It’s that time of year when everyone starts filling their publications with festive gift guides, but I’ve decided I’m not going to do that here. Mostly because I’m doing loads for work, but also because I think, most of the time, a gift guide on a blog is really just the blogger’s wishlist. So instead of telling you what I want for Christmas and pretending I’m trying to help you, I’m going to do something a bit different and show you all ten things I’ve bought or used recently that I think would make a good gift or stocking filler, or would be useful for Christmas parties (or the aftermath). There’s only one item in this list that I don’t own myself, and yes, that item is on my wishlist…
Snow Fairy Shower Gel from £3.25 at Lush
Some of you may already know I’m a former Lush employee and while I don’t use as many of their products now as I did back in 2004 when I worked there, I still eagerly await the Christmas collection so I can stock up on Snow Fairy, which is truly the best shower gel in the world. It’s not for the faint-hearted, of course. Lush products are notoriously strong when it comes to scent, but this isn’t like the herbal / hippy smell you get when you walk past. It’s sweet and fruity instead – like pear drops and dolly mixtures. I’m a quarter of the way through my bottle already, and will be grabbing another one before the end of the year!
Larysa long-sleeved jersey maxi dress £18.99 at Missguided
When I saw this bargain dress I couldn’t resist it, even though I wasn’t sure I’d ever have occasion to wear it. Luckily, a chance invitation to a party last week gave me the perfect opportunity to show it off. It’s the perfect mix of simple and glamorous, with the covered-up top and split skirt, and is surprisingly easy to wear given how fitted it is. The only thing I would say if you’re thinking of investing is think carefully about your underwear – the jersey is quite thin and my nude bra showed through. I solved this by popping on a (very short) black slip underneath. I then added my much-loved gold and black belt from Accessorize, and a knotted headband from Dorothy Perkins. The dress looks much better without tights but I’m afraid it was just too cold last week to risk going bare-legged!
Kleenex Facial Cleansing Wipes £2.99 at Superdrug
I try not to use cleansing wipes as a replacement for a proper cleansing regime, but let’s be honest, there are days (or should I say nights) when all you want to do is get home, take your makeup off and get into bed as soon as you possibly can. So I always have a pack of cleansing wipes on my dresser for quick mascara removal, and from now on they’ll always be Kleenex wipes. Seriously, these things are amazing. Where most cleansing wipes are a bit scratchy and thin and feel very synthetic and fibrous, the Kleenex ones feel like smooth cotton or very soft, wet tissue. They’re much nicer to use around the eye area, and though they take a little while longer to remove all signs of makeup, they never cause redness or feel rough. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever use another brand having tried these. Texturally, they’re unlike any other cleansing wipe I’ve tried. As a bonus, they’re also more environmentally friendly, and they’re only £3 a pack!
Yankee Candle large housewarmer jar in ‘Crisp Apple Strudel’ £16.99 at Scented Candle Shop
I’m a Yankee Candle obsessive and burn them all the time at home. Though I’m very fond of Midnight Jasmine, I usually tend to go for the more foodie smells, and this one is my favourite so far. Yankee do loads of limited edition scents and special editions, and this year they’ve done a series of candles inspired by the song ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music. While I wasn’t so sure about ‘Blue Satin Sashes’ or ‘Warm Woolen Mittens’, I had to give this one a go as apple and cinnamon are two of my favourite smells in the world. It really does smell of apple strudel; sweet pastry and sharp apple and lots of spice. It’s beautiful. Yankee candles are really good quality – the scent is strong throughout (not just a layer on top), and they burn evenly with no wastage so long as you let them melt right across each time before you blow them out. I always buy from Scented Candle Shop – there are good discounts and delivery is usually free (because I buy so much)!
Immortelle Divine Cream £65 L’Occitane
Yes, it’s stupidly expensive and if I hadn’t had to try it out for my old job, I’d probably never have discovered this stuff. But I did, and now I’m hooked. Divine Cream is technically an anti-ageing product so at 28 I’m not really the target market, but there’s no harm in starting early, and at this time of year my skin goes really dry and I need a heavy duty moisturiser. This one is dreamy. The packaging is lovely (a heavy glass jar), it has a lovely texture that sinks in well, and the smell is, ahem, divine. Perhaps the thing I love about it the most is that it prompts my boyfriend to say “you smell nice!” rather than the usual “What have you put on your FACE?”
If you have the cash to splash, I’d absolutely recommend this. If you don’t, next time you’re near a L’Occitane store (or stockist) get busy with the tester and see what you’re missing.
Linea Pelle Dylan quilted chevron large speedy in Midnight $465 at Linea Pelle
What, you thought just because I finally bought my beloved Dylan Medium Tote after about four years of banging on about it that I’d finally shut up about Linea Pelle bags? Pah! No chance. If anything, finally getting my hands on that buttery soft piece of turquoise gorgeousness has only served to fan the flames of my LP love, and now I’m after my next LP bag. I love the fact these bags are beautiful quality, but they’re not covered with logos and mongrams, and because it’s a little-known label, the designs aren’t obvious and likely to go out of fashion in five minutes. The next bag on my list is the new Dylan Chevron speedy. It’s tempting to go for classic black, but I also love the new Midnight colour, a sort of blue/indigo. Santa, if you’re listening…
Wonderbra Ultimate Strapless bra in beige £33 at Figleaves
I’d heard nothing but good things about this bra and held out such high hopes for it, but when I first tried it on I just couldn’t get on with it at all. It felt so weird on and sat so low down! I couldn’t understand why I was the only one who didn’t get on with it, so I decided recently to give it one more chance. There was a bit of messing about trying to find the right size (I advise going down a cup and possibly a band size) but when I did finally get round to wearing it for an evening, I finally saw what all the fuss was about. You just need to get used to how it works. It feels a bit odd when you put it on – because of the design, which features internal ‘fingers’ that hold your boobs up the way your hands would – it’s quite thick around the bottom, the underwires are placed differently, and the band sits really low which feels odd. But once you get used to to the odd feeling of a bra that comes down 2 inches lower than all your others, you can’t really fault the lift and support. It really does feel like someone’s holding your chest up! It stays up all night and easily provided enough support even for my larger cup size. I don’t think I’ll ever wear a different strapless bra after finally discovering what all the fuss is about with this one!
Black clutch with chain strap and bow detail £12.99 at H&M
I bought this bag in a last minute H&M dash when I had an event to go to after work and I didn’t want to carry my big leather bag the whole night. Like so many of those emergency purchases, it’s turned out to be a really great buy, and I’ve already used it half a dozen times. At 30cm across, it’s much bigger than most clutches and is deep enough to easily hold my wallet, phone, makeup and whatever else I need to carry, unlike most evening bags which won’t even hold one of those things. As an added bonus, it has a chain strap so you don’t have to hold on to it all night if you don’t want to. Plus, there’s a huge bow. Who doesn’t love a huge bow?
Parker Ingenuity Slim Brown Rubber pen £135 at Penshop.co.uk
One of these hit the Catwalk Queen desk in September with a note suggesting we use it to take notes during London Fashion Week. Parker pens remind me of school, when fountain pens were still de rigeur and having ‘ace’ handwriting was super-important. But this pen is miles away from the £5 jobbies I used back then. It takes advantage of Parker’s new 5th generation technology, which aims to combine the ease of a rollerball with the effect of a fountain pen, and it truly is a thing of beauty. I didn’t realise when I started scribbling with it that this pen comes in at a whopping £135 but I’m glad I didn’t misplace it before I found that out! It’s truly a lovely pen to write with, moulding to your writing style as you write. Refills cost about £5, but I’ve been using mine since September and haven’t needed to buy one yet. I’m not sure I’d splash out this much on a writing tool given that I don’t write much by hand any more, but I’d definitely recommend this if you love gorgeous stationery and writing letters. The rose gold is gorgeous and the soft-touch rubber shell gives good grip.
Stila Dream in Full Colour supersized palette £25 at Beauty Bay
Last time I did a rundown of my top beauty finds, I mentioned a Stila eyeshadow. So it’ll come as no surprise that I’m going to do the same thing again, but this time it’s not one eyeshadow but 29! Plus some cheek colours too. This amazing palette from Stila’s festive range is such unbelievable value that I didn’t hesitate to click ‘buy’ the moment I saw it. It works out at less than 70p per colour, and they’re all beautiful, wearable shades with dreamy textures, not horrible, chalky brights you’ll never wear. You also get a waterproof eyeliner (worth £13) plus a booklet that explains how to mix the colours to get all kinds of looks. The compact is the size of a plate and though the slightly retro stained glass design might not be to everyone’s taste, you can’t argue with the value for money!
Disclosure: The Parker pen, L’Occitane and Kleenex skincare were PR samples. All other items were bought by me. I wasn’t paid to write about any of the products, samples or otherwise.