18/10/2010

Recycling Yarn



I found a lilac cardigan in a charity shop that wasn't really my style - or my preferred shade of purple. It was just dull. Little sleeves with ribbing at the bottom, and more ribbing around the base of the body. The rest was garter stitch. I would have left it for somebody else, but it had a couple of marks on it, so was very low-priced, and when I looked at the label, I saw that it was a cashmere and silk blend. Ding! Yes please! So I took it home, washed it to get the musty smell it had out, and started to unravel it.

The best instructions that I could find come courtesy of Dawn at My Virtual Sanity. There are a number of different websites and blog posts about recycling yarn, but I found this post had the most helpful photographs and detailed information. The author actually recycles yarn for resale, so that was encouraging.

It took me a few days to get through the entire cardigan, because the repetitive winding movement made my hands ache after a little while and I had to keep resting. But I persevered, and was rewarded with several balls of luxury yarn at a low cost. I'm still not sure about the colour, I'm considering dying it Dylon's Burlesque Red, but I will wait until I knit it up into a new garment and see what it looks like. I'm not sure how dark the yarn will go when it dyes, as the Dylon website says silk and wool come out a lighter shade.

The yarn is light fingering weight (3 ply) so I'm reluctant to try knitting it into another cardigan as that would take ages and be quite repetitive, plus I'm not sure that I have enough yarn left for that. I had to lose quite a lot because the buttonholes had been cut into the fabric, and the cardigan only had short sleeves to begin with.

I searched Ravelry for appropriate patterns, and when I saw the Travelling Woman shawl I gasped. It's so pretty, and I think it would look lovely in red. Or purpleish pink, however the yarn turns out. I think I'll give that a go, unless anyone reading this has any suggestions?

15/10/2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water


Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Today is the fourth annual Blog Action Day. Each year on 0ctober 15th, bloggers from all over the internet post about the same issue, to raise awareness and promote discussion. I have been subscribed to the e-mail newsletter for a few years now, but this is the first time I have been organised enough to participate.

The issue this year is water. As I'm sure most people reading this will know, over 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water, and that human bodies are at least 55% water.  Water is absolutely essential for life. Not only do we use it for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, but massive quantities are used to produce some of the things we use in everyday life.

If we just think about our clothes, cotton requires an awful lot of water to grow - about 1,514 litres per t-shirt, and over 7000 for a pair of jeans. Meanwhile, freshwater supplies are decreasing. Nearly one billion people are without access to clean water. Clean water was declared a human right earlier this year by the United Nations General Assembly, but we still have a long way to go. Almost 38,000 children under the age of 5 die every week because they don't have access to safe drinking water.

There are some small actions that you can take to conserve water, that I'm sure you will have heard about before. Buying new less often, turning off the tap whilst you brush your teeth, taking showers instead of baths when you can, collecting rain water to water plants rather than filling a can from the tap. There are numerous charities that work to build wells and install sanitation facilities for people in need, here is the Blog Action Day fundraising page, if you feel moved to donate. Improving access to water for people everywhere is a political issue, however. Please sign the petition for an International Water Treaty.

Statistics thanks to various links on the Blog Action Day homepage. If you would like to participate in Blog Action Day 2010, here is a list of suggested post ideas.

20/09/2010

What To Buy From The Aromaleigh Closing Down Sale (If You Can)

Click for glorious glittering close-up. You can also see that I didn't brush my eyebrows or comb my eyelashes before taking the photo. Shadows are: Aromaleigh Sylph (iridescent glittery white) on inner corners, Urban Decay Flash (bright purple) in middle of lids, Sleek Sunset palette black on outer corner/crease. Aromaleigh Aqua Nightmare went over the top in the crease and Aromaleigh Plush Romantic in the outer corner.
Aromaleigh is no longer accepting international orders for the closing down sale, but that doesn't mean that I can't live vicariously through my US readers! Unfortunately but not surprisingly, my two absolute favourite Aromaleigh shadows, Aqua Nightmare and Sylph, are sold out. However, you can still get some of my other top recommendations.

From the main site:

Plush Romantic, a blue-grey with aqua and green sparkles. Goes on most wonderfully I think over a black base, but lovely on its own as well. Clara looks like a muddly blue-grey with slight lilac shimmer in the packet or on the brush, but does this colour changing thing when you apply it over a sticky base to become a gorgeous lilac with a little aqua thrown in to spice it up. Heart and Soul is a fabulous bright pink with sparkles, which can easily be applied as a wash to tone it down or with a sticky base to be rather more wild.

Any of the bright colours in the Les Papillions collection, they are all so fabulous.

From the vault sales, on the Aromaleigh blog:

I recommend you invest in anything from the Holiday Blast collection. I cannot for the life of me imagine why these haven't sold out already. They're just completely amazing sparkly party shades and I love them! Party Dress and Tangled Tinsel are gold and silver shadows, pretty simple but Party Dress is the first gold eyeshadow that I tried and liked. Tangled Tinsel just adds sparkle to anything. Almost Midnight is the purple of my dreams, bright and sparkly with some aqua thrown in too. Not So Silent Night is a thunderstorm with stars - grey-black with blue and silver glitter. I consider it the darker equivalent of Plush Romantic. Twinkling Lights is the first non-blackened green eyeshadow that I tried which actually suited me. It's a cool-green with gold and pink sparkles, and I think it looks best applied to the lower lid.

I really would have liked to have tried:

Everything, to be honest, but most especially the Victoria's Revenge collection because it was originally intended as a collaboration with Emilie Autumn, the rest of the Gothic Lolita collection - I only got to try three samples, the Bete Noire eyeshadows, and the Drama Queen eyeliners. I never got to try any Rocks! either, because I was holding out for the relaunch. So if you can, indulge, and make me more jealous.

06/09/2010

Grace Kelly: Style Icon, at the V&A


The Fashion 411 visit the exhibition and the curator speaks

Grace Kelly: Style Icon is a temporary exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, put together to celebrate the style of actress and later princess of Monaco. If you like Grace Kelly’s style, then you will certainly enjoy seeing some of the beautiful gowns that she wore in films, and at premières and balls. However, you may be a little disappointed by the exhibition itself.

The exhibition is in a small section of the Fashion gallery, and can get quite crowded. Entrance to the exhibition is timed, and on the day I went I had to wait several hours before I could see it. Now that it has been open for several months it may be less popular, but I would still suggest booking tickets online or over the phone rather than turning up on the day and booking at the museum, unless you want to risk having to wait until late.

The displays include several outfits from the different stages of Grace Kelly’s life. The exhibition is divided into sections entitled Actress, Bride, Princess and Enduring Icon. My favourite dresses were those worn by Grace Kelly when she was an actress in the 1950s – they are simple, elegant, and it's easy to see why this style is considered classic. There is a magenta-purple one and I’ve forgotten what it was for, but I loved it, naturally! It's interesting to see how the dresses that she wore in her films look in reality, as Jenny Lister, the curator, says in the video above, they are surprisingly well made. The dresses from the 1970s, which were worn to balls and charity galas, were less elegant and more ostentatious, and I didn’t like those as much. The exhibition, unfortunately, does not include Grace Kelly’s famous wedding dress; however it does showcase bags, gloves, hats, and jewellery, including the Hermès bag that was named after her. There are not many items, they are in very small display cases and I had to wait for people to move before I could see them. The gift stall is also tiny, and the souvenirs were quite disappointing considering how amazing (though expensive) some of the tie-in items for other exhibitions are.

What bothered me most about this exhibition was that it was difficult to get much sense of Grace Kelly is a person. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about her and I haven’t seen most of her films, so I wasn't the most prepared of visitors. Each item had a little description to place it in context, detailing who designed it and when and where it was worn, and there were photographs on the walls and films running, however, I still felt that there was not enough information, and that made it less accessible for someone who is casually interested in fashion history in general and is not necessarily an expert on Grace Kelly (ie. me). When you go into the exhibition you are given a little booklet with copies of the introductory texts for each section, and the timeline of her life, but this is all also displayed on the walls and is very basic. You can read all these paragraphs online. The exhibition seemed to deliberately avoid touching upon anything controversial. I can understand if the curator wanted to keep the focus on the clothes but a little more story could have livened up the displays.

This exhibition will remain open until the 26th September 2010. Tickets are £6 full price, £4 concessions, or free for V&A members. Although it is not spectacular, I think that if you are interested in fashion and want to visit the V&A anyway, it is worth seeing because entry is not very expensive and most of the rest of the museum is free.

Grace Kelly: Style Icon – The Private View - Video in which various celebrities talk about why they consider Grace Kelly to be a style icon.

BBC News: Grace Kelly dresses on show at London's V&A museum – Short video in which Natasha Bailie talks about the three dresses on display that she finds most timeless and beautiful.

24/07/2010

Review: Sleek Makeup Circus i-Divine palette

I love bright coloured make-up. It started off as a way to compensate for the all-black outfits I am sometimes unable to resist. There's just something delightfully lurid about wearing hot pink eyeshadow and/or lipstick with an all-black outfit. Eventually, my love of matching got the better the black eyeliner obsession I had in my teens and I started to collect eyeshadow colours to match all the colours in my wardrobe.

Whilst Sleek's Graphite palette was GAF, you could be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that the limited edition Circus palette could not be dragged over to the dark side of make-up. The box is a bright shade of coral pink, and when I saw pictures of the packaging online I thought 'Ugh!', but since picking the palette up in the shop I've decided I love it. It's not a colour I would wear on my face (or anywhere else!) so I'm very glad there's not a matching eyeshadow in the palette - one of the pinks looks close in the pan but comes out pinker. However, it reminds me of Starburst Joosters, which are Starburst branded jellybeans that I was addicted to years. I used to get through bags and bags until one day I decided all that sugar and god knows what couldn't be good for me, and stopped buying them. Complete cold-turkey on non-chocolate based sweets. When looking at this palette, I remember how good those Joosters tasted. It's like it satisfies the primeval craving without getting me re-addicted.

Inside the box is quite a wide selection of colours. Naturally, I was interested in the purple shadows straight away. I was intrigued by the blues, as I don't have very many decent blue eyeshadows, and I was also looking forward to trying out the lovely-looking bright green. I didn't have a yellow eyeshadow, and I figured this was a cheap way to get one so that I'd be prepared if I deigned to try it out - Zoetica Ebb managed to pull yellow off quite well. I'm not sure I will ever use the orange. The one time I tried a tiny bit of the orange in the Sunset palette it just looked strange!

So how did it live up to my expectations? There were pleasant surprises, but also disappointments.
  • The biggest disappointment was the green. It seems like the first few bloggers that reviewed the palette loved it, but more recent reviews are saying that it's not that pigmented. I thought it was rubbish! It barely showed up on my eyelids. I used it in the corner of my eyes in the look below and I had to brush some of the pink over it to stop it just looking like a slightly more shimmery version of my natural lids. It looks so lovely and fresh and bright in the palette so this was a big let down, especially as it was the first shadow I tried.


 
 The disappointing green is in the inner corner.
On the eyelid is the pink on the top right of the palette, and in the crease is the pale blue.
I used the other pinks underneath my eyes but couldn't get them to photograph well - my fault, not the eyeshadows'. Mascara is Bourjois Volume Glamour Ultra Care in Noir.
 
  • The pinks are good. Nothing to get enormously excited about, but they're nice colours, reasonably well pigmented.
  • The dark blue is as gorgeous as hyped by Lipglossiping, and it blends really well with the purple into a violet.
  • The pale blue was a great surprise! It comes out really really pigmented! I loved it! I accidentally got far too much on the brush the first time I used it and caused a minor mess. I usually get a bit frustrated by pastel colours. They tend to produce a sheer wash on my eyelids, and as my eyelids are brown, they hardly show up. This pale blue is truly pale but also vivid! I can't think of another pale coloured eyeshadow that has such a great result on my eyelids. More like this please Sleek!
  • The purple comes out more magenta than violet. It's pretty close in colour to another eyeshadow I own, which is from the old Kolor range that used to be made by Superdrug. I love that shadow and was concerned that I would run out before I could find another similar shade, so although I'm disappointed that the Sleek one doesn't come out like it looks in the palette - I thought it would have matched the lilac really well, like a darker, more shimmery shade of the same colour - I'm pleased to have another purple-magenta eyeshadow. I can get it to be a bit more blue toned by blending it with the dark blue.
  • The lilac I was disappointed by, especially because I tried it after the pale blue and I was so impressed by that. I was hoping it would be similarly great but it is not much better than most pastel eyeshadows that I've tried.

 Purple on upper lid, lilac in crease, dark blue blended with a little of the purple on lower lid. Mascara is Bourjois Volume Glamour Ultra Care in Noir.

  • I had read several reviews saying that the white eyeshadow isn't very good, so I was prepared for it to be a bit of a flop. Very, very sheer. It's okay as a highlighter or to blend out other colours, but only for 'day' looks, I think. When I want to look more dramatic I prefer to use the highlight shades in the Graphite palette. In fact I nearly always use them now for dramatic looks, I don't know what I'm going to do when I've run out!
  • The black is super-pigmented as the black eyeshadows in these palettes always are.
  • I have only tested the yellow and orange on my fingertips, they seem very bright. Try as I might I couldn't think of anyway of making them look okay around my eyes!

All the shadows are soft and easy to apply. I found that they blended really well, and over UDPP stayed bright all day too. I haven't tried them without UDPP because all the other Sleek eyeshadows that I've tried faded or creased without it.

This palette is £5.99 (at least one pound more than the others), which makes this fantastic value, as for that low price you get 12 eyeshadows in a sturdy case with mirror and double-ended foam applicator (only really good for top ups, as I've said before). Even if I only count the shadows that I'm pleased with and will use regularly, that gives me 8 eyeshadows for about 75p each. Bargainous, as the teen magazines I used to read would say! You can get your own Circus palette from selected branches of Superdrug or from the Sleek website.

I would recommend it to anyone looking to boost their make-up collection. If you considered buying the Acid palette and decided that it was just a bit too bright for you, this might be a wiser investment.

01/07/2010

Over on my other blog: Body Image & Self-Perception Month

I don't refer readers over to t.s.o.'s sister blog, this fleeting dream, very often, because I know most people won't be as interested in clothes, make-up and books as I am, but I thought some of you might be interested to know that I am taking part in the Body Image and Self Perception Month organised by Jo of Once Upon a Book Case. Basically, it involves a whole bunch of book bloggers reading and discussing Young Adult fiction that relates in some way to body image and self-perception issues. I've got masses of content planned, most of it already at least drafted, and it should be loads of fun and really interesting!

14/06/2010

6 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer In A Charity Shop

1. It's fun.

When I was a kid I used to fantasize about working in a shop. I imagined dressing up, looking glamourous behind the till and making eyes at cute customers. You can do all these things whilst volunteering, though I would recommend wearing low-heeled shoes, because you will not always be sitting behind a till, and don't wear your best clothes because things do get dusty sometimes. You get to meet new people, do jigsaw puzzles to check all the pieces are there, laugh at the bizarre items that get donated sometimes, and tell customers how much you loved the book they're buying. If you've worked in retail, volunteering is much less stressful.

2. It's a relatively easy way to 'give back'.

Altruism is good for you and volunteering is a win win, as donating your time is free. In the UK at least, there are charity shops all over the place, so there should be little travelling involved.

3. It's work experience.

Yes, it does count as retail experience. After volunteering for a few months I got a paid job with a company that only takes on staff that already have retail experience. Even if you don't want to work in retail, volunteering in a charity shop can provide you with experience of:
  • Customer service
  • Working in a team
  • Working for a charity/non-profit organisation
  • Answering telephones/dealing with enquiries
  • Displaying merchandise
  • Handling cash.
If you're currently unemployed, volunteering can help fill the time gap in your CV. If you're at school, college or university, volunteering in a charity shop can give you access to more opportunities, which I will go into in my next point. I think volunteering in a charity shop is a great thing to do whilst studying for A Levels, if you plan to go to university, as the work experience will help you get a part-time job in whatever town or city you will be studying in.

4. It opens doors to other opportunities within charities.

Why would you want do this? Well, lots of the big UK charities offer internships in their head offices, and if you've volunteered for them before, it shows that you are really interested in and enthusiastic about their work. Even if you don't want a charity internship there are other perks. For example, Oxfam runs a scheme for volunteers to steward at several big UK music festivals - which means free entry, separate camping, and food in return for work - and people who already volunteer for them (ie. in shops) get priority.

5. You get first look at the donations!

Now this is a bit of a controversial one. Every now and then I hear or read people saying that they don't think it's fair that volunteers get first pick of the donations. Well, how else is it supposed to work? Should we put items out on the shop floor for a certain amount of time just to sit and collect dust before anyone is allowed to buy them? Why should customers have more of a right to the things we sell than volunteers? In a non-charity shop the staff would be allowed to put aside and then buy anything they like. If a volunteer decides they want to buy something before it goes out, great! That's money to the charity and space on the shop floor for something else to occupy instead.

6. Your expenses are usually paid.

That's travel, and lunch if you're there all day. One more meal you don't have to pay for, and it means volunteering doesn't actually cost you anything.

Have you ever volunteered? What did you enjoy about it? Did it help you get paid work?

13/05/2010

PSA: Charity Shopping For Summer

This is a public service announcment for all those in the Northern Hemisphere who love to charity shop, but also for those who love the idea of charity shopping, particularly those who have never had much success when they try it.

If you dream of owning a collection of delightfully light, sleeveless, summer dresses, an array of floral floaty skirts, or just one fantastically funky pair of shorts, you need to visit your local charity shops ASAP.

The sun has been peeking out from behind the clouds more often. Coats are almost unneccessary, so we've put all the good coats we had into black bags and stuffed them into cupboards. Cupboards that previously contained bags and bags of clothes for summer. All the nicest items that were left over from last year were put away once it got too cold for customers to be interested in them, and we've been storing all the summer clothing donations we've received all winter, so we would be ready for now.

We have half a rack of the types of pretty summer dresses that I used to search for, and never find, in June and July. All the loveliest items are going to go fast - in a couple of weeks the stored-up stock will all have gone and we'll just be putting out donations as they come in.

Don't wait until you crave these things, plan ahead, pretend it's a bit warmer, and by the time summer actually arrives you'll have a brilliant bargain wardrobe.

01/05/2010

Review: Sleek Makeup Sunset i-Divine palette

The Sleek i-Divine palettes have become very popular since they were first released. Charging £4.99 or less for 12 mineral-based highly pigmented eyeshadows, unsurprisingly, equals success. There is a permanent range, but Sleek also bring out regular limited edition palettes. Sunset, as far as I can tell from various blogs, was a limited edition palette that was added to the permanent range.

 The blending looks much better in real life. Honest.

This is the second Sleek i-Divine palette that I've owned. The first was the Graphite palette, a collection of blacks, greys, silvers, and purples, with two highlight colours, a white and a pale peach. I won't be doing a separate review of that - it was limited edition and sold out a couple of months ago. If you spotted this, let's be honest, perfect palette for anyone who is of a gothy inclination and loves purple (i.e.: me) in your local Superdrug and bought it, well done. If not, write to Sleek and ask them to make it again! I would love to buy another one!

The Sunset palette is less of an obvious choice for me. It was a Christmas present, and contains a black shade, three reds, two browns, an orange, a bronze, a gold, a blue, and two pinks. The browns and the orange I am unlikely to use. I can only use properly neutral gold and brown shades, anything warm toned makes me look ill, and these browns are probably too warm, as they have visible specks of orange in them.

The reds are fine, especially blended into purple, black or bronze, but the brightest shade is the best, the others are ever so slightly brown. The pinks are nice, both have a gold shimmer to them and if I pick up some white eyeshadow on the brush with them I can use them as highlight shades. The bronze is neutral but very shimmery, but the gold is less impressive, though it blends more easily. That bronze will dominate everything if you aren't careful! The black is really pigmented. I picked up a tiny amount on the brush today, but found that I could only use that brush then to dab the eyeshadow sparingly onto my lids. I had to use another brush to actually blend it, otherwise I would have had black everywhere, and even then I had to do a bit of a repair job with the bronze! The blue looks like a lovely bright colour but is at the other end of the pigmentation spectrum to the black, and I have to put loads on to get it as bright as it looks in the palette. It was a bit of a disappointment, but on balance the palette is still brilliant.

The eyeshadows are all very soft and easy to blend as long as you work fairly quickly, however I find that Sleek's eyeshadows really need a good base, and when I say a good base, I mean Urban Decay Primer Potion, because the cream eyeshadows I can get away with using under Aromaleigh just won't cut it for these. Without UDPP I find that by the end of the day half the colour has vanished, especially with the blue shade, I could hardly tell it was there by the end of the last day I wore it.

Today all but one of the eyeshadows I am wearing are from the palette. Here's a step by step:

1. Bronze shade in inner half of lids
2. Blue shade on outer half
3. White from really old Body Shop set under eyebrow
4. Middle-red (second from bottom left if you've got the Sunset palette) in crease
5. Black applied in outer corner of crease and on lower lids. Horrible mess made.
6. Bronze applied from inner corner of crease going outwards and along lower lids to cover up OTT black. Horrible mess repaired!

 The blue had already started to fade after I'd been wearing it for about half an hour and got the camera out.

They come packaged in a black plastic case with a mirror in the lid and a double-ended foam applicator. The website says "Best applied with the applicator enclosed". This is not true. I do not recommend you use the applicator unless you're doing a tiny touch-up whilst you're out and about. It will take you ages and ages to cover your lids using it and blending will go horribly wrong. I speak as somebody who used the enclosed foam applicators from loads of eyeshadow pots until I discovered brushes less than a year ago. I will never go back. I'm currently using GOSH eyeshadow brushes that I bought during a 3 for 2 promotion after reading this review at Lipsticks and Lightsabers, and they are great.

Sleek products are available from some branches of Superdrug (usually the bigger ones), to find the nearest to you use the Store Finder on their website. They are also stocked in some independent stores, but there isn't a list available. International customers can order online.

05/04/2010

Layering for Spring

Spring has sprung. The days are longer, the sun is brighter and it's raining more. I've started to think along the lines of, as magazines call it, "transitioning your wardrobe into summer". Now I don't exactly follow fashion so I won't be phasing out old clothes and trends to replace them with the new, which is what that actually means. I also don't have the luxury of two separate wardrobes, just a bunch of long-sleeved tops I only wear in winter and short-sleeved tops and dresses I only wear in summer.

What it essentially comes down to is layering. 

Keeping warm in winter is quite an effort for me. I'm not one of those people who radiates masses of heat and if I get chilly I usually will get ill so it's important for me to keep wrapped up. After all those months of cramming as many layers onto my body as I can bear, I'm having to go through an adjustment period. I really knew the seasons were on the turn, and that we weren't getting just a few random days of sunnier weather, when I realised that I no longer need to wear five layers indoors. I can get away with three!

If you keep all your layers thin and make as few of them jumpers or cardigans as possible, you'll look sleeker. This is a pretty easy principle to follow in winter - I would put on a vest, then a long sleeved top, then a fairly tight fitting short sleeved top, then a jumper and a cardigan. However, in spring you have more unpredictable temperature changes to deal with, at least in Britain, where it can be warm in the morning and freezing by the afternoon, or cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon and warm in the evening.

Don't put layers on in a way that makes it too hard to take them off! I've got a couple of tops that are a bit tight around the neck and I had been wearing them over long sleeved tops, but it is now too warm to keep doing that. They are a pain to get off without messing up hair and make-up and getting sweatier and more annoyed. If you make the tops that are tight around the neck the second or third layers (ie. over bra or over vest) and then put more easily removable layers on top, you'll be alright.

If you wear a heavier jumper and a scarf, you can get away with not wearing a coat when you go out, or wearing a more lightweight one. Alternatively, you can wear just a thin cardigan over your top, and then wear your thick winter coat - but you need to be sure your destination will be warm enough!

Gloves will probably make your hands too hot but arm warmers can be a great idea if you're wearing a t-shirt or other short sleeved top. Hats can make your head hot quickly so choose floppy berets or lace caps that aren't too tight to let the air in. Watch out for strong gusts of wind.

If you live in a land of raininess, like the UK, umbrellas are essential. They're not called April showers for nothing. Unless you are really sure there's no sign of rain, unless there is a blue sky with no clouds above you, it is best to wear closed-in boots or shoes. In the summer wet feet dry quickly but now your toes will be really cold if they get damp.

You can also lighten up on the hoisery front and wear thinner socks, and one pair of tights if you were wearing two (I was). If you are cold in one pair of ordinary opaque tights and would be too hot in thicker tights with some wool in the mix, try wearing a pair of fishnets over the normal tights.

I've been spending some time on Polyvore, finding clothes that look similar to clothes I have and putting together outfits. The umbrellas are all fantasy though - my last one broke last week so I'm on the lookout for a new one! Again! It seems like I'm looking out for a new umbrella at least 50% of the time that I post on this blog. If you can recommend any that are max £15 with some kind of strength/durability/lastingness guarantee on them, let me know!

This is almost my perfect charity-shopping outfit. In an ideal world I'd have shoes not boots, but for all that walking, the only footwear I've got that's comfy enough is Docs. A skirt and tights is essential when charity shopping in case I want to try on a skirt or dress, and I also need a big bag to take all my purchases home in!

I'm not sure where I'd be going in this outfit, it's pretty smart-casual, maybe to some sort of event, or to dinner with family and/or friends.

Layering for Spring 3
This is comfy but fun. I think I'd wear it to the library or book shopping - I wouldn't have to change when I got home and wanted to snuggle up with the books and read for hours on end.

How are you adjusting to the change in the weather - if you're experiencing one yet?

02/03/2010

Monday...errr...Tuesday Amusements 7

I had so much original content planned for last week and this week, but then I got a cold. Colds, like all other illness, zap my creativity and make me kind of stupid. I have regaling my friends and family almost daily with stories about how I couldn't find things I'd put down or confused words. It's been taking me an especially long time to notice puns, in particular.

Whilst eating as much garlic as possible and drinking loads of hot water I have been spending a lot of time catching up on reading blogs. I got through quite a lot of my 1000+ post backlog in Google Reader. I also revisited the folder in which I bookmark links that I want to share, and selected some of the best for you today. Now let's see if I'm well enough to make this more than just readable.

Getting Crafty

My hands have been too full with tissues for me to actually make anything; the Citron shawl I started in January has been on pause for a while. I'm going to be done with it soon, though it's going to be a lot smaller than the pattern because I don't have enough of the yarn I decided to use. I've enjoyed the pattern so I might make another when I get some more yarn.

I have been in the mood for crafting though. I don't make enough. I have a few skeins of embroidery thread, boxes of beads, masses of ideas and tons of tutorials bookmarked but like everything else my hobbies have fallen by the wayside as I try to finish my novel. I've been longing for spring, I really want a proper summer this year, and this butterfly headband would get me in the mood. Personally I'd tone it down a little for everyday wear. I'm thinking one or two purple-and-black butterflies on a thin headband.

We get a large number of lampshades donated to the charity shop I volunteer at, but unfortunately very few of them are small enough to use like Gwen does to make this "dainty Victorian-ish hat". Otherwise I'd be breaking out the purple paints and ribbon ASAP.

I can never find a safety pin when I want one, and I think the only ones we've got in my house are tiny and gold, so I'd have to make a special tip out to stock up before I made this Tom Binns-inspired safety pin necklace. I think you could apply the general idea to all sorts of other accessories, a big safety pin brooch would be especially cool. Plus you could thread beads on the safety pins! Oooh! I am definitely going to do this. If you want something a bit softer, this t-shirt necklace requires only the ability to use scissors and follow instructions.

Cute Creatures

Let's take a break from all that hard work considering the crafty possibilities and enjoy Dee's selection of 13 Unbelievably Adorable Animal Photos.

Useful Things Entertaining Things Etcetera

Oh, what's that I hear? It's the sign of my imagination yawning. Too tired to come up with a better title for this section.

If you've been reading this blog a while, you might remember my review of the exhibition Between the Covers: Women's Magazines and their Readers at the Women's Library. Their current main exhibition is called Ms Understood: Women’s Liberation in 1970’s Britain, and I haven't had an opportunity to visit it yet, but after reading Katie's review at Fat Quarter, I'll make sure to go along before it closes on the 17th April.

Recently I have realised that my upper body strength has been vanishing steadily. I can't lift food shopping bags high anymore. When I tried to do the initial test for the one hundred push ups training programme I couldn't manage two. I used to be able to do ten or more! I think I'm going to have to do the whole thing, with "bench" push ups to try to get myself back to normal and hopefully better.


Finally, I suggest that in the spirit of Spring Cleaning and all that, you choose yourself a new desktop wallpaper for March from Smashing Magazine's fabulous selection. There are so many I liked that I'll probably end up changing them every few days.

13/02/2010

Review: Lily Lolo Mineral Cosmetics

This review has been a long time coming. I've actually been using most of the products I'll feature in this post for over a year. I read about Lily Lolo several times on various online forums before I decided to purchase some foundation, concealer, highlighter and finishing powder samples. Lily Lolo as a company is widely recommended to people in the UK who are interested in mineral make-up because their products are some of the cheapest available. Lily Lolo is also recommended a lot on forums to people who are either really pale, or have darker skin than is properly catered for by the chain store brands.

I am really pale, and I've actually gotten paler over the last year - I blame the absence of a proper summer for the last two years. Before I used Lily Lolo I tried various Rimmel foundations (whichever was the cheapest in the shop when I needed some) in the shade 'Ivory', which always looked orange by the end of the day, especially on my forehead. I only used to use foundation on special occasions (ie. if I was going to a ball or clubbing or something), the rest of the time I'd just use the 'Ivory' Rimmel concealers and when I did use foundation I'd put loads of concealer on as well because it was slightly more pale. I used their 'translucent' (read: a pale shade of ORANGE) powders on top, until I found the L'Oréal True Match powder range, their 'Ivory Rose' shade was much better, but I used to have to put masses on to combat the orangeness of the foundation.

Foundation

Discovering Lily Lolo solved all my foundation problems. First of all, you can order samples, which are generous enough to last a few weeks. This means that I could check my face in natural light, artifical light, mix shades, work out my best match. My best match at the time was mostly 'Porcelain' with a pinch of 'Candy Cane' thrown in just to darken it a bit. However, I just ordered a full size of 'Porcelain' because I decided the sample of 'Candy Cane' was enough to last me ages if I only went for the best match on special occasions (balls, nights out clubbing, etc!). You can only order samples of each product/shade once. I think it was in September 2009 that I stopped using the 'Candy Cane' at all because I'd become so pale that 'Porcelain' on its own was my best match.

The foundation is really cheap, in my opinion. £12 for 10 grams of foundation may sound like a lot but one pot lasted me over a year. I think of it like a deposit paid for a year's worth. L'Oreal Pure Match foundation would be £19.99 for 10 grams but they don't sell it in sizes that large. At this point I think I should say that various companies in the USA do sell mineral foundation that is cheaper. But then you have to pay postage, and your order can't be more than £18 or you're liable for customs fees.

I really like this. When I'm wearing it it feels nearly the same as wearing nothing. It controls the shine and gives good coverage when my skin's being blotchy. Multiple win.

Concealers

I use 'PeepO' and 'Blush Away', I had a sample of 'Blondie' but in my opinion, if you've got the correctors and foundation you don't really need skin-tone concealer. I'll start with 'PeepO'. I have found this more effective on the dark part under my eyes than anything else, but unfortunately it's still not perfect. It's a yellow concealer to counteract the blue and purple skin under the eyes and it does quite a good job however I do have to be very sparing with it as it can look yellow and powdery if I'm not careful. Sometimes I carefully brush some of my foundation or 'Blondie' over the top to make it look less obvious. All these concealers have to be used extremely sparingly - if you can see lumps of concealer on your brush that's too much, you want a thin dusting. Too much 'Blush Away' will look obvious and white, but with a gently-applied dusting I can cover most of my spots. My face looks about 70% less red thanks to this.

Because you only need such miniscule amounts of these powders to cover anything, the 4g you get for £7 will last absolutely ages. I've had my full-sizes of these concealers for over a year and it seems like I've hardly used any.

Finishing Powder

I have tried two of Lily Lolo's finishing powders, 'Translucent Silk', and 'Flawless Matte', and I have the former in full size. They are pretty similar, but 'Flawless Matte' contains kaolin to control oil, whereas 'Translucent Silk' is just mica. It doesn't really do anything for me, the finishing powder. It's handy if I've gotten oily, because then I can get rid of the shine without adding on more foundation I don't want or need, but otherwise I don't use it. I don't want to use it that much as you only get 4.5 g for £12.00!

Highlighter

I got a sample size of the 'Star Dust' highlighter and it's lasting me ages because a little of this light, sparkly, gold stuff goes a long way. It's really nice and makes a decent eyeshadow too. I have swatched it along with the eyeshadow, see below.

Eyeshadow

I bought the "Deep Purple" eyeshadow to treat myself with my second order. Having never tried mineral eyeshadow before I was disappointed by it because I didn't realise you needed to use primer or something else to get it to stick. Finding that out has changed my life, and my opinion of this product. It's a dark, slightly sparkly purple, looks good as eyeshadow or eyeliner, I really like it. Each shade of eyeshadow from Lily Lolo is £5, you get 2.5 grams for that, but I find I have to put about twice as much of it on as I would if I was using Aromaleigh eyeshadows.

Here are some swatches, but please don't go by the colour of this. It does not look at all brown in real life, it is actually purple. It is a fair guide to intensity though.


It goes on brightest if you apply it over a cream eyeshadow or primer that is slightly tacky. A cream eyeshadow that dries quickly is better than nothing but it won't look anywhere near as vivid. I find that it doesn't really work applied wet as a shadow, it's harder to work with than when it's dry, but if I'm using a fine damp brush to put it on as eyeliner, it's okay.

The Lily Lolo eyeshadow range is pretty limited, they've only got a few shades of each colour, but as they don't offer samples of the eyeshadows, they probably don't sell so well. There aren't any swatch photos provided either, just images of the powder in the pots. Hell Candy reviewed the Indigo eyeshadow, which I think looks lovely, and I'm looking forward to getting that one at some point in the future, but until some photos of the other shades in action make it onto the web I won't try any of the others.


Top eyelids: Lily Lolo 'Deep Purple'
Crease: Aromaleigh 'flutura's cloud'
Below eyebrows: mobile-phone-shaped Superdrug gift set white
Bottom eyelids: Aromaleigh 'dormant dream'


Powder Packaging

All the powder products come in plastic pots with screw top lids and removable sifters. They are pretty to look at and work well, except that the jars are frosted/translucent plastic, which makes it impossible to see a) the true colour of the product through the pot and b) how much you've got left! It's really hard to judge looking through the sifters at the foundation and finishing powder because the product makes them translucent too. I have to remove the sifters to see if I'm running out which makes a mess, even if I am running out, because powder gets trapped around the sifter and goes everywhere when you move it.

There isn't any information about whether the containers are recyclable.

Super Kabuki Brush

The brush is really soft, I love it, and often swipe it over my face about thirty times more than is necessary because it feels so nice. I haven't worked out how to get powder onto it the best way as it's fuller than the brush I used before (funnily enough, as it still has all it's bristles) and doesn't really fit into the lid with enough room for me to swirl it around properly. I might have to find something else to shake the powder into.

Concealer Brush

Wow, does this make applying concealer fast or what? It's kind of stiff, it'll probably loosen up as it's washed but all I need to do is get powder on both sides and swipe a couple of times and I'm done. I ordered this with my "Complexion Perfection" kit because I'd had enough of the rubbish Argos-catalogue-make-up-kit eyeshadow brush I'd been using to apply concealer before, and I am very happy with it.

General Comments

Lily Lolo's base products seem to me to be pretty much no-frills. They only do one kind of foundation, three finishing powders, three skin-tone shades of concealer and two correctors. Other brands usually give you a choice, offering different properties. As a comparison, Aromaleigh offer two different types of foundation, and several different types of finishing powder. But Lily Lolo are in the UK! I have recently become addicted to Aromaleigh's eyeshadows (I made three orders within five weeks. Reviews coming as soon as I've had time to try them all and get some decent photos sorted), and as much as I am intrigued by the options for face products I can't see myself using up most of the £18 I can spend on an order on one single product. Plus I tend not to realise I'm running out of foundationy stuff til the last minute, so it would be hard for me to remember to allow 10 days plus for the products to arrive.

I made my third and most recent order to Lily Lolo on the 15th of January. I was almost out of finishing powder already, and then on, if I remember rightly, the 13th, the brush I had been using to apply my foundation powder...how can I put this...well, it exploded, basically. It was already shedding so much I had to put make-up on in my underwear but at that moment it reached the point of total unusability, dropping bristles everywhere. Then, when I found another brush, way too small, to put my foundation on, I discovered that actually, I needed some more of that too.

I was really pleased. Needing those three items meant I could order the "Complexion Perfection" gift set, which gets you foundation, finishing powder and gorgeous kabuki brush for a bargainous £35! It comes in a box, photograph below. If you've ever had any of the little Benefit box sets with the mini products in, it's like a giant version of that with the magnetic bit on the lid to hold it closed. Lovely.

When I placed my order, I expected it to be a couple of days, so I steeled myself for putting up with the tiny brush for a while. I only paid for first class post, but I know from my second order that they seem to upgrade you to recorded delivery if you're spending a fair bit. I don't know how much, only my sample order came first class, but I spent over £30 in my second order. The Lily Lolo website says you should allow 48 hours for dispatch. My invoice says 13:43. I got an e-mail saying that my order had been completed, with tracking number, at 14:18. My package arrived at about noon the next day. My purchases were at my door less than 24 hours after I'd placed the order. That's practically teleportation! I was impressed.

Lily Lolo's products are mostly vegan (products that aren't are listed in their FAQ), and are BUAV approved.

Just so you know, readers, I paid for all this stuff!

06/02/2010

My Top Five Lush Products of the Moment

I've been drafting several make-up reviews that I will post as soon as I take pictures to go with them, and I thought that whilst I'm in review mode, I'd do a quick review of some of my current favourites from Lush.

5. Pied de Pepper

This is a lovely peppery cinnamony warming lotion intended for feet. I love the smell and it's really strong too, which means I can mix it with olive oil to make it more moisturising and last longer. It actually mixes with olive oil really badly, I mix it up and then it separates again within a few minutes, but I put up with having to stir it every time I want to use it because it does the job so well. After working on my feet all day for a couple of months they were in a pretty bad state but have been recovering fast thanks to this. I always put some on if I'm chilly and it makes me feel better.

4. The Olive Branch

It smells beautiful, like oranges, lemons and olives, and is meant to be used as a shower gel, but at the moment I've been using this every other hair wash as shampoo. I wouldn't use it all the time as it eventually makes my hair greasy but as I only use soap and Reincarnate on the other washes it makes up for the little bit of dryness I get and leaves me with smooth soft hair that is still light and styleable. It makes a great shower gel too and lasts ages as a little goes a long way. It's not really a gel consistency, it's very runny in fact, but a few splashes of this lather up really well.

3. Reincarnate

I've been using this solid shampoo for about three years now. It was the first product from Lush that I tried, and I still love it. The smell is very earthy and a lot of people don't like it, though I do. It also takes hard work to get to lather and isn't a brilliant cleanser on its own - living in a hard water area I find that I have to use conditioner after or wash my hair with soap and/or another shampoo first or I'll get build up.  But it has made my brown hair more reddish, people actually compliment me on the colour of my hair quite often. If I flip the ends up onto the roots you can really see that they are completely different colours, the ends are lighter and redder, but when my hair is down it doesn't show because it's a natural, subtle gradient.

2. Vanishing Cream

This moisturiser is so light, I've definitely gotten less spots since I started using it (couple of years now). It's expensive but a little goes a long way so I only have to buy about two pots a year. It also is perfect to wear under mineral foundation as it isn't oily, it means that wearing a full face of make-up feels about the same as wearing none at all. It smells mostly of lavender in my opinion, which some people find offputting, but I've learned to like it.

1. Love Lettuce


photo from the Lush website

If I was only allowed to buy one Lush product for the rest of my life, I'd probably choose this one. I had these really annoying tiny little spots on my temples for several month, too small to really do much with but they wouldn't go. A couple of weeks using this mask and they were gone. I ran out, and they came back. Bought more Love Lettuce and a couple of uses later they were gone again. It exfoliates my skin really well without being harsh and drying and I don't need to actually use it as a mask all the time, what I do is scoop a little bit out with my fingers whilst I'm in the shower and use it as a scrub. That way it lasts a lot longer. However, it still gets used up quite quickly, plus it is fresh so it has to go in the fridge, and is £6.45! If you have five empty black pots from Lush you can exchange them for a free fresh face mask, which I've done once, but I don't use up the other products fast enough to get enough free Love Lettuces. I've run out again though, so I'm just going to have to fork out the cash.

Do you like Lush's products? What are your current favourites? Other products I use regularly include: Enchanting Eye Cream, Lemony Flutter, Porridge soap, Angel's Delight soap, Rub Rub Rub and Let Them Eat Cake. I'm trying out one of the sugar scrubs at the moment, I got it in a set, and I love the scent, but it is really quite scratchy so I don't think I'll buy one.

They've got some new products out for The Cursed Day ('Cursed' pronounced 'Cer-SED', natch), including a ballistic of a little blue man called The Ex Factor. It's a shame that it's vanilla, which I don't really like, because the whole idea of dissolving it one body part at a time sounds fun, it reminds me of the way I used to eat Pom-Bear crisps or Jelly Babies as a kid, biting off the legs, then the arms, then the body, then the ears, then the head! I'm bad to the bone, obviously... I've been looking longingly at the Something Wicked bath melt (it's purple) and at the new apple-scented Temptation soap. I love apple scents and use the Nina perfume by Nina Ricci, but £7.30 for a soap is a lot too much for me!

01/02/2010

Make-Up For The Recession

During the Great Depression sales of make-up rose whilst sales of pretty much everything else dropped, a phenomenon known as the lipstick effect. When the current recession began, several magazines and newspapers predicted a repeat of this trend, using it as an excuse to recommend a few tubes.

One major difference between this recession and the Great Depression is that clothing is a lot cheaper now. I wonder how many people are actually buying make-up instead of clothes these days – I’d imagine that quite a lot just buy fewer items of clothing now that lipstick and clothes are pretty close in price. I find that I come across enough nice charity shop clothes whilst volunteering to keep myself warm and entertained, so the only items of clothing I’ve bought new instead of from charity/vintage shops for months and months have been hosiery and socks. Most recently I got a couple of pairs of tights from M&S and three pairs of socks from Sock Dreams as I needed long socks that fit my big feet for work (way overdue for a review).

I bought hardly any make-up over the last academic year as I was self-financing my MA*, but over Christmas, I had a temporary full-time job**, and I went a little crazy. I didn’t buy any lipstick. But I bought three GOSH brushes, and two eyeliners and an liquid eyeshadow from Bourjois in the Superdrug 3-for-2 sale, the Sleek Graphite palette (basically, a must have for anyone in the UK who likes to dress/do their make-up on the dark side, especially as it’s £4.87), and I placed THREE orders to Aromaleigh. Yes, really, THREE. Within 35 days. I am going to review them properly in their own post, but the short version: amazing.

Right now, I would much rather spend £18 on 24 eyeshadow samples plus shipping than on one or two items of clothing. I love the possibilities that make-up brings. I adore the glittery powders and soft brushes. I find hours of entertainment out of making my eyelashes lilac and my eyebrows pink, sprinkling my cheeks with gold, staining my lips with Benetint, and doing all kinds of wonderful things on my eyelids. I like that when I do my make-up in the morning I’ll be re-enchanted every time I pass a mirror and check out my work. I like it when I finally master a trick I’ve been trying to get right for ages or discover a new technique. Even if I have to wear dull clothes that day for some reason I can always have sparkly eyeshadow!

I stayed in all day today but made up for it by doing this in the morning. I have finally learnt how to take make-up photos in which my eye make-up actually shows up. Three things I've discovered I need, in case you're interested:
  1. A camera with "super macro"
  2. To be standing facing a window when the sun is up
  3. To raise my eyebrows, yes, I look like someone's just stood on my foot, but if I didn't do it you wouldn't be able to see anything above the crease.
Eyeliner: Bourjois Contour Clubbing Waterproof in blue remix 45
Eyeshadow: Aromaleigh tangled tinsel (Holiday Blast collection, discontinued) on upper lids, morphing moon (Les Papillons collection) in crease, not so silent night (Holiday Blast collection, discontinued) on outer corner of crease and lower lids
Mascara: Rimmel 100% Waterproof Mascara in Black Black over Natural Collection (Boots) clear mascara - I usually put this on under mascara and somehow it's less clumpy.
Foundation and concealer by Lily Lolo


I seem to have phases of preferring either make-up, clothes, or accessories, right now I'm going through yet another make-up renaissance, and have forbidden myself from obtaining any more make-up until I use some of it up, but I don’t know how long I will hold out as I really really really want to try the Aromaleigh Rocks! and Bête Noire ranges, and I absolutely have to get a full-size of aqua nightmare because it is my favourite eyeshadow in the whole world.

Have you contributed to the lipstick/eyeshadow effect? Or have your shopping habits remained the same since the recession began?

*Why this blog has been quiet from 2008-2009 **Why this blog has been quiet since I finished my MA
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