The following articles were authored by Helena

Instagram Round Up #21


1. Wild dolphin trail in Aberdeen
2 & 3. BBQ at Balmedie Beach
4. Afternoon tea at The Marcliffe
5. Hedgehog cupcakes
6. Delicious mojito chocolates from Hotel Chocolat!
7 & 8. Fyvie Castle
9, 10, 11 & 12. Edinburgh Festival
13. Chocolate shortbread
14, 15, 16 & 17. Caerphilly Castle
18. Tiger birthday cake
19 & 20. Castle Fraser
21. NOTW
22. Flowers from my dad
23 & 24. A weekend in York
25. Totoro birthday cake
26 & 27 A weekend in Crieff


Nick Nairn Cook School – The Perfect Steak

Last Saturday, we spent the evening at Nick Nairn Cook School in Aberdeen. The smells drifting down from the upstairs classrooms when we walked in to the school set our stomachs rumbling before our class even started!imageimageimageThe class began with a glass of wine for everybody and then we settled down to watch the chef cook ‘The Perfect Steak‘. He talked us through each step and gave us lots of good tips and interesting facts, about the meat to choose, what sort of pans to use and how long to cook the meat. We all got a taste of the steak when he was finished and it was, no question, the best steak I have ever tried! It was served with parmesan sauteed potatoes and a rocket salad with a gorgeous parmesan and lemon dressing, all of which we were taught to cook. Next it was our turn. We all had our own station (there were ten people in the group) and the chef walked around to help us as we went, while also topping up our wine glasses. We used induction hobs which I had never used before but I was very impressed with them and now want one of my own! Our own steaks turned out pretty well but were not quite up to the standard of the chef’s. I guess practice makes perfect (we already have all of the ingredients to give the dish another go tonight…)!imageWe had such a fun evening and learned so much in just two hours. Our teacher was really helpful and the atmosphere was lovely and relaxed. I have already been trying to decide which course I want to try next… The full day Thai course looks amazing, as does the three hour Master Pasta and Chocolate Therapy!


NOTW: Alley Attitude


Colours used:
No7 Stand Back
Maybelline Street Artist “Alley Attitude” Top Coat (I love the effect of this!)


Sally Hansen Miracle Growth Serum

I have been taking a break from nail varnish recently in the hope of strengthening my nails and repairing some of the damage done by my almost constant nail varnish wearing. To help me along the way, I have been using the Sally Hansen Miracle Growth Serum.
image I didn’t want to spend loads of money on a treatment I wasn’t sure would work but I was lucky enough to find this for just £4.99 on Amazon. You apply the serum to your nails using the pipette. It has the texture of a thick gel so doesn’t run all over your nails. It stays sitting nicely on your nails until you rub it in over your cuticles and nails themselves. I have been pretty impressed with the serum. After using it daily for a few weeks, my nails are definitely stronger and the ends are less flakey. I have also noticed that they are growing faster and my cuticles are looking a lot less dry. You can use the serum right before applying nail varnish as well which means that your nails stay in better condition under the colour. Definitely a product that works and I would have been happy if I had paid full price!


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.



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.


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.



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.


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!
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!


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!


Hoola by Benefit

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.


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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