Does Lush Sleepy really cure insomnia?

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Anyone who knows me understands I have a fraught relationship with sleep. At best, I doze so lightly the merest creak wakes me. At worst, I get stuck in a weeks-long cycle of sitting bolt upright at 3am watching the clock until dawn. Basically, I’m always tired.

As a result, my sleep requirements are quite specific. For one,  I don’t go anywhere without my memory foam pillow. I have one in both my houses, it comes with me on weekends away – whether that be fancy hotels, my friend’s house or festivals – and I even bought a miniature version when I went on a three-week trip around America last year.

Before bed, I liberally spritz my side of the bed with This Works Deep Pillow Spray. Come 5am I usually put on my sleep mask (Aromatherapy Associates since you ask) to block out the offending morning light.

And yet, despite my routine (bed by 10, no caffeine after 4) and shelling out a small fortune on a new bed and admittedly, extremely comfy mattress to alleviate my Princess and the Pea needs, there are still periods in which I do nothing but toss and turn.

Bemoaning this to my equally bleary-eyed night shift colleague the other day, she suggested trying out the latest cult product lauded by insomniacs: Lush Sleepy. It’s been claimed the much-talked about body lotion is a sleep cure, a result of which means it’s nigh on impossible to buy in store.

God bless the internet though, because it is available online. Mine arrived this morning and not that I’m clock-watching, but in eight hours’ time I’ll be slathering myself in its sweet lavender promise and praying for some much-needed zzzs 😴

Have you tried Lush Sleepy? Let me know how you got on in the comments below! 

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Let’s talk about Topshop’s sweetheart sandals

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To borrow a quote from my all-time favourite movie, I spent most of today breaking in my mustard clogs.

I bought them on a whim, which is unusual for me because I have a tortured relationship with shoes. I don’t, as a rule, buy fast fashion footwear because they usually cut my toes to shreds. I buy from Clarks, where the shoes are wide and made from leather.

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However, I broke my rules for Topshop’s sweetheart sandals. Made from scalloped suede with stud detailing to the sides, they have have a solid 2.5 inch block heel which is reasonably comfortable to walk in even on their first outing. They can also be styled with almost everything I wear, i.e. jeans and Breton stripes.

If that’s not a good enough reason to be sucked in by yellow shoes, I don’t know what is. If you’re tempted, the red ones have already gone in the sale, am just waiting for the tan ones to follow suit.

I broke in my purple clogs.

 

The quest for the perfect long-wear eye shadow crayon

crayonsThe first time I tried eyeshadow was with a sweep of pearlescent blue from a pot of Bourjois (no.17, I believe), which resulted in me being shamed by my year nine English teacher who suggested I wash it off at break time.

In my late teenage years, I tried out the smokey eye only to be likened by my father to a raccoon. Then at university, I adopted the nu-rave look with zeal, applying loose Barry M shadows in neon shades with matching glitter, which I set – to my lasting horror – with a liberal layer of Elnet.

Thankfully, those days are behind me and I’ve come to appreciate the brightening effect of a low-key shimmery wash across the lids – a particularly easy look to pull off at 6am when one cannot reasonably be expected to master winged eyeliner.

My shadow of choice for a long time was Benefit’s creaseless cream formulas – my favourite shade being R.S.V.P. – which can be applied with your finger even when you’re going over potholes on the bus. I’ve since moved on to long-wear crayons, which remove the need for hands-on application and get deeper into the eye socket.

Bobbi Brown’s twist-up stick in Golden Pink is the one I return to most often – a summery retro shade which stays well put in conjunction with Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. For everyday wear, I’m a huge covert to NYX’s jumbo eye crayon in Yoghurt, though it is mildly annoying that there is no twist-up function and what you see of the product is what you get.

A surprise bargain was Rosie for Autograph’s cream eyeshadow stick in Sparkle and Magic. Cringe-worthy name aside, it’s a dead ringer for Bobbi Brown’s Goldstone version, offering the same shade and density with the added bonus that it’s half the price. At the lower end of the price range is GOSH’s Forever eye shadow crayons, which do sound a little teenage, but go on smoothly and refuse to budge. I have it in Silver Rose and Light Cooper and can’t fault either.

The only real disappointment I’ve thus far come across is No.7’s Stay Perfect Shade and Define which failed to do any of those things. Even on primed lids, it went on patchy and refused to layer up, acting cheaper than its price tag would suggest. I had a similar issue with Charlotte Tilbury’s much-hyped eyeshadow pencil, the formula for which left my lids feeling oddly stiff.

Tell me about your favourite long-wear crayons in the comments below 👇

Aldi’s Jo Malone-style candles are back

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🔊 CANDLE KLAXON 🔊

The two-wick burners that disappeared off Aldi’s shelves last year quicker than you can say ‘Jo Malone’ are back in stock.

This means that, obviously, I stockpiled my allotted two per person then sent my boyfriend into our nearest shop to do the same again.

At £3.99 each –  a far cry from the average £40 one might spend on a fancy candle – and with approximately 20 hours of burning times by my nightly calculations, these really are worth sending your money up in smoke.

No.1’s lime, basil and mandarin is unashamedly similar to the signature scent of an, ahem, rather more famous brand. So much so that my friend recently told me how a relative who is an employee of said brand followed her nose to the source of the aroma and couldn’t believe the supermarket knock-off wasn’t the real deal.

I wasn’t expecting to like No.2’s blackberry and bay, not being a fan of overly sweet smells, but this one fills the room with a scent that is fruity without being cloying. However, the berry notes overpower the freshness of the herb, which is virtually undetectable. But who’s complaining with that price tag?

No.3’s pomegranate noir is by far the candle with the best throw, lingering in the air long after it’s blown out. It’s a rich, woody scent with a somewhat Christmassy note, meaning it will really come into its own when the nights draw in.

Crossing fingers for some new additions to the range – an autumnal pumpkin spice number wouldn’t go amiss.

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My night-time skincare routine

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I get a lot of compliments on my skin, which is unfailingly lovely when I remember the once daily agony of teen acne. Most of the time, the answer I give lays all the credit at the feet of beauty genius, Nars, whose tinted moisturiser is my daily base, finished off with a liberal sweep of Albatross highlighter, because who says you can’t rock gold cheekbones on a Monday. Makeup however, forms only part of the answer, and I’m a firm believer that if you skimp on basic skincare, it’s harder to fake it.

From the moment I started wearing mascara, my mother drummed into me the importance of taking make-up off before bed – no matter how wasted, tired or incapacitated I might be. I can hand on heart count on one hand how many times I’ve broken that rule. There have even been times that I’ve removed every last speck of make-up from my face while three sheets to the wind, yet inexplicably neglected to take out my contact lenses, which let me tell you, is far more dangerous than waking up with a chunk of glitter in your eye.

Granted, I once did all this with face wipes, which I swiftly dumped after reading Sali Hughes’ book Pretty Honest. Since then, I’ve tried a litany of cleansers. I’m not wedded to any one brand, but whichever I happen to be using, my nighttime regime goes something like this:

Firstly, I take a hot flannel to my face. I’m currently into No.7’s cleansing balm for dry skin. I don’t suffer with such an affliction – mine being more dehydrated – but I find the formula lifts make-up easily and leaves my face feeling moisturised. I wouldn’t use it in summer as it is quite heavy, but with the nights drawing in it makes an affordable alternative to other cream formulas, such as Liz Earle’s cleansers.

I’m a solid lipstick wearer and usually have to remove any stubborn product (Maybelline’s Infalliable Matte Ink lipstick, I’m  looking at you) with a cotton pad soaked in Clinique’s Take the Day Off remover. Next I massage in a blob of my favourite serum, Vichy’s Aqualia Thermal. This is the only product I weep for when I’ve run out and can’t afford to replenish because it is the only serum I’ve ever seen visible results with – the hyaluronic acid leaves me with skin that looks and feels like it’s just necked a pint of water.

Next I massage in Clarin’s incredible smelling blue orchid oil for dehydrated and combination skin. I use it all over my face and neck, forgoing heavy creams that tend to clog my pores and cause breakouts. That being said, with winter on the way I’ll be swapping it out for a richer cream – I’ll be trying out Marks and Spencer’s cult night cream Formula Absolute, which at one point had a bonkers waiting list of 7,500 people.

Finally, I make an attempt to stop my emerging crows feet with La Roche Posay’s Redermic R for Eyes, which contains retinol known for its anti-aging properties, before slathering myself in Lush Sleepy and hoping for the best. On the whole, I’ve found this routine serves my dehydrated-combination skin the best, leaving it blemish-free and comfortably moisturised without breaking the bank.

Do you have dehydrated and combination skin? Have you found a good combo of products? Comment below! 💁🏼

‘That’s the Mancunian Way’

There’s a poem by Lemn Sissay written on the side of a takeaway on Oxford Road in Manchester.

I took a photo of it the day I moved into my student halls 12 years ago. The sky was a brilliant blue – unusual, given it was early September; ironic, given the words painted on the wall.

Today, its prose seems more poignant.

Manchester is a city often mocked for its inclement weather, its reputation wrapped up in near-constant drizzle and Morrissey-like misery. But there’s more to the heart of the North than stereotypes of swaggering scallies and 24-hour party people, as last night’s events have shown.

In the wake of yet another cowardly attack, Mancunians have responded in the way only they know how – with strength, with solidarity and with the no-nonsense attitude borne of living where it’s “grim”.

When a suicide attacker targeted an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, killing 22 people – some of them as young as 8 – taxi drivers took gig-goers to safety. Hotels and strangers opened their doors and homes. People rescued children who had become separated from their grown-ups.

The outpouring of support on social media has pulled us together, both in terms of love for the city and in the thousands of pounds already raised to help those caught up in the attack.

I live in Leeds now, but my heart is in Manchester. The five years I spent in Rusholme, in Fallowfield, in Victoria Park and in the Northern Quarter, were some of my happiest. I think back to that day in 2005 when I arrived at Whitworth Park with a kettle, a crap laptop and a box of cornflakes and feel the same excitement I did then every time my train pulls into Piccadilly station now. This one feels personal.

When I woke up this morning, I had no words. I can think of a few choice ones now that it’s sunk in, but I’ll leave the talking to Lemn Sissay:

“When the rain falls, they talk of Manchester. But when the triumphant rain falls, we think of rainbows. That’s the Mancunian Way”.

Travel review: Bologna, Italy

If you’re looking for a quick 48-hour jaunt look no further than Italy’s gastronomic heartland, where the buildings glow red, the gelato is plentiful and just a two hour flight stands between you and a stroll down Bologna’s 38km of intricate poritcoes – Aperol in one hand and phrasebook in the other.

Its reputation for melding history and belt-busting food has earned it not one but three nicknames – la dotta, la rossi and la grassi; or the learned, the red and the fat, for those without the language skills. But do its walls painted in sunset hues, mosaic walkways and riches of mortadella, cheese and Prosecco live up to the hype?


We made a quick pit-stop at the Art Hotel Novecento before hitting the main square, Piazza Maggiore, for the evening. Though Bologna is just a short train ride from nearby Florence, this is a city where the mood is unfailingly polite and even in its central courtyard, there are no pushy waiters on street corners trying to entice you into the nearest tourist trap.

In fact, on a Tuesday afternoon the streets were practically deserted, leaving us to pick an osteria – cafes serving wine and snacks – quite undisturbed. At Zerocinquantuno 051, we raised our first Spritzes and ate salty slithers of Parma ham, roast belly pork and sundried tomatoes tucked into tigella – small, round-shaped bread made with olive oil.


Then, to the first of many ice cream stops – the much-lauded La Sorbetteria Castiglione, where in keeping with tradition, gelato is stored under the counter to keep it the perfect temperature and texture. We chose velvety scoops of salted caramel, rich dark chocolate and vanilla before chasing them with strong coffees and venturing out in the unforeseen evening drizzle.


Winding our way back to the hotel through a gloom of alleyways, fresh fruit and veg stalls punctuated the darkness with bursts of colour. We paused at a cheering window display of loose tortellini at one of Bologna’s most famous pasta-makers, Paolo Atti and Figli, where signs promised their wares were so authentic it would “fool your husband you made them yourself”.  A nightcap at Mercato di Mezzo also saw us tick off the city’s first indoor market, a three-storey pavilion that dates back to the Middle Ages and now hosts a handful of vendors serving cocktails and street food.


With only 36 hours left, we were out early on day two with a hit-list of eateries, churches and backstreets to visit. Our first stop was Via de’ll Indipendenza, a wide avenue of high street shops bordering the former Jewish ghetto. Veering into its maze of passages, we stopped to read about the fascinating history which saw a community forced by the Papal State to live within borders that were opened at dawn and closed at dusk.

img_3348Now home to an artisan crowd of independent retailers, cafes and bars, one of its greatest features is the network of canals running through its core. The guidebooks suggest peering through the window of a graffitied wall on Via Piella, but perhaps the best view of this not-so-hidden stretch of the Canale delle Moline is over the road, where its deep green water looks all the more vibrant for the golden buildings at its edges.

Leaving the corner of the city known as Little Venice behind, we made our way to one of Bologna’s top sights, La Torre Asinelli. We fully intended to climb its spiral staircase of 498 steps to take in rooftop views but restoration work has closed the tower until the summer. Instead we got our cultural fix at the basillica of Santo Stefano – a cluster of seven churches with mysterious origins. Thought to date back to 430 AD, the complex houses a labyrinth of ancient graves and a Benedictine cloister fronted by a suntrap made for idling in the midday sun.


In keeping with the religious theme, we toasted a successful afternoon of sight-seeing in Le Stanze – a former converted chapel in the student quarter. With its impressive frescoes duly appreciated and wine imbibed, we stopped for pick-me-up espresso martinis at the Jukebox Café before making our reservation at top gluten-free restaurant, Franco Rossi, where the service was faultless and the wheat-free pasta as good as its glutinous parent. Dessert at Cremeria Santo Stefano hit peak gelato, with unspeakably delicious custard cream and speculoos flavours on offer for just a few euros.


Our final morning was spent ducking into delicatessens with hams hung high in the windows to pick up souvenirs. Wedges of Parmesan and aged bottles of balsamic vinegar were high on the list of take-home treats and were gelato airline friendly, the stracciatella flavour from our last parlour stop, Cremeria Funivia, would have made the cut too. Bidding farewell to a city brimming with beauty and history, we returned home no redder given the intermittent sunshine, but we did come back slightly more learned and quite a bit fatter.