Thursday, 10 July 2014

My Makeup Brush Collection


Since getting more into make up over the past few years I have been slowly building up my make up brush collection. I have definitely found that using the right tools helps even someone as cack-handed as me get my makeup looking natural and put together, and not like I've used Homer Simpson's patented make up gun to put it on!

I don't have a lot of brushes, I am building up my collection slowly, and trying to read a lot of beauty blogs and make sure I am buying exactly the right tool for the job. After reading a lot of reviews I started off with the Real Techniques Core collection, which I have since recommended to a lot of friends looking to pick up a reasonably priced set of starter brushes.

It comes with four brushes - a foundation brush and detailer brush which I don't use much - I don't find the foundation brush that great for blending, and the detail brush is just too small for me - but the two in the picture above are the buffing brush and contour brush which I use every day. The buffing brush is great for foundation, and making sure you don't look too cakey as it distributes the product really evenly, and the contour brush which I use for concealer around my eye and nose area.

I also picked up a really cheap eye shadow brush from Topshop a while back which I don't think they sell any more. It was quite cheap as I remember, about £6 maybe, but it has lasted really well and feels very good quality. I just use it for putting shadow all over my lids, mainly with cream eyeshadows as it isn't so great at picking up the product with powder shadows.

My most recent purchase was the gorgeous Bobbi Brown blush brush. This is the most expensive brush I own, at a slightly eye watering £35, but it is also definitely the nicest and best quality of all my brushes. It just makes applying blush so easy and effortless. I cannot rate it highly enough.

On my radar next are a powder brush and a slightly better eyeshadow brush. For eyes the one that constantly gets recommended is the Mac 217 blending brush but I'm still on the hunt for the perfect powder brush. 

Naturally like any good blogger I store my brushes in a cleaned out candle jar. Not a dyptique one alas (too expensive!) but this one I won in a blog competition from Matt ages ago does the job just as well.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Favorite Intagrammers

Instagram is probably my favourite social networking site of all. I love seeing how creative people can be with just a tiny square of pixels. I know with so many filters and photo editing apps and fancy cameras it's almost impossible not to take a cute instagram photo these days (remember the days when we all just slapped 'earlybird' on every photo and called it a day?!) but I still love these little tiny glimpses into peoples' lives.

These are some of my favourite instagrammers to see in my feed. Let me know if you have any recommendations of who I should be adding next.






Monday, 30 June 2014

Butternut Pasta Bake


Food in our household has taken a bit of a nose dive recently. Both James and I have been super busy with work, and so meals straight out of the freezer have become the norm (and not in a 'here's something I prepared earlier' sense either - more of a 3 for 2 in the frozen isle special...) I did try and put a little more creativity into our Saturday night dinner however, although at that point neither of us had had time to shop, so all I had were our storecupboard basics to work with - pasta, flour, milk, cheese and some butternut squash I had in the freezer.

I did my usual search of the bbc good food website to see what I could possibly make without having to trek to the shops, and this delicious looking recipe for butternut macaroni cheese was clearly a sign from heaven.

This is comfort eating at its finest. The sweetness of the butternut squash and creamyness of the cheese sauce are my idea of paradise in food form.

To cook a decent sized 2-3 person pasta bake (we split it between two, but if you're more generous to your guests it would work for three!) you need:

150g pasta
100g extra mature Cheddar or similar cheese, grated (it's got to be strong or you won't taste it)
50g Parmesan, grated
a small butternut squash, peeled and sliced into 2cm chunks
300ml milk
15g plain flour
30g butter or margarine
15g mustard powder (optional)
olive oil, and salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

First toss the butternut squash in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, with the garlic, and spread out on a baking tray and roast at about 200 degrees c for about half an hour. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain, and set aside.

For the sauce this was the first time I have made a Bechamel sauce (or roux depending on what you call it) since school, so it ended up being slightly lumpy, but not bad for a first attempt in 10 years. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour and mustard powder to make a paste. Then add the milk slowly (this is the trick to not getting it too lumpy) to the paste stirring all the time over a low heat. Add all the cheddar and half the Parmesan to the sauce. Add a little more milk or some of the pasta water if it gets too thick. Mash about a third of the butternut squash and also add to the sauce.

Finally combine everything together in a baking dish, sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan and pop back in the oven for 20 minutes or until it's just starting to go brown and crispy on the top!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. you had me at midcentury and loft 2. this is post that inspired my pesto making last week 3. love these cover versions of pop songs 4. since my adventures the othe weekend I am a big fan of bikes (no helmets though?!) 5. this library. oh my goodness 6. I think I need a coffee cart...

Happy weekend to you! It could not come fast enough. I felt like it was about Thursday on Tuesday evening and it is always so disappointing when you realise there are still so many days to the weekend!

This evening we are going to a wedding, which is pretty random. I've never been to a wedding on a Sunday night before. It's in a big former wharf building in East London and from the website it looks super fancy, so I am quite excited. I must remember not to have too much fun though, given we both need to go to work the next day! I don't know the couple too well (it's one of James' old friends) but I do know a lot of people going so it should be a fun evening.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Home Made Pesto


I am completely obsessed with the scent of basil at the moment. To me it is just the most summery smell. It has me thinking of hot and toasty homemade pizza, jugs of Pimms, and of course, pesto.

This pesto was so easy to make, required mainly ingredients I had around the house already, and has so many different uses that it's been a great staple to have in the fridge to make our midweek meals more exciting.



50g Parmesan cheese, grated
50g pine nuts
120ml olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
as many basil leaves as you can find. I used maybe 40-50g of leaves but more would have been preferable for a more basil-y taste.

The recipe is as easy as can be.  I toasted the pine nuts in a frying pan for a couple of minutes then added all my ingredients to a blender and blended until smooth. A food processor would have been better than a blender, but since I don't have one the blender worked fine. It probably would have been a bit smoother in a processor, but I don't mind a few crunchy bits.


So far I've used the pesto as a topping for salmon, baked in the oven at about 200 degrees C for 20 minutes, so it's crispy and delicious, mixed with pasta and asparagus for a really simple Monday night supper, and dolloped on top of toasted ciabatta and a poached egg for a quick lunch.

If you pour a little bit of oil on the top it should keep for about two weeks in the fridge, though I don't think mine will last that long!

Monday, 23 June 2014

The London to Brighton Bike Ride - A Cycling Novice's Guide


Last Sunday I was one of 28,000 people who took part in the British Heart Foundation's London to Brighton Bike ride. I've mentioned a few times on here my training for the event. Before March I hadn't been on a bike since I was a child, but since then I'd been cycling for up to five hours every weekend to train for the 54 miles from Clapham Common to the seafront at Brighton. Even then I was definitely not prepared for quite how far that is!

I signed up with seven of my colleagues, all of whom were much better cyclists, and had much flashier bikes than me. I really don't know why I did it. I have never been much into sport or tests of physical endurance - the idea of running a marathon does not appeal at all. But my friend Vanessa was at that point the only girl signed up for it, and she wanted someone else to go with who wasn't seeing it as a race, but a ride, so I signed up with her. My bike got a lot of laughs when everyone saw it, but I didn't want to spend money on a new one for just one event, so I used my mum's 20 year old bike, complete with basket on the front for my handbag, of course! She is big, old and heavy, but she did see me through to the finish with no punctures or injuries, so I can't put her down too much. That's my bike, not my mum. Obviously.

I stayed over at my friend Stuart's house the night before so we would be close to the start line for our painfully early 7am start time. You apply for the start time slot in advance, 7am was good to get you out of London before it gets too busy, I think the earliest is 6am and the latest is around 9am. Most of my colleagues sped ahead pretty quickly and I didn't actually see them again once we start! Luckily Vanessa and I stuck together pretty much the whole way. In London you are pretty slow and most of the roads aren't shut off for traffic, so we cycled and chatted for probably the first hour or so.

When we left the city we split up slightly more, mostly riding solo between rest stops and meeting up every couple of stops or so for some water, food and a chat! I am so glad we stuck together as I think the experience would not have been nearly so fun without company. Especially as we were sooo much slower than everyone else!

There are quite a few hilly bits along the way, and I definitely think I should have practised cycling up hills more than I did. I have driven around a lot of the areas we cycled through before, but somehow you don't notice the hills nearly so much! The rest stops were pretty well placed though, so you always knew there was somewhere to catch your breath coming up, and I loved the community feel of them. They had such a summer fete atmosphere, with tons of people, brass bands, home made cakes, and a particularly epic burger stand run by the 1st Lindfield Scout troop in one case - major shout out to them for much needed eats! I did take snacks with me, but it was good to stop and buy some proper food as well for lunch.

The thing I really hadn't expected was how many accidents there were. I am a pretty slow and leisurely cyclist, and most of the roads are clear of traffic, so I somehow didn't think there would be as many as there were. The ambulances were on stand by and quick to respond, but it was pretty scary to see people who had come off their bikes, mainly on the downhill parts where you really get up some speed. I had my brakes firmly on of course!

Overall it took us about eight hours to make it the whole way, although that included about 45 minutes waiting for a particularly nasty accident to be sorted (the woman in question is thankfully in a stable condition in hospital). The first 40 miles I would say were pretty ok provided you had trained enough beforehand. The next seven included the infamous Ditchling Beacon (a seriously steep hill) and was pretty painful. I genuinely wasn't sure if I'd make it at some points, but I was so close I knew I had to keep going. After that there is a great bit of road along the top of the beacon with amazing views and it was downhill into Brighton to the finish.

I had booked the coach back from Brighton, which is organised by the British Heart Foundation - a lorry behind the coach takes your bike, and they provide bubble wrap for you to ensure it is kept safe! By that point I have to say I did not care much about my poor old bike, I just wanted to get my poor old body home, but it was funny seeing people with snazzy bikes carefully using yards of bubblewrap to ensure theirs were safely transported! Possibly the worst part was then getting back across London. I know it doesn't compare, but I got a bit of an inkling what disabled people must feel like when you get to the station to find all the lifts out of order and no choice but to find someone to help you get your wheels up the escalator or worse, stairs.

The one thing I'd do differently if I did the ride again (which currently I am not planning to do, but ask me again when the pain has worn off and the bruises are gone!) other than buy a lighter bike, would be to have booked the next day off work. My legs were so tired and in so much pain all Sunday evening and Monday morning. I had to take two ibuprofen just to make it into work! I am so proud I did it, but my it was painful!

Monday, 9 June 2014

My grown up wardrobe three


In my last grown up wardrobe post I took stock of all my work clothes to work out what I had, and importantly what I needed. Now it's coming to the fun part - writing a shopping list! Almost all my work clothes are in shades of blue, white, black and grey, with a little bit of pink and orange in there so it isn't too dull. I will make sure to stick to this colour scheme when shopping, to ensure anything new I purchase goes with everything I already own. 

The above are examples of items which would fit into my shopping list, but this is definitely a list I will be crossing off over a number of months, rather than going out tomorrow to puchase everything linked above (I wish I could afford that!)

My shopping list consists of:

2 pairs of shoes - one pair of flats, one pair of wedges or low comfortable heels
2 jackets - one black/navy, one in a lighter fabric for summer
1 new skirt - preferably a knee length pencil skirt in a fabric which is wearable all year round
3-4 new tops - ideally three quarter length sleeves in a jersey fabric or anything which doesn't wrinkle!
1-2 new dresses - knee length, again should need minimal ironing.
1 new handbag - grey or black and big enough to carry all my crap around!
1 new cardigan - grey or black

As mentioned previously I am trying to spend a little bit more on my clothes, and take a step up in terms of quality (and price, le sigh) in the hopes that my things stay looking nice for longer. Brands I will be looking at are J Crew, Cos, & Other Stories, Hobbs, Jaeger, Jigsaw, Uniqlo and John Lewis (I love their Kin range). If you have any other suggestions of where to look though, I'd really welcome them.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A picture of the week


This has been a pretty good week I'd say. I've been out a lot - a work night out on Thursday led to a very painful day on Friday, and I kept discovering people were going to hold me to things I'd agreed to while drunk! Thus far I have discovered I joined a lottery syndicate, and agreed to go see The Eagles with someone in a couple of weeks?! Last night James and I went with his brother Will and Will's girlfriend Fidelma to see Cirque Du Soleil at the O2. It was just amazing. I so recommend you go if you get the chance.

On Tuesday my work's women's network organised a debate about whether quotas were the way forward to get more diversity in business. I went into the debate pretty unsure of my views on quotas (feeling like something had to change but at the same time knowing I wouldn't want to ever feel like I got a promotion or a job just for being a woman) but I have to say by the end of it I was more convinced by the 'for quotas' team than the against.

I firmly believe companies and governments are better run when there is a good range of diversity in the management doing the running, and that was something which both sides of the debate agreed on. Without some way to build up a critical mass of - in this case - women in that management though, we're just going to putter along as we are for the next 25 or more years.

I usually find debates quite awkward (I can't stand watching parliamentary debates because everyone is so rude to each other and it feels like they are just out to score points, not actually get anything done) but one of the things I enjoyed about this one was that everyone was really polite and respectful of each other, and not afraid to say when they agreed with the opposition, which I admire. I can't help but wonder if part of the reason it was such a positive experience was because both teams were 50:50 men and women.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Instagram April and May

1. prepping for my cousin's wedding 2. watching the London Marathon from the end of my road 3. the prettiest house 4. an epic lunch at Byron

1. the finest pizza in the land 2. lying in the sun. my favourite way to spend a sunday afternoon 3. off on an adventure to Plymouth with the sunday papers 4. the caffeine club is a 24 hour coffee and ice cream parlour. such a genius idea.

1. went to ikea and built a stool 2. my mum passes on all her old magazines. bliss! 3. first pimms of the season 4. a few new bits and bats

The last two months through instagram. You can follow me there at whereisharriet.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. Love this cosy writer's retreat 2. Never thought I'd be so entranced by peoples' washing! 3. Thoughts on a year of blogging from the private life of a girl 4. Ways to use empty candles 5. Joy's cauliflower rice burrito bowl looks epic 6. Katie has me putting Ecuador on my 'to visit' list

This weekend began with a mega cleaning spree. We were away last weekend in Plymouth visiting friends, and then I was off work ill at the start of the week, so we just ended up letting things sliiiide a bit. Thank fully everything is back up to standard now, as I just hate living in a messy house. It just really get to me, and much as I dislike cleaning, it gives me such a sense of relief when it is done.

After that we went out for lunch with some friends who were in town to pick out wedding rings ahead of their wedding in August - exciting times! We are really hitting wedding season now and we've got a few coming up, which I am really looknig forward to. I just love weddings!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bedside Beauty


I had a voucher for House of Fraser from work and ended up picking up a few new beauty bits. They are currently sitting on my bedside table as I tend to use them last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

Origins have been doing a deal recently in a number of department stores where if you buy a 50ml pot of day moisturiser, you get a cute little 30ml tub of Night-a-Mins night cream free. To take advantage of this I picked up the Ginseng Energy Boosting moisturiser for day, which smells just amazing. The Night-a-Mins I have used before, and has a lovely sweet orange scent. It's usually quite expensive (at least it seems expensive to me!) so this was a pretty excellent freebie. It always feels so luxurious and rich, and you only need a little bit to cover your face so it does last for ages. The Ginseng day cream has a much fresher scent, which is perfect for day, and is obviously a lot lighter, but no less luxurious.

I have had really dry skin on my cheeks for some reason lately (I don't know if it is the weather?) so these two have been the perfect combination to treat this, I genuinely get excited to moisturise these days!

I also purchased a handcream from Rituals in the scent Mandarin and Mint. I had a Rituals body wash a while back in a beauty box I think, and it just smelt amazing. I bought this unsniffed, but I was pretty confident it would smell good, and I was not disappointed. It has a beautiful fresh scent that is not too sweet, and just a little bit musky. I am pretty obsessive about hand cream, and always have one near by, so my hands are in pretty decent condition anyway, but this does give them an extra boost every time I use them, and my skin feels silky soft.

Monday, 26 May 2014

My Grown Up Wardrobe Two


I had such a good response ot my first blog post on building a more grown up and better quality wardrobe, and I absolutely loved reading everyone's thoughts in the comments on quality vs price, and whether high end clothes were worth it.

As part of my move to build a better quality work wardrobe I decided on Saturday I would catalogue everything I own and wear regularly to work. I was definitely very influenced by Into Mind, and this post on building a capsule wardrobe in particular. I really recommend this website if you are intrested in redefining your wardrobe. 

Because I work in quite a corporate environment it is quite easy for me to segregate my work clothes from my weekend clothes, but of course weekend clothes are more fun so I own way more of them! Including shoes and a few accessories the above totals 32 items, which I don't think it actually that much at all considering this is all I wear for five days a week. No wonder everything is looking a bit tatty! The breakdown is:

Four skirts - all decent quality, although one is wollen and i only wear it in winter, and needs the hem sewing up
One jacket - in very much need to a friend as I wear it to every meeting I go to at the moment
Five cardigans - of which one needs fixing as there is a slight tear at the hem
Three pairs of shoes - all in a decent state, but I'd like two more pairs ideally so I could wear a different pair each day to avoid wearing through them so quickly
Three scarves - I have a few more (see my scarves post for details!) but these are the ones I wear most often to work
One belt - which I wear with everything as no other belt is ever as good
One watch - which needs a new battery
Four dresses - of which one is probably a little too short for work but I can get away with it in the office
Ten tops - of which at least four are pretty worn out and could do with replacing

It's actually pretty interesting to me seeing all of my clothes laid out like this (although it took me a bloody long time to do!) as although I knew I had a pretty definite work uniform, I don't think I quite realised to what extent! I think I've become pretty good at knowing what I like and what I wear a lot, and ensuring that everything I purchase goes with everything else. 

In the case of my work wardrobe (and probably my weekend wardrobe too!) I like navy blue, with primarily grey and black but a little colour here and there. I wear a lot of pencil skirts, never trousers, and three quarter length sleeve tops which ideally don't need ironing! Dresses are mostly jersey (again minimal ironing!) and knee length and I like smark ladylike flats, as I can never be bothered with heels in the morning.

I can now see clearly what categories I need to purchase more items for (jackets are a must now I attend more meetings), what needs replacing (almost half my tops) and what needs mending (a skirt and a cardigan). It's also interesting after my thoughts on quality, and whether it's worth spending a lot of money on individual items to see that two of the things that have held up the best over the years are two plain jersey tops from Miss Selfridge, which were very affordable.

I found this exercise really helpful, and if you are interested in doing something similar I would definitely recommend not only taking all your clothes out of the wardrobe but photographing them so you can see everything at once as well, to help you work out what you need to improve.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Midcentury Bits and Bats


I mentioned last weekend that I went to the Modern Show with my parents, and this is what ended up coming home with me. I saw a lot of lovely things I liked a lot, but they were mostly big and expensive, and I feel like if I'm going to be spending all our money and bringing something huge home I probably should let James have a say first (I mean, unless its really nice and I just know he'd come to love it...) I figure smaller things are fair game though, and I fell head over heels for this pretty bowl and salad spoons. 

I love the pattern on the bowl, and the colours go really nicely with my living room. I'll definitely use it to serve salad or crisps, but at the moment it mostly sits on the coffee table looking pretty.

The salad servers were actually a much needed item, as we don't have any and I do eat a reasonable amount of salad, and trying to pick it up with a dessert spoon just wasn't working. I didn't think I'd ever see a pair this attractive though, so I snapped them up. They were probably on the higher end of what you'd pay for a new set of salad servers but I really couldn't leave them behind!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A picture of the week


The cycling training is getting serious now with only a month to go until London to Brighton! I spent yesterday doing a 42km trip around East London on my bike, under the Greenwich foot tunnel and then all round the Isle of Dogs and up through West Ham to finish up at the Olympic Park. It was fun although I got lost a lot and ended up in some slightly sketchy areas... I never really noticed cycle paths before, but now I am reliant on them I realise how often they are poorly signposted, end in the middle of no where, or are potholed and in a total state of disrepair. I can definitely see why cylists get so passionate about their sport - a few months in and I am already considering writing a letter to my MP! 

The evening was a bit more relaxing - I went to my parents for Pimms in the garden and a simple but delicious dinner of salmon and salad. Today I am seeing my sister and maybe going to see the Advanced Style documentary if I can find a cinema still showing it.

Happy weekend!