Friday, 11 April 2014

The Wedding Series | Paper Themes Invitations

Today it's officially three months until I get married.  Can you believe it?  I know I barely can, it feels like something awfully grown up.

Anyway since the big day is not too far away I thought it was high time I started my wedding series, and what better way to kick if off than with a look at my invitations from Paper Themes.

Paper Themes Wedding Invitations

Paper Themes have been in the business of creating bespoke wedding invitations in their printworks in Yorkshire for over 100 years; they have a team of designers who work hard creating beautiful wedding invitations in a whole host of designs, so many so that I'm sure pretty much every bride would find a design they loved.  Paper Themes don't stop there either, as well as invitations they have introduced other wedding accessories such as decorations (my favourites are the bunting and table decorations) and even wedding favours and guest books.  Outside of the wonderful world of wedding, Paper Themes also produce other cards and stationery for all sorts of occasions.

Paper Themes Wedding Invitations

Finding your perfect invitation design on their site is really simple; everything is set out into easy to navigate categories and once you've chosen the theme you pick out the wording you want and fill in some text boxes with details of your wedding, e.g. names, dates, addresses etc.

Since Gaz and I are getting married in Gibraltar we chose to go for this quirky air mail style design and quite casual wording; the invitations arrived very well packaged, in a nice box, and with plenty of envelopes.  We got down to sending them pretty much as soon as they arrived and the feedback from family and friends has been overwhelmingly positive.  Of course I've kept a couple aside for myself as a keepsake.

Paper Themes Wedding Invitations

If you're getting married or want some other beautiful bespoke stationery I would wholeheartedly recommend Paper Themes, you can find them here:

I'd love to hear from you if you're getting married, are already married or have a wedding series on your blog.

Sharon x

*Invitations provided free of charge

Monday, 31 March 2014

Review | Exante Diet

I'm a girl that loves her food (and as a consequence could really do to lose some weight) so when I was offered the opportunity to try products from the Exante Diet, a total meal replacement company, I was intrigued, but approached this one with no small amount of trepidation.

A selection of the meal replacement products I received from the Exante Diet
What is the Exante Diet?
After having a good read of the Exante Diet website it quickly became obvious that this was not a catch all meal replacement and that there were several options available to suit different lifestyles.  From VLCD (very low calorie diet) plans at 600 calories a day, to LCD (low calorie diet) options with up to 1200 calories a day, each plan on the Exante Diet is designed to put your body into ketosis, essentially encouraging your body to burn its fat reserves when it gets fewer calories than it requires.

My Exante Diet Plan
For my personal circumstances, and taking into account the fact I have epilepsy, I quickly discovered the the only viable option for me (based on the advice on the Exante Diet website) was the Simple Solution plan.  This version of the plan allows the highest number of calories in a day (1200) and consists of the three meal replacement products amounting to a total of 600 calories and one low carb meal amounting to 600 calories.

The Products
The meal replacement products I received as part of my plan included lots of shakes (the flavours were toffee caramel, banana, blueberry, vanilla and strawberry), two packs of porridge and four hot meals (a mushroom soup, two curries and a spaghetti bolognaise).

The shakes were on the whole very pleasant, I really enjoyed the vanilla, strawberry and blueberry flavours, but the toffee caramel and banana weren't my favourites.  The porridge was also quite nice, it reminded me very much of the consistency of those instant porridge packs I used to eat as a kid, not bad at all!

The hot meals unfortunately were all a bit of a miss for me; the spaghetti bolognaise didn't taste bad but I just really didn't like the texture of the soy mince and the sauce.  I had similar experiences with both the curry and the soup I was sent too, they just weren't to my taste at all.

How I got on with the plan
My first admission here has to be that I didn't manage a full week on the plan, instead I managed three days.  When it quickly became obvious that I didn't like the hot meals I realised I wouldn't have enough meal replacements for an entire week and so I did the best I could with the variety that I had.

Day one was perhaps the most challenging on the plan, I woke up feeling instantly hungry, I was definitely dwelling on the idea that I wasn't having any solid food but once I got to work and was busy I didn't feel hungry at all until lunchtime and my next meal replacement.  One further meal replacement later (and admittedly some more hunger pangs when I got bored and distracted), followed by a lovely 600 calorie dinner of lean roast pork with some vegetables and a salad left me feeling completely satisfied.  Thinking about how my day had gone later that evening it really hit home how a lot of my hunger didn't feel genuine, it was really my habit of eating lots of food, and then occasionally being bored that made me want to eat something.  After this days two and three were far more successful, I had my meal replacements and didn't feel genuinely hungry until my evening meal and again felt completely satisfied after that.

My results
I both weighed and measured myself before starting the plan, and at the end of three days my measurements hadn't changed but I had lost 2lbs.  Granted, this wasn't as much as the losses I'd read some people had, but I was pretty happy with that to say the least.  I would have liked to continue the plan for a bit longer, but I didn't have much of a variety of products left and knew I would get bored with it.

If I decide to try this plan longer term, I will definitely get a much wider range of products, there are lots to choose from on the Exante Diet website, and from as little as £3.87 per day for meal replacements, I don't think the cost is too prohibitive for me.

You can read all about the Exante Diet on their website, here.

Have you tried any meal replacement diets before?  I'd love to hear how you got on with them, leave me a comment to let me know.

Sharon x

*PR Sample

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Angela Parkinson Facials

When I was asked recently if I wanted to review a treatment with Angela Parkinson, a fantastic facialist based in York, I absolutely jumped at the chance.  I don't often get to treat myself to facials and in fact I've only have about half a dozen in my life, but I really do believe in the benefits of them, and like so many beauty bloggers I love having an opportunity for a pamper. 

Blake House, St Martin's Lane, York

The Setting
Angela's salon space is based in Blake House, an absolutely beautiful restored Georgian townhouse on a side street in the Micklegate area of York, on Martin's Lane to be exact.  (On a sidenote, if you're not familiar with this area it's well worth having a bit of exploration, it's chock full of independent retailers offering fashion, gifts and beauty, and has a few bars and restaurants thrown in too).

Blake House, St Martin's Lane, York

It has that typically grand feeling of similarly restored buildings of it's age, but is fantastically quirky, with a bright purple door, a gold fox door knocker (I'm seriously coveting this) and in the hallway has perhaps the most interesting floor I think I've ever seen.

Blake House, St Martin's Lane, York

The treatment room itself is a wonderful little oasis of tranquility, decorated in warm taupes and whites, it felt instantly relaxing and soothing.

Treatment Room - Angela Parkinson Facials

The Facialist
Angela was very quick to put me at ease when I arrived at Blake House, she was completely professional but very warm and calm, and was a veritable font of knowledge on the subject of all things beauty and skincare.  Angela's background is in film and television makeup, but as someone who has always had a passion for skincare she decided to pursue the idea of setting up her own business (I'm so very pleased she did!).  Angela uses the Sothys skincare range exclusively in her treatments, a brand that I had not heard a great deal about before, but one that she is completely passionate about using on her clients.

Sothy's Skincare - Angela Parkinson Facials

The Treatment
There are a range of treatments on offer at Angela's salon, you can pick one from the options available or discuss any specific needs and get something more personally prescribed.  As I tend to have fairly normal for the most part I opted for the oxygenating facial; it started as you would expect with a deep cleanse and tone, and slowly but surely moved on to an exfoliating treatment, followed by a mask with the most intriguing texture (like one of those peel off masks you had when you were a kid, but much thicker) and finished with a luscious serum.  Each product Angela used, as well as obviously being very effective, had the most amazing fruity scent, with more than a hint of fresh grape and pear.

Sothy's Skincare - Angela Parkinson Facials

At various stages through the treatment, my skin was treated to the most wonderful facial massage and at other times was soothed and warmed with hot towels.  By the time the treatment was over I was probably the most relaxed I have been in a very long time, and my skin felt extraordinarily comforted.

Sothy's Skincare - Angela Parkinson Facials

Would I recommend a visit to Angela Parkinson Facials?
Without a shadow of a doubt, I would love to visit Angela and have a facial or other treatment again; my skin felt great afterwards and I was particularly taken with the skincare range that was used on me, and love the idea that if I find something that really works for me from the range I can also purchase it from Angela.  There are a few special occasions coming up for my family this year, so I'd love to be able to treat a few people to one of these facials, I think my Mam in particular would love it.

You can find out about the range of treatments Angela offers on her website, here.  You can also find her on Twitter, here.

Do you go for facials or massages very often?  What treatments are your favourite?

Sharon x

Saturday, 1 March 2014

February 2014 Favourites

I can't even remember the last time I did a favourites post so I thought that as I'd been trying and loving a lot of new things in 2014, it was about time I did one again.

MAC Eyeshadow Pro Palette

MAC Pro Palette (here) - I finally took the plunge and bought a 15 pro palette from MAC in February.  Despite having a couple of quads already (in various colours) I found myself wanting a bit easier access to more of my nude shades.  As you can see the palette isn't full yet but it's well on the way.  By the way, any suggestions for colours I should add to this would be gratefully received.  So far I have Carbon, Embark, Handwritten, Mulch, Wedge, Grain & Brule.

Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream, Nars Sheer Glow Foundation, Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask, Nuxe Reve de Miel Lip Balm

Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream (here) - This pot of moisturiser from Trilogy is actually nearly finished and I'll definitely be repurchasing.  It's a fantastic daily moisturiser for me, it has a fairly creamy consistency, sinks into the skin with no problems and leaves my rather thirsty skin feeling well hydrated.  It also acts as a great base for my next favourite.
Nars Sheer Glow Foundation (here) - Still my most reached for foundation.  This is my third bottle of this now and I can't imagine being without it.  It gives me great medium coverage, and lasts well enough for an entire day at work without looking cakey.
Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask (here) - There's no doubt about it, I'm head over heels for this face mask.  It's full of beautiful ingredients that make it a great multi-tasker (not to mention it smells amazing), I've found it brilliant for softening and plumping up my skin, it also seems to stop any little breakouts in their tracks too.  I'll definitely be reviewing this in full soon.
Nuxe Reve de Miel Ultra Nourishing Lip Balm (here) - I've got to thank two people for my discovery of this beauty of a lip balm, firstly Ruth at SweetPBeauT for recommending it to me, and secondly my lovely fiance for spotting it on my Pinterest wish list and getting it for my birthday.  I like quite a few lip balms, but I've never come across one quite as moisturising as this; full review coming soon.

Aveda Hand Relief and Batiste Dry Shampoo Tropical

Aveda Hand Relief (here) - This was my most used hand cream for quite a few years, but somehow I forgot about it until I received this tube as a stocking filler at Christmas.  It's incredibly rich, so not a hand cream I'd use during the day, but it's perfect to slather on my hands before bed.  Not only does it smell amazing, fruity but not too sweet, but it's full of antioxidants and is claimed to improve the elasticity of skin over time.
Batiste Dry Shampoo (here) - I won't ramble too much about Batiste Dry Shampoo as I think we all know it's virtues, I will tell you why I love this variety in particular though.  In the middle of this rather grey winter, the tropical coconut scent gives me a little reminder of summer, I'm just hoping we have a good one this year!

That's it for my first favourites post of 2014, have you tried any of these products?  What have you been loving so far this year?

Sharon x

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry Review

As you could probably guess from my previous lipstick post (here) I do have penchant for a good berry lipstick, but as my choices have previously all been high end, I decided to give something from a high street brand a try.  The Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry, with its glossy berry goodness seemed like the obvious choice for me and as I'd seen one of my favourite Youtubers (Claire Marshall) using it I was keen to give it a good test.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry

The packaging?
Generally I'm a sucker for packaging, and whilst the Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick is very simply packaged, in shiny black and gold, something about it feels a little old fashioned to me - if I'm looking at high street brand lipsticks, I probably prefer something more like Soap and Glory or Sleek for their presentation.

The formula?
I was genuinely surprised at how smoothly this lipstick glides onto the lips, one gentle sweep gives a nice sheer wash of colour.  Building the lipstick up to its full intensity takes several coats, they can go on a little patchy and if you're not careful you can easily glide this baby right off your lips!  With a little patience though, and very well prepped lips, all turns out well in the end.  Normally I don't find I have to wear a lip liner, but this lipstick really needs one; without it can bleed quite badly, especially if you're wearing quite a few layers.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry

The Colour

The shade of this lipstick is truly stunning.  It looks almost black in the tube and on the lips with several coats pays off as a deep berry/red; with one coat it's a very wearable raspberry.  I've worn this the same way I wear a lot of my berry lipsticks, with a light wash of colour on the eyes and a bit of black liner, you can't really go wrong.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry

Would I purchase a Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick Again?
Dependent on what other shades I could find I'd potentially purchase this formula again, although I'd be more interested in seeing what matt lipsticks Revlon has to offer.

I bought my Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Black Cherry from Boots, here, for £7.49.

Have you tried any Revlon lipsticks?  What are your favourite lipsticks from the highstreet?

Sharon x

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hello Fresh Box

Have any of you see the 30 second ads about Hello Fresh at the beginning of YouTube videos?  I only remember starting to see them just before Christmas, I was pretty interested in the idea but then kind of forgot about it.  Or at least I did until I got a discount code through LoveFilm which dropped the price of my first box by almost half; it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a go with that (I'll share a discount code with you at the end of this post too).

Hello Fresh Box: The Packaging

So what exactly is Hello Fresh?  Well it's a weekly food subscription box which contains everything you need to cook your evening meal for either three or five nights.  You can choose between boxes with meat and fish, a vegetarian box and a family box.  You can also choose how many people you want to order a box for.  The boxes start at £39 including delivery, which I honestly thought was a bit expensive for three meals for two people but when I consider the effort that goes into meal planning, going out and shopping etc, I find myself not minding so much after all!

Hello Fresh Box: The Packaging

Every week there are different recipes created by the Hello Fresh chefs, the boxes get delivered on either a Tuesday or a Thursday; they're full to the brim with lovely ingredients to recreate all of that weeks recipes.  I was fairly impressed with the packaging, it had ice packs and one of those sheep's wool insulators, all of the herbs and spices came in little recyclable plastic tubs and the meat and fish was all well packaged.  The only thing I was a bit disappointed in was that my courgette had broken into three pieces and several of the tomatoes in my box were rolling around loose and had gotten squashed.

Hello Fresh Box: The Food

Gaz and I got the classic five meal box for two people (ordinarily £49) which this week included recipes for:
- First Date Sweetheart Potatoes, Jalapeno Chilli and Feta
- You're-a-Catch Coley Oreganata with New Potatoes and Carrots
- Rosemary Roasted Pork with Spice Things Up Spanish Cassoulet
- You-Make-Me-Cuckoo Chicken with Chorizo and Couscous Salad
- Aphrodite's Bucatini Amatriciana with Pancetta and Plump Olives
(I love the whimsical names of these recipes?)

Hello Fresh Box: The Food

We got our box on Tuesday and have now cooked everything in it.  Whilst I wasn't completely in love with everything (just personal taste) the food was generally well flavoured and easy to put together on a week night after work.  Following the step-by-step recipe cards was great, but it may have taken me slightly longer than stated to cook some of the recipes, but I am a world class procrastinator and am usually watching YouTube videos while I'm cooking.

Hello Fresh Box: The Food

Gaz and I have already ordered another box to be delivered this Tuesday, I'm looking forward to trying some more new meals - overall I'm impressed, despite the packaging hiccups!

If you want to give one of these lovely foodie boxes a try, you can get £20 off your first order using my discount code.  Simply go to and enter the code BEWSKE before you check out.

I'd love to know if you decide to give Hello Fresh a go, or if you've tried any other foodie boxes.

Sharon x