Sunday, 30 September 2012

September Favourites

Joules Snood
The first thing I have been loving this month is my trusty knitted snood from Joules. I bought it last year and as soon as the temperature started to drop I dug it out of the wardrobe and it's barely left my neck since. There's nothing worse than a cold neck, is there?

Liz Earle Deep Cleanse Mask
I've been trying to decide on a deep cleansing mask for a while and decided to give this one a go. I've been a Liz Earle fan for years, my mum used the whole range and I started pinching it when I was about 15!
This is a clay mask which promises to deep cleanse and regulate oiliness - exactly what I wanted. It has quite a strong smell and is very dark in colour - not great if the postman knocks whilst you've got it on (yes, that happened!) But it really feels like a treat and my skin certainly looks and feels better afterwards. It comes in a zip pouch with two handy little sponges to remove it with - one of the little Liz Earle touches that I love. From

Kerastase Nectar Thermique
After my last highlights appointment my hair was left seriously weak and unhappy so I dug around in my stash to see what I could find to give it a bit of extra protection. I haven't used this product since about February but I started using it again this month and wonder why I ever stopped!
It's a leave-in 'heat styling protective agent' for dry to very dry hair. I run it through my hair before oiling and drying, it's fragrant and thick and leaves my hair soft and tangle-free. Plus I feel like I'm looking after it a bit better! From feelunique

This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
This was on my wish list last month and I treated myself when I got paid because I'm still having terrible trouble sleeping. Two sprays is enough, any more is too much. It contains lavender (my favourite), vetivert and camomile which are all reputed to promote deep sleep. It certainly helps me to relax when I get to bed, it's no miracle cure but I definitely feel it helps. From feelunique

Clipper Teas Organic Sleep Easy Tea
Another weapon in my arsenal of sleep aids, the first time I tried this I wasn't over keen on the taste. But I now love it and look forward to it every night!
The tea bags don't smell that inspriring (Matt describes them as 'herbal cat pee mixed with wet dog') but once you pour the water on they release a lovely waft of orange and cinnamon which, along with the chamomile and valerian make the perfect night time brew

What have been your favourite things this September? I'd love your recommendations!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Good Vibes Please?

My little Jessie Bear hasn't had a good couple of weeks. Last week I found she had fleas for the first time in her life. This week she has poorly eyes, something to do with the teeny airborne particles at this time of the year because of Harvest we think

So Jessie, Wilson and I toddled off to the Vets on Monday for their annual vaccinations, he had a little look at her eyes and gave me some drops for her. She has her drops three times a day and she's such a patient patient, she sits quiet and still while I pull her eyelids about and blinks like a good 'un when I've finished

I also asked our lovely vet, Mike,to have a look at her jaw as she struggles with her biscuits, she's been like it for a while and although she's been thoroughly examined in the past with nothing to report, I'm still a bit worried about her

There is a condition which is prevalent in Labradors where the immune system attacks the muscles which work the jaw. We have to hope very hard that she doesn't have this as there is no cure and it would mean a very miserable time for her (and obviously for us too)

So please, can I ask you to send out some good vibes for my Jessie Bear?

She's such a sweetheart. She's only four years old but she's been grey around the chin since Wilson came along three years ago. When I first got her I lived on my own and it was just me and her for a while there. I'm not going to lie, we shared a bed more often than not and when Matt came into our lives he fell in love with her long before he fell in love with me.

His words, not mine.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday round up

Deep Sleep goodies - cosy new slippers - yummy tomato soup
Birthday presents for my nephew - nearly a new bedroom door - makeshift stairs
Finley Joe the golfer - a rainy walk - a cuddle with a playful bear

Another busy week, full of big changes at work (boo) and not having any food in the house because I've been too busy reading blogs to do the shopping!

This week;

I checked in with my family and spent some time with my little nephew Finley Joe. He is the cutest little boy ever, especially now he has learned to say my name! He gets so excited to see my dad and stepmum, it's lovely to see my dad with him, he just adores him. My sister texted me yesterday to tell me Fin had been asking for me 'and the chick-chicks'!!

We also visited our friends and their new baby, Jacob. He was born five weeks early and weighed a tiny 5lb! He was the tiniest baby I've ever seen, so tiny that Matt was scared to hold him! He looked so fragile! His perfect, miniscule fingernails were so cute and he slept pretty much the whole time we were there, only waking briefly to feed. He is adorable. I bought him babygrows with tractors on because his daddy is a farmer :-)

This visit cheered us up after Matt got to work and found that a big hole he had dug last year (a footing for a new storage unit) was full of dead hedgehogs. A little prickly family of six had fallen in. So sad, especially when he saw the scratches up the side where they had desperately tried to climb out. RIP little hoggies.

The weekend also saw the very first #lbloggers chat on Sunday night. I was so happy that so many people joined in and it was great that everyone seemed so excited! I came away with so many links (and new people to follow), I still haven't worked my way through them all! I have high hopes for the next one, which is being led by Charlotte, on Sunday night at 8pm. Be there!

I took the dogs to the vet for their vaccinations and Jessie got some eye drops and some medicine which is suspiciously similar to Calpol. She seems to quite like it.

We spent a night at the new house, Matt plasterboarding the snug and me painting the fresh plaster in the bathroom. We put old music on and sang loudly while we worked, it was fun and exciting and, as Matt kindly pointed out, I 'didn't whinge or whine once'

I got overexcited and showed Matt the place I was planning to take him for his birthday. He almost had a heart attack at the price and told me he'd rather stay somewhere cheaper for longer. Back to the drawing board then. I wasn't sure he would like it anyway, it's a kind of 'love it or hate it' sort of place. If you're nosey you can have a peep here

It's been really chilly a couple of days this week, I packed up all my vests and summer dresses and put them into storage. I dragged out my jumpers and cardigans and treated myself to a pair of Ugg slippers - I've wanted a pair for the last couple of years but was put off by the price. But we have all wooden or tiled floors downstairs and a tiled bathroom floor which is FREEZING on your feet in the colder weather so I decided to go ahead and splurge when I got paid this week. I'm very pleased I did, they are the cosiest slippers ever!

Last night we went to see our lovely joiner who is busy making our new kitchen. The sink unit is nearly finished, it looks gorgeous. I never thought I'd be so excited about a handmade kitchen but this is what happens when a) you get old and b) you meet a man obsessed with oak.

This weekend we'll be doing more work on the house, eating Indian or Chinese food, and getting out with the dogs. I'll be spending more time trying desperately to resize a photo I want to use for advertising this little ol' blog (and tearing my hair out I expect) and we'll obviously catch up on X Factor.

Matt: You know we're both crap singers?
Me: I do.
Matt: Do you think our kids will be amazing singers?
Me: No. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Matt: Oh. Do you think it's generic?
Me: Do you mean genetic??

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Recipe - Slow Cooker Bolognese

I love my slow cooker, especially at this time of year, the season of soups, stews, chillis and casseroles. It was one of the first items my Mum gave me when I moved out of the family home and to my mind it's an essential piece of kit in any kitchen. Slow cooking releases more flavours and allows ingredients to really meld together. It's also wonderful for meat, including pot roasts as slow cooking allows to you to use cheaper cuts of meat - the long cooking time breaks down and melts all the fat, connective tissue and bone marrow (yummy eh?) to produce amazing gravies and sauces. You can pick up a cheap two-person slow cooker (sometimes called a 'crockpot') for about £20 and they use minimal electricity, so they're economical too.

This bolognese is an adaptation of a Delia recipe, I think. It's meaty and intensely tomatoey and we absolutely love it! This recipe makes enough for a whole lasagne (with leftovers) or you can split it into portions, bag up and freeze so you always have a quick weeknight pasta based meal to hand.

You will need

1lb minced beef
1lb minced pork
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Splash of olive oil
Half a bottle of red wine
One and a half tubes of double concentrate tomato puree
2 tins chopped tomatoes (with basil, if you can get it)
Chopped fresh basil (a couple of handfuls, optional)
Half a whole nutmeg, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

First of all, switch on your slow cooker and set it to HIGH

Heat a good glug of olive oil in your largest pan over a low-medium heat and add your chopped onions and garlic (garlic puree in my case!) Fry gently for about 10 minutes, then set aside

Add another glug of olive oil to your pan and brown the minced beef. Drain off any excess liquid and set the beef aside.Repeat with the minced pork.

Add all of your set aside ingredients back to the pan. Add your red wine, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes and season with your salt and pepper, grated nutmeg and oregano.

This is why you need a large pan!

Bring to a bubble then transfer the whole lot to your slow cooker. Check seasoning, turn your slow cooker down to LOW then pop on the lid and you're done!

I cook it for at least four hours. I make it the day before I want it, as leaving it to cool and steep overnight only improves and intensifies the flavours.

Reheat thoroughly and stir through your fresh basil before serving. Eat with fresh spaghetti, sprinkled with parmesan, mozarella or even cheddar. Alternatively, use as a base for a lasagne - either way it's delicious with garlic bread on the side and a large glass of red wine!

If you don't have a slow cooker, you could modify this recipe by putting the bolognese into a casserole dish and popping into a very low oven instead. Alternatively you could cook it on the hob on the lowest possible heat I suppose (obviously not if you're planning on leaving the house!)

Do let me know if you give this bolognese a try, I hope you love it as much as I do!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday Round Up

a branch I walked into - jessie enjoys a run on the stubble - wilson is busy with a stick
rosie's one pan supper - delicious starbucks full leaf tea - hot water bottle = best friend
my slow cooker (Winter saviour) - yummy sweetcorn - 'put a log on the fire mrs maguire'

I haven't blogged as much as I would have liked to this week, it's been a busy one all round. Matt has put in an offer on another business property and we had to sit down and strategically plan the next 5 years to see if we could afford to do it. This involved having the scariest conversation of our relationship so far - deciding when we want to (ideally) have a baby and how much money we will need to survive comfortably when we don't have my wage anymore. We've talked about children a lot before, for various reasons, but actually drawing a line in the sand and planning it is a very different thing. It feels like something grown ups do!  

It's been a chilly old week and we've been eating some winter warmers from my trusty slow cooker (beef and Guinness stew last night - yum) as well as Rosie's one pan wonder. Try it, you won't regret it! We also had our traditional sweetcorn supper tonight. Every year at around this time the farm up the road sells their home grown sweetcorn and it's absolutely amazing. When Matt walked in with a bag of 25 cobs tonight I couldn't wait to get my teeth into some, I've been waiting for that sign to go up at the end of the drive for the last six weeks! The corn is absolutely amazing - I didn't even think I liked sweetcorn until I tried it - I still can't eat the tinned stuff. Boiled for 3 minutes and soaked in butter and salt, these are heaven in cob form.

We've had the heating on a few times and a fire most nights, there have been a few rainy days and I've been wearing my snuggly Joules snood around the house. It really feels like we are into Autumn proper now and that makes me very happy indeed. My lovely best friend has booked our traditional October spa day and I have booked our Christmas trip to Chester, as well as looking at places to take Matt for his birthday treat in November. I think I've found the perfect place, I hope he likes it as much as I think I will!

This weekend holds a trip into town to see my family, visiting our friends who welcomed their new baby into the world last week, more work on the new house and perhaps a slow cooked bolognese. A roast and Downton Abbey on Sunday night and the first #lbloggers chat on Twitter at 7pm - don't forget to join us!

What do you have planned for the weekend? Are you enjoying the colder weather?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mid-week chit chat

I couldn't think of a suitable photo to go with this post so I thought I'd share this one that I took whilst walking the dogs earlier this week. One minute I was taking scenic photographs of the moors, the next I turned around to go back into the woods and ... sunset!

I suppose this means we are freewheeling into Autumn now, there was certainly a nip in the air early this morning and as it was getting dark this evening. Dark at around 7.30pm mind! The chickens were all tucked up by 7pm, cuddled up together in their individual gangs. The little black frizzle hen has taken to sleeping with the three youngsters, she even lays her eggs in their little coop. The three Buff Orpingtons still sleep in the shed, behind the feed bins and Black Mama hen has gone back in with the old girls, a noble decision considering they all bully her mercilessly. They have something she wants you see, a straw filled nesting box where she likes to go into hiding to satisfy her unbreakable desire to brood imaginary eggs. Bless her.

Anyway, enough chicken chat. This post is about a different kind of chat. Blogger chat.

If you write a beauty blog or enjoy reading beauty blogs, you may be aware of the beauty blogger chat that takes place on Twitter on Sunday evenings at 8pm. Using the hashtag #bbloggers, it's an opportunity for beauty bloggers to discuss beauty/blogging related topics, share tips and information and swap links.

I've taken part in a couple but usually catch up later. I've picked up some good tips and found some excellent blogs through the sharing of links. I've often wondered (and asked) if there is a lifestyle blog equivalent - #lbloggers perhaps? I've noticed that since I began blogging myself I've been increasingly drawn to lifestyle/personal blogs over beauty blogs. I'm nosy by nature and I love the way that you get to know a blogger through their blog, endless beauty reviews and fashion posts have started to bore me a little.

I noticed that I wasn't the only one asking the question on Sunday night so I decided to take the bull by the horns and suggest a lifestyle bloggers chat on Sundays at 7pm using the hashtag (you guessed it) #lbloggers.

This is not an attempt to 'steal the thunder' of #bbloggers, it's not meant to be any kind of competition and there's no need for anyone to feel that they have to choose which chat to take part in. If any other beauty bloggers are anything like me, perhaps they enjoy reading a lifestyle blog once in a while too. That doesn't mean I don't read and enjoy beauty blogs anymore - I do! The internet is a big place and there's room for everyone.

So I'll be chairing the first chat, this Sunday at 7pm. I'll then nominate someone who took part to chair the next one. They'll then nominate someone the next week, etc etc. This will give everyone a chance to have a go at controlling the chat.

I hope the idea doesn't fall flat on it's face. It seems that there are enough keen beans to make it worth a try so that's what Sunday will be. A try.

If you'd like to take part you're more than welcome, and if there's a specific topic you'd like to see covered, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.

#lbloggers - Sunday - 7pm

See you there!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Happy Birthday Wilson!

Dear, sweet Wilson

So, today you are three years old. We've had our ups and downs with you puppy, but you have turned into a sweeter dog than we could ever have imagined.

Remember that rainy day when we picked you up from your breeder in County Durham? You peed and threw up on your Daddy on the journey home and when we put you down in our garden for the first time you swayed on your little stumpy legs and I worried that you might be even younger than your mere seven weeks.

You loved your puppy breakfast of weetabix and warm goats milk and your little round belly and milky, puppy smell made everyone fall in love with you immediately. Choosing a name was harder and you were 'Puppy' for the first three weeks of your life with us.

You picked up your training so quickly, sitting on command within 24 hours, walking to heel off the lead and fetching your little puppy dummy. The house training took A LOT longer and you had an awful lot of tellings-off in your first six months but when you won your first puppy match at only six months old, we knew you were something special.

We were full of dreams that you would become a Field Trial Champion and the beginning of my world-beating gundog kennel. Despite your obvious natural talent you were incredibly hard and frustrating work to train, I hope you don't feel you're missing out by not competing any more.

You've become even more special to me as a pet dog, without the pressure of training and competition our relationship has got better and better and I love snuggling up with you on the sofa. You are the most affectionate dog I've ever had and such a pleasure to have around, even when you are being flighty and boisterous and standing on my bare feet, making me howl.

I love your gentle temperament, the way you won't wrestle with us or ever use your teeth, I love how protective you are over us and Jessie and I love how you do that little dance when you get excited.

So happy birthday you absolute sweetheart, here's to many, many more.

Renovation Man

I went round to the other house yesterday to do some tidying up and paint a couple of window frames. I really, REALLY didn't want to go but I know we won't get many more nice days and it's a job you can't really do in the rain! I took a couple of instagram photos and the lovely Poppy explained how to make a collage out of them. I'm such a techno-dunce!

Clockwise from top left
Paint samples on my new office wall
A very bored dog sitting in the kitchen
Man in a hole - Matt back filling the sunken lounge
This will be a beautiful garden one day ... so I'm assured!

It was a beautiful day yesterday and I really struggled to get myself motivated to do my jobs. We're both feeling a bit down about the whole project - this happens periodically. We have a run of being really positive, walking around the house and planning how we will use each room, the furniture we will buy, and feeling incredibly lucky that we're able to do it at all. This is usually followed by a comedown where we feel completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the project we've undertaken and can't imagine that it will ever be finished. Working on this house has become a way of life and the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes seems to be getting further away, rather than coming closer. We talk about the time when we won't have any work to do at home and we can spend our evenings and weekends relaxing and watching the world go by but I don't think either of us really believe it's going to happen.

We've decided that Matt should ease off a bit - he's literally spent every spare minute this year at the house, no exaggeration. He's incredibly dedicated, to the point of obsession in fact, and has made so many sacrifices in order to keep the project in motion. Coupled with running and growing his business, it's been a tall order and the strain has started to show in the last month or so.  

We're lucky enough that we have a beautiful house already and there's no rush to move out of it. We were pushing to have the new house finished in time for Christmas but we've decided to abandon the idea. There's just no need to put that sort of pressure on ourselves.

So for the first time in a long time, we both had a lie in today. We had dippy eggs and soldiers for breakfast and have spent the morning on the sofa with the dogs, watching bike racing and drinking tea.

And I am quietly pleased that we'll have another Christmas in the cottage. I love this place and it will be a real wrench to let it go. It really comes into it's own in the winter and I feel like we can give it a proper send off now, before having to hand it over to it's new owners.

Friday, 14 September 2012

This Week I've Mostly Been ...

Getting excited about the Autumn clothing collections

The best clothes of the year are almost upon us, I love Autumnal colours, knitwear and boots

I even love picking workwear at this time of year!

Cracking out my earmuffs for a windy dog walk!

Wednesday was a taste of what's to come, blustery, chilly and rainy.

Wind blowing in my ears inevitably ends in earache so I don't mind looking a bit daft in my earmuffs, they keep my tabs so toasty!

No makeup and spitting hair out of my mouth, this was definitely not my finest hour.

Discovering a new Starbucks drink

I expect I'm a bit late to this party. When I left work on Thursday it was cold and drizzly and I was craving a chai tea latte but by the time I got to the motorway services it was sunny and warm.

I felt like I needed a cold drink so I decided to try the Berry Hibiscus Refresha, which was delicious despite being at least 90% ice

But I couldn't give up on the idea of my chai latte. So I got both

Giggling at this text from my best friend ...

... and this photo of her in-tray!

What has made you giggle this week?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Rachael Reviews - Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Hair Oil

I first heard about Shu Uemura Essence Absolue a long time ago from one of my first beauty blogger girl-crushes, Fleur. She seems share my attitude to haircare - she doesn't skimp on the products she uses but she doesn't over-fuss with her hair, she likes it to be soft and healthy looking rather than super-styled.

I was using an oil called Orofluido at the time and was very happy with it. I'd also tried Kerastase Elixir Ultime and was satisfied that the Orofluido was better. But the thought of this Shu Uemura oil niggled at the back of my mind and I knew it was going to stay there until I tried it for myself.

Let's not beat about the bush - it's bloody expensive. As are most Shu Uemura products. But at £39.50 for 150ml it's only about 5 pence per ml more expensive than the Orofluido, which is £21.25 for 100ml. It just feels more painful to shell out forty quid in one go I suppose!

I prefer the pump dispenser to Orofluido's glass bottle which you just unscrew and pour from, it makes it easier to get the right amount of product. I think this has led to my using less of it - one and a half pumps on wet hair and half a pump when it's dry.

The formula is thinner than Orofluido and the scent is similar but stronger and longer lasting.

I'm not going to take anything away from this oil, it's very good. It smells AMAZING, it detangles and smooths my hair, leaving it shiny and unbelievably soft. Incredibly soft in fact.

The main difference between this and my old favourite is that Orofluido seems to be most effective on wet hair and the Shu Uemura oil, being that bit lighter, seems to work best as a finishing oil on dry hair.

If you're feeling flush and fancy giving this oil a go you can purchase it from feelunique. If you would rather try the Orofluido, you can get that from feelunique too.

What's your favourite hair oil?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Night Reflections

This is where you'll find me most Sunday nights!

After a long drive on Friday (five hours, coming home from a meeting in Maidstone) I really should have got myself an early night. But I find that after a day where I've spent a lot of time driving, it can be hard to switch off when I get home. I never really know what to do with myself.

I dragged myself, my overnight case, bag and laptop through the door, dropped it all in the kitchen and put the kettle on. Then I picked up a magazine but I didn't want to read. I switched on the TV but I didn't want to watch it. I went upstairs and laid on the bed but I didn't feel sleepy. Weird. This just made me irritable so as soon as Boyfriend came home I laid into him for not having emptied the dishwasher whilst I'd been away and demanded to be taken out for tea. We went to Our New Favourite Indian (fourth weekend in a row) which made me a bit happier. On arriving home, he immediately fell asleep on the sofa and I stayed up until 1am reading blogs when I should have been asleep. Big mistake.

On Saturday morning I headed off to the hairdressers for my cut and colour. Three hours later, with a numb behind, I drove into town to visit my family, whom I haven't seen for about a month. It's only a half hour drive but it can feel a big deal after a busy week, I don't make the effort as often as I should, to be honest. My little 22 month old nephew almost made me cry by saying 'bye bye Rachael!' as I left - it was the cutest thing! In the evening we went to see Lawless at the cinema, another thing that is a rarity for us this year but I enjoyed it so much, it was the best film I've seen in ages.

Today I've been irritable since I was woken up early by my boyfriend bouncing on the bed like a child and singing 'come with me to let the chickens out, you can watch Cocky nailing all the hens!' Not really top of my wishlist for the day but off I went, in my dressing gown and Uggs to the bottom of the garden, before I'd even had a cup of tea. The neighbours must think I'm crackers. I had a whole list of things to do in my head, all of them were things I NEEDED to do rather than things I WANTED to do and that was just making me grumpy. Going to Tesco, the country store, walking the dogs, cleaning out the chickens, cleaning the house, doing the weekly online shop, doing the washing, going round to the new house to crack on with the painting .... all I WANTED to do was sit in the sunny garden room and have some 'me' time.

I know I sound ungrateful and lazy but I just didn't want to do anything today. I was feeling tired and very 'woe is me' about my list of chores.

I did half the chores and then gave up. I retired to the sofa and that's where I still am. There's a leg of lamb in the slow cooker and I'm planning how to make next weekend better;

* Take a leaf out of Rosie's book and plan the week's meals - this will help with the shopping and mean I don't have to 'pop to Tesco' at the weekend
* Split up the housework into daily tasks so I don't have to do it all on one day
* Don't stay up so late on Friday night
* Work at the other house on Saturday and have Sunday to myself

Work was so busy last week and from now until the end of the year it's only going to get busier, so I really do need to manage my time a bit better. By the end of the week I'm so knackered all I want to do is sleep and watch crap TV.

Me: 'I'm so tired. I really am going to bed early tonight. I mean it.'
BF: 'Why don't you have a bottle of Crabbies and get pissed?'
Me: 'I can't get pissed, I've got tea to cook. I can get pissed after tea'
BF: 'Yeah, otherwise the Yorkshire puddings might end up like biscuits again'

He's so supportive. I compromised and started on the Crabbies whilst cooking. As you will see from his 'arty' photo above!

Do you ever have weekends like this?

Friday, 7 September 2012

This Week I've Mostly Been ...

... sticking to my beauty spending ban!

But if I'd been spending this week and been able to take advantage of the feelunique sale without guilt or recrimination, I would have bought ...

Elemis Body Brush
To tackle my cellulite. I caught sight of my thighs in a changing room mirror this week and almost called Security. Like so much uncooked bread dough

Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel
I'm concerned this could be another Liquid Gold to be honest but the reviews are, once again, all good. I'm such a sucker.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse
A beauty blogger favourite, I tried a sample of this last year and liked what it did for my dry Winter legs. As that time of year is rolling around again, I'd like to add the full size version to my arsenal

Nuxe Reve de Miels Lip Balm
Another beauty blogger favourite, I'm a lip balm addict and this honey balm sounds delicious

This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
Any product that uses the words 'relaxing', 'comforting' or 'deep sleep' is an instant hit with me. I treated myself to a new goose down pillow last month and I can't help but lust after this lavender scented spray to complement it. For an extra £3 you can get this duo which includes a pulse point balm in the same scent - I'm sold.

Each of these has been in my basket on the feelunique website at least once this week but I have managed to restrain myself!

Would you be tempted by any of these products?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Rachael Reviews - Alpha H Liquid Gold

I was so excited about Alpha H Liquid Gold, I'd read numerous reviews by various beauty bloggers and the overall verdict has been pretty impressive.

Liquid Gold is a chemical exfoliant, it contains glycolic acid which acts as a resurfacer for your skin.

I don't have terrible skin (anymore) but I do have some fine lines, a few enlarged pores, some minor acne scarring and a patch of hyper-pigmentation that I could definitely live without. I also feel like my skin could be a bit smoother and could look a bit brighter so I decided to give it a go. What had I got to lose?

£31.50 for a start. Phew!

I've been using Liquid Gold every other night, swept over my face on a cotton pad and not followed up with moisturiser, as recommended. I'm a lazy bint by nature so skipping moisturiser is not a problem for me in any way and, according to Alpha H, this makes Liquid Gold more effective. The liquid is clear and very much like water in consistency but has a strong chemical smell, reminiscent of an acne medication I was prescribed years ago (I think it was Retin-A or Zineryt) and it tingles in the same way when applied.

I wanted to love this product, I really did. I was assured by the reviews I'd read that I would see a difference after the first use. I didn't.

I kept it up for six weeks and I'm still waiting. I have studied my face in order to write this review and genuinely, the only improvement I can see is that the pores around my nose look slightly reduced. At least I think they do.

Disappointed doesn't come close.

Needless to say, I won't be repurchasing. But if you'd like to try it for yourself, you can purchase Alpha H Liquid Gold from lookfantastic

If you'd like to try a chemical exfoliant but you're not inspired by this review (and let's face it, who could blame you?) I'd highly recommend Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant which I reviewed last month.

I hate to be disappointed by an expensive purchase! Have you ever made an expensive beauty mistake like this?

Burghley Horse Trials 2012

Hello blog friends

If you follow me on Twitter (@madeupof) you will know that my lovely boyfriend took Saturday off his non-stop slog on our new house in order to treat little ol' me to a day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Traditionally I watch from my sofa, I went with my best friend about four years ago and it was great but you see so much more when you watch it on TV.

But there have been numerous discussions lately over whether a horse will be joining our family next year and, buoyed up by watching that Jennifer Saunders documentary last month, the Boyfriend has been quite keen on all things horsey recently. And who am I to pass up an opportunity for a horsey day out??

So we hit the road at 6am on drizzly Saturday morning with the dogs in the back of the truck, looking forward to a day of excitement. We would hit the tradestands, eat junk food and position ourselves next to the largest eventing fence in the world, the Cottesmore Leap (fence 23 of 33). I was already planning the blog post I would write and the photos I would take.

We spent most of the day making our way to the Leap, stopping along the way at particularly good vantage points. And we never made it all the way there.

Mid way between fences 19 and 20 I heard the whistles of the stewards which signal an approaching horse. I heard the hoofbeats and looked around to see Paul Hart and Heartbreak Hill galloping towards us. All of a sudden the horse pulled up short, so  short that Paul nearly pitched over his shoulder. I looked down and it was immediately obvious - the horse's leg was broken.

I heard myself say 'oh my God, he's broken his leg' and saw the rider jump off. Luckily, the man standing next to me had more presence of mind than me and ran over to help. I just stood there uselessly with my hands over my mouth. There was just the rider, the horse, the other spectator and me and my boyfriend - the rest of the world ceased to exist. And all I could do was shut my eyes. I felt terrible but I just froze and was no use to anyone. I couldn't go and help, I couldn't walk away. I just stood there.

Within a minute the horse ambulance arrived and the screens were put up to spare the feelings of the crowd that was starting to form. We started to slowly make our way back to the truck, the day was over as far as I was concerned.

As we walked back I started to question the sport that I love. Should we be doing this to horses? I had wanted to stand at the biggest fence on the course, for thrills. I'm pleased I didn't - watching the BBC coverage on Sunday was harrowing enough, more than one horse ended up in that ditch.

I used to be an event groom in my younger years and I remember how driven some of the riders were to succeed, even at the expense of their horses. One horse on my yard was persistently lame but it was the only Advanced level horse the rider had, so her only concern was to keep it sound by whatever means necessary, not to get to the root of the problem. He was a lovely horse and I remember wishing I could afford to buy him and take him away from there so he could retire and live a peaceful, pampered life with my old horse.

I still don't know what I think about the events of Saturday. Even now the shock has worn off, I can't stop thinking about Paul Hart going home in an empty horse lorry to an empty stable. I looked him up on the way home and found that he had narrowly missed out on an Olympic selection and had done a lot of fundraising to get himself and his horse to Burghley. For what?

I keep telling myself that the horse broke it's leg on the flat, it wasn't even jumping, it was just a freak accident that could have even happened if he had been out in the field on Saturday. But would it? Are horses really designed to tackle these ever more complicated obstacles?

I don't know. But it didn't feel right to post a cheery write up about shopping and eating hot dogs in the wake of such a tragedy. That said, it wouldn't feel right to not mention it at all as it has dominated my thoughts this week.


So please spare a thought for Paul Hart and for his horse Harry, now grazing in the big meadow in the sky.

RIP Harry xx


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A New Friend

Hello blog friends!

Today's post was supposed to be a beauty review but I just had to show you what we found in the footings of our new lounge last night

A little hare! Isn't he cute? I have no idea how he ended up in there, maybe he was chased in or fell in? Either way, he had been there all day and he was there when we left him last night. He wasn't injured in any way and didn't seem to be in shock or distressed or anything.

We put some breeze block steps at one edge and left a scaffolding plank over another, so he has two possible escape routes. But he seemed to be enjoying himself to be honest, he didn't seem too scared of us, he came quite close. We named him Ferris

I found myself talking to him, as you do.

'Ah little Ferris, how did you get in there? Where are all your friends? Would you like to come home with us and live with the chickens?'

And he listened! Look at his big ears!

He didn't seem too enamoured by the prospect so we left him in his big hole instead.

I'm going to pop round at lunch time and see if he's still there. Boyfriend must have come round to the idea, I told him this morning that if Ferris was still there it must mean he wants to be a pet hare. He said 'well you'd better take a cage with you then ...'

Although I'm not sure I've got a cage big enough to fit those ears in ....

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Butterfly Lane Haul

Hello blog friends!

As you know, I'm on a bit of a beauty spending ban this month (it's not really going as well as I'd hoped, to be fair!) But that doesn't mean I can't spend on home-related things, they are definitely fair game. So imagine my delight when I discovered a new online boutique called Butterfly Lane

Not only does this new online shop have the sweetest name imaginable, it also stocks all kinds of gorgeous homeware from bookends to perfume bottles to milk jugs. Launched on 15th August 2012 by Nikki Wright, this beautifully designed, lifestyle focused store has a huge range of classic and elegant home accessories 

So out came my trusty debit card ...

What a treat to receive such a beautifully packaged delivery!

Here's what I bought ...

A little tea tidy with a picture of a chicken! Of course, I love chickens, but I also love Sophie Allport's range of kitchenalia. I have this design on a mug already so I just had to have the tea tidy to match.

A ceramic cow milk jug! I noticed last week that I appear to have lost my milk jug so this is a perfect replacement. It's so cute, I couldn't resist.

And another gorgeous Sophie Allport design, 'The Good Life' Apron. I've been wanting an apron for ages, to make me feel suitably homely when I'm baking on Autumn days. This fitted the bill exactly, a cute design, long ties and even a little press stud at the neck for the perfect fit.

Overall I'm delighted with my purchases and with the excellent customer service I received from Butterfly Lane. I placed my order on Friday afternoon and my items were delivered, beautifully packaged on Saturday morning. The parcel even included a free gift, a large bar of rose and peony scented soap which I am saving as a guest soap for next time my sister comes to stay.

I will definitely be back for more from Butterfly Lane, I already have my eye on a cute bowl for fruit. The website also has a Gift Shop with a 'Little Bit Of Something' section - a selection of gifts all under £10, which I think is a great idea.

Nikki also has an interiors blog which I have subscribed to, it's full of beautiful interiors ideas and photographs which make me weak at the knees! 

What would you purchase from Butterfly Lane? 

*This is not a sponsored post, all items were purchased with my own hard earned cash*

Monday, 3 September 2012

August Favourites

Red magazine
I first bought Red magazine in June, to read on the ferry over to the Isle of Man when I went to watch the TT Races with my boyfriend. I enjoyed it so much I subscribed as soon as we got back. It's different from most glossy magazines - less adverts, less fashion, less patronising 'self esteem' features and sex tips. It's a good mix of lifestyle and beauty, which is just what I'm aiming for with this blog. They have a great website too, Red Online

Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Hair Oil
I'd wanted this hair oil for ages, since I first discovered hair oils about 18 months ago. There's no denying that it's ridiculously expensive but it does the job. It leaves my hair so soft and really smooths down the short, wispy hairs that give away how damaged my barnet is. You know how when you stroke a hamster or a rabbit, their fur is so soft you can hardly feel it? That's what this stuff does to your hair. I bought it from feelunique

Optrex Actimist
I bought this on a whim when I was out one day and my eyes were playing up. Since I took a course of Roaccutane (very strong acne medication) a few years ago my eyes have been extremely dry. I look like I'm crying a lot of the time, it's really annoying! The nice lady in Boots recommended this and even though it wasn't cheap, I've used it so much it's definitely been worth it. It has a six month expiry date too, unlike most drops which are only 30 days, so I've got plenty of time to get my money's worth!  You just spray it onto closed eyelids, much easier to use than drops if you are out and about

Espa Restorative Bath Oil
I've seen a lot of beauty blog posts lately where bloggers 'shop their stash' ie discover old products lurking in their stash and re-use them rather than buying new ones. I had a look in my stash and found this bath oil that I'd completely forgotten about. It's a bit of a luxury and I certainly don't use it in every bath but it smells absolutely divine, like a spa day in a bottle, and on hard days I promise myself a bath with this in the evening and the thought of it helps me make it to the end of the day. From Harvey Nichols

Kerastase Cristalliste Lait Cristal Luminous Perfecting Conditioner
I'd been meaning to try this conditioner since it launched, I've tried a few Kerastase conditioners in the past and quite liked them, although the shampoos don't do much for me. But this stuff is great. Designed for long hair with weighed down roots and dry ends, it's particularly light but has great results. From feelunique

Avon mascara
I've always been a bit of a mascara snob, I've used Lancome or Estee Lauder mascaras for as long as I can remember. I got this Avon mascara free with a magazine and thought I'd give it a go, it might come in useful for 'nothing special, just popping to the supermarket' sort of days. But I was absolutely stunned to find out how good it is.

What have been your favourite things this August?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Recipe - Easy Bramble Jam

Bramble (or blackberry) jam is one of my favourite things to spread on warm croissants or toast. The hedges are absolutely laden with fruit at this time of year, so why not have an afternoon of hedgerow foraging and make your own jam? You can buy blackberries (even frozen) from most supermarkets so there's no need to even get your mitts dirty!

Jam making is something that used to make me nervous - visions of straining and setting points put me right off. But using jam sugar makes the whole thing ridiculously simple. It contains added pectin - a setting agent - so makes your jam setting foolproof.

Here's what you will need;

1lb brambles, washed and stalks removed
1lb jam sugar
Splash of water
Large saucepan or stock pot
Empty, sterilised jars (see method below)
A ramekin dish or saucer

1. Pop your ramekin/saucer in the freezer

2. Tip your brambles into the saucepan with a splash of water (1 tablespoonful) and heat gently

3. When the fruit starts to break down, tip in the sugar. If you like your jam smooth (like I do) then don't rush this stage, wait until they are virtually mush!

4. Once the sugar is in, bring to a rapid boil and stir regularly. It's like molten lava at this point - do not splash yourself!

5. When pink foam starts to rise up the sides of the pan, check your clock and time 4 minutes from this point, continuing to stir as needed

6. Take your ramekin/saucer out of the freezer and drop a blob of jam onto it with a teaspoon. Push the blob of jam with your finger - if a wrinkle forms, it has reached setting point

7. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Whilst it's cooling, prepare your jars by washing them with hot soapy water and rinsing with boiling water from the kettle. Allow to cool slightly before spooning in your jam

Et voila! Wasn't that simple? If you're a preserving nerd like me you can even make your own labels - I got these labels from Lakeland. They have lots of great kit for preserving, including jars. I have used these in the past but tend to re-use old jars now. I have even been known to buy a dozen jars of Tesco Value lemon curd and scrape it out so I can use the jars because it's cheaper than buying empty ones!

I'd love to know if you give this recipe a go and how your jam turns out.

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