Friday, 20 January 2017

My Top 10 Dubai Pool Bag Essentials

My Top 10 Dubai Pool Bag Essentials Image

This winter, I jetted off to Dubai to celebrate my friends 30th birthday.  It was a bit of a whirlwind trip as we had lots planned while we were there but I did get a couple of days to chill out around the pool at the Habtoor Grand Hotel.

I'm a bit of a seasoned pro when it comes to packing my pool bag these days but its out of a need to be organised rather than a want to carry everything but the kitchen sink.

Today I thought I'd share with you my top 10 items to take with you to the pool on your next holiday!

1. Beach Bag
Well it might seem like a bit of an obvious one but you're going to be needing a beach bag.  My recommendation would be a tote as they're multipurpose and can be used for shopping and days out while you're away as well as when you're at the pool/beach.  Generally they're really roomy and quite unstructured on the inside so you can throw all of your essentials inside without feeling like you're playing a game of Tetris.  Opt for a neutral shade that'll match go with all of your beachwear and cover ups, then you're not feeling the need to take more than one with you!

I bought this white laser cut one from River Island in May, just before I went on holiday to Turkey.  I love the gold detailing on it; white and gold is the ultimate luxe looking summer combo for me.  What I like about this bag is that it is really roomy, the straps are long so it fits comfortable over my shoulder and there's a separate zip up bag inside that you can use to keep your valuables in.  It detaches so if you're leaving your things next to your sun lounger when you pop to the restaurant for lunch, that's fine because you can take the smaller bag inside with you.  The bag also has pull in sides which is great for changing the shape of the bag if I take it out shopping with me.

Taking a tote bag away with you as a beach bag is also great for if you overstuff your suitcase with souvenirs as you can use the tote as a large hand luggage bag and transfer some of your things into it to reduce the weight in the suitcase (as I'm sure you can tell, I hate paying excess baggage charges!).

2. Sunglasses
I couldn't be without my sunglasses when I'm around the pool.  Aside from protecting my eyes, I don't like the idea of squinting and encouraging wrinkles to form on my face prematurely!  I took two pairs with me on this trip, a Fiorelli pair and the Polaroid sunnies that I reviewed in this post.  They're both oversized, chic and great at hiding a late night.

3. Mobile Phone
Listing a mobile phone here actually goes against my wishes as I actually love to go on holiday and not have the bloody thing anywhere near me.  In fact, I'm going away again soon and I'm not even taking it with me at all; it'll remain on my bedside table until I return home!

However for this trip, I did need my iPhone as I had to do a little bit of work while I was away.  December is a pretty bad time for me to go on holiday as work is so busy but I couldn't miss celebrating my friends birthday.

If you don't mind not having a tech free vacation, then an iphone is a great item to keep in your pool bag.  I have lots of apps on mine so was able to enjoy some time listening to music on iTunes and to my latest book on Audible, My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry.  I've been subscribed to them since the summer and I am hooked but I'll save more on that for another post.

4. Kindle
I bought my Kindle YEARS ago now and purposely got the bottom of the range style one, not that £49 is cheap but it is a lot cheaper than the other Kindles that are out there.  I chose it because I didn't want one with the ability to watch movies or play games on it as I knew that if I had those options on the Kindle then I'd select those rather than reading.

I read so much more and so much faster with my Kindle.  I save the names of books that I fancy reading into a book wishlist on my phone and then before I travel, I look over it and load up my Kindle with a selection of books from my list before I go.  I also check Amazon regularly to see if any of the books that are on my wishlist appear in their sale as they often have some fantastic titles for only 99p.

5. Camera
My fourth pool essential would have to be my camera.  I love taking photos and documenting my trip to look back on in years to come and for my blog of course.  I have a Canon S120 that I bought a couple of years ago and it is ideal for taking snaps on the go.


6. Zippy coin purse
Don't let money and cards float around in your bag.  Get yourself a zippy coin purse like mine from Rebecca Minkoff and you'll be able to keep all of your notes, change and cards in one place.  This is the Betty Pouch and it comes in lots of different styles; I think they change them every season.  There's a key ring inside  too so you can keep your keys securely fastened on it and zipped inside so you'll not be fishing about in your bag trying to find them!

I particularly like the Jetsetter style in grey and the Peace, Love & Happiness style in black.

7. Water
Staying hydrated is important regardless of where you are but even more so if you're lying out, baking in the sun.  Make sure you're carrying a big bottle with you and sip it regularly.

8. Hair Clip
If you're anything like me, then you'll hate having your hair down when you're sunbathing, swimming in the pool or enjoying lunch in the sun at the pool bar.  Get it up and out of your way using one of the big jaw clips that you can pick up really cheaply in most shops that sell hair products.

9. Travel Pillow
Many hotels will supply beach towels but not many supply a pillow to rest your head on.  If, like me, you require a pillow to support your head and neck when you're relaxing on a lounger, then I'd highly suggest picking up a Go Travel Pillow Duo.  They're available online but I got mine in the airport, as did my husband on a previous trip.  Whats great about this travel pillow is that it is filled with little beans and it is convertible.  You can have it as a traditional travel pillow, horseshoe shape which is ideal for on the place and you can also unzip it, shake it around and zip it up again and it converts into a rectangular shaped pillow.

Both variations are very comfortable but the rectangular shape is ideal for taking down to the pool with you.  Pop it under your towel at the top of your sun lounger and you'll have a comfy pillow to rest your head and neck on.

My Top 10 Dubai Pool Bag Essentials Image

10. Wipe Clean Zip Up Bag
My final pool bag essential is a zip up bag that you can fill with your SPF products.  Often tanning oils and creams can leak which can ruin other things that are in your bag so to keep everything separate, store your suntan lotions in a separate, zip up bag (preferably one thats waterproof or at the least, wipe clean).

I have this pink one from Accessorize which I was given as a gift from Nair, my favourite hair removal cream brand, ages ago and I've used it ever since.  I think it was actually supposed to be a clutch bag but it serves this purpose really well.  I keep all of my lotions and potions zipped inside and take this bag out with me around the pool; that way, everything is one place, I'm not hunting around in the bottom of my bag for a bottle and I'm not getting my main bag dirty with oily hands.

Of course its whats inside this bag that really matters as protecting your skin with SPF is so important to ensure that you don't burn.  Find out which sun protection products I took with me to Dubai in this post all about how to protect your skin on a winter holiday.  I'll be writing lots more travel related beauty posts this year as holidays and exploring other countries are some of my favourite things to do in life!

What are your pool bag essentials? Let me know in the comments!
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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How To Protect Your Skin On A Winter Sun Holiday

How To Protect Your Skin On A Winter Sun Holiday with La Roche Posay, Caribbean Breeze, Kerastase, Soltan, Clarins and Garnier Ambre Solaire Image

For years, I have been an avid reader of beauty blogs, not being content with just writing one myself.  One thing that is always a common theme with blogs is the influx of travel and sun care related posts during the summer months but there's a serious lack of them during the UK winter time and especially over Christmas.  

But why is that?  Granted there are the most holiday makers during our summer but there are so many people who jet away for a little winter sun too and on WhatLauraLoves, I want to remember those lucky people!  It makes sense really, to go away while its freezing here, not to mention those who opt for a skiing holiday where the sun can be really bright and powerful.

I know that so many of you have been away this winter as you've tweeted me while I've been freezing my socks off, sat in the cold over the new year!  Mr WLL and I have been to many destinations during the wintertime over the years from Bruges to Amsterdam, Kenya to the Mauritius and the Maldives and from Egypt to Tenerife, so we're quite used to packing now.

The one area of my suitcase that I don't compromise on is my suncare.  Protecting your skin in the sun is of the upmost importance and while it has always been important to me, as I am getting older, I am finding that it is something that I'm becoming more and more focused on when I'm packing for my holidays.

Having a tan for vanity reasons is not worth sacrificing your skin health for, in terms of both the risks of skin cancer and premature skin ageing.  I LOVE to look tanned and I do love sun bathing but nowadays I wear a far higher factor than I ever have because I really don't want to burn my skin and i'm a lot more careful of what I'm doing when I'm in the sun too; making sure I apply enough sunscreen and often enough, moving into the shade or wearing a top in the pool when the sun is too hot and bright, etc.

I've tried out so many different brands of SPF over the years and I definitely know what my favourite types of products and formulas are.  In the photo above, you can see which products I took away to Dubai with me on my most recent winter sun holiday.


How To Protect Your Skin On A Winter Sun Holiday Image

First of all, I always pack a bottle of the Soltan Head & Hair SPF 30 which is an invisible sun protection spray that is specifically designed to protect your hair and scalp.  I spray this all over my hair, along my hairline and right into my roots to ensure that my scalp is well protected from the sun.  With being so blonde and having such fine hair, its really important that I protect my head with SPF
and a hat as it does have a tendency to burn which is so painful and then peel which looks unsightly!

The Soltan Head & Hair is also designed to prevent hair damage and colour fade but I use it more for its SPF 30 properties.  To protect my hair against damage, I have been using the Kérastase Soleil CC Crème on holiday for the last year.  At first, I didn't like it as I thought that it made my hair feel dry and crispy and I was just using it up but when I was in Dubai, I used less and brushed it through my hair and it did feel better than it had done before.  It is a multi purpose cream that protects and repairs the hair while adding shine and radiance, which I definitely think that it does.  Its antioxidant UV filters protect the hair from sun damage.

Next up is sun protection for the face and I'd always recommend using an SPF thats specifically designed for the skin on your face and a separate one for the body.  While in Dubai, I did sunbathe but I also went out and about during the day and sat outside at brunch so I opted for the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Tinted Dry Touch Gel Cream in SPF50.  This is a very high SPF within a tinted formula that is similar to a lightweight foundation.

It is a gel cream formula that smooths onto the skin and once applied, it feels as though it really sticks to the skin which makes it perfect for both oily and dry skin types.  It is also very water resistant which is great if you're a sunbather who likes to be in and out of the pool or if you tend to sweat somewhat while you're in the heat.

It has a dry touch, non greasy texture and it is actually great at improving the appearance of the skin, if you're someone who is a bit self conscious when not wearing makeup.  Personally, I'm fine with going makeup free but the coverage is lovely for days where you're in the sun and at a party such as the brunches in Dubai, etc.

Regardless of whether you're looking for something with a tint to it or not, SPF50 is fantastic at preventing you from burning and protecting your skin in the sun.  Whenever I go away, I always take at least an SPF 30 or 50 with me.

Another essential to protect your skin on a winter sun holiday is an SPF lip balm.  I always opt for the highest one that I can find and at the moment, I'm using the Caribbean Breeze SPF50 lip balm.  I've used lip balms from so many different brands in the past; as long as it has a high factor, I'll try it out! I love the Ultrasun Lipbalm the most.

For protecting the skin on my body, I tend to opt for spray oil formulas.  I don't really like a white cream because I find it a bit of a faff on, although worth it!  I tend to take a dry oil spray like the Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist with me in an SPF 50 for days where I'm actually going out and about, perhaps on a trip, because it doesn't leave any residue on the skin and doesn't stain or mark my clothes.

When sunbathing, I like to use an oil, again with a high SPF.  I'm only really interested in SPF 30 and 50 these days.  If I go to a destination that isn't too hot then I might drop down to a 20 but that's it really.  Remember, the high factor doesn't stop you from tanning, it just stops you from burning!

The SPF oil that I took to Dubai with me was the Clarins Sun Care Oil Spray in SPF 30 with UVA/UVB protection.  This is absolutely gorgeous because it feels like a luxurious, nourishing treat for the skin all the while it is protecting it from burning.

It has a none greasy formula that spritzes effortlessly onto the skin.  It contains Vitamin E, Aloe Vera and Nyamplung Oil to soothe and nourish the skin.  It leaves my skin feeling hydrated and very well protected.  I love that its clear because it means that I can just spritz a load on to ensure my body is covered but I don't have to spend too much time rubbing it in (great for if you're spritzing your own back too!).  I absolutely adore Clarins sun care and have used many of their products in the past.  I'll be picking up another couple of bottles soon ready for my next trip away and a tube of the face SPF too.

I much prefer using oil formulas compared to lotions.  I know that they're all great at protecting the skin but I like using an SPF oil formula because I never burn with an oil.  I find that I get a deeper tan without burning or noticeably damaging my skin.  I think its because my skin still feels moist with the none-greasy oil on it.  I'd highly recommend giving one a try on your next holiday.

Regardless of your preferred formula, make sure your skin is adequately protected if you're going on holiday this winter, or summer for that matter!  Opt for the higher factors available in your preferred SPF and make sure that they offer both UVA and UVB protection.  Reapply more often than you think and always after you've been in water.

I'd suggest taking a big t shirt or cover up with you too for the pool should the sun be particularly hot.  You'll always be more susceptible to burning more in water because of the glare and reflection off the water so while a t shirt might not look glamorous, it will save you from burning to a crisp.  I've experienced this over the years and it really is ridiculous.  Don't do it!

Be sure to take a wide brimmed hat with you and sunglasses to protect your head, face, eyes and shoulders and make sure to take some shade when the sun is at its highest and hottest during the day.

You can achieve a beautiful bronzed glow without burning your skin and causing premature skin ageing and risking skin cancer.

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What are your favourite sun protection products?
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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Clarins Ever Matte Foundation in 103 Ivory for Oily Skin Review

Clarins Ever Matte Foundation in 103 Ivory for Oily Skin Review Image

Having oily skin certainly makes choosing foundation tricky.  Aside from my lippy, I'm not one for touch ups on the go so when I apply my makeup, I like it to last all day long.  This is particularly important for me when I'm heading down to London for work as I'll often be out from 8am until 3am the next morning so wearing a foundation that slides off within a few hours really doesn't cut the mustard for me.

Over the years, I've tried so many different foundations.  The best I have found for oily skin are the Estee Lauder Double Wear (review here) which was great for when I went on a lot of nights out as it is full coverage as well as long lasting, Estee Lauder Double Wear Light (review here) which is my favourite of the two as it is lighter in formula but still long lasting and the Makeup Atelier Paris Waterproof Foundation which was awesome but difficult to get hold of.

Last spring, I had been using a few different foundations from Chanel, Dior and Too Faced but by the time the summer came along, I really needed something that was going to be a lot more mattifying in order to keep my skin shine free through the warmer months.

Clarins Ever Matte Foundation in 103 Ivory for Oily Skin Review Image


It was during a Skin Analysis with Nikita on the counter at Clarins, that I first discovered the Ever Matte Foundation.  I'd asked for suggestions on long lasting, mattifying foundations and as an oily girl herself, she suggested this one and gave me a sample pot.  I was matched to shade 103 Ivory which is absolutely PERFECT for me, I don't think I've ever had a foundation matched to me that has suited my skin tone so well.

I took it on holiday with me to Icmeler in Turkey and was instantly impressed by how amazing my skin looked when wearing it and how well it lasted in the heat.  I bought a bottle of it as soon as I got home and have been using it ever since!

I have taken it on a further two holidays too because with the packaging being nude plastic with a gold screw off lid it is very travel friendly.  A pump isn't needed as the foundation is dispensed through squeezing the tube which is really handy but I have found that as you get towards the last quarter of the bottle, it is a little harder to get out of the bottle than I'd like.  While the packaging doesn't feel particularly luxe, the foundation inside is absolutely gorgeous.


Clarins Ever Matte Foundation in 103 Ivory for Oily Skin Review Image

The Clarins Ever Matte Foundation is their oil-free skin balancing foundation for combination/oily skin types.  It comes in 9 different shades which isn't the widest selection out there but they do have a lot of bases covered and the shade that I have is absolutely spot on.

I apply it using a buffing brush and find that it blends seamlessly into my skin.  Usually, I wear a primer underneath my foundation but I don't when I'm wearing this one; firstly because it doesn't need a primer at all but also because I find that it doesn't sit very well on top of any of the primers that I have.  When used alone, the result is absolutely gorgeous; smooth and flawless skin.

Clarins Ever Matte Foundation is lightweight in texture yet very mattifying.  It doesn't make my skin feel dried out or tight when I first apply or wear it but my skin is noticeably mattified and it takes away the shine from my skin which is exactly what I am looking for in a foundation for oily skin.  I do think that it would definitely be too drying for dry skin types though which is understandable!

This is the perfect formula for me because I don't like feeling of wearing a very heavy foundation but I do want something thats really going to mattify my skin.  I love that it makes my skin look perfected and flawless and it doesn't emphasise the larger pores on my cheeks like some foundations do.

The formula has Clarins plant-based Skin Detox complex which helps aims to tighten pores and regulate sebum production.  It contains Tanka powder which helps to keep the skin matte, softened and purified as well as mattifying and soothing Carthusian Pink Extract.  It has a light scent that reminds me of cucumber although it isn't apparent on the skin.


Clarins Ever Matte Foundation in 103 Ivory for Oily Skin Review Image


Once applied, the Clarins Ever Matte Foundation has a very natural finish on the skin with a light to medium coverage depending on how much you apply as it is buildable.  It is really long lasting and keeps me looking matte for far longer than other foundations I've used.  If I had to liken it to any other mattifying foundation then I would compare it to the Estee Lauder Double Wear Light so if you like that one then I'm certain that you would like this one too.  I'd say that the Clarins Ever Matte is better because it is even more mattifying.

It doesn't feel heavy on my skin or oxidise throughout the day.  My other makeup products sit very well on top of it and look even more perfected thanks to the smooth, even coverage that the Clarins foundation has created on my skin.

If you have combination or oily skin and are looking for a foundation that will give you a flawless, natural finish that'll last all day then I'd highly recommend the Clarins Ever Matte Foundation.

If you're in the North East, then pop in to see Nikita and the other girls on the counter at Clarins in Fenwick, Newcastle.  She's my go-to girl for all things Clarins because she REALLY knows the products inside out.

There's plenty of free counter services that you can book in for on 0191 230 5033 so you'll be able to find out exactly which skincare and makeup products are going to be best for your skin and lifestyle and you'll be able to try them out before buying them too!

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Have you tried Clarins Ever Matte; how well did it work for you? What is your favourite foundation?
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Friday, 13 January 2017

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

Are you looking for an alternative afternoon tea spot in the North East?


Situated in the Karbon Grill part of the hotel, opposite the Stadium of Light, on Vaux Brewery Way, it is easy to find with plenty of parking (providing its not a match or concert day!).

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

You'll find a tasty array of American classics served traditionally on a three tier cake stand.  I like that there is more of a focus on the savoury selection rather than the desserts, in a similar that a Gentleman's Afternoon tea does as I do have more of a savoury tooth.

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

Gracing the top tier, you'll find a pork and chorizo slider which is a mini burger made up of a lightly toasted bun, succulent meat and melting cheese with crisp salad. 

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

I found the mini slider to be absolutely delicious, one of my favourites and just enough to eat.  I never choose a burger when we go out to dinner as I find them to be far too heavy and have too much bread whereas having a miniature version is the perfect size. 

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

There's also a buffalo chicken wing with hot sauce which was another of my favourites.  I love hot and spicy food so this suited me down to the ground.

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

On the middle tier, there was mini calzones (one cheese focused and the other pepperoni) and a cheese and pickle bite with sauce for dipping.  In all honesty, I could take or leave this selection as, although there wasn't anything wrong the items as such, they didn't taste particularly special.

I really think that Karbon Grill could have come up with something that felt much more American than these two both to the taste and aesthetically.  While they tasted nice, they look like something that I could pick up in the party food selection at my local supermarket for far less than the £14.50 per head that this Afternoon Tea costs.

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

The bottom tier of desserts did make up for the middle row with a mini key lime pie which had just the right amount of zesty sharp flavour to it, a slice of pecan tart which was deliciously sweet and a slice of Mississippi mud cake that would send a chocolate lover to heaven!

A choice of tea or coffee was served along with a mini strawberry and banana milkshake which all honesty, didn't taste like a milkshake.  When I think of an American milkshake, I think of something so sugary sweet with ice cream in it whereas this was more like a smoothie.  It tasted very yoghurt based and packed full of strawberries which tasted far healthier than the American style milkshake that I had envisaged.

I really enjoyed it and would prefer it to a sugary sweet milkshake any day however I didn't think that it was suited to this particular menu- the traditional, ice cream sweet strawberry milkshake would have suited the sharing tower more, regardless of which I'd prefer personally.  Since it was more of a smoothie, it felt more like a breakfast drink; deliciously thick and fruity but a little misplaced in my opinion.

Karbon Grill American Style Afternoon Tea at Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Image

Overall, I do think that the American Sharing Tower is a fun alternative to a traditional afternoon tea and would be great to enjoy in place of afternoon tea, or you could order a few between a group of you to snack on while you enjoy a drink at the bar inside the hotel.  I particularly think that it would be ideal for teens who don't want to opt for a classic afternoon tea but who still want to share the experience.

At £14.50 a head, it is a lot cheaper than many afternoon tea style menus out there but because of the middle tier not quite hitting the spot, I do think that it is quite expensive for what it is.  If they were to change the selection in the middle to something that had a little more about it then I'd definitely think that it would be good value for money as a treat, especially for a birthday or celebration!

You can book in for the American Sharing Tower at Karbon Grill by calling 0191 349 8500 and you can check out their menu here.

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Degustabox Subscription Service For Foodies PLUS Discount Code!

Degustabox December 2016 January 2017 Box with Discount Code Image

When the courier knocked on my door with my winter Degustabox, I thought to myself, 'what a great start to the year' and immediately opened it to check out the contents.

Eisberg Sauvignon Blanc alcohol free wine Degustabox Image

I giggled to myself to find a bottle of the Eisberg Sauvignon Blanc alcohol free wine (£1.39) inside which surely must be a welcome addition for all of those who over indulged in the vino over Christmas.

Eisberg are the UK's number one alcohol free wine brand.  This bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is made in the same way as wine is but the alcohol is gently removed at the end, leaving a fresh and aromatic flavour, with taste notes of gooseberry and fruit.

This drink in particular is great if you're on the look out for lower calorie drinks as it is only 28 Kcals per 125ml serving and you get a recipe card inside the box on how to turn it into a cocktail, so all in all, a great start to my winter Degustabox.

Degustabox Subscription Service For Foodies plus discount code image

If you haven't heard of Degustabox before, they're a food subscription service where they'll deliver a box of 10 to 15 surprise food and drink items to your door each month.

I've been receiving a box for a number of months now and I always find the contents inside to be varied and from a mixture of brands; some I've heard of before and others I haven't.

It's certainly a great opportunity to try out something new and I love sharing with you the products that can arrive in the boxes each month.

There's a discount code for you all at the bottom of the post too!

Bahlsen Lebkuchen Mischung Degustabox Review Image

In this months box, more or less the whole box was from brands that I hadn't heard of before or products that I hadn't tried in the past.  A great example would be the Bahlsen Lebkuchen Mischung (£1.99) which I can barely pronounce let alone spell!  They're certainly delicious though; a bag full of glazed and chocolate covered gingerbread shapes in an assortment of colours.  They're ideal for popping out on display for your friends and family to nibble on when they pop around for drinks.

Some boxes may also receive a bag of the Bahlsen Akora German heart shaped gingerbread instead.  These have a spiced jam filling and are coated in chocolate which makes then a lovely treat to enjoy with a cuppa on cold afternoons.

I've added the rest of ours to the biscuit tin although I doubt they'll last too long with my husbands sweet tooth!

Bristows Oh Fudge Apple and Cinnamon Flavour Degustabox Image

If neither of the Bahlsen products are received, then you'll find a box of the very delicious Bristow's Oh Fudge! in your Degustabox.  This is a fabulous treat to share, although I doubt my husband will be doing any of that as he promptly swiped the box for himself as soon as I had photographed it!  We received the Apple and Cinnamon flavour which is a really delicious and unique combination for fudge and one that we all really enjoyed in our house!

Hoot Snacks Degustabox Image

Another great product to pop out when friends come over for snacks are the Hoots Snacks (69p each) multigrain alternative to crisps, which are a great source of fibre.  They're baked rather than fried which is a far healthier way of cooking.  Plus, they don't contain any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and vegetarians and vegans will be pleased to know that they're suitable for them too!

Two flavours are delivered inside the Degustabox for you to try out; my favourite are the salt and vinegar which have just the right amount of flavour on them.


Yet more snacking came in the form of the Bite+ Multi Grain Flakes (2 x £1.69) in this months box.  These are absolutely delicious and really remind me of Popchips.

Bite+ are multigrain cereal flakes made of rice and wholewheat which are seasoned with savoury flavours.  These flavours are sour cream and onion, sea salt and pepper, falafel and finally sweet chilli, with two out of the 4 being received in the box this month.

Like with Hoot Snacks, these are a none-fried alternative to crisps.  They're deliciously light and crispy, free from artificial colours and preservative and are high in fibre, low in fat (less than 3%) and low in saturated fats.

The unique thing about Bite+ Multi Grain Flakes is that they actually come as a two portion pack so you can either enjoy them all in one go as a sharing snack or split them up for multiple snacks.  I like products that come as separate portions, otherwise once I open the bag, I'm tempted to finish them in one sitting!

Gallo Risotto Degustabox Image

I felt as though this months box was very savoury heavy which was a welcome change from last months very sweet focused box.  I have more of a savoury tooth, as does my dad who really enjoyed the Gallo Expresso 4 Cheese Risotto Pouch (£2.29).  While a little too heavily flavoured for me, he thoroughly enjoyed this cheesy meal and found it really convenient to be able to just bang it in the microwave for 3 minutes. It can also be cooked in a pan too.  He added some ham and mushrooms to his with some broccoli on the side and said that it is very much something that you could enjoy on its own as a snack or with other food as part of a meal.  Gallo have made this risotto in the classic Italian way; creamy and delicious, al dente in texture and with a tangy cheese flavour.

If you don't receive the risotto in your box then you'll receive the Gallo 3 Cheese and Vegetable Risotto Box instead.  This is ideal if you're someone who works in a call centre or an office and you need something that is quick to heat and enjoy at lunchtime as it only takes 1 minute 30 seconds in the microwave.  There's no preparation needed and you don't even need to add water to it.

While this wouldn't be the most nutritious lunch to have everyday, it is great for those days where you're short on time and since it is free from hydrogenated fat, MSGs and doesn't have any artificial colourings in so its much better than grabbing something from a fast food place.


Another easy to make snack in this months box was the Maggi 3 Minute Noodles  (2 x 75p) which my husband took to work with him as he always struggles with what to eat that is warm when he's working nights.

These Maggi noodles only take 3 minutes to make and come in a tasty chicken flavour.  They're available in beef and curry too.  I've used plenty of Maggi products in the past as their flavourings are really good for chicken breast and vegetables.

Nutri-Brex Gluten Free Coconut and Crispy Rice Degustabox Image

I loved that in this months box, I could create a meal out of some of the items.

Firstly, the Nutri-Brex Gluten Free Coconut & Crispy Rice (£3.79) is a really tasty breakfast.  It comes as a bar a bit like Weetabix and I have been serving it with the a2 Milk which also comes in the Degustabox this month, as well as some blueberries and raspberries.

Nutri-Brex Gluten Free Coconut and Crispy Rice Degustabox Image

The Nutri-Brex contains the Sorghum grain which is naturally gluten free, fortified with vitamins and high in fibre.  They taste really delicious with my favourite flavour, coconut as well as cinnamon.

a2 Milk Degustabox Image

The a2 Milk (£1.39) is a long life semi skimmed cows milk which is easier to digest than regular milk because it is naturally free from the A1 protein that can trigger symptoms that are often associated with an intolerance to lactose.

If you have an allergy to cows milk protein then this wont be suitable for you and its always best to check with a doctor before consuming if you have been medically diagnosed with any milk intolerance to be on the safe side.

Newton's Appl Fizzics Degustabox Image

As well as having the Nutri-Brex with the a2 Milk for breakfast, I was also able to enjoy the Newton's Appl Fizzics (£1.29) which is a blend of apple juice and sparkling water.  It could be enjoyed at any time of the day, especially if you're looking for an alternative to sugary fizzy pop or alcohol as it is all natural, with no added sugar or sweeteners.

I actually really liked having it with my breakfast as it was really refreshing and far lighter than normal apple juice.  It contains about 40% less sugar than apple juice on its own and I found that it didn't have that very concentrated taste that apple juice has which I preferred on my palate.

What A Melon Watermelon Water Drink Degustabox Image

My favourite item in the whole box however was the What A Melon (£2.00), watermelon water.  It is very hydrating like coconut water, which I've tried so often but can't seem to find one that I like, but it has extra anti-oxidants and muscle loving amnio acid citrulline in too.  I love that this watermelon water is all natural, with only watermelon and a squeeze of lemon juice inside the carton.  I've been wanting to try this for ages after seeing it on Instagram but not being able to find it in the shops and it certainly didn't disappoint.  It is smooth in consistency and free from any of the watermelon pips (I'd be interested to know how they remove them actually!).

At £2 a pop, I do think that these are expensive for what they are but for a hydrating drink on the go, I think they're delicious!  In the summer months, I like to make my own watermelon juice at home as well as watermelon ice lollies; I'm obsessed with the flavour!


As a family, we were really pleased with this months box as there was a wide variety of products inside so everything got used and we each enjoyed different things.  We would definitely recommend it as a family and are always excited to see what is inside each month.  At £12.99 with free shipping (use my discount code 88AHT to get your first box for ONLY £5.99), it is certainly worth it!

Degustabox can even be bought as a one off gift or a 3 or 6 month gift subscription so if you have any January birthdays coming up and you're wondering what to get them with it literally JUST being Christmas, then I reckon a food subscription box would be a unique, well received gift!

Which item do you like the look of the most from this months Degustabox?
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Monday, 9 January 2017

Get Unicorn Braids Inspired By Gigi Hadid With Lee Stafford

How to Create Unicorn Braids Lee Stafford Original Dry Shampoo and Hold Tight Hair Spray Review Image

When I first heard that the unicorn braid was a thing, I thought that it was utterly ridiculous.  Why would I want to have one long braid coming out of the top of my head into a cone?  Space buns, I can get on board with, but a unicorn horn, no thanks.

Then I discovered that actually, this style features a centred, sectioned off, dutch braid running from the top head, back over and it actually looks really cool.  Plus, it is ideal for those days where you're running around and want your hair off your face.

The uber gorgeous Gigi Hadid has often been spotted sporting this look this winter and if its good enough for Gigi, then it's certainly good enough for me!


Unicorn Braids and straight hair inspired by Gigi Hadid Hair using Lee Stafford Hair Products Image

I had a go at creating the look myself and I used some photos of Gigi Hadid wearing unicorn braids in her hair as inspiration.  This photo of Gigi shows her with two dutch braids either side of her parting and a high ponytail whereas this snap of Gigi Hadid's hair shows her with one dutch braid that sits down the centre parting and her hair left down.  This makes the style really versatile as you can pick and choose how you would like to wear it.

Personally, I went for a mix of both looks; two dutch braids at the top, with my hair down and straight.


How to Create Unicorn Braids Lee Stafford Original Dry Shampoo Review Image

Step 1:
To create this unicorn braid hairstyle, I straightened my hair first and then brushed it back.  I then took the Lee Stafford Original Dry Shampoo and spritzed it all over the top section of my hair at the roots and through the lengths of the hair that would be in the braid.  This preps the hair, ready for styling.

This dry shampoo is good at banishing oily roots but it also adds a great amount of texture to the hair which makes it fuller, more volumised and easier to work with as the hair isn't all fly away and slippy.  This is a great product to use on freshly washed hair too, to give it a bit of grit and texture when styling.

It is really easy to use; simply spritz into the roots from a distance and then rub away the powder residue with your fingers.  For serious volume, spray directly onto the roots all over the hair by lifting up the hair in sections so that you're really concentrating the spray at the roots where you need the volume to be.

You can also spray it lightly through the mid lengths and ends for added body and texture; just ruffle with your fingers.


Unicorn Braids and straight hair inspired by Gigi Hadid Hair using Lee Stafford Hair Products Image

Step 2:
Next, I parted my hair down the centre and took a one inch section of hair either side of the parting and braided it backwards to the crown of my head, dutch style.  This is where you turn the hair underneath so that it sticks out rather that over which makes the plait flat to your head.

It took me absolutely years to be able to do these kinds of braids but my best advice now is to add more hair into the braid on every second turn (aka, after every two pieces of hair has been brought into the braid).

I'd suggest securing the first braid to your head with a hair grip/ Kirby grip while you complete the second braid so that it doesn't fall out.  Remember that the aim of these braids is to get them running backwards, so it does take a little practice.  Once I reached my crown, I started to pull at the loops of the braid to make them appear bigger and fuller which made them stand out more.

Step 3:
Next, I removed the hair grip and joined both pieces of hair together, at the bottom of the braids, and secured them with a small hair elastic.  I then ruffled the ponytail to reignite some of that texture from the dry shampoo to make the pony look a little fuller and not so sleek and straight.

To conceal the elastic hair bobble, I simply took a small section of hair from the underside of the mini ponytail and wrapped it around the base of the ponytail, covering the hair tie.  This was secured in place at the back of the head, underneath the hair with a hair grip.


How to create unicorn braids Lee Stafford Hold Tight Hair Spray Review Image

Step 4:
To complete the look, I gave my hair a generous spritz of the Lee Stafford Hold Tight Hair Spray which ensures that the braids are locked in place and not going anywhere!

This hairspray is fantastic because it holds a style in place without making the hair feel stiff and crispy.  When the next day comes and I want to brush out my style, I can do so with ease.

I love Lee Stafford hair products and have used them since I was in school.  I adore the pink packaging and the signature scent that all of the products have.  Its absolutely incredible, I just with there was a perfume version!

So there we have it, Unicorn Braids inspired by Gigi Hadid.  Once you've got the hang of dutch braiding, it is an easy style to create and one that you can wear at a festival in the summer, to the gym or for a casual day out.


Unicorn Braids and High Ponytail inspired by Gigi Hadid Hair using Lee Stafford Hair Products Image
WhatLauraLoves Instagram
You could even start off with your hair down and then if you were going to the gym, or sleeping with the braids in and want to style your hair differently the next day, you could pull your hair up into a high ponytail for another gorgeous look.  This is what I did with the photo above over on my Instagram.

Just don't forget to ruffle or curl the ponytail, wrap some hair from the underside of the pony around the elastic hair tie, add the Lee Stafford Original Dry Shampoo for texture and the Lee Stafford Hold Tight Hairspray for secure hold all day long!

You can discover more about Lee Stafford on his website as well as on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and Youtube.

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What do you think of this hairstyle?  Have you tried any Lee Stafford products before? I'd love to hear your recommendations!
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