Sunday, 31 March 2013

Cheat's Easter Sunday dessert

Happy Easter Sunday everyone! Here is my cheats cake. I bought a Sainsburys new york style baked vanilla cheesecake then topped it with low-fat creme fraiche and two packets of Cadbury's mini eggs. Et voila! Went down a treat at lunch and easily fed 10!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Regent Street Rules!

Apart from a spell on the South Bank (shudder, South of the Thames) I have, for my whole working life worked within a short walk from my favourite shopping street, Regent Street. It knocks all others into a cocked hat in my opinion, being a great mix of high street and high end with some great restaurants for lunch on Haddon Street too.

Nespresso is where I buy my coffee pods (the thing that actually keeps me going on a daily basis), the Apple Store is computer porn and there is always something new to be seen and checked out in terms of fashion and beauty shopping.

Yesterday I took a belated walk to '...& Other Stories' which has opened at the Oxford Circus end. Readers of my blog know I love Cos (also on Regent Street) and this is the latest addition to the business from those clever people at H&M (same side of the road too). The range has clean lines, great accessories, a fine beauty range and something to suit whether you're 20 or 50. I particularly liked the bags and jackets and will be investing next pay-day.

Anthropologie is native to the US and is a bit of a step up in terms of pricing but you will always find something a little out of the ordinary and I find it perfect for buying unusual home pieces too.

And we mustn't forget Sketch - perfect for a treat afternoon tea...

Of course the list goes on and on which is why this is my favourite shopping street of all time. There's Superdry, Burberry, Penhaligon's, Banana Republic, Hollister and Veeraswamy (which has been there for years and years) not forgeting Gaucho and The Living Room. I'm already sold on the street (can you tell?) but now I can almost feel the beating heart of it because the Regent Street online site has launched a social media 'hub' which I have been playing with to my hearts content for the last evening. I have signed up my Twitter and Instagram accounts so now when I tweet anything about #RegentStreet it appears in the hub alongside everyone else's so it's so easy to keep abreast of what's going on and what to look out for from people literally on the street! The community section in the hub is really excellent too as it lists not only all the stores' sites but all their social media too (so twitter feeds, instagram etc) so you can join in their fun too. It's a great idea for a really great street and I must admit I'm hooked!

Here is what the hub looks like...

Keep up to date by signing in here today!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

360 Stay Don't Stray Primer from Benefit

I don't usually use primers so when I was giving the 360 Stay Don't Stray Primer from Benefit to try out I didn't really know what to expect. Okay so I am meant to be a bit of a beauty expert but there are certain products that I have never used because I don't really 'get' why I should - and it's just more money to be spent which I don't have.

But I am impressed with this little product which not only concealed without being too obvious (one of my biggest bug bears with concealers) under my eyes and provided a perfect base for my eye shadow which seemed to stay put and keep it's freshness all day. Yes I may become a convert! I trialled Medium//Deep which is the new colourway and was a perfect match for my skin - in fact I used it on it's own with just a sweep of powder instead of full-on foundation and I my skin did look good in a 'no make-up' made up way.
So it is worth the £19.99 from Benefit if you want a finish to your make-up that stays the course!

360 Stay Don't Stray Primer from Benefit.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mad Men collection from Estee Lauder

I am working my way through Season 3 so am a bit late to the party with the whole Mad Men look but I love it and it won't take me long to catch-up. Red lipstick is a staple in my make-up bag so the new Mad Men Rich Rich red lipstick from the Mad Men collection at Estee Lauder could have been made for me really.

Because it errs on the pink side it's a perfect colour for Summer rather than being a full on red which I always feel is better for Winter months. It has a creamy, satin finish (very Sixties) and the carton and lipstick case are perfect replicas of actual designs from Estee Lauder's sixties-era collections. It's even been named after one of their most popular Sixties lip formulas so you can't really get much more authentic in 2013!

This limited edition lipstick is £26 from Estee Lauder and there are also a complimenting blush and nail-colour in the range too.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Strictly Science - brand new medical exhibition in London

Having so enjoyed the Death exhibition at the Wellcome Institute I am on the look out for other medical and scientific exhibitions to tickle my fancy at the weekend. This one, Strictly Science, at Imperial College, London is a must for those with an interest or older teenagers who also find medical history fascinating.

To celebrate 100 years of the Medical Research Council (MRC) which was set up to be dedicated to improving human health, the interactive exhibition Strictly Science contrasts the scientific endeavours in 1913 with those today and asks visitors to speculate on what the next 100 years will bring.

The MRC was really kickstarted in response to the devastating effects of a TB epidemic and when the cure for TB was discovered in 1944 the MRC conducted the first ever large-scale controlled trial to assess the antibiotic streptomycin on patients, thereby establishing an international blueprint for drug testing which is still used today.

The exhibition showcases key historical achievements including MRC's role in:

  • helping to recude the death rate of TB by 99.5% in the UK - in 1911 almost 500,000 deaths were recorded and by 2011 just 250 were recorded in the UK.
  • Supporting the development of the first anti-typhoid vaccine which saved over 100,000 soldiers in WW1 from death and disease
  • Identifying vitamin-deficiency diseases and the curative potential of vitamins including cod-liver oil and sunshine 

Strictly Science not only celebrates 100 years of progress in medical research, but accentuates how knowledge gained through basic research shapes our life in general, from culture and commerce to politics.

The exhibition is open daily from 10-6pm from 5-14 April 2012 in the Exhibition Road Foyer of Imperial College London, South Kensington.

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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Instacollage - a cute little app worth having

I love Instagram and last night spent a few hours teaching myself how to get the best out of it. I am not always in a position to take pictures that I find interesting. I know that there is a tendency to snap every hour of every day including what I am eating for lunch but that really doesn't do much for me and I don't believe it's the type of quality content I should be pushing out. Although sometimes I will relapse and show you what I am having for lunch!

I cam across this nifty downloadable (and free) app which allows me to pull together all pictures I have saved to my phone (or in this case my ipad) into presentable little layouts. There are lots of shmaltzy borders (again I'm too old to find these cute) so I will be keeping things simple, but it's yet another way of sharing those amazing pictures that I pin on Pinterest. The app is called Instacollage but it's not just about Instagram pictures - as I say you can display anything across all your various social media platforms.

I put together this display because as I looked out at the blizzard conditions of North London I wanted to remember that somewhere in the world it is warm and bright and colourful, and I wanted to share my Instagram so you would see what yours would look like. Apologies for any indulgence but I can recommend this little app....

And if you'd like to see more please follow me on Pinterest and Instagram - would be lovely to see you there!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Ballet Revolucion!

It's a real shame but tonight is the last performance at the Peacock Theatre of Ballet Revolucion, but it's well worth a mention as they will be back and if you get a chance to see them where you live then grasp it firmly with both hands!

I went along on Tuesday and I can honestly say it is one of the most athletic dance experiences I have ever seen. These Cuban's sure know how to dance, both classical ballet and contemporary with a bit of street thrown in for good measure. It should be really cheesy dancing to music by everyone from Prince to Shakira but the band are so tight and the dancers so utterly superb that you are quite mesmerized for the full two hours.

It's also great to see a dance troupe where the sexes get equal billing. The girls take as much of the centre stage as the boys and are just as important to the whole rhythm and colour of the spectacle.

Purists have said they only come into their own when dancing to Latin beats and it's fair to say that this really is their strength, but the less up tempo and more classic numbers do hold their own and showcase variety which is always a good thing in my book.

Experience a bit here for yourself and as I say grab a ticket if you see them return to the UK. Viva La Revolucion!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kaplan MD Lipgloss - anti-aging lipgloss

All this cold weather plus the fact that I have had flu in the last couple of weeks which knocked me sideways in more ways than one means that along with lots of other parts of me, my lips are chapped and sore. I use a gentle facial scrub to eliminate the dried skin but when this Kaplan MD lipgloss was sent into the office I grabbed it as it claims to have anti-aging properties alongside lots of gloss. It reminds me of the lipgloss I wore as a teenager as it has a strong peppermint taste which isn't unpleasant and makes your lips tingle and it has definitely moisturised and protected against the ice cold winds outside.

Anti-aging? Don't know about that but with an spf of 20 it will protect against the aging rays of the sun (what sun we ask?).

I have not come across this range before but there is some serious science behind it all which is worth a read on the Kaplan MD site.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

L'Occitane Verbena fragrance for Spring

I was given a bottle of this a while back but have dug it out again as it's just such a lovely, lovely refreshing fragrance for Spring. I love this brand. The heritage, the mix of fragrances, the fact that everything about it makes me think of Province in the Summer.

The verbena is from Corsica and the scent smells of freshly picked green verbena leaves that have a wonderfully refreshing lemony scent. These have a base of geranium and lemon tree - delicious and as I say the fragrance of holidays.

Treat yourself to a bottle for Easter - much less fattening than an Easter egg....

Verbena Eau de Toilette from L'Occitane, £39.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Animal collar Oasis sweater for Spring

It looks like animal prints are cutting a swathe again through our Spring/Summer fashion wardrobes but I must admit being over 40 I am a little hesitant. I feel more Bet Lynch than anything else, but what I am happy to embrace is a hint of print like the one on the collar of this gorgeous sweater from Oasis.

It's 100% cotton so is great for mid-season and is available in black and blue, although I love this coral red which also helps me to stick to my promise to myself of trying to buy more colour for my wardrobe.

Red crew top sweater, £38, Oasis.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Compeed - foot saving for your handbag

We had a small glimmer of sunshine recently and although the winter is back with a vengeance I for one am looking forward to getting some strappy sandals out and getting into some heels. But a winter in flat boots will mean my tootsies will get blisters, they always do, even from shoes I've worn in thoroughly.

So the Compeed blister plasters that were in our Handpicked Media goody bag have already found pride of place in my handbag. These are worth buying before the pain starts as they really do work (they are already a favourite in our office).

They provide a blister getting any worse and also create a cushioning layer to help things hear nicely while protecting from bacteria and dirt which only makes things worse. If a blister bursts (which you shouldn't encourage) then bathing in salt water for 10 minutes really helps things too. If you get blisters often there's lots of advice on the Compeed site.

Compeed medium plasters, pack of five, available from Boots, £4.99

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Bug Pouffe

At first I thought these were huge balls of knitting yarn but they are, in fact, pouffes made from hand-knitted rope. Available in Raspberry, Rhino and Ash Grey, they are not on the Loaf site until April - they are that new! Made by the artisans of Varnasi, India, they are hand-dyed and handmade into this gorgeous cable knit effect. Perfect for all around the house and even the conservatory. Bug pouffe, £85 each, Loaf.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Sarongs from Lily & Lionel

The weather outside may still be frightful but our thoughts are gradually turning to warmer climes and holidays. I was drawn to these beautiful sarongs by About Lily & Lionel which was founded by London College of Fashion graduate, Alice Stone. Lily and Lionel were her grandparents who were both involved in the fashion trade and Alice's stunning prints make up a collection of scarves and sarongs worn by the likes of Elle Macpherson, AlekWek and Edie Campbell.

The sarongs are exclusive to The Conran Shop and are hand-printed on fine cotton. Generously oversized they are £85 each. The Holiday Shop range of which they are a part, launches at The Conran Shop London and Paris stores on 27th March.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Family holidays with luxury attached

A friend of mine's daughter has just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. A first for her and a first grandchild. We are way too young for this but she is happy and that's all that matters. It brought back the early days of having very young children to me and all the things we used to do with them. Family breaks were easier kept to the UK or France at a push.

It was around about this time that hotels in the UK woke up to the idea that if they welcomed, and in fact encouraged, those with children to visit, then they would be opening up to a whole new set of visitors. Just because you have small children doesn't mean that you no longer are interested in pampering and a bit of luxury.

Way back then we stayed in Woolley Grange, one of the first the welcome young children and provide excellent childcare facilities alongside glorious bedrooms, food and luxurious surroundings. There are now more than just this hotel doing the same across the country and you can find them all at Luxury Family Holidays who are absolutely expert at providing family weekend breaks, plus some fantastic bargains mid-week and during weekends outside of the school holidays too. Short breaks with the family in the UK need not be lacking in style so check out some of these locations for your next getaway.

Thornbury Castle

Moonfleet Manor

Luxurious food at Woolley Grange

Woolley Grange

There are lots of other hotels to choose from for family breaks up and down the UK. They are all the height of luxury and have childcare facilities so you can get a break from the kids every so often throughout your stay so you can enjoy a fabulous dinner or a walk just the two of you.

I wish I had a small child so I could take full advantage - might have to wait a while for that!

Friday, 8 March 2013

So Shutterly Fabulous

It's amazing how things come and go in terms of window-dressing fashion. Even given that this is probably one of the most expensive things you will buy when decorating a room, it is also one of the key things that sets the tone. We have been through every variation of window-dressing, from full on full length curtains, to bamboo blinds, Roman blinds and slatted wooden blinds. Now I've noticed that our street of Edwardian houses are taking to putting in shutters.

I am thinking of doing the same as they look so smart so was interested to be told about Shutterly Fabulous who make, you've guessed it window shutters in all manner of shapes, sizes and colours.

Otherwise known as plantation shutters, Shutterly Fabulous make their own shutters here in the UK and are based in Brighton & Hove but cover Leeds, Manchester and other parts of the UK too. They fully measure and install for you as these really are an investment buy and will come along to discuss your needs and make sure you are getting the best. They use premium grade woods like yellow poplar and elm -  nothing is made from mdf or ldf here. The shutters come with a 3 year guarantee which fully covers the installation and product too.

Here are some of the range and you will find loads more on the Shutterly Fabulous website.

Shutterly Fabulous also supply DIY shutters if you don't want the full bespoke shutter service so are pretty versatile in making sure you get exactly what you need for your budget.


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Nike Flyknit add brilliant colour

My co-workers in the Handpicked office are a pretty darn cool bunch and at the moment they're getting pretty excited about (and sporting too) the latest in Nike trainer footwear, the Nike Flyknit collection. Apparently once you have worn a pair of these you really won't want to put anything else on your feet. And I must say I am leaning towards investing in a pair too. But which colour to choose? Hot pink? Aqua? Bright Orange? the list is endless....

Nike Flyknit, £140.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Clinique Even Better Compact Make-Up


I must tell you about a really cool compact makeup which Clinique sent me to trial and which I have been wearing a lot recently...

The Even Better Compact Makeup has an SPF of 15 and is the latest cream foundation to come from the clever people at Clinique. It can be applied lightly or with a heavier amount for evening glamour. Either way I found it really smooth and it lasted all day which is a minor miracle.

Because it's from skincare and make-up specialists Clinique, you expect some extra special elements and this is no exception. There are vitamin C and E which work together to help break up an uneven skintone. So any sun damage or age spots are minimised. I love the compact which has a really useful oversized mirror and the sponge applicator is pre-treated to avoid bacterial contamination. So it has made a very welcome addition to my handbag I must say!

Of course it's fully allergy tested and 100% fragrance free. You can't get it until March 15th unfortunately when it will be on sale at Clinique counters and online.

The Even Better Compact Makeup with spf of 15 is £27.50 for 10g (which will go a long way). Definitely worth investing in for smooth, even skin tones and perfect make-up finish!

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Monday, 4 March 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry book review

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Another book which you must download or buy for the next holiday is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce which I have just finished reading and found absorbing and thought provoking too.

Harold Fry leads a very quiet life. Mundane, repetitive and extremely unglamourous. He is unhappily married, retired, bored and almost just waiting for death yet one day, going out to post a letter while his wife is vacuuming upstairs, he decides to just keep on walking.

And here starts the beginning of an extraordinary adventure for Harold and a journey which looks at human behaviour and reaction to the different and odd. This book, which was long-listed for the Booker, has us following Harold on his 600 mile walk from his home and wife in Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed. He believes that this journey will help his friend who is dying of cancer, to live. With yachting shoes on his feet, a cashpoint bank card, no maps and no waterproofs we feel every step of the journey as he takes this often painful but enlightening road.

With Maureen is at first angry and ashamed but during their time apart she comes to terms with events that have driven a wedge between them and remembers how much her husband meant and still means to her.

He attracts a growing band of fellow pilgrims - some jumping on the publicity wagon, some searching for their own inner peace and we meet some very good people along the way.

It's a quiet story befitting a quiet character but is one that doesn't leave you. We all have our moments when it would be simpler to walk away from life's disappointments and trials, but we never do, and it is following someone who steps out into the unknown take on a rhythm and meaning that makes this story so compelling. It's a book of small detail rather than big ideas but you do want to know how it all ends...

Anyone else read this and if you did what did you think?

Available for your Kindle now for £2.69

Saturday, 2 March 2013

I love my Samsung Galaxy SIII and here is why....

Samsung Galaxy SIII

I do love gadgets, from my ipad to my kindle I'm a fan and can't imagine a world without them. In the dim distant past when I first started working I used an electric typewriter, a phone with a cord and a telex machine (yes, a telex with tickertape and everything). And now I blog, Tweet, photograph, Facebook, Instagram and read content all from my phone. I'm genuinely so glad that I opted for a Samsung Galaxy SIII when it came to an upgrade as I really do appreciate the bigger screen and the quality - well, 'wow' to be honest.

I always like to see things before I buy so I took a trip to my local Carphone Warehouse to see what my options were before making a decision about upgrading. At first I did hesitate as it seemed just too large and I don't have particularly large hands. However within a couple of days of using it, all other phones seem really small, with tiddly screens and low-res. I can even watch films and TV on it and get a clear picture, and it's just about big enough.

It's easy to use, has a huge range of apps and as you can tell I'm just a little bit in love. Here are some pictures that I took last weekend on top of the Yorkshire moors.

I use my phone to take shots of everything from food to friends and street scenes. No-one is safe so if you see me coming, run!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Stoker - creepy and atmospheric

Today sees the UK launch into cinema's of Stoker and I was lucky enough to get to go to a preview screening this week. Loved the name and assumed (quite wrongly) that this was another vampire-esque film given the writer of Dracula was one Bram Stoker.

Absolutely nothing to do with the original Stoker, this piece of cinema is haunted and haunting but is more of a psychological thriller akin to The Shining than Twilight.

Starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre), Matthew Good (Watchmen) and Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Moulin Rouge) the story is of a young girl whose father dies in a tragic accident on her 18th birthday. She lives in a secluded estate - the film was all shot on location in Tennessee - with her mother, and it is only now that she discovers that she has an uncle, the long-lost brother of her recently deceased father.
Uncle Charlie appears at the funeral and moves in with India Stoker and her mother Evie who is as wonderfully unstable as Uncle Charlie. It's a film of languid colours, beautiful editing and some stellar performances which rely on stillness and quiet to build on the creepiness of the story and action. But don't be fooled, this film is not too slow because of this. Tension is released little by little and as the story unfolds and the family secrets become apparent you are transfixed and completely hooked.
Director Park Chan-Wook directs a script by Wentworth Miller who also wrote The Human Stain and this is his first English language film. Park has admitted being heavily influenced in the past by filmmakers like David Lynch, David Cronenberg and writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Wilkie Collins. All masters of the hidden revealed and the ability to tell a creepy story well and with atmosphere.

It's the atmosphere of the whole film which is left with you for a long while after, along with the most striking scene where India plays a piano duet (written for the film by Philip Glass) with Uncle Charlie which is almost, but not quite, demented.  This film could quite easily become a classic and is definitely one to be seen on the big screen.

Stoker (97 mins) from Twentieth Century Fox is nationwide from today and is certificate 18.

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