Christmas '14 | Haul Post

Christmas present haul 2014 ft. miette, hummingbird, swarovski, benefit, viktor & rolf, lush
I know I'm not the only one who enjoys nosing around other bloggers' Christmas presents, this time of year, so I figured I'd throw together a little 'haul' post - even if it is nearly a week after the 'big day'. (Insert the usual disclaimer about not bragging, just sharing, here.)
Benefit Cheeky Sweet Spot, Lush Cosmetics Snow Fairy, Viktor & Rolf Bon Bon
I was very lucky, with the beauty gifts I got, this year; Lush's 'Snow Fairy' is my favourite seasonal beauty product ever, and it's always on my list for Santa, so I was pretty excited to unwrap this giant bottle.
Anyone who knows me (or reads my blog) probably knows about my obsession healthy interest with Benefit blushers, so their 'Cheeky Sweet Spot' is my idea of heaven. It's a selection of 6 of their best-selling blushers and bronzers, as well as a sample size of their 'Watts Up' highlighter, and I haven't stopped using it since I got it.
Having been a huge fan of Viktor & Rolf's 'Flowerbomb' ever since its release, I knew 'BonBon' was the one for me from the moment I caught a whiff of it in the perfume department at work - and I was definitely right.
Miette Bakery Cookbook and Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
It's no big secret that I'm a bit of an amateur baker (the evidence is in my archive), and both the Miette Bakery cookbook and The Hummingbird Bakery's latest release are welcome additions to my ever-expanding collection. Now I just have to find the time to actually bake...
Swarovski Stardust Double Bracelet in Vintage Rose with Rose Gold Clasp
Last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas present this year ever: my beloved Swarovski Stardust bracelet! I've been in love with the Stardust collection ever since I saw Miranda Kerr in their Stardust campaign, so I could not have been more pleased when this arrived under the tree; this is the Vintage Rose 'Double' bracelet, but they come in a huge selection of colours, and in the single option, too.
What did Santa bring you for Christmas? Are you as nosey as I am when it comes to Christmas 'hauls'?
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The Body Shop 'Lipscuff' Lip Exfoliator | Product Review

Although winter is, by far, my favourite season, it does nothing for my skin, lips, or hair; all three dry out, without fail, the second the weather starts getting cooler, and it can be a real pain to adjust the beauty routine accordingly. Seeing as I've been trying to branch out into bolder lip colours, this year, finding a decent lip scrub became pretty important for winter prep, and unfortunately I've never been a huge fan of the Lush lip scrubs, so I went on the lookout for something a little different.
Thankfully, when I was hiding from the rain in The Body Shop a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a tube of 'Lipscuff' on display, and I knew my problems were over. I'd been a huge fan of this product, a few years ago, when it seemed to disappear - constantly unavailable on the website and seemed impossible to get in-store - and I was devastated.

Luckily for me, it's back, and every bit as amazing as I'd remembered it.
Lipscuff is a mint-scented exfoliator which is incredibly easy to use: simply apply as you would a normal lipstick, rub your lips together, and remove the excess with a tissue, and you're good to go! It moisturises at the same time as exfoliating, so it creates a perfect base for lip colour, too.
Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat. It lasts for ages, and makes your lips silky smooth in one use. What else could you ask for?
Lipscuff is available from The Body Shop stores nationwide, or on their website, here for an RRP of £8.
What are your go to winter survival products?
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Red Velvet Swirl Cake | Product Review and Recipe

Anyone who's been following my blog, Instagram, or Pinterest for a while has probably noticed my obsession keen interest in baking. However, having just started a new job in retail, I don't have as much time as I'd like to indulge the interest, and it's been a little frustrating.
That's why, when I was contacted on behalf of Betty Crocker about trying out some of their cake mixes(*), I jumped at the chance; I'd used them once or twice during my time at university, but never got to experiment with them much, so I decided to try out something a little different: red velvet swirl cake.
For this little creation of mine, I used two full-sized Betty Crocker mixes; the red velvet and classic vanilla, which meant I opted to make two cakes (!) instead of one. I hadn't tried the red velvet before, but I knew the vanilla mix was very light, so I didn't really worry about one being too dense and sinking, like I would when marbling any mix I'd made from scratch.
Anyone who's used any of the Betty Crocker mixes before knows how easy they are to whip up; all you have to do is empty the mix into a bowl, throw in a few eggs, a splash of water, and a teaspoon or two of oil, and you're ready to go. The process for this wasn't much different; I simply mixed the two batters up separately, then poured half of the vanilla mix into the bottom of a greased cake tin, topping it with the red velvet mix. Obviously I then had to repeat this process, as I had enough for two cakes.
Personally, this is my favourite part of any 'swirl cake'; the swirling. All you really have to do is grab a butter knife and drag it through the mixture until it starts to look...well, swirl-y (yes, that is the technical term). Then, it's just a case of baking them, and that can be slightly different from the instructions; generally, when you're mixing two different cake mixes, it can take an extra 10-15 minutes to bake both of them all the way through, so keep an eye on them!
...and that's it! A pretty impressive looking (and sounding!) cake, in a matter of minutes' work. All of the fun of getting creative in the kitchen, without any of the measuring, weighing, or mess. And the Betty Crocker mixes are so rich, light, and moist, that they're honestly better than some that I've made from scratch.
Plus, red velvet and vanilla swirl is officially my new favourite cake flavour, I'd seriously recommend you all try out this 'recipe'...and definitely let me know if you do!

Do you ever use cake mixes to save time? What's your favourite?
Betty Crocker cake mixes (*) retail for about £2.25, and are available from all good supermarkets.
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Autumn/Winter Transitional Nails | Five Favourites

five favourite autumn (fall) winter transition nail polishes
L-R: Models Own 'Ibiza Mix'; Barry M 'Majesty'; Models Own 'Concrete Mixer'; Essie 'Island Hopping'; Revlon 'Smouldering'.

I. Love. Autumn. Winter will always be my favourite season (even though I'm a summer baby), but there's something about the crisp coolness of autumn that I just can't help but adore. Naturally, I also love the transition in beauty products; coppery smokey eyes, bolder lips, and of course, autumn nails. If you've been reading on-thebias for a while, you probably know I'm completely obsessed with nail polish, so I've chosen my 5 favourite shades for the transition between autumn and winter, just for a little 'A/W inspiration'.
five favourite autumn (fall) winter transition nail polishes
L-R: Models Own 'Ibiza Mix'; Barry M 'Majesty'; Models Own 'Concrete Mixer'; Essie 'Island Hopping'; Revlon 'Smouldering'.

1. Models Own 'Ibiza Mix': This is a gorgeous, dense, multi-coloured, glitter from the 'Hed Kandi' collection. With huge flakes of gold, teal, copper, and lilac, in a translucent grey base, it's perfect for filling the gap between summer's bright colours and the sparkles of the festive season. I'd recommend a base colour if you're looking for full opacity, though.

2. Barry M 'Majesty': From the Royal Glitters collection, this muted gold is very wearable for most skin tones, and is so gorgeous for this season. It's textured, so is pretty durable, even on dry or brittle cold-weather nails, and applies like a dream - fully opaque in two coats, and fast-drying, what more could a girl ask for?

3. Models Own 'Concrete Mixer': This is one of those gorgeous muted shades that nearly every brand has its own version of (OPI's 'Did you 'Ear about Van Gogh?' and Essie's 'Playa Del Platinum' spring to mind). As the name suggests, it's a muted cement-coloured grey/green hybrid, and is very wearable - if you're a fan of nudes and neutrals in the summer, this should be your go-to fall nail colour choice, for sure.

4. Essie 'Island Hopping': Although this was released in Essie's 'Bahamas' Spring/Summer collection a few years ago, I only ever think of this muted mauve as an autumn shade. If you're fair, like me, or just don't favour darker tones, this is a happy medium between the dark purples which are more popular at this time of year, and the pale shades you'd be wearing in summer. Like some Essie polishes, it's a little thin, so you may need three coats to get full opacity, but the colour payoff is worth it!

5. Revlon 'Smouldering': This is a new addition to my collection, and it's already a favourite; it's an iridescent grey/blue colour with metallic undertones, and I think it would easily take you through to winter, too, paired with a sparse glitter. I can't even do this colour justice with words, just do yourself a favour and pop into your nearest Boots to check it out, it's so gorgeous.
What are your favourite autumn nail colours?
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How I Got the Red Out of my Hair | Colour B4 Product Review & Before and After

Colour B4 hair colour remover review
I was a redhead for about a year, before the usual tell-tale signs of hair colour boredom started to show up; every day seemed like a bad hair day, I started pinning a thousand different hair colours and styles to my pinterest board (here), and spent about 10 minutes of every Boots trip gazing longingly at their selection of hair dyes. It was time for a change.
Naturally, I panicked: I'd struggled through a period of too-dark hair colours for a good few years, and anything that was going to cover the vibrant red my hair had been for 12 months was going to have to be pretty dark. I cringed at the thought of bleaching my whole head. Salons were not in my sales advisor budget. And then I came across Colour B4 Extra Strength in Boots.
The before and after; one application of Colour B4 Extra Strength.
Disclaimer: This is not the colour I left it, obviously.

Colour B4 doesn't bleach the hair, but aims to take it back to the lightest colour it was pre-dye, by doing something complicated-sounding which involves shrinking the molecules of dye. I figured it was better than a) dying my hair black, or b) bleaching it all, so decided to give it a shot.

The application process is really simple: you mix the two solutions in the kit together and apply it all over the hair, then leave it to develop. It smells absolutely vile, I can't lie - kind of rotten-egg-ish (and that's not an exaggeration, I wish it was), so keep a window open. The only difficult part is the rinsing; the process involves rinsing the hair for 10 minutes continuously, then applying a 'buffer' (included), before rinsing for another 10 minutes. Needless to say, it's not fun, but at least it gets the job done.
Having very light hair (read: natural ginger, right here), getting all that pigment out was never going to be easy, but I was very pleasantly surprised by Colour B4, and the product really did get me back to my pre-dye colour (as you can hopefully see above).
Colour B4 retails for £9.99, and is available from Boots stores, or on their website, here.
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Soap & Glory 'Glow All Out' Luminizing Face Powder | Product Review & Swatches

I have a bit of a confession to make: up until recently, I'd never tried anything from the Soap & Glory beauty range. Bad blogger! I've been a huge fan of their bath products for years, but their cosmetics range was always a little pricier than I'd have liked, and it wasn't until Boots had a 'Buy One, Get One Half Price' offer recently that I finally got to test some out.
I picked up the 'Glow All Out' luminizing face powder for two reasons: 1. out of hope that it might be a replacement for my beloved Sleek contour kit highlighter (here), and 2. the packaging. Like all the Soap & Glory products, there's a gorgeous retro twist to the compact, and it's actually surprisingly sturdy (meaning it survives even in my overpacked bag). That's kind of where our brief love affair ended, however.
Now, let me explain; 'Glow All Out' is gorgeous; it's a lovely shell-pink toned highlight, it has just the right amount of shimmer, and it blends like a dream. It really is a gorgeous product, and I'd recommend it for anyone who uses highlighter instead of blusher or for anyone looking for a natural summer glow...but not for those of us who need a neutral highlight for contouring. I'm sure I'll be digging this out of my make up bag when summer swings back around, but for right now, it's not you, 'Glow All Out', it's me.
Soap & Glory's 'Glow All Out' Luminizing Face Powder retails for £11, and is available from Boots stores nationwide, or on the Boots website, here.
What's your favourite Soap & Glory beauty product?
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Maybelline Forever Strong Super Stay Gel Nail Colour | Product Review & Swatches

I think anyone who's been reading my blog for a while now (or following me on Instagram or Twitter) has probably realised that I'm completely obsessed with nail polish. I paint my nails at least twice a week, and refuse to use the same shade twice in a row, so my selection is, unsurprisingly, a little bit on the large side. That's why, when I find a brand that I like, it's a big deal...and I end up buying as many shades as I can.
'Uptown Blue' from this range (otherwise known as Maybelline ColorStay) made a huge splash in the blogosphere, this summer (and for good reason - how gorgeous is that shade?), but it was the formula that impressed me most. Working in retail means very few polishes last more than a day or so, chip-free, but the Forever Strong shades are the exception to this rule; they last at least 3-4 days, the formulas are fast-drying, and the brushes allow for quick, two-stroke application. What else could you ask for?

I only have two real problems with this range, all in all; 1, the shade selection is far from ideal. There are some stand-out colours, but not the best selection in the world. 2, they can be a bit of a pain to hunt down. I couldn't find any in-store at my local Boots, and ended up having to order from Superdrug online. Not exactly the worst crimes in the world, but I do like being able to pop in to a store on my lunch break for a new shade.
Maybelline Forever Strong Super Stay Gel Nail Colours are available from Superdrug online, here, for £4.49.
What's your favourite long-lasting nail colour?
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Body Shop 'Matte It' Skin Primer | Product Review

The Body Shop Matte It Primer
I've never been able to pull off the 'dewy skin' look (another reason to wish I was more like Millie Mackintosh); any trace of shine on my face just makes me look oily, for some reason, so I'm all about keeping my skin make up as matte as possible. Matte foundation and mattifying powders never quite held all day, for me, though, and although I fell in love, hard, with Sephora's Anti-Shine foundation primer (here), frequent trips to Paris are unfortunately not in my budget, and I ended up having to find a more easily-accessible alternative.
The Body Shop Matte It Primer Review
A few months ago, whilst taking advantage of my local 'student shopping night' in The Body Shop (read: buying all the body butter I could carry for the 20% discount), I came across this little treasure - 'Matte It' skin primer - and haven't looked at another since. Hourly powder touch-ups (and the horrible 'cakey' look they tend to lead to) are a thing of the past, and I only ever need to manage my t-zone once or twice a day, tops, even with the least matte foundations. It smooths over the pores and creates the most even base of any primer I've used, and although the £12 price tag did make me hesitate a little, at first, a tiny dot goes a long way, so it lasts ages.
I can't recommend it enough for anyone who favours a matte look, whether your skin's oily or just has a natural shine to it - it's incredible!
The Body Shop 'Matte It' Skin Primer has a retail price of £12, and is available from The Body Shop Stores nationwide, or on their website, here.
Are you a fan of the dewy look, or is matte your go-to for bases?
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Paisley Print Embossed Vanilla Sugar Cookies | Recipe & Product Review

Paisley print embossed vanilla sugar cookies
I'm a bit of an avid baker (as you can probably tell from my stash of recipes, here), but three years at university haven't really done much for my hobby; between tiny student kitchens with bad lighting, and a range of housemates always keeping the kitchens busy, over the years, baking became an 'at home' kind of thing.
However, since moving back to London for good, I've been itching to get back to my old favourite past time, and when I was lucky enough to be allowed to try this gorgeous paisley print embossing rolling pin (*) from Print Stitch Bake, I knew it was the perfect excuse!

sugar cookie dough with cookie cutter sugar cookie dough with cookie cutter
Vanilla sugar cookies are one of my favourite things to bake; cut-out cookies were always the baking project of choice, when I was growing up, probably because they're so easy to make, so I always get a wave of nostalgia whenever I whip up a batch. I even managed to dig some cookie cutters out of my 'baking cupboard' (am I the only one who has one of those?), so there were a nice variety of shapes!
cut out sugar cookie dough star shaped sugar cookies just out of the oven!
This particular dough recipe is one I've been using for as long as I can remember, because it's not too sweet. I'd never tried it with fondant, but it's actually a lovely combination, without being too sickly.
The dough itself is very easy to roll out after being chilled for a little while, and doesn't spread at all during baking, so you can cram quite a few onto the sheet.

Sainsbury's ready to roll icing
Now, I'm not very experienced with fondant, and I don't even own a food thermometre (oops!), so I decided it best to try out these pre-coloured ready to roll icing packs from Sainsbury's, and I have to say, I'm very impressed with them. They taste better than a lot of other store-bought fondants, and they are very easy to work with, so I'd really recommend giving them a go if you're a bit nervous about making your own.
pink fondantpink fondant
The most important thing about working with fondant is making sure you take the time to warm it up and make it pliable. It's a little like kneading bread, really: lightly flour your surface, and really work it over before you roll it out. Make sure your rolling pin is floured, too, otherwise it'll get stuck (I learned that the hard way when I forgot to flour mine).
Also, when it comes to fondant, remember you really have to get a thin layer; you don't want your cookie/cake/cupcake to taste of nothing but icing, right?
Paisley print embossed pink fondant
Once the icing is all rolled out, it's time for the fun part; embossing it! This particular rolling pin (here)* is acrylic, so it doesn't stick like a regular rolling pin would, and you don't have to worry about flouring it up (or getting flour marks all over the pattern!). It's actually incredibly easy to use, and it looks so impressive when it's done! Plus it's super easy to wash, which every amateur baker knows is a huge bonus.
When the fondant is embossed, it's as simple as using whatever you used to cut out the cookies to cut out the icing, too, then dabbing a little water on the back of the fondant and placing it onto the cookie. Done!

Paisley print embossed vanilla sugar cookies
Paisley Print Embossed Vanilla Sugar Cookie Recipe: (Mine made about 50 of assorted sizes).
Ingredients:
  • 230g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (not essence!)
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fondant icing - either ready-to-roll or your own
Method:
  1. Cut the unsalted butter into cubes, and cream into the caster sugar. If using a hand mixer, this should take about 3 minutes, until it's light and fluffy.
  2. Beat the egg and vanilla extract into the butter and sugar mixture, mixing until just combined.
  3. Sieve the flour into the mix, along with the salt. Combine with a spatula/wooden spoon, until it's fully incorporated. It should form a relatively sturdy ball.
  4. Roll out a sheet of cling film, and deposit the ball of dough onto it. Flatten the ball until it's a disc shape, about an inch thick, then cover with another layer of cling film, and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
  5. Once chilled, preheat your oven to Gas Mark 3 (170°C/325°F). Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface. 
  6. With a well-floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/2cm thick, and use your cookie cutters to cut out your biscuits. If you don't have a cookie cutter, you can use a glass.
  7. Place the cut out biscuits onto a baking-parchment-lined baking tray and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden in colour.
  8. Once the cookies are done, remove them from the oven and place them on a wire cooling rack.
  9. Whilst the cookies are baking, you can start rolling out your fondant; simply knead on a lightly floured surface for two to three minutes, until completely pliable, then roll out with a well-floured rolling pin, to about 1/4cm thickness.
  10. If you're embossing your fondant, take the rolling pin, and, starting at the end of your fondant, roll the embosser over the sheet of icing, applying light and even pressure until the end. Be careful not to push down too hard.
  11. Cut out pieces of the embossed fondant using the same cookie cutter as used on your biscuits. You can use a palette knife to prise any bits of fondant that are stuck to the counter up. 
  12. Dab a light layer of water on the back of the fondant, and gently lower it onto the cookie. It's fine if the cookies are still warm, the fondant won't melt like other icing might. Repeat until all the cookies are covered, and you're done!
What's your go-to recipe to impress?
You can buy the paisley printed roller (*) I used on my fondant from Print Stitch Bake, for £9.75, here, and view their full selection of embossed rolling pins here.
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Rimmel Match Perfection Foundation | Review and Swatches

rimmel match perfection foundation
I haven't been a huge fan of foundation, for the past year or so. Now that my skin's finally cleared up (more on that soon, promise!), I found myself being bothered by the heavy coverage I used to love. I bounced around some BB and CC Creams (reviews here), but never found anything I loved. Then, recently, I started reading about Rimmel's 'Match Perfection' on a few blogs, all of whom raved about its light, even coverage, and I knew I had to try it out.
rimmel match perfection foundation 100 ivory
I was actually really pleasantly surprised with the range of shades available when I headed to my local Boots, and eventually settled on Ivory (#100), which turned out to be the perfect shade. My only real annoyance (and it's a minor one), is the pump on the bottle; it dispenses just a little more foundation than I actually need, so I've taken to taking the top off and just pouring a little onto the back of my hand.
rimmel match perfection foundation swatch ivory 100rimmel match perfection foundation swatch
Left: Unblended; Right: Blended with the Real Techniques Buffing Brush.

The formula of the foundation itself is pretty impressive, too; it's very light coverage, and you will still need concealer, if you have dark circles of imperfections, but the finish itself is absolutely lovely. It really evens out my skin tone without being too obvious, and although it's not marketed as a 'matte finish' (my preferred type of base), with just a little face powder, it manages to stay shine-free all day. What more could you ask for?
The Rimmel Match Perfection foundation is available for £6.99, but is currently on offer for 2 for £10 in Boots stores, or on their website, here, or for buy one get one half price in Superdrug stores, or on their website, here.
What's your current favourite foundation?
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