Wednesday, 5 November 2014

147. Making A House A Home: The Office

As I'm currently a part-time student with the Open University, I knew as soon as S and I looked around our new flat back in August, that I had to make the spare bedroom my study space. 

Although one end of it acts as a laundry room and, to be honest, general junk space, I've tried my best with a limited budget, time and resources to make part of the room a warm, inviting and inspiring space for me to get my head down and get on with some work.

I've had this desk for a couple of years and the chair was originally my mum's grandma's; it's a really cute pine chair that we've painted white (although it definitely could do with a fresh coat now). I always have some kind of comfy cushion on there too, currently it's a bright red leather one that my mum gave us. 

As you can see in the photos above, I've tried to add some character to the plain, white walls by sticking up a couple of postcards as well as some family memorabilia. My actual desk is over run with my course books, DVDs and of my course my laptop which takes pride of place on this hot pink laptop tray I picked up in IKEA for a few pounds. The plant pot currently housing my pens is from a charity shop and - of course - I always need a cute candle; the pretty little owl candle on the far side of my desk is from Primark.

The cards decorating the door to my right are from a huge pack of Penguin Postcards that I found on Amazon. For just £10.49, I was able to buy 100 postcards of famous book covers, including Wuthering Heights, Brighton Rock, Animal Farm and many more. I thought these would be a nice touch as they add some colour and are also relevant to my degree. I picked my favourites to go up on the door. Any idea what I can do with the remaining eighty or so?!

I plan to share a few more posts about my home over the coming weeks, including one focused on my bedroom and one about our (limited) outdoor space!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

146. Marshmallow Chocolate Brownies Ft. Degustabox

I've been signed up to Degustabox for a couple of months now and each month when that email pops up in my inbox to say that my order is on its way, I can't contain my excitement. What could be better than a box of food being delivered to your door? And not just any food; exciting new foods, foods that aren't even available in the shops yet, or foods you would never have thought to try! That is why I love Degustabox

In this months Degustabox, amongst various other products, I received some Dr. Oetker Premium Extra Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder. I couldn't wait to try these out so today I whipped up some dark chocolate brownies using Cadbury's recipe which you can find here (I substituted the Cadbury products for the Dr. Oetker ones that I received). 

They were lovely and crispy on top with a delicious soft, gooey centre but the fact that they were made with only dark chocolate and no milk or white chocolate at all, made them a little bitter. So, I decided to have a root through my Degustabox to see if there was anything I could find to spruce them up a bit.

That's when I found Solo Marshmallow Creme. The most American looking, sounding and tasting food ever. If you haven't tried it before, its pretty hard to describe.. It's almost like the inside of a meringue mixed with melted marshmallows.. think the inside of a Tunnock's teacake - just like that.

I've never tried anything like it before but I guessed from the sweetness of the Marshmallow Creme that it would counterbalance the bitterness of the dark chocolate pretty well and, oh my God, it definitely did. 

I topped each brownie with a generous dollop (great word, by the way) of Marshmallow Creme, sprinkled chocolate balls and popping candy over the brownies: a match made in sugary heaven. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

145. Oh, I didn't see you there...

Today marks exactly three months from the day I decided that enough was enough; writing and promoting this blog was too much and the blogging scene was starting to become something I didn't really want to be involved in.

Over the last three months a lot has changed; I've moved house, I've changed jobs and I've changed my perspective on many things. One thing that has remained constant is the feeling of missing blogging. Blogging was my creative outlet; my personal piece of the internet where I could rant and rave, or share products and experiences I'd enjoyed, without caution.

Over time, I feel that my blog sort of lost its way as I drifted from one topic to another, never really sure where I stood in the world of blogging, or what truly captured my imagination and that I loved to write about. My blog was diluted with ideas of what I thought I should be blogging about; make-up reviews when, really, I don't know anything about make-up (apart from that I can't leave the house without it), or posting a weekly update purely for the sake of keeping my posts regular. 

I got caught up in the world of statistics; do I have any new subscribers today? Oh no, this post got no comments - how embarassing! Oooh, a new follower on Twitter. All the things that don't matter, that simply distracted me from the quality of my content, and took away any simple pleasure I had previously found in writing and sharing my musings. 

Three months was long enough for me to reassess blogging as part of my life. My time away from the blogging world convinced me that I do want to blog, I love it and I want to continue with it - I just need to turn my blog in a different direction; make it more me. Bare with me whilst, over the coming months, OnlyBecci truly becomes Only Becci - no gimmicks, no falseness and no pressure.

Monday, 21 July 2014

144. Lifestyle // Days Out in Northumberland - British Red Cross Open Gardens

On Sunday, my mum invited me out for the day. Usually we head to a nice country pub for a Sunday lunch, or for a drink in the beer garden if the weather is nice, but this time she suggested visiting an Open Garden. I was brought up with weekends spent exploring the incredible National Trust properties in the North East - including Wallington Hall and Cragside - so I've seen my fair share of fancy, open gardens and wasn't particularly enthused at the prospect of wandering around yet another.

However, when we arrived at The Old Vicarage in the picturesque town of Warden, West Northumberland, I changed my mind. We parked up, surrounded by other cars and families, and made our way to a beautiful, period house set in stunning gardens. The entrance fee of £3.50 seemed slightly steep to me, but considering you can spend an entire day there and the proceeds also go towards British Red Cross, it was definitely worth it.

After paying, we began to explore the gardens - first up was a gorgeous small garden, filled to the brim with flowers and herbs, and an incredible sun dial in the shape of a globe - it was pretty cool, but unfortunately I didn't manage to snap a photo. My mum loves flowers, a passion she has inherited from her parents, so she was able to inform me of the names of the flowers that I thought were "pretty". There were lots of photo opportunities for budding nature photographers, but I forgot to take my camera and had to make do with my phone - oops!
We then made our way into the orchard which was so atmospheric and I could just imagine the trees being lined with fairy lights and having small camp-fires dotted around, as well as hammocks hanging from the branches - honestly, it would have made an awesome party venue! The orchard led back through to the courtyard and the lawn area, where people were able to enjoy an ice cold glass of Pimms (for just £2 - what a steal!) and laze about on the grass, soaking up the rays.

Instead of stopping for a drink, we headed up into the rear garden, past the wildlife friendly pond, and made our way up, past the beautiful borders full of pretty plants, and were able to enjoy the stunning views of the church tower and all the gorgeous greenery beyond the house. After exploring the remainder of the garden and some of the surrounding woodlands, we decided to refuel with a slice of homemade cake whilst escaping the heat, by cooling down under a tree. 
All in all, it was a really lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. We spent a good hour and a half exploring the gardens, as well as the local church, and think it's an activity that would appeal to all sorts of people; from families with kids who need to run around and let off some steam, budding photographers or people with an interest in plants, or just people who want to enjoy some nice weather in a relaxed, beautiful setting.

Upcoming British Red Cross Open Garden's in Northumberland:
Thornley House, Hexham on August 31st, 2014
Dilston Physic Garden, Corbridge on July 27th, 2014

Monday, 14 July 2014

143. Lifestyle // Sedbergh and North Yorkshire

I've been taking full advantage of not having to work lately; I spent a week in Portugal, five days staying with my Mum in the Lake District, and countless lie ins and lazy days. Last week, I agreed to work two weeks at my old job - in advertising - as holiday cover at the end of July, and I also have an interview next week which I'm feeling pretty hopeful about (wish me luck!) so I decided I'd best make the most of my, potential, last couple of weeks of being a lady of leisure, by heading back to the Lake District for a few days.
The first day was spent just soaking up the sunshine and wandering around Sedbergh, which is an idyllic little town, renowned for it's number of book shops. The top left picture is my Mum's gorgeous courtyard which is a wonderful sun trap, the top right picture just shows how beautiful the weather was whilst I was there, bottom left is the interior of Westwood Books, which has to be one of the best bookshops I've ever visited - it's fantastic, there are SO many books and they're at incredible prices. It was actually voted as one of The Guardian's top 10 second hand bookshops in the UK! The bottom right photo is my lovely Mum tucking into lunch in the courtyard.
On the second day, we headed over to North Yorkshire to visit some family friends in Grassington. On the way there, we passed lots of yellow bicycles in honour of the Tour de France which had passed through the area just a couple of days before, and it was pretty cool to see. The top left picture is a decorated bike outside someones house. The top right picture is in the interior of the Grassington Museum which is full of artifacts donated by the people of the town, old fossils and even bronze age implements. The bottom left photo is one of the displays inside The Rustic Rabbit which is a gorgeous boutique store in the centre of Grassington - check out the website here, they have some beautiful homewares - it's like a lifestyle bloggers dream shop! The bottom right picture is a 'Moustache Cup' that my Mum spotted in the museum - so funny!
These last few photographs just show the wonderful weather we had. Top left is the view from the house we visited in Grassington, looking out over the Yorkshire Dales. Top right is the lovely outdoor seating area at Melmerby Bakery, which we visited on the way back. Bottom right is from our drive across the Yorkshire Dales, and bottom left is the delicious lunch that I had at CoffeECO in Grassington. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

142. Beauty // A Cure For Sweaty Betty's - Sure Women Maximum Protection Anti-Perspirant Deodorant

Now, I don't know about you ladies but I am quite prone to 'get my sweat on.' Whether I'm sitting in the office, sunbathing or just on a walk, I can always feel myself getting hotter and hotter... I actually think that my internal thermostat is broken, as I'm constantly warm and somewhat clammy (what a lovely image, I know). 

Over the last couple of years, I've found that your everyday antiperspirant deodorants don't seem to do all that much for me. Sure, they smell lovely and fresh at first, but within a few hours - or as soon as I begin to stress or become active - I break out into a sweat again. Grr. So, what was the point in putting deodorant on?! Grumble, grumble. 

Imagine my surprise when I spotted an antiperspirant deodorant promising 48 HOUR PROTECTION. I bunged the deodrant in my basket and headed to the tills, hoping this would be the answer to my ever-so-slightly-sweaty-prayers. And guess what? It is.
Sure Women Maximum Protection 48h Anti-Perspirant Deodorant is dermatologically tested and claims to be formulated with an innovative body responsive technology, known as Sure TRIsolid, which not only ensures maximum wetness protection and odour-fighting technology, but contains Dimethicone, a skin moisturising ingredient, too. 

The packaging is pretty nice, with a range of different scents available, and the deodorant itself looks modern and cool - it's the perfect size to carry around in your handbag too as it's nice, short and stumpy. It comes complete with directions as well as a handy Q & A section too, where Sure explain the difference between anti-perspirant and deodorant and even contact details for who to speak to if you have any questions about sweating. Very thorough indeed. 
Sure suggest that you apply this deodorant at night time as your sweat glands are less active in the evening and, therefore, the formula has more time to work with the skin to build up a stronger level of protection. Curious stuff, eh? 

I've been using this deodorant for several months now and I've not had any problems with body odour or the dreaded under-arm-wetness in the whole time, seriously. On occasions, I haven't had to reapply the product for as much as three days - can you believe it?! Three days without applying any deodorant or anti-perspirant and my pits remained as a dry as the desert. One of my ex-colleagues even tried this product out, following my recommendation, and she now swears by it - in fact, she texted me a couple of weeks ago to let me know it was on special offer in Boots and that she'd just stocked up!

It comes in on the pricier end for a deodorant, at £5.30 from Boots, but when you take into account that it lasts at least twice as long as a normal deodorant, and that it also incorporates an anti-perspirant so you a) don't smell and b) don't sweat as much in the first space, it's a Sure-fire (pahaha) bargain.

I think right now is the perfect time to try this product for yourself - especially as we're starting to get the warmer weather and we're all spending more time out and about!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

141. Lifestyle // Bedroom Tour

I've often admitted to being somewhat of a Nosey Parker and when it comes to peoples homes - and, of course, their bedrooms - I'm no different. I love to see all the little bits and pieces people have accumulated over the years, anything sentimental always pulls at my heart strings and, as we all know, I'm a sucker for anything pretty.

I thought I'd share some photos of my bedroom today for the rest of you nosey peeps to have a look at. I split my time between my family home and my boyfriends, so the majority of my stuff is kept at home, whilst the majority of my time is spent at S's house, which he shares with his dad. These photos are from my family home.
Top left: Butterfly Print from RE, Corbridge, in an IKEA frame, White Lantern from IKEA, Owl Candle from Primark // Top right: Butterfly fairy lights from The Range

I love this butterfly print and I've had it for a couple of years now; I think butterflies are so beautiful, hence why I also have these cute butterfly fairy lights, which take pride of place above my bed. 

Inside my walk-in wardrobe, I have a shelving unit that is crammed with books and DVDs. 

My bedside table is always cluttered with magazines, the books I'm currently reading, whichever DVD I've last watched, as well as famly photographs and a cute one of S and I that was taken a year or two ago.
Top left: White Desk from Littlewoods, Clothes Rail from Argos // Bottom left: Acrylic Storage from Amazon

I bought myself this clothes rail as I couldn't afford to get a wardrobe and, so far, it's served its purpose pretty well. I really want a pretty wardrobe but for the time being a clothes rail ain't all that bad - I can see exactly which clothes are clean without even having to open any doors (always good for a lazy girl like myself). 

I bought the desk when I started out with my Open University journey back in 2012 but, now that that's currently on hold, it's used as a dressing table instead. I keep all my most used products in front of the mirror and the rest of my beauty bits and bobs are either at S's or stored away for when I run out.

I love having photographs around the place and, as well as on my bedside table, inside my wardrobe, and on one of my walls, I keep a selection of them stuck beside my desk. They are mainly photographs of me with my siblings. Aren't  Weren't we cute?!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

140. Lifestyle // Natty Luxury Milk Drinks

I love to support local businesses, and in Northumberland I'm spoilt for choice. There are some fantastic independent businesses, and I try to avoid the chain stores as much as possible although this isn't always possible. I recently discovered a new luxury drinks company that hails from my hometown of Hexham - Natty

Never heard of them? Well, you're missing out. Natty Luxury Milk drinks are described as being 100% natural, with no hidden nasties, which is a huge bonus for many shoppers in this day and age. They currently stock three delicious flavours and I've been lucky enough to try all three; each flavour is based on a tasty dessert; chocolate orange truffle cake, apple crumble pie and custard, and lemon meringue pie.
Chocolate and orange is one of my favourite flavour combinations and I wasn't at all disappointed by Natty's attempt at the chocolate orange truffle cake, it was deliciously creamy and chocolate-y, with a hint of orange - not overpowering or bitter, just perfect. 

Lemon meringue is also one of my favourite puddings; I love the zingy, lemon flavour and the light texture. Natty's lemon meringue pie was no different - nice and tangy, but creamy enough to cancel out any acidity from the lemon. 

The hands down winner for me was Natty's apple crumble pie and custard milk, which was just amazing. I saved this one til last and ended up wishing I'd bought more than just one! The flavours were absolutely spot on; I could taste every aspect of a traditional apple crumble from the strong flavour apples to the hint of cinnamon which, for me, was the icing on the metaphorical cake. 

The three milk drinks cost me around £5 which I don't think is bad at all for three 330ml delicious, natural drinks. Natty's luxury milk drinks are available from Shake'n and the Pudding Parlour in Hexham, Wheelbirks Parlour in Stocksfield, Fenwick's Food Hall, Quayside Market and various other outlets in Newcastle. You can find out more about them here. 

The wonderful Emily from Geordie in the Kitchen also reviewed Natty's drinks here.

Friday, 4 July 2014

139. Books // Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young

The lovely people from Tinder Press recently sent me a copy of Natalie Young's new novel - Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband. The book was published on July 3rd in paperback, and is available for £7.99.
As soon as I saw the front cover of this book, I was drawn to it - it's vibrant and looks very fun and quirky. I'm a super squeamish person and, usually, even the thought of blood and guts makes me nauseous but I managed to get through this book without a single gag or wretch, which is pretty good going.

Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband tells the story of 'ordinary housewife' Lizzie Prain, who finds herself caught up in a not-so-ordinary scenario: she's killed her husband, and now she has to dispose of him. Lizzie loves to cook, in fact she's a real foodie, and she needs to get rid of the body carefully and discreetly, so what should she do? Well, as the title suggests - she is going to eat him. 

Throughout the narrative, we see how Lizzie prepares to consume her husband, how she decides to cook him (it's very imaginative, in parts - with some fantastic recipe ideas... just kidding!) and, through Lizzie's own notes, we see her thought process as she makes her way through his cadaver. 

To be honest, I could barely put the book down once I'd picked it up - it's very dark, as you'd imagine from the title, but it's got some brilliant humour mixed (or should I say - stirred) in, and is seasoned (pahaha) with some quite moving parts too. I found the character of Lizzie very easy to warm to and very life-like too. I loved the mixture of third person narrative and Lizzie's own notes - it added an extra depth, which was fantastic. 
The only thing that I didn't like about the story was that we were introduced to quite a lot of characters who had very little impact on the story line, and at times I was left wondering what the point was in 'X' being involved in the story line, and whether it was some form of foreshadowing. Most of these questions went unanswered.

I managed to read this book in just a few days and I would definitely recommend Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband to anybody whose looking for something a little different. It's available to buy in paperback, or for your Kindle, on Amazon or hardback from Waterstones.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

138. Recipes // Simple Chicken & Leek Bake

My dad is a domestic God(ess); he looks after our entire home, from cooking to cleaning, DIY and looking after the pets. I often take this completely for granted and so, tonight, I decided it was time I helped him out a bit: I decided to cook dinner for the family.

I have a very picky younger sister, so I had to go for something fairly simple, nothing too exotic, and - of course - for my own sanity, I had to keep it straight-forward. That's where this tasty, easy dish comes in! It's subtle yet flavoursome; the chicken was deliciously moist, and the potatoes were lightly crisped.

It's a definite winner for the whole family as it's not overpowering, but it's still super tasty. I served it up with steamed broccoli and some sage and onion stuffing, almost like a mini (but healthier) Sunday dinner, but it would go equally well with a mass of veggies.

Ingredients (serves 5):
500g of chicken breast
4 x large potatoes (I used Maris Pipers')
2 x large leeks
1 x chicken stock cube
1 x pint of boiling water
Salt, pepper & herbs to season

Before beginning preparation, preheat the oven to 150 degrees
1. Dice the chicken into bitesize cubes
2. Slice the leeks to whichever thickness you prefer
3. Slice the potatoes finely (think potato gratin)
4. Spread the chicken on the bottom of a deep baking/casserole dish
5. Top the chicken with the sliced leeks
6. Ensure all chicken and leek is covered with the potato slices
7. Make your chicken stock using one stock cube and one pint of boiling water
8. Pour the stock over the potatoes
9. Season with black pepper, sea salt and mixed herbs
10. Cover with a lid, or foil, and bake in the oven for 90 minutes
When everything is cooked, dish it up and you can use the left over stock as a yummy gravy too.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

137. Lifestyle // June In Photos

Top left: S and I popped into Chiquito's for some post-holiday-shopping-scran on his 26th birthday. // Top right: Since I left my job, I've been busy applying for new, more exciting roles. // Bottom left: I finally gave into the hype and read The Fault in Our Stars. // Bottom right: We spent two lovely nights at S's mums house in the countryside, sipping drinks next to the fire outside.
I spent five wonderfully relaxing days at my mums house in Sedbergh. 
Top left: cute horses down the road from Mum's. // Top right: passing beautiful lakes on our drive to Windermere & Ambleside. // Bottom left: enjoying a bottle (or two) of wine in the evening sunshine. // Bottom right: Cumbria is such a beautiful place.
S and I jetted off to the Algarve for seven sunny days - check out the full post here.
Top left: I wrote a post about losing my Grandad and the impact it had on me. // Top right: S and I cooked up delicious chilli nachos - you can find the recipe here! // Bottom left: A tasty meal with my family at The Kirkstyle Inn, near Brampton, Cumbria. // Bottom right: I became an Access All ASOS member!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

136. Improving OnlyBecci Results

Last week, I asked my readers and Twitter followers to give up five minutes to help improve Only Becci, by completing a quick survey which asked how often they read my blog, what they thought of my content/style/photography, what they'd like me to introduce onto the blog, etc, and I had a great response.

Everybody who completed the survey said they felt I updated regularly enough, which is a big relief as I always feel that my blogging schedule is so erratic and sometimes pretty naff.

The vast majority of people said they'd been reading my blog for six months or less.

Most people said they caught up with my posts once a week, however 42% of people said they read every post. Nobody said they read less than once a week.

People rated my writing style as their favourite aspect of the blog (57% of people rated it as excellent - thank-you!), with content coming a close second, and photography in third/last place. Only one person rated my photography as 'poor' but, as many of my photographs are taken on my iPhone and I very rarely edit them, I can't take this personally. But it gives me an idea of what I need to work on.

And finally, when I asked what people would most like to see me introduce to the blog, it was an overwhelming majority vote for plus-size fashion!

I'm really happy with the feedback that I received on my survey. It's been very humbling, and also given me a little bit of guidance on where to take my blog next. 

In the near future, I'm going to be introducing fashion posts, and also branching out onto YouTube. 

I'm really enjoying blogging and the blogger community, at the moment; I feel like I'm finally finding not only my feet, but my voice, and I'm feeling more confident with my blog - so much so that I even created a Facebook page (head over and gimme a like, if you fancy) and invited my real life friends to like it (big step for me!). I'm pretty excited to see what the future holds for OnlyBecci...

Friday, 27 June 2014

135. Beauty // Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in Elusive

I'm always drawn to two things when I pop into Superdrug or Boots: nail polish and lip sticks. As I very rarely change my base make-up, I like to play around with lip and nail colours instead, so my collection of nail polishes and lip sticks are forever growing.

I've recently rediscovered a lip colour that I purchased months ago, and it's reignited my love for it! The product in question is Revlon's Colorburst Matte Balm in the shade 'Elusive'. 
The Colorburst Matte Balm's are gorgeous; they look just like one of Clinique's Chubby Sticks. The actual balm itself is almost velvety and has a lovely refreshing quality when applied. Elusive even smells deliciously of peppermint which is a little added bonus.
(L: Three swatches, R: One swatch)

The colour itself is like a deep rosy pink, it's perfect for those of us with pale skin and fair hair, and I think it compliments my colouring perfectly which is why it's become my 'go to' lip colour.
I think Elusive has a fantastic staying quality too and it lasts hours on me, even when I've eaten. It has - as you'd expect from the name - a lovely, matte look but doesn't feel dry on your lips at all, and can be built up for a brighter tint. 

For just £7.99 (or 2 for £10 currently at Boots) you really can't go wrong!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

134. Lifestyle // Seeking Clarity

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I've recently been having a tough time with my anxiety (which I wrote about here). The last couple of months have been tough; I took the decision to leave my job, I lost my grandfather to cancer and I lost a lot of the stability that had previously been in my life - I think this is what has triggered my anxiety; having no control.
I decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle my anxieties, so that I can move forwards, so I'm spending a week at my mum's gorgeous home just outside of the Lake District in Sedbergh, Cumbria, where I've been taking time out for myself; reflecting on things that have happened, thinking about what my next steps should be, researching into courses and jobs and, generally, trying to relax and enjoy myself; discovering, along the way, who I am and what I want.
So far, so good. I find it so therapeutic out here; I feel as though I'm somewhat disconnected from everything back home - despite still being in touch with my family, friends and S - and I find that I can channel much greater clarity away from the distractions of home. I've also been able to talk at length with my Mum and Grandma about what I'm thinking about and their support and advice has been invaluable, giving me the belief that I can achieve whatever I want to.
Although it's only been three days, I believe that I'm developing some really exciting ideas for my career and life, and I feel positive that - once I've done some further research and am sure of the path which I need to follow - I can set myself realistic goals and, over time, achieve them with great success.
I'll be writing a post shortly, once everything is decided, about what I'd like to do in terms of my career, relationships, mental health, hobbies, blog and education. I'm excited to get started and to share my journey with you.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

133. Beauty // Bargain Nail Polishes Ft. Barry M & Jess for Poundland

I've been trying for years to stop biting my nails. I've always wanted gorgeous, long, manicured nails to make my stumpy fingers look a little less sausage-like.. However, it's never really happened, and so my nails have always remained relatively short.

Despite the lack of length or nice shape, I really enjoy to paint my nails and my nail polish collection is - without a doubt - the largest of all my make-up products. The most expensive nail polish I've ever bought was OPI's 'Vampsterdam' which set me back around a tenner, but I wasn't overly impressed and time after time, I find myself browsing the Barry M section in Superdrug.

What I love about Barry M's nail polishes is the range. There are so many different polishes to choose from; from their gelly range, to matte, silk, the Aquarium collection, etc. They are all awesome. I find the range of colours to be fantastic, there's something for everyone - whether you're looking for a bright neon to emphasize your tan, or an elegant nude, you can find whatever you need. And do you know the best bit? They're cheap as chips (coming in, generally, at either £1.99 on £2.99 each - although Superdrug often have special offers on!)

I recently picked up one of Barry M's matte polishes, in the shade 'Espresso' which is basically just black, exactly what I wanted. The nail polish is a lovely, thick consistency and although it takes a couple of coats, by the end it looks fantastic. It almost looks like leather, which I think is pretty cool. You can always add a glossy top coat too, but that sort of defeats the object.  
I also popped into my local Poundland the other day and had a look through their own brand collection of nail polishes. The collection is called 'Jess' and is only available in Poundland and - guess what?! - they're only £1 each. Bargain. 

I chose the 'Candy Crush' top coat which is a gorgeous, glitzy mix of glitter and sequins, in various shades of pink, and tried it on over my new matte nails and I can't get over how pretty it looks (even on short, chewed nails, like mine!) It looks almost like an outer-space effect, if you know what I mean?! There's probably a "proper" word for it...
In short (like my nails - pahaha... sorry), I think that this just goes to show that you don't need to spend a fortune of fancy nail polishes, when the high-street and even the budget options do such a good job! 

Do you think you would try Poundland's nail polish collection?
What's your favourite bargain nail polish?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

132. Improving OnlyBecci

I'm currently working on developing my blog and would love some feedback from you lovely lot. If you could spare five minutes to follow the link below & complete my survey, I'd be really grateful.


Friday, 20 June 2014

131. Beauty // Scented Guru Review

One of my very best of friends recently sent me the link to a website I'd never heard of, because she thought their products would be right up my street. She wasn't wrong.

Scented Guru is an awesome bath product company, run by the lovely James who was so, so helpful on Twitter when I was choosing my products and placing my order. Here's what James has to say: "I have always liked soaps and bath bombs because I was always shopping at Lush, but I thought I would like to sell my own soaps and that's when I established in July 2013 my company Scented Guru. My aim is to provide customers with the best possible service and with a hassle-free approach to get your order delivered directly to your door with our peace of mind and fast delivery service. By providing Fresh handmade Low Cost Soaps, Bath Bombs, Bath Salts, Hair Shampoo, Gift Sets and along with much more. Ancient Wisdom produces high quality ethical aromatherapy products and scrumptious bathroom items which are made from high quality ingredients in imaginative ways to produce traditional recipes with contemporary twists. You can smell us from miles away, the sweetest smelling company in the north."

All of Scented Guru's wide array of products are handmade and never tested on animals, which is reassuring, they're also ethically sourced which is another box ticked. Plus, the price is amazing - their products are so affordable and beat the likes of Lush hands down.

I was so excited to see just how many choices there were for the products. There are so many different scents for the bath bombs and soaps, gifts for men and even some really quirky bath/personal hygiene products that I'd never heard of, or even imagined, before!
First up, I decided to pick a bath bomb as I'm definitely a bath-girl, rather than a shower-girl. I love nothing more than a long soak in a bubble bath, so when I spotted the Lemongrass & Mandarin Bath Bomb, I knew it was the one for me. The scent of mandarins, oranges and clementines are one of my absolute favourite scents, and the lemongrass adds a lovely exotic twist. I tried the bath bomb out last week, to refresh myself after the flight home from Portugal, and it was amazing.

The bath bomb fizzed tremendously and there were no little 'bits' floating around in my bath. The scent was delicious and the bath turned a lovely peachy colour. It was just so nice. I'd definitely buy again, I'd love to try the Apple Pie & Custard Bath Bomb. 

Next up, was one of the products I'd never heard of before - paper soap. Intriguing, right? I wasn't really sure what this was, so I thought I'd chuck it in my basket and try it out on a whim. I opted for the Coconut Paper Soap (which I also can't find on the website anymore - but there are loads more to choose from, such as lavender, rose, etc). When they arrived, I thought they were so cool - you get twenty sheets of the soap in a handy little compact, making them ideal for keeping in your handbag or taking on holiday, or even to a festival. They are just little sheets of soap, and the smell of the coconut soap was divine.
You put one on the palm of your hand, add warm warm and then just rub your hands together, as you would if you were washing your hands with 'normal soap' - it works up into a wonderful lather and left my hands feeling really clean and smelling incredible. For just £1.99 for 20 sheets, I'd totally recommend them - they're ideal to carry around with you.

Last up was another intriguing product - one that I've seen Lush produce, but their price tag had always put me off - Shampoo Bars. I went for the Thyme & Mint Shampoo Slice (for Anti-Dandruff) and I've been so pleasantly surprised. They also have different shampoo slices for hair types; from Lavendar & Rosemary for Damaged Hair to Ginger for Faster-Growing Hair. The Shampoo Slices cost just £2.49 each, and I think you'll get loads of washes out of each bar.

I've used this shampoo bar twice now - once without conditioner and once with conditioner - are the results have been great both times. Not a fleck of dandruff (which I'm prone to with some shampoos) and my hair has been looking great. I didn't use conditioner the first time as I wanted to test the product out without adding any other products in which may make it look better or worse. Normally, if I don't condition my hair, it looks brittle and is prone to tangling - but, no word of a lie, my hair was smooth and tangle-free. I'm seriously impressed.
I'm so, so glad that I discovered (with the help of my wonderful friend, Becca) Scented Guru as I couldn't recommend them enough. The products are brilliant quality, the range is fantastic & there are so many products that I can't wait to try out, incredibly low prices, delivery was quick & painless, and James is always there to help on Twitter if you need him. 


Have you ever tried Scented Guru?
Do you think you will?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

130. Travel // My Dream Anniversary Weekend in Edinburgh

Recently I've been thinking a lot about mine and S's 5 year anniversary. Although we won't be celebrating this special occasion until November (what can I say? I'm a forward-planner!) I can't help myself from scouring websites such as TripAdvisor and, looking for perfect accommodation, fun places to visit & tasty eateries. 

For our three year anniversary back in November 2012, we headed up to Edinburgh and spent three wonderful days sightseeing and enjoying ourselves. We visited the castle, zoo and spent hours just wandering, taking in the breathtaking architecture and enjoying the sights. 
I would love to return to Edinburgh for this years celebrations but this time incorporate a little luxury into our stay. For starters, we need an incredible hotel - last time, we stayed in some lovely apartments, but this time I would love to stay in a plush hotel. If money were no option, I'd opt for the Balmoral Hotel which is in the most ideal location, and looks incredible. It is situated on Princes Street, ideal for Edinburgh's best shops and a lovely walk through Princes Street Gardens. The rooms look modern and elegant, and it even has a champagne bar and spa! 
Next up, we need to consider entertainment and days out. I think the hotel spa would get a great deal of use as it looks stunning, and I'm sure we would enjoy a spa day during our break, but I'd also love to get out and about and explore. Our anniversary actually falls on Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) which is a huge celebration here in the UK. I heard about the extensive Meadowbank Fireworks Display which takes place in Edinburgh each year, and I would love to attend - the thought of cuddling up together, all cosy in our scarves and hats, whilst watching the glittering fireworks makes my heart go all gooey. I'm a romantic, can't you tell?
We missed out on the Edinburgh Dungeons last time we were in the city, but it's something I've been dying to see! I've visited the London Dungeons and I thought they were so much fun although I was absolutely terrified the entire way through! Tickets are only £10.95 when you buy online, which I think is a bargain, and it looks like there is loads to do!
I'd also love to check out the Scottish Parliament buildings, Camera Obscura and Holyrood Palace!
Food is, of course, an incredibly important aspect of a holiday for me! I love nothing more than to gorge on tasty goodies whilst I'm away - if you can't enjoy yourself and let loose on holiday then when can you?! I've been eyeing up The Mussel & Steak Bar on Facebook for quite some time... They're currently in the process of opening up a new restaurant on Jeffrey Street (in addition to the one already open in Grassmarket, Edinburgh) so we'd be spoilt for choice on where we fancied eating. The menu includes culinary delights such as sirloin steak, scallops with pesto, seafood coconut curry, shellfish pasta, oh, I could go on and on! Don't even get me started on the desserts - chocolate torte, anyone?

I also have to add that I wouldn't say no to a cheeky pub crawl up Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile!

What do you think of my dream anniversary weekend?
Have you ever visited Edinburgh?
How did/would you celebrate your anniversary?

Monday, 16 June 2014

129. Beauty // Summer Saviours

Today I'm going to share two of my must-have beauty products for the summer. These products were my saviours whilst I was on holiday in Portugal earlier this month.
First up is Schwarzkopf 'got2b beach matt texturizing salt spray' which aims to create a mermaid look, beach wave hairstyle. 

I've heard a lot about salt sprays recently, and when I spotted this one on offer in Superdrug, I thought I'd give it a try. I used it near enough everyday on holiday as my hair was drying so quickly in the heat that I didn't need to use a hairdryer, so I simply spritzed about ten sprays of the salt spray on and let the wind and sun do the rest.

The result was actually pretty impressive. I have naturally wavy hair but the spray left it looking tousled, with individual curls, and I didn't even have to run the hairbrush through my usually tatty hair. My hair felt soft, rather than crunchy and brittle, too. 

The only downside was that, at the end of the day, it was quite hard to brush it out - but I guess you get that with most hair products, especially if you've applied it directly to wet hair without brushing it first. 

If you're heading off on a hot holiday this year, or simply want a low-maintenance, beach-style look, I'd recommend giving got2b beach matt texturizing salt spray a go!

I don't like to wear much make-up when it's hot, as I always feel like my skin ends up looking patchy, with huge pores and big shiny patches! But, at the same time, I find the idea of leaving the house without make-up on incredibly daunting. 

I have a red tint to my skin naturally, as well as a couple of unsightly spots, so I knew that I couldn't leave my skin completely uncovered - that's where SEVENTEEN Blemish Balm BB Cream (with SPF 25 - yay!) came to my rescue. 

I chose the shade medium as I had a spray tan the day before my holiday, and I found the colour to be a great match. It was slightly darker than the rest of me, but it was easily blendable and covered all my pores and blemishes. It gave me a lovely, summery glow, with even coverage, but to the naked eye you wouldn't even be able to tell I was wearing any product.

As my spray tan faded I started to mix a touch of my usual foundation in with the BB Cream, so that it matched my natural skin tone better, and this worked a dream too.

I used the BB Cream everyday and it lasted all day, throughout the heat. For the price (just £6.99 for 30ml) I'd definitely recommend this incredible BB Cream, which I think I'll be using all summer instead of my more expensive, heavier foundation!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

128. Lifestyle // Holiday Reads

As mentioned in my previous post, I've just returned from an amazing week in the Algarve, which was spent sunbathing, swimming, eating delicious food and - of course - reading.

I'm always looking for inspiration and recommendations of books to take with me on holiday, so I thought I'd share the books that I read and enjoyed this summer, with you. I managed to get through seven books in seven days, so I'm going to share a few of them with you today...

The Three by Sarah Lotz*

I was kindly sent Sarah Lotz' new book to review (thank-you!) Now, I'm not usually into thrillers/mystery and I hate conspiracy theories, but I loved this book. 

The gist of the novel is that four passenger planes crash, on four different continents, all within 24 hours. Strange? Yup. Want to know something even stranger? Somehow, three out of the four planes have only one surviving passenger, and on each plane it's a child. 
Through a series of different mediums, from online messages, newspaper articles and interviews, we are exposed to the aftermath of the devastation and these mysterious children who have survived. As the story progresses, each child begins to exhibit bizarre and unnerving behaviour, which leads to many conspiracy theories, such as believing the children are aliens, or it's a sign of the rapture, being thrown about. 

With a huge international media interest, the children and their families are forced into hiding, but this cannot save them from the public - especially those who believe that these children are not just children - and the public's trust, as well as these children's guardians faith, begins to waver. 

I literally could not put this book down; it's intensely gripping, wonderfully written and so interesting. Although the ending is rather ambiguous, it really makes you think. I'd whole heartedly recommend this book to anybody, whether you like thrillers or not! 

The book is available to buy on Amazon or you can check out the trailer here

I was recommended this book and, at first glance, it appeared to be just my cup of tea! I love books set in different countries and cultures, as I enjoy reading about people from all walks of lives, and hearing a side of a story that I'd never normally be exposed to.

The protagonist in this biographical novel, ex-hairdresser Debbie, leaves her comfortable but unexciting live in America, and travels to Afghanistan to help in any way she can. Within a short amount of time, she realises that she loves the country and it's people, and wants to help the women there as much as she can.

It is from this dream, that the Kabul Beauty School is born. Debbie sets up a beauty school, enabling local women to gain a qualification, earn money and, most importantly, their independence in a country where women are severely repressed. 

However, as you'd expect, it isn't all plain sailing and Debbie and the other characters, whom you really warm to throughout the novel, have many trials and tribulations to overcome. We hear the stories of many of these Afghan women and it's wonderful to hear it from, what is essentially, their perspective.

I have to admit that I didn't particularly enjoy this book, despite the glowing recommendations from friends and online. There was something about the authors style of writing that just didn't appeal to me - it just didn't seem like it was written by a 'writer,' if that makes any sense! I did love to hear about these women's struggles and how they overcame them, however and I believe that this book will be an enjoyable read for many people.

I recently read (and loved) Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which you can read my review of here, so I couldn't wait to get stuck into Purple Hisbiscus when I spotted it on my mums bookshelf.

I managed to get through this book in just a few hours as I could not put it down, here's why... Set in Nigeria, the story revolves around a fifteen year old girl, Kambili, who lives with her wealthy, generous but controlling father, a religious fanatic and businessman, her subsmissive but supportive mother, and her brave, protective brother. 

Kambili's life is meticulously controlled and organised by her father, to the extent that she has no social life, has allocated time for prayer, study and even listening to the radio, and has seen very little of the outside world, beyond school, home and the church.

It isn't until Kambili and her brother are sent to stay with their Aunt, that their perceptions and desires begin to stray from what their father has taught them. Laughter, freedom and love, fills their Aunt's house and they find themselves exposed to emotions that they hadn't experienced within their fathers' strict, regimented world.

It's a beautiful story about love and growing up, but with religion, abuse, war and even murder, added into the mix. It's a realistic, emotive and touching story that I'd urge anybody to read.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

127. Travel // A Week in Portugal

Oh, it's good to be back in the UK, snuggled up in my cosy bed with a cup of tea and a slice of marmite on toast. I really do miss my home comforts whilst I'm away. 

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you'll know that I've just spent an absolutley perfect week in sunny Portugal. I thought I'd share a few of my holiday snaps and a quick run through of what S and I got up to whilst we were away. Warning: this post is very photo-heavy. 

We flew out from Newcastle International Airport, arriving at our gorgeous apartment (Quintas das Figueirinhas, near the fishing town of Armacao de Pera) at around 9.30pm. We quickly settled in, shared a bottle of wine and headed off to bed for a good nights rest, before our first 'proper day' in the Algarve.
We arose fairly early on our first morning and had a delicious continental breakfast, consisting of lots of bread, croissants, fruit and cold meats. Then we decided to take a dip in the pool which was freezing, I repeat: freezing, but lovely after a while. In the afternoon, we headed into town (taking full advantage of the free shuttle service on offer!) and had a wander along the promenade, taking in the scenery, checking out the local bars (I'd thoroughly recommend Pedro's - they do a mean Pina Colada and an awesome hot dog!) and dipping our toes in the sea. 
The next day, after our compulsory swim, read & stroll down the promenade, we decided it was time for lunch and we had the most amazing meal at a lovely fish restaurant called Bombordo, I opted for the tuna steak which was divine, whilst Shane had some weird big fish thing (I have no idea what it was...) and we were served a side dish of octopus which was... interesting... it was surprisingly nice actually, but very chewy! For dessert, we found a lovely little ice-cream parlour serving traditional gelato but in a huge variety of flavours, so I opted for one scoop of Kinder Bueno and one scoop of Ferrerro Rocher. My mouth is watering at the thought of it. Although it was a slightly cloudy day, it was still hot enough to relax at Pedro's with (yet another) cocktail and watch the world go by. 
On our third day, we decided to stay in the resort and have a bit of a lazy day. This consisted of me reading two books, messing about in the pool & sunbathing on our patio terrace. We were luckily just a minute away from the cafe, restaurant and bar, meaning that we didn't have to walk far for our next bottle (or two) of wine. 
It wasn't until the fourth day that we decided to walk down to our nearest beach which turned out to be an absolutely stunning cove beach, with the most incredible views and a lovely restaurant where I had a delicious vegetable tagliatelle. 
On the fifth day, we headed back down to the cove beach and swam around in the sea (which was even colder than the pool!) before sunbathing on the white, sandy beach for several hours and having a spot of lunch at a lovely restaurant on the beach, overlooking the rest of the holiday makers and the dazzling, blue seas. We also got to meet a little turtle, a huge snake and a massive lizard that day too - to say I was uncomfortable, would be a massive understatement!
Day six and I was suffering from some serious chaffing. Sorry, TMI I know, but my God it hurt like a b*tch. I didn't really want to go anywhere, so we just lazed about by the pool, finished off a couple more books, before deciding (it took S quite a while to persuade me...) that we'd take yet another wander down to the beach for a swim and sunbathe. We then had a delicious meal at the beach restaurant again, before heading back up to the resort for cocktails (I've lost count of the number of Pina Colada's and Sex On The Beach's I got through...) and a couple of games of pool.
We spent our final day on the resort, as we weren't leaving for the airport until after 5 o'clock. We treated ourselves to a tasty lunch and tried to soak up as much of the sun as we could, before heading back to Blighty. The resort staff were kind enough to let us keep our things in the apartment until 4 o'clock, which meant we were free to stroll around the resort, sunbathe in the gardens and relax on the patio, sipping ice cold lemonades, until we were ready to go. I finished off another book whilst S had a game of football with some of the kids who were on holiday.

To me, this holiday was perfect. S and I had agreed that we wanted a holiday where we did "nothing, except sunbathe, sleep and eat" and - to be honest - I think we were pretty darn close to that! It was a lovely holiday and I really enjoyed spending some quality time with S, without the distractions of daily life wearing us down. We were lucky that the weather averaged about 25 degrees throughout our stay, the resort and local area was stunning, and I've come home feeling thoroughly refreshed!

Now to plan our next holiday...