Shopping Trips

Pretty Western with The Gracechurch Centre

I just love trends! Is there anything more satisfying than a new season full of fresh garms to discover? The promise of unearthing a favourite new staple or cultivating the perfect head to toe look is what makes me dive into a stack of magazines, pages of the latest fashion weeks' street style, and of course hunting around the shops. Even before I started my blog ten years ago, it's what I've always loved to do! Working in retail makes this habit my day job too, so I never really stop thinking about what people are currently buying.

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It's a delight to be part of The Gracechurch Centre's summer campaign, Fashion in the Frame. Store windows are being graced with a new trend each week and when you snap and share your favourite on social media, you could win it! This week's trend is Pretty Western, and I'd bet this is the biggest hit on the high street this season. Gingham? Check. Embroidery? Check. Embellished denim? Check! It was not hard to hit the shops and peruse so many cute items with a western twist right now. 

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However I chanced upon this yellow prairie dress in Marks and Spencer, displayed on their campaign model in all its sunny glory. How beautiful is this colour! Complete with tassels and tiers, I was all over this buttercup beauty. It also left the trend open to a gorgeous embroidered bag or pair of heels - or both! These River Island sandals are undoubtedly the shoe of the season, with a perfect block heel and bold florals across the sole and straps too. How good would these look with a pair of frayed hem jeans or gingham smock dress?  The New Look clutch was another dose of punchy florals in orange, pink and blue, picking out the yellow of the dress with a burst of flowers and leaves. Such a pretty way to nod to the trend but also chance to accompany just about every outfit this summer with this bag of applique dreams.

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Have fun checking out the framed outfits at The Gracechurch Centre and good luck with the competition!

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Touchwood Own Your Style Fashion Event #sp

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On the weekend I took part in a fabulous fashion whirlwind! Touchwood Solihull invited me to appear at their spring fashion event to showcase the looks of the season. I consider pondering the latest trends as a full time hobby so this delightful opportunity meant mixing my two favourite things - shopping and chatting.

To help visitors own their style, there was a genius style cube that asked a series of questions about your life and wardrobe. A handy card popped out to reveal a trend perfect for you, plus some sweet shopping discounts. That's when I stepped in to show off my rail of glorious pieces from Topshop, Zara, River Island and more, mixing looks and matching shoppers with their new favourite items. Some cheeky £50 vouchers were also popping out to treat unsuspecting participants, and it felt rather fabulous to shower lucky shoppers with prizes!

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The event host, Hannah, was a gorgeous ray of sunshine and it felt like we were having a chit chat all day as we projected style tips across the shopping centre. I met loads of cool gals - shout out to awesome budding fashionista Evie! The prize winners were returning across the day to show us what they had purchased with their winnings. It was like we were hosting a fashion club! 

My favourite trends this season are Pretty in Pink, as how did I not know it's a fantastic colour for redheads, and Go Big or Go Home. Seriously: the bigger the sleeves, the better this season! We also showcased Vibrant Stripes, ranging from pin stripe to bold colour blocking; Statement Slogans, with a side of sass; 80's Glam in all it's glory; and Athletic Angel, possibly the most practical yet impactful trend of them all.

The style cube is at Touchwood until 7th April so don't miss the chance for discounts and trend advice!

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New Square Mother's Day Challenge

Last week I took part in a rather a unique challenge with my mom! Yes, we say mom here in the Midlands, ha! New Square West Bromwich invited us to shop it up a storm and style each other in a spring outfit. My mom has so much personal style and mixes Topshop or Urban Outfitters with vintage threads. I knew the challenge would be easy peasy though as there's every essential store at New Square; Outfit and River Island for a new season statement, and even Primark and H&M for a fast fashion treat. The challenge was in aid of Mother's Day as we're all hunting for a gift the she really wants that isn't a tea towel or bath salts at the moment!

We had a budget of £150 to gather an entire outfit including shoes and accessories in two hours, but first we fueled up at the new Turquoise Kitchen restaurant. It's a huge space with gorgeous authentic Turkish chandeliers and plenty of mezze and grills to choose from on huge platters. We had a mixture of hummus, seafood and salad dishes for lunch, and dove in with a huge lavas bread fresh from the oven. It was authentically moreish and so tasty; if it wasn't lunch time we could have kept dipping and snacking with endless bread! Every sauce and dip was delicious.

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Satisfied and ready to go, we hit the shops in a flurry. There are so many new spring trends to choose, from fun applique and gingham frills, to oversized striped shirts and shredded denim. We hit just about every store, from Claire's to Pandora, and it was fun to pull items we didn't first gravitate towards for each other. Once we had the skeleton set of the outfit, we hunted statement heels and fist fulls of embellished accessories.

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My outfit began with a gorgeous embroidered Topshop shirt with scalloped detailing and this season's famed bell sleeves. If you buy anything this season, make it a detailed sleeve! It's such an easy spring upgrade. My mom brightened this up with this bright River Island mini skirt with a scalloped edge in a very subtle faux suede texture - she's all about vintage-style materials. I wouldn't have gone for a metallic bag but this River Island satchel acted as another hue to keep the outfit from being too formal. I love this Claire's headband embellished with pearls, crystals and gold. It's so Gossip Girl! And the Primark choker and cuffs enhanced the shirt by again keeping it more casual.

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These River Island jewelled sandals weren't my first choice but they are so pretty on and inspire me to be a little more fun with my shoes. They're my least favourite thing to buy as I find it hard to choose pairs that suit all of my outfits, but actually these bling beauties go with more than you'd think!

For my mom I chose a pair of River Island grey high waisted trousers as her usual uniform is skirts and dresses. She said these were super comfy and perfect for work and dressing up so they were a win! Instead of a blouse, this Miss Selfridge denim top has the cold shoulder detailing that makes it so SS17 but can be teamed with so many other prints and fabrics too. A few long strand Claire's necklaces added a touch of her boho vibes, and these bright orange Dorothy Perkins sandals were the perfect heel to add a pop of colour and a punch to the whole outfit.

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It was such a fun afternoon, I so miss shopping with your mom when you were 13 in Tammy Girl. These outfits were photographed below for the Express and Star newspaper so keep your eyes peeled for that. You can also win a £100 voucher for your mom to spend on a shopping spree this Mother's Day here

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Follow New Square here on Twitter and Facebook here for more competitions, news and ideas for Mother's Day.


Halloween with #DebsGlamoween

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Happy Halloween ghouls and gals! Last week I hurried along to a frightfully fabulous beauty event held at Debenhams Bullring and it seriously got me in the spooky spirit. OK I'll quit the puns there, but it got me oh so inspired for Halloween and you can see my look here!

Debenhams hosted an extravaganza of Halloween beauty and we bloggers were treated to a masterclass from different counters. I don't always head to Debenhams first for my makeup buys but with the likes of Illamasqua and Make Up For Ever on my doorstep now, my product wishlist just got a whole lot longer.

First we followed a contoured skeleton look at Make Up For Ever, home of the HD foundation that was possibly my first ever Kardashian-inspired purchase circa 2011. I love the concession area they have now and these are the light-up mirrors of my dreams! MUFE have so many pro and niche products, from skin moulding putty to a very blood-like red liquid. I'm keen to try their base and finishing products as the quality is so high and they can ugrade your FOTD to flawless finish levels. Their HD powder is the one! We had a sample to take home with us and it's like applying fairy dust each morning - it's so light yet so good!

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With a glass of fizz in hand, we popped across to Illamasqua and all adored Chetna's cryptic clown look. I loved chatting to her about all of the different looks she was trying each day for Magikmasqua. HOW cute is this one! I've recently bought a palette, lipstick and contour duo after having a makeover there and I'm firmly an Illamasqua convert. They have some Christmas gift sets of all different sorts of products and we also tried the latest collect in aid of the charity S.O.P.H.I.E., which Illamasqua has a long standing partnership with.

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Next we took a seat the glitteringly gothic Urban Decay counter and watched the classic costume tutorial of 'I'm a mouse, duh!'. Genius! The unicorn tears are so sweet too. Absolute glitter goals! We cooed over the palettes and admired their adorable pumpkin. I've been waiting literally years for my perfect Urban Decay palette and as soon as they bring out a warm, peachy set, I'll be straight there. I haven't given UD enough focus in recent years as I feel they are all about the colour, and nowadays I'm not sure if brights really suit me! That is nothing makeover can't sort out though - I must book in soon and find my perfect UD shades!

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Thank you Debenhams for a hugely inspirational evening and a peek at some gorgeous products. I also included the evening in my weekly vlog below! Did you know I have started weekly vlogging again? Indeed I have!


Bullring Your Five AW16

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On Saturday I glammed up and headed to my favourite destination - Bullring! It's actually a huge treat for me to take myself shopping on a weekend because I always seem to be overloaded with errands and family engagements on Saturdays, and I don't often grant myself free reign of the shops. I used to love visiting after work and spending a few quiet hours browsing but I can't get there with enough time at my new job so it's strictly a weekend affair. 

Bullring hosted a Your Five event to showcase new season trends with free beauty and style consultations. I booked in and was first toured around five stands of autumn staples: the skirt, the coat, the trousers, the knit and the shoe!

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The stylist pulled out different trends of this season, from military coats to ruffled knits to metallic booties. Instead of jumping on several trends, it was the perfect way to clearly see a concentrated selection of key styles and pick the one item from each category that I gravitated towards. All items were collated in a curated list there and then that was shortly emailed to me later in the day - handy!

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I was itching to dive into the shops and hunt out my new chosen trends, but next was my makeup consultation where you could choose from five key beauty looks of the season, including dark lips and flicked liner. I chose contouring as it's STILL the technique I can't quite perfect and it was undoubtedly the best lesson I've had. Makeup artist Sarah talked me through the subtle ways I could use a cream contour stick to first map out the angles of my face and then blend to a seamless finish. I definitely took my shopping list of products and went to hunt them all down after!

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I entered the Bullring PLUS app competition too as I am seriously in need of winning big now that I have a shopping list as long as my arm! Thank you Bullring for inviting me down; it really made sense of AW16 and I'm looking forward to putting my learning into practice. Let's hit the shops!


New Square Pop Up Fashion Event 2016

Last Saturday I attended a day of pop up fashion at New Square! I took my vlogging camera to showcase the shows across the day, with models dancing and performing in latest collections from New Square stores including Outfit Fashion (aka Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge), JD, Next and more.

I haven't vlogged in a little while so I was set with my camera in hand to capture all of the day's activities, plus get some tips from the on-hand stylist Jill on what I should be stocking up on. She also had bagfuls of vouchers to hand out to the unsuspecting audience and it was like Christmas had come again!

My favourite outfits were the CUTE denim pinafore and tee from Dorothy Perkins and a bronze Topshop bomber that I've eyed up in store many a time. Take a peek below!


New Season, New Square

Hey all! Last year I had a fabulous time at New Square Shopping Centre in West Bromwich, which you saw in my vlog below. It was awesome to hang out with style guru Emily-Jayne and rush around the shops in a fashion frenzy to choose an entire outfit under £150, and it was featured in the local paper; so many people at work randomly saw my face in there!

 
It was around that time that I really got my fashion mojo back and started to dive into trends again - something which I'd paired back as minimal, chic dressing had it's flash in the pan. 

And now it's all change again! There are SO MANY trends up my street this season, especially chokers, off shoulder cuts, a-line skirts, applique denim - the list goes on! Put 11th June in your diary as New Square are hosting a Pop up Fashion Show with this season's trends being modelled and plenty of prizes to share out - oh yes! I'll be stopping by with my vlogging camera to see the stylists and check out the showcase myself too.

Luckily I have a prize right now of a massive £100 gift voucher to give away to a lucky gal or guy to spend at ANY store! That's Topshop, River Island, Primark... the list goes on. Simply enter below for a chance to win before 12:00AM 11/06/16 .

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See you at the show!

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Valentine's ❤ Bullring | Birmingham Life

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It is finally February and that means a host of key calendar events are on the horizon, the first being Valentine's Day! Romantic love, self-love, it's all about the love. And let's face it, after a lengthy January, we all need any excuse for gifts and pampering ASAP. Bullring invited me to take a peek at their retailer offers and pick out a few select gift ideas to suit different budgets, whether that's a treat for yourself or a heavy hint to drop to the person you have in mind.

One of my New Year's resolutions of 2015 was to be more adventurous with dating and to say yes to any offers (within reason...), and that resulted in a host of experiences, from the Tinder matches and the cash-flashing guys who plan a second date abroad a few sips into the first drink, to the local lads that actually live half way across the country and the First Dates experience. Yes I even auditioned for that show! These experiences were just for the fun of meeting new people, think more Sex and the City rather than Bridget Jones, not that I don't think our Bridge is awesome. Dating is so fun and while this year has began more promisingly, it's so rewarding to embrace chance encounters and shower someone with gifts and eventually... love!

Be sure to download the Bullring Plus app before you set out as speaking of sets, you can pick up a sweet gift with every Boux Avenue purchase. There is just something satisfying about browsing rows and rows matching sets and sliding open the white draws to pluck out your size. I jumped on that band wagon and read The Magic Art of Tidying last year, where Marie Kondo spoke lavishly about stacking your underwear drawer so delicately that my dream is now to have drawers of this style in my own future home. I picked out this beautiful set as a chic alternative to pink or red, and I'm determined to find a way to show off the gorgeous racer back feature of the bra as part of an outfit. A swipe of the app later and there's a sweet free gingham heart-shaped hand mirror and set of scented roses in with your gift wrapped purchase! Make a beeline for Boux, pronto.

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It wouldn't be a Bullring day without visiting Selfridges of course; the home of quirky gifts from the most desirable brands. I stumbled across this adorable collection of pink presents, the most cost-savvy being fruity EOS lip balms in strawberry sorbet and summer fruit. At less than £7 a pop, these are a cute accompaniment to a statement card or as part of a selection of wrapped items. It's almost even more fun to open lots of little gifts than one big one!

But if you're looking for a grander gesture, Gucci Bamboo is my scent of the moment. I have at least one version of all of the Gucci fragrance releases and I've lost count of the times people have revealed they turned their head to follow the scent in a bar or confessed a few dates down the line that they can't get enough of this perfume. Bamboo is the latest addition and it's much more earthy and gritty than the rest. Trust me on this one, it's the fragrance that stands out in the best way.

As the gift for those who don't want any of the frills and faff of this Hallmark holiday, a more practical present is a BKR glass water bottle, the chemical-free way to appreciate each one of your eight glasses each day. This will look so pretty yet sophisticated perched on any office desk and would spark a few questions in meetings. I like the open screw-top rather than a stopper too as it encourages you to drink even more. Apparently the Kardashians drink 6 litres per day!

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Here are my gifts suited to gents who are lucky enough to have our shopping skills at their advantage. Men rarely invest in a skincare regime and a few Clinique products will pep up their mornings - and you can have a little dabble yourself! This River Island bag will also solve those overnight and weekend stay issues where their things are slung into something resembling a bin bag. Music is always a winner and a browse of the Selfridges tech section showcased the Bose headphones that my brother spend a year saving up for and the Beats Pill he can only dream of owning. Serious brownie points for cool technology gifts are to be had! This Jo Malone fragrance would never be wasted on a trip to the pub - it's worth sniffing out your favourite so you can borrow it too and layer it with your favourite fragrances! And how chic will this Krups coffee maker look on your - I mean their - kitchen counter?

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I was browsing for gifts with my BFF as it's so handy to get a second opinion, even if most gifts end up being for yourself! We were treated to lunch at Chi Kitchen in Debenhams and after stepping into the scenic blue and copper space tucked away in the beauty hall, we enjoyed a lavish three hour lunch - no joke! This will be my go-to when dining in Birmingham from now on as just look at these gorgeous dishes, all made fresh to order, including this heavenly sushi. The best sushi I've ever had! They are also offering three course Valentine's menus featuring a host of dishes inspired by the lengths of South East Asia - it should definitely be the contender for your special evening.

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Following this heavenly selection of morsels, we shared a Chocolate Sphere dessert that melted in front of our eyes as warm caramel sauce was poured, revealing cold vanilla ice cream. Amazing!

And soon enough we had completed our tasks and were heading home with our bags. Thank you to Chi and Bullring for the challenge, I'm so ready for the big day!

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Christmas @ Bullring | Birmingham Life

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I'm juuuust in the process of getting all of my holiday photos together (of the few I have - sob!) but we need to talk about Christmas. Since I was on holiday at the end of November and then seriously not very well for a week or so, I have literally done hardly any Christmas shopping, and Christmas is next week! I'm trialling a new strategy of buying presents quite late as I hope it will make me more speedy with my selections and now I've had some time to ponder away. Just in time was the Bullring Winter event and this was the first time I ventured out of my house in a few days so I was feeling so ready for a slice of retail!

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We are indeed lucky to have a major shopping centre right on the doorstep and with the newly upgraded River Island and Topshop, it means I can't shop anywhere else. If I haven't looked around huge stores, I feel like I am missing out on loads of things and just don't feel right making an uninformed purchase! Bullring is open until 10pm every weekday until Christmas Eve so my plan is to do what I can on Thursday when I have a day off work (yes it's the day after the Christmas partaaay!) and then pop in next week after work to get any final gifts. 10pm people! Shopping at that time is bliss as the stores are replenishing the stock for the next day so everything is plentiful and tidy.

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I sort of wanted to visit the hi-tech Santa's grotto to ask the jolly man himself if he can place a handsome gentleman under my tree (or mistletoe... or anywhere really!), but we were instead treated to a fabulous showcase of classic and new stores, including a Kiko! I Whatsapped a few friends as soon as I heard there is an entire Kiko store now near the Bull statue - I can't wait to take a look! The adorable SA told me there is a highlighter that beauty bloggers are going nuts over and it may come into stock soon. Just try and stop me!

Selfridges have a host of Elfridges on hand in the sweetest high school-style uniforms, ready to solve all of your present problems and gift woes. It's a FREE personalised shopping service to help you tick off your shopping list, and you can even sit back with a coffee or glass of champagne while they go off to grab all of your gifts! Their personalised ideas are so creative and I can think of a person I know suited to each of the name-adorned treats. I also really want to hit up Pavan's henna bar too!

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After nibbles from the likes of the new Bill's restaurant (I must visit), Chaophraya and Chi Kitchen @ Debenhams, we took a peek at the new Topshop Personal Shopping service in their revamped space. The transformation of the store is huge and now it really feels like a conceptual store. The personal shopping area is the living room of my dreams and of course the service is free for girls and guys. I love having makeovers but I've never had a proper style consultation so watch this space!

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We also explored the Oasis 'My Personal Stylist' space which surprised me as you don't often hear about Oasis making waves at Bullring. Well I was completely out of the loop because the store has some incredibly unique features and is the forefront of Oasis' most current store concepts, with the changing room area as an entire home of beautifully upholstered arm chairs, retro books and quirky detailing that my mom would adore (she's not a regular mom, she's a cool mom). Different cities have customised decor and the Birmingham themes were so sweet! Just being in the space felt like I wanted to bathe myself in Oasis' chunky knits and wool coats, and I'll be adding the store to my 'must visit' list each time I'm in town.

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Now I'm just left with the question of will I be seeing you at 8am on Boxing day for the sales?! I have my eye on some suede thigh high boots. Fingers crossed and elbows at the ready!


A Boots Haul

 

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I've got a Boots haul to share which is rare for me because the term 'haul' implies gathering a large quantity of something or replenishing a load of things in bulk, and I'm not high maintenance enough to need that many backups! Usually I never buy things all at once. Almost all of my purchases are considered, meaningful or needed; a month is a long time and I'm always saving for X or forking out for Y, so I can't afford to be frivolous. I'll totally contradict this shortly as I've spent a bomb this month and splurged on lots of things I've had my eye on, but here are a few purchases I made recently.

It's shocking behavior for a savvy shopper like myself but I don't actually have a Boots points card because I never shop at Boots. Did you know that the discount shop Savers is owned by Superdrug? Well I get all of my toiletries and haircare from there for a fraction of the price of the same thing in Supers, and I'll price up Boots/Superdrug when I need to replenish any high street makeup. I find 99% of the time when I go into Boots, I will find five other items I will suddenly remember I 'need' and am tempted towards a 3-for-2 or discount promotion, and soon I'm £30 down when I went in for a shower gel. However my buddy Georgie was in town and I wanted to show her the rather large Boots in Birmingham city centre. I let loose and here's what I got!

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I was a long time user of L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes Mascara since my Uni days I believe and it's the big hitter for long lashes like mine. I get a lot of lash compliments and for some reason my lashes are just long, though I am still partial to a false lash. In fact in Uni I used to wear Eylure Double Lashes - yes, that's two layers of lashes! However I recently tried the Maybelline Colossal Mascara and I found the teeny tiny brush grabbed every lash, and the curved wand pushed them up to stretch as far as they could. I got another one of these in a promotion deal in waterproof as I actually missed using it, and the waterproof choice was because I'm going on holiday in November... watch this space!!

I laughed at the ingredients of La Roche Posay Serozinc as it's just water with salt and zinc added, but there was a certain hype that I could not resist. Now that I've bowed to the alter of Caroline Hirons though (more on that in a coming post), I can see this is a nifty product to layer just before your serum or moisturiser, I have literally read Caroline's entire blog recently and was trying to reveal the skincare epiphany to my friends today via Whatsapp but I just cannot translate. Basically Caroline knows her stuff and there is a world of benefits to reap by reading her cheat sheets. Fun fact - a guy we met in New York at the Yankees game said "So you're going to message me on the WhatsUpapp?" LOLz.

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I definitely sinned in the house of Hirons by buying this micellar water but as they go, I did enjoy swiping off my makeup with the Botanics All Bright Micellar Solution. Now I realise that was a lazy atrocity but I have a soft spot for Botanics and enjoyed using their balm cleanser a few years ago. I'll have to check out the ingredient list.

As part of a L'Oreal deal, I spied that the L'Oreal Color Riche Eyeshadow in Gold Mania was literally as intense as the name suggests, being the actual colour of gold rather than a mess of sparkles. Its buttery smooth and packs a punch when applied with a wet or Fix Plus-sprayed brush. A yellow gold makes blue eyes POP and nowadays I enhance my eyes with shadow rather than liner.

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These Masque Bar Sheet Masks were an impulse as they were reduced to £6, and I find clay or dry face masks unbalance my skin and leave it flawless for a moment but have no long term benefits. I chose the anti wrinkle set as they boasted the most hydration and indeed they are pieces of very slimey material. I like how you can rub the serum left on your skin into your face for extended benefits. A good pampering alternative to a drying mask that's impossible to get off and a treat for a night out to add a fun extra to your routine. I love getting ready!

I've seriously revamped my hair care routine since I started having highlights and have been left with straw if I'm not careful, and so I invested in an old faithful, the Charles Worthington Moisture Seal Intense Rescue Melting Balm. It's a wax that you warm into an oil in your hands and smooth on as a hair mask before washing. The oils and butters definitely give a dose of hydration to your locks and I save it for weekends. 

So there you go - a few treats to refresh my beauty routine :)