Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Beauty round-up - Lee Stafford hair care, Steam Cream, Timotei

I love the new Chopstick styler from Lee Stafford. I was at an event a week or so ago where he demonstrated the look that can be created using this tool – cascades of pre-Raphaelite curls, the kind I so wanted in the late ‘80s but never had the courage to get (you had to have a perm to achieve that effect then). Beautiful.

Olympics 2012 – dressage at Greenwich Park

Zara Phillips and High Kingdom on top form for the dressage at Greenwich, Olympics 2012


I have never seen such beautiful horses. Of course they’re all beautiful in their own way but these are a cut above – toned, muscled, immaculate and majestic sports powerhouses that effortlessly glided around the Greenwich arena.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Pretty little things - Water babies

This is my entry for the Pretty Little Things linky that this week is hosted by Love From Mummy. I know Dot is 11 now but I love this photo I took of her playing in the paddling pool at our house in London, she's so cute and 14 months old. Not at the toddler tantrum stage and certainly nowhere near the nearing puberty hormonal stage we're at now. She hasn't changed at all!

Beauty reviews - body cream, moisturiser, mascara, lipgloss

Well I seem to have spent much of this week catching up with myself but not quite getting there, what with work, school holidays and of course the Olympics last night (on TV – wasn’t it excellent)  – hence why this latest post appears today when I had hoped to have it live yesterday. Which in turn means the recipe is shunted along also, but that’s not such a big deal as I’m not such a good cook. I wonder – should I continue with the recipes or not? What do you think, would you rather I do something else instead, more beauty, interiors or chit chat?

Back to beauty; first up is Ultra Rich Body Cream from Living Nature. If you have dry skin then you’re going to like this. The texture is rich and it smells like chocolate almost, with a hint of vanilla, which will either be a complete turn on or turn off.  For me the fragrance is somewhere in the middle – I’m not that keen on vanilla but I love chocolate, the fragrance as well as the real thing.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Beauty round-up - fragrance, skin, hair and homemade salt scrub

New from Marc Jacobs comes Dot, which is not only a delicious fragrance but an absolutely gorgeous bottle. With a base of warming vanilla and a coconut heart, Dot – inspired by the designer’s love of polka dots apparently – is topped with juicy red berries and dragon fruit.

This is a perfume that will appeal to the young – I can already see my Dot stealing it away – but also to the rest of us who are past trendy teen perfumes. In spite of the fruity overtones it is a more mature (ahem) fragrance, light and easy to wear for daytime. So if she does whisk it away I’ll just have to whisk it right back again. Available at The Perfume Shop now.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Interiors - summer sunshine home accessories

Well the sun has been shining for the past few days and at last it's hot around here, so rather than go with what's new for autumn/ winter I thought I'd pick a few favourite pieces from this year's spring/ summer collections.

You can never have enough cushions in my view

Tropical Delights floral cushion in ochre, £60, from PlumChutney 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Beauty round-up - fragrance, cleanser, dry sunscreen and hair care

Exciting news from Liz Earle with the announcement of Botanical Essence No.15 eau de parfum, the company's second fragrance. It's a delicious spicy mixture of tonka bean, sandalwood, pink pepper, bergamot and cedarwood over a  damask rose and vanilla heart and is described as fresh oriental. "Customers wanted something more evening-y and sensual, more exotic, which is the brief we gave," explained Liz Earle at last week's launch event. "The fragrance has high levels of naturals but still has the finesse of a fine fragrance."

Achieving the right balance of natural ingredients while creating a fragrance that is contemporary and not too heavy was not an easy job. "Often naturals can be quite old fashioned so it was a challenge to create a fresh oriental fragrance with such a level of naturals," continues Liz.

Alienor Massenet is the perfumer behind Botanical Essence No.15. "It is very rare to be asked to use such a high level of natural ingredients; it's easier to use synthetics. Plus oriental fragrances are harder to formulate using naturals, a lot more difficult than the citrus fragrance family," she says. "The brief allowed me to not only use the best ingredients, but also the best parts of these special ingredients. All of these factors have helped create a unique fragrance."

I don't know about fresh oriental - I don't get that with this perfume, I get warmth and depth, rather than fresh. It's sophisticated, definitely a fragrance for evening, though I think it would also work in daytime during the winter when you're all wrapped up in jumpers, woolly scarves, gloves and woolly hat, walking in the countryside. I don't think it will be to everybody's taste, however, partly because of the ethos behind the brand and the focus on quality, natural ingredients, partly because I think it smells lovely, it is to mine.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Beauty review - Elemis Pro-Collagen Advanced Eye Treatment

Elemis has to be one of my favourite ever brands so when I was sent a sample of their new Pro-Collagen Advanced Eye Treatment I was over the moon. I’ve been using the treatment for a week now and I’m very impressed with the results.

I apply the serum at night before bed – you just need a tiny bit, a couple of drops per eye is more than sufficient – and tap it in with your ring finger (use the ring finger as that one has the least strength in it, which means when you tap you don’t do so too forcefully). I’ve also been using it in the morning when I remember and honestly, it really gets to work on under eye bags and dark circles.

Leaving school, growing up, moving on

It's Dot's last day at primary school today. This morning we attended the year six leavers' assembly and all of the children, mums and dads were affected by the emotional atmosphere in our little village church.

Each child had a part to play - Dot and her friend sang a duet and they did it beautifully; there were readings, a hymn, presentations, a song from The Tempest (their school play) and tears...

There will be a lot more tears to come I'm sure as after leaving the church all of the year six pupils were headed back to class to gather friends' autographs and have their shirts and t-shirts signed by everybody in the school. Then, tonight, they have their leavers' disco - dancing, sweets, running around and more tears...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ice cream anyone?

So many toppings to choose from - and who is that in the crowd?

So tonight I attended the launch of the Magnum pop-up shop in Westfield shopping centre, Stratford. When I was invited I thought why not, it's on my way home, it sounds like fun. To explain - as you know Magnums are yummy ice creams, and this event was to mark the inauguration of the build-your-own magnum shop, which is open from tomorrow until September. So far, so good.

You choose your base - either traditional vanilla or a chocolate one, then you choose your covering - milk, dark or white chocolate - then you choose your topping. There were (from what I can remember) rose petals, chilli flakes, chocolate curls, white chocolate sprinkles, flaked almonds, chopped hazelnuts, marshmallows, meringue, coconut flakes, caramel twirls - and probably more that I've forgotten.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

London monuments - Edward VII statue

I love this statue in London, so regal. It's located in Waterloo Place where everybody can see it - but who the hell put a parking sign in front it? Does the local council have no soul?

Beauty round-up - foundation, fragrance and nail colour

Beautiful Color showcased at the launch event

Elizabeth Arden fans are in for a real treat as the company launches its new Beautiful Color eye shadow collection dressed in opulent packaging of silver and gold. The colours – well, the colours are gorgeous and they’re rich, so should be long lasting. I can’t wait to try them and will let you know what they’re like when I do, but in the meantime you need to know there are 20 singles and 7 duos, covering any look you can think of from day to night, in shades inspired by the autumn winter catwalk. New colours will be added each season so the collection will always be on trend.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Interiors - comfy knitted throw, velvet chairs and traditional accessories

This cuddly knitted throw is by Tesco and is part of the company's autumn winter range. I love the cable detail and though you can't get a great idea of its size in this image you just know it's going to be big and warm. I did take my own photograph of this at this year's Christmas in July a couple of weeks ago but alas, my iphone has stopped working and I have lost everything on it (but that's another story). The matching cushion is below - I don't love that half as much as I can just see my dog pulling it to pieces.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Beauty - get the buzz from Neal's Yard Remedies

Neal, star of Neal's Yard Bee Lovely

I love a good story so when there’s beauty with a story attached, then I’m all ears. And this is a honey of a story. 

Bee Lovely from Neal’s Yard Remedies is not only a fresh and sweet smelling body care range, it’s also a range with a purpose, going hand in hand with a campaign to protect our bees, which are in serious decline due to the destruction of natural habitats and increased use of pesticides.

A percentage of money raised from the sale of Bee Lovely body lotion, bath and shower gel, hand wash, hand cream and balm will go to support four charities: Friends of the Earth and its Bee Cause campaign, Biobees, Landlife and The Bee Lovely Grant – which offers help to bee-friendly initiatives across the country.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

People are strange... shoe hell

I was in London on Friday and I'd been walking round for hours. My feet were burning thanks to all the walking and my sandals - which are usually quite comfortable, but not, I now know, for that many hours - were cutting into my toes. It was all I could do not to cry. I need a pair of new shoes and knowing that the Marks & Spencer sale had just started, I figured I'd find some there.

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Baking class - strawberry and cream scones

This recipe comes from the Be-Ro Book again, which was a staple in our house when I was growing up as baking was a regular event - pies, tarts, cakes and scones were all homemade, never bought from shops. This was one of my favourites and still is, but rather than just butter I thought I would add a touch of summer (seeing as there's precious little evidence of it outside) with strawberries and cream. I have used double cream but go with whatever you prefer, whipping cream is an alternative, or if you're feeling really indulgent there's always clotted...

Friday, 13 July 2012

Beauty reviews - face and hands

Sensiderma Moisture Soothe from Queen is a bit of a find. It is designed for people with dry but sensitive skin and, says the company, it also helps with conditions such as rosacea.

When I first received my sample of Moisture Soothe I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Texture-wise it is wet, for want of a better word. What I mean is it doesn’t have that rich feel about it that so many other moisturisers do. Yet, when I tested it on the back of my hand it sank in quickly.

I then used it on my face, first for daytime then at night. Surprisingly, considering its thinner consistency, I found it too heavy for day use. The cream is absorbed quickly but you can still feel it, which is why I found it unsuitable as a day moisturiser. For night though it’s ideal – it’s cold to apply, which I find soothing in itself, and even better, the morning after using it my skin feels softer. That’s not a one off, it happens each time, which is lovely.

If you’re unfamiliar with the brand then let me enlighten you. It was founded in 1927 by three dermatologists and all of its products are geared towards caring for skin that is prone to flare ups, eczema, dermatitis, acne or is just simply sensitive. They are fragrance-free, contain no essential oils and have never been tested on animals.

The collection covers skin care, hair and body care, and there’s a make-up range also. www.queen-cosmetics.com

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Memories of John


I want to write about horses today. The trouble is I no longer have one.

After spending so much time in a one-to-one relationship with my beloved Thoroughbred John, years of feeding and turning out, mucking out, making feed and poo picking, bringing in at night, feeding and putting to bed, not to mention the rugging and de-rugging, grooming, feet cleaning, bathing and farrier standing - well I'm lost basically.

No more for me the freezing cold mornings to come in a few months time, trying to break ice that's six inches thick on his water bucket, scraping away the snow so he can get to the grass below. No more basking in the sun in the field, me hanging over the gate watching him proudly. No more wandering down Dedham's country lanes on a relaxing hack, both of us as one and at peace with the world, or as would sometimes happen, him deciding to canter after a horse and rider we don't know with me hanging on to whatever bit of him or his tack I could manage to grab hold of and not lose my stirrups.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Beauty round-up - hair, make-up and fragrance

For frizzy hair sufferers everywhere (including myself), Tresemme has introduced Keratin Smooth, a product range that comprises a shampoo, conditioner, treatment masque and heat protection shine spray.

According to Tresemme, a third of women in the UK are "desperate" for products that straighten and smooth unruly hair - I know I'm still looking for a magic potion to help me tame my tresses, but as to whether this is it, well I'll have to report back at a later date. Keratin Smooth is in store now.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Interiors - Dotty about dots

I love polka dots. If there's one pattern that doesn't seem to age this has to be it. Delicious splodges of colour - uniform or random - that go with everything and look just as good on fabrics as they do on pottery, furniture, walls or canvas.

I've been thinking about dots a lot recently - ever since my daughter decided to ban me from calling her Dotty/Dot, her nickname since she was a baby. So in recognition of the fact that my Dot is growing up, and a mixture of sadness and happiness that we are moving on to a new phase in her/our lives, I've decided to indulge myself by gathering together a plethora of polka dots pieces to cheer me up. They would also look great in any home.

This lovely mug is from Laura Ashley's AW12 homes' collection and is part of a set that also includes a jug, cake stand and cup. www.lauraashley.com

Monday, 9 July 2012

Beauty round-up - nails, face and hair

New gel polish brand Belle Gel has launched a kit designed to give you salon perfect nails at home. This handy product contains everything needed to create beautiful, high-shine nails in 12 on-trend colours.

I was at the launch of Belle Gel so heard about the kit first hand from company founder Susan Tompkins and I was impressed by her obvious dedication to her product. It was six years in development and has just gone on sale via the Belle Gel website.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Beauty reviews - fragrance, sunscreen, hand cream

Verveine EDT, Fragonard 
This is something I’ve been searching for all summer, though I didn’t know it. When it’s hot and sticky outside (I know that hasn’t been the case very often with the weather so far this year), I don’t want to wear my regular fragrance, I want something light, refreshing and cold. Many, many moons ago No7 satisfied that need with its lemon fragrance, but still many moons ago, they stopped selling it and I’ve found nothing else that comes close. I did have a brief fling with a passion fruit perfume in the 1980s that I discovered in France while at Bordeaux Uni, but my love for that waned as quickly as my relationship with my then French boyfriend.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Olympic torch comes to Colchester

We had a bit of a historic moment in Colchester today - the Olympic torch passed through the town on the way to London. We braved the rain at 7am this morning to travel down to see it - and we weren't disappointed. The route was packed but from our vantage point on Ipswich Road we had a brilliant view. More by luck than by judgement and in spite of the fact there must have been thousands of people there, we ended up right at the spot where the relay handover happens! One torchbearer ended her run and the next one took up the challenge - my friend described the moment as the kissing (not sure if that's what it's called or just something she thought of).

To be honest, I hadn't been that fussed about going to see the torch, but Dot wanted to see it. I changed my mind when we arrived though - the atmosphere was fantastic. Everybody was in a great mood and even the police motorcycle convoy joined in, chatting to the kids, shaking hands and tooting their horns. The cheers when the torch arrived were massive and there honestly was a party vibe going on - even though it was only breakfast time.

The entire country is getting in the mood for the Olympics now. We were very lucky in the ticket draw and have tickets to the eventing at Greenwich at the end of July, however, we only have two of them, so it's just me and Dot going. Obviously I'm overjoyed about that but Dot, who actually wanted to watch the swimming and volleyball, is not so impressed.

Here she comes... arriving at the changeover point on Ipswich Road

Meeting for the handover

And the flame is lit - the journey continues

Going home for a well-deserved cup of tea

And off he goes!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Beauty round-up

New from Rituals, Urban Chic is a richly pigmented mineral make-up collection comprising baked eye shadow palettes, nail colour, lip shine and mascara. Information from the brand informs me the range also includes gemstones among the ingredients – ruby, amethyst and sapphire to be exact.

I was privileged to be invited to view the collection and other beauty products by Rituals at a hotel in London last week. It’s not a brand I knew much about before, but a comprehensive introduction to the company and the ethos behind what it does, as well as meeting Rituals’ founder Raymond Cloosterman, means I’m now totally clued up.

I love the way they match their products to a story or ritual. That comes first then the product evolves afterwards, so for example the Hammam steam bath ritual and the Ayurveda ritual are just two that have provided inspiration in the past.

Back to Urban Chic. The eye shadow palette comes in muted grey with a deep purple, or deep blue and iridescent pastels, and there’s three new nail colours – sea green, freezed fantasy and skyline.  The mascara is available in black only and the lip shine comes in Sandy Sheer, Sun Down and Night Fall. I’m still waiting for images, but as soon as I have them I’ll post them. The limited edition range is in shops now until October. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Happy home - beautiful products for the kitchen and living room

I love looking at kitchen ware and bits and pieces for my home. They don't have to be expensive (often the best things aren't), they just have to have something - I don't always know what it is - that draws me in and makes me give them space in my life. Last week when I was in London for meetings, I passed a charity shop on Brompton Road that had several pieces of Cornishware in the window - that's the blue and white striped pottery, so called because it brings to mind the sea and sky of Cornwall. But I didn't go in ... aargh. I really, really wanted to, but my feet were killing me and there was no way I could have carried any of it home (too much to carry already). That particular design reminds me of my childhood, I think it was auntie Peggy who had lots of it in her kitchen. I'm in London again tomorrow so perhaps I'll get a chance to go back and see if it's still there. Fingers crossed.

Here's a few more bits and pieces I've seen lately that are now on my wish list.

Cushions, cushions, cushions. You can never have to many of them in my view. These beauties are from Deckchairstripes and would look great scattered nonchalantly on the living room floor, just right for flopping on.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Beauty round-up - eyes and face

It has been a week of launches for Lush, firstly with the colour wheel and Emotional Brilliance and now with this cute mascara. It might look small but there's more product in that little bottle than in your usual mascara tubes. The ingredients are designed to nourish the lashes and include wheatgrass, as well as carnauba wax to stop smudging and just one preservative - apparently mascaras usually contain up to six. Colour-wise the pigment is deep, it goes on well, without clotting (thanks to the little brush, which is easy to manipulate). There's just one thing, it might just be my sample, but the brush keeps coming out of the lid.