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First time camper: sun, sand and waterfalls

5I really wanted to share some of the experiences that I had on my recent camping adventure, including Nantcol Waterfalls.

I’m not a big camper, in fact the only time I’ve been camping was on my Duke of Edinburgh award and it’s fair to say that it put me off a bit! But I recently visited Shell Island in North Wales as a belated birthday celebration for my friend.

The campsite was beautiful, our tent was less than five minutes walk from the beach. But the real highlight for me for Nantcol Waterfalls, which was only a short drive away. The waterfall was free to visit and while it might not be the easiest to navigate to, it’s worth the rocky terrain! It was one of the hottest weekends of the year so far and the cold water was much welcomed. It was a busy little space and plenty of people were diving off the waterfalls from heights that will make you cover your eyes.

Barmouth is a beautiful little town in the sunshine with pubs, a seaside fair and lots of beaches that unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore.

All in all, despite my lack of phone signal I really enjoyed my visit to North Wales and while I’m not in a big rush to get back into the tent, I’d like to visit again soon.

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What’s your hidden gems in Wales?

Nat x

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Chung Ying Central Birmingham: Review

I’m trying to be more adventurous with my food, so when I was invited to attend an event at Chung Ying Central in Birmingham to sample their dim sum, I leapt at the chance.

Never having tried dim sum before, I wasn’t sure to what to expect. I know that the dim sum is popular in London, and now Chung Ying Central have expanded their menu in the hopes that it will take off here with the same enthusiasm too.

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Starting with Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Pork), I could have happily have helped myself to more of these crispy treats but there was plenty more to come, including King Prawn Dumpings with Mayo and some Cuttlefish Cake.

I had to pass when the Chicken’s Feet in Black Bean sauce was passed around – I’m trying to be more adventurous, but let’s not push it! But those that did it try it say that it wasn’t too bad but it isn’t a dish they’ll be rushing to try again soon!

As I had my car with me, I could only sample one cocktail from Chung Ying’s selection, which was the Miss Piggy (below, left). All of their Chinese cocktails are named after Chinese zodiac signs and while I was tempted to try my own zodiac sign (Snake Venom), this fruity cocktail with grape juice and cherry brandy was all too tempting! Chuy Ying also do an impressive mocktail selection and for a sweet kick after your meal, I recommend the Nirvana, which tasted like a strawberry milkshake with a hint of coconut!

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 I’m a big sweet tooth, so caramel buns were my favourite dish of the night. Not made from caramel, these light and fluffy buns oozed a sweet custard.

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It was a whole new experience for me but I think what’s great about dim sum is that you even if you’re like me and aren’t very adveterous with your food, this way you get to sample lots of new dishes that you might not have picked usually.

As an aside, this was also my first blogger meet-up and it was great to get chatting to other local bloggers! Above is a photo of Sarah, myself, Charlotte from A Much Prettier Puzzle and Chloe from Gastronomic Gorman.

Nat x

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Elemis Debenhams Bullring: Learning about skin care routines

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Answer honestly, what’s involved in your skin care routine? Do you cleanse, tone, moisturise twice daily? Exfoliate? Have you started incorporating anti-aging products in your routine?

These were the first questions that a group of bloggers were asked at a beauty evening at Debenhams, Bullring, hosted by the lovely ladies of Elemis.

The answers were a pretty mixed bag and there was some skin care routine shaming  – and rightly so! We all owned up to what’s part of our daily routinue and other habits like – horror of horrors-  make up wipes. Thankfully I’d abandoned these long ago after reading an insightful blog about the dangers of using them by London Beauty Queen. I think a lot of us came away hanging our heads in shame and vowing to do better, especially now that we had the tools and knowledge for what we should be doing.

After donning white headbands and bibs (looking quite a sight for passers by in Debenhams!), the helpful ladies from Elemis took is through a range of different products and we trialled them as the evening went along. They explained the best formulas for each skin tone, but to find out more they recommended having a skin a complexion analysis at the Elemis counter to discover any hidden problems that they can detect.

It’s easy to get a bit lost with the multitude of skin care options available, but the Elemis staff were so helpful and really knew their stuff about the products so if you’re looking for a bit of guidance, I recommend stopping by or booking an appointment in advance. As much as I love premium products like Elemis, they don’t come cheap so personally I need to be certain that I’m making the right purchase!

I’ve been using some of the products for a few days now and by far my favourite has been the Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser. It really left my skin feeling refreshed, clean and make up free!

It was a fun evening learning about skin care and there’s a lovely picture of all of us who attended on Bella and Robot’s blog – make up free too! We must have been feeling pretty confident in our freshly facialled skin.

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What Elemis products do you use?

Nat x

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Recipe: Chocolate caramel shortbread

8The Pink Whisk‘s blog has to be one of my favourites and when this chocolate caramel shortbread recipe popped into my inbox, it looked too good to resist. If you haven’t heard of The Pink Whisk before, it’s the website of Ruth Clemens, the GBBO finalist from series 1. Known for her beautiful decorating, Ruth’s recipes are easy to follow and I’ve had some great results with them.

This recipe is a twist on the classic millionaire shortbread by using chocolate caramel and a white chocolate topping. Have to say I loved the chocolate caramel and the whole recipe went off without a hitch (pretty unusual for me!).

I made the recipe gluten-free simply by substituting the plain flour for gluten-free flour. I’m always replacing the flour the gluten-free substitute like for like but I’ve had no issues with it so far!

Check out Ruth’s blog for the full recipe as she’s posted some useful pictures of what your bake should look like at each stage. They look far better than my pictures below – safe to say I’m a bit of a messy baker and had far too much fun creating the marble effect!

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Have you tried any of The Pink Whisk’s recipes?

Nat x

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Benefit Bronze ‘n’ Dandy Set: Review

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I’m the worst for impulse buys.

There I was browsing the beauty counters in Debenhams, looking for a few samples on my hunt for the perfect foundation, when this cute little set caught my eye at half price.

For just £16 it’s pretty good value if you consider that the full size blushers are 5.0g and are £23.50, and this pack contains two 3.0g samples.

The products are all ones I haven’t tried before and on first impressions, I have to say I love the Dandelion blusher! It’s a nice subtle pink shade, with a hint of shimmer, and will be great as my daily blusher. Many reviews I’ve read about Dandelion say that they love the way it smells, which I found a bit odd. Using it now, I can see why! It has to be smelt to be believed.

Where the set lets itself down is the packaging. The blusher and bronzer are missing the cute boxes that Benefit is famous for but that’s why it’s half reduced I guess.

If this set looks tempting to you, hurry on down to your nearest Benefit counter as I think they’re trying to get rid of them fast in favour of their summer Beauty Score Set.

What’s your favourite Benefit product?

Nat x

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Les Miserables: 10th anniversary concert

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They call the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables the ‘dream cast’ and for good reason! As a big Les Mis fan, and having now seen it at the West End in addition to the 25th anniversary concert and 2012 film (geek!), I thought that I would treat myself to the DVD and see how it compares.

The cast of the 25th anniversary concert certainly had some stand-outs too, but it also had a few wild cards, like Nick Jonas as Marius and Matt Lucas as Monsieur Thenardier. Matt was certainly a scene stealer but not the greatest of singers! The 10th anniversary has the original Jean Val Jean (who some might recognise as the Bishop in the 2012 film), one of my favourite Broadway goddesses, Lea Salonga and a fellow Bromsgrovian (who would have thought!) Michael Ball.

The big difference for me is that the 10th anniversary DVD makes more of an effort to tell the story with subtitles and images between songs – even showing the wonderful rotating stage from the West End! This will help those who haven’t seen the musical before, but doesn’t take anything away from the long-term fans.

After seeing the show on stage, I can see how both concerts suffer in some aspects without the ensemble, stage and props to support it. The barricade isn’t nearly as emotional and Master of the House isn’t half as fun.

While no one can deny how great the cast of the 10th anniversary concert is, I’d say that I prefer the 25th anniversary edition. Filmed at the O2 Arena, it’s a grander and more impressive tribute to the much loved show. If you were only going to invest in one DVD, make it this one and google Lea and Colm’s performances later.

Have you seen any of the Les Mis anniversary concert DVDs?

Nat x

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