What's Made Me Happy This Month? | February 2015

Friday, 27 February 2015

February Food Collage

Homemade vegetable lasagne; a description of myself I found on Instagram; food at YO! Sushi

I had more deadlines in February, and I've been very stressed about them, but I've been trying to take a breather from working occasionally. It's very easy to get swept up with uni work, but this month I've made the effort to be more sociable and I've felt better for it.

1. Eating food with Giulia. Giulia is one of my housemates and even thought we live together, we don't see each other very often  both of us are very busy with university and our respective societies etc. But we decided to have dinner together (on Valentine's Day, who needs a man?) and cooked lasagne with courgettes, pesto, mozzarella, and homemade tomato cream. It could have been a disaster, but it actually tasted pretty good! We also went out for sushi, and although it took me forever to work out how you use chopsticks, it was still fun, and it was nice to eat some sushi that was freshly prepared.

2. Going to the uni's pub quiz with my society. I'm part of the team who put together my university's creative writing anthology and while the meetings are always fun, we're working and trying to put something together. It's good to take a break from that and take some time to relax, and hey  we won the quiz! Everyone enjoyed it so much that we've made it a regular thing (I'm developing a worrying addiction to the pub nachos).

3. England beating Wales at Millenium Stadium in the Six Nations. I live in Wales. To say that they take their rugby very seriously here would be an understatement. And after a rocky start, we beat them. I went to watch the game in my local and the atmosphere was amazing  I'm not a sports fan by any means but I found myself really getting into it, and I was delighted when England won. There were a lot of sad faces in the pub that night #sorrynotsorry.

4. #fembruary. #fembruary was created by Jacky from Do It For The Irony, and I think it's an excellent idea. It aims to get conversations about feminism started so we can all have a lively debate about the issues surrounding it, and I think that it's is so important that these things get talked about. I was delighted when she featured me in her post about the definition of feminism. I also asked my fellow contributors at Fem-tellectual what feminism means to them.

5. Speaking to first year students about blogging. Some of you might remember from last month's post that my lecturer, Barrie, asked me to be part of a talk about blogging (they're introducing it as part of one of the Creative Writing modules, which I think is a great idea). I was SO nervous. I rambled. I stumbled occasionally. I forgot some of the things I wanted to say. But I did it, and I'm happy that I did, because public speaking fills me with dread.

What's made you happy this month? And did you take part in #fembruary? I'd love some links to your posts if you did!

Review | Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipsticks in Amazing Grace and Lost Cherry

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

I love Charlotte Tilbury's make up range, and I absolutely love matte lips, so when she brought out her Matte Revolution range last year it was only a matter of time before I tried something from it. The reason it's taken me so long is quite simple: I couldn't decide which shade to choose. In the end, I picked two, Amazing Grace and Lost Cherry.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipsticks in Amazing Grace and Lost Cherry

Petition for all lipstick bullets to be shaped like this please! The square shape just makes application so easy, particularly when you're trying to get in the fiddly bit round the cupid's bow (I don't know about you, but I always struggle to make that neat enough).

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Amazing Grace

Pigmentation is excellent, and application is even. The staying power is good too; minimal touch-ups are required after eating snacks, although you might want to refresh after you've had a full meal. I'm in love with the matte texture — I didn't know whether it'd be possible to create the 'matte but luminous' look you're promised but it's the kind of matte that makes lips look alive, not dead.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Amazing Grace (on lips)

I like to think of Amazing Grace as 'everyday pink'. It's pretty, and rosy, and colourful enough to brighten up your lips without overshadowing the rest of your face; it's not a statement shade.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry

Lost Cherry is absolutely gorgeous, and I've never owned anything quite like it. This shade is cherry red with pink undertones, and I think it looks beautiful with porcelain skin. However, I think those with a tan could get away with it too; it'd be the perfect bright lip for summer.

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry (on lips)

Lost Cherry costs £23 and is available hereAmazing Grace wasn't on the website when I wrote this, and I was like 'Charlotte, why must you hurt me so?' but then I got an email saying it was back in stock. Phew! Amazing Grace costs £23 and is available here.

Have you tried any of the Matte Revolution Lipsticks? Which shade(s) would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

How To | Learning How To Highlight, With No7 Instant Radiance Highlighter

Monday, 23 February 2015

No7 Instant Radiance Highlighter

No7 Instant Radiance Highlighter (swatched)

I'm not going to lie: highlighting scares me. Not as much as contouring (although I know the two mostly go hand in hand), but anything that involves sculpting the face freaks me out a little bit. What if it looks unnatural? What if I don't have the right brush to apply it with? What if it goes all over my face and I end up looking like a fibre-optic Christmas tree?!

All those fears vanished, however, when I finally tried No7's Instant Radiance Highlighter, £9.95. It's a cream formula in the chunky crayon packaging that has become so beloved in the beauty world, and this makes it practically foolproof. I just swipe it on straight from the bullet and blend, leaving my face with what I like to think is a healthy glow.

At the moment I only have the courage to use it where the light hits my cheekbones, but I reckon with enough blending you could probably use it to slim your nose too, if you're into that, and I bet it would look really pretty dabbed on the inner corners of the eyes. Or maybe on the cupid's bow? I'm going to have fun experimenting!

How do you feel about highlighting? What product do you like to use? And have you tried this one? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts and Musings | Life After Uni, and An Inferiority Complex

Friday, 20 February 2015

When you sit in a room with a group of people who are a) very talented writers, and b) extremely creative, and you're not feeling particularly imaginative, it can be difficult. Especially if, like me, your ideas take a while to brew. Just last week we were given a choice from two opening lines (both from short stories by Angela Carter) and instructed to carry on, and I sat there for twenty minutes, staring at the page, thinking of nothing, while everyone around me sat scribbling away. And I felt lost.

I shouldn't be complaining really; I'm very lucky to be included. But for as long as I can remember, I've had this ever-present, underlying feeling that I'm just not good enough. I know it's not rational — I can stay organised and motivated, I can write, I'm developing my editing skills all the time. I'm doing just fine, but I still feel paralysed. I want to look for some kind of work experience or even an internship I can take on once I've finished my second year (I finish in April. April) but I'm so nervous about the whole thing that I don't know where to start.

When I was looking for work experience last year it took me weeks after my self-set deadline before I plucked up the courage to finally send off all the emails I'd written. And guess what? Everything was fine. I had an incredibly productive summer, learned a tonne, and got a killer reference for my CV to boot. So why am I digging my heels in again this year? What is it that stops me?

I suppose it's one thing to hide behind my blog, but it's quite another to meet people face to face. I love to write because I feel like I can express myself in a way that's much clearer and more eloquent than it would be if I was to talk about the same topic in person. And I think when you're able to express yourself clearly, you feel more in control. Dealing with people does not come naturally to me, to the point where I actually suffered from Selective Mutism as a child. Seriously, it's a thing. I never spoke to any of the teachers at pre-school until the last day (apparently, I said "Thank you, goodbye," and they nearly fainted in shock). So there's the whole 'people make me uncomfortable' issue to deal with.

And then there's this: I know I want to have a career that involves writing in some way, but I don't have a specific job title in mind, and I think it's the feeling of not knowing exactly what I'm doing that I dislike the most (I like plan everything). But does anyone really have an idea of what they're doing? The people in my classes produce really interesting work, but speak to them and there's a high chance they were stressing about something, be it the plot, the dialogue, or just getting it finished by the deadline. And all of us are worried that we'll get our degrees and then end up working in jobs that we could have got without them for the rest of our lives.

This week is my reading week. I've got eleven days where my time is all my own, and I'm going to use one of them to sit down and start sorting something out for the summer, no matter how scary it might be. Because deep down, my biggest fear is that I'll end up not doing anything at all, both this year and once I leave university. I want to write, and I want to do something worthwhile with my life, and it's not going to happen if I keep shrinking away from it. I've got to push myself.

Have you ever felt like you're not good enough? How did you handle life after graduation? And if you're in the same situation as me, how are you feeling about life after university? Let me know in the comments!

Review | Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

LUSH Ultrabland Facial Cleanser

You all know how much I love Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish, but when my tube ran out last month I found myself wanting to change it up a bit. I had a sample-sized cleanser by Murad's Exfoliating Cleanser to try, which I picked up with InStyle magazine, but one use brought me out in a rash so that plan went down the drain.

In hindsight, I probably should have tried something a little less harsh, but a freebie's a freebie, right? I ended up buying Lush's Ultrabland, which is much more suitable for my skin type. Ultrabland contains almond oil, rose water, beeswax, and honey, and it's incredibly gentle. Don't let that fool you though — it removes eye make up like nothing else, and without any stinging.

The texture reminds me of Vaseline, in that it's a bit sticky; this won't appeal to everyone but it doesn't really bother me. It does loosen up a bit on contact with the skin and then when you massage it in, it melts, removing your make up and any dirt from the day. I wipe it off with a flannel, and although washing it off requires a bit more effort than it does with Cleanse & Polish, Ultrabland has left my skin feeling smoother and softer than it's ever been. I think it might be too heavy for the summer, but for winter? We have a winner.    

Ultrabland costs £7.25 for 45g, and £11.50 for 100g

Have you tried Ultrabland? What's your favourite cleanser at this time of year? Let me know in the comments!

My Week Without Make Up | The Results

Monday, 16 February 2015

Last week I introduced an experiment: a week of wearing no make up. None. Nada. Not even a little bit of lipstick. Every day I wrote down how I felt about it, which you can read below. My feelings were mixed throughout. Despite having a smattering of spots across my forehead (gotta love stress breakouts...), it was actually the lack of eyebrows that concerned me most. This is a long post, so grab yourself a drink, settle down, and read on to discover how my feelings changed throughout the week.

Make up free on Day 6 (and seriously missing my eyebrow pencil!)

Day 1.
It's the first day of my experiment and I'm panicking about going sans eyebrows. Even if I do nothing else, I fill in my eyebrows, but both pencil and powder are banned. I want to weep. It's probably not as noticeable as I think but I feel like they've fallen off my face. I feel naked.

I've also woken up with three spots in the centre of my forehead. Normally, I'd pat some concealer over them but that's banned. I slather the Unholy Trinity, as I've nicknamed them, with tea tree oil and hope for the best. It's an easy start though, as my day consists of doing laundry and then going to the library to work on a piece of travel writing. Everyone in the library is too concerned with their own projects to care who else is there, and I get on with my work. 

Day 2.

Yesterday wasn't too bad. Yesterday I mainly kept myself to myself. Today, though I have four hours of university, and I'm workshopping one of my pieces (the travel writing I was working on). Workshopping involves reading your work out in front of everyone, and then afterwards they critique it. You're in discussion with everyone, so there's a fair chance someone will look at my face. On the plus side, no make up means I can get up later.

"You look different!" my friend Holly says. I brace myself. "It's coz you've got your hair scraped back." I breathe out: I'm sporting third-day hair so it's been shoved into a trusty bun/topknot thing. I tell her about my experiment. "Do you feel like a different person?" she asks. "No, I just miss my eyebrows." I really miss my eyebrows. Holly says they look fine as they are though, she's such a babe. 

Day 3.

Today I've got to submit two essays, and then I'm off to have a meeting with my society. Normally, there's about ten of us, but today it's only me and Steph, who's my fellow Co-Head Editor, and Collette, who's our Head of Submissions (we run the group which puts our uni's creative writing anthology together).

Weirdly, I barely even think about make up, or the lack of it, as the day goes by. I'm far too busy having fun planning the order of the book, planning our launch party, and wondering what the hell I'm going to wear to it. Being busy, it seems, is the best distraction (and not just in this situation). Not having to remember to touch up my lipstick is a bonus too. 

Day 4.

Scrolling through Instagram is a mistake. The majority of the people I follow are bloggers, so there's all this amazing make up everywhere. And as much as I love sleeping, I'm actually starting to miss my morning make up routine, even though it's a bit of a faff. My mum equates putting make up on with putting on armour, and I understand what she means. Make up makes me feel like I've made an effort and I'm ready for the day ahead; a bare face makes me feel more vulnerable. On the plus side, my skin looks a bit clearer.

Day 5.
Quick trip to Starbucks and then another afternoon in the library (I spend a lot of time there. Words don't write themselves). I barely think about make up today, although as I catch sight of my badly-chipped pedicure I wish that I could give my nails the makeover they need. I settle for a quick trim, then remove the leftover polish and resolve to paint them at the next available opportunity.

I have to admit, I am missing the fun part of my getting ready routine. There are lots of different options when you wear make up, and although a bare face is less hassle, it's the same thing every single day. The lack of choice is a little stifling, if I'm honest. Just as I'm leaving the library, I catch sight of my face in the mirror. I look tired and drawn. Mainly because I'm genuinely sleepy, but it doesn't fill me with confidence and I walk home as quickly as possible. I think an early night is needed.

Day 6.

Happy Galentines Day! (Ovaries before brovaries, always.) I go to the pub with the girls to watch England's rugby game, and then afterwards Giulia and I cook dinner. At the pub I'm way too engrossed in the game to care what my face looks like but afterwards, when we take the pictures for this post, the bags underneath my eyes look enormous; the camera is not kind. I do my best to forget about it, and enjoy making dinner instead. We try vegetable lasagne made with layers of courgette, mozzarella, tomato cream, and pesto, and it's delicious, although all thoughts of healthy food are pushed aside when we tuck into dessert (chocolate and vanilla cheesecakes from Gu). 

Day 7.

I'd be the biggest liar on the planet if I told you that I wasn't excited that today is the last day of this challenge. I've missed make up so much. Today's a quiet one: I catch up on all the boring stuff like budgeting for the week and ordering my food shopping, and although I do end up having a library sesh in the end, no one's there. All I can think about by this point is how much I'm looking forward to getting ready tomorrow. 

Final Thoughts

So what did I find out? Well, the most important thing I discovered is that make up can affect my state of mind; it helps me to feel prepared and put together. But I was happy when I realised that my self esteem is not usually dependent on how my face looks — when I workshopped my writing on Day 2 I was more worried about the piece itself than my appearance. 

That said, I do not like having a make up-free face when I'm tired and rundown. A little bit of concealer, some highlighter, and a good mascara can perk you up and normally I use that to my advantage. I enjoyed the extra sleep I got, and I'm happy that my skin has cleared up, so I'll still be having some bare faced days (no one in the library gives a damn what anyone looks like). Basically, it's all about balance. I'm so excited to start using all my products again now, and I've already planned tomorrow's look: bold brows and berry lips. Bring it on.

Did any of my findings surprise you? Would you ever have a week without make up? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 | The Enablers

Friday, 13 February 2015

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry, just one of the products that I've been persuaded is worth the purchase

I follow a fair amount of blogs and I enjoy reading them all, but there are some bloggers who just excel at convincing me that I absolutely need certain products in my life, and I genuinely love them for it. Whether they have a similar skintone to me, or I just know I can trust their reviews, the five bloggers below are people whose posts often help me make decisions about what's worth spending my money on.

Annabel from Mascara & Maltesers
Annabel's writing style is so easy to read, and I love her reviews because her enthusiasm is very genuine and always shines through (plus it's good to read recommendations from fellow pale-skinned ladies). Also, she has the most incredible cheekbones I've ever seen.
Products purchased: Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick in Beige Trench, Makeup Revolution Amazing Inner Eye Brightener and Essential Mattes palettes

Em from My Pale Skin

The name of Em's blog should be a giveaway, but this is the place I go to when I need something to suit my ghostly complexion. Her series about base products is so helpful and in-depth, and it was the first place I went when I needed a new concealer recently. She also creates some beautiful make up looks.
Products purchased: Bourjois Shine Edition Lipstick in Beiege Democrachic, Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly

Josie from Josie's Journal
Last month's raving about why triangle bras are amazing aside, I rarely, if ever, write about clothing, but I follow a handful of bloggers who do and Josie is top of the list. I love her minimal style, and get way more excited about seeing a new grey jumper or a pair of skinnies than I ever would about a statement dress.
Products purchased: Too many black items of clothing to count, and a pair of Chelsea boots that rarely leave my feet

Zoe from Classic Rouge

Zoe's incredibly detailed review of Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution Lipsticks is what made me decide that they would be worth trying (I asked for them for Christmas, and having used them regularly since, I can say that I would happily part with the cash). She's also started posting some recipes for some delicious-looking food recently.
Products purchased: Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Lost Cherry and Amazing Grace; Missguided Activewear

Hayley from Water Painted Dreams

I always look out for Hayley's book posts! Her reviews say exactly enough for me to know whether I want to read a book or not, and I often leave her blog with a reading list that's doubled in size. Hayley is also a fellow cruelty free blogger, and it was in fact her post about going cruelty free that made me bite the bullet and do the same.
Products purchased: Numerous ebooks and paperbacks. Standouts include Where'd you go, Bernadette, which is adorably quirky, and Thirteen Reasons Why, which is probably one of my favourite YA books ever (I think I read it in one sitting).

Do you follow any of these blogs? Who would your enablers be? Let me know in the comments!

My Week Without Make-Up | Introduction

Monday, 9 February 2015

I've long thought that make up looks best when it enhances your natural beauty rather than masking it, but recently I've started to wonder whether I use it as a form of security. I don't put it on if I'm just going to be slobbing around at home, but whenever I go to university, meet my society, or go out somewhere the make up goes on, and I usually feel much better for it. Is it solely because I enjoy wearing it, or is it also because I don't feel complete without it? My worth does not depend on whether or not I wear it, and I don't want my self-confidence to either. The only way to find out if it does is to stop using it, and document how I feel here, on the blog.

So, for the next week, I will be completely without make up. No concealer, no lipstick, nothing, just a bit of lip balm. I like to think I'm fairly comfortable in my own skin, but I can't deny that make up gives me a boost. I can create the illusion of bright eyes, I can define my cheekbones; there's a berry-coloured lipstick in my stash that makes me feel like I know what I'm doing. Will I still feel okay when all of that has gone? I'll let you know in seven days' time!

How much make up do you wear on a daily basis? How would you feel without it? Let me know in the comments!

Tagged | The Non-Blogmopolitan Quiz

Friday, 6 February 2015

I first discovered Erin's blog Two Thirds Hazel through the Blogmopolitan Quiz, which I think is such a fun idea (the next one is coming up soon!), so when I saw the new Non-Blogmopolitan Quiz I decided to fill it out. Feel free to do the same (and remember to link back to this post). Enjoy!

1. Something you will...

Refuse to do for the rest of your life: Go on a proper camping holiday. Ew.
Always do forever: Write. The dream is to be able to write for a living, but even if that never happens I will always make the time for it, be it through blogging or just writing for myself.

2. Something you think is...

Certifiably disgusting: The dust that settles behind my desk is pretty gross, to put it mildly.  
Absolutely amazing: Nachos. Give me all of the nachos please.

Pulled Pork Nachos
It took me ages to find a picture because most of them were of recipes for healthy versions. I don't want the healthy versions, I want my nachos drowned in a sea of sauce and cheese!

3. A compliment you've been given that's made you...
Feel on top of the world: 'I'm reading a book, and he's describing a beautiful girl, and it made me think of you.'
Pretty upset: 'You're so skinny! You could be anorexic.' Seriously, this was genuinely meant to be a compliment. Anorexia is an illness. It is not something to be trivialised, and it just goes to show how messed up our society can be if looking like you're sick is seen as being desirable.

4. A name you...

Hate: Tracey. My apologies to anyone out there who's called Tracey; it's not you, it's me.
Love: Phoebe. And not just because of the Friends character!

5. Something people say about you that you...
Know is entirely false: I've been accused of being a know it all before, I think because I get very excited if something I'm enthusiastic about gets brought into conversation (skincare, ballet, correct spelling, punctuation and grammar). But I would be the first to admit that I still have many more things to learn. Does anyone ever stop learning? No, and that's a good thing.
Think is on point: That I can be aloof. True, it's often a mask for shyness, but I'm not a very trusting person in general.

6. A taste you...

Can't stand: Tuna.
Can't get enough of: Pesto.

Look at that little face!

7. A song you always...
Turn off immediately: All About That Bass by Megan Trainor. You wanna champion curvy girls then go for it, but don't start with the whole 'skinny bitches' thing (see this post for a more developed opinion on this subject).
Belt out the lyrics to: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. You've got to, right?

8. Animal you...

Fear: Wasps make me shriek like a banshee, they're utterly evil.
Need in your life right this instant: A cute little puppy of some description. I change my mind about which breed I want every five minutes. Right now I love corgis.

9. Something you...
Will never ever eat: Dog meat. No. Just no.
Would eat for every meal if you were given the chance: I once went to a pub in Suffolk and they did the most incredible cheese tortellini, which was covered in cheese sauce and marinara sauce and served with garlic bread on the side. It was heaven.

10. To enhance your looks you...

Would love to, but would probably never resort to: Whether or not this would be an enhancement depends on how you feel about tattoos, but I've been toying with the idea of getting a tiny tattoo of a semi colon. However, I'm absolutely petrified of needles so I'm not sure it will ever happen (and I still don't know where I'd get it done).
Just stick to: Looking after my skin, grooming my eyebrows, and continuing to learn the best ways to apply make up.

Have you done the Non-Blogmopolitan Quiz? Let me know in the comments, and send me your links if you have! I'd love to have a read.

First Impressions | Anatomicals Face Masks — Don't Mask Your Horribleness, Unmask Your Heavenliness

Monday, 2 February 2015

Anatomicals Don't Mask Your Horribleness, Unmask Your Heavenliness Face Masks

I received this pack of two face masks in a Love Me Beauty Box, and I finally managed to try them out. They're by the brand Anatomicals, whose products you may have noticed on the shelves in Tesco. Their product names are always really creative and quirky, and they're a cruelty free company too — result!

These are cloth masks, but fear not, I've spared you the sight of me looking like Hannibal.  I bumped into my housemate Giulia on the stairs while I was wearing one of these and she looked horrified, so it's definitely a ritual to complete in private (unless, of course, you have someone to scare). 

The only other cloth mask I've tried before was a Montagne Jeunesse one, and I have to say, these are much better in terms of size. They're a good fit along my forehead and although the chin section is too big it can be folded underneath. They're a bit of a pain to remove from the packet; they come attached to some plastic and everything is a bit tangled up at first. But once the mask is on, you're good to go, and you've got twenty minutes to sit back and relax.

Botanical Hydrating Rose Face Mask

Anatomicals Botanical Hydrating Rose Face Mask

My love for rose-scented products has grown and grown over this past year. This mask has a lovely, subtle scent, and is designed to hydrate your skin. There's a lot of product on the cloth, but none of it is wasted because you rub the excess into your skin once the cloth has been removed. After using the mask my skin was incredibly shiny, so it's one to use in the evening, but when I woke up the next morning my skin was soft, smooth, and glowing. I'd use this again.

Botanical Purifying Tea Tree Face Mask

Botanical Purifying Tea Tree Face Mask

You guys know how much I love tea tree for treating blemishes, so I had high hopes. I've been super stressed about deadlines recently, and as always this has started to show on my forehead (hello spots!) This mask smells strongly of tea tree oil but it does fade over time. Given the name, I didn't expect it to be quite as hydrating as it was, so that was a pleasant surprise. I didn't apply a spot treatment overnight, as I wanted to see if the mask would make a difference. In the morning there wasn't a noticeable change in my blackheads, but my blemishes had dried up a little and the swelling had gone down. Another lovely mask from Anatomicals.

Anatomicals Face Masks come in a pack of two, which costs £6.50 from Amazon.

Have you tried these face masks? Do you have any favourite Anatomicals products? Let me know in the comments!
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