The scent of Autumn is here

 

cat leaves autumn…and it’s not the fresh, crisp air that ruins your fresh blow-dry but the deliciously gourmand Red Musk by The Body Shop. Can you believe White Musk has been around since 1981? I absolutely adore The Body Shop’s fragrances and as a teenager I fondly remember generously coating myself in fruity body sprays and musky perfume oils until I smelt like a brothel. Beautiful. Whilst I’m not so keen on the sickly sweet fruity body mists (I don’t know why you’d want to smell like a mango tbh) their core EDT’s and EDP’s such as the Japanese Cherry Blossom, White Musk and Neroli Jasmine etc. are cheap, easy to wear and have real lasting power. Not interesting enough to wear on a night out or to an event but for everyday wear they’re absolutely perfect and I often receive compliments as they’re so light and inoffensive they cater to almost every nose.

Red Musk is brand new fragrance concept from The Body Shop as it’s the first scent they’ve released which contains zero floral notes, a husky base of tobacco makes this scent intriguing and slightly masculine whilst still being soft and pretty. From the first spray it’s deliciously addictive and I couldn’t help but inviting my partner to sniff me (I’m such a romantic) as it delicately teased my senses throughout the evening.

the body shop red musk

 

Comparable to Herme’s Eau des Merveilles with it’s deep, smoky, leathery base this is something completely different to any of the musk lines The Body Shop has released before and the perfect addition to your fragrance wardrobe as we descend into Autumn/Winter. Whilst my nose didn’t detect the tobacco note (so don’t worry about smelling like an old cigarette butt, ain’t nobody got time), even in the dry down there’s definitely something there that you can’t quite put your finger on but keeps your nose interested. The smoky tobacco is offset by the sweet cinnamon heart note which playfully ripples through the dry down in short bursts bringing a different dimension to the scent, almost as if you’re wearing 2 different fragrances entirely. The musk note IS there, almost as if you’ve layered a traditional white musk with your partners favourite leather-based aftershave, that’s the best way I can describe it but once you smell Red Musk you’ll know exactly what I mean! The top note is a delicate pepper which cuts through the sweetness of the cinnamon adding extra depth but unfortunately this seems to disappear quite quickly, so you’ll find whilst the dry down is gorgeous and extremely long lasting you’ll be reaching for another spray just to catch that burst of peppery goodness.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Not a scent for those who like sweet, sugary scents this is definitely one for evening wear and as it’s so different I feel it will have a real Marmite effect, such as the cult classic (which I also LOVE) Thierry Mugler’s Angel causing a real love-it-or-hate-it reaction. Crafted by fragrance expert Corinne Cachen the inspiration behind the sexy, scarlet bottle was Almovodar’s High Heels as he is known for his movies about women and often uses fusions of red to display their sensual femininity which works so well with this slightly masculine, provocative fragrance.

Available in-store and online from the 4th November priced at £20 for the 60ml EDP, £30 for the 100 EDP and £16 for the 30ml alcohol-free perfume oil (fabulous on a clean flannel placed on a radiator to scent a room!)

LED Teeth Whitening at Harley Street Allure Clinic.

A perfect smile is something that can make or break your entire appearance, how often have you seen a celebrity with crooked, missing, or yellow teeth? Never! One of the first things they fix on the road to stardom is your smile as it plays such a key part in how you look, remember Cheryl Cole-Verslingo-Ferdangdang before she became the ‘nations sweetheart’?

cheryl-cole-teeth-590x350

Not quite so perfect!

That show stopping smile is the result of expensive veneers but then I guess she’s worth it as are many members of the public who have undergone cosmetic dentistry for teeth fit to grace a magazine cover. For a full mouth makeover using veneers can you expect to pay at least £5k in most London private dentists and as the procedure is (rightly) classed as cosmetic there’s no way of getting help on the NHS. Coupled with the fact it’s an uncomfortable, lengthy process of having your teeth shaven in order for them to fit like a false nail, I knew veneers just wouldn’t be an option for me.

Whilst my teeth aren’t that bad, they’re not what I see when I flick through magazines or even read beauty blogs that are written by women that are just like me but here’s the kicker, I’m absolutely TERRIFIED of the dentist. I knew I couldn’t endure the painful process or expense of veneers but I knew I had to do something to give myself a little more confidence so I did a quick bit of research and found booked a routine check-up and session with a hygienist. Luckily, my dentist at Perfect Smile is lovely and after informing her I’m a ‘nervous patient’ she took the time to explain in detail what she was doing and if it was going to cause me any pain and if it did hurt, to raise my hand and she would stop so I could take a breather. After my treatment in which everything was fine I told her how I wasn’t happy with my teeth and after taking some pictures, x-rays and a detailed back history she informed me of what was on offer for me to improve my smile without resorting to veneers. She was actually quite against me having veneers as my teeth are pretty healthy, I’m just unhappy with the 2 gaps I have between my front two teeth (central incisor) and the teeth next to them (lateral incisor) and was always told when my wisdom teeth came through they would push these teeth together thus closing the gap. After inspecting my mouth, my dentist informed me I was one of the lucky ones who probably wouldn’t get wisdom teeth as by the grand ol’ age of 27 they should have at least started to come through by now. I know people who have been through hell and back with the pain of wisdom teeth but I bloody wanted mine!

jennifer lawrenceMy dentist recommended a totally painless composite filling to cover the gaps, and having had one before on an upper canine (through brushing my teeth too much!) I know that they are completely painless and involve no drilling, digging, shaving or pain so felt completely confident in booking myself in. A composite filling can be used to plug teeth that have holes/cracks through decay in the traditional use of a filling but as they are tooth coloured they can also be used in cosmetic treatments, as a sort of filler to make teeth appear healthier or in my case, to close a slight gap. As the composite filling is made to match the exact shade of my teeth my dentist advised me to get them whitened beforehand as this was also a concern of mine, years of drinking red wine and falling into bed too drunk to brush my teeth (don’t act like you haven’t done it) have taken their toll and my teeth aren’t as white as they used to be. I gave up red wine a year or so ago and am a slave to whitening toothpaste but apparently whitening toothpaste doesn’t actually make any difference, in face it can damage your teeth by gradually eroding the enamel.

Laser-Teeth-Whitening

She recommended LED teeth whitening as it’s quick, painless and can take your teeth up to 10 shades lighter in just one session which seemed perfect for me. The process is quite straight forward, you simply wear a gum tray filled with accelerator gel and kick back and relax whilst the LED light is beamed onto your teeth in two 20 minute bursts. After some extensive research on where to have the procedure (my dentist does offer LED whitening but it’s a lot more expensive than the deals I found…) I finally settled on the Harley Street Allure Clinic in Central London as it boasted a heavy discount of 70% and the reviews were glowing! I booked through Wahanda and I trust their reviews heavily, I know they’re written by real people (with the help of a £5 voucher – I’ve contributed a few myself) and being on the well-known Harley Street and so easy to get to it was a no brainer and I swiftly booked my appointment, the 60 minute LED Laser Teeth Whitening for £99. My transaction was smooth and fuss-free as usual and within half an hour my appointment had been confirmed by the clinic by email and I was all set to go.

The clinic is very easy to find, just a short walk from Oxford Circus station, across Cavendish Square and it’s on the corner of Harley Street, you’re given direct instructions in the confirmation email as each building tends to house several clinics and it can get a bit confusing for first time clients. I buzzed the door as instructed and was promptly shown in by a bubbly dental nurse decked out in the usual scrubs, I filled out a short consent form and was then sat in the treatment chair. When I think of Harley Street clinics I think of a fancy, non-clinical homely space with a vase of imported lillies in the corner, a silk chez lounge to perch on and some abstract art adorning the walls but sadly Harley Street Allure is more drab than glam which was a little disappointing but seemed clean and professional so that’s good enough for me! I was briefed roughly on the procedure although if it’s your first time I recommend you do some homework just so you know what’s involved as it’s not advised to have LED whitening if your teeth are damaged, broken or you have any cavities. The procedure can actually make these complaints worse and I can’t imagine the pain if it hits a nerve!

The dental nurse was lovely, I felt very comfortable with her which I think really makes a difference with something like this especially being someone who usually can’t stomach the sight of anything dentist related. After getting the OK from my consent form she then gave me a cotton bud that had been dipped in vitamin e oil to rub on my gums as apparently this can prevent them from becoming sensitive and although the website says you’re invited to brush your teeth beforehand, this wasn’t offered to me. I really wish I had brushed my teeth as around an hour beforehand I had drank a beetroot juice drink, rookie error! I also think it could be worth visiting a hygienist too just to make sure your teeth are in the best possible condition they can be in for maximum effect. The nurse then measured the whiteness of my teeth in their current state so we could compare results at the end and we were good to go. After wiping my gums I then had a bib wrapped around my neck and I was asked to put on red tinted glasses, the nurse filled a mouth guard with accelerator gel and I popped this in my mouth (pulling my lips over the edge, so attractive) and laid back as the LED light was then positioned in front of my mouth. The nurse made sure I was comfortable and then left me to relax, The Hulk was on TV and it actually felt quite relaxing to just lie there and close my eyes, I had read I might feel some discomfort or sensitivity but I felt nothing but the gum guard as I layed there. It did get slightly uncomfortable after the 10 minute mark as your saliva starts to mix with the gel and you can’t swallow, not that you would want to swallow what was now in your mouth (don’t be filthy) but it did take a little adjusting with my tongue to make the guard comfortable again.

As the LED laser started to beep indicating the 25 minutes was almost up my nurse was by my side in an instant to remove the laser and help me take the guard out without covering the whole of London in a slimy saliva filled mess. She gave me a paper towel and I pulled the gum guard out (it was exactly as gross as you imagine it to be) and I rinsed with a cup of water before we repeated the process again. I didn’t feel any sensitivity during the whole procedure, my only complaint is the gum guard can get slightly uncomfortable but the nurse is in the room the whole time so if you do find it to be unbearable I’m pretty sure they would be happy to assist you although taking a break might not give the same effect as completing the procedure as intended.

me smile 2After the second round was done and I was all cleaned up we did another comparison with the tooth chart and I was delighted to discover my teeth were now 4-5 shades lighter and they looked great! I was told how to care for them for the next 24 hours as apparently even after the procedure is finished the lightening is still working it’s magic and you can only eat white food and nothing that can stain such as tea, coffee, red wine, sugary drinks etc. and I was also advised to buy a sensitive toothpaste. It’s been just over a week and my teeth look amazing, I’ve not suffered any sensitivity and I would 100% recommend the treatment to anyone who’s tried every whitening toothpaste under the sun and it looking for something that really works. I struggled a little with the aftercare and ate a Pad Thai instead of something neutral coloured (oops… I was hungry and a plate of plain pasta just wasn’t going to cut it) but I don’t think it made a difference as my teeth still look awesome and I’m sure to rinse my mouth with water if I eat or drink anything that’s heavily coloured or loaded with sugar, just to prevent them from becoming stained again. Now that my teeth are whiter I can book my composite fillings with my dentist and hopefully I’ll finally be happy with my smile!

10 reasons why coconut oil is awesome.

You can’t flick through a health magazine without being bombarded with images of the humble unsung health hero that is coconut oil. Go for the organic, raw virgin coconut oil (mostly found in health shops) such as this one and NOT the cheaper kind you find in haircare sections of supermarkets to enjoy a plethora of natural, effective and cheaper ways to improve your skin, hair and health.

coconut oil

1 – It’s the healthiest oil to cook with. Forget olive oil, which has a low smoke point and when used to cook at high temperatures the beneficial compounds start to degrade and could potentially harm your health coconut oil is safe, healthy and super cheap. It doesn’t add any flavour so don’t worry about that, just keep a small jar in your kitchen cupboard and whip it out when you’re going to lightly fry or oven bake something. Sweet potatoes are particularly nommy when smothered in coconut oil and baked in the oven on a low temperature, they’re crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and really good for you – see this guide for the health benefits of sweet potatoes.

2 – It makes the best, and cheapest deep conditioner for your hair. I like to put the jar in warm water so it’s got more of a runny consistency then I work it into the ends using my fingers and smother it into the rest of my hair, combing it through with a wide-toothed comb and leaving it to work its magic wrapped up in cling film. I leave it for around 2-3 hours or you could leave it overnight and wash it out in the morning and your hair will be soft, shiny and smell like holidays. You can also use it sparingly as a serum to tame flyaways but steer clear of the roots as it can make your hair look greasy.

*edit – I’ve since been informed coconut oil can strip dye from coloured hair, especially brighter colours that are prone to fading and although I’ve never experienced this it’s something to keep in mind.

3 – You can use it as a natural and effective make up remover. Taking off layers of mascara, eye shadow, eye liner and all the other crap we smear on our faces is hard work using a traditional cream based make up remover or wipe and all those chemicals really can’t be good for our skin, can they? I’ve been using coconut oil on the back of a cotton pad for a while now and it gets rid of EVERYTHING in just a few swipes and it’s particularly good for your eyelashes as it moisturises and conditions them beautifully. You only need a tiny bit and for the rest of my face a warm a bit up in my hands until it forms a runny oil and massage it over my skin, removing it with more cotton pads or you could use a flannel. Cheap, effective and natural.

4 – It’s an amazing skin softener, especially when used on tough, dry skin spots such as feet, knees and elbows. A keen user myself and I have a lot of friends who swear by coconut oil as their go-to moisturiser, especially in the Winter months where skin is more prone to chapping, peeling and dryness as it’s ravaged by the hideous cold winds and moisture stripping central heating. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly when using on large body parts such as legs and arms, warm a little in your hand before spreading evenly in long, sweeping strokes. I especially like using it after a long, hot bath in which I’ve shaved my legs before bed, I wake up in the morning and want to stroke my body like I’m Mariah Carey.

5 – Adding it to smoothies and hot drinks adds a tropical twist and provides amazing health benefits. A lot of health freaks I know swear by drinking green tea with a dollop of coconut oil in it in the morning to build up your resistance to fight against viruses and disease-causing bacteria as well as aiding weight loss and keeping a healthy metabolism. I also like to stick a spoon in a jar and slurp it straight off, it’s a really odd sensation as it transforms from a solid into oil in your mouth but it tastes incredible and there’s nothing like eating it in it’s most natural form to benefit from all the above!

6 – All out of Slide ‘N Ride? Coconut oil makes an awesome lube should you be caught short, I’ve not personally tried this one but it’s more natural than shoving something strawberry scented up there I guess. Be careful when using with condoms though as it can weaken latex but latex-free condoms should be fine.

7 – It can help to heal bug bits, chafing, stretch marks, light scars, eczema and sunburn. As well as being intensely moisturising the vitamin e and anti-inflammatory properties in coconut oil have been known to help with the healing of a number of common skin complaints. As it’s all natural it will not sting or irritate skin further but simply help heal, rejuvenate and restore your skin to optimum condition. Breastfeeding mothers are said to love coconut oil as a natural and effective nipple cream to treat sore, cracked nipples. Simply apply frequently to the affected area and it should clear up in no time.

8 – You can make a natural anti-bacterial and softening face mask using coconut oil and honey. This has been raved about all over the internet for making your face baby soft! Simply mash together a small scoop of coconut oil and a drizzle of honey, lightly spread over your face and kick back for 20 minutes or so whilst it gets to work. I would advise exfoliating beforehand so it really has a chance to get to work without any dirt, sebum or sweat in the way. This would also be really soothing after a day out in the sun to combat any sunburn or irritation, as it’s all natural you can use it as often as you want, maybe even mixing a little tub of coconut oil and honey and keeping it in your bathroom as a pampering treat whilst you soak in the tub.

9 – Crazy cat ladies and dog owners can use it on their pets to keep their coats healthy and shiny. I have a long-haired cat and keeping her fur tamed is an absolute nightmare! She’s very temperamental and only lets me come near her with a brush when she’s in the mood (which is not very often!) but I’ve found stroking her with a tiny bit of coconut oil rubbed into the palms of my hands helps keep her long fur soft and shiny and prevents the Bob Marley-esque dreadlocks she’s prone to on the underside of her tummy. Much more natural than any shop-bought shine spray, I would hate for my cat to ingest a crapload of chemicals I’ve intentionally put on her.

10 – Use it around the home as a natural furniture polish, bath tub scum remover and to lubricate any hinges. I’ve not personally used it for household cleaning (yet) but I can easily see why it work just as well as a wax-based polish for buffing furniture with the added bonus of being completely natural and safe for pets or those who suffer with allergies. You can also use it to lube up any squeaky doors or bike chains as well as using it as a natural stain remover on carpet or upholstery, you can mix it with baking soda for more effective stain removal and this method can also be used as a whitening toothpaste.

Champagne and Sun Spa Break at Ardencote Manor Country Club.

Looking for a romantic getaway but not wanting to stray too far my partner and I were keen to escape London for some quality time together over the bank holiday and as he’s a jacuzzi virgin (I know… I know) I thought a spa break would be the perfect answer. Being a bit of a Wahanda whore I did a quick search for ‘one night spa breaks’ and was promptly presented with a plethora of gorgeous hotels in the UK. After a delightful afternoon of scrolling through them all we finally settled on Ardencote Manor, a country club, hotel and spa just outside of Warwick and their fabulous Champagne and Sun Spa Break (no longer available, sorry!) for £99 each which included, dinner, breakfast the next morning, full use of all the spa facilities, a room for the night AND a champagne wrap treatment.

‘The Ardencote Spa has 40 beautifully apportioned bedrooms, based on a Courtyard design surrounding the opulent Outdoor Heated Swimming Pool. The extensive Spa and Leisure facilities are central to the Ardencote’s philosophy of Exercise and Relaxation, combining to produce a feeling of Health and Vitality. The landscaped grounds have been specifically designed to enhance this ambience, with manicured beds of Lavender at the heart of the design. The Restaurant offers a fine dining experience with menus complementing your Spa experience’.

ardencote spa pool

The spa – The spa is clean, welcoming and unpretentious with more than enough beds for guests to relax around the pool between treatments or for a little snooze. Comprising of the following we were spoilt for choice of what to try next –

  • Relaxation lounge inclusive of free-flow refreshments
  • Indoor heated swimming pool and loungers
  • Sauna
  • Jacuzzi
  • Steam room
  • Outdoor heated swimming pool
  • Outdoor hot tub
  • 2 Gymnasiums – cardiovascular and weights/exercise
  • 3 All-weather tennis courts
  • 3 Glass-backed squash courts
  • 9 Hole golf course

The food – The food! OMG the food! I cannot rate the quality of the food highly enough, everything on the menu sounded absolutely delicious and we were truly spoilt for choice. We had all of our meals in the lavish Brasserie restaurant which overlooks the immaculate manicured grounds and lawns, providing the perfect setting for a romantic meal. The staff are warm and welcoming without being overbearing and we felt truly spoilt being able to swan in for lunch in our robes fresh from the spa. With our deal lunch wasn’t included but there is a selection of light bites and sandwiches for under £10 will will set you up for an afternoon of hardcore jacuzzi action! I had a chicken tikka sandwich and my partner had the steak sandwich, both were well presentable and tasted great with outstanding service. Alcohol is a little expensive, the cheapest bottle of sparkling wine at £22.50 (I’m used to Wetherspoon prices LOL) but not that bad considering the standard of the place.

Dinner was where we were truly spoilt, even though I read in a few reviews the food is 5 star fancy I wasn’t expecting such an elaborate fare but being a ‘voucher customer’ I was slightly worried we would have a set menu that would be pretty basic forcing us to spend more on sides etc. but we were presented with a mouthwatering 3 course menu that has been carefully selected by 2 Rosette award winning Chef, Ian Buckle. Everything on the menu sounded amazing, after spending a good while deciding what to have to start I finally settled on the smoked salmon and my partner went for the asparagus. Beautiful presentation and an ever better taste, my smoked salmon was fresh and mouthwatering, set against a backdrop of crisp salad that burst with flavour in every bite. The asparagus was well seasoned, crunchy and again very fresh.

Everything Ian uses is sourced wherever possible from local farms and traders which is really apparent in the quality of ingredients and it feels good to know Ardencote are supporting local British farmers. We had a really hard time deciding on what to have for our mains as again everything sounded so good but I eventually settled on the lamb and my partner had the chicken. My lamb was incredible and fell apart as you lightly pressed your fork into it, finished with the greens and spring onion I also ordered a side of chips as our waiter informed us there are no carbs with this dish and they completed it perfectly. My partner went for the chicken and was equally impressed with the freshness, presentation and myriad of flavours that pretty much sealed the deal for a return visit. Dessert came in the form of a rhubarb and clotted cream crème brûlée for me and chocolate pannacotta and cake for the mister… Oh em gee. Perfection on a plate. I’m just going to let the picture do the talking for our desserts but let’s just say everything was superb and the £99 we paid is worth it for the food alone and next time I’m taking Ian home with me in my holdall.

The treatment – Included in our package was a ‘champagne wrap’ which is not something I would have chosen and there wasn’t any details on the site but it sounded pleasant enough and I assumed as we booked in as a couple we would be in the same room which would have been quite nice. Seated in the upstairs lounge where all the treatments were carried out we were unfortunately led to different rooms but alas as it was a bonus I didn’t mind too much. My therapist was lovely and made me feel at total ease, the room was clean, at a perfect temperate and smelt gorgeous which are small touches that can really make a treatment luxurious. She gave me a basic rundown of what to expect and I was told to strip off to my pants, let my hair loose and lay on the bed whilst she left the room for me to undress and get comfortable. Soft, tinkering music played in the background as the treatment started with a dry body brushing to my whole back and then a scrub was applied which she massaged all over in long, sweeping strokes. The scrub was removed with a warm damp cloth and then something with a creamy texture was applied (bare in mind I had my head through a hole in the massage table so couldn’t really see what was going on) and massaged lightly over my back to which what felt like light towels were applied on top and pressed gently in place. As the wrap was left to work its magic I was treated to a soothing head massage which was most welcome after having my hair up in a tight bun all day. Just as I was starting to drift off the wrap was taken off my back and my therapist gave me a short back massage with the remaining solution and before I knew it the treatment was done. I felt it was a bit short but this could have been because I was enjoying it so much! My partner didn’t enjoy his as much as his therapist spoke to him the whole time (not very relaxing…)  his head massage was fairly weak and he didn’t get a back massage at the end. Hmmm.

The hotel – Set in 83 acres of of landscaped grounds the four star hotel is set close to the historic town of Warwick and overlooks the the stunning Warwickshire countryside. Either double or twin, the standard rooms are far from ordinary. All rooms have magnificent views of either rolling countryside, the golf course or the lake, depending on their location. All bedrooms have crisp cotton sheets, en-suite bathrooms, large televisions, free internet connection and are decorated and furnished to the highest standards in-keeping with the hotel’s 4 star rating.

We had a standard room in the Courtyard complex (just off the spa) which included the following –

  • 28″ LCD Television
  • Telephone
  • Hairdryer
  • Tea and coffee making facilities
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Air conditioning
  • Free WI-FI internet access
  • En-suite bathroom
  • Twin or double bed
  • Catering for one or two adults

Our room was a 2 minute stroll from the spa, clean, comfortable and complete with spa goodies in the bathroom. As you can imagine we didn’t spend much time in the room other than to sleep but it was perfect for what we needed it for and had a ready supply of towels, bedding and a hot shower. Even though we were situated across from the lift down a somewhat busy corridor we didn’t find it to be that noisy and the bed was lovely to sleep on after a lazy day of being pampered.

We enjoyed our stay so much we’ve already looked into going back again, unfortunately the deal we had is no longer available any more BUT you can book the ‘S Factor Spa Break’ which includes a bottle of bubbly on arrival (woo!) lunch with a glass of wine, dinner, breakfast the next day, full use of the spa, a room for the night AND a back massage all for just £135 which I think is fantastic value for money. Just to give you an idea of travel time, it took us around 1.5 hours from SW London by car, there is a train station near but it’s quite a walk and the grounds leading up to the hotel are quite vast.

Other one night spa break deals at Ardencote can be found at Wahanda.