Saturday, 31 January 2015

INSTAGRAM: JANUARY 2015


Winter Porter • Duomo di Milano • Mondays • The Last Souvenir Turns Two • Desk inspo • 2015 • Favourite Lip Balm • Dream House in West Wittering • MAC Modesty • The Views from this $95 Million NYC Penthouse • Best Birthday Gift - Daniel Wellington • Mini Eggs • Nude Louboutin lusting • My Staple Diet • Modern Bathroom • Tea in Bed

Yet again my Instagram has been full of interiors, food, blog photos, wanderlust etc this month, and I've now reached over 800 followers which is an amazing added bonus!

January always feels like a pretty slow month to me. I have to wait until the 22nd until my birthday which takes f o r e v e r, and then when it gets here it seems every other day goes super fast. Now we're moving into February - and hopefully out of the January blues (completely skint, sob sob) - I'm glad that the evenings are beginning to brighten up again. It's going to be so nice to leave work when it's still light out! 

At the beginning of the month this little corner of the internet turned the ripe old age of two. Two! I'm so happy to have kept up with it for this long, and I hope to continue in my usual colloquial style for many years to come. Every single one of you are so fabulous for chatting, sharing my passions, and commenting on my blog posts. I love to read your feedback and interact with you all - long may it continue!

If you're an avid reader then you know I've been trying to go sugar-free, and it was going really well until the last few days. Safe to say I've fallen off the wagon a little bit... I had a craving for Mini Eggs like you wouldn't believe, which then led to a nice sweet hot chocolate during a cold evening. Still, I'm trying really hard to cut down my sugar intake, but I don't know if I can omit it from my diet completely. I've realised that I have too much of a sweet tooth, and sometimes you just need something sweet, you know? Still, I have some lovely sugar-free, guilt-free recipes to post next month. I'm excited to show you, especially as this month's recipes have been wonderfully received, so thank-you for that.

Onto my birthday, which was a lovely one. I won't go into too much detail here as I wrote an entire blog post about it, but I had a great day with family and friends alike. I paused the diet and had a big fat Domino's and birthday cake, as well as a lot of wine, and received a beautiful Daniel Wellington watch from my parents. The style is the Lady Sheffield with a black leather strap and rose-gold features. Anyone else loving rose-gold at the moment? I think the watch is pretty timeless. I've worn it every day since - it's love!

How was your January? Have you kept your resolutions?
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Friday, 23 January 2015

TURNING 23

Ahhh, I do love a good awkward car selfie or two...

Hello everyone, hope you're well and have been having a bearable week! Yesterday I turned 23, and while I don't really ever do much for my birthday (unless it's a big milestone) this year certainly went up in my expectations. 
I always have Thursdays off work so I had a really lazy, relaxing morning. I slept in, ate pancakes in bed and opened my birthday presents. My parents bought me a beautiful Daniel Wellington watch that I've been lusting after for ages. I really love it, and I was quite surprised to receive it even though it had been on my Christmas wish list and despite me casually dropping hints into conversations over dinner for months. I also received How To Be Parisian Where Ever You Are, two new MAC lipsticks (Twig and Brave), Cards Against Humanity from my brother, a beautiful bouquet of roses, and money from other relatives. 

Tradition has it that we usually go out for lunch as a family but I didn't really fancy a huge meal. Instead my Mum took me for afternoon tea in town and it was gorgeous. We went to a quaint little place called Maison Blanc and it was the epitome of French patisserie - right up my street! I chose the breakfast tea - always my tea of choice all day, every day - and we mused over delicate finger sandwiches (the smoked salmon was rather delicious) and a selection of bite size sweet pastries. We ended up taking home a cute little box of freshly made macarons as well! A wander round the shops, as a trip to Lush was way overdue, and we were off home to walk off our patisserie podge.
In the evening, my parents made themselves scarce and went for a curry, while I picked up some friends in my car and we had a proper girly sleepover at mine. I actually felt like a teenager again, haha! We're talking a cheeky Dominos (it was my birthday, all the treats please), lots of wine, and Netflix. I know, we're total party animals. I think 23 has made me into more of an old lady, but it was just what I wanted. It was a relaxing night, full of giggles and reminiscing - lovely! 

So, yes, that's another birthday over and done with. I had a fabulous day and was spoilt rotten. Thank you to everyone who sent me birthday messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - everyone on Facebook is your friend on your birthday, aren't they? I swear I don't speak to half the people on there but it's nice to know that they took time out of their day to drop me a quick message all the same!

I'm currently nursing a sore throat, running on 4 hours sleep and munching on cold pizza. I'm pretty much dreading going to work this weekend!
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Sunday, 18 January 2015

SINGLE SERVE SKINNY APPLE CRUMBLE


It's no secret that I have a sweet tooth, but at the start of the year I made a promise to myself that I would cut down on refined sugar, eventually omitting it from my diet altogether. So far, so good. It's been just over two weeks and I'm starting to feel its positive effects. However I don't think that inkling of a sugar craving will ever go away. And I figured a little bit of what you fancy is okay once in a while, right? That's why I bought an inspired mini Le Creuset casserole dish - which amounts to a single serving of about 8oz! And then that's another classic dietary problem dealt with: portion size. Now I don't feel guilty about feeding my sweet tooth, especially with this much healthier apple crumble recipe! 

Healthy apple crumble, I hear you say? Well, yes. This recipe contains zero refined sugar and no bleached flours - only goodness. You get natural sweetness with a hint of tartness from the Bramley apples, the cinnamon in the filling gives it a lovely spice kick, and the hazelnuts in the crumble mixture provides you with a delicious crunchy crust with all the nuttiness you could want. Not only this, but I also added a little bit of pure maple syrup and this gives the crumble its desired sweetness with a slight bitter edge. It seems like a perfect combination to me!

APPLE SAUCE FILLING
4 Bramley cooking apples, cored, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup water
1tsp ground cinnamon
A splash of pure maple syrup

The filling is really simple, made up of just four ingredients. Pop the Bramley apples into a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, and cook on a medium heat until the apples are soft and little bit mushy but still have a bit of a bite to them (if that makes any sense at all). Mix in your cinnamon and some maple syrup, and set aside to thicken while you make the crumble topping.

Note: This makes a whole batch of apple sauce (it's so much better to make in batches, believe me) and you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. We also love using it for breakfast, topped on Greek yoghurt or hot porridge. You'll thank me for it!

CRUMBLE TOPPING
(serves one)
1tbsp wholemeal spelt flour
2tsp cold butter
1tbsp organic oats
1tbsp chopped hazelnuts

To begin the crumble topping, whiz up the whole hazelnuts in a food processor until you have a mixture of coarse meal and bigger nut pieces. In a separate bowl combine the wholemeal spelt flour and the cold butter with your fingers until the ingredients resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the organic oats and the hazelnuts, and mix so they are evenly distributed. 

Spoon the apple sauce into a baking dish. I use a slotted spoon for this, just so the mixture isn't too watery when it's being baked. Top with the crumble - I go about half and half because I think the best part of a crumble is the topping - and place in the middle of a preheated oven (gas mark 6, 200ºC, 400ºF) for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is a lovely golden-brown and the centre is steaming-hot. Serve with more maple syrup and/or, if you're looking for a real treat, cream or fresh vanilla ice cream. Yum!


I really hope you enjoyed reading this recipe and I encourage you to give it a go yourself. It's really very easy and doesn't take too long to cook. It just goes to show that your favourite desserts can certainly be adapted and made much healthier. I'll let you in to a little secret: I ate a portion of this for my lunch yesterday, and I didn't even feel the slightest bit guilty! 

So, after all that, could I sway you with a skinny apple crumble?

You can buy your own petite Le Creuset casserole dish here. 
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Thursday, 15 January 2015

CONTOURING FOR FAIRER SKIN TONES

Hello everyone, I hope you're well and having a good week! Today I give you my first beauty post of 2015: contouring for fairer skin tones. After doing a little research during the Twitter chats, asking around if anyone would be interested, to which a lot of you beautiful ladies said yes, I've opted to show you all how I contour my face and what products I reach for. Contouring is not something I do every time I apply my makeup because on some occasions it's not necessary and if I'm in a real hurry to get somewhere (work mainly) it's definitely the step in my regime that I miss out. Having said that, I do love contouring for a more dramatic look. It really makes your face appear slimmer in all the right places and just all-round polishes off your makeup. 

Contrary to popular belief, us fairer-skinned beauties would like to be able to contour too, and it's all about finding the right product to suit you. Personally, I prefer to use cream-based products as opposed to all the various powders out there. The colour is instant and blends out pretty seamlessly for a more, dare I say, "air-brushed" finish. I'd like to point out that I don't have anything against bronzing powders but I only apply them in the summer when I have a bit of a tan, otherwise I find even the lightest shade powder can be too orange for my skin tone. And I don't fancy looking like I've been Tango'd. Is anyone else in the same boat?
I'm sure there are many products out there to suit different skin types but I've found that Illamasqua, in particular, has become my contour saviour since discovering the company over a year ago. The Cream Pigment in the shade Hollow (a cool-toned toffee shade) is such a wonderful product that helps to create shadow on the face naturally; so much so that I haven't bothered looking elsewhere for another contouring product for the past year. Well, that was until I found the Rich Liquid Foundation in the Boxing Day sales (down from £30 to £9 - c'mon, irresistible!) The shade was 230, obviously a lot darker than I would use for my usual foundation, but I took a gamble and popped it into my virtual basket. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see it was almost the exact same shade as the Hollow cream pigment! Now, I have to admit, because of the similarity in colour there isn't much of a difference between the two products anywhere else either. I suppose the foundation transfers a little stronger on the skin and takes slightly longer to blend, but that's if we're really trying to split hairs here. Used with a light hand and a small amount of product on the brush, you should be fine. Either product makes for a lovely finish to your look.

So how do I do it? Well, first off let me say that I'm certainly no expert. I've watched plenty of contouring tutorials and seen enough beauty pictures on Pinterest to know where the light and shade should naturally fall on your face. But here's how I see it...

You want to contour:
 - the hollows of your cheeks (from the middle of your ear to halfway down your cheek)
- your jawline
- down either side of your nose
- the temples and hairline

 I use a Real Techniques Contour Brush to apply the product, and blend with the remaining foundation on my Expert Face Brush or my Beauty Blender. When I'm happy with the colour and blending, I will apply NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer (shade Vanilla) to lighten parts of the skin where the light would naturally hit.

You want to highlight:
 - the T-zone
- under the eyes in a triangle formation
- the chin
- the cupid's bow
I also pop a line of concealer under my contoured cheekbones so that the shade really stands out. All that's left is to finish off your makeup with a small swipe of setting powder and you're done! If you find that even Hollow is too dark for your skin then you can always try mixing in a tiny amount of your regular foundation or white foundation (Illamasqua also do one - I swear this isn't a sponsored post!) and blend, blend, blend. I'm pretty pale though (Mont Blanc/Light 2 in NARS foundation) and it seems to be fine with my skin tone - it's all down to preference!

I hope this helped for any of you who, like me, want to add a bit of definition to your fairer skin! Who says contouring is just for the likes of Kim K?
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Thursday, 8 January 2015

TWICE-BAKED POTATOES


Baked potatoes are a wonderful thing. They can make the ideal lunch with salad or light dinner by itself, or can be a perfect accompaniment to a main evening meal. I used to just prick them all over with a fork and bake them for hours but depending on the type of potato, I'd get varied results which I wasn't thrilled about. There was always a potato that was too underdone and would be lumpy when it came to eating - yuck! It totally puts you off eating the entire thing. I mean, you make a meal and you want to enjoy it, right? I always found that just baking them once wasn't enough. It's funny; until you bake them twice you really don't know what you're missing!

It's not even a hassle to bake potatoes twice. This method gets them crisp on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside every time, and here's how.

First of all you need to pick the right variety of potato. You want a variety that grows big enough to bake, and that is known for turning lovely and fluffy when cooked. We either use Estima or, in this case, locally-grown Marfona. Round up the biggest of the bag, give them a quick wash to rid them of dirt and prick liberally all over with a fork. Place them on a baking tray and then into a hot pre-heated oven (Gas Mark 7/220ºC/425ºF) for approximately two hours, depending on the size of the potato. Now you can go about your business, run errands, clean the house, laze about on the sofa with a cup of tea watching rubbish reality shows...

To check that the potatoes are cooked, pierce the skin with a knife. If it goes through with little resistance then you know they're done enough. Remove them from the oven and cut the potatoes down the middle. Next, you need to mash them. 

This is the ultimate step, because as I mentioned earlier, there's nothing worse than a lumpy potato! So, for the smoothest mashed potato, we used our newest kitchen gadget: the KitchenAid mixer. Obviously a standard mixer, hand masher or potato ricer will work just as well. To start, prepare the mixer with the paddle attachment. Simply scoop out the potato into the mixing bowl, add a little bit of butter, milk (I prefer skimmed) and seasoning, then mix on low until smooth and creamy. I love this method because mixers basically guarantee you no lumps! We also added some grated cheddar cheese and incorporated it into the mash with one last whip of the machine.

The final step is to refill your empty crispy skins with the mashed potato and top them each with a small sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese. Either pop them back in the oven for another 15 minutes for the cheese to melt, or, if you like the topping a little more crisp, grill on high for 10 minutes. All that's left is to enhance with your favourite toppings. Family favourites include sour cream and chives, tuna mayonnaise, homemade coleslaw or baked beans.

Of course, if you want to make the dish healthier (new years resolutions and all) then you can always use low-fat cheese, omit the cheese completely, or even substitute the recipe with sweet potatoes and add some paprika. I've tried all of these variations and they all work equally well, but I can't seem to curb my craving for cheese at the moment - sometimes you just need a bit of comfort food. 

Done this way, however, I promise that you'll never bake a potato any other way again.
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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

THE LAST SOUVENIR TURNS TWO!

Yes, my little corner of the internet is officially two years old today. 

I still can't quite believe that I've managed to grow my blog in quite a short space of time. I've learned so much about myself, about the ins and outs of blogging, self-promotion, photography, writing to inform, engage and entertain... I think starting a blog is such a brave and cathartic experience, it's almost like therapy. Of course when I look back at my first few months I get slightly embarrassed at my naivety and inexperience, but I think every blogger feels that way. Fast forward two years, I seriously had no idea that so many of you would click my link and decide to read my opinions, let alone leave me lovely comments and compliments. 

To my readers - whether you're following me on Blogger, Bloglovin', my various social media accounts, or just passing by - thank you so much for taking the time to have a look. It's so nice to hear your feedback, to chat with you on Twitter, to follow you on Instagram... I'm honestly incredibly grateful to you all. I love being part of such a kind community. It's great to have a place to chat with like-minded people who share a specific passion; where you can ask for advice or opinions without feeling silly; where you can share, explore and applaud other people's work; where you can gain support and acceptance of people you've never met in real life. It was only over the past year that I got more involved in the community and I'm so glad that I did - I've met some truly lovely people through blogging!

Like most of us, my blog is still just a hobby of mine, but it's the hobby that I enjoy the most, along with photography. It's opened up my eyes to brand new opportunities that I would have never thought about pursuing before. I even feel like I could possibly turn it into a career in the future - here's hoping!

This year I hope to bring you more content. I want to carry on learning and honing my photography skills; I want to write more articles and include more opinionated posts; I want to do more giveaways. I might even start a YouTube channel if I'm feeling particularly daring. I don't know, is that something you would watch? I'll leave that one up to you guys to decide.

So I guess all that's left to say is Happy Birthday to The Last Souvenir, have a frosted cupcake on me! I hope you continue to grow and make me proud. Let's just hope it's not a case of the terrible two's...
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