Tis the season of shopping and giving. We all love spending our hard-earned cash on bits and bobs to make our Christmases feel all that more festive, but as soon as the New Year hits the decorations come down and that holiday tat becomes just that: bits of stuff we'd rather get rid of than store away for another twelve months. If you want to make a concerted effort to embrace DIY, make use of some of the bits and bobs you've got lying around and get crafty this Christmas, then this is the right place for you! There are so many great ideas to make your festive season all the more personal and hands-on (so much so that I've made a Pinterest board full of inspiration,) but I've picked the ones I've fallen head-over-heels for to show you - and prove how easy it is to create something truly heart-warming without having to spend a fortune. Whether you're a craft-nerd at hard or a complete novice, there are lots of ways you can get creative and give your loved ones a more unique holiday season than what they're used to. Why not try a couple yourself?
How have you been getting on with the old Christmas shopping? Have you been ticking off family members from your list since the summer months, or are you still waiting for inspiration to hit you? Whether you've almost completed the annual shopping marathon or are yet to start, there's always a Burt's Bees gift to make someone happy. This year there are more affordable gifts than ever before, offering great savings and re-usable packaging so it's friendly for both your purse and the environment. Like many others, I adore their lip products more than anything else under the Burt's branding - because they offer a soothing and more natural alternative, while still providing a great colour result and a comfortable finish. (Have a read of this post I wrote earlier in the year as to why it's a good idea to make more 'natural' lip decisions.) Burt's Bees 100% natural lip treats play a big role in their affordable gifting this year, and it's no surprise; they're their best selling and most well known products for good reason! I for one can never have enough. If you're looking for a little stocking filler, Secret Santa gift or simply want to take advantage of the savings on offer, then here are five of the best affordable gifts from Burt's Bees this year.
It has to be said that Burt's Bees are one of my favourite brands ever; I've been using their iconic lip balms for years and am never without at least two in my bag for emergencies. Although it's increasingly on-trend for brands to offer a natural formula, and source their ingredients ethically and sustainably, few can say they've been doing it for the over thirty years. Burt's Bees started life as creative candles that used up the leftover beeswax from Burt's hives (yes, he was an actual person!) adding the iconic lipbalm we know and love into the line up in 1991; since then the business has expanded beyond lip balm into colour cosmetics and skincare, but one thing has always underpinned their values - a belief in the power of nature and the infinite resources nature provides. That ethos has informed the way that the brand sources ingredients (and respects the communities, individuals and environments from which they're sourced,) and the way that Burt’s Bees formulates all products to nourish the life of your skin. From beeswax to baobab, clary sage to shea butter, everything that goes into a Burt's Bees product benefits the body. There's so much more to this brand than you may already know, and I'm here to help tell that story...
Spending the holidays with loved ones is what it's all about... Sat around the tree, sipping on a cup of hot chocolate while listing to carols, popping open the board games and feeling like you're on the front of a Christmas card. Realistically though, that picture perfect image doesn't always translate into reality; the holidays are known to be the period of the year that cause the most arguments, unsurprisingly because were all in close proximity. For the rest of the year we all have our own independence, schedules and space, but when you chuck people together indefinitely (that often only see each other every few months) the living room can become a pressure cooker. If in the run up to the big event you need some space to breathe and prepare, or you want to spend the holidays away from everything completely, there are some great destinations that will help you get in the festive spirit without the possibility of a family row. Booking yourself a last minute getaway to help perk your mood, use up those last few days of holiday or provide an escape from the stresses and strains of the season is always a good idea! Here are some of my fave destinations that I'll definitely be wishing I was visiting this December...
Unwrapping a surprise on Christmas Day is tummy fluttering as much as it is stomach churning; we hope that our loved ones know us well enough to find a gift that will put a smile on our face - rather than a look of bewilderment. Although a slowcooker and matching tea towel may seem like a good idea at the time, the truth is we all want to be indulged in a way that makes us feel special. If your partner (or loved ones in general) is a bit useless at picking out something you'll genuinely love and use, then you may want to give them a helping hand. It's widely understood that male and female brains work differently, so it's worth taking into account how we process information in order to understand if those hints are really sticking. (Spoiler: they're probably not.) What's a really obvious hint to you may not be to them, while a thoughtful gift to them may seem like an insulting nightmare to you. I'm a firm believer in providing a short list of suggestions, rather than leaving them to their own devices and getting all in a tizz - this way I've ended up with gifts I've treasured and used all year round, rather than things that end up stuck in the spare room never to be used again. If you're wondering how to get your partner to buy you the perfect gift this festive season, then I've some bits of advice to help you on your way.
I like a good tipple, especially around party season when I need little-to-no excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly and pimp up my prosecco. Excessive drinking is definitely a no-go (nobody wants a hangover when faced with a table of Christmas food,) but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a beverage or two to help us get in the festive spirit. Although many cocktails and traditional drinks are filled to the brim with sugar (which is bad for your body, mind and sleeping patterns,) there are some tipples that actually have positive benefits that will leave you feeling 100% guilt-free the morning after. I've done my research and have created three drinks which are full of goodness and low in sugar, so you can feel just as Christmassy but not as conscious-striken.
When is the appropriate time to turn on the Christmas tunes? I know people that have Mariah Carey blaring out of their car stereo from early November, while others that refuse to listen to anything that resembles Chris Rea until they're actually Driving Home For Christmas. Me? I'm firmly somewhere in the middle. I like to pop on some classic tunes while I'm prepping for festive content to help get me in the spirit, but it's not until my tree is up (usually within the first couple of days of December) that I start to properly phase out Busted for a touch of Bublé. I do find it fascinating that our music tastes change so rapidly, and the mainstream charts are never filled with the same style from one year to the next, but when it comes to holiday music we turn to the same tunes that have been making us smile for decades. Maybe it's the nostalgia associated with a certain song, the emotions that come to the surface when popping on the CD that's only played once a year, or the fact that festive music transcends generations, tastes and musical styles - we all have our all-time favourites that we turn to time and time again. In the interests of sharing, here's what I turn to every year without fail...
One of my fondest and strongest memories of childhood Christmases is sitting with the Argos catalogue and highlighting all of the toys I wished were under the tree on the 25th December. Whether I got them or not, it was about dreaming and wishing for that special something - and hoping I'd been good enough for Santa to find the budget. Writing a Christmas list was actively encouraged in my household, not only from a logistical point of view, but because it offered a moment of festive joy where we could all sit around the table with the music on wishing for more goodies than could physically fit through the front door. When you're a kid there's not much room for error (as long as it involved Barbie or dinosaurs I was a happy chappy,) but as we get older and have more disposable income to buy the things we want when we want them, the gift giving process is somewhat trickier. Those inevitable questions start from mid-November when everyone wants to know if there's something you particularly fancy; but do you deflect back with a simple suggestion, shrug your shoulders and say 'I don't really need anything' or do you get all 'Rachel from Friends' and offer up a list of appropriate gifts listed in order of price bracket?
Although the holiday season is about more than gifts and mince pies, for many of us it's the perfect opportunity to take stock and show someone how much we care. Us Brits often struggle to be as open and emotional as we would like, but there's no getting away with it at Christmas time; even the most stony-faced are forced to break a smile, receive a hug and dance to Slade at the office party. Whether you're searching for the perfect gift for a partner, family member or friend, one of the most popular presents at this time of year is undoubtedly a bottle of fragrance. It's the little extravagance we often can't justify buying ourselves, but a beautiful bottle and daily moment of luxury is a welcome gift amidst the usual socks and selection boxes; every time they dab the scent onto their neck they'll think of the person that presented it to them, meaning it provides a lasting memory and connection that can be cherished. That all may sound well and good, but realistically stepping into your local perfume outlet can often feel us with dread - there's so much pressure to get it right, because you certainly don't want them returning it come Boxing Day in favour of the same one they've been wearing for years.
It’s Not Christmas Without A Dash Of Michael Bublé... This Year You Can Ask Santa For A Spritz Of Him Too!
It's undeniable that certain things help to get us in the mood for the festive period. Whether it's that first mince pie, the red cups from your favourite coffee shop, finally being able to pop on your bobble hat or simply stocking up on wrapping paper like it's going out of fashion. All the little nuisances that make up our individual holiday season are what makes it special - and for me it's popping on the Christmas music and sipping on a nice cup of tea. In recent years it's become clear that Mr Bublé could be renamed Mr Christmas, thanks to the almost universal connection we make between his voice and the opening of yet another advent calendar door; Michael Bublé is the king of the crooners and his holiday album continues to be a best seller year after year. (While recently clearing out my Great Aunts flat she actually had three copies of the same CD, presumably playing in every room of her apartment from December 1st!) Although it's not possible to mail-order yourself a piece of Bublé, this Christmas you can ask Santa for a bottle of his debut fine fragrance - which is almost as good as opening the real thing on Christmas morning.
Some of my earliest memories involve some kind of beauty product. Whether it was a bullet of Heather Shimmer lipstick, a dusting of Collection 2000 powder or a slick of gloopy mascara I'd claimed from my mum's stash, I always loved the ritualistic nature of applying my makeup. There's something quite cathartic about creating a persona or new representation of yourself with just a few simple tools; the beauty of great makeup is that you can be whoever you want to be, no matter what you're actually feeling like beneath the surface. How many times are we told that a touch of lipstick has the transformative power of Clark Kent's glasses, or that all we need to disguise that heavy night is a touch of creamy concealer? Having a portfolio of tools at your disposal doesn't make you any more or less of a woman, nor is it 'false advertising' as so many seem to accuse; I can guarantee you that 99.9% of women apply makeup to feel good about themselves - and they couldn't give a toss about Tom, Dick or Harry's opinion. Anyway, I digress. My point here is that it's absolutely ok to be passionate about makeup or beauty in whichever form you choose to digest it, but it's also absolutely ok to have those days where you say to yourself in the mirror: "I just can't be bothered."
By the time Christmas actually gets here, I'm going to be sick and tired of pine trees and mulled wine. Nah, who am I kidding? I love it so much I'd happily live in a Winter Wonderland 365 days of the year - that's both the upside and downside of being a Christmas Eve baby, being forever entwined with a holiday that's all about the chocolate, candles and champagne. As we approach the festive season there are always Christmas dinners and celebrations galore, but it all kicked off for me with a beautiful display and tonnes of French pampering treats courtesy of L'Occitane - undoubtedly one of my favourite brands ever. This year there are even more beautiful gift sets and holiday treats than ever, all offering great savings and wrapped up in delectable packaging so you don't even have to battle with the sellotape. Unlike a lot of brands that just wack a couple of products in a box and call it a gift (you can read more about my thoughts on what really makes a Christmas collection exciting here,) L'Occitane curate covetable collections that make gift giving as much fun as gift receiving. With prices starting at as little as £10.00 for a festive bauble (which includes three minis) there's something for everyone in your family and a gift to suit every budget.
(Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Now Available In Rose Gold)
Some elements within our morning regime cross the boundaries between general wellbeing and beauty: taking those vitamins can help you fight off a cold, but they can also ensure your nails don't split and that your hair is thick and full. Similarly your morning teeth clean is essential to keep bacteria and bad breath at bay, but it can also have a significant impact on the way we feel about what we see in the mirror - and the beauty choices we make. It's well known that certain shades of lipstick can have a negative impact on the brightness of our teeth (with orange-reds, corals and browns being the worst offenders,) while others can make our smiles appear fresher (blue undertones and bright pinks help to trick the eye into thinking teeth are whiter.) But what if you could throw all that out of the window and wear whatever shade took your fancy, without worrying whether or not your teeth can pull it off? Thankfully polished white teeth are no longer seen as something that's purely the concern of your dentist, as sparkling results can be achieved at home with the use of a great toothbrush and regime.
I hope you're ready to put the Bublé Christmas album on, wrap up in a comedy jumper and start sipping on some eggnog, because things are about to get a little festive around here. Although I'm a bit over traditional gift guides, this year there's so much great stuff to share with you that we're gonna have a lot of old fun in the run up to the Big Day - starting with our favourite bath bomb destination, Lush. I would always be delighted to find a Lush box under the tree come December 25th, but way before the very first advent calendar door was opened I'd be down at my local store stocking up on bottles of Snow Fairy and Santa shaped bath treats. Those richly scented stores have become somewhat of a destination over the holiday period, thanks to the pure fun they inject while keeping it all affordable. Everyone can justify treating themselves to a bottle of festive shower gel, or stockpiling bubble bars as last minute stocking fillers; this year Lush have pulled out all the stops (or the crackers, sorry...) to create a collection of goodies you're going to want to get your hands on one way or another. Although there are too many individual things to mention, I've pulled together an edit of my personal faves and things I know you're wishing your Secret Santa discovers on a last minute dash down the high street.
Your skin is always worthy of investment: without question it deserves all the time, effort, money and expertise you can throw at it. Although we can easily conceal grey hairs or dress to suit our body shape, it’s hard to detract from years of skincare neglect if your complexion has been left to its own devices. From around the age of 25 our bodies start to show the first signs of ageing, so it’s even more essential to provide the helping hand it needs to look and feel its best. Although skincare can be intimidating (show me a single woman that doesn’t stand in the skincare aisles of Boots looking a bit baffled,) with a few easy pointers and only a handful of steps, you can build a regime that meets your needs without taking any more time away from your slumber. French and Korean women may have in excess of ten steps in their routine, but it’s not necessary to adopt such a complex and time consuming daily pattern in order to boost your skin. Yes To are a brand that have always encouraged women to build a comprehensive skincare routine, introducing 95% natural or more formulas into a daily regime without compromising on efficacy. Not only are they cruelty free and free from harsh chemicals, but their products are created using the best ideas from nature and don’t break the bank - so you can up your skincare game without worrying.
It's no secret that the beauty industry takes inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, but somehow a story about the ultimate red of an icon or the chosen skincare regime of a princess seems a little tired. It's overdone and under appreciated. I love it when brands look to rather unexpected places for influence, especially when that influence has a historical significance but is also still relatively close in time to our own experiences. Not one to usually talk about a launch four months before you can actually get your hands on it, there's a collection coming from Jo Malone London in 2017 that I couldn't wait to share with you; it's beautiful in both its construction and the story behind the fragrance, meaning it's well worth pulling up a chair and immersing yourself in a little history. Let's chat about The Bloomsbury Set.
Telling Time In The Most Beautiful Fashion: Brunch With Olivia Burton & Their New Jewellery Collection
When you think about it, jewellery plays a really important role in our lives. Whether it represents an pivotal moment, reminds you of a loved one, is the materialisation of an achievement or is simply something you fell in love with, it's always so much more than a piece of metal. I've always adored jewellery and have many pieces that I've accumulated over the years that continue to offer me joy - even if they're no longer my style. My mother worked in a jewelers when I was a child, so she'd always come home with new sparkly pieces or beautiful ornate treasures that she'd buy when payday came around; I guess that's where I picked up my love and passion for rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets - because to me it was the epitome of hard work or the once yearly birthday treat I looked forward to every time. Although I dabbled in high street jewellery during my 20's, in the last few years I've become far more interested in investing in pieces I know will last - and more importantly, won't turn my hands green on a humid summer's day. There's something incredibly special about wearing beautiful delicate pieces that have a story, or represent something to you individually; that's something a Topshop statement ring just can't compete with!
(In Partnership With QVS Beauty)I never thought I'd be that girl that had a million different makeup brushes on her dressing table. Up until a few years ago I barely had an eyeshadow brush at my disposal, preferring to use the warmth and durability of my own fingers to apply everything from foundation to eyeshadow and even a touch of blusher. Oh how things have changed. I use roughly eight brushes every time I apply my makeup, creating a much more uniform and long-lasting result that's really upped my game; even if I tried to revert back to old habits I simply couldn't bring myself to do so (proven by the painful times I've forgotten even one essential tool on holiday.) If you've been following my series with QVS Beauty, you'll be pretty wised up on beauty tools and the best ways to use them already, but we could all do with a little extra knowledge or integrating a new trick into our routine right? Well you're in luck, because I've pulled together a list of the ten expert tips you need to know...
My feet have barely touched the ground in the last few months, having had so many trips and work related projects to keep me busy alongside family commitments and personal issues; collectively that's left my head in a bit of a spin. When I struggle to know what month (let alone what day) it is, then it's time for time out and a little escape out of the city and into the countryside. I'm lucky enough to live in leafy Buckinghamshire so it's easier for me than most to see some greenery and relax along by the river on a Sunday afternoon, but even so a good road trip is often what's required to refresh the body and mind. Last weekend we took an afternoon off to drive through country lanes into the middle of nowhere to discover Fishmore Hall and their brand new 'rural spa' that's located deep in the Shropshire hills and overlooks some of the most stunning scenery; if you need a day or two away from anything and anywhere, then this is certainly the destination for you.
A Word About What *Really* Makes A Christmas Collection Special (And Bobbi Brown's Beautiful Offering)
Only six weeks remain between us and the onslaught of turkey, stuffing and oodles of wrapping paper lying across the living room floor. Whether you love it or hate it, the festive season will soon be upon us so it's time to start considering what's going to make the Christmas list and which covetable pieces we'll be picking up for loved ones. Fortunately for us, the beauty brands have been busy creating their annual limited edition collections and injecting a touch of sparkle into an otherwise standard smokey palette - but many of them leave the glitz at the door and forget what this party season is all about. When it comes to curating gift guides and present recommendations, I can often struggle to find truly creative or lustworthy gifts because many brands just pop their regular products in a cardboard box and call it a gift. Others re-release the same 'limited edition' glittery eyeshadows with a slightly different packaging design and label them 'must haves'.
Skincare From Within: Purelogicol Collagen Enriched Skincare & Supplements (A New Way Of Anti-Ageing?)
SPONSORED FEATUREMost of us are well versed in the importance of collagen, especially as we age, as a lack of this essential ingredient often means those inevitable signs of ageing are rearing their heads. Collagen plays a key role in providing 'scaffolding' for cells, tissues and organs, but it also gives skin strength and durability; it's responsible for the smooth, plump appearance of young, healthy skin. However, as we age the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid in the skin gradually decreases (at a rate of around 1.5% a year) which in turn can cause dehydration and dullness. These essential ingredients can be applied topically to skin, but more interestingly they can increasingly be ingested to provide our bodies with the helping hand they need to perform more effectively - therefore having a positive impact on the overall appearance of our skin.
With only a few days to go until the launch of the next Wizarding World instalment from J.K Rowling, us Harry Potter addicts are on high alert. We’re re-watching the movies, re-reading the books, polishing our wands and getting ready for the next phenomenon to erupt with even more anticipation than that very first HP movie. Fantastic Beasts has been a long time coming (I’ve had my seats booked for months!) but in the meantime I’m getting my beauty regime ship-shape and adding a sprinkling of magic wherever I can - and these absolute stupendous treats from Shiro Cosmetics definitely hit the spot. Thanks to a cheeky little heads-up from British Beauty Blogger (who's great at finding quirky beauty gems,) I made an order within minutes of discovering them and couldn’t have been more excited when they finally arrived.
We've all done it: come in from a really long day or a big night out and fallen asleep (perhaps fully clothed) without taking our makeup off. The introduction of face wipes was supposed to curb this trend and help women with their skincare routine in an easy and efficient way, but realistically they remove very little product and still leave our face covered in a day's worth of build-up. However, is sleeping in your makeup really that bad? What problems can a little bit of makeup really cause if left on while we slumber? You'll be surprised at how much damage (both short and long-term) that leaving your makeup on can do; even going to sleep without washing your face effectively on a non-makeup day can be detrimental and cause oodles of problems for your skin. I've broken down the main problems it can cause, in the hope that this weekend you'll take two minutes out to slather your face in cleanser and slip between the sheets clean and fresh.
Embrace The Hygge Trend This Winter & Get Body Happy (With Palmer’s World Famous Cocoa Butter Formula)
SPONSORED FEATUREUndoubtedly the winters are getting longer and colder, with this season set to become the chilliest in recent history. I’m already fully embracing layers, turning my heating on high and sipping hot cups of tea, so it won’t be long until I notice the inevitable onset of dry limbs and parched skin. The colder weather can play absolute havoc with the moisture levels in our skin; the combination of cold winds and contrasting temperatures once we step inside zap away hydration and leave skin looking a little dull. It’s essential to replenish this lost moisture and nourish our limbs back to heath, and a little cocoa butter could be just what you need to leave your body looking and feeling luscious. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Body Lotion (£4.00) provides a perfect all-year-round partner for dry and thirsty skin, but during the colder season it's a lighter way of adding essential nourishment without overloading it (even if you have sensitive skin.) The creamy formula is enriched with Vitamin E which also helps to improve the appearance of scars, stretch marks and skin imperfections, while the subtle cocoa-scent is incredibly comforting and reminiscent of a metaphorical hot chocolate blanket. Although it's also available in a Concentrated Cream (£2.25) and Original Solid Formula (£4.00) the lotion is a practical and enjoyable way to add a moment of pampering to your daily regime - especially during warm and cosy nights, and especially if you're embracing the current trend of 'Hygge'.
The influence of the East in our beauty regimes has been increasingly prevalent in the last few years. What started as a dash of BB Cream and a sprinkling of sheet masks has evolved into an industry-wide phenomenon that's constantly evolving into something new; every other beauty launch takes inspiration from a trend seen half way around the world, with innovations like cushion foundations becoming as mainstream as mascara in a really short space of time. However, what's most interesting to me is actually looking to the products that are actually coming out of this space without any 'westernisation' or watering down of their message, benefit or (most importantly) kitsch presentation. There are few places you can actually get your hands on these raw treats, but BeautyMART are becoming well established as the destination for something a little different; they manage to import some of the best and most exciting bits and pieces for our enjoyment, keeping prices affordable but allowing us to dabble in some real Eastern treasures. Right now there's a whole new load of things landing to get excited about, and I've picked the five I think are most interesting and could be adopted by our high street in the months and years to come...
Hair Removal Made Simple, Effective & Long-Lasting: The Results Of My Philips Lumea Prestige Reader Trial
SPONSORED FEATUREThere are undoubtedly some areas of beauty that aren't as aspirational and enjoyable as others; whether that's filing down your dry heels, cleaning out your ears, covering up your greys or pushing back your cuticles, some tasks need doing but offer no pleasure in the process. Hair removal is firmly in that catageory. Although it's our individual choice whether to remove hair at all (if you want to embrace your fuzziness, then go for it!) it's certainly not a task that we collectively enjoy. Shaving, epilating and waxing can be laborious, but for the majority of us it's something that we just have to get on with. According to a recent survey* conducted by Philips, women spend around £500 and fifteen hours per year on hair removal - and the biggest frustration is the constant maintenance required; it seems as soon as we’ve shaved, waxed, plucked or creamed away a layer of fuzz another one appears straight after. Interestingly, although women claim convenience and effectiveness of hair removal products outweigh price, 77% are still using wet razors as their primary hair removal method. Despite its long lasting results, IPL (Intense Pulse Light) remains much underused with only 4% of women currently using it.