29 January 2014

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

A couple of days ago I finished reading The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez which I mentioned in my "Lately I've Been..." post recently. A couple of people have asked me what I thought so I decided to write a little review.
Usually I am one for reading very light and easy going books but I'd already heard good reviews of this book so when I spotted it on offer as one of Amazons Kindle Select 25 last week I took the chance to give it a read.
The book, as you can probably guess, is set around a coffee shop in Kabul. It follows the story of its American owner, Sunny, and four other women from all walks of life that come into her life. By having five large female characters the book tackles a lot of issues that are faced being a woman in Kabul due to culture, religious belief and living in an environment fraught with conflict.
Each character is beautifully written,has a clearly defined and well rounded personality and a unique story behind her which has been written with clear respect and in-depth research which makes this an incredibly interesting book to read. As someone who is interested in learning about different cultures and loves to travel I found it really interesting to read a book set in a world so different to my own here in England. There is a lot of emotion woven through the pages and several times I found my jaw dropping or tears springing up a little which is something pretty rare for me within books but the writing was flawless and I became so drawn into the story that I really felt for the 5 women as they faced their battles.
If you've read and enjoyed books along the lines of The Kite Runner then I think this is something you'll really enjoy. A book I read a couple of years back called Night of the Water Spirits by Barbara Bisco also came to mind as another book full of beautiful, emotive descriptions so that's another to look out for.

Annie xx

28 January 2014

Seventeen Va Va Voom Mascara

Finding a new mascara is something I find a bit of a drag. They all promise so much and to be honest, I find that half of them just don't deliver so lately when I ran out of the Soap and Glory Thick and Fast (which does work well by the way!) I asked one of the girls I worked with what she would recommend for under £10 and just went with it. She recommended the Seventeen Va Va Voom offering for just £6.29, and you know what? I think it may just be the best mascara I've ever tried!
Seventeen cosmetics have always been consistently good in my experience so why I hadn't thought to try one of their mascaras before I don't know. I think it may have been the beauty snob inside me wanting to be using Benefit or Estee Lauder. Va Va Voom is a volume mascara that is designed to lift, give definition and give an almost false lash effect. I went for the shade blackest black and with a couple of coats I definitely agree that it lives up to its claims and have actually been asked several times whether I'm wearing false lashes.
The brush size is pretty good; nice and big without being too clumsy and the tapered end makes it easy to pick out shorter lashes. It picks up a good amount of product without having to wipe loads away before using it and what I love most is that I have no trouble at all with clumps with this mascara! I don't know whether it's the brush or the formula but it is just so perfectly non-clumpy!
I can't make up my mind about the packaging. It's hardly the sleek tube of a high end offering, but it is pretty funky and I like the black and white, and to be honest, I do my mascara in private (no one wants to see the mouth half open mascara face) and this only lives in my drawers anyway so who cares that it isn't gold or curved in an appealing manner!

For £6.29 you can't go wrong and I urge you to give the Va Va Voom mascara a chance when you next run out. I'm a convert.
Have you tried this before? What did you think? Which mascara do you always repurchase?
Annie xx

25 January 2014

The Daily Evening Pamper

I find sitting down for ten minutes at the end of the day and taking the time to remove my makeup properly really relaxing. Its like my little daily pamper routine and recently I've found products that my skin loves so it makes it all the more rewarding because my skin is looking better and it's left feeling great afterwards.
My first step is to take a cotton pad and very gently wipe away makeup with the Nuxe Micellar Cleansing Water which is a beautiful product, possibly my favourite ever face product and that's a big claim! It melts makeup away instantly without being harsh, calms any redness or irritation and is perfect for sensitive skin types. If I a wearing a lot of eye makeup I also take a second cotton pad and make sure I've managed to get it all off. Following this I sweep a little of the Nuxe Gentle Toning Lotion on using another cotton pad to close the pores back down.
The next step is to slather my face in my other favourite face product, the beautiful Nuxellence Jeunesse which is a gorgeously light and nourishing serum/moisturiser that is designed to be able to be used alone as a face cream or paired up with a richer moisturiser on areas where you need extra attention. I use this alone across my cheeks, chin and forehead but then layer up with my Nourish Argan Skin Renew(*) on and around my nose which has a tendency to get rather dry. This argan, rose and frankincense infused cream is rich and deeply hydrating without leaving an oily or clogged feel to the skin and as we all know, argan oil leaves skin and hair feeling so amazingly soft it's unreal!
Finally I focus on the little areas that need special care. I pop a small amount of the Clinique Spot Treatment Gel onto any blemishes or areas that look like a spot is lurking waiting to pop up. I do this after moisturising because the treatment can be a little drying and creates a protective barrier on the skin so I like to use it to lock the moisturiser underneath as well so the skin gets the benefit of both products.
Not my favourite eye cream ever but currently I am finishing my routine by dabbing Dr Nick Lowe Age Correct Eye Serum under the eyes. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this product because it works beautifully yet I find that it leaves skin feeling a little...sticky? It is fabulous for reducing my dark circles and tackling any puffiness but it does leave the skin feeling less smooth than I'd like, sort of tacky, all the same, I'm determined to give it a good chance.

What products do you use regularly? Do you find the routine of sitting down and pampering as relaxing as I do?
Annie xx

24 January 2014

Lately I've Been...#2

It's been a strange couple of weeks and an awful lot has happened, changing my life in some big ways. It hasn't been a bad time exactly but it has been tough so I've been taking some time to really appreciate the little things that make me smile :)
I'm no longer working at the bubble tea shop so this means I've had the chance to really throw myself into makeup work, designs and filling my head with inspiration. I might show you my book properly in a few weeks time but it is full of sketches, magazines snippets, designs, swatches and all things makeup artist-y!
Organising! One of my favourite things to do is take stock of all the beautiful things I'm lucky enough to have and the other day I sorted through my nail polish storage and had a mini reshuffle and brought some of the colours I wear less to the front of the shelf so that they get their turn :)
I've been spending time with some very lovely people. One of my resolutions this year is to take some time out and socialise. Some of my friends have been really great the last couple of weeks and it's meant a lot and definitely kept me laughing.
Relaxing with a kindle and burning lots of sweet, warming candles is what January is made for right? Well its how I'm spending cold, rainy evenings. I'm currently reading a book called The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and it's brilliant! I haven't written a book review in a while because I haven't read anything I've felt warranted it but this is so fascinating and well written that I'll be sure to pop one up when I'm finished reading.

What have you been up to so far during January? Anything exciting?
Annie xx

23 January 2014

Lush Valentines Collection! Neon Love Soap and Prince Charming Shower Gel!

Last week I showed you a first glance at the Lush Valentines Day collection and there was a lot of excitement from you guys (and me!) about trying the products out. So on my last trip into Bath I popped into Lush and picked up the bits I was most looking forward to enjoying; the Prince Charming shower gel and a slice of Neon Love soap and both really are gorgeous!
First up we have the intensely fruity Prince Charming. This bright pink bottle of goodness is packed full of fresh pomegranate juice, almond oil, grapefruit oil as well as sweeter vanilla and marshmallow root, geranium and sandalwood. I'm not sure what I was expecting scent wise from this, maybe something similar to Snow Fairy, but I wasn't prepared for the beautifully intense fruity punch that this shower gel gives off. It reminds me a lot actually of the fruity bit inside jaffa cakes and I think if you are a fan of Happy Hippy then you will be a fan of this one.
Now onto Neon Love, a soap that looks amazing when whole of in large chunks and also smells incredibly fruity! My piece doesn't show it off but the white inside the soap is actually large soap hearts full of soya yoghurt and coconut oil to leave your skin feeling silky smooth as well as being deeply nourished. Now, I'll be honest, when I smell this soap all I can think of is the ultra zesty scent of a Pisco Sour cocktail (seriously, you need to try one, they are amazing) and I just can't get enough of it. It's a real uplifting scent that reminds me of summer, sunshine, and-of course- cocktails.

When I was in the shop I also took a little look at the Valentines gift boxes and the packaging team have really done well this time. I already know that I love the products but the boxes themselves really made me want to add them to my collection. There is high gloss paper, bright colours and one gift is covered in toucans!

Have you tried any of the range yet? How are you finding the products? Do you like the sound of cocktail scented soap?

Annie xx

20 January 2014

Boohoo #OwnIt Campaign

Although I usually write about beauty, I am also very into style and love making sure that I look good, even though I have a slightly quirky style (think fake fur and pink velvet gloves). I posted recently about the launch of Boohoo's plus size collection and today I wanted to show you their latest campaign.
The #OwnIt campaign, as you may have guessed is all about helping Boohoo customers make the most of their shape and find the style that suits them. Large or short, big or small we are all different and there is no one style that suits all so the #OwnIt campaign shows off some of the big styles of this year and using simple images like the ones above to quickly show you whether the style will flatter your shape.
Maybe not an item of clothing I'd choose to wear...although I do love metallics... a big trend that should suit almost everyone if the metallic bomber jacket. Great for wearing with either jeans or a dress, its a great way to layer up and keep an outfit looking casually stylish.
One of my favourites but not at all suited to my shape is the shirt dress. I definitely agree that shirt dresses look completely stunning on taller girls and being a hat lover I would totally pair it up with either a trilby or a big floppy hat and shades :)
A slightly dressier style but another favourite of mine is the double layer shift style. I'm a real hourglass girl so I find this shape is good for balancing out my shape and drawing the eye towards my slimmest area which is my waist.

I was also sent a few more #OwnIt images that I'll be posting on my twitter page (@AnnabelleJohn) over the next couple of days, and of course you can pop to the Boohoo website to find out more!
What do you think of this campaign idea? Do you think its a helpful feature from the website?

Annie xx

17 January 2014

Clinique Spot Solutions Gel Recap

In March last year I posted a review of the Clinique Spot Solutions Spot Treatment Gel (ridiculously long name I know!) which I picked up whilst on holiday in Tenerife. For a couple of months I used it religiously before kind of forgetting all about it in the summer. When it got to November and my skin started to get a bit grumpy again I dug this little gem back out and have been loving it ever since so I thought I'd do a little recap.
The Spot Treatment Gel is designed to battle blemishes fast by drying them out, reducing redness and swelling all in one little dab. All you do is use  clean finger and dab a little of the clear gel onto the skin and pat it in for a few seconds. The gel dries and creates an invisible barrier on the skin to protect the area and slowly it sinks in, all the while, the active ingredients tackle redness and swelling and helps to visibly reduce the appearance of the blemish before the day is through which when you're as self conscious as I am, is a god sent!
I pop this onto any visible spots or areas where I can feel something brewing under the surface before bed as I take my makeup off and by the morning I usually find that the offending area is looking much better and is left a lot more manageable when it come to concealing.
As I said in my original post, at £13.50 (now £14.00) for 15ml this product doesn't come cheap however I have been using this now daily for a good few months and I still have over half of the bottle left so when it's broken down into cost per use it's actually very reasonable. Back in my original review I mentioned that whilst I liked this product there were others I preferred, however, I now disagree and find that I never reach for anything else on bad skin days.
Have you tried this product? What do you reach for to battle your blemishes?
Annie xx

15 January 2014

Bobbi Brown Corrector First Look

Correctors aren't a big product on the beauty market and I have to say that like most, I don't know a huge amount about them, however I have recently re-read the Bobbi Brown makeup manual (post coming in a few days) and my curiosity got the better of me so I found myself popping into the local store to find out more.
Correctors are an important step in Bobbi Brown's makeup process and are used to brighten and correct the tone of skin under the eye before applying concealer. The creamy correctors are either peach or pink toned as these are the shades needed to neutralise the blue or green tone of dark under eye circles and the light formula is perfect for dabbing on lightly using your ring finger.
I was matched to the shade Light to Medium Bisque which is a fairly light pink tone and when dabbed on melts into my skin tone perfectly. I'm still learning how to use this product properly and so I'll do a follow up review when I feel I've really got the hang of it but so far, I have to say that I haven't been as impressed as I hoped. It isn't the coverage that lets this product down for me because that really cannot be faulted; dark circles are banished and the shade blends perfectly with foundation. The problem I have found however, is that whilst this claims to be a crease free product, no matter how little I use and how well I set it with powder and concealer, I still get left with AWFUL creasing issues. I simply cannot keep this stuff in place!

Does anyone have any experience using this product? How have you made it work for you? Or have you, like me, found it not to live up to its crease free claim in the slightest? You can pick up the Bobbi Brown corrector for £18.50 *here*
Annie xx

14 January 2014

Nails Inc Gel Manicure Service

Yesterday I crossed off another of my Little Wishes and treated myself to a gel manicure with the lovely ladies at the Nails Inc counter in Debenhams Bath. With my job including a lot of time with hands in water as well as preparing food and drinks, normal nail varnish just doesn't cut it and as health and safety demands non-chipped varnish I thought long lasting, gel nails may be the way to go.
There are two options available to you at Nails Inc counters. There is the option of semi-gel nails which allows you to choose any regular Nails Inc shade for your treatment. This is then applied along with a gel top and base coat which transforms the polish into a two to three week chip resistant wonder and costs £38.00. Alternatively there is the completely gel option which narrows down your colour choice to around 25 shades, however what is applied is 100% gel polish that lasts for up to two weeks longer, gives you the option of choosing glitter shades and costs £55.00.
I opted for the more expensive treatment for the extra staying power...and I have to say that I was also slightly drawn in by the gold glitter polish being the magpie that I am. The treatment itself took around 1 hour and is fairly relaxing. I sat and made small talk with the friendly technician as she first shaped, treated and then painted my nails and watched the world go by. The counter in the Bath store is on the shop floor so if you're a bit self conscious that may be something to be aware of but I found this just meant I didn't get bored like I may have done in a plain, characterless room.

I'm very happy with the result, having not had gel nails before I'm taking some time to get used to the thickness but the finish is gorgeous and I'm already loving having pretty nails that are staying chip free!
Whilst the price is less than enticing and was enough to put me off for quite a while, if you can afford to get this done as a treat occasionally then I would definitely recommend it done as the results are lovely and I think its something every girl should treat themselves to once in a lifetime at least!

Do you have gel nails? Where do you get yours done? And how do you feel about their long wear finish?
Annie xx

Disclaimer: I received my treatment at 30% reduced rate (making the treatment £38.50) however I still paid with my own money and have been completely honest in my review.

12 January 2014

Fragrance Direct Sale Bargains

You may have already seen some bloggers posting excitedly about the Fragrance Direct winter sale and I couldn't avoid joining them because it really is amazing!
At the moment on the site you can find brands such as Becca for as little as £4 and there are also thousands of products for under £5.
I tried to be quite restrained when I did my shop with them so didn't pick up too much but its taking a lot of self restraint not to buy more!
I've loved Becca for a long time so I took the chance to grab a few bits including the totally amazing Luminous Skin Colour Ultra Sheer Foundation which is actually still online if you're quick! The stand out product has to be the Rejuvenating Primer though which leaves skin looking and feeling silky smooth (I think you can still get hold of this too)
Everyone loves Korres body products but I hadn't tried any of their makeup products before so I picked up a couple of foundations to test out. Unfortunately the Wild Rose foundation is the wrong shade for me so this will be passed on but the Ginger and Vitamins Foundation is gorgeous. So light and soft with very build-able coverage and I think come summer it will be perfect for that light, dewy look.
Finally, I fed my false lash addiction with a few pairs for just 99p a pair...rude not to eh?

So over all I think I did pretty well and over all I only spent around £35 which is the RRP for just one of the Becca products I picked up. Definitely a website worth looking at and they have also just added new lines to the sale so I may have to take another look.... ;P

Annie xx

10 January 2014

Lush Valentines Collection First look

Now that Christmas is done and dusted, the retail world has moved on to the next "big day", valentines day!
Being a hardcore Lushie I was very excited when an email pinged into my inbox telling me about the super bright valentines collection.
This year the collection takes a nod towards the beautifully bold! Think neon wrapping, confetti, glitter and punchy fruit scents.
The range takes a rather artsy theme with products inspired by musicians, novelists, artists and actors and I have to say that I really love how everything looks. I've never been one for laid back, subtlety and the stand out style really appeals. I think that the collection shows Lush as people want to see the company; as the crazy soap shop that we all love.
I'm meant to be on a spending ban at the moment since my beauty stash is getting quite astonishing, however I'm going to get my hands on a few bits from the collection to show you in closer detail...and also because I want some of these gorgeous bright goodies in my life so any excuse! ;)
Prince Charming is definitely the product that I'm most keen to have a good sniff of. The sweet yet refreshing ingredients all point towards it being a product that I'll end up falling in love with then pining for when it's discontinued.
The only thing that I'm a little disappointed by is that there are several products in the collection, like "The Kiss" lip gloss that have been returned from last year that, to be honest, I thought were pretty rubbish that time round and could have maybe been replaced with something more interesting however that's just my personal opinion.
You can find the range *here*. What are you most looking forward to trying?
Annie xx

8 January 2014

Clarins The Essentials Palette

I haven't really gone down the road of showing off all of the lovely things that I was treated to for Christmas, mainly because I squirrelled them away into their proper homes fairly quickly to restore some calm post Christmas, but one thing I had to show you is The Essentials palette from Clarins.
It has been noted by some that this palette isn't all that dissimilar to the Urban Decay Naked offerings however, I feel that whilst the shades have their similarities, as anyone who has used a Clarins eye shadow will know, the quality really is something else. Although they are powder, the shadows all apply so smoothly its almost as if you're working with a cream and their pigmentation is brilliant and with a selection of matte, shimmer and pearl finishes this palette really does have the lot. When a palette comes with a brush I usually end up throwing it aside because I find that companies just don't go to the effort to make sure it's high quality, however this brush is perfect both in size and density for creating lovely soft, smoky looks.
The packaging is a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion as I like the design of the outer casing with its stripes however I do think that Clarins could have perhaps put in a little more effort on the presentation of the internal packaging which is just a fairly average, drugstore looking plastic tray. I can't help but wonder whether this was to keep the price down in line with the UD offerings but I do think that metal or even sturdy cardboard like the outside would have looked a lot better and felt more special.
One handy feature is the looks sheet that comes with the palette which is a good addition for those who might be a little overwhelmed by the little row of neutrals sat before them however some written instructions might have been a good idea!
Over all I think that this limited edition palette is a real hit and I've found myself reaching for it most days. And at £35 is is also slightly cheaper than the Urban Decay palettes so if you can find one then grab it!
Annie xx

6 January 2014

Dolce and Gabbana Pour Femme Perfume

After being mentioned in my December favourites post a few days ago, several people contacted me wanting to hear a bit more about my all time favourite perfume.
The scent of Dolce and Gabbana Pour Femme was created to encapsulate the essence of the Dolce and Gabbana woman. "Passionate, sensual and seductive, confident and aware of her own beauty" are the words plucked from the online description and I think I'd agree with that, it is definitely a bold, sensually feminine perfume.
Coming in a sleek, understated but stylish bottle, Pour Femme is classed as a soft oriental fragrance. With light top notes of mandarin, raspberry and neroli that melt away into heart notes of jasmine and orange blossom the initial scent is light, crisp and slightly floral but this mellows out into a beautifully scent that sits on the skin with a soft vanilla and sexy sandalwood hint.
I have been so impressed with the longevity of this perfume. I use around three ...spritzeseses... in the morning and that small amount is enough to keep the aroma all day without it fading to nothing or distorting into something smelling any less beautiful.
As you may have guessed, this little bottle of beauty doesn't come cheap at £57.50 for 50ml but after one waft of a sample vial almost a year ago I was hooked and it really has become my signature scent so I think it's worth every penny :)
Have you smelt Pour Femme before? Is it the sort of fragrance you would be drawn to? What is your favourite scent?
Annie xx

3 January 2014

Nivea Express Hydration Primer

Todays review is about a product that I was really not expecting much from when purchasing but has turned out to be a little gem.
The Express Hydration Primer from Nivea is part of their daily essentials range and is designed to give a smooth, hydrated base for makeup.
Rather than promising to airbrush pores or fill fine lines is works by giving an instant moisture boost to the skin which is able to be easily absorbed. By giving skin that extra nourishing boost makeup sits better, doesn't cake and smooths over blemishes a lot better which gives makeup a more natural look and I find it also helps keep it looking fresh longer as well.
Before picking up this primer I was guilty of not moisturising before makeup as I found that day cream combined with foundation made my skin feel clogged and have a tendency to stop makeup staying on as well but the light consistency of the Nivea primer feels so refreshing and sinks in so fast that you can't feel it there; you just see it working its magic.
Retailing at just £4.99 for 50ml it's also great value so if you're looking for something to save you a bit of time in the morning or just a light primer that won't clog pores but will help longevity then I'd definitely say you should give this a try!

Have you tried this primer before? Do you think it's something that you would find as useful as I have?
Annie xx

2 January 2014

December Favourites

December is definitely the season of bright, sparkly makeup, glowing skin and long, fluttery lashes and I've enjoyed embracing all of these things during the festive period. Here's a little look at my top 5 from December.
Top of my favourites list, and reached for almost every day is the Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette £37 which I have found is totally perfect for creating soft, romantic smokey effects that just enhance the eye a little and look beautiful with lashings of volumising mascara.
When it comes to mascara I am generally very picky so when I was recommended the 17 Va Va Voom mascara £6.29 when my old favourite ran out I thought I'd give it a try. I have to say that I've been incredibly impressed and found it actually much better quality than some mascara's that cost twice or three times as much.
With it being party season, the false lashes have been whipped out a fair few times, especially since its also panto season for me and everyone knows that a pantomime fairy need big, fluttery lashes. I have found nothing better than eyelure lashes which retail for around £5 for ease of application, staying power and also beauty! They are so feminine and there is a design for all styles so I think it may well be love!
A warm golden glow is the look I've been going for with my skin, using a light bronzer, illuminating primers and then to top it off, contouring with the gorgeous Benefit Watts Up Highlighter £24.50 both along my brow bone and down the cheek bones to give a soft focus shimmer. This product is so flattering and such a lovely soft colour that I've found it one of the easiest, most satisfying highlighters to use.
Finally is a perfume that I have yearned for since April when I originally received a sample vial and was lucky enough to be treated to for Christmas. Dolce and Gabbana Pour Femme £57.50 for 50ml is a beautiful  warm oriental fragrance that has top notes of orange blossom, raspberry and neroli as well as a heart of vanilla, marshmallow and sandalwood which all combine to create a sensual, warm scent that has me hooked!

What have you found yourself reaching for most often recently? Have there been any real stand out products for you?
Annie xx

1 January 2014

Welcome to 2014, Here we Go!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2014!
So, another year has passed and its amazing how much has happened since this time last year.
I can't say that 2013 was a great year on me, nor does t seem to have been for a lot of other people I've been speaking to, but that's all the more reason to make sure that 2014 is the best it can be :)
I don't have any resolutions per say but this year I am hoping to cross off more of my Little Wishes starting perhaps by booking myself in to get a beautiful professional manicure on Friday :)
I think that if I resolve to do one thing this year though, its to spend less and save more! I'm kick starting that with a beauty spending ban for January, meaning that I'll only buy something if I actually need to, like the essentials (deodorant etc) so no more popping to boots on my lunch break for a quick browse!

In terms of Three Little Buhos I want to carry on doing what I love and keep sharing my makeup addiction with you and enjoying such a fun hobby that keeps throwing exciting opportunities to me and the chance to meet and talk to some amazing people. I have lots of things planned and am sat here with my brand new blogging diary open, editing photos for posts, festive candles lit, ready to get stuck in :)

So bring it on, lets enjoy 2014 and make sure that we all make it the best it can be!

What are you looking forward to this year? Do you have any resolutions for 2014?
Annie xx