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! 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Food | Sunday Morning Blueberry Muffins (+ Coeliac Fail)

Last weekend my boyfriend and I picked up a punnet of blueberries, and at some point during the week I became obsessed with the idea of making muffins; so this morning, with a grumble in my stomach and excited anticipation in my heart, I woke earlier than necessary for a Sunday and got to baking. Once the delicious, gluten-free (or so I thought) mixture was in the oven, I started to enjoy the left over batter. It was only when licking the final morsels from the spoon that I picked up the 'Free From' oat milk I had used in the recipe and noticed that it contained gluten. Sigh. So here I am now, an aching stomach full of gluten, watching my boyfriend enjoy the blueberry muffins that I have had my heart set on all week. Alas, poor Tash!

Blueberry Muffins

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Reflections | My Disillusionment with 'Women's' Magazines


I was about 19 when I decided that I wasn't going to buy or read 'Women's' magazines anymore. Although I liked to complete the personality quizzes when I was younger and read feature articles as I got older, I always found that I felt slightly 'off' once I'd put one down. After years spent in the comments sections of Livejournal communities like whatiworetoday, off_wut and ohnothteydidn't, my eyes were opened to the fact that we are too often exposed to 'ideals' of beauty or personality that can leave us feeling inadequate. I don't remember ever looking in a magazine and seeing girls with hips much wider than their waists or legs with fleshy calves evidence that my body shape was normal and equally valued.

What I remember is hating the word 'pear' and feeling as though fashion wasn't made for me because my body wasn't made for fashion. 'Shorter ladies should never wear maxi anything-- you will be swamped!'. 'Pear shapes should avoid wearing [insert all items of clothing here] to accentuate their wide hips!'-- I spent most of my teenage years dressing in oversized t-shirts and jeans that were two sizes too big for me because of some warped sense of shame and embarrassment. Of course, this is partly due to my own sensitivity, but it didn't feel healthy to continue buying into something that rarely made me feel positive about myself.

There are many reasons why I enjoy being a part of the blogosphere, but the main one is the fact that all people of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities have the chance to be in the spotlight and share what makes them feel good and confident about themselves; in turn, allowing their readers to feel the same. I love to see bloggers with similar body shapes to me wearing bold and beautiful clothing because I never saw that in the magazines. I love to read comments from readers who share my skin tone, letting me know me how glad they are that I reviewed a product they thought they might try, but were concerned might not work for them. I've yet to find a magazine that makes me feel that same way that reading blogs does.

Nowadays, I only really read DSLR magazine or the game review section in my boyfriend's monthly copy of Custom PC. This is because I haven't yet found any other magazines for me, though perhaps I'm just not looking hard enough.

How do you feel about women's magazines? I haven't read one in a while-- have I got this wrong? Do you feel differently about them? What types of magazines do you read? Do you have any magazine recommendations? Let me know!

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