Monday, 22 August 2016

Faeriwood Kitchen: on tour at Hillmount Barbecue Academy



There's nothing quite like a glimpse of bright sunlight peeking through the clouds to send us scurrying to the supermarket for a barbecue meat pack and some burger buns but at Hillmount they have news for you, you can barbecue all year round, in any weather, and still have the most amazing meals, quickly! 

This week I had the chance to attend Hillmount Barbecue Academy, on the outskirts of Belfast, and their three hour BBQ Lesson. In that short time we chilled out, learnt a few recipes and cooked a three course meal! Gone are the days of waiting hours for your coals to heat up and cook your sausages to a crispy black char. Step away from that disposable barbecue and treat your grill like your oven and you'll be having flame grilled delights every week just like our Austrailian and American buddies. 

Here are just a few of the things I learnt during our lesson






Temperature is key
Every dog has it's day and every meat has it's optimum temperature. For chicken you want to get it to 75°C and for beef burgers you want to hit around 69°C. When cooking steaks you will want different core temps for depending on how you like it cooked. This will mean investing a probe/meat thermometer which is something I've always wanted the excuse to invest in. 


Heat has a direction
Ok so that direction may just be 'up' but it's a key lesson. All barbecues have hot and slightly less hot spots (there's really no point calling it cold). You use each of these areas differently to make sure your food is cooked properly. For thick cuts of meat you want indirect heat (not directly above the flames and for thin cuts you want direct heat to seal the juices in quick. Learning how to use indirect heat will prevent you having to pass those sausages off as Cajun! 


"If you're looking you're not cooking"
This is Weber's motto for successful barbecuing and it makes sense. We were being taught to treat our barbecues like any other oven so obviously by opening the lid/door you are letting heat out and dropping the temperature. With the aid the fuel chimneys we were cooking at about 200°C within 20 minutes of our class starting but if you were experimenting with large cuts of meat or slow cooking you could adjust these on your barbecues temperature gauge (this is often just a little metal flap to be open and closed on the lid) 


No seriously, close that lid!
Another reason for keeping the lid on as tight as possible is to keep in moisture. 
Your food has moisture as does the fuel itself and you want to trap all that in. Ever wondered why the burgers on your disposable barbecue could double as tennis balls despite your loving care and attention? Well this is why! 


Barbecuing is not just for the men
Now I'm not gonna get all "I am woman" here but actually I kind of am. Most of our class mates were men who had been bought the classes for Christmas, birthdays and other such occasions. I've even heard of stag dos attending these classes. Despite this there were all sorts of people from all ages and all demographics in the class. Couples, mother/daughter duos, friends; barbecuing is not just for the lads and at Hillmount everyone is welcome! 
Another point that close to my heart is they cater to all dietary needs. Any allergies, intolerances or preferences are all carefully respected and I was seriously happy to see how aware of cross-contamination they were!


My favourite "action shot" of the day! 







I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the academy. I learned so much and found a real confidence that I know will lead me to whip out the barbie more often. 

The half day course that we attended retails at £70 for the 3 hour lesson and 90 minute taster sessions are also available for £20; you don't get to cook the food yourself but you do get a demonstration, a wealth of knowledge and a few glasses of wine to go with the food. (Some of our fellow classmates had been on the sessions previously and highly recommended them). We all received a goodie bag at the end which included giant marshmallow destined for s'mores and a generous discount voucher. 

Visit www.Hillmount.co.uk to book and see their other craft and gardening events. 



Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Bex tries Multi-masking



It's only recently I've begun to experiment with masks that go beyond my normal exfoliation and hydration. Sheet masks have been a revelation and I have much more to say on that matter very soon. For the moment I shall focus on the idea of multi-masking. 

Multi-masking is one of the latest trends in skin care and I have to ask, why did it take us this long?!

So what is multi-masking? 

Ever bought a face mask, used it and found that it helped fix your oily pores but it really wrecked you dry zones? Ever wanted that on trend exfoliating mask (you know the brand I mean!) but were scared that your sensitive areas might be overwhelmed? Well this is where multitasking your precious face mask time comes in. 

Now I'm very much at entry level when it comes to multi-masking. Pictured above and below you'll see a very restrained duo of moisturising and cleansing mud masks from Glam Glow. The cleansing benefits of Powermud I am hoping will target some very recent blocked pore issues I've been having and as per usual I am fighting a daily battle with dryness by introducing Thirstymud into my hydration armoury.  



Like I said, entry level. 

My next step into multi-masking was to introduce serious targeting with the use of plumping rose based fibre masks for the eyes (courtesy of my trip to Sephora) an avocado moisturising mask for the forehead and down the neck, Glam Glow Youthmud on on the nose and chin (for extra strength cleansing and exfoliating of those pores) and finally Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Mask on the cheeks. I went all out and it paid off. 


 Let me tell you my skin feels glorious. After washing it all off ensuring that I used  all those particles within the masks to thoroughly exfoliate I finished it off with a layer of La Roche Posay Hydraphase Intense Masque. Yes this is technically a fifth masque but as I've mentioned before on this blog I basically use it as a moisturiser. 

I'm definitely a convert to this technique. It's given me buzz to branch from my normal routine and try new products (genius marketing), the only thing I need to perfect now is storage for all those half used sachets! I see lots of little pots in my future. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Maybelline Baby Skin Primers and their high end counterparts.



When I was recommended Maybelline Baby Skin Pore Eraser as a dupe for my beloved Benefit Porefessional I was instantly sold. I love Porefessional but I just can't keep up with how fast I go through it! I need an every day budget product to give my purse a break for a while. 

Of course when I squeezed out that first blob my heart sank. This was no Porefessional dupe. It's crystal clear appearance instantly ruled that out. But it did have a very similar and pleasing feel and in fact I would compare it to Smashbox Photo Finish. This feeling comes from its silicone base and if you're like me and hate texture or stickiness from your makeup then silicone is your friend. The blurring and mattifying effect effect of both primers (I would say Smashbox wins with this so its not a 100% dupe) leaves the perfect base to apply the rest of your makeup or even just to leave on its own if you're not feeling self conscious. 

Having dipped in to the Maybelline range (and with them being on a 3 for 2 offer in Superdrug) I also thought I'd have a go at a few other products. I picked another primer in Instant Fatigue Blur. This one is a pink toned cream primer but still has that soft smooth finish that you get with Pore Eraser. This time I felt the comparison was more like Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch, only this is more fluid and not as heavily silicone based. The rose tone definitely brightens up the skin and leaves it perfectly ready for the next layer of war paint. 

Exactly what you want from a primer. 


And now here is where I went a bit crazy. 


I mixed them. Thus creating my own pink based version of porefessional and pretty much reaching my goal of a budget alternative. 

You're going to want to try this. Trust me.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

5 High Streets Shops We Need In Belfast


This week we had the announcement that Kiko Milano cosmetics are opening in the old Pandora unit of Victoria Square and the Internet went mad (locally, at least). Kiko is the latest in a surge of high street retailers to make the jump across the water and open in Belfast. With recent additions like Tiger, Boux Avenue, Stradivarius, and the return of Inglot Ireland and Zara to our streets we are slowly becoming the modern, thriving, shopping city that we wish to be. 
There's still room for improvement though, right? With that in mind here is my wish list of retailers. Five high street stores I'd love to see open in Belfast. 


Muji


Storage Mecca Muji are famous among the makeup world for their acrylic storage boxes which just seem to perfectly fit every product but there's much more to Muji. Instore they have all sorts of wonders in store, not limited to furniture, storage and baggage solutions. With everything having a clean Japanese feel it's fairly easy to understand why I love them. Think of it like a smaller, more Japanese IKEA and you'll get it. 

Sephora


Every makeup lover drools and goes to their happy place when Sephora is mentioned. I was overwhelmed when I made my first trip and focused mostly on the skincare section but it is pure heaven for the makeup lover. It's criminal that they haven't expanded to the UK and Ireland yet and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that when they do Belfast will be high on their priority.
Although let's also hope that when they do come they bring with them the American sample culture rather than the European ethos of "we don't do samples". Samples are life, people!


Marionnaud



Marionnaud is a French makeup & perfume retailer. I stumbled in accidentally on my last trip to France and had I not just spent an obscene amount in Sephora I could have done serious damage here. They seem to specialise in perfume and I swear I think they had every perfume known to man gracing their walls. Heaven. 

Wilko



Ok this is a purely selfish suggestion because they stock Essence makeup and it's nigh on impossible to get it anywhere in NI other than online. As much as I appreciate online shopping I really do begrudge paying postage on budget beauty. £5 postage on a £1 eyeshadow? No thanks! Plus Wilko has a huge range of home and garden decor items which are lust worthy so I wouldn't begrudge them popping up on the high street. 

Forever 21



Whilst I may not necessarily be the target demographic for Forever 21 I do think they would bring a lot to Belfast's high street. With the trend towards boutiques and mid - high end retailers throughout Northern Ireland we need to keep the balance with more budget fashion on the streets. Forever 21 would do just this. 


So those are my five, but have you any suggestions for stores you'd like to see here? 




Thursday, 4 August 2016

Le mini macaron gel manicure kit review



Can we talk about how long it's been since I've done a nail post? Too long. Far too long! Well wait no more because I have the cutest little product to show you!

I picked Le mini macaron in Sephora. It was clearly over priced at around €30 but completely irresistible to my gel obsessed self (hey, it's sort of my job so I have an excuse) especially in my Sephora daze where I went into shove-everything-in-the-basket mode. 

No regrets. 


The kit comes in 4 colours, I chose peach because I love saying le péché in French and I LOVE the colour peach. It's the cutest little kit that comes with a usb cable, a little nail file and a cuticle pusher as well as some remover wipes and a European plug. The latter two remain completely unused. 

In Sephora itself you can buy stand alone polishes in a huge assortment of colours but to be honest, I wouldn't buy these polishes again. Single step UV polishes (no base or top coat needed) sound great but there is no longevity here and they peeled away easily within a day or two even when I added extra layers for stability. I also tried using a dehydrator and primer from my kit but it didn't help the polish adhere to my nails. If you do you purchase this I would recommend investing in a dehydrator, the polish reacts quite badly to any oil on the nail bed so you need to thoroughly prime the nails before use to get more than an hour out of your manicure. 

I don't care though. No matter how hard I try I cannot hate this kit because it looks like a macaron and is completely adorable! I'll happily admit that this was an aesthetic purchase. Yes, I've wanted a single nail curing lamp for quick touch ups and personal use for a while so for that reason it suits my needs but so what. It looks like a fricken macaron! 
I'll just stick to using my trusty Gelish polishes with it instead whilst I investigate other single step brands. They are out there and one of them is bound to work!

DID I MENTION IT LOOKS LIKE A MACARON?? 

Monday, 1 August 2016

My month in film: July

Each month I've promised to take you through what I've been watching and my thoughts on these things. This month I've had the luxury of some time off work so I was able to get through a bit more than usual. I think I used that time very well!





Odd Thomas
This month we had the sad news that Anton Yelchin passed away. This led all the movie channels to break out their Anton Yelchin movies and I watched Odd Thomas. It's a fun supernatural movie with similarities to Dead Like Me. It's going to win any awards but if you're a fan of indie movies based in small town America with a Sci-Fi/Fantasy twist then I think you'll enjoy it. 

Gilmore Girls
This month I set out to re-watch all 7 seasons of The Gilmore Girls and I'm slightly ashamed to say I almost managed it. I finish July mid way through season 7 but super excited for the new mini series on Netflix. 
Im also finding my witty remark and random tangents during conversations have taken a sharp rise in frequency. 


Ghostbusters
I'm in love with Holtmann. That is all. 
Ok maybe not ALL. ghostbusters 16 was great. It had all the irreverence and silliness of the original with a hint of a middle finger to all the naysayers. You can critique it for many reasons but women not being funny is most definitely not one of them. 


#SDCC
San Diego Comic Con is THEE biggest event in geek culture. It's our Woodstock but without the mud and probably a lot more queueing. Unfortunately I've yet to make it to the actual convention itself but I do attend each year in an online capacity. I watch the Marvel livestreams from Hall H, check out all of the many trailers released, and I watch all the NerdHQ panels from The Nerd Machine team. Brilliant panels with all of your favourite sci-fi stars and all in aid of charity raising funds for Operation Smile. I definitely recommend checking them out on YouTube. 


Star Trek: Beyond
A lot of people are complaining that Star Trek: Beyond feels episodic. You know what? It does. 
We live in an age of franchises where movies have become episodes and we come out at the end thinking "that was good, I can't wait for the next one." The important part is that you really can't wait for the next one, you want to see it! This is how I felt with Beyond. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has its flaws, yes, but so do individual episodes of TOS and Generations and they are legendary! 




Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Bex's current skincare routine (for dehydrated/dry skin)



I wouldn't say that I went on holiday just to go shopping but I won't lie and say that it wasn't a deciding factor when choosing my destination. I was on a rescue mission when it came to my skin so I didn't hold back. Here is what I bought, where I bought it and what has quickly become (along with a few old faves) my daily skin care routine. 

I've long lusted after Sephora, famed for its mix of affordable and premium brands. It's kind of like the really posh Boots beauty halls but on a super sized scale. From their home brand (which is mostly what I stocked up on) to super premium ranges like La Mer (ha! I'll never be able to afford them) and everything in between. My favourite part was where they had dozens of Urban Decay Naked palettes stacked as if they weren't precious treasure to be kept locked away in a secure location as they are over here. They also had three Benefit Cosmetics counters. Three! 

As for the pharmacy brands I've been using La Roche Posay and other French skincare brands for a few years and really wanted to stock up on a few items that are not available in NI yet, as well as a few that are. I don't know if it's the thermal spring water they use or just the decades of expertise but my skin loves it and so I tend to keep a large amount stock piled. 



Every time I've tried to buy GlamGlow Thirsty mud at home it has been totally sold out so I was super happy to see it in stock along with these travel size miniatures of the Powermud and Youthmud.



My pharmacy haul. Bioderma is crazy difficult to get in Northern Ireland so it was top of my list. I only know of one place that stocks it and that is a small pharmacy in south Belfast. It's only my to do list to head down and see just what they stock so I don't have to go such extremes to restock!
Also, I've mentioned this before, but despite their supposed mask qualities I use both the Hydraphase and the Hydreane masks from La Roche-Posay as normal moisturisers. They're light enough that they can be used without overloading your skin.

Sephora masks. These masks come in at €2 - €3 a pop and are so good. I focused on stocking up on the moisturising masks but there is every type you can think of and part of me wishes I had bought more. They even have glove masks for your hands!!


Sheet eye masks are usually crazy expensive. These are so not. 



These little jelly type overnight masks can get two uses if you're clever with your application. Thrifty tip!


It's banana hand cream! I love this hand milk from TonyMoly, it leaves my hands so soft. Fun banana fact: the common banana scent and taste used in products is actually from an extinct species of banana. So if you wonder why bananas don't taste or smell like banana flavoured things it's because it doesn't exist anymore!


A menthol stick for your eyes in the shape of a panda. Nuff Said. 

Those of you with a keen eye for Korean cosmetic trend will notice that TonyMoly is more famed for their sheet masks available on amazon. I'll make sure to leave links below.


And finally we have two lovely peach/coral blushes from the Sephora own brand. I should probably be ashamed that these are the only two pieces of actual make up I bought... But I'm not. I was in full skin care mode!
Also here's proof that these gorge blushes are definitely different shades.

Totally different colours! 


As well as these new products I am also continuing to use my old favourites. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL, Cicaplast and Lipikaur ranges are pure lifesavers and I have been using the iconic Embryolisse for almost exactly four years since first purchasing it at IMATs London  If you want read about my first experience with La Roche-Posay skincare products and see just how long I've been using them then click here

All products available in the UK online listed below:

Glamglow Glam Glow Youth Mud Mask
La Roche-Posay Anthelio XL Comfort Cream
Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm
La Roche Posay Hydreane Extra Rich Moisturizing Cream
La Roche Posay Hydraphase Mask
Bioderma Hydrabio H2O Cleansing Micelle Solution
Bioderma Atoderm Cream
Bioderma Hydrabio Eau De Soin Spf30
Embryolisse Concentrated Milk Cream
Tony Moly Panda´s Dream So Cool Eye Stick
Tony Moly Magic Food Banana Hand Milk
TONYMOLY I'm real mask sheet