Thursday, 30 October 2014

She Wears Burgundy Turns ONE! (Birthday Giveaway!)

It's hard for me to believe, but my little corner of the internet turns one today!!

One year ago I took my stored-up stories and reviews and put them out into the world to share with anyone who wanted to read them. My passion for blogging finally becamse a reality after months of reading others, ,and over the last twelve months I have tried to find my own voice in this busy blogging world.

It's not been easy! I've had months with very few posts, and months where I managed to write something every other day. Some weeks, I just take a step away, and other I spend hour after hour poring over Bloglovin' and Twitter for new posts to devour, and for new nuggets of inspiration!

Despite my ups and downs with blogging (a subject which I hope to write about in the near future) I still love it. My favourite part is just the ability to share things I enjoy or feel passionate about, be it mental health, a delicious recipe, or even just a great new bathbomb that made my weekend that much better! I love to share stories, to offer advice and potentially introduce a reader to something new.

For me, it's not about numbers - I'm not in competition with other bloggers. I want people to enjoy reading what I love to write about, and I'd rather not write something I'm unhappy with just to fit in. I'm proud of each and every post I've written - and every comment, follow, share and 'like' my posts receive just sends me to the moon and back. Even if my post gets one person thinking; if it affects someone's day in a positive way, or if they discover something that excites them too - that means so much. Even though I don't reply to every single one, I read all your comments too.

So THANK YOU to everyone; the followers, the commenters, the silent readers; friends and family who put up with my incessant photography, bloggers who offer me advice, and anyone who bothers to read just one post.

To say thank you properly, I'm holding my first ever giveaway!

It's just a little present from me to you to say thank you for reading my ramblings, and for keeping me going.

As many of you know, I'm incredibly keen on the importance of showing yourself a bit of love. We're all to hard on ourselves, and life can be tough - so I've put together a little care package to make sure you take some time to treat yourself!

One of you lucky folks will receive a little relaxation kit, including some treats to soothe your soul; some are for your bath, some are for your skin and body, and some are for your tastebuds! And all of them are favourites of mine.

I won't give things away, as I want it to be a surprise, but all of these items are, for me, the perfect kit for a relaxing night in. I hope the lucky winner loves it all as much as I do! I will say it's only small, so please don't expect luxury items...but I think it's perfect.

All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below, and I'll announce a winner and will get in touch on Thursday 13th November - that gives you two whole weeks to enter!

Unfortunately, this giveaway is for readers in the United Kingdom only, so I will be unable to send it to you if you're outside of the UK - sorry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As for the future...I'm not sure where SWB will go - who knows what will happen! I can only hope that I continue to stay inspired and creative...and that somewhere out there, someone will still want to read my random ramblings. I can't wait to see the opportunities that SWB brings my way!

Good Luck! 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Happy Halloween: Lush's Sparkly Pumpkin

It's Halloween in just a few days, and even though I don't go all out for it, I do like to participate in my own little way.

This year I'm not donning fancy dress; my plan is to carve a pumpkin, help my housemate with her costume (A-Level Art finally comes in handy!) and enjoy a seasonal treat or two...namely some pumpkin soup and, of course, a festive Lush product!

Lush's Sparkly Pumpkin is a cute little treat, perfect for a low-key nod to this time of year. I spotted it at the Lush Festive preview a few weeks ago, and a couple of days later I went back to buy it. As well as gorgeously glittery (who can resist that shimmer?) it smells gorgeous, with lime, juniperberry and grapefruit oil. 

This is not a zingy fragrance, however, and it's not overpoweringly refreshing. In fact, I used this bubble bar at 10pm for a night-time bath, and it was perfectly relaxing. It's not pungent, and creates the most beautiful burnt-orange water with gold sparkles floating amongst the bubbles. I sank into my bath and felt instantly soothed and pampered. Sparkly Pumpkin is uplifting and calming - it's a shame this scent isn't available all year round!

If you're looking for an alternative Halloween to one spent scrambling for fancy dress ideas and navigating the streets filled with trick-or-treaters or drunken students, this would be the perfect start (or finish!) to your night - whether you choose to follow it with a classic horror film, or something a bit more subtle. It's also calorie-free - the perfect alternative to all of those devilish sweets and cakes!

I think many of Lush's Halloween products get overlooked, thanks to the hype surrounding their Christmas treats - however, their products, like Sparkly Pumpkin, shouldn't be ignored - they're just as gorgeous and are perfect for Autumn.

Grab one of these beauties before they vanish soon - hopefully, we'll be seeing the Sparkly Pumpkin next autumn! I'll definitely be buying one again.

If you fancy a Halloween costume idea which doesn't break the bank, take a look at my post from last year - the perfect last-minute DIY outfit.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Simple Cheeky Vanilla & Toffee Vodka Cupcakes

The more I bake, the more I love it. I'm getting a little more confident with each cake I make, and am even looking for more unusual recipes to try out.

It was my housemate's birthday last week, and I wanted to whip up a quick treat with a twist. She loves a cheeky drink...and so what better cake to make, than an adult cupcake, with alcohol?

I scoured the internet for inspiration (hello Pinterest) to see how I could incorporate alcohol into a recipe without making it complicated...but I couldn't find many ideas which would give me maximum results with minimal effort. I decided, then, that I would just cross my fingers, and try my best.

So, here is my super easy vanilla cupcake recipe with delicious toffee vodka icing!

You will need:

  • 3 eggs
  • self-raising flour
  • caster sugar
  • butter
  • icing sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • toffee vodka (or any flavoured vodka you fancy!)
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°c
  2. Weigh your eggs (in the shells!) and make a note of their weight
  3. Measure out the same weight as the eggs in flour, sugar and butter, pop into a bowl and mix
  4. Break in the eggs, and mix until the batter is smooth
  5. Add one teaspoon of vanilla extract (or more or less, depending on what you fancy!) and mix again until blended thoroughly
  6. Spoon into cupcake cases evenly
  7. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until brown and firm
  8. Meanwhile, blend 140g soft butter and 280g icing sugar
  9. Add 1 tbsp vodka, and mix thoroughly
  10. Add as much vodka as you wish, until the icing is a good, stiff but soft consistency (and to your taste!)
  11. Once the cakes are cool, swirl / spoon the icing on top and decorate as you wish (I left mine simple)
  12. Indulge!

This is such a flexible recipe and you really can adapt it however you like - perhaps try lime vodka, or even another type of alcohol! When I next make these, I want to top it with tiny toffee pieces.

Let me know if you bake this - I'd love to know what you think!

And remember, test the icing before you use it...but try to leave enough for the cakes (it's pretty darn tasty!)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Welcoming Autumn in The New Forest

Autumn is my favourite season. It always has been, and it always will be. Autumn is the season or cosy weather; fat raindrops and crisp mornings, blue skies and wet leaves underfoot.

The sky looks changes from hour to hour, and the air smells of damp wood, bonfires and mud. Windows steam up while hot comfort food is cooked in the kitchen. Mashed potato, shepherd's pie, casseroles and stews. Toes are tucked up in warm socks after trudging through the damp and cold, and coats and hats are perpetually wet. Soup is a staple at lunchtime, and it's never too early to don your pyjamas.  Free moments can be spent curled in an armchair, reading a book while the rain lashes on the glass. Over-sized jumpers, leggings and practical black boots are a uniform, enlisted to fight the ever-changing weather.

I greet Autumn with excitement - I prefer layering up in cosy knits to donning shorts in the summer. Nothing beats pie and mash, and cosy evenings in with loved ones.

This year, Autumn appeared suddenly. After a warm September which seemed to drag on forever, the trees became orange overnight and, sadly, the weather deteriorated within hours. We are now well-and-truly in the throes of my favourite month, and despite the constant dampness of my socks and a hankering for too much hot chocolate, I'm welcoming it with open arms.

Last week I spent Sunday in the beautiful New Forest, and I saw it as my moment to welcome Autumn back into my life once more. Where better to see the stunning change in colours, and watch nature ease through it's cycle?

It was a beautiful clear day. The sky was blue after the rain throughout the previous day, and the ground had yet to become boggy. Days in the New Forest should always start with a roast dinner, of course - and that's exactly what we did.

After a little background research, we ended up in The New Forest at Ashurst - a quaint little place with lovely decor and a mean carvery. My plate was piled high with succulent meat, crispy potatoes and all the sides and vegetables you can imagine. In a few months, the pub will no doubt have a roaring fire and holly all around - and I'm tempted to return. It was the perfect start to our day out.

After such a big roast, what else was there to do but walk? We found a place to park and meandered through the forest, across open spaces and bridges, admiring the colours and peace-and-quiet. Nature was all around us and we spotted wildlife with every step. I nearly trod on a furry little chap, which turned out to be a Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar (I shamelessly googled him afterwards) - he was fascinating, and I watched him for age, crawling over the forest floor. We were also joined by wood peckers and a number of birds and New Forest Ponies.

Ending the day with locally-produced ice cream (Apple Strudel flavour, which fitted in with the season perfectly!) I headed home for a hot shower and Netflix in bed.

if you haven't visited the New Forest before, I can't recommend it enough - it's a wonderful place to get a breath of fresh air away from the hubub of busy city life; stunning in every season and the host of many-a lovely pub and more.

It was the perfect start to my favourite month, and I can't wait to make the most of it before the bareness of winter arrives.

Here's to the weeks of soggy feet, hot showers and candlelight to come.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

London Life: Sunday Brunch at Ffiona's, Kensington

On a drizzly Sunday morning, I awoke with a stinking great cold.

It was August, would you believe, but the weather out of the window and my immune system were trying to tell me otherwise.

Still revelling in the previous night's theatrical masterpiece at the Gielgud Theatre, I checked out of my hotel and headed out to South Kensington for a spot of Sunday brunch - because what else can you do at the weekend in London?

After a spot of googling, we eventually found our way to Ffiona's, tucked away around the streets. We were promised the 'best brunch in London' by a number of reviews, so we headed in,  anticipating a real treat.

Our first mistake was clear from the very beginning; we were asked if we had booked (we had not). This was met with a slight grimace - we had clearly underestimated the popularity of this tiny cafe, and I started to worry that our brunch plans had been scuppered by spontaneity. Eventually, however, we found ourselves perched on the end of a large table, having been told we'd need to leave within the hour as they were expecting to get busy.

Unfortunately, this was a little uncomfortable - my seat was right next to the door, which was obviously in continual use, and was a bit disturbing and cold. Being sat at the very edge of a table isn't the best way to feel welcome, and after a slightly frosty reception (our menus were handed over briskly, and no guidance or friendly chatter was provided) I felt a bit awkward. 

The other visitors were clearly enjoying themselves. One American family were being talked through the variety of the menu by one lady who was charismatic and entertaining; and another couple were tucking into their food with gusto.

The cafe itself was lovely; small, intimate, and nicely decorated, with beautiful furniture and pretty fresh flowers.  I thought it was even a bit quirky. The menu sounded delicious too, especially the lunches, which I knew would prove popular within the next few hours!

I opted for a simple pot of tea, and blueberry and maple syrup waffles, having been craving them all weekend! The food arrived promptly and I have to say the waffles looked and tasted delicious. It was a treat for my senses! Sweet, fluffy, and warm, with a whole jug of maple syrup to myself. I would have liked a few more blueberries (I just about got one of my five-a-day!) as I love my fruit, or a few more topping options,  but they were tasty. I did get a bit confused when ordering, as the menu gave the impression that I would get more than just blueberries, but perhaps that was my mistake.

I was told on good authority that the Pesto Benedict was delicious and unique, and the suggested addition of halloumi was excellent (a plus, suggested by the waitress!). Though apparently the Hollandaise Sauce could have been better). It's safe to say the Brunch menu was impressive and very enticing.

As promised, within the hour we had left and ventured back into the pouring rain to explore the museums on Exhibition Road. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, to be honest - we did have time to chat and muse over our tea, but it wasn't the relaxed, drawn-out brunch we would have preferred on a Sunday. 

I like to be honest in my reviews, and while the food was lovely - simple, fresh and filling - I do think it was a bit over-priced for what we received. The service was also a little 'off', sadly. I am sure that the team at Ffiona's are lovely and a lot of thought and care has gone into the cafe, as they have a very good reputation, but I felt rather unwelcome - perhaps this was because we were cheeky enough to turn up without a booking. 

The various reviews online seem to mostly rave about Ffiona's, but from my experience it seemed a little over-hyped. However, I know that I have only been once, and it's hard to judge somewhere on a single experience. Nevertheless, I would have liked to have had a better brunch - it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either, and we both left feeling a little...odd. And it wasn't just because of my unseasonal cold.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Lush Cosmetics Preview - Halloween & Christmas 2014

Last night I went along to my local Lush Cosmetics store to have a cheeky sneak-peak at their new products for Winter 2014 before they became available in store today.

I've always been a huge fan of Lush, and when I found out about the event I just jumped at the chance. Nothing screams the arrival of Winter in the beauty world more than sparkly shower gels, cinnamon-scented soaps and the cutest little bath bombs. Both Halloween and Christmas are covered, so there's something for even the grumpiest of scrooges!

It seems a little early for all of this - and I make a point of only celebrating Christmas from December 1st...but who can resist an opportunity like this? I stock up on Christmas goodies every year, so I arrived excited to find a new favourite - and slightly nervous, as it was my first 'event' as a blogger!

I find that treating myself to seasonal products a few months before Christmas can really set the mood. These bath bombs and gels aren't just for Christmas - they're for winter, and we should make the most of them!

My first reaction was joy at seeing some brand new treats amongst old faithfuls. Every year, Lush bring out their most popular seasonal products - such as Snow Fairy shower gel and Cinders bath bomb - but there were plenty of new things to try.

My favourite new product was the Hot Toddy shower gel. A beautiful deep red with golden sparkles, this gel smells of traditional yuletide; cinnamon, cloves, ginger and a hint of lemon. It's not the lightest of scents, but I can imagine it will be very warming on a cold winter's morning. Needless to say a little bottle of this made it's way into my basket instantly - I can't wait to try it!

I loved the range of shower gels; Snow Fairy and So White are both lighter and sweeter - I'll be hoping to try the latter soon - it has a crisp, apple scent which complements the name!

My heart was also lost to their solid soaps. I don't use these very much, as I find shower gels more user-friendly - but I loved Yog Nog and Reindeer Rock. Both are beautifully formed and would look great beside the sink!

Of course, they both smell divine too - Yog Nog was my favourite, with a sweet, creamy gingery scent reminding me of a hot milky drink beside the fire. It contains soya yoghurt, cloves and nutmeg, making if soft and comforting. I couldn't help myself - I had to buy a chunk! The other soaps were also lovely - but I couldn't buy them all, even if I wanted to! Reindeer Rock smelt refreshing and fruity, and was a beautiful deep red, so that's next on my list. I think the solid soaps are often overlooked, and they didn't seem to get much attention last night - but make sure you notice them this Christmas, as they are gorgeous!

When it comes to bath bombs, bubble bars and melts...well, there are just too many to name. Lush have over thirty different products out and the majority of these are bath treats. Stand-out products for me, however, were Holly Golightly, Lord of Misrule, Butterbear, Sparkly Pumpkin, Cinders and The Melting Snowman. It is so hard to choose, however, and I would happily use every single product in the run up to Christmas and Halloween. There is a great mixture of traditional and quirky, and each one of them brings a surprise.

Of course, it wouldn't be a seasonal preview without the glitter! After speaking to one of the assistants, I learnt that the glitter in their products has recently been reformed so that it doesn't get everywhere as much as it used to. This means you can buy these shimmering treats without fear of finding glitter in your bathroom and on your body for weeks after use! I find this appealing - I always worry about the mess that comes with sparkly products such as Holly Golightly and Star Light Star Bright, but now I have no need to.

Personally, I enjoy traditional scents; cinnamon, nutmeg, pine...if it smells like a spiced pudding or a walk in the winter woods, I'll be besotted. Christmas, for me, is about traditions; greens, reds, golds, comfort food, blankets, fires and nature. I'm not normally attracted to sickly sweet products like Snow Fairy or Candy Mountain (as delicious as they are - I won't say no!) - so many of my favourites are spiced scents.

Unfortunately I didn't get to see any of the gifts or cleansers - I think they were brought out after I left - but I will be heading back in store very, very soon, so no doubt I'll pick some up then.

For fear of waffling on and listing products, I'll stop here. But my final thoughts on Lush's Halloween and Christmas products? Halloween unfortunately seemed to get overshadowed by the sheer volume of Christmas stuff - so I would have liked to see a little more of those. There was not one product I disliked, however, and there is so much to choose from - which means that you're bound to find the perfect gift for friends and family in there somewhere!

I loved having a little snoop around before they went on general sale - and I can't wait to try out my Hot Toddy, Melting Snowman and Yog Nog - so watch out for reviews! I can't wait to get my hands on some more of my favourites.

You can find all of Lush's Christmas and Halloween products online and in store now.

Do you have a Lush Halloween or Christmas Favourite?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Making Madeleines for Macmillan - #bakewithliv

Last week I spent two evenings baking batches of delicious treats for Macmillan's 'World's Biggest Coffee Morning'

On the same day - Friday 26th - hundreds of thousands of people were baking and cooking and brewing tea and coffee in the name of fundraising for Macmillan.  Scones, cupcakes and chocolate sponges would be served up in their hoards to hungry souls ready to part with their cash for cake and cancer support.

I decided to hold a cake sale in my office for the event, and set myself the task of baking three different types of treats for my colleagues as a contribution. One batch of the chosen cakes were French Madeleines - something I had never made before.

Months and months ago I read the perfect simple Madeleine recipe on What Olivia Did's blog and couldn't wait to try it, so this was the perfect excuse!

The night before the cake sale I set to work greasing Madeleine trays, beating eggs and watching the oven...and I have to say, I was so impressed with the resulting cakes - if I say so myself!

French Madeleines are little shell-shaped sponges with a delicate lemon and vanilla flavour. They're meant to be 'lighter than air' (in the words of Ross from Friends) which I suppose makes them the perfect tiny treat - and particularly good for those amongst us who don't like too much icing.

Olivia's recipe was easy to follow, and although the process was slightly time consuming and a little delicate (folding in butter was never going to be speedy!) I experienced no problems, and was left with more than twenty delicate little sponges, ready to  be consumed in the name of charity.

If you want to bake something a little different, or fancy a cake-based treat to take to work for your colleagues, these are perfect - and although I could always do with more practice (not a problem, it means more to eat!) I thought they were very impressive!

After carefully combining some very basic ingredients, you're left with a thick, velvety batter which is then baked in these delicate shell moulds for just over ten minutes. They're not overpoweringly lemony to taste, either - just a lovely sponge which satisfies a sweet tooth, without being too plain.

Olivia's simple and easy-to-follow recipe can be found HERE on her wonderful blog. Don't forget to use her hashtag, #bakewithliv, to show her what you've been up to! My Instagram was full of photos of my Madeleines that night - and even Olivia herself approved (slight fan-girl moment there!).

I'll definitely be making these again, and they went down very well at the cake sale - we made a fantastic amount of money for a brilliant cause, which made me incredibly happy, and I will definitely try to take part next year. It's such a great thing to be a part of!

Did you hold a coffee morning for Macmillan?