28 February, 2010

Project #1 'Around the World in Eighty Dishes'

I'm leaving Sunday Self Secrets for tonight to instead introduce my first ever blog project! I've been thinking about this all week and I think tonight is time to put it to my public.

Exciting huh?

For the next year I'm going to be trying new dishes from all over the world and posting them here, along with the ingredients, the instructions on how to make them and some information about the dish. I love trying new dishes and since my boyfriend will eat pretty much anything I think this could be fun. Also finding new dishes from around the world on our modest budget is going to be a difficult challenge but I know it'll be enjoyable (and if gives me a great excuse to go to our local market!).

And here is where I need the help. I'd love for all my followers to give me suggestions for countries to cook dishes from! I'll do the research and find the dishes, all you have to do is suggest the country.

I'm really excited about this, so please send your suggestions my way.

Product Review #1 'Paul & Joe Primer'

I have been using Paul & Joe Primer for a few weeks now as I wanted to give it a fair trial run before reviewing it. I wanted to wear it on a night out, for a long shift at work and every day, now that I've worn it for all three I feel I can give it a fair review.

For a long time I never bothered to wear primer for the main fact that it's only over the last year I've started to wear foundation, prior to that I only wore concealer and powder. Last year I bought two bottle of the That Gal Primer by Benefit and I loved it, it smelt good and it gave my skin a nice dewy look but at £20.50 a pop I was struggling to buy it on a regular basis, especially since it hardly lasted a month! While browsing the Paul & Joe make up on ASOS I came across this Primer, it has SPF 40 and was only £15.75 which is quite reasonable for a primer (even high street brands such as GOSH charge at least £12 for their primer). I'd never read any reviews on this particular product but I'd heard great stuff about Paul & Joe as a brand so I thought I'd give it a try. I used ASOS's super saver delivery for £1.95 which was excellent value for money and it arrived within a week.

The primer itself is foundation coloured, which did worry me at first as it was a darker colour than my skin but once I'd applied it (with my fingers) it didn't change my skin any which I was pleased about. Unlike the Benefit primer, the Paul & Joe stuff goes a long way. I only use a tiny bit to cover my whole face and it doesn't feel heavy of grease but just gives my face a nice matte base for me to apply my foundation over. It also had a really nice smell to it, which I really liked, very floral.

I tested out the primer, as I said in three different circumstances. Firstly I wore it all day under full make up when I was at my parents. It lasted well, kept my face moisturised and of course with the SPF 40 it was excellent for my skin anyway. My make up stayed put all day. Again, when I wore it for a 10 hour shift at work, it held my make up well, I only had to touch up my concealer over a few spots and re-do my eyeliner but that has nothing to do with my primer. the final test for the primer was how well it lasted on a night out on the town. And it did really well, unfortunately I woke up the next morning with all my make up still on and what wasn't on my face was on my pillow, which again I don't think it was anything to do with the primer!

All in all, I completely recommend this product to anyone looking for a primer. The only disappointing thing is once again it comes in a small tube and I doubt it'll last long if I wear it every day (so I'll admit that i've been rationing it). But apart from that, it's one of the best make up products I've ever used and I can't wait to get my hands on some more of their beauty range.

Product: Paul & Joe SPF 40 Primer
Price: £15.75
From: ASOS
Buy it again? Yes

27 February, 2010

Film Review #4 'Year One'

"Jack Black and Michael Cera headline Harold Ramis' Biblical comedy about a pair of misfit hunter-gatherers who embark on a wild journey through the ancient world after being banished from their primitive village. Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) may lack in the skills that their chieftain is looking for, but they have plans to make it big. Zed has a gut feeling that God has "chosen" him, and so he leads his buddy on a trip through the unknown countryside in search of bigger and better things, bumping into several weird characters along the way -- like a feuding pair of brothers named Cain and Abel (David Cross and Paul Rudd). Unfortunately, their quest for greatness hits a few snags, like being sold into slavery, and later becoming the object of interest to a very amorous, very hairy high priest (Oliver Platt) in the opulent city of Sodom." - Plot taken from fandango

Another not so recent film, but as it's the first time I've seen it, it still warrents a review. Yes, I'm a Jack Black fan, yes I'm a Michael Cera fan but a Year One fan? Not so much. In theory I should of loved this film, I love Harold Ramis' as a writer and I must be the only person actually looking forward to Ghostbusters 3. The cast contained loads of my favourite actors and anything that puts a new spin on religion is usually a winner for me. However while watching Year One I just kept feeling like something was missing. It was funny, really funny in places but the characters and story was just so lacklust and disappointing. At some points I found myself confused as they crossed some religious characters that I'm sure never met which shouldn't really of mattered but I ended up a bit lost. Plus there was definitely not enough of Paul Rudd.

What was good about the film, Jack Black and Michael Cera's character's relationship. They worked well as a comedy duo. Abraham played by Hank Azaria was really funny, but I'm not sure the humour would appeal to all, I have a very odd sense of humour so I found his lines pretty hilerious. Sadly that's all I can say was actually good in my opinion. It's definitely only a film I'd ever watch once.

Best Moment: Michael Cera half naked and painted gold, yum.
Best Line: "
I'm a virgin by choice" - Oh "Ha, not your choice" - Zed
Would Recommend For: Anyone who enjoys the sort of humour found in Austin Powers.
Rating: 4/10

Film Review #3 'Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist'

"Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is a comedy about two people thrust together for one hilarious, sleepless night of adventure in a world of mix tapes, late-night living, and, live, loud music. Nick (Michael Cera) frequents New York's indie rock scene nursing a broken heart and a vague ability to play the bass. Norah (Kat Dennings) is questioning pretty much all of her assumptions about the world. Though they have nothing in common except for their taste in music, their chance encounter leads to an all-night quest to find a legendary band's secret show and ends up becoming the first date in a romance that could change both their lives." - Plot taken from Rotten Tomatoes

Tonight is the boy and my last night together for a week as he is going snowboarding with his brothers and I'm going to visit some friends and family. Although for the first time in three years I'm actually looking forward to the week ahead we still both wanted to do something nice especially since we had something to celebrate (more on that next week). Firstly we'd planned a meal out, but we couldn't afford that, then we'd planned to have another of those meal deals, this time from Tescos but he didn't want to waste the petrol money driving there so instead we settled on one of those take away pizzas, with 44p garlic bread and £2 chicken wings, teamed with ameretto and cheap coke. Perfect and to top the night off, a Michael Cera film.

When I first heard of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, I imagined it being like High Fidelity which is one of my favourite films but of course we don't need another version of that which is probably why I haven't bothered to watch this film until now even though it's been out for two years. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised, and the boy especially loved it!

Once again, Michael Cera plays the awkward dubious teen on the quest for the perfect girl. The perfect girl however has recently ended their relationship after spending six months cheating on him. She's blonde, skinny and sassy, and personally I felt their relationship was a bit unbelievable. He's been making her mix cds and leaving them on her door step and she's been taking them to school and laughing about them with her friends. Kat Dennings plays the unconventional friend of Cera's love who has been claiming his mixtapes and falling for him through his music. This of course turns into the usual boy meets girl that begins with mistaken identities, but although it was predictible I still couldn't help but enjoy it.

The supporting cast was excellent and enjoyable. Nick's ex Tris played by Alexis Dzenia, was annoying but I am sure that's how the audience was supposed to percieve her and Norah's other friend Caroline played by Ari Graynor, was a disgustingly hilerious and very believable drunk. Nick's friends were three gays, and having had my own gay friends these guys just tickled me! Some of my favourite moments were the conversations they would have about what to call the band. Norah has to be one of my favourite movie heroines, I completely empathised with her and Kat Dennings plays an excellent lost teenage girl. I look forward to seeing her in things to come.

I have never read the book so I cannot compare the two but Nick and Norah is a film I'm going to have to go out and buy as I feel I could probably watch it over again and still enjoy it. The story was sweet, funny and at times completely gross but like most Cera films, it was a well rounded teen indie comedy. Also it is set in NYC, that's a winner every time for me!

Best Moment: When Tris is dancing in front of Nick's car and he drives off, cleaning her lipstick kiss off his window.
Best Line: "
Well, you're two penises short of a Shania Twain reimagination band!"
Would Recommend For: Indie comedy lovers, Rom-com lovers, Michael Cera fans
Rating: 8/10

24 February, 2010

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it." - Buddy Hackett

I'm drifting in and out of consciousness in the blog world due to work, I'm not working as much as the previous week but still working. I have another holiday next week but I'm away and shall not be blogging anymore than I am at the moment. It'll be nice to get away though. I still have a lot of ideas for blog entries but by the time I get in from work I'm exhausted and during the day I'm busy. There is just no happy medium at the moment.

This evening I thought I'd bring you a recipe. Something quick and simple th
at I know I'll eat tons of since the boy is away all next week and the days I am in the house I'll not bother since I hate cooking for one. It's one of my favourites that started out as a Deliah's from her How to Cheat book but I've adapted it to my own liking, just as I do with all recipes from books. For anyone who has the book (and I do highly recommend getting it especially if you want to make delicious dishes on a budget) it's the Spinach Tortelloni with Leeks & Gorgonzola on page 192. Personally I'm not a huge fan of Spinach and we never have Gorgonzola so I wanted to prove that this delicious recipe can be adapted to everyones own tastes.

Presenting Mozzerella & Basil Tortelloni with Prosciutto Ham & M

Served with stupidly cheap but actually quite tasty garlic bread. This was a quick dish I made after I finished work and didn't have time to make my own, I think it's about 50p a stick from Sainsburys. To get to the above picture, you have to begin like this.

(I am aware the packet says tomato, but I took this picture after I'd already thrown away the tortelloni packet!)

The ingredients I used, but as I said before you could use any number of ingredients, were the tortelloni, in whatever flavour you like. The boy and I usually stock up on these when they have them for a £1 in our supermarkets (which is quite often). Button mushrooms, prosciutto, parmasan and some cream. Weight watchers do a great cream that's between a double and a single, I find it perfect for bakes. I also used some breadcrumbs on the top and seasoning of course.

First put the tortelloni into a pan and cover with boiling water. Season well and leave to cook until the pasta is soft (usually takes less than 5 minutes but it depends what heat you put it on,
my pasta is usually on rapid.)

Next thinly slice the mushrooms, I have slight ocd when it comes to chopping veg and my mushrooms always have to be thinly sliced so they retain their mushroom shape rather than being diced into cubes. No idea why, just thought I'd give you a fun fact. Then tear up the prosciutto so it's in thin strips. I usually find tearing much easier than trying to cut prosciutto or parma ham.
Drain the water off then pasta then pour into a baking dish.

Top with the prosciutto and mushrooms, then season with salt, pepper and garlic.

Mix in the cream and arrange so it covers the whole bottom of the oven dish. Top with bread crumbs and parmasan then put in the oven. At the same time put in the garlic bread. I usually wrap it in tin foil so it cooks at the same speed as the pasta bake. Nothing worse than burnt garlic bread. Cook in the oven until it is golden brown, then serve.

Enjoy x

22 February, 2010

"What is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations?" - Alice

Even though we're now madly saving for a holiday I couldn't resist this beauty while I was in Debenhams today, Urban Decay's Book of Shadows. It did cost £28, but I have since sold most of my old MAC eyeshadows (I kept four to go in a small quad) and made that back, so technically it was a trade, my old pallet for a new. The colours in it are beautiful! Usually I don't buy anything on impulse and end up missing out but since the bracelet I want from Disney Couture is out of stock I thought I'd get this instead. Anyway, this wasn't the reason for today's entry.

I'm selling a lot on ebay, most end in less than 24 hours and most have no bids sadly!
Seventy Seven Sales

I'm now on 22 follows through google, once I reach the magic number of 25 I will be doing my first give away, and trust me, it's good!

Book Review #2 'Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella'

"Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don't get visited by ghosts. Or do they? When the spirit of Lara's great-aunt Sadie mysteriously appears, she has one request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie's possession for more than seventy-five years, because Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems like they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie's necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different "twenties" girls learn some surprising truths from and about each other." - synopsis by Lexi's Little Whims

After the challenge of reading Lost I decided to go for an easy read in the form of chick lit, specifically chick lit from one of my favourite authors, Sophie Kinsella. I only recently discovered Sophie Kinsella but having completed Twenties Girl I have read all books under her own name (she previously wrote under the alias Madeline Wickham). I adore Sophie Kinsella's style of writing for chick lit, as soon as I start her books I'm hooked and have to keep reading, I remember reading the whole of Shopaholic and Sister in less than a day. Her prose is easy and interesting and I find myself quickly submersed into the world of her characters. Twenties Girl was no different, infact it was one of her bests in my opinion.

The protagonist, Lara Lington, is entertaining and believable in my opinion. The way she handles the crisis' in her life definitely reflect the way I and many of my friends have behaved in the past and that is one of the reasons I love Kinsella's novels. Her leading ladies always have character traits that can be picked out of women you know in real life, maybe even yourself. In the beginning Lara's life is in pieces, her business is failing, she was just dumped but slowly throughout the novel she puts it back together with the help of her dead aunt's ghost and her friends. Of course we can't all have a friendly ghost to help us out but none the less the novel brings hope to women who like Lara are clinging onto a fantasy, trust me, I've been there myself.

Not only was the protagonist an interesting point of view to read from, but the supporting characters in her life were fun. Her great aunt Sadie's twentythree year old spirit was the epitome of a twenties girl, I adored her and how her story played out. I have a huge soft spot for the twenties as a decade and if I could live in any point in the twentieth century, the twenties would of been it and I would of been a party girl much like Sadie. The beau in Lara's life, Ed, reminded me much of Mr Big in Sex and the City, he appeared all business but of course he turned out to be an interesting many levels man. Lara's family were entertaining, although her situation wasn't something I could identify with, her uncle and cousin and even her parents to an extent were the types of characters I could imagine which I always feel is an important aspect of a good book!

The plot itself was fun and tied up nicely at the end, I even shed a few tears. Unlike with some of Kinsella's other novels I didn't feel that I was missing out on something, Twenties Girl sits nicely in a single novel which I was glad of (her other novels have me desperate for sequels!) I laughed out loud at some points too as some of the arguements that Lara would have out loud, in public with Sadie were so vivid I could even imagine them! The description in the book was definitely Kinsella at her best.

Would Recommend For: Chick Lit/Rom Com lovers, Sophie Kinsella fans.
If You Like This Try: Shopaholic Series, Remember Me? The Undomestic Goddess, Can You Keep a Secret? (all by Sophie Kinsella), A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff, Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro
Rating: 9/10

21 February, 2010

Sunday Self Secrets Week Three 'The Make Up Bag'

In my teens I wasn't the make up junkie I am now, infact my make up obsession didn't really start until I was nineteen perhaps? Nowadays I enjoy buying make up more than I do clothes and that is really saying something. I have really sensitive messy skin, the dark circles under eyes, the occasional dry patch, the spot patches, I even have horrible small milk spots that I've had since I was a child. If I'm truthful, my skin is one of the things I'd HAVE to change if I ever came into vast amounts of money. Anyway, what I was meaning to say is my excuse for buying such expensive make up is the fact my skin reacts badly to anything cheap so I need to buy nice good stuff as to not make my face any worse than it is. I'm a sucker for high end brands anyway and I can't remember the last time I owned anything high street (although I do recommend L'Oreals True Match range, before I could afford anything expensive I swore by this and to all the girls with sensitive skin, this does wonders!)

I have two sets of make up, I have my every day make up that I keep in my handbag and then I have my not so regular use make up which stays on my dressing table. This generally includes anything shimmery that I use one a night out, my make up brushes, my MAC pallet and lipglosses. I don't tend to wear lipgloss on a regular basis as I'm not a huge fan of shiny lips and I prefer to keep it matte during the day. Today's Sunday Self Secrets is going to be looking at what's in my make up bag that I use every day, and it's not pretty.. the amount I use to pass for normal looking to leave the house is quite upsetting!

As I said, it is quite a lot more than I'd like. I wish more than anything I was a natural beauty, but I'm just not. Without eyeliner my eyes sink into my face, without my illuminating concealer under my eyes I look like I haven't slept in weeks, without some colour on my lips you can see how chapped they are. I don't believe in fake tan, or caked on foundation but I do have to wear something, and here it is.

My little mirror is from a stall in Camden and cost £2.50 (well two for £5, my best friend has the other one). The comb with the broken tail end is from Boots, I snapped the tail end off so it would fit in a tiny clutch bag on a night out. My blusher brush is a cheap one but it's so soft it and hasn't fallen apart in over a year, it's as good as an
expensive one! And my perfume is D&G L'Imperatrice which smells deliciously fruity, everyone always compliments it at work. For an every day face I use Paul & Joe's Primer (£15.75), it has spf 40 which I must wear due to my very pale skin. This is a recent buy that I am doing a review on but it is amazing and smells really good. MAC Select Foundation (£19) & Moisturecover concealer (£12.50) in NW15, as I mentioned before I don't like my make up to be caked on and I found studio fix and studio sculpt to be far to heavy for me, select in the concealer and foundation is a perfect combination and covers my skin flawlessly. For under my eyes I swear by YSL Touche Ecalt (£19.75) in shade one, this is my third one and I use it religiously. It also blends perfectly with my foundation. As a finishing touch I use MAC's loose powder (£17). It's a bit messy but again I use it because it's not heavy on my skin and just gives me that matte look I love so much. I used to apply it with a brush but I have just ordered an empty compact from Lily Lolo (£9) to try and reduce the mess this makes when i'm in the hurry (or applying in the car when I've slept in for work).

On my eyes depending on how I'm feeling I may choose to use pencil
or liquid eyeliner. Both of mine are from Benefit's Bad Gal range. The liquid eyeliner was only available once in a Christmas gift pack along with mascara and the chunky eyeliner, neither of which I particular liked however I did love the liquid eyeliner which has lasted me over a year. I'll be very sorry when it runs out. I recently purchased the new waterproof Bad Gal eyeliner (£14) from Fenwicks and so far I'm impressed. It stays on my eyes all day however it does smudge easily, I don't mind that too much because it gives the smokey look. The only draw back is it needs sharpened often because it is gel rather than khol. Look out for the full review of this product coming soon. I am a newbie to mascara as I don't really need it having brown eyelashes, however of the few I've used Dior Show Blackout Mascara (£21.50) is the best. It's thick and excellent at defining eyelashes.

To add a bit of colour my every day pallet is pink. As I've mentioned before I don't like using lipgloss during the day because a) it's too shiny and b) I don't like the sticky factor. So instead I use my all t
ime favourite MAC lipstick Chatterbox (£12.50) it's an amplified cream and goes on so smoothly especially if I put a lipbalm underneath. In the winter my lips are often chapped and I find amplified cream by MAC the best lipstick to use. Over the top of the lipstick I use Vaseline's rosy lips (£1.49) the colours of these blend perfectly and it just keeps the lipstick in place. On my cheeks I love my Hipness blush from the Fafi Collection by MAC (£16.50), it's a gorgeous coral pink. I'm quite upset it's nearly finished as I don't think I'll be able to replace it and when that happens I think I'll give Nars Orgasm a go.

Of everything make up related, my make up bag is my favourite. It's by Loop NYC for Disney Couture and I bought it from Urban Outfitters. The best part of it all it was £20 down to £5! It has Tinkerbelle on it, you can just see her in the picture. It is a great size but when zipped up it pulls everything in making it a good size to keep in the handbag. It's a bit grubby now and could do with a was but I'm afraid it'll ruin it!

What are everyone else's every day essentials in their make up bag? I'm always interested to know if everyone needs as much as me to keep them pretty, according to Calvin Klein who claims "the best thing is to look natural, but it takes make up to look natural" everyone does!

Next week 'My favourite things'

18 February, 2010

"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir, because I'm not myself you see." - Alice

Alice in Wonderland Collection, Spring 2010
L-R Key Bracelet @ £25, Curiouser & Curiouser Hoops @ £25, Watch Necklace @ £45
Drink Me Necklace @ £25, Mad Hatter Necklace @ £30, Bottle Necklace @ £30

As I've previously mentioned I'm a huge fan of Disney Couture jewellery and was extremely excited to hear about the Alice in Wonderland that was to be released to coincide with the new movie release. It has been designed by renowned designer Tom Binns, famous for his eclectic and expensive jewellery that is considered more art than fashion. The collection contains 35 pieces that range from about £12 (depending on the retailer) up.

Above are some of my favourite pieces from the collection, my three favourites are those at the very top. The key bracelet (also available in gold), the hoops and the watch necklace (also available in silver). The bracelet was the very first piece I saw from the collection and although I'm not a fan of chunky things around my wrist (I never wear a watch) the key bracelet is an amazing piece of design that I would see myself always wearing. "Curiouser and Curiouser" is one of my favourites quotes from Alice in Wonderland (it's been featured in almost all remakes and is even in the book) and the stunning hoops with the quote is just the epitome of all things Alice. Even though I rarely ever wear earrings I would love these so much, they're so statement! The beautiful pocket watch necklace speaks for itself really, it's my favourite piece in the whole collection but at £45 and my current financial state I cannot ever see myself owning it. I already own a silver pocket watch I purchased on a recent trip to London but it has nothing on this beauty. I'd love it in gold.

Of all the pieces I would like to own, the "Drink Me" necklace is probably my least favourite. My only reason would be that it looks to much like a Tatty Devine necklace, or one that could be purchased from anywhere that makes perspex necklaces. The other two I find incredibly cute, I adore the charms but I have many similar charm necklaces that I'd be afraid that they'd just fall to the sidelines. I prefer something more statement, especially when I'm spending a lot of money on them... however the detail is just gorgeous that I'd probably wear them more than I think.

As much as I do adore this collection, I find it quite different to the Disney Couture stuff (although I have to admit I'm very glad not to see MORE Tinkerbell) it's darker and not as Disney, more Tim Burton. I think I prefer the older Disney Couture jewellery that has the princess touch. I personally hope this isn't the direction Disney Couture is intending to always take!

17 February, 2010

Book Review #1 'Lost by Gregory Maguire'

"Winifred Rudge, a bemused writer struggling to get beyond the runaway success of her mass-market astrology book, travels to London to jump-start her new novel about a woman who is being haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper. Upon her arrival, she finds that her stepcousin and old friend John Comestor has disappeared, and a ghostly presence seems to have taken over his apartment in the nineteenth-century rowhouse once owned by Winnie's great-great-grandfather. Is it the spirit of this ancestor, who, family legend claims, was Charles Dickens's childhood inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge? Could it be the ghostly remains of Jack the Ripper? Or a phantasm derived from a more arcane and insidious origin?

Winnie begins to investigate, but John's erstwhile girlfriend, Allegra, is aggressively unhelpful, and his downstairs neighbor, the cat-obsessed Mrs. Maddingly, is growing stranger by the day. Gripped by inspiration and desperation alike, Winnie finds herself the unwilling audience for a drama of specters and shades, some from her family's peculiar history and some from her own unvanquished past."
synopsis by Powell's Books

I'm going to start off saying that I have read four of Gregory Maguire's novels and I am a fan. I enjoy his prose style but I do need to be in the right frame of mind to read one as they take a long time to get through with his mixture of literary techniques and great levels of description. I am by nature a fast reader but when it comes to Maguire's novels I can only read so much at once before my head explodes. Some people call that a mark of a good writer but I've heard some people call it tedious. None the less, Lost like all Maguire's novels in my opinion was still in it's own way, good. However of the other four Maguire books I have read, Lost was my least favourite.

The protagonist, Winnie Rudge did not appeal to me at all, in fact she grated on me. It was incredibly lucky that the supporting characters were far more diverse and interesting along with the twists and turns of the good and sometimes confusing (in a way that makes you want to make it to the end) way of the plot. Back to Winnie however, I found her dull at times and very hard to empathize with her (when I empathize or sympathize for the character I enjoy a book much more). The book was also slow in places. The plot itself was a good one, I love mysteries and ghost stories and one of my favourite things about Gregory Maguire is that he takes a well known story and turns it on it's head. With Lost, unlike in his other novels, the story of Scrooge's likeness to Winnie's descendant peters out and is replaced with something far more interesting. I love Maguire's ability to make ghosts and possession work in the 21st Century to a point where while you're reading it you could actually believe it could happen but at the same time his characters are so well developed you could see it just being a figment of Winnie's imagination due to what has happened in her own life.

Although, Lost is a good novel and I would recommend it to people who were looking for an intricate mystery plot that does involve doses of ghosts and possession, I will not read it again. It took me a while to make it to the end and although the ending was good enough for the novel, I did feel robbed as I didn't really find out what happened to Winnie really, or the rest of the characters. I have to admit to being a fan of a books that do tie up endings, perhaps he is leaving it open for a sequel? Personally I can't see it.

Would Recommend For: Ghost story lovers, those who like challenging reads.
If You Like This Try: Other Maguire novels Wicked Trilogy, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Rating: 5/10

16 February, 2010

"The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase, if you pursue happiness you'll never find it" - CP Snow

I was tagged by the lovely Claire over at French for Cupcake for "10 Things That Make You Happy". I'm having one of those weeks where everything is going wrong and I'm working so many hours while full of cold, it just can't be a good outcome however I think focusing on what does make me happy is a good way to get through the next few days.

1. Cookery

I love to cook as I've said before, I also love to bake however my cookery recipes are much more successful than my baking. It's a good job I love to cook as my boyfriend takes a lot of filling up. No one ever taught me to cook, in fact my mother is quite a useless cook and while growing up we lived on freezer food. When I moved out I started to experiment and eventually it became a hobby of mine. I look forward to my days off when I have time to make something special but thanks to Nigella Express and Delia Cheats I am able to make quick and delicious foods on the nights I do get in from work late. I even love to food shop and love experimenting with different foods. I've recently found a love for pork chops and tuna steaks. Unlike most people I actually relax while cooking and feel accomplished when I create something delicious.

2. Trixie & Smokey.

After over a year of nagging on the 1st April 2009, the boy finally gave in and bought me two gorgeous little gerbils from Pets at Home. We spent a week searching for one that had them in stock as they're like gold dust. In Sunderland we finally found some and spent £80 on getting a home for them and everything else they needed. Smokey is so named for her grey and white colouring and Trixie is named for the fast she's fast and jumpy. They're both incredibly cute and they eat lots including shreddies and peanut. When I'm really sad these girls never fail to put a smile on my face.

3. Lush Baths.
At the end of a stressful day I love nothing more than getting home and running a hot bath filled with my favourite lush products. I've been a lush fan for many years and can still remember the first lush product I ever bought, it was a fairy jasmine bathbomb. Nowadays I tend to buy a set few items to mix together to make the perfect bath. I love Ma Bars mixed with a Butterball bath bomb or a creamy Candy/Candy Cane teamed up with Sakura or Think Pink. Other products I like are Honey Bee Bathbomb and Marshmallow & Dreamtime bathmelts which are excellent for an extra bit of pampering. After a lush bath I always feel so much more content and relaxed.

4. Travelling.
The other half is convinced that I'm a travel whore as I always feel the need to have a holiday or some sort of adventure booked. This probably true. I can't help but feel that I always need to know I'm going to be going somewhere, no matter how close or how far it is. Last year for my twenty first we went to New York, it was amazing and one of the best experiences of my life. This is one of my favourite pictures taken in Times Square. There are so many places I still want to visit I just wish I had more money and didn't have to use my very little pay on such frivilous things as rent and bills.

5. Spending Time With My Family.

While growing up I never got on with my family, especially my dad and my sister. All three of us are quite a like and therefore clashed making my mother torn between us all. Nowadays since I no longer live at home I appreciate them so much more and even miss being at home and feel I miss out on the day to day things I hated while I lived there. My sister, mum and I are so close and we talk to each other so more than we lived under the same roof. I also now have so much more time for my dad, he gets on well with my boyfriend and my sisters and because he finally has men around to talk to he's so much less of a stresshead. I love my parents so much that this year the boy and I are flying out to spend the second half of their holiday with them. I can't wait to see my mums face.

6. Books & Reading.Ever since I was a little girl I've loved a book. I'm an incredibly fast reader when I want to be and have been known to finish an over 600 page book in less than a day (yes I am talking about Harry Potter). I have a few favourites that I enjoy reading over and over again but I tend to only read books once and only keep books I really really enjoyed. I love to buy books cheap from charity shops, it's one of my secret pleasures. When I lived in Lincoln there was an Oxfam dedicated to books, I loved it. This photo depicts the books I have yet to read on my bookcase. My favourite genres are mystery, chick lit and fantasy.

7. Disney.
Whenever I'm feeling down and on my own in the flat I start watching disney films. When I was ill in bed a few weeks back I watched lots back to back, it really helped and really cheered me up. Disney films and Disney in general takes me back to my childhood. I was brought up in a cotton wool Disney filled world, both my parents were huge Disney fans and every Christmas we'd receive half the Disney shop so watching the films reminds me of the happy childhood I had. I now collect Disney Couture Jewellery and I'm desperate to find a cheshire cat teddy bear, the old pink and purple striped one. Anyone know where I can get one?

8. Visiting Friends.

One of the travelling adventures I'm often planning is visiting friends. I'm pretty unlucky in the fact that none of all but one of my close friends live miles from Newcastle, it's a cause of great inner torment as I miss them all so much. I look forward to the great times we have when we're together. I am fortunate however that three of them live in one area so I can visit them all at once. Tonight I booked tickets down to visit my best friend and the two closest girls I have from uni at the beginning of March and there have been great plans made already. I feel so lucky to have such great friends in my life, even if I don't get to see them enough.

9. Shopping.
Since attending college in Newcastle I've developed a huge passion for shopping. It's sad to admit that I didn't do anything special with my student loan but spend it on clothes and make up (and alcohol of course), part of me wishes that I went travelling with it but that still hasn't curbed my shopping addiction. My favourite high street shops are Topshop, Accessorize and Urban Outfitters but I do love a Charity Shop or Vintage Store. I also have a weakness for ebay. Whenever pay day rolls around I have to admit I do have a list of things I want to buy. Well every girl has a right to shop!

10. Patrick.

Of all the things and happenings, Patrick is the one thing guarenteed to put a smile on my face. Yes we have our ups and downs and we're far from perfect as one minute we can be at each others throats and the next minute we'll be discussing marriage and kids but that's what keeps the spice going and it proves that it's all worth fighting for. Our relationship can be described with one quote from the movie The Wedding Date, "I'd rather fight with you than make love with anybody else." Because it's true, although we do have our spats, he's the guy I want to be going to bed with every night.

Now, I'm supposed to tag 10 people, but I've tagged 8 instead, Jess at jessticlesxoxo, Rani at Cupcake Couture, Emma at Plum Dressing, Sam at samanthajanex, Laura at A Daisy Chain Dream, Sarah at My Little Life, Roxy at Roxxy Belle & Suze at Wish & Spoon

Happy Pancake Day everyone.

Sunday Self Secrets Week Two 'Valentines Day'

I apologise now for the fact my Sunday Self Secrets is late this week, but I was a little preoccupied last night with what is being this weeks Sunday Self Secrets, Valentines Day.

In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach" which is how I feel about my loving boyfriend who spoiled me so much last night. I had to work during the day from 10:30 until 5:30, and it was very crazy with it also being Chinese New Year (I work just behing Newcastle's China Town) and Valentines Day, so I came home very grumpy and exhausted. He had me locked away in our bedroom while he did some preparation. When he came to collect me he was wearing a shirt and lead me through our flat, it was pitch black but he lit a little path way with tea lights. It was so romantic! He had a mix tape playing that I had made for his stocking the first Christmas we had together (he never plays romantic music, it was great). All along the sideboard he had my yankee candles in wrapped in tin foil so they didn't melt onto the wood work. On the table he had my card, a single rose and my present. He'd made a goats cheese salad for starters as the Sainsburys meal we had didn't include one. I'm a huge fan of goats cheese and balsamic vinegar salad, he'd even made his own home made croutons. I had also bought a garlic bread pizza to go with the salad, it was from Tescos and was just like the kind you get at Zizzis. It was delicious. We were also drinking the pinot greigo that we got with the meal, it's one of my favs. For mains we had a paella that was really delicious but in my opinion it was more cream base like a risotto. Still nice though even with the peas. The chicken and king prawns were my favourites. For dessert we had stawberry cheese cake which was so delicious def my favourite part of the meal. I ended up being too busy eating to take a picture. We drank the whole bottle of wine with the meal so we moved onto the frescati while we opened our cards and my present. I loved the card I got
my boyfriend, it was about a fairytale couple which is perfect for us. I also got him a gingerbread cookie. He however, along with a si
ngle red rose got me an Elsie Belle necklace, the one I'd been lusting after for so long, the Cinderella carriage. I gave him links to three necklaces and he chose this one. He really does know me. I got him How I Met Your Mother Season 2 on DVD, I preordered it for him and we've been busy watching it since Saturday night.

Without a doubt it was the best Valentines day ever. I always have to work because of the trade I'm in so usually I have to something before or after it (this is the third one I've had someone with well with Paddy, the year before it I'd just been dumped so I was happy to work it). It was lovely to do something on the day and I'm so glad I managed to get the evening off eve
n if we were too broke to go out. My boyfriend and I had a great night and I did enjoy being spoilt for once and have some food made for me. I hope everyone else had a great night and you all enjoyed this weeks Sunday Self Secret.

14 February, 2010

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” - George Bernard Shaw

I made it out of work early to bring you this Valentines day post! Love is definitely cupcakes. Mine are never as beautiful as ones bought but I am practicing. However today I'm sharing bought cupcakes with you.

In Newcastle we are lucky enough to have a Fenwicks department store, it is one of my favourite places to shop as it has a boutique and a Topshop, a Mac counter and it sells Disney Couture jewellery. The best part of it though has to be the food court! It has the most amazing fresh food ever and the boy and I have agreed if we ever came into money we'd do all our food shopping there! In the time being we only buy bits and pieces if we have the money spare (which isn't often) so instead we just browse. Last Monday I paid my weekly visit only to find a new cupcake counter next to the fancy chocolates. I was so excited I just had to buy some with my weeks tips.

I chose a box of four, these cost £1.75 each, however they have cheaper ones for £1.25 each. The £1.25 cupcakes are all vanilla with different colour butter icing. I just couldn't resist the different flavoured cupcakes as they were all to die for. The cupcakes themselves are presented in a beautiful box with cupcake decoration which is really cute. After a few minutes of choosing, I decided on peanut butter, rocky road, strawberry shortcake and marshmallow.

Rocky Road, deliciously soft chocolate and vanilla marbled sponge topped with chocolate, marshmellows and white chocolate buttons. This was the boys favourite. It was soft, and very chocolately in the way that sticks to the top of your mouth because of how moist it is. The only difficulty was eating it with the marshmellows and buttons stuck on top. I had to pick them off because I didn't want to put the whole thing in my mouth at once.

Marshmallow, again marbled sponge this time with vanilla and strawberry topped with marshmallows covered in pink icing, very girly. This one was one of my favourites. It was so creamy and I'm a huge fan of strawberry and vanilla. Because the marshmallows were covered in icing they were easier to eat than when they were stuck in the chocolate like on the rock road cupcake.

Peanut Butter Cup, chocolate sponge topped with peanut butter icing (nuts and all!) and a peanut butter filled chocolate drop. This was my other favourite. My all time favourite combination is chocolate and peanut butter and this is always the flavour cupcake I order (apart from red velvet) I have had one from Hummingbird Bakery and Magnolia Baker. These Fenwicks cupcakes were on par with one from both famous bakeries. Like all the other cupcakes it was deliciously moist and chocolately.

Strawberry Shortcake, strawberry sponge topped with strawberry butter icing and vanilla sponge crumbs. As delicious as this one was I found it too much of a strawberry overload. It was still moist and the icing was very buttery but it was really sweet and sugary, too much for me infact.

There were many other flavours, including red velvet which will be the next one for me to tree. I highly recommend checking out the cupcake counter in Fenwicks in Newcastle if you're visiting. They even do custom order birthday cakes if you want something for a special occassion!

Happy Valentines Day Everyone.

13 February, 2010

"Work work work, she'll never get her dress done" - Cinderella

I'm currently on day three of seven at work so I have no time to blog just now, it's actually making me miserable (it doesn't help that work is ten times more horrible after a weeks holiday!) Sorry for the pouty face, I read smiling in photos was the kiss of death for blogs!

Please stay tuned for

- Another couple of recipes, one for chili and one pasta.
- Cupcakes! Review of the new cupcakes in Fenwicks Department Store!
- Product Review, Paul & Joe Primer and Benefit's Waterproof Eyeliner
- News of my new give away for when I reach 25 followers, only seven to go!

Much love

10 February, 2010

Film Review #2 The Princess and the Frog

"Walt Disney Animation Studios presents the musical THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, an animated comedy set in the great city of New Orleans. From the creators of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” comes a modern twist on a classic tale, featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana (ANIKA NONI ROSE), a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG marks the return to hand-drawn animation from the revered team of John Musker and Ron Clements, with music by Oscar®-winning composer Randy Newman."
Plot taken from movieweb.com

After our Valentines day plans were ruined, the boy promised to take me to see The Princess and the Frog for orange wednesday at our local cinema. We're really skint at the moment anyway so the fact not only are tickets two for one and the fact I get discount made it really worth the trip, even in the snow. Part of me was really excited about going, as I have previously mentioned I am a total sucker for Disney, inparticular the Princesses so the idea of a new princess really appealed to me., it has been a while. On the other hand I was really quite nervous, Disney's last few attempts to bring back good ol' 2D animation had been a disaster. All those remakes, Home on the Range, even Lilo and Stitch makes me cringe! But in my opinion the worrying was actually for nothing. I'm going to say now, even with all it's faults and it's lacking compared to some of Disney's classics, I did love The Princess and the Frog.

The story was solid and put and excellent spin on the classic Princess kisses frog story. It was also very touching especially in the first few scenes, for some reason Disney love to kill off a parent (although it's in the style of old Disney and not shown on screen, only mentioned by the characters). I am a huge fan of jazz music so having the whole film based in New Orleans at the height of the jazz era really appealed to me. The characters were on the whole, enjoyable to watch with a few exceptions, the first being Charlotte who just grated on me until the end when she had her redemption. I loved Tiana, I really hope she joins the ranks of the past Princesses. She was feisty and her values were a great message. I sort of wish more of the other Disney princesses believed in dreams come true if you work a little, instead my whole head is messed up waiting on my happy ending! Anyway, the prince however didn't really do much for me. The animal characters were funny and lovable even if they were carbon copies of past animal disney characters. I especially loved Ray and his love for Evangeline. Now onto the villain, Dr Facillier or the Shadow Man, in my personal opinion he was fab and in old disney style quite creepy. I read somewhere that he was described as the love child of Captain Hook and Cruella De Ville and I totally see that. However, for it being a childrens film (not that Disney has ever been ONLY fluffy bunnies) the subject of Voodoo was a little bit close to the bone and even slightly hard to explain to younger children (I heard a little girl in from asking her mother to explain it and failing), especially as Dr Facillier has a voodoo doll. The soundtrack was superb, however I wouldn't think any of the songs we that memorable, the only one I remember is Almost There, the rest just fade into the soundtrack of the film which is a little disappointing.

I always judge a Disney film on it's ability to make me well up, if it does, it's a good one. I can happily note that The Princess and the Frog did have me choked up and it does have a good ending that keeps me believing in happily ever after for everyone and as sad as it is, that is why I enjoy Disney movies. They make you believe in love and happiness even when everything seems hopeless. This is also the first Disney film that wasn't pixar that the other half thoroughly enjoyed, that counts for something. While watching it reminded me a lot of Don Bluth's Anastasia, even the songs and especially the villain. I will be buying this on dvd to add to my collection, however I won't be paying to see it again at the cinema.

Best Moment: When Tiana finally gives in to her heart and realises what she's wanted all along.
Best Line: "She is my Evangeline"
Would Recommend For: Children (although I'd say 7+ Voodoo is pretty deep stuff), Disney Lovers who still have the faith, Out With The Girls
Rating: 7/10
(only because in comparison to some of the classics, it still doesn't measure up, more on par with Mulan and Oliver and Company opposed to The Little Mermaid)

09 February, 2010

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” - Lucille Ball

Today I received the yearly text from my mother of "What are you wanting this year?". On Sunday it'll be four weeks until my twenty second birthday. I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to twenty two. I've always considered twenty two as a "grown up" age, I have no idea why it just sounds older. I am however looking forward to my actual birthday which is being planned by my best friend. I had quite a lonely twenty first as I spent it with the boys friends, since none of my own friends could make it. This year I'm going down to stay with my best friend and she's invited my other two closest friends in the evening for drinks. Quiet, simple but perfect to me ,as I'll be spending it with my four favourite people. During the day we're going for a meal to Damons, where I plan to have delicious food and cocktails.

So, now to the pressing questions, what am I asking for this year? I have t
o admit, it has been difficult this year because I had to think what I would like from my parents and from the boy. He has given up being imaginative after three years and prefers to be told what to get. And my parents do not believe in giving money (however I did get money for my twenty first so it's especially important for my mum to have something to wrap up this year) so I had to think of a few gifts to ask them for. I've spent the evening thinking and have finally come up with what I would like, starting with what I'm asking my parents for.

L-R Truffle Shuffle Disney Couture Necklace @ £28, Amazon Icing Bag Set @ £7.24, Amazon Electronic Scales @ £13.98
Amazon Measuring Cups @ £2.95, Up DVD @ £9.98, Oliver and Company DVD @ £7.78 (both from amazon cheapest price), Arcadia Gift Card, Alice in Wonderland Personalised Classics @ £14.99

I've asked for a lot of baking things as my kitchen equipment is just the basics, made up of a lot of hand me downs from my family. My old plastic asda scales have recently bit the dust so I thought i'd ask for some electronic ones too. I'm asking for an arcadia gift card so I'll be able to get some bits off of my spring wish list.

And I'm asking the other half for

L - R Tj Hughes Duck Egg Suitcase @ £22, Magnolia Bakery Cookbook @ £10, Adventureland DVD @ £9.38 (last three from Amazon, cheapest price), Sailor Jerrys Spiced Rum
Loungefly Snow White Wallet @ £26.99, Selection of Lush Products, Truffle Shuffle Disney Couture Bracelet @ £30

I'm so pleased with everything i've picked out. It passed the day looking for the perfect things. If I'm lucky enough to receive all of these gifts it will be amazing but I know I'll be happy if I only receive a few. I'm such a sucker for Disney, incase you hadn't guessed. I was torn between the Magnolia Bakery cookbook and the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook but since we visited Magnolia Bakery in NYC last June I thought it has more sentimental value.

I hope everyone's week is going well, mine is going wonderful and I feel so content at the moment. I'm looking forward to settling down with the boy with some home made chili and watching our favourite american tv online. Tomorrow I'll be bringing you my review of The Princess and the Frog as we're making the most of orange wednesdays. Much love.