Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The sunrise over the valleys a couple of days ago. It was way more stunning in person.

January was a very mixed month. We lost my nan, which was a blessing in disguise because of how ill she was, but still, it's shit news. My general rule most days is to eat no meat and very little dairy but I went out and ate a cheeseburger with bacon and cheese fries the day I found out.

Speaking of dairy, towards the end of December I made the decision to cut down because I've noticed that it has a terrible effect on my skin  specifically, cheese. Now, I wish I could tell you that I am enlightened and life is better for it, but I'd be lying. Life without cheese is fucking grim. But avoiding it makes my skin happy, so I'm trying to look on the bright side.

I have to stress that January wasn't all bad. I got the internship I applied for, which I'm ridiculously excited about, and although it's added to my workload the positives far outweigh the negatives  I can't wait to get started! Despite everything I have to do, I'm still trying to take time out to relax when I can. I've been going to my local pub quiz quite a bit, and our team is determined to win at least once.

I watched... The Sherlock special The Abominable Bride. I was thoroughly entertained, and also a little confused  I think it's the kind of episode that needs a second viewing so you can pick out any details you might have missed. Although tbh I'm not sure I want to watch it again because the bride was terrifying. Also, at first I was like 'Yay, they're talking about suffrage!' but then they had Sherlock mansplain it to a room full of women, so I'm not sure it had quite the effect they were hoping for.

I read... Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. I LOVE Lena  she makes me want to up my game when it comes to writing non-fiction because of how honest and fearless she is.

I listened to... Oh Wonder's eponymous album. You know when you can listen to whole album without skipping a track? This is one of those. It's pretty chilled, and perfect writing music. Also: Lapsley. Lapsley's music is my life right now  you need to listen to Hurt Me and feel all of the feels.

I bought... two tartan blankets for my bed because it's frickin freezing in Wales right now.

Product of the Month: The NARS Steven Klein Dead of Summer Dual Intensity Eyeshadow Palette. It has its flaws but the shades are just beautiful (as is the packaging).

How was January for you? Let me know in the comments!

Cruelty-Free Brand of the Month — Barry M

Monday, 25 January 2016

Barry M Nail Paints

My last couple of Cruelty-Free Brand of the Month posts have been based more on skincare, so I thought it was time I headed back to make-up, and where better to start than Barry M? Everyone loves a bit of Barry M and everyone knows the brand for its magnificent nail polish collections. I've been buying Barry M polishes since the age of 11, but it was when their magic nail polish was released (remember that?!) that I truly became hooked.

Their Ethics
Barry M are cruelty-free and proud of it, which is always a bonus (so many standard high street brands aren't, and it's a damn shame). They support the Humane Society International's Be Cruelty-Free campaign, which fights to end cosmetic animal testing, and so far the campaign has succeeded in the EU, India, and Israel. Barry M are very strict about making sure no animal testing occurs throughout their supply chain and they point-blank refuse to sell in China. They also now have a green 'v' symbol next to the ingredients lists of any vegan products, which makes it so much easier to see what you can buy if you don't use anything that contains animal-derived ingredients.

I feel like I can buy Barry M products in complete confidence and the fact their products are all high street prices just makes things ten times better, although it does mean it's easier to get carried away! We've all gone into Superdrug for some tissues and come out with a new make-up collection at some stage, right?

I've Tried...
Recently my love for Barry M has been reaffirmed after trying the Sunset Daylight Curing Nail Paints. They've been out for a while now so they're not really news, but for some reason I overlooked them. That is until The Dark Side of the Shroom (v) caught my eye and suddenly I had to try them out. I started with that and then sealed it with the top coat, and was taken with how shiny my nails looked, and how well the colour stayed put. A word of warning: these polishes do not like hot water, so wear rubber gloves if you need to wash up or the colour will peel.

A Wishlist
Sunset Daylight Curing Nail Paints in Vengeance Is Wine and Plum On Baby Light My Fire. Both are shades I would wear all the time and I'm also loving the cheesy, punny names.
Genie Lip Paint. A green lipstick that turns into your own personal shade of pink  how cool is that?
Angled Eyeliner Brush. The only angled brush I already own is the one I use for my eyebrows but I'd love one for my eyeliner as well. I have no idea what any of the Barry M brushes are like but £2.99 is more than reasonable  I won't be too mad if things don't work out.

Are you as Barry M-obsessed as me? What's your favourite shade of nail paint? Let me know in the comments!

(v) = vegan

Adult Acne is a Pain in the Proverbial Arse, Part 2

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Nothing to do with acne but look at his grumpy little face! This is how I look in the morning (photo from Pexels)
(Read Part 1)

This post wasn't planned. I don't even know where it's going, I'm just sitting down with my laptop and typing, so bear with me (supposed to be writing an essay but naaah). It might make sense.

I went to see the doctor about my skin again on Friday  the same one as before. Last time he gave me some cream, Duac, which generally clears my spots up but can also be quite drying thanks to the benzoyl peroxide. It also stings like nothing else if you get it in your eye, which is why the first thing I do when I get out of bed in the morning is wash my face (otherwise it goes all tacky in the shower and gets everywhere), and it also bleaches all your flannels. Duac. Means. Business.

Anyway, during the appointment I sat there while the doctor proceeded to contradict every bit of advice I'd heard about treating spots and now I don't know what to believe. I was under the impression I had to apply the cream to the spots and not the surrounding skin  he told me to put the cream everywhere. I thought that washing your face too many times per day made it oilier  he suggested I go home to wash my face in the middle of the day to 'get rid of any secretions' ('secretions' is such a disgusting word). I said that wouldn't be possible, seeing as I have make-up and a life, but I compromised by buying some blotting papers to mop up any excess oil without disturbing, you know, everything.

He also renewed my Duac prescription, so I'm going to stick with it and see if it continues to help. It made quite a significant difference when I first started using it but the results tailed off towards the end of the year, although that was partly my fault: I'd been using the cream too sparingly, and I'd also been eating more cheese than normal, since it was Christmas.

Aah, cheese. I bloody love cheese. Unfortunately, cheese does not bloody love me and so we have parted ways. I didn't really eat that much dairy to start with but now I'm deliberately avoiding it, with the exception of the natural yogurt I eat in the morning. I think it's helping. My diet is generally quite healthy anyway (aside from the odd pizza, but you gotta do that, right? It's good for the soul) but I've been paying extra attention to it recently. Anything I can do to improve my skin (and by extension, my state of mind), I will, within reason.

You know what's weird? I feel guilty. Firstly because the cream I have is made by GlaxoSmithKline, a company who test on animals, which as you all know is something I actively avoid. And secondly because there's a whole load of shit going on in the world right now and the state of my skin is really not a big deal in comparison; it just feels like a big deal to me.

My friend Lannee told me that 'None of us notice it', which was sweet and did make me feel better, but I still notice it. When I look in the mirror my eyes always go to the spots first, especially the cluster on my right cheek and jawline (they seem to have settled in for the long haul). But I'm getting there, slowly. The other day I went to the uni library without wearing make-up, the first time I'd left the house bare-faced in just under a year. Tbh time is partly responsible for that, since I have so much work to do that I can't always justify sitting down to apply a full face, but still, it was a massive step for me. HUGE. And I'm not going to let my spots define. Acne, quite frankly, can do one.

Have you ever had any experiences like mine? How do you deal with spots? Let me know in the comments.

LUSH Mmmelting Marshmellow Moment

Monday, 18 January 2016

LUSH Mmmelting Marshmellow Bath Melt

I've said it before, but my hosuemate Giulia is the bestest. Always positive, always encouraging, and she has a wicked sense of humour. (Side note: She comes home from a trip to Uganda today and I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE HER.) She also buys excellent gifts, most recently some goodies from Thorntons and LUSH. When you think LUSH, you think bath bombs, but the product I was most excited about was the Mmmelting Marshmellow Moment (v).

Bath melts kind of fly under the radar and I admit that I haven't really heard much about them, if anything. But I was intrigued as soon as I saw the Mmmelting Marshmellow Moment  just look at that gorgeous, sunset-esque pink and orange ombre.

It doesn't create a wow bath but I didn't mind that (my favourite bath bomb is Butterball, which should tell you everything). My skin was left feeling very moisturised, which is hardly surprising when you find out the oil contains cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil and almond oil, and the smell was gorgeously sweet thanks to the candyfloss scent. I was even able to skip body lotion afterwards (which is something I do frequently but let's brush past that!)

Mmmelting Marshmellow Moment costs £2 for 20g.

Have you tried any of the bath melts before? What's your favourite LUSH product? Let me know in the comments!

(v) = vegan

5 Things To Do In January

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Let's face it, January can be a miserable month. The excitement of Christmas has gone, we're all back at work/uni/college, and the weather isn't anything special. Here in south Wales it's been freezing cold and chucking it down with rain, although we have had the occasional sunny morning, too (they're worth getting up for). Here are five things you can do to make January seem a little better.

1. Treat yo'self
To that nail polish you've had your eye on, or that bath bomb, or that book you've been wanting to read. I know it's important to tighten the purse strings post-Christmas, but if you're careful then the odd treat won't hurt. You deserve it.

2. Go for a wander
When it's not pissing down, obviously. Last week I left my phone behind and spent a couple of happy hours pottering around my town, just taking the time to move, breathe, and admittedly escape from all the work I had to get going with. But I needed it! The fresh air did wonders for my stress levels and I started my to-do list feeling refreshed.

3. Try some new food
There are a fair few restaurants in Cardiff that I want to try, but eating out is a luxury. Fortunately I can turn to the internet for some new recipes while I save up in the meantime. I've just tried making Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas, which are both delicious and very filling (I made far too much for one person!) and I'm planning to try out this Vegan Gourmet Mushroom Risotto next, albeit without the truffle oil and fancier mushrooms. Maybe it's just better to call it Vegan Mushroom Risotto? Whatever it is, I'm excited.

4. Have a digital culling session
Culling is a vicious word, which is precisely why I chose it. Every so often I like to go through my Facebook friends and delete anyone who I don't interact with or at least see occasionally, and I also go through Twitter and Instagram and unfollow anyone whose posts aren't relevant. And what about those annoying promotional emails that pop into your inbox every day? Unsubscribe! Trust me, you'll feel so blimmin satisfied afterwards.

5. Read that one book that's always been on your list
For me, that book is The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, and since I finally got my hands on a copy I have no excuse not to read it now. I can't wait to dive in.

What will you be doing to ease the January blues? Let me know in the comments!

NARS Steven Klein Dead of Summer Dual Intensity Eyeshadow Palette

Monday, 11 January 2016

Hello everyone, how are you all? I've had a few classes back at uni now and it's fair to say that everyone's feeling the pressure. My normal coping mechanisms include eating (mostly healthy food, but plenty of it), complaining about stress with my fellow third-years, and having fun with my make-up. One of the products that's been helping me attempt to look like I have my shit together is the NARS Steven Klein Dead of Summer Eyeshadow Palette.

I'd had Dead of Summer on my wishlist for a long time. Like many of you, I'm a sucker for an eyeshadow palette, and like many of you, I tend to gravitate towards the same kind of shades (for me, that's neutrals with the odd gold or copper colour). So when I see something that's different but still totally wearable, I get more than a little bit excited.

Dead of Summer is a sexy, boxy, beast of a palette and contains four Dual Intensity eyeshadows (Studly, Stag Film, Subra, and Blackmail) and a Larger Than Life Long Wear Eyeliner, which is soft enough not to drag but still firm enough to create a defined line (I do like to use something a little thicker for the waterline, though). Studly is a light golden shade, ideal for brightening the inner corner of the eye, and Stag Film is a shimmery nude with the tiniest pink-mauve hint  wearable enough for day but still different enough to be interesting.

For some reason Subra photographs as quite a copper shade, even though it looks quite cranberry in real life, but it's actually a deep violet shade. Blackmail is a very dark grey that's perfect for smoking up almost any eyeshadow look. I wore a blend of the two of them for a night out at the end of last year and I was really impressed  the shadow stayed put all night and didn't smudge once. This is something I want and need from all my make-up.

As long-lasting and buttery as these shadows are, they're not as pigmented as I was expecting. It takes quite a while to build up the colour, which I guess is a good thing when you're dealing with darker shades like Blackmail, but I'm definitely more of a one-wash kinda girl. You can amplify the colour by using a damp brush to apply it, but that makes the shadow more difficult to blend. Dead of Summer is a beautiful palette but it does require some patience, so think carefully before you spend your money.

The NARS Steven Klein Dead of Summer Dual Intensity Eyeshadow Palette is available for a limited time, priced £29. Have you tried anything from the Steven Klein collection? What do you think of these shades? Let me know in the comments!

3 Cruelty-Free Hand Creams For Freezing Cold Weather

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Cruelty-free hand creams

Hello everyone, how are you all? Recovered from the holidays yet? I'm at university now and I have to admit, I'm quite happy about that, despite the mountains of work I have to tackle. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and I'm grateful for everything they do, but by the time Uncle Pete had asked if I had 'any new boyfriends' (yes, that is boyfriends plural; apparently he's totally cool with polygamy) and by the time an argument had ensued over a packet of crisps (they were venison flavour, surely that's an abomination?) I was ready to go back to my everyday life.

One thing I'm not ready for are the cold spells that January brings. I don't know about you, but my hands hate winter. The skin across my knuckles and in between my fingers always gets cracked and sore, so much so that I even get tiny cuts. Fortunately there are plenty of hand creams to try, so I thought I'd share three of my current favourites with you.

Scented with the Original Pink fragrance that Soap & Glory are perhaps most famous for, Hand Food is definitely a classic. I fell in love with it all over again after finding a travel-sized version during a clear-out and my hands are much softer and happier now I've started using it. Hand Food may have a buttery texture but it isn't greasy in the slightest, and it contains shea butter, macadamia oil, and marshmellow.

The Body Shop Glazed Apple Hand Cream, £4 for 30ml
Imagine sour Haribo sweets: that's this smell, but with fresh apple and a hint of vanilla mixed in. It is gorgeous  almost good enough to eat. It takes a little longer to sink in than the other creams here, but I can't say I mind because that means the fragrance lingers (seriously, it's my favourite thing). I save the Glazed Apple Hand Cream to use just before bed during the festive period and now the scent reminds me of being home for Christmas.

After trying Weleda's Almond Sensitive Hand Cream I knew I had to get my mum one of their hand creams for Christmas. She doesn't like almonds, so I went for pomegranate instead. She very kindly shared her views with me for this post and even let me try a little bit herself. We agreed that the scent was fruity but not too sweet, and she liked how moisturising the cream was. I noticed that the formula is thicker than that of the Almond hand cream, but it still has that silky texture and it does sink in pretty quickly. Another winner from Weleda.

What are your favourite hand creams for the winter season? And how are you finding the new year so far? Let me know in the comments!

(v) = vegan

Goals For 2016 (and a New Blog Header!)

Monday, 4 January 2016

Goals for 2016

Happy New Year!

Well damn, it's 2016. No doubt I'll be writing '2015' in my notebooks and then crossing it out until at least February  it always takes me a bit of time to adjust. I've scrapped New Year's Resolutions in favour of goals (#goals?) this year. I try and stick to my resolutions, I really do, but I also have a habit of forgetting about them before Easter. Goals are more of a long-term thing, part of a plan, almost, and we all know how much I love to plan. What with my leaving university this coming April, I need to get my shit together.

So, what exactly am I planning to do?

Give the blog a bit of a makeover
I already did this  I planned to save the changes for the new year but I was so happy with everything that I couldn't wait! I fancied getting a new template, which I ended up buying from KayLuxeDesign on Etsy. It's right up my street  chic, minimal, and easy to install  so thank you! You may have also noticed TOASTY's new header, which was designed by the wonderful Jemma from Dorkface. She came up with several designs, tweaked my favourite one until it was exactly what I wanted, and was incredibly helpful throughout the whole process. I would definitely recommend her to you all  you can read about the design services she offers over on her blog.

Make the most of my last days as a student
My time at university is nearly over (*sobs*) and I AM NOT READY FOR IT. Well, I am ready to leave the mountains of coursework behind, but after a rocky first year I'm finally enjoying the student bubble, and I'm happy. I like my classes and learn a lot from them, I have a lovely little group of friends and although my town is a bit quiet, I really enjoy going into Cardiff and have developed quite a love for the city. There are still plenty of places to explore before I leave.

Graduate from university, preferably with a 1st
I won't mince my words: I've worked my arse off for the past three years and I want to see the hard work pay off. I'll be doing my utmost to get the results I know I'm capable of.

Find an internship and/or a graduate job (or at least make progress with applications)
As much as I'm not ready to leave university behind, I also feel kind of done with formal education. The real world is beckoning, as are all the responsibilities that come with it, and I want to get my teeth into something that involves writing in one way or another. Blogging, marketing, press office  who knows? I've already sent off an application for an internship and hopefully more will follow.

Visit Giulia in Italy
My housemate Giulia lives in Venice outside of term time and I've always wanted to travel to Italy, so it'd be rude not to go, right? Good food and good company; what more could you want?

Overhaul my diet
This is not the stereotypical 'go on a diet' resolution, but more of an 'I need to look after myself more' kind of thing. The food I eat isn't terrible by any means, but there are a few simple changes I could make: more substantial lunches so I don't snack mindlessly, less dairy because it aggravates my acne, and less sugar. Nothing crazy, nothing unsustainable, just sensible healthy eating.

Do you have a list of goals and/or resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments!
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