Me Time: NEOM 100 Days of Happiness

Can you believe this is the last day of February? Gotta love a short month! I'm so ready for the arrival of March... it always feels like Almost Spring to me, with an imminent whisper of warmth from the sun. 

Neom chose a great month to launch its new Happiness Programme, when many people are feeling a little lacklustre, and it didn't take much coaxing for me to give it a go. The Happiness Programme Kit includes 5 products: the four above and a larger 3 wick Happiness candle. My appreciation of Neom candles is well documented in these pages, but the new programme goes beyond the products, focusing on a positive state of mind. 

As a busy self employed mum, I constantly feel like I'm juggling different elements of my life and like many others in my position, am not very good at taking time out for me. This programme was a good reminder of the importance of doing just that; at the end of the day, I'm a better mother (better everything!) when I look after me too. 

So I spent February armed with a Happiness Handbook and 28 day calendar of tips ranging from the importance of enjoying our natural surroundings to mood boosting smoothie recipes. Daily texts were a useful reminder of tips like 'Tidy desk, tidy mind - kickstart your week by decluttering your workspace.' 

I did things like driving to the beach for a freezing-but-sunny early morning walk straight after the school run, treated myself to (sometimes) healthy treats and took the time for a bath when I really just wanted to fall into bed. Yep, even 'me time' can sometimes feel like a chore... and absolutely shouldn't.

Neom Great Day Mood Lifting On the Go Mist, Body & Hand Wash

The Great Day range contains 8 pure essential oils, with mood lifting wild mint and mandarin, a refreshing combination included in the body scrub, spritz and body & hand wash. 

Neom Great Day Body & Hand Wash

The wash has quite a subtle scent, so if you prefer a stronger hit, opt for On the Go Mist... currently only available in this miniature size, I need a giant bottle of this - please make one Neom  - and yes, it smells good enough to wear as perfume! 

Neom Happiness Candle

The Happiness candle contains a blend of 7 essential oils including white mimosa, neroli and lemon to balance emotions and shed unnecessary worries. It's my favourite of all the Neom scents and I reviewed it in detail here (four years ago!!) if you'd like a better idea of how it smells. The one wick candle kicks out a lot of scent, plenty for a small to medium sized room, whereas the three wick is best in a hallway or large room.

While I think that the holistic approach of Neom's Happiness Programme is really great, I know it's not in everyone's budget, so if you'd like to treat yourself to a little slice of happiness, I highly recommend a Happiness candle or Mood Lifting on the go Mist. Or at least an early morning walk somewhere beautiful. 

Pixi Beauty Spring 2016: Review & Swatches

I recently caught up with the Pixi Beauty team for a run through their new Spring makeup collection, which includes a couple of products that have already become daily staples. 

I left a few of them in the packaging for these pics, just to show how pretty it is... I really like the vintage pastel green and rose gold styling. 


Brow Tamer is a clear liquid brow gel with a small mascara style wand that keeps my brows in place all day without any clumping or crispiness. 

Black Lacquer Lash Primer works well as a base to add extra volume, or on its own for a more natural look. It's very black with no fallout and leaves my lashes feeling quite soft, possibly due to conditioning ingredients, panthenol and Vitamins A&C. 

Endless Silky Eye Pen in Cobalt Blue isn't a shade I'd use often, but the colour, texture and pigmentation are seriously wow.  I'm a bit of a liner wuss so tend to stick to safe colours - and regularly use this formula in grey or brown - it goes on smoothly, blends out nicely and lasts well. I've just spied a bronze, copper and greeny gold on the M&S site, which I'll check out next time I'm in store.

Brow Brightener in Golden Glaze can be used over your regular brow product to add some light and contrast and avoid that solid Disney Brow look. Personally, I love applying this as a metallic eyeliner or shadow with a slim liner brush - the colour is completely stunning. 


The new Lip Contour Liners were the standouts for me from the new releases. Anyone who wears nude liner knows how difficult it is to find a really good one and Pixi has come up with two. Move over Kylie Jenner; these have been in the making for two years!

Soft Nude (the lighter shade) is The Perfect Neutral Nude Lip Liner. Seriously - I can't fault it. It's a  cool nude beige that works with almost every nude lipstick I own.

I've been pairing it with Shea Butter Lip Balm in Peach (swatched above), though think it would work beautifully with the slightly cooler toned Honey Nectar nude. You can see me wearing this combo here.

I was wary about trying the deeper Bare Buff, but it's a striking dramatic brown liner with a little warmth and verrrry Kylie Jenner (not that that's a selling point for me, just sayin'). It's unbelievably flattering and looks great alone, all over the lips - couldn't love it more. 

These go on smoothly, set quite matte and last for hours. There's also a rose pink shade and a transparent Lip Contour Liner (to prevent lipstick feathering) - all four are available here

Have you tried any Pixi makeup products? 


Zoeva Rose Golden Brushes - Volume 2

Zoeva brushes are often described as an affordable alternative to MAC - and while I've only tried a few from both sides, I have to admit that the Zoeva are hard to fault. Super soft, well made, good value and gorgeous to look at - I'm in. I own a ridiculous number of makeup brushes, but have to warn you, if you try one or two of these, you will want a full set

These particular three are quite specific and I'd definitely start with more generic ones, but I'll talk you through my thoughts...

322 Brow Line - short firm bristles and a slanted cut allow for good control when applying brow product and this works for both cream and powder. It's a bit wide to use for vertical strokes on my own brows, so I'd recommend this for someone with a fuller set. 

109 Luxe Face Paint - Made with a blend of natural and synthetic bristles (vegan version available), this slim, flat brush is the best I've tried for contouring. I'm not the biggest contour-er, but this fits so well beneath the cheek bone, is firm enough to give control, but not so dense that it picks up too much product. I've actually been using mine more for highlight, which it applies and blends beautifully. I'm not one for highlighting all over the shop... I like to be quite precise about it and only use a little on high points where the light actually hits. 

104 Buffer (vegan) - I normally go for a more rounded buffing brush and this one is quite flat with a with a slightly tapered edge and a bigger surface area than I'm used to. The result is a fast face of foundation. I find it gives a slightly more sheer finish than my usual Real Techniques Buffing Brush or Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush, so a good one if you enjoy a natural look and brilliant if you're in a hurry in the mornings. 

You can find all of these brushes in the new Rose Golden Luxury Set Volume 2, or purchase individually (links above). If you can resist the rose gold, regular versions are also available for a pound or two less.

Since trying this trio I've read a tonne of reviews on other Zoeva brushes and have a list of at least 5 eye brushes on my radar. It'll be cheaper to just opt for a set, won't it? I've got my eye on this one.

If you have any Zoeva favourites, please tell me about them in the comments!

Currently Using: Show & Tell

I've gathered up some of the beauty products I've been reaching for lately for a bit of a show and tell, including new releases, a limited edition and a blogger-inspired purchase. I'll chat about them in the order they appear above, just to keep things tidy...

I first heard about Fairydrops via fellow mascara enthusiast, Anna from Vivianna Does Makeup. This Japanese best seller has quickly risen to cult status, egged on by the cutest product name ever and that gorgeous pink metallic packaging. So what about the contents? This mascara gives me good length, volume and curl with impressive lasting power. The formula is quite thick, so I remove any excess from the wand before use or keep a lash comb at hand (I use this Makeup Atelier one). Originally hard to get hold of in the UK, Fairydrops is now in stock at BeautyMart.

Soap & Glory has a pretty impressive line of brow products to suit every style and I'm really enjoying their newest, Archery Brow Putty, for a naturally groomed look. A double ended wand, the brush is dipped into a mini 'pot' at the bottom (like a second lid), filled with solid 'putty'. The flat side of the brush can be used to quickly fill in large areas, or fine, hair-like strokes can be drawn on with the firm, sharp edge. Soap & Glory Archery Brow Putty is currently on offer here (I use the middle shade, Brownie Points).

L'Oreal Lumi Magique Concealer is (yet another) blogger-enabled purchase and totally deserving of the hype. A twist-up mechanism releases product into the brush to brighten the under eye area, tops of cheekbones and brow bones. An illuminating concealer, this isn't for use on blemishes, but offers light coverage and a more awake effect where needed. I use the shade Light, which is perfect for me. It doesn't disturb the foundation underneath and gives similar effect to much pricier alternatives (YSL Touche Eclat I'm looking at you).

By Terry Rose de Baume has forever been on my radar as my friend Val raved about it long before a gazillion beauty bloggers did. I couldn't justify treating myself to such a luxurious lip balm, so was over the moon to receive this as a press gift. Gold Baume de Rose Parure Lip Balm is infused with 24K gold, Rose Flower Essential Wax, Rose Water and Vitamin E. It contains particles of fine pink and gold shimmer which look so pretty on the lips - alone or over a nude lipstick - while keeping them beautifully soft and literally smelling of roses! This was a limited edition but there are still a few available at Net a Porter and Very Exclusive.

I've been loving Bee Good Lift & Brighten Eye Cream in the mornings or when my eyes are feeling particularly tired and sensitive as I find it very soothing to use and love the chubby pump bottle. Part of the Youth Enhancing range, this is particularly aimed at mature skin to plump, address circles and improve elasticity. I love that it's also available in a 5ml travel size for just £8, a perfect way to try it out. I noticed that Bee Good suggest adding this to fine lines around the lips, something I always do with any excess eye cream on my fingers.

I'm a fairly recent Jessica Nails convert and love every shade I've tried by them so far. Blue Moon is a delicious deep navy with sapphire shimmer running through it and looks very sophisticated on the nails. You can see me wearing it on Instagram here. One half the Truest of Blues set, it's paired with a gorgeous cobalt called Blue Skies, which I'm wearing in this pic.

Pixi Beauty has mastered the art of glowing skin and Glowtion Day Dew is my newest obsession. A lightweight moisturiser that delivers instant glow, this leaves my skin with a pretty, non sparkly sheen... think healthy looking skin in a tube. A tube with a pump - win! Worn under makeup, this gives a similar effect to radiance primers for that lit from within look (sorry, no better way to describe it). I reach for this on days when I can't be bothered with two steps of moisturiser + glowy primer or for an extra boost, with a small pump mixed into my regular moisturiser. I need to do a post comparing Pixi's Glow Wonders. Everybody needs at least one in their life.

Which product(s) do you keep going back to?


KIKO The Artist Collection: Review & Swatches

The Artist Collection is the latest release from budget-but-doesn't-feel-it Milan makeup brand, KIKO. As a closet artist I'm really charmed by this one. Many moons ago I decided against Art College as my teachers reckoned art held no potential (!!!) - and while I loved my degree course (Media & English Lit) - part of me has always been a little sad about that. Of course there's nothing to stop me picking up a paint brush now... maybe I will one of these days (promise to share the results if I do!). 

I photographed these products on an actual painting by my very talented sister - sorry if you're reading - I was careful, honest!

Back to makeup... I think this is a really creative collection from KIKO, from the packaging design through to product names (Fine Art Lip Pencil and Blending Wave Blush) and brushes that look like they've been dipped in paint.


KIKO Blending Wave blush - Artistic Pink 04 & Expressive Biscuit 03

For me, this is the belle of the ball and I'm sure you can see why. The colours are so pretty and wearable and I love how the layout allows me to pick up more of the lighter shade, add depth for an extra pop of colour if needed, or swirl both tones together. Although it looks uber pale, that light pink adds more colour than you'd think and looks lovely on pale skin. There are four colours to choose from in these. 


KIKO Mineral Loose Eyeshadow - Bespoke Rose 01 & Skill Blue 05

The blush may be swoony but the product I've reached for most from this whole collection is this unassuming looking pot of skin toned mineral eyeshadow. Available in 6 shades including gorgeous jewel tones, the simple nude Bespoke Rose feels like it was made for me. It provides the perfect wash of natural looking, dressed yet not overly made up eye colour, with a subtle sheen that makes skin look even and healthy, a la the effect of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder on my face. It would be easier to use in a compact, but that's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make because this simple little pot of colour rocks - worn alone or as a base for any eye look. 

The Signature Eye Marker (just seen on the right) has a spatula shaped nib to enable thick or thin lining. It's super black, which isn't really my thing (I suit a softer line), but I know lots of you crave this kind of pigmentation in a liquid liner. 


KIKO Colour Click Lipstick - (from bottom) Realistic Mauve 05, Clamorous Strawberry 03, Impressionist Red 04

So far I've worn two of these shades, the lower Spring-like pinky brown nude and the top traffic-stopping red. Mega pigmented, these are very creamy and do move around a bit, so work best over the conveniently matching lip liners below.


KIKO Fine Art Lip Pencil - (as above, from bottom) Realistic Mauve 05, Clamorous Strawberry 03, Impressionist Red 04

I'm a big fan of KIKO lip liners and not gonna lie, what I love most about the Fine Art Lip Pencils is the triangular shape. Not only does it remind me of my children's colouring pencils, but it doesn't roll around my dressing table (or when I'm taking blog pics - bonus!). These are quite soft and glide on easily, but do give the lipstick some grip.


The collection also includes a water based foundation (my samples are too dark though the texture feels lovely and dewy) and a Glowing Pearl Cushion Highlighter, which gives a pretty subtle glow, but won't deliver spotlight-sharp cheekbones.

Oh and the brushes, which are super soft and very pretty... I rate KIKO brushes in general and use a couple of the eye brushes daily, though I think the makeup wins in this particular line. My personal top picks are the Artist Stroke Mineral Loose Eyeshadow in Bespoke Rose and Blending Wave Blush in Artistic Pink.

KIKO The Artist Collection is available now in-store (please come to Belfast KIKO!) or online here.

ReCover: a concealer for redness & rosacea?

If like me you suffer from redness or rosacea, you'll appreciate how tricky it is to find a concealer that covers without looking thick, cakey - or even worse - accentuating the very feature you're trying to conceal. I try so many concealers that I now have very low expectations - so many disappoint. ReCover Correct and Conceal Red was developed by makeup artist, Annabel Jardella, specifically to cancel out red tones. I don't see any reason why you couldn't use this if you don't suffer from redness, though it is quite yellow based, part of the reason it works so well.  

The consistency is a light creamy liquid, which somehow looks quite opaque once applied. I was really quite surprised at how well it covered at first use. The finish looks imperceptible on my skin and definitely does kill the redness, most often around my nose and chin (especially in cold weather) or on occasional rosaceous flare ups on cheeks. It does not highlight dry patches or sit in lines and although is fine textured enough for under the eye area, the colour works best on the rest of my face (I'm still loving Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum corrector and concealer for under eyes).

ReCover Light 01, heavy swatch 
ReCover Light 01, blended swatch
I'd like to see a lighter shade than Light, the current lightest of five shades, and believe that there is one on its way. Light is perfect for me, but I know that some of you are paler than I am. The fine, skin-like finish of this product means that I do need to set it with powder to increase lasting power, so would consider a heavier option if you're concealing full on blemishes. On redness, it does deliver and I'm impressed.

I think I'll do a blog post on the best concealers for different areas and specific blemishes if you'd be interested in that? Do leave me a comment below and let me know, or tell me about any specific issues or products you'd like me to include.

ReCover Correct & Conceal Red is available here


Institut Esthederm Osmoclean Cleanser & Mask

Institut Esthederm is one of those brands I've been intrigued by for years and never got around to trying, until now. In all honesty, I didn't really 'get' how it all worked, but it's been worth delving into and I've discovered a couple of gems in the Osmoclean range.

Gentle Deep Pore Cleanser is unlike any product I've tried before. Applied to dry skin, it's massaged in until the texture thickens, then rinsed off. Sounds strange, but feels surprisingly gorgeous to use. It takes seconds to thicken and feels rich and creamy with the addition of water. I rinse off any excess and remove the majority with a flannel. It's been around for 30 years, and is still made using the original formula, pretty unusual for any beauty product these days. Gentle Deep Pore Cleanser has been described as a vacuum cleaner to remove impurities from the skin, which it somehow does extremely gently, minimising the look of pores.

Lightening Buffing Mask is a 2 in 1 exfoliator and mask to remove dead skin cells on the skin's surface. It doesn't contain any grains, so again it's super gentle. Left on the skin for a few minutes it draws out impurities with Kaolin (the mask element). By massaging it in and rinsing off (the exfoliating element), it leaves skin looking brighter and more refined.

I've been using these a few times a week for a couple of months now and really enjoy both. Gentle Deep Pore Cleanser is great for mornings (not suitable for removing makeup) and the Lightening Buffing Mask is a good alternative to acids or grainy exfoliants; my skin feels noticeably softer and more velvety after using this.

I enjoy the ritual element of these products and while suitable for all skin types, I think they're a particularly good option for sensitive skins.


Zoeva Spectrum: Cool Eye Shadow & Nude Blush Palettes

Zoeva's Spectrum Collection includes three eye shadow palettes and three blush palettes with colours inspired by nature. Best known for its impressive line of makeup brushes, Zoeva is a German beauty brand that makes good quality, affordable tools and a makeup line that is creating quite a buzz among makeup lovers.


The Cool Spectrum Palette - inspired by the lights of the Aurora - features 15 cool toned eye shadows in a mix of brown and grey shades with accents of purple, teal green and icy pink. The majority have a satin or pearl finish mixed with some good matte base colours to balance things out.


Swatched in natural light
Swatched in direct sunlight
The colour payoff is good, though a little lighter than I'd expected, this being my first dabble with the much adored Zoeva eyeshadows. They apply smoothly, blend well and have good lasting power; I always use a primer though these are swatched on bare skin. There are some really pretty shades here and I'm sure many will enjoy creating more unusual looks with the brighter shades (the green looks particularly WOW on), though personally I think I'd get more use out of the Warm Spectrum palette. I used to think I suited cool colours but am increasingly drawn to warmer tones... maybe as my hair is a deeper red now? When I was a true strawberry blonde (my natural colour), I wore cool colours much better, on both lips and eyes. This has thrown me a bit and taken some getting used to... I need to experiment more! 


For me the Nude Spectrum Blush Palette is the star of the show... smooth and buttery with a great mix of nude tones that straddle blush, bronzer and - at a push - contour, though some do have a slight sheen. The bottom left shade is a beautiful rose beige that gives a gorgeous natural looking flush of colour, perfect when you don't want to look too 'done' or to tone down a bold eye or lip.

NB the tones in the above pic are most true; they look a bit warmer in swatches below.


These are quite heavy swatches with a couple of swipes of colour; although well pigmented, they of course look much more subtle when applied by brush. I assumed these wouldn't work on my skin until Summer, but are actually perfect for adding a little warmth now. Excuse my crinkly fingers; I'd done a lorra swatching, wet-wiping and hand washing by this point!

I'm very tempted by the Coral Spectrum Blush too - it looks absolutely beautiful. 

To round up, I like the eyeshadows, though am more drawn to the tones in the Nude Spectrum Palette. These new palettes cost £28.50 for 15 shades whereas the smaller ones are £15.50 for 10 shades (I would have expected a price point of £20-22 for Spectrum). 

I find the Nude Spectrum Blush Palette superior in quality to the eyeshadow and think £15 is reasonable for 4 generous pans of colour, which I can imagine lasting a long time. The Nude and Coral palettes would more than keep me covered right through until Summer. Somebody stop me... 

The Zoeva Spectrum Collection is available now at Zoeva or Love Make Up. 

I'll definitely try more Zoeva makeup - do you have any recs for me? I'm quite drawn to the Cocoa Blend Palette?


What influences our beauty choices?

Is it just me or do women seem to be a lot more clued up about beauty than they once were... even as little as ten years ago? I've been thinking about why this is and who or what influences our beauty style, awareness and choices. Whether we like it or not, I do think that bloggers, YouTubers, Instagram, magazines and celebrities all feed into this. While I've never consciously decided to mirror someone else's look and have zero interest in celebs, I don't doubt that elements filter through.

This influence isn't only about inspiration - as in 'I want that lipstick because it looks amazing on HER', but in how we actually use makeup, look after our skin, style hair et al. I count myself lucky to have grown up with a big sister who was happy to share her makeup tips... though still made plenty of mistakes along the way. But when I look at the skills and inspiration available to teenage girls now, it's a whole different world.

I could have saved so much embarrassment if I'd had access to 20 thousand videos on how to apply foundation or blend eye shadow - and why frosted Pink Shimmer lipstick and orange blusher is not a winning combo. I think people are generally better at applying makeup these days and - at least where I live - look more groomed and just... better. 

Beauty Bay has been researching regional beauty trends and stereotypes and compiled the results in a Beauty Map, where you can find out if beauty lovers in your area are more into defining their brows or remaining bronzed at all times. 
The Beauty Map

When I was in my 20s it definitely wasn't the norm for Saturday night prep to include a blow dry, pro mani and perfect feline flick (kinda glad I escaped that tbh). The possibility of being snapped and shared on social media at any given moment must multiply that pressure x a million.  

The things my daughter has ahead of her... *lies down.*

*collaboration with Beauty Bay

Valentines Day with a Difference

While I've never been a big Valentines celebrator, my kids love it, so I thought I'd share a few fun treats I've planned this year, in a slightly more personal post than usual. I think it's important to remind people how much we love them every day of the year, but what's the harm in doing something a little bit special for Valentines? It doesn't have to involve lots of money - no overpriced roses or champagne here - we're having a morning PJ party!

We'll start with croissants and a movie with duvets on the sofa, followed by a baking session... I may even wear my Party PJs under my apron! I've actually made banana bread twice in the past week  (the first only lasted 24 hours!) and am feeling inspired to bake some more, so this will be good practice - and of course it's always a hit with the kids. Tried & tested recipes welcome!

How cute is this 'Love You' photo frame? Though I'm mortified to admit how long it took me to find actual photographs to put in it... these ones are from when the kids were smaller - I need to get some up to date ones printed asap. Anyone else guilty of this?

We're also planning a big afternoon walk for some fresh sea air or may head up the mountains (if it's not too windy), then back home to demolish more of those cookies with hot chocolate (I'll make them a healthy tea, honest).

Thank you to Debenhams for the Valentines treats!

Do you have any plans for Valentines Day, romantic or not?

*not sponsored


NEW: Sleek i-Divine Palettes - A New Day & All Night Long - Review & Swatches

It's been a while since I tried Sleek eyeshadow and I've been enjoying the two new iDivine palettes recently: A New Day and All Night Long. Priced at just £7.99 each, you get a lot for your money with these two. If you don't already own similar shades, these are a great starting point for experimenting with a mix of warm and cool toned neutrals. 


A New Day includes 5 mattes and a mix of shimmer shades. The mattes are good for contouring the eye for a no makeup look, or as transition shades before adding a deeper colour or shimmer on the lid. 


These are quite heavy swatches on clean skin with no primer. The colours look more intense over primer, which is how I wear them. 


Despite having only a couple of mattes, this is definitely my favourite of the two palettes. The shimmer shades are more pigmented, smooth and buttery than the mattes (as in many pricier palettes) and a bit more exciting to use! Although the tones are richer and warmer, I find them very wearable for either day or evening. 

Oh and that copper on the bottom right is just to die for. 


See what I mean? Some real beauts here. 

There is a bit of fallout with some of the colours in each palette, so a quick tap to remove any excess from the brush before applying will save tidying up after. I did find that a little sparkle migrated onto tops of cheeks throughout the day, but less so with an eye primer (I use this one). And to be fair the same thing happens with my Bobbi Brown shadows. Overall, I think the colours are beautiful, most have good payoff and blend well. Hand on heart, I think these give some more expensive palettes a run for their money. 

Sleek i-Divine A New Day and All Night Long palettes are available now priced £7.99 each

Do you think budget beauty is catching up with higher end products in terms of quality?

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