Saturday, 29 December 2012

December Reads.

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Book cover images via Goodreads 

The Enemy, Charlie Higson (2008)
The Enemy is set in a version of London where the majority of adults have been infected by a mystery illness causing them to become zombie-like and the children have been left to survive on their own.
The main issue I had with this book was the characters, there are just so many that its difficult to get to know any one of them in depth. The book is not narrated from one character's point of view either making it more difficult to immerse yourself in their world. There was a fair bit going on in terms of fighting against the 'grown-ups' but for the most part I somehow still found I wasn't enjoying it. I don't think I will pick up the next book in the series as the characters just aren't selling it to me but I am slightly interested to see what the general set up was leading to as not much about the mystery illness is revealed in this first installment. 2/5

What's Left Of Me, Kat Zhang (2012) 
Set in an alternative version of the present rather than a dystopian vision of the future What's Left Of Me tells the story of Eva and Addie; two souls trapped in the same body. The girls live in a version of our world where everybody is born with two souls but over time one is supposed to fade away however in their case never happened leaving them an illegal hybrid trying to keep the truth a secret. The premise is fairly unique, at least to me, but the plot still became increasingly predictable as it went along. In addition to this there wasn't an awful lot of world-building, I'm assuming that this is because more will be revealed in the following two books but it did leave a lot of unanswered questions like why hybrids were considered so dangerous in the US but evidently not the rest of the world? Similarly to The Enemy I didn't find myself particularly invested in the characters or their story. Even reading a story led by a hybrid with two personalities I still didn't particularly like either of them! It was definitely an interesting idea to have the non-dominant of the two souls, who doesn't control the body or speech, to be the narrator but unfortunately even that concept wasn't enough to make the plot and writing style more enjoyable. At the moment its looking very unlikely that I will read the next book in the series. 2.5/5

Global Model Village, Slinkachu (2012)
Global Model Village showcases pieces by British artist Slinkachu who creates miniature scenes within various locations around the world using small models alongside everyday objects. The book has an beautiful layout where a full view of the artwork’s location is shown on one page followed by a close up of the artwork on the next. The close up photographs highlight the great amount of time and effort that has gone into creating the detail of not just the works themselves but also the photography. The subjects of the different artworks ranged from the humorous to the thought-provoking set amongst a vast variety of landscapes. Although I did enjoy the imagery and ideas throughout the book I would have liked to have seen a little more text included as I wanted to know how the stories behind each piece originated. Overall this is a great book for creatives and artists to find inspiration and would be a nice addition to any collection. 3/5 *Review of an eARC c/o Netgalley

Also reviewed this month:
- Candor, Pam Bachorz (2009) - click here for review

Find me on Goodreads here
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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sunday DIY: Cinnamon Wrapped Candles

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Cinnamon wrapped candles aren't a new idea but they are a quick and simple DIY project which as a big cinnamon fan I really love. They are great for decorating your home at this time of year or you could even make some as handmade gifts for friends & family.
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To make your own cinnamon wrapped candle you will need - elastic bands, a microwave and microwave safe plate/saucer, twine/string, cinnamon sticks and of course a candle
 
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Take the elastic bands and wrap them around the candle, one near the top and one near the bottom
 
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Cut the cinnamon sticks down to size if you need to and start placing them around the candle, tucking them into the elastic bands to keep them in place
 
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Once you have put cinnamon sticks all of the way around the candle take a piece of twine and tie them in place. You should then be able to remove the elastic bands without the cinnamon falling out of place
 
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Pop your candle onto the saucer and put it in the microwave for around 30 seconds. This will melt the candle slightly so that you can gently press the cinnamon sticks onto it. Repeat this for another 30 seconds

* Be careful when pressing onto the cinnamon sticks as they get hot pretty quickly!
 
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If you like you can decorate your candle with some berries and leaves to give it an even more festive look

I hope you've enjoyed my series of Christmas DIY projects over the last six weeks. Don't forget to tweet or email me a photograph if you try out any of the DIYs, I would love to see how they look!
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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Alternative Christmas Cake: Chocolate, Peppermint & Candy Cane

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This is my second alternative Christmas cake idea for you, this time inspired by the deliciousness that is candy canes! The cake itself is chocolate with peppermint buttercream icing, topped off with crushed candy cane & silver ball decorations.

If you fancy baking your own version follow the steps below:

- Mix up your favourite basic sponge recipe and add around one and a half tablespoons of cocoa powder and a blob of Nutella or any other chocolate spread you like

- Bake at around 180 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until cooked through

- Mix up some basic buttercream icing (two parts icing sugar to one part butter) and flavour with peppermint

- I chose to colour my icing to make it look more festive however I will warn you - it did take quite a lot of food colouring to get it to this shade!

- Crumb coat your cake and set it aside whilst you work on the toppings

- Pop your candy cane and any other toppings into a sandwich bag and crush with a rolling pin

- Ice your cake and sprinkle on the crushed toppings, and you're done!

Don't forget to send me a photograph if you try out this idea, I'd love to see!

Click here for my other festive cake idea. 
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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Haircare Review: It's A 10

its a 10 review
It's A 10 Miracle Leave-In Product 120ml - available here for £13.75

Texture - The first thing I noticed about this product is that the texture is very different from any high street leave-in conditioners I have tried in the past. It has a much thicker consistency, more like an actual conditioner in spray format but somehow it doesn't weigh down the hair or leave any sort of noticeable residue. Unlike other conditioning products I have found that I am able to apply It's A 10 from root to tip without this causing my hair to become greasy more quickly at the roots.

Scent - It's A 10 does have quite a strong scent which I can only describe as 'very salony'. I don't dislike it but don't love it either and it does linger on the hair between washes so that is something to be aware of if you don't like this type of scent.

Application - It is suggested that you spray the product directly from the bottle onto your hair and comb through. Whilst I have found this method works I do have a lot of hair to cover so I personally like to spray some of the product onto my fingertips and work it through my hair to make sure no areas are missed out. After I have done this I will also spray a little product directly onto the mid to longest lengths and brush through with my Tangle Teezer. I think the key to using a product like this is to make sure you experiment with it to ascertain how much product is the right amount for your hair type.

Value For Money - As I haven't used this up yet I can't let you know exactly how long a 120ml bottle will last. Looking at how much I have used so far I would estimate that used 2-3 times per week on long hair it should last a few months. On that basis I would definitely say it is worth the money as it does give noticeable results.

Does It Live Up To It's Claims? - As the name suggests it claims to do ten things for your hair and although I really like the product I wouldn't necessarily agree with all ten of the benefits listed. On my hair I wouldn't say it does much in the way of detangling but when used with my Tangle Teezer this isn't a problem. Like many leave-in conditioners it claims to add shine to the hair which I also haven't seen any difference with but again, this seems to be the case for me with all products that make similar claims. It is however a great heat protectant which does help to control frizz and smooths well - if you suffer from frizz/flyaways its definitely worth a try! It also claims to help repair dry/damaged hair, protect colour, stop breakage, prevent split ends, create silkiness and enhance natural body.

*Used with Tresemme Keratin Smooth Shampoo & Conditioner and John Frieda Salon Shine Hairdryer

Have you tried any products from the It's A 10 range? 
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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas Nails #3 - Penguins

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My third and final festive nail design is this little penguin! I decided to use one of my all time favourite polishes Gypsy Night for the base instead of going for a plain coloured background and I quite like the result. Here's how to create the penguin design:

- Apply two coats of Topshop Gypsy Night
- Use white acrylic paint and a brush for the basic penguin body shape
- Take a dotting tool and some black acrylic paint or black polish to add on the eyes
- Use an orange polish or paint and a dotting tool for the feet & beak (I mixed Max Factor Red Passion with H&M Lemon Tree to achieve the right shade)
- Finish with your favourite topcoat

Have you been inspired to create any festive nail art this year?
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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday DIY: Baubles

This week's DIY, and the penultimate in the Christmas series, is baubles!
Clear baubles filled with all sorts of things from sequins to feathers and branches have been really popular in the shops this year so I decided to come up with a couple of designs of my own.

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Sticking with the traditional Christmas colours this first design is filled with tinsel holly shapes.
I cut up a table decoration from Poundland for my baubles but you can use any pieces of tinsel.
You could also add some glitter for a little extra sparkle or even some fake snow!

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Perhaps less festive but still very pretty is the second design where the baubles contain strips of text.
You can use old books, newspapers, or even just photocopied pages to create your own version.
I think these could also work well with sheet music or scraps of Christmas wrapping paper!

I purchased the baubles for this DIY from a local garden centre priced at £3.99 for 12

Don't forget to email or tweet me a photograph if you make your own version, I'd love to see.
Check back next Sunday for the final DIY in the Christmas series.
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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Melting Snowman Cupcakes

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These little melting snowman cupcakes are perfect for the Christmas season, here's how I made them...

The Base - I baked the cakes using my usual basic cupcake recipe and covered them with buttercream icing (salted butter, icing sugar & vanilla extract). Since the buttercream icing was yellow I then mixed up some regular icing to quite a thick consistency and applied this over the top.

The Body - The snowman is made up of half a marshmallow for the body and a whole one for the head (stuck together with icing). For the arms I used broken Mikado sticks pushed into the cake.

The Hat - For the snowman's hat I used icing to stick a chocolate button on top of the marshmallow then added a brown smartie on top of that. It would have been best to mix a little cocoa powder into the icing for this part so it toned in with the brown but I completely forgot!

The Face - I used a cocktail stick and some black food colouring to dot on the eyes (and buttons!). I then cut small triangles of crystalised ginger for the noses and stuck them on with icing. I coloured these with orange food colouring and a cocktail stick to make them stand out more.

The Finishing Touch - To finish I used a knife to crush up a few silver ball decorations and sprinkled them onto the bases for a little festive sparkle!

Have you made any Christmas themed treats? 
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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Nails #2 - Snow

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These are just a few ideas of ways to wear a snowy design on your nails this Christmas season. They each have a base coat, a glitter coat and feature scalloped snow detailing as a festive twist on the classic French manicure. Below are the polishes used for each look -

#1 - Base coat of China Glaze Stone Cold, Glitter coat of Topshop White Witch
#2 - Base coat of Topshop Tidal, Glitter coat of China Glaze Luxe & Lush
#3 - Base coat of Nails Inc Mortcomb Street, Glitter coat of Models Own Jack Frost
 All designs - Snow detailing using Natural Collection Tip Whitener & a dotting tool

Which is your favourite?
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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Quick Catchup #1

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Brilliant book / Taking photos for Appliquery / Amazing Cybercandy treats / Finally all caught up on Dexter / Snowy garden / Cluedo crackers! / A recent read / Watching the first ever Rugrats episode on Netflix :) / Planned December reads / DIY decoration / First real cheesecake in over a year / New blogging best friend / "I'm hungry, can I eat your jacket?" / Working on BB's December group post / Another recent read / Makeshift tripod - lucky I have a lot of books and DVDs lying around!

I've also posted over at Blogger's Bookshelf today so be sure to head over and take a look at my review of Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops!

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday DIY: Felt Snowflake Decorations

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This week's Christmas DIY is a cute snowflake decoration made from felt. These are perfect for hanging on the tree or anywhere around the house a Christmas time, they would also make lovely handmade gifts or stocking fillers. You don't need a lot of items to make your own so it's inexpensive and also very easy to make!

You will need white felt, red embroidery thread & a needle, scissors, thin card, ribbon for hanging, wadding or cotton wool, (optional) a glue gun
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The first step is to make a card template for your snowflake. You can either print out a basic star shape and trace it or draw one yourself, it really doesn't matter as long as your two pieces of felt are exactly the same size and shape.
Use your template to cut out your felt shapes - I used this pretty glittery white felt (which doesn't show up too well on camera) but any felt will be fine.
 
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The next step is to stitch your design onto one of the felt shapes using embroidery thread. I chose to do a very simple design using just a backstitch but obviously it's up to you how intricate you make your design.

If you want to you can sew your decoration together but I decided on the quicker option - using a glue gun.
First apply glue just to the edges of one of the star's points and stick the plain white shape onto that. I found it was best to add the stuffing to each point as you go along so once the glue has set pop some wadding or cotton wool into the point before moving onto the next one.

Repeat this for three more of the points so you are left with just two that aren't stuck together, then for the final two just glue along one side of each point (as shown in the photograph below).
 
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Finish adding the stuffing and when you are happy with it you will need to prepare the hanging ribbon. Fold your length of ribbon in half and use a blob of glue to secure it in place. Once that is dry add another two blobs of glue, this time to the outside of the ribbon to make sure it sticks to the felt. Place it inside the decoration, as shown above, and use your glue to close up the two remaining edges, to secure the ribbon in place and finish off your decoration.

Will you be making your own decorations this year?

Don't forget to check back next week for another Christmas decoration DIY.
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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Hand Knitted Hats by Appliquery

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Appliquery is a new Etsy store currently featuring a variety of winter hats all hand knitted by my mum!
I thought today I would show you a few of my favourites - the Tiger Cat, the Beanie with Pom Pom & the Panda - which is your favourite?

As well as the Etsy store I am also selling some Appliquery stock via Sawyer & Scout in the form of fabric & paper bunting.

You can find these designs and more including Christmas themed hats for children in the Appliquery Etsy store - etsy.com/shop/Appliquery
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Friday, 7 December 2012

Your favourite reads of 2012.

readsof2012 
Last month over at Blogger's Bookshelf we talked Favourite Genres and had a great response so we're hoping to get lots of bloggers involved again for the December post. This month's chosen topic is Favourite Reads of 2012.

All we are looking for are your top 5 reads of the year.
They don't have to be books published in 2012 - just ones that you read over the year. If you don't have five favourites then we would still love to hear from you, just tell us which one or two titles you enjoyed instead.

If you would like to get involved all you need to do is either leave a comment on this post, tweet your answers to @blog_bookshelf or send an email to bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com

We need your responses by December 19th and the post will be published on the 22nd.

Don't forget to visit and follow Blogger's Bookshelf for reviews and more!
Cover images via Goodreads
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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Alternative Christmas Cake: Cinnamon & Nutella ft. Cybercandy

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I recently joined the Cybercandy Blogger Network and for my first review I was kindly sent these unusual Cinnamon Bun Bites by Cookie Dough to use for baking a cake. I'm not a fan of traditional Christmas cake so my idea was to create a tasty alternative but at the same time still keeping it festive-inspired, and that's where the cinnamon comes in! As a fan of Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream, thanks to the delicious cookie dough chunks, the idea of sweets made from chunks of raw cookie dough sounded like a great idea to me.
 
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The sweets themselves have a cinnamon flavoured cookie dough centre and a sweet white sugar-coating the taste of which reminded me a lot of powdered doughnuts. They are packed with flavour so if you aren't a huge cinnamon fan they're probably not for you however there are lots of other flavours to choose from. When placed on the cake the cookie dough baked and became quite crunchy which was a nice addition and made the cake a little more interesting. I loved this cake so much that I've eaten it for breakfast the last two days (healthy!) and I hope that if you try it out you love it too!

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To make your own version of this cake follow these steps:

- Start with your usual basic sponge cake recipe and once the mixture is ready add cinnamon to taste, I used around 2 1/2 tbsp for my cake
- Make sure you have greased/lined the cake tin and spoon approximately half of your mixture into it and smooth it out
- Next, as shown above, its time to add the Nutella! I used 4 heaped tbsp but you can add more/less if you like
- Then cover the Nutella layer with the rest of your cinnamon cake mixture and again smooth it out
- Take a skewer and swirl it around the tin to mix the Nutella and cake mixture together, sort of as if you were making a marble cake

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- Once you've swirled the mixture and Nutella together and you're happy with it its time to add the toppings!
- I used some chopped hazelnuts and of course this is also where the Cinnamon Bun Bites come in. I decided to use some whole pieces but I also chopped/crumbled some to sprinkle in between as well.
- Bake for approximately 1hr 15mins, carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool

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As you can see from the photographs above the sweets worked really well with this cinnamon cake and after trying them I'm definitely keen to pick up some of the other flavours in the range, I have my eye on the Mint Choc Chip & Peanut Butter ones in particular!

Have you tried any of the Cookie Dough Bites range?
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Monday, 3 December 2012

OPI Skyfall: Live & Let Die

OPI Live and Let Die OPI Live and Let Die

I'm not a fan of the James Bond films even in the slightest but when I saw the new Skyfall collection from OPI I fell in love with one of the shades, Live & Let Die. To those who aren't polish obsessives from afar it probably looks just like a standard black but for those of us who have too many shades to count its a deep, almost black, green with gold/green shimmer.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the polish was the consistency, I love when dark shades have that thickness to them that you instantly know means you won't need 4 coats or something ridiculous for the colour to be opaque. The consistency of this polish reminds me a lot of China Glaze's Smoke & Ashes which is one of my favourites as despite being black based it is opaque in just one coat. With Live & Let Die however I would suggest two coats is best although you can probably get away with one. It also lasted fairly well on the nails, around six days without any noticeable chipping.


Do you have any shades from the Skyfall collection?
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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sunday DIY: Christmas Pegs

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This week's Christmas themed DIY is another really simple idea (inspired by a Pinterest post) that is also quick and easy to make. These Christmas pegs can be used to decorate gifts (as shown above), to hold name tags or you can even pop them on your Christmas tree!

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To make your own you will need - glitter, wooden pegs, small decorations or plastic cake toppers, a glue gun, PVA/Mod Podge, tin foil & a stick or glue spreader

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Place your peg onto a piece of tin foil and spread PVA/Mod Podge all over one side - the tin foil is there so you don't make a mess or waste lots of glitter! Then pour glitter over the surface of the peg and tap off the excess onto the foil.
Once you've covered all of the pegs you'll need to leave them to dry. I left mine overnight just to make sure - if you try to use a glue gun on top when it isn't completely dry you will just end up removing a big chunk of your glitter and will have to start all over again!

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When the glitter/glue is dry you are ready to attach your ornaments/cake toppers using a glue gun. These should be dry and ready to use pretty much instantly!

Don't forget to check back next Sunday for another Christmas themed DIY project.
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