Birchbox UK November 2014 - Cosy at Home

Hi guys!

Still can't quite get my head around the fact that November is already upon us, but it does mean time for another Birchbox post and this month I am a very happy bunny!

The theme for November is 'Cosy at Home' - the products are designed for a snuggly autumnal beauty night in and with my candles lit, blanket on the sofa and a mug of Earl Grey I am keen. This box contains two, yes two, full sized products, and the little posh chocolate treat is very welcome too. So, onto the products...


English Laundry Signature For Her Scent - the last English Laundry fragrance sample that came surprised me, I thought it would be a little 'old lady' but actually have used it all up whilst travelling. This time, again, English Laundry have delivered. It's a sweet, slightly floral scent and easy to wear in the daytime. £60 for 50ml EDP so for 5ml(ish), around £3.

Beauty Protector Protect and Treat Hair Mask - I don't know if it's intentional or not, but for my last few boxes I have been receiving two of one sample?! This box was no different, with two of these lovely pots of hair mask. I have grown to like the Beauty Protector brand and am looking forward to treating my dry ends to this mask. It smells yum and one pot will be just right per treatment. I'm estimating these two pots are worth around £3.20.

Lord & Berry Mini Bronzer, Sunny - The last Lord & Berry product I received from Birchbox was a kohl pencil - I could tell it was lovely quality but didn't love it just because I don't use eyeliner (no ability whatsoever to apply, and when I do, I look like Marylin Manson...). This sample gives me the perfect excuse to try Lord & Berry out properly on a product that I use everyday, bronzer. It's a nice shade and good consistency so we'll see how I get on. £19 full size means this 2g sample is worth £3.16.

OPI Coca-Cola Red Nail Polish - LOVE THIS. Nailed it. A brilliant colour for the festive season, a brand I trust and to top it all off, this is full size. No more needed! Worth a £11.95 (so basically covers the price of the Birchbox alone).

Dr. Jart + Pore Refine Tight Effect Toner - This was a new one to me, but I was intrigued to see that Dr Jart + is part of Boots. It's a toner specifically for oily skin, which isn't that relevant to me, but I'll give it a good go nonetheless. (J has oily skin and will definitely try this out so we can see how it works on two skin types..). Big fan of the scent. Another full size product, this time worth a whopping £18, I'm happy with that!!

Montezuma's Mini Bar - Who doesn't love a little choclatey treat, and even better that it's British-made, organic and totally delicious. Much prefer this type of 'lifestyle extra' to the bizarre lipstick-shaped pen and flip-flop key ring of previous boxes!

This box is up amongst the best I have had - nice work Birchbox. Even almost a year into subscribing, it still feels a teeny bit like Christmas each time I get to open my box up, and who doesn't love that kind of excitement?!

What did you guys get in your box this month? Were you pleased with the contents? Love to hear from you, as always!


Halloween 2014 - Pumpkin Carving!

So. It's been a while. But let's skip over that part. Internet is underrated anyway...

IT'S ALMOST HALLOWEEN!! In preparation, J and I got our pumpkin carving on and I tried timelapse out for the first time - result below!

We have been loving creating 'seasonal' niceness in our flat now that we are living here together (think mini pumpkins, orange and black candles, pretty lanterns) and I am getting keen for Christmas already!

Life is crazy at the moment so that's all for now, would love to see what you guys are doing for Halloween - outfits, pumpkins, baking, crafts....the lot!


Birchbox UK July 2014 - Sun, Sea & Sand

Hi lovelies!

I am still struggling big time with internet (hopefully to be resolved in the next two weeks, hurrah!) so excuse the horribly infrequent posting lately.

It's time for another Birchbox post, this time the July 2014 Sun, Sea & Sand edition! There's less of a 'theme' to this box than some of the more recent boxes, but that's not a bad thing to be honest - it's more of a focus on the handy little samples that can slip into your hand luggage/beach bag wherever you are spending your summer. And seeing as I'm a lucky duck this summer, enjoying a couple of little holidays, I need all the samples I can get!

Whish Three Wishes Lavender Body Butter - I recognised the style of this brand but not sure where I've seen it. Either way, this body butter smells good (the right side of lavender i.e. not old lady) and leaves my skin soft and feeling moisturised. A perfectly useful little sample but not a product I'll be rushing out to buy. £14.50 for 150ml so this sample worth around £2.12.

Weleda Millet Nourishing Shampoo - from a selfish point of view, this sample is perfect for me - I swim most mornings before work so mini bottles of shampoo are a big hit for getting rid of the chlorine! I have used Weleda before and liked it but not this specific product. It smells good - I get tea tree, mint and general 'herbal' scents, all of which are fine by me but may be a little 'eco' for some! A low-value sample worth around 84p.

Gilchrist & Soames English Spa Sea Kelp Extract Mineral Bath - I have received a Gilchrist and Soames shower product previously via Birchbox and felt neither here nor there about it. This bath foam has a nicer scent and may get tested at somepoint in the next bath I take (I am a shower girl!). This product didn't massively excite me if I'm being honest. Sample of 40ml worth £1.90.

Ultradex Oral Spray - this was a 'lifestyle extra' from Birchbox this month, a fresh breath oral spray which apparently fights plaque and gum problems. I am not a regular user of these sort of products but happy to give it a go. It's minty (but sugar-free) and does make my mouth feel fresh so I'm relatively happy with it. Full size product so worth £3.65.

Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream - this was one of the more exciting products in this months' Birchbox. I suffer with dark under-eye circles and generally need a good layer of Benefit Erase Paste before I look alive in the mornings (!) so I'm going to give this a go. Apparently it 'soothes, brightens and lifts' so I'll report back how I get on...! I like the zesty, herbal scent and for an eye cream, the sample size is really generous - regular bottle is 15ml for £20, so 7ml is worth £9.33.

Laqa & Co Sheer Lip Lube Pencil in Menatour - when I first saw the colour of this lip gloss pencil I had major some concerns.  It's bright purple. However, when I put it on, I was pleasantly surprised. It blends into your natural lip colour well (although the shade is definitely still 'bold', it's not PURPLE), and is a nice texture. I think this is the kind of product that Birchbox are good for - I would never pick up something like this normally but am impressed with it! Another generous sample too, worth £7.80.

Overall, this has been a mixed box for me. I'm not thrilled with it, but there are a couple of products that I'm looking forward to trying out and using - the others are just handy sized samples for gym/swim/holidays. I did recently use up some of my precious Birchbox points on some new products so will show you my bargains sometime soon hopefully! (In the meantime, I'm off to NEW YORK!!).

What did you think of this month's Birchbox?


Birchbox UK May 2014 - Harper's Bazaar Collaboration


Have been away with work but now want to tell you all about the FAB May Birchbox, a collaboration with Harper's Bazaar!

This month's box has a 'great outdoors' theme and flicking through the Great Outdoors Beauty Guide that came too got me all excited for the summer fun ahead. The design of the box itself was gorgeous and as a bonus, this box comes with an offer for a discounted subscription for Harper's Bazaar, and I'm definitely tempted to sign up!

Onto the contents - I have to say this month is up there as one of my all-time favourites; good quality, well selected products from premium brands.

Beauty Protector Protect & Shampoo/Protect & Condition - these were welcome items in this month's box. I received a Beauty Protector sample in my first ever Birchbox but sadly the spray didn't work so I didn't really get to try out the brand. This shampoo and conditioner mini set were therefore the perfect opportunity to try Beauty Protector out; the brand definitely seem to be a favourite of Birchbox's so I want to understand the hype! So far, I've used the miniatures once (they're a handy size to put in my gym bag!) and am a fan. Great scents, shampoo feels luxurious and the conditioner made light work of detangling and re-nourishing my chlorine-soaked hair. Each sample looks to be about 35ml and the full-sized versions are £14 each.

Benefit They're Real! Mascara - no prizes for guessing that this one was well-received! I've wanted to try out this cult Benefit mascara for a while and so was really pleased to find it in this month's box. I've used it a couple of times and am so far impressed with the volume and length it gives my lashes. It doesn't look to clump too much either - hurrah! Will keep using this one and see if it converts me...! This 0.1oz sample is worth £6.50 (£19.50 for 0.3oz full size).

Soigné Nail Polish in Persimmon - this was my favourite item this month! A full-sized nail polish that felt so premium to open (Chanel-like box and then protective foam inside) and in a gorgeous summery orange shade too. I gave this polish a go and was really, really impressed with its durability. My nails have a horrible tendency to chip and yet this polish lasted 5 days without a single chip! (I then had to take it off, rather than it not last any longer - who knows how long it could have lasted!). If you're after a long lasting shade for a holiday etc, I would definitely recommend Soigné. Full-sized product so worth £11.

Aromatherapy Associates Revive Morning Bath & Shower Oil  - I had heard of Aromatherapy Associates but never used or owned anything from them and this oil looks really luxurious. It's a fairly small sample but I get the impression that a little might go a long way. Am yet to try it but it smells good (pink grapefruit, rosemary and juniper berry, apparently..). Harper's Bazaar's Beauty Director Sophie Bloomfield recommends it for travelling to 'beat that post-flight sluggish feeling' so this one might be joining me in Dubai very soon! 3ml sample worth £4.23.

Liz Earle Beauty Co. Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser - this item felt like a little extra treat, straight from a spa somewhere! I was excited to get a Liz Earle facial product as I'm looking for a new daily face wash and had been eyeing up some Liz Earle products so this could be just the ticket! Inside the little parcel you get a 30ml sample of the cleanser, as well as a Liz Earle face cloth and an ultimate cleansing guide which details how to use the Hot Cloth Cleanser (massage into dry skin in circles, rinse cloth in hot water and gently wipe cream off face, splash face with cool water then use toner/moisturiser for those interested!). Really pleased with this item and can't wait to give it a whirl - I'll let you know how I get on. This 30ml sample is worth £3.98.

This month's box was uh-mazing. There's not a product I didn't like and I have got a couple of new brands as well as some I knew but wanted to try out - the guys at Birchbox seem to have got the balance just right this time! Hope you enjoyed it, any questions or comments please leave them below or get in touch on Twitter - I'd love to hear what you thought of the box this month :)!


Homemade Battenberg Cake - Mission #1 of 2014 Complete!

Hi guys!

I wrote in January in my Stereotypical New Year's Resolutions post that one of the things I wanted to do this year was bake a Battenberg cake. (I am not one for drastic, life-changing resolutions). Easter Monday was the day and it was a success! The recipe I used was Mary Berry's from her 'Baking Bible' which I got for Christmas and would highly recommend. Easter is all about springtime pastel colours and marzipan (think Simnel cake!) so with the extra day off too, it seemed the perfect time to give the Battenberg a whirl!

To make Mary Berry's Battenberg you'll need:

For the sponge:
100g caster sugar
100g softened butter
100g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
Few drops almond essence
50g ground rice (I used ground almonds and they worked fine)
Few drops pink food colouring (and yellow if you want extra-yellow cake like me)

For the outside:
225g marzipan
3-4 tbsp apricot jam (for adhering cake to marzipan!)

18cm square shallow baking tray + baking parchment

Heat the oven to 160 degrees/fan 140 degrees/Gas Mark 3 and line your baking tray with baking parchment. Mary suggests later on that you pour the two coloured batters into one tray and try to keep the line between them neat. I did not trust myself to manage this so devised a baking parchment wall half-way down the tin (proud of my efforts here).

For the batter, simply put all the sponge ingredients except the two food colourings into a large bowl and beat for around two minutes until smooth. Then divide the mixture into two and add a few drops of pink colouring to one and yellow to the other. Once they are all mixed and even in colour, pour the cake mixes into the two halves of the baking tray and level out. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes (mine only needed 30 mins so check colour a little earlier).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Then, using a sharp knife, slice each of the coloured sponges into two strips of even size so that you have four strips that can create the chequered effect.

Gently warm up the apricot jam (only needs 10-15 seconds in the microwave) and brush onto the sponge strips to glue them together.

Roll out the marzipan to the length of the cake and wide enough to wrap around the whole cake. Brush warm apricot jam onto the marzipan then transfer the cake to the sheet of marzipan. Gently wrap the marzipan around the cake and seal on one corner. Trim the ends of the marzipan off either edge of the cake and you are done!

This cake was a fun challenge to make but definitely manageable and not too much hassle either. It tastes delicious and looks pretty too!

What did you get up to over the Easter weekend? Hope you enjoyed the time off and relaxed in the lovely British weather. Now to enjoy the four day week!


DIY Project! IKEA Make Up Storage Drawers

Hi guys!

Today's post is a little different from my usual but as part of my moving process I have been doing some DIY and wanted to share it with you - an easy way to upcycle some old furniture and create some brand-spanking new make up storage!

I have had these IKEA miniature drawers since I was much younger and recently collected them from my parents' house to bring to the new flat and give them a new lease of life! They still stock similar drawers in IKEA so if you get inspired then check them out here. You'll also need some white paint, a roll of masking tape, paint brushes and then colours of your choice.

My plan was to create a simple pattern using pastel pink & grey all on white - I want to say Scandinavian style, but that could just be wishful thinking! Painting them all white has given them a much cleaner look and I love the colours and triangle/chevron pattern.

The white took two layers to cover evenly and then I used masking tape to create clean lines for the coloured triangles. I started out with a random pattern then decided to paint three different layouts, each on two drawers so that there was some uniformity.

Brushes were leaving some streaky marks for the colours, so I switched to cutting up a washing up sponge and dabbing the paint on with that instead which worked a treat!

I am using these drawers to tidy up my bathroom work surface and store make up, moisturisers and hair accessories. They would also be perfect in an office space or to store jewelry, nail varnishes or anything else you can think of!

Are you a fan of this quick and effective DIY project? Do you like these kind of posts? Would love to hear from you here or on Twitter!


Birchbox UK April 2014 - Good Enough to Eat

Hi guys!

My April Birchbox successfully made it to my doorstep despite an address change and this month was a good'un!

 The theme this month is 'Good Enough to Eat' - Birchbox have apparently taken inspiration for April from "local food markets, the kitchen and all our favourite eateries". For a beauty box, a food-inspired theme may seem odd but actually I think it worked really well - lots of delicious fruity fragrances and one yummy edible item too. This month also saw Birchbox try something new where the customer can choose one of the products in their boxes (the shade of the nail polish). This was a good little feature, it made me feel like I was customising my box to my taste and also reminded me mid-month of my upcoming box so I could get all excited!

On to the contents!

One Love Organics Skin Saviour Waterless Beauty Balm - this is one of my highlights in this box. I had never heard of the brand but like their style, packaging and message. The balm smells incredible (think lemon sherbert) and rubs in without leaving any grease. This has become a handbag staple for me, you can use it for everything! The pot says you can use it as a cleanser or an all round moisturiser, it's nice on your lips, hands, face, elbows etc - I am a fan! This 15ml sample will go a long way and is worth £7.43.

Colour Club Nail Lacquer in Gold Struck - this was the customisable (new word?) item in the box, there were four colours to choose from online, all shimmery pastels and I went for this soft, rose gold shade. I think it will look gorgeous on beach toes in the summer! Can't comment on durability yet but not holding out massive hope, the instructions suggest using top and base coat to increase longevity which suggests they already know it could be an issue?! Comes as one in a pack of 4 normally, this individual shade works out as worth £3.75.

Campos De Ibiza Almendra Body Milk - unfortunately this is by far and away my least favourite item this month. Don't particularly love the packaging, the texture is fine, but the smell is nasty! Maybe it's me but it reminds me of old lady talc and cheap hotel shower gel - not something I want to be moisturising with... Definitely won't be rebuying although a good sized sample if you are a fan! Worth £3.14 for 38ml sample.

Propercorn Sweet Coconut & Vanilla Popcorn - I knew of this popcorn brand and have tried (and enjoyed) their savoury flavours so this was a welcome little treat. Had these at work and they reminded me of the scent of the old popcorn gel pen (anyone else know what I'm talking about? Anyone?!). The taste is actually really good, they are a low calorie snack and I also buy into the brand and packaging. No complaints here!

TheBalm Cosmetics How 'Bout Them Apples Cheek & Lip Cream in Pie - this item was a nice little surprise at the bottom of the bag which I really like. It's one shade of cheek/lip cream from a palette of six. I got the shade pie which is fine by me - it looks to be one of the most easily wearable colours and blends in well to my cheeks. I love the kitsch, vintage-style packaging and want to investigate what else TheBalm offer! Normally £26 for the palette so this single colour works out as £4.33.

Lord & Berry Silk Kajal Kohl Liner in Black - I somehow need to get a message across to Birchbox which politely asks for no more eyeliners in my box... Although I can see why so many people love having them to try out, I have come to the conclusion that I am just not an eyeliner girl. I mess it up, it looks heavy on me, it's a lot of effort etc etc etc (read: I'm too lazy). Anyway, as a product, this looks OK. It smudges off my hand fairly easily which would concern me if I wanted to wear it all day long but the colour is nice and I like the look of the brand. Not that bothered by this one, but not disappointed either. This sample is worth £1.50.

Overall, I actually really like this box, and it's worth a fair bit too. Love the postcards on the back of the tips, as well as the cupcake recipe and item highlights were the beauty balm and cheek/lip cream. What did you think of April's box? Would love to hear from you here or over on Twitter!


Sephora Pro Lesson Palette - Blue Eyes

Hi guys!

Firstly apologies for the total blog desertion - moving house and moving jobs and having no internet made it all a bit challenging! I am now (slightly) more settled so fingers crossed it will all pick back up again.

Today's post is all about a palette from big-dog American brand, Sephora. The Pro Lesson Palette for Blue Eyes is part of the Pro Lesson range which make it easy to learn new makeup techniques - and this one definitely has everything in place to make a day and night look really simple. It's a palette of six shades (three beige/natural and three for a navy smoky eye) and a black eyeliner pencil and comes in a handy compact with a big mirror (always appreciated!).

Not only does the Sephora palette label the shadows themselves as 1, 2 & 3 for order of application, it also has images and instructions right there, on the palette so you can't go wrong.

Natural trio for a day look

Navy trio for a smoky night look
I use the natural trio in this palette ALL. THE. TIME. The navy smoky trio I use less often, mainly because it's actually really pigmented so makes for a pretty bold look. All in all though, this is a really high quality, gorgeous palette of long-lasting colours (with helpful instructions!) and it makes me want to invest in some more of Sephora's delights when I am in New York this summer! (On that note, what are the top drugstore brands that I should pick up that aren't available in the UK please?!)

Hope you've all had lovely weekends, I did a massive IKEA shop and the flat is looking more homely and beautiful by the day - happy Mari!


Lemon Drizzle Slices

Hi guys!

I am successfully moved out and ready to start my new role tomorrow, eek! I woke up in a happy and excited mood today, despite the clocks going forward, and decided to get my bake on.

These Lemon Drizzle Slices are my take on a regular lemon drizzle cake but smaller and with thicker icing (hello, sweet tooth). Super easy and delicious, and slightly spring-like in their colour too.

You will need:
120g butter
120g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence
Zest of one lemon
Splash of milk

For the icing:
250g icing sugar
Juice of one lemon
Yellow food colouring (optional)

Grease and line a 20cm square tin and pre heat the oven to 180C.

Start off with making a regular sponge. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then whisk in the two eggs and vanilla essence. Sieve the baking powder and flour into the bowl and then fold in. Add a splash of milk, mix in and then fold in the lemon zest. Voila, your cake batter is ready to go! Spread into the tin (tip: I try and gently hollow out the centre of the cake to maximise the chance of getting a flat surface on top for icing..) then pop in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and a knife comes out clean from the centre of the cake. Then, remove from the oven and fully cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, mix the juice of a lemon with the icing sugar and stir well. If too stiff, add a couple of drops of water to get your desired thickness. If you want to add some spring-like yellow decoration then separate a couple of spoonfuls of your icing, add a drop of yellow food colouring and mix together.

Once the cake is cool, get icing! I covered the whole surface with white icing and then added some decoration with a criss-cross pattern, you can do whatever takes your fancy! Second tip: if you don't have a fancy schmancy icing bag, just pop the icing in a freezer bag and snip the corner off, works a treat!

Allow to set then cut up into squares/slices and devour. They are fab with natural yogurt or a mug of Earl Grey tea.

Would love to know if you give these a go, let me know in the comments or on Twitter!


Our Final Seaside Adventure - Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door

Hi guys!

It is with mixed emotions that I write this post! Last weekend J & I went on our last trip exploring the south coast before I pack up all my things and move next weekend. I can't believe how quickly these six months have gone but am so excited to start the next chapter. Anyway, we decided to check out Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door, both on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site in Dorset. The weather was beautiful (it warranted ice cream), we hiked around a bit and also relaxed watching the sea do it's ever-awesome thing. In a final nod to the seaside, we also quite rightly finished the day off with fish and chips, yum!

Lulworth Cove - yep, the sea really was that blue

Durdle Door in the afternoon sun

Caramelised Honeycomb & Toffee Fudge - SO good

How have you guys been enjoying this lovely weather recently?