Skin, Make-Up, Scent & Hair

It’s hard to imagine the days when I would just brush my teeth, wash my face and get dressed… but that was also when I was under the impression that it was ‘bad’ to care about your appearance. There’s a difference between going out with no make-up and bushy hair when you’re comfortable with it and when you’re not. Putting a little effort into my appearance made me a happier, more confident person, so please don’t bash me!

Skin

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As skincare goes, I don’t have much of a carefully created routine with mine. I’ve not got acne, but I have persistent spots, redness and dark under-eyes, and nothing has seemed to improve things for me so far. I don’t like to spend much money on skincare, and if I’m ever experimental enough to use a face mask or rosewater, it’s usually something cheap I nabbed from T K Maxx.

  • I wash my face with Simply Pure foaming cleanser from Superdrug. They do a couple of other variations of this, but I find this satisfactory. Smells perfectly nice, and I really couldn’t live without the foam pump. Of course, everything from Superdrug is relatively cheap, and, most importantly, cruelty-free, so it’s a no-brainer. This costs about £2.99.
  • I also use the Let The Good Times Roll face & body cleanser from Lush every other day, usually in the shower. Although you can use it on your whole body, I prefer to keep it to my face. It smells absolutely DELICIOUS – fresh popcorn – but, sadly, you can’t give it a nibble like their lip scrubs. Trust me, I ate more of their candyfloss lip scrub than actually scrubbed with it. I honestly don’t personally see any visible effects on my skin with this – I just use it for the smell! It’s £7.25 for a small pot, though, so not cheap.
  • I moisturise with Simply Pure moisturiser, also from Superdrug. I’ve had a few moisturisers react quite badly with my skin, but Superdrug’s sensitive range usually keep it calm. Again, fragrance free and what’s always important is the SPF. This is £2.99.
  • I’ve pretty much given up on battling spots with creams and gels, but I ought to mention my Grease Lightening spot treatment from Lush. Spot creams and gels don’t work for me at all, no matter what the brand – not a single product has made a bit of difference. However, this stuff smells nice, so in desperate times I slap it on in case it just might work this time. It works for some people, apparently. My only issue with it is the pump is a bit awkward… and it was £6.50! If spot treatments don’t usually do the trick for you, I’d recommend you stay away.

Make-Up

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If you’ve ever seen a picture of me/met me, you’ll know I’m no make-up expert. I only started using it when I was fourteen, unless you count the blue eyeshadow and pastel lipsticks I got from My Little Pony magazines when I was little. I’ve watched about three make-up tutorials in my life, and promptly switched them off after I realise I can’t spend over £50 on just primers and powders alone.

  • I use a concealer stick in light from Superdrug to cover up my spots a bit more. I don’t recall the brand, but it’s the cheapest one I can find – £2.99 – and it makes a bit of a difference, so I stick with it. I’ve tried using more pencil-style sticks but they never work for me.
  • For foundation, I’m devoted to Fresh Nude foundation in ‘chelsea porcelain’ from the Body Shop. I used to use Barry M foundation which I also found to be off-colour until I tested my mum’s Fresh Nude bottle and fell in love. It’s light but gives good coverage and gives kind of a dewy finish that makes your face look fresh and glowy, and is actually pale enough for my skin tone! It’s £15, but lasts a good amount of time and is worth it for the quality.
  • For eyes, I use a variation of different palettes, but I tend to stick with the Venus eyeshadow palette from Limecrime. Mine’s a bit battered and the lettering’s all come off, but that’s only because it’s so well-used. Isn’t the design just beautiful? The shades are perfect for me – reds and browns and creams – but this was a earth-shattering £25! (Okay, I bought it from another seller which knocked off £8, but still very expensive!)
  • I’ve never really payed any attention to my eyebrows but I’ve buckled under the pressure and started filling mine in a little with brown eyeshadow and also a kohl brown eye pencil that I have lying around. Any would do the trick. I’ve not really got any idea with what I’m doing with them, though… my eyebrows just look a little less thin.
  • For eyelashes I simply put a bit of Sparkling Black mascara from the Body Shop on. I found this dead cheap in a sale, and it was probably on sale because the glitter isn’t visible at all. Instead, I use this because it doesn’t clog up into thick blobs like other mascaras and just gives my eyelashes a little more definition. Apparently this was £10 (not when I bought it, of course) but I believe it was only sold around last Christmas.
  • I don’t really like using lipstick but when I do, I use Burt’s Bees lip gloss. I believe Burt’s Bees is cruelty-free but not vegan because some products contain beeswax, but I don’t consider myself vegan yet. I have three nice shades that smell lovely and don’t leave any gloopy white film like so many other lip glosses do.

Scent

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I chop and change perfumes all the time, but the bulk of them come from the Body Shop. I am quite fond of buying little tester gift sets from Boots, though!

  • My main perfume is DKNY Be Tempted. This is just a gorgeous, sweet yet musky scent and my favourite DKNY perfume – I was quite disappointed by Be Delicious. It’s perfect for day and evening wear with both femininity and masculinity, and also comes in a beautiful apple-shaped bottle with a snake slithering around the lid.
  • For deodorant, I just use Sure bright boutique which smells perfectly fine and does its job. I also used to use a strawberry Body Shop deodorant, as well as a Superdrug white chocolate and fruit body spray.
  • I also occasionally use White Musk Libertine perfume, Japanese Cherry Blossom perfume and Apple Shimmer body mist from The Body Shop, as well as small Versace perfumes – my favourite being Crystal Noir which smells dark and coconutty.

 

Hair

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I’ve only very, very recently started using any kind of products on my hair, and this is really only because I’ve been trying to grow my fringe out.

  • After straightening my hair I use my trusty Toppik powder (£8.70) which I mentioned in my trich post, which is just a bottle of keratin that I shake onto the thinning areas of my scalp. It’s a bit like peppering myself. It sticks on for at least two days and barely comes away in drizzle or when rubbed against another surface, but it’s a bit of a nightmare when I’ve got an itchy head. Worth it, though.
  • If my hair is oily – and I am burdened with greasy hair – I stick on some Batiste dry shampoo (£2.00) which makes it a lot easier to deal with. It also smells nice, of coconuts!
  • I’ve very recently purchased V05 Give Me Texture tousled style spray, as I’ve been a bit miserable just having my hair lie flat and limp. It’s never really been long enough to do anything with, but a few sprays of this gives my hair more volume and a controlled bedhead look, which I love. It was roughly £4.30.
  • I also ought to mention I use hairspray – just any old firm-hold hairspray – to keep my fringe in place, which I clip up with hair slides in a middle-part like this:

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Veggie North: The Eighth Day Co-Op

 

The Eighth Day is a vegetarian café and food shop on Oxford Road in Manchester, right near Manchester Met University. I’ve always found it a lovely little place to get simple, tasty vegetarian food to eat, as well as to buy for later. The first floor is a shop, but downstairs is a cute restaurant with a cosy decor. There’s usually plenty of space to sit, and it’s always a relaxed environment.

The Café

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My go-to at the Eighth Day is simply brown rice with veg. I’m a bit of a fussy eater, but it honestly makes for a very tasty, filling hot meal. It’s usually just rice with potatoes and cabbage, although the vegetables change each season. They’re all perfectly delicious! The vegetables are quite buttery, which I liked, although I’m not sure if it’s butter or margarine; you’ll have to check. However, when ordering something with bread, you do have the option to ask for margarine. In fact, if you have any dietary requirements, whether you need something gluten or dairy-free, they’ll be happy to provide it for you.

On this particular day, I had my rice and veg whilst my dad had soup with bread, and this only cost a little over £6 – so not only is it healthy food, but it’s cheap, too. There’s always a soup available, along with selections of pies, roasts and salads – the menu changes every day – and there’s also a selection of natural soft drinks, healthy snacks and, of course, a water tap. Although the Eighth Day advertises itself as a vegetarian café, there are also always vegan options.

Being situated close to the university must be a great thing for vegetarian, vegan and simply healthy students alike.

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The Shop

The Eighth Day also has a vegetarian shop above the café where there’s a wide range of meat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free foodstuffs, as well as a range of cruelty-free cosmetics and skincare products. We personally like to get pesto, soba noodles, meat substitutes, wines and soap from the shop, but there’s so many other vegetarian foods to try! Along with the shelf food, there’s also a bakery at the counter selling freshly-baked goods. Most of the prices are affordable and it’s a real saviour when you’re struggling to find more obscure vegetarian/vegan items in places like Holland & Barrett. The staff are also very friendly and often passionate about the food they’re selling!

(Also, they place good music: today it was Mac Demarco and The Smiths!)

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I’d highly recommend this as a great veggie and healthy place to grab a snack or get some shopping done in Manchester.

Book Babble #2 – The Elephant Vanishes

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

★★★★☆

I’m a big fan of short stories. It all started after I read Instruction Manual for Swallowing by Adam Marek. Anyone who knows that collection knows they’re pretty weird stories -animals measured by volume, robot wasps, zombie cafés – but I was really into them. I read more and more short story collections, and ‘weird’ seems to be a common theme. It’s almost as if writers aren’t quite confident enough to carry their strange and unusual ideas out in a full-length novel, so they opt for short stories instead.

I knew Murakami’s stuff was weird because my dad had been reading 1Q84 and told me about all the strange and wonderful things that happened in it. I wasn’t allowed to read it at the time, though, so I promptly forgot about it – until a few weeks ago. I found a very interesting-looking cover in Waterstones and recognised 1Q84, and then picked up Norwegian Wood as it had its own recommendation card. I was thoroughly intrigued, but we couldn’t find our copy of Norwegian Wood at home so I instead had a go out The Elephant Vanishes, Murakami’s short story collection.

Every one of these stories made me laugh, whether it was because the writing was funny or the story itself was just so bizarre or the ending so unexpected. Each story was, I can only assume, well-translated, although none of them felt ‘Japanese’, per se – they could be set anywhere. The stories range from family affairs (one story is literally called ‘Family Affair’) to urban adventures to unconventional mysteries, but all of them were very Murakami. Here are some recurring themes I noticed:

  • Spaghetti (or miso soup, or tofu)
  • Ears
  • Things vanishing (like elephants!)
  • Housewives
  • Obscure composers
  • American rock bands
  • Cats
  • Percentages
  • Sudden phone calls

In fact, I just found a Murakami bingo board by Incidental Comics, so I wasn’t exaggerating:

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I mentioned unexpected endings. This was a common occurrence in The Elephant Vanishes, but oftentimes perfectly justified. All too often, stories focus on having a perfectly formed beginning, middle and end, but it’s as if Murakami writes his story and finishes it when he has nothing more to add, regardless of how complete it feels. In fact, some stories might seem ‘pointless’ to some readers – if there’s no real conclusion, then why tell it? But these are the exact type of stories that I love. He plays around with structure quite a lot, especially in The Kangaroo Communiqué and The Fall of the Roman Empire (etc), and whilst every story retains its Murakaminess, each is distinctive.

Rather than themes, clichés and storylines, in fact, the largest similarities between these stories are their narrators. They’re all apathetic – they are going through what they’re going through, they don’t think too much of anything, they deal with the situation and they simply tell their story. In that sense, the reader is forced to come up with their own emotional responses. Not that we don’t do this when reading any other stories, but nothing is influencing us when it comes to reactions.

I’d thought the previous story collections I’d read were weird or unconventional before, but Murakami takes the cake. I look forward to reading Norwegian Wood next, and hopefully many more of his works.

(My favourite story from this collection has to be The Second Bakery Attack).

 

 

Book Babble #1 – A Little Life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

★★★★★

I first happened upon A Little Life whilst tidying the shelves at Book Cycle. I had only just finished A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, so I can only assume Japanese names were fresh in my mind. It was tucked away in the unloved ‘X, Y & Z’ section (which was made up of about 75% Zusak and 15% Zweig), and I only really noticed it because I’d never seen it there before. It was thicker than most books, and the cover was nice and bold but nothing special – nothing like the wonderful use of ‘Orgasmic Man’ by Peter Hujar that the hardback version has. The blurb on the back didn’t give me much information, either – all I knew was that it involved a group of university students. I figured I’d give it a go; the book was free, after all.

After doing some research I was surprised to learn I had apparently been living under a rock and this book had been immensely popular, despite its length. However, I soon realised, this book had a serious case of Marmite: either you loved it or hated it. I watched a couple of vague reviews, one woman damning it to Hell and the other tearing up as she described its beauty. Typically, I’m on the more cynical, critical side of the argument, so I began reading A Little Life with slightly low expectations.

In short, A Little Life is about four friends who meet at university – Malcolm, an architect, JB, an artist, Willem, an actor and Jude, a lawyer. It follows their lives from their twenties to their fifties. I can’t say much more. Things started off slow at first. I was interested, but how could I be invested? I wasn’t sure of the writing style or the dialogue to begin with, and nothing instantly grabbed my attention. I liked it, but didn’t dedicate much time to it. I flipped through pages absent-mindedly whilst eating my lunch, not expecting much. The characters were cute, some of it was witty, whatever.

And then suddenly the book developed an endless tunnel of layers. The further I sunk into its pages, the more the writing style and the characters began to resonate with me. It was very much, in that sense, like peeling an onion when you’re ravenously hungry and you have a delicious onion omelette planned, for lack of a better analogy. And yes, onions make you cry. The more I read this book, the stronger my connection with the characters grew. It is very much a character-driven novel, so, of course, that’s crucial.  This is in no way a light-hearted book. Don’t let the first few pages fool you (despite the fantastic hints dropped throughout the first chapters). It tackles exceptionally difficult topics – sexual abuse, self harm and domestic violence to name a few – and although the writing is not graphic, per se, it sugarcoats nothing.

This book became almost an obsession. As soon as I found myself with a free period at college, I’d practically sprint to the library and start reading it. An hour was never enough, and I’d often find myself finally dragging myself out of the world of A Little Life to find my next lesson had started ten minutes ago. I had not had such a fixation with a book for a long, long time. The last lines I’d read were constantly whirring in my mind, and I thought of its characters so fondly that one might mistake them for my close friends. There was one instance, I recall, when I had to climb a flight of stairs and thought to myself, “This is ridiculous! I can’t climb those; my legs won’t be able to manage it. Why isn’t there a lift?” You see, one of the characters, Jude, has quite severe leg injuries and struggles greatly with walking and climbing long distances. A Little Life had taken over mine.

I cried whilst reading this book five times. I have never cried whilst reading a book before, and the only movie that made me cry was Donnie Darko. I love books, but I’m not a very emotional person when it comes to entertainment. Several parts made me cry, and I had to stop reading whilst I ate my lunch because I couldn’t even breathe properly. I sobbed, totally and completely, at one part of the book and also at the end – simply because it had finished. How could something I love so much end? It was a loss of life, a loss of a limb. I raced through this book and all its 700+ pages, but berated myself for doing so. It was impossible not to inhale the whole thing, but I wished I had the willpower to savour it.

Most of the criticisms for this book revolve around the fact that it’s too unrealistic both in its positive and negative experiences. For example, some characters suffer unimaginable trauma, but some are impossibly successful. I see this as a conscious decision. This is a work of fiction. The highs and lows are taken to the extreme – it’s almost as if it’s a study on what the human body and mind can endure. And I thought this was a good thing. Others have also off-handedly referred to this as “torture porn” and perhaps the descriptions of abuse will be difficult for some readers to deal with, but despite some scenes being very hard to read, it’s not an unpleasant book. This book has a central, overwhelmingly positive theme, and that is friendship.

I had to give this five stars in my head as it’s had such a strong impact on me. I want to talk about it so much more, but it’s difficult to discuss without spoiling things. I urge anyone to read it, however. I always give it its own special shelf at Book Cycle when it pops up every so often. Everyone deserves a chance to read this novel.