Friday, 30 January 2015

When you've become a bit of a simplistic dresser like myself - one is never too far from a striped top, navy jumper and blue jeans - accessorizing is an absolute must. Bold, eye-catching pieces really help dress up an outfit, and there's nothing easier to rock in the wintery weather than a statement scarf.

No longer just the essential neck warmer, scarves are now key to pulling a lot of my looks together and have seen a huge reappearance on the catwalks as blankets, wraps, and let's not forget Burberry's personalised ponchos (the dream). For me, a nice silky patterned piece works wonders to match my lipstick or outfit, and these gorgeous prints from Eleanor J Shore have really helped lift my winter wardrobe in even more colour than before.

You can't get much better than 100% silk, and these scarves are the epitome of luxury mixed with bold quirky prints - graphic shapes, splashes of colour, and made in the heart of the West Country - "big up your chest, represent the West" as Yeo Valley once sang.
To get the new year off to a stylish start, Eleanor sent me three of her current collection picks (that are also part of her sale, so get clicking!) to make my current wardrobe a little more stylish, and show off the various ways the scarf has grown from a simple piece to a multi-use accessory, and seeing as so many of you loved the sneaky peek of one of the scarves in my Blacks post, I just had to let you in on the secret...

On those warmer winter days, a light trench coat helps set your wardrobe up for Spring, and the Multi Ink Scarf* really reflects light in your outfit; the floral splashes tease you with upcoming SS15 colours to wish the Summer was arriving sooner, and it drapes beautifully over the shoulder like a mini-poncho to ooze sophistication. 
Scarves don't just update your outfit but also your accessories too, so make your handbag a statement piece by tying your scarf around the handle just like the Yellow Stripe Ink Scarf* here. Keeping the colour of your scarf the same as your bag gives it an elongated feel, and is at easy reach to wrap around your neck should the wind come out to play; if it's good enough for the catwalk, then it's good enough for me!
Finally, you can't go wrong with a draped finish among quality material, and the Acid Reflect Scarf* has all of this plus my favourite colours combined. When it's time to brave just some layers and a jumper, the flashes of blue, pink and purple in this scarf just make my staple navy pieces come to life, and it just makes your whole look appear more expensive and styled than without it - I think this is scarf love, it's forever.

If I wasn't a scarf convert before, then I sure am now! I love how the contrast of colour, length and material can lift your look from one thing to another, giving you quality alongside comfort and making you feel very put-together. Eleanor J Shore has some amazing savings on her uniquely designed scarves, so go check out some British homegrown talent before it's too late, and elevate your simple style to the high-flying style stakes.

Do you love accessorizing with scarves? Have you heard of Eleanor J Shore before? How do you dress up your outfits?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Juicing is one of the many phrases you hear in January along with 'cleanse', 'health kick' 'trying to eat healthy', 'detox' and 'WHEN IS IT SUMMER?!'. Personally, as much as I like juicing, it's a faff in the winter to get all the veg and fruit and start blending away, which is a poor excuse I know but I'd rather whip out my oats and cup of peppermint tea to get my hanger squashed. 

So when it comes to easy, clean juices to go alongside lunch or as a snack, I've been quite impressed with a couple of brands found in supermarkets and online that do amazing blends of fruit and veg that last for days and  taste awesome mixed together. 

For the past few shops now, we've had a fridge stocked with cold-pressed juices and smoothies to get our diets filled with a bit more zing, and to make sure there's more fruit than veg going into our bellies - we're vegetable fiends in this household. The most reasonably priced ones - with delicious flavours to boot, and a large enough quantity - come from Savse, Coldpress, Vegesentials, and Waitrose Own. Out of all of these, Vegesentials and Savse have higher proportions of fruit and veg content, whilst the others are mainly fruit juice or puree; that's fine to get started with flavour or to mix with a smoothie but it's not the raw goodness you're looking for.

As I said, you want value and taste for your money, and you want to make sure you're getting a range of veg blended into them apples - Savse and Vegesentials both contain parsnip, broccoli, kale and beetroot which may sound a bit iffy but trust me, it enhances the flavour without overpowering - yay for sneaky veg! Ideally when making or buying a juice, you want at least 40-60% veg so the natural sugars don't cause your blood sugar to go haywire, but also because veg is very nutritionally dense and juicing allows you to get more veg into your body than eating them at every meal (unless you are me, whereby every meal is loaded with more vegetables than you can shake a wooden spoon at).

A key issue with juicing is whether you get enough fibre, and naturally eating whole fruits and vegetables will give you all the fibre contained within, but juices and smoothies break down the fibre so it is easier to digest - yet you still lose a proportion of this. The best way to get some of the fibre back into your juice and diet - and preventing uncomfortable moments on the toilet, it will happen if you don't drink water or consume fibre - is to add supplements or superfoods. I personally add Moringa powder - which has 1g of Fibre to every 2g Carbs - which along with loads of other nutrients give you a large proportion of your daily vitamins including Vitamin A and all of B, and also Magnesium and Protein. You can also mix in flaxseed and chia which help to boost you intake of fibre and keep you feeling fuller for longer due to the seeds expanding when in contact with water.

Since starting to use ready made juices, I've felt fuller and bit more energised but I am more aware of how lacking my diet was in sugar. I don't eat a lot of chocolate or consume large quantities of fruit due to it racing through my blood stream super quick - making me very chatty, and a bit spotty - so when I've had less green, veg based juices in the mix, I've felt a bit sickly afterwards.
It's also made me see juices as a 'once daily boost' to my diet - I only drink about 1 - 1 ½ glasses of juice a day, sipping throughout the morning and late afternoon to just fill me up a little and to get a dose of fruit without feeling crap at not eating and also not overdoing the sugar. Of course everyone is each to their own, but through juicing it's key to detox and cleanse in the right way; start slow and build up, don't be deprived and be conscious of living a healthy lifestyle. Jumping straight into a juice can make you feel worse than before, so before you go the whole-hog try a juice for breakfast, and then some between meals before you attempt a day of cleansing - make sure they are high in vegetables! Afterwards, keep them mixed into your diet with soups, clean meals packed with fibre and protein, and before late-afternoon so you don't get a sugar spike before bed - worse than Pinterest scrolling at 11:30pm and fighting sleep, I'll tell you!

Having these pre-made cold pressed juices in the fridge has definitely made me less inclined to hit the snacks, and I've seen our plates get a little smaller too which is always good when trying to be balanced (and not eating your body weight in sweet potatoes or almonds every day #thedream ). I'm really impressed with the range found on Ocado as they are all amazing quality and have a long date on them which is good if you are juicing for a long period of time, and the ease of just mixing up some flavours in the morning makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable and easy to stick too.

So if you're looking for easy clean juices in the winter with good range of flavour, then definitely check out the Savse and Vegesential ranges until you feel warm enough to crack out the juicer again - Summer, I'm coming for you...

Have you tried any of these juice ranges? What's your favourite ingredients in a juice? Would you or have you cleansed with juices?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

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Monday, 26 January 2015

I've proclaimed enough times now on this blog that I am a colour lover; any which way I can inject something non-black into my look I will do it, yet there's one shade that as much as I like to look of, I find a little difficult to get on my nails and face at a regular occurrence: pink.

The classic 'girly girl' shade always seems to accumulate in my collection but actually putting it on or wearing it makes me go a bit weird, and them I'm straight back to the plums and reds I can work with. But what's the big deal? To be honest, there's no fear of pink, I just never thought it was my thing and never quite found the right shade to wear. Slowly but surely though I have been finding ways to get it on my face, and beat the old thoughts of baby pink looking ridiculous on my nails - commencing pink ladies transformation...

Pink has been refreshed and updated season after season, and the colours are a lot fresher and bolder than before which I can totally get on board with. I've found that blue based shades such as Barry M Lip Paint 147 (now 52) and Oriflame The ONE Colour Unlimited Lipstick in Forever Plum* suit my yellow/cool-toned skin best as they are quite bold and vibrant whilst being refreshing to the complexion. When my skin warms up a bit though through the summer seasons, I'll occasionally delve into the peach and pink-blue tones such as MAC Snob (very baby girl, need a tanned bronze look!) which layers well with a coral MAC Blossom Culture. For times when you want to rock a real real  pink nude, I like the peachy knock-back of MAC Myth which is oh so wrong but oh so right when you've got a smokey eye going, really helps bring more focus to the face with a pale lip - plus, no noticeable smudged lippy when you're eating? Winning.

So we're getting somewhere with the lips, but what about the eyes? Having green eyes, you'd think pink would go well - and it does - but what's the right balance of pink without looking like you've been crying? Obviously, the easiest is a pink toned shimmer which adds light to your eyes without being OTT. If you want a powerful punch, you either need a really pigmented eyeshadow or a white base - I like to use white eyeliner drawn on top of some primer as a base, and then any pale or bold colour will just wow. The Sleek Oh So Special i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette* has some key peachy coral shades that enhance your natural lid colour but blend beautifully with a purple, gold, brown or darker pink for a subtle spring smoke and is much easier to wear. Contrast is a must but make it subtle; choose browns and more natural liners and less mascara to keep it from looking too 90's disco.

Aside from lips, nails are pretty easy to pull off - given you aren't scared of baby pink. As the spring nears, I am more inclined to add a wash of dusty pink to my nails, but a nice candy shade can work if you make it bold - pop some white polish on underneath and pow it screams twice as loud but has a really good true colour. If you're a dab handy with the nail art or mixing, try a baby pink base with some dark pink dots, or layer an opaque pink over a candy colour for a more muted hue - experiment and made the shade fit you!

Pink; well maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Sure, everyone has a colour they stay away from, but there's so many shades out there that there's bound to be one to suit you. Rather than being pained in pink this year, I'm going to embrace the shades in my collection and make this former pink fiend a candied convert to the world of rose-tinted prettiness. Give me a bomber jacket ladies, I'm hooked!

Are you a pink make-up lover? Do you have a shade you cannot wear, or prefer not to? What do you find hardest to wear make-up wise?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Saturday, 24 January 2015

One of my most frequently asked questions in life is, "Do you want a cup of tea?". Guaranteed whilst working, at breakfast, lunch, dinner, out and about or just out the shower, there will be a cup of tea nearby with my name on it. I can't remember quite when the obsession began, but I do know that once I'd had my first kick of peppermint, I wasn't going back to hot chocolates, or even daring to try coffee and mocha long-term...

I've done my fair round of testing to find flavours and brands that suit my tea needs, so if you're on the lookout for your next drink sensation, here's the brands and flavours you need to try;

For the brand that does it all  Whether it's a drink to sooth my throat or something to wake me up in the morning, I can always rely on Pukka Herbs for great tasting flavours that last at least 3 mugs of tea. Need a minty refresh to start your day? Three Mint is bursting with the fresh flavour of spearmint, freshmint and peppermint that cleans your palette and gets you moving; For a warming tummy pleaser, Three Cinnamon, Three Ginger and Vanilla Chai all hit the spot and if you're looking to cut down on the sweet snacks, a cup of these after dinner or between meals will give you that treat sensation without grabbing a bit of chocolate from the fridge. Maybe you have a bit of a sore throat coming? No problemo amigo, just whack some hot water over the Lemon, Ginger and Manuka Honey tea bag and you're good to go - you can really feel the honey soothe that cough!

For the brand that gets your body moving  Teatoxes are a pretty huge thing nowadays, just pop a special brew of herbs in a bag and voila - bye-bye water weight and cravings! There are murmurs with some brands not tasting that great or there not being much desire to continue after nothing really happens, but I've found great success - and taste - with StripTeas*, so much so I've used it twice! If you like Pukka Tea or any herbal blends, then you're going to like this; it tastes just like your usual brew, except you can feel it working away whilst gulping down 3 decent cups of tea per bag and  you can see and feel a difference. You can read my full review, but for the long and short of it, I noticed a real difference in my appetite, snacking, and in the dramatic lack of bloat around my stomach - thank you herbs! And if that isn't enough to excite you, you can get 10% off any order using BRITTONLOVES10 at the checkout - thank me later ;)

So to sum it all up, in a nation that is graced with good tea to solve all your problems - be it a bad breakup or to get you skipping to the loo a bit quicker in the morning (sorry) - there is no shortage of great quality, mug-filling, flavour shaking teas to make your taste buds and tummy smile through the magic of natural herbs and flavours. If you're looking to convert to herbal tea, what to try something new, or maybe you too are just a bit of a tea addict, come draw up a chair with the rest of us and repeat, "there's no better drink than tea..."

Are you an avid tea drinker? Are you fan of herbal or breakfast tea? What is your fave brand and flavour tea?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will  be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Friday, 23 January 2015

If I could have my own personal version of Maria Von Trapp's 'Favourite Things', it would go along the lines of 'Handfuls of Almonds and Cups of Fresh Mint Tea, Dreaming of Macbooks and Desperate for Mulberry...'
Okay, so both the latter I don't have as of yet (but one can still dream) and not a year goes by that I don't pop one on my birthday wishlist, hoping someone will present me with a box encasing a thing of beauty one day soon.

However, I've got myself a little somethin'somethin' to tide me over until I make a big investment myself in the Mulbs, and it's a real bargain beauty!

Whilst scouring the aisles of TK Maxx sale for something to spend my Christmas vouchers on, I spotted this gorgeous Jane Shilton shoulder bag which ticked all the boxes - easy to shorten, a colour other than black to compliment my wardrobe, great for small trips, and under £20. It is faux leather, which isn't a huge problem as my black Urban Outfitters bag is faux leather and has lasted well over 3 years, and no wear or tear anywhere!

I've found it's the perfect dupe for the Mulberry Primrose or Mini Lily Bag in terms of shape and design, but obviously at a very attractive short-term price. Just like the Primrose though, it seems to be out of stock online and on TK Maxx's website, so if you like the look of it, you're going to need to scour your nearest store!

The bag itself is a great size, and can get in all your daily essentials from phone, lipstick, purse and emergency teabags, to your DSLR and phone and some pounds when you're off out to an event or exploring. In terms of colour, I love how it compliments my Burberry coat and the other blues and browns in my wardrobe as it's a lot softer than black (black and studs to be picky) and is just a nice simple piece that you can wear for any occassion, and that people think is worth a LOT more.

So whether you're lusting over a Bayswater, CĂ©line Micro or even a Whistles Rivington Chain Pouch, make sure to check out places like TK Maxx to 'try before you buy' with a style you've been wanting for years, you never know, it could become one of your favourite things...

Have you got a designer bag you're dying to own? Do you buy dupes or invest? What is your go-to brand for high quality bags?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

One of the big things I wanted to achieve last year was to cook and bake more - and I think we can agree I did a lot  of making in the kitchen - however the best time to whip up exciting recipes for me is when the weather has turned cold and you need something warm, filling and nutritious to keep you grounded and satisfied what ever day of the week.

The main dish that comes out to play each year in our house is soup, and after years of buying good quality pre-made cartons, we've found that nothing really beats homemade - especially when you know exactly what goes in, and you can make it as spicy as you like (sorry Mum). This particular recipe isn't too fancy, but it tastes freakin' amazing, and after having something similar on my spa day I just had to try it at mo.
Full of good carbs, roasted flavours, and a really lovely warming colour, this bowl of yumminess is a perfect meal to last you all week!

Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings)

2 Medium Sweet Potatoes | 2 Parsnips | 3 Medium Carrots | 3 Small White Onions | 2-3 Tsps Whole Mustard | 2-3 Tsps Clear Honey | Mixed Spice | Black Pepper | Parsley | Almond Milk | Hot Water | Apple Juice

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c, and chop the veg into chunks to part-boil until just soft. Once boiled, pour them into a foil-lined baking tray with oil and toss in mixed spice. Drizzle on a Honey Mustard mixture - honey, mustard and apple juice combined in an old jar - and then roast for 35-40 minutes.

Once roasted, pop all the veg into a blender with almond milk to cover half the veg, and topped up with hot water until ¾ covered. Add some crushed black pepper and parsley to taste, and then blend until a smooth soup - add more liquid for a runny mixture or use less for a thicker, chunky consistency.
When blended and to taste, pop a bit to heat up quickly on the stove and then settle down with some toast to dunk.

The second best thing about this soup - aside from the taste - is that it can be frozen for quick meals, or kept in the fridge for a few days in an airtight box to re-heat in minutes! Perfect when you're rushed off your feet after work or school, and need substance pronto. Whip up a batch or two on a Sunday and you'll be sorted for many cold nights to come, or pop some freshly heated in a flask and that's lunch sorted - you can't knock some good quick food.

Satisfy your hunger and banish the cold with a bowl of hearty, yummy veg, and you'll be smiling right until Spring; now, where's the cayenne pepper.......?

Are you a lover of homemade soup? What are your favourite flavour combinations? Do you have a favourite winter day food?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

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Monday, 19 January 2015

For me, a spa day is the ultimate time of relaxation. Switching off your phone (unless your Mum wants you to Instagram your lunch), relaxing by the pool and having a relieving massage can really help you feel brand new, renewed and ready to get started again, and the new year is the best time to escape from the last year's events and get your mind and body reset for 2015.

After having a few spa days now, I've learnt a lot of things of how to make the most of your time there and the after effects of your treatments. Spa days are pricey but the benefits of a mud wrap, Indian head or even a manicure can last for days, so if you do it right you can feel like a little marshmallow for days.
Whether you're heading to a spa soon, or you're thinking of buying a bespoke day for you and some close ones, here are some essential tips for how you can make the most of your time relaxing.

When You Book: Scheduling treatments for the right time of day
Most of the time, the spa reception will just have to pop you in wherever there is a gap depending on your chosen treatments; however, you obviously get some choice the more in advance you book. If you're going for a full day, plan when you want your lunch (usually between 12-2PM) and try to have you main treatment after you've eaten.
The reason for this is because your main treatment will be the time the most products are used - all beneficial to your relaxation - and if you have a few hours to kill after all these products are sinking in, and decide to jump in the pool, the products wash right off. Your plan of action? Allow enough time in your morning session to either use the gym facilities, swimming pool or sauna rooms, then shower your body clean off all the sweat and chlorine before you head off clean to your treatments. This also maximises your time at the spa, as if you can arrive from 9am and your first treatment is 11:30am, you can get in an hour in the gym, a quick swim, sauna and a shower before you go to be pampered.
So when asked 'when would you like your treatments?', get them as late as possible after lunch as you can.

3 Days Before: Start Stretching
A common misconception is that spa days are to treat your back problems, not relieve and relax them. Spa days should be spent with you half asleep with a peppermint tea, walking around in a fluffy dressing gown, not thinking 'ooh I'm so uncomfortable, I just want my back massage now to sort this pain'.
By incorporating some stretching, yoga and pilates into your daily routine before your spa, you allow the muscles to relax, move stuck energy, and get used to being pulled and moved before some stranger starts to 'use the force' and make your back tense up even more than before - done that, not fun. Do this daily and on the morning of your spa day.

2 Days Before: Drink lots of Water
Massages help to move lots of stuck energy, fluids and pain, and can make you feel quite lightheaded afterwards, so it's important to prep your body to deal with a lack of hydration. Drink 2 litres of water if you can, or lots of herbal tea to get your body detoxing and clear before the day, and you'll feel a lot lighter and more comfortable.

The Day Before: Relax and Detox your Muscles
If you have a local TK Maxx, go and get some affordable Epsom or Detox Dead Sea Salts for your bath, and glug a good quarter to half a packet into your tub for a long soak. Epsom and Sea Salts help draw out impurities, top up your magnesium and sulphate levels (which we are all apparently lacking in these days) which leads to better digestion, flushed toxins and heavy metals in the bloodstream and pancreas, relieve stress, and relax the joints, muscles and brain - and that's just the jist of it.
By having a long, deep soak, you are releasing and preparing the body for a full day of relaxation, and it allows each individual treatment to work better for relieving your body of pains and tension, thus for giving you a longer lasting relaxed outcome. Chug back some night-time tea and have an early night, and you'll be all set.

On The Day: Making The Most of Your Spa Day
Go in your casual comfies, and get someone to drop you off if you can - marshmallow driving isn't the best! Get there early, and when you're asked what you want for lunch, go for light and healthy meals packed with minerals, protein and essential fats (think soup, salad, salmon, chicken, fresh vegetables), skip the bread and complimentary champagne (you've detoxed for a reason, plus it'll probably go straight to your head) and grab some water or herbal tea to keep your fluids topped up.
Get changed into your swimming gear, throw on the complimentary dressing gown and slippers and go swim or hit the gym for a bit. About 40-50 minutes before your first treatment, head to the steam rooms for a quick detoxing muscle relaxant that works: Have a cold shower, sit in the steam room for about 7-10 minutes, have another cold shower, sit in the sauna for 5-7 minutes, have another cold shower, sit in the sauna for 5-7 minutes, cold shower again, and then hit the steam room again for 5 minutes and shower off at the end. Why so long and lots of showering? The extreme change in temperature will keep your blood pumping and boost circulation, allowing your body to pump clean oxygen and fluids around. It also helps to release toxins, clean your skin of any dead skin cells, and relax your body and muscles deeply before your first treatment. It's totally worth it.

Other than that - relax! Enjoy the day, allow yourself to let go, and become a dead weight whilst all your tensions are released and your body goes all mushy. Don't do much for the rest of the day, just drink water, eat clean food and put your feet up; you and your body deserve it!

Are you a fan of spa days? What is your favourite massage? Where is your favourite spa and what is the best treatment?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Friday, 16 January 2015

Bloomin' crazy blustery weather calls for layers, sturdy pieces to withstand the cold, and more layers, and I for one can get on-board with all the basic staples layered up until I look like Joey protecting himself from the girl who punches him, and start getting the porridge sweats - TMI?

Among the layers, I like to make sure I don't sink into the conscious collective thought of wearing lots of black and dark colours - in fact, I find it impossible to wear all black except for parties or when a roll-neck is involved - so turning to navy, blue and brown helps me inject some life into those murky days without compensating for wearable style. 

Speaking of wearable style, I have discovered a fantastic pair of new season boots that keep your toes warm (yay!) and actually look decent (double yay!). Classic double buckles, a thick sole so you don't get painful feet, stylish faux fur trim with a lined inside for roasty toasty walking, and made from materials built to last - I bet you wouldn't believe they're from Blacks.

What was once a store myself and others thought of as 'only for walkers' is now seriously upping the game for stylish, well designed footwear and outerwear to rival the likes of the high-street and popular retailers. The Merrell Decora Chant boots* are ones that tick all the boxes for me, and I love how easy they are to rock with so many outfits without looking too sporty or heavy-duty for walking or treks, and are the perfect height on your leg to give the illusion of longer limbs - something I'm in much need of!

Scarf: Eleanor J Shore | Jumper: H&M | Striped Top: GAP | Jeans: M&CO | Boots: MERRELL at Blacks* | Bag: Jane Shilton via TK Maxx

As well as jumping for joy over these boots, how gorgeous is this printed scarf and Mulberry dupe?! I love the pops of colour they give the navy and brown, and an easy way to make a statement with a classic look (but more on those another day....)

There's snow  stopping me now with the perfect new season boot, and I'm happy to finally have found a shade of Black(s) that I can get down with daily; bring on the boots!

Have you shopped from Blacks before? What's your perfect style of winter boot? How are you dealing with the crazy winter weather?!

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

Some products in this post may have been sent for review or gifted, and will be marked with a * or c/o. All opinions are mine are not influenced by brands or companies. Please see my full disclaimer for more.

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Time to get snap-happy folks, as I impart some (somewhat) wisdom to you on how to make your photos look awesome. I've done two-ish posts on photography in the past - a bit basic, not my best work (there goes the Distinction) - and they cover some topics, but we're here for the real stuff; the tips and tricks that make your images go 'pow pow!'
After some nice comments on my Kew photography, I got my brain tinkering of all the things I learnt through my photography course and experience that are essential to a great image, and stripped down to the Top - Tips.

1. Know your ISO from your F-Stops What is this ISO thing people keep going on about (I ask myself that question all the time)? Well, it's to do with your camera's sensitivity to light - the higher the ISO, the higher the sensitivity. If you are in broad, bright daylight, you would need a lower ISO as your camera is able to capture more as it senses more light in the environment around you. This effects the shutter speed too as it can capture the image easily due to the clarity of the light and ability to focus clearly on the object or setting, and also the aperture, which dictates the amount of light let in - aperture is the size of the lens hole, and the bigger the hole, the more light that gets in. Also here, the smaller the aperture f-stop number, the bigger the hole in which light can enter)
For Example  - A park on a clear, bright sunny day; You will have an ISO 200, F/16 and Shutter Speed of 1/2000 for a clear, workable image. (The Sunny 16 Rule) | - A Dark Party with Fairy Lights; ISO 600-1800, F/2.8-4 and a Shutter Speed of 1/60 to 1/100

2. Think of your Photography Topic and Audience We're going to break this one down into two sections as it's a very vague tip if I do say so myself. Firstly is what you are photographing; is it in a studio or outdoors? Is it humans or pets? Editorial, fashion, portrait or landscape? Make it clear what you are shooting and where.
Let's just go with blog images for now; Secondly I would class blog photos as editorial therefore you want them to look clean, clear and as natural as possible. Soft images that are clear with all details visable are ones that readers and viewers appear to like most, so set up somewhere with access to lots of natural light and on a reflective, clean backdrop. This doesn't necessarily mean white backdrops - although they allow editing to make the image as a whole look brighter and cleaner - but you can add a pattern or colour that is reflected in the product to either act as continuation or a contrast; I personally like white with a bit of texture and brightness, very simple but still quite exciting to look at and pleasing to the eye (massive viewer pull).

3. Lighting is the Key! Lighting, lighting, lighting. That is what is drummed into you as a photographer (and composition, but we'll get onto that) and it's no wonder they do, as it's so essential! Whether it's flash photography with studio lights or natural daylight, having proper lit images without too much bleaching or flat areas is key. Sometimes, you gotta work with what you've got - can't help it if it's raining on your hols, or if the sun will come out tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day...but making it work for you is the thing here.
In the studio, two lights minimum is best - one to light up the person or object, and another to illuminate from behind or cancel out any unwanted shadows. You don't want the light too bright otherwise it looks unnatural, but it should help pick up all the detail of the chosen subject with much brighten clarity. With outside photos, an overcast but bright day is best for photos that aren't too dull, bleached out or tinted an odd colour. A full on sunny day can cause bleaching which may be undesired in come types of images, but for lens flare it can work. It is best in this circumstance to shoot away from the light with the sun behind you and your subject lit up clearly without any flare. Now we're all lit, we can move onto...

4. Composition (which is also everything) Composition and lighting go hand-in-hand, like brownies and NOW TV. Composition is basically how you conduct an image - how it's framed, positioned, what's there and what isn't there - and leads to more thought on mood and atmosphere; "How does it make you feel Lauren?" "It makes me feel spendy now ssh." Composition with blogging can be narrowed down to angle, positioning, and Rule of Thirds - Are you shooting straight on or from above? Is it center-aligned or to the side? After you've made these choices, you can one step further and use the Rule of Thirds to create aesthetically pleasing images - sounds fancy, but it's to do with how the brain sees balance; a well balanced image is much more accepting and easy to view (aka pleasing) to the brain than one off-balance. Whether it's in the centre-third, lower-third or left-third, as long as it fills or stays within the third, it will be 'vair pleazing'.

5. Editing Away... How you edit depends on your theme and the brief; either you're going crazy for contrast, making a landscape look really moody and atmospheric or you want something bright and clean to get to the point and feel very fresh to look at. If you're lucky to have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (I recommend Elements for beginners and those who can't afford £600 - it does almost the same job), then the most used tools you'll need are curves and levels. These allow you to tailor the contrast, brightness, light and shadows to your needs, and are a lot softer than the old school 'brightness and contrast', plus they set the foundation for your image just like you do with drawing.
If you only have online or basic photo editing tools available, PicMonkey is great for extra filters and effects, but if you're a clean and simple kinda gal, just play around with the brightness and shows to get an airy light image you love.

6. How to Save Your Images Might seem odd, but depending on what the photo is for, you should be saving them differently. Before you get to saving them though, think about how you're shooting them - if you shoot JPEG they are easy to transfer but they will be a bit processed and compressed to suit the camera, not you. RAW retains the most sharpness and information from each individual shot, but you will need to convert them to .JPG when you save the file....which brings us to how you save files. If it's for a blog, to post online, to print or send to others, save as a .JPG and under 1MB so they don't take too long to load (they'll still be big, clear images). If you are using them for a presentation, to blow up large or for high-quality print, then save them as a .TIFF file, which like RAW, are uncompressed and retain more information in each image, but are larger to open and load.

7. Making Your Images YOU This is kind of several tips in one - to make your images stand out, reflect you and your message, and generally push the boundaries of what you are capable of, you need to get researching. Look through old copies of VOGUE, LOVE, Company, GQ, Country Living; whatever style you're going for, look through magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and compile them in a scrapbook of inspiration or in a folder so you can look back and see what the images show you - Is there a colour theme? Do you like a particular style of shooting? Do you favour studio or on-location photos? Is it a clean fashion image or an arty editorial? Take your favourite snippets and work them into your images to get started, and don't be afraid to use the same over and over or to find really obscure ones, heck even cinematography counts - find what ignites your flame!
Another thing that comes with photography is what you shoot on, and I personally don't believe in buying an SLR if you're not using it for regular photography. It's a lot of money and to feel like you have to have one to be a blogger or cool just isn't the right way; if you are taking it as a subject at school, uni, or with your blog regular/full-time for posts and HQ videos then definitely get thinking about what SLR you want to invest in. I use a Canon 500D which has been awesome for 5 years now, and is still great quality, but I do want to upgrade to a 600D for better images and for videos in the future (YouTube might just be calling...), however you can get the same quality images for a lower price and a small camera which is fabulous for those who don't have the dollar. For the purpose of photography though, SLR is great for clear images that are easy to edit, manipulate, layer, use on blogs and give your work that editorial feel; but if you want to be a bit more arty, in the moment or try something a bit back to basics, then film is your best shot. Film photography is a great art once you've given it a go, and the hours spent in the darkroom creating the perfect balanced image from 16mm is so therapeutic. I've seen people process film onto steel, wood, ceramics, different papers, and the effects are amazing. It's also a lovely way to keep memories hidden for ages until you get them developed - just remember to take the lens cap off (silly Lauren).
Finally, your iPhone, and probably the most accessible to all of us. To keep them blog worthy, take the images on the rear-camera, up the brightness and highlights and remove shadows, and you'll get easy clear images in no time!

Photography is an art as much as blogging, makeup and drawing, and there's so many possibilities of how you can use it in your life daily these days. Whether you are looking to improve your Instagram snaps, get tips on how to shoot and use your images for high quality work, or to get inspired for the world of photographic work, there's so much unique content you can access and help your work make a stamp on the world.

Are you interested in photography? Have you taken a course or invested in the equipment? What are your personal tips?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

(P.S. If you want to see any of my photography, just click the links below!)

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

I forgot how much I love quinoa; I go through phases of eating one thing at every opportunity - recently my affair with Cinnamon and Blueberry Porridge has died a painful death, and now breakfast is impossible - and then I begin to look else where for taste sensations, forgetting about some of the great and diverse foods out there for filling your tum.

Quinoa wouldn't be back if it wasn't for Lily Pebbles' Red Quinoa Tabbouleh recipe, a true taste sensation which inspired my own version for lazy grazing at lunchtime, a perfect side at dinnertime, or for those times between when you're peckish and want something good. Packed with colour, flavour and so many textures, you have to give this a go for any healthy winter's day.

Ingredients (serves 4)
For the Salad:  150g either White or Red Quinoa | 20g Chopped Fresh Mint and Parsley | 50g Pomegranate Seeds | 50-70g Spring Onions (white and green parts) | 5cm Chunk of Cucumber | ½ Large Carrot Pumpkin Seeds | Seasame Seeds | ½ a small Butternut Squash (just the neck for ease of cutting) | 2 Tbsp Clear Honey | 2 Tsp Mixed Spice | 3 Tsp Cinnamon Powder 
For the Dressing  Olive Oil | Lemon Juice

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c and add some oil to a baking tray for roasting. Cut the Butternut Squash into chunky cubes, and coat in the oil with the seeds, mixed spice, cinnamon and clear honey before roasting for 35 minutes.

2. Chop and dice the cucumber and spring onions, and cut the fresh mint and parsley into a bowl using scissors for a finer texture. Make the quinoa as instructed on your chosen packet - if you have pre-cooked quinoa, simply add some hot water a tablespoon at a time until moist.

3. Once the butternut squash is roasted, turn off the heat and allow to keep warm until serving. In a serving bowl, drizzle the olive oil and lemon to build layers and a good coating - start with the quinoa and chopped herbs and mix, then add in the onions, cucumber and grate in half a carrot before combining together again. Top with the pomegranate, hot butternut squash, seeds and some of the oil, giving it one last stir and then serve!

Very  quick, very  easy, and very  tasty. This is so easy to whip up for lunch or dinner, and goes down a treat at a birthday party with its bursts of flavour and filling properties. Quinoa has a lot of nutrients and a great fluffy texture which makes it a more interesting base than spinach in a winter mix - fills you up so you're more satisfied - but serve it alongside some protein and green leaves and you'll have a very varied and nutritious meal you can keep in the fridge for 3 days to quickly jazz up any dish.

Pomegranates and butternut squash have a lovely sweet flavour and blend of textures that compliment the savoury quinoa and pumpkin seeds, along with fresh, clean cucumbers and parsley to excite your tastebuds; if you haven't decided yet whether you need to make this for lunch, you absolutely have to. It's cost-effective, keeps easily in the fridge and you know exactly what's gone into it which is great if you're on a healthy track for the new year.

If you're looking for a new food phase or just something to make your old favourite a bit more exciting, get out the quinoa and spices and you've got a dish made in winter heaven.

Have you been trying to stay healthy this January? Do you ever get hooked on a certain food or meal? Will you be giving quinoa based salads a go?

Lots of Love,
Lauren x

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