Sunday, 29 November 2015

Beaches, Beauty Products and Blog-worthy Photos


   Being a non-city dweller, it's sometimes difficult to find places with a bit of a difference without travelling into the capital, or further afield. In Britain's fantastic cities, all you need to do is take a quick stroll around the corner, and you'll find yourself in a completely different environment; however, it's a little bit more difficult when you live in the countryside, surrounded by miles of fields, farms and forests yet not a lot of urban civilisation.

   On the other hand, with a little motivation, and (if possible) an entire day to spare, you can come across little gems that you'll never forget. Aldeburgh is one of them.

   A little town on the Suffolk coast, Aldeburgh has beautiful pastel-painted townhouses, long stretches of beach, charming gastropubs and, in many people's opinions, the best fish and chip shop in Britain. As a blogger, this is a great location for a long weekend, perhaps with your family or with your other half; there is plenty to write about (you could even prove that fish and chip shop rumour right), and so many great photo opportunities.

   Here, you'll also find the beautiful new L'Occitane boutique (who doesn't love L'Occitane?), a beautiful yellow store-front on the corner of the high street, stocked full of luxury goodies and gift ideas. A weekend away isn't complete without treating yourself to a few products for a good old pampering session, and L'Occitane is perfect for this. Below, I've got a handful of tempting products ideal for this purpose. 

   The brand's Lavender Foaming Bath is great for a candlelit evening in the tub with a magazine and a glass of wine (don't hate), while the Repairing Shampoo and Almond Shower Oil are ideal for a long shower. The Shea Rose Heart Hand Cream is a handbag staple - especially for this time of year; I carry this around everywhere right now, and it keeps my skin super smooth and hydrated, not to mention smelling so lovely!

   Visit L'Occitane at 144 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5AB
   
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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

5 Work-related Skills You Don't Learn at Uni



H O W   T O   R E A D   &   U N D E R S T A N D  C O N T R AC T S

   One of the first things you need to do when starting a full time job out of uni is to sign an employment contract. So why aren't we taught what it all means and, more importantly, what is reasonable or negotiable?

   It is incredibly important to ensure that you are being given what was agreed at your interview, including your rights as an employee and also your employers duties during your time of work. For example, you should be certain that you're being paid at least minimum wage, and a pension must now be offered.

   An employment contract should also include the following:
  • employee and employer names
  • employment start date
  • job title
  • pay details
  • hours of work and place of work
  • holiday entitlement and holiday pay
  • sick pay
  • pension schemes
  • notice periods
  • grievance, dismissal and disciplinary procedures
N E G O T I A T I O N

   This mostly applies to your industry, for example in marketing you would negotiate with a sales team to, say, bring the price of your advertising down. However, in general you might find yourself negotiating important matters such as base wages and pay rises. For a lot of people, this is a nerve-wracking prospect; however, Forbes and Elle have some good advice on this matter.

H O W   T O   T A L K   O N   T H E   P H O N E

   When I first started working, I felt sick every time the phone rang. All these questions raced through my head: what do I answer with? What if it's a complaint? What am I not allowed to say? What if the line's dodgy and I can't understand what they're saying?

   If you find yourself feeling like this, it's not uncommon. However, there are simple ways to improve how you communicate verbally. For example, take fifteen minutes to go through with your manager a typical phone call situation; ask who will likely be calling you, what issues you'll be dealing with, and who you should direct the call to if you're unable to deal with it yourself.

   At the end of the day, the only way you'll be able to improve your confidence with phone calls is to practice!


N E T W O R K I N G

   Small talk, exchanging cards, dressing smartly. No one tells you how to network at uni unless you actively attend student networking events, so it's something that can only be experienced by diving in headfirst.

   If it's your first time, I would persuade an colleague to come along and show you the ropes; this way, you'll understand how to introduce yourself, who to talk to and when it's time to leave.

    When you're attending a networking event, the first thing you should do is find the host and introduce yourself. Try not to mingle for too long with people you recognise - nobody ever made new contacts by staying in one place - and always remember that you're representing your business; you're not there to make besties.

H O W   T O   S T A N D   U P   F O R   Y O U R S E L F

   We're all treated very much the same whilst at university, but when it comes to office politics (or, God forbid, real politics in the office) there's little that you can take from your lectures and seminars. 

   Standing up for yourself, and your opinions, is crucial - as is knowing when to concede. If a work-related issue arises that you feel passionately about, prepare some points that back up your opinions so that people have more to consider in your favour. If it's a more personal issue, perhaps it should be discussed in private (I've seen people's personal issues provoke messy arguments, simply because they were not handled well in the first place).

   However, if you feel as if your opinions are not being given the respect that you feel they deserve, maybe it's time to think about a change in environment. Forbes (again) and Cosmopolitan have interesting points on this.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

#AfternoonGin


   Okay, so I cheated; I told you I was going to make four cocktails (see my previous apple whiskey cocktail here), but I've bent the rules and made shots. Cranberry gin shots, to be exact.

   Now I know that I went back on my word, but I'm not entirely cheating - you can actually make your own cocktail with this recipe. Just use less gin (or the same amount - this is entirely acceptable) and pour the mixture into a a glass instead of shot glasses. Et voila, a cocktail you have.

I N G R E D I E N T S
(serves 4 shots)

- 25ml Lime Juice
- 25ml Lemon Juice
- Cranberry syrup (made with dried cranberries, 200ml water and 1tbsp caster sugar)
- Ice

M E T H O D

1. Heat the dried cranberries in the water over the stove. Add in the caster sugar and stir until the water thickens and takes on a deep pink colour.

2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail shaker, add in the rest of the ingredients, shake for around 10 seconds, then strain again to get rid of the ice.

3. Pour into shot glasses.


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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Does Instagram Rule Your Life?

   With more than 75 million daily users, and over 70 million photographs posted daily, it's no lie that Instagram is a success (stats from expandedramblings.com). As soon as the app was published by Burbn, Inc back in 2010, we all fell in love with the idea of easy photo sharing, filters and infinite hashtags. Soon enough, our favourite celebrities registered and began posting shots from their own lives - and we became enthralled and obsessed with the glamour, luxury and beautiful people suddenly popping up on our newsfeeds. A-list celebrities and their once undisclosed lives were only a double tap away.

   It's fair to say that we've all Insta-stalked another person's profile at some point in our lives, whether it's a celebrity or the boy next door (I'm guilty of occasionally scrolling through my favourite bloggers' feeds, drinking up the gorgeous selfies, designer makeup and lavish hotel rooms during Fashion Month), but more often than not it makes us look at our own lives and wonder why it's not as cool or exciting as the lives we see on screen. This might lead to jealously, obsession and even depression; we may ask ourselves, 'will my life ever be as awesome as this?'

   Essena O'Neill summed it all up in her video detailing why she quit social media, after having accumulated over 500,000 followers. Some would go above and beyond to get this number of followers, spending hours putting on makeup and taking a hundred shots to get the perfect selfie; making their friends wait fifteen minutes whilst the perfect brunch shot is taken before tucking into cold food at a restaurant; spending their income on named clothes, shoes and bags just so that they can show the world how on-trend they are (or even receiving these products as gifts from brands at the deception of their followers) - all to obtain more likes, more followers and the perfect feed. However, Essena ended her relationship with social media after realising that it encouraged the ideology of unachievable standards; she got a tonne of stick for this, and some people might think it's a drastic move, but she's stated that it's helped her free up her time, enjoy the world around her and generally be present rather than glued to a phone screen for hours.

   Doesn't that sound appealing? To physically live, and experience events, people, culture, art, nature, music, real friends and love? I took this photo (below) on my DSLR at the J JS Lee fashion show in London earlier this year, and it was incredible just how many people were watching the show through their phones, waiting to get the perfect Instagram snap of each outfit as it came down the runway for the instant gratification of their followers. To see fashion, an art I love so much, be reduced to a tool to gain online popularity, was a little upsetting - but I'm not naive, and I understand how much the world has changed. What I wonder is, will it always be like this?


   If you're feeling the pressure of Instagram, I feel your pain; it can be hard to remove yourself from the rush of excitement when you check the app and see a little 'follow' notification - or, even more, when someone tags you in a photo (oh, the excitement!) - but it can be done. If Instagram is taking over your life and you want to get back to the real world, try one or two of the following things:

- If you usually post every day, limit how many photos you take in a week to three (it's the magic number, after all)
- Post at least one photograph a week of something a little different to your normal style; go into town and take some shots of crowds getting on with their weekly shop, snap a photograph of your dad's gardening wellies or take a candid photograph of your significant other
- If you have to take a selfie, take one shot and accept it
- Take a day off, or better yet, a week
- Unfollow the people whose feeds make you feel jealous 
- Follow people whose interests differ from yours

   On the other hand, if you love posting on Instagram and you feel no negativity towards it, then good for you! It's an endlessly useful tool for promoting your work as a creative or your brand as an entrepreneur, for communicating with others that you might not have been in contact with IRL, or even as an online scrapbook of all your favourite moments. What I'm saying is, there is nothing wrong with Instagram; the problem lies in the deception that we succumb to and allow to flourish on the platform, and its invasion into our physical lives.

I N S T A G R A M M E R S   W I T H   A   D I F F E R E N C E

@willwhipple - posts blurred images to reflect the way we see moments in our mind as memories

@gdax - all about his life as a Tibetan monk

@mortenordstrom - shooting Copenhagen's people and places

@emolabs - poetry and pretty pictures

@andrewknapp - plays Where's Wally with his beautiful border collie

@idafrosk - endlessly plays with her food (and makes art out of it)

@maya_on_the_move - a bubbly bulldog's adventures in NYC

@gopro - life from the perspective of GoPro users
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Monday, 16 November 2015

*GIVEAWAY* Strong is the New Skinny

   Earlier this month, you may have seen me singing the praises of fit-skin brand Mio Skincare in a blog post and YouTube video. This brand promotes health and fitness with honest and effective products that really do work, and I've experienced great results including the near-disappearance of a scar through the use of 'The Activist' Firming Active Body Oil! I know, I couldn't quite believe it myself, but I'm still using the product and it's STILL fading.

   Because I love these products so much, I'm giving you lucky readers the chance to win the Strong Is The New Skinny kit. This contains all three products that I reviewed earlier this month (including the aforementioned miracle body oil) amounting in £26.50 worth of products - and hey, you might even love them so much that you'll continue using Mio in future. All you'll need to do is enter through the Rafflecopter widget below.



a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Apple Whiskey Christmas Cocktail


   Who doesn't get excited at the thought of lighting up the fireplace, sitting down with your friends to watch Love Actually and drinking some warming festive cocktails? If that doesn't make you feel a little bit fuzzy inside, then stop reading.

   I'm joking. But I'm so excited about Christmas this year - and also to share with you some of my favourite beverages to try out over the next month and a half in the lead up to the big day. I'll be posting four different cocktail recipes starting with this: the Apple Whiskey Christmas Cocktail, a delicious spiced apple drink with the addition of some eight year old Highland Black Whiskey* available for the very tempting price of £12.99 at your local Aldi.

   This is best served straight off the stove, with a slice of apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon; it only takes five minutes to whip up and you can make as many as you need. Foodwise, try making some delicious pork or cheese nibbles, like Cranberry Sausage Rolls or Blue Cheese Straws with Cranberry Dipping Sauce - or why not make both? Go on. It's Christmas (nearly, anyway).

   Check out the recipe below for this easy-to-make cocktail!


I N G R E D I E N T S 
(serves 1)

30ml Highland Black Whiskey
400ml cloudy apple juice
4 teaspoons clear honey
4 teaspoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons lime juice
1 slice of apple
2 pinches of cinnamon
1 inch of fresh ginger

*

M E T H O D

1. Heat all the ingredients (apart from the whiskey, half the cinnamon and the apple) in a small saucepan over a low heat

2. Once the flavours have been infused, pour the ingredients into a mug or sturdy jar with a handle, and top with the apple slice followed by the other half of the cinnamon

* This post was made in association with Aldi
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Monday, 9 November 2015

Pearls of Wisdom


EARRINGS - THE FOLLY BOUTIQUE / SCARF - TOPSHOP / CARDIGAN - VINTAGE / DRESS - NEW LOOK / RING - DIANA BROUSSARD AT THE FOLLY BOUTIQUE / BOOTS - MISSGUIDED

   Ever since I watched the Sex and the City movie, and saw Jennifer Hudson's character showing off a gorgeous 'borrowed' designer handbag to Carrie, I've been obsessed with the idea of loaned fashion. I mean, why buy into a trend that's so expensive when you're undoubtedly only going to wear it for one season before making way for something new (classics such as a black Chanel tote aside of course - I'm talking about a Moschino McDonald's jumper or Stella McCartney's hoofish platform loafers)?

   I love the thought of being able to rent an item for an event or two, before sending it back when I'm finished. This way, I can try out different looks before committing to a purchase, or simply never own an expensive item - just borrow them.

   The Folly Boutique is a website where you can do just this, with designer jewellery. The site stocks hundreds of stunning pieces by amazing names such as Orly Genger, Loren Hope and St. Erasmus, and offers rentals for the duration of three or six days from as little as £15; simply choose the piece you'd like to rent, wear it for your special occasion, then send it back to The Folly Boutique in a postage-paid envelope.

   Convenient, right? This could just be my favourite site of the year.

   In this post, I'm modelling the 'Peony Pearl Ring'* by Diana Broussard and the 'Double Pearl Hook Earrings'* from Folly Boutiques' own brand, The Folly Studio. I absolutely adore both pieces - pearl jewellery makes such a beautiful statement - and I would definitely recommend giving the site a go for your next occasion.

   Browse by designer, jewellery type or occasion such as Christmas Party or Business Meeting. If it's minimalism you're after, Myia Bonner makes beautifully simple pieces in silver, gold and a darker rhodium; however, if you like to make a statement, Tessa Metcalfe's jewellery is so effortlessly cool, you'll want to own it for yourself. Click here to have a browse, and let me know if you spot any pieces you love!

*Gifted for review
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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Perfect Autumnal Drink


   If you've got a spare half an hour in the evening to prepare tomorrow's lunch, try saving a fiver (and a trip to Starbucks) by making yourself a delicious pumpkin spiced latte. You probably already have pumpkin flesh left over from Halloween (I always save the good bits for soups and pies), so you'll just need to raid your baking cupboard for the rest.

Ingredients (serves one flask-full):

1 tbsp pumpkin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-skimmed milk
1 shot espresso
Whipped cream


Method:

1. Puree the pumpkin using a blender. I've got a Nutribullet which really does the job, but a high-powered blender will do.

2. Pour the pureed pumpkin into a non-stick saucepan and heat - but do not boil - along with the cinnamon and ginger.

3. Add the sugar and stir for two minutes until the sugar has melted.

4. Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. Take off the heat ad pour the mixture back into the blender. Blend for a few seconds.

5. Pour the espresso into a cup, then pour in the pumpkin mixture and stir. Top with a nice swirl of whipped cream, and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon on top.



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Monday, 2 November 2015

Get Fit, Starting With Your Skin

 

   Fitness has become such a huge part of our lives over the past five years; we're exercising more, we're discovering healthier foods and we're slowly cutting down on the nasties in every aspect of our lives - so, in my opinion, skincare brand Mio has hit the nail on the head with their fitness-focused products.

   Now, I'm someone who takes fitness rather lightly. I exercise when I'm feeling a bit down about myself, then give up for a month when I see results; I don't get enough sleep; I eat too much at dinner, and very little breakfast; I confuse 8 pints of water a day with 8 cups of tea; and I tend to drive rather than walk anywhere, if I can help it (mostly because I hate bumping into people I know when I'm on a mission - oh, and did I mention that I'm a hermit?)

   Overall, I can fairly say that I'm not the poster girl for a fit and fabulous lifestyle, but I know what's good for me (I would absolutely eat better and exercise more if I had the time - and I hate using this as an excuse - but I'm more swamped than an alligator in the Mississippi right now). There are things that you'll never find me doing, simply because it'll negatively impact my health and fitness very quickly, for example eating overly fatty or sugary foods on a daily basis, consuming large amounts of alcohol, or smoking. This also takes into account appearance-related matters such as overbleaching my hair, sleeping in makeup and using low quality skincare.

   I don't need to justify that I take pride in my appearance; it's nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore, I'm very meticulous about what I put on my skin. If something causes me to break out in spots or, even, a rash - in the bin it goes. I wouldn't say I have sensitive skin, but that doesn't mean I can slap any old product on it. Luckily, with Mio, I didn't feel as if this was a problem.

   After thorough research into the ingredients, and a scan through user reviews, I decided that I'd give the brand a try. Its contemporary approach to skincare is refreshing, encouraging users to enhance their skin from a health and fitness perspective, rather than from a superficial standpoint. These products are ideal for women on the go who are inspired by the 'keep fit, stay healthy' lifestyle, and this ethos is reflected in the clean, bright, no fuss packaging and witty product names.

   Mio's products are free from parabens, petrolatum, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances, artificial colourants, sodium lareth or lauryl sulphate, xenoestrogens, phthalates, PEGs or glycols - and what is extremely important to me is that they don't test on animals.

   I selected three products from the entire range: ones which would potentially enhance the areas that I'm a bit less confident about. This comprised of the Future Proof Body Butter*, The Activist Body Oil* and the Double Buff Exfoliator*. Each product has different properties, but all are geared towards helping you achieve a similar result: hydrating and toning the skin.



   These products fit into my morning shower routine quite nicely. I applied the Double Buff Exfoliator using a body brush pre-shower (but you can use an exfoliation mitt, or your hands), working it into my skin in circular motions. I concentrated mostly on my thighs, as this is where I have the most issues, such as cellulite and stretchmarks.

   After washing of the exfoliator in the shower, I applied The Activist Body Oil to my legs, stomach area and arms whilst my skin was still damp. Doing this apparently locks in moisture - and it really does! Even my boyfriend, without any prompt, noticed that my skin felt super smooth - and if my boyfriend notices a change, then it must be for real.

   Once I had patted my skin dry with a towel, I applied the Future Proof Body Butter with my hands, starting from my feet and working towards my heart, then up my arms from wrist to shoulder. This formula was thick, but very smooth and easy to work into the skin, especially after applying the oil. However, you could get away with one or the other if you didn't have time to use both, as each product is a skin saviour in its own right.

   On the subject of time, you might feel as if you don't have enough of it to fit these extra skincare products into your morning routine, but honestly, it added maybe five minutes at most onto mine. I'm not one to pamper myself in the morning (I'm never fully 'awake' until after I've had my 9.30am cuppa), and so I tend to leave the 'me time' to the late hours of the evening; however, it's such a treat to use these products that I have no problem indulging myself so early - I find myself feeling a lot better for it during the day, when I know my skin looks and feels amazing. These are definitely confidence-boosting products.



   Mio's creams, oils, gels and exfoliators are categorised by skincare issue on their website; choose from cellulite busters and firming treatments, dry skin combatants, muscle-targeted gels and bath-soaks, everyday shower and bath products, and pregnancy-focused products. What's more, standard delivery is free!

   You can purchase the products that I've reviewed as full sizes, or you can try out all three as part of the 'Strong is the New Skinny' kit for just £26.50.

* Gifted for review
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