Thursday, 26 January 2017

Let's Talk: La La Land

This is a tentatively titled new series (yes another one) - Let's Talk! This series will basically consist of me getting passionate about something, so I hope you enjoy it! Today's topic is La La Land. I know. This film does not need more hype. But I did see it yesterday and it filled me with things I hadn't felt for a film (or book) for a long time.

Firstly, for those who don't know, La La Land stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as a struggling actress and jazz musician who fall in love in LA. It is told like a classic musical and is brimming with dance numbers.

However, what really shines in this film is the connection between Stone and Gosling. They are 100% perfect for one another and their deep love and respect really shines through. The moments when they share the screen are just the most magical and their love 'theme' which runs through the film is simply stunning.

What's more, for a musical this film really knew how to work with silence. The deathly quiet moments cut like a knife through the jazz soundtrack and I can see why this film has been nominated forever so many sound design awards. It is an expertly crafted piece of work.

I would happily pay to see La aka Land again, something I rarely feel after a cinematic experience, and I highly recommend going to see it - even if musicals aren't your thing. This is a film that will grab you by the heart from the moment it's two leads clap eyes on one another.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Welcome to 2017 - Resolutions and What To Expect

Hello my little bloglets, welcome to 2017!

Sorry it has taken me a whole week to welcome you to the new year - I don't have a very good excuse for it except for the fact that I have been busy, which is no excuse at all. I did just want to spend a few minutes, whilst we're still in the first full week of the year, to speak a little about what you can expect from this blog in 2017.

First things first, I'd really like to try and stick to a minimum of one post per week, with the hope that I'll be able to up this to two as the year goes on. I'm not going to promise a day when the post will be live, but fingers crossed this will all go to plan! In doing this, I hope to revitalise a couple of series which I loved creating but sadly fell by the wayside. This includes the likes of Norwich Nosh (the series where I highlighted my favourite places to eat in my home city) and Library Looks / Office Attire (two outfit of the day series, which I love creating). Do let me know if there is anything else that you have liked in the past an want to see more of!

Secondly - if you're someone who comes to this blog because you like the book related content then oh boy do I have a treat for you. I was fairly upset with the amount I read last year - especially given that I had whole months of not reading thrown in there - and I'd like to change that. I also want to become more involved in the bookish community, especially since I have been a passive admirer for many years. This is why I have started a shiny new bookstagram! You can find all my bookish posts over on One Minute Reads - where I'll not only be posting pretty pictures of books but I will also be reviewing books (in sixty seconds or less).

I am hoping to transfer some of the content form my bookstagram over to this blog, with more indepth reviews of the books I've really loved. However, I'm also hoping to be able to focus more on makeup and lifestyle here, so if that's what you like reading then you're in luck!

Thirdly, I want to make sure that I am proud of every single thing I publish on this blog. This will mean planning and scheduling - something I already do some of but something I could also improve on. I go through phases where I spent every weekend in a month away from home and considering (in the winter especially) I take most of my blog photos over the weekend, this causes me to put up text heavy posts. I love reading blogs with lots of pictures in them, so that is what I'm going to aim for this year. I also want to improve my flat lay skills (more of that over on my new Instagram), so hopefully you'll not only see an increase in blog content but also an increase in blog quality.

So, there you have it. My three main blogging goals for 2017 and a little of what you can expect over the next twelve months. I'll see you in the next one!

Friday, 30 December 2016

My 2016 Playlist - The Songs That Got Me Through

I've said it before, but 2016 was a difficult year. Music has always been a big part of my life and this year I took to recording the songs I was loving. Some of these are mellow tunes that I listen to at work, others remind me of specific places, times, or people. All of these I have loved and have listened to over and over again this year. I'll link each with their YouTube video where possible and I'll also put a link to a Spotify playlist at the end, as some songs might not be on YouTube and some are definitely not on Spotify!

These are in no particular order...

Golden Boy - Elf Kid
Woah Is Me - Grieves
Tiny Glowing Screens Pts 1, 2, and 3 - Watsky
All This And Heaven Too - Florence and the Machiene
Afire Love - Ed Sheeran
Cold Arms - Mumford and Sons
Loose Control - Matt Simons
Born In a Taxi - Blk Sonshine
Then Ok - Julia Nunes
Clean - Taylor Swift (link to Kina Grannis cover as the original isn't availble)
New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
7 - Catfish and the Bottlemen
Can't Give It Up - Ekkah
The Missing - Cassius
Sexual - Neiked
400 Lux - Lorde
To Build A Home - The Cinematic Orchestra
Late Night Tales Continuous Mix - Bonobo

The Spotify Playlist

I hope you enjoy listening to these as much as I have!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

My Bookish 2017 Goals

I am someone who is fairly goal driven and I like to give myself tasks for personal improvement every now and then. The new year is a very cliched time to do this, admittedly, but if we can't enjoy a little cliche then what can we enjoy?!

At the beginning of this year I set my self some personal reading goals, which included reading more non-fiction, reading more diversely, and reading more short stories/plays/poetry/non-novels. Some of these goals have been a success (non-fiction books have made up a sizable chunk of this years reading list) and some have been less so (there are only a couple of non-novels on my list... whoops). With that in mind, I thought I would set myself five public goals, to spur on my 2017 reading...

1) Read more non-novels! Yes, this is going straight back on the list as it is something I am desperate to do. I have a short story collection on my TBR shelf already and I've got a play on my kindle ready to go, so I'm hoping to start off the year on the right foot. I also want to read at least one graphic novel this year, as well as more magazines.

2) Read more diversely. Another repeat goal. This was a goal I completed with relative success this year, but I want to improve even further next year. I read significantly fewer books by white men and significantly more by women - mostly because I graduated from university so could choose my own reading list! However, people of colour and LGTBQ authors didn't get as much of a look in as I would have liked, so I'm going to focus on reading more from these groups in the coming 12 months.

3) Re-read! I used to love re-reading books but I haven't in so long. This year I have re-read two books (Paper Towns and We Were Liars) and I really enjoyed the experience. I want to re-read Pride and Prejudice, the Harry Potter Series, and NW next year (at the very least).

4) Review more books. I hinted at a video project in my last book review and I'm going to hint again here! I'll reveal more in the new year, but I'll say that it will be mostly going down on Instagram... I really enjoy recording what I read and reviews are the perfect way to do that.

5) Read more! This year, as the time of writing, I have read 32 books, with a further seven (7!!) that I am part way through. I'm going to aim for a solid 40 next year - fingers crossed I can make it. I used to read a book a week, so it really shouldn't be that difficult but we shall see.

What are your bookish goals for 2017?

Friday, 16 December 2016

16 of 2016 - Favourite Books, Cruelty Free Beauty, and Other!

The end of the year is finally upon us (well, almost) and this little blog post has become somewhat of a tradition. I'll admit, it was a little harder picking out favourites this year than it has been in the past. 2016 hasn't been kind to anyone - personally, politically, and emotionally this year has been fraught with turbulence - however there is certainly some good in all that bad. As usual, I'm splitting this list (much like this blog) into books, beauty, and other. So, here goes...


1. Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari - I read this book in the first half of the year and it has stuck with me ever since. Witty and lighthearted, this book explores heterosexual romance and the way finding 'one true love' has changed in the past century or so. I'd really recommend this book to anyone interested in the way humans form relationships, as well as anyone who is looking for an 'easy in' to non-fiction writing.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir - This is somewhat of a cheat entry because I'm including the film as well as the book. The Martian was one of my biggest surprises - I watched the film because people had said it was good, expecting to enjoy it but not love it. Instead, I laughed my way through the whole experience and went about recommending it to everyone I could! The book was a similar experience and the two are perfectly interlinked in my memory.

3. Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill - I'd been wanting to read Louise O'Neill for a while so I was very happy when my sister gave it to me for my birthday. This is by no means an easy read: set in a dystopian world where girls are 'made' rather than born, there are schools for girls to train them to become perfect wives, concubines, or celebate teachers. This story follows one girl (and one year group) as they battle with body issues, social shaming, and boys - it's a scary look into the way that we view relationships and what constitutes the 'perfect woman'.

4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - This was another surprise for me, as I expected this to be fusty old classic that I was forcing myself to read 'because I should' rather than because I'd enjoy it. I fell head over heels in love with this book and these characters. Scout, Jem, and Atticus are all perfect characters - all of them flawed but all of them trying to do right by themselves. The story is told from Scouts perspective as she grows up to learn what a good man her father, Atticus, is, as well as the unjustness of the world around her.

5. Sweet Home by Carys Bray - I was trying to read more short story collections this year and, though this was the only one I got around to, Sweet Home has made me want to continue in that endeavour. The stories in this collection centre around family and relationships and they are all touching and heartbreaking in their own little way. I am excited to read more work by Carys in 2017, as well as more short stories!

6. The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss - This was the stand out book of the year for me. Told from the perspective of a father whose daughter stops breathing, this book examines what it means for life to go on. I really want to re-read this book now, as I read in at a stage in the year when I felt fairly invincible (not only pre-Brexit and pre-Trump but also prior to an event which has changed the way I view mortality forever) and I think my reaction would be markedly different. I think I would appreciate this book more on a re-read and, if possible, love it a little more too.


7. Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks - These have been the standout products of 2016 for me and they practically haven't left my face since I bought them at the start of September. You can read my review here.

8. Real Techniques Beauty Blender - This little orange sponge has changed the way I apply cream make-up. I hardly ever wear foundation but, when I used to hate how awkward it was to apply with a brush or with my fingers. Now I feel so much more confident when wearing it. I also wear concealer under my eyes every day and applying with this has made my concealer last longer and look better.

9. Arbonne FC5 Oil Absorbing Day Lotion - I only got this towards the end of the year but it has definitely been my favourite daily-use skincare product! I had been having a real struggle finding cruelty free moisturisers that weren't too heavy or didn't break me out whilst still providing my skin with moisture and this one ticked all my boxes. It is a little bit pricier than my usual (£30 rather than between £3 and £10) but it has been worth it for me.

10. The Balm Mary Lou-Manizer - I have used this product every single day since I bought it and I'm only just starting to hit pan. I love it!

11. Curly Locks by Phil Smith Be Gorgeous - This is a cheat because this is a range rather than an individual product. I had been looking for new cruelty free shampoos and conditioners in the supermarket because my usual choices were all from city shops (I don't live far from my local city but it would always mean a trip out to get products rather than just adding them to my (mum's) weekly shop). The Phil Smith Be Gorgeous range is exclusive to Sainsbury's, cruelty free, and appears to have ticked all my boxes! I especially like the Curly Locks Spray, which I use before diffusing my hair... speaking of which...

12. BaByliss Pro Speed 2100W - I never thought I'd see the day that a hair dryer made it into my daily hair routine and yet here we are! Use this hair dryer with its diffuser attachment every single day and it gives my hair the volume I've been desperately craving without giving me frizz - yay!


13. Travel - I have been lucky enough to go on four fantastic holidays this year and I really have caught the travelling bug. I kicked off the year with a once in a lifetime tour around South Africa - I still want to write a mini travel guide for this trip as there were some huge highlights that I don't think anyone should miss out on when visiting this stunning country. My next trip was a four day city break to Munich! One of my best friends was living there for a few months studying, so I paid her a visit and explored the city at the same time. I'd really recommend visiting the city in summer as the weather was divine and perfect for laying out in a beer garden! The third trip was a family holiday to New York City for my Dad's 50th. This was such a whirlwind trip and we really hit all the highlights - you read my attraction highlights here and my food highlights here. My final trip was a quick getaway to Portugal with a couple of my best friends, more to get some sun than to explore the culture (although we ate some great food).

14. Watsky - I don't think this will be a surprise to anyone that Watsky is on my list of 2016 favourites! His music has meant a lot to me during a few pivotal moments in my life and, once again, when things hit their lowest Watsky was there to lift me up again. I wish I had been able to stick around after his show to shake his hand (unfortunately we had a train to catch) but, judging by his past it won't be too long before he is back!

15. Plants - Whilst I was at university I really began to appreciate the importance of greenery. I had moved from the countryside to the city and I was missing the foliage both inside and outside. Since moving back home I have purchased and been gifted a number of plants and I love them all very dearly! I probably don't look after them as I should but their little green presence in my room does wonders for me - especially in the colder and darker months.

16. Nutri-Bullet - I got my Nutri-Bullet for Christmas last year and I think it is probably my most used Christmas present ever. I have used it every single weekday (well, almost) for the entire year and I can't imagine life without it!

What are your 16 of 2016?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Girly Cruelty Free Date Night Makeup - Winter 2016

A lot of the makeup looks I see around this time of the year tend to go one of two ways. Either they are focused on golds and plums, or they are anchored around a smokey eye and bright red lip. Whilst I love these two looks, they are very striking and sometimes I feel the need to lean towards something a little softer. I actually love paler looks for the winter, especially when paired with cream coloured knitwear. This is my girly winter date night look!

Products Used:

Brows - NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Ash Brown
Eyeshaddow - Makeup Revolution Light and Dark Eye Contour Palette
Mascara - Arbonne It's A Long Story
Eyeliner - NYX Matte Liquid Liner
Concealer - Hema Longer Lasting
Highlighter - The Balm Mary Lou-Manizer
Bronzer - Makeup Revolution
Blush - Hema Satin Blush
Pressed Powder - GOSH BB Powder
Lips - Charlotte Tilbury Lip Liner Pillow Talk

I've added a highlight to the corner of my eye, as I think it really helps to open up my face. I've used a super neutral shade across the majority of my lid (it's a stunning peachy colour in the palette) and have gone in a rusty brown in my crease. I've also blended in a slightly cooler toned brown, too, to stop things straying too far towards the red end of the spectrum. To finish the eye I added a delicate flirty cat-eye flick (I've missed this look) and lashings of mascara. 

The lip liner is definitely one of the pricier elements of the makeup look, but if you're treating yourself this Christmas I really recommend investing in it. It's the best neutral lip I've found and it really is a 'your lips but better' kind of effect.

I've been a big fan of this blush and highlighter combination. The blush has a gentle glow to it alone, but the highlighter really adds another dimension. I've brought the highlighter onto my brown bone, too. I love the stronger brow look in the winter months but I have tried to tone it down a little for this look.

I couldn't resist whacking a filter or two on my favourite selfie! I love the way a filter can highlight certain elements of the look or neutralise other elements and I don't think there's any shame in using them!

Let me know if you have a go at this look - and any products you'd swap out to get the same effect!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

#reviewsdaytuesday The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I was lucky enough to be sent this book for review by the lovely people at Ebury (thank you) a couple of months ago. I actually finished it and filmed a short video about it  (I'm working on a video book review project which will be launching in the new year) a month or so ago, but I've finally gotten around to writing up my thoughts!

The book arrived in this beautiful wrapping paper!

The Bear and the Nightingale is set in middle-ages Russia, in a remote Northern Town. The story follows a young girl, Vasya, from birth to early womanhood (approximately 13-15) in time when the the community she knows and the home she grew up in is changing wildly.

Early in the story we see Vasya's mother die during childbirth, her older siblings move out and become married off, and her father take on a new (much younger) wife at the bequest of the Russian royal family. The new wife is deeply religious and is greatly troubled by the spirit world. Vasya is deeply connected to the spirit world and is born with an ability to see and communicate with the demons who care for and protect the house and community. An ardent priest also moves to the village at the same time and the villagers begin to listen to his teachings. The priest teaches the people to fear the demons, to fear the magical elements of the world that they don't fully understand, and in turn those elements begin to fear and resent the people.

This book is very much about the battle between old and new, as well as the battle between fear and trust. The fear in the book is caused by a lack of understanding (and an unwillingness to learn) - anyone who is not on the side of 'good' is immediately on the side of 'evil' and anyone who challenges this binary way of thinking is rejected from the community. The voices that speak the loudest in the book - which are not necessarily the voices who know the most - are treated as the voices of authority.

Although it is set many years ago, the themes of this book actually speaks to the things we're seeing in society right now and I couldn't help but notice the many mirrors it was holding up to the world today. It's really obvious that book has been heavily influenced by Russian fairy tales so I think it is fitting that it transforms into a fable-like text. It warns of the dangers of fear, it warns of the dangers of listening to the voice that speaks the loudest, it warns of the dangers of scaremongering.

I enjoyed reading this book - it didn't necessarily grip me but it was a pleasant reading experience - but the further away I have come from reading it the more I have enjoyed it. I'm glad I waited before writing a review, because I needed the distance to realise exactly what the book was doing. It is much more than a 'coming of age' story and I'd recommend giving it a read. Also, not least because this book is set in northern Russia, it is the perfect 'curl up by the fire' kind of read, too!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is published on the 27th January 2017 by Ebury Press.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Vic's Tips - How To Pack For A City Break - Toiletries

As I said in my previous Vic's Tips for City Breaks post, I've been luck enough to go on several four-day city breaks over the past couple of years. Whilst I'm pretty confident that I've got my clothing choices down, I still struggle somewhat with my toiletries. This is mostly because I'm a girl who not only likes her makeup but also has several stages when it comes to hair care. It's bad enough that I can't take my diffuser with me, let alone if I had to leave behind anything else! (As an aside, I'm going to be posting an updated 'everyday hair routine' post soon as it feels like a lifetime ago since I wrote one).

However, there are a few things I have picked up over the years which I thought I'd share with you today. Remember, the UK has a liquids allowance for hand luggage. You cannot carry bottles with over 100ml of liquid in them in your hand luggage and all you liquid has to fit into one clear 20cm by 20cm bag.

1) Travel Size Bottles. I know all those miniatures that line the queue are very sweet and tempting but trust me: miniature products are over-priced and you can get by without them. Instead, I recommend investing in a good kit of travel sized bottles. I invested in a LifeVenture Travel Bottle Kit, which contained three bottles, one spray pump, and two screw-top tubs. This comes in a zip bag, which I've never used because I take a lot more than these items, but the bottles are a really good starting point for me to decant other toiletries into.

2) Shampoo and Conditioner. If you're travelling with a friend, I really recommend compromising on these and trying to share out the shampoo and conditioner between you both. Unless you have super thick hair, you'll never get through 100ml in only a handful of days. Sharing between two of you will still probably leave you with loads left over and you'll be amazed with how little product you actually need. The same goes with toothpaste and shower gel.

3) Don't overestimate. 100ml is actually a lot more than you think. You'll probably be surprised how many of the products you own are already in bottles smaller than 100ml and, if you can fit them in, I'd recommend taking products in their original bottles where possible. This saves on wasted product. as I always loose some of the product during my transfer between different bottles. Similarly, pare down your skin and hair care routines as much as possible. You're not going to suddenly break out if you go a handful of days without properly exfoliating! I usually decant some miceller water into a 100ml bottle and use that as a two-in-one makeup remover and cleanser. I also always take a flannel with me. This way you know you have something clean to wash and dry your face with and I make a point of rinsing my face before and after using the miceller water.

4) Makeup. You probably won't need to significantly reduce the amount of makeup you take assuming that you're like me and the majority of your makeup is powder based. Eyeshaddows, blushers, brow pencils, setting powders - there are all powders and don't need to be included in your liquids bag. Lipsticks/glosses/balms, mascaras, liquid eyeliners - these are all products that you have to think about when you're packing your bag. I usually only take one lipstick, one lip balm, my mascara, and my concealer. I'm not a foundation girl, but if you are you might want to think about that too.

5) Samples. Ask in shops as samples are a great way to get miniature bottles of things without paying above and beyond. Lush is a great company for giving out samples - so long as you don't take the mickey they are often more than happy to give you samples of a couple of products to try out. Some perfume companies also give out miniatures, which is a great way to include perfume into your bag without taking up loads of space.

6) Buy it. Another thing I like to remember when I'm packing toiletries is that it isn't the end of the world if I forget something. If you're staying in a hotel, they usually provide small shampoos, conditioners, and body washes as standard. If you're staying with a friend, ask in advance if you can borrow their stuff for the couple of days you're there. Otherwise, you can probably buy a cheap as chips option when you're out there and leave it for the next person who is in need!

Here's a run down of everything I take in my toiletries bag...

R&B Hair Moisturiser
Phil Smith Curly Locks Spray
Miceller Water
Lip Balm

Toothy Tabs (I use this instead of toothpaste)
Eyeshaddow Pallette
Setting Powder
Brow Pencil
Makeup Sponge and Brushes
Eyelash Curler

I hope that helps! What are your top tips for travelling light with toiletries?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Vic's Tips - How To Pack For A City Break - Clothing

I've been lucky enough to travel abroad a handful of times over recent years and four-day city breaks have turned into one of my favourite ways to explore the world. However, the only downside of a short city break is knowing what to pack. Having the right combination of options whilst still staying in your hand luggage limit can be tricky, but I like to think that I've got it fairly sorted.

1) Bottoms. Depending on the time of year it will depend on what exactly you bring but my general rule of thumb is one pair of jeans or shorts and one pair of trousers. You can interpret this how you want but if I'm going somewhere warm I like to have a full length loose trouser to cover up with and if I'm going somewhere cooler I like a smarter trouser option for evenings. You might be tempted to stick with the trousers you're traveling in - especially if you travelling in jeans and you're not going anywhere that you want to get your legs out - but trust me; if you only take one pair of trousers you will spill something on them (probably before you've left the airport) and you'll have to walk around with a huge ketchup stain on your crotch for the rest of your holiday! You can, of course, swap the alternative trouser option out for a skirt - it is up to you.

If you're worried about running out of room or weight, remember what you're going to wear to travel in. Jeans (and jacket) are often the heaviest thing that I take with me when travelling and I almost always wear them on the plane. This frees up space in my luggage, so realistically I'm only packing my alternative bottom option - even though I'll have both with me when I'm away.

2) Tops. I usually stick with t-shirts when I'm travelling. They go with everything, they can be tucked into high waisted options or left loose, and you can dress them up or down. At the very least, I'll have one white, one grey, and one dark t-shirt. I might also throw in a patterned tee, or a slightly smarter shirt, but these tend to be more restricted in how you can mix and match them with your bottoms. 

3) Dress. I almost always take at least one dress with me when I travel. In the winter this might mean taking a pair of thick tights, too. Dresses are perfect if you suddenly find yourself eating out at a smarter restaurant and, even when worn with trainers, they can make you feel more put-together than your jet-lagged self really is! If you're going somewhere warm, you can always pack more dresses and fewer tops and bottoms, as summer dresses are ultra-versatile and easy to wear.

With all of these three, I find that it is best to pack options but be realistic. You might love a specific t-shirt but if you know it only goes with one of your bottoms, leave it at home. Similarly, that strappy body-con dress might look great on a night out but if you're not planning on hitting the town it probably won't see the light of day on your holiday.

4) Underwear. This is one area when I would much rather over pack than under pack. As someone who has a menstrual cycle, I always pack a couple of extra pairs of pants. Even if I know that I'm not going to come onto my period, unexpected spotting can happen at any time and I don't want to be walking around with that in my pants all day long - if I can help it! Packing extra pairs of socks is also important, especially if you're going to be spending a lot of time on your feet. Nothing feels nicer than changing socks if your feet have been stuck in sweaty trainers all day long and it is a quick way to freshen up without having to take a shower. Although I over pack socks and pants, I tend to err towards under packing bras. Realistically, I don't change my bra all that often, so I don't need a new one each day I'm away. Bear in mind that you'll probably be wearing one on the plane, so it is up to you if you'd like another option with you. If you've packed any strappy clothing you might want to take a multi-way bra or if you're wearing a lot of white you might want a nude bra in your arsenal, but it really is up to you.

5) Jackets. As I said when talking about jeans, remember you'll probably be wearing this to the airport, especially if you're heading off for some winter sun. Even if you're going somewhere warm, it pays to have a jacket with you to cover up with. Personally, I tend to take my leather biker jacket. This is another item that you can dress up or down as you like and it is both warm and a little bit waterproof. If I’m headed somewhere I know will be warm, I also take a super lightweight cover-up style jacket. Recently, this has been my bomber, as it is silky (so it looks smart) and lightweight (so I won’t overheat).

6) Shoes. If you’re going somewhere where you want to walk and explore, packing comfortable footwear is a must. For me, that means a pair of trainers. Not only are trainers engineered to support your feet, but they are also usually ultra-lightweight too. If you’re not a trainer fan, or you’re not going to be doing a tonne of walking, I recommend a solid pair of Converse. These shoes are versatile and comfortable enough to wear for hours on end. I almost always pack a pair of smarter shoes, too. Again, these are just in case I find myself out at a smarter restaurant. The shoes you wear can smarten or scruffen up outfit, so they are a lightweight and low-space way of packing outfit options.

7) Pyjamas! This is one item that is so easy to forget, but it is absolutely essential to take. It’s completely up to you how you go with this one but if you’re staying in a hostel with a shared room you might want to take something a little more covered up…

8) Optional Extras. Once you’ve packed up all your clothes, toiletries, and any electrical items you might need, you can start adding in alternatives. This is usually the point of packing when I throw in my extra t-shirt, a skirt, and any other items that I had initially cast aside.

As an aside, it pays to have a system for packing – especially if you’ll be living out of your suitcase for the duration of your holiday. I tend to pack all my underwear in one end of my suitcase, under my spare bottoms and toiletries. At the other end of my suitcase, I’ll pack all my top options – as well as any dresses. This makes finding clothing simple and I don’t have to play a game of jenga each time I want to put together an outfit.

That’s it for the clothing! I mentioned toiletries at the end there and I was originally going to talk about these here too but, on reflection, I’ll save that for another day.

Are you going away for any short city breaks? Do you have any top packing tips that you think I missed?

Monday, 21 November 2016

Cruelty Free Everyday Winter Makeup - 2016

I have an office job and I like to wear makeup. The combination of these means that I'm drawn to very wearable and quick to apply makeup looks that not only look nice but are also fairly neutral. I've been wearing this combination of products on my face almost every single day this month and I think it is a very lovely classic look which would suit a range of complexions.

Rather than showing you each of the products I used, I'm just going to show you the finished face and I'll also talk you through some of the themes of the look that I've gone for, so you can recreate it using the makeup you already own. It goes without saying that all the products I've used are cruelty free, however, so I will make a note of some of my favourites.

The first element of this makeup look that I'd like to mention is my blush. This is a much more blush-heavy look than my usual but I think it works great for warming up my face in the colder months (figuratively, if not literally). The blush I'm wearing is farily purple toned, so it gives a berry-hue, and it has a satin finish, which just adds a little extra dimension to my face.

The next element of my face that I want to focus on are my brows. I recently invested in the NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Ash Brown and I've been loving it. It is so quick and easy to use and it has really helped me shape my brows. Similarly to my blush, I fill my brows a little more in the colder months. This is partly because I wear high necks, scarves, and hats in the winter, so creating something bolder and more structured on my face stops me from getting lost in all that material.

My eyeshaddow is another element that had deepened with the colder weather. Rather than the pale peach nude of autumn, I've transitioned into a light grey. I also run a darker grey through my crease, which again gives me that little more dimension. The closer to Christmas it gets, the more glitter I'll introduce into this look but, for the time being, matte has been my way forward.

The final element of this look is, of course, the lips. I'm using Kat Von D's Lolita, which I have been loving. This is a really build-able liquid lipstick and I just run the lightest layer over my lips to give them a super natural hint of colour. This lipstick perfectly complements the purple tone in my blush and really finishes the look - for me at least!

Let me know what you think of this makeup look! What's your 'go-to' winter face at the moment?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Cruelty Free Beauty Favourites - Winter 2016

Like most people, my skin changes wildly between winter and summer. I am such a summer child and my skin love that vitamin D. Not only do I generally have much clearer skin in the summer but the sun also appears to calm down my skin condition, too. In the winter it is a different story. Being sat in a office with the heating on all day really exacerbates the natural oiliness of my skin, so I find myself having to take lots of steps to counteract this. However, the cold air outside really dries me out, especially my lips and hands, so I'm constantly applying moisturiser to counteract this. This year I've bought a handful of new products to try and get me through this conflicting winter skin and I've been really enjoying them so far - so I thought I'd share them with you.

The first product that I've been loving is the Arbonne FC5 Oil Absorbing Day Lotion with SPF 20. This is significantly more expensive than my usual moisturiser choices but it is also by far and away my favourite cruelty free moisturiser to date. It applies really nicely and leaves my skin feeling smooth and soft, without feeling greasy. My one issue with this moisturiser is that it claims to leave a matte appearance, which it certainly does not. I am yet to find an SPF product which is also matte and I just kind of wish that products like this would stop making this claim! Other than that, I love this product and will definitely be re-purchasing.

The second product is Superdrug's Clearly Youthful AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cream Cleanser. I became interested in this product range after seeing a post from Steph several months ago and this was one of the products I picked up. I use it at night, after my coconut oil cleanse, the remove any of the residual grease and makeup that might be on my face - and I have to say that I've really noticed a difference in my skin! When I first started using this product I was having a lot of issues with uneven skin on my forehead - this has practically gone away. I actually need to repurchase this, since I'm almost out, but it's got a big thumbs up from me! The only thing to note about this product is that it is an acid exfoliant, so you do need to use SPF after. 

I popped into Boots a couple of weeks ago and saw they had a sale on Soap and Glory skincare, so I thought I'd give them a try! The first product that caught my eye was this Total Drama Clean Magnetizing Miceller Make Up Remover. This comes in a huge pink bottle and it smells very sweet - almost too sickly for my liking but I know plenty of people would love this. I use this on days when I'm too lazy to use coconut oil, as well as when I've been travelling, and it does a fairly decent job. It's probably the best miceller water I've tried so far (I'm probably going to do a cruelty free comparison post about this soon) but it's by no means the miracle worker that I hear about from other, non-cruelty free products. 

The second Soap and Glory product I bought was their Scrub Your Nose In It Facial Scrub. I love the packaging of this - the tube is more like a toothpaste tube than a traditional plastic packaging, which makes it super easy to get every single bit of product out! I also much prefer the smell of this product - it's a lot fresher and cleaner than most other Soap and Glory stuff. It comes out in the same green which is on the packaging and it is a very finely gritty formula. This really makes it feel like its getting right into my pores - without feeling harsh on my skin. What's more, this grit is a diatomaceous earth mix, which means that it isn't going to be super nasty for the environment either! I use this scrub in the shower each morning. 

The final product that I picked up and have been really enjoying is this Boots Tea Tree and Witch Hazel with Active Charcoal Facial Mask. I've been looking for  new face mask for a while, so I thought I'd give this one a shot. I've only used it a handful of times, so I can't say for certain how amazing it is or isn't, but I've been liking the results so far. It's not as obviously oil-pulling as other masks that I've used but it defiantly leaves my skin feeling softer and smoother, which is always a bonus.

This has all bee very face focused, so I'd like to give a quick shout out to the other prodict which has been helping me through the winter. When my lovely Katie told me that Palmer's was cruelty free I was super happy, as they were a brand I had loved before but had assumed were not cruelty free. If I'd looked a little closer, I would have seen that it said 'Against Animal Testing' right there on the package! I've been loving their Intensive Relief Hand Cream and actually need to buy a new tube because I've almost completely ran out! I massage a big dollop of this into my hands (focusing on my cuticles) every night before bed, letting it full soak in through the night, so I wake up with ultra-soft hands. I'm actually going to get an extra tube of this to have in the office at work, too!

I'd also like to mention the LaVanila Healthy Deodorant. This is one of the most hyped products in the natural and cruelty free community, so when I went to New York I knew I had to pick it up. I really like it and have been getting on with it so far, although I think I might struggle in the summer when things get a little sweatier. I've got it in the Lavender Vanilla scent, which has a nice mix of herbal and sweet for me, but I think I might invest in the Sports Luxe version for the warmer/sweatier months!

What have been your cruelty free favourites so far this winter?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Non-Fiction November TBR

As many of you will know already, November in the book blogging community is known as Non-Fiction November. The main premise of this month is to read more non-fiction that you would do usually. There aren't any reading goals, the only aim is to read more non-fiction than you would do normally. I've been trying to ready more non-fiction this year and I've really been enjoying it, so this month felt like the perfect reading challenge for me this year.

There are three books that I'd like to get to this month.

The first of these is Shame and Wonder by David Searcey. These are a series of short essays, stories, and musings on humanity and the human experience. I'm already half way through and really enjoying it so far.

The second of these is a book that I started earlier in the year and never really got into: The Four Dimensional Human by Laurence Scott. This is a book about humanity in the new digital age and I think it could be really interesting, but I need to give myself time to get into it.

The final book that I want to get to this month is How To Thrive In The Digital Age, which is part of Pan Macmillian's School of Life series. I've already read How To Stay Sane in the same series and I thought it was really good, so I'm looking forward to reading this one too.

Bonus book:

I if I manage to get through those three, I also have this back-up book, which I definitely want to read by the end of the year. What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund is a very visual books and flicking through it, it reminds me a lot of The Age of Earthquakes, which I loved, so I'm looking forward to reading this.

What non-fiction books are you reading this November?

Friday, 11 November 2016

On Silence, the Power of Voice, and Politics in 2016

I've been thinking a lot about silence recently, especially in light of the two minutes the UK observed at 11am today in order to honour and remember those soldiers who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars, as well as every conflict that has followed. Silence is one of the most powerful tools available to us, yet it is so often forgotten in the face of noise and, more importantly, it is routinely underestimated. This has become painfully apparent in light of both the Brexit vote in the summer and the most recent US presidential election. None of the polls predicted the outcome of either of those votes accurately because of a silent mass of individuals who chose not to let their voice be heard until the moment when it really counted - in the polling station.

So often we are told to speak up, stand up, be counted. Both Brexit and the election campaign were dominated by highly vocal voices, whether that sound was coming from an inflammatory right or a defensive left. Both votes were ultimately won by the silent masses. All too often, silence is conflated with passivity but these instances show that being passive is ultimately being active. In an age when mass communication is the bread and butter of daily life it becomes almost impossible to imagine that anyone can be silent. The truth is, and it might feel blindly obvious to say this, we notice the voices we hear and we forget about the ones we don't. It isn't even that we simply ignore the absence of sound - we simply don't even think to think about it.

This is partly why the internet is so important and it is also why the internet can be so easily abused. It is so easy to get trapped in a bubble of the same opinions and the same thought cycles. The internet amplifies certain voices, giving them precedence over others, as well as muting other voices. However, it also makes us forget that the voiceless exist.

Whether the voiceless are voiceless by choice or because they have no access to the internet or other public, we cannot picture them existing. We cannot even begin. This is why it is so easy to underestimate the power of the silent. It's why the pollsters have gotten it so wrong. We don't even know the silent are there.

I don't even know how to go about hearing people who aren't talking, but we need to start. If we don't listen to them they will never listen to us - and the only way we are going to get through this is by listening and trying to understand what we hear.

I hope that this makes sense. I've been trying to unpack my feelings around the presidential election and I don't know if I'm any closer to understanding what happened - but I would like to at least understand why. If you were anything like me, you would have been sat in a blissful bubble, hearing the vile fear spew from the opposition but comforted by voices around you speaking much, much louder. The shock that I felt when I realised my bubble wasn't as representative of the world as I had hoped was just as devastating as the realisation that the world was heading down the path of fear.

So let's listen and try and hear the silence. Let's try to hear the absent voices.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Pumpkin Carving 101

It's Halloween week, and I'm going to try and make sure each post has a Halloween theme (wish me luck). Now, I'm not claiming to be the world's best pumpkin carver - my art skills in general are not renowned for being fab and once I knife gets involved it is never going to go exactly to plan. However, pumpkin carving is something that I've enjoyed my whole life and for the past two years my sister, my best friend, and I have all gathered for a pumpkin carving extravaganza!

Step 1 - cut out the stalk of your pumpkin. Always try to cut angled up slightly, to give your kid more purchase after it has begun to dry out.

Step 2 - get rid of the slime and seeds (making sure to save some for baking later).

Step 3 - scrape out as much of the flesh as you can be bothered to (make sure to save this for pumpkin soup and pie later)

Step 4 - carve away!

It helps in all of these steps if you have wonderful company and a nice atmospheric backing track/film.

Happy Pumpkin Carving!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Selfie Sunday

This weekend I stayed with my friend in London, which meant I got to sleep in the room with the best lighting ever. This is why I'm gracing you with this literal 'I woke up like this' selfie. It's all about lighting, kids.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Dispatch from the London Train: And Then It Did

I'm sat writing this post on a train to London. By the time you're reading this I'll be there, hanging out with one of my best friends. It's got me thinking how different things feel since the last time I was on a train to London. It was the very end of September and I was on my way to see Watsky, having received what could possibly be the worst news for someone to receive, after a long couple of months of bad news after bad news. I was at the lowest I had been for a long time, possibly ever, and even though I had friends around me it felt like nothing was going to get better. And then it did.

I attribute a lot of my sudden change in mental state to that night. Although I was stuck in a negative cycle I still managed to have one of the best gig experiences that I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Even though in every lull of the show I felt like crying, the atmosphere of the venue and the gig lifted me right up out of it, propelling me to cloud nine.

So much has changed since that night. On the one hand, I wish I could take back many of the things that happened - the vast majority of which I had no control over. On the other, those experiences have wildly changed the way I view the world. They brought me closer to the truth of mortality and they have honestly taught me to appreciate life in a way that I had forgotten. I am writing this a much happier person than I was on that night - still grieving over past events but with a renewed sense of purpose towards the future.

I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I don't mean that everything has to be positive, but that everything has a purpose - even if isn't clear at the time. This isn't an act of devaluing events, nor is it attributing more to something than there is - it is more a matter of taking things as they come, accepting them for what they are, and treating them as such.

Trains are funny things. Taking people forwards, pulling people away. They're a strange in-between place - a waiting room of sorts. Trains are where everything changes and nothing does.

Friday Reads

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Cruelty Free Own Brand Spotlight: Superdrug

One of the biggest things I hear when I tell people that I only buy cruelty free hair, beauty, and skin care products is 'Isn't that expensive?' I think it is because most people associate cruelty free with Lush. This simply isn't the case and, although Lush is a great cruelty free brand, it certainly isn't the only cruelty free brand out there. In fact, if you're not part of the cruelty free community, you'll probably be surprised about how many own brands are cruelty free.

I got the inspiration for this series from my friend Sally (thanks!) and today I thought I'd highlight one of my favourite (and one of the biggest) cruelty free brands out there: Superdrug.

The first thing to say about Superdrug is that they have lots of sub-ranges, which means that you have loads of choice. If you're unsure about whether a product is cruelty free or not, look out for the 'Superdrug star'.

Image result for superdrug star logo

This little star is featured on most of Superdrug's own brand range - with the exception of B. B. is Superdrug's makeup and skincare range and its products are slightly more expensive than the rest of the range.

I've tried out a variety of Superdrug own brand products, so I thought I'd give a little overview about each category here. I'll be delving back into my blog archive for this, so sorry if the picture quality is a little hit and miss!

Hair - This is the one aspect of the Superdrug own brand range that is yet to impress me. The shampoo was fine, the conditioner was meh, and the mousse was so bad I actually threw it out after only a couple of uses.

Body - I've been impressed with both the body wash and the moisturiser in Superdrug's range. The body was is perhaps a tad on the watery side but they have a good range of scents and it is very reasonably priced. The all-body moisturiser I've tried has been great and I actually need to re-purchase soon. I'm also going to mention the dental floss in this section, as I don't know where else to talk about it. I really got on with the whitening floss and I've been meaning to repurchase for a few weeks now - it's by far the best cruelty free floss I've used as it doesn't break up in between my teeth!

Skincare - I've had mixed results with the skincare range, but there are a few products that my face has really loved. I get on very well with the Tea Tree exfoliating scrubs and they are definitely some of my most repurchased products. I've also really liked the B. exfoliator, but it has micro-beads so I won't be purchasing it. I've had less success with the moisturiser, but for many years (pre-coconut oil) the Vitamin E eye makeup remover was my go-to.

Make-Up - As I said, Superdrug's make-up falls under the B. brand. I've had mixed results with the brand, but I really like their pressed powders and bronzers. I know my sister likes their lipsticks (although I find they lack staying power) and she rates their nail polish too. My stand-out product has to be their eye shimmers though, and there was a VERY long phase where they were my go-to daily product. In fact, I might just search them out again, now that the festive season is upon us.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Instagram Recommendations

I love Instagram, which was somewhat of a shock to me. I've always believed that I've been most drawn to text-based creativity, but the second I downloaded the app I was hooked. I spent much of my first year or so on the app following my friends, other bloggers, and celebrities. However, more recently I've tried to transform Intsagram into a place where I can get creative inspiration, as much as anything else. I thought I'd share with you my favourite Instagram finds. Some of these are big names, some have smaller followings. There is a loose theme of art, landcapes, plants, and illustrations. Enjoy!

A photo posted by Phaidon (@phaidonsnaps) on

A photo posted by On The Road. (@edriicc) on

A photo posted by 🌿The Jungalow™ (@thejungalow) on

A photo posted by Claire Frances B (@lila_wild) on

A photo posted by JeSsIe CaVE (@jessiecave) on

A photo posted by Underground Gallery Norwich (@undergroundnorwich) on

A photo posted by Bonobo (@si_bonobo) on

A photo posted by C E R E A L (@cerealmag) on

A photo posted by Catrin (@c.e.pod) on