Daily Beauty Essentials

Spread out like this my daily regime looks a little excessive even though I like to keep my daytime makeup quite minimal.  Here's what happens on preparing my face for the outside world!

- The Johnson's Daily Essentials range is the staple of my skin care at the moment.  Make up wipes are followed by their Refreshing Gel Wash in the shower and finally their Nourishing 24hour Day Cream.  At the moment these products are working really well for me but in the future I will be investigating natural and organic alternatives.
- No7 Shine Free Primer is a product that I really can't make up my mind about.  I'm just not sure if I really need it or not as some days it works and on others it doesn't.  However more often than not I've felt it's done the opposite of what it's supposed to so I will not be repurchasing!
- MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC15 is my foundation at the moment.  After a brief affair with Clinique, I've come back to MAC due to Clinique's limited colour range.
- MAC Pro Longwear Concealer in NC20 is a relatively new addition to my makeup bag, and I can honestly say it's the best concealer I've ever used. 
- Boots 17 Shine Control Pressed Power in neutral.  I'm not really a fan of pressed powders and only purchased this as they'd sold out of the loose powder.
- Foundation and powders are applied with Eco Tools brushes.  I chose these as they're made from synthetic bristles which are cruelty free, recycled aluminium and sustainable Bamboo.  1% of the company's annual sales is donated to global environmental organisations.
- Depending on my mood and/or outfit I switch between Natural Collection blusher in Pink Cloud and Revlon's Matte Powder Blush in Perfectly Peach.  Sometimes I'll combine both products by contouring my cheek bones in the peach and highlighting the apples of my cheeks with the pink.
- I line my brows with a brown shadow from a really old Hard Candy lips/eyes/face box.
- For my eyes I use neutral shadows from MAC.  Using Topshop's Eyes brush, I sweep all over the lid with Shroom, work Shale through the crease, lightly sweep Mylar under my brows and finally highlight the inner corners of my eyes with Pink Freeze.
- Using a Primark eye lash curler, I curl my lashes before sweeping a line of Rimmel's Glam Eyes liquid liner along my lashline, ending with a classic flick.  Then coat my lashes with Boots 17 Wild Curls mascara.
- For my lips, a quick smooth over with my Creme Brulee Vaseline is all I opt for.
- A quick spray of my roots with Boots maximum hold hairspray and a spritz of Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and I'm ready to go!

For evening looks, I really don't change much at all.  I'll maybe go a tad heavier with the eyeshadow to emphasise my eyes more and almost always add a slick of pink lipstick, either Rimmel's Lasting Finish Lipstick in 006 Pink Blush or Revlon's Matte Lipstick in 002 Pink Pout.

Lauren Moffatt

All images via http://www.laurenmoffatt.net

I first discovered American designer Lauren Moffatt last year and instantly fell for the simplicity and vintage aspect of her pieces.  This year's Spring/Summer collection is just as enchanting.  Muted pastel shades are bang on trend this season.  The whole collection has a relaxed '70s vibe, making it versitile for a range of occasions.  Individual pieces can just as easily be worn to a summer festival or to a picnic in the park.

My particular favourite detail is the hemline of the last dress, green seems to be catching my eye alot recently.  Sadly prices range from about £150 to £350, so everything's a little above my student budget.  Moffatt's a designer I'll be sure to keep my eye on as I have a feeling a few post-graduation paychecks will be saved up for a spending spree!

Find out more here!

What's in my Bag?

This week I'll be doing a series of 'getting to know you' posts.  I personally love these posts; they're the perfect opportunity to indulge my inner Mr Nosey!  Expect to see the content of various bags, my favourite DVDs, beauty essentials...  I also think you can tell a lot about a person's shoes, so who knows where this week will take me!

One day last week saw me trawling through this flickr group and I ended up getting really jealous of everyone's supercute stationary!  However, it inspired me none the less!  All of what you see usually calls a tatty old blue leather Topshop bag home.  Some items do get a brief holiday when they're transferred into my larger library bag (more on that later in the week)!

1 - Milkybar wrapper, couldn't resist it in the Very Long Co-op Queue.
2 - Keys, my keyring is a pink, glittery My Little Pony charm that I got whilst in New York.
3 - Inhaler, a relatively new addition, but sadly very necessary!
4 - Carex Splash Gel, complete with cute penguin!
5 - Pocket tissues from Boots.
6 - Umberella, because I live in England and can't stand having frizzy-rain-hair!
7 - Endless three month old bus tickets!
8 - Spare hair tie.
9 - Topshop purse that has definitely seen better days!
10 - Buscopan IBS Relief tablets.  My Life Savers, however the less said the better!
11 - Papermate ComfortMate Ultra 1.0M in black.
12 - Limited edition Creme Brulee Vaseline.  I LOVE THIS!

Also in there, but didn't make the photo, were various receipts, tissues and a few crumbs - also my 'Blackberry-wannabe' Nokia E5 phone but at the moment it's my only camera!  What are your day-to-day essentials?

Apricot and Almond Brownies

It has been said that I am the Queen of Procrastination.  My usual method is baking.  However, today I believe I may have surpassed myself by then blogging about said baking!  On the procrastination menu today - brownies!

Apricot and Almond Brownies - adapted from Gifts from the Kitchen.
2-3 tablespoons of Marsala or brandy (I used Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum)
125g dried apricots, chopped (I only had an 80g snack packet!)
150g blanched almonds (I used 100g, skins on)
150g unsalted butter, diced
225g plain chocolate
4 large eggs
300g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
125g plain flour
  • Preheat oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3 and line a tin with baking parchment.  (The book suggests using a 23cm square tin).
  • Warm the Marsala/brandy/rum in a small pan and add the apricots and leave to soak for 10 minutes.  Toast the almonds for 5 minutes and once cool, roughly chop.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together and leave to cool slightly.
  • Whisk eggs and sugar.  Add vanilla and melted chocolate.  Sift in flour and fold in the nuts and apricots.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until the top has formed a crust but the underneath is still soft (mine needed a little longer).
  • Cool in the tin and then cut into squares.

I really am very impressed with the recipes from Gifts from the Kitchen so far.  These brownies are exactly how they should be; crispy and gooey!  I think next time I make these I'll add in cherries and maybe chocolate chips too.  I'm planning on attempting the Macarons next (I picked up the food colouring especially earlier today)!  I am a little nervous though as I've tried them before and they didn't quite work out right.  This is a slightly different recipe however, so fingers crossed!

'Amazene' Natural Beauty

I have very dry and sensitive skin, which means I'm constantly on the look out for 'miracle moisturisers'!  And it seems I may have come close at last!  For Christmas, I received Amazene Cocoa and Capaiba body scrub...and I LOVE it!  Not only does it smell delicious but it really works at keeping my skin hydrated.  

I'd never heard of Amazene products before, but so far I'm really impressed.  The brand is passionate about truly natural skin care, and all their products are free from sulphates and parabens.  They are also registered with the Vegan Society and are totally against animal testing.  Central to all their collections is what they call the Amazonia ABC; each product is created from a foundation of Acai, Babacu and Cupuaca.  The combination of these core ingredients ensures that your skin is moisturised and provided with antioxidants to combat ageing.

According to the Amazene website, our skin is subjected to over 200 different chemicals every day.  I'm really quite fussy about what I eat; I like to know exactly what's going into my body and try to make things from scratch as not to overload my digestive system with unnecessary nasties!  It's only occured to me recently that I should be taking the same approach with my skin care.  The effectiveness of my body scrub has certainly proved to me that natural skin care really is the way to go.

I shall certainly be looking into re-purchasing the body scrub I have and have my eye on their range of body butters (I've tried a few of the Body Shop ones but find they leave my skin a little greasy).  Of course The Body Shop is the most well known natural beauty company; the first store opened in 1976 and the early 1980s saw rapid growth of the company.  Anita Roddick's philosophy is now rolled out in over 2500 stores worldwide.  Other eco- and skin-friendly brands to try are Botanicals at Boots, Barefoot Botanicals and for those with a higher budget, Dr Hauschka.

Belle and Boo

I love bunnies.  I also love vintage style illustration.  It's no wonder then that the world of Belle and her bunny companion Boo appeals to me so much!  Both are characters of illustrator Mandy Sutcliffe's imagination and I've been following her work for a good few years now.  Her prints and products feature a whole host of different characters, including Mia and Ava, that are just as cute and charming, however I think Belle and Boo will remain my favourite for a while.

I'm building up quite a collection of Belle and Boo ware; from mugs and cookie cutters to postcards and prints.  I'm very excited to add to these with items from the new party rangeThe range features the basics such as paper cups and plates, party bags and cake toppers.  An imaginative and adorable addition to the range is the Treat Time Donkey and Cart!  I can't wait for my birthday!

All images from belleandboo.com

Keep up to date with Belle and Boo here!  And shop the party range here!

Mulberry on Brighton Beach!

I'm getting really excited for Summer.  I've had enough of this cold weather and can't wait for hot and lazy days!  Seeing the Mulberry's new campaign certainly doesn't help my yearnings!  The perfect Frida Gustavsson and Lindsey Wixson pose among giant sticks of Brighton rock and ice creams and are shot by British photographer, Tim Walker.  I love how Mulberry have used the idea of the quintessential British seaside day out to create a really striking ad campaign.

All images via http://www.mulberry.com/#/thisseason/thecampaign/

The whole collection is complimented beautifully by the props.  I really love Frida's green coat in the first image.  The overall look is relaxed yet playful; exactly like a perfect Summer's day and both qualities I think fashion should stand for.

Behind the Scenes
I was very interested in knowing just how this shoot came together.  Over on the Mulberry Blog my questions were answered in pictorial form!  There are some great shots (by Alison Tanner) of make-up retouching and the assembling of the set.  They provide an insight into what goes on behind the lens in the fashion industry and the many different roles required to produce the fantastic images above.

Behind the Scenes images via http://blog.mulberry.com/
The girl's relaxed wavy hair really caught my eye so I'll definitely be giving those buns a go soon!  It looks like a really simple way to create just the right amount of texture, I'll report back with the results!

Shortbread Bunnies

Today I had the luxury of having the kitchen all to myself for a few hours; a rarity in my busy student flat!  I decided to put my new cook book, Gifts from the Kitchen, to the test.  Shortbread is by far one of my favourite treats and whenever I make it, it always gets eaten very quickly!  The recipe in the book uses icing sugar instead of caster sugar, a variation that I've never tried before.  Having now attempted it, I can't imagine ever using anything else.  The result is a biscuit that almost melts in your mouth.  A note of caution though, don't mix too vigorously, like I did, or you will end up in a cloud of icing sugar!  I had to add a bit more flour to the dough because it wasn't quite firm enough, however I'm not sure how much the room temperature affected this as I also had two batches of soup on the go and it was rather warm!

Vanilla Shortbread - adapted from Gifts from the Kitchen
Makes about 24

225g unsalted butter, softened
75g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour (I also added more at the end), plus extra for rolling
a pinch of salt

  • Cream together the softened butter and icing sugar until pale and light.  Add the vanilla extract and mix again.  Sift the flour and salt, add to the mixture and beat until smooth.  Flatten the dough, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge until firm.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.  Dust work surface with plain flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm.  Stamp out shapes using a cookie cutter and arrange on the baking sheet.
  • Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for around 12-15 minutes, until crisp and pale golden.  (Mine were in for slightly longer than this, possibly due to the thickness).  Cool on baking sheets.

This is a very simple recipe to follow and additional variations suggested in the book make it versitile too; chocolate shortbread is achieved by simply adding 50g of cocoa to the flour.  Or you can mix things up a bit by adding stem ginger, lemon, nuts or cherries.  I'm thinking about coating my bunnies' tails in melted chocolate, you could also sandwhich two biscuits together with a simple ganache.  I think these are fantastic ideas and great for creating your own selection box to give as a gift and will certainly be considering it in the near future!

The bunny cookie cutter was a gift from Father Christmas and is from one of my favourite illustrators, Mandy Sutcliffe of Belle and Boo.  I'll be posting more about her soon, as she's just launched a new range of party ware that I can't wait to get my hands on!  In the meantime, her Boo cookie cutter is available here.

Collecting Books

I've always been a bit of a book worm and when I was younger used to hide myself away in a Matilda like fashion, nose in a book in a hidden corner somewhere.  This early reading obsession has had a profound affect on my life, as I'm currently in my last year of an English Lit degree!

From a young age, I've also had the habit of collecting books.  This started with Beatrix Potter stories, Mr Men and Animal Ark (remember those) and has progressed to anything D H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf.  My passion for all things vintage has inspired many a charity shop/car boot hunt for old Penguin books.

One of my favourite places to search is Oxfam in Richmond, North Yorkshire.  It's a bit far from Brighton I know (I grew up and have relatives there), but their book section is fantastic for both contemporary fiction and the classics.  Over Christmas I got stupidly excited about finding a 1932 copy of Woolf's The Common Reader thereIt's a little dusty but other than that in perfect condition, and I can't help but wonder who E H Brereton was!

Another collection that I feel brewing is cookery books.  For Christmas, I got Gifts from the Kitchen by Annie Rigg.  It's full of really quirky yet elegant gifts to make; shot and styled beautifully.  I'm looking forward to getting stuck in with a fair few of the recipes; on my to-do list are 'Pink and White Vanilla Marshmallows', 'Rhubarb and Vanilla Vodka' and my particular favourite 'Lemon and Passion fruit Curd'. 

The recipes are divided into seasons, and there's also a Celebration section at the end, that includes 'Fortune Cookies', 'Panforte' and 'Cashew and Almond Barfi'.  It's not just sweet foods either, there are pickles and pasta as well as accompaniments for cheese. 

This year I made an assortment of red berry, pistachio and crystallised ginger chocolate buttons, similar to the ones on the cover, although I found the recipe online.  This book has given me so many ideas of what to make family and friends for next Christmas!  Although I usually search for cooking inspiration online, I'm now lusting after Nigella and Jamie's publications so I can make a little something special for me at dinnertimes!

New Year, New Beginnings

January is always one of my favourite months.  From the hangover on New Year's Day to resolustions of vowing to stop eating chocolate whilst surrounded by half empty selection boxes... I just can't get enough.  There's just something about the promise of a new year, and a new you, that is so refreshing and revitalising.  

For the past few years, my resolutions have been the same; drink more water, eat healithy by cooking from scratch, and finally to both draw and write more.  The first two I've done pretty well with, so this year I felt it was time for a challenge.  What better way to encourage me to write more than to start a blog!  It's been on my mind for a while now and inspired by a good friend, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it!   And so here I am!

This year is guaranteed to be full of adventures as I (finally) finish my English Lit degree and make my way into the 'real world' this summer.  Inbetween frantic note making and dissertation writing I hope to share news from my little world, be it about the latest batch of cupcakes I've made to something pretty that's caught my eye.  Who knows, if I'm feeling brave maybe a little outfit post too!