Top Ten(ish) Under Ten(ish…)

Recently, I’ve been feeling the pressure to save up and stop spending as frivolously; however, I did still need a wee pick me up and decided bargain beauty was the way to go (after all, isn’t that why lipstick sales are up…?) It did make me reflect on some of the brilliant products available on the high street; there are some real gems that deliver just as well as their high-end counterparts, so I thought I’d round up some of my favourites here.

Bourjois Foundations – priced between £8.99 and £10.99
I believe that Bourjois foundations are manufactured by the same company as Chanel, and I have to say I think they are on a par in terms of quality. Of course, as these are a high street product and not high end, the packaging isn’t quite as luxurious, but to be honest as most of my makeup resides in my makeup bag rather than on a dressing table, I can’t say packaging alone would tempt me into buying something three times as expensive!

The colour range is fairly good, although some formulations come up pretty yellow-toned (I am exceptionally fair-skinned with pink undertones) and as with most high-street brands however, they are lacking a bit of the really dark shades. However, the quality is beautiful; well pigmented and offering beautiful finishes from sheer and dewy up the more full, matte finishes. I would definitely recommend checking these out if you’re in the market for a new foundation.

Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer – £4.19
I’m not going to say too much about this concealer as it has been discussed to death on You Tube, in blogs and on forums – suffice to say, it covers practically anything, lasts really well and only costs £4.19. Job done.

Soap and Glory One Heck of a Blot Powder – £12
Ok, ok, I’ve bent the rules here…hence the ‘ish’ in the title, as this comes in a hair over £10. However, I think the product is so good, I shoe-horned it in anyway (and, in my defence, SaG products are so often on 3 for 2 in Boots so really they do come in under £10…) Up till now, I really hated the feeling of powder on my skin, although having a rather oily t-zone it is a bit of a necessity – however, this powder is so finely milled it sits really comfortably on the skin, and does a fantastic job of keeping shine at bay right through the day.

Max Factor Creme Puff Blushes – £8.99
These are beautiful little blushes with a lovely, if slightly limited, selection of colours. These remind me of the Hourglass blushes with their swirled finish, but at a much more purse friendly price point. They have a lovely, blendable texture and nice colour payoff. Their nude mauve shade is also the perfect blush when you’re not sure what to pair with a stronger lip colour, giving a little something something, but nothing to statement.

Maybelline EyeStudio Colour Tattoo 24 Hour Cream Gel Eyeshadow – £4.99
These are another heavily lauded product – and rightly so! My favourite shade is On and On Bronze, a beautiful golden bronze, which last unbelievably well on the lids even without a primer. These can also be used as a type of primer and layered underneath other powder shadows to give them more longevity and make the colour more vibrant. As a side note, Metallic Pomegranate is a fantastic dupe for Illamasqua’s Liquid Metal is Resolute.

The one negative thing I will say about these is the shade range – there is a bronze, taupe and black, but the rest are all fairly bright and I think a couple of more neutral shades (perhaps a lilac/grey or khaki) would make fantastic additions to the range.

Max Factor Mascaras – priced between £6.99 and £18.99
It is a bit of a cheat to include these here as some of their mascaras come in a little over the £10 mark (and one a lot over the £10 mark – the, in my opinion, overpriced Max Factor Lashfinity 3 Day Mascara – who need their mascara to last three days!?) , including my personal favourite, False Lash Effect, but they are so often on offer I thought I’d bend the rules a little.

Mascara is one of those items where I’ve never ventured high-end, as there are such quality options available on the high street, and this does a fantastic job of lengthening and volumising without lashes going spidery.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Liner – £3.99
I have a fair collection of the Urban Decay 24/7 khol eyeliners and I can honestly say these are right up there in terms of colour payoff, texture and longevity.

Again, as with the other eye items in this post, the shade range could be improved but as there are enough of the standards – black, brown, nude – to be going on with I really can’t complaining. The texture is lovely and soft and they last a good time on the eyes without ending up with a fetching panda eyed look.

L’oreal Infallible Eyeshadow – £6.99 Discontinued – boo!
What can I say – I love these! They are technically a loose pigment, but are very compacted compared to other loose pigments such as Illamasqua. Personally, I prefer these as I find it makes them easier to work with and less messy (traditional loose pigments tend to end up half way down my face, on the carpet and in my hair…not a good). As with the Colour Tattoo cream shadows I do think the range would benefit from a few more colours, but there are some really beautiful shades (including a good dupe for Chanel Ilusion D’Ombre in Illusoire). Shown here is also the elusive Amber Rush shade, only available in the US for some unfathomable reason.

ETA: since drafting this post, I have discovered these have been discontinued (in the UK anyway, not sure about the USA). Not impressed, L’Oreal, not impressed.

These are all products I love and would very happily repurchase – what are yours? If you have anything you’d recommend, let me know in the comments section below!

Ps – apologies for the lack of lovely image with this post; we’re between houses and staying with family, so most of my beauty stash is currently in a box in the garage!

Dinner with Jacqueline O’Donnell and Miele

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At the start of December, we took a trip through to Edinburgh (on a side note, isn’t Edinburgh looking fabulous?) for a rather interesting concept dinner – have you ever had to engage in some light aerobics as a precursor to your starter? No? Me neither!

The chef for the evening was Jacqueline O’Donnell of The Sisters Restaurant, and the aim of the game was to showcase Miele’s new steam oven – all held in the lovely surroundings of Mark Greenway’s restaurant in Edinburgh.

The audience was a mix of bloggers and foodie business types – it was lovely to meet them all, including Leila from Leil’Apetit and Iain and Kate from Citylicious.

Asmentioned, the evening kicked off with some aerobics and pilates style moves – this was a great icebreaker although I don’t think quite burned the suggested 500 calories suggested, which was to balance out the calories from the meal – in theory making it ‘calorie-neutral’.

Jak was an engaging and knowledgeable host – she spoke of using the convection combi steam model at home in detail, showcasing how it can be used in a residential setting and also talked us through the prep of each course.

I think it’s important to note that the whole menu was designed very much to demonstrate a concept – which to my mind it did very successfully – and would not necessarily be a meal one would replicate at home 100% faithfully – some courses may have benefited from a spot of butter or cream or a drizzle of olive oil.

For me, the high points were the first dish of steamed purple broccoli with cured salmon and almonds – I loved the flavour and texture combinations of this dish, and I think they really showcased the fantastic Scottish ingredients.

The venison served with wild berries was cooked to absolute perfection, just a little pink and unbelievably tender – the contrast of delicate meat and tart berries was wonderful.

I have to say, I think the menu Jak designed really showcased the ovens to their full potential and seeing them in action there were many facets of these ovens which I absolutely loved – their sleek modernism, the cleanlinesses, the health and flavour retention factors – sadly, owning one remains a touch of reach for me at the moment as they retail from £1190 for the basic built in model. One to keep in mind for when we move to the forever house, I think…

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Steamed purple broccoli with cured salmon and almonds – 90 calories.

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Steamed beetroot with broad beans rocket and puy lentils – 80 calories

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Prawn stuffed lemon sole with herb butter sauce – 135 calories 

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Wild Highland venison loin with Scotch brambles – 85 calories 

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Steamed rhubarb and pineapple with coconut ice cream – 95 calories

(N.B. Apologies for the photo quality here – major rookie blogging error, forgetting to charge the DSLR – we had to make do with camera phones with dying batteries. Will do better the next time!)

With thanks to Jacquline O’Donnell, Miele, Stonehouse Media and Mark Greenaway.

Soap and Glory – Orangeasm

DSC_0544Soap and Glory have just released their new collection, Orangeasm, just in time for the warmer more summery weather.

I love this range – it’s made up of three products, the body wash, body butter and scent spritz. The fresh, citrus scent of this is gorgeous and is made up of notes of fresh green mandarin, Sicilian lemon and sweet orange peel oils. Citrus scent can veer a bit toilet cleaner for me, but this smells a lot more expensive and chic than it is. I love that the three products can also be layered to improve the longevity of the scent. If you like the Body Shop’s Satsuma range, I think you’ll like this, although for me it is a more mature, sophisticated scent.

In terms of the packaging, it fits right in with the rest of the brand, with a cheeky play-on-words name and kitsch, slightly retro plastic tubs and bottles.

The body wash comes, as all the S&G washes, in a super 500ml size. Used with a puff, this stuff lasts seriously ages and works out a major bargain on a cost per use basis. I absolutely love the brand’s Clean Girls body wash, but their Sugar Crush one didn’t agree with my skin, so I was a bit nervous on using this. However, my skin seems to agree with it really well and was left feeling super moisturised and smelling delicious.

I also love that the shower gel has a pump that dispenses just the right amount, and you don’t end up with too much on the puff, or shower gel gooping round the tub.

And, as always, the body butter is lush – super hydrating, thick and creamy but it soaks in quickly and doesn’t like a sticky film on the skin. I’ll definitely be picking up the scent tonic to add my collection (and it’d only be sensible to pick up another couple of bits, to save money and make the most of the Boots offer…)

These are really lovely products for summer and if you fancy trying these, or stocking up on anything from Soap and Glory, I suggest you hit Boots pronto and make the most of their 3 for 2 offer!

Love List

When I passed my driving test a couple of months ago, I decided all those nerves and hard work deserved a treat (any justification…), and I bought this beautiful purple suede bag from ASOS.

This bucket-style of bag is very on-trend at the moment, with it’s slouchy casual shape. As soon as I saw this, I fell in absolutely love with the vibrant shade of fuschia purple. My wardrobe is becoming increasingly monochrome and I love to accessorize with bright accessories to add a bit of interest – and I’m always a sucker for anything suede.

Diptyque – Feu de Bois Candle

IMAG0084I am very partial to a scented candle or two, as they make a space feel so warm and cosy especially when the weather outside is wild and cold. I have tended to stick to mid-range prices, buying Lily Flame and Yankee candles but I recently went mad and treated myself to my first ever Diptyque candle, in the smoky, sensuous Feu de Bois scent.

I went for the smaller size, which was £20, as I just couldn’t bring myself to part with £40 for a candle (how do all the other beauty bloggers manage to have dozens of luxe candles dotted about?), especially as it was a new scent.

Although it was the smaller size, the scent throw was really good, and it filled my living room with a beautiful, smoky, log-fire scent – perfect for the stormy, rainy weather, making the room feel very cosy.

I had heard through the grapevine that Muji’s Log Fire candle is a really good dupe and for only £3.95, I ordered two to try it out – the smell is very similar, but they don’t have the same throw – only to be expected, but at the price, I’m happy to buy multiples at burn together to give a similar effect!

Bistro Moderne, Stockbridge Edinburgh

My boyfriend had a business meeting just outside Edinburgh the other weekend, and we thought we’d take the opportunity for a wee date day in the capital.

There are literally dozens of restaurants I’m dying to try in Edinburgh but, as fans of the original Mark Greenaway restaurant, we decided to try his new offering Bistro Moderne,which is in the Stockbridge area.

This was the first time we’d been to Mark’s new restaurant, and we nearly bypassed it entirely as the sign is rather discrete. Once inside, the décor is a gorgeous mix of the traditional – cornicing and wood paneling – and industrial – the pass on view to diners, and stainless steel lights. You can see the chefs at work in the kitchen, which is something I personally love. The service was, as you’d expect, slick, swift and professional.

I had originally seen their fantastic value £15 set menu, but when we arrived they didn’t offer this on a Sunday. Instead they had a roast beef/ chicken sharing board for two, for the princely sum of £25. Plumping for this was no great hardship, although I will admit that sharing boards make me slightly nervous – well, you just don’t know if you’ll get a decent feed, do you? – but the idea of a Sunday roast was just too appealing.

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We skipped starters and went straight for the main, and when the board was placed on the table I was more than happy with what I saw – a pile of pink, juicy roast beef, scrumptiously crisp potatoes and a mini-gravy boat with the tasty meat juices. This was accompanied by some strips of incredibly tasty beef fat (I’ll admit to dribbling slightly thinking back on this…) plus two small ramekins of roasted root veg and spring greens.

The beef was absolutely delicious, and the gravy flavoursome. I could quite easily have eaten the pile of potatoes all to myself, as they were crispy on the outside and very fluffy within.

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For dessert, we shared the Chocolate Tasting Plate from the a la carte menu – a mix of milk, dark and white chocolate elements. There was something similar to honeycomb – both pieces and a mousse – but this might’ve been caramelised white chocolate. Either way, it was delicious, but not too heavy after the roast.

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I’d say Bistro Moderne is a strong addition to the Edinburgh food scene and another successful offering from the expanding Greenaway empire, and I look forward to visiting again and trying the a la carte menu.  

Beef Rendang

unnamedOver the Christmas holidays I wanted to take the chance to do some cooking, but the two weeks seemed to fly past without anything special, other than some Christmas Pudding vodka my other half made, appearing out of the kitchen.

I did take the chance recently to make this slow cooked beef rendang by Merilees Parker, with a couple of tweaks (tweaks only because I forgot to buy lemongrass and fresh limes really) and some added veggies – I went with baby corn and mange tout.

This was a tasty dish, perfect for a cold windy evening but next time I think it would benefit from the zesty freshness of the lemongrass and lime zest to brighten up the flavours, but it’s definitely one I’ll make again.

Jacker de Viande

Well, after a longer than planned hiatus, my wee blog is back with a bang in the form of a review of the delightful and utterly delicious Jacker de Viande.

Walking though the door of Jacker De Viande means descending down the stairs to a basement unit on West Regent Street and into a dark cavern, which looks rather like the bloodstained interior of an abattoir. Appropriate certainly, but not especially conducive to a relaxed meal.

However, I’d choose good food over sophisticated decor any day, so on to the main event…

We went for the pulled pork in a bun with black pudding and apple puree, and the pulled pork burger. We should maybe have branched out from pork, but as soon as we got a sniff of the food we knew we’d made good choices.

Sides were chilli cheese fries and macaroni. The noises emanating from my dining partner, which could only be described as being a moment from When Harry Met Sally, started as soon as the silver platter bearing our food arrived and only ramped up when he took his first bite.

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Everything was very well cooked, from the soft, spicy chilli to the burger with just a hint of pinkness in the middle – every dish was absolutely packed with flavour. For the pulled pork roll, the combination of super-soft pork with a crispy onion ring and bacon was really well balanced texturally as well as being as tasty as it could be. The chilli cheese fries were also very moreish, with the chilli being moist without making the fries too soggy.

Prices hover around the £7/8 mark, which I’d say is pretty reasonable, with other similar options like Meat Bar higher up around £12 per main.  

Service was also very good, though I should mention we were the only people there as it had literally just opened at 5.30pm for the night time seating (keen? Us…?), which just added to our overall experience.

This place got a rave review by Ron McKenna in The Herald, and rightfully so – there has definitely been a profusion of burger bar type restaurants in Glasgow over the last year, but I don’t think Jacker de Viande will have to fight too hard to make it’s mark on the food scene. I for one can’t wait to get back and try out some more of the menu (along with a sneaky helping of those awesome chilli fries…).

Falko Konditormeister, Gullane

IMAG0723My boyfriend and I had a a weekend through on the East Coast recently, and we may have made a pilgrimage to bakery Falko Konditormeister on both the Saturday and Sunday mornings…whoops. Falko Konditormesiter is owned an run by German master pastry chef Falko Burkert (konditormesiter means the highest state qualification for a pastry chef in Germany). The Falko story began in 2005 with a mega-successful stall at Edinburgh’s Farmer’s Market, followed by a cafe in Bruntsfield, then finally the Gullane branch.

First of all – the surroundings. The café is in a lovely sandstone corner shop, and, with its dark wood paneling and log fire, is the perfect place to wile away a winter hour or two.

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A slice of the the Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (black forest gateau), and the Schokoladentrüffeltorte, with a hot chocolate!

We started off with the Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (black forest gateau), and the Schokoladentrüffeltorte  (chocolate trufflecream gâteau). I also ordered one of their specialty teas, opting for a pot of refreshing lemon, while Ian upped the treat ante with a hot chocolate.

Both cakes were delicious, and far lighter than looking at them would suggest. The only slight criticism I had was that I would’ve liked a more pronounced cherry flavour in the schwarzwälderkirschtorte, but that’s a personal taste thing. 

We also bought two further cakes to take away – the Opera Torte, and the Schoko-Orangen-Kuchen (chocolate orange tart). The Opera Cake has similar flavours to a tiramisu, but with a much firmer texture. The boyfriend fell in love with the chocolate orange tart, with its strong rich flavours and rich thick ganache. I have to say, although our earlier cakes were good, these really knocked our socks off – rich, though not cloying – the opera cake was beautiful to look at with perfectly balanced layers while the tart had a deep, bitter ganache and fantastic, light pastry.

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Orangen-Kuchen and the Opera Cake for afters!

In terms of cost, you are talking around £4 per item – not cheap in itself, but compared to the dried up husks you so often find in cafes, the quality is incomparable. I have seen some comments around about the quality of service (surly staff, orders having to be repeated…) but I didn’t experience that myself – our waiters were friendly, if not overly so, and everything arrived as swiftly as it was ordered. 

The next day we decided we couldn’t resist and had to have one last visit while still through in the east, and ordered the pancakes with honey roast banana and bacon. The bananas had a slight hint of curry flavours, which sounds unusual to a British palette, but I think fruit and curry are a fairly common pairing on the continent, and they do work together well.

For me, both branches of Falko, but particularly the Gullane branch, are really special places to visit – the quality of the cakes and tarts can’t be faulted, and curling up next to the log fire with a pot of tea and a treat feel so luxurious.

ETA: Since I initially started drafting this post, we’ve been back yet again, this time taking friends and their toddler. Due to being with friends, I didn’t take any photos, but I can heartily recommend the black pudding and goats’ cheese open sandwiches we had!

Bread Meats Bread Launch Party and Review

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I was recently tweeted by Bread Meats Bread, asking if I’d like to attend their launch party – well, seeing as the boyfriend and I are massive fans of that kind of American style nosh, it would’ve been rude to say no!

Now, we’re not particularly au fait with launch parties and the likes, so weren’t entirely sure what to expect – we rolled up on a chilly Tuesday night at their new premises on St Vincent Street and were greeted with a lovely glass of prosecco to kick off proceedings.

We grabbed a window seat, and took in the surroundings – I really like the décor (I’m a big fan of a stripped brick wall) and the wooden benches also had cute little display areas at the bottom, which was a nice quirk.

Shortly after we sat down, the lovely waitress started bringing us little baskets of food, sampling plenty of options form the menu and she kindly didn’t stop until we were so stuffed we practically rolled off our seats and on to the floor. 

First up was a duo of burgers – the black and blue, and a classic black. I’m not a great fan of blue cheese, but this was a fairly mild one and did compliment the charred flavour of the burger and pretzel style bun. Both burgers were well cooked with a good beefy flavour.

We also tried the New York hotdog – the kitchen make their own hotdogs in house, and this was nicely flavoured, with a texture closer to a regular sausage than a traditional hotdog, and accompanied with nice slow-cooked sweet onions and a mellow yellow (ha, I’m a poet, and I don’t know it!) mustard.

We were particularly delighted to be delivered a piping hot basket of sweet potato fries with sriracha mayo – we’d fallen in love with these when we were in the States, where everywhere seems to serve them, but they haven’t yet caught on in the UK. The waitress apologised profusely as they weren’t as crispy as the chefs wanted (this is a soft opening after all, the purpose of which is to knock out the kinks), but we scarfed them down in double quick time and found no faults.

Sadly, by the time we got round to the samples of the smoked beef brisket we really were needing rolled out the door, but the half I did manage to eat was absolutely fabulous – super smoky and very soft, in a fantastic brioche roll.

Based on the food and service we experience on this ‘soft launch’ night, Bread Meats Bread is somewhere I would happily pay for a full meal, and have suggested it as the venue for the next girls’ night out – good company, a few beers and fantastic food. Perfect!

Many thanks to the Bread Meats Bread team for their kind invite. 

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Amazing sweet potato fries

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The New York Gourmet Dog and a Classic Burger

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Fries with spicy sriracha mayo

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A classic cheeseburger and the bbq brisket on brioche – a highlight!