The following articles were authored by Helena

Afternoon Tea at The Marcliffe

A few weeks ago I was treated to afternoon tea at The Marcliffe Hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen. The Marcliffe is a well known hotel up in Aberdeen, being the only 5 star hotel in the city. It really is a gorgeous hotel (I haven’t stayed overnight but have been for dinner and was super impressed!) but is unfortunately closing before Christmas due to the owner retiring.
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When we arrived at the hotel, we were shown into the drawing room where we sat on comfy, squishy old fashioned armchairs in the bay window. Glasses of chilled champagne were brought over to us as we browsed the menu to choose our sandwiches and teas. We went for some forest fruits and some honey and camomile tea. When the food arrive it looked delicious on the tiered stand and I was excited to see that there were 4 whole cakes each! The sandwiches were nothing special to be honest but everything else tasted fantastic. I even managed to forget about my camera, I was so distracted by the food! The scones were amazing, still warm from the oven and served with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Finally, the selection of cakey things was really good – a light but creamy strawberry tart, some sort of mascapone and orange concoction, a gooey chocolate brownie and a lovely moist lemon drizzle cake.

The food and drink was wonderful and the afternoon was made by the staff who were friendly, attentive when they needed to be but not standing too near or watching us which always makes me feel uncomfortable! We had a lovely relaxed afternoon and I would really love to go back. I might need to take a day off work though to do that as we booked this all the way back in February to get a weekend booking, everyone seems to want to visit before it closes! It is such a shame that the hotel is closing – hopefully we will be able to squeeze in another meal before it shuts its doors.

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e.l.f. Little Black Beauty Book

I very rarely stray from neutral eyeshadows but this e.l.f. Little Black Beauty Book Palette looked so pretty and was not expensive at all so I thought I would give it a go.
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So far, I have only really used the pink shadows over my entire eyelid as they are pretty subtle. The other colours I have only been brave enough to use along my lash line to give a pop of colour. I have quite small eyelids so I don’t find that dark/bright colours over my entire eyelid really work for me. I have also found with the pink colours that they tend to crease after a few hours wear. It’s not all that noticeable with the pale colours but I imagine would look a lot worse with the brighter colours! I have been enjoying experimenting with this palette and think the bright colours are great for summer. You can buy it online for £8.

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Kalme Day Defence

Over the past few weekends I have got a fair amount if use out of my Kalme Day Defence which has SPF 25, although being in the North East of Scotland I don’t think we have had quite the same heat as most of the country!
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I cannot stand having normal sun cream on my face, it smells too strong and makes my skin look awful – really greasy and shiny! The Kalme Day Defence is specifically for your face but I also use it on my neck, chest and/or shoulders depending on what I am wearing that day. On days when I am not in the office, I always use it, even if it looks overcast. It feels no different to any other face cream but means I am able to enjoy any unexpected sunshine without worrying about burning! I am very pleased with the Day Defence and hopefully I get lots more use out of it before the sunshine disappears for the year!

You can buy this product from Skin Shop for £19.95. It is suitable for sensitive skin so should be ok for everyone to try!

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Recent Reads

image After Before by Jemma Wayne

This book gripped me from the start. It tells the story of three women from totally different backgrounds and how their lives intertwine. The writing really made you feel a connection to the characters and want the best for them all. It’s not the sort of book that keeps you guessing  right to the end but it is well written and a fantastic read.
imageWhite Lies by Jo Gatford

I didn’t get into this book right away. It has a bit of a slow start and I didn’t really connect with the characters. The book follows a man whose mother has been missing since the day he was born and whose father is now in a care home suffering from dementia. The story picked up for the middle section and although I didn’t really like any of the characters, I was intrigued to find out what was going to happen. However, I was pretty disappointed by the grand reveal and I felt that it just ended without fully tying up the story. I am glad I read this book but it definitely won’t be one I remember in a few books time.
image Charm Offensive by William Thacker

This book is written in a strange style. It feels very disjointed and I didn’t feel like I really got to know any of the characters all that well. It is about an ex politician who is trying to rebuild his life – he has fallen from grace, spilt up with his wife and has a daughter who he never really sees. I didn’t get drawn into the story at all and I am sorry to say that it is the first book I have read in a long time which I haven’t got to the end of. My bookmark is still in place and I do plan to pick it up again at some point, I just have so many books to read right now that I would prefer to read one I really enjoy.
imageDark Places by Gillian Flynn

I read this book so quickly, I literally couldn’t put it down. It was so much better than Gone Girl which took me ages to get into and then disappointed me at the end. Dark Places is about a girl who survives the night that her mum and sisters are killed, supposedly by her own brother. Throughout the book there are flashbacks to that night and Libby starts to question everything she remembers. I was kept guessing to the very end! This book has made me want to read more by Gillian Flynn.
image Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is one of my favourite books but I have never actually read anything by Anne. I had this fancy looking book for Christmas with a novel by each of the Bronte sisters (the edges of the pages are gold!). Agnes Grey wasn’t as good as Wuthering Heights but it was still an enjoyable read, although it was quite obvious from near the start what was going to happen! I love reading books about rich people living in humongous manor houses and traveling around in horse drawn carriages, so even though it wasn’t the most exciting storyline I did still enjoy reading it!

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Hoola by Benefit

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I am far from an expert on bronzer. Hoola by Benefit is actually the first bronzer I have ever used. I was a bit worried that I would make myself look ridiculous by applying too much of it or not applying it the right way, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use. (I did have to watch a couple of videos on YouTube before I attempted it as I literally had no idea where on my face to put the bronzer!) I have been using the little brush that came with the bronzer and I think it is good as it picks up a small amount of colour at a time so I can build up the colour gradually. I also like that the bronzer isn’t shimmery as I think that would be less forgiving for a bronzer newbee! All in all, I am pleased with the bronzer. It gives me a bit more colour but doesn’t look like I have gone overboard! If you want to try Hoola you can buy it for £23 online or in Boots, Debenhams etc.

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A Weekend at Crieff Hydro

Crieff Hydro is spread over 900 acres of countryside just outside of Perth. You can stay in the hotel itself or in one of the self catering lodges in the grounds. A couple of months ago, my mum and stepdad drove up from Cardiff and we met them at Crieff Hydro for a relaxing weekend. Our lodge was stunning with fantastic views of the hills from the big windows. I really liked the colourful blue boards on the outside of the lodge and also the cosy heated floors in the bathrooms! Crieff Hydro LodgeCrieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro - view from lodgeThere are lots of things to do at Crieff but we opted for a weekend of doing very little. On the Friday night, we were picked up from our lodge by the site mini van (which anyone can use by calling reception) and were driven the few minutes over to the main hotel where we had a cocktail in the piano bar followed by dinner in the Meikle Restaurant. The food was fantastic and the staff were really attentive and friendly.Crieff Hydro countryside The Famous Grouse Experience The Famous Grouse Experience Towser the catAfter a lazy Saturday morning, we dug out our rain coats and took a walk through the countryside to the nearby Famous Grouse Experience in the Glenturret Distillery. The Glenturret single malt is the main whisky used in Famous Grouse. Despite living in Scotland for almost two years now, this is the first distillery tour I have been on and I found it really interesting – especially the story about Towser, the distillery cat, who apparently caught 28,899 mice throughout her life!

Apart from this outing, the rest of the weekend was spent catching up, cooking together, playing boardgames and watching Eurovision! We had a lovely weekend at Crieff and felt so relaxed that we didn’t want to leave. I would love to stay for longer next time so that there is more time to explore and also try out the spa…..

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Baldwin’s Natural Beauty Products

I have fallen completely in love with a set of products from Baldwin & Co! Baldwins is one of the largest suppliers of medicinal herbs, essential oils and natural products in the UK and was first established in 1844. I have been using the Green Tea & Frankincense Exfoliating Facial Scrub, the Pomegranate, Bilberry & Rose Rejuvenating Day Cream and the Harmonising Bath Oil.
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Green Tea & Frankincense Exfoliating Facial Scrub
This scrub is, I think, the thickest facial scrub I have ever used. You need literally the tiniest amount and when it is applied to wet skin it spreads out over your whole face. The scrub has bamboo particles, rounded nut granules and birch bark extract as the scrub part and also has moisturising candellia wax beads. The combination of these ingredients gives the scrub a gorgeous smell – sometimes I just open the tub for a sniff even when I am not planning on using it! I have been using the scrub a couple of times a week but it is gentle enough to use more often if you need to.

Pomegranate, Bilberry & Rose Rejuvenating Day Cream
Again, this face cream is really thick and you only need a very small amount. It also smells amazing, I love the smell of rose and the other ingredients give it a more unique smell than just plain rose. The day cream is suitable for all skin types and contains kiwi seed oil and blackcurrant on top of the pomegranate and bilberry, which help keep your skin soft. It also features a blend of honeybush, green and white tea which contains anti oxidants to protect skin from free-radicals. I am never really sure what this actually means but I gather it is a good thing!

Harmonising Bath Oil
You can probably guess what I am going to say about this… It smells fantastic! A blend of lavender, marjoram and geranium which is perfect to help you relax after a long day. I love it!

I am so glad I have discovered Baldwins. I much prefer using natural products so am looking forward to exploring their website a bit more. I often find that natural products are quite expensive but these are a really reasonable price, £8.49 for a 60ml tub of the scrub, £11.95 for the moisturiser and £7.39 for 100ml of bath oil.

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Skin Shop Cardiospermum Gel

I suffer from pretty bad hay fever throughout the summer and one symptom I have is itchy skin. I get itchy patches on my chest and arms and also have extremely itchy eyes. Recently, I was sent some Cardiospermum Gel from Skin Shop to try out.
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I have got both the one designed specifically for eyes and the one for the rest of the body. I really like the body one. It is so cool and soothing to apply, and even though the effects don’t last very long, it still feels really nice not to be itchy for half hour or so. It does calm down very itchy patches quite well and takes out the majority of the redness, but it doesn’t totally get rid of itching so don’t expect a miracle cure!

I am not such a bit fan of the eye gel. It has the same effect as the body version but I find that it is no better than the Simple Revitalising Eye Roll On which I have been using for a while now. The Simple version is nicer to apply as it has a roller ball applicator which feels even more cooling than the gel. I also find that the Cardiospermum eye gel leaves a sticky residue which I am not too keen on. If you suffer from itchy skin, I would definitely recommend giving the body gel a try but am personally not sold on the eye gel version. You can buy both products from Skin Shop, the body gel for £9.95 and the eye gel for £6.95.

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Sampar Velvet Cleansing Milk

The Velvet Cleansing Milk is my first foray into the Sampar range. I love a good cleanser so was excited to try this one and I although it has some flaws, I do really like it. imageThe texture of the cleanser is thick and smooth and it has a wonderful smell of roses. It leaves my skin feeling soft and hydrated but I do find that it isn’t great at removing makeup, especially eye makeup. It breaks it up a bit but I tend to end up with big black rings around my eyes where the mascara has just spread. I’ve been using either a facewipe or a bit of eye makeup remover to get the majority of my makeup off first, before applying the cleanser. The scent is quite strong so might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I really do love rose scented products! If I didn’t like the smell so much then I think this might end up being one if those products I never get sound to finishing because I am lazy on prefer my cleanser to also remove makeup, but I love it so I will definitely be using this one up! You can buy the Sampar Velvet Cleansing Milk from M&S for £26 for 200ml.

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Dr Renaud Mango Hand and Nail Cream

My newest hand cream is the Dr Renaud Mango Hand and Nail Cream.
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I am not too fussed on the packaging and I don’t think I would have given this a second glance if I hadn’t have tried, and been impressed by, other Dr Renaud products. As is happens, this hand cream is fantastic. It smells wonderful and fruity and has helped out my dry cuticles which have recently been protesting about the amount of nail polish I wear! It is a very rich hand cream and does take around 10 minutes to sink in completely but I am more than happy to wait that long as it really is moisturising and is making my nails look much stronger and healthier. This hand cream costs £13.30 for 75ml and is available online.

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