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

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Prosecco and Lindt bunnies on Easter Sunday; a woodland walk with the fam; roast lamb at my aunt's house
April was an insanely busy month, and it flew by. During the first two weeks I was back at my parents' house, slowly eating my way around the pubs and restaurants in my hometown, and then when I went back to Wales I basically lived in the library, desperately trying to finish my portfolios before the deadlines. Thankfully I got all my work done, but that does mean I'm facing five months without a concrete routine. We'll see how it goes!

1. Seeing family and friends. I only managed to go back home for two weeks over Easter, so I tried to make the most of it. It was so lovely to catch up with everyone  I swear I must have walked around with a massive smile on my face for the entire fortnight. It's amazing how spending time with the people you love can boost your mood. Naturally I always miss everyone while I'm away, but I'd been missing them even more than usual this term and being reunited with everyone was just the best treat. It was also a good excuse to go out for some food (you all know how much I love the foods).

2. Trying new pubs/restaurants. Speaking of food, I've made it my mission to try somewhere different every time I go back home; it gets boring going to the same places. I think I more than succeeded, as those of you who follow me on Insta might have noticed, and it's even given me a new idea for a blog series: Favourite Food. The first few posts will be Kent-themed, but after that anywhere goes.   

3. I finished my second year of uni! Yes, I know, it's ridiculously early, but my degree is coursework based, so I handed in my final portfolios last week and that was it. I can't believe I only have one year of my BA left; it's going so quickly, and I'm determined to make the most of the time I have left. I won't lie: I don't really want to leave Wales after I graduate. Moving far away from home was a gamble, but it was one that paid off and I'm really happy here. That said, food and shelter make me happy too (again with the food!) so I will be heading anywhere I can find a job if the MA doesn't work out.

4. Getting work experience. So, I stuck to one of my new year's resolutions and sent out emails enquiring about work experience. Buzz magazine offered me a placement, which I'm due to start at the beginning of June, and I was also lucky enough to be offered a placement with Media Wales, which I'll complete this October. Hopefully more should follow; I'll keep you updated.

5. Being featured in Jasmin's Sharing the Love post. I woke up the day the post was published with a stinking cold, and I was feeling pretty rough and sorry for myself, so reading it definitely cheered me up a lot! Jasmin's blog is one of my favourites, so I'd really recommend checking it out if you haven't already. The tech advice is particularly useful if, like me, you're a little bit clueless when it comes to that sort of thing.

6. Blogging! Once my deadlines were out of the way I sat down and planned some more posts, and I have looooads of ideas. Toasty is definitely becoming a more even mix of beauty and lifestyle, so much so that I actually changed the category on Bloglovin, and I can't wait to get stuck in to putting all my future posts together. I found it so difficult to keep things going while I was writing the last of my uni coursework, so to all of you who balance blogging with a full-time job, or any other commitments for that matter: you are amazing and I salute you. 

How was April for you? Did you have a good Easter? Let me know in the comments!

What No One Tells You About... | This Being A Grown Up Thing

Monday, 20 April 2015

Does everyone remember the classic British TV moment in the bottom picture? My favourite thing about it was the look of sheer terror on Nicole Scherzinger's face.
Another day, another new series on Toasty. I've really been enjoying writing lifestyle posts recently, and I actually jotted this one down on a whim. I was planning to schedule it for next month but it was finished and I feel like it's quite relevant since today is the day student loans come in for lots of us (plus I just get excited when a post comes together so quickly!)

So, what am I talking about? Adulthood. That big, bad thing called 'being a grown up', a stage which, if you were anything like me as a teenager, you often wished you could reach as soon as possible. Except adulthood is full of responsibilities, and expenses, and a whole host of unexpected 'treats'. Don't get me wrong, I love the independence that has come with moving out and moving away, but there are definitely things that no warned me about, as you'll see below. Enjoy!
1. Acne is not just for teenagers. 
And, if you're anything like me, life will give you the acne you managed to avoid in your teens. Joy.

2. Your metabolism goes down. 

I used to be able to eat like a horse and not gain any weight. I wouldn't say that my diet was ever full of junk food, but I never really gave much thought to the nutritional value of what I was eating, and if I did have a bit of a binge I just worked it off in my ballet lessons. But since I stopped dancing I can no longer hit the chocolate aisle the way I used to. While I am all for indulging when I go out for a meal (as you'll see in my upcoming Favourite Food series) I try and stick to a healthy diet most of the time now. That means plenty of fruit and veg, protein like chicken and eggs, wholemeal carbs, and good fats like avacado and salmon. I'm still partial to the odd nachos fix, but it's much rarer these days, and since I started paying more attention to what I eat I've noticed that I have more energy and fewer junk food cravings. Win.

3. You need to budget. 

Why does no one ever teach us this at school? Not once have I needed to use Pythagoras' theorem, except in my GCSE maths paper many moons ago. I have, however, had to learn how to live off a certain amount of money each week/month/year in order to pay my rent/bills and still have a life. It's an important skill, and I think it's very much overlooked  not once did anyone sit me down and explain how to budget, how to set up a direct debit, how an overdraft works. My parents certainly taught me the value of money, but everything I know about budgeting I figured out myself (or from other bloggers. I love you guys).

4. The homeware department suddenly becomes the best thing ever. 

I could spend a fortune on cushions, candle holders, doorstops and throws given half the chance (but I don't  see previous point). Whenever I go to Primark my first stop is always the homeware section, and the temptation to redecorate each season is becoming greater by the day. I won't lie, one of the most appealing things about the idea of owning my own house or flat (the impossible dream!) is the thought of being able to decorate it to my tastes. 

5. You don't ever feel grown up. 

I always thought I'd reach a certain point (around the age of 21, hahahaha!) where I'd feel like I'd got my shit together, but the fact is that life changes: you change, you learn, and (hopefully) you grow. It's good to have a plan, and I am the queen of the to-do list, but things don't always work out the way you expect them to, and that's okay. Everyone else is just winging it too.

I'm sure there are more, these are just the things that are the most relevant to me at the moment. Hopefully there'll be many more What No One Tells You posts to come  let me know if there are any topics you'd like to see. I'll have to do another post on the adulthood theme once I graduate and discover the joys of paying for things like council tax. 

What did no one tell you about growing up? Have you experienced any of these? Let me know in the comments!

First Impressions | NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly

Friday, 17 April 2015

When I asked everyone during a #bbloggers chat whether the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer was worth the hype, the answer I got was a resounding 'yes'. £22 is a lot, but I read a tonne of reviews and did a lot of research before I parted with my money. Although I do own a few high end products, I usually ask for them for Christmas or my birthday so this is the first time I've really splashed out.

So what are my thoughts so far? Well, to put it simply, I love it. The coverage is amazing — I'd say it's medium to full, and easy to build if you use light layers. Nothing I've ever tried covers my dark circles the way this does. I tend to dot it underneath my eyes, and then buff it in using my fingers and the Real Techniques Buffing Brush (from the Core Collection). Thankfully, it doesn't settle in any fine lines.

I also use this for covering spots and the red line that runs across my nose, and it does a good job, although I'd probably suggest something a little less brightening for raised blemishes.

Left: No make up. Right: With Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer

I've gotta give NARS credit for making a shade that is actually pale enough for me. Chantilly is an ideal match for my ghostly face, not too white and not too orange. That's the main problem with high street base products: they're always a shade too dark, that is if they try and cater for pale skin at all. In an ideal world I wouldn't have to spend so much to get such a perfect shade match, unless I wanted to of course, but for now this is definitely my go-to concealer. It does everything I want it to.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer costs £22, comes in ten shades, and is available here.

Have you tried NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer? What beauty products do you like to splash out on? Let me know in the comments!      

Treats From... | LUSH — Ultrabland, Sex Bomb, and Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Lush products

I firmly believe that the occasional trip to LUSH is good for the soul (and the skin) so I popped into my local store when I was back home over Easter to pick up a couple of products: Ultrabland, my all-time favourite cleanser; Sex Bomb, which lots of you recommended I try next, and Catastrophe Cosmetic, a fresh face mask which was actually free (I'd been saving up my pots!)

Lush Catastrophe Cosmetic

Catastrophe Cosmetic (v)
I'd heard things about LUSH's face masks here and there before, but I'd never actually tried one until recently. I took my five pots in to be exchanged, and after chatting to the assistant about the state of my skin (dry, sensitive, spot-prone) she recommended Catastrophe Cosmetic, which happened to be the mask I'd been eyeing up. Great minds!

Catastrophe Cosmetic contains blueberries, calamine, chamomile, rose, and almond oil, and it smells lovely. It takes some effort to spread it across the skin, but it dries quickly, almost to the point where it gets flaky, actually. Maybe I've been leaving it on too long? Anyway, after about five or ten minutes I wash it off with warm water and a flannel, and I have to say, it leaves my skin looking much calmer, and it feels smoother, too. The results aren't quite as instant as they are with the Una Brennan Clay Mask, but it's a nice product to keep in the fridge.

Catastrophe Cosmetic costs £6.50 and is available here.

Lush Sex Bomb

Sex Bomb (v)
I can't be the only one who gets that song stuck in my head at the mention of this bath bomb, can I? Tom Jones aside, I have really fallen in love with Sex Bomb, and expect it to become a fairly regular treat when I finally move into a house with a bath this September.

First of all, it smells soooooo good. I'm rubbish at picking out scents (it always impresses when someone can smell a perfume and be like 'Oh, the top notes are gardenia and roses!'. Those people are wizards. I have no idea if gardenia and roses actually go together btw, they were just the first two things I thought of) but according to the LUSH website it contains jasmine, ylang ylang, and clary sage, which is a divine combination.

Secondly, Sex Bomb turns the bath water pink. Pink! I thought I was too old and jaded to be impressed by such novelties but I felt like I was in a princess bath and I loved it, so there. The rose was a cute touch, although I have to agree with Holly from The Persephone Complex  it looks like a clitoris. Probably intentional, given the name. Sex Bomb left my skin feeling really soft, not quite as soft as Butterball, but soft enough that I skipped moisturiser.

Sex Bomb costs £3.35 and is available here.

Lush Ultrabland

Ultrabland is amaaaazing. Since my skin has been so stressed I wanted something gentle and soothing, and I immediately went to Ultrabland. It only contains ten ingredients, none of which irritate my sensitive, spot-prone skin, and, dare I say it, it's knocked Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish off the top spot as my holy grail cleanser.

Ultrabland is thick and a little bit sticky, but once it's made contact with your skin it breaks down to more of a cream/oil. You do have to take a little more care removing it (I like to use a proper, thick flannel for this) but it's well worth the effort. It's also very good for removing make-up.

Ultrabland costs £7.25 for 45g, and £11.50 for 100g, and is available here.

Have you picked up anything from LUSH recently? Have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments!

(v) = vegan

Brand Focus | Botanics Skincare

Monday, 6 April 2015

More and more Botanics products are starting to make their way into my bathroom, so it seemed like the right time to feature them on the blog. Botanics are one of Boots' brands, and they make purse-friendly skincare which incorporates plants into its ingredients. Having read Jasmin's post about beauty jargon, I'm not sure how beneficial this is, but their products have all worked for me so far! I've also started to keep even more of an eye on my budget, and where better to start than with skincare?

Ultra Calm Skin Calming Night Cream, £6.99 for 50ml 
Hydrating without being too rich or greasy, this night cream has been wonderful — my face usually feels really tight in the morning, but not so much since I've introduced this to my routine. It sinks in quickly, too.

Ultra Calm Gentle Cleansing Cream, £4.49 for 250ml 
This has been working well for me. A soothing but not-too-rich cream, it's gentle on skin, easy to rinse off with a muslin cloth, and a little bit goes a long way — one bottle is going to last me ages.

Ultra Calm Micellar 3-in-1 Cleansing Solution, £3.29 for 250ml
I use this to take off my make up (often as soon as I walk in the door) and it's lovely, particularly with eye make up. I should know by now not to judge products by their appearance but I didn't expect something this gentle to be so good at dissolving my mascara and eyeliner. A couple of swipes with a cotton pad and everything's gone — I no longer wake up with panda eyes.

All Bright Cleansing Toner, £3.99 for 250ml 
I've mentioned this more than once on here, so I promise I won't ramble! I use this toner twice a week and it makes such a difference to clarity of my complexion. Despite containing an AHA, it doesn't irritate, and it leaves skin feeling really smooth. You can read my full review here

Botanics products are often on offer and there are several ranges to choose from, so it's easy to find something that suits.

Have you tried anything from the Botanics range? What would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

The 26 Stages Of... | My Easter Saturday

Sunday, 5 April 2015

So tempted to make these again! Recipe from Helen at lovecatsinc

Happy Easter everyone! This is a little bit of a bonus post; I thought it'd be fun to do a 'day in the life of' type thing. I don't really have a typical day right now, since it's currently the holidays, and to be honest there's no such thing when I'm at university either because it all depends on how much writing I get done. Yesterday we went to my aunt's house for what turned out to be a massive family meal (I'm also going to another one tomorrow, because food = life) and I documented that, since eating does seem to be a massive part of my Easter break. Enjoy, and if you like it then it may well become a regular feature here on Toasty.

9.09am: Discover, ten minutes after waking, that we won't be having lunch till three. Prepare enormous breakfast sandwich with sausages, eggs, and bacon. All of the bacon.

9:27am: Squeal with delight when the egg does what it's supposed to, instead of burning/breaking/getting all over the frying pan. Even Mum describes it as 'the perfect fried egg'. Today is going to be a good day.

9:34am: Today is not going to be a good day. Have less than twenty minutes to do my hair, put on make up, get into my clothes, pack my bag, and brush my teeth before we head into town for morning coffee. Mission impossible. Did set my alarm half an hour early but I spent that time stalking you lot on Insta, oops.

9:54am: Braid my hair. Develop envy for everyone on Pinterest who can create an up-do without exposing their scalp #finehairproblems

10:06am: Finally ready to leave! Somehow managed to do winged liner with about thirty seconds to spare. I am Superwoman.

10:20am: Arrive at the coffee shop. Crushed by a hug from Pete, my disabled uncle who I haven't seen since last year: "Hello darlin', I love you." N'aaww. To my brother, Dominic, he says: "Come here, you fat lump."

10:37am: Asked by Pete how my 'other half' is. Awkward  I've been single since October 2013. Count my blessings that my nan isn't here to drop 'hints' about how much she wants me to have children.

10:51am: One of the volunteers, a lady called Mary, tells me I'm turning into a 'lovely young thing' and gives me an Easter egg. Heart warms all over. Pensioners are so sweet.

10:55am: Pensioners are a bloody nightmare. Braving the supermarket in search of last-minute gifts and they keep barging into me and not apologising. Pick up chocolate for Dad and Dominic, shower gel for Pete, and flowers for Mum, Nan, and my aunt, Sandy.

11:52am: Stop by my old dance studios to say hi; they're having an open day. All the students who I think of as being children are now teenagers. Feel incredibly old.

12:15pm: Watch the open day showcase. Feel incredibly unfit.

12:44pm: Sign myself up for a few summer ballet classes. Heart says yes; bank account says no.

1:33pm: Car journey to Aunt Sue's. Family singalong to Don't Stop Believin' by Journey.

2:30pm: Let the feast begin! Starter is homemade sweet potato soup with chorizo croutons. I didn't realise chorizo croutons were a thing, but they are a thing and they are AMAZING. They don't look particularly appetizing though  apparently my uncle mistook them for cat food.

3:16pm: Main course served. Roast lamb, mint sauce, vegetables, and potatoes dauphinoise. Don't even like potatoes but eat several helpings of these. Everything is better with tonnes of cheese and cream.

4:00pm: Interlude for awkward family photos.

4:15pm: Pudding! Delighted to spot my favourite New York cheesecake. Wolf down an enormous slice.

4:26pm: Sue entertains us with the story of how she came off her motorbike when she was pregnant with my cousin, Kemsley. "That's what did it!" quips Sandy.

4:32pm: Someone suggests games. "I'm not playing any games," says my uncle. "You don't have to play, you can sit there and look fucking miserable," my aunt replies with a wink.

4:33pm: Family game of The Chase. On a team with Mum and Dominic, ready to murder both. First question is about domain names. They turn to me; I get it wrong. Dominic throws box at my head.

4:48pm: We lose. Game ends.

5:09pm: Called back to the table for cheese and biscuits. Four courses?! Devour tomato and herb crackers with Wensleydale  best cheese ever. Forget all the mouldy ones: I like my cheese sweet, crumbly, and dotted with cranberries.

6:18pm: We make our way home. Family singalong to the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse version of Valerie.

7:01pm: Bathtime! After discovering the delights of LUSH's Sex Bomb the other night, ordinary baths now seem dull. The pink water was quite the novelty; it made me think of a princess bath (if there is such a thing). Read Elle magazine and find myself inspired by Victoria Coren Mitchell's column and the interview with Rebel Wilson.

7:51pm: Cleanse (Ultrabland), apply serum (Dragon's Blood Fix), moisturise (Ultra Calm Night Cream. Apply spot cream and frown at reflection. Curse adult acne.

8:00pm: Start typing up blog post!

Lifestyle | Right Now I'm...

Friday, 3 April 2015

... listening to Damien Rice's My Favourite Faded Fantasy album. I remember reading about the release ages ago, making a mental note to check it out... and then forgetting all about it. But the other day I YouTubed 'The Greatest Bastard' and damn. Tears, everyone, actual tears — good thing I was at home and not in the library. So, of course, I downloaded the whole thing immediately; Damien Rice has always been able to hit me straight in the feels.

... reading Boyhood by JM Coetzee. I was introduced to Coetzee's work in my Writing Non Fiction workshop and I was hooked straight away. I absolutely adore his writing style, because even though he doesn't tell you everything explicitly you're able to pick things up just from the details he gives you. Reading between the lines is definitely something I've learned to appreciate since I've been at university.

... watching Parks and Recreation. Ever since I discovered Chris Lilley I've been obsessed with mockumentary-style shows, and Parks and Recreation is just hilarious. I've only just started it, and I'm very tempted to grab the entire box set (if they release one) now the show is over (sob).


... drinking a Taff's Well Iced Tea! It's a cocktail invented by my friend Bobbie, and I think it involves copious amounts of vodka and peach-flavoured iced tea. I'm not entirely sure, I just know that it's yummy (and lethal). Alcohol aside, I've been reaching for Naked's Superfood Blueberry Smoothie a lot when I need a bit of a pick-me-up, it's sweet but not too sugary.

... eating avacado with everything. My favourite is avacado pasta: wholewheat pasta, vegetables (I usually have mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and courgettes) and half an avacado blended together with some lemon juice, pepper, and a spoonful of pesto. I adapted the recipe from the Blogilates website, and it's quickly become a staple week-night dinner.

... wearing striped everything. Nothing unusual there!

What have you been up to recently? Any suggestions for other ways I can incorporate avacado into my meals? Let me know the comments and help to fuel my obsession!

Top 5 Beauty Products Under £5

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

I won't lie: I love a bargain. Generally, I try to find all of my products on the high street when I can, partly because I live off a student budget and partly because the thrill of finding something that's both amazing and low-cost never gets old. Today I'm sharing the love by talking about five of my favourite products, all of which leave you with change left over from a fiver. Sorted.

Sudocrem was a lifesaver when I was little, so I was excited to try out their Skin Care Cream. This time a year ago, I never would have described myself as being spot-prone, but stress and my complexion do not mix and I've had acne on my forehead for a while now. The cream is thick, and it takes some effort to squeeze it out of the tube, but it becomes easy to work with once you rub it between your fingers and it sinks in quickly. It smells like, well, Sudocrem, and the lavender is noticeable but not overpowering. I use a layer of it over spots (in place of tea tree oil) before I go to bed, and when I wake up in the morning any redness and swelling has gone down  impressive. Definitely one to keep by your bed. 

You all know the drill with this one: a tonne of shades, and lots of different ranges to choose from. The only problem I have when I'm choosing what to buy is restraining myself! My current favourite is the Speedy Quick Dry Nail Paint in Pole Position (check out my post here) but I also really like the top coats and the Gelly range.

The All Bright Cleansing Toner is obviously a toner, but I use it twice a week in place of an exfoliator. It provides a gentler kind of exfoliation than a manual scrub, and leaves my skin looking healthy and glowing, without any irritation. I've also found that it's good at reducing redness when you have blemishes, and it lasts for ages so it's excellent value for money. I bought my bottle last year, and I'm not even halfway through it.

This is a recent find, which I bought when I needed some space-themed nail art. The flecks of black and white — some big, some small — look stunning against dark nail polish (I went for navy) or over the top of a nude shade. An easy, fuss-free way to update your nails. (As with all textured nail polish, it's a pain to remove, but it has good staying power and it looks lush, so I can forgive.)

This stuff is so easy to work with! The creamy texture is a dream to apply but once it stays, it stays. I have Coffee, which is a gorgeous, everyday brown shade. Unfortunately, while I was in the process of putting this post together, e.l.f. announced that they were shutting down. I am gutted. e.l.f. is one of my favourite brands for inexpensive, cruelty-free make up and I've loved nearly everything of theirs that I've tried. RIP e.l.f. Cosmetics :(

What are your favourite products for under a fiver? Have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments!
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