Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Skincare Gifts They’ll Love


When choosing a skincare gift it’s always best to steer clear of anything that draws attention to ‘issues’ - so avoid the ‘Acne Buster’ or ‘World’s Worst Wrinkles Fixer’ and veer towards skin boosters. Think brightening, hydrating, skin-enhancing products that most people will appreciate, both to prep skin for party season and help it look better the morning after! I have four fabulous options to share…


I think this Dermalogica Our Favourites, £33.50 set is genius, with 5 generously sized miniatures for the price of one full sized product. These top-sellers are suitable for all skin conditions, with a total value of £48.50. The only one that’s new to me is Skin Hydrating Booster (always open to some of that!); the rest are all winners already and the primer is ace:

  • PreCleanse
  • MultiActive Toner
  • Gentle Cream Exfoliant
  • Skin Hydrating Booster
  • Skin Perfect Primer SPF30

Best for: The Skincare Beginner / Any Skin Type / Skincare Experimenter


Selfridges Fairest of Them All, £40 is one of the prettiest gift sets I’ve seen and contains some amazing brands, encased in cute Alphabet Bag. I’ve bought quite a few of these bags (empty!) and adore them. Add this lot and I’m sold! I’m not sure of the exact value of this set but the majority are high end brands and I’d expected it to cost a lost more.

  • Alphabet Bags Fairest Of Them All canvas wash bag
  • Inner Me Beautify Me capsules
  • Michael Van Clarke 3 More Inches Magic Oil
  • Caudalie Mini eau du Beauty 30ml
  • Fountain Beauty Molecule
  • Lord & Berry Twist Stick in Arizona
  • Deborah Lippmann nail varnish in My Old Flame
  • Bioeffect EGF serum deluxe size
  • Timebomb Complexion Cocktail B1

Best for: The Beauty Lover / Luxury Beauty Fans

Clarins Radiance & Beauty collection 'Beauty Boosters' Boots Exclusive 2014

Clarins Radiance & Beauty Collection ‘Beauty Boosters’, £30 is a Boots exclusive and offer of the week 21-28 November. It works out less than half price with a value of £65 and includes a mix of essentials and treats perfect for a pre (or post!) party glow:

  • Relax Bath & Shower Concentrate 100ml
  • Hand and Nail Treatment Cream 50ml
  • Instant Light Lip Perfector 05 Candy Shimmer 5ml
  • Beauty Flash Balm 50ml
  • Be Long Mascara 3ml

Best for: Pampering Fans / Party Gals



A Beauty Box like Birchbox is a cleverly convenient way to present a ready packaged gift with a mixture of gorgeous beauty products. Available as as a one off purchase or subscription, these cost around £10 each; for a limited time, 6 or 12 month subscriptions include a free gift worth £45 here (for you, obvs!). I loved my November Birchbox (above, still available) or you can choose from zillions of beauty gift sets from Benefit to Caudalie here - I actually had no idea Birchbox stocked all these brands until I stumbled across them just now.

~ Best for: Beauty Experimenters / Young or New to Beauty / Beauty Fanatics / Anyone unlikely to treat themselves ~


Hopefully I’ve inspired some of you with these ideas?  My personal choice would be the Dermalogica or Fairest of Them All. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has barely started thinking about Christmas until now?!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Thoughts on Beauty


I could probably count on one hand the number of friends who veer anywhere close to sharing my obsession with beauty products… either they’ve perfected the natural beauty thing, just aren’t into make-up, or feel unsure where to begin. This is part of the reason I started Strawberry Blonde Beauty, a little corner to share my interest with like minded people and guide beauty novices towards products that really work. Sometimes it makes me feel a little bit guilty... I mean I’m not exactly saving lives, but if I can help someone find a product that helps them hold their head a little higher, then that’s enough to make my day.

So why *do* we put so much effort into make-up, skincare, hair, nails, the whole shebang?

There are bigger, more important things in life. Of course there are. These are often the very things that have driven my beauty obsession over the years, whether to conceal red eyes with the right eyeliner, soothe woes with a bubble bath, lift my spirits with a bright lip or create a moment of precious me-time to paint my nails during ‘so this is what being a parent / grown-up is actually like’ moments.

It’s quite a deep rooted thing for me (yup the irony), but essentially, I enjoy it and it makes me feel better. Sure I’d love to be the type that rolls out of bed looking like she just stepped out of a photo shoot (I have 3 friends like this: Ali, Priscilla & Tania - if I didn’t love you so much I’d hate you *jokes*), but even if I didn’t need make-up, I’d still wear it - because it’s fun! Show me a girl who doesn’t think half the fun of going out is the getting ready… (admittedly moreso pre-kids, with a leisurely glass of something sparkly in one hand and lipstick in the other). Often that 10 minute skincare and beauty routine is the only me-time any of us have in our day, so why not enjoy it?!


If we’re being completely honest, I feel unattractive without make-up. Close friends and family see me make-up free all the time, but beyond them, I feel that The Real Me is unacceptable. Not cool, I know. And no I’m not looking for a sympathy vote, just trying to explain…  I grew up as a Frizzy Ginge in the days when red hair was absolutely not cool and Frizz Ease had not been invented. I was also painfully thin and very self conscious about it (the reason I could slap people who feel free to comment on a child’s ‘skinny legs’. Would you mind if I pointed out how flabby your thighs are with such liberation?). I also towered above my friends, had buck teeth , transparent lashes and was ghostly pale... painting a pretty picture, huh? Let’s just say there was name calling (probably not that much, but it felt like it at the time) and the insecurities stuck.

So aged 13 I’d pinch my cheeks on the school bus to try and introduce a shade of Alive; by 14 I’d discovered blusher (a super flattering orange shade, obvs); and at 15 added Rimmel Pink Shimmer lipstick in attempt to conceal lips that I thought were too full (not cool then either). You get the picture. Make-up was a lifeline to me. Thank God my beauty-savvy big sister soon taught me how to use it.


All of that seems like a lifetime ago (it is!) and of course I have a whole other set of insecurities now, but my attitude has changed. I feel good some of the time and when I feel rubbish I know how to take things up a gear. Mostly I feel quite sad for the time I lost worrying about how I looked back then and wish I’d appreciated what I had. I will do everything I can to encourage my 9yo daughter to accept her beautiful self - inside and out - and am careful not to mention my insecurities in front of her. Growing up is hard enough these days without me pre-empting her awareness of lines and muffin tops. I love that she has zero interest in the plethora of beauty products gathered on every surface of our home, refuses to let me even paint her nails and tells me off for putting on make-up Every.Single.Day.  

The truth is that ‘Perfect’ is completely and utterly subjective. One person’s perfect is another’s imperfect - and vice versa. All that any of us can do is make the most of what we’ve got and where we’re at right now. And if healthy skin, pretty make-up and a gorgeous fragrance can help us towards achieving that, then so be it.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bobbi Brown Scotch on the Rocks


I’ve swooned, experimented and swooned some more over Bobbi Brown Scotch on the Rocks and am ready to share my thoughts. If they aren’t already obvious. Inspired by the legendary Lauren Bacall, this collection is all about creating smouldering party looks. Red / gold / bronze /metallic tones wrapped in packaging that wouldn’t look out of place in Lauren’s hand, it’s traditional with a modern edge and totally Screen Siren.



I’ll start with my Top Two: Limited Edition Lip Color and Nail Polish duo in Bordeaux. Rich, classy and very flattering on pale skin, I can see me wearing these throughout the party season and Winter. The lipstick is rich and creamy with a satin finish and applies best on well prepped, moisturised lips. It works straight from the bullet, though I like to use a lip brush for an evening look.

 Bobbi-Brown-Bordeaux-Nail-Polish-swatch Bobbi-Brown-Bordeaux-NailPolish-swatch

The nail polish is precisely the colour of a glass of Bordeaux wine. I’ve used two coats here - it looks deeper and more vampy with three, but I’m kinda transfixed by the slightly translucent effect of two - like when a glass of red wine catches the light. The texture is very fine, which I think it looks more sophisticated than thick plasticky layers. I’ve used Seche Vite top coat and had good wear time - no more nor less than a standard polish - but there is something very glam about this and at £11 it’s not outrageous for a high end treat.



The quilted effect Highlight Powder comes in Bronze Glow and Pink Glow; this one is Bronze and very warm toned. Like the Beige Gold Shimmer Lipstick, I think this would look best on deeper skin tones and would recommend the cooler Pink Glow for pale faces like mine. The Warm Glow Eye Palette includes a mix of buttery soft golds, nudes and Scotch-inspired browns. While the shades may not stand apart from other Bobbi palettes, I think many will be powerless to resist the decadent mock-croc, gold-trimmed packaging.



From left, Bronze Glow Highlight Powder, Beige Gold Shimmer Lip Color, Gold Glitter Lip Gloss, Bordeaux Lip Color. You can see me wearing the lipstick and nail polish on my Instagram today (I’ve been wearing both non stop).

Bobbi Brown Scotch on the Rocks, from £11.




Friday, 14 November 2014

L’Occitane Delicious Almond Collection


When choosing a luxury beauty gift my main rule of thumb is to go for something I’d personally love but would struggle to treat myself to - either a single luxe make-up item or a pampering set like this L’Occitane Delicious Almond Collection. There are no duds here; no fillers to fob us off with… each and every item in the box is one that I’d treasure.


The Almond Shower Oil is the star of the show - half a litre of it with a pump bottle that makes using it so easy. This goes on like an oil, lathers when wet and rinses off leaving soft, moisturised skin with no residue. I honestly can’t imagine a shower product that feels or smells lovelier. Milk Concentrate body cream is rich and sumptuous and comes in a vintage style glass jar. The Skin Oil is gorgeous on any areas that need extra nourishment and can be used alone or a few drops added to the body cream. The hand cream is up to the usual standard and allows me an extra waft of the scent throughout the day, as does the soap for hand washing (though in all honesty I’d leave this for a guest).

LOccitane-Almond-Body-Cream L'Occitane-Almond-hand-cream-soap LOccitane-Almond-Shower-Oil LOccitane-Almond-Star-Gift-Box  

I’m not a fan of overpowering almond scents and happily this one is very gentle - to me it smells like warm skin and using it conjures up that feeling of climbing into a freshly made up bed in clean PJs after a gorgeous bath. Which is where I’m headed right now…

L’Occitane Delicious Almond Collection

Thursday, 13 November 2014

For the Love of Make-up


I do love make-up. So much that it makes me smile just looking at these pictures. I think it’s beautiful and glamorous, but most of all I’m grateful for it. I can feel like I want to hide under a blanket all day, then apply make-up and feel ready to take on the world. Some may disapprove of that, but I know others will understand. I’m always testing new products to share with you, but some old favourites return to my make-up bag (suitcase) again and again. I may cast them aside for a month or two, but I’ll always return, happy to be reunited. These are a few old favourites I’ve been loving lately, mixed in with some equally exciting new bits.



Oh hello Bobbi Brown lipstick in Bordeaux. This gold-encased dark red is my No 1 pick from the new Scotch on the Rocks collection (full ode on its way - sneak peek on my Instagram!). A classy show stopper that’s more demure than traditional red, I wore it today with little else on my face and still felt good.

Amazing Concealer is a bold name for a beauty product and one clearly coined with confidence as the contents don’t disappoint. Highly pigmented and equally suitable for both under-eyes and blemishes, this does.not.crease or highlight lines and dryness. Although not light-reflective like the Clarins Instant Light, it has more coverage and great lasting power (mine is in the shade Light Beige).

Smashbox is renowned for its incredible primers so my first foray into this brand was a no-brainer. Pore Minimizing Photo Finish Primer is its newest formula and although designed as a foundation primer, is so skin flattering it could be worn alone. Foundation applies smoothly on top; I need less and it stays put for longer. It is quite mattifying so I restrict it to my T-zone or use all over for evening.



Yep, you can totally see how much these products have been loved; I have no shame.

Laura Mercier Silk Crème foundation is much adored by many - and while I am very loyal to LM base products, this one was a slow burner. I’ve had it for a whole year now and my love affair is just warming up… this often happens to me with foundations. Two things make this work for me: using less and applying with my Real Techniques Buffing Brush. It gives medium to full coverage with a dewy finish and reasonable lasting power, which is boosted by the Smashbox primer. (Mine is Beige Ivory but Cream Ivory would be a better match).

Benefit Hervana Blush is a pale gal’s best friend and for me, achieves what I expected from the Hourglass Ambient Blush. The light sections of powder mingle with the other tones to create a slightly blurred, skin-flattering, glowy soft pink flush. Love it.

Paul+Joe-Pressed-Powder + Eco-Tools-Powder-Brush

I’ve started using powder more often to set my make-up, especially around my nose and chin where it seems to disappear fastest. I recently rediscovered this Paul & Joe pressed powder compact in a dark cupboard and what you can’t see here is that the corner of it is slightly shimmery, acting as a very subtle highlight. (I use 02; powder & compact sold separately). I apply this with the Eco Tools Powder Brush - another long term favourite - big, soft, fluffy and good value.

I picked up KIKO VolumeEyes+ Active Mascara in Italy this Summer and have used it as my everyday mascara ever since - it gives good lash in just one coat, great when you’re in a hurry (always). The slim, conical shaped brush allows for precise application even on tiny corner lashes - and it contains lash boosting serum! Every little helps.

Have you tried any of these products - or which ones do you keep going back to? 


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Karma Jewellery

Karma-Jewellery-personalised-initial-bracelets Karma-Jewellery-Made-in-Belfast 

Karma Jewellery is a Belfast company that creates hand-made ‘jewellery with meaning’, with 10% of all bangle sales donated to charity. Each piece symbolises peace, love and much more, with the addition of charms, coloured beads and birth stones. I made the above gold bracelet with blue stones at a recent blogger workshop, and was gifted the gorgeous silver initial bangle. The initial bangles can be personalised to include a single letter like mine, or a combination to spell out a name or word of your choice… I like the idea of one letter on each bangle to form a name or initials.

 Big Karma stack unnamed (1) Karma necklaces

The big bangle stacks are my favourite, though I’m very taken with these necklaces I’ve just spotted, new in for Christmas at Argento - the gold dragonfly is gorgeous and only £22.50 (nb these products are described as gold or silver ‘effect’ and are not real gold).

dragonfly coin necklace 

Karma Jewellery is available directly from and in-store or online at, from £15.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

New: Burberry Effortless Kohl Eyeliner

New-Burberry-Eye-Collection-AW-2014 Burberry-Effortless-Kohl-Eyeliner-twist-up-pencilsBurberry-Effortless-Kohl-Eyeliner-Storm-Grey,Pale-Grape-swatches 

Burberry has released four new Effortless Kohl Eyeliners in Jet Black, Chestnut Brown, Storm Grey and Pale Grape. Waterproof, well pigmented and easy to apply with a twist-up mechanism and built-in sharpener, these are ticking a lot of boxes for me.

I very rarely wear black eyeliner (if I do, it’s a liquid liner for a dramatic look), so these soft tones really appeal to me - I find them much more flattering. Grey or bronze are my usual go-to shades, but I’ve really enjoyed using this Pale Grape aubergine tone.

I’ve swatched the colours very lightly and with more intensity to show the undertones and how it can be built up. Pale Grape has cranberry undertones and Storm Grey has khaki undertones; both are very flattering on blue eyes and give a defined but not harsh look.


They do set quite quickly, so don’t hang about if you want to soften or blend them a little - and once set they remain in place for most of the day on my eyes. Because the formula is waterproof, it can also be used on the waterline and the actual colour is very subtle once mascara has been applied. The formula is smooth enough to apply without dragging, but not so soft that the nib breaks down and the actual pencil is just weighty enough to give good control during application.

MMS only: Sephora + Burberry Cara Delevingne Personal Appearance at Sephora Meatpacking District on October 21, 2014 in New York City.

Above, Cara Delevingne is sporting a combination of the Pale Grape and Jet Black - to me it looks like the black has been used in her lower waterline and the Pale Grape on her upper lash line. I love this quite natural but slightly smouldering look, framed by Those Brows.

Burberry Kohl Eyeliner, £18.50



Sunday, 9 November 2014

Barry M Nails AW 2014: Glitterati to Gloss


I’ve mentioned Barry M’s AW 2014 nail releases in previous posts, which deserve an ode of their own, so here are swatches of the shades I have with some notes on my picks of the bunch. With classy gloss crèmes, silk finishes, brightly coloured fine glitters and dramatic chunky glitters, I think there’s something for everyone here.


Let’s start with a run through of the shade names & finishes…

{1-5 are chunky glitters; 6-8 AW Classic glossy crèmes; 9-11 Silk finish; 12-17 Glitterati; 18 two-tone metallic}

  1. Atlantis - super chunky rainbow glitter, 2 coats
  2. Twilight (exclusive to Tesco) - mix of fine & chunky silver glitter, 2 coats
  3. Atlantis (over Nightshade) - 1 coat
  4. Twilight (over Nightshade) - 1 coat
  5. Starlet (over Nightshade) - fine coral/bronze glitter, 2 coats
  6. Ballerina - dusky pink glossy crème
  7. Vintage Violet - dusky plum glossy crème
  8. Nightshade - blackened plum glossy crème
  9. Orchid - deep purple silk finish
  10. Poppy - rich red silk finish
  11. Forest - deep teal silk finish
  12. Rockstar - fine silver glitter in sheer black base
  13. Catwalk Queen - fine glitter in sheer aqua green base
  14. VIP - fine glitter in sheer turquoise base
  15. Fashion Icon - fine glitter in sheer purple base
  16. Socialite - fine glitter in sheer bright pink base
  17. Starlet - fine copper glitter in sheer coral base
  18. Persian - purple/gold metallic duochrome

BarryM-Atlantis Twilight-glitter-polish-swatches BarryM-AW-Classics  BarryM-Glitterati-swatches BarryM-Forest-Poppy-Orchid-swatches-Silk-Nail-Paints-Aw-2014

My favourites are Atlantis (no 1), a mega chunky rainbow glitter that’s part of the Aquarium collection; Starlet (no 5), a fine coral glitter which looks amazing alone or over a darker shade (see no 5) and Vintage Violet (no 7) a dusky plum that I’ve been wearing a lot in recent weeks. I know lots of you have already picked this up and fallen hard for it since I swatched it in this post. The Silks are my least fave as personally I prefer a glossy finish.

(Sidenote: Persian (no 18), a duochrome purple/gold almost petrol-like metallic reminds me of Nubar Peacock Feathers, a discontinued cult favourite which some of you nailistas may remember? It was a deeper purple with a greeny-gold duochrome, but this is the closest I’ve seen. The duochrome effect can be best seen in the very top pic.)

As it took me a while to find the various finishes online, here are individual links:

Glitterati, £3.99 | Chunky glitter/duochrome, £3.99 | Classic Glossy Crèmes, £2.99 | Silks, £3.99 

Any of these jumping out at you?

PS you can see some of them on my nails on my INSTAGRAM (from pinkie: 17, 13, 4, 14 & 1 - all applied over 8, Nightshade) .


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Barry M AW 2014: YAYs & MEHs


Barry M’s latest releases include a colourful line-up of nail polishes, eye shadow palettes and mascaras. The brand’s make-up is often overshadowed by its nail offerings, which you all know I rate, so which are worthy of attention - or not? I’ve been testing them out over the last month and thought I’d share which worked best for me and which I’d pass on.



  • Natural Glow - a mix of nude toned matte and shimmer shadows with a tinted eye primer.
  • Super Chic - a Superdrug limited edition palette of Autumnal eye shadows with an eye primer
  • Starry Eyed - limited edition palette with six eye shadows in deep, rich tones & an orange-coral blush with gold shimmer.

Natural Glow has the lightest payoff and although pretty, I think there are better nude palettes around at budget prices (eg Make-up Revolution & Sleek). The one that really impressed me was Starry Eyed. I use the middle bronzey taupe all over my lid, the matte aubergine shade to its right in my socket and the beautiful metallic midnight blue as liner. The colours in this are well pigmented and last as well as much pricier options when applied over Urban Decay eye primer (I always need a primer for eye shadow).



I love the metallic pink and silver starry packaging of Showgirl mascaras and was really excited to try them, but these didn’t work well on my lashes, which need all the help they can get! The Extra Volume formula gives some definition and a buildable natural finish (rather than va-va-voom volume), but the Extra Lengthening barely showed up on my little sad lashes. I’d love to know if these did work for any of you?!



As ever, the nail polishes were the absolute stars of the show for me - from rich glossy crèmes to rainbow glitters in both fine and chunky formulas. Personally I wasn’t so fussed on the semi-matte Silk finish, but hey… we can’t all love the same things. Watch this space for swatches of the nail shades in tomorrow’s post! I’ve already featured a few of them in my Pink & Plum post.

To summarise, I’d say go for the deep coloured eye palettes, skip the mascara and stock up on the nail polish!

Barry M is available at Boots & Superdrug (on 3 for 2 at both)

Friday, 7 November 2014

Ash Jalouse: Favourite Boots

Ash_Jalouse-taupeAsh_Jalouse-taupe-suede-ankle-boots Ash_Jalouse-taupe-boots 
I’ve been meaning to post about my Ash Jalouse boots for ages and decided to take a few pics today before they start looking too bashed up. I then noticed there’s currently 30% off Ash footwear at My Wardrobe, so thought it was a good time to share my thoughts. These boots get a lot of hype and I finally understand why… they’re super comfy and look just as good with jeans as they do with a skirt or dress. I love the leg-elongating dipped shape at the front, lowish wood effect heel and slouchy yet stylish shape. There are tonnes of dupes for these now, but once I have my heart set on something… you know how it is. I bought mine in Plumo’s Summer sale and am so glad I did.

Today I discovered how difficult it is to photograph yourself without a decent full length mirror - kudos to you fashion bloggers who do this all the time. Here’s some pics from different angles to give an idea how they look on…

IMG_6725Next-Poncho Ash_Jalouse-taupe-bootsNext-Poncho Ash_Jalouse-taupe

I wore them today with Zara skinnies and my new Next poncho, which I initially bought for snuggling in at home but have become surgically attached to as it’s just so cosy! Happy days that we now have next day delivery in Northern Ireland for no additional cost (I discovered this while greeting a courier in my PJs after ordering at tea time the day before!). I also like to wear these boots with rolled up boyfriend jeans or my black Zara A-line leather skirt & Warehouse checked cape.

I digress… are you a fan of Ash Jalouse and do you think they’re worth the hype? Side note - I’ve been wearing these for a few months so they’re quite worn in. The sizing is fairly generous & wide-ish, but in my experience true - I’m wearing my usual size. If you're between sizes I'd go down one. 

I may have purchased a second pair of (completely different, honest!) boots in the Summer sales, yet to be worn… wanna see a post about those too?

Happy weekend everyone - am now off to pour myself a well earned glass of wine!

If you can’t find the boots in your size at My Wardrobe, they’re also available from Atterley, which has 30% off its Premium Edit (inc the Ash boots & some amazing coats) with the code PREMIUM30 here. My Next Fairisle Poncho is available here.


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