Friday, 23 January 2015

Body | At-home Yoga

Yoga. There's so much about it that I love, but when it comes to attending classes, I have more bugbears than I can count. To give you an idea:
  • How many people do we really need in the room? I have been in central London classes where I've felt toes in my hair during savasana *shudder* 
  • Finding an instructor who doesn't feel compelled to push you down further into a posture when your body clearly isn't ready to go any deeper. Keep those hands off!
  • That 'bottom of the budgie cage' smell at Bikram yoga classes
  • Bikram classes in general: does the heat make anyone else a bit stabby?
Add to that the expense and the general sanctimonious vibe that sadly prevails in so many classes, I have decided to call off the search and focus on my at-home practice. You need very little equipment - all of which can be picked up with a minimal outlay - and the wealth of internet resources out there means that all that stands between you and a rewarding home practice is, well, you! Here are my tips on how to get started.

Equipment

The one essential you need for at-home practice is a yoga mat, but happily, these are now readily available and pretty inexpensive. TK Maxx and Homesense stock mats from around £8, and you can pick them up from Amazon for under £10. Go for a decent length - mine is 68 inches - so you can spread out!

Some of my at-home kit: Gaiam yoga mat, Gaiam block and a Logitech Hinge
As for non-essential equipment, I absolutely love having a block and a yoga strap. A block is a great addition to your practice as you can use it to support various parts of your body to help build your flexibility. It can be great to rest your head on during seated and standing forward bends, or to grip between your thighs to intensify core work and stability practice. I will be investing in a second block to help develop my arm balances. For more tips on how to use a block, check out this fantastic post from Yoga by Candace

A yoga strap can be a great tool to help you increase your flexibility, particularly in your hamstrings: I saw rapid progress in the depth of my forward bends in a matter of days (from finger tips on the floor to flat hands). Although you can just as easily use a belt or a scarf, I've found much better results with the belt as the material is much stronger, thus less prone to stretching, and having a padded section helps with comfort. The strap I use is from Gaiam and retails for £10.99, but I got mine from Homesense for £5 - who doesn't love a bargain!

For those of you who get the occasional sweaty paw, yoga gloves can be a godsend: let's face it, nobody wants to end up collapsing face first in the middle of a downward dog! I picked mine up from John Lewis but similar gloves are available on ebay for a bargainous £2.99.

If you have an iPad and you want to be really whizzy, the Logitech Hinge is a great addition to any yogi's at home kit as it allows you to angle your screen perfectly for even the most complex posture!

Yoga videos

There are several yogis providing incredible free content through YouTube, and my favourites are Tara Stiles, Ekhart Yoga and Yoga with Adriene. Each have their own distinct style: Tara is a former model and exudes grace and calm (although her cardio yoga videos will have you sweating!); Esther Ekhart's channel focuses on the holistic benefits of yoga and includes videos on mindfulness, meditation and healthy eating and; as for Adriene, she's a cool, laid back Texan who provides routines that slot easily into your schedule. What I love about these three teachers is that they all encourage you to be exactly where you are: there's no nonsense about poses looking a certain way. Instead they focus on enjoying the journey, rather than rushing to the destination. They all provide great beginners videos, as well as more advanced practice, so there really is something for everyone.

Instagram


The incredible Kino MacGregor www.kinoyoga.com
This post wouldn't be complete without a special mention for Kino MacGregor and Kerri Verna aka kinoyoga and beachyogagirl. Kino and Kerri partner up for monthly challenges and provide daily videos on their asana (pose) of the day. Kino's instagram feed shows a more advanced posture, and Kerri's a more accessible version, but the common theme is that both are beautifully shot and incredibly motivating. Although I'm yet to take part in one of the monthly challenges, their inspiring words and strength keep me coming back to my mat on a daily basis.

And finally, a few thoughts
  • Even if you only have five minutes to spare, make time to practice every day. A few sun salutations or some quiet stretching will be sufficient to help make yoga a core part of your daily life 
  • Don't worry about how the pose looks. Yes, we all want to be able to perfect a headstand or fall into a split with ease, but yoga is about the journey. Wherever your body is is exactly where it needs to be, and forcing yourself into painful postures will only do damage in the long run. Be patient, and you'll be rewarded with a lifetime of learning 
  • Lose the distractions. Wherever possible, practice your yoga in a calm, quiet environment, take the time to be peaceful and turn your focus inwards. It's amazing how restorative even ten minutes of mindful practice can be
If you're thinking about starting a regular yoga practice, I hope this has encouraged you. Yoga brings with it so many wonderful benefits, both inside and out, and when you've established the habit, it feels like something that will be with you for life. I'd love to hear about any tips you have, or about your experience with yoga!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Life | Resolutions

A new year is upon us, and it's time for resolutions, commitments, banishing our bad habits and nurturing fresh ones. Last year saw me stressing out about what I did here, how I did it, who it appealed to, and what it looked like. I lost the joy of blogging, and felt like everything I'd worked for had disappeared, while at the same time, I longed to get back into the groove of regular writing. That brought me to thinking about this year's resolutions, which essentially all boil down to this one simple statement:

STOP STRIVING FOR ANYTHING MORE THAN GOOD.

That might sound a little dull, a little unambitious, but bear with me. One of my favourite sayings is 'aim low and you'll never be disappointed.' I say it in jest about so many things, but I have never really believed it was something to live my life by. What bubbles up instead is a desire for everything to be perfect, and when it isn't, stress quickly steps in. I haven't been able to summon the will to blog for so long because the idea of posting without a picture just seemed pointless because it didn't look like all the myriad wonderful blogs out there, while all the while knowing I wanted to write: how crazy is that?

So, whilst I want to read more this year, develop my yoga practice and finally get upside down, the cornerstone of this will be a desire to just accept what's around me, and be content with what I am, however that looks.

What are your resolutions for 2015?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Life | A New Approch

*Once again, blows dust off blog*

Right, I'm not going to have yet another re-hash of why I continue to take such frequent and extended absences from writing here, but I think I may have cracked it and in so doing, I think I've found my way back to wanting to blog! In summary:
  • Writing about 'stuff' was bothering me. If I'm not comfortable spending half my salary on makeup, skincare and clothes just to fulfill the urge for newness, particularly when half that stuff is used once and then shelved, I sure as heck shouldn't be peddling it on here
  • In buying all the things, I found that I appreciated very little. Remember emptying your piggy bank when you were a child and realising you had enough money to buy a much-longed for toy? Remember the satisfaction of actually buying it? With unchecked purchasing comes the feeling that it's all disposable and unimportant. I wanted to recapture that 'I earned this' feeling, even if 'earning it' translates as simply using up a product before replacing it (revolutionary, non?)
  • In my pursuit of the best products, I never blogged about the things that I didn't like or that I wouldn't repurchase, but I now realise that's the only thing that really takes this forward. This blog may now be a very slow ascent to the summit of product perfection, but in making this change, it will be a genuine and real time account of what worked and what didn't
  • I stopped enjoying blogging because it felt like a treadmill to keep up with the latest thing. The only thing I'm concerned about now is writing about what I want to write about, and I hope you enjoy that shift
So, posts will start to pop up over the next few weeks, without the pressure of a schedule or a commitment to cover the latest release. Just me, my laptop and the stuff I put on my face.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Style | Slogans

*Taps on the screen and waves sheepishly* Is anyone still there?

Synopsis of life of late: work has been insane, and I have invested far too much of myself and my sanity in it at the expense of almost everything else. I say 'almost' as I have successfully managed to cultivate a Wahaca habit and completed a wardrobe overhaul to the tune of seven bags to the charity shop. *Smug satisfaction at decluttered living coupled with terror at discovering that I had retained a Lily Allen-era prom dress* #horror

Speaking of being so five minutes ago on the fashion front, I have returned to my most-beloved teenage trend: slogan t-shirts. After spotting a picture on ASOS's instagram some months ago which made me gasp aloud on the commute (shame), I found myself hauling all the tees that I'd seen on fashion blogs about a hundred years ago: FELINE MEOW, More Issues Than Vogue (thanks, Laura) and the daddy of them all, the double Cs Glen Coco affair. 

Mature, non?


I could insert a vague promise about blogging more, blah blah, but that doesn't make for good content. You all know I've been wrestling with the need to find my inspiration for my blog for ages, so perhaps the next few months ought to be a bit of a marriage guidance exercise. You know, spend more time together, rediscover the reasons you first fell in love, and try things that push your boundaries (I'm thinking maybe vlogging over role play, but you get the picture!)

Image (left): Pinterest
Image (right): ebay

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Life | Pink Sky

If I was starting to get the spring feeling in my last post, it has well and truly taken over this week. Stephen and I spent a long weekend in his home town of Sheffield, and we decided to spend Saturday in Whitby on the north Yorkshire coast. Just us, two dogs, and two enormous portions of fish and chips from the delicious Magpie Cafe. After a bracing walk, we dropped down to the beach just as the tide was starting to go out, and we had a rather eventful time: I misjudged the tide and found myself with ankle boots full of sea water, and he jumped up on some rocks, which turned out to be a mound of clay. We like to think of ourselves as tough northerners, but by the time our walk was over and we were wet through and caked in mud, it rather appeared that London has rubbed off on us a little too much!

On our walk back towards the town, we turned back to be greeted by the most beautiful sunset, which intensified with every passing minute. Utterly stunning.


We returned to London on Monday, and I was reminded why I love my street so much: who needs a trip to Japan when I have five cherry blossom trees (plus a magnolia) in full bloom. There are few things more beautiful to me than the soft pink hue of this fleeting blossom, so I'm making sure to keep my weekend clear so I can spend time reading my book and gazing out of the window, before they disappear altogether. Next week, I'll make sure to have my camera with me at all times, as last year, I was caught in a confetti-like swirl as the spent petals descended from the trees in the breeze. It was one of the most magical walks I've ever had.


While I adore pink, it seldom finds its way into my wardrobe, but I have to admit, this rosy haze has me feeling more than a little inspired.

Clockwise from l-r: Jonathan Simkhai top, £325; Linda Farrow sunglasses, £350; Lanvin silk top, £740; Elizabeth and James bag, £445; Nina Ricci skirt, £1000; Thakoon shorts, £430. All from www.net-a-porter.com

Oh, I should add that it pains me to always include such expensive clothing in my edits, but net-a-porter is, without question, the best site for images of clothing rather than models in clothing. I love my edits to be simple, which means that I'm constrained by what's available online. I promise that I will try and find another way to do this (maybe Polyvore?) to showcase some cheaper alternatives. I will try Zara next time, although their occasional grey backgrounds jar with my desire for a pure white background! Serious OCD alert.

Hope you're all having a wonderful week!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Favourites | February


It's the first of March and I'm starting to get that spring feeling, and it goes a little something like this:
  1. Commuting in daylight feels novel and exciting
  2. However much black you've worn over the past few months, you feel an almost irresistible pull towards pastels
  3. You have been shocked at how pale your legs are (reaches for fake tan)
  4. You've got the urge for a new routine
I'm definitely feeling the latter point strongly, and the next few months is going to be focused on shaking things up, starting with the blog. If spring is a time for light and new life, so it should be here. So, without further ado, let's get started on my first monthly favourites!

Nars Orgasm Illuminator
£22.50 at Nars counters

As much as I love a pretty cheek highlight on others, I've never found quite the right product for my pale skin. I bought this Nars tube last summer after I found myself powerless to resist the pretty rose gold sheen it imparted as I swatched it in Selfridges beauty hall (why is it that everything in there is irresistable?). Sadly, when I applied it over my blusher the next day, I found it lifted too much of the colour, and this tube was quickly relegated to the 'maybe I'll use this one day' cupboard. Following a recent stash-shopping extravaganza, I've been pairing this with Sleek's Flushed blush, and it looks dreamy. It's such a subtle effect that instantly brightens my face, making it perfect for the office.

3LAB Perfect BB SPF 40
£72 at www.net-a-porter.com and Harvey Nichols

The beauty blogging community is divided on BB creams, with many of the view that they're just glorified tinted moisturisers. As someone who will reach for a lighter base over foundation 99% of the time, I have found my nirvana in 3LAB Perfect BB, and in my opinion, the name is no exaggeration! The coverage is light, even and absolutely flawless. The masking-effect of foundation is not really something I enjoy for day time: I want to see my skin underneath and for my base to just look like really great skin. I've found myself reaching for this everyday for work, and I feel like it transforms my face immediately, evening out the tone whilst keeping a sense of the skin underneath. For the office, I will still lightly contour my cheekbones, but the difference between this product and foundation is that I would happily wear this without any additional makeup, whereas I would look ridiculous with a blanked-out foundation face. The only draw back is the price, but initial outlay aside, this tube has lasted over a year as you need such a tiny amount. Having spent the past few weeks working through a large pile of samples to see if I can find a dupe, I've found nothing that comes close. It's looking like I'll be repurchasing when this tube finally runs out!

Dybrow by Eyelure
£7.50 at Boots and Superdrug

The only thing that irks me about this product is the lack of an 'e' in Dybrow. Dye has an 'e', eye ends in 'e', but I'm being pedantic as this product is amazing. I was into a great routine of dyeing my brows a few years ago and then for some reason, I stopped. I was then paying somebody to dye my eyebrows, which is truly the most ridiculous thing to spend your money on. From opening the box to brushing out your finished brows, this takes all of ten minutes, and although the prospect of a Scouse Brows error looms large on your list of anxieties, taking it slowly and wiping the dye off every couple of minutes to check the tone removes the risk of them getting too dark. I use brown which is sufficiently ashy to suit most complexions, and can of course be left on longer for a darker shade. 

Lasting Perfection Ultimate Wear Concealer by Collection
£4.19 at Superdrug

I first heard about this product in one of Tanya Burr's tutorials, and if Tanya says she loves it, it's pretty certain I'll buy it. Even with her seal of approval, I am absolutely astounded by the quality of this concealer: it beats absolutely everything I've tried, well, ever. Prior to buying this, I had been using a combination of high end corrector and concealer that had worked well for years, but had begun to exaggerate those fine lines around the eyes that come from 31 years of life. My assumption had been that the Collection concealer would be better for younger skin, but boy, was I proved wrong: it never creases, lasts all day (I haven't worn it for the 16 hours it promises but I don't need to touch up at all) and absolutely annihilates dark circles. There's a tiny bit of luminosity in there, meaning it's great for under eyes, and the overall effect is one of being exceptionally well rested. The doe foot applicator is ideal for under eye use, and I always finish with a bit of Rimmel loose powder. In my makeup-obsessed life, I've always found high end concealers to be much better than their drugstore counterparts, but this one bucks the trend and beats everything I've tried hands down. 

The only downside to this product is the quality of the ink on the tube which always rubs off over the first few weeks of use. I've taken to scrubbing the tubes as soon as I buy them so I don't end up dotting myself with ink smudges! Needless to say, I bulk buy this when it's on three for two: I know it's cheap to start with, but it's even better when it's cheaper!

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters
£6.99 at Boots and Superdrug

I should start this section by saying that I have never been a lipstick wearer. My Mum, by contrast, is a lipstick fiend, operating something akin to her own Estee Lauder counter at home, and could never understand why she didn't pass on that particular gene. I have always felt that lipsticks wear me, and have instead gravitated towards peachy pink glosses and balms: boring. All of that changed when another Tanya Burr tutorial led me to Revlon's Lip Butters, and Pink Truffle in particular. It was, of course, sold out for several weeks before I managed to get my hands on it, but when I did, it was love. These butters seem to sink into the lips, staining them ever so slightly and giving great longevity of wear, but are just as moisturising as a balm. As many other reviewers have said, their texture is somewhere between a lipstick and a lip balm, but the colour pay off is so much more than a balm could ever impart. I asked Mum to choose a few shades for me at Christmas as she bought Berry Smoothie and Wild Watermelon, both of which I adore. She followed these with Cotton Candy, Sweet Tart, Candy Apple and Peach Parfait, the latter being my favourite of the whole collection. I now have ten shades and plan to swatch them all for a full review soon. If you want to add a bit of colour to your lips but hate that heavy lipstick feeling, these are definitely for you. They're nearly always on three for two at Boots and Superdrug, and who doesn't love a freebie?

Beauty Blender sponge
£16, available online

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet, but whether you're a foundation or a tinted moisturiser/BB kinda gal, this is a brilliant bit of kit. This tear-shaped sponge should be used damp, and I find that I get the best results from putting a pump of base product onto the back of my hand and then dabbing/bouncing the sponge over my face. It gives skin an almost airbrushed finish, and the narrow end of the sponge is absolutely perfect for applying concealer. The fact that it's used damp means I give it a good wash every morning, which makes me feel much happier than using a brush that is cleaned only weekly. I haven't tried the Real Techniques version which is much cheaper, so perhaps I'll pick one of those up soon and do a comparison post. This definitely isn't an essential, but if like any other beauty obsessive, you find yourself day-dreaming about makeup brushes, this is certainly worth a look.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my first monthly favourites! I'd love to hear whether you'd like to see more of this kind of post, and even if you might like a favourites video at some point soon...!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: Edward James salon


There are relatively few universal truths, but I think we can probably all agree with the following:

  • Triangular sandwiches taste better than square ones
  • Putting kittens in the oven doesn't make them biscuits
  • It is impossible not to feel better after some good quality pampering/grooming

While I tend not to dabble in the baking of felines, at-home or salon maintenance is a non-negotiable for me, particularly when I'm busy. When work is hectic, life can feel as though it passes by in a haze of meetings and deadlines, punctuated by the occasional nap in front of Gardener's World or some other televisual tamazepam. Although taking time out can often seem like too great a luxury, treating yourself to a salon visit almost forces you to relax: there's nothing to do, nothing to think about. You can just be.

This was just the experience I had when I visited Edward James London salon in Clapham last week. After an immensely busy few weeks, and on the night before a big presentation, I stepped off a perishingly cold Northcote Road and into the warm, Aveda-scented glow of this small yet bustling salon. As soon as I'd made myself comfortable, restorative glass of prosecco in hand, I was greeted by Craig, the salon manager, who was to provide one of the bounciest blow dries I'd had for a long time. After a chat about my hair and the products I normally use, he gave me some excellent insights into my hair type that have been entirely absent from previous consultations. We agreed that a blow dry with some movement was the order of the day, and then I settled back to enjoy a wonderful head, shoulder and neck aromatherapy massage which is included with all treatments.

The stresses of the day already dispensed with, I was then seated in an incredible massage chair while my hair was washed and treatment applied. The chair creates the feeling of floating on a gently undulating sea - chairs which just enable you to have your feet up are now very much yesterday's news in my book! It was then back to Craig, via a chat with Edward, the salon's charming owner. I'd noticed Edward chatting to all of the salon's 'guests' (everyone in the salon uses this over the slightly seemy 'clients'!) and it all felt like we were at a rather laid back party; the ever-present host ensuring that we were all enjoying our experiences. I felt so welcome, something which I'd never really thought about when visiting a salon, but Edward's easy manner creates the most wonderful, friendly atmosphere, something that is extremely rare in salons of this standard. It feels very much part of the community, and it is easy to see why the salon recently won a Best New Business award. Being there really made me want to move to Clapham!

Finally, it was back to Craig to impart as much gloss and bounce into my hair as I've seen in a very long time whilst we swapped stories of being northerners in London, and I was subject to yet more relaxation in the form of a hand massage. If I wasn't sufficiently fond of him for giving me great hair, I will love him forever for telling me that he liked this hat!

After saying my goodbyes, I stepped back into the cold feeling altogether restored, and after looking at the time, I was shocked to see that little more than an hour had passed. It reminded me that it really doesn't take long to bring some balance back to your life, and when it leaves you coiffed and confident, so much the better.

Edward James London is at 18 Northcote Road, Clapham. Blow dries start from £28.

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