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?


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?

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?

Travel Diaries - Savannah, Charleston & Washington DC

For ages the Husband and I had been debating sacking off Vegas and going somewhere a bit more low key. Somewhere a bit 'Dawson's Creek' or 'Little House on the Prairie', if you will. Usually, we manage to talk ourselves out of it by remembering the awesomeness that is Planet Hollywood Resort/The Cheesecake Factory/LV Premium Outlets etc etc. We finally gave in in October 2012 though and actually got as far as booking said low key holiday. Namely an escorted tour of Georgia, Washington DC, the Blue Ridge Mountains and The Carolinas, on the Husband's suggestion. And did I mention it was on a bus? Errr....

Now some cruel folk may say that I am just a tad high maintenance, and therefore could never picture me on a bus to Blaydon, least of all traversing around the Southern States on one. Can I just say that this is WRONG, I have ridden on buses lots of times, mostly it was a deeply unpleasant experience, however I have done it. So I was a little apprehensive about this trip. (Before anyone asks, obviously the bus part was once we'd arrived in the States - to get us over there from the UK we used the traditional airplane method).

The other issue I had was some of the destinations on the tour. Savannah, Charleston and Washington DC looked great, but Colonial Williamsburg? Richmond? I was Googling them on the laptop when I looked over and saw the Husband happily flicking through his American Civil War book. Suddenly I realised I had been well and truly had.

So that's how we ended up in Washington Dulles Airport last month waiting for the rest of our coach-tour buddies to collect their luggage. Looking around I realised we were the youngest on the tour by several years, maybe even decades. Although on some level I think I was already expecting that.

First stop was Richmond, Virginia, where we stayed overnight before travelling down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the next day. As we arrived at the resort I started to relax and thought that maybe everything would be ok. The sun was shining, I could see the sea, there were people sunbathing on the beach, I could finally wear that playsuit I wouldn't be seen dead in at home....all good!
 I've wanted to visit a beach resort in the US for aaages and Myrtle Beach is everything I expected it would be. It's a small place, with just a handful of shops and restaurants, but it has that nice laid back, friendly atmosphere where it seems like everyone's just drinkin' beer 'n' tossin' peanuts. That night, we went for dinner at famous local seafood joint  Duffy Street where lots of people were, actually, drinkin' beer 'n' tossin' peanuts. Right onto the floor. Apparently it's the done thing at Duffy's, so, even though I HATE littering, 'When in Myrtle.....'! Portion sizes were huge, as expected.....
Our next destination was the beautiful Charleston, which has a real 'old-money' feel to it. We took a boat trip around the harbour to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War all began (see, Ray, I learnt something!) and had some dolphins following the boat which made it extra special.

 After seeing as much as we could in Charleston we all piled back onto the coach and headed to Savannah, where the prime objective was for the Husband and I to find the famous park bench from the opening scenes of Forrest Gump. Alas, we found out that the bench has now been moved to the visitor's centre in Savannah, however we did manage to find the square the scenes were filmed in, and there are other benches there, so this is about as close as we're going to get....(cue wistful expression photo op.)
Savannah, like Charleston, is full of lovely old plantation style buildings, and there are several garden squares in the city, each with it's own historical story attached. It's also home to the lively River Street area, where we headed for dinner that night. Famous for it's seafood, Tubby's is a busy restaurant that recently featured on Man V Food, so predictably portions were again humongous, but delicious. The restaurant also looks right out onto the river.

After a couple of days of exploring Savannah it was time to move on, up through the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. I was hoping for bears, mountain lions and skunks, but sadly we saw none of these. We did see deer, buzzards, and a really freaky looking caterpillar though.

After our mountain experience we made a quick overnight stop at Winston Salem, which gave us a much needed mall-visiting opportunity (I had done scant shopping by this point). I had already accepted that this would sadly not be a 'shopping holiday', but was glad of the chance to panic-buy sweaters in Abercrombie & Fitch all the same.

 We then had our visit to the dreaded Colonial Williamsburg, which the husband and I agreed is basically a big huge Beamish Museum. But in America, obvs. And not as old. They had shops there too, so it wasn't all bad.

Final destination for us was Washington DC and all of it's famous monuments (plus an illicit trip to Macy's). It was pretty interesting to see the White House, and all of the secret service blacked-out cars lining the streets around it. What was also great was meeting a few of Washington's resident black squirrels, who are super friendly and, like me, apparently LOVE Ben 'n' Jerry's S'mores cookies


So that took us to the end of our trip, and actually....I really enjoyed it. The plus side of travelling on a coach trip is that there's no worrying about how to get to your destination (and I am truly terrible with directions - just ask the Husband), someone else does all the driving, and you get to see parts of the area that you wouldn't do normally. *Most* of our travelling companions were friendly enough so that was good too. So, from hating the idea of a bus trip, I've actually gone to thinking about where we can go on the next one. And I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Charleston and Savannah as must-sees for anyone who hasn't yet been.

I only have one piece of advice for anyone thinking about doing one of these coach tour holidays - DO NOT, under any circumstances, sit in any seat on the bus other than the one you are meant to be sitting in. You may not know which one you are meant to be sitting in, which could prove problematic, but you MUST NOT sit in anyone else's seat. If you do, blood may be shed. Believe me, I know.


#30sSkin – Hey, Sugar Lips

I’m not sure my lips have changed much, actually, in the last 15 years or so – other than the fact that I no longer wear Rimmel’s heather Shimmer lipstick 24/7. I do find a lot of lipsticks quite drying though – even those that aren’t supposed to be, so I tend to go for balms and more moisturising formulas. Staying power is obviously important, but probably the most important thing for me is even wear. Since I often don’t have time to touch up during the day, the last thing I want is to look in the mirror and find my lippie has disappeared apart from a thin clown-like line around my lips. (Remember the early ‘90s ‘masses of liner and no lipstick’ look? Not good).
So, my lip product of choice needs to keep my lips soft, last a decent amount of time and wear off evenly. Hello Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments. I first got one of these in a Sephora birthday gift a couple of years ago (yet ANOTHER reason why we should have Sephora stores in the UK again!) in the shade Rose and I wore it to death for the first couple of weeks. This particular shade gives a beautiful sheer rosy (errr...obvs) tint to lips, it’s really rich and moisturising and lasts fairly well (I could still see colour around 4 hours later, although that disappeared when I had a drink).

I’ve since repurchased Rose a couple of times and tried a couple of other shades, Honey which is a rich nude and Petal, which is similar to Rose but more pink and slightly more pigmented. I also love the original version which smells like lemonade. Best of all the Fresh Sugar lip treatments have an SPF of 15 so are perfect for summer, ALTHOUGH! I have discovered they don’t do well in heat – in fact they melt quite badly if left somewhere hot too long. The other slight negative to these is that they aren’t that easy to get hold of in the UK, there is one Fresh store in London I believe, and these can be found online on Ebay & Amazon , but in the US these retail for $22.50 each (although in Sephora they often have sets with mini versions which is what I snapped up) and I couldn’t find them here for less than £22.50.

Either way, next time I’m in the US I’ll be stocking up as I’ve not found anything over here like them.
Have you tried Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments? What are your favourite lip products?

#ThrowbackThursday Champers at the Dorchester with Jackie Collins

Monday, October 1st 2012. 12pm. In the office:
Fi - 'Would you like to meet Jackie Collins at the Dorchester in London for afternoon tea tomorrow?'
Me - 'Tomorrow? What? That's far too short notice. We couldn't possibly. Could we....?'
Cue much squealing.

Let me first say that I love Jackie Collins. I mean, LOVE her. I first picked up one of her books (American Star) in a charity shop twelve years ago and since then made it my mission to read every one of her 29 best sellers more or less back to back. (Her brand new offering, The Power Trip, is currently sitting in my kindle waiting to be absorbed during my 10 hour plane journey to the US next week). There have been many imitators, but nobody has ever come anywhere close to encompassing the glamour, scandal and seediness of Hollywood like Jackie can. And it's not just about the rude bits(although they are amusing, they aren't central to the stories - take note, E.L James) - the characters are real (real a**holes, mostly), the plots juicy and twisty....what more do you want?! So when Fi announced that she had been chosen as the winner of a competition we'd entered (the prize = tea for two with Jackie in London), I was a little bit excited.

After we'd arranged our days off work and booked our train tickets, we started thinking about the really important stuff - what does one wear to tea at the Dorchester?! Mild hysteria ensued as we both mentally went through the contents of our wardrobes trying to find something suitable (being stuck at work until 7pm meant shopping for something new was sadly impossible). Luckily neither of us are of the 'buy less, wear more' mentality that Gok Wan keeps banging on about so we did have a couple of options. We finally settled on this floral dress from Monsoon (me), and a polka dot number from Wallis (Fi).

So the next day Fi and I found ourselves sitting at a table in the Dorchester with another competition winner and his mum, Jackie's British agent and a rep from the publishing company, Simon & Schuster, waiting for Jackie to arrive. At this point I have to say that the Dorchester is very, very posh. It's so posh that if you ask where the bathroom is, a man in a hat actually leads you to the loos. It's posh.

Jackie then appeared and greeted all of us before sitting down for tea. A perma-tanned waiter who'd been hovering nearby swooped over and served us finger sandwiches, scones and dinky cakes with pink champagne. No crusts - they don't do crusts at the Dorchester. I literally ate half a sandwich and a bit of cake, as stuffing our faces didn't seem to be the done thing, although I did manage to force down the champers with no problem. Jackie was chatting away very pleasantly, and was every bit as Hollywood as I had imagined; telling us about her new book, favourite restaurants in LA and the other publicity bits she was doing whilst in London (with "someone called Gary Barlow?!"). The hour and a half we had with her flew over but she did manage to squeeze in a few snippets about life in Hollywood over the years, including sneaking around when her sister Joan was dating Warren Beatty in the early '60s and they were all staying at the Chateau Marmont together - could it be anymore glamorous?!

Jackie then signed books for us all before shooting off to do a radio interview (and later on, dinner with Michael Caine) and we were left to nibble on the leftover scones and sup the last of the champagne, while quizzing her publisher about tips on getting a book to print, and the other celebs they were working with, from Arnold Schwarznegger to Sam from TOWIE.

I realise this makes me sound a bit stalker-ish but meeting Jackie really was a brilliant experience, and has inspired me to force myself to finish writing that novel I've been working on for the last 6 years (gulp). Being able to ask her for some juicy Hollywood goss was also fun - how often do you get to have tea with a genuine Hollywood icon?

Of course, the most important question about whether Warren Beatty was really as gorgeous and charming as he seemed in those days was met with a resounding yes. See below for a pleasing photograph I've added. Just because I can. :)

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

This is my mascara collection:

In short, I’m a mascara whore. Harsh, but true. I expect a LOT from my mascara; I want it to thicken, lengthen, separate and completely coat my lashes. I don’t want it to clump, fade, crumble or smudge. Even if I sweat. I want it to make my lashes look natural, but dramatic. I want the brush to be soft, full, but not so big that I can’t apply to my bottom lashes without making a mess. Basically I want the moon on a stick, in mascara form. Oh, and if I’m paying a lot for it (over a tenner), it ‘d better be gooood or I will be MAD. Yup.
I like all of the mascaras in my collection, they all meet a lot of my requirements...but none of them completely deliver. DiorShow makes my lashes look huge, but smudges. They’re Real by Benefit never smudges, but the brush is so scratchy. Clinique High Definition mascara separates and defines perfectly due to it’s dual brush/comb – but it’s discontinued. You see my problem.

Enter Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara. I’m expecting great things – can’t think why. Anyhoo. I’m reviewing a small, sample sized version I got from the fabulous Rose's Beauty Store. First impressions – LOVING the pink tube. Cuteness! (Too Faced packaging always gets me). But onto the product. This mascara makes BOLD claims. Like, an increase of 1944% volume and length to lashes. The idea is that the hourglass shaped brush fits into every curve to perfectly coat lashes in deepest black colour, which I think it does, actually. This is me before, and after, three coats, without using a lash comb:

Heck, I think I like it. So, let’s give it the real test – a day at work. This means I alternate between being ridiculously hot if I’m outside at all (since we are having some sort of freak warm weather atm. I’ve heard it’s called ‘summer’) and getting my eyeballs dried out by the cool breeze of a desk fan if I’m inside. By lunchtime, things weren’t too bad – I had a little smudging. Just a tiny bit. By home time....uh oh. More smudging, and a teeny bit of flaking. Not masses, but enough to annoy me. At this point I have to add that it was a 10 hour day and, as I mentioned, it was a warm day too. So, how does Better Than sex compare to my other mascaras? I’d put it on par with the Dior for colour, coverage and the level of smudge, but actually I think the Too Faced one gives a little more length and definition.
So, although it’s not quite perfect, I’m thinking this could be a contender for the best of my collection right now. I’ll still continue my search for a mascara that does all of the above and stays put, though.
Have you tried Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara? What do you think?