Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Cervical Cancer Awareness Week 2013

This week (10th-15th June) it's Cervical Screening Awareness Week (CSAW), a UK-wide initiative lead by the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. The aim of the initiative is to highlight the importance of attending regular cervical screenings (or 'smear tests') and to raise awareness of how this can help to prevent cervical cancer.

In England, cervical screenings are offered free on the NHS to women over the age of 25 (until the age of 64). In Scotland and Wales, it starts slightly lower at 20. Since 2008, the NHS have provided vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to girls aged 12 to 13, which helps to protect them from developing cervical cancer in the future. If, like me, you missed the HPV vaccine, attending regular cervical screenings is your best chance to catch any cell abnormalities that could develop into cancer. 

We are very lucky in this country to have these services available to us. Yet 20% of women still do not attend their screenings. As young women, many of us believe we're too young to get cancer. Cervical cancer in young women is very rare, but it's certainly not unheard of - tragic stories such as Jade Goody's and, more recently, Becky Ryder and Gemma Marsh really bring the importance of regular testing home. 

I turn 25 in November, but received my invitation to attend my first screening just over a month ago. I attended my screening last week and am currently awaiting the results. For me, there was no question in my mind that I would go as soon as I could. For others, I appreciate there are many reasons it might not be that easy. 

Either way, this is the week when we should take the time to think about it a bit more, to educate ourselves and to encourage each other to get tested. To find out more about cervical screening there's a lot of great information on the NHS website here.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Artwork of the Week #8

Over the last bank holiday weekend, I visited an old school friend who lives in Wakefield near Leeds. As mentioned in a previous post, I've been dying to get there ever since The Hepworth gallery opened a couple of years ago. Hepworth is one of my favourite artists, and I'd just kept reading such great things about the collection and building. Although my friend isn't an art-lover like me, she very, very kindly (and with a bribe of coffee and cake) agreed to tag along with me. 

I actually really love going to visit museums and galleries with people who wouldn't usually choose to go by themselves. I find that explaining things and answering questions just reaffirms by own enthusiasm for it all!

The Hepworth Wakefield houses works by British artist Barbara Hepworth and from the Wakefield art collection itself, but also hosts a series of contemporary, temporary exhibitions, in its impressive purpose-built spaces. I have to admit I didn't particularly enjoy the temporary shows that were on when we were visiting. One featured an artist responding to works found in the permanent collection - personally, I think the original objects he was responding to were interesting enough on their own without the addition of flashing lights and droning noises... The other exhibition featured more traditional painting and drawing and was much more my cup of tea. However, my friend didn't agree and there was a lot of 'I could have done that', 'how is that art??' or 'it looks like a 5-year-old did it...' as we journeyed through those rooms. You win some, you lose some eh!

The permanent collection itself was really fantastic. A great and unexpected mix of British modern sculpture and beautiful paintings spread across bright and spacious rooms. There aren't hundreds and hundreds of objects, which I liked. It was possible to take everything in in less than an hour and a half, but there was also enough text and information to keep you occupied should you want to be there for longer. 

On top of all that, entry to the entire gallery (including temporary exhibitions) is completely free - bonus!

Here are a few of my favourite pieces in the collections. The gallery is open 10am - 5pm, Tuesday - Sunday and is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area! 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Primark online?!

Long time no blog post...I've been in a bit of a rut inspiration-wise over the last couple of weeks, but saw this article today that I just felt the urge to share!

Primark has finally joined the world of online shopping (at least for a trial period, and with very limited stock, anyway) on ASOS. I think it's about time it caught up with the rest of the market, and I'm very happy I might soon be able to leave behind the traumatic shopping experience of the Oxford Street branch! Let's hope the cheap(ish) prices and YouTube Primark hauls don't get left behind too though!

What do you think? Is an online presence for Primark going to be a good thing?

Monday, 13 May 2013

Review || Indeed Labs Eysilix Instant Eye Rescue

Up until last year, eye creams were always something that I neglected in my daily skincare routine. I never felt like I needed to spend extra money or incorporate yet another product when I could use my moisturiser of choice to basically do the same job.

That's all changed now though. As I'm going to be turning the ripe old age of 25 this year and I've recently started to notice a few fine lines developing around my eyes, I thought it was high time I invested in a good eye cream. 

I've used the Origins Ginzing Eye Cream in the past and thought it was OK, but I always felt that it leant more towards the make-up side of things than skincare (since it has light-reflecting properties that help to brighten the under-eye area). It never really seemed to do anything else. 

The Eysilix Instant Eye Rescue from Indeed Labs, on the other hand, really does. For me, it has really made a difference.

The cream itself is just as you would expect - a white, lightweight formula. I squeeze a very small amount (about half-a-pea size is enough for both eyes) on to my ring finger and pat it under my eye and around the sides, continuing with this motion until it sinks in. Almost immediately I notice a (not unpleasant) tingling sensation where I've patted in the cream - always a good sign that something's happening!

I've been using Eysilix day and night for a couple of weeks now and I've seen a definite improvement in the fine lines. When I use it in the morning, it also really helps to calm any puffiness. I haven't seen a noticeable difference to the darkness under my eyes but hey, 2 out of 3 ain't bad - and I'm very happy using concealer to rectify that issue.

It's not the cheapest product on the market - but it's also nowhere near to being the most expensive either! Since it works for me, I'm more than happy to spend that little bit extra. It retails for £24.99 and you can pick it up from Boots. Note: I did have trouble finding it in my local stores, but click on the link to find it easily online.       

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Artwork of the Week #7

Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932
Picture: The Jewish Museum / Man Ray Trust
Last week I went to the Man Ray Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, during one of the gallery's late night events. Firstly, I thought the exhibition was very good. It showcases over 150 prints - including many that demonstrate May Ray's beautiful and characteristic technique of solarisation, and his relationships with artists and actors of the time. Great for a bit of celeb-spotting! 

The exhibition is displayed chronologically, across 4 or 5 rooms, which was the perfect size for an hour or so of evening viewing. It also wasn't particularly busy. I can see a packed space being detrimental to the experience of seeing these works, since the prints are hung at an unusually high height and are fairly close together. Since I'm quite little myself, this meant I had to stand a few feet away from the objects to avoid having to crane my neck up - this is all well and good when it's relatively quiet, but not so when there are crowds surrounding you, impatient and keen to get up-close to study the detail of the works. 

If you can make it to one of the late night openings, I'd definitely recommend it. Not only do you get a much more pleasant viewing experience, there's also always other events on for you to enjoy before or after - this week there will be a harp recital within the galleries, and on the 23rd May they will hold a discussion entitled 'Classy and Fabulous' considering Man Ray's stylish portraits of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli. I always love the NPG's take on the late-night - it offers such a good range of events, whilst maintaining that slight touch of exclusivity and glamour that you just don't find during the day. 

For me, this is a must-see exhibition. It's heading into the final weeks now and will be on until the 27th May. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

My Michael Kors Rose Gold Watch

Yesterday, I was one very lucky (and spoilt!) lady. My boyfriend received his bonus from work a few weeks ago and wanted to use some of it to buy something for me. He was extremely generous, and now I am the very happy owner of this beautiful Michael Kors watch.   

I had wanted one of these watches for a while now and so had a rough idea of the type of model I was looking for. I have very small wrists though, so was a bit worried about the size of some of the ones I'd already seen in the collection. After a lot of searching online, I finally found this one in Ernest Jones - the model is MK5340, with a face diameter of approximately 35mm and a band width of approximately 15mm. I think it's just the right size for me and I love it in the rose gold colour. This is the first rose gold accessory I own though...I sense that some shopping for some matching items might be on the horizon soon!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hola Barcelona!

Last weekend, the boy and I flew to Barcelona and spent a lovely few days exploring, eating, and relaxing. I'd never visited the city before but it had been top of my list for a good few years - the art, culture and food had always tickled my fancy and it's pretty much around the corner from England so seemed like a plausible destination for my poor graduate self.

We landed on Friday and were greeted by lovely gloomy grey skies and lashings of rain. I won't dwell too much on the weather - I think we've all done enough of that already over the last few months(!) - but it was grim. Our guide book had just one page devoted to 'What to do if rains', because bad weather apparently only hits Barcelona roughly 50 days out of the entire year. And yes - we enjoyed 4 of those. 

So, moving on to the good stuff! We stayed in a beautiful hotel called Hotel Grums, which is situated in the west of the city and is only about a 5-10 minute walk away from the famous, bustling street La Rambla. I highly recommend it if you're after somewhere modern and stylish, yet affordable and welcoming.

Since it rained a lot we made good use of the Metro (such an easy system to get to grips with) and the 10-trip ticket - a definite bargain if you're not one for walking or just like to get to places quickly! For the rest of the time, strolling on foot suited us just fine. In fact, I'm really glad we did so much of this because we saw a lot of beautiful buildings and quirky residential areas away from the main tourist routes that we would never have found otherwise. 

Dinners pretty much consisted completely of tapas. You have to do it, right? 

This was an amazing little restaurant we found called Mam I Teca, which had only 4 tables and 1 waitress, but it served the most delicious food. Perfect for a quiet, romantic meal. 
I'll let the pictures do the talking for everything else:

La Sagrada Familia - or the 'Gaudi Cathedral'

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review || Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat

I finally managed to pick up this much-raved-about product a few weeks ago (thank you Boots and your lovely 3-for-2 offers!) and think I'm just about ready to share my thoughts on it.

This top coat is supposed to be THE best one out there, and I have to admit it is pretty good. I apply a thick layer on top of my nail polish after it's had a few minutes to dry on it's own and the result is a beautifully glossy finish. I also think it makes my nail varnish last a lot longer, and I've rarely seen chips or peeling within the first 2-3 days of wear.

Having said that, I'm afraid that I've actually found the fast drying quality to be a bit hit and miss! The first time I used it, it was incredible - within about a minute I could touch my nails (with a good amount of pressure) and there was absolutely no tackiness. But, the 2nd and 3rd times were completely different. I did eventually get the hard, non-tacky result achieved before, but it took soo much longer. And, in the meantime I managed to make dents in the varnish from all of the tapping to see if it had dried! I did use different brands of nail polish each time (Essie for the first, Rimmel for the 2nd and No. 7 for the 3rd) so perhaps this is where the issue lies. In my opinion though, such a celebrated product should perform effectively every time. 

The jury is still out on this one. I'll keep using it because I love the shiny finish and the fact it keeps my varnish looking good for longer, but I'm not sure if I'll be re-purchasing when it's all gone...

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Little Trip to Audley End House

Last week, I visited Audley End House in Saffron Walden, Essex for a wander round. This early 17th century property is one of England's grandest stately homes and is currently under the stewardship of English Heritage. 

Inside, the house is beautifully finished with wonderful paintings, original furniture, and some rather quirky stuffed animals. Outside, the Capability Brown parkland stretches far and wide and is just as impressive as the grand interiors. It's recently re-opened for the Spring/Summer season and is a great day out - with some very yummy cakes to be had in the cafe - if you're in the area or are up for a road trip! Here are some of the snaps I managed to get on my way in.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review || Davina Intense DVD

If you've read my previous post on Davina McCall's fitness DVDs you'll know I'm a HUGE fan. They're great for people of all abilities since there's always both an 'easy' and 'harder' technique to follow, they're varied, and (I think anyway) fun! 

I thought it might be useful for those of you who are interested in this type of exercise if I gave my opinions on some of the best DVDs in this series. As I'm in no way a fitness or health expert, these thoughts are purely based on my own experiences and the results I've seen for my own body.

First up is the most recent of the bunch, Davina Intense:

I think this is a great choice for those of us who find it difficult to fit exercise in to their daily routine. It focuses on the principle of High Intensity Training, which means you work out for a shorter amount of time but at a much higher intensity than normal. This type of training is all about getting your heart rate up really high during short bursts of exercise in order to burn lots of fat (yippeee!). 

So, this DVD is split into 3 workout sections, not including the warm up and cool down (which you MUST do every time you work out to avoid injury) - Intense Cardio Box, Intense Toning and Intense Abs. Each lasts no longer than 20-25 minutes, so is great for fitting in to a busy schedule. To get the most out of the sections you'll only need a small amount of floor space and a couple of weights (but bottles of water or tins of food do the job just as well). 

The first two sections work very similarly. They focus on 2-3 minutes of high intensity exercises, such as fast running on the spot, squats, star jumps, and lunges, split up with 2 minute 'rest' periods. This allows you to work out as hard as you can in the 2-3 minutes to get your heart rate up really high and then to bring it back down again to give you energy for the next burst. The final, Abs, section also works on this principle but mixes standing exercises with ones on the floor - definitely the least intense of the 3 sections, but still gets a good sweat on! 

I've had this DVD since Christmas and it's slowly becoming my favourite. I always feel like I've had a brilliant workout every time and I've noticed a real difference in my fitness levels and toned-ness! 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Review || L'Oreal Waterproof Volume Million Lashes Mascara

Next up in the reviews from my recent Boots haul is this mascara from L'Oreal. I've owned the original Volume Millions mascara before and really loved it - it really did add a lot of noticeable volume, held a good curl and lasted a looong time before drying out. I needed a new waterproof mascara after my beloved waterproof L'Oreal Telescopic mascara (a love initiated by the wonderful Anna of Vivianna Does Makeup) finally ran out and thought I'd give the Volume Millions a go since I got on so well with the original. 



Overall, I do like this mascara. As you can see, it gives a really lovely effect and definitely helps with volume and definition. My only gripe with it, is that I don't think the waterproof-ness (new word?) is as good as the Telescopic. I got rained on a bit yesterday (we're talking mildly wet weather here, not cats and dogs territory) but after only about 5 minutes out in it, I got inside and the mascara had rubbed off and given me lovely black dots under my eyes. Not a good look. 

As a result of this, I don't think I'll be relying too heavily on this for rainy days, but I'll definitely be reaching for this when I'm feeling in the mood for volume and a bit of drama!

Here I've just done a quick comparison between the L'Oreal mascara (on your right) and the Max Factor Clump Defy mascara (on your left), which I bought at the same time (you can find my review for that here). To me, it looks like the L'Oreal gives much more volume and lift than the Max Factor.  If you like a less dramatic look or don't enjoy the more laborious task of taking waterproof mascara off every night, the Max Factor is definitely worth a look! 

Have you tried either of these mascaras? Which do you prefer?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Review || Revlon Lip Butter in Juicy Papaya

Like many of you out there I LOVE the Revlon Lip Butters - they just suit me down to a tea. I've never really been one for lipsticks and definitely not for lipglosses (too many hair-streaking-it-across-my-face incidences), but when the lip butters came to town and were hyped up left right and centre I thought I'd give lip products another go. And, over the last year or so, I think these guys and I have developed a pretty happy relationship. 

This colour is the latest addition to my collection and is the *relatively* newly released Juicy Papaya.

I won't go on about the formulation or longevity etc etc because that's all been said a million times before on blogs and videos. I thought it might be useful to show you some swatches though, of the colour and buildability of this particular shade. Above, from left to right I've swatched one, two and three layers. As you can see, it is one of the more sheer colours from the collection, but does build up to a really nice, pigmented corally-pink. I can't wait to wear this more often now that the weather is picking up!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Artwork of the Week #5

This week, the Art Newspaper reported that this painting by Picasso had been sold to Qatar and was consequently leaving the UK. It's always a shame when masterpieces such as this have to go because the money/philanthropy simply doesn't exist to keep them in the country. Last week $1 billion worth of Cubist works were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York but one very very generous American collector - I think I'd just about fall of my chair if something comparable happened here!

Review || Max Factor Clump Defy Mascara

If you've read the post I did a couple of days ago, you'll know I partook in a spot of makeup shopping recently. One of the products I picked up and have been trying out since, is Max Factor's Clump Defy Mascara. I bought it in the shade 'Black Brown' because 'Black' was out of stock - I have quite dark eyelashes anyway so I'm not sure it really makes much difference. I was in the market for a new mascara and this one had been talked about a fair bit online, so thought it would be worth a go.



I have to admit the shape of the brush threw me a bit at first (and I'm still not entirely sure which is the 'right' way to use it - any ideas?), but I've tried both the curved and flatter sides and they seem to give pretty much the same result. In terms of 'defying' clumps, I think this mascara does indeed do just that. It's not the most volumising or lengthening mascara I've ever tried, but I do like the defined and fairly natural look it gives. I think it's also really good in terms of its longevity - it did hold a curl for a long time and didn't smudge on me at all.

I do wonder if the clumps will be kept at bay over the next month or so as the product starts to dry up a little. I guess only time will tell...

Have you tried this mascara? What did you think?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Little Drugstore Haul...

The Boots 3 for 2 sale finally got me this weekend. I'd been needing a new waterproof mascara for a while, but somehow another 4 products managed to drop themselves into my shopping basket too...I also added the Barry M nail polish when I passed through Superdrug afterwards. Nothing like a nice bit of hauling on a sunny (FINALLY!) Sunday. Expect reviews soon! 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Review || L'Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Oil


I've been giving this hair oil from L'Oreal a try for a while now (as you can tell by the half-empty bottle), so thought I'd do a quick review on it for you.

L'Oreal describes this as a '5-in-1 miracle hair perfector', with the power to give hair shine, nourishment, softness, smoothness and a look of perfection. All you have to do is pump a couple of drops onto your hand, rub your palms together and run your hands through your hair - you can do this either before washing, on damp hair immediately after washing, or on dry hair. 

Firstly, I think the smell of this is absolutely divine. It's perhaps not to everyone's tastes, but I love it - my only complaint is that it doesn't hang around on my hair very long!

So far I've only tried using it before washing and on damp hair, because I'm too scared it'll result in a completely greasy mess if I apply it directly to dry hair. I do one or the other every time I wash my hair, and in both cases it works like a dream! It leaves my locks feeling really soft and gives a beautiful shine. I have thick hair and don't feel like it weighs it down at all - though this might be different for people with finer hair types. 

Before using this the only other oil I'd tried is the Vo5 Miracle Concentrate Elixir, which I also thought worked really well. In terms of the product itself, I'm not sure if I prefer one over the other - but the Vo5 one is certainly more travel-friendly in its small plastic bottle (I actually kept my last bottle when I finished it and pour my L'Oreal oil in to take away with me!). 

This bottle has lasted me a good 3/4 months already and I still have about 50% left. At the moment I can definitely see myself re-purchasing this when I run out, but I'm sure another dozen amazing-looking hair oils will be competing for my attention by the time that happens!

You can find both the L'Oreal and Vo5 oils at Boots. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lusting after...


...these Topshop Pixelated Highwaist Trousers. I used to only ever wear 'dull' colours - we're talking the blacks, the browns, the whites and the greys of course. For some reason though I've recently come over all colour- and pattern-happy when it comes to buying new clothes! I think I blame my (relatively) new housemate, who is always rocking the brights. If I haven't caved in and bought these beautiful things in the next 24 hours, it'll be a miracle!