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Monday, 30 June 2014

Life Lately.

It was only three weeks ago that I was thinking of things to pass the time while my boyfriend was revising for exams. Despite having a Tumblr blog for two years, I never managed to stay completely devoted to it. I would post every so often and then get disheartened - I felt like I was a bad blogger anyway because I wasn't updating it enough so why bother? So I signed up to Blogger in an attempt to start afresh - it was something I'd been considering for a while. Starting 'LydiaLulu' has reminded me of me own creativity. Having left university in March, I felt like I wasn't using my brain at all. I enjoy writing and reading if only for the mental stimulation! I was spending all my time either at work or on Netflix. I'm in a long-distance relationship and most of my friends are on their gap years travelling the world. It's safe to say that I was lacking a social life. But when I started writing again, I felt rejuvenated - as if my brain was waking up from a deep sleep. I find writing so therapeutic. My new favourite pass-time is scouring Bloglovin' for beauty advice and other relatable posts. I feel as if I'm doing something useful with my time, instead of slogging through my retail job. I've fast become a Blogger addict and I wonder why I didn't do this years ago.
Speaking of which, I haven't been posting all that much recently because I've been working like a crazy person. I woke up early this morning hoping to spend the day catching up with 'LydiaLulu' and what's been going on with the blogosphere. My heart sunk when I saw my work's number flash up on my phone. Turns out, someone had put the first draft of the rota on display and I was supposed to be working from 9:30-18:30. At that moment it was 9:27. I ran down there as quickly as I could - only having time to spray half a can of Batiste on my greasy roots and with very sloppy make-up. I have never felt so disgusting but got there just minutes before opening. Phew. It was a tough day - especially when I noticed my manager hadn't processed my holiday request. She wasn't happy in the slightest but I stood my ground which was the quite the personal milestone.
The reason I wanted to write this little post was to express how much I love having my little space on the internet. Where I can write about my interests and what's happening in my life. A public diary if you will. Nowadays, I feel odd if I don't update my blog - as if something is missing. Of course it's work... but it's the kind of work that I'd someday like to devote my life to.

My favourite workplace.

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Saturday, 28 June 2014

'The Kooples' skirt.

I have a gift for finding fashion inspiration everywhere. A customer came in wearing this amazing skirt today and I instantly knew that I wanted it. It's my favourite style - sweet and girly with a edgy leather twist. She told me she had got it in 'The Kooples' sale and so I searched it as soon as I got home. Sure enough, it's half price. Plus, free express delivery is always appreciated. I've never bought from 'The Kooples' before but they seem to be a higher end, good-quality brand. Can't wait for it to arrive!
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Fashion and Academia.

'I'm a perfectly bright and hard-working woman: I've got a degree and I've read proper books: I also feel a surge of excitement from taking the lid off a pot of creamy new moisturiser or tearing the tissue from a great new dress that's just arrived in the post, and it really pisses me off if anyone thinks this dilutes my intellect.' This is the comment that really spoke to me in Victoria Coren Mitchell's monthly column for ELLE Magazine.

The time I went a bit crazy in NYC.

Growing up, I was very much a fashion and beauty kind of girl. Testing beauty products and bulk-buying clothes made me feel confident at a time when most young girls feel incredibly insecure. It was at this age when my love affair with perfume, nail varnish, and luxurious moisturisers began. At the same time, I wasn't at all confident in my academic ability. All my friends seemed to be perfect academic all-rounders while I exceeded solely in the humanities: English in particular. At times, my obsession with beauty products made me feel even more inferior and less intellectual. As Coren Mitchell discusses in her thought-provoking article, women in our society are thrown into two distinct categories- the shallow 'fashion' girls and the frumpy academics. Yet this inherent prejudice isn't true in the slightest. To even suggest that fashionable women are intellectually inferior for being so is incredibly narrow-minded and insulting. Without a shadow of a doubt, we still function in a patriarchal society where women have to fight much much harder for recognition and are labelled 'bitches' for doing so. We're also expected to conform to some distorted ideal of beauty and our bodies are also subjected to relentless catcalling and unwanted attention. Yet when a woman takes pride in her appearance and makes an effort to look stylish, she's labelled superficial and vain for taking an interest in what she's wearing. It all seems like a effort to put women down no matter what we do. We're dowdy or superficial, bossy or overlooked. It's an impossible situation.
                  In which case, fashion and beauty then becomes a suit of armour. The way we present ourselves in our everyday and work lives is how we want the world to see us. I think I'm like a lot of women when I say that I acknowledge the season's trends but fail to stick to them religiously. I wear what I want because it makes me feel confident - and as we live in a society that tears women's appearances apart, confidence really is key. There's nothing wrong with enjoying fashion. Hands down, I'm a consumer - I'm always after some new garment or must-have beauty product. But that doesn't make me stupid. It doesn't even mean that I've been conditioned to want these things - like so many women, I like the luxury of it all. Buying a new nail polish or a sought-after skirt is a little treat. An indulgence. In the same way that a stereotypical guy might buy a pair of football shoes or some gimmicky gadget. I enjoy being girly. I love going shopping with friends and buying something really great. And I'm usually a good judge of what I'll get plenty of use out of in comparison to the fad trendy piece. My boyfriend teases me to death about this, but I love coming home with plenty of shopping bags - hopefully arriving guilt-free too. I find it so satisfying knowing that I found pieces that will really benefit my fashion and beauty regimes. 
Yet my love for fashion has never had any relation to my academic ability. I achieved straight As at A-Level which was pretty damn hard and I shopped the whole year long. If anything, I found it therapeutic. After a long day of studying, it was uplifting to home to a Topshop parcel. Obviously, I didn't go too crazy on the shopping front - I simply didn't have the funds! But a quick glance at the ASOS website was always enough to lift my spirits. I love the way new clothes or a new beauty product make me feel - confident and refreshed. Like you're ready to take on the world in your fabulous new skirt and lipstick. I'm aware of how ridiculous this may sound to some, but if fashion is what gives me confidence in myself - both physically and mentally - then that's not something I'm ashamed of. In order to survive in this day and age, women need to be confident in their abilities. Buying clothes that boost my self-esteem at a critical point or just make me feel better about things in general is my secret weapon. My love for fashion is just part of who I am and certainly doesn't affect my intellectual capability.
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Friday, 27 June 2014

Fashion Inspiration Friday - Emma Stone.

This week's Fashion Inspiration Friday was an easy one for me. Ever since I saw her hit teen comedy, 'Easy A', a couple years back, I have been a devout Emma Stone fan. She was even my first pin on Pinterest! The reason she's so universally popular is because she's so relatable. She's not afraid to be silly on national television - she's like our celebrity best friend. Plus, with her flawless wardrobe, I like to think that she'd let me borrow whatever I wanted! Whether she's grabbing her morning coffee or posing next to her co-star turned boyfriend on the red carpet, Emma Stone always looks flawless.                                                                                 
Her everyday style is effortlessly put together. Classic blue skinny jeans and a sweet jumper paired with heeled boots and a fitted coat makes for tailored yet casual look. While the ripped skinnies combined with a classic tan coat gives her second look a bit of edge. I think that's what I love most about Emma's style - she always looks so skilfully styled yet still captures that air of effortlessness. Her style seems attainable and grounded, much like herself I suspect. 
Perhaps this is where the stylists come in but Emma is not afraid of pushing boundaries when it comes to her red-carpet couture. This pink ensemble is possibly my favourite red carpet look of all time! I just love it. The two different shades work coherently together to create a flirtatious and fresh look. The fishtail plait also so looks so cute. Equally, her canary yellow gown is reminiscent of old Hollywood in its design. Yet the daring colour brings it into the 21st century by making it suitable for one of Hollywood's biggest young starlets.
Emma Stone's popularity is based on her profound like-ability - she is one of the voices of her generation. She's a witty, intelligent, and successful young woman and her style absolutely reflects her character.


                                      For more Fashion Inspiration, visit my Pinterest board.

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Thursday, 26 June 2014

The 'Sex and the City' Generation.

Despite only being a toddler when it first aired, HBO's Sex And The City  is my absolute favourite programme. And millions of other women's too. What's not to love? It has all the components of a great TV show - love, loss, friendship, sex, and betrayal. But above all, the fashion. Each of the SATC women wore outfits to die for. There were some hits and misses - it was the 90s of course - but they always carried it off with such style that it made you want to wear it too. Plus the New York setting added a touch of glamour too.
I began the series after the second movie came out. It received such horrendous reviews but all the critics would say how the film in no way reflected the greatness of the show. I was intrigued and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. As a result of the film's release, Comedy Central began airing the series right from the start. I dived in and was instantly hooked, I couldn't believe I hadn't watched this show before. It was sexy and witty and gave real insight into the pressure put on women in their thirties to settle down and have kids. Even as a fifteen year-old I felt like I could relate. Plus, the four central characters had such different personalities - they were supposed to embody qualities in every woman. Miranda: the ambitious and witty lawyer. Charlotte: bonafide home-maker and 'Park Avenue Princess'. Samantha: powerful PR woman who is unashamed of her sexual escapades. And then there is Carrie, the show's protagonist - the flirty, sweet, and anxious writer who puts her sex life in the 'New York Star' every week.
The show charts their love lives, their careers, and more importantly, their friendship. One of my favourite episodes is the opening of Season 4. It's Carrie's 35th birthday and she's reflecting on her failed relationships with Mr. Big and Aidan - the men she thinks could have been her soulmates. Instead, the four friends agree to be each other's soulmates - to be a consistent in one another's lives while men come and go. I remember thinking that that was such a refreshing idea. Most women in television shows are obsessed with their partners, they're not presented as a character in themselves. Relationships are undoubtably a crucial factor in Sex and the City, but it's all presented through the woman's eyes. That's what lies at the heart of this show - a realistic exploration of women's issues. Its honesty and frankness has made the show the success that it is.
It's been four years since I first watched the series all the way through. As a proud owner of the 'Sex and the City' boxset, I can quite happily watch a few episodes here and there. Yet as a 19 year old viewer, I do notice some differences from when I first watched. Sometimes I find Carrie so unbelievably irritating. Even though Big had his commitment issues, she absolutely pushed him away by acting so clingy and angsty all the time! And most SATC viewers would agree that Aidan was the best guy in that series and yet she relentlessly messed with his heart. Telling him not to be so 'available' and then eventually cheating on him while he redecorated her apartment. It became infuriating to watch, like she was doing him an injustice. We all knew she had to end up with Mr. Big - but couldn't she have been a little nicer to the guys along the way? I also found her incredibly self-obsessed in comparison to her friends, their brunches usually revolved around Carrie's issues. When you think about it, the other women are so much more interesting! Throughout the show, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda progress and grow as characters. Samantha has made Smith a star and is in a relationship that combines adventurous sex and love. Miranda is a mother and has finally been brave enough to commit to Steve. Charlotte has fulfilled her domestic dream (with a few hiccups along the way) but with a man she wouldn't have expected. Carrie is still writing her column and pining for Mr. Big. In some ways she's a fantastic heroine - in others, she's a two-dimensional character obsessed with shoes.
Above all, what makes 'Sex and the City' such a success some sixteen years after it first aired is how it subverts expectations of women. SATC is one of limited television programmes which explores female sexuality without making the women out to be 'sluts' or 'whores'. It invites viewers into the lives of women (albeit fictional women) who live their lives for themselves; who don't exist for marriage and children. Undoubtably, marriage and babies play a significant role in the show's story-lines but it's through a woman's perspective. The show breaks the mould in its exploration of women's issues. We live vicariously through these character's careers and love lives. We're invited into a fictional world of fashion, fun, and flirtation and that's what makes it such great escapism. We envy these successful New York women with their fabulous fashion sense, romances, and high-powered jobs. But what I enjoy most of all about this show is its focus on friendship and female camaraderie. We live in a man's world. Men dominate politics, business, and all too often, relationships too. That's why shows like 'Sex and the City' are so fantastic. I'm all too aware that it's all fictional, but I feel like I've learnt a lot of life lessons from those ladies. It's shows like SATC that taught me to be a proud feminist, to not let a man mess me around, and that loving fashion doesn't make me shallow or superficial. It's all about female empowerment and that's what makes it such a gem.
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Alexa Ray Joel's Rendition of 'Just the Way You Are' is Wonderful.

   Okay so maybe I'm a tad behind on this, like I am with a lot of things, but Alexa Ray Joel's cover of her father's 'Just the Way You Are' completely blew me away. When I first saw this, I thought it might be strange for her to be performing her dad's song - as a musician in her own right, surely she must be tired of living in her father's shadow? But this just works. Not only does she have a wonderful voice like her dad but she also puts her own spin on his classic song. Simply perfection.
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Django helps me bake.

And when I say 'bake', I mean 'licked the bowl clean of whipped cream'. Ridiculous cat. Here's my take on Mary Berry's 'Wimbledon Cake'. Thought it was appropriate as I was watching Murray destroy Rola in the second round of the tennis tournament while baking it.
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Monday, 23 June 2014

Wimbledon 2014.

The start of the Wimbledon tennis tournament marks the beginning of British summertime... symbolically at least. Hundreds of thousands of people from all around the British Isles, and even further afield, flood the quaint borough of London for the most exciting tennis tournament of all. The matches dominate our TV screens throughout these two weeks. We become emotionally invested in our favourite players' journey. We share their ups and downs: screaming for the wins and crying for their losses. The technique of the world's top players are riveting to watch - the speed at which the ball travels and the way they so effortlessly glide around the court. No wonder we become so engrossed in it all. 
My love for Wimbledon lies in its celebration of all thing British. After all, it's not just about the tennis. The tournament is based in the nation's capital - just minutes away from the pleasantly posh Wimbledon village. The fact that we host this hugely popular tennis tournament creates a sense of national pride. The matches themselves feel distinctly British - the formality of the players in their white uniform, the polite clapping after every point, and the one over-excited person that yells 'Come on Andy!' at a pivotal moment. I love how the public seating area outside Centre Court has been christened 'Murray Mountain' - that crowd is always so fun to watch during an important game. The atmosphere is so upbeat and jolly despite not being able to bag a seat in the most sought-after stadium. Even the temperamental weather changes add to the Wimbledon experience. Living in the UK, you can never bet on sunshine so we've chosen to embrace it with luminous rain-coats and a put a roof over Centre Court for good measure. Strawberries and cream are also a crucial part of any Wimbledon attendee's experience. Plus, Kim Sears is undeniably the Kate Middleton of the tournament - her outfits are flawless and her unwavering support for Murray throughout his professional success and failure is adorable. 
During these intense two weeks, I become a fully-fledged Wimbledon addict... at least when it comes to Andy Murray. I'm even watching his opening match as I write this. For any hard-core Murray fan, Wimbledon resembles a story of heroes and villains. Andy is obviously our hero and anyone that plays against him the villain. I don't consider myself a particularly angry person, but the resentment I felt for Roger Federer when he stole the Wimbledon title from Andy in 2012 was like nothing I've ever experienced! Federer is, undeniably, a fantastic player but he always come across so arrogant and smug. Sue Barker's interview with Murray after his 2012 loss is heart-wrenching. And yet the moment Andy won the championship last year was just as moving. It was like the whole of Britain breathed a sigh of relief. You felt like you were watching history - and I suppose we were, since Fred Perry was last British man to win in 1936. But for me, it was about Andy Murray himself. We'd been watching him flourish as a player since 2007. My respect for him, however, is down to the fact that he was still able to succeed with the nation's hopes of winning a major sporting event on his shoulders. The British can't do football but Murray gives us hope when it comes to tennis. 
Tennis is such a easy, fun sport to watch. It's fast-paced and exciting and there's always a definite end. It's not like struggling through an England World Cup Match where you're just begging the team to get themselves together. The focus on one singular player means you're so much more invested. You can see in their sporting style just how much tennis means to them. Watching Murray's frustration when he gets angry at himself gives us insight into the pressure he puts on himself. He gets so much criticism for not being 'charismatic' enough - but what does that really matter? He's a fantastic player who has fantastic skill and delivered Britain's dream of a Wimbledon title! If anything, I have more respect for the fact that he's so clearly a private person. 
Like the rest of the nation, I'll once again be supporting Murray to the bitter end. But the pressure is off this year - he's won the title once. Now it's time for us all to relax a bit and enjoy the game.

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Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Charming World of Jane Austen.

When it comes to literature, I like to be adventurous. As a hard-core bookworm, I've read my fair share of classics from across different historical periods. Yet, I suppose that depends on what you interpret as a 'classic' - for me, Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' is one of the best books ever written whereas others would completely dismiss it. The work of Jane Austen, on the other hand, remains at the forefront of the literary world some two hundred years after they were first published. The small success Austen enjoyed in her own lifetime is nothing compared to the status she has achieved in the modern world. Her work has been dramatised more times than I can count and even inspired spin-off sequels. I love immersing myself in the world of19th century England's society of manners. Her characters are three-dimensional and often unpredictable. Her tone varies from comical to passionate as her heroines confront difficult lessons of life and love. Although romance underlines every novel, Austen's works don't consist of the repetitive fairy-tale formula: boy meets girl, they fall in love, problem emerges, with love conquering all. Her ability to create interesting and flawed characters are the reason why her novels are still relevant in the 21st century world. Marianne Dashwood is young and passionate, Elizabeth Bennett is proud and protective, while Emma Woodhouse is manipulative and innocent. These characters capture our imagination and we become emotionally invested in their journey.
Perhaps the reason Austen has such devoted readers in this day and age is due to the romantic world she depicts. Whereas as we live in the age of the 'booty call' and 'friends-with-benfits' faux relationships, Austen describes a simpler time. A period of history where men courted ladies, would invite them to dance at social engagements, and ask their father for their hand after an appropriate amount of time. These days, relationships can become much more complicated - when is the right time to make it official? Facebook official, obviously. When do you meet the parents? Do you become friends with his friends? Are his friends therefore your friends, or are they now joint friends? How do you handle distance? Where's this relationship going? It can all become very complex very quickly. In that case, Austen's simpler romantic world of manners and courting offers wonderful solace.
At the same time, however, Austen's heroines undoubtedly have their romantic ups and downs. Take the classic example of Elizabeth and Darcy - she thinks he's an arrogant snob for half the novel while he's absolutely in love with her and willing to ignore her lowly status. The novel is based around this misunderstanding. After all, it is called 'Pride and Prejudice'. Moreover, the young, beautiful Marianne Dashwood falls hopelessly in love with the slanderous Mr. Willoughby and spends the novel in heart-break as a result of his deception and betrayal. Perhaps the ladies of 19th century England were just as fixated on their relationships as the rest of us - just in a different way. They analysed letters in the same way that we analyse text messages.
Like I said before, Austen's novels don't revolve entirely around the men. What makes each and every one of Austen's works so unique is the character's development as throughout the novel and her interesting depiction of the family. For Elizabeth and Jane Bennett, their embarrassing family are a concern of their social superior suitors. Yet they remain fiercely protective of them nonetheless. Elinor Dashwood also strives to protect her younger sister, and nurses her heart-break - even providing her with the full extent of Willoughby's misgivings. Austen therefore values family above all - even they're inappropriate and unpredictable - they're still the most important people in her character's lives. Providing them with love and support through their romantic hardship and personal journeys (apart from when Mrs. Bennett tries to make Elizabeth marry Mr. Collins...). This is a lesson modern readers can relate to in their own lives.
I love escaping into Jane Austen's world of social propriety and romantic endeavours.  In the 21st century, it is escapism in every sense. Not only do we gain a sense of this historical period, but we also indulge our fantasies in the romance of it all. But Austen's works are so much more than this - they create a diverse range of moral and immoral characters who all function within this unknown social spectrum. As readers, we are invited to make judgements and support our heroine in her quest for love and independence. For me, reading an Austen novel is one of life's greatest pleasures. 

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Victoria's Secret - a Feminist's Nightmare or a Source of Empowerment?

As a long-term lover of everything Victoria's Secret, I am always quick to jump to the brand's defence. Although I was only seven years old when my family was living in the States, I remember gazing into the Victoria's Secret at the mall and thinking just how glamourous it looked. The first time I went in with my Mum, it didn't cross my mind that the 'angels' were hyper-sexualised. I just thought they were beautiful and glamourous - having been exposed to these images all my life, this seemed normal to me at the age of seven. All the women in the spotlight had perfect bodies and were stunning. I came out of the trip with the body mist, Love Spell, and was thrilled. I was already experimenting with beauty products at that age! When we moved back to UK, however, I largely forgot about the brand. It was only when we returned to America on holiday that I would stock up on my favourite scents. Naturally, I soon began buying their underwear too. I loved the stores' atmosphere; everything was so feminine and pretty. Exiting the store with their gorgeous big shopping bags, I always feel chuffed with myself - like I had a secret. For me, shopping at Victoria's Secret is about feeling confident and comfortable in your body. Their bras are feminine and sweet - its about making women feel good rather than inspiring desire in men.
The New Bond Street branch.
So when Victoria's Secret arrived in the UK in 2012, just in the time for the London Olympics (those clever Americans), I was pretty excited. I dutifully waited for the media storm to die down a bit and then headed over to New Bond Street. I was so excited when I approached the store - it was bigger than any other one I'd ever been in. I hastily waltzed through the grand entrance... and was hugely disappointed. There stood a long, ill lit corridor that was jammed back with tourists. Eurgh. I explored a bit, in the hope that it would improve. It didn't. The underwear on the first floor was profoundly tacky - crazily padded, sparkly, neon-coloured bras are not my idea of 'sexy'. All this merchandise screamed male fantasy to me and I felt incredibly uncomfortable, especially with all the guys hanging round with their girlfriends. This wasn't the chic, classy store I remembered from my childhood - this was like a La Senza on crack!
Luckily, the underwear improved as I progressed through the store. The first floor is where they hide the more classic, feminine pieces. But all the while, there are images plastered everywhere of the 'angels' posing seductively on beds with 'come hither' eyes. I couldn't help but wonder, who is this for? Miranda Kerr lying on a bed in red satin underwear certainly isn't for my benefit. Is it supposed to inspire me? Am I supposed to emulate her? Or is this all for the guys' sake? I felt like I was being reduced to a sex object when all I really wanted was some pretty, comfortable underwear that made me feel good about myself. Their downstair's Pink collection is the same story (I do, however, live in their boyfriend-style tracksuit bottoms - they are so comfortable but still look great in the way them skim the legs). Despite being aimed at 'college-aged women', this floor was full of pre-teen girls picking out sequinned bras and neon thongs. Although Pink supposedly targets an older demographic, the brand is hugely popular with the tweenage generation. I find this problematic, this range is somewhat tacky, in my opinion, but still suitable for older women - but thirteen year old girls? Call me conservative, but this seems far too young to be shopping in a lingerie store - even one that sells casual clothes.
Their feminine, classic underwear is perfect.
Yet that experience hasn't stopped me from shopping there again - I now know what to expect. One of the things I love about the brand, which I think isn't portrayed in the New Bond Street branch, is that empowers women. Undeniably, their aim is to make every customer feel sexy. But then female sexuality is empowering, right? We're not buying underwear for men, we're buying it for ourselves - to make us feel confident. It sounds silly - but if I'm wearing a nice bra and it makes me feel confident then that is definitely empowering. But there lies the conflict in the Victoria's Secret brand. They aim to make their customers feel happy in themselves but cover their store in images of their elite team of 'angels' who all conform to the media's presentation of the female body. I know this isn't a ground-breaking thought, but where are the real women? Victoria's Secret is absolutely not alone in this. Their typical customer does not have the perfect 'angel' figure - only a tiny minority of women do. If normal-sized women of all shapes and sizes are the main consumers of this brand, then shouldn't the women who front it reflect their customers' figures? Yet, the team of 'angels' are the key behind the brand's success. Western culture idolises that one particular female body and it's considered universally 'beautiful'. We buy Victoria's Secret not only because it produces an array of feminine, pretty products but because we want to look like the 'angels'. This is capitalised in the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The irony of this show is that the 'angels' hardly even model the underwear that's available in store - instead they take on avant-garde designs and strut down the runway to a music mega-star. The whole show is about the 'angels' - not about the brand. To me it looks like a fulfillment of some strange male sexual fantasy - it is completely unrelated to the women who invest in the Victoria's Secret brand.
I shop in Victoria's Secret because I love their feminine, classic designs that are comfortable and good quality. I still adore their beauty range 12 years down the line! However, I have found the brand's image deeply problematic of recent - believe it or not, I don't shop in VS to get the 'angel' look. I don't enjoy their hyper-sexualised advertisements because I feel like it gives their customers a bad name - it reduces us all to sex objects when all we want is a couple sturdy bras that make us feel happy in ourselves. Sometimes when I visit the New Bond Street store, I feel like that same seven year old girl looking in on a glamourous shop - although it's not as glam I once thought and I would actually prefer to remain an outsider.
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The Mulberry 'Cara'.

In 2012, I was sixteen years old and working for Starbucks. I loved that job almost as much as I loved having an income. Unlike most of my friends, who stilled relied on the good ol' bank of Mum and Dad, I was able to fuel my shopping obsession with my own hard-earned cash. Like any sixteen year old girl obsessed with fashion and beauty, I was spending a lot of that income on Topshop and ASOS orders didn't really consider saving... which would have been helpful a bit later on! Somewhere amidst all my spending, I realised that I wanted to commemorate my first job - something that would satisfy my shopping desire. That's when I decided on the Mulberry Alexa. The It-bag of 2010 had been plastered all over the internet and my favourite magazines - I remember looking at it on Alexa Chung's arm wistfully. It just seemed so out of reach back then. However, I spent about half a year saving up and when I finally had enough, my Mum accompanied me to Liberty London to pick it up. I earned her about a million points on her Liberty loyalty card too. Only a shopaholic can understand the thrill of finally owning that sought-after item that you've been pining for. It was an amazing feeling knowing my hard work had paid off. I still love this bag unhealthy amounts. I was very close to tears when I had to sent it in for repairs earlier this year...
Ever since my purchase, I've been an invested follower of the Mulberry brand. I remember the launch of the Del Rey bag and thinking this was a pop star to watch. It is, however, no secret that Mulberry has been in financial trouble of late - the price of my original Alexa bag has risen considerably since 2012. Chief designer, Emma Hill, who reinvented the brand's image and thereby made it appealing to younger audiences, announced her departure in 2013 citing 'creative differences' as the reason for the split. As a result, the company has been under financial strain. Yet in February this year, Mulberry announced its first collaboration with model-of-the-moment, Cara Delevingne - if this doesn't capture customers' attention then I don't know what will. Like the Alexa and the Del Rey, the Cara bag has been designed in response to the model's incredible popularity. These days you can't flick through a magazine without seeing one of her advertisements. The young model also fronted two Vogue  covers last year, which is unheard of - unless you're Kate Moss, in which case you can have as many as you like! This collaboration has the power to pull the brand out of trouble and place them back at the forefront of handbag design. 
The designs are unlike the safer options Mulberry has created in recent years. The green, blue, and camouflage prints push boundaries and provide the bags with a more masculine edge. You can instantly see Delevingne's influence in the design process as the brand has really captured her 'cool girl' flair. The tan bag (upper right hand corner) even has a golden lion embellishment to resemble her Instagram-famous tattoo. Despite this, I love how they've preserved the standard Mulberry shape - this collection pays homage to the company's classic Bayswater bag yet given it a 21st century twist. Like Cara herself says in the company's promotion video, we all 'have some many different interests and hobbies going on [our lives], [our] bag has to match that.' The Cara collection therefore offers great versatility; all the bags have backpack straps but can also be used as a classic handbag. 
Before Emma Hill, Mulberry was a traditional English brand providing quality handbags for women with a more conservative style. Since 2007, however, its begun to shed its conventional image and placed itself in the fashion spotlight and paying homage to the media's most stylish young women.  By collaborating with a character such as Cara Delevingne, Mulberry is diversifying its brand image. Even the company's advertisement for the Cara collection is risqué. This collection also perfectly captures Delevingne's personality. Having grown up in a wealthy family, lived in London but attended boarding school in the countryside (as she herself describes in Mulberry's promotional video), Cara represents Mulberry's past and future. She describes her love for the first Mulberry bag she owned as a teenager and yet, here she is, some five years later fronting their new cutting-edge collection. Although Delevingne is undoubtedly a posh London girl, she subverts her stereotype rather than conforming to it. Just like Mulberry itself, Cara has a traditional, conservative background and yet completely breaks the status quo. How many models are there nowadays who wander round New York in a Bart Simpson sweatshirt eating McDonalds? The Cara collection therefore not only reflects the model's unique style, but also her gives insight into her individual character.
Mulberry had very publicly fallen upon hard times in the past year or so. This fantastic collaboration with fashion's It-girl seems to be the perfect remedy for placing the brand back in the fashion forefront where it absolutely deserves to be.

P.S If you're hoping to get your hands on a Cara bag, you'll have a while to wait yet. The pre-order list doesn't open till August. Goodness knows how long it'll take to arrive in stores... 
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Friday, 20 June 2014

An Afternoon in Chelsea.

One of the things I love about living in London is how easy it is to get around. Within half an hour of leaving my home, I was on the King's Road i.e +Made in Chelsea land. Spent a couple hours catching up with a close friend over a smoothie (thought we'd be 'indie' and skip our usual coffee hut!) and window-shopping on one of London's iconic fashion destinations. An afternoon well spent!
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Fashion Inspiration Friday - Lauren Conrad.

It is impossible to deny the fact that we live in a culture obsessed with celebrities. Top television producers have created the age of the reality star: where you watch people's supposedly 'real' lives on TV and then somehow can't get away from them ever again. I didn't even pay any attention to Katie Price when she was on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here and yet I somehow know the intimate details of her many marriages. I have, however, indulged in every series of +MTV 's 16 & Pregnant and the follow-up series, Teem Mom. It's my ultimate guilty pleasure. You can't escape reality stars these days. To be honest, I generally stick my nose up to reality television - I would happily lead an intervention against the UK's Big Brother. But the one show I adored as a pre-teen was none other than MTV 's The Hills. More specifically, I was obsessed with +Lauren Conrad. Who am I kidding, I still am. She could do know wrong - she was the moral compass of that strange group of fame-hungry socialites. Whether she was telling her ex-BFF Heidi that she wanted 'forgive' and 'forget' her (classic television moment) or christening Audrina's bad boyfriend 'Justin Bobby', Lauren always provided such words of wisdom that I could really relate to growing up. Despite Lauren's dynasty on The Hills being long over, I still follow her website religiously and even own her 'Beauty' and 'Style' guides. So when I was deciding which celebrity to feature as the first of 'Fashion Inspiration Friday' pieces, Lauren Conrad was a no brainer.
Conrad has a very specific look which was clearly influenced by her time as 'America's Sweetheart' - if you think about it, LC represented the typical American teenage girl of the noughties. She was our favourite on Laguna Beach and she remains a role model almost ten years later. Her style has always been classic and fool-proof. When I was researching this article, I lost count of the hundreds of images of Conrad's uniform: a flirty dress/skirt with a simple, yet feminine, blazer to pull the look together. In my own wardrobe, I own countless sweet little skirts - Lauren Conrad has clearly had an influence on my own style. This is so sad but when I was younger and was stumped on what to wear, I'd always think to myself 'what would Lauren Conrad pick?'. To this day, I will have a flick through her 'Style' bible for inspiration. Perhaps this is my London girl roots talking to me, but while Conrad uses her staple blazer to complete the look, I prefer to add a touch of edge with a leather biker jacket. I think it just makes the outfit a tad more interesting - but then again, I don't like in sunny Los Angeles.
At the same time, I really admire Conrad's more casual,
everyday look. As the owner of two very energetic dogs, I struggle with what to wear on walks. You want need something that's comfortable and easy to move in. But then I hate feeling slobby, even if it's only a quick half hour walk round the common. That's why Lauren has really hit the nail hit on the head here. Her black, fringed flat boots are on trend yet relaxed and add a bit more interest to a classic jeans and vest top outfit. Even her hair is flawless! I have to put my crazy thick locks in a pony tail when I'm on the common because it just gets so windy. Otherwise I look like Chewbacca from Star Wars - I wish that was a joke. Plus sunglasses are a must, even if you live in rainy old London. I'll definitely be channeling this look in my summer dog walks! Conrad even looks fab just running errands in LA. Hats are something I avoid like the plague. I have a strangely big head and really fine hair so it's impossible trying to keep a beanie in place. Having seen how Conrad pulls it off so effortlessly though has inspired me to think again - I'm sure there's a way you can subtly pin them into place anyway. Oversize cardigans are also one of my favourite things to wear. They're just so comfortable and stylish at the same time. Even though Conrad's look is simple, it's effective and so well put together. She looks effortlessly glamourous - and isn't that every fashion-conscious woman's aim?
I suppose this is overlapping into the beauty department here (No pun intended! Conrad also runs The Beauty Department blog). I have been inspired by Conrad's hair for the longest time. She's undergone many hair transitions since she's been under the media spotlight, like every woman really, but her current style and colour has got to be my favourite. Her shade is a pretty dirty blonde in contrast to her locks ten years ago. When she first appeared on our screens, she was a bleach blonde California girl - but isn't going a bit OTT with the bleach a rite of passage for all blondes? It was for me at least. Anyway, I adore this floral headband - I've actually been after one for a while now. If anyone knows where I could find one on a budget that would be so appreciated! Because my own hair is so thick and has a life of its own I usually let it do its thing. But Conrad sets a perfect example here for a sweet and subtle tweak to your everyday hair routine. A floral headband is cute yet so simple and easy.

Despite leaving the world of reality television five years ago, Lauren Conrad has remained in the media spotlight for a reason. Her online presence and flawless outfits means she can still connect with fans without inviting them into every aspect of her life. In that way, I think she's gained more respect in Hollywood - she served as this style-savvy voice of reason. Her fashion choices are just as accurate as her personal ones. Famous for her effortlessly glamourous style, Lauren Conrad is perfect when it comes to looking for fashion inspiration. Conrad's Instagram suggests that her wedding is coming up very very soon - I can't wait to see which gown she'll choose. No doubt it'll be stunning.

For more Fashion Inspiration, visit my Pinterest board.
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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Mary Berry is a Goddess.

You know that urge you get when you just want to bake? My chilled afternoon of reading was disturbed by my desire for cake - an almond and chocolate chip one to be exact. I love the whole process of baking. I put on a great playlist that I can sing along to and get such satisfaction out of the whole thing. Especially the entire house smelling gorgeous. My 'Baking Bible' is stellar, good ol' Mary Berry! 
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Lydia Lulu's Guide to Relaxation.

As a sales assistant working in a popular British high street store, work is crazy at the moment. To anyone who is not a die-hard shopaholic, it's sale season and customers (myself included) will go to long lengths to get the items they're after. And if they're a good enough price, why not? As work has been so hectic recently, I thought I'd take today off to relax and catch up with my reading which suffers a hell of a lot when I'm tired.
The first thing I do whenever I come home, whether I've had a long shift or have just popped out to run errands, is make a cup of tea. Without fail. This is my favourite mug which I use morning, noon, and night - not just because it's sweet but fits twice the amount of caffeine. It's still available in Oliver Bonas and Urban Outfitters stores but fails to come up on their website - I did just come across this incredible Jane Austen mug that has been added to my wishlist. I'm not sure if it's normal to love mugs as much as I do. I did get one that says 'My Name is Lydia and I'm a Bookaholic' for my 18th birthday. I think that says a lot.
Which leads me nicely onto my next step to relaxation... reading. As a soon-to-be English Literature student, reading has always been a big part of my life. I was 14 when I first read Charlotte Brontë's 'Jane Eyre' and, without sounding melodramatic, I consider it a crucial moment in my life - it was when I realised how wonderful and inspiring the classics were. I soon started on Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and Tolstoy. Despite my love of clothes shopping, going into my local Waterstones is always so much fun... and dangerous for my bank balance. As Charlotte Brontë had such a profound effect on me five years ago, I thought it was time I read 'Vilette', her most autobiographical and moving novel. I'm loving it. But at the same time, I like to sit down and properly concentrate on my books, rather than hastily reading them during short lunch breaks. Now I have the time to enjoy and analyse it properly.
Just to set the mood a little, I always light a candle. I stock up on as many Bath and Body Works candles as I can whenever I'm in the States. The scents are gorgeous and more experimental than what you get in the UK. I get bored of the standard rose or vanilla packages. In my vast repertoire of candles, I have Espresso, Raspberry, Gelato, Coconut Leaves, Sweet Macaroon, Frosted Cupcake (pictured), and Pomegranate. Plus, the Bath and Body Works three-wick candles last up to 40 hours and they're always having half-price sales. I've got my eye on the Cinnamon Sugared Doughnut scent!
Plus, what definitely makes a nice addition to a relaxing afternoon of reading and blogging is my lovely cat, Django. He's an absolute nutter, having just materialised from under my bed and plonked himself on top of it. He looks so comfy though, I can't bear to move him.
Now that everything is in its place, time to dive into the mind of Lucy Snowe and French 19th century society.

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The Facebook Complex.

In the early hours of Thursday 19th June, the impossible happened. Some took to Twitter to prepare their followers for the 'apocalypse' and 'impending rapture'. It was a social media crisis like no other. That's right, +Facebook had crashed and its 1.3 billion users had no idea how to preoccupy themselves - instead, they took to other social media platforms to declare their outrage. Sky News has reported that the half an hour blip is said to have cost the network 'hundreds of thousands of dollars.'
This seems like a ridiculous amount of money for just a thirty minute crash but such is the popularity of Facebook. Not every social network has had an award-winning movie made in its honour. Facebook is the place where most of us document our everyday lives - I've had an account since mid-2008 and it's amazing to see just how much the site has developed in that time. Your Facebook profile is like your online journal, documenting your successes and sharing aspects of your life with friends and family. That's one of the real benefits of Facebook, you can still feel connected to people even when you're separated by thousands of miles.
But there in lies my problem with it. Facebook is deceptive. Its success lies in the fact that its users can present their best selves to family and friends, even their followers. Facebook allows you to portray the ideal version of yourself -  the one who goes on glamourous nights out, wears all the best clothes, who's surrounded by equally perfect people, and is in a flawless relationship. It doesn't include the the bad days; unless you're one of those people that post cryptic statuses that says they don't want to talk about it but clearly do because it's been posted for everyone to see! Your profile doesn't capture your nightmare relationship with a boss/colleague, your angst over having gained a few pounds, or the time you failed an exam. For me, Facebook is only there for the good times - not the inevitable bad.
But I'm not going to sit here all high and mighty, saying that I don't use Facebook. That would be a lie. I haven't had any activity in what seems like an eternity and I don't remember the last time I posted a status. Instead, I compulsory check my News Feed. Most of the time, I'm not even interested and just end up feeling like a bit of a stalker. I'm not even in contact with most of my Facebook 'friends' anymore. It just all seems so fake to me - their activity doesn't tell me anything about who they are as people.
Necessary cringeworthy Facebook photo.
Rather unexpectedly, Facebook created problems for me as angsty 13/14 year old. At that age, all I wanted was to be accepted and included in things. My best childhood friend had ditched me for the 'cool' group and I was really hurting. I know this a pretty #firstworldproblem but I'm sure a lot of people that age can relate to it. Every time I saw photos of her drinking and partying with her new friends, it was painful. She had moved on to people who I thought were better than me. I felt such an outsider - I was quite literally sitting in front of a computer screen, looking at these photos and wishing I was there. That's why I think Facebook can be dangerous - if I'm honest, I still sometimes feel like that 14 year old girl. My profile is incredibly boring of late. But at the same time, I've found that starting this blog has given me a distraction. This is a creative outlet that I can focus on - it's takes up the mental energy I spent pouring over my News Feed and has turned it into something positive.
Undoubtably, Facebook is an amazing tool for staying in contact with those most special to you. It's great for sharing life's special moments - birthdays, graduations, family occasions, etc - with the people in your life. Yet, if you're anything like me, it's best to take it with a pinch of salt. Of course it's interesting to see what your Facebook 'friends' are up to - but don't compare their experiences to your life. My News Feed at the moment is jam packed of people travelling the globe on their gap years. I'm at home, working a part-time sales assistant job just willing October to arrive so I can start university again. But this is my path - I've had a slightly different experience to most people I know. If I compared myself to everyone I have on Facebook I simply wouldn't function. I'm not an avid user so of course my life is going to look mundane next to the girl who spends her life clubbing in London's most glamourous hotspots. For me, using Facebook wisely is about appreciating its benefits but not getting sucked into a jealousy game.
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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

'Ultraviolence' - a Fan's Perspective.

Despite the controversy surrounding +Lana Del Rey when she first exploded onto the pop scene in 2012, I have always been a fan. I'll even admit to buying her clothing range for H&M a couple years ago when she was at the height of her popularity! The pop star's image was edgy and non-conformist whereas her wealthily father was supposedly pumping millions into making her a success in the music industry. Having started her career as Lizzy Grant and failed to achieve much recognition, she adopted the alter ego 'Lana Del Rey' and a 'star was born'. She achieved huge amounts of publicity and media attention in those early days.The fashion label, Mulberry, paid homage to her 60s style by designing the 'Del Rey' handbag just one month after the launch of her album - Alexa Chung had spent years building her profile as a fashion icon before the 'Alexa' took off. Lana Del Rey was every once the 21st century artist; the success of her first single, 'Video Games, was largely down to YouTube views. I remember being interested in her glamourous yet mysterious name - like Grant herself, it inspires intrigue.
Even on her newly released album, 'Ultraviolence', it remains unclear whether Lana Del Rey is a character Grant adopts to explore female sexuality, violence against women and toxic relationships - drug and alcohol abuse underline almost every song. Is Grant confronting her own demons through the pseudonym of Lana Del Rey? Or is she using her stage presence as a platform to raise awareness for said issues? By writing about controversial matters, listeners are invited into a fictional world that appears to border on reality.
I enjoyed the album - I would even go as far as saying that it takes greater risks than 2012's 'Born to Die'. I got the sense that Del Rey is comfortable in her own sound and confident of her legions of fans. Perhaps this is just because of my own music taste, but I was drawn to the more upbeat songs - 'Brooklyn Baby', 'The Other Woman', and 'Florida Kilos' in particular. My only criticism is is that it's heavy listening. I was so excited when I got the email from Spotify telling me 'Ultraviolence' was available to stream. I played it all the way through. Like Del Rey's other material, it is hard-hitting and somewhat depressing stuff. Yet, having familiarised myself with how the album works as a whole - I was then able to pick it apart and purchase my favourite tracks.
Back in 2012, I was drawn to her music because of its originality - it doesn't conform to the commercial expectations of a female artist and I loved that about her. I find Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and even Lady Gaga in recent years to be deadbeat in their attempts of controversy and rigorous strive for uniqueness. They often remind me of spoilt children trying to get our attention. In this simile, Lana Del Rey would be the passive, quiet teenager in the background - rebellious and presented as a menace. I admire the fact that she so obviously doesn't care about the media's portrayals of her. By ruthlessly digging into her past, some depicted her as a rich girl that ran to Daddy for funds and fame. Others see her as an off-the-rails type - the kind of artist that you don't want your daughter listening to for fear of a 'bad influence'. What riles this media storm around Lana Del Rey is that no one can really pinpoint her character - she gives nothing away. It's impossible to tell if her music is autobiographical or pure fiction - I interpret it as a mixture of both which creates an interesting and though-provoking sound. But that's just it - that is my interpretation! No doubt with the release of her second album, which she claimed she'd wouldn't release, the media will rally around her once again. That 'I wish I was dead already' comment doesn't seem to be doing her any favours. When artists release an album, they give their listeners a sense of themselves. We can therefore only really know Lana Del Rey through her music - her, or Lizzy Grant's, personal life is irrelevant. The side of herself that is intertwined with her music is what I'm interested in. 'Ultraviolence' is like another piece in the puzzle that is Lana Del Rey.
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Liberty Sale Haul.

I am so lucky to have such a cool Mum. When I rolled out of bed this morning, my plans consisted of blogging most of the day and baking a cake. I like to take things easy on my day off! Especially as the majority of my friends seem to be in Thailand on their gap years. So when Mum suggested hitting the first day of the +Liberty London  sale, I was more than happy to oblige. I have many happy memories in that store - it's where I bought my +Mulberry Alexa satchel which I spent all my Starbucks savings on just after I turned 17. So we jumped on the tube and made our way over to Central London - even spotting +Fresh Meat's Charlotte Ritchie (Oregon) on the way there. I majorly fangirled on the tube and had to resist the urge to ask for a photo - I tried to play it cool and completely failed by continually making awkward eye contact and smiling. Oh well, I'm a massive fan. At least now she knows!

I always stop to admire the gorgeous building that is the West End's iconic department store - it's a stunning tudor building situated in the heart of central London. The juxtaposition of old, historical buildings and new, up-and-coming brands is one of the things I love about London. Liberty, of course, has been around since the 19th century. Famous for its floral prints, Mum was eager to rummage through the scarves sale while I obviously hit the beauty department. I absolutely love the wall of nail varnish and have to exert as much self-control as possible when picking colours. I have over 75 nail varnishes... my addiction is getting a tad out of hand. Anyway, I had a rummage through their sale +Essie colours and picked a couple that I purchased guilt-free at a great price (pictured above: 'Under Where?', 'A-List', 'Meet Me At The Altar') At a discount of £5, I think £5.50 is pretty damn good for such a great quality nail varnish. My boyfriend thinks I'm mad.
As expected, the handbag sale was complete madness - pushing, shoving, the whole lot. I've been on the hunt for a new wallet for a while so I dived in with the rest. I'm always startled by how much brands charge for their purses - I'm aware that they're great quality leather and such pretty designs but £200 for a wallet, really? I'd have no money to put it in it! #ironic. Having said that, if I did have the funds, I imagine I'd quite happily splurge.
Just for fun, Mum and I wandered upstairs to have a look at the sale clothes and admire their wackily wonderful shoe department. As the proud owner of a +Sex And The City box-set, I always like to have a look at the +Manolo Blahnik shoe room. Taking pride of place in his unique display were really sweet variations of the 'Sex and the City Movie' heel - the ones that Carrie collects from her dream closet which ultimately leads to her  reunion with Mr. Big. The movie is silly but the shoes are perfection. If you've got a spare £600.000 going to waste, the SATC high heels are now available in the spring-like colours, pastel pink, purple, orange, and red - or you could pay homage to Carrie and buy the original navy blue. If only.

Having described all this to my mother in great detail - who was busy trying on a pair of sale Valentino heels and only half-listening - we wandered back through the sale racks towards the exit. On my way in I couldn't help but notice the most incredible +Muubaa leather jacket. It was exactly what I'd been looking for - a black biker jacket with a dainty curved collar that skimmed the figure rather than covering it up. I have been trying on loads of leather jackets at work and they all seemed too boxy - they did me no favours. This jacket is made out of light lamb leather and has just the right balance between edginess and femininity. The second I tried it on, I was in love. It's so versatile and classic. My mum tried it too and it looked just as great on her. It was £190 down from £380 which is a decent price for a quality jacket like this - so we literally bought two for the price of one! We thought as I'm going to uni in September then it's just about okay - plus my Mum looks more like my sister. It was in no way expecting to come home with a such a splurge today but I'm so glad I did. I've been evaluating my entire wardrobe over in my head and it goes with everything; girly sundresses, classic skinny jeans, and my vast array of skirts. I know already that I'm going to be living it in for years to come..
All in all, the Liberty sale is super. Plus, it's true what they say about us girls all becoming our mothers. But with a mother like mine, that's okay with me.
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Monday, 16 June 2014

My Not-So-Secret Obsession.

I was seven years old when I first heard +John Mayer's 'Your Body Is a Wonderland'. My family had just moved to Seattle, Washington and Mum was driving me and my older sister to school when it came on the radio. It was one of pop-rock songs the station played on repeat every morning (including Matchbox 20's 'Unwell' - still a great listen some nine years later) and I was hooked. It was catchy and heartfelt. I instantly loved Mayer's unusual voice - it was different to all the bubblegum pop I'd been exposed to as child in the 90s. Although looking back on it, it does seem a tad creepy that I adored a song that is basically about Mayer's admiration for the female figure.

I've been invested in Mayer's career since the age of seven. I was with him through the Jennifer Aniston days and his 'Hollywood Love Rat' phase. Even Taylor Swift's 2010 revealing song about their romance, 'Dear John', is beautiful. None of that really bothered me - as long as he's producing great music, I never really cared about his personal life.
What inspired me, however, to write this little homage to my favourite artist is Mayer's recent cover of Beyoncé's 'XO'. As a proper John Mayer nerd, I heard through the magic of the internet that he had performed this cover during at a concert in Sydney and that it'd been posted on YouTube. Just like the first time I heard 'Your Body Is a Wonderland', I was hooked. I kept listening to it on replay and even downloaded it as a mp3 file to have on my phone. That's why I was so happy when he responded to the positive attention the video received and recorded professionally.
I love music that I can connect with and relate to; I know that sounds mad. John Mayer, +Billy Joel , +Norah Jones , Corinne Bailey Rae, Snow Patrol, and KT Tunstall are just a few that spring to mind. I suppose that why I love John Mayer's sound -  I've practically grown up with him singing in the background. And it's exciting watching an artist flourish and develop. Anyway, I finally got to see Mayer in concert in October of last year and have had this clips sitting on my laptop for months now. I thought it was time I share them - they're well worth a watch. I think they'll even justify my love for his music. Just ignore my awful filming skills, oh my god.

So maybe I'm just a delusional superfan or maybe John Mayer really is a musical genius.

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Cautionary Tale of a Drop Out.

Going to university and living on your own for the first time is a ominous prospect for any young person. The realisation that you're going to have to cook, clean, and provide for yourself is pretty hard to imagine when you're living in your same old comfortable environment. When I left home in September 2013, I was no way near prepared - emotionally or physically. I was quite literally chucking my entire wardrobe in boxes the night before whilst listening to the 'High School Musical 3' soundtrack. This quite clearly insinuates my hysterical mental state (I remember 'Right Here, Right Now' being particularly poignant) . I didn't want to go, I was not excited in the slightest and had been dreading the prospect all summer long.

Perhaps this is the point where I should contextualise a little. Like so many other people my age, my final year at school was hellish. My stress and anxiety levels were at an all time high, almost to the point where I couldn't function. Things started getting better when I began talking to a professional about my difficulties. With the help of my family and friends and an amazing counsellor, I survived those exams and even came out with straight As. That summer was the best break of my life - I was socialising again and just enjoying meeting new people. Excuse the cliché but I felt like I had found a place where I belonged. Yet, all the time there was a nagging voice inside my head telling me that it had an expiry date - that everything was set to change. And, of course, it did. Summer doesn't last forever and people move on. Despite moving to opposite ends of the country, Jonny and I decided to go long-distance which was tough in itself. LDRs are possible, but it takes a ton of work (more on that another time).

Arriving at the university, it quickly became apparent to my Dad that I had severely under-packed in every way - with the obvious exception of my wardrobe. We had to go on a mad dash of M&S's home department in an unfamiliar and pretty confusing city. I wish I'd interpreted this as a sign that I hadn't given the uni thing all that much thought and therefore did not want to be there! The first few weeks there are a bit of a blur - I came home a lot. I found the clubbing scene during Freshers a bit boring and didn't see the point of trying to make friends with loads of drunk people that wouldn't remember me. Maybe it was my attitude but I wasn't meeting people I 'clicked' with - it was too lonely sitting in that tiny room when all my friends were still in London on their gap years.
I had also chosen to study 'American and English Literature with a Year Abroad' - it was the first university course I'd looked at when I was sixteen and I just kind of stuck with it. I realised pretty quickly that I was really only interested in straight Literature. In typical Lydia fashion, however, I ignored my gut and kept 'powering through'. I was expecting it to get better without putting in any effort. In all honesty, I knew this university wasn't for me in November - I failed to do anything about it till March. The 10th March to be exact - it was my birthday and I was travelling back to uni after a weekend at home. I spent the train journey in tears when one of my closest uni friends cancelled our plans to celebrate later. I returned home three days later set on leaving. Sent my UCAS form within a week and had an offer from Southampton a couple days later. Once I'd made the decision, there was no time to lose. I felt so relieved and absolutely stand by my decision. I gave the experience six months of my life and I did try to make it work. But if you're not happy, then what's the point? One year of teaching costs £9000 in the UK, not even including the extra debt from the basic maintenance loan. I felt like I was being ripped off.

Another reason to love in London: this gorgeous sunset during an everyday dog walk.

Which brings me to the present. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if I could have done things differently: made more of an effort in Freshers Week, put myself out there more often, made an attempt to switch course, etc etc. At the same time, I know that I could not have stayed there a second longer and pretended that I was loving it. Everyone always tells you that your university years are the best of your life. I spent months trying to convince myself that this was true. Instead, I should have been honest with myself. What I've learned from this experience is that you have to trust your instincts. My gut told me that something wasn't right within weeks of being there. I spent the whole summer dreading the move whereas all my friends (the few that haven't taken gaps years, that is) were raving about how excited they were. That is how it should be! I cannot wait to get Southampton and study the subject I love and meet wonderful people and still only be an hour away from home if I need it. When I visited just a couple months ago, something just clicked -  it sounds mad but I felt like it was the place I needed to be. As the saying 'every cloud has a silver lining' goes, my bad experience the first time round has led to my (hopefully!) wonderful experience the second time. It's also taught me loads about myself. Like most people, I avoid confronting things until I can't run away anymore. Leaving uni has given me confidence in myself - I had to make this decision on my own. And handle the crazy amounts of paperwork that comes with it. Really Student Finance England, you're sending me another 'Change of Circumstance' form? I am blessed with incredibly supportive family, but the decision was always mine - and that's what made it so terrifying.

Some may call me a drop out. And I suppose I am. Come October and I'll be a student again - and it can't arrive soon enough. This time I'll be one year wiser and that much more prepared for the ups and downs of student life. It's going to be brilliant. For now, I'm a full-time blogger and part-time sales assistant which also isn't too bad.
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Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Shopaholic's World Cup Equivalent.

I've been willing 11 o'clock to arrive for what seems like forever (like most people up and down the British Isles) but for a slightly different reason. You see, one of my favourite High Street branches, Miss. Selfridge, has launched a flash sale lasting the entirety of the England game and I could not wait to get my 20% off. It only seems fair, I don't have much interest in football! When I watch a game, all I see are over-rated, disgustingly over-paid young men running up and down a field. But annnnyway - don't want to be bitter - it can be great fun when the country comes together to celebrate/curse our boys.

I'd had my basket ready since 9, all I had to do was enter the promotional code and hit checkout. Disaster struck. The boyfriend cardigan I'd been yearning for had sold out. No wonder- it was £17 and looked just as beautiful as it did cozy. Panic hit me, what now? My necessary pair of  black jeans and the gorgeous floral dress were ready to go but now it felt like something was missing. In my shopaholic/woman-on-a-mission trance, I started scouring the website frantically for something to fill the void. I began adding all sorts of random floral, lacy things into my basket without paying any attention. Where some people binge-eat, I have a habit of binge shopping.

I don't know what snapped me out of my shopaholic stupor but I suddenly realised what I was doing. I returned to my basket and cleared out all the bits and bobs I'd thrown in. Except for the aztec skirt - that is a find I'm proud of. I guess what I'm trying to say is that sales are great. Until they get ugly - when you start buying things that you're not keen on just because they're at a discounted rate. Items that seem cheap as chips at the time add up over the long haul. Be sale savvy, go in knowing what you're looking for and the whole experience is so much more fun. Apart from my ten minutes of madness, I'm chuffed with my items. Thank you +Miss Selfridge , time now to join the rest of civilisation and watch the footy.
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