Saturday, August 27, 2016

Beauty: August Favourites


I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to do a little beauty round up here on the blog. While I'm not a beauty expert, I do like using great products and one of  the joys of my thirties has been finally making peace with make-up and for want of a better descriptor, having a bit of a play! 

I love learning about different brands and products, and from now on I'll be doing a monthly round up about this here on the blog, as well as a few spotlight posts on great products I buy or receive. I hope you enjoy!


For the longest time, I struggled to find a skincare range that worked for me. My skin is both super sensitive and a bit of a combination, which makes finding a range which doesn't irritate it really difficult. So I was delighted when a few years ago I found Avene - their products work so well with my skin. The spring water spritz has been a godsend in this hot, hot weather, and the hydrating serum has been perfect when dealing with fans and aircon drying out my skin.


The Bobbi Brown browns palette is so lovely - as someone with pale skin and blue eyes it gives me lots of options for having my eyes pop. I've swatched below on a tissue - you can see how pale a couple of the options are, with just the slightest hint of shimmer, while some of the darker shades can be built up to create some real drama. I can't find it on the website but I picked mine up at Debenhams.



I got this pot of the Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask from The Body Shop in my goody bag from the Thirty Plus Awards last month and it's just so good. I apply it a couple of times a week before bed (I try to always do it on days when I'll be washing my hair the next day as I'm a fairly active sleeper and can end up with a little of the mask in my hair) and it really does make my skin feel bouncier, softer and brighter. Fab!


I was at a book event last month for the paperback release of Killing Monica*, and they had some lovelies from Benefit there with products to try and buy. I'd been meaning to try their new products so was very happy to combine books and beauty on this occasion! After chatting with the consultants I bought two brow items. The Browvo Conditioning Primer is so gorgeous and the perfect thing for prepping, and the Goof Proof Brow Pencil does exactly what it says on the tin (well, the box) - with very little effort at all I can have neat, kempt, full brows.


I am seemingly always on a quest for a new, better dry shampoo. Now I've cut how often I wash my hair (thanks for the tip, Kim Kardashian), having a great dry shampoo to use on days three and four means my hair is still fresh and smells great. This Charles Worthington Salon at Home one is light and has a great, clean scent. Unfortunately, when I clicked on the site and over at Boots to find the product, it seems it has now been discontinued. So the quest continues...


I am not the biggest wearer of lipstick - in fact until about two years ago the only ones I ever wore were my show ones, ready to slap on for am dram plays or concerts. As my lips are fairly full, I guess I've always felt more comfortable with a balm or a gloss. This Maybelline shade (Fairly Bare) I picked up earlier this year is just subtle enough for me to enjoy - it's a peachy nude which amps up my natural lip colour without being too outre (I'm always in awe of girls who can rock bold colours!). Perfect for summer evenings and dressier days!



The Nyx hype is real, I've been seeing it everywhere on beauty blogs lately! When I say these setting sprays I was super intrigued - I melt whenever the sun is in the sky so keeping makeup put is a priority. I'm loving both of these - the matte finish is great for everyday wear, and I love the subtle sheen the dewy finish gives.


I wanted to have a little suncream I could keep in my bag during the sunnier weather, and had been on the hunt for a while. For a while I'd been keeping two travel size ones in my bag, one for face, one for body. Then I thought about it, and decided to get a gentle facial factor 30 that wasn't too pricey - that way I could use it on my face without inviting breakouts or blocked pores, but could also slather it on my limbs as required if I stayed out in the sun a while. This Simple moisturiser with SPF30 has been a godsend, and has kept my skin quenched and protected!


A couple of months ago, Emma and I popped over to west London to look around Chelsea in Bloom. While we were there we had the chance to enter a competition to win a Sarah Chapman product, and I won! The Skinesis Morning Facial is lovely - it smells divine and adds a real glow to skin. For me it's a little too glowy to use daily at the moment (it would take a lot of mattifying products to dull the sheen on my skin, and I'm low make-up use in the summer), but it does leave my skin gorgeous - I love using it on mornings when I'm not heading out till later in the day, so my skin can absorb all the goodness and the shine can dull a little. I think in the cooler months I'll use it daily, as it's great at plumping up my skin, a real treat.


When it's not 3 million degrees (slight exagerration ;)) I'm enjoying using rollers and straighteners to keep my hair more kempt and pretty (this is all part of the Kardashian plan mentioned above). As such I wanted to find a good quality heat protection product, and this Toni & Guy mist is perfect - even when I'm going for poker-straight hair, it feels nourised and stays glossy.

So there you go, my current faves. Which products are rocking your world right now?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Book Review: Hygge


Denmark is definitely having a moment in the publishing world.

Whereas a couple of years ago we were all seemingly trying to emulate the French (with all those titles telling us French women don't get fat, their offspring are charming, their sex lives sizzling and their homes highly covetable), now all things Scandi/Nordic are having a bit of a moment.

According to the World Happiness report, Denmark is the happiest nation on earth, and has been for some time. The top ten in this chart each year always seems to feature the Scandi/Nordic set, plus Australia, NZ, Canada and a couple of other nations (at the moment, Switzerland and the Netherlands). Other countries may have other titles locked down, but when it comes to being happy, the Danes seemingly have it sewn up! There are several reasons people cite for that, and one of those is the importance of hygge.
 
I first came across the idea of hygge (a Danish term which has no direct English translation, but which means a kind of cosiness, comfort, sort of creating a cocooned, safe space) last year, when reading Helen Russell's wonderful book The Year of Living Danishly.* I loved the whole idea of creating a warm and welcoming nest during the colder months - as someone who has spent many winters in Scotland and Germany, where cold weather means that cosy home time is the way to go it really appealed. I'm also a big fan of living seasonally anyway - as I type this I am heartily tired of the hot temperatures and more than ready for autumn to sweep in, bringing with it so many delights that I am oh-so-ready for!

In his book, Hygge* (pronounced HUE-gah, fact fans), Meik Wiking (who is the CEO of the awesomely named Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, a place I clearly want to visit) talks you through the many and various aspects of Hygge and offers hints, tips and ideas for bringing a little hygge into your world.

First things first, this is a beautiful book. The scandi-style cover in gentle creams and blues with metallic accents is delightful, a real treat for the eyes, and it has fit onto our coffee table very happily - it adds a lovely little lift to the room. Once you are within the covers, the book continues to be a beauty, with small, easy to read chapters, beautiful photographs, and easy to understand diagrams and tables.

Wiking covers every element of hygge, from decor to cooking, and offers so many ways to embrace this idea in your own life - whether it's by cooking a hearty meal, sharing time with loved ones, dressing for comfort and cosiness, or bringing a little hygge to your festive celebrations. From cosy blankets to candles and lamps, he explains how adding a few little touches can make your home a little more hygge.

As I read through the book I realised that hygge is certainly something I already do - indeed my propensity to hibernate in the winter is pretty darn hygge in and of itself. Whehn I looked down the list of things which Danes feel contribute to hygge, I found some many of my own autumnal and winter favourites - hot drinks, baking, candles, Christmas, books and board games and blankets. How hygge might change my behaviour a little will be that this year I think I'd like to share the cosiness a little more.

Usually, my winter habits involve spending more time at home, with Matthew and the cats. But hygge is all about sharing the comfort, and I'll certainly be trying to do more of this - having friends around for supper, or a board game night, or just to have tea and cake while reading books and relaxing.

I really enjoyed reading this book and it gave me all kinds of ideas for making our home a little cosier, and a lot more hyggelig, this year. It was the perfect thing to read in my current mood, and I can't wait to bring some of the ideas into my life as we head into the cooler weather. There is a chapter on hygge in the summer but in the current weather my mind is more on ice lollies and chilled cocktails - I'll be going full hygge once the mercury starts to drop. Bring on the knitwear, low lighting, and stews!





Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by Penguin Living in return for an honest review. Thank you, lovelies!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

London: Cream Tea on the river with Thames Clippers


Those of you who have read here for a while will know that if I was compiling a list of favourite things, both London and afternoon tea would make the cut. So when I was very kindly invited to enjoyed some scones, tea and champagne aboard one of the Thames Clippers boats that whizz along the Thames, I was oh-so-happy to say yes, please!

We boarded the boat in glorious sunshine at London Bridge pier and set off for our hour long journey along the river. From the pier we headed west taking in so many London icons from our excellent vantage point on the river - the Shard, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament. The company was charming, the tea delightful, and the views incredible.


I love the many different skyscrapers we get in London - the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheesegrater, the Gherkin...


The pier we boarded from was right next door to the HMS Belfast, which was looking resplendent in the summer sunshine.


The clippers are a familiar sight to those of us who live and work in London - I've taken them for short hops before, but this was my first opportunity to enjoy a cream tea!


I'm always happy to see scones. And champagne. Love the Boden dress I chose for our outing, too!


We sailed past Shakespeare's Globe...


...the London Eye...


...arcades filled with shoppers and café patrons...


...the impressive buildings of the Embankment...


...the Tate Modern (and we went far along the river to spot Tate Britain too!)...


...and the pomp (and scaffolding!) of Westminster.


All too soon our hour was up and we turned around to approach the pier ahead of disembarking - this afforded a great view of yet another London Landmark, Tower Bridge!

The cream tea cruise departs from London Bridge pier at 3.30pm and lasts for one hour. While aboard as well as taking in the views there's a guide telling you all about the things you are seeing. Prices start from £16.90 for the cream tea and sightseeing cruise or you can opt to  upgrade to include a glass of Champagne. I'll certainly be adding to my list of things to do when family or friends come to visit town. 

Thank you very much to the Thames Clippers team for inviting me, I had a marvellous time!




Disclaimer: As mentioned, I attended this as an invited guest and my tea and trip was complimentary. All views, snaps and words my own.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Home Etc: Our New Cleaning Rota

For the last little while I've been trying to get a handle on how I approach keeping our house neat and tidy. We are very lucky to have the space we do, but recently I've been a bit worried and stressed by the clutter, and wanted to put a new rota in place so I could keep up with everything. I also wanted to create a system that meant we had less to do on weekends so we could relax, or work on any bigger house projects then.

I should probably add that Matthew is an absolute housework marvel - he's such a great gardener, sorts laundry like a boss, washes dishes every day and is better than I am when it comes to hoovering! In this season, however, when he's out at work for so much of the day during the week while I work from home I wanted to create a rota where I could clear most of the stuff during the weekdays. With no commuting and fewer pulls on my time of the same urgency, I wanted to take up more of the work so that when we do get time together we can have more fun, with fewer chores to do!

I've experimented with rotas for keeping the house tidy, both monthly ones and weekly ones, but I've never quite hit a rhythm. So this time I thought I'd pitch myself something between the two, with a fortnightly rota. With all the shopping, cleaning and little tasks like popping to pick up parcels or get the dry cleaning, this works out at a very sensible five tasks a day, plus one each on weekend. With a few 'daily dos' as well, this should cover everything, with more time available on weekends when bigger jobs or tasks like spring cleaning, charity shop runs, or getting the Christmas decorations up emerge. I'll keep you posted!



How do you organise your cleaning and tidying?

Linking up as ever with the Home Etc lovelies.

Home Etc

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Me

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

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