Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Saturday at LFW

I was incredibly lucky this weekend and had the opportunity to go to London Fashion week on Saturday. Having spent so many seasons wistfully dreaming of getting the chance to go for myself, I spent half the day pinching myself to check I was still in reality!

With LFW drawing to a close today, and the fashionistas jetting off to Paris for next week’s schedule, I thought I would share with you a glimpse of my day!

Most of the day was spend fashion-watching. There were some amazing outfits walking around. From the extraordinary to the chicest of chic, LFW was definitely the heart of the city’s style this week. We also had the chance to look round all of the exhibitions. Sister by Sibling was by far my favourite collection. Anything with a bit of Neon and I'm on board! We caught a glimpse of the Todd Lynn models and I pretty much fell in love with the pink dress below. Maxi, structured and a hint of peplum detail? Sold.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Topshop Dreaming

So, as you will be aware from this week’s instaweek post, myself and Sarah have just spent a lovely weekend catching up in London. Naturally, this catch up weekend inevitably lead to a trip (well, ok.. 2 trips) to Topshop. I’m lucky enough to work on Oxford Street so it’s on my doorstep, but in the interest of avoiding temptation I try to avoid visiting the store too often or lingering for too long. And after this weekend, I know why. I’m a massive Topshop fan and have been for years – but let’s face it, who isn’t – but even I can see that sometimes they do go a bit overboard with a million different ‘trends’. I wasn’t overwhelmed with this year’s Summer collection so didn’t really feel like I was missing out on too much. However, my most recent visit has put their collection back up to the number 1 spot on my wishlist. Hello autumn/winter!
I invariably prefer Topshop’s winter collections anyway, maybe it’s because I prefer winter dressing – layering and playing with different textures appeals to the shopaholic in me. This year, as ever, they’ve done us proud. It’s nice to see that some of last winter’s colour palette is sticking around so all those cranberry and silvery grey tones that I stocked up are not banished to the back of my wardrobe this year. There is also a nice play with a couple of neon shades so there’s a little consistency in the transition from summer to winter this year.
In an attempt to render my online lusting a little more productive, I decided to share my favourite pieces with you here. I’m sure, as much as I resist, you will inevitably be seeing some of these items popping up in my wardrobe over the coming months.
Images via www.topshop.com 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Casper & Co.'s Instaweek

Late again we're afraid, this time our only excuse is that we were too busy enjoying one another's company in London during a lovely reunion weekend! Here's our best bits of the week to share with you!

[Paralympic bunting pride on Leeds Uni campus. Salted caramel and orange blossom cupcakes at Primrose bakery. Espresso martinis chez Natalie. Mojito madness at Balls Brothers near Victoria station. The perfect post-Shoreditch Sunday brunch. Enjoying the autumn sun on Primrose Hill]

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Further Foundation Fancies

[Image via: http://www.loreal-paris.co.uk/cosmetics/face/
A few weeks ago, I posted about my hunt for the perfect pale-friendly foundation. A non-orange tinted solution to my fake tan rehab stint. While I’m perfectly happy with my MAC fluid for those times when I need a slightly heavier coverage, day-to-day it’s just a bit too heavy. At the time of posting, my daytime foundation of choice was Bourgeois Healthy Mix, and I was pretty happy with it. But, always keen to try new products (or at the least new to me) I decided to give L’Oreal True Match a whirl after reading a post by The Beauty Geek. And I have to say, it surpassed all my expectations. I’m actually going to go out on a limb and say I might like it as much as my MAC., and at £9.99 it’s a snip at half the price!

I’ve been using the lightest shade available ‘Rose Ivory’ and it is the perfect shade for my skin tone. I’ve always been slightly dubious of a foundation that claims to adapt to match your skin, surely such magic can only be the work of clever marketing and photoshop? – But either their range of shades is versatile enough to back this claim, or it actually does what it says on the tin. Either way, I no longer need to spend a few minutes carefully blending moisturiser and foundation to avoid a horrible
line situation! 

Definitely worth a try!

And here are Sarah's favourites:

After a recent recommendation from a friend, I've recently started using Clarins Everlasting Foundation, because the cover is fantastic and it really does last. The shade is good for my skin in the summer, but does need a bit of blending around the jawline. It's a little pricey at £24 but I would say it's worth the money and you only need 1-2 pumps for a full face. 

[Clarins Everlasting Foundation SPF 15 in 104 Cream. shu uemura 
cover crayon in 9YR LIGHT/5YR MEDIUM. Cover Crayon swatch]
I found out about the shu uemura cover crayon whilst working as a TV extra - the make-up artists like to use it because they can match it to any skin tone (there are 3 shades) and it covers well. The crayon could be off-putting to some, but it has a creamy consistency and if you're worried about it pulling at the skin, you can mix it on your hand to create the ideal shade then use a make-up brush to avoid this. Priced at £17, it's a little more expensive than your average concealer, however the pencil ensures you don't waste anything, and it also doubles up as a highlighter.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Casper & Co.'s Instaweek

Well, what a crazy week it's been weather-wise! However we've managed to grab a few snippets of loveliness - hope you're having a relaxing Sunday evening enjoying the calm before the storm that is Monday morning!

[Sarah's final masters hand-in, accompanied with a celebratory smoothie. Graffiti and flowers in Hyde Park, Leeds. Cheesy crumpet, yoghurt and apple to start the day. Heather on the sand dunes, Winterton-on-sea. Fish pie and broccoli at Bills in covent garden. How a Saturday morning run should always look]

Monday, 20 August 2012

Casper & Co's Instaweek

Another late one I'm afraid, but here are some of the things we've been doing when we've had a spare moment! Happy Monday everybody, enjoy your week!
[Beautiful blue sky on a Chatsworth House grounds picnic. Pretty ceramic jar from Bombay Duck. Gluten-free chocolate welcome home cake for Sarah's Sydney friend. Near empty bottle of Pimm's...oops. Nat sunbathing on Hampstead Heath with her beautiful best friend. Mini Hummingbird cupcake bites for a mid-week treat]

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Casper & Co's Instaweek

Another week, another insta-snap of the last week. Sarah is away for the week, so here is a little slice of London from me to you. Hope you've had a good one!

[The freshest of fresh coconut juice in Primrose Hill, the ponds on Hampstead Heath on a sunny Sunday, silk scarf from Beyond Retro, Pastel Houses in Notting Hill, Chalk Farm's beautiful art gallery, perfect teacup for a morning wake up]  

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Casper & Co.'s Instaweek

Another odd mix of a week (gone too fast), and another Instaweek to share with you all...
[Melon, raspberry and strawberry fruit bowl for Sunday brunch. Flowers in the garden on a home time visit. Huge downpour of rain and hail in true British summer fashion. Neon nails for summer nights out. The Edge, Leeds, showing some Team GB pride. The Queen Elizabeth docked in Liverpool en route to Ireland]

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Foundation Quest

If the inspiration for the name of this blog hasn’t been clear to you yet, it originated from an on-going joke within our friendship group that Sarah and I are pale enough to be ghosts. A reformed fake tan addict, I am now embracing the pale skin that has been bestowed upon me, and adjusting to my ‘Casper’ life (with only the occasional St Tropez slip up – my summer wardrobe is better with a tan after all!) 

Thus far, I am finding the experience to be nowhere near as scary as I had imagined during my tan-lathering years. However, there is one issue that I find myself constantly battling with. Foundation. I have tried a variety of brands, price brackets and shades... but always find the base a shade too tan, or even worse orange, for my skin tone. The beauty industry just isn’t nailing the ‘English Rose’ tone that I’m after. So seeking advice from my fellow Casper, I sought out some of the paler foundations that we’ve both tried and tested and thought I would update you of my findings. And hope that perhaps you can share any secret wonders that you have found in the foundation market with us!

[image via: http://www.boots.com/en/
So starting with the lower priced products, we have a teenage year stable label – Boot’s 17. When I was 14 this was the first brand of make-up that I ever bought and I occasionally like to dip in to see what they have to offer. I tried out 17 Photo Flawless foundation (£6.49) in Soft Ivory, pretty reasonably priced if you ask me! It did leave a bit of a make-up line that required serious blending; the shade is slightly more orange that I would like, more me-with-a-tan than ‘Soft Ivory’. Also, be sure to properly moisturise before use to ensure a more even finish and avoid it gathering in dry areas. I found that mixing in a little moisturiser tones it down and helps it blend a little smoother, but all in all – I think there are better options out there for
a couple of pounds more.

[image via: http://www.aldi.co.uk/uk/html/
Now to through a quick curve ball into the mix – somebody recommended Aldi’s Lacura foundation to me, and curious to see how a supermarket foundation would fare, I purchased a bottle at a mere £2.39.  Unfortunately, the price reflects the quality. The foundation is strangely thick in consistency and very difficult to blend. It also has a rather strange, and unpleasant, smell. I have to say that I have never encountered this issue with a foundation before, and I hope to never again. And although I got the palest shade on offer, I would probably need around 10 months in the Caribbean sun before I achieved a tan to match the tone of this foundation. Just don’t bother.

[image via: http://www.bourjois.co.uk/catalog/make_up/
A more mid-range foundation, and my day-to-day du jour, is Bourgeois Healthy Mix Serum foundation which is a pretty reasonable £10.99. Of all the mid-range foundations that I have tried (because who can be bothered to wear MAC or YSL to go to the office?!) this is by far the best. It blends into your skin smoothly and is the perfect balance of good coverage but light foundation – there is nothing worse than being caked in make-up at 10 in the morning, unless perhaps being caked in aforementioned smelly foundation! Best of all, when they say ‘vanille’ or ‘vanille clair’, it actually is ‘vanille’. The foundation has the magic ability to apply to your skin the same shade as it appears in the bottle. Bravo Bourgeois... Finally, a drugstore foundation that can get it right. 

[image via: http://www.maccosmetics.co.uk/product/shaded/158/1231/
Finally (because I don’t want to bombard you with too many choices) is my all-time favourite foundation, MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC10 (£20.50). In my humble opinion, this is the foundation of all foundations. I’m sure that there are other fantastic brands out there, but having been introduced to this at 17, this is the one foundation in my life that has never let me down. I’ve always found it to have a perfecting quality, just a few brushes of this and all of those imperfections are magically gone. When combined with Smashbox Photofinish Primer  (£25 - a little pricey but worth it's weight in gold!) the foundation takes on an airbrush perfect finish, matching my skintone perfectly and never drying out, even after a long evening of
                                                                                           dancing or an arduous day at work.    

[image via: http://www.smashbox.co.uk/product/6038/18502/Face/Primer/

So, my 2 recommendations? For day to day wear – Bourgeois Healthy Mix Serum, and when you want to look your best – MAC studio fix. I’m sorry to fall into a classic trap of worshipping MAC, but they just get it so right in my eyes.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

DIY Fascinator

Having been on a short-notice trip to York races on Saturday, it's fair to say I had a little bit of a nightmare when it came to finding a fascinator. Unfortunately my budget did not stretch to the £18 ones in Debenhams and M&S, and it seemed a bit silly in comparison to the price of my dress and shoes. Then there was the task of finding a fascinator that matched my outfit and one that I actually wanted to wear. So I decided to take on a bit of a DIY project. Initially I managed to find a feather clip from Dorothy Perkins in the sale for £2, then purchased some gold ribbon and a detailed button to glue onto it for £1.20. However I forgot to pack these and had to start all over again in Leeds.

This is what my finished fascinator looked like:

[When it's on the feathers spread out more so it looks more like proper headwear rather than a clip, and it's also more cream than the pink the lighting has made it look like]

And it cost a fraction of the ones in the shop (effectively £4 in total, not counting the price of the glue gun - I got mine for around £6 in Wilkinson's and am treating it as a very worthwhile investment given the fact that I've used it twice since. You can also find them in places like B&Q or any good craft store).

To make your DIY fascinator, you will need:

- a pair of scissors
- a glue gun
- a mat or towel to protect any surfaces
- a clip or grip
- feathers
- anything else you want to add as decoration (buttons, ribbons, jewels, sequins, glitter, I almost bought a pair of earrings in the sale because of the jewelled pattern!)

For my fascinator, I got the gold clip for £4.99 for two from H&M, and then found a broken feather clip for £2 in the sale at New Look so I could rob it of its feathers.

To make my fascinator, I did the following:

1. Made sure the work surface was properly covered (I can't stress this enough - you don't want a glue and feather concoction destroying your carpet), got out everything I needed and turned the glue gun on to heat up, which takes 5 minutes.
2. In the meantime, I took apart the New Look clip for the feathers by pulling everything back and cutting as close to the bottom of the feathers as possible, cutting them from the clip one by one.
3. Arranged them all on the clip to see which arrangement worked the best, then lined them up in 3 rows for each layer.
4. Glued in sections at the back of the clip, tucking each feather in behind the grips and allowing it to dry before adding more.
5. After waiting a few minutes for all the glue to set properly (it sets very quickly), I then pulled off all the stringy bits of glue, and the clip was ready to wear!

Unfortunately there aren't any pictures of the DIY process as I decided to make it on the morning of the races - you could say I'm a last-minute kind of girl - so there wasn't a great deal of time. But it's good to know that if you have all the materials, you can easily make this in half an hour and you only have to wait a matter of minutes for it to set and it's ready to wear!

I hope this helps with any headwear dilemmas anyone might be having in the run up to races, weddings or fancy summer events!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Casper & Co.'s Instaweek

Happy Sunday people! Hope your weeks have been happy and sunshine-filled. Enjoy the last few blissful hours of your weekend!  

 [Clarins everlasting foundation in Cream (Sarah's new best friend). Primrose Hill for a sunset picnic. Sunbathing view in Spain. Yorkshire countryside and pretty clouds - sometimes it's the simple things. Live for cake, Carnaby St Sequin Union Jack]

Natalie's Leeds Loot

Well, we promised you a glimpse of our new purchases from the recent trip to Leeds, and not wanting to let you down, here's Natalie's haul! Some beauties from Topshop, Miss Selfridge and one of Leeds' best vintage stores - Blue Rinse

Friday, 27 July 2012

Olympic Fever

Living in London, I have to admit that I have been slightly sucked into the pessimistic and shortsighted view of the olympics during the last few weeks.. All those tourists, nightmare commutes, impossible day-to-day routines... However, having been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Olympic torch on the final leg of its journey yesterday and my housemate's rather nifty London 2012 flag in our porch, I'm starting to appreciate the excitement gripping the nation. 

Now watching the Opening Ceremony, I have never been more proud to be British, or more excited to be living in London. I hope you're all supporting your teams and enjoying the festivities! 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Casper & Co's Instaweek

A little late this week we'll admit, but lets blame too much of this lovely sunshine! Here is a little snippet of our week. Hope yours has been just as full of prettiness and sunny fun! 

[Quiche salad and beer for a hot day's work. Beautiful view of London in the distance. Rosewater cupcake, cappuccinos and vogue at primrose bakery. Standard issue summer ice lolly. Hazelnut ice-cream from Marine Ices in Chalk Farm. Picnic and summer nails on Primrose Hill] 

Liz Earle Product Review

A few weeks ago now I went to a Liz Earle at Home party hosted by a Liz Earle fanatic of a friend of mine. I've been waiting to post a review on this because, having struggled with my skin over the years, I know that skincare takes a while to work and there's no point raving about something one minute to find that it actually doesn't work so well after the honeymoon period. Now that I've been using the products for over a month (2 weeks before the party too), I feel I can rave away!

For starters, the party was great. Not only was the host friendly and knowledgeable, but you could try out a wide range of products and as much as you wanted. Knowing that the party isn't commission-based, it was a great environment to try things out and it even meant you were ready to flop into bed when you got home! All guests received 2 free muslin cloths and a free travel-size Cleanse & Polish™ Hot Cloth Cleanser to take home, and the host received a skincare package. And the best part? It costs you nothing!

On to the skincare itself...

In short, I am convinced that Liz Earle skincare is the way forward in the world of skincare. Having had problem skin for longer than I care to remember, I've grown tired of attacking my face with harsh chemical-based products and have been on the hunt for a natural and gentle solution that will work long-term. Having been through the standard tea tree and aloe vera cleansers, which were too alcohol-based and too gentle respectively, and having spent a small fortune on big brands like Clinique and Dermalogica, I've found that Liz Earle manages to offer a naturally powerful skincare regime that is affordable.

Before the party, I was using the Essentials Try-Me Kit (priced at £24.25, available at select John Lewis stores for £23.95), which is made up of the Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, Instant Boost Skin Tonic, moisturiser of your choice, Brightening Treatment Mask, and 2 muslin cloths. The Cleanse and Polish lasted 2 weeks, although I still have some of the moisturiser, toner and mask left over. At the party I purchased the June skincare essentials regime (priced at £41, including muslin cloths, a free full-size exfoliator and complimentary travel-size Deep Cleansing Mask with sponges in addition to full-size  cleanser, toner and moisturiser) and it has worked wonders. It might seem annoying to some to take the extra time to run the muslin cloth under hot water to gain the benefits from the hot cloth cleanse, but if you're low on time, you can always massage into dry skin before your shower and wash off in the shower. The smell of the products is also so nice that you feel as if you're giving your skin a treat every time - almost like having a mini spa experience. The  toner is very refreshing and the moisturiser really nourishes the skin without feeling too heavy (although you don't need much!), and is great at hydrating without greasing up.

I think it's fair to say I'm a happy bunny again when it comes to my skin and Liz Earle products are definitely worth the money - especially when you consider the freebies and complimentaries (you even get a complimentary if you go for a travel-size product). I'd definitely recommend this skincare to anyone, but particularly to those who have skin complaints and feel frustrated with everything that they've tried so far - because Liz Earle will change all that!
[Picture from http://uk.lizearle.com/kits-and-gifts/essentials-try-me-kit.html]

Monday, 16 July 2012

Casper & Co.'s Instaweek

The best bits of our week in 6 pictures for laughs, a bit of drooling and something a little out of the ordinary. We will be normally be bringing you this feature every Sunday, so enjoy!
[Sarah getting some affection from Winston bunny. Alphabet block sculpture at Festival Hall on London Southbank. Nat's mid-week nail painting fun. Quote on a pink playhouse in Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Crazy sheep happily rolling around. Banana and strawberry pancakes drizzled with honey on a sunny Sunday morning]

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Not-So-Naughty Treats

This week, in fact in a mere few hours, I am leaving the tempestuous and erratic English weather behind and flying away for 7 days of sunnier, and much more reliable weather. Excited as I am to give my under-used summer wardrobe an outing in the Spanish sunshine, like most of us, the thought of bikini season does install a slight niggle in my mind.

Not one to crash diet, I prefer a healthier approach of tasty, filling, but low-calorie meals in the run up to the summer months. So here are a couple of my most recent recipes that have been keeping me happy.

Carrot, Red Lentil and Tomato Soup

So easy to make, filling and you can make enough for a few lunches! All you need is a pan and either a blender or a hand-held pulser. This does around 4-5 reasonably sized bowls of soup.

1 cup of dried red lentils
4 carrots (grated)
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 Tin of Chopped Tomato
Chilli flakes
1 pint vegetable stock

Fry the onion in a frying pan on a medium heat until they being to soften. Add the grated carrots and leave to soften for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock (make sure it's hot so the temperature of the pan doesn't lower) and the lentils. Add a tsp of cumin and 1 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, and some salt and pepper to season.

Leave to simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and take off the heat. Blend until smooth and voila.. a tasty, filling and delicious soup!

Warm Greek Salad
This little beauty is a perfect alternative to your classic salad. And warm salads are always a great transitional dish for those days when the weather isn't quite sure what it's doing! This is a perfect side dish for 4, or if you're having a full meal then split between 2 of you.

3 courgettes
6 medium-large tomatoes
200g feta cheese or a low fat greek salad cheese alternative
Basil or parsley pesto
Fresh basil

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees.

Chop the tomatoes roughly, not too small, and put into a large oven proof dish. Take 2 tbsp of your pesto and stir it into the tomatoes. Tear up a handful of basil leaves and scatter them over the top.

Slice the courgettes into roughly 0.5cm slices and heat up a griddle pan (you can use a very lightly oiled frying pan if you're without a griddle). Griddle (or dry fry) the sliced courgettes until they are slightly browned on each side. They don't need to be completely cooked through.

Once all your courgettes are browned, layer them on top of the basil and tomatoes and drizzle a bit more pesto over the top.

Crumble the feta cheese through your fingers so that it's scattered over the courgettes. (This recipe is great because you can literally throw everything in!)

Pop the dish in the oven for 10 minutes, lightly warming it. After 10 minutes, switch the grill onto a medium heat and brown the edges of the feta.

Serve up with some crusty bread or antipasti. Positively angelic!

And here are some snaps of my other favourite healthy treats...

[1. Roast parsnip courgette and red onion salad with walnuts and goats cheese 2. Chicken parmesan salad 3. Parma ham and mozzarella salad 4. Green bean and mozzarella salad 5. Fruit salad 6. Melon and Parma ham 7. Roast parsnip and feta salad 8. Berries with 0% fat yogurt 9. Roast butternut squash salad with goats cheese and pomegranate seeds 10. Sea food tostada with shredded salad]

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Leeds Calling!

On a rare rendezvous this week, we both managed to arrange a date together in Leeds. And a fine date it was indeed. It included nostalgic shopping trips, food galore and a sneaky outing for the camera. The day was spent enjoying the delights of Bakery 164 (their ever changing and mouthwatering selection leaves your average sandwich looking dull in comparison), nosying around Leeds' finest vintage establishments including new-find Birds Yard, indulging in coffee and cake (...and brownies) at the best coffee bar we know, Opposite, and gazing longingly at the Mac stand in Harvey Nicks.

Have a peek at the photos below and let us know what your favourite girl date is! Outfit purchases coming soon...

[Corn Exchange. Bakery 164 meatball, mozzarella, reggae reggae and mint focaccia. Calls Landing. Primos. American Apparel Neon Green, Barry M Berry Ice Cream, American Apparel Galaxy Glitter, vintage galaxy ring and Forever 21 shield ring. Outfit: navy American Apparel disco pants, vintage M&S blouse, Topshop allegra boots, Primark sunglasses. Opposite brazil nut brownie and chocolate Guinness cake. Bakery 164]

[Vintage ring, Birds Yard bow earrings made to order. Zara burgundy chinos, H&M stripe top, Miss Selfridge denim shirt, Accessorize sandals, Primark sunglasses. Window display at vintage shop on Boar Lane. Productive moment aided by coffee and cake. Necklace: Topshop. Chandelier at Corn Exchange entrance]

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Girl Meets Gown

If you haven’t had time to check out the Victoria & Albert’s ballgown exhibition yet, then get down to South Kensington as soon as! I’ve been planning to go and take in all the beautiful dresses since the first moment I read about the planned exhibition months ago, and yesterday, my lovely housemate and I finally got round to it.

I would recommend buying a ticket in advance here, as the exhibition is seriously popular. But if you don’t know what time you fancy going along, there was only a 10 minute queue when I went and then we could see the exhibition 2 hours later. Just enough time for a sunny stroll down to Sloane Square and a cappuccino and apricot croissant in the beautiful V&A cafĂ©.
Unfortunately no photographs are permitted in the exhibition itself, but then I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you anyway... these are the kinds of dresses that are made to be seen in person. It is the perfect mix of older gowns combined with current season dresses straight from the red carpet and the catwalks, which shows the development of styles and tastes through the years. Any designer worth their salt is in there. The Alexander McQueen feather dress, Elizabeth Hurley’s iconic Estee Lauder ad campaign ballgown, BeyoncĂ©’s presidential performance dress and, my personal favourites, Marios Schwab and Christopher Kane beauties.
If you haven’t been, I could not recommend more! If you have, which was your favourite?
You can read more info about the exhibition here.