June Birchbox

I arrived back from Scotland to find my new Birchbox had arrived. As my trip fuelled my desire to travel more – which has been on hold lately due to work, moving, life and all the usual suspects – I’m keener than ever to get some cute travel sizes, so was excited to receive it.As tends to be the case with subscription boxes, it was a mixed bag of usefulness. A lip pencil and brow brush will be going straight in the ‘stocking fillers’ box, and though the body lotion looks great, I have a massive excess of body moisturiser at the moment, so am unlikely to use it for a while. An exfoliating cloth will get more immediate use, and a travel size bottle of shampoo is already in my toiletries bag for next week’s weekend jaunt.

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Reading in Heels Subscription Box

As I mentioned in my earlier post about trying Birchbox, as few weeks ago an insomnia-fuelled shopping spree led me to sign up to a couple of subscription boxes. I love the idea of subscription boxes – a present to yourself in the post every month – even if the reality of them tends to pall quickly (a lot of useless tat included, excessive packaging, money that could be better spent on things I actually choose). So as a result I have a habit of signing up for them for a few months then getting bored and cancelling. It’s a trend which, if I am honest, I don’t see changing anytime soon, but at least I am committed to enjoying those I have bought while I am paying for them.

I admit I was slightly disinclined towards Reading in Heels. Their earlier ‘strictly no chicklit’ tagline felt a bit sniffy to me (maybe I’m over sensitive, being, y’know, a chicklit author, but genre snobbery is a real turn off) And, I dunno, the whole thing felt a bit ‘middle-class-white-lady idea of sophistication’ to my tastes. But, hey, it came up on my Instagram at 3am when I couldn’t sleep, so I thought what the hell and signed up to a three month package.

My first box arrived this week, and I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised. The contents included a book I didn’t own and hadn’t even heard of (given how many books I buy, duplication is always a concern when I sign up to book boxes), Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton, which looks interesting. A herbal tea sample was given away quickly (as I detest tea, but that’s hardly their fault), and some bookmarks went onto my ever-increasing pile of bookmarks, but the cookies were tasty, if somewhat crumbled in delivery.

The surprise treat for me was a cuticle oil pen which I would have said was something I would never, ever use but actually smells divine and makes my nails feel great and I have become mildly addicted to.

So, the overall verdict: pretty good value, and a nice way to try an author and a product I wasn’t familiar with. Win!

Game of Thrones Urban Decay set

I used to blame my internet shopping habit on evening wine, but since I hardly do that now, it seems that, no, I have got no excuse for my impulsive buys – but some things are so pretty you know you’d kick yourself if you didn’t buy them. One of these things is the new Urban Decay Game of Thrones range. I’ve been lusting after it since I saw it online, but thought it was sold out, so when it came up on my Facebook feed as available, I couldn’t stop myself from clicking.

And, lord, it is gorgeous. Created with real care and lots of lovely details, it’s an eye colour palette with an incredible range of pigment heavy colours, mainly metallic – the range is so good it would be worth the £40 or so price even without the incredible packaging. The pop up Iron Throne stores flat, or you can leave it standing (the make up is in a pull out drawer) and while it’s bulkier than most palettes – you’re not going to slip it into your handbag – it’s actually surprisingly sleek, and comes with a built in mirror.

Of the colours my favourites are the Dothraki and Winterfell – closest to my usual colour scheme – but there are plenty to try. I think I’m in love!

Bonus: if you are as annoyed as many people with the Game of Thrones finale, you get o reenact your own (dragon not included, sadly).

Spacemasks and stationery – a Liberty shopping spree

Liberty of London is one of my favourite places in the world. When I lived in London, I shopped there regularly – which might make me sound like a millionaire, but like any good department store, it actually caters for a range of budgets. I got a half-price Vivienne Westwood dress that I wore to several weddings (which got me lots of compliments along the lines or ‘ooh, that could almost be a Vivienne Westwood’ from people who clearly thought I couldn’t afford the real thing!), my favourite silver shoes that I destroyed on a walk of shame* home in the rain from a very fancy party, and a gorgeous pair of Ash boots that I wore until they fell to bits and had to abandon in a New York hotel room because I knew if I brought them home I’d never throw them away. I’ve got drunk and shopped unwisely at their ‘card holders’ loyalty nights, and found bargains that I have treasured for years. They sell Ren, one of my favourite toiletries brands, and over the years I have bought everything from a glass of champagne to a pair of knickers under its roof. Usually when my plan had been to do nothing but pop in for five minutes to kill some time before meeting people for a drink.

I’ve bought an endless array of presents there – when something comes in that little purple bag, you don’t need to wrap it, which is good cos everything I wrap looks like I did it with my feet – and given into the temptations of its seriously indulgent chocolate department, but the scene of most of my sins has not been the cosmetics department – although that has done a fair amount of damage to my budget over the years – but the stationery store.

Oh, the Liberty stationery store. If my heaven is anywhere, it’s in a giant bookshop with a good coffee shop and cocktail bar attached, and a door to Liberty stationery hall. Not only do they stock their own iconic Liberty notebooks in print or leather covers (the leather ones are a bit above my usual price range, though I have been bought some by generous friends, and they are luxury incarnate), but an excellent and regularly changing stock of other brands. As well as trying some indie brands (one of my favourite ever notebooks was purchased there, and I hung onto it long after it was used up, whcih I normally don’t do, because the brand went defunct and I’ve never managed to replace it.) I’ve bought (and been gifted) a number of Christian Lacroix notebooks over the year, and indulged in Kate Spade cards and journals (weirdly, they have a better selection of these than the actual Kate Spade store, which is down the road on Regent Street).

Since moving away from London, I’ve visited less often. Most of my trips are business or theatre related, so I tend to avoid the bustle of Oxford Circus and Regent Street for less crowded parts of town. But since I was seeing Betrayal on Panton Street – from which Liberty was a mere stroll up Regent Street on a sunny day – I decided I was overdue a trip. I’m so sorry, dear wallet.

Yup, I couldn’t help but indulge. I used the rationale that I’ve been feeling a bit stalled on my book and some nice notebooks might give me a boost, but to be honest that’s just an excuse: I love fancy notebooks, and I don’t mind paying for them. (An unexpected bit of work funded the spree – I figured I wasn’t expecting the money so why not spend it? This explains a lot about my life). I opted for a larger Lacroix (gold, lined paper – gotta be lined!) and a smaller blue metallic one, as it was a colour I hadn’t seen before. The Kate Spade was a cheat: I actually bought the same one in Fenwick’s a while back, and loved it so much I’ve been itching for a reason to buy another.

The cosmetics department didn’t escape my attention either: I bought a couple of boxes of Spacemasks. If you are unfamiliar with these, they are worth checking out: herbal, warming eye masks that are great for unwinding or relaxing, and though they don’t dent my insomnia – nothing does – I have become a bit addicted to them. (I usually, I admit, order them online from Selfridges, where they are slightly cheaper – plus I pay an annual fee so I don’t get charged postage on each order – but fond as I am of Selfridges, it’s never won me over quite like Liberty has, and you have to support the shops you love, right? Right?)

All in all, an expensive afternoon, then – but there are worse vices for a writer to have…

*I pulled – those were the days! – so it was more of a walk of ‘quite pleased with myself, actually’, but the rain did knacker the shoes.

In which I try Birchbox

I admit I am a sucker for subscription boxes. I love getting things through the post (and am lucky enough that I have lovely friends who regularly send me things!) and subscription boxes feel like a little present you buy yourself. The magpie nature of them – ooh, a box of tiny treats! – appeals, even though it’s usually that which also ends up frustrating me. The year before last I tried out several book and stationery subscription boxes, but in the end cancelled all of them because I felt like the joy of receiving a box of goodies was outweighed by adding more clutter and tat to my home. So why sign up to another?In part, for no better reason than I had insomnia and an ad for Birchbox came up on my Instagram with a special offer for 2 boxes, so on a sleep-deprived whim I signed up. In part, though, my commitment to getting out of my comfort zone hasn’t extended to my beauty routine (in which I am, to say the least, a Basic Bitch), and I thought being nudged to try some new products might be good for me. Also, I have a disproportionate love of travel sizes. Yes, my fear of commitment extends even to products (“I have to use that whole bottle?”) and while I know it’s not that environmentally friendly, it’s an indulgence I allow myself.My first delivery was this week – two boxes as per the special offer. My thoughts were initially mixed. Of course I expected to get some things that wouldn’t apply (a lipstick and a lip liner have gone into the ‘present box’ and will be added as a stocking filler to someone’s birthday or Christmas gift), but both boxes contained a hair masque, which seemed overkill. Still, there were definitely some goodies I would use: I love Nux oil, and mini mascaras and shimmery eyeshadows are very me, plus a full size shower gel won’t go amiss. And since in fairness my hair gets very little attention, maybe the hair treatments aren’t a bad idea: I tried one this morning, and my hair does feel rather silky!Will I stick with it? In truth, probably not: I’ll give it a few months then get bored or sick of my bathroom becoming cluttered, and it’ll start to feel like a pointless expense. But in the meantime, I might as well have fun experimenting. And I do so love getting a parcel…