Monday, 1 September 2014

Make your own skin exfoliant and moisturiser

Making your own skin exfoliant and moisturiser is a great way of cutting down the cost of your essentials. I use this recipe wherever I am.

Skin exfoliant and moisturiser ingredients:

Table salt
Olive Oil (original, not virgin)

skin exfoliant and moisturiser

Skin exfoliant and moisturiser method:

In a mug pour add in 4 table spoons of normal table salt. Then pour in olive oil (not virgin) and stir. You want to make sure the oil and salt have bonded so keep adding olive oil until there is no more white salt and you can pick the mixture up without it running through your fingers. When in the shower make sure your skin is damp and the pores have opened due to the warmth of the water. Rub the mixture in circular motions onto your skin firmly but not too hard. 

It's particularly great for those tough areas (elbows, knees and ankles) particularly when you wanting to do a spot of fake tanning. I use this on my face about once a week after a good facial steam. I use two fingers and gently massage the mixture in small circles.  Once rubbed in, wash the mixture off which will dissolve in the shower and your skin will feel silky smooth. I find I don't need to use a moisturiser after this as the olive oil is enough.

The olive oil and salt mixture may sound rather odd but it is something I either take with me on holiday or make wherever I am. If you're making it at home and taking it with you then use a decent plastic container (like a lock n lock) within a sealed sandwich bag to avoid any leakage.

How to remove acne scars

Scars left by acne skin have lost elasticity. Olive oil contains nutrients that help hydration. Mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with four tablespoons of salt. Apply the mixture on your face and leave it 2 minutes then rinse with warm water. Do this every day for a week then 2 times or 3 times a week for significant results.

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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Master the Italian Meringue Method to Make Amazing Macarons

French macarons are gorgeous filled biscuits that are totally irresistible. 

They do, however, have a reputation for being rather tricky to make. Have no fear, once you the learn the techniques and follow a few simple rules (as laid out below) you cant really go wrong. Other flavours I will include will be lemon, chocolate and my favourite, pistachio.

Start with the basics

There are a few basic ingredients needed when making your own macarons; finely ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. Blanched ground almonds or almond flour are best to use so as not to create a 'speckled' macaron from the almond skin but don't stress, it's only for aesthetic purposes.

Italian Meringue Method

The most stable macaron batter is made using the Italian meringue method. For this you will need a sugar thermometer which reaches at least 150oC. The finished macaron will have the same taste, however, they tend to be more brittle and can lack the nice chewy texture on the inside.

The combination of more or less equal parts ground almonds and icing sugar is the "tant pour tant", meaning so much for so much. For the smoothest macaron shells this mixture should be processed together in a food processor then sifted. If only mixed together by hand the batter may be a bit lumpy and the resulting shell may not be completely smooth and shiny.

When making macarons using the Italian meringue method you will need to add the colouring to the almond paste. If making the uncooked meringue version you will need to add the colouring to the meringue as it's being whisked. To many numerous flavours of macarons it is easier to keep the shells plain and sandwich them together with different flavoured fillings but they won't look as pretty!

Allow the piped mixture to rest

Before baking the macarons it's important to allow the piped mixture to form a 'skin' before popping them in the oven. This usually takes 20-40mins. You should be able to run your finger over the piped mixture without it sticking to you. By drying the top of the shell it forms a protective film on the surface which then becomes crisp when baked and prevents the shell from cracking and also prevents ridged 'feet' around the base. 

What temperature should my oven be when making macarons?

Make sure your oven temperature isn't too or you will find that the shells will go brown and will loose their pretty colour. For macarons between 4-6 cms in diameter, your oven temperature needs to be 150oC and the biscuits baked for 14-15 mins.

When the macarons are cooked...

As soon as the macarons are out of the oven immediately slide them off the hot baking tray onto a cool counter top preferably marble or metal. This will help insure an easy release from the baking paper. If the shells stick to the baking paper it is the most likely is caused by the macarons being underbaked.

What fillings can I fill my macarons with?

Filling flavours can be anything from a simple vanilla buttercream to an exotically flavoured creme mousseline with fresh fruit. Remember not to overfill your shells so it doesn't overpower the crispy shells.

The Best Macarons

Should I decorate my macarons?

Decorations can be added before baking, after baking or both. The shells look lovely on their own but can be made to look extra special. Small sugar pearls or flowers can be added before baking. After baking when cooled the shells can be dusted with lustre or pearl dusts, drizzled with melted chocolate or even better...dipped in chocolate! 

How do I store macarons?

After filling and decorating, place the macarons in the refrigerator for 30 mins to an hour to firm up. Filled macarons will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Unfilled macarons can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days or frozen for 6 months. If frozen thaw in refrigerator before filling.

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Visit Wales

Holidaying doesn't necessarily mean going abroad. Why not consider visiting Wales where there are lots of things to do for everyone? Wales is well known for its history, stunning beaches and incredible nightlife. If you are looking for somewhere special to visit here are some great reasons to choose Wales.

Walking up Snowdon

Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire

No matter what time of year you visit these beaches you will be blown away by their beauty. Barafundle Bay, also known as “The Jewel in the Crown” has been voted as one of the best beaches in Pembrokeshire. With its golden sandy beaches and clear water, Barafundle Bay is the ideal destination for anyone who appreciates beauty in its purest form. It’s only accessible via its cliff path and stroll through the grassy dunes, which helps to maintain its understated tone. After experiencing the beautiful golden sands and crystal-clear water, visit Stackpole Quay, a small harbour along the coastline of Pembrokeshire, and try a beverage at the Boathouse Tearoom.

Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia

Another great reason to visit Wales is Snowdonia. Mount Snowdon is the highest point in Snowdonia, Wales. Its unbridled beauty, stunning hilltops and quite lakes is something white spectactular. To experience the spectacular scenery in comfort, you can travel on the Snowdon Mountain railway. Whichever route you take up the mountain, be sure to look out for markers which will show you the way down - it is easy to take a wrong path, and some are not suitable for inexperienced walkers, or those without proper climbing gear. Although many thousands of people climb Snowdon each year, it is still a mountain with steep cliffs in places, and even though beautiful, can be very dangerous.

View up Mount Snowdon

The Wildlife

Wales has fantastic countryside with lots of interesting wildlife. For example, you’ll come across badgers and lots of species of birds you’ve may not have seen before. Take a gentle stroll on many of Wales’ country walks and experience tranquillity like you had only dreamed was possible. There are two principal areas for watching marine wildlife in Wales, Cardigan Bay and the Pembrokeshire coast, particularly the Llyn Peninsula. Grey Seals may be seen on the coast at various places in Wales, such as Cardigan Island, Ynys Lochtyn, Cwm Tudu and New Quay. Polecats and Pine Martens still inhabit the forests of Snowdonia though are very rarely seen. Red squirrels can still be found if you know where to look; try the Clocaenog Forest (a good place for black grouse too) in North Wales it's not far from Corwen. Also, 13 species of bat have been recorded in Wales, including Greater and Lesser horseshoe bats.


If you like learning about history, Wales is home to churches, cathedrals, and is known as the “Castle Capital of the World" as it has about 400 castles. Over 100 of these castles are still standing, either as ruins or as restored buildings. The rest have returned to nature, and today consist of ditches, mounds and earthworks, often in commanding positions. To find out more about the history of each castle, book one of the many tours that take you on a journey through the country’s proud history. With over four hundred castles, there’s plenty to see. If I were to pick one to visit I'd say Caerphilly Castle which is a medieval castle that dominates the centre of the town of Caerphilly in South Wales. It is the largest castle in Wales and the second largest in Britain after Windsor Castle. It was built mainly between 1268 and 1271 in an attempt to stop Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's southward ambitions.

Dining Out in Wales

Wales has a growing reputation for fine dining. This is down to great local chefs, and even better local produce – Welsh lamb and beef, fresh seafood and organic vegetables. In the city’s Brewery Quarter you’ll find a range of great restaurants with an endless choice of cuisine. Famous welsh chefs include: Angela Hartnett, Bryn Williams and Stephen Terry.

Enjoy the Nightlife

Wales contains enough castles, wildlife, and breathtaking mountain scenery to occupy your entire summer. But, if you’re in the mood for a night of fun, both Swansea and Cardiff contain an abundance of funky clubs and unique bars.

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Things you need to consider when going on holiday

It's easy to forget the importance of planning effectively in order to enjoy our holiday. After all, the reason to have a holiday is to have fun! Planning and preparing isn't necessarily fun but with going on our hols without preparing properly can be a stressful experience. Here are a few handy tips to make sure that you enjoy your time away…

1. Plan the holiday that you want

First of all, remember to plan the right holiday for you, not merely the right one for everyone else. This is your time too. Whether a winter ski week in Canada is calling your name or the ancient ruins in Mexico are beckoning make sure it’s the holiday that you, as well as those who are with you, will enjoy.

2. Plan your budget

Let’s face it: we all have dream destinations that we can’t currently afford. If you’re maxing out with flights and accommodation make sure you have also taken into account the cost of living over there. Keep in mind you’ll only ruin your hols if you constantly find yourself worrying about the costs of things at those moments when you are supposed to be enjoying the sights and creating lifetime memories. If you're tempted to take the risk with your credit card make sure you can afford to pay it back when you get home.

3. Do your research

Another invaluable piece of holiday planning advice is to research your destination. You may see yourself as the more spontaneous type rather than someone who plans every aspect of their itinerary, but many trips only last for a few days. Don't waste them by struggling to find your way around, finding out what there is to do or how to get to and from places.

4. Be currency aware 

Do you know  how much things cost in a foreign currency? Do you know if you can use 5,000 of your foreign currency to buy a chocolate bar or a car? Your holiday will be much more successful if you change your money in advance. Buying online can help you to get the best rates and some providers will even deliver it directly to your door or allow you to pick it up at the airport when you jet off!

5. Check your passport

I once made the mistake of checking in at Gatwick with an out of date passport - doh! Lesson was learned and I have (so far) never made that mistake again. Make sure your passport is in date and has 6 months left before it expires. 

6. Vaccinations

I am typing this with one arm as my other is rather heavy and non respondent. The reason? Hepatitis A booster job. Ouch! No matter how much you hate needles it's best to check with the doctor as to what jabs you need (if any) at least a month before you travel especially if it's somewhere exotic.

7. Travel Insurance

We don’t like to think of anything bad happening on our hols, but nonetheless it’s important to have travel insurance, just in case. Accidents do happen and some hospitals require a cash payment upfront before they’ll treat you. Many providers offer single trip insurance as well as an array of other variables and you can usually apply online.

8. Visas

It's worth checking whether you need a visa to get into the country you are going. Some visas need purchasing in advance and others can be done when you arrive.

9. Pack sunscreen

You never know how sunny it will be. No matter whether you are beaching it in Miami or skiing in the Alps, it's certainly worth packing a high/semi high SPF sunscreen. 

10. Photocopy your key documents

If you were to lose your drivers licence, passport or travel tickets, you could find yourself in a really sticky situation. Make photocopies of all your important documents and keep them in the safe in your room and/or with friends/family at home so they can fax them over should anything happen to your originals. I take photos of my documents on my iphone and email myself - just in case.

I hope I haven't put you off from going on your hols but as my mother always says, it's better being safe rather than sorry!

"We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment". Hilaire Belloc

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Simple Buttercream Birthday Cake

Simple Buttercream Birthday Cake
It's difficult to get a professional looking finish to a cake with buttercream frosting. Here I have used baby blue food paste for the blue buttercream and then have used melon food paste for the yellow. 

crumb coated the cake first with normal coloured buttercream to make sure no crumbs got into the blue buttercream. The blue flowers are made from bluebell Squires flower paste and indented using a sculpting tool to add a little dimension. As a beginner in cake decorating this cake (including making the vanilla sponge, slicing, filling and decorating took me little over 3 hours. 

Sometimes I doubt if the effort is worth it though - I mean, after all of those hours it will take seconds to be eaten!  The diametre of this cake is 7" and will serve 10 greedy people.

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