Thursday, 30 January 2014

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ★★★★★

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Please excuse the awful photography with this one, definitely not up to my usual standard!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a bit of a harrowing tale, it is a non fiction investigation into the dark side of cancer research. The author sets out to investigate into the medical genetics source HeLa, a set of cancer cells which while extracted from an unidentified patient in the 1950's have continued to multiply under their own steam ever since, providing an endless source of cells for biomedical research and from which nearly all cancer research has stemmed. The cells were a mystery, as who this set of genes originated from was kept a closely guarded secret, and in the book Skloot sets about to find out who this person who has made such a difference to medical history was and to give them a voice.

I can honestly say that before reading this book I rarely, if ever, read any non-fiction. I don't know why but I just couldn't find an interest in it. Henrietta Lacks changed all that. I was intrigued by this story after the discovery of a cancer gene in our family. My family has an unfortunately long history with the big C from a patient and a research perspective, so I knew that there existed the fabled HeLa cells, I did not know however that there was a great back story to where they had come from. When I picked up the book and realised its subject matter I got stuck in and couldn't put it down.

The story of Henrietta is fascinating and heartbreaking, it grips the reader from start to finish as you are so conflicted. Henrietta was not even asked permission to have those cells of hers taken and preserved, her family had had no recognition for their contribution to medical history, these are things that nowadays we would be outraged to have happen to us but they were the norm for that time. And yet it is because of this that it is so hard to feel angry at this treatment because of the developments that have stemmed from these medical practices.

The science in the book is far from intimidating, making the complicated parts simpler to understand for a layman and not going into too much detail where it isn't necessary. I would definitely not let the scientific subject matter put you off picking this up. At its core the story is much more to do with Henrietta herself and the effect her illness has had on her family.

I think that with Cancer being such a prominent concern in our world, it helps to be a little more clued up on the origins of treatment. Science is moving so quickly in this field to the point now where a huge number of patients undergo targeted gene therapy rather than traditional chemotherapy, and that would not have been possible without HeLa and the insight into the genetics of cancer that she has given us.

★★★★★

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

What's in my Makeup Bag

I mentioned a few weeks ago on twitter (come say Hi!) that James's Grandma bought me a makeup bag for Christmas. I think she may have unintentionally bought me the best present ever!

Now I think this may need a little explanation, because I am sure you are thinking "Surely you already have makeup bags, you had a beauty blog!" and yes I do, but I have always struggled with them. I previously kept all my makeup in my desk drawer neatly organised by type mainly because I have never found a makeup bag that I was happy with. They were always either too big, too small, or a nearly unusable shape, and my main issue when I am getting ready in the morning is time. I need to get my face on as quickly as possible so that I can get out the door.

I have been feeling a little self conscious of having all that makeup on display though lately and wishing I had less of it. I am rubbish at using things up though unless they are the only products at my disposal so a makeup bag was the solution I have been craving. I had been planning to pick out a selection of products and just use those for a while so when I unwrapped the Ted Baker beauty that Grandma had kindly given me I did a little skip of joy.

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Sunday, 26 January 2014

This Week

I thought I would share some snapshots of my week today. I am becoming more and more snap happy since I invested in a new camera, and that makes me feel all proud of myself. My memory isn't the best so pictures make me feel a little more secure in the knowledge that I will remember things actually happening.

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1. I have been waking up really early lately, enough to laze around in bed for ages and still go for a run and get home to see sunrise.

2. He always looks worried, but here he almost looks like he's being accommodating of my picture taking!

3. I ate several healthy meals this week but gave up on Friday, it has been a stressful week!

4. Accidentally bought new boots for work from Clarks, they are oh so comfy!

5. Little Sis was 21 on Thursday without us, she is coming home today for celebrations though, and I am a little excited to see her open her present, I think I done good this year! :)

6. Testing my camera skills on the frost the other morning.

7. I made a HUGE batch of Ultimate Swedish Meatballs for tea from The Londoner's recipe, they were delicious!

8. Also made the wonderful Cider With Rosie's Pomegranate salad this week, not once, but twice! I can't get enough of it :)

9. I can't go to Bill's but I can cook it at home.

I am on Instagram, and I post pretty regularly there, mainly food and animals if I am honest but if you fancy following me I am there as georginathelibrarian

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Face Cream

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The Goat Milk Face Cream by Kate Somerville is a bit of a cult skincare product. You know how it begins, there are whispers about it from the pro's singing its praises but not too loudly because it is oh so difficult to get hold of and is super pricey, and then the really clued up followers pass on the message via YouTube or their blogs as they give it a go and stamp their approval all over it, and eventually it trickles down to little old me, searching for a new night cream and fancying a bit of something special.

I first heard of this through Caroline Hirons, and then through Anna of Vivianna, and after two big endorsements for the cream, and the news that it could now be shipped to the UK I went searching for more info. I wanted to know what was supposed to make it so good!

When I went over to the Kate Somerville website I wasn't disappointed, the product sounded like it was perfect for my recovering from acne abused skin, it talked of being restorative and gentle, while also using lactic acid to get rid of any rubbish while maintaining pH balance (something I am striving hard for at the moment). I popped it into my basket, hit purchase, and thought nothing more of it.

This is when the problems started. First, I didn't get a the little despatch notice I was expecting within a few days, I thought oh maybe they don't do them, but I could really do with knowing when it will be here what with it being international. Time passed (almost a whole month) and I hadn't had a dispatch email, but I did get an email asking how I had liked my product, which I hadn't received yet.
I sent an email off to them asking where it was as they clearly thought I should have it by now, and I was told it was en route to the UK, but that it was only just on its way because they had been restocking. I was never notified that they had been restocking or that there would be any delay.
Great! I thought, it is on its way, it will be here soon, a bit late but better than never.

The little pot of loveliness made it fine from the west to the east coast of the USA, and swam over the Atlantic alright too, but when it hit British shores I started to have trouble. Kate Somerville had missed a whole line out of my address, a whole line, that line had my village on it.
My pot of face cream very nearly went on someone else's face in the next town over. That second line is verrrry important around here.
My address was inputted perfectly on the website, and on my order details, but not on the label. I at first thought it was the delivery company, but when I finally got hold of the package, the address had been transcribed incorrectly on the invoice too. I had to alert the delivery depot to the problem when I spotted they had apparently "attempted delivery" but there was no card at my house, it was a bit of a palaver.

When I alerted Kate Somerville to this new issue, I was told there was an issue with their system, and they offered a $25 gift card to make up for all the hassle I had had to deal with, I thought this was pretty reasonable and at that point I was pretty OK with things. That was the beginning of November and I hope they are a bit ashamed that I now have to say that it was only when I emailed them a few days ago to ask where the gift was that it materialised. Overall my opinion of their customer service is that it is pretty poor. Throughout the whole process I have felt like an after thought, almost as if they aren't bothered about reaching out to the UK.

So what about the actual cream? Was it worth the hassle? It is hard to judge this, because I am using a routine which is pretty good for my skin anyway at the moment, but I would say that this is a good product. It keeps me hydrated but I do think it is a little light, my skin feels like it could drink some more of this in after maybe an hour of wearing it so it is maybe better suited to being a day cream only for me. I have had a reduction in blemishes recently, and although I can't attribute this solely to the cream I imagine it is a contributing factor, it definitely helps reduce redness though and is cooling and calming meaning I wake up fresh faced instead of puffy.

The packaging is wonderful, it has a pump that is ridiculously difficult to photograph because the whole top of the pot is the actual pump, but it makes for a really efficient and clean dispensing solution which I was really impressed by. I like the aesthetics of the design too, the matte finish and light pastel shades.

I want to make it clear that I really wanted to love this product, and maybe if I had had a bit of a better experience with the company I would think it was worth the hassle, but honestly I just don't know that I would bother again. I love the effect on my skin that this has in conjunction with my other products but I don't think that it is so life changing that I would consider buying directly again and paying full price, which is a shame as I believe that since they have begun shipping directly the product is no longer available through other UK based suppliers. I will probably re-stock using the gift voucher they sent me, but I shall be doing so well before my current pot runs out just in case it all happens again!

This is a really conflicted review I know, but I have always said I want to be completely honest when it comes to reviews and I think it is important to share the bad and the good.

Do you have any nightmare stories regarding overseas shipping?


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Book Review: The Library Book ★★★★★

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This book first came into stock at my library a few months ago. It was large print, which completely put me off, but I had been a follower of the campaign to put it together on twitter, I was a fan of many of the contributors, and I felt it was a great cause.

I read the large print edition, it made my eyes go funny but it was worth it. To read how we wouldn't have such creative minds as Stephen Fry and Zadie Smith and Susan Hill as they are today if it weren't for their access to the public library warmed my heart.

I promptly went to the shop and bought the standard sized copy, much cuter being pocket sized, and it is one of my most treasured books. It epitomises why I went into Librarianship myself, libraries are not just about books or computers, but about information, in whichever form it comes to you. It is about accurate and reliable information, and teaching you as a user how to find information you can trust. Information is absolutely the key to becoming the most that you can be as an individual and our nation should celebrate how easy it is for us to access it.

There isn't much more I can say about this book, it is a wonderful quick read of short anecdotes from some of the most prominent authors of our time, but I would like to share one of my many favourite snippets, this from Karin Slaughter about why she thinks we should encourage reading in children, I see the differences between children who are encouraged not only to read, but to enjoy reading, and those who are not every day at work, and this is surprisingly accurate:
 
"Children are selfish. Reading about other people creates a sense of balance in a child's life. It gives them the knowledge that there is a world outside themselves."

All royalties for the book go to The Reading Agency, which helps to support library events up and down the country, encouraging reading for all ages and abilities.

The Library Book is only £5.16 at the Book Depository, and it could help one more person find the information they have been looking for.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Lazy Sunday: Walkies

With it starting to get properly winter cold around these parts, I find myself reminiscing back to when I could walk outside and not feel like my toes were about to drop off. I took these photos in November, and the sky looked so beautiful and cloud free that I wanted to share them. Lets hope we get some more days like this soon!

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This is Lewis, he is the best of dogs, so is the one I am allowed to take for walks (meaning he is the only one that won't drag me through the mud, because he is civilised!) I am a bit of a softy though, so J has to come along to do the shouting when Lew sniffs something particularly good.

When we are walking, I constantly have that song by LMFAO "Sexy and I know it" in my head, the bit where it goes "wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah!" because that is exactly how Lew walks, he is a little bit of a poncey dog, but he's cute, so its ok.

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I really do love the countryside here, and I am so glad that I came back. I recently found out that not only is my job going to be secure with the changes at work but I have also wrangled myself a promotion, so 2014 is looking good so far! We can finally start looking for places to live and start making our own home. There is so much to look forward to.

P.S. There is nothing cuter than a man and his dog :)

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Let The Games Begin ★★★★



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Let The Games Begin by Niccolo Ammaniti is a story about a party, a novelist, a singer, a satanic sect and a psychopathic property tycoon. Throw in a lot of alcohol, some elephants, and some fugitives from history and you get Let The Games Begin, where modern life combined with endless amounts of money causes chaos.

When I first received this book I have to admit I was a bit dubious about it. I had read very little about it as the majority of reviews were in Italian, and I had never heard of the author. The novel seemed to be the most intriguing book on the list of titles to review, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt and I am glad I did. The synopsis tells you very little, and I think that this is both a positive and a negative. You go into the novel with little preconceptions, but you also spend a good deal of your time reading it wondering what on earth it is actually about.

When I first started reading it immediately struck me that the writing was similar to Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite authors, in that it is full of wonder, you read unable to imagine how this story popped into the authors head as it is so full of creativity. This novel isn't one of fantasy though, but one of an extreme reality the likes of which would dumbfound a person if they were to be thrown into the middle of it, but it is a circus which celebrities and people in the public eye probably feel like they are often in the middle of.

The novel is funny, that I cannot deny, but it is certainly not laugh out loud funny, it makes you smirk at the idiocy of the characters. It is a satire of modern life, and you can obviously draw similarities with celebrity culture, excess and materialism, and so you chuckle as you imagine that real life celebrities are actually that self centered or dim witted, or on the rare occasion, that self sacrificial.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and I think my reading of it was only hindered by a couple of things, mainly that there was so much else going on in my life that I didn't get to just sit and read it. This is a novel which requires you to sit and pay attention because events unfold that wouldn't have even occurred to you as being possible. The second being that this is an Italian translation, and although it is a very good translation there are the odd words that stall the reader. I found it very difficult to get over the word Roman for instance, as I kept imagining centurions on Vespa's, and the odd few words are still in italian which I find makes it a little hard to grasp if you haven't knowledge of Rome or Italy and its trends in popularity.

Having read this I do think I would consider picking up one of Ammaniti's other works, though I think there is potential for the reader to be disappointed if the tone is different in them. This is definitely the sort of book that not everyone would love, or even have the time for, but if you like to chuckle along with an utterly outrageous story then you might find yourself enjoying Let The Games Begin.

Let the Games Begin is available from The Book Depository for £9.46

This book was sent for review by The Book Depository

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Burts Bees Beeswax and Banana Hand Cream

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A couple of months ago I was in need of a new intense hand cream. I didn't want anything light, I was looking for something thick and nourishing. When browsing Waitrose I came across this beauty from Burt's Bees. If you have been a reader for a while you will know that while being treated for acne I swore by the Burt's Bees lip balms to prevent my chapped lips, but other than those I hadn't actually tried any of the brand's other products so i was excited to give this a try.

The Beeswax and Banana hand cream is an incredibly thick, nourishing cream which is honestly a bit more like a paste. In the jar it feels fairly solid and there isn't much whip to the consistency.

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However, despite its heavy begininngs It only takes a pea sized amount for my hands to be completely nourished after being wind chapped and dry. The product is mainly made from sweet almond oil and when warmed between the hands it melts to a slightly oily, balm like consistency. It takes a little while to sink in, but not so that you can't function. I am typing away without worrying too much about smudging my keyboard with this cream applied. The beeswax ingredient provides a protective balm which prevents your skin from becoming further ravaged by the elements while the oils get to work with nourishing. When looking for an intensive treatment I want a bit of a protective layer to my hand cream, if it sinks in too quickly I tend to think it isn't rich enough to do the job!

The scent is very synthetic despite the product being 100% natural, it reminds me a lot of banana Nesquik, which I personally am a fan of so I don't mind but it could be too strong for some. If you think it might be I would consider the Almond and Milk hand cream, which appears to be very similar (and which I am considering purchasing for keeping at work!)

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A pot of 57g is £9.99 from John Lewis (not currently on the Waitrose website) which when I first purchased it I thought a little expensive but this jar will last me a lot longer than I had first anticipated, this image above is after about 3 months of regular use and it isn't even below the thread on the jar so it is actually a better deal than buying a squeeze tube of my old hand cream.

Have you ever tried Burt's Bees skin products? What is your favourite hand cream at the moment?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

World Book Night 2014

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Today was going to be a post about a handbag until I got an email from World Book Night letting me know there were only two weeks left to get your application to be a giver in for this year.

I have already applied for this year, but I thought maybe some of you might not have thought about participating yourself and so I thought I would explain things a little.

World Book Night is basically where hundreds of thousands of volunteers give away free books to the public. You apply to be a giver and are sent your chosen book and then on April 23rd you wander around your designated area handing them out to people. Your designated area could be a school, a town centre, or to your book group. The idea is simply to get people reading.

The process is really simple, you pick three books from the list of that years books and say where and why you would like to give them out to people. They are completely free and having experience of doing this for the past few years I can honestly say that most people feel so pleased to have received something for nothing.

I have to admit that I usually go a bit further and add bookplates and bookmarks for the local library with mine, and i generally cover the whole town centre just asking people if they would like a free book.

If you don't have the time to dedicate to being a full on book giver, you can also this year choose to be a community book giver, which is where you pledge to give at least one book to someone who wouldn't normally read. You have to supply the book yourself, so it is more of a promise than an application, but definitely worth it if you have someone in mind.

It is such a rewarding activity, and if you are a lover of reading I highly recommend it!

You can find out more about the cause here, see the list of the 2014 books and why they were chosen here, and become a giver here.

Let me know if you do apply, I would love to know what your top choices were. I am hoping to get Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich as I have recently read it and absolutely loved it!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Jamie's Italian York

Having recently gone back for more from this place I knew I had to post about my trip. Please excuse the iPhoneography, some of the shots are a little blurry.

A few weeks ago me and my Mum made a shopping trip to York. Usually when we visit the lovely city we go to Betty's for lunch, we get fancy cakes and drink nice tea, but after seeing the tourist filled queue we decided to give it a miss.

Mum recalled that Jamie Oliver had opened one of his restaurants in the city so while wandering around working up an appetite we had a look for it. Eventually we found it back where we started, just across the square from Betty's!

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Tucked down a little alleyway in a yard where you wouldn't think to look if it weren't for the sneaky sign, we sneaked in the glass door and had a bit of a nosey at the items for sale. Baffled by the gigantic planks of wood and piles of napkins, we asked how long the wait for a table would be and miraculously, they had one available.

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We rose up the floors, the restaurant feels a little like you could get lost, past the floor with what looked like the deli counter (this is where we sat on our second trip) right up to the top where the beams were high and bar was a marvel of old pipework. The atmosphere was wonderful, lots of bustling customers, with hardwood tables and metal utilitarian style chairs.

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The menu all sounded delicious and we were presented with a selection of specials also. The pasta dishes were obviously what we were most interested in, and they handily come in two sizes so that you can mix and match if you like.

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The presentation in this place is so fun and relaxed, but also really detailed. The napkins look like old fashioned glass cloths and have Jamie's Italian embroidered in them! You can buy them in the shop, which we did.

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We ordered drinks and deliberated over mains for a while, before finally settling on a couple of sides and a couple of small portions of pasta. We didn't order one of the famous antipasti planks, but next time I definitely want to as they look so appetising.

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Mum went for the Wild Rabbit Casareece, which she said was delicious. I couldn't steal much because it had a bit of a kick, but the little nibble i tried was rich with flavour and the meat very tender.

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I surprised myself and chose the Wild Mushroom and Smoked Mozzarella Risotto, and I didn't regret the choice one bit. The rice was cooked to perfection, slightly gooey but not overdone, and the smoked mozzarella! I need to get some of that for cooking at home it was delicious and melted in to add the perfect finishing touch.


We tried a few sides, starting off healthy with a Rocket and Raddichio salad.

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Then followed the not so healthy, The Posh Chips are drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with parmesan and are divine, I will be adding some to my shopping basket to try at home definitely. Crazily a woman at the next table over sent hers back for being too greasy without realising they were drizzled in truffle oil, I wonder what she thought made them Posh!

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On our second trip, we also tried the Polenta chips, which I was really quite hesitant to try at first, but these were soft on the inside and crispy on the outer, perfect for soaking up any left over pasta sauce and I have already found the recipe online.

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Finally we finished with some puddings. In our family dinner isn't dinner without pudding.
I went for the Chocolate and Espresso Profiteroles with bitter chocolate sauce. The sauce was a little too bitter for me, but the profiteroles themselves were lovely and pillowy.

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Mum went for the Tutti-Frutti Lemon Meringue Pie which was refreshing, and sprinkled with little nuggets of pistachio heaven.

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On our recent re-visit, both me and my sister had the Epic Brownie. Epic it certainly is, that is popcorn on top!

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I have loved my meals at Jamie's Italian and would highly recommend you visit, the staff at York are so welcoming, efficient and courteous to any dietary requirements. I would warn though that on our second outing we went for full sized pasta portions, and while delicious you need to have a BIG appetite to finish them off!

Have you ever been to a celebrity chef's restaurant?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs ★★★

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Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear features the titular character, lady detective and early psychologist, Maisie as she tackles crime in the late nineteen twenties. The mystery surrounds 'The Retreat' a country estate where veterans of World War One have been disappearing to, signing over their fortunes and then promptly withdrawing from society never to be heard from again. Prompted by an old family friends plans to withdraw to 'The Retreat', Maisie takes on the case and investigates with shocking consequences.

The novel is quite inspiring. It's main character is a woman who has risen from service as a maid to being spotted for her intelligence and assisted through university. She is a pioneering study of psychology while under private tuition and it is this psychological angle which makes these mysteries a little bit different. This isn't simply a detective story, this is a detective the likes of Poirot, using her brain to judge character more than using any physical clues. The novel also takes us through various times throughout the course of the story. Maisie's youth in service, her time at Cambridge University and her time as a nurse during World War One. 'The Retreat' is not the only mystery to keep the reader gripped, as Maisie's love life is kept hidden, suggesting a deep tragedy.

I found this novel hard to get into at first, and it is this which has brought down the star rating, but by the time I had finished I was excited to read the next. There are a wide range of characters befitting the range in history, and each and every one, though quite stereotypical, is charming and has something more to them than it may first appear. The plot is complicated, that I will not deny. It jumps through time a lot and it can sometimes be a little difficult to remember exactly which year we were supposed to be in, but the flash backs though clumsy are necessary not only for this book, but for the arc of the whole series. These are mysteries within mysteries, featuring a primary crime that requires solving and then an ongoing curiosity for Maisie's own life.

If you like your detective stories classic, but with a little more intelligence than Wimsey, these are definitely worth a read.

★★★

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2013 Beauty Favourite's

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I thought I would share with you a few of my favourite beauty products of 2013 today. I haven't reviewed many beauty products over the past few months because I haven't actually used very many new ones, but a few have snuck into the collection here and there so I thought it might help to do a  very small round up of which ones have stood out to me.

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm.  £28.90 from Feel Unique
This one I have mentioned in a skincare routine post, and with good reason, this stuff is like gold to me, and has been my staple cleanser since I first tried it mid-way through the year. Since I started using this (in combination with a few other products) my skin has been looking much brighter and healthier. I have managed to pin point this down to being the most effective product of the bunch because I stopped taking it with me when I travelled and usually ended up quite congested with some minor breakouts which were quickly resolved when I went back to using this. This is my little bit of luxury to smooth over the skin day and night and then buff off with a flannel. This stuff is amazing!

Indeed Labs Hydraluron  £24.99 from Boots
This one I first tried earlier in the year and didn't really notice much of a difference. As a result I stopped using it for a bit whilst trying out a Dr Jart+ serum, but I have gone straight back to this recently. Packed full of hyaluronic acid it makes a huge difference to how hydrated my skin is. This isn't one of those wow products that you feel working straight away, it is more a case of you feel the negative effects if you aren't using it. Smoothed over my face before my moisturiser, I won't be going without a serum again after trying this.

Moroccan Oil £31.85 from Feel Unique
I first started using Moroccan Oil in the early parts of 2013 after buying a little trial set in my hair dressers. I had used a wide array of hair serums before but not religiously. I have naturally very straight hair and if I am completely honest I don't desperately need a lot of products. Throughout the middle of the year though when I was allowing my hair to grow really long this bottle of golden liquid became somewhat of a staple. It smoothed my stressed tresses, and helped the huge weight of hair dry faster after washing. It has become my must have for easy natural hair, I just smooth a half pump throughout damp hair and let it do its thing. Easy!

Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in B20 £32 from Boots
I have been wanting to try this foundation ever since it exploded onto the beauty scene back in 2011, but had promised I wouldn't buy it until I had used a few other products up. Well with empties this year came treating myself to this bottle of wonder. I was skeptical at first, Chanel is known for being lightly fragranced and an irritant to some skins, and I have to admit I have never worn this day after day so I don't honestly know if I would react to it, but as my special occasion face makeup this has been wonderful. I use about a 5 pence piece amount, and blend it over my face with my fingers for when I need a little more coverage than a BB cream, and it really does simply look like skin. Beautiful.

Essie Diffusion Line Polishes £7.99 from Boots
The stand out brand for additions to the collection this year has to be Essie. I have added six of their polished to my already far too large collection, and they have all been diffusion line shades. The new brush combined with the already gorgeous easy to apply formula means that these are a dream to apply, and being able to easily grab them when in larger Boots stores has helped too! These are definitely my favourite brand of nail polish now, with my personal favourite shades being Fishnet Stockings for the autumn and Cute as a Button for the summer.

What were your favourite products of 2013?