BEAUTY: Lab 2 - cruelty free makeup brushes

Tuesday, 29 November 2016
For the past month I have been putting some new make up brushes to the test, using them everyday and actually sticking to the routine of washing them every week. My collection of makeup brushes rarely get such treatment, however for these Cruelty Free and Vegan (!!) brushes from L.A.B.2 I wanted to give them a true test to prove that you don't need to rub animal hair on your face for that perfect finish. Borderline preachy there, so I'll stop. 
I've been sent the I'm Turning Pro brush kit which I think is a great starter set and the only other brush I've been using in the past month is an eye shadow brush from Real Techniques. The only reason for this is because the eye shadow brush in this set is PERFECT for blending concealer. 
The foundation brush is the only brush that I didn't like but that's not down to the brush. I have never really been a fan of the paintbrush style foundation brushes and favour the buffing style brushes. I found the foundation brush a little too big for concealer so this has been gifted to my Mum who loves it for her foundation. 
Now onto the stars of the show, the contour and buffing brush - both perfect, just perfect. Not only are these brushes soft but they wash so well. At the risk of sounding like my mother there haha, it's true though. They have a really fast drying time and keep their shape. 

I'd be looking for a really good contour brush for a while, some were just too small and most were just too large as I like quite a sharp contour on my moon face. 

Fair play to L.A.B.2, you've created some awesome brushes and most of the range are now on my Christmas list. 

Did I mention they are cruelty free and vegan too? ;) 

LIFESTYLE: Saying goodbye to the iPhone 6 plus

Sunday, 13 November 2016
My previous upgrade was a little disastrous. Two years ago when my contract renewal came around I called up EE and discussed my upgrade options with them and settled on having an iPhone 6. Fast forward a week and it wasn't the phone that was delivered - they'd sent me an iPhone 6 plus and it was HUGE. 

This was long before the time now where having a massive smart phone is a "thing" and I hated it to begin with, but I also didn't want to wait to send it back and be sent a new one so I stuck with it. It wasn't long before I fell in love with the massive screen which was great for working, blogging and taking photos. I bought a 360 degree phone cover to protect this ridiculous phone and I really did enjoy using it, despite it NEVER fitting in any pocket. 

My latest upgrade has just passed, in line with the launch of the iPhone 7, which I wasn't interested in in the slightest. No headphone port? No thanks. More importantly with the purchase of a house (yeah that topic isn't going away from my blog anytime soon) I needed to make sure I had a cheaper contract and I was getting more for my money. Through the conversation with the really helpful advisor I settled on an iPhone 6s - but this one has double the memory and a massive 10GB of internet - up from 4GB and this comes in very handy when working on the house which has no internet. Youtube videos whilst working is the way forward. 

At first the switch to a smaller phone was horrible, apart from being able to pop it in my pocket, I just hated a smaller screen. Watching any video on it wasn't as enjoyable and I was considering changing to the iPhone 6s plus or the iPhone 7 plus for this alone. But I stuck with it and now I am appreciating the other features, the more memory and internet, so I'm happy. 

As with my iPhone 6 plus I've still kept the iRing on the back of the phone, it's just something I am used to now and I don't think I'll ever not have one on my phone. I am stupidly clumsy and this has stopped me dropping my phone as much. My other tip, these 360 degree phone cases are brilliant and fully protect your phone if you drop it. 

*contains a sponsored link

HOME: Renovating our kitchen

Saturday, 12 November 2016
Before the work on the house turned into a full scale house renovation, the main project was the kitchen. After decades of not being maintained and the cupboards being eaten by the resident dogs - we couldn't live there and renovate such a big room in the house. 

The room is a huge L shape and will really become the heart of the downstairs once complete and now the bulk of the building work is complete, the daunting task of actually deciding on the worktops, appliances and decor. GULP.
I have always been a huge fan of a cottage style kitchen with plenty of wooden features and that's the style that (thankfully) we have both agreed on. The house has character and i don't want to loose that by putting a modern kitchen in. 

Until a few months ago I had never really used Pinterest and now it's become my new Instagram, here's my Kitchen Board - if that's the right term for it(!) and you can see exactly the type of look we are going for.
I will say at this stage, whilst I love having a large kitchen, there is one huge downside - cost. The wall space, appliance and furniture list is long because we have so much space to fill. 

Our idea is to have a bench like dining room table near the entrance to the kitchen, somewhat of a breakfast bar and coffee area. The rest of the kitchen will form a galley type kitchen through to the back door. 

As we are planning to stay in this house for many (many) years we want to fully kit out the kitchen in a budget friendly, but stylish, way. We considered lots of websites and review sites that show you the best cheap washing machines and dishwashers - but for us the solution was to have integrated appliances which I am more than happy with. 

As we head into month three of owning the house, the kitchen is due to be fully plaster boarded by today and the plasterer can now come in and skim the whole thing - goodbye dust! 

*contains a sponsored link

LIFESTYLE: 7 months meat free!

Sunday, 23 October 2016
Yesterday marked the day that I am officially 7 months meat free! I wrote about the reasons why here and I had always planned to revisit the topic if I was still sticking to it months down the line.

Well, I am and I'm pretty much vegan too. I am also pretty sure that I will never go back.

Roll back the clock to six months ago and I vowed that I would only make this choice if I was going to educate myself on the entire subject. This was really important for me because I didn't want this to just be a knee jerk reaction and potentially be something I wouldn't stick to. To put simply, the more you see and watch, the more you want to change.

After watching the documentary that made me not want to eat meat anymore, I then started reading everything I could and I'll be honest - I had to stop at one point because the information was just making me so angry. The fact that so much of the world's grain goes to feed animals in third world countries, which then just get slaughtered and eaten in the first world countries just infuriated me. All I could think of was the amount of food that isn't going to those who are literally starving to death.

I have my own veggie freezer drawer now, full of quorn and the supermarket vegetarian options which are surprisingly good! Eating out has been fine, but the only thing that I've felt really awkward about is eating at other people's houses. Whilst they have been so accommodating I do feel like it's my choice not to eat meat and this shouldn't impact other people. I will say that this hasn't been as bad as I thought with them making the same meal just using quorn instead of meat in a different pot.

I knew I wanted to look into veganism for a few reasons. I'd never really had the stomach for dairy and I knew that it couldn't be good for the animals, I just never knew HOW bad it was. Dairy milk was switched straight away to Soya, Almond and Coconut, cheese stopped pretty much (I've still had a couple of veggie pizzas) and chocolate switched to the dark variety.

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

The switch to veganism will be a transition and whilst I am transitioning the key for me is in the definition above. This is taken from The Vegan Society website and has summed up my experience perfectly. The best example of this I can share here is a couple of weeks ago Matt's Grampy made me a cup of coffee, with normal milk. I decided to drink that coffee rather than explain that I couldn't drink it because I was vegan etc as I didn't want to cause offence and potential upset. In that moment it wasn't practicable for me to say no.

Cruelty free cosmetics and household products are another whole minefield that I've been looking further and further in to. The cosmetic side is fine, I'm only repurchasing cruelty free brands across makeup, hair products and body products. I'm still unclear as to how I feel about parent companies, but that's a whole other blogpost / video.

Household products are a whole other ball game. So far the only brands that I've seen in stores is Ecover and Method, both substantially more than your average products and supermarket own brands. With us just buying our first home a radical change to these products probably isn't going to be financially viable.

One part of this change (?) I wasn't expecting was the judging from others around me. Questions left right and centre about "Why the hell would you want to do that", statements that range from "I could never give up meat" to "I hope you don't turn all hippy". It's quite amazing really, if I were to turn around and say that I didn't want to eat mushrooms anymore, for example, I bet no one would bat an eyelid. Recently I spent the afternoon at a Macmillan coffee event where the organiser had battled and beat cancer. As part of the event there was cake everywhere and I got offered a slice of cake in celebration that she had beaten cancer, and do you know what. I ate it. I then had this said to me "You can't pick and choose when you are vegan!" from someone who is an animal product consumer. I didn't know what to say.

EVENT: Dirty Martini Opens in Cardiff

Sunday, 9 October 2016
 I know I don't drink but how can you fail to be excited by a huge parcel arriving for you at work and everyone in the office being jealous of gifted alcohol? Dirty Martini have supplied me with the ingredients to make one of their three Welsh - inspired cocktails, The Red Dragon.
 The Red Dragon uses botanical Gin and has flavours of blood orange, green tea and hibiscus - with tea pot bitters and to top it off there a snap dragon flower. 
 This kit is going to be perfect for any house warmings we have once we've moved so I'm going to keep it until then. The bar opens on the 29th October and will be at 71-72 St Mary Street. 

 I'm going to look up some mocktails I can make with these ingredients!

FASHION: The search for a non-leather tan ankle boot

Friday, 7 October 2016
1 // 2 // 3 // 4

I think it's become an annual tradition for me to spend my October's online searching through every single womens boots section of my favourite websites, but this year is a little different. At the risk of "banging on" about it, six months ago I made the decision to go vegetarian, cruelty free and make more and more vegan choices every day. This meant leather too. 

Previous years shopping searches we all about leather boots, something that was instilled in me from a young age by Mum and Nan - "leather lasts". Well, it may last, but it's also the skin of an animal that's been killed so no more leather for me! 

When I've looked at faux leather boots in the past they have always looked cheaper (to me) so I was conscious that I needed to find some that still looked the part. I think I've done well! 

The first pair from Brantano are £35 and whilst they aren't leather look, they are suede (synthetic) and a material that I have always liked the look of. The second pair are from Matt and Nat, a brand that has only recently been introduced to me as they are one of the best known vegan leather companies. At £115 they aren't cheap but I think that's justified in just how good these boots look. I think the third pair, which are £27.99 from Newlook are my favourite. I love the casual feel to them and the details make them look a lot more expensive. Finally, from Dorothy Perkins we have these classic Chelsea Boots in the sale at £22.50. I really like the colour of these - a really rich tan, just a great classic. 

The change from leather to non-leather goods is going to be a continuous process because it's just not financially viable for me to throw everything out and repurchase. But what better way to start than with a nice pair of boots. 

*contains sponsored link

HOME: Could You Make Your Own Secret Garden?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Whatever your age, having a secret spot in the garden where you can relax and unwind all year round doesn’t require an outdoor space the size of a small field. As we step into autumn, why not get started on an outdoor project and work on creating a special spot you can enjoy?

Hopefully you've read my last post and will recognise that this is in fact our very own garden!

Just to the right of that tree I have a set of steps which take you down to a secret area in our garden. At the moment it's just an underground garage space, but I can't wait to make it magical with fairy light and lanterns. The magic of a secret garden can leave people enthusiastic about time spent on their own doorstep, so how do you get started?

Artistic Inspiration
Long before the secret spaces written about by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series, the authors of several children’s classics created equally awe-inducing magical places that have inspired generations. Why not look into the idea of the secret garden by reading the novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett? Stories can fuel ideas for transforming your own space, the Narnia books are another great series that could provide ideas for magical features to incorporate. When it comes to the design stage, you may even find you want to draw on little bits from several favourite books to create mini garden areas on a theme.

The Exciting Entrance

In The Secret Garden, one of the key features of the enclosed space is the locked gate. While it’s lovely to be able to incorporate some kind of gate or archway into your design, it’s not always practical. What is a fundamental, is being able to create garden layers, so that whether you’re stepping into the space from a gate or your back door, it’s not always possible to see the full scope of your garden in one glance.
This may mean factoring in a small clearing at the back of the garden or if more practical for your space, you could step straight into the enclosed space. If you have a modern build home, bi-fold doors could provide a real Narnia like effect and give that feeling of stepping into the magic. Try Creative Doors Direct for styles that work well with new and older houses.

Wherever your magical entrance and whatever style you choose, think about it as a gateway to a journey through your garden and support that it with curving pathways and cute signs that direct to different areas. You may even want to put some old mirrors to use to make your garden seem bigger. Place securely at the back of the garden and mask the edges with creeping plants and the mirror will reflect your garden, helping your space to seem larger and longer.

Fantastical Flora and Fauna

Not everyone has space in their garden or backyard for a mini maze and installing one throughout would go against the component of discovery having a garden made up of different elements provides. However, some archways and hedges can go a long way to directing people through a secret garden and to boxing off a special secluded area to enjoy too. Try boxwood or sweet yew or for a quicker fix, use a trellis or pergola complete with climbing plants. Training creeping flowers around archways will provide an extra sensory factor to enjoy in spring and summer.

A Secluded Spot

Whether it’s a small clearing for playing and picnicking or a spot that homes a swing, chair or hidden shed, a secret garden should have a focal point, a spot to find and experience in solitude or to be enjoyed with friends. Choose an area where there are things of interest to be enjoyed. Somewhere with flowers that attract butterflies in summer time or where there is a bird table, so you can watch winter wildlife close up. The size of your garden, or further literary inspiration, may determine the type of feature you incorporate. If you’ve space for a small shed or play hut it will no doubt be a place to treasure for years to come.

Have you read The Secret Garden ? Are there any books that may provide inspiration for a secret outdoor project that ought to be added to the list? If you were to build your own secret garden, what would you include in it and why?

We are very lucky the garden is fully established and didn't need much doing, but this little secret area at the back really has got me excited about gardening!

HOME: Renovation Weeks 1-4

Sunday, 25 September 2016
We've been homeowners now for four weeks and the changes in the house now make it pretty unrecognisable from the house we got given the keys to.

In these three weeks we've gone from just sorting the kitchen to pretty much ripping the whole house out, with the addition of a huge hole in the ceiling in our lounge. I'd been pretty keen to document these changes and dare I say it even vlog some of it, but it has been so much harder than I thought. Getting some decent content over the past two days has been impossible - all I have done is burn gloss of woodwork.

Rolling back three weeks ago, the house looked like this:

Week 1 - Tackling the kitchen

Initially we were going to just do the kitchen and then move in. Having the kitchen renovated without us living there was so important. Not only because it's a huge project, but also with Matt's allergies and the animals - living alongside it wouldn't have been fun. 

The first three days in the property saw the kitchen smashed to pieces and uncovering some issues that we hadn't noticed before purchasing. The two most notable were that the roof (our kitchen is in an extension) had clearly been subject to a leak and the units we rotted from a leak behind the sink. We were particularly disheartened by this as the sellers continuously confirmed that nothing was wrong with the rood. As you can see in the photos above, there were huge holes in the units which had been eaten by their dogs so we were expecting it to not be in the best condition. However, we were still shocked that the sink unit had partially rusted away and the worktops were actually bendy with the amount of water that had leaked in them. 

Week 2

Week 2 of renovations is where things escalated pretty quickly and plans soon changed. The decision to smash out the bathroom at this stage proved wise because turns out it had been leaking for a while, a roof joist is rotten and the ceiling fell through into the lounge! 

Decor wise we started to burn off the million layers of gloss paint that have been slapped on to every doorframe and skirting board. The heated blower (I have no idea what it's called) is a scary piece of kit. Within seconds there is a red hot jet of air bubbling up the gloss and then you scrape it off. This takes ages so that's pretty much all we did. 

One afternoon we'd had enough of paint fumes and decided to move a planter from the front garden to the back. We had to dig out all the soil and plants which took 8 rubble bags! Aside from the 500 spiders we encountered - it was nice to do some gardening. 

Week 3

This week will officially be known as the weekend of steam. Our two biggest bedrooms were lined and then painted, but as you can see by what is left of the yellow below, the walls were really patchy with paper. As there was no consistency in what was on the walls we are going back to the plaster. 

The second bedroom revealed something that reminded me of things you find in horror films. Although it's pretty cool find the history in the house. We've also found Richard's homework from 1981, so sorry to his teacher if it wasn't handed in - it was in the floorboards! 

Burning off paint, never ends.

I also cut the grass for the first time in my life! 

Week 4

I took a weekend away from the house, got back to walking dogs because I'd really missed it and wrote this blogpost! 

I really should have filmed the video that would go alongside this, but I put Harry Potter on and didn't. #reallife

LIFESTYLE: Yankee Candle Haul

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Roll back six weeks ago and I had one small glass Yankee Candle in Fluffy Towels, now my collection is as above and I have four girls to thank for this!

These four ladies are candle connoisseurs and have well and truly got me hooked on Yankee Candles, especially knowing that shops ALWAYS have a huge sale section.

Looking at the photos, I also have a box of Spiced Apple tea lights I got given for my birthday.

I can't even offer a review of each one because I just don't know where to start!!