Monday 30 December 2013

New York, New York

Hi strangers, long time no blog update! It's been nice to take an extended break from everything recently, including work, uni and blogging, but it's time to get back to it and I was suggested to write a 'What I got for Christmas' post to get myself back into the swing of things, and.. here it is in a nutshell: a trip to New York. 

I still got a little stocking to open on Christmas morning full of sweet surprises that included the typical new PJs, slippers and fluffy socks, chocolates, a pair of Pandora charms and a small dose of make up too, but my 'main present' was combined with my 21st birthday present and was an amazing four day Christmassy visit to the Big Apple! If there's a time to visit New York it's definitely got to be December.

The following pictures are all taken on a phone (my iPhone or my mum's Samsung Galaxy) so they're not jaw dropping quality, but they'll do, and I thought I'd share a snippet of my life and tell you about my time in the most amazing city I've ever been to:

Saturday 30th November:
- My 21st birthday! 
- I had absolutely no idea what my 21st birthday present was going to be from my parents so it was a complete and utter surprise, but even more so when they tricked me slightly to throw me off the scent.
- Their present was one of my last to open and it was a sheet of paper that said 'Guess What Your Present Is... 3 Nights in a Spa Hotel in York' and I was absolutely over the moon! 
- Then, my grandparents passed me my present from them and it was 150.. US dollars.. which completely threw me and I asked if I was missing something as I didn't have any trips to America planned soon, which triggered a couple of smirks around the room as my Dad passed me a 2nd envelope in the same format as the first, with one small alteration: 'Guess What Your Present Is... 3 Nights in New York'.
- Smiles all around and a little while for the shock to sink in, and I looked at the date it said: 19th December, less than 3 weeks to wait! 

Thursday 19th December:
- Departure day! 
- A 2am wake up call ready to set off to Manchester airport and take the first flight out of Manchester to Brussels, and then on to JFK Airport. (It's worth noting that we flew with Brussels Airlines and they were absolutely fantastic, I'd completely recommend them and use their air service again if possible.)
- We took a shared taxi from JFK to our hotel and that was an experience in itself - inner city driving is scary! It's like there's no rules of the road and everyone just pulls in and out wherever they feel like it.. at high speeds with constant horn beeping!
- We did have plenty of time on this first day to explore and tick some things off our 'to do' list, but all that travelling had worn us out and we weren't adjusted to the time difference either, so we just had a little wander round the streets nearby soaking it all in admiring the towering skyscrapers and over the top Christmas decs, grabbed a quick McDonalds (they have food we don't have in UK McDonalds!!), and snuggled ourselves into bed ready for a big day in the morning.

Passport and Boarding Pass | Duty Free Shopping: Mac & Clarins | Frozen Rivers in Canada | Flying over America | First Glimpse of NY Skyline in a Fast Moving Taxi

Friday 20th December:
- Waking up at 6am for our biggest day of the trip my mum greeted me with breakfast in bed of a huge cherry danish pasty and supersize New York coffee.
- Up and at 'em before 8am, we walked a few steps down the road to Grand Central Station, picked up our pre-bought New York Pass that allows you free entry to all the sights of the city as well as 'hop on, hop off' of the tour bus service. 
- We walked to Times Square and got the Downtown tour bus from Times Square to Battery Park. We had an amazing guide who gave us so much information on all of the parts of Manhattan that we saw and gave us lots of interesting tidbits of history on some of the buildings that we saw. We also went past the apartment building where Beyonce and Jay-Z  live which excited me greatly.

Breakfast | Deauville Hotel (Our Hotel) | Mother | Start of Exploration
101 Building | Grand Central Terminal | Inside The Station | Times Square
- From Battery Park we got a boat over to Liberty Island. We couldn't go inside Lady Liberty herself as booking reservations have to be made months and months in advance - When my mum booked our trip there wasn't any tickets left at all until February 2014.  Still, we walked around the bottom of the Statue of Liberty and got some amazing views of Downtown Manhattan because it was such a bright and clear day. The return ferry boat goes via Ellis Island, but we stayed on boat and got ourselves a hot dog before heading back to the mainland.

Statue of Liberty Barbie Dolls... Have you ever seen anything so ridiculous before?? ^^

- I've included a short video of one of the moves from a street dance acts that we watched in Battery Park below:

- From there, we walked up Wall Street and further on to the 9/11 Memorial site, which caught me off guard with how touching and emotional it truly is. There's construction work ongoing at the bottom to build a memorial museum which I'm sure will be amazing to visit once it's finished. Seeing those beautifully designed waterfalls and all of the engraved names around the outside really tugs on your heart strings and I was close to shedding a tear on the realisation that the white roses inside some of the names are placed there on that person's birthday.

- We took the tour bus back from Battery Park, completing the other half of the Downtown tour through China Town and Little Italy, and ended up at the Rockefeller Center. It was interesting to see how different parts of Manhattan vary in architecture and vibe as you move through them.  
- Inside the Rockefeller we booked a slot for 'Top of the Rock' tickets and had a Starbucks to recharge whilst waiting for our turn to come. We had planned for this to be a daytime sight but time escaped us and it got dark quicker than we anticipated, so we ended up going to the Top of the Rock at night instead and what a phenomenal view! You can't help but just say 'wow' when you step out onto the viewing platform and all that stretches out for miles and miles infront of you is thousands of twinkling lights. A photograph struggles to do the scene justice, but it really is fantastic to see.

- After, we watched the ice skating outside the front of the Rockefeller - we didn't do it because the queue was a minimum hour wait and our poor feet had had enough for the day anyway - but we did battle the crowds to get a good look at the iconic giant Christmas tree and this whole evening was the highlight of my trip. Sadly, I got carried away with taking pictures earlier in the day and drained my battery right down so have had to salvage a couple of snaps from my mum. It was just magical and Christmassy with a really lovely environment, despite the busy crowds.

- Funnily, we thought we were walking back inside the Rockefeller Centre building, but in the crowded hustle and bustle we did accidentally walk inside a Michael Kors store instead. (Genuine accident, I swear!). This accidental encounter led to a little splash out and a very spontaneous purchase. You know when you just see something an instantly love it, without ever intending to? Well that happened with me and the Michael Kors Selma Tote Bag in Navy. I think I'm going to do a full post on my little baby, but in the meantime you can see which style of bag it is on the Michael Kors website here.

- Tummies rumbling we settled for the first restaurant we came across and went to TGI Friday for our evening meal (only restaurant trip of the visit!). We walked back to 29th Street from 51st Street (no joke, that is an incredibly long way to walk after an already long day), but to make it easier we walked along 5th Avenue where late night shopping is full steam ahead and popped into a multitude of shops along the way, ranging from Urban Outfitters to Steve Madden, resisting the urge to spend more money! 

Saturday 21st December:
- Second full day, we walked to the Empire State Building for 9am to make sure we definitely got a day time view of the city and to beat the weekend crowds. Absolutely amazing at the top of the Empire State, but a completely different view in the day time than from the Rockefeller at night time, although both  completely breathtaking.
- Like a true tourist, I raided the Empire State gift shop and got myself a fitting Christmas tree dec - Father Christmas making his way to the top of the Empire State Building ..King Kong style! I thought it'd be a lovely yearly reminder of visiting at Christmas time.

We've got arms-length-selfies nailed.

 I love how these are two separate pictures that almost seamlessly join together. That view is literally.. Wow. 

- We spent the rest of the morning doing some more shopping in Forever 21, Macy's (especially because they had a huge 1 Day Sale) and Victoria's Secret. I may, or may not, have spent a small fortune. 
- We went back to the Rockefeller Center for a 1pm booked slot that we had for the NBC Studios Tour, which is basically the American version of the BBC. It was a little bit underwhelming and literally the only thing that I wasn't blown away by on the whole trip. The only perk was that we weren't allowed inside one of the studios because Justin Timberlake was in there rehersing for that evening's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show. Somebody hold me back!
- More shopping to finish of the day off as we walked up to 59th Street and browsed 5 floors of Tiffany's (wall to wall with millionaires buying Christmas presents for their lucky ladies) and then went in Bloomingdales so my mum could buy a patent Little Brown Bag for a friend (and one for herself). It's a pretty cute bag and I keep meaning to put a snap of it on Instagram - I'll do it soon!

- We ended up a very weary pair from lack of sleep and messed up body clock with sooo much walking around that had caught up on us and all we wanted by this point was an early night - we could barely keep our eyes open!  So we decided to brave the NY Subway and went from 59th St to 23rd St where we got off and spent a fortune in Sephora - eeeeeeeeeep (You'll see what I spent three figures on in due course..), before walking back to 29th St and hitting the hay. No late night partying for us!

Sunday 22nd December:
- Last day! :(
- Braved the subway again and went from 28th - 59th St to do some pharmacy shopping in Duane Reade, Walgreens and CVS - names I always hear from American Beauty YouTubers and I finally felt like I could say 'Ooh I've done some drugstore shopping'. The above pictures is not the only shopping I managed to do.. Not forgetting Duty Free, I also got a couple of Wet n Wild palettes and some American exclusive Maybelline bits, which, again, will be revealed in due course. 
- We spent a few hours walking around Central Park, just relaxing and taking it all in, feeling like we were on the set of a movie, had a little nosy at Central Park Zoo and the street dance acts then looked round the New York Christmas Markets. We spontaneously bought a Christmas candle (that was nearly confiscated at airport security for being in hand luggage!) and a Tibetan Meditation ring that is supposed to alleviate stress.

- To finish things off, we got a big pizza from Little Italy pizzeria and then got a taxi back from hotel to Newark Airport all the way over in New Jersey.

Tuesday 24th December:
A day of sleeping, recovering, and last minute present wrapping ready for the whirlwind that is Christmas Day. Plus a pamper session to rescue my hair and skin from all the outdoor weather (the cold winds out on boats and on tops of buildings isn't gentle on your face or locks!) and the two long haul flights also left me looking worse for wear - yucky! 

We crammed so much into the two full days and two half days that we had there and by the end of the trip we were both completely exhausted and burnt out. We definitely could've done with one extra day there to be able to maybe go to Top of the Rock in daytime and top of the Empire State at night time as well to see how they compare, to sample some more of the New York restaurants, see a Broadway show and definitely go ice skating! 

I recently shared a 'Flipagram' video on Instagram of a compliation of some pictures from New York. It's only 15 seconds long but it's a nice little brief summary, and of course has the background song of Empire State of Mind (Alicia Keys) to it. I've uploaded it below, but I'm not 100% sure if it'll work, so if it doesn't then you can check it out on Instagram here.

So, this has kinda been like a diary entry and differs from my usual content, but it's a permanent online reminder for me, a little something for all of you to nosy at, and something to read through and take notes on if you have an upcoming trip to New York too!

I hope you enjoyed the post; I certainly enjoyed my trip! 

Coming tomorrow: American Beauty Shopping.

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Thursday 19 December 2013

Elemis Skin Brilliance Hydrating Skincare Collection Gift Set | Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea

Not finished your Christmas shopping yet? It's okay, I'm not judging you because I'm a last minute shopper myself. In fact, this is the first and only year where my Christmas presents have all been bought and wrapped before Christmas Eve! (..and that's only because I'm en route to New York as this post goes live and I had to be prepared in advance). So, if you've still got a lady in your life to buy for (and it doesn't have to be strictly a Christmas gift), then here's a suggested gift set available from Elemis: their Skin Brilliance Hydrating Skincare Collection Gift Set (what a mouthful of a name!). 

The hydration skincare set from Elemis contains four conveniently smaller than full sized skincare items collectively worth £59 (based on their smaller size, not the full size).

Elemis Rehydrating Rosepetal Cleanser 50ml (Full size 200ml worth £21.00)
Elemis Soothing Apricot Toner 50ml (Full size 200ml worth £21.00)
Elemis Maximum Moisture Day Cream 50ml (Full size 150ml worth £38.00)
Elemis Skin Buff 20ml (Full size 50ml worth £26.00)

Elemis say that this combination of skincare products will create a 'refreshed, hydrated and nourished complexion' and it contains everything required to form a full skincare routine: a 50ml cleanser, 50ml toner, 50ml moisturiser and a 20ml exfoliator:

Rehydrating Rosepetal Cleanser - 'replenishes moisture levels whilst gently purifying the skin. Helps restore the youthful bloom to dehydrated and mature skin'.

Soothing Apricot Toner - 'soothes and harmonises giving rise to a fresh sensation and radiant appearance. This alcohol-free toner is so gentle, it may also be applied to cotton pads for a soothing eye treatment'.

Maximum Moisture Day Cream - 'fresh feeling day cream with adaptive technology intelligently adjusts to the skin's individual needs, providing continuous hydrating whilst actively helping to protect against environmental toxins'.

Skin Buff - 'ideal for all skin types, re-energises dull and lifeless skin with deep cleansing phytoplankton in a shea butter and beeswax base'.

As a big advocate of exfoliation, the stars of the set for me are the Apricot Toner and the Skin Buff. Seeing as Feel Unique currently have 3 for 2 on Elemis I might pick myself up a few full size bottles of these two, now that I've tried them out and I know which of them that I like. The Maximum Moisture Day Cream didn't really float my boat because I found it a bit too heavy and creamy for me, but I'd consider using the Rosepetal Cleanser again because it was lovely and gentle and really helped to soften the skin.

This is a perfect gift for women of any age, and of any relation to you too. Sister, girlfriend, mother, grandmother, aunty, work colleague.. I'm sure that anybody would love this, especially as it's already beautifully packaged and presented so eradicates the need for fancy gift wrapping at home (boys, I'm looking at you!). The products are fantastic quality and would be well suited to somebody who is already really interested and invested in skincare, as well as somebody who is a complete novice.

Elemis Skin Brilliance Hydrating Skincare Collection Gift Set* - £39.00 | link

I've linked to Feel Unique because at this moment they have 10% off all orders and a free gift when spending a set amount, plus they offer free worldwide delivery too. This set is also available from Debenhams and Look Fantastic.

Thanks for reading!

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* (c/o) Elemis
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Saturday 7 December 2013

New In: ORLY at Fragrance Direct

Hola, amigos! Some exciting beauty news for you all this weekend: Orly nail varnishes are now available at Fragrance Direct! Woo! Not heard of Fragrance Direct?.. Well which rock have you been hiding under? It's only the best online retailer for all things beauty, not just fragrance, and it was recently super hyped in the summer after everybody went crazy for their £1.99 price tag on Essie nail varnishes (RRP £7.99). Although I think the Essie polishes do now cost £2.50, it's still a fab bargain, especially when they get brand new stock in and have really recently released shades up for grabs. 

I'm not just buttering Fragrance Direct up because they sent me free nail varnish, I swear I have more integrity than that, but I do genuinely shop there regularly and you'll find more than a couple of hauls and purchases made from their site throughout this blog.  I do mainly buy Essie nail varnishes from there, but I also buy lots of OPI varnishes from the site too because they're only £3.99 instead of the ridiculous £10-£15 that other places charge. (an Essie haul link / an Essie & OPI haul link).

To celebrate and to promote Orly now being available on the site, Fragrance Direct kindly offered me the chance to try four shades and to feature them on my blog. I'll also be doing future 'Nail of the Day' type posts for each of them some time in the future, because they're lovely not to feature again in more detail. Here are the shades I chose:

Shades from L to R:
Terracotta, Charged Up, Terra Mauve, Close Your Eyes

The metallic purple shade on the end, Close Your Eyes, is definitely my favourite, but I also love 'Charged Up', the more vibrant purple, and I'm sure Terracotta will be a fun shade for the summer. When I last checked the site they had around 50 shades to choose from, so you'll be spoilt for choice if you're interested. One piece of advice I would give it to always, always Google a swatch of the shade you're going to pick for a better look at it before adding it to your basket, because the site images aren't that good for showing the true colours and you don't want any nasty surprises when your order turns up. Other than that, it's all good and you can find the Orly section here

Orly nail varnishes have an RRP of £10.95, but Fragrance Direct are stocking them for a mere £3.99 (that's a saving of almost £7 per bottle!!). I've never tried Orly in my life, and I've not tried out any of these properly yet (although my mum was diving straight into Close Your Eyes!), but I am very much impressed on first impressions: nice clean bottle design, good size bottle, great brush of medium width, varnish consistency isn't thick and gloopy nor overly runny, and I really like the rubberised lid for extra grip!

FD charge £1.95 for delivery, but do have free delivery on orders over £40.. although with these being so inexpensive you'd be buying an insane amount of these bottles to reach that total!

Orly Nail Varnish* - £3.99 / 18ml | link

Will you be adding any of these to your online basket?

Thanks for reading!
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*All 4 bottles c/o Fragrance Direct

Check out my December Gold advertiser, Elysia, and her amazing blog:

Thursday 5 December 2013

Juicy Couture 'Viva La Juicy' Eau de Parfum - Limited Edition

Afternoon! Hope you're all good. You'll be forgiven for comparing my blog posts to buses.. get none at all for weeks, and then two in two days. You might ask where this new found motivation has sprung from, but it's nothing more from procrastination as multiple uni deadlines loom (eep). I promise when January rolls around my posts will be flowing freely and regularly again. 

Anyway, today I'm bringing you beauty, pure and absolute beauty, in the form of a fragrance in a one of a kind bottle. I kid you not, I felt like somebody had delivered the Crown Jewels to my house for me as I was lifting open the satin covered box and lifting out the weighty, embellished and 'blingy' bottle of Juicy Couture's Limited Edition 'Viva La Juicy'. Noticeably, the bottle has a fair bit going on and it's very extravagant, but it's obviously not going to be to everybody's tastes. While I was in absolute awe of the bottle design and showed it to my mum she responded with a disapproving description of how tacky she thought it was, but it's not her dresser it will proudly be sitting upon - it's mine, and I love it.

I can understand her describing the bottle as tacky because it does lean that way, but it's a luxury tacky. There's a lot of effort gone into this bottle, and it's a far cry from subtle and sophisticated! White, opaque glass bottle with a jewel encrusted plaque of the Juicy Couture logo, and a pink satin ribbon surrounding the crystal style lid, with further bling of an added gem studded dangling charm that says 'Juicy'. 

The huge, and heavy, 100ml bottle is in a limited edition 'luxe' design, exclusive to Selfridges. It does come in at a whoppinggg £85.00 which makes my heart flutter a little bit every time I pick up the bottle and lift the lid, but it's a quality, long lasting eau de parfum with a strong enough fragrance for a small amount to last all day and it comes from a well established brand - things like this don't come cheap. 

I'm torn between the decision of completely dousing myself in this fragrance on a daily basis 'cos it smells just so damn good, or to savour it and use it sparingly for special occasions only because it's precious and once it's gone, it's gone! Of course, I will still have the empty bottle and will be able to repurchase the same original scent 'Viva La Juicy' again.. so I guess that settles it - I'll be wearing it and wearing it, and wearing it some more! Mmmmm.

This is how Selfridges have described the Viva La Juicy scent: "With top notes of wild berries and juicy mandarin gentle tempered with honeysuckle, gardenia, and jasmine. Underlying it all are warm tones of amber, caramel, vanilla, sandalwood and praline". Naturally, my description of the fragrance wouldn't have come out like that, but it is a warm, berry fragrance and I love the rich, creaminess of the vanilla and caramel tones. It is more of a fruity and fun girly scent, without being too sickly sweet and it isn't at all a musky and mature, womanly scent. 

Juicy Couture Limited Edition Luxe 'Viva La Juicy' Perfume* - £85.00 / 100ml Juicy Couture Fragrance

If you're interested in buying this for somebody special as a Christmas gift, or you want to drop a few hints and gently push somebody in the right direction for what Santa could be leaving under your tree then here's the link to this bottle: Juicy Couture Fragrance.

As a Selfridges exclusive, and a limited edition, special luxe design bottle this is not one to be missed, especially by Juicy Couture fans.

Thanks for reading!
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* (c/o) Selfridges
Check out my December Gold advertiser, Elysia, and her amazing blog:
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