Christmas – Finishing Touches

Every family and household must have their own traditions and style at Christmas and I thought I’d share some of the things that make it Christmas in our house.

This last weekend before Christmas we have made gingerbread and mince pies (with amazing mouth watering buttery and crumbly pastry!) which I love served up on a kitsch cake stand I bought around three years ago in the sales. I also have the matching mugs and saucers which have space for a mince pie or biscuits on the side – cute!

I love Christmas boxes with chocolate box style scenes of snow covered villages and landscapes. They make great gift boxes which can be reused year after year or purely as decorations because of their bright colours. I love to mix and match old and new styles and think these look lovely against both a traditional or contemporary background. Christmas boxes are really easy to make too – if you save wrapping paper and cards you can stick them onto old shoes boxes or gift boxes using PVA glue (called decoupage) which makes a lovely personal touch for next years presents.

The tree is packed with ornaments, baubles, beads and tinsel – I love the look of a really full tree and although it isn’t real (we gave those up a few years ago when the needles always dropped) I like a bit of greenery and like the look of one or two colours as a theme.

Lastly I had to share with you this little character – a reindeer! He’s new this year but we have lots of characters that have been around for years. Do you have any favourite Christmas items or traditions you couldn’t do without?

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Radox Winners Announced

Thankyou to everyone who entered the Radox Spa competition! We have three winners to announce, one from twitter, one from Facebook and one from all valid blog entries.

The three lucky winners are:
Twitter – Bunnysideup
Facebook -Beth Bowdler
Blog – Cathy James

Congratulations ladies – please send your address details to liz@tastygorgeous.com and your prizes will be sent out! If you know any of the winners please give them a nudge 😉 Sorry if you didn’t win this time but more competitions will be coming soon!

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Celebration Cake

I spent Thursday last week creating a white chocolate celebration cake and cake pops for a teen birthday party. The cake in question was to have a ‘white chocolate theme’ and I was left to my own devices and could create what I wanted so I made a three layer 9″ white chocolate cake, filled with white chocolate butter cream and raspberry jam, topped with white chocolate icing and covered in melted white chocolate. For decoration I covered the exterior with white chocolate fingers, giant snowies and made a majorette figure from modelling paste. I finished the cake by adding a sash made from modelling chocolate. Nearly 3lbs(!) of white chocolate went into the cake and by the end of the night there were only two pieces left, so I think it tasted ok!

I also made some cake pops for the first time and they were so fun to make and a great addition for a teen party and I have already got another order for cake pops in a few weeks based on these. They are filled with chocolate fudge cake and dipped in melted milk chocolate, then topped with chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, hundreds and thousands and pink sugar crystals. I’m definitely going to enjoy making these again 🙂

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Detoxing vs. Dieting – Pros and Cons

If you’ve thought of detoxing but are considering another diet instead, read this guide on detoxing vs dieting to weigh up which option is best for you.

The Benefits of Detoxing

  • Increased energy levels
  • Glowing skin
  • Better digestion
  • To strengthen and generate healthy cells
  • To heal the body and improve the immune system
  • To give a general feeling of wellbeing
  • Feeling more rested
  • Sleeping better
  • To eliminate free radicals and toxins
  • To rid the body of addictions e.g. sugar, salt, alcohol
  • To help identify food allergies and intolerances
  • To banish bloating
  • Decreased cellulite and improved skintone
  • It promotes good habits

The Benefits of Dieting

  • Sustained weightloss
  • You can do it anytime
  • There are many different diets to choose from to suit your needs
  • You can incorporate foods into your everyday diet with little disruption
  • A structured plan that can help you retrain your eating habits
  • An increase in energy and ease of movement
  • Health issues are reduced such as cholesterol levels
  • Less stress over health issues
  • Maintaining a healthy weight can help you live longer

The Disadvantages to Detoxing

  • A lack of energy to begin
  • Side effects including headaches and tiredness
  • It may be difficult to stick to
  • Difficultly in maintaining an everyday routine
  • A lowered immune system whilst detoxing
  • Detoxing is usually short term which means any weightloss seen is initially from water loss which is easily put back on
  • Cravings for foods are common

The Disadvantages to Dieting

  • Your body can go into starvation mode and if you begin to eat ‘normally’ again after, you are likely to put weight on quickly
  • It might be difficult to stick to
  • It requires willpower to work effectively
  • It may include faddy food items
  • It can be expensive
  • Planning your meals and a shopping list may be a chore
  • The time to prepare food may be increased
  • Maintaining weight can be difficult once your target weight is reached
  • It may cause the onset of an eating disorder
  • Social situations can become difficult e.g. eating out at a restaurant
  • It can lead you to obsessive about food and eating habits
  • Yo-yo dieting can actually slow your metabolism

It seems as though the disadvantages to dieting really outweigh the advantages, whereas the benefits of detoxing far outweigh the cons. Both detoxing and dieting have a number of reasons why you shouldn’t undertake them, but understandably the end results of both weightloss and improved health are real motivators to achieve your goals.

If you are thinking of starting a new diet or detox regime, start by getting some professional advice from your GP or health practitioner to choose the right plan for your needs.

Which diets or detox plans have you tried? After reading the disadvantages to both detoxing and dieting, would you think twice before starting a new health regime? What are your top tips for effective weightloss?

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Just another Mani Monday – Kinetics Reverse French

The inspiration for this post has come from the wonderful and talented Lisa Eldridge, whose recent blogpost and youtube video featured Sophy Robson’s new trend for Autumn/Winter 2011- a reverse french manicure. I have also seen this trend starting to appear in magazines and in the media – it looks set to be the hottest thing this coming season!

Here I have used my new Kinetics nail polishes to create a two tone effect – a pale beige/pink base with a dark nail tip. This style is the reverse of a french manicure which traditionally has a pink base with a white tip.

The other main difference from a traditional french manicure is the shape of the nail tip – traditionally straight across, the new reverse french has a softly tapered ‘V’, a quirky difference to bring the nail shape on trend.

For the base coat I have used Kinetics White Chocolate – a pearlescent pink peach (any cream beige nail polish will work equally well) and for the tip I have used Kinetics Paparazzi – a black gloss, to create the illusion of a tapered tip.

The Kinetics brand is from New York and available to buy online in the UK for around £4 each. White Chocolate was easy to apply and produced an even coat, however Paparazzi was thicker to apply but I have found this with all black polishes. An alternative would be to use a dark navy or forest green.

Have you heard of the Kinetics brand or of the reverse french manicure? What are your thoughts on this nail style? Will you be wearing this trend this season?

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Sunday Supplements: Vertese Omega Oils

What are Omega Oils?
Omega Oils 3, 6 and 9 are essential fatty acids which “help maintain a healthy heart, supple joints and help support healthy brain and eye function”. Vertese Omega Oils provide these fatty acids that your body cannot generate and helps boost the intake of nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis.

Why should I take Omega Oils 3, 6 and 9?

Your body can’t generate essential fatty acids and receives them in the manner of food e.g. fish, flaxseeds and walnuts. However, if your diet is lacking in natural omega oils you can supplement them by taking the oils in a compressed capsule. Omega oils are proven to help many body functions including as described above, maintain a healthy heart and support brain function. Vertese Omega Oils also contain Vitamin E which is proven to generate new skin cells and improve skin tone and are suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.

Omega Oils – Trial and Results
One thing I’m always wanting more of is energy and although omega oils aren’t specifically used for increasing energy levels, I decided an increase in brain function instead couldn’t be a bad thing! Also my diet is definitely lacking in essential fatty acids so I thought this was a great way to see if taking them really did make a difference.

My trial of the Vertese Omega Oils capsules lasted 30 days and during that time I saw a marked improvement in the appearance of my skin – it was clearer, glowing and generally looked much ‘fresher’. This must be the vitamin E working, but what about the oils 3, 6 and 9? The main difference I saw over the month was an improvement in my concentration. I actually did have more energy and felt more ‘alert’, particularly in the mornings (and no I wasn’t sneakily having more caffeine!). I can’t really comment on whether these supplements help maintain a healthy heart or improve eye function – omega oils are things that work long term in these cases but in the short term I did see an improvement.

Lastly I want to note again that these are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as they are made from cold pressed vegetable oils as opposed to the alternative supplement, cod liver oil. I’m not vegetarian or vegan but I do take vegetarian supplements where possible as I find this means I digest them more easily.

Have you ever used the brand Vertese? Do you take omega oils or have you never given it a thought? How do you get essential fatty acids into your diet?

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That age-old question: Anti-ageing products explored, Part 1

Is your lifestyle ageing you beyond your years?

Factors including stress, smoking and too much sun exposure can have detrimental ageing affects to your skin long before you even see the signs of your first wrinkle. And environmental factors including adverse weather, use of air-conditioning, central heating and even pollution can all cause ageing to the skin too.

What are the signs of ageing?

Young skin is typically fresh, dewy, bright and radiant but as we age the skin begins to lose elasticity which creates wrinkles and gravity leaves us with sagging and flabby areas. We all know which ones! Years of sunbathing or sun damage can cause age spots and beyond the menopause, changes in hormones mean dryness can become an issue.

Anti-ageing products aren’t just for the old

As any woman knows, even after your teens, into your twenties and thirties and beyond, you will see changes in the condition of your skin. Hopefully if you have troubled skin when you’re young it will settle down and you’ll spend the rest of your years with a clear, radiant complexion.

However, even a few years of not looking after ourselves can have an ageing effect on the skin, which is why anti-ageing products aren’t just for the old, they’re for women in their fifties, forties, thirties and even twenties because protection of your skin is better than cure.

When is the best time to start using anti-ageing products?

I’m now in my late twenties and have just started thinking about anti-ageing products. Do I need them? What’s available? When should I start using them?

In fact, I started using anti-ageing products (in the broadest sense) when I was eleven or twelve years old. I have been looking after my skin since before I was a teen because my aim as a young girl was to grow old gracefully. I really was obsessed with skincare, body products and cosmetics from a young age and it really influenced my actions regarding my skincare routine.

I say using anti-ageing products began at this age, because using skin products at any age is anti-ageing. What I mean by this is that using skincare products before you see signs of ageing works with your skin cells in three ways – as defensive, preventative and repairing measures – all of which will help keep your skin looking young and in good condition.

I am renowned for telling clients that the very best anti-ageing product is a sunscreen. No matter what time of the year always wear a sunscreen as the effect of daylight and sunlight on the skin causes irreversible damage. Products with antioxidant vitamins A,C and E are also beneficial as are peptides.

Angela Bartlett, Immediate Past Chair of BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) anti ageing skin care – the best and newest products

As for anti-ageing products in the traditional sense, consider introducing them into your skin routine in your late twenties or early thirties. This is when you will first start to see the effects of ageing and when your skin’s needs start to change.

What products are on offer and what makes them anti ageing?

What makes skin products anti-ageing is such a touch question to answer. There is such a wide range of products available on the market at the moment, and seemingly every week I hear about a new ‘ingredient’ which sounds like something from a science fiction movie.

I have a good rule of thumb when it comes to cosmetic products. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Cynical perhaps, but if there was a cure-all for ageing don’t you think we would have all heard of it by now? And don’t forget the recent media furore about L’oreal having their adverts banned for showing images that were misleading to the public. (You can read more thoughts about advertising here over at Pixiwoo’s blog, they have a really great article that’s definitely worth a read).

Most anti-ageing products are designed to create a quick fix to skin problems, for example, wrinkle creams which fill or plump up the skin around the eyes and mouth which lasts for an evening out or if you’re lucky a full day at the office. Or moisturisers with light reflecting particles which make the skin appear more radiant. Of course there are also more invasive forms of anti ageing products including botox, dermal fillers and cosmetic surgery. The latter being the only permanent solution for ageing skin.

My advice when looking at anti-ageing products on the market would be to do your research, look for products specific to your skin type and don’t spend a fortune expecting a miracle cure. Failing that, drinking lots of water and sticking to a regular skincare routine will work wonders, no matter what your age.

What are your thoughts on anti-ageing products? What age did you start using them or are you thinking of beginning a new skincare routine? What do you feel about cosmetic and skincare advertising at the moment?

In Anti-ageing Products Explored, Part 2, we’ll be looking at specific anti-ageing products available on the market. Leave your suggestions for products you’d like to see reviewed in the comments.

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Top 10 Tips to Clearer Skin

Since my teens I rarely get spots anymore but recently I have tried some skincare products which made me break out and I urgently needed a quick fix. After applying a new serum before bed, I awoke in the morning with red spots all down one side of my face along my hairline and along my jaw. This is rare and so rare in fact that I thought I had suffered an allergic reaction, which could be the case. The only thing different that night was the new serum so I (rightly or wrongly) attributed the break-out to the product and not for any other reason.

However, the unsightly blemishes took me back to when I did have more troublesome skin and the steps I took to help it look better. I won’t be mentioning drinking more water, taking vitamins, exercising, eating your veggies or getting fresh air (although all of these do help) but instead this will be a list of practical tips to create clearer, more radiant looking skin and hopefully put some myths to rest along the way.

1. Don’t Squeeze Spots – I was once told that if you squeeze spots until they bleed that they would heal faster because it cleans the skin. This is SO wrong! Not only will squeezing spots create scarring which looks worse and can be permanent, but you run the risk of infecting your skin further by transferring bacteria from your hands to your face, spreading infection and creating more spots! I know it’s really tempting, but just DON’T DO IT!

2. Don’t Over Cleanse Your Skin – The natural oils in your skin are there for a reason, they create a barrier to protect your skin and along with sweat, even regulate your body temperature. If you repeatedly strip the natural oils away the skin feels the need to replenish it even more quickly and will over compensate with an even oilier complexion which can block pores and create more spots. You see the problem? Cleanse twice a day with gentle products suitable for your skin type.

3. Avoid Over Moisturising – Too much moisture can be detrimental too and clog pores, trapping bacteria, resulting in – you guessed it – even more spots! Believe it or not, a face oil infused with essential oils applied before bed can work wonders. You may think this sounds crazy if you already have oily or spotty skin but the oil will heal, replenish and purify your skin, leaving it feeling supple and non-greasy. I recommend Decleor’s award winning Aromessence Ylang Ylang oil for oily and combination skin (link) which can also help heal scar tissue.

4. Use the Right Products – Do you know what your skin type is? As a rule of thumb people tend to fit into the following categories:

  • Normal – small pores, even skin tone, no break-outs
  • Combination – oily t-zone, dry on cheeks, some enlarged pores and minimal break-outs
  • Oily – larger pores, frequent break-outs, prone to acne
  • Dry – flaky or patchy skin, small pores
  • Sensitive – prone to redness or rosacea, may sting and itch when applying products
  • Mature – drier, less supple, even pores

Of course there are many variants in-between but figuring out what your skin type is, can be the first step in improving it’s appearance. Invest in a skincare range suitable for your skin type. Elemis have ranges suitable for all skin types including mature, sensitive and now a new range for young skins called Elemis-Freshskin (link). Elemis are extremely reputable in their results of improving skin tone and appearance.

5. Use a Good Topical Treatment – If you find you get spots regularly, you can get good over the counter treatments to combat blemishes. Panoxyl is my range of choice (available from the pharmacy without prescription) and includes products including gels, creams and face washes which contain the active ingredient Benzoyl Peroxide. This works by sinking into the spot, drying it out from the root upwards and destroying bacteria. The gel formulation is best for invisible treatment and comes in a range of strengths depending on how severe your skin problems are. Use Panoxyl treatments sparingly and only on top of the spots themselves, otherwise the formula will dry out your healthy skin too.

6. Review Your Skin Routine – (or start one of you haven’t got one in place) – Create a skin routine that works for you that you know you’ll stick to. Don’t buy into a range where you have six different steps morning and evening if you know you’ll only have five minutes available in the bathroom. If your skin’s sensitive or very dry, use products free from alcohol and avoid using a toner. My skin routine involves using a daily exfoliating facial wash in the shower to save time, followed by a light oil free moisturising lotion and eye cream and a clay based face mask once a week. Fairly simple. Don’t over exfoliate though, (I use a scrub which is designed to be used daily which is ok but generally 3 times a week is the optimum amount) and don’t use a body scrub on your face as the grains will be too large, harsh and scratchy.

Top Tip Extra: Take your make-up off before going to bed to avoid signs of premature ageing and wrinkles.

7. Treat Your Skin – To improve skin tone you can try some extra at home or in salon treatments. To smooth the skin try microdermabrasion, a treatment involving fine crystals used to deeply exfoliate the skin to show an instant improvement in circulation and renew skin cells. For a treat, try a facial with an added massage. Often you can make an appointment with a beauty therapist for a skin consultation without paying a penny. Dermalogica offer free skin mapping appointments in which you can pinpoint your skin’s problem areas and get a recommendation of products and skincare with no obligation to buy.

8. De-Stress – Environmental stress (smoking, pollution, sun damage) can affect your skin as much as using cosmetic products containing lots of chemicals or lack of sleep due to pressure at work. Time out to look after your skin can make a huge difference – try to combine it with some relaxation time to reap the benefits of clearer skin.

Top Tip Extra: Use moisturising products with a built in SPF 15 or above to improve your skincare protection.

9. Camouflage – Using make-up to cover spots and blemishes is not only simple but effective as new formulations are constantly coming onto the market. Full coverage foundations and concealers can help fake a perfect complexion and light reflecting creams and powders can create a look of dewy, fresh skin. Some effective products to use are Mac Face and Body Foundation (not full coverage but buildable and suitable for use anywhere), Mac Studio Sculpt Concealer (a creamy thick concealer which melts into the skin) and for total coverage try skinlight.co.uk for a whole range of products which can cover birthmarks, blemishes and even tattoos!

10. Seek Help – If all else fails and you’re getting depressed or anxious about your skin worries, seek help in the form of your GP. The likelihood is they will be able to help or may even refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist) to gain the best results. There is help out there if you know where to look for it.

What are your top tips for keeping your skin looking good?

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New Beauty Buys

Here’s a few new beauty items I’ve bought for the summer months.

Face: Top of my shopping list was a new foundation that wasn’t as full coverage as my winter make-up and one that gave a dewy and lighter texture. I settled on MAC’s Face and Body Foundation in N3 – I thought this was going to be super dark on me even though I’ve got a tan but in fact it’s still a tad too light! Unusual considering I normally wear NW15, which is several shades lighter.

I also got a new concealer – Mac Studio Sculpt Concealer in NW15, useful for under eye circles and a shade I can use all year round.

Lips: I picked up Revlon’s Just Bitten Lipstain + Balm in shade ‘Twilight‘. I wasn’t fond of this when I first used it – the lipbalm tastes terrible and the pen really highlights any dry skin on your lips however tiny. But, the lipbalm has really improved the dryness I had and the colour is bold and stays put so that’s definitely a saving grace.

Nails: Finally I got hold of Barry M’s Nail Effect Nail Paint in Black 311. I’ve wanted this crackle nail polish for a long time and I’m already loving the effects.

Hair: My favourite hair brands are Pantene and Tresemme but I rarely use hair products other than shampoo and conditioner. However, if I do use them it will usually be volumising products and I’m always on the lookout for something new to get maximum results. This time around I picked up Tresemme’s Volume & Lift Extra Body Mousse. So far it has been so-so. There has been some increase in volume but the main difference is the increase in shine. I’m not complaining!

I also won some Rouge Bunny Rouge products from a Glossybox competition and got a Long-lasting Eye Shadow in 014 Unforgettable Oriole and a Decadent Duos Lipgloss in Flamenco and Liquid Blush in Duende no 020. The eyeshadow is a golden champagne and the duo are both bronzed hues – all gorgeous and really wearable colours.

Reviews coming soon!

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Red Hot Summer Essentials

It’s summer! Although if you live in the UK you probably wouldn’t know it at the moment but we all live in hope of a bit of summer sun! For those of you who are lucky enough to be going away on hols this year or for those of you, like myself, just trying to capture a bit of summer spirit, here are my fave products to see you through the season.

Although my next holiday won’t actually be until the spring, I’m already thinking how luggage is always an issue when I travel abroad. Either I never have enough room for all my belongings or there’s a massively long wait at the carousel so I’ve invested in a new suitcase now while the price is right – one specially designed to be the perfect size to go in the cabin (so no waiting around!) and it EXPANDS! (It’s a Domo 18″ if anyone’s interested and comes in black too I believe, and inside it has masses of pockets too!)

I will also be taking along my new Zatchels satchel which I was incredibly lucky to win in a competition on twitter. It’s worth a whopping £94 and is hand made leather. Love it!

I’d also recommend Maxing it out with a Maxi dress and flip flops like these:

Strapless dress from Miss Selfridge…  Jelly style sandals by Ted Baker.

Hair products need to be high performance – Wella have a great new range (Wella Professionals Care & Styling line) featuring products for wet and dry styling and finishing products to keep your hair looking good, to take you from poolside to beachside.

The hair trend is red hot too – check out celebs like Rihanna and newly fired up Charlotte Church.

Make-up this season should be blocks of contrasting colour – for a muted version try Crush Eyeshadow Trio in ‘Lava’ by DuWop, a mini palette of molten metallic shadows.

And lastly treat your nails to a super fast make-over with Leighton Denny nail polish in Viva La Diva – a pure red tone to add some colour to any outfit.

What red hot products will you be taking on your holidays?

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