Saturday, 31 May 2014

A Love Letter to Libraries

Some of my current re-read pile - what's on yours?
I love to read. I mean really, really love it. I grew up an only child and was always comfortable alone – as long as I was alone with a book. My mum tells me that on parent’s evening, teachers would mention that they’d often caught me reading under the desk, and I sometimes avoided all common sense and street safety and walked home with my nose in the pages. 

I have been known to forgo sleep to finish something particularly gripping. I treat my books with respect, but I’m not precious about them either: unless it’s a special copy or belongs to someone else or a library, I will read in the bath and have been known to read in the shower (I know.) I’ll read in the car even when I feel carsick, and the default gift for me is book tokens. 

This is why libraries are so important. I grew up with my mum, who worked tirelessly and hard, but we certainly didn’t have the kind of disposable income that could sustain my book habit. We went to the library often and picked out books together. I read so quickly that we became regular fixtures. The library was a lifeline for kids like me and parents like my mum, and they provide so many other services too. They provide Internet access to those who cannot afford it or access it at home, they act as free community centres, and many run adult literacy groups. 

I’ve been lucky enough to use many libraries in my lifetime: at University, burrowing into books on historiography; for personal use, working my way through books both classic and popular. I’ve continued to buy books when and if money allows, and they continue to be my default birthday gift.
But libraries, particularly the local library of my childhood, are still important to me. They allowed me entry into innumerable imaginary worlds, introduced me to some of my best friends and favourite stories. They helped me to learn and gave me joy. With the recent news that Michael Gove is axing some of my most loved  books - To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men among others - from the curriculum, they seem even more important for kids – and everyone – who want to access all kinds of literature.

The Guardian reported last year that by 2016, the government might have closed 1,000 libraries. Hundreds have already been shut down. In a recession, this may seem like the sensible choice, the closing of those facilities least necessary. But I would argue that libraries are one of the few remaining institutions where it doesn’t matter where you came from, what pay bracket you belong to, what your abilities are – you are afforded the same opportunities. You can have a safe, welcoming space in your town or city where you have access to some of the greatest stories ever told and the freedom to read them. Surely that’s worth protecting.

Are you a member of your local library?

Friday, 30 May 2014

Orange Is The New Black: Is It Acceptable to Book June 6th Off Work?

Ah, Netflix. How you’ve changed the way we watch TV. Instead of one hour a week, you dole out your shows in one glorious dose, turning us into a generation of binge-watchers and under-sleepers. I for one am not complaining. Orange Is The New Black is one of the best shows around, and in this opinion I know I’m not alone. I’m also not alone in counting down the days until the June 6th premiere of the second season.
OITNB has such a dedicated following, I think, because although it began with the premise of being all about Piper, it caused us to care far more for all the other characters - personal favourites being Sophia, Taystee and Poussey - and has presented a diverse cast with engaging and touching storylines. Critiques of how diverse OITNB truly is have been written elsewhere, and with far more insight than I can manage - see for example Roxanne Gay's piece at Salon. These critiques are something we should keep in mind when watching and talking about the show, but I will say that personally I love it even though it's flawed.
I want to watch it all in one sitting, I want more of all the characters and their stories, and I'm praying that I'm not scheduled for a shift that day. So, on a far less educated note, I've come up with a list of five things you'll need for an OITNB binge-watch:

1.     Your comfiest pair of PJs: this is thirteen episodes. I am not about to get fancy.
2.     Snacks. Many snacks: as if you will be able to tear yourself away to make a proper meal. I already have wasabi peas in stock. Takeout is also acceptable.
3.     A ‘viewing nest’: be it a comfortable bed, a sofa-and-blanket scenario or whatever, this is a long haul. Don’t camp somewhere where you’ll end up with a crick in your neck post-finale.
4.     No phone: Twitter and Facebook should be kept far away. Or use this guide atminimum to safeguard from spoilers.
5.     Tissues. Or, if you’re really lazy, a sleeve: chances are we’ll be getting more back-stories this year. And judging by Season 1’s stories, some of them will be an emotional gut-punch – come prepared.

What will you bring to your binge-watch?

Okay, so I'm back. I'm hoping to keep writing but I know you must be tired of me coming and going so randomly. I'm now finished with classes although I have a dissertation to complete and work to go to, so I'll be here more frequently.
One of the things I hope to be doing is expanding this blog to talk about more than makeup (whilst still, obviously, talking about makeup). I also love other stuff - I'm a huge fan of quality television, for example - so is that something you'd be ok with seeing more of? Let me know!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Life Update

Topshop goody bag // Den of Alyth // Krispy Kreme! // McLellan Galleries // Fried shallots // Vidal Sassoon haircut     

Where have I been? Well, I'm once again here to make excuses and let you know why I've been absent from this blog for nearly a month. I do honestly feel really bad about it, but sometimes life takes over.
I last posted in late March, and even by then life was starting to get pretty busy. As any student, or former student knows, this is the time of year when deadlines come rushing up all at once, and this year they have been kicking my ass.
In between classes, essays, presentations and dissertation prep, I have also had work placement and my actual paying job to juggle. Add to this a sharp drop in lack of available funds (and the gnawing realisation that my overdraft won't pay itself off) I've had no new products to talk about. It was around late March, stressed and underslept from juggling twenty things at once, that I realised something had to give.
It was the blog.
I love writing here - it's the fun thing I do in my free time - but it's also pretty time consuming. Daylight hours are few and far between here in Glasgow and I have few days off, so getting photos is a tricky business. I really felt I should be focusing my time on writing essays rather than blog posts.

Then, when I did have some time off, I was so exhausted and stressed that I just wanted to relax. I spent the time seeing friends, visiting a much-neglected boyfriend and reading books for fun again (the luxury!) You can see what I get up to in my off-time on my Instagram. 
In the past couple of weeks, I got my hair done at the lovely Vidal Sassoon; tried Krispy Kreme doughnuts for the first time in about ten years; took some outdoorsy trips to the Den of Alyth and Glenshee; visited a bunch of exhibitions for Glasgow International (my favourite so far - Aleksandra Domanovic at GoMA). Also, my mum bought me this awesome tub of fried shallots so I can try to recreate at home the awesome food at my favourite restaurant, Hanoi Bike Shop (seriously, go, if you are in the area.)

So all in all, it's been not much but it's been what I needed. I still have a few deadlines coming up (mostly dissertation related) so I won't be super-frequent here, but I will be back more regularly as soon as I can.
Thanks for being so understanding!
S xx

Monday, 24 March 2014

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser

I'm on a skincare mission. With the incredibly harsh weather we've been having in Glasgow these past few months, my skin's become irritated, dry, and has had frequent breakouts (that last one is probably because of some poor eating habits prompted by long study sessions in the library). So now, I'm trying to sort out my skincare routine and find the products that work for me. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

So, I went on the hunt for a cleanser. It had to be relatively budget, but not so cheap that it was essentially turpentine for the face - so no £2 face wipes, but not Emma Hardie either. A trip to Space NK, and avoiding everything rose (weirdly, although it's meant to work for sensitive skin, it makes me feel tight and itchy) and I came away with Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser (£15).

I will begin with a caveat that I do not consider myself a skincare expert of any kind - it's sort of a trial and error process for me here. However, I do know that a lot of people avoid sulfates and parabens in their skincare, so avoid this if you do since both clock in on the ingredients list.

I haven't been using this long enough for a long-term, in depth result so this will just be my first impressions: firstly, I really like that it's unfragranced, which works well for my irritable skin. The gel foams up into a gentle lather without being the kind of foaming cleanser that feels like it's stripping my skin. It leaves my skin feeling soft and clean, without being tight or itchy.

As a downside, it isn't the most hydrating cleanser of all time. That's not to say it's particularly drying, but my skin does feel a little drier post application. This, I think, is a side effect of most foaming cleansers and can be corrected with a moisturiser anyway.

And, as a bonus, the packaging is Kiehl's usual stripped back, non-fussy iteration. So I think, so far, this is a plus for me. Look out for favourites posts in the future to see if it stays in the skincare routine.

Sharing the picture above with the cleanser is a zine by a super talented illustrator friend of mine Tanya Hendrie. Check out her work, and buy prints here.

S xx

P.S. As an aside, and I feel like I say this with every post, sorry about the long between post gaps. As my masters degree finishes up, I have a ton of hand-in deadlines as well as my job, a work placement and a dissertation to start. I hope you all understand, and I should have more free time soon!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Pretty in Pink

I don't know what's come over me - maybe the sudden spots of sun we're getting, or the pastel collections dropping in stores - but I've suddenly been gripped by an urge to wear pink. If I had any pink clothes anymore, problem solved, but I don't: so makeup it is!
Of course, blush is the easiest way to provide a wearable pink flush with makeup - my favourites are mostly creams since they are easier to blend out. For a natural, glowy pink I go with Diorblush Cheek Creme in Capri (£20.40) - I reviewed it here. For a cheaper option, go for Bourjois Cream Blush in Rose Tender (£7.99)* which is less candy pink and has more brown in it (see swatches here). Illamasqua's Cream Pigment in Androgen (£17.50) is a perfect two-for-one: you can use it on your cheeks or your lips, and you can see me use it both ways here. When I want more sparkle, I'll sweep NARS Orgasm (£22.50) over my cheeks through my temples for a blush and highlight in one. I got this sample size in Paris, and you can see me wearing it here.
I have been wary in the past when it comes to pink lipstick, and I usually prefer to go more purple - but for a light, rosy pink I apply Revlon's Pink in the Afternoon (£7.49) - swatched here - and for a high-shine, long-lasting stain I apply L'Oreal GlamShine Stain Splash in Romy (£7.99): see it here.
Nails! And although I enjoy a bold or vampy pink on the nails, sometimes only soft, pastel shades will do. I enjoy either Essie Ballet Slippers (£7.99) or OPI Passion (£7.77)* which I swatched here.
Eyes are maybe the hardest to get right with pink - but I love NARS Grand Palais (£24) for an extremely wearable dusty mauve, and more recently Urban Decay's Naked 3 (£37) for varieties of rose gold shimmer. You can see the NARS shade here, and I swatched the Naked 3 here.

How do you wear pink?
S xx


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