Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday Giveaway - £50 to spend at Groupon! (CLOSED)

(This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jessica!)

Hi girls! Thank God it's Friday, huh? The weekend is calling me! And just to make this Friday even more fabulous I'm delighted to offer up a sweet giveaway. Groupon (UK) have kindly donated a £50 voucher for one lucky reader. The voucher acts just like a gift card - upload to your account and use to pay for several smaller items as and when or put the entire amount towards something bigger. Your choice!

I'm sure most of you have already heard of Groupon. I think it's awesome and have purchased deals many times - facials, spray tans, haircuts, jewellery; you name it, I've bought it. So long as you read the small print and check out online reviews for the goods and services on offer then you can't go far wrong. 

To Enter:

♥ Become a follower of Sofia's Journal via Google Friend Connect (right sidebar!)
♥ Leave a comment on this post, with your email address or twitter name so I can contact the winner.
♥ For additional entries Like Sofia's Journal on Facebook (one extra entry) and/or follow me on Twitter and tweet the following (one extra entry) :- Visit to win a £50 Groupon voucher! @SofiasJournal

As this is for Groupon UK entries can only be accepted from UK residents. Entries will be counted until 11.59pm Friday 11th May 2012 and the winner announced here soon after. Good luck!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Ways To Wear The Maxi Skirt

Maxi skirts must be the most versatile clothing piece ever. I love that they look ultra feminine, work in pretty much any weather and hide a multitude of sins. I'm pretty much obsessed. I've created a board on pinterest to add fashion photographs featuring the maxi dress. Follow my boards to keep up to date!

From L/R: topshop £18, topshop £26, dorothy perkins £20, new look £15, matalan £12, dorothy perkins £45, primark £10, chloĆ© £535

Psst... I have a giveaway to launch tomorrow so check back for the details! 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Swarzkopf Got2B Play it Straight

- sponsored post

I'm already a huge fan of got2b and religiously use their heat protector spray, so I was pretty interested to hear about this new product. Play it Straight is a semi permanent solution to unmanageable hair; a straightening blow dry kit to tame frizzy, wild and out of control hair for straight styles that will last up to 10 washes. The product contains a special protein that helps loosen that bonds that make hair frizzy, whilst also containing keratin, silk and wheat proteins for care and condition. It's a simple two step process which takes around 30 minutes. A quicker, cheaper alternative to the Brazilian Blow Dry?!
- got2b is priced at £6.99 RRP and available now at Boots, Asda, Superdrug, Savers and Amazon.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Raspberry & Chocolate Brownies

We invited friends over for Sunday lunch so on Saturday morning I decided to whip up some brownies for dessert. Instead of sticking with my much loved best ever chocolate brownies I tested out this recipe. It's not a foolproof method (if you're after a traditional store bought style brownie then stick with the others) but the surprise of the raspberry as it hits your taste buds is divine. The unexpected gooey chocolate centre is also really quite scrumptious.

Makes 15

♥ 200g | 7oz dark chocolate, broken into chunks
♥ 100g | 4oz milk chocolate, broken into chunks
♥ 250g salted butter
♥ 400g | 5oz plain flour
♥ 50g | 2oz cocoa powder
♥ 200g | 7oz fresh raspberries
♥ 4 large eggs

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line 20 x 30cm baking tray with parchmant. Place chocolate, butter and sugar in pan and gently melt, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. 

2. Stir eggs in, one by one. Sieve over flour and cocoa. Stir in half the raspberries. Pour entire mixture into tray then scatter over remaining raspberries. Bake on the middle shelf for at least 30 minutes. I prefer a firmer texture so continued to bake mine until satisfied. Leave to cool completely before slicing into squares.

- courtesy of Good Food Magazine.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Life Lately - Via Instagram

caramel shortbread & hot chocolate // the cotswolds // sulphate free Loreal shampoo & conditioner to try out // espadrilles £8 via Matalan // fish cakes // new geek glasses by Givenchy // beer garden // reed diffuser via Neom // sandwich & chunky chips

Friday, 20 April 2012

A Review - Cloud Nine Original Straightening Iron

cloud 9 original iron review

I first came across the Cloud Nine straightening iron whilst at a swanky Manchester salon at least two years ago. At that time I made a mental note to do some research and consider these should my GHDs ever pack up. Whilst my GHDs are still going strong, I feel like they leave my hair frazzled and dry because my hair just doesn't need quite that much heat. I was fortunate enough to be sent this iron recently and its been a pleasure to try out.

The number one difference between these and other irons on the market is the temperature control (ranging from 100 to 200+) giving you complete flexibility over styling. Aside from this, the black ceramic plates apparently contain a 'mysterious ingredient' to give extra shine. I have no clue what that ingredient is but they sure do make my hair shiny - major plus!

cloud 9 original iron review

The enclosed instruction booklet has proved super useful - giving hints on what temperature to use depending on your objectives and hair type. By following the manual (and peeking at a few online videos) I had a lot of success using these to create soft curls and found the shape of the barrel perfect for this. On the whole I've found I don't need to go higher than 150 degrees for any of the styles I've tried. This makes me happy - less heat has to be better for my hair, right?!

cloud 9 original iron review

My iron came with a faux leather cream case (retail price for the kit is £129.95) and this was the only aspect that left me disappointed. The case is just too big and bulky that I can't see how it could be useful - I personally wouldn't take it along on a trip away and it's even too big just sitting in my bedroom! I'd like to see a protective storage case that matches the sleek and compact design of the iron.

Overall, these irons outshine all previous irons I've used in terms of quality and effect. Sure, they're pricey but it's an investment worth making when you use them often and there's a 2 years guarantee for peace of mind.

For more information take a look at the Cloud Nine web site. There's an exclusive 10% code on facebook :)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

the books & videos that inspire me

Your twenties are a journey of discovery. You think you know all about life by the time you hit 21 but really you know very little. Will Smith famously said (who knew he was so insightful?!) that the key to life is running and reading. The reason that reading is so important? Billions of people have lived before us. Every emotion and problem we've ever had has already been experienced and solved before, then written about in a book. There are so many great books out their teaching various life lessons; here are just a few of those that meant something to me. You can look up the detailed reviews on Amazon for more information.

One of the most profound concepts I learnt early on was the importantance of positive thought - the ability to move past the negative, focus on the positive and 'make' good things happen. If you're consumed with negativity and submit to a victim mentality then you'll find life so much harder than it need be. It's a really tough mental shift to make, especially if you're naturally a 'glass is half empty' kind of person like me, but if you work at it daily it becomes a habit and the consequences are nothing short of amazing. 

If this is something that resonates you might find The Secret by Rhonda Byrne helpful - it shares a lot of the basic concepts in an accessible, easy to read format. This book inspired me to move onto Affirmations by Stuart Wilde, which is not so mainstream (I wouldn't recommend picking it out as your first venture into this arena!) but amazing all the same

Special mention must go the 'The Rules' series by Richard Templar (includes The Rules of Life, Wealth, Love and Parenting). I personally think these books are genius in their simplicity. A lot of what he writes might well be common sense and stuff we all should just know, but I love it nonetheless. It acts as a perfect reminder. This book should be in every household and given to every 14 year old at school. I know I'll be passing it on to my kids when the teenage years beckon.

Reading isn't for everyone, so now for the fun (and free!) stuff. Here are a selection of the most inspirational videos I discovered on you tube. Bookmark this post and pop back on a rainy Sunday - cuddle up in bed with your laptop, a cup of tea and snacks and make your way through. A couple of them are super long, but worth every second. 

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005. I heard my all time favourite quote during this speech. It's stayed with me ever since - "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet keep looking, don't settle. As with all matters of the heart you'll know when you find it."

The Story of Dick & Rick Hoyt. Man, this is a tearjerker. If only all parents the world over displayed this love and commitment to their children.

The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Randy Pausch knew he was going to die from terminal cancer. This was his last lecture. His later speech, shortly before his death is just as inspiring.

Stephanie Nielson's New Life. Wow, this woman is amazing - I cannot even explain how much I admire her and the outlook on life she maintains in spite of such horrific life experiences.

♥ Sprinter Derek Redmond teaches us to never give up.

Christian The Lion.

Leave a comment and link me to your favourite inspirational videos! And read any great books? Let me know so I can check them out.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Primark Summer 2012 Campaign Lookbook

I love the fresh and funky vibe of Primark's Miami inspired summer 2012 campaign. These items were scheduled to drop in store from the end of March through April. Any of you had any luck scouting them out? I'm all over a couple of the print mini dresses!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Natural Beauty Products by Green People

The lovely team at Green People sent me a few products from their range earlier this year. I'd heard great reports about this company and was keen to try out natural beauty for myself. The story behind Green People is really quite inspirational and well worth a read. We're bombarded with so many chemicals throughout our daily lives that I'd personally like to take a little bit of control back and reduce that load where I can. The struggle I'll probably have relates to money - how do I make that mental shift to go from paying £1 for a bottle of branded body wash on offer at Tesco which works just fine and dandy to £10 for a natural version?

Before I chat on, check out this recent article which goes some way to explaining just how negative man made chemicals are to our bodies. Skin irritations, like eczema, are the tip of the surface - the damage we can't actually 'see' is far more scary.

Gentle Cleanse & Make Up Remover: This was by far my favourite out of the products I tested. It worked a dream to completely remove all traces of make up - even Double Wear, and a lot of you probably know how heavy that is! I love how clean this leaves my skin without it ever feeling 'stripped'. It definitely minimised the look of pores too which is always a huge plus in my book. Amazing, amazing cleanser which I'd happily purchase again. £18.95 / 200ml

Vitamin Shampoo: This shampoo still lathers up, in spite of it being free from those chemicals which usually create all that lather. And that's good with me because I like my shampoo to lather! I can't work with it any other way. Gives tremendous shine and smells gorgeous - zingy and fresh. Another winner. £9.95 / 200ml

Intensive Repair Conditioner: Now here's where I go unstuck. I had a funny feeling this conditioner would fail to live up the likes of Kerastase and Tigi which I've always found super moisturising on my slightly stressed and heat styled barnet. And fail it did. That's not to say it didn't work at all - it totally did - but I've had better results from other brands. £10.95 / 200ml

Day Solutions: I may have to avoid reviewing moisturisers altogether on this blog as I'm so bad at it - I honestly can't tell a great deal of difference between all the creams I try! All I can say is that this worked just fine, felt nice (non-greasy, smooth result) and provided a great base for make-up. The price is perfectly reasonable for what's on offer. £13.95 / 50ml

Pressed Mineral Powder: I found this useful for every day but didn't find the finish special enough for nights out, which was just as expected. I've been wearing it all the time for work and the like - it gives a natural, matte finish and perfected the appearance of my skin. I do wear foundation/concealer under but found this worked nicely as a setting powder. Those of you who like to go natural will find this works well alone - you can buff, layer and build. Unfortunately the £20.45 price tag reduces the appeal for me.

Have any of you tried Green People or any other natural beauty brand? What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with the price tag on certain items like I do? Over time I'd like to swap over to natural moisturisers and body lotions (kinda makes me feel ill to think of all those chemicals soaking through my skin into my bloodstream!) and shampoo for sure. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Spontaneous Trip Away

Hello! So glad you all loved the pretty iPhone cases just as much as I did - one will definitely be shipped my way once I choose. Last week we took a spontaneous trip to The Cotswolds and were completely taken in with its charm and beauty. But the weather was pretty grim for the most part which had me thinking it might be time to consider some more exotic travel locations from now on.

It looks like I might have a little more time on my hands going forward which just might mean a return to frequent posting. Keep your fingers crossed for me!