Friday, 30 August 2013

August Empties

Another month, another pile of empty products that I can now throw out because they've been photographed (#bloggerproblems). August was a bit of a mixed bag for empties, some newbies and some old favourites are now no more:

1. Sephora Oil Blotting Papers - I always stock up on these when I'm in a country that has Sephora stores. Great for dealing with shiny summer skin (thanks, heatwave) without caking on more powder. These have a lightly powdered finish and are the quickest way to take my skin from "sweaty shiny mess" to "almost acceptable". I'll be stocking up on more on my trip to Spain.

2. V05 Glossy Me Smoothly Shampoo* - This was a good everyday shampoo, it smelled nice and left my hair looking smooth and shiny. I prefer volumising shampoos usually but had no complaints with this one - the range is always on offer in Boots and isn't pricey.

3. Primark Oil Balancing Cleansing Wipes -These were £1 for a pack of two so are ridiculously cheap. I am not a big fan of using wipes on my face so only used these pre-gym but they did the job well enough and had a fresh, tea-tree scent. I'm sure another pack will fall into my basket next time I'm queuing for the tills in Primark.

4. John Frieda Go Blonder Shampoo - My hair has got lighter in the sun this summer and I'm keen to enhance this as much as possible. This miniature was £2 so a good way to try a new product and perfect for my gym bag. I'm not sure if this made my hair blonder but it left it feeling clean and volumised so I'll definitely be purchasing the full size (and the conditioner) when I next need hair products, its smelled amazing too which is always a plus.

5. Cosmedix Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser* - This was a saviour during the hot weather, it felt so fresh and minty on my skin and left it feeling really clean. I usually avoid products for spot prone skin as I find them really drying but a combination of sweat and suncream made my skin breakout and this really helped get it back to normal. The full size is £27.95 (here) which is more than I'd usually spend on a cleanser but this was nice to use and made a difference to my skin, I'd definitely recommend it for oily/spot prone skin but think I'd find it too drying the rest of the year.

6. Benefit The Porefessional - One of my everyday, "holy grail" products. I've used this almost daily for the last 18 months - it might seem pricey for one tube but the cost per day must work out as almost nothing (dubious logic, I know). If I skip this from my make-up routine I really notice a different - this evens out my skin, stops shine and generally just makes my skin look better. I don't wear foundation as I find that this and a dusting of loose powder is enough to make my skin look presentable. Luckily I have a little tube from Glamour magazine to use while I think about re-purchasing this or trying the Smashbox Primer that I hear rave reviews about.

What have you used up this month? And do you have any primer recommendations (for normal/oily skin, nothing shimmery or "illuminating", thank you!)?

Small print: products marked with a "*" were given to me in goodie bags at events I've attended, they were not provided specifically for review purposes.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Down To A "T"

I've been shopping my wardrobe lately in an attempt to guilt myself out of making impulse buys of a) things I do not need or b) things which are exactly the same as those that I already own which I have forgotten about.

I found a couple of neglected tshirts that looked in need of some customisation. I used to love customising tshirts as a teen and the homemade/grunge aesthetic fits the new season's appetite for all things '90s as well as my creative whims. I wish I had more time and sewing skills to make more of my own creations but for those of us who are unable to even thread a needle, these customisations need nothing more than a pair of scissors, take less than half an hour and can be adapted in endless ways:

Step 1: Find your neglected tshirt. I bought this in Australia back in 2010 but as I'm currently re-watching season 1 of Gossip Girl it seems appropriate again.
Step 2: Compare neglected tshirt with one that fits you so that you don't end up making it elf-sized. I.e. only customise tshirts that are too big for you.
Step 3: Cut up the side seem of the tshirt. Snip off the overlocking.
Step 4: Cut horizontally from the side seam.
Step 5: It should look like this. Don't worry about the strips being exactly equal, life's too short / my cutting skills are not very good. It would have been helpful to have sharper scissors, preferably ones that are only used for fabric.
Step 7: Tie the strips in double knots.
Step 8: I repeated the above steps on the opposite side shoulder seam to give an asymmetric look. Neglected tshirt is now the perfect layering piece for A/W.
The second tshirt which needed a new lease of life was a Kobe university one that I bought when I visited Japan. 
Step 1: Cut off the collar, sleeve and bottom seams.
Step 2: Cut horizontally along the back of the tshirt. The length of the cuts and the gaps between them will give a different finished look - I didn't want things to get too fiddly so made the gaps between the cuts quite big. If you like to be precise about things you can measure the strips and mark where to cut with fabric pen / eyeliner. I was impatient and just snipped away and it worked out fine!
Step 3: Cut the bottom strip in two. Starting from the top, weave the strips as in this method. It's super easy once you get the hang of it (and I can't even do a fishtail braid if that helps put the simplicity in context).
Step 4: Tie off the bottom and its done! This makes the tshirt more fitted as you're making the back narrower and gives a cool cutaway back detail.
Have you tried any customisation? I'm going to continue the trip down '90s memory lane with some tie-dying next time (mess permitting).

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Review: ModelCo Fibre Lashxtend Mascara

I hadn't heard of ModelCo until Glamour magazine had freebies of their products a couple of months ago. Being a bit of a mascara hoarder, I couldn't resist the chance to try another so hunted down an issue with the mascara. Having not heard anything about the brand, I wasn't really sure what to expect - it retails for £28 (here) which is far more than I'd usually spend on a mascara.

After using it for the first time, I was quite disappointed. A few strokes of the wand and my lashes looked no different. I persevered and found that a good 4-5 coats are needed for a sufficient amount of mascara to transfer onto my lashes. The formula is very dry and leaves my lashes looking a bit "dusty", as I apply more coats of this I can really feel the fibres on my lashes. On the (rather small) plus side, it does build good volume and with a coat of my usual mascara on top I end up with long, thick looking lashes. It doesn't flake or smudge during the day and comes off easily with a swipe of Bioderma. I always give honest reviews and while this isn't a terrible mascara, I would not have been happy if I'd spent £28 on it - I've used better mascaras that cost a quarter of that price. I'll use this until it dries out more but definitely won't be re-purchasing it. 
Fibre Lashxtend - Extreme Black Lengthening Mascara
The mascara has a traditional bristle brush. I usually prefer comb style brushes as find these can be quite messy but the brush head is small enough that it doesn't make a blobby mess around my eyes.
The mirror on the back of the tube is a nice touch (probably my favourite thing about the mascara).
4-5 coats. You can see the length that this gives (good) but that close-up its starting to clump. Nothing that a swipe of my usual mascara on top can't fix but for £28 it should be a standalone mascara and not a rather fiddly basecoat. 
Have you tried this mascara? What's your favourite mascara at the moment?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Theatre Season - Summer 2013

Living in London means that there's no excuse not to take advantage of all the amazing plays and musicals. I never used to be a big theatre fan but over the last couple of years I've grown to love trips to the theatre - from the booking of tickets months in advance (I've just booked to see Jude Law in Henry V in January!) to pre-theatre dinners, nothing beats a night at the theatre. Tickets can be expensive but I always keep my eyes open for special deals and day tickets (weeknight performances often have spare tickets, especially later in a performance's season).

Summer 2013 has been a good one, this is what I've seen:

When I heard that Kim Cattrall was performing in London this summer, I knew I had to go. I'm a huge fan of hers (she is by far my favourite SATC actress). I saw Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a couple of years ago (with James Earl Jones and Adrian Lester) and loved it so had high hopes for this. While the start of the play was a little slow, it really picked up in the second half and Kim Cattrall definitely proved her acting talent. The play was written in the 1950s but the themes of aging and women in the spotlight are as relevant now as they was then, if not more so. I love the Old Vic theatre, it feels like being in someone's house and being a little way out of "Theatreland" there are some good restaurants nearby.

I can't remember how long ago I got tickets for Book of Mormon. Late last year there was a huge amount of frenzy about this show so I knew I had to see it. I'm not usually a big fan of musicals but this is pretty...different. Storyline aside, the singing and dancing are amazing - its often easy to overlook it though as the plot and crude humour are pretty distracting. Probably not one to see with your parents but it was funny, if you've watched South Park or Team America you probably know what to expect! Being in Leicester Square, keep up the American theme with a pre or post theatre burger feast at Five Guys or Shake Shack in Covent Garden.

Having seen Adrian Lester in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and being a big fan of Hustle, this was another play I knew I had to see. I'm gradually getting into Shakespeare - I loved Michael Sheen in Hamlet at the Young Vic but have found some other Shakespeare plays a little more challenging (and, dare I say it, a little boring). Othello is one of the more accessible Shakespeare plays, I think. The modern military setting of this production and issues that the characters face of race, trust and jealously seemed modern despite the Shakespearean language. The play was intense - and quite violent - with amazing acting from Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear. This was my first visit to the National Theatre and it definitely wins in terms of comfortable seats and a good view. The NT Propstore bar is great for a post-theatre drink.
If the stars of the play were factors in me booking Sweet Bird of Youth and Othello, the lead role in The Cripple of Inishmaan was definitely the main draw in seeing this. Daniel Radcliffe plays a role far more challenging than Harry Potter - a cripple with a strong Irish accent. His acting skills held up well in the lead role (although his accent did slip back into "Hogwarts" a couple of times but I'll forgive that) and the play was darkly funny. Martin McDonagh wrote In Bruges so expect a similar sort of dark comedy (and a lot of Irish accents - it took me a while to tune in to what the characters were saying). Just by Leicester Square station so have fun dodging the tourists!

What was the last show you saw?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

A "Weekend" In The City

Weekends are great but there's a slight issue that it feels like everyone else in the entire world is also free of the confines of work and also wanting to do all the things that you want to do on your weekend. I had a few days annual leave left to take from work so decided to give myself my own weekend (on a Thursday and Friday) to enjoy all that London has to offer with fewer people around.

It might be the "weekend" but my alarm goes off at 7am for a morning run. I'm training for a half marathon at the moment, eek. I run along the Thames path to Tower Bridge. I've lived in central London for six years now and still don't tire of seeing the sights no matter how much I complain about crowds and tourists. When you are tired of London you are tired of life, innit.
Getting ready for the day. As its the "weekend" I abandon my usual uniform of a dress of some sort and venture into the world of trousers. Well, leggings because I'm not quite ready for "real trousers". To stop myself feeling like I'm off to a yoga class I add a vintage necklace and red lipstick (helpfully obscured by my iPhone). I don't really "do" casual often, I definitely feel more "me" in a dress but everyone needs a personal "non uniform" day every now and then.
Leggings: River Island, Tshirt: Kobe University store, Jacket: H&M, Necklace: Vintage
First stop of the day is for a mani-pedi at Nailgirls in Islington - I purchased a Time Out voucher a couple of weeks ago so this was a good bargain and a nice treat. I chose a bright summery red and as I had a glittery accent nail when I turned up my manicurist suggested a silver glitter topcoat for my ring finger - perfect!
Feet ready to go with the same shade. My feet get a bad deal with my running and heel-wearing so I think they appreciated this.
I was feeling lazy (hey, its the weekend after all!) so hopped on a bus to Holborn and headed for Shake Shack in Covent Garden. There was a queue but it was about a quarter as long as the evening queue was when I last saw it. I waited (im)patiently for my order with this buzzer, still admiring my newly painted nails.
I opted for a single Shack Burger for my first taste of Shake Shack. I didn't get fries as I'm not a potato fan (unless my fries are super skinny and practically coated in salt I'm not eating them so SS's crinkle cut ones did not appeal). Instead I opted for a "concrete" which SS describe as a frozen custard.  The combinations on the menu sounded a little too indulgent so I opted for a small vanilla with chocolate-fudge topping which was also much cheaper. The drink is obviously a Diet Coke for me but there's a huge range of milkshakes, lemonades and iced teas for the more adventurous.
Close up.
The single burger was actually quite small, I thought. At £5 it is less expensive than Meat Liquor or Patty and Bun but quite a bit more than a "fast food" equivalent. On the plus side, it is made freshly for you and the ingredients are better quality. The patty had a good taste and texture - much more meaty than a McDonalds offering. The Shack Sauce was really tasty - definitely my favourite element of the burger, SS's version of Meat Liquor's "dead hippie" sauce. I liked the bun too, it was soft and not too "bready". I would give this burger 7/10 - it was tasty without being "omg amazing" but scored points for not being greasy (Meat Liquor, I'm looking at you) and for the sauce.
The concrete in close up. The topping was amazing - sweet, crunchy and slightly salty. The small with a topping works out at £3 which is pretty good value for a decent-sized portion. I'm not usually an ice cream fan (or of dairy things in general) but this was a nice treat although froyo is still my true love.
I spent the afternoon window shopping and wishing that someone would buy me Hobbs' entire NW3 collection. It then started raining so I took refuge in Starbucks with an iced soya latte (I didn't steal someone called Kelly's drink, I promise) and my Kindle. I'm currently reading NW by Zadie Smith and really enjoying it so far.

Friday morning arrived and I was up and ready for my next challenge: locate and buy cronuts. Cronuts have been the flavour of the month in NYC with crazy queues around the block so when I heard that they had arrived at Rinkoff's Bakery in East London I knew I had to try one. I got ready for my cronut mission:

Back in my style comfort zone wearing a skirt but trying double-denim. I'm still not sure but it was raining and I couldn't be bothered with outfit faff.
Jacket: H&M, Cropped top: New Look, Skirt: Topshop
Leggings: Clothing @ Tesco, Lace socks: Primark, Brogues: Office.
I hop on the tube to Whitechappel in search of Rinkoff's.
Rinkoff's is located on Jubilee Street off the Mile End Road. It's drizzly and grey so I'm very happy when I locate it after a few wrong turns in an unfamiliar part of down. The cronuts / crodoughs are in stock and the shop is pretty quiet at 11am on a Friday. As a dedicated blogger / instagrammer I snap away (with permission). Here are the raspberry and apple crumble crodoughs.
Flavours and prices.
The window sign.
The custard cream crodough with some little samples. I try a piece but opt for an apple crumble for me and a raspberry for Hannah. Rinkoffs is a family run business doing all the usual bakery fare but had the idea to start making crodoughs and the word has spread very fast! Their twitter feed is going crazy over them. It's great to see something like this being done by a small business - so much more satisfying than a big chain jumping straight on the crodough trend.
With the crodoughs safely packed in my bag, I head back west. The rain has stopped so I returned to my preferred way of getting around London - on foot! I love how there are always new and different things to notice in this city. I pop in to Whitechappel Gallery for a quick browse as its on the way back.
I meet a friend on her lunchbreak and we head to Chilangos. There's actually a chicken salad hiding under the mound of guacamole. Feeling virtuous in anticipation of the sugary goodness in my handbag.
So its the afternoon now and sweet things can be eaten (I have a weird rule about not having fizzy drinks or sweet things before midday. It actually sickens me to see people drinking Coke and eating chocolate in the morning - IT'S NOT ALLOWED!). I cautiously open my box - the cro' was is looking good and not too battered from his journey around London.
The cro' and I were in Cafe Nerro. I quickly deposit him on my saucer, shove the box back in my bag and take my first bite.
Ready for his close up. The cro' was good. All the better for the hype and anticipation. I loved the apple crumble topping (I'm obsessed with cinnamon so how could it not have been love at first bite) and the texture is like nothing I've tried before. It has the flakiness of a crossaint but the shape and denseness of a donut. It's sweet but not sickening like a cupcake. The cro' is pretty big - definitely big enough to share but in the interests of review I ate the whole lot and managed just fine. All washed down with a cup of green tea.
On a sugar high, I head to the American Apparel outlet on Brick Lane. I've been for the past couple of years at the weekend and it was manic. Mid week at 3pm, its blissfully quiet. I love colour and I love bargains so I'm in solo shopping heaven. Warning - there are no changing rooms but a communal changing area, wear leggings and a vest top if you want to try anything on but preserve some modesty.
I got a jacket, a pair of cycle shorts (for wearing under dresses and not for cycling, obvs), tights and a vintage watch. All for £39.
The watch has stopped working but I just couldn't resist, makes me feel like I'm Phileas Fogg. Perfect for knowing what time it is back home when traveling or for setting to the current location of a loved one abroad (I know there's an iPhone app that does this but I'm obviously just an old-fashioned romantic type at heart!).  Now to find a battery for it..
So that was some snippets from my "weekend". And the best part? There's still the real weekend to come!

What would be your perfect weekend?


Friday, 16 August 2013

Graduate Fashion: Lisa McConniffe

Today I'm thinking about the world of fashion, what does it really mean to be "fashionable" and who or what will inspire the trends and fashions of the future?

I am by no means a "fashion" expert, I didn't study fashion and don't work in anything fashion-related, I'm really just an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to all things "fashionable". Writing a blog about, amongst other things, fashion sometimes makes me worry that people will think I'm putting myself out there as a fashion expert or that I think myself "fashionable". In reality, I wear what I wear because I like it and while my real life friends might consider me on top of the trends, in fashion circles I'd probably be scorned for wearing Primark and owning a pair of Uggs. Blogging has definitely made me more trend-aware and had me jumping on some bandwagons that I might have otherwise let pass me by but my style and approach to dressing hasn't changed an awful much. I'm still very much the outsider looking in on this crazy little world, but very much liking what I see.

That said, I do love to see what's on the catwalk and every year when the graduate collections come out its great to see the emerging talent and potentially spot the trendmakers of the future. These beautiful images are from Manchester School of Art graduate Lisa McConniffee's graduate collection.  I love the bright colours (everyone should wear more colour), diaphanous shapes and tassel accessories. The "Colourful Sikh Warriors" collection is inspired by the construction of turbans which is immediately apparent in the folding and draping of the fabric. While these outfits might not be suitable for my day to day life there are always elements you can pick up on - a bright tassel necklace is on my to-buy (or even to-make) list for a quick and easy style update.

You can vote for Lisa's collection in the MUUSE x Vogue Talents 2013 competition (and browse the other entries) here.

Do you find inspiration in graduate collections?

Images published with permission from Lisa McConniffe.
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