Christmas Decor

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Because of my hectic work schedule (ooh don't I sound so self-important) I'm not going to make it home for Christmas this year. It's kind of sad, but my parents are coming through for the day with our new pup Bunty, so it's not all bad. What I'm most excited about however, is that, much to my mother's dismay, as I'm hosting Christmas in my own home, I get to decorate! Yay! I thought I'd show you the few bits and bobs I've picked up to get the place looking nice and festive.

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We got a tiny little real tree, that precariously perches on an end table next to the fireplace. There's a mess of needles everywhere, but it smells so so so good! Who needs a Bath & Body Works 'Frosted Pine' candle when you have an actual tree? Decorations are a mix of randomly acquired ones and bits and bobs from Primark and Tiger.

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Little paper snowflakes hang from the window panes just so everyone knows that I'm no Scrooge.

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The table decorations are my favourite part! Specifically the adorable little place settings from Paperchase. The napkins, stags, and little red tinsel tree are also from Paperchase. If anyone has any suggestions on what to name my new stag friends, do let me know!  The green glass decanter and amber tumblers are from Oliver Bonas, which I think may just be my new favourite shop. I want everything in there! Twinkly little snowflake lights are from John Lewis and I've got my White Company Pomegranate candle, which was a birthday gift from a lovely friend, burning away.

Of course I'm a bit premature in setting this all up for Christmas dinner now, but I'm working on a huge translation project at the moment and having nice festive surroundings is really helping me keep my motivation up. Only a few more days...!

Oh, and I'm going to decorate myself festively as well. Screw this dressing fancy for Christmas day business, I'll be in a Christmas jumper, novelty elf hat and pyjama bottoms! 

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Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! :)


November favourites

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I've started using a few great products recently that I can't get enough of, so I thought I'd share them here. Some are brand new discoveries, some are old favourites and others are products I've been itching to get my hands on for ages.

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Tired of catching sight of myself looking patchy and smudged at the end of the day, I've found myself reaching for products that help keep my make-up in place all day. Hiding in the back there is the absolutely beautiful Guerlain Metéorites Primer (by the way, check out this beautiful animation for the powder!). Not only is the packaging absolutely beautiful, but it goes on really nicely, makes a lovely base for make-up and leaves a lovely shimmer peaking through the skin.

On top of that goes Bobbi Brown's Long Wear Foundation, which I've been applying with the Real Techniques Pointed Foundation Brush. I love Bobbi Brown products, and not only for the fact that their colour range is excellent for pale skin. This foundation is lovely, with good coverage that's not too thick you feel like you're wearing a mask and it is really long wearing too. Just to make sure it doesn't budge, I spritz on Urban Decay's De-Slick Setting Spray which renders my make-up completely apocalypse proof. Perfect.

I've been intrigued by Kevyn Aucoin's Sculpting Powder for a really long time, but have always though it'd be too dark for my complexion. I bit the bullet in Space NK after trying it on and thinking I could get away with it. Admittedly, I do have to apply it extremely lightly and extremely carefully, but if I get it right - it's amazing! Give my round moon face just the slightest hint of cheekbones? Yes please. I still think Illamasqua's Hollow is a better colour for pale skin, but I prefer using powder. Hopefully one day I'll find a happy mix of the two!

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Speaking of Illamasqua, I'm loving their Intense Lipgloss in Belladonna. Beautiful colour, incredible staying power, and not too sticky with a wee bit of blotting. What more do you want in a lipgloss? For nails, I finally caved and bought OPI's Nail Envy and oh my God, my nails are so strong and hard and they make a fantastic noise for impatient tapping. Buy it. It's expensive I know, but it's that good. Colour-wise, I've rediscovered Essie's Angora Cardi. Pretty, cute, and an interesting shade of purple and it really does make me think of fuzzy cardigans. Perfect wintery alternative to dark reds and navy.

My bleached and frazzled hair has found a new best friend in It's a 10. I've seen Fleur de Force talk about it a few times and waited until I was in Kentucky last month to pick it up and amazingly, it was on offer! Hurrah. Soft, smooth manageable hair that doesn't feel like it's been to hell and back. 

As for scent, another Guerlain product with La Petite Robe Noire. It's sweet but not saccharine, and just the right amount of smoky, and the bottle looks so pretty on my dressing table. It helps that the only dresses I own are pretty much exclusively black too. 

Oh, and another favourite before I go - that tartan and houndstooth scarf sneaking in the background. It's from Zara, and I bloody love it. So damn cosy. And I love wearing tartan walking around Edinburgh!

Beauty aside, I can't get enough of this mix from Glasgow natives MermaidS;

The ideas in these articles about Lily Allen, Lululemon and bitching have been revolving in my head lately, and I have just started Orange is the New Black and am loving it!

What are your current favourites?


Recent outfits

These three outfit snaps are more or less the last of the Autumn wardrobe, as temperatures rapidly plummet and I find myself having to reach for the fur coats, chunky scarves and weather proof boots. It's getting bloody cold out, but I do love a furry accessory so it's not all bad.

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This green coat is a recent addition from Topshop. Perfect colour to combat those dull, grey November mornings. I love it, and have been wearing it with everything. Here, I'm just wearing H&M jeans, Office studded boots (wish you were Chloés), a leopard print scarf and my very favourite fur hat that makes me feel just a little bit Kitty Scherbatskaya.

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I picked this coat it up for a beautiful €20 in Zara when I was in Málaga. I love it! It makes me feel a bit like a doctor/lab rat/someone with a much more complicated degree than myself. Worn here with barely discernible burgundy leather trousers from Mango, a fluffy navy cardigan from H&M and simple black boots.

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This outfit was a rushed exercise in layering that I actually ended up quite liking. A gingham shirt from Forever 21, under a velvet patterned kimono from Goldie London, a navy wool and leather sleeve coat from New Look, trusty black knit pants form Forever 21 and shiny new burgundy brogue boots from River Island.

What have you been wearing as the temperatures drop? 


On my bedside table

I saw one of these posts a while back on Meg's fantastic blog Lips So Facto, which I'm sure you're all subscribed to, but if not be sure to hop over and check it out. Her writing's intelligent, informative and interesting and she's a fantastic source of inspiration. Clearly - here I am brazenly stealing one of her ideas.

Anyway, I really like the bedside table blog. In a similar way to 'empties' posts it shows the products that you are actually using regularly, if not religiously. So after giving my table a bit of a dust, clearing off discarded jewellery, receipts, keys and all the other rubbish that somehow ends up there, I thought I'd show you what's currently helping me get my beauty sleep.

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I'd never really considered getting a pillow spray until I was on holiday in a plush hotel and they had left little tiny bottles of pillow sprays on the beds. After a few nights of liberally dousing my pillow in the hotel's lavender scented pillow spray, I was hooked and decided to hunt down the much discussed This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray when I got home. It has a beautiful herby-lavender scent that I spritz on pillow and bedclothes before dropping off to sleep. Whether or not it actually helps me sleep, I'm not entirely sure, but it does help me relax and switch off after a long day. I'm getting perilously close to the end of the bottle now, and I'm definitely going to pick up another.

I ran out of my favourite Caudalie serum recently, and having heard a lot about Nip & Fab, I picked up their Glycolic Fix Serum when Boots had one of their amazing 3 for 2 deals on. It's early days with this product, but so far so good. My skin feels softer and smoother even in this sudden cold weather and it's a really nice product to smooth on. I do feel a slight stickiness on my skin after application, but as it's an overnight treatment this doesn't bother me. I could just be applying too much anyway!

The next two products I'm sure you've heard plenty of; Lucas' Papaw Ointment and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo. The first I fell in love with when I went travelling. It's fantastic for blisters, cuts and insect bites but especially good for your lips, especially in this cold weather. Goodbye cracked, chapped lips! As for Effaclar Duo, this stuff has revolutionised my skin. Since using it, my skin has been clearer, smoother and brighter with much fewer breakouts. A definite repurchase!

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I've always got a couple of books on the nightstand. Recently I went to a Man Ray exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which was brilliant. I love that era in art, and did a project on Dada in my final year, so when I saw that there was a Man Ray portraits exhibition on, I had to go. I was really intrigued by his relationship with Lee Miller, and then with her work in the fashion industry, so when I saw this book in the gift shop I picked it up. It's really interesting so far, and a great book to dip in and out of. Oh, there's an interesting article on the pair here.

I'll admit I haven't read much of Bruce Chatwin's What Am I Doing Here, but again, it's a great book to just dip into now and again. It's a selection of short stories, essays and profiles about travel and misadventures in foreign countries, that so far has me itching to up and leave, and try my hand at travel writing or gonzo journalism, or just getting myself into trouble really.

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I drink a ridiculous amount of tea, and love a cup before bed. My current favourite is Pukka's Green Chai, which was a little housewarming gift from one of my lovely friends when I moved in here. It's nice and warming - perfect for cosying up in bed with a book, candle flickering in the background. As much as I love summer, sometimes it's nice to snuggle up in bed and be all warm and cosy when it's freezing and miserable outside!

I'm gonna go pour myself a cup of tea, I think.

What are your nighttime essentials?


Favourite Smokey Eye feat. Sonia Kashuk Brushes

When I first started getting into beauty, I was baffled (and frankly, bored) by how much beauty gurus go on about brushes. I'd see blog posts and YouTube videos called "my favourite brushes," roll my eyes and click away. I was of the opinion that the products you were using were what mattered, the brushes were just... brushes. Maybe the expensive ones were softer than the cheap drug store ones, or the ones that came with the palettes, but really, they were all the same, right? 

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Somewhere along the line I got bitten by the brush bug. To be perfectly honest, it was when everyone started going gaga for Real Techniques brushes. Finally, recommended brushes that weren't crazy prices, and that I could actually buy without having to go without food for the next week. I love my Real Techniques brushes, I really do. They  make applying my face quicker, and nicer, and I can appreciate that different sizes, shapes and styles are best for different products. But I wasn't completely sold on the whole Brush Bonanza until I bought this little smokey eye kit from Sonia Kashuk.

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I picked these up in Kentucky, when Katie took me to Target. Oh my god, I could've spent all day (and all my money) in Target, it just has everything. But that's beside the point. I bought this cute little kit, chucked it in the bottom of my suitcase and didn't use it until I was back on home turf.

Now, having played about with it, and used it pretty much every single day, I thought I'd do a little review: these brushes are awesome! Really, they make applying eyeshadow so much easier. It's  a minimal effort, maximal impact kind of deal here.

My favourites are #2 Crease brush and #3 Lash line. I swivel the crease brush upside down, so I'm using the tapered tip to blend shadow into the crease. The shape of the brush means you get a much more precise application, with no eyeshadow migrating towards your eyebrow or over towards your ear. Brilliant! 

The lash line brush is pretty dense which makes it perfect for really working product into the lash line, and getting quite a strong look without reaching for the eyeliner.  I've been using it with the wider end on the outer corners, which makes creating a winged effect super easy, and - miracle - totally even on both sides! I just press the brush along the lash line, and give it a little wiggle up and down, and there we go - perfect cat-eye shadow.

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These brushes make eyeshadow application so much easier, and faster, that I've been reaching for more products on an almost daily basis. For my go-to look right now, I'm using Bobbi Brown's Long-wear Cream Shadow in Sand Dollar, which I apply with my fingers as a base. Then, with the #1 Lid brush, I swipe MAC's Satin Taupe all over the lid.

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Next, I take out the crease brush and use a Lancôme shadow in Cuban Light (which is really beautiful, and looks lovely just on its own) for a tiny hint of shimmer and just the slightest bit of definition. Then I get out the old favourite #3 lash line brush, press it into MAC's Embark and get going on a subtle, shadow cat-eye effect.  For some extra drama, I take the #4 smudge brush, go back to Embark and in teeny, tiny downward strokes, add a bit of definition to the lower lashes. Finish with a swipe of old favourite Bobbi Brown gel eyeliner in Black Ink and I'm done!

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From left to right - Bobbi Brown Sand Dollar, Lancôme Cuban Light, MAC Satin Taupe and MAC Embark. Even without these brushes, I can't get enough of these shadows individually. I know they're not exactly the most exciting shades ever, but they're all so wearable and I love them.

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Finished look:

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If you're a brush sceptic like I was, listen, it's not all bollocks. I have been completely won over by this wonderful little Sonia Kashuk kit, and I'm now excited to try other brushes to see if they can revolutionise other areas of my make-up routine. Not great for my bank balance, but hey, if it makes you happy...

Let me know what you think! And if you have any brush recommendations, go on, spill the beans.


My Old Kentucky Home

First of all, let's get in the mood for this post with some (mildly politically incorrect...) musical accompaniment.


When I was working in Germany, I made friends with a girl called Katie. Katie is from Kentucky, and she was in Germany to do student teaching for a few months, so we met through fellow teacher friends. I've been meaning to visit her in Kentucky for the past three years and this October I finally did it!

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The first weekend, we headed up to visit Katie's friends in Louisville, where we wandered around downtown, admiring the art fair that was going on, and then headed for a delicious dinner of beef brisket at the Silver Dollar washed down with the most delicious cocktail I've ever had - a Forever June. Tequila and violet liqueur over ice - yum. I wish I had taken more pictures of the interior of this place, it was really well done, and the food and drinks were delicious. 

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Back in Lexington throughout the week, we did lots of fun, wholesome super American things (to me) like visit an orchard and a pumpkin patch.

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Some of us may have got a little too excited about the entertainment on offer, clearly designed for kids...

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After lunch at the cutest little place ever, Wallace Station, which served the most gigantic, and delicious, sandwiches I have ever come across, we headed to Buffalo Trace Bourbon distillery, for a tour and some bourbon tasting.

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I learnt a lot about the history and the production of Bourbon, and it was a really great day out, but despite the generous amount of tasty samples, I'm still a Scottish whisky girl at heart. What can I say, we just do it better ;)

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Throughout the trip we had meal after meal of straight up deliciousness. Above is the best damn Mexican I've ever had from Mi Pequeña Hacienda, washed down with the best margaritas I've ever had. And they taste all the sweeter when they're 2 for 1, believe me. But I couldn't leave Kentucky without getting some fried chicken in me... YUM!  

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The next day, we explored downtown Lexington, which was infinitely more beautiful than I had ever imagined! 

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Then we had a little mooch around campus, and checked out Katie's old UK haunts and were amazing that fraternity and sorority houses were real.

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Whilst we were there, Keeneland, Lexington's race track, was open. So we went for a day of gambling and day time drinking in the sunshine.

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Despite working at a racecourse for two years of my teenage life, I've never actually been to a racing event. It was so much fun, and super exciting - especially when you win even a little bit of money! Woohoo, $5! 

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Sunday, is football day in America. We went tailgating with Katie's friends, which was an experience. I've never even heard of tailgating so I was a little unsure of what to expect, but oh my god it was so much fun. An afternoon sat in the sunshine, drinking beer and eating barbecued food. Please, Scotland can we adopt this custom? Who knew an afternoon in a car park could be so much fun?!

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A football game was another whole new experience for me. There were cheerleaders, dance teams, marching bands and even fireworks! It was more of a spectacle than a sports match, but the atmosphere was incredible. It was a really good day, possibly one of my favourite's of the week, even though we lost.

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After a night out on the town, with far too much tequila, it was sadly time to go home, tired, hungover and more than a few pounds heavier...

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I had so much fun in Kentucky! It's absolutely beautiful, even more so in autumn I imagine, as all the leaves were turning and there was the slightest hint of a chill in the air. I can't wait to go back, if Katie will have me, that is. 

I made a little video of my trip. I've not got the greatest camera skills, nor editing skills, but I made it more just for me and my friends. And things like these are always fun to look back on when you're a bit older. 
Let me know what you think. 
Jen x