Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm very aware of the lack of festive content on my little blog this December.

I must confess, SWB has taken a little bit of a back seat - life, as usual, has been busy, and I've been concentrating more on not forcing myself to write content, and spending time with friends and family, soaking up winter and the pre-Christmas glow. I've also been having a little trouble blogging, with inspiration being hard to find and my confidence waning (perhaps something I may post more about in the next few weeks - I won't go into it now).

I'm not going to apologise - life is for living, and I am a firm believer in making the most of the little moments - I'm not going to say no to an evening with my friends watching Frozen and drinking mulled wine!

I just want to share my favourite things about the build up to Christmas. Christmas day is, of course, an amazing time, but I adore the few weeks running up to it. The preparation and excitement just can't be beaten, and this year has been no exception.

Christmas isn't just about one day - it's about the entire season!

So, without further ado, here are a few things which have been making me happy this yuletide:

  • Hot mulled wine in my favourite mug.
  • Spending an early Saturday morning curled up on the sofa in my pyjamas with frost outside, drinking tea and sitting with the Christmas tree lights on in the peace and quiet.
  • Jamaican rum stollen from Aldi. The strongest (and most delicious) stollen I've had so far!
  • She & Him's Christmas album. It's been playing on repeat all week, especially the Christmas Waltz. It's pure retro festive heaven, and I am addicted.
  • Carefully co-ordinated Christmas wrapping. This year's theme is silver and green (a little bit Slytherin!) And all from Paperchase...naturally!

  • Spending a day baking homemade mince pies, and successfully creating crumbly, buttery pastry from scratch. They didn't last long!

  • Stocking up on tasty Christmas essentials to take home to eat with my family. Shortbread biscuits? Chocolate tree decorations? Amaretto flutes? Check, check, check!
  • I can't wait to whip up some of Rosie's Hot-tails on Christmas eve! They sound like my ultimate festive treat!
  • Using up my Lush festive treats in numerous hot baths and showers. I've already nearly run out of Hot Toddy...

  • When else can you eat chocolate coins before breakfast, and feast on eight different types of cheese in front of the TV?
  • Reading by candlelight.
  • Snuggling under a blanket, all curled up on the sofa, watching good television. This year I watched It's a Wonderful Life as soon as I arrived home, and it was so incredibly cosy!
  • Trying out all of the festive coffees at Starbucks and Costa. My favourites are Hot Spiced Apple, Black Forest Hot Chocolate and the Almond and Honey Hot Chocolate. Utterly delicious!

  • Brass bands playing carols in the shadow of Winchester Cathedral.
  • Waking up to classic Christmas tunes on my clock radio. Wizzard at 6.30am? The perfect start to the day!
  • Toasting my toes by the open fire at home, watching classic Christmas films with my parents. Nothing says Christmas for me like peace with my family.
  • Wrapping presents to perfection.

I could go on...but I'll leave it there for now!

I'm not sure I'll be posting much until 2015 now, so I just want to say have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends - relax, enjoy the food, and cherish each moment! Here's to a fantastic year ahead - I can't wait to get back to blogging! Thank you so much for reading my blog during 2014.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

#sotonmeetup - My Second Blogger Meet-up

Almost a month ago I attended my second ever bloggers' meet-up, not long after going along to my first in October! I was lucky enough to nab a place after meeting the organiser, Alice from Annie Writes Beauty, at the #sotonoctmeetup, and I am so glad that I was able to attend.

In the run up to the event there was a lot of hype on twitter amongst attendees. Alice was updating us on the brands sending items for our gift bags, and what we would need to bring with us on the day. Bloggers were organising their journeys, who to travel with, and sharing links beforehand. My Tweetdeck was full of positivity and excitement - a testament to the enthusiasm and friendliness of the blogging community!

As before, I was pretty nervous as I walked along to the venue. I mentioned in my last post how I was concerned about 'standing out' (for all the wrong reasons!). Though She Wears Burgundy is now a year old, I still feel incredibly new and have an awful lot to learn - and many other bloggers, to me, seem miles ahead of where I am with this little corner of the internet! These worries reared their heads once again, but as soon as I bumped into a couple of friendly faces from last time, I felt relaxed and excited for the afternoon ahead!

The venue was perfect for the event, and was in fact the same place as the last one! Orange Rooms, in Bedford Place, Southampton, had offered their upstairs lounge area as the ideal space for the meet-up, and it worked so well. The room had a cosy, warm atmosphere with low lighting, comfy seats and the perfect little spaces for the visiting brands to set up their displays.

It wasn't long before I had ordered a delicious virgin mojito and started chatting to the lovely Holly from Impatience is a Virtue, who was incredibly friendly. We ended up chatting about our blogs, motivation, makeup and (mostly) our lives! It's always good to settle into an event with a good chat to get to know someone. After enough nattering, we decided to take a look at the brands which had come along.

The first brand we saw was Bee Good, a local natural company who harness the powers of bees to create skin products. The team, a husband and wife, have rapidly expanded, and now their products can be found in many Waitrose stores. It was lovely to meet them and chat about what they have to offer - they were so friendly and helpful, and I loved everything their brand stood for. The science behind it, and the production process, was fascinating - no product from the bees is wasted! The products I tested were impressive - and I was delighted to find one of their lip balms in my goody bag at the end of the day. I definitely have my eye on them and will hopefully be picking up one of their cleansers to see how it compares with my beloved Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish.

We then headed over to see Weleda - another natural company who have been around for 90 years. With a number of different products for a variety of skin types, ages and needs, their range was very impressive. I was sorely tempted by the amazing Skin Food  which has won numerous awards and has (allegedly) been used by many famous faces. I tested it on my skin and it was rich, thick, and left my dry winter-damaged hands soft and fresh-smelling. 

Lush Southampton were also there, and were offering hand and arm massages and product advice - I had to resist the temptation to go over this time, as I had visited them at my first blog meet-up, and received so many lush goodies for my birthday that I really didn't need to buy any more! 

After chatting to the lovely brands and a few of the friendly girls at the event, Alice announced that we had raised £50 from buying raffle tickets, and that she and fellow blogger Amy would be matching it - so we would be donating the grand total of £100 to the Royal British Legion. Being so close to Remembrance Sunday and, indeed, Armistice Day, this was a poignant gesture and everyone, including myself, thought it was a wonderful idea and an appropriate cause. 

The raffle then began. There were some amazing prizes from some brilliant companies, including Your Tea, The Library of Fragrance, Oloves and Bodhi and Birch. I admit, I had my eye on the Library of Fragrance, having been intrigued by their bottles in Boots. I was lucky enough to have one of my numbers pulled out...and was amazed that I had won the chance to choose £25-worth of Weleda products! I was ecstatic, as I had been longing after the products I had been shown earlier that afternoon, and couldn't wait to have the chance to try some out. 

After much deliberation and testing, I decided to pick Skin Food, and a Almond Soothing Face Oil. These are both perfect for winter weather, offering intense moisturisation. Although I don't class my skin as sensitive, as I have mentioned in previous posts I like to use products which aren't harsh, which is why I decided the almond range would be best for me. I hope to write a review of my goodies soon, but I will say now...I've been very impressed! I felt very lucky to have won.

After a little more chatting, cooing over our raffle prizes and receiving some wonderful goody bags, I said my goodbyes and left feeling inspired and accepted into the world of blogging. 

I am so grateful that I was able to attend and meet so many lovely people, and discover some fantastic new brands. I'm already looking forward to the next blog event - for now, though, I think I have plenty of blog posts to write up, products to review, and mince pies to munch on.

To those who organised it - thank you so much for inviting me along - it really was a fantastic event.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

#givingtuesday - Ways to Give More this Christmas

My favourite thing about Christmas, aside from the food and drink (of course!) has to be buying the perfect gift for friends and family.

I get far more excited about giving my presents to others than what I might find under the tree for myself. Finding that one thing which will light up a loved-one's face just gives me the best feeling in the world - nothing can top that.

Making someone's Christmas special is my aim every year - not just through gifts, but by helping my parents out with errands, wrapping gifts, tidying the house and putting up decorations. Making sure I see friends and family when I go home for the holidays, and just spending time with the people I love the most. Making memories, for me, is far, far more important than the presents (though of course, I do appreciate them!)

However, this year more than ever, I am becoming very aware of how different Christmas is for thousands and thousands of others. Too many people will spend this season cold, homeless, lonely, ill, or in pain. It happens all year, every year, of course. It's an awful thing to think about, when many of us are fortunate enough to be surrounded by loved ones, warmth, and plenty of food and merriment.

At a time of year when the focus is on family, fortune and food, somehow, people in need almost get forgotten, when it's probably the time we need to remember them the most.

When we gather around the family table each year, we remember loved ones who can sadly no longer be with us for this very special time. For my family, we remember the origins of Christmas, stay thankful, and remember 'absent friends'. This year, I want to spare a thought for many others who will not be so lucky as us.

There are so many ways to do this, and if you feel the same, why not make a little change this year too? It takes very little time to change somebody's Christmas for the better, and it'll warm your heart more than any mince pie or open fire ever could.

There are so many blog posts about gift ideas, wish lists and shopping tips - so I thought I'd write an alternative. 

Today is Giving Tuesday - a day set aside amongst the hubbub of the beginning of Christmas to raise awareness of the importance of giving to others. With the madness of Black Friday and 'Cyber Monday (whatever that was!) over, it's time to remember that buying a new TV or that perfect party dress isn't what Christmas is all about. Watching the news last week, I became so uncomfortable seeing people fighting over discounted goods, desperately pushing and shoving to get the best deals, as if their lives depended on it.

Giving Tuesday is a day set aside across the world to highlight the importance of taking a moment to give to others; whether it's your time, money, or simply raising awareness.

Like many things, giving is not just for Christmas - but it's a good time to start.


Here are some ideas for giving more this Christmas, though I know there are so many other options out there;

      A good friend of mine sent me a link to this cause, which sparked the idea for this post. Donating money to Crisis will reserve a place for a homeless person this Christmas, including three hot meals, a health check and a chance to shower and change, advice on employment and housing, and support when they need it the most. I can't imagine how awful it must be to feel left out in the cold when others are inside, warm and surrounded by comforts, and often these people struggle to get back on their feet. Giving someone this little chance could give them the start to 2015 they need to change their lives for the better. 

      Buy your Christmas cards from a charity shop
        Instead of going for something cute and quirky and (often) overpriced from the highstreet, consider buying a pack or two from your local charity shop. The money will go towards a good cause, and there are some lovely designs available. Spread the joy with a card in more than one way this year. I've bought mine from my local British Heart Foundation shop, and they're very cute! 

          Donate to a gift appeal
            In December, local charities and media teams often hold gift appeals to ensure the less fortunate families have at least one gift under the tree for their children this year. Whether it's an unwanted gift from last year, an extra treat you picked up in a 2-for-1 deal, or a little something from the local supermarket, you're bound to bring the smile to someone's face if you take part in one of these. Research your local collection points, or find a national appeal online- it might be something to get your class / office involved with.

              Donate your time and visit the elderly or alone
                So many older people remain lonely due to few relatives and friends, or a recent bereavement. Just a couple of hours could make them feel less alone; lend an ear and hear their tales, make them a cup of tea, or take them a couple of mince pies. Nobody should be forgotten - and if you live in a small village or community, there's bound to be someone who would welcome your company, even for an hour! 

                  Invite your neighbours over for Christmas drinks
                    This is not so much about charity than creating a sense of community spirit. Say thank you to your neighbours for their help over the last year, whether they kept the noise down, brought round your post, or fed the pets while you were away. It's a chance to introduce yourself too!

                    Give Blood
                      With so many things going on in December, it's easy to forget that some things carry on as normal. The NHS still needs blood donations, whatever day, month or season it is. One in five appointments were skipped over the Christmas period last year, and levels of donations can drop dramatically when people are so wrapped up in Christmas shopping and parties. Find out if you're able to donate, register and book an appointment, and give a much-needed gift this Christmas.

                        Save your spare change while you shop
                          Even if it's mainly 10ps, popping a little change here and there when you do your big Christmas shop means that you don't notice that you're 'doing good' - every little helps, even if it's just the change from your last purchase! In major towns and cities there are always people with collection buckets, choirs and live bands playing.

                            Give the gift that keeps giving
                              What do you get someone who has it all? Charities like Oxfam have gifts such as Oxfam Unwrapped, where you can give which help those in need; buy a goat for a family, or some books for a school in Africa! It's a little gift to make a change, and you can still wrap it up and put it under the tree. Prices often start at about £5 too - the perfect 'tree present'. 

                              Wear your Christmas jumper
                                Save the Children hold an annual Christmas Jumper Day across the country to raise money while wearing your best ugly jumper. With festive sweaters so popular at the moment, it won't take too much time to take part, and it definitely brightens up the office!

                                These are just some of the opportunities around - there are so many more ways to give, and so many charities to support. I hope this post gives you one or two ideas to give more this Christmas - let's make this time of year magical for everyone.

                                Wednesday, 26 November 2014

                                Life Lessons: Advice of a Graduate (pt. 1)

                                A few weeks ago I wrote about how going to university was the best decision of my life so far. At the moment, term is nearly over for the Christmas break and students, from first to final year, have settled into their routines and are facing the first of their deadlines...and the dreaded January exams and assignments.

                                In my last post, I spoke about how, although I went to university for academic reasons, I learned far, far more than that. I came out of the other side a completely different person, having grown and discovered myself a little more. I had learnt many lessons, and not just through my seminars and lectures.

                                University is not just a place to educate yourself about your chosen subject for three or more years (which is exactly what happens - you learn to teach yourself). It's a place to try new things, meet people, fall in (or out of) love, go on adventures and work out what makes you tick. You are exposed to so many opportunities and people that anything is possible. The intensity of the time spend at university can mean that everything happens very quickly, and you grow more within a few years than you did as an awkward, uncertain adolescent.

                                Although at 24 I really do not feel grown up, I realise how much more of an adult I am now compared to my 18 year-old self when I moved into halls five years ago. At the time, I thought myself fairly mature, sensible and wise. Looking back, I now realise that I dealt with things very differently and saw life through very different eyes. Although I know all these changes can occur outside of further education,  from personal experience I am quite sure that I will never learn quite so much about life as I did within those four years at university.

                                So, as some of you reading this may be students, considering higher education, or perhaps feeling nostalgic about your own student life, I offer some of my own personal advice for your time as a student in two posts - here's part one.

                                1. Give it time

                                So many people I knew as a student felt that they should settle in and get stuck into alllll the activities as soon as they finished unpacking and personalising their new room. The pressure to throw yourself straight in can mean that, if things don't fall into place within a few days, some people may panic.

                                I was very lucky in that I got on with my flatmates in halls from the moment we brewed our first cuppa together - but my involvement in societies took a couple of years, as my confidence grew. In fact, I didn't join a society until my third and fourth years. My marks weren't at their best when I started either,  due to still thinking like a sixth-former (there's a big leap in terms of what's expected of you), and I wondered what was wrong with me - why was I taking so long to get involved and see progress when others found it so easy?

                                There's no right or wrong way to spend your years as a student. My advice would be to join societies when you are ready, make informed decisions, don't go wild on nights out if you don't want to, and if you'd rather stay in for a film-night then do it.  Even if you feel settled into independent life, some of the little things will take a little longer to fall into place until you feel you can be yourself and do what you want.

                                Everyone's different and so our university experiences will all differ greatly - what works for some may not for others. It's ok to try things out, otherwise you'll never learn about what you enjoy! But never feel forced to rush into anything, or do anything you don't want to do. I suppose that's a lesson for life, not just for uni. If you can't wait to get stuck in straight away...then great!

                                Most importantly, if you're struggling, sad, homesick or unhappy with your course and are thinking of leaving, you need to give it as much time as you can before you know for certain. Talk to coursemates, lecturers, counsellors, advisors, friends and housemates. Give it all a chance. Just put your happiness and safety first.

                                2. It's all about balance

                                I spent far too many nights in my first year staying up as late as possible for no good reason, even if I wasn't going out. Eventually this made me ill and grumpy, and my grades suffered. In second year, I nearly wept with joy when it became normal to go to bed at 11pm!

                                Looking after yourself is another thing to get used to, and the initial reaction to moving away from home is to do whatever you want, through just sheer excitement. Too many late nights, binge-drinking sessions and takeaways are just going to make you feel unwell and can have a huge effect on your productivity, relationships and health. Try to eat well on a budget, enjoy an early night every so often, stick to soft drinks when you want to and just take some time away from those books to relax and make yourself happy. Don't crash and burn, but don't forget to make memories - it's all about finding your perfect balance. Do what feels good for you.

                                3. Be yourself

                                At first, the focus is all on making friends, meeting people and finding common ground. This is great, but I found that after that initial rush, it was important to do what I wanted to. So, join that society you're interested in, even if you'd be going alone; go for a run, or indulge in your guilty pleasures. University is all about finding yourself, and not copying other people, whether that starts in your first or final year. Try new things, explore the area, start a blog, get involved in student politics. There's nothing worse than looking back on three years and saying to yourself 'That wasn't me.' or 'I wish I'd done that...'. Not doing something you're passionate about because it's not the status quo is what school was for - university is a time to break boundaries and push yourself out of your comfort zone a little!  It's ok to be a little selfish and focus on what you want. Go for it, work out who you are, and don't be afraid of the fact that you might change as a person, because you will; it's called growth.

                                4. Take advantage of what's around you

                                University is a unique place where everything is available to you. You want to be a television presenter? Join the Student Television team. You want to try out a new sport? Good  - there are hundreds to choose from. What about evenings? Well, there are nights out, theatre performances, debates, lectures, meetings...countless things to get involved with. After graduation, it's harder to get involved in such a variety of exciting projects and societies - so now is the time to take up Cantonese, life drawing or archery. The world's your oyster. Grab every opportunity that comes your way with both hands when you want it,  and who knows where it might lead you! I know so many people who have turned their student hobbies into careers. This is as important as your degree (but don't tell your lecturers that!).

                                5. Work isn't everything - switch off

                                My degree was the most important thing to me, and of course I worked as hard as I could. However, I found it difficult to switch off and enjoy the time off I would occasionally have, be it in the holiday breaks or in the evenings. The feeling that I needed to be working would hang over me like a heavy black cloud, sucking the fun out of everything. The guilt would be overpowering.

                                So my fifth piece of advice is to take time out. And I mean real time out. Separate it from your work; enjoy time with family and friends, and don't let assignments prey on your mind 24/7. It's hard, but it means you won't look back and remember everything you did in relation to what assignment you had going on at that stage (so, so depressing). 

                                If you're a student, or considering university in the future, I hope these five points are helpful. I'll be posting part two up soon.

                                Thursday, 20 November 2014

                                #sotonoctmeetup - The Goody Bag

                                It's a little delayed - but I have been able to give you all a little sneak peek into the goody bag from last month's #sotonoctmeetup - I promise the next one will be up quicker!

                                I wrote about my experience at my first local bloggers' meet-up on October 25th. I was incredibly excited to be a part of it all, and it was a great opportunity to meet some lovely fellow bloggers...but the little cherry on the delicious bloggers' cake was the generous goody bag we received at the end of the day!

                                Not only did we have some lovely brands with us throughout the day, including ESPA, Lush, Merumaya and In Situ Cosmetics, but other brands had been generous enough to donate some treats for goody bags and a raffle.

                                I was lucky enough to win a Crabtree & Evelyn gift set in the raffle - which I didn't manage to photograph or review as I just had to give it to my mum, as she never treats herself to beauty products like that! Other great prizes included some beautiful jewellery from Silver Tree and treats from ESPA, who were at the event themselves, amongst others!

                                Now, the goody bags were just lovely. Catherine had popped a little heartfelt tag on the bag, which was crammed with goodies, many of which were natural and cruelty-free. Here are some of the gifts and samples I received!

                                There were also a number of leaflets and offers within the bag too, which I am still yet to go through and make the most of, so I'm looking forward to that. I've already been using some of these products - I have a bad habit of hoarding and saving treats like these up! I've been enjoying using Steamcream, the lip balm is lovely, and the body mist smells amazingly fresh. I also received a few compliments for the Leighton Denny varnish! I'm looking forward to testing out my other treats in the run up to Christmas - when you need treats like these the most! I also received a cute teacup and teapot set and some chocolate.

                                I felt very lucky to come back with some amazing gifts. As well as these, I received a mini ESPA skincare kit - which I have been absolutely loving, so expect  a review very, very soon!

                                If you attended the #sotonoctmeetup I'd love to know which products you've been enjoying the most!

                                Monday, 17 November 2014

                                So Natural: So Calming Lavender and Aloe Vera Shampoo & Conditioner*

                                In the summer, the lovely ladies over at So Natural popped along some of their products for me to try. Along with my brown bag full of body products (including an amazing body & face oil, and a body scrub) they sent along another, with some natural treats for my hair!

                                Although in my previous posts I mentioned that I do like to try and use simple, kind-to-skin products on my face and body, my hair is another story. Honestly? I’ll just buy whatever is on offer, as I find a lot of haircare over-priced. If it’s discounted, and my bottles are nearly empty, I’ll put them in my basket and be on my way.

                                This is strange, really, because my head is where my really sensitive skin lives. I’ve always had a temperamental scalp; a combination of soft water and stress can leave it incredibly uncomfortable. This has, fortunately, calmed down as I’ve grown up, but sometimes it does flare up and it’s times like this when I could probably do with taking better care of it!

                                I tend to use all of the usual shampoos to help with this, but I’ve never really considered using something natural, to soothe my skin and care for my hair. I never really thought about using chemical-free products to help with this problem of mine.

                                As explained in my previous reviews, So Natural are a family business who focus on kind-to-skin, cruelty-free products without chemicals. Good for the body, and the soul.

                                I received So Natural’s So Calming Shampoo and Conditioner. My first impressions were very good; the products come in lovely bottles, which match my other samples and look good on my bathroom shelf - always a priority, of course! I was particularly pleased to see a pump dispenser for each; I tend to end up with far too much product in my hands usually, so this means no wasted lotions and potions and therefore less money wasted too. It also means that bottles can't be dropped with slippery hands in the shower - something I'm always doing! I always think that a pump dispenser for hair-care gives the product a really high-end, luxury feel.

                                These products contain lavender, which is perfect for me, as I usually wash my hair before bed in the evening. They smell calming, and subtle, so thankfully not too overpowering - nobody wants their hair to smell like an over-stocked florist! The aloe vera is also very soothing and a lovely addition to the product. These were definitely chosen for their lovely scents as well as for their soothing properties for your skin and scalp.

                                On each of their samples, So Natural had provided information about their products. I had been advised that these would not foam quite as much as other shampoos and conditioners, due to the absence of chemicals. This was very reassuring, and it was nice to know what was normal for the products so that I didn't worry when the time came to use them. Sometimes it’s nice to physically see the difference between natural products and chemical-laden ones.

                                I really enjoyed using the shampoo and conditioner. I loved the pumps, as I've mentioned; the products are easy to use, and they stay nice and clean! The So Calming Shampoo smells lovely, and still foamed enough for me, despite the warning. My hair felt deeply cleansed, as if it had got rid of any residue from other hair products used throughout the day. I'm always keen to try to prevent the build-up of gels and oils in my hair and this shampoo certainly left my hair feeling naked, natural and clean.

                                The So Calming Conditioner was equally as deliciously-scented and easy to use. As with the shampoo, due to the natural ingredients the conditioner wasn't as rich and thick as some others, and I wasn't sure how much to use. I'm used to my hair feeling coated in a 'mask' of conditioner, and so I instinctively used a large amount to get the same effect. This, I think, was a mistake, as I clearly struggled to clean it all off, and my hair was a little greasy after being left to dry naturally. This was a real shame as it was lovely to use, and smelled divine. Unfortunately, the same thing happened after I used it for a second time. It's clear that with these products your hair won't feel covered in the product even when you've definitely used enough!

                                My verdict? The shampoo left my hair feeling incredibly clean and light, and both products smelled so relaxing. The products definitely made my hair feel restored - which is exactly what was promised! My scalp also really benefited - perhaps the purity of the ingredients and the lack of chemicals meant that my scalp was less irritated, and this is definitely something I'll be considering for the future. Sadly, I was a little disappointed that my hair felt so greasy, but I'll put this down to my own personal misuse of the conditioner! I don't think this will happen every time with proper use and 'portioning'. I must have been too enthusiastic!

                                I am continuing to use So Natural's So Calming Conditioner and Shampoo as part of my routine - I think my scalp will thank me for it!  I'm also more careful when using the conditioner - less is definitely more with these products, and it definitely proves that natural and chemical-free does not mean less effective!

                                *This post is a review of products sent to me by the company. However, my views are 100% honest and completely my own.

                                Wednesday, 5 November 2014

                                October Favourites

                                It's been a few months since I wrote my last Monthly Favourites. I've had a really busy few weeks, with work and play getting in the way of my writing. I've even been unsure about this series on my blog (do let me know your thoughts!) but it's time I started it up again, starting with October!

                                One of my favourite months, October hails the start of Autumn. Red leaves, muddy boots and steamed-up windows. I love the scarves, the woolly layers and the comfort food - though sadly this year, October was really warm - so the cosy clothes had to wait!

                                I've been really enjoying a lot of things recently, but obviously it's impossible to fit everything on here...so here are just a few of my favourite things from October.

                                Hope and Greenwood Sweets

                                My lovely friend gave me these when she came to stay a few weeks ago, and they were absolute heaven. Firstly, the packaging is beautiful - vintage, and almost too good to recycle! These would make the perfect present. The coconut ice was so fruity and fresh, and the salted caramel fudge is rich and creamy. Secondly...they're incredibly moreish, and I've got my eye on more....I just need an excuse to buy some! If you have a sweet tooth and fancy treating yourself to something a little different, I can't recommend these more.

                                I've been eyeing these up for months after spotting them occasionally in haul posts and reviews online, and I spontaneously picked one up a few weeks ago. I fancied something a bit more 'out there' than my go to neutral lip colours, and that's definitely what I got! It's a vibrant red, but not 'pillar-box' - perfect for a pop of colour, but not garish. I would almost say it's a dull red with a hint of brown. The formula, however, is my favourite feature. It really is amazing and everything I hoped it would be! It stays on like a dream and doesn't dry my lips.  It's ever so creamy, just like a melted lipstick. I'm definitely looking into buying a few more when they're next on offer.

                                Netflix - Orange is the New Black

                                I finally got round to getting Netflix last month and I'm so glad I did. I was unsure whether it would be worth it for me but I love having so much choice, and even though I don't spend all my time watching it, I love the fact that I can just watch what I want, when I want - from the comfort of my bed! There were so many shows I wanted to watch after hearing people recommend them, but the first thing I watched was Orange is the New Black. It's very different to my usual choice of show, but that's a good thing. I won't give anything away...but thoroughly recommend giving it a try if you want something new to watch.  It really is as good as everyone says! The characterisation is brilliant, the plot twists are superb, and you get so wrapped up in the lives these ladies - it's a must-watch. I'm also pretty addicted to Gossip Girl and Arrested Development, and cant wait to start Breaking Bad. If you have any favourites on Netflix, please let me know in the comments!

                                This little gem was one of my purchases after the Lush Festive Preview in October. In fact, it was the first item I put into my basket. It's my dream winter product; dark red, sparkly and warming. I prefer my Christmas scents to be spicy rather than sweet; think cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. This shower gel just smells of winter and is perfect for a hot shower after a cold walk home. I can't imagine this little bottle will last until December so I may have to get some more - I'm alternating between this and Yog Nog, and both are lovely to use.

                                This one's a little different, but when I find a company who are top-notch with great service, I like to share it. I've been a fan of Photobox for years, and get all of my digital photos printed by them. I've even used their other services, and had mugs and phone cases made by them. Everything I've ordered from them has been excellent, and when things go awry (think missing parcels) they sort it in a flash. I had some more photos printed this month because I want to start putting some albums together, and they were still just as easy to order and came in great time. I also had a voucher - they often have sales and offers, which makes it even more affordable. I can't wait to get more printed and make sure my memories are all safe and there to be shared offline. There's something about having an album of memories...and I'm not talking about the Facebook kind!

                                I've been using So Natural's chemical-free Face and Body Oil throughout the summer, and have very nearly run out! It's been a blessing in the colder weather, and smells gorgeous. I won't go on for too long - you can read all of my thoughts on it in my review - but it's still a firm favourite and I'm going to have to look into getting some more.

                                Oh, and two little things before I go:

                                My blog now has a Facebook page! Head over to 'like' She Wears Burgundy to keep updated on my latest posts.

                                I'm also holding my first ever giveaway! SWB turned one last week, and I'm giving my readers something to say thank you. If you haven't yet, make sure you enter for your chance to win a little relaxation kit!

                                What have you been loving this month?

                                Monday, 3 November 2014

                                My First Bloggers Meet-Up - #sotonoctmeetup

                                Blogging is, more often than not, quite an isolated past-time. Writing, researching and reading blog posts is a one-man job, involving many nights in alone with your beloved laptop and whatever camera you choose as your weapon. So when an opportunity to meet fellow bloggers comes up...well...it can create a sense of excitement and fear in one go!

                                I first heard about #sotonoctmeetup on twitter a month or so ago. A number of local bloggers were going to get together in a venue to chat, eat and sample products from some brands. Catherine, a fellow blogger, had taken it upon herself to organise the event, and after months of planning, some major changes and last-minute cancellations, the day arrived. Unfortunately, Catherine couldn't attend in the end, but another blogger, Alice, stepped up and the meet-up went ahead.

                                I was very nervous, but excited. I didn't think about it too much before the day, and it was only until I began walking to the venue that I started to feel anxious. Fortunately, after sitting down tentatively amongst the other girls, and making some awkward small talk, I started to feel a little better. I felt very self-conscious and almost like an imposter when I arrived, like I wasn't supposed to be there...so I ordered a cheeky tropical mojito and started chatting to two lovely ladies in particular - Kelly, from Along Came Kelly and Tammi from Tammingtons. They were so easy to get along with and we had a lot in common in terms of our blogging techniques! We were all fairly new, all bewildered by the technical side of beauty blogging and very nervous! It was lovely to have some friendly faces to help me settle into the event.

                                I also got to meet other bloggers too! Alice from Annie Writes Beauty and Mandy from One Slice of Lemon have spoken to me on twitter a few times, so it was lovely to put a face to a twitter handle. There were so many other girls too whose blogs I am still hunting down. It was only a small meet up, but it was still hard to talk to everyone in the time we had - especially when you're too shy to make the first move.

                                We enjoyed out drinks and food, before chatting to a few brands - Lush were there, which made my day, and I enjoyed an arm massage from the ladies from the Southampton store. I also spoke to people from ESPA, who took a look at my skin and offered a taster kit, and In Situ Cosmetics, who focus on personalised skincare. 

                                After a lot of chatting, eating and moisturising, I left the event with a lovely goodie-bag and some new friends. I don't really focus on beauty on this blog - I'm very much a novice, but with so many skincare samples I am looking forward to discovering some new favourites! I am particularly keen to start using my ESPA products (and book a complimentary mini-facial!)

                                I really enjoyed taking this step and attending my first meet-up - it's nerve-wracking and intimidating at first, but it's well worth it, and  I'm looking forward to getting more involved in many other ways. I'll also hopefully be writing my advice for attending blogging events in another post, and looking at the goodies I received too - so watch out for that.

                                I really appreciated having the opportunity to attend the #sotonoctmeetup - I've only been blogging for a year, and am no expert on beauty (which these meet-ups seem to centre around) but it's a huge step for me to build up my confidence to meet others who seem to be experts and well-respected writers in the local blogging bubble and beyond. I can't wait for the next one! Thanks to those who organised and ran the event - I had a great afternoon.

                                I'm lucky enough to be going along to another local meet-up in two weeks. After my first experience I'm already really looking forward to it, and although I am nervous again, I am planning to throw myself straight in. I do feel worried that I'll stand out like a sore thumb, and that the other attendees will be professional and coiffed - but if the offline blogging community is as friendly and welcoming as it is online, then I have nothing to worry about!

                                If you attended the meet-up,  or if you're heading to the next one in a couple of weeks, please stop and say hi (especially if I never had the chance to chat to you!) It's always lovely to find new blogs to read and people to listen to.

                                Thursday, 30 October 2014

                                She Wears Burgundy Turns ONE! (Birthday Giveaway!)

                                It's hard for me to believe, but my little corner of the internet turns one today!!

                                One year ago I took my stored-up stories and reviews and put them out into the world to share with anyone who wanted to read them. My passion for blogging finally becamse a reality after months of reading others, ,and over the last twelve months I have tried to find my own voice in this busy blogging world.

                                It's not been easy! I've had months with very few posts, and months where I managed to write something every other day. Some weeks, I just take a step away, and other I spend hour after hour poring over Bloglovin' and Twitter for new posts to devour, and for new nuggets of inspiration!

                                Despite my ups and downs with blogging (a subject which I hope to write about in the near future) I still love it. My favourite part is just the ability to share things I enjoy or feel passionate about, be it mental health, a delicious recipe, or even just a great new bathbomb that made my weekend that much better! I love to share stories, to offer advice and potentially introduce a reader to something new.

                                For me, it's not about numbers - I'm not in competition with other bloggers. I want people to enjoy reading what I love to write about, and I'd rather not write something I'm unhappy with just to fit in. I'm proud of each and every post I've written - and every comment, follow, share and 'like' my posts receive just sends me to the moon and back. Even if my post gets one person thinking; if it affects someone's day in a positive way, or if they discover something that excites them too - that means so much. Even though I don't reply to every single one, I read all your comments too.

                                So THANK YOU to everyone; the followers, the commenters, the silent readers; friends and family who put up with my incessant photography, bloggers who offer me advice, and anyone who bothers to read just one post.

                                To say thank you properly, I'm holding my first ever giveaway!

                                It's just a little present from me to you to say thank you for reading my ramblings, and for keeping me going.

                                As many of you know, I'm incredibly keen on the importance of showing yourself a bit of love. We're all to hard on ourselves, and life can be tough - so I've put together a little care package to make sure you take some time to treat yourself!

                                One of you lucky folks will receive a little relaxation kit, including some treats to soothe your soul; some are for your bath, some are for your skin and body, and some are for your tastebuds! And all of them are favourites of mine.

                                I won't give things away, as I want it to be a surprise, but all of these items are, for me, the perfect kit for a relaxing night in. I hope the lucky winner loves it all as much as I do! I will say it's only small, so please don't expect luxury items...but I think it's perfect.

                                All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below, and I'll announce a winner and will get in touch on Thursday 13th November - that gives you two whole weeks to enter!

                                Unfortunately, this giveaway is for readers in the United Kingdom only, so I will be unable to send it to you if you're outside of the UK - sorry!

                                a Rafflecopter giveaway

                                As for the future...I'm not sure where SWB will go - who knows what will happen! I can only hope that I continue to stay inspired and creative...and that somewhere out there, someone will still want to read my random ramblings. I can't wait to see the opportunities that SWB brings my way!

                                Good Luck! 

                                Tuesday, 28 October 2014

                                Happy Halloween: Lush's Sparkly Pumpkin

                                It's Halloween in just a few days, and even though I don't go all out for it, I do like to participate in my own little way.

                                This year I'm not donning fancy dress; my plan is to carve a pumpkin, help my housemate with her costume (A-Level Art finally comes in handy!) and enjoy a seasonal treat or two...namely some pumpkin soup and, of course, a festive Lush product!

                                Lush's Sparkly Pumpkin is a cute little treat, perfect for a low-key nod to this time of year. I spotted it at the Lush Festive preview a few weeks ago, and a couple of days later I went back to buy it. As well as gorgeously glittery (who can resist that shimmer?) it smells gorgeous, with lime, juniperberry and grapefruit oil. 

                                This is not a zingy fragrance, however, and it's not overpoweringly refreshing. In fact, I used this bubble bar at 10pm for a night-time bath, and it was perfectly relaxing. It's not pungent, and creates the most beautiful burnt-orange water with gold sparkles floating amongst the bubbles. I sank into my bath and felt instantly soothed and pampered. Sparkly Pumpkin is uplifting and calming - it's a shame this scent isn't available all year round!

                                If you're looking for an alternative Halloween to one spent scrambling for fancy dress ideas and navigating the streets filled with trick-or-treaters or drunken students, this would be the perfect start (or finish!) to your night - whether you choose to follow it with a classic horror film, or something a bit more subtle. It's also calorie-free - the perfect alternative to all of those devilish sweets and cakes!

                                I think many of Lush's Halloween products get overlooked, thanks to the hype surrounding their Christmas treats - however, their products, like Sparkly Pumpkin, shouldn't be ignored - they're just as gorgeous and are perfect for Autumn.

                                Grab one of these beauties before they vanish soon - hopefully, we'll be seeing the Sparkly Pumpkin next autumn! I'll definitely be buying one again.

                                If you fancy a Halloween costume idea which doesn't break the bank, take a look at my post from last year - the perfect last-minute DIY outfit.

                                Happy Halloween!

                                Sunday, 26 October 2014

                                Simple Cheeky Vanilla & Toffee Vodka Cupcakes

                                The more I bake, the more I love it. I'm getting a little more confident with each cake I make, and am even looking for more unusual recipes to try out.

                                It was my housemate's birthday last week, and I wanted to whip up a quick treat with a twist. She loves a cheeky drink...and so what better cake to make, than an adult cupcake, with alcohol?

                                I scoured the internet for inspiration (hello Pinterest) to see how I could incorporate alcohol into a recipe without making it complicated...but I couldn't find many ideas which would give me maximum results with minimal effort. I decided, then, that I would just cross my fingers, and try my best.

                                So, here is my super easy vanilla cupcake recipe with delicious toffee vodka icing!

                                You will need:

                                • 3 eggs
                                • self-raising flour
                                • caster sugar
                                • butter
                                • icing sugar
                                • vanilla extract
                                • toffee vodka (or any flavoured vodka you fancy!)
                                1. Preheat your oven to 180°c
                                2. Weigh your eggs (in the shells!) and make a note of their weight
                                3. Measure out the same weight as the eggs in flour, sugar and butter, pop into a bowl and mix
                                4. Break in the eggs, and mix until the batter is smooth
                                5. Add one teaspoon of vanilla extract (or more or less, depending on what you fancy!) and mix again until blended thoroughly
                                6. Spoon into cupcake cases evenly
                                7. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until brown and firm
                                8. Meanwhile, blend 140g soft butter and 280g icing sugar
                                9. Add 1 tbsp vodka, and mix thoroughly
                                10. Add as much vodka as you wish, until the icing is a good, stiff but soft consistency (and to your taste!)
                                11. Once the cakes are cool, swirl / spoon the icing on top and decorate as you wish (I left mine simple)
                                12. Indulge!

                                This is such a flexible recipe and you really can adapt it however you like - perhaps try lime vodka, or even another type of alcohol! When I next make these, I want to top it with tiny toffee pieces.

                                Let me know if you bake this - I'd love to know what you think!

                                And remember, test the icing before you use it...but try to leave enough for the cakes (it's pretty darn tasty!)