Luxury winter breaks – with the Epicurean Collection

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With ‘the Beast from the East’ firmly behind us (fingers crossed) I’ve never felt more in need of a luxury break! I’m not sure if it’s the fact I couldn’t leave the house for five days, or just the unending rain and snow, but I’ve become a little obsessed with the Epicurean Collection – a group of stunning, independent boutique inns sprinkled around the south of England.

Until the end of the month, the Epicurean Collection are offering an incredible offer – a one night stay, inclusive of breakfast, will set you back only £69. Considering how beautiful all the inns are, and the stunning locations you’ll find them in, this feels like beyond a bargain.

You can upgrade your experience with the Epicurean Collection’s range of specially curated experiences designed to help you get the most out of your countryside stay. All the experiences include a stay for two people at one of the boutique inns on a bed, dinner and breakfast basis. The experiences range from watercolour workshops, William Blake exhibitions, champagne teas, cocktails masterclasses, spa getaways, wakeboarding, warbird flights and much more.

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The inns are below (complete with links) so you can plan your breaks away! Don’t forget to visit this month, so you can make the most of this incredible offer!

Hampshire

The Yew Tree from £79

A relaxed Hampshire setting is the ultimate Highclere hideaway.

The Mayflower from £89

This harbour-side inn is the perfect spot for a relaxing coastal treat.

The Anchor Inn from £99

A classic country pub with a quirky-cosy design and delicious menu of British fare.

The King’s Head from £89

Experience classic English sophistication in the heart of rural Hampshire, near Winchester.

The Woolpack from £89

Escape to the smallest hamlet in England to this cosy countryside inn.

Berkshire

The Dundas Arms from £79

Just an hour from London, offering a cosy retreat from city life.

The Crab and Boar from £99

Seasonal food, stylish décor and boutique mod cons makes this a romantic get-away favourite.

Gloucestershire

The Lion Inn from £69

Combining modern elegance with rustic warmth and homely comforts.

The Horse and Groom from £79

A tradition inn exuding warmth, comfort and character.

The Seagrave Arms from £99

Country house turn cosy Cotswolds inn brimming with English charm, fine dining and a relaxed atmosphere.

The King’s Arms from £69

A quintessentially English country escape within the beautiful Cotswolds countryside.

Oxfordshire

The Trout at Tadpole Bridge from £89

A fabulous riverside inn located in the heart of Oxfordshire countryside.

West Sussex

The White Horse from £79

Nestled in the foothills of the South Downs this award-winning boutique inn defines countryside elegance.

The Old House Inn from £79

West Sussex’s best kept secret, just moments from Gatwick airport yet offering a peaceful countryside stay.

The Welldiggers Arms from £79

The perfect place to savour exquisite cuisine or a drink in the traditional cosy bar.

The Royal Oak from £99

Just a stone’s throw away from Goodwood Estate, this inn never fails to delight.

Wiltshire

The King John Inn from £79

Beautifully refurbished interiors make this Victorian inn and ideal country hideaway.

Dorset

The Museum Inn from £89

The thatched roof inn features cosy fires and tempting seasonal fare.

Somerset

The Archangel from £69

Things are given a contemporary twist at this luxury country bolthole.

Celebrate Mother’s Day with M&S*

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Heads up – Mother’s Day falls on March 11th, so you’ve got exactly 10 days to pick up a present which will make you Mum’s favourite. Tough call? Of course – so imagine my relief when M&S sent a very tempting email detailing all of their top gift ideas.

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In between stunning bouquets of flowers and tins of biscuits, were some of the most beautiful Spring-inspired treats I’ve seen. Since I’ve been running around with a schedule which feels jam-packed, M&S very kindly sent over some of my favourites, so I could cross the ‘presents for Mum’ job off the list.

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The first of the goodies to be unwrapped was the box of handmade nougat. Filled with three flavours – Pistachio, Hazelnut & Sour Cherry, and Raspberry & Almond, these are a perfect treat to enjoy alongside an afternoon cup of tea or coffee.

Studded with generous chunks of fruit and nuts, these are absolutely stunning as well as being absolutely delicious. The treats are suitable for vegetarian mums, and are priced at a reasonable £5 per box.

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The Peach Bellini Truffles certainly stood out in the box – packaged in a beautiful, flower-covered box, the truffles shine inside like gems.

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These glossy peach truffles might just be the most glamorous chocolates on the market right now, so if your mum is a bit of a glamazon, she’s going to love these! Crisp milk chocolate shells hold a rich, fruity ganache filling made with real prosecco and peach. The mix of fruit and chocolate is perfect for a treat, and the hint of booze is just delicious! The Peach Bellini Truffles are priced at £4, which makes them a perfect addition to any Mother’s Day hamper you might be planning.

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Last up, but certainly not least are these stunning Fruit Coulis Gems. Perhaps M&S’ most eye-catching product in the Mother’s Day collection. A mix of fruity centres, all encased with crisp yet creamy tasting shells, these are absolutely stunning!

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As delicious as they are, I can’t help but be obsessed with how good these look! They’re priced at £8 per box, and are sure to impress!

Thank you so much to M&S for all of my gorgeous Mother’s Day treats!

Carmex x Skinny Dip London*

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Apologies for the lack of posts recently. When I say I haven’t had a moment to think, let alone blog, I’m not exaggerating. A mix of a tonne of new and exciting work projects, a couple of opportunities to travel around the country and general life has left me with exactly zero time to myself. So, in something of a self-imposed crackdown (brought on by the snowstorms currently bashing the UK) I’ve finally logged back in, and I’m ready to go!

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Rather conveniently, I wanted to share this incredible collaboration between Carmex and Skinnydip London. I’m not sure about you, but the moment the temperature drops, my lips get drier than normal, so a new lip balm which is as cute as this one feels like perfect timing. The limited edition unicorn gift set comes with perhaps the world’s best keyring as well as a limited edition Sugar Plum version of Carmex’s original formula. Sweet smelling and ultra hydrating, this is an absolute must-have for surviving any dips in temperature, and since the set is limited edition, if you fancy getting your hands on one, you’d better be quick!

Carmex Unicorn Gift Set is priced at £10.99 and is available here

Valentines Day with M&S*

Your Secret Admirer's Gift Box £20 online

Valentines Day has become one of those holidays which has become fashionable to roll your eyes at, but I’m not going to lie – I love it! The decorations are always adorable, and it’s led to fun night’s out like Galentines Day … so what’s not to love?!

Be My Sweet Heart £3 130g

M&S have really pushed the boat out with their Valentines offerings – whether you just want a little love token (try these cute foiled hearts) or if you’re looking for something a little more dramatic (this velvet box of chocolates is a show stopper) they’ve got something for you!Single Origin Milk Chocolate Heart £3, 26g

As you would hope and imagine, there is a big emphasis on hearts – but they’ve also got some super cute gummies as well as fabulous bouquets of flowers. They can be ordered online, and collected in-store too, so there is no reason to feel flustered on Wednesday! M&S is even offering a special take on their famous ‘Dine In’ offer. Since restaurants are going to be packed on Wednesday – M&S are offering a Dine in for Two for £20. The deal offers up a starter, a main course, side dish, dessert, chocolates and a bottle of wine or fizz for you to enjoy! Perfect for a cosy night in!

You can find out more about Valentines Gifts at M&S here.

Celebrate Valentines Day with Ask Italian*

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When it comes to planning your Valentine festivities, it can sometimes feel that everything is too fancy, too expensive, and a bit too cliched. So, when I caught sight of Ask Italian’s Valentine’s Day menu it sounded great – a yummy menu, convenient city-centre location and affordable price, I mean, what’s not to love?

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So, after a busy day working away in Edinburgh we headed over to the West End location. Located right off Princes Street on Shandwick Place, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a casual meal when you’re in the city centre. Right in time for the big day, Ask Italian have released a capsule menu, which offers up three courses and a glass of prosecco for £21.95 each – bargain!

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Since it had been one of those days where you’re so busy there’s not even time to think about lunch, let alone go out and enjoy something. By the time we reached Ask Italian we were suitably famished. Honestly, when it comes to Italian, it’s hard to go far wrong, so we opted to share the Butterfly King Prawns and the Mushrooms al Forno.

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Both arrived at the table positively sizzling – and one we had piled on some parmesan, we tucked right in. Both the prawns and mushrooms came served up on top of crisp slices of garlic bread, and they were just what we needed after a hectic day. The garlicky prawns were juicy and full of garlicky flavour, whilst the mushrooms came stuffed with cheese.

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We couldn’t resist trying a classic like the Fettuccine Bolognese – a real classic, it was a delightful mix of rich tomato rags and mince. To give it a real taste of authenticity, Ask Italian serve up the dish with fettuccine, or with spaghetti if you’d prefer.

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I opted for the Penne al Pollo Della Cast, which came served with a fresh leafy salad. A house favourite, the mix of chicken, mushrooms and pasta came bubbling away in a cream white wine sauce. It was just the kind of thing I wanted to enjoy on a freezing Edinburgh night!

The mix of fresh salad with such a rich dish was delicious, and the white wine and cream sauce felt incredibly decadent to enjoy.

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Even though we were stuffed from all the starters and mains, we couldn’t resist ordering some pudding! I opted for Chocolate Etna (£1.50 supplement), the most dramatic dessert in the lineup. Presented as a chocolate globe, it was smothered in hot salted caramel sauce, which was used to reveal the creamy vanilla gelato and a surprisingly light chocolate sponge within. Hot, rich and incredibly decadent, it was a delicious end to the evening.

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We also tried the Yoghurt Pana Cotta, which was a beautifully light and tangy way to end the meal. Served with berries and an edible flower, it was as delicious as it was pretty!

The Valentines menu will be available for a limited time, and you can see the whole menu here.

Dinner at Kinnettles Hotel St. Andrews*

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St Andrews is always going to be a favourite spot for me – after spending years at school and at university there I feel like I know every little corner of the town. Over the past few years though, chain restaurants have started to creep in, and it can sometimes feel like a meal out has become a little ‘samey.’ So I positively jumped at the chance of dining in the gorgeous Kinnettles Hotel restaurant.

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The dining room itself is stunning – a metallic feature wall glints in the light, and we kicked off supper with a couple of cocktails. Even though it was a Sunday night, I couldn’t resist an updated Old Fashioned. Bourbon was mixed with orange bitters, and a homemade, maple infused simple syrup. Wonderfully fragrant and delicious to sip on, it was a glorious choice! We also tried the elderflower mock mojito. Fresh and fruity, it was equally delicious, and you’d never know it was virgin!

The meal kicked off with freshly homemade bread and sea-salted butter. Deliciously soft, these are the breads I always attempt to make at home, yet never quite get there. As we would find throughout the meal, Kinnettles only serve fresh, locally sourced produce, which is currently in season. It means that menus change regularly, and if you’re looking for a new lunch spot, they offer two courses for an incredible £12.95!

We were then served up a couple of the most delicious amuse-bouche, which set the tone for the meal. First off a white bean dip served up with homemade crackers – rich in flavour we may have used the last of the bread to finish every last morsel. The second was a cod goujon, which was divine. The quality of the fresh cod was emphasised by the zesty lemon mayonnaise.

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After tasting how delicious the cod was, I couldn’t resist ordering the Bergamot Cured Sea Trout with Pickled Heritage Carrots, Scorched Orange, Almond & Chive Dressing (£9).

An absolute riot of colour and taste, I’ve been dreaming about this dish since Sunday! The sea trout was firm and flavourful, without erring on the too-fishy side, and the use of scorched orange was an absolute revelation! Bright, fruity with a good dose of crunch thanks to the heritage carrots, this was a real taste of summer!

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We also opted for the Ham Hock Raviolo, Burnt Tomato Consommé, Hazelnuts (£9). As well as looking incredibly dramatic, the consommé had a beautifully clear tomato flavour, whilst the ham hock gave the dish a rich, savoury depth.

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Main courses were equally dramatic, and thankfully, just as delicious. The Cod, Orange Braised Chicory, Brown Shrimp, Pomme Dauphine, Parsley & Chive Puree (£23) made the most of the hunk of fresh fish, which petaled into hunks of firm, pearly flesh.

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Topped with sweet Brown Shrimp, this felt like a dish fit for a seaside town. The presentation of all the dishes was right side of dramatic. With coloured leaves creeping over the dish, it was as delicious as it was beautiful.

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I couldn’t resist the Roasted Venison, Grilled Herbs Polenta, Heritage Carrot, Braised Red Cabbage, Chestnuts (£23). I’m having a bit of a love affair with the meat at the moment, and this was sheer perfection. Roasted on the outside, whilst perfectly rare in the centre, it melted in the mouth.

As if the venison wasn’t perfect enough, it was served alongside the most wonderful Grilled Herb Polenta – crisp on the outside, and buttery smooth on the inside, it was an absolute joy of a pairing, soaking up the meat’s juices and providing a wonderfully rich element to the dish.

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In addition to the wonderful venison and polenta, the dish featured sweet heritage carrots and braised red cabbage. It felt like it was all my favourite things on a plate, which combined to create a dish inspired by the best of winter produce.

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Even though we had indulged in two courses, when we caught sight of Pressed Beetroot, White Chocolate Bavarois, Dark Chocolate Sponge, Beetroot Sorbet (£8) on the dessert menu, we couldn’t resist! After all, when have you had the option to indulge in beetroot sorbet?

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It was an absolute triumph of a dish – the sweet earthiness of the beetroot worked perfectly with the rich dark chocolate, and the combination of textures was just divine! The White Chocolate Bavarois leant a hint of sweetness to the overall dessert, and the crisp, tempered chocolate was delicious as well as incredibly beautiful!

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I opted for the Apple & Mascarpone Sugar Tuile, Apple & Basil Sorbet, Almond Shortcrust (£8), which although probably the exact opposite of the rich chocolate and beetroot pudding, was equally delicious.

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The Mascarpone was encased in the most beautiful sugar tuiles, and was so light and flavourful. Apple and cinnamon is one of my all-time flavour combinations, and this was a particularly airy take on the duo.

Cubes of fresh granny smith gave a hit of freshness, whilst the apple and basil sorbet was fresh and green. The dessert all rested on a buttery shortcrust base, and it was just perfect end to a delicious meal! It’s undoubtedly one of the best meals I’ve had in St. Andrews, ever, and we’re already planning a return visit!

Thank you so much to Kinnettles Hotel for having us! You can find out more about the hotel and restaurant here.

A Night at Kinnettles Hotel St. Andrews*

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I went to school and university in St. Andrews, so it’s fair to say the town has a bit of a hold on my heart. It’s probably where I’ve spent the most time in one place, and I love heading back every so often to explore my old haunts.

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One of the spots which has undergone a complete transformation since my time as an undergraduate, is the new Kinnettles Hotel, which opened in the summer of last year. Previously a casual restaurant with St. Andrews’ only nightclub in the basement, the hotel is now a true sanctuary in the centre of town, complete with spa, bar and incredible restaurant.

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With only nine rooms, Kinnettles is a wonderfully intimate hotel, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for a plush retreat in the town. We stayed in Room 3, a gorgeous haven of plush greys, which looks out onto North Street through a curved window.

The attention to detail in the furnishing of the hotel is evident – every corner has been furnished, and it’s provided some serious interiors inspiration for me!

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We popped in on Sunday, to enjoy a leisurely end to the weekend, and we couldn’t have had a better time! The room itself is glorious – a huge cloud of a bed, with beautifully crisp linens, as well as a small sitting area to sit and enjoy the buzz of town.

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The room’s ensuite bathroom is the stuff of dreams! The only room in the hotel with a bath, I couldn’t have loved it more!

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The shower was equally glorious – encased in marble, and benefitting from fabulous water pressure – it made an early Monday morning (almost) bearable!fullsizeoutput_18e6

As if the marble-clad bathroom wasn’t glorious enough, they come stocked with luxe ESPA toiletries. The bathroom was even scented with an ESPA diffuser, which made it feel even more enjoyable to relax in a hot bubble bath!fullsizeoutput_18e7

The rooms in Kinnettles, really are nothing like anything else in St. Andrews! We were lucky enough to head downstairs for dinner at the hotel restaurant (review to come!) but I should have spent hours sitting in the bay window watching the comings and goings!

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The bed was absolute perfection too! Crisp linens and puffy pillows meant that drifting off to sleep was, pardon the pun, an absolute dream. I just wish I hadn’t needed to buzz through to Edinburgh first thing Monday morning, as I could have easily enjoyed a lazy afternoon in bed!

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The whole stay was so glorious, we’re already planning a return visit!

Rooms at Kinnettles Hotel start at £169 per night, and you can find out more about the hotel here

Rodial Instglam Compact Deluxe Highlighting Gold Powder 07*

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When it comes to makeup, this time of year always feels a bit ‘meh’. I’m over the dramatic deep berries of winter, and long for the subtle pinks of spring, but since I live in Edinburgh, the temperatures are still hovering right around the zero mark, and it feels like we get about three full hours of sunlight each day.

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But despite feeling like I’m living in the tundra at the moment, Rodial has brought a jolt of summer glamour to my beauty table with the arrival of their Instagram Compact Deluxe Highlighting Gold Powder 07. Why summer? Because this highlighter was made for tan skin! On my current Casper-esque complexion it shows up as golden beams, on deeper tones it absolutely comes alive!

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Thanks to the buttery formula, the powder melts into skin, leaving behind a subtle glow, which can be built up to create a mega-watt shine. When light hits the powder it glistens and glisters rather than sparkles, faking the much sought after ‘green juice’ glow. It’s absolutely stunning for night – dusted along the clavicles and shoulders, it makes skin look like it’s lit from within, and the powder is incredibly long wearing. It never turns chalky or dry looking.

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Instead, it just melts into skin, giving a sheen which lasts all day long. The formula is incredibly luxurious – it contains crushed pearls for luminosity, and I’m just obsessed with the glamorous compact, which snaps shut with a satisfying click. Since I’m paper-white at the moment, it’s a touch too warm to use everyday as a highlighter, so I’ve been buffing it into lids for a beautifully subtle shadow whilst I wait for a summer tan.

Rodial Instglam Compact Deluxe Highlighting Gold Powder 07 is priced at £52 and is available here.

Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle Lipsticks*

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When Fenty Beauty launched late last year, I found myself way more into it than I would have previously mentioned. I mean, my favoured shades of nude and blush makeup aren’t exactly in line with Rihanna’s megawatt style. Even so, I found myself falling in love with the buttery highlighters, shimmery eye shadows and glittering lip-glosses. The newest products in the line up are the Mattemoiselle lipsticks. With 14 shades to choose from, and some dramatic options to play with, they’re an exciting launch.

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I was kindly sent over a cross selection of the shade range, and I’ve been incredibly impressed. The colour selection is exciting, and like nothing else I’ve seen in premium offerings, and I just love the chic rose gold packaging. The lipsticks are also small enough to tuck into the smallest pouches – ideal for nighttime touch ups!

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The first of the shades I tried was One of the Boyz. Described by the brand as a ‘wild lilac’ and apparently named for Katy Perry, this is one dramatic colour. It pairs surprisingly well with a glowy complexion and lashings of mascara. Application-wise it’s a dream – smooth and creamy to apply and opaque in a single swipe, I also have been playing around with this shade blotted on for a more everyday take on the colour.

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One of the strengths in the Fenty line is the wide range of colourings which it caters to. It’s not a brand which pumps out the same shades season after seaon, and one of the most interesting shades is Freckle Fiesta. It feels like the dream shade for anyone with auburn hair thanks to it’s rich, rusty orange undertones. A real amplified neutral, it would also work beautifully on those with rich, warmer skin tones.

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PMS has to win the award for the cheekiest lipstick name ever! A rich, true chocolate brown, it’s a surprisingly wearable shade, which can be patted on for a nineties look during the day, or amped up at night for a beautifully sophisticated chocolate pout. I imagine this will also be a godsend for those with deep skin tones looks for an everyday neutral lipstick. It swipes on to give an opaque pout in a sing stroke, and feels beautifully velvety on the lips.

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Last up is Midnight Wasabi, possibly the most hyped colour in the line up. I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried a green lipstick before, and although it’s not a shade I’ll be reaching for before I head into the office in the morning, I do think it is a fun addition to the line up. The Mattemoiselles don’t just stop at green and lilac though, there are even navy and periwinkle blues to play around with!

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Rihanna has stated that the Mattemoiselle collection was designed to have a shade for everyone, and I think it’s true! There is a great balance between neutrals, fun pops of colour and out-there choices, and they’re pretty enough that you’re going to want to collect them all!

Fenty Beauty Mattemoiselle Lipsticks are priced at £16 each and are available here (UK) and here (US)

Omorovicza Glam Glow*

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At this time of year, summer can feel like a long way off. I’m not sure about you, but between early mornings, late nights and rushed lunches, I feel like I don’t see the sun from one weekend to the next (living in Edinburgh doesn’t really help matters either). So, in an attempt to fake a healthy glow, I’ve been turning to Omorovicza’s Glam Glow, a gradual tanning product which can be used on both face and body.

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Packaged with the brand’s signature chic logo, Glam Glow is one of those rare self-tanners which feels like you could use blindfolded. After a thorough body brushing session, Glam Glow can be applied like a moisturiser all over the body. The formula contains apple pectin and plum almond oil to hydrate and tone skin, whilst the tan leaves a believable bronze glow behind. It’s easy to maintain the Glam Glow – depending on how dark you’d like the colouring to be, you simply need to reapply. I prefer to use the cream once every three or four days – just so I’m not tanned exactly, just not super pale.

The Glam Glow is a wonderfully subtle product, and I’ve managed not to have to deal with any streaks, smears or smudges either. I tend to buff my skin daily, so it doesn’t collect in elbows or knuckles. Instead it’s a genius little product which makes to you like you’ve spent the weekend somewhere exotic!

Omorovicza Glam Glow is priced at £35 and is available here (UK) and here (US)

Starskin Hydrating Bio-Cellulose Second Skin Face Mask*

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Whenever I travel, I feel like my face takes a battering. No matter if it’s a quick jaunt in the car, or something longer-haul. By the time I get to the hotel room, I want to start exfoliating and moisturizing asap! Since hotel rooms also tend to feel like they’re 100 degrees, I’m always on the hunt for products which will calm and nourish skin.

So, when Starskin’s Hydrating Bio-Cellulose Second Skin Face Mask popped through the door a few weeks before travelling down south, it felt like fate. I popped it into my cabin case, and looked forward to trying it York – and I’m so glad I did! Packaged in the brand’s signature sleeve, Starskin’s masks are incredibly travel friendly, and they hardly take up any room in my makeup bag.

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I popped mine on in the evening, after cleansing, and It was such a treat. Unlike some sheet masks which are made of a light cotton, Starskin’s are made with bio-cellulose, which feels like a cooling jelly to apply. The texture also adheres well to the face, so it doesn’t hang or slide off awkwardly if you want to read whilst wearing it.

Since I had slapped mine on post-supper, I headed to bed wearing mine (after making sure I had squeezed out the excess serum, and applied it to my chest and arms), and I have to say, I’ve been so pleased with the results! I woke up in the tmorning with skin which felt soft and smooth, and there was not a hint of dryness. It also felt that my skin looked more even toned, so all I needed to so was pop a little tinted moisturiser and bronzer on before heading out for the day!

Starskin Hydrating Bio-Cellulose Second Skin Face Mask is priced a £8.50 each and is available here