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Friday, 29 August 2014

August Listens.

Some of my favourite blog posts to read are monthly favourites - beauty bloggers list their favourite products, some talk about things that have made them happy. For me, it's always been about music. I'm a sentimental soul at heart and I can often define periods of my life by what I was listening to. The week I left university, I had just discovered Dan Croll and spent the train journey back to London listening to 'Home' on repeat - it was extremely accurate in conveying everything I was feeling at that crossroads in my life. This special song is on the playlist at work and every time I hear it, even when I'm in the middle of serving a customer, I'm transported back to that nervous train ride home. Music is so beautiful and I feel lost without my headphones - being without them on my daily walk home from work is like losing a limb. As it's nearing the end of August (I can hardly believe it!) and favourites posts start popping up left, right, and centre I thought I'd make my own contribution and reveal what's been on my musical radar this month. Warning: I have a pretty all-encompassing and quirky taste in music. 

1. Taylor Swift, 'Shake It Off'


I have no shame for my love of Taylor Swift. I even saw her perform at the O2 Arena as part of her 'Speak Now' World Tour in 2011. She was incredible - even doing a cover of Jason Mraz's 'I'm Yours' mixed with her classic single, 'Fearless'. As you can imagine, my sixteen year old mind was blown. Since then, Swift has continued to push herself and never seems to take a break. She's one of those stars who's constantly on the go. Personally, her music is going from strength to strength as she experiments more with her sound. I feel as if I've grown up with Taylor Swift and her music really spoke to me as an angst-ridden pre-teen. Her latest material has a feel-good pop vibe which makes for nice, easy listening. Since it was released last week, 'Shake It Off' has received some very mixed reviews. From what I remember, The Guardian wasn't too impressed. But at the same time, this song is about not dwelling on other people's opinion. Swift, quite literally, is shaking off the 'haters' and there's something really admirable about that. Especially with all the bad press she gets about her love life. I haven't stopped listening to this song since it came out - and from the looks of its high UK chart position, it looks like a lot of others love it too. My only critique of this single is the awkward faux-rapping bridge which can make for quite cringe-worthy listening. But you've got to give it to Swift, the girls got guts.

2. Adam Levine, 'Lost Stars'


In my eyes, Adam Levine can do no wrong. He could sing 'Ba ba black sheep' and his rendition would still make this list. Despite writing a fashion admiration post on Keira Knightley's style around the time of 'Begin Again's release, I never got round to seeing it. And after discovering this song on an obscure Spotify playlist, I'm seriously kicking myself. Looks like I'll just have to wait till it makes the DVD rounds. Like with Taylor Swift, I grew up listening to Maroon 5. I'm still too obsessed with Songs About Jane some 12 years later - wow, I did not know it had been that many years. Wow. 'Lost Stars' encapsulates Maroon 5's sweet and sultry melodies that run alongside extremely poetical lyrics. If the movie is as good as this song then I seriously missed out.

3. Florence + The Machine, 'Shake It Out'


This is another great song that started playing on a Spotify playlist just last week - some seriously good finds if you're ever on the hunt for some great listening! Although it's been around for a while, this song passed me by the first time round. I don't even know how that was possible but I first heard the 'Smash' cover and thought it was their original song! Of course it's Florence + The Machine - this song epitomises her unique yet radio-friendly sound. And it's got that feel-good, shake off the haters vibe that Taylor Swift revisited this month. I'm starting to notice a pattern here...

4. Barbra Streisand, 'The Way We Were'


This is my random addition to the list but it had to be included here because I've been listening to it non-stop the past few weeks. Earlier this month I had the urge to watch 'The Way We Were', like I do every so often. Whenever I'm in need of a good heart-wrenching, beautiful love story! This iconic movie  tars big-screen heavy-weights Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in a passionate yet tumultuous relationship set against the backdrop of 20th-century political unrest. And of course, this movie is not complete without its title song which Barbra Streisand performs herself. It's one of those great movie ballads that gives you goosebumps and stays with you for days. BeyoncĂ©'s cover of this classic is well worth a listen too.

5. Kings of Leon, 'Comeback Story'


I discovered this Kings of Leon gem from the playlist at work. 95% of the songs we have to listen to day-in and day-out drive me up the wall but 'Comeback Story' is a pleasant exception. I sometimes breathe a sigh of relief when it comes on - it breaks up some of the jarring pop nonsense! Kings of Leon have such a unique sound, when I heard the song for the first time I knew it was them within seconds. This is a really bluesy, melodic tune which I love listening to on long journeys or my walk home. What can I say, my favourite tunes help me decompress. This fast became a favourite and is such an underrated gem by the Kings of Leon. I'm surprised it wasn't released as a single in its own right. But a really great listen, nonetheless. If anything, I like having an iPhone filled with secret songs that aren't necessarily mainstream and well known. It makes my playlists seem more personal and tailored to my own preferences.
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Thursday, 28 August 2014

LydiaLulu's Makeover - Baggle Web Design.

A few weeks ago, I realised how shabby my blog looked. And once I noticed it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Ever seen the 'How I Met Your Mother' episode about shattered illusions? When Ted tells Marshall that Lily chews abnormally loudly and from then on it's all he can think about? (You can probably tell that I like slipping in 'How I Met Your Mother' references in anywhere I can.) That was me - until today.
Like I mentioned yesterday, I spend all my internet time happily catching up with my Bloglovin' feed. But the more wonderful blogs I discovered, the more I felt like my own blog was missing something. I put all my energies into creating good, readable content but I just needed a design that matched what I've been aiming for creatively. Baggle Web Design was already on my radar from some great blogs I was following - Milk Bubble Tea, Dizzy Brunette, and A Little Obsessed to name a few - so when I finally decided on a change, I knew exactly where to go. After filling out an initial questionnaire about my vision for the design, the lovely Abby got back to me with a first draft and we went from there.
I'm thrilled with the finished version. My beloved blog is looking feminine and pretty without being too fussy which is exactly what it needed. When running a blog, obviously content and consistency are the key factors for success. But you can't underestimate the importance of a good layout and a pretty theme. For me at least, a lovely design can inspire me to write and keep my blog looking as pretty as possible.
After all, I consider LydiaLulu an extension of myself - it only makes sense to have a design which reflects that. There's also something really nice about having your own personalised blog design.
So I'd like to say a huge thank you to Abby at Baggle Web Design for giving LydiaLulu a new lease of life! I can't recommend her services enough if you're also feeling like your blog is in need of a makeover. I'm so excited to keep building more content and watch this space grow.
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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

'What if' Review.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that going to the cinema is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to spend a rainy day. The comfy chairs, the sweet smell of popcorn, switching off from the world for a couple of hours, and even the gross sticky floors - going to see a movie is one of my secret indulgences. Yes, I'm the girl that goes to see movies on my own... and I love every single minute of it. However, today I managed to cajole a close girlfriend into going with me. Plus, it's always nice having someone to split your snacks with. Bella and I did it properly by popping into Tesco Express on the way and stocking up on cheap chocolate so you're not forced to pay ridiculous prices at the theatre. But I digress. As the rainstorm that's drenched London these past couple days showed no sign of slowing down, we decided to alter our plans of going to the London Museum of Transport and check out the new Daniel Radcliffe movie, 'What If', instead. I won't lie, I was way too excited to finally see this film. During my six day stint at work, I kept imagining what I'd do with my days off. Seeing this movie was top of my list.
And yet I was so disappointed. As a self-confessed lover of rom-coms (just check out My Top Five Ultimate Chick Flicks for details) I had high hopes for 'What If' but it just didn't make the cut. The advertisements made it out to be a smart, witty, and faced-paced movie but it fell short of all those qualities. I spent most of the time trying to figure out if the characters were supposed to be frustrating (and therefore relatable) or whether the entire plot was just lacking pace. The movie circulates around relationships. Wallace is a largely cynical medical-school drop-out who doesn't believe in love. Of course he flaws head over heels for the quirky Chantry who, surprise surprise, is in a long-term relationship and living with her boyfriend, Ben. Meanwhile, Wallace's best friend Allan (played by the hilarious Adam Driver) meets his match in Nicole and their flourishing romantic relationship runs alongside Wallace and Chantry's growing intimacy. From the basic plot, the film seemed to have a lot of potential.
I realised very early on that the movie wasn't going to be great. Mostly because of the lack of chemistry between Wallace and Chantry and because of the film's lack of direction. There wasn't anything enticing happening until way after I'd lost interest. I didn't feel invested in Wallace and Chantry's friendship - their early meetings were glossed over in a movie montage fashion that their chemistry was completely lost in the process. One moment they were strangers awkwardly making small talk at a party and the next they're BFFs.



I think this must be the only chick flick I've ever watched where I've not wanted the protagonists to get together. Towards the end of the film, Chantry is faced with major life decisions - whether to follow her boyfriend to Dublin, break up with him and pursue a relationship with Wallace, or move to Taiwan for work - she makes the 'right' decision to follow her career. But then ends up kissing Wallace at her leaving party and the film ends there. Which was frustrating and a bit of a relief at the same time. Weirdly enough, the first few minutes of the credits show Wallace and Chantry's flourishing relationship in animation form which concludes in their marriage. Excuse me, what did I miss? I feel like the writers were trying to make this a fairy-tale happy ending for the two but instead left their audiences feeling ripped off. Yes, the whole film was leading up to their eventual declarations of love but it should have absolutely ended there. Ultimately, I felt sorry for Chantry's suffering boyfriend, Ben, and thought she made the wrong decision by choosing Wallace - as lovely as he is. But perhaps that's my own long-distance relationship talking.
Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver carried this movie. Their bromance and relationship advice made for the best scenes - the ones that have consequently made it into the adverts. Radcliffe nailed this role and played it perfectly. He was sweet and funny and evoked just the right amount of sympathy. I wanted him to win Chantry but ultimately didn't think she was worth fighting for. I really don't want to hate on women here, it's hard being a woman in the spotlight after all, but I felt that Zoe Kazan's performance left little to be desired. She fulfilled the quirky girl stereotype perfectly, but Chantry's apparent indecisiveness came across as cold and disinterested. Her best moments were those with Ben, which is why her eventual romantic relationship with Wallace was so confusing as a viewer. If I was reading the script, Chantry should absolutely end up with Wallace but on the big screen, she belonged to Ben. I found her cute-girl kookiness a little forced and artificial - it felt like the writers were trying to emulate the heroine of '(500) Days of Summer' and failing. Zooey Deschanel mastered the girl-next-door and heartbreaker perfectly which is what made the film so successful. Chantry is aslo supposed to be a three-dimensional character but that failed to come through in Kazan's performance. It felt like 'What If' was trying to explore the different sides of Chantry but instead made her appear emotionless and cold. The structure of the film also seemed to revolve around Chantry and her animated self which I found out of place. In the final credits, Chantry is drawn as a bird with wings who takes Wallace to Taiwan with her and flies him all over the globe. It was unsettling. As if Chantry's life choices was dictating their life together. After all, relationships should be about compromise, not about letting your decisions dictate your other half's life.
On paper, 'What if' is a good movie. Unfortunately, it hasn't translated well on the silver screen. Parts of it were humorous and enjoyable but I constantly felt like it was missing something. The plot wasn't engaging and I didn't feel Chantry and Wallace's connection like you're supposed to. The sign of a good chick flick is the goosebumps you get at crucial moments in the film ('Why didn't you write me?', 'Nobody puts baby in a corner', 'you have bewitched me body and soul and I love you', etc etc). 'What If' was lacking that chemistry and realistically, that is the foundation of a really wonderful romantic comedy.
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Friday, 22 August 2014

Out of Control Shopping.

If I had unlimited funds, I would never stop shopping. It's become instinctual for me to check the New In sections of all my favourite fashion retailers when I open my laptop in the morning. I can't help it. Sometimes, I'm just in the 'buying' mood - I peruse my favourite sites and wait for something to jump out of me. You can't deny the fabulous rush of adrenaline when a lovely packaged delivery arrives at your door or something catches your eye on a sparkling shop floor. I've never taken drugs, but for me, shopping is my natural high.
But therein lies the problem. As much as I love fashion - I'm surrounded by beautiful clothes day in and day out - there's never an end point. Your wardrobe is never finished or complete. Instead, it's a constant work in process - always evolving in a desperate attempt to keep up with the current trends. It's exhausting really. It makes me wonder - who are we trying to impress? I acknowledge the seasonal trends. After all, the catwalks ultimately dictate what we wear whether we like it or not. But who wants to be a slave to fashion if it doesn't make you look or feel good about yourself? My personal mantra is that you should wear what you like. Whether that means slouchy knitwear because jumpers are snuggly or your favourite boyfriend jeans because they're the most comfortable things in the world, if you're happy with your outfit then who is anybody else to judge.
My problem is is that I like clothes too much. Correction: I love clothes and I'm forever buying something new. When the adrenaline wears off and you see the gorgeous new dress you just had to buy in the light of day, it's onto the next hit. This used to mean hitting up the Topshop website for something new and exciting. Now that I'm working in retail, delivery day is my kryptonite. You get to unpack the lovely new clothes as they arrive from the warehouse and see what they look and feel like in the flesh instead of behind a cold computer screen. Trust me, it's so much better. I've been in this job for about five months and I dread to think about how much I've spent in that time. Seriously, it's scary.
On a more upbeat note, I'm moving to Southampton in a little less than a month! I cannot wait to be a student again and start studying the subject that I love. I've majorly neglected my beloved books these past few months so it's definitely time to get back into the swing of things. But I have set myself one mammoth task to complete before I leave. I need to be ruthless and firm and give my wardrobe a good ol' fashion clean-out. Think of it as Autumn cleaning. I want to have a completely fresh start for uni and that includes throwing out some very battered and out-dated horrors from my abyss of a closet. When I left for uni last year, I just chucked everything in a humongous suitcase and didn't give it a second thought. So this time I'm doing it properly. After all, a healthy wardrobe makes for a healthy mind - at the moment, mine is suffering from life-threatening obesity-related issues. With this huge lifestyle change fast approaching, I think it's the right time for a cleanse.
Besides, if I do it right then I might even treat myself to some Fresher's Week goodies. Topshop's new season is looking fabulous. I can picture myself pairing this Leopard Print Pelmet Skirt with a slinky black cami for a night out or a pair of ankle boots for a morning seminar. While I've simply fallen in love with this cosy, slouchy parka from Whistles. I love the drawstring detail at the waist which means you can give yourself a more feminine and defined shape - this clever design has combatted the often frumpy look of other big parka jackets. For me, it's a must-have.

   
I officially finish work in about three weeks time and then I'll start on my wardrobe renovation. Even though it's going to take me an eternity to sort through, I know it'll be worth the satisfaction of not having to stuff new purchases into overflowing drawers. Plus, it means I can reward myself with some investment uni bits and pieces. I suppose that's the revelation of a true shopaholic - I motivate myself to clear out my wardrobe with even more shopping...
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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Pink Inclination.


There was a time, not so long ago, when I tried to hide my love of all things pink. I was embarrassed of fulfilling the girly-girl stereotype - a pink prissy princess as such. But having discovered the fashion and beauty blogging community when I started LydiaLulu a few months back, I know I'm not alone! Pink is a fabulous colour. It's strong, it's feminine, and most of all, it's pretty. And I've been going a bit crazy of recent - see my work uniform for instance. In the past week alone (I got a bit pay-day happy), I've bought pink Ted Baker iPad and iPhone cases and finally purchased this gorgeous Whistles bag I'd been pining for for months. I have no shame. Only love for my perfectly pretty accessories. 
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

'Somewhere on the Avenue'

  

I discovered Gabrielle Aplin on the Tumblr music scene in about 2012. Her gem of a song 'Panic Chord' has been my ringtone for about a year and a half and I was lucky enough to see her perform live  twice last year when she opened for John Mayer at the O2 and on her tour around British universities. Seems like I just can't get enough of this down-to-earth English singer-songwriter. This exclusive footage of her new song, 'Somewhere on the Avenue', which has yet to be released has only created more anticipation for her second album. Due to success of English Rain, she has certainly set the bar high for herself. But 'Somewhere on the Avenue' lives up to those great expectations. It's a typical Aplin song - melodic, sweet, and beautiful. I can't wait.
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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Misconceptions of Mental Illness.

As I was trying to get to sleep late last night, a notification popped up on my phone which illuminated my whole room. I couldn't resist checking having a quick glance. It was The Guardian that informed me of the tragic death of Robin Williams at about five past midnight. Like so many fans of all ages and nationalities have expressed today through social media, I was heartbroken.
It's strange. Fans of deceased celebrities seem just as devastated as direct members of family. I can only imagine what those closest to Williams are going through. Although we only ever got to know the public perception of Williams, this doesn't make the news of his suicide any less distressing. As an extremely versatile and talented actor, Robin Williams was invited into our homes. My generation grew up with Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook, only to later appreciate the masterpiece that is Dead Poet's Society.

But unlike the sudden deaths of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Glee star Cory Monteith last year, Williams' passing is perhaps even more shocking. Everybody's favourite funnyman took his own life - he made a decision whereas other distressing celebrity deaths have resulted from accidental drug overdoses and alcohol abuse. This makes it harder for us all to process. How can a man whose fame was largely based on his inherent ability to make people laugh be so unhappy in himself? With any suicide, often people start jumping to conclusions - they judge the deceased by calling them selfish and silly. After all, you wouldn't think a man with all the success and popularity Williams garnered would ever suffer such unhappiness. But he did. What I think a lot of people fail to recognise during these unfortunate circumstances is that it is not our place to judge Robin Williams - we can only pay tribute to the wonderful actor that he was. The public seems very quick to write off Williams since the news broke last night. It's almost as if we don't want to confront the question of depression so instead we attack Williams' ultimate decision to take his life. We fail to understand his reasoning because, from the outside, he was living the dream. Yet, mental illness isn't based on logic - I don't even believe it's scientific. The human psyche is irrational and its therefore incredibly hard to understand why so many people suffer with depression and anxiety if you yourself don't. Like the old saying goes, 'money doesn't buy happiness'. As an outsider, its easy to say that Robin Williams had it all.
As someone living with an anxiety disorder, I have been affected by the stigma surrounding mental illness. Williams was always open about his struggles, he didn't live in shame which is hugely admirable in itself. If anything, his professional work was an escape from his inner demons. All I can hope for is that his films remain untainted by his sudden passing. Like the beautiful statement he wife released this morning said, 'it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions'. From what I can tell from Twitter and my personal Facebook news feed, tributes and sympathy continue to pour in for this wonderful actor who fought his hardest against a crippling disease. 

The final moments of Dead Poet's Society are hugely poignant and take on new meaning since Williams' passing. His character, Mr. Keating, spends the entirety of the film inspiring these sons of wealthy, conservative families to think differently about Literature. To subvert the strict boundaries laid out for them in both their traditional school syllabuses and for their futures. The moment these boys stand on their desks to the outrage of their headmaster and recite the Walt Whitman quote, 'O' Captain, My Captain!,' is a mixture of both triumph and poignancy. Just like his character Mr. Keating, Williams won the hearts of people all round the world. He was a Hollywood gem and will be sorely missed. But his legacy of films he leaves behind is perhaps the greatest obituary of all. Not only has Hollywood lost one of its own today, but the world has been taught a lesson in mental illness. Instead of blaming Williams for his struggles and questioning his choices, the focus should be on his great talent and society's misconception of crippling illnesses of the mind.
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Family Time.

I don't remember the last time I'd seen my grandparents until today - it had been way too long since I last hopped on a train and spent the day with them so I thought today was as good as any. They're so lucky to have retired to a quiet little area by the beach. Shoreham-by-Sea is a sleepy little town with the main attraction being an enormous Tesco and M&S which houses all sorts of great beauty finds. I couldn't help but indulge in this pretty Stila lipstick - 'Gabrielle' is a soft pink that's perfect for everyday life. It was love at first sight for me... that and this incredible terrier cushion that I absolutely had to resist. We spent the afternoon in the playground, drinking tea in the garden, and reminiscing about the great times we spent there as kids. Since I'm moving to Southampton in just over a month, I know I'll be popping down on the train much more often. It's days like these that remind me of how important family is and how much I love being with them.
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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Going Viral.


I've finally bitten the bullet and done it. This afternoon, I made a Twitter account - finally. I've always been a bit wary of Twitter. It gets a lot of bad press. And if I find serial Facebook status updaters extremely annoying, I thought Twitter might simply magnify the problem. Plus, my Dad was one of the original users back in 2008 which put me off it for a while. But it's time to enter the 21st century. And I've been having a bit of fun with it too. Who knew so many celebs were on Twitter? Oh yeah, everybody but me.
While I was at it, I thought I might as well create a new Instagram account to coincide with LydiaLulu. Just to get a completely clean slate. And my personal account mostly contains funny photos of my animals, which I think are hilarious, but I doubt anyone else appreciates. So if you're enjoying my content, then please have a quick scan of my Twitter and Instagram accounts. They've only been active for a few hours so they're still a work in progress as I get used to all the mechanics. You've got to start somewhere, right?
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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Broken Friendships.

In my life, I've been through several messy break-ups. Not of the romantic kind, however, but with people I've felt most connected to and trusted with very personal matters. Arguably, breaking up with friends is harder and more painful than ending things with a partner. Us girls are raised on the belief, 'hoes before bros', right? Girlfriends are supposed to stick around forever, while guys come and go. Popular culture taught us that. Incredibly successful shows like 'Sex and the City' and 'Girls' became so popular because they are based on that principle. But what happens when things don't work out with a best friend? We're not prepared for when things go wrong.
I first learnt that 'Best Friends Forever' didn't really exist when I was about thirteen. Jessie* and I had been attached at the hip since we were practically toddlers. I still remember the first time we played together as kids - I went with my Mum to pick my sister up from Jessie's house as Alice was already friends with her older sister. After that, we did everything together - we were like sisters. We stayed close even when my family moved to Seattle in 2002, but when I moved back something felt a bit different. The class bully had moved onto my best friend during my absence and was trying to 'steal' her away - at least that's what it felt like as an insanely jealous ten year old girl! I managed to cling onto Jessie until secondary school, still taking pride in my BFF title. But Jessie wanted to be included in the 'popular' gang - I know, it sounds stupid now but it felt like the most important thing in the world back then! So I naturally stood by her and hung round with the same group. After about a year, I realised that I didn't want to be friends with these girls anymore. They were incredibly bitchy - gossiping about anything and everything. It made me feel guilty and incredibly insecure. So I distanced myself. The hardest part was leaving Jessie behind. But she chose a 'cool group' status over our friendship, so in that respect, she wasn't a friend worth having. I wanted her to choose me but I knew in my heart of hearts that we had become different people. And that's okay. Surely it would be weird if we didn't grow and evolve as people over time.
It always feels strange when I see her around and about. It's like looking at who I could have been. The last time we spoke was when we were at the same party. She was standing in the middle of two of her closest friends when she said 'Lydia was my first best friend, Lucy was my second, and Chelsea was my third.' That comment stung at little but I also found it quite funny. She is still climbing some obscure social ladder that I'm not sure really exists. At the age of thirteen, I was more interested in real friendship whereas Jessie was more concerned with being involved with the right people and being seen at the right places. From what I can see, not much has changed.


The only other friendship-gone-bad experience that really affected me was at university. I became very close to a girl I was living with. At first, it was great. We cooked together, partied together, and wrote essays side-by-side. I was really struggling getting to grips with university life and having a good friend there made me feel a little bit more secure. Until it didn't. It would be unfair to lay all the blame at her door, but living with someone in such an intense environment can be overwhelming. I felt like I was carrying the burden of her problems and couldn't get away when I was also struggling. Towards the end, I felt like she didn't care. Things became quite tense between us - she would take things too far and wouldn't bother trying to understand my point of view. I think it's fair to say that she became a very self-absorbed person. I found it too much, especially as I was so unhappy at the university anyway. The final straw was when she cancelled on my birthday plans to hang out with some course friends at the pub. That's when I knew the friendship was over - I withdrew from the university within a week. This sounds dramatic, I know, but in my final weeks there when I was so frustrated with my course and the university I'd chosen, my friendship falling apart was the real nail in the coffin.
Again, it would be completely unfair to blame my old friends entirely for the relationship ending. Usually, it's no one's fault. People change and life gets in the way. We all make our own decisions that ultimately have an effect on friendships. But with Jessie and my university frenemy, I feel like I tried my hardest to keep them in my life. It's about knowing when to stop trying, that's the hardest part. Without sounding cynical, I try not to expect too much from people. We're selfish creatures really. But the friends who are there through the ups and downs are the ones to treasure. When one of my closest friends had major unexpected exploratory surgery in 2012, I was right by her side the next day painting her nails while she was in a hospital bed. Equally, when I was going through a tough time in my final year of school, she was just as supportive. I've also got a couple of friends who I've known since I was three, when Jessie and I were inseparable. In some ways, I wish I had known back then that they would be the ones who would turn out to be the most amazing friends. 
Breaking up with friends is incredibly tough. I lost one of my closest friends a couple years ago when I found out she had been bitching about me to anyone who would listen. They weren't just little rants, but she exposed some deeply personal things to people I hardly knew. That was heart-breaking. But what that experience, my losing Jessie, and my university friend have taught me is to stand up for myself. When you've been friends with people for a long time, it can be so easy to excuse their behaviour - especially when they're treating you badly or violating your trust. I cut the girl who was spreading rumours out of my life. It meant I lost a few more 'friends' because of it but it meant I no longer worried about idle gossip. Jessie taught me being 'cool' really does not matter in the slightest, but real genuine friendship does. I learnt from my university frenemy not to let people walk all over me - because being abandoned on your birthday seriously sucks. And that food-shopping with another person destroys that relationship - it may save money in the long-run but it'll make you want to kill eachother! 
Navigating friendships can be tough at times, but I've learnt a lot about myself and other people in the process. Plus, I've come out with an amazing group of people who I know I could trust with my life. Those are friends worth having - and I wouldn't trade them for anything.
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Chelsea Haul.

As a sales assistant, you'd think I'd like to spend my day off work well away from shopping. But sometimes, I simply can't avoid it. My Dad was heading into Chelsea and I thought why not join him - just for a nice stroll along King's Road. The weekly food market in the Duke of York square is always nice to wander round - we couldn't resist these cute little desserts.


Naturally, when Dad went to lust after watches, I headed for the beauty department in Peter Jones. Just for a browse, of course. I started off experimenting some products I'd read about online and was pretty underwhelmed. So I headed to the faithful ol' Benefit counter for a make-up fix. Like always, I wasn't disappointed. As I mentioned in my Body Shop cleanser review, I have pretty oily skin and have always struggled with foundations and powders. So today I went for the 'Big Easy' BB cream to powder formula in '02 - light'. Although I didn't go in looking for a foundation product, I'm so happy I chose this one. It's everything I look for in skincare/make-up. As a liquid-to-powder product, it's easy to apply and is incredibly light on the skin. I like my make-up looking natural and fuss-free - simply because I don't have the skill to experiment with blushers and bronzers like some of my very talented friends. I go for basic and long-lasting. If it survives an 8-hour shift, I know it's a keeper. The 'Big Easy' will be put to the test tomorrow but I'm feeling pretty confident in its lasting abilities. I've been a huge Benefit fan for the past six years (I even possess one of their discontinued 'Georgia' powders) and I've yet to be let down by one of their products.
I also re-purchased the 'Dandelion' lip gloss which I first bought a couple years back. At £14.50, its quite pricey for lip gloss but, for me, it's so worth it. I love the subtle shade of pink (see below) and it has the perfect texture - its application is smooth and not too sticky. Yes, it's a bit of a splurge but other lip products I've tried since just don't compare. Looking at my make-up bag now, my Benefit products have survived the test of time. Yes, it's a higher end brand but they're well worth the investment. 

Of course, no trip to King's Road is complete without a look in Brandy Melville. This California-cool American chain has it's only UK branch on Chelsea's King's Road. It's a cute little store with a very casual, LA feel to it. Most of their clothes are made of cotton or other light, airy fabrics. Personally, some of their short shorts and minuscule crop tops feel a bit 'young' for me, especially when there are so many pre-teens wandering round - the brand is particularly popular with this age group. But I've bought some really cute sun dresses and basics from there in the past that have served me well over the years. Today I went for the Gaby Dress which is perfect for my friend's birthday drinks on Monday night. Plus, I thought it'd be a fun party dress for my Freshers Week which is fast approaching. It's one of those great little dresses you can style for both everyday use and nights out. 

Overall, it was a pretty successful trip to Chelsea. Pretty bad for the ol' bank balance though, my debit card certainly needs a time out. 
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Thursday, 7 August 2014

Review: 'The Body Shop' Cleansing Oil.

I'm going to put all my cards out on the table. I'm not a skincare expert, nor do I have a flawless complexion or immaculate make-up. Like many women my age, I have typically oily skin that is often plagued with breakouts. I've just accepted that as a part of life. In my 19 years, it feels like I've tried every skincare magazine-proclaimed 'miracle' product out there - but nothing ever seemed to changed. My skin has often pushed me over the edge in recent years. As an ill-informed, insecure, and spotty pre-teen, I even used two evasive facial washes one after the other and gave myself a rash. Within my first month of university, a shocker of a blemish appeared on my left cheek. It was one of those horrendous under the skin but so plainly noticeable ones that you can't do anything about. It feels like they sit on your face until they lose interest - and all you can do is wait it out. I tried everything. I iced it, smothered it in toothpaste, did face-masks, tried popping it, left it alone for a while - dealing with an invincible spot is like going through stages of denial. You finally learn to accept it. I'm still nursing the scar some 10 months later. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't have flawless skin and I've given up on trying to fix it. I've taken the same approach as I do with clothes - you can't change your shape so you have to dress accordingly. As a result, I've found my best-ever cleanser that works wonders for my skin-type.


Judging from the bottle, you can tell I've been meaning to write this post for a while. But there's obviously no point in reviewing a product after two uses. I bought this cleanser just over a month ago now and it's transformed my problem skin. When I first read the Beauty Department's article on cleansing oils, I was intrigued. I was so fed up with underwhelming, yet strangely pricey, face washes that simply did nothing for my complexion. Some of the products I tried were not worth the time or money. At first, I thought a cleansing oil was not for me - logically, it didn't make sense to cleanse my oily skin with oil. But I so fed up with the Neutrogena cleansing pads' I'd been using that I thought I'd give it a go. The Body Shop's 'Silky Cleansing Oil' retails at £10 - I've loved it since its first use. I use it morning and night and it leaves my skin feeling incredibly clean... but not in the toxic way that results from evasive face washes. I didn't really understand what they meant by 'silky' cleansing oil when I first purchased the product, but after a few uses, it's left my skin feeling so smooth and hydrated.
The biggest benefit I've found, however, is the ease with which it removes make-up. I'm a huge fan of Benefit's 'They're Real' mascara and liquid eye-liner, but they're a nightmare to remove. Benefit have even flogging a specific make-up remover to match. But at £14.50 for a small tube, I couldn't justify it to myself. The best thing about this The Body Shop cleanser is that it melts away make-up quickly and easily. At a push, I may have to use an extra pump of product to remove particularly clingy mascara remnants.
In the six weeks I've been using it, I've noticed a huge change in my skin. Of course I'm still oily - that's never going to change - but this makes it more manageable. Once I've properly cleansed, my make-up seems to last longer. Plus, when you're skins clearer, you don't need as much make-up which results in clearer pores. It's like a healthy skin cycle! I still get little blemishes here and there but they're much smaller and less noticeable.
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'Sittin on the Dock of the Bay'


Some of my best musical discoveries have come from thoughtlessly flicking through playlists on Spotify. Sara Bareilles' cover of 'Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay' caught my attention as I was obsessed with her hit 'Love Song' a few years back. I was surprised by the rawness of her voice and the feminine edge she's injected into a song made famous by none other than Otis Redding. Absolutely worth a listen.
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