Thursday, 18 September 2014

Blogging Pretty On A Budget - HP Turquoise Chromebook

One of the (many) frustrations I've had over the last few months whilst blogging/writing/browsing Shoeaholics website is that my laptop is SLOW. It's old (well, I've had it for over three years, which in laptop years is like, a hundred or something), overworked, the battery is on it's last legs and my letter 'L' keeps doing this annoying sticking thing where I'd type a paragraph then read back over it and realise that every time I'd typed the word 'blog' it shows as 'bog'. (My sticky 'L' caused a particular problem when I drafted up a post about the new clock I bought for my bedroom. But we won't go into that).

So, it was pretty obvious I'd have to invest in a new laptop before I posted something that got me banned from the blogosphere. And me being a mild-technophobe (I'm actually pretty good with technology once I get going. It's the 'getting going' bit that gets me - reading instructions and the like) I didn't have a clue where to start. I knew I didn't want a tablet (I prefer a keyboard - I know, I'm so old-school) or a netbook (I like a bigger screen), I'm not massively keen on Apple products and I remembered reading something recently about Chromebooks being pretty snazzy and good for those on a budget (which I am - I have a handbag habit to feed after all) so when I spotted this little beauty I thought it might be worth a try. Especially since it's so purdy! (I'd love to say that had nothing to do with why I purchased this, but...)

Anyway, it has a 14" screen, 4Gb RAM and 16Gb SSD for those who are in the know. For those that aren't, like me - it powers up fast, the keyboard feels nice, and the battery lasts up to 9 hours. Oh, and did I mention the purdy turquoise colour? This also comes in white and coral (and I did sway towards coral at one point as it looks equally gorgeous). The best bit? This is a refurbished model which means it's basically new with all accessories but much cheaper than one actually listed as new. I paid £179 for this which I think is pretty good. I ordered from Dabs and it arrived within 3 days.

I've been using my new beauty over the last few days and apart from getting used to not having Windows I'm getting along fine with it. And I do LOVE the colour. All I need now is an equally cute laptop bag to carry this around in for when I'm using it on the go. (let's just ignore the fact that 99% of the time I use my laptop I'm lying in my bed).

What do you think? xx

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lush Newcastle Event

Before last week, Lush wasn't a shop I usually made a beeline for; I suppose like a lot of people I've always walked past the store and enjoyed the gorgeous smells wafting out of the doors, but I've not often gone in, other than to buy bath bombs or the occasional brightly wrapped gift for someone at Christmas. I've never really thought about it much before but I suppose the reason for that is that I don't (or didn't!) know much about Lush products. I did know, however, that they aren't tested on animals, nor are any of the product ingredients. Lush is also often raved about in a lot of the beauty blogs I read so I was excited to get a lovely email from Lush PR asking me if I'd like to attend an event at the brand new Newcastle store last week.

So I met up with one of my partners in blogging-crime Chloe and we headed off to the new store, which is inside Eldon Square. Lush had pulled out all the stops for the night, with yummy gin cocktails, cupcakes and a singer who I didn't get the name of (I believe she works for Lush) but was so good I actually thought we were listening to a cd rather than a live performance. The store is large and bright with shelves full of gorgeous Lush goodies in the brand's signature quirky style. 

The staff were visibly excited about the new store and really enthusiastic in showing us around and demonstrating products. I particularly loved the massage bars which I've never tried before but after one of the ladies gave me a mini hand/arm massage with a Therapy bar I was sold! The super rich moisturisers (cocoa and shea butter) made my skin silky soft and left a lovely sheen whilst smelling amazing (orange oil and lavender oil - mmm). I was really interested to learn that ingredients in the product are 100% natural and a really cute fact we were told is that the design of the Therapy bar is inspired by the fact that one in every four babies born has an 'outie' belly button. We were also told that this particular massage bar was previously a Lush Spa exclusive product which I can believe as it feels like such a decadent treat!

I was keen to check out the various ballistic bath bombs and we got to try out a couple including Fizzbanger which not only smells good enough to eat but also changes colour whilst it fizzes away in the water. The piece de resistance is the popping candy in the centre of the bath bomb which we could hear popping away as the bomb dissolved. I can honestly say I've never seen a bath product like it and I will definitely be treating myself to one of these!

The new store also has a large perfume bar stocking the brand's Gorilla perfume. The Dirty Body Spray caught my eye as it comes in a quirky spray-gun and I think the Husband would love the fresh, minty scent. The store also stocks Lush makeup which we didn't get a chance to try as it was quite busy. 

What really came across to me is how much the staff love and believe in the products. Lush products are made in Poole and a couple of the guys from the factory were demonstrating how they divide and package product ready to hit the shelves. Lush products are all freshly handmade and have a little sticker on each showing who made it (in cool cartoon form) and when which gives a really personal touch. You can see more about how the products are made here

When we left we were given a bag of goodies including I Love Juicy Shampoo, Furze Perfume, Kalamazoo Beard and Facial Wash (yes, yes, I know. I don't have a beard. Usually.) and Enchanted Eye Cream which I can't wait to try, I will be posting reviews soon. 

Since I'm now a Lush convert, I'd love to know what your recommended Lush faves are? Let me know, and, if you're in Newcastle, check out the new store. 


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Lulu Guinness Bargain Make up Bags

I love cute, and I love quirky, ergo, I love Lulu Guinness. The signature black, white and red of her designs is instantly recognisable and I often find myself cooing over her iconic lips clutches or forties-style handbags. So, when LG had a sale recently, I pored over the website looking for bargains. Gotta be honest, I don’t need any more handbags. As in, I literally have no room in my house for any more handbags. But what I did need was a new makeup bag. (I’m using the word ‘need’ quite loosely here - I have a perfectly good Marc Jacobs makeup bag, but it’s *slightly* bigger than I’d like to carry every day. So, actually, I suppose I did need a new makeup bag). 

Anyway, I spotted the cute little number below on sale for £ could I say no?! It’s polka dotted, it has a red lining, it’s big enough to fit my powder, lippy and blotting sheets in but small enough to force me to not carry my entire makeup collection around with me, making my handbag weigh a ton. No brainer.

I visited Cheshire Oaks last week, and popped into the Lulu Guinness outlet, as you do. There on the shelf was my lovely cosmetic bag’s bigger sis – this one opens out into two sections with clear sides so you can see what’s inside. Perfect for travelling, and reduced to £13.20. Mine!

I’m not sure of the original prices of my bags, but similar ones in a newer design are priced at £22 for the small one and £60ish for the doubler, so I’m going to class these as a mahoosive bargain. The Cheshire Oaks store seemed to have plenty in stock if you happen to be visiting. 

What do you think?

P.S. Anyone who loves Lulu like I do will most probably know about her Uniqlo collab which is available now (I have my eye on the lips print pullover)


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Looking For a Unique Wedding/Engagement/Celebration Gift?

...I often am. I think especially when it comes to weddings, if the couple don't have a gift list, or you just want to get a little something different to remind them of their special day, it's hard to think of anything other than a bottle of champers, and just because I could happily sit and quaff a full bottle doesn't necessarily mean they'd want to. Ahem.

So, I think I may have professed my love for all things Etsy on several occasions on Twitter. I have bought many unique bits and pieces from there (and yes, I did need that 'People I Want To Punch In The Face' notebook) so when I knew I had a few weddings to attend this summer I headed over to Etsy to see if anything caught my eye, and that' when I stumbled across Bramley Apple of my Eye. Lisa, who owns the shop, makes beautiful hand-stamped pieces from aluminium or sterling silver at really reasonable prices.

My favourite pieces are the Aluminium Hand Stamped Wedding Key Rings as I think these definitely fit into the 'completely unique gift' category! Each key ring comes stamped with - well, whatever you choose, really, but you could for example have the initials on one side, and the wedding date on the other, which is what I chose and I think makes these a really cute keepsake.

So, having bought these for the last 3 couples whose weddings I've been to, I thought I'd share as I think they are such a brilliant, cute idea. What do you think?


Friday, 29 August 2014

St Tropez Self-Tan Express Mousse

I have a chequered history with tanning. Since I'm pale-ish, acual tanning has never really been an option for me, so I've long been on the hunt for a decent faker. One of the best I found up to now was Creighton's Bronze Ambition tanning cream which can actually be found in pound stores. I like the smell, and the texture, although admittedly I don't always get the desired even, streak free colour with this even though I follow the whole exfoliate/moisturize thing religiously. I have been on the hunt for the brand's 360 degree Tanning Spray for a while now, to see if I get a better result with that, with zero luck so far. Pfft.

So a friend recommended the St Tropez Express Mousse to me recently, although, at £33, it's way more than I would usually spend on tannage. But I have to say I was intrigued - the reviews I'd read for this product were incredible. So eventually I caved and bought a bottle to try.

Now, this is a mousse formula, and is tinted, so easy to see where you're applying. I must admit I usually avoid mousses as they tend to cling to my dry patches more than lotions or sprays but I followed the instructions and gave the mousse a good old rub in with a tanning mitt. So, the instructions say leave the product 1 hour before washing off for a light sunkissed look, 2 hours for a medium tan, and three hours for a more intense result. The idea is that, after you've washed it off, the tan will continue to develop for several hours, but you aren't leaving brown smudges all over your sofa/bed/clothes/other half. So, I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound, and left the product on for three hours whilst I pottered about at home.

Once I showered it off I was left with a nice glow, but nothing too intense. As the day wore on I noticed I was gradually getting slightly darker, but not ridiculously so, which is a relief as I had awful visions of looking in the mirror and seeing Dale Winton staring back at me. No streaks or patches either - see my legs below ( apologies that they look rather chicken-like - it's the angle. Definitely the angle.)

So it's now been a day since I applied the tan, and I think it's given a nice, natural result. Am I blown away? Not quite - I do like the product - the fact that it doesn't need to be left on overnight or for hours on end is a big plus, and the colour it gives is natural and I'm happy with it. But I still think £33 is a lot of money for a tanning product.  I'll be interested to see how long my colour lasts - I'll update here in a few days.

Have you tried the St Tropez Express Tan?


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blogger's Afternoon Tea at The Vintage Powder Room, Whitley Bay

I have a saying which I live by, and it’s this: Never Say No To Cake. So when my NE blogging bud Chloe suggested a small afternoon tea get-together at The Vintage Powder Room in Whitley Bay, I was ON. IT. I hadn’t heard of the venue before, so had a little peek at the website and loved what I saw – a vintage style tea room with a powder room where you could have hair styled, nails painted and try on an array of pretty ‘50s style dresses (oh how I WISH I could pull of the retro look!).
So a little group of North East blogging ladies: me, Chloe, Kayleigh, Rachel, Shivani and Emma descended onto the Vintage Powder Room last Sunday afternoon, full of anticipation and ready for cake. Chloe was having her hair styled and Kayleigh a manicure and polish, so the rest of us sat about sipping pink lemonade and admiring the gorgeous retro touches around the place.  The Powder Room part is decked out like the perfect girlie dressing room, with Marilyn wallpaper, a chaise longue, vintage style dressing tables and mirrors, and a row of the aforementioned dresses. I was so tempted to try them on as some of the styles and prints were beautiful, but tea and cake called so we all headed through to the tea room.
Our table was laid out beautifully with vintage mismatched china, teapots and cake stands containing sandwiches, scones, mini meringues and – not sure if I’ve mentioned this already – cakes. And not just any cakes, but the most delicious looking mini (although they were actually massive) individual Victoria sponge cakes.

Luckily none of us are the shy cake-eating type so we all dug in whilst having a good old natter about everything blog-related. The Vintage Powder Room staff were incredibly accommodating and didn't kick us out even though, before we knew it, we'd been sat there for over three hours supping our tea and getting our second, third and fourth wind on the cakes!

I can see why The Vintage Powder Room is popular for hen dos and birthday parties - it's the perfect girlie pamper and I'm sure I'll be back soon.
Have you tried The Vintage Powder Rooms?

Monday, 25 August 2014

York Designer Outlet Haul

Well, it was my birthday last Thursday and given the choice of doing ANYTHING and going ANYWHERE by the Husband, I decided a shopping trip to York’s Designer Outlet was in order. It’s relatively easy to get to from Newcastle, just an hour’s train ride from Central Station to York, then a 15 minute bus journey from York station across to the outlets. Well, it’s usually easy – there just happened to be ‘overhead line problems’ on Thursday morning delaying all trains out of Newcastle, which meant we ended up with an hour less than planned to shop so I had to employ my best speed-shopping techniques to make sure I got round everywhere I wanted to.
Once we finally arrived at the outlet, the first place I made a beeline for was the Cosmetics Company Store which sells Estee Lauder, MAC, Smashbox, Clinique, Bobbi Brown etc all at reduced prices. I was hoping to stock up on my Doublewear foundation since this shop sells it for almost a third less than on the high street, but unfortunately there was a small, sad –looking empty space on the shelf where it should have been. I did manage to pick up an EL Doublewear concealer for £15.75 (RRP £21.50) and a small tube of Smashbox BB Cream  (£9.50, RRP £13.50) which I’d wanted to try for quite a while. Also, I decided last week that I’m impose a new-lipstick ban on myself due to the fact that I have PILES of lippies, quite a few of which I’ve never worn, however, as soon as I spotted MAC’s Sheen Supreme lipstick in Blossom Culture (£10.75, RRP £16.50) I decided I HAD to have it. Yes, I know, I’m pathetically weak, but it’s so Purdy!

 Now, I’ve mentioned before how much I love Joules stuff; they have some lovely prints, the stuff’s great quality and anything I wear from there makes me want to stroll through the countryside, so I swerved into their outlet store and picked up this dress which was on sale for £19.99, down from £79. Not sure when I’ll wear it, (I don’t do much actual countryside-strolling, not in dresses, anyway – maybe I should?!) but I love the beaded neckline and at that price I couldn’t refuse.
By then I was in the mood for bargains, so I popped into LK Bennett to check out their sale rail and I’m so glad I did because I spotted this beautiful coral lace top with attached camisole for £15. I couldn’t see the original price but  I’m thinking around £100 or more. Very pleased with this bargain – and purchases from LK Bennett always come beautifully wrapped in tissue and ribbon which makes me want to keep my purchase in it’s gift bag forever just so I can gaze at it.

I was really looking forward to visiting the Coast store as they often have bargains, and this time I hit the jackpot – all sale dresses were £19, tops £9, shoes £15....needless to say I spent a good hour in there trying on various dresses and finally deciding on three very different styles that I thought I’d get the most wear out of (see? I can be sensible): a beautiful cobalt blue pleated dress which I love the shape of as the full skirt is so girly. I wouldn’t normally choose a dress like this, even though I love the look, but this is really flattering, I think. I can see this being my Christmas party dress this year.

Well, either that or the charcoal long sleeved, silk hand-embellished shift dress I also got which is quite Wintery , but I love anything with beading so I think I’ll get plenty of wear from this later on in the year.

The third dress I chose is a bright green shift with a pearl-beaded neckline, for no reason other than I absolutely love the colour, and I think it has a hint of ‘60s glamour about it.  

I also grabbed two tops because – well, because they were NINE POUNDS. I would have got more as I’m always on the lookout for pretty tops to wear with jeans but there wasn’t much left in my size. The two I got were this sheer navy shell top with bow detail and a lipstick red ruffle sleeveless blouse which is so vibrant I absolutely love it.

Obviously I got my best bargains of the day in Coast; when I took my goodies to the till I saw that the original total for my items was £525 - I paid 75 quid! I was only gutted there were no shoes in a size 5 that caught my eye.
After we’d shopped our socks off at the outlet, we had time for a quick look around York city centre and I managed to pop into  Betty’s for a box of macaroons before heading back to the station to catch our train. I was feeling super-pleased with my bargains and looking forward to getting home and trying them all on again whilst the Husband was looking forward to lying down in a darkened room.
What do you think of my purchases? Picked up any good bargains this week?