10 Best Beauty Buys of 2013 | Beauty Favourites

10 Best Beauty Buys of 2013; l'oreal micellar water, maybelline fit me concealer, carmex mint gloss, rimmel scandeleyes eyeliner, urban decay naked pallette, real techniques buffing brush, real techniques face brush, barry m textured royal nail paint, rimmel lipstick, body shop mattifying primer, la roche posay efaclar duo, lying on a bed
It's incredible, how much can change in a year, and the beauty industry is no exception; 2013 saw the launch of a new breed of lip butters and stains in the form of Revlon's ColourBurst Lip Butters and Rimmel's Apocalips, another Naked palette (my Naked 3 review and some looks with the palette coming soon!), an explosion of textured nail polishes in the shape of Ciate's 'Chalkboard nails' and Barry M's 'Gelly' offerings, and a saturation of at-home hair dyes, namely L'Oreal's 'Wild Ombres' line and Bleach London's bleach and toner range, and it's been a pretty amazing time to be involved in blogging about the world of beauty, even if all the product releases have made choosing my favourite products for the year even more difficult than usual.
10 Best Beauty Buys of 2013; l'oreal micellar water, carmex mint gloss, la roche posay effaclar duo, lying on a bed
L-R: L'Oréal Paris Skin Perfection 3 in 1 Purifying Solution; Carmex Mint Moisturising Lip Balm; La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo.

L'Oréal Paris Skin Perfection 3 in 1 Purifying Solution: Up until recently, Bioderma Sensibo H20 was my go-to make up remover, but L'Oréal's offering has quickly blown it out of the water (no pun intended); not only does one cotton pad's worth of the solution remove all traces of foundation and concealer, but simply wiping your eyes gently rids your eyes of eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow quickly and painlessly - even for those of us with seriously sensitive eyes!
L'Oréal Paris Skin Perfection 3 in 1 Purifying Solution is available for £4.99 (currently on special offer for £3.33) at Boots.

Carmex Mint Moisturising Lip Balm: Winter is the worst time of year for my lips; they so often get dry, and applying lipstick can be a bit of a nightmare, but Carmex's lip balms are my absolute saviour (so much so that I have several around my home, just in case I can't find one). There are several different scents, but the mint version is my favourite, as it leaves your lips tingling, and I feel they look slightly plumper, as a result.
Carmex Mint Moisturising Lip Balm is available for £2.69 from Boots.

 La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo: This is one of the products I credit to clearing up my 'problem skin' (full review here); it's a little pricey, but mine has lasted well over a year, and it really is a 'holy grail' product.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo is available for £13 from Boots.
10 Best Beauty Buys of 2013; maybelline fit me concealer, real techniques buffing brush, real techniques face brush, body shop mattifying primer, lying on a bed
L-R: Maybelline 'Fit Me' Concealer; The Body Shop 'Matte It' Primer; Real Techniques Buffing Brush and Contour Brush.

Maybelline 'Fit Me' Concealer: My absolute favourite concealer; medium-to-full coverage, and in a vast variety of shades (perfect for even my pale complexion). You can also buy matching foundation, face powder, and blusher to suit your complexion, once you know which shade is best matched to your skin tone, within the 'Fit Me' range. The full review, featuring both the concealer and foundation, is here.
Maybelline 'Fit Me' Concealer is available from Boots for £5.99.

The Body Shop 'Matte It' Primer: I have very dry skin, naturally, and winter does not help, which means I often have to overload on moisturiser just to keep it healthy. However, heavy moisturisers and foundation often don't mix well, and can leave my skin a little...shiny. I've tried various face powders to combat this, but nothing worked - until I stumbled across a review of The Body Shop's 'Matte It' primer, and I haven't looked back. It's incredibly light, but there's an immediately visible reaction on your skin as soon as you apply it; one which stays in place all day, so that I rarely even need face powder, any more, making my make up look far more natural.
The Body Shop 'Matte It' Primer is available from The Body Shop for £12.

Real Techniques Buffing & Contour Brushes: Although these two brushes are only available as part of the Real Techniques Core Collection, it's a completely worthwhile investment, as far as I'm concerned. The buffing brush is an incredible tool for creating a flawless base, without a cakey effect, and the contour brush blends both bronzer and highlighter seamlessly. The other two brushes in the set are pretty handy, don't get me wrong, but these are the stand-alone highlights, as far as I'm concerned.
The Real Techniques Core Collection is available for £21.99 from Boots.
L-R: Barry M Textured Nail Paint in 'Lady'; Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette; Rimmel London ScandalEyes Micro Eyeliner; Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick in 'Coral Britannia'.
L-R: Barry M Textured Nail Paint in 'Lady'; Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette; Rimmel London ScandalEyes Micro Eyeliner; Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick in 'Coral Britannia'.

Barry M 'Royal Glitter' Nail Paint in 'Lady': Hands down, my favourite nail polish of the year. It's a snowy, glittery white, with a gorgeous frosted texture, and it's absolutely stunning.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette:  My favourite of the Naked palettes, so far; it's far easier to travel with than the other, larger, palettes, and comes in shades that work on both pale, and darker, skintones. It's also a cheaper alternative to the full-sized palettes, if you're worried about making the full investment for a larger palette. 
Urban Decay's Naked Basics palette is available from Debenhams and House of Fraser stores, as well as House of Fraser online, for £20.

Rimmel London ScandalEyes Micro Eyeliner: I've seen a lot of mixed reviews on the two ScandalEyes eyeliners, and whilst I have no experience of the 'Thick and Thin' liner, the Precision Micro liner is one of my favourite eyeliners, ever. With an ultra-fine tip, it's great for maneuvering and creating winged lines, as well as creating more subtle looks. It will dry out faster when stored somewhere too warm, but then, most good eyeliners would. I have had no issues with smudging or rubbing, even on a night out, and the price point is pretty impressive, too.
Rimmel London ScandalEyes Micro Eyeliner is available from Boots, for £3.49.

Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick in 'Coral Britannia': Anyone who's been following my blog for a while will know I have been in constant search of a good coral lipstick (finding one when you're as pale as I am is no easy feat), and I finally found one in the latest additions to the 'Moisture Renew' line, which were already my favourite formula of lipsticks. The bottom line is that the Moisture Renew lipsticks are rich, creamy, long-lasting, and pretty vibrant, to boot, and this shade is absolutely gorgeous.
Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick is available from Boots for £6.49 (but is currently on offer for £4.49).
Can you believe 2013 is almost over? Personally, this year seemed to fly by, for me - and although there were some incredible highlights, I'm definitely ready for 2014.
What are your must-have products of 2013? 
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Red Pepper and Risotto | Low-Calorie Recipe

red pepper, onion, and risotto rice in a pan, being stirred by a red spatula
Personally, I don't think there's much better to come home to on a cold, dreary evening than the promise of a warm comfort meal, and for me, the cheesy, creamy prospect of an incredibly filling risotto fits the bill perfectly. Unfortunately, some of the more 'traditional' recipes that have been floating around my family for decades are a little too rich, to enjoy often, so, as per usual, I took it upon myself to find a lighter alternative that I could enjoy as often as possible.
risotto rice being weighed out in a square bowl on a salter scale
Risotto isn't a dish I'd recommend for any impatient cooks, and it's the kind of meal you really have to take some time to get right, but that's one of the reasons I think I enjoy making it so much - although most of the time when I'm at university or working, I'm a bit of a convenience cook with pretty plain tastes (I'm quite happy to live on vegetable couscous most of the time), I love being able to take my time over a dish, too, and this is definitely one of those meals.
red pepper and white onion chopped next to each other on a chopping boardbroth in a pot, bubbling
As far as risottos go, this one's pretty simple, actually, and leaves lots of room for variation; it all starts with some vegetable stock (I make mine from cubes, but you're more than welcome to put me to shame and use fresh!), some diced pepper and onion, and a couple of servings of Arborio rice (please, please, please don't try this with regular rice; it might be perfectly edible, but it's certainly not going to be enjoyable).
onion and red pepper being sauteed in a pan
Cook the pepper and onion (as well as any other veg you feel like throwing into the mix) through - I like to add a dash of chilli and paprika to give the vegetables a bit of warmth, and the fact that it gives the pepper such a gorgeous colour certainly helps. Add the Arborio rice, and remember: this is the easy bit, so enjoy it while it lasts.
red pepper, onion, and risotto rice being immersed in broth in a large panred pepper, onion, and arborio rice with a residue of broth in a pan, being stirred
Because soon enough, you're ready for the stirring. Now, there are a number of techniques for adding your stock to the rice, but I always abide by the same rule - adding a cup of the stock at a time, and allowing the rice to absorb the entire amount before even thinking about adding another. This particular method is a bit of a commitment - it certainly takes longer than a few other recipes I've seen, but it's probably the only reason my risotto somehow manages to come out edible every time, so I stick to it! This stage can take anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on how you like the texture of your risotto, but I like mine fairly al dente and it generally takes me about half an hour of constant stirring, pouring and tasting to get it to a standard I'm happy with; once you've done this, it's a simple case of adding your cheese of choice, and you're good to go!
low calorie red pepper risotto on a plate  
Perfect risotto, every time.
Low-Calorie Red Pepper Risotto (Serves 2):
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 150g Arborio rice
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 80g cheese (I use Weightwatchers' low-fat cheddar, but any good 'melting' cheese should work)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp salt (I use low-sodium salt, but you're free to omit this!)
Have your stock simmering gently on the stove before you do anything else - it's vital that it stays as warm as possible whilst you're preparing the other ingredients!
  1. Lightly oil a large pan (I use Fry Light 'better than butter' spray); whilst waiting for the oil to heat in the pan, coarsely dice both the bell pepper and onion. Throw them both into the hot oil alongside the paprika, chilli and salt, and allow them to cook through slightly - about 4 minutes should be fine.
  2. Add the Arborio rice to the sizzling pepper and onion mix, thoroughly combining them over the heat for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Using a measuring cup (a small mug will suffice if you don't have one), pour a cupful of the vegetable stock into the Arborio and vegetable mixture, so that it's just covered by the liquid. Stir until the water is nearly completely absorbed, then add a second cup of broth. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked through, which should take about 30 - 40 minutes. You may not use all of the stock, so don't panic!
  4. When you're happy with the rice's texture, remove it from the heat and stir in your cheese, mixing continuously until it melts entirely into the risotto, then dish up ASAP - it's best steaming hot!
Calories: 394 per portion.
Don't forget to let me know if you try out the recipe!
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Tan Cut Out Ankle Boots | New In

tan cut out ankle boots with slight heels and two gold buckles on overlapping straps on the side, sitting next to each other on a red and pink floral bedspread
Winter's coming; whilst the odd scattering of sunshine occasionally peaks through the clouds (in Kent, at least), there's just no avoiding the fact that it's slowly becoming colder, the days are becoming greyer, the nights darker.
Personally, I couldn't be happier with the onset of the colder months; despite being a July baby, I've always preferred being wrapped up in a scarf, wandering around under Oxford Street's Christmas lights, or snuggling up under a blanket with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate.
tan cut out ankle boots with slight heels and two gold buckles on overlapping straps on the side, sitting next to each other on a red and pink floral bedspread on francescasophia.co.uk
Whilst normally, at this time of year, I'd have started a list for all my Christmas shopping (only 13 weekends left to shop for your loved ones!), the promise of student finance next week meant a recent trip to New Look left me giving in, shamelessly, to the temptation of one of my biggest weaknesses; new shoes.
Don't get me wrong; these boots are wildly impractical; the heel won't do for icy streets (or the cobbled ones in Canterbury, really), and once we reach a cold snap in October or November, I don't doubt I'll freeze in these, due to the cut-outs…but honestly, all my intentions of buying myself some sensible footwear evaporated the second I laid eyes on these.
And, at £24.99 (not including student discount, for anyone else who's making the most of their NUS card before they lose the luxury for good!), who can blame me for being totally suckered in?
The Cut Out Panel Buckle Boots are currently on sale for £22.49, and are available in both tan and black, from New Look stores, or on their website.
What's your most recent 'impractical buy'?

Joules Duvets | Lifestyle

1. Reversible Cambridge floral duvet cover; 2. Sunbird floral duvet cover.

As anyone who knows me (and/or follows me on Instagram) knows, I have a pretty severe obsession with homeware and interior design; I'm the girl who buys Elle Decoration, makes mood boards, and watches all the blogger 'room tours' on YouTube...despite the fact that, being a full-time student, I don't actually have a permanent residence, yet.
Naturally, this means I have to channel my obsession into more accessible options, and aside from hoarding candles/tealight holders, my biggest homeware obsession has to be duvets.
3. Reversible hotch potch duvet set; 4. English garden duvet cover.

Right now, I'm actually a little torn between which of these four gorgeous offerings from the Joules range of duvet covers to add to my collection - I've always had white floral duvets, for as long as I can remember, so I'm leaning slightly toward the more vibrant aqua options, but beyond that, I really can't decide (which means I'll probably cave and order both). Fingers crossed I reach a decision soon, though - my university bedroom is in need of a serious makeover!
Joules' duvet covers range between £40-£55, and can be found on their website, here.
Are you a fan of homeware/interiors?
Or am I the only one who finds the prospect this exciting?
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Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate | Product Review

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate sitting in its original packaging, on an embroidered white floral duvet
I've made no real secret of the fact that, for the past few years, I've been struggling with 'problem skin' (you can see the entire archive on my skincare here); however, as I mentioned recently (here), my skin's been on the up for a while, and I've found myself having to deal with an entirely new problem - scarring. Having read what felt like a thousand reviews for various overnight treatments, I found myself torn between Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate, and Estée Lauder's Advanced Night Repair Recovery Complex; naturally, the decision came down to price, and I finally took the plunge and ordered myself the Midnight Recovery Concentrate a few months ago.
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate sitting in its bottle on a white embroidered floral duvet on francescasophia.co.uk
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate comes in a gorgeous midnight blue glass bottle (and that is what you call taking a concept and running with it!), and has a drop/pipette applicator, which means you don't end up wasting any of that precious liquid. The scent is vaguely herbal, but not particularly noticeable, and the liquid itself is a dry oil (think the scented oils you'd use in a diffuser), so your skin isn't left with that horrid greasy residue that a lot of overnight serums leave behind.
As for the effects? It's been a month, and the scarring has gone down, noticeably so - so much so that I now actually feel comfortable leaving the house without any skin make up on (unheard of, for me, from the age of about 13). I'll probably have to make my peace with the fact that I'll never have 'glowing' skin, but this product has been a miracle-worker for evening out my skin tone, and getting me my confidence back.
Would I recommend? Obviously, the high price point seems a little off-putting, but honestly, whilst I can't speak for everyone else, I know that the amount of 'drug store' alternatives I've tried for this very problem probably amounts to much more money, over the years - and I honestly believe this product is worth every penny. My skin is smooth, much more even, and feels healthier; no longer as dry as my many treatments and lotions have made it, over the years. I'd really suggest anyone with similar problems invests.
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate has an RRP of £36, and can be bought from Liberty, John Lewis, or Kiehl's stores, as well as Kiehl's online store.
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The (Freezable!) Chocolate Chip Cookie | Recipe

a chocolate chip cookie, broken in half, revealing oozing chocolate and gooey cookie on francescasophia.co.uk
In case you couldn't tell from my growing list of recipes, I love to experiment in the kitchen; baking, cooking, making cupcakes to order, dishing out homemade Christmas gifts, I'm all for trying new things - but I think it's pretty important to have the basics down, too. Few things are as soothing as a fresh chocolate chip cookie, straight from the oven, warm and just-soft-enough in the middle. They're the first thing I think of when my friends are looking for a bit of comfort food and sympathy, and with this recipe, you can make yourself a huge batch, and keep a few in your freezer, ready to be baked (or microwaved!), for any little 'comfort emergencies' (break-ups, bust-ups and over-emotional stess-isodes) that might spring up.
chopped chocolate on a chopping board brown sugar and butter in a mixing bowl, ready to be mixed
Any recipe that starts with taking a bar (or two!) of chocolate and breaking it into pretty huge chunks with a knife (carefully, though!) is going to be a good one. And the creaming of butter and sugar together doesn't exactly make it unappealing, either.
cookie dough with chocolate chunks in a mixing bowl with a wooden spatula, on francescasophia.co.uk
Cookie dough is pretty much one of my favourite things in the world; in fact, if you leave out the egg in this recipe, you can quite easily just munch on this with a few girlfriends, whenever you need one of those 'lets just pretend calories don't exist' evenings.
six balls of raw cookie dough lying on a baking sheet on a baking tray, ready to go into the oven six cookies on a baking tray in the oven, in the process of baking
If you're not feeling quite that trashy (not that I'm knocking it, trashy's fun, every once in a while), you simply have to scoop the dough onto a lined baking sheet, and then either whip up a batch by throwing them in the oven for 10 minutes, or place them, still on the baking tray, into the freezer for about an hour - just until they're frozen enough that you can remove them all from the baking tray and transfer them to a food bag without them sticking together - then, next time you get a craving, you can bake fresh cookies, one at a time - perfect for if you just want a quick sweet treat, without having to make the whole batch!
6 cookies on baking parchment, fresh from the oven and perfectly round
The dough will keep in the freezer for about three weeks, and can be microwaved for about 2 minutes.
Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 24 small cookies.

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 350g light brown sugar
  • 400g flour (all-purpose)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225g dark chocolate
  1. Preheat the oven to 170° (gas mark 3); chop the chocolate bar into large chunks, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Combine the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl, mixing thoroughly so everything's evenly distributed.
  3. Separately, cream together the butter and sugar, being careful not to overmix (this will make your cookies spread & go flat) - about 2 minutes by hand should do it; add the eggs to this mixture, one at a time, and the vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, stirring until it's just combined. Then add the chopped chocolate, mixing just enough that the chunks are evenly distributed through the mix. 
  5. Use an ice cream scoop to get consistently even cookies, scooping 6 cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet at a time; cook the cookies in batches, placing each newly filled tray into the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. 
  6. If freezing the cookies, place the filled baking sheet into the freezer, and allow to set for about an hour; then remove the dough balls from the sheet and place into a food bag, back in the freezer, for up to 3 weeks.
What do you consider to be your 'baking basics'?
When was your last 'emergency comfort food' situation?
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Macaroni Cheese | Recipe

Despite having what has been referred to, on many occasions, as a 'very Italian' name, I've always identified with my Greek heritage more than anything else, in all but one area; food.
Sundays, when I was a child, would revolve around my father, waking late on his one day off of the week, sorting through cupboards, delving into the back of the fridge, scraping together the leftover vegetables and whipping up a lasagne, or delving out the week's leftover cheese and weaving out a seemingly-elaborate risotto as an early dinner. Paired with the fact that, for most of my teenage years, I was a strict vegetarian, not something that agrees well with the traditional Greek cooking that I might've learned from my mother's family, it's no wonder that, when I first began developing an interest in cooking - for myself and friends - Italian cuisine was what I gravitated to, and it's always where I end up settling, when I'm in need of a little...comfort. 
plate of macaroni cheese
There's a lot of debate, among (mostly Italian) foodies as to whether Mac 'n' Cheese is actually Italian, at all, but there are various members of my (estranged) family who might just hunt me down and throttle me for daring to suggest it's not based on a traditional version of Carbonara - so I'm going to leave well alone. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I have altered the original recipe, out of both practicality (the Fontina cheese my family claims to be 'vital' isn't sold everywhere), and taste (I found the full-fat cream in my original far too rich, and instead opted for an idea Nigella Lawson suggested, in her version; evaporated milk). Come to think of it, she also uses Red Leicester cheese - so much for my 'traditional roots'!
It's hardly a waistline-friendly meal, so I haven't ever bothered to calculate the nutritional information (I firmly believe the odd 'cheat meal' is good for the soul), but I am working on a healthy option, which I'll (hopefully!) be sharing in the next month or so.
Macaroni Cheese: (Including some adaptations from Nigella Lawson's version, here).
Makes 6 servings.
  • 250g macaroni pasta (I use white, just because it's easier to buy, but you're welcome to try wholegrain).
  • 2 medium eggs. 
  • 200g Red Leicester cheese, grated.
  • 200g mature cheddar cheese, grated.
  • 250ml evaporated milk (you can use cream, if you prefer a richer taste).
  • 3/4 tsp powdered nutmeg.
  •  1/2 tsp salt.
  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 8, and prepare the macaroni; there should be instructions on your pack, but generally, you want to boil it in lightly salted (we're talking a teaspoon) water for about 12 minutes to get a nice al-dente pasta. It'll soften slightly in the oven, so just be aware.
  2. In the meantime, whisk together your two types of cheese, making sure they're fairly evenly mixed. I'd recommend doing this manually, with a balloon whisk, as it ensures the cheese is relatively coarse.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until they're just combined, then add the evaporated milk, whisking until it's just incorporated. Throw in your nutmeg and salt.
  4. Add half the egg mixture to your cheese, pouring it over the top slowly, and mixing well. When it's incorporated, add the remaining liquid mix.
  5. Once the macaroni's cooked, take about two tablespoons' worth of the water it was boiling in, and pour it straight into the cheese mix. Then, drain the macaroni and combine that, too.
  6. Pour the macaroni cheese mixture into a pyrex dish (mine's about 33cm x 24cm), and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the top starts to brown slightly.
I have to apologise for the rubbish pictures accompanying this post, but I wasn't really sure I'd bother to share the recipe until I posted on Instagram and there was some interest in it - sorry!
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Mikas Pond Stacy Wallet by Kate Spade | New In

kate spade mikas pond stacy wallet in tiffany blue in kate spade packaging, on a floral white duvet
I think every girl I know is guilty of a fashion 'obsession'; shoes, scarves, rings...I even have one friend who collects various styles and shades of tights(!), and keeps them all lined up in a special drawer. Personally, though, my biggest love has to be handbags. Barely a month goes by where I haven't splurged on some new style or other that I just have to have. 
Because of this, I guess always came as a bit of a surprise to my friends when I reached into whatever gorgeous new piece of arm candy I was carrying that week, and plucked out the same, old, tattered River Island purse I'd been dragging around since I was 15. 
kate spade mikas pond stacy wallet in tiffany blue lying on a white embroidered duvet
Luckily, though, I just had a pretty big birthday, and decided this was the best time to get a stylish upgrade to a slightly swankier wallet. After what felt like months of indecision (Miu Miu? Marc Jacobs? Mulberry?), I eventually settled on one of my favourite designers' offerings - Kate Spade's 'Mika's Pond' Stacy wallet, in 'Fresh Air' (or, as I prefer to refer to it, 'Tiffany-box-blue').
mikas pond stacy wallet by kate spade lying open, revealing several loyalty and debit cards, as well as a london Oyster card
Like most students I know, I rarely carry cash around with me, and rely instead on debit cards, student cards, and loyalty cards to get me through my serious shopping addiction, so the 12 card slots that the Stacy wallet offers is pretty much ideal - and, being a part time Londoner, the ID compartment is perfect for Oyster card storage, so I don't have to fumble around in my bag when I'm about to hop on the bus or tube.
It's probably too soon to call it, but honestly, I think it might be love.

The 'Mikas Pond' Stacy wallet is available in the UK, for an RRP of £80, from Kate Spade stores.
What's your most overlooked accessory?
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Malin + Goetz Acne Treatment | Product Review

malin + goetz acne treatment in its box
When my 'problem skin' was at its worst, spot reduction treatments did nothing to help; having what feels like more imperfections than actual clear skin means that applying treatments to specific areas is just time-consuming and, more often than not, expensive.
Now, though, with my skin being in what might be its best condition ever (more on that in an upcoming post...!), treatments aimed at reducing nasty imperfections as they appear are vital, and I found myself on the hunt for something that could quickly and painlessly reduce nasty hormonal problems as quickly as possible.

malin + goetz acne treatment sitting on a wooden dressing table; the formula has separated, so a white powder sits on the bottom, and a clear liquid sits on top.
After reading through what felt like a thousand reviews for spot reduction treatments with no real luck, I stumbled across a rave review of Malin + Goetz's acne treatment, and was instantly intrigued by the unusual application process; unlike most treatments, you don't shake the bottle before use, but instead use a cotton bud to bypass the clear alcohol solution at the top of the bottle, and apply the white, sulfur-based mixture that's settled at the bottom of the bottle to the offending imperfection. It leaves a fairly hideous white residue on the areas it's applied to, overnight, which then has to be rinsed off in the morning, so it's not always ideal if you're sharing a bathroom, but it doesn't leave your skin feeling dry or stinging after treatment, either.
malin + goetz acne treatment sitting on a wooden dressing table, with several Clinique lotions sitting behind it; the formula has separated, so a white powder sits on the bottom, and a clear liquid sits on top.
Overall, I have to say I am hugely impressed with this offering from Malin + Goetz; although the price does initially seem a little steep, for such a small product, it's lasted me well over 8 months (although I only really use it for 'emergencies'), and it's a complete miracle-worker for getting those angry, red, or painful problem areas to reduce in size overnight - and without the dry, flaky, skin most spot treatments leave behind. Plus, if the solution ever dries out, just pouring a small amount of alcohol into the bottle soon refreshes it!

Would I recommend it? Definitely; for anyone who has uncommon, or hormonal spots, or has a habit of getting one or two huge imperfections once in a while. Not, however, if you suffer from more general 'bad skin' - although I do have a post coming up for those of you that applies to, in the next couple of weeks.
Malin + Goetz Acne Treatment retails for £16.50, and is available from Space NK stores, or on their website.
What's your favourite fast-acting treatment for pesky imperfections?
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Botanics 'Ultra Calm' Skin Calming Night Cream | Product Review

botanics 'ultra calm' skin calming night cream pot open with the box sitting behind it on a floral bed cover
There's been quite a lot of buzz around the Botanics range on the Blogosphere lately, and for good reason - with ranges that span bath, hair and men's products, and a skincare ranges for brightening, mattifying and soothing skin, amongst other things, there's something for everyone and every kind of skin problem. I'm a huge fan of their products, having fallen in love with their 'All Bright' brightening night cream earlier this year (review here), so when I was on the hunt for something to soothe away my post-winter dry, sensitive skin a few weeks ago, the 'Ultra Calm' range seemed the best choice.
botanics 'ultra calm' skin calming night cream in its pot with the box next to it on a floral duvet
The first thing I noticed about 'Ultra Calm' was the texture; I'm used to rich, thick night creams, but on first application, it came across as more of a serum, or lotion, which did mean it wasn't as heavy on the skin - no greasy residue, the morning after - but also meant it wasn't quite as rich as I'd have liked. Whilst my skin was well-nourished, by morning, it wasn't quite as soft and dewy as I'd been hoping, leaving me with the impression that it would have been better used as a day cream, in which case this would be a rave review. Instead, I'm slightly underwhelmed with the moisture offered by 'Ultra Calm' - although, having switched it to my day time beauty routine for a few weeks, I have noticed my skin tone being much more even. 

Would I recommend it? Yes, for anyone with sensitive, dry, or uneven skin, as a day time moisturiser, but not really as a night cream. 
Botanics 'Ultra Calm' Skin Calming Night Cream retails for £6.99 from Boots stores, or online.
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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas | Low Calorie Snacking Recipe

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas in a tupperware bowl, on an IKEA duvet
Whilst I've been loving the benefits of sticking to cleaner, healthier eating habits this year, it's not always easy to stick to a healthy lifestyle when you're a student; between running to campus and back, late-night cram sessions and trying to maintain a social life, meal preparation isn't always easy - and having healthy, nutritious snacks to grab on the go is vital.
Spicy Roasted Chickpeas in a tupperware bowl, on an IKEA duvet
These chickpeas are spicy, salty, and crunchy - the perfect alternative to crisps or high-calorie, sugary trail or cracker mixes, and the great thing is, they're easy - and cheap! - to make; you can whip up a pretty sizeable batch in about 40 minutes, and keep them stored in airtight containers for about two weeks.
Spicy Roasted Chickpeas:
Makes 2 servings.Ingredients:
  • 400g tin of chickpeas.
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning.
  • 1 tsp salt.
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°, then drain your chickpeas using a colander or sieve; the kind I use come in water, but if yours come in another solution (oil etc), you might want to give them a good rinse before continuing. Shake out as much of the excess water as possible, before transferring the chickpeas onto some kitchen towel to absorb any leftover water.
  2. Whilst the chickpeas are drying slightly, work on your spice mix, by combining spices into a large bowl; I find cajun seasoning and salt to be just perfect for my tastes, but you could also try using some vinegar to make a salt and vinegar snack alternative to crisps! 
  3. Add the chickpeas to whichever seasoning you're using, stirring thoroughly, until the chickpeas are as evenly coated as possible, before moving them onto a large baking tray. You want them to be as spread out as possible, so they'll cook evenly.
  4. Place the baking tray into the oven for about 15 minutes; at this point, take the chickpeas out and mix them up a little on the tray, just to make sure they're evenly cooked. Then place back in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes. If they seem to be getting a little too brown, at any point, just move them around again.
  5. Separate into two airtight containers and enjoy!
Calories: 290 | Carbs: 39g | Fat: 7g | Protein: 17g*
* Calorie and nutritional information calculated using the MyFitnessPal Recipe Calculator, and using the specific brands mentioned above.

Moving from GFC to Bloglovin' | How To Easily Import the Blogs You're Following

screenshot of the bloglovin' page from francescasophia.co.uk
So, if you've been at all present on the Blogosphere for the past couple of months, you're probably aware that good old Google Friend Connect is on its way out, and, come July 1st, we'll all have to work out a new way to follow our favourite blogs.
Personally, I've always been a huge fan of Bloglovin', and the transfer process was so simple that it was a bit of a no-brainer for me; I figured I'd whip up a post about it, though, just in case anyone else was still on the look-out for a new way to manage their blogs.
screenshot of the bloglovin' page to move your google reader subscriptions to bloglovin'
So, if you haven't got a Bloglovin' account yet, you can sign up here. If you do have an account, just make sure you're logged in.
Now, just click this link, and the above page should appear. Hit 'Import from Google Reader' and you're good to go!
a screenshot of the main bloglovin' dropdown menu
Now, if you're not a stickler for organisation, or you'd prefer seeing all your blogs in one feed, you can pretty much leave it at that; if, however, like me, their are quite a few different types of blog you follow, now's the best time to categorise them; just hover over the little heart icon in the top right-hand corner, click on 'manage blogs you follow', and add categories such as 'lifestyle', 'beauty' and 'fashion', so you can easily filter your subscriptions according to your mood - and then you're done!

How are you managing your blog subscriptions now GFC is no more?
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