Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Getting party ready

Winter is finally here and the Christmas carols are beginning to play as you browse around your favourite shops. That means the ultimate party season is finally upon us! But, what are you going to wear and how are you going to glam up? You better start your beauty regime soon and book in some last minute appointments.  Here’s a handy Christmas party beauty treatment checklist to help you out:

Two Weeks Before

Smile bright thanks to teeth whitening 

Give yourself a confidence boost this Christmas with an early gift to yourself of teeth whitening. A brighter and whiter smile is sure to get you beaming, looking your best and attracting all the right kind of attention. Opt for a deep teeth bleaching for pearly whites with long lasting effects. But make sure to have this treatment at least 2 weeks before your Christmas party as you’ll be required to wear whitening trays at night for the fortnight prior to your appointment. You must also avoid dark coloured foods and drinks for up to 48 hours after the treatment to prevent staining. I can't say I've ever tried teeth whitening, but it's something I've often thought about doing - not to go cray cray white, but a nice natural white :)

Prepare to kiss your crush with a plumper lip

Had your eye on a guy at work for the longest time? Then the Christmas party is probably your perfect chance to pucker up and go in for the kiss, especially if there's any mistletoe lingering about!. Failing that, you can blame it on the free booze if it doesn’t work out. Make your lips irresistible by giving yourself the perfect pout with a little help. Personally I like to opt for a lip plumping lip gloss like the Soap & Glory one :) 

The Week Before

Get flawless skin with a facial 

Whether you’re looking to cleanse and tone, steam or exfoliate, a facial is an excellent way to clear your pores and give your skin a flawless blemish free appearance, so you look amazing in those Facebook photos. Make sure to have a facial a few days before your Christmas party as, depending on the type of facial you have, you may suffer from some slight redness or puffy areas straight after; however, this should go down within a few hours. 

Make sure your eyebrows are on fleek with a tint

Great brows are more important than ever, as they have quickly become the hottest make-up trend of 2015. Not only do your eyebrows help frame your face, they can make you look younger if they’re full or even age you if they are too thin. Give your eyebrows a tint (dye them) so they blend in better with your hair, especially if this is dyed too. Plus, a tint will cover any pesky grey hairs you may have poking through (welcome to my life!) and give your face definition. Or, if you’re looking for a further treatment, why not invest in some HD brows?

On the Day 

Flutter away thanks to eyelash extensions 

Last but not least, put the finishing touches on your look by getting a spray tan, doing your hair and don’t forget, eyelash extensions! There’s something extremely feminine about long and luscious eyelashes, but store-bought strips can look fake and heavy. Instead, visit your local beautician and have individual or small clusters of lashes glued into place, one at a time. This will give you a more natural, enhanced look. Make sure to have this treatment the day of your Christmas party, as eyelash extensions rarely last more than a few days before falling out. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

The day I visited Tŷ Hafan

On Friday I was invited down as a blog ambassador to visit the Tŷ Hafan childrens hospice.  Saying yes seemed automatic, but it wasn't something I took lightly.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep my emotions in check and lets face it, very poorly children don't need to see me balling my eyes out there, quite the opposite.

Outside Tŷ Hafan

The hubby and I made a special day of it, he booked the day off work so he could look after Squidge while I was there, and be able to drop me off etc.  After Squidge not napping in the morning, we left a little earlier and he napped on the way there.  We stopped off at one of my favourite places to eat in that neck of the woods, The Captains Wife.  Both food and service were brilliant, but I couldn't help feel woozy at the thought of where I was about to go.

At 1:30 I landed at reception of Tŷ Hafan and was greeted by lovely friendly staff.  So far 5 mins in and I hadn't cried yet, I'd chocked up, but hadn't cried - always a good sign.  What I did notice were lots of paintings around of an older lady, so when we sat down to meet our 'tour guide', I asked who she was.

A painting of Suzanne Goodall - the founder of Tŷ Hafan

This kind looking lady is Suzanne Goodall.  In 1988 after retiring, she decided to start and try to raise money to build Wales' first childrens hospice.  Just 11 years later, after raising £3 million, the doors to the hospice opened it's arms to very poorly children and their families.

What they provide is an utterly amazing service to children who are as they describe, life limited (not expected to live past the age of 18), and they are almost wholly funded by donations from people like you and me (only 4% comes from the government).

One of the members of the marketing team gave us a bit of a talk, letting us know what to expect while walking around, and that some of the facility we wouldn't be able to see as there were a couple of very poorly babies that had arrived (cue being choked up again!).  With that, the tour commenced! 

When Tŷ Hafan started up, they only offered short break care - this is where a whole family (often including uncles and aunties) come to stay.  Here they create precious moments and provide palliative care.  Now they also have outreach services (music therapy at the childrens homes, bereavement councelling to parents as well as family support - helping families work out what financial support they're entitled to, and taking them through the application process).

They currently look after 260 children across south, west and mid Wales, and 200 bereaved families.

It felt like almost every wall there was covered in hand and foot prints, of children and their families. It was so colourful and happy, but I also couldn't help wonder how many of those little prints were of children who'd died :(

They have complimentary therapy rooms (here the families can get massages etc).  There's a newly opened hydrotherapy pool which helps children in pain.  A teenage room - the boys end has xbox, playstation, lots of TV's and a hi-fi with comfy sofas, the girls end is literally a massive bright pink wall with a pretty dresser.  There's also a sound proofed music room fully equipped with guitars, a piano, drum set & more.  An arts & crafts room, a great room to get messy in as it's all wipe downable - it's super colourful too.  Kids who are there can get creative - while we were there we saw a little one getting their hand-print done.  There's also a sensory room that opened up very recently - from what we understand it's pretty amazing.

A wheelchair swing at Tŷ Hafan

A wheelchair trampolene at Tŷ Hafan

A wheelchair race track at Tŷ Hafan

About 18 months ago they also had a play area installed - it's so fantastic! All wheelchair friendly - there's even a wheelchair trampolene and a wheelchair race track - how fab is that!  So important that the kids have somewhere like that outdoors to play.

They also have a memorial garden, thankfully we didn't see that, there's no way I'd have been able to keep my composure then... they basically have a fountain, and lots of pebbles.  Each pebble has the name of a child who's passed away on it.  Then twice a year Tŷ Hafan hold a memorial service and invite all the parents to it.

What Tŷ Hafan offer is the ultimate in care, in every sense, to children and their families - it's a place that you hope you never ever have to take your child to, but one you are so glad is there, should that time ever come.

If you want to make a difference this Christmas, why not donate to such an amazing cause, I know I will be.  Also please don't forget to share your precious moments on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #preciousmoments and tagging Tŷ Hafan in the messages - this week's word is 'Inspiring' - honestly, the whole of Tŷ Hafan is inspiring.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

RECIPE | Quorn biryani

When I decided to move away from beauty to lifestyle, one of the things I really wanted to do was more recipe posts - I really enjoyed doing them on my mummy blog. Today I bring you my recipe for my own quorn biryani.  Back before I became vegetarian I used to make this with chicken instead, the recipe and process was exactly the same, I just swapped chicken out for quorn.

For this recipe I use 'chefs measures', so basically I haven't measured anything, I just chuck it all in and hope for the best, it pretty much always turns out well :)  So, for this recipe you will need:

Basmati rice (enough for however many people you're making the meal for)
Fresh coriander
Sultanas (a couple handfuls)
Small packed flaked almonds
Jar of curry sauce (I use korma sauce)
Coconut milk (I've been using the Alpro* one recently)
A packed of quorn chicken pieces (or actual chicken, whatever you like)

It'll take about 10-15 mins to cook :)


1. Boil the kettle and get the rice cooking
2. Chuck the quorn in the frying pan with a little oil, once it's starting to cook, add 1 or 2 dessert spoons of the curry paste and a splash of boiling water.  Give it a good stir.

Quorn in the pan

3. Add about a third-half of the flaked almonds and a good handful of the sultanas

Quorn mixture with flaked almonds and sultanas

4. Roughly chop the coriander
Chopped coriander
5. Stir in your coconut milk - or in my case, the Alpro coconut cuisine (I actually prefer this to normal coconut milk, it doesn't separate, it tastes really coconutty and has much less fat)
Alpro coconut cuisine

Pouring the Alpro into the mixture

6. Give it all a good stir and let it simmer while the rice finishes cooking
Quorn simmering away

7. Next up, strain off the rice, chuck it in a big mixing bowl and add the quorn coconut mixture, the coriander, the rest of the flaked almonds and another good handful (or two) of the sultanas and a good sprinkle of salt.  Give it a good stir, serve it up in your favourite bowls with a knob of butter.
The finished product, ready to eat

Et voila, it's ready for demolishing :)  This is one of our favourite meals - it's also really nice reheated the next day.  Just make sure you don't keep it for long or reheat it more than once, rice can be nasty with that and goes off pretty quickly.  I certainly wouldn't keep it in the fridge for more than 1 day before eating :)

Saturday, 28 November 2015

A perfect pout for the party season

There's a whole bunch of different ways you can maximise your pout ready for the party season that is almost upon us - from colourful lipsticks, to overlining, to enhancements - each different for different people, and your own preferences.

Colourful lipsticks
A great way to transform your look and potentially maximise your pout, is by experimenting with different colours.  While a classic red may look 'fuller' on one person, it might be less flattering on others, so lets have a look to see what colours are perfect for this winter.

Retro Red

You can’t go wrong with a classy red lip, but what many don’t realise, is that red comes in a variety of shades and hues.

Give your pout an update with a red lipstick with a touch of tangerine. And to make even more of a statement, why not match your lip and nail colour - a personal favourite trick of mine, it doesn't have to be exactly the same, but red & red, pink & pink etc.

Berry Burst

Whether London or Paris, Milan or New York, berry coloured lipsticks were all the rage for Autumn Winter 2015/2016. Some of the most notable mentions are: Carolina Herrera’s cranberry lips, Felder Felder’s matte berry pinks and Roksanda’s deep and indulgent wine burgundy.

For a catwalk to pavement look, why not take influence from these designers and try a statement deep Goth berry matte lipstick for a night out or a velvet dark raspberry for day wear? Pair with a simple ponytail and a natural face for rich, yet understated, glam.

Stay away from the bright and bold, such as fuchsias or magenta, as these are more summery colours.

Natural Nudes

Yeah, I don't wear many nude shades, they really don't suit me, but this one by Maybelline on the far right is pretty awesome.  And with it being matte it'll be very flattering too, and long lasting.  To give the illusion of a fuller lip, just dot a little clear lip gloss on the centre of your lips, and highlight your cupids bow - this will give the illusion of a fuller lip.  Plus, if you do wear a nude, you don't have to worry about the colour bleeding out or the lipstick looking messy when you're busy on the dance floor or sipping your cocktails.

Tantalising Tints

As much as I love lipsticks, I also love a tint, and a pale one at that!  The one of the far left in 'my pink' is probably my favourite tinted balm ever.  I absolutely love the Clarins Instant Light lip balm perfectors - they're really hydrating, they last well, and they smell amazing too (like white chocolate).

If you want something a bit more polished, maybe opt for a lip gloss instead.  In fact, what you could do is wear a lip stain (the ones that literally stain your lips and leave no residue that they were even there!) and a clear gloss over the top :)


Now, I can't say this is something I'm a particular fan of.  Lots and LOTS of women do it, and do it well, I'm not one of them.  I understand it's a good way to make the most of what you have (i.e. lining to the very outer edge of your natural lip), but I'm not a fan of creating a whole new shape of lips just by drawing them on :P

Something a little more permanent

I'll be honest here, it's not something I would personally do, but I know a lot of people in real life who would have it and I know someone who has had it done, and they look fantastic, you'd never know they'd had it done, they just looked like they had good lips and you know what, more power to them.  I think this is where spending some time researching comes in - as with any form of cosmetic alterations, be sure you're going to the right person, and not just the cheapest.

Here's some places to start your search (p.s. as I've never had it done, so I'm not 'recommending' any of these, just giving you some links to start your search - who you pick is 100% up to you and needs to be based on your own research).
Perfect Lips by Dr Rob |  Transform | The London Cosmetic Clinic | The Harley Medical Group

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*Collaborative post

Friday, 27 November 2015

CosyWool knitting competition

Competition prize

Going back a couple months ago, I was invited to take part in a knitting (well, in my case, crochet) competition by the brand Cosy Wool.

The challenge was to knit/crochet a scarf in any style I like.  Because I signed up to the challenge early, I also received £5 of yarn (it's the yarn I used to create the scarf, I did end up buying another 2 balls of it as 2 wasn't quite enough - it took 3 in the end).  What was really cool is that when the yarn came, it was vac-packed, so it went through my letter box.  There was also a mini Cadburys Fudge in there :D  My second order was slightly different, I don't think the vac-pack worked properly as it was quite puffy and didn't go through the letter box, also, no choc the 2nd time :P

I searched high and low for a pattern, I wanted something that would lend itself to a chunky yarn, and something that looked different - I started off thinking about crocheting the 'Just be happy' scarf, but I struggled to follow the written instructions, so I searched again and found the Caron Bellflower scarf - it looks similar, but I could follow the pattern really easily, it was an instant winner!

It took about 6 rows before I could stop looking at the instructions, then it just clicked and I was off! Because I chose a chunky yarn, progress was quick too.  The yarn was decent quality and really cheap - depending on when you look, you should be able to pick up 2 balls for just under £5, for me it took 3, so £7.50 for such a great scarf is a bargain in my opinion!

Anyway, enough of my rabble, I'm sure you want to see some pics!  I'm sorry they're not all great quality, I've really struggled to photograph it!

This is the yarn I used, it's in shade Thistle.
Grousemoor chunky yarn

A bit of a close up when it was still a work in progress
Scarf as a WIP

You can start to see the pattern coming together
Scarf pattern coming together

 The finished scarf, on!  Ends all joined so it's endless :)
Scarf finished and on!

A close up of the finished scarf
 A close up of the finished scarf, folded, so you can see the pattern
A close up of the finished scarf, folded

It's such a gorgeous scarf, I've had loads of compliments on it too.  In fact, my friend has asked me to crochet her a blanket in that pattern (in duck egg blue - going to look gorgeous!).

What do you think? Would you wear it?
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*Competition entry

Thursday, 26 November 2015

#PreciousMoments campaign for Tŷ Hafan

If you're not based around South Wales, you might not have heard of Tŷ Hafan.  They're a childrens hospice, based in Sully, just south of Cardiff.

Ty Hafan precious moments campaign star

Ty Hafan precious moments campaign stars

A couple weeks ago, they emailed me asking me to be a blog ambassador for them for their #PreciousMoments campaign.  Without hesitation I said that I'd be honoured to.  I honestly can't imagine having to face losing Squidge, just thinking about is enough to make me cry.  Tŷ Hafan provide the ultimate in palliative care for children, and of course, immense support for their parents too.  I'm actually heading to the hospice tomorrow for a tour with some other bloggers, and I've got no idea how I'm going to keep it together, but I'm going to do my best.

Tŷ Hafan are encouraging everyone to share their #PreciousMoments using the hashtag on social media.  It got me thinking about all the precious moments I have with Squidge, and you know what, I couldn't think of just one, every moment is precious.  The tantrums, the night waking, the giggles, the kisses, the cuddles, the innocent playing, the eating, the all-consuming way they take over every element of your life, it's all so precious. 

Each week Tŷ Hafan are picking a word to go with the week and their campaign, this week's word is 'cwtch'.  If you're not Welsh, a cwtch is that lovely cuddle you have when you give a little squeeze too, that lovely moment where you cuddle up - it's actually pretty hard to express a cwtch in words, it's more than that.  With that in mind, here are some of my favourite cwtch photo's of Squidge :)

I'm going to try and blog each week with my pictures that match the word of the week, so you'll be seeing plenty more soppy pictures of us over the coming weeks :)

The first pic is probably the best visual representation of 'cwtch' that I have, it's perfect :)

Daddy cwtching Squidge on his first birthday
 Squidge giving me a cwtch :D Crazy how much my hair line receded after giving birth :/
Squidge cwtching me :)
 Newborn cwtches
Newborn cwtches
 Sleepy cwtches
Sleepy cwtches
Sleepy baby daddy cwtches
Sleepy baby daddy cwtches
 Morning happy cwtches
Morning happy cwtches

Please share your #PreciousMoments too - you can do so on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, just make sure you use the hashtag :) 

Tŷ Hafan really is a special place - all together they have 700 volunteers, 235 staff and as of Feb 2013, they'd cared for 652 children.

If you'd like to donate to the hospital, you can do so via their Precious Moments campaign page


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

FOOD | Autumn afternoon tea at the Celtic Manor

Autumn Afternoon tea at the Celtic Manor
Remember at the end of October I posted about 'an Autumn meetup' I'd attended here in Cardiff? Well, inside the lovely goody bag was a voucher for afternoon tea for 2 at the lovely Celtic Manor 5 star resort.

I went along with my mother-in-law a couple weeks ago to sample their Autumn themed afternoon tea.  It's the third time I've been there, each time the theme and food has been different.  The service has always been fantastic, and no matter what day of the week you go, every lunch time their special afternoon tea restaurant gets very busy.

The staff were fantastic with Squidge, he loved them!

Our afternoon tea started off with some warm Winter Pimms which I must admit, was my favourite part of the whole meal - it was absolutely fantastic. 

Warm Winter Pimms

After confirming that I'm vegetarian, they brought out our baskets.  Inside was a pumpkin and rosemary muffin with curried pear chutney (I wasn't a massive fan of this), 2 wild mushroom, tarragon and creme fraiche tartlet (this was gorgeous), and an Y-Fenni Welsh rarebit on toasted onion bread with piccalilli (also lovely).  My mother-in-law had the same, but in place of one of the wild mushroom tartlet's she had a pulled pork mini sub roll.

Harvest hamper
For tea I chose raspberry (which was lovely!)
Raspberry tea

Next we moved onto the sandwiches.  I think the staff got a little confused here... we'd asked for a couple extra finger sandwiches for Squidge (literally 2 sticks would have been fine), but asked that they don't give him any smoked salmon as he can't have that.  Obviously I couldn't either being vegetarian, but my mother-in-law could and was looking forward to it.

But when they turned up, they'd missed off the smoked salmon and replaced it with egg mayonnaise instead.  We could have said something and I'm sure they would have fixed it immediately, but after a little wait for these (they were getting busy) we decided to just continue.  Instead of bringing out a couple fingers of sandwich for Squidge, they brought an entire plate that doubled up our sandwiches! Lovely, but more than we could eat, and most definitely more than Squidge could eat!

The sandwiches were nice, but would have been nicer on home made bread (forgive me if they were on home-made bread, they just didn't taste or feel like it).  Inside was egg mayo, chicken & stuffing and Caerphilly cheese with spiced tomato chutney - strangely though it didn't taste like Caerphilly, it tasted more like mature cheddar, which is fine by me, I much prefer that!  It also would have been nice if they'd separated out the meat-eater sandwiches from the vegetarian ones, instead of giving us what looked like 2 identical servings just without smoked salmon (not sure if they forgot about me being vegetarian).

Finger sandwiches

Next onto the cakes! I really, really loved ALL of these and yes, I ate all mine!  All together there was a lemon, raspberry and coconut madeline, a ginger and candied pineapple layer cake, a chocolate and orange shortbread, a date, walnut and caramel cupcake (holy moly that was nice!) and a prune, armagnac tartlet with white chocolate and cinnamon crumble (also delightful).

Hand-made cakes and pastries

Last but not least, to finish they had stunning warm cherry bakewell scones.  By this point we were stuffed, so we made them up and put them in a box to take home (psst, it was delicious!).
Cherry bakewell scones

As we left the restaurant and walked out towards the entrance, Squidge noticed some bronze figures of children playing and we couldn't keep him away! It was the cutest thing!

Squidge playing with bronze children
Squidge playing with a bronze little girl

All together a lovely afternoon tea, but not the best I've had from them.  If this was a £15 afternoon tea I'd have been perfectly content, but considering it's £24 off peak (Mon-Thurs) and £32 Fri-Sun, I expect complete and utter perfection - it's a 5-star resort after all.  The first time I went there that's exactly what we had, perfection - but the previous 2 occasions haven't been quite on pointe.

Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful afternoon tea with fantastic service in a lovely setting, I would definitely go there again, but I might leave it a little while first :)
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*Afternoon tea was complimentary for review
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