Beauty: A Little Duty Free Haul

My parents went on a (seemingly lovely) holiday to Turkey recently, and to make up for leaving me at the 9-5 grind I gave them a little list of things I might like to receive from duty free. Now, this list wasn’t overly long, and it also makes up my 21st birthday wishlist – I was also asked to make it longer than just a few items so they had a choice, and I wouldn’t end up disappointed if they didn’t have specific items. Plus it meant I got a surprise in terms of what I actually received! Here’s what I got…

First of some Toblerone. This was technically for my boyfriend, but I’m sure I can get him to share! My parents also brought me back some Turkish biscuits. They are packet ones, not traditional, and cost about 30p for each packet – they are delicious and I’ve actually dreamt about them in the four years it’s been since I went out there. I may or may not have about six packets now…

 photo abc24cbd-b0eb-4a18-8a34-4e6612072a6a_zps8b51875b.jpgI also have a lovely new perfume. Since my operation last year (I had what is essentially nose-job, but not for cosmetic or beauty reasons) I’ve found my sense of smell has changed quite a bit. I’m now not as in love with some of my older perfumes, so I took the chance of asking for something new. I love a lot of the Miss Dior fragrances, but was given the original. This is a really sophisticated scent, it smells great on my skin, lasts ages, and just smells light enough for the office, but strong enough to actually smell distinct. I’m in love!

 photo c5c3b973-f52b-4e0a-91fd-e4159c8f53df_zps27f371a9.jpgFinally I have one of the (many!) MAC lipsticks I asked for. A lot on my list were either bolds or neutrals, but my lovely mum picked up Craving. On me this sits somewhere in the middle. Its not a nude colour, but it’s not totally bold either. It’s a lovely pink, but not berry toned (as I do tend to wear a lot of them!), and not the dreaded barbie pink either – you’ll know from this post last week I hate barbie toned pinks on me! I’m really looking forward to wearing this for work, as I’m conscious of nude colours washing me out under office lighting. I do wince at the price tags, but for the colour choice and wear-time I do think MAC lipsticks are worth it. If anyone has a recommendation for a dark, almost burgundy red, then please do suggest away!

Do you have a duty-free wish list?

Student Summer: Logitech Wireless Mouse Review*

I find that a laptop is pretty much essential for university, even for a maths-related degree. Yes, I hardly use it, it gets more use for blogging, but when I do need it for coursework I’m pretty much glued to it for a few weeks. A desktop for me wouldn’t cut it as I know there are occasions where I need access to it on campus, so laptop it is.

However a laptop isn’t ideal for someone, like me, who has Repetitive Strain Injury tendencies. Since suffering badly over exam period I’ve been prone to really painful twinges (in my other hand) if I use my laptop too often, so I started looking for a decent wireless mouse. Imagine my delight when Logitech contact me wondering if I’d want to review some products – the answer to my problems!
 photo 7d050e03-4e75-4ebf-8cb2-c902c1ef5039_zps00cf9003.jpg

After a great deal of discussion they sent out the mouse they felt would suit me most, the T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse*. I have to say, I love it!

 photo 0173c082-ed07-4c07-94e1-8c03bde0f1e9_zps995d0527.jpgIts small and lightweight; I can take this to work and pack in my pocket if I need to. It doesn’t aggravate any pain in my wrist, hand or fingers, and best of all its incredible easy to set up. I did have to order a Bluetooth Adapter as for some reason my laptop seems to have forgotten it’s got one built in, but other than that getting this mouse good to go was painfree. Quite literally!

 photo 1ed69b5c-3422-4edc-aff9-fdef090ac401_zps470ae2a0.jpgIt is pricy for a mouse, but the quality is so, so high. If you do a lot of tedious work using a touchpad I’d highly recommend investing in a mouse. And if you are going to be using it often, I’d go for the best you can afford; I’ve actually gone through several cheaper ones throughout university so you’ll be getting your monies worth. Maybe not a university essential, but it’s an item that’s pretty damn important to me! So whilst it is a luxury item, its also something thats necessary for me!

Disclaimer: The mouse was sent to me for the purpose of this review. I received no monetary compensation, and all opinions are my own – I genuinely loved this product!

What necessary ‘luxuries’ do you use?

Student Summer: What To Take To University #1

I’ve decided to split the ‘What to Take’ post up into a few sections; bedroom; kitchen; study; clothes/makeup in order to make it a little easier for reading, and also so I don’t scare new students as you do need quite a bit of stuff. Today I’ll be covering the bedroom list. Here’s where you can really spend or save to be honest, as its up to you how much you want to get. I’ll take about the essentials first, then any nice luxuries. I’d say stick to the basics, then treat yourself to anything else when you arrive – you never know how well equipped your room is, or whether it will be big enough to hold much!

Bedding

 photo 2013-06-11162302_zps6e984899.jpgThe most important part. I suggest firstly trying to find out what size bed you have – and if you can’t; pick up a flat sheet, and a double duvet. Universities seem prone to having funny sized beds; my boyfriends was 4ft wide (too small to be a double, too wide to be a single); mine was extra long. Standard fitted sheets wouldn’t have fitted on either of our beds, so flat is the way forward. Though admittedly more difficult! In terms of what’s provided; I got a mattress protector, mattress (quite glad it was covered, it wasn’t pretty) and pillow but it does vary. I’d go for picking up a duvet and pillow set; they are generally packaged quite well so will fit into the car!

As for bedding covers, I really recommend ASDA and Tesco; the ones I have from there are really high quality, wash well and are comfortable. If you fancy a splurge, I bought a duvet set from H&M and it is admittedly the best one I’ve ever had; so, so, so soft, and handy holes in the top corner which makes making your bed so much easier! A word of warning – I had a pretty horrific skin reaction to Primark sheets last year, so personally would steer clear of those. I still have scars on my legs eleven months on…

I’d also try and pick up various cushions – great for if friends crash on your floor, and just for making it that bit more cosy. Don’t forget your cuddly toys too!

Hangers

Things a lot of people seemed to forget; generally your new wardrobe won’t come with hangers. Its a lot easier to pick new ones up as they will be packaged well, but if not just pack yours as you pack your clothes.

Alarm Clock

 photo 2013-06-11162131_zps894477ed.jpgI wouldn’t rely solely on a phone to wake me up – generally I never need it but as well as having my phone set three times (not just snooze settings!) I also have a traditional alarm clock which I set every night. It terrifies me if it does go off, but its something that I could never sleep through, and I know the batteries won’t fail! It looks great too, another Tesco bargain of two years ago!

Towels

Don’t buy towel sets; they don’t actually contain what you need. You’ll need a bath sheet; the really big one, and what’s usually left out of towel packs. Then a bath towel (which is what I use to towel dry my hair), possibly a hand towel, and a load of face cloths. I probably have at least 10 face clothes; one I get through them so quickly, and two I’m sure the washing machines eats them!

I highly recommend Tesco towels, they last forever and are so soft – they have survived two years of university washing machines and are still as good as new!

Washing Things

Another thing often overlooked is a washing basket, but its great to have a place to store all of your washing neatly away; and throw your floordrobe in when friends come round! They are available pretty cheaply, I have a really useful collapsable one.

I’d also recommend picking up a clothes airer for things that can’t go in the dryer (though I worked out most things can, regardless of label!), and an overdoor hook. Hooks are great for coats and bags – things you want out of the way but not in the wardrobe.

Extension Cable

An absolute essential. I actually had two of these in my second year room, but just one will do to start with. Go with something slightly better than the cheapest one you will find, ones from Argos are a good bet. You’ll thank me for telling you to get one when your laptop and phone needs charging, your hair needs straightening (though of course, you were meant to do this in the kitchen in my university halls…) and it’s dark enough to need the next item on the list!

Lamp

Yep, a lamp. Perhaps not an essential as such, as there will generally be a desk lamp provided. But I found the provided lighting quite harsh in my halls, so having a lamp for softer lighting before bed was really important to me.

Year Planner

You may get given one in Freshers, but I’d pick up a better quality one. I use mine heavily every year, for me this is a must-have in my room! Just check the rules on how you are allowed to fit it to the wall…

Pictures

 photo 2014-07-08105724_zps7e93b646.jpg photo 2014-07-08110119_zpscd552875.jpgI’m not going to lie, you probably will get lonely at some point during your time at university. I know I did, despite surrounding myself with friends I still missed people back home. One of the things that helped me was having lots of photos around – I’d suggest printing some off. My friend Libby had a wonderful way of displaying photos in her first year, it was a little like a mini washing line with pegs all the way round her room, it looks great!

Luxuries 

I’d always suggest a few little homey touches, trinkets, things you love – just bits and pieces that give the room your personality! I went with some lovely Salt & Pepper pots, cute jars, and coordinated stationery items. I also stacked cake tins on the floor, which I loved – though not when they slid off each other in the middle of the night. I also bought some cheap small canvases from Argos, which I stuck up with blue-tack (again check the rules!), and I filled my bed with blankets and cushions.

Don’t Bother

Personally, I’d forget about an iron/ironing board if you are thinking about it. The last time I actually picked up an iron I was probably 15 or 16 – I probably couldn’t even use one now! I’ve never needed to iron anything at university – hanging well after washing always seems to work, as does hanging creased items in a steamy bathroom. My halls actually provided these items too, so one of the guys I lived with found out after a few months!

And finally…

I ended up having ridiculously high shelves and a stupidly placed cupboard (on top of my wardrobe). Combined with being given the highest cupboard in the kitchen and being vertically challenged, I ended up buying a stepladder from Wilkinsons. Turned out to be a great investment, and I’ve used it a lot during university…without it I’d have had a lot less space!

You can read more about my university bedrooms here and here. What are you taking for your university room?

Restaurant Review: Sunday Lunch at The Windhover, Northampton

Another Sunday Lunch post from me this week, I’m clearly missing them this year! I’m actually living in a vegetarian’s house and feel a little uncomfortable eating me so jumped at the chance to have Sunday Lunch with my Nan for her birthday a few weeks ago. After scouring online menus I decided on The Windhover; a five minutes drive from parents house, with a lovely walk on its doorstep. It’s also priced excellently; not so cheap you get suspicious; not so expensive that you need to remortgage over a lunch.

The pub was completely full when we arrived; this is definitely a place where booking is needed! We were ‘squeezed’ into a corner, which actually suited us fine for a cosy catch up (just to note, the interior photo is taken from their website). On an allergy point of view I was really disappointed to find out I couldn’t actually have a Sunday Lunch, as the gravies had tomato-puree in them. On the plus side, this generally mean its a properly made gravy, so bonus points there!

 photo f05577b1-a769-4f78-abc7-515fd3e61f83_zps1a2fddc0.jpg photo 3d644d70-be53-42b0-8c65-7d6a136b67aa_zpsac7a1e81.jpg photo 02536149-0569-4180-9286-93ad2f13680d_zps23a0bec0.jpgI plumped for a massive portion of Chicken, Ham and Leek pie, with chips and peas. My nan had the Roast Beef; I got lucky ‘cos they brought out enough vegetables for two. Both mains were beautifully cooked; the pie was stunning with a crispy yet soggy underneath crust, a rich sauce, and massive pieces of chicken. Chips were average oven chips; a little dry, but perfect as a vehicle for pie filling. The roast dinner certainly looked beautiful, there were no complaints, and all of the vegetables were freshly cooked.

 photo ce1d92fc-1861-462e-9443-88e0c9608f91_zpsb729fd93.jpg photo fcae1323-d612-4a1c-a631-a4181fc1748b_zps079f6b11.jpgNormally I’m a starter-kinda-gal, but I’d spied the pudding menu as we walked in and deliberately saved room. I ordered a favourite with a twist; Creme Brulee, with raspberries. It was delicious, although the top was possibly verging on burnt, with the raspberries adding a tart and refreshing edge. Nan went for a St Clements tart; I sneaked a piece and it was delightful; zingy, crunchy base and a wonderful smooth filling.

Best of all was the bill; £35 for two courses, and drinks. For the quality it was superb. In fact, it was so good that my whole family is going back this Sunday to celebrate my parents 25th Wedding Anniversary…though I will be taking my own gravy!

Where do you recommend for a good Sunday Lunch?

Recipe: Haggis Carbonara

As you may know I’ve holidayed in Edinburgh for the past two years; I adore the city, and I really love what I’ve seen of Scotland. One of my dream holidays in the next few years is to finish a stay in Edinburgh with some form of road trip around the country.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgOne of the things I love about Scotland is the food. Nothing too fancy, but everything is tasty, hearty and well seasoned – too many people are shy with the salt and pepper! When Sykes Cottages asked me to come up with an interesting Haggis recipe I was embarrassingly excited; I love haggis but have never cooked it myself. I was actually quite shocked at their statistics; nearly two-thirds of people wouldn’t order haggis if they saw it on the menu. I’ve got to say there are things I’d place ahead of haggis, but its definitely not a no-go area for me!  photo 2014-06-19123753_zps47344773.jpgThinking about my recipe, I wanted something quick and easy, but still comforting. Haggis isn’t meant to be light and healthy really! I’ve actually never had it ‘as it comes’, I’ve eaten it stuffed inside a chicken breast (pretty good) and in a fritter. A word about the Fritter – I highly recommend you visit Maison Bleue if you find yourself in Edinburgh. Pretty damn good set menu at roughly £30, but £15 if you’re a student and its a Tuesday. One of the most interesting (in a good way!) meals I’ve had, and they definitely don’t skimp on portions. But yes, I highly recommend their Haggis Fritters. Anyway, all the times I’ve enjoyed Haggis it’s been in quite a complex form. I didn’t want that, so I thought about the flavours – peppery and meaty. Then I realised it would be pretty nice in a carbonara. I was right, it was fantastic. I used a pattie of haggis as it was the easiest option for one. So cheap too!  photo 2014-08-15185358_zpseaec30eb.jpgJust to let you know, my regular carbonara comes very highly praised by my boyfriend. I’ve never planned to publish it on here and its not a dish that takes kindly to sitting around being photographed, but here it is. Aren’t you lucky?! To make it haggis-less, just fry chopped bacon until crisp, and add a good amount of pepper to the cheese mix. Ingredients

  • Decent knob of butter
  • 1 round of haggis
  • 1 egg
  • Cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
  • Pasta – spaghetti is best really

 photo 6140c989-1c95-4cd0-beeb-9556e103bb9c_zps9cb39dfd.jpgFirst of all put your pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though!  photo 9165dc89-d6c5-4481-a929-a8ecd30145f3_zpsd692627e.jpg photo 1247502f-ff31-422b-94aa-18f4eafdfef6_zpsed6ad2e6.jpg photo 2e9a0b09-1f59-4853-9e22-a024294de140_zps221ca805.jpgAnd while that’s frying, crack and egg into a bowl, beat and add your grated cheeses.  photo 0e45a5cb-9383-47ae-bb5a-f6b69b99c878_zpsffde082f.jpgNow my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another teaspoon. The water should just melt the cheese, make a smooth mixture, and lighten the end sauce.  photo 1c6b3cc2-9b19-4cbf-8222-4b910668aaaa_zps19571434.jpgOnce the pasta has boiled, drain, and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgTurn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Tip the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!  photo 84e5815d-9720-4a82-95fb-07b7137274ee_zps2b3c0a3e.jpg

Disclaimer: I was sent the personalised apron and £15 to cover ingredients costs (treated myself to posh parmesan!) by Sykes Cottages, but all opinions are my own. I genuinely love haggis!

Whats your opinion of haggis?

Beauty: Spend or Save on Lip Crayons

I’m a bold lip person. I love a neutral defined eye and an outfit-matching lip; I’ve even been known to plan my clothes around what lipstick I feel like wearing. I read other lip-product posts on blogs and I have probably a tenth of the products, but what I do have I tend to use and love. The past year I’ve completely fallen in love with lip crayons, but do I think you should splurge or save your pennies on these? Read and find out!

 photo 0e6c7df6-8045-495a-92be-03ec6a876b84_zps6f03fea4.jpg photo 637f69c9-3ca1-47aa-9656-c2182556c6d0_zps7008c76a.jpgSorry about the pretty stereotypical blogger photos – I couldn’t have flowers in my room (thanks to my lovely boyfriend!) and not include them! Also apologies about the obviously fading light as you go through these. I clearly took longer setting up than I anticipated!

 photo 8bdf7634-f7a0-44ba-a05d-6901bd4b1354_zpsf81f2cef.jpgOn the cheap-as-chips front we have the Power Pouts by MUA. I’m in two minds about these – sometimes I love them, sometimes I am not so keen! I find the shade range is a bit odd, and they can also go a bit melty in your bag (though strangely stay put on the lips). Sometimes they also really dry my lips out and make them peel; I think these kind-of react to office air conditioning as I enjoy them a lot more at home! I have three shades; the darker purple I haven’t touched yet as I’ve been storing it up for Autumn since a 3-for-2; I loved the pink for summer but the brown, always overlooked shade is my favourite. It actually comes off a coral-toned pink on me, livening up my face and being the perfect subtle colour. At £3 they certainly aren’t a waste of your money and I’d definitely recommend them!

 photo 608fa725-c645-4375-a963-3accc8151a1b_zps4319ecde.jpgNext up are the blog-famous Revlon Matte Balms. These are my favourites, apart from the Elusive shade. All the others are smooth, pigmented and moisturising; lasting for ages without any dodgy fading. Elusive not so much. It’s too bright and barbie pink on me (so many bloggers say its a neutral-toned pink – I don’t get it?!), it feels drying, and it fades away in patches. With the right outfit and a silly amount of lip-prep I can get away with it, but that much effort means I rarely wear this. Sultry on the other hand is something I’m thinking of getting a handbag backup of. The perfect anyday lip, this really, really compliments my skin tone. I lusted after the shade for so long (I can’t buy a non-sealed lip product) and I wore it pretty much everyday for a fortnight when I finally got hold of it. Striking is my other shade of choice, and this bold, dark red is stunning all year round. I have a similar tone to Jenny Purr, and she loves both these shades – I’m just trying to ignore her love for certain Nars products now!

 photo 2014-08-03154057_zps0866fcd5.jpgAnother famous product next, but one with a slightly higher price tag! You guessed it, the Clinique Chubby Sticks. I was so, so excited with Glamour announced these as magazine freebies. I, quite literally, scoured the country for them as their release coincided with my Devon holiday. No luck. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d never own these. Then I moved to Surrey, grabbed some stuff in Waitrose, and the two shades were sitting on the magazine rack by the till. I grabbed them, proudly instagrammed them, and now have them thrown into a satchel each. They are pretty similar to the MUA offerings, perhaps a little more pigmented, more moisturising, and a little more reliable. These definitely don’t melt over my satchel! I’m not a huge fan of Woppin’ Watermelon, again a little too barbie pink, but Super Strawberry is my end-of-the day throw on. You never know who you might bump into on the way home from the office! Some of the other shades look gorgeous, but at £17 I’d sooner stick to MUA. I could almost buy a Power Pout and a MAC lipstick (my other love) for that!

 photo a5364e73-ed5f-481e-8caa-003ac14021f1_zps38b33ee4.jpgAs an addition, I also have the CID Lip & Cheek tint, free in Cosmopolitan the same month as Glamour offered the clinique products. Yep, I did see this as a bit of a booby prize! I have to say I love the colour – its more orange-toned and a little fresher than my Revlon red. However the glossy finish means it does slip down off your lips. Blotting solves this, making it more matte, which I actually prefer, but its something to bear in mind. I would say these are no higher quality than the MUA offerings though, I certainly wouldn’t part with £15!

So, would I recommend you splurge or save on lip crayons? My best bet is to go with Revlon; a mid-price point, quite often on offer, and the best quality out of all the lip crayons I’ve tried. Having said that, if I need to break into a note, I’d happily go pick up a Power Pout!

What lip products do you recommend?