Saturday, 13 December 2014

Wardrobe | Winter Wear - Uniqlo Fleece Snood

Uniqlo Fleece Snood and Miss Selfridge Coat

With winter comes a few nice things, such as big woolly knits, the Christmas spirit and a convincing veil for my severe case of hermit-itis. But one thing I'm sure most of us can't bear about this time of year is the cold. Some people seem to manage the winter quite well; take my boyfriend, for instance, who only started wearing a light jacket to work last week. I've been wearing my bobble hat and gloves during my morning commute all year. That includes July and August-- I wish I was joking. 

In an attempt to keep myself as warm as possible over these next few months, I went out on a hunt for the biggest, cosiest, most ridiculous scarf that I could find. And of course, Uniqlo had the answer. Just look at that snood and my happy, happy face. Fleece lined with a chunky knit exterior? Get all over my body. I put this on as soon as it arrived at work and don't think I've taken it off since. I've had to put J in the spare room-- this is my boyfriend now. 
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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas | How to Decorate Your Christmas Cake

How to Decorate a Christmas Cake - Marzipan Icing- Set2-0486

Myself and Angi (of iidifferentworlds— incredible illustrator and blogger) got talking about putting together a couple of collaborative posts to help our readers make the most out of Christmas this year, and we both thought that tackling the delicious subject of Christmas Bakes would be a good direction to go in. So today, I decided that I would put together a post detailing how you can decorate your very own Christmas cake this year. I think icing a cake can seem quite intimidating and time-consuming if it's not something you've tried before, so my intention with this post is to give you a straightforward guide to putting together an impressive looking cake, with the least amount of effort possible! Once you're done here, go take a look at Angi's festive biscuit tutorial

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Beauty | Review: Benefit Sugarlicious Palette

Benefit Sugarlicious Deliciously Nude Lip & Cheek 2-0305

If you're a fan of the luminous, "HOLD-ON------IS-THAT-A-CHRISTMAS-BAUBLE-OR-TASH'S-WONDERFUL-FACE?" look, then Benefit's Sugarlicious palette is probably going to be a good fit for you. Packed with some of Benefits most popular products, this kit works wonders towards creating that soft, glowing-from-within look that so many of us are after. I was given this palette as a gift last Christmas but it's in these darker, more miserable months that I've been looking for ways to fake that summer glow, especially now that my skin is about as dry as a bottle of wine in the company of gossip.

So, what's in the box?
  • Benefit Benetint Rose-Tinted Lip & Cheek Stain 4ml
  • Benefit High Beam Luminscent Complexion Enhancer 4ml
  • Benefit Sugarbomb "Sugar Rush Flush" Face Powder 3g
  • Benefit Ultra Plush Sugarbomb Lip Gloss 6.5ml
Benefit Sugarlicious Deliciously Nude Lip & Cheek Kit-0315

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Wardrobe | The Gap Chelsea Boots

Gap Boots-0047

Shoe shopping and I just don't get along: I either fall for shoes that I can't pull off, or tumble into the trap of buying pairs and pairs of the same black heels that I will never actually wear because I don't go anywhere exciting enough to wear them. The next issue is my love of suede, one of the most impractical fabrics to ever cover something so close to the ground. You can just imagine how much shoe protector that I get through on a weekly basis. Finally and most detrimentally in the current shoe climate, I don't get along very well with ballerina flats because not only do they strike me as incredibly impractical for British weather, they just don't suit me and the way I dress at all. In a nutshell, finding footwear for casual daily wear is tricky.

Recently, however, I've been finding myself falling for leather ankle boots, as they're sturdier than flats, more wearable than high heels and much, much more practical than suede anything. The most recent addition to my growing ankle boot collection is my pair of Chelsea boots from GAP. I was in store with my mom (slumping against a clothes rail whilst she tried on a camel-coloured jacket) when I first saw them.

You know THAT MOMENT where you don't really have any spare money and everything in your bank account is for food and train tickets, but then you spot something that you know you'll struggle to live without and you let out a weird guttural sound because you're about to blow £70 "that you don't have" on something you could really do without, but can't really? That's what I experienced when I put these comfortable, beautiful bad boys on my feet. The regret was short-lived, though, because these boots are divine. I look and feel instantly more stylish when I put them on, and for a girl who went shopping today in the pizza-stained t-shirt that she went to bed in last night... that's no mean feat.

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Christmas | Secret Santa - The Affordable Gift Guide

Christmas Secret Santa Gift Guide

If you're anything like me, the annual Secret Santa announcement sends a cold chill through your entire body and leaves you on edge until the exchange date. And then, if you're really, really unlucky, your person will hate your present and you will be shunned for the rest of eternity. Or something else equally as awful will happen. There are so many aspects of Secret Santa that makes it such a nauseating experience-- the worry, the small price limit, the fact that you may not even really know or LIKE your person, etc. etc.-- so I thought it might be a good idea to look for a few generic Secret Santa presents that are both affordable and really quite nice... in my opinion

1. Stag Head Jewerlly Holder with Gold Detail - £4.50 - ASOS 
I think that this is adorable and I may have actually picked one of these up as a gift already.

2. Unicorn Ring Holder - £10.00 - ASOS

3. Bathroom Guest Book - £12.00 - ASOS
If you were to ask me what my favourite place is, I think I would honestly tell you that it's the bathroom. I think this book is hilarious and am actually contemplating buying one for my own loo.

4. Burts Bees Honey Pot Bodycare Gift Set - £7.19 - John Lewis 
Who doesn't love a bit of Burts Bees? 

5. Nano Block Mini Giant Panda - £8.50 - John Lewis
I was first introduced to Nano Blocks in Hong Kong and I've been a fan ever since. They're essentially very tiny Lego kits that would make a lovely Secret Santa gift for Lego, building and puzzle lovers. 

6. Lily-Flame Candle in a Tin - £8.50 - John Lewis
I was given one of these candles by my Editor at work last Christmas and the scent is wonderful; so wonderful, in fact, that I save this candle for 'special occasions' and still have a lot left! John Lewis stocks a few different scents. 

7. Instant Photo Coasters - £10.00 - ASOS
Such a lovely idea. An impersonal present that can become personal without any effort from you! Result!

8. Happy Jackson Headphone Case - £8.95 - John Lewis
Have we not all spent far too many minutes untangling headphones at some point in our life? This little gift will put an end to that for your Secret Santa Selectee! I think this is adorable. It's not pictured above, but it comes with a wire tidy that you can twist the headphones around.
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Saturday, 15 November 2014

FOTD | Featuring The Body Shop's Shimmer Cube Palette & Hourglass' Ambient Lighting Blush Palette

FOTD Hourlgass Ambient Lighting Body Shop Shimmer Cube -0518

I've had the Body Shop's Shimmer Cube in 06 Warm for a shamefully long time now and I go through periods of remembering it and then forgetting it, before remembering it again. Today is one of those remembering days after I caught a glimpse of it between some other forgotten (probably brown) eye shadows in the midst of my make up stash. This time around I decided to use the two darker shades in the palette to create a simple, day-time smokey-- but subtle-- eye. I used Choc Chip, a brown-come-plum shade all over the eye before blending Dark Chocolate into the outer corners and along the lower lash line. Even after all of this time these shadows are still a pleasure to use. 

| Eyes: Bodyshop's Shimmer Cube Palette in 06 Warm - Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Liner in 01 Black - L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes So Couture Mascara in Noir

| Face: Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum in 56 - Maybelline Fit Me Concealer in 35 - Hourglass Ambient Lighting Incandescent Electra blush - Paul &Joe Eyebrow Powder in 01

| Lips: Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet in 07 Nude-ist (+ MAC Chile lipstick in the extra shot)

Friday, 14 November 2014

Wardrobe | Uniqlo for Work and Warmth

Uniqlo Shirts Workwear Lilac Duck Egg-0183

There are two things that most people in my life have probably learned about me: I wear a lot of shirts and I am always cold, especially at work. The shirt part of that statement is easy to explain because there's nothing worse than waking up at 5:20 in the morning and trying to decide what to wear, so with my collection of colourful shirts and various different cardigans, it's easy enough to throw on one of each and leave the house looking presentable enough for the office. One of my go-to places for work wear is Uniqlo because the clothes are just so affordable, well made and comfortable. When I visited Uniqlo last weekend, I picked up their 100% cotton Oxford shirt in a duck egg blue and muted lilac, whilst asking J to physically hold me back so I didn't put the other colours in my basket. Look at that lovely material, the button collars, the beautiful colours. Get all over my body. 

The second part of the 'things that most people in my life have probably learned about me' statement is the fact that thanks to standing around in the cold for half of my commute and having to sit still in a freezing cold office for 8 hours every day, I am left chilled to the bone. I take many, many steps towards combating this and my Uniqlo Heat Teach underwear is one of those. I'm in love with their fleece-lined Heat Teach tops but unfortunately they weren't in stock yet and I had to go for a standard one. The normal Heat Teach underwear is fine but it definitely doesn't keep me as warm as that sweet, sweet fleece-lined goodness. Soon, my loves. Soon.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Beauty | Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette

Let us all just take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette. I've heard an awful lot about Hourglass cosmetics, particularly their ambient lighting powders and blushes, so when I heard that they were releasing a limited edition palette I thought that it could be a good opportunity for a personal introduction to the brand. So, with that in mind, I took a trip to the capital in search of a Space NK (to which the palette is exclusive here in the UK) and swatched away whilst angels sang and fairy dust fell from the sky.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Food | Nibsy's Gluten Free Cafe

Niby's Gluten Free Cafe-0100

Some of you may know that I have Coeliac Disease, an autoimmunity disorder that means anytime I eat gluten (a protein found in wheat and some other grains) my body mistakes it for a dangerous, foreign body and begins to 'attack', damaging the small intestine in the process. I was diagnosed in my first year of university so I've accepted it now, hardly thinking about it when I'm preparing food myself at home... but eating out is still one of the bane's of my existence after all of these years. You might have noticed that gluten free food has become all the rage lately, with Wholefoods-Loving, Fad-Diet-Following individuals paving the way to recognition. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that non-coeliacs are turning to gluten free food because it means that I have more choice, but one major issue is the fact that far too many establishments don't take real, honest-to-God coeliac disease seriously, failing to pay attention to cross-contamination in food preparation. One spec of normal flour in my gluten free dough will probably have me in pain for the whole day and leave me unable to use the toilet for 1-2 weeks, with continued exposure putting me at risk of bowel cancer, osteoporosis and infertility. This ain't no joke.

All of this is why I cry shoulder-shaking tears of joy when I discover a new food establishment that is 100% gluten free and 100% safe. Say hello to Reading's Nibsy's, ladies and gents. When my friend Natalie told me about a new gluten free cafe opening in our town, I was almost unable to concentrate on my work for the rest of the day, what with fantasies of gluten free cake and cheese toasties in a public setting playing on my mind. I've been to Nibsy's twice now and each time I'm overwhelmed to the point of glassy eyes by the fact that I can choose to eat absolutely anything and everything that they have to offer-- courgette and lemon cake, chocolate cakes, Victoria sponge cakes, soups, toasties, sandwiches, muffins, etc. etc. I am no longer limited to individually wrapped coconut macaroons or brownies... and it's MAGICAL. Thank you for making eating out easier, Nibsy's. You're a lunch saver.

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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Beauty | The Mascara Post - All About Brushes

What Different Mascara Wands Do-0930

General Brush Types

The Standard Fibre Bristle Mascara Brush
Typically made up of synthetic fibres, usually packed closely together, your standard bristle mascara brush is great for adding volume and curl. All of the tiny hairs work together to grip all of your lashes, coating them with product and making them look full and fluttery. One negative aspect of the standard bristle brush is that they tend to have quite large heads, which can make precise application difficult. Many a time when using my bigger, bristly brushes, I've ended up with mascara all over my eyelids. Very annoying when you've JUST SPENT THIRTY MINUTES ON YOUR EYESHADOW.... And breathe.
Examples: Dolly Wink Volume Mascara, L'Oreal Extra-Volume Collagene, Maybelline the Colossal Volume Express (UK)

The Plastic Comb Brush
These mascara brushes tend to be made of hard plastic  materials and have short, widely-space teeth. These brushes are often intended to create definition and separation of the eyelashes. One negative aspect is that they seem to pick up too much product that isn't distributed evenly because unlike your bristle brushes there's less surface area and crevices for the product to be absorbed in.
Example: Maybelline Lash Stylish Mascara (US)

The Plastic Bristle Brush
This type of brush is a combination of the plastic comb and the standard bristle brush, with firm and densely packed fibres circling the wand. Marrying the positive aspects of the these two types, plastic bristle brushes are wonderful for leaving you with defined, lengthened and wonderfully full lashes. One thing I have found is that they can leave you with clumped eyelashes if you're not careful and the finish tends to be less fluttery and 'light' than when you use a standard bristle brush.
Examples: L'Oreal Volume Million and Benefit They're Real.

Pro tip: wait for mascara mistakes to dry before you remove them; if you remove them while they're wet, you'll end up with smudges.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Beauty | Mom's Travel Make Up Bag

What's in my Mom's Make Up Bag3-1199

  1. MAC Alluring Aquatic Extra Dimension Eyeshadow in Sea Worship 
  2. MAC Studio Finish Concealer
  3. Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Liner in 01 Black
  4. GOSH Long Lasting Brow Pen in 004 Wheat
  5. Revlon Eyeliner in 02 Earth Brown
  6. MAC Prep and Prime Face Protect
  7. MAC Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in More To Love
  8. NAKED 2 Palette
  9. Sleek True Colour Lipstick in Mystic 783
  10. Sleek Face Contour in 886 Dark
Last Friday I took the day off to tidy my flat in preparation for a visit from my mom*. She stayed all weekend, we ate lots of good food, drank lots of red wine, made a bunch of cake, did a little bit of shopping and had a generally great time. Before she left,  I managed to wade through hundreds of inch-long eye pencils and empty MAC shadow pots (can you believe it?!) to snap a shot of the products that she actually used during her visit. Although mom has worn a bit of make up for as long as I can remember, I think her real interest began with mine about 5 years ago-- it's catchy, this make up stuff.

As you can see, the Naked 2 palette takes pride of place in the centre of my photograph as it does in my mom's make up bag. I bought this for her last Christmas and she has gotten a whole lot of use out of it since, with her favourite colours being Pistol, Snakebite and YDK. Another firm favourite of my mom's is her MAC Prep and Prime, which she swears by to help her Studio Finish last all day with minimal creasing. Finally, MAC's More To Love and Sleek's Mystic are both bright pink lip products that she has taken to recently. Pssst. Here's a not-so-secret-secret for you: when I was younger, in the 90s, my mom was all over that black eyeliner-come-lipliner trend. I know.

*I've said it once and I'll say it again: I dislike the British spelling of 'mum' and refuse to ever use it. Saying that, I recently learned that a preference for the US spelling runs rife across the Midlands where I'm from, so that's probably why it's so ingrained in me now! #themoreyouknow 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Beauty | Sleek Au Naturel 601 Eyeshadow Palette

Sleek Makeup Au Naturel 601 Eye Shadow Palette-0908

One of the very first makeup products that I ever bought was a Sleek eyeshadow palette; it was the 'Original' collection that had colours ranging from blues and greens to purples and bronzes. I was around 18 and very new to makeup at the time, but even then I understood that they were good shadows for the price that I paid. Those of you acquainted with Sleek will know that their palettes are brilliant quality and even better value, with the high pigment and buttery texture of their shimmer shadows in particular blowing some higher brands right out of the water. 

When the Au Naturel palette was released a while ago for £7.99 I was very, very excited but also interested to know whether or not the matte shades would hold their own against the famous metallics-- afterall, matte shadows in general can be notorious for having bad colour payoff and a chalky finish. After using this palette for a while now, I think it's fair to say that while the matte shadows are definitely not as good as the other textures, they aren't awful, either. Needless to say, however, the shimmer shades are as good as you would expect.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Goods | Moleskines and Me

Moleskine 3

Ikea Skurar plant pot and yellow Moleskine all in one picture? On a scale of star tattoos to lens-less glasses, how many pairs of skinny jeans is this post? Moving on, I've been using Moleskine notebooks for a very long time now. My first one, a black hardback, was my diary for years and years until I eventually stopped using it because I realised that regurgitating every single thought I ever had in the form of writing wasn't actually as therapeutic for me as I first thought. I also used them when I was a teacher; to plan my lessons, to record marks and grades, to doodle in when the staff meetings became unbearable. I got through one book every term. My manager at my current job always jokes that I would be "lost without [my] little red book".

The newest addition to my collection is a ruled, pocket notebook in a jovial carnet. I'm slightly too nervous to taint its pages just yet, but when I do, I think this will become a place to dump lists, ideas and doodles. Moleskine notebooks are, of course, incredibly popular now and there's a good reason for that. They feel good in your hands. The paper, although some complain of it being too thin, feels smooth and inviting. You can open one of these notepads at to the central page and the book will lay flat. Whilst teaching, I carried mine around with me all day, leaving it on the hall floor during assembly, dropping it down flights of stairs as I tried to run to the toilet between classes in different rooms. And it still looked as good as the day I bought it. I have a soft spot for a good Moleskine.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Beauty | bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipgloss in Dare Devil

Bareminerals Marvelous Moxie Dare Devil-0809
I don't often wear lipgloss, but when I do... I end up looking like that creature from the Addam's family because half my head of hair has decided to MIGRATE TOWARDS THE FRONT OF MY FACE AND STICK TO MY LIPS. I'm afraid I don't have the solution here for you today, but I'm not one to turn down free make up, so when my friend Clare From Work (CFW) passed bareMinerals'  Marvelous Moxie in the shade Dare Devil on to me after receiving it as a free gift with her online purchase, I didn't pass up the chance to check it out for myself.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Beauty | No 7 Stay Perfect Lipstick in Sultry

V2 - No7 - Stay Perfect - Sultry-0034

Most UK shoppers will know that on visiting Boots, you are more often than not given vouchers for money off their own make up brand, No7. I have to say that before now I'd never bothered to cash in on my vouchers because there were always other brands that I was interested in. I decided one day recently, however, that it was about time that I gave No7 a go and that's when I found myself acquainted with their Stay Perfect Lipstick in Sultry. And I think it could be the beginning of a lovely little relationship. 


| Sultry is a beautiful colour. If you check out the photograph under the cut, you can see that this shade is really quite flattering. I think I would describe it as a mature and muted cerise with fairly neutral undertones. The best thing, though, is the comfortable satin sheen finish.
| Holds its own against pigmented lips. My lips are naturally quite a deep colour and some lipsticks can't cope with that. I don't have to worry about that with Sultry because it has such great coverage without having to pile layers of it on.
| Super smooth, super easy to apply. The texture of this lipstick is such that it glides on like a dream. It applies evenly across the whole lip in one fell swoop. No fuss, no hassle.
| Fragrance and flavour free. Sometimes you just don't want your face to smell like a sweet shop/packet of Wrigleys Extra White chewing gum, so it's quite refreshing that Sultry doesn't smell or taste like anything.


| The staying power leaves something to be desired. For a lipstick that claims to 'Stay Perfect', I don't know that it does too much of that. I would say that, at best, this remains at full colour for about an hour before starting to fade from the centre of the lips outwards. It's so nice and easy to apply though, that you can't be too angry at it for this!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review | Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Leave-In Treatment

Review Redken Anti Snap-0953

I'm not sure whether you know this or not, but my hair is actually very big and very curly [Exhibit A] and as a result of my inability to master it in its natural state, I straighten it to within an inch of its life about twice a week. Of course, my hair probably isn't in the best condition because of all the heat I use on it, so I'm constantly on the lookout for products that can make me feel a little less guilty about the damage that I'm causing. One of those products is Redken's anti-snap leave-in lotion. The idea behind this is that it's supposed to treat damaged hair showing signs of breakage, split ends or general tiredness, leaving it strengthened, protected and glossy.

As for HOW it's supposed to do that, the Feelunique website explains that this works by containing something called 18-MEA, which helps to restore the layer of protection and resurfaces the hair cuticle to help restore shine, while amino acids and protein enter your hair for targeted structural repair. So it all sounds quite clever and promising, but is this just your standard advertising spiel, or have I found any evidence that it actually works?

A couple of Saturdays ago, after using Redken's anti-snap bi-weekly for about a month, I visited my hairdresser (shout out to Chloe at Toni&Guy). I go to Chloe every single time but on drying and straightening my hair on that occasion she was surprised by how soft and manageable it was in comparison to my other visits. And the only difference in my routine that I could think of was the addition of Redken's anti-snap. Of course, I had noticed differences myself but to have Chloe comment on the condition of my hair helped to confirm that anti-snap had been having a positive impact.

So how do I use it? Before blow drying my hair I'll apply about 3-4 pumps all over, focusing on the ends with the most damage. I then often add another 1 or 2 products (usually including a heat protector) such as LabelM's Age Defying Oil (I LOVE this stuff-- I must review it soon) or Redken's Smooth Lock Stay Sleek leave-in cream. After applying all of that, I go ahead and blow dry my hair before using straighteners to smooth it out.

The results: Like I said, I have noticed differences myself when using this: my hair feels smoother and looks glossier. I don't think I have enough empirical evidence yet to say whether it does indeed help to limit breakage, but I feel as though if it's making my hair feel in better condition even after it has been washed out, it must be resulting in less breakage. Nevertheless, I'm going to say that I'm really quite happy with this product. It's not cheap, but it gives you some great results. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Reflections | Making Friends as an Adult

 photo f894f218-8510-457f-a91f-6412a69c7b1d_zps357f1bce.jpg

Making friends—or, keeping friends— has always been quite difficult for me, but I feel that this is becoming more magnified the older that I get. Admittedly, I’m a particularly special case on account of being an inherent loner, but after discussing this issue with a few people, I’ve come to the sweeping conclusion that this could be quite common with many adults. If I try to think of my own timeline of friendship, things started off quite well in Primary School before plummeting into the shadowy, Facebook-notification-free pits of friendship failure here in my 20s. Whilst manually (don’t ask) adding the telephone numbers of friends and family into my new phone and realising that I was finished in the space of 10 minutes, I began to contemplate why making friends as an adult can sometimes be dishearteningly difficult.

School: The Perfect Setting for Friendship?
When we’re younger, we often spend a lot of time in places and situations with people who are the same age as us and share very similar interests as a result of shared spaces and experiences. 99.9% of the time, you even all come from roughly the same place/street. Granted, I understand that some people hated school, but for a lot of people it’s the place where they pick up their Best Friends for Life. Being an adult in the workplace is very different. Although you are all generally working towards to the same goal and probably have similar career interests, it’s likely that you’ll be different ages, come from a huge range of different places and have wildly different upbringings and backgrounds. These things are definitely not problems in and of themselves and it’s entirely liberating to free yourself from the shackles of sameness that high school and college do often become. But you have to admit... it’s a lot easier to create a spark if there’s some ‘Lets-go-get-our-lady-taches-threaded-together-at-Priya’s’ common ground.

When being a grown up and having a job sort of gets in the way
I often try to tell myself that I’ve escaped the 9-5 rat race because I actually work from 8-4—but who am I kidding? I get up at 5:20, eat a rushed breakfast, walk to the station, sit on the train, get off the train, get on the bus, get to work, sit at my desk, type type type, spreadsheet, Word .doc, quiet lunch, get on the bus, get off the bus, get on the train, get off the train, get home, rinse, repeat. It gives me a dull ache in my heart writing that out. Dreary as this endless cycle is, it still leaves me too pooped to want to pursue anything else at the end of the day. Not to mention that nobody from work actually lives in the same city as me anyway. Such is the commuter life. Represent. Some of us may even have super-long-term partners, children and other adultx10 responsibilities that take priority over after work drinks in God knows where with the girls. Sometimes being a grown up makes you feel as though you don't have the time or the energy to nurture friendships. This is something that I really need to work on shaking off.

A hardened view of the world
With each birthday celebration that passes, I develop a more hardened view of the world and the people in it. I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a misanthropist. When I was 18 I learned the hard way that sometimes people hurt you, and I lost a long term partner and all of my confidence in a lot of my friends at the time. I think we all know you shouldn't let a handful of experiences taint your entire worldview, but some blows are difficult to recover from. The pessimistic part of me understands that it's a dog eat dog world out there and this has created a 25ft wall between me and everybody else. I think we probably all have our fair share of betrayals in our pasts (and perhaps coming up in our futures) that can be incredibly difficult to face. I suppose the trick is being strong enough not to let them destroy relationships that come afterwards.

The reason why I call these posts 'Reflections' is because they're a round up of my thoughts on a topic. I should put disclaimers at the beginning of them warning you that I don't have answers to the issue I'm about to discuss. There are many days where between my medical issues, not knowing what to do with my life and general, long-term depression, that I need somebody to really talk to. Not an acquaintance who I have a superficial connection with. A real, proper, 'I am happy. Are you happy? I am falling apart. Do you want to go for a coffee?' friend.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Beauty | Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet: 07 Nude-ist & 09 Happy Nude Year

Bourjois Roughe Edition Velvet Nude-0737

Oops I did it again, dun dun dun dun dun. Did you just sing that sentence in your head? Are you doing it now? Anyway, the point is: I've only gone and bought two more Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet lips paints. Some months ago now when these were first released, I picked up 04 Peach Club and 02 Frambourjoise. I was perfectly happy with the two of these for a while and particularly loved Frambourjoise, but on seeing that Boots had a 2 for £14 offer on Bourjois make up last week I decided that I should check out the other colours that were on offer. 

This time around I went for two of the 'lightest' colours in the collection: 07 Nude-ist and 09 Happy Nude Year. Both are described as being 'nude' but I think they're actually fairly 'showy' pinks, particularly Happy Nude Year. The difference in colour isn't too distinct, but Happy Nude Year is the brighter, more vivid of the two, where Nude-ist feels a bit more comfortable to wear because it's slightly more muted despite being the darker shade. 

In terms of texture, these are exactly the same as Peach Club and Frambourjoise (check out my review here) but I feel that the staying power is slightly better with these two shades-- isn't that strange? I'm not sure whether it's the fact that these are lighter colours so you don't get such an obvious fade-ring (you know what I'm talking about, right?) but I definitely feel that I can get away with not topping these up for much longer than I can with Peach Club and Frambourjois. On the whole, these are objectively very nice products, as expected; though personally, I'm not sure that I'm going to get much wear out of Happy Nude Year because it's just a little too bubblegum for my tastes!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Blog Talk | Review: Anker T320 Keyboard -- Becoming more productive on your tablet

Anker Ultra Slim Keyboard iPad Productivity-0410

I have a bit of a habit of coming in from work and plonking myself on the sofa with a handful of almonds and a spoonful of Nutella, ready to watch Come Dine With Me. Unable to pull myself away from the goodness that is Dave Lamb, I rarely ever got the chance to head over to my desktop and put together the blog posts that I'd planning in my head all day. This saddened me, so I decided that I needed to take steps towards being more productive after work. Having retired my laptop years ago, the only portable device that I have now is my tablet, so I decided that it might be a good idea to buy a keyboard for it so that I could put together blog posts WHILST sat on the sofa watching The Best Show in the World. Genius!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Beauty | FoTD with MAC's Woodwinked and Diego Dalla Palma's #15 eye shadow

FOTD Diego Dalla Palma and MAC Woodwinked-0644

| Diego Dalla Palma eye shadow in #15 has been used on the outer third of my eyelid, but also along the crease
| MAC's Woodwinked was used as my base colour-- you can see it there on the first two thirds of my eye
| Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in 225 Sultry was used on my lips
| L'Oreal le blush in Sandalwood on the cheeks
| And on the rest of my face: the usual Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, Dolly Wink eyebrow powder and Maybelline FitMe Concealer.

Following up from my September Favourites post, I decided it would make a huge amount of sense to actually put together a FoTD showing you what I've been doing with MAC's Woodwinked and DDP's #15 this month. As you can see, there's nothing new or outrageous about this look, and I'm very much within in my comfort zone... but these are just great quality eye shadows, so there's nowt wrong with that, surely!?

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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Review | Knomo iPhone 6 Leather Folio Case

Knomo iPhone 6 Leather Folio Case-0664With my Samsung Galaxy S3 becoming slower and less responsive as the days went by, it was time for me to look into getting a new phone. After a lot of consideration, I decided that I would give the iPhone 6 a go and thus far I'm really, really happy with it. Being the Anxiety Monster that I am, I tend to buy folio cases for my phones, rather than covers that just protect the back. With the iPhone 6 still being incredibly new, however, it was quite the slog trying to find the type of case that I wanted. After trawling the internet for days before my phone arrived, I stumbled upon the Knomo London website and bought their iPhone 6 Leather Folio case in the colour Clay (which strikes me as a bit of misnomer really, because this case is definitely a dusky pink). Please click the link below for more info and lots of pictures!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Monthly Favourites | September 2014

Monthy Favourites - September 2014-0592
| Diego Dalla Palma Eye Shadow in 15
| MAC Eye Shadow in Woodwinked
| L'oreal le blush in 120 Sandalwood Pink

A very minimal list of favourites for the month of September, but these were the three standout items for me. I can't remember whether or not I've mentioned the Diego Dalla Palma eye shadow before, but it is honestly one of the best matte eye shadows that I've had the pleasure of using because of how buttery and easy-to-work-with it is. I picked this up from M&S when I was strolling through their Beauty section and fell for the colour, which is the perfect crease shade for my skin tone. 

MAC Woodwink's reputation probably precedes it so I won't bang on about it too much, but this is quite a nice my-skin-but-shimmery colour that works as a nice all over lid colour for me. I've been wearing Woodwinked  with the DDP eyeshadow a lot this month and have been given a couple of compliments on the combo-- result! 

The third and final component of my September ~triumvirate~ is L'Oreal's le blush in Sandalwood. This comes up in my favourites a lot because it's the perfect, soft pink for when you don't really know what else to wear, plus it's also subtle enough to wear with my Woodwinked/DDP eye makeup, so I don't end up looking too overdone!

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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Beauty | Avon Purple Haze - Liner Experiment

Avon True Colour Purple Haze-0542

I'm that person who buys twohundredandfiftyfive versions of the same brown eyeshadow because although I love makeup, I'm not normally brave enough to venture into using colour. Having quite a lot of visible lid space means that any eyeshadow I wear becomes the centre of attention, and I'm just not brave enough for that to happen with anything other than brown. Today, however, I decided to go for something different and have a play around with Avon's Purple Haze palette that I bought on a whim when Avon had a sale on. 

I wasn't ready for eyelids completely covered in purple eyeshadow so I decided to use them as lower lid liners, using the darker purple on the outer half and the second lightest on the inner. It felt a bit strange having colour around my eyes and I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I did manage to brave a trip out to town wearing it and nobody gasped when they looked at me, so I think it all went down okay!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Reflections | Afraid to be Feminine

Afraid of Femininity

The idea for this post came to me on a Saturday morning while I was making my way to London. It’s not every day that I go to the capital and our trips there are normally considered NICE DAYS OUT™ so I wanted to put in a little more effort with my makeup and clothing. So, Frambourjoise-lipped and peplum-topped, I made my way to the station with J… but found that, as was usual once I had left the safety of my own home, I had removed half of my makeup and brushed the waves from my hair with my fingers by the time that we got there.

Growing up, I was what you might call a ‘tomboy’. And I don’t mean the cool type. I mean the type whose favourite shop was Sports Direct and the one wore a PE T-shirt that had accidentally been dyed yellow in the wash to her Year 11 school disco. I know. At some point, a lot of this changed and I’ve ended up where I am today. But I am still afraid of my own femininity to the point where, as described above, I will try to remove most overt traces of it as soon as I venture out into public. I enjoy makeup and see it as an expression that is a part of my identity now, but in order to feel at ease with myself I find that I often lean towards more masculine dress despite having a wardrobe full of dresses, form-fitting tops and high-heeled shoes that I buy in moments where I forget—or perhaps try to remember—myself. Why? On that train journey to London weeks ago, I came up with a few theories.

I wrote another Reflections post last week where I briefly discussed my negative feelings towards most women’s magazines and their obsession (and consequently our own obsession) with ideals of beauty. I don't want to play a blame game here, but I feel that if young, influential children don't see people similar to themselves in the media, there is a chance that it will leave them feeling undervalued, or worst, invisible and inadequate. And inadequacy does not lend itself well to embracing femininity. As a teenager--and still as an adult-- I found/find it hard to shake off feelings of inadequacy, which results in my feeling that femininity isn't accessible to me; that I'm not allowed to feel beautiful.

Unwanted Attention
I have often heard women discuss the times they have been made to feel uncomfortable by catcalling when out in public. The times when they wish they had worn trousers instead of a skirt because maybe then it wouldn't have happened. Catcalling is often associated with females and not just femininity (a note: the two aren't mutually exclusive) but I do find the more feminine my appearance is, the more likely I am to get unwanted attention. Sometimes I will try to walk and present myself in a more masculine way just to get from A to B without being made to feel uncomfortable or endangered. 

Accusations of Vanity
I often feel like I set myself up for this anyway, what with being the Amateur 'Model' for my own lifestyle and 'beauty' blog. I can image it's odd reading that I deal with horrible anxiety on a day to day basis and wear masculine clothes in order to balance out the femininity that's painted across my eyelids and dancing in the pink on my cheeks. Blogging about beauty feels different because I know that like-minded people understand why I do. But in the real world, I fear that people will see any overt attempts at femininity on my part as an exercise in vanity. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Blog Talk | The Camera Post

Blog Photography Set Up - Nikon d5100

Of all the questions that I'm asked about this blog, "what camera do you use?!" is probably the most common. For this reason I felt it would be a good idea to grace this new 'Blog Talk' series with a post that details my camera setup but also works towards helping you decide what you really want and need in a camera. As you will have gathered from the picture, I use a Nikon D5100 to take most of the photographs for this blog and all in all it's a brilliant little camera.

I bought my D5100 with the standard 18-55mm kit lens a few years ago but after a lot of research (and saving!) I decided that Nikon's 35mm prime lens would suit me and my daily needs best, so most of the photographs that you see on this blog will have been taken using this pairing. Compared to a lot of other lenses, the 35mm is relatively very cheap but produces pictures of a beautiful quality. For those of you who are unsure, the 35mm is called a 'prime' lens because it is of a fixed focal length i.e. there is no zoom function. Prime lenses tend to produce better quality pictures than their zooming counterparts because of the simpler design, which leads to fewer visual defectsThey are also more likely to have wider apertures (and therefore lower f-stops) which allows you to achieve better results in low light and also get “that blurry background effect” a.k.a bokeh in pictures. Prime lenses aren't always convenient, however, so I do find myself reaching for either the kit lens or my 55-300mm if I'm in need of more reach.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Beauty | Barely-There FOTD

Black eyeliner is, I suppose, my signature look and I have to admit that I feel a little bit naked when I'm not wearing it. Saying that though, there are days when I like to embrace a more 'barely-there' look and step outside of my makeup comfort zone. Today is one of those days and although I haven't retired my gel liner completely, I've toned it down by using Bobbi Brown's Sepia Ink instead of a harsh black and have softly smudged it along the outer third of my eyelid with a pencil brush (think MAC's 219— it's perfect for this kind of work). To add some extra depth, I blended MAC's Texture into the crease and swept a teeny bit of Rimmel's Bad Girl Bronze along my lower lid before applying some mascara. To finish it all off I went for soft peach tones on my cheeks and lips and applied a touch of High Beam to give me a fresh glow. And there you have it: my barely-there Sunday face. Ta-Dah!

FOTD Barely There Liner

| Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation, used as a concealer on my chin, which is in a perpetual state of breaking out!
| Maybelline Fit Me Concealer in 35
| Rimmel Clear Complexion Powder in 021 Transparent
| Benefit High Beam
| MAC Eyeshadow in Texture
| Bobbi Brown Gel Liner in Sepia Ink
| Rimmel Scandal Eyes Eyeshadow Stick in 003 Bad Girl Bronze
| Maybelline The Colossal Volume Express Mascara
| Dolly Wink Eyebrow Powder in 03
| Shu Uemura Glow On Blush in Medium Peach
| Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet Lip Paint in Peach Club

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Places | ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

If you hadn't figured it out by now: I'm an "animal person"; that person who was once an awkward teenager claiming to love animals more than people. I mean, I don't go around shouting that from the rooftops anymore, but I can't imagine living my life without animals in it. After visiting ZSL London Zoo for our anniversary last month, J and I decided that we should complete the circuit by paying a visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, too. So on Friday, with soggy sandwiches in our backpacks and Google Maps to guide the way, we found ourselves in Dunstable, surrounded by free-roaming capybara and a collection of other amazing animals. I was armed with my camerazoom-lensed up to the ninesand thought you might like to see some of the pictures that I took. 

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Friday, 12 September 2014

Books | Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Strange Weather in Tokyo Review-0386

Strange Weather in Tokyo
Written by Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Allison Markin Powell)
Portobello Books Ltd (1st August 2013)

Would you consider a relationship with me, based on a premise of love?

Strange Weather in Tokyo tells the story of retired school teacher, Harutsuna Matsumoto—or ‘Sensei’, as we better come to know him—and Tsukiko, an office worker in her late thirties who was once his pupil. Whilst drinking sake in the familiarity of individual loneliness, Tsusiko and Sensei come to find each other again. Each chapter details an often chance encounter that brings them closer together, or sometimes further apart. This is a quiet, understated book that explores loneliness, human interaction, friendship and love, before returning to loneliness again in an apparent cycle. The book is like nothing I've ever read in its peacefulness, so it took a little while for me to become fully immersed… but once I was, I couldn't put it down.

Whenever I picked up this book I felt as though I had been transported to Japan; to the bar that Tsusiko and Sensei often drank in, the classroom in their distant memories and the tatami room in Sensei’s apartment, sitting across from them both as he poured tea from tiny, collectible pots. While reading, I even experienced the phantom scents of the food they ate in each other’s company, but rarely shared: fried octopus, ‘ineffable‘ mushroom soup, and abalone. Abalone is one of my boyfriend’s favourite foods and I’ll never forget the first time I tried it in his grandmother’s Hong Kong apartment. She sent us a tin a couple of months ago actually and we used it to make a deliciously creamy congee.

The prose is beautiful in its simplicity. I've never been a fan of rambling, inaccessible novels that I need to study line by line to understand. Some would say that this is an embarrassing ‘confession’ for an English graduate and ex-English teacher but I openly disagree with those sentiments. I think the simplicity is what helped me to get lost in this book and feel as though I was being wrapped up in its pages. Up until a few years ago I never really understood why people described things that weren't food as ‘delicious’, but that’s what this book is—delicious. Like a hot cheese toastie that relaxes your mind and body after a long day, or my personal favourite—a bowl of white, fluffy rice that’s fresh from the Zojirushi. I’m going to turn that into a shameless extended metaphor and close this review by saying that this is what Strange Weather in Tokyo is for me: a bowl of rice. Simple, unassuming but wonderfully gratifying. 

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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Blog Talk | Useful Sites and Software for Bloggers

Blog Talk - Useful Sites and Software FNIAL

This site is home to one of the largest collections of free fonts that I've ever come across and has been one of my most valued tools throughout my journey as a blogger. Once you've trawled through the site and found a font that you like, simply save it, extract it add it to your computer’s font collection via the Control Panel (detailed instructions are available under the sites FAQs). Once you've installed the font, restart any programs you have open and expect to find it available and ready to use immediately. 

If like me, being able to a) afford and b) justify purchasing Adobe Photoshop is never, ever going to happen, GIMP is the next best thing. It’s a free, image manipulation program that has the power to perform a huge range of tasks. For bloggers, GIMP is perfect for creating headers, content for sidebars, favicons and editing photographs, amongst many other things. One word of warning from me is that this program can be incredibly tricky to use if you haven’t been exposed to similar software before, which was quickly obvious to me when I found myself struggling to draw a basic, straight line. Do not fear, however! I now create nearly all of my designed blog content in GIMP thanks to all of the great guides and tutorials out there on the internet.

Believe it or not, Paint need not be retired to the category of ‘Late-90’s-pre-internet-time-waster’ or ‘place-to-dump-random-screen shots’ because it’s actually a good, basic tool for creating designed content if programs like GIMP are proving too tedious for your liking.

A free photo editing software, Picasa is great for touching up your photographs before making them live on your blog. You can play around with the usual controls such as brightness, contrast and fill lights, but you also have the option to perform ‘spot removals’ on your images, create collages, and play with different overlays and effects.

Lightroom is a photo editing and management program that is brilliant for treating and storing your photographs. The key features of Lightroom include a library to store and sort through your photographs, development tools to improve your photographs, slideshow abilities, print management, gallery creation and capture support. I was given Lightroom for Christmas last year and I've gotten so much use out of it since; it has a lot of the same tools as programs like Picasa, but they are a lot more 'intelligent' and developed. I have to admit, I'm not making the most of the management side of this program (I am atrociously bad at keeping my photographs organised) and I still have a lot to learn about using the development tools, but I still couldn't see myself without Lightroom now. 

An online photo editing tool, Pic Monkey allows you to quickly and easily make adjustments to your pictures. I’m quite fond of using this site to create the highly sought-after circular ‘About Me’ picture, for example. Another word of warning: though most of the tools and effects on this website are free to use, a large selection require you to sign up and pay a fee to remove an annoying watermark from the photograph—not a good look at all. Unless you’re into cartoon monkeys!

What kind of sites and software do you use whilst blogging? Let me know if there's anything else you think I should add to this list! 
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