Monday, 30 March 2015

I spend most of March prepping and planning for a busy month of birthdays, and this month has been no exception as it has as ever flown right to the end in a flash; yesterday I turned 21 and I had a wonderful day filled with copious amounts of food (all of which you'll have seen on my Instagram and Twitter) and I will giving you a little peek into my birthday bakes later this week, but firstly, let's rewind.

March finally bought us some sunshine, the epic Anna and Lily 90's Playlist on Spotify, and so many new finds and purchases that they've obviously clambered into my top March Favourites, so let's chat the best of the best shall we....

Spring weather meant I was cracking out striped tops left, right and centre, however I soon discovered I actually only had two wearable tops in my wardrobe so a H&M haul was needed. I picked up three striped tees, a printed tunic and a blue floral top to make my wardrobe a bit more exciting, and I feel more fabulous, stripey and blue in my life than before! Yay for tops!

Timely enough, my Winter body wash ran out at the start of March, so it was time to re-visit an old favourite - Rituals Hammam Delight, which has been re-packaged into a lovely blue container (be still my blue loving heart) and has the most incredible zingy scent of Eucalyptus and Rosemary that gets you ready to start the day with minimal fuss and a fresh mind. If you love a clean, invigorating smell, I urge you to try this.

It appears I have been obsessed with eyes this month, and rightly so as these are all outstanding products. Firstly, I've gone a bit cray and outside my comfort zone by regularly rocking a red toned eye-shadow on my lids which you'll have seen here, and I absolutely love the way it brings out my green eyes. MAC Star Violet has been my shadow of choice, and it's mix of red, pink and gold tones make it so flattering to wear, and it's paired perfectly with Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Amethyst as a base. Amethyst is more of a red-purple-silver toned product, but it picks up the flecks of green nicely to give your eyes that standout position in your look. Total winner for any green-eye gal!

Now to make those eyes look even more special, I have gone back to my fave mascara brand to give their new product a go, and I have been so impressed. Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara does everything I hoped it would do; the curved wand is amazing for adding volume and length, and by using the outside of the curve my lashes feel plumped and separated for a gorgeous doll-eye look that I can totally get on board with.

To take it all off is the one and only Emma Hardie Cleansing Balm, which I finally picked up after months of using a mediocre product. Whilst Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm is still my #1, EH is quickly catching up with its gorgeous scent, thick and balmy texture, and quick nourishing cleansing. I've been using and drinking Moringa powder for a while so it's fab to start using it in my skincare regieme too.

A bit of an odd one in the mix, but something so delicious I can't miss it off. As I said in my Gousto Delivery review, I had the most delicious Halloumi salad where the Halloumi was rubbed in Ras El Hanout, and I am so converted to this spice. If you like cinnamon, you will love this as it has that warming taste and smell to it, with a bit of a kick and also a freshness to it. It's so unique, and now I can't stop using it in everything - be prepared for more recipes including Ras El Hanout (not Rag al Ghul as I said by mistake).

March has been so exciting, so fun, and a great end to my 20th year. I've got some really great things planned with Britton Loves over the next few months, and I can't wait to keep sharing my thoughts, posts and favourites with you weekly. Time to end the March Favourites segment, and hit play on April....

What have been your March Favourites? Have you got a passion for stripes? Do you love spicy food?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Tomorrow is my 21st birthday, and I'm quite amazed at how fast it's come round; my 20th year has been a good one, I've tried and done new things, met new people, and had to deal with other things that have made me a more informed person. Whilst I'm spending today baking my birthday cake and getting things ready, I thought it would be nice to look over 21 things I've learnt and enjoyed over the years before finally becoming an 'adult' - that's not a thing right?

1. Friends come and go, and you'll find most of them in places you least expect it.

2. Moving and shuttling between houses every weekend has given me some insane organisational skills and also a longing for lazy days.

3. I've always loved taking pictures, being in pictures, and being online creating.

4. Being featured in Company Magazine out of everyone who entered for the photography section still makes me really proud.

5. I've always been 'the nice one' which can be frustrating but I'd rather be nice than anything else.

6. Studying for school was hard when I disliked a subject and most of my notes have gone out of my head, but if there's something I really want to research I will remember it forever.

7. Calvin from S Club Juniors was my first crush, and when he fave'd my tweet I had an Automatic High  (geddit?)

8. Going to California was one of the few times I felt alive and happy.

9. Less is More.

10. I always won the music quizzes at school as my iPod Nano was stuck to my ears 99.9% of the time and I skipped songs a lot so I would beast the Intros round.

11. My first birthday involved me playing with a giant spoon instead of presents, and another girl whacking it on the head of another.

12. I was always an Angel, never a Mary.

13. You can better conversations with people you've never met than those who you've known for years.

14. When I was 7 or 8 I saw Alan Titchmarsh buying shoes, but this was topped by meeting Bill Nighy on a street in London.

15. I can be really competitive but then also really surprised when I do well at things.

16. I forget how much I like to read, and I wish I'd spent more time doing so.

17. When I was about 5, the Queen came to open an Art Gallery in my town, and I fell down our (steep) patio steps chasing after the car, resulting in a very big graze down my shin.

18. I can easily become obsessed with things. It's not natural, and it's not healthy, but it makes the feels churn.

19. People will force their opinions on you and that's okay, it's not personal.

20. On that note, fight for what you believe in. Do what makes you happy because you control your life.

21. There isn't a moment in my life I would change because they have all bought me to the person I am today.

What have you learnt over the years? Do you have any achievements or celebrity meetings to share? What happened on your last milestone birthday?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Friday, 27 March 2015

I am all for spreading a little love around, whether it's a quick tweet to a friend, or letting a blogger know how well they're doing - heck even just chatting to others and giving them a hug is enough sometimes! My recent 'Bloggers I Love' post was a great way to show appreciation to those who had influenced me, but there are so many little ways you can make someone smile and take their day from okay to super-duper spiffing in minutes.

1. Tweet them!
Everyone loves a response on Twitter, so whether it's something that reminded you of them, sharing the love on their new post, or expressing the feels you have over something they've posted - even if it's a smoothie! - you can guarantee they'll perk up seeing you send something positive over, which leads to...

2. Interacting more on social media
Whether it's liking or commenting on an Instagram post, replying to their comments on your blog, or including them in you #FF, these little things show that you're involved and interested in what they're up to, and thank you yourself appreciate their awesomness!

3. Sending spontaneous texts or letters
Last year myself, Summer and Sammy all wrote letters to one another, and the fact we knew minimal about each other but filled our cards with words full of appreciation meant a lot. Sometimes people see you more for what you're worth than others, so let others feel the same with a quick message letting them know you are thankful.

4. Help out more
If you live at home, in halls or a flatshare, helping out where you can and when you're not asked doesn't do unnoticed. If your mum has had a hard day, maybe you could cook dinner for her or vacuum the house when you have a spare few minutes, or if you're in a flatshare and everyone is a bit frazzled, making a round of tea and cracking out some biscuits and chatting about their day can lift another's spirits quickly.

5. Be kind
Especially to those who deserve it. Ask if they're okay now and again, show you are there for them, offer advice and treat them as you would expect to be treated in the same situation.

6. Buy flowers
Because who doesn't love flowers?! Spontaneous flowers are even better!

7. Make an effort to spend quality time together
Clear a day in your schedule and invite someone you care about to hang with you for the day; whether you chat over tea and cake at home, go shopping together for some retail therapy, or turn up at theirs with some brownies and a movie, quality time when it's needed or deserved is the best.

8. Say 'thank you'
Two words that can become so ordinary in our everyday language, take the time to say it with meaning. Say thank you to your mum for making you dinner every night, say thank you to your best friend for always running over when you need their help, say thank you to the co-worker who really helped you out on that project, just say thank you with gusto whenever you can! Say it with words, by paying for lunch or a coffee, say it with a gift or just with a big meaningful hug, say it at every moment possible.

Here's my appreciation for you; thank you for coming back and reading every post if you're a regular reader, thank you for clicking on this post and even following me if you're new, and thank you for being awesome!

How do you show your appreciation? Do you find you could so more to spread happy vibes? What does appreciation mean to you?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

One of the many reasons I love the return of Spring is the unlimited amount of salad I can make and consume - throw me some greens, some cucumber and avocados and I'm good to go for lunch from March to September. Salads are not only healthy but they are also a fabulous quick meal to rustle up, and there's nothing I love more than a quick meal when you're really hungry and want something good to eat, especially when you find surprise leftovers in the oven - you know the ones, where you cooked up some Sweet Potato fries the night before but didn't finish it all off and went into a food coma. Yep, that one!

I love adding in hot elements to my salads such as veg, and usually in the evenings I work a sprinkle of kale for some crunch and added superfood goodness into my greens, however I was so excited when Florette told me about their new Baby Kale launch*, a soft and tender nutrient boosting leaf to add to your salads or sandwiches for an extra health kick. The kale is very similar to Rocket (minus the very peppery taste) in its soft leaves so you don't get the crunch of baked or steamed kale, however there is still that great earthy yet fresh taste that comes with the Kale leaf so it will instantly add flavour and texture to your bowl.

With a new bag of salad to try (#excitedsaladloverforlife) and a rumbling stomach for some quick leftover lunch, only one thing was going to happen.....

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 Bag of Florette Baby Kale* | Pomegranates | Feta | Cucumber | Spinach | Pumpkin Seeds | Spring Onions | Carrot | Leftover Roast Veg | 1 Tbsp Olive Oil | 1 Tsp Lemon Juice and Balsamic Vinegar

1. Drizzle the Olive Oil, Lemon Juice and Vinegar into a serving bowl, and toss the Kale through the dressing to cover evenly.

2. Take 2 small handfuls of Spinach and roughly chop before mixing into the kale. Add your leftover veg into a dry frying pan with some pumpkin seeds and allow to heat up and toast lightly.

3. As everything cooks, peel some strips of carrot and dice up the cucumber and spring onions to add into the leaves. Add in the roasted veg and top with crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds, lightly mix together and then serve up!

Super duper easy and amazingly tasty, you can't go wrong with salty feta and fresh pomegranates which contrast beautifully against the Baby Kale's peppery nature. The varying textures, filling vegetables and fresh leaves make this a fabulous spring salad to whip up in no time, and it certainly won't leave you in a food coma or forgetting it in the fridge! Spring salads, welcome back.

Are you a fan of salads? Have you tried Florette Baby Kale? What is your favourite Spring food?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Florette. All views and opinions are my own, especially since I eat salad every day and know a good one when I see it. See below for more.

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Monday, 23 March 2015

Yesterday marked the countdown to my 21st birthday, and I cannot quite believe it's come round so soon. Birthdays for me mean food, friends, family, more food, and of course, a pretty birthday look, so what better way to continue the countdown than show you a cheeky birthday make-up tutorial that I'll be rocking from brunch to bedtime.

I'm all for a natural looking base, and thanks to my goal of keeping my skin clear we're looking pretty good on the skin front these days, which makes birthday make-up that lasts all day much easier to do. Good make-up starts with good skin, so I've prepped mine with a pore-minimising primer such as Pixi by Petra Flawless and Poreless* and added some glow with the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. Now to make your skin look more even without too much coverage, a tinted moisturiser or BB cream is great here, however I lack both of those in my beauty draw (slaps wrists) so instead a blend of MAC Prep + Prime Face Protect SPF 50 and NARS Sheer Glow in Deauville works a treat! Dab a bit of concealer where needed - I love NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla - and you're good to start playing.

I like to do my eyes next, and of course, them brows. I can't live without my Sleek Brow Stylist in Light* as the spoolie makes shaping and colour distribution a dream - you have to try it if you haven't already. As birthday events usually last a few hours, priming the eyes is key and Urban Decay Primer Potion works a treat for my lids, and certainly kept my eye make-up on for hours. I fancied playing up my eyes a little this year instead of going quite natural and nude, and what better way to make your eyes 'pop' than to use a complimentary colour. 
If you have green eyes like me, there are loads of red/pink shades to pick from in several palettes and single products, so I've gone for a little mix: as a base and main colour, the Laura Mericer Mini Caviar Stick in Amethyst is a lovely blend of deep pink-reds, grey-purples and gold, instantly making your eyes look more saturated in colour. I then took MAC Star Violet* just above the crease and near the brow bone to create a blended out shadow which transitions perfectly, and used Toasted from NAKED Palette 1 in the crease and along the lower lash line for a subtle smoked out eye, and blended it into Star Violet so it all merged well for a 3D effect. Due to the gold in all the products, the eye can look quite bronze-toned which is lovely if you don't feel 100% confident in wearing a red eye, and really kick starts that SS15 vibe. 
Finish off the eyes with some definition, and I used my Oriflame The ONE Eye Liner Stylo in Grey* for a subtle line against my lashes without distracting from the shadows, and then curled and made my lashes look long and awesome with Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara - my absolute favourite at the moment!

As there's quite a bit of colour going on with the eyes, I've kept the face paired down slight;y and gone for a flush of colour - a slight contour of the cheeks with the bronze powder from Sleek Face Form in Light*, and the lightest wash of Benefit Coralista on the tops of the cheeks to tie in with the eyes. Finally it's lip time, and with all the eating to do a nude lip is always best as it's easy to reapply and helps balance out the eyes. I've tried to mute down the natural colour of my lips to draw more attention to the eyes by using a lip balm and Seventeen Lip Liner in Blush (see similar) to line and fill the lips before patting on a layer of MAC Myth Lipstick - blot and reapply Myth and you're all ready to shine on your birthday!

I was always scared to wear reds and pinks on my eyes, but the added depth and multi-shade smoke really makes this something so easy to wear for a bit of drama and attention on your lids - an absolute must for any birthday makeup look! Now that the countdown is on, it's time to start thinking of birthday cakes - I'm thinking the ultimate vegan chocolate cake, well it is my birthday...

What makeup look do you go for on your birthday? Are any of you Spring babies? Have you tried any products here or have recommendations?!

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Working long hours can be stressful at times, especially when you get home and want to shovel all the good food in your face. You finally fire up the oven and then it can take ages to prep a decent meal or you're missing certain ingredients, so it just feels easier to go for something basic or call in a take-away. Now I'm not one to have a take-away but I do sometimes find my meals a bit samey and take a while to cook when I'm in working mode, so it was pretty much a god-send when Gousto asked me to try some of their organic and nutritious home-delivered meals to whip up at home and 'spice up my life' a la Spice Girls (minus the big trainers).

Gusto as I said is a home-delivery service, specialising in obscenely healthy balanced meals, delivered across the country to save your meal-time meltdowns. The menu changes weekly, and at roughly £3-£5 per meal for 2 people, you're getting a lot of great flavour for your money. Both veggies and meat eaters are catered for - dietary requirements are highlighted but as of yet, there is no specialty diet option, however you are free to swap and choose certain parts once it arrives.

Time to get you lips licking, there's some very  moreish food coming up...

When this huge box arrived on my doorstep, I was thinking 'what the bloomin'eck is in here?!' but then ripped it open at the prospect of yummy delicious meals to eat. Inside you get all freshly packed ingredients in exact amounts (the fact there were mini sachets with the correct tsp of spice made me very happy indeed) and also some great step-by-step recipe cards which tell you what exact ingredients you'll need, how and when to cook them, and also provide a YouTube video to guide you alongside the cooking process (as well as a massive cold bag of wool which keeps your produce fresh until it get's to your fridge - genius!)

As it states on the box, you are also welcome to re-use it for your cats, so if you like food and have cats, this one is for you!

With no time to lose, we quickly whipped up our first meal - Mushroom Bolognese. Gousto rightly caught on to the fact that lots of fleshy mushrooms in a pasta sauce have the taste and texture of minced meat, perfect for us veggie lovers! With everything from pasta to garlic included, this recipe is easily whipped up in 40 minutes and is packed with 22g of protein. Interestingly there was soy sauce included which I would never have thought to have used, but with the balsamic vinegar mixed in too it was delicious - all it was missing was some red wine, alas I did not have any so I beefed it up with some extra sugar and vinegar to taste.

I personally switched my pasta out for some gluten/wheat free variety (I haven't had pasta in over a year so I was going to go steady before launching back in) but the sauce was so smooth, with great flavour and a lovely freshness of basil to it - I did spend a few minutes sniffing the basil before popping it in the pan. I know, someone stop me.

Personally, this is a great mid-week comfort food which satisfies your hunger, but I would use more basil and a richer sauce for that true Italian kick. A solid 8/10 for me.

Now I'm a bit fan of curry, and I can dabble in some serious spice now and again when I feel like it - Tom Yum Soup? Conquered - so I was very excited to try the Sweet Potato Sag Aloo, especially since I heard a lot about it in that classic Gavin and Stacey clip. Let me tell you now, the spice filled my kitchen for hours and I could smell curry long after I went to sleep. Surprisingly this took only 25 minutes to cook and you can leave it simmering on the stove for longer if you want to finish some bits of before you sit down for the night, but it's an amazingly flavoured sauce packed with cumin, tumeric and chilli, and is only 443 calories!

I personally found the spice amazing, it was a great flavour to compliment the sweet potato, and we had more than enough to last for a small lunch the next day so a big whoop-de-whoop for money saving meals there! 9/10 with a side of thumbs up.

I don't eat a lot of cheese, in fact, I don't eat a lot of dairy (minus the Christmas crackers and cheese plate because HELLO) but I will occasionally cave for a slice of halloumi. Luckily for me our final tasty treat was a Persian Halloumi Salad which looks pretty simple but is a bit more fiddly than the rest; however, it is well worth it for that first bite - more on that later...

Apparently halloumi is dubbed as 'veggie bacon' which is something I can totally get on board with, and with a blend of mint and lemon to jazz up the salad I was more than excited to cook this. There some ingredients I'd never heard of before - barberries and ras el hanout anyone? - and like I said it can be faffy, but my god they tasted amazing. You need a lot of surfaces and utensils including chopping boards and bowls to put several of the ingredients in so prep yourself for a load of washing up, and then it's time to start cooking.

Ras el Hanout (or Rag Al Ghul as I kept calling it, silly Batman terms!) smells wonderfully like cinnamon, and blended with the lemon to cook the halloumi is mind-blowing. Once you mix in the right amounts of water, mint, bulgar wheat (or quinoa if you're substituting) with the lemon zest and spices, it comes together to create a perfect Persian meal to tuck into for either lunch of dinner - I wish there was more halloumi. I can honestly say that this meal rocks; out of all the three we made, this was just so moreish, flavourful, a perfect balance of texture and is pretty much a sensory adventure. Okay, you're flapping about for 40 minutes if you're not prepared for all the bowls, but now that you know that, you can make this swift and easily to tuck into the best meal you'll have had in a long time. What can I say? 10/10.

It's safe to say that Gousto definitely put love and nutritional value into all their meals, and I would hand-on-heart make all of these recipes again - made ever so easy by the included cards, thank you! Going back to my regular meals was a bit sad but it's making me want to create even more interesting meals to post here, and also to discover more ways to use Ras El Hanout because that is my new thing now, I need some more of that for my sweet potato chips.

Overall, the experience of using Gousto was great; we did have some issues with some items of food not being delivered, but upon explaining this to the company it was addressed immediately as it very rarely happens. The food that was missing was easily substituted by things already in our fridge or cupboards, and everything tasted as expected. If you spend £50 a week on a shop, then maybe scale back and try this for 3 treat or gourmet meals after work or the weekend as it's good value for money, plus your first delivery is discounted - woohoo!

This has definitely opened me up to new cuisines and flavours, and there's now a little Gousto shaped heart in my fridge were all the ingredients once were. For really delicious meals you cannot go wrong with the service provided, and as the Spice Girls also once said, 'I'm giving you everything, all that joy can bring, yes I swear' - see you in the kitchen ;)

This box was provided by Gousto for review and is not sponsored. All opinions and thoughts are my own, so please see my disclaimer for more.

Are you a rushed chef or a calm pre-planner? Do you liked the sound of these meals? Would you try a service like Gousto?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Friday, 20 March 2015

Finding a dupe for any high-end product can be a godsend these days, especially as the pounds and pennies can add up in horror in front of your eyes *sorry bank balance*. I believe that thanks to the rise of beauty bloggers who have a strong mind of what they want from a product, loads of brands have stepped up their game and produced purse-friendly palettes, lipsticks, blushes and more to rival their luxury counterparts.

Now I'm all for the occasional splurge on something that just works beautifully - NARS Creamy Radiant Concealer, MAC Lipsticks, the like - but there's always those one or two drugstore brands who impress you for under £10 and lure you in for more. Personally, Sleek is my main make-up budget dupe yet all their products have a near high-end quality it never ceases to amaze me, so I'm going to share my top 4 Sleek dupes for your favourite luxury brands - no need to thank me, just head to Boots asap!

I love a good plum lipstick, and usually for quality formula you have to pay a little more to stop feathering or bleeding from occurring outside a liner, and even the dreaded wear-off when you have lost half the colour through eating and drink and the rest remains like a big ring - shivers. But, it's too good a colour to hide away so for a luxury investment, the Giorgio Armani Rouge D'Armani Lipstick in Plum 600* has fabulous pay off that when blotted down leaves a long lasting matte berry plum - but we're not here to discuss the luxury, as for a similar formula and spot-on colour you can get Sleek True Colour Lipstick in Smoulder* for a fraction of the price!

Smoulder is slightly more brown toned and deeper in purple, so if you're wanting something a bit more vampy then this would be the best choice. Plum is definitely more berry and could be pulled off in the day with some highlighter and lots of mascara to keep it quite fresh - think AW15 in real life! In terms of formula however, Giorgio Armani does last longer on the lips and is more pigmented when you take off the excess whilst Sleek ends up being quite sheer, but it's a budget buy you we can't always expect miracles. All in all, there's not too much difference so give Sleek a go before you invest in the shade.

Now for nudes, and Chanel Rouge Coco in Mademoiselle and Sleek Tru Colour Lipstick in Liqueur* are so similar (although you wouldn't be able to tell from the bullet) that you could just go an tell everyone you're wearing Chanel for the fun of it. But let's break it down and see what's different between the two; firstly, formula - Liqueur is slightly thinner but creamy, making it a great 'slick on for some colour enhancement' choice when you're rushing out the door, and it's especially good for occasions when you're eating out or rocking a summer vibe - lovely and natural but easy to reapply without fail. Chanel on the other hand is slightly more substantial but glides just as easily, with the added bonus of a deeper colour to make your lips look like 'yours but better'. Again, easy to reapply without fuss and lasts longer on the lips.

As I said before, Chanel is a bit deeper in colour with a more pink-brown hue whilst Sleek is more of a nude-brown so it does come off lighter or more neutral on your lips when worn, however it does have a slight shimmer to it so it's good with a glow or a bit of bronzer on the cheeks. All in all, both are great for a quick nude lip, but Chanel does have slightly better consistency and longevity whilst Sleek applies on the go better - it's a win/win situation all round!

Plum (L) Sleek True Colour Lipstick in Smoulder (R) Giorgio Armani Rouge D'Armani in Plum 600 | Nude (L) Sleek True Colour Lipstick in Liqueur (R) Chanel Rouge Coco in Mademoiselle

Everyone loves a good eye palette, and my Urban Decay NAKED 1 sure gets a lot of loving. It has the perfect mix of shades that I love to wear, great pigmentation and buttery formula, and can transport well when popping off for a weekend. That being said though, Sleek does an incredible job of replicating the same great pigmentation, shades and formula as NAKED, and yet again you get it all for a bargain price. 

Let's talk the Sleek i-Divine Palette in Au Naturel* which has some similar shades to NAKED 1 but a few others that are also great wear. Sleek contains mainly grey, neutral, mossy greens and warm purples and browns which are great for a neutral base with slight depth - the grey is perfect for re-creating Burberry's AW15 smokey grey eye, you heard it here first! NAKED however has some amazing golds, browns, neutral peaches and beige toned shadows and shimmers that just blend in beautifully, so depending on your colouring preference, NAKED is better for warmer neutrals and deeper blended shades whilst Sleek Au Naturel has a cooler toned collection of neutrals with dark purple-brown shimmers to jazz up the finish.

I also have to point out the packaging - now I love some great aesthetics but I do accept the fact that over time, the outsides will become a bit mucky. The NAKED 1 palette gets a lot of grief for it's velvet cover and personally, I quite like it! It feels nice and looks great in my make-up drawers, but I can see where others come from in terms of it can get a bit worn easily so look after your products folks! Sleek goes for a matte, sleek (what a pun) black packaging, but as soon as you get your foundation fingers on it, it's a pain to wipe off and leads to some smudged prints on the edges. I'm not too fussed, but I do wish it would clean easier so it looked better.

There are also some absolute cult blush and contour products on the market these days, and I feel both MAC and Benefit have some great options available - my personal favourites include MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural Powder in Medium/Dark which has minimal (if any) shimmer that creates a lovely warm contour or bronze to the cheeks, whilst Benefit Coralista has an perfectly balanced pink-coral shade with flecks of warm gold shimmer, excellent for perking up the complexion and warming the skin in the start of Spring. Carrying both of these can be bulky which is why I find Sleek Face Form in Light* an absolute God-send, and also an amazing dupe for both products.

Housing a contour, highlight and blush, the shades are practically identical; the bronzer/contour is a a very flat matte brown which when used with a light hand, builds up into a gorgeous defined cheekbone with a hint of summer glow. Like wise to Benefit, the blusher is packed with gold shimmer and sparkle but contrasted to the slightly more pink-coral-brown shade, it works perfectly and a light  sweep on the tops of the cheeks adds a gorgeous evening flush to a nude make-up look.

So whether you're on a spending ban, or need a new shade for your collection and don't want want to compromise on price, then you definitely need to head over to your local Sleek counter. The nude lipsticks, face and eyeshadow palettes are particular highlights, and there's also some snazzy Anastasia Brow Wiz dupes there too so keep your eyes peeled for them ;)

Whilst some high-end products are better - NAKED 1 will always be my true love - you can't dismiss the fact that the high-street and drugstore are quickly catching up in terms of formula and quality whilst still keeping prices affordable. Foundations are better colours, nail polish lasts longer and looks better, and there are some seriously good lipsticks that I need to have in my collection ASAP...but I digress, because when it comes to a good ol'dupe for my love on conturing and nude eyes, Sleek will always be there for me to look chic and sleek for any occasion - I couldn't help myself.

Are you a fan of Sleek makeup? Do you love drugstore or high-end beauty brands more? What products will and won't you compromise on?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

There is nothing better in the world than a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing - nope, I refuse to believe it. Ever since I was introduced to the holy trinity of Chocolate Fudge Cake, Tuna Sandwiches - don't ask why that's included here - and Hot Chocolate on many trips to Starbucks and Pret a Manger as a child (those were the days!), I would forever and always OD on chocolate but never learn not to order both a chocolate drink and cake together. Rookie mistake.

I've taken that love of chocolate cake on with me, and although I don't eat it as often anymore, you can't have a cake for your birthday or special occasion that isn't chocolate right? I've usually had to settle for sugary buttercream as a filling and topping for my cake in the past - as seen in this recipe - but now I've cracked it guys; a healthier chocolate fudge filling that is made of 4 natural ingredients and is completely vegan - can I get a whoop whoop?!

You will have to wait for it to set before you can slather it on your cake or eat by the spoonful, but it is so worth it...

Ingredients (makes enough for the top on one medium cake)
20 Pitted Dates | Hot Water | Nut Milk | 50-60g of 70% or higher Quality Dark Chocolate

1. Soak your dates in hot water, allowing them to absorb the heat and turn soft for blending. Whilst they soak, prep your chocolate and pan for melting.

2. Break up the chocolate and pop in a heatproof bowl as a bain marie, allowing the water on a medium-heat to slowly melt the chocolate. As it just turns to liquid, take off the heat and add in a Tbsp of milk at a time until you have a glossy, velvet ganache.

3. Add in a tad more milk to keep the chocolate in a workable form, and then prep the dates. You will want to drain 80% of the liquid and then add in fresh hot water to the dates once they are in the blender. Add it a bit at a time so the mixture doesn't become too liquidy, but is enough to break down the dates. What you are looking for is a caramel coloured, slightly thick liquid with bits of date in, and you will have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to make sure it all gets mixed!

4. Once the dates look enough like a caramel fudge, mix in the chocolate ganache with a small splash of milk and blitz. It may instantly combine or it might need liquid - go steady on adding milk, as adding too much will make it very thin!

5. When it all looks combined, pour it out into a bowl. Now it may look very liquidy, but that is perfect as we're now going to let it set. Pop it in the fridge for 40-50 minutes, maybe less is you want to speed the process up by leaving it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes (not too long or it will go an odd consistency). What you should be left with is a firm mousse like texture, perfect for fillings!

6. Now spoon it out into serving bowls if you want to eat it alone - I won't judge you, it's bloomin delicious as a dessert on its own - or you can start to layer it onto a cake, shaping the fudge into glorious swirls and edges. Pure heaven.

I mean, that's the stuff right there right? And it tastes so darn good too - I promise that the emoji poo look of it doesn't translate to flavour. By draining a lot of the date infused liquid, it helps remove some of the fruity taste but keeps that awesome whipped mousse-like fudge consistency when combined with the ganache. The date pieces add to the texture, and the chocolate is a perfect blend of bitter but smooth - you need this in all your cakes for the rest of time.

In terms of keeping, it should stay good in the fridge for 2-5 days, but if you're cake is hanging round that long then you need to fix that problem (and treat yourself to an extra spoonful or slice) but regardless, this is on easy way to create the perfect chocolate fudge filling and topping for all your cakes that will seriously impress your friends. Move over Betty Crocker, there's a new icing gal in town...

Are you a lover of Chocolate Fudge cakes? What is your favourite cake and filling? Should I bring out my own range of icing to rival Betty?!

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Monday, 16 March 2015

No matter how positive your outlook on life is, there are times when people will knock you down and give you a tough time over things you're doing in your life. It can make you feel a bit poop, make you sad, and make you want to retreat and question your life - stop. Don't let someone's view on your life or choices make you feel bad, it doesn't serve you nor will it benefit either of you.

In times like this, it's important not to let the things others perceive of your life take it over, so whether you've had a family member be critical, bad feedback on an essay, or you're just feeling a bit FOMO or excluded from your friends, here are ways to pick yourself up again when people knock you down.

1. Accept their opinion, and then move on
This might seem crazy or hard, but at the end of the day what the person is expressing is an opinion of what they think your life is like, or what decisions you are making. Be the bigger person and acknowledge the statement and say 'that's an interesting point of view'. You're not disagreeing with them, nor are you agreeing, you are just politely - but firmly and confidently - ending their stream of contrasting views before it starts to get overpowering.

2. Remember that in a week's time, this will be old news
You're not going to be 50 and still discussing the time someone said something nasty, or the time everyone questioned your career choices, you'll have had too many awesome experiences since then! I know it seems like a big deal now but just breathe, think of what will make you happiest, and refocus.

3. Use their fire as fuel
Technically, this is the wrong way round, but their 'firey' attitude can be just the thing you need to 'fuel' your future path. Repeatedly left out of events with friends? Fuel yourself by cutting out the negativity and focusing on people in your life you - although you may not know - are always there to lift your spirits. Or have you been guilt-tripped into thinking your plans aren't worthy? Fuel them by focusing all your efforts on achieving what you can and prove them wrong.

4. It's not always their fault
Yeah, they may be the bad guy right now, but inside they may be concerned, unaware, or just programmed differently to you. Refrain from going on the defence and consider why they may be reacting or acting they way they are - people change or aren't as in touch as you are, so dismiss their bad energy.

5. You can control how you feel
"But they made me feel bad!" They said something you consider bad in your mind which was also directed at you, but they did not specifically tell your emotions to switch from good to I AM SO DOWN RIGHT NOW. Yes, they may have been pushing your buttons for a reaction, but the less you give them, the less they can throw back at you. If someone says something you don't like, remember you are you and you know yourself, so take a deep breath, count to five if you have to, and let yourself calm down before you respond - if anything, they might realise what a numpty they've been in the moment!

6. There is always someone to talk to
At the end of it all, there will be that one person or group of friends who you can turn to and voice your feelings to, and they can listen to you and provide helpful reassurance. One person's view is easily cancelled out by collective support and love.

Yes, you there, you are fabulous, and no matter what the average Joe says to you, you are your own person and you know what is best for you. Sure, you can take criticism (the constructive kind) on board, you can listen and observe opinions, heck you can even see what parts of life find suit your needs best, but no one will ever control your mind, and no one will ever force you to change yourself to please themselves. Human nature, it's a friend and a foe, and in this case it's your friend because it's helping you build a path free of resistance, so surround yourself with equally fabulous people who won't dare to knock you down and help you become a better person with every moment.

As Shania Twain once said, "that don't impress me much" so wave goodbye to negative thoughts, people and views, and let yourself rise from the ground and come back a stronger and more assured person. Go get them guys!

Do you frequently face contrasted opinions from those close to you? How do you deal with people trying to impose on you? What would you do to rise from the ground stronger?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Saturday, 14 March 2015

I recently took to Twitter for answers to one of the oldest questions in the (blogging) universe: Why Do Bloggers Love Beauty? Now I know most females - and some males - generally enjoy makeup, and bloggers specifically are taken with the world of formulas and pigmentation, but why?  Are we influenced by the media? Did it get passed on by our mothers? Or did we one day just see a lipstick and find everything was right in the world because there's nothing that can stand in your way if you have a red lip on!?

Not only did loads of you describe why you loved the art of beauty, but you always filled me in on your most loved products, things to try, and what it is exactly you love about beauty and makeup as a whole, so snuggle up on the sofa and have a little scroll at what some of your fellow bloggers said about the love of beauty...

In terms of starting off in the world of beauty, Lotty discovered it mostly through the media and now looks for brands that know skin and aren't afraid of their ingredients list - I hear you girl! Likewise, Jasmine found most of her beauty inspiration came through YouTube and bloggers, but thankfully her Mum started her on the Liz Earle at a young age - we definitely need more mum's like this in the world!

How has this all translated into a love of beauty? Well Lotty, Hannah and Lizzy all find the application a therapeutic pleasure, with Lotty loving how simple the products can be and how the application is such a dream, and Hannah rightly commented on how your skincare is another way of looking after yourself - you only have one skin so you have to make it feel loved!
Brand-wise, Hannah tends to only go for high-end makeup - citing YSL lipsticks as the best, definitely one I need to try - and moisturiser as the drugstore has some real gems for those on a budget, whilst Katy loves Liz Earle (popular choice!) and is a skincare fanatic that's always intrigued about how products we use now can affect us in the future - well, there's no harm in starting early in the anti-ageing products right? On the other hand, Lizzy likes to use drugstore brands and DIY products to keep her skin feeling fantastic, swearing by Benonite Detox Clay Mask for those pores whilst Julia loves a mix of high-end and drugstore products - if you have combination/oily skin, then she say's Garnier is fabulous for skincare and that Rimmel's Kate Moss lipsticks forever gets her compliments, but that Dior and Bobbi Brown foundations are the best oil-free formulas to try! *takes notes* And for some beauty brand dedication, Theresa said she would skip food if it meant she could afford Benefit and Urban Decay - I'll get some brownies sent over to you, don't worry ;)

Well, that brings us nicely onto makeup doesn't it; what are the favourite products of your fellow bloggers, and what is the best thing about makeup? Well for Faith, she has a huge obsession with mascaras and is always on the hunt for the best one to achieve a wide eyed Bambi look, finding Max Factor False Lash Effect and Bare Minerals Lash Domination the best so far - I am also a fan of the latter so I can vouch for that statement! Abbie is also a huge eye product lover like Brittany, both again looking for the ultimate mascara; Abbie finds that anything to add curl to her straight lashes the best whilst Brittany can't leave the house without eyeliner and mascara, and finds the Covergirl Lashblash Fusion Mascara the best.

Eyes really proved to be a popular beauty section, with both Becky and Nicole getting creative with eyeliner (I might need your help one day) and Becky finding that black gel and liquid liners the best to use for the perfect finish.
Nicole finds the creativity in makeup amazing, and she's not alone - Canz and Sweetface Creation find the art of makeup interesting with Canz using drugstore brands such as MUA, GOSH and Revlon - she agrees that the ColourBusrt Matte Balms are awesome  for longevity and colour - to create new looks, whereas Sweetface focuses on enhancing natural beauty, but loves the result of giving someone else a makeover - love to see people using makeup as enhancement and expression!

Now we can't forget the other areas of makeup can we? Rightly so, as there was a lot of feedback here also, and I found some fellow nail polish addicts too like studenteatingclean who loves to collect shades and finds they compliment every outfit - I hear you sister, you gotta have all the shades ;) Meg has big love for Revlon Cherries in the Snow, saying the colour is super flattering and an amazing formula (I take her word for it!), and both Adele and Georgia find confidence in putting on a favourite lipstick - Adele loves Girl About Town for a pop of colour and Georgia also has big love for red lipsticks by MAC, but who doesn't?!

Finally, the best answer to why bloggers love beauty has to be from Blogging Gals - "Because it makes you feel like a princess!" Well, if that isn't enough to enjoy popping some makeup on now and again, then I don't know what is!

Now to you, what and why do you love beauty? What got you into skincare and makeup? Do you have a favourite product you think we should all be trying out? Leave me your responses below, and I'll be addig them all to my wishlist ;)

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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