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.