Thursday, 26 June 2014

What's On My Bookshelf - Non-Fiction

I've been a bookworm for as long as I can remember - even before I learnt to read, I devoured picture books like my life depended on it. I pored over images as a toddler; my parents had a sack of old cards, which they would tip out and would leave me with for hours. Bedtime was never the same without a book.

Most of my younger life was spent with my head between pages; I missed out on the views when we went on family road-trips to Italy, Switzerland and Germany, all because I was reading one of ten books I'd take away for twelve days (which, by the way, would all be read by my return). I'd carry my books everywhere.

It's safe to say that my bookshelf has always been groaning under the weight of my book. I usually buy and read fiction, escaping to other worlds and letting my imagination run riot. This has only increased since I finished my studies last summer. Recently, however, I've acquired a few more non-fiction gems which I think are all worth sharing; from motivational messages, to recipes for pancakes.

Thanks to a few generous friends and a couple of vouchers, my collection has grown - and I thought it would be worth sharing some of these with you all. So here are just a few of my favourites.

A Lifetime of Secrets - Frank Warren

I remember reading my first ever Postsecret book one lunchtime in my sixth-form common room and becoming completely enthralled with the outpourings on each page. It wasn't until I met my boyfriend in my first year at university that I began to read the Postecret site on a weekly basis. If you're unfamiliar with Postsecret, it's a scheme created and run by an American man by the name of Frank Warren, who receives millions of postcards a year. Each of these postcards contains someone's secret; be it funny, sad, illegal, heartbreaking or shocking. This theoretically allows the sender to share their secret and to, hopefully, release it - particularly poignant for those with a burden. Frank updates the wonderful Postsecret blog weekly, and has released a number of books too. This was given to me by my boyfriend for Christmas one year, and I have another on my shelf too. I love browsing through these books, feeling emotional over the lives of others and sometimes even relating to them. I even went to see Frank speak in London about Postsecret a couple of years ago which was an incredible experience. This is the perfect book to take out and read if you feel the need for perspective, or an emotional release - kind of like watching a sad film to make you cry.  I really love Postsecret and I also love that I have its physical counterpart sitting on my shelf.

Humans of New York - Brandon Stanton

Another blog, another book. My copy of Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York is very new, as I only ordered it last week! I haven't been following HONY for as long as I have been following Postsecret, but it's already one of my favourite projects out there. There's a website (linked above!) but I also follow him on Twitter and Instagram to get instant updates on photos. Brandon travels around New York, capturing life and statements from his subjects, and sharing them with the world. Through his work we get to see all of life; so many different characters, moments, concepts and opinions. There's a great interview with Stanton over at Mashable if you want to find out more. This book will look great on my future coffee table; again, it's wonderful to browse through and can be great inspiration. It can even offer a little advice or perspective. It's gorgeous to look at too.

My Future Listography - All I Hope to Do in Lists

I love making lists. Life seems so much more manageable when you have everything noted down in order of importance. Crossing things off gives a sense of achievement, and seeing exciting things building up can lift hopes for the future. When I saw this book, I new I had to buy it. Its pages are empty aside from some (often obscure) titles, urging you to make plans for the future, setting yourself goals. From moments I don't want to forget, to TV shows I want to watch (Orange is the New Black, anyone?) this book means that I can not only plan my ideal future but, once I'm older, look back and smile. Buying this means I now have something very different on my bookshelves and I love it! I haven't put pen to page yet - I almost don't want to ruin it (almost) but I plan to sit down one day with a cup of sweet tea and consider what I want to get out of life.

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World - Mark Williams and Danny Penman 

This book has been sitting on my shelf for months and sadly (and ironically!) I just haven't had a moment to sit down and take it all in yet. I stumbled across this book and immediately bought it. It's had great online reviews and covers everything, including meditation. It even has a CD in the back to guide you through the meditative process. Anxiety is a big problem, as I discussed in my Mental Health Awareness Week post, and books like this are becoming ever more popular - for good reason. Finding peace is often hard when we are on the go all the time; I myself find it very hard to switch off and put life in perspective. I am always worrying, planning and I rarely take time out. I am hoping this book will really help me to calm, gain perspective and have a real relish for life. I think an evening reading this in a bubble bath needs to be planned! I hope to write a complete review of this once I've finished it, so watch this space.

Very British Problems - Rob Temple

And now for something a little more lighthearted. Have you ever found yourself wandering down a street, then suddenly realise you've gone the wrong way? There are people everywhere, and you don't want to look a you pretend to answer the phone, look as though you've been told some very serious news, and rush back as if you're on a mission in order to inconspicuously retrace your steps. No? Just me then...This book details those little awkward habits we British folk have. It's a brilliant book to flick through for a giggle and perfect for passing around friends on a sunny afternoon. I like to read it and see which problems I relate to.

Love Letters of the Great War - Mandy Kirkby

For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep fascination with the First and Second World Wars; the sorrow, the great loss, the ins-and-outs of rations, entertainment, and everyday life...the list could go on. If a book is based in wartime Britain, or a film centres around romance in the 1940s, I'm there. I happened upon this book in a store in Cambridge one sunny Sunday and stood reading it for far too long. The stories it details are wide and varied; from lengthy, eloquent love letters of devotion to little ditties of fleeting romances, it captures the relationships of men on the front and the women they loved. A heartbreaking but brilliant collection; this will be a long-term favourite of mine, and will take pride of place next to my wartime poetry books.

Let's Do Brunch - Good Housekeeping

If you want to win me over, you just need one little word; Brunch. Whether it's pancakes with berries, Eggs Benedict or a fruity smoothie treat, I consider brunch to be the best meal of them all - the king of meals - and will drop everything for the chance to merge Breakfast and Lunch together. When I saw this book in Urban Outfitters I just had to buy it; it contains a wide range of simple but varied recipes, healthy and indulgent, and all easy to follow. I haven't tested it out yet but I have plans to put it to good use this weekend. I don't own many recipe books but this will be my go-to brunch guide for a very, very long time.

Carpe Diem - Make the Most of Life

I'll end this post with a little miniature gem which sits on my shelf, ready to help me in my grey moments. I bought this on a whim - it looked adorable. The yellow colour brightens up my bookshelf and emulates the sunshine this tiny text contains. Inside, you'll find short quotes to motivate, inspire and reassure. Not the most intellectual of books, but certainly one to keep close at hand when life gets a little tough.

Are you a fan of non-Fiction? What books do you have on your coffee table?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Gym Guilt

There's something I have to admit: I've been neglecting things a little. Rather than going down to my gym three times a week, as I plan to, I've been heading home straight after work. I've been taking more time out; more time to cook my evening meal, catch up with friends and family over the phone, and read the latest blogs and paperback books. Even more time having a cheeky mojito or two with my colleagues after work.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nothing. We all need some 'me' time, and after the gym sometimes there's often not enough time to relax and get everything sorted at home. Sometimes after a long day there's nothing I want more than to have a hot shower and sink into bed to read, or watch something mind-numbing and entertaining on television.And some other times I just have so many things to clean and organise, I don't even have time to rest.

And yet... most evenings, I find myself staring at my gym kit, trying to justify skipping it just one more time. I make excuses to my colleagues (sorry!), my family (sorry!), my friends (....sorry!) and to anyone on twitter who might bother to read it (...really, really sorry). I pretend that I don't feel guilty - that I've earned the week off; that I'm just too tired / stressed / nauseous to go. 

Then I wait for a response; reassurance that it's ok to go home; that I don't need to exercise today or that they too are planning to go home and eat a packet or oreos in lieu of going for a run. But, aside from perhaps one short sarcastic response on twitter (if I'm lucky), or a reference to my last excuse, nobody responds.

Nobody cares.

So why the hell do I?!

It seems ridiculous really. Why do I feel I need other people's opinions to influence how I live my life?

It seems that I've been recently suffering from a bout of gym guilt.

It's been really bothering me, actually. And I think that it's because of this; it's another example of feeling validated and respected by others. Another example of needing to feel accepted. Another example of how my life online is changing my attitude towards life online (which is something I'd like to write more about). Somehow, I have managed to convince myself that other people really do care about how many squats I do each day (on average, none), how long I spend on the cross trainer (about 30 minutes, if I don't keel over first) or whether I'm going to classes regularly (no). 

You see, I follow a huge number of healthy eating / living accounts on Instagram. Every day I am bombarded by images of chia seed puddings, egg-white and spinach omelettes and coconut oil. I am confronted by photos of incredible abs, taught thigh muscles and tummy-baring tanned blondes in tiny bikinis. It is inspiring to a certain extent; I feel more aware of what I eat, how it makes my body feel, and making healthy choices, which does make me feel better. But it's also guilt inducing. With my life so 'out there' online, I feel like I'm being observed and, dare I say it, judged.  You'll notice, if you follow me, that my Instagram is full of burgers, chips, sugary puddings and brunches. Of course, I chuck in the occasional home-made soup or smoothie here and there, but it's mostly fairly indulgent. I choose to share the indulgent pleasures I let myself have a couple of times a week. But then, instantly, I feel guilty when I see others undertaking strict exercise routines and lifestyle changes, slowly seeing a change in their body shape.

This is what makes me feel as though I need to explain myself to the world. For me, everyone seems to be on a mission to lose weight, eat better and exercise more. Fine - except when it becomes the main focus of conversation. I've always worried about my body, no matter how ridiculous that is. I won't go into that, but the point is that everyone seems to be doing better and working harder than me and, as a perfectionist, I feel like I'm slacking; especially when I traipse home after work, avoiding the gym yet again.

To be fair to myself, I walk to and from work nearly every day. I walk everywhere; I rush around, I exude nervous energy, I pile my plate high with vegetables and am fairly controlled with junk food. But even that sometimes doesn't feel enough, and I can feel eyes judging me as I tuck my trainers back under my desk and reach for a creamy mocha.

It's exhausting. The gym guilt; the 'holier than thou' attitude which I am sure is all in my head, can chip away at my self confidence until, before I know it, I'm furiously online shopping for local personal trainers. It's yet another thing for me to worry about and I have enough on my mind as it is.

And yet again, I'm pretty sure that nobody cares.

So here's a resolution to myself. It's my body. Yes, more often than not exercise makes me feel better, even when it's the last thing I want to do; but sometimes it is good or my soul to head home and curl up with a good book and a slice of cake. Sometimes it's ok to go for drinks with your friends instead of hopping on the treadmill. Nobody's perfect, and even those seemingly controlled Insta-health fans probably have a momentary lapse.

It's exactly the same as the delusion that some blogger's lives are perfect. As Becky from Milkbubbletea posted a while ago, it may all seem like pure white surfaces, cute outfits and perfect days out, but behind the camera sits a blogger with no makeup, bad cramps and leggings tucked into her woolly socks. When it comes to blogging and Instagramming about fitness, it's not all 'proats', squats and detoxes. There's bound to be a burger or a lazy evening in there somewhere; they just choose not to share it. Another example of the desired online life.

It's great that other bloggers and twenty-something ladies are keen on exercise and healthy eating- I really admire it and often wish I had the same kind of motivation - I'm just not sure I can live up to that standard.

I'm tired of  feeling like I'm failing every time I collapse in a heap after work; if I want to go for a drink with colleagues instead of going to a spin class, or sit and read my favourite blogs instead of pounding the treadmill, that's fine. And if I do end up exercising, then that's good too.

I managed perfectly well for four years at university drinking, comfort eating and sitting at my desk studying for days without going to the gym; a couple of extra nights a week won't hurt!

And so, from now on, I'll try not to feel guilty if I do skip the gym for an evening. A healthy balance is what I need.

Now....where's my pudding?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Eight Months In: Five Lessons Learnt from Blogging (So Far)

Ok, you got me. I meant to write a post like this on my blog's half-birthday (which would have been at the very end of April) but I became entangled in life and, suddenly, it's June. I'm pretty sure I've learnt some valuable lessons from blogging in those extra two months, however, so I think they'll just add to this post even more.

The first eight months of my blogging 'career' have been a roller-coaster. After years of reading blogs, building up a list of favourites, feeling quietly inspired, motivated and enchanted, I finally took the step to create my own blog, She Wears Burgundy, at the end of October last year. I finally had a space to share my thoughts, fears, passions, adventures and loves with strangers from all over the world. I had a little experience blogging as a student, but I was incredibly excited to finally be able to rule my own corner of the web. All of the ideas and excitement which had been bubbling up under my skin while I finished my postgraduate degree could finally be released, and I was able to start writing what I wanted, at any time. The idea of being able to share the things I loved, be they ideas or my favourite new product or restaurant, filled me with happiness.

Since then, it's been one hell of a journey; I've spent my short blogging life trying to find a sense of self, and a purpose for my little blog. I've tried a number of series', attempted to post about beauty (with limited knowledge), fought with the guilt of posting infrequently, and even dipped my toes into the world of OOTDs. I've had a chance to practice my photography (I have never loved my little iPhone more), made new online 'acquaintances' (I've not made a strong blogging friendship just yet!) and have found countless new bloggers to follow along the way. I've felt jealousy, determination, fatigue, inspiration, peace, encouragement and despair. I've had moments where my fingertips glowed with inspiration as I wrote; when I'd write post after post after post, bursting at the very seams with ideas. I've also had (many more) moments where the words just wouldn't form; ideas were half finished and confidence was at an all time low. And, all the time, I've been trying to work out who I am; how I react, how I think, and how I see the world.

I've been blogging alongside a huge change in my life, too; I've entered the life of a graduate; post-university, with a new job, and a new home. With the ups and downs of life in general; sadness, happiness, realisations a-plenty, new experiences and challenges outside of the blogosphere, I've had a turbulent few months.

Within this time, my attitude to blogging has fluctuated. Sometimes I absolutely love it; I love the creativity, the community, the way it makes me see life differently. Yet sometimes I do resent it; the hopelessness when big milestones seem impossible; the obsession with stats, followers, and comments (or lack thereof); the fleeting envy when reading about the more experienced bloggers (notice I don't use the term 'bigger' or 'professional' as, really, that's not fair on them) who attend events weekly, posting stunning photos and engaging with their adoring readers.

It's been an interesting eight months, which have taught me a few lessons. Allow me to elaborate on a few:

1. Blogging is not a competition.

At first, I was filled with pride as my viewing stats slowly increased. The excitement brought on by viewing figures rising, comments being written and followers choosing my blog was amazing and, admittedly, I think it always will be. Of course as writers, bloggers and creatives, we want our work to be enjoyed by as many people who care as possible. But then I began to feel pangs of envy when other bloggers seemed to succeed with ease; when milestones were hit by others successively; when posts featured high-end products, and I felt as though I had been left in the dust. I began demanding too much of myself: aiming to post every other day, trying to stay inspired, working in my lunch breaks and late into the night - while all the time working a 9-5 job, adjusting to a new life, coping with certain personal ups-and-downs and trying to go to the gym on a regular basis. It was exhausting. I started burn out. I began to resent blogging. I felt like I was failing. And my personal confidence took a hit.

And then a few of my favourite bloggers wrote a number of posts on a similar subject, and it hit me. The blogging community is wonderful; we encourage and support each other. But, ultimately, the blog is down to me. These are my thoughts, my passions, my feelings. I'll post when I want. And, more to the point, there are thousands of blogs out there. Nobody wants to read the same post on repeat; trying to be like some of my favourite bloggers just wouldn't be honest. It wouldn't be right, and it wouldn't be me.

So lesson number one is that blogging, like all aspects of life, is not a competition. Sure, I'll still compare myself to others - it's only natural. But it's time for me to understand that blogging is a small extension of my life and I must live life my way in order to feel inspired to write and create. I'm reclaiming my corner of the web by writing what I want to write about. 

I could write about this for pages and pages, but that would be unnecessary. But, much like in life, I want people to like me for being me. And if that means occasionally losing inspiration, taking a slightly imperfect photo, not writing about Ladurée macarons or Diptyque candles (I'll still be lusting after them, though!) or taking the occasional hiatus, then so be it.

2. Showing appreciation is the next best thing.

I realised today that I spend a lot more time at the moment reading and commenting on other people's blogs than writing my own pieces. It's time consuming and, of course, sometimes I run out of time and can't read every single one. In fact, I think I need to re-organise my Bloglovin' account, as I may be following a few too many blogs! However, as you can tell from my monthly Blogroll series, I am a huge fan of showing appreciation for posts which inspire me, entertain  me, inform me or make me smile. I am sure many of the bloggers out there cherish their comments, and if I can make someone's day, or help them to realise how much their work can affect people, then that's my job done. Blogging isn't just about writing, spewing your thoughts onto virtual paper and throwing them out for the world to stumble upon. It's also about interacting, communicating, learning and making connections with people. Maybe I need to comment less and write more sometimes, but I will still choose reading my favourite blogs over watching TV after work.

So, lesson number two is if you can't write, read. Show your appreciation where it's deserved. Share the love. If you like something, say so. You might make someone's day, and become inspired along the way.

3. You don't need to be rich to blog

This completely stems from Zoe London's post, which I shared in my last blogroll. You don't need to have a lot of money to blog. All you need is passion, a computer, a camera and spirit. A few months into my blogging experiences I started to lust after high-end beauty products, expensive nights out, gourmet meals and clothes I would only wear once. I started to feel like I needed these things to be a good blogger. It was natural, yes, but it was also shallow and untrueAs long as you can write well and communicate interesting thoughts, you're a blogger. So what if I don't own the latest Illamasqua or Nars beauty product? So what if I can't afford to eat at fancy restaurants every night? So what if I bought most of my clothes when I was seventeen? (ok, yes, maybe I do need to go on a little shopping spree!). I can still be a great blogger. I am in no way criticising those who do have all of those things; in fact, if I could, I probably would too, and I have a lot of respect for the more experienced writers. However, it doesn't matter. As long as I maintain personality and passion, that's more than enough. I'm happy reviewing my high-street nail polishes and discussing life in general for now.

4. iPhone photography apps are your best friend

Since I began to blog, I've been enjoying developing my photography skills. I used a small old point-and-shoot camera as well as my iPhone camera to begin with and, after a few months, realised photos from my iPhone were still better than a proper camera. I did at one stage consider getting a DSLR, but that would have been expensive and pretty unnecessary - if I want to buy a DSLR it will be for catching memories, not photos of my latest Lush haul. I've experimented with filters, effects and apps and, at the moment, Afterlight is what I use 95% of the time. I've even had a few compliments about the photos on my blog (which was so exciting!) and all I use is a simple iPhone 4. Don't feel you have to invest in professional equipment; it's all there at the click of a simple camera. You don't need to be trained in photography to have an eye for beauty. 

5. Blogging is a journey; not a destination

Ok, it's a pretty corny final lesson, but it's undoubtedly true. I have been constantly learning, changing my blog layout, attitude, content and focus...and I'm only eight months in! Even bloggers who have been writing for years are still changing things, adapting and focusing on different areas. A writer changes naturally over time, and therefore so does their platform for creativity. I know that my blog will look different in another eight-months time; my writing style may evolve, my outlook my alter, and that's ok. There is no success point, just the experiences along the way for however long I choose to write for. For me, blogging runs parallel to my life, and will therefore change and grow as my life does the same.

I've learnt so much over the last eight months, but I hope these lessons give a little insight into my experiences so far. Who knows what's around the corner? All I know is, whatever it is, it will hopefully make my writing and blogging stronger.

Have you learnt anything from blogging? I'd love to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Simple Sweet Potato Wedges

Sweet potato wedges are just one of those things which I've never really had the guts to cook. They're utterly delicious, (relatively) healthy and a great alternative for standard chips found in the frozen aisle. What's more, if you've made them yourself you just know they're fresh and free of any chemical nasties.

However, the thought of cooking something new? Well, it daunts me, especially if I have no trusted recipe handed to me by my mum. One evening, however, I decided to give it a go. It turns out that it wasn't scary at all - it was, in fact, easy and a success! Even if it was a little trial-and-error.

After browsing a few recipes to see what other people did, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

So if you've ever been a little intimidated by the humble sweet potato, here's how you can turn it into something crispy and delicious. Perfect for upcoming summer BBQs!

You will need:

  • One large sweet potato
  • Olive oil
  • Mixed dried herbs 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Foil
  • Baking tray
  • Mixing bowl

  1. Pre-heat the oven to about 200 degrees.
  2. Cut up your sweet potato into wedge shapes. I found this quite hard, so just try your best. Perhaps keep the length of the potato to make fries instead. Leave the skin on (yes, it's edible!)
  3. Tip your raw wedges into the mixing bowl and pour in a glug of olive oil. Get stuck in and use your hands to cover the wedges in oil - how much exactly is up to you.
  4. Sprinkle the oily wedges with your dried herbs and season with as much salt and pepper as you like. You could even add a little paprika if you're feeling fiery! Mix once more to evenly cover the potato.
  5. Spread your wedges onto your foil-covered baking tray (unless you feel confident that they won't stick - in which case, you won't need foil) so that they're all evenly spaced.
  6. Pop into the oven for 30 - 45 minutes, turning occasionally.
  7. Once they look cooked, and slightly crispy (this is up to your judgement again!) remove them and serve (I like mine with mayonnaise).

This will serve about two people (unless you're a huge fan - or me - and can eat them all.)

This is only a rough guide, but it worked out well for me. Let me know if you have any other tips and tricks for making sweet potato wedges in the comments below!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Burgundy Blogroll: May

I'll admit, I've found it really difficult to keep up with reading blogs over the last month. A few busy days, exhausting evenings and weekends away, and I'm up to 300 unread blog posts on my bloglovin' feed. It's just a little too much sometimes, and sadly I just don't always have time to read every single one (which I really do try to do!) 

Despite this, I have been able to read a few good posts this month when I managed to take a break. So, without further ado, let's launch into the posts which shone the brightest for me in the month of May.

And, as usual, each one is linked, so you can read it for yourself! Let me know what you think in the comments; I'd love to know if you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

Another lovely post from Toni at Lemon Freckles. Sometimes it's easy to forget that, even though you may be in your mid-twenties, early thirties or late teens, you don't have to know all there is to know about life just yet. When I was younger. I used to think that adults had everything sussed; but now I realise that everyone on this big blue planet is winging it. Toni's post is a nice little reminder that we are always learning and that life isn't always what we expect, and she also offers a little advice too. Each and every point she makes resonates with me (particularly 'Don't be afraid to be unpopular' and 'stop looking back'). It makes me consider what I'd say to myself in a few years time. This post made me think a lot about life, and I hope it makes you feel the same too.

I stumbled across From Roses recently (I don't know where I found out about it - you know what the Internet is minute you're organising your online weekly shop, the next you've been watching YouTube videos of cats for an hour...) but  it's already one of my favourite blogs. Yes, this post is quite similar to the one from Lemon Freckles, but it's just as lovely to read; simple, reflective and honest.  Again, it's very relatable, and a lovely idea for a post too. Definitely worth a read.

Now, this really is an inspirational post, whether you're aiming to lose weight or not. Chloe's story is fantastic; she lost a whopping nine stone (and kept it off!) through sheer determination and a lot of hard work, and she found love along the way. I have a lot of respect for her; for both having the motivation to make such a big change in her life and for being so honest and open online about a subject which some would find hard to talk about. Not being on a specific weightloss journey myself, I can't imagine how much hard work goes into something like this. This is a fantastic post which I urge you to check out.

I love iced coffee. There's a cafe nearby which serves the most divine almond iced coffees, and I dream of them every time summer rolls around (I might even go and have one this weekend). The Londoner's recipe isn't the most complex of recipes, but reading it made me feel lovely and summery; her photos are also beautiful and simple, and I can't wait to try out this recipe for myself. She produced a number of great foodie posts over the month of May which are really worth reading too. In the meantime, these chilly beauties will be replacing my winter favorites once the hot weather finally appears.

Yes, another foodie post. I'm always 'favouriting' recipes ready for a quiet Sunday afternoon of baking or cooking. This recipe sounds like the ultimate summer cake (possibly a perfect partner for The Londoner's Lattes!). I've always wanted to make a cake with yoghurt and this looks divine; fresh, light and indulgent. I love Rosie's blog and her recipes always look incredible. I think this would be best served as an alternative to the traditional summer staple of Wimbledon Strawberries and Cream, don't you agree?

This is a very important subject, and a brilliant post, so I had to include it in my monthly blogroll! When I read my favourite blogs, I find myself naturally lusting over high-end makeup, beautiful clothes and events and holidays which must cost a pretty penny. It's easy to be swept up in it all and, before long, you're starting to feel inferior. We must remember that a blog's value should be judged solely through the content; the quality of the writing, the personality which shines through, and the ideas and creativity involved in its production. Blogging shouldn't be elitist. Zoe's post sums this all up beautifully and gives some handy advice which, as a relative newbie to the blogosphere, I intent to remind myself of regularly. Anyone can blog; as long as you have passion, ideas, and an eagerness to write!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

May Favourites

May flew by. I know, I know I say it every single month - but it really did! Two Bank Holidays meant plenty of weekends to fill with fun and food....a busy few weeks at work, and a real variety of weather later and suddenly it's June. How did that happen? We're already halfway through the year; soon we'll be sipping ice cold drinks and feeling the grass between our toes, and the next minute we'll be purchasing scarves and watching our breath bloom in the frosty air.

Naturally, at the beginning of a new month, I'm keen to look back on the last. It's time to share  a few of my favourite things with you, a la Julie Andrews. No raindrops on roses though, sadly.

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish

My mum has been trying to persuade me to use Liz Earle's legendary Cleanse and Polish for months. No, years. She swears by the brand, which satisfy her need for natural and kind-to-skin products. I've had a few sample sizes and yes, it's amazing. It's also a firm favourite in the blogging world too, popping up in skincare essential posts all over Bloglovin'. So when she accidentally ordered two (I'm still suspicious...) and gave one to me, I was finally sold. Well and truly. It melts makeup and dirt away, leaving your skin so soft, fresh, and clean. Nothing feels better; it's easy to use and it certainly beats my usual makeup-remover face-wipes. It smells clean, comforting and is a sure-fire skin miracle. I've been using this nonstop for a couple of weeksand will probably be converted for the foreseeable future. I think my skin will thank me too! It's already feeling soft and pampered, and I can see a noticeable improvement in its brightness and clarity.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I read Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower a few months ago (back when SWB was still very, very new!) and finally got round to watching my DVD of the film adaptation last weekend. I'm always a little dubious when it comes to books being turned into films, especially when I am so emotionally invested in the characters - but this was an incredibly fantastic surprise. The film was very accurate, gripping, wonderfully directed and moving - which, for me, was the deal breaker. I would not have been impressed if I had finished the film with dry cheeks. A brilliant film (regardless of Emma Watson's questionable accent) and I thoroughly recommend it. I think I'll be watching this again, and again, and again...

Soap & Glory Glam-A-Lot

I had Soap & Glory's Glam-a-Lot in my first year of University. It's sweet but slightly musky and it so versatile - the perfect day-to-night scent. For me, it's a firm favourite because of the memories it evokes; late nights watching films as a flat with tubs of ice cream, getting ready for nights out at the local dive of a club, and getting ready for a day of lectures and seminars. It also reminds me of romance and falling in love, and finding friendship. It reminds me of a time of my life when I started to become myself. But, regardless of whether you're as emotionally attached to it as I am, it's a beautiful scent which is, unfortunately, only available in one of Soap & Glory's box sets. I really do wish it was available to buy separately; the perfect budget scent which smells just as good as any of my higher-value perfumes.

Coldplay Ghost Stories

I'm a fan of Coldplay. My teenage years were filled with my Dad and sister playing their music frequently, and so naturally I loved them too. In recent years, their music conjures up more memories, and seeing them two years ago on their Mylo Xyloto tour at the Emirates Stadium was one of the most incredible and emotional nights of my life so far. 'Paradise' is the soundtrack to my final months as an Undergraduate. I wasn't sure what to make of this new album to begin with (this is my boyfriend's sadly it's a loan!) but after having it on repeat on my iPod all week I can safely say it's grown on me very quickly and I already adore it. Favourite tracks of mine include Magic, Sky Full of Stars, Ink, O and....well....all of them, really! It's a little like marmite - I know a few fans who need further convincing, and a few who won't even touch the album, but I love it and it will no doubt be one of my summer soundtracks. 

Nescafe Millionaire's Shortbread Mocha 

I featured Nescafe's instant Caramel Lattes in my March Favourites  - they're perfect for a quick fix in the office and certainly hit my sweet tooth. When I saw this limited edition I just had to pick it up. I couldn't resist. I mean, millionaire's shortbread is delicious! Chocolate, caramel, coffee...all rolled into one.  It's very very tasty - the perfect simple weekday treat - and it makes a great pick-me-up for elevenses. I'll be buying a few more boxes of these to stock up for the next few months.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Ok...I'm a bit late to the party with this one. Alright, alright...very very late! After I watched the first two films at the end of 2013, I just had to get my hands on the books and they are as amazing as I had been told. I couldn't put The Hunger Games down and am already devouring the second in the series, Catching Fire. There's something satisfying about enjoying a book meant for young adults or teen readers - if it can grip the attention and imagination of a 23-year-old, it's a winner. This series is fast becoming a true all-time favourite and I have no doubt that I will have finished the last one within a matter of weeks (if that!).

What have you been loving this month?