Outfit: It's A Mystery

31.7.13

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Dress: Dorothy Perkins
Clutch Bag: Catherine Aitken*
Belt: ASOS
Locket: Vintage
Shoes: H&M
Earrings: Ginger Pickle

Yesterday I had a fairly informal meeting through in Glasgow about a volunteership (not a real word?) I'm going to be starting in a couple of weeks, so I wanted an outfit that was kind of smart but not too over the top. I went for my number one favourite dress ever; this has been going strong for about 3 or 4 years now. It doesn't look particularly special (especially in these photos, bright sunlight always seems to play havoc with my outfit photos!) but it's flattering, versatile, comfy and I just love it. This is, without a doubt, the most worn item of clothing in my wardrobe and has seen me through hundreds of nights out, job interviews, work days, dinners out, and countless other occasions. It's a bit worse for wear now - there's a couple of tiny holes and it's a good few inches shorter than it started out as - so I'm always sifting through Ebay to see if I can find a replacement someone's had hidden away at the back of their wardrobe for years.

As the dress is pretty much as plain as they come, it lets me focus my attention on throwing on a few different accessories. I was recently sent this Toyah Clutch Bag, and I can just tell this will be getting used all the time during autumn and winter. It's part of the punk-inspired Riot Collection from Catherine Aitken and I love that all the bags are named after famous ladies of rock, plus there's lots of tartan, leather and Harris tweed thrown in. What's not to love? I always like coming across local businesses and shops, so the fact that Catherine Aitken is Edinburgh-based made me love them even more! Have a wee look over on Facebook or Twitter if you fancy keeping up to date. Also, speaking of Toyah, please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers Barmy Aunt Boomerang?!

To pick up the red in the tartan of the clutch bag, I went for my glittery wooden heart earrings by Kate Rowland from Ginger Pickle. I ordered a few things from Ginger Pickle recently, and couldn't resist adding these to my basket as they were super sparkly and only a fiver. I often seem to forget to put in earrings these days, but whenever I do remember and I catch a glimpse of these ones it puts a little smile on my face. The necklace is something I got a couple of weekends ago when I was out antiques shopping with my parents. It's not an antique though, just vintage costume jewellery, but I love it and was only about £5 too. The vaguely tigers eye-esque stone is gorgeous, but the thing I really love about it is the fact it's a locket. The back and inside have lovely little embossed bits too. Now all I need is something to put inside it! Any suggestions?

Gillian x

Mixtape: July

29.7.13


July Mixtape · via Spotify

Oh July, what a tale of two halves you've been. Heatwaves and never-ending sunshine followed by thunderstorms and bucketing rain. Lazy summer afternoons followed by frantic trips to the library. Happy songs followed by sad. It totally makes sense that the sort of music you listen to is directly affected by your mood and the weather and what you've been doing, but it still seems a bit crazy to me that there can be such a noticeable difference in your listening habits. Half these songs are summery and upbeat, and the other half are a bit more melancholy.

This month I've mostly been listening to a mix of old favourites, with a couple of newer ones thrown in for good measure. Or, new to me anyway. I heard Esmerelda by Ben Howard on an advert for a programme on the BBC a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it, but I forgot the name of the programme and couldn't remember any of the lyrics so had to do a bit of late night internet sleuthing to track it down. I've listened to some Ben Howard songs before and really liked them, so not sure why I haven't listened to more - will definitely need to sort this out! Another Love by Tom Odell is another one which I heard recently on TV somewhere and liked. I have to admit, I have no idea who Tom Odell is - apparently there was some NME-related drama recently? - but the song's good. Although, the way he pronounces "anova lohve" annoys me way more than it should. Argh!

Editors · Munich
Tom Odell · Another Love
Vampire Weekend · Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Blondie · Maria
Blink 182 · What's My Age Again
Foo Fighters · Arlandria
Bright Eyes · Laura Laurent
Ben Howard · Esmerelda
Roxy Music · Dance Away
Elvis Presley · Always on My Mind
Listen to "July" here.

What have you been listening to this month?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #83

28.7.13

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1.Roses 2.Old Aberdeen 3.BBQ beef fillet 4.Throwback Thursday 5.Sunset 6.Fly relaxing in the beer garden 7.Sleepy hedgehog in the garden

I was just about to get all settled down for a much needed night off in front of the TV when I realised I hadn't written my Sunday Summary post yet, oops! I ended up getting the train back down to Edinburgh this afternoon but missed the train I was originally going to get, so didn't end up getting back to the flat until about half 6. I've got so much I need to be doing - washing, dishes, tidying, unpacking, grocery order, the list goes on - but I've pretty much just sat in a heap on the sofa since I got back. I feel so exhausted today and I don't even know why, hopefully an early night with a film or two in bed will sort me out, then it's back to dissertation writing tomorrow. I'm just about finished the first chapter, which is definitely the longest one, so hopefully I'll be able to get the majority of the other two finished this week. Then I can spend the following week doing editing, and it's due in the week after that. A couple extra weeks to get it all done would be nice but ach well, will just have to power through!

As I've been at home, I haven't really got much to report as I've spent the whole time working on my dissertation or entertaining the puppy. Such a wee babe, already plotting when I'll next have time to go back and visit her again! She's now up to date with all her injections so can go out for walks. She obviously thinks she's a grown up dog in a small dog's body as she always chases around after our other dog, Moss, who is 2 and a bit now, and is an absolute giant compared to Fly. In fact, I'm pretty sure he sleeps more than she does, no idea where she gets her energy from!

Sadly I didn't get the job I went for an interview for a few weeks ago, but never mind - it was definitely wishful thinking that I might get the very first graduate job I applied for! But I've got a meeting through in Glasgow on Tuesday about starting a internship/volunteer type thaaang for the kind of job I'd love to eventually go into, so I'm looking forward to that. Although, commuting to Glasgow early in the mornings is not going to be fun, I am not a morning person at all!

What have you been doing this week?

Gillian x

Barbecue Season

26.7.13

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1.Wine 2."Dining table" 3.Mackrel with garlic and chilli ciabatta 4.Mackerel fillets 5.BBQ King at work, HA 6.Cajun sea bass, homemade guacamole and grilled vegetables 7.Spicy chicken wings and salad 8.Blue skies 9.Rib-eye beef, barbecues potatoes and vegetables

I've already made it known that I'm not summer's number one fan. I can't deal with the heat, I have no sunshine-appropriate clothes and insects thinking they're allowed to take up residence in my room are the WORST. But there's one thing I do love about summer: al fresco eating and drinking. Sadly I don't have a garden at my flat, so whenever I'm at home and the sun is shining I like to take advantage of all the wine and barbecue food available. I'm not a food snob by any means - I'll scoff beans on toast with the rest of them - but you won't catch a soggy burger or burnt sausage anywhere near the barbecue in this household. Whenver I see people in the park with those tiny disposable barbecues it makes me want to cry a little bit inside: if you're going to barbecue, you might as well do it properly, eh? We're having yet another barbecue for tea tonight, so I thought I'd finally get round to sharing some pictures of one we had during last week's heatwave.

First, you've got to start off with a cold drink to sustain you whilst you're waiting for your food. A nice wee Kopparberg or glass of fizzy wine always goes down a treat whilst sitting in the garden, or rosé wine is always a failsafe barbecue favourite. My mum's barbecue wine of choice at the moment is this Chilean Shiraz Cabernet Rosé, which is only a fiver from Asda at the moment. I can't say I know a huge deal about wine, but a chilled glass or four of this one certainly seem to go down well! Whilst mum and I are relaxing with our wine in hand, it's always left to my dad, the self-proclaimed "Barbecue King", to get the coals fired up. Gas barbecues certainly get the job of cooking the food done, but you don't really get much of a smokey barbecue flavour, so father dearest always recommends using a charcoal-fired barbecue with some Heat Beads briquettes. Again, I haven't got much of a clue, but apparently they're easy to light and burn well. As for the actual barbecue, for as long as I can remember we've had Weber barbecues. At the moment, we have three - yes, three, the BBQ King doesn't do things by halves...! There's a Smokey Joe which is reserved for camping holidays, a Smokey Mountain Cooker for, erm, smoking stuff, and a Performer Deluxe which is the main barbecue that gets used most often. It has some kind of fancy gas ignition to make lighting it quicker and easier, but it still uses charcoal for that barbecuey flavour.

Now, on to the best bit: the food. Instead of trying to get everything ready at the same time, we always just do lots of mini-courses and have plenty salady things to pick at inbetween. We usually start off with some homemade garlic and chilli ciabatta, and this time it was topped with a little bit of smoked mackerel. Other favourite toppings include smoked herring, barbecued langoustines or some cold salami/meats etc. Another fish course usually comes next, and this time we had some cajun sea bass served with some homemade guacamole and a selection of grilled vegetables. My favourites are sweet potatoes and courgettes, but carrots, peppers, chillies and mushrooms also work really well. To have along with the barbecued stuff, we usually always have some green leafy salad and potato salad, and depending if my mum can be bothered making any more stuff, some carrot and peanut salad or come cucumber and mint raita. It's always a "help yourself" kind of deal, so you can just pick and choose whichever bits you fancy.

There are always some potatoes on the barbecue as well, and these usually end up being ready around the same time as the meaty courses. I think just about the only thing in this whole barbecue that's not homemade (not by me, I hasten to add - far too busy drinking wine ;) !) are the chicken wings. These are usually bought and then extra spices are added to them. If there are no chicken wings on the go, there's usually chicken breast strips marinated in a variety of sauces - Thai red curry, teriyaki, silken chicken and so on. A barbecue wouldn't be complete with a nice big slab of beef (sorry vegetarians!), and on this occasion we had some rib-eye beef marinated in fajita spices. This went well with the guac from earlier and some more grilled vegetables. I believe tonight's barbecue is going to feature a piece of venison fillet, and earlier in the week we had a barbecued fillet of beef marinated in Thai spices and served in homemade pitta breads with a "Crying Tiger" sauce. When I was younger we always used to finish off a barbecue with bananas stuffed with Mars Bars, wrapped in foil and baked in the coals until nice and gooey, but these days dessert is usually just some Barra Berries strawberries and yet more wine!

As much as I love a good burger and fries now and again, when it comes to barbecues I'm definitely a convert to the "gourmet" (lol) way. What are your favourite barbecue foods?

Gillian x

Watching Lately #1

24.7.13

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I seem to spend most of my life watching films or TV, reading books, listening to music - all that sort of thing - so I thought I'd start doing some posts on what I've been devouring lately. Think of them as mini-reviews, or an introduction to new things, or maybe simply as an indication of how much time I really spend lounging about in bed every week. These Watching Lately/Reading Lately/Listening To Lately etc. posts won't be a regular weekly/monthly thing, but I'll just post them as and when I've got a few things saved up to talk about. So anyway, for the first installment I thought I'd start by talking about a few Netflix Original Series. Some of these I watched quite a few months ago, but I've just started on the latest installment and it has reminded me how much I've enjoyed watching them all.

Orange is the New Black
Taylor Schilling stars as Piper Chapman, a seemingly average, middle-class woman in her early thirties who has recently ended up in prison as a result of a long-forgotten relationship with a drug dealer in her college days. The 13-episode long series follows Piper as she tries to adjust to life behind bars, where she has to throw her usual suburban lifestyle straight out the window. Although focused mainly on Piper, I particularly enjoy how each episode also delves into the back-story of one of the other inmates who Piper has made friends or enemies with (or sometimes both) along the way. Orange is the New Black was created by Jenji Kohan, who also created Weeds, and if you enjoyed Weeds I'm sure you'll also enjoy this. Both shows have a similar feel; they're not quite what I'd describe as light-hearted, but they take a bit of a comic look at serious subjects and have their emotional moments too. Both feature seemingly ordinary women caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and all the characters are so well-written and likeable that it's easy to forget that they are - quite literally - a bunch of criminals.

House of Cards
Originally I was going to give House of Cards a miss because, well politics *yawn*, but my flatmate said it was good, so I decided to start watching. After the first two or three episodes, I wasn't really sold. It was pretty slow-moving, nothing had really happened and although it was quite interesting it wasn't what I would call "gripping". But I kept going, and by episode five or six I was absolutely hooked (it doesn't help that Netflix automatically starts playing a new episode as soon as you finish the previous one, cheeky). Kevin Spacey plays Francis Underwood, the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, who is hell-bent on becoming the most powerful man in American politics. With his ruthless ambitions hidden behind his old-fashioned Southern charm, he manipulates the right people and gets rid of the wrong ones in an attempt to cultivate a spot for himself as the President. Once the series gets going, this programme is intense - not in an action-packed/violent/thriller sort of way, but you're constantly on the edge of your seat as you just know something big is about to happen. Kevin Spacey is brilliant in this, such a menacing but strangely likeable character. I also really liked the way this series was shot, everything seemed dark and moody and really added to the whole atmosphere. Definitely worth a watch if you're into intelligent and thrilling dramas.

Hemlock Grove
When I first spotted the adverts for Hemlock Grove on Netflix I knew instantly that it would be right up my street. I've been a huge fan of all things spooky and supernatural since the days of T*Witches and Vlad the Drac, so anything along those lines is probably going to be just my thing (apart from Twilight, boke). Hemlock Grove is a bit like True Blood but even more ridiculous (in a good way), if that's even possible. Usually stories like this are fairly predictable, but this one does a good job of keeping you guessing about a lot of things, even if it does have the classic vampire (Roman Godfrey, Bill Skarsgård), werewolf (Peter Rumancek, Landon Liboiron), girl (Letha Godfrey, Penelope Mitchell) thing going on. The series begins with a young girl being brutally murdered, and in the attempt to catch her killer it becomes evident that more or less everyone in the town is hiding a secret of their own. It's not the best TV show I've ever watched, but I liked it's weirdness, it's creepiness and it's over-dramaticness. Some of the acting was a little bit questionable, but the storyline was good and it had lots of little subtle points that don't usually make it into shows in the "high school supernatural" genre.

Arrested Development
And finally, I couldn't write this post without mentioning Arrested Development, even though it's not technically an "original series". I was SO excited when I first heard Netflix were going to be doing a fourth season of this cult show, the original three series were hilarious in a way that was both really subtle and completely obvious at the same time. After what seemed like years of waiting, the new series finally arrived in May and I spent a couple of days watching the whole thing. I loved that all the original cast were still there (with a few excellent guest appearances too) and there were lots of recurring jokes from the original episodes. One thing I didn't like so much was the way the series was set out, with each episode following a different one of the main characters. It was definitely interesting to see how different events and such interlinked, but I think I preferred it when all the characters were together and each episode was a mish-mash of all the idiotic exploits of the whole family. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed this series and, as much as I loved good old Tobias, I think Gob was definitely my favourite character this time round. If you haven't watched Arrested Development before (all four series are available on Netflix), start from the very beginning and you won't be disappointed!

Have you watched any of the Netflix Original Series?

Gillian x

P.S. Not sponsored by Netflix, I just don't have much of a social life. ;)

Sunday Summary #82

21.7.13

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1.Fly 2.Clover 3.Dissertation 4.Hello puppy 5.Sunny Aberdeen 6.Prosecco in the garden 7.Fly again 8.Blogging helper 9.Tiny little face ♥

This seems to be another rather Fly-heavy post today, apologies if you don't like puppies. But then again, if you don't like puppies I'm not sure if we can be friends any more. Look at her cheeky little faaaccceee!! I couldn't resist staying away for too long, so have been at home this week enjoying barbecues in the sunshine, reading books whilst lounging on the grass, and attempting to cuddle the puppy - much to my dismay she hates getting cuddled for more than about 5 seconds, such a squirmy little puppy! She does, however, love nibbling my fingers/toes/hair/clothes and stealing my shoes. She'll be 10 weeks old tomorrow so she's still just a teeny tiny baby, but she's got such a cheeky personality and she likes to think she's a grown up dog already.

My visit home isn't just for playing with the puppy though, I do actually have a legitimate reason to be here! I've been at the archives in Aberdeen to do some research for my dissertation and I've got some more to do next week. I still haven't actually started writing it yet though, and it's due in 3 and a half weeks... erm, oops. I have, however, spent quite a bit of this week writing a huge plan for it, so hopefully it won't take too long to start writing it up properly. And when I say "huge" I'm not exaggerating - I seem to have managed to write a 14,000 word plan for a 15,000 word dissertation. There's method to my madness, I promise! Whilst I'm up here, I'm going to take some photos of war memorials for my dissertation too (that's my topic, by the way, as that probably sounds like a weird thing to go and take photos of...) so this afternoon we're all having a little jaunt around the countryside. In between photo-taking, I'm sure we'll have time to stop for lunch and perhaps even peruse a few antiques (read: junk) shops!

I would like to tell you some more interesting things about what I've been doing but I'm afraid that's pretty much all my life consists of at the moment: puppy and dissertation. I'm really looking forward to getting this dissertation finished and out of the way, but I think it'll feel a bit strange once it's done as that'll mean I'm finished with five years of university. I'm pretty sure 90% of my Sunday Summaries have included some kind of moaning about essays/exams/dissertations! I'm quite tempted to do a PhD now, but I don't think I could stick it out for another 3 or 4 years - I'd just like some money and a job where I could come home at the end of the day and don't have lots of homework to catch up on!

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Friday Favourites #3

19.7.13

Hannah Hayes Milk Bubble Tea Mallzee The Little Things Nouvelle Daily Dylan Magazine Image Map
Time for another Friday Favourites post - a little selection of some blogs, articles, shops etc. that I've been enjoying lately. I really need to make the effort to do these posts more often as I love putting them together. As I've been busy and haven't had much time to write my own posts lately, I thought I'd let some other lovely bloggers do the hard work this week...

1. I really love the idea of charity shopping but never seem to find anything particularly good, so I'll definitely be keeping these 11 Tips for Thrifting from Hannah Hayes in mind next time I'm shopping. My favourite tip is definitely "go often" - any excuse to go shopping is good enough for me!

2. Becky recently threw a Breaking Bad birthday party for her boyfriend, and I am so jealous - can I move in please?! I'm such a fangirl for Breaking Bad, cannot wait until the new series (or second half of the last series, why do American shows always do this?) starts next month. Love all the little details Becky put in, like the Mini Heisenbergs, the Los Pollos cups and the fact that everything is bright blue.

3. A website I've being using a lot lately is Mallzee, which is kind of like your own personalised online shopping mall. When you sign up, you fill out a short questionnaire which determines what style of clothes you like best, then Mallzee will give you personalised suggestions for things you might want to buy from lots of great brands like ASOS, Warehouse, New Look and Oasis. Plus when you order things through the website you get "Mallzee Dollars" (kind of like Advantage Card Points) and special discount codes - what's not to love?!

4. Louise's fruit smoothie pops look delicious and perfect for this unbearably hot weather. I bought some ice lolly moulds from IKEA last summer but didn't end up using them, so will definitely have to whip them out soon and make myself some strawberry/raspberry/banana pops. Yum!

5. I love the look of this DIY coffee table makeover on Nouvelle Daily. It sounds so easy to do, and that paint is such a b-e-a-utiful colour. In fact, I have the exact same coffee table (have a look at my living room tour), but sadly it belongs to my landlord and I don't think he'd be too happy if I got a bit DIY-happy on it!

6. And last but not least, is the first issue of Dylan Magazine. A few weeks ago Maddy got in touch and asked if I'd like to contribute to one of the articles, so keep an eye out for a wee bit from me in the beauty section! The magazine is full of lots of different articles - from food and fashion to beauty, film and books. I love the design of it too!

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #81

14.7.13

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1.Cocktails 2.Dinner on sunny George Street 3.Grilled honey chicken, salad and sweet potato fries 4.Irn Bru float 5.Hello

Well, here's a scary thought: my dissertation is due in just over 4 weeks. WHAT!! I was originally planning to give myself a month to get it written up, which means I have to start writing it now. Right now. Oh dear. I'm pretty much finished all my research (apart from some records I need to look at in the Aberdeen City Archives, which is part of the reason I'm at home just now), but I still feel so unprepared. Hopefully once I start to put it down on paper - or screen, if you will - it'll become a lot less of a mission, but the thought of still having the whole thing to do is not a pleasant one. I've definitely enjoyed doing it, but I just wish I had a couple of extra weeks so I didn't have to rush through all the writing and redrafting. But we'll see how it goes, eh?

As I mentioned, I'm at home again at the moment. Or, well, I'm probably on the train somewhere along the East Coast Line as you're reading this, but I'll be home soon. I just couldn't stay away from my little puppy friend for too long! You can fully expect next week's Sunday Summary post to be full to the brim with puppy pictures. The weather has been a bit cooler the last couple of days, but hopefully it'll be nice enough to have a barbecue or two whilst I'm at home. I think I might be in the minority, but I'm definitely preferring this cooler weather. It's just the WORST when it's too hot to sleep, you have no summery clothes and you can't even walk two minutes down the street without working up a sweat. It's been especially bad this week as I haven't been able to lounge around in the flat but have been busy with job interviews, dissertation meetings, library and archive visits and a wee bit of shopping. Eurgh, summer. Bring on autumn, I say!

The one thing I do love about summer, however, is nice evenings where you can sit outside and do lots of eating and drinking. On Wednesday evening I met up with Laura and Iona for some post-work (or, in my case, post-library) food and cocktails at Candy Bar. We had a lovely evening chatting and munching our way through some burgers and fajitas, all washed down with a Sex on the Beach or three. If you're looking for somewhere nice and cheap to go to on George Street (and those words don't usually go together!) then Candy Bar is definitely a good choice. All the food is under a fiver and they usually have special deals on certain cocktails too. We sat outside and enjoyed the evening sunshine on George Street and, in our usual style, we stayed until we were asked to leave. We weren't doing anything naughty, I hasten to add, they were just closing up!

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Today's Makeup #3: Simple Summer

12.7.13

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Oh my actual God it's been hot this week, hasn't it? I really cannot deal with the heat at all, anything above 20 degrees and I feel like I'm going to pass out and melt into a little puddle. It's not so bad when you can just sit around all day doing nothing, but this week seems to have been one of the busiest I've had in a while with lots of to-ing and fro-ing around the city. In an effort to make things a little more comfortable, I've switched my usual makeup routine for something a little lighter. Although, to be honest, this looks almost identical to my usual makeup, but it feels a lot lighter which I suppose is the main thing.

For my base, I've opted for the Liz Earle Signature Foundation in the shade 01 Porcelain. I've had this foundation for quite a while now and I really like it, must get round to doing a full review soon! It has a nice, light finish but manages to cover up redness well which is exactly what I want from a foundation. Even though I usually use my fingers to apply foundation, I find this one works really well when worked in with the Buffing Brush from the Real Techniques Core Collection. Having discovered that I don't really own any bronzers (whaaat? How? Can anyone recommend any for pale skin? Even in this weather I do not tan, sigh), I decided to go for a nice bright pinky flush of blusher instead. This Illamasqua Powder Blusher in the shade Beg is the perfect colour for me - can't go wrong with a matte dusky rose. It is SO unbelievably pigmented, you literally just need to touch your brush to the pan and you'll have enough product to do both cheeks. It can be quite easy to go overboard, especially on pale skin like mine, but once you get used to it, this is such a beauty of a blusher. I finished off my cheeks with a very light dusting of MAC Mineralize Skinfinish in Soft and Gentle. This is another product which I find can easily look overdone, and so I usually reserve it for evening makeup. But if you're careful not to use too much it gives a lovely sunny glow to the face.

Moving on to eyes, I've gone for something a little more natural looking than my usual cat-eyes, and have dug out my barely-used MUA Heaven and Earth Palette. I really haaaate that the shades don't have names, but I've smudged a medium brown shade (top row, second from left) along my lashline with the Pixel Point Eyeliner Brush (which, by the way, is NOT pixel point...) from the Real Techniques Starter Set. Then I've applied a little bit of a light champagne shade (top row, fourth from left) to the lid and blended with a blending brush to soften the line. I've also applied a tiny bit of the brown shade on my bottom lid, and a dot of the champagne colour on the inner corner of my eye. To make my eyes look brighter and more wide-awake, I've used the Rimmel Scandal Eyes Kohl Liner in Nude along my waterline.

For my lips, I've used a recent addition to my makeup bag, Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick in the shade 15 Rouge Podium. I reviewed the shade Rose Millesime shade a few weeks ago and I love this new shade just as much. It's a lovely bright red which is easy to wear during the day or can be applied with a heavier hand for an evening look. Here, I've applied lots of lip balm then topped with a very light slick of lipstick to give a decent amount of colour without looking too done up. Finally, I spritzed my whole face with a little bit of the Avene Thermal Water Spray. This is probably a bit of a gimmick to be honest (and always reminds me of this haaa), and I don't use it for any skincare properties, but it's nice to use after you've finished doing your makeup - especially if you've used powdery products - to just soften everything. It's great to use in this hot weather to cool down your face during the day too, so is great to take out and about for a quick freshen up.

Gillian x

Edinburgh City Guide #2: Things To Do

9.7.13

No matter what your interests, I can pretty much guarantee Edinburgh will have something to keep you entertained. For a fairly small city, there's a lot going on - museums, attractions, theatres, shops (a separate guide coming soon!), and plenty of free sights to see too. Remember to have a read of my City Guides label for previous posts on other Edinburgh topics.

There are plenty of different museums in Edinburgh, but by far the biggest and best is the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. The old part of the building has recently completed a huge refurbishment so is looking all shiny and lovely, with lots of different galleries and displays about natural history, science, world cultures, inventions, art and design and lots more, and the best part is it's all completely free. There are interactive exhibits and even a Museum Explorer App if you fancy getting a bit hands on. My favourite part of the museum (perhaps I'm a little biased as a Scottish History graduate) is the more modern part which houses the Scottish collections, taking you all the way from "Early People" on the bottom floor to Scotland in the 20th century right at the very top. The section about Victorian mourning and death customs is my favourite, with a huge horse-drawn hearse and the teeny tiny Arthur's Seat coffins, but there are plenty of other less morbid things to look at too! Make sure to go out onto the roof terrace too for great views of the city. Sticking with the slightly gory theme, the Surgeon's Hall Museum is just round the corner and definitely worth a visit if you're interested in surgery, anatomy and medicine, of which Edinburgh's historical reputation is second to none. There are lots of skulls and bones and things floating in jars; very gruesome but also very interesting!

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If you're after something a little more refined, I'd suggest heading over to Charlotte Square in the New Town and visiting the Georgian House. Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, the house is furnished and decorated exactly as a house from the 18th century would have been, with lots of original period pieces from around Scotland. I might be a little bit biased again as I used to work there as a volunteer guide, but it genuinely is a lovely property to have a look round and a great way to learn about the history of Edinburgh's New Town. I can only dream of one day owning such a beautiful Georgian town house! If you've got time, check out Gladstone's Land in the Old Town for a complete contrast. It's a traditional cramped 17th century tenement and feels a world away from the spacious Georgian houses of the New Town. A little bit further down the Royal Mile is Mary King's Close which will take you even further back in history, to a time when Edinburgh was made up of a warren of tiny streets and closes. Having now been built over, Mary King's Close remains perfectly preserved underground and the tour gives you a slightly spooky account of what life was like then. It's fairly historical, but if you're after something a little more theatrical try one of the ghost tours (there are many, most of them meet on the Royal Mile between St Giles and the Tron Kirk). They are varying levels of scary, informative and ridiculous, but getting an after-dark tour of the underground vaults is pretty interesting even if you don't believe in all the Most Haunted stuff!

For something a bit more fun and child-friendly (who am I kidding, SO adult-friendly too), try the Camera Obscura up near the Castle. The Camera Obscura contains several floors of optical illusions - not tricks, obvs - and interactive exhibits to keep you entertained, think magic mirrors, plasma globes, giant holograms and the like. My favourite bit is the Vortex Tunnel; the floor stays still but the walls of the tunnel spin round, tricking your brain into thinking you're moving and it's pretty much impossible to stand up. You'll have to cling to the hand rails for what feels like dear life, even though you're actually standing perfectly still! The main attraction of the Camera Obscura is, obviously, the camera obscura itself, and your entry ticket also gets you in to a show with a brief history of Edinburgh explained using the magical wonders of the original camera obscura equipment, plus you get some great views of the city. Another one for big kids is Our Dynamic Earth down beside Holyrood, which uses lots of interactive exhibits and fancy technology to take you through the past, present and future of the planet's natural history. It's been quite a few years since I was last here, but I remember being very enamoured with the rainforest section.

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If you're here for a wee while, you might want to venture out to North Queensferry on the train to go to Deep Sea World. It's pretty self explanitary, a big aquarium with all kinds of sea life from baby seahorses to half the cast of Finding Nemo to some super cute seals. There are also various reptiles and amphibians, I'm a big fan of the teeeeny little poison arrow frogs! Make sure you take a trip round the "Underwater Safari", which is a moving walkway underneath a huge tank through which you can see loads of different kinds of fish and sea life, including some sharks. Alternatively, you could get the bus from Edinburgh city centre out in the opposite direction to Butterfly and Insect World. There's a giant greenhouse contraption which you can have a stroll through, and it houses lots of different species of butterflies, along with lots of pretty plants and a nice wee pond with some terrapins. It's surprisingly terrifying being dive-bombed by millions (only a slight exaggeration) of butterflies! As you leave the greenhouse, there's also a room at the back with various reptiles and creepy crawlies. Once you've had enough of that, stop by the Dobbies next door as they have a lovely big food hall with farm-shop type produce and lots of homemade breads and cakes and that sort of thing. There is also, of course, the Edinburgh Zoo which is worth a visit if you've got a day to spare. I'm sure it needs no explanation, other than: PANDAS.

One of the things Edinburgh is most famous for is its beautiful views, and the best part is you can enjoy these for free. If you're feeling adventurous you could try climbing Arthur's Seat or the Crags (they're part of an extinct volcano but not too high and easily manageable without walking boots and such), but I'd suggest going to Calton Hill instead. It's just a little bit along from the end of Princes Street, and is much less of a climb but you still end up nice and high and with great views. After all, as Robert Louis Stevenson once said, "you can't see the Castle or Arthur's Seat from the Castle or Arthur's Seat". Not only do you get a great view of the iconic landmarks, but there are several monuments to explore on Calton Hill itself. Here you'll find the "Athens of the North"'s unfinished version of the Parthenon, the National Monument of Scotland, plus the likes of the Nelson Monument and the old observatory. After all that touristing, get yourself along to the Cameo Cinema in Tollcross for a big bucket of popcorn and a good film in a gorgeous old fashioned cinema. They show a carefully curated selection of new releases, as well as some foreign and independent films, and on Sunday afternoons there are often double bills of classic favourties.

What are your favourite attractions in Edinburgh?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #80

7.7.13

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1.Sleepy puppy 2.More sleepy puppy 3.Hi Fly 4.Blogging helper 5.Puppy cuddles 6.At Hotel Missoni 7.Breakfast

This seems to be another Sunday Summary post which is mostly filled with puppy pictures. I can't help it, she's just soooo cuuuuutttteeee. She was quite quiet the first couple of days after we took her home, but now she's all cheeky and confident and is always pestering our other dog to play with her even though her entire body is about the same size as his head! She's been really well behaved too and is more or less house trained, which is pretty impressive as she's only 8 weeks old. Well done little Fly! I got the train back down to Edinburgh on Thursday so was sad to say goodbye to my little furry chum. Will definitely have to go home again soon to see her before she grows up too much.

Whilst I was at home I hardly switched my laptop on at all. As much as I love the internet and definitely couldn't live without it, sometimes it's nice to have a little break for a while. This does mean, however, that my inbox is overflowing now and I'm so behind on replying to emails - oops! That was supposed to be yesterday's job but I got distracted and ended up ignoring my emails completely, so I guess it'll be this afternoon's job instead. It's such a nice day today, I feel I should be sitting outside but sadly I don't have a garden and I think I'd probably get a few funny looks if I took my laptop to the Meadows! I'll just have to make-do with a wide open window instead.

I've got a job interview tomorrow so will also be spending this afternoon making sure I'm all prepared for it. The job sounds like it would be perfect for me and I think I'd really enjoy it, so keeping all my fingers crossed that the interview goes well! Then on Tuesday it'll be back to dissertation work, can't believe it's due in less than 6 weeks aarrrgghhhh. Better start writing it soon!

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

A Night In

6.7.13

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As much as I love going out (and I do really love going out), sometimes a night in is just what you need. You can wear your pyjamas, you don't have to spend ages putting on makeup and getting ready, and you don't have to waste money on taxis and expensive drinks. When Money Supermarket got in touch about their "Big Night In" challenge, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I seem to have been really busy lately so instead of inviting my friends round for a wee party or having a girly night in, I decided to have a night in all to myself. So, armed with £50 from the lovely people at Money Supermarket, I started collecting bits and pieces for my perfect night in.

Making little dens with blankets and duvets and various tables and chairs was always a childhood favourite of mine, so last night I transformed the dining room table into a cosy little nest, complete with all the blankets and cushions I could find. I dragged my duvet through from the bedroom to make the floor all squishy and comfy, and adorned my new den with fairy lights. You can never have too many fairy lights in your possession, in my opinion, so these will be beautifying some other part of the living room when not being used for den-making-purposes. It was surprisingly comfy in there once I got all snuggled down, I was tempted to sleep there all night but thought I better not as no doubt I'd wake up with a sore back!

My favourite thing to do on a night in is definitely to watch films. Thanks to Netflix, most nights I usually watch a film or a few episodes of a TV show before bed, but I always end up pausing it loads, getting distracted by Twitter or Facebook, or doing other things whilst I'm watching it. Watching films on a night in always seems like much more of an "event" though (or is that just me?). A couple of uninterrupted hours watching a good film from start to finish - and then probably another one straight after - is just the best. I used to buy loads of DVDs in the days before Netflix, but haven't really bothered lately. As it was a special occasion I decided to repurchase one of my very favourite films, Garden State. I used to have the DVD but lent it to a friend a few years ago and never got it back, RAGE. It's such a good film and the soundtrack is the best. I think the last time I watched this film was the very first night I moved into this flat 4 years ago, before we had TV or internet set up, and I fell asleep watching it on the sofa.

To go with a night in watching films, you will of course need suitable snacks. Popcorn is definitely my favourite movie snack, so I got a big bag of popcorn kernels and made my own. Usually I'm a salted popcorn kind of girl, so I made up one batch of that, and then made a sweet version too with a little bit of sugar and maple syrup. The popcorn boxes are so cute and make eating it much more fun than if it was in a boring bowl. The little boxes are actually deceptively large though, one box would definitely have been enough but as it was a "Big Night In" I managed to eat them both! As for drinks, I opted for a strawberry milkshake made with fresh strawberries, a splash of milk and lots of vanilla ice cream. I topped it off with a big squirt of cream and some paper straws.

As I was having a night in all to myself, I decided to treat myself to a little something for my skin too. It's been really rubbish lately so I thought it deserved a bit of TLC, and I opted for the Trilogy Rosehip Oil. I've been meaning to buy this for ages, and have heard lots of good things about it lately, so I thought it was about time I got in on the action. My skin is feeling super soft today, so hopefully it'll work wonders over the next few weeks.

So, how much did I spend to create my perfect night in?
Garden State DVD · £5.46
Popcorn Boxes · £4.75
Paper Straws · £2.49
Milkshake Ingredients · £7.18
Popcorn Kernels · £2.50
Trilogy Rosehip Oil · £14.85
Fairy Lights · £9.99
TOTAL · £47.22

What's your idea of the perfect night in?

Gillian x

Natura Bissé Bubble Pure Air Facial at Hotel Missoni

5.7.13

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Last photo courtesy of Stripe Communications.

Yesterday evening, after a mad dash back to the flat from the train station and a very quick change of clothes and makeup, I headed along to meet Laura, Lynne, Iona and Kirstie at Hotel Missoni for a look at the latest treatment to arrive at the spa, the Natura Bissé Bubble Pure Air Facial. This is the first time the Bubble pod has been up in Scotland (and, in fact, only the second time it has been in the UK), so I was definitely expecting something special! Natura Bissé are are a brand which are very popular in their home country of Spain, as well as in the USA, but they're less well-known over on these shores. The products we got to try out felt very luxurious and the treatment was really relaxing, so I hope their UK presence continues to grow and become available in more and more spas. The Bubble Pure Air Facial is available at Hotel Missoni until the 7th of July, so if you fancy trying it out you'd better get yourself booked in quick!

At the event, we were treated to mini taster sessions of the treatment which lasted around 10 minutes. Once you enter the pod, which is kind of like an inflatable tent (that's the best way I can think of to describe it!), it's zipped up behind you so the air inside becomes purified. This means that during the treatment you breathe in 99.9% pure filtered air, helping to balance out your skin and leaving you looking refreshed and radiant. The beauty therapist begins by cleansing your skin, then follows by using a range of lotions and potions suited to your skin, including an exfoliating peel and a soothing moisturiser. Even in just 10 minutes I felt really relaxed, so I can imagine the full 60 minute treatment would be even better! The treatment costs £65 for 60 minutes which, although a little out of my usual student budget, seems like a good price for a luxury spa treatment. The products were all great quality and have left my skin feeling lovely and soft and refreshed. My skin has been absolutely terrible for the past month or so and I have no idea why, so hopefully a nice little facial will have done it some good!

Whilst we were there, we also had a tour of the Missoni Spa. It's quite a small spa but it felt really cosy and relaxing, and it would be the perfect place to indulge in a little treat if you were staying at the hotel. As well as Natura Bissé products, the spa also uses Eve Lom and Aromatherapy Associates products and offers a range of different treatments to make you feel relaxed and pampered. As well as the two treatment rooms, there's also a mini nail bar and a room to relax in which has the weirdest looking but comfiest chairs ever! As with the rest of the hotel, the spa has also been decorated to Missoni's high standards, with lots of bright colours and bold patterns. Despite being decorated with bright lime green and fringing everywhere, the spa didn't feel too in-your-face at all but was nice and relaxing without being too clinical-looking like some spas.

At the event we also got to sample some of Missoni's Afternoon Tea. As I hadn't had any dinner, I think I ended up scoffing almost an entire cake stand myself - it was so good! As well as the more traditional things like scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, egg sandwiches (I LOVE a good egg sandwich!) and mini pastries, there were also some slightly different afternoon tea treats like antipasti-style breads with cured ham and olive oil cakes. The menu also changes seasonally, which I think is a really nice touch. I'd never been in to the Missoni Hotel before as, living in Edinburgh, I never really have the need for a hotel room. But I'd never really thought about Missoni as a place to eat and drink, I will definitely be going back for some more afternoon tea and to try out the cocktail menu too.

The Natura Bissé Bubble Pure Air treatment is available until the 7th of July and costs £65 for a 1 hour session.

Do you like the sound of a bubble facial?

Gillian x