Flashback Friday Vol #1: An American Adventure...

30 Mar 2013

Happy Friday to you all! Every now and then I enjoy writing a post that's more on the lifestyle blogging side than beauty and as such I've decided to create a new little segment entitled 'Flashback Friday'. I will post either weekly or fortnightly on a Friday with a look back into things I've done in my life. Essentially this is just a trip down memory lane for me. I'm one of those people who loves looking through old photos, and can literally do so for hours on end.

I hope this proves an interesting read for you all - I'm going to try and make each post quite different so hopefully you'll like it. :)

This week is all about my American Adventure. In my second year of University I decided that I wanted to spend my summer doing something a bit more interesting so I googled summer trips away and stumbled upon the CCUSA website. Now I'm sure most of you have heard of people spending their summer as a camp counsellor on an American kids camp, but I didn't want to do that. What I found on the CCUSA website is that they also offered a program called WEUSA whereby you could work in a seriously wide variety of jobs and live like a citizen of the USA- this sounded completely awesome! So I applied - and after a really lengthy process of forms, visa applications and more forms I was told I'd be working as a Front Gate Photographer at Cedar Point Amusement Park  in Sandusky, Ohio.

Through the program I got in touch with a girl called Charlotte who'd been given the same job as me, we got talking and booked our flight together for the 8th June 2011. This made the whole experience so much less scary, and luckily for me Charlotte was the loveliest person ever and is now one of my very best friends.

We then embarked on a crazy 3 month adventure of working, exploring and a hella lot of eating! The job turned out to be quite fun, although really hard and boring at times. Looking back I think I thought it was harder than it was and really - standing in the boiling sun all day can't be that bad right? Although, the dodgy tan lines were seriously not cool.

The town of Sandusky itself, is pretty much non-descript but us English folk, and all the other friends we made from around the world made it fun. That's what I really loved about working at the amusement park - meeting people from countries I'd never even thought about before and learning about their culture. A lovely girl called Elena from Macedonia worked with us on the front gate and while we were there she taught us quite a few lovely Macedonian phrases. Te Sakam = I love you. :)

While we were there we went on two trips to Chicago, Illinois. Which I have to say is now one of my favourite cities in the world. It holds such brilliant memories for me, and is also just so damn cool. I'd love to live there one day, I love everything about it. The Bean and the Sears Tower being particular highlights.

I also went to a football game in Cleveland, Ohio which was...an experience. I'm not sure what I expected from the match, but the actual game is so damn boring! Constant stop/starts, nothing like our football. But, the atmosphere was really cool and I'm so glad I experienced it.

We lived in dormitories whilst we were there, sharing an 'apartment' with 16 other girls. This was such a brilliant way to get to know people, and in particular we made really good friends with Kasey and Sam both from Michigan. Michigan is a state that to be honest I'd never really heard much about, aside from Detroit being a scary place to be. This is another reason why I loved 'living' in America so much, seeing the states that aren't a tourist hot spot and really feeling like you've experienced America. Me and Charlotte went to stay with Sam for a few days towards the end of the summer, she lives in Grand Rapids in a lovely house with a veranda and rocking chair outside. My idea of the typical American house was completely realised. We had a wonderful few days and went on a road trip to Mackinac Island which was just amazing. Also had the best fudge in the world from there.

Another highlight where I feel like we experienced the 'real' America happened completely by chance. On one of our first weeks in America we were shopping in Target when a lovely lady called Donna approached us after hearing our English accents, she said that she always welcomed her home to foreigners working at the point and invited us over to dinner. She could tell we were a little wary, so gave us her number and left it at that. On any usual day I would neverr go to a strangers house for dinner (opening of a horror film or what?!), but we were in America, feeling impulsive and she'd seemed so lovely, so we did! And it was the best idea ever. Donna and her husband Dave were the loveliest of people and cooked us such a lovely meal. They had so many interesting stories, and introduced us to a younger friend called GinaMarie who then took us on shopping trips and invited us to her home for a bonfire in the woods. Its given such great memories from simply taking a chance. :)

Aside from the constant rain on our days off (hence sad faces above!), the lack of cheap healthy food and the occasional rude customer - it really was one amazing summer and if I could go back and do it again I definitely would. Although this time I think I would try and enjoy the moment more rather than stressing about tiny things.

By the 10th September, my contract had finished at the park and I was ready to start a new mini adventure with my sister. She flew out to Ohio and met me at the park before we moved on to Niagara Falls, New York City, Washington D.C before ending at Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Niagara Falls was breathtaking as expected. You can't imagine the thundering noise of the water and the constant moisture in the air until you're there. Its definitely something I think everyone should see in their lifetime. Whilst we were there we popped over to Canada as well which was really exciting!

New York was amazing on all types of levels. We went to the top of the Rockefeller Centre, walked through Central Park, saw two shows on Broadway, pretended to be cultured folk in art galleries and museums and ate beyond yummy things at the Magnolia Bakery. We stayed on Long Island, at 21st Street Queensbridge, which was really handy and meant we had to get the Metro which was fun! Although, so confusing. Our tube is wayyy better.

Our final stop was Washington D.C. which was such a beautiful city and then Harry Potter World where we nearly died from the heat. It was magical though and completely surpassed my expectations. We ate chocolate frogs, drank butterbeer and tried on robes - it was amazing.

So there we have it, 3 months and two weeks and I returned home to London - very tanned, very tired but ultimately revelling in what an amazing summer I'd had. Whilst I was out there I wrote a blog diary, so if you're interested you can check it out HERE.

I hope you found this little flashback into my life interesting - have any of you done this sort of thing aswell?


P.S. I realise I am now posting this on Saturday (defeating the object of Flashback Friday), but I was really busy and as its only 12:18 I think I'm allowed ;)
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Baking | "You Sound Like You're From Lanndann"

28 Mar 2013

I often make fancy birthday cakes for friends and family, and last weekend I went to stay with my boyfriend Craig for his birthday. Naturally, I therefore made a cake! Last year I made him iPhone cupcakes (check them out HERE) which still probably hold the record for the best thing I've ever made. This year I went for a London theme as he's always wanted to live here, and obviously from visiting me we have lots of London memories together. So for the baking inclined of you, here's the steps to make your very own 'London cake' :)

The actual cake is Red Velvet - its one of my all time favourite cake flavours, if you haven't tried it I seriously recommend it! The recipe I'm using is from The Hummingbird Bakery and is actually intended for cupcakes - but a small note states that for a cake you just need to double all quantities. Therefore to make a cake you'll need;

* 240g Unsalted Butter * 600g Caster Sugar * 4 Large Eggs * 40g Cocoa Powder * 80ml Red Food Colouring * 2 tsp Vanilla Essence * 600g Plain Flour * 2 tsp Salt * 480ml Buttermilk * 2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar * 2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda *

Frosting; (I used the amount specified for cupcakes, as I didn't need that much frosting)
* 100g Unsalted Butter * 600g Icing Sugar * 250g Full-Fat Cream Cheese *

* Coloured Icing of your choice *

Just thought I'd mention now - as you can tell from the ingredients, its not exactly a healthy cake. Completely worth the extra pounds though ;)

So first up you need to preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190 degrees, and line two/three baking tins depending on how many layers you want. Then you need to cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time after this, beating thoroughly after each addition and ensuring you incorporate the whole mixture. You might want to wear an apron at this point, as it can get quite messy with such a large mixture!

In a separate bowl - mix together the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla essence to form a paste. This part really does look like blood, tasty I know! Also, sidenote - my sponges ended up so red they were almost brown, so although it depends on the brand of food colouring you're using be careful not to over-dye at this point.

Add this paste to the batter and mix thoroughly. So far so good, right?

Then you need to sift together the flour and salt in another bowl (don't blame me for the washing up!) and add this to the batter in two batches alternating with the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Don't be lazy now. Please do actually sift your flour, your cake will taste all the better for it - I promise!

Finally, in another bowl (I hope you have enough bowls!) mix together the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and add this to the cake mixture. This will fizz around when you first mix the two ingredients - adding an element of science to the baking and making you feel all the more cultured and less like you are just baking for fun. That's what I tell myself anyway. You can then evenly pour this into two or three lined baking tins, depending on how many layers you want and pop into the oven. If you're making two layers, each sponge should take about 30 minutes (it does depend on your oven obviously though - mine took 45mins!) and for three layers they should take 20 minutes each.

Once you're sure they're cooked (and a knife comes out clean) let them cool on a wire rack.

You then need to make the frosting (definitely an apron affair!). Beat the butter and sugar together, until there are no lumps of butter and the texture is sandy. Add the cream cheese whilst mixing together slowly. Once its incorporated, beat the frosting until soft and fluffy. Sometimes this feels like it's never going to come together, but it will, have patience and try not to eat it all before you've frosted the cake. :)

Once the sponge is cool, spread an even layer of frosting in between the layers and then lightly coat the outside to give the fondant icing something to stick on to. Pop the cake into the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up, making it easier to handle. Then roll out a sheet of white fondant icing and carefully smooth it over. Voila! You're all ready to decorate now. From here you can do any design you want, but for anyone interested in my London cake I'll briefly show you how I did it.

One really handy tip I find for rolling out fondant icing, is to roll it between sheets of baking parchment. You never get it stuck to the work surface/rolling pin/you and its a hell of a lot easier to work with.

I rolled out red, blue and white icing and used makeshift cutters (wine bottle screw lids/icing nozzles) to create the tube stops. My blue icing turned out to be a strangely soft consistency which meant I couldn't write directly on to it with food colouring pens - I therefore had to add little white strips to write the tube stops, slightly annoying but ah well. I rolled out blue icing to create the 'Thames', using a map I'd printed off to trace the shape for accuracy. I then moulded little London landmarks out of various shades of icing and affixed them to the cake with a dab of water to create a 'glue' and cocktail sticks. Before attaching the landmarks to the cake I put them in the fridge for a couple of minutes to harden and ultimately be a lot sturdier on the cake.

So there you have it! My London Landmarks cake. I do hope you can guess what they all are - they're pretty much geographically accurate, so hopefully they're quite obvious.

I really enjoy making cakes like these - obviously you want the Birthday recipient to enjoy the taste of the cake but its also so fun to make a more personalised effort with the decoration. I chose tube stops where me and Craig had frequented a lot or which held a significant meaning to us both. Originally I did make 13 tube stops - but I made them rather large so I couldn't use them all. Less is more and all that jazz.

Let me know what you think of my efforts, and if you've ever made a similar cake?!


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Review | Macadamia Healing Oil Spray

26 Mar 2013

Well hello there!! Its only been a week since I posted, but it feels like forever and a day. I've missed my little blog, but I've been so crazy busy. Baking a birthday cake last week (blog post to follow!), spending the weekend with the boyfriend and then work has been manic - is it really only Tuesday?! But, I'm back now - with loads of blog ideas so you'll hopefully see a few more posts from me soon.

I wanted to talk about the Macadamia Healing Oil Spray and for once I'm not actually raving about something. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a hate post - but I'm definitely not wowed.

My beloved Ojon oil (review HERE) is on its last legs, and before it ran out completely and I felt the urge to fork over another £30 I thought I'd try out a different hair oil to compare the two. I settled on the Macadamia Oil when I was making a TIGI purchase on Cheap Smells (great website!!) a while ago, I think it was in the sale and as it was only 60ml I thought I'd give it a try. The spray nozzle really intrigued me as it was so different to my Ojon oil.

There are a lot of things I really like about this product; the spray nozzle (as expected) is really handy and easy to use, the product smells really great and the small bottle size is perfect for travelling. My hair does also feel nourished and looks nicely shiny.

But, I find it leaves a greasy, sticky feeling to my hair. I generally use this when my hair has just been washed and is still wet, as this reduces the greasy feeling slightly, but it still leaves a strange residue. I'm not sure whether I'm just using too much of the product? Although I don't think I go crazy with the application, having a spray nozzle does make it easier to be overzealous I suppose.

At roughly £12 a 60ml bottle this isn't the cheapest of products, but compared with the Ojon oil which is £29 per 100ml its definitely an improvement. I can't say I'll be purchasing this product again, as I think it just doesn't suit my hair at all but I'm definitely going to take a look at other Macadamia products. The quality of the product was really apparent, and although using the spray near enough every day I'm not even close to finishing it. I also really enjoyed that the oil was in a spray format - definitely something that I'm going to look out for in other oils.

Let me know whether you've tried this oil and whether it worked with your hair or not? Hope you're all well and not freezing too much in this awful weather! Where's spring gone eh?


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Review | Fix and Perfect Pro Primer 002

19 Mar 2013

When I'm looking for a primer, I'm looking for a product that can transform my skin into a smooth base to spread my foundation over. I've always had a few niggling skin problems and without a primer my foundation just doesn't like to sit right. The Rimmel Fix and Perfect Pro Primer 002 is one such product.

It pretty much does what it says on the tin; Smoothes, Resurfaces, Brightens, Mattifies and Protects. My last primer, the Stila One Step Illuminate (review HERE) was quite a moussy (is that a word?!) texture but this is completely different. It feels like a serum when you first squeeze it out, and after a few applications I've really come to prefer the feel of it. It feels quite thick when you first apply it, but it sinks into the skin really well.

A small splodge (technical term there) of the primer really is enough for your whole face, it spreads really well and leaves your skin feeling really smooth and supple. It ensures that my foundation glides on and most importantly stays put all day. There's nothing worse than catching a glimpse of yourself on the journey home from work and seeing that your foundation has had a mind of its own all day. This primer straps it down to stay for the long haul.

The only downside I can see to the product is just a personal preference as I prefer face products to have a pump dispenser. I hate the fact that with a bottle such as this, you never really use the entire product up. But, aside from that, so far so good and I see no flaws at all! I've been using it every day for at least a month and the bottles shows no sign of running out any time soon. Which at £6.99 I'd say is pretty damn good.

What do you think? Have you tried this primer? Let me know :)


P.S After the GFC fiasco the other day, please do follow me on Bloglovin' just in case :)
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My Everyday Go-To's.

18 Mar 2013

Like most bloggers I tend to shake-up my everyday make-up routine quite a bit with new products I want to try. But, I've noticed for quite a few weeks now I've been using the same staple pieces every morning. I don't have a particularly adventurous everyday look, with eyeshadows and lip products only sometimes slipping their way in. (I'm on the hunt for a good staple everyday eyeshadow - any suggestions?) But, I thought I'd share with you my current staple pieces that always seem to make their way onto my face.

Rimmel Stay Matte Powder in Translucent
MAC Mineralize Skinfinish in Soft and Gentle
MAC Powder Blush in Well Dressed
Max Factor Colour X-Pert Waterproof Eyeliner in Black (review of shade Anthracite HERE)
Louise Gray for Topshop Mascara in There and Black (review HERE)
Nivea Lip Butter in Raspberry Rose

There we have it, all the products I use on a daily basis. I'd like to just add a quick note about why I'm currently using two mascaras! My beloved Louise Gray mascara has started to get a little clumpy (I have had it a fair few months to be fair!), and my Fat Cat mascara doesn't provide enough impact. But, if I combine the two, applying Fat Cat first to separate and lengthen my lashes - adding Louise Gray afterwards makes my lashes stand out and gives me the wide awake look I so desperately need in the morning! 

What are your staple everyday products of the moment? Any recommendations? :) 


Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Bloglovin'

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Time For A Move...

16 Mar 2013

I know its not certain when GFC is closing down, but if you read all the hype about the demise of Google reader it seems like it'll be pretty quick to follow. That in mind, I thought I'd post my Bloglovin' link, as I don't want to lose any of you lovely readers :)

I've had Bloglovin' for a while, but never really used it - its definitely a really easy interface though, so if you're abit dubious about the change I say definitely give it a go. Its also super easy to transfer all the blogs that you follow which I was really happy about!

Here's all my links, I hope I'll see you soon :)

Image Map

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One Stone Down, One To Go...

13 Mar 2013

"Just keep going" "One stone down, one to go" These are my current mantra's. If you haven't guessed already, I've been on a bit of a health kick and have so far lost a stone. This might not mean a whole lot to some people, but to me? Its a serious achievement and I'm rather chuffed about it.

Ever since I was a baby (9lbs and more!!) I've always been a bit on the chubbier side, and like most teenagers stressed about it the whole of my childhood. I would constantly 'go on a diet' - which would really mean I'd keep putting it off - constantly giving myself one more day to eat bad food because I'd 'definitely be on the diet tomorrow'. If I ever actually made it on to the diet, I'd last at the very maximum a week and then I'd cave and eat a load of crappy food and generally feel rubbish about myself. Which then spurned onto comfort eating...vicious circle anyone?

Going to University in 2009 was never going to be good for my body, and in total I put on two stone over the three years. Unsurprising really, as most students put on weight with the constant takeaways, drinking and late nights. Its hardly a recipe for a healthy body! I 'tried' to lose weight, constantly taking up healthy eating patterns and stocking the fridge full of salad and veg only to be swayed by my house mates getting a takeaway and not wanting to be left out.

I put 'tried' in inverted commas, as looking back now I know I didn't try. The intention may have been there in mind, but to put it bluntly I was just too lazy to actually do anything about it. Now don't get me wrong, I was never crazily overweight, but I was definitely storing a cake shelf around my middle that didn't need to be there.

So, how did everything change? Since the beginning of January I've lost a stone and if you follow my Instagram, you'll know I've still eaten many cakes (Its an addiction!). I've finally realised that losing weight is all a mindset, if you're not 100% into something you're never going to achieve your best, right? Also, saying 'I'm going on diet' instantly makes your body crave sugar and your hand reach for the nearest fatty food.

Instead, I told myself I was having a 'health kick' - scaling down my portion sizes, having Friday treat day for fun sugary things and exercising more. Its simple really, eat less - exercise more. But for years that just wouldn't sink in. I still allow myself to eat 'bad' things if I want them, because I know if I deny myself completely I'll just sink back into my old yo-yo ways. No one wants to go cold turkey on cake -its just not right!

I have to also say, that being healthy with other people is such a big help. My sister begun losing weight towards the end of last year, and seeing how well she was doing and how great she looks now was such a big motivation. Now we can 'talk each other down from the ledge' if cakes are being passed around the office, go for long walks to exercise and its an excuse to go shopping when clothes no longer fit. ;) So, thanks for the help Katie :)

Anyway, I think I've rambled on long enough - this was really just a chance for me to share my experience, and hopefully help motivate anyone else who's currently having a health kick! My next goal is another stone, so wish me luck! Let me know if any of you are trying to shed a few pounds, its always easier to do when you're doing it along with someone. :)

I hope you're all having a wonderful week!

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I Want ALL Of The Things...

11 Mar 2013

Can you believe its March already!? This year is flying by and my passions and bank balance aren't correlating well. So here are some products that I'm really wanting this month but haven't been able to bring home with me just yet.

1. Put simply I just really want to try the Bioderma Crealine TS H20 Micelle Solution (to give it its full name!) as I'm sick of scrubbing away at my eye make up with face wipes. This seems like such an easy solution and might give my poor eyes a bit more care.

2. I got a sample of the Vichy Smoothing and Illuminating cream in a GlossyBox a few months ago, and I've really fallen in love with it. I love the consistency of the cream, the smell and how soft it makes my skin feel. The little tub it comes in is really handy as well, and rather aesthetically pleasing too! My little sample is near enough empty now though, so a full size version is definitely in my sights!

3. I've wanted to try the YSL Glossy Stains for months now, but I've never felt justified to make the splurge. So when I found out that the L'Oreal Glam Shine Stain Splash (what a name!) glosses were a dupe, I added them to my list straight away! I've been having quite a lot of trouble finding them in my local shops, but I'll definitely post a review when I track them down.

4. MAC's Paint Pot in Painterly is somewhat of a cult product, but one that I have yet to try. Next time I'm passing a MAC counter I'm definitely going to pick it up - I've been eyeing it up for quite a while now. I really like the almost dual use of the pot as a base and eye shadow in its own right.

5. I love a lot of the products in Illamasqua's Imperfection collection, but ranking highest must be the ridiculously cute speckled nail varnishes. They remind me of mini eggs and really, what could be better than that? I just wish they weren't quite so pricey :(

6. The Elemis Skin Glow Exfoliating Face Wash was another GlossyBox sample from a few months back. Initially I didn't try it straight away as I love my trusty Soap and Glory foaming face wash, but as that ran out I decided to give the Elemis wash a go and I'm so glad I did! I really love it, the jojoba beads really do scrub the skin and leaves my face feeling really fresh and smooth. Sadly I've now finished the sample, so a full size version is definitely on my to-buy list.

7. Lastly, since trying and loving the Clinique Chubby Stick Intense (review HERE), when I heard about the Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes I was really intrigued. I've heard mixed reviews so far, but I really want to give them a try. Shades Lot's of Latte and Fuller Fudge look super pretty.

So there we have it, this is what I'm loving from afar in March. Have you tried any of these products? Any products on your wishlist at the moment? Let me know :)

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Review | Dr. Jart+ Pore Refine Tight Effect Toner

7 Mar 2013

Dr.Jart+ is not a brand that I've used before and to be quite honest is not one that I'd ever really thought of using. But since running out of toner a few weeks back I wanted to try something new and this really called out to me. It may have been the pretty ocean blue colour of the bottle, the fact that it has a pump dispenser or just the 'tight effect' claims but this bottle made its way into my clutches.

Since researching the product a little more, I've found that its not actually listed on the Dr.Jart+ website and there is hardly any blog reviews on it either. This was quite a surprise to me as I've really enjoyed using it! I cleanse first with my Soap and Glory Hot Cloth Cleanser (review HERE) and then spritz a liberal amount of the Dr.Jart+ Pore Refine Tight Effect Toner onto a cotton wool pad before wiping over my face.

You can use the toner without cleansing first, but I do find that the combination of the two leaves my skin feeling really fresh and smooth. The 'tight effect' claim to the toner really does work - you can definitely tell the toner is closing your pores and makes smoothing on moisturiser afterwards a doddle.

I've had the toner for a good 3 or 4 weeks, and although using it every day the bottle hardly looks touched. This is a major plus for me, as the toner isn't particularly cheap. I bought the bottle when it had money off, but it usually retails at £18 (buy HERE). You get 140ml for your hard earned cash, which I do feel is a substantial amount and considering the quality - I do think its worth the splurge.

I think I'm definitely going to look into other Dr.Jart+ products. I've heard SO much about the BB cream. Have any of you tried any products? Any recommendations?

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Muddy Walks and Aztec Prints.

4 Mar 2013

DISCLAIMER: This is a picture heavy post to soothe your tired Monday morning brains. I do hope you enjoy looking at the pretty things :)

Showcased in this post, are pictures I took last weekend of a muddy walk on Box Hill, Surrey. I've also included a little 'haul' of clothes I've bought recently. The Topshop Black and White Boyfriend Coat that I've lusted over for a good month or so and finally caved to buy. The super comfy H and M aztec print jumper, that I can't find online but was £29.99. The floral skirt, courtesy of Primark, which was about £10. Finally, the black quilted ballet pumps, again from Primark at the bargainous price of £6.

I hope you enjoyed this Monday post, and I hope you all have a lovely day :)

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