Monday 30 September 2013

Autumn/Winter Clothing 2013: Part Two: Back to Work Special

I have quite a busy week this week which leaves me a bit distracted. I've been off work ill for almost a year and tomorrow I will be returning. I will be doing a phased return so this week I only do two days, tomorrow and Wednesday. I can't help but feel nervous and slightly scared. I've distracted myself with planning what to wear, some items I've bought this year (I will link if still available) others have been in my wardrobe for a while and here are the three options.

Dress Topshop tall, Jacket ASOS £35.00, Boots Office, Bag & Socks Topshop
I bought this jacket for a wedding, I needed something loose as it wasn't long after I'd had an operation so another shopping spend at ASOS was in order. As soon as it came I knew it could double up as my one and only work jacket. I love the jersey dresses from Topshop, this one is super comfy but even though it is from the tall range it is quite short on me so I'll need tights as well. The boots I bought from Office early this year and are polyurethane, I'd been looking for something like this not made of leather for a while, I wasn't sure about the heel as I have no talent for walking in them but I can walk in these, I wish I would have picked these up in tan too. 

Leopard Top and navy jersey pencil skirt Next, Bag Matt & Nat Blake in mustard - I won this and believe there is only the one in this colour! Pastel green vans and socks Topshop again! 

I love Matt & Nat, they are an ethical vegan range of bags and purses. I've had a purse for a while but in December last year I won this one off design sample, I was over the moon as it is my first proper posh handbag in a sensible colour! The top and skirt I picked up in Next when we were picking up a jade green suit for my partner. Both the top and skit are stretchy and comfy, a winning combination. I love Vans I think for me they slightly trump Converse, certainly better on a skateboard. 

Sweatshirt Topshop, T-shirt Urban Outfitters, Jersey Skirt H&M,  Boots Office, Handbag & socks Topshop
My last and my more usual work look although I would usually go with a longer skirt. I'm a bit lazy with work clothes, I prefer my sleep to getting ready so usually I throw on what is to hand, even if I put things to one side items tend to go missing in the night. I do move around a lot at work so I always wear loose stuff and rarely heels but I am trying to get used to walking in them. 

At least I have some outfits planned, it might be one of them or a combination of all. I think whether I wear heels will all come down to whether I'm running on time for the bus. Fingers crossed! 

Sunday 29 September 2013

A Metaphorical Journey Which Also Represents an Actual Journey i.e. my Confusing World of Weight Loss

It is time for me to bite the bullet, a lot of things are changing this week and I can't put off the inevitable, that being losing more weight. Before I go into where I am with the whole weight loss journey I think a back story about my yo-yo years is in order to understand why I now happily post baking recipes but am also very much into fitness.

Before I go into my personal story I just wanted to share my thoughts on diets and the pressure but on young girls, women and even men. Obviously I'm not happy about it, I think we have so much pressure to be perfect it's sickening. The rubbish we have to read in magazines about special diets, special foods, quick fixes is disgusting and all exist to sell a product in one way or another. We should be happy with ourselves and only change things for ourselves, whether that is feeling comfortable in your clothes, health but never for someone else. I hate fat shaming as much as I hate skinny shaming, weight plays too much of a precedence in our lives.

Time to rewind the clock some 13 years back to my late teens. I gained a ton of weight, okay not literally but I put on a few stone at first I didn't care but it started to get me down and I felt like I really needed to lose weight. At first I started to sensibly cut out 'bad' foods, this worked, I lost some weight and I felt better but I really wanted to be within my healthy range so I started working harder at it. As I got closer to my target weight my weight loss slowed down, this frustrated me beyond belief, I started to cut more and more out of my diet. I developed a serious problem.

By my early twenties I was at my ideal weight, I actually managed to get down below it and I looked terrible. My skin was sallow, I was bony but with saggy skin, to me my face still looked round, fat and I have such a heavy frame to go along with being tall I was never happy, I had no energy and my weight was out of control, if I ate a tiny bit more than usual I would gain. I'm sure you can see the problem here, I was starving myself on purpose. I would work out hard before eating a meal, even at a friends house. I would skip meals altogether, some days I wouldn't eat a thing and sometimes lunch would consist of a cucumber.

I was a vegetarian, I still am, and I'd got it into my head that I couldn't eat any carbohydrates so I skipped - I didn't really think about the amount of carbohydrates in fruit so I did no carbs would be a false statement to be honest I just didn't eat pasta, bread, potatoes, crisps, cake, crackers, biscuits, rice. I would still drink alcohol normally at the weekend, I don't know how underweight I would have been if I didn't have a social life but my meals were little or non-existent if I could get away with it. To this day I can still remember my usual daily diet :-

  • breakfast: skipped
  • 10am: small banana
  • lunch: half a packet of Quorn thin sliced ham and a tomato. Sometimes a low fat yoghurt
  • 2pm: possibly another banana
  • tea: either a hard boiled egg when I was being 'good' or 2 eggs a bit of milk and some peas to make an omlette
Wash that down with copious black coffee, green tea and water.

I would do frantic sit-ups before a "big" meal, I would see accidental spillages of food as a sign I shouldn't eat. I would cry, beat myself up and scratch away at my skin. I was an emotional wreck.

My body gave up, I became so weak I couldn't get out of bed but I was fortunate as I didn't suffer as much as some people. I became relatively normal quite quickly, or so I thought,  it has actually taken me a decade to get my relationship with food back on track and my weight. I pulled myself out of it, possibly too quickly. I started to eat more, around 1500 calories a day and with that I gained weight, I thought this wouldn't be an issue but my mind went into overload, my emotions were everywhere and even briefly ate meat again as I thought it would make my life easier, it didn't. I was so distressed by the weight gain I would eat so little in the week and then binge at the weekend and my weight was still climbing. I was highly distressed and I felt like I was snowballing out of control, I was right to think that because I was. 

I started to become less active, I was really struggling and then I became ill. This may have been my saving grace. A benign tumour was found in my kidney along with cysts on my ovaries - double bonus! After they found the tumour to be growing I was sent into hospital for an embolisation. It was only when recovering at home early last year that I finally got my relationship with food sorted. A doctor actually annoyed me by suggesting I should eat as little as 1000 calories a day as normal diet, he did say he wasn't a nutritionist and wasn't sure, although I knew I needed to lose weight this irritated me as I knew I would eat as little as that in the week anyway, sometimes less. The line between what was normal and what was low was so close I decided I needed to look into things properly.

I'd been logging my food when I was starving myself but decided I wanted to do it again just to see if I was slipping up anywhere. It was while I was trying to use a rather outdated, weak food diary that I stumbled upon MyFitnessPal - I joined January last year and haven't looked back.

Being able to log things accurately really helped me, I know this sounds strange but I actually had to up my calories to keep on top of my weight loss I entered the site thinking I was special with special problems but I am now happy to say I'm just normal. Sure I count calories, I even weigh my food, to some people this may seem like extreme dieting but I much prefer to weigh my pizza rather than avoid it altogether I don't see food as the enemy now, nothing is avoided I instead believe in everything in moderation. 

I do worry when I see magazines aimed at women suggesting extreme faddy diets, these diets are dangerous, they create more problems than they solve. They nearly always lead to yo-yoing and eventually the body gives up and you just can't lose any more weight. Food shouldn't be seen as the enemy, it should be enjoyed and nobody should be made to feel guilty about eating a Tunnocks teacake. When anything is off limit it always makes it more tempting, having a little bit now and then helps avoid binging on the goods at a later date. I eat a myriad of 'junk' food but I also eat a number of healthy foods, I have balance, I try to have balance everyday but if a special event occurs or even if I just want to do a 24 hour movie marathon I'll just indulge. 

I'm over halfway through my journey. By October last year I'd lost 48lbs, there was still a way to go but when I became ill, barely able to move, instead of panicking and decreasing my calories to counterbalance my inactivity I increased my calories to maintenance level (around 2000). Previously I had been netting around 1500/1600 calories a day although usually consuming 2000 thanks to exercise! I'd just adjusted my daily calories allowance to be an average over the week so TDEE with exercise included and a slight cut rather than the MFP method of allocated calories plus exercise calories - although I think this is wonderful too and helped me lose weight. I've continued with the TDEE and when I was completely bedbound, needing help to use the bathroom, sponge baths, etc. I wasn't really concentrating on losing weight but I adjusted my calorie allowance to around 1800. The fact that I increased my calories not only to lose weight but also when I became ill I credit as the reason for not gaining weight when so immobile, I ate what I liked within my allowance and made sure I enjoyed the foods I loved before hospital. Last week I weighed in for the first time since last year and I'm actually down 3lbs so this is where I am now.

The active badge is on the right hand-side of my blog. Now don't expect to see a huge weight loss from week to week. I'm not at the point where I want to put that much pressure on myself. The plan is to eat the same calories and slowly up the activity. I don't even weigh in weekly. Weight loss should be slow and fairly steady. I'm thinking of the next few months not the next few weeks.

I also want to reclaim the word diet, us humans say diet to refer to skipping food, punishing oneself, basic temporary starvation menthods but when we refer to the diet of other animals we just think of it as what they eat day to day. When I refer to my diet I don't mean a special way of eating for a short term I just mean my day to day food, nothing omitted, it is just what I eat to live. You may have gathered that I don't quite agree with diet diets, they have a place if someone needs to lose weight for surgery or for the seriously obese but for those in need of losing a few lbs a more sensible lifestyle change should be adopted. I want to support women, I don't want anyone to feel ashamed, there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Exercise has also played a huge part. I think everybody always complains that they hate exercise at first but there are so many different things out there something will appeal. I wasn't sure at first what I'd like, I was a big swimmer in my youth but after I perforated an ear drum I was reluctant to swim as much so I needed to find something else. Now I've found there are a number of things I love to do I've missed them so much whilst I've been ill. Standing pilates, normal pilates, yoga, circuit training, jogging, badminton and weight lifting. I just want to get out there but I still have to take it easy. I already have a new exercise to add to the list, boxercise, once I'm well enough. Eventually I'll have an exercise for each day of the week which is fantastic as variety is important. 

One thing I have been able to start doing is walking, I was bed-bound for so long I'm over the moon to be able to get out for a walk, sure they've been fairly short but they'll get longer and steeper. This is where the journey ends, at the beginning of this article I posted a photo I took last week from my walk to represent my metaphorical journey but as mentioned in the title it also represents an actual journey as not only do I walk in this area but it was where I started jogging, it's in a quiet area so nobody to embarrass myself in front of and one day I'll be back to embarrassing myself in front of nobody jogging down that very path. 

Halloween Themed Nails #2 - Pumpkin Nails

Halloween will be upon us and over in no time, I've already done one Halloween look, the Bloodied Talon, but I wanted to have a play around and find something else. This time I did another easy style - somewhat sloppy too - I took the photos straight after doing my nails before tidying up as it was just an experiment. This time I've gone for something more cartoonish and have done Pumpkin nails.

Really simple especially if you're good at doodling on awkward surfaces (I'm not). All I've done is put a couple of coats of orange nail varnish on my nails, I couldn't find the right orange so I've used Ciaté The Glossip and changed the contrast in editing so it looks a bit more orangey for the purposes of demonstrating the look. Once that is just about dry I've used a Barry M nail art pen in black to draw on faces and one black cat to create the effect of a carved pumpkin face. If you wish to have more of a pumpkin look you can try putting a couple of lines down to create roundness along with a bit of green on top to look like the foliage.

Excuse the scruff!

Really easy to do even if you're a bit rubbish like me when it comes to doodles.

Saturday 28 September 2013

MAC + Rick Baker Collection - The Monster's Bride + Spider Queen + Cyber

MAC + Rick Baker Collection

When I saw the MAC + Rick Baker collaboration to say I was excited would be an understatement. I vowed to beg, borrow and steal to get my hands on some of the pieces and luckily I was able to borrow. When I received the email the other day to say the collection was now available to order I was on there within minutes and made the difficult decision on what to buy, within 19 minutes I had completed the check out. Although I won't be recreating some of the full looks I am super pleased with what I did get so I thought I better post my treats here as they arrived this morning! Today has been such a good day I might as well go to bed now as I can't see it getting better.

I opted for the two palettes, I've missed out before on palettes in other collections, they seem to sell the fastest and by 8pm Thursday they had sold out on both although The Monster's Bride is now back in stock. I loved  the palettes so I decided to get straight in there and spend the big money on both the palettes. Then I saw the lipstick, another dark one to add to my collection so that got slipped in the order too. If I had the money I would have bought everything but the palettes were a sensible option.

Spider Queen
Eyeshadow from L to R: Lime, Moss, Deep Purple, Indian Ink, Dusty Purple & Carbon

The Monster's Bride
Eyeshadow from L to R: Mylar, Omega, Bitter, Club, Brun & Carbon

I've always been into wearing green on my eyes due to it being my favourite colour and have been experimenting with purple make-up this year so the Spider Queen palette is very exciting and fun for me whereas The Monster's Bride is a lot more natural and wearable so both are hand clappingly, feet stompingly good. The only duplicate in the palettes is the carbon but it's so practical having two of it isn't bad.

Cyber - with flash - the daylight photos really didn't show the correct colour
Cyber is a really nice dark purple satin shade, very dark but very nice and perfect for this time of year.

A very exciting collection but not for my bank account. I'm really looking forward to trying out different looks with the palettes and when I do I'm sure I'll post.

Has anyone else purchased any of the collection?

Easy Peasy Homemade Soft Pretzels

Getting back to normal means doing the normal things I love, baking is one of them, eating pretzels is another. I love soft pretzels but have never made the effort to make them myself which is terrible considering they aren't sold on every street corner in the UK.

Soft pretzels are surprisingly easy to make, I've always been okay at baking and can easily whip up a pizza dough but for some reason, possibly as they taste divine, I've always considered pretzels to be a bit of a challenge. They really aren't, they are really easy to do the only problem is that it takes a lot of time, a lot of waiting time anyway.

Browsing the internet there are many variations on the recipe. As usual I tend to change things around, take a part from one recipe book and splice with another, I was hoping I could find a recipe online to link to here but as there isn't a match I'll have to type it all up, luckily I have plenty of photos, I always like to document my first time.

Soft Pretzel Ingredients  (to make 12) Gas Mark 6 (200c/400f) 60 Minutes Preparation total but up to 2 hours for the dough to rise

  • 350g Strong white bread flour
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2tsp dried active yeast
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil

For the glaze
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 egg

For cinnamon sugar
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1 egg
  • 60g Caster Sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamom
  • 40g unsalted butter

        For those wishing to know the nutritional value I've used the database on MyFitnessPal and the ingredients/brands shown in the photo I've calculated the following per pretzel, based on dough being divided into 12 pretzels:

        Salted Pretzel: 184 Calories, 32g Carbohydrates, 4g Fat, 1g Saturated Fat, 6g Protein

        Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel: 220 Calories, 38g Carbohydrates, 5g Fat, 3g Saturated Fat, 6g Protein

        I decided to do roughly half salted and half cinnamon sugar, if you wish to do half and half just half the quantity of the last three ingredients for cinnamon sugar. 

        Okay, let's get started!

        The first steps will be familiar if you are a regular baker, we need to get the dough done.

        • Pour 300ml of warm water into a jug, add the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Mix together and leave to sit for 5 minutes.
        • In a large bowl sift together the two types of flour, sugar and salt.
        • Slowly add the yeast mixture to the large bowl, combine with the flour until it forms a soft dough, use a large wooden spoon to begin with but don't be afraid to get your hands stuck in.
        • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, work it, beat it, get it smooth and stretchy. 
        • Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and a tea towel and move to a dry warm place not in direct sunlight. I use under the radiators (never on top) in winter but while the sun is still shining I'll find somewhere in the conservatory out of direct sunlight to hide the bowl. Leave for 1-1.5 hours until the dough has doubled.
        Dough proofing, before and after
        • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch down the dough and work into a long roll - like a swiss roll. Cut the dough into 12 equal sized pieces - if you want smaller pretzels try cutting it into 16 pieces or if you prefer large go for 8. I've done 12 and made a variety of sizes.
        • This is the fun part, roll the dough between your hands to create a long snake, at least 12 inches but preferably longer - don't worry about them being too thin as they will puff out again. The dough should have plenty of stretch thanks to the bread flour so don't worry about being rough with it. I tend to get into a roll and stretch action as shown in the video below.
        How to Stretch and Shape a Pretzel

        Dough Stretching
        • Time to make the pretzel shape. Makes sure you have plenty of flour on your hands as well as the surface. Take both bottom ends of the dough, cross the ends over and then twist around each other again (see video for demonstration) pull up to the top of the pretzel and press down loosely - place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat this step for all the pretzels
        Pretzel Shaping
        • Once done cover the pretzels and trays with cling film, I tend to sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the pretzels so that they don't stick to the cling film. Place in a warm spot like before, leave for 30 minutes until they've puffed up slightly.
        On the trays and covered in cling film for further proofing - the smaller ones were purposefully done smaller - these are the ones used for the cinnamon topping, next time I'll make them a bit bigger and thinner as they really do puff out to close to twice the size whilst proofing although they still work as just a cinnamon bun
        •  While waiting preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200c/400f). Prepare the glaze by mixing the bicarbonate of soda with 4 tablespoons of boiling water.
        • Once the pretzels are puffed up brush them with the bicarbonate of soda mix. If making salted this is the time to sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes.
        Bicarbonate of soda brushed on and a touch of coarse sea salt if doing the salted version
        • Remove pretzels from the oven and brush the beaten egg over them although if you're vegan you can get away with skipping this step as the pretzels are already rather golden at this stage. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes before removing them, they should be golden brown with a shiny finish. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before devouring. If wishing to add cinnamon sugar follow the next simple step.
        Cinnamon sugar topping
        • For a cinnamon sugar topping - melt the butter (butter substitute works just as well) and brush over the top of the pretzels, mix the caster sugar with the ground cinnamon and then either sprinkle over the pretzels or add the sugar mix on a plate and place the pretzel, butter side down, on the sugar, repeat for each of the pretzels.

        Salt to the left, cinnamon to the right
        Soft, doughy, yum yum goodness under the bright flash spotlight

        That's it, really simple but also really delicious! 

        Friday 27 September 2013

        When One Job Finishes Start another, Then another and Possibly Another One

        This week should be my last before starting my phased return to work. It should be a time to build up my strength, get used to a normal day but also to relax a little. So far this week has felt hectic, doctors yesterday, several forms to fill in today, visit to the post office, visit to the post box all with my silly jelly ankles - I hadn't realised how much being bed-bound had effected my ability to walk. So the last think I should be doing is starting another random job but it has been something that has been on my mind for the last couple of years. Organising my CDs!

        Around a third of the CDs dumped on the bed ready for organisation

        I have a pretty substantial record collection and CDs had always been on the sideline, I then starting picking up CD copies of albums I had on vinyl, then something new would come out and I'd have to get that plus I can't resist a good compilation CD. It soon gets very out of hand and for someone that alphabetises their DVDs and Blu-Ray's my CD collection looks like I put everything on the shelves with my eyes closed. It really was time to get it done with and I'm pleased to say my CDs are now organised.

        I didn't want to just put them all alphabetical, instead I have separated styles of music, compilations and also grouped artists together where I own a ton of their stuff. I now have 14 categorised boxes from Jazz, 80's/90's alternative and one I've called 'teenage nostalgia'. Not only that but I've filled the two boxes on my new bookcase in the bedroom that have had the label 'Sunday Music' on them since that bookcase went up. Sunday Music is a bit of a random collection, it isn't Sunday music because it happens to be relaxing, ambient, downbeat but the concoction of CDs contained in these boxes are artists and compilations guaranteed to cheers me up, from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds From Her To Eternity to A Date with John Waters. I've been pretty lackadaisical when it comes to listening to music recently, sure I listen to the radio but I don't make enough effort to listen to albums like I used to. In a way I've rediscovered some albums I haven't listened to in years, The Unicorns Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? was rediscovered and listened to whilst sorting everything out, Interpol Turn on The Bright Lights which was heavily played when first out has sat around for years without a listen. The stuff in my teenage nostalgia box will be played whilst shut in my room feeling sorry for myself to really recreate the full teenage effect, I'll even be painting my nails and cussing when I smudge them straight away. Don't even get me started on the compilations I have a nice selection, Covers for Reggae Lovers and 80's Italian Pop will be played at full volume this weekend.

        Fresh piles of organised CDs all ready for shelving and boxing

        Sometimes rediscovering stuff you already own is just as good as finding something new, y'know? 

        Sleek - Pout Paint - Lava & Pinkini

        Sleek Pout Paint in Pinkini & Lava £4.99

        This has been a year of make-up discovery, I hadn't used a single Sleek product until this year and now I have a make-up bags worth. I actually received these two items in the Seaside Splash Glossybox, I tried one out, loved it and have forgotten about it until now. Time to give them both a proper go.

        The two I received are really high pigment, a little bits goes such a long way so I had to be careful not to end up with it spread all around the outside of my lips, okay maybe I did do this a bit but a cotton bud sorted this out. Not quite a lip gloss, not hard like a lipstick but with the wear-ability of a lipstick. With a bit of blotting it lasts for a super long time and when it comes to the colours what you see is what you get. They have a blue version which I would love to try under a red lipstick - not sure how well this will work but I'd like to try it out. They also have more natural colours, Milkshake is a gorgeous light pink and peachy-keen is a perfect light coral. This pout paint is perfect if you want even, strong colour. The cherry on top of the proverbial cake is that it smells/tastes like Smarties, delicious! 

        Thursday 26 September 2013

        Midweek Treats

        The end is nigh, by this I mean the end of my time off work being ill. I'm on the mend and the final step is here, getting back to work. Although it will be a phased return meaning I will only do two days next week, I've been pushing myself this week to get my jelly ankles to set. So everyday I take a walk and although being outside in the lovely weather is nice enough, walking + shopping = Happy Sharon.

        It was a brief shop, no charity shops or I would have been out for hours so I stuck to a few local shops in the smaller arcade but I did get some lovely treats! 

        Wild Olive - Wax Melts (3 for £4.00 or £1.50 each, Oil Burner/Wax Melter £2.90 and Candle in box £6.95 )
        I love candles and fresh, handmade ones are even better. I love Wild Olive, they offer really good value with really good quality. The candle in the beautiful glass jar (I already have a couple of these) makes a perfect gift as they come in a beautiful box. I couldn't decide which to go for but wanted something less Summery and more autumnal, Scotch Mist isn't quite that but it was so fresh smelling I couldn't resist it. I also finally got myself an oil burner/wax melter - which will be heavily used along with some wax to melt. 

        Atticus Boo - Pretty Paper Owl Clip £5.00, Magnets 75p each
        I'm a bird obsessive and especially love owls this owl clip will go on the bookshelf in the bedroom and so will the magnets, although I don't know if I'll stick them up or just prop them up.

        Then as the plan for the walk on Friday is to feed the ducks, we stepped into the pet shop to pick up some wild bird feed, we'll mix this with a bit of bread but the seed is really good for the birds.

        I've been meaning to get a feeder for a while so while in there we ended up with the feeder too!

        We followed the lovely shopping trip with a frappé latte (I could drink cold coffee in 6ft of snow) then a trip round Waitrose to pick up a variety of flours and other bits for baking. I successfully walked around the shops for 90 minutes in slight heels - I really struggle to wear heels at all but I made it, even walking from home! Next week, charity shops!

        Halloween Themed Nails #1 - Bloodied Talons

        Halloween is not far away and for some of us (myself) it lives with us all year round. The plan last night was not to make my finger nails look like I'd been trying to claw my way out of a well but sometimes these things just happen.

        Okay they aren't realistic blood red, but a bright dark red is much more fun that a dark brown red - I carried around my own blood in a bag for a few days this summer whilst in hospital, it wasn't a colour I'd be seen dead in.

        For starters I applied a couple of coats of Korres nail colour in baby pink, a really nice white with a hint of pink which helps make the rest of the effect stand out. Next I made good use of the very recently bought but heavily used Layla Ceramic Effect in 14 Vamp Red, I like to use an eyeshadow applicator when attempting to do a fancy nail look, cheap and simple, I start by dribbling some of the polish onto the applicator I then dab this all over the nail starting at the tip so that the polish spreads over the applicator, I'll be tidying the tips in a bit anyway, I only dab it around two thirds of the way up, as it is supposed to be blood splattered it should look more random than precise. After this first coat I leave it to dry before using the actual brush to add two coats of polish but not covering the effect near the base of the nail. Left like this the whole effect would look too glossy and slick but only applying it with the applicator makes it hard to get a dark colour so using the brush is necessary - to get the sticky, scruffy splattered look I waited until the polish was nearly dry but still slightly tacky then I use the same applicator to make it messy again and adding a few extra splatters before leaving it to dry fully. So a simple, easy Halloween look. 

        Wednesday 25 September 2013

        Layla Ceramic Effect N.52 The Butterfly Effect Nail Polish

        Layla Ceramic Effect N.52 The Butterfly Effect Nail Polish £5.12 via Amazon (as of 25/09/2013)

        This could be considered a week of Layla nail polish reviews the way I'm going. I actually thought this particular one would be a step away from the darker, autumnal, spooky colours but I now think of this as a full on Halloween shade. I love this time of the year, although I don't just bring the horror out in October, I spend the year cramming viewings of old horror, collecting obscure dvds and blu-ray's, it is my main hobby, I just ramp it up a notch. In a way I wish there wasn't as much Halloween stuff in the shops as I just can't afford to buy it all. As I said, this nail varnish was supposed to be a step in a different direction, but applied it screams Halloween and although I saw it as more of a mermaid/fish scales glitter when I ordered I'm happy with the effect.

        I love the Layla effect nail polishes, there are so many different ones to choose from and can be picked up for a reasonable price via Amazon. With this particular polish you can easily build the intensity, two coats are really needed but three looks better. It dries amazingly quickly for something with such a heavy effect. The glitter shimmers from orange to green in the light on top of the amazing purple polish, truly perfect for Halloween. An added bonus is that for a glitter effect nail polish it is rather easy to remove without spreading glitter all over your hands. 

        Alterna Bamboo Style Boho Waves Spray

        Before and After - from nautrall wavy but uneven and messy to effortlessly, evenly tousled
        Alterna Bamboo Style Boho Waves Spray $22.00 Amazon UK £18.62 (as of 25/09/2013)

        I need a lot of hair help. Somebody must know this as I've had a lot of new hair things to try this year, either from winning them or receiving them in a Glossybox. I haven't had much of a chance to try them all out this year as I've had very little occasion to make my hair look nice but with getting back to work around the corner I've really started to think about everything, including my hair.

        I have the type of hair that you have to wash daily. There is no way around this, which makes it a nightmare to style. So for me texture mists are ideal. My hair went from silky, smooth, freshly washed to thicker, dry and full of volume. I love this texture spray, it smells gorgeous and you can put quite a bit in your hair without there being an obvious look of product in there, weighing it down.

        In the photos it won't look miraculously different, my partner himself said that it wasn't possible to capture in photos the difference it makes. My hair had instant volume and bounce, which is why we shot a little video just to show the movement.

        Okay, I haven't quite achieved completely tousled beach hair, even with many fingers tousling it, but compared to my usual style it looked even, healthier, stylish but effortless. I think if I'd managed to get my Mum to chop a few inches from my hair before she went gallivanting off the effect would have been more impressive. My hair is rather thick and heavy whereas the tousled look really works better on lighter, slightly shorter hair. I don't have any doubt that when I remove those few inches and go through the same process again I will have incredibly sexy beach hair.

        Slightly scruffy but in an organised manner, this side shot gives you a better idea of how even my ringlets now are, with only a few squirts and a few twists

        Just one more thing, as I mentioned my hair needs to be washed daily making it impossible to style as it's just too darn smooth, this is why I love products like this and out of them this is the best I've tried to date. You really can put a heavy dose in your hair without it coating it in some questionable gloop. It dries out the roots making the hair much easier to style but also adds instant volume. An overall winning styling spray.  

        Tuesday 24 September 2013

        Layla Cosmetics Ceramic Effect 14 Vamp Red

        Layla Cosmetics Ceramic Effect 14 Vamp Red £4.68 via Amazon UK

        This is a fairly new brand to me, the second polish I've tried from their range. The quality isn't quite that of nail inc or OPI, I find with those brands you can forget about putting a top coat on and don't have to worry about them chipping straight away whereas with the Layla ones I think you need to make sure you add a top coat. However the range of colours and effects are what make this brand amazing. Here is a bit of  safe choice, who doesn't have a dark red nail varnish in their collection? I think I have a different one for every fingernail and toenail, this didn't stop me from adding another to the collection. Something about it just looked a bit more lush and luxurious.

        The colour is great although I needed to add three coats to get it to a stage where I was happy it looked even, it goes on easily but it doesn't dry as quick as I'd like, but I do have unrealistic expectations in that respect. I'd like it to dry in 30 seconds as I always need to do something as soon as I've added it oh and I always get an itch in several places. As mentioned before I really think this needs a top coat, I managed to chip it nearly straight away as I didn't bother to put one on, kind of annoying as I would have liked to wait until today to take the photos after I'd managed to get all the excess off my skin but hey-ho, no biggie, I plan to remove it today.

        Another shot in daylight today

        While I do love this colour I think some brands have a better version but this doesn't effect my love of the brand, the have so many different effects and colours and I have quite a few more to try out this coming couple of weeks. 

        Monday 23 September 2013

        Helen É - Long Lasting Lip Colour - Damson

        Apologies, all taken in natural light but for some reason impossible to get a non-blurry photo today, too much chocolate I suspect! 
        Helen É Long Lasting Lip Colour in Damson £10 direct from Helen É or £3.99 via a Amazon

        Having never tried any Helen É products I decided to give their products a go when they ran a recent free lipstick promotion just cover the p&p type offer noticed thanks to Baobella. I was sensible and instead of going for yet another dark red lipstick I chose a very night, slightly autumn-esque, daytime shade, Damson.

        I LOVE this lipstick, it's a great shade and is incredibly moisturising, applies easily without bleeding and lasts for hours. I'm not a huge fan of moisturising lipsticks as I find some feel too wet, like they're going to slide away but this lipstick is just the right amount of moisture mixed with staying power.

        This isn't exactly a cheap lipstick but it is quality. 

        Sunday 22 September 2013

        Autumn/Winter 2013 Make Up Look 3: Black Eyeliner & Nude Lips

        This really isn't a new look for me, I've pedalled the winged eyes for over ten years, it is my go to evening look, I love it. When I was younger there was only ever one pot of perfect eyeliner I was able to use easily to create the look, that eyeliner was Benefit babe-cake in Sophia. I could use this to make the perfect line with barely any effort. It was a powder to wet eyeliner whereas normal liquid eyeliners I found to be a nightmare. Luckily we've come along way since, especially lucky as Benefit don't make this perfect eyeliner any more, I really do mean perfect.

        As I've mentioned the eyeliner was my go to look which I would always pair with red lips, so this is a slight update by wearing nude lips instead. It is such a nice simple, quick look. The only thing that takes time is the eyeliner, some people are naturally gifted at this, I myself am not.

        As usual I've done my normal foundation then topped my cheeks with Benefit Dandelion (#1), I then added MAC Dazzlelight (#2) all over my lid. Now to the tricky part, here I used Barry M Wink Eyeliner (#3) which is really nice to hold and easy to use. I usually start by sorting out the winged ends first to get them even and then do a thin line along my upper lash line - I find it easier to start thin and get thicker to make sure both sides are even. Next I line my lower lash line, instead of liquid I prefer to use a pencil, here I used Badgal Waterproof liner (#4) and instead of using a smudger I used the same brush used to apply the MAC Dazzlelight and smudged it so barely any trace of a solid line was left. I then went to my favourite mascara of the moment the Soap & Glory Thick and Fast HD (#5) for a couple of coats.

        Close up on the eye, fantastic to the right, wobbly to the left
        To finish it off I went with nude lips, again going with the MAC Cremesheen Creme D'Nude (#6) and topping with gloss, I used a heavy dose of Summer Sweetheart (#7) from the MAC Archie's Girls collection. It's amazing how the colour of your lipstick can change your whole look, with the nude lipstick it's rather natural, daytime but add a slab of red lipstick and it really is a full on night time look.

        Same look but wearing Models Own Lip-Stix in Ravishing Red

        So again not a completely new look for me but one look I know I'll continue to use for decades to come. 

        Yet Another Thing For Me to Collect - Peruvian Soapstone Carvings

        If I find something cute or weird chances are I'll start collecting it. This week my partner has showered me (not literally or they'd break) with Peruvian soapstone carvings of animals. What are they? you might ask, well they are just soapstone carvings from Peru and they are of animals. I'm afraid I can't really tell you much more about them but I can show them.

        Okay, this is me being quite nostalgic again. These are like a grown up version of what I used to collect when I was younger. I had loads of these little hard plastic animals, they were tiny and cost around 20p in gift shops, I would pick them up whenever we went out on a day trip. I must still have some of them somewhere which means I think when I get the chance the attic will be raided and all my toys from childhood will be coming down - my Sindy and Barbie dolls haven't had a dress change in a few years! 

        Saturday 21 September 2013

        Weekend Goodies, Huzzah! + £50 Amazon Voucher Spent

        I really haven't heavily added much to my collections recently, this might seem surprising as I have had quite a few bits but nothing like I used to order. Zavvi bargains along with a few bits from Amazon have seen me dipping into what is left of my savings and all but one have arrived today, like an amazing birthday bundle, I had a very giddy morning!

        BFI Haul + a new Steelbook
        Quite a few updates to my BFI collection. I'm nearly up to date with the BFI Flipside releases, I have up to and including 24. Duffer/The Moon Over The Alley, Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, and Requiem For A Village plug in the gaps. Then a few more BFI releases A Day in the Life: Four Portraits of Post War Britain - I really had to purchase this having viewed it twice already, The Belly of an Architect, Red Desert, Requiem for a Village - those last three were pretty much blind buys, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - perfect, miserable kitchen sink drama - about time I upgraded my copy to blu. Finally the stunning Grand Hotel steelbook, I've loved the Warner steelbooks and although I'm not planning to pick up all the steelbooks they're released I've been wanting this since it was released, very happy to finally have it.

        GTA V Strategy Guide
        Right, you see how the strategy guide is still wrapped in its plastic packaging? Well that is how it will stay at least until I've completed the game. I love picking up the strategy guide, I seem them as a souvenir, the equivalent of a guide book in the museum - I don't even use them on the way round unless necessary. As this is considered limited I thought I'd pick it up on released, of course some releases are more limited than others but I wanted to play it safe.

        Anatomy of a Psycho
        I read a lot of psychology books, I also like to read about psychos so a perfect mix. It also seems rather sensationalist which is even better.

        Layla Nail Pollish and effect
        More Layla nails and more on the way! I've only just started to use this brand but I love their range. I  can't wait to try the velvet effect or the green glitter.

        Musical Bagpuss
        Finally a cuddly toy, another Bagpuss, I've been wearing out the microwavable one so I was looking for a big cuddly one when I came across this little musical, snoring Bagpuss.

        Finally an order from the other week. I won a £50 voucher courtesy of the Prize Finder website which I'm sure I held onto for more than a month before ordering this lot.

        A few DVDs to keep me busy
        So no more purchases for a while although next month should see plenty of pre-orders coming through, I just need to make some room on my new shelves.