DeluxeBite January 2013

Posted on: Wednesday, 30 January 2013

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by a company called Deluxebite and asked if I would like to trial one of their food boxes. Being a "detox box", and feeling sufficiently bloated after some Christmas overindulgence, I was more than happy to see what was on offer. The real selling point for me about this brand was the fact that for every box they sell, they donate a meal to foodbanks throughout the UK through the Trussell Trust, who operate a network of nearly 4000 foodbanks across the country. The majority of us are fortunate enough not to worry about where our next meal will come from, but for some people, and at times of crisis - even something like an unexpectedly high bill coming in - that next meal can be a real concern - so I think that really gives Deluxebite an edge over its rivals and adds that feel-good factor that is rarely there when we part with our cash.

Deluxebite works much like other subscription box services, whether beauty or otherwise. You subscribe for £20 a month (or choose a longer term plan for discounted prices), and every month a box of 5 handpicked artisan and gourmet food samples are delivered to your door. Here's what was in January's detox box...

Bracken Hill Fine Foods Apple Chutney, £3.85
Bracken Hill Fine Foods are based in Yorkshire, and are renowned for their delicious ranges of marmalades, jams, curds, chutneys, jellies, sauces and mustards that make the perfect accompaniments to a whole host of foods. They have won a grand total of 20 Great Taste Awards since they started out, which is testament to how lovely their products are (all of which are suitable for vegetarians and GM free). I'm a huge fan of chutneys, especially with cuts of meat, and I had this with some leftover Christmas gammon and it was absolutely gorgeous! The packaging is unassuming and unpretentious but the flavour is wonderful. If you like your meat and cheese lunches, this would make the perfect accompaniment.

Raman's Hadmade Relish - Butternut Squash, £3.50
There's something that sounds so luxurious about a relish, and this one lived up to my expectations. I know some people aren't huge fans of Butternut Squash - it was definitely an acquired taste for me - but this definitely lived up to my expectations. Raman call it "one of our most interesting concoctions" and it is made by a process of slow-grilling the butternut squash to maximise its flavour. Recipe recommendations for this include adding a bit to soups, serving with chargrilled Cajun spiced chicken or using it as a marinade for prawns and white meat. All of those sound delicious to me so I'm more than happy to have this in my fridge!

I know this should probably have been photographed cooked - but I was too excited to eat it to think about getting my camera out again!
Great Glen Game Venison Chorizo, around £4.75, available at a number of UK stockists
This was the product I was most excited about from the Deluxebite box. This is a beautiful Venison Chorizo sausage, oak smoked and dried. It comes from Great Glen Game, who are based in Roy Bridge in the Scottish Highlands and clearly know a thing or two about meats (which I really don't)! This is absolutely delicious and went beautifully with roast chicken, complemented by red onion, lemon juice and baby tomatoes. Other recipe suggestions include adding it to a white bean soup with scallops - which to me sounds so wintery and comforting and might be something I need to try!

Nim's Fruit Crisps - Kiwi and Pineapple, £1.25
For me these were crisps the most disappointing of the bunch - but not unpleasant by any means. I do love dried fruit but I don't take too well to tart or sour foods, and these were slightly on the bitter side for me. The texture was lovely, however, and the concept is great, so I'm sure I'd like one of their other flavours a lot more - Orange and Melon sounds delicious to me!

The Coffee Factory Black Label Blend, £4.05 for 250g, available here (also in 1kg bag)
Those who know me know that I'm an absolute coffee fiend, and bog standard filter coffees are actually my favourite. My parents bought themselves a fancy Nespresso machine last year and I still prefer my coffees from the cafetiere, so this was another winner for me. A beautiful smooth blend with a nutty, chocolatey finish, I drank about six cups of this in one day (whilst frantically essay writing) and thought it was fantastic. I'll definitely be purchasing a full-sized bag of this once it's finished!

Overall, I was so pleased with the contents of this box, and think that the concept of Deluxebite is fantastic. I'm starting to lose interest in beauty boxes and quite honestly receiving this made me think I'd rather subscribe to Deluxebite - not only does every box you buy make a donation to foodbanks, but there is clearly a lot of thought that goes into these boxes and every single product was something different - and delicious.

If I don't end up subscribing for myself, I'd definitely buy boxes here and there for gifts for loved ones - I know my mum and dad have enjoyed the contents of this box just as much as I have!

Does the concept of Deluxebite appeal to you? Do you subscribe to any food subscription boxes?

Deluxebite's website is here.  Alternatively, check them out on their Facebook or Twitter pages. If you like the sound of Deluxebite, you can check out their subscription plans here.

NOTD: Cobalt Blue with Accent Sparkles

Posted on: Tuesday, 29 January 2013

OPI The Living Daylights, £11 for 15ml
A beautiful, multi-tonal chunky glitter from the Skyfall Collection for Winter 2012. I love this on an accent nail. Formula is as good as one can be for a glitter polish, i.e. on the gloopy side and fairly difficult to manoeuvre! I love the colours in this glitter, though, and think they give such a pretty dimension to a manicure.

Color Club Insta-This, £10 for 7ml
This came with the December 2012 JolieBox before its transition to Birchbox and is a gorgeous cobalt blue colour. This is one of those colours that you can't stop looking at once it's on your nails. Formula wise it's a little odd - a three-coater which is unusual for opaques. The first coat oxidises to a rather unpleasant dark grey-blue and the second does a little, too. The third coat plus a shiny top coat gets it to its best.

What do you think of this manicure?

Birchbox UK January 2013

Posted on: Saturday, 26 January 2013

I know that this box has been much posted about already, but I thought I'd add my two cents into the mix because personally when I'm looking for beauty box reviews I'll look at a number to see who got different products etc, and I haven't seen anyone else's box containing the cuticle cream (more to follow).

So I'm sure most will know that JolieBox was recently bought out by Birchbox, who have replaced the look and feel of JolieBox's black boxes and black drawstring bags with cardboard boxes with a pink trim and a pink drawstring bag. Personally I quite like the look of Birchbox and thus far am not too disappointed that JolieBox is no more - as much as I loved it, Birchbox seems to have paid them much homage in their transition and stuck to the main 'bits' of JolieBox that we all knew and for the most part loved, like the magazine - though that was conspicuously absent from my box, alongside the menu card, so the descriptions are from the Birchbox UK website.

KMS California Add Volume Volumising Spray, full size £14.85
Birchbox say: "KMS California AddVolume Volumizing Spray gives hair up to 70% more volume. Provides your tresses with heat protection and intense fullness. What's more, it's alcohol free." 

KMS California is one of my favourite hair care brands and I'm a particular fan of their Hairstay Clarifying Shampoo, which I use religiously two or three times a week. This is something I haven't tried before but have eyed up many a time in light of my disastrously fine hair and my constant struggles to give it a bit of volume. This is something I'm really excited to try, but haven't yet, so I will post a full review in due course. A definite winner for me in terms of its featuring in a beauty box, though.

fresh Sugar Rosé Lip Treatment, full size £15.50
Birchbox say: "Sugar Rosé Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15 moisturises, protects, and smoothes the lips while leaving a rosy tint with a proprietary blend of moisture-preserving sugar, nourishing precious oils, antioxidant-rich polyphenols, and essential SPF protection. It is proven to provide 6 hours of significant moisture for soft, supple, and youthful lips. The unique formula also offers buildable coverage to customize a sheer or rich hue."

fresh have something of a cult following, but aren't a brand I'd tried before, so needless to say I was pretty impressed with this being included in the box. It has an ever so slight tint once built up on the lips, but is more of a moisturising/sun protection balm, which I'm more than happy with. This smells citrusy, which isn't a great favourite of mine scent-wise, but it's perfectly pleasant and certainly not offensive! 

Reverence de Bastien Unguent for nails and cuticles, full size £15.50
Birchbox say: "Caring for your hands and nails beauty, Bastien Gonzalez designed the unguent for nails and cuticles. Its combination of essential oils and medicinal plants nourishes and protects the cuticles from external factors. The key ingredient, Arnica, well-known for its action against bruises and contusions, ensures a good supply of blood to your nails and tissues. Argan oil regenerates the epidermis and the extracts of red berries make your nails look healthier."

I have to say, when I saw this I did recoil a little at its 90s packaging and the fact it looks like a rather pornstar-esque lip gloss. But I was pleasantly surprised; this smells lovely and feels so nourishing on the cuticles. Having finally stopped biting my nails last summer, I'm still a bit of a nibbler when it comes to my cuticles, so hopefully this will get them back to health and encourage me to leave them alone! I'm also a big fan of its two star ingredients - Arnica and Argan oil - so whilst the appearance and packaging leaves a little to be desired, I'm otherwise really pleased with this - and it's a full-sized product, too.

Wei Royal Ming Firming and Hydrating Cream, full size £74.00
Birchbox say: "A rich and luxurious cream formulated with no less than 18 potent herbs that combine to deliver balance and a smooth, youthful luminosity to dry, ageing and lined skin. Dating back 600 years, women of the Royal Ming Dynasty used this herbal remedy to help maintain their silky, porcelain-like complexions. Today, its all-in-one formula firms and intensely hydrates with its restorative blend of active botanicals."

It probably won't come as much of a surprise that I haven't tried Wei products before, for the sole reason they are extortionately priced. I've seen them many a time at Space NK but could never have afforded them, and never bothered asking for a sample because there's no worse feeling than finding a product that works miracles but also breaks the bank. So I was nervous about liking this - and sadly, I really do! This is a 4ml sample which is quite generous given its RRP, and will probably allow for 4 or 5 uses. I've used this twice overnight so far and it is lovely - a very thick texture, so not the easiest to massage into the skin, but it does leave my skin feeling really supple and soft the next morning (but so does my Caudalie night cream, which is half the price). I don't think I'll be purchasing this unless I win the lottery, but it is a lovely product, and I think the packaging of Wei products is beautiful.

Teapigs Chamomile Tea, £3.99 for a box
Birchbox say: "All teapigs teas (particularly the herbal ones!) use the whole leaf or flower, unlike most other tea brands. You’ll find the flavour of this blend much stronger and fresher than regular dusty paper teabags."

This is the lifestyle extra included in this month's box, and it's nice enough. I do love tea, though I'm not hugely keen on chamomile tea - but I'll give this a go. A decent enough extra.

Overall, I'm pretty chuffed with this box and hope it's a sign of good things to come from Birchbox. I'm particularly impressed with the inclusion of products from KMS and fresh, and do like the cuticle cream - the others I could take or leave, Wei for the price, and the tea because...well, it's a teabag.

What did you think of this month's Birchbox?

NB: Full size prices listed are those on the Birchbox e-shop, but shop around a bit if you're looking to buy - KMS products for example are discounted at a lot of online beauty retailers, and the fresh treatments are a little cheaper with this seller on Amazon.

L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil

Posted on: Tuesday, 22 January 2013

L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil, £16.50 online and in stores

This has been raved about on beauty blogs of late, so I couldn't resist seeing what all the fuss was about and made an order with L'Occitane, one of my favourite brands for bath and body (and their Angelica Hydration Cream - amazing). This is an oil that transforms upon contact with water into a gentle foam, but one that still feels oily and nourishing without leaving a residue. It is made with natural almond oil and, according to L'Occitane, "respects the hydrolipidic film" (phew). This smells absolutely gorgeous, like sweet almond with a hint of hazelnut, too (that's probably just my imagination though - it's not in the ingredients). After using this in the shower, I can smell it on my skin - which is left baby soft - for hours afterwards, and for me that is a major plus point. This is also brilliant to use in place of a shaving foam and doesn't irritate the skin at all - I find a lot of shaving foams leave my skin goosepimpled and quite red, so this would be perfect if you needed to shave your legs last minute and don't want to leave the house with bright red pins. Needless to say, because it is oil based, avoid using this if you've fake tanned. For that reason I imagine I won't be repurchasing this for summer, but will definitely keep it in my bathroom for when I haven't slathered on the Xen-Tan!

This is hugely expensive for what it is, but for me it is worth it - it is so gentle and feels so luxurious, and the lasting power of the scent is amazing. I don't think I've ever come across a shower gel/oil before that's had such staying power. You also only need a tiny little amount to cover the body, which means price per ml is actually not that bad - when you consider that a normal shower gel takes 3 or 4 pumps/squirts to cover the body, so you're using it up much faster.

Have you tried the L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil? Would it be something you'd like to try, or is it just too difficult to justify the price?

MAC 'Impassioned' Lipstick

Posted on: Monday, 21 January 2013

MAC 'Impassioned' Lipstick, £14 online or in stores

As much as I'm disappointed in MAC lately, what with their no longer being completely cruelty free (details here) and their ever-increasing prices, I wanted to blog about this particular lipstick because I've had it in my collection gathering dust for quite some time (rest assured - before they changed their cruelty to animals policy) and never realised quite how much I liked it until recently. As much as I'm all for bright lips, whether barbie girl pinks or deep dark plums, I always erred on the side of caution with this because I thought it was leaning just too warm toned to be flattering. But, as I've been experimenting with it recently, I've come to the conclusion this is actually much more neutral than it looks in the bullet - still warm-leaning, but not sufficiently enough to make your teeth look yellow or any similar horror. The MAC website describes it as an "amped up fuschia", but I would say this is more of a true hot pink shade, leaning a bit red, with a neutral to warm base. I think I'll be getting plenty of use out of this lipstick come summer and can imagine it looking pretty killer with a decent tan (from a bottle, in my case, as I don't think my pasty skin has ever been able to pull something together that even slightly resembles a decent tan).

This is a long standing bestseller of MAC's and was brought out again in their Fashion Sets collection at the beginning of last year with a complementary lipglass and nail lacquer due to its popularity. The nail lacquer (which is almost an entirely different colour, bizarrely) is available on the website and in stores but the lipglass was a limited edition. The Impassioned lipstick is in the permanent collection.

What do you think of Impassioned? Would you wear it?

Korres Plum Lip Butter

Posted on: Sunday, 20 January 2013

Korres Plum Lip Butter, £6.30 online and in selected stores

On Friday I posted about the most recent addition to my Korres Lip Butter collection - Jasmine - but today I thought I'd go back to basics and show you the first lip butter I bought from the range, Plum. I don't have the outer packaging anymore, so apologies for not being able to photograph that, and I had to do a little clean up around the pot with a cotton pad because this is quite a 'wet' lip butter so gets quite messy!

The colour of this lip butter is true to its name, and leaves a beautiful sheen of colour on the lips as well as moisturising them throughout the day (as long as you reapply - these don't stick around too long after you've had a coffee or god forbid, lunch). I got a lot of wear out of this in the run up to Christmas and imagine it will remain in my day to day make up bag until the end of winter.

Smell wise this is much more powerful than Jasmine and some of Korres' other offerings, but I really love it - fresh and fruity without being cloying or musky. The price tag of the lip butters is also really reasonable, coming in cheaper than lip butters like the Revlon ones or the L'Oreal Rouge Caresse, and in my opinion they're of superior quality.

What do you think of Plum? Would you be tempted?

Korres Plum Lip Butter retails for £7 but you can get it for £6.30 here.

Laura Mercier Tarte au Citron Candle

Posted on: Saturday, 19 January 2013

Laura Mercier Tarte au Citron Candle, £35 (currently £17.50 in the Space NK sale)

Described as "[capturing] the essence of lemon, bergamot, cassis and warm crème fraiche, [blending] it with delicious notes of whipped vanilla custard, baked pastry accord and velvety musky woods, as soon as I saw this in the sale I knew I had to go for it. £17.50 is a lot of money for a candle (let alone £35), but as I'm obsessed with scented candles I though as a one-off treat for finishing my essay I could get away with this!

The most well-loved of Laura Mercier's candles is definitely Crème Brûlée, which is still on my wish list, but this is equally beautiful. Like all the Laura Mercier candles it's in a gorgeous frosted brown glass jar - simple and stylish. I was a little dubious at first because I'm not hugely keen on citrus scents, but citrus is barely recognisable in it - this is very much a gourmand fragrance - true to its name 'tarte au citron'. Imagine one baking in the oven and that's pretty much the smell you get from this. Comforting and soothing but at the same time luxurious and classy and as you would imagine for the price, a powerful candle that fills the room with its scent even when unlit. I imagine the burn time will be around 50 hours - I've burned it for around 15 hours so far and it's just under a third down. The candle has tunnelled slightly, through no apparent fault of my own, but this was easily resolved with a quick cleanup with a kitchen knife! A minor bug bear for an otherwise beautiful candle and a seriously luxurious purchase!

Have you tried a Laura Mercier candle?

Korres Jasmine Lip Butter

Posted on: Friday, 18 January 2013

Korres Jasmine Lip Butter, £6.30 (prices vary) online and in selected stores

Korres Lip Butters became a staple of many a beauty cabinet of 2012, and this is my second purchase after the Plum version which I bought in October last year and wore religiously for months. Made with rice wax and shea butter, they are moisturising and nourishing on the lips and have some serious colour pay-off to boot. This one is one of the more neutral offerings of the range (alongside Guava), and is a beautiful delicate baby pink colour. I've seen a couple of reviews describe this as having little to no pigmentation, but I have to disagree - that might be because my lips are naturally quite dark, so this makes a lot of difference to them.

This lip butter smells lovely, not too overpowering, and feels really buttery on the lips. I rate these so highly I've just ordered Pomegranate - a vibrant hot pink - to add to my collection.

My only issue with these lip butters are with the more vibrant ones - I found Plum to bleed a little around my lips when I applied a few coats for a more intense colour, but blotting or lining the lip would fix this quickly.

Korres Lip Butters are free of silicones and are dermatologically tested.

Are you a fan of Korres Lip Butters?

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