Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Brand Alley - every fashion lover's dream

Just a quick post today to advise anyone who likes to get their hands on a good bargain to sign up to Brand Alley. You just have to enter your email and they send you updates about what brands they have on offer; some sales last only a day as the stuff flies off the shelves so quickly. At the moment one of the brands they're selling is See by Chloé. I am currently coveting this little number:
Unfortunately it is too late for me to whack this on my Christmas list so I'll have to let it go (sob). But hopefully this print screen gives you a good idea of how the site works - it's basically a race to get the best items and you get rewarded for inviting other members to the site, which is always a bonus! It is definitely worth checking out, they do a lot of cheaper brands as well - they still have some Calvin Klein underwear available from a sale that started a couple of days ago.

The one drawback to this site is often deliveries can take between 15 - 28 days to arrive which is painful if you are excited about receiving something, but I think the huge discounts more than make up for it!

Has anyone else tried Brand Alley or know of any other similar sites which might be worth a look? Do let me know!

Friday, 16 December 2011

A guide to make up brushes

Make up brushes obviously make a huge difference when applying your slap and there are so many different brands out there that it is often hard to choose which one is the best. Here are the brushes that I use the most often; they are all firm favourites of mine, despite the significant price range:

From top to bottom: Body Shop eyeshadow brush (R.R.P £9), Body Shop blusher brush (R.R.P £12)

Personally, on a compromise between budget and performance, I love the Body Shop range. I, however, do not use the blusher brush for blusher. Instead I think it works better when applying a finishing coat of pressed matte powder on top of your make up, as it gives quite a light coverage - perfect for a smooth, all-over finish, that doesn't require much colour.

Boots bronzing brush (R.R.P £7.50)

For £7.50, I cannot fault anything about this brush. It's soft (even after numerous washes) and gives the impression of great cheekbones if used correctly. I tend to start at the top of my cheekbones, making circular motions before sweeping any excess bronzer lightly above the cheekbones from bottom to top.

MAC 190 foundation brush (R.R.P £26)

This lovely little number was actually a gift (I love getting expensive make up related products for Christmas/ birthdays - it feels like such a treat)! However, despite its name, I do not use this brush for foundation. I find it just as easy to use my fingertips to apply foundation, and I find that foundation brushes don't really last long if put to their intended use. So instead, I use this brush to apply blusher. Just a little swish in the blusher pot and a pouty-smile in the mirror to reveal the apples of your cheeks and you're ready to go. I tend to start from the bottom of the apple and swish upwards, using circular movements to blend if necessary.

As much as I hate to admit it, the more expensive MAC brush is my favourite, but the others are perfectly acceptable and who is really going to be able to tell/ judge you on what brand of brush you use? I think it's more important to:
1. Keep your brushes clean (I soak them in warm water, with a splash of antibacterial soap and a dollop of hair conditioner to keep them soft).
2. Learn what works best for you when applying make up. As you can see, practise makes perfect when choosing what brush works well for a given cosmetic!

Have you got any particular make up brushes you want to recommend? These are just my favourites but I would love to hear any advice anyone has to offer!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

"No, where are you from originally?" - My most dreaded of all questions

The Patronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (photo taken by me in summer 2011)

Little interlude from fashion today so I can have a small rant. I recently read an article on the Guardian website on exactly this subject and thought I would share my thoughts on this with all my lovely blog readers.

So what's all the fuss about? Basically, I've found that being slightly brown seems to invite endless questions about my heritage. You would be amazed at the number of times this has happened to me, usually with taxi drivers who are trying to bond with me over our shared ethnicity which I happen to know absolutely nothing about. Like the writer of the article said, I know it's not meant in any nasty way but when I'm getting a taxi I would prefer small talk about the weather as opposed to trying to create a family tree for the imagination of some bloke I've never met before.

So a brief breakdown of my family history (note the irony that I have to do this to support my point):
- My grandad and grandma (on my dad's side) meet in Malaysia in the 50s - he was in the RAF and she was a nurse tending to British soldiers posted over there.
- He asks her to marry him and she moves back to the UK with him.
- My dad is born in the UK.
- My dad marries my mum (who is white British).
- I am born in the UK.

So, as you can see, my immediate family have not lived in Malaysia since the 50s, that's about 40 years before I entered the world. I have visited Malaysia once in my life (see my post The search for my Asian persuasion) and, as much as I loved it and was interested to find out about my heritage, I still feel 100% British and don't really have any connection with Malaysia.

However, people do not seem to be able to accept that I don't feel completely and utterly in love with my 'homeland.' A typical conversation usually goes as follows:

Taxi driver: So, where are you from love?
Me: *sighs* Manchester
Taxi driver: No, originally
Me: Well, I was born in Somerset? (for those that don't know, this is a county in the South of England)
Taxi driver: Oh okay, well what nationality are your parents?
Me: They're both British
Taxi driver: You're funny!
Me: .....
Taxi driver: No but really, what nationality are they?
Me: No, I'm not lying to you, they really are both British.... Although my Grandma's Malaysian, but her family are of Indian descent.
Taxi driver: Oh right that's it!! I'm from X town which is also in the massive continent of Asia so you definitely know such-and-such a person and have visited such-and-such a place - we have so much in common!

This is usually the point where I just sit back in my seat and nod along and wait for the taxi ride to be over. (If we've not exhausted the topic of my heritage, we usually move onto my degree which is also usually a great area of concern - what else can I do with a degree in Humanities if I don't teach?!)

It's not that I take any offence from questions of ethnicity, I'm just sick of being asked. People have been emigrating for thousands of years, it's no longer some amazing feat like it may have been when someone realised that some materials that floated were strong enough to carry people and goods across a stretch of water.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Should I just accept it and calm down? Or does anyone else find it annoying when people don't believe your take on your own heritage? Feel free to rant below.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

First attempt using crackle nail polish

I am pretty useless at keeping my nails in good condition. I've had a lot of uni work recently and all I want to do when I get home from a long slog at the library is get into my comfiest slouch pants and put my hair in a bun (worst beauty blogger ever). However, this evening while watching Raymond Brigg's The Snowman with my house mates - it's now the 1st December and therefore perfectly acceptable - I decided to try my hand at painting my nails with crackle nail polish. For some reason there was a middle-aged man in our students' union today who looked like he'd hijacked a lorry full of make up to sell on his stand. Absolutely fine by me though, as I am extremely tight on cash at the moment and am always on the look out for bargains. I chose Beauty UK's shatter polish in night fever.

Beauty UK shatter polish in 06 night fever (R.R.P £2.99)

Maybelline Salon Manicure Anti-Breakage Base, No7 Stay Perfect Nail Colour in Pink Grapefruit, Beauty UK Shatter Polish in 06 Night Fever, Nails Inc Kensington Caviar Topcoat

For a first attempt, I'd say that the crackle nail effect worked quite well although I believe there is a certain knack to it and, of course, practise makes perfect. From this one attempt I think it works better if you add a thin layer of the crackle polish as it is more prone to cracking that way. As you can see from the picture above, I used three other polishes alongside it, all of which I'm very fond of and use religiously. Never underestimate the importance of a base coat to protect your nails and prevent discolouring, and a top coat to avoid chipping!

So there you have it - an evening watching The Snowman and painting my nails. Living the student dream!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Recently purchased: Gold mesh necklace

A few weeks ago I bought this fabulous necklace from Topshop and I cannot stop wearing it:

Gold mesh necklace (retails for £16)

I think the mesh design is gorgeous and it hangs really well as it's pretty heavy. I tend to choose silver jewellery but I like how the gold is quite a dull shade so it finishes off an evening outfit without being too in your face.

This would make the perfect stocking filler if I didn't want to keep it myself, but maybe you are better people than I am. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

How to save 15% on Cheryl Cole's false eyelashes

Quick post today to share something obvious but that had never crossed my mind before, and hopefully will save you money!

I have not shopped regularly in Claire's Accessories since my early teens, but I popped in yesterday evening during a visit to the Trafford Centre to see if there was anything worth buying.

I have always bought my false eyelashes from Boots but saw that Claire's stock the Girls Aloud range, and students can get 15% off everything in store!

I am a particular fan of Cheryl's new look lashes. The old design was a little spider-esque (definitely a technical term), but these ones are far more natural-looking and open up my eyes a treat.

My eyes with Cheryl's Girls Aloud Lashes (Retails for £5.50 at Claire's + student discount)

Go grab your own lashes for cheap!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Best and worst: Mascaras

Mascara is an essential item in any woman's make up bag but often it is hard to know which one to choose, especially when the most expensive one isn't always the best. Different mascaras complement different people, depending on whether they look for a mascara to add volume, length or both. My friend, for example, finds that the mascara I have chosen as my favourite absolutely useless, so you might want to compare what you look for in a mascara with my criteria. I naturally have quite long eyelashes but they need a bit of enhancing for them to reach their full potential, and therefore I tend to opt for volume-boosting mascaras. The three mascaras I'm going to rate today are all available on the high street and will be rated for value for money as well as results.

Mascara 1: MAYBELLINE The Colossal Volum' Express Waterproof in black (Retails at around £4.99)

For the price, this mascara ticks all the right boxes in terms of volume, giving my lashes lift and body. However, despite its claims, it definitely is NOT waterproof - I bought this in preparation for a holiday by the beach and was left with panda eyes which were hard to remove. 
Results: 3/5
Value for money: 4/5

Mascara 2: BENEFIT BADGal lash in black (Retails at £16.50)

This is possibly the most mediocre mascara I have ever bought and the most expensive. Being a lowly student, when I buy any make up over £15 I expect it to be worth skipping a couple of meals for, so this mascara was a great disappointment. It added a fair amount of volume to my lashes but was nothing special and had begun to dry up within a few weeks.
Results: 2/5
Value for money: 1/5

Mascara 3: L'ORÉAL PARIS Volume Million Lashes in black (Retails at around £11.30)

This is my personal favourite - the brush is really well-designed for a smooth application that separates each lash and gives minimal clumps. It adds length and volume in just a few strokes and is easy to remove before bedtime, perfect if you're lazy like myself and do not find enjoyment in applying several different cleansers to your eye area at 1 in the morning.
Results: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5

My eyelashes after using L'Oréal Paris Volume Million Lashes 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

M&S = my guilty pleasure

My mother used to drag me round M&S as a child and I used to absolutely hate it. She would spend hours going round all the different collections until our feet hurt and I had lost the will to live. However, now I have to admit that I am heading the same way - just another chip off the ol' block.

Of course I recognise that, as a 21 year old student, some of the collections are not really aimed at my age group and should be avoided like the plague unless I want to look like a frumpy 50-something (no offence to anyone in that age group, I know plenty of 50-somethings who are beautiful and still chic, and there are plenty of people in my own age group who could do with a kick up the wardrobe backside). When all is said and done though, the Limited Collection and Autograph do bring out some very fashionable pieces at prices that rival other high street stores.

These are two pieces I bought the other week that I absolutely love:

Autograph Leather Elasticated Panel Chelsea Boots in Brown (£59)

I am a complete sucker for boots and these Chelsea boots are easily the comfiest shoes I've had in a while. The leather is so soft and they fit perfectly - the fact that M&S do half sizes is a huge selling point for me as I am between sizes.

Limited Collection Sweater Top (£29.50)

I absolutely adore this colour - it's so warm and autumnal. The material is extremely soft and light, but the sweater is still lovely and cosy. It fits loosely around the shoulders so I advise you wear a plain black vest top underneath as it does tend to slip down.

M&S, I promise I will never doubt you again.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Equestrian plait = new favourite hairstyle

Equestrian-influenced fashion is everywhere this season so I decided to create a hairstyle to match: the equestrian plait.

Excuse my messy room on this photo, but it shows off the hairstyle a treat

To create this hairstyle, comb your hair into a side parting and back-brush the roots a little to create volume. Fix with hairspray.

Next, take a section of hair at the front (if you have a fringe, use this; if you don't, pretend that you do and take that amount of hair), and sweep it back so it is voluminous, not stuck down to your head. Secure with a hair grip. Grip back another section of hair from the other side of the parting in the same fashion so there is the same amount of volume on each side.

Then get plaiting! It is better to plait your hair down the side which is the furthest away from your parting. Secure with a hair tie and use hair grips to sort out any stray hairs - there tend to be a lot of them!

Et voila! Great hairstyle with minimum effort!

Friday, 21 October 2011

I want them 'cause they're boot-iful

(Sorry for the terrible pun, I couldn't help myself)

Every autumn I find myself looking for a new pair of winter boots as I am useless at looking after anything. My mother nags me all the time to get my boots reheeled when they start to show wear and tear but I never do and they inevitably go beyond repair. This autumn is no exception. So yesterday I descended upon the Trafford Centre with great enthusiasm, hoping to get a nice pair of leather boots with a budget of £100.

I found some gorgeous ones in Office but they had a wedge heel and I am terrible at walking in heels for a long period of time so thought they were impractical for everyday use. After a few hours of further disappointment in various shoe stores, I allowed myself to be lured into Selfridges. Here I found this gorgeous pair of boots by Carvela by Kurt Geiger:

Photo courtesy of Kurt Geiger

I tried them on and they fitted perfectly - they elongated my little legs and didn't emphasise how skinny my calves are (most boots are too baggy for my calves and it's not a good look). On top of all this, the leather looks beautiful and I love their equestrian look, which is at the height of fashion this season. However, they retail for a whole £190 - nearly double my original budget, but only £15 more expensive than classic UGGS and, I think, a great deal more stylish.

So, what do you think? To buy or not to buy? That is the agonising question.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Your Highness = Hair product royalty

After my student loan arrived in my account a couple of weeks ago, I decided to treat myself to some expensive hair products. I opted for TIGI's Catwalk Your Highness Root Boost Spray and Your Highness Firm Hold Hairspray as I love having voluminous hair, especially on a night out.

The Root Boost Spray is intended for use on towel-dried hair and only a little bit is needed to ensure that your hair dries with a natural-looking boost. It says on the can that you should blow-dry your hair after applying the spray but, as much as I love styling my hair, I have never mastered the art of blow-drying with a brush. However, I still got an excellent result by rough-drying, tipping my head upside down for extra lift.

The Firm Hold Hairspray is by far the best hairspray I've ever used in terms of the amount of volume achieved. Last weekend I flew over to Dublin to see some friends I met whilst studying abroad in Lyon. I knew I would be pushed for time between arriving at the airport and hitting the town so I styled my hair before I left my house in the UK. The hairspray was so effective that my half-up, half-down do survived the plane journey, even though I fell asleep and was probably rolling my head around everywhere. However, the one downside to this hairspray is that it is almost impossible to brush out and therefore, your hair nearly always needs washing the morning after. Personally though, I think this is a small price to pay for such firm and long-lasting hold.

Ready for a night out in Dublin

TIGI's Catwalk Your Highness Root Boost Spray (RRP £10.72) and Your Highness Firm Hold Hairspray (RRP £9.70) are available in most salons but, for the students among you, you can also buy them on ASOS and take advantage of a 20% discount if you own an NUS Extra card.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Brace yourself

As my friends will know, I recently had some ceramic '6 month smiles' braces fitted and, as much as I don't like to draw attention to them, I thought this post might be interesting to a lot of people, especially if you're thinking of getting braces yourself.

I've wanted braces for ages and totally regret not having them for free on the NHS when I was younger. However, my gran was kind enough to give me a reasonably large sum of money for my 21st so I thought 'now or never.' It seemed like a good way to spend the money; something which would be long-lasting and not just blowing the money on alcohol and ASOS.

I opted for the '6 month smiles' programme, which is specifically designed for adult brace-wearers because of its speed and the appearance of the braces. As the name suggests, treatment typically lasts for six months, although my dentist warned me that, because of the extent of the overcrowding in my mouth, I might be looking at a treatment time of nine months. However, this is still a lot faster than traditional orthodontic work as I was told I would be looking at a treatment time of 24 months with those braces. Furthermore, the '6 month smiles' braces are a lot more discreet than traditional braces; the brackets are ceramic and therefore tooth-coloured, and the wires used to connect them are also tooth-coloured. They are by no means unnoticeable but from a long distance, people often tell me they can't see them.

My teeth 2 months and 3 weeks into the treatment:

My teeth before the treatment:

As you can see, my teeth have already started to move, which I am beyond pleased about! Having braces has dented my self-confidence a little bit but I keep thinking about the end result and how happy I'll be to have a perfect set of knashers!

So, what do you think? Have you had braces or are thinking of getting them? Feel free to leave any comments below!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The search for my asian persuasion

I am currently mega jet-lagged after arriving home last night after three weeks in S.E Asia. The original plan before I left the U.K was to travel round Singapore and Malaysia with my dad and gran partly on a cultural and touristic visit, but also to see our "family origins" and meet family members/ friends of the family.

My mum said it would be good for me to see my roots and that I would enjoy myself. I, however, expressed my fears to my dad before I left that spending three weeks with him and my gran might lead to me slashing myself/ them and he said he shared this worry.

We visited Singapore and Kuala Lumpur before my boyfriend came out. Then the four of us met in Langkawi before returning to KL and then travelling to Ipoh to meet my great aunt. My boyfriend and I then continued to Maleka, back to Singapore, and finished the holiday in Sanur, Bali.

Despite some furious moments at my family at the beginning which I shall not disclose because I do not wish to paint myself in a bad light, I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday. As I expected, I felt no real connection with Malaysia or Singapore which was a bit disappointing but hey, they are beautiful places. I think you need to visit a place regularly throughout your childhood to have a sense of belonging there. I wouldn't say the search for my Asian persuasion was a total loss though as I felt closer to my family by the time we parted ways, which was good as I don't see them as much as my mum's side.

On a negative note, I now need to re-learn how to apply make-up and style my hair as these skills are so easily lost on holiday but the results are not so easily forgiven in the western world.

Singapore night skyline 

The fam and I chilling on the beach, Langkawi

Trying our hands at Batik painting, KL

Pretentious photography, Maleka

White water rafting crew, Bali

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The return of the quiff

During my early teens it used to be fashionable to wear one's hair in a quiff, but this was usually a small, piece of hair twisted back without any real style. However, recently I have been re-embracing the quiff, making it bigger, more voluminous and just generally more grown up. For this hairstyle, I have also brushed all my hair to one side for a sophisticated, asymmetrical look. 

It makes a great hairstyle for a night out, exuding glamour and also keeping your hair away from your face (perfect for the early hours when your fringe suggests that it's raining outside). It also works well with both curly and straight styles.

How to do it:
1. Separate your hair into two layers and back-brush small sections of the top layer, especially near the front. Hairspray each section as you go to hold the volume. It is also important to remember that excessive back-brushing can damage the hair so be sure to wash and condition with a hydrating shampoo regularly.
2. Grab the top layer in your hand as if creating a side ponytail but push the hair up to make the quiff. Keep holding it in that off-centre, volumised position and use a hair tie to secure it in place. I have very heavy hair so I often use another hair elastic to stop the hair falling flat.
3. Use hair grips to push the quiff up further and to make sure all the hairs in the bottom layer are on the correct side of your face.
4. Once you have finished styling, hairspray your entire head for extra hold.
5. Wear with confidence!

Products Used

Aussie Luscious Long Shampoo
Aussie Luscious Long Conditioner
L'Oreal Elnett Satin Very Volume Extra Strength Hairspray
Tigi Bed Head Foxy Curls Extreme Curl Mousse (this product was used in the pictures where my hair is wavy. I shall be writing a post shortly on how I styled my waves).

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Great shoes. Massive fool (continued...)

Here is a quick update on my shoe fiasco that I ranted about here:

The shoes never arrived and I still haven't been refunded. I shall chase M&S up tomorrow. But I can tell you that the shoes do live up to the hype (I found some in the Trafford Centre store and hurried them to the checkout). Still painful but not as crippling as a standard pair of heels, and just as sexy. GREAT SUCCESS!

Holiday in Croatia

Croatia is an absolutely beautiful country. Fact. I spent eight days there at the beginning of July - three of those days at Hideout music festival, and the rest of the time we spent chilling in Zadar. Here's a short review of my time there.

Hideout Festival

Without a doubt the best music festival I've ever been to. I have been to both Leeds Festival and Creamfields and as much as I love camping, anyone who has been to a festival will agree that there are some elements of it that are infuriating and tiring. The toilet facilities encourage even more vomiting than the alcohol and dismantling the tent for the long trek home after not showering for several days is the final endless struggle. However, Hideout is not a camping festival and instead, Collegium, the event organisers, recommend apartments for the festival-goers. We settled for Apartments Nena, which had all the essential facilities including a full kitchen although the landlady had confiscated the remote control for the air con as we are obviously untrustworthy tourists. But still, the luxury of a proper bed and shower during 3 days of heavy drinking and late nights is unbeatable.

In terms of the event itself, the music was amazing and the atmosphere was, for the most part, both electric and friendly. Personal favourite would have to be Nero as I have a guilty pleasure for more mainstream dance and dubstep music and they did not fail to deliver not only everyone's firm favourites including Innocence and Promises, but also great remixes of other songs (which unfortunately I cannot remember but I do remember being impressed at the time).


Zadar is a beautiful city. All the touristy stuff happens in the old town, which is still framed by the old city walls. There is no beach near the town centre but there is plenty to see/ do/ buy and people often swim off and sunbathe on the concrete steps leading down to the sea.

We stayed in Apartments Zadar which had AMAZING facilities, including a multimedia centre complete with music and internet, including Skype. The owner, Danko, was very helpful and was always on call when we needed ignorant tourist trivia. On the Tuesday we caught the sun on our private terrace, on Wednesday we went on a boat trip, stopping off at a saltwater lake, and on the Thursday we chilled out at a spa that Danko recommended - Beauty and Spa Centar Callista. We were given our own private area with jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and lounge area for one and a half hours (although she let us stay in for two) for 90 kuna each - the equivalent of £10.58. Absolutely amazing.

All in all, one fantastic holiday!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Great shoes. Massive fool.

Well I got very excited today when I went on http://www.marksandspencer.com/ today and saw that they had lauched a new range of shoes - Insolia. According to M&S, Insolia makes high heels comfortable by "reducing forefoot pressure, improving body alignment and enhancing ankle stability". Being 5'3 and having many female friends who are over 5'7, I refuse to wear anything but massive heels or wedges on a night out, to avoid looking like their younger sister. Unfortunately this means that, within 2 hours, you can usually either hear me whinging like a spoilt child or sitting in a corner, paying the price for wearing killer heels. So naturally, I was drawn into M&S's advertising and added two pairs of Insolia platform shoe boots to my basket (I'm between sizes so I decided I'd buy two different sizes and take one back). Caught up in the excitement of making a new purchase I didn't check all my details at the checkout before clicking confirm. So now my lovely shoes are on their way to my term time house in Leeds... the one I lived in two years ago. FML. I called M&S immediately and they should be able to redirect them. Only time will tell. Why am I so dysfunctional in my everyday life? 

But still, nice shoes, huh? I shall update you on their comfort when/ if they arrive.