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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

a little life update

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet over on this space of late, but life got busy lately, then followed by a few days off which I choose to actually make the most of and RELAX! Something I rarely seem to do these days.

So, I thought a little update post may be appropriate.  A week on Thursday gone...does that even make sense? Thursday 17th? I left the job I've been doing for the last year, don't misread that as I just got up and walked out..I didn't, it was official, everyone knew it was coming, and I worked my notice.  With the Easter weekend, and a few cheeky days off after, I decided to make the most of this time, have a break from sitting in front of a computer, and enjoy life!
Easter weekend was spent over- indulging, shall we say.  We had friends to stay from the Friday morning through to Monday morning...and it's only right that you take them to enjoy the local delicacies, right? Reading between the lines, lots of food, wine and chocolate was consumed, and a tender head was had.

I then made it my priority to spend my next few days just enjoying me time.  Well, by me time, I mean not running around like a headless chicken! I spent time with my sister, my nieces and new nephew and my mum and dad.  The boy and I enjoyed a couple of days together, and I even squeezed in a hair cut and not one, but two dentist appointments.

I didn't really go anywhere, or see anything, or travel further afield than 5 miles down the road to my 'rents, but it was just lovely.  I even allowed one afternoon to be spent with my feet up, my favourite film on (Across the Universe if you're wondering!) and bridal magazines aplenty.  Oh, and a can of Diet Coke, and some Easter chocolate keeping me company.  

Ending the week with a date night with the boy, all the household chores done, and some serious Netflix sessions, was the perfect way to prepare for my new job. 

3 days in...and it's going very well, thanks for asking!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

stylist's trend on trial, trialled: blue liner


I'm back! I seem to have had an unintentional blogging break, for no real reason other than life got BUSY! But, change is on the horizon and I'm planning a little 'life update' post later this week...stay tuned.

And why not come back with a bang, a big fat blue liner bang at that.  This week's trend on trial, blue eyeliner, was a take on a more modern eye liner look, as seen at the Derek Lam s/s 2014 show.


First impressions were neither here nor there, it's not overly bold, difficult to pull off or one that I felt should be kept on the catwalk (hello drawn on eyelashes, I'm looking at you!).  And yet, there was something simplistically pleasing about it.

I'm not one for experimenting with colour on my eyes, for two reasons, firstly I have issues...my eyes ALWAYS water when I wear eyeshadow and it smudges and runs down my face, attractive, yes! And secondly, inevitably, I can't pull them off.  Or at least, I don't think I can.  Me and my black eyeliner have had a long and happy relationship and I expect it to stay that way for many more years to come.

However, yes, there is a however, I was dubious, blue to me sings eighties, and that's without the crimped hair (more on that later), it also brings back memories of high school days and bad make up!  Blue eye shadow and pink lips were the order of the day.
But, actually, I didn't hate it.  I wasn't quite as pro as the Stylist ladies, but I think a darker blue leaning more towards the navy might have had me adding this to my 'I may actually rock this in real life' pile.  As trend on trials go, I'm completely indifferent on this one.

What do you think? Blue liner the way forward?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

fudgy coconut brownies

This week's 'bake' was these delightful Fudgy Coconut Brownies.

Now, I thought the Philly Cheesecake Brownies I made recently were good, but these, well these were even better...and even easier.

I was fancying making a simple tray bake, and found these over on the BBC Good Food website, my go to for tasty meals and baking ideas.

I would HIGHLY recommend these if you want something easy, quick and of course, delicious.  These went down a treat with friends and family alike, and they've been added to my pile of 'must make again' recipes.

Ingredients
100g cocoa
250g butter
500g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
100g self-raising flour
100g desiccated coconut
icing sugar, to dust (optional)


Method
1.  Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line the base of a 21cm square tin with baking parchment. Put the cocoa, butter and sugar in your largest saucepan and gently melt, stirring so the mixture doesn’t catch. 

2.  When the cocoa mixture is melted and combined, cool slightly, then stir in the eggs, little by little, followed by the flour and coconut.

3. Tip into the tin and bake for 45 mins on a middle shelf – check after 30 mins and cover with another piece of baking parchment if the crust is browning too much. 

4. Cool in the tin, then carefully lift out and cut into squares.


Happy Baking.....

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

a healthy life - week 14

source

I figured that my 'healthy life' posts might be getting a little dull, there is only so many times you really want to read about someone putting on a pound, losing a pound, putting on two pounds, not losing any pounds...it quickly gets boring.

So, I thought this week I'd give you a little update to where I'm at, how I'm feeling about my new 'healthy lifestyle', and what motivates me.

It's now been 3 and a half months, and I've lost approx. 9 lbs.  I know I could have lost a bit more in that time, but then that would have also meant denying myself which I'm not going to do when I'm out with friends, date night with the boy...or a well needed glass of wine on a Friday evening.

But, I'm feeling much much more confident in myself, clothes that were a bit snug are fitting more comfortably, I'm more or less always fitting into a size 10 now, rather than a 12...and these reasons keep me sticking at it.

I know the real key now to help me lose that final few pounds would be to finally give this exercise malarkey (that so many people rave about!) a go...but for now, realistically I know that's not going to happen any time soon.  But I've come to a middle ground, sticking to my calorie controlled diet during the week, allows me to slacken off a bit at the weekend and enjoy what I want, without worrying too much about those extra calories.

I'm finding the healthy eating much easier, I'm enjoying all of the meals as I cook them myself with ingredients I like, and I'm not as hungry.  

I know there's a lot of other bloggers around at the moment who are also on a diet / clean eating / whatever you want to call it, and that really helps with my motivation too.  It's a great way to find snack alternatives, or great ways to spice up a usually boring meal.

There have been times when I've reached for the chocolate, cake, burger, ANOTHER cider but if I never allowed these treats, I wouldn't be very happy.  But as long as I'm not giving in every time, I know I'm not doing too badly!

So, if you too are reaching a bit of a plateau and have key tips to keep going...do let me know, and remember, visualising yourself in a bikini usually stops me reaching for a second helping!
 

Monday, 14 April 2014

look again ‘refresh, rather than relocate’ - challenge

I'd seen a few bloggers taking part in this 'Refresh, rather than relocate' challenge and decide that this was definitely something I was going to take part in.  The idea is that a few well selected items can really refresh a room, and one lucky winner can win £750 to do just that!

The boy and I got the keys to our very own first house last July, previous to that I'd spent almost 10 years in rented accommodation, as had he.  Most of the places we'd rented, had come furnished which meant we had very little furniture, and an absolute mish-mash of odd bits and bobs.

When we got the keys to our house we wanted to make the living and dining rooms our priority.  Out 'entertaining' rooms, and therefore have so far put all our time and effort into those, and nearly a year on...they're really starting to come together.

However, upstairs is a very different story...we've started working on our bedroom, although a slight hiccup with a very blue paint means that a few months later, neither of us like it, and we're covering the room in paint patches, c'est la vie.

Anyway, our guest bedroom just hasn't been touched.  It has big fitted wardrobes, which although very useful, I hate how they look.  It's full of furniture which we've bought over the years for our rented pads.  It's the basic ikea range, and while it does the job, pretty it is not.  We've been given an old pair of curtains from my mum, which are so thin...they may as well be made from cling film.  And the rug? Well, this was a birthday present, while it looked great in a student flat, it's time for it to go.
It's highly unlikely that this room is going to get some attention any time soon.  We've put all our time, money and efforts in to the other key rooms in the house, and this little place is going to be staying like this for some time...unless of course Look Again want to take pity on me.

So I've put together some key pieces from their site that will instantly refresh the room, actually tie all the elements together, and spruce up the drab furniture.

I think a bright colour like yellow will bring a bit of life to this room, at the moment it's overwhelmed by wood! So I've selected this beautiful bedding set...to bring the sunshine in shall we say.

I also felt a different bed frame would break the room up a bit, and make the furniture look a little more, delicate shall we say.  And given that the bed we have at the moment is stuffed with pillows because the mattress doesn't quite fit is a sure sign in my mind that at some point, it's going to have to go. 

I always think a bed looks much more inviting with a soft chunky throw, and some scatter cushions so throw those in the mix and I think I'd be wanting to sleep in this room instead of our own.  

Notice all the emphasis so far is on the bed...what can I say, you can't beat a good night's sleep, and it's nice to offer our guests that too.

The room is also lacking just a little bit of personality, I love these prints which would look great above the headboard.  Bringing a little bit of life to those blank walls.

Finally, a rug..with a hint of yellow, and some candle holders to line the top of the chest of drawers just makes the room look complete.

My total look comes to about £650 which would give me a cheeky extra £100 to buy a couple of extra bits and pieces totally bring the room together.

It would be an absolute dream (ha, geddit!) to be actually be able to give this room a little bit of love, at the moment, the door stays shut..and I mainly pretend it doesn't exist.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

stylist's trend on trial, trialled: pink eyeshadow

This isn't the first time I've given pink eyeshadow a go for 'trend on trial', and unfortunately it's not the first time I've disliked it.

You may have noticed by now that I'm not really big on eyeshadow, a sweep of black eyeliner suits me down to a tee.  But not one to turn down a challenge, and being the cocky blogger that I am, I figured that as my original attempt was almost two years ago (Oh em gee!) that experience would have taught me well, and I might just like it this time.

Now, Wendy Rowe the backstage artist at Burberry Prorsum S/S 2014 suggested that this look works best without eyeliner OR mascara...this was never going to happen.  Fair eyelashes, plus pink eyeshadow surely is going to result in suggestions of eye infections?! I just couldn't give the mascara a miss.

I have several issues with pink eyeshadow.  The first being, what do you team it with? I went with my usual pink blush AND a pink lip, but then I felt very, well, pink!  I need a hint of colour on my lips because otherwise I look washed out, but red was a no-go for obvious reasons.  Orange? Perhaps not.  And a darker lip just wouldn't represent the 'English Rose' that this look is supposed to suggest.  

I've also mentioned before that I often avoid pink because of my blonde hair and blue eyes, I don't want to look too 'Barbie'.  

The Stylist ladies both seemed to fall for this look, in all fairness, it is something that can easily be worn for your regular day at work, it's suitably girly but not OTT.  But those ladies are blessed with dark hair and lashes, at least that's my excuse.

These photos don't really do much justice, you're probably all wondering what I'm complaining about, but for now...will someone please hand me my eyeliner?

Friday, 11 April 2014

lemon and blueberry layer cake

A couple of week's ago I was heading over to the north-east to meet the new arrival in my family, my baby nephew Joseph, a few days prior to the visit I received the following text from my sister:

Forgot to say, we're introducing a new policy where visitors have to provide cakes.  Joseph isn't fussy about what kind other than like me he's not keen on coffee.

Well, I wasn't going to let them down, so I figured why not go all out and give the Lemon and Blueberry Layer Cake a go that I'd been eyeing up for a few weeks.  I generally try to avoid American recipes because I'm not always convinced the cups to grams equations are always so good, but I'd been returning to Sally's blog and this cake over and over so knew now was the time to give it a go.

I wasn't disappointed, and neither was my sister.

Ingredients
CAKE
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour, careful not to overmeasure
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240ml) buttermilk
zest + juice of 3 medium lemons
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (258g) or non-thawed frozen (275g)
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

FROSTING
I made my own cream cheese frosting just with cream cheese and icing sugar...I just guessed the amounts, and it worked!

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F. 
Spray three 9x2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. 
Set aside.

Make the cake. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy - about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point. Overmixing will lend a tough, dense textured crumb.

Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. Bake for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.


Make the frosting. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.

Assemble and frost. First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn't make a ton of frosting, just enough for a light frost. Top with blueberries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.

I've got to admit, this cake felt quite time consuming, particularly when you only have 2 tins...so have to wait for it to cook then bake the third.  And, when it comes out the oven it looks much much paler than a usual sponge, but I think that's because of the buttermilk.  However, I've got to say, it's well worth the effort...so don't let that put you off.

Oh, and don't like me, tell the boy he can eat the leftover blueberries...I forgot they were supposed to be used to decorate the top, d'oh!

And here's the proud aunty, because I couldn't not show off my nephew now could I?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

fashion targets breast cancer - topshop love tee


I'm not usually one to jump on-board a charity t-shirt, not because I'm against their good cause, but because they generally have big cheesy images printed on the front, or they come in two sizes..large and extra large.  But this top caught my eye before I even realised that 30% of the price goes to straight to the charity, Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

An illness close to my heart, it made sense for me to buy this tee and help make a small contribution, but actually by featuring it on here...I'm hoping a few of you too might go and pick up your own too.  It's a bargain at only £18, and it's super versatile.  I felt like an 'all-American' high school kid in it, but teamed with my new favourite black jeans (god bless H&M) and studded boots, makes it a bit edgier...and it was the perfect outfit for a day in the pub on Saturday.

Tee - Topshop
Jeans - H&M
Boots - Miss Selfridge

But since sitting down to right this post, I've now discovered that actually there's lots of high street stores getting on board.  'Fashion Targets Breast Cancer' is all about spreading the message about breast cancer, and asking people to support their efforts.  Teaming inspirational icons with fashion retailers to promote their 'Wear Your Support' Campaign means if you don't like this simple Topshop tee, there are plenty of other beautiful pieces to choose from, that also donate 30% to the charity.

And if you join me in this campaign..then I'd love to know which pieces you've picked up, I've got my eye on the Warehouse two piece, and the stunning Laura Ashley gingham dress.
 
Oh,  and don't forget to tweet - #wearyoursupport

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

a healthy life - week 13

If you've been following this little 'healthy life' journey you may know that I had big, fat and disastrous week last week, it completely knocked me off course, and I put on a big, fat and disastrous 2lb.  I guess trying to be 'good' and being a keen baker don't always go hand in hand...!

I started the new week feeling rather deflated, but lots of lovely comments from my readers spurred me back on track.  And although I have no news to report in terms of weight loss, I'm back to feeling as motivated as I was a few weeks ago when things were going well.

So, sticking to my plan of small and attainable goals, I'm aiming to lose these pesky 2lbs plus one more for luck, by this time next month.  I figured that's achievable, right?

On top of that, meal times have become MUCH more exciting.  Tefal heard about my 'healthy living' quest and asked if I'd be interested in trying out their new Optigrill, of course, I said yes...who'd turn that down? And my oh my, this machine has even got the boy more interested in what's cooking, but that may have to do something with the steak I suggested as our first 'Optigrill' meal.  

Since then, we've spent a small fortune (we might as well have re-mortgaged our house) on some tuna steaks, but honestly, they were well worth every penny.  Cooked to perfection, with just chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime, and I'm a healthy eating convert.  In fact, tonight's dinner consists of seabass and veg...who am I?

I even went to Sainsburys tonight and bought what was quite honestly, the healthiest shop I've ever done, and I'm enjoying coming up with new recipe ideas.  I'm already dreaming of salads with grilled halloumi, we're BIG on halloumi so now that we can cook it a bit more easily means we'll be coming up with any excuse to have it for tea.  And imagine the kebabs we can make, just imagine!

Oh, and when I'm not so conscientiously counting calories, then this grilled cheese sandwich is top of list.

And what's on the cards for pudding tonight? Frozen yoghurt and mixed berries.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that the scales are on my side next week and things are looking up again? Well, the scales are down...you know what I mean!

Monday, 7 April 2014

face of the day - skincare and make up products


You may have noticed that I haven't popped up a 'Trend on Trial' post for a couple of weeks, for various different reasons.  Last week's 'trend' was short fringes, and given the inner battle I am having with myself at the moment (read this post for more info), I thought it best not to taught myself with further temptation to get that fringe snipped back in.  And this week, Stylist weren't featuring one, which was well timed due to the busy weekend I had.

Soooo, I thought I'd pop up a 'Face of the Day' instead, just in case you were missing super close up shots of my ugly mug, I thought I'd make an excuse to stick some more up here.  Plus, I've been a using a spectrum of new products recently, and thought I'd share some of my favourites, and some of my...well, not so favourites.

Skincare



1. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion
2. Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2
3. Indeed Labs Peptalash
4. No 7 Dark Circle Corrector
5. L'Oreal Revitalift Classic
6. Clinique Repairwear Intensive Lip Treatment 

I'm going through a bit of a phase at the moment where my skin is getting me down.  I constantly fixate on my wrinkles, my spots, my dark circles and the general dullness of my complexion.  You may be wondering what I'm talking about when looking at these photos, but some clever Photoshop tricks, and several inches of make up of helped to disguise my problem areas.  I'm not confident or brave enough to go bare-faced on here to show you what I mean...some might call me vain, but it's actually a complete lack of self-confidence.

Anyway, I digress, in an attempt to improve my face, shall we say, I recently splurged on some skincare products.  I bought myself the Clinique 3 Step Skin Care System (just realised I didn't include the facewash on this image) and I use this religiously.  But, to be honest, I've been using it for a few months and I'm not convinced I'm really seeing any improvement.

The No 7 Dark Circle Corrector I've just recently purchased, so can't give full comment on it's 2 week claim to 'de-puff, revitalise and brighten', however what I can say is..I like this product, a lot.  I really do feel like it's making a difference already, and the roller ball applicator feels lovely and soft under my eyes. And anything that help makes me look like I've slept for 12 hours, and never rely on coffee is a winner in my books.

I won the Peptalash in a Twitter competition, I have pretty sensitive eyes so I'm struggling to use this twice daily, but if it works...you guys will be the first to know.  Thicker, fuller and longer lashes? Yes please

Again, it's early days with L'Oreal's Anti-Wrinkle Cream, but I'm holding a lot of trust in this product.  My wrinkles WILL appear reduced.

And finally, Clinique once more...I carry lip balm everywhere I go, I like to apply this first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and this is one product I can rave about, my lips are super soft and the perfect base for lipsticks, glosses and sticks.

And now for my...

Make Up




 After a two and a half year long and happy relationship, I recently fell out of love with Estee Lauders Double Wear foundation.  I don't know how, and I don't know why.  It was the best foundation I'd ever used but in the last few weeks it started to appear more clumpy than it usually had.  I always liked the way it rubbed in smoothly and lasted all day, but then I started to feel like I could almost see it sitting on top of my face, and melting away as the day went on. 

A week before pay day, I looked to the high street for an alternative, and asking for beauty bloggers advice, was recommended the Revlon ColorStay.  Sorry Debs, but me and Revlon just aren't getting along.  And now I'm wondering if I should re-connect with my beloved Estee Double Wear and hope I can re-ignite that flame (yes, I am pretending to write a love-story!).  Maybe it's because of the numerous skin care products I've started using that DW's been letting me down, but sooner or later I NEED to find a new foundation I'm happy with!  Any suggestions very welcome.  I like good coverage, long lasting and I'm prepared to invest.

But it's not all doom and gloom.  You may have  noticed that I'm a Soap & Glory fanatic, and they are my go-to 'eye' products.  They groom my brows, line my eyes and lengthen my lashes.  Win win.

I've stopped using bronzer for the moment, as I thought I was starting to resemble an oompa loompa, so for now I'm sticking with a sweep of blusher, and this Body Shop one is a beauty, plus the lighter side can be used as a highlighter.

And the final product I have to mention are the Rimmel Kate Moss lipsticks.  Seriously, where have I been? I just invested in my first (ok, I bought two) about a month ago, and I LOVE them.  Not only are they a lovely light texture, but they're long lasting, and smell/taste lovely too.  I now it won't be long before I start building up quite a collection of these.

So that's my face.  As you can see, I'm having some ups and downs with products at the moment, but I'm always open to suggestions and recommendations, so feel free to comment below and link me up!


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