Face time

Good foundations: A long-time fan of bareMinerals foundations (in particular their iconic Original Foundation powder) we’re pleased to report the brand has just released a new liquid foundation in the UK.


New BAREPRO Performance Wear Liquid Foundation SPF20 is a quality foundation that offers excellent natural-looking coverage.

Billed as makeup so pure you can sleep in it (not that we’ll be doing that…), the new formula offers 24-hour wear. It’s good to know it’s also heat, humidity, water and sweat-resistant and when we tried it out it was indeed long-lasting and wonderful at blurring out imperfections.

It has a creamy consistency, is comfortable to wear and offers a matte finish. In true bareMinerals style it provides the all-important coverage but skin can actually still breathe through it.

A tricky task picking one out from a shade chart of 30 – without seeing and testing the product – but the shade we chose (Silk 14) was spot on. It blended into the jawline, melting away, leaving no tell-tale demarcations!

BAREPRO Liquid Foundation and Luxe Performance Brush

It launched last month in Debenhams stores, bareMinerals boutiques and online – but is now available nationwide in department stores across the UK.

The 30ml bottle is priced at £29. Launched alongside it, their Luxe Performance Brush, £24, in synthetic fibres, is gorgeous and just made for the softies of this world! bareMineral brushes aren’t the cheapest but they are incredibly long-lasting and superb quality. This one is super-soft, dense and designed to mimic the shape of fingertips for easier application around the nose and eyes.


Heat is on

 Urban Decay’s Naked palettes are seriously hot property and with this summer’s latest release of the hotly-anticipated Naked Heat eyeshadow palette, all eyes are once again on UD.

We own a few of the palettes from this hugely-popular range, which include the Naked Palette Original, Naked Palette 2, Naked Palette 3 and the Naked Palette Smoky – and now new kid on the beauty block, Naked Heat. We also love the Ultimate Basics palette.

We’re thrilled to receive our sample palette of Heat from the lovely PR folk at UD. It’s been good to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about. ‘Heat’ contains 12 colours in a sunset-shades palette featuring everything from terracotta, sienna, rose gold, bronze, and burnt oranges and reds in matte and shimmery finishes. It’s a departure from their palettes full of warm browns and smoky shades but a welcome addition nevertheless.


We can report it is still excellent quality – in keeping with the rest of the range. That all-important velvety texture, super pigmentation and staying power (especially when used with eyelid primer first) are all part of the package.

We particularly like the Lumbre and Ember shades – and although some of the bolder brighter shades may be a little tricky for us (Mum!) to pull off for everyday… there’s something for everyone.

Available on counter and online at £39.50. www.urbandecay.co.uk


Figure it out

Go figure: We like the lightness and subtlety of this Italian Summer Fig fragrance mist from The Body Shop. The fresh, green, fruity scent has a light touch and has seen Mum through the summer months. It also smells more expensive than you’d probably expect! It is quite literally summer in a bottle 🌞

The eau de toilette mist blends the scent of Italian summer fig with hints of rose and amber. Being a fragrance mist, it doesn’t last long so you need to top up every few hours, or alternatively, layer with other Italian Summer Fig products to build the fragrance.


The Serenity Spa, Seaham Hall hotel, County Durham

Comfort zone: A spa day at The Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall hotel in Durham was just the tonic I needed. A frantic few weeks fretting over kids (admittedly these ones are all but grown-up) and the day-to-day stresses of a hectic lifestyle had left me feeling wound-up and really rather jaded.

So a chance to unwind and completely chill out on a mum-and-daughter pamper day was just the pick-me-up I needed.

Seaham10And if anything is guaranteed to transport me to my comfort zone it’s a trip to five-star Seaham Hall with its striking cliff-top location overlooking the Durham Heritage Coast.

Built in 1791, this luxe Georgian boutique hotel oozes character and charm. It’s a sight for sore eyes – set amidst 37 acres of beautifully cultivated landscaped gardens. I’ve been a regular visitor here over the years, writing for the features pages of regional newspapers and lifestyle magazines, and it never fails to impress.

A day off the treadmill in the award-winning Oriental-themed spa is always a serene experience. I find work and domestic hassles magically melt away after a few hours spent here.

I was trying out the new Autumn Rewind package which includes spa use from 9am to 5pm, two-course meal in the pan-Asian Ozone restaurant and sixty-minute treatment (either a Serenity Signature massage or Sundari Prescriptive facial). Oh, decisions, decisions…

Seaham11After a cup of reviving iced raspberry tea and a quick change into robes and slippers, my daughter and I could feel ourselves unwinding. We mooched about, dipping in and out of the 20-metre pool, outdoor hot tubs, jacuzzi, hammam, steam room, sauna, hydrotherapy pool and zen chill-out room. (I must admit we side-swerved the fitness suite and chilly plunge pools!)

We especially loved the outdoor hot tubs – warm, snug and giggly in our bubbly cocoon – with the cool air surrounding us. The spa’s new salt sauna is a favourite too and the dry heat just sooo soothing. And sat in the jacuzzi in the steamy hammam, staring at the twinkly ceiling, we were perfectly at home.

We also liked that the spa wasn’t too busy on the day we visited through the week – we even had the hot tub, sauna, pool and hammam completely to ourselves on occasions.

In keeping with the healthy, wellness theme, lunch in the pan-Asian Ozone restaurant, set within the spa, was fresh and wholesome. Sat in robes and slippers, we took in the garden views as we munched on a tasty two-course lunch (choose from main and either starter or dessert).

Ozone_Resturant_6395Prawn stir-fry with rice and sweet soy-based teriyaki sauce with white onions, and oyster and enoki mushrooms was delicious. The prawns were plentiful, the rice cooked to perfection and the sauce a warming mix of honey sweetness, garlic and warming ginger.


My wok dish of pan-roasted salmon in teriyaki sauce with crisp Asian salad was also a plate of wholesome appetising ‘does-you-good’ stuff. The mounds of beansprouts mixed with green, red and yellow peppers and the odd sliced red chilli was healthy and filling.

seaham4Dessert of coffee and mango cheesecake – more of a deconstructed trifle-type offering in a jar – was an innovative take on the regular cheesecake and a deliciously creamy concoction. Banana fritters drizzled in hot chocolate sauce, with accompanying banana ice cream were deemed a big hit by the daughter.

It’s hard work all this relaxing and I was ready for a snooze by the time it came to my Prescriptive Sundari facial. After a consultation, it was decided fine lines and rehydration were my key concerns (among many). My excellent therapist Tisha most certainly had her work cut out.

Feet were first cleaned and gently dried in a welcome foot ritual before I hopped on to the heated bed for a sixty-minute zone out…

Using the most exquisite smelling products from the Sundari range, Tisha got to work with cleanser, toner, exfoliator, massage, mask and serum. Skin felt super-clean, soft and hydrated by the end of this superb rejuvenating facial. While the mask was applied she incorporated the most wonderfully de-stressing massage – knots in the neck and shoulders were worked on and scalp gently massaged. I can highly recommend.

Afterwards, relaxation time on the heated beds in the zen lounge overlooking the tranquil grounds, a cleansing raspberry sorbet to hand, is a must. We really didn’t want to face the real world after such a pampering day…

Autumn Rewind package, available from September to November 30, 2017, costs £99 per person, Sunday to Friday, and £110 per person on Saturdays.

Seaham Hall, Lord Byron’s Walk, County Durham, SR7 7AG. Tel: 0191 5161400. For more info on the hotel and spa offers, visit: www.seaham-hall.co.uk



Dinner review: Duke of Wellington Inn, Northumberland

This last weekend brought a return visit to this most stylish of country boltholes – and one of our favourite Tyne Valley pubs in Northumberland.

The Duke of Wellington Inn is a relaxed Northumbrian gastropub, tucked away in the village of Newton, a few miles from Stocksfield.


The restaurant was busy the Saturday night we swung by for dinner, and the seven luxe bedrooms are doing well too, proving popular with Hadrian’s Wall walkers, a few of these striding out for Bank Holiday.

The rural inn has won a clutch of awards in a few short years, including a five-star rating and breakfast award from VisitEngland, as well as a coveted gold standard plaque.


The open-plan bar and restaurant area is really cosy with inviting ambience. The décor is contemporary with rustic touches including wooden floor, blue checked curtains and exposed stone walls. And we love the Sue Moffitt cow paintings adorning the walls. We took a window seat in the restaurant with glimpses of those glorious Tyne Valley views.


Food is one of the pub’s great strengths. Head chef Dave McKie is currently at the kitchen helm – he has been in place for two years – and is doing a sterling job. It’s modern British with the emphasis on local and seasonal – with everything from lunchtime sandwiches to ‘Duke’s Favourites’ including the likes of homemade beef burger, spiced lamb kofta and beer battered cod and chips, to Sunday lunches and a la carte offerings.


We chose from the a la carte menu – savouring our choices over a glass of prosecco. It’s just as well it’s a fairly compact menu as we liked the look of every dish on offer.

My salad starter of set mustard cream with chunks of heirloom tomatoes, heritage beetroot and morsels of crumbly goat’s cheese, £6.95, was a rustic dish, full of flavour and colour. It looked so attractive – like a mini work of art. Every ingredient in the well-thought-out dish was incredibly tasty, from the juicy tomatoes to creamy cheese, and most especially the carefully crafted parmesan crisp.

Across the table, chicken Caesar croquettes, £6.95, with anchovies and gem lettuce, £6.95, was a sassy innovative take on the classic salad offering, the two croquettes packed full of delicious chicken.

Mains consisted of a choice of five dishes, plus three chef’s specials. My choice from the latter – pan-fried swordfish with mango salsa, sticky coconut rice, cabbage and asparagus and pak choi, £15.95. This feels like such a ‘holiday’ dish and is a rare choice for me. It was perfectly cooked, the fish firm and very meaty, beautifully seared on the outside, soft and flaky in the middle; the coconut rice with lemongrass so moreish.

duke2Daughter’s choice of pan-roast stone bass, greens, cauliflower puree, cannellini beans, prawns and oyster, £19.95, was a terrific dish. The delicately-cooked fish was excellent – moist and flavoursome, the oyster – coated in popcorn flour and deep-fried – the piece de resistance, and pure taste of the sea. Another superb dish with lots of elements and interest, and the cauliflower puree was a big hit – so intensely flavoured!

Imaginative dishes these and some very skilful cooking on show.


Those with a sweet tooth will be in seventh heaven as there is an elevated desserts’ menu… My choice of pineapple soufflé, £5.95, with coconut ice cream and shot glass of creamy pina colada, was worth waiting the 15 minutes’ cooking time. The fluffy coat-the-roof-of the-mouth soufflé was risen to perfection; the melting coconut ice cream, with shredded coconut and mango pieces accompaniment making this a fruity tropical pud. I loved this delightful summery offering.

Daughter’s choice of cherry and white chocolate cannelloni, £5.95, with sour cherry sorbet and milk chocolate mousse, similarly looked like a mini masterpiece on the plate. The only slight let-down was the chocolate cannelloni, which was a little on the bland side, but then the tangy sorbet and heavenly mousse more than made up for it. And the dark chocolate crisps and chocolate ‘soil’ brought a smile to the face.

Every dish was carefully presented with care – the staff are hard-working and attentive, especially front-of-house manager Alex, who knows her job inside out.

We forget how good the food is here at this hidden gem of a place. And we’d only wished we’d booked an overnight stay. Maybe not for the walking on this occasion – but to savour the valley views the next day over a morning cup of coffee.

The Duke of Wellington Inn, Newton, Northumberland, NE43 7UL. www.thedukeofwellingtoninn.co.uk









Go with the glow…

Summer faves: We return time and again to our prized Michael Kors tried-and-tested goodies from the Into The Glow Colour Collection (full range pictured above).


The nail lacquers in eye-catching summery pastel shades are incredibly long-lasting – we always apply two coats – and the ‘Lip Luster’ glosses are excellent quality, while the Bronze Powder in Glow is a favourite of the younger daughter who wears it daily for subtle colour.

michael kors lip luster

The chunky gold packaging is beautiful and hard-wearing and has stood the test of time – still looking as good as the day we received these.

michael kors bronzer

Shimmy on down

Illuminating: Clarins After Sun Shimmer Body Oil is a lightweight nourishing oil, and the perfect after-sun treat.

The oil sinks into skin, leaving it silky soft, with very little sticky residue, which has to be a good thing… and is infused with subtle glitter to offer a hint of golden shimmer. It smells wonderful too… like bottled sunshine, it is full of sunny notes.

After Sun Shimmer OilMade with hazelnut oil, it leaves skin satin-smooth and more luminous, and can also be applied to the ends of dry or damp hair. Part of the Clarins Sun Care range, the oil is priced at £38.


Keep calm and carry on

Inner peace: Taking a moment in the garden in the summer sun and delving through the pages of this lovely book; Find Calm by Anna Barnes. 🌸 

We picked it up at the Oliver Bonas store in Jesmond, Newcastle which has quite the little self-help corner going on.

This handy book is full of inspirational quotes, tips and practical advice with chapters on, for example, ‘Techniques for Being Calm’, ‘Calming the Mind’, ‘Eating for a Quiet Life’ and ‘Exercising Your Way to Calmness’.

A glass of Provence tipple, Le Gelantin Bandol, a rich dark fruits beauty, helps too…


Oiling the wheels

Body beautiful: We’re nuts about L’Occitane’s Supple Skin Oil. A light, fine body oil, it is so nourishing and smells wonderful, thanks to the addition of fragrant almond oil. We unearth this every summer as it works so well to soften and smooth skin.  

The French brand is known for its quality products – and this particular oil does not disappoint.

It is incredibly soothing and leaves skin with a satin-smooth finish. We 💗 that you spray the product on also, so no messy application. Priced at £36 for 100ml.


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