Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Five Things I Won't Do In 2015


As the New Year comes racing towards us, I can't help but reminisce over 2014. 

In all complete honesty, it has possibly been one of the worst years I've ever experienced. And while I'm naturally an optimistic person, it has been difficult to see many positives. Which, in itself, is something that probably upsets me more than the things I've actually struggled with. Naturally, I'm looking forward to what I always see as, a 'clean slate', and making five changes that will hopefully aid 2015 in being a much better year. 

Firstly, I don't see this as a New Years Resolution as find them impossible to stick with and personally, a complete waste of time and energy (kudos to you if you can see them through - you're a better person than I am). Rather, these are five different ways of thinking, which I feel will result in a more content year and overall better mindset.

Five Things I Won't Do In 2015

Strive to control my life : One of the biggest disappointments this year has been not getting on a Teacher Training course for the third year in a row. It has really tested my confidence and self belief, to the point where I think I may not apply again. However, I've realised this disappointment has stemmed from believing that I can, in some way, plan my future - which is completely untrue. Life is unpredictable and if constantly battle against that, I will ultimately be disappointed by the outcome. 

Compare myself to others : Similarly to the point above - not getting what you want and what you work for, results in a natural feeling of 'why am I not good enough?' 'why can I not do the things x person does' and generally leaves you feeling inadequate. In reality, your strengths lie elsewhere and it's just a matter of finding what you're naturally good at. Experiment and say yes to experiences you may usually say no to and you never know what you could find. 

Concentrate on the negative : I think I've spent a lot of 2014 focusing on the bad, what has happened or what could potentially go wrong. It's easier said than done, when it seems everything is turning to crap before your very eyes, but there is always some kind of a silver lining, even if you have to search harder than usual to find it. Just keep searching. 

Be my own worst critic : I'm definitely guilty of being hard on myself, perhaps more so than ever this year, but I deserve my own patience & kindness that I give so freely to others. And the same applies to others who are critical of every mistake they make; there's only one version of you and you, of all people, should not be making yourself feel bad for things that are out of your control. 

Live in the past : Finally, I will no longer live in the, 'I wish I'd...' 'I should've...' 'I could've...' - the past is done and dusted. For the most part nothing can be changed and so it shouldn't take up any emotional energy in the present. You live and learn from your experiences, no matter how good or bad. The past is essentially the foundation of who you are right now, the choices you've made and  the person that you've become, which is something to be happy about. 

Overall, I won't let this year make me hard & miserable. It has taught me a lot, about myself and others, and there are lessons to be learned in even the hardest of times. So I'm ready for another 365 days, no matter what they bring. And I hope 2015 is a wonderful year for you too!

Happy New Year!
xo
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

¡ Feliz Navidad !

It's hard to believe that it's Christmas in two days time...

I just can't get my head around how quickly December has gone! However, I'm so ready for 2015 and a good Christmas rest/feast/lounging around - I'm welcoming it all with open arms.

Anyway, today's post is something I'm very excited about, and as you may be able to tell from the title, it's Spanish themed! I'm sure the majority of you are aware of my love of Spain and all things Spanish, so when I was contacted by the International Currency Exchange to get involved with their Christmas 'challenge' I was super excited to get involved.

The task was to spend £100* on items related to your given country. Luckily enough, I was given Spain - so of course I was thrilled. It could be any products that remind you of that place or how they traditionally celebrate Christmas. Even though I lived in Spain for a year, I never actually got to spend Christmas Day there, but I did experience the amazing build up to it all, so I was very overly excited at getting to indulge in a few Spanish items to reminisce over that festive period. So here's what I chose...

Savoury Bites

I think for most people, when you visit a foreign country, the first thing you really notice is the difference in food items. I absolutely love Spanish food, so it really was a no-brainer to find a mixture of tradional items. 

First up is cheese. Spain is famous for all kinds of different cheeses, mainly Manchego, however I came across an award winning blue cheese called Picos de Europa Valdeon, that I couldn't resist picking up - tis the season to indulge, after all. My boyfriend is the cheese fiend of us both, and he was definitely impressed with its flavour and not too creamy' texture. 

Secondly, olives. But not just any olives... Andalusian olives. My favourite part of Spain and my favourite snack combined together. I have never been more excited about a jar of olives in my life. They just take me straight back to my little Estepa village and the beautiful garlic & pickle infused crushed olives that they produce there. Even if you're not an olive fan, I seriously recommend you give these a go - they're so, so good!


Sweet Treats

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without going crazy on the sweet stuff. Funnily enough, the village I lived in was actually the national producer of Spanish Christmas sweets, called Mantecados and Polvorones. A typical, floury, cinnamon infused biscuit that is a must have festive treat. Our landlord at the time actually owned a mantecado factory and so when we gave him the rent, he would give us a bag of sweets... Win, win! Just the smell of these gives me the warm fuzzies in my heart... 

Another favourite of mine was Cola Coa. A drink I had every morning, in a small cafe, while on our break at school. It's such a tasty hot chocolate and I had my nose in it within seconds of it arrived. I'm sure to Spanish people it's nothing special, but even the smell of it brings back such great memories for me, and, lets face it, warm drinks are always welcomed in the colder months. 

The final sweet treat that I decided to pick is a Tarta de Santiago. A very dense, moist almond based cake that takes me straight back to a cold New Year in Galicia. If I'm not mistaken, it's a traditional dish of theirs that is popular throughout the year but even more so at Christmas. The almonds give it such a lovely flavour and it will be perfect for snacking on (with a cup of cola coa) on Christmas Day. 


Winter Warmers & Sparkle

Finally, a little treat for myself. When I moved to Spain I (stupidly) didn't pack any winter clothes... Just let that sink in for a second... Come November I was kicking myself. It doesn't quite get to snow temperature in the South of Spain (although it has been known) but a concrete walled, tile floor piso gets cold - quick - so warm items are a must! As Zara is a famously well know Spanish brand, it felt right to have a browse of their cosy offerings. This beautiful red printed scarf is so, so soft and snuggly. It's perfect  (I wish I had it in Winter 2012).

Last but not least, a pretty little headband, again from Zara. The gold gems are just so festive, I couldn't resist. Perfect to add a little sparkle to Christmas Day. I don't own many headbands but I think this would look lovely with an up-do throughout December! 

And there you have it! I can't thank ICE enough for involving me in this challenge as it has taken me back to such a happy time in my life and it has really made this Christmas extra special. I hope you enjoyed reading about a couple of traditional Spanish Christmas items and that you're ready for the big day yourselves. And in case you too, have a love of Spanish food, I bought all the edible items from the Tapas Lunch Company, which I will definitely use again in future. 

If I don't speak to you before, have a wonderful day. I hope it's full of love, excitement and eating too much.

Merry Christmas, everyone.
xo

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Bronze & Burgundy : Festive Make-up

I think it goes without saying that Christmas is a time for bold reds & glittering gold make-up.

However, I don't actually find it that flattering on me personally, or, that comfortable (I have no interest in topping up a bright red lip after every mince pie I eat). So I thought I'd raid my collection and have a look for a more relaxed, food & drink friendly option. The theme was a bronze - gold slightly smokey eye with a gold flecked, burgundy lip and this is what I opted for...

Base

YSL Teint Touche Eclat for a dewy, natural base - nothing too heavy and full on, with the help of Bobbi Brown's Corrector & Concealer to patch up under eye bags & too-much-sugar blemishes. Followed by Hourglass Arch Sculpting Pencil in Soft Brunette and a little Mac Omega for the brows. I don't usually powder, but perhaps a bit of Rimmel's Stay Matte will help keep things in place on the day.

Eyes

It didn't take too long to figure out an eyeshadow palette to use - Stila In The Light is still a firm favourite it seems! The deep gold/brown went all over the lid, with a little matte brown in the crease and a smidgen of the bright gold shimmer patted onto the centre of the eyelid to add a bit more sparkle. I also used the eyeliner; Damsel, that comes with it, drawn closely to the lash line, smudged out and repeat to create a subtle, smokey look (also handy if you do it half asleep, as I know I will be).

To finish off, I felt like brown liner in the waterline would be a bit too heavy for what I wanted, so I opted for the very pretty Mac Powersurge eyeliner, which added a bit of an extra something, without looking too intense. Followed by a quick curl & coating of mascara to complete the look. 

Blush, Highlight & Contour

As always, I used Kevin Aucoin Sculpting Powder to slightly contour my cheeks. It adds such a subtle 'shadow' without adding much warmth, which, as a casper white person, I definitely appreciate. Then I added a little Mac Cubic blush for a natural flush of colour - Nars Douceur is very, very similar. Finally,  I swept on some Mac Mineralize Skin Finish in Soft & Gentle to the tops of my cheek bones, brow bone & down the centre of my nose for a 'I got my 8 hours and didn't spend all night awake with excitement' glow. 

Lips

As the very minimal product left shows, Mac's Baron Rose LE (sorry!) lipstick, has been thoroughly loved - and then some. I may shed a tear when this eventually kicks the bucket, but hopefully it has one more festive season left in its locker. A very pretty, sheer, deep red/burgundy lipstick with gold flecks throughout... Yes, 'sheer' and 'deep red' - it's hard to describe and something I've never been able to find anything similar to, but it is a dream and makes me feel a lot more put together, without the hassle of a classic red lip!

What make-up look have you been opting for lately? Are you ready for Christmas yet? I can't believe it is so soon... I'm just looking forward to enjoying the day itself now! (And eating to my hearts content).

Have a lovely Sunday!
xo

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

After only realising that it is in fact Christmas NEXT WEEK...  

(yup, I was shocked too). I figured it was about time that I posted all the bits and bobs I've been putting up lately, in an attempt at feeling festive.

I would normally save the best until last, but I think this beautiful, Moyses Stevens Seasonal Wreath from Harrods* is definitely worth shouting about. I've never owned a wreath before but I'm not sure I can go another Christmas without one... It's simply the prettiest decoration I've ever owned and yes, that is real fruit on it. And yes, the cinnamon sticks smell heavenly. And yes, it basically smells like mulled wine heaven. 

It is possibly all a Christmas lover could ever want, wrapped up into a lovely wreath. I couldn't love it more. I even put it on the coffee table for a while before I put it up, just so that I could look at it longer. It's so well made and instantly made our living room feel more festive. Although it is suitable to go both indoors and out, I just prefer to hang it on the wall, rather than on our door! 


As for our other decorations (which, kind of fail in comparison), I thought this year I would make some of my own baubles. I always like to buy a special tree decoration as a keepsake for the year, but I couldn't find any that I really loved. So I decide to buy a pack of bauble shells, print some photographs of our little pets and make my own! It was actually surprisingly easy and I think they look so cute. I even made one for my mum & sister of their dogs, too, which they loved. 

Even Herbert has been getting in on the Christmassy action, after he received his very generous parcel from Santa (or, Pets at Home) the other week. We caught him snuggling up to his crinkly robin on 'hog cam' - a night vision camera that we have stuck in his house - which made for some very amusing viewing the next morning! I'll have to put his antics on Youtube someday...


And of course, I've been enjoying a mince pie, or five, and all in all, I'm just super excited for next Thursday... I think I'll be attempting to cook Christmas dinner again, which is always eventful and panic shopping & wrapping to my hearts content over the next few days. 

Are you ready for Christmas?
What decorations have you got up this year?
xo

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas Gift Guide : Fuzzy Friends

in collaboration with Pet Present Finder & More Than

If you know anything about me by now, you'll know how animal crazy I am. From ratties, to hedgehogs, even borrowing puppies - if it's small, furry and cute; I will be found petting it. Put that together with my most favourite time of year and you get a Christmas Gift Guide for your fuzzy friends. 

When I was contacted by More Than to have a little look at their new Pet Present Finder I was definitely excited by the concept - a three step (dog/cat - type of gift - less or more than £20) app that recommends a variety of Christmas gifts for your pets. I particularly loved the budget friendly options and it pointed me in the direction of some really cute pet brands that I've never even heard of (and I'm definitely guilty of browsing a few too many animal shops) so it was lovely to find some unique gifts.

After a little deliberation with Herbert, here are a few of our favourite choices from the app, for cats & dogs, under £20...

I wish I had a cat just for that scratching post...

So if you're a little stuck for what to buy your furry amigo, I highly recommend giving the Present Finder a go - there are so many lovely things and I'm sure there's something for every pet!

Let me know if you try it! 
What are you buying your fuzzy friends for Christmas?
xo

*sponsored post
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Friday, 12 December 2014

Why I Love The 35mm f2 Lens

The 'does it all lens', the great all-rounder; the beautiful 35mm f.2.

I may or may not need it surgically removing from my camera. It's a glorious little thing and I've pretty much used it, none stop, since December 2012. I'm not entirely sure why I've never blogged specifically about, especially as use it for 95% of my pictures taken on here! Sometimes these ideas are just right under your nose, aren't they?... (get it?)

Anyway, without further a do... Here's exactly why I love this lens.


Bokeh : Ooh, the bokeh (or, the 'furry background' as my mum calls it). It's enough to make you drool. It isolates any subject perfectly and really brings a lot of depth to an image, making it ideal for portraits or close ups. It's definitely one of my favourite features of the lens.

Wide angle : at 35mm it has a natural wide angle effect, that means you can really get a lot in your image. Ideal for shooting things at a distance or even when you're in a small, compact area; it can really come in handy. I also find the 35mm ideal for essentially pointing and shooting - especially if you have a cropped sensor camera, like the Canon 550d.

Teeny tiny : It goes without saying, it's a lot smaller than your average kit lens, although it feels really nice & sturdy in your hand. It weighs more than my 50mm but I love how compact it is, making it super easy to get my camera, lens and all, in my handbag without having to awkwardly jiggle it around.

Speedy : although it can be 'noisy' when auto-focusing, this lens is ideal for capturing the little moments. It is so quick to focus and with inbuilt image stabilisation it really makes it perfect for shooting in low light, hand-held conditions.

Vignette : I've noticed that you do get a certain amount of 'vignette' when using this lens, especially with a low aperature setting. However it's not something that bothers me, as I actually love the effect. I mean, you can get Photoshop actions to add vignette to your photos, so having it naturally occur I feel is another added bonus!

What more can I say? (Well, I'm sure there are more technical ways of explaining this piece of kit, but...) I absolutely love it. It's definitely my favourite of all my lenses and is ideal for what I need it for. It's quite a lot pricier than the 'nifty fifty' (£469 on Amazon), but pretty awesome and worth every penny, in my opinion.  

What's your favourite lens?
xo


ps. looking for a beautifully written, authentic blog to read? Check out Amelia Writes - you'll love it!
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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Northerner In London


On Saturday morning, my friend & I braved the December shoppers in the the capital city.

I've always been brutally honest when I say that London 'isn't for me,' - come to think of it, most capital cities haven't been my favourite places when travelling; normally due to the mass amounts of people and hustle & bustle that comes with it. Being shoved into the armpit of a stranger on the tube just isn't something I enjoy, what can I say?

Regardless, I was willing to give London another chance. I've been four times in my life and every single time something has gone wrong - I got lost, I got stressed, I wanted to cried (repeat until home). I wanted to like London, I really did. So, this time round, I went with an open, calm and prepared state of mind & embraced the ridiculousness that is Oxford Circus, on a saturday in December. 


And, to my surprise, I did actually enjoy it. Of course, it had its overbearing moments (see 'being shoved into the armpit of a stranger on the tube), but all in all, I had a lovely time.

We wandered the streets, went into a couple of cloth shops; my very talented friend makes clothes, passed the infamous Breakfast Club (and its 20+ outside queue), grabbed a cupcake from the Hummingbird Bakery, had an amazing rum cocktail, visited the Saatchi gallery and whizzed around on the tube like a couple of underground moles.

 
It really opened my eyes to the appeal that London has to so many. Around every corner was something so different from what you'd just seen and, lets just say, the capital really does know how to do Christmas. It was so festive! I loved all the little markets and beautiful decorations. I spent the majority of my time looking up, rather than through my camera, but I did capture a few little moments, that I hope you'll enjoy. 

So, yes, London. It's official, I do like you. Thank you for being so nice, this time. 
Hopefully I'll see you again soon. 


Have you ever visited?
Where's your favourite place in London?
xo
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