Monday, 30 December 2013

2013: The Review

Phew, it's almost 2014 already. Where did the time go?! Hopefully 2013 was a good year for you but before we wave it goodbye, here's a quick run down of some of my highlights...

January saw us welcoming the loveliest, furriest member of our family - Keeta the husky. Although it took her a while to settle in she's now very much part of the pack and we're completely besotted with her. Also around this time trips out into the New Forest and Dartmoor in the snow. Great fun!

Our first wedding anniversary! We celebrated by staying the night at Marwell Hotel, where we originally tied the knot, courtesy of my Mum. Absolutely splendid!

The weekend of two weddings saw one of Mr P's best friends and two of mine getting hitched. Cue us scrambling between Hampshire and Liverpool to make it to both do's! It was absolutely wonderful to see people so clearly perfectly matched tying the knot.

Bit of a low light here I'm afraid. At the beginning of July Mr P came down to find his Defender had been broken into and my motorbike stolen (fortunately my car and his bike were untouched). Cue a heartbreaking nightmare of police and insurance compounded by the fact that it was perfect biking weather. Argh!!! She was eventually recovered (ha, take that thieves) but not before the insurance had paid out and they refused to allow me to buy her back, but by then I'd bought the Suzuki and I have to admit she is a better bike for me. Still, very sad times :(

My 30th birthday! Very strange to be leaving my twenties but I can't say I was dreading it at all and I haven't found 30 to be at all scary. To be honest I don't feel any different to when I was in my mid twenties, except I have a hubby and a house and a dog (check me out with the domestic bliss!). My mate Jen, who also turned 30 this year, put it best - age is just an accident of birth! Anyway, a visit from my Mum and a trip to Longleat Safari Park made for a lovely celebration.

After much umming and aahing I finally took up playing music again, something my life had revolved around in my teens. I bought some new oboe reeds, dusted off my music stand and joined a wind band in Emsworth which I'm thoroughly enjoying. Who'd have thought after a decade away I'd still remember how to play?!

My little blog was born! I only got into reading blogs in October but immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of - the perfect outlet for my girly side and my inner geek delighted at the idea of playing with CSS.

Bit of a stressy start with work piling up in my day job but on the plus side my manager position was made permanent. Hurrah! Then a whole big flurry of Christmas shopping, decorations and finally the holidays and here we are!

Did you have a good 2013? What were your favourite bits?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

To all you lovely people who follow my little blog, and anyone who happens to come across it over the festive season, I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Multi Tasking Vitamin E

I bought the Body Shop Vitamin E Nourishing Night Cream (£11) because I wanted a richer night moisturiser for the colder weather but I must admit it turned out to be a bit too rich for regular use on my skin. However, I'm not one to let a mis-purchase go to waste and I've found this pretty pink cream is great for a whole host of other uses.

The Moisturising Mask
Ok this one is obvious, but when I feel like my skin needs a little su'ing su'ing extra in the moisturising stakes I apply a generous layer, let it soak in for an hour or so and then clean the remainder off. I get the moisturising benefits my skin needs but by washing the remainder off I'm not left with a somewhat greasy mess in the morning. This is a trick you could try with any moisturiser you might have lying around which is just a bit too rich for regular use.

The Lip Balm
A quick dab on my lips and they're lovely and moisturised without waiting for a shiny concoction to sink in so I can apply lipstick pretty much straight away. The moisture lasts and it even manages to make my lips feel a little plumper, although I've no idea how! You do have to be a little careful though as it's quite heavily scented and doesn't taste great so less is most definitely more.

The Hand Cream
In a pinch you can use pretty much any moisturiser as a hand cream but something about this one sets it apart. It sinks in just as well as Soap & Glory Hand Food (my all time favourite) and does a really good job of sorting out dryness for a good few hours. Plus once I've smoothed this on my hands I can also use it as...

The Hair Tamer
I swear the second my hair does into a plait or ponytail it takes on a life as its own and starts pinging out all over the place! I prefer not to use gels or strong hairspray to banish flyaways as they just make my hair look greasy or crunchy but because this cream is pretty heavy it weighs down the rogue hairs without the unwanted side effects. True it doesn't last as long a proper styling product but as a finishing touch it's not bad.

Admittedly my vitamin E cream doesn't do any of these things  as well as products designed for those jobs, but given the choice between having this hide at the back of my bathroom cabinet for years to come or using it up I figured I might as well!

Do you have any mis-purchases that ended up being useful for other things or are you a get rid gal?

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Merry Veggie Christmas!

If I say the words Christmas Dinner do you think of mouth watering roast potatoes, crunchy roast parsnips, juicy carrots, sprouts (if you must), fragrant stuffing, sweet cranberry sauce and a generous helping of succulent turkey topped off with figgy pudding gently sizzling with flaming brandy? I sound like an M & S advert! Me too sort of, except I hate figgy pudding and I'm a vegetarian so no turkey for me! However, I don't miss out as both mine and Mr P's family (we alternate) cook the veg well away from the turkey and I have a not so secret weapon to ensure I have just as yummy a meal as my meat eating relatives.

This year I'm having a delicious caramelised balsamic and red onion tart with goat's cheese taken from Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection, which I have to say is the yummiest collection of veggie recipes I've ever seen. I won't recount the whole recipe here as it's quite long but here it is in a nutshell:

You will need...
Enough short crust pastry to make your desired size tart (you can buy it ready made but if you make your own add some mustard powder and cayenne pepper)
A little beaten egg
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
900g sliced red onions (chew gum while you chop them and you should cry less)
2 round goat's cheeses
25g butter
1 dessert spoon of chopped sage and some whole leaves for garnish
A little olive oil and cayenne pepper

To make the tart...
Heat your oven to 180°C or gas mark 4. Roll out your pastry nice and thin and use it to line a greased quiche tin. Lightly prick the base with a fork, cook for around 15 mins in the oven and let it cool.

To make the scrum my onion filling melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onions, balsamic vinegar and hopped sage, season and let it all cook gently for about 30 mins until the excess liquid has evaporated and it has a glazed look.

Brush the cold pastry case with a little beaten egg and pop it back in the oven for 5 mins to stop it going soggy. Spoon the onion mixture into the case and add slices of goat's cheese on top. Finish the tart with a few sage leaves dipped in olive oil and sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper. Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy!

The beauty of this recipe is you can make the pastry case and the onion mixture ahead of time and put them together in a jiffy. That and it tastes amazing, even as leftovers on Boxing Day. I heartily recommend Delia's veggie recipes for any fellow veggies out there and for any meat eaters who think they can handle a meat free meal!

Are you having something non-traditional for your Crimble dinner? 

Picture and recipe credit: Peter Knab for Delia Smith's Vegetarian Collection (BBC Books, 2002)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

What's on my nails today

NYC Expert Last Nail Polish in Money Never Sleeps

For my latest manicure I've gone all traditional with a lovely rich green which reminds me of a gorgeously festive pine scented Christmas tree. Ok admittedly ours is artificial because otherwise the dog tries to eat it but hey, I'm just getting into the spirit of things!

This polish is the first I've tried from NYC and although it applied a little streaky at first the second coat was the charm, turning it into this gorgeous slightly shimmery dark green. Apparently this also gives a smoky quality to any jewel coloured polishes its applied over the top of but admittedly I haven't tried that yet - I'm just loving that rich colour on its own at the moment.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Amazing Lady!

Today is my Gran's 94th birthday. Wow!

There she is in the middle with my aunt and mum at Mr P's and my wedding last year. Looking pretty good, no? Of course she was a mere 92 there, but believe me she's still as active as you like and has a considerably better social life than I do!

All I can say is I hope I'm still going strong at even nearly her age!

I get to see her, and my folks, this weekend. Yippee! Do you have anything special planned this weekend?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Lilac Lovin'

It's almost Christmas - just 3 weeks tomorrow! Christmas means glitter and bling, especially in the nail department. While I love a good old traditional red or green I'm currently opting for a slightly less traditional but suitably wintry silver lilac from Rimmel.

This glittery, sparkly, foil affair is Moon Walking from their Space Dust range which launched in October. The underlying metallic lilac is a lovely colour which changes shade depending on the light, sometimes even looking almost blue grey (but in a nice way). It has a foil-esque quality which is mixed with tonnes of lilac and silver glitter. As a result it goes on pretty thick and dries to a textured finish, which I quite like but if it bugs you then an extra coat of top coat should smooth it out.

The Space Dust range is ideal for parties with its light catching twinkliness. There are 4 other shades besides this one:
Aurora (a pale girlie pink)
Luna Love (bright raspberry pink)
Total Eclipse (dark green/black)
Shooting Star (silver)

Available in Boots for £3.99 and currently on 3 for 2. I might have to treat myself to them all!

Are you a glitter girl? What's adorning your festive nails this week?

Friday, 29 November 2013

TRESemmé Platinum Strength

No matter how often I'm tempted away by other brands, I usually end up coming back to try out TRESemmé's latest offering and I usually end up wondering why I was ever tempted away. Guess's happened again! I picked up the Platinum Strength shampoo and conditioner after becoming disillusioned with L'Oreal's Hair Expert EverPure offering which, although sulphate free, frankly left my hair feeling rough, bushy and as dry as ever. 

Platinum Strength promises to repair up to 2yrs' worth of damage, which is a tall order on long hair that is subjected to some form of heat based torture on a daily basis and is in desperate need of a good trim. Split-endorama! However, I must admit it's definitely doing something right. My hair is smoother, softer and shinier than it has been in a rather long time and I swear the ends don't look as scraggly as they used to. 

The shampoo is luxuriously thick (it's actually thicker than the conditioner, which surprised me) and lathers well. It leaves my hair feeling lovely and clean but not stripped and rinses out easily. The conditioner smells lovely and although it's a bit runny it soaks into my hair nicely. After leaving it in for a bit while finishing the rest of my shower routine it too rinses out easily. The result is clean, fresh smelling hair which combs through in one go without extra detangling spray (very impressive) and which is so shiny and soft even Mr P commented on it. 

It takes a few washes for the damage repairing effects to start to show but after 3 weeks I'm very pleased. I doubt it will completely fix my split ends - only giving them the chop will do that - but it's certainly helping. Of course  TRESemmé is good value and you can almost always find it on offer somewhere. Superdrug currently have a better than half price offer on the range so you can pick both up for less than a fiver! Result!!

I'm off to treat my locks to the deep conditioning masque - take that split ends!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Kiko Scrub & Peel Wipes

Kiko Scrub and Peel wipes are a bit of a lazy way to exfoliate, and since I'm all for lazy skincare (really, who has hours to spend smearing all manner of potions of their faces?) I thought I'd give them a try. These are basically face wipes with a rough side and a smooth side for manual exfoliation. Simple, right?

As you can probably tell, I really wanted to like these but in all honestly I can't recommend them. The rough side is really rough so anything more than a light touch can actually be painful and frankly do more harm than good. The skin around my chin can take a fair beating after years of breakouts but it can't take much of this before it just gets sore, red and a wee bit angry. Not a good look! The smooth side was a welcome relief and did soothe my visage a bit but it still looked distinctly peeved for a while.

On the plus side I found these weren't so bad when used on my shoulders and back, where I find it difficult to reach in the shower (enlisted Mr P's help there). So although these are billed as facial wipes I think they're better suited to a quick bit of body exfoliation. In fact they'd be great to take camping or to a festival.

Scrub & Peel wipes are £5.90 from Kiko Cosmetics

Have you tried any of Kiko's skincare range? What did you think?

Monday, 25 November 2013

17 Quicker Slicker Nail Polish

I picked up this new nail polish offering from 17 on a recent trip to Boots and was intrigued to find it claims to dry in not 60 but 50 seconds. Pffft, thought I, another one of those polishes that claims to dry quickly and you're still glued to the spot in fear of smudges 10 minutes later. You know what I mean! However, I'm a sucker for sparkle so into the basket they went (I blame the 3 for 2 offer entirely).

Later that evening I found myself in a rush to get ready to go out with no time for a proper polish so I thought I'd put that 50 second claim to the test. My internal optimist hoped maybe it might dry a bit quicker than regular polish...and goodness me didn't it just! The 50 seconds might be a slight exaggeration but this is one fast drying polish. I managed 2 coats plus drying in the time it took Mr P to shave around his Movember facial fuzz and it was dry enough not to smudge at all when I put my coat on 5 minutes later. Colour me impressed!

This polish actually doesn't get great reviews on Boots' website but it seems most of those reviewers have tried to apply it too slowly or in too thin a coat, ending up with visible brush strokes. You do need to be fairly quick and use a decent amount of polish but it comes with a wide, rounded brush so you can cover your nail neatly in 2-3 swipes. I found the depth of colour to be fine and 2 coats was perfectly sufficient for me but I must admit I find sparkly polishes can give the appearance of better coverage so I can't vouch for how good the flat colours are. Wishing Star is in fact so twinkly it practically glows and probably lends itself better to being a single coat special effect for an accent nail (unless you want seriously bling fingertips) but Navy Glint is more subtle and looks very pretty on its own. Staying power seems pretty good too - with no base or top coat and minimal nail prep my express job has lasted a couple of days before chipping.

17 Quicker Slicker polishes are £2.99 each from Boots

If I'm in a hurry again I know what I'll be reaching for! What do you do when you only have seconds to make over your fingertips?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The pen is mightier than the, erm...keyboard!

I'll let you into a little secret - ever since I first got my sticky little mitt on a coloured crayon as a little 'un I've had a bit of a love affair with stationery. Much as I love the ease and speed of email and the neatness of typed documents there's something about a hand written missive that's both charming and personal.

I love writing. I have loads of hand written wish lists, notes, thoughts and ideas around the place. Sometimes I wish I could do my posts by hand, but then again I want you to be able to read them! But what makes writing really special is having something beautiful to write with. Over the years I've always had a nice pen and have mostly favoured Parker and Waterman but for my 30th birthday I thought I'd treat myself to something really special - a Cross zebra themed chrome and black rollerball from their Sauvage range.

The Sauvage range, which features funky animal inspired designs including zebra, giraffe and crocodile, is specifically designed for the female hand so the pens are slightly smaller but still have sufficient weight to feel comfortable. The finish of these pens oozes quality and they write beautifully. What's more, I've had loads of compliments on mine. What more could a girl want?

So go on, even if you don't fancy a safari inspired number, treat yourself and scribble away in style!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Cherry Cute iPhone!

I've been coveting the iPhone 5S since Apple first emailed me to inform me of its pending release (they need to stop doing that - I'm also coveting a MacBook Pro which I definitely can't afford). Unfortunately, though, current funds won't stretch to an expensive new phone contract so I thought I'd treat my ageing iPhone 4 to a new look. I found this delightful mint green case with the cutest little magnetic cherry fasteners on eBay for the cheap as chips price of £5.99.

Ok, it's not leather but as PU goes it's better quality than most I've seen and the plastic bit inside, which is an exact colour match, holds my phone nice and snugly. The wallet side also has two useful card holder slots.

It's made by a company called Hello Deere and is available in a range of colours besides this pretty mint green (pink, red, black, lime green and cream) and can be found here for the iPhone 4/4S and here for the iPhone 5/5S.

Note: I have no connection to this seller and have linked to these specific items purely because I received quick delivery and good service from them. They are available from other sellers. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Inky Fingers

love blue nail polish. Ice, baby, sky, cornflower, powder, turquoise, royal, midnight - you can bet if it's a shade of blue I'll wear it on my nails! Now that autumn is most definitely upon us I'm reacquainting myself with the darker shades in my polish collection and am currently sporting this delightfully inky, almost black offering from Rimmel - Pro Lycra in 400 Blue Vogue.

I got this polish early in the year but it's still readily available and excellent if you want something a little bit gothic but a little bit different to plain old black. It's also a great base coat for glitters, especially silver or blue.

Rimmel have kindly included one of those cleverly shaped brushes which fans out to cover the nail, making it mercifully easy to do your right hand, and the polish really only needs one coat for good coverage. Plus with a good base and top coat my pretty digits should last nicely for a few days, although I've never managed as many as 10! I used Seche Vite for my top coat (what else?) but sadly my Sally Hansen Diamond Strength base coat has suffered a serious case of the gloopies so I'm in the market for a new one. Any suggestions?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Kiko Haul

I'd never heard of the Kiko brand until I started visiting blog-land but now I'm just a little bit hooked. The range is positively mahoosive including facial skincare, bath and body, make up, brushes, sun lotion and tanning and even deodorant. The price point is extremely reasonable too - so much so that I actually thought I was on a knock off site when I first googled them! Perfect for those of us on a budget and although the minimum order value is £25 you can get quite a bit for that. Besides, you could always club together with friends to make up the order value if you're only after a couple of things.
So onto my very first Kiko haul...

Ultimate Pen Long Wear Eyeliner
Automatic Precision Eyeliner & Khol in 714 Plum
Smart Eye Pencil in 814 Pearly Grey and 801 Grey Taupe
All three pencils are lovely and soft to use and although they won't give you a really sharp line they do blend nicely. The colours are nice and strong but flattering and last really well. The automatic pencil also comes with a useful smudger on the end. I confess to being an utter novice with liquid eyeliner - I gave up after a few disastrous attempts as a teenager - but I love the way it looks so I'm determined to get to grips with it and this felt tip pen style offering is billed as suitable for beginners. I'll give it a go an report back!

Clockwise from top left: 
135 Macropearly Umber
171 Pearly Grey
II8 Pearly Beige Silk
151 Macropearly Lilac
122 Matte Beaver Brown
These are lovely silky eyeshadows with good colour strength and pretty impressive stickability. The two purpley ones (135 and 151) have little flecks of glitter in them but not so much as to relegate them to the "party only" drawer. 171 and 118 have a very pretty shimmer to them. However, a word of warning - if you're ordering online do beware as the shades pictured online don't seem to exactly match the actual eyeshadow colours (118 appeared a very light lilac online but is clearly more of a light gold).

Smart Lipstick in 913 Rosewood
pH Lip Enhancer
I don't wear lipstick that often but I love the way it looks so I'm trying to get back into it. My usual choices are on the brown side but I've been inspired by some of the gorgeous pinks worn by other bloggers to go a bit more girlie and this shade is just perfect. It's a well pigmented darkish slightly plummy pink which even Mr P says suits me. The formula is smooth and creamy and although I haven't worn it for a long period yet it feels very comfortable even on my very dry lips.
The pH Lip Enhancer is a balm which is supposed to react to the pH of your skin to transform into a light sheen of colour perfectly matched to your own complexion. I figured this might be a bit of a gimmick but it actually did change from its rather bright pink to a more peachy neutral on my lips. Not a colour I would have chosen but I really like it so I'll have to find a lippie that matches that shade now! As a balm it's surprisingly moisturising and has a pleasant vanilla scent.

I also purchased some Scrub & Peel wipes - basically wipes with a rough and smooth side for exfoliating and soothing - which I'll do a full review on when I've had chance to try them out. I'm all for lazy skincare and my skin could certainly benefit from some serious exfoliation at the moment!

That little lot set me back the princely sum of £44 and I'm pretty sure it won't be my last Kiko mini splurge! Do you have a favourite from the Kiko range?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Missing Home

It might seem odd to write a post about missing home from the comfort of my own bed but my house isn't the home I mean. If you've read my About Me page you'll know that while I live in Hampshire I'm from Durham in the north east, and that will always be home for me. Sure, Hampshire's nice, not to mention warmer, but even after 6 years and marrying a born and bred Hampshire man sometimes I still miss my old stamping ground. In my heart of hearts I'd love to move back (Mr P is understandably less keen on the idea), but would it be as good as I remember?

Back "oop North" I had a lot of friends and a busy social life, but then again I was only in my early twenties with relatively little responsibility. Now I'm older and have the marriage/house/dog to think about would it still be the same? Probably not, but that doesn't stop me being nostalgic for what feels like the good old days. I miss some of those friends who I've drifted from, mainly because I'm terrible at keeping in touch, and I miss the places I knew. Facebook can be a terrible thing because staying internet friends with them, and seeing what they're up to in places I used to know like the back of my hand, reminds me of what I'm missing now.

But then again, is life so bad down here? No, I don't have as many friends and I stay in far more than I go out but is that because I live in Hampshire or is it just a fact of, dare I say it, growing up? What I do have is a lovely husband, a nice house, a good job and a very cute dog. Would I give them up for the chance to return to the north? Of course not! But if I could only transplant them up there...

Maybe it's the time of year, with the festive family season fast approaching and mine being 300 miles away, or maybe it's because I haven't seen my folks since Easter  or maybe it's because I'm just a tiny bit bored with my quieter life. I don't know. But I do know that it's no good wallowing in self pity - if nothing else it makes my eyes puffy! It's a bit early for making new year resolutions but I think I have a couple to make a start with: 1) get in touch with some of those old friends, properly not just through Facebook, and 2) get in the car and flipping well drive up there - it's not the other side of the world! Who knows maybe some of them might fancy a trip down south some time, but I won't know unless I ask, will I?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Claiming my blog

I love Bloglovin for following my favourites, so just claiming mine...
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Yippee - promotion!

I didn't intend to say much about my day job on here but today I got some good news that I just have to share - I've got a promotion!

Well, it's sort of a promotion anyway. I've been "acting up" as a manager for about a year but today I got confirmation that I'm being made a permanent manager from December. Yippee!!!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

My First Blog

So this is blogging then? I'm pretty new to this whole thing, in fact I only started following blogs about a week ago, but I have to say I'm enjoying it. So I figured why not make one of my own? I always have a lot to say and it would be great to share some of it with the wider world rather than just Mr P and our dog!

If you want to know a bit more about me then check out my About Me page.

So what am I going to do with my shiny new blog? Well I'm really just going to see where it takes me. I'm a bit of a beauty addict so that will probably feature somewhere, although I live on a modest budget so it's more likely to be Boots and Superdrug than Chanel and Dior! I'm also a (very) amateur photographer so it would be lovely to share some of my work. Finally, Mr P and I are both bikers so come summer I'll be sharing our biking adventures! Generally I'm pretty down to earth, practical and opinionated so I promise not to pull any punches.

Welcome to my world, and thanks for joining in!