Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Classic Red Lip

Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick

Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick

You'll probably have noticed that I refer to my 'journey of make-up discovery' a lot on this blog. In fact that is the basis behind all my beauty posts. What it basically means is that I'm a bit of a late bloomer with the whole beauty thing, so I've been using this blog to not only motivate me to try new things, but document my discoveries. 

This post is exactly that. I've been longing for a good ol' classic red lipstick for yonks now, but being olive skinned, my search for 'the one' is a lot trickier than walking into my local Boots and picking a colour I like the look of. And what with my forever changing hair, up until recently I saw it as more effort than it was worth. 

But I convinced myself that it would be a worthy investment, and that it would add a new dimension to some of my looks. I tried Estee Lauder, YSL and Dior, but they were all too blue in tone and shiny. I wanted a deep matte. So I popped into a MAC store (where I kind of knew I'd end up anyway) and had some help from the staff who were lovely. In fact, I played no part in the choosing of these colours. I left it to the professionals, who highly recommended Ruby Roo lipstick for ANY skin tone, and Cherry lip liner to give it the depth and warmth I wanted. Wham bam thank you ma'am. Sorted. 

The next hurdle to get over was using lip liner. Never used it before, or really understood its purpose, however after playing around a little and doing a bit of research, I get it!!

So, in the hope that there are others out there like me who are a bit befuzzled by the idea of colouring in your lips, I've put together a brief but helpful guide to getting an even cupid's bow and making your lipstick last longer. 

Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick
 1. Start with the cupid's bow first. It's the hardest part to do, so get that done first and everything else will fall into place. If your lips are a bit chapped or dry, thinly coat in concealer or powdered foundation to create an even base. Starting in the middle of your lip, use the angles of your cupids bow to create an X shape. This should help you get both sides even. Don't rush this. Once you've sorted out the center, follow the lines down to the corners of your mouth. 
Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick
 2. Start from the corners of your mouth and line one side of your lower lip until you come to the middle. Then move over to the other side, and connect. 
Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick
 3. Colour in your lips. I start from the corners and work my way in. Some people just use liner to line their lips, but the girls in the MAC store recommended filling in my lips to help the colour last longer. You don't want a crazy clown mouth. And it really works. Yesterday I ate lunch and went through two cups of tea and it was fine and dandy. 
Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick
 4. Now select your chosen lipstick. As I've said for my chosen classic lip look, Ruby Red suits me best, but the brilliant thing with lipsticks and liners is that you can mix and match to create a shade that works for you. 
Classic red lip using MAC Cherry lip liner and Ruby Roo lipstick
 5. Ta daa! To sharpen up the edges or neaten things up a bit, you can use a concealer pen around the edge of your lips and blend outwards. 

So there you have it. Pretty simple I know, but for someone like me who has never used lip liner before, it's a daunting 'where the hell do i start' situation. Now that I've got over that hurdle, let the MAC lipstick addiction commence. 


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Bella and Phoebe: Our Adopted Cats

Adopted Cats. Ginger cats sleeping
Now this isn't going to be a post where I boast about how cute my cats are and all the Youtube-worthy antics they get up to (although I can't promise there won't be a teeny bit of that), but more a post about the adoption process itself and what my family and I learnt, and are still learning, along the way.

Past Experience and Reasons for Adopting
(sorry for the poor quality picture)
Adopted Cats. Ginger cats sleeping
Three years ago we were going through the same joyful experience of bringing a new pet into the family, and that pet was Ron. My Mum loves ginger cats, and for her birthday my Dad decided we should surprise her with a ginger kitten. We scoured the internet, and found one for sale on just down the road from us.  He was advertised as old enough to be separated from his mum, neutered, de-wormed, flea treated and up-to-date with his injections, for £40. So we went to get him. What we were met with when we got there couldn't be further from what was advertised. 

We could smell the cigarette smoke from the garden gate. The glass in the front door had been smashed in and boarded up with cardboard, and a Staffie was going bonkers inside. We knocked on the door, and a man took the £40 from my Dad's hand and thrust Ron into his arms and closed the door. Ron was tiny. Too young to be away from his mother. He was also crawling with fleas and reeked of cigarette smoke. I know what you're thinking. We should have turned away the minute we got to the front gate, or given the kitten back. But to this day I firmly believe we rescued that cat, and no animal lover would have the heart to put an animal back into that situation. 

I wrapped Ron up inside my coat and held him until we got home. Long story short, after surprising Mum with the kitten, we took him to the vets and got him everything he needed. After that, well, he never really stopped growing. He was more like a dog than anything, playing fetch and having mad running sprees around the house and chasing tin-foil balls. We all doted on him, and like to think we gave him an amazing two years that made up for him being born into such a hell-hole. 

Adopted Ginger Cat
Two years. Was that it? Unfortunately yes.  He disappeared for a few days, and came back emaciated, struggling to carry his own weight, dribbling, losing control of his bladder and labored breathing. It was a traumatic process in which the vets wanted an extortionate amount of money to keep him overnight on a drip and do tests even though he was already in so much pain and most-likely wouldn't make it through the tests, let alone the night. After discussing our options with the vet, we decided the kindest thing to do was to put him to sleep. 

 Shrouded in guilt and what-ifs, it took us a good few months to get over Ron not being around. We did get some closure though. A few months later I saw an article in the local newspaper about how someone had poisoned 10 cats with anti-freeze in my area, and the woman being interviewed was actually someone I worked with. After reading the article and speaking to her about the symptoms of her cat, it was clear the same thing had happened to Ron. It was so sad to know he died at the hands of something so sick and sadistic, but it was a relief to know what it was, and that nothing we could have done would have saved him. 

Why am I telling you all this? 
Well firstly, as grateful as I am to have had Ron in my life, and to have rescued him in the beginning, the way in which Ron came into our lives was as a result of someone lying online. Someone constantly breeding cats to make money, only to bring them up in appalling conditions and completely disregard the welfare of the animal. I want to spread the word that when it comes to advertisements for animals online, you can't always trust what you read and to some people, the money means more to them than the actual animal. It's a trade that I don't think will be stopped any time soon. After my experience and further research, I don't agree with it as a way of getting an animal, but I know that there is supply and demand, and therefore it will continue. 

Secondly, there were many times in the year between Ron's death and getting our new cats that we were tempted to get another one. But we felt it was really important to assess whether our desire for a new pet was because we wanted to replace Ron, or because we were ready to move on. This may sound melodramatic, but the way in which you treat your new cat will depend on what frame of mind you're in when you get it. We didn't want to get another pet with expectations for it to be just like Ron, or for it to fill that hole. That wouldn't be fair on the animal. 

About Adoption
Cats Protection Website
When we were ready, we decided we would adopt. I guess we'd been put off buying from breeders. I know there are some genuine, honest breeders out there who care about their animals, but you'd be shocked to see how many cats out there actually need homes. Rehoming centers are actually having to turn cats away because they're so full, and they have more cats coming than going. 

This is also a process that requires a lot of thought and research, It's not just about finding a cat that you like the look of and going to get it. You need to know for definite what it is you want, and what you can actually give the cat. For example, a few may have medical conditions and need frequent medication or trips to the vets, whilst others may have a nervous disposition, which would require you to be very patient and put what you want from the cat to one side. There were plenty of cats that were stunning and caught our eye, even a pair of Bengals, but when we read they needed a family with experience in the breed or special care, we knew that our family situation wouldn't allow us to give the cats everything they needed. 

The Adoption Process
Adopted Ginger Cats
We looked on a variety of sites, from Woodgreen Animal Center to Cats Protection. Eventually we came across a Mother and Daughter pair. Their owners had fallen ill and were simply in need of a loving home willing to provide lots of fuss. 

After sending an email to the Cats Protection expressing our interest in the cats, we got an email back arranging a time for someone from the charity to come and do a home assessment, in which they make sure your house is suitable for cats (not near any main roads, a decent sized garden etc) and that you're suitable owners for the cats. The lady was lovely, and shared out love for ginger cats, so we shared pictures of our cats and swapped stories for a while. 

The cats are actually held in foster homes, which gives you the opportunity to go and meet the cats in a neutral environment and see if you get along and bond. This is where both parties get to decide what happens next, and the fosterer keeps an eye on things to see how the cats respond. Our cats had been in foster care for a month before we got them. My parents went to see them and apparently there was a lot of purring and belly rubs, so they brought them home straight away. 

Adopted Cats in Their New Home
Adopted Ginger Cats
The adoption process doesn't end when you bring the cats home. There's a lot to bare in mind. When we bought the girls home, Bella (the mum) was very excitable and affectionate, rubbing against everyone's legs and meowing for a fuss, whilst Phoebe (the daughter) spent most of her first day hidden under the sofa, or trying to hide in any nook and cranny. 

The next day, the tables turned. Bella was very skittish whilst Phoebe came out of her shell. We haven't even had them for two weeks yet, but what I've learnt so far is that every day is different. There is no consistency in their temperament or their mood at first. They're still settling in to a completely new environment and discovering new things. So even if the cats aren't described as nervous or skittish on the adoption site, prepare for that to be the case in the first few weeks. You'll need to put your expectations and wants aside and focus on what they need, but they'll soon settle down. As you can see from the picture above, Bella's starting to make herself at home. 

Prepare for a few minor hiccups, for example, Phoebe will climb anywhere and everywhere. She's extremely curious. Bella on the other hand likes to eat every house plant in sight. Whilst the plants in our house aren't poisonous to cats, they can get a bit of a dodgy stomach for a day or two, so we've now got some cat grass and cat nip toys to keep her occupied. 

Adopted Ginger Cats
So if you are thinking of getting a cat, please consider adoption. Re-homing centers do have kittens if that's what you're looking for, but they do get snapped up very quickly. The amount of cats that need homes is forever growing, and after researching adoption and looking on these sites for a good few months, some of them have been there for quite some time. While it may be better than where they came from, a lot of the cats do not enjoy being in the centers and never really settle. So for us, it's so rewarding to not only take two cats away from that situation, but actually give them a life they can enjoy. 


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My Post-Christmas Detox with Stripteas

StripTeas 14 Day Teatox
So the month of New Years resolutions, diet attempts and fitness regimes is almost over. How are we all doing? I think I can speak for a few of us when I say I fell at the first hurdle multiple times, justifying finishing off that box of Quality Street or the remaining remnants of the Christmas cheese board, all in the name of an eventual fresh start. 

I was blessed with some early January motivation when StripTeas got in contact and asked me to review their *14 day 3 step teatox.

I'm a massive tea drinker with a variety of quirky mugs and vintage teacups purely dedicated to the practice so I jumped on this straight away, curious to try the range of flavours. 

StripTeas have actually worked it so that their Morning, Daytime and Night teas contain 100% natural herbal ingredients.

StripTeas 14 Day Teatox
Morning: Chinese White Tea, Yerba Mate, Lemongrass, Liquorice Root, Orange Peel , Ginseng, Ginkgo, Eucalyptus, Spearmint. 

Daytime: Chinese Oolong Tea, Fennel Seeds, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pu-erh Black Tea, Schisandra Berries, Black Peppercorns.

Night-time: Rooibos (anti-stress) , Ginger, Ashwagandha Root (anti-stress), Chamomile (calming), Lemon Balm, Peppermint Leaves, Hawthorn, Vanilla Pieces, Lavender, Vanilla Flavour. 

Whilst all three teas are packed full of anti-oxidants, after doing some research I've noticed how the benefits of some of the ingredients are very fitting to your mental and physical state at specific points throughout the day. The morning tea is geared towards focus, concentration, endurance and digestion, whilst the daytime tea contains ingredients which work to maintain these factors. The evening tea is my favourite though, with a concoction of awesome ingredients that's designed to calm and relieve stress.

I was really curious to see the effect of the morning one though, because I am such a bad morning person. I don't drink coffee, so I lack that pick-me up that most anti-morning folk get.

StripTeas 14 Day Teatox
Now I've seen a lot of these teas around lately, many of them claiming to make you loose weight. Firstly, no tea can make you loose weight.

What they can do, and what StripTeas does, is boost your metabolism. Of course it's completely up to you what you do with that new-found energy, but if you use it productively and are more active, then you'll start to notice a difference not only in yourself physically, but mentally.

Hydration is a factor to consider. I'm so bad at staying hydrated. Really bad. Sometimes I go a whole day on just one glass of water. If you read my New Years Resolutions post you'll know that staying hydrated was one of my resolutions. Drinking these StripTeas three times a day got me off to a solid start. I noticed the difference almost instantly. I felt less sluggish and snacked less. I actually enjoy the flavours so much that I'd get 2-3 cups out of one tea bag. I may have been popping to the ladie's room every 20 minutes, but it was worth it for how invigorated I felt. 

StripTeas 14 Day Teatox
I do want to shed a few pounds, however I'm not monitoring it by weighing myself or noting how loose my jeans are getting, because I don't want to obsess about it. For me the most important thing is feeling good about myself physically and mentally, and these teas have really helped me get to that stage. 

I'm waking up earlier and tackling the day with more energy and actually sticking to a routine. If routine is something you really struggle with, these teas are perfect for just that, because you want to feel good and you look forward to your next one. I find I'm not craving snacks as much and that I stay fuller for longer too. I've already mentioned that the evening tea is my favourite - my mind is a live wire at night and it's in the evenings that I stress the most because I'm thinking about all the things I haven't got done and need to do. This can have a knock-on effect on the quality of sleep that I get, but since drinking this tea I'm feeling more soothed. I'm going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier too. 

I highly recommend going on a teatox. It doesn't necessarily have to be with the aim of shedding a few pound in mind. Whether you want some routine, to stay hydrated, a detox, or you just love tea, this is a brilliant, tasty way of taking care of yourself! 


Monday, 26 January 2015

The Velvet Underground

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

Formal Outfit of the Day: Velvet Oh My London Dress and Ark Fur Coat

 I find dressing up at this time of year so difficult. It's so hard to look elegant and sexy in something that keeps your entire body warm, so we resort to attempts at refreshing dresses from warmer months in the hope no-one notices the raisin-smuggling situation. 

Faux Fur Coat - Ark
Satchel - F&F at Tesco 
Block Heel Boots - Public Desire

I've had this dress from Oh My Love London in my Pinterest wishlist for months now, and when I saw it was reduced massively in the January sales, I knew it had to be mine. 

I suck at compiling a capsule wardrobe, so there are many moments in my life when I simply don't have an appropriate outfit. 

I bought this knowing that it would come in handy for meals out or trips to the theatre;  those kind of events that require you to add a little more formality to your style than you're used to. 

This dress is so simple but so elegant and ceremonial. The velvet does all the talking, making it a definite evening piece, whilst the sequin and pearl embellished choker-style neckline gives it quite a regal edge. 

I feel this is a garment you can dress down to a certain extent. I found it went really well with my shabby coat, the tufts of fur contrasting with the sleekness of the velvet. I tried it with my Dr Martens and they looked really out of place, but my slightly less casual patent boots from Public Desire worked a treat. I think this dress would look stunning with some Mary Jane flats or t-bar heels. 

P.S In case you're wondering, these pictures were taken at Hadleigh Castle in Essex. There's not much left of the castle, just some ruins, but it's a great place to see some spectacular views of the Essex countryside if you're ever near by!


Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Sound of 2015 - Who to Look Out For!

The one thing I love about the New Year is all the new talent that will be uncovered. Last year we were blessed with George Ezra, Sam Smith, Ella Eyre and FKA Twigs. Each blessed with their own sound, they've ruled the airwaves and have soared to great heights, so what can we expect for 2015?

Well I've put together a little shortlist of some of the artists who have really come into their own recently. Whether they're supporting some of the names above, or going viral on Youtube, these guys are going to get your attention one way or another.

George the Poet
 His spoken word style uses haunting lyrics that are brutally relevant. Each of his songs on his EP 'The Chicken and the Egg' are part of one big story. After listening to one song, you're left wanting to listen to the next just to find out what happens. 

Wolf Alice 
Delicate breathy vocals contrast with riotous shrieks in this grunge mix of thrash and punk. 

She supported George Ezra back in March, and if you love a bit of George, you'll wanna check her out. Her angelic vocals bring a serenity to what is a chilled mixture of  folk and soul. Bridie Monds - Watson is only 18, but is channeling the thoughts of the disparate youth in a stunning way. 

James Bay
'Hold Back the River' is everywhere right now AND he's supporting Taylor Swift on her upcoming tour AND he won the Critic's Choice prize at the Brit Awards. His raspy voice brings atmosphere, power and emotion to the fore, placing himself in an ever-growing movement of one-man bands armed with only their voices and a guitar. 

He's predicted to win the Mercury Prize this year and features on the Mobo Newcomer shortlist.His velvety vocals are sensuous and brooding, and his sounds are a combination of gospel, electronica, and soul, with the odd guitar riff thrown in. 

Aleksandra Denton uses synths and beats to create dewy yet hypnotically beautiful Summer sounds, and teams them with her own breathy vocals. . The kind of music you want playing in the car with the windows down on a cool summer's eve. 

With their song 'The Hunter' featured on Radio 1 as Zane's Hottest Record, this duo have already marked their territory.  When played among the usual suspects of a Radio 1 playlist, they stand out like a sore thumb, and that's how I first came across them. It was so refreshing to hear something so gritty on a commercial music station, and Greg James' reaction summed it up: 'Finally someone with something to say.'

Sunset Sons
The grit and twang of Kings of Leon's Caleb Followhill, but with a chilled, folky-funk.

Years and Years
I can seriously see these following in the footsteps of Disclosure and Clean Bandit, and completely owning dancefloors everywhere this summer. Angelic, soulful vocals with 90s R&B beats . 

Tove Lo 
You've definitely heard her, you probably just don't know it. Featuring on Alesso's 'Heroes (We Could Be)' and the latest Hunger Games soundtrack, her gritty rasp is making ears prick up everywhere. Her debut single 'Habits' was released 18 months ago, but has only just worked its way into the charts. I'm actually willing to make a bet that you recognize it! 

A sweet voice that packs a poppy, dance-floor punch. She's cute as a button but has a quirky, cool-girl edge. 

The synth-pop genre seems pretty saturated at the moment, and it's pretty hard to find something that really stands out. Making it onto Urban Outfitter's playlist, their unobtrusive climb has them down as a newcomer to watch. Their delicate fusion of hip-hop beats and dreamy vocals make for juicy feel-good tunes. 

For me to like a female-fronted band, that voice has to have some oomph. Some depth. Something you can mime to whilst looking like you have a serious attitude problem. The Marmozets are making a name for themselves in rock music. Zane Lowe loves them, and now so do I. Melody, sweetness and rage are mixed together to give you something intricate and meaningful, but also something you can rock your arse off to. 

The Aquadolls
Take the 1950s 'Beach Boys' melody and throw in the sultry, psychadelic voice of Melissa Brooks and you've got some tunes that will make you wanna pack your bag and go on an American Road trip in a vintage Cadillac. 

La Roux 
Yes we all know La Roux, but she disappeared off the face of the earth for a while and we thought it was all over. But she's back with a nostalgic 80s vibe that you can't help but tap your feet to. 

Can punk be exotic? YES! These ladies from Madrid sprinkle their dulcet tones with flowers and childish melodies. They'll make you desperate for Summer! 

Doja Cat
Remember when Azaelia Banks released '212', and we were all wishing we could be that effortlessly cool? Well I hate to break it too you, but we've got to go through that all over again with Doja Cat. Her R&B beats are so fashionable and on-point you want to walk down a runway in your finest with them blaring in the background. 

Purity Ring
I've loved Purity Ring for a while now. There's just no one like them. You only need to listen to 30 seconds of their album 'Fineshrine' and you'll be mesmerized. Even if it's not your thing, I guarantee you'll be intrigued by the macabre lyrics that are sung with a Cheshire Cat smile and backed by layers of sexy, circus-esque sounds. 

Royal Blood
Radio 1 have been playing Royal Blood constantly for the last two months now, and I can't get enough. Posters of their album smother the London Underground, and they're set to support the Foo Fighters on their next UK tour (which I've got tickets for!!!!!!) Their sound echoes that of Wolfmother, and each song has guts and power. They've already burst onto the scene, but I can definitely see them sticking around. 

Benjamin Clementine 
If Nina Simone was a guy, this is what it would sound like. The vocals grip you more than anything else, and you feel enveloped in a poem. The first time I listened to Cornerstone, I was transfixed. I daren't move for fear of interrupting such hypnotizing sounds.

Marika Hackman
This ex-Burberry model and friend of Cara Delevigne has taken up making folky pop-music. Following in the footsteps of Daughter, Hackman's folk is adult. All grown-up . There's nothing kitsch about her music. It's packed with raw, intense emotion and enchanting vocals. 

They've been on The Jool's Holland Show - that in itself should speak volumes. These French-Cuban sisters are masters of percussion. Inspired by chants brought to Cuba from Nigeria, they combine the ancient and the modern and the result will give you goosebumps. 

Petite Meller 
French. Adorable. High Pitch. Colourful. I think these four things sum up Petite Meller pretty well. Her sense of style gives Lady Gaga a run for her money, however don't be fooled into thinking she's just a generic cutesy pop chic. There's something very artistic and well thought out about her music. She's kind of like Yolandi Visser's (Die Antwoord) angelic alter-ego. 

Only Real
The trends of the 90s are coming back with full force, and not just in fashion. Only Real are a hark back to the days of Brit Pop. With a voice echoing that of Jamie T, he sings of youth culture in West London. Despite the grunge vibes, there's something feel-good about Only Real that's reminiscent of Summer, festivals, and an ice cold beer. 

Rayleigh Ritchie
You don't need to watch his videos to know he does a bit of acting on the side. You may know him as Grey Worm from Game of Thrones. This is an actor-turned-musician story with no tackiness attached. Elegant piano and ghostly strings meet with powerful beats and gutsy lyrics to create something gritty and passionate. 

Josef Salvat
People are calling him the next 'Gotye', and I can understand why. Atmospheric melodies and choral vocals work in layers to create songs you want to dissect. His cover of Rihanna's 'Diamonds' is hauntingly beautiful. 

Ryn Weaver
A girl with backing from Jessie Ware, Hayley Williams and Charlie XCX is destined for success. But it would be success well earned. Her track 'OctoHate' went viral on Soundcloud back in June with its addictive synth-pop and Weaver's emotive vocals. 

Panda Bear - Noah Lennox experiments with sounds that would usually make your ears bleed and makes them melodic. Yes the result sounds like something from another planet is trying to contact us, but it's actually quite beautiful.