The Under £5 Christmas Gift Guide / How to Make an Advent Calendar



Step 1: If your name is Maddie and you’re my sister, stop reading this immediately. Have you gone? Ok cool.

This year, my sister and I decided to make each other advent calendars. Not the chocolate kind, or the paper kind – the kind where you get a little gift every day in the run up to Christmas.

It all came about after I bought her the Boots beauty advent calendar last year. By way of a return present, she decided to pick up as many gifts as she could for under £2 each, with a slightly nicer one for Christmas Eve. She wrapped them up like a pass-the-parcel, so for every day she opened a door on her Boots advent calendar, I’d unwrap a layer of paper from my Maddie-made one.

It was nice. So this year we’re doing it again. I bought a big box from Lakeland (slightly cheaper and much bigger than the Paperchase ones at £5.99), some wrapping paper, and off I went, bargain hunting.

I think the first stage to getting gifts for under £5 is to look out for the offers. I set myself a £2 limit for every present, only going over on about 3 of them. Here are a few of the bargains I took advantage of this year, to help bulk up my calendar:

The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Hand Sanitiser, Shower Gel, and Body Purée. £2.00, free, and £3.50 respectively, thanks to a handy 3 for 2 offer.

Thorntons’ everlasting 4 for £3 offer also went down a treat (pun intended).


Still buying your Lucky Charms and Peanut Butter Cups in Selfridges? STOP! Tesco and Asda now do great American delicacies at a fraction of the price we used to find them at.

This Reece’s Peanut Butter Tree was 60p, and you can now get a decent sized pack of the cups for the same price. I also picked up these Pretzel M&Ms for £1.50 (thank you Brittany for fuelling my obsession with those after our box swap!) and the Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts (I haven’t seen that flavour before over here) for £1.

Maddie had asked for some BluTack (89p) and a Eyeliner Sharpener (£1.50), both of which I grabbed at half price in Sainsbury’s. On the same trip, I also found a lovely Christmas Spice scented candle for £2. Maddie isn’t into her candles so I got it for me, but it makes a lovely gift if you’re on the hunt! Either way, if you’re on a budget, supermarkets are your friend.


Stationery shops are also a good place to find nice gifts. I got all this from a Paperchase outlet – the little turtle push pins were only £2, and the festive gold nail wraps were reduced from £4 to £1.20. Winner. And never underestimate the joy that 99p stickers bring to grown women – especially when they feature fairy princesses and cute woodland creatures, like these do.


Here are a few random bits I picked up. No girl ever has enough nail varnish remover, and Maddie is no exception, so this mini bottle (£1.60 from Boots) makes a useful and cute gift. Likewise, no girl can resist childhood nostalgia, so this Strawberry Laces hand wash (£1.85 from Boots) and Gingerbread Man cookie cutter (£1.29 from Lakeland) will hopefully go down well.


When I found out that two of Lush’s bath bombs come under the £2 budget (Ickle Baby Bot and Butterbear are both £1.95) I couldn’t resist making a trip there too. I’m going to put this free sample of Buche de Noel (the most Christmassy cleanser I’ve ever seen) in one of the earlier days of the calendar due to the (lack of) price, while the nice bath bombs will come nearer Christmas. Being only £1, Lush’s charity pot has also made an appearance. Handy and charitable. We better recognise.


Finally, I found this in Sainsbury’s for Christmas Eve. Maddie loves cutesy Tim Burton movies, and this seemed like the perfect film for the night before Christmas.

So that’s it! I’ll be wrapping up the presents tonight and numbering them up nicely. I’m very excited!

What are your top tips for Christmas shopping on a budget? Have you ever made your own advent calendar? Do comment and tell me about it!

Christmas love,

Effie xx


A Cheeky Travel Haul!

What beauty blogger worth their salt wouldn’t go mad in various beauty departments at the prospect of going abroad?

Being so obsessed with skincare, hair care, and the best makeup for particular situations, a change of both country and clime is enough to make even the most restrained of us have a bit of a…well, a “moment”.

By the time you lovelies see this I will have already got back from Morocco, but I thought you’d like to see all the things I decided I “needed” for the trip. We all do it, after all. It’s nice to have some solidarity. Ahem.


Sorry about the light in this photo, I’m aware it’s a bit crap. What can I say? Winter is dark and I have no lamps.

Hair Stuff:

Mini Charles Worthington Colour Enhancer Heat and UV Protecting Spray – Obviously, to protect my poor bleached hair from the sun and heat. Hopefully it will do a good job!

The Body Shop Rainforest Moisture Hair Butter – A cheap and cheerful option to keep mes cheveux moisturised in the heat.

OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo and Conditioner – They were less than 100ml, promised to nourish my hair, and most importantly had “Morocco” in the title. Never been one to resist the thematically appropriate, me.

Skin Stuff:

Yes to Grapefruit Correct and Repair Brightening Facial Wipes – Because if I brought my whole cleansing routine on the plane with me, it would never fit in that little plastic bag they give you at the airport. Also, grapefruit smell. Mmm.

Piz Buin Allergy Sun Cream, Factor 30 – This is pretty much the only sun cream that doesn’t bring my poor sister out in a rash, and it smells gorgeous. I always say “like butter”, although I can’t put my finger on what it actually smells like.

Lush Tea Tree Water Toner – An old favourite that I just had to pick up in the mini size. If nothing else, it’ll be lovely and refreshing to spritz on my face if it gets too hot to handle out there.

Sanctuary Spa Brightening Facial Radiance Exfoliator – It was in Boots’s 3 for 2 on travel minis offer. What was I supposed to do?

Mini Palmer’s Cocoa Butter – Another old favourite. It smells beautiful and makes a lovely after sun, as well as completing my 3 for 2 on travel minis.


Blink Contacts Soothing Eye Drops – If you wear daily contact lenses, taking one of these little bottles on trips is much more convenient than carting around a load of saline. Seriously, a godsend!

Sure Cotton Ultra Dry Anti Perspirant – You’re welcome, fellow plane passengers. Do feel free to offer me the same courtesy. It’d be most welcome.


MAC Eye Kohl in ‘Teddy’ – A gorgeous dark brown liner with a touch of bronze shimmer. Pretty and perfect for travel! I’ve had my eye on it for ages – pun not intended.

Samples of Estée Lauder Double Wear Light and MAC Studio Fix Foundations – I probably won’t wear foundation out there, which is why I’m only taking a little sample pot. These are free, just go to your nearest counter and express an interest in trying whatever foundation you fancy. The likelihood is you’ll buy after you try (we’re such easy sells, aren’t we?) so they should be more than happy to give you a little pot to last 7 days.


Tisserand De-Stress Aromatherapy Roller Ball – I was tempted by the This Works version, but managed to hunt down this one for less than half the price. I’ve never really liked flying, but with this on my wrists, Cosmo on my lap, and a Harry Potter audiobook on my iPod, hopefully I’ll feel nice and calm!

What are your favourite products to take with you to travel? Let me know in the comments! Lots of love xx

Club Tropicana Party OOTD + Makeup

On Saturday night I went to a very colourful party, whose invites demanded the theme of “Club Tropicana.”

A few weeks back, the Boyf and I had spent a couple of hours looking for clothes carrying a thematically appropriate floral print, and, thanks to the joys of Primark and TK Maxx, we got lucky!


Boyf also dug out a tropical printed trilby that he apparently “found” at Leeds festival in 2010. So, you know, resourcefulness. And stuff.



OOTD: Kimono blazer thingy and novelty sunglasses from Primark, embellished top and denim shorts from Topshop.



My resourcefulness (sort of) came in the form of seeing which bits of my makeup bag could be turned tropicana.

The main element of the FOTD was the red lip, which I created using MAC Lasting Sensation Lip Pencil in A63 to help the colour last, and MAC lipstick in ‘Vegas Volt’. I couldn’t resist matching my lips to my outfit!

For the base, I would have liked to have gone more dewy to fit in with the summery theme, but it was such a hot and humid day that it would never have lasted on my oily skin without a bit of Rimmel Stay Matte!

Underneath the desperate and frantically applied layer of powder, I used Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation on top of her Oil Free Primer, and added a bit of Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer under my eyes. On top, I incorporated some Benefit High Beam on my cheeks, the inner corners of my eyes, and my brow bones to try and reclaim some of the lost dewiness. I also used Bourjois’ Délice de Poudre bronzer to warm my cheeks up.

As for the eyes, I whacked out my trusty Urban Decay Naked palette, using ‘Buck’ in the crease, ‘Naked’ on my brows, and the beautiful ‘Half Baked’ on my lids. There was virtually no blending because I’m terrible at it and was running out of time. Perfume before blending, girls. Perfume before blending.

Finally, the Model Co mascara volumised my lashes, gave them a bit of colour, and didn’t budge all night. Even during the disco part. Lovely.


Makeup Through The Ages Beauty Blogger Collaboration: The 2000’s


 As we all know, there ‘aint no party like an S Club party. And in the Year 2000, S Club 7 seriously brought it. Channelling a look favoured by early noughties J.Lo and numerous other pop stars, they donned their faux furs and white polonecks, their hair serum and their beige lipgloss, and filmed the video for ‘Never Had A Dream Come True’, the official Children in Need single for 2000.

I am now kind of sad that I don’t fit into the afghan coat I had when I was 11.

(Google it if you don’t know what that is).

I feel as if this video, all shimmer and gloss and sparkly snowflakes, epitomises the noughties era rather well. Once the Spice Girls had split, S Club 7 became my favourite band, so it only seemed right to base my contribution to the Makeup Through The Ages Beauty Blogger Collaboration on them.

This Collaboration, by the way, is the brainchild of Brittany The Beauty Deputy, who is always coming up with great ideas for tags and collabs! I’d say this is her biggest plan yet – a total of 11 beauty bloggers are involved, covering The Ancient Egyptians, Futuristic Makeup, and every decade between 1920 and the Present Day. I’ll post links to all their blogs at the end, so do go and have a look – I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Anyway, on to the post!

Here is the kit I used to become a weird hybrid of Rachel, Tina, Hannah, and Jo: 



Too Faced ‘A Few of My Favourite Things’ Palette, with eyeshadow in ‘Snowflakes’, ‘Crisp Apple Strudel’, and ‘Cream Coloured Ponies’; Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in Black; Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara; Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal in ‘010 Silver’; Mac Veluxe Brow Liner in ‘Strawberry Blonde’.


Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation in ‘Cream Ivory’; Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer in ‘Cool Medium 2’; Benefit High Beam Highlighter; Bourjois Délice De Poudre Bronzer in ‘Peaux claires/médianes 51’.


Erm…a bit more Laura Mercier Foundation (use a pale nude or beige lipstick if you’re more sensible than me); Benefit ‘Ticket to Glossytown’ Lip Glosses in ‘Life on the A List’ (pale pink) and ‘Nude-Tude’ (nudey glitter).


Real Techniques Eye Starter Kit (slanted, fluffy, detail, and crease); Real Techniques Blusher Brush; Real Techniques Stippling Brush (for foundation); Real Techniques Setting Brush (for concealer).


Clarins Démaquillant Express Instant Eye Make-Up Remover; Johnson’s Cotton Buds.

And here is the process!


I actually did this look in the wrong order.  I thought I’d practice the eye makeup and ended up going “sod it, let’s photograph the whole post,” so I did my eyes before my base, which is unusual for me.

Step 1: Snowflakes Sweep

Anyway, the first thing I did was sweep some Too Faced eyeshadow in ‘Snowflakes’ over my entire lids, all the way up to the brow bone and making sure to cover the inner corners of the eye. The S Club girls and most other pop stars were covered in shimmery eyeshadow from around 1999-2006, so it seemed best to go the whole hog too.


Step 2: Crease Shadow

Next, I used my Real Techniques Crease Brush, from the Starter Set for Eyes, and put a bit of Crisp Apple Strudel in and around my crease.

I was trying to copy Jo’s look for this – as she seems to be wearing a similar brown shimmery eyeshadow in the video. I also ran a little bit of this shadow under my lower eyelashes, using the slanted brush from the Real Techniques set. You can also use the little detailer brush for this, if you prefer to use your slanted brush for brows.

Step 3: White Line

I noticed that Tina and Jo seem to have white lines of shadow which extended a couple of millimetres above their upper lash line, which looked rather fetching, so I thought I’d try that too.

I hunted around from my white kohl pencil from Rimmel, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so instead I wet my Real Techniques fine liner brush from the Starter Set, and used a bit of Too Faced ‘Cream Coloured Ponies’ eyeshadow. It worked ok, but for a less fiddly option, you should probably use a pencil liner or eyeshadow pencil!



Step 4: Black Line

Right. I actually did this twice because the first time I made it too thick, and it looked more like a 50’s or 60’s look than an S Club Party. If the line thickness changes between pictures, now you know why ;)

Handy tip: if you are in possession of a good eye makeup remover, dip a cotton bud in it and deal with eyeliner mistakes that way. It saves you taking everything off and starting again! I did that with my Clarins Démaquillant Express Instant Eye Make-Up Remover and it reduced the eyeliner to a more era-appropriate level, and I hardly had to redo my eyeshadow. Yay!

Anyway, to recreate Tina’s look, I did a very narrow line all around the eye, including the inner and outer corners, using my Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in Black. I also paid a little more attention to the outer corners, making points rather than flicks to imitate Hannah’s makeup.


Step 5: The Waterline, Mascara & Brows

Once again, I would have liked to have a white kohl pencil on hand to brighten up my waterline for this look. Instead, I used Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal in 010 Silver. This always makes my eyes go red because of the glitter, but it does the job for recreating the ‘Never Had A Dream Come True’ look.

I then used Too Faced ‘Better Than Sex’ mascara on my top and bottom lashes, and the Mac Veluxe Brow Liner on my brows, blending with the attached spooley brush.


Tuhduuuuh. Sorry about the roots. I’m going to the salon this weekend!


Step 1: Foundation

I didn’t use a primer for this, and whacked Laura Mercier’s Silk Crème Foundation straight onto my skin, blending it in with the Real Techniques Stippling Brush.

I decided not to use powder, because I didn’t need this look to last for too long, and the girls all have such silky skin in the video – a mattifying powder wouldn’t work.


Step 2: Concealer

I whacked Collection’s Lasting Perfection Concealer pretty much everywhere (under eyes, around nose, on blemishes)  as I’m tired and blotchy and Rachel Stevens is perfect.  I used the Real Techniques Setting Brush to blend it all in.

Step 3: Highlighter

I had a bit of fun with this one. This isn’t quite the usual shape in which I’d apply my highlighter, but the noughties were all about the dewy skin, so I just copied whichever parts of Jo’s, Hannah’s, Tina’s, and Rachel’s faces caught the light. I then blended it in with my setting brush.


Step 4: Bronzer

I decided to skip blusher on this occasion, as I couldn’t really detect any pinky tones on the girls’ cheeks. Instead, I went for the bronzer-as-blusher look, using the Bourjois Délice de Poudre bronzer.


Step 1: Degradation

The problem with beige lip colour being popular in the noughties was that it made everybody look a little bit dead.

Because I still remember this time with fear and apprehension, I wasn’t really willing to spend money on a colour that wouldn’t suit me. So what did I do? I made like the scene kids and preteen Jack Wills fans of the mid-noughties and put foundation on my lips instead!

It could have been worse…


Step 2: Lipgloss

This was better. I applied a combination of the Benefit lipglosses onto my lips to make them paler and less pink. Beige, glossy lips is a look that a lot of people rocked in the noughties – most particularly JLo – so I felt I should give it a go!


And that’s the finished look! I couldn’t help but do a historically-accurate high-angled Myspace pose! Complete with camera arm, of course.

I definitely don’t like this look, it makes my eyes look small, my nose look big, and my lips look weird. But hey ho, the noughties were a dark time for makeup and fashion, and a shining beacon decade for pop music. What can you do?


If you’d like to have a look at the posts by the rest of the bloggers involved in the collaboration, you can find the links below. I hope you enjoyed this post and am looking forward to seeing the other contributions!

Collab Love

Effie xx

Ancient Egyptians/Cleopatra – Angela from Your Beauty Whisperer

1920’s – Soph from Little Bit Soph

1930’s – Meagan from A Beauty Obsession

1940’s – Olivia from Eye Have A Lot of Feelings (Iconic Noughties Film Reference in her Blog Title!)

1950’s – Heather from Coconut & Cotton 

1960’s – Brittany from The Beauty Deputy

1970’s – Michelle from Pretty in the East 

1980’s – Christina from a casual beauty

1990’s – Jacquelyn from the Little Scottish Corner

2000’s – Stephanie Wright

Present Day – Barbe from Fashionista in Surburbia

Futuristic  – Becky from MakeupandFreckles

Now have some more S Club:

This is from a TV show they had called LA 7, in which they played themselves and did cool S Club things.

There was also Miami 7 (which I had on VHS), Hollywood 7, and Viva S Club. AMAZING dancing all round!


Tips from a TV Makeup Artist

As you know from my last post, I recently filmed an episode of the BBC Quiz Show ‘Pointless’. While I can’t tell you anything about what went down in the studio due to closely-guarded spoilers, I can tell you about the makeup chair. Which, if you’re as sad as I am, will fascinate you just as much.


*Hallelujah!* If you own any of the products visible in this picture, you now know that the professionals approve!

Early in the morning, contestants gradually started leaving the green room to have their makeup done. When I finally had my turn, I was ecstatic. I put my contact lenses in with giddy hands, and rushed downstairs to the make up room. I heard it before I saw it – there were bangin tunez blasting out of the open door – but was ushered in by a production assistant all the same. Inside was a long table covered in makeup, as you’d imagine, with three chairs lined up against it. Two of the chairs were occupied by other contestants, their makeup artists already prettifying their faces. Mine was on the end, and as I said hello and sat down, I was immediately faced with a big black cock.

Pointless 4

“Well that’s fun!” *snap*

The lady began by asking how I usually do my makeup, as we were told to come to the studio barefaced (the horror!). I told her I like high coverage because of the hyperpigmentation around the lower half of my face – that part was easy. Deciding what to put on my eyes was harder. Eventually, I said that I usually go for neutrals, with a darker brown in the crease, and a slick of black liquid liner along my lash line. “Like yours!” I said.

Of course, she understood what I was after perfectly (it is her job, after all). However, when I started expressing an annoying interest in pretty much every product she picked up – “What’s that called? What shade is that? Hold on, let me write that down…” – she realised that I was open to experimentation, so we had some fun outside of my comfort zone with a pink lip from MAC.

I did ask the poor love a lot of questions. I was curious about how she got into the industry, who she’d worked for before (lots in the music industry, Beyoncé’s dancers, lots of soaps and other telly), and which products she used most. It must have been really irritating, but by the end she started anticipating the questions, picking things up and explaining why they were good before I even asked.

Being a big nerd, I made notes. Below is a list of all the products she recommended:

Laura Mercier Oil Free Primer

Makeup Forever HD Powder (base)

Makeup Forever Aqua Creamliner in Aqua Black (she advised you buy it online from Makeup Guru or Pam)

Lucas Papaw Ointment – “Like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, but better”

Blistex Relief Cream – “I put this on lips more than anything else. It’s instantly plumping and smoothing – an essential.”

MAC Pro Lip Palette in ‘6 Preferred Pinks’ (the shade she used on me was ‘Lovelorn’)

Pointless 5

Giorgio Armani Maestro Foundation

MAC Deluxe Brow Liner in ‘Strawberry Blonde’ (I went out and bought this afterwards – it’s perfect for blondes and ashy eyebrows!)

MAC Powder Blush  (She used either ‘Swoon’ or ‘Pretty Please’ on me)

Illamasqua ‘Reflection’ Eyeshadow Palette

Pointless 2


Oh, and did I mention that they literally airbrush your face?

Using the special airbrush tool pictured below, they spray air lightly onto your face, and infuse it with Armani foundation. The foundation goes into the little opening at the top of the airbrush pen thing, and the coverage is controlled by how long you aim the air flow at certain areas of the face. The finish is absolutely flawless – I couldn’t believe it! I was also impressed because, as men need makeup for TV too, it can offer a really subtle, natural look, whilst smoothing imperfections for blokes as well.

Pointless 1

Needless to say, I want one.

If you have any further questions on things that I might have forgotten to include, please feel free to ask me! For now, though, I’ll leave you with Dad’s and my finished looks. They even mattified Dad’s bald patch, bless them.

pointless 9

Dad in the green room. Can you see any makeup? Subtle!

This is in the car on the way home, so my nose powder has rubbed off a bit. But hey, you get the gist!

This is in the car on the way home, so my nose powder has rubbed off a bit. But hey, you get the gist!