February Favourites

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February Favourites - Topshop Jumper, Neom Candle, L'Occitane Hand Wash and Hand Cream, Collection Eyeshadow Palette, Avene Eye Cream

It's been a while since I did a favourites post, but here I am again with a few current loves. As usual, I've restricted myself to five things. As much as I like reading these types of post, I'm also not a huge fan of scrolling through hundreds of favourites, so for that reason I like to keep my own quite short. Let's take a look!


February Favourites - Cream Topshop Jumper Spring 2016

February Favourites - Cream Topshop Jumper Spring 2016

It's that time of year when the shops are full of beautiful spring clothes but the weather is still arctic, so it's such a treat to find something new that you can actually wear right now. This jumper is just thick enough to keep me warm through this ice-cold spell we've been having, but light and fresh enough to see me well into spring too. The little cut out details are so pretty and it's effortless to wear - just throw on with blue jeans and ankle boots. It's available in a light pink as well, but for me the cream was a no-brainer. You can never have too many cream jumpers!


February Favourites - Neom Organics 3 Wick Candle in English Lavender, Sweet Basil and Jasmine

This was a Christmas present from my sister and I have burnt it to the bitter end - there is not a drop of wax left in the jar! I love a candle that really fills the room with scent and boy does this do the job. Now we've moved house, we have a much larger living room than we did before, but you can smell this as soon as you open the door. This particular fragrance is beautiful if you like lavender - I love it - and is actually part of their Tranquility range designed to help promote restful sleep. I've always found lavender to be very calming and it certainly helps you to wind down for the night to have this burning for an hour or two. Plus, it looks lovely on the coffee table! This is not a cheap candle brand but so worth the money for the quality. 


February Favourites - L'Occitane Hand Wash and Hand Cream in Lavender

February Favourites - L'Occitane Hand Wash and Hand Cream in Lavender

Clearly I have a thing for lavender right now! I actually picked up this hand wash and lotion set the other day, so I'm cheating slightly here, but I've had these before and love the little touch of luxury they add to a bathroom sink. They look lovely, smell amazing - like a sunny day in the South of France - and prompt you to moisturise your hands every time you wash them, instead of just when they feel really, really dry. If you're not as obsessed with lavender as I am, the Verbena scent is also gorgeous - fresh and lemony. L'Occitane do this sort of thing so well!

 
February Favourites - Collection Eyeshadow Palette in #YourStyleYourMood

As much as I love my Urban Decay Naked Palette, I just cannot get over how good this one is for the price. It's £5.99! All the shades are 100% wearable and I love both the pink and taupe-toned shades equally. The colour pay-off is excellent and where shimmer is involved it's just the right amount. Of all the drugstore shadows I own this is the cheapest, yet the best. This is not the first time I've wittered on about this palette so I'll shut up now, but if you missed my Valentine's makeup look using it, you can see it here


February Favourites - Avene PhysioLift Eye Cream 
You can see my review of this eye cream alongside the entire PhysioLift range here. In a nutshell, this plumps and firms the under eye area and has visibly softened my fine lines. I have found it to work really well for me, and while I think that part of the reason was simply switching to a new product after years of using the same one, I also think that this is a very effective eye cream in its own right. Like all Avene products, it's also suitable for sensitive skin, which is another huge plus point in my book.

February Favourites - Topshop Jumper, Neom Candle, L'Occitane Hand Wash and Hand Cream, Collection Eyeshadow Palette, Avene Eye Cream

So there we have it - my five favourite things from the month of February! Anything here that takes your fancy? And what have you been loving this month?

Kate x

*Gifted Items
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Flying Solo

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I have made a very exciting purchase - a tripod! I have always loved doing outfit posts, and hopefully now I'll be able to do more of them. With my new toy and the self-timer on my camera, I can go ahead and take my own photos without having to wait for Mike to be available. I'll still be doing photo shoots with him - he's always been incredibly supportive of my blog and is of the firm belief that his creative input cannot be replaced by a tripod, which of course is true. It just gives me that little bit more freedom, and I'm loving that!

As soon as I got it, I just had to try it out, so I took a few photos in the garden.

OOTD featuring Zara, Topshop and H&M - Spring 2016

Jacket - Zara (similar), Shirt - Topshop, Jeans - Topshop, Bag - Zara (similar), Shoes - Zara (similar), Sunglasses - H&M (similar)

It's definitely not warm enough in the UK for this outfit yet, but as soon as spring puts its head around the corner I'm going to be wearing this jacket to death. I actually picked it up last autumn, and only got a little wear out of it before it got too cold. I love the cut of it and the brass button detailing. You can throw it on over pretty much anything and voila - instant chic! Zara don't have this one in stock any more (at least not online) but I've linked to one from H&M which is really similar if you're interested.

Military style navy blue peacoat with brass buttons from Zara

Military style navy blue peacoat with brass buttons from Zara

I'm also loving this crisp striped shirt which is a recent purchase from Topshop. It has this really simple panel detail across the front which adds just the right amount of interest to something that's still totally streamlined and simple. It reminds me a little bit of the recent trend for frilled yokes on shirts, but in a much cleaner way.

Blue striped shirt from Topshop

Adding my trusty cream Zara bag - about a year and a half old now - lace up flats and some sunglasses gives a definite spring like feel to the outfit. All I need now is the weather! It may look sunny in these pictures, but I was freezing!

Cream structured bag from Zara

So that was my first solo fashion shoot! I'm really happy with how it turned out, and hopefully once I get used to working with the tripod, I'll be able to take photos in some more interesting locations. If anyone's interested in which tripod I got, you can check it out here. For me, it's perfect - light enough to carry around, but sturdy enough to withstand blustery conditions, and with lots of range to take pictures at different heights and angles. It took me a long time to find the right one and I couldn't be happier with it, so if the information helps any fellow bloggers then that's great.

See you next time!

Kate x
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Peak Show

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What's a girl to do when she needs to lay her hands on a couple of pound coins, but only has a nice crisp bank note in her purse? Get herself to the nearest Boots to buy an Essie nail polish with said bank note, of course! Voila - pound coins. Plus a little treat that wasn't really needed but is nice to have all the same - the shade Peak Show from Essie's Winter Collection.

Essie Nail Polish in Peak Show - Winter 2015/2016 Collection

It's an opaque pale pink shade - in fact, it's so pale that it might be more accurate to call it white with the faintest hint of pink. I was drawn to it because of how fresh it looks. After months of wearing deep, dark colours, that really appealed to me. That said, the complete Winter Collection was a real mixture of shades and I liked all of them, especially with their cute, skiing holiday inspired names. You can check out the whole range here.

It was Peak Show, however, that came home with me, and I wasted no time in getting it on my nails. I needed two to three thin coats to get it opaque and streak free, but the application was smooth enough. I'm wearing it over a base coat of Ciate Underwear and with Seche Vite over the top. 

I applied the polish on Friday afternoon and the first tiny chips began to appear on Monday morning. For me, that's about as good as it can get in terms of longevity, so I'm happy!

Essie Nail Varnish in Peak Show - Winter 2015/2016 Collection

Essie is probably my favourite nail polish brand at the moment. I think their shade range is outstanding and the quality of the formula is generally very good. I'm sure I'll get plenty of wear out of Peak Show, as it's one of those shades that just seems to be effortlessly chic and goes with everything.

Nail Polish Review - Essie Peak Show - Winter 2015/2016 Collection

Have you tried any of the polishes from Essie's Winter Collection? Which nail polish shades are you loving at the moment?

Kate x
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Avene PhysioLift Range - Anti-Ageing Skincare Review

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Back in December I attended the Avene Thirty Plus event in London - a fascinating discussion on the subject of attitudes to ageing within the beauty industry which you can read about here if you're interested. At the event, we were gifted Avene's new PhysioLift range, targeted at ageing skin. I've been using it for a few weeks now, so I thought it was about time I shared my experience with you.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare

I've mentioned before that I find the world of skincare pretty overwhelming. So many brands, so many products, so many different issues to try to counteract. After moving house in January, I decided that enough was enough, got myself a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down in a bulleted list all the skincare steps I felt I really needed. That might sound a bit nuts, but I was getting to the stage where some products were being switched up daily, others were so overused that they were no longer having an effect on my skin, and basically I just wasn't in control of what I was plastering all over my face. One thing's for sure - my skin has definitely thanked me for reigning it all in and establishing a coherent routine.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare

The Avene PhysioLift range is part of this routine, and, I'm sure, at least part of the reason why my skin has looked and felt a lot better recently. Designed to strike the perfect balance between effectively targeting signs of ageing and being gentle enough for sensitive skin, the products contain the following active ingredients:

Retinaldehyde - A radiance booster that's as effective as retinoic acid, but gentler on the skin

Hyaluronic acid mono-oligomers - Perfectly sized fragments of hyaluronic acid, designed to deliver moisture to exactly where it's needed

Ascofilline - Boosts collagen levels and plumps the skin.

The range includes an eye cream, a targeted wrinkle filler, a night cream and two day creams - one for dry skin and one for normal to combination skin.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare

In the evenings, after thoroughly cleansing and toning, I start by applying the eye cream. It's a nice, fairly firm feeling product, and is designed to smooth, plump and firm up the under eye area. It has a special "patch" texture which helps the ingredients to absorb throughout the night, but you can't feel this. It just sinks in like any other eye cream.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - Eye Cream

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - Eye Cream

This is my favourite product from the range, and the one I think has made the biggest impact on my skin.

Now, I feel like I need to give you a bit of background here, so apologies in advance for going off on a tangent, but I assure you it's relevant! Before trying this eye cream, I had been using Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect eye cream for the longest time. (Years!) While this is a good product, I think my skin had got a bit too used to it, and I didn't feel that it was doing a lot for me. Then I switched to the Sunday Riley Start Over active eye cream after winning it in Anne's giveaway, and this made a huge difference to my under eye area. Not that it's ever really been a big problem area for me, but there were a few fine lines there which never seemed to go away, and switching to Sunday Riley reduced them dramatically, although I would agree with Anne that the one downside of that product is that it stings like a mofo if you get it too near your eyes.

So this was a great test for the Avene eye cream. (I told you I'd get back to the point eventually!) If my lines started to look more prominent again, I would know it wasn't as good as the Sunday Riley product. Well, I've been using it for three to four weeks now and I'm still really happy. My under eye area feels smooth and firm, and the fine lines remain diminished.

While I think that the simple act of switching to a new product was definitely beneficial for me, I'm also confident that the Avene PhysioLift eye cream is pretty awesome at its job, and I can't recommend it enough. If you're only going to try one product from the range, make it this one!

The next step in my routine is to apply the Precision Wrinkle Filler to any deeper lines I have on my face - so that's between my brows, across my forehead and along the lines that run from the corners of my mouth to my nose.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - Wrinkle Filler

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - Wrinkle Filler

A concentrated hit of the active ingredients present in this range, the wrinkle filler is intended to deliver an additional boost to those areas where you need it most. I've used a product like this before, (I think by Vichy), and do think they work to a certain extent if you use them regularly over an extended period of time, although in my opinion nothing is going to erase absolutely all traces of the lines on your face except Botox. That said, I feel that the Avene PhysioLift range as a whole has helped to make my complexion feel plumper and smoother and has softened fine lines, so I will continue to use the wrinkle filler along with the other products.

There is no serum in this range, so after the wrinkle filler I massage a couple of drops of Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate into my skin and then apply the night cream - or to give it its proper name, the smoothing, Regenerating Night Balm. Like all the Avene creams it feels very pleasant to use - substantial but definitely not heavy.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - night cream

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - night cream

My morning routine is a lot more pared down - cleansing and toning followed by the eye cream and then the day cream. So far I haven't tried the emulsion - a lighter version of the day cream with a thinner consistency - as my skin seems to crave moisture at the moment. However, I will be holding this in reserve for the next time it decides to go through an oilier phase.

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - day cream

Avene PhysioLift range - Anti-Ageing skincare - day cream

I realise you can't tell the difference from this photo, but the cream on the left (for dry skin) is a thicker consistency than the emulsion (for normal to combination skin) on the right.

While the regenerating night balm contains all three active ingredients to smooth and plump your skin while you sleep, the day cream combines firming properties with Pre-Tocopheryl, a powerful anti-oxidant, to protect against the free radicals we come into contact with during the day. 

As I mentioned before, the combination of the whole range together is something that my skin is loving at the moment, and I would definitely recommend it. If you have sensitive skin but still want products that pack a serious punch when it comes to anti-ageing, then look no further. This range is super-effective yet gentle as anything.
Are you a fan of Avene? What's your favourite skincare brand?

Kate x
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Sweet Pink Valentine's Makeup

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This post wasn't exactly planned. One thing about moving house is that you end up having to sort through and organise all your stuff, and in the process you can rediscover old makeup favourites and even one or two bits you'd completely forgotten you had. This happened to me during my recent move, and as a result I ended up creating this soft pink look that I think would be perfect for a Valentine's date night.

Valentines Makeup featuring Clinique Chubby Stick in 14 Curvy Candy

I based the look around the Clinique Chubby Stick in the shade Curvy Candy, a very nice little product which was hiding under pretty much all the other makeup in my collection, and was a nice surprise for me to find when I tipped everything out to organise it during the move. I'd totally forgotten I owned this!

Clinique Chubby Stick, Collection Eyeshadow Palette and Highlighter, Clarins Blush, Real Techniques Brush

In my opinion, it's the ideal lip product to wear on a date (Valentine's or otherwise). It's pigmented enough to give your lips a pretty wash of colour, yet sheer enough not to get in the way of any kissing! And on that subject, it's also a moisturising balm, so it keeps your lips soft and hydrated with a subtle sheen. If all that doesn't make them look kissable, I don't know what will!

Curvy Candy is an almost bubblegum pink, but due to the sheer formula it translates a lot softer than that on the lips.

To compliment the colour, I decided to go for pink tones on my eyes as well. For this, I used my #YourStyleYourMood palette from Collection*. I'm still astonished by how good this is. It's the cheapest palette I own and one of my firm favourites, with beautiful shades and an impressive, buildable formula. For this look, I used the shade on the far left in the picture below all over my lids, and the purple shade on the right in my crease, outer corner and as a liner. I also took this purple below my lower lash line a little, to give a slight "doll eyes" effect.

Collection Eyeshadow Palette #YourStyleYourMood

FOTD featuring Collection Eyeshadow Palette in #YourStyleYourMood

Valentines MOTD featuring Collection Eyeshadow Palette in #YourStyleYourMood

The finishing touch was a little Collection Speedy Highlighter in the shade 01 on my cheekbones. I love, love, love wearing a highlight because I think it's just so pretty when it catches the light. This one from Collection is fantastic, and it's the one I used in my strobing post in case you want to find out a little more about it. I'm also wearing this Clarins blush - another product rediscovered during the move. It's their Illuminating Cheek Colour in 02 Soft Peach, which gives a nice natural glow to the skin.

Clarins blush, Collection Speedy Highlighter

Valentine's Day 2016 Makeup Look

On my face:

Base - Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation in Cool Bone, Collection Lasting Perfection concealer in 01 Fair, Rimmel Stay Matte powder in 003 Peach Glow

Brows - Nothing. I forgot about them. And yes, I know they're not even in the vicinity of "on fleek" right now. Someone call the Bloggers' Emergency Helpline!

Face - Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Bronzer in 01, Clarins Illuminating Cheek Colour in 02 Soft Peach, Collection Speedy Highlighter in 01 Pearl Sheen

Eyes - Collection #YourStyleYourMood palette, Benefit Roller Lash mascara

Lips - Clinique Chubby Stick in 14 Curvy Candy

So that's my makeup sorted. All I need now is for my husband to let me know which restaurant we're going to! ;-)

Anyone have Valentines plans this year? Either of the romantic or the girls' night out variety? If so, let me know if you have your outfit/makeup planned!

Kate x

*Gifted Item
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Cambridgeshire Part Three - Poets House, Ely

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Following a lovely night at Paddocks House and a day exploring Ely, Mike and I were ready to settle down to afternoon tea at our second hotel, Poets House.

The sister hotel to Paddocks House, this one's city centre location gives it a very different feel, while its outward appearance is different too. Housed within three elegant 1900s townhouses, it has a smart and sleek exterior.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire
 
Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Also very different is The Study, where we tucked in to a delicious afternoon tea following our day spent walking around Ely and climbing to the top of the cathedral. While this one shares the comfortable soft furnishings we found at Paddocks House, it has a livelier, more modern vibe, with floor to ceiling windows and huge feature bar.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - The Study

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - The Study
 
Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - The Study

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - The Study

We loved it in here. We also loved our afternoon tea, which was without a doubt my favourite meal of the whole trip and as good as any afternoon tea I've had anywhere.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Afternoon Tea

I went for lemon and ginger tea, my favourite blend besides traditional English breakfast, while Mike chose Earl Grey. We started with finger sandwiches, which were soft and delicious, in classic flavours like ham and mustard mayonnaise, smoked salmon and cream cheese and egg and cress. 

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Afternoon Tea

Funnily enough, I'm not generally a great fan of sandwiches, but there's just something about them in the context of afternoon tea that I can't get enough of. We had no difficulty in polishing this lot off in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Afternoon Tea

Then we moved on to the scones. These were amazing - still warm from the oven and ever so slightly crisp on the outside. We tried both the plain and the raisin filled variety and both were equally wonderful. My preference was for the plain ones - simply because I've never been particularly keen on raisins in baked goods - but Mike's favourites were the ones with raisins, so that worked out pretty well.

Drawing on lessons learnt from past afternoon tea experiences, I resisted the temptation to eat every last crumb of the scones. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life (OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration), but I had to do it for the cakes! Imagine if you were too full to properly appreciate these little works of art. Life is quite simply too short for those kind of regrets.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Afternoon Tea

If you're thinking that the raspberry macaron with the chocolate centre looks like heaven on a plate, you'd be right. But the little rectangular chocolate sponge with the crisp coffee beans on top was even better.

After all that food, there was nothing for it but to hibernate for a little bit, and attempt to build some kind of appetite back up for dinner. Our room was decked out just as the one at Paddocks House had been, and given how much I'd loved the decor there, that suited me just fine.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Rooms

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Rooms

The only feature that reminded us we were in Ely and not Newmarket was the charming view of the cathedral from our bedroom window. (The view actually made me think of the Anthony Trollope novel Barchester Towers. Bonus points to any fellow book nerds who've read it!)

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Rooms

And yes, there was a copper bathtub in the bedroom, just like at Paddocks House. I think I started running a bath the second we got back to our room! I want one of these at home.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Rooms

Now, I don't know what it is about food and holidays, but despite stuffing ourselves with sandwiches, scones and cake at four o'clock, by eight o'clock we were feeling just about ready for a small three course dinner.

And it's a good thing we were, because there were some treats in store.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Dining Room

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Dining Room

I began the meal with scallops and squid, which was beautifully delicate, and served with a light, lemongrass sauce. This was so good I basically inhaled it.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Dinner

For the main course, I went for slow cooked blade of beef with creamy mashed potato and vegetables. This was probably my least favourite of all the (many!) dishes I consumed while on this trip. I don't think that was due to it being done badly, though, I just think I made an uninformed choice from the menu. Sometimes you have an idea of what a dish is going to taste like and the reality ends up being quite different from what you expected, and that's what happened here. The potato and vegetables were lovely, especially the spinach. I just wasn't keen on the soft, crumbly texture of the beef.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Dinner

Dessert on the other hand.... Mmmm....

I'm a little bit rubbish at writing about restaurants because when it comes to dessert, 99 times out of 100 I am going to choose chocolate. You would think after the cakes at the afternoon tea I would go for something different, but no. I don't seem to be able to help it. I have a problem.

But this was chocolate fondant, which is probably my all-time favourite, so there was no way I was going to miss out. (Yes, I want to provide varied and interesting content on my blog, but not if it's going to interfere with dessert, OK?) I first discovered these heavenly creations when I lived in Belgium. They're called "moelleux au chocolat" over there and they basically consist of a warm, soft, rich chocolate sponge filled with hot chocolate sauce. This one, I'm happy to say, was a spectacular example, and the combination with the vanilla ice cream was out of this world.

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Dinner

I should have photographed the dreamy sauce oozing out of the middle as I cut into it, shouldn't I?

Oops...

Poets House Hotel, Ely, Cambridgeshire - Dinner

Too late now!

Mike and I both thoroughly enjoyed our flying visit to Cambridgeshire and both hotels we stayed at were fantastic. As much as I love going abroad, there's something really nice about discovering new places closer to home. Neither of us had been to this pretty county before, unless you count driving through it on our regular journeys between Kent and South Yorkshire. Now we know it's a place we want to go back to.

Where's your favourite place you've discovered that's close to home?

Kate x
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