Why I Want to be More Successful Than I Am Now…

Yesterday was one of those truly fab. work days. I managed to get a bunch of work done and then head into the city for a really interesting seminar with a lovely colleague. Not only that but the seminar was held in a stunning building with amazing views – Google the St. Botolph building (London)…and we were given wine and delicious canapes!

The photo below shows just part of the amazing view and it’s a bit jumbled up as it was taken with a phone-based camera but essentially we had the Gherkin to our right (out of view), Canary Wharf over the the left and then all of what you can see here:

The Perfect Weather for a Photo - 13 floors up!

This picture literally encapsulates everything I love about London and in all honesty, whether for work or pleasure, I can never remember having a bad day in London. It’s so uplifting! (To me anyway.)

I’d spent an evening a few days prior talking to my bf trying to explain why I don’t feel like I’m successful yet; why my work environment doesn’t feel right even though I work for a large global company. I couldn’t do it and he doesn’t get it but the inside of this building and the surrounding area explain it perfectly without words. The buzz, atmosphere, enormous buildings, statement architecture, pressure, opportunity…the list goes on…none of these quite convey what this said to me and it’s proven that I really do need to push that little bit harder and see if I can land myself in the heart of a city just like I was yesterday.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get there! x

The Season of Simple Pleasures

Wow! What a truly fabulous weekend we’ve had here in the UK. The weather has been fantastic and as always when that happens in the UK, we’ve all gone out of our way to make the most it. What I find interesting is that a bit of sunshine takes us right back to nature. We all want to get to the beach or set up a BBQ in the garden; for once it’s not about spending money, it’s about spending quality time with our friends.

I personally spent a good chunk of Saturday walking with my step-mum and the delectable Rudi. (See previous posts for pictures of Rudi, so cute!) Then on Sunday headed over towards Oxford for a BBQ with some friends. Whilst at said BBQ, I was absolutely fascinated by the butterflies I saw. Firstly because butterflies seem to be really rare these days and secondly because they were the gorgeous peacock type which I love. So I spent ages chasing one to try and get a decent pic. with my phone; that’s one tough challenge – shutter speed and clarity are not all that but here’s what I ended up with:

Nature really is more beautiful than anything we can produce ourselves

I’m impressed with that, it took a lot of patience which is not something I usually have. Here some pictures of the main event:

Our BBQ Chef

Meat, Glorious Meat!

The BF in full-on sunny day pose

What did everyone else get up to in the sunny weather? I hope you had as good a weekend as I did! x

Review – Clarisonic Mia

I’m sure that by now you are all familiar with the name Clarisonic but for anyone who isn’t, Clarisonic facial brushes are designed to cleanse your skins far more effectively than you can do yourself and they are made by the people who make ultrasonic toothbrushes. The aim is that they remove dead skin really well and open up your pores so that all of the other products you use work much better.

There are several brushes in the range, starting with the Mia which has one speed and one brush head, all the way up to the Plus which has a few more knobs and dials and comes with more sample cleansers when you buy it. Now these aren’t cheap, the Mia retails at around £120 in most places so it is one of those things I had been wanting for ages but never bought. Then roughly a month ago, the Mia appeared on BuyaPowa for £90 just as I happened to have some cash to spare so I went for it. BuyaPowa is essentially like Groupon used to be in that group buying power means that you can get products for cheaper – check it out.

Anyhow, I haven’t written a review until now as I really wanted to understand how the Clarisonic would effect my skin before I said anything. I’ve read loads of other reviews and they seem to either say it’s the best thing ever or they say it’s the worst thing ever, leading to dry skin and breakouts so I was pretty intrigued to see how my skin would react.

Clarisonic Mia

In my opinion, one of the best things about the Mia is that it is waterproof which means you can use it in the shower or have your bath as usual without having to remember to perform this ritual before you get near the water; I’d never remember to use it if that was the case! Anyhow, after my first use my skin definitely felt softer than usual, I could really tell that I’d used something more powerful than a wash-based exfoliator. I then continued to use the Clarisonic once a day for about a week. It did bring up some small spots on my cheeks but once they had gone, I was left with clearer skin than before. It also cleared the little dent / nook thing in my chin, (you know, under the mouth as your chin juts out!) and a patch on one side of my nose. On the other hand, some patches on my cheeks and the parts where my nose joins my face became a bit dry.

As I was experiencing some dryness, I decided to give my skin a bit of a break and dropped down to using it once every other day. Then, I got lazy and started using it once per week; my cheeks flared up again. If I had a good enough camera, I’d show you the little spots I now have on my cheeks, just like before I ever met the Clarisonic. After all of this rambling, I have to say that for someone with normal or dry skin, I’d say this isn’t worth the money and probably won’t help you. However, for someone with combination skin which verges on the greasy / clogged pores side then I’d say definitely try this out. It’s not a miracle cure, which is what some people seem to expect but it will help treat some of your more problematic areas to the point where at the very least, your make-up will look better on top!

Has anyone else got one of these? What do you think of yours? x

Good Old Fashioned Fun (With the Girls)

Somehow, despite pay day having only just been and gone, pretty much everyone I know seems to be totally broke and I am definitely at the helm of this pauper-style living! With that it mind, it was time to get creative on the weekend just gone as there’s nothing worse than spending a whole month of weekends doing nothing because of a lack of funds. So, the girls and I decided to spend Saturday baking and watching movies; proper girly fun, the good old fashioned way.

Since gluten and I don’t seem to get on very well at the moment, I found a recipe for gluten-free cupcakes (and then amended it slightly) and off we went.  The recipe I stumbled upon can be found here; we doubled up for the first batch of 12 so they came out huge and then made another batch of 12 on the recipe sizes. We also added some xanthan gum and baking powder to the mix to make sure the cakes weren’t crumbly and that they rose enough.

Well, the first batch were pretty huge and consequently quite hard to ice so we were glad we made the second batch smaller! With the actual icing mix, we ended up adding a fair bit of icing sugar as well as we couldn’t get the mixture firm enough to be able to sit on top of the cakes. We then piped the icing on amateur style, (no nozzle, just a bag) and got round to the fun part of decorating those bad boys! Check out my amazingly edited video of us in full on piping action!

Bare naked cakes

Piped and ready to go

Some of our best work

All of our beautiful babies!

As you can see, we got a bit carried away with the decorating. We started off quite refined, creating sophisticated little numbers and then we went wild sticking on a whole array of sweets and decorative bits! It was brilliant fun!

The cakes themselves are not as moist as my friend over at Cuppies and Cream makes but they weren’t dry which is great considering they are GF. We also made one batch with lemon icing which I really love, a pretty good effort considering we were first-timers. Now however, my thighs are approx. 6 times the size they were last week because I’ve eaten so much cake!

I thought I’d share because it was such great fun and I’d really recommend getting back to basics with your friends when the pennies are tight. Do as they did in the old days and fill your time without using computer games, Facebook or the TV and you might just surprise yourself in just how much fun you can have! x

My Cameo on Bennis Inc

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Bennis Inc, it’s a blog which I find really inspirational. Stephanie Bennis founded Bennis Inc a very short time ago, she’s only in her twenties and she seems to be doing really well. I admire her determination and go-getting attitude and find her blog posts both interesting and motivating; if she can do it, then so can we all, the only person in our way most of the time is ourselves.

Bearing this in mind, when Stephanie launched a competition for guest bloggers, I jumped at the chance. I’m pleased to say that she has published my post on Work / Life Balance and it can be found here. Given that this is a competition, I would really appreciate it if you would pop on over, read my post, like it and also check out the rest of her blog – I think you’ll like it.

Happy Monday everyone and please help me win the competition! x

Review Maybelline Dream Nude Airfoam Foundation

Unfortunately I am not one of those lucky people blessed with flawless skin, (unlike my sister…argh!) and so I’m always on the lookout for a foundation with great coverage which feels nice and light on my skin.

I usually use Clinique’s Repairwear Anti-Ageing Makeup on the majority of my face and then Clinique’s Superbalanced Makeup on my forehead. My forehead can sometimes get quite dry so I have to wear a lighter foundation; I also find that thick foundations can cling around my eyebrows and hairline which is never a good look! This combination works well and covers me nicely from morning until evening and reflects light well in photos so I look like a porcelain doll 🙂

However, the foundation is pretty thick and I would like something budget friendly that’s a bit lighter, especially for the Summer. So, when I was in Boots on Saturday and I spotted the new Maybelline Dream Airfoam range on offer for just under £7 each, I thought I’d give it a bash. Being the English rose that I am, I went for the lightest shade, Ivory which actually isn’t that pale…I can only just get away with it!

I have to say this is not like any foundation I have ever used before. First lesson is that you MUST shake it lots before you depress the pump. If you don’t, you get unpigmented foam which is no good to man nor beast. Secondly, pressing the pump with the right pressure is an art, one that I have yet to master! It’s just like hair mousse so it grows in your hand and then starts fizzing away to nothing so if you take too much, it will just be wasted. Thirdly, application is messy. You have to pump it into your hand and then use the fingers of your other hand to apply. This is a whole extra hand’s worth of mess than I would normally have when applying foundation.

Yesterday was the first day that I wore the foundation and I have to say I wasn’t hugely impressed. Where my skin really needs coverage is my nose and chin and I had to use two layers of foundation on those areas to feel confident enough to leave the house. It also did nothing for the dark circles under my eyes, that job was left entirely to my concealer. Then to top it off, I looked dirty. I don’t think the colour was too dark, (not that there is a lighter shade) I just don’t think it reflects the light in the way that my Clinique foundations do. However, I was determined to give it a proper test so off I went to work with it…

Around 5pm when I popped to the ladies’, I noticed in the mirror that suddenly I was looking pretty minging. The foundation had clumped onto areas of slightly dry skin which meant I had a patch on my forehead and lines down the sides of my nose. Where it hadn’t clumped, it had pretty much slid off in the heat of the office. Not impressed! Sorry I have no pictures of any of this, none of my photo-taking devices are good enough to pick up this level of detail!

Essentially, if you have perfect skin and don’t need a foundation, this might work for you. Though in that instance, I would recommend a tinted moisturiser instead. If your skin is uneven in tone, has large pores, is dry or oily in any way, shape or form, I would avoid this. It’s messy to apply and the results just aren’t worth effort; spend a bit more and hop on over to the Clinique counter, they’ll be able to help you there. x

Say Hello to Pseudo-Sam

When we’re children, most of us are encouraged to dream about the future; what we want to be, where we want to live, etc. and then when we get to the teenage years it becomes less about what we want to be and more about finding who we are now. That fabulous phrase that so many people use comes into play, “finding myself” – whatever the heck that means! Generally, once we actually reach adulthood, we’re pretty much supposed to forget all of this and just be. Be who we are, doing what we’re doing and if we’re lucky, we like it; if not, it’s pretty much tough, there’s not enough time in a day to try and change it.

Or so it was…

These days we seem to be encouraged to dream all the way through life and never settle for anything less than perfection. Some of us are natural born dreamers; every personality test I’ve ever taken and more recently, the Strengths Finder test I took, all say that I’m a dreamer. When I speak to those around me, I realise that they haven’t spent their whole lives wishing for something else, it seems to just be me who has to spend all day, every day in a bubble in order to survive. Essentially, I will never be satisfied because I’m always striving for something better in the future. I blame my mother; she told me that if I worked hard I’d get everything I wanted so I am working hard and now I’m expecting everything I want! (That’s a joke…sort of.) Anyhow, being of a naturally dreamy disposition, I realise I have fallen prey to the virtual world and become a victim of my virtual life.

Rather than really living my real life and changing the things about it that I hate dislike, I’ve created a pseudo-Sam. She’s the online presence that represents me and she is way cooler than I am. Pseudo-Sam wears cool clothes; I know this because they’re on WIWT.com. Pseudo-Sam is a writer- uh, I wonder where you’ll find evidence of that!?! Pseudo-Sam is also way up-to-date on all the latest trends; Twitter tells her what they are. All of these web-based activities represent the me that I wish I was; pseudo-Sam only associates with the people I wish I was like, the people whose lives I covet. The most realistic version of Sam you’ll find is on Facebook. Facebook got in there first; it has both Sam’s – the photos represent pseudo-Sam who is always happy and loving life and the statuses represent real Sam who is mainly disappointed that she hasn’t morphed into her pseudo-persona.

What is this strange world that we inhabit and how do we extract ourselves from it? Will I really have a life left if I cancel my Facebook, Twitter, WIWT.com, Pinterest and WordPress accounts or will I collapse without pseudo-Sam there to prop up the flimsy real Sam that remains? It’s a genuinely tough question to answer and for now, I think my flimsy self is too scared to find out so I’m going to let pseudo-Sam carry on playing, I mean, is it really that different to watching SATC and wishing I was Carrie Bradshaw!?! x

Where to Drink (Cocktails) – Oxford

A friend’s birthday on Saturday called me into the centre of Oxford for some food, drink and general fun times. Unbelievably, despite having lived 30mins – 1hour away, (depending on mode of transport) for pretty much my whole life, this was the first time I’d been into Oxford at night. It was really pretty and I didn’t really spot any unsavoury characters either; a huge step up from Reading.

We visited 2 venues for cocktails and both were fabulous so I just had to tell you all about them just in case you’re in the area. Unfortunately the pictures I have are taken from the web as my camera is shockingly bad in low light conditions!

Bar 1 – Angels

As you can see, it’s not really much to look at on the outside but inside it’s very cosy, slightly dark and decorated in that slightly kitsch way I love my cocktail bars to be decorated. It’s also on a really quaint little street with other nice bars and some nice restaurants too so you really feel like you’re in the right place for a pleasant drinking experience. On recommendation from a friend I went for the Passion Fruit Daquiri which was divine; I couldn’t taste the alcohol at all and the passion fruit had just the right amount of bite to cut through the sweetness of the rest of the drink. Highly recommended! If you’re not drinking, this is also a great place for you; the bf had himself an Elderflower Presse cocktail which was also delicious, just needed a splash of rum in my opinion!

I would definitely recommend this as a great bar for getting your night started or somewhere where you can chat easily with your friends whilst exploring a large menu of taste sensations!

Bar 2 – Freud

Now don’t be put off by the rubbish website or the fact that this looks like a tourist spot by day. By night, this place is lit up and it’s transformed into what can only be described as a cross between a church and an industrial warehouse. The ceilings are exposed and warehouse-like but adjoined to the traditional walls encasing the stained glass windows.

The cocktails in here were also fabulous, nobody in the group had anything bad. I had a Planters Punch and it literally tasted like being on holiday in the Caribbean; not to mention it looked a bit like a sunset. An absolutely brilliant drink for anyone who likes to disguise the sour taste of alcohol! It’s a bit more lively than Angels in that it is bigger and generally louder but still a great place to catch up with your friends. Definitely give this place a visit, if only to check out the decor!

My lesson from all of this…I need a better camera. You’d definitely go to both if you saw how good the cocktails looked! x

Review Dove Maximum Protection 48hr Deodorant

Now I know that deodorant isn’t the most exciting thing to review or to read a review about but I think it’s massively neglected by most bloggers who choose to focus on the fun stuff, yet it’s an important product which pretty much everyone uses. I myself am something of a sweaty betty; not in the moisture pouring out of the palms of my hands kind of crazy way but in the “I need to be careful what tops I wear in certain situations” type of way. I’ve tried using strong antiperspirants designed to stave away the sweat patches for a good few days in the past but I haven’t got on well with them. Specifically, I’ve tried Perspirex and Driclor in the past which both work well but sting and dry out my skin – I’m pretty sensitive of skin, I think it’s my pale complexion!

I usually survive by using Dove roll-ons or sprays, (Mitchum is also too strong for me) but recently I ran out of deodorant and used some of the bf’s L’Oreal Men Expert spray and it was great, not too manly of smell either. So, off I went to the shop to pick me up some man deodorant and whilst I was there I also spotted the Dove Maximum Protection 48hr Deodorant; naturally I bought both. Thank heavens I did because I managed to buy the wrong smell man deodorant and smelled really strongly of man all day Monday!

I’ve now been using the Dove deodorant for 4 days; it’s a cream stick that you put on at night and don’t need to reapply in the morning but yesterday was the first day that I didn’t top up with another deodorant. It was pretty warm in my office today and the Dove held it’s ground well but by the end of the day I was starting to smell a tiny bit stale (no moisture though). However, I would not feel at all comfortable leaving it for another day, I think 48 hours really is wishful thinking. I know that some people sweat less than I do, but would they really be as bothered about lasting protection???

Good points are that the sticks are fragranced, (unlike many other stronger antiperspirants) I haven’t experienced any skin irritation and it has definitely worked better than my usual Dove spray or roll on. I would say though that you should take a top-up deodorant with you if you wanted to get through from office to evening and that it’s unlikely to last 48 hours on anyone. With a price point of £5.30(ish),  it is approximately twice the cost of a standard stick and I don’t think it will last as long either. So if you don’t sweat that much, it’s probably a waste of cash but if you’re a bit more like me then I’d say definitely give this a bash, it might be just the right compromise between skin irritation and dryness. I will definitely be carrying on with mine, yesterday’s trial proved it to be the best deodorant I’ve used in a long time! x