Monday, 30 April 2018

LEARNING TO DRIVE • TIPS FOR NEW LEARNERS


I have been driving for over four years now (even blogged about passing here!) and I figured that after a few recent witnesses of other road users being utter dickheads to learner drivers, and with the recent proposed changes to the driving test, I could offer would-be/current learners a couple of tips. 

Learning to drive was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, but please don't let that put you off what I'm about to tell you! Take this advice from a person who suffers terribly with a generalised anxiety disorder but has come out successfully on the other side, and is a lot better for it. 

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN
You have to feel ready to learn to drive. It's a big commitment, and it takes up a lot of your time and money so make sure you're willing. I remember being in Sixth Form when I was 17, feeling so unsure about learning after hearing about a few boy racers from our school getting into trouble with the police - and even worse a year later when a boy the year below us was tragically killed at the wheel of his car, having only passed his test a couple of weeks prior. I lost interest in driving for a long time after that. I started learning about 3 months before my 21st birthday, when I was at university, and that felt right for me. We all have to start somewhere, it doesn't matter how old you are - you know when you're ready.

DO YOUR RESEARCH
There are so many driving schools and instructors out there so make sure to do your research. Look at their websites, their reviews, ask friends and family who they passed with (and specific instructors!). Make sure the instructor you have is right for you. They need to be qualified of course, but they also need to be calm in the stressful environment of a busy crossroad/dual carriageway so they need to make you feel equally comfortable. My brother recommended my instructor as she had taught him too. Lovely Gill! She was honestly the best - so patient, calming and friendly - exactly the kind of instructor I needed. We used to chat about everything because she had such an interesting life. Oh, and we talked about Sex and the City a lot during our 2-hour sessions actually! I still remember certain things she said that stick in my head when I'm driving to this day, including not "porridge-spooning" the gearstick and "creepin' and peepin'" when you can't see out of a junction clearly. I wish she was still teaching manual so I could recommend her to anyone in the West Sussex area!

BOOK LESSONS IN BULK
Driving lessons go by hours. Typically it takes the average person 60 hours to go from complete novice to qualified driver. That's a lot of lessons and a lot of money to spend. Most driving schools offer discounts and free hours so be sure to look into this. If I remember rightly my first 10 hours of learning were offered at half price, and once I racked up a certain amount of hours I would get an hour free or something. It's really handy, especially if you're younger or have a minimum wage job! Booking them in bulk also means that you can prepare yourself for your upcoming lessons.

FAILING FIRST TIME DOESN'T MAKE YOU A FAILURE
Honestly! I was an absolute mess every time I failed my driving test. I thought it was the end of the world and thought I was never going to pass; I even considered switching to learning in an automatic car but luckily was talked out of it and passed in a manual on my next go. I look back now and realise how little of a deal this really is in the grand scheme of things. Failing your test actually makes you a better, safer driver. This is because you're more aware of your surroundings and take more time to make important decisions at the wheel. Trust me, I've been in the car with first-time-passers and they ain't all that! I'm not encouraging you to fail first time by any means, just be aware that it's not the end of the world if a silly mistake (two of my fails were so silly and minor) hands you a fail.

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE BUILDS CONFIDENCE
As with any kind of skill (and yes, driving is a skill no matter what anyone else says) practise makes perfect. I found that once I passed my test the real learning started. You're going solo, and that means you're in control of your vehicle and it's YOU who makes the decisions. I have always preferred driving alone. The freedom! So much freedom... You can potentially go anywhere you want now! Celebratory midnight McDonald's drive-thru? SURE THING. And you can sing (badly) at the top of your lungs and no one else can hear you. Oh, and the first time you get petrol, you feel like an absolute boss. 

So if you take anything from this post, just know that once I passed my test and was able to be alone in my little car I absolutely fell in love with driving. I honestly cannot thank my family enough for encouraging me to keep going and taking the practical test until I passed. They knew I'd regret it if I just gave up and they were, of course as always, totally right. Imagining a world without the ability to drive is unheard of for me now - feels like so long ago that I got that beautiful blue certificate. So please, keep going if you're finding it difficult. You will pass. It doesn't matter how many tests it takes you, just soldier on!
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Friday, 27 April 2018

JEFFREE STAR BLOOD SUGAR PALETTE • FIRST IMPRESSIONS


Oh my goodness. Before I can go into the beautiful eyeshadows in this huge palette, allow me to provide you with a little story time as to why this baby arrived so late. Now I am in no way shading Jeffree Star Cosmetics - this actually has nothing to do with the brand and e v e r y t h i n g to do with the Royal Mail so let me just put that out there, first and foremost. Me and Royal Mail ain't friends right now and that's the true tea... 

So, it all started when I set an alarm (yes, I was that desperate) to get my hands on this palette. It was available for pre-order as it had already sold out on 11th February aka launch day, and I was informed that it would take 5-6 weeks for them to manufacture new batches to cater to the large amounts of interest in the Love Sick collection. In it went to my basket without a second thought. About six weeks later, around 23rd March, I received an email to tell me that my sought-after palette was finally on its way. Fantastic. A few more weeks went by and, because it was coming from the USA, I wasn't too worried about how long it was taking to ship internationally. On the 20th April, I decided to track down my parcel so I contacted JSC, who were brilliant by the way; their customer service was great and their replies were so quick. They informed me that my order had been shipped and was in the hands of the Royal Mail, providing me with another tracking number. Lo and behold, it had been sat at my local depot for THREE WEEKS and I hadn't received a card through my door to tell me it was here and needed a customs fee paying. Unbelievably frustrating! So on a sunny Sunday morning I drove to the depot, had a bit of a complain about the Royal Mail being complete rubbish, paid the £19.46 customs fee (crazy but worth it for the contents) and went away with a lovely bright pink box! 

Inside the box was my bounty - a delicious sugar lip scrub in the flavour Cherry Soda, and of course, the long-awaited Blood Sugar palette. 


As this is a first impressions post I just thought I would talk you through the palette and how I'm getting on with it. If you've never tried any Jeffree Star Cosmetics products before (where have you been?! Get on the Skin Frost bandwagon at the very least) then just know that they have always boasted and championed vegan and cruelty-free makeup. On the website, the Blood Sugar palette is described as one of a kind, with extreme payoff, and not for the faint of heart. It includes 18 striking eyeshadows serving three luxurious formulas: matte, metallic, and pressed glitter. The products are housed in a gorgeous red faux-leather case with metal clasps, making it live it up to that higher end price tag.

Apologies for not having swatches to show you this time round, but you'll have to take my word for it when I say that these shadows are SO pigmented. You only have to tap your brush in the pan in order to get great pay-off. And that is quite the mean feat; historically, red pigments are the most difficult to get right in terms of long-wearing formulas, and it's hard to find a shadow with red pigment that doesn't stain your eyelids a weird tinge of pink. From the wear I've gotten out of these so far (I tried Fresh Meat, Cherry Soda and Blood Sugar specifically for this) I can safely say staining is not a problem. They also blend like a dream, even the metallics. The lighter matte shades (Sugarcane and Cake Mix) are great transitional colours that can provide a base for whichever direction you decide to go in terms of boldness, and the pure white (Glucose) serves as a launching pad to make other shades live up to their pigmented pan selves. The pressed glitter shadows (Donor in particular) are a little harder to accommodate, but I don't think I will use these as much day-to-day in all honesty. They're good for pressing onto the lid as a final flourish, and I'm okay with that. 


Some of you will probably gasp at the price of this palette. $52 plus your preferred shipping method and, if you're like me and live internationally, you're probably looking at an extra £20 customs fee on top of that too. However, I think that you do get a lot of product for your money. 18 different shades with three different formulas? You're laughing really! I mean, not all the way to the bank but still! Fan or foe of Jeffree himself, you've got to admit, the guy does his research and he knows what sells. The Blood Sugar palette is unlike any eyeshadow palette I've seen on the current beauty market; from the beautiful golds, to the bright reds and the neon pinks... If you've got eyes you should probably get this palette. High praise indeed for first impressions.

The Jeffree Star Blood Sugar Palette retails at $52 and is available on the JSC website, along with the rest of the Love Sick collection here.
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Sunday, 22 April 2018

ACRYLIC NAILS: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW


I've been getting acrylic nails for just over two years now, and I absolutely love them every time. I don't feel right without them; when I went to hospital I had to have them soaked off as preparation for my operation and I felt like I lost a part of me, as lame as that sounds... Plus, my fingers look like super stubby sausages without the lovely length that acrylics give. For those wondering, I have coffin shaped nails (I tried almond shape and they didn't suit me at all!) with acrylic and then a gel overlay, which is cured under a UV lamp.

I'd just like to point out that I'm in no way claiming to be an expert on any kind of beauty treatments, I don't have any qualifications or experience in doing acrylics myself but, having watched my nail technician every three weeks for two years I've picked up a bit of knowledge along the way. 

So here are a few tips as to what to consider when committing to acrylics:

LOOK FOR NAIL INSPIRATION
If you're thinking about having acrylics but you're not sure what style, shape or colour to go for, looking for inspiration is a good place to start. I love Pinterest for this - I have a whole board dedicated to nail ideas here - and much like going to the hairdressers, showing your nail technician a photo of the kind of nails you'd like makes their job a lot easier. It's always good to run any ideas you have by them first. Instagram always has great ideas too.

KNOW YOUR NAILS
The health of your nails is important when it comes to having acrylics. Make sure they're in good condition; as soon as you have primer and acrylic put over the top of your original nails they are going to deteriorate, especially if you're having longer tips glued on first. You should also be aware of how fast your nails grow in order to judge when you should book your next appointment to get in-fills or a fresh new set. Mine grow pretty quickly; I tend to have mine in-filled every three weeks and a fresh set every three or four months, and that seems to be pretty normal for an acrylic's lifespan. Acetone is used in the soak-off process, which doesn't help to improve your nails if they're worn and brittle, so either give your nails a break every once in a while or use a cuticle cream/oil to replenish moisture in the meantime. 

FIND THE RIGHT SALON
Don't just go to anyone. Shop around. Look at examples of their work and reviews if they have an Instagram/Facebook page, compare prices, and see if the staff are friendly and approachable. I know some people can stand to sit opposite someone for an hour or so in complete silence but I can't! I like to have a bit of banter and a gossip with my nail technician. Luckily, I go to a salon in the village where I grew up so everyone knows everyone and it makes for a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. It makes the process a lot more enjoyable as well.

HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOUR APPOINTMENT
This goes back to researching and looking for inspiration, but it makes life a lot easier if you know exactly what you want before you go for your appointment. Think about the length and shape you'd like: are you like me and love a coffin shape? Or are you more of an almond girl? Square? Oval? Squoval?! Or maybe you want to stab a boy in the heart with some sick stiletto nails? The choice is completely yours (but think about practicality, please!) Knowing what you want eliminates the indecisiveness about the whole 'which colour do I fancy today?' debacle. Sometimes it's not as simple as choosing a colour for the next few weeks. If I want to get ombré acrylics I usually ask for them when booking my next appointment because they take longer to do and are usually more expensive - that way, both myself and my nail technician know what's what and we don't have to waste time.

PREPARE TO LEARN NEW WAYS OF DOING SIMPLE TASKS
When you first get acrylics and they're particularly longer than your original nails, everything is difficult to do. You'll find that using your knuckles like a feral beast becomes a good way to combat life's hurdles, especially when it comes to things like pressing buttons! Picking up coins is always a challenge. I consider it a success if I manage to put on the back of an earring or close the clasp of a necklace. I've learned to put in and take my contact lenses out without scratching my eyes; and a butter knife or spoon becomes your best friend when opening a ring-pull can. I can also take food out of the toaster without burning my fingers. And you have all of this to look forward to, my friend...

BREAKING A NAIL HURTS
Okay so this is probably a given, but just prepare yourself by knowing that a broken acrylic hurts way more than you'd think. If it's loose already it's not so bad, but I've slipped and caught my nail in a car door once (typical clumsy me) when it wasn't loose and my finger was bleeding and sore for days. I think it must hurt more because there are more layers to break. Still, it's something to be aware of!

I hope you found this helpful! I love the process of getting my nails done. It's definitely an expense, and purely cosmetic, but it just makes me feel so girly and lovely, and I wouldn't be without it. Do you have acrylics? Feel free to leave any other tips you have in the comments below!
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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

MY FAVOURITE PHOTO EDITING APPS


There are so many photo editing apps on the market nowadays, it can be kind of stifling to know which ones are the best for which specific purpose. I used to do a lot of my editing on Photoshop, even when it came to Instagram photos, but I always found that once they posted on the app the quality was just terrible. I'm not sure if that was my fault by the way I edited, but it wasn't the look I was going for. Now that Instagram is such a huge phenomenon - despite certain algorithm issues, people can still craft an entire career out of it - it's much more difficult to stand out in a crowd. Therefore, I want my photographs to look clear, sharp and all around beautiful.

Believe it or not, the quality of my photographs is actually better when I use my iPhone 7 as opposed to my Canon DSLR. It goes to show that you don't need expensive equipment to take great quality photos! As long as your lighting is nice and natural, and your content is interesting and unique, you're more likely to see the likes rolling in. And, of course, it does help to hashtag (as annoying as that is to some people).

So after you've taken that Instagram-bound photo, what apps should you use to tweak it?

VSCO
VSCO, or VSCO Cam, has got to be my go-to editing app. Sleek, stylish to look at and super easy to use, you upload the desired photo you want to edit to your "studio" (basically a gallery) and from this you can do all sorts. There are preset filters, but I've also bought a few filter packages as well because I use it so much. The variety is great! A few of my favourites are Clarity 4, New Modern 1, Alchemy 5, Clean 1, Clean 3, and B&W Classic 1. You cycle through filters, holding down on the photo to compare it to the original, and can also alter the effects. They include exposure, contrast, crop, sharpen, clarity, saturation and fade - all options that I have used to edit. You can save the new edited photo to your camera roll (in various sizes, too) or you can upload it straight to Instagram from the app.

AFTERLIGHT
This app is a favourite of a lot of bloggers, I've noticed. Again, easy to navigate and quick, Afterlight comes with less preset filters but much more editing options. Adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, exposure, highlights, shadows, sharpness and clarity. There are also effects you can add on like light leaks, instant film, and dusty overlays. You can flip the image you're editing as well as rotate and crop. Basically, this app provides the user with everything they need in order to make their photo Instagram-ready. 

COLORSTORY
I mainly use Colorstory for their gorgeous filters. There are so many, and you can save them to a favourites box so you're not cycling through every time you edit which is a convenient feature. Again, like all the other apps, you can buy other filter packs to give you more options, but the originals they provide you with are a great starting point. You can also add flare and bokeh effects (remember when everyone was obsessed with those on Instagram?!), crop/frame, adjust curves, blur/sharpen, and a whole bunch of other editing sliders. I don't use this one as much but, having looked through it again while making this post, I might have to give it a proper go!

BOOMERANG AND HYPERLAPSE
Not so much photo editing apps, but if you're looking to use Boomerang in a broader sense (i.e. not in your IG Stories) get the app that's dedicated to it. You can post them as a part of your grid in one step, instead of saving them from your Stories and losing the quality. Hyperlapse is the sister app to Boomerang where you can take a video and speed it up or slow it down. The options are 1x, 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x, and 12x normal speed; and the good thing about these is that you can see how long the original video is, and then it compares it to how long it would be should you change the speed. I find these are good for time lapses such as speed cleans and yoga flow - which I'm really into at the moment by the way!

INSTAGRAM
And do you know what? If you don't have time to faff about, Instagram itself has some great editing tools. We all know what the interface looks like. I always edit further in the app before posting to the grid - it's kind of like my "final checklist" but I don't go mad. One thing I have never used is the filters. I do, however, like to use the sliders to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, lux and sometimes the warmth of my photo. I also like how you can save to drafts if you don't want to post that perfect photo just yet. When is the right time to post though?! I don't think there is one anymore - thanks algorithm...

All of these apps are completely free (unless you're buying extra filters in-app) and are available on the app store. 

What are your favourite photo editing apps?
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Sunday, 15 April 2018

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING • ONE


TELEVISION & NETFLIX

RuPaul's Drag Race
I will always always ALWAYS be a fan of RuPaul's Drag Race (and Ru himself) and after tirelessly looking for streams to watch All Stars 3, I was relieved to find out that season 10 was going to be shown on Netflix. I kind of love that they're choosing to air it weekly as opposed to all at once, then it gives me something to look forward to after work on a Friday - how sad! Me and a buddy of mine have Drag Race Fridays where we order a takeaway and watch the main show and then Untucked - it's honestly my favourite thing to do at the moment. Who are your favourites so far? I really like Blair St Clair (I do declare!), Monet X Change and Miz Cracker, and Aquaria is a complete fish on the runway.

Dragula
In the same vein as Drag Race, Dragula has a small cult following with a crowdfunded budget and is a search for the next drag super-monster. It basically marries two of my favourite things: drag and sfx makeup. It's hosted by the Boulet Brothers, who always look incredible (mostly in skintight pvc, that tuck thoooo), and they set challenges for the contestants where they showcase a concept which involves horror, drag, glamour and filth. At the end of each show, two or more of them are up for "extermination" and have to take on a final challenge that usually involves something disgusting - getting buried alive, eating brains, and being pierced with thick needles are just some of the horrid things they have to go through to prove they deserve to stay. Hilariously, the losing contestant is "killed off" in a different way every episode. You can watch every episode (currently 2 seasons) on YouTube.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Broadcast on the BBC, and following on from the wildly successful The People vs OJ Simpson (also recommend the watch), this dramatisation follows the events leading up to the death of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was murdered outside his home by serial killer Andrew Cunanan in the late 90s. Darren Criss plays the killer (I always think back to his A Very Potter Musical days on Youtube and now look how far he's come as an actor) and I think he's the perfect choice. Honestly, you only need to look at photos of the real Andrew Cunanan to see what I mean, but his portrayal is just so good as well. As the story unfolds - and in most episodes, goes back and forth between 1990 and the 1997-present day - you get a real sense of the charisma, subsequent manipulation and ultimate sadistic tendencies this incredibly disturbing young man goes through. He just wants to be wealthy and famous, but of course he doesn't want to work for it... Oh, and Penelope Cruz plays Donatella Versace and she's amazing in it so I would watch for that alone. And Ricky Martin's in it too?!

How to Get Away With Murder
This is another ongoing one for me. I've only just gotten into it but the first season was honestly insanely good! Season 2 is a little slower so I'm hoping it will pick up a bit soon. The story seems to be getting more and more complicated too so I feel like I can't binge watch it season-by-season like I do with other less taxing shows. I finally get where that meme GIF of Viola Davis rolling her eyes and picking up her handbag comes from now though!

Friday Night Dinner
I feel like this is another cult show but I loved it when it was on channel 4, then All4, and now it's come to Netflix so we can all share the hilarity. It's essentially two grown-up Jewish brothers who go round to their parents' for Shabbat dinner every Friday and basically ridiculous stuff happens. The Dad never wears a shirt. The Mum is constantly trying to fix her sons up and avoid their creepy neighbour, Jim. And the sons (played by Simon Bird from the Inbetweeners and Tom Rosenthal from Plebs) are always playing practical jokes on each other. A fifth series has been confirmed so I'm super excited for it to air sometime this year.

MOVIES

A Quiet Place
John Krasinski (aka Jim Halpert from the Office) writes, directs and stars in this horror/thriller in which a family tries to survive in a post apocalyptic world by living in complete silence in order to evade alien creatures who hunt using sound. I really enjoyed this one; there are a few plot holes and questions to be asked but overall it lived up to the hype. And I love how they cast a deaf actress and the rest of the cast learned sign language for the role. If you go and see this, just make sure you only snack on marshmallows or something, because the cinema was pretty much s i l e n t the entire time. At one point someone dropped an empty cup on the floor during a particularly tense part and everyone lost their shit. If you're not a fan of horror, a buff bearded John Krasinski is definitely worth the watch!

What have you been watching lately? Have you seen any of these and, if so, what did you think? I'd love to know your opinions!

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