Friday 31 January 2014

Friday Frocks #149 - We were hoping for some romance.

Last year two of my very best friends got married, and it was such an amazing, perfect day that I'm surprised I've taken this long to blog about it. I mention Sha a fair bit on here, and that's because I really do love her an awful lot. We've been partners in crime ever since sixth form, and I truly think of her as a second sister - she's just that special to me. Sha is caring, thoughtful, hilarious and the best person in the world to sit on the sofa with, drink red wine and look at photos of attractive celebrities on the internet.


Thursday 30 January 2014

The January Edition of Books are Amazing featuring Steph

Hello! Welcome to the first edition of Books are Amazing of 2014! First up is the lovely Steph, with her picks. One of which I have on my reading list, another of which is one of my favourites - so I will definitely be checking out the others! Take it away, Steph...

Books are amazing? They truly are. A world of adventure. An escape. Another side.

I considered doing children's books as I read a lot of them to my daughter. But how do you choose just a handful? So grown up books it is. In no particular order...

1. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
I read this earlier this year, and truly loved it. So much that I missed my stop on the train, twice. Perhaps because I have seen first hand how degrading old age becomes and frustrating and disrespectful, but I loved the escapism of this story. The characters come to life, and at times it is wildly ridiculous but so loveable.
I don't enjoy factual history. I probably learned more in this book than at high school, and although factually incorrect it is so readable. Considering it was written in another language, I didn't find anything was lost in translation.

Without giving too much away, Alan escapes from his 100th birthday in the nursing home, where alcohol is limited (at 100? I wish this wasn't a truth of nursing homes, but it can be) and lets fate take him on an adventure. It is laugh aloud funny in places, with a dry sense of humour.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Proving that not all history is bad... I read this as an adult having escaped it at school. I am so glad I missed it at school as I always found dissecting books killed the joy. If you haven't read it yet. Do. Now. Go. Still here?

Ok then... the story of the Finch family. Atticus (best name ever) is a lawyer who is assigned the case of a black man accused of raping a white girl. He is widowed with 2 children, Jem and Scout. It deals with black/white race issues through the eyes of a child, there is a strong theme of people not being what they seem and the other stories and characters running through, such as Boo Radley, Calpurnia and Mrs Dubose provide a diverse and addictive story. The hypocritical view that persecution of Jews is wrong, but black and white shouldn't marry through the innocent filter a child provides is one of my strongest memories of this book. I struggle so much with the concept of treating people as lower citizens, and this book highlights how ridiculous it truly is.

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Another book on a similar theme. An observation of the racial barriers from both sides in the 1960s - not that long ago. The story is based around Skeeter, a white constant disappointment to her mama, and her desire to tell the story of the black housemaids she knows. Abilene is a strong woman, she raises children for women for whom they are a necessary inconvenience, and yet is not allowed to use the same bathroom as them. I find this so bizarre as my baby is the most precious thing in the world, not where I pee or who I share a bathroom with! The side story of Minny Jackson is told with affection and intimacy, she is a fiery character with a heart of gold. Just avoid her chocolate pie. I cried reading this book, and sadly some people are still treated this way.

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
From the writer of another favourite, The Kite Runner, I preferred this, possibly because it is centred around female characters.

It focuses on 2 Afghan women and their lives. The abuse they receive and the ways of life that are so alien to me as a British woman make this so readable. The relationship between the two women, united in a way Hosseini tries to give insight into. It explores the boundaries of women and the expectations of boys, and life under a regime of fear.

5. Terra by Mitch Benn
Very reminiscent of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Terra a human girl is "saved" by Lbbp from the planet Fnnr, and taken there where she has friends and attends school. Benn's writing can be likened to Douglas Adams, but it is very much his own. His love for science fiction is apparent in the detail of this book. Terra would be just as suited to a younger reader as an adult, and that is the magic of a good book. This book is affectionately funny and I truly hope Benn will write another.

Thanks Steph! Next month, Laura is up, and as always, email me if you would like to be a contributor!

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Tutorial: Natural waves with GHD

As much as I care a lot about what my hair looks like, I am very rubbish in some areas. I'm terrible at using heat defence products, for instance, and I've had the same terrible hairdryer for years. It's got a crack in it and always smells like burning hair, yet I never replace it because I basically suck. My glamorous life. Fortuitously, Best British Bloggers got in touch recently and asked me if I wanted to review something from ghd. I love my straighteners, so asked to try out their hairdryer. I've read a lot of reviews on blogs recently about how great it is, and was actually planning to buy one anyway so it was amazing timing.

My hair is naturally very thick, coarse, wiry and frizzy. It's good because it's pretty versatile and holds a style quite well (ghd curls will stay in all day) but it's bad because I can never just wash and go - I always have to do something to it, or it'll be unmanageable. You remember how Hermione's hair looks in the first film? That, basically. If I don't blowdry my fringe, it gets all kinky and gappy, and straighteners can't do anything to help.

I definitely noticed the difference with the ghd hairdryer - it dried my hair much faster (I usually never bother drying all my hair because it takes too long - I just do the front and put the rest in a ponytail) and I was surprised that my hair felt softer, too. Apparently it's more powerful, but the air is cooler, so it damages it less. Clever! I thought I'd put it to the test on the blog with a hair tutorial - I've been meaning to do this one anyway, so it fits perfectly.

Since buying ghd straighteners a couple of years ago, I've more or less given up straightening my hair. I probably do it a couple of times a year - and I used to do it almost every day, so that's pretty wacky. The problem was that my hair is naturally wavy, and didn't want to stay straight. If there was a hint of moisture in the air, it was a disaster area. Learning ghd curls was the best thing I ever did, because they smooth my hair like it's straightened, but let my hair do what it wants - be curly, that is. It takes at least half an hour to straighten my mop, but I can curl it in 10 minutes. I know though that doing ghd curls are something that a lot of people still can't master so I thought I'd try my hand at explaining it to you. It's so easy when you know how!

Brush your wet hair and rough-dry it with your fabulous ghd hairdryer.

Make sure you pretend you're in a music video at least once.
When it's dry, brush it again (this is so much straighter than my hair usually is when blowdried - impressive, ghds!)

Part your hair into bunches and put one side in a band, leaving the other side loose. Take a small section from the very back of the loose side, then twist the rest up in a clip, leaving the small section loose.

Curl this section first - you're going to work forwards from the back, as it means that each 'done' section can just go over your shoulder and won't get in your way.

Clamp the top of the section with your straighteners, and smooth the top third of the section down a few times. This just ensures if your hair is frizzy like mine, it'll look smooth at the top.

Go over that section again, but this time when you get to about a third of the way down you're going to start to curl.

Clamp the straighteners at that point and then flip them around 180 degrees so your hair wraps around them.

Pull the straighteners down the hair (still clamped) and keep twisting so your hair continues to wrap round as you drag them down your hair. The more times you wrap your hair, the tighter the curl will be.

Don't release until you've reached the end of the section and the hair should just slide out. Twist slightly with your finger to form the curl but you should have a perfect curl. This shows it a bit closer. Clamp, pull, twist, pull, twist.

Push this section behind your shoulders, grab another section from the back of the clipped up hair and repeat until you get to the front.

I usually make sure I curl the front sections away from my face - simply, when you twist the straighteners, you go towards the back of the head rather than the front.

When you're happy with that side, repeat on the other side.

When you're all done, run your hands through your hair to loosen up the curls and make them look more natural. Finish with a spritz of hairspray.

ghd curling seems complicated as it's so different from what we're used to but it's really easy. The key thing to remember is it's backwards. You start at the top and work down, whereas with most wands you start at the bottom and work up. As soon as I clicked that you twisted the ghds as you drag them down the hair, it became easy and now I don't know how I got on without it. I really noticed the difference with using a good hairdryer though - my hair was smoother to start with and still looked great by the end of the day.

There are lots more great tutorials on the ghd website!

The hairdryer was a PR sample sent for review by Best British Bloggers on behalf of ghd. All other products featured (including the straighteners) were bought with my own money. All opinions are my own.

Friday 24 January 2014

Friday Frocks #148 - Are you hoping for a miracle?

For the longest time, I complained about how there were no nice dresses with sleeves out there - they were all bodycon or smocks, both of which are SO not my bag. But now, there are so many that I've had to say to myself 'Woah there, Sarah. Just because there's a dress out there with long sleeves and a full skirt and a nipped in waist, you don't HAVE to buy it.' But sometimes, I have to reply to myself, 'Good point, Self. But this one has a Peter Pan collar. Made of SEQUINS.'


Tuesday 21 January 2014

Honey & Lemon

I always spend January on tenterhooks, as I know inevitably I’m going to catch the lurgy. It hasn’t happened yet, but we all know it’s only a matter of time when you’re back in an office after Christmas. It’s germ central.

When I was a kid and got sick, my Dad would always make me honey and lemon. It’s something I rarely make for myself, but the last couple of times I’ve had nasty throat bugs, I’ve whipped up a mug or two and remembered just how comforting it is. I don’t drink tea or coffee, but I could totally get used to drinking hot honey and lemon every morning. It tastes super yummy, and even tastes as if it’s doing good. It totally is, too! I did some research (I know!) and honey has a whole wealth of health benefits – it can reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease, it’s anti-bacterial, it’s good for your skin, it’s a probiotic and it is scientifically proven to help with coughs! It’s ALL true. I read it on Google. Lemon is almost as awesome – it’s good for digestion, has anti-cancer properties, is full of potassium, can lower a fever and can soothe a sore throat.

Anyway, I think I’ve been persuasive enough. If you’re feeling a bit grotty, this is my tried and tested honey and lemon recipe, guaranteed to make you feel a little bit better.

Honey & Lemon Tea
1 – Juice half a lemon into a mug – be careful not to let any pips in! You can strain this through a sieve if you aren’t a fan of pulpy bits – I don’t usually bother.
2 – Top up the mug with boiling water, allowing a little space at the top for your honey.
3 – Stir in a tablespoon of honey.
4 – Add half a teaspoon of dried cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick if you are fancy) and half a teaspoon of dried ginger and stir well.
5 – Try a teaspoon of the mixture and add more honey if it needs more sweetness, or more lemon if it’s a bit too sweet.
6 - If you want to, add a slug of whisky and turn it into a hot toddy. That'll sort you right out.
7 – Finally, get your poorly self into bed and drink it down, and don’t you dare go to work today. Feel better!


Friday 17 January 2014

Friday Frocks #147 - Every beautiful thought's been already sung

So, I tried on this dress in Urban Outfitters in NYC, and was like 'Colour? Good. Print? Good. Material? Good. Neckline? BAAAAD.' Here is an illustration of how I felt about the neckline.


Wednesday 15 January 2014

All the pretty, pretty ones will leave you low and blow your mind.

I'm trying to save money this year to buy a flat, so doing much shopping is not an option. It's typical then that I'm seeing so much in the shops that I'm loving, then! The worst offender right now is New Look. I popped in there for a wander the other day on my lunchbreak and mentally spent at least £100 in five minutes. I think I may have to ban myself.

Maybe I can live vicariously through you guys, though. Isn't this a lovely bunch of stuff?

one | two

This jumper is so clever - the collar attaches by buttons so it's two in one! The dress is simple, but you can never have enough red dresses, right?

three | four 

Nope. You can definitely never have enough.


See also Peter Pan collars and heart print dresses.

And chunky boots which absolutely aren't practically the same, right?

Friday 10 January 2014

Friday Frocks #146 - Why does it always rain on me?

One thing I was looking forward to about moving back home was starting to take outfit photos in pretty locations again. My parents live on a lovely little country lane, with a garden overlooking the river. Within a few minutes walk are a farm, a meadow, woods and beautiful lakes. It's a fashion blogger's dream, really, especially if they're like me and love blogs like The Clothes Horse and The Magpie Girl with beautiful locations aplenty.

So it's awesome, really, that it's barely stopped raining since I moved back in.

In our higgledy piggledy house there isn't really anywhere inside to take photos though, so the solution was to stand outside (yep, in the rain) with my camera just inside the doorway and snap away. The things we do for outfit photos, eh?

My sister bought me this ASOS dress for Christmas and it's already a firm favourite. I love the print, and it's super comfy - you've gotta love a nice stretchy fabric this side of Christmas. I wore it for a super glamorous time last weekend. And by super glamorous I mean marathoning Buffy on Netflix and not leaving my room. Good times.


Wednesday 8 January 2014

Bat out of hell.

Throughout the Christmas break (and beyond) this has become my uniform. As much as I will always love a dress and cardi, it's just never going to be quite as cosy as a woolly jumper, is it? I picked up this one in the New Look sale - okay, so technically it's a Halloween jumper, but this little bat is too cute to be limited to one month of the year, right? And I don't really care about that, anyway.

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