Sunday, 31 August 2014

InstaLIFE // fortnight w/c 17th August 2014

Hellooooo! I am back with another InstaLIFE post having missed last weeks, sorry! I have been crazy busy at work so not been on social media as much, and decided to really step back and just enjoy the bank holiday (i.e I slept. A lot!!!) so didn't quite get my usual weekly post up. So I'm back with a bang and doing a bumper round up of the last 2 weeks. Let's do this....


The other Monday I ate a calzone the size of my head! Seriously, it literally looked like Hey Arnold had arrived at our table! It was HUGE!! I went to a lovely Italian in Russell Square called Ciao Bella which is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.


Whilst walking through London the other day I cut through the back streets of Covent Garden and stumbled across this lovely little scene! It's reasons like this I love London! April from Beautiface Blog tells me it's a great restaurant called Sarastros so will definitely have to find it again and try it out. 


On the Saturday of the bank holiday my boyfriend and I met some friends in St Albans and I'm always struck by how lovely St Albans Cathedral is


You've got to do a good day trip on a bank holiday haven't you? Tony and I decided to go down to Brighton for the day, and I even got him to take a little selfie on the train! We had such a great day, and meant I could tick off one of the fun things on my 25 Things To Do This Summer list.


We were really lucky with the weather in Brighton and had lovely warm sunshine. After lunch we went and sat on the beach for a bit and loved doing some people and seagull watching! There was a big carousel just behind us so we were well entertained by the music! We had such a great day, I think I might do a post on what we got up to so let me know below if that's something you'd like to read.


Fast forward a wee while to PAY DAY!!! Oh sweet pay day, such a magical time of the month! After a busy couple of weeks I felt it was only right I treat myself and nipped into MAC and picked up the Prep and Prime Lip Primer and a Candy Yum Yum lipstick - beautiful! I'll have a post about these bad boys soon!


My girlfriends and I love going to the theatre and trying fun new experiences, so were really excited when we heard about Hint Hunt. The idea is you are locked in a room and have one hour to solve the clues and escape! Our room was dressed as the office of a detective trying to solve a murder, who was murdered himself half way through his investigations. You have to hunt high and low for clues, crack codes, find objects and solve the mystery to be released. Apparently 50% of groups don't actually escape and we only did with 3 seconds to spare! Phew! It was absolutely brilliant fun and a great alternative activity for a night out. They have three different rooms so we'll definitely be going back to try the others out. Go check their website out - www.hinthunt.co.uk - they also have rooms all over the world so fun for everyone, no matter where you live!


Yesterday my mum and I had a lovely girlie spa day at Lingfield Park. It was so nice to spend the day chilling out and catching up with Mamma Sue, and lovely to be pampered too! I had a mini manicure (more on that in this week's Midweek Manicure post) I also had my first proper massage which was really good, though I kept thinking of that episode of Friends where Ross prods the old man with wooden spoons which kept making me giggle!! Let me know if you'd like to see a post about this (the spa day, not the spoon prodding episode!) 


Oohh this week's Great British Bake Off was a corker wasn't it?! Scandalous!!! I have to say I actually feel a little bit sorry for Diana as clever editing had definitely helped add fuel the fire. #Bingate aside, I decided to give a Baked Alaska a go for my GBBO Challenge and this week am baking with my mum as I'm staying at my parents house. Here's a picture of our Tia Maria and coffee ice cream about to go in the freezer. You'll have to see how it turned out in tomorrow's GBBO Challenge post...


So there you go, a little update on my adventures! I hope you enjoyed the bank holiday and the last few days of summer! Yikes, how is it September tomorrow?!?! 

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Beauty // Old Wives Tail - Melado Organic Hair Growth Oil Treatment

I've blogged before about how I am permanently yearning for beautifully long and luxurious mermaid hair. So when I was contacted by the lovely Lily from Old Wives Tail to see if I would like to try out their Melado Organic Hair Growth Oil TreatmentI didn't have to think twice. The Treatment is made up of a 
"Unique blend of 100% organic oils that will give the kiss of life to even the most dry and damaged hair. Rich in natural vitamins, antioxidants and proteins, just one drop of sacred Melado will do wonders for your hair and scalp". 
Sounds just what I need eh!



I'd not heard of Old Wives Tail before but I love that they use only organic and natural products - great for sensitive skinned ladies like myself. Old Wives Tail are also actively against animal testing - they even give 10% of their profits to charities who help prevent the testing of cosmetics on animals. My kind of company! The Melado Oil Treatment is made up of a megamix of olive oil, almond oil, Argan oil and lavendar oil, and as you can probably guess, smells amazing! Old Wives Tail explains 
"The natural vitamins and omegas in Melado restores shine and deeply moisturises the hair back to health. When massaged into the scalp this oil will help stimulate and encourage healthy hair growth by penetrating deep into the roots and strengthening each hair follicle".
I couldn't wait to give it a try - long, healthy locks here I come!  





My Hair Growth Oil Treatment arrived simply wrapped, in a pretty floral napkin which really helped emphasise the fact that Old Wives Tail is a family business, and only uses "real" natural ingredients - no mass produced nonsense here! It came complete with a handy leaflet explaining more about the product, and instructions for use: simply apply the Melado Oil to your hair, leave for an hour and then wash repeatedly with shampoo until it's all rinsed out, and condition your ends.


I couldn't wait to get started using my Oil Treatment, but was a bit nervous that I would be left with a greasy limp mess afterwards as it is literally an oil and I've got very thin, fine hair. I needn't have worried however as I went with the less is more mantra and found that you only need a small bit of product to achieve great results, and the oil does wash out easily. I was a bit nervous about actually applying the oil as it comes in a round open tub, with no nozzle or anything to assist application. However I actually found this really useful in controlling how much oil I put on my hair as I could use my fingers to scoop the oil. This meant I actually had more control than I would have if it was a pipette-style nozzle, as one squeeze too many with them and it's easy to have drenched your hair and end up with oil overload! 


I particularly focused my attention on the ends of my hair, as this is where it can become dry and coarse looking. After leaving it to do it's magic for one hour and then shampooing it out, I noticed a visible improvement in the condition of my hair - much shinier and smoother, and it also felt really silky too. Excellent! The instruction leaflet also recommends massaging the oil into the scalp as the Melado Oil encourages growth, and this too has been lovely, and given my whole head of hair a bit of a revive and make over. I've used less product on my scalp as this is obviously more prone to grease build up (urgh grim sorry) and I wouldn't want any product residue to contribute to that, but have so far had no problems of it not rinsing out. It's been really nice having a product which requires being massaged in and then left on for an hour, as it feels really decadent and like you're giving yourself a good pamper, especially as the oil smells incredible and so relaxing! It's like having a spa treatment in your own home!


The Melado Organic Hair Growth Oil Treatment is £13.99 which I think is a really good price, especially for the amount you get - the 100ml tub will certainly keep me going for a while. It's been a real treat to my hair so far - keeping it looking well conditioned and glossy - and I can't wait to see how it helps it grow into a well maintained mermaid mane too! I love that I'm getting 4 natural oils in one handy product and am also helping stop animal testing too. Win win! 


You can find out more about Old Wives Tail and see their full range of products at www.oldwivestail.com


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*Thank you very much to Lily at Old Wives Tail for sending me the Melado Organic Hair Growth Oil Treatment to review. All thoughts are honest and my own, for more information please see my Disclaimer Page.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Midweek Manicure // Top 10 Back to School Basics

My best friend Gemma is a teacher and recently told me how one of her favourite things about being on school holidays is the fact that she can wear whatever colour nail polish she likes, without worrying about whether it is "school appropriate" or not. With the summer holidays coming to a close I thought I'd have a look at some of my favourite work / school appropriate polishes to show that basic "sensible" nails don't have to be boring.

back-to-school-nails

left to right:
OPI - Siberian Nights 
Rimmel London - 400 Blue Vogue
Kardashian Kolors, Nicole by OPI - Khloe Had A Little Lam Lam
Barry M - Raspberry
Models Own - Grey Day
Elf - Nude
Models Own - Nude Beige
No 7 - Lucky Lilac
Barry M Gelly Hi Shine - Elderberry
Nails Inc Limited Edition - Kate

back-to-school-nails

back-to-school-nails

See I told you they weren't boring!


What are your favourite "sensible" nail polishes?



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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Baking // 2014 GBBO Challenge - Week 3 - Bread Week

Yikes it's bread week already! I love watching this week as it's always an exciting episode and shows who's the upper crust of the bakers. This episode was no exception and featured some of the trickiest bread challenges I've seen:
Signature Bake: 12 Rye bread rolls
Technical Challenge: Ciabatta
Show stopper: Bread centre piece 

I had my first foray into bread for last year's GBBO Challenge and was really excited to give it a go again this year. I decided to go hard or go home, and turn my hand to Mr Hollywood's Ciabatta Challenge.


I don't have a standing mixer (one day the pistachio Kitchen Aid will be mine!) so I found a recipe which specifically involved mixing by hand. I then went on an absolute baking rollercoaster....

I decided at the last minute that I'd actually try and use my food processor to create my bread and got as far as starting to mix, then realised there was far too much mixture in there and there was no way it was going to work! Ciabatta 1, Emsy 0. I then went to scoop the dough out the mixer only to slice my finger on the blade gahhhh! Ciabatta 2, Emsy 0.



I started making my ciabatta from scratch, this time by (a plaster covered) hand. I was immediately worried that my dough could not be mixed strongly enough by hand and did not look smooth enough, so I was worried the gluten had not developed enough. Ciabatta 3, Emsy 0. I left it to prove however and it did rise slightly hurrah! Ciabatta 3, Emsy 1.



My bread didn't rise on it's second prove however. Ciabatta 4, Emsy 1. Or on the third and final prove. Ciabatta 5, Emsy 1. I then got the bread out the oven and it was looking slightly more bronzed than it should. Ciabatta 6, Emsy 1. I hate Ciabatta!!!!


However the bread had risen nicely Ciabatta 6, Emsy 2. It also had the classic hollow sound which means it had been baked well Ciabatta 6, Emsy 3. I flipped the rolls over and wahey - no sign of a soggy bottom! Ciabatta 6, Emsy 4. I then went to cut a slice off and was hit with a nice crusty outer. Ciabatta 6, Emsy 5. I sliced all the way through and there were the classic irregular air holes which are characteristic of a ciabatta. Yes! Ciabatta 6, Emsy 6. Then came the final test - the taste test. I'm so pleased (and a little surprised) to say that it tasted delicious - very fresh and soft yet chewy. Ciabatta 6, Emsy 7.



Phew, so it looks like I pulled it off...just! Here's the link to the recipe I used, and of course I've written it out below:

INGREDIENTS:  


** 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
** 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
** 1 teaspoon white sugar
** 3 1/4 cups strong white bread flour
** 1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

INSTRUCTIONS:

1) Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and then add the water.


2) Mix everything together using a sturdy spoon or spatula until it comes together into a smooth paste / dough. Leave the spoon / spatula in the bowl, cover and leave to prove for one hour.


3) Uncover the dough and mix for another 4-5 minutes. Take out the spoon / spatula, cover and leave for another hour.


4) Gently divide the dough into however many loaves of ciabatta you want (I went for two). Take each piece of dough out and stretch it out into the desired shape and size and lay on a lightly floured baking tray. Lightly dust the top of each loaf and then cover and leave for a final prove for 35 minutes.


5) Uncover and bake in a preheated oven at 230C for 25 minutes. Take out and leave to cool on a baking rack before devouring.


Blimey what a bonkers bread week! Thankfully I managed to pull it off and was actually really happy with my final product. I will definitely make this ciabatta again - it's a relatively simple recipe with actually quite little hands-on time.


Have you made ciabatta before? Let me know how you got on - did anyone else have a nightmare like I did?!


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Friday, 22 August 2014

Lifestyle // Bakerdays Letterbox Cake

I just can't get enough of cake at the moment! The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens, I've been baking along too, and the other day I came home to find a cake had been delivered to me - THROUGH MY LETTERBOX!!! "Cake through the letter box?!" I hear you cry, "What wizardry is this"  Well, it was a little present from the clever folk over at BakerDays who will personalise a cake any way you like and deliver it to you THROUGH YOUR LETTERBOX! (Have I got across how awesome I think that is yet?!) 


BakerDays say that 
"The concept of cake is changing the way the world thinks of showing someone they're thinking of someone. A small scrumptious cake, which arrives with the postman, can be covered in your caring words, funny photos or anything you could possibly want"
Pretty cool eh?!


My Letter Box Cake* came delivered in a sturdy white cardboard box, which inside held an adorable tin that said Just For You. Nestled along side it was a couple of balloons, some candles and even one of those jazzy blower things that make an amazingly obnoxious noise as it unrolls (what are they called?!) There was even a cute flowery card which had the message Enjoy your cake from BakerDays inside. I thought these were all really nice touches and everything was relatively classic and simple - not too gender or occassion specific which means they have universal appeal. I really like the tin and will definitely be keeping hold of that for when I do my own baking and also storing little bits and pieces like my piping nozzles etc.





Now onto the good bit - THE CAKE!!! My cake had my blog name and logo on which looked really cool, and I was surprised at how clear it came out and how perfectly the colours matched. They'd also added some little hearts in the same turquoise colour and a turquoise Aztec style trim which were nice little additions.




It was packaged well, and all sealed in plastic inside the tin to keep it fresh, and the cake apparently lasts for up to 14 days (though mine was gobbled up long before this!) It was easy to take the cake out of the tin with a little Alice In Wonderland style instruction tab, which you just pulled and the cake board lifted out easily.


My cake was double chocolate chip flavoured, but the little leaflet which came inside the package also said they do Vanilla, Fruit or half Chocolate/half Vanilla cakes. They also do Dairy Free and Gluten and Wheat Free recipes which I think is really cool, as often special dietary requirements can get forgotten in these sorts of services. It was a lovely rich, dark colour and was stuck to the board with a smooth, creamy butter icing (my favourite!) The cake was very tasty and not at all dry (I can't bring myself to use the M word!) but was quite dense. I think if the cake had been a thicker, normal size it would have been too stodgy, but as it was so thin, (letterbox thin!) the density was not a problem. 




I really enjoyed my BakerDays Letterbox Cake. It's always exciting to have something unique and personal to you, and who doesn't like cake eh?! This is such a great idea for a gift if you can't actually see someone on their special day, or just aren't that great at baking! You can also order cupcakes too which would be fab for a party or event. The letterbox cakes are £14.99 each which may seem pricy if compared with the cost of buying a cake at the supermarket, but is a much more personal present. The fact that it comes in a cute tin with birthday accessories also gives it a real novelty factor which is bound to put a smile on anybody's face! And of course they can keep the tin as a keepsake too.


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*Thanks so much to BakerDays for sending me a Letterbox Cake to review. All thoughts are honest and my own. For further details please see my Disclaimer Page.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Midweek Manicure // Melted Ice Cream Mani

It's the August bank holiday this weekend in the UK so we get a nice long break hurrah! Although it's set to be a washout - classic British summer - bank holiday weekends always make me think of special day trips and ICE CREAM! I thought this would make a fab theme for some nail art, so here you go - my melted ice cream manicure!

ice-cream-nail-art

I started by painting my nails with 2 coats of Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Coconut. I then picked 5 pastel ice cream-esque colours:

Barry M Gelly Hi Shine - Sugar Apple 
Barry M Gelly Hi Shine - Elderberry
Models Own Hyper Gel - Pink Veneer
Models Own Hyper Gel - Lilac Sheen 
Models Own - Lemon Meringue 

summer-nail-art

Taking each colour in turn, I wiped off most of the polish on the brush and then splodged it randomly on to my nails. I repeated this until all nails, bar my ring fingers, had been coated in each colour.

summer-nail-art

ice-cream-nail-art

I then used a temporary nail tattoo from Fake Tattoos* and applied the large ice cream design onto my nail. A quick once over with top coat and my look was complete! So quick and so easy, and I LOVE the result! It's a really easy way to have some interesting nail art in a really low effort way. perfect! (You can see the nail art design I did using the Fake Tattoos paper aeroplane tattoo here)

ice-cream-nail-art

ice-cream-nail-art

I've not tried this splodge method before but am really happy with the result and will definitely be trying it again! It reminds me of watercolours, and something between candy floss and melted ice cream, so I guess achieved my result!


What do you think of this nail art look?


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*Thanks to Fake Tattoos for sending me the nail art tattoos for review. All thoughts are honest and my own. For more information please see my Disclaimer Page.
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