Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014: Beauty Favourites


2014 was definitely the year for budget beauty, with drugstore brands really upping their game and in many cases surpassing their more luxurious counterparts. As I moved to Cambridge this year (erm, expensive!!) that meant saving money was the number one priority when it came to product purchases. Here are some of my favourite discoveries:

The Body Shop's Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil was something I wasn't sure about given my oily complexion, but now I'm a total convert. It doesn't strip the skin, but also isn't greasy. A real luxurious product at an affordable price.

The idea of Garnier's Micellar Cleansing Water confused me at first - it comes out of the tap so why would I need this? How wrong I was! I've yet to find anything this stuff can't get off and it outperforms any make-up remover or wipe I've ever tried.

Speaking of makeup that's tricky to get off, the introduction of Bourjois' Rouge Edition Velvets meant I finally found a lip product I could wear all day. No need to worry about smudging and the serious colour pay-off and matte finish makes these a real hit.

This was also the year that I sampled a huge range of Benefit products. While most of these came from subscription boxes, the reward points I'd built up meant I could purchase something full size without worrying about the blow to my purse. I went straight for the Dallas blush, bronzed perfection without even a hint of shimmer.

I also finally got to grips with my dry, itchy scalp thanks to a new range from Tresemme, with their Renewal Hair & Scalp range. The Nourish & Renew Tonic soothes itching and adds moisture to the scalp with absolutely no greasy residue or added weight. It's something I use at least once a week.

2015 will have to try pretty hard to outdo this years beauty offerings!

What were your 2014 beauty highlights?

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Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Body Shop Tea Tree range


As someone with oily skin prone to angry breakouts I have always relied on stripping, chemically laden products to keep things under control. While there's certainly nothing wrong with that I have read increasingly about the benefits of products that contain natural oils like tea tree, which has an antibacterial effect and can actually help control sebum production. 

I took advantage of a 40% off offer The Body Shop was running a while back and purchased a few products from their range. It's worth signing up to their mailing list if you find paying their full price tags makes you feel a bit faint. I'm a budget girl at heart and they are literally always running promotions that get you 20-50% off depending on your total spend.

The facial wash in this range is gel based but not nearly as stripping as its Clearasil and Garnier counterparts. My skin feels so unbelievably clean after using this but never tight or dry. It's also dramatically improved my blackheads which, although just a fact of my skin type, aren't nearly as noticeable.

The night lotion is something I bought after feeling like my old Simple night-time go-to was suffocating my face. Where before I would wake up with greasy skin this moisturises just the right amount and keeps oil under control.

Neat tee trea oil is something I apply to any spots or redness after cleansing and moisturising. It doesn't work quite as quickly as strong chemical remedies but it does the job and there's no dry, cracked look to the skin that many treatments leave you with around spots.

I can highly recommend giving this range ago if you have problem skin - mine is improving by the day! You can find the whole range on the Body Shop website.

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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Disappointing products


Every once in a while I encounter products that really don't live up to my expectations, While I don't really like giving negative reviews or going on about products I haven't liked for ages I do think it's important to have a balance of opinion, so I'm gonna round up a few of those products here. There will definitely be people that don't agree with me on a few of these, but hey, an opinion is an opinion.

Schwarzkopf got2b Rise 'n Shine Volumising Souffle - Aside from the name being a total, total mouthful, this is a product that serves to do very little other than make my hair feel and look unwashed. The putty-like texture doesn't add much volume and I've had much better results with power-based products and sprays, some of which have been from this brand. This is a relatively new product but it doesn't seem to have taken off very well and I can see why. My hair felt weighed down and sticky with just the tiniest amount used.

Rimmel Scandaleyes RetroGlam Mascara - I love Rimmel mascaras and had never had a bad one until I tried this. The formula is so liquid that my eyelashes were splattering black spots above and below my eyes for a good five minutes after application and despite cleaning this up I ended up with a lot of transfer onto the lid and the inside of my glasses as the day went on, Mascara formula is a hard thing to get right but this one could do with being much drier. Total mess!

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in Black - I had heard great things about this brand, not least that it's Alexa Chung's smudge of choice, but it just didn't live up to the hype. The nib is hard, the formula very thin so took a couple of layers and within a couple of hours had transferred onto my upper lids and had me resembling a Tim Burton character. While I can't say I've tried their fat liners or pencils I can safely say my trusty £2.99 Collection liquid liner does a far better job and actually being black and staying put.

Beauty Blender - Now I really will be up against the masses with this one. This time the issue is more to do with my personal preference than a quality issue as the sponge is nice and soft, well-sized for all areas of the face and even comes with some soap to clean it with. I have tried to get on with the product many times, but the coverage always ends up far too thick and the wet feeling is something I really don't like! I would much rather use my Real Techniques Buffing Brush to lightly swirl on the perfect coverage than really overdo it with a messy soggy sponge. Maybe one day I'll crack it but for now this is a total no-no.

Benefit The Porefessional Primer - My experience with this product was a little bitter-sweet. At first it seemed to hold my make-up in place for an hour or two longer each day and keep things more matte, but then I noticed my skin breaking out in horrible bumps and big, acne-like spots that required some serious work to cover. For almost 6 months I continued to use the primer every day, putting my bad skin down to stress. When no spot treatment on earth was helping I backtracked to try and find a product in my daily routine that could have caused this and finally put two and two together. I stopped using this two weeks ago and now aside from some scarring which will fade my skin is totally back to normal. That's not to say that you will have these problems but I've well and truly given this the boot as it definitely suffocated my oily skin and clogged my pores.

So there you have it - while it's rare that I encounter products that disappoint I feel like it's important to share my experiences with them so that others can see both sides of the coin. It's also important that my readers know that when I give something a good review I mean every word!

Have you purchased any disappointing products lately?
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Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Review)


Now it's no shock to anyone who knows me that I'm a massive, ginormous, ridiculous fan of The Hunger Games books, and that the film adaptations so far have really impressed me. They are everything book-to-screen transformations should be and the writers really respect the source text, which these days is a rare thing indeed. I have all too often seen books I love bastardised on the big screen, and it doesn't feel good.

Perhaps my favourite thing about the third instalment is that we are taken out of the Games format and into the wider world of a real-life war zone. The main focus of both the first half of the novel and the first live action instalment of Mockingjay is Katniss's experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and director Francis Lawrence devotes pretty much his entire film to this. Many would present it superficially or glaze right over it, but this hits hard. Jennifer Lawrence does an amazing job portraying this and it wasn't long into the film before I had a sizeable lump in my throat. She has that effect on me as it is but hearing her sing the haunting Hanging Tree song from the novels just about did me in.

The cast was, as usual, a tad hit and miss, but some new faces helped refresh things. I wasn't sure about the introduction of Natalie Dormer as Capitol camerawoman Cressida, but she really impressed me in the end and ended up a more three-dimensional character than she is in the novel.

Julianne Moore seemed at first an odd choice for the part of President Coin - I had pictured her stockier, more steadfast - however her rousing delivery of many a speech to the people of District Thirteen and her attention to detail in the performance meant I warmed to her eventually. The late Seymour Phillip Hoffman also shone in his own understated way. He could say more with the raise of an eyebrow than many could in an entire scene.

Nods should also be given to the film's cinematography and musical score. Scenes are at once both horrifying and beautiful, with the characteristic use of claustrophobic shots and awe-inspiring landscapes neatly linking visual style to both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire respectively. As usual the soundtrack was beautiful, and I would also highly recommend checking out the songs Lorde put together to accompany this. The whole CD gives me chills.

Where this film fell down for me slightly was the sheer amount of added material. It felt like the writers were so set on the exact moment they wanted to split the Mockingjay narrative that they were left with a lot of time to fill. The extras they added and the stories they expanded on were, luckily, very well thought out and as I'm led to believe also involved author Suzanne Collins to ensure their authenticity and faithfulness to her universe. 

Parts of the story that we don't see through Katniss's eyes in the novel, such as the rescue of Peeta, Joanna and Annie from the Capitol, are played out well and conveyed that terrifying sense of suspense and anticipation we know all too well from the first two films. Scenes from President Snow's office and across the other rebelling districts are also added but are so carefully considered that I was less offended by their presence and more grateful. They brought a lot more depth to the story and took us away from Katniss's insular point of view to present the bigger picture.

My only real gripe with this instalment is something that I could also apply to the other two - if you haven't read the books you might have a couple of questions at the end. District Thirteen is brought onto the scene with very little explanation and I feel more time could have been given to explaining this as it's fairly important to the narrative. Some of the novels' terminology is also thrown in with little elaboration leaving some bewildered. This is the price paid for condensing hundreds and hundreds of pages into a film.

All in all the Hunger Games films continue to impress and while it was difficult to ignore that the added footage and 123 minute run time have turned the franchise into a bit of a cash cow, I can't bring myself not to love it.

***

Image credit: Lionsgate Films



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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Birchbox November - A Cosy Night In!


Holy Moly, it's Birchbox time again! I cannot believe it's November already and the long nights and Christmas stress are well and truly here. In keeping with this, this month's theme was 'Cosy at Home', with some luxurious skincare taking centre stage and a few other luxury beauty goodies thrown in to boot. The HUGE toner made this month's box well worth it, and I've made a couple of nice discoveries from the samples too. Check out my contents:

English Laundry Signature For Her Fragrance (£60.00) I adore English Laundry scents, really I do, however I find there price tags are generally a little out of my current tight budget.

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle (£14.00) I didn't know if I would get on with this stuff as to be honest the packaging doesn't scream 'luxury, well performing hair brand' to me, but I love it! It smells gorgeous and really helps me get a brush through my mop while also acting not unlike the Aussie serums in adding a bit of softness and shine.

Lord & Berry Mini Bronzer in Sienna (£19.00) It seems it's a month for disappointing packaging as this little bronzer comes in a deceptive box containing an Easter-egg style plastic casing for the bronzer pan. While this cheapens my first Lorde and Berry experience somewhat the bronzer is a nice shade which would probably be suitable for most people, the finish is matte and this works well applied as both a contour and an all over bronzer.

Weleda Wild Rose Body Oil (£19.95) I am slightly weary of body oils as the last time I used one it was on freshly shaved legs (yeah, idiot or what?) and it really stung and gave me a right old rash. However this stuff, when used on non-freshly shaved body parts as intelligent people will of course do, is lovely. It doesn't sink in to the point you'd forget you'd applied it, however there is no greasy slime.

Dr. Jart + V7 Balancing Toner (18.00) I was very impressed to see this full-size toner in my box! Dr Jart are a brand I've been itching to try for a while. This toner smells lovely, comes in a luxurious glass bottle with a pippette lid and feels amazing on the skin after cleansing. As an oily skinned girl I'm not so sure about this product's claims to balance the skin (it seems oiler during the day if I use this in the morning), however I use this at night with an eye cream rather than suffocating my skin in night cream and it seems to be doing a lovely job here.

Montezuma Chocoalte bar (£2.39) I'm sure you can guess why this wasn't pictured. I arrived home mid-week to my Birchbox and any sweet treats inside weren't going to last 5 seconds. Yummy, organic and not too heavily sweetened. Fab.

You can subscribe to Birchbox here* for a monthly box, and don't forget to visit the store for free delivery on this month's brands!

*This link is my referral link - You don't have to click it but I will get some extra reward points if you do!
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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Two to Try: Berry Lipsticks


I've really gotten into experimenting with more colourful lip products lately, and with the Autumn/Winter season well and truly upon us, two shades in particular are getting a lot of wear. If you're looking to venture into more seasonal, daring colours these two are a fantastic starting point!

Always Plum from the Maybelline SuperStay 14hr range is a real favourite, with a fairly nude hue darkened by brown and pink tones. Applied fully the colour is fairly dark but still safe enough for daytime wear and compliments autumnal clothes wonderfully. I also dab the colour on with my finger for a stained look if I don't want to wear anything heavy. It has to be said that the formula feels thick, but it really does have great staying power.

I usually lean towards a matte finish when it comes to lip products, however Rimmel's Lasting Finish Lipstick in shade #30 has proven that your average-finish lipstick can look great. It's not overly shiny and the colour packs an insane punch. The bright berry is probably best saved for night wear for the less daring, but again looks great applied as a light stain for daytime. The staying power is good however there's a lot of transfer so beware of accidental smudging. It's definitely best applied with a brush which can be tedious but the colour pay-off is so worth it.

I've swatched them here: L-R Always Plum (full), Always Plum (stain), #30 (full), #30 (stain).


***


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Monday, 10 November 2014

Three Masks for Blemish Prone Skin


My skin has really gone through the motions over the last six months. I have no idea why, and while keeping hydrated and trying to eat well have also done my skin some good, products also play a key roll. This trio of masks are not something I use together, rather at different stages of a breakout.

Just to give you a quick idea of what my skin is like, it's very oily and prone to blackheads and large zits which take a looong time to calm down, but also can get dry and sore in patches. Basically a nightmare!

The Body Shop Blue Corn 3-in-1 Deep Cleansing Mask is something I use once every 1-2 weeks at the weekend for a really deep cleanse. Apply it gently when using as a mask and allow it to get to work for 5 minutes. You can literally feel it working and that tingly feeling takes some getting used to. Then either remove with a cloth or scrub off. Results are instant with skin looking much clearer, and it really helps keep breakouts under control. I would only recommend this mask for normal/oily skin types as it's properly too potent for dry or sensitive skin. I keep this stuff well away from any dry patches like the ones I get around my nose.

If things are particularly red and angry I'll also go in with Lush's Catastrophe Cosmetic mask straight after. This mask is really gentle and cooling and works amazingly to calm redness. I would recommend this to anyone with problem skin! I tend to wash this off with my hands over the sink as it feels so soothing I'd hate to ruin the experience with a rough cloth.

For midweek congested skin I use Boots' Tea Tree & Which Hazel Peel Off Mask. It literally pulls the dirt and dead skin away and can really help during the week if you wear make up to work. This range is really affordable and suitable for all so I'd highly recommend it for those who are on a budget but want to give their skin the treat it needs.

What are your favourite products for keeping breakouts under control?
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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Gift Ideas: Books!



I'm a firm believer that there's a book out there for everyone, even if you don't like reading that much! Whether it's fiction, a cookbook, an autobiography or something else entirely, a well selected title can make the perfect Christmas present. It shows you know someone and gives them something they can get hours of enjoyment from. Here are some of my top book picks for giving this Christmas:

If someone in your life loves to indulge in a bit of girl power, Lena Dunham's newly released and much talked about 'Not That Kind of Girl' is just perfect. Advice, anecdotes and some feminist thinking make this the perfect gift for a sister or lady friend.

From Alice in Wonderland and Wuthering Heights to Dracula and Frankenstein, the Waterstones Clothbound Classics range is ideal for the book lover in your life. The cover designs are just gorgeous and if you know a bookworm whose copy of Great Expectations is a little worse for wear this will give their favourite story a new lease of life.

For the cooks among us there is a lot to choose from this year. Great British Bake-Off books are everywhere, but I always find myself particularly drawn to books like Jamie's Comfort Food - these books have a little of everything, cover a range of ability levels and are really accessible. For someone who wishes they could cook but wants it made easy for them, Lorraine Pascale's How to be a Better Cook is here to save the day. Plus there's always the hope the recipient will want you to sample their creations!

If there's a fitness fanatic in the family then this year they're spoilt for choice. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet is a great choice for a runner. Motivating and awe inspiring, this book is the autobiography of the world's most famous ultra-marathon runner. Bike Fit is also ideal for a cycling fanatic, with input from the one and only Chris Hoy on how to get the most out of your bike.

So there you have it. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge range of books out there that would make the perfect Christmas gift, but I hope I've managed to give some of you some inspiration!

Happy Shopping!



Image taken from Google.
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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Does wearing makeup make me less of a feminist?


The answer to the question I've used to title this post is both complicated and not - I really don't think wearing make up could ever make you any less of a woman, any less real, any less anything. There is no set criteria for what makes someone a feminist other than wanting equality and harmony between the sexes. The real issue lies in why we would ever have made such a ridiculous claim to begin with. There's been a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks over the relationship between make up and feminism, and while I really don't care to write an evidenced-based essay on which side of the fence I fall, I thought I'd talk a little about what it means to me.

As a twelve year old with a very, very oily T-Zone and a monobrow to rival a werewolves, I found myself purchasing cheap W7 powder and lipgloss from a local market stall. My friends and I would sneak this on during lunch at school. It made us feel a little more comfortable, just a little more grown up.Prior to this I only really had those cheap, sort of pretend make up sets that I would apply strictly at home and pretend to be a Spice Girl or a member of S Club 7. Cool, huh?

During my early teens I got a little wacky with make up thanks to a gothy stage, with white face powder (I know, ridiculous), black and red eyeshadow a la My Chemical Romance and as much chipped black nail varnish as I could get my hands on. I also finally tackled the wolf brows and embarked on a MySpace selfie series to rival all others. I enjoyed using make up more like face paint and yeah I was a tad weird but I feel like that period of self expression is something I needed to go through. It helped me identify with a culture.

I mostly moved on from this once I hit year 11 and Sixth Form, and actually went really minimal for a while in terms of not really bothering with eyes and lips. Even in my first year of uni I didn't go particularly overboard and always stuck to cheap brands like 17 and Rimmel, which a few years ago weren't exactly game changing with their products.

The rest of uni was spent too wrapped up in books to be wholly bothered by make up, but I did develop a signature look involving winged eyeliner that made me feel like I'd at least made half an effort and kept a little of my former edginess.

These days make up is partly about making my skin look its best - the stress of working and moving as well as some baaaaad eating habits have not been kind to me and I have to admit I long for the virtually spot free if slightly shiny skin of my late teens. I do enjoy experimenting with different looks though and have been investing more in quality products but I don't ever take make up too seriously.

I know there are probably are people out there whose relationship with make up is a little unhealthy, but what that has to do with feminism is totally beyond me. Wear make up for you, nobody else. If you do that you really can't go wrong!

How do you feel about your relationship with make up?
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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

5 things I've learnt this year so far


I spotted this post by Rocio over on Let it Be Cosy and I couldn't resist pinching the format. We're getting towards the end of the year now and looking back I've definitely learnt a lot. From changing jobs to moving in with my boyfriend, 2014 so far has been challenging but rewarding.
  1. Change doesn't have to be scary. I would never have thought this time last year that I would've left my miserable old job for an exciting new work opportunity, or that I would be living in Cambridge. And yet here I am, it didn't hurt too much and things can only get better!
  2. I can bake. Kind of. I've made a few successful desserts and biscuit batches this year. I'm working towards making things like granola bars and healthy snacks though as I've developed a humongous sweet tooth. 
  3. Yoga is the way forward. For the last 6 month's I've been practising a couple of times a week and not only has my balance improved but it helps me feel calm AND I can now touch my toes which even as I child I couldn't.
  4. I am definitely an introvert. Moving in with Mat and not having my own bedroom all to myself to hibernate in has helped me learn how badly I need time completely alone to recharge. Most of the time I can slink off with a book to reboot and look inward a little but I'm still finding the balance.
  5. I'm not that bad a driver. By which I mean I've been behind the wheel for almost a year and haven't hit anyone or lost my no claims bonus. All jokes aside I was very nervous to learn to drive but it's probably the best thing I could have done in terms of independence and exchanging my 3 hours a day spent on public transport for some extra time relaxing.
What have you found out about yourself this year?
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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Feeling the Burn: How to Make Your Candles Last Longer



Candles can be expensive, but with the dark nights creeping in they feel like the perfect way to snuggle up and keep the home feeling nice and warm. Whether your candles cost you £2 in Primark or £40 in Jo Malone, it can be hard to get the most from then and it's disappointing when burn times don't live up to their claims (insert joke about getting on your wick here). Since investing in the to die for Melt Autumn candle however I've picked up a few tips and tricks to avoid disappointment.

The first burn is the deepest - Literally. The first time you burn a candle creates the indentation that future burns will follow. The first time you light a new candle try and burn it for as long as possible - a good couple of hours if it's a big candle.

Trim ya wick - Every time you burn your candle, trim the wick before you light it. A long wick causes the wax to burn away too fast so cut it down to 4-5mm to slow things down. Don't cut too short though, or the wick will drown and the flame will whither away!

Avoid a breeze - Drafts can cause an uneven burn and eventually lead to the collapse of the candle. Try to burn candles away from windows and doorways, and rotate them a quarter turn each time you light.

Go it alone - Putting candles side by side may make your space look like a magical fairy grotto, but the heat from a neighbouring flame can cause the candle to become unstable on one side and lead to collapse. If you must burn more than one, try to space them out as much as you can.

Now go forth and enjoy a snuggly, candlelit evening or two!
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Monday, 13 October 2014

Coping with Anxiety



To many who know me it's no secret that I've struggled with Generalised Anxiety Disorder since my mid-teens. It's something that has ups and downs, good days and bad days, and it's something that I feel I've finally learned to manage as well as I can. I thought I'd share with you some top tips for coping when anxiety and panic try and get the better of you.

Take a step back - Worried about a particular situation? Take your mind off it for a while and give your nervous system a rest. Whether it's stepping away from your desk for a solo walk, reading some fiction for an hour, going for a run, anything goes. Just do something that will clear your head. Whatever you do, don't just sit there. I find that if I can break the cycle of anxious thoughts in my head by distracting myself with something else for a bit, when I come back to the issue again I feel a little calmer and can look at things more rationally.

Talk it out - It can be really, really hard to talk about anxiety and the things that make you anxious. In the past I often felt that people would think I was silly or weak, and give me the dreaded 'buck up and deal with it'/'there's nothing to worry about' response. Get around this by telling a few close friends and family members about your struggles. If they know how you think, they can talk through it with you step by step and reassure you, as well as getting to understand what you're going through. You don't have to suffer through anxiety alone.

Do the things that scare you - Sometimes jumping in head first can change you. A few months ago I got into a bit of a state over my future and wasn't happy in my job. For a year I had just let things happen. I had become stagnant and vegetative and felt helpless to change the position I was in. Eventually, after I realised how much it had damaged me, I decided the only way I could make my life better was to just get out there. I applied for one job that I really wanted, brought as much energy and confidence as I could muster to the interview and boom. I'm now back on track in a job I love and gaining confidence. It was scary and I definitely panicked about the whole thing, but biting the bullet and moving on to something else was well worth it.

Get off the internet - Google, WebMD and Patient.org are my worst enemies. I'm prone to being a huge hypochondriac. Headache? Brain tumour. Feeling sick? Tropical flu. A bloodshot eye? Definitely Ebola. I have trouble resisting the urge to look up even the most minor symptoms. For me this stems from horrible migraines that I've suffered with for over a decade that slightly resemble a stroke. It's meant I am never convinced I'm OK until something has passed, and I've developed a bad habit of Googling the crap out of things to try and reassure myself. I still take some reminding but resisting this behaviour is key to not getting myself in a panic. Anxiety is often the product of maladaptive, obsessive thinking and breaking the cycle and changing bad habits are key to managing it.

Write it down - This is one I don't do very regularly, but when things get really tough I find that spilling my worries onto the pages of a private diary make them seem a little smaller and more manageable. I don't just write a list of concerns or worries, I also match them with baby steps I can take to tackling or getting over them.

Look after yourself - It can often be easier to just get busy and let life sweep you along than to slow down and deal with things. Just remember that you only get one life, there's only one you, and you need to take care of your wellbeing. Pamper yourself once a week, eat well, eat naughtily at times, watch funny films, see friends. Just don't let your happiness become a secondary citizen to your anxiety.

If you're struggling, don't forget that there are organisations out there like Mind that are specifically dedicated to helping people through difficult times with mental illness. I hope these tips go some way to helping you cope in the long run, wherever your anxiety stems from and however bad things are. I see my anxiety as something that will probably always be there, but as something I don't have to let rule my life.



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Sunday, 12 October 2014

What's in my October Birchbox?



I always look forward to a Birchbox delivery - they just seem that little bit more superior than other subscription boxes - but to be reminded that it's October already was a bit of a shock!! My favourite month of the year always goes quickly, but luckily this month's box was on hand to help me slow down and look after number one.

This month's theme is Work It! and has been created in association with breast cancer awareness organisation Coppafeel, so is pretty pink and girly! I got stuck straight into these products as they are all things I'd use, so I was grateful for that. The idea of this box is to help us focus on our inner wellbeing with a little pampering to help us shine. There's also a handy leaflet about boob checking which everyone should read!

Cattier Pink Clay Face Mask (full size £4.25) I received two of these individual masks and wasted no time using one of them as soon as I got home on Friday to find my box had arrived. The clay helps with any oiliness but is far from stripping, as the mask is packed with aloe vera to soothe and calm.

KMS California Free Shape Hot Flex Creme (full size £15.50) I've yet to use this but I'm hoping this sought after hair product will help me get a proper blow dry look at home! The heat activated creme comes in a decent size sample so hopefully this will last a while!

Shaveworks The Cool Fix (Full size £11.00) I read about this product on the blogosphere a while back but had forgotten about it. As someone prone to bumpy knees after shaving and the occasional ingrown hair (aren't we all?) I've already started using this and have seen a difference already.

Pixi by Petra Shea Butter Lip Balm (£8.00) This full size sample is just gorgeous, A creamy, rose tinted lip balm that smells divine and is incredibly moisturising. Having recently been disappointed by Maybelline's coveted Baby Lips range I've popped this into my handbag as a luxury replacement.

Lollipops Nail Laquer (£7.00) This full size classic postbox red is perfect for a chic work look or casual weekend style. I've been keeping it dark for autumn of late but this might just make

Birchbox Lipstick Pen I was so confused by this lifestyle extra as I couldn't understand how I could apply this through the tiny nib (D'oh!), and then in my end of the week tiredness realised this was merely a cute pen shaped like a lipstick! Hopefully others weren't as confused as I was!

All in all I think this month's Birchbox does amazingly to embody its theme of help you be your best self and to really work it!

You can subscribe to Birchbox here* for a monthly box, and don't forget to visit the store for free delivery on this month's brands!

*This link is my referral link - You don't have to click it but I will get some extra reward points if you do!
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Friday, 10 October 2014

York in a Nutshell

Our anniversary trip to York could not have come at a better time as my new job has been quite demanding and sometimes stressful. We gave ourselves from Sunday morning until Tuesday evening to make sure we got the most out of the city. We didn't have to rush, and staying at the beginning of the week meant things were a lot less crowded and we didn't have to queue for the main attractions.



One thing I will say is that most museums and attractions charge a fair amount for entry. We paid anything between £4-10 each for things like castle towers, the Yorvik Centre, York Minster etc. Some things were better value than others. Luckily we got our train tickets fairly cheap due to booking in advance, and there is a lovely new Travelodge on Picadilly very close to the centre of York so we saved on that side of things!

Dining



We ate a cheap and cheerful breakfast at Wetherspoon's each morning as it was literally attached to our hotel, but opted to indulge a little more where lunch and dinner were concerned. On the first night we chose the Hollywood Bar and Grill on a whim and were not disappointed! A fairly priced menu, yummy food and funky cocktails helped us gear up for our ghost walk. The second night we ate at The Golden Fleece, the most haunted pub in York. Our meals were hearty and huge even if the place did give me the heebie jeebies a bit!


A trip to York is also not complete without a trip to Betty's Tea Rooms. It's pricey and a little snobby as it's a 'phone free zone' but we just couldn't resist! Another hotspot is the Trembling Madness off-licence, which boasts a truly hipster-worthy pub upstairs. The Shambles Kitchen also do some kick-ass pulled pork rolls that carry less guilt than a giant Yorkshire pudding.

Shopping

York boasts a great mixture of highstreet, designer and boutique shops, and while they were by no means the centre of our trip we definitely enjoyed exploring.



My absolute favourite store was The Imaginarium, a crazy trinket and home store with faux stuffed animals, bizzare portraits and amazing scented goodies. We took home this Autumn scented Melt candle and dang is it good. The shop was an offshoot of it's neighbouring parent store, the Yorkshire Soap Company. Think Lush but quintessentially British. 

Sights

A little bit of tourism never hurt anybody, and having never visited another British city for fun apart from London I was keen to explore. The city is enclosed within an ancient wall first built by the Romans, and the buildings are a hodgepodge of ancient, Tudor, Victorian and modern architecture. The result looks pretty impressive and a stroll across the city walls is not only a must but totally free of charge. You can also walk up The Shambles, the oldest shopping street in Europe, which was probably JK Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley.


I can also thoroughly recommend a walk around York Minster - the place is huge and absolutely beautiful. We spent about two and a half hours here while the rain came down.in sheets. The Yorvik Centre was a short experience so a little disappointing, but still one to tick off the list!



Two free attractions I would highly recommend are the castle gardens, home to the very creepy remains of St Mary's Abbey, and the National Railway Museum, which is impressively huge and surprisingly interesting.

The Ghost Walk




By far the coolest thing we did on the trip was a ghost walk. There are loads run by different operators around the city but we were recommended the original and best. Our ghost hunt guide meets the public every night at the top of the Shambles for 7.30pm and the tour lasts about an hour and a half. He never leaves character and operates come rain or shine which is pretty impressive! It was more hilarious than scary thanks to his little jokes and tricks, but the stories told are all bonafide York ghost legends and as the most haunted city in the country you can't help but get sucked in!

If you're looking for a traditional city break that won't break the bank as much as Paris or Rome but packs in character and style, York should be at the top of your list!
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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Pay Day Haul - H&M & Primark Goodies!




The H&M website really annoys me as it shows not even half of the range they sell in stores. I couldn't find either of the dresses I picked up online to share with you all! I bought this navy textured dress for work as it looks really smart on - the skater dress cut is flattering on any figure and is definitely a favourite style. At only £12.99 this was a steal. For £14.99 I also picked up this pattered smock dress. On the hanger it looks like Homer Simpson's MooMoo dress, but on it's a swishy dream. I'll team it with ankle boots and some leggings. You cannot go wrong with H&M leggings. At £5.99 they are thick and don't bobble.




Primark have a pretty good footwear range at the moment and while I don't always trust the quality, these boots look pretty sturdy and at £10 mean I can update my autumn wardrobe without breaking the bank. I'm a size 7-8 depending on the brand so I chose these carefully - from the front you can't tell how big my feet are! I also picked up some tights and socks because things are getting a little chillier!


What will you spend your well earned pay on this month?





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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Books that Changed My Perspective


It's no secret that I'm something of a book worm, but my English degree (which feels like forever ago despite the fact that I graduated a little over a year ago!) has helped me encounter some novels that I probably otherwise wouldn't have even glanced at in a bookshop. I thought I'd take some time to share a small selection of books that left a lasting impression on me and changed the way I think, in the hope that some of you will pick them up and have the same experience.

George Orwell, 1984 (1949) - A 20th Century classic if there ever was one. To me this novel is one of the greatest works in existence. Not because of it's literary prowess (the language is fairly simple and easy to understand, for good reason), but because of its revolutionary content. The first time I sat down to read this I thought I was in for a boring few hours, but I quickly became absolutely hooked. The story itself is exciting and sinister, as Winston Smith quietly rebels against a futuristic totalitarian regime and ends up exposed, captured and tortured. The work Orwell puts into constructing this future is astounding and really made me think about the government, the reliability of information and just how much we are watched and monitored. I think we could all use a wakeup call where that's concerned. This is a must read for everyone ever.

Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning (1958) - If you're an Arctic Monkeys fan you'll have already heard a direct quote from this 1950s classic. The album 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' quotes protagonist Arthur Seaton directly. And rightly so. This book explores the humdrum existence of a northern factory worker in a very working class Britain. The novel is widely cited as being part of the 'Angry Young Men' movement of the 50s and is a tale of affairs, fist fights and drunken shenanigans. For the most part it's really entertaining and quite funny, but it is also touching in it's portrayal of a working class divided by submissiveness and anger, as well as the plight of the women of this world. If you have grandparents who were young adults in this era this might make you see them in a whole new light.

Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) - This book eventually became the cult classic film Blade Runner and is one of the most popular sci-fi novels of all time. It's kind of hard to sum up the plot without explaining the whole thing but it really made me think about our relationship with technology and the way television, phones etc have turned us into zombies. It's a fairly short book and well worth a read on the train to work!

Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991) - If you've never read Bret Easton Ellis before, be prepared. This is not material for the faint of heart. This novel is one of my all time favourites and is very heavy going but makes some hard hitting points about modern life that make it totally worth trudging through. If you've seen the watered-down screen adaptation starring Christian Bale you'll be familiar with his character, Patrick Bateman. Patrick is a sophisticated, affluent wall street psychopath, who adores designer products, is rather off the rails and loves nothing more than to chop up the odd prostitute on the weekend while high on cocaine. Yep. You heard me right. It isn't an easy read but American Psycho presents an amazing criticism of the accelerated lifestyle of the American professional and the relationship between sex, drugs and violence. Again, not for the faint hearted!


Which books have left a lasting impression on you?




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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Some Home Bits and Bobs!

It's no big secret that while renting is probably the best thing for Mat and I to do at the moment while we try and sort our savings (or lack of them) out, I hate living somewhere I can't decorate. We're plagued with wall-to-wall magnolia when all I want is white, white, white, and can't nail anything into the walls.

Despite this I have been on the hunt for little trinkets and ornaments that will make the place feel more homeley and reflect a bit more of ourselves. Here are a few of my favourite additions - I had planned to include more but it's been so dark and dreary over the weekend that I couldn't get any decent looking photos!


This heart decoration was from Asda believe it or not. Supermarket home ranges are getting a whole lot better and becoming a lot more affordable these days. This isn't available online but is in store for about £3.00!


No home is complete without flowers! This was from the Next Home summer range - I do like the butterfly detail but I might have to get hold of a more plain one for the autumn/winter season and store this elsewhere.


This little shelf on my dressing table is slowly filling with trinkets! I love these jewellery stands as storing it all away in boxes stops me from bothering to wear it. The same goes for makeup - these mock Muji drawers I found on eBay for about £8.00 make rotating beauty products so easy.


The photo clip included in this month's Birchbox inspired me to introduce some more personal things like postcards, photographs and ticket stubs into my interior - just because I can't hang them on the walls doesn't mean I can't display them somehow. I regularly pick up little postcards in Paperchase and museums as well as when on holiday. It's a bit of an addiction.


How you you put your stamp on your home?



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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Taking Stock - Inspired by Holly in Your Pocket



I spied this post format over on Holly in Your Pocket the other day and just couldn't resist having a go! I really like this kind of exercises because they're good at making you stop and think about where you are in life and what's really important. If you want to have a go let me know as I'd love to see everyone else's! Here goes nothing:

Making :: time to just chill, for myselfCooking :: my lunch! Pasta it is on a lazy Sunday, no roast today!

Drinking :: green tea

Reading :: a couple of books on meditation

Wanting :: to go on holiday!Looking :: forward to autumn and winter

Playing :: if only I had time to play my Xbox these days

Deciding :: to let some things goWishing :: for some time to think

Enjoying :: my new job - it's pretty fast paced but I love it

Waiting :: for a hospital appointment on Wednesday. Oh how I loathe them

Liking :: the chilly but sunny weather

Wondering :: what the future will hold now I'm moving forward

Loving :: living with Mat in a little bubble but still being close enough to see family and friends lots

Pondering :: I try not to ponder too much in case I get anxious over something silly

Considering :: an actual serious budget to stick to financially

Watching :: Supernatural. I'm already a huge fan but Mat is just catching up before season 10 begins next month

Hoping :: to sort out a decent gym routine I can make progress with

Smelling :: a spicy Christmas candle - it's that time of year almost!

Wearing :: a big comfy jumper


Noticing :: the leaves changing


Feeling :: refreshed


Buying :: some new foundation. Nothing special I know but I was in need of something better suited to my skin type

Getting :: Excited for the seasons changing - did I mention that already?


Snacking :: on ALL the wrong things


Hearing :: some heavier stuff I listened to a few years ago, so nostalgic


What are you taking stock of right now?
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Life Lately: An Instagram Round-up!

I've been both really busy and a bit lazy lately, by which I mean real life has been absolutely mad and blogging has fallen by the wayside slightly. This weekend however I am lucky enough to have virtually NO plans! Unheard of! This means I'll be catching up on blogging, planning some great posts and filling you all in on what I've been up to lately.

I thought I'd start things off with an Instagram round-up post of the last couple of weeks - can you believe I've never done an Instagram post before? Neither could I!







1. My first Yo!Sushi experience with some good friends. 2. A good brekkie is the best thing about the weekend! 3. Our bedroom has a damp problem at the moment so a good clean and a dressing table refresh cheered me up! 4. Mat and I at a family party, can't beat 'em. 5. Delicious cupcakes from The Little Cupcake Company stand in the city centre. 6. My friend put up a projector in her room and it was awesome.

What have you been up to lately?

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Taking Steps Towards Self Love


Self Love is something of a buzz phrase around here at the moment, but it's one I find it hard to resent. After all, how could looking after number one becoming trendy be a bad thing?! I often struggle to do what's right for me, mainly out of a strange sense of obligation I have to always be doing something and to always get things finished before I sit down.

I do however think that no matter how busy and hectic our lives are, there are steps that can be taken to minimise the impact always being on the go has on our health, both mentally and physically. Recently I've been exploring ways I can achieve this and while I definitely do slip I feel a lot better for it.

Switch off - After starting a new job recently I find I'm always on the go. Most of the time I don't have time to take a proper lunch break and I often stay late to get things done. Unfortunately that's just the way it is, but being at a screen for most of the day can make it hard for me to turn of my brain and give my eyes a rest before bed. I'm trying to use my evenings for chill time and not watch too much TV or waste time gawking at my Instagram feed. I also desperately need to re-introduce reading time because lately I miss spending time with a good book. We'll see how that one goes.

Eat well - I am failing massively with this one. I find self restraint with food rather difficult and have developed a serious sugar addiction. It doesn't make me feel great! I think most people battle with this one - convenience is more important to us than what the food we choose is doing to our body. I think for me the next step is a more structured meal plan to ensure I don't end up at the office vending machine with a grumbling tummy because I've skipped breakfast again. One thing I do fairly well at is drinking lots of water. I think it's helped stop the chocolate and Doritos from erupting my skin although I do still seem to get oilier when I eat poorly.

Exercise - When it comes to this I do OK, I usually manage to hit the gym 2-4 times a week depending on how busy I am and how tired I feel. I definitely don't run marathons, the chance would be a fine thing. Sitting at a desk for hours and hours can really harm our health though, so scheduling an hour or even just 20 minutes to hit the gym or get outside every few days is a must.

Experience - It can be difficult to motivate yourself to try new things or indulge your inner wanderlust when working Monday to Friday and struggling to balance work, money, relationships etc. It's important to realise though that there really are more important things that work and stressing out. Go visit an old friend, save up for a city break, go on a date, try the meditation class you've been wondering about - take time to really live your life!

Some bloggers make self love look easy as pie, but don't be fooled. Eating right, sleeping well and running 25k a week is no easy but taking baby steps towards a more balanced lifestyle could lead to you making a habit of it. Why not give it a go? I know I will be.

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

What's in my September Birchbox?


This month's Birchbox theme is 'Happy Days'! The idea here is that September tends to be a month filled with both nostalgia and mid-year resolutions as we think back to the way the beginning of school terms used to feel, We may not have new pencil cases but Birchbox sure makes up for that with a good selection of products. Although many beauty boxes seem to have gone out of fashion or run out of good products to give out, these guys have yet to disappoint me. A really nice touch is that this month's box can also be used as a cute DIY photo frame if you're feeling crafty!

Agave Healing Oil Treatment (full size £16) - I have always been sceptical about hair oils, mainly since wasting £8 on those VO5 hot oil things and being bitterly disappointed. This however is a wonder product. I used it this morning and my hair is soft and silky as anything. There's enough for 2 treatments in this little bottle, 3 if you've got short or fine hair. I'm not sure I would pay £16 so I'll keep my eye out for similar products in Boots et al.

Benefit It's Potent Eye Cream (full size £25.50) - This is about the cutest sample I've ever received in it's teeny tiny box and teeny tiny glass pot! Eye cream goes a long way so I think I'll get a lot out of this, but as for it's claims to reduce dark circles only time will tell.

Premae Mild Dermabrasion Face & Body Scrub (full size £25) - In no universe ever will you find me  paying above £20 for skincare. However this scrub has a lovely scent and seems a tad reminiscent of St Ives scrubs, It does the job but you could probably find better for less.

Korres Citrus Body Milk (full size £9.50) - This is my first try of a Korres product and the scent is gorgeous. I can certainly see why people like their body lotions. I have to admit I normally opt for body butters as they are richer and go further, but this was really lovely to apply and not sticky like some moisturising products.

ModelCo Lip Laquer in 'Morocco' (full size £15) - This month Birchbox let subscribers choose a ModelCo product to receive which was a pleasant change! From two shades of lip laquer and a mascara I chose Morocco. I'm drowning in mascaras and need to get them used up so a lip product was on the cards! This isn't particularly pigmented but wears very nicely with a subtle sheen and no stickiness at all. I think it'll go in my handbag as the dinky size is perfect.

Urban Fruit Smashing Strawberry (lifestyle product) - This 100% fruit snack will be going into my goodies drawer at work! It's literally just yummy dried fruit, no processing involved.

Happy Days Photo Clip (lifestyle product) - If like me you're a bit too lazy to construct your DIY box photo frame, never fear! Birchbox have given every user a handy (and cute) photo clip to brighten up your desk or dressing table. What will you do with yours?

You can subscribe to Birchbox here* for a monthly box, and don't forget to visit the store for free delivery on this month's brands!

*This link is my referral link - You don't have to click it but I will get some extra reward points if you do!
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Friday, 5 September 2014

8 reasons being a pessimist is secretly awesome


Let me start this post by saying that I myself am a natural pessimist. I see my glass as half empty far more often than half full. That's not to say I'm never positive or happy, or that I'm unfriendly or horrible to be around (hopefully). It can sometimes make things a struggle but there are some hidden benefits to being a naturally negative person. Not that us pessimists will ever admit this because that would be far too jubilant!

8. You will never be disappointed with a rubbish gift because you were expecting it.

7. You probably injure yourself less.

6. You may actually live longer than your happy-go-lucky friends.

5. You will always exceed your own expectations.

4. People are much less likely to notice when you're actually feeling pretty miserable.

3. You have carefully played out every potential apocalyptic end-of-world scenario in your head for 'when the time comes'.

2. Your friends will always come to you for a good old whinge and moan.

1. You have these weird moments where you actually totally enjoy life and everything is hilarious, and that makes those moments all the more memorable.

***
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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Review: Fujifilm Instax Mini 8


I've been sitting on this review for a while because I wanted to get a good feel for the camera before I passed judgement, but I have to say it was love at first sight. Mat bought me the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 for my birthday back in May and it did not disappoint. For years I had lusted after an old Polaroid camera, but a mint condition oldie didn't come cheap. At £69 Fujifilm's modern offering has more than made up for this.

The first thing that struck me about this camera was that it's vertical, not horizontal like its retro counterparts. This means that it looks a little different but that ultimately it's easier to carry. This coupled with the chunky hand grip means it's a dream to use.

The camera is battery powered and fairly basic, but the lens slider automatically senses a range of shooting options for different lighting conditions to ensure your images aren't overexposed. You have to turn it to the setting that's lit up, but it's a small price to pay for the perfect shot. There's even a high exposure option for super 80s looking snaps. Films are very easy to replace but my are the pricey. Check out eBay and Amazon for the best multipack deals.


Even if you purchase a film and camera bundle, it doesn't come with a case. This is something you will want to invest in to stop the case from scratching, and is especially important if you opt for one of the pastel coloured cameras to stop them from getting dirty! I found a great one here on eBay that arrived quickly from China and was pretty cheap! I usually shove the photos into my purse once developed to protect them until I get home as they're credit card sized.

Here are my favourite images from the last couple of months! I've been a bit conservative with film and there were one or two accidental failures (I forgot to set the lighting settings before shooting!) but I'm really pleased with how they came out!


Have you tried the Instax Mini 8?

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Friday, 29 August 2014

The Harry Potter Tag (!!)

Image Copyright Kelly Anne Rist 2011

I saw this tag over on A Little Boat Sailing the other day and jumped at the chance to have a go! It's awesome seeing how my answers compare to everyone else's and I could never miss a chance to talk about good old HP!

1. What is your favourite book?
For me I would say Prisoner of Azkaban. It was the first of the books where I felt things taking a real dark turn, and like many I adored the Marauders tales. I remember reading through it over and over with friends at school, each taking the character we loved the most and saying their bits out loud! It was the first time I got myself totally lost in a book.

2. What is your favourite film?
I am an enormous fan of the films. They aren't perfect but I found myself growing up alongside the cast and the way they bring out both the humour and the darkness of Harry's world really made me love them. If I had to pick I would probably say the final two films (Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2) because I found watching the end on the screen so damn emotional.Having said this I always go back to Prisoner of Azkaban for a one-off watch.

3. What is your least favourite book?
Probably Order of the Phoenix. I feel like it was far too long for a children's book and while as an adult I can appreciate it a lot more, I found the excessive back story made this instalment drag on a bit when I was younger.

4. What is your least favourite film?
I don't think my opinions of this book helped but Order of the Phoenix received a shockingly bad adaptation treatment if you ask me. I found the script very awkward, I never enjoyed the Harry x Cho relationship debacle and all that blue light gives me a headache. 

5. Which parts of the books/films made you cry?
Unlike most people I didn't feel very strongly about Sirius's death, but Dumbledore's and Dobby's both really got to me. I mean really. It's embarrassing how attached I can get to fictional characters and I've spent many a tear on these two over the years.

6. If you could hook up with any character who would it be?
I'm a Weasley girl through and through. I think it was the jumpers that did it.

7. Who is your favourite character?
Growing up I was Hermione Granger. I remember plaiting my hair overnight and unravelling it in the morning for maximum bushiness and pretending to carry my Hogwarts books around. I was ever so slightly to young to audition but I totally would have! Something about the way she made being intelligent cool (ish) and overcame bullying helped me come to terms with the fact that I was a little bit different at school.

8. Who is your least favourite character?
Rita Skeeter. Dolores Umbridge. Enough said.

9. What is your least favourite line?
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” - If you don't recognise this, I don't know who you are! Such a wonderful, stand out way to start her legacy.

10. What would your Patronus be?
I'd like to think it would be a bird of some description.

11. If you could have the invisibility cloak, resurrection stone or elder wand, which would you choose?The invisibility cloak. Not for mischief though, just to go unobserved for a time.

12. What house would you be in?
Ravenclaw through and through. I don't think I've ever taken a house quiz that's said otherwise. I've even got the scarf hanging above my bed thanks to WWoHP!

13. If you could meet any member of the cast who would it be?
Probably either Dan Rad or Rupert because they seem like awfully nice chappies! I think Dan would be a great conversationalist!

14. If you were on the Quidditch team, what position would you play?
Probably a chaser. I love to run and this is totally the same thing, right?

15. Were you happy with the ending?
Yes and no. I wasn't pleased with the changes to the treatment of Voldemort's death made from book to film and I don't think the flashfoward scene was produced very tastefully, but overall they gave it the epic conclusion it deserved,

16. How much does Harry Potter mean to you?So very much. I don't think anyone could ever understand. I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo to remind me that I would not be where I am if it were not for these books. They taught me so much growing up and they were the reason I became such a prolific reader and ended up doing a literature degree. I'd even go as far as saying Hermione's character inspired me to be astute and proud of it, and that this is how I ended up with a first class degree result.

You're all tagged! Please do let me know if you do this as I would truly love to read your answers.

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© kelly anne rist

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