Friday, 30 May 2014

Instagram: May 2014

tapping away with pretty nails and rings • bank holiday blogging • clean blueberry porridge • couldn't resist the hilarity of this cup from urban outfitters • all white everything • reading books I actually want to be read • dinosaur necklace • fresh roses from the garden and new topshop pastel flats • mac warm neutral palette • sour face throwback • to the now • strawberry jam lovin' • my scruffy baby • quick brunch • simplistic art by didier courbot • gold fawn ring

Another month whizzes by and May, you've been good to me. I officially finished university (and found out my dissertation was a 2:1!) so I've had a pretty relaxed month all in all. With the exception of working, I've taken some time out for myself and really enjoyed every moment of it. I've been reflective, relaxed and incredibly snap-happy.

A lot of my spare time has been spent on Pinterest - a rekindled love - where my penchant for clean white interiors has been truly exercised. Boards on beauty, style, hair envy, dream destinations and the like have been slowly filling up throughout this month. My best friend asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding (eeek!) so I've been pinning wedding inspiration on there too! I went through a load of old photographs and found myself reminiscing and inspired to write my latest Sunday Edit post. I found the above photo of my two-year-old sour-face and decided to pop it next to my latest Instagram selfie - oh how I've changed! I'm also loving reading what I want, and am currently making my way through the L.A. Candy series by Lauren Conrad. Have you any of you read them? I'm really enjoying them so far! I did some shopping (of course I did) and proudly posted about my beautiful MAC Warm Neutral Palette which has been in use every day since its arrival. Food features on my Instagram every month and I'm not sorry about it in the slightest - it's what the app is for, right? I made strawberry jam tarts, jammie dodgers, brunches and breakfasts worthy of a quick snap - and you all seemed very happy to indulge!

So May was a pretty damn good relaxing month. I wonder what June will bring... Good weather I hope above all else!

What have you guys been up to?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Homemade Jam Tarts and Jammie Dodgers

I love strawberry jam. It's my favourite of all preserves and if I ever get the chance I try and make it myself. However, with it only just coming into strawberry season in England, it's pretty hard to find the juicy plump fruit to stew and make good quality jam. Therefore, I cheat (like most normal people) and bought the delicious Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve with the intention of making some sweet treats on my day off. Morning toast aside, there's nothing I like more than dipping a spoon into a freshly opened pot of the sweet stuff. Today I decided to make two yummy confections: jam tarts and my version of the jammy dodger.


Jam tarts are super easy to make - you can even cheat and whip these babies up in about 12 minutes if you buy readymade pastry and jam. A childhood favourite of most kids, I think they could be a good start for your little ones in the kitchen during this half term week. And here's how you make them...

To make your own shortcrust pastry (easier than you think!) you'll need:

175g (6 oz) plain flour
90g (3 oz) well-chilled butter or margarine
2 tbsp of cold water
  1. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl. Cut the butter or margarine (I used salted butter) into small chunks and add to the bowl. Stir to coat the fat with the flour.
  2. Using your fingertips, quickly and lightly rub the fat into the flour, lifting the mixture to incorporate air, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the cold water and stir gently with a table knife to mix. If the mixture seems too dry to bind together, add a little more water.
  3. Gather the mixture together and knead very briefly until smooth (handle the dough as little as possible or the pastry will be tough). If the dough feels at all sticky, add a little more flour. Shape into a ball, wrap, and chill for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, roll out the pastry dough onto a floured surface and cut circles with a pastry cutter that has a fluted edge. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, and place your pastry circles into a cupcake tray, pressing lightly to make tart cases. Add a teaspoon of jam to every tart and place into the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes. The jam will be bubbling like crazy so be careful! Leave them to cool on a wire rack, and by the time you've cleaned up you'll have delicious little jam tarts!


I adopted a Mary Berry shortbread recipe for these, simply because they're tried and tested (and taste amazing). They would be great for a summer afternoon tea, with the addition of some fresh whipped cream - ooh baby...

To make the shortbread you'll need:

125g (4 oz) plain flour
60g (2 oz) semolina or cornflour
125g (4 oz) butter
60g (2 oz) caster sugar
  1. Mix the flour with the semolina or cornflour (I used the latter) in a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips. Stir in the sugar. Knead the mixture lightly until it forms a smooth dough.
  2. Lightly grease a baking tray. Between two sheets of baking paper, roll out the dough into an 18cm (7 inch) round. 

The recipe makes about 20 biscuits in all, so that's 10 if you sandwich them together into jammie dodgers. 10 were just cut out into hearts, the other 10 had a smaller heart cut out of the middle so you can see the jam. I didn't have a smaller heart cutter so I just cut out the middle freehand. 

Bake in the oven at gas mark 3 for up to 35 minutes, or until pale but golden-brown. Once cooled, turn the big heart biscuits upside down and spread liberally with strawberry jam. Dust the cut-out biscuits with icing sugar, piece together and you're done!

And there you have it - two quick and easy recipes involving the beloved British favourite strawberry jam. Do you have a sweet tooth?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Sunday Edit #2

Hello all! This week I've been feeling rather reflective. I've mostly been thinking about my life, where it's heading and, strangely, my education. As you already know (because I've droned on and on about it for the past few months, so sorry) I finished university recently and I now feel like I don't know what to do with myself. I've been in education for the best part of 18 years, and am a person who craves structure and routine, so being more or less on my own now makes me feel quite anxious.

It makes me wonder, do you ever wish you could live parts of your life again? Whether that's a day in your past, a long summer holiday, or even just a few hours when you felt happiest, sometimes I think we all deserve a bit of reflection. I know some people say that you shouldn't live in the past, but it's important we don't forget where we came from. Our past makes us who we are today, after all. 

I would love to know which moments of your past you would like to relive again, because for me, I wish I could go back to my primary school years. Those early years when you were clueless, but didn't have a care in the world. You're just figuring out who you are and what you like. I remember when I first started school and we were on half-days, and I went home at lunchtime with my best friend and we ate peanut butter sandwiches (the photographs in our school uniform were from that very day!) Strong memories of taking part in the village parade as an oompa loopma, playtimes on the school field in the summer term, making up dances, doing cartwheels and handstands, making daisy-chains, playing jumprope (I had the coolest rainbow skipping rope), involving the whole class in Red Rover, Cat & Mouse, Bulldog, Hokey Cokey etc. You name a 90s school game, I'm sure we all played it at one point or another! 

I loved having the same teacher for the first three or four years of my school life. Her name was Miss Thefault and she was my absolute favourite person. As the reception and year 1 class we sat on the alphabet carpet in front of a huge heavy TV set to watch El Nombre and Numbertime, sometimes Play Days with Rosie the magical roundabout that took you on adventures. We also used to play on the oldest Mackintosh's ever, on a game called Granny's Garden with the most terrifying witch that always took you by surprise when you picked the wrong option. I just remember feeding junk food to a load of dragons in one level, haha! I wish I could go back to that. Back to the days when the most nerve-wracking thing was presenting in the class assembly in front of the rest of the school and your parents. When you would base your reading skills on the adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper. When Mr Champion (yes, real name) would bring in his guitar and we would all sit around him and sing silly songs. When it was your turn to man the overhead projector in an assembly. When the library bus made its rounds and it was so exciting when it was your turn to choose a book. When we would walk down the road to the church for the harvest festival every autumn. When you made paper snowflakes and decorated the classroom for Christmas. When you learned to swim in the freezing pool, and earned your cycling proficiency certificate. When you made your first carrot cupcake in the smallest baking room ever. When you upgraded to year 6 and felt like a total boss...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my strongest memories from education, and life really, will always be from where I first started. I walk past my primary school now and everything has changed. It makes me kind of sad! One thing I'm going to tell my children is to enjoy school and never take it for granted. Your school years have the potential to be the best years of your life, and you can't do it over again so you have to make it count. So now, I sit here (yes, rewatching episodes of Play Days on YouTube...) feeling very nostalgic and still unsure about my future. It's so scary to think I am, in theory, a proper adult now. I feel very lucky to have had such a brilliant education experience but I now have the freedom to be whoever I want to be! Let's just hope that my degree wasn't for nothing!

I would love to know what your strongest memories are, educational or not! What part of your life would you like to go back to and relive?

Sunday, 18 May 2014

MAC Warm Neutral Palette

Step aside UD Naked palettes, there's a new makeup marvel in town! As soon as I heard that the MAC Warm Neutral Palette was back in stock I knew I had to get in there quick. This amazing palette contains 15 preset eyeshadows for only £65! That's incredible value considering that a regular 15 pro palette and an insert costs £20.50, and each eyeshadow is a tenner a pop. I make that a saving of over £105 on this little beauty. Worth every penny! There's a little something to suit everyone here, with shades that will compliment all colours of eyes and blend with a variety of finishes.

So let's take a closer look, shall we?

HEY (VELUXE PEARL) - A soft peach with a subtle shimmer, Hey can be a lovely addition to your base eyeshadows or, indeed, can create a gorgeous brow bone and inner corner highlight. Understated yet probably will be one shadow I get a lot of use out of. As you can see, the colour pay-off is quite good and leaves a smooth buttery finish to your lids.

WARM BREEZE (SATIN) - I would describe Warm Breeze as a pale coral with slight shimmer. The finish is satin, and with the exception of that hint of shimmer, almost matte. The texture is smooth, and applies very well to the lids. Like Hey, the colour pay-off is good for the shade but is medium coverage at best.

GINGERSNAP (FROST) - Gingersnap is one of those shades that I really like. I think it looks so inviting in the pan and even better when swatched. I'm stuck between describing it as a fleshy-pink and a medium-toned coral, but both are quite apt. The shimmer in it is lovely, and with a damp brush applies with a real deep pigmentation. This shade would be great swiped over the lid on its own or built up into a more dramatic look. It's also really good for underneath the eye, for a bit of subtle definition without being too overpowering.

DARK BREW (VELVET) - A deep burgundy brown, Dark Brew is very fitting to its namesake. It has some shimmer but doesn't translate onto the lid as much as others in the palette. The colour pay-off is sheer but buildable - it took me a few goes to get the swatch looking like that! I think blending would be a bit of a problem with this one too, but if you're willing to work for it the colour is quite stunning.

DANCE IN THE DARK (MATTE) - This eyeshadow is pretty much dark brown, almost black. I always find matte eyeshadows of any brand quite tricky to blend and swatch with a decent amount of colour. Unfortunately this one is no different, however with a damp brush the shade does eventually start to look more sturdy and less powdery on the lid. I would use Dance in the Dark as a liner more than anything else.

BRULE (SATIN) - Sheer light beige with a soft finish. Like Hey, I would use this as either a base colour for the lid or a barely-there highlighter, just to blend the other shadows used together. Not much more to say on this one, I know it's a firm favourite in most people's MAC collections but until I purchased this palette I had never had the urge to reach for it.

VANILLA EXTRACT (FROST) - Vanilla Extract seems to be the frost version of the matte Vanilla, which is a shade that I use all the time in my Pro Quad. Again it's a very light beige but has more pink tones, and a little more colour pay-off than Brule. I think this one is pretty good for emulating bare skin, for when you want that no-makeup-makeup look. A look, I have to say, that I'm not very familiar with.

HONEY LUST (LUSTRE) - A warm coppery bronze with shimmer, I've been using Honey Lust on top of my base shadow and it tends to make it pop so much more. It has great pigmentation alone, and would be a great shadow to just apply and run on those really busy days when you don't have a lot of time to do your makeup. Be aware of fallout on this one though - damp dense brushes at the ready!

AMBER LIGHTS (FROST) - An old acquaintance for me, Amber Lights is described by MAC as "peachy-brown with shimmer". However, I still think it has more of an orange or coppery tinge to it. It seriously contrasts with my pale skin so I tend to use it sparingly. The frost formula is great because you can pack on huge amounts of colour without any fall down and the shimmer really lends itself to the overall look you're trying to achieve. 

SADDLE (MATTE) - I'm in two minds about Saddle. On the one hand I really appreciate its colour - it's a lovely terracotta-orange but, on the other hand, I would not know what to do with it! I definitely think it's way too orange-toned for my skin but perhaps it would make a good eyeliner, or under eye colour? I'm not sure, do let me know if you have this one and what you use it for! I presume it would be brilliant for blue eyes to make them stand out.

LEMON TART (VELUXE PEARL) - Out of all the shades in this palette, Lemon Tart has really surprised me. In the pan it looks quite demure, but on the lids it's very striking. It's a beautiful pale lemon gold with just the right amount of shimmer. I don't own any yellow shadows in my vast collection, at least not one that I would ever reach for, but this baby is actually rather wearable. I've found that it's fantastic as an inner corner highlight.

CREATIVE COPPER (LUSTRE) - A metallic medium brown, Creative Copper provides high pigmentation. I really like this one. It's very buttery and soft, and blends very well without much fallout. 

BUTTERFUDGE (SATIN) - The name really entices you in, doesn't it? Butterfudge (drool) is a soft golden brown eyeshadow with great pigmentation and a smooth finish. Smooth like butter (fudge) - okay, stop now... Practicality-wise, I think this is the most versatile and wearable of all the shades in the palette. It would be a good starting point for a bronzy smokey eye. 

DIVINE DECADENCE (VELVET) - I would liken the colour of Divine Decadence to espresso coffee; think that with a spritz of shimmer. I really like this shade for blending into the crease as it's dark enough for drama but shimmery enough that it's not too in-your-face. The micro flecks of golden shimmer definitely gives the colour a lustrous appearance. It looks pretty in the pan too.

UNWIND (VELUXE PEARL) - The final eyeshadow is a bit of a wildcard for me. Unwind is a golden shade but with a khaki tinge to it. I'm not entirely sure how I really feel about it. The olive hues kind of make it seem more on the cool side if you ask me, so I wonder why it's in the warm palette. Either way, it looks pleasant in the pan, and swatches as quite a dirty gold. The pigmentation is good and there wasn't any fallout when applied.

Value for money aside, you would be proud to have all of these eyeshadows in your makeup collection. I've not had a proper chance to truly play around with them, but you can be sure this will be the palette I reach for when I go to do my makeup. There are shades in there that would work for daytime, and others which could transition into a more dramatic nighttime look. Beautiful shimmers, frosts and pearls; hell, even the matte finishes are gorgeous! I'm very impressed with this palette and am very tempted to pick up the Cool Neutral Palette on my next pay day!

What do you think?

MAC Warm Neutral Palette retails at £65 (a total steal), and is available from the MAC website.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Anastasia Beverly Hills DipBrow Pomade

"If you don't have eyebrows, you don't really have a face."

Oh yes, today I'm talking about my eyebrows. When I was a teenager the "in" thing was to have those hideous pencil thin brows which caused me to succumb to peer pressure and seriously over-pluck. I severely regret ever doing it - the outcome was so awful and my eyebrows have never grown back the same. I have since made it my mission to have super slick brows, naturally or not. Some of us just need a little help getting that perfect brow shape, and I have tried so many techniques and products over the years so I can finally achieve killer brows.

My eyebrows are short (from over-plucking) and hold little shape. The only part that I've ever be able to get relatively right is the arch.

I absolutely love Anastasia Beverly Hills brow products. The Brow Wiz is wonderful for creating faux individual hairs where you have sparse areas. The crayon-like twist contraption comes with a spooly brush on the other end which is super-handy too. If I wanted extra colour, I would go over my brows with MAC Omega eyeshadow, which makes the look much softer. I bought the Brow Wiz in Medium Ash and it seems to suit very well. The only problem I've found with it is that it runs out too quickly. That's why I couldn't wait for the DipBrow Pomade to become available in the UK!

The Anastasia DipBrow Pomade is a tinted creamy formula that promises polished eyebrows, no matter the state of your natural arches. Let me tell you, once applied it does not budge. The formula is waterproof, smudgeproof and ideal for creating defined brows that won't melt in hot weather or torrents of rain (it's pretty much either/or in England!) It has a gel-mousse consistency that adheres to your natural brows, but it doesn't feel sticky or crunchy on the hairs. I bought mine in the shade 'chocolate'. Shock horror, I'm not a natural blonde. My dark eyebrows clearly dictate that. I've personally always been a fan of dark, defined brows so having different coloured brows to hair doesn't bother me in the slightest. I use my Louise Young LY31 Angled Brow Sable Brush to apply the product, and you really don't need a lot to create a lovely shape. I tend to draw my desired outline and then fill it in - sometimes it comes out more natural than others, but it's all about practise. For that completely polished look I use creamy concealer (Bobbi Brown's is my favourite) around the brow, especially the brow bone, to cement the shape.

Overall, Anastasia Beverly Hills gets a huge thumbs up from me! I have yet to sample a brow product that I'm unhappy with - just as well, as they're not a budget buy. I really want to try the Brow Stencil Kit next. It looks great for stencilling on your perfect shaped brow, which you can mix up from time-to-time!

Have you tried the DipBrow Pomade? What do you think of more defined eyebrows?

Anastasia Beverly Hills DipBrow Pomade retails at £15, and is available from Cult Beauty.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bed Head by TIGI Urban Antidotes: Recovery

I'm going to hold my hands up here and admit that I'm a self-confessed heat user. I straighten my hair way more than I should (I shouldn't really do it at all but needs must) so I require the help of other products in order to sort the state of my barnet. Heat protection products can only do so much for me - I fear that my hair has been damaged beyond complete repair, thanks to having a pair of GHDs for the best part of 10 years. I bleach, dry on a high heat, straighten, curl... Let's face it, I don't do a lot to help my case. So what does a girl do when her dull, damaged hair is in need of some TLC? A shampoo and conditioner range that does what it says on the proverbial tin!

Bed Head by TIGI's Urban Antidotes range has served me so well over the years. Recovery is damage level 2, billed perfect for dry and damaged hair that is in dire need of moisture. The first thing you notice is the smell of both products; it's a very sweet sherbet scent so I imagine it would divide opinion. I personally love it! The shampoo lathers nicely, feels quite rich yet moisturising at the same time. The conditioner soaks in well and leaves hair feeling soft, smooth and manageable. I have notoriously tangled hair and have actually stopped using my Macadamia Deep Repair Masque as much since using the Recovery conditioner. That's got to be pretty good, right?

I also really like the simplicity of the packaging, which is easily distinguishable from other products in the range. The squeeze tubes make for ease of use and the metallic blue is very eye-catching. The prescription-like labelling adds to the whole "antidotes" theme - very clever, TIGI.

Depending on the level of revival, the products are also available in Re-Energize and Resurrection. Re-Energize is more cleansing for the hair, while Resurrection is super moisturising, and Recovery is basically the go-between. I use Recovery twice weekly and, if I'm having a bad hair week, I'll shake it up with a session of Resurrection too. The only problem I ever have with shampoos and conditioners is that the shampoo is always bigger than the conditioner - everyone knows you need more conditioner, especially for dry and damaged hair! That can't be just me who this annoys.

Overall, I think the Urban Antidotes range would be fantastic for anyone who has dry and damaged hair due to excessive drying or heat styling, and piling on product after product. Hair is left feeling cleansed, moisturised, soft and luxurious. Is it revolutionary? Probably not, but any product that helps me on my way to healthy hair is certainly welcomed in my bathroom cabinet.

Bed Head by TIGI Urban Antidotes shampoos and conditioners retail at £10.35 and £11.65 respectively, and they're available from Feel Unique.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Country Walks

We always try to keep our dog walks quite varied and we're lucky to be so spoilt for choice on locations. I live on the south coast of England, so I have the luxury of living in a pretty village with tons of options for public country walks. In the autumn and spring, we prefer taking the dog down the beach - because we know Tegan doesn't mind having a bath afterwards - but there are pretty strict rules about exactly where you can walk your dog down the beach so we tend to avoid it from June to September. 

This particular walk was in the more private lanes of Birdham. It's a really picturesque area, with gorgeous scenery and equally beautiful houses. I aspire to live somewhere like this eventually - a huge house with tons of land and a double garage for my Range Rover, you know... A girl can dream! You won't see any photographs of the houses however, mostly because owners can be a bit funny about it and I didn't want to be disrespectful. But I can promise you that most houses look like they belong in The Sims; yes, they are that pretty.

We walked down public footpaths, private roads and country lanes. We also took a detour through Birdham Pool, which was heaving with people shining up their boats ready to go out of the marina for a sail. Opposite that was a lake with ducks and swans - wildlife is rife out in the country, I love it! I keep seeing the same pheasant in the same garden every time I walk round that way too. Starting to think it actually might live there???

I find wandering down country lanes very relaxing, especially on a sunny afternoon. It's nice for Tegan to be able to be off the lead and sniff until her heart's content. She loves a good sniff - it can be super frustrating when you're literally pulling her down the road! You can easily walk for miles without realising it, just soaking up the sun and gawking at the beautiful country scenery. I love the greenery and little pockets of pink and white every so often. I also feel like I get a bit of an education. The last time I was out in Birdham we found a private forrest with absolutely hundreds of bluebells, and my Mum told me how you can tell the difference between naturally British ones and artificial non-natives (native bluebells only droop on one side of the stem, fyi). 

You don't get that kind of lesson in the city!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Essie: Cute as a Button

Another Bank Holiday, eh? I hope it's been a happy one, and if you've been working I really do hope it was bearable for you. I know how crap working on a Bank Holiday can be - work was absolute mayhem on Saturday so I can't imagine what it was like today. I tend to save myself the frustration and stay home on days like this! Anyway, because I have a few days off I've been a bit snap-happy with my camera. I feel like it's been a while since I've done a good old nail polish post - and I finally have had enough time to actually paint my nails nicely so I thought I'd show them off to you!

I recently bought a whole bunch of Essie polishes, one of them being the classic Cute As A Button. How to describe this shade... I suppose it's best billed as a bright coral but in certain light it comes across as having slightly orange tones mixed into it. It has no shimmer or glitter either which I don't mind at all - glitter everywhere on removal, no thank-you. The colour is beautiful nonetheless. 

Essie describe it as so:

"A juicy persimmon delight of coral polish that adds an air of innocence instantly. Fresh, soft and ripe for the picking."

 Like any Essie nail polish, this shade is almost opaque after the first coat of colour for me, and intensifies after the second and third applications. I popped on three coats here simply because I had the time, but I'm sure it would still have sufficed with just one or two. I think it would look fantastic with a tan, and is not so "in-your-face" that you can't wear it on your toes too - hello summer sandals! I also love how fast the formula dries and how easy it is to apply without getting messy on the skin around the nails. 

I have a feeling that this colour will be a firm favourite throughout the spring and summer months! What do you guys think?

Essie Cute As A Button retails at £7.99, and is available from Boots, Superdrug and Essie.
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