petroleum and mineral oils. I try and avoid both of these where possible after having once been told by a dermatologist that they act as 'shrink-wrap,' creating a seal that prevents moisture from entering the epidermis and toxins from exiting = a dry, slick, congested skin. 

But it's not just chemical synthetics that can irritate. Some natural oils such as coconut and wheatgerm also have a high propensity to clog pores. As an aside, did you know that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (derived from coconut oil and used in cosmetics as a cleansing, lathering agent) is highly comedogenic? Food for thought if you use SLS shampoos and get breakouts around the hairline or forehead. I discovered this fact via an enlightening article on Viva Woman. Read the full article here

Anyway, I'm digressing as Darphin Purifying Balm isn't a cleanser and doesn't contain any of the above which translates in the texture; a silky, extremely fine and supple balm that melts as soon as you rub it between your fingertips. This is a luxurious product saturated with skin-conditioning oils in the base - apricot kernal oil, sunflower seed oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil and beeswax - and additional decongestant, purifying and calming oils such as tea tree, sage, thyme, lavender, ylang ylang, balsam copaiba (an anti-inflammatory), geranium and chamomile. 

Six months of once/twice weekly use and
there's still a smidgen left

Unlike a cleansing balm designed to be removed, this balm is applied to the skin at night as a treatment. I use it once or twice a week when my skin's looking dull, peaky or it's a Friday evening and I'm on wine glass number 3 and counting... The smell is aromatherapy spa divine and I 'cup and sniff' - somehow that sounds gross but is in fact gorgeous - every time I melt it in my hands. 

Don't panic if your skin feels really rather oily on application because by morning there will be little, if any, trace. Results-wise how does a smoother, brighter, more balanced complexion with a reduction in open pores grab you? Hell yeah, it grabs me too. 

The only downside to all this marvellousness is, of course, the price. At around £37 for 15ml (I've got bigger lip balms!) it's a lot of dosh for a teeny pot but I would still highly recommend it for any skin type, not just oil-phobics, as you need only use a small amount. Mine has lasted for a good six months. 

Have you used Darphin skincare? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And could you would you mix oily skin with oil?

* Darphin Purifying Balm is available nationwide (check out the store locator here) and at online beauty outlets. 

Ooh La La! Lovely Lilacs (pinks) From Make Up Store

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sometimes I jump on the idea of a make-up trend and then quickly scuttle away before I've even tried it. You know, you buy something that you think will be a bit different and then in the cold, hard light of day - bottle it.

Colour me (err) lilac - with a touch of tan

So it has been with the colour lilac. Before Christmas (this is how long it's taken me to muster the courage), I spotted a brand I'd never seen before on Carnaby Street called Make Up Store. Inside, it looked a lot like M.A.C and quite a bit like a professional film and theatre make-up shop; rows upon rows of pigment, shimmer and sheen presided over by extremely helpful, colour-confident and immaculately made-up MUA's. I went in and walked out with a caramel blusher, a lilac blusher and a dinky lilac lip gloss pot. I then proceeded to spend £16 on Christian Lacroix notelets in Liberty. What can I say, it had been a nerve-wracking day. I was trying to shop the edge off of it.

Since then lilac has been popping up everywhere. I especially love the lilac lips, cheeks and tan coloured eye-combos showcased recently in a ton of magazine editorials, so decided to finally embrace this most powdery of purple shades. It has to be said that I appear to have used a TOWIE trowel to load on the blusher but I still like the look; fresh and spring-like.

Shade-shifting: in some lights the blush and gloss appear
 less lilac - more pink

Neither of the shades I used on my cheeks (Matt Glory) and lips (Bay) are actually as lilac as they seem in their pans. Instead, they're a cool pink with slightly violet undertones but very lovely nonetheless. The second blusher (Matt Caramel) is a tan hue with a hint of dusky rose/maroon. I've been using it as a cheek contour  - every 10 years I rediscover my cheekbones - and generally as a means of warming up a genetically wan skin tone. It's a useful, versatile shade. 

Considering that there is a lot of powder fall-out from the blushers (the talc high up in the ingredients list is probably responsible for that), I wasn't expecting the quality to be up to much but these are surprisingly good. I chose the matt variety which are so sheer - but buildable as you can see! - that they actually blend very, very evenly. As an aside, a blusher that doesn't apply patchily can only ever be a positive in my book. Being a perfectionist I HATE it when that happens. 

In terms of negatives, the casing is so butter-fingers light that the blushers have ended up skimming the bathroom floor like hockey pucks on more than one occasion. The lids also have an annoying habit of slipping out of their hinges. At £14 for a Blush Colour and £11 for a Lip Gloss Pot it would obviously be highly preferable for these things not to happen, but neither would put me off of buying more from the range because the effects/performance of the make-up itself are - luckily - so good.

Ultimately, I haven't found my perfect lilac shade but I have found a perfect violet/pink blush and a make-up range I will return to. Have you tried Make Up Store? x

Arty & Bella - New Clips On The Block

Thursday, 12 April 2012

There's something about handmade gifts that always appeals to me. The care, attention to detail and the fact that time and effort have been poured into bringing a personal vision to fruition makes buying for others somehow more special. When I saw these beautifully crafted Arty & Bella floral hair clips in a local shop I knew I had the birthdays of all BB's favourite little ladies sorted.

We started with the girls from his baby group. The 'adorables' I've known since they had wispy, newborn chick hair but who now (at a blink-and-you-missed-it 3-years old) have curls, ponytails and fringes that make the cutest canvasses for pretty clips. I split two packs amongst three girls which worked out at £8 a pair, including the shop mark-up, and teamed them with mini Paperchase rucksacks that I bought in the January sales for a bargainous £2 each. I have never been - and will probably never again be - so organised.

Buying handmade also makes me feel, as BB likes to say, 'sharing/caring'. Since becoming a mum I try to support other mum's businesses where I can and take my hat off to all the ingenious, inventive women - like Arty & Bella's Zelda Burborough - who now fall into the WAHM (work at home mum) camp.

Women who, in the wee small hours when their children are asleep or during snatches of time when little ones have been dispatched to nursery, pre-school and school are busy baking, sewing, designing, painting, writing, photographing, product-making and more. In theory it all sounds glossy magazine idyllic but, in practice, getting a business off of the ground and maintaining it from home must sometimes feel like a labour of love. 

So, next time you need to buy a gift why not think about supporting a local, kitchen-table business if you can? Paying it forward might just make someone's day. When I contacted Zelda to ask if I could use a couple of her images for this post she replied by saying 'I spend so much time shut away sewing it's always good to hear that people like what you do!' Buying something (when you can afford to), means you show a home-grown business that you don't just like what they do, you love it.

For more Arty & Bella treats take a look online here. I have my beady-eye on this Jubilee Headband, £20 and these Japanese Liberty Print Hello Kitty Hair Elastics, £4.50. 

Legendary Nail Shade From a england

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Now here's a nail colour I'd have never 'clicked' up if it hadn't first caught my eye over on The Swatchaholic. The images on this beautiful blog showcase shades in such high-resolution, covetable quality that you just want to own them, all of them. And that's before you've even read the review.

Saint George: my first holographic nail colour

Having fancied a green polish for quite some time - but not a neon bright or sludgy khaki - a england Saint George fits the bill perfectly. Deep emerald green, with a touch of teal, it has a holographic finish packed with micro-fine specks of green, teal and silver glitter.

Daylight swatch: brings out the teal tones but the shade's truer to life in the top pic

The branding of a england has an olde world feel; the shades themselves are inspired by myth, legend and gothic romance. It's not my kind of branding if I'm honest (horses for courses), but I'm still really pleased with my purchase especially since Saint George draws so many compliments when I wear it. On the subject of wear this manicure lasted chip-free for four days with a base and top coat. 

a england Saint George Nail Polish is priced £9 and available online.

P.S: I've just logged onto the a england site to discover a flash 72 hour discount of 30% on all available nail shades - as of 31/03/2012. Saint George is currently out of stock but can be added to a wish-list. Do not fear, there are plenty of other gorgeous shades available in the Legend and Mythicals collections. Go look!

Sunny Side Up: Benefit Cabana Glama

Saturday, 24 March 2012

I'm not a fan of hot weather or the sun (I hate feeling sweaty) but this week's bright skies and warmth have been undeniably pleasant. I even dug out my flip flops. I've also been inspired to break into a box of Benefit loveliness that I was lucky to be sent to trial. Cabana Glama has been patiently sitting on the bathroom shelf waiting for the official signs of spring - sustained, unavoidable sunlight - to enter my shaded world.

This dinky collection of staples perfectly compliments a sunnier mood. Maybe it's the postcard packaging, subliminal jet-away message (the insert pictures a deserted pier and a palm-fringed bar at sundown, yes please!), or the knowledge that if I do decide to embrace an en vacances look I have the means in one place and easily to hand. 

Cabana Glama contains two products I have previously used and loved; Posie Tint and Some Kinda Gorgeous. (Posie Tint is a see through candy-pink cheek tint and Some Kinda Gorgeous, a whisper-light almost invisible base). But it's the Hoola Bronzer that has proven most surprising especially as I generally avoid any kind of faux 'tan' like the plague. Despite looking scarily brown to my eye, I've found (like lots of other Hoola devotees) that the tone is flatteringly true-to-life. I may have discovered a bronzer I could actually learn to live with.

Sunny delight: Cabana Glama 'beach in a box'

Also in the Cabana Glama kit are three neutral eyeshadow shades (a champagne/peach, a soft golden bronze and a mid-cocoa brown) which won't set your make-up collection on fire but nonetheless are very useful, wearable and blend without fallout.

If you already have some of the products in full sizes then this isn't a necessity buy. I don't think the eyeshadow shades alone are inspiring enough to sway a purchase. However, if you like the idea of a 'beach in a box' - where every item works in sunny unison - then this kit has classic Benefit feel-good factor and is a great way to put a spring/summer face together - simply. x

Destination beauty: postcard packaging

• Benefit Cabana Glama is on sale now (online and nationwide) priced £28.50. In this kit Some Kinda Gorgeous is only available in Medium, suited to medium skin tones. 

Reviewed: Rhodes To Heaven The Lip Plumper

Saturday, 17 March 2012

I'm not into the idea of nip/tuck surgery. Each to their own, what a woman does with her body is her perrogative after all but you can't out-smart age forever. Once you're on the cosmetic surgery conveyor belt surely it's a little like the scene at the end of the film Death Becomes Her? Eternally in need of an ally to scoop, skim and scaffold. 

I'd be lying if I said I'd never entertained the idea of a small injectable tweak. Isn't it annoying how features that were once smooth and plump (like the lips) lose volume and crinkle? A bee-stung pout appeals but you can guarantee I'd end up looking like a guppy. Anyway, the husband has categorically stated that any facial meddling will result in divorce. He seemed mighty serious. 

Thrice as nice: rhodes to heaven the lip plumper

Looking for more natural means of regaining lip oomph led me to Rhodes To Heaven The Lip Plumper, which claims to be a multi-tasking plumper, gloss and salve. The ingredients list revealed (amongst others) beeswax, lanolin, castor oil and fruit waxes - all good stuff for hydrating and attracting moisture to thirsty lips - but it was the 'plumping' palmitoyl oligopeptide protein that interested me most. Peptides are commonly used in glosses and lipsticks designed to boost lip volume (they may increase levels of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid) but not so often in a lip balm formulation. 

After three months of use my verdict is that this is a very impressive balm on a par with my beloved Lanolips. The medium-thick consistency has good wearability, of around half an hour, and leaves lips feeling nourished, cushioned and looking super-shiny. The pretty ballet slipper pink colour tints lips ever-so-slightly and I love the fact that it is available in a click-pen brush applicator. I loathe dipping my fingers into balm especially when I've been commuting or on public transport (germ phobic).

The plumping effect definitely isn't going to give Angelina Jolie sleepless nights but I have seen a moderate, visible increase in volume - especially in the centre of my top lip - and a smoother lip surface. Please note that my lips are marked from past cold sores so their tone is naturally uneven.

My only slight niggle with The Lip Plumper is that one end of the box was quite scuffed on delivery which took the shine off of the 'treat' somewhat. If it had been a gift for someone else I would have asked for a replacement. Though, in fairness to Rhodes To Heaven, I didn't give them the chance to provide an alternative as I was itching to put its plumping prowess to the test straight away.

To dip or not to dip, that is the question

Overall, this is a very lovely lip treatment and definitely worth a look if you're in the market for adding a new anti-aging balm to your collection. I'll be repurchasing the jar version (better value) and using the empty pen dispenser as an applicator - genius, huh? Although it's worth pointing out that the pen has lasted three months of daily use. Good going, I'd say.

The Lip Plumper is available from Rhodes To Heaven in a 5ml click-pen for £8.95 or a 10ml jar for £13.95.

Vintage Finds: Dressing Table Treasures

Monday, 5 March 2012

Today I thought I'd showcase some of the vintage finds I love unearthing in charity shops, at car boots and on Ebay and Etsy.

Sometimes objects are poignant and intimate; I own a woman's diary from the 1930s that chronicles a courtship (he bought her diamonds and furs for Christmas), which I couldn't bear to see tossed onto a car boot scrap heap. It cost just 20p to save. Sometimes items are a perfect fit; my wedding ring is a 'previously owned' Art Deco design that I knew had been waiting for me the minute I laid eyes on it. Most often I just find the history and romance of the past compelling. The husband grumbles that hours of his life have ebbed away watching me rifle through 'bits of s%*t.' Send me into a good flea market and I enter a trance. Truly I do. 

Beyond general retro relics, I'm also a keen collector of vintage cosmetics and will be sharing more trinkets in upcoming posts for those similarly inclined. But for now here are a few of my pink, black and gold powder-room pretties. Aren't they just charming.

From top left;

  • 'Springtime' portrait by Enid Elliot Linder - £4 from Cancer Research. This little image caught my eye in a charity shop window. I love the colour combinations (black, gold, pink and peach) and the whimsical illustration. Enid Elliot Linder was a talented artist from Torquay who began producing silhouettes in 1972. Her work can still be found in antique shops and on eBay.

  • Elizabeth Arden Ardena Powder from eBay & Sarah Coventry Pearl Magic Pendant from Etsy. Both appear to date from the 1950s or 1960s. The Ardena Powder is as new and has an unusual box compact design. The faux pearl pendant remains in its original packaging (the top of the case is clear plastic and faceted like a jewel) and is deceptively weighty. I plan to wear it on a long gold chain. For more beautiful vintage cosmetics and collectibles take a look at Rose Petal Curiosity Shop on Etsy here.

  • Boots La Question Face Powder from eBay. The La Question range was introduced by Boots in the 1930s/1940s. Still retaining its beautiful peach pigment and distinctive heritage scent (think Nana's), this powder pot is pure make-up history.
  • Minature Chanel No5 fragrance bottle (empty) and Max Factor Hollywood Face Powder in SUM'R TAN from eBay. These were purchased as props for use in a still-life set, although I ended up buying them myself. The Chanel bottle is definitely vintage but difficult to date; I would hazard 1980s at a push. The Max Factor Powder is unused and has the most fantastic description on the reverse that reads -
'Created by Max Factor Hollywood... Correct colour harmony shades to blend with individual complexion colourings.
Made from purest ingredients, superfine in texture, delicately perfumed to please the most fastidious tastes.
Guaranteed free from lead, orris root, and any other harmful ingredients.
 Its adherent qualities make it "stay on" and "cling" under the most trying conditions.'  

Are you hooked on the history of vintage make-up? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading x

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