Life | Fun with friends

If this scene isn't the perfect way to end a weekend with friends, I don't know what is! These photos were taken after an hour's wandering around Rutland Water with my most favourite people. Now that we're all spread across the UK, our catch ups are a precious thing, and so incredibly restorative. I don't think I've laughed quite so much since the last time we all got together, and it made me realise how important it is to make time for the ones we love.

I'd intended to take plenty of photos to remember our time together by, but I was so lost in the fun that I didn't manage to take a single snap - perhaps the best indicator of a perfect get together with friends!

There was a wedding taking place at this stunning church below: what an amazingly romantic place to get married!

Hope you're all having a fabulous post-festive week! 


The simple things

The greatest truth about blogging is that it's a thing to be done when the mood is right, and as you'll see from the lack of posts in 2015, I've not been especially inspired. I've long battled with the fact that I started this blog to write about beauty (on day one, this site was called The Beauty Hall), but in recent years, I've become less and less enamoured with the image-obsessed world of social media (hence I had a slight re-brand to Beyond the beauty hall) and I yearned to do something different. But finding a new niche away from beauty was trickier than I thought, and that change of name still didn't feel entirely right. I agonised over the decision to edit out all of the beauty content here, or whether to abandon it all and move to a completely new blog for a fresh start. I chose the latter option, hoping for inspiration, but I wrote a grand total of one post. Now I find myself back here, right where it all started.

I'd thought returning to this blog might feel like an admission of failure, but in a way, it makes complete sense for me to be back. The way this blog has changed in the five years since it was created is part of the story, and where I want to go next is informed by everything that's gone before. Leaving and starting afresh just didn't feel quite right, and perhaps the simplest option - to just keep going - was always going to win out in the end. As I said at the start, if the mood takes you, it's probably best to just go with it, and that's exactly what I'm doing.

That same desire for 'newness' that motivated my decision to create a new blog is a cornerstone of beauty blogging. Yet 'new' has a short lifespan in beauty, and the PR machine behind the biggest brands means that there are now mere moments between release and total ubiquity. The latest product, the exclusive pre-release, the innovative new technology, and the sea of bloggers covering every launch, often reviewing products before their release, means that things get old pretty quickly. Those products that are deemed 'holy grail' today will often be ousted in favour of the next big thing tomorrow. Nothing is forever, and that's never been more true than in an industry expected to turnover $265 billion by 2017. 

What I want to pursue here is the idea that 'new' doesn't equal 'better'. I want a site that makes people feel good about what they have and who they are, rather than something that reinforces or creates anxieties and insecurities. What we see on blogs is a tiny, idealised part of people's lives, but it's presented as a glossy and complete world. We see edited photos, the latest products sent for free, expensive wardrobes, and an endless stream of events and parties, and our own lives look less by comparison. We see young woman speak with authority on diet and exercise routines, posting pictures of toned bodies and green smoothies, with little thought about the impact they're having on the attitudes and outlooks of girls for whom instagram isn't just a place to look at pretty things, but the lens through which they view the world: a world that is filtered and manipulated to such an extent that it can no longer be considered real. The message that there will always be something to make you look prettier or younger never stops, and I'd like this site to be a bit of a break from that. 

So at last, I'm finally confident to say that things really will look a little different around here. I will never again stop myself from blogging because I haven't got a photograph to accompany the post; I won't be driven by what's happening in the beauty hall, and will instead just write about the things that I think, like or dislike, and if you enjoy that, I'm very happy. But for the first time ever, I can finally say that this site is for me, and that feels pretty good.


Don't let fear hold you

Sometimes a change of perspective is a good thing. If you can stand on a giant log to get it, even better!
At long last, Beyond the Beauty Hall has had a lick of paint and I've upgraded to a shiny new blog layout. Yep, it's time for a fresh start. If you look to the right (and above, and below), you'll notice that I now have a profile picture and blog photos where my face isn't obscured (*hello!*) as after five years, I'm finally ready to put myself into this site, instead of just hiding behind my keyboard forever. *Deep breath* Here goes...

For a long time, I've struggled to acknowledge that my blog is an achievement and something that I should be proud of. It's been difficult to admit to myself, let alone write it down here, but there has been a reason bigger than just 'bloggers' block' that's diverted me from regular posting in recent years. I've not felt confident to be visible on my blog, despite the fact that my favourite blogs are written by women who are a constant feature in their content, and I've gradually allowed myself to brand my own offering 'not good enough' without addressing the issues that held me back from making a change.

In addition to this, I found myself opting out of the blogging community, refusing to acknowledge that I often felt too nervous to attend launches and events. In the early days of my blog, receiving invitations to events was the most dizzyingly exciting feeling, but as time passed, this was soon overtaken by an altogether less enjoyable feeling. I would arrive at a beautiful venue after work, feeling a little frazzled, look around and find myself thinking, 'I don't belong here.' I was worried that however well I came across from behind my screen, I didn't quite match the 'ideal' blogger image when I showed up in person. I would never say I've lacked confidence, but in this glossy world, I have to confess that I've passed up some great opportunities because I'd decided that I just didn't fit the brief, whatever I imagined that brief might be.

The fabulous Zoe of From 1989 wrote a fantastic post on her experience with social anxiety earlier this year, and so beautifully articulated how I've felt since becoming a blogger. Despite loving the beauty world and always meeting such lovely people through blogging, I would so often find myself preparing for an event and simultaneously running through my mental checklist of why I shouldn't go to whatever soiree I'd been invited to: I looked tired; I would be so much older than everyone else (I'm 32 now, so I was still in my 20s for some of this!); my outfit wasn't right; I won't know anyone; everyone else will know each other. All of a sudden, I'd convinced myself that I'd be much happier if I worked late, or just went home instead. I look back on all the times I let my nerves drive me and I want to shake myself. I'd never focus on the fact that, on all the occasions I convinced myself to go, I had great fun and met lovely people.

In part, my reason for writing this post is because I want to acknowledge how I've felt and as a final step in moving on from it, but it's also because I'm sure I'm not the only person who has felt like this at one point or another. It sounds silly to say, but it's only recently dawned on me that I might not have been the only person at an event to feel a little shy, a little overwhelmed, or maybe even a little out of place. It's taken a long time to realise that I was always 'worthy' of an invitation, and I'm focusing on remembering that if doors are opening or opportunities are presenting themselves, it's often because I have earned them or, of all the mad things, because I'm doing something *good* that people *like*.

If any of this resonates, take a moment and give yourself a pat on the back. It might be a while since you've done that. Feels good, right? Let's go on...

For years, I kept my blog a secret from all but my closest friends, thinking that people would judge me, or think me self-indulgent or vain. So, to recap, I had, in the same thought, decided that there was one group of people who thought I wasn't good enough to sit with them, and another group who would think I thought *I* was too good to sit with them. When it's written down, it makes *no* sense.  Yet of course, whenever I 'confessed' to my dark little secret, people thought it was fantastic and something to be proud of. In hindsight, I felt like I would be judged harshly by everyone, and yet the only person judging me was me.

In my time off from blogging, I've reflected a lot on this and I hope that I'm able to return with a more authentic approach. It's true that comparison is the thief of joy, and instead of ranking myself below everybody else, I'm going to be proud of what I put out there (both in this blog and in life more generally). If I can leave you with one message, it would be to do the same. Life truly is what we make of it, and if you're lucky enough to get what you dream of, be sure to grab it with both hands, never doubting for a second that it's meant for you. You might not get a second swing, so be proud, and go forward with confidence.



At-home Yoga

Yoga at home, or on a fence in the middle of the Peak District: it all works!
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. Cannot. Deal.
  • Bikram classes in general
Add to that the expense and the oft-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.


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!

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.

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.


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!



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


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!


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...!

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