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I don't post about beauty often but this one is important and if like me you have drawers, nay boxes filled with make-up you rarely use this is the post for you, because what I didn't realise (until I started reading some very cool beauty blogs) is that like any perishable product, make-up has a shelf life. 

Typically I have two or three mascara tubes open at any given time. I have eye make up palettes and lipsticks aplenty dating back to before I got married (2006), and a large number of foundations that I've bought on a whim. Sound familiar? Well I've made a decision. It has to go. This de-gunk isn't just about streamlining my dressing table or daily grooming habits though; out of date products can contain unhealthy levels of bacteria and although it's highly unlikely it will make you sick (unless you count pink eye) it can cause skin irritation and break outs.

Here's a quick run down of how often you should renew your products:
Mascara - 4 months!
Concealer - 12 months.
Foundation - water based 12 months, oil based 18 months.
Cream or gel facial cleansers - 12 months.
Powder - 2 years.
Nail varnish - 1 year (up to 2 years if kept in the fridge).
Pencil eye liner - 3 years when sharpened often.
Lip liner - 3 years.
Lipstick - up to 4 years (if it starts to smell rancid throw it out).

Don't forget to wash brushes every three months, rinse out sponges weekly and discard them after a month.

And here is my new streamlined make-up palette and skin care regime for  AW14. I'm sticking to a neutral/ smoky eye palette from Barry M, giving my nails an edgier look with a shiny black varnish, but keeping the overall look feminine with a soft pink blush. Here's to 5 minute makeup routines this autumn!

Barry M Natural Pallet & black nail varnish from Boots (also available at Superdrug)
Dermalogica products are available online or from any good beauty salon

De-cluttering the make-up drawer

I don't post about beauty often but this one is important and if like me you have drawers, nay boxes filled with make-up you rarel...
Friday, 29 August 2014
Whenever I go to stay at my folks place I always come away with more than I had when I arrived. My dad fills up the petrol tank before I leave and makes sure I have fresh groceries (and enough wine to sink a ship) so I don't have to go to the supermarket straight after a 4+ hour drive. My mum packs the new cute outfits she's picked up on trips abroad for Bella & Bear and maybe a new toy or two; but some of things I take away, although intangible in their worth, remain far more precious. For example, on my last trip I spent an afternoon going through my mum's recipe book and copied a few childhood favourites into a diary, the one I'm sharing with you today is for 'breakfast' waffles. 

Growing up, whenever my sister and I were asked what we would like for any given meal our reply was unanimously 'waffles'. We loved them warm and dripping with maple syrup. So while Bella & Bear are holidaying with their Dad I've been perfecting my waffle technique. I'm getting rather good and I can't wait to share this piece of my childhood with them. 

You will need:
4oz of plain flour
1 tsp of baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 egg
1/4 pint of milk
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of melted margarine (or butter)
1 x waffle iron

This will make around 4 to 5 waffles.

Separate the egg white from the yolk. In a mixing bowl whisk the egg white until it is stiff and fluffy. In a separate bowl sieve the dry ingredients together. Drop the egg yolk and cooled melted margarine into a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Mix together slowly and beating continuously add the milk until you have a smooth batter. Then gently fold in the stiffly beaten egg white.

Grease the waffle iron with margarine or other non-stick fat substitute (cake release spray will be fine) but butter tastes best. Heat the iron on both sides until it is hot. Spoon just enough batter onto the hot iron to cover one side being careful not to overfil. Close the waffle iron and cook for 2 to 3 minutes turning to ensure the waffle cooks evenly.

Serve each waffle immediately.

Family Breakfast Waffle

Thursday, 28 August 2014
Oh this skirt, this skirt!! It's pieces like this that make me believe in love at first site. It compounds that intimate feeling you have when you know something is right, that a relationship is meant to be, that you belong together. So it is with me and this By Malene Birger sequin Poliio skirt. It's not just the sequin sparkle that makes this skirt so effective though, the longer length lends added elegance and lady like appeal to the silhouette. The material under the sequins contains elastane so it stretches and moves with you (making it easy to walk) while retaining its shape.

Stylists often talk about transitional pieces, what they mean is that by styling an item well it can be worn across the seasons. In autumn I'll be dressing this skirt down with long sleeved breton tops, a denim shirt and trainers then switching to a sweater and knee-length boots when the cold starts to bite. For the winter party season I'll pair it with a classic black silk vest and accessorise with extra diamonds. So you can expect to see this skirt on repeat on the blog. If you want to get your hands on one you're going to have to act fast, it's sold out almost everywhere and I know for a fact that By Malene Birger have sold out, which means it's going to be near impossible for retailers to re-order. Feather & Stitch have limited stock in store and online now. My advice is to size down, the XS is a UK size 10.

The thing I really love about this skirt though... when the light hits it just right, I look like I'm farting sparkles. Parp.

Skirt by By Malene Birger c/o Feather & Stitch
Blouse by Cos
Heels by ASOS
Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs
Necklace by Accessorize (old)
Clutch by J.Crew (old find similar here)
Bracelets are vintage

*I received this skirt as part remuneration for the editorial work I do for Feather & Stitch. If you click through to the online store and choose to purchase from the boutique I will receive a small commission. This does not effect your rights as a consumer or the total price you will pay.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Have you heard of wild swimming? I hadn't until a friend (who will now forevermore be known as 'the wild one') recommended we go to Shilley Pool on Dartmoor. A quick internet search brought this wild swimming website to my attention as well as a helpful definition of what I was getting involved in.

wild-swimming (vb.):
1. Swimming in natural waters such as rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Often associated with picnics and summer holidays.
2. Dipping or plunging in secret or hidden places, sometimes in wilderness areas. Associated with skinny-dipping or naked swimming, often with romantic connotations.
3. Action of swimming wildly such as jumping or diving from a height, using swings and slides, or riding the current of a river.

 The wild one suggested we pack wetsuits and a picnic to make a day of it. So on a sunny morning in August we made our way from one side of Dartmoor to the other to meet up with her wildlings and take the plunge. Now, it's worth bearing in mind that I prefer swimming in the sea to a swimming pool and spent many summers as a child damming streams and catching frogs, so the thought of getting in a pond for a swim does not fill me with dread. If you're a little squeamish about these things you needn't worry, this pool is situated over bedrock so there's no ick between your toes but it is rather slippery, which actually is the point here as Shilley Pool is a natural rock slide too.

Shilley Pool is a 15 to 20 minute walk up stream from the car park. You need good walking boots or wellies as you have to clamber over rocks and through boggy ground to get there but the scenery is spectacular and well worth the effort. We found the most enormous hairy caterpillar chilling out on the path. I picked it up carefully (and squealed when it tickled my palm), then popped it onto a frond of bracken where the wildlings could get a proper look at it.

Once we found the pool the kids spent a good hour sliding down the rock on their butts. I helped Bear slide down and accidentally dunked him underwater when my foot slipped on the bottom on the pool... after which I was called 'The Bad Mummy' for the remainder of the day. It was pretty chilly and he wasn't very happy with me, but there was so much nature to explore he didn't stay mad for long. When we were done slipping and sliding, whooping and yelling we dried off on warm rocks before eating our picnic wrapped up in giant towels.

Bear and I played hide-and-seek in the bracken which towered over him like a green jungle while the others got back into the cool water. We were the sole people there for most of the day, our isolation interrupted only by the occasional rambler crunching through the bracken pathways. There are no facilities this far up on Dartmoor, it's nature in it's purest form; clean air, fresh water and a big sky. The experience was at once exhilarating and peaceful. After our day at Shilley Pool I'm a total fan of wild swimming. So much so that I'm looking into other wild locations with natural pools around the world where we can literally dive into nature. I think these happy faces speak volumes about the benefits of getting a little wild sometimes.

Are you STILL taking pictures mummy?

Bella & Bear wore Boden and Clarks.

Wild Swimming

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Who's ready for the bank holiday and the last big summer blow out? Yay, me too!! Even though the weather fairies don't seem to be playing ball there's no reason not to go all out this weekend and have a proper English BBQ, which let's face it wouldn't be complete without the heavens at least threatening to open at some point.

Scones make a summer party for me. They're so decadent without being at all fussy and are loved by all ages alike. I'm going to be serving these blueberry ones, as well as Eaton Mess, pulled pork sliders and a delicious watermelon and feta salad that I've been making over and over again this summer. The blueberries in this recipe give a tart counterbalance to the sweet cream and jam.

You will need:
225g (8oz) of self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
55g (2oz) butter (cold and cubed)
30g (1oz) castor sugar (omit if you prefer)
150ml milk (1/4 pint) plus a little more to glaze
A good handful of fresh blueberries

Clotted cream & assorted jams to serve.

Preheat the over to 220ÂșC & flour a baking sheet.

In a large bowl sieve the flour and salt together. Add the cubed butter and pinch it and the flour together with your fingers until it forms a breadcrumb like texture. The mix will be like a dry crumble.

If you're going to add castor sugar mix it in now, the recipe doesn't need it in order to work it just sweetens the dough a little. Throw in the blueberries and mix until they are evenly distributed.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and pour the milk into the well. Stir this through with a palette knife until it is an even dough. If you use your fingers for this job your hands will be covered in sticky dough (it washes off easily with soap and water).

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead it gently. If it starts to stick add more flour to the surface, then push or roll it out to a depth of 2.5cm. Using a small round pastry cutter, cut out your scones and place them onto the floured baking sheet about 10cm apart. Brush lightly with milk before baking in the top of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden brown.

Allow the scones to cool on a wire rack before serving with clotted cream, jam and Earl Grey tea or some bubbles if you prefer. They will keep in an airtight container for up to four days or you can freeze them for up to a month (remember to allow them to defrost completely before serving). 

Squashed Blueberry Scones

Friday, 22 August 2014
Recently a few readers have taken an interest in how I take pictures for Bella & Bear. So I thought it only right to take the time to answer this fully in the hope that it will be useful resource to others wishing to improve their images.

Firstly I use a Nikon D3100, it's a great digital SLR (DSLR) for a fledgling photographer being both easy to use and affordable. I use the lens it came with which is a VR 18-55mm; although recently I have been considering investing in a new lens for close up shots over all I am very happy with the results I achieve using the standard lens. I also subscribe to a photography blog which is enormously informative.

When it comes to taking style shots I wish I had a photographer to help me, working in a team is great creatively and can seriously cut down on shooting time, especially if the photographer brings an assistant who can hold a light reflector or fix last minute outfit details and are skilled enough to suggest dropping a shoulder or lifting your chin. However I don't have this kind of help, I do all the photography and styling for the blog myself.  When I first started blogging I used the self timer function on the camera but found this to be a massive time suck. Going back and forth to the camera, trying to stand in the right spot to stay in focus and keep the clothes looking good in a 15 second time frame is NOT easy. Bravo to any blogger out there who manages this way. Having worked with photographers in the past I knew there was a simple solution. So I bought a compatible wireless shutter remote and acquired a number of tripods and a GorillaPod from Amazon. 

Using a camera mounted on a tripod and a wireless shutter remote allows me to set up for a shoot in minutes and then take 100+ photographs in a very short time frame. There is a small receiver that attaches to the top of camera. Being able to move naturally while taking shots is a huge advantage and increases the choice of pictures available for editing. You can even make fun GIFS with the images if you use the continuous shooting mode. The only difficulties are hiding the remote from view (but this is accomplished by discretely placing it behind a bag or in your hand out of shot) and coping with windy conditions which can scatter the signal if you are too far away from the receiver attached to the camera.

You can see the discreet remote in my hand in this picture.

Of course if you go out to shoot in a busy street scene there is the possibility that some rogue will make off with your camera and tripod leaving you bereft. It's because of this that I choose to photograph my style posts at home or in remote locations.

Once I am satisfied with the shots (and I take a lot) I download them to Picasa for editing. For pictures intended for the blog I keep the filters to a minimum so that they retain their natural quality, but for Instagram I often use the online PixLr Editor to add a little polish to the image. It's a quick way to add text or create a collage too.

That's it. I hope this is useful. My last word of advice on this subject is to take care where you leave the wireless shutter remote, they are quite small and I've recently misplaced mine which is why I haven't published a style post in two weeks... thankfully a new one is on it's way. I love you Amazon!!
*None of the links in this post are affiliated links.

Using a wireless remote clicker to take beautiful photographs for your blog

Wednesday, 20 August 2014
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