New Year's Resolutions 2014

Hi everyone! Today I wanted to write a post on my New Year's resolutions for 2014. I normally try to set myself some goals for the year and some smaller challenges for each month, and this year is one where I really want to try and make a go of things. After last year showing me that if I put in the time and effort I can achieve a lot - getting my first full-time permanent job and reaching 100 blog followers, for instance - I now want to really try and get some things under my belt. So, with this in mind, I'm going to set myself some major goals for the year as well as smaller targets for each month to help me stay on track.
  1. Blog at least every other day.
  2. Run a 5K.
  3. Buy a flat with N.
  4. Perfect my skincare and everyday make-up routines.
  5. Use up a net balance of 30 beauty products.
  6. Read at least 50 books.
  7. Take more photographs that aren't just for blogging.
  8. Watch all the TV series I started but haven't finished, particularly Lost and Heroes.
  9. Wear the clothes I already own regularly and only buy new stuff when I need it.
  10. Eat more healthily, particularly more fruit and vegetables.
  11. Learn to drive.
  12. Finish writing my novel.
  13. Go to at least one blogging event.
And three specific resolutions for January:
  1. Go to the gym at least twice a week.
  2. Not go to bed wearing my make-up once all month (I am shamefully bad at doing this when I've been out and know it isn't good for my skin!)
  3. Try at least one new recipe.
So they're my resolutions for 2014 - let's see how well I do! Have you made any New Year's Resolutions?

My Christmas Haul

Hi everyone! Today I wanted to show you all the lovely things I was lucky enough to get for Christmas this year. It was a bit of a departure from my usual Christmas as both sides of the family did a Secret Santa, which was great in terms of being able to spend a bit less but also being able to buy them something a bit nicer than usual, and also meant I had less stuff to carry on the train! N's mum had me on their side of the family, and my sister E had me on our side, plus I got stuff from my parents, N and a secret Santa (I know, I'm spoiled.) So without further ado, here's what I got for Christmas:

Left to right, from top: British Museum membership, M&S chocs, Balance Me body oil, Kate Mosse book, rabbit pencil case, Naked palette, M&S bedsocks, rose bath salts, Laura Mercier candle, Criminal Minds DVD, Supercurl mascara, Tunnocks teacake mug, Starbucks gingerbread syrup, M&S pyjamas, Tim Tams, No7 shadow/liner, typewriter card holder, chocolate sprouts, Clinique nail set
From N's mum - Naked 1 palette and Urban Decay Supercurl mascara
Yes I know, I'm hugely behind the times, but I had one of these palettes a few years ago and had to sell it to raise money for going travelling, so when N's mum asked me what I wanted I asked for this. I adored this palette the first time round when I had it and am really excited to have a play with all the shades and create some new looks! As I tend to wear neutrals most of the time this is a perfect palette for me and I'm really pleased I asked for it. I wasn't expecting anything else but the mascara was a lovely little extra. I actually recently used up a tube of this mascara and really liked it, so keep an eye out for that review in the next few posts!

From my best friend C - Clinique Party Tips nail set
 Regular readers will know that I am a bit of a nail polish junkie, and  C clearly knows me well by getting me this one! The set contains three polishes in chocolate brown, silver and hot pink - all gorgeous classic colours and great for the party season or days when you just want a bit of colour. Plus it comes in a really cute little pouch which will be great for travelling. I like the fact they're in mini sizes as well as hopefully it means I'll use them up before they dry out and get gloopy.

From my sister E - 'The Mistletoe Bride' by Kate Mosse, Laura Mercier chestnut candle, typewriter card holder, rabbit pencil case, Tunnock's teacake mug, bauble with chocolate sprouts
I think if E's gifts had a theme it would be 'winter night in' - I can just see myself curled up on the sofa, drinking tea and getting lost in a good book whilst the gorgeous smell of chestnuts wafts through the flat. The candle was possibly my favourite present, mainly as it smells so wonderful; I could smell it even before I'd opened the box! I'm quite excited to light this one as I hope it smells as good in 'real life', but equally a bit sad about burning it down. The book is also wonderful; I love a scary story at Christmas and so far this is a brilliant collection of short pieces covering a range of different time frames and concepts, but all with unique voices and that stay with you long after you read them. I also have a couple of lovely kitsch bits I'll use for blogging - the pencil case to store my pens (because you can never find your pens in your bag!) and the typewriter card holder to store my business cards when we move and I eventually get myself an office. The mug appeals to my love of Tunnock's teacakes (if you've never had one, they're chocolate biscuits topped with marshmallow and covered in chocolate and they're delicious) and kitschy homewares, and the chocolate sprouts - well, they're ridiculous, but they're also brilliant, and actually pretty good chocolate too. Not that I'm eating them as I type, honest...

From N - British Museum membership, Criminal Minds season 8 DVD, Starbucks gingerbread syrup, Tim Tams
Yes, I'm a nerd and proud of it. I've made no secret of my Criminal Minds fandom and am particularly excited for season 8 - there's apparently a brilliantly scary 'big bad' this year as well as a new agent and a couple of big story arcs for various characters - so looking forward to watching that whilst eating Tim Tams (the Aussie equivalent of Penguins which I got slightly addicted to whilst we were there) and drinking a homemade gingerbread latte. They're my favourite Christmas drinks so being able to recreate them at home for the rest of the year is making me very excited! Finally, the British Museum membership was our joint gift to each other; we both love it there and hopefully this will encourage us to go to more of the exhibitions as we get those free

From my parents - M&S reindeer pyjamas and bedsocks
I have actually worn the pyjamas already because I foolishly split coffee down my Old Navy Christmas pyjamas that I've had for ten years on Christmas morning (I know, I'm a classy bird), so apologies that they look a bit crumpled! But they're incredibly comfortable and I really like the reindeer and candy cane pattern on the pyjama bottoms. The bedsocks also match beautifully and are lovely and soft, to the extent that I keep stroking them! I often get cold feet in bed so will be wearing those on chilly winter nights.

From my gran - M&S chocolates
Because it wouldn't be Christmas without a massive box of chocolates, and M&S always delivers in that regard. My gran also very generously gave me and N some money which I will put into the wedding fund - every little helps after all!

From my nanna - rose bath salts
I don't normally buy many bath products but this was a lovely gift from my nanna. I'm a big fan of rose smells and these smell absolutely lovely so I'm very happy with that! They'll also last me ages as the jar is massive :)

From my Secret Santa - No7 Stay Perfect shadow/liner and Balance Me body oil
I took part in a Secret Santa on a beauty forum I'm part of, and was lucky enough to be given these two lovely products. The No7 shadow/liner is a beautiful purply-grey shade with lots of shimmer and lasts ages; I swatched it on my hand this morning and it's still there almost nine hours later. It's particularly good for me as I'm terrible at precise liner so anything I can smudge is a winner. I haven't tried the body oil yet but I've tried and liked Balance Me products before and it smells beautiful, so I'm hoping it'll live up to its promise - and of course I'll let you know if it does.

I'm chuffed to bits with all my lovely presents - they were all brilliant and I feel incredibly lucky to have received such great gifts. It's a fantastic mix of silly and practical, as well as plenty of things that will last me for long into 2014, and it's certainly very 'me'. Just in case any of my gift-givers are reading this, thank you all so much!

What did you get for Christmas?

The Nerd Tag

I recently came across the Nerd Tag on Bex's blog Futures., which seems to be where I get lots of my tagged posts from! It was originally created by Joelle of the February Girl blog and basically asks you to list six nerdy facts about yourself. As I am a shameless geek this seemed like the perfect tagged post for me, so here are my six nerdy facts!

1. I love Only Connect. For those of you who don't watch it, it's a game show but involves having to make connections between words, so things like having to predict the fourth thing in a connected sequence. Give me an episode of Only Connect after University Challenge on a Monday night and I'm a happy bunny - the missing vowels round is my favourite.

2. I'm in the WI. Yes, that WI - the jam and Jerusalem, crafting and baking, middle-aged women WI. I only became a member recently but I'm really enjoying it so far - it's an opportunity to indulge my creative side which I don't get to do much at home as our flat is so small, and I've met some really lovely people of all ages through it.

3. I'm a big fan of Harry Potter... I read the books obsessively as a kid and am currently re-working my way through the films; I'm actually watching Chamber of Secrets as I type this. I even own a Ravenclaw Quidditch T-shirt! (And before you ask why Ravenclaw, short answer is I'm not brave enough to be a Gryffindor, and pretty much every Sorting Hat quiz I've ever taken puts me in Ravenclaw.) Harry Potter would definitely be one of my specialist subjects if I were to ever go on Mastermind.

4. ...and of Doctor Who, to the extent that I am considering a Doctor Who-themed wedding (that is how much of a nerd I am!). I'm more new Who than old Who, and at a push Nine is my favourite Doctor - I wish Christopher Eccleston had done another series as I loved the darkness he brought to the role. If you haven't seen the episode Dalek then stop reading this now and watch it because he is brilliantly scary but also really poignant. But I love Ten too, especially in his early series when he still had that ruthless edge but with an element of fun as well (plus you've got to love a man who can rock Converse with a pinstripe suit).

5. I'm writing a novel. It's a murder mystery set in Roman Britain and was inspired by a TV documentary on a gladiator graveyard that was found in York a few years ago. I'm currently working on the second draft and am hoping it might be ready to send round to publishers in the next year or so. I write model TV scripts too, mainly for things like Criminal Minds (and yes I am aware that's basically one step away from writing fan fiction) but also have a couple of my own ideas that I'm working on.

6. I get a bit obsessed with songs. If I love a song then I will basically play it on a loop for days on end. At the moment it's Ed Sheeran's 'I See Fire' from the soundtrack to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - it's just such a brilliant juxtaposition of dark lyrics with this beautiful peaceful music and is making me miss New Zealand a lot, especially the gorgeous scenery on the South Island.

So now you all know how deeply uncool I am! (If you want to stop following me now I'll totally understand by the way.) But in a strange way I'm also quite proud of my nerdiness - it's what makes me who I am and if we were all the same then it'd be a pretty boring world, right?

As usual I'm not going to tag anyone specific to do this challenge but if you're reading and you'd like to do it then please post a link in my comments, I'd love to read your answers (and get some reassurance that I might not be the nerdiest girl in the blogosphere!).

Merry Christmas!


I'm not going to do a long post today as I'm sure you've all got far better things to be doing with your Christmas Day than reading my blog, so I'll just say I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and that Father Christmas brought you what you wished for :)

Thanks for reading!

My Top Five Christmas Songs

So, after yesterday's post on my favourite Christmas films and TV, today I'm writing about my favourite Christmas songs. Christmas songs are one of my absolute favourite things about the festive season; as soon as that playlist goes on my iPod on the first of December I'm ready to get in the Christmas mood. I have a huge range of stuff on there, from 70s classics to John Lewis advert music, but these are the five that would go on every Christmas mix if I had my say.

5. Elton John - 'Step Into Christmas'

In terms of pop records, the 70s and 80s were far and away the best decades for Christmas songs. Packed with the cliches of presents, choirs, snow and Santa, as well as videos with wall-to-wall Christmas jumpers, they now form the staple of my Christmas playlist. I could have picked any number of tracks from Whizzard to Wham!, but my first vote goes to Elton John's 'Step Into Christmas', mainly because it's ridiculously catchy and the epitome of that 70s glam rock Christmas record that now populates our airwaves in December. And it has a keyboard slide!

4. Muppet Christmas Carol - 'One More Sleep Til Christmas'

I mentioned Muppet Christmas Carol in my favourite Christmas films blog post, and one of the reasons I love it is because of its songs; they're perfectly pitched at keeping the light-heartedness of the Muppets but also brilliantly driving the story. I could have picked any song from this movie, but 'One More Sleep Til Christmas' edges it because a) it's Kermit/Bob Crachit and b) it's a perfect song for the run up to Christmas. Plus it features some brilliant comedy moments with the rats that work alongside Bob in Scrooge's book-keeping office and with a random party of skating penguins (don't question, just go with it). A wonderfully sweet song and one that always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

3. 'Silver Bells'

Because it isn't Christmas if you don't have something to croon along to. This has always been one of my favourite Christmas songs right from when I was tiny; we used to have a tape with Jim Reeves songs on it, and this was one of them, so it brings back all those memories of family Christmases. I just love the lyrics and the picture they paint of preparing for Christmas, whilst making me feel all warm and cosy and looking forward to the festive season. There are loads of different covers of this song - I have versions by Michael Bublé, She & Him and Dean Martin on my Christmas playlist - but as I couldn't find the Jim Reeves version on YouTube I've gone for that other master of the Christmas croon, Bing Crosby.

2. The Waitresses - 'Christmas Wrapping'

The snow and presents cliches are all well and good in a Christmas record, but occasionally I like a story to go with them. The Waitresses' 80s hit Christmas Wrapping is just that, telling the tale of a relationship that seems thwarted on every level throughout the year as the singer swears off Christmas for this year. Even if you can see the ending coming a mile off, it's still a proper barnstormer to sing along to and one that gets everyone up and dancing at the Christmas party, so it had to be on my list. Plus it reminds me of my eldest sister, and being reminded of family is always a reason to add a song to my 'favourites' (yes I'm soppy, I know). And it must be the Waitresses, not the inferior Spice Girls version.

1. Tim Minchin - 'White Wine In The Sun'

I know a Christmas song about drinking wine in the sun may seem a little odd, but for me this song brilliantly encapsulates what Christmas is about - spending time with the people you love, and knowing that they'll always be there for you. I played this one a lot when I was in New Zealand last Christmas, on the other side of the world from my family - much like Minchin, who wrote the song after his daughter was born and he was thinking about his parents and siblings in Australia - and although it did make miss them terribly it also reminded me about the real meaning of Christmas. And it's funny as well as being emotional. A brilliant, brilliant Christmas song.

So, that's my top five Christmas songs. I had to admit picking these was a lot harder than choosing the films - I could have quite easily done a top ten - because music is a huge part of Christmas for me, but I'm happy with my final choice and will be playing them a lot this year.

What's your favourite Christmas song? Are any of these on your list?

My Top Five Christmas Films and TV

I'm doing a slight Christmas blitz in the few days' run-up to the festive season as I haven't really done any Christmas posts this year, mainly because I haven't got that into it. I think it's been quite weird re-acclimatising to a cold Christmas, as well as having a really busy early December at work, and so I haven't been as excited about Christmas as I normally am. But I have now bought and wrapped all my presents, been for two Christmas dinners (one with work and with N's family), sent out my Christmas cards and packed for going up north, I finally feel in the festive mood! So in the few days leading up to the big day itself I'm doing a couple of 'top five' posts about my favourite Christmas films, TV and songs, and as it's the weekend I thought I'd start with the movies and telly. These are the things I watch (in no particular order) when I'm wrapping my presents and swigging hot chocolate - are any of them on your list?

5. 'Blackadder's Christmas Carol'

For those of you who haven't seen Blackadder, it's a historical sitcom following several characters named Edmund Blackadder (all descended from the previous incarnation) through various periods of history. As the centuries progress each Blackadder becomes increasingly cynical, self-serving and manipulative, yet remains charming and intelligent. One of the main exceptions is Ebeneezer Blackadder, the central character of 'Blackadder's Christmas Carol', who starts off being the nicest man in England, but things take a very different turn after a visit from the Spirit of Christmas...

I am a huge Blackadder fan so I was always going to love this, but equally the idea of turning A Christmas Carol on its head and making a good Scrooge turn bad is ripe for comedy, and this delivers in spades. It can be odd to say the least (there's a very surreal sequence with two alternative visions of the distant future), but it is very, very funny and contains some of the most brilliantly witty putdowns on TV. Plus it's very much a 'spot the British comedy star'-fest, with Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Miriam Margolyes and Miranda Richardson all making appearances.

4. 'A Christmassy Ted'

Another festive comedy on the list, and this is Father Ted, a series about three priests exiled to Craggy Island. The Christmas episode, 'A Christmassy Ted', opens with Ted winning a Golden Cleric award - the highest accolade in the priesthood - and then becomes a series of brilliant comedy sequences, including the priests having to escape from Ireland's largest lingerie section which becomes an awesome parody of a Vietnam film, and a particularly chucklesome encounter between the priests' housekeeper Mrs Doyle and a tea-making machine salesman. It does peter out a bit about three-quarters of the way through but up until then it's incredibly funny.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Another take on A Christmas Carol, and this time it's from the Muppets. Michael Caine stars as Scrooge, supported by a pitch-perfect cast of Muppets including Kermit as Bob Crachitt, Gonzo as the Narrator and Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers. A more traditional version of the story than Blackadder, but with a brilliant comedy double act from Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, wonderfully catchy songs with a great Christmas message about the importance of friends and family, and some genuinely scary moments. If you don't love this movie then you have a heart of stone.

2. It's a Wonderful Life

'It's A Wonderful Life' stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who gave up his dreams for his family and always looks out for others, but when fate takes a cruel turn he's shown what his hometown would be like if he'd never been born. This is one of very few films that makes me cry; the opening, where the whole of Bedford Falls is praying for George, has me in absolute bits, but equally the ending where everyone bands together to help him out is so uplifting I can't help but get a bit sniffly at their goodness. Plus it also has one of my favourite quotes ever - 'No man is a failure who has friends' - and wonderful performances from all the cast, but particularly James Stewart, who covers a brilliant dramatic range and is completely mesmerising. There's a reason this is a Christmas classic.

1. Bernard and the Genie

I have cheated slightly here because Bernard and the Genie is a bit of an obscure one, but for my family it is an absolute Christmas staple. It's the story of Bernard Bottle (a very young Alan Cumming), an art dealer who gets fired and dumped on the same day just before Christmas. Finding an old lamp in his otherwise empty flat, he rubs it to be greeted by a flamboyant 2,000-year-old genie named Josephus, played by Lenny Henry, and hilarity ensues. It has dated a lot (put it this way, Gary Lineker was still playing football when it was made) but it's still very funny and charming, particularly the scenes where Josephus is discovering the wonders of 90s living. If you can hold of it I'd definitely recommend watching it over the Christmas period.

So that's what I'll be watching over the festive season - are any of those on your list? And do you have any other favourite Christmas films or TV specials?

Beauty Review: China Glaze Ruby Pumps

Because it wouldn't be Christmas without a ton of red glitter.

Those of you who are regular readers of my nail posts will know that I am a sucker for both a bright colour and a seasonal shade, so it only seemed logical that my polish in the run-up to Christmas I would opt for a polish that encapsulated both of those perfectly - China Glaze Ruby Pumps. As the name suggests, the polish was inspired by Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz; I didn't know this at the time but according to All Lacquered Up it's a recreation of a polish that was first launched in 2001 and which has been the subject of frenzied shopping and petitions to bring it back, but has since made it to China Glaze's main line.

The bottle is a standard bell-shaped China Glaze bottle, which feels sturdy in the hand but equally looks sleek and glamorous. I've talked about China Glaze brushes before but I particularly like the long lids on these polishes which enable you to get a good grip on them - useful for the likes of me who is totally cack-handed when it comes to applying nail polish.

When applied to the nail the polish basically does what it says on the tin - a lovely rich true ruby red with lots of dense fine glitter. Formula-wise it is a little on the sheer side, as glitter polishes often are; I could probably have got away with two coats but three made it lovely and opaque as well as allowing even more of that gorgeous glitter effect, and there were no visible brush marks.

Durability is a bit weird, if I'm honest - I painted these on Sunday morning and by the time I got to work on Monday there was a huge chip in one of them, but the others are still going strong. I'm writing this on Wednesday, which is also when I took the photo, and as you can see there's a little bit of tip wear but so far no chipping otherwise, so I'm really impressed with that!

Overall I really love this polish and think it's a fabulous classic red that would go with so many different looks and outfits, with good opacity and durability. The only downside is when/if you want to remove it you have to soak cotton wool in polish remover and then wrap your fingers in tinfoil like an alien, but for such a dense sparkly classic red glitter I can happily live with that. I can't recommend this enough as a polish for special occasions, the festive season or when you just want something pretty and shiny on your nails.

If you'd like to try Ruby Pumps it's available at for £4.52 a bottle, or you can also get it at Amazon for £6.49.

Rebranding Stage 2

Hey everyone! This is just a quick post today to let you know where I'm up to with my rebrand - as you may remember earlier this month I posted about my plans to give my blog a bit of a makeover, and it's going really well so I thought I'd give you an update on what's happening with it.

The blog's new name is going to be Cherry Soda - this was the winner with pretty much everyone I ran the names by, and I can safely say I'm very happy with it. I like that it has the retro vibe but also sounds quite cool and modern, although it is quite scary letting go of a blog name I've had for so long! I will be changing the URL to soon and then buying a domain name when I get paid at the end of the week so keep an eye out for that. If you're following me on GFC hopefully you shouldn't lose anything in your feeds, but if you're following me on Bloglovin then there might be a couple of missing posts whilst they move my followers over. Though I post all my new posts on Twitter (I'm currently @Laura_C_Tweets but again that might change with the new blog name!) so don't forget to check there for updates. Alternatively you can follow me under my new name: Follow">">Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I also have the most amazing design which was done for me by the lovely Kaelah Bee that is due to go up very very soon! If you are looking to rebrand or redesign your blog then I'd really recommend Kaelah as her designs are so pretty and really unique - even though they're a bit more expensive than some bloggers she tailors them very specifically to what you want, so you'll have a really unique blog, whereas some others can sometimes look a bit cookie-cutter. I have to admit I was horribly vague with my idea of what I wanted - I knew I was after something that had a very clean, unfussy look to it but equally that was bright and fun - and she has taken that and delivered in spades. So thank you Kaelah!

Finally, I'm trying to get my head around building a Facebook page and creating a YouTube channel, so once they're up and running I'll post the links for you as well. I'm particularly excited about YouTube as vlogging is something I'm keen to get into so don't forget to check those out in the New Year :)

I'm so excited for you guys to see the new design so please do let me know what you think of the new look when it goes up, I'd love to hear what you think!

Beauty Review: Superfacialist by Una Brennan Rose Hydrate Creamy Calming Cleanser

I am a big fan of rose-scented products. Despite not normally being a floral kind of girl, there's something about rose smells that just seems lovely and fresh but also has that girly edge. Case in point: my current perfume, Dolce & Gabbana Rose The One, which has the most beautiful rose smell in an almost 'clean' way and which I absolutely adore. But today's post is about skincare rather than perfume, and more specifically about Superfacialist Rose Hydrat Calming Cleanser.

For those who may not know, Superfacialist is the skincare brand from Una Brennan, whose facials are legendary amongst London's beauty elite. It currently comes in two collections - the Rose line, which is aimed more at dry and dehydrated skin, and the Neroli line which is more for combination and oily skin. The main selling point of both ranges is that they're made with lots of natural ingredients that are good for your skin; for example, this cleanser has shea butter and cocoa butter to moisturise and marshmallow and allantoin which work to soothe and balance the skin and stop it drying out. I'd also heard good things about the Superfacialist range from Sali Hughes, the Guardian's beauty writer who is a bit of a hero of mine, and as my skin has been feeling a bit drier in the cold weather I thought I'd give this cleanser a whirl to help restore some of the moisture.

The packaging is pretty much what you'd expect for a brand that's owned by a facialist - it's very classic with the simple text on the white bottle and a single rose petal, meaning that it looks great no matter what your bathroom decor. It's also a pretty robust product that I'd feel quite happy to chuck in my bag if I was going for a weekend away. (Apologies that it looks a bit bashed in the picture as I'm getting right down to the end of it - though it seems to never end!)

The consistency of the product is that it's very creamy and rich but not too thick, as you can see in this swatch on my hand. It spreads quite easily when applied to the skin too, although I find I need quite a lot - perhaps about the size of a 50p piece to lift off all my make-up. Equally though I feel like it's lasted a long time; I bought this at the end of September and it's still going in mid-December! Finally, it smells absolutely amazing, with a real true rose scent which adds to the luxurious feeling, but I'd expect nothing less from a product with rose absolute in it.

I use this cleanser with my preferred cleansing method, which is to apply it to my dry skin (including eyelids and lashes) and then remove it with a hot wet muslin cloth or flannel, and find that it works really well. It's particularly good as an evening cleanser because it removes make-up really easily but doesn't feel greasy or leave a film on the skin. I've also found that it makes my skin feel really lovely and soft which is great in the winter months. Equally though it hasn't made my breakouts any worse which is always a bonus, and my spot scars have improved using this product as well - I didn't know this before but apparently rose is very good for helping to relieve the appearance of scarring and discoloration of the skin, so that was a nice bonus! The only criticism I have of it is it can make my skin feel a little dry and tight if I don't moisturise straight away, but I

Overall I really like this cleanser - it's lovely and rich which makes ideal for the winter months, takes off make-up really well, isn't too heavy and smells absolutely gorgeous. Definitely a favourite in my book and one I'll hopefully return to next winter or if we go through a particularly cold patch again.

If you'd like to try this cleanser it's available at Boots, where a 150ml tube will set you back £7.99.

The Liebster Award 2013

Remember how I said that awards seem to be like buses? Well, I've now been nominated for another one! The lovely Katie at Beauty and Katie very kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award recently (she's also a fellow #2014BloggerChallenge participant so do check out her blog!), which is a blogging award for blogs you love with less than 200 followers. I really love this idea as sometimes the smaller blogs or those starting out can get a bit overlooked so it's lovely to have an award to celebrate them.
To get the Liebster Award, you have to do the following three simple steps:
- Nominate 11 blogs with under 200 subscribers
- Tell 11 random facts about yourself
- Answer the 11 random questions your nominator has provided

And that's it! So I shall start off with my 11 random facts:

1. I think I am the only person left in the world who doesn't own a onesie. I just don't get them! Slankets, on the other hand, are the greatest invention ever.
2. I am also the only person in the world who doesn't fancy Ryan Gosling.
3. I'm a Libra and think I'm pretty true to my star sign - I like things to be balanced and I'm very indecisive!
4. My favourite place to shop is Joy, because they have beautiful printed fit-and-flare dresses and lots of cute quirky homewares.
5. I've been a Liverpool FC supporter since I was tiny - I think because I only have sisters and my dad wanted a boy, so has spent 26 years educating me in the ways of football!
6. I'm also a big tennis fan and love watching Wimbledon on TV. I went once a few years ago but would love to go again some day.
7. The country I'd most like to live in is New Zealand, but Vietnam is my favourite of the places I've visited.
8. I'm a massive Strictly Come Dancing fan and would love to learn to ballroom dance properly one day.
9. I try and go to see at least one musical every year - earlier this year I went to see Once but have loads more on my list that I want to see!
10. I got into running over the summer and am aiming to do a 5K for British Heart Foundation next June.
11. My favourite item in my wardrobe at the moment is my bright red fit-and-flare Miss Selfridge coat with bows and a polka dot lining.

Then it's on to my nominated blogs:

1. The Life of Sian M
2. Just Steph
3. Sweet Sparkly Serendipidity
4. Steph's Spot
5. Hurricane Venus
6. Lily of the Valley
7. Beauty and a Blogger
8. Kateastrophic
9. Desserts and Decoupage
10. The Cute Little Beauty Blog
11. Unloved Button

Next are Katie's questions for me:

1. Do you have a favourite make-up brand?
At the risk of sounding like a nan, I love Bobbi Brown make-up - the products are great quality and as a pale girl I'm really impressed with the range of shades. For drugstore products, Rimmel just edges it for being good at lots of things, but particularly at mascara, lipstick and concealer.

2. What is your favourite quote?
"You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don't take" - as said by the Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Basically it's a reminder to take chances, because things won't work out how you want them if you don't try, but they might if you do.

3. What would be your dream holiday?
Well I sort of had my dream holiday when I went travelling last year, but the one place still on my list is Canada, so I'd really love to either drive or take the train across the country, hopping on and off to visit the various big cities on the way and taking some day trips into the mountains and forests.

4. Who/what inspired you to start blogging?
For me it started as a way to switch off from job-hunting - for those who don't know I came back from eight months' travelling in May this year so needed to find a new job - as I was writing about things I liked and it was completely different from filling out application forms. I also had no money and a ton of beauty products to use up, so I thought I'd write about those to keep notes on the ones I liked and wanted to buy again.

5. Really weird fact about yourself?
I have a fear of boats - basically I get really nervous being on a boat that's moving up and down a lot, because I get paranoid that it's going to tip over and I'm going to fall in and drown. I have no idea how this started or where it came from; my closest guess is that it has something to do with my not being a particularly strong swimmer. But I've never met anyone else with that fear so I suppose it's quite a weird fact.

6. Favourite food?
Pizza Gogo barbecue chicken pizza - chicken, green peppers, fried onions and barbecue sauce. Delicious! Closely followed by anything salted caramel flavoured.

7. If you could be anyone for a day who would you be?
I would like to be Zooey Deschanel, mainly so I could raid her wardrobe of gorgeous cute dresses and finally be able to do flicky eyeliner.

8. What do you see yourself doing in the next 5-10 years?
In an ideal world I'd be married to N, possibly with kids, living in our own place either in London or back up north, and writing for my living. That would be my absolute dream!

9. Advice to anyone starting a blog?
Don't be afraid to promote yourself. It's not very British to blow our own trumpets but it's the only way you'll get followers! Also have a presence on all social media sites, invest in your blog design, take part in blogger chats on Twitter, and think of a good name :)

10. Best budget beauty buy?
Rimmel Hide The Blemish concealer, because it's inexpensive and gives good coverage but isn't too cakey.

11. If you could only use one make-up product for the rest of your life what would it be?
A red lipstick of some kind - my favourites are MAC Ruby Woo and Rimmel Kate Moss 01. As long as I had that I'd feel 'done' every day.

So here are my questions for my nominees:

1. Which reality TV show would you choose to audition for (presuming Strictly, I'm A Celebrity etc were open to normal people as well)?
2. If you could choose to live in any era, which would it be and why?
3. What polish (if any) is on your nails today?
4. What would be your dream job?
4. Do you prefer sweet or savoury food?
5. Who is your hero and why?
6. What was/is your least favourite subject at school?
7. What's your signature dish?
8. What skill would you most like to have?
9. What's your guilty pleasure?
10. How many beauty products do you use in your everyday look?
11. What's your favourite book?

Thanks for taking part in the Liebster Award if you were a nominee - don't forget to leave me a comment linking to your answers! If you weren't nominated but would like to take part then I'd love to see your answers too.

The Charles Dickens Challenge

So I have a bit of a confession to make - I've never read any Charles Dickens novels. The closest I've come was a Ladybird version of Oliver Twist back when I was a kid, and I've watched plenty of TV and film adaptations of various books (which goes against my normal 'read the book before you see the movie' philosophy) but I haven't actually ever got round to reading any of them.

I go to a regular writers' group meeting and recently one of the other members mentioned in passing that she was reading all of Dickens’ novels in order of publication. I thought that would be a really interesting reading challenge in terms of things like seeing how Dickens’ writing style evolved, as well as giving me an excuse to read his books at long last! Plus the fact that they’re all free for Kindle makes this a nice cheap challenge :)

So, in order, these are the books (not counting the Christmas Books as they're more like short stories and I read A Christmas Carol every winter anyway):
  1. The Pickwick Papers
  2. Oliver Twist
  3. Nicholas Nickleby
  4. The Old Curiosity Shop
  5. Barnaby Rudge
  6. Martin Chuzzlewit
  7. Dombey and Son
  8. David Copperfield
  9. Bleak House
  10. Hard Times
  11. Little Dorrit
  12. A Tale of Two Cities
  13. Great Expectations
  14. Our Mutual Friend
  15. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Ideally I'd like to read one a month, which means that if I start the challenge in January I should hopefully complete it by March next year. It’s a big undertaking, but I’m excited about doing it. And of course I will be posting reviews for you in the event you want to attempt the challenge yourselves (or just read some Dickens). Wish me luck!

13 Things Before The End Of 2013

Hello my lovelies! Today I have another tagged post for you - this is the 13 Things Before The End of 2013 post. I got this one from (where else?) Bex at Futures., who was originally tagged by Clare over at The Make-Up Obsessed Midlander. Hopefully it's going to be the metaphorical kick up the bum I need to encourage me to get stuff done in the last few weeks of the year rather than slacking off in the run-up to Christmas. So, without further ado, here are my 13 things before the end of 2013!

1. Sort out my blog rebrand - so decide on and buy a new domain name, set up a new email address and get new social media accounts - before I relaunch in the new year.
2. Get to 100 blog followers across all platforms. I'm at 69 now but would love some more! And as an incentive I might do a giveaway when I get there...
3. Do a last clearout of all the clothes, shoes, CDs etc that I don't wear or use any more to raise some extra money for Christmas and clear some space in my tiny flat.
4. Watch all the Harry Potter films. My mum bought me the box set a couple of Christmases ago but I still haven't got round to watching the last two or Order of the Phoenix.
5. Get to my Goodreads target of 25 books by the end of the year, including my three Christmas books.
6. Ring up the registry office and give notice for our wedding.
7. Also on the wedding theme, pick two or three each of photographers, florists, dress shops and cake makers and book to go and visit them in January/February.
8. Visit my sisters - we don't see each other as often as we'd like so I'm hoping I'll be able to have some time off and go up to see them soon.
9. Go through my make-up and nail varnish and set up a blog sale.
10. Post at least every other day in December.
11. Take a photo every day for the rest of December and post it on Instagram.
12. Finish watching season seven of Criminal Minds (two episodes left!) and the rest of Firefly.
13. Get to £4,000 in savings towards getting a mortgage next year.

As always I'm not going to tag anyone specific but if you do the challenge please do leave me a link in the comments, I'd love to read what you get up to!

A small announcement

Hello lovelies! First of all I'm really sorry I haven't blogged for ages, work is insanely busy at the moment as my manager's on leave and we're in the last push of our major campaign. Plus I had one of those weeks where I had writer's group, a WI meeting and a hairdresser's appointment, on top of the gym and then going to watch the Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday with my mum and sisters. New Year's Resolution number one: schedule to within an inch of my life.

The other reason for my lack of blogging lately is because I'm currently working on giving it a makeover. As some of you are aware, I've been dithering with whether to rebrand my blog for a little while now. I've really loved being What Laura Did for the past few months but now feel that it maybe isn't quite the right fit for the blog, so I've been in the market for a new name. I currently have it narrowed down to three - The Stuff You May Have Missed, Rose & Magpie or Cherry Soda - but will let you know which one I choose soon. Although any opinions on the name would be greatly appreciated! I'm going to do a poll as well so feel free to take part in that, and leave any other name suggestions in the comments.

As part of the overhaul I also wanted to change my site's look - it just feels a bit too cluttered and the colour scheme's kind of boring - so have asked the lovely Kaelah Bee to do a redesign for me. After seeing her work on Becky Bedbug's blog I knew she'd do a great job and I'm very excited to see what she comes up with! I have been my usual terribly vague and relaxed self about the design - the only thing I'm very specific about is that I want the site to have a clean, neat, organised look - but based on her previous work I'm confident it'll be brilliant.

Once I've finally decided what to rename my blog and bought the domain name I'll set up my new social media accounts, which means I'll be moving all my blogging contacts on Twitter across to the new account. @Laura_C_Tweets will become my personal/work account so please don't be alarmed if I stop following you - it just means I'll be picking up again with my new account, which I'll use for all my blogging activity. But until then you can still reach me there so please feel free to tweet me.

Also just a small reminder that you can follow my blog with Bloglovin. I would love some more followers and am hoping to run a giveaway when I get to 100 (currently at 65). I have a brilliant prize lined up for when I get there, so if you'd like to be in with a chance to win it please do give me a follow!

Have you rebranded your blog? How did you find the process? And what tips would you have for anyone rebranding? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

The Sunshine Award

Hello lovelies! Today I've got another tagged post for you - this one is my nomination for the Sunshine Award :) I was nominated by Gaby from AnotherGirlyBlog who is a fantastic blogger, so please do hop over there for a read if you have time. If, like me, you're not sure what the Sunshine Award is then read on...

The rules
Share 11 random facts about yourself
Answer the 11 questions that the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers who you believe deserve recognition.
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let them know you nominated them. 

11 Random Facts About Me
1. I have been to 22 countries (23 if you count four hours in Doha airport) and still want to go to more!
2. I'm the youngest of three sisters.
3. I tend to get quite into weird sports and became a huge AFL fan when we were in Australia - go Freo!
4. My favourite film is The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
5. I'm a bit of a nail polish junkie and have about 50 shades (boom boom!)
6. I'm currently writing a murder mystery novel set in Roman Britain.
7. My dream job would be as a book reviewer or a literary agent - getting paid to read books for a living would be amazing!
8. I love watching American crime drama series like Castle, NCIS and CSI (RIP CSI: New York *sniff*), but my favourite is Criminal Minds for its brilliant characters.
9. I'm getting married on 1st November 2014.
10. In a bid to try and get more into crafting and baking, I recently joined the WI. I know it seems quite uncool but I love it!
11. I tend to go very Scouse when I'm annoyed or around my family (who are all from Liverpool), which N thinks is hilarious.

Gaby's 11 questions

1. What make-up brand could you not live without?
This is a tough one, but I think it would be Bobbi Brown. I've only tried a couple of their products but they are consistently excellent and tick pretty much all the boxes for products I want. Although I'd miss my Naked palette and Nars blusher terribly!

2. Why did you start blogging?
I've blogged on and off for about six years, but when I re-started it seriously about six months ago it was an outlet from job-hunting - I'd been travelling for eight months so was on a full-time job search and my blog was my means of switching off as it meant I could write about something totally different after filling out application forms all day long! But gradually I got really into it and began enjoying it a lot, and now I can't imagine not doing it.

3. Costa/Nero/Pret/Starbucks?
It depends what I want! But if I could only ever go to one, it'd be Costa - they have the best flat white and hot chocolate, and I do love their hazelnut lattes. I'd miss Starbucks' gingerbread lattes and Nero's chai lattes though!

4. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
About 45 minutes, which seems like ages! But that's to do everything - shower, wash my face, brush my teeth, wash and dry my fringe, get dressed, do my make-up and straighten my hair.

5. What's your favourite season?
Autumn, especially on cold clear crisp days when the leaves are changing colour. I like that it isn't too chilly but I can still have warm drinks and wear my winter coat and woolies. Plus it has Bonfire Night, which is one of my favourite times of year, and my birthday in October :)

6. Do you prefer long/short and curly/straight hair?
At the moment my hair is quite long because I grew it when I went travelling and am still deciding what to do with it for my wedding, but I've been looking at pictures from when it was shorter and I miss that style a lot! I've always worn it straight though, mainly because I'm quite lazy and can't be bothered with the fuss of curling it, but I might give it a go for Christmas this year.

7. What's your favourite book?
Oh I have so many! But if I had to choose one I think it would be The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. For those who haven't read it, it's about a man called Henry who has a rare condition where he randomly travels through time to key events in his life, and his relationship with an artist called Clare. It's such a beautiful love story and always makes me cry whenever I read it.

8. What's your idea of the perfect night in?
Curling up on the sofa with N, a BBQ pizza from Pizza GoGo and a really good box set - we're currently working our way through Firefly but trying to eke it out because it's so short! I'm really enjoying it though. It's the first Joss Whedon TV series I've watched and has made me eager to finally watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

9. If you had to have someone narrate your life who would it be?
It has to be David Attenborough - I just think he has the most wonderful voice. I very nearly met him once a few years ago when my friend C and I saw him in the British Museum but we were too shy to say hello!

10. If you could meet one person dead/alive who would it be?
This is a tough one, but I think I would like to meet John Lennon. I've been a huge Beatles fan all my life - my parents met through a shared love of the band so the Beatles' music was always on in our house when I was growing up - and from what I've seen of him in their films etc he seems so funny and like he'd be brilliant to hang out with.

11. If you could travel back to one moment in time when would it be?
I would go back to Tudor England and watch a Shakespeare play in the original Globe theatre. I'm a huge Tudor history nerd and an English Literature geek - I did it for my degree and loved it - so to see one of his plays performed to a contemporary audience would be amazing. I'm not sure what play I'd choose though, perhaps something like Henry V as I haven't seen many of the history plays (though I'm going to see David Tennant in Richard II in January which is super-exciting!).
The bloggers I'm tagging
1. Orange Chic
2. Love, Hanan
3. Handbag Beauty
4. Mischief Beauty
5. Blogging From Bucks
6. Let's Capture The Castle
7. The Adorable Dork
8. From KATYpillar To Butterfly
9. Ohh Kaye
10. A Daynasaur
11. Fashion Novice

My questions
1. Which country/city in the world would you most like to visit?
2. What was the first gig you went to?
3. Which bloggers inspire you the most?
4. If I was coming to your town or city for 24 hours, what would you suggest I do?
5. What is your least favourite food?
6. You have £100 to spend in one clothes shop - where do you go?
7. What's your favourite make-up look?
8. What was the last film you saw, and what did you think of it?
9. Tea, coffee or hot chocolate?
10. How did you come up with your blog name?
11. And because the festive season is upon us... What's your favourite Christmas song?

Thanks for taking part if you were a nominee - don't forget to leave me a link to your answers! And if you weren't nominated but would like to answer the questions then I'd love to see your answers too :)

The Booker Prize Challenge

For as long as I can remember, I've utterly adored reading. Even when I was a kid I'd get nervous when the cereal packets were taken off the breakfast table and I'd have nothing to read, and my mum would never let me open books first on Christmas or my birthday because I'd sit there reading them. She hid my books before we went on holiday as well, otherwise I'd read them all before we went away and then complain for most of the trip that I was bored (well until I bought a new book anyway).

However, as sad and nerdy as it sounds, one of my ambitions in life has been to read every Booker Prize-winning novel. Often considered the biggest prize in British literature, the Booker has been controversial over the years, but of the ones I have read I've enjoyed them very much so I'm keen to see how I feel about the rest. It'll also be an interesting experience to see how the winners have evolved, as well as discovering some of the more obscure winners especially from the early years.

So, this is the list (those in bold are the ones I have already read):
  1. P H Newby – Something to Answer for (1969)
  2. Bernice Rubens – The Elected Member (1970)
  3. J G Farrell – Troubles (1970, ‘The Lost Booker’)
  4. V S Naipaul – In a Free State (1971)
  5. John Berger – G (1972)
  6. J G Farrell – The Siege of Krishnapur (1973)
  7. Nadine Gordimer – The Conservationist (1974)
  8. Stanley Middleton – Holiday (1974)
  9. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – Heat and Dust (1975)
  10. David Storey – Saville (1976)
  11. Paul Scott – Staying On (1977)
  12. Iris Murdoch – The Sea, the Sea (1978)
  13. Penelope Fitzgerald – Offshore (1979)
  14. William Golding – Rites Of Passage (1980)
  15. Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children (1981)
  16. Thomas Keneally – Schindler’s Ark (1982)
  17. J M Coetzee – Life and Times of Michael K (1983)
  18. Anita Brooker – Hotel du Lac (1984)
  19. Keri Hulme – The Bone People (1985)
  20. Kingsley Amis – The Old Devils (1986)
  21. Penelope Lively – Moon Tiger (1987)
  22. Peter Carey – Oscar and Lucinda (1988)
  23. Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day (1989)
  24. A S Byatt – Possession: A Romance (1990)
  25. Ben Okri – The Famished Road (1991)
  26. Michael Ondaatje – The English Patient (1992)
  27. Barry Unsworth – Sacred Hunger (1992)
  28. Roddy Doyle – Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993)
  29. James Kelman – How Late It Was, How Late (1994)
  30. Pat Barker – The Ghost Road (1995)
  31. Graham Swift – Last Orders (1996)
  32. Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things (1997)
  33. Ian McEwan – Amsterdam (1998)
  34. J M Coetzee – Disgrace (1999)
  35. Margaret Atwood – The Blind Assassin (2000)
  36. Peter Carey – True History of the Kelly Gang (2001)
  37. Yann Martel – Life of Pi (2002)
  38. DBC Pierre – Vernon God Little (2003)
  39. Alan Hollinghurst – The Line of Beauty (2004)
  40. John Banville – The Sea (2005)
  41. Kiran Desai – The Inheritance of Loss (2006)
  42. Anne Enright – The Gathering (2007)
  43. Aravind Adiga – The White Tiger (2008)
  44. Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall (2009)
  45. Howard Jacobson – The Finkler Question (2010)
  46. Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending (2011)
  47. Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies (2012)
  48. Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries (2013)
  49. Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2014)
  50. Marlon James - A Brief History of Seven Killings (2015)
  51. Paul Beatty - The Sellout (2016)
I make that 42 books to read (48 minus the seven I've already read, although chances are I'll end up re-reading those by the time I get to that end of the list!). The goal ideally would be to read them all by the time I turned 30, in 2017, and although this may be a slight cheat as the Booker winner is normally published shortly after my birthday, I will also try to read the 2014, 2015 and 2016 winners. So that's 44 books total.

I'm really excited to attempt this challenge, I'm aware it's a huge undertaking but I'm hoping that it'll be worth it. Already I'm itching at the thought of so many new books to discover. And of course I'll be posting my reviews so you can find out what I thought, in case you want to read any of these. Wish me luck!

Beauty Review: China Glaze Nail Lacquer in Skate Night

Morning lovelies! Today I've got another nail post to share with you - China Glaze Nail Lacquer in Skate Night, from the Retro Diva collection they did for AW09. (Yes, that is how long I've had this polish. I know, I am rubbish at getting round to using things!)

The Retro Diva collection was a nod to the 1970s, which as any fellow Dazed and Confused fan will know was an awesome decade, and the name of the various shades reflect that. Skate Night itself is described as a deep crimson shimmer that suits all skin tones, and as I really like red polishes I thought I'd pick this up. It also reminded me a little of OPI's I'm Not Really A Waitress (which I've blogged about before here), so I was keen to compare the two.

The bottle is a standard China Glaze bell shape, which feels nice and solid in the hand but not too heavy so is easy enough to carry in a handbag for touch-ups on the run. I'd be quite happy to take this with me and ensure it would survive any knocks. I also like the fact that the lid is quite long and thin in comparison to lots of other polishes which helps with keeping a steady hand - useful for me as I am the least dextrous person ever when it comes to putting on nail varnish! I love it but a lot of the time it looks like I let my three-year-old nephew do my manicure. *blushes*

The polish looks more like a ruby colour in the bottle than it does when I'm wearing it; on the hands it has much more of a berryish pinky-purple tint to it. But they're both lovely colours so I'm not complaining! Plus it makes it different enough from I'm Not Really A Waitress to justify the purchase.

Application was good, with the polish being opaque in two coats but still showing a little bit of brush stroke (although it wasn't really noticeable unless you were close up to it). Durability-wise it was OK - I did this on Saturday morning and although there was a bit of tip wear 24 hours later the first chip didn't appear until Tuesday night, which isn't too bad but not spectacular either.

Overall I really like this polish - the colour is a lovely shade that's very much in keeping with the berry trend in beauty at the moment, and the fact that you don't need a lot of it to achieve opacity. I think it would lend itself to lots of different looks; you could wear it with a party dress over the Christmas period or use an effects polish like a black crackle to give it a bit of an edge for a night out.

If you fancy picking up Skate Night you can buy it from, where it retails for £4.87 a bottle.

Have you tried Skate Night or other China Glaze polishes? What did you think of it? And what's your favourite berry beauty product this season? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

Book Review: Be Awesome

Hadley Freeman is one of my favourite Guardian writers - she's very acerbic in her fashion columns and often makes me laugh out loud (which causes a few funny looks in the office). So when I found out she'd written a book on feminism, I had to give it a read - not least because of its title, 'Be Awesome', which is surely something we should all aspire to be.

If you've read any of Freeman's columns in the Guardian, you'll be familiar with her sarcastic sense of humour, and this book is more of the same. Covering topics from hair removal to dating via body image and what to do when all your friends start having kids, the book presents a really rounded picture of what it's like to be a woman in the modern world. It does err a little bit on the side of rooting for singledom, which did on occasion make me feel slightly pushed out as someone who's been coupled up forever. But equally there was still lots of stuff I could identify with and plenty of moments that made me laugh out loud.

There will no doubt be an awful lot of comparisons between this book and Caitlin Moran's 'How To Be A Woman', and if Moran is like your big sister reassuring you that you can be whoever you want to be whilst always seeming ready with a hug, Freeman is much more like that friend who doles out the tough love and is brutally honest about things, but always does it in your best interests. But I actually really liked the attitude she brought to writing the book - the sense that, whilst women should do whatever they want to do, that they should only do it because they want to rather than to impress a man or to fit in with what society or the media says they should be. I particularly liked the sections on the awesome women that inspire Hadley and her dissection of various films and books - both those which portray female characters brilliantly and those which are terrible. I'm aware of how awful Sex and the City 2 is but her description of it actually made me snort with laughter on my train home!

The one thing I wish I'd done is to read it in smaller chunks, because I think it would work better as a series of small essays rather than trying to see it as a whole book as the chapters don't really flow into each other and the styles tend to hop around. Reading it over a longer period of time would also mean it would have lasted longer; it's not the longest of books and so it felt like it was over very quickly. But if you're in the market for an easy quick read that will also provide you with some food for thought, then I'd definitely recommend this - though it is a little on the expensive side.

If you fancy reading 'Be Awesome' it's £7.99 for the Kindle edition or £6.47 for the paperback on Amazon (other book shops are available).

Have you read 'Be Awesome'? What did you think of it? And are there any similar books you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

The 2013 Christmas Tag

The 2013 Christmas Tag

Hallowe'en, Bonfire Night and my birthday have all been and gone, which means that Christmas is not too far away now. I am stupidly excited for this Christmas as last year we spent Christmas in a hostel in Wellington - where they had their hottest Christmas for 40 years! - and although it was lovely it felt very odd eating barbecue food and going to the beach instead of a roast dinner and a walk in the cold, so I'm excited to go back to a traditional Christmas. This year N and I are going up to my parents' house in Lancashire as my nanna is 80 on Christmas Eve, so all my dad's family are coming up to stay in the golf club down the road from my parents' and we're having Christmas dinner there. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone again, as I haven't seen many of my relatives since we came back from travelling so it'll be lovely to catch up.

I got this tag from the lovely Jess at Coffee and Cosmetics, and she in turn got it from Georgina at Makeup-Pixi3. So, without further ado, here are my answers!

1. Do you prefer a real Christmas tree or synthetic?
Real every time. We have a synthetic one and although it does have the advantages of being cheaper and no needle drop, it just isn't the same. I think a lot of it for me is the smell - I can remember being very small and lying underneath the Christmas tree, breathing in the scent of the pine needles. Diptyque used to do the most amazing pine-scented candle that I used to replicate the smell when I first moved to London, but sadly I think it's been discontinued now :(

2. You're in a coffee shop, it's December, what do you pick?
Starbucks Gingerbread Latte. I am a bit obsessed with them and get ridiculously excited when the red cups come out (although I'm disappointed they've scrapped their autumn drinks already, I really wanted to try the salted caramel mocha). There's just something so lovely and warm and comforting about them, especially when you're drinking one sitting in the window as it's getting dark and seeing Christmas lights and shoppers outside, like something out of a film.

3. What's your favourite colour scheme for decorating the tree?
I don't do colour schemes; they feel a bit too much like a Christmas tree in a hotel for me. The trees I really love are the ones that have been built up from years of accumulated decorations that you've picked up from travelling or that people have made. My parents' tree is like that, with decorations that my sisters and I made at school decades ago and really lovely quirky little things, and in my really sad way when I moved out that was the thing I missed the most about not having Christmas at home!

4. Giving or receiving?
Both! It's lovely to get presents and to see the thought that's gone in to the gifts people have picked out for me, but I am one of those people that loves finding the perfect present for someone so I really enjoy that whole process of picking out a really amazing gift and then seeing the look on their face when they open it. There's just something indescribable about getting that lovely fuzzy glow of seeing someone's face light up and you know you got them a great gift.

5. To mince pie or not to?
Oh yes. Always mince pies. I don't buy them before December because I know I'll just stuff my face with an entire box in an afternoon - and also because Christmas food before December just seems wrong somehow - but I absolutely love them, especially warmed up in the oven or microwave and with a bit of cream (I'm not so keen on brandy butter as I find it a bit sickly). My mum's recipe is the best though; I think it's because she makes them all herself so they've got loads of filling and are laden with booze. My mouth's watering at the thought already...

6. What's your traditional Sunday lunch?
Traditional Sunday lunch, on the rare occasions I have it (in a pub or if I'm visiting family for a long weekend), is usually roast chicken, lamb, pork or beef, complete with roast potatoes, various veggies and - if it's roast beef - Yorkshire puddings. And tons of gravy.

For Christmas, it's again the full-on traditional works. We have a turkey, a ham (which is usually all gone between the buffet on Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner and the turkey and ham pie on Boxing Day), pigs in blankets, parsnips, carrot and turnip mash, roast potatoes, sprouts, stuffing balls, gravy and cranberry sauce. Dessert is mince pies with cream - we used to have Christmas pudding as my auntie made one for us every year, but the only ones who like it are me and my brother-in-law so it was decided there was no point!

And inevitably at 9 o'clock on Christmas night I will want a 'Christmas sandwich' - turkey, ham, stuffing and cranberry sauce on bread. And maybe a bit of Stilton on the side. Mmm.

7. Christmas day fashion?
I think this is a Liverpool thing as no-one else I know does it, but my family are very big on Christmas outfits. Normally that's a new outfit and is quite smart - this is the dress I have this year to give you an idea, which I'll wear with black tights and my favourite sparkly black kitten heels. We do however nearly always get new pyjamas on Christmas Eve so will usually end up changing into those at some point in the evening, but I think my mum would go mad if we spent the whole day in PJs!

8. What's your favourite Christmas song?
Oh there are loads! I get ridiculously excited about putting my Christmas playlist on my iPod every December. But I think if I had to choose one it'd be 'White Wine In The Sun' by Tim Minchin. I played this a lot last year when I was away at Christmas and missing my family terribly, and I just love the sentiment of it - that no matter what happens or where you go in life, your family will always be there for you.

9. What's your favourite Christmas film?
Toss-up between The Muppet Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life. I always watch those two whilst wrapping my presents. There's a great film that we all watch as a family as well called Bernard and the Genie - it was made in the 90s and it follows Bernard Bottle, who finds a magic lamp after he loses his job and his girlfriend dumps him on Christmas Eve. I've probably made it sound rubbish but it is actually very funny, so if you can ever get hold of a copy, watch it!

10. Open presents before or after lunch?
It's always been before lunch, mainly because we don't eat until about 3 PM on Christmas Day, and I don't think my nephews would have the patience to wait until the evening to open their presents! Our day usually goes: get up, posh breakfast with fresh coffee and stollen and other baked goods, get dressed, presents, walk to the pub and back, dinner, Doctor Who Christmas special, sleep. But we do have 'tree presents' - silly little daft things that will make us laugh - which we open at some point after the dinner whilst eating Christmas chocolates and cheese, though I expect with going to the golf club for lunch it'll be very different this year.

I'm not tagging anyone in particular but if you haven't done the Christmas tag yet then I challenge you to do it! If you do please leave the link in the comments section, I'd love to read your post :)

Have you done the Christmas tag yet? Are you looking forward to Christmas this year? And have you started any preparations for the festive season? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

Day Trips: Columbia Road Market

Despite it being very accessible to me, I don't really go to East London much. I think it stems from the fact that I've never been particularly cool and am a bit wary of overly hipster-ish areas. So when my friend C suggested a Sunday trip to Columbia Road, I have to admit I was a little bit reluctant to go there. But equally it was somewhere I'd wanted to visit for a while, so yesterday we met up at London Bridge, hopped on the 149 bus and off we went!

We started off with a visit to an amazing little shop called Vintage Heaven, which sells a fantastic array of beautiful vintage crockery and china - I fell in love with a load of gorgeous plain turquoise blue plates which would be a brilliant classic set for everyday use (one for the wedding list maybe?). They also have a brilliant cake shop called Cakehole out the back which is really reasonably priced and does amazing - and huge! - slabs of cake. I had the Victoria sponge which was really tasty, C had a scone and we shared a massive pot of tea.

Afterwards I bought C an Edward VIII coronation mug that we randomly found in Vintage Heaven as an early Christmas present, and then we had a wander up the road and looked in all the little quirky shops. Columbia Road is mostly famous for its flower market but also has loads of independent shops selling lots of cool clothes and random decorations for your house and garden, as well as lots of food shops. There's a place that sells the most amazing-smelling hot prawns and calmari and another that does Portuguese food, but I was particularly taken by Suck & Chew, the old-school sweet shop. Look at all those retro sweets and the cool vintage Coronation tins! The vintage bike is pretty awesome too.

I can't remember the name of the shop where I saw these Coca-Cola Santa tins, but they are awesome and I want them. They'd be great for storing homemade sweets or bakes in over the Christmas season.

Openhouse is one of my favourite homewares shops on Columbia Road - probably jointly with Ryantown, which is Rob Ryan's shop and sells the most beautiful papercut artwork. Openhouse specialises in signs and garden things with a few small bits and bobs for the house as well. Sadly you're not allowed to take photos inside but outside was good enough for me - I can't be the only one who wants a Hogwarts sign and a Potions planter!

I like this little gnome fella in his flowers - unfortunately the photo hasn't come out fantastically well but he still looks pretty cool!

I am a sucker for a good punning shop name. Stoned & Plastered anyone?

Queenie & Ted is one of my favourite shops on Columbia Road. They customise clothes with gorgeous one-off embroidery - the dress in the window has budgies stitched onto it but there were loads of different designs and they will embroider your own clothes for you as well. I bought the most amazing funky floral empire line dress which wasn't cheap at £45 but looks ace over a long sleeved top and paired with my riding boots.

 Alright Treacle?

The Birdcage is the pub at the top of Columbia Road - it looks brilliant and is definitely on my list for next time we're up that way - and these two guys were performing outside. They were pretty impressive too, I didn't catch it when I took the photo but the one in the hat was tap-dancing along.

All in all, we had a really good day out on Columbia Road and I really want to go back! Highlights for me were discovering Queenie & Ted and the amazing cake at Cakehole. Next time I'd like to go a bit earlier in the morning to see all the flowers in the market - we went mid-morning so most of the flowers were gone by that point - and to take N's camera as I reckon I could get some ace photos with that. It's a really cool area with a great atmosphere and not hipsterish at all. Definitely a favourite place in London.

Have you been to Columbia Road? What did you think of it? And which are your favourite unknown areas of London? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

Book Review: Paper Aeroplanes

Dawn O'Porter has always been one of my favourite writers - her Twitter feed @hotpatooties never fails to make me chuckle, and her Glamour magazine column is straight-talking but always warm and friendly in a big-sister sort of way. So when I found out she'd written a book called 'Paper Aeroplanes', it went straight on to my reading list, and today I'm bringing you a review of that book!

For those of you who haven't heard of it, 'Paper Aeroplanes' is the story of Renee and Flo, who both begin their last year of high school as relative outcasts who have turbulent home lives and dysfunctional friendships. After a dramatic event brings the two of them closer together (I won't say what it is for fear of spoiling the plot), they develop a very intense friendship very quickly, with all the twists and turns you'd expect - especially those involving keeping secrets.

I was eight at the time the novel is set, but what's great about Porter's writing is that she manages to brilliantly evoke what it's like to be a teenager, no matter how recent it was for you. The novel is semi-autobiographical in some respects which I think heightens the sense of realism in the novel, as do some of the - ahem - fairly graphic descriptions. It also meant that as a reader I developed a really involved relationship with Renee and Flo - they were the first book characters in a long time where I wanted to know what happened to them next.

It's not a flawless book by any means - sometimes it felt slightly melodramatic and I missed O'Porter's trademark humour - but it is a brilliantly realised version of teenage life, and perfectly captures the turbulence of friendships at that age and the yearning for something bigger in life. Definitely recommended as a quick yet involving read that will simultaneously make you wish you were 16 again and really grateful that you're not (in a good way).

If you'd like to read Paper Aeroplanes it's £3.08 on Kindle or £4.82 for the paperback version on Amazon (other book retailers are available).

Have you read Paper Aeroplanes? What did you think of it? And what are your favourite books about teenage friendship? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!