Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I wore this to the House of Rush launch party, I loved the mix of sparkle against the sturdiness of the blazer and tartan scarf, both courtesy of my sister. I also think the manicure I had whilst there perfectly compliments the outfit and is a great shade for the upcoming festivities, Wrapped in Rubies by Essie.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Bake Boutique Candles

I'm quite partial to a scented candle so when my best friend Leanne Jones called me back in February and asked for my opinion on her latest business concept, I couldn't deny that I loved it.  My favourite products are fun, quirky and indulgent and Bake Boutique Candles combine all those necessary ingredients.  

After numerous trips to the States and hours upon hours holed away in each others rooms at University burning scented candles, if there's anything that Leanne and I have authority on it's baked goods, especially those ever popular cupcakes, and home fragrance.  So, Leanne took her expertise in those categories and combined them to create her first collection of baked good inspired luxury candles.  The collection comprises of five candles, each infused with a fun twist on a traditional bake.

So what makes Bake Boutique different from other home fragrance companies that have tackled cakey scents before them?    Firstly, did you know that if a candle burns evenly it means that the wax is of extremely good quality?  Nope, neither did I but I found this very useful information when burning some of my other luxury candles and discovering that despite the price tag, they probably didn't cost too much to make.  I'm actually sat here burning my favourite of the collection, Vanilla Cupcake with Sprinkles and I can happily report back that there is no ugly, lopsided wax action going on.  They are 100% soy wax and hand poured, surprisingly in London.  Although the initial concept may have been born American, the execution is very much British.

There's a sophisticated charm to the scent also.  I've had many cake, coffee and spice infused candles before and although I've liked most of them in their own special way, a lot of the time they can fall into the trap of being just a little too sickly sweet and overpowering after long burning times.  With Bake Boutique the scent is meandering through the room with an elegant softness.  My favourite part with this particular fragrance is that you can literally smell the sprinkles and can imagine just how the cake would look if it was sat in front of you.  Of course you needn't imagine, each candle has it's very own recipe that you can acquire from their website.  Fun!  The packaging is undeniably delicious too, just like it's candle counterpart, making it suitable for any room in the house without spoiling your decor.

At £32 they aren't cheap but teamed with everything mentioned above, a 50 hour burning time and the fact you'd be saving yourself thousands of calories in the process, they're well worth the indulgence.  As mentioned, my home is sporting the Vanilla Cupcake with Sprinkles but Cinnamon Gingerbread Man would be a nice addition in this festive period and Almond Coffee Cake has been a hit with the men!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Way Back When...A Trip Down Memory Lane

I can hardly believe that I wrote this post, "Way Back When..." a year ago.  It documented a Thanksgiving I shared with friends in Massachusetts when I lived there for a short time, back in 2005.  I have many fond memories of that day and am always recollecting them to anyone who will listen.  My mum, in her very sweet nature, has decided to create a Thanksgiving dinner for us all as compensation that, yet again, another year has passed.  We are trying to re-create the Barefoot Contessa's (one of our favourite American TV chefs) Truffle Butter Turkey, which shall feature in this Sunday's The Stove on Sunday post.

If you have the time please check out Way Back When.  Although a post from last year, many of you will not have been readers then as I haven't really wholeheartedly committed to the blog until mid this year and it really embodies what To ELLE and Back is about.  An inspirational lifestyle that I am always striving for, filled with good food, good friends, good memories and some pretty fun and indulgent products to help bring a smile to our faces on some not so smiley days.

On a final note, I may not be American but I have so much to be thankful for, friends and family but I would also like to express my thanks at anybody that takes the time to read, comment and support To ELLE and Back.  I'm leaving you with one of my favourite songs that reminds me of my Thanksgiving back in 2005.

Have a blessed day xxx

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Golden Girl

I wore this to the recent launch party of the Louise Gray for Brora Collection.  I love the warm tones that the golden jumper and ring bring out in my skin and hair, especially at such a dull time of year.  I've also been addicted to the make-up I'm wearing in this.  It really has helped boost some vibrancy into some otherwise rather pale and lifeless skin.  Both current obsessions have a metallic plum effect, which is also bang on trend for this season.  They are Vivo Cosmetics (available in Tesco's) eyeshadow, shade 1 from the Baked Shimmer Palette in Chocolate Box and a Limited Edition Mac lipstick, from quite some time ago, in a frosty shade called Ruling Class.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Stove on Sunday: Heston's Pine Scented Mince Pies

As far as I'm concerned as soon as Halloween and Bonfire night are out of the way you have free reign to begin  building up to Christmas.  In fact, I, like many, am far more enamoured with the anticipation of it's arrival, the festive activities, foods, smells, tastes and sounds than the actual day.  So I hereby declare this the first official festive post of the season.

I have an obsession with Heston Blumenthal's experimental menus but as we all know they come with a fairly hefty price tag.  Luckily for us, Waitrose's collaboration with him has continued this year, meaning we can sample some extraordinary dishes at a mass market price.  Cast your mind back to last years Heston's Orange-Filled Christmas Pudding fiasco for example-they were like gold dust.  My Christmas pudding connoisseur mother was devastated she never found one.  (Do not fear, we have three stocked away for this year already-we take Christmas puddings very seriously in my house!)

Whilst my mother begins sampling Christmas puddings from every supermarket and deli in the local area, to ensure we have the best for Christmas Day well in advance (see, serious), my attention is always drawn to the mince pies.  You can imagine, therefore, my excitement when Waitrose started flaunting their Heston Pine Tree Scented Mince Pies.  Mince pies that smell like a forest of Christmas Trees.  Swoon!  I was even more thrilled when, without even voicing my delight, some appeared in our kitchen a few weeks ago, courtesy of the mother.

They didn't last five minutes, obviously, as I was dying to try them and self-control has never been one of my finer points.  The box contains six mince pies and a sachet of pine scented icing sugar.  Essentially it's the icing sugar that contains the magic ingredient, as opposed to the actual mince pie.  The instructions highlight that the mince pies should be warmed in the oven and then sprinkled with the icing sugar in order for them to reach their maximum potential.

They did exactly what they said on the tin but there were a few things that I found a little disappointing.  The mince pies aesthetically aren't that attractive and resemble more of a sausage roll.  The wow factor is of course the scent, which would be ideal for parties but personally I feel the presentation lets them down a little.  I would probably think twice about serving these up at a Christmas soiree based on looks alone.  The mince to pastry ratio was also a little off and there was definitely more mincemeat required.  The ingredients used for Heston's mincemeat are fairly unique and high end (lemon curd, apple puree and rose water), for a mince pie, so it would have been wonderful to be able to identify those.  Waitrose and Heston are both synonymous to luxury and although the concept is most definitely indulgent the flavour, due to too much puff pastry, was basic in my opinion.  However, as a consumer we're really buying into the gimmick of the pine scent, of which there was a definite Christmas Tree aroma as we brought them into the living room.   The smell, of course, captured Christmas and en mass served on a plate at a party would be magical.

If you get the chance to pick some up, do, as they're such a fun and quirky slant on mince pies that add an extra special touch to any festive meal but don't expect your taste buds to be wowed.  If possible I'd actually recommend stocking up on a few packets for the pine scented icing sugar alone and instead sprinkle over a tried and tested luxury mince pie of your choice.

*Image taken from www.grocer.co.uk

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Luxe for Less: Sequin Skirt

Many of you style-conscious variety, follow the musings of @DKNY PR Girl via her twitter and she has since launched a blog for when "140 characters just aren't enough!"  One of my favourite editions is her to do list and in at number 4 is....

"Buy oversized sequin mini skirt for holiday soiree perfection!"

The link takes you to this beauty...

Available from DKNY, of course, it's retailing at around $275/£235, it's almost quite reasonable *Louisa shields herself from credit busting divas around the World*

I was elated to see, however, when flipping through the December issue of Elle last week, this clone by Marks and Spencer's Limited Collection for just £55.

I'm a huge sequin fan and consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur.  Yes there is such a thing as sequin snobbery and I have defined the rules.  I may even do a "good sequin v bad sequin" post someday.  

These just aren't any sequins though, they are the new trend of sequins, known to those that are fashionably well versed as "paillettes."  Elle described them best, I think, as "sequins on speed."

Teamed with a traditionally festive colour both of these numbers will be perfect for over the, dare I say it, fast approaching party season.

*Gasp* Can't find the Marks and Spencer's version online, hopefully it's not too late for us all! *Grabs coat, heads to Oxford Street*

*Images taken from www.dkny.com and www.cosmopolitan.co.uk

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Winter Soother: Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion

Guest Post by Holly McNally

As beautiful as the winter season can be - sparkling frost glimmering in the sun and the magical moment of waking up to find your garden hidden under the snow- the effects it can have on your skin may not be as wonderful or magical. So, to thoroughly enjoy the winter season and those joyful snow days, allow Aveeno to take the impact out of the snowball that winter throws at us that is dry skin. 

 “This unique formula is clinically proven to go beyond 24 hour moisturisation and to replenish the skin’s natural barrier function, to significantly improve the condition of your skin in just 2 weeks” 

For me, this definitely has been the case.  A few weeks ago I noticed that I had a couple of very small patches of dry skin on my arms and hands caused by the side effects of some medication I am currently taking. I had heard before that oatmeal was good for dry skin and had previously rescued my dry hands with Aveeno’s hand lotion. So I purchased the very reasonably priced Aveeno ‘Daily Moisturising Lotion’ with colloidal oatmeal from Boots at £7.65. Once blended in to the skin, unlike some moisturisers which can feel heavy, thick and take a while to absorb in to the skin, Aveeno’s body moisturiser feels light, non-sticky and your skin continues to feel moisturised throughout the day.  This product is fragrance free, but, they do also sell a body lotion which is lightly scented with lavender if you prefer fragranced products, though I have not tried this yet.  After having used the ‘Daily Mosturising Lotion’ one to two times a day, the dry patches were soothed away within two weeks.  What’s more, no more dry patches have made an appearance either.  According to the Aveeno website, this is all down to the very clever colloidal oatmeal which moisturises, cleanses and soothes. 

These are the only two Aveeno products I have tried but they do sell a range of products suited to different levels of dryness, including products for eczema prone skin, so check out their website, www.aveeno.co.uk, to see the full product range and to learn about the science of their products.

I look forward to seeing how well this product recovers my skin from the drying weather as we progress in to winter; I have a feeling that these two products are going to be a staple for me during the winter months. 

Aveeno products are available in Boots, Superdrug, Lloyds Pharmacy and Ocado.
Hand cream £5.10 from Boots

*Image taken from www.evecare.com

Friday, 11 November 2011

House of Rush

Loud music, a room crammed full of people, struggling to see the live act and desperately seeking out a drink I began to wish I'd arrived a little earlier than 8pm to the House of Rush launch party.  The event was well attended, so much so that for a while I was unable to take in the marvellous interior's that I'd seen on the press release.  Ducking and diving through guests, my curiosity eventually lead me to a more peaceful location.  Twinkling ceiling lights, as if stars and several beauty therapists highlighted to me that this was the place I really wanted to be.  Not dancing amongst the gold trimmed mirrors but wading in on what this Piccadilly based beauty destination will be offering, as of this morning.

Many of you will be familiar with hair salon chain, Rush, this is another salon from them but with a far grander air to it. Pitched as "a post-modern haven fused with renaissance glamour and futuristic creativity" offering customers "sensational treatments with L'Oreal, Elemis, Rodial, Bliss, Shu Uemura and Mizani"  the location definitely didn't disappoint.  When enough people filtered out I eventually got to take in my surroundings.  With a striking contrast between the industrial, warehouse like ceiling and the glamorous crystal chandeliers in the main hair salon, it's quite clear that no expense has been spared.

Numerous treatments were taking place across the event, manicures, facials, some bizarre quilted bed treatment that I never did get the low down on and my activity of choice, skin analysis.  I've been dying to discover how detrimental the sun has been to my skin, just how many wrinkles I really have and whether the latest moisturiser I've been using really is failing as I so believe.

After disclosing my age and having one side of my face photographed, an Elemis representative talked me through all the different dots, lines and marks that were being highlighted on her screen.  First up was sun damage.  I'm always a little bit horrified when they show this on reality makeover shows but I wasn't too concerned with mine and apparently rightly so.  The sun damage wasn't bad at all for my age, which makes me feel considerably better about a rather burnt nose and forehead in Marbella earlier this year.   The rep then focuses on a particular area of the face, which is the nose, all the way across the cheek and up under the eye.  Several dots appeared on the screen highlighted in green.  These can either be freckles, some kind of difference in skin pigmentation or a blemish.  I didn't find this particularly informative as there is no way of deciphering which is which and I didn't seem to have too many.  Next up, how moisturised is your face really?  I was a little bit shocked and disappointed with this as am so hot on moisturising for fear of ageing but I have been concerned that my current moisturiser of choice is too light for my skin.  The problem area really seemed to be around the nose but either way it was a wake up call to ensure I'm drinking more fluids, not of the caffeinated nature, as advised by my skin analyser and invest in a new cream!

Then comes the wrinkles of which I had seven.  I heard her inform the girl prior that four is good.  She didn't say that to me so I assume I'm average.  I also had a rather bizarre wrinkle that resides right over on one side of my cheek.

Bacteria was a healthy 27, anything over 100 is bad and such a low number for London is incredibly good.  I decided not to tell her I'd only come in from Kent just half an hour before and hadn't really braved the elements of London pollution as of yet.  However, it does prove how good living in the country is for your skin.  Take that city folk.

Finally blocked pores, the most disgraceful of all for me, was a whopping 149.  Mostly across the nose and some making their way across my cheekbone, most likely attributed to my blusher.  I jumped to my defense of course and highlighted perhaps it's because I was wearing make-up, to which I discovered the computer had already taken that into account.  So much for my at-home dermabrasion I did on monday.  Suffice to say my face suffered a rather violent exfoliation upon my return home.

Based on the analysis I was advised that products that may be good for my skin are the Gentle Rose Exfoliator and Fruit Active Rejuvenating Mask.  The analysis turned out to be quite informative for me as I never would have imagined having such a blocked pore problem and therefore would never have been inspired to rectify it immediately.  I'm already climbing the walls though, in anticipation to see how many blocked pores are left, if any, after my battle with them last night.

I believe the skin analysis is part of Elemis' consultation process and House of Rush opened it's doors for business as of today.  If you love indulgence then this is the place for you and is perfect for de-stressing after work if you're London based.

*Second image taken from www.facebook.com/houseofrush

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Year in New York

I came across this video essay of a year in New York via mashable last week and felt so moved by it.  It has really captured the essence of the City and it's people.  A few of my close friends will know why this is so apt that I'm posting this today.  I hope you're all inspired by this as much as I was and the energy you can feel from this, lives on through you and your day.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Stove on Sunday: There's more to Pumpkin than just the Pie

Since I was a little girl we have always had a pumpkin hollowed out around Halloween, the contents strewn away because what really can you make with pumpkin?  Twenty years ago the answer escaping our lips would be, pretty much nothing.  Maybe pumpkin pie but that's really far more popular in America and something that my mum was never interested in attempting.  So the orange pulp would make it's way to the black sack, long forgotten once October 31st had arrived and our scary jack o'lantern was adorning our front step.  Twenty years down the line though our fridge is stocked full of pumpkin, scooped and awaiting it's tasty end.

I'm sure you'll all agree that butternut squash is a far superior tasting version from the same family but here's some of my favourite recipes to ensure you're not wasting any of that Halloween fruit...

Pumpkin Mash

An old primary school friend of mine's mother once told my mum that she used to use the inside of pumpkin to make a cheese topped mash.  This was the first recipe that we ever used our discarded pumpkin insides for.

How To:
1.  Simply boil both pumpkin and an equal amount of potatoes, depending on number of people eating
2. Once boiled, drain and add a dollop of butter, cream cheese and season with pepper
3.  Mash the contents of the pan and then place in an oven proof dish
4.  Cover the top with grated cheddar cheese
5.  Place in oven at 180 degrees celsius and cook until cheese has melted and the top is golden brown

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

This was prepared last night for a bonfire and firework party and served inside the hollowed out pumpkin which looks festive, fun and impressive!

How To:
1.  Finely chop an onion and soften and lightly brown in a saucepan
2.  Cube your pumpkin insides and add them and some sliced carrots to the onions until soft, about ten minutes
3.  Add a pint and a half of either vegetable or chicken stock and simmer for approx 40 minutes
4.  Whilst simmering add a spoonful of marmite, a teaspoon of garam masala, a couple of pinches of nutmeg, a tablespoon of brown sugar and half a teaspoon of cinnamon, as well as seasoning with salt and pepper
5.  Puree the mixture and test for seasoning, add more pepper if you're looking for it to be a little spicier
6.  Pour into the hollowed out pumpkin and serve with....

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

These are a great accompaniment to soup, especially the spiced pumpkin soup above.

How To:
1.  Spread the pumpkin seeds on an oven tray
2.  Drip olive oil across them and season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper
3.  Roast at 180 degrees celsius for about 20 minutes
4.  Sprinkle over soup

Penne with Pumpkin Sauce

A new edition to the recipe book, this was attempted this week and was enjoyed by all.

How To:
1.  Thinly slice both your pumpkin and an onion
2.  Place in a pan and cook until softened
3. Add a sprinkling of nutmeg and pepper
4.  Add half a cup of heavy cream to the mixture and stir
5.  Cook your pasta, as normal and once drained add to the sauce
6.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese to top

I'm also intrigued with a pumpkin stew, as seen on Nigel Slater this week and this recipe for pumpkin custard but if you're a traditionalist then here's a great inventive recipe for pumpkin pie.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Brighten up your Winter Wardrobe with these Bolds from the Louise Gray for Brora Collection

Discarded Prosecco glasses in amongst the clothes, Henry Holland lurking by the cash desk chatting and a fun, vibrant and colourful slant on cashmere, could only mean that I'd arrived at the Louise Gray for Brora launch last night.  

Some of you may recall that I attended a preview of Brora's autumn/winter collection a couple of months ago and was pleasantly surprised with their offering due to my pre-conceived impression of the brand.  As if to further defy my misconceptions they've now teamed up with quirky designer Louise Gray to present an 11 piece limited collection, available until the end of January but one that I don't really forsee making it's way past November.  My last chat with creator and owner of Brora, Victoria Stapleton, made me appreciate how dedicated her team are to ensure that women everywhere aren't rocking out the same outifts.  That gorgeous Parisian style floral dress for example only had 200 made and of course two months down the line is unsurprisingly sold out.  This collection is no different, with only 20-50 pieces made of each item it means there's no time for "sleeping on it" if you're enamoured, like I was, with that "can't live without" piece!

The collaboration comprises of jumpers, cardigans, a dress, snood, hats, wrist warmers, socks and the most heavenly  indulgent stole that I spent the majority of the evening sneaking off and draping around my neck, only to be caught by Victoria on numerous occasions who simply exclaimed "You're so funny, just get it, you love it."  

Caught in the act!
The items stay true to the Brora brand and the collaboration really works but it's also so different from their usual collections, adding a contemporary, eccentric twist to classic timeless pieces.
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