30 September 2014

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

You may recall a previous post in which I rambled happily about the delicious Dark Lime Intense chocolate from Lindt and it's uses in enhancing baked goods (by which I more or less mean I melted some on the top of buns), and I did state at the time that I had another yummy batch of chocolate to get bake-happy with! 

Well this is Lindt's Raspberry Dream, and I thought it might make rather excellent brownies.... 

My usual brownie recipe of choice has mysteriously vanished so I borrowed this one from The Bearded Bakery and just fiddled with it a bit. For example, I'd generally use predominantly dark chocolate in brownie baking but I really wanted the fat chunks of the dark raspberry Lindt to stand out so used mainly milk chocolate instead to give the Lindt more opportunity to shine! 


125g Butter
125g Milk Chocolate
60g Plain Flour
25g Cocoa Powder
2 Eggs
185g Golden Caster Sugar
70g Raspberries
100g Lindt Creation Raspberry Dream, broken into big chunks

(I liked the idea of keeping the Lindt stuff more or less whole as the beauty of it is the glorious raspberry ganache encased in a shell of rich dark chocolate and I thought some of that lovely contrast would be lost if I just melted it all down.)

1 - Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare a 20cm baking tin. 
2 - Melt together the butter and milk chocolate. 
3 - Whisk whisk whisk together the eggs and sugar. Keep going until the mixture is really thick and creamy.

4 - Slowly fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
5 - Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and mix until smooth.
6 - Throw in the chocolatey chunks and raspberries.

7 - Bake for around 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
8 - Serve, accompanied by a nice cup of tea.

MMMmmm gotta say, I was pretty impressed with how these worked out. They were the gooiest brownies I've made and the taste from the flavoured chocolate and the raspberries was lovely. 

Don't forget to check out Mike's blog for the original (and superior!) recipe, along with loads of other delicious goodies!

* This is my entry for the Great Summer Bake Off Challenge by Ladbrokes Bingo

28 September 2014

My Week In Beauty

Last weeks post outlined an ambition to actually start working my way through my so far unused beauty stash and surprisingly I've managed a whole second week without getting massively distracted and forgetting about it, hurray! 

Here's this weeks treats:

Lush Amandopondo Bubble Bar - This was a present  from Sharon a little while ago, as she knows I love Rose scented things. This lovely little bubble bar contains Rose Absolute and Lemon Oil so smells like Turkish Delight, and a delightfully sweet one at that! The bubble bars from Lush often work out as their best value bath products as you don't need to use the full one in one go - I crumbled around a third of this under my hot running water and got masses and masses of lovely sweet-smelling bubbles so still have plenty left for future baths!

almond bubble bar

L.vida nail polish in Honey Melon - This was part of a fairly massive nail polish order from Memebox earlier in the year. I usually stick to the boxes (as you may have noticed!) but at one point they had everything from this brand at half price, making them $3 each - I could hardly say no a bargain like that - especially when there were so many pretty colours to choose from! 

I love Honey Melon - I've always had a leaning towards green polish anyway and this is such a lovely soft shade - it reminds me of apple flavoured sweets or something. For such a cheap polish I find these apply really well - they have a nice wide brush which I always prefer and the finished result is creamy and smooth. 

green nail polish

Sallys Box Friendly Berry Berry Lip Patch - I did promise to try one of these out this week as I seem to have amassed a couple of these lip patches and I can't imagine they'd ever be used for anything more than a bit of a novelty. This one promised to be 'super plumping and moisturising' - just pop the weird jelly lips over your own for ten to twenty minutes!

I kind of propped myself up at a semi-horizontal angle to help keep this in place, as I don't imagine it would have stayed put if I'd been wandering round with it on. The texture was a bit odd - like if you'd flattened a bunch gummy bears and then wet them before sticking on your face. I'm sure I looked even sillier than I felt, too. I wasn't expecting much from this in the way of results, but to be fair when I did take it off my lips did feel plumper.  They didn't look any different to it may have just been relief about being freed from their jelly prison.... I don't think these will become a particularly common feature of my beauty regime but it was quite fun.

So that was my week in beauty - I better go dig some new bits out for next week! Anything here you've tried or would fancy?

25 September 2014

Memebox - My Honey Box

So they don't become too boring and repetitive, I'm trying to drip the Memebox posts out slowly, once a week or so. At that rate I still have enough to keep going for probably a couple of months without even telling you how many I've ordered that haven't been delivered yet!

Today's is my recently arrived My Honey Box, for no other reason than it was the first one off the pile when I realised it was getting dark last night and I better take some pictures quick while I had the chance!

It's a fun one though, I loved the first Honey Box and I'm very happy with this one too! 

Korean beauty products with honey as ingredient

Migabee Antipollution RE-Peeling Mask ($37) - containing honey, bee venom, propolis and royal jelly to exfoliate and brighten skin. It's a sticky face mask that should peel off when dry. Despite owning a wealth of face masks I don't actually have a lot of the peel-off way of things and think they're really fun!

Mi Click Makuna Honey Treatment ($5) - This is treatment for dry hair. I struggle a lot with my hair and something like this that promises deep nourishment is right up my street. I don't see a lot of hair products in these boxes and it does make a nice change as I'm likely to use this up a lot more quickly than I would another face wash or moisturiser.

Enesti Apple and Honey Shea Butter Hand Cream ($5) - I seem to have been going through hand cream like crazy recently! I don't know if it's the colder weather or something else but my hands have been dry as a bone, and this is a very cute addition to my handbag!

From Nature Multi Effect Collagen Honey Mask ($1) - Another sheet mask for the collection!

Edmong Honeybee Water Cream ($29) - A fab sounding moisturiser that can also be used as an overnight sleeping mask. It contains lost of nice ingredients (honey, green tea, hyaluronic acid) and not a lot of nasty ones (parabens, mineral oil, artificial colourings) and it has cute little bees on the box, hurray!

Daycell Essential Honey Lift Massage Cream (£20) - the 'lift' in the title comes from the claim that this product, with its honey and collagen complex, will help firm up your skin. I'm always wary of such claims but if it works then fantastic and if it doesn't it's another nice honey based moisturiser so it's not the end of the world!

Pure Smile Snail Lip Treatment Honey ($5) - I was really pleased to spot this in my box as I instantly recognised the packaging from the handcream that was in the first honey box. Sadly that's all but used up now but I loved it - it didn't even take me long to get over the 'snail' factor! If the lip treatment is anywhere near as good as the handcream then I'm very happy!

This box was originally $29 plus postage, making it one of the more expensive Memeboxes but I got it as part of a bundle with a couple of others meaning I saved a bunch on shipping. There's also usually discount codes to be found (for example at the minute you can save $5 with the code BZOP!) so the boxes usually work out pretty good value!
The My Honey Box is sadly sold out now, but as well as the occasional re-stock Memebox are constantly releasing new boxes. The ones currently tickling my fancy are the Wine and Cheese Box, of the Etude House brand-based box that I can imagine is going to packed full of the cutest Korean bits and pieces!  
* Contains Affilite Links

24 September 2014

Afternoon Tea at Ox Pasture Hall, Scarborough

Ox Pasture Hall has been on my must-visit list for quite some time - from the sumptuous photos on the hotels website to the glowing reviews I've read on many a blog, I got the impression this place was something a bit special.
nice hotels yorkshire coast

Seeing as it is so close to the sea-side, it made sense to make the most the of the last remaining days of what could vaguely be described as summer and head on over for afternoon tea in Scarborough. After a couple of hours of playing in the arcades and eating ice cream on the beach with Sammie and Danniella we made our way to the Hotel (Which, for those without a car, is only a couple of miles from the train station, around £7 in a taxi).

scarborough hotel

First impressions of cosy little country retreat were astoundingly positive! The gorgeous place, tucked away in the glorious North York Moors National Park, is a delight to behold. Secluded (despite it's relative proximity to the town centre!), romantic and very pretty, it was off to a flying start and that was even before we spotted the little dozing kitty that resides at Ox Pasture Hall - one of a couple of on-site pets! (Things can only eve be improved by the addition of a kitty, I'm sure you'll agree!)

afternoon tea scarborough
We were there for afternoon tea though so had to drag ourselves away from the pretty gardens and into the Courtyard Restaurant where our table was waiting for us.
Because my expectations were so high, and because everything had been so lovely on first appearance, it really saddens me to say that the afternoon tea wasn't that cracking. The first problem we encountered was the cheese sandwiches. I do like a generously filled sandwich and as you can see they cheese ones here were definitely that, but unfortunately the cheese seemed to have been left out in a warm room for a while before it made it to our table - y'know when cheese gets all shiny? Not ideal, especially considering they made up 5 of our 9 sandwiches.

ox pasture hall

Unfortunately, the scones weren't great either - they looked fantastic (not big but that's fine when you have plates of cakes to go at!), and were served with very generous portions of clotted cream and a wide selection of jams, but they were a little hard and dry to be really enjoyed.

afternoon tea scarborough
Things were definitely looking up by the time we reached the cakes though, and I thought the inclusion of such a Yorkshire classic as Parkin was an inspired choice.

scarborough treats

I feel terrible complaining about the afternoon tea for a couple of reasons: firstly that the manager Lynsey who showed us around the hotel after we'd finished was utterly lovely, and secondly that we didn't actually air these grievances at the time which may have allowed them to be rectified. And I think the two issues were related - Lynsey was so sweet and accommodating that we didn't want to complain! Everyone else I've spoken to about the food at Ox Pasture Hall have raved about it too, so I don't expect our experience was a common one, just a bit of a shame on the day!

scarborough hotel gardens
I think it says a lot about the hotel though, that despite our slightly iffy experience I think the place is great. The suites we got to peek in look perfect for a romantic getaway (you should see the size of the beds!),  the hotel bar is just the thing for a cosy drink or three, and the grounds and gardens are stunning. There's so much here that's right that it's easy to imagine the things that were wrong were just details overlooked on a random occasion, as anyone running this places clearly has some idea what they are doing!
I'd definitely love to go back - just maybe not for afternoon tea!

23 September 2014

The Happy Box Company

You know I find it really hard to resist the lure of a good subscription box, but with my Memebox addiction still out of control I really need to stay away from any additional beauty extras. SO I was very excited to stumble across The Happy Box Company on twitter around the same time they announced the theme of their next box would be Afternoon Tea. As you can imagine, it didn't take a lot of convincing me to get one ordered and it arrived this week!

a box full of afternoon tea themed goodies

Having not really heard or seen much of this company before I was half prepared for a bit of a disappointing arrival, but I was very pleased with my little box! Here's what came in it -

Well I had to start with my favourite thing - just how sweet is this little teapot necklace? I can see this adorning my neck on many afternoon tea visit to come!

tea lovers jewellery

Cake toppers - perfect timing as we'll be having a tea party this coming weekend for little madams birthday!

The heart shaped lace doilies seem too lovely to actually use, but I think it'd be mean to have them and not get them out at the weekend, and the love ring is pretty but not really me so I think that might also be donated to the birthday girl!

love ring

The notebook and pencil on the other hand is definitely all mine! 'Drink tea and make notes' - it makes such sense but I hardly ever make notes when I go for afternoon tea, then have to rack my brain to remember what kind of cakes we got, or how much cream came with the scones! From now on I have this lovely little stitched note book to make all my tea based notes in!

tea notebook

The last thing in the box was this awesome little 'craft pack', stuffed with tea-themed card and cupcake ribbon as well as pencils, pompoms and other lovely crafty things. I haven't decided what to do with them all yet but I'll be sure to let you know if I come up with anything! 

Rather than signing up to a subscription. each box is sold separately each month for £14 plus postage. Each moth has a different theme and Octobers theme is due to be announced tomorrow so keep your eye on the website or twitter account to see what it is! 

I don't know if I'd get this every month, it would all depend on how much the theme appealed to me. but this Afternoon Tea Happy Box made me very happy indeed! 

21 September 2014

My Week in Beauty

I have so many beauty products that I keep meaning to get round to reviewing (or even using!), so this post marks the start of a new concerted effort on my part to at least say a few things about a few things. I'll never get through things individually, but I figure a weekly round up will not be a good excuse to work my way through my so far untouched products and see what works for me and what doesn't! This week I've been using:

Neals Yard Remedies Nourishing Melissa Nail Balm - I've always had dry nails and temperamental cuticles, but after taking the little ones swimming a bunch of times over the school holidays they were all absolutely battered. The swimming pool water does not agree with me in many ways but it's my poor fingers that really show up the worst of it - so I thought I'd treat them and I knew Neals Yard Remedies wouldn't let me down. I picked up the nail balm in their Leeds store a couple of weeks ago and after just a couple of days use everything was looking much better. It contains shea nut and cocoa butter for moisturising the delicate skin round your fingernails, and horsetail extract, melissa and frankincense for healthier nails. My fingers look like human fingers again, and I'm giving much of the credit to this! 

best thing for sore damaged cuticles

Purederm Nose Pore Strips - I got these a little while ago in the Cocoa Memebox and thought I'd give them a go despite not having used a similar product for many years (I think I was a teenager when this sort of thing first popped up but haven't touched them since then). I think the chocolate element was definitely instrumental in my decision to give these a go - they do smell vaguely chocolatey but you wouldn't want to eat them or anything! I'd forgotten how gross yet fun they are - really satisfying! I don't know if I saw much of an actual change in the appearance of my nose, and I don't really think I would buy them or a similar product on purpose again but if they happen to pop up in another box or something I'd get them used. 

OPI Nail Lacquer in Diva on Geneva - once my nails and fingers were looking a bit better after using the NYR nail balm, I was excited about the possibility of painting them again! The first polish to grace them after a few weeks off was OPI's Diva of Geneva - one that I'd got as part of a previous order with Fragrance Direct (They still have this one and a bunch of others at £3.99 each - tonnes less than the RRP!). I love the big bottles, wide brushes and smooth finish of the OPI polishes and the gorgeous shimmery purple colour of this is right up my street! 

dark purple shiny nail polish

Elle Girl 'I Say Tint You Say Gloss' in Vocal Red - This was another Memebox product (there might be a few of these coming up!), this one from waaaay back in Memebox Global #9. I'd not got round to testing it at all until the other day, in a moment of panic when I couldn't find my beloved Bourjois velvet matte thingie. This looked like the closest colour match to what I was after so thought I'd give it a go. You have to be pretty careful putting this on as the doe foot applicator picks up a lot of product and the bold colour could be quite easily overdone, but once you master it this is a real stunner. Not glossy like I half expected from the name, it actually dries to a pretty matte stain in a gorgeous classic red shade. It doesn't quite stay put as well or as long as the bourjois product but it's the closest thing I've found! 

elle girl vocal red

I have to figure out what I should be using in the week to come - if there's anything you've seen me acquire that you'd like to hear more about do just let me know! 

18 September 2014

Afternoon Tea at Harewood House

It feels like SO LONG since I've had afternoon tea, I thought I'd try to make up for it by having two at the weekend! The first took place at the very grand Harewood House. We'd planned a visit anyway to go see the penguins, and it just made sense to book in for tea while we were there - and I'm nothing if not sensible when it comes to tea opportunities.
stately home afternoon tea

Firstly, the setting for the tea is nothing short of stunning. Despite being a wee overcast, it was warm enough to comfortably sit outside in the Terrace Café, which basically meant we were sat in front of this not-too-shabby-looking pile of bricks...

grand places to visit yorkshire

...and facing this equally as lovely view. The house and the grounds are both pretty gorgeous and we had a good explore before settling down for tea (with another post's worth of pictures, if anyone is interested?)

great views yorkshire
Feeling a bit fancy (well it was a fancy place!) we had a glass of prosecco apiece as well as the tea. The prosecco was nice and cold, and the tea good and hot.
drinks with afternoon tea
The sandwiches were a good mix of ham, cucumber and smoked salmon with cream cheese. You guys probably know how I feel about salmon by now (I did on this occasion try taking the salmon out and just eating the cram cheese but still too fishy for my liking!) but the others were grand, well filled and on nice soft bread.

Cake wise, we had a chocolate brownie, carrot cake and another thing that I can't remember what it was or describe it very well - sorry! It definitely had sultanas and possibly some sort of Christmas cakey vibe? Sorry I can't do better - I didn't eat much of mine! I'm not a massive fruit-in-cake fan and the t'other half who had come along on this tea adventure loved it so I swapped him for his carrot cake (which he's not generally keen on - didn't that all work out beautifully?). The carrot cake was my favourite, delicious and moist with just the right amount of filling!
I did think the brownie and the scone were a little dry but I might just be getting overly fussy as the Mr insisted they were both fine.

harewood cakes

While we are on scone problems though, it's never my favourite thing when the come pre-jam-and-creamed. I'm a bit picky about my jam-to-cream-to-scone ratio, so this doesn't really work for me . . and you end up having to separate the two halves to eat it, meaning you get a jammy half and a creamy half instead of two jammy creamy halves.
So overall not the greatest tea ever - but the good elements, like the stunning backdrop and our charming waitress, balanced out the bad and I left full of cake and feeling good!

17 September 2014

Memebox - My Cute Wishlist 2

The first My Cute Wishlist box was one of my favourite ever offerings from Memebox, so of course I had very high expectations for this one!
Unfortunately, while there's some nice stuff in here, it didn't quite reach the dizzying heights of cuteness that the first one did, but guess you can't win them all! Wanna peek at what I did get?
cute korean cosmetics

Sally's Box Friendly Berry Berry Lip Patch ($3) - It is sorta cut, I'll give them that. Little Sally with all her masses of hair has been popping up quite often in these boxes recently and the packaging generally is fairly adorable. I've collected a couple of these lip patch things now and am yet to use one - I promise I will try one this week!

It's Skin Babyface Petit Blusher ($7) - Ok so this is definitely really cute too! This appeared in one of four colour choices and though I don't really know if the lavender one will suit me I'm really glad I got this one as it's so different from anything else I have. Very very sweet.

RoseMine Perfumed Hand Cream ($12) - It's a pretty thing for sure, though I don't know if I'd have used the word 'cute'. I do like RoseMine products and their Cath-Kidsonesque packaging, but the scent I received - Nana's Lily - doesn't sound massively appealing. Not yet tested it or even sniffed it properly as it's all foil sealed up and I'm trying to finish some of my on-the-go handcreams before opening any more!

Evas Vitamin Cleansing Dessert ($18) - I've not really tried this properly to give it a full review but, intrigued, I've just wandered to the bathroom at work to have a surreptitious play with it - so glad no one spotted me! It's a thick creamy cleanser (mine is the Red Wine variety but others got lemon on berry) that gives a pore-deep clean. The bit of my face I just tried this on feels great so I'm looking forward to testing it properly!

SaintPeau Collagen Pudding Sleeping Pack ($36) - The problem with sleeping packs is I leave them right next to my bed to put them on before sleepytime, only to wake up in the morning to remember I never applied it. This one, if I ever remember to use it, promises radiant and more youthful looking skin.

The YEON Style Y Fruity Swirl Lip Balm ($8) - like the hand cream above, I've kept this one sealed to prevent me from using it out of convenience rather than one of the many other lip balms I already have open. I got the 'lime twist' version, though it also comes in orange and strawberry varieties.

See, it's not a bad box at all, has some really nice items and I definitely shouldn't complain... it just feels a little flat after the last My Cute Wishlist Box. Like, I'm sure the lip balm above is nice and everything but it can't be the cutest lip balm in Korea, as I'm pretty sure I've seen cuter ones in the market in Bradford.... Still, for a $23 box the value of the products stacks up pretty well!
This box, and the third Cute Wishlist box have already sold out but I've heard rumours that Memebox are going to make these a pretty regular thing so fingers crossed for the future ones! In the meantime though, there's still plenty to choose from on the site! I'm currently most excited about the Wine and Cheese Cosmetics Box and the Chocolate Mania one!
And to tempt you even further, if you enter BZOP at the checkout there's $5 off up to the end of September! What better excuse could you need?
*Contains Affiliate Links

15 September 2014

The Potting Shed Spa

If you saw Hayley's review on Tea Party Beauty last week, then you'll already be aware of, and excited about, The Potting Shed Spa. Even before Hayley's post went up I'd been won over by her cute twitter pictures and warm words of praise and was eager to check out the adorable looking gardening-themed spa for myself. After a particularly traumatic morning at work I threw myself at their mercy and they kindly managed to squeeze me in last week! 

unique spa batley

I was more in need of an hour of quiet and relaxation than I was any particular treatment so allowed myself to be guided in the direction of the Deluxe Pedicure - an hours worth of soaking, filing, massaging and polishing for my feet, with a bonus scalp massage - sounded perfect! 

waiting chairs potting shed spa

I arrived at the spa in Batley, West Yorkshire ready for my appointment, and was so excited to have a good look around - this place is amazing, stunning, beautiful, extraordinary... there's just not enough words! Instead of cold and sterile, like I imagine many spas to be, this place was so welcoming, so warm and cosy that I felt right at home in no time. To aid my general feeling of well-being, I was swiftly offered a cup of tea - always a good thing to happen - and soon found myself in my comfy, hot-water-bottles chair with a hot mug of The Potting Shed's signature lemon ginger and honey tea. It'd be worth a return visit just for this sweet and soothing concoction! 

I was pointed in the right direction of an impressively huge collection of available polishes. I'm useless so forgot to actually take note of my selected shade but it was a lovely shiny purpley Essie polish that's still looking shiny and new a good week and a bit later! 

so many pretty nail colours

The manicure was exquisite - the lovely therapist even managed to work around my ticklish toes without getting cross with me for squirming (or if she did, she hid it well!), she was an absolute gem and I wanted to take her home, especially when she did my scalp massage, oh my, it was heaven! 

I never wanted it to be time to leave, so it was really nice that after my hour was up I didn't have to vacate my cosy seat straight away, I had time to 'come round' a bit into the real world and let my prettily painted tootsies dry off. It was nice to not feel like I was being booted out once my paid-for time over was up - just another small addition to the welcoming and relaxing atmosphere of the place.

garden themed spa

Still reluctant to be on my way, I gratefully accepted a mini-tour around the rest of the spa - a quick peek into the treatment rooms has definitely increased my interest in spending some quality time in one on my next visit (because there will be a next visit!). In fact there are so many amazing sounding treatments that it's hard to know what I want next - you can see their treatment list here and I'm sure you'll be able to understand the conflict I have! Plus how cute are some of the treatment names and descriptions? They make the, er... 'landscaping' of the 'lady garden' sound as pleasant and painless as tea on the lawn! 

great spa near leeds

It's these cute details, as well as the care and attention that has gone into the design and decoration of The Potting Shed spa that make it such a unique and special place. And something this unique and special is bound to gather a great deal of attention, as demonstrated by the large amount of awards this place has picked up. They say imitation is the  sincerest form of flattery, and if you look at it that way I suppose you could argue that the owner of this fab little place should be pleased that it appears competitors are,... well, we'll go with 'borrowing heavily from their aesthetic' (though I'm not sure how welcome this form of flattery is!), but while people can replicate an idea or a look, that passion to create something original and new is not something that can be faked or forced. It's that passion, that deep desire to provide a really special and unique experience, rather than the gnomes and watering cans, that really make The Potting Shed Spa the outstanding place that it is. Though I do also really like the gnomes. . . 

I definitely plan to get back here as soon as possible - next time I just want to book in for the whole day but I'm not sure that's even vaguely practical! I'm sure the odd hour two will go down nicely though! 

You can say hello on twitter and on facebook, and any other details you might want -including a handy online booking system - on the website. If you are anywhere nearby though, I definitely recommend getting yourself booked in as soon as possible!