Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Little Trip to Audley End House

Last week, I visited Audley End House in Saffron Walden, Essex for a wander round. This early 17th century property is one of England's grandest stately homes and is currently under the stewardship of English Heritage. 

Inside, the house is beautifully finished with wonderful paintings, original furniture, and some rather quirky stuffed animals. Outside, the Capability Brown parkland stretches far and wide and is just as impressive as the grand interiors. It's recently re-opened for the Spring/Summer season and is a great day out - with some very yummy cakes to be had in the cafe - if you're in the area or are up for a road trip! Here are some of the snaps I managed to get on my way in.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review || Davina Intense DVD

If you've read my previous post on Davina McCall's fitness DVDs you'll know I'm a HUGE fan. They're great for people of all abilities since there's always both an 'easy' and 'harder' technique to follow, they're varied, and (I think anyway) fun! 

I thought it might be useful for those of you who are interested in this type of exercise if I gave my opinions on some of the best DVDs in this series. As I'm in no way a fitness or health expert, these thoughts are purely based on my own experiences and the results I've seen for my own body.

First up is the most recent of the bunch, Davina Intense:

I think this is a great choice for those of us who find it difficult to fit exercise in to their daily routine. It focuses on the principle of High Intensity Training, which means you work out for a shorter amount of time but at a much higher intensity than normal. This type of training is all about getting your heart rate up really high during short bursts of exercise in order to burn lots of fat (yippeee!). 

So, this DVD is split into 3 workout sections, not including the warm up and cool down (which you MUST do every time you work out to avoid injury) - Intense Cardio Box, Intense Toning and Intense Abs. Each lasts no longer than 20-25 minutes, so is great for fitting in to a busy schedule. To get the most out of the sections you'll only need a small amount of floor space and a couple of weights (but bottles of water or tins of food do the job just as well). 

The first two sections work very similarly. They focus on 2-3 minutes of high intensity exercises, such as fast running on the spot, squats, star jumps, and lunges, split up with 2 minute 'rest' periods. This allows you to work out as hard as you can in the 2-3 minutes to get your heart rate up really high and then to bring it back down again to give you energy for the next burst. The final, Abs, section also works on this principle but mixes standing exercises with ones on the floor - definitely the least intense of the 3 sections, but still gets a good sweat on! 

I've had this DVD since Christmas and it's slowly becoming my favourite. I always feel like I've had a brilliant workout every time and I've noticed a real difference in my fitness levels and toned-ness! 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Review || L'Oreal Waterproof Volume Million Lashes Mascara

Next up in the reviews from my recent Boots haul is this mascara from L'Oreal. I've owned the original Volume Millions mascara before and really loved it - it really did add a lot of noticeable volume, held a good curl and lasted a looong time before drying out. I needed a new waterproof mascara after my beloved waterproof L'Oreal Telescopic mascara (a love initiated by the wonderful Anna of Vivianna Does Makeup) finally ran out and thought I'd give the Volume Millions a go since I got on so well with the original. 



Overall, I do like this mascara. As you can see, it gives a really lovely effect and definitely helps with volume and definition. My only gripe with it, is that I don't think the waterproof-ness (new word?) is as good as the Telescopic. I got rained on a bit yesterday (we're talking mildly wet weather here, not cats and dogs territory) but after only about 5 minutes out in it, I got inside and the mascara had rubbed off and given me lovely black dots under my eyes. Not a good look. 

As a result of this, I don't think I'll be relying too heavily on this for rainy days, but I'll definitely be reaching for this when I'm feeling in the mood for volume and a bit of drama!

Here I've just done a quick comparison between the L'Oreal mascara (on your right) and the Max Factor Clump Defy mascara (on your left), which I bought at the same time (you can find my review for that here). To me, it looks like the L'Oreal gives much more volume and lift than the Max Factor.  If you like a less dramatic look or don't enjoy the more laborious task of taking waterproof mascara off every night, the Max Factor is definitely worth a look! 

Have you tried either of these mascaras? Which do you prefer?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Review || Revlon Lip Butter in Juicy Papaya

Like many of you out there I LOVE the Revlon Lip Butters - they just suit me down to a tea. I've never really been one for lipsticks and definitely not for lipglosses (too many hair-streaking-it-across-my-face incidences), but when the lip butters came to town and were hyped up left right and centre I thought I'd give lip products another go. And, over the last year or so, I think these guys and I have developed a pretty happy relationship. 

This colour is the latest addition to my collection and is the *relatively* newly released Juicy Papaya.

I won't go on about the formulation or longevity etc etc because that's all been said a million times before on blogs and videos. I thought it might be useful to show you some swatches though, of the colour and buildability of this particular shade. Above, from left to right I've swatched one, two and three layers. As you can see, it is one of the more sheer colours from the collection, but does build up to a really nice, pigmented corally-pink. I can't wait to wear this more often now that the weather is picking up!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Artwork of the Week #5

This week, the Art Newspaper reported that this painting by Picasso had been sold to Qatar and was consequently leaving the UK. It's always a shame when masterpieces such as this have to go because the money/philanthropy simply doesn't exist to keep them in the country. Last week $1 billion worth of Cubist works were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York but one very very generous American collector - I think I'd just about fall of my chair if something comparable happened here!

Review || Max Factor Clump Defy Mascara

If you've read the post I did a couple of days ago, you'll know I partook in a spot of makeup shopping recently. One of the products I picked up and have been trying out since, is Max Factor's Clump Defy Mascara. I bought it in the shade 'Black Brown' because 'Black' was out of stock - I have quite dark eyelashes anyway so I'm not sure it really makes much difference. I was in the market for a new mascara and this one had been talked about a fair bit online, so thought it would be worth a go.



I have to admit the shape of the brush threw me a bit at first (and I'm still not entirely sure which is the 'right' way to use it - any ideas?), but I've tried both the curved and flatter sides and they seem to give pretty much the same result. In terms of 'defying' clumps, I think this mascara does indeed do just that. It's not the most volumising or lengthening mascara I've ever tried, but I do like the defined and fairly natural look it gives. I think it's also really good in terms of its longevity - it did hold a curl for a long time and didn't smudge on me at all.

I do wonder if the clumps will be kept at bay over the next month or so as the product starts to dry up a little. I guess only time will tell...

Have you tried this mascara? What did you think?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Little Drugstore Haul...

The Boots 3 for 2 sale finally got me this weekend. I'd been needing a new waterproof mascara for a while, but somehow another 4 products managed to drop themselves into my shopping basket too...I also added the Barry M nail polish when I passed through Superdrug afterwards. Nothing like a nice bit of hauling on a sunny (FINALLY!) Sunday. Expect reviews soon! 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Review || L'Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Oil

I've been giving this hair oil from L'Oreal a try for a while now (as you can tell by the half-empty bottle), so thought I'd do a quick review on it for you.

L'Oreal describes this as a '5-in-1 miracle hair perfector', with the power to give hair shine, nourishment, softness, smoothness and a look of perfection. All you have to do is pump a couple of drops onto your hand, rub your palms together and run your hands through your hair - you can do this either before washing, on damp hair immediately after washing, or on dry hair. 

Firstly, I think the smell of this is absolutely divine. It's perhaps not to everyone's tastes, but I love it - my only complaint is that it doesn't hang around on my hair very long!

So far I've only tried using it before washing and on damp hair, because I'm too scared it'll result in a completely greasy mess if I apply it directly to dry hair. I do one or the other every time I wash my hair, and in both cases it works like a dream! It leaves my locks feeling really soft and gives a beautiful shine. I have thick hair and don't feel like it weighs it down at all - though this might be different for people with finer hair types. 

Before using this the only other oil I'd tried is the Vo5 Miracle Concentrate Elixir, which I also thought worked really well. In terms of the product itself, I'm not sure if I prefer one over the other - but the Vo5 one is certainly more travel-friendly in its small plastic bottle (I actually kept my last bottle when I finished it and pour my L'Oreal oil in to take away with me!). 

This bottle has lasted me a good 3/4 months already and I still have about 50% left. At the moment I can definitely see myself re-purchasing this when I run out, but I'm sure another dozen amazing-looking hair oils will be competing for my attention by the time that happens!

You can find both the L'Oreal and Vo5 oils at Boots. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lusting after...

...these Topshop Pixelated Highwaist Trousers. I used to only ever wear 'dull' colours - we're talking the blacks, the browns, the whites and the greys of course. For some reason though I've recently come over all colour- and pattern-happy when it comes to buying new clothes! I think I blame my (relatively) new housemate, who is always rocking the brights. If I haven't caved in and bought these beautiful things in the next 24 hours, it'll be a miracle!

Artwork of the Week #4

This week is more of an 'artist' of the week than 'artwork'. The above image is a shot of a gallery at The Hepworth Wakefield, a museum that opened nearly 2 years ago. It takes its name from the great artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who was born and educated in the city. I have always loved Hepworth's work and have been wanting to visit this gallery ever since it opened - this week I finally booked tickets to go up to Wakefield at the end of May and I can't wait! 

Expect a full review of the museum, exhibitions, and my favourite pieces in June! 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Primark Dress Haul

Following on from my recent Primark Shoe Haul, I thought I'd also show you all a few of the dresses I've picked up over the last couple of weeks. I'm not sure I'll be getting too much wear out of a couple of them until the weather warms up, but I think the one on the far right will look great with tights and some ankle boots. Primark have some beautiful pieces in at the moment - definitely worth a look if you have one near you! 

Prices from left to right: £17, £15, £13

Friday, 5 April 2013

Review || Tresemme Keratin Smooth Heat Protection Shine Spray

I use some kind of heat on my hair pretty much everyday, whether that be blow-drying, straightening or curling, and so I really try hard to protect my hair as much as I can.

For a couple of years I used Tresemme's Heat Defence Styling Spray religiously. One day when yet another bottle of this ran out though I decided to go wild and try something new. I didn't want to stretch too far out of my comfort zone, so I opted for another Tresemme product - the Keratin Smooth Heat Protection Shine Spray. And I'm really glad I did! 

The one thing I didn't really like about the original spray was that it was quite heavy and didn't really work on dry hair - it always left my hair feeling sticky and difficult to work with. With the Keratin Smooth spray though, this just isn't an issue. I'm not sure if it's the different nozzle or the product itself, but this just comes out much more evenly and lightly onto the hair. I can use it on my dry locks the day after I've washed them and it doesn't feel like I have any product in them at all. 

The fact that it's lighter doesn't seem to decrease the quality or effectiveness of the heat protectant, and my hair still feels as moisturised and smooth as it always did after I used the original version. I'll definitely be repurchasing this again and again!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Primark Shoe Haul

*It will be Spring soon, It will be Spring soon, It will be Spring soon*

If we keep wishing for it, it'll happen right?? I'm not so sure either. BUT - in the interest of being prepared for when the milder weather finally gets here, I've been down to Primark to stock up some new inappropriate-for-snow shoes.

First up are these simple black pumps with silver 'hardware' capping the toe. I've seen loads of shoes with this type of design on the high street at the moment but annoyingly haven't managed to find any that were remotely comfortable. These are made from a sturdy yet soft material that just suited my feet a lot more. Plus, they were on offer for £5. Can't really say no to that.

Next are these lovely tan flats. I've pretty much lived in boots in this colour for the last 6 months and just love it. I feel like it goes with a lot and is great for when you're wearing a smart outfit but don't want to pair it with the harshness of black.

Finally are my favourites - these bright coral pumps. I think these will be great to add some colour to any Spring or Summer outfit and, until the weather arrives for those outfits, I'm enjoying them bringing a bit of sunshine to my wardrobe! 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Artwork of the Week #3

Vermeer, 'The Guitar Player', about 1672, The Iveagh Bequest (Kenwood House), English Heritage

The National Gallery, London, recently released details of its summer exhibition 'Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure'. Having visited the current show there and being thoroughly impressed by it, I'm really looking forward to this next offering!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Current TV Favourite - Nashville

I love American TV. Don't get me wrong, I think British TV is great too, but I definitely watch US shows more religiously than any others.

It was a sad year last year when several of my favourite long-running programmes ended (House, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl - I'm looking at you). A couple of weeks ago I read that 90210 is coming to an end and I'm guessing that How I Met Your Mother will be on the way out soon too (surely they can't drag it out much longer?). So! I've been on the hunt for a new show to fill the hole.

I think I've found it in Nashville. It is described as a 'musical drama series' and stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes fans will remember Hayden as the cheerleader with pretty swish healing powers) as two rival country music singers. 

I imagine some people might be put off by the 'musical' element, but I urge you to watch before passing judgement - it's not like Glee or similar shows, where the music is used as part of the narrative or people break into song in the middle of school corridors or shopping malls. It's much more 'real' than that, and the songs are genuinely good! There are also some really strong performances (both acting and singing) from the supporting cast - fellow Brit Sam Palladio is particularly great (and he's not too bad on the eyes either...).

If this sounds like your type of thing, give it a watch - it's on More 4 on Thursdays at 10pm!

St Andrews Day Trip

Over the Easter weekend, I visited my boyfriend up in Edinburgh. We decided to take a trip to St. Andrews on one of the days, a town just North-East of the capital, famous for its University and for being the 'home' of golf (so I'm told!).

As any fellow Brits out there will know, the weather has been pretty grim here for what feels like forever, so I was so happy to have glorious sunshine for the whole day! 

St. Andrews is an absolutely beautiful town - it has so much character and history, and some very impressive views. It's fairly easy to get to and took us around an hour and a half via train and bus to get to from Edinburgh. We didn't get a chance to visit any of the museums or galleries, but spent a lovely few hours just strolling along the cobbled streets and the beach. I'll definitely be going back soon to see the rest.