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September 30, 2016

Book Club No. 5

Hello fellow bookworms - today I'm going to rant and rave about a couple of things I've read lately that were really super good for so many reasons. If you're a fan of graphic novels/comics or if you're someone who's never actually thought of reading them, I have a couple to mention that I think are brilliant and well worth a read no matter what your usual reading preferences are. I also have an honourable mention of a biography because a) they're not usually 'my bag' and b) it was about a favourite musician of mine who has led an interesting life so again, it's worth some reading time. So let's get into it:

Injection - First up I'll talk about Injection from Image Comics. Matt bought Injection for me to read way back in March for my birthday and it took me ages to finally sit down and read it but once I did, I demolished it in one sitting. It is a new series from Image Comics but I'm definitely going to keep getting future installments when they are released because I was really hooked by the story. Reading the blurb, Injection is described as being "science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and a ghost story all at the same time". That alone grabbed my interest. The story basically follows the tale of 5 'geniuses' in different fields/with different specialisms who created Injection which poisoned the 21st century. They tried to *play God* essentially, and tampered with the world and the natural state of it and the story starts with the repercutions of their tampering starting to show across the world. Strange things start happening and they need to come together again to try and sort it out.

At first I found the story a little bit confusing because it jumped back and forth in time and of course because of the mix of genres, the story is riddled with terms and words which you later come to understand, but it can make you feel a little bit stumped when you first start reading it. But once I got my teeth into it - I was hooked. The story is really different to anything I've ever read before because it does successfully mix sci-fi, horror, post-apocolypse on the horizon etc. sort of aspects in a really clever way that makes you keep turning the page. They also managed to leave the Injection #5 (last chapter in the collected Volume 1) on a great cliff hanger so I can't wait to read what happens next. The mix of characters who are normal and 'otherworldly' is great, the illustration style is really clean and crisp but gritty in a good way, and the story seems so different to anything else, I can't recommend it enough.

Book Club: Currently Reading

Descender - The latest comic I've picked up is Descender which - surprise surprise - is another whopper from Image Comics. If you couldn't tell already, Image is one of my favourite comic presses (the other being Vertigo) and that's because the variety of comics they release is so extensive yet so many of them tick so many boxes for me. Anyway I have had my eye on Descender for some time now and finally gave in a purchased it during a rummage in Newcastle's Forbidden Planet store. It is a straight up science fiction-based story and instantly screamed "Mass Effect" for me. If anything reminds me of Mass Effect, you can pretty much assume I'm going to go bat-shit bananas with excitement and love it. So let me give you some info about this awesome series.

The story is set in space ten years after planet-sized robots called Harvesters appeared and basically destroyed/caused mayhem across the galaxy which resulted in the various other alien species across the galaxy outlawing robots of all kinds as they were seen as dangerous, unpredictable and responsible for what happened. One of the main characters, TIM-21 wakes up to find that he may be the only robot currently alive and thus becomes the most wanted robot in the universe. The scientist who created him and some other characters (who are essentially part of a sort of inter-galactic government) want to try and find TIM-21 in order to look at and test his DNA as it is thought his DNA could hold the key as to why and how the Harvesters were created and could help them stop the Harvesters from attacking the galaxy again in the future. Of course because TIM-21 is pretty much the only guy on the "most wanted" list, he has bounty hunters in abundance after him too so it's a very quick pace, action packed comic which I've really enjoyed reading. Again, just like Injection, I read this first volume in one sitting and fell in love. The story is great so far, the character designs are rich and varied as there are so many alien races and the artwork is beautiful. Unlike Injection's clean, *traditional* comic book illustration style, each panel in Descender looks like it has been hand drawn and painted with watercolour ink giving it a slightly softer edge but a gorgeous colour palette. Again, Volume 1 ended on a *huge* cliff hanger so I need to pick up Vol. 2 ASAP!

Seasick Steve Ramblin' Man: The Biography - Like I said at the start of this post, I tend to read a lot of fiction and the only non-fiction I like is true/real crime and thus biographies very rarely enter my life. However on a recent shop in HMV, I saw this biography about one of my favourite guys, Seasick Steve, and decided at £5.99, I may as well pick it up and see what it's all about. For those of you who may not have a clue who I'm talking about Seasick Steve is a bluesy, raw musician who shot to stardom after appearing on Jools Holland's Hootenanny because people fell in love with his redneck hillbilly style and the fact that he played a three-string guitar and stomped on a wooden box to make his music and it actually sounded *great*. I've loved him for years but as a fan, I've never really known much about him as he's an elusive character who keeps himself and his life out of the public eye for the most part. As an elderly gentleman who is thought to be a former homeless man, I knew his backstory and life would be interesting to find out more about.

Although I never think this kind of non-fiction reading is half as interesting as the fiction stuff I love, I did enjoy reading this as the author, Matthew Wright, tells Steve's story in a very informal, easy to read way. His writing style is quite casual and feels almost like diary inserts at times as if he's just typed up notes he's made on the man each day. It is easy reading with a nice relaxed twist but is still gripping enough to make you keep turning the page. Now, obviously I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone because I think you need to be a fan of Seasick Steve in the first place to pick it up, but if you are a fan or you are someone who enjoys reading celebrity/musician autobiographies/biographies, you might enjoy this one.

Catch up with previous Book Club posts here!

- A.
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September 28, 2016

The £4 Eyeshadow Palette

For the longest time, eyeshadow was the one makeup product I could happily take or leave as I just didn't really wear any. Having quite hooded, oily lids meant that I always saw eyeshadow as an extra chore to try and do and it would never look right or stay "perfect" for more than a couple of hours. Having such hooded lids meant that when I *did* try to take my time with a detailed eye look, I'd spend what felt like hours trying to perfect it to only realise upon opening my eye that you couldn't actually see anything I had done unless my eyes were closed... Fast forward to now though and I pretty much love eyeshadow. It's still a step of my makeup routine that I will regularly skip if I'm just getting ready for work or having a lazy day etc. but I've recently found so many great formula shadows in the drugstore and high end brands that experimenting with them has become the norm.

Becoming a bit more knowledgeable about makeup in my ripe old age has also meant that I've learnt plenty of tips and tricks to help with hooded eyes that means my laborious eye makeup blending doesn't go unnoticed and can actually be seen and won't smudge into my crease. In the last few years eyeshadow palettes have had a revamp and stormed onto the beauty scene as they are becoming increasingly wearable, better to blend, and a lot less chalky than those "100 Eyeshadows in a variety of bright blue/pinks/greens shades" palettes that used to be all that was available. We've always had the quads and the small shadow palettes there but there's just something about them evolution of them now that has me hooked.

So because of my new found love for shadows, I have picked up a few cheaper palettes in my quest to test. Although higher end shadows always seem to have the best formula and pigmentation, the cheaper brands are great for someone like me who just like to try different products and isn't that gifted when it comes to eyeshadow looks. So with that being said, I happened to pick up a palette on my latest rummage through the brand Essence's counter and I couldn't be more in love with it. I've raved about the extremely affordable Essence brand before on NB and I had high hopes for this palette and it's contents.

Essence Eyeshadow Palette

First off, let's discuss what it includes. The palette has 8 shimmer shadows in a variety of "bronze" shades. They range from a light, inner corner highlight shade to a much darker, warm chocolate brown that you could use for a spin on the classic smokey eye. The range of these palettes also comes in shades of "nude", "greys", and "roses" but I saw the word "bronze" and knew this would be the palette for me. All of the shadows have a warm tone to them which is the kind of shades I prefer to wear and I thought I'd get the most use out of this palette because although the shades in the "nude" palette were also beautiful, they had more darker/intense colours that I knew I just wouldn't get the use out of. One downside to this product straight off the bat would be that it doesn't have a matte shadow in sight. I personally don't mind because I'm one of those sassy Sallys who tends to wear shimmers all over the shade because the discoball look is what I aim to achieve, but it's worth mentioning in case you need your mattes in a palette to be won over. That aside, this palette is amazing. The packaging isn't anything that will wow you but I guess it's sleek, minimal and compact which should never be sniffed at but due to the low price point, it does feel a little flimsy and like it has the potential to break.

Now let's talk price because I couldn't believe how cheap it was. Bearing in mind you get 8 shadows in this thing, it only cost £4.oo. Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you, I definitely said £4.oo. That is so ridiculously cheap for 8 sizeable shadows that I thought "even if they're not that great, I haven't wasted a whole lot of money on them" but that wasn't even a scenario I had to consider because the shadows are beautiful. As you can hopefully see from the swatches, each shade is very pigmented, shimmering but not too chunky when it comes to the glitter, and they are really soft to work with. Because they are so cheap, the are a little powdery when you dab your brush in there so you do get a little bit of product floating around the packaging but due to the sleek design, it's nothing to worry about. Their powderyness (wow that's 100% not a word) also can cause a little bit of fall out upon application so if you're someone who usually does your eye makeup last, you might want to make an exception when applying these shadows or simply apply a little at a time. I find a really small amount on the brush can go a long way so I like to take my time with building up my eye look when using these.

Essence All About Bronze Swatches
First four shades = top row of the palette, next four shades = bottom row of the palette

They do build really well, they are really soft on the lid meaning you don't have to drag or pull the skin to move the product around and the longevity of them are pretty good. I would say they last around 4 hours before the shimmer starts to dull down but the colour still remains so as long as you're not too concerned about losing some of the glitter/shimmer on the lid, these guys are great. It's also worth mentioning that these shadows are great to work with both dry and wet. On the picture of the swatches, I applied each one dry and just *look* at the pigmentation! Each one was swiped only once on my arm and you can clearly see opaque colour and shimmer. They don't go patchy (which is a particular bonus for the darker shades) and if you wet them, it only intensifies the colour/shimmer pay-off and doesn't disrupt the easy application of the shadows.

If you're someone who is just starting out with makeup or someone who is new to wearing and experimenting with eyeshadows, I couldn't recommend this palette enough. I've noticed I'm reaching for it more and more on a daily basis and I really love the colours and pay off the shadows give. Although you don't get your matte options in there, I would recommend this palette over the likes of the Urban Decay Naked Palette any day due to the ridiculously low price point, the amount of shadows you get for your buck, and just the fantastic quality of them. The palette is a handy size for travelling to but you still get sizeable (a bit bigger than a penny each) shadows in there so you get quite a lot included. I think I've raved about this product enough now but I can honestly say I will be picking up the "nudes" and "roses" palettes next time I'm passing an Essence counter because I am hooked!

- A.
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September 27, 2016

When in Rome: Dos and Don'ts

I hate to say it (but maybe some of you will be pleased) but my posts covering my trip to Rome have finally come to an end! If you couldn't tell by the obscene amount of posts I've made, I had a brilliant time and I thought Rome was a beautiful city to visit and explore. To end this series of travel posts, I thought it would be a great idea to give you a little run down of some do's and don't's that I think are insightful little things I wish I had known before we visited. These things are mostly minor, but had I have known some of them before visiting, it would have made the trip even more smooth sailing than it was. I've also included some things that I just personally think helps when staying in Rome so if you're planning a trip there, hopefully my advice will help!

The Dos:
- Save money by making packed lunch/having dinner at home 1 night.
If you happen to be staying in an Air BnB place or anywhere with access to a kitchen, I'd strongly suggest making a packed lunch if you plan to spend all day out and about. Rome isn't ridiculously expensive, but when I think about our trip, all of my spending money was spent on food and entry into museums etc. so having the option to have a cheaper meal shouldn't be sniffed at. We didn't really eat at lunch time as we had quite big breakfasts every morning and found the midday heat put us off eating, but we did have dinner at our flat one night which was a nice quiet change to a busy restaurant and Matt's cooking was just as tasty!

- Take enough money for extra allowances such as taxis, bus, metro & daily person charge. This one depends on what sort of person you are when it comes to city breaks. Matt & I walked everywhere and the only time we paid for a taxi was back to the airport when we were leaving. The buses and metros are relatively cheap though (cheaper than the general UK prices it seems) so if you were to use them, you don't need to have a lot stashed away, but it is worth working into your budget if you think you're going to use them. About an hour away on the train, you can visit the Italian coast which we didn't get a chance to do, but if you fancied that, it's a reasonable price for a train ticket and again, just something to bear in mind. Depending on how your accommodation works, you might have to pay a daily person charge when staying in the city. It wasn't a lot of money but again, it's worth checking and worth working into your spending money.

- Plan where you are going for the day (even if its only roughly). Matt & I took the "let's just see where our feet takes us" approach and I personally like that as it means you don't stress yourself out about timings or where you need to be. However one thing we did do each evening/morning was plan a rough destination. For example, we decided to go to Trastevere one day as we wanted to check out the Santa Maria in Trastevere (which you can read about here!) so we wandered around the area too. Rome is separated into districts and pretty much each district has something of interest for tourists whether it be a museum, ruins, a park etc. so aiming to go to a specific area each day works really well!

- Make sure to pack appropriate clothing for a Roman Catholic country. I know this one might seem obvious, but it can honestly be overlooked so easily and I almost forgot about this myself! Depending on what time of year you're visiting Rome, it can hit up to 40 degrees and wearing clothing can be pretty unbearable but if you're planning to visit St. Peter's Basilica or any of the other 1983752 basilicas in the city, you need to wear appropriate clothing. That's not saying you need to be fully covered from head to toe, but shorts with your booty hanging out or deep plunging necklines shouldn't be worn in holy places out of respect. A good idea for ladies in particular is to always keep a lightweight thin chiffon/cotton scarf in your bag everyday as usually basilicas have a sign asking that the shoulders be covered upon entering so this is a quick easy way to make sure you won't be asked to leave or refused entry. It's also just a way to be respectful to those using the church!

- Be hard faced and don't give into people coaxing you into their establishments or people begging for money. I feel quite harsh typing that but you will have a lot of people trying to convince you to come into their restaurants and it's totally okay to say no. Most people are used to this happening and will just tell you to enjoy your day, but for those who are pushy, it's okay to brush them off. Secondly, there is a lot of people begging in Rome. A lot of people appear to be/are disabled and they will be quite forceful with asking for money. At first this upset me a little and I considered giving people money but you just can't afford to. People are very pushy, some are rude, and some are just out-right inappropriate so you need to be hard faced and not phased by it all the best you can. Seeing a group of women grabbing men's hands who were walking home from work and trying to make these men touch them in exchange for money was bad enough, but when I saw a 10 year old girl added into the mix doing it, I realised I needed to act like I didn't care and not give money.

- Nap during the midday heat. This only really applies if you go during the summer months (especially July/August time!) but midday can be excruciatingly hot. Between 12-3pm it's a good idea to either go indoors into a museum/somewhere well conditioned and just chill out for a few hours or retreat back to your hotel room/flat etc. and just rest!

- Head to St. Peter's Square on Sunday to see the Pope. This isn't really a thing you *need* to do, but walking by St. Peter's Square when the Pope was addressing the Roman citizens was a once in a lifetime thing. Hearing him speak to his people and seeing just how many people were there was wonderful and humbling so I'd recommend it even if you're just passing by and catch a glimpse!

- See the city by day and night. You're bound to do this anyway, but seeing the same areas both during the day and during the evening can seem like two completely different places and brings different charms to your attention.

The Don'ts:
- Don't buy water, save your money using fountains.
This was a wee hint from our Air BnB host and it was the best little insider we were told. Although the fountains are dotted around Rome, I don't think we would have necessarily used them if we weren't told in advance they were safe to use. A lot of the fountains themselves are beautiful to look at but the water from them is ice cold and so tasty. You can taste the rich minerals with each mouthful and refilling your bottle keeps you hydrated in the insane heat and prevents you from wasting money. Some places can charge up to 5 euros for a normal 500ml bottle of water just because they know you will need to buy it at some point if you don't have any so don't be sucked into spending - use the fountains!

- Don't leave sightseeing to chance. As I mentioned in previous posts, some things are better off booked in advance and others aren't needed. For example, our trip to the Colosseum/Palatine Hill/Roman Forum would have taken a lot longer if we had booked in advance as the queue to pick up tickets was a lot longer and slow moving compared to the one for instantly going to buy tickets at the office. However if you're thinking about visiting the Vatican Museums, you really need to book in advance if you don't want to spend around 4 hours waiting outside in the boiling hot sun on a busy street corner. Booking stuff online is easy enough and all you need to do is print off your ticket receipts, pack them in your case and hand luggage and you're good to go! You can skip the queue then just show your receipt to the ticket office and that's it!

- Don't just go to whatever restaurant is nearest - read up on where you're going to be and therefore where you'll be eating. Although Rome proved to me you can't judge a good restaurant by the decor or by how many customers are in it, I'd definitely recommend having a little check about where is good to eat. If you're staying in an Air BnB place, ask the host where they would recommend in different areas and if you get chatting to any other locals - ask them too! There's a lot of tourist trap places that promise 3 course deals for super cheap but as you can probably guess, the food isn't authentic, it isn't tasty, and it will be a big waste of money. I did a little post on some places Matt & I loved during our visit, but you really do need to have a little check.

- Don't go without a hat, sunglasses and sun protection. Again this one is pretty obvious, but I didn't take a hat and regretted it for the whole holiday. There's plenty of cheap stalls selling various hats and parasols whilst you're there but if you want your own style, just remember to pack one. Like I've said, the sun can get intense and giving your scalp a break from it can help you stay sane.

- Don't wear silly shoes or fake leather. Another little 'silly' one but it's worth mentioning that in the heat, you really need to have good shoes on. Obviously if you're planning to walk everywhere like Matt & I did, you will want comfy shoes on as you can end up walking for miles and miles each day, but the heat of the sun and the pavements can cause havoc on cheap shoes. I took a cheap comfy pair of gladiator sandals with me and they genuinely melted a little bit when I was waiting to get into St. Peter's Basilica - I had "made in India | Size 3" printed on the tops of my feet for most of the holiday!

- Don't take pictures in the Sistine Chapel. My last 'Don't' is a very basic one but I think it's really important. If you visit the Sistine Chapel, it will undoubtedly be very busy and there will be a lot of security walking around through the crowds and there will also be a warning broadcast over some speakers about not taking pictures or talking. The chapel was so busy when visited but I couldn't believe how many people were being just plain rude. The Sistine has become a huge tourist attraction but at the end of the day, it is still an extremely religious place that, whether you're religious or not, whether you're Catholic or not, deserves a level of respect. When you are told to not take photos are talk over and over again, you should abide by the few rules they have and just enjoy the moment of being there. Also, after seeing one girl next to me take some photos and then be removed by a police guard in *the* most aggressive manner, I would say a photo of the chapel just isn't worth it.

And then that's it! These aren't hard and fast rules but I do hope they might help some of you if you're ever travelling to Rome - which you certainly should like, as soon as possible!

- A.
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September 26, 2016

Mellow Yellow

A couple of months ago I finally got my hands on this, the most gorgeous jackets to have ever been made, ever. I'm pretty sure everyone and their nan owns this jacket in either the yellow or blue in particular, but I put off getting it for so long and it was no good - I had to cave. I *love* mustard yellow so I knew I would love it and not really care if it suited me or not. A great thing about it is it seems to be slightly cropped in the length and the length of the sleeves which is fantastic news for me as I have pretty short arms and often need jackets that I know I can roll the sleeves up on and not look ridiculous. But there's been no need for such shenanigans with this yellow number and it is such a nice piece to wear with all black outfits to give it a different edge (which I need because as much as I love the goth life, I can't deal with wearing all black when my hair is black too - I just can't do it anymore. Am I getting old?!). It also gives girly pieces a bit of edge too so I just through it on with my fave silky number that fits like a glove and my shiniest Gucci wannabe shoes.

Zara Faux Leather Jacket | New Look Petite Slip Dress |
Topshop Suede Shopper (similar) | Asos Silver Loafers (currently sold out but similar here)

- A.
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September 23, 2016

Taxidermy for Beginners

After asking you guys over on Twitter if you'd like a post on a recent course I attended, and after a sizeable response, I thought I'd throw together this wee post on Taxidermy for total beginners as some of you curious cats were interested in just *what* on earth you do to create taxidermy. So last weekend, Matt & I attended a beginners taxidermy course with Mabel Edwards who has been in the taxidermy business for the last 4 years. Matt had found out about the course by chance so we quickly snapped up some tickets for the 4-hour session at the Winchester Discovery Centre and I was super excited. I'm really interested in taxidermy and like collecting but the thought of making my own? It had never crossed my mind. I knew it would be a fiddly job that you needed patience for which, as someone who enjoys creating art, I thought I could handle but even if I have to prepare raw meat for cooking I will freak out about touching it a whole deal. So the idea of cutting up and gutting an animal in order to stuff it? I didn't know if I would cope with it but it turns out - I found it fascinating!

The 4-hour course was led by Mabel and she instructed and guided us through the process from start to finish. The class of 10 were an eager group and we all came into the room to see a little white mouse laid out in front of each seat with a scalpel and some tweezers nearby. In just 4 hours, we would take our mice from frozen ex-pet shop snake bait to a fully mounted taxidermy. So I'm going to talk through my experience, briefly what we did, and if I'd recommend the experience. Before I kick things off though, I should mention a couple of things: the taxidermy course and of course the mice used were completely ethically sourced. They were mice that were frozen to become food for the snakes in the store but instead were used for this - giving them a second life if you want to look at it that way! And secondly, I've purposefully not included any "gory" or bloody photographs for those of you who may be squeamish. Saying that though, there *is* going to be a couple of photographs of the mouse skin without it's innings, it's skin turned inside out and yep you guessed it, a photograph of a dead animal. So now that I've warned you, please carry on scrolling and reading only if you wish!

So first of all, we needed to tackle the little frozen fella. Using a scalpel, we cut an incision down the back of the mouse and had to de-skin it. It was strange - I was expecting this to be a lot more gory and grotesque than it was. It was quite clean to do. We all had medical gloves on but Mabel pointed out that she often chooses to work gloveless as as long as you wash your hands once you're done, there's nothing to worry about. The only downside to this part of the process was the smell of some of the mice. Overall it was a clean job but as some people had pushed a little too hard with their scalpel, they had nicked the innards and therefore had caused the insides of the mouse to leak a little and start to smell! Some members of the class found this harder to deal with than others but I honestly thought the smell was bearable. If you've ever had cooked meat stored in the fridge for a couple of days and then opened the tupperware - yeah, the smell is like that just a little stronger. Once the skin felt pretty loose, we had to cut the legs and arms off to keep the lower joints intact for stuffing later and we also had to decapitate the head to keep it looking as realistic as possible.

This was the longest part of the whole process as once we had totally removed the organs inside the mouse, we then had to make sure what we planning to stuff was as clean as possible too. By using the tweezers, we had to pick and scrape the inside of the skin to make sure no fat was attached. The skull also needed all of the fat and "gooey" bits like the eyes and cheeks removed so they wouldn't rot inside of the skin. By using some basic cleaning agents and the scalpel/tweezers, this was done in no time and next we washed and dried the skin, ready for stuffing! After a quick soak and swim in some water and washing up liquid and a quick blast with the hairdryer to fluff the little rascals up, we were ready to make the body and get them mounted.

As you can see, my little guy had lost his tail during the previous processes. The tail bone needed to be removed and the skin is much more delicate around the tale/anus area of the mouse so my heavy handedness caused it to all to snap off completely. The beauty with making a taxidermy mouse though is there seems to be very few mistakes during the course of making it that can't be rectified, so the tail could be added later. The first job once the mouse was fresh and clean was to give the little fella some eyes again. With some poly-filler and some black beads, this was a quick and easy job whilst the skin was turned inside out. We then simply needed to carefully push the skull back into the skin (the muzzle was still attached to make this easy) and the arms and legs also needed to be put the right way around again. Once back to "normal" we needed to make the body. Just out of shot of all of the photos, we had the organs/general insides left out on a paper towel. Sounds gross, but this was purely to help us get an idea of what size body we needed to create for our mice as obviously no two mice would be the same! We then began wrapping cotton thread tightly around cotton balls to get a realistic body. It was a simple job of getting the right size and shape by adding more and more cotton until it looked about right. Then, just using some craft wire, we wrapped it around the body to mimic arms and legs and now we needed to add the skin.

This was by far the most frustrating part for me. Getting the wires to feed through the limbs so you could pose the mouse was so fiddly and after 3 hours of nonstop making this little guy, I was quickly losing my patience. I finally cracked it though and all that was left was to sew up the back incision we have made at the start and then mount the mice! When I first thought about going to the course, I was convinced I wanted to make something realistic and not give the mouse cheesy props or poses but when I realised what I created was far from perfect (some areas of the skin tore, my sewing could have been better, the mount could have been neater etc. etc.) I figured I'd just have fun with it as I knew I wasn't going to keep it. So naturally, I rummaged through a box of goodies that could be added to my wee mouse - a bowler hat, a mini vacuum cleaner, a little book... But I settled on some bowling pins and a bowling ball...

And there we have it! As you can see I wasn't too careful by the end of the class. I didn't really mount it properly and I made zero effort to hide the wires in the limbs. By the end of the class I was quite tired and hadn't necessarily lost interest, but I had lost concentration. If you're someone who is interested in taxidermy or you're quite up for trying something new and different, I'd really recommend a class like this. I found it really insightful, it has made me think even more highly of taxidermists as I never truly realised how time-consuming and precise it all is, and it was also a great learning curve that others are intrigued to hear about. Although I didn't end up keeping my little guy because he was far from perfect, I do feel like I could always make one again myself in my own time because I understand what skills are involved now; it's just a matter of practice makes perfect. This class has also convinced me I would love to do a bird taxidermy class (although they are supposed to be much harder to do), and of course, a bug mounting course is high on the list now too. For £60, you have the opportunity to not only make your own taxidermy but to keep it too which is an absolute bargain in my opinion! We also got a free glass of G&T out of it too and it was a unique way to spend our afternoon.

If you've enjoyed this post please let me know as taxidermy is a big big interest of mine that I just don't talk about enough on NB!

- A.
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September 21, 2016

Blogging Made Me Buy It

When it comes to beauty and skin care, blogging and YouTube has 110% responsibility for a lot of my purchases. Whereas when I was younger, you found out about the latest makeup releases and what the best moisturisers were either via TV adverts or in the beauty magazines, now we can do a quick search about specific products and within minutes, we can have hundreds of hits to choose from that will give us swatches, opinions, and in-depth reviews from real people with a face and personality. As much as this is a great thing we kind of take for granted now, it has definitely been the catalyst for a lot of my spending. I honestly believe that if I didn't enjoy reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, I wouldn't own half of the things I do - especially when it comes to the beauty world.

Although I may spend a lot more and own a lot more stuff because of blogging/vlogging, it has meant I've experimented more and stepped out of my comfort zone when it comes to makeup so I thought it would be a great idea to talk about some of the products that have come into my life because of their popularity in the blogging/YouTube community and discuss what products I think have been worth the hype and what has been a waste of money. Of course others might think some of these products are fantastic or garbage, but I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my hits and misses from a selection of popular "blogger faves" that no doubt we've all considered buying or actually have, all thanks to the online beauty world.

Nivea Men Post Shave Balm

Some Good Things:
- La Roche Posay Serozinc Spray | £8.5o -
I love this stuff. I've raved about this product on NB a couple of times before but it has honestly become a staple in my morning and evening skincare routine. This stuff is great for those who are oily, who suffer with acne, and those who are just a little bit lost when it comes to toners, face sprays etc. It has taken a while to notice any benefits from this product, but I genuinely believe the fact that I can wear my makeup all day for work - from 6am til 6pm most days - and I never have to touch up (compared to Amy pre Sero Zinc who would have to blot/powder every 2 hours) is solely down to this product here. It keeps my skin matte and it has helped control even the bad breakouts from getting out of hand.

- Nivea Men Post Shave Balm | £5.35 - Ah, the primer that no one saw coming. This stuff burst onto the online beauty scene and due to how affordable it is, everyone and their next door neighbour picked up a bottle because one or two people on YouTube said it was the bees knees. For me, it was after I had watched Kathleen Lights put it through the test and saw that her makeup still looked beautiful after several hours of wear that convinced me I may as well just see what all the fuss was about. Although I don't love it as much as my The Body Shop's Instablur and I don't seem to love it as much as some others online, I do really really like this product and think it's an absolute steal for the price point and the amount of product you get. I've seen the driest skinned girls praise this and I've seen (and been) one of the oiliest skinned girls to rave about this so I think it's the best hype there's been in a long time because I'm pretty sure everyone can and should try it.

- Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water | £4.99 - Micellar water used to be a more "exclusive" thing as Bioderma seemed to be the only brand that really had one (a stupidly successful one that is). Fast forward to the last couple of years though and pretty much every high street and high end brand popped one out and suddenly we were all spending silly money on bottles of water that promised to remove all our makeup and the dirt and grime of everyday life. Like every other blogger out there, I've tested my fair share or brands when it comes to this type of product, but one that gets the hype it deserves is the Garnier one. I use this stuff every evening to remove the majority of my makeup before I cleanse and I don't think I'll ever look back. Although I actually prefer the Nivea one as it leaves my skin feeling heavenly to the touch (read about the different micellar cleansers I've tried, here), Garnier's huge 400ml bottle for a really affordable price is why I repurchase it again and again. They also now do this original one in a whopping 700ml bottle and do a range of different ones for sensitive to dry skin but this is always the one I will go back to.

La Roche Posay and Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

- The Beauty Blender | £16.oo - If you had talked to me a couple of years ago and suggested that I would depend so heavily on a sponge in my day to day life, I would have thought you were having a laugh. Now though? I legit would tear the house down if I didn't have my beauty blender each morning. In a world of thousands of different brand sponges now and an even larger range of knock-offs and dupes, the beauty blender is still the number one for me. Nothing makes my makeup look as flawless yet natural as this does and thank the beauty gods I took the plunge and purchased one again and again.

- The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer | £17.49 - Highlighters are another thing that have blogging, social media and YouTube to thank for their popularity. I've been suckered into buying a million of them just like everyone else but the ultimate one that always lives up to the hype is Mary Lou. This champagney slightly gold highlight works on so many skin tones, gives a gorgeous glow and shimmer to the cheeks and is my go-to when I want either a natural or intense highlight as it's so buildable. The Balm are a great brand in general that I would never have heard of if it wasn't for blogging so thanks again, internet, for making me buy it.

- Real Techniques Bold Metals | £12 - £22 each - Although I do love these brushes, I think it has a lot to do with the aesthetic of them. Real Techniques are yet again, another great brand who's success might have only a little to do with the online beauty community, but their bold metals collection sales is definitely down to it. These brushes are really love to use - they're weighted, they give a little bit of luxury to a drugstore brand however they are quite expensive for drugstore quality brushes. If they didn't look so beautiful in my makeup pots, and if I hadn't have received the couple I have as gifts after I never stopped asking for them, I think they would have remained in the shop! I do use them every single day though so in the long run, they have certainly been worth every penny.

Bourjois Paris and The Balm

Some Bad Things:
- NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick | £6.5o -
I've posted about these before on NB but every time I use them, I like them less and less. The colour range of these lippies are great and I especially love the grey shade, but the formula is just not good. NYX is easily one of my favourite beauty brands but I wish I had never bought these suede liquid lips. The Soft Mattes and the Lingerie ranges are great and certainly worth the hype but these ones are just too thick, tacky, and not comfortable to wear as I feel like they never dry down. A clue might be in the name as I honestly can say they do feel like suede - suede when it's accidentally been rained on and has started to go all bitty and starts to shed? Yep, that's what it feels like. On you lips. I think these were definitely a purchase that was just wrapped up in the "NYX is now available in Boots" hype on the net.

- Urban Decay Naked Palettes | £38.5o each - This has got to be one of the ultimate hyped up products in the online beauty world. The Naked eyeshadow palettes were the first and only eyeshadow palettes I can remember ever being so highly coveted by almost everyone. When the first, original palette was released I'm pretty sure it went out of stock in more stores and more times than I can count but for good reason. This palette was full of such wearable eyeshadows that would suit a range of skin tones and personal makeup styles - not to mention the shadows were incredibly pigmented and buttery compared to so many others around on the market at the time. As you can see, I don't hate these palettes at all, but they are *so* expensive. At almost £4o for 12 eyeshadows, I think that price is pretty steep and there's a great range of other palettes out now that are amazing dupes for these guys in pigmentation, formula and colour range. I tend to reach for the W7 dupe versions more than my two Naked palettes because they're just as good and a fraction of the price to replace. These aren't necessarily a regret purchase, but I really wish I had just waited a couple of months and picked up various dupes instead.

- Bourjois Delice de Poudre Bronzing Powder | £7.99 - Bourjois are another great brand and when this bronzer was released, everyone on YouTube was raving about it. Promising that it smelt of chocolate, I think every chocoholic flooded Boots and Superdrug to slap it on their faces. But honestly? It doesn't smell like chocolate but it does apply like it. I find this bronzer *so* incredibly muddy to use as it goes on patchy and never truly blends into the skin well which is a shame because I feel like the colour is pretty good for most skin tones to use. The packaging isn't the best either and if everyone of YouTube hadn't loved it for all of 5 minutes, I definitely would have left it on the store shelf.

What products have you loved and loathed as a result of the beauty blogging world?

- A.
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September 20, 2016

Air BnB > Hotels

Now that my Rome holiday posts have come to an end, I figured it would be a good idea to talk about the accommodation that we stayed in and give you an insight into that too. Air BnB has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years and I knew when Matt & I decided on our first holiday together, I wanted to try out Air BnB for myself. For those who might not know what it is, it is a website that allows you to find either room shares, flats or houses to stay in on your holidays/breaks away instead of your usual hotel or hostel options. People will put up a room or a flat/house of theirs for rent and holiday-goers can stay for as little or as long as they want. I wanted to try it because the process always gets rave reviews and some of the flats/homes I have seen others stay in look incredible and it gives you the chance to have a home away from home.

So after putting in the info of which city we wanted to stay in and the dates we would be staying there, I searched through lots of available places ranging in price, location, amenities, and ratings. A great option for first-time users of the site is that you can filter whether or not you only want to look at properties from "super hosts". Super hosts are people who have been used a lot on the site and who have great reviews so I opted for the filter as it meant the host of whichever accommodation we ended up staying in should be reliable and trustworthy which is just want I needed to hear when this was my first trip away to a different country for a long time. Being able to choose from a list of trusted, popular hosts is also a great function for those who are travelling alone. I've been thinking about going on holiday on my own for a while now and I know if I do, I will be using Air BnB and this option as it takes away the worry a little bit for a young petite woman travelling on her own! You can also filter the price, the size of accommodation you need as well as a number of other things. After whittling it down to a few promising looking places, we settled on a flat and got in touch with the host.

Our host was wonderful. He picked us up from the airport as we were getting into Rome quite late at night which was great as he could give us some ideas of what to do during our time there that we possibly wouldn't have got if we were in a taxi. Although our host won't obviously be the same as all the others, the fact that once we got to the flat, he told us all about the best places to eat and the best time to visit busy areas etc. is something we wouldn't have had if we checked into a hotel. Of course most hotels will provide the room with maps and tourist information, but they won't give you the nitty gritty bits you need to know - like which restaurants are great despite their not-so-welcoming exterior or where is best to avoid as it's just a tourist trap for getting money out of people. Getting the chance to speak to a local meant we instantly felt comfortable in a foreign city and felt much more prepared for our days out.

Another great things about the Air BnB option was that you had your own space. Obviously if you're only renting a room this might not be the same, but having a whole flat for the duration of our stay instead of just a glorified bedroom in a hotel meant we could have breakfast at our leisure - in our PJs if we wanted to - instead of having to rush down to a busy canteen with lots of other tourists every morning. It also meant we could prepare lunches if we wanted to save money and we could eat at home one evening instead of being in an expensive restaurant.

Having a flat to ourselves meant we didn't have to care about things like any curfews a hotel might have and we didn't have to think about a cleaner or maid coming into our rooms everyday etc. As Rome was so hot whilst we were there, it was nice to know we had the option to come back to the flat during the midday heat and just chill out until it cooled down a little. It also meant we just felt at home for the duration of our stay. My last reason for Air BnB being a better choice than a hotel is simply the expense. Buying direct flights to Rome and then paying for our Air BnB accommodation was more than half the price it would have been if we had stayed in a hotel. This meant we could afford to be more spendy whilst we were actually there and be more carefree about how much we spent on food etc when we were out and about. It also has meant I've got the itch to travel like never before because I now know I can stay in so many places for such a little price. If you check and book in advance, you can stay in accommodation for as little as £15 a night (depending on what city/country you're staying) but that price cannot be competed with.

Although I think Matt & I were lucky as our host was the most generous and welcoming friendly guy, it has certainly convinced me that Air BnB is the best option for travel and holiday accommodation and I will never use a hotel ever again unless I really need to.

Have you tried Air BnB? What was your experience like?

- A.
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September 19, 2016

Autumn Palette

I can't help but feel I'm the only person who is excited and pleased about the recent weather change. To put it bluntly, the weather turned shit as soon as the 1st of September rolled around but I couldn't be happier! The leaves are starting to line the paths in the park, there's a definite chill in the air, and all my favourite goth lipsticks can come out of hibernation - not to mention all of my autumnal clothes can come back out of the wardrobe now. I love autumn - it's my absolute favourite season - and some of my favourite things about fall/autumn fashion over than the option and need for layering is definitely the colour palettes and the textures. Suddenly leather and suede is acceptable, so is heavier knits and just knitted fabric in general, and of course those autumnal shades are all back in the high street stores. I can wear as much tan brown and mustard yellow and burnt orange as I like and no one can say a thing! Amazing.

Zara Knit | H&M Suede Skirt | Missguided Skinny Scarf | Primark Saddle Bag (similar) | Office Clogs (similar)

- A.
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