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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Brighton Day 1: Devil's Dyke, Sunshine & Vegan Pizza

Sunny Day at Brighton
Over the bank holiday weekend, we went on a short break to Brighton! Honestly, half of the appeal of going there was just knowing that it’s basically the vegan capital of the UK and I’d be spoiled for choice for places to eat, but I was also excited to just get out and see the seaside and go to a few cool bars. Where I live at the moment isn’t as bad as it apparently used to be a few years back, but there isn’t really much in the way of decent bar scenes around and there’s no vegan food to be found beyond the odd chain, unless I want to pay to trek into London and pay even more for everything once I’m there. Plus, with it’s awesome LGBTQ scene and being run by the Green Party, I can’t see anything not to like about Brighton.

We got up early to drive over, but before we headed into the city we stopped by Devil’s Dyke to take advantage of the great weather and check out the view. We got incredibly lucky with the weather on our first day; the forecast predicted a mostly miserable bank holiday weekend with the Friday being the only decent day, and boy was it good! The sun was shining all day and I immediately regretted bringing a coat out to the seaside later.

Devil's Dyke Signpost

View from Devil's Dyke

View from Devil's Dyke

Devil's Dyke
Wind-beaten Tree at Devil's Dyke

The valley was beautiful and thanks to the clear skies, we could see all the way to Brighton and Hove and way off into the opposite direction too. We were really impressed with the views; we’re not used to seeing many hilly places down south but it reminded us a bit of being back up in Derbyshire or somewhere like that. Lord knows there aren’t many hills to climb where we live in Surrey!  It looks like there’s plenty of great walks to go on there too, and since the drive is only about an hour or so away, we’re really hoping to just hop in the car and head back with a picnic to go for a walk one day when the weather’s nice in the future.

Devil’s Dyke also seems to be a popular spot for hang gliders and we were lucky enough to catch a few of them flying around above us while we were there (though unfortunately my photos of them weren’t the best).

Hang Glider at Devil's Dyke
After our brief spell in the countryside, we parked up the car near our Airbnb and walked down to the seaside to take advantage of the sun before we had to check in. I almost immediately regretted bringing my coat – it was so sunny and warm! We had a walk around to get the lay of the land and then wandered over to Boho Gelato to grab some ice cream to enjoy on the beach.

Brighton Pier
Brighton Beach
Boho Gelato Vegan Peanut Butter & Salted Caramel Sorbet

Although their selection is mostly dairy ice creams, Boho Gelato also apparently always stock a couple of vegan flavours so it immediately went on my hit list. Much to my delight, they had the peanut butter and salted caramel sorbet in when we went, and wow. It was delicious, complete with big chunks of salted caramel with peanuts and it really hit the spot. Sitting by the ocean with an ice cream you’d hardly guess it was the end of March and not the middle of summer.

After a chill-out on the pebbly beach, we headed back to check in to our accommodation. It was about a fifteen minute or so walk to the city centre and was our first experience of an Airbnb shared with the owners. Our hosts were lovely and really helpful, and the room itself was just what we needed and even opened out onto our own private little terrace. Once our bags were dropped off and we grabbed the keys, we headed back out to forage for some lunch and decided on going to Hobgoblin to sample some of the apparently amazing burgers.

Hobgoblin Troll's Pantry: Gaea's Bounty Vegan Burger

Hobgoblin doesn’t look like much – just your standard student-y pub (which Chris insisted smelled of sick inside, which I didn’t notice at all…) – but the burger menu looked incredible and had rave reviews, on top of having a menu of vegetarian and vegan options. We grabbed a table outside and made our orders; Chris went for the Paladin, which was the most pure and basic beef burger with cheese and wild garlic mayonnaise, and I went for Gaea’s Bounty, the vegan burger with a garlic, walnut and daikon (Japanese white radish). They arrived in their own little parcels street food-style, and oh were we impressed. Mine in particular was incredible and although the Other Half loved his, he said mine was by far better and the flavour combination of the patty, walnut and pickled daikon was just amazing. Although not a vegan or vegetarian menu, the products they use for their food are high quality and the beef is even sourced from a local conservation project, using free range cattle that roam wild across 3000 acres of land, so if you’re going to eat beef then this is the kind of ethical source worth backing. I’ll definitely be hunting that burger down again next time I go to Brighton!

After lunch we headed out for a bit more of a wander and started working our way through some of the other bars and pubs, trying out some places like the King & Queens pub and the Brewdog bar. Once dinner came, it was off to another restaurant I was keen to try: Purezza, an all vegan pizzeria!

Purezza Vegan Cheesy Garlic Bread & Puttanesca Pizza

Purezza Vegan Quattro Stagioni Pizza & Apple Pie Calzone

A little restaurant on St. James’s Street, Purezza’s menu is affordable and uses fresh ingredients to create Italian, plant-based vegan options. Being a huge pizza lover, trying this place out was a no-brainer and Chris was happy to go. Even the drinks are vegan, with both of us opting for a Vegan Society approved Brighton Bier. To start, we ordered some marinated olives and cheesy garlic bread, and both of us were pretty much in love with the garlic bread. The ‘cheese’ – although it didn’t quite taste like normal, dairy cheese – was great, and the garlic and rosemary was delicious, but the bread itself was a real winner and we would love to know how to get that perfect thin and crispy but somehow still soft and doughy base.

For mains, I ordered the Puttanesca with capers, peppers, red onions and black olives and Chris went for the Quattro Stagioni with olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and seitan salami. Both of these were amazing, but the Quattro Stagioni was definitely the more flavoursome and I kind of regretted following my caper addiction to my choice!  It was also my first experience of seitan (I've never managed to find it anywhere?!) and I loved it.  Again, the base was wonderful and both pizzas were filling and luxurious but didn’t leave us with that icky full-ish feeling that some pizzas can give you. So, naturally, I had to have a dessert too and went for the apple pie calzone; a big calzone filled with apples, sultanas sweetened with agave, served with one of a few ice creams from (again!) Boho Gelato. I went for the Hazelnut Coffee option. The dessert was nice, but wasn’t exactly mind-blowing, and in all honesty I could’ve probably made a more exciting apple pie filling myself. The ice cream was wonderful though, and the dough they used for it was, again, incredible.

Sadly, our experience wasn’t all positive – the food at Purezza was fantastic and I would love to go back and eat my way through their menu, but the service left something to be desired. When we were there, it wasn’t even full – there were empty tables the entire time we were there – but the service was unbelievably slow at times and it was very difficult to actually flag down a server. When we looked around, half the time the staff were just standing around chatting to each other while we were sitting there with empty plates or waiting for the bill. They were all polite and pleasant enough and we certainly felt welcome, but the waits between courses and after our meal just got a bit ridiculous by the end. I’ll go back for the food no question, but if I have a limited amount of time for my lunch or dinner I’ll definitely go somewhere else where I can rely on service actually being attentive and prompt.

After a very long dinner we were knackered and headed back to our Airbnb for a snooze. To find out what we got up to on day two, stay tuned for my next post on Sunday!

What did you get up to on your Good Friday? Have you ever tried any of these food places in Brighton?

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Review / Phee's Makeup Tips Glow Highlight Powders

Phee's Makeup Tips Glow Highlighter in the Original & Cryptic
It took me quite a while to get into the whole highlighter thing, but if you’ve been following me for a while now you’ll probably know that these days I like to glow so bright that alien civilisations light years away are alerted to my presence at the other end of the galaxy. The first highlighter I ever bought was a Soap & Glory one, then the coveted Mary-Lou Manizer from theBalm, but today I wanted to talk about some perhaps less well-known products for achieving that perfect luminous glow.

Phee of Phee’s Makeup Tips started making her own loose highlight powders a while back, and having newly hopped onto the highlight bandwagon I couldn’t resist trying them out when I saw them. The swatches looked great, and Phee has hella makeup skills that showcase her products on her blog and the shop product pages. The products I have so far are the Original Loose Glow Highlight Powder, and Cryptic Loose Glow Highlight Powder.

Phee's Makeup Tips Glow Highlighter in the Original & Cryptic
Left: The Original, Right: Cryptic

Phee's Makeup Tips Glow Highlighter in the Original


The Original is your classic highlight shade; a lovely gold-leaning, champagne shimmer that suits just about any skin tone. It can be applied wet or dry, and as with most makeup, using it wet makes it pop that little bit more – I can’t say I’ve tried these wet (yet) but the product pages offer some great swatch photos so you can check out the difference it makes there. Phee’s Makeup Tips Glow highlight powders are made with pure mineral pigments and no fillers, so that you get the most bang for your buck and the best possible intensity of colour, and because they’re mineral powders they’re much better for sensitive skin than non-mineral alternatives. The powder itself is very light and finely milled and is a dream to work with. Depending on what I’m doing with my face, I either use a fluffy brush for a light dusting and a more subtle highlight, or I just pat it straight on with my fingers for a more full-on glow.

Phee's Makeup Tips Glow Highlighter in Cryptic

Cryptic is essentially the same formula and the same consistency, but it’s a really unique, cool-toned pure silver shade. Highlighters of more ‘out there’ shades are starting to become a little more popular and mainstream these days, but when I first bought this many moons ago it was the very first silver highlight I’d ever seen for sale and I had to have it. Again, the powder is super fine and a pleasure to work with, and you need very little product to get a highlight that really packs a punch. Unlike the Original, it’s perhaps not as universal a shade, but that’s exactly why I liked it so much – I feel like an alien or a winter witch queen when I wear this.

Phee's Makeup Tips Glow Highlighter in the Original & Cryptic Swatches
Top: Cryptic, Bottom: The Original


Both of these products are much more multi-dimensional than a lot of highlighters I’ve used or swatched; the Original is champagne but has a hint of strong gold iridescence and you can see distinct sparkles in both this and in Cryptic in their packaging, but neither leave your skin actually looking sparkly. Instead, you just get a flawless, metallic sheen that blends well over liquid or powder foundations and doesn’t leave you looking powdery at all.

Some might consider it blasphemy to say, but I much prefer these to theBalm’s Mary-Lou Manizer. The Original Glow is easily my holy grail champagne highlight and I find it way more enjoyable to work with than Mary-Lou, too. Other people always say that it’s really easy to accidentally use too much of the Mary-Lou Manizer, but I’ve never thought that at all (maybe that’s just how much I like a bold highlight…), but what I do notice is that it ends up looking really powdery and unnatural, while I can use as much of the Phee’s Makeup Tips Glow highlight powders as I want and I just look like I’ve been kissed by glittering space angels. The only downside to these products is that there’s no way to close the sifters – once the sticker is off there’s no way to control the amount of product coming out without sticking something back over it again, so if you decide to travel with them you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed by powder every time you want to use them again later. That said, they also now come in a pressed version which would be much better for travelling without looking like a unicorn sneezed on you when you opened your highlighter.

That one little gripe out of the way, I’ve got a handful of Phee’s Makeup Tips eyeshadows too and the quality of her products is just hugely impressive across the range that I’ve tried so far. Neither the highlight powders nor the eyeshadows irritate my sensitive skin or eyes, and the uniqueness of the shades and the colour payoff of all of them is just fantastic. I plan on reviewing the eyeshadows in the near future, so keep an eye out for those if you’re interesting!

The loose Glow Highlight Powders are only £8.00 each with free UK shipping so they’re one hell of a bargain  for what you get. I can’t remember the exact amount of product you get in these and I can’t seem to find it on the product pages either, but comparing it to other tubs of powder I think they’re at least 2g to 3g each. However much you get, I’ve been using the Original religiously for months and I haven’t even remotely made a dent in it. They also come in a variety of other unique shades from pastel pink to mint green, in addition to some new marbled shades that combine multiple colours. And, of course, the products are all cruelty free and the ingredients are sourced from cruelty free suppliers, and they’re vegan friendly.

Have you tried any Phee's Makeup Tips products?

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Review / Tg Matcha Powder & Ginger & Lemon Zest Tea

Tg Matcha and Lemon and Ginger Tea

I’ve been lucky enough to try some Tg teas before, from both their hot and cold ranges, so when the lovely ladies at Tg asked me if I wanted to try some of their matcha*, I couldn’t say no! Knowing that plenty of people are put off by the naturally bitter taste of green tea, and inspired by ancient Chinese traditions, Tg’s Sophie and Hua of developed their tasty, healthy teas to have a hint of sweetness while still retaining all of the goodness that green tea is known for. As well as teabags for hot brews, they also do bottled iced green teas for on the go, and of course, matcha.

Matcha is a tea I know well from my time in Japan; it was first brought there from China centuries ago. For a semester while I was living there, I actually took a tea ceremony class in Kyoto and learned about how to properly prepare and serve it according to Japanese tradition. A tiny wooden spoon called a chashaku is used to scoop up and pop the powder (you hardly need to use any at all, a little goes a long way!) into the teacup/bowl or chawan, and then a specialised bamboo whisk called a chasen and specific whisking motions are used to mix the tea with hot water. The attention to detail and motion involved in the entire ceremony is artful and precise, and the tea itself is wonderful but not to everyone’s tastes.

Matcha is an extremely concentrated green tea, and when you consume it, you’re essentially eating or drinking ‘raw’ dried tea leaves rather than just water infused with them, which produces a very distinct and bitter flavour compared to your average green tea. That concentrated, raw nature of matcha means that it comes with a lot of health benefits though, such as plenty of vitamins and minerals and a high concentration of anti-oxidants compared to other green teas. To actually get the health benefits of matcha, it’s better to drink a cup of it plain, but using matcha in lattes, baking, even to colour and flavour noodles like soba and many more uses are also very popular nowadays.

Tg sent me one of their 30g pouches of organic matcha*, which comes in a tightly resealable bag – so tight I keep struggling to re-open it, which while a pain for me is good for the matcha to keep it as fresh as possible! The matcha powder is a vivid green, and extremely flavourful. I’ve used this quite a few times now in various different ways including as a hot, plain tea and I’m really pleased with the quality of it. Some of the matcha I’ve bought and tried in the UK, while still tasty, was perhaps not the finest quality as it was prone to clumping and you needed way more of it to get the full flavour than you should’ve done. Tg’s matcha on the other hand, is true to tradition and you only need about a quarter of a teaspoon of it to make a nice cup of tea or add some matcha goodness to a smoothie or oatmeal, and it’s easily mixed without any troublesome lumps.

I love drinking matcha plain, but I also enjoy it combined with other things too! One of the most popular modern ways to drink it is in the form of a latte, so I thought I’d share a very quick, easy vegan matcha latté recipe that I’ve been drinking. You can check this out at the bottom this post!

Tg Lemon & Ginger Teabags

As well as their delicious matcha tea, Tg also sent me a pack of their Green Tea with Ginger & Lemon Zest*. I love lemon and ginger tea, I love green tea, what’s not to like about the two together?

Just as I’d suspected, I adore this green tea. Packed in a resealable, non-transparent pouch to keep the tea fresh, this contains 15 pyramid bags full of dried pieces of green tea leaves, lemon, ginger and the best surprise for me is that the taste reminds me a lot of genmaicha, which is my favourite type of green tea that’s made with roasted rice as well as tea leaves. As well as the zing of the lemon and ginger, this green tea has a wonderful, earthy warmth to it that I can’t get enough of. It’s a delicious, modern take on a traditional classic and it’s both comforting and refreshing.

I’m very impressed with both of these products and I genuinely look forward to them every time I have them now. Their matcha is available from their website for £15.99 which, yes, seems expensive for a tea but due to how concentrated it is and how little you need to use, this is totally normal for matcha. Don’t trust really cheap matcha powder, because it’s almost certainly going to be less flavourful and lower quality. The lemon and ginger green teabags are available for £4.15. Lucky for us, they have a sale on right now so you can nab the matcha for only £9.99 and packs of teabags for only £3.99 so check them out while you can!

Now, on to the recipe!

Vegan Matcha Latte
EASY, VEGAN MATCHA LATTÉ

INGREDIENTS (serves 1)
  • ¾ cupful of your preferred non-dairy milk
  • ¼ cupful of hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon organic matcha powder
  • ½ teaspoon of your preferred sweetener
  • A tiny pinch of vanilla essence or vanilla bean paste (OPTIONAL)

METHOD

1. Heat up ¾ cup of your favourite unsweetened non-dairy milk. I’ve tried soy and almond with this and both are delicious, but rice milk would also compliment the flavours well.

2. Boil some water, and leave this to cool for a moment – I find green teas of all kinds taste best with very hot water rather than water straight from a rolling boil, as boiling water can compromise some of the flavour. Add ¼ cup of hot water to ¼ teaspoon of matcha powder and whisk thoroughly until fully combined and frothy.

3. Add your sweetener and, if desired, a very tiny amount of vanilla essence or vanilla bean paste to taste and whisk again. Vanilla and matcha work wonderfully together in a latté but you don’t want the vanilla to be so strong that the matcha can’t shine through.

4. Add your non-dairy milk to the hot water mixture and stir well. You may want to use a whisk again or a frother as matcha is often served frothy, but this is up to you.

5. Enjoy!

Have you ever tried matcha?

* This review is not sponsored and has not been paid for, however the products were sent to me free of charge. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

London / Cosmonauts, Udon & Froyo

London Science Museum
It’s been a while since the Other Half and I have been into London, so we thought that on one of the Fridays we both had booked off work, we’d take the opportunity to wander in and go see another museum and grab some food. Where we live at the moment is pretty dire in terms of vegetarian and vegan eats, so I’ve already amassed a nice list of restaurants, cafés and shops I want to visit in nearby London where I can actually, you know, enjoy the food, and OH has been happy enough to indulge me!

For this particular trip we went to the Science Museum, which has been on our hit list for a while. We were lucky enough to catch the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition on its second to last day before closing; we both love space, so it only made sense to snatch up the opportunity while we could. It’s a fascinating collection of items and information on how Russia turned space exploration from an idea into a reality, becoming the first nation to ever explore beyond our own little world.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
It was a really awe-inspiring exhibition that’s fascinating not just in terms of the science and engineering used, but even simply the fact that humans decades and decades ago were able to produce what they did and send objects and human beings into space when they did. Some of the landers, rovers, controls and so on looked so clunky and clumsy and out-of-date compared to what we’d expect to send out there today; it’s amazing to know what the Russians were able to do at the time given how little they had to work with compared to now.

Most of the items on display at the exhibition were real, working pieces of equipment that have actually been in space, from the odd circular capsules that carried humans into space to the actual LK-3 Lunar Lander built to compete with Apollo. Space and the universe is one of those things that gives me pretty intense emotions; learning about the universe and its vastness is humbling, invigorating, awe-inspiring and makes me feel both insignificant and part of something huge all at the same time, and sharing a room for a while with objects that have been beyond Earth’s atmosphere or even to the moon and back was a wonderful experience for me. If these pieces of history are what humanity was able to accomplish as early as 1957, imagine where we’ll be decades into the future if we’re able to work together towards that common goal.

Sputnik Model at Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
We had intended to see more of the Science Museum after finishing the exhibition, but we got there later than we’d intended (as we always do) and we knew that the place we wanted to go for lunch was only open for a couple of hours, so we soon left and headed over to Kings Cross St. Pancras to grab a bite to eat.

The restaurant we (or rather, I) chose was Itadaki Zen, an all vegan, organic Japanese restaurant with food centred around flavour, balance and healing. It’s traditional Japanese cuisine, but created with physical wellness in mind, so not only is everything delicious, but it’s also good for you! I’ve been craving Japanese food for a good couple of months now, but traditional cuisine can be pretty hard to come by at times. I was delighted with both how familiar and how intriguing Itadaki Zen’s full menu was, and was even more delighted when I visited it in person.

London Underground Sign
Itadaki Zen London
Arriving at the restaurant was like taking a step back a few years to my time living in Kyoto. Even the sign outside was reminiscent of the traditional restaurants I saw all over the streets where I lived, and indoors it was an almost perfect duplicate of the aesthetic that so many small, family-run restaurants, cafés and shops had in Kyoto. Although two floors with extra seating downstairs, I believe only the little first floor is open for lunch, and this was quite small and intimate, but so chilled out and comfortable that you quickly forget your proximity to the other customers.

It looked as though all the food was cooked in a little kitchen at the back of the restaurant front, separated only by a couple of little curtains exactly as I’d imagine from a traditional restaurant. The lunch menu is a smaller version of the evening menu, with a selection of a few different udon bowls, some tempura, a daily donburi special, bento and various sides. Each option is very affordable for London, with the regular udon bowl only £6 and the tempura bento which gives you a nice selection of several different items for £10. The portions are generous, and I think the donburi especially looked huge if I’m right about what the person next to us when we came in was eating! The side dishes are also cheap, with the most expensive options being only £3.

Meal at Itadaki Zen London
I opted for the kitsune udon, which is a bowl of thick, udon noodles served with fried tofu. The name literally means fox udon, which is because fried tofu is believed to be the favourite food of foxes (kitsune) – this idea is also what inspired the name of sushi consisting of rice wrapped in a pocket of fried tofu, or Inarizushi, because the Shinto goddess Inari is heavily associated with foxes! I was head over heels for my udon; the tofu was delicious and the broth was light and refreshing but still had the same comforting, homely warmth I remembered from eating it in Japan. I ordered some kakiage tempura as a side, and this too was delicious – strips of what I believe was mainly onion and sweet potato, fried in a delicate, tasty batter. The sweet potato was perfect with the batter, which had the occasional salty tang that paired well with the potato’s sweetness, and it was wonderfully crispy.

Even the drinks are healthy and organic; the OH ordered cola and I ordered a sparkling cranberry drink, and we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that these were from actually Whole Earth (who you might know as makers of great peanut butter) and were organic and carbon neutral too!

The whole experience was just one big nostalgia bomb for me and the OH enjoyed it too, even with his frustration trying to eat slippery noodles with chopsticks. The bill came to about £23, which for two mains, two drinks and a side in the middle of London isn’t bad at all.

After our lunch, I was determined to try out some vegan ice cream I’d spotted online recently, so we headed over to Wardour Street near Oxford Circus.

Kitsune Udon at Itadaki Zen London

Excuse the poorly focused and bad quality photos ahead; I wanted to share some snaps from here with you but it was a bit busy and I didn’t have time or space to get any great shots. Anywho, Yorica! is a newly opened free-from ice cream parlour, so not only can vegans and those who can’t eat animal products eat there, but so can people with gluten or nut intolerances! One of their popular options so far is a totally nut-free peanut butter flavoured ice cream, which from my eavesdropping I hear tastes exactly like peanut butter but with zero peanuts involved. They do milkshakes, ice cream and froyo in a variety of flavours with tons of different toppings, and everything is made from natural, sustainably sourced ingredients like coconut cream, rice milk and carefully selected chocolate.

We both opted for frozen yoghurt on this particular venture, with me obviously diving straight into the matcha offerings with a matcha, chocolate swirl with dark chocolate and marshmallow to top, while the OH went for chocolate only with some oreos. Both of these were delicious and only £3.50 for a standard big tub of froyo (plus extra for bigger toppings, I believe), and it was great hearing all the other happy vegans in the shop expressing their delight over the entire contents of Yorica! being vegan friendly.

Yorica! Free-from Ice Cream London
Yorica! Free-from Ice Cream London
Yorica! Vegan Chocolate Froyo
Yorica! Vegan Matcha & Chocolate Froyo
Suffice to say, I will definitely be paying this place many more visits in the future. Gotta work my way through every flavour, after all.

After ice cream, we had planned to wander down to a bar I’d scouted out but it sadly didn’t open until 5pm, so we decided to just head home and grab drinks at our local pub on the way back instead. We were tired but content by the end of the day, and although it was still a little chilly, the sun was shining and I definitely felt like it was a day well spent.

Have you ever been to the Science Museum, Itadaki Zen or Yorica? Let me know what you thought!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

8 Places in Europe I want to Visit



It’s no surprise to those who know me that I love travelling.  I’ve considered myself a very mobile person since childhood - despite being British and born in the UK, I spent most of my childhood in the States, moved back to the UK and have since visited a number of foreign countries both near and far.  Surprisingly though, for someone who enjoys travel and who lives in the UK, I’ve seen very little of Europe!  I’ve had more experiences of travelling in further flung places than I have going to those that are right on my back door, and having not visited anywhere new for a while, I’m itching to get out and see the world again.

I’ve recently been planning a couple of trips, one with my mum to Berlin and another to Brighton and then later in the year road-tripping to Belgium with the other half, and this and dreamily reading over travel and food travel blogs has really aggravated my travel bug.  So, in the spirit of things, here are 8 places in Europe that I’m hoping to visit one day!

1. BERLIN, GERMANY
I’ve been two a handful of cities in Germany before, but never Berlin.  There’s something about the capital that really appeals to me (maybe it's the somewhat edgy and unique fashion and general atmosphere?), and on top of plenty to do both with regards to sight-seeing and shopping, there's also apparently a wealth of vegetarian and vegan food to try.  I am one of those travellers that follows their stomachs to new places, so it's high up my list of places to see!  I also still speak a tiny bit of German, and that bit of understanding makes me feel so much more at ease when going to non-English speaking countries.  I’ll be visiting here in November and will certainly be posting about what I get up to!

2. COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
I don’t know what it is about Denmark that I love so much – the architecture and the general way of life there just seem lovely. I’d love to visit during winter and see the city with some snow on the ground, which would be a beautiful contrast against some of the brightly coloured houses around areas like Nyhavn and Christianshavn. I hear the food and the general atmosphere are great, and Scandinavia in general I’m just obsessed with the idea of visiting (as you’ll see from some of my other must-see places). It’s not as much of a vegan paradise as places like Berlin, but it still doesn’t seem too hard to eat happily as a vegan there.

3. AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
There are so many things I’d love to see and do in Amsterdam, it’s a beautiful city with plenty of exciting culture to experience. I’d love to one day have a picnic in Vondelpark and visit the sex museum and to learn more about sex work in Amsterdam (Morag of Mo Adore recently shared her thoughts on this after visiting De Wallen), and there’s even a lovely looking cat café and a weird museum that only displays cat-related art!

4. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
My other half has already been to Prague and loved it so much he’s more than happy to go back and visit it with me. Another city with some unbelievable architecture, from the photos it looks as though you’d be walking through a medieval fantasy town. St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle both look spectacular and everywhere in the Old Town looks beautiful. Not going to lie, I kind of want to be a loser and do a Segway tour there. And, of course, it’s a great place to go for drinks and it’s a pretty affordable place to go away for a break.

5. OSLO, NORWAY
Oslo is another Scandinavian gem I have my eye on. Again, I don’t know what it is that actually appeals to me so much about it; I just really want to go. Like Copenhagen, I day dream about visiting in the autumn or winter with plenty of ice and snow so we can stroll around stunning Sognnsvann Lake just outside of the city, or admire the sculptures and amazing views at Ekeberg sculpture park. The only downside about visiting Norway though, is the cost. It doesn’t come cheap to do things in Oslo, especially if you’re going to be eating out all the time.

6. GHENT, BELGIUM
It's easy to forget in the UK how close you actually are to places in Europe, and when I was looking at Google maps to plot a route to work when I passed my driving test, I noticed that Belgium was only a four hour drive away and we resolved to drive there by the end of the year.  Ghent is within that sort of doable distance and is apparently one of Belgium's best kept secrets in that it has a lot to offer, but is relatively un-touristy (in the grand scheme of things) at the same time.  It seems like my kind of city - small enough to still be quaint and cosy and un-intimidating, but large enough to still have plenty to do.  It has loads of quirky bars, beautiful, medieval architecture, delicious food and a really awesome looking street art scene.

7. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
Honestly, it’s so frustrating that there’s such beautiful places in Scotland right on our doorstep, but it often costs just as much to get there as it does to fly halfway across Europe. Ever since the other half applied for a job in Edinburgh (which he sadly didn’t get) I’ve really wanted to visit. It just looks beautiful, and the food, oh man the food. There seems to be quite a few vegan options and the food scene in Edinburgh has been looking generally just awesome in recent years, we’d both have a whale of a time. What a joke that it costs more to get here than it does to fly to bloody Berlin!

8. ICELAND
You’ll notice that this one doesn’t have a specific city attached to it, and that's because I want to see all of it.  I’ve dreamed of going to Iceland for years now, not just to see the beautiful city of Reykjavik, but to bask in the landscape and natural beauty that Iceland has to offer.  I hope to one day go there to take full advantage of the outdoors and do as many hikes and glacier walks and whale watches as I possibly can.  I’ve wanted to see the Northern Lights for years, and to see them here would make a lifelong dream come true.

Where do you want to go or would you recommend visiting in Europe?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Review / Give Me Glow Matte Liquid Lipsticks



I first heard about Give Me Glow’s liquid lipsticks quite a while back and knew one day I’d have to have one. They’re an independent brand that’s all handmade, and were previously available on Etsy only but have just launched their own online shop, complete with brand new packaging and new products. They offer quite a variety of really unique shades of matte liquid lipstick, as well as dupes for high end liquid lipsticks. Everything they make is cruelty free and vegan, so buying from them is basically the whole shebang – supporting an awesome indie brand and saying no to animal testing!

Of course, everything has to have a downside and for me it’s the price of shipping and customs. Being a small US brand, international shipping to the UK obviously doesn’t come cheap, and then on top of that – because the UK government likes to annoy me – customs charges are a load of crap. I was lucky enough to catch a sale they were having just before they closed down the Etsy store and snagged three lipsticks for a fraction of the normal price, thinking I’d got a right bargain, but then with the customs charges I basically paid full price. I mean, it was technically still a bargain because I did save money altogether by getting them in the sale, but customs, man.

Left to right: Mania, Lara Croft, Bonfire Season
Any who, the shades that I got were Mania (a grey/greige nude), Bonfire Season (a darker, muted nude with lavender tones, though on me it looks much warmer) and Lara Croft (cool-toned, brown-based dark nude). Each came in a simple labelled tube with a doe foot applicator, which is actually a great little applicator and gives a good, smooth swipe and good control.

Left to right: Mania, Bonfire Season, Lara Croft

In a nutshell, all of these colours are excellent. The formula of all of them is great – it dries matte (and doesn’t take long to try), is easy to apply, and is long-wearing providing you don’t eat any particularly oily foods. They’re also easy to re-apply; they layer well and I’ve never needed to scrub them off to touch them up. There are the odd differences between each one, though, which is to be expected for handmade cosmetics. I found Bonfire Season to be a bit of a thicker formula and was just a tiny bit more difficult to apply, while Mania I thought was a thinner formula that required a bit more layering to get a good opacity and avoid streaking. Although they are a matte lip product, I didn’t find them particularly drying. My lips don’t feel any worse for wear after wearing them all day, and I don’t need to make sure my lips are perfectly 100% exfoliated when I wear this versus other matte liquid lipsticks that make any dryness about a thousand times more noticeable. Like most matte liquid lipsticks, they do settle a bit into the lines of your lips, but not in an unappealing way and, hey, we’re human. We don’t have perfectly smooth lips!

All of the below swatches are done on bare lips that were just moisturised with a bit of lip balm. The pigmentation of all of them is pretty great except for, as I mentioned earlier, Mania which requires a bit more work to get even and opaque and I’ve found really benefits from blotting a bit of foundation or concealer over the lips before applying it. That said, it’s one of my favourite shades because it’s just so unique and exactly the kind of shade I’d been lusting after when I bought it.

I wasn’t sure if these lipsticks would be worth it after paying the customs fees, but oh man, they were! I’m so pleased I bought them and I’ve been wearing them all the time since I got them. Now that their new shop is open and boasting a wealth of other exciting, interesting shades, I’m seriously tempted to get a few at full price now.  I already have my eye on quite a few! You can check out the Give Me Glow Instagram here for lots of swatches, product photos and customer photos and you can purchase their lipsticks from givemeglowcosmetics.com, where each one is currently $13.25 (about £9.30).

Give Me Glow liquid lipstick in Mania
Mania



Give Me Glow liquid lipstick in Bonfire Season
Bonfire Season



Give Me Glow liquid lipstick in Lara Croft
Lara Croft

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Simple & Clean



Recently, I’ve been really loving much more basic makeup looks that focus on the skin, cheeks and highlight rather than the eyes. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my eyes are often very dry and irritated, so I’m trying to get myself a bit more into looks that aren’t quite so heavy on the eye makeup. I’m also really inspired by Estée Lalonde’s makeup to be honest; I love how polished but natural she looks in her videos and after marathoning a tonne of her travel vlogs I’ve been wanting to replicate that kind of look more often.

This look has very little going on with the eyes – although I used a few different eyeshadows when I did it just to tweak it to get something I liked, you could just not use any, or use only one across the whole lid and blended out. The key for this simple and clean makeup look is just dewy, glowing skin and natural radiance.


For any makeup that’s very skin-focused, you need to have a good skincare routine in place first! The healthier the skin is, the better it looks beneath your makeup and the less makeup you have to use in the first place. Start with freshly cleansed, moisturised skin and be sure to exfoliate your lips and apply a lip balm.

Next, apply your primers. I used both a face primer and an eye primer by Neve Cosmetics, but if you’re not using any eyeshadow you could skip the eye primer. The one I used for this look was their Brightening Bioprimer, which although it looks a little bit dark and orange-y when you first apply it to your skin, blends out like a dream and leaves your skin tone looking more even and your skin more radiant.

I recommend a liquid or cream foundation applied with a damp makeup sponge for any natural, dewy looks. I used LUSH’s Jackie Oates colour supplement, applied with a Real Techniques Complexion Sponge. I was a little iffy about this colour supplement when I first bought it, but since trying it out with my makeup sponge I’m a much bigger fan of it now and it both looks and feels much better than when I initially tried it with a brush. For this kind of look, you don’t want to cake on the foundation or use too much – I used only enough to even out my complexion and make any blemishes a little bit less obvious. Particularly with simple makeup, I prefer my skin to look like skin and don’t mind any imperfections showing through; the idea is for it to just look like your real skin, but a little bit better.

For concealer, you want to erase only the most obvious of ‘issues’ – for me this was my dark circles (although they aren’t really visible in photos, they are face to face) and a couple of red spots that have appeared on my face recently, as well as around my nostrils and the outer corners of my eyes that are prone to redness or darkness. I used the Neve Cosmetics Nascondino concealer, which is a crème to powder formula that I’ve found pairs well with my LUSH foundation and also works well on my oilier areas and areas prone to creasing like my under eyes. Because it dries to a sort of powder formula, I probably didn’t need to, but I still set this with the e.l.f. High Definition Undereye Setting powder.  I’d highly recommend setting your concealer if you opt for a liquid or cream finish formula.

Now for brows! I just filled in my brows as normal using my Anastasia DipBrow Pomade and GOSH brow gel. I did experiment with adding a little bit of a purple eyeshadow to match my hair, but it didn’t really work without a light base so it was pretty much pointless and I haven’t even bothered to include it in the products used below. Better luck next time!

I kept the eyes extremely simple, using a light wash of a nude Lily Lolo eyeshadow over the entire eye, plus a mix of satin mauvey taupe and grey taupe eyeshadows in the outer corners, crease and outer third of my bottom lashes. I chose these particular colours because I wanted something light and subtle that would give the lid a nice sheen to it.  You can’t really see the colour come through in the photos (I haven’t retouched them beyond editing the white balance, contrast, lighting, curves etc.) but in person there’s a bit more of a subtle purple-taupe colour!  I blended them out well to try to keep the look as soft as possible. I then just very lightly tight-lined my top lashes with a black Inika liner, lined my lower waterline with Pixi’s Extra Eye Bright Liner to open up my eyes, and applied my usual PHB Ethical Beauty mascara. I’d recommend any mascara that creates long, fluttery lashes for this kind of makeup to compliment the youthful, glowing skin but I just went for my go-to product here. You could use false lashes too, but I couldn’t be arsed and I’m too crappy at applying them to not apply a bit of liner to my top lid to hide the band.  So, this look is me in all of my awful short, sparse lash glory.

To help achieve more of a youthful glow, I used theBalm’s Downboy, which is a natural, baby pink blush with Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Ethereal Glow layered over the top of it. I love these two blushes together – Downboy provides a little bit more pigment, but Ethereal Glow gives, well, an ethereal glow as though you’re glowing from within and just have really healthy skin. I amped up the glow further using a creamy highlighter with pink and silver tones – this one was by Colourpop; I love the texture of these and the natural sheen it gives the skin, and I find that liquid or cream highlighters tend to be the best for a more dewy glow. I applied this to my cheekbones, cupid’s bow, under my brows, a bit to my nose and to the inner corners of my eyes. Then, I went over this with my Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light as a finishing powder and used it to help blend out the blush and highlight a bit. I’ve heard some people didn’t think the Ethereal Light powder did anything, but I think it really draws everything together and further adds a soft, diffused glow to your face.

Last but not least, lips. You could wear pretty much any lip colour with such an understated look but I opted for a light wash of pink. Using my finger, I just dabbed a bit of one of Colourpop’s Ultra Matte lipsticks in Clueless over my lips to add a little bit of colour. It looks like quite a bright pink in the tube but it’s a bit more dusty and understated on the lips and isn’t quite as light as you’d think it would be when applied, and applied using my finger it just gives a slightly more youthful, feminine ‘my lips but better’ aesthetic. Of course, this would also look amazing with a bright red lip, or a dark berry or even black or whatever the hell you want!



And there you have it, a lovely soft, glowy and natural makeup look that you could easily adapt to your own makeup routine and products! Oh, and all of the products used are 100% cruelty free! I had hoped when I started out doing this that they’d end up being all vegan too as I knew that the majority I started out using were, but sadly a shocking number of them actual contain carmine so aren’t vegan. Still, hopefully it’ll give my fellow vegan readers a place to start and a bit of inspiration if nothing else. If you recreate this look, let me know – I’d love to see it!

Products Used:
Neve Cosmetics Brightening Bioprimer
Neve Cosmetics Eye Primer & Base
LUSH Colour Supplement in Jackie Oats
Neve Cosmetics Nascondino Concealer in Fair
Anastasia Beverley Hills DipBrow Pomade in Medium Brown
GOSH Defining Brow Gel in Brown
e.l.f. High Definition Undereye Setting Powder
Lily Lolo Pressed Eyeshadow in Stark Naked
Lily Lolo Pressed Eyeshadow in Rolling Stone
Lily Lolo Pressed Eyeshadow in Truffle Shuffle
Inika Organic Eyeliner in Black Caviar
Pixi Extra Eye Bright Liner*
theBalm Down Boy*
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Ethereal Glow*
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Ethereal Light
PHB Ethical Beauty All-in-One Mascara in Black
Colourpop Ultra Matte Lipstick in Clueless*
Colourpop Highlighter in Smoke N Whistles*
* non-vegan, contains carmine