Max Factor Colour Elixir Gloss

The latest item to join my make-up collection is Max Factor Colour Elixir Gloss. There are nine shades in this range and I chose Enchanting Coral. It’s just the prettiest colour, giving lips a pink-orange tint. I don’t find it super glossy but it does give a nice sheen and even a bit of a shimmer. It also makes lips feel so soft and moisturised — just like a really good balm.

Like most lip products, this does wear off easily enough so regular top-up is required. Overall, I do really like Colour Elixir but I think I prefer Max Factor Max Colour Effects because it’s that bit glossier and more pigmented. I’ll definitely still use lots more of this; it’s particularly gorgeous for the time of year — you’ve just got to love a coral lip gloss for spring!

max-factor-lip-gloss

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

valentines-card

Some love it; some dread it; some despise it and some don’t care either way but (in case you haven’t noticed) it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend!

I’m one of those people that actually really like this day. To make it clear, I completely agree with the idea that you should celebrate love every day. At the same time, however, I think on Valentine’s; it’s all about making that little extra bit of effort. That doesn’t mean you have to clear out your bank account or make these elaborate plans or dramatic gestures. It’s just about ensuring that you spend quality time with someone (or ones) that you love.

If you’re single, arrange to meet up with loved ones and make some fun plans. If you’re romantically involved with someone, just enjoy the day with your other half. Day-to-day life can be stupidly busy and demanding so Valentine’s Day is good for forgetting about everything else and just focusing on your relationship (s). I don’t think it’s necessary to do all the stereotypical things but at the same time, a lot of those things are fun so why not?! Don’t blow your budget but don’t be afraid to have a little splurge either. We’re going out for dinner and drinks and I can’t wait to get dressed up and have a fun indulgent night!

Ultimately, I believe February 14th should be celebrated. Whether you spend it with a significant other, friends or family; it’s the perfect time to relax and do your favourite things and just be happy! Whatever your plans, I hope you all have a lovely weekend :-).

Chocolate Heart Cookies

It’s Valentine’s this weekend so what other excuse do you need for cutesy shapes and touches of pink and red everywhere?! I also can never resist making something chocolatey for V-Day too (see my trio of chocolate treats from last year and my chocolate & pear pudding from the year before!). This time around I opted for simple heart-shaped cookies flavoured with good quality cocoa powder. They’re sweet with a lovely subtle flavour and so easy to make too!

Before you get started, here’s three useful things to know about these particular cookies:

  • When I’m baking, I automatically preheat the oven before I get started. This cookie dough needs to chill for a couple of hours so there’s no point going near the oven too early!
  • It’s better to slightly under-bake than slightly over-bake these so keep an eye on the clock when these are in the oven!
  • These are especially incredible if — like me — you always dunk your cookies in to a nice cup of tea! They hold together really well, even after being submerged in hot drinks.

valentines-cookies

290g plain flour
170g room-temperature butter
150g sugar
25g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Icing sugar (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

heart-shaped-iced-cookies

Beat the butter until it has thoroughly softened. Gradually add in the sugar, beating continuously until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat for another minute or so.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in to a separate clean and dry bowl. Gradually add these dry ingredients in to the butter mixture. Once you have a soft but firm dough; wrap it up in some kitchen paper and pop in the fridge for 2-4 hours.

When the dough has chilled for long enough, preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease two baking sheets and line with kitchen paper. Divide the dough in half to make it more manageable. Dust a clean board or kitchen counter with some flour and roll out each half evenly.

Cut out cookies using cutters (preferably heart-shaped!) or even an upturned glass, re-rolling the dough to use up every last bit! Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets. At this point, you can — if you like — shake some sprinkles directly on to some or all of the raw cookies. Pop the sheets in to the hot oven and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

Once out of the oven, allow them to cool and firm up a bit for at least ten minutes. Then you can either enjoy your freshly baked cookies or leave them to cool for another hour or so before icing them.

I use a super simple icing here — literally just icing sugar and water. I don’t measure anything — it’s just the tiniest drop of cold water stirred in to a few tablespoons of icing sugar. It should be relatively spreadable but still quite a stiff icing so that it doesn’t run or drip off of the cookies. I initially started to apply this with a piping bag but — to be honest — I got bored quickly with that and just used a knife to smooth it on in the end instead! I get around 20 cookies out of this recipe. I iced roughly half of them, had some with sprinkles baked on to them (doesn’t really affect the taste or texture, just looks cute!) and then left the rest completely plain. It’s always nice to have a little mix and however you decide to decorate them, they’re sure to taste delicious! Happy Valentine’s!

Lush Blackberry Bath Bomb

lush-blackberry

The Lush Blackberry bath bomb is one of my absolute favourites. It’s a solid sphere containing bergamot and frankincense oils which can have a relaxing and uplifting effect. It smells incredible, turns the water a gorgeous shade of purple and leaves you feeling silky smooth and thoroughly pampered!

blackberry-bathbomb

Once the bomb starts to dissolve, a hidden message reveals itself…

lush-bath

…it’s supposed to be a surprise though so you’ll have to discover it for yourself ;-).

blackberry-bath

I love the hints of a glimmer and the streaks of fiery red in the water — definitely one of the most beautiful baths I’ve ever had!

lush-blackberry-bath

lush-blackberry

Thoughts on #LoveTanya

At the end of last month, the hugely popular British vlogger Tanya Burr published her debut book Love, Tanya. Consisting of 300 pages within a glossy hardback cover; this is already proving to be a huge hit with her fans. Even though I’ve only been following Tanya’s career for a short while, I was curious to see what this would be like and I picked up a copy within a week of its publication.

love-tanya

Love, Tanya opens with the obligatory prologue and closes with an Ask Tanya segment. The bulk of the book comprises twelve sections which are as follows:

  • Growing Up: Part One
  • Growing Up: Part Two
  • Skincare Essentials
  • Make-Up Essentials
  • Hair and Nail Essentials
  • Fashion
  • Love
  • Life
  • Baking and Recipes
  • Confidence and Happiness
  • Youtube
  • Looking Forward

In the chapters on growing up, Tanya talks us through her idyllic childhood growing up in rural Norfolk to meeting her now fiancé Jim Chapman as a teenager; discovering a love for make-up and starting up her own YouTube channel.

Tanya then goes on to share her thoughts and tips on all things beauty and fashion. She talks about her favourite looks, shops and products. She also offers lots of advice on applying make-up, accessorizing and dressing for your body shape.

Then talk turns to love and life. Fans of Tanya also tend to be fans of her fiancé and fellow Youtuber Jim so the story of how the couple met and their relationship so far will undoubtedly be popular with them — or anyone who likes a bit of a romantic tale! The life section is a mix of Tanya’s experiences with travelling, friendship and food and exercise. The next section features Tanya’s favourite recipes which include triple chocolate cookies and her nanny’s apple pie.

It’s no surprise that there’s a section on confidence and happiness considering that Tanya is well-known for her bright and bubbly personality. She talks about what makes her feel and act her best but also discusses in detail her struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. Her tips on dealing with stress and a list of inspirational quotes will surely be of benefit for many readers.

Of course there’s a section on YouTube too in which Tanya talks about her own experiences and offers practical, valuable advice to aspiring vloggers. In the last section, Tanya shares her hopes and plans for the future. The book ends with a little Q&A session which is a nice touch as it involves some of her loyal readers.

tanya-burr-book

Overall, I think this is a really lovely book. It has a proper story to it as well as being packed with lots of tips and advice. There are also plenty of pretty pictures and it’s well laid out which makes it an ideal coffee-table book that you can just pick up and flip through at random.

Every chapter contains a notes section where readers are encouraged to create lists under a variety of headings such as people who have had a positive influence on your life, your top ten items in your make-up bag, new activities you want to try. I can’t really say that this aspect of the book appeals to me (bear in mind, I’m actually around six months older than Tanya!). It’s most likely aimed at the younger audience (although obviously there’s nothing stopping anyone of any age from filling it in!). It is a cute idea and I most likely would have got really in to it ten years ago but this part is just not something I’d personally be in to at this stage of my life.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this book as a whole. It’s great to see someone living their dream and taking such joy in what they do. This book reflects the relaxed, positive and friendly spirit of Tanya’s blog/vlog. It has a real feel-good vibe to it and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a follow-up in the next few years. For now, however, this book is available to buy online and in certain bookstores. For any of my fellow Irish readers, I purchased my copy on Easons site for €16.99 including delivery.

Valentine’s Lust-Haves

Valentine’s is just one week away! Whether you want to treat yourself, spoil someone special or drop not-so-subtle hints to a significant other; I’ve rounded up some beautiful items that I’m sure any one of us would love to receive.

valentines-collage-2015

Love Letters of Great Men
Inspired by that book that Carrie read through in the first Sex and the City film

Oasis Abstract Heart Necklace
Pretty and edgy all at once

Lily O’Brien Petit Indulgence Desserts Collection
Any excuse for chocolate!

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure
I particularly love this shade Pink At Him

Lush Two Hearts Gift Set
Contains a Heart-Throb bubble bar, Cupid’s Love soap and the giant Love Locket bath bomb

Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G Love Bite
A perfect shade of red in a beautiful gold case

Accessorize Pippa Heart Turnlock Wallet
A pretty and practical piece

Thomas Sabo Charm Heart
The sweetest addition to your charm bracelet

Yankee Fresh Cut Roses Candle
If Valentine’s had a scent, this would be it!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I have to confess that I’ve been slipping up on my whole healthy eating plan lately. It started with my birthday weekend and I’ve kind of been going on and off track ever since! My excuse is that Valentine’s is on its way and that there are too many baking opportunities to pass up! I recently made a flourless chocolate cake — and no exaggeration — it was incredible. 

valentines-chocolate-dessert

I received a couple of Hummingbird Bakery cookbooks as a bday present and this was the first recipe that I tried from them. I glanced through the method, gathered the simple ingredients and got to work. Then at the last minute, I remembered that someone had borrowed my one and only spring-form cake tin and I’d have to just use a regular 9-inch…

chocolate-butter

I didn’t think it would be that big a deal and after spending nearly an hour in the oven; it looked so promising. Unfortunately, however, I had such a nightmare trying to get this out of the pan! I couldn’t just flip it out like I would with any other cake because it was way too delicate. In the end, I just had to slice it in the pan as carefully as I could and slide it out, piece by piece!

To make things even worse (!), I initially feared that it was under-baked because it was ridiculously runny. We were impatient though and tried it anyway! It was still warm and so rich and delicious and (we decided) almost definitely cooked. As the recipe suggests that you can leave it in the fridge, that’s what I did afterwards.

flourless-chocolate-cake

When I checked on it a few hours later, it had completely set. In place of the runny messy-but-yummy cake was this dense and fudgy solid dessert. We’d already established that it tasted amazing but a few hours of chilling time had turned it in to something even better. It was intensely chocolatey, indulgent and so satisfying — definitely ideal for Valentine’s (or any/every time of the year) The recipe advises that you use all dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. I swapped that around a bit with what I had which included regular milk chocolate and two bars of dark chocolate with 85% cocoa solids.

dark-milk-chocolate

I can’t recommend this enough, it’s just one of those things you absolutely have to try for yourself. The cake itself was delicious on its own but a dusting of icing sugar and some whipped cream and fresh raspberries on the side made for the best kind of finishing touches — total perfection!

chocolate-cake