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November 25, 2016

My Favourite Books: Part I

Since the end of summer, I haven't honestly read anything which is something I've tried to rectify this week by making sure I read during my commute to work. I travel for around an hour to work and then an hour back each weekday but for some strange reason, I haven't taken this time as an opportunity to get some much-needed reading done. I always feel like I don't get a lot of time to read over the weekend because I catch up on other things like this blog and you know, having a life outside of my job, but I do miss reading an awful lot. So because I haven't read anything in a while, I thought it would be a good idea to actually share some of my all-time favourite books with you guys instead. These are books that I have possibly read numerous times, that gripped me from start to finish, or are just books I would simply recommend. I am going to separate my favourites into a few different posts because I a) don't actually have all of my books in my current flat as many of them are tucked away in a cupboard at my mam's and b) don't want the posts to go on for days. So in no particular order, here are my first 4 picks that I'd highly recommend:

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
First up is the first of two books that I absolutely love by the author James Patterson. If you've ever ventured into any sort of book store you will have no doubt seen an extensive range of books from Patterson because that guy has released a lot of stuff, but Along Came a Spider is a favourite for me. It is the first novel which follows an African-American forensic psychologist/homicide investigator, Alex Cross, through your typical intense, crazy, unrealistic stereotypical crime thriller drama. However this story isn't so unrealistic. If you're remotely into anything like Silence of the Lambs or anything to do with serial killers - you will love this series because it is a generally realistic and truthful fiction story that uses a lot of inspiration from real life cases. I say this every time I do a book post, but I will say it again and I will not spoil the story for you, but this story follows Alex Cross in the investigations of some murders ranging from black prostitutes to private school teachers and then to a child kidnapping and an egotistical individual is linked to it all.

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson
The second instalment in the Alex Cross stories is called Kiss the Girls and I like this one almost more than the first, Along Came a Spider. The writing style of both of these books is fast-pace and energetic so you can read through them in no time at all. The writing style is easy to follow despite using "police" language at times and it creates a sense of suspense just when and where it is needed. Kiss the Girls has a slightly different crime thriller plot to Along Came a Spider as this time the story travels down more of the female prisoner/victim of serial killers/criminals side of things and Cross has more a romantic interest mentioned throughout. I have only read this book once but I can clearly remember significant details of certain parts of the story, certain lines, certain characters and their actions etc. and for me that shows just how much of an impact that story had on me as a reader. It is worth quickly mentioning here that both Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls were both made into film adaptations with Morgan Freeman playing Alex Cross and whilst that casting decision is possibly the most accurate one to ever have been made ever (if you have read or read these books in the future you will no doubt instantly read the narrative in Morgan Freeman's voice. I don't know how or why but it will happen), the films do not do the books justice. They're really bad 90s adaptations that miss out vital parts of the stories and yeah, I'd recommend avoiding them all together!

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Now my next favourite has been made into a movie that is 110% worth watching, but let me prattle on about the novel itself first. The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of the journey of a father and son across barren land who are some of the last few survivors after an incident that killed the majority of life on earth. I really enjoy post-apocalyptic crisis stories so this one was an instant winner with me. Cormac McCarthy has become one of my favourite authors over the years but I would say this is my firm favourite book of his because it's a little bit different to his usual grizzly cowboy-esque tales. As you can imagine from the setting of the story, this novel is bleak from start to finish. It is gritty, sometimes uncomfortable to read, and it just generally will tug on your emotions for a multitude of reasons. But that is exactly why I like it. It's a story I've read a couple of times now and I know I will re-read again and again in the future. It is a story that definitely stays with you because you feel so emotional reading it but also because it has the power to shock you yet leave you wanting more rather than rejecting it in disgust. As I mentioned earlier it has been adapted into a film and the film is *excellent* and very true to the book so I would recommend it however, if you are interested in the story and you are familiar with the movie or even if you're not, the book is 10x more hard-hitting and gritty than the film so be warned.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
You might notice a theme here with what kind of books I like to read, but it wouldn't feel right if I didn't give this book a mention. Stieg Larsson's Millennium series is one of my most favourite book series ever but the first book in particular is my favourite for many many reasons. The Millennium series is a psychological thriller trilogy which focuses on two very different yet very similar main characters - Mikael Blomkvist (a journalist and publisher of a political magazine, Millennium) and Lisbeth Salander (a troubled individual who is a researcher/computer hacker). The story essentially follows both of their personal lives until they inevitably meet each other in the most unpredictable way. Again, this series has been made into a very popular Swedish film trilogy and this first book in particular was also re-adapted into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Daniel Craig and my bae, Rooney Mara. I like both film adaptations and I think they stay very true to the original story so if films are more your thing, definitely check both of them out. This book is worth reading though especially if you like those gritty, ugly stories I seem to. The original Swedish title of this book translated to English as "Men Who Hate Women" and I think that title suits this story so much more. Whilst it is without a doubt a thriller novel in every sense of the genre, it also confidently tackles the injustice of some legal systems, sexual exploitation, rape, and politics of money, journalism and personal privacy in such clever ways and I can't recommend it enough if you haven't picked it up already.

And there you have it! This first instalment of My Favourite Books series portrays my more sinister interests which should probably be a cause for concern, but I do love a good book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I will do more posts talking in detail about more fiction and some factual reads too so if you're a fan of a good book, keep your eyes peeled for more.

- A.
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November 23, 2016

The Body Shop's Matte Lip Liquid

Another Wednesday, another lip product post. I would say I'm sorry that the blog is a little bit lipstick heavy lately but I'd be lying and it is my favourite makeup product to buy, try, and wear so it kind of makes sense that I feature so many of them on the blog. The Body Shop have a great deal recently which was if you spent over £50, you got 50% off. I knew I wanted to try their new matte liquid lipsticks and a I needed to pick up a few other things, so of course I jumped on the chance to get them a little bit cheaper (which meant I could buy more because that's apparently how my logic works). These matte lipsticks seem to have sprung onto the market from nowhere and I had seen people saying some great things about them and if you say "matte" and "liquid lipstick" in one sentence, you can pretty much guarantee that my interest has been well and truly peaked.

These lipsticks retail for £6 so they're really affordable and I can say that right off the bat, they are very similar to the highly coveted and loved NYX soft matte lip creams just they're 50p more for the same 8ml. The colour range isn't as extensive as the NYX soft mattes but it is still a solid range with your choice of nudes right up to your brighter pinks, reds, and darker shades. I picked up four shades which are my usual go-tos: Windsor Rose, Crete Carnation, Sydney Amaryllis, and there was a dark plummy shade - Tahiti Hibiscus - got thrown in the basket too. As you can see even from the choice of names for each shade, The Body Shop have definitely taken some inspiration from the NYX soft mattes in more ways than one. Having since tried these colours, I definitely want to pick up the majority of the other shades so let me tell you why.

The actual formula of these lipsticks is so smooth. You might notice from the photos above that there's not a lot of product on the wands and that's because the formula is more like mousse than liquid. Although it sounds like a terrible thing to say, it almost reminds me of the dreaded nostalgia of the Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse or the Collection Cream Puff Lip Creams. There's literally no drag on the lips when applying the lipstick with it's classic doe foot applicator and the formula feels really velvety and soft to the touch and when you smack your lips together as there's no stickiness. As the name suggests, they are a matte lipstick but they do take a little time to dry down and even when they do, they don't dry down completely which I actually quite like. I'm all of those rigid, "no going anywhere" matte liquid lips but wearing them all the time can take it's toll on your lips. These ones give your lips a bit of nourishment and a bit more freedom of movement which is a welcomed change in my current arsenal of lip products. Whilst they never dry down completely and whilst that does mean they transfer, after trying the darkest Tahiti Hibiscus shade first, I noticed that it also acts as a slight lip stain too which is great and means the product does not go patchy. This is music to my ears - especially for this darker plum shade - because I love my NYX soft matte lip cream in the shade Copenhagen but I do find it goes on patchy as can my Lime Crime Wicked and Beet It from time to time. This one glides onto the lip effortlessly and can be layered up as much as needed without going crispy or bleeding into the fine lines around the lips - amazing.

From left to right: "Windsor Rose", "Crete Carnation", "Sydney Amaryllis", and "Tahiti Hibiscus"

One thing I should mention though is whilst these lipsticks are pigmented and have a great colour pay off, I do think the colours are slightly more sheer than other liquid lipsticks I own. I don't mind this at all but I am mentioning it because the shade of the actual lipsticks is sometimes at least 3 shades lighter than the shade the tube makes you believe it will be. I think this seems to be a new movement in lip products as brands such as Chanel and YSL are bringing out more sheer washes of colour and as these lipsticks from The Body Shop are so nourishing and comfortable to wear, I really don't mind the colours not being *as* bold as the likes of Lime Crime Velvetines. One thing I'm not too keen on though is the scent. The Body Shop are well-known for their strong, statement scents for their hand creams and body conditioners but this product I do find a little overpowering. It's a very fruity, tropical sort of scent which is nice, but it is one of those scents that instantly makes my head hurt. Luckily, the scent does go away once the product has dried down but it is something to bear in mind if you're not big on scents - especially when they're from a product that will be right under your nose!

Wearing shade "Windsor Rose"; the perfect pale brown classic nude

Wearing shade "Crete Carnation"; a classic dusky pink rose/nude shade which really suits pale skin tones

Wearing shade "Sydney Amaryllis"; a really bright red shade with slight blue undertones mixed with a more raspberry tone

Wearing shade "Tahiti Hibiscus"; a vibrant plum shade - not as dark as the tube so it's a really bright berry tone that's a little different

The last thing I really need to mention about these lipsticks are their longevity. Liquid Lipsticks, particularly matte ones, have been so popular over the last couple of years because they're usually long wearing and can tackle just about whatever you throw at them and stay pretty much intact. These lipsticks aren't *that* long wearing as they do transfer and they're a bit on the sheer side however I really don't see that as a bad thing because of one redeeming factor. When I first tried Tahiti Hibiscus I had a few cups of tea and a big greasy burger and fries and was really surprised with the results.

After drinking tea, it did transfer to my mug but the lips themselves didn't look like they had lost any colour which was great. Now, when I had the burger, I was fully expecting to end up with the plummy shade all over my chin/nose/face in general and be left with that horrible "halo" effect around the outer line of my lips. Instead though the lipstick came of completely. Like I mean there was no trace that I had ever had quite a pigmented, dark lip shade on my lips beforehand. I personally think this is amazing because it makes it so much easier to reapply a lip product if all previous traces of it are wiped away so rest assured; whilst this lipstick might not withstand a greasy meal, it will wear down evenly and not make you look clownish once you're finished eating which is such a bonus.

- A.
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November 18, 2016

Misty Morning Walk

It's been a little while since I posted a nature photography post so guess what you're getting today? A couple of weekends ago, Matt & I took a walk along the golf course just to get out of the house for an hour or two. Walking through a golf course might not sound like the most interesting or glamorous of places to walk, but I used to walk this route to my placement job last year and I could remember the views being incredible. Because the old horse bridle path goes right through the centre of the course, all you can see for miles around is gorgeous greenery and especially in autumn, when the leaves are changing to various shades of red and orange, the views are all that bit better. To get to the golf course, you also need to walk through a small woods which is pretty during this time of the year too. Unfortunately it was an extremely grey day which always makes for bad photography however I did get a few nice snaps of the changing autumnal colours (albeit some of the photos aren't as crisp and focused as I would have liked). So if you're a big fan of autumn and just nature in general then carry on scrolling!

Autumn LeavesFall WalksMisty Morning ViewCatkinsAutumn ColoursFall WalkFootpathWalks in NatureForest DenForest TreesAutumnFall ColoursAutumn Days

- A.
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November 11, 2016

5 Ways to Relax

The last couple of weeks have been really tough on me. I've been stressed, extremely anxious, and I've just generally been having a rough time. When it has been the weekend and I can justify having a little time to myself, I've been making sure I have a chance to just be lazy and do something that is either mindless and gives me an opportunity to just zone out for a little while, or something more constructive that is still worthwhile but not too strenuous. I am 100% *that* person who will choose to have a lazy day then later that evening or the next day, I hate myself for it and feel guilty. So to counteract that and to use my time wisely, I've been trying to fall in love again with some old pastimes and just generally making sure I look after myself so mentally, I'm ready to face the next week coming my way. Because I've been so active with this lately and because it's the grey and dark time of the year that always has a negative knock-on effect on peoples' moods, I thought I'd share some ideas on how to keep your chin up and feel like you've given yourself some pamper time - even if you only have an hour or two available.

Read a book with a nice cup of tea.
This has got to be one of my most favourite things to do. I love a good cuppa any time of the day, multiple times a day, but knowing you can just sit down and enjoy a warm cosy drink with a good story takes it to a new level. Reading is something I really enjoy but unfortunately it always gets pushed further and further down my list of priorities because it can be time consuming. However if you know you have a whole afternoon free, try reading something. It doesn't have to be a book. It could be a magazine. It could be a journal article in a subject area that really interests you. It could be blog posts. But reading a book or a graphic novel is the ultimate escape for me because you can step into another world for a little while and not worry about what's going on in your own life. It's easy to get distracted by the convenience of just putting the TV on and zoning out, but reading will make you feel much more relaxed and refreshed when you need it most.

Pamper yourself because well, treat yo'self.
Now, I go through stages of being really good and really bad at this next one. Pampering yourself can give you such a positive mind and confidence boost but lately I just haven't had even the energy to do simple things like painting my nails or putting a face mask on. I've pushed myself through this lazy lethargic barrier though because it is so so important to look after yourself. Putting a hair mask on in the shower for 5 minutes, doing a full body exfoliation in the shower, putting on a face mask, taking time to do you makeup and hair real nice... All these things can give me such a boost in my energy levels and get rid of niggling negative thoughts. You and your own well-being should always be your number one priority and if this isn't the best TLC for yourself I don't know what is.

Go for a long walk - get outside!
This is something that again, I can go through stages with, but I think this one could be the most important and most relaxing of them all. Going out for a walk can do wonders for your frame of mind. Even if it's pouring down with rain, go out for a walk somewhere - find somewhere nice and quiet to walk around. If you're in the countryside, go out and explore; if you're in the city - find a local park. Especially in the autumn/winter months, a good 3+ mile walk all bundled up in warm clothes can make me feel *so* much better about a multitude of things. Not only can it clear your mind and make you feel more positive, but it is lovely to do alone, with a loved one, or as a group. You can take your dog, spend some time with your other half, or just spend some much needed time with yourself in a different - and usually beautiful - environment. It's also a wonderful way to break up a lazy day at home as the thought of coming home and changing into warm comfy clothes and making a hot chocolate and something like a bacon sandwich to restore your energy levels is such a nice soothing thought. If you had just laid around in bed all day, those small things would have just seemed like mundane necessities instead of little gems of goodness in your day.

Have a hearty meal at home or out and about.
I don't know about you guys but food might just be my number one love. If you talk to me at any point of any day and ask me what I'm thinking about, 9 time out of 10 it will be what I could possibly have for my next meal or snack. I love food a great deal and there's nothing better than planning to have something you've really been craving or something you find comforting as a big meal on a rough stressful day. The whole process of cooking is something I find calming (as long as its a recipe I'm familiar with) and of course, the end result can make you feel so fat and content with life. If you're someone who dreads picking up a recipe book or someone who just does not want to face the washing up at the end of it all, find somewhere local to go and have the ultimate relaxing experience. I used to have serious anxiety about going out for dinner and although sometimes those feelings crop up now and again, there are local spots that I've been to regularly enough now that I know I find them comfortable to eat in. Having someone else make something tasty for you where you can just sit and enjoy the company of others or even your own company (side note: I'm 100% all for people going out for meals alone. Do it. It's a life changer) is a serious luxury we all often take for granted far too often.

Do something creative.
This last one is the most general of all my relaxation go-tos, but it is the perfect option for most people because it will encompass what you enjoy. When I say "be creative" I'm basically saying do something that will get your juices flowing that will prevent you from slobbing out in front of the TV or console and will relax you in a different way - in a positive way. I typically choose between 3 or 4 things when I want to be creative: draw/paint, colour-in a colouring book/use my Wreck It Journal, write blog content, or do some sort of exercise; usually yoga. Doing something creative means you are not just wasting your time and the energy you are putting into the task will be worth the outcome. Having an end result can be the light at the end of the tunnel for some people and doing activities such as these will give you an end product to be proud of. Whether it's something you've completed, made with your own hands, or a change to your body, spending your time creatively can do wonders on your stress levels and can help you learn new things. This is an opportunity to experiment and try new things and if it doesn't work out - don't worry - you can just go back to something you know and any heightened stress through doing something not quite perfect or not quite the way you thought it would go won't matter because you'll be able to chill out some other way.

Of course all of these ideas are ways I just choose to relax. I'm sure there's a million-and-one ways various people could relax but I've found these methods to be the most effective for me. Doing a bit of spring cleaning, clearing out your wardrobe, and doing some meditation have also been ways I have de-stressed myself in the past but if I need a quick fix relaxation, I will always choose one of the above. What do you enjoy doing to relax and let go of the stress of daily life?

- A.
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November 04, 2016

October in Review

Can you believe it, it's now the penultimate month of 2016 and it honestly feels like it has flown by so fast. I can easily remember coming into the year, as clear as day, as if it was just days ago. Yet, October was a long ol' slog for me. It was a long month that was a bit of a rollercoaster on my emotions. Not for any particular reason, but it's definitely been a month of ups and downs for me - just on an emotional level! However it was a lovely month all the same and I'm so pleased the leaves are changing and that the temperatures are plummeting down to -1 degrees on my way to work now... (And I'm not even being sarcastic!)

The Personal
So October was possibly a long old slog because it was a manic full month at work. I had a glorious half term/1 week holiday but stupidly it was wasted and wasn't spent doing some nice things with my free time. I realised the error of my ways with not taking full opportunity of it and Matt and I decided to have an impromptu date night at The Stable. The Stable is a small chain restaurant that serves pie, pizza, and delicious ciders so what more could anyone possibly want? We decided to head there quite early on a Thursday evening to avoid the hustle and bustle hours and we had a lovely time. Being in a long term relationship, especially when you live together and both work quite busy jobs can sometimes mean you forget to just enjoy the little things and whilst we love spending time together, being able to spend that time in a more fancy environment than cuddling in bed is always a good thing.

This month I haven't watched a lot of new movies because I haven't really had the time to sit down and get lost in them. It has been much easier to have a film I'm familiar with playing in the background that I can zone in and out of as I get on with work, but a couple of newbies to me that I did watch are definitely worth a mention. As it was Halloween and as Matt & I are big scaredy cats, we tried to find some horror movies to watch that we'd both enjoy and that wouldn't result in Matt needing to accompany me to the bathroom because yeah, that's what happens if we watch something too scary. So in a wander around HMV, Matt picked up his beloved shitty Underworld box set (I hate those movies) and The Witch.

The Witch looked like it would be really scary and the guy at the till said it was a great watch so we were excited to see what it was like. I would say it's a very artsy film. It's got that indie film vibe where it's shot in a certain way, the colours are drained and muted, and there's minimal speech. It is a film described as a "historical period supernatural horror" and focuses on a 1630s Puritan family trying to live off the land of America but their family becomes torn apart by superstition and witchcraft. It was a really interesting and different film to anything I've watched in a long time - the whole film had a genuine bleak feel that made it feel almost believable whilst also being quite folk lore-ish and fantasy. The acting in it was fantastic and the story still has me a little bit baffled as it doesn't develop every aspect of the plot but I kind of liked that. I wouldn't say it was a horror at all though - at least not in the jump-scare style we've come to expect from horror films now. If you like the sort of films that are premiered at the Sundance Film Festival or just want to watch something a little different, this might be a one for you.

Another very different but interesting "horror" movie we watched was I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House which is a Netflix original. It follows the story of a young live-in care worker called Lily who goes to stay with and care for an elderly author who wishes to stay at home and not be hospitalised. The film starts off quite scary - it has that stereotypical horror vibe and I genuinely had a moment where I thought I was going to be really scared of the film but it was again, so different to anything I have seen in a long time. I can't really say much about the film without giving too much of the plot away, but the author in the film is adamant on calling Lily Polly and well, the story goes from there really. It definitely had suspense and kept you guessing, but it wasn't always in that jump-scare way. My one gripe with it is that it feels like you only watch a snippet of a much longer film because the story that unfolds is never fully explained and unlike The Witch, I found this film to be a little frustrating because of that. However, as it's available on Netflix, there's no harm in seeing if you enjoy it too!

I've watched more TV this month than films and that's just because they're easier to throw on and zone in and out of. First thing I'll mention is American Horror Story. If you saw last month's review post, you will have read that I had blitzed through AMH from the very start having previously avoided watching it and really enjoyed the first and second series. Watching the third series however I kind of fell out of love with it and then I started watching the fourth series in October and well... I almost stopped watching it all together. I just did not get the "Freakshow" series and started to think I had unfortunately enjoyed the first series the most and therefore the rest of the series just didn't compare but I persevered and I'm so pleased I did! I would say so far Freakshow is my second favourite of the 4 series I've watched and I got emotionally invested in the characters which I hadn't since series 1. If you like the weird and wonderful and those 1950s America vibes, the 4th series would definitely be the one for you.

Another show Matt & I have tore through this past month is Fresh Meat. We quite like Jack Whitehall's stand up comedy and after watching Bad Teacher we figured we'd enjoy Fresh Meat and we weren't disappointed. It is basically a comedy show based on the university house of 6 friends who come from all backgrounds and walks of life and having been to uni myself I can honestly say it is such a painfully accurate representation of university at times I laughed out loud a lot which doesn't really happen for me when it comes to your bog-standard comedy sitcoms like this.

An honorary mention that I have to stick in here is the amazing and wonderful, Trap Door. If you are too young to know what Trap Door is, it was a late 80s early 90s playdoh stop-motion kids show that is voiced by one guy and is all about Berk, a little blue fella who lives in a castle with a trap door that contains loads of monsters that often escape. Matt picked up the DVD in HMV and as we both loved the show as kids, we watched all of the series in one night. It was so funny to watch it back and realise a) how short the 3:30 minute episodes are, b) that we could still sing along to the theme tune and we were impressed with how many episodes we could clearly remember from our childhoods and c) that we can watch it now as adults and see that it didn't really age that well and it was kind of a bit shit but nevertheless, we loved every minute of it.

Surprise surprise, music has been my big thing again this month but that's because some mighty fine sounds have came out in the month of October. First of all I have to mention my favourite release of all - Joyce Manor's latest album, Cody. I find Joyce Manor an incredibly nostalgic band but this new album is possibly my favourite of all of theirs already. The songs are short and sweet, kind of upbeat but kind of emo and whiny, but as always, their lyrics make me fall in love. My particular favourites from this album are: Angel in the Snow and Stairs. Another favourite band new release is Dance Gavin Dance's Mothership. At first I wasn't sure I liked this album, especially compared to their last release but it grew on me a great deal over October. It's almost a little bit poppy compared to their older stuff but it's incredibly catchy and I'm still absolutely loving Tilian's voice with the band's recognisable sound. I'll always have a soft spot for Jonny Craig, but Tilian is just that little bit nicer to listen to in this particular band!

A new gem of a find for me in October was without a doubt Lisa Mitchell. She is essentially the chilled out tunes of Alanis Morrisette, Lana Del Rey, and Tori Amos all bundled together into one perfect human. Her new release, Warriors, is a gorgeous album and has been a choice of mine for chill out time putting on my makeup on a morning or when I'm having a long relaxing shower after a hard day. If you're a fan of Lana then give this girl a whirl - you will love her.

Some other releases that I've liked this month from some favourite bands are Phantogram's album, Three (an electro rock/electronica band who are similar to Chvrches, Purity Ring etc.), Green Day's Revolution Radio, American Football's American Football (LP2), and King Dude's eerie horror-ish sound in their latest release, Sex. They're all great album drops that might not necessarily be instant favourites, but they've been lovely to listen to nonetheless. I also gave Frank Iero and the Patience - Parachutes a listen but I'm not entirely sure I like his sound so I think that's a one for me to keep testing.

Video Games
Because of the busy work schedule, games had to take a backseat on the priority list again this past month. During my half term break though I did realise that the last 2 chapters of King's Quest had been released so I managed to play through Chapter 4 one afternoon when I had some time. I did enjoy it although I find the puzzle element of the game a bit frustrating at times. I love puzzle games like the Professor Layton series and King's Quest is very similar but the lack of instructions can make me *so* annoyed. I also found myself a bit disappointed with the Chapter again. Just like Chapter 3, Chapter 4 felt extremely short to play and it felt like it was just some filler rather than developing any sense of the game's story. I do enjoy this game though and I've just got my fingers and toes crossed that the final chapter is a good one.

Skyrim was released on PS4 this October so of course Matt was sat downloading it as soon as it struck midnight. I love watching people play Skyrim because it's such an expansive and detailed RPG but I just can't play it myself for some reason. I find the controls really clunky no matter what platform or settings I have played the game on which is always a shame because it's definitely a game that suits my gaming interests. I think that we now have it on PS4, I might have to give it a go again and see if I find it any more comfortable and enjoyable to play.

What have you guys been getting up to lately?

- A.
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November 02, 2016

Battle of the Beauty Blenders

If you're remotely interested in the beauty blogging/vlogging world, you will know by now that one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern cosmetics is without a doubt the revamp of beauty sponges. Long gone are the days when the little white triangles that just soaked up your foundation and made it streak across your face were the only available sponges and in their place has stepped some absolute gems. With the release of the original Beauty Blender, it seems that countless brands jumped on the bandwagon and released their own sponge of wonders to try and compete. That being said, there's only ever two that I see people, including myself, go back to time and time again no matter what they've tried and those are always the original Beauty Blender and the Real Techniques Sponge. These two sponges seem to be put up against each other in KO vs fights by many people in the blogging and vlogging communities and most people seem to prefer one to the other. As a girl who actively uses both, I thought I'd share my thoughts and let you know if the budget option is just as good as the original expense.

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge | £5.99 - Okay so let's talk about the more purse-friendly option of the two and that is the highly-praised Miracle Complexion Sponge from Real Techniques. This bright orange sponge is a big love of mine because a) it's pretty darn good and b) I fully appreciate it's orange shade as it matches a lot of my current base and eyeshadow brushes (shallow I know but when your makeup tools match it's a pretty special thing and makes you feel like you've got your shit together). The sponge has a pointed tip at one end and a flat side making it great for not only storing on your makeup shelves or dresser, but it is also great for getting coverage on both small and larger surface areas as the different ends of the sponge can be used for different areas of the face or even the body. The sponge itself fits nicely into the palm of my hand and when wet or damp, it still is a good size to work with. Using it dry, it quite solid and therefore really needs to be bounced against the skin in order for it to blend products well, but when it is damp it becomes softer and more malleable. A lot of people seem to like the Real Techniques sponge because of this but it took me a long time to get used to it and like it.

I still think this sponge has a tendency to soak up more of the product that the Beauty Blender does so for that reason, it gets demoted often, but since I've stopped wearing foundation, I do enjoy using it dry just to quickly buff in my concealer every morning. It really works products into the skin at lightning speed and you don't have to pay much attention to it so if you're a lazy, half asleep girl like me when you're applying your makeup, you have the comfort of knowing your foundation or concealer won't be orange streaks once you leave the house and you see yourself in daylight.

Beautyblender Classic Sponge | £16.oo - Oh, the original B.I.G. The original Beauty Blender is *so* popular and it's clear to see why. Even if I have used a brush to first apply a base and begin buffing it in, I will always finish off the job with this sponge. The Beauty Blender is a classic teardrop shape so it is tapered at one end just like the Miracle Complexion Sponge but instead of having a flat bottom, it has a curved base. Now, I personally prefer the curved base - it doesn't give as much surface area as the flat base of the Miracle sponge, but the curve of the BB makes it easier to create a seamless blend. It's also much softer to squeeze than the Real Techniques sponge. Even dry, this sponge is really squishy to use which I prefer as it means you don't have to bounce the sponge on your skin with as much pressure which is perfect for someone like me who has quite sensitive skin or sometimes extremely sensitive and sore acne patches. It is pretty much the same size of the Real Techniques offering so again, it fits nicely into my hand and when wet/damp, it doubles in size just the same and is still a good size to use. I find this doesn't soak up as much product as the other and in turn, this also means I don't have to wash it as often meaning my Beauty Blenders often last longer than my Miracle Complexion Sponges.

The one drawback of this sponge is that it costs almost 3 times the amount of the Real Techniques sponge and I've also wondered how those £1 dupes fair up in comparison. I personally will always repurchase the BB, but it does make me wonder if there's even cheaper options out there and if to be honest, I could just rely on my RT sponge instead.

So, which is best?
All in all, I think the Beauty Blender always just takes top spot. Despite it costing more money, it is the sponge I find most satisfying and comfortable to use, it has longevity over the Real Techniques sponge, and I love the fact that you can now get minis which are perfect for getting right into the eye area or for creating a really strong contour. The Real Techniques sponge is in no way a bad option though - I personally do think it soaks up more product but on the other hand there are plenty of people out there who argue the Beauty Blender is a ball ache for doing the same thing. I personally find the BB great to use both damp and dry whereas I would only really use the RT damp if we were talking about applying bases. As I've only been wearing concealer for the last few months, I'd say they both do a great job - damp and dry - of blending the concealer into the skin beautifully but the BB is still the nicest to use as the sponginess and softness of it makes getting into my inner corners much more comfortable and less of a task.

Another thing I think is worth a mention here is the fact that the Real Techniques sponge always seems to go first. If I have longer nails, or I haven't been as careful as usual when cleaning it, it tends to dent and thus fall apart much quicker than the Beauty Blender. I think this has a lot to do with how compact and sturdier the sponge is but again, some people have said the same about the Beauty Blender so who knows! Overall I will always continue to buy both as I tend to use one when the other is out of action when it's getting cleaned etc. and I like them for different things. If I happen to be using thicker consistency products I will reach for the Beauty Blender over the Real Techniques as I think it sheers out products much more effectively which is what I like however, if I have a lot of texture going on (e.g. I have flaky skin where old spots are healing) I will choose the Real Techniques sponge as somehow, it glides over those patches better than the Beauty Blender. I think the pros outweigh the cons with both of these tools but if I had to use just one for the rest of my days, I would always spend that little bit extra and go with the original B.I.G.

Which beauty blender sponge do you prefer? Or has a brush taken over your life?

- A.
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