What A Beauty: Boots No. 7 Beautifully Matte Foundation Review


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It’s been a very busy few weeks here at HQ so as a result the motivation to post has left me a bit this month. Work has been incredibly busy, Dan has taken longer than anticipated to recover from surgery, and February has been just as dark and cold as January was, so I still feel like I’m in hibernation mode. I’m incredibly cheered to see that now, as i get ready for work in the morning, natural light is sneaking around the edge of my blinds, and that as I leave the office at 6pm, there’s still a little brightness in the sky. I’ve survived another winter – hurray!

Whilst I’ve been getting on with real life, I’ve been using some makeup goodies that I bought around last payday, and that have now had a very thorough, month-long road-test. The product I’ve been using the most is Boots No. 7 Beautifully Matte Foundation in Cool Ivory.


I have shiny, oil and spot-prone skin which can be a bit dry in cold weather – a winning combination, for which I thank Mother Nature every single day (not). More than anything, I need decent coverage without too thick an application required, and something that is going to last all day without the need for constant touch-ups. A tall order, I know. During the slightly more temperate months, a cleverly applied combo of No. 7’s Triple Protection Tinted Moisturiser and bareMinerals Matte Foundation does the trick nicely, but the winter months have been calling for something a little more heavy-duty. Happily, No. 7 haven’t left me wanting.


The foundation formula is heavier than I was used to, so it took a couple of days to nail the technique required to get an even finish. Using a good foundation brush helps, but for me the key was not loading too much product on the brush to start with! The coverage is incredibly smooth and even, but doesn’t leave your face feeling like it’s caked it makeup. In fact, it’s so good that my need for concealer has reduced significantly, and the formula hasn’t aggravated the condition of my skin at all.

Crucially though, this stuff lasts. On my forehead, chin and cheeks there is no need for any touch-ups at all during an average day, whilst my nose usually just needs a quick dab of powder around the middle of the day, to keep my ‘look’ ticking over. Even with awkward, sensitive, combination skin like mine, there is a formula out there. Bless you Boots, and your clever £5 skincare/£3 makeup vouchers!

I Love Being A Greatist


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Back in October last year, I applied to join the ambassador program of US health, fitness and wellbeing website Greatist. Their aim is very simple; to inspire people to change their lives for the healthier by making better choices every single day. At around this time, I was coming to the realisation that adopting that kind of attitude was what was going to get my health, fitness and weight on track, hopefully for the rest of my life. I wanted to explore this idea more, and hopefully share my journey with others, so when my application was accepted, I was over the moon. The Greatist Manifesto sums it up perfectly, and I cannot recommend enough taking a moment to read it:

More must-read health & fitness news and information at Greatist.

What I’ve loved about being part of such a vibrant, healthy, positive community is how inspiring it’s all been. I am definitely a pasty British rookie amongst a gaggle of hugely accomplished athletes, some of whom have chosen sport as a career, and yet the inclusive nature of the community means that even my achievements are celebrated. And if I get home from work and am feeling a bit ambivalent about heading out for a run? One look at the #imagreatist hashtag on Twitter is enough to have me pulling on my trainers.

It doesn’t just stop at fitness though. Greatist takes a happily wholistic approach to living the best life you can, so if you need inspiration for dinner tonight (I’m a big fan of their avocado pasta), some tips on sleeping better, or ideas about being happier, it’s worth having a look.

Follow Greatist on Twitter here.

Check out the #imagreatist hashtag here.

Have a look at Greatist’s boards on Pinterest here.

You can check out my ambassador profile here.

Super Bowl Nails


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This weekend is a first for me in that tomorrow night I am going to a Super Bowl party, hosted by Papa Thorne. We decided a few months ago to take Monday off work so that we could stay up all night to watch the game, and I’ve been studying ‘Football For Dummies’ (it’s a thing, really) in preparation. In addition to this I decided tonight to get my nails ready for the event too! Choosing a side was easy, my love for California, and more specifically San Francisco, meant that I was always going to be a 49ers girl!

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I’ve used O.P.I’s ‘A-Taupe The Space Needle’ for the footballs, and No. 7’s Stay Perfect ‘Devil’s Delight’ red and ‘Hot To Trot’ gold for the rest, with a white nail art pen helping with the details. Sure, it’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a bit of fun, and a way to show my support when I don’t have any replica kit! Hope you like the bottle of Bud prop too!

Operation Change My Life Update: January Review


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I am so glad to see the back of January. There hasn’t been anything specifically bad about the start of 2013, it’s just that the first month of the year doesn’t half seem to drag. It’s been a bit testing at times, what with the the snow and cold that we Brits are so ill-prepared for, but also with helping my other half recover from surgery. The procedure was planned, and relatively minor, but involved a general anaesthetic and a couple of weeks recovery time at home, which we’re not quite out of yet. The nature of his recovery has meant that I’ve had to take on more of a share of the domestic tasks than I’m used to, as well as helping poor Dan with the most basic of everyday tasks. Far from ideal, I’m sure you’ll agree, when trying to kick start a new, healthy, life.

Yet when I stood on the scales this morning, they showed a loss for the month that, although not life-changing, is most definitely a step in the right direction. When one considers that my exercise for the last week or so has mainly consisted of housework and running around after Dan picking up stuff he’s dropped during the day rather than evening runs through the town or a fitness DVD, it would appear that it has predominantly been my eating habits have been that have kept the number on the scales getting smaller.

I definitely haven’t starved. Oh no, I’m having none of that. My three square meals and a treat pattern has worked really well and I’ve kept my alcohol consumption to a minimum, especially during the week. Even my home-brewed sloe gin (which tastes amazing) has barely been touched, even on the coldest of evenings! The only type of drinking that I’ve taken up with gusto is squash. Robinsons No Added Sugar Orange, to be precise. Now, I don’t want to get into the debate here about squash over water, as far as I’m concerned I’m happy that a bit of cordial livens up my water and is much better for me than diet sodas, which I have seriously cut down my consumption of.

Less of this in January... *sad face*

Less of this in January… *sad face*

Upping my fluid intake has been a major tactic in my quest to become mindful and more in tune with my body, and it’s made a massive difference. That old chestnut about being thirsty when you think you are hungry is so, so true! I talk on the phone all day at work in an overheated office and I’m pretty sure that it was dehydrating me even further, so I have a glass that holds a pint, and a simple challenge: drink at least two whole glasses during my 7.5 hour shift. I have noticed that my 4pm hunger isn’t quite such a problem, and that I’m feeling less tired as I’m skipping out of the door and into the car on my way home. Coincidence? I think not.

As Dan returns to full fitness and the weather gets slightly less bleak, I hope that February sees me hitting the road a little bit more frequently, for a run or even a few more brisk walks on a weekend. I want to up my mileage this month, with the Bristol 10k in May never being too far from my mind I’m determined for the build-up to be as steady and stress-free as possible. Add into that a few more skipping sessions and I hope to be writing February’s summary in four weeks time with further exciting healthy developments to report!

High Street Hair Hero: Boots Leave-In Conditioner


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A couple of weeks ago on Twitter I was having a whinge about how the wintry weather was playing Hell with my usually (relatively) complaint hair. I had a serious static situation going on, and I needed help. The lovely Kelly, who blogs at Hair Advice & All Things Nice came to my rescue and suggested that a leave-in conditioner might provide me with some hydrating relief. It being January and all, I asked Kelly if she had any high-street recommendations, and she came back with the ultimate budget product: Boots Ingredients Coconut & Almond Leave-In Conditioner.


At just £1.39 a bottle, I was able to pick this beauty up with the change in my pocket, and boy, does it work! If you’re unfamiliar with how leave-in conditioners work, you simply shampoo as normal, towel-try hair (my advice would be a more gentle blot if you’re trying to fight static), spray the product through the length of your hair, comb through (again, be gentle!) and you’re good to go with your normal styling regime.

This product smells amazing – always a bonus – and has genuinely made a difference to the static situation atop my head. My barnet has become much easier to style, and I can run a brush through it again without giving myself a minor electric shock. As my hair is a light blonde, I was worried that the leave-in conditioner might weigh my hair down and leave it looking a little greasy, but I needn’t have been concerned as it’s light enough whilst still getting the job done. On one or two occasions, my hair has even gone a day longer than usual between washes – result!

On the whole, for less than the price of a pack of hair grips, I can’t think of a better way to treat static hair this winter, without resorting to a hat until spring comes!

Me And My Zatchel


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I first started admiring Zatchels’ amazing range of handmade leather satchels back last year when they started popping up on blogs here and and there. There followed a few weeks where my sister and I sent links to our favourites back and forth to each other Facebook, and in April, for her 21st birthday, she received this beaut of a love heart creation. I toyed all year with the idea of getting one myself, and when my birthday came around in November, I decided that it was time to treat myself.


Although I love the amazing patterned designs that Zatchels do, I wanted to go for a block colour that I could keep forever and would never go out of style. I love the colour blue (goes with my eyes, see), so eventually settled on the bright and breezy cornflower number in the 14.5″ size, with the handle and strap slider. With delivery, the whole thing came to just over £100, hence my decision to mull over the purchase decision for a few months! Despite the fact that it was late November, and I’m sure that orders were starting to stack up for Christmas, my satchel was delivered in just a week and a half, in its own Zatchels branded dustbag.


It’s already got a lot of use as my everyday bag, and it picks up compliments more than any bag I’ve ever owned. During the bleak British winter its bright colour is doing a great job of cheering me up, and it’s just the right size for all of my everyday essentials. As you can see, the Cath Kidston pouch in the front pocket is the perfect fit, helps me ensure I don’t lose my keys, and was just £4 in the sales!


The Absolute Beginners Guide To Skipping Workouts


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As part of my quest to become a better, fitter, healthier me this year, I have been trying to focus on ways to vary my exercise regime and make working out fit into my daily life as easy as possible.  Where I think I’ve gone wrong before is that I’ve set myself ambitious goals (like running a half marathon, for example) and although I’ve had the commitment, I haven’t had the physically capability to quite do the task at hand justice.  I ran before I could walk, if you will.  So now it’s about shorter, technically-correct runs, getting out for a walk when possible and introducing high-intensity activities to increase my stamina and strength.  That’s where skipping comes in.



I picked up the rope for about a tenner at Argos and dowloaded the IntervalTimer App from iTunes for free, and aside from a bit of space in your garden or at the park, that’s pretty much all you need.  The Nike rope is nice and lightweight, and you can adjust the length so that you’re not tripping over or tying yourself in knots.  The IntervalTimer app does exactly what it says and works really well.  My favourite feature is that you can customise the sounds that play at the end of intervals, my particular preference being the boxing bell!

If you’re looking for workout ideas, and the different types of jumps you can do, I can highly recommend Zest magazine’s article which you can find here.  To get started though, 10 minutes of 40 seconds skipping at near-maximum effort then 20 seconds rest certainly gets your heart racing and can burn as many calories as running a mile in eight minutes!  Stick a few songs on the iPod and it’ll be over before you know it.

One piece of advice that you might not read in any fitness guides, but is probably the most crucially important thing of all, is to make sure you have a good surface to skip on.  The decking in my garden is very slippery and slimy after so much wet weather and dirt build-up that I was nearly flat on my back before I got started.  FYI, soda crystals and warm water are widely regarded as a natural and effective deck de-greaser.

Social Media: Am I Losing My Idenitity?


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I love my life online. I like using Facebook to plan nights out and catch up with old school friends, I like Twitter for live-tweeting TV shows and discovering like-minded people and I like Pinterest for having a tidy place to keep all the clippings and things online that inspire me. That’s not to mention the probably hundreds of blogs and social sites that I browse in a week to keep up-to-date with everything from news to nail art.

The only problem is, I’m starting to find myself somewhat over-conscious of what I choose to share online. This isn’t one of your, worried-I-might-get-stalked or please-don’t-take-my-bank-details stories, although those are genuine concerns, of course. What I’m more preoccupied with at the moment is the fact that if I express too strong or controversial an opinion or even wax lyrical too passionately about a brand or a product, then I’ll come in for a barrage of criticism, or leave myself vulnerable in the outside world.

It’s a multi-pronged attack. First of all, there’s the increasing numbers of employers using social media to have a look at both prospective and current employee’s habits, hobbies and interests. Don’t get me wrong, if you put it out there then you need to expect it to be read, and if you’re in breach of company policy then you’ve got what’s coming to you, but there’s a case of these things going too far. This article gives you an idea of how far some firms will go in terms of ‘interpreting’ your social media presence when deciding to give you a job, but I’ve even read of some ‘experts’ who can tell by frequency of tweets and updates how much annual leave an individual takes. What kind of world do we live in where I can’t share my joy on twitter at a day off which I work hard to be entitled to? I don’t know if I like it, but I certainly find myself thinking twice about tweeting about my occasional midweek lazy day for fear of giving off the wrong impression.

The next potential hazard comes in the form of what I like to generally refer to as ‘the pitchfork brigade’. I’m learning that they lurk in every corner of twitter, poised to attack on subjects as varied as what it means to be a feminist to their feelings on Death Row. Again, I’m all for voicing your opinions, and even for healthy discourse, but there’s a limit that a scary amount of people seem to be unaware of, and it’s making me nervous. Think about it, would you sit in a pub on a Friday night with a group of strangers who are enjoying an animated discussion and then wade in with a tirade of abuse that is largely uncalled for? I didn’t think so. It seems that it can be so easy for a comment to be viewed by an outsider, either completely in or out of context, and then for it to escalate to the point that you’re scared to log in. I just don’t like feeling that vulnerable.

Oh, not this type of troll...

Oh, not this type of troll…

Finally, I worry about losing favour with people who I actually like online. I know, I know, I need to develop a thicker skin and suck it up. I shouldn’t worry about what other people think, and who’s following me on social platforms, but I think there’s a real-life comparison to draw here too. There aren’t many people that a girl like me can count as close enough friends to say absolutely whatever I want to, and beyond this I have a much wider circle of friends and acquaintances who I would considerably moderate my conversational style with. The problem with life online is that it’s harder to differentiate between the two, and ultimately I don’t want to be punished for not being tech-savvy enough to work out a solution.

As a result of all of the above, I’m concerned that I’m becoming bland on the Internet. I’m becoming more nervous about speaking my mind more than I ever have been, so I’m keeping it vanilla so as not to offend anyone. Is there a happy balance to be struck, or am I destined to blow hot or cold on this one forever? Could it be time to go anonymous? I’m just not sure anymore!

On Trying Not To Become A Bridezilla


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Twice in the last couple of weeks, people I have regular contact with, both in real life and social media, have learned about my Las Vegas wedding plans having not known the details of them previously. Similarly, when out for drinks not long ago, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while asked me if I had any news, and I had to be prompted to mention that our flights and ceremony were booked. In a funny way, I feel pretty proud of these facts, as it certainly suggests that my intention not to let wedding planning take over my life is on track. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that if we’re in very regular contact, then maybe this intention isn’t quite so obvious, and similarly I’m very conscious that I’m blogging about it now, but everyone has a limit, right?

One of the major reasons for this is that, as exciting as a wedding, a honeymoon and a big party are, the decision to get married was, for Dan and I, about wanting to commit to spending the rest of our lives together. The snowballing excitement that comes with wedding planning can make it so easy to lose sight of this, running the risk of the relationship playing second fiddle to The Big Day. I’m very conscious of the need to always work on a relationship, and the average couple of years it takes to put a wedding together is plenty of time to damage even the strongest of couples. Keeping cool about the wedding = giving the preparation for marriage the focus it deserves.

Another major factor is our desire to do this wedding our way. The old adage about too many cooks is probably at its truest when there are nuptials involved. As soon as we got engaged nearly a year ago, and I started to talk about my desire to keep things relaxed, the ‘friendly’ advice started coming in thick and fast. I use the inverted commas there because although well-intentioned, each nugget of wisdom caused a marginal increase in my blood pressure, exactly what I was so keen to avoid. If I regulate the amount of time I spend talking about the wedding, then I am consciously reducing the opportunities for people to try and put their two pence in. Very simply, it’s rare for someone to try and crowbar in a bit of advice when the conversation hasn’t gone near the topic in hand.

Finally, and probably most simply of all, I am desperate not to become a bore about this. And please, don’t take that as a criticism levelled specifically at brides (and grooms) to-be. For starters, the wedding industry needs people to keep talking and talking and planning and planning in order to make money, and they know exactly how to push our buttons to whip us into a frenzy over the whole thing. Before long, you start to live and breathe your wedding like one big, long advertisement for the industry, and their work is done. And unfortunately, it gets boring. But at the same time, anyone with a specific hobby, interest, job or grudge can become a bit of a bore if that’s all they talk about, so really, if you’re excited about your wedding and you want to talk about it all the time, that is cool by me. It’s just not how I’m choosing to operate.

There’s seven and a half months to go until the big day. Will this resolve last? Or will my inner Bridezilla (who is definitely there, I can tell) just have to bust out sooner or later? You guys will help me keep her locked up, right?


It’s Not A New Year’s Resolution, It’s Changing My Life


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I’ve given myself a couple of weeks into the New Year to have a think about what my blog is going to look like this year, and made some changes to my other commitments to allow the evolution of the site to really get underway. I’ve also signed up to Jo Gifford’s ‘Idea Generation and Creativity for Bloggers’ e-course, to actually bring some structure to my creativity (you can find out more here), and hopefully the fruits of these endeavours will start to show soon, but I actually wanted to talk about something else today, so here we go.

To be blunt, and to save a lengthy introduction, I’m just going to put it out there: I struggle with my weight. Don’t get me wrong, my issue is not so extreme that I can’t buy clothes in regular stores, nor is it that I constantly field comments along the lines of, “have you been ill? You look so thin”. No, I define myself solidly as a moderately overweight person, who has made her relationship with food more complex than it needs to be and could do with getting her act together.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you may remember that I was a Slimming World devotee in 2010 and 2011, and I got my weight to a level that I was happy with, and felt great. But ultimately I didn’t like the meetings, and the weigh-ins and the feeling that this was a ‘diet’, and I guess that didn’t agree with me. So (you’ll be surprised to learn… Not), I rebelled, and put it all back on again. Plus a bit more. I flirted with Weight Watchers, and even made a half-arsed attempt at calorie-counting, but here I sit at the end of twelve months where I’ve been heavier than ever with no real progress to speak of.

Are we building up to a turnaround here? If this were a film, hopefully this would be the bit where I put down the cake, and we cut to a montage of me eating salad, taking part in step aerobic classes in 1980’s Spandex and running along a beach with the wind in my hair. Maybe then there’d be me stepping on the scales and punching the air with delight as the numbers keep dropping, and possibly even trying on an old pair of trousers and holding the waistband out, a bit like this:

As awesome as all of this sounds, I think the key to success this time around is to be realistic. I’ve learned that I can’t really be trusted to snack sensibly, so I’m going to focus on three solid, nutritionally-balanced meals a day, and some form of treat to keep me sane. I’m also seriously cutting down on the number of diet sodas I drink in a week (I’ve been on at least a can a day for a loooong time), switching to water and squash instead. I’ve never been much of a drinker anyway, but I’m also going to try and go for 5/6 alcohol-free days a week to keep me focused on my goal!

Exercise-wise, I’m looking to reintroduce regular running into my life again. It’s hard to believe with the shape I’m in now, that I’ve completed a couple of 10k’s and a half-marathon in my time, but I’ll let my previous achievements inspire me rather than overwhelm me. I’m going to build myself back up slowly, but I’ve got my first race of the year booked for early May to give me something to work towards. The key to success in all of this is going to be establishing a routine and sticking to it, reducing the chances of me getting lazy and failing again. The amazing personal trainer Tim Weeks explained the logic behind this very succinctly on Twitter the other day:

At this time, I haven’t set myself an ultimate goal weight and/or dress size, although if I were to be completely honest, there is a number at the back of my mind. My concern is that if I don’t reach this goal in time for my wedding in September, I’ll feel as though I’ve failed, when really, a change this substantial is something to be proud of from day one. Whatever happens, I’ll be standing at the altar in a white dress on September 4th, and I should love how I look on that day, whatever the size on its label. For now though, I’m just going to take this one pound at a time, one day at a time, and I hope to document this journey on here to help me stay on track.