Friday, 22 August 2014

Changing to a Healthier Lifestyle and Feeling Better for It

Starting the Morning

So around the first couple of weeks of the summer holidays, I decided to get my life in order. I think it's a right of passage that at uni you gain weight in your first year, and I was nearing a stone. I've tried and failed so many times to 'get healthy' but I think I spent a lot of time not really knowing what to actually do. Martin and I had started running every Sunday, so we carried that on into the holidays, but I made some simple changes that have helped me drop nearly all of the stone in a pretty short space of time. The best part about it is that it's been enjoyable. I think my priorities have changed a little, and this time it stuck, because it's nice to sit and have breakfast up to the table and use the pretty plates and have lots of fruit on supply.

In addition to our runs, I am now doing exercises, weighted, every morning. It doesn't take a lot (not enough to get so horribly sweaty that I have to wash and blow dry my hair every day, which has always been a huge issue with regular exercise for me) I simply do each exercise for a minute. I also use this brief time to practice my Cantonese, so that's actually sticking in my head pretty well too. I took this picture to show that I actually do do my exercises in my slippers as soon as I get up.

Starting the Morning

I have adjusted my diet to incorporate more fruit (to eat as snacks instead of wandering into the kitchen looking for things to eat) and I make sure to always eat fruit or vegetables with whatever protein or carb I'm eating, as it helps your body to store it as muscle rather than fat. For instance I usually have an egg on toast, but make sure to have something green such as cucumber or some leafy greens alongside it.

 I just wanted to talk about how nothing has been particularly intensive or life-changing, but, echoing many many bloggers around the world, it really is just small changes that make a huge difference. The next challenge will be making it stick once I get to uni and have no time in the mornings to get ready and cook. If you have any tips for me that would be fantastic! Especially where breakfast is concerned.

Starting the Morning

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Garden Naming and Berry Picking and Jam Making

Making Jam at Rivendell

At around this time every year, Mum's bountiful garden ripens and she picks hundreds of berries from our red and white currant bushes, raspberry bushes and the odd strawberry, cherry and logan berries. With so much of them (and sometimes they're a little tart) it's become tradition that she makes it into a huge batch of jam and stockpiles it all in a cupboard! We call it 'Rivendell' Jam as mum named our garden (like people name their houses) after the land of the elves in Lord of the Rings. I tend to help, if i'm actually around when she makes the decision to make it, and this time I decided to blog it. She's gotten so good at it that she doesn't need a recipe anymore. She just pust a __ of jam-making sugar in for every ___ of fruit and the juice of half a lemon. At the same time we boiled all the jam jars in water in order to prevent bacteria getting in and spoiling your jam!

My main job was to crush the berries against the side of the pot (allowing them to cook) before turning the heat right up. When it starts to bubble we skim the scum off the top (we like to think all the soil, dust and any creepycrawlies turn up here) and then do the wrinkle test. (See pictures below!) The wrinkle test requires you to put a small spoonful on a plate, let it set for one minute, and then 'push' through the jam with your finger. If the jam wrinkles, it will set properly. Then we turned the heat off and spooned it into jars (a funnel is a much better idea but ours was lost) Then we popped wax circles on top to form a seal (if you can't find them, cut baking paper into circles but really you should use wax paper) and screwed on the lids tightly. Now we're enjoying it on our toast and come winter you get a reminder of summer that lasts through to the next year! There's definitely a real sense of pride in making something like jam yourself, and it feels special to show off to friends - I took a jar to uni with me, and probably will again in September!

Making Jam at Rivendell Making Jam at Rivendell Making Jam at Rivendell Making Jam at Rivendell

Monday, 18 August 2014

Coral Sneakers (for they can't really be called Trainers!) and Summer Strolling and Style Inspiration

The bensimons

After discovering these existed on Pinterest, I knew they would make perfect summer shoes and I have been lusting after a pair for so long. It was too cold and unjustifiable while at uni and running on negative funds, but when I got back home (and to work) I saved up a little money to buy a pair of Bensimon sneakers online. Apparently they've been around since the 70s (you can tell) and are well known for their wash-ability and good quailty. I'm really really hoping these don't fall apart as I want to be able to traipse around Spain in them and then wear them to uni regularly when I get back. They are super comfortable (and true to size) and I feel like they are going to go with everything (see summer dress an flowery backpack for inspiration!) I felt they warranted their own post as they are so gorgeous and old-school and I haven't had a pair of slip-on sneakers for ages. I have been looking for more flats since I no longer wear heels every day (I like to be vaguely the same height as Martin when we stroll to the supermarket) and really flats are much more practical in a paint-y uni studio, carrying folders and books around and marching to computer-to-printer-to-scanner-to-art shop-to-library and back to studio. Like I said before with the converse, I'm still waiting on a pair of cigarette pants that I think will see these through into autumn.

The bensimons

Friday, 15 August 2014

Chinese Baking: Cantonese Egg Tarts

Cantonese Egg Tarts

Hi Everyone! I thought I'd share with you the Egg Tarts I made the other day. After coming back from The Manor I had a craving to learn more Cantonese cooking and I happened upon the Youtube Channel WanTanMien  who has loads of videos, not only on Cantonese cooking but also baking. I had to try and make these as they are Martin's favourite, and I followed the channel immediately because the (frankly adorable) lady who runs it speaks Canton in the videos and I thought what better way for me to get used to hearing Cantonese and learning to cook things at the same time?

I followed her recipe for Egg Tarts and they came out pretty good (according to Martin!) and when they first came out of the oven they looked like actual little egg yolks in a pastry case, though the did settle down. Apparently it's actually a bad thing, and you should take care not to let the custard over-rise, so I might look for a few tips on that next time. Still, 15 disappeared in one night, so I'm couting them as a success!

Cantonese Egg Tarts

Monday, 11 August 2014

Hot Weather and Summer Make Up

Summer Make Up

So, as it's been hot (or maybe when it's been hot) I've been doing my make up differently. Part of it is that familiar feeling cakey on a hot day and the combination of not wanting it to sweat off your face, or melt on your face. Another reason is that usually I'm too preoccupied with getting outside and into the sunshine before it disappears than spending an hour doing my make up. I've been skipping the primer and just stippling the foundation lightly onto my face, mainly relying  on a combination of concealers for coverage, and using a swipe of my smashbox highlighter from nose to cheekbone.

Summer Make Up

I've also been swiping a little light coloured eyeshadow from my favourite Too Faced palette instead of messing about with contours and shadowing. I'm still using Benefit's They're Real mascara as it's still the best one i've found, and I've been loving my Smashbox Fuschia lipstick as it's a little summery-er than red or some of my 'neutrals'. The best thing is about lipstick I find is that it makes it look like you've made more of an effort, and I'll definitely carrying it through to my holiday in Spain!

Summer Make Up Summer Make Up

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Best Photography Apps (My Review!) for Android and My Obsessive Instagramming ~ With Three Mobile

IMG_20140807_140354Hi everyone! I have a nice exciting post today! I'm sorry to post two sponsored posts one-after-another, but It was just too exciting (and very nice to feel like you're an important blogger!) A lovely PR lady, Elly, working on behalf of Three Mobile messaged me to see if i'd be interested in collaborating to celebrate the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S5 on Three  by reviewing something. I have an android (and I have had Samsung Galaxies in the past) and one of the things I had lamented is that all the seemingly most exciting apps seem to be released for IOS first, or exclusively. I would never switch to an iPhone (not at the moment anyway!) But it seemed unfair that they got all the 'best stuff;.

While discussing what sort of accessory I might be interested in, I mentioned that i'm an avid instagrammer and Elly promptly sent me some Google Play vouchers to choose from the huge selection of photography apps and review them. I love taking photos, especially with my DSLR, but of course everyone is a smartphoneographer now, and really I wanted the best from my phone's camera. I am a firm believer in getting the photo right on-camera first, rather than hoping to edit out the issues in photoshop, so I was looking for another camera app that might give me a little more control over the camera settings. Not only that, but I was looking for some editing apps too (I am a sucker for crispness and vibrance, and that blown out film camera aesthetic. Prior to this, I had been using my built-in camera app, with Aviary as an editor, then I moved to VSCO's in-app camera and it's editing capabilities.)

I did some research and I chose: 1. A Beautiful Mess App (plus some extra backgrounds and fonts), 2. Doodle Lens, 3. Camera FV5 (full edition) 4. Lapse It (pro), 5. Photoshop Touch, 6. Perfectly Clear, 7. Some Extra Filters in VSCO and for good measure Google Camera (free).

2014-08-08 12.40.13 1
This picture I took with Camera FV5 and imported into VSCO for editing. VSCO was and still probably is my favourite post-processing app. Previously I had admired the crispness of VSCO's in-app camera, but Camera FV5 has very specific options. It still doesn't allow you to completely adjust aperture (I imagine that's due to the simple nature of a phone camera) but different modes give you a ballpark area, and the display specifies the exact aperture, so you can decide if you are using the appropriate aperture for your shot. Similarly, the camera lets you alter the shutter speed (for unsteady hands or long exposure shots) and most importantly (to me) a selectable ISO figure. Seeing as ISO controls the level, being able to ensure it was nice and low (ISO 50!) kept my pictures nice and crisp.

2014-08-08 12.11.42 1
This picture was taken again with Camera FV5, which rapidly became my favourite camera replacement app, and edited with VSCO. I did feel that it was worth it to buy some extra filter packages from the marketplace, as the filter's are so much crisper, nicer and less exaggerated than Instagram's own. Adding the additional filters gave a lot more choice to better suit a variety of different images. Equally, some people argue that VSCO's symbols are confusing, but I quickly picked them up and generally use it to up the vibrance and sort the odd shadow that's over-dark out.

2014-08-08 12.37.08 1

This Image I took again with Camera FV5, and edited with Photoshop Touch. I was initially disappointed (it ran very slowly to begin with and the gallery selection needs to be changed to default - which you can do in the app - in order to find any pictures you'd just taken.) It is however a pretty good phone version of Photoshop. It allows you to work with layers, which is really great for adjusting curves, levels, colour selection etc. It also had most of its filter gallery, so one could gaussian blur in order to airbrush selfies if you so desired, and the standard crop, skew and transform options, and all of the layer styles you might expect from the full version. A lot of the options are obviously easily available on some of the other editing apps available, but I think having Curves was a huge plus and meant I could pretty easily replicate the edits I make to my DSLR photos on my phone. 


Having an android I thought I probably ought to try Google Camera while I was there, It's better than the built-in camera app in some ways, particularly for bloggers and instagrammers. It is a lot better at replicating that Low F-stop, blurry background effect than some of the other's using a feature called Lens Blur. It takes an already low Depth of Field photograph, and then gives you a slider to adjust the degree of blur. The above image is an image with the slider at the extreme. Lower down the slider gives a pretty convincing representation of a low Depth of Field image.


This image (heh) I took using VSCO's in-app camera (before I got my Google Play vouchers to play with) and I edited it with A Beautiful Mess App. A Beautiful Mess was initially the first app I downloaded with my vouchers. I remember seeing it when it came out and desperately wanting it, but it was only available for IOS. Now I have it, i'm not sure when I would use it. The simple sophistication of VSCO and lightly editing well-taken pictures has overtaken, a little, my desire to put text over my images, and the filter selection is limited. The app also functions very slowly. I bought some of the font packs anyway and the fonts and doodles are pretty. I can see that they can (and do!) make really nice images, but I think the overlays are not something that suits my style of images. At this point I will mention Doodle Cam which I bought straight after A Beautiful Mess - it's effectively a copy of A Beautiful Mess and I didn't really rate it. If i'm honest, I would never use their filters, and their 'doodle' overlays seemev very pixelated as if they had been stretched. I also noticed a lot of it was christmas themed, perhaps created mainly to catch the 'Christmas' wave.

Another App I loved (and am excited to use more!) is Lapse it. I bought the pro edition (which I think extends how long your video can be?) Which creates a pretty legitimate time lapse video for you (without you having to take 300 images and compile them in a video) by just pressing the record video. It even allows you to render them for Instagram. I love time lapse so I loved this app. You are however limited to about 300 images, and cropping the image to a square automatically crops it from the very centre, so if you're thinking of Instagramming your video, you have to take that into consideration.

Finally, an honourable mention for 'Perfectly Clear'. It's a really clever app that takes your image and auto corrects it, but it gives you lots of different corrects to choose from (which you can tweak afterwards in the app). What I really like is this slider that lets you compare the original. Nice for tweaks when you're not quite sure what you photo needs doing, or for quick improvements to memory photos that perhaps you don't plan on Instagramming (i.e family photographs or group selfies!)

Out of them all, my favourites were a good camera replacement app -  Camera FV5 - using Photoshop Touch or VSCO cam as a post-processing app. I would definitely recommend paying for the extra filters on VSCO (it stops me getting stuck using the same one over and over) I'll keep hold of A Beautiful Mess, and I'll definitely be using Lapse It again.


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