Top 5: Ways to Spend a Night In

30.10.13

the in thing cancer research top 5 ways to spend a night in 4
the in thing cancer research top 5 ways to spend a night in 1
the in thing cancer research top 5 ways to spend a night in 3
the in thing cancer research top 5 ways to spend a night in 5
the in thing cancer research top 5 ways to spend a night in 2
With the nights getting darker and the weather getting colder, right now there's nothing more inviting than a good night in, staying cosy and warm and gossiping with your favourite pals. My favourite thing about autumn is definitely being all snuggled up inside and listening to the wind and rain outside (not so much fun when you actually have to go out in it, though). Throughout November, Cancer Research are running a campaign called The IN Thing to encourage you to have a fun night in to raise money to help fight cancer. There are plenty of IN Thing ideas on the website, with everything from Come Dine With Me dinner parties, to pamper evenings, to a Stars In Their Eyes style karaoke night. This got me thinking about how I'd spend my ideal night in...

1. Comfy and Cosy
One of the most appealing things about a night in is the fact you don't have to make lots of effort getting dressed up. Get your friends to bring their onesies and have a pyjama party, or at the very least make the dress code "woolly jumpers and fluffy socks". Dig out as many blankets and throws as you can find (even better if they're tartan) and make your living room into a cosy den suitable for a evening of lounging. Make sure to light lots of candles and switch on your fairy lights to make things super cosy.

2. Watching Films
It's no secret that I'm an avid film and TV watcher, so it's inevitable these would feature in my night in. You could pick a TV show that you all love and get each of your friends to choose their favourite episode - bonus points for trivia, quotes or themed food and drinks to go with it. Or you could choose a few movies and have a back-to-back filmathon. Choosing films for a night in is a surprisingly fine art; you've got to choose something that everyone will like, something that you've probably seen before (so it doesn't matter if you get distracted by chatting) but not something that you've seen a billion times (a bit boring and no one's going to pay attention). For a night in with friends, it's got to be something fairly lighthearted, funny and easy to watch. If you're stuck for ideas, late-90s Drew Barrymore has got you covered - The Wedding Singer and Never Been Kissed are personal favourites.

3. Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
No autumn night in would be complete without some hot chocolate, would it? I've never actually had one of the Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolates but I keep hearing people talk about them, so I decided to have a go at making my own homemade version. And it's pretty great, even if I do say so myself! For this recipe (makes 2) you'll need:
70g milk or dark chocolate (or swap for drinking chocolate powder)
450ml milk
40g butter
40g light brown sugar
40ml double cream
Generous pinch of rock salt (not table salt!)
Whipped cream/marshmallows/etc to decorate
In a pan over a medium heat, melt the butter and add in the sugar. Stir for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves and loses its gritty texture. Add in the cream and stir well to combine. The sauce should now be a dark golden brown colour and a smooth, pourable consistency. Crush the rock salt (if necessary) into small crystals, and add to the sauce. Turn the heat down low to keep it warm.
Now either grate your chocolate or blitz it in a food processor to get it nice and fine. Heat up the milk (either in a pan or in individual mugs in the microwave) and stir in the chocolate until completely melted.
Add around 3-4 teaspoons of the salted caramel sauce to each mug along with the hot chocolate and stir well. Top each hot chocolate with some whipped cream and marshmallows, then drizzle on some more of the sauce. YUM.

4. Skincare Treats
If you're hanging out in your jammies, you may as well go the whole hog and put on a face mask too. Get each of your friends to bring round a couple of their favourite fancy skin treatments or face masks, which will give everyone a chance to do some swapping and try out a new product for the evening. My favourites at the moment are the Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask and the REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask - both smell divine and leave your skin feeling pretty lovely. If you're feeling adventurous, you could even try making your own face masks from what's in your kitchen cupboards; there are plenty of "recipes" to have a browse through on Pinterest.

5. Being Nostalgic
Now that we're all "grown up", it's pretty rare for all of my friends to be in the same place at the same time. So when we are able to have a night in together, it's always nice to have a little reminisce about the good old days. Get on Facebook and dig out all the embarrassing photos from Freshers Week or your 18th birthday parties (the modern equivalent of flicking through old photo albums?!); this will no doubt descend into tales of all the funny things you've got up to together over the years. You could even turn it into a best pals version of Mr & Mrs and devise some questions to find out who knows each other best.

What's your idea of a great night in? Remember to register on the The In Thing website for a free party pack and information about how to donate to Cancer Research. Instead of spending all your money on a new outfit, taxis, and lots of drinks, get your friends to donate what they'd usually spend on a night out to Cancer Research instead - plus you'll get to have a great night in for free!

Gillian x

Blog Design Tips #4: Aligning, Resizing and Formatting Images for Blogger Posts

28.10.13

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 8

Things just look better when they're nice and neat, right? Blog posts included. Aligning your text and photos is actually pretty easy and requires barely any messing around with HTML. Here's my guide to aligning, resizing and formatting images to make the most of them and ensure your posts look pretty rather than having images and text of different widths all over the place.

Image Hosting
Blogger does allow you to upload images directly just by clicking the little picture icon in the post editor - nice and easy, eh? Well, not really. I'm going to try and persuade you to switch to another image hosting service as it allows for much more customisation and not only makes your images look better, but allows for better SEO too. If you really want to stick with Blogger, I'll explain more about it later in this post, but for now I highly recommend checking out Flickr. Flickr allows you to upload your photos, tag them, organise them, sort them into folders and even share them in groups or communities with similar interests. It also makes sure your images stay sharp and crisp and exactly how you intended them to be viewed. Flickr is free (and they've recently done away with Pro paid accounts and improved the Free service instead) and gives you 1 terabyte of storage (err, I don't really know how much this is but apparently it's about 500,000 photos) and unlimited monthly bandwidth meaning your photos will always be available, even if you have a blog with high traffic. As your photos are hosted elsewhere, if there's ever a problem with your blog, if you want to delete your blog, or you decide to move over to Wordpress, all your photos will still be readily available. Persuaded yet?!

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 1
Resizing and Prepping Photos
Before uploading your photos, it's a good idea to resize them. This reduces the file size, meaning your blog will load much faster. I use Photoshop to do all my photo editing/resizing etc. but there's no need for anything as fancy as this, there are plenty of free alternatives like Picmonkey, Pixlr or GIMP. Choose whatever size you want your photos to be, and in the next section we'll make sure this fits into your template (or if you have a custom blog design you might want to work out the dimensions of your template first). Big images are always a good idea but you still want room for your sidebar etc. so I'd recommend something that's between 600 and 800 pixels wide. I personally use 700px, but most of the blog design orders I've done are set to use 640px as that's the "X-Large" size on Blogger (more about this later). Make sure you resize in proportion to avoid the images becoming stretched or distorted.

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 2
Once your photo has been resized, save it with a meaningful file name. Not only will this help you find it easily if you need it later on, but it's good for SEO. Unlike images uploaded with Blogger, Flickr will retain your original file name so there's no need to add in extra HTML tags - whatever you've named it on your computer will be the same as the phrase that's displayed in search engines. If someone was searching for, say, a Bourjois lipstick review, they'd type in something like "Bourjois Rouge Edition lipstick review" not "DSC0027", obvs. So it's a good idea to name your photo with some key words or phrases that people searching for would be likely to use.

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 3
aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 4
Uploading Photos and Editing Posts
Now, back to Flickr to upload your photos. After you've signed up, logged in and all that, you'll see a link in the top menu bar called "Upload". This stage is fairly self-explanatory - choose your files and wait for them to load. Before clicking the final Upload button, you can edit the photo a bit more by adding a description, extra tags, adding it to a folder (or "set") and so on. I always like to make sure the correct Title is displayed, and then I add my blog link in the Description section in case anyone finds the photo on Flickr and wants to read more - the other options aren't too important. Once it has been uploaded to your photostream, click on it to open the photo information and then click on the arrow in the bottom right to share the link. Click "Grab the HTML/BBCode", make sure "HTML" and "Original" size is selected, then copy the code.

Now, create a new post on Blogger where you want to add the photo to. Just underneath the post title, click the button which says HTML rather than Compose. This allows you to edit the post in HTML mode rather than a rich text editor - I think HTML mode is much better, simpler and not nearly as daunting as it sounds! You'll be met with a blank page, so just paste in the code you copied from Flickr. You'll notice that both the link title and the image alt tags display the original file name, and you can see the size of the photo too. If you want to change the width, just change the width value here (make sure to either work out the proportions or remove the height="---" so the image doesn't get distorted). I'd suggest editing your text in HTML mode too to avoid all of Blogger's extra and unnecessary code. There's just a few simple HTML tags you'll need to know:
<br /> - creates a line break (add two for a new paragraph)
<i>text</i> - italicised text
<b>text</b> - bold text
<center>text</center> - centers text (note the spelling!)
<a href="URL">text</a> - creates a link
<img src="URL" /> - adds an image
aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 5
Make sure to use the "Preview" button to check how things are looking, and you can always switch between Compose and HTML if it's all getting a bit too confusing! Save and publish your post. Don't worry if it's looking bit squint like in the example below - we're just about to sort all that out.

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 6
Aligning Post Widths
First, let's sort the text. Open the Blogger Template Designer, click on Advanced and then Add CSS. Add the following code:
body { text-align: justify; }
This will make sure the text is nicely lined up and fills the whole width of the post. If your images have annoying drop shadows round them which will stop them lining up properly, check out this previous blog design tips post to find out how to remove them.

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 7
Now, still in the Template Designer, we'll adjust the widths to make sure both the images and text fit into the post area. Click on Adjust Widths and use the sliders (which are pretty handy!) to change the size of both the posts and sidebar. This bit just takes a bit of trial and error, depending on the size of photo you want to use, the margins/padding in your template, and the width of your sidebar. To give you an idea, for templates with sidebars set to 320px wide, I find the "Entire Blog" width should be set to 1065px when the photos are 640px. Use the preview window to make sure everything's lined up nicely then click save - and you're done! Yay!

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 9
Aligning Blogger Images
Now, if you're still with me (very long post, I know!) I'll quickly explain how to format pictures which are uploaded using Blogger. In Compose mode, I've already written up my post and have clicked the little image button to add in my picture at the top. Upload it and insert it into the post as normal - then click on the photo to bring up a small blue menu bar. Here you can choose the size and alignment of the photo. By default, my image has been added as "Medium" with "Centre" alignment. As you can see, this doesn't fill my whole post area so I'm going to change it to "Original Size" (or change it to "X-Large" if you want your photos to be 640px) and "Left" alignment. The main reason why Blogger-uploaded images display slightly misaligned is because they're set to "Centre". Make sure they're left aligned and they should match up perfectly! You can also switch to HTML mode here and add in your own value for the width if the one you want isn't one of the default sizes. As you'll see in the HTML, Blogger adds in lots of extra margins and borders that Flickr doesn't, plus it doesn't have the image alt tags which are great for SEO. And also, Blogger has been auto-enhancing photos recently without warning (see Dana's post to find out how to turn this off), so essentially I'd really recommend using Flickr instead just to make life a bit simpler!

aligning resizing formatting images for blogger posts 10
And we're done - perfectly aligned pictures without having to edit your template's HTML or CSS codes. Hope this post has been helpful, let me know if there are any more blog design type tips you'd like me to write a post on!

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #96

27.10.13

96ss3
96ss1
96ss2
1.Flowers at Hot Head 2.Dissertation feedback 3.Presents from Sephora thanks to Jenn 4.Waiting for my appointment at Hot Head 5.Homemade salted caramel hot chocolate (recipe coming soon!) 6.Halloween costume - can you guess what it is yet?

This week has been a fairly quiet one in comparison to the last few weeks, which has actually been really nice as I've had time to catch up with everything on my to-do list. Some of it has been boring, like cleaning the flat and sorting out my inbox, but I've also had plenty of time to make some plans for my Halloween party next weekend and work on some blog designs (I've just added a new premade template to my Etsy shop, more coming soon!). I also finally got round to getting my hair cut; I've been moaning about how rubbish my fringe is for months so to have it looking normal again is preeeetty nice! I decided to book myself an appointment at Hot Head after spotting them on Appointedd. I'd walked past Hot Head many, many times before but had never been in. After a quick scan through their website, though, it looked like exactly the type of hairdressers for me. And I definitely made the right choice - I only got a trim so my hair's not looking drastically different, but I'm really pleased with it and have fallen a little bit in love with the salon. As I waited for my appointment, I made myself comfy on the mismatched sofas and flicked through a book about glam rock and hair metal hairstyles (erm, YES PLEASE). I loved the decor and the relaxed feel of the place, much nicer than overly clinical and super-perfect salons which always make me feel awkward and out of place. If you're looking for a new hairdressers in Edinburgh, I'd definitely recommend trying out Hot Head!

Earlier this week I got the feedback from my dissertation back, and to say I was pleased would be an understatement. I already had my percentage grade so knew I'd done pretty well, but I wasn't expecting such great comments. Ahhh! I've still been thinking about doing a PhD and reading this has made me even more tempted to apply for one - I just can't decide what to do with my life, heeeelp! I had a job interview on Friday though, so fingers crossed for that and if it went well then that'll probably shove the idea of doing a PhD out of my head.

Next Saturday I'm throwing a Halloween party, so have been in my element making lists of things to make and prepare for it. I'm going to do lots of baking again this year - toffee apple cupcakes, spooky cake pops, pumpkin rice krispie cakes, ghost marshmallows, and graveyard cakes are all on the cards, phew! I'll also have to get to work making some decorations to spookify the flat, I can forsee this week involving a lot of paper, scissors and glue! I've also just about got all the bits together for my costume, can you guess what it is yet?

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Mixtape: October

25.10.13


October Mixtape · via Spotify

It's less than a week until Halloween now which means it's officially acceptable to be getting excited about it, but I must admit I've been in the spirit (geddit? ha. ha. ha.) since the beginning of the month. You might have noticed a couple of Halloween touches on the blog this week, and I've been busy collecting bits and pieces for my costume and my Halloween party next weekend. This mixtape is (vaguely) Halloween themed, but I'll be keeping the big guns (Addams Family theme tune, anyone?) for Halloween itself. Couldn't resist a little bit of I Put a Spell on You though, but sadly Spotify didn't have the best Hocus Pocus version.

Desire · Under Your Spell
Lorde · Tennis Court
The National · Conversation 16
Elvis Perkins in Dearland · Stay Zombie Stay
Teen Idols · Rebel Souls
Runnin' With the Devil · Van Halen
Manfred Mann · I Put a Spell on You
CHVRCHES · Lies
Elliott Smith · Waltz #2 (XO)
The Devil Makes Three · Graveyard
Listen to "October" here.

What have you been listening to this month?

Gillian x

Watching Lately #4

23.10.13


1. The Mindy Project
The return of autumn also means the return of lots of my favourite TV programmes, The Mindy Project being just one of which has begun a new series recently. The show follows the escapades of Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling), an Ob/Gyn doctor balancing life, love and work in New York City. You'll probably recognise Mindy as Kelly Kapoor from The Office, and her character this time is kind of like a slightly more intelligent and grown up version of Kelly. The Mindy Project doesn't take itself too seriously and has plenty of hilarious quotable one-liners which stops it from moving too far into rom-com-sitcom territory. Even though my personality is completely different from Mindy's, I can see a lot of myself in her character - which is equal parts funny and worrying! I love Mindy (both the real life and fictional version) and think she's a pretty funny lady, I basically just want to be her pal.

2. Parks and Recreation
Another favourite returns, yay! Parks and Recreation is set in, you guessed it, the Parks and Recreation department of small town Pawnee's City Council and focuses on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her merry assortment of co-workers. It's along the same lines as The Office but, as much as I love The Office, I think I might actually love Parks and Rec even more. Each one of the characters is funny in their own way, evening the supporting characters like Donna who don't have that much screen time. My favourite character is definitely Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) - he just gets me, you know? - and the beginning of this series brought with it my favourite Ron moment of all. Ron, hater of the "miserable socialist terrain of Northern Europe", was dragged to London and was most definitely not enjoying his European holiday, when Leslie organised a secret trip for him to Scotland where he sampled Lagavulin and read Rabbie Burns. Honestly brought a wee tear to my eye; Scotland and Ron Swanson are two of my most favourite things! Even if those aren't two of your favourite things, watch Parks and Rec anyway because it is hilarious.

3. Community
Whilst I was in the final stages of my dissertation, I needed something to marathon during study breaks (and by "study breaks" I mean 80% of my day). I decided to start watching Community, which I'd heard a few people mention but it was never one that had immediately caught my attention. Set in a community college, the programme follows a study group who are thrown together by chance, but throughout the four seasons end up becoming firm friends. Community definitely is funny and I enjoyed watching it, but I liked it rather than loved it. I felt there were too many "stand alone" episodes (like the one where they're claymation, the one where they're video game characters, etc etc etc) which got a bit annoying and too many recurring jokes that weren't hugely funny the first time, but I did warm to the characters and storylines as I watched more and more episodes. My favourite characters are definitely Troy and Abed (Troy and Abed in the moooooorning!), I loved their cute wee friendship. I'll definitely be watching the next series, but Community still hasn't made its way into my favourites.

4. The Roommate
You know when you're in the mood to watch something terrible and you know you'll enjoy it immensely? That's exactly how I was feeling when I watched The Roommate. It's one of those teen horrors/psychological thrillers which isn't actually scary in the slightest (think along the lines of Swimfan, Scream, Urban Legend etc.) and you're perfectly aware that it's a little bit rubbish but you enjoy it anyway. Well, I did anyway. Sara (Minka Kelly) has just moved into her college dorm and gets on well with her new roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester). Other people begin to notice that something's not quite right with Rebecca, but Sara is blissfully unaware as Rebecca becomes a super-creep because she wants Sara to be her best pal. It's all very predictable and ridiculous, and the basic premise that she turns into a murderous sociopath because she stops taking her medication is a bit questionable. But I enjoyed it anyway as one of those watch-before-bed-so-I-don't-have-to-concentrate kind of films. Oh, and bonus appearances from Elena AND Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries!

What have you been watching lately?

Gillian x

The West Port

22.10.13

the west port hotel linlithgow 2
the west port hotel linlithgow 3
the west port hotel linlithgow 1
the west port hotel linlithgow 4
the west port hotel linlithgow 6
the west port hotel linlithgow 5
Deciding to write up this post before I'd had lunch was definitely a terrible idea, I am now staaaarving. Apologies if you are also experiencing the same symptoms now! Recently, I went through to Linlithgow for dinner at the newly refurbished West Port Hotel. The staff brought out plate after plate of delicious food for me and the other Scottish bloggers (and glass after glass of wine...) and we had a great night sampling it all and chatting the evening away at the launch event.

As we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of prosecco and guided through to the dining area. The West Port has a bar area, a dining room area and also a function room upstairs so there's plenty of space whether you're in for a quick drink, lunch or something a little more formal. After some chit chat and catching up, the first course was served as several lovely platters arrived at our table. I was sitting in front of the mixed seafood platter so started off by tucking into some crayfish, smoked salmon, mussels and hot smoked mackerel, all served alongside lime mayonnaise, tartare sauce and a selection of bread. I'm a big fan of mackerel so really enjoyed that, and I loved the crayfish too - nice to have something a little bit different to the usual prawns. I also managed to sneak some tasters from the vegetarian platter which included lots of chargrilled vegetables, hummus, olives, sunblush tomatoes and mozzarella. There was also an antipasti platter with lots of yummy looking Italian meats, but I didn't quite get round to trying that one!

Next up was the tempura chicken with sweet chilli sauce, which tasted every bit as good as it looks. The chicken was nice and juicy in the middle and the batter was perfectly crispy - just what you want from tempura! This dish is from the "Small Plates" section of the West Port Menu, so is only £5.50 and would be great if you fancied something snacky instead of a whole main course. Once we had devoured the chicken (trust me, it didn't take long!) we also got to try some mini versions of some of the main courses from the menu. We had grilled apples topped with BBQ pulled pork (AMAZING! Think I'll definitely be ordering the full-sized version of this dish next time I'm at The West Port), spicy Moroccan lamb stew with herb couscous, and mini beef and teriyaki chicken burgers. I was obviously too busy eating at this point to take any photos, but you might have noticed a little snap of the burgers on my Instagram!

After a few more glasses of wine, we managed to make room for dessert and were treated to a whole selection of delicious puddings. The sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream and the profiteroles with chocolate sauce were so good, but I think my favourite was the vanilla cheesecake with berry compote. Yummmm. I'm usually more of a starters person than a desserts person, but I'd quite happily eat a huge slice of that cheesecake any time!

This was the first time I'd been to Linlithgow (that I can remember, anyway!) but it's only 20 minutes away from Edinburgh by train so I think I'll have to make the effort to have a proper day out there soon. I've been meaning to visit Linlithgow Palace for years, so will definitely need to go there and stop off at The West Port for something to eat afterwards! The newly refurbished bar and hotel looks great - modern and a wee bit trendy, but still cosy, welcoming and with the feel of a country pub. Definitely worth a visit if you're in Linlithgow!

Have you ever been to The West Port Hotel?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #95

20.10.13

95ss3
95ss2
95ss1
1.Burgers at Bar Kohl 2.Breakfast feast at City Cafe 3.Ready for an evening of blogging fun in Glasgow 4.Popping Candy Margaritas at TGI Friday's 5.Cocktails at Hamilton's 6.Preparing for Halloween 7.Bed

I feel like a bit of a broken record, but I can't believe it's Sunday again - this has been another very busy but preeeetty lovely week. Since finishing my dissertation, I've been trying to make the most of having fun and hanging out with my pals before the inevitable 9 to 5 routine begins. I've got a job interview next week which I've really got my fingers crossed for, even though it might spell the end of weeknight cocktails and staying up til 3am.

This time last week, I braved the rain to go and have some cocktails with my fave Lauren who was up in Edinburgh for a few days. We went to Hamilton's in Stockbridge which I'd never been to before, but I was suitably impressed by their cocktail menu and managed to get through quite a few different ones. I hardly ever venture into the New Town but a couple of my friends are about to move into a new flat in Stockbridge, so I have a feeling I might be spending a lot more time there soon.

On Wednesday I went along to the cinema with a few of my blogger pals to see About Time. It's probably wouldn't have been the sort of film that I would have chosen by myself (I think I might be the only person in the world who actively dislikes Love Actually) but it came highly recommended by Lynsey so I thought I'd better give it a chance! I actually really enjoyed it and even had a wee tear in my eye at the end; it was nice that it was a a romcom without being too romcommy. I hadn't been to the cinema in moooonths, so it was nice to be reunited with a large box of popcorn (salted, of course) and an even larger Coke.

Then on Thursday it was time to head through to Glasgow for important blogger bizniz at the launch of The Hope. We were thoroughly spoiled with lots of nibbles and drinks, and it was great to catch up with everyone. I'll be doing a full post soon, so keep your eyes peeled for potato skins, mini burgers, pulled pork and chocolate cake galore! After things started to wind down at The Hope, we popped into TGI Friday's blogger event for a couple of quick cocktails which were pretty deeeelish. Everyone else was sensible and got the earlier train home, but Kirsty, Roisin and I were the last ones standing and made a very impromptu decision to have a night out...back in Edinburgh. So we raced over to Queen Street for the last train home, and headed back to my flat for a few quick drinks before heading out. Well, that was the plan anyway - we ended up chatting and playing drinking games all night and before we knew it, it was nearly 3am and we hadn't even left the flat yet! Despite not actually making it out, I had a great wee night; my head the next morning didn't agree with that however. We dragged ourselves out of bed for breakfast (erm, at 1 o'clock - still counts) at the City Cafe where we ordered mountains of food. I'd been in a couple of times for drinks/festival shows etc before but I'd never actually eaten at City Cafe before, despite hearing lots of good things. I wasn't disappointed, can't really go wrong with a huge cooked breakfast followed by a strawberry milkshake! I think I'll definitely be coming back another time when I'm slightly less hungover to sample some of the burgers on the menu.

Saturday was yet another day full of food, drinks and catching up with friends - it's a hard life, isn't it?! I went for lunch at Candy Bar for a long overdue catch up with one of my friends, followed by some shopping on Princes Street. I was good and didn't buy anything, although I had to restrain myself whilst we were browsing through the makeup counters in Jenners! By the time we finished shopping, it was almost time for me to go and catch up with Jenn, who I also hadn't seen for months and months. She had been over in Canada and America for the summer, so it was great to hear about her travels (and get a little present of some stateside beauty goodies - excitiiiing!) and catch up on all the blogging gossip that non-blogger friends just don't understand. We filled up on burgers and cocktails at Bar Kohl whilst chatting the evening a way; a pretty lovely end to a pretty lovely week.

Today I'm trying to catch up on all the chores, emails, phonecalls, blog posts and everything else that I was supposed to do this week and haven't had time to do yet. Although, so far I've only managed to sleep until lunch time and write up this one blog post. Ach well!

Gillian x

Review: Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Beg

17.10.13

illamasqua blush beg 3
illamasqua beg blush review 12
illamasqua beg blush review 1
Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Beg · £18

A few months ago Illamasqua had a 50% off flash sale and, never one to turn down a bargain, I ordered myself a half price blusher. Although I'd heard good things about Illamasqua before, there isn't a counter near me so I hadn't been able to try anything out in person, and so was a little reluctant to part with £18. But when I saw it for under a tenner I had to give it a go. I've never been much of a blusher kinda girl and have always preferred bronzer/contouring, but lately I've been embracing rosy cheeks much more. I still prefer shades that are dusky and understated rather than too pink and perky however, so I opted for the shade Beg.

Beg is a deep, dusky rose shade which is pink but with definite reddish-brown undertones. In real life, I'd say it's slightly less pink than in my photos above, but it's nowhere near as brown as the swatches on the Illamasqua website either - it's somewhere inbetween. I love that it's quite a dark pink rather than being too bright and Barbie-ish. I think dark rosy shades like this really help to warm up my pale complexion. This blusher is also SO SO SO pigmented, you don't even need to swirl your brush but just one tap on the pan and you'll have enough to do each cheek. When I first tried it out, I definitely made the mistake of using too much product and ended up looking overly rosy, but once you get used to what works for your skintone it can create the nicest natural flush. The fact that it's so pigmented also means that it should last foreeeever so £18 doesn't seem like such bad value for money after all!

I'm also a big fan of the fact that Beg has a matte finish. Everyone seems to be into cream blushes in a big way just now but I'm afraid I can't get on with them, I'll stick to good old powder for now. Some people really like the dewy look, but I'm much more of a matte fan, so this formula is pretty much my favourite. It's nice and soft, easy to blend (I use the Real Techniques Blush Brush to apply it), and gives a really natural finish. I love this as an everyday product for natural daytime makeup, but it can just as easily be built up for more of a statement look for a night out. I've found that the colour is pretty long lasting too, no need to reapply throughout the day.

As someone who's never been a big blush fan, I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like this product and how much I've used it during the couple of months since I bought it. I think there is definitely room for some more Illamasqua blushers in my makeup drawer!

Have you tried any Illamasqua blushers?

Gillian x

Wishlist: Festive

15.10.13

john lewis christmas festive gifts wishlist 1

At the risk of sounding like an old lady, the nights are fairly drawing in, aren't they? The clocks will be going back in a couple of weeks and then it's "officially" winter time, so I think it's almost acceptable to be thinking about Christmas already. It's my birthday at the beginning of November (hint hint) so this festive wishlist could double up for birthday and Christmas purposes. A couple of weeks ago I went along to the John Lewis Christmas event at The Bonham Hotel and that got me well and truly in the Christmas spirit. Here are my favourite things I spotted at the event...

Presents from me almost always include booze of some kind, and I usually get the same in return. My eyes were immediately drawn to the Edinburgh Gin stall with all their different kinds of gin. I'm not really a huge fan of gin normally, but we had little tasters of each of the varieties and I was very pleasantly surprised. There was the original gin, the elderflower gin liqueur, a new Christmassy spiced orange gin liqueur and my favourite, the Raspberry Edinburgh Gin. Flavoured spirits or liqueurs can often taste a bit artificial and sickly sweet, but this one had the perfect raspberry taste and would be equally good on its own or in a cocktail.

I'm always a fan of novelty cookware/tableware, and Alessi are definitely the kings of that sorta thing. I've fallen a little bit in love with the Magic Bunny Toothpick Holder - not that I ever use toothpicks, but I feel like I NEED one of these! I also love all the PiP Studio things at John Lewis, especially this Lovebirds Striped Teacup & Saucer with cute little robins on them. As well as plates, cups, saucers, mugs, bowls and all sorts of other pretty crockery, PiP Studio also do beautiful wallpaper and bedding - if someone would like to buy me this duvet cover that would be just great. Or I'd happily settle for the John Lewis Stag Head Cushion instead!

At the event, Alex and I (read her post here!) spent ages talking to Donna from Liz Earle whilst were were eyeing up all the skincare and makeup goodies. One of my favourite foundations at the moment is the Liz Earle Signature Foundation, and I've been meaning to branch out and try more of their makeup range for ages. I love the look of the Liz Earle Colour Healthy Glow Powder Blush so I think I'll have to go to the counter soon to suss out all the shades. I was also eyeing up some of the Somerset by Alice Temperley lingerie like this beaut Vintage Lace Bra, but sadly they don't come in my size. Bah humbug.

What's on your festive wishlist?

Gillian x

P.S. Did you know John Lewis Edinburgh has a knitting lounge? As part of Wool Week, they'll be holding some fashion-focused knitting workshops this week - see this page for more information!

Sunday Summary #94

13.10.13

94ss1
94ss2
1.Afternoon tea at Vintage Nation 2.Calton Hill from inside Prezzo 3.Mini burgers at The West Port 4.Duvet day after too much wine

I've been eagerly refreshing the 'Results' tab in my university account for a couple of weeks now, and a few days ago it finally updated itself with my dissertation results. I got a First which I am so, so pleased with - all those hours spent at the library and weekends trailing round villages taking photos of war memorials (yes, really) have paid off! My graduation ceremony isn't until the end of November so I've still got a while to wait before I'm officially no longer a student, but this was a pretty nice way to round off my university career (well, for now anyway... a PhD is seeming more and more tempting!).

This time last week I was at Vintage Nation at the Corn Exchange with some of the other Scottish blogger ladies. There were lots of vintages clothes, jewellery, accessories and homewares on offer; I managed to find myself a nice little 80s dress and a couple of necklaces to purchase. We couldn't resist some afternoon tea and after a verrrry long wait in the queue we tucked into some scones and cakes (complete with little flowers for decoration - pretty but not so tasty). We managed to spend all afternoon at the fair so by the time we got back into town it was time for yet more food! We went to Prezzo on North Bridge which I'd never been to before, but it was lovely inside and had a stunning view of Calton Hill which looked beaut with the sun beginning to set against it. We spent a good few hours chatting and eating as much food as humanly possible - not a bad way to spend a Sunday!

Then on Thursday it was time to catch up with the Scottish bloggers again (I swear, I see them more these days than I see my "real life" friends!), this time in Linlithgow at the West Port Hotel. I'll be doing a full post soon so won't give away too much just now, but the hotel has recently had a refurbishment and it looks lovely - plus the food was all amazing! I lost count of how many different courses we had, but there were sharing platters, mini tasters and plates of food galore. I also lost count of how many glasses of wine I had, the staff were very generous with their wine pouring! Needless to say, I spent most of Friday snuggled up in bed in a post-wine-and-food coma.

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Review: Lash Republic False Lashes at The Makeup and Beauty Studio

9.10.13

lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 2
lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 5
lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 4
lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 3
lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 6
lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 7
lash republic false lashes review the makeup and beauty studio edinburgh 1
Sophisticata Lashes · Lash Republic by Milan & Co*

Last week I headed over to The Makeup and Beauty Studio to have a little tour, meet makeup artist Christine and find out all about the Studio's newest and most exclusive product, the Lash Republic false lashes. Lash Republic, by Milan & Co, is an Australian invention and the Makeup and Beauty Studio (which has recently moved to bigger and better premises at 36-37 West Preston Street, Edinburgh) are the very first UK stockists of the lashes. I hadn't heard anything about Lash Republic before the event, so I was really looking forward to finding out just why these lashes are special enough to ship all the way from Australia!

The first thing that makes Lash Republic different is the fact you can "try before you buy". The display stand has space for a "Style Selector" which allows you to see exactly what the lashes look like out of the box; each box of lashes has a corresponding tester lash on a curved wand which you can hold up to your eye and see exactly what it would look like on you. Lynne, Leanne, Jade and I spent aaaages trying out all of the lashes to find out perfect ones! We all ended up choosing different lashes which suited our individual eye shapes; being able to try out the lashes is a great idea as I know I've definitely gone into Boots before, picked up whatever was on offer and then got home to find out the lashes look completely ridiculous on me.

Once we had chosen our lashes, Christine gave us a demonstration of how to apply the lashes using a very nifty tool. The Eyelash Placement Tool is a curved, hinged clip (a bit like a much, much less scary bulldog clip!) which you can grip onto your lashes with. This means you don't get your hands covered in glue, and because the clip is curved the lashes can easily be positioned straight onto your lashline. This also prevents the need for tweezers or fiddling about with your fingers trying to get your lashes in the right place. I don't often wear false lashes as I find they take forever to apply, and although I still did need a lot of concentration, the Lash Republic lashes and Placement Tool definitely made the process a lot quicker and easier.

The lashes I opted for in the end were the Sophisticata lashes. As you probably already know, I'm a big fan of cat eyes and these lashes are darker at the outer corners to accentuate this even more. Lash Republic lashes are made with 100% human hair, which (although a bit of a creepy thought at first) means they're nice and soft, light and flexible. I definitely noticed these lashes were much more comfortable to wear than other lashes I've used previously, and this is mostly thanks to the special flexible band which makes the lashes easier to mould to the shape of your eye. I really like the way the Sophisticata lashes look; they give extra length and volume without looking overly fake, which is exactly what I wanted.

If you fancy trying out the Lash Republic lashes for yourself, head along to the official Lash Republic Launch Events at the Makeup and Beauty Studio this weekend. Not only will you get your own pair of lashes to take home, but you'll also get a tutorial on how to apply eyeliner, how to apply the lashes, a special 20% discount on any extra purchases, and a wee glass of fizz too! There are events throughout the day on both Saturday and Sunday, and you can book your place through Itison. As someone who is not a pro at applying false lashes at all, I'm seriously impressed with these and as most of them retail for around £10-15, they're not much more expensive that your average lash from Boots or Superdrug, but the quality is so much better. The Makeup and Beauty Studio itself is also really lovely, it has a very "Edinburgh"-y feel to it with high ceilings, big windows and even some lovely exposed stonework in one of the treatment rooms. They offer a huge range of different treatments, so I think I'll definitely be back soon to try something else!

Will you be trying out Lash Republic lashes?

Gillian x

This House is a Home

7.10.13

not on the high street review 3
not on the high street review 4
not on the high street review 2
not on the high street review 1

Despite the creaky floors and lack of space, the wobbly furniture and impossible to clean windows, I love my little flat and all its quirks. Like the way you have to lift the door up slightly to unlock the latch in the bathroom, or how the light switches in the hall are the wrong way round and no one ever remembers which one is which. I like that there are holes in the floorboards, which are now home to an unrivaled collection of kirby grips. I like that there's a fake blood stain on the wall from three Halloweens ago, hastily covered up by a postcard which has remained there ever since. The way it smells like vanilla when I come back after a fortnight away, because of the candles that have been perched on the mantlepiece since the day I moved in.

I also like that it's old; I've never lived in a new house and I really can't imagine doing so. With my historical Nancy Drew skills, I've discovered my tenement was built in 1868, and apart from some redecorating and new plumbing, it's more or less the same. Sometimes, when flagging during essay research, I'd search the archive of The Scotsman to try and find my flat mentioned in the obituaries and classifieds. In 1911 the rent was only £20, if only that was the case now. I often wonder how many people have lived here during the last 150 years. How many have walked on the same loose floorboard as me, how many have also waited for the satisfying slam of the front door once they're halfway down the stairs? The stone steps in the stairwell, all three flights of them, have a dip in the middle where hundreds of feet have walked before me, making their way to their flat.

Even though I love my flat, and I'll be very sad to say goodbye whenever that day comes, it's really all the things inside it that make it mine. The perils of renting are many and varied, let me tell you, but it's going to be a long, long time before I can afford my own little place; I've been successfully hoarding anything and everything over the last four-and-a-bit years to change it from "a flat" to "my flat". There are trinkets and toys littered over every surface. There's mismatched furniture and second-hand books and scraps of paper with some almost-forgotten significance absolutely everywhere.

The latest additions to my overflowing shelves are some beautiful gifts from Not On The High Street. I fell in love with these Bespoke Wooden Map Letters* as soon as I saw them. My Edinburgh tenement flat wouldn't be complete without a little nod to my favourite city - and, of course, things are always better with your initials on them. Next, I chose The Great Gatsby Book Page Quote* with my favourite line from my favourite novel. I love the old pages, with their familiar smell, soft and musty and just like a rainy afternoon. I finished off my new collection of things with this Set of Three Bottle Vases*. I couldn't resist these tiny little milk bottles, perfect for keeping a flower or two on the windowsill. Nothing beats some fresh flowers to brighten up a room, especially when you live on the second floor and don't have a proper garden.

I had ordered a couple of gifts from Not On The High Street before but never anything for myself. I was so impressed with everything they had to offer (literally took me DAYS to decide which items I wanted to pick!), and the delivery service was quick too. One of the parcels even came wrapped in a map, the cutest.

Gillian x

P.S. You can have a nosey round my flat in my Living Room Tour and Bedroom Tour posts if you fancy.

Sunday Summary #93

6.10.13

93ss3
93ss4
93ss5
93ss6
93ss1
93ss2
1.Elemis gift sets at Pure Spa Christmas Preview 2.Beauty goodies at Pure 3.Leighton Denny glitter polish gift sets 4.Edinburgh Gin at the John Lewis Christmas event 5.Hello 6.At Zizzi post-Pure Spa 7.Finally got some business cards printed 8.Lash Republic falsies

This seems to have been another very busy week for me, I've been to lots of blog events and have barely had time to do anything else - not that I'm complaining! On Wednesday it was time for Pure Spa's Christmas Preview, so Laura, Lynne, Kirsty, Lianne and I headed to their Ocean Terminal spa to see what'll be on offer this festive season. We got to try out one of the treatments, and so I had a facial which was lovely and relaxing. I had, however, failed to take any spare makeup with me so I had to wander round for the rest of the night looking fit only for scaring small children. We also had a look at some of the new kits and gift sets that are available at Pure Spa for Christmas. I loved the look of all the Elemis sets, especially the Frangipani ones which smell sooo goooood. Nail polish never usually interests me very much, but I must admit I was rather taken with these glittery Leighton Denny ones. Have a look on the Pure Spa Shop to see a full list of what's available to buy as gifts (or as a treat for yourself!) this year.

Then on Thursday it was time for John Lewis's Christmas event with Alex, Jade and Lianne, which has got me well and truly into the Christmas spirit - just need to get Halloween, bonfire night, my birthday and my graduation out of the way first! I'll be doing a proper post later in the week so won't go into too much detail yet, but I had to include a little picture of the Edinburgh Gin which we tasted at the event. I'm not usually a huge gin fan (especially gin and tonic bleeeuurgggh), but this might just have changed my mind. It's produced in small batches and has a Scottish twist with ingredients like heather and milk thistle, which give it a subtle aromatic flavour. I especially loved the raspberry gin liqueur which you can get in a nice wee Christmas gift set along with a bottle of the original gin and the elderflower liqueur. There was a mini bottle of the Edinburgh Gin in our goody bags, so I'm looking forward to making some cocktails with that! Then on Friday evening it was time for another event (again, will be doing a full post so keep an eye out for that next week), at the Makeup & Beauty Studio with Jade, Lynne and Leanne. We were learning all about the Lash Republic false lashes which are being launched at the Studio very soon - they're the first stockists in the UK so I was quite excited to see what the lashes would be like! I was really impressed with them and they were easy to apply, even for a novice like me, so if you're in Edinburgh next Saturday I'd definitely recommend going along to the Lash Republic Launch for tutorials, tips and your very own pair of lashes to take home.

This afternoon I'm off to Vintage Nation for some vintage shopping, makeup and hairstyling, food and drink, and general mooching around with some lovely ladies. Still not sure what I'm going to wear yet (quite fancied wearing my polka dot Vivien of Holloway dress, but it's not exactly the weather for it today!) so I'd better get a move on. I think next week's looking a bit quieter so hopefully I'll finally have time to do all the boring things I haven't had time to this week, like replying to emails and applying for jobs. FUN.

Gillian x