Monday, 30 May 2016

Wedding Planning – Things that helped me.

Wedding Planning Help

Wedding planning. Some love it. Some loathe it. Some are surprisingly indifferent.

I was definitely in the middle camp. I’m not naturally obsessed with ribbons and placecards (if you are, this will probably be literally your favourite thing you will ever do), but I am partial to a peony, and cake is always good, right?

Wedding Planning Help

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the process. There were many really special moments in the lead up to our wedding. But when making the 200th (yup. Mega wedding, sorry Dad) invitation one evening, and subsequently being called out to calve a cow mid-fabrication; I did find myself teetering on the edge of a completely ridiculous teary breakdown.

I did find that the internet, blogging community and social media were extremely helpful in the wedding planning process. Everything from invitations to favours can be found, made, Pinter-tested and ordered via the incredible creature that is the world wide web.

Wedding Planning Help


Just remember – it’s your day. Not anyone else’s. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - you do you.

If you are getting married in Scotland, I cannot recommend The Wedding Collective enough. A source of oodles of inspiration, and we ended up using more than a few of the companies involved in the Collective for our wedding day. Whether you’re in to uber-hipster mason-jars-ahoy-no-bunting-but-other-hangy-things-are-ok vibe, or fancy more of a classic, chic city feel, they’ve got you covered.

The most useful blog I found (and oh boy, there are zillions of wedding blogs) was the beautiful Love My Dress. Annabel has made this site such a complete joy to read through. This really is a complete coverage wedding blog – any and every kind of wedding is featured, with a truly beautiful back-catalogue of photographs to look through. If you’re struggling to find a photographer who is really up your street – have a peek on LMD. You are sure to find a photography style that suits you down to the ground. We used the incredible Mirrorbox Photography, who were just fantastic to deal with, and we were so happy with our photos.

There are adverts on this site, sure, but they are all really useful and relevant, and there’s always a competition or two running. I never won one, but I did end up with several 15% off codes for just entering their competitions, so entering these is completely worth doing! I am Maid of Honour for my little sister next year, so I’ve started checking back on Love My Dress regularly now, and I am really rediscovering how simply lovely the site is.



The most useful “social media tool” if we’re calling it that, was Pinterest. What an absolute goldmine of wedding inspiration! Anything from placemats to DIY err-thang, you can find it on Pinterest. My wedding boardis still up on my Pinterest account if you fancy a look – if you smoosh everything on there in to one, that is honestly pretty much what our wedding looked like. Gotta love a good Pinterest board ogle.

Wedding Planning Help


The main thing – and the secret, I think – is to remember that no-one else knows what was “supposed” to happen. Things can, and will, go wrong – but none of that matters, really.

 You’re getting married! To a complete legend! Yass! 


All images in this post are credited to Mirrorbox Photography.
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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Top Travel Tips to Eliminate Stress this Summer


Top Travel Tips
This is #nofilter. I know, right?!



Have you ever lost your passport? Mr. BK once lost his. Two weeks before our honeymoon to Zanzibar. Yowza. You can imagine my relief when we found it, several days later, having been carefully dropped down the back of his bed.

I am a worrier by nature, so travelling used to be a huge stress for me. I like to know EXACTLY what’s going to happen and WHEN EXACTLY that will be – which is just not how any kind of travel actually works. I’ve thought long and hard about things which have really helped me to chill out about going away.

Make the most of your hand luggage

I used to be so rubbish at actually making use of hand luggage allowance. Maximising your hand luggage use can make such a huge difference to your airport hanging-around time. Mini and travel-sized bottles are your friend, and you’d be amazed how much you can fit in to your liquids allowance. For most trips less than a week (unless going to do a sport or going horse-riding somewhere) I can fit everything I need in my hand luggage, which means NO WAITING AT THE CAROUSEL OF DESPAIR. Just get on your way at the other end. Goals.

Importantly – always pack any necessary medication in your hand luggage, and it’s a good idea to pack some paracetamol in there too. That way, if anything happens to your main bag, you’re at least covered for a few days until something is sorted out (and covered for the inevitable headache this will incur!).


Double-check your travel arrangements

This sounds like really stupid common sense, right? Well, maybe it is. But the number of times I’ve done a double-take at a flight time, realising that it leaves in the early hours of the day (therefore necessitating a late-night trip to the airport the day before, technically) or the other way around, is embarrassing. Perhaps this one is just me, but if your flight is at a funny time, double and triple check you have booked hotels or onward travel accordingly. It’s a really easy mistake to make!

Leave LOADS of time

Getting to the airport has got to be up there with the world’s least favourite first world problem. You’ve heard it before – but leave loads of time to get to the airport and get through security, particularly if you’re travelling to America, as security does tend to take a bit longer to clear.

On the return journey, particularly if travelling in a less developed country, roads can be horrific heading in to a city or to a big international airport  (I’m having late night taxi through Colombo flashbacks writing this). Do not assume the country you are travelling in runs on time!

Photocopy everything

- and keep said photocopies in a different bag pocket to your passport. It’s worst-case scenario stuff, but if you lose your passport, this is worth its weight in gold. It also means you have all reservation numbers for hotels in hard-copy form, should whichever electronic device of choice decides to die just as you need it most. Let’s face it – we’ve all been there.

 Also, if you’re travelling in many parts of Africa, you are required to carry an “authenticated copy” of your passport or travel documents with you at all times, or else you may recieve a fine. Be aware of this, keep a copy on you, and you’ll save yourself a LOT of hassle.

Get a snazzy travel folder

All these photocopies basically mean you need (read:want) a travel folder to keep them in. Stationery freak win. Honestly, I tend to use this more before departure to keep everything together and avoid leaving anything behind. They also tend to be big enough that you can reach for them easily in whichever bag you are carrying - no rummaging around for bits of paper. I’ve got my eye on this lovely little Paperchase ticket holder currently.

In-Flight comforts

If you’re not a fan of flying – make it as pleasant for yourself as possible. Bring a sheet mask, and some good moisturiser (pick up some Clarins Hydraquench samples) to use mid-flight – there is nothing quite like recycled air for sucking the life out of your skin. Don’t forget to pop travel sickness tablets (or anything prescription that’s needed, if flying really isn’t your cup of tea) in your hand luggage. Drink lots of water, and try not to go too crazy on the ol’ booze – you’ll really feel the effects (and the weird post flight hangover) afterwards!
On a tiny boat, in the very warn Indian Ocean. worth 26 hours travelling.

Have a plan

Make sure you’ve arranged your onward travel before leaving, and have details of an emergency contact both in your travel wallet and in your phone. Things can, and do, go wrong, so if something happens – don’t panic. Life doesn’t always go to plan. Find someone, explain calmly that you need help, and if possible return to somewhere international (such as the airport, or a bus or train station) to find a phone.


Most importantly – most of us are travelling for pleasure. Relax. A little organisation beforehand can save you a ton of stress in the long run!




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Duty Free Loot – Clinique Full Potential Lips Plump and Shine Gloss Set

 


I don’t know about you, but in my book, the best bit about being a frequent flyer is the duty free hall. I freakin’ love that place. It’s kind of like the travel world’s way of apologising for turbulence and terrible plane food. “Ok, so you’re about to be seriously uncomfortable for a relatively long period of time. But LOOK! LONGCHAMP!”


I am not a natural hyper-gloss lover – due to possessing a shock of thick curly hair on my head, gloss and I have not always been friends. Sticky 90’s gloss lips and mad curls are not friends. However, I bucked my usual satin trend for this one. I picked up this little gloss set on a whim just before departure to Madagascar, simply due to the dinky size and nice colour selection on the box. I hadn’t heard of this gloss formula before from Clinique – I get the impression it is a travel exclusive now, but previously was a main line formulation.

Clinique Full Potential Lips Plump and Shine

 The Clinique Full Potential Lips Plump and Shine set contains five little wands, each double ended, with an (on first inspection) impressive range of colours for such a small set! These are not by any means generous on the amount of gloss included front, so don’t get too excited; but for having kicking around in your bag, they are a good size. Shine – yes. Plumping – hard to tell, but the good Lord blessed me with mega-lips, so I’m afraid I’m probably not the best judge of that!

Mimosa Blosson on mah lips.


Clinique Full Potential Lips Plump and Shine Swatches
L-R - Ripest Apricot, Peach Plump, Play-Full Plump, Cherry Bomb, Double Plum, Luscious Lilac, Mimosa Blossom

The swatches above show that the pigmentation is fairly sheer, more so on the paler shades. I personally don’t mind this, as usually I’m slicking a little gloss over a lipstick anyway; but if you’re in to punchy, pigment packed glosses such as the likes of those by Anastasia Beverly Hills, these might be a little lacking for you. Each side has a very soft, mini doe foot (fawn foot? No?) applicator, which allows for easy application. The gloss itself is of the hyper-glossy variety (and as such, is a little sticky and old-school  – a bit disappointing) and a teeny bit over a very matte lipstick will give a lot of sheen.

I don’t tend to have any issues with this gloss settling in to lip lines – the pigmentation is relatively sheer, as I said, but there is enough there that any settling would be noticeable. I find the longevity of these to be around the 2 hour mark without eating or drinking, and they are neither particularly moisturising or drying. Not exactly an award winner, but not the worst in terms of gloss formulas.


Should you have forgotten to bring any glossy lip products and see Clinique Full Potential Lips Plump and Shine Set in the duty free hall, it’s worth considering  - just don’t wear your hair down when sporting it!
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Monday, 23 May 2016

Garnier Pure Active Micellar Cleansing Water - What's all the fuss about?


Garnier Pure Active Micellar Cleansing Water

Ever since Lisa Eldridge told us that every makeup artist and their granny had been on the ol' Bioderma for years, we've been obsessed with all things micellar. Garnier followed suit shortly afterwards, and more recently came out with more targeted formulations - the one above is Garnier Pure Active Micellar Cleansing Water, aimed at sensitive/combination skin. I have used the original version of this for a long time with no spot aggravation or skin irritation at all. 

What actually is micellar water, I hear you secretly ask? I had no idea, either. 

Do not fear. Nothing too weird. Apaz, micelles are molecular aggregations within the solution which act like a magnet, lifting oil, dirt and makeup from the skin without drying it out or leaving a residue. So far, I'm on board. 

In practice, this is a makeup remover/first step in a double cleanse/emergency non-face-wipe pre fall-into-bed cleanse. (See my previous post for more skincare tips). Just splash some on a cotton pad and wipe it all over your face and neck. You will be both horrified and amazed in equal parts at what comes off your face with this seemingly benign, watery liquid. Follow on with your favourite balm/oil/more luxurious cleanser, aimed at actually benefiting your skin type, and you've just double cleansed! Woo! That wasn't so bad, was it?! 

Honestly, I have noticed no difference using this formula compared to the original Garnier Micellar Water formula - both leave no residue on my skin, and do a good job of getting rid of makeup. For mega eye makeup/lashings of mascara you may need something a bit more heavy duty, but for everyday makeup removal, it's a tall glass of great.

I have to say - I absolutely love this stuff. So convenient, an enormous bottle, and so inexpensive compared to its more famous French counterpart. If you're new to micellar waters, this is a great, affordable option to try! 

Keep your eye out for offers at Boots or Feelunique - it is frequently even more of a bargain!


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5 Great Places to Eat in York

York Minster, York


I've been fortunate enough to live in beautiful York for the past two years. It is a tiny city, bursting at the seams with history, Harry Potter-esque streets and incredible architecture. 

There's also an amazing (and growing) list of really fantastic restaurants and cafés in and around the picturesque city centre. If you're a bit of a foodie - you are in for a treat! On a summer evening in York, you really could be anywhere on the continent - it's got food and café culture nailed

I've compiled a shortlist of my very favourite places to eat or grab a coffee in York. If you're planning a weekend trip, be sure to factor these places in! 

The Whippet Inn - I go here so often when I'm in York, it's borderline embarrassing. This is my food Mecca. My absolute, number one, can't-go-wrong restaurant. Great steak, a fantastic menu, beautiful wine, real ales, top cocktails (and waiters who really know their stuff); this place is achingly-cool-hipster-meets-old-man-pub in the most wonderful, perfect melange. The atmosphere is always really pleasant, and theres just enough buzz about the place on any night of the week. Just book a table. You won't regret it.

Ambiente -  even if you're not in to tapas, I urge you to head down to Ambiente on Fossgate regardless. You won't be disappointed. The food here is absolutely delicious. If you're a veggie, there are plenty of options for you here, too. There's also a wine and sherry bar (I didn't know a sherry bar was a thing. It is. I'm glad it is) so if you've only got time for a drink and some nibbles, this is your man. It is really popular, be warned - a table can be tricky!

Brew and Brownie - in need of a really decent coffee and cake, and can't face a chain coffee house? No worries. Enter Brew and Brownie. Quite honestly, my favourite coffee shop in the world. Lovely coffee, local produce in all of their food as far as is humanly possible, and the nicest staff you'll find. You can't go wrong. Trot down museum street from the Minster - the cakes in the window alone are worth an ogle!

Low Petergate, York

The Star Inn The City - managed by my ex-next-door-neighbour (who is delightful, should you meet him), this is haute-pub-grub at its finest. Looking out on to the river, tucked away right in the centre of town, this little haven is beautifully decorated - and the food is exceptional. Really delicious, seasonal food, speedy service, and a great drinks menu to boot. 

Café Concerto - small, unassuming, and frankly not exciting looking from the outside, this little café on Petergate is always packed to the rafters. There's a very good reason for that. Breakfast, lunch, a cuppa, or dinner; this place can provide. You will get great soup and sandwiches, hearty home-cooking, and off the charts cakes. Try the cinnamon french toast. It'll change your life. No, seriously. 

The Lamb and Lion - there is nothing quite like hale and hearty pub food, and that is what the Lamb and Lion does best. Tucked right in alongside the ancient city walls, this cosy pub is perfect shelter from bad weather. For sunnier days, it has a really pretty beer garden, and loads of foodie and beer-related events all summer long. It is also an inn, with really nice rooms in a fantastic location for exploring the city, so be sure to check those out, too!


Where are your favourite spots in York? 
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Sunday, 22 May 2016

The 6-step guide to swoon-worthy skin

6 step guide to great skin

As a teen, I had really terrible acne. Those huge, cystic bumps, painful sores that never come to a head, you know the ones. And blackheads. So many blackheads. Yuck

I was, and still am, quite a shy creature. My acne really did nothing for my self confidence. I was too scared to put any makeup on, and I grew up in the era of strong alcohols and astringents as the answer to any spot related gripe. My poor epidermis was, quite rightly, weeping

As an adult, my skin has calmed down a huge amount (thank goodness for growing up, eh?!), but this is in no small part due to a decent skin care routine. When the beautiful girl at the Tom Ford counter stops you just to tell you your skin is great, you've definitely nailed something (this was literally my finest hour). 

I still get spots, don't get me wrong, but my skin is happier than ever before. Hopefully, these steps will help you, too. Behold - my skincare commandments:


Wear sunscreen. 

Baz Luhrmann was not wrong. This is serious anti-ageing at its best. If you do only one thing, make it this. No matter where you live in the world, at some point, you will encounter enough sun to do damage to your skin. SPF formulations are so advanced now, that there's really no excuse not to wear them - three of my favourites are listed in my previous SPF post, and I'm hearing great things from fellow oily-skinned bloggers about The Body Shop's latest creation. 

Cleanse properly.

 I know, face wipes are convenient - but they're not doing a good enough job. Even if you're shattered. At the very least use a micellar water to take everything off, and ideally follow up with a second cleanse in the evening (with something lovely, like Emma Hardie's beautiful Moringa Balm) with warm water and a flannel or muslin cloth. You will reap the benefits of this step within the week. Properly cleansed skin = less blocked pores. 

Get in to acid toning.

This sounds terrifying. I promise it isn't. This is an easy, quick way to exfoliate your skin using an acid, without any harsh physical exfoliation. I use a variety of acid toners, but one of the best and most affordable is Pixi Glow Tonic which you can read more about in my previous post. You can do this up to twice a day, every day, but that depends a little on product and skin tolerance. I'm an every-second-day acid user (that sounds grungy, doesn't it?)

Don't rule out moisturiser 

-even if you're oily. If you don't moisturise your skin at all after cleansing, or if you get that tight feeling, you may well have dehydrated skin. I have oily/dehydrated skin, which is a tricky beast to tame. If you are like me, look for products with hyaluronic acid as a main ingredient - this will moisturise without adding any greasiness, and as a bonus creates a lovely base for makeup. Korean brand Mizon are excellent for products kind to oily skin, and can be found on Cult Beauty.

Multi-Mask. 

Yep. It's a thing. Either simultaneously, or as a several step mask treat, a once-a-week mask session is not only gloriously relaxing, it's hugely beneficial for your skin. Caroline Hirons is the queen of the Sunday facial, and since acquiring the habit myself, I have reaped the benefits. I've talked about a few favourites previously: a lovely mud mask, and an excellent option for glow here. I also absolutely adore Peter Thomas Roth's Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

Dont Neglect your neck! 

This one is super important. Don't neglect anything below your chin. The skin on your neck is also more delicate, and needs some TLC too - share those lovely cleansers, exfoliants and treatments with it, too! 

A few little changes to your routine can work wonders for your skin, both short and long term. Let me know your skin care must haves in the comments!


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Saturday, 21 May 2016

L’Occitane Cedrat Global Face Gel – one to borrow from the boys


L'Occitane Cedrat Global Face Gel

My husband, like, I suspect, the majority of husbands, is not in to complicated skincare routines. I know right?! Shocker. He is all about simplicity, and things that do what they say on the tin (aren't we all?!)

 I’m trying my very hardest to get him to consistently use moisturiser and an SPF, and do a decent job of cleansing. Honestly, it’s pretty tricky. He’s got “normal” skin (lucky beggar) which copes pretty well with general benign neglect; but as he approaches the big 3-0 I’ve been succeeding more and more often in my skin pampering persuasion campaign.

One item which has been a home-run winner in my skincare crusade has been L’Occitane Cedrat Global Face Gel – a super-lightweight, non-greasy gel moisturiser, which claims to mattify, hydrate, and energise the skin.

L’Occitane Global Face Gel contains Corsican cedrat extract, which claims to have energising properties. It smells like mildly sherbet-y lemons with a slightly woody note to my nose. It is as light as a feather, absorbs in seconds and leaves no residue in beards (I am told. I am not bearded. Just for the record). It is well packaged and has a really decent pump dispenser, which is both hygienic and convenient. Mr. BK has been spotted using Global Face Gel consistently – unheard of - and thinks his skin may be a little less congested too. Bonus. L’Occitane has a whole range of products within the Cedrat range – I am told that this may even end up being a re-purchase!


And the best part?

Should you happen to give this a try (it's a good idea, trust me) this is a surprisingly good base for makeup! The high glycerin content in this smooth textured gel means it grips on to your base from the word go. And it stays put. It’s also pretty smoothing – this almost acts like a primer – and it smells delicious, not overpowering. I used this gel having forgotten to bring any sort of primer away with me (and oily skin +high humidity = cheerio foundation) and it works a treat.


It’s definitely a product to “borrow” from time to time!

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Rimmel Mascara You Need to Try Out


Rimmel London ScandalEyes Xxtreme Mascara
Rimmel ScandalEyes Xxtreme Mascara. You won't lose the tube anyway!


When it comes to mascara, you really can pay whatever you like for the stuff. I've tried 'em all - budget to super high end, often without much noticeable difference in performance. I really have not found one mascara I want to stick with long term (I usually have about five on the go at any one time. No, really. I have a problem.), and it takes me an age to decide if it’s one I might repurchase.

Mascara is like wine. Better with age. (well. To a point.)

But on one of my many, many perusals down the aisles of Boots, I picked up this offering from Rimmel – ScandalEyes Xxtreme Black Mascara. Apart from the standard insane mascara-marketing, I am really enjoying this. It’s one of the few mascaras I have liked using straight from the word go.

Rimmel ScandalEyes Xxtreme Mascara Wand

 It’s a high-volume mascara with a relatively wet formula, and one of those space-age plasticky “wands”. A word of advice – do not stab yourself in the eye with this thing. Weeping guaranteed. Supposedly the arched side is for volumising purposes, and the flat side to define and lengthen – I can honestly say I use both sides equally and don’t really ever think about the purpose of each one! The teeny weeny bristles are great for separating lashes however, and give a really lovely, fluttery effect, 
even after two coats.

A terrifyingly close look at my eye. Hope you can sleep tonight.

I find the formula great for those of us who wear glasses (if you’ve ever experienced the weird sensation of lashes-hitting-lenses, you’ll know where I’m coming from) – enough length, but mostly lots of volume, and a good brush to wiggle in at the roots for maximum effect. It still looks relatively “natural” if that’s a thing, so it’s great for everyday use. As with most mascaras, I am enjoying this one more as it matures a bit – the slight thickening of the formula is lending itself to quick, easy, volumised lashes.

It is not by any means a waterproof formula, so bear this in mind if you are prone to an eye-water. It is, in my experience, relatively smudge proof, and I’ve never experienced any weird mascara flaking in 3 months of regular wear in hot, humid conditions (flaking is my absolute pet hate – who wants to look like they’ve been down a coal mine all morning?!). 

Oh, and this is so easy to remove. an absolute dream. More companies need to take a leaf out of whatever book Rimmel read when they made this one.

For the price, this is a really cracking mascara for everyday use. As with most wonderful things in the world, you can find this at Boots.

What’s your favourite high-street mascara? Which one do I need next in my stash?



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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Alfresco Bug Bite Moisturiser Review

Alfresco Bug Bite Moisturiser



I HATE BITING INSECTS. There. I said it.

 All of the bitey things. I hate you.

 I come up in enormous, red, painful welts which take an age to come down, especially from mosquitoes (which is joyful, as you can imagine, currently residing in Madagascar). Apart from the whole disease-transmission thing if you’re in the tropics, bug bites are painful, unpleasant – and can be really unsightly.

When I stumbled upon Alfresco Anti Bug Bite Moisturiser on Cult Beauty, I thought it was worth a shot. DEET free, supposedly gentle enough for use on little ones, and a promised pleasant scent. Great!

 Apaz Penelope Cruz is a fan – and she is constantly super-gorgeous (though she probably has someone specifically to photoshop out any bug bites from her photos, admittedly). DEET is obviously gold standard for areas where vector-borne disease is an issue, but for a Scottish summer (and, actually, for wearing “under” DEET, as my skin can be sensitive to it) I bought a little bottle of this to try out.

I am so glad I did.

Finally, a product that does what it says on the tin. An easily absorbed formula, a really pleasant, baby-powder-meets-cinnamon-sticks fragrance; and loads of moisture for dried out, over-sunned legs. I use this as an after-sun in the evenings here, as it is so moisturising, and also really does keep the bugs at bay. I use this as “underwear” for my skin before applying DEET in Madagascar, and it does soothe my skin and prevents any irritation from the DEET-containing product on top. Winner.

Scottish midges are particularly renowned for being entirely immune to all but the nuclear bombs of bug repellents.  They have met their match in Alfresco. I spent a week riding round the perimeter of the North of Scotland on the motorbike with Mr.BK, and can report not one.single.bite. Midges – in your tiny little faces.

Alfresco Bug Bite Moisturiser Ingredients
The ingredients list. 

More than one person has asked me what my perfume is whilst wearing this. I’m sure, as with any scent, it’s not for everyone, but I for one am a fan. It’s slightly spicy, slightly powdery, slightly fresh, and not at all overpowering.

If you are heading to Scotland, are particularly prone to bites, or sensitive to DEET applied directly to your skin – this is for you.


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Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay – an honest review.


Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

This product has had a LOT of hype. A lot. It’s even described as “the world’s most powerful facial” on the tub. Really?

 I’m also a bit scared of anything that genuinely puts “FEEL YOUR FACE PULSATE!” in giant, red, capital letters on the back. Terrifying.

I quite like a non-pulsatey face, thanks.

But – is Aztec Secret any good, even with seriously inflated claims? 

You can pick up a massive tub o’ clay on Amazon, and cost per use is going to be extremely low – so from that point of view, this is pretty good value for money.

However – it’s not quite as simple as get your tub and go. This comes in powder form – a very, very fine, calcium bentonite clay powder – so there’s a bit of mixing to be done before you put this on your face. The packaging states to mix this with either raw, unprocessed apple cider vinegar, or water, in a non-metal bowl. You can go to the ends of the earth looking for fancy vinegar if you like, but I’ve used this product with both and a combination of the two and have found no noticeable difference in results. It's pretty much odour-free as well, and there is no added fragrance.

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Review Texture

Word to the wise – this stuff is messy. Creature-From-The-Black-Lagoon messy. It clags, sticks, and will probably block your drains – so make sure to dilute any excess waaaaayyyyy down before pouring it down the sink!

After mixing – just slap it on yo’ face. It’s got a fairly typical clay mask consistency once applied, and does do the whole drying-down thing – so if you’re not a fan of that feeling, I suggest you leave this and check out my other pore-de-clogger I’ve been rigorously testing out. This will feel pretty tight afer 10 minutes or so. I can’t bear it for much longer than this!

The wash-off – again, with lots of water – partially for your skin’s sake, and partially to protect your drains! I follow this with a little bit of cleanser (Emma Hardie’s Moringa Balm – no surprises there) just to make sure I’ve got all of the goop off my face.  Follow with your normal moisturiser.

You will most likely have a red face. Don’t be too alarmed. Redness will reside and the skin will return to normal after about half an hour or so.. but it goes without saying; this is not a pre-night out mask. However - take a look at your pores. A Dementor has kissed them. Blackheads shriek and run for cover when they see bentonite.

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Review

My thoughts?

Well. I want to love this. It’s cheap, cheerful, and it really does work – blackheads are obliterated.
But I just can’t help feeling that many people will struggle with the faff. it is not easy to use, and the marketing claims are bonkers  - if I think of the world’s most powerful facial, I think of Caroline Hirons working her magic, or Emma Hardie whipping my face in to shape – not a tub of powdery clay.


All in all – a good, budget clay mask. Nothing more. Nothing less.


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Sunday, 15 May 2016

5 Tips for Naturally Curly Hair

Curly Hair John Frieda
The mane in all its glory.

Curls are both a blessing and a curse. If you’re a Curlfriend, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the Humidity Monster. The I-Woke-Up-Like-This (not the Queen Bey version). The Post-Wash Tangleweed. The struggle is real. Curls are the Forrest Gump Box-O’Chocolates of the hair world – you just never know what you’re gon’ get in the morning.

However. Curls can be just bangin’ if you do the right things. Think of all the time and money people spend on trying to just get a wave in their hair – we’ve got it folks! Flaunt it! There are just a few tips and tricks with curls that can change your relationship with them from loathe to love in minutes.


Careful Conditioning  

Curls often lack moisture, and this can express itself as mega-frizz. Using a good conditioner, and conditioning leave in products (I’ve mentioned a couple of my faves here) can make all the difference. Make sure to concentrate conditioner application to the lengths and ends of your hair – the last thing we need is greasy roots!

Don’t Towel Dry 

 Towels are the enemy. I repeat – do not rub your hair dry with a towel. Curly hair is naturally a bit drier, often more coarse, and can be prone to splitting: aggressive towel drying will only make this worse. Instead, you can towel off the worst of the water (very gently – just pat, don’t rub) then apply your products of choice, and wrap it all in a cotton t-shirt. This will help to massively reduce frizz.
 Yeah, so you have to sit with a t-shirt on your head for a while whilst your hair dries – but just pretend you’re having a spa day. If this is going to take too much time for your locks, use your regular products and then diffuse only the worst of the water off – drying hair completely with a hairdryer is a no-no for me anyway. Frizz ahoy!

No Brushy-Brushy 

Don’t, for the love of all that is good, brush your hair when it’s dry. I have some spectacular photos from my youth of my attempts to “smooth” my hair with ridiculous amounts of product and then brushing it through. Mistake. Unkempt is not the word.
Instead, while your hair is still damp, and after application of haircare products (not too much mind, slapping them on your head is just as bad as none at all!), gently tease any knots out using your fingers or a wide-toothed comb. Your curls will thank you for it.

Treat Yo’ Self 

Deep conditioning treatments are just brilliant for curls and will really help out our dry end situation. My current favourite deep conditioning treatments are John Frieda Frizz Ease Miraculous Recovery Masque and Rahua Omega 9 Hair Mask from Cult Beauty - but honestly, I'm a hair treatment floozie - any and all reccomendations, send them my way. I try to do this once a week if I remember, and you’ll really notice the difference if you add this in to your hair care routine.

Reshape Whilst Damp 

Yes. Like the washing instruction on that jumper you love. Twirl sections around your fingers after application of product and before T-shirt drying, then wrap it all up in a lovely clean, conditioned bundle. You’ll have well behaved locks in no time!


So all in all, the big secret?

Be kind to your curls!


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Friday, 13 May 2016

Laura Mercier Verbena Infusion Crème Body Cleanse

Laura Mercier Verbena Infusion Creme Body Cleanse
Argh shiny bottle photo issues. Soz.

Sometimes in life, you are gifted little luxuries. Things you would genuinely never buy yourself. And there's something really special about those, isn't there? They're über-luxe items that we tend to keep for special occasions, or when we just fancy a little pick-me-up (in this case, I was in dire need!).

One of the lovely receptionists at my last job is one of those people who just smells expensive. You know? Constantly glorious. An unusual and welcome quality in someone who works in a veterinary surgery. She has great perfume taste (Chanel no.5, et al.) but also a love for a good fancy shower product - always Laura Mercier, Jo Malone and Issey Miyake grace her bathroom shelf.

Laura Mercier's Verbena Infusion Crème Body Cleanse was her gift to me when I left, and I saved it for coming to Madagascar. After 6 months of wrestling zebu on the daily, a girl needs a treat! 

Ultimately- lets get real. It is, after all, a creamy shower gel. The texture is really luxurious, with little encapsulated vitamin E beads which burst satisfactorily when massaged in. My skin's been pretty soft too, but ultimately the goal of skin cleansing is achieved. You will be clean after use. Win.

But oh my LIFE. The scent is delectable. I was concerned I'd be smelling a bit like... Well... Mr. Muscle. 

You know, cleaner-y.

But no. I could not have been more wrong. This luxurious potion smells citrusy, fresh and totally summer-ready. It's almost leafy - you can practically see the green, lush, rolling landscape of Provence. It's quite in line with the whole "green" fragrance thing that Jo Malone et al. have been surfacing with recently. If you want to give a fresher, greener scent a go without taking the plunge on a bottle of perfume, this is a good option. It's not overpowering in the least, but it's a definite, delicious fragrance - so good that when I use this I usually go perfume-free.

Laura Mercier Verbena Infusion Creme


It's definitely a treat at the price point, but it is a really lovely treat, and actually one of the most wonderful, well-timed gifts I've ever received. Shower products can be such a generic gift these days, but this one really is a gem.

Oh, and even if your shower is a bucket of cold water (life RN. No joke) in the middle of nowhere, you'll feel like you're really in some sacred health spa in the Alps. A little luxury goes a long way. 


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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

5 Things That You Must Not Miss in Sri Lanka




Sri Lanka is an absolutely glorious island. It is the beautiful little teardrop at the bottom of India, and it is a vibrant, gorgeously colourful place; full of elephants, leopards, temples and tea, you really will not be short of things to do here! I can't wait to visit again, I really feel like we only scratched the surface of this wonderful place during our two week stay.

 I visited Sri Lanka for a friend’s wedding (which was incredible, it has to be said) and compiled a full but really fun itinerary, which friends have used since – so I am now sharing what we did with you!



Colombo

Colombo is where you will land, if you are flying. It’s a busy, buzzing capital city, splitting at the seams with tuk-tuks! There are the usual museums and bazaars, and it is well worth a day trip. Tuk-tuks run on a metered system here, so no need to worry about haggling (but word to the wise – if using a tuk-tuk anywhere else in Sri Lanka – haggle and agree a price before stepping in!). If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, head to Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. This area lies on the outskirts of town (and in the direction of places like Hikkaduwa and Galle), but with a nice beach, and much quieter than the centre. We stayed at the Tropic Inn here, which has the loveliest staff, very reasonable food, and is 5 minutes’ stroll to the beach. With prices hanging around £20-25 a night, it is a fantastic option.

If you fancy splashing a little more cash, you cannot go wrong with the beautiful Mount Lavinia Hotel. This hotel hosts many, many weddings per day (!) in an incredible old-colonial style building. It has a pool with a beautiful view out to sea and of the beach, as well as its’ own private beach and absolutely sensational seafood restaurant. The prawns have to be seen to be believed!
Mount Lavinia Hotel Sri Lanka
The view from Mount Lavinia Hotel's pool

Kandy


Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka. It is a welcome change from the heat and humidity of the coast – you will find it much cooler, and greener, on the journey here. It is home to one of the most sacred Buddhist places of worship in the world, the Temple of the Tooth, which is an incredible visit. Don’t miss it! Another treat in Kandy (which you will likely bump in to, or be invited to see) is traditional Kandyan dancing, which is really fascinating to watch. The traditional dress is ornate and beautiful, and there’s a bit of walking on hot coals involved – you have been warned!


River safari

If you’re animal daft, like myself, try and book in on a river safari. This does, admittedly, sound a bit dull on paper, but is actually brilliant fun. With a Sri Lankan guide, you’ll see loads of wildlife – check out my friend the monitor lizard having a chill in the tree! These can be booked through most hotels located in or around Hikkaduwa or the Madu Ganga.


Nurwara Eliya and World’s End

If you’re up for a bit of a hike, then do not miss the walk to World’s End. It’s precarious – stick to the paths- and best to get walking early, as it can get very misty later on in the day. The hike itsself is fantastic, and the guides are very knowledgeable regarding the region's flora and fauna. The view you will be treated to is nothing short of spectacular!

For an easier time of it, there are many guided walks and visits to tea plantations in the area - well worth an afternoon strolling through the hills.

Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa is a sleepy, surfy, beachy town on the coast. Its got a lovely beach which is kept really clean, and if you’re all about the watersports, this is your place. There’s great diving, surfing and amazing coral reefs to be seen here, so don’t miss that if you’re in to snorkelling! This is also a prime spot for yoga retreats.
Not far along the coast from Hikkaduwa lie some smaller, quieter, more unspoilt beaches, so be sure to check these out. Many of these little inlets have one or two incredible restaurants dotted along their length – the meal below was cooked for us using only a solar cooker!

food Sri Lanka


If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka anytime soon, or have already visited, please feel free to add any recommendations in the comments - that goes for Madagascar too. I love me some insider knowledge!
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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Real Techniques Shading Brush Review

Real Techniques Shading Brush


Now. I am a multi-tasker by nature. Rarely will you find me attempting one thing at once (though, admittedly, trying to wash my hair and text at the same time was a bad idea, I'm still sorry about that one Mr Phone) and I think this is a weird psychological reason that I love things in life that fulfill multiple purposes. Particularly when it comes to makeup brushes. Even if it's only looking really pretty and holding important things (basically, anything from Paperchase, for example), I do love me a multi-task marvel.

Honestly, however, I picked this up on a bit of a whim in my grab-everything-in-Boots run before Madagascar. It's a small, unassuming eyeshadow blending brush which you'll find in most Boots stores. I honestly wasn't expecting much from it, but it is worth its weight in gold. 

The bristles are synthetic, on the shorter side, and relatively firm - not prickly, but not Angel-wing Wayne Goss brush soft either. The ferrule is attached with what can only be iron girders - this little wonder just does. not. shed. It's really easy to clean, and dries quickly.

For powder eyeshadows, this is a good option. A little blendy, a little flat, you can use this to pack on some pigment and then blend away with the other side. I use this for the front half of my brows too, if I've been a bit heavy handed with a brow powder; this shading brush smoothed everything over. 

Where the Real Techniques Shading Brush really comes into its own though, is blending out cream eyeshadows. I am yet to find anything that does a better job. I have brushes 5 times the price (#dontjudgeme) which are nowhere near as good for this purpose. It picks up just the right amount of pigment and applies it very evenly to the lid - even on my oily eyelids this brush gives smooth, non-creasing application of cream products.

It's also brilliant for smudging out the lower lash line, and the short bristles don't squish in to the waterline and cause eyes to water. Marvellous. 

Oh, and if you're a bit of a freak about well blended concealer (I think the orange concealer sticks of the 90s and early 00s have scarred me for life) this brush can do that too. Beautifully. No harsh lines here.

If you only buy one Real Techniques brush - make it this one. 


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Monday, 9 May 2016

5 Easy Tips for Blogging On the Go

5 easy tips for blogging on the go



I am a frequent traveller. I love seeing the world; getting out and about; and I literally cannot spend a full day in the house without stepping outside at least once. Particularly in nice weather – a west of Scotland childhood teaches you many things: one of those being if it is sunny, GO OUT. You may never see that ball of fire in the sky again. Amirite?

With all this travelling about (I'm in Madagascar right now, standard) and unquenchable compulsion to be outside AT ALL TIMES if it’s not raining, it can be hard to keep on top of blogging regularly too. There are a few really useful bits and bobs to help out with this conundrum though,  that work really well for me. I hope these tips are useful for you too!

Get a Notebook 

Old school, but kinda new school too. With all the glorious, pretty stationery available these here days, there’s no excuse not to carry a little pretty notebook in your bag. I find the best ideas often come to me when I’m just going about my daily business; these ideas, however, seem to leave my brain entirely when I sit down at a computer to type! I tend to compulsively check Paperchase and Nouvelle Daily for pretty new paper pieces for my handbag. Oh, and don’t forget a nice pen – you’ll be much more likely to look after it if it’s a looker!

Evernote 

What an app this is. If you’re less of a paper person and prefer everything on your phone in one place, then you cannot be without this. You can write, collect information, clip web articles, and pop photos together all in one place before compiling them in to a blog post – great for a long commute on a crowded train, and much more portable than carrying around a laptop.

 Photo Editing Apps 

Speaking of apps, being able to edit photos on your phone is great – it means you can just bosh out an Instagram or six while having a quick coffee or sitting in an airport. Everyone’s got their favourites for these, and it largely depends on what kind of phone you have – I am a lover of Snapseed as this works really well on the iPhone. Whichever you choose, this can really enhance your photos massively, and is really easy to do whilst on the move.


And on that note:

Take Loads of Photos 

You just never know what you might see when you’re out and about! Particularly if you are going abroad, this is a perfect opportunity to gather together some “stock photos” for when you return. It’s basically blogging without the writing part – far more socially acceptable as far as Mr. BK is concerned!



5 Tips for blogging on the go iphone
Keeping organised and on top of social media on the go is really helpful!

Scheduling posts


 Now. I’m sure a lot of you already do this anyway. Maybe you know you’re going away for a few days, or maybe you just need a blog break. Often where I’m headed it is the case that keeping up to date/uploading photos will be tricky; or perhaps you simply want to go away and know that your precious blog is being regularly updated in your absence; if so, this is a lifesaver. It’s also a really good opportunity to host guest posts from fellow bloggers. You can schedule your shares on social media too, using something like Co-Schedule – then you can relax, safe in the knowledge your blog is in good hands!

Do you have any tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments!


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