Holiday highlights - Taiwan part 1

I'm notoriously bad at sorting through holiday photos, however as 2014 draws to an end I've been thinking about some of my favourite memories this year and top of that list was definitely my trip to Taiwan back in October. Over Christmas I finally sat down, went through nearly 3500 photos and thought I'd share some of my highlights on the blog today:

Posing by the beautiful but windy gardens of Sun Yat-Sen memorial hall 
with Taipei 101 standing tall in the background 

 My first experience of Din Tai Fung, a Michelin starred restaurant that serves 
the most amazing soup dumplings. Ever since I've come back I've been 
seriously craving these little parcels of deliciousness and am hoping 
they'll expand into the UK soon!

After dinner and some shopping we took the lift up to the top floors of 101 
where we were awarded with these breath taking views of the city

Ever the blogger - taking a moment to sit down and instagram 
some of my favourite photos so far

 Barbie cafe anyone? Sadly I didn't go inside so can't 
comment on what the food is like...

 Taipei has some beautiful parks dotted around and I loved these
 two with it's intricate pagoda and pebbled ponds

 Another memorable experience was visiting the CKS memorial hall - a famous
landmark erected in memory of the former President of the Republic of China. 
We timed it perfectly for the changing of the guards too.

 Beautiful weather as always - October was the perfect time to visit as it's not too hot and 
bar the odd sprinkle of rain it was warm and sunny the whole time. My first holiday for 
ages where we've not to worry about the weather. Part 2 coming up soon!

Have you ever been to Taiwan? What were your 2014 highlights?

Festive giveaway day 5 - Indeed labs skincare

Since their launch back in 2011 Indeed labs have gone from strength to strength with their no nonsense approach to skincare. Hydraluron has become somewhat of a cult favourite and today I'm going to be giving a pack of their hydrating face masks as well as the much raved about exfoliating powder so you can treat your skin after the holiday season:

Indeed labs Facial powdered exfoliator and Hydraluron moisture boosting mask

For your chance to win simply enter using the Rafflecopter app, making sure to leave a comment below telling me your New Year's resolution for 2015. This giveaway will be open internationally and will close on 4th January 2015.

On a side note, as these giveaways are intended as a little thank you to my readers I
 would be grateful if you could please not post them on any competition blogs/forums.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Festive giveaway day 4 - No 7 mini lip treats

As a way of celebrating the holidays and to say thank you for all the support this year I'll be hosting a series of small giveaways from now until New Year's day. Lip pencils have been one of my favourite products this year and seeing as there are 2 gorgeous shades I couldn't resist picking up a No 7 mini lip treats for today's giveaway:

No 7 mini lip treats

For your chance to win simply enter using the Rafflecopter app, making sure to leave a comment below telling me what are your favourite blog posts to read. This giveaway will be open internationally and will close on 4th January 2015.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Sponsored video - Nivea Sun

It may be the depth of winter here in the UK, but now that Christmas is over I can't stop thinking about summer holidays. Long term readers will know that I visited Australia back in 2011 (wow has it been that long already!) and recently I've been giving a lot of thought to going back, especially after watching this video which reminded me just how beautiful the weather was out there:

Although I loved the hustle and bustle of Sydney, two of my favourite memories were sailing around the Whitsundays and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. There's just something so magical about being out at sea with the sun on your back and nothing but clear waters ahead. Being a skincare obsessive I'd packed plenty of sunscreen for the journey but in typical holiday mode I'd forgotten to reapply after swimming and had my first ever sunburn that day - not a fun experience and certainly not something I'd want to repeat again.

I think that's why this video struck a cord with me. To encourage people to take more care in the sun Nivea have teamed up with American artist Thomas Leveritt to make a short film using a UV camera to demonstrate the effectiveness of sunscreen. It showed that even perfect looking skin can be sun damaged and highlighted the importance of using sunscreen especially when on holiday. I know I'll be reapplying more regularly next time and can't wait to go on holiday again next summer!

Have you ever been to Australia? What are your favourite holiday destinations?

*Post sponsored by Nivea

Festive giveaway day 3 - The Body Shop colour crush eyeshadows

A big thank you to everyone who commented on yesterdays post, it seems most of you prefer Rafflecopter so I'll be using that from now on for my giveaways. Today's prize is six Body Shop colour crush eyeshadows. Their make up often gets forgotten about in amongst all the amazing body butters and shower gels, however there are some real hidden gems and these were a backstage favourite at London fashion week earlier this year. I've tried to pick a selection of shades, ranging from neutral everyday taupes to more adventurous purples and emeralds:

The Body Shop colour crush eyeshadows 

For your chance to win simply enter using the Rafflecopter app, making sure to leave a comment below telling me what's on your wishlist for 2015. This giveaway will be open internationally and will close on 3rd January 2015.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Festive giveaway day 2 - Soap and Glory bodycare trio

As a way of celebrating the holidays and to say thank you for all the support this year I'll be hosting a series of small giveaways from now until New Year's day. Today's prize is a trio of Soap and glory products, one of my favourite bodycare brands and I've picked 3 of their bestsellers so you can give them a go (or just stock up on old favourites if you've already tried them too):

Soap and Glory the righteous butter, the scrub of your life and hand food

The giveaway rules are the same as yesterday (leave a comment below, be a Bloglovin and GFC follower of Peonies and lilies, and leave an email address or twitter handle so I can get in touch), however for today's giveaway I thought I'd try the Rafflecopter app to see if it makes things any easier. Feel free to comment below which way you prefer and I'll bear that in mind for future giveaways.
Good luck and happy holidays!

Festive giveaway - No 7 the nail collection

Happy Friday everyone, hope you've all had a great day yesterday! As a way of celebrating the holidays and to say thank you for all the support this year I thought I'd hold a series of small giveaways from now until New Year's day. Starting today with this festively themed No 7 nail collection:

No 7 The nail collection

Inside you'll find a No 7 gel look nail colour in Neptune and Deep wine, Nail effect glitters in Disco ball and Sun rays as well as a mini Protect and prefect intense hand cream. For your chance to win simply be a GFC and Bloglovin follower of Peonies and lilies then leave a comment below telling me what your favourite Christmas present was this year. You can also get extra entries by retweeting this giveaway or by following me on Instagram. Please also leave an email address or twitter handle so I can get in touch if you are the lucky winner.

This giveaway will be open until 2nd January 2015. Unfortunately due to shipping restrictions this will be UK only, however all my other giveaways should be open internationally so make sure you check back tomorrow.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Christmas stocking fillers

Anyone else planning on hitting the shops tomorrow for those last few gifts? If there's one thing I always leave till the very last minute it's stocking fillers - little gifts and trinklets to go with the main present or just because they're too cute not to buy. Luckily they're one of the easier presents to pick up and can be found in most supermarkets and high street stores. Here are some of my top picks:

Last minute stocking fillers

 Bourjois Christmas 2014

1. It's always nice to get a bath treat in your stocking. Of course there's Lush but this year I'm also loving these Mandara Spa Balti Santi relaxing bath soaks. Fragranced with rose, coconut and spice they're a bit more of a grown up choice and great as a pampering treat for the big day.

2. For the party girl I'd recommend checking out the new winter make up collection from Bourjois. There's long lasting eyeshadow quads, cream highlighters, matte red lipsticks and a glittery silver top coat to finish off the whole look.

3. For the foodie I'm loving this set of Lavendon Manor savory tasters. Wilkin & Sons make some of the tastiest spreads and it's a nice change from the usual chocolates and sweets. If they're a fan of the cheese board this will be the perfect accompaniment and with 4 generous jars should hopefully last into January too.

4. Along with beauty advent calendars tree decorations have become so popular this year. Whether it's Philosophy hands of hope, Aromatherapy associates the star or No 7 mini lip treats there's something for everyone and it's a fun novelty gift this time of year.

5. Finally for the style conscious teenager there's this trio of Jack Wills lip balms - the signature pink and blue is instantly recognisable and there's a choice of berry, rose and mint for soft smooth lips.

How are you getting on with your Christmas shopping? What are you hoping to find in your stocking this year? 

Last minute Christmas gift guide - £30 and over

Is it just me or does time just disappear this time of year? In a blink of an eye we're now just 4 days away from Christmas and me being my usual organized self I've yet to buy the bulk of my Christmas presents. Luckily from speaking to friends and colleagues it seems that I'm not alone and if you've yet to complete your shopping too then I hope you'll find this last minute Christmas gift guide use. At the time of writing you can still order all of these gifts online in time for Christmas and they should be available in stores nationwide too:

Shay and blue are a relatively new brand, but with gourmand fragrances such as Salt caramel and Almond cucumber it's not surprising that they've become ever more popular. There are plenty of gift sets to choose from, but as a Christmas present I like the idea of giving a sampler set so the lucky recipient can try them all then decide on her own favourite.

Beauty advent calendars have been so popular this year however for something more Christmas Day appropriate I'd recommend this Elemis 12 days of beauty gift set. There's still the excitement of opening a new door every day and with generous samples of bestsellers such as Pro collagen cleansing balm and Papaya enzyme peel this would be perfect for any Elemis fan. 

For mums and older sisters you can't go wrong with L'occitane and my top pick this year has to be their new Arlesienne fragrance gift set. Inside the gift box you'll find an Arlesienne Eau de toilette, shower cream, body milk and luxury hand cream. What I like about Arlesienne is that unlike most other winter fragrances it's actually very floral and light. Perfect for adding a touch of sophistication and it can be worn well into Spring and Summer.

For something a little bit different what about this Origins ginger pleasures gift set? Despite the name it's actually quite a sweet scent, but with the warmth and spice that you'd expect from ginger. With a scented candle and a roll on perfume this would be ideal as a pre party pamper kit or for anyone who likes the little luxuries in life.

Finally for the ultimate beauty gift you can't go wrong with a pair of GHDs. Their straighteners are one of the best, however if she already owns a pair then take a look at their new Curve collection. Shown above is the GHD classic curl tong however there are 3 other wands, all of which are designed to give easy long lasting curls and waves. Plus if you buy one now it'll come with a limited edition rose gold travel bag.

How are you getting on with your Christmas preparations? Are you also a last minute shopper?

Glossybox December 2014

It's the one we've all been waiting for! The December edition of Glossybox has always been one of their best so when it landed on my doorstep I couldn't wait to see what was in store for us this Christmas. Housed in a festive red and blue gift box December's Glossybox features five items, four of which are full sized and the fifth being a generous travel sample:

 Glossybox December 2014:
Tresemme renewal hair and scalp 60 second treatment shots
So susan concealer quad
BellaPierre cheek and lip stain
Anatomicals day and night spot stick
SkinPrep hydra boost pure hyaluronic acid serum

 Glossybox December 2014 - So Susan concealer quad and BellaPierre cheek

On opening the box I wasn't initially wowed like in previous years. Perhaps my expectations were too high but I would have loved a red lipgloss or glittery nail polish for that extra festive touch. That said it's still a good value Glossybox and I'll happily use up all five samples. Of the five I'm most looking forward to trying Bellapierre cheek and lip stain which looks like the perfect winter flush shade and Skinprep hydra boost serum which sounds like a good alternative to Hydraluron. The Tresemme hair shots will also come in handy, especially now as my long hair is starting to get damaged again.

Looking back through the last 12 months I feel like beauty boxes have all stepped up their game and although there's not always a standout item, generally the boxes are more consistent and the samples more exciting. It'll be interesting to see what's in store for 2015 but I'm hoping beauty boxes will showcase some newer brands and hopefully include more cult classics too. 
Did you like this this month's Glossybox? What are you hoping to find in beauty boxes next year?

Soap and Glory the next big thing - Boots star offer of the week

It's become almost a pre-Christmas tradition to wait for the big Boots Soap and Glory star offer of the week and this year they've not disappointed with a limited edition The next big thing gift set in collaboration with illustrator Hattie Stewart:

 Soap and Glory Boots star offer of the week

Soap and Glory The next big thing gift set features a whopping 10 items, all of which are full sized and bestsellers. Inside you'll find The righteous butter, Hand dream super cream, Orangeasm body wash, Butter yourself moisture lotion, Heel genius foot cream, Sugar crush body scrub, Whipped clean shower butter, Sexy mother pucker lip gloss, Thick & fast super volume mascara and Off your face daily purifying cloths.

Thanks to it's sugary sweet scent and cute quirky packaging Soap and Glory have become a firm favourite of mine and in particular I'm looking forward to trying the new Organeasm body wash and Sugar crush body scrub, as well as stocking up on old favourites such as The righteous butter. 

Illustrator Hattie Stewart has designed 2 boxes, one for online and another for instore purchases. Retailing for just £29 Soap and Glory the next big thing has to be one of the best value gift sets I've seen this year and will no doubt be incredibly popular this Christmas - I'd recommend getting your hands on one as soon as possible as they tend to sell out very quickly!

Did you manage to buy one this weekend? What's your favourite Soap and Glory product?

Christmas gift guide - £30 and under

Every year I promise myself I'll be more organized and yet every year I always seem to leave my Christmas shopping till the very last minute. Luckily there are so many great gift sets these days and online shopping has made things so much easier. This week I've put together a selection of my top picks and if like myself you've yet to complete your shopping then I hope you'll find this £30 and under Christmas gift guide useful: 

 Christmas gift guide: New Look scarf

Notice the tartan print in the background? It's actually a super cozy New look scarf which is the first item on my Christmas gift guide. As I've gotten older I've really come to appreciate winter warmers and think this would be perfect for a girlfriend or sister. It looks and feels far more expensive than it's £12.99 pricetag, the pink and blue adds a fun twist to a traditional print and it's big enough to double up as a blanket or shawl in the evenings.  

For someone who's into her technology what about these wireless Jam headphones? I always find over the ear headphones more comfortable to wear and these ones come pre-charged so can be used straight out of the box. The sound quality is clear and precise and the wireless function means they're great for wandering around the house. If you're thinking of treating yourself to one they're also great for lazy days when you just want stay in bed watching Youtube videos and movies without being disturbed.

It wouldn't be a Christmas gift guide without some scented candles and this year I'm loving these tins from Sensichic. The brainchild of a former beauty PR Sensichic candles are free from paraffin and other toxins, lovingly hand poured in batches of 10 and come in fun scents such as fashion fiend and beauty junkie. In fact with notes of spearmint and grapefruit I may just have to treat myself to one as an early Christmas present!

 Christmas gift guide - Clinique, Marks & Spencers and Paul & Joe

For beauty lovers you can't go wrong with a selection of her favourite cosmetics. Clinique chubby sticks and cheek pops will always go down well, Paul and Joe do some of the prettiest make up around and for teenagers you can always rely on the limited edition collection from M&S. Alternatively this Disaster designs make up bag would make a lovely present and you could even fill it with her favourites for a fun personalized gift.

Finally for some luxurious haircare take a look at this Art of classic gift set from Paul Mitchell. Packaged in a beautiful printed wash bag, you'll find a full sized bottle of their original shampoo, conditioner and fast drying sculpting spray.  It comes in 8 other varieties but if you're not sure of her hair type then this would be the most universal. Perfect for the girl who likes a touch of everyday luxury.

How are you getting on with your Christmas shopping? Did any of the gift ideas catch your eye?

JewelCandle review and giveaway

It's safe to say that my love for scented candles is well documented here on Peonies and lilies and come Winter time there's bound to be at least one lit up every single night. Recently I came across JewelCandle, a brand which incorporates scented candles and jewellery with an element of surprise:

JewelCandle review and giveaway

JewelCandle fruity watermelon
JewelCandle fruity watermelon review

JewelCandle fruity watermelon review
JewelCandle fruity watermelon review

Each candle burns up to 150 hours and hidden near the top is a 925 sterling silver earring or ring (depending on the flavour you choose). The surprise lies in the fact that until you open up the packet you've no idea what the jewellery will be like, although JewelCandle guarantees that all items will retail between £10-£250.

As I have quite small fingers and find rings difficult to fit, I went for Fruity watermelon, a fresh summery scent with a pair of earrings hidden inside. When lit the scent throw was a little too subtle for my liking but the novelty of these candles lies in the surprise jewellery hidden underneath. After a couple of evenings (I may have been impatient and given it a little helping hand!) I dug out my little package. Each piece of jewellery is wrapped in a plastic bag and silver foil to protect it from the hot wax and after unwrapping I was treated to a pair of ruby red earrings.

Now onto the giveaway - the lovely people at JewelCandle have agreed to give away a Pink cherry ring candle for one lucky winner. For your chance to win simply be a Bloglovin and GFC follower of Peonies and lilies, then leave a comment below telling me what your favourite Winter scent is. Don't forget to also leave an email address or Twitter handle so I can get in touch if you are the lucky winner. This giveaway will be open to all UK residents and will close at 11:59pm on 21st December 2014.

Good luck!

Boots Christmas 2014 - My top picks

Although December has a habit of sneaking up on me, for as long as I can remember the arrival of Boots Christmas catalogue has always signalled the start of the festive season. As a teenager I used to spend hours making wishlists and taking advantage of their 3 for 2 deal (2 for them, 1 for me)! This year I was given a little sneak preview and as there are now only 3 weeks left I thought what better time then to start my Christmas gift guide with a selection of their top gifts for 2014:

One of the best things about Christmas gifts is the chance to try something new and this set from Benefit features 10 of their best sellers. Amongst others there's a mini They're real mascara, Poreprofessional primer and Dandelion blush. Alternatively if you're already a fan then this would be a good chance to stock up on travel minis. 

Nail polishes are a safe bet at Christmas and for girlfriends and sisters I'd recommend this beautifully packaged gift set from Ted Baker. With 3 colours, a nail art pen and stickers it's a fun opportunity to experiment and will be perfect for any upcoming Christmas and New year parties. 

This last year both me and my friends have gotten a lot more into homeware and if you're in the same situation then take a look at their festive foodie and home gift sets. There are some lovely scented candles from Florence Anne but for tea lovers I'd recommend this gift set from Twinings. Perfect for sharing there's a pack of English breakfast tea, 2 floral mugs and a white tray which I'm planning on using as beauty storage afterwards. 

Finally for the girl who has everything you can't go wrong with this beauty advent calendar - the only problem being it would have to be an early Christmas present. With deluxe samples of make up, skincare and body care there's a new treat to try out everyday and will be sure to be popular with friends and mums alike. 

How are you getting on with Christmas shopping? What are your favourite gift sets this year? 

November favourites

Another month over, another set of beauty favourites to share. November turned out to be a rather hectic month, what with long commutes and busy days at work so most of my favourites center around daily essentials, with just a splash a colour from some lovely new gel polishes:

November favourites, Dove oxygen moisture, Batiste care and vitality, Maxfactor gel shine lacquer, Bourjois rouge edition velvet
November favourites

Starting with haircare and this month it was all about Dove oxygen moisture range. Designed for fine flat hair which lacks moisture this couldn't have been more perfect for me. All 3 products are infused with oxygen for that lightweight feel and rinse away easily with water so as to not weigh down the hair. The shampoo lathers up easily without irritating the scalp and the souffle treatment in particular is very hydrating, leaving my hair soft and tangle free. With such long hair I haven't noticed a huge difference in volume, but compared to other shampoos my hair definitely has more bounce post wash and because it's such a gentle and affordable range, perfect for everyday use.

For those in between days I couldn't be without a dry shampoo and this month I've been loving the new Batiste care and vitality dry shampoo. It's got the same oil absorbing and volumising properties we all know and love, but with the addition of mandarin oil so it helps to look after the hair too. Another thing to mention is that it smells absolutely beautiful and the every time I use it, the combination of white blossom, lychee, amber, lily and musk always reminds me of my much loved Emporio Armani diamonds perfume.

Clarins lotus face treatment oil
November favourites - Clarins lotus face treatment oil

For skincare there was only one product this month - Clarins lotus face treatment oil. For years I've struggled with an oily t-zone and dehydrated cheeks, but thanks to Clarins I feel like I've finally found a product which tackles both problems at the same time without aggravating the other. Made with rosewood, geranium and lotus extracts it's specifically designed for combination skin. As with most oils my skin immediately felt nourished on application and within a week of use it had become more balanced and my T-zone far less oily during the day. It takes a little while to sink in so I like to save this for night time use only but the blend of essential oils is so relaxing and I love taking the time to really massage this into the skin.

November favourites - Maxfactor and Bourjois

For low maintenance lips I've been loving Bourjois rouge edition velvet in Happy nude year. It's a really beautiful rose pink shade which goes on matte and leaves behind a long lasting stain, perfect if you don't like to top up during the day. Applied lightly it's super flattering and adds just enough colour to brighten up the face without being too obvious. Out of habit I like to layer on balm during the day but it's by no means a drying formula and actually feels very comfortable on the lips.

Finally I've been embracing the fact that I can now wear nail varnish at work and can't get enough of these Maxfactor gel shine lacquers. Opaque in just one coat these are super glossy and smooth on the nails. They really do look like gels and the formula is relatively long lasting too. Shown above are Twinking pink a bright fuchsia and Glazed cobalt a royal blue, which given that I don't normally like blues has turned out to be a surprising new favourite. I've now got my eyes on radiant ruby and sparkling berry, both of which would be perfect for the cold winter months.

Have you tried any of the products above? What are your November favourites?
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