Friday, 15 August 2014

Review: Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SPF 30

I have a very clear memory of me, probably around 18 years old, sat on a train wearing full-on Boots Soltan factor 30 in the middle of winter because I had read that year-round sunscreen was the key to eternal youth. It felt so thick and clogging, and I already suffered from spots – no way was this going to last. My good intentions fell away, largely because I didn't like wearing the stuff on my skin. 

At 31, it's a lot easier to remain motivated about application because the tell-tale signs of sun damage are already showing in the form of pigmentation. I've been testing Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SPF 30* since the spring and can report that its sophisticated formula has cured my aversion to SPF. 

Murad believe that SPF can only ever provide 97 per cent protection against UV rays. Their MuraSol™ Antioxidant Defense technology is intended to close this gap via a blend of encapsulated antioxidants that create a barrier of free radical neutralisers to halt UV damage. Alongside 'next generation' Vitamin C, I found these skin-boosting benefits helped encourage daily application. The light cream sinks in quickly, hydrating skin and leaving no white cast. Although I might look a bit shiny for a few minutes, makeup applies easily (with no bobbling!) and the overall effect is juicy skin = happy Laura.

If you're in the market for a moisturiser that offers broad spectrum protection and which you won't seek to avoid wearing whenever possible, I highly recommend it. Murad also offer an excellent returns policy, where they will refund the cost of products which you feel don't suit your skin (see

*Product supplied for review. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

SFSC Loves: Mini Boden Summer Collection

There's no bun in my oven (just toast and biscuits) but I do have a good excuse for some sneaky shopping: my boyfriend's brother and sister-in-law just had a beautiful baby girl. We're off to welcome the new arrival this weekend and, of course, a suitable gift was required. A perfectly-timed email advertising 30 per cent off and a brief peruse of the website had me hitting the order button, pronto.

Here's my pick of the best Mini Boden goodies for little 'uns.

Pretty printed tea dress

Clockwise from top left:
 pretty playsuit | 7 pack sock box | 5 pack bodies | pretty printed tea dress
| surf suit | swimsuit | printed play set | 2 pack supersize muslins

Please keep in mind I do not have children and these picks may all be wildly impractical. Darn cute though... Update: my delivery arrived super-speedily and Boden only charged me an extra £4 for next day delivery rather than the whole £8 (I had free regular postage). All of the clothes were beautiful and the gift was well received. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Reality of Refurbishing a House on a Budget

Semihandmade doors on IKEA cabinets via Smitten Studio
Nineteen months ago we moved into our lovely little Victorian house; our heads full of ideas for how we would improve it. Nineteen months on, the reality it quite different. We have ripped out a cupboard and replaced the boiler (expensive and dull), had a fireplace made and half decorated the living room (we didn't remove the radiator as we want to replace it, same with the windows). And that's about it. The reality of refurbishing a house is that tasks need to be completed in a certain order and there's only so much you can do to a place before the money you have spent on it cannot be recouped on selling, let alone a profit made. We have really struggled to make decisions regarding what to change and what we can live with versus what is 'not worth doing'. As a perfectionist, this has been particularly difficult for me!

Two rooms we always knew required more major work are the bathroom and kitchen. We were gearing up to replace the bathroom, when the kitchen started deconstructing itself. Tiles fell off the walls, shelves collapsed and drawers fell off. Apparently the kitchen would be first. 165 Pinterest 'pins', multiple showroom visits, two trips to IKEA and many, many hours of research later we are nearly ready to start.

I always had in mind we might use IKEA cabinets with custom, painted MDF fronts. However, after our first trip to IKEA to inspect the new Metod kitchen range, I was not impressed. Instead, we visited all the 'big box' kitchen showrooms and got prices from local small businesses. After a £7000+ quote from a local kitchen maker, and a £4000 estimate for the Cooke & Lewis 'Carisbrooke' taupe kitchen (B&Q) that we quite liked, we decided to rethink. The thing about low- to mid-range kitchens is that they are all basically the same: particle board carcasses with foil-wrapped (melamine) cabinet fronts. I personally do not like melamine and its shiny finish and always had my heart set on painted doors (with dreams of a 'Plain English' kitchen on a budget). Back to IKEA we went. Having compared the interiors of many more kitchens I now thought their cabinets were fine for our purposes. The low prices, plus all parts being easily replaceable and the added bonus of so many organisational nicknacks sealed the deal.

Our kitchen is quite small: we are changing from a u-shape to a galley, putting French doors in leading to the garden, bricking up one doorway and moving another. There is also ongoing debate about taking the floor level down to match the adjoining room. By saving money on cabinets, we're able to complete this other work. We're not hiring a builder either. Instead, my electrician brother, my boyfriend and I will attempt to carry out the project with just the help of task-specific tradesmen such as bricklayers and carpenters. I have started clearing out the kitchen and we are setting up a temporary one in the dining room. Luckily, we also have a large under-stair cupboard where we can house our washing machine and tumbledryer. I will have the new dishwasher and fridge freezer we've bought set up in the dining room along with a microwave, toaster and kettle. Deluxe!

I intend to blog about the refurb process, so I hope you won't mind this type of 'interiors' content. Wish me luck and please cross your fingers that I have a new kitchen by around August/September. Here's some of my ideas and my Pinterest inspiration to keep you going until the before and afters! Please let me know if you have any tips for surviving a kitchen renovation.

The Look
Galley layout
Pale painted fronts
No uppers
Drawers not cupboards
White subway tile
Oak worktops
Engineered oak floor
Ceramic sink
Bespoke French doors

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Three of the Best Hydrating Spray Toners

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic | Clinique Moisture Surge Face SprayDermalogica Multi-Active Toner

I used to consider toner a waste of time; an unnecessary extra step in my skincare routine. However, I'm now 31, my skin is dehydrated and I can definitely feel the benefit of an additional layer of moisture. I love the feel of applying toner with a cotton pad but for ease of use and less wastage a spray bottle is best. Applied after cleansing I find I need a lot less of any subsequent products such as serum, oil or moisturiser.

I have been using all three of these toners and recommend them highly. You can always decant your favourite toner into a Muji spray bottle — perfect for cooling skin on hot days. I've also heard that the Clinique Moisture Surge is ideal for adding a touch of dewiness to an overly matt or powdered face.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Fashion: The Cobalt Blues

Thus far in 2014 I've bought only four items of clothing/pairs of shoes. Maybe this sounds like plenty to you, or perhaps it sounds like shopping starvation. For me, it feels like the latter but I've had to be frugal.

Cobalt blue is my favourite colour at the moment. I couldn't resist buying these sandals and pencil skirt and intend to wear them together with a white or grey t-shirt this summer. A flash of red would look good with this shade too. Shorter length pencil skirts (on or above the knee) work well for lots of occasions, especially dressed down with a t-shirt. The skirt is sold out online but there were lots in my local store when I bought this. Strangely, all size 10. What's your favourite colour for summer?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Guest Post on Pai Skincare

If you're debating the purchase of a new cleanser or just frustrated with your fussy skin, head over to the Pai skincare blog to read my guest post. I packed away my shelf of products to road-test their acclaimed Camelia & Rose Hydrating Cleanser* exclusively for a week. 

Pai have a great offer on at the moment too. If you buy their 100ml cleanser before Friday 25th April, they'll upgrade you to the 200ml size for free! 
*Product supplied for review. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Giant Cushions for Luxe Bedroom Appeal

I'd had my eye on these giant White Company cushions for ages and finally bit the bullet during the January sale. £50 for two cushion covers and two feather inners isn't bad. They are muted grey/taupe cotton velvet on one side, with linen on the back. I bought them to add a bit of luxury and texture to our bedroom. Have you ever noticed how many different layers of linen and quilts and cushions are used to create the abundant, cosy feel in stylised bedroom images? I'm working on it! The latest versions are a slightly different colour but just as pretty. You can find them here. Mine are the 65x65 cm size. Anyone else addicted to The White Company? Make sure you sign up for their emails: hello discount codes!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Posh Tights? Falke Pure Matt 100 Review

I have long been aware of Falke as the brand the fashion girls wear. We've all read those features: 'It's chilly so I broke out my fresh stack of Falke/Wolford tights. They're pricy but worth the money!' Besides getting distracted at the idea of buying a 'stack' of £20+ tights at the beginning of each winter, I have always wondered if they really were a worthy investment. Time to find out! 

First impressions were good as I opened the packaging, although the tights looked a little long in the leg. (I'm 5'7" and ordered the M/L but I am definitely comprised of more 'body' than 'leg'.) I compared them to a pair of M&S opaques and they were significantly longer. However, once on they felt almost perfect. Perhaps still a fraction long but no bunching at the crotch or ankle. In fact they looked so sleek and snug I ran around in just my bra for a while and was even tempted to snap a picture for you. Very soft, very comfy and not in the least bit shiny. This is key! I am often horrified at the amount of sheen reflected off an otherwise smart pair of opaques. Not a problem with my new Pure Matts. They were also perfectly black and not remotely see-through. I wore the tights all day on a trip to London and late into the evening. They never rode down, snagged or sagged. And, luckily for me (judging by the pics of my shockingly short dress*), they do not have a 'brief' section of reinforced fabric that shows once your skirt rides up. 

I washed the tights in with my woollens on a cold wash and air dried them. On inspection, the tights have developed some fluffy felt-like patches under where my feet go, perhaps from my boots rubbing on them. The rest of the material is still in good shape. I like the fact they have a proper label in the back of the tights so that I know which way round to put them on. And more importantly, to aid if I'm in a hurry and want to grab my 'posh' tights from the tangled mass in my undies drawer. 

At £22.95 they are expensive for a pair of opaque tights, but for the quality, comfort and longevity I anticipate them offering, I would definitely buy them myself. I have read that the navy blue pair are the perfect shade; bloody impossible to find on the high street. I'd also like to try Falke's wool offerings as I usually find wool tights impossibly itchy! Are you tempted to invest in some posh tights? Where do you buy your opaques? 

Black Falke Pure Matt 100 tights available at

*Product supplied for review. 
*The dress is from Cos and it has shrunk in the wash. It has! 
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