1.3.14

Fashion: Amour Outfit of the Night

Although Valentines Day was a good couple of weeks ago now, I feel like I have to dedicate this post to it because it was really special for Nick and I. It was actually our first Valentines Day together and I know a lot of people complain that it's just a commercialised money making scheme, and "you should show your love everyday," but we love treating each other, and this was just another excuse to. During the day, he had work and I had a full day of uni, so we decided to have a romantic evening in with good food, a film and lots of candles and rose petals!
I felt very lucky! I thought i'd also include what I wore. I know we stayed in, but I still wanted to look nice, and I needed an excuse to wear this adorable red skirt with black leather panels from River Island. I bought it last year but have only worn it a handful of times so far. Straight after we finished eating, I ran upstairs and changed into joggers because that's the real me.. haha.
Black polo neck crop top: Select
Gold statement necklace: Primark (borrowed from my housemate - Thanks!)
Black waist belt with gold hardware: Primark (old)
Red mini skirt with black leather PU side panels: River Island
Black creeper styled shoes: New Look
Rose gold watch: Tesco
Pandora Bracelet with heart and bow charm: Gift 
So the night before Valentines Day, Nick and I stayed up until midnight to exchange gifts because we were so excited! He enjoys Geocaching (if you don't know what it is, google it) so I bought him a GPS device to use when he goes out, plus he's a real gadget geek. And I was surprised with my very first Pandora bracelet! The thought behind it was to buy a new charm at monumental times in my life, so each charm means something special to me and brings back certain memories. He had also bought me my first charm, which was the little puffed silver heart and the word 'love' in a few different languages. However, I was allowed to buy one another charm and chose the cutest little bow, i'm such a girly girl!
So I was a very lucky and happy girl and I really appreciated all the effort he went to in order to make Valentine's Day so special for me. I hope everyone else had a wonderful day too, in a relationship or not. My housemate who is single teamed up with one of her girlfriends and made cards and gifts for each other which I thought was a really cute idea too. 
I also need help and inspiration for new charms! I'm so excited to fill up my bracelet and make it personal. If you have one, or have done a blog post on one, i'd love to read it.
Tomorrow I'm heading down to Vodka Revs in Bristol for the #BrizBlogMeet - Let me know if you are also attending or if you want to follow the event throughout the course of the day, you can follow me on twitter (@katiefhowell) and track it through the hashtag stated above.
What did you do for Valentine's day? Do you have a Pandora bracelet? And if so, what kind of charms?

11.2.14

Home: Room Tour & Girly Decor

In September, I moved out by myself for the first time into a flat with 5 other people to begin my university adventures. Because I went through clearing, I didn't get into uni halls which is where most first year students end up. So I had to find somewhere to live quickly. The ground floor flat that I'm currently staying in is a very old and spacious building with a lot of outdated furniture. It has 3 bathrooms, a lounge area, a very spacious kitchen/dining room, 5 double bedrooms and one single. Luckily I was able to move into a double room, but because of the high ceilings, the entire house is FREEZING cold, and being poor students, we only allow ourselves a couple of hours of heating a day. I'm only on a 6 month lease, therefore I will be moving home for a while in March, but here is how I've made the room feel more homely. 
The first feature of my room is my mirror, and it's my favourite! It's a really old basic rectangular mirror - not even full sized and it's been in my dad's spare room for years. I decorated this simply with fairy lights (from the pound shop) draped over the top and pinned with cutesy bird pegs. As you can see, I have also attached an air freshener which was in the Christmas range from Tesco, and a shabby chic styled heart shaped decoration.
The next feature is my desk. The flat came fully furnished, including the desks, drawers and chair in my room, so they are not to my taste, therefore decoration is my only option. The night lamp is from Argos and produces pretty patterns when it catches the light. I've had to improvise with vases since my boyfriend tends to show up with a bunch of flowers on my doorstep now and then, so I have resorted to using wine bottles. I like it though, it feels kind of, DIY. Both wooden picture frames were gifts, one from my boyfriend and one from my best friend, so they sit proudly on either side of my desk. Being a candle fanatic, I have 3 or 4 at once on my desk and I'm currently burning 'Vanilla Cupcake' by Yankee Candle. 
Dotted around the room, I have a couple of accents on the walls. The first is my jewellery hanger which was a birthday gift a couple of years ago and I mainly use it to store my necklaces and bracelets. Earrings are quite a hassle to attach so they have alternative storage. I bought the wall clock from Argos in the sale, a fiver I think? It gets a lot of compliments and I love the unique baroque design. Finally, another wooden heart decoration because I get gifted so many! This one sits above my TV and i think the fact that it looks a bit worn gives it a vintage effect.
Next we have the bed, basically where I spend the majority of my time. Luckily, I got a lovely bed frame and a brand new mattress when I moved in. The sheets are a white, blue and yellow floral design again, from Argos in the sale, and they are reversible with a picture design. I have a white velvet Ikea cushion which serves a decorative purpose, but I would love more! I think having a few bed cushions make it look so comfy and cosy. My friend bought me the cream knitted throw for Christmas which may possibly be my most prized possession and I have a couple of soft blankets at the foot of the bed in case it gets super chilly. There are more pound land fairy lights tangled around the top and bottom of the bed which give off a soft and pretty lighting.
I seriously love this gem of a candlestick from Tesco and I was lucky to have gifted from a friend. I think it would look gorgeous with a simple thick white candle but at the moment I am using this glittery Redcurrant and Cranberry candle from Stoneglow. The scent on this isn't very prominent but how adorable is the candle holder? It has a sort of 'outer rim' which contains a red sparkly gel with stars which was perfect over Christmas. I also have a few storage bits and bobs to hold my earrings, bobby pins, lipsticks and rings, and yep, another Yankee candle. I picked up 'Mandarin Cranberry' in the Yankee store just after Christmas in the sale, it smells fruity and warm and just so good!
Lastly, I have a really ugly wardrobe/mirror/drawer type thing - the kind of furniture you'd find in an outdated hotel if you know what I mean? On top, I store all of my laundry products including this cute white basket from Ikea, along with a few books and DVD's. Yes, there is another Yankee candle up there too which is 'Paradise Spice'. I store my bodycare products next to the mirror, some in a basket and some are loose. Pictured is my Ted Baker make up bag which was £16 from the Swindon designer outlet centre (bargain!), my tea tree water from Lush, Taylor Swift 'Wonderstruck', a pot full of brushes and my Bumble and Bumble surf spray.

Come Mid March and i'll be moving back home for a couple of months temporarily before my new house becomes available and I will really miss having my own space. Although my room is quite grotty and outdated, decorating and making it homely is such a fun thing to do. Let me know if you'd like to see another room tour when I move into my new house in July!
How do you decorate your room? I love 'Home decor' posts, so if you have written one, leave me a comment with the link so I can check it out!

29.1.14

Nails: Featuring Sally Hansen Miracle Cure

Last year I made a the horrible mistake of stepping into one of those cheap and tacky "USA nails" stores, you know, the ones that are the "fast food" versions of nail salons? I decided on a full set of gel nails because biting my nails is a habit I've been trying to break for years now. So gel nails would hopefully prevent this. At first, I HATED the salon.. the way it was so unorganised, none of the "technicians" spoke English and I genuinely felt really uncomfortable. Walking out, I told myself I would never go back. Eight months down the line and I'm a recovering addict due to the hard wearing results. However, it's a new year and I've promised myself and my nails I will stop the tragic abuse of unknown chemicals and infills.
Taking my gels off at home proved to be extremely difficult, I have no idea what substance was used to stick them on, but they honestly wouldn't budge. I ended up soaking my fingertips in acetone for a good hour to soften them up enough to scrape off the gel. The results after were not pretty. My poor nails were brittle.. flaky.. destroyed basically. It was time for an emergency stop at the nearest cosmetics store to pick up a nail strengthener, and it had to be Sally Hansen. 
I ended up settling for the Sally Hansen Miracle Cure strengthener which just short of £10, so not cheap at all! But my justification is that it's cheaper than paying £16 for infills every few weeks and Sally Hansen have a reputation for being very effective. Obviously the strengthener didn't take effect immediately but as you can see from the picture above, after a few weeks they are slowly getting back to normal. On the packaging it describes how the formula works:

"Powerful moisture magnets target severely, dry and brittle problem nails. Exclusive Micro-Mineral formula fills in cracks to instantly stop nails from peeling. Natural protein and super anti-oxidant formula strengthens nails."

My nails still don't look appealing without a colour on top because they are really discolored, so I apply Miracle Cure every couple of days under a nail polish. So far so good, as I have had no broken nails and they are still strong enough to withstand everyday tasks. Hopefully in a couple of months time I will be able to put this all behind me and move on into a nail traumatic-free life! For anyone that has suffered the same nail-neglect, feel free to chat to me for support, my twitter feed is always open ;)
(Left: With one coat of Miracle Cure Right: Miracle Cure underneath Models Own "Indian Ocean")

What are your nail related horror stories? Hope you're having a good week!

P.S. I'm attending the #BrizBlogMeet on March 2nd in Bristol. Let me know if you're going too - or if you're interested in attending, please check out Emily's blog post here.

21.1.14

Tech: iPhone 5C ft Diane Von Furstenberg

In September, I was due an upgrade to my iPhone 4, which was the first smartphone i'd ever had. Now, this is going to sound a little crazy, but I was rather attached to that phone and the thought of changing it didn't seem appealing to me. Additional to the fact that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it and it was almost as good as new. Despite being the most clumsy person to walk the planet, my iPhone had survived unscathed. Anyway, I put off the upgrade until I realised that I could get a new iPhone 5c in pink! Yes, it was a little bit more expensive a month, but I love the bigger screen and I know it's sad, but I also enjoy having Siri to talk to when no-one else is around.. We've got to know each other so well. 
I came away with the 16gb model just because I can't justify spending huge amounts of money now that I have a limited income. But for me, this is plenty of space for hundreds of songs, photos and silly app games that I waste all of my time on.. (Hay day, Pocket Planes, Plants vs Zombies..? the list goes on..) As mentioned before, I obviously chose to get the colour pink. I love the plastic back because the handset feels more durable than my previous glass backing. And the colour simply brightens everything up. With a simple transfer of all my old files through iCloud, I was off and away. 
Seeing as I got my new phone in November, my boyfriend bought me this adorable case from Etsy for Christmas. I absolutely love the design and it is completely my style, it even compliments the pink quite well. It's a shame because the gold has already starting wearing away around where my hand holds the sides. Ah well, just an excuse to get another! Etsy do a wonderful range of cases, from individual sellers. Most are handmade and I couldn't recommend them enough.
Another new accessory for my phone were these Diane Von Furstenburg headphones gifted from Three. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the packaging? Funky right? And the buds themselves have the signature lips against the classic black background. These are subtly stylish, meaning I can still wear them out and about on the bus without looking too gimmick-y. They also come with plenty of spare silicone tips as replacements and have the standard 3.5mm jack to fit most generic headphone sockets.
The sound quality on this are average, with none of those cheap 'tinny' noises. The packaging also suggests that they are 'noise isolating' but to me, they are the same amount of 'isolating' as any other pair of headphones! Bass-wise, they provide a pretty solid bass line if you're into that kind of music, and they are also comfortable and lightweight. To be completely honest, I know these are designer headphones, but I wouldn't have paid the full price of £33 for them and I think they are slightly overpriced. Besides the technicalities, I like them because they're pretty :)
(Listening to: Ellie Goulding <3)
Over the Christmas break, Nick and I spent the majority of our time out and about on walks and going geocaching, so having a new pair of headphones was a treat. I walked/danced/skipped along to various festive tunes. If you wanted to get some for yourself, Three have a wide range of accessories for all kinds of devices in store. Or if I've tempted you into an iPhone 5C, they are currently doing some great deals!
What phone accessories do you use? What have you been listening to recently?

16.1.14

Fashion: Tartan and Daisies

Every year, I never understand the fascination with the January sales. Usually I buy a couple of bits and bobs here and there.. but this year i'm a student living off of my student loan, which somehow has meant all my money has disappeared into the January sales abyss, mainly the ASOS abyss actually. I convinced myself it was okay, because they offer free delivery and free returns.. Oooh and student discount! This is my ASOS haul (so far).
Black Polo Neck Crop Top - ASOS
Statement Necklace - Stolen from Mum's jewellery drawer..
Tartan Skirt - ASOS
Tights - Tesco
Boots - ASOS
Bag - New Look (Christmas present from younger brother).
Nails - OPI 'OPI Ink'
This first outfit is so perfect for A/W because it actually keeps you super warm aswell as staying on trend. Tartan has been so popular this season and pairing it with a simple black top keeps it wearable and suitable for everyday wear. I paired this outfit with a chunky statement necklace just to add interest and to show how this versatile outfit can quickly be changed from day wear to night attire.
The boots were a total steal at £30 for real leather! However i did have a couple of problems with ASOS because at first they sent me a pair with completely faulty insoles. They were glued in half way up the boot if that makes sense? I sent them back requesting a replacement and they sent me these which have the same problem, just less severe. So i'm currently debating whether or not to ask for another replacement.. what do you think?
Daisy Print Swing Dress - ASOS
Tights & Boots - As before
This dress caught my eye because it looked really comfortable and easy to wear, yet really pretty and feminine. I was right, it's super soft and hides and lumps and bumps, but does anyone else think it's a little.. unflattering? I'm really unsure whether or not to send it back. I adore the print, and wearing this to uni would be easy to just chuck on, but the shapelessness does me no favours. The t-shirt styled high neck also seems to look strange on me, so i'm really at a loss. Help and advice would be appreciated!

However, if you are one of the lucky so-in-so's who can pull off a swing dress, this would be a lovely piece for that difficult winter to spring wardrobe transition. I think it looks sophisticated and cosy with a pair of boots, but it would also look good bare legged with strappy sandals.
Leather Zip Jacket - New Look (old)
Leather Collar dress - ASOS
Tights & Boots - As before.
Lastly, I picked up this patterned leather collar dress from Club L at ASOS. Supposedly it's knitted, but it was also a complete steal at £11.50 (down from £40!). I've already worn this out to my friends birthday meal on New Year's Day and it's that type of dress that is perfect for that kind of Smart/Casual event. I love how the leather collars adds a little fierceness, yet the shape is so girly and cutesy. 

So yes, I've spent waaaay too much on the ASOS website this month, not to mention i've also bought some new Forever 21 goodies, books, candles, lush treats.. the list goes on and someone needs to stop me before things get out of hand.

Also, these are the first outfit photos i've taken in over a year and I have to thank my gorgeous boyfriend for helping me out. I think he's done a really good job, tell him what you think over on his blog

What have you guys bought in the January Sales? Let me know on my Facebook page!

12.1.14

2013 Beauty Favourites (Belated - whoops!)

Before you say anything, I know I'm probably the last to jump on the bandwagon and this is also quite belated. However, I used these products consistently throughout the year and I can't see them leaving my make up bag any time soon! These are my staple day-to-day beauty items, which I think are useful for any kind of occasion. 
First up is the MAC Mineralize Skin Finish in Soft and Gentle. This is a beautiful subtle shade that gives highlighted areas a radiant glow. I tend to use it as a highlighter across my temples and the top of my cheekbones to brighten up my complexion. It blends easily and if you don't have a make up brush for the application, using your fingertips would work just as well. In photo's, this looks really pretty when it hits the light, but it also adds a bit of sparkle to my everyday makeup routine. I think it's quite pricey (£20ish?) but luckily this was a birthday present last year and it's definitely going to last me a good couple of years before I need to repurchase. 
Next is another MAC product. I'm not actually a massive fan of MAC, I just have a couple of pieces which I absolutely love, but I can't justify their price tag enough to centre my entire make up collection around them. This is one of their paint pots in 'Bare Study', which is a shimmering champagne colour with a creamy consistency. Sometimes I just use this as a base for my eye shadows because it allows pigments to stick, reducing fall out and providing a pretty shimmer. It can also be used as a quick and easy fix by sweeping it over the lid with your fingertips and voila, you're ready to go! A very versatile product that looks gorgeous however you apply it. The only issue is the price, as I believe this retails for roughly £15 and I do go through it quite quickly.
A very popular product in the beauty blogger-sphere, made famous by Samantha Chapman from Pixiwoo, the real techniques brushes are every beauty guru's must-have. And rightly so, because they do an amazing job. I own the core collection, the stippling brush and my newest favourite: the expert face brush. For a long time, I was using the Stippling brush to apply my foundation and it worked really well, so well in fact that my best friend also fell in love with it and I had to buy her one before she stole mine! I've recently converted to the expert face brush which I find to be softer and better at blending into the skin. The other shown is the contour brush which I obviously use for contouring! Whether it's highlighter, bronzer or blusher, I find that the shaping of this brush allows easy application and blending. They're also fairly affordable, the core collection being roughly £20 for 4 brushes and I picked up the expert face brush for half price in boots at £5.. Also, yes, maybe I should have washed these before photographing them but it proves how well loved they are.. right? 
Since my hair now reaches my lower back, I've wanted a tangle teezer for God knows how long! But it was one of those products I could never justify as I already owned countless amounts of hairbrushes. When I started uni however and moved into a flat with 3 other girls, my hairbrushes began mysteriously disappearing.. Hmmm. So when I was casually perusing TK Maxx and found this bright number I decided to snap it up quickly. Firstly, I love the contrast of bright orange against the purple, I think it looks really funky. But for practical reasons as well, this is a really ingenious product. Sometimes people describe my hair as a birds nest, but it has never been easier to untangle than with this. Also, it is so portable, living comfortably in my make up bag. I believe it was just less than £5 which I see as completely reasonable.
Finally, my last beauty favourite of 2013 has to be the YSL Shocking mascara in black. At the start of the year when I began working full time, I bought this for myself as a treat, justifying it by the extra income I was earning. This was a mistake as now, a poor student, I have to repurchase it every few months, and it's not cheap at roughly £23 a pop. However, it has to be the best mascara I've ever used. The formulation is so smooth that it applies like a dream, never clumpy, perfect every time. I love how fine the wand is, making it easy to get into the corner eyelashes and the volume it provides is incredible. Volume is the one quality I must have in a mascara and Shocking just does it for me! I think the packaging is also super classy and I really couldn't big it up enough. There's no going back for me now!

So those are my absolute favourites of 2013 with regards to beauty, I'd love to see what everyone else's were and if any matched mine? Post yours in the comments so I can check them out :)

9.1.14

Making a Comeback: Where have I been?!

You guys probably don't remember me.. I've been away for just over a year now! Wuuuuuuut?!? To explain, I took a very unexpected, prolonged blogging break.. for no good reason. At the end of 2012, I learnt some very important life lessons, but I learnt them the hard way.. which resulted in some pretty unfavorable consequences. Without dwelling too much on the past, this meant my blog had to take a back seat whilst I sorted myself out. A year later, I'm making a comeback and I literally could not be more excited! You may have noticed my newly designed layout and header, do you like it? I have high hopes for sleep.wake.hope this year and it's safe to say you'll be seeing a lot more of me. 
I'd also like to thank everyone who has stuck around this year. Thank you for all the emails, tweets and comments. Although I may have been lazy with replies, all messages were acknowledged and appreciated as always. 
(Katy and I)
So, what have I been up to throughout 2013? Firstly in December/January, I welcomed a very special person back into my life. Katy and I were inseparable throughout school and she is the kind of friend everyone should have. I'm actually getting emotional thinking about our friendship because it is something I truly treasure. For a couple of years, we stopped talking due to a really silly fallout, but putting our differences aside, we are again, inseparable and I really couldn't be more grateful for all of the precious memories we share.
Also in January, I took up a full time position as a foreign exchange sales cashier at a new store opening near to where I live. Therefore, I was sent off for 6-8 weeks of training in Oxford, meaning living in a Premier Inn on my own for nearly 2 months. NOT fun.
Next, excuse the unflattering picture, but I finally had my right eye operated on to prevent it from being so lazy! A squint operation is something I've always been familiar with, having lazy eyes from birth, and at some point I will probably have to go through it again. I'm not going into detail because honestly, it grosses me out, but i'm grateful that my eyes are back to normal(ish).
(Me and Nick)
In May, I was very lucky and welcomed another very special person into my life. I began dating Nick who I'd met through Katy and her work friends. He was and still is a true gentleman. Like the kind who will carry your bags for you and bring you breakfast in bed. He makes me feel brave and strong, like I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it, and if it wasn't for him, I don't think I would have had the confidence to make a return to my blog. He has also started his own which you can read here.
(Sunset Picnic, Weston-Super-Mare, Wookey Hole)
Summer provided an opportunity to travel, explore and revel in time spent with friends. Nick and I visited some his family the New Forest, which was really beautiful and gave us the chance to go to Bournemouth for the day. We then took a day trip to Wookey Hole, which I had never been to before, explored the caves and played crazy golf. Spent a long weekend in Falmouth with his brother and barbecued on the beach. Traveled with friends to the beach at Weston-Super-Mare, built sandcastles and shared ice lollies. Spent the evenings searching forests and fields for geocaches (to find out more, go to Nicks blog).. the list goes on.. but those were the highlights :)
(Me at Wookey Hole, Me and Katy munching frozen yogurt)
As the summer progressed, I also had to make a big, life-changing decision.Originally, I was planning to begin studying fashion buying at De Monfort University in Leicester, but after settling into my job and meeting new friends, the appeal seriously wore off. It took a lot of thinking, but I finally came to the conclusion to go back into education because I wanted to make something bigger of myself rather than working in retail positions all my life. However, I settled on studying Marketing Communications at the University of the West of England, which is roughly half an hour from my family home. Due to the last minute decision, I had to go through clearing, which is a total nightmare!!! I also had to find somewhere to live term-time.. although my family live nearby, it's not quite close enough to justify the commuting time and expenses. Plus, moving out gives you more opportunities to socialise and really learn independence. If anyone finds themselves in the same boat I was with regards to the big uni debate, don't hesitate to drop me an email because I know exactly what it's like. 
 (Grace, Ermira, Me, Joe, Jordan, Nicole)
On the 13th September, I moved into a six bed flat with other university students. Living independently for the first time definitely takes time to adjust to, but in the mean time, I had a fun filled freshers week and embarked on beginning my course. During freshers, I also celebrated my 20th birthday which did get slightly overlooked due to other obvious events, but I did spend the day relaxing with Nick and enjoying home cooked food with my family.
With regards to my job, I dropped to part time hours before finally leaving in November. I think having a part time job throughout uni is really useful, but you have to allow yourself time to settle into your new lifestyle and surroundings first. For me, it all got a bit too much and I started suffering from anxiety, so I had to "suck the poison out of my life" and start giving myself a break. This also meant getting rid of my poor old beaten up car.. Living right in the City Centre of Bristol makes using public transport quite easy for me, plus my car had been broken into once already and it wasn't worth the risk of keeping.
(Ermira and I on Halloween, Typical student tea, Nicole and I)
As the Autumn slipped into Winter, we sadly faced another break in, but this time it was our flat. I was very lucky and nothing of mine was taken or damaged, but the thought of a total stranger intruding is quite sickening.
But! We picked ourselves up and partied on.
(Me and Nick, Me and Katy, Me and Gary)
In November, Nick and I went on holiday for a week to Centre Parcs with Katy and her boyfriend, Gary. If you've been to Centre Parcs before, you'll know it's absolutely lovely. We went swimming in the Subtropical Paradise pool everyday and enjoyed the white water rapids and plunge pool. Because we went near Christmas, we were also treated to the most breathtaking firework display over the lake and Christmas decorations could be found throughout the forest. The pancake house was a huge hit after working up an appetite on our bikes and we also tried geocaching - Centre Parcs edition. The whole week was a definite highlight in my year.
With every high comes a low, and on the way back from Centre Parcs, I stopped in to visit an unwell relative who sadly passed away in my company. This was so so upsetting, as any death is, but I'm grateful to have spent that short time with her before it happened, I hadn't seen her for almost ten years!
Finally, for the most wonderful time of the year! Nick and I invested in our first ever Christmas tree and spent the festive season visiting friends and family. We did exchange gifts and completely spoilt each other aswell as being spoilt by each of our families and ate far too much, as you do at Christmas. However, I think my favourite part of Christmas this year has been spending it at home.. just relaxing with my family, playing the occasional game of monopoly and risk. That's what Christmas is really all about isn't it? I also had a wonderful New Year, welcoming it in singing and dancing with close friends. 

2013 was a juggled year of ups and downs. I've heard a lot of positivity regarding the year, but i'm actually glad it's behind me. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful for the new relationships I've established and the opportunity to start university. What I have learnt is to face adversary with a optimistic attitude and make the best out of bad situations. Here's to a new start! 

Dedicated to Caroline, Rest in Peace.