Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Recent Reads

I've been making the most of some time off by getting down to some serious reading, and it's been fabulous. Reading is one of the great loves of my life, and the more I do, the more I want to! I would love to know what you think of these kinds of post - do you like little round-ups like this, or would you prefer individual reviews that go into a bit more depth? Anyway, without further ado, here's the last few books I read!

Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey

I was instantly intrigued by the premise of this book; an 82-year-old protagonist, trying to solve the mystery of what has happened to her friend whilst living with dementia. I always love a mystery, and as my great-gran recently died after many years of dementia, it just called out to me and I had to have it. Plus the artwork really drew me in (I am not just a sucker for eyeshadow packaging you know. I do not discriminate in my shallow ways!). I found this book a really interesting read, following Maud's present-tense chains of thought and skewed logic.The mystery of what happened to Elizabeth isn't hard to figure out, but there's the answer to a far older and more compelling one buried deep in Maud's psyche, which had me racing to the bittersweet end. 

The Girl With All The Gifts - M.C. Carey

I had been wanting to get this book for so long, having been totally gripped by the blurb, and was so excited to finally read it. The books starts with ten-year-old Melanie, an uncommonly clever and polite little girl who loves reading Greek myths and hanging on to her beautiful teacher's every word. Melanie sleeps in a cell, and when the Sergeant collects her for class in the morning, another solider points a gun at her head whilst someone else straps her into a wheelchair, leaving her unable to move her arms, legs or head. If she says good morning, they don't answer, and when she jokes that she won't bite, they don't laugh. This book surprised me in so many ways, and was equally thrilling and heart-warming in places. An original and exciting story, well-rounded characters, dark humour and themes borrowed from the story of Pandora's Box, this is the best book I have read this year.

How To Build A Girl - Caitlin Moran

Hmm. I don't really know what to say about this. Having read and loved How To Be A Woman, and many of Caitlin's columns in The Times, I had very high hopes for her first fiction novel. It's not like it didn't deliver; her trademark bluntness, pop culture references and humour are all present, her writing as enjoyable to read as ever. It just wasn't anything new. The lead character Johanna, is basically Caitlin. Despite her disclaimer at the start of the book explaining that the book is fictitious, it was impossible not to draw comparisons between their basically identical childhoods and careers, which is fine if you aren't familiar with her work, but not very exciting if you are. More than that though, Johanna speaks with Caitlin's distinctive voice, which makes it hard to believe in her as her own character. I feel bad being negative, as I really love Caitlin and the book definitely made me chuckle out loud several times. There were moments of brilliance, such as love-interest John Kite's rant on poverty and the working classes, and the cultural reference points are nonchalantly spot-on, transporting me fully to the early nineties. Ultimately though, I felt like I was re-reading the story of her life with new names and a few different anecdotes, which didn't make it a page-turner for me. She is a fantastic writer though, with so much personality, and I would recommend anything by her if you're after a fun read.  

Have you read any of these books? Please let me know in the comments if you have - I love hearing other people's thoughts on books! Also feel free to recommend anything you've been loving. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Benefit They're Real Push Up Liner

Benefit They're Real Push Up Liner
Benefit They're Real Push Up Liner
Benefit They're Real Push Up Liner on my eye swatch

There always seems to be just a little more buzz for a new Benefit release than other brands. Maybe it's the genius packaging, the fun product names or the quirky PR campaigns. Either way, there was so much excitement surrounding the new Push-Up liner, a companion to the much-loved They're Real mascara, that I knew I'd want to try it. Luckily for me, my nana (she's a beauty queen!) already had it, and hated it, so passed it on. Her complaint was that she looked like a panda and couldn't get it off, but I was willing to keep an open mind. 

The packaging did of course, win me over. Benefit packaging can be hit and miss for me, but I appreciated details like the screw-cap lid, eliminating the possibility of the lid falling off in your bag. It also means the lid is nice and tight so your product won't dry out. Gel liner dries out fast if you leave the lid off. A simple twist of the bottom releases the product, a firm back gel liner, into the nib. As you can see, it's a sort of pen with an angled nib, which is supposedly for an easy cat-flick.

I find it hard to judge the exact amount of product to release. One click seems too little, and the liner doesn't give a strong enough look. But one click too many and you have bit of gel liner crumbling off the second it touches your lid. That aside, it's pretty easy to apply and the angled of the pen will get you right into the lash line, which as we all know, is the key to full-looking lashes. However, as you move to the outer corner, the line can get rather feathery - not ideal for a sleek winged look. I can see why nana found it hard to get the thin line she wanted. I also see her point about it being hard to get off (there is a They're Real remover, which seems like a bit of a marketing ploy) although I manage okay with my usual products. I do think though, that considering the long-wear nature of the product, it really shouldn't be budging once it is on. However, it slowly but surely transfers a perfect semi-circle onto my lid throughout the day. Annoying. 

Overall, I'm still on the fence with this one. It's handy enough for creating a speedy gel-liner look, but I don't have the control that either traditional gel nor a liquid liner pen would give, so couldn't achieve anything like a perfect winged look. I love how it hugs my lash line, but not how it transfers. I think it would be a good introduction to eye liner for someone who lacked confidence, but it's not quite the revolutionary product I had hoped it would be. Have you tried it? What do you think?

Winged eyeliner using Benefit They're Real Push Up Liner

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Goodbye Lovely Little Things!

Queen of Denmark's Ship

I'm not sure why I've chosen to illustrate this post with a picture of the Queen of Denmark's ship, but I suppose it's just a picture that looks kind of like a good send-off, and most importantly, makes me happy. And that's what I am today - happy. There's been a few changes around here, which you have probably noticed, and I am already so glad I took the plunge and made my blog a better reflection of myself. The old name was only ever meant to be temporary, but ended up sticking around a little longer than I'd expected, and much as I'd never liked it, I ended up a little sad to see it go.

So now my little internet space is called The Amber Spyglass, named after not only one of my favourite books, but also after me! My blog is a little bit like a spyglass for you to peek into my life, to see what I've been buying, using, wearing, loving, eating and generally chatting about. It feels like an appropriate choice, especially as I've been branching out a little from beauty these days. I hope you like the new name. My blog and it's new name have moved, and the new address is Much like moving house it has been a bit of a pain but definitely worth it.

Over the next 24 hours everything ought to slot into place - if things are looking kind of weird around here today, apologies. When it's all up and running, you'll be able to admire my fancy new layout made by the lovely Aly, as well as some adorable illustrations by the talented Tyler. You didn't think I did this on my own did you? 

Anastasia Beverley Hills: The Brow Brand of My Dreams

Anastasia Beverley Hills Brow Wiz and Dip Brow Pomade
Anastasia Beverley Hills Brow Wiz and Dip Brow Pomade
Anastasia Beverley Hills Brow Wiz and Dip Brow Pomade

I like big brows and I cannot lie. I am also incredibly picky about what I use to enhance my brows, and have tried and tested many products over the years. Waxes, gels, powders, eyeshadows that are just the right name it. And I've narrowed it down to two acceptable products, that naturally, I cannot live without. Coincidentally, these two are from the same brand, Anastasia Beverley Hills, which is annoyingly not stocked in many places. However, they are totally worth the effort in getting hold of them, and today my friends, I shall tell you why. 

Brow Wiz
Gee whizz, this one's a gem! I had turned my back on pencils forever, sworn my allegiance to powders and given up hope of eyebrows ever being a quick job. But there were too many rave reviews to ignore, and I am so glad I gave Brow Wiz a chance. This is a pencil, but not as you know it. 

The tip is so thin and precise, you can get the perfect shade you're looking for, and fill in with such fine lines that they mimic the appearance of individual hairs. It's retractable, so never needs to be sharpened, and enables me to fill in in a flash. It's long-lasting and doesn't smudge too easily either, which is always a bonus. Plus, the spoolie on the end is fantastic for tidying up before hand and smudging things out a little after application, and it is mercifully protected by its own cap so it never picks up any bits of fluff floating around the make-up drawer. My only wish is that it lasted a bit longer!

Dip Brow Pomade
If the Brow Wiz is for beginners, this is extreme eyebrow application for hardcore brow-lovers. This little pot of creamy brow goodness is to be painted on with a little angled brush, where it will cling to your hairs and give you the bold brows of your dreams. Top tip: outline first, carefully - you could even use Brow Wiz to get the shape - then fill in, arch first. It can be easy to apply too much, so proceed with caution, and if things get a little too Scouse-brow, just soften things up with a spoolie. 

The best bit about this though, isn't even the precise and strong brows it gives you. It's the fact that once they are on, they are going nowhere. Sweat. Rain. Accidentally rubbing your eye because you forgot you had drawn yourself a pair of better eyebrows. Dip Brow can survive anything you throw at it, and after too many days of seeing myself in the mirror at 4pm and being horrified by my smudged brows, this was the answer to my prayers. With this, my brows are basically invincible. I feel like a superhero of eyebrows. 

Are you a fan of a bold arch? Do you swear by Anastasia too, or by sticking to one brand for ages have I missed out on some exciting products? 

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cake in the Post (and a Giveaway!)

Baker Days Letter Box Cake tin

I don't think I'm particularly unusual in my love for receiving post. Letters, parcels and postcards, there's such a lovely feeling I get every time the post lady has a little something for me. Unless it's a bill. Another not-so-shocking love of mine is cake, and come on, who doesn't share that appreciation? With that in mind, you can imagine my delight when the lovely people at Baker Days asked if I'd like to try a one of their Letterbox cakes* - a cake that comes in the post! It surely can't get better than that...

Baker Days Letter Box Cake Ryan Gosling with Hey Girl Meme

Oh yes, it can, for the icing on the cake (literally) was none other but the lovely Mr. Gosling, with a message to make any blogger's heart flutter. Of course, if Ryan's not your thing, there's still a wide selection of cakes to choose from, from celebrities to meerkats, which can all be personalised with your own message or even your own photograph. I know the cupcake craze shows no sign of ending, and if you fancy a dozen personalised little treats, that's an option too - you even get a free stand! 

The letterbox cake is the smallest size available, and it's just little enough to be popped through the door if the lucky recipient is out, as I was when mine arrived. I had wondered how well it would survive being knocked around in the post, but thanks to the adorable little tin it came in, my cake was intact. I loved the little touches like the tin, which I can use in the future to store baked treats, and also the little card, two candles, balloons and party popper that came with the cake. It felt like a cute little birthday party for two, and I did even light the candles! They were a little wonky, which made me wonder if they'd got a bit damaged on the way, but they were perfectly usable. 

Baker Days Letter Box Cake Ryan Gosling design

The cake itself was really delicious. I was amazed at how fresh and delicious it tasted, considering it can be eaten up to 14 days after delivery. I chose the chocolate option (though sponge, fruit and even dairy and gluten free options are available), and it was deliciously moist and fluffy. I'm not a big fan of fondant icing and usually pick it off cakes, though I can see why it is necessary to use it on a cake that's being posted, and actually the cake-to-icing ratio was just right, meaning even I ate it happily. There was also a layer of chocolatey buttercream just under the fondant, which I definitely appreciated! I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cake, and my boyfriend absolutely loved it, scoffing several slices. 

Baker Days Letter Box Cake for bloggers

Now for the exciting bit! You can win a lovely Baker Days Letterbox cake for yourself (or, if you're feeling very generous, someone special) by filling in the Rafflecopter entry form below! Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 25 July 2014

Homemade Custard Creams

Homemade Heart Shaped Custard Creams from Nigella Feast

I am the last person you'd find turning up their nose at a shop-bought biscuit, but there's no denying that ones made at home are a hundred times better.There's something extra-special about baking something that you'd usually expect to buy, and I love making these custard creams for an (unbelievably) easy little treat that always seems to impress people. Plus, I feel delightfully old-fashioned whipping out the Bird's Custard Powder! 

Nigella Feast cover

The recipe is from Nigella's Feast, one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, and I haven't needed to tweak or adapt it in the slightest, no matter how many times I bake these. I always think they are perfection. 

Picture of flour and custard powder
Butter diced on Emma Bridgewater plate


Makes 14-15 biscuits

175g Plain Flour
3tbsp Birds Custard Powder
1tsp Baking Powder
50g Unsalted Butter
50g Vegetable Shortening (I use Trex. If you wanted to use all-butter instead you could, but the biscuits would lose their melt-in-the-mouth crumbliness!)
3tbsp Caster Sugar
1 Egg
1tbsp Milk

1tbsp Birds Custard Powder
100g Icing Sugar
50g Soft Unsalted Butter
1tsp Boiling Water

Heart-shaped biscuits on tray
To make the biscuits:
Preheat the oven to 180, or Gas Mark 4. Then, using a food processor, whizz up the dry ingredients for a moment to make sure they are all blended together. Next, add the butter (cut into little cubes) and Trex (in teaspoon-sized mounds), and pulse again. The mixture should be crumbly at this point. 

To bring the mixture together, whisk up the egg with a tablespoon of milk, and add it bit by bit to the processor. If you can run your machine at the same time, do so, as you'll be able to stop adding egg the moment your dough comes together in a ball. My processor doesn't work that way, so I just add it a little at a time. You might not need all of the liquid, but I usually use most of it. Make the dough into a ball, pat it into a fat disc, and wrap it in clingfilm. Now you need to pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up - time to do that washing up!

When it's time to take out the dough, lightly flour your surface and roll it out. Nigella says a 4mm thickness, but let's face it, you don't need to get your ruler out. Cut into the shape you like best (you'll get 28-30ish), and if you want little dots around the edges now is the time to make them. Nigella uses a corn on the cob holder; I have no such implement, and get by with a cocktail stick or skewer just fine. Pop them in the oven for 15 minutes, and keep a close eye on them. When they are out, and cool, you can start sandwiching them with the custard!

To make the custard:
This is the easiest filling ever! Just pop the icing sugar, custard powder and butter in the processor, and whizz together to make a buttercream. Next, add the boiling water and pulse again, watching as your mixture goes a lovely shade of yellow.

Sandwich pairs of biscuits together with the custard, being careful not to break them. They are quite crumbly, so I take Nigella's advice here and put one teaspoon of custard onto one biscuit, then wiggle another on top. 

Homemade Custard Creams from Nigella Feast

Everyone I have ever given these biscuits to has loved them - they are a guaranteed winner! They really do have the most divine crumbly texture that melts in the mouth, and the custard-y taste seems to induce both nostalgia and greediness for more! I think they look so sweet and rustic, and I like not having to worry about them looking too perfect - that's all part of their charm. I've given this whole batch to my grandad, as he's having some treatment at the minute and is losing a lot of weight, but my boyfriend and I are left with an unsatisfied craving. Looks like I might need to get out the custard powder again...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My Holy Trinity of Bronze

Bronzers Nars Laguna Guerlain Terracotta and Bobbi Brown Gel

Ah, bronzer. You and I have had our ups and downs. From my early teenage years of piling on the shimmer and living that disco-ball life, to later, struggling to find a shade that was dark enough, but not orange, and not too pinky, and not muddy, or shimmery...I was ready to give up on you entirely. But then, one by one, I found some saviours of bronze that mean all of my needs are met, and I don't need to look elsewhere. Why go out for hamburger when you have Guerlain at home?

The Traditional One: Guerlain Terracotta
This was the beginning of Me and Bronzer v.2, the one that came along and made me reconsider my bronzer-ban. Pictured we have Terra Nerolia, but I also have and love (maybe slightly prefer) the Moisturising Bronzing Powder, which is currently too smashed up and messy to appear here. The whole range is fantastic though, non-shimmery but not matte either, giving a glowing and healthy finish that looks natural and not powdery at all. The shade range for the Moisturising Powder is excellent too, a godsend for those of us who are picky about these things. If the two-toned tan enhancing qualities of Terracota Terra Nerolia are more your thing, this year's limited edition Terracotta Tropica looks very similar indeed. I love that I can use these bronzers for a subtle contour, but they also look lovely and natural swirled all over my face for a more bronzed-up look. The best bit is that they are so pigmented that even the smaller ones last a good couple of years, with regular use. 

The Versatile One: Bobbi Brown All-Over Bronzing Gel 
This was an impulse buy just before a holiday a good few years ago, when it struck me that I could mix it in with my foundation to match up with my skin as my tan progressed (my skin changes pretty dramatically with a good bit of sun!). I didn't expect to fall madly in love. It's just so useful! Easy to blend, and just the right brown:orange ratio to look like a real tan, this can be lightly patted on over make-up to add a bit of dewy bronze-ness, mixed in with foundation, or even used instead of fake-tan on fake-tan-and-concealer-only days (we all do that, right?).  You can even use it on your body as a sort of instant fake tan, and it even has SPF 15 for a little bonus treat. This was Limited Edition, so I made my first bottle last absolutely ages and was delighted when it came back last Summer. This year it's back again, and here to stay, so it looks like my holiday romance beat the odds after all. 

The Contouring One: Nars Bronzing Powder
I didn't really have much need for a new bronzer, loyal as I was to my Guerlain, but after picking up a certain palette I got a taste for Laguna and there was no going back. This baby finds cheekbones I didn't know I had, and sculpts them to perfection. It's blendable, so very nearly matte and just the right kind of dark, with no trace of orange whatsoever, making it perfect for contouring of any kind. I don't need to tell you much about it, do I? It's a clichéd blogger's love, but with very good reason. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

This Week's Loves

Lilies with cake pop lollies and macarons

I've received some beautiful cards and presents this week, which have made me do some fairly massive smiles. I had to share this gorgeous bouquet of lilies with you - they are not only totally huge and beautiful, but nestled in with the blooms were macarons and white chocolate heart lollies. What an adorable idea! 

Sausage dog pink notebook and sausage dog picture in frame

I've been hankering for a puppy for the longest time, and am particularly keen on the idea of a little sausage. For now, I'll just keep buying stuff with them on! I love this handmade little picture in a frame - it's going on my bedroom wall. The notebook was from Tesco, reduced to £3, and I've been writing all my blog ideas and lists in there. 

The List of My Desires paperback book with button cover

I've been reading The List of My Desires by Grégoire Delacourt, a sweet, short novel about a middle-aged woman in France who runs a haberdashery shop and a blog, and doesn't quite know what to do when she wins the Euromillions. It's translated from French, and has apparently been a huge hit across Europe. Aside from a slightly skewed idea about how quickly blogs grow and become profitable, I'm quite enjoying it and it's beautifully written. 

Tortoiseshell cat on sofa with blanket and cushion

Lastly, and always, I've been loving snuggling up with my favourite little monster. She's loved having me at home this week, and I've been getting bombarded with affection, purrs and the odd loving bite.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

My Favourite Moisturiser: Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream on dressing table

It's been a while since I discussed skincare on here, and I'd hate to deprive you, so I thought I'd show you the item that's made my purse actually cry a little bit recently. Yep, it was Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream repurchase day. It doesn't come around often, but it's once of my life's necessary evils. Yes, necessary, because I need this cream. 

Now, I am no Caroline Hirons. I know little about the science of skincare, and although I can throw around words like glycolic acid and parabens with the best of 'em, I can't promise you I'll give you the most scientifically-sound advice on the blogging block. I can however tell you what I like, and I like this. It has a gel-cream texture that's so light, it's basically weightless, and a little goes a long way. A tiny smidge of this can cover my face, including my jawline and eye area, and it absorbs instantly. The Elemis website gives all sorts of mind-boggling stats about its anti-ageing properties, although as a so-far wrinkle-free girl, I can't tell you much about that (except that I've been using it a while, and I don't have wrinkles yet, so maybe it's working!), but I can tell you that it leaves my skin feeling incredibly soft and hydrated. I can also tell you that when I stopped using it for a little while and tried something else, I noticed a difference in the texture of my skin.  

Marine Cream is expensive, there's no getting away from that, but it's a powerful potion indeed. For this reason, I use it at night, as I feel like my skin will get the most benefit from it then, opting to use something less expensive in the daytime. I personally think it's worth the occasional splurge it takes to keep my skin happy, and definitely think this little jar of wonder has earned its cult status, along with a permanent spot on my shelf. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Win a MAC Lipstick of your choice!

MAC lipstick

This little blog has been a labour of love, squeezed into free evenings and days off work, for just over six months now. And how happy it has made me! Some of you seem to like it too, as a little while ago it hit 400 followers on Bloglovin, a number I really couldn't believe. I only ever set out for 50. 

As a little thank you, I thought I'd gift one of you lovely readers with a treat I can pretty much guarantee any beauty-lover will be glad to receive - a MAC lipstick. Everyone has at least one on their current wishlist, so what better way to say thank you for the comments, likes, tweets and follows that have made me smile so much this year? 

It's an easy Rafflecopter entry - you know what to do. The only rule is that you must be a follower on Bloglovin, though there are other ways to get extra entries. The winner will be able to choose their shade, but must give me a second choice, as a back up (just in case they are out of stock! I am willing to try a couple of counters before reverting to the Plan B shade though). I'm afraid the giveaway is UK only - sorry international readers! Happy entering, and good luck. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Making of Harry Potter - Warner Bros Studio Tour

The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour sign

Having been to the Warner Bros Studio Tour around a year ago, I was beyond excited when I got the chance to visit again. The first time had been incredible, but I knew that with so many details to take in, it would be one of those experiences from which more could be gained with each repeat visit. A little like the Harry Potter books really. Besides, I'm someone who could never get enough Potter. I even wrote my dissertation on the books! This post is incredibly photo-heavy, and of course, awash with spoilers. If you've never been, and you don't want the surprises ruined, look away now! 

The Great Hall at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour including Dumbledore's Lectern

I think that the first time I visited, I just took in the size and scale of the sets and pieces there, but this time I was able to more closely focus on the details. I realised the extent of this when I saw it reflected in the photos I took. The Great Hall is an amazing set, with so much to look at. Details like the Hogwarts crest are just magical to see. I loved the fact that the then-new tables had to be made to look old for the films, so on the first day of filming the children on set were asked to bash them a bit with their cutlery. Naturally, I managed to find the word 'sex' carved into one of them - that's eleven-year-olds for you!

The Potions Classroom Dungeon at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Advcanced Potion Making book at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour

The potions classroom is breathtakingly detailed, with every jar lining the walls filled with some oddity and completed with a handwritten label. 

Props at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour  including gold skull and philosophers stone
Sirius Black's Prisoner Number at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour

I was just as mesmerised and fascinated by the innumerable supply of props to be spotted all around this time. They are so very detailed, and it's incredible to think that someone had to source or make every single one of them. Every item is like a work of art, and there are so many of them. It delights me that so much love was put into bringing this world to life.  

The Mirror of Erised at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Knight Bus and Magic is Might

Around every corner is something truly iconic - how many films/series have really produced so many instantly recognisable images?

Outside at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour  including Number 4 Privet Drive and Potter's Cottage at Godric's Hollow

It may just be me being a bit weird about those books, but I find it genuinely a little moving, and really special seeing Harry's first two homes side by side. The burnt out cottage looks so old and eerie, especially contrasted with the suburban familiarity of a house like 4 Privet Drive. It feels so strange to stand outside the Dursley's house, and even knock on the door!

The Creature Shop at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour inc. Monster book of Monsters and Mandrake
Kreacher at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour

The creature shop is full of strange and amazing sights, and I loved seeing the animatronics like the mandrake and what I call Voldebaby. Everything looks so real! 

Diagon Alley at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Diagon Alley is a real highlight, I only wish it was bigger and less dark, so I could more clearly see all those fantastic details. Again, it's just wonderful to see how much effort and work went into to making everything just right, like the individually hand-labelled wand boxes in Ollivander's. 

Set designs at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour

The designs and concept art on display are beautiful. Remember the lectern in the Great hall photos? Here's the design for it. One design, several huge pages long, was just for the side of Dumbledore's chair. Later, you can see a paper model based on that design which was constructed before they made the real thing. Just like in secondary school DT lessons!  

Hogwarts Model at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Hogwarts close ups at The Making Of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour

 I'd actually had this model of Hogwarts 'spoiled' for me before my first visit, and though I thought it looked cool, didn't see it as a huge deal. How wrong I was. It's truly magical. Every tiny detail made me gasp, and with the beautiful soundtrack playing I was honestly moved almost to tears. On both visits. It's that spectacular. The lights also change to show the castle at night, and all the little windows light up. To see the full thing, you have to go down a level to see the bottom part of the castle, including little trees made of real plant roots. Seeing things like the tiny Herbology greenhouses and the Astronomy tower created so painstakingly is just wonderful for someone who loves the books as I do. It's worth watching the little information screens, as they show loads of fascinating facts and exactly how the model was used. 

Have you been on the tour? I'm already working on the boyfriend to take me back at Christmas! Let me know if you'd be interested in seeing what I bought at the shop (which is almost as good as the tour itself!) in a kind of Harry Potter mini-haul! 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Viktor and Rolf Bonbon

Viktor and Rolf Bon Bon perfume

If I'm honest, it had me at the bow-shaped bottle. As a long-time lover of Flowerbomb, the sexyfloral showstopper of a perfume that always gets compliments, I was already excited at the prospect of another perfume from Viktor and Rolf. So when I saw the gleaming beauty that is Bonbon, I was instantly in love. Luckily for me, my boyfriend pays attention so on my birthday, way back in May, I was thrilled find this waiting for me. 

It's a brave move, buying someone a perfume that they have never actually smelt, but fortunately the perfume lives up to its packaging and predecessor. If you loved the intensity of Flowerbomb, you'll appreciate Bonbon's full-force sweetness. Viktor and Rolf clearly don't do things by halves, and if you want something very subtle this isn't for you. This is a caramel explosion, warm and sweet to the extreme, but also somehow more grown-up and sexy than the girly bottle and name might suggest. It's hard to describe fragrances, but I'd say it's more like a creamy caramel dessert than the bon-bon sweeties it's named after. It isn't however, a sugar-overload, and jasmine and peachy notes break things up a little, along with other fruity treats like blackcurrant and tangerine. Sickly scents can give me a headache, but this doesn't. 

Viktor and Rolf mini Bonbon

Bonbon has totally won me over. It's as lovely on me as it looks on my dressing table, and it's as addictive as it's predecessor. Are you a Viktor and Rolf fan?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A little trip out.

Last Sunday, we had a little surprise trip to London, as I had some relatives visiting from India who wanted to go on the Eye. We piled into the car, not-so-little-anymore cousin in the back, Iggy Azalea album to keep us happy all the way there, and we were off. I may have demanded several service station stops, claiming a need for sushi or the bathroom, so that I could search for Chubby Stick-bearing Glamour mags at the WH Smiths, but we eventually made it to the Southbank. 

It is easy to forget, when you pop by often, how iconic and beautiful London is, and seeing through the eyes of someone who has never been to England was a reminder of how lucky we are to have such a gorgeous city. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to live in London, and I never did get round to it, which strikes me as a shame sometimes. I hadn't been on the Eye myself, so it was nice to have an excuse to give it a go. It didn't blow me away exactly, but it was certainly a fabulous view and made me realise how many iconic landmarks are so very close together in London. I was worried that I'd find the sealed pod full of strangers thing a bit overwhelming, but either the size and open feel of the pods made it seem less claustrophobic or I really am getting better in situation like that. 

After the Eye, we broke off from the group and walked along the River. There was some kind of event going on at the Southbank Centre, a Festival of Love, which meant lots of neon prettiness to look at as we enjoyed our stroll and picked up a treat from the Snog bus. It made us realise how hungry we were, so we wandered along to Covent Garden to treat the younger cousins to their first ever Shake Shack burger. Needless to say, they loved it. Any excuse. 

If it hadn't been a Sunday, I would have popped to Leicester Square to see if there were any nice theatre tickets available from tkts, but as it was, we needed to get home. Besides, the cat had been for an operation on the Friday, so we didn't like to leave her too long. So back into the cars we piled, to stop at the service stations we missed on the way down...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: Make Up Revolution Salvation Palette in What You Waiting For?

make up revolution what you waiting for palette

The hype around Make Up Revolution isn't going away any time soon, and following on from my previous haul and reviews of the Ultra Blush and Essential Matte palettes, I thought I'd show you another one of their bargain beauties. The new Salvation palettes caught my eye immediately, as I could instantly see a massive improvement in the look of the packaging (bonus points for the nice big mirror!), plus I love the quirky palette designs and names. 

The What You Waiting For?* palette is, brilliantly, named after the Gwen Stefani song that fourteen-year-old me loved a whole ten years ago. When I reviewed the Essential Matte palette, I wished that Make Up Revolution would give individual shades names - it's a touch that just adds personality and appeal for me - and they seem to have answered my pleas, as all eighteen shades have fun names based on lyrics from the song. It's such a random thing to dedicate a whole palette to, but I am so not complaining! All they need to do now is ditch the foam applicators (seriously, just don't include an applicator at all, we all have brushes!) and they will have fully met all of my requests. 

make up revolution what you waiting for palette
make up revolution what you waiting for palette

The Salvation palettes include twelve shimmer shades, so if you like a bit of subtle sparkle, these palettes could be for you. What You Waiting For contains such a fabulous range of shades, from golds to neutrals, pinks to chocolate browns. My favourite shades are Scary Conversation, Shut My Eyes and Can't Find The Brake (which, oddly enough, go together to make a whole line from the song!). There's definitely a whole lot of different looks to be created with such a variety, so this palette would be perfect for a weekend away or short break, when you would want a good selection in one place. 

I really like that the palette includes not only twelve shimmer shades, but six mattes too. I often think good matte shades get overlooked, but they are really important and perfect for a bit of crease-contouring. The matte formulas in this seem better overall than in the Essential Matte palette, and although they aren't as buttery and soft as the shimmers, they are not too far off and well-pigmented. Unlike with the Essential Matte palette, you can clearly see every shade in the swatch, and they were not too powdery or dusty at all. Hot Track and Million Dollar Contract are my favourites, though I can see Brand New Fans being a handy one in the Autumn when I love a chocolate-smoky eye. 

make up revolution what you waiting for palette swatch swatches
make up revolution what you waiting for palette swatch swatches
make up revolution what you waiting for palette swatch swatches

 I am far more in love with this palette than I expected to be, and now really want to check out a few more of the Salvation palettes. They just appeal to me so much more than the Redemption palettes. I keep hearing excellent things about Girls on Film, but the packaging of Dia De Los Muertos really catches my eye, even though the colours are out-of-my-comfort-zone bright. 

Have you tried any of Make Up Revolution's palettes? Did you think it lived up to the hype?

Available for £6 from Make Up Revolution.

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