Friday, 28 February 2014

The Blogger Made Me Do It Tag

Back in the day, before I started blogging/reading blogs/wasting my life listening to people talk about makeup on Youtube, I thought I had quite a lot of beauty products. More than average. You know – I had a foundation and a powder, the usual surplus of lipsticks, a lot of products from Benefit chosen exclusively for the packaging, one of those ‘bronzers’ with lots of little beads that jump onto the floor and crush themselves into the carpet. Beauty product wise, I was a little more sophisticated – I had bad skin as a teenager, so I’d already found Clarins, and had a cleanser and a posh moisturiser which cost more than I earned at the time in a month. So I was basically a pro, right? What more could a girl need?


Well, it turns out I needed primers and eyeshadow primers and BB creams and CC creams and BB eye creams (are you serious?) and eyeshadow palettes and highlighters and contours and pigments and paints and lacquers and glosses and brushes and things from MAC and everything in rose gold I could lay my hands on. So who is to blame for this? Well, that’s what this tag is about to let you find out…read at your own risk!

Who are your most influential bloggers? Who are the ones that you really rely on for reviews and swatches?
Essie Button – for some reason, even though we don’t look anything alike, I completely trust her reviews and loyally trot to the shops to pick up pretty much anything she suggests (or sulk if it’s from Canada and I can’t get hold of it).  I think it’s just because she’s clearly got a sense of humour and I don’t feel like she’d recommend anything totally unnecessary or ridiculous (or, if she did, she would at least tell you that it was unnecessary and ridiculous, and I’d probably go and buy it anyway…)


Do you buy a product solely as a result from one review from your favourite bloggers, or do you look for more reviews from others?
I’m really impulsive, so if someone shows me something and I like it, I probably would only bother to read further reviews if it’s skincare (because I have horrible skin which hates me, and cries if I put certain things on it, and it’s tears look like chicken pox…) or if it is really, really expensive. Otherwise, I just go out and buy one...or three, and deal with the consequences!


What is your most favourite item that you have ever bought as a consequence of blogs?
I think probably my Emma Hardie cleansing balm – review here. I was wary of this because as I said, I have problem skin and any time I use a new product I’m terrified it will make it worse – but this has actually improved it so, so much. It leaves my skin all soft and happy.

What is your least favourite item that you have ever bought as a consequence of blogs?
Ugh, the Rimmel Apocalips. This is a case of looking at someone else (Fleur de Force) looking lovely, and not thinking ‘would I actually wear a lip lacquer, or would I look, you know, a bit like a transvestite in one?’ but just buying it and finding that out later. I don’t know how anyone can like these – the colours are all so unflattering and the formula is so weird and sticky! Still, at least I found this out by buying the Rimmel ones, not the YSL lip lacquers. I’ve learnt my lesson, I promise.


Name 5 products you have bought recently as a result of blogs:
Right...I bought: 
1. Yankee candles in all sizes and scents.
2. About 100 Lush bath bombs - I particularly loved this present-shaped one, which I saved up for ages and finally used the other day!
3. The L'Oreal Micellar cleansing water - I really like this, I've tried Bio Derma too and despite having sensitive skin I can't really tell the difference
4. A Maybelline Baby Lips - I'd lost my last one, and even though I know these aren't great for your lips (I know, I know) I like them! (Review here). 
5. The Origins Drink It Up Intensive Face Mask - so far, so good!

Have you ever given into blogger hype? If so, which hype?
Loads. Good and bad. Apart from the above, obviously I have an Urban Decay Naked palette, Urban Decay primer potion, Benefit Porefessional, a tonne of Models Own, Essie and Barry M nail polishes, a Tangle Teezer, Macademia oil…I could go on but it’s getting embarrassing so I’ll stop.


Have you ever avoided blogger hype? If so, which hype?
I haven’t bought anything by NARS yet. I think this is mostly because I don’t really think I’ve ever seen a NARS counter or been in a SpaceNK rather than because I’ve ‘resisted’ as such. I probably won’t last much longer! Oh, and the aforementioned YSL glossy stain things – I won’t be buying those. I won’t! I promise!

Is everything you buy based on blogger reviews or are there some items you buy without checking out a review?
Oh no, like I say I’m impulsive so if I go in Boots to buy one thing I come out £45 lighter feeling disorientated and clutching a bag filled with god knows what!


I tag: anyone reading this blog!
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February Favourites


February is always such a short month, and what with Valentine’s Day, my best friend’s birthday and a weekend in the country with my family, I’ve had a pretty busy time – it’s disappeared in the blink of an eye! As per my resolution, here are all the things I’ve been loving this month….


Skincare

My skin has been really irritated, red and dry this month. The Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer has been a bit of a life saver – I use it after cleansing, before moisturising, and it works overnight to de-stress your skin and take the redness and irritation out – it’s a miracle worker and I couldn’t recommend it more. When I have dry patches, I always turn to Bio Oil. Apply it when your skin is slightly damp to lock in even more moisture, and leave overnight – it stops flaking and leaves your skin all plump and smooth and shiny, whilst also reducing any acne scarring – I don’t know what they put in this stuff but it’s incredible.

Make up
I managed to LOSE a load of my make up this month (don’t even ask, just thank god I got it back) so this has been a month of scrimping about in the bag of things I don’t often use, trying to make my face look decent. Luckily in doing so I’ve rediscovered some really great products. This Maybelline 24 hour foundation is great - I wouldn't say it lasts quite that long, but it does stay all day, and I really like the formulation. I've also been loving this Fake Bake shimmer brick - it's a great multi product, you can use it for highlighting, contouring and even as eyeshadow! For lipstick, I’ve found this gorgeous Rimmel lipstick in Rose Sorbet which is a great transition colour for Spring.


Fashion
I feel like I’ve found blazers and scarves this month – in particular this gorgeous brown scarf with little brown stars that my boyfriend bought me in a vintage shop in Kent, which I absolutely adore. I think scarves can really dress up an outfit and make it look a lot more put together, which I love.

Scent
I'm loving this Victoria's Secret body spray in Be Seduced - it's sweet and fruity without being too girly and the bottle is gorgeous too!


Hair
I've loved the Macademia oil for years, and for Christmas my friend bought me a set of some of their other products. I particularly love this leave in conditioner - it's weightless but makes the ends of my hair feel really healthy sand soft.


Candle
For Christmas my mum bought me the cutest little wax burner candle – look at it! I love owls so much. I’ve really been enjoying using this with some M&S wax tarts and I’m definitely going to buy more scents in the future!

Food
The Nakd fruit bars are incredible – they’re 100% vegan, non baked, low calorie bars that are basically bits of fruit and nut crushed together, yet somehow they taste great. I particularly recommend the banana bread flavour – it tastes like an indulgent brunch, but it’s less than 100 calories – incredible!


TV
The Wire, The Wire, The Wire. My boyfriend has been raving on about this series forever, to the point where it actually put me off watching it because I felt like I could never love it as much as he wanted me to – but I agreed to give it a go and I’ve watched two entire seasons in a month, and last night started on the third. It’s SO good – the characterisation is fantastic, the plots are woven together beautifully and are constantly twisting, and basically if my boyfriend didn’t make me go to bed I’d probably still be watching it now. Honestly, this show makes me so happy! 

Music
I still can’t get over the Arctic Monkeys album which I know I mentioned last month, but I’ve also been listening to ‘Chicago’ by Sufjan Stevens a lot – I know this is quite well known already but I’ve only found it recently and I think it’s gorgeous.

Random favourites
The fact that I'm going to Mexico tomorrow, OBVIOUSLY! 



Unfavourite

Firstly –having to move out of my flat, and my COMPLETELY unreasonable landlord. Secondly, the fear of having to move COUNTRIES with work, which luckily seems to have gone away, but still – that wasn’t fun there for a while!  
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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Early Pancake Day!

First off – I’m going to Mexico on Saturday! Yes, as of this weekend I’ll be swapping the cold English winter for warm Cancun beaches, wine in cold pubs for cocktails in tropical fruit vessels by the pool – and I can’t wait. Anyone with any recommendations for places to go or things to see, leave them as a comment down below or give me a tweet – I’ve never been before and I really want to make the most of it!

The one downside to going away next week is that we’re missing one of my favourite foodie days of the year… pancake day!



I love pancakes, and even though last year making them was a bit of an unmitigated disaster…


I still had a great time playing board games and drinking with friends. I was a bit down about the idea of missing it this year so decided there was only one thing for it…we’d have to move it forwards a bit, and celebrate it the week before instead.

So last night, my boyfriend and I got our ingredients together. I used the mix last year (and still got it SO wrong) so this year we went for proper, from-scratch pancakes; plain flour, eggs and milk. I basically chuck it all into a bowl and mix it until it looks like pancake batter – you want it quite runny, but not so runny that it’s water. Think the consistency of a smoothie and you’re there.


Then really heat up some oil so it’s nice and hot, and tip the mixture into a big frying pan. Swoosh it about a bit so it covers the entire surface of the pan, cook it for a few minutes, then flip it! My boyfriend turned out to be an excellent flipper – who knew. (I was too scared to try it).


Stack them all up and then get some toppings involved. We had bacon, honey, sugar and lemon (not all together on one pancake).


And enjoy!


Oh, and add wine. 



I, personally, think no celebration is complete without some wine (guess I won’t be giving alcohol up for lent).

We settled down in front of the second season finale of the Wire, which is my current favourite show (no spoilers, please!) and ate to our heart’s content. It’s such an easy meal that I’m definitely thinking of making it more often in future!


What are your plans for Pancake Day?  
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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Heartbreak in Vapiano’s Italian, Oxford Street

This weekend a friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend. She’s in that horrible, half-way to heartbreak stage where you’re not quite sure if it’s true, or permanent, and you don’t know whether to hate them or want them back. During that time I think there’s few things you need.



You need your girlfriends. You need hot baths and early nights (trust me, if it’s half past nine and you want to text – go to sleep. It can wait till the morning when your head is clearer). You need a night out with wine and cocktails (with your iphone safely tucked away in a friend’s bag), and you need friends who will take you home at midnight when you start crying. You need to go shopping. And you need carbs.

It was the latter two things that I took my friend for last night. Whenever someone is heartbroken I always think, if the Topshop on Oxford Street can’t fix it – what can? She bought the much needed dress and I bought slightly less needed jewellery. After some retail therapy, we headed to Vapiano’s for carbs and chats.


Vapiano’s is literally round the corner from Topshop – if you come out of the Miss Selfridge exit and keep walking down that street, you’ll get there. It’s a really cool place – always a bit busy and frantic, but that adds to it’s charm.

On entering, you’ll be given a card. Simply go up to one of the little kitchen stands – pasta, pizza, or salad – make your selection, and the chefs knock up your chosen dish in front of you!




It couldn’t get more fresh than that.


I usually like the tuna salad, but as I said, carb overloads were in order, so I went for the ‘pollo piccante’ – chicken with bell peppers, pak choi and orange-chilli sauce.




I mean, just look at it.



We had a side salad and bread, too, just to add to the carb overload.  They ring it all up on the card for you and you just pay on exit (and grab a gummy bear!)



It can be a bit of a squeeze finding somewhere to sit and it’s a Wagamama’s type situation where everyone piles onto benches with strangers. My advice is to head upstairs, where the bar is and it’s usually much quieter. We found seats easily and could talk and eat to our heart’s contents. It's very decently priced, which is hard to find in the area, and all the food is excellent. 

My advice on heartbreak – having been there, trust me – is that the best thing you can do in these times is look after yourself. Ignore the people who say ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’ – you can’t put yourself under any kind of pressure to do that. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other – it’s all you can do. And if anyone else is heartbroken and wants me to take them out for a carb fest – just let me know!


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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Celebratory Sunday Lunch at Hush, Mayfair

On my first day of university I felt young, scared and small. My parents dropped me off in an unfamiliar room with all my things around me and I wanted to cry. I was such a young 18 year old – I didn’t know how to boil pasta, I didn’t know how to change my bed sheets, I’d never spent any real time away from home. I peered out into the strange corridor, and barrelling towards me came a girl with messy dark hair and a nose ring, holding about 17 boxes. Her name was Julia, and almost from that day on we were best of friends. 



We got drunk and went to Nandos and fought over boys and got more drunk and went on holiday and to festivals and went shopping and went to the gym maybe once, and she is still one of my best friends now, although she’s moved to Manchester and I miss her a lot. She got married two years ago, and I was her bridesmaid, and then called me excitedly this January to tell me I’m going to be an Auntie…because she’s pregnant! I’m so happy and excited for her, and I can’t wait to meet the new arrival!


In the meantime, she was down for a rare visit to London so we decided to celebrate the only way we know how – with food. Another university friend suggested Hush, just off Bond Street. Should be simple, right?


Wrong! The tube was delayed, the sat nav took us the wrong way…essentially, we marched up and down Oxford Street in the wrong direction for just over an hour! Finally, with cold hands and rumbling stomachs, we arrived (if you’re looking – it’s on New Bond Street, just around the corner from Victoria Secret – and it’s not hard to find unless you’re directionally challenged).


It was the most beautiful Sunday weather – I only wore a blazer, leaving my coat at home – and the snowy decorations seemed a little out of place, but inside, Hush is beautiful – open, airy and bright, with cosy yet spacious booths that we happily sunk into. 


There’s a set menu – two courses for £17 – which most of us plumped (literally) for, although the a la carte menu is significantly more expensive.


I had a gnocchi salad to start, which was really lovely – soft, flavourful gnocchi, light salad and a creamy sauce.


I followed up with chicken schnitzel and spaghetti – I have to say, the combination was a little odd, and I personally found the chicken a bit dry, but it was filling, all the same.



But the drinks…oh, the drinks. 



This is a white wine with soda water and strawberry liquor and it is absolutely divine. I feel like I’ve recently ‘found’ strawberry flavoured drinks and I can’t get over them! I could have drunk this all day, but feeling bad for my pregnant friend, I switched to a coffee to finish up.



It’s not cheap, but there aren’t many venues in central London that do a decent meal and a good drink for a decent price, so if you’re in the area, get on down! 
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Monday, 17 February 2014

Valentine’s Day Fireworks Surprise

I don’t know if it’s obvious from a quick glance through my blog, but I’m quite a fan of eating out – usually, any excuse and I’m the first in the queue, making reservations at any and every restaurant I’ve been looking for a reason to dine out at. Valentine’s Day, however, is the one exception to my rule. Restaurants are so much more expensive, and busier, and you have to eat from a set menu which often doesn’t include things from the a la carte menu I’d really want to order, and it all just seems like a bit of an unnecessary fuss. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to celebrate it, though – as much as it might be seen as a clichéd, Hallmark-invented day, I think it’s always nice to take a moment and be grateful for the people in your life who love you. So this Valentine’s Day I decided we would stay at home and I (shock horror) would cook.


The evening started well with my boyfriend spoiling me with a card and gifts. I then shooed him off to the gym so I could set the table!





I decided to cook all his favourite foods – mini toad in the hole and cold meats for a starter…



Steak (with macaroni cheese and homemade chips) as a side.


Too full for dessert, we flopped on the sofa and listened to music. I was really happy and felt it had been a lovely evening.


Now, I may have mentioned before that I live within a stone’s throw of the o2 (or the Millennium Dome, as some of you oldies may still call it). Around 10pm, we heard some almighty bangs from outside. It had been raining and blowing a gale outside all day, so I initially assumed it was thunder, but when we got up to look, we realised it was fireworks over the river!



Despite my boyfriend’s pessimistic belief that they would be over by the time we got outside, I insisted we give it a go, and we hurriedly pulled our shoes and coats on and rushed downstairs. When we got there, we realised that they weren’t just any old fireworks…



They were heart shaped fireworks!





It was such a beautiful, exciting moment – the icing on the cake of what was already a perfect evening. I hope you all had a lovely evening too!  
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Friday, 14 February 2014

Tapas At Hispania

So last week, after all my burger eating, I decided a healthier dinner was probably in order. Spanish food is healthy…right? My chef friend had planned dinner for us in Soho, but then the tube strike happened. I waited, shivering in the cold London weather, and when he arrived pushed him hurriedly into the nearest likely looking restaurant I could find – Hispania, a Spanish place about half a metre from Bank tube station.





A sign stuck in the window says the place is ‘Michelin recommended’, which we found a little odd – I mean, if they recommended it, wouldn’t they give it a star? This gave me a bit of a clue as to what the restaurant might be like, but I tried to ignore my reservations, went through the rather unnecessary curtain in the doorway, and we were seated – in a draft by the door. Okay. Brr.

We ordered wine from a slightly snooty waiter and looked at the menu. Hispania is in a lovely building, with more seating up the staircase, and an almost too loud bar behind us. I do wish we’d been able to sit upstairs as I think the atmosphere may have been nicer. Menu-wise, there’s a huge amount of choice on the menu and we decided to go for a selection of tapas dishes.



First up: a selection of cured meats, served with toasted bruschetta and (oddly, considering there was no dips) breadsticks. The meat was lovely – the iberico ham was my favourite, but to be honest it was all good and we polished it off pretty quickly. 



We also ordered some crunchy cheese bites, which were unremarkable to look at, and small, but excellent – I would recommend them, although I wish you got more for your money.



Next up: salted peppers. Good, but not excellent – a bit bland. We had them with a chorizo Spanish omelette which I really don’t recommend – it tasted like a Tesco quiche, and looked like a big lump of dough!


Finally we had scallops, which were really lovely, with wilted spinach and sweetcorn and cooked to perfection – but again, you only got three, and these really weren’t cheap.

The waiter endlessly topped our wine up throughout the meal, which was attentive to the point of slightly irritating actually – he would literally watch me take a mouthful, then leap over and fill it up again. Maybe he was just bored, but it was really quite odd!


I can’t really recommend the Hispania. The food was hit and miss – some excellent, some very mediocre – but paying what I like to describe as ‘the City tax’ to eat in Bank meant absolutely all of it was overpriced. Having said that, if like us, you’re in the area and starving, it’s not bad – I just wouldn’t venture out of my way to go! 
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