Wedding Update: January

As regular readers might know, N and I are getting married on the 1st November 2014. We got engaged in June 2012 but it's only since the beginning of the year that we've been in full-on planning mode. So I thought I'd start a little series on what we've done so far and what we've got still to do. Let me know if you like this type of post or if there's anything weddingy you'd like me to focus on, as I might do a few more on things like the dress shopping experience or choosing suppliers.

Our venue, the Hospitium in York (image source)

So here's what we've done so far:
  • Booked our venue, which is the Hospitium in York (doesn't it look gorgeous in the photo?). It's a beautiful fourteenth-century building that used to be part of an abbey which was sadly demolished in the Reformation and now sits in the middle of Museum Gardens, the huge park in the centre of York. We wanted a venue that had some history to it, was big enough to take all our guests and was somewhere that had meaning to us, and the Hospitium fit the bill perfectly.
  • Booked our caterers. Our venue has a dedicated caterer so they were locked in when we booked the venue. We're due to go and see them soon to sort out our menus which is quite exciting - I've had a look and all the food sounds lovely! At the moment we're thinking of something warm and traditionally British, like a roast dinner or sausages/pie and mash.
  • Booked our disco. Again they came recommended by the venue but they're very flexible in terms of what they'll play, so our plan is to pop some slips in with our
  • Given notice at the registry office in Lewisham. I'm quite tempted to write a post about this at some point as I know for me it was a fairly daunting experience but actually wasn't that bad! Although we did have some issues where we very nearly ended up not having a time to get married... more on that another time if anyone wants to hear it!
  • Bought wedding insurance. Boring I know, but I am that person who gets paranoid about the venue going bust or the photographer falling ill, and would rather fork out £50 just in case than save the money and have something go horribly wrong.
  • Asked my cousin to make the cake. She made an absolutely gorgeous cake for my nanna's 80th at Christmas and so I've asked her if she'd be kind enough to make the cake for our wedding.
To-do for February:
  • Book a florist. We have some ideas of ones we like in the area where we're getting married but I need to find one who can do our date, so I'll email them this month.
  • Contact our caterers to arrange a date to go up and talk to them about the kind of food we want for our day.
  • Go wedding dress shopping. My dad's cousin has very kindly said she'll make my dress but I want to go to a couple of shops to try things on and get ideas of what suits me as well. I've got a list of four shops to go to and a whole scrapbook full of pictures of dresses, so I'm hoping with that combination I can eventually come up with something I love.
  • Decide on a photographer. I'm hoping to be able to combine a trip to visit the caterers with a couple of meetings with photographers and kill two birds with one stone. At the moment I've got one I really love and two or three potential backups, so once I've met them hopefully I'll be able to decide.
Let me know what you think of this post and if you'd like to see any more updates on our wedding planning journey. I'm thinking of doing these monthly update posts and then others on things like choosing your florist or photographer, dress shopping and giving notice, so let me know if there's anything you want me to cover. Also if you're in the process of planning a wedding do leave me some links, I love reading about other people's weddings!

The Blogger Made Me Buy It

Yet another tagged post from me today - this is 'The Blogger Made Me Buy It', which I'm sure you'll have seen doing the rounds on a few blogs recently! I got this from Bex's blog Futures., where I get most of my tagged posts from, but it was actually the creation of Danniella from Famous in Japan. I've noticed that as I've got more into writing and reading blogs I'm also buying a lot more products influenced by bloggers,so I thought it'd be interesting to look back and see how that's changed in recent months.
1) Who are your most influential bloggers? Who are the ones that you really rely on for reviews and swatches?
For reviews, it tends to be Essie Button, Tattooed Tea Lady or Late Night Nonsense. With swatches I go for Tattooed Tea Lady or Milkteef, but will look at Raspberry Kiss, One Little Vice and London Beauty Review as well.

2) Do you buy a product solely as a result from one review from your favourite bloggers, or do you look for more reviews from others?
No - I tend to go with the consensus about whether or not to try something, although if a blogger I trust says, "Actually, I didn't rate that" then it will make me reconsider whether to invest my money in it.
3) What is your most favourite item that you have ever bought as a consequence of blogs?
 Does my tripod count? Although if it has to be a beauty product then
4) What is your least favourite item that you have ever bought as a consequence of blogs?
I've been lucky so far and haven't bought anything that wasn't any good after seeing it on a blog. I clearly go to the right people!
5) Name 5 products you have bought recently as a result of blogs.
 Maybelline Baby Lips, L'Oreal Micellar Water, MAC lipsticks, Yankee Candles and Lush Christmas stuff - I'm slightly ashamed to admit I scoured eBay for Rose Jam shower gel and the Christmas lip scrub!
6) Have you ever given into blogger hype? If so, which hype?
A few things - see above - but the main one was probably Baby Lips, as all the other stuff was things I'd seen recommended elsewhere before I got into blogging.
7) Have you ever avoided blogger hype? If so, which hype?
Naked 3 and Nars One Night Stand - not because I didn't want them, but purely because money wouldn't allow it! If I'd had the cash though I probably would have bought them. At the moment I'm trying to resist the Nars Narsissist palette; I keep chanting in my head, 'You don't need it, you don't need it...'
8) Is everything you buy based on blogger reviews or are there some items you buy without checking out a review?
Generally I'll get some reviews before I buy a product but they might not always come from bloggers - I've bought quite a few things after recommendations from my family and friends, from a beauty forum I'm on or from beauty writers I trust, such as Sali Hughes at the Guardian or the Stylist magazine beauty team.

I'm not tagging anyone specific to do this tag but if you want to do (or you already have) please post your link in the comments - I always like seeing other people's answers to these types of tagged posts!

Beauty Review: Superdrug Simply Pure Aqua Hydrating Serum

Serums are one of those products where people can often be put off by their hefty price tags. Even though there are quite a few high street brands offering serums, such as L'Oreal and Soap & Glory, they're usually at a price point that's out of reach for a lot of people. However, a couple of more budget brands have got in on the act recently, particularly Aldi and Balance Active, but today I wanted to talk to you guys about Superdrug's Simply Pure Aqua Hydrating Serum. For any international readers (bonjour/guten Tag/hola/ciao/g'day as appropriate), Superdrug is a UK drugstore that stocks pretty much every type of budget skincare, make-up and body product you could possibly want and is usually very affordable. They also make quite a few own-brand ranges, of which Simply Pure Aqua Hydrating is one, and as my skin has been feeling a bit dried-out recently in the cold weather I thought I'd give it a go.

The serum, and the range it comes from, is designed for dehydrated skin - something else that high street brands don't seem to have gone in for much - so before I talk about the product I wanted to just mention the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. As the name suggests, dehydrated skin is skin that lacks water, whereas dry skin lacks oil. If your skin feels dry, but you break out when you use rich moisturisers, then you might have dehydrated skin (and you can be dehydrated at the same time as having another skin type). Sali Hughes, the Guardian's beauty writer, has some good tips on how to tell if your skin is dehydrated here.


The packaging is fairly standard for a drugstore brand - a white, almost pearlescent, bottle with a pale blue cap, and a feather graphic on the front. Overall it gives the impression of something that's not necessarily fancy but that will do your skin good, which is really what you want from a drugstore skincare product. However I do find the lid has a tendency to come off and the bottle can feel a bit flimsy, so it might not be one to just chuck in your bag in case it ends up everywhere.


As you can see from these pictures, it's a white fluid which has goes to a very milky consistency when it's rubbed in a little. On the skin it feels very light but it's also a product that benefits from being worked into the skin quite vigorously so don't be afraid to give it some welly when you're applying it. I normally use this in the morning after I've cleansed and before putting on my moisturiser - you can read more about my skincare routine here. It doesn't smell of much beyond a quite clean fresh smell, which I like a lot as I don't react well to very fragranced products and also like the feeling that it smells like it's doing me some good.

Overall I really like this product - it's got a lovely consistency, sinks in really nicely and (so far) is working really well for me. If your skin is feeling a bit dehydrated and you need a boost then I can definitely recommend this. Plus it's really cheap at £4.59 for a 50ml bottle and is quite often on half price offers. The only thing I'd like to see is Superdrug stocking this in more stores and for different skin types, as sometimes it can be hard to find and obviously not everyone has dehydrated skin. So come on high street brands and get your act together - if Superdrug can make a £5 serum then so can you!

If you're a skincare fan, why not enter my 100 Follower Giveaway for a chance to win a Soap & Glory hatbox?

Club To Catwalk: London Fashion In The 1980s at the V&A

One of my resolutions this year was to go to more exhibitions, and I kicked my year off with a trip to the V&A. Their Club To Catwalk exhibition focusses on the rise of various young British designers who hit the fashion scene in the 1980s and how the clothes they saw in the city's nightclubs influenced the designs they put on the runway throughout the decade, and as I've been keen to do more fashion blogging I thought this would be a great place to start.

Unfortunately as you're not allowed to take photos in the exhibition I don't have any shots to show you, so you'll have to use your imagination a little. However, the V&A has some images from the exhibition on their website, so you can at least get an idea of what's on offer before you hand over the admission price.

The exhibition is split over two levels in the centre of the V&A's fashion section, with the top level devoted to 'club' and the lower level representing 'catwalk'. In the 'club' section, the focus is very much on the fashion tribes of the 80s, from Goth to New Romantic. Particular favourites included amazing Vivienne Westwood pirate outfits worn by Adam Ant, a gorgeous gold corset dress with matching mask and sleeve, and a whole display on Punk fashion that spoke to my love of battered jeans and leather jackets. Some of the dresses - and, let's be honest, the headgear and shoes too - were real feats of engineering, but balanced with a great sense of fun and a rainbow of brilliant colours. There's also a fascinating video display from the nightclub Blitz, which really draws you in to the 80s club scene and gives you a real feel for the lifestyle. I'd definitely go in there for a few minutes first, especially if like me you weren't old enough to experience it first time around.

On the ground floor, it's all about how designers took those influences and transferred them into wearable clothes. Ranging from Katherine Hamnett's legendary slogan T-shirts that were a huge hit with 80s pop stars (we've all seen the footage of George Michael on Top of the Pops wearing her 'Choose Life' T-shirt) to 40s-influenced dresses topped off with retro flying caps, it was a great display of how fashion . A big highlight for me was a display of denim jackets customised by a range of the decade's hot young designers, such as John Galliano and BodyMap, which were then auctioned off to raise money for charity (the 80s was also the decade when the concept of charity fashion shows took off hugely). I felt that it really showed off how much scope designers had to be creative with their clothing and the sheer amount of imagination that went into their work.

The most surprising thing was the sheer amount of clothing where I thought, 'I would wear that now!', from cat-ear sports coats and crazy accessories (fork as a brooch, anyone?) to shrunken waistcoats and gorgeous evening dresses. It was really interesting to see how clothes from 30 years ago are still making an impact on the British high street today. I also loved the amount of stuff that was completely out there, such as a dress which I can only describe as a cross between a sexy nurse's outfit and a giant ladybird; it was so over-the-top but equally it embraced that ethos of 'wear what you want and who cares what they think?' that ran through the whole exhibition and is still a big part of what British designers are doing today.

If you fancy checking out Club To Catwalk it's on until 16th February and costs £5 - which is frankly bargainous compared to many other temporary exhibitions in London museums. Definitely recommended if you're into fashion history.

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The Wanderlust Tag

Morning lovelies! Today I have another tagged post for you - the Wanderlust Tag. I spotted this tag on Leona's blog Oh! Leona and thought it would be a good one as I love travelling and visiting new places. It's also a tag I haven't seen in many places so it's something a bit different, and also in the depths of January seemed like a nice post to write and remind me of sunnier days!

1. Your most treasured passport stamp?
Probably my stamps from Turkey as it was the first holiday N and I went on together - I know, I'm soppy. Close second are my stamps from the Inca Trail; they're a great reminder that yes, I walked for four days straight at high altitude and even though it was knackering, I achieved something I thought I'd never do.
2. Can you recite your passport # from memory if asked?
Just about - I could do it six months ago after constantly having to fill it in for immigration cards and hotel passes when we were travelling, but now not so much.

3. Preferred method of travel; planes, trains or automobiles?

Trains, mainly because you get to look out of the window and watch the world go by. I went on a lot of trains whilst we were travelling and watching the landscape change - or falling asleep in one place and waking up in another - was fascinating.

4. Top 3 travel items?
Travel journal so I can write down everything that I've done, iPod for music and podcasts, and a good quality sunscreen so I don't burn to a crisp!
 
5. Hostel or hotel?
Hostel - they can be very hit and miss but if you find a good one with nice chatty people it's brilliant. I often find hostels can feel a bit isolated whereas with a hostel you're all thrown in together and people are much more willing to chat to one another.
6. Are you a repeat visitor or do you explore new places?
A bit of both to be honest - there are places I've been to quite a few times, like North Cornwall, but equally I like going to somewhere different and discovering a new place. Sometimes I like to go back to a place after being away for a while to see how it's changed.
 
8. Favourite travel website?
Maybe Lonely Planet or Time Out - I don't tend to go on travel websites much but those are the two I look at to get inspired.

9. Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name city & why.
If it has to be a city, Melbourne - it was one of the only cities I visited when we were travelling that I thought I could live in. I loved the relaxed vibe and the various little cafes around, and there is some amazing street art there. It's kind of making me want to go back!

10. You're leaving tomorrow, money is no option, where are you going?
 
Canada or Tokyo, mainly because they're two places I haven't been yet! A friend of mine travelled across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver hopping on and off the train, which sounds like a really great way to see the country. And Tokyo just looks so bright and fun, as well as being somewhere with loads of new things to discover.


I'm not going to tag anyone specific to do this post but please let me know if you do, I'd love to see your answers! And why not enter my 100 Follower Giveaway whilst you're here?

Book Review: Death Comes To Pemberley

As some of you may know, I'm currently writing a murder mystery novel - it's set in Roman Britain and is based around the concept of gladiator graveyards. Even though it's been difficult at times, I'm really enjoying the process and immersing myself in the world of my book for a few hours when I write. However, it recently occurred to me that although I've done lots of historical research I hadn't actually read many historical murder mysteries. I've seen plenty of TV crime dramas and read other crime novels, so I had a good idea of the structure I'd need to follow, but I wanted to read some more historical crime to help me get a feel for what else is out there. As I'm a big Jane Austen fan, I thought I'd start with Death Comes to Pemberley, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice by the modern master of crime fiction, PD James.
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 Set six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberley finds Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy now happily married and preparing for Lady Anne's ball, the biggest social occasion in the Derbyshire calendar. But the night before, a carriage comes tearing through Pemberley woods, and its inhabitants are about to reveal a secret with potentially devastating consequences. Sorry that's the vaguest description ever but I can't say too much more without spoiling it!

Overall I really enjoyed this book and thought PD James did a great job of capturing Austen's writing style and the characters' personalities whilst maintaining the balance of not blatantly ripping off the original novel. In particular I liked that she drew us more into the backstories of some of the more minor characters (there's a great little interlude about what happened to Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins), which helped to flesh them out a bit where in Austen's original novel their personalities seemed a bit more black and white. She also lets the characters grow and mature within the course of the book, particularly Elizabeth and Darcy, and it was nice to see that rather than just leaving them as they were at the end of Pride and Prejudice.

The slow build-up of suspense and gradual revelations of various clues worked really well, and I liked that it had a very modern feel in terms of things like examining the body in a scene that wouldn't have felt too out of place in a present-day crime novel. If I had to have one criticism of it, it would be that the ending feels a little bit rushed - I know it was most likely done for dramatic purposes but it all felt a little bit rushed and consequently the twist maybe didn't have as much impact on me as I would have wanted. That said, this is definitely worth a read on a cold winter's night if you like historical fiction with a good whodunnit thrown in.

Have you read Death Comes to Pemberley (or watched the recent BBC series)? What did you think of it? Do you like Jane Austen or crime fiction - and if so, what's your favourite?

Also there's still time to enter my 100 Follower Giveaway and win a Soap & Glory hatbox!

#2014BloggerChallenge: My Skincare Routine

For the second #2014BloggerChallenge post,Gaby asked us to write about skincare. I have to admit that I'm still very much trying to work out what works best for my skin - since leaving university my skin hasn't been brilliant and then when I went travelling it flared up particularly badly, so I think I'm still recovering from that. I'm a pretty classic combination skin with dry cheeks and oily T-zone but my skin is also a bit dehydrated and can be sensitive, particularly in winter, so my main issues at the moment are making sure I have enough moisture in my skin but without overloading it too much. I also have a bit of a bad habit of sleeping in my make-up if I've been out late so am really trying to break that at the moment in an attempt to improve my skin ahead of my wedding.

This is the routine I'm currently following, which so far seems to be working pretty well - are any of these products on your list?

Morning
Left to right: Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean, Superdrug Simply Pure Aqua Hydrating Serum, Garnier Moisture Match, Benefit It's Potent!
 My skincare routine in the morning is pretty straightforward. I start with a pump of Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean Cleansing Milk, work that over my dry face and then remove it with a hot wet flannel or muslin cloth. I tend to prefer this method because it's gently exfoliating and also makes me feel like I'm cleansing more thoroughly than just rinsing off my makeup. After that I apply a couple of pumps of Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum and really work that into my skin - it's quite a light fluid so sinks in really easily - before applying a pea-sized blob of Garnier Moisture Match Revitalising Hydrating Gel all over my face. This is great for giving an added boost of moisture and the citrus scent helps me feel a bit more awake! Finally, I use a small amount of Benefit It's Potent! Eye Cream to help with my dark circles and pat it in around my eyes with my ring finger.

 Evening
Left to right: Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean, Evening Primrose Oil, Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream, Benefit It's Potent! Eye Cream

Where my morning skincare routine is about having a fresh base for the day, my evening routine is more about moisturising so my products can work overnight. I normally double cleanse using the Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean Cleansing Milk if I've been wearing make-up, or single cleanse again if I'm not. For this I use the same flannel as I used that morning and then throw it in the wash basket. Then I use Holland & Barrett Evening Primrose Oil capsules as a facial oil; prick one with a pin, squeeze out the oil and rub it in to your face. You do have to be quite vigorous - I normally work mine in for a minute, brush my teeth to give it time to absorb, and then work it in for another 30 seconds. After that I layer Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream over the oil. This is quite a thick cream so you don't need lots of it but it is lovely and moisturising. Finally, I apply my Benefit It's Potent! Eye Cream again in the same way as I did in the morning.

And that's it! As I said this is what's working for me at the moment, but I'm still on the hunt for those magical holy grail products. I also have a couple of things I want to try such as micellar waters and various dab-on spot treatments, but unfortunately due to saving for the wedding I'm slightly cash-strapped so may wait a little while before I try those.

If you're taking part in the #2014BloggerChallenge (or even if you're not!), do share your posts on this topic with me - I love getting inspired by new products! Or if you have any recommendations for me, leave them in the comments :) And don't forget to enter my 100 Follower Giveaway - you could win a Soap & Glory Thank Inside The Box set!

Book Review: The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Winter always seems like the best time of year to get stuck into a ghost story; there's just something about curling up with a good book and a hot drink whilst listening to wind and rain outside your house, especially if it's dark to boot, that just seems to create the most perfect atmosphere. However, when you throw in Christmas with all its hustle and bustle, sometimes you need a book you can dip in and out of rather than something that demands your full attention, which is why Kate Mosse's 'The Mistletoe Bride' is perfect for the festive season. I was given this as a Christmas present by my eldest sister E, and pretty much devoured it over my Christmas break from work. As the title suggests it's a collection of supernatural tales based around local folk tales and legends, which are set in Sussex, Brittany and the Languedoc and span a wide range of time periods and characters.


First of all, look at that cover - doesn't it just make you think of hauntingly romantic old buildings and misty mornings? When I was reading the book I kept closing it and just looking at the image on the front because it's so beautiful. So much of a book's appeal to me is about the design, especially as I rarely buy paperback books these days, and it's lovely to have a gorgeous image to look at to keep you in that fictional world just a little bit longer when you close the covers.

In terms of the stories themselves, they're a real mixture of themes from doppelgangers to revenants, but often linked together by the theme of local history drawing characters from different times together and the role of the landscape in the stories - often it becomes another character in itself, with Mosse's brilliant gift for description creating a world that's completely immersive. I've never been to Sussex, and it's years since I went to that part of France, but the picture she paints just draws you fully into these places and the secrets they hold.

I also found it really interesting to read the collection as not all the stories were written specifically for this book - a couple of them had been written for magazines or previous collections whilst others had lain dormant for years, so it was fascinating to see Mosse's style evolve from her earlier pieces to those she'd written later. As I'm sure you'll know if you're a fellow blogger looking back on your first few posts can be awfully cringeworthy, but it's also a great way to see how much you've grown and matured into your own style. It's also quite a brave move for an established writer to put some of their early efforts out there and invite those comparisons.


So many of the stories have stayed with me after reading them that I'm finding it nigh-on impossible to choose a favourite. I loved the bookending of the heartbreakingly tragic titular story with the last one, as well as the brilliantly creepy 'Duet' (inspired by Poe's The Telltale Heart) and the disturbing vibe of 'The Revenant'. But equally, the perfectly realised atmosphere of the French coast in 'The Ship of the Dead' and 'The Drowned Village' create a brilliantly unsettling sense of the power of the sea, and the contrast between the cold mountains of 'Red Letter Day' and the village sweltering in the summer heat in 'Saint-Therese' also provide the ideal backdrops to their stories of women breaking free from their pasts.

Overall, I really loved this collection - they're perfect to dip in and out of across a gloomy week in winter, with settings that are captured perfectly to remind you of the power of nature and of the stories that have come from those landscapes to follow us down the ages. The one tiny criticism I have is that the stories can seem a little repetitive if you read them all in one go, but that's often the nature of collections on a specific theme and could be easily remedied by breaking them up. Highly recommended if you like to read something that  stays with you long after the final page.

Have you read 'The Mistletoe Bride' or any of Kate Mosse's other books? Are you a fan of ghost stories?

Also don't forget to enter my 100 follower giveaway - you could win a Soap & Glory Thank Inside The Box gift set!

What I Wish I Wore: Golden Globes Red Carpet

Continuing my series of pretty dresses from awards ceremonies, today I'm writing about the looks from the red carpet at this weekend's Golden Globes. I really enjoyed writing my post on Emmys fashion from a few months back and was keen to keep those posts going when I wrote

The overarching trend seemed to be raised hems at the front, but not so much as we've seen in previous years - the cut has dropped considerably to ankle length, which gives the advantage of showing off fabulous shoes! There were lots of sequins too, which always pleases me - because awards shows are basically an excuse for a big party, and you can't have a party without sequins - and glamorous plunging necklines. I also really liked the fact that lots of the dresses were very simple, with the focus on gorgeous shapes and block colours, and natural hair and make-up to offset the whole look.

Once again it took me a long time to narrow down my favourites, but eventually I got to my top ten dresses (plus one bloke). So without further ado, here are my picks - did you like any of these?

Amy Adams in Valentino
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Channelling her American Hustle look, Amy Adams' down-to-there halterneck dress in two shades of red looks amazing on her. Again she's letting the dress do all the talking by sticking to a really simple cut, a classic top knot and barely-there natural make-up. One of my favourites.

Ariel Winter in Mikael D
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For younger Hollywood stars, there's often a fine line between looking too old and too young on the red carpet. But Ariel Winter nails it here; this berry-coloured dress is lovely against her skin tone, but by keeping her hair natural and going for a simple flicky eye she doesn't look too 'done'. The overall look is glamorous yet still youthful, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she wears next.

Emma Watson in Dior
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There was a bit of a mini-trend for red carpet workwear at the Golden Globes (see also: Julia Roberts in Dolce and Gabbana) but Emma Watson carried it off brilliantly. The slim-fit trousers and stiletto heels give it a rocky edge that contrast with her demure low bun and toned-down smoky eye, and the half-dress (for want of a better thing to call it) looks great over the top. Kudos to her for doing something different!

Drew Barrymore in Monique Lhuillier
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Another mini-trend: very stylish pregnant ladies. I loved Kerry Washington's Balenciaga and Alexander Wang not-quite-a-trouser-suit and Olivia Wilde's slinky green sheath, but my top pick was Drew Barrymore's beautiful floaty floral Monique Lhullier dress. I love the texture of the petals - it makes me want to reach out and touch it - and the soft pastel colours are a reminder of the coming spring even in the depths of January. Absolutely gorgeous.

Helen Mirren in Jenny Packham
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Because it's Helen Mirren, and after decades in the business she knows how to dress for a red carpet. The shape is really flattering on her, it's sparkly but without being overly bling, and she's showing the younger stars that you don't have to flash the flesh to look classy. Loving the mix of green tones going through the outfit too, from the dress to the bag to the earrings.

Jessica Chastain in Givenchy
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I really like the 'fallen angel' vibe of this - the wing/feather motif that goes all the way down the dress on the black dress gives it a gothic feel, but keeping the rest of the outfit very toned down means it doesn't look too over-the-top. The one thing I'm not hugely keen on is her hair though; an updo would have made this look even better.

Julianna Marguiles in Andrew Gn
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Just utterly stunning. The shape of this dress is gorgeous - beautiful classic lines but with a little hint of sexiness from the plunge neckline. I love the gold detailing on the shoulders and hem as well, which add an opulent vibe and are then picked up in the bag and jewellery. Add simple hair and make-up and this is a red carpet look for the ages.

Lupita Nyong'o in Ralph Lauren
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You've got to love a good cape on the red carpet, and Lupita Nyong'o knows how to rock one. The slightly orangey-red colour of the dress really suits her and the drama of the cape is complemented perfectly by keeping the rest of the look really simple. Just gorgeous.

Michelle Dockery in Oscar de la Renta
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She's done it again! Michelle Dockery was one of my favourites at the Emmys all the way back in September, and her Golden Globes dress was just as lovely. Beautiful gold detailing, and a gorgeously simple gown that's offset by the slightly retro hair and bright but sheer lip. I'd love to replicate this look for my wedding.

Zooey Deschanel in Oscar de la Renta
The first time I saw this I didn't like it, mainly because of the top which in some of the photos looks a little bit odd and disjointed. But the more I look at it, the more it grows on me; there's a 1920s garden party vibe about it which I really like, and I love the pretty floaty skirt and the classic hair and make-up. But what clinches it for me is the fact she looks like she's having the best time, which is something you very rarely see in red carpet pictures.

Matthew McConaughey 
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Token bloke mention of the Golden Globes goes to Matthew McConaughey, for pulling off a green velvet tuxedo in a sea of boring black single-breasted suits. It could have gone a bit Willy Wonka but, on him, it works really well, and it was nice to see something different than the standard red-carpet looks.

Honorable mentions
Jennifer Lawrence in Christian Dior
Hayden Panetierre in Tom Ford
Lena Dunham in Zac Posen
Naomi Watts in Tom Ford
Tina Fey in Carolina Herrera 
Kaley Cuoco in Rani Zakhem Couture
Paula Patton
Allison Williams in Alexander McQueen
Julie Delpy in Romona Keveza
Reese Witherspoon in Calvin Klein

So there you have it - my picks from the Golden Globes red carpet. There were so many gorgeous dresses out there and it was lovely to see the various trends that are emerging ahead of the new fashion season and the coming awards ceremonies. Next up: the Baftas.

Also don't forget to enter my 100 follower giveaway - you could win a Soap & Glory hatbox!

100 Follower Giveaway - Soap & Glory Thank Inside The Box

So today I have some big news for you all - I've reached over 100 blog followers!

First of all a big big thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, it's been a long slow road but I feel I'm now finally able to make a good go of my blog and I'm really excited to start looking at options to expand it. It is so, so lovely to log on and get comments from people saying they love the blog - so often it can feel like you're just putting something out into the ether and not getting any replies, so it means a huge amount to me that people like my blog enough to keep following it! I wanted to give something back to those who've supported me so I thought I'd run a 100 follower giveaway for you all.

I had to admit I thought really long and hard about what to give you guys, because you've all been brilliant and I wanted something to say a massive thank you to everyone for supporting my little blog. And then I spotted this - Soap & Glory Thank Inside The Box - and knew it was the perfect prize!

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I am a big, big Soap & Glory fan; I've tried lots of their products and (so far) haven't had any dud ones. They work really well and do exactly what they say on the tin, as well as being very reasonably priced. Also the smell is fantastic - lovely and clean so it doesn't overpower anything you might layer on top like perfume, but still distinctive enough that it ties in with the brand. Plus I love the retro packaging and the punning product names - as someone who loves retro and vintage things and is a sucker for a good pun these are perfect for me!

Thank Inside The Box contains three Soap & Glory products: Clean, Girls shower gel, a creamy skin-softening body wash with built-in moisturiser as well as vanilla and orchid extracts; Scrub 'Em & Leave 'Em, which as the name suggests is a sea salt scrub with added moisturising jojoba and mandarin oils; and The Daily Smooth, a rich body lotion with almond oil, rosehip seed, shea butter and mango peel extract to moisturise and brighten skin. All three products are scented with Soap & Glory's Mist You Madly fragrance, a rich warm floral oriental with mandarin, bergamot, blackcurrant, magnolia, freesia, patchouli and sandalwood, which gives it a lovely depth that's perfect for the winter months or for a night on the town.

So, how can you win this amazing box of awesomeness? Simple - just complete the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Some notes about entering this giveaway:
This giveaway is open to UK residents only. However I am happy to ship the prize to either work or home addresses.
I will be buying the prize with my own money and it will be delivered to the winner from Boots.

The giveaway closes on 31st January. Best of luck everyone!

Film Review: Now You See Me

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Even though I took Film Studies for one of my A-levels and loved it, since I left university I haven't watched very many films - mainly because a trip to the pictures in London is quite expensive (I searched for adult tickets at my four nearest cinemas and they all topped £10 at weekends) and because I'm someone who likes to be able to immerse myself in a film. I know there are some people that can have a film on in the background whilst they work, but that's not me; if I'm going to watch a film then I'm going to devote two hours of my life to that film, especially if I haven't seen it before. Consequently, a film that keeps me gripped is always a bonus, and Now You See Me managed to do just that.

As is usual for my film watching, this was one I watched when N and T were out for the evening and I had the flat to myself. I'd heard mixed reviews of it - in particular Mark Kermode, whose opinion I usually trust, said it was a poor man's The Prestige - but was still curious to see if it was any good as I'd been really excited when I saw the trailer. For those of you who haven't seen Now You See Me, it revolves around four street magicians who are plucked from obscurity to become the Four Horsemen, a Las Vegas troupe performing incredible tricks to sell-out audiences. When they manage to rob a Parisian bank, an FBI agent and Interpol detective are suddenly hot on the twists and turns of their trail.

The first thing I have to say is the performances were absolutely amazing, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as Daniel Atlas - I haven't seen a lot of his more recent movies but he has come on absolute leaps and bounds from Adventureland, with a lot more swagger and bringing an unpredictable, almost dangerous edge to the character as well as rapidly establishing himself as the leader of the Horsemen. Mark Ruffalo also shone as Dylan Rhodes, the FBI agent in pursuit of the Horsemen, particularly in terms of his transition from being sceptical about magic to maybe, just maybe, believing that's really how they did it.

The film also did really well in terms of keeping me gripped and involved in the plot. Sometimes when I'm watching a film my mind can wander a bit and I can lose interest, or keep checking my watch, but not with this one - 40 minutes had passed in what felt like ten. It also had a lot of different layers to it which kept me wanting to see what happened next and go further into the mystery, with elements of those 'behind the magic'-type TV shows that were on a lot in the 90s (in fact Morgan Freeman plays a character whose job is doing just that) but equally not losing the sense of that being a way to dismiss things that felt too easy. And the final twist at the end was particularly satisfying, leaving me with a desire to find out what happened next, though apparently they are making a sequel which I'm very excited about!

Overall, I really liked this film - it was fast-paced, with plenty of drama and great performances. Not the most mentally challenging of movies but a fun thrill ride and a good choice for a Saturday night in or watching over the Christmas break if you fancy something a bit different from the norm. Though it is now making me want to watch The Prestige again so I can compare the two!

Shops You Fall Out Of Love With... And Come Back To

I'm aware that, at 26, by blogging standards I am practically geriatric, but in an odd way it does give me the advantage of having seen trends come round before. It's funny to see things you loved before - fashion, for example - reappear years later, but equally to see certain shops which may have fallen out of favour previously get rediscovered by a whole new bunch of people. So, as I was in a thoughtful mood, today I wanted to write about a couple of brands that I loved in my younger years - one that I gradually stopped going to (but may yet be persuaded to come back to), and one that I've recently rediscovered.

In the past few weeks I've seen a lot of love on the blogosphere for Lush products, especially their Christmas editions. It was lovely to see people discovering the brand and falling for it hard, especially as someone who was a big Lush shopper when I was a student. And having a housemate who worked there helped - hello 50 per cent staff discount! I can remember the first time I went in a store and just fell in love with everything, wandering round sniffing all the lovely products and spending waaay too much. Over those three years at uni I think I tried nearly all their products, from shower gels to shampoo bars, and lots of them were on my Holy Grail list at the time. Some of them still are; when my eczema is really bad, only Dreamwash and Dream Cream will do, and Mint Julips reminds the best lip scrub I've ever tried. I was also pretty active on the Lush website forum, where I met some really lovely people and got some great advice and support during tough times. In short, I was something of a Lush obsessive.

And then, somewhere along the line, I just stopped shopping there. Whether it's because I don't really take baths, because they discontinued lots of my favourite products, because of various issues they had when their new website was brought in (it took a long time to be ready and then several people had their credit card details taken after using it), or because the shops scare me slightly due to being leapt on by staff the second you walk in the door, I couldn't tell you. Or perhaps it was a combination of all those things, but I just fell out of love with the brand. I'd still go into the shops to smell the new products and see what was about, but there was nothing I really loved. Gradually I worked my way through my stash until I reached my last Lush product - a huge bottle of their beautifully green-smelling Tramp shower gel. I know 'green-smelling' isn't a great phrase but it's not light enough to be fresh and yet not quite woody either, so 'green' it was. Sadly it's now discontinued and, although I like Grass, the replacement, it just doesn't have that same complexity.

And then, something happened where they started bringing out products that sounded utterly wonderful again. A big lure-back for me was the Rose Jam shower gel, because it contains three of my favourite scents - rose, lemon and vanilla - and I'd also heard great things about the Santa's lip scrub and Santa Baby lip tint which were in the new Christmas products for 2013. So now I'm getting itchy feet and the urge to go up to Westfield or Covent Garden tomorrow and see if I can get my mitts on any of those products, as rather annoyingly they're all sold out on the website. Of course sod's law says that if I go down there tomorrow there won't be any left, but you never know, right? And to me it's worth a shot to see if I can rediscover that old magic for a wonderful product and scent.

Something similar has happened to me with Yankee Candle. Again, living near a shop that stocked them when I was at university meant a considerable chunk of my money went on them, but after moving back home it was just too much hassle to buy them. But then suddenly they seemed to be all over the blogosphere and I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should look at them again. The deal was sealed when I went into the Yankee Candle shop in Westfield - yes, they actually have a whole shop there now - to buy a present for a Secret Santa gift, and I was sniffing all the new scents. It took a surprising amount of willpower to walk out of there with just the thing I wanted for my secret Santa, but already I'm itching to go back there and start stocking up on tarts again! I really love the smell of scented candles so am hoping that investing in some will help to create a more 'homely' vibe in our current flat, and eventually in our new one when we buy it; as sad as it is I have a wonderful mental image of a beautiful scented candle burning away on my dressing table in my office as I write my blog and film videos. (I know, I'm such a cliche, right?)

Are there any shops you've fallen out of love with - and any you've gone back to? What was it that made you go back there?

#2014BloggerChallenge: New Year's Inspiration

So, you may remember that a few weeks ago I posted about the #2014BloggerChallenge which is being run by the lovely Gaby over at Another Girly Blog. There are over 400(!) of us taking part and some really cool bloggers involved, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone writes about! It's the first major blogging challenge I've taken part in and I'm aware that it's going to be tough, especially on top of everything else I'm doing this year, but at the same time I'm hoping that it will help me keep blogging

Our first post was on the theme of 'New Year's Inspiration', but rather than writing a list of our resolutions - although I've done that too! - Gaby asked us to use a quote or a picture that inspires us and that we think will inspire others. So this is my quote:

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I have always, always loved this quote and it felt like a very appropriate one for the start of a new year. Basically it's about taking chances - you won't succeed if you don't try, but you might if you do. As there are a lot of things I want to try this year, I thought this one would be a great reminder of me to keep having a go at things even when it might seem too difficult or time-consuming. It will of course mean that I end up with a completely jam-packed life with doing all these things on top of blogging, planning the wedding, working full-time and potentially buying a flat, but I'm prepared for a year of no sleep if it means I can make a go of this! It's also a reminder of how far I've come - I used to look at bloggers with hundreds of followers and think I'd never get there, or that I wouldn't be able to write good posts and keep my own voice, but as I write this I've reached nearly 100 followers and now feel I'm able to make a go of my blog. I look back at my older posts and can see I've come on leaps and bounds in both being able to write comprehensively about my topic - especially on my beauty reviews - and to stay true to who I am.

In terms of how it will inspire others, I hope it'll mainly work in the same way - that it inspires you, my lovely readers, to keep trying new things and to take chances, because you don't know what good might come of them. Whether that's trying a lip colour you wouldn't normally pick up or writing about something totally different from usual, I hope it inspires you to do something different in 2014. I know I have plenty of things I want to try this year, from learning to drive to writing more fashion posts and even having a go at vlogging, and I'm really excited about finally giving those a go - because, after all, you won't know what you can do if you don't try.

Are you doing the #2014BloggerChallenge? What's your inspiration this new year?

Beauty Review: Urban Decay Supercurl Mascara

I'm not normally one for throwing makeup away - if I buy a product I tend to use it to the bitter end, or sell it or give it away if it just doesn't work for me. The one exception to that is mascara. Because I wear contact lenses, I'm incredibly paranoid about getting eye infections, and so I slavishly stick to that old 'chuck your mascara every six months' rule. However, there are some times when I feel a bit sad about having to throw away a product, and that's definitely happened this time with Urban Decay's Supercurl Mascara (probably not helped by the fact it was a Christmas present - I'm really bad about getting rid of anything I was given as a gift).

This is going to be quite a pic-heavy post I'm afraid...

Described as a long-lasting, lengthening, curl-defining and conditioning mascara, Supercurl comes in a gunmetal tube with swirling lines which I can only assume are supposed to look like your lashes once you've applied it, though personally they remind me more of vines. Urban Decay's packaging is one of the main things I love about the brand, and this is a typical example in that it marries beautiful girly details with a slightly edgy, rock-chick vibe. The packaging is also pretty solid but some of the lines have become a little damaged after a few holidays and weekends away where I just chucked it in my handbag, so if you like your products to stay pristine even with a bit of manhandling this might not be the best for you.


As you can see the mascara has a spoon brush applicator which is slightly curved to help with shaping your lashes when you apply it. The brush is a great size and shape as it reaches all my lashes, making application a lot less faffy. Consistency-wise it looks a bit thick on the brush but don't let that put you off - with a couple of thin coats it isn't too heavy.

No mascara
One coat
Two coats
First of all apologies for my horrible under-eye bags and spots - I was having a no-make-up day when I took these and my skin is a bit rubbish at the moment. Here you can see the mascara with one and two coats, and my bare lashes. I normally do one coat by combing the brush through in a zig-zag motion and then a second by just going straight up from the roots, but looking at these I actually think they look better with just the one coat.

I'm lucky as I have quite long and curly lashes to start with, but when I use this they get a great boost, especially in terms of volume. I've never worn false eyelashes but the way my lashes look almost hyper-realistic makes me feel like with this stuff I wouldn't need to! I also often find I don't need to wear eyeliner with it (not that I wear eyeliner much anyway because I can't do it precisely to save my life) because it makes the lashes look a lot thicker and more luxurious on its own, but when I do wear eyeliner it definitely works for added drama. The only downside is I don't think it made my lashes much curlier, but it might be more noticeable if your lashes aren't naturally curly.

The durability? Seriously impressive! I have a bit of a bad habit of not taking my make-up off when I come home tired after a long day at work or a late night in the pub - which I know is really naughty - and this stuff has still been on my lashes the next morning. However, I found it removed very easily with my normal hot cloth cleansing method (cream cleanser applied to dry skin and then removed with a flannel soaked in hot water). So if you want a product that will last, then this is highly recommended! It also doesn't flake off or smudge during the day when I wear it, and the tube lasts for ages - I've worn this every day for the last six months and am still nowhere near finishing it, but have now had to chuck it as it was starting to smell a bit funky.

Overall, I really like Supercurl - it gives my lashes a nice boost of volume and enhances their natural curl, as well as easily surviving a day's wear and leaving my lashes in good condition. If you like your lashes with lots of volume and length then I'd definitely recommend giving it a go. Plus the packaging is beautiful, which is always a bonus!

You can buy Supercurl from BeautyBay.com, House of Fraser and Debenhams, where it will set you back £15 for a 9ml tube.

13 Things Before The End Of 2013: How Did I Do?

So, a few weeks ago you may remember I wrote a post about 13 things I wanted to do before the end of 2013. As we're now in 2014, I thought today I'd do a quick update post to let you all know how I got on!

1. Sort out my blog rebrand. As you can see, I've now got my beautiful new blog design and will hopefully soon be changing over my social media links as well. The only thing left to do then is buy my blog domain which I'll hopefully do in the next few days, so I think that's been pretty successful.
2. Get to 100 blog followers across all platforms. I did it! I just checked my Bloglovin and have 58 followers, plus 44 on GFC, so I've reached 102! Thank you all so much for following, it means a huge amount to me to reach that milestone :) I did promise you guys a giveaway when I got to 100 followers so keep an eye out for that in the next couple of weeks.
3. Clear out all the stuff I don't use any more. I made a start on this in the days after Christmas but haven't quite managed to get it finished. I gave a load of clothes to the charity shop but still need to put all my music on my portable hard drive before I can sell my CDs on Music Magpie, so I'm aiming to get that done in the next couple of weeks.
4. Watch all the Harry Potter films. Fell a bit short on this one to be honest. I did watch them all before I wrote this but I didn't watch them all in 2013 - Deathly Hallows Part 2 was on TV on New Year's Day so I watched that and Half-Blood Prince yesterday.
5. Get to my Goodreads target of 25 books by the end of the year. Done! Have read 29 books so far this year (probably more actually but I only had a target of 25 on Goodreads as I couldn't update too often when we were travelling).
6. Give notice for our wedding. I've booked an appointment to do this on the 9th January so that'll happen in the next few days, making it finally official!
7. Book appointments to see florists/cake makers/photographers. I haven't done this yet but N and I are currently finalising our favourites and then we'll decide from there which ones we like best. I am however hoping to take cake makers off my list as my cousin J is an amazing baker and has made cakes for family occasions before, so I'm hoping she'll be able to make the cake for our wedding.
8. Visit my sisters. I went to see my eldest sister E in December for a couple of days which was lovely - just getting to hang out with her and my nephew was brilliant as we don't really see each other except on family occasions. We were also supposed to see my other sister S but sadly my eldest nephew wasn't well so we weren't able to meet up, and then she had Christmas at her new house whereas E and I went to our parents' so didn't see her then either. But hopefully we'll see each other soon!
9. Set up a blog sale. Again I'm currently working on this; I've got quite a few bits listed but there are still some more to add, so hopefully that should be done ASAP.
10. Post at least every other day in December. I did miss one day, but then did two posts together, so in a roundabout way I did post every other day. I have to say it helped that I had a few quiet weekends so was able to write and schedule lots of posts and build up a bank of work for the next couple of weeks, although it does make me realise that blogging is effectively like having a (second) full-time job!
11. Take a photo every day for the rest of December and post it on Instagram. Yet again, I failed at this hugely! I think it's mainly because I struggle a bit to take spontaneous photos,
12. Finish watching Criminal Minds and Firefly. I did manage to watch all seven series of Criminal Minds before getting season 8 on DVD for Christmas from N (I'm spoiled, I know), but sadly haven't yet finished watching Firefly. That said I've got a fairly quiet January so hoping I'll be able to get caught up on that by the end of the month.
13. Get to £4,000 in savings. Done! As of today I have just over £4,000 in my savings account, which will hopefully be a huge help towards the wedding and buying a flat. We're hoping to buy somewhere in the summer but I wouldn't mind waiting until after the wedding, although given how crazy house prices are in London at the moment I'm not sure it'll happen this year...

Did you set any goals for 2013? How did you get on?