- Saturday, 22 November 2014 -

Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Hello my lovelies! There are some books that touch the inner depths of your soul and continue to resonate with you long after they're gone, books that produce a quiet, contemplative atmosphere that you plunge headfirst into, immersing yourself in their dreamlike waters knowing that its only a matter of time before you resurface at the shore. I wouldn't deem this the greatest read of my life because its not simply a book you can delve into, thumbing your way through the pages of plotlines and characters and climaxes - it goes deeper than that. 

As the title suggests, the catalyst of the story is a man named Tsukuru Tazaki who harbours a heavy burden, unable to move forward with his life due to a detrimental disturbance in his younger years. Just like the fingers on a hand, Tsukuru was one of a group of five best friends, however contradictory to their "orderly, harmonious community" Tsukuru was the only member lacking in a name pertaining to colour, forever destined to remain "an empty person, lacking in color and identity". The momentous event which shapes the book is when his friends abruptly decide to expel him from their friendship leaving him a suicidal shell of a man. 

As time ticks on, and still reeling from his agonising experience, Tsukuru channels his childhood obsession with trains into actual employment, now working for a railroad company. With his life remaining in limbo, his girlfriend Sara spurs him on to seek out his former friends with the avid hope of finding out why they abandoned him all those years ago. And so begins a oneiric, poetic and metaphoric journey into discovering answers and moreover - himself. 

I wouldn't describe this book as an overly riveting read, however it possesses a thoughtful nature which you can't help but turn over in your mind again and again. I for one even found myself reflectively revising my younger years whilst reading the book, eager to understand the ripples of my decisions in my lifetime. An easy and enjoyable read which I would urge anyone to undertake!

- Wednesday, 19 November 2014 -

Recipe: Christmassy White Hot Chocolate!

Hello my lovelies! The red cups have made their triumphant return and cities finally rejoice as the festive lights flicker on - oh yes, Christmas is round the corner! And in the spirit of things (with a Costa being conveniently close to campus), I've been indulging in heavenly white hot chocolates to warm me up on those crisp wintery walks to university. On my return home, with only Cadbury's regular hot chocolate to sate my appetite, it wasn't long before I had the pots and pans out, determined to make my own home-made rendition. But I must warn you now: this chocolatey  concoction is extremely additive and you may experience side effects of the warm and fuzzy kind. You will need...

500ml of Milk 
1/2 tsp of Vanilla Extract
50g of White Chocolate
A pinch of Cinnamon 

Step 1/ Gently heat the milk in a saucepan dispensing your white chocolate in small chunks. Whisk well until all the chocolate has completely melted in the mixture.

Step 2/ Once the mixture has been brought to a gentle simmer, you may then continue to add in half a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Step 3/ For a more festive flavour, I doused the mixture with the slightest pinch of cinnamon and stirred well. This balances out the sweetness and let's face it, will smell like Christmas in a mug! After everything has blended, serve evenly into mugs.

Step 4/ Optional: I heaped on a generous amount of whipped cream and sugary toppings making it both a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach! 

Have you ever tried white hot chocolate before?

- Saturday, 15 November 2014 -

DIY: Rose Nails

Hello you lovely lot! Amidst all the anticipation for Christmas and not awash with the seasonal spirit JUST yet, I decided to experiment with this quick and easy floral pattern in the hope of injecting a bit of colour into a dull and dreary winter wardrobe. Inspired by the iconic ditsy floral style of Cath Kidston, I absolutely adore how the colours pop against a dark jumper! In order to achieve this bright and bold look, you will need...

Four nail polishes: preferably in red, light pink, dark green and mint
Nail art brushes, in the smallest sizes
Or alternatively if you don't happen to have any brushes, simple cocktail sticks should do the trick

Step 1/ Gather your chosen nail polishes, the roses don't necessarily need to be red and pink, use your imagination! They can be yellow, white etc. I purchased my nail art brushes from Claire's Accessories, however alternatively cocktail sticks work well too.

Step 2/ Because your leaves are naturally going to be green, paint the base of your nails mint to contrast and complement the colours painted on top. The lighter your base, the brighter your forefront colours will appear!

Step 3/ Once you've let your base coat dry, you may then apply the body of the roses onto it. The spots don't have to be perfect, actually it's better if they're not completely circular as this adds definition and distinction between your roses. 

Step 4/ Like the previous process, wait until your nails have completely dried. Next up is the leaves, in straight strokes give your roses either one or two leaves each with your dark green nail polish. 

Step 5/ Admittedly the most difficult part of the process is creating the detail within the roses. Using my thinnest and smallest brush available, I painted around the outer ring of the roses, detailing them in both clockwise and anti-clockwise circular strokes to give the roses depth. Basically, you begin from the outside and work your way in until no more room is left for your pink nail polish.

After you repeat the process on all of your nails, you're done! I've been receiving compliments on them all week; people asking me if they're nail decals or not or whether I've had them done professionally - a nice little boost to brighten anyone's mood!

- Wednesday, 12 November 2014 -

Pamper Session!

Hello my lovelies! With evenings abruptly descending into darkness and the nip of the cold becoming ever more apparent, it's easy to become consumed by the doom and gloom that winter brings - chapped lips, freezing numb fingers and dare I mention the almighty struggle of leaving your snug bed in the morning? No wonder the animals head into hibernation! Usually around this time of year people are pushing themselves to the max, be it at work, at university or elsewhere, society isn't abuzz with Christmas cheer, it's abuzz with stress: the stress of getting home on time to make dinner, the stress of a mountain of deadlines that need to be met, the stress of the inevitable seasonal shopping spree. 

During this hectic period, I make it my mission to find time for myself, whether it's escaping with a good book or allowing yourself an entire duvet day, don't let the idle worries and woes of life get to you, take a step back and take a breath. As clich├ęd as it sounds, there's nothing more satisfying than arriving home after a long and gruelling day and dipping your toes into that steaming bath surrounded by candles. If, like me you find yourself having an endless cascade of work to do when you come home, thusly ruling baths out, why not treat yourself to a well deserved cup of hot chocolate before bed, or even unwind with your favourite music - indulge in the little things.

It's amazing how even just taking the time to paint your nails or flicking through your favourite magazine can instantly improve your mood. On Monday, I spent an abhorrent 12 hours within the confines of my university, I felt drained and depressed coming home in the pitch black of night. However, that evening I was convinced in casting my work aside and allowing myself some 'me time' so I could recharge my batteries. I lit some scented candles, poured myself a glass (or two) of wine and relished in beauty of doing absolutely nothing, or as the Italians so perfectly put it: dolce far niente.

How do you pamper yourself after a long, hard day?

- Friday, 7 November 2014 -

My Top 9 Photography Apps

Hello my lovelies! As a creative individual photography has always piqued my interest, the romantic notion of encapsulating a moment of memories and emotions, frozen in time for you to revisit whenever you want. Growing up I always had a pencil or paintbrush in hand, so it's only really recently that I've began dabbling photographically - perhaps it's the surge of social media or the triumph of technology that's inspired me so. Whatever the cause, it's hard to ignore photography's rise in popularity over the past while, with the word "selfie" now a genuine dictionary term and Instagram paving the pathway for social, creative expression, why shouldn't you jump on the bandwagon? 

Since receiving my iPhone back in 2012, I've been compiling a little list of my favourite photography apps, each app present for a specific purpose making those empty moments stuck on a train or in a cumbersome queue that bit more bearable. May I just warn you now dear readers that this is a heavy photo post, for the purpose of really showing you these apps and their merits/functions/befores and afters, I went a bit crazy! So, in no particular order...

1/ PhotoCandy: This is such a quirky and colourfully creative app, allowing you to really let your imagination run wild. Along with filters and photo edits, the apps prime selling point is probably its funky pattern pack. Ever seen those intergalactic images sporting a random triangle in the middle? Yup, those trippy edits can be achieved with PhotoCandy. Overlaying objects is the new thing haven't you heard? 

2/ BokehPic: This is admittedly the app I use most frequently, yet it seems to be the most unheard of. One day as I was casually scrolling through my Instagram feed, I spied a photo framed with several dainty flecks of light, it looked almost Disney-like. This spotted highlight effect is actually called the Bokeh effect and after hunting down an app enabling this edit, I was hooked.

3/ Afterlight: The one you were all expecting. Afterlight is an all-rounder app, with borders, filters and light leaks galore it can really do no wrong. Whether you wish to bestow your photos with a vintage air or just want to brighten the exposure up a bit, Afterlight is your go-to app. I personally love playing with the light leak edits, which is probably Afterlight's most popular feature.

4/ Tadaa: The Tadaa app possesses many of the usual editing qualities - framing, filtering, cropping... However its most promising feature is definitely its blur edit. Everyday I view phenomenal photos on the internet boasting that 'out of focus' feel, and was always curious as to whether this look can be achieved without touching the likes of Photoshop, and then, lo and behold Tadaa was born.

5/ Retouch (Free): Okay, I'll admit it, this app was not easy to get your head around when you first use it, but my GOD is it amazing. Yes, I use Photoshop for touching up photos with slight imperfections, but I'm not always going to have my laptop around to solve that problem. Ever take a pretty POV photo of your brand-spanking new shoes only to discover that there was gum on the ground? Your photo is now ruined, right? Wrong! Enter my example featuring a fabulous blob of mascara...

6/ A Beautiful Mess: Words cannot describe how adorable this app is. It's your quintessential doodle app, where you can scribble stars and incorporate cute phrases to your hearts content. It's an especially useful app if you're wishing to highlight something specific in your photo with their addition of arrow doodles. I may have gotten slightly drunk with power when experimenting with mine...

7/ Bleach: This is an app created purely for fun. The Bleach brand hosts an array of alternative hair products, ranging from coloured dyes to DIY hair braiding kits. Alongside their recent release, they also produced an accompanying app where you can edit those swaggalicious selfies with super duper cute stamps, stickers, frames and filters.

8/ PicLab: I love this app, simply because anything you create ends up looking like its been sourced straight out of Pinterest. You ever seen those beautifully motivational photos on the internet where they depict some kind of inspirational quote? Well, this is PicLab ALLLL over! I love how you can take a photo of a simple cup of coffee and slap an unrelating Oscar Wilde quote onto the front of it, making it instantly look arty as fuck.

9/ Instagram: You didn't really think I'd forgotten about this bad boy did you? Although the rest of my examples shown were purely for editing purposes, Instagram is in a league of its own. Allowing you to snap moments, memories and experiences for all the world to see - phew we really are in the 21st century! Even though its edits are limited, I will always adore Instagram for enabling us to be nosy in taking a peek inside the lives of others.

Have you used any of these apps?

- Wednesday, 5 November 2014 -

No7 Eyeshadow Palette

Hello you lovely lot! This day last week marked my 23rd year inhabiting this big blue and green orb we like to call Earth. It's quite mind-boggling to think that I'm steadily getting along in my twenties when I still actually possess the mentality of a teenager, clutching on for dear life to those delicious moments where getting ID'd makes me feel like a schoolgirl again. I love birthdays, I love how people obtain this sort of special pass on their birthdays, temporarily excusing them from the monotonies of the real world. Today, simply slipping in that it's your birthday can get you home early from work, absolves you from attending class, heck it can even get you a free drink if you're really vocal about it. I love birthdays, I love how for that one day a year, instead of it being Martin Luther King Day, it'll be forevermore regarded as Claire Fearon Day.

This year saw me showered with gifts galore, one of which I was particularly smitten with - The No7 Eyeshadow Palette. This beauty has just hit the stores as part of the Christmas gift collections and the palette couldn't be more perfect. Naturally, around the time of Halloween you witness a lot more daring and vibrant hues popping up in palettes, with purples, greens and blacks usually eclipsing the more natural autumnal tones. The 20 shades within the No7 Eyeshadow Palette are all firm favourites of past, popular No7 palettes, so you know you're in for a treat!

The colours vary from soft nudes to warm browns, there's even some gorgeous green, grey and copper shades included enabling you to create a natural daytime look or a dazzling nighttime smokey eye. The colours appear lovely and pigmented, with some shades even featuring a glittery formation. And can I let you in on a little secret? This palette doesn't cost an arm and a leg, as it's currently priced for a ridiculously reasonable £20! Oh, what's that I hear? Could it be the sound of your laptop hitting the floor as you hurriedly speed out to your nearest Boots? 

Or it can alternatively be bought here. Happy shopping lovelies!