November Favourites

November has seen the sky filled with fireworks, the return of the red cups and the first snow flurry (!!!). I have stirred the Christmas pudding and made a wish, chosen my advent calendar (Thornton’s, this year) and I’m soo ready for December and all things festive!

A switch seems to have flicked this month and the temperatures have seriously dropped. I’ve found myself pulling out all of my favourite winter warmers and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to use them again. I’m also crazily planning Christmas presents, festive activities (ice-skating, come at me) and getting ready for my lovely boyfriend’s birthday next week – watch this space, plenty of exciting things to come!

Anyway, here are the things that I’ve been loving this month…

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*Bonfire Night: As I’ve mentioned here before, I love Bonfire Night and experiencing it in London for the first time was quite something. On the 5th November I found myself curled up on my boyfriend’s window sill, at 12 floors high it was incredible to watch fireworks going off all across London. We also went to the Victoria Park firework display which was the biggest and best I’ve ever seen. The display was in time to music and it was like watching lights dance across the sky. I highly recommend it if you’re in London this time next year!

*Rude Health 5 Grain 5 Seed Porridge: There’s nothing quite like a big bowl of porridge on a cold morning is there? As a student I was always a Quakers Oats kinda gal (one sachet, bit of milk – Bob’s your uncle) but I’ve branched out this year. This Rude Health porridge is beyond delicious, really nutty and filling. As you’d expect with Rude Health, it has great ingredients with no nasty chemicals and the packet lasts forever. If this doesn’t seem your thing, they have an enormous range so there is something for everyone. With this one I highly recommend adding a drizzle of honey and sprinkling of blueberries!

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*Candles: Two new candles came my way this month and I adore them both. The first is the Anthropologie Volcano candle, which is in a beautiful, iridescent jar and comes with a copper lid. The candle itself is very fruity, so it is perfect for all year round. It comes in a variety of sizes and jar colours, this is the smallest size but bigger versions are on my Christmas wish list! The second is the Yankee Candle Christmas Memories, which was brought to my sick bed as a ‘cheer up, it’s nearly Christmas!’ present. For the past few years, the Yankee Christmas Eve candle has been my favourite from the range, but this may have just replaced it. It’s a sweet blend of gingerbread and cinnamon, to remind you of Christmases from your childhood (cute!).

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*Wanderlust: This month, Tiarnan and I booked a Christmassy weekend away in Paris, which is so exciting. And, after the horrible attacks in Paris this month, it seems all the more important to go and show the city of love some … well, love. I’ve been cruising the internet and guide books for city break inspiration, and it’s looking to be a weekend filled with decadent chocolat chauds, ice skating and perusing the Christmas markets. If you have any suggestions then I would love to hear them!

I hope you all had a great month, bring on December (… and Christmas!!)

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Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

As the winter nights are drawing in, am I the only one who has started craving comfort food? There is nothing better than a plate of these deliciously gooey cookies by the fire with a hot drink on a Sunday evening and they are super simple to make.

As always when my sister and I suddenly feel the need to bake, we turn to the trusty Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It has so many of our favourite bakes in it, from red velvet cupcakes to sugar cookies and chocolate brownies. These chocolate chip cookies are no exception, although we like to use chunks of chocolate instead of actual chocolate chips and we use white and milk to make them a bit more interesting. We also halved the recipe from 24 cookies to 12, because who needs 24 cookies for a quiet Sunday?!

THE HUMMINGBIRD BAKERY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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Makes: 12 cookies. Baking time: 10-15 minutes. 

YOU WILL NEED:

  • 112g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g of white and milk, roughly chopped
  • 2 baking trays, lined with greaseproof paper

TO MAKE:

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F) Gas 3.

Put the butter and sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk) and cream until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Turn the mixer to a slow speed to add the vanilla extract.

Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix until a smooth dough as formed. Stir in the chopped chocolate until evenly dispersed.

Arrange 6 equal amounts of cookie dough onto each tray and make sure there is enough room for them to spread (because they will!). Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the cookies are quite flat.

Leave the cookies to cool before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. If you can’t wait, the cookies are absolutely delicious warm with the chocolate still slightly melted!

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On a Budget: L’Oréal Eyes

Expensive make-up is lovely to have and own, but sometimes it’s the budget finds that are the real gems. For me, L’Oréal is one of the best brands at this and I always find myself lingering over their stand in Boots.

An invaluable tip that I have learnt about L’Oréal is that as an umbrella group, they own many of the most famous high end brands. Lancôme, YSL, Kiehl’s and Urban Decay are just some of the much hyped brands that they own. This means that while initially new products are launched into the high-end groups, the best cosmetics filter down into their budget options and this is where you can find the best dupes. Because they are owned by the same group, the products really are the same, even at a fraction of the price.

Today I’m going to chat to you about a trio of L’Oréal products that my make-up bag (and my eyes!) couldn’t live without. I’m a big believer in mixing and matching products to find the best from each brand, so it really says something that all of these are from L’Oréal.

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*Color Riche L’Ombre Pure Eyeshadows: These are some of my all time favourite budget finds and, as you can see, they are well loved. These come in an absolutely enormous array of shades with 24 colours in the range. They also have a variety of finishes, in Nude, Matte, Pop, Smoky, Cameleon and Lumiere.

On the left is Lumiere 507 Pink Up Pink. While it looks quite alarmingly pink, it really doesn’t look like that on the eye. It has a gold shimmer running through it that creates a beautiful glow, rather than being really glittery. It works really well under other eye shadows to brighten the whole look up or just on its own if you’re in a rush.

On the right is Matte 107 Macaron Vanille. This looks really boring in the pan, but it’s one of my favourite eyeshadows. Despite being matte, it is so creamy and blends easily in a way not dissimilar to the Urban Decay shadows. It is amazing as a base for any eye look, or on its own and it makes you look so much more awake on those sleepy Monday mornings!

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*Mega Volume Miss Manga Punky Mascara: I have loved all of the L’Oréal mascaras that I’ve tried (the Telescopic and Volume Million Lashes mascaras are both worth trying!) but this is my current favourite. It is marketed as creating ‘spiky lashes’ but don’t be put off by that. It’s super black and creates amazing, thick, fluttery eyelashes, rather than clumping them all together like normal spiky mascaras. I’ve also heard people saying it’s really hard to get off. I didn’t find this at all, so definitely give it a go!

*Super Liner Perfect Slim Eyeliner: The whole cat eye look does not come naturally to me. I don’t have the patience to practice and I don’t have the time in the morning to get it right. However, discovering this eyeliner has simplified the whole process for me. It’s a really thin felt tip liner, which is easier to control than most of the others, and the fact it’s so thin means you can go for a more subtle look or build it up gradually. It’s also super black and stays all day. For all the other liquid liner dummies out there, I would definitely recommend giving this one a go!

If you have any L’Oréal recommendations (for eye products or anything else) I would love to hear them!

 

Film Night: Electric Cinema

First up, I’m really sorry that I’ve been missing for a week. It’s all been a bit stressful, as I started the week sick in bed and then returned to a seemingly never ending inbox at work. Busy busy!

But anyway, despite all of that I did find the time to finally see the new James Bond film. Plus, it was the perfect excuse to tick off somewhere that has been sat on my London bucket list for ages.

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Electric Cinema is without a doubt one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. With locations in Shoreditch and Portobello – there really is no excuse to miss this!

As the wind whipped up outside, we snuck underground into Electric Shoreditch. Armed with cashmere blankets and nachos, it’s almost like being in the comfort of your own sitting room. The cinema is tiny with only 50 seats, all of which are wonderfully cushy armchairs, comfortably spread out with side tables to hold your drinks and snacks. The bar outside serves cocktails and other drinks, along with a whole array of snacks which put the standard bucket of popcorn to shame. All of the armchairs come with a cashmere blanket for added comfort (and a higher chance of catching some z’s during the film..)

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As you can imagine, I’ve visited cheaper cinemas in my life. We paid full whack at £18 (and were drawn in to the food and drink on offer!) but the front row seats are cheaper as are the angled view armchairs. Mondays are slightly cheaper as well as Electric Sundays which are the Sunday afternoon viewings. As far as I’m concerned, I think this is the perfect activity on a Sunday as the weather gets chillier.

I’m one of those people who would always choose staying at home with Netflix over going to the cinema, but with Electric Cinema that’s changed. So whether it’s a special occasion or if you just need a mid-week treat, I highly recommend sinking into your armchair, cocooning yourself in a cashmere blanket and eating all the hummus to enjoy a good film!

Country Living Christmas Fair

Back in September (when I was still lost and unemployed) I did a placement with Country Living magazine. It was one of the best placements I have ever done. The people were beyond lovely, the magazine is beautiful, the work was interesting and the tea rounds were frequent – what more could you ask for?!

I love my new job, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t missing the Country Living world (just a little bit…!) So, to get my slice of all things British, rural and homegrown I went along to their Christmas Fair this weekend.

Covering the length of the country with fairs in London, Harrogate and Glasgow, the Country Living Christmas Fair brings to life everything the magazine stands for. Arts and crafts, homegrown businesses and delicious food all come together to kick start the festive season. You do need to get your elbows out a bit, but it’s such a fun day full of inspiration for stocking fillers, how you’re going to present the Christmas table and more than enough tree decorations.

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Christmas is hard to ignore in London at the moment, and while it’s still a little early, now is definitely the time to start thinking about presents and festive plans! If you missed the Christmas Fairs this year, Country Living also do Spring Fairs around Easter time. If you’re organised enough to begin considering all things bunnies and chocolate, pencil it in.

Merry Christmas!

Autumnal Candle Favourites

Isn’t autumn and winter just the time for candles? When it’s grey and miserable outside there’s no better way to cosy up the house than lighting some. Here are my picks of the best autumn candles out there (and I’ve tried plenty!)

They all follow a foodie theme, but without being too sweet which, for me, is absolutely key to finding the perfect candle. There’s nothing worse than having a candle so sickly it gives you a headache (has anyone else ever suffered from this?!) They are also all not too pricey which is a bonus. I do love expensive candles and I have owned a few (when the spendy mood strikes!) but I find myself feeling guilty about burning them for too long. These ones I’ll happily burn all day.

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With candles, I have found that when you discover a brand you love – stick to it. Candles can vary so much in quality, and most of the time price is irrelevant. I’ve bought expensive candles in the past that burnt unevenly, didn’t kick off much scent and were generally a hot, waxy mess and I’ve had super cheap ones that I loved.

Also, if you are unsure whether you’ll like a scent, see if they offer it as tealights. Most of the bigger brands do this (such at The White Company and Yankee Candle) and they have really strong scents – despite being tiny little candles! Don’t be discouraged by the size, sometimes small really is mighty, and they are a great way to experiment.

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Yankee Candle Cinnamon Stick: I couldn’t do a list of affordable candles without including Yankee Candle. They are easily available, pretty cheap and come in about a million different scents. Cinnamon Stick is one of my particular favourites though. It smells of straight up cinnamon, which does give it a hint of Christmas but it still feels acceptable to burn throughout the year.

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I have the small jar, but one of the great things with Yankee Candle is the huge variety in sizes they do. Don’t be put off by the small jars though, they still have an impressive burn time of 25-40 hours and they kick off as much scent as their big sisters.

WoodWick Cinnamon Chai: This was bought for me by my lovely flatmate as part of last year’s Secret Santa. I am completely obsessed with chai lattes, hence the choice of candle, and it really couldn’t be any more me. Of course, it is similar to the Yankee Candle Cinnamon Stick and has the lovely spicy, cinnamon scent, but underneath it is the hint of being in Starbucks, which makes it slightly sweeter.

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The special thing about WoodWick candles is that the wick crackles as the candle burns. I find this really relaxing, and it makes the candle a bit different. Some might find it annoying though! The scent isn’t quite as strong as the Yankee Candle but it still kicks off more than enough scent and makes your room smell amazing.

Anthropologie Boulangerie Pumpkin Soufflé: Last of all is probably my favourite. Anthropologie is a gorgeous shop in general (amazing for window shopping!) but they have a huge variety of candles in stunning jars. This is one of their cheaper offerings, and it comes in a fairly large range. The Sweet Vanilla Cinnamon version has been on my wish list for a while!

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This is the sweetest of all of them, as it smells like pudding but still has the spicy, pumpkin undertones. This is also probably the strongest, as you can still smell it even when it isn’t burning, but not in an overpowering way and it has a lid if you want a break from it! On top of being a great candle, the beautiful jar is a real bonus. I’m planning on washing it out and turning it into a brush holder when I’m done with the candle.

Hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading!

The Camel Coat

Every autumn I fall in love with this coat, and every winter I forget about it. It’s not made of strong enough stuff to take me through winter as the cold draws in, but for now it’s perfect. As we cling on to the remnants of autumn, I thought it deserved a special mention.

I found this coat four years ago in Australia, at the market in Melbourne. I had completely failed to pack a coat for the Melbourne winter and while it has nothing on what we suffer here in London, it was still a bit chilly. This coat found me just when I needed it! I wore it everyday for the rest of that holiday, and then I brought it home and have worn it every autumn since.

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This coat was a bit of a bargain. If I remember correctly, it was around the £15 mark… Because of this, the quality isn’t the best it could be. The buttons are a bit wonky, there are some loose threads, the stitching meanders around and it isn’t lined – but I think that just adds to its charm!

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Quite unusually for me, this coat is double breasted. Normally I run a mile from double breasted coats – I just think they look so strange on me when they aren’t buttoned up, they look too big and flap around awkwardly, and buttoned up they just seem a bit fussy. For some reason though, for this coat it works. There’s not too much excess material and it fits nicely done up. One of the things I really love about it is it easily smartens up an outfit, but it can still be worn casually. Win win!

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The main attraction that I wanted to chat about was the colour. While not completely crazy, the colour is a fairly unique brown camel, and it tends to make my outfit’s statement whenever I wear it. Even owning this one, I am definitely guilty of looking at other similar coats and just thinking ‘that would never go with anything!’ That couldn’t be further from the truth with this coat.

Believe it or not, I find that I can chuck it over anything! It’s easy to pair with dark colours (like I’ve done here) though I tend to stick to blacks and navys.One of things that really helps with this is the buttons. Because the buttons are black, they instantly tie in the other dark elements to any outfit. I think that this is a great thing to consider when buying a coat that’s a slightly bolder colour. Think about the hardware, the buttons and any other accents rather than obsessing on the bolder-than-usual colour. Generally, the plainer the coat the better as you want the colour to be the statement, but keep an eye out for those details!

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What’s your favourite coat for autumn? Do you like to play with colour in your outerwear, or have you always stuck to black?!

London Lunchtime: Muriel’s Kitchen

This Friday, Mum came to London. With holiday to take and not visiting the city as often as she used to, a girlie day was in order!

After spending the morning hiding from the rain in the V&A (an absolute must on the London museum hit list) we had worked up an appetite. We wandered back towards South Kensington with rumbling stomachs and greedy eyes, and stumbled upon the most perfect little place. Allow me to introduce you to Muriel’s Kitchen.

Muriel’s never fails to catch my eye when I’m in the area. Nestled behind South Kensington tube station, I have looked longingly into the cake filled windows many a time as I’ve rushed past. Fortunately this time, we didn’t have to rush anywhere.

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Muriel’s Kitchen takes inspiration from traditional family recipes and firmly believes in the kitchen being at the centre of the home. Inspired by and named after the founder’s own grandmother, Muriel’s is meant to bring some homeliness to London’s hustle and bustle. It has offerings from breakfast to bedtime and only uses the finest, British sourced ingredients and many of the recipes are some of Muriel’s own. With locations in Richmond, Soho and South Kensington, Muriel’s’ chefs prepare and cook their meals fresh everyday. Where they can, they buy direct from family-run businesses.

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If that’s not enough to draw you in, then the interior sure will. Again inspired by Muriel, the restaurants pay homage to her 1950s kitchen. Crammed full but beautifully bright, noticing the details around you is part of the fun of waiting for your meal! Pots and pans cover the walls, prints, mirrors, plenty of plants and recipe books cover every surface. It has a wonderfully country style (despite being in the centre of London!) and everything that you can see seems unique, with its own back story.

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But anyway, we should get onto what we’re all really here for… the food! Muriel’s is special in having menus that change with the seasons, so they are always making the most of the freshest, seasonal ingredients. Their food seems to accommodate everyone from dawn till dusk, with grab and go options as well as offerings for those who want to hang around. It certainly makes a nice change to locating the nearest Pret, grabbing your regular lunch and running back to the office!

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Standing out of the way of the busy workers grabbing their takeaway box or soup before running out of the door, we were shown to a table. After a quick perusal of the menu we decided to go for the English Sharing Platter. Platters are always a fun way to share and compare, and having stood by the kitchen watching the food get prepared there was plenty we wanted to try! I chose raspberry lemonade (a bold reminder of summer in such a seasonal restaurant) and Mum went for the Boosting Juice – apple, pear, beetroot and carrot.

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The food arrived quickly and we could barely wait to tuck in! Our sharing platter came with a homemade scotch egg, chicken liver pâté, butternut squash and feta quiche, cheddar, caramelised onion relish and rustic toast. As you can probably imagine, it was delicious.

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Particular highlights were the quiche and the toast, which was delicious, thick bread. I would say that it can be shared by no more than two, and if you’re especially hungry it might not satisfy the both of you. There’s also a lot of cheese and pâté to a fairly small amount of bread, so we ended up ordering extra. Never a bad thing (as we got to sample even more of their breads!), but just something worth keeping in mind. Some kind of fruit might also have been a nice addition, but otherwise it was delicious and beautifully presented.

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Full but with just enough room for a little something sweet, we crossed the road to visit one of my favourite Kensington spots, the Hummingbird Bakery. If you are in London and haven’t been already, just go. Cupcakes have been quite a thing for the past few years, but the Hummingbird Bakery’s cupcakes are hands-down the best.

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We were amused to find their counters quite light on cupcakes by the time we arrived. Clearly we weren’t the only ones to get that Friday lunchtime feeling and decide that a treat was in order!

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The choice may seem a little overwhelming but trust me when I say that red velvet is the only way to go. With cream cheese frosting and a ridiculously light, red sponge they are absolutely delicious. If only every Friday could be a foodie adventure through London…

Autumn in Kent

While the weather is still fine, my family love a good Sunday walk (with tea and cake waiting for us back home). It really is such a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon, especially as the Kentish countryside around us is so beautiful. Every Sunday afternoon we pack up the car with walking boots, coats, scarfs and our border terrier and set off to a different village.

A couple of weeks ago we chose Chiddingstone, a village entirely owned by the National Trust, which hints at how beautiful it is. We started in the village and then wandered out into the countryside beyond until we could see the church’s spire on a distant hill.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting views from all around the world (which is completely amazing – thank you!) and I thought it might be fun to show you what autumn looks like where I’m from. Autumn in London and autumn in the countryside surrounding it are two very separate things (you can almost miss the whole season in London), so if you’re ever visiting at this time of year be sure to venture beyond the city!

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I wasn’t planning on doing anything with these photos but I had taken so many it seemed a shame not to share them! I hope you enjoyed this little slice of autumnal Kent…

Lush Picks

Lush is my latest obsession. Previously I thought it was over-rated and over-priced. Now I’ve done the full 180 and just can’t get enough.

Now that autumn is here and winter is coming, baths really come into their own. What better way to relax as it’s getting chilly outside than sinking down into a warm bath filled with bubbles? Light some candles, grab a book or magazine or prop up your laptop to watch something… It just can’t get any better, right?

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Lush is expensive, there is no denying. Especially when you start thinking about cost per bath. However, I have come to love (and justify) it through a few very specific reasons. First, I don’t have a bath every single day but usually more as a weekend treat. When you’re only having one or two a week, it isn’t the biggest expense. They are also just so much more fun than ordinary bubbles, and the variety always makes choosing what to have exciting (sad, I know). Lastly, if you choose correctly, they make your skin feel amazing. The best ones leave it feeling soft, smooth and smelling delicious. All of the products are also handmade, cruelty free and come with eco-friendly packaging, so you’re doing your bit to save the world!

Here I’m going to talk about the latest products I picked up to give you some inspiration the next time you walk past one of their shops. Let the glitter commence…

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Yuzu and Cocoa Bubbleroon: First up is one of my absolute favourites, the Yuzu and Cocoa Bubbleroon. This is one that you crumble into the bath to create big bubbles while turning the water a yellow colour (not the most appealing but I can look past that). You could easily break it in half by taking the ‘macaroon’ top off, but I just chucked the whole thing in as I don’t think you’d get enough bubbles with just half.

The scent was what drew me to it. I love citrus scents, and it has a blend of citrus oils in it so it smells wonderfully fruity, but with cocoa absolute it has a chocolatey undertone. It has cocoa butter and shea butter in it so it leaves your skin feeling so soft I  just couldn’t get over it! Paired with the citrus scent this is without doubt one of my all time favourites.

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Frozen Bath Bomb: Do you want to have a bath bomb? Do you want to splash and play..? This is one that I had been eyeing up for a while before I bought it. It just looked so exciting, big, blue and glittery! Unfortunately, this turned out to not be one of my favs.

Before I start, I will just throw out there that this has a very fresh scent, and I much prefer fruity sweet offerings. So I think it’s me rather than the bath bomb… It has a mix of grapefruit, rose and neroli oil in it, creating the fresh scent. As you can see from the pictures, it does make your bath look amazing as the bath bomb fizzes away, but one of the things that I didn’t like about it was that it just didn’t last. By the time I’d faffed around, got my book, taken my make up off etc etc and finally got into the bath, the swirls of bright blue and white and its bubbly, glittery mixture had pretty much disappeared. It did leave bright blue glittery water, but I would have preferred for the effects to last longer.

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The scent also isn’t very strong. My skin didn’t smell of it afterwards and I couldn’t even really smell it while I was in the bath. Again, I can see how some people may enjoy something slightly more subtle, but I feel that when you are paying the money of a Lush bath bomb it should have more impact. So I probably won’t buy this one again, but that’s not to say that you may not enjoy it…

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Brightside Bubble Bar: This one is another of my favourites and I’ve repurchased it which speaks for itself. It is one of Lush’s pricier offerings at £4.95 but you get two decent baths out of it. The Bubble Bars are very similar to the Bubbleroons in that they create nice big bubbles while colouring the water, have strong scents and usually leave your skin feeling soft.

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This is another citrusy one which perhaps explains why I love it so much. This one has mandarin, bergamot and tangerine essential oils in it, so it has an amazing, orange scent. As you can see, it also looks beautiful and creates amazing big bubbles. This bubble bar leaves your skin feeling so soft and the scent really lingers on your skin afterwards (but not in a way that just makes you smell like a walking orange).

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Even though it does seem like quite an extravagance compared to some of the other bath bombs, I would highly highly recommend trying out this Bubble Bar or one of the others if you prefer a different scent (the Comforter is another really popular one, which smells of blackcurrant). One tip I have for the Bubble Bars.. Lush tell you to crumble them under running water. I’ve found that simply holding them under the water and letting the water break it up actually makes more bubbles. It takes longer but is definitely worth it.

Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar: Last of all is the Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar, undoubtedly one of their cutest concoctions! This is limited edition for Halloween so unfortunately you can’t get it any more, but they currently have the Holly Golightly bubble bar in for Christmas (which looks like a silver, sparkly Christmas pud) and that’s a similar idea.

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This Bubble Bar is very, very glittery. I think that is the unanimous first impression that everyone has of it, and I actually haven’t tried this one yet! It smells delicious with a blend of juniperberry, grapefruit and lime oils and it has a little cinnamon stick on top. I imagine that it will be very similar to the other Bubble Bars in the amount of bubbles it creates (meaning that it can only really be used for one bath). I’m slightly nervous about the glitter situation, as I don’t want to come out looking like a glitterball. The Frozen Bath Bomb actually left lots of glitter on me, but that had disappeared by the morning – so I hope this will be the same!

I’m now starting to get excited about Lush’s Christmas collection and I’m sure some of the bubble bars and bath bombs will feature on the blog soon! What’s your favourite thing from Lush?