Monday, 29 July 2013

Noble Isle Bath And Beauty Products

Noble Isle Fireside Gift Set

*Sponsored Post

Pampering should be a part of every girls life, and it certainly figures in mine, whether I want to unwind after a tiring day, or just feel in need of a treat. Just like all of you, I have my favourite products, but I do experiment as well, and don't always get the results I am looking for from high street brands. After doing some research I was introduced to luxury bathing and beauty brand Noble Isle, and am going to share their ethos and a bit about their brand with you now.

Noble Isle offer a range of products covering home, haircare, hand and body products, all positioned at luxury brands. As you'd expect from a higher end product, they have put thought into every detail, from their logo (a fist of herbs and flowers bursting from a bath tub) to their complimentary gift packaging.

What I also found interesting was their transparency when it came to what natural extracts were contained in their products and where they came from. I am used to seeing a product label on my fruit or meat  detailing the farm it came from but not so much with beauty products. But they have a useful search by extract tab, which allows you to find out more about the different extracts and fragrances, and the products that contain them. A few examples are:

Beetroot - used as an antioxidant, and also rich in proteins and minerals.
 
Oak - Antiseptic properties, and good for toning.
 
Water Lily - Known for calming the skin.
 
Heather Honey - Rich in iron and antioxidants.

There are a wide variety of ingredients to choose from across the different product ranges, sourced from all four corners of the UK, and blended to provide an aromatic, and cleansing experience. The products are available online, and via selected stockists. Here are a few of my product picks :

Summer Rising Body Lotion

Best described as 'invigorating', this is a mix of elderflower and gooseberry, and will provide luxurious toning and antioxidant properties. Also blended with musk, nutmeg, cut grass, orange blossom, tangerine, and oak moss. Customers recommend it for it's invigorating fragrance combinations, and easy absorbing.

Whisky And Water Fine Reed Diffuser

I'm highlighting this product because it shows the adaptability of the fragrances and botanical extracts, across different types of products. The Whisky And Water Diffuser would be great for the colder weather, when you can curl up, and let the aroma make your room even more comforting and cosy. This diffuser has a blend of cedar wood, vanilla, and single malt sourced from a distillery in the highlands of Scotland. Other choices include 'Rhubarb' and 'Willow song'.




Willow Song Bath And Shower Gel

There's nothing better than soaking in a nice warm bath, with some pampering products to use to help you unwind and relax. But if you're going to indulge, to my mind you have to do it right, and that for me, means a thick soapy lather, a fragrance that lingers, and a blend of ingredients that soothes. This bath and shower gel promises to do all these things, with it's fresh blend of watermelon, ivy, musk, rose petal, cedar wood, and lily of the valley.

The full product range, including a selection of gift sets containing complementary products, are available to view on the website, and I'd also suggest reading the customer reviews, as they give some really useful insights into what the products are like to use and apply, and what they are best for. Noble Isle certainly seem to be a luxury bathing company that will awaken your senses.




Friday, 26 July 2013

Chelmsford City Life - In Photos



One thing I absolutely couldn't live without is my camera. I love taking pictures, and have done since I had my first camera when I was younger. I even won a little award (bar of chocolate!) for being 'snap happy' on a geography field trip at school!! Although I haven't got any photo's of exotic holidays to share, I still thought I'd pop up a photo post, and share some of my favourite snaps from the last few years!


I didn't have to go far to catch this shot. Fleeting glimpse of duck family in the pond down our road. We've also spotted deer, foxes, owls, and baby hedgehogs where we live!
 
My sister's dog Wilson, playing in the snow. He wasn't sure about the snow when he was younger, but loves being chased about now!
One of my favourite shots from Street Diversions Festival in Chelmsford, you have to be on your toes to capture shots at this event!


Hylands Park Chelmsford

I promised myself I'd go on a proper cycle ride somewhere nice last year, and as I hadn't been to Hylands Park in years, this was my target. Almost 8 miles I think I cycled on a sunny day, but it was worth it to have a ramble around the gardens, and buy some presents in the gift shop. I was a bit tired when I got back though!
 
One of the owls at the Chelmsford Museum Wildlife Funday in June 2012

I'd always wanted to go to a wildlife funday at the museum, but it normally falls on or very close to Mum's birthday so always ended up missing it. The owls on static display where stunning. They had snakes and insects inside as well, along with other stalls. It's well worth checking out!



All photo's copyright Lauren John, please do not reproduce.

Hope you enjoy my little pictorial insights into local life, I've been distracted snapping my nephew recently, but may have a few more photo surprises planned in the future.

What do you love snapping? leave your comments below!



 






Saturday, 20 July 2013

Make Of The Month - Flowery Gift Tags

If any of you have been with the blog since the start, you may have noticed my review of a very brilliant silicone mould from Katy Sue Designs. If you haven't seen the review, you can find it here. I have been busily making flowers since then, and Mum even discovered blending polymer clay can make new shades of colours, so it's been great fun.

With this in mind, I decided to start up a make of the month post to share some of my creations, and I thought I'd start with the results of my flower making, and what I decided to do with the flowers. Time for some summer themed gift tags!


Finished Gift Tags

I decided I wanted something fairly simple, but effective, and with a few processes involved, so I didn't get bored when I was mass making a few. My new embossing board on my Crafter's Companion Ultimate Pro has score lines to do various size gift tags, so I chose two different sizes (one smaller than the other). The larger one I used as the base and cut this out in white card, while the smaller one I scored and cut out of summery paper from my craft stash.

I stuck the two different size tag shapes together with double sided tape, and then carefully punched a hole in the end. I then added a greeting across the centre of each smaller tag shape, and then stuck a flower just underneath the whole on each tag. I used Pinflair glue for this, but any strong/silicone glue will work well. Then all that was left was to leave the tag to dry/set, and then carefully (to prevent ripping the hole) thread through my paper string.

Close-Up Shot
 
These tags are very easy to make, and you don't have to buy an Ultimate Pro to do it, you can just draw your own tag shapes, or trace round an old tag you have lying around at home. You can adapt the basics to include any papers or toppers you have as well!

My tag idea is pretty cost effective to make though, as a little goes a long way with all the items I used to make the tags.

The end result can be used on wrapped gifts, or as a topper for a card or scrapbook page. Why not play around and make your own tags, and see what you can come up with. If you do use polymer clay though, make sure you just use the mould for that, and not sugar paste.

Hope you all enjoy this 'Make Of The Month', there may be more to come soon.



Thursday, 18 July 2013

Dr Organic Monoi Melt Body Oil Review





Coconut has always been one of my favourite ingredients in a bath product (closely followed by mint), and I had never tried a Doctor Organic product before, so I was happy to be sent the Monoi Melt Body Oil to try.

As a review product, this is a brand new concept to me, so although I was sceptical about how an oil based product would suit me, and what it would be like to use, I was intrigued. What arrives is a box with lots of pointers on what the product does, and the natural ingredients used to make it. The packaging is striking, and the information clear, so it ticks boxes there, and for the number of natural ingredients the company was able to include in it.

You can use the body oil on your hair, hands and nails, and body. It comes in a glass bottle as a solid mass, and here the fun part starts, as to use it, you first have to melt it, by putting the bottle in warm water. It doesn't take very long for the product to melt before you can start using it. I wasn't too keen on the idea of using it on my hair so I went for a post bath pamper on my body and hands/nails.

The packaging suggests that this product works best on knees and elbows, and I found that to be the case, as they were lovely and smooth, yet my hands felt a little dry after use. I also had to massage it pretty well, so that took a bit longer than expected. The scent is inoffensive, though not purely coconut so it was a little confused, though the main failing is there was no dispenser nozzle on the bottle, or that could be attached, so even if I was being careful, it was all too easy to end up with too much product on my hands.

I think much like any other bathing and beauty product the Monoi Melt Body Oil will suit some people and not others, just as everyone will have their favourite uses for it. I don't think I would buy it again as I'd prefer something that's easier to use, that suits my skin type more, but trying my first Dr Organic product, has definitely made me want to check out some of the other products in their range, in fact I've already had a sneaky 'borrow' of Dad's Manuka Honey Rescue Cream, which may be a purchase when I have gone through my skincare stash.

You can find out all about the Dr Organic products at http://www.drorganic.co.uk/.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

City Life - Fling Festival 2013, Chelmsford (Review)

Sunshine makes everything better, and while I was enjoying some vitamin D therapy on July 6th, I also popped down to Central Park in Chelmsford for the 2013 Fling Festival. As the festival took a year off for the 2012 Olympics I'd been looking forward to this one for a while, but wasn't sure what to expect from the extended site, and extra hours of fun.

The award for best decorated tent goes to......
In the end I entered the site just after midday, and left around 10.30pm, so it's safe to say I had some chill time and was occupied, although predictably some of that time was spent queuing for drinks, food, and the increasingly (as hours wore on) grim festival loo's. But I went with a plan, and more or less managed to stick to it, so here's what I got up to:

As I arrived I caught the tail end of Jakob Deist's set in the Beyond Fusion tent run by Limbcare and the organisation Dancing Giraffe. Even early doors the tent had a good number of people in it, who all seemed to enjoy Jakob's cover versions, and original material, such as the atmospheric 'Here Now', which is one of my favourite songs at the moment.


Leanne Louise with Denis and Barry on guitar.
    -Next up I headed over to Main Stage 1 to catch another local singer Leanne Louise. I've seen Leanne perform a few times before in local venues, so I had an idea of what to expect, but there was a little surprise thrown in there. Leanne was performing acoustically, this time with an additional guitarist, and the effect was good. Added depth to the melody mixed with the vocals, makes for an enjoyable listen.

-I managed a second trip to the Beyond Fusion tent to watch Totally 80's, a must-see on my list as I love 80's music, and had never seen a tribute to the era before. I think they fell a bit short on personality and performance, partly as they had a small stage to work on, but I enjoyed singing along to hits like Freedom by Wham, and Video Killed The Radio Star.


-New City Kings - I was wandering around the festival site trying to decide what to do next, and pleasant sounds reached my ears, so I stopped to listen to New City Kings. The band have a singer with good lead vocals, and songs that have a good ebb and flow, and melodies that you can dance to, and listen to easily without hurting your ears. Just the right amount of commercial edge to appeal to a broad range of people while being credible. One to watch!

    
    Extra Curricular @ Fling Festival
  • Extra Curricular - These guys were marked off as one of my festival must-see's and they were the sort of act I'd book for an event like the Fling if I was running one. Their act is all about funk, soul, groove, coupled with some powerful guitar parts, and a wide vocal range from their lead singer. It's a pity we don't see more bands like this play Chelmsford. Definitely a highlight!
The Fling isn't just about the musical entertainment though, there were plenty of random sideshows, remote controlled wheelie bins, art installations, a silent disco and party tent, and making tents - which unfortunately were too small, and always packed, so I don't have a festival make to show you! Along with my highlights above I also saw Aussie Colin Cole in the Comedy Tent, Beatrix Von Bourbon (of Britain's Got Talent fame) in the Cabaret Tent, and saw a fast paced, barely pausing for breath, Machine Gun Men do a mix of modern and classic hip-hop in The Loop tent. Of course the sideshows provided a couple of photo opportunities as well!

I left full of pizza, chilled after a day in the sun, and feeling a little bit of anti-climax as it was all over so quick. Bring on Fling Festival 2014! Find out more about the Fling Festival at the council website or Facebook page. Keep your eyes on the Flikr stream for more Fling photo's.

Walk-about performer @ The Fling Festival



Friday, 12 July 2013

Cake Of The Week - Weetabix Loaf Cake (Guest Post)

 
Have you had your Weetabix?!
 
As promised in last week's post, I bring you a healthy cake ( well as healthy as cake can be!) that is full of fibre, uses no fat, contains one of your five a day, and is as cheap as chips to make. Has my fab marketing pitch sold it to you yet? The quirk to this recipe? The main ingredient is that old breakfast favourite, Weetabix! I can almost see a few noses wrinkle up but please don't let this put you off. This is a lovely moist, fruity bake with a slightly chewy outer that sits perfectly with a teatime cuppa, and is great for lunch boxes as it travels really well.
 
I would definitely recommend giving this bake a whirl to share with your nearest and dearest. Don't spill the beans about the main ingredient and see if anyone can guess!
 
For this week's bake you will need the following equipment:  a 2lb loaf tin, baking paper, a mixing bowl,  a wooden spoon and a teaspoon.
 
Ingredients:

3 Weetabix biscuits ( own brand biscuits work just as well, although they can be slightly smaller so use 3.5 biscuits)
200g Sultanas
200g brown sugar ( light or dark works equally as well)
Half a pint of semi skimmed milk
1 egg, beaten
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
 


Method

Grease your loaf tin and line with baking paper
 
Take your mixing bowl and add the sultanas, sugar, mixed spice and milk. Cover and place the bowl in the fridge for a few hours to let the ingredients soak and infuse. If possible leave overnight.
Preheat your oven to 180c (gas mark 4). If you have an electric fan oven, try reducing the temperature by 20c, as these ovens have a tendency to cook faster, resulting in a crispy top but a soggy bottom, and nobody wants that!
 
Add the beaten egg and flour to your pre-soaked mixture. Mix together well.
 
Bake for approximately 1 to 1hr 15 minutes. Do keep an eye on the bake after about 50 mins. The cake should be evenly coloured, and springy to touch. Pop a sharp knife in the middle to check the bake. If it comes out clean, you're done!
 
TIP: If you don't have a loaf tin, you can always use a cupcake tin and make some mini breakfast muffins. A perfect brekkie on the run, and you don't miss out on your cereal quota! Just bear in mind they will take about a quarter of the time to bake.
 


Well that's all for this week folks. Have fun, and get in the kitchen (if you can stand the temp in our little heat wave!) Please let me know what you think of my posts and what you would like to see next.
Vicky (@vixeyann) xx

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Comment : Things I Dislike About Music Fans

Anyone that knows me in a professional or personal sense will know I am passionate about music. It doesn't matter whether I am listening to it, going to gigs, or writing about it for the press, it's a big part of my life. So there is plenty I love about music, and occasionally some things I don't, and sometimes I feel I have to share a 'dislike' style post. This one is about music fans. Here is my list of things (in no particular order) I dislike about music fans.

  • Fans who label other fans - when I was younger female music fans, particularly those who supported boybands, categorised other fans as 'fans', 'followers', or 'cravens'. Fans were the ones quite happy to sit at home and buy a CD and maybe go to the odd gig, followers were at the top of the food chain and considered themselves a higher species than everyone else, because they bought every format of every release, travelled the country to gigs, and spent countless hours hanging around outside hotels and airports, so one day xyz popstar will remember their name. Cravens could fall into one of the other two categories, but be the sort that were obsessive (and followers aren't?) and very excitable if they came into touching distance of their favourite singer. Music is universal, and fan support is valued wherever it comes from. It's not about labels, one-up-man-ship, bitching, jealousy, or who has been to the most number of gigs, it's simply about enjoying the music, the artists and songwriters behind it, and showing support whichever way you want to. So no, you are not better than anyone else if you have 15 copies of a CD!

  • Festival snobs - It won't be too long before the V Festival arrives in town, and the festival snobbery kicks back into action. Popular music is popular for a reason, if it wasn't we wouldn't have the music industry we have today, or the thousands of happy festival goers that flock to V Festival, and other events each year. So why is it that as soon as a festival line-up like V is announced, the festival snobs are (with lightening speed) so quick to deride it. If they genuinely don't like the acts then fair enough, but the hating is the same every year, and gets pretty damn boring to read! It's almost like there is a select group of people that feel they have to automatically diss anything relating to commercial chart music.

  • Fans who get personal - As a music reviewer, with over 12 years experience reviewing music on and off, I have experienced a variety of reactions from both the bands, and their fanbase when I have published reviews. I don't expect anyone to necessarily agree with me, and the artists I am writing about can take my reviews or leave them, but I don't think there is any need to get personal. Some people have reacted and been almost nasty about it when I have said anything negative. All this does is make them look silly, and it achieves nothing. When I do review I am always open and honest, and try my best to give a balanced opinion on an act. I'm not afraid to say when I don't like something, but I will do it in a constructive way, and that, is what I think makes a good review.
Have you had any good or bad music related experiences? or have any music related pet hates? Why not share them below.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Snack Time - Burts Chips Review

Snack time is very important for a writer, it's a break from the computer, or the chance to chill out with a treat and a DVD, so I thought I'd bring snack time to the blog, and try out some new things.

I think crisps would be one of my top snacks, so I couldn't say no when I was asked to try Burts Crisps. I was sent two 40g packets to try, one was wave cut Jalapeno and Red Pepper, and the other Sea Salt and Malted Vinegar. What struck me right away with these crisps was the branding and packaging, not something I would normally pay attention to with a packet of crisps, beyond reading the nutritional information! But Burts Crisps have done a great job here, I like the inclusion of not just the ingredients, but the origins of the potatoes as well, so you can trace where they were cooked. These are British products, made in Britain, and that warmed me to the brand before I'd even tasted anything! But on to the taste test, and my verdict on the two flavours!

  • Jalapeno and Red Pepper: One thing I noticed in the ingredients, is they like to use natural flavours, and spicing as much as possible, and it shows in the crisps, which would definitely make them stand out in a taste test, as sometimes man-made flavouring can produce a lot of similar results in crisps. I was expecting these crisps to be overpowering spice wise, but they have a nice kick that doesn't linger too long.
 
  • Sea Salt and Malted Vinegar - With the natural malted vinegar flavouring, tasting these crisps instantly reminded me of the seaside or a fish and chip shop. A little bit greasy, but one thing I liked was that the vinegar and salt were subtle, and I've tasted big brand crisps that go over the top on both, and are quite hard to eat. These were enjoyable though, and no one else could get a look-in because I finished the packet pretty swiftly. The type of vinegar may take a little getting using to, but the balance of flavours is great. I was quite impressed with Burts Crisps, and although I'd like to see a bit less saturated fat, I think the products are well made, and well branded. The majority of the flavours in their range are available in farm shops, deli's, pubs, and bars across the UK, and I think the targeting is spot on, as this is the sort of treat I'd buy on a night out.
Burts Chips retail at 69p (40g) and £1.89 RRP (150g), with flavours also including Pesto, Mature Cheddar, and Sweet Chilli. You can also find special Guinness Burts Chips in Tesco's, Selfridges, Waitrose, and Morrison's.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Guest Post: Recipe Of The Week - Cookie Crumble Cupcakes

Biscuit AND cake you say.....! yes it's time for the introduction of a new section, recipe of the week, so read on for all things baking from Vicky's kitchen, and why not have a go yourself!

This week's recipe of the week is Cookie Crumble Cupcakes. These are naughty. So naughty in fact, that you will have put on a pound just by looking at the picture! However I'm sure you will agree it's worth it, as what could be better than the combo of chocolate, biscuit and cake? Answers on a postcard please!

 
 
Each cupcake has a whole cookie incorporated into its base, and crushed cookie crumbs added to the butter cream icing. Aside from being a very welcome treat, they are very simple to make, and the crunchiness of the cookie sits really well with the creamy smoothness of the butter cream. Quality control (aka the husband) has also heartily approved this bake!

To make approximately 14 -16 (dependant on whether you use cupcake or muffin cases) of these cupcakes you will need: 

Equipment - A cupcake tin, two mixing bowls, wooden spoon, and 16 cupcake cases (the brighter the better).

 
For the cupcakes 

200g plain flour
240g caster sugar 
40g cocoa powder
2 medium eggs
3 teaspoons of baking powder
80g butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract 
16 whole cookies white or milk chocolate, whichever you prefer (brand unimportant unless a cookie connoisseur)

Method
  • Firstly preheat your oven to 180c or gas mark 4 and allow to warm up for 10 minutes
  • Line your cupcake tin with your cases and then add a whole cookie to the bottom of each cupcake case, resisting the urge to sample a cookie.
  • Weigh out the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and then sieve together into your mixing bowl. Stir the ingredients together. 
  • Take your other mixing bowl and to this add the butter and caster sugar. Cream together well and then stir in the vanilla extract.Beat the two eggs together gently and add to the mixture. 
  • Now add the flower, cocoa powder and baking powder mixture from your other bowl, slowly adding the milk and whisk well until the mixture is well combined. 
Fill each cupcake case approximately two thirds full, and place the tray on the middle shelf of your oven for 15 - 18 minutes. As all ovens appear to have their own agendas for cooking, keep an eye on the cakes after 10-12 minutes to ensure you don't get a burnt bake. Try not to open the oven when doing this as this can affect the bake and, lets be honest, who wants a soggy bottom!

TIP: A good tip I have recently acquired is to invest in an oven thermometer.. You will be surprised
at the difference between the real temperature and that which your oven dial is telling you! 

Once removed from the oven allow the cakes to cool and start to prepare the icing. You will need:

350g icing sugar
175g unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons of milk
4 crushed cookies
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Crush the cookies by placing them in a plastic bag, and release any pent up anger by pounding them with a rolling pin, or your hands, and place to one side. Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, and add the butter and vanilla, then add the milk a little at a time. Now stir in the crushed cookies and mix well. You can spread the butter cream straight onto your cakes, or for a more professional finish, add the mixture to a piping bag with a star nozzle, and pipe a pretty little swirl on top of your cupcake cuties. You can decorate with half a cookie, or in any way that takes your fancy!

I hope you've enjoyed the recipe, and give it a go to wow your nearest and dearest. Plenty more recipes and reviews to come in the next few weeks, and next time, shock horror, a 'healthy' cake is on the horizon!

Keep on baking, Vicky (@vixeyann) xx

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