Thursday, 31 July 2014

Review: Sweet B (American Sweets!)

I've noticed in the past year, American sweets have become hugely popular in England, and I know many of you like to stock up on sweets to bring back to the UK with you if you're lucky enough to be visiting the US. Leading supermarkets have introduced their own American section, full of well-loved food items from cereal, to spreads, chocolate and sweets, all at extortionate prices may I add! My local shopping area also has a stand dedicated to American sweets. I know a few cities even have full shops dedicated to American sweets... They seem to be popping up everywhere you go and have obviously got the nation hooked.




I had the pleasure in reviewing a new online American sweet company, 'Sweet B' that is based in the UK. I received the 'Laffy Taffy Rope Mix' box and it was filled with fruity goodness! I've had the box about a month now and I've still got some left, so they really do last (and I have a huge sweet tooth!). Unfortunately the Laffy Taffy went first, the gooey stuff was just too damn tasty to save!
Sweet B also sell one of my all time favourite American chocolate bars - Reeses! Not to mention peanut butter M&Ms! For all you fruitier people, Laffy Taffy, Nerds and Runts may be your friends! They have various boxes to choose from, full with sweet goodness, I think you'll be spoilt for choice!

The good thing about Sweet - B as well is that it offers free P&P which is always a bonus. These would make a welcoming change from our typical English sweets, or would even make a great gift for that American fanatic friend you may have! Or even if you're throwing an American-themed party.

 
They are currently holding a competition whereby when you make a purchase, you have the option of creating a new name for their boxes (yes, the company really is that new!). If they like your name, you will receive a box for free!

I've got my eyes on the Reese's box for next time! ;-)



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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

DIY: Shabby Chic Table Revamp

I've been into shabby chic for a long time now, even before it became popular a couple of years ago. Just lately I've really gotten into buying second-hand bits of furniture for silly (cheap) prices and upcycling it into something that I love. The key to doing this is to see beyond that ugly looking item that looks like it should belong no where but you're Great Grandma's house, and transform it in your imagination to something that suits your style.

I am subscribed to various local facebook groups that sells furniture, and I am forever trawling eBay with filters on that minimize the search down to my local area.

I recently saw someone was advertising 2 wooden nest tables (with glass tops) for £15. We currently have a nest of black glass tables in our living room, but due to recently decorating, I'm trying to slowly replace the black glass furniture with white wooden items to match my shabby chic style.



As you can see these tables originally started out as a mahogany tone with an almost garish red leather style top. With a lick of Annie Sloan chalk paint, a wallpaper sample that I picked up free from B&Q, and bingo - 2 new tables for a fraction of the price. The great thing about collecting free wallpaper samples is you don't feel like you have to avoid the real expensive stuff because you know all along that you're never going to have to buy a full roll of the stuff!
I actually struggled to find the right shade of blue for my living room; luckily the only appropriate shade I found I actually liked. It has a gorgeous damask style raised pattern. This was £17 a roll (for those that are interested!).



 
Have you ever transformed something old and given it a new lease of life?


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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

Before purchasing this book I saw no end of blog posts and instagram photos of people reading this book. When I bought it I think it was No 2 in the book charts. I had the obligatory flick through before buying it (I have to read a few sentences of each book that I buy, some from the first page, a couple half way in and then towards the end, just to get a feel if I'll like the writing style etc). It ticked the boxes and I bought it and was excited to begin reading.




Have I just not got a sense of humour? The writing style.. fine. But the content? The whole story honestly bored me to tears. It didn't get to the nitty-gritty of the book until the last quarter of the book and even then I wouldn't call it 'nitty-gritty'. Emotional? Barely (and no, I'm not cold-hearted!). "You laugh, You cry, and then you come back for more" claims a best selling author. Sorry, I never did any of those. I inwardly chuckled to myself, once. Someone else claims its "damn near genius". Really? I must be reading the wrong book.

The story (in a nutshell) is about a girl, Hazel Grace, that has lung cancer. She attends a social group for cancer sufferers. She meets a guy there named Augustus (or 'Gus' as he's often referred to in the book). Its not your typical soppy 'fall in love at first sight' relationship, and Gus isn't the typical 'lets sweep you off your feet' kinda guy, but I suppose that's what makes it a little different. I personally don't like his personality but maybe its meant to be that way..

A lot of the story revolves around Hazel's favourite book. She encourages Gus to read it but they are left hanging at the end of the story and both find it rather frustrating. Hazel contacts the author via email and asks if she can visit him to chat about the book. Both her and Gus travel half way around the world to Amsterdam to meet the author who turns out to be a raging rude alcoholic as well. They both leave not getting answers. It is on this trip that Gus confesses something to Hazel and it is here that the plot begins to thicken a little, and it's here that the anticipation kicks in (a little) of whats about to happen. I was disappointed with the hype up to something (which I don't want to spoil for you!) for it to then be suddenly over, without the book going into detail at the climax, but instead fast-forwarding 8 days.

Considering the hype, I was pretty disappointed with this book. From the reviews I was expecting a whirlwind of emotions but it really didn't evoke that many feelings. Unfortunately I don't recommend this. That'll teach me for jumping on the bandwagon! Sheep! Sorry for those that don't agree, I've heard the few negative reviews of this book are getting accused of not having a 'heart' - honestly, I've become quite emotional in my old age but this really didn't touch me. I'm not going to jump on the band wagon, follow the crowd and say its fantastic, when it really isn't.

Sorry Green, you haven't floated the boat this time..
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Friday, 18 July 2014

My Collection: Body Creams

I've been meaning to do this post for so long so finally here I am! For those long-time readers, last year (October, to be precise) you may remember I showed you photos of my (then) body cream collection. I moaned how it was ever-growing (partly due to being subscribed to 2 beauty boxes at the time, as well as continuing to receive them in gift sets bought at Christmas' and birthdays. I also admitted that a few of them were bought by myself). Anyhow, I was on a mission to reduce my collection and begin to incorporate these into my daily beauty ritual, (as tiresome as I find applying lotion late at night!).

I promised that I would review the situation in 3 months time. 7 months late(r) and here I am, assessing the situation (let me just remind you that in this time we've had Christmas and I've had my birthday, and yes, people do still continue to buy me gift sets containing body creams!). I have however reduced my beauty subscriptions from 2 boxes per month to one, so hopefully that would have had some impact!

I notice that a fair whack of these are still sitting nicely in my collection and have in fact not been touched. I am getting more into applying body creams, but not enough to notice a massive difference. But lets face it, getting through tubs of body cream is pretty hard work. They really do seem to last forever!

 
I'm hoping the photo's are big enough for you to see (I did separate the full size and the mini's but I realized I had messed up a little on what belonged in what category, so it didn't give a true example!


My mini's appear to have grown in size a little, but nothing I can't handle! The small increase in products I think is pretty good going for a 9 month gap, with a birthday & Christmas rolled in there too! I've obviously been keeping them under control somehow!

My full body cream collection (if my counting proves me right!) has increased by only 9 products (I realized I'd left one upstairs!). This is manageable for me and something I can get under control in no time!

Due to owning so many products, doing this has helped me to remember which are my older products that need using up first!

Do you have a big stash of body creams?!



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Monday, 14 July 2014

Review: Toni & Guy Limited Edition by Lulu Shine Gloss Serum

It's not often I write hair product reviews, simply because I don't often come across a product that wows me, and if you know me, you'll know I'm not a hair person at all. However after discovering this product I was certainly sad when I recently had to put it in the bin because I'd used it all so I felt it deserved a review!





I received this in a beauty box back in September of last year. I've tried a good handful of serums in the past, and for a long time, a serum was a serum to me. As time passed, I made my mind up that I preferred a serum as opposed to a cream to tame those hairs, and that's about as far as my preferences go in terms of hair products!



I loved the consistency of this serum, how silky soft it made my ends feel and how manageable my hair became after applying it. It tamed my unruly flyaways and honestly made my hair feel like I'd just left a hair salon. I really did feel like it added shine to my hair as it claims to do. It didn't weigh my hair down at all, and never once did I feel like I had product in my hair, which is always good. Being able to run your fingers through your hair throughout the day is a bit of a habit of mine, so I hate it when your fingers almost come to a halt in your hair because its hit some product. That definitely didn't happen with this product. A small amount seemed to go a long way and this 30ml bottle lasted me a good handful of months. Initially I was a bit doubtful of the price tag (£7.49 for 30ml) but if every bottle lasted me this long then I think I'd quite happily pay it again (not to mention its the perfect size for travelling too!).



What's your favourite hair serum?
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

July's Birchbox - 'Sun, Sea & Sand'

I am overly impressed with this month's Birchbox. I love the broad selection of products which cover pretty much every aspect of a beauty regime, from hair to bath and aftermath (I'm a poet and you didn't know it!) ;-)


 From left:

Ultra Dex Fresh Breath Oral Spray (lifestyle extra) - £3.65. I can honestly say I've never received a breath freshener in a beauty box before, but I know some have. Its not often I use a spray as a freshener but I think I'll keep this for travelling (i.e. on planes). I've trialed it out and its pretty strong and minty compared to some I've used in the past, which is always a good thing.

Weleda Millet Nourishing Shampoo - £8.95. I've had a few Weleda products in the past but never a shampoo. It is an organic fortifying shampoo, smells pretty fresh too. I have quite a lot of hair and this 18ml tube would only just cover one wash (if that) so the size is a little disappointing but nonetheless, I'm glad to be trying this.

Laqa & Co Sheer Lip Lube Pencil in Menatour - £14.43 (random price, right?). When I first saw this I cringed at the colour - purple isn't really my colour. Then I thought it could be one of those magic lipsticks that come out a completely different colour on the lips. Wishful thinking, its pretty much the same shade, and is a cross between a pink and bright purple, a little too daring for me. Maybe I'll try dabbing the tiniest pop of colour on next time. It gives me a not very nice sensation on my lips too (and not the tingling menthol kinda sensation either!). I think the holographic style packaging makes this look pretty cheap too.




Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream - £20. This claims to soothe, brighten and lift the eye area. I will admit I'm not a massive eye cream wearer. Its one of those products that I think I would never see a difference enough to realise. The only benefit I see from an eye cream is to soothe/cool down tired/hot eyes.

Whish Three Whishes Lavender Body Butter - £14.50. As soon as I saw Lavender my heart sank. I'm really not a lavender person, but then I read the card which states 'Not your granny's lavender'. So I was intrigued. It turns out I bloody love this scent. It contains shea butter, raspberry butter and aloe. It just smells so good and almost reminds me of holidays abroad. I couldn't stop smelling my hand once I had applied this. It claims to moisturize, firm and purify the skin and is full of organic ingredients. I really do just want to keep this for my next holiday!

Gilchrist & Soames English Spa Sea Kelp Extract Mineral Bath - £11.25. This is pretty much a glorified bubble bath, but it claims to give you a mineral spa type bath instead due to its ingredients. Its in gel form, which originally made me think it was a shower gel, but nope. This scent is a little too fresh and organic-y smelling for me, so wouldn't be my go-to scent of choice, but will still make a refreshing change... I'm all for giving things a chance!



After popping all my products back in the drawstring bag, I had a quick glance at the postcards that come with the box and my heart skipped a beat as I spotted my own face on one of the cards. I immediately felt like the whole world had seen me at some point over the last few days cos I know a fair few thousand of us are subscribed to this box! I was lucky enough to win May's birchbox in full-size samples after sending a photo in. Little did I know that they'd include me on the postcards. Lets just say I now know I wouldn't cope with fame very well, I'm too much of a private person and felt a little exposed! But nonetheless, I've had my 10 minutes of fame!

 
What did you think of this months Birchbox?

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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Book Review: Lone Wolf, Jodi Picoult

Book reviews don't tend to be my most read posts of them all but I thought I'd stick with them this year to keep a check on what I've read throughout the year..

I've read a good handful of Jodi Picoult's books now and she's become one of my favourite authors over the last year or so. She's not quite the chick lit author I'm used to, and instead writes some pretty gritty real life stuff that really grips me in. I've noticed a theme with almost all the books I've read - they consist of either a murder or death or some sort, whether through illness or innocence. They sound pretty depressing but trust me, they're not. If anything they sometimes make you do a reality check and realise what's important in life.


My recent read was Lone Wolf. This took me several attempts to get into and is probably my least favourite out the lot so far. It's probably the furthest from reality from what I've read of her, although I wouldn't put it past anyone to have tried this at some point!

The book is about a father, an animal conservationist, who ends up living alongside wolves, quite literally. He eats what they eat, and even begins to act like them. He lives, sleeps and breathes to be one of the pack. Subsequently he loses his wife (which happened 'outside' of the book) and is left with only his daughter by his side. One night they are both involved in a serious car accident which leaves him brain damaged. His son comes to visit him from Thailand where he went after having an argument with his father 6 years previous. His son is in charge of making the final decision whether his fathers life support machine gets switched off or lives, but with 24hr intense care. Conflict arises between him and his younger sister and it goes to court. Here, a lot more of his fathers past gets unraveled that his sister was unaware of. The tough decision is finally made regarding his fathers life.

I liked how each chapter was written from each characters perspective and flicked between usually 5 of the main characters, so it was easy to keep track of the story. The majority of the fathers perspective was written from his life as a wolf, and I began to find this fairly repetitive as the book went on, to the point where I was almost skipping those pages because I found them un-necessary.

There was only one factor that kept me gripped right through till the end, and that was the incident surrounding the car crash. The book deliberately held a secret back but kept making references to it which just got me wanting to know more.

A different read from her usual content but not one that I'd score high.
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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Where I stayed: Paris on a Budget

When it comes to having the chance to stay in a hotel, I must admit I'm pretty fussy. I think of it as a chance to experience a little luxury. Don't get me wrong, I've experienced my fair share of basic hotels too, but when the money is flowing a little more than normal, I do like to set my standards higher. When doing hotel research I have little tick boxes in my head and this can be quite a time consuming job!

When we were booking to go to Paris our budget wasn't extreme, it was just a last minute getaway so I was trying to keep costs low. Knowing we were spending a day in Disney, I decided to base the hotel around this, as I knew not only would it give us easy access to the park but also to the restaurants and shops pretty much 24hrs a day.

Up in the search came the obvious disney hotels, along with predictable disney prices. Even the cheapest of the cheap was over our budget. Then popped up an Ibis. I had stayed in an Ibis before, admittedly in Leeds, but its a chain hotel so its gotta be similar, right? Correct.


Although this wasnt any Parisian glamourous boutique hotel, it was clean, spacious and the location to disney was pretty much perfect. All this along with a £49 p/n pricetag. I definitely wasn't gonna grumble at that.




I did the obligatory glances at some reviews. A good chunk of them were positive, but just like any hotel, there was the odd negative one thrown in there. I was a little apprehensive about the noise, considering how close it was to the train station, but honestly, I didn't hear a thing (and I ain't no heavy sleeper!).

The proximity of the hotel to the station was fantastic. You could have literally walked out the train station and hopped on one foot to the hotel door and you'd have no problem (weird analysis, but true!). The hotel area felt really comfortable too - it was almost peaceful - no busy traffic and you just felt at ease when you were walking around (which I don't often feel!). There is apparently a shopping centre with designer outlets etc, but we couldn't find this (although admittedly didn't give it a good enough try!). There are shops around too, but again, we always bought from the train station shop if we needed anything before heading back.

This hotel would be perfect as well if you've got kids. No more annoying 'are we nearly there yet?' after a long day in Disney - there literally isn't any point in sitting down once you board the train at Disney, its the next stop, and before you can blink, you're on and off the train (which may I add, run pretty much every 5 minutes).

A hotel bed is always something I remember, either for better or worse! This one didn't blow me away (I think my best ever hotel bed was in Las Vegas.. ahhh, take me back!), but it didn't cause me any problems either... so that gets another tick from me!

It had ample seating space considering there was only 2 of us (Mike never uses hotel seating anyway, he prefers just to use the bed, but of course it comes in handy for me when I'm doing my make-up and hair).



The bathroom was a little on the small side, but I've experienced smaller (if any of you have stayed in an Easy(Jet) hotel, you'll know what I mean!). It did have a powerful shower which is always a bonus. Those half asleep showers are rather frustrating!



Again, it's not something grand to look at, but it scores high for convenience and even higher for the budget. If I was to visit this part of Paris again I definitely wouldn't think twice about staying here again if the budget was low.

PS - Sorry they're not the most glamorous shots, I felt like I didn't have anything worthwhile focusing on!
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