Shutterbug’s Holy Grail Beauty List Pt 2


Here’s part 2 of my beauty and skincare Holy Grail list. If you missed part one, Beauty, you can read it here!

So, on to skin and hair care. I have very very difficult skin. Eczema, folliculitis, sensitive to hot and cold and itchy. It looks okay, but feels horrible most of the time. Over the years I’ve found creams and potions that have helped me feel comfortable and here are the best ones I’ve found!


Let’s start with Garnier Hydra Lock. This formula has been marketed by Garnier in several different guises. Hydra Lock is the most recent. This cream is thick, unscented and has maple extract in it. It’s the only thing that would settle my legs after shaving, before I started lasering them (that’s for another blog, another day!). I use it on my hands daily and it keeps them hydrated enough to settle the eczema.


On a similar note, my new favourite body cream is Aloe Sailor by Sugar Baby. I actually won this in a pass-the-parcel when I was in Ibiza last year. The friend who put the gifts together had picked this up in TK Maxx because it fit with the nautical theme of the holiday, however it appears this is an Aussie brand and you can’t get it anywhere here – if I’m wrong I’d love to know where I can get it. But until then I’ve been using this sparingly so I don’t run out! It’s actually a self-tan prep cream and has aloe vera in it to soothe skin that’s been over exposed to the sun. It was great in Ibiza to soothe after sunbathing and was actually the only thing that helped with the burn after I received a jelly fish sting. But since then I’ve found it also helps with wind chapping I have experienced this winter on my legs and arms. It’s a miracle cream. Oh, and it smells of coconuts and reminds me of summer. I just love it, and I want more!


Egyptian Magic is an oil based cream containing all natural ingredients like olive oil, honey and bee pollen. It claims to work on all sort of skin ailments, and I know for a fact it works on burns and dry skin. I tend to use it on my cuticles for the most part. It’s not cheap but I picked my tub up with a mini tub in Costco! It’s great to have in the cupboard as an all-rounder.


Moving onto hair care, now. I have very fine, limp hair and it’s not very thick. In order to keep it in check, I’ve been using John Frieda’s Secret Agent from the Frizz Ease collection for around 15 years. It’s truly the only thing that tames my baby hair and flyaways. It’s lightweight and doesn’t make my hair look or feel greasy. It washes out fine and doesn’t bother my scalp. It’s a wonder cream!


The idea of adding oil to my hair always seemed absurd, but my hair dresser used Moroccan Oil one time, and I was amazed at how it made my hair feel. It wasn’t greasy or heavy. In fact my hair felt conditioned, lighter than usual, shiner and it dried faster! So I’ve been using it ever since. A bottle lasts forever so I don’t mind the investment. I use it once every couple of weeks and I only need two pumps. Plus it smells amazing!


The last product to tell you about isn’t a new product. I lusted after Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray since I was a teenager. Having tried sea salt sprays in the past, to try and create texture, fullness and something which resembled a beach wave in my hair, nothing had worked. My hair is poker straight and doesn’t hold a curl unless it’s set with industrial strength hair spray. So I splurged and picked up a bottle – I actually bought the mini size first to make sure it worked. And it did! This spray creates a matte look to your hair, but if I spray enough on my wet hair, twist it up and let it dry naturally, I usually get up to 2 day’s worth of beachy hair! It’s really changed my look and makes my less frustrated with my limp lank hair – usually by this stage in growing my hair out I’m so frustrated with it just hanging there that I get it cut short, but now I’m loving the length and look, and this spray is why!

So that’s it! The beauty and skincare products I’m loving at the moment. I’ve picked up a few new things I’m yet to form opinions on yet (products by TheBalm, NYX and some of the UDxGwen range) I’ll be sure to review in time, and also share some of the fabulous things I’m sent in my GlossyBox.

Stay tuned!

Shutterbug’s Holy Grail Beauty List Pt 1


This winter has been particularly harsh on my skin, and as a result I’ve really had to think hard about what products I’m using. It’s also helped me to realise that in my 33rd year my skin has started to be less than youthful. My squishy cheeks have begun to feel less than squishy and my t-zone, which I thought I’d figured out, started to dry and flake. Ick!

So I’ve been on a beauty kick recently, much to my bank balance’s concern, however I really feel like I’ve found some amazing products. I haven’t been able to use all of them yet, but since I’ll probably be sharing the ones I do love, I thought first of all I’d start at the very beginning – I hear it’s a very good place to start.

When I first left school I decided to become a beauty therapist. The local college did a course, but you had to stump up £60 for the starter kit and also the thought of potentially touching people’s feet freaked me out…. So I got a retail job, and thank jeebus I did because I wouldn’t have met Gary had I not…. However, it’s always frustrated me that I had gotten to my early 30’s without actually knowing how to successfully apply make-up. Firstly I’m too lazy to wake up early enough to slap it on, secondly I’m too cheap, but thirdly (and maybe most importantly) there are 16 year olds walking around with perfectly formed smoky eyes and winged eye liner….. I remember hating myself early last year in Las Vegas watching a how-to video for my Naked 2 palette, recorded by a girl who was probably not old enough to vote. Things had to change.

So I sit here, almost a year later, safe in the knowledge that I now know most of the basics and having pretty much nailed some of the harder techniques. Yay me!

So today I’m going to share with you guys some of my Holy Grail beauty and skincare products. Some of these were newly acquired in the last year or so, but some of them I’ve been using for 15 years or so. There’s quite a few, so this will be part one. Here goes!

We’ll start with beauty products!


Maybelline Baby Skin was recommended to me by a friend. As a drugstore item, this isn’t too expensive at about £7.99 for this decent sized tube. I’d been needing a primer, and this one blurs the pores, goes on really smoothly with hardly any product needed. I like to put it on underneath my Stila Color Corrector. I can’t feel that it’s there and it creates a lovely base to build onto.


Urban Decay Brow Tamer (£15). I picked this up in New York from Sephora, so not sure how much I spent on it, but I needed something for my brows. Brow care and perfecting is a huge deal at the moment. My eyebrows are fairly thick, and darker than my hair colour. The shape is fine and all I usually do is brush them into shape each morning, but they do become unruly during the day so I picked this lightweight clear gel up to help them stay put. My hair likes to push my eyebrow hairs down throughout the day which bugs me, but this gel prevents that from happening, and doesn’t make my brows shiny or any darker which is perfect. Holy Grail status achieved!


This Leighton Denny Quatro nail buffer (£5.50) is insane. I haven’t had a decent nail buffer in a while, and as much as I’m nail polish obsessed, I have a bad habit of picking my polish off….. yes, yes, I know! So I saw this buffer had gone down in price on Amazon and snapped it up. The result was so amazing I instagrammed a shot of my nail afterwards. A glass-like finish that lasted for days – in fact it was still glass-like after removing my manicure a week later. My only bug-bear is the nail file part. I use a glass file, so have no use for the file side of this buffer, but it’s kinda sharp along the edge so there’s plenty of opportunity to slice your finger along the side whilst buffing.


My Mum has always sworn by cherry Chapstick as long as I can remember. And since Katy Perry kissed a girl, it’s been feast or famine with regards to stock levels. I wanted to see what the fuss was about so I tried it, and it’s amazing how much better the cherry flavour is than any of the others. The formula seems thicker and stays on the lips for longer. Plus, it gives a very very small amount of colour too! So now whenever I see them I buy three or four so I always have a stock!


I have fairly thin, not amazingly long, very straight eyelashes which won’t curl. I’m still to find my perfect mascara, so you won’t find any on this post today, however I did pick up a pair of Surratt Relevee lash curlers (£22 Liberty) from Sephora at Christmas. Carefully designed to work for all eye shapes, these promise to grip and curl comfortably without pinching. And they are comfortable, lightweight and as you can see by how dirty my set are in the photo (sorry!) I have been using them a lot! Some people say you can train your lashes to curl naturally, but using curlers every night, but I don’t have the patience for that. A quick staggered pump and a slick of mascara and I’m ready to go! They haven’t worked magic yet, but they’re certainly doing better than any others I’ve used.




Glisten & Glow HK Girl Top Coat and OPI Nail Envy are my two holy grail nail products. Nail Envy saved my nails and I recommend it to any one I can. I use it as a base coat every time I do my nails, and a treatment in between if my nails need it. HK Girl top coat replaced Seche Vite for me, since I’d started getting annoyed at the amount of shrinkage I was getting with it. It’s thick enough to smooth out course glitter, dries really fast (touch dry in about 5 minutes) and doesn’t drag nail art. Plus it’s not very expensive (£6.85 from Rainbow Connection)


I like to wear a little bit of something on my lips, but I stopped wearing lipstick as long time ago. I didn’t like having to think about whether it had smeared, bled, worn off, left a night coloured ring around my lips etc. And not wanting to use liplock, I just stopped using it. When I found out that Dior had a released their Color Reviver Balm (around £24) in their Addict Lip Glow collection I knew I had to pick it up. And at the time I had a Debenhams voucher so decided to treat myself. It promises to give you your own personalised pink shade in a nice sheer balm. It’s conditioning and not at all sticky. It’s my go to lippy at the moment. Then I heard that Givenchy had released a black variant in their Rouge Interdit, for Liv Tyler to recreate her lovely bee-stung lip and I wanted it! But you couldn’t find it anywhere in the UK so I managed to hunt down what appeared to be the only stick of it in the whole of New York – it’s amazing and does exactly what it says on the tin. Not too much colour, and again hydrating and not sticky. They’ve now started selling it here under the name Rouge Interdit Vinyl (£24) with slightly slimmer packaging. Go buy it!


I am a huge fan of Urban Decay and have been for about 15 years since I bought my first mini palette – I think it was called Wallpaper…. I received the Naked 2 palette (£38) for Christmas a couple of years ago and it’s my perfect basics eye palette. Not only are the colours and formulas wonderful, but it comes with a fantastic double ended blender brush. Naked 2 is perfect for my skintone and eye colour, so I have no need for the other two palettes, and that’s what’s great about the Naked palettes because there’s one for every one!


I also make sure I use the UD primer potion (just the original one) because I know my eye colour won’t budge the whole day, and also because if I’m using any bright colours (especially the UD Electric Palette) it will allow the colour to pop and prevent it from staining my lids. Magic!


Stila One Step Correct (£24) is amazing – I’m worried they’ll stop making it and I won’t be able to get it any more….. I’ve blogged about this stuff before, but it’s a wonder serum in really pretty packaging. It’s pink, green and white swirls correct any red and blue tones to your skin in one pump. It’s lightweight and goes on beautifully to help give you a lovely even base to start applying your makeup to. It also goes on really well on top of my Baby Skin primer.


And last for beauty is Touche Eclat by YSL (£25) I’ve used this product for about 15 years. It’s gone up in price by a few £ since then, but the formula has stayed the same. It’s very light, illuminates and isn’t cakey. It doesn’t sit in my lines too much but it can rub off easily. I’m looking to invest in some setting powder, but until then it works fine. I’ve tried replacing it with a couple of things over the years to save money, but always end up coming back to this! My only annoyance is you have no idea when it’s going to run out, so one day you might wake up and do one eye and then realise there’s none left for the other eye (this has happened…) but I still love it!

So those are my beauty holy grail items! I’ll be posting my skincare holy grail items soon, but in the meantime I’d love to hear about your experiences with these products, or if you have used any and moved onto something else!

New York, New Year

Hello! I’m aware I’ve probably started the last few blog posts with ‘it’s been a while’. I needed a break and made a conscious effort not to post just because I hadn’t in a while.

Lots has been going on in my life and my brain and I felt I deserved a little break!

I mentioned in my last post that Gary and I were off to New York for a little holiday over Christmas. We flew out on Christmas Day, after having spent the second half of Christmas Eve with family, sharing presents and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

Our cases were only half full, since it was only a 4-night break, however I did intend to utilise this space on the way back and so did my wallet…. The flight out was uneventful and surprisingly full considering the date. We’d opted to splash out on extra leg room seats, which was much appreciated. I made use of the media centre, and watched 3 episodes of The Affair which I’d heard about but was yet to see. I then watched Jurassic World and we landed.

I managed to sleep some on the way there, aided by a large glass of white wine, which abated my jet lag and helped me throughout the rest of our extra-long day – well it was Christmas!

On landing we were immediately aware of the heat and humidity of an unseasonably warm Christmas Day in New York. 18c and very humid, we shed our coats and scarves as soon as we’d checked into the hotel (The Warwick) and ventured out in light sweaters and seek out the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Centre. The streets were teeming with people, and it was hard to do anything but shuffle about. But we found the tree and got some photos and just as we had walked around to come at it from another angle we heard the Home Alone music being played from Saks 5th Avenue, right in front of the tree. It was a magical moment, and a memory we won’t be forgetting any time soon.


We then shuffled our way to find some Christmas dinner, and settled on a Five Guys in the hotel room – we will now forever call Five Guys ‘Christmas Dinner’.

Our room was lovely and we were upgraded to a corner room overlooking 6th Avenue and were given free wifi too! At this point it was about 2am UK time and we decided it was a good time to sleep.

Over the next few days we hit the Boxing Day sales. The news reporters made me nervous with images of lines out the door but they were all fine, and I was able to get some great bargain – things are way over-priced in the UK! I picked up my ‘You are Here’ New York Starbucks mug and some Macy’s baubles for the tree too. We visited the World Trade Center memorial, new World Trade Center tower and the museum. We ate in some lovely cafes and walked around tons of delis.

One of the things on my must-see list was to eat at Katz’s Deli, which featured in When Harry Met Sally (my favourite, and probably most viewed movie). Arriving a little earlier than we wanted to eat ensured we got a seat in the table service section, and beat the lines which built up within about 5 minutes of us arriving. An amazing place, with a wonderful atmosphere, the deli was full of all kinds of people and amazing food. I opted for a cheese steak and potato salad. Both were amazing and I haven’t stopped thinking about the flavours ever since.


The weather cooled down after a day or two and we were able to wrap up. Over the days we were there, we rediscovered our love for the city. Having been 3 times previously in a fairly short space of time, we had figured we were over New York. But visiting lower Manhattan showed us that there were so many places we still needed to see. Areas we would never have dreamed of venturing to a decade ago have become more accessible, and Times Square has become so inaccessible – literally, you can’t walk through it, it’s too darn busy!

By the end of the holiday we were tired but back in love with the city. We’re dreaming of going back in the future, but this time for longer, to live out dreams we have and spend more time soaking it all in.


On our return we still had 5 days before we had to go back to work, so we spent this recovering. An ITB injury returned due to the 45 miles we’d walked whilst away, so a lot of rest was needed, and it usually takes me a while to recover from jet lag too. We watched the whole seasons 1-2 of The Affair which is an incredible show (and have since watched Making a Murderer, because, you know, who hasn’t?).

New Year was spent at home, and I cooked us a Christmas Dinner so we didn’t miss out. We opened the letters we wrote to ourselves last year and read out our Good Things from the memories jar we’d been adding to all year. It was a lovely evening. We even watched When Harry Met Sally (again) and managed to time it so that the end when they’re shouting Happy New Year coincided with midnight in reality.

New Year’s day was spent lazily in the morning, and then a long lunch with Gary’s family. It was during this meal that I made the final decision to begin my 3rd 365 project, this time via Instagram. (You can follow me via @groggits or clicking the Instagram widget to the right.) We also went to Ikea and bought a new mattress which was long overdue, and seriously needed! My poor back couldn’t cope anymore!

Since then it’s been back to work. I appear to have a make-up and beauty obsession. It happens every few years, but this year I seem to be actually using the stuff I’ve bought. My Sephora trip was much needed, but Gary’s starting to get a glazed look every time I speak about beauty products….

I intend to post a blog with my latest favourite beauty products, so stay tuned – there’s quite a few! I also signed up for GlossyBox and have been very pleased with the first box which arrived this week.

I decided not to return to Rock Choir this term, and instead focus on me, health and hopefully fitness for the next few months. After lots going on and things happening in my life I need that clarity. And just making decisions like that makes such a difference overall.

So that’s me, up to date. Keep checking back for new posts, which will hopefully become more regular again from now on – or subscribe and/or follow me via bloglovin’ (widgets to the right)

Christmas Time!


Hello shutterbugs! It’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been so busy work and life-wise and I’ve been taking down time to get my head straight.

I’m starting to feel better, and with Christmas only 5 days away I’m feeling very festive!

G-Man and I are off to New York on Christmas Day, so someone better warn Sephora I’m coming….

I’ll be back to my regularly blogging self on my return, but for now Merry Christmas to all my readers and I’ll see you soon!

Allowing the Storm to Pass

The last two weeks have been particularly volatile. Storm Abigail and Storm Barney have hit the UK and we have seen really strong gales and gusts. My drives home from work have been difficult mainly due to me driving a very light car. When being hit with 30 mph gusts I find I have to concentrate very hard – I’m a fairly new driver and this is my first experience of this!

I’ve also been dealing with stormy weather in my personal life. Hormonal changes and my crazy brain put me into a fairly dark place for the past couple of weeks. It’s lead to me stripping down my calendar, cancelling a lot of long standing plans and dealing with the present. I find in times like this that if I simply deal with what’s in front of me I can calm my nerves and start to feel much better.

I had a lovely long Skype call with my friend Tash last weekend. We chatted and chatted and I caught up with what she’s up to in Vietnam. It was wonderful to see her face and touch base with her. She’s only been there 7 weeks but I miss her a lot!

I’m also waiting on the imminent birth of the second Book Club baby. Hayley’s baby boy isn’t due until 27th November but people keep telling her she’s going to be early. She’s having baby twinges but no contractions yet. I can’t wait to meet him!

Christmas season is upon us now, and the TV is full of Christmas adverts. John Lewis have come up with another cracker, about the Man on the Moon – though their ads are becoming increasingly tenuously linked to Christmas. The Coca-Cola advert was shown for the first time this year, last night. It prompted me to YouTube their The Holidays are Coming advert because I always seem to remember it slightly different. Originally aired in 1995, the advert was much longer, had a longer song in it and in my opinion had a much greater build up. More exciting and prettier. But over the years it’s been shortened. I wish they’d debut the advert each year with the longer version and then show the shorter one after that, if they must.

I’m starting to feel a little more Christmassy, and since it’s only 34 sleeps until the big day I think it’s about time. Next weekend will most likely see our annual tree putting-up session, whilst we watch people squealing on The X-Factor. And speaking of the X-Factor…. Last year’s almost winner has released her first single ‘Sax’. It’s being played, ad nauseaum and even features on the new Christmas Asda adverts. But one thing is really really bugging me about the song (other than it’s Uptown Funk’s inferior cousin) – there’s no obvious saxophone in the song. In a song where she demands you ‘Play that sax’ repeatedly, you’d expect some obvious saxophone action – or at least a Baker Street-esque saxophone riff. But no. The song does have saxophone in it, but it’s an un-obvious muddy bass line and totally missable. Bad form Fleur, bad form.

Anyhow, I digress. I can foresee the next month being full of Christmas plans, babies (or one baby!) and hard work. Gary and I still have to plan some of our trip to New York, which is one of the things getting me through this difficult, cold and dark end to the autumn. I’m hoping some festive lights and festive activities will help me along.


Busy Doing Nothing & Hot 8 Brass Band

It’s been a little while since I’ve written, and that’s partially because not a huge amount has happened, and partially because I’ve been busy not being busy.

G-Man and I both came down with a cold that didn’t want to go away, so we’ve spent a lot of time catching up on TV, watching movies and having some much-needed down time. After such a busy summer it’s been great therapy.

Autumn is in full swing, the clocks have changed, the weather is getting more crisp – though as I write this it’s glorious sun and warm outside. Halloween is notoriously warm, and it usually gets really cold between then and Guy Fawkes Night. This year, however, our local firework display is tonight (the day after Halloween) and so it’s going to be a lovely mild one. It’s going to be nice not having to wrap up too warm to go and watch the display.

Traditionally Halloween is a night that I either avoid being in the house, or buy loads of sweets for Trick or Treaters who never show up. Last year I broke this tradition by going to see Lena Dunham speak after the release of her book. This year Gary and I travelled to Brighton for a gig.

New Year’s Eve 2014  I took a trip with my Mum to my Grandma’s and on the journey we listened to Radio 2. Craig Charles was playing his show, and during this he played a cover of Sexual Healing by the Hot 8 Brass Band. Look them up if you don’t know them, they’re really good. We found out a few months ago that they were playing a tour to celebrate 20 years of the band, and we grabbed tickets right away.

If you have a spare 5 minutes have a watch – it’s worth it.

We arrived in Brighton just in time to watch the sunset and then had a wander through the zombie-filled streets (it was Halloween after all), grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to Coalition, the venue for the gig.

imageThe band was amazing, so tight. It was so much fun and we danced the night away.

The drive home was really foggy but that added to the Halloween atmosphere. We woke this morning achy, tired and my ears were still muffled and ringing….. But it felt worth it. If you get the chance to listen to Hot 8 then do. You’ll not be able to sit still!

Experience is Priceless

As a child, I went on family holidays once a year to somewhere in the UK. Usually Devon or somewhere similar. We had a few trips on a ferry to France, but until I met Gary the furthest I’d been away from my home was Belgium, and that was on a school trip.

Gary and I visited New York within a year of meeting, for Valentine’s Day. My first taste of America and we were snowed-in in the most beautiful place to be snowed-in.

506406072_498aaec972_oAnother trip to New York followed, this time in spring. And then for our honeymoon we travelled to San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York.

Gary was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease not long after, and what followed was years of surgery, recovery and coming to terms with a change of life as well as a change of pace for both of us. We put holidays on the back burner and trips consisted of Center Parcs breaks and days out in London, which were great, but didn’t get close to our previous trips.

We then jumped onto the property ladder with both feet and all of our savings. Any home owner knows that the first few years are hard. Belts are tightened and holidays are pretty much off the cards. But this year, Gary and I decided to throw caution to the wind. We’re not getting any younger, both of our health seems to have improved and plateaued and the urge to travel hasn’t been getting any weaker.

This year we have already been to Las Vegas, Gary to Rome and me to Ibiza. We’ve had some lovely weekends away, a trip to Liverpool and next…. we’ve booked to go back to New York!

Not only that, we fly on Christmas Day and will get to spend Christmas afternoon and evening there. We can’t wait to see the Christmas lights, the tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skate – everything! It’s been a long time since we were last there (our honeymoon 8 years ago!) and there have been so many changes to the city since then.

Being a rather Christmassey pair, we have pulled out all our New York movies, and begun watching them with a final flourish of our New York Christmas movies further into the season. Home Alone 2 will certainly feature more than once, Serendipity (and we intend on visiting this cafe during our stay!) and Scrooged are on the list.

This year has certainly been a year of holidays, especially after having not travelled for so many years, but we realised that experience is priceless. You can wait until you’re richer, healthier, have more time, but there will always be something that gets in the way. We’re grabbing the world with both hands this year. I can’t wait to experience the rest of it!