Saturday, 31 August 2013

70. Studying with the Open University: My Experiences

I'm now 7 months into my BA (Hons) History degree, with the Open University.

For those of you who don't know, the Open University offer distance-learning degrees to anybody. And when I say anybody ~ I mean, anybody. You don't need to have achieved your A-levels to get in, you could be 16 or 65 to qualify, and you can study just about anything.

I chose the OU as I didn't want to go away from home. I know that to some people, going away to university and being "independent" is part of growing up, but do you know what? I'm independent as I am. I work full-time, I pay all my rent and bills myself, and I look after myself. 

Independence wasn't something that I wanted to gain through university. Neither was friends - as horrible as that sounds! - but I was happy with the life I had already; I have some amazing friends, I'm in a long-term relationship which I didn't want to turn into a long-distance relationship, I wanted to be around my family to support them as they're going through a tough time, and I already had a job.

So if I didn't join the OU for the independence or for the social aspect of it, then why did I do it?! Oh yeah, for a degree. I'm from a family that very strongly supports and encourages academia. I always did well at school and knew that I wanted to achieve something higher than my AS-levels. So, in October of last year, I took the plunge and signed up to study English Literature and Language and in February 2013, I got started.


I've found myself to have a bit of a love/hate relationship the Open University. On the one hand, the flexibility is brilliant - you decide when you want to start, how often you want to study, what you write your assignments about, etc. But, at the same time, I don't feel that the support network that you'd have with 'proper uni' is there; I barely speak to my tutor and, as I've been unable to attend tutorials due to work and other commitments, I sometimes feel that I'm missing out on hearing other peoples ideas, thoughts and opinions on the course and the topics we cover.

Having said that, Twitter has been a hub of support for me, with regards to my degree. I've met so many lovely people studying with the OU, and when I have a question about something university related, I can always count on OUSA (Open University Student Association) to retweet my query and, within minutes, I'm inundated with advice from fellow students.

Amongst these supportive fellow OU students, are Imogen, Elizabeth & Lia, all of whom I've turned to for advice along the way. Each of us are at different points in our own personal journiers, so her'es a little bit about how they feel about studying with the Open University...

Elizabeth - whose amazing food blog you can find here - is from the Shetlands and has been studying the SXL390 course, researching biology and health science since September 2005

For Elizabeth; studying from home is ideal as she lives in a very rural area; Elizabeth also informed me that 1 in 4 people living in the Shetlands have studied with the Open University - due to it being such a rural part of the country - which is an amazing and heartwarming statistic; you can actually find out more about the people of the Shetland's relationship with the Open University here! She finds the flexibility brilliant as it means that she can fit her studies around her life. Elizabeth has also found the residential schools to be quote unquote 'fabulous' and says she has never had a bad tutor! Elizabeth also says that she feels a great sense of satisfaction and pride when she gets a good mark on an assignment, or finishes studying something that she's found challenging - something that I totally agree with.

However, she feels that the Open Uni's forums aren't as helpful as they should be and that her queries haven't always been answered; and also that sometimes not being able to see your tutor face-to-face proves to be very challenging. A further issue is that, when there are kids around during, for example, the summer holidays it's very hard to find some peace and quiet to study which is something that you could avoid if you were studying at university away from home. 

Elizabeth handed in her final EMA yesterday - congratulations! So in a few months, Elizabeth will have a BSc (Hons) degree, which is definitely something to be proud of!

Imogen - who writes a wonderful beauty & lifestyle blog here - is from London and has been studying a variety of courses which, after five years of studies, will provide Imogen with a BA (Hons) in English literature. In Imogen's own words, here is what she thinks of the Open University.

Right, pros and cons from a seasoned student!

The only con I can think of is that it requires real dedication and self-motivation. I like this as it means I'm in control! But it can be difficult if you're feeling under the weather or just rather lazy as the buck stops with you alone!

Pros: 
The courses on offer are second to none and the flexibility of my degree path has been what I've loved the most. I've studied social science, English Language, English Literature, History and other Arts subjects and I've loved the variety on offer. I'm finishing up with an English Lit Shakespeare module and I can't wait to get stuck in. My degree will be in English Literature and after five years I'm thrilled to be accomplishing my goal! That you can study full or part time is also brilliant as I've switched between the two when necessary, and have been able to go at my own pace.

The course materials and course structures are absolutely brilliant, as is the tutor support in the majority of cases. I have had one or two 'dud' tutors but most have been amazingly supportive and they really know their subject inside out. I think a common misconception with the OU is that you're alone and isolated in your learning, but this hasn't been the case for me at all. The online student forums are brilliant for connecting with fellow students and the tutor group face to face tutorials every month or so are great if you'd like to meet people in person. Plus the OU has great social networking, from twitter to Facebook, and I love tweeting away with others on my course!

The main thing that appealed to me with the OU was the chance to take control of my timetable and study whenever best suits me. I'm a morning person and prefer getting up early to study, and I love that I can choose as and when to make notes/read/draft essays etc. Because of the assignment deadlines and well planned course structure it isn't difficult to set up a routine that suits you without feeling totally left to your own devices!

I've found that OU qualifications are really well regarded by employers, which is great. Whenever I've mentioned the OU in interviews I've always had a positive response and I really take pride in balancing OU study with other aspects of my life.

I've thought of an additional con, actually... OU study is addictive! Meaning bad news for my bank balance! I want to keep studying for as long as possible and I've already got my eye on various Psychology courses... 

The lovely 26-year-old Londoner, Lia - who is studying the same course as me! - has also helped out with this project; here is her in insight into studying with the Open University...

Much like myself, Lia finds that self-motivation can be a real struggle and that it has, at times, caused her to lag behind and struggle keeping up with deadlines (especially when she has had to choose between Masterchef and her studies!) but she thinks that with a good dose of a 'COME ON!' attitude, you can succeed. 

For Lia, the Open University gave her a second chance after she'd had a rough time at school; she left without any qualifications but had always wanted to study, and the OU allowed that - without any judgement. 

Lia is also overwhelmed by the study materials that each student receives, free of charge as part of the course. She says that the fact that they are so to-the-point, wonderfully explained and tie in perfectly with the course, is amazing. Lia ends her thoughts on studying with the OU by saying; "I love everything about OU really!"


So there we go; the Open University from the perspective of four students, all at different stages of their degrees. If you'd like to find out more information about who the Open University are, what they do, or how you can get involved visit their website here.

I really hope you've enjoyed reading this post and that it might inspire you to aim higher, work towards a degree & see how it can change your life.

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Friday, 30 August 2013

69. Recipes // Lemon & Blueberry Loaf

Before I begin I want to apologise for the sheer lack of photographs in this post! It is safe to say, this is the least photogenic recipe I've ever created.

Whenever I see something on special offer I can't resist buying it, no matter what it is. I've walked away from shops with the strangest items before just because they were buy one get one free, or half-price... and it's no different with food. 

So, when I spotted blueberries for £0.50 last week, i had to buy them. No, seriously, I had to. There was no alternative. I snapped up two punnets and started o think about what I could do with them. Rather than have them on my desk at work for a healthy snack, I decided I'd bake something. I'd been thinking about baking a lemon drizzle as it's one of my, and my families, favourite cakes so I've created a cake that combines both of their delicious flavours!

Lemon & Blueberry Loaf

Ingredients

3 eggs
150g self-raising flour
150g caster sugar
150g butter
100g blueberries
Juice of 2 lemons
Handful of porridge oats

Method

1. Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 4 or 180 degrees Celsius
2. Grease, or line, a loaf tin
3. Squeeze the juice from 2 lemons
4. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and butter
5. Add the eggs one at a time and stir into the mixture
6. Add the juice of the lemons (and some zest if you like)
7. Stir in the blueberries
8. Pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle with porridge oats
9. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through
10. Leave to cool before removing from the tin 


And then... devour!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

68. My Blogging Goals

Inspired by Imogen's (The Bluebird & The Robin) wonderful posts about setting blogging goals, I have decided to set some goals for myself. As you will know, I'm a big fan of lists, to-do lists and goals - the Spending Ban, my Weight Loss challenges, 21 before 21, etc, etc, but I've never done one specifically about blogging which seems a little silly when it's actually a big part of my life.

I started my blog back in February but I only blogged once or twice, so I always class the 'actual start date' of my blog as May when I embarked on Rosalilium's Blog Everyday in May challenge (which was fantastic and I was bitten by the blogging bug, and never looked back!). Unfortunately, due to my work schedule and splitting my time between two different homes, I struggle to blog daily and usually post 2-3 times a week, which I think is just about enough. Not too much, not too little. 
Since starting my blog I've noticed a change in myself; I'm more confident, I am happier to share my opinions, I've got to know lovely people and I've developed new interests, achieved new goals and so much more. But I want to do more. I want to be more creative with my blog; I'd love for it to be more professional, I aim to make my blog a true reflection of who I am and what my life involves, my interests and passions, not just a jumble of random topics. 

Twitter is my main source of interaction between myself and my readers, and fellow bloggers, but I also use it as my personal account and don't intend to change this anytime soon as I don't think I'd be able to manage two accounts ~ it must be so confusing! I currently have 304 Twitter followers, 47 Bloglovin followers and around 3,500 blog views. But I want my blog to grow, and I understand that ~ in order to do this ~ I need to make more of an effort with my blog, interact with more of my readers and fellow bloggers, and develop my blog as a part of 'me'

So, how will I do that? What do I want to achieve? And by when?
-   100 Bloglovin followers
-    400 Twitter followers
- 10,000 page views
-          100 blog posts
-          Start advertising on other blogs
-          Create a blog button that people can ‘grab’
-          Comment on at least one blog each day
-          Get into a blogging routine, e.g. Monday – Beauty, Wednesday – Food, Friday – Lifestyle
-          Schedule posts in advance if I know I’ll be busy
-          Create ‘headers’ so that I can filter my posts at the side of my blog
-          Write about my experiences with anxiety and bipolar

What do you think of my goals? Do you think I can achieve them?
Do you have any advice on how?

I can't wait to let you all know, at the start of 2014, how I've got on!

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

67. Lifestyle // Spending Ban Update

I am now 18 days into my Spending Ban, can you believe it?! It's been tough - really tough - and there have been moments of weakness, temptation and a few slip-ups along the way. But overall, I'm pretty happy with how I've done.
 
First of all, here are my 'rules' on what I can and can't spend money on...

Source
 
What am I allowed to spend money on?
~ Bills
~ Travel
~ Cigarettes (within reason)
~ Socialising
~ Gym
~ Basic toiletries, e.g. deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, razors
~ Make-up/clothes when I've ran out, e.g. foundation, tights
~ Ingredients for baking/cooking
What am I not allowed to spend money on?
~ Clothes
~ Make-up / beauty products
~ Magazines
~ Unnecessary snacks / takeaways
~ Books and DVDs

So, what have I bought? Well, the day after I started the Spending Ban I set off to work in a dress, a cardigan and some pumps... within minutes there was torrential rain! I had to run into Marks and Spencer's and pick up an umbrella which left me £8.50 worse off... Now, I've been contemplating whether this is a cheat or not?! I mean; an umbrella isn't clothes, but is it an accessory  It was raining so I did need to keep dry, but could I have just held my bag over my head and saved some money? Oh, who knows! Either way: I bought something.

A few days later, I also bought two magazines and LOADS of snacks! Dammit  Snacks is something that I've found it impossible to resist... Although I have spent a lot less than I usually would, I've still probably spent about £15 each week on lunches, treats for the night time, bottles of pop, etc... so not great! But - as I always say - I'll do better next week ;-)

In terms of clothes and make-up, I've not bought a thing. Honestly. Not a single thing! No knickers, no foundation, no tops, not even any tights?! (Oops, I did buy some dry shampoo actually... but it was only 60p!) I am, however, running incredibly low on primer and so a sneaky purchase will need to be made within the coming weeks, although I did state in my rules that I can buy something when it runs out and I really do need it.

I've really enjoyed the Spending Ban so far; I've spent an awful lot less money than I normally would have done and I've realised that I really don't need to buy a new lip-gloss or nail polish or top every time I pop down the street. I've got enough clothes and - on the whole - enough make-up to keep me going for a while, so I honestly think that I can make it until October! 

Wish me luck!

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Monday, 26 August 2013

66. Lifestyle // Get Fit in 12 Weeks

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I want to lose weight

I feel like I'm trapped in an endless cycle of losing weight, plateauing  gaining weight, and so on. I'm always looking for new (sensible and realistic) ways to lose weight, tone up and - generally - get fit, without all the silly diet shakes and crash diets, and now - thanks to the lovely Ruby Duchess - I feel like I've found the key!

Ruby tweeted about her 'Get Fit in 12 Weeks' plan and I thought, hey! That sounds good! So I'm going to give it a go too. You can find out a bit more of an in depth explanation of the plan here, on Ruby's blog, but I'm going to jot down the basics for my reference on here too.

Week One is like an introduction to healthy living. It is that you do the following:

1. Swim, cycle or walk for at least 20 minutes every other day
2. Do toning exercises; this week it's squats - 3x20 reps, 3-5 times a week
3. Record your resting heart-rate every morning 
4. Keep track of the amount of exercise you have done each day and your energy levels after
5. Record your weight (I will do this every Monday morning)
6. Drink a minimum of 2L of still water per day
7. Eat little and often
8. Avoid processed foods and stick to natural produce

Then next week it steps up a gear!



I feel that this plan is very realistic; it's not too intense and it doesn't say 'NO!' to anything. Although the plan recommends that you avoid processed foods and opt for natural produce, such as nuts, fruit, etc, it doesn't ban you from having the odd biscuit or cuppa. 

The exercise plan is also perfect for me as I'm no gym bunny. I'm quite unfit physically; I do get out of breath when I run up the stairs and my legs ache after a long walk, or when I cycle. So, this way, I can gradually get used to doing a little bit more, week by week.

I'll also be keeping track of my calories (although it is not one of the rules) as it helps me so much; knowing what I've 'got left over' for the rest of the day. I'll aim for 1,600 calories each day which I think is sensible, and won't leave me starving. 

I'm also going to allow myself to have a few treats. It wouldn't be a weekend without some wine, or a take-away, or a tasty pudding and I don't want to treat this as a diet - it's a lifestyle change. 

I will try to update once a week to let you all know how I'm getting on, and to help myself monitor my progress. Last week I hd already been bitten by the healthy-eating bug, and I managed to lose 1.2lbs already, which I'm so happy about.

Fingers crossed I can keep it up :) If you'd like to join in, let me or Ruby know!

Lots of Love,
Becci xo 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

65. Beauty // My Skincare Routine Pt. 2

Now, I'm no beauty blogger or skincare buff (and you're all going to find this out in a few lines time...) but even I am a teensy little bit ashamed of the skincare routine I've picked up when staying at my boyfriends. Although there are a couple of good products, it's just not. very. good. 

The main problem is that when I stay with Shane, I can't be bothered arsing about spending a good half an hour cleansing, toning, moisturising, exfoliating, etc, etc, etc... *Yawn* It's just not realistic after a long day at work when all you want to do is get into bed, snuggle up and sleep.

So here it is. My no-holds-barred skincare routine: part two.



Look at the wipes! So many wipes! Apparently this is the ultimate skin-sin, although I'm not really sure why? *I love face wipes* As mentioned in the my skincare routine part one, I'm not prone to massive outbreaks of spots or a super-shiny face. I have slightly oily skin, around my nose and forehead in particular, and one or two spots on my chin, as well as very red cheeks. I've used face wipes for years as they're so handy, cheap, easy and effective and they've never really affected my skin negatively, honestly, so I don't really understand why everyone hates them so much? I feel sorry for skin wipes; beauty bloggers are using them as a scapegoat.

Anyway, so once I've used my Witch cleansing & toning wipes to remove the majority of my foundation, I then use Simple's Kind to Eyes make-up remover pads which - to be honest - I'm not a massive fan of. Compared to the eye make-up remover that I use when I'm at home, they're pretty naff. You have to rub quite hard to get mascara off and, occasionally, I even lose one or two eye lashes in the process which is never good.

I then use Amie's Radiant Dawn Exfoliating Daily Wash is actually brilliant; it's soap and oil free and has a really lovely texture, including vitamin E bursting beads. I've had this product for months and it's still going strong. The only downside is that the smell isn't particularly pleasant ~ I can't quite put my finger on it, but considering it contains green apple, lemon and blueberry extracts you'd expect it to smell a bit better. 

The second Witch product that features in this skincare routine is a total wonder product. I've been a fan of Witch's blemish stick for years now, having discovered it when I was about 14-years-old. Again, it's an oil free product which is ideal for me and it's so handy; you can carry it around with you wherever you go, it's discrete and it lasts for ages. Although I'm not really sure how hygienic it is, as I always use my finger to apply it, maybe I should use a brush instead? If anybody knows, let me know.

So, the my skincare routine part two, takes no longer than ten minutes from start to end and leaves my skin feeling fresh, clean and - as I haven't spent a ruddy fortune on products to achieve it - bloody happy too! However, my skin does still suffer from the odd spot or two and patches of oily skin, so I know my routine could do with some improvement... Feel free to share your skincare tips below.

(PS. I was just kidding about the face-wipes, before I get a barrage of abuse!! I do appreciate that they aren't very good for your skin but c'mon, you've got to be lazy sometimes!)

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Sunday, 18 August 2013

64. Recipes // Cranberry Flapjack

I've had a pretty manic weekend so I've not got much time for blogging at the moment, so for the time being, I'll leave you with a super tasty fail-safe recipe for cranberry flapjacks!



Ingredients
500g Porridge Oats
250g butter (softened)
150g cranberries
8tbsp golden syrup
200g sugar (preferably soft brown)

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees celsius

1. Melt the butter and sugar, over a low heat, in a pan with the syrup. Stir continuously.
2. Pour in the porridge oats and cranberries and mix.
3. Pour the mixture onto a deep baking tray and spread evenly.
4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden-brown on top.
5. Leave to cool before cutting.

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Friday, 16 August 2013

63. Lifestyle // Recently...

I thought I'd do a little lifestyle update as it's been a while (well, probably not that long really...) since I last did one, and it's a nice change from product reviews and recipe posts. Plus, it means that (if you're interested) you can get to know me a little better! So recently I've been...

...Reading: Backstory by David Mitchell
I'm not usually a big fan of autobiography's but David Mitchell (from Peep Show, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Would I Lie To You, etc, etc) is an exception I'm willing to make. Peep Show is my favourite programme, so I wanted to get to know a little more about Mark David's true personality. I'm absolutely loving this book so far and I've laughed out loud (much to my colleague's wonder, whilst I'm sat at my desk on my lunch-break, sniggering at a book) quite a few times. If you like David Mitchell you'll love this book.

...Watching: Dexter
Anybody who follows me on Twitter is probably sick to death of all my Dexter related tweets and hash-tags! I'm not usually into following TV series, especially not American ones as I find them so far-fetched a lot of the time, but Shane and I recently started watching Dexter and we're hooked. We're only just nearing the end of Series One so there's still a long way to go! NO SPOILERS PLEASE!

...Eating: A LOT
From my most recent recipes post, it's clear to see that I'm not exactly the cleanest of eaters. Oreo Cheesecake anybody? or how about Peanut Butter brownies?! *yum* Yesterday I baked some cranberry flapjacks which were also so tasty! I'll try and kid myself that their healthy... because of like the oats and frnuit, and stuff? (ignore the syrup, sugar and butter!)
...Spending: No money on beauty products or clothes! (but lots on food...)
I recently blogged about my self-imposed spending ban after I was inspired by lots of other bloggers doing the same thing! So far, so good. I'm only about a week in but I've bought no make-up, no bath products, no clothes, shoes or accessories! I'm planning on sticking to this spending ban right through until October so wish me luck.
In amongst what I've been eating, watching, spending and reading, I've also been working everyday, seeing Shane (but only if he promises to let me watch Dexter... just kidding!) and catching up with friends now that they're back from university.

I'm off to a barbeque and a gig tonight (hence the flapjacks - they're supposed to be a present - if I don't eat them all beforehand!) and then a wedding tomorrow, so I'll be doing an OOTD/OOTN post very soon. My first one ever *nervous* eek!

I hope you enjoyed this quick post about what I've been up to lately.
What have you been up to?

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Thursday, 15 August 2013

62. I've been nominated for a Liebster Award!

I was recently nominated for a Liebster Award by the lovely Annie of Annieleaf! I've seen a few posts and tweets about the Liebster Award from fellow bloggers but wasn't really sure what it was until now! Having read through Annie's post about it, I now know a little more about it and I'm happy to take part!

For those of you who don't know, the Liebster Award is for blogs with under 200 followers (like myself!) and the idea is that you pass the award from blog to blog (all with under 200 followers, obvs) and help them gain some recognition as well as building up a bloggers community and also showing a bit of appreciation for the small blogs that you enjoy reading.


Here are the Rules:



1.)  You must link back to the person who followed you.
2.)  You must answer the 11 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
3.)  You must nominate 11 bloggers with under 200 followers.
4.)  You must come up with 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
5.)  You must go to your nominees blog and notify them.


Annie's questions...

1.) What are your hopes for your blog?
~ I hope that my blog continues to grow and that I gain experience, new friends and new interests out of it. I love having a blog as it's somewhere for me to write (my passion!), rant (my bad habit) and share my experiences, inspirations and interests with other people. I'm hoping to get to 50 Bloglovin followers by my 21st birthday (October 15th), so if you enjoy reading my blog please help me out! The link is to your right.

2.) What is your dream job?
~ I have so many dream jobs! I'd love to be a journalist, novelist, history writer, teacher, professional baker, dog-walker, etc... Honestly I could go on all day! I think my dream job would have to be something I was passionate about, something that I wouldn't bore of and something with some flexibility as, with anxiety, sometimes it's really hard  (for weeks on end) to get up and do anything with your day.

3.) What is your all time favorite eye-shadow?
~ I've got to admit, I don't wear eye-shadow all that often! And when I do, it tends to just be gold or purples and silvers for nights out, or just a little bit of white in the corner of my eyes to make me appear more awake.

4.) What is your favorite high-end makeup that you would continue to repurchase?
~ I don't really have any high-end make-up. I'm a bit of a budget beauty blogger, and I love Superdrug, so most (if not all!) or my make-up is high-street.

5.) What is your first high end makeup product?
~ I love Benefit products. Now, I'm not sure whether they are high-end or high-street? I guess they're kind of in the middle... The only expensive products that I ever buy, beauty-wise, are perfumes.

6.) What are your go-to shoes?
~ I'm a massive fan of pumps/flats/whatever you want to call them. I must have about 10 pairs! My current favourite are a pair of pastel-pink pumps for Dorothy Perkins; they're very fairytale-esque and so pretty. But I am also a total sucker for ankle boots!

7.) What is your favorite piece of clothing?
~ I'm madly in love with my Holly Willoughby dress. It's a pale yellow knee length dress which is covered in sketches of hares; it's very Alice in Wonderland, and people compliment me on it everytime I wear it, which is lovely and makes me like it even more! I'll be doing a post featuring this dress very soon!

8.) Fall or spring?
~ I'm definitely an Autumn girl. I love the cold, I love the colours, I love the cosy nights in and being able to wear a scarf and boots! Although every season has it's perks, for me it's definitely Autumn/fall.

9.) Who are your favorite beauty gurus?
~ This makes me sound like an awful beauty blogger (although I'm not so much a beauty blogger as a lifestyle and food blogger!) but I don't really have any beauty gurus. I very rarely copy a celebrities make-up, or watch beauty tutorials on YouTube... My favourite beauty blog however is definitely Kayleigh's!

10.) Who inspires you?
~ I have so many inspirations, and for all sorts of different reasons. In terms of blogging, almost every blog I read (apart from the bloggers with a serious case of bad-attitude) inspire me as I see their blogs as so professional and yet so down-to-earth. I'm also inspired by writers like Cecilia Ahern and Jodi Picoult, because if somebody can write something and make you feel like you're part of the story... well, you've got to respect that!

11.) Favorite store to shop in?
~ Where I live, there are very few clothes shops! Seriously, there is a Next, a Dorothy Perkins, a million charity shops and Tesco's... But when I venture further afield or do a spot of online shopping (don't tempt me!) I always go straight to New Look and ASOS. The variety of clothing they have is brilliant and they do some fantastic designs for the curvier of us ladies!

The 11 bloggers I nominate are:
Bluebird & the Robin
Love, Tilly
Curvy Wordy
Lullaby for Pies
Saffron Tinted Glasses
Elizabeth's Kitchen
Nicola Hearts This
Teal Deer
The Cup and Saucer
itsrebecca
The Sparkly Panda

My 11 questions are:

1. What has been your proudest 'blogger' moment so far?
2. What do you find the worst thing about being a blogger?
3. And how about the best?
4. What is the best book you've ever read?
5. Share your best recipe with me!
6. Where would be your dream holiday?
7. Who is your favourite blogger?
8. Where do you see your blog one year from now?
9. Name a product which you don't think lived up to its hype (beauty/food/fashion/anything!)
10. What is the best compliment you've ever been given about your blog?
11. Do you friends, work colleagues and family know about your blog. If so, what do they think?

Lots of Love,
Becci xo 

Monday, 12 August 2013

61. Beauty // My Skincare Routine Pt. 1

I've seen a lot of these posts around lately and I find them so interesting that I decided to do my own. The reason I've split it into two is that I have two different skincare regimes: one when I'm at home, one when I'm at my boyfriends. Today I'm going to write about my 'at home' routine which includes a lot more products!

Let's start by saying that my skincare routine, and therefore my actual skin, is by no means perfect. I'm 20 years old and I still get spots, blackheads, rosacea, open pores, you name it - I get it! I was plagued (well, that's how I felt at the time!) with quite severe spots whilst going through puberty. I was the first of my friends to get spots on their chin, forehead, nose (so painful!) and occasionally on my chest and shoulders too. I felt disgusting.

Spots really do knock your self-confidence, in my opinion and I even ended up going to the doctors and being prescribed some strange gel (which, consequently, both my sisters have gone on to use) which actually worked wonders.

What is my skin like?

I would say that I have mainly oily skin as I never get any dry patches on my face but constantly have a shiny nose, forehead, cheeks and chin. I also have quite red skin, particularly on my cheeks, but I am able to cover this up with foundation and powder. Spots aren't a very common problem with me; I always have at least one on my face at any given time (fact) but they aren't big, yellow spots oozing out puss - they tend to just be little red ones that are gone within a few days, thankfully.

What products do I use?


The first part of my nightly skincare routine is always to remove my make-up; I start off by removing my eye make-up using Simple's brilliant eye make-up remover which is excellent for sensitive skin. It feels just like water and is actually quite refreshing and has little to no odour either which is a bonus.

Next I remove my skin make-up - and I'm waiting for lots of boos and shouting from the beauty bloggers - with lukewarm water and a bit of soap. When I'm at my boyfriends' I use make-up wipes (even worse?!) but at home, I just stick to the old-fashioned way.

Once I'm happy that the majority of my make-up has been removed - apart from the bits you find in all those nooks and crannies (mainly around my nose) - I use Garnier's anti-blackhead deep pore wash which I've been using for years. It's a really nice, thick serum-like product, which lathers up nicely on your skin and is easy to wash off too. I find that my skin feels really smooth after using it, plus it is specifically for oily or combination skin, and it's cheap - win, win!

After patting my face dry, I then use Nivea's daily essentials 2-in-1 cleanser and toner, which is another product that I love. The smell reminds me of sun-cream and it's a lovely, light liquid which feels great on my skin. I rub it into my face and neck, using my finger-tips, and then a minute or so later I gently wipe it off using a cotton pad. Even after washing my face with water, and using Garnier's face wash, this stuff manages to remove even more of my make-up and there's always evidence of it on the cotton pad.

Before bed, I've recently been using Boots mattifying gel cream from their Botanics range. I found this little pot in the reduced section in store, for only £1.75! Bargain. It's designed to 'balance moisture' and 'control shine' and is specifically for oily/combination skin again. I was over the moon when I found it. I've only been using it for a week or so, so I can't really give a truthful verdict on it, but so far so good.

Finally, I use my Origins 'Brighter by Nature' skin tone correcting serum, to tackle my skin's redness. I was lucky enough to win this, as part of a set, at a raffle a couple of years ago but I've only started using it over the last couple of months. I don't really know whether it's had much of an effect but it smells delicious and it's a nice little treat to have on my bedside table.

So, that's my skincare routine. I've still got a long way to go but it seems to be working okay for me *touch wood*. If you have any suggestions of products that you think would suit my skin then please let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Have you tried any of these products? 
Which is your favourite skincare product to use?

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Sunday, 11 August 2013

60. Recipes // Peanut Butter & Chocolate Brownies

Last week, whilst browsing online, I stumbled across a recipe for peanut butter and chocolate brownies. My mouth watered instantly. My heart rate increased (as did my BMI, almost simultaneously) and I vowed that I would bake these. No matter what. 

I know this sounds very OTT but, seriously, peanut butter? chocolate? brownies? What's not to like?! Although it's an incredibly rich, indulgent and high in fat pudding, it's a delicious treat and goes down incredibly well (especially with ice-cream!)

Ingredients


For the Brownie:
150g milk chocolate,
100g self-raising flour,
280g sugar,
200g peanut butter,
3 medium eggs

For the topping:
50g milk chocolate,
50g peanut butter,
50g chocolate chips,
Dash of milk

Method
Before starting: Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 4 and grease a baking tray.

1. In a pan, on the hob, melt the sugar, milk chocolate and peanut butter until the sugar has almost (but not completely) dissolved,
2. Still in the pan, add the 3 eggs one-by-one and beat,
3. Pour the mixture evenly into the baking tray,
4. Melt the left-over peanut butter and drizzle on top of brownie,
5. Bake the brownie for 25-30 minutes or until cooked but still somewhat gooey,
6. Melt the left-over chocolate (whilst milk, if needs be) and drizzle on top of brownie,
7. Sprinkle chocolate chips (or anything you'd like!) over the top and serve, still warm.


Unfortunately, I didn't have any ice-cream to serve with mine but it was still delicious! 

Lots of Love,
Becci xo

Saturday, 10 August 2013

59. Beauty // Superdrug Colour Performance Review

I've been dying my hair for God only knows how long now; it started off blonde as a baby, turned dirty blonde as I got a little older and by the time I was about 10-years-old it was becoming a mousy brown colour, which I did not like. Not. One. Bit.

Ever since, I've been dying my hair blonder and blonder every couple of months. I wish I was one of those people who could get highlights and low-lights put in every few months but, no, I have to make do with hair colour from a bottle. Not that I'm complaining! No, I've never had any issues with hair-dye; I've never woken up with clumps of hair falling out or had my hair turn from dirty-blonde to bright orange over night. It's been pretty plain, comfortable sailing for me and hair-dye.

I never, ever stick with the same hair dye; brand or colour. I don't know if this is a bad thing or not? I simply pick the colour that I like the most when I go into the shop. I've gone from L'Oreal to XXL, to Garnier and now on to the dreaded 'own brand' product. Just kidding, I'm no brand snob. I bought it because it was cheap and, boy, do I love cheap?!

I managed to get the dye for under £4 which I thought was a steal, compared to the normal £6 or £7 that I spend on hair dye (I appreciate that this is nothing compared to £60, £70 or maybe even £80 in a salon) and here's what I thought.


I went for the shade 'Natural Light Baby Ash Blonde' as my roots were in dire need of lightening, and this was one of the blondest shades I could find. Inside the box were all the usual contents so we got started straight away. (By 'we' I mean me and my dad, yes, my dad dyes my hair for me. Weird? Maybe, but he's so good at it... New profession, perhaps?)

The first thing that struck me was that there seemed to be A LOT of product. I mean that in a good way. I used to use two bottles of hair-dye before I got my hair cut, but this time there was still some dye left even after my entire hair had been covered, which is great.

I found the dye to be slightly itchy but, having said that, most hair-dyes seem to irritate my scalp a bit. I don't get rashes or turn bright red or any unfortunate side-effects like that, but it was slightly uncomfortable as it felt like it was getting really hot on my scalp.

I left the colour on for ten minutes longer than recommended (I always do this) just so I could get a better result. When it came to rinsing, the dye washed out of my hair so easily and after shampooing and conditioning (I used the Superdrug colour performance conditioner which came in the pack), my hair felt really sleek and smooth.

The only issue I had with the after-care was that the conditioner had a really odd smell; to me it smelt of Sudocrem, which is a new one for me in terms of hair-dye. I've never smelt a conditioner like that before! That's not to say it was unpleasant, it certainly got rid of the dreaded scent of hair-dye which usually clings on to my hair for dear life for at least 3 days.

As usual, I let my hair dry naturally and when I woke up in the morning the colour was light, blonde but not brassy, and it felt incredibly silky and manageable. My family all commented on how good the colour looked and my roots are now practically non-existent.

All in all, I'd say this is a fantastic budget beauty product. Although the results may not be as good as some of the leading, and more expensive, brands - for the price, I really can't complain. Here's a before and after:

As you can see, my hair 'before' was quite brassy and yellow, with horrendous black roots.

Now it is much lighter and my roots are more disguised; the dye also got rid of my brassy tones.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs; I've been using the camera on my phone and I've literally just taken the second photo just before writing this post, and just before washing my hair! These photos, I feel, don't really show how good the product was but, honestly, it's worth every penny.

Do you use any budget hair products?
Which would you recommend?

Lots of Love,
Becci xo