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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Oops... I Bought an iPad.


Looks like I finally joined the 21st-century. Today I bought an iPad - and it's safe to say that I've become a little bit obsessed. I literally can't stop playing with it: rearranging my apps, checking my Bloglovin' feed when my laptop's right in front of me, texting with it just because I can. I feel like a child on Christmas morning. 
But there is a practical reason behind my purchase. I'm heading to university in less than two months (!!!) to do English Literature - basically, I'm going to spend three years reading. And instead of printing off loads of critical theory and filing it away like an organised person, I thought I'd download it. Because we're all on the internet now anyway. Plus, I thought it was about time. When you spend as much time as I do on trains (the perils of being in a long-distance relationship), it'll be nice to have some movies and old episodes of 'How I Met Your Mother' at my fingertips. And who doesn't want to splurge  a little every now and then?
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'Boyhood' and the 'Before' Trilogy: Growing Up and Learning to Love.

Last Thursday night, I was in a bad mood. I think it was the end-of-holiday blues but for some reason or another, I was feeling a bit down. So I decided to do something I'd never considered before - I watched all three of Richard Linklater's hugely successful 'Before Sunrise', 'Before Sunset', and 'Before Midnight' movies back to back. And it worked like a charm.
I have been obsessed with Jesse and Celine's story ever since I watched the first instalment on a whim in October 2011. When I couldn't convince any of my friends to go with me to watch the final film, 'Before Midnight' which came out last summer, I simply went on my own. And I loved it... the movie and the solitude. I didn't have to worry about what my companion was thinking, I could just sit back and enjoy the movie I'd been eagerly anticipating for three years. It also meant I didn't have to share my Maltesers which is always a plus.
Without giving away any spoilers, these movies chart a relationship over a twenty year period. From when the American tourist and French student meet on a train and decide to explore Vienna for the night in 1994, to their chance reunion in 2004, and their family holiday in 2013, these films are beautifully accurate in their presentation of life, love, and relationships. We first meet Celine and Jesse as romantic dreamers in their early twenties, still trying to navigate life. Ten years later, they're more settled in their paths but still filled with the same self-doubt yet lacking their old romanticism. Another ten years go by and they're parents to beautiful twin girls, pursuing successful careers, yet dealing with an ugly custody battle that leads them to question the very basis of their relationship.
These movies have gained cult status for a reason. Some, namely my sister, have criticised these movies because they're mainly 'just talking'. To be fair, each movie largely consists of Celine and Jesse's converse and how it evolves over time. Some may hate this, I personally love it. Their discussions are thought-provoking and engaging. I never once lose the thread of the discourse. Ironically, I never keep up with Hollywood action-packed blockbusters because I don't feel invested enough in the story-line. Whereas with this trilogy, I'm interested in their relationship and feel emotionally invested in their future! One of my favourite moments in Jesse and Celine's story is in the final minutes of 'Before Sunset'. The two have just wandered all round Paris trying to avoid saying goodbye, Jesse has a plane to catch but somehow manages to convince Celine to play him one of his songs in her apartment. Having confessed how much that night in 1994 meant to him and how he wishes that they had pursued a relationship, Celine echoes his sentiments in her song. It's such a heart-warming moment - when they both realise that they should be together.
So when Richard Linklater's new movie, 'Boyhood', was released I knew it would live up to the hype surrounding it. This is the film everyone seems to be talking about at the moment. So last night, I convinced some girlfriends to see it with me and we were not disappointed. 'Boyhood' is intriguing audiences and acquiring box-office success because of its experimental nature. In 2002, Linklater cast the unknown child actor, Ellar Coltrane, as the star of his new movie - one that would take twelve years to film. For twelve days out of every year, the cast would get together and film a year in Mason's life. This film depicts all the landmarks of typical adolescence. - we first meet Mason at the age of six and follow him right up to the age of 18 when he leaves for college. He watches his parents break-up, the family move around Texas several times, his mother marries an abusive alcoholic, he goes on camping trips with his Dad, gets his first girlfriend, and discovers a passion for photography. In many ways, this movie depicts an ordinary life - and that's what is so beautiful about it.


For me and my friends, it was very strange to watch our childhood play out on screen. The actor who plays Mason is nineteen - the exact same age as us. So the cartoons he watched at the age of eight was what we were watching, we played the same video games, went through a similar awkward phase, and are all now at university... well, almost. He is part of our generation which made it impossible not to relate to him. It's one of those films that you have to discuss in great detail afterwards because so much happens in those two and a half hours. I personally loved the soundtrack, if only for the memories. The film is peppered with the hits of the past decade, including Coldplay, Sheryl Crow, Soulja Boy, and Gnarls Barkley. If I ever got lost as to what year it was, the music of the time guided me back. Interestingly, Linklater devotes more time on Mason's later years, as he's preparing for final exams and college. This is perhaps because childhood memories fade and become unclear while we remember our teenage years much more vividly.
It's clear to predict that a star has been born in Ellar Coltrane. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him all these years, knowing that he would be catapulted into a media frenzy when the movie of his life was finally released. He nails the role of sweet little boy with his head in the clouds who turns into the moody mumbling teenager. Like my love of Jesse and Celine, I felt similarly invested in Mason's emotional journey through to adulthood. It often felt like Ethan Hawke had reprised his role as Jesse - perhaps a more paternal, down-to-earth version. Whereas Patricia Arquette played the struggling single-mother with a weakness for dangerous men flawlessly. I loved her, felt sorry for her, yet wanting to scream at her all at the same time. Lorelai Linklater - the director's daughter - really stole the show at times, especially during those childhood years. But that was largely because of Mason's introverted nature and Samantha's child-like need for attention. She also went through the teenage girl rite-of-passage of dying her hair a ridiculous colour (see here for details) and ultimately breaks free of the nest, a happy, confident, and intelligent young woman. It was so fascinating to watch all the character's unique progression - even if they are only fictional.
Like the 'Before' trilogy, some might say this is a movie where not a lot happens. But if you assume that then you're missing the point completely. Linklater is a director bold enough to explore the beauty of day-to-day life. The 'Before' series isn't your typical rom-com - Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke tackle the reality of relationships in a way that the audience can relate to. 'Boyhood' isn't your typical coming-of-age story either. Instead, it's a frighteningly realistic portrayal of adolescence in the 21st century, and that's what has made it so successful. We like to claim that real life isn't like the movies... but Linklater has broken down this barrier. He has captured the beauty of reality so that it doesn't need to be romanticised in a cinematic fashion. He makes movies which depict the romanticism of life and this is why his films are so special.
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Monday, 28 July 2014

Stop and Smell the Roses.

One of my favourite films of 2013 had to be 'About Time'. Although it didn't make my 'Top Five Ultimate Chick Flick' list, this is a rom-com with a meaning - beyond that of a incredibly sweet love story. In short, and without giving away too many spoilers, it's the story of an awkward young guy who learns he can travel in time and sculpt his life in whatever way he wants. He uses this to win the heart of Mary - played by Rachel McAdams, who can blame him. But despite having this extraordinary gift, Tim learns to appreciate the beauty of life. To treat everyday as if he had travelled backwards in time just to experience its beauty and meaning - even if it's just a mundane day of the week. Even though this movie is so incredibly far-fetched, I find it's message really beautiful.


So when I was called into work this morning on my day off, I was not so pleased. I had wanted to spend the day catching up on writing - especially as I had the craziest weekend at work and had fallen behind. But I ultimately felt like I should help out. When I got to the store, I was in a pretty good mood. I'd had a lovely chat with my boyfriend on the way there, had pleasant customers come in and ask for assistance, and was enjoying chatting to my colleague, Melissa. It was strange. When the store gets busy, I feel like I go into default mode - I become some sales assistant machine. But today, I felt like myself and I was actually enjoying speaking to people and just going about my work stress-free. I found myself enjoying the little things - which is so unusual when I've been asked to work overtime.
On route home, I picked up a coffee and chatted to the barista about our similar experiences in the service industry, I got home and had a nice long shower, even used a hair mask which is always a luxury, and rang some friends to confirm our cinema plans for tonight.
I feel like I often get lost in my busy everyday routine - I'm always putting pressure on myself to excel in every aspect of my life. For some reason, I felt relaxed today. Like a weight had been lifted and I could function properly and efficiently without always fretting about the little things. Maybe this is only temporary but I feel as if I'm living in the moment instead of being lost in my own head. Which is why I think the underlying meaning of 'About Time' is so important. Life is short. I'm heading to uni in less than two months! It's important to take time to appreciate the little things. As the old saying goes, stop and smell the roses.
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Friday, 25 July 2014

Fashion Inspiration Friday - SATC's Charlotte York.

This week a video of every brand mentioned on the hit TV show, 'Sex and the City', became an internet sensation. It's nine minutes long and hilariously eye-opening. There's no denying that we live in a material world. Even our favourite programmes try and sell us this materialistic lifestyle of glitz and glammer - which you obviously can't achieve without Manolo Blahniks of course. Like so many women my age, and much older come to that, I'm a huge 'Sex and the City' fan. In its six year run, this show garnered fans of all ages and nationalities not just for its accurate presentation of female sexuality and relationships - but for the fashion. At times, I felt more invested in Carrie's wardrobe than her doomed on-and-off-again relationship with the infamously charming Mr. Big.
Whenever I indulge in an episode (as the owner of a box-set, this is practically daily), I can't help but admire the ladies' fashion sense. Samantha is confident and daring, Miranda simple and smart, Charlotte conservative and sweeter, and Carrie is hard to pin down. As the star, Carrie steals most of the audience's attention and she is often heralded as a fashion starlet as well as the show's heroine. But sometimes, those outfits were disastrous. Personally, I've always loved Charlotte - she was the token hopeless romantic which I still relate to. Plus, her fashion choices were always reliably pretty and practical. With the exception of the 'Luck to be an Old Lady' episode, where she dresses like a hooker in an Atlantic City casino, Charlotte always looked the part of an idyllic Park Avenue Princess and I loved that about her.

 

This sweet little strapless dress from the finale of Season Five stood out in my mind as one of my favourite Charlotte moments. She's more understated in her style - yet still carries that same sex appeal. I suppose that's what I admire about this character's fashion sense. Yes, I know she's a fictional character before I get too carried away. Plus, this is just a great episode in itself - the ladies attend a wedding in the Hamptons - but Charlotte's sweet little dress definitely steals the show.
When trying to pick images out for this article, I came across this fabulous photo from the 'Sex and the City Movie'. Again, Charlotte's dress is slightly more conservative and classic in comparison but she still holds her own within the glamourous gang.
 

Above all, however, I find Charlotte's everyday style the most relatable out of all the ladies. The first image is from Season 1 - you can tell at a mere glance that it's the late 90s. Although I wouldn't try a matching skirt, jacket, and handbag in this decade, Charlotte looks every inch the prim and proper, and simultaneously stylish, New York woman. It's classic Chanel with a twist. However, this is such a great scene - Charlotte asks the profound question, 'How well do we ever know the people we sleep with?', quickly followed by 'Does my hair look too shiny today?' Maybe this is why I've chosen Charlotte as my top style inspiration over the others - I see a lot of myself in her!
Charlotte also wears the Ralph Lauren logo, like this jumper, regularly throughout the series. In my own life, I usually avoid logos like the plague - Jack Wills is a prime offender. Who wants to look like a walking sandwich board? But the way Charlotte is styled makes it look effortless and sweet - she normally pairs them with jeans for an low-key, everyday look. Perhaps it's product placement at its finest but I love how simple and well put-together these outfits look. 
'Sex and the City' is one of those great shows that has achieved fashion guru status. And although I love our heroine, it would hard to watch the show without feeling for Carrie, I often think the other members of the gang are overlooked. I love how their personalities are reflected in their style - the show is made more convincing that way. We watch these fictional women flourish both in their personal lives and their fashion sense. As a character, Charlotte completely transforms throughout the series - with the exception of her domestic dream - but her style is always feminine and fashionable. A great combination.
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Watergate Bay Diary: Final Days.


It's always depressing coming home from holiday. I've spent the past week in sunny Watergate Bay, Newquay. And sure enough, within minutes of being home it starts pouring with rain. That's always the way. My final two days of holiday consisted of even more walks on the beach, breakfast at Jaime Oliver's famous 'Fifteen' restaurant, and a stroll round the quaint little town of Padstow. Note the three Pasty stores in a row. When in Cornwall! It was such a relaxing break - Watergate Bay was exactly what I needed after a hectic time at work. But it's back to the grindstone tomorrow tomorrow - holidays can only last so long. 
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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

My Life in Haircuts.

Every woman goes through phases in life. The time you spend trying to get in with the 'popular' kids at school, the moment you first discover tweezers and over-pluck your eyebrows to oblivion, the realisation that a person you really trusted is only a fair-weather friend, and the period of time where you pair black ankle boots with absolutely everything (I'm still stuck in this one). But if you're anything like me, then you can define memorable moments of your life by what your hair was doing.
My hair has been through a lot in almost twenty years of life... almost too much, come to that. Going through my 'Facebook' archives looking for photos of my many hair transformations was beyond cringey. But you live and you learn. At least I got some of these disasters under my belt before I hit my twenties - and that's what your teenage years are for... right?
I am so lucky to have very thick, fine hair. Don't get me wrong, I love it. But it can also be a bit of a nightmare at times - check my 'bun donut' post for details. Some of my earliest memories involve running away from my mother while she was trying to brush my hair. Bath-time was torture - plus my hair was the perfect festering ground for nits during primary school. Mum used to tell me that I'd learn to appreciate my thick hair when I was older, and like always, she was right. Because I was such an active child, Mum always kept my hair very short so it didn't bother me too much. I carried this cute little bob look right up until secondary school. Why fix something that isn't broken?
In 2008, Kate Moss got a fringe. In girls-school terms, this meant anybody who was anybody had a fringe. I tried to follow the trend, and thought I looked pretty good - hence the truly terrible selfie. The fringe also overlapped with my headband days. Instead of using headbands for holding back hair, like normal people I might note, I thought it'd be a good idea to stick them slap bang in the middle of my hair for good measure. This pink-spotty one was a favourite at the time (like the cool kid I was, I even had one with 'LYDIA' printed across it in shimmery writing when I was really little). Even though I was only about twelve or thirteen, my fringe gave me such awful spots. Somewhere along the line I realised how bad it looked and moved onto my next hairstyle.
This is mortifying to admit but holds great comedic value. Like I mentioned in my Lauren Conrad 'Fashion Inspiration Friday' post, I was obsessed with 'The Hills' as a teenager. Lauren Conrad was a goddess and I loved her style - I clearly still do. So when she cut her lovely hair into a sleek bob in Season 4, I thoughtlessly copied her. It didn't turn out so well. This wasn't just a case of bad judgement, however, the trainee hairdresser in charge of my LC-inspired transformation cut it much too short. I spent that Summer in hiding. I remember researching hair-growth methods on the internet - even upping my intake of ham when I heard protein was supposed to help! The above photo was after a couple of months had passed. My hair was looking a little better and I thought it looked really cool pinned back with my cheapo 'H&M' heart-shaped clip. I had so much to learn.
After my hair had recovered from this, it was onto the next disaster. I know I'm not alone in this, but like every natural blonde, I'd always wandered what I'd look with brown locks. Like the old saying goes, we always want what we can't have. So when Mum asked what I wanted for Christmas that year, I declared that I wanted to be a brunette. She was unimpressed but booked an appointment - I think she wanted me to make my own mistakes. But like the wonderful parent she is, Mum made sure it was only  a semi-permanent dye job, 'just in case'. At first, I loved it. My hair was a deep chocolatey brown and everyone at school noticed it. This was such a big deal when I was fourteen. Yet because it was only semi-permanent, the colour began to fade with every wash. I found this so incredibly distressing that I hastily dyed over my dye job with some sort of 'John Frieda' product. I didn't give it much thought. Everything was all lovely and fine till I became ginger overnight. To this day I'm unclear about where it all went wrong - I assume my original dye faded underneath the new colour. Anyway, for about three months I was walking about with the strangest coppery-coloured hair. The tone was almost luminous and I hated every second of it. By the time my sixteenth birthday arrived, I was begging my Mum for blonde highlights to cover up my ginger disaster. Basically, the moral of the story is you can't mess with your hair colour without investing a lot of time and money into it - and your Mum is always right... always.
So I'm now at the grand old age of nineteen and I'm sporting long, naturally-blonde hair. It may be boring but I feel like I've found a hairstyle that suits me. I'm lucky to have thick hair so I might as well make the most of it. If I had clear skin, it wouldn't make sense to pile on loads of make-up. For so many women, hair is like a comfort blanket. If anything, your hairstyle is your most important accessory. Which is why it can be confidence-shattering to have a bad hair moment. The upside to my many hair ups and downs is that I now know what works for me. Unlike my Lauren Conrad, I can't pull off a bob. Dark brown hair washes me out and is a nightmare to maintain while fringes give me a spotty forehead - not such a good look. I can't say that I'll have this hairstyle forever, but I imagine I'll always keep my hair on the longer side. However, I would love to try my hand at some of these looks (above). Like I mentioned earlier, we always want what we can't have. As the owner of relatively straight hair, I've often wondered about curling irons. Beachy waves look so effortless and sexy - a look I'm desperate to try. Plus, I wouldn't write off a choppier fringe that simply covered any spots they may cause. I can't resist cute hair accessorises and I would love if my hair co-operated long enough to tie a bow. For the foreseeable future, it'll be about trying out new looks with the style I already have. I suppose we're never really done experimenting with our hair. I must admit, it would be boring to sport long blonde hair for the rest of my life.
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Watergate Bay Diary: Day Four.


As if I thought this holiday could get anymore chilled. Mum and I started the day with a 'speedy' pedicure at the 'Watergate Bay Hotel'. Because of my epic nail polish collection, I had to think really carefully about which colour I wanted. After all, I wanted to get our money's worth and there's no point choosing a colour I already have. So I went for an electric blue shade - something more experimental and similarly summery. Mum, on the other hand, fell into the trap of picking a the exact same 'Essie' colour she has at home. It was lovely though. Our treatment room even had an incredible view of the beach. 
After relaxing in the house and trying my hardest to tan my pasty legs, I headed down to the beach with Dad for coffee. I seem to have inherited his caffeine addiction. 'The Beach Hut' is an adorable little café/restaurant which sits right on the beach front. We somehow napped seats with the prettiest view of the ocean. Plus, it's amazing to have an excellent cup of coffee like theirs outside of London - I felt the need to pay tribute with a photo. Then it was off to Mawgan Porth for the dog's second walk. We got there in the early evening so it wasn't too crowded but the sun was still shining. It's such a beautiful beach, I couldn't take enough photos. 
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Monday, 21 July 2014

Watergate Bay Diary: Day Three.


Dog walking selfie with my gorgeous spaniel and dinner at the Watergate Bay Hotel. I could get used to the beautiful Cornish coast.
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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Watergate Bay Diary: Day Two.


Today's beautiful dog walk along the coast. We decided to see how far we could scale down the side of the cliff. Turns out, not very far but I got some amazing photos. Gorgeous blue skies and glisteningly clear water. No filter needed. The dogs loved it almost as much as I did.
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Lazy Sunday.

In today's day and age, where we're always pushing ourselves to the extreme when it comes to work and play, it's so important to take some time to ourselves. Which is why Sunday is my favourite day of the week - it's the universal day of rest. Historically, Sunday was a day devoted to worship. While this might still be true for some, the rest of us use this 24 hours as rejuvenating period - to recover from the busy week that has just passed and prepare for upcoming days. Even when I occasionally work on the last day of the week, the store closes an hour early and the shift still feels pretty calm in comparison to our Saturday rushes. It feels like Sundays puts everyone in a good mood.
Maybe it's just because I'm on holiday on the Cornish coast but today has been particularly chilled. I had a lovely lie-in, put on my short-shorts because it's so warm, went on a beautiful coastal walk, and cruised my favourite beauty blogs. Yesterday I wrote quite a personal post about my experience with anxiety - taking some time for myself really helps me calm down if I'm ever feeling stressed. Even if it's just reading a magazine or taking a walk for a quick half an hour, little things like this can make a world of difference. 
I always try to keep my hair and make-up to a minimum on days like these. Letting your skin breathe is the most refreshing feeling after consecutive days of cakey powders and concealers. Today I've gone for a coat of Benefit mascara, some loose bareMinerals powder, and Revlon's 'Colorburst Balm Stain' in 'Honey Douce' - the latest addition to my carefree holiday make-up bag. 

  

Like I mentioned earlier, Sunday is all about relaxing and preparing for the week ahead. When I was a student, I'd ideally like to have Sundays free from revision. But sometimes that's just not possible - in which case, I'd leave Sundays for extra reading and editing of essays. Something not too strenuous gives your brain a bit of a break. If I've had any late nights or had general bad sleeping patterns during the week then this is when I like to catch up on some sleep... or maybe that's just what I tell myself to justify my inability to get out of bed come Sunday morning. Plus, a late start results in a late breakfast which then becomes the perfect excuse to go out for brunch! A lovely breakfasty buffet with mimosas is ideal at the end of a tiring week. What better way is there to treat yourself than a combination of croissants and cocktails? 

Some of my lazy Sunday rituals include:
  1. Painting my nails while drinking tea, and watching 'Teen Mom 2' - my ultimate favourite trash TV show.
  2. Taking the dogs on a special dog walk somewhere different - this makes it more fun for them and is a welcome change for us.
  3. Catching up with a friend over coffee. 
  4. Baking! I forget how therapeutic it is, plus you end up with something special for for dessert.
  5. Running errands - when you're relaxed, this can actually become quite a satisfying way to spend your day. It also means you avoid your mid-week Superdrug dash which is always a bonus. 
  6. Discover some new blogs - one of my favourite things to do at the moment. Check out who I'm following on Bloglovin'
  7. Devote the day to writing - I often feel guilty that I don't update LydiaLulu enough. Writing some posts in advance means you're not stressing about inactivity during the week.
  8. Have a pampering day - do hair masks, facials, pedicures, all while guiltlessly eating chocolate. Anything you can think of to treat yourself will do.
  9. Do something spontaneous! Spend Sunday sightseeing. Go somewhere you've never been - I personally know that I don't take advantage of living in London. This is something I definitely need to do.
  10. Just do whatever feels right. If you feel like spending the day in bed, go for it. Discovered a new TV series of Netflix and can't get enough? Feel free to binge-watch. Treat yourself to an all-out lazy day if that's what you need. Even if it isn't always Instagram-worthy, that doesn't make it any less fun.
So enjoy your Sunday - after all, it only comes around once a week.
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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Watergate Bay Diary: Day One.


Our first day on the annual Cornish holiday consisted of lie-ins, sunny dog walks, a quick dash to Newquay for pasties (while stopping to listen to these amazing surfer buskers), and an evening stroll on the beach. I love it here - everything just seems so laid-back and chilled. As a self-confessed city girl, it's refreshing to get away sometimes. Absolute relaxing bliss. 

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Anxiety.

This is a subject very close to my heart and I thought it was about time I wrote about it. For some years now, I've been dealing with anxiety. There's sadly a great deal of taboo still surrounding mental health issues in our society. When I was at my worst, about 18 months ago now, people kept telling me to 'snap out of it' and to 'man up'.  I lost friends because of it - my family didn't understand it - but I eventually got the help I needed. Anxiety is a completely normal human emotion. We all feel anxious and worried at times. Yet for some people, myself included, anxiety can often get out of hand.
Before I continue, I should probably contextualise a bit. I lightly touched on the topic when I first started LydiaLulu - but I always intended to write a fuller post describing my experience with anxiety.  It all came to a head in my final year of school. It's a stressful time for every student, but I simply didn't know how to cope with such pressure. I was studying for life-altering exams and began pushing myself to the absolute limit. How I performed on paper was intricately linked with my own self-worth. I was dangerously invested in my school performance to the extent that I wasn't functioning properly. I was working myself silly in an attempt to get into what I thought was the university of my dreams - I spent six months waiting for their decision and I took the rejection extremely hard. I was crushed... but also more determined to work harder than ever. 
This is also when I became extremely controlling when it came to my diet. About six months before my exams, I started eating healthier and exercising regularly. This started out as a good thing - it gave me more energy which meant I could even more hours into studying. When I received the university rejection, I was heartbroken. As I didn't get into the university I'd spent months dreaming about, I now fixated my attention on achieving the 'perfect' body. I would limit myself to just 400 calories a day and power-walk a two mile walk home from school in just 30 minutes. Like most young girls, I was incredibly self-conscious growing up. Sadly, teenagers nowadays are bombarded with photo-shopped images of supermodels and other celebrities who all conform to our narrow perception of beauty. This affects some girls more than others, but I definitely grew up comparing my body to those perfect magazine girls. 
Because I went to an all-girls school, my problem with food resulted in a lot of gossip. I felt like a walking disaster - people were watching me suffer and I became even more self-conscious. At the same time, this is when I started experiencing anxiety attacks at school. I did three quite demanding subjects for A-Level which required enormous amounts of essay writing. I avoided working in the Sixth Form common room where all the other girls in my year-group would hang out, and isolate myself in the deserted café area. I didn't trust the girls around me and became so desperate to escape in my work. However, my anxiety meant that my work ultimately began to suffer. I discovered this little bit of science much later down the line, but our bodies are programmed with a 'fight or flight mode'. So when I became overwhelmed with anxiety when I sat down to write an essay, this was my body releasing an overload of adrenaline because it would mistake my stress levels for impending physical danger. My heart would start racing, my breathing would quicken, and my entire body would tense up. All the while, my mind would be stressing about a difficult essay question and telling me to get on with it. I physically couldn't work in this state.


At this point, a kind English teacher and my Head of Sixth Form stepped in. They were the first people I truly confided in and gave me the courage to get the help I needed. Going to the Doctor's for a problem that wasn't physical was an incredibly strange experience for me. I immediately broke down in tears when I spoke to my GP and she put me on a waiting list for counselling. This was the one thing I was desperate to avoid but I knew at that point that it was inevitable. I needed the professional help. Despite all my fears, I couldn't have asked for a nicer person to confide in. My therapist helped me using 'Cognitive Behavioural Therapy' - a form of counselling that confronts issues by changing behavioural patterns and negative habits. She made me realise that I have control over anxiety - that I can identify the triggers and can combat detrimental thoughts. I remember her telling me that anxiety is like a powerful whirlwind sufferers get sucked into. For instance, when I would tackle a difficult essay I'd start to panic because it was challenging, then I'd tell myself I was a failure, then I'd start to feel guilty as if I was letting my family and friends down, and then it would continue to pick up momentum. I can't even articulate how difficult it is to escape that mindset once you've been sucked in. But now that I can identify my triggers and understand my thought processes, I have control over this whirlwind. The most important lesson I learnt was that anxiety is a trick the mind plays on itself. It has the power to distort every aspect of your life so that you can't see anything clearly. Once you understand it, however, you stand a fighting chance of conquering this inner demon.
Anxiety isn't something that fades away into the distance. Even now I have my good days and my bad days. Sometimes I fall into bad habits and it takes me a while to break free of them again. But it's comforting to know that the worst is over - because of that experience, I know that I'll never reach that low again. 
However, I do vouch for greater awareness of mental health issues - after all, they affect one in four of us at some point in our lives. I lost a lot of friends because of what I went through. But at the same time, they were probably not friends worth having if they were only there for the good times. I wish that people had seen my anxiety for what it is - because it wasn't a broken arm or leg, I wasn't taken seriously. Telling someone who is suffering in themselves to 'get over themselves' is possibly the worst thing you could do. Yet, anxiety highlighted my true friendships and for that, I'm extremely grateful. It's important to remember that suffering with anxiety doesn't define who you are. If anything it makes you human. Like my incredibly wise grandparents told me at the time, 'life isn't easy for anybody'. We all have our battles, mine was a tough one. But it's taught me so much about myself and made me a stronger person. It's helped me grow in my own life and for that, I wouldn't change a thing.
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Friday, 18 July 2014

'Wanted On Voyage' - a Fan's Perspective.

George Ezra has a voice beyond his years. When I first heard his chart-topping debut single, 'Budapest', I had no idea this voice belonged to a guy only one year older than me. With a sophisticated tone and and intriguing yet uplifting melodies , Ezra's debut album 'Wanted On Voyage' has fast become the sound of Summer. Since discovering the album on 'Spotify' about a week ago, I've been listening to it non-stop. I usually only buy one or two songs from an album, but in this case I went ahead and purchased the whole thing. I simply couldn't choose what songs I wanted!
I'm often teased for my personal music taste. My iPhone is filled with easy listening, some classic cheese, and some more unusual artists. Thus, George Ezra slipped in perfectly. He's already enjoyed a lot of commercial and radio success with 'Budapest' and I doubt his later singles will fall short. His music is uplifting without conforming to the music industry's fixation on bubble-gum pop and heavily auto-tuned voices. Ezra is a talented young guy who appeals to a large audience - his mature voice makes him accessible to slightly older generations, whereas his overall sound is aimed at an audience his own age.

I love this album so much that I spend a five hour drive to Cornwall listening to it on repeat. I have a tendency to overplay songs to death... but so far, I'm still loving it! Again, it's easy, happy listening. Ezra's voice is warm and has so much depth - 'Wanted on Voyage' is the ideal soundtrack for lazy afternoons. Or in my case, a long car journey.
Having said that I couldn't restrict myself to buying a mere selection of songs off this album, there are a couple that are the real gems of this album. 'Blame It on Me' and 'Listen to the Man' give insight into the stereotypical male role in the modern-day relationship. Although this may sound drab, and I remember being apprehensive when I noticed these titles, they're fun and uplifting songs nonetheless. 'Breakaway' is another favourite. A more poignant and insightful song, Ezra laments a woman's abusive relationship singing 'you may think he's a demolition expert when he's finished with your self-esteem [...] Come find shelter, or your shelter with me'. This makes it sound like depressing listening, but 'Breakaway' is a sweet and comforting song. Ezra is encouraging this mystery girl to breakaway from a toxic relationship. '
However, 'Barcelona' has given me a serious case of wanderlust - as if I wasn't bad enough already! With soft guitar riffs that remind you of the Spanish sun, this sweet little song is my favourite of an already fantastic album. 'Every time you have to go, shone my eyes and you know, I'll be lying right by your side in Barcelona.' This short, sweet song is filled with romantic imagery that melts your heart. An absolute must-listen, this is my song of Summer 2014.

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Fashion Inspiration Friday - Keira Knightley.

With the release of her new movie, 'Begin Again', it feels like I can't escape Keira Knightley at the moment. Nor do I want to. If I'm completely honest, I felt sorry for her in recent years - the media always seem to be criticising her weight or her infamous pout. She's been on our radar for over a decade now, I think it's time we move on from analysing her slim figure. Ever since her 'Bend it Like Beckham' days, I've been a fan. Her portrayal of two of my favourite literary heroines, Elizabeth Bennett and Anna Karenina, could have been disastrous. But instead, she hit the nail on the head and really got into those character's psyches. As you may have gathered, I've been eagerly awaiting 'Begin Again' for quite some time. I think it's a new direction for Knightley - in recent years she's stuck to more challenging roles. I doubt this movie is a through-and-though chick flick but it definitely appeals to a wider audience. Plus, the film has been directed by John Carney - the man who gave us the wonderful film 'Once'. As 'Begin Again' is now cinemas, I thought I'd devote this week's 'Fashion Inspiration Friday' to the uber-stylish Keira Knightley.

As the face of Chanel's 'Coco Mademosielle' for some years now, Knightley has close links with the fashion community. So when she married the 'Klaxons' member, James Righton, in 2013 wearing this sweet yet not so formal Chanel dress, she created a media storm. As she told 'Elle' magazine in their July 2014 issue, 'every time I've worn that dress, I've had a fantastic night, and if you've got a dress where you've always had a fantastic night, it's worth having another fantastic night in it', which is such a nice premise. Although she did wear a second, secret Valentino gown for her official nuptials in the South of France later that year, that dress has never been released for public consumption. I love her first Chanel wedding dress. It's fun and flirty but also very classic in its design. Knightley nails bridal chic with a pair of classic 'Ray Ban' wayfavers.
At the Chanel AW14 fashion show in March, Knightley was criticised for this nautical/optical illusion dress (above left) - which is so unnecessary. I love this look - it combines the classic nautical-style dress while incorporating the cut-away trend. The square shapes at the top and bottom contrast to this interesting, figuring-hugging optical illusion in the middle. This dress captures Keira's style and absolutely cements her fashion credentials.

                              

Similarly, I adore Knightley's everyday street style. Pictured left with her husband, strolling around London, Knightley gives a nod to the dungaree trend but styles it in her own way. With a simple Breton top, a pair of Converses, and a classic Chanel clutch of course! She's looks comfortable and stylish - ideal for a casual walk round Islington. 
Knightley's wardrobe in her new movie, 'Begin Again' seems to have really captured the essence of her own personal style. Knightley plays Greta - the ex-girlfriend of a rock star and a struggling musician herself. Throughout the movie's promotional photos, Knightley is dressed in jeans and T-shirts and feminine (yet not overtly girly) dresses. This style really suits Knightley - she's undoubtably very feminine without being sickeningly girly. I think this is why I identify with her and admire her flawless fashion sense. Her style is classic and experimental at times. Like all great fashion girls, she's not afraid to take risks but she knows what suits her. I like that she doesn't seem intimidated by the fashion industry - she can hold her own as a result of her style success. 
Knightley looks fantastic in 'Begin Again' and above all, I know that I'll get such great style inspiration from this movie.

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Nail Polish Pick-Me-Up.

I think I'm in love... with a nail polish brand that is. When I popped into 'Space NK' on my 20 minute break today, I was instantly drawn to a beautiful collection of nail polishes - like the true addict that I am. I was intrigued. I'd never heard of the brand 'Rococo' before. Like I wrote yesterday, I went into 'Space NK' to thank them for the cute little goodie bag they dropped off at my work a couple days ago. Seeing as they were so generous I thought it couldn't hurt to purchase a single nail polish as a small thank you... who am I kidding, I wanted this colour. It's called 'Pop Culture' and it's a shocking red shade with a subtle glittery base. I've steered away from reds like this in the past because I thought such bright shades wouldn't compliment my skin tone. I like to think I've been proved wrong here. Of course it's a bright fantastic colour but the slight shimmer tones it down just a bit. Plus, the product itself is really great quality - I did purchase it from 'Space NK' after all. The consistency is not too thick and goes on smoothly and without fuss. Two coats in more than enough, plus the brush made for really quick and easy application. I'm pretty chuffed with this little present to myself - think it's the perfect shade for my Cornish holiday which starts tomorrow. Cannot wait!

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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Simple Act of Kindness.

Yesterday I wrote about tensions at work. Last week was tough and it felt like everyone was turning against each other. I was fed up to say the least. But when I went to work today my supervisor told me how one of my customers came in when I was in Newcastle this weekend. I had found a sought-after Sale dress for her in a Liverpool branch and she was so thrilled that she dropped off a 'goodie bag' of free samples as a thank you gift. Turns out she works at 'Space NK' - a luxurious UK cosmetics store. My heart melted. Serving someone who really appreciates it is one of the perks of this job. And it's always enjoyable finding someone an item that they desperately want. This simple act of kindness really brightened my day. For every bad customer I have to deal with working in the retail industry, it's lovely knowing that there's someone who appreciates it. This 'Goldfaden MD' exfoliator has left my skin feeling pristine and silky - the ideal end to a tiring day. When I go into 'Space NK' tomorrow to thank her, I may even have to buy it. This could be dangerous...
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What's in My Handbag?

I'm a nosey person by nature... but when it comes to fashion, beauty, and skincare, who isn't intrigued by other's women's style and make-up routines? Therein lies the success of the 'YouTuber'. Anyway, I quite happily spend a lot of time reading 'What's in My Handbag?' posts and thought it was about time to join in one of my favourite trends. Although technically, I did this about 3 years ago on my 'Tumblr' blog of the time when it first started trending which is incredibly cringey to look back on.
So in three years, the bag hasn't changed. I don't suspect it ever will. As I outlined here a few weeks back, my Mulberry Alexa is like my baby. I worked so hard to save up my money - and ignored when friends and family told me I was mad - and it was so worth it. I chose the classic 'oak' shade because I thought it would go with everything... and it really does. The Alexa is always being released in new colours and materials but I'm happy with the one I chose. I never have to worry about switching handbags to match an outfit - if anything, I feel like it compliments everything in my wardrobe. Alexa adds the perfect fashionable touch to any outfit and she comes with me everywhere. Three years on and I'm still in love. 
But anyway, this is called 'What's in my Handbag?' not 'I'm a Crazy Woman Obsessed with an Inanimate Possession'. I've always needed a handbag that carry plenty in it. I'm a Literature student after all and I constantly have a book on the go - Nancy Mitford's 'Don't Tell Alfred' at the moment. Plus, my magazine addiction meant that Alexa always needed to be able to squeeze 'Vogue' in somehow. Even though it gets heavy at times, the upside is that my bag always keeps its shape. The Alexa has a tendency to collapse inwards if remains empty. 
When I have an all-day shift at work I like to take my make-up bag and perfume with me so I can freshen up a bit. Running around after customers and scaling ladders can be quite physical work so I don't like worrying about what my make-up is doing when I've got more important things to do. My Grandma gave me this cute 'Cath Kidston' make-up bag years ago and I'm still using it. It's the perfect size - it fits everything I need and is compact enough to fit in my handbag when I'm strapped for time. I also picked up a pack of Q-Tips at the last hotel I stayed in - ideal for liquid eye-liner dilemmas. 
I was not lucky enough to be blessed with the perfect complexion and often find my T-Zone becomes very oily during the day - especially when the weather brightens up. To combat unwanted shine, 'Sephora''s blotting pads are an absolute life-saver. They just freshen up the face without spoiling your make-up. If I ever became oily in the past, I'd simply pile more and more powder on my nose which only ever made it worse. Blotting pads are a godsend for girls with my complexion. An added bonus is that the 'Sephora' ones come in a selection of colours - I chose pink, naturally.
Like the nail varnish addict that I am, I like to have the colour I'm wearing with me too in case of emergencies. As a sales assistant, I'm literally not allowed to have chipped nails. So when I chip my manicure doing something at work, it's nice to be able to fix it quickly with no hassle. My 'Sephora' nail file is also a must. Call me a perfectionist, but I like to have nice nails... at all times.
Having thick hair can also be a bit of a nightmare sometimes. It has a life of its own and refuses to cooperate most of the time which is why I carry hair grips with me wherever I go. I have to use the massively oversized sliders and sometimes even they don't work. But it's reassuring to know that I can pin my hair back to my heart's content when I'm out and about. A mini hair brush is also a given for thick-haired girls like me. I chose this cute pink 'Sephora' one last time I was in New York. (I'm starting to spot a trend here) A mini can of 'Batiste' is the latest addition to my handbag and an important one at that. It means I don't have to worry about greasy hair which is so reassuring. The floral scent is my favourite of the range just because it disguises that tell-tell dry shampoo smell. 
Then there's the basic purse, keys, and sunglasses you find in any woman's handbag. I know they're unadventurous but my 'Ray Ban' wayfarers come with me everywhere. I don't care that everyone seems to have them, I think they're classic. I chose a slightly smaller style which gives them a more feminine fit. They're useful to hide behind them when I'm running errands in my make-up-less, tracksuit bottomed state.
Writing this post has made me realise that a woman's handbag is like a suit of armour. All the little things that I carry round with me help me get through the day. Whether its my book, my perfume, my make-up, or my headphones, (not pictured here - but an absolute necessity nonetheless) the contents of my handbag gives such insight into who I am as a person. Looking into a woman's handbag is like looking into her soul! You can tell that I'm a fashion-conscious bookworm with an attraction to pink. I feel lost without a handbag, it's comforting to carry round. It's lovely knowing that everything I need can fit into my gorgeous little Mulberry Alexa. 
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Monday, 14 July 2014

A Quick Trip to Newcastle.


Today was my sister's graduation so naturally the whole family journeyed up to Newcastle to support her. It was a pretty packed 48 hours including an expired railcard, two busy train journeys, a World Cup final, some brief tourist snaps, lots of official graduation ceremonies, a lost camera bag, tons of coffee trips, and an emergency ride on the Metro.
Like all our family trips, everything didn't go exactly to plan. A few hours before our train on Sunday, my sister realised her railcard had expired which meant we had to leave much earlier to renew it at King's Cross and avoid a mega fine. We stayed at an incredible hotel, the 'Malmaison', on the Quayside. It had that stylish and luxurious interior which made it all feel very glamourous. Plus, there was a Starbucks next to reception which was like a dream come true. Our next crisis struck about fifteen minutes before Alice's graduation ceremony started: Dad lost his camera which meant losing all of the important photos he had taken that day... and a very expensive camera. He would have missed Alice graduate had a kind security guard not picked it up. The final crisis of the trip was when the taxi failed to pick us up when we had a train to catch. Instead of waiting it out, we ran for the Metro and even had time to spare.
It was an exhausting, yet memorable, couple of days. Watching my sister graduate with a first class degree has only made me more excited to start uni again in September. Plus Newcastle is such an interesting city. My only regret is that we didn't get to explore more. We just about had time to take a photo on the Millennium bridge before it started raining... that breeze was not so photo-friendly.
The trip was so quick that it almost feels like it didn't happen. For now though, it's back to reality.
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Daisy Dream.

Having entered the blogosphere around about a month ago now, my discovery of some amazing beauty blogs has completely changed the way I shop for new products. I love reading reviews knowing that the new must-have beauty steal has been tried and tested by girls just like me. So when I was doing the rounds a couple weeks ago, I noticed that nearly every blog I stumbled upon was reviewing Marc Jacobs' new 'Daisy Dream' scent.
I instantly knew that I wanted it. I was in the middle of a perfume crisis having abandoned my faithful Gucci 'Flora' a while back. Since then, I'd been a bit of a perfume slut, trying all sorts of different scents. I think what attracted me to 'Daisy Dream' was the bottle itself... as superficial as that sounds. It's so delicate and summery. The sky blue liquid looked cool and fresh while the product's description sounded unique and interesting. Obviously I could only imagine what it smelt like while I was sitting behind a computer screen. Plus, 'Daisy Dream' is the latest addition to Marc Jacobs' hugely successful 'Daisy' collection so I knew it would live up to expectations.

Naturally, I did some research and realised that it was available at Duty Free in airports. My Dad happened to be travelling to South Korea last week and I begged him to pick me up a bottle at Terminal Five. After a long and particularly frustrating shift last Wednesday, I came home to find it waiting for me. Its fruity/floral scent was the perfect pick-me-up. 
With top notes of blackberry and pear and a heart of jasmine and wisteria, 'Daisy Dream' is unique in its mixture of floral and fruity. Yet instead of fighting against each other, these softer scents work together to create an overall sweet and dreamy perfume. I already know that this will be my new 'signature scent'. 'Daisy Dream' is now readily available in the UK from today. If you're also experimenting with perfume, this scent is a must. 
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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Every Story Starts with a Great Nail Polish.

An 'Essie' nail polish to be exact. Whenever I pick a polish from my ever-growing collection, I always remember the story behind buying it. I can remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, etc. I know it sounds nuts, but stay with me. Some people have their tea-cup collection, others collect vinyl - for me, it always has and always will be about nail polish. In a way, a collection of nail polishes are no different to your wardrobe. You have your staple pieces (classic, useful colours), your investment items ('Chanel' nail polish), and the seasonal trend clothes you bought on a whim (the fluorescent nail colour you wore once and will never use again).I don't know exactly when it started but I have amassed a huge amount of nail polishes over the years. I'm not even sure how it happens. Whenever I go out, I always seem to come home with one. They're the perfect buy - not too extravagant but just enough to give you the thrill of a great purchase. God knows how much money I've invested over the years.
Nowadays, 'Essie' is readily available in the UK - they even stock them in my local pharmacy - but a few years ago, 'Essie' stands were few and far between. It was only when I was on holiday that I could ever find them, and once I did I would majorly stock up. Having picked out my most-loved 'Essie' colours from my amazing selection, I couldn't help but note the colour scheme that emerged. I clearly love my pinks, reds, and purples. And not just because I'm a girly girl but because these more muted shades go really well with my skin tone. I can't pull off bright, fluorescent polishes so I stick to my faithful 'Essie' shades.

(L to R) 'Masquerade Ball', 'Recessionista', 'It's Genius', 'Island Hopping'

These slightly darker shades are my absolute go-to in the Winter months. I bought 'Masquerade Ball' and 'Recessionista' as an 18th birthday present for myself and they've become my foolproof staples. They look so glamorous when I'm stuck for inspiration. Deep reds and purples always do in my experience. As any other nail polish addict will know, glitter based polishes are a nightmare to remove - the glitter refuses to budge and you're normally reduced to scraping it off in some way or another. This is exactly why I love 'It's Genius' so much - there's none of this hassle and it gives a really pretty metallically sheen. It's a pink based polish with gold glitter. It's sweet and subtle, a winner in my books and one of my most used polishes - as you can probably tell from the slightly tattered looking bottle. As for 'Island Hopping', it didn't really jump out at me on the shelves but I thought I'd give this more muted colour a go. I'm so happy I did. It's the perfect shade of pink - really great for everyday wear, when you don't want your nails to be too loud but to still look pretty and polished. 

'A-List', 'Big Spender', 'Splash of Grenadine'

Generally speaking, these would be my Summer shades. A slightly brighter alternative to my staple colours I'd say. 'A-List' is one of my newest additions - nabbed it in the 'Liberty' sale - and I've been wearing it ever since. It's a bright red that's not too garish. It enhances my skin tone rather than gives me granny hands which is the risk with some red polishes. It looks effortlessly glamorous, especially with upcoming Summer months. It's a really fun pop of colour and I adore it. 'Big Spender' was a bit of an impulse buy one rainy day when I was slogging through university. I was especially bored one day and thought why not go for a shocking pink to spice things up a bit? I would normally shy away from such a colour but it actually looks great on. It's a bright colour but it's not overbearing which is why I always seem to be returning to it. Splash of Grenadine' is a polish with a funny little story behind it. I'd be after this colour for so long - trying desperately hard to get it online. But I couldn't find any website that would ship all the way to the UK. I had just about given up when I was on holiday in Barcelona. It was incredibly hot when Mum and I had gone shopping. I was so eager to go back to the hotel and jump straight in the pool when Mum dragged me into another department store - I was baking hot and fed up. But then I saw it - the biggest 'Essie' display I'd ever seen. I was deliriously happy. They had the colour: the perfect mix of pink and purple, the colour I'd been pining for. I was so thrilled that I bought several bottles and even took a photo of the display as a kind of celebration. Yes, I'm that pathetic. It's since become one of my most-used and best-loved polishes. All because Mum dragged me in that department store. Moral of the story - always stick with Mum.

'Under Where?', 'French Affair', 'Meet Me at the Altar'

'Under Where?' and 'Meet Me at the Altar' were also my best buys of the Liberty sale and I've been getting so much use out of them. Love how I didn't realise that 'Meet Me at the Altar' was part of 'Essie's bridal range... it's a lovely light shade of pink though so I've chosen to overlook that! It's so pretty and its light hue makes my hands look reasonably tanned. Always a plus living in rainy old England. I'm actually wearing 'French Affair' as I type this. It's a great shade of pink simply because it's not too garish or bright. It's an understated girly pink which just looks very polished and chic when applied. I found this shade in an amazing little beauty shop in the Hamptons last Summer. My family and I were walking back to the car when I spotted it. I assured them I would only take a second - which was obviously never going to happen - and I had to hastily choose this colour as they were shouting at me to hurry up. Again, they had one of the largest collections of 'Essie' I'd ever seen and so this was quite a pressurised situation for me. But I chose well. I wear this colour across seasons. It's so pretty and I always look back on that 60 second snap decision whenever I apply it. Like I said, every story starts with a great nail polish.
                                    I know that my nail polish collection will continue to flourish and grow. As long as I'm still breathing, I'll alway be after the new coveted colour. Or sticking to my much-loved staples if I'm not so keen. Tons of people have said my nail polish collection is obscene - and they're probably right. But I love being able to look into my overflowing box and pick a colour at random. A nice manicure is the perfect pick-me-up after a long hard day. As long as 'Essie' continues producing great colours, my nails will always look fabulous.
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Wimbledon Final 2014.

I was so gutted when I found out that I was working the day of the Wimbledon Men's Final - but was equally thrilled when I noticed a big screen on my way to the store today. Spend my lunch basking in the London sunshine and cheering on Djokovic. I even made it home in time to see the last set - every cloud really does have a silver lining!

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Bucket List of Dreams.

Today was the last shift of yet another one of my colleagues - I've only in been in retail three months and I'm learning just what a huge staff turnover there is! Naturally, I'm so happy for her, she'd been in the store for far too long and she's got a job doing something she loves. Another one of my friends has just got back from an amazing trip to Argentina - she literally just moved out there for three months to learn Spanish. I really admire her for it, to have the courage to move across the world to somewhere completely unknown. Equally, I'm jealous - she had the most incredible experience. While I'm working as a shop floor girl waiting for uni to start again in September, I feel as if I'm not doing much. I'm coming down with serious Wanderlust. So I thought I'd share my 'Life Bucket List' as a way of rejuvenating myself after a tough day at work.

1. Travel.

Such a cliché, I know. But it's unusual to be against visiting the world's most beautiful landscapes and experiencing different cultures. My biggest regret is not taking a gap year and doing the stereotypical trip round the world - it would have been good for me. But all is not lost! I'm only 19. My plan is to travel extensively during summer breaks, maybe even apply for a semester abroad when I finally get back to uni. I'm desperate to explore Europe, to get to know Paris, Vienna, and Berlin in particular. A roadtrip around the US would be the stuff of dreams.

2. Study English Literature at Degree Level.

Luckily for me, this is pretty much a given. Unless I have a complete change of heart before September 22nd! Seeing as I'm counting down the days till I leave, this isn't likely to happen. I'm so excited just to study Literature again. To spend my days reading and analysing texts in a little coffee shop - my absolute favourite place to do my academic work if only for the source of caffeine. Literature was my first love, I can't wait to spend three years devoting my life to it. 


3. Turn my Passion into a Career. 

Personally, I consider myself a writer but one of my major life goals is to transform this into a professional career. So I can support myself doing what I love. I find the writing deeply therapeutic and inspiring which is why I want to devote my life to it. Journalists have the luxury and freedom to experiment with their style, to freelance here and there before deciding on a definite career path... if they ever even choose just one. In a dream world, I'd be writing a column for 'The Guardian' while also contributing to my favourite fashion magazines. I'm as addicted to current affairs as I am to following fashion. It would be amazing to pursue a career that included both.

4. Live the Domestic Dream.

Like many people do, I went through a stage of thinking I'd never be a 'marriage and kids' kind of girl. When I was 16 and trying to be rebellious and different, I always imagined my future revolving around a successful career based in New York. But, working in a store where seemingly all our customers have children (mostly sweet and well-behaved) has made me realise that I want that too someday. I can't help getting seriously broody when I'm surrounded by babies for eight hours at a time! The dream of having the white picket fence home with children running round seems too hard to resist. 

5. Achieve Balance.

I don't think I'm alone in this one. I always strive for perfection in every aspect of my life and it's just not possible. I can't put all my time and energy into my relationship without neglecting this blog. Meanwhile, I can't spend the majority of time at work without it affecting my relationship. There's not enough hours in the day to excel in all the areas I want to succeed in. For instance, my reading has been suffering so much lately because of the hours I've been working. I find it hard to concentrate when I'm so mentally drained from my day. Sometimes slobbing out in front of 'Sex and the City' reruns is much more appealing. At the same time, I beat myself up about not keeping up with my book - I feel like it should be at the top of my agenda. But life gets in the way sometimes. Come September when I'm in a new city and things are a bit more chilled, I'll definitely make the effort to catch up on lost time. Sometimes I find it hard to find this perspective, I just want to be on top of everything when realistically, that's just not going to happen. When I find balance in my life, I know I'll be a lot more relaxed and probably a lot happier. 

I know that life is unpredictable and that people and circumstances change, but if I was able to achieve just a couple of these goals then I would consider myself very fulfilled. I thrive when I'm organised and when I have a clear goal of what I want to achieve in mind. That's why I find writing little lists of dreams so useful - these 'dreams' may seem far off now but its not necessarily a bad thing having something to aspire to. If I keep these in mind, who knows - maybe I could become a well-travelled professional writer with an English Literature degree who balances a family life and has somehow managed to achieve a work/family balance! Anything is possible.
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Friday, 4 July 2014

Fashion Inspiration Friday - Ashley Benson.

In honour of her Company Magazine cover and recent collaboration with H&M , my choice for this week's 'Fashion Inspiration' had to be Ashley Benson. As the star of one of television's most fashionable shows, 'Pretty Little Liars', Ashley also emulates her character's flawless style in her everyday life. The ABC hit show has inspired countless fashion blogs (I even followed this one in my Tumblr days) and has even gained 'Sex and the City'/ 'Gossip Girl' status in how its characters are styled to perfection. When I first got into 'Pretty Little Liars', I was obsessed with the four central character's style. Since then I've realised that I could never wear Hanna/Aria-style high heels all day and I've come to terms with it. Ashley Benson's street style, however, is much more achievable.

                                            
I love how Ashley contrasts her very feminine, LA-girl features with her more edgy fashion taste. When looking for images for this post, Google provided me thousands upon thousands of papparazzi photos of Benson picking up her morning coffee in a uniform of jeans, chunky boots, and a leather jacket. She's a girl after my own heart. My favourite image of her street style, however, was this cute combination of an oversized cardigan over a plain white T-shirt and acid-washed jeans. I love the way she's added a sweet understated feminine touch through her simple jewellery and headband. I'm lusting after those tan boots. Funnily enough, there are a similar pair available in her 'H&M' range. By looking at Benson's own personal style in closer detail, you can really see how she's inspired this new collection for 'H&M'. As Ashley herself says, she loves 'high-waisted skirts, skinny jeans, and loose tops' which form a significant part of the range. This collection is young and playful with a stylish edge. It's based around contrasts - whether its in a pop of colour or a combination of loose fitting jersey and figure-hugging mini skirts.
However, Benson takes her red-carpet fashion very seriously and adopts a very different look altogether. She goes for sophistication and minimalistic style to perhaps widen her fashion credentials. Whereas some of her co-stars go for more flirty, younger looks, Ashley never fails to look glamourous and much older than her 24 years - in a good way! Here she is (above left) at the 'Pretty Little Liars' 100th episode soiree looking every ounce the internet fashion sensation that she is. The angular design of the dress adds a bit more interest to an otherwise simple LWD. Ashley has taken a classic look and given it a modern twist. 
I usually try and hold off buying 'Company' magazine until I'm finished with my monthly 'Vogue' but when I saw the cover, I went straight out to buy it. I've included their cover in this post because it really captures the essence of Ashley's style - a traditional floral jumpsuit rocked up with a statement necklace. Ashley Benson combines classic style with a youthful edge and this is why she has become well-loved for her flawless fashion sense. She's not afraid to be playful or experiment with her style and I think this what a lot of people admire her for. Her 'Pretty Little Liars' character, Hanna Marin, opts for lots of bright colours, bodycon dresses and skirts, and super high heels. Although Ashley has a say in her PLL wardrobe, her off-duty style is a lot more understated - which I definitely prefer. I love her casual, almost 'rock-chick' fashion sense. No wonder she's such an internet fashion sensation, she deserves every ounce of her style success.  

For more Fashion Inspiration, visit my Pinterest board.

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I'm Bun Donut Happy.

Sometimes, having long, thick hair is a mixed blessing. Don't get me wrong, I'm emotionally attached to every strand - trips to the hairdressers are a very emotional experience for me. But it gets frustrating when I can't do anything to my hair- my look is restricted to a basic ponytail or just letting it run free.  A couple of girls at work have been sporting the bun trend for a while now and I thought it was about time to give it a go. I normally write off hair trends because I simply can't get mine to co-operate but this seemed simple enough. As I have a lot of hair, I can't get anyway with the popular technique of just tucking the ends underneath the donut. Instead, I have to wrap my remaining pony tail around the outside of the bun and secure with bobby pins. I'm so happy I found this YouTube tutorial - I was just about ready to pack the whole thing in. As for the hair donuts themselves, they're readily available in pharmacies but I picked mine up in 'H&M' for £1.99! Absolute bargain. I absolutely love the look of the bun and it makes a really sweet hairstyle for work - especially when I'm running around and don't have time to worry about my hairs doing. If you're stuck in a hair rut like me, the bun donut is a really sweet, Summer option. 
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Thursday, 3 July 2014

'Jolene'

  
One of my favourite things to do on YouTube is search for interesting covers of classic songs. Miley Cyrus' cover of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' proves what a talented artist she is. Personally, this is when she was at her best.
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Top Five Ultimate Chick Flicks.

I'm finally ready to admit that I'm a 'girly' girl. I've been in denial for quite a while, trying to hide my innate attraction to all things pink and pretty, but I think the time has come. Plus several people has pointed out the obvious to me in the past few days.There's no more denying that I'm a bonafide girly girl. And there's nothing I love more than a good chick flick. So when I heard that the stars of one of the greatest chick flicks of all, 'The Notebook', spent the entirety of filming arguing, I was pretty surprised. I suppose films are simply better than reality (although Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams seemed to patch things up seeing as they dated for four years afterwards). My growing collection of cheesy movies sit right next to my bed just in case I need them. I love indulging in my favourite romantic comedies after a long and hard day. Chick Flicks might be silly and unrealistic but they're wonderfully heart-warming movies. 

5. 'Dirty Dancing'(1987)

I was pretty late to the party on this one. And not in the fashionable sense - more in the way were people ask you where you've been living all your life if you haven't seen this movie. To be honest, I thought the concept of the film sounded too cheesy - a male dance instructor falls in love with his student. Bleurgh. So one uneventful Summer evening when I was about 16, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. And I'm so glad I did. 'Dirty Dancing' is so much more than a typical chick flick - it realistically portrays a young girl discovering her sexuality and going against what is expected of her. Baby falls for typical 'bad guy with a heart of gold' and desperately tries to help his friend Penny in her time of need. It is also the only film that depicts abortions in a realistic light. Despite this film clearly falling into the 'chick flick' category, it also explores more serious themes of underlying class struggle and female sexuality. The music, the dancing, and the good prevailing over evil has provided this with serious chick flick status.

4. 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.'(2011)

This is just a fun, sweet, and quirky movie. Steve Carrell plays Cal, a normal guy in the midst of a mid-life crisis whose marriage has ended following his wife's infidelity. He'd lost his confidence when Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and teaches Cal his womanising ways. Trouble naturally ensues. Personally, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's fictional relationship steals the show - there's even a cheeky 'Dirty Dancing' reference hidden in there too. The best romantic comedy that's been released in a while. 

3. 'Easy A' (2010)

Again, Emma Stone (my absolute favourite comic actress) stars in this modern-day retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter'. Olive somehow manages to create a rumour about herself which circulates round her entire High School - she tries to protect her best friend's feelings when things get out of hand. The rumour, however, puts her on the map and Olive enjoys being noticed at first - even if she is the token school slut. She satirises her new reputation and the rumours soon spiral out of control in this quirky comedy. I love this film because it doesn't revolve solely around a romantic interest - although Penn Badgley guest stars as the sweet guy who never doubts Olive and helps sort of the mess. Emma's performance is hilarious and this film has been the subject of many an internet GIF. It's refreshing to have a smart, funny, and intelligent female character as the central star of this film. The 'I've Got a Pocket Full of Sunshine' scene, however, is the highlight of the entire movie.  

2. '(500) Days of Summer' (2009)

I love this unconventional, modern-day romance. This movie charts our protagonist Tom's romantic trials and tribulations and his intense relationship with office new-girl Summer. What makes this movie so unique and enthralling is the way it's been edited. The audience is provided with a 500 day timeline of Tom and Summer's relationship; we chart their ups and downs and compare how they were at the happy start through to the difficult end. Ultimately, it's a happy movie. What does irritate me, however, is that Summer is painted as the villain. Like Joseph Gordon-Levitt himself said in an interview with 'Playboy', Tom 'develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies.' He falls in love with the 'idea' of Summer and not the 'actual person'. What makes this movie so great (its already achieved cult status) is its reliability. Even though Tom is pretty selfish, especially as Summer made it clear that she didn't want a relationship, we still vouch for him and want him to find the love he's so desperately looking for. It's interesting having a flawed protagonist in this sense - it makes the movie more 'real'. Plus, the soundtrack is incredible - this film introduced me to the likes of 'The Smiths' and Regina Spektor. Again, the film's best scene has made it onto YouTube.

1. 'Pride and Prejudice' (2005)

This is probably just the Literature student in me but I cannot deny my love for this movie - it's my favourite Austen portrayed flawlessly on the silver screen and I can watch it over and over again to my heart's content. This may be quite a controversial choice as the movie received mixed reviews but I think it's portrayed beautifully. It was always going to be a stunning film, Joe Wright's work always is. Despite all the unnecessary criticism Keira Knightley receives from the media (her pout, her weight, etc), I think she really captured the essence of Elizabeth Bennett. She's adventurous, intelligent, and loving. Whereas Matthew MacFadyen nails both sides of Mr. Darcy. The film also has a star-studded cast which makes it all the more enjoyable. Rosamund Pike is flawless as Jane Bennett which is just perfect casting. Wright's focus on nature also adds a new dimension to the story-line. Elizabeth and Darcy often meet outdoors - in the garden, woods, and field - away from society's expectations and restrictions. The natural setting suggests that they each other's equal, despite their differences in social terms. This film is beautiful and does the classic book every justice. 
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