24 March 2013

Beauty | Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne



If you follow me on Twitter you'll know I had a little spending spree on my lunch break on Thursday which included my first ever Jo Malone purchase. Do not adjust your screens, you read that correctly, I have never visited a Jo Malone counter or boutique before!



I visited the Jo Malone counter in Selfridges where I was served by Robin and he was beyond helpful. I love perfume but I'm by no means a fragrance expert - when it comes to top notes, base notes and middle notes (I may have made that one up...) I really don't have a clue. 

After a few quick questions as to what I like in a fragrance (fresh, not too floral, not overbearingly fruity and nothing sweet!) Robin picked Earl Grey and Cucumber immediately and I'll admit, I raised my eyebrows in surprise - don't get me wrong, I love a bit of cucumber as you'll know if you follow me on Twitter and see my regular salad musings about how undervalued as a salad item it is.. I digress... 

Let's just say the thought of tea and summer sandwiches in a perfume bottle didn't exactly excite me, that was until I tried it and then I was sold - it was love.

The Earl Grey and Cucumber Cologne is a delightful blend of Earl Grey tea, Cucumber, Bergamot, Vanilla, Musk and Beeswax. It's wearable day and night and it's light but powerful - it has some serious staying power but it isn't overbearing.



I picked up the 30ml which retails for £38 but I think I'll be picking up the 100ml (£78 - eek!) when it's finished. In the mean time I think I'll be picking up a few other scents and first up will be English Pear and Freesia which I also tried before buying this. One of the best things about the Jo Malone colognes is that they're all designed to compliment one another so they layer incredibly well to create beautiful and unique fragrances.

Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne - £38 for 30ml.

If you have any Jo Malone recommendations for me, please leave them in the comments below. Also, if  you've tried Jo Malone, which products are your favourites - what do I need?! I think this could become a new obsession.


Oh! In case you haven't seen, GFC is apparently going soon so feel free to follow me on Bloglovin' and send me your Bloglovin' links too!

Vicky x


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19 March 2013

Lifestyle: Cheltenham Gold Cup

I've never really been a hat person but as I was heading to the races on Friday for the Gold Cup, I thought I'd make the effort (that a a bump the size of a cricket ball decided to appear just above my right eyebrow a few days before - I really must stop fighting in my sleep!), especially when I saw there was no set dress code for Cheltenham but Ladies usually wear hats (no laughing at the back!).


After 40 minutes of umm-ing and aah-ing in Debenhams as well as a frantic Twitter poll, I settled on this lovely grey fascinator. It had a thick banded headband to keep it in place and was decorated with feathers and mesh ribbons.

Sadly, the weather had it in for me and I ended up wearing two coats, a scarf and a rather fetching plastic poncho for most of the day - the glamour!


This is pre-poncho in a momentary escape from the rain. In all honesty I had mistakenly believed that the wide brim may keep me somewhat dry but with winds blowing a gale and the mini monsoon the hat acted as a sort of sieve... attractive. 


Not that the dress I wore was particularly important given the fact nobody saw it due to the delightful weather, I wore an Oasis dress (mentioned here) with Primark Super Cosy tights, a H&M blazer and knee high boots.


The picture doesn't do it justice but Cheltenham is actually rather beautiful, the hills and surroundings are lovely and make a nice change from the concrete sky of London!


With it being St Patrick's Weekend (Friday is practically the weekend) it would have been rude not to have spent some time in the Guinness Village!!

I know horse racing isn't to everyones taste, particularly with jumps, but Cheltenham is a fantastic day out and we even finished the day in profit.. below is the golden ticket - a winner and a place! 


All in all, I had a fantastic day. You really can't beat a good day at the races and even the rain couldn't dampen watching the Gold Cup in person, the horses truly are utterly magnificent animals.


I hope you all enjoyed my first foray into 'lifestyle' posting - let me know if you'd be interested in seeing other similar posts. 

Have you ever been to the races? 

Vicky x
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14 March 2013

Nail of the Day: Nails Inc 'Electric Avenue'



I've been lusting after Nails Inc 'Electric Avenue' polish for what feels like an eternity now but it's always been out of stock so I'd all but given up hope when I was browsing the Selfridges Beauty Workshop on my lunch break last week (so much for being a reformed shopper - emphasis on the browse though!!) and spotted this little gem when faced with the Paint Shop area.

I think the Paint Shop in the Beauty Workshop is a fantastic idea and I love that it covers brands like Butter London and Ciate too but there are stands upon stands of Nails Inc polishes and despite my general dislike of their polishes I couldn't resist Electric Avenue nor the 3 for £22 offer which is in effect, a buy two get one free offer.

Let's start with the good - this polish packs a serious punch. It's an opaque glitter despite having a clear base and it only takes two coats for opacity. It sparkles beautifully and I do love a bit of glitter. 

As for the bad, I'll let it speak for itself...


The first picture was taken late in the evening not long after painting. The picture above was taken the next morning as I waited for my train.

Completely unacceptable.

I always have this issue with Nails Inc - no matter what I do it chips and lifts within hours. I can use Nails Inc base and top coats, Seche Vite base and top coats, no base nor top coat, base coat and no top coat, top coat and no base coat and it's always the same!

Needless to say it lasted until I got into the office and attacked it with nail varnish remover and re-painted with my beloved MAC Blue India which has taken up residency in my desk drawer.

I love the colour and it's perfect for a special occasion where it doesn't need to last but that's it.

Does anybody else have this issue with Nails Inc? Or do you have any tips on how I can try to get longer wear time out of the Nails Inc polishes I have? For £11 a bottle I expect more than 8 hours wear!

Vicky x
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12 March 2013

Sally's Haul



Since I've started working Monday to Friday I've been doing less and less shopping. I really hate shopping at weekends and despite the odd browse, I like to spend my lunch break actually having my lunch, so it's rare I do any proper shopping anymore.

With that being said I popped into Sally's on Saturday on my way to watch the rugby and drawn in by the VAT Free sticker on the window I got a little carried away - FYI it's VAT Free on salon equipment and not products so I had a rather painful moment when I handed my card over.

Keep in mind that as a makeup artist I am fortunate enough to receive a professional discount so it wasn't as expensive as it looks! I'm not going to include prices for the same reason - I simply can't remember the RRP.


Silhouette Super Hold Hairspray

I swear by Silhouette hairspray and always have a can or two in my hair styling kit. The hold is immense yet light, I hate sticky, crispy hairspray and this is neither. It's lightweight and brushes out with ease.

Schwarzkopf BC Bonacare Hair Therapy Oil Miracle Shampoo, Liquid Conditioner and Gold Shimmer Treatment 

The Schwarzkopf BC Bonacare Hair Therapy Oil Miracle range is a professional, salon exclusive hair care range. The products are enriched with argan oil and suitable for all hair types. I used this on Sunday and my hair was super soft and shiny but I'll write a proper review when I've had time to trial them properly. 


OPI Euro Centrale Collection

When I saw pictures of the OPI Euro Cnetrale collection I instantly fell in love but when looking at swatches in Sally's I had to force myself to pick a few and I wanted to pick shades I don't have a million copies of - not sure how successful that was (it wasn't at all!) but I think I'll pop back for a few others...

From left to right: Suzi's Hungary Again, You're Such A Budapest, Can't Find My Czech Book and I Saw, U Saw, We Saw... Warsaw.


Nina Ultra Pro

I couldn't resist adding to my growing collection of Nina Ultra Pro nail polishes, the quality and colours are gorgeous and they're SO cheap! I picked up Anaconda Liked It which is a gorgeous mid-green and In A Tif which, unsurprisingly, is the Tiffany box colour in a bottle. 


Mask Sponges

I decided to pick up a small packet of mask/cleansing sponges to see how I get on with them. So far I'm really liking them but again, I'll have a proper review up in a few weeks. They're a great idea though!


Despite my claim at the start of this post about being a reformed shopper you may have seen on Twitter on Monday that I couldn't resist a trip to a pharmacy on my lunch break... 

Vicky x
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11 March 2013

Bake of the Week: Irish Soda Bread

I'd hazard a guess that most Irish families have a soda bread recipe passed down through generations that's been tried, tested and loved for years upon years. Not only is it great comfort food it's also a quick and easy bread recipe - perfect if you've never made bread before or don't have the patience to wait for the bread to prove several times before you can bake, cool and eat!



A few weeks ago I decided to give our old soda bread recipe a go, it's probably the most common recipe out there (no family twists or secrets sadly!) and the results are divine.


You will need

  • One large mixing bowl
  • A large baking tray
  • A damp tea towel (optional)

Ingredients

  • 650g plain white flour (for brown soda bread you can use wholemeal) 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (levelled)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda (levelled)
  • 400ml of buttermilk

Instructions

1. Pre-heat your oven to 230 degrees.

2. Sieve your flour, salt and bicarbonate soda into a large mixing bowl and mix with a spoon to combine. 

3. Make a well in the flour mix and pour in 3/4 of your buttermilk and mix using a wooden spoon or your hands. Whichever you choose it is important not to over-mix the dough. The dough should be soft and springy, it if is too wet add more flour; if it is too dry add more buttermilk.

4. Once your dough is at the correct consistency turn it out onto a floured work top. Gently shape the dough but avoid kneading it.

5. When you have shaped your dough place it on a large baking tray and cut a cross in the top of the bread. There are numerous tales and stories surrounding why you should do this but the reason you shouldn't skip it is because it helps distribute heat throughout the bread.



6. Bake at 230 degrees for 20 minutes, after 20 minutes reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for a further 20 minutes. 

7. If you like bread with a crunchy crust then leave your soda bread to cool as it is on a wire rack. If you prefer a softer crust then wrap your bread in a dampened tea towel and leave until cooled. Soda breads wrapped in tea towels were traditionally wrapped in tea towels and left on window sills - if you'd like to get your traditional Irish baking on then feel free to do the same.


There are also modified soda bread recipes out there which include dried and fresh fruits as well as other additions, I personally haven't tried them as I like mine as it is but that doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment with yours and I'd love to know what you come up with if you do!

I'd love to know what you think if you try this, particularly if you haven't tried soda bread before, and as always, I love pictures of your baking!

Do you have any traditional family recipes? 

Vicky x
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4 March 2013

Bake of the Week: Black Forest Meringues



With Mother's Day in mind I decided to whip up these delicious little desserts as I'll be spending Sunday in the pub watching the rugby so I won't have time to bake them on the day.

The meringue nests themselves can be made in advance as long as they're stored correctly or frozen - once you're ready to use them just whip up the filling and you're good to go!

This recipe makes six meringues. 

You will need
  • Electric hand whisk
  • Piping bag fitted with large (preferably star) nozzle
  • Large baking tray
Ingredients - for the meringue 
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 generous pinches cream of tartar
  • 225g caster sugar
Ingredients - for the filling and topping
  • 300g fresh cherries 
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 100g+ milk or dark chocolate
Instructions

1. To make your meringues, separate the whites of four eggs - to do this either crack the shell in half and pass the yolk (yellow) between the two until you have all of the egg white or crack the egg and holding the yolk between your fingers allow the white to trickle into the bowl.

2. Whisk the four egg whites until light and foamy. At this stage add in your cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks form.

3. Add four tablespoons of the caster sugar into the mixture, one at a time and mixing well between until the meringue forms stiff, glossy peaks. You should be able to confidently hold the bowl upside down over your head and the meringue doesn't budge.

4. Sprinkle the rest of the caster sugar over the meringue mixture and mix in - try not to mix too much.

5. Pre-heat your oven to 110 degrees. 

6. On a piece of baking paper, trace circles approximately 7.5/8cm in size onto the paper and turn over so that you're not piping meringue onto ink!

7. Spoon your meringue into a piping bag and pipe discs of meringue into the circles you've drawn. Once you have your shape, pipe an extra 'wall' around the outer side to form your nest.

8. Bake for approximately 2 hours - your meringue should be dry and crisp and not discoloured. 

9. Leave your meringue nests to sit whilst you whip up the toppings. Melt 100g of chocolate and using a pastry brush, coat the inside of the meringue nest - allow to set.

10. Pour the remaining chocolate onto a flat baking sheet or mat and leave to set but do not refrigerate. Once set, use a sharp knife and pull along the top surface of the chocolate to create curls and chips - be careful! You could also just break up a Flake or a Ripple.

11. Cut all but six of your cherries into quarters and remove the stones. 

12. Whip your double cream and icing sugar together in a medium sized bowl until thick and sweet. Add your chopped up cherries and mix to combine. 

13. Spoon your cherry and cream mix into your meringue nests and top with chocolate curls and a whole cherry and voila, you're done!



You can also soak your cherries in cointreau or add it to your cream if you wish - I soaked some of my cherries for a little kick.

The result is a lovely little meringue with a twist, perfect for a homemade meal and especially nice in summer with different fruits.

As always I'd love to know how you get on if you try this so please let me know if you do :)

Vicky x
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3 March 2013

Beauty | HD Brows Treatment Review

I am obsessed with neat, well-presented eyebrows as they really do frame your face and make such a difference to your overall appearance. I usually get my eyebrows threaded at a Shavata brow bar but after some research I decided I was going to take the plunge and try HD Brows.

A quick browse of locations offering HD Brows (official treatment providers can be found on the HD Brows website and I fully recommend you only use people from that list) and I settled on the spa at The Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair on Friday evening. 

You are advised to leave your brows for at least 4 weeks prior to the treatment to see the best results; that means no plucking! I had to hide my tweezers whilst I grew my wolf brows - absolute hell, and as with any treatment that requires tinting, you need to do a patch test 48 hours before the treatment. I popped into the spa a few days before to pick up the patch test kit and it couldn't have been easier to do.


The patch test comes in a credit card sized cardboard wallet and contains the patch test and instructions on how to apply it and what to do if you have a reaction.


The patch test itself is quick and easy to apply, I did mine myself at work and it took all of a minute!


The patch test applies like a temporary tattoo - just like the ones you applied as kids. I applied mine just on the inside of my arm, beneath my elbow.

You should patch test at least 24 hours in advance though 48 hours is recommended, to avoid any adverse reactions. If the salon don't recommend a patch test I strongly advise you ask for one, unless it's a repeat appointment but you should always have a patch test before your first appointment.

So 'boring' health and safety out of the way and with no adverse reaction I set off to the spa for my treatment after work. 

The Athenaeum Hotel is located in Mayfair, on Piccadilly near the corner of Hyde Park and it's definitely a hidden gem. The spa is downstairs and I can't wait to go back and try some other treatments, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming and the spa itself is well presented and exceptionally clean.

The HD Brows section is in a curtained off section of the relaxation room and is well lit and clean. My appointment started with filling in a form stating I'd had no adverse reaction to the patch test and that I was aware things like threading bumps could occur after the treatment - again just disclaimer stuff that spas have to cover but are very important both the the business and the client. 

My therapist ran through the treatment with me, explaining that most people need 3-4 appointments to get the shape perfect and then appointments are a lot less frequent. She talked me through the process and we spoke about shapes and shades for tinting and then she started the treatment.

HD Brows is a 7 step treatment to the perfect brow and she began with tinting my brows - my brows are already very dark so I was a little apprehensive that I would end up with brows too dark for my face but that wasn't the case - tinting catches and colours all the fine hairs that you can't always see and helps created a more accurate, fuller brow.

After the tinting came measuring/assessing the brows, this ensures both sides are even and of equal thickness. Now I know no two brows are identical but getting them as similar as possible really helps. During this stage she measured the brows using a thread and marked the shape in to even the brows up.

Next came waxing to start shaping the brow. I haven't waxed my brows since I was 14 and went to a grim little nail shop to get them done after school and as a rule I'm not a fan of eyebrow waxing as it pulls the skin as well as the hair and I'd rather thread - that being said the results are precise and it didn't hurt.

The therapist then tweezed and stubborn hairs before using threading to really create a precise shape. I love threading - I don't find it painful and I think it's the most precise and polished finish to eyebrows.

The brows and surrounding area were then soothed and I was provided with aftercare information.

Once the brows were perfectly shaped she filled them in using a HD Brows pencil, brow palette and brow gel to remove any slight gaps still left over - I have a sparse patch in my left eyebrow due to some over enthusiastic plucking during a football game - never pluck your eyebrows when you're distracted, especially if your team are losing - you will regret it. A dusting of mineral makeup was also applied to conceal any redness.

As to what I think about the treatment? Well, the difference speaks for itself.


Although HD Brows are modified to suit every face shape, the basic shape of the brows is the same and tweaked only to suit individual preference.

In order for my brows to be at their best I will need a few more sessions which are recommended to be 3-4 weeks apart and after that I should have the perfect brow shape which I can then just maintain.

I'm really happy with the treatment and the effect and I would recommend HD Brows and the Spa at The Athenaeum to anybody looking to try the treatment, especially as it's currently on offer for £30 instead of £55 and you're given a spa loyalty card - for every five hour long treatments you get one free, what an incentive!

Have you had HD Brows? What do you think of them?

Vicky x
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