Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Laura Wants - The Beauty Edit

The list of beauty products currently taking my fancy is sadly one that only seems to get longer with time. When it comes to beauty, I always like to undertake quite a bit of research before I make the financial commitment.  The products above are all ones which are currently making the cut onto my list of things to try.

Regular readers of my blog might have spotted I am a bit of a Kiehl's convert.  Their Midnight Recovery Concentrate at £36 certainly ticks all of the boxes being paraben free and containing over 99% naturally derived ingredients meaning it's good for your skin.  

This little beauty is formulated with evening primrose and essential oils which work overnight to leave your skin hydrated, supple and soft.  I'm yet to read a bad review and my understanding is that a little goes a long way meaning it's great value for money.  I need this on my dresser soon!

Next up is the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder which I've shown above in Diffused Light. At £38 a pop, it is certainly not a budget buy and would be an investment purchase.  Beauty bloggers seem to rave about this product in all of it's shade variations, but it's the idea behind the powder itself which has caught my interest.  

The reasoning of the makers of  Ambient Lighting Powder is  that your complexion looks better in softer focus lighting (like candlelight) as opposed to the glare of harsh fluorescent lights. Given our lack of candlelight in the 21st Century, the powder works to diffuse and soften the way the light reflects off your skin thereby refining your complexion.  It can be used as a highlighter or all over your face to give you more of a glow.  As it's paraben free, you can rest easy knowing it won't clog your pores.

When it comes to eye make-up removers, I have to say, I am pretty faithful to Bi-Facil by Lancome, in my mind nothing really beats it.  I have tried others, but they don't cut the mustard when it comes to removing waterproof mascara and eyeliner in one sweep thus removing the need to rub my eyes. 

Step in Elemis White Flowers Eye & Lip Make-Up Remover which, like Bi-Facil, features a bi-phase formula.  At £19 (meaning it's in a similar price bracket to my old faithful) it's certainly something I'd like to try.  It contains soothing white tea and  hydrating white peony extract and promises to remove waterproof mascara swiftly without aggravating the sensitive eye area.

Last, but by certainly no means least is the Real Techniques Core Collection of Brushes which features a foundation brush, buffing brush, contour brush and a detailer brush for only £20.99 (if you buy from feel unique as linked above).

I have been assured this collection is worth it for the buffing brush alone which really helps to work in liquid foundation/tinted moisturiser thereby helping you to achieve a more airbrushed look.  In all honesty, the only brushes I have in my collection are a couple of eye-shadow brushes and one battered blusher brush so I   really need to invest in some new brushes soon. I popped into Selfridges a while ago with a view to securing some good quality brushes and several ladies told me I was better off purchasing the Real Techniques brushes instead of ones from their own brand which were almost twice the price in some cases.  Now that's saying something!!

What beauty products have you got your eye on at the moment?   

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Tasties No.5

I thought it was about time to share with you another of my favourite sweet recipes.  Not least of all because this particular recipe just so happens to go fantastically well with a cup of tea (or a hot chocolate if that's more to your liking) which is nice and comforting as the darker nights start creeping up on us.

Failing that, it's also good to scoff when you need a hit of something sweet.

Ad's Lemon & Poppyseed Loaf
I've called this Ad's recipe as whenever I try and make this it tends to go a little bit wrong, be it I burn the edges or the cake sinks because I've put the syrup on to quickly and not left the loaf enough time to cool.

Please don't let this put you off, Ad just happens to have his technique sussed down to a T on this one.  The only tip I would give a nervous baker is to have all of your ingredients at room temperature before you start.

You'll need:
  • 190g unsalted butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp of poppy seeds
  • Zest on one lemon
  • 25ml of milk
  • 80g ricotta
  • A standard size loaf tin
In addition, you will need to prepare a syrup to drizzle over the loaf once it's cooked, this is made with the juice of one lemon (nothing goes to waste on my watch) and 50g of caster sugar.

To start, preheat the oven to 170 degrees.  Then lightly grease your loaf tin before dusting it with a little flour, making sure to tap out any excess.

Next, using an electric whisk, cream together your butter and sugar (this is why you need your ingredients at room temperature) until light and fluffy.

Then, one at a time, add your eggs, ensuring that you mix well between each addition and scrape down the sides.  Don't worry if it looks like it's starting to curdle at this stage, I promise you'll bring it back!

In a separate bowl, sieve together all of your dry ingredients and pop in your lemon zest and poppy seeds.  Slowly begin adding these to the creamed butter and sugar mix.  Once about half of the wet/dry ingredients have been mixed together, add in the milk before adding the remaining portion.

Once you have a nice smooth batter, add in your ricotta cheese.

Pour your batter into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. It'll look like this.
Once the loaf is out of the oven, it's time to make your syrup, simply bring the lemon juice, sugar and 100ml of water to the boil and allow it to reduce by half.  Pour this over your loaf while it is still slightly warm and allow it to soak in like so.
Another handy tip is to pour the syrup onto the loaf while it's still in the tin as this will avoid lots of sticky mess!

When you're ready to munch, the slices will be delicately dotted with your poppy seeds.
Now it's over to you, as this requires only a few basics from your baking store, I hope you'll be able to make this as a treat for friends (or yourself if like me, you don't like to share) soon.

This recipe is from The Hummingbird Bakery - Cake Days book.  It's full of foolproof recipes which are definitely worth your time.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October Birchbox Review

I'm a big fan of beauty products, it's not really a secret.  The market itself is huge so I thought it'd be a good idea to subscribe to a beauty box in the hopes that it would introduce me to some new and exciting brands without the fear of having to fork out huge amounts of cash in order to do so.

Previously, I had been a Glossybox subscriber, but after four boxes I had noted the contents were getting somewhat repetitive.  A girl can only use so many different varieties of shower gel.  As such, I cancelled my subscription feeling a little deflated by my experiences.

Recently I'd been hearing good things about Birchbox and when they did their Instyle Edit in August I took the plunge and started a new subscription.  I have to say, thus far I am impressed, every box has been very different and this months box is no exception.
First of all, hats off to the customer service team there, my usual box had been sent to my office, and obviously I'm not there to collect it at the moment.  I gave them a call, and they were more than happy to send me another box, free of charge I might add, to my home address for me to enjoy!
I have to say one thing I do love about my Birchbox is the simple feel to the box itself, it's a lot smaller in size than the Glossybox which was HUGE but the products themselves would only take up a small amount of this.  The products within the Birchbox take up most of the space.
As you can see, the products always come packaged in a mini bag and there's a card to tell you what products you've received this month, how to use them and how much the full sizes cost.  All of the products are available in the Birchbox store for purchase afterwards if you love them enough to want to buy them.
This month I've received the following:

  • Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance - 15ml.  I already own the full size of this and I have to say it's amazing, there's a reason it consistently wins the Instyle Best Beauty Buy in the primer category.  The radiance primer gives you skin a nice glow and can be used on it's own.
  • Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant - 7.5g.   This promises to brighten your skin and reduce the appearance of acne scars which is ideal for me given the slight scarring on my face.  I'm looking forward to giving this a go and seeing if it makes a difference to my skin.
  • KMS California Curl Up Wave Mousse - 75ml. I have used a couple of KMS products before and I have been impressed with the results.  The mousse is designed to help encourage waves whilst protecting your hair from heat damage, I'm hoping this will help me to create a tousled/just got out of bed look.
  • theBalm Cosmetics Stainiac - 1.2ml. I've been hearing good things about this lip and cheek stain which apparently creates a natural looking flush.  I shall keep thee posted.
  • Dr. Lipp Nipple Balm for Lips - 3ml. OK, I know it says Nipple Balm, but anyone familiar with the brand will know that it was originally created for this very purpose and to help breastfeeding mothers. This is entirely natural and can be applied to your lips or anywhere dry.  I currently have this on (my lips!) and it feels lovely and nourishing; I may have spied my next beauty purchase!
  • UltraDEX Recalcifying & Whitening Toothpaste - 15ml. An interesting addition to my box I must say; this is designed to kill bacteria, lift stains and whiten your teeth.  I probably won't rush to use this and will keep it safe for travelling purposes as it's nice and dinky.
  • Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream - 3 x 3ml. I've never heard of this product if I'm totally honest (should I??).  It's CEO claims his name is Lord Pharaoh ImHotep AmonRa, with a name like that, I'm sure it's awesome.  Made with just 6 all natural ingredients, it starts its life as a cream and turns into an oil when you rub it between your hands and it can be used for all manner of things.   I've got nothing to lose so I'll give it on go my forearms as they're looking a little battered from my crutches.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this one, there are some really iconic products in here which I've wanted to try for a while but didn't want to take the plunge (or in the case of Laura Mercier, I already own as I wanted to join in the hype). I know a lot of people weren't ecstatic about the October Glossybox; fellow blogger Pretty In Pink was less than enthused.  In November there will be another Laura Mercier product featured in the Birchbox although I've not seen any clues as to what this could be.

If you want to find out more, please visit Birchbox UK for more information.

Hopefully this might be enough to convince you to give Birchbox a try! Let me know if you're interested! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Laura Wants No.1

As many of you may or may not know I've recently been confined to the four walls of our flat for the past three weeks and have only been able to leave for fairly short bursts on my crutches (in true "Walt Jnr" style) while I get used to using them.

Whilst the prospect of being unable to exercise for 3 months has been a bit a blow, especially in the run up to Christmas, I have been reintroduced to the beauty of online shopping.  As such, I thought I'd share with you some of the things which are currently on my hit list.

First up is this gorgeous handbag from Linea at House of Fraser, the Polly Tote Bag is £69 and is absolutely gorgeous.  The side panels of the bag are black with a deep plum colour to the front and back with gold stud detailing to give it that rock chick/biker edge which is so on trend at the moment. Plus, the plum colour is great for the upcoming winter months; I can guarantee you'll be seeing this colour everywhere on the high street within the next few weeks.

Next, I am a sucker for anything with butterflies on and the Hollie Dress from Oasis is an ideal transitional piece to take you from autumn to winter.  Long sleeves will help to keep out the cold, and the leather trimmed collar means that again, this is bang-on trend without being overpowering. It's a subtle way to wear leather without being over the top.  I'll be wearing this with tights and some flat boots for the foreseeable future, I know this is What Laura Wants, but I've decided I like it to much to miss out *cough* .  You can pick yours up for £45, but be quick, I reckon it'll go quickly.

Ok, those of you not in London may not have heard of Oliver Bonas but I can assure you, they're definitely worth your time.  They sell jewellery, all sorts for the home and a quirky selection of clothing which always leaves me ooooohing and aahhhing every time I visit. Their Silver Sealion and Pearl Ball Necklace is no exception to this rule being an understated way to wear something a little different. It's gorgeous and at £32 it's a bit of a bargain.  If you're a fan of unusual or interesting jewellery, their online store has a great selection  of goodies and some of it's even in the sale!

So, for my final item, I have to confess, I am a product junkie.  When it comes to toiletries I have a bit of a habit of hoarding for fear of running out.  Soap & Glory are one of my bathroom obsessions, their products smell incredible and given that they're related to the Spa company Bliss  I am confident that everything in their range does what it says on the tin at just a fraction of the price.  The Breakfast Scrub uses oats and sugar to exfoliate and is scented with maple, oats and honey. It always makes me smile while in the shower, I find the smell of maple syrup on pancakes to be quite comforting.  It leaves you smelling good enough to eat and I'm desperate to get my hands on some more.  At £8 it's a product addiction that beauty addicts won't struggle to keep up with.

What's on your hit list at the moment, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday Tasties No.4

As the dark autumnal nights are drawing in, the wind tries to blow us off balance and the rain seems to never end all I want to eat is comfort food. The first thing that springs to mind is a delicious pie. This week, I'm sharing with you a pork, apple & cider pie recipe, but stay tuned in coming weeks for some deeper and richer pideas (hehe!).

Pork, Apple & Cider Pie

I'd recommend saving this recipe for the weekend as it needs a good couple of hours in order to ensure the pork melts in your mouth like butter.  You don't need to spend a fortune on your pork, I used Tesco Essentials Casserole Pork which was around £3.20ish for a portion big enough for four.

You'll need:
  • Olive oil
  • Around 500g of pork, cut into pieces. Shoulder is ideal or something that's designed to be casseroled or stewed, don't panic if the weight is a little less!
  • A little flour
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic gloves, sliced
  • One bottle of cider - mine was 568ml
  • 250ml of good chicken stock
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of  dried sage leaves
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • Ready made puff pastry
First things first, you need to heat up a little oil and start browning off your pork. I added a little flour as this will help to thicken up your sauce later on.  If you need to do this in batches, that's fine, just be sure to set it aside.
Once all the pork is browned, keep it to one side.  Reduce the heat in the pan, add a little more oil and start softening your garlic and onions.  This should take 3-4 minutes.  Return the pork to the pan and add the cider and the stock.
Give it a quick stir and ensure the mixture is simmering.  Now it's time to pop the lid on and leave it to cook for an hour.
After it's been simmering away for an hour, remove the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Then it's time to add your sweet potato and sage, stir, and cook for another 15 minutes uncovered. At the same time, stick the oven on at 200 degrees.  

Once the potato is a little tender turn off the heat, and add your apple.
Right, now it's time to sort out the pie lid.  I have a really quick and easy tip to ensure minimal pastry wastage and the perfect sized lid!
  1. Lightly oil the entire pie dish, including the rim
  2. Lay out your ready made puff on the side
  3. Flip the pie dish upside down so the top is now sitting on top of the pastry like the picture below.  As you've oiled the dish, it won't stick!
  4. Cut out your lid with a sharp knife and then remove the dish, make sure you keep the scraps, you'll see why.
Pour your finished pie filling into the pie dish and place your perfectly fitting pie lid on top being sure to squish down the edges a little to seal it.  I always pop a couple of small holes in the top as well and ensure the pie dish is on an oven tray in case of spillages.

I tried to get creative with my pastry left-overs and made a couple of leaves and placed these on top to make it look pretty.
Now, before you stick this beauty in the oven, you need to brush it with egg wash, you can make a simple one using one egg and a little single cream which has been mixed together.

It then needs to go into the oven for 20-25 minutes, and when it comes out, it'll look and smell incredible. The only trouble is serving it up in a graceful manner.
In case you are curious, with half of the filling missing (as Ad and I have scoffed it) it should look like the below.
Right, now it's your turn to give this a go, whilst it takes a little while to cook, I can assure you whilst your scoffing, it's like it's giving your tummy a great big hug.  Be sure to let me know how you get on.

This recipe was inspired by a pie recipe I'd read in the Waitrose Kitchen magazine, however, I had adapted this to suit my own tastes and budget.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why Some Acids Are Actually Good For Your Skin

I'm sure that if you're anything like me, when you first get into beauty products, the long list of ingredients on the back of skincare products appears a little confusing.

Sure the beauty experts tell you that these ingredients are great for your skin, giving it that youthful glow, helping to plump out any lines and even exfoliating any dead skin cells away but why do they work and what do they actually do?

I thought I could shed some light and introduce you to some of the key acids you'll no doubt find floating around your bathroom and some of my favourite products which feature them.  Whilst the term acid might induce a mild state of shock, these bad boys are often found in your body already or in foods which you consume on a daily basis.

Amino Acids
Everyone knows that collagen gives your skin it's elasticity. As you get older, your levels of collagen will deplete naturally, however products containing amino acids can help to give your skin back its plumpness. Amino Acids are made up of proteins which have the same PH as your skin and play an essential part in your skins structure.  Plus, Amino Acids also make up Keratin which keeps your hair healthy and happy.

My product of choice here is the Organix Brazilian Keratin Therapy Conditioner which you can pick up for £6.99 from Boots.  Not only does it smell wonderful, but if you have fine hair which is prone to breakage like me, this will help strengthen your hair.

Glycolic Acid
This is a natural exfoliator which helps to remove any dead cells that are stubbornly sticking to your skin.  It also helps to de-clog your pores therefore keeping your skin nice and dewy.

Glycolic Acid can be used to even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of scarring left by blemishes.  At first the new skin may appear slightly red but this will fade quickly.  As this is an active ingredient, be sure to moisturise and apply an SPF after using any products which feature this in order to protect your skin.

My product of choice is the REN Micro Polish Cleanser (keep your eyes peeled for my post on this soon) which can be picked up for £20 from Marks & Spencer or SpaceNK.  The Glycolic Acid works with Papaya enzymes to dissolve dead skin cells and refines your skins texture.  I've used this a couple of times now and I've really noticed a difference.

Hyaluronic Acid
This seems to be the current buzz ingredient in the beauty world.  It is renowned for holding 1000 times it's own weight in water.  It is found naturally in your skin, however, as you get older this becomes harder to produce thus leaving your skin dehydrated (dry skin is something different entirely).

As such, products which feature Hyaluronic Acid will keep your skin hydrated and plump not to mention, if applied before your moisturiser, it'll help the water in your moisturiser to stay put.  Think of it as a pillow for your face.

My product of choice has to be the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Recovery Complex II which is £48 and can be picked up from any concession.  I've been using this for a few months now and it really does plump up your skin, as well as leaving it hydrated, glowing and refreshed.  This is one of my essentials!

Citric/Fruit Acids
I am sure this will require little explanation, it's often found in fruits high in vitamin C and helps to encourage skin turnover and collagen production as well as being an antioxidant.

I'm certain that you will know antioxidants are a good tool in the battle against free radicals which can contribute to the signs of ageing in your skin.  Much like Glycolic Acid they can be used to minimise the appearance of scars and is a natural exfoliant. 

My product of choice is the Clarins Gentle Exfoliating Toner which can be picked up for £25 from any concession.  I wouldn't use this as an everyday toner given the active ingredients, but is great for some extra exfoliation if you’re looking to help your skin regain its brightness.
Salicylic Acid
This helps to open clogged pores, remove excess oil and is even an exfoliator. This is normally used in blemish treatments as it helps to keep pores clear and neutralises bacteria without over drying the skin.

My product of choice is the Murad Time Release Blemish Cleanser which is available from the Murad website for £29. I've saved this product for last as you might notice that it contains Amino Acids, Hyaluronic Acid and Salicylic Acid so it has all of the benefits of the above with the added bonus of fighting any breakouts.  I use this 3/4 times a week and I love the fresh tingling feeling I get while using it, plus I'm safe in the knowledge that it's tackling my blemishes without leaving my skin dehydrated.
I hope you find this useful, let me know if you'd like to see more helpful guides!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Tasties No.3

It’s hard to believe that another week has flown past already but it is indeed that time again.

This week I've got a budget-busting vegetarian dish which is incredibly filling and bursting with flavour.  I prefer to save this recipe for the weekend as it takes a little while to cook, but the result is worth it.  Panic not; it’s a piece of cake to put together.

Tarka Dal

A lot of this recipe is to taste, i.e. add more chilli heat if you want a kick and de-seed the chilli if you want something more mellow.  This recipe is packed full of protein and has a wonderfully creamy texture once it’s finished.
  • 250g of red split lentils (you can use yellow, but the red ones cook quicker)
  • 1 litre of water
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 chillies, chopped make sure you keep the seeds in if you want a bit of a kick
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of masala spice mix (or any curry powder you fancy)
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Coriander leaves, chopped
Pop the lentils and 900ml of the water into a pan and bring to the boil.  Be sure to skim off the froth which forms on the service.  Cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook for around 30 minutes, stirring regularly until the lentils are tender.  A handy tip here is to stir with a whisk as it helps to break down the lentils giving you a thicker, creamier texture.  Set the lentils aside to cool.
Heat around a tablespoon of vegetable oil in another pan, add the chillies, cumin, ginger, and onions and cook until softened.
Add the remainder of the ground spices with the rest of the water and give it a good stir.
Meanwhile, blend up the garlic and tomatoes with a little of chopped coriander and add this to the pan along with a splash of water.  Again, make sure you give it a good stir so it’s all combined.  You want to cook this for at least 10 minutes.
Next, it’s time to bring everything together.  Add the cooked lentil mixture to your sauce, adding a little more water if it’s looking too thick.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Now it’s time to serve, I had mine with some garlic and coriander naan breads, but it’s more than enough on its own.  Top with some more fresh coriander if you’d like.
So what are you waiting for?  Hopefully this recipe will show you that vegetarian meals can be packed full of flavour and that great food doesn't have to break the bank.  Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Don't Watch A Lot Of Television

Actually, the above is a bit of lie, what I mean to say is I don't watch any soaps, and in all honesty, I find a lot of television shows to be a little, well, blah. Don't get me wrong, Sherlock, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are all amazing to watch, but these are the exception to the general rule of what graces our screens every evening.

Now without getting side-tracked here, the point of my post is that as a result of said exceptions, I watch a lot of movies, and I mean a lot. I enjoy a bit of everything from foreign films to romantic comedies to animated, almost childlike creations which require very little thought in order to enjoy them.

Several years ago, I remember going to the cinema with Ad to watch something called Let the Right One in a Swedish vampire movie with a twist. I'd done my research so I wasn't the least bit surprised when the subtitles popped up along the bottom of the screen. However, the couple in front of us exclaimed (quite loudly I might add) "Oh, it's subtitled." Now, my thoughts were as follows 1) Does one have a problem with reading? and 2) Didn't you read the reviews?
This has got me thinking, so many foreign films seem to attract this kind of attitude and it really is a shame, it's almost spiralling out of control. The above film was met with rave reviews and has already achieved a cult like status despite still being fairly young. Irrespective of this, within about 6 months of its release, Hollywood had announced it was remaking the movie. Obviously the prospect of reading was just too much for some. I'll save you some time though, the remake, 'Let Me In' was dreadful. It made very little sense and the characters weren't developed at all, not to mention key plots points were missed which makes for one confusing movie!

I can honestly assure you, foreign film really is worth your time. I can appreciate the thought of reading while watching can be a little daunting, but after a short while you barely notice it. If you are keen to dive into the foreign movie sector, then I have a few recommendations for you which will ease you in nicely, plus there are some familiar faces to boot.

Obviously the above is a great place to start if a) you like quirky love stories b) you like vampire movies and c) you loved the lost boys. I only mention c) as having attended a Film 4 Summer Screening a few years ago, the combination of the two went down a storm with the viewers.

My second recommendation would be the Japanese animation Spirited Away by the lovely people at Studio Ghibli.
This is another great place to start. It's a very easy going movie about a young girls’ battle to save her parents who have been turned into pigs by an evil witch. On the way she meets all sorts of spirits from Japan's mythology including dragons, gods and there's even a “stink-spirit” thrown in there for good measure. Don't think because it's animated it's only for children; the keen-eyed will notice there are a lot of messages within this movie such as the dangers of greed, however you don't need to pick up on these to be able to enjoy the movie.

One of the advantages of the Studio Ghibli films is that if you are feeling especially lazy, there is an English-dubbed version of the movie to enjoy as well. You might even recognize some of the voices.

Now, for my final recommendation, I'm sure a lot of readers will be expecting me to say Pan's Labyrinth. Whilst this movie is amazing, that's far too easy. Instead I'll recommend the French modern classic Amelie starring the naturally beautiful Audrey Tatou.
For want of sounding clich├ęd, this is a heart-warming story which is intertwined with a very odd love story. Amelie seeks about changing the lives of those around her for the better, all the while missing the fact that someone is trying to catch her attention.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is give foreign films a chance, don't just skip to the English remake because the thought of reading subtitles is too much of a chore. Things often get lost in translation and the film really loses what made it so great in the first place.  Let's not forget that foreign movies will often tackle issues that Hollywood is too cautious to tackle, 'Let Me In' is a prime example with the relationship between the characters Eli and Hakan becoming blurred as a result.  Their relationship is explored much more in the original, and it's very much implied that this is a rather inappropriate one given Eli's age, however this means that you feel much more of an affinity with the characters as you are better placed to understand their motivations.

What foreign films do you think are a great starting point for those looking to explore the genre?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday Tasties No.2

Aloha, my trusty recipe readers!

This week I thought I would share with you one of my favourite weekend treats, pancakes. Now these aren't your usual pancakes, in fact, they're a much healthier version with no flour or water, plus there's not a whisk in sight.

The only equipment you need to have handy is a blender and a skillet, Ad has a tepan which is great for cooking pancakes, but don't panic if you don't have one.  

Clean & Lean Pancakes
This makes a pretty mammoth portion, we had four each on Saturday which plenty of leftovers for another (albeit larger) portion for breakfast on Monday.

You'll need:
  • Four eggs
  • 200g cottage cheese
  • 100g oats
  • A teaspoon of cinnamon
Pop all of this into your blender.
Blitz to a pulp. It should have a nice, thick consistency:
Then it's time for the fun part, cooking!  Ad normally uses about one and a half tablespoons of mix per pancake and as we're cooking on the tepan, you don't need any oil which means no extra fat getting into your body.  You need to leave them to cook a little before flipping over.
Look how pretty these are starting to look!  Once they're cooked, just pop on a plate (with some kitchen towel so they don't end up soggy!) while you cook the rest.
Now you can be super healthy and serve these with maple syrup and some fresh berries, but as it was the weekend, I had mine with some bacon and maple syrup.  I can assure you, they were delicious and didn't last very long.
Hope you enjoy this weeks edition, be sure to let me know how you get on if you try this at home!

This recipe was taken from James Duigan's Clean & Lean Cookbook. There are some incredible recipe ideas in there, especially quick and easy things which are great for a post-workout breakfast.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"You're As Good As Your Tools" Is Beauty Tech Really Worth The Investment? No.1

Beauty is no longer restricted to make-up and cosmetics; the word beauty has branched out beyond the confines of liquids and powders and is now combining science with technology with the aim of making our lives easier.
The real questions are whether or not this technology is worth the investment, do they really make our routine any easier and does it actually ADD anything that justifies that price tag?

First up, hair dryers; now you can pick these up for around the £30 mark and they do the job just fine. Most don’t tend to do anything particularly special and are simply designed to dry. I use mine everyday (sweaty post work out hair is not cool so I have to wash it every day!) as it just takes too long for it to dry of its own accord.

As a result my hair takes quite a battering. Conditioners, hair masks and serums all do their bit to help protect my hair from the heat damage but if you’re willing to spend a little more, there are hair dryers out there which promise to help improve the condition of your hair, make it smoother, shinier and even more voluminous without the need for all of those extra lotions and potions. Sounds good eh?
Having scouted around (and being a bit of a QVC fiend), I decided to go for the Ego Evolve; a salon grade dryer with a hefty £91 price tag, albeit I managed to secure it for a little bit less. This lightweight dryer boasted a LCD screen which shows the outgoing temperature, five speed and heat settings and a tourmaline conditioning shot which is ideal for those with longer/frizzy hair. The results from the stylists who had been using them in the salon were also pretty impressive.
So what did I think?

If you have finer hair like me then this is great, with the varying speed settings you get greater control which means less of your hair flying all over the place! Another plus is that conditioning shot; the style guide recommends that you have this enabled for the whole drying session if you’ve got longer hair and it certainly does help to give your tresses some extra shine if it’s looking a little sorry for itself towards the ends.

On lazy weekday evenings, I was able to just flip my head upside down and blast away. I popped the dryer onto the highest heat setting (with a medium speed setting) and certainly noticed that my usual drying time was at least halved; my hair normally takes about 8/10 minutes to dry completely and this dryer easily did the same job in less than 4.
It’s a good weight and I noticed the nozzle doesn’t heat up as much as its predecessor; this means I’m quite content to stuff it back into the drawer when I’m finished without fear of burning anything!

All in all, the cost is within stinging territory, however it’s no more than a pair of GHD’s which, if we’re honest we all bought because the ceramic plates promised to ease the damage our normal straightners did to our hair. Think about it this way, if your dryer can help to create the smooth polished finish without the need for that final step, then you’re onto a winner. I can safely say that yes, I do think it is worth spending a little more on a dryer as otherwise what’s the point in spending all that hard earned cash on expensive hair treatments to only undo all that nourishment by blasting your hair to a crisp?

I’d love to hear what you guys think! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday Tasties

So, as you've probably gathered, I enjoy my food. Some people just see it as a necessary thing which has the sole purpose of providing our bodies with fuel, but me? I am always thinking about my next meal.

Nothing annoys me more than when I've ordered food which sounds delicious, looks incredibly and tastes, well disappointing with so little seasoning the dish never really had a chance to shine.

Creating something delicious in your own kitchen doesn't have to be costly or time consuming. When I get home from work, the first thing I do is exercise, when I'm finished, I don’t really have the will or the energy to slave over dinner. Instead I prefer something simple which is incredibly rewarding to eat.

Come the weekend, it’s all systems are go and I enjoy taking my time with more time consuming dishes. Today, I thought I’d share with you a couple of dishes which are currently making their way to my table; one being ideal for a mid-week meal as it’s cheap, easy and requires virtually no preparation and the other being one of my favourite autumnal puddings.

Meatballs with Roasted Tomato Sauce 
This is a generous portion for two - but can stretch to four. The tomato sauce can be made on it's own for other Italian dishes as well, the orange juice makes it lovely and sweet.  To make this you'll need:
  • 2 red onions cut into wedges
  • 6 tomatoes cut into quarters
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • The juice from one orange
  • 1 pack of 12 meatballs
  • Torn basil
  • 150g pasta
  • Parmesan 
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and grab a dish. Then pop in your tomatoes, onions, red wine vinegar, olive oil and some salt and pepper. It should look like this:
Stick this in the oven for 10 minutes.  While the tomatoes and onions are roasting, mix the orange juice with the garlic.  Once the 10 minutes are up add the meatballs on top and pour over the orange and garlic mixture.  
Stick this back into the oven for 20 minutes to brown up.  While your meatballs are cooking, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, I like to use some whole-wheat pasta for this, but fresh pasta is great if you fancy being a little naughty.

Take the meatballs out of the oven.  Remove the meatballs and add all of the tomato/onion mixture to a blender and blitz it up with some fresh basil.
Plate it up, if you want to you can mix the sauce with the pasta to thicken it up a little.  Top with some parmesan


This serves 4 generous portions, I like mine with fresh vanilla custard but you can have it with ice cream if you prefer.
  • 450g of apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of apple juice
  • 200g of plums cut in half
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 25g butter
  • 70g brown sugar
  • 85ml soured cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Some sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grab yourself a dish.

Pop the apples in a saucepan with the apple juice and cook until they are starting to soften.  Once they've softened slightly then add the plums.  Cook these until the apples have completely softened (but not so much they're turning to mush!) and take off the heat.

Now it's time to make your topping, add the flour, baking powder and butter to a bowl.  Rub together with your finger tips until it goes all crumbly.  Stir in the soured cream, 50g of the sugar and the egg. It should be quite a thick texture by this stage.

Next - it's time for the fun part!  Add all of the fruit to your dish, it should be a lovely saucy mess!

Plop your topping, well, on top I suppose in big spoonfuls, it doesn't need to be pretty. Sprinkle over the leftover sugar and your almonds.  It'll look like this:
Now stick it in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden and you can spot the juices bubbling away.  If it looks like it needs a little longer, you can always cover it with some foil to stop it browning to much.
Then it's time to scoff away.

I hope you've enjoyed the recipes, please feel free to leave me a comment below if you can think of any other recipes you'd like me to share.  I've got oodles of sweet treats, easy mid-week meals and comforting dishes tucked away.

Both of the recipes are inspired by ideas I've read in the Waitrose Kitchen Magazine - I've tweaked them to suit my own tastes and more convenient for two.
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