Friday, 15 June 2012

Don't judge a book by it's film...

Unless you are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Having heard some good things and read a couple of glowing reviews I knew I wanted to read The Help. Now I'm not a super fast reader by any means (my closest friend from Uni reads like a scanner, no joke!) but I absolutely devoured The Help. 

I'm really fascinated with social history, particularly of other countries and the semi-autobiographical nature of The Help is evident in the detail, the cultural referencing and the complex and convincing characters.

Set primarily in the 1960's (though it flits to other decades for context) The Help focuses on a young woman called Skeeter Phelan who lives on a cotton plantation in the Deep South, A middle aged woman called Aibileen Clark who's heart is breaking due to the passing of her son and Minny Jackson, a fiesty older woman with a reputation for brilliant cooking. Skeeter is a white amateur writer and Minny and Aibileen are two black maids which Americans call, 'The Help.' 

An unlikely (and forbidden) friendship unfolds between the three and Skeeter is offered a once-only opportunity from a ballsy New York based Editor on the condition that she produces an outstanding article. Skeeter decides that the Civil Rights movement is the obvious choice for a topic as it is all anyone is talking about in New York and is being wholly supported by black and white people, whereas in Jackson, Mississippi, black men who are campaigning for equal rights are being maimed and murdered.

I won't say too much more about the plot as you really do need to discover it for yourself. It is totally engrossing and absolutely fascinating. 

So having read the book with record timing, I was curious to see the film when it was released. As I really loved the book I held out for ages (in fact until it came out on DVD) to watch it as I didn't want it to do the book an injustice- I needn't have waited at all.

Apart from the fact they cast Emma Stone as Skeeter, who acted the role brilliantly but was far too pretty in my opinion, the film sticks to the book with real integrity and in some parts it even quotes it directly.

If you haven't seen or read The Help yet, make it your next film or book- you won't regret it!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

What I Wear to Work

Clothes reflect the way you feel and sometimes they can even influence the way you feel. For example, I've spent the last 48 hours feeling sorry for myself with suspected food poisoning and therefore have worn a comfy grey hoodie and holey old leggings and benefited greatly from the reassurance you can only get from your 'scruffs'. 

That's why it's really important to decide the pieces that make it into your work wardrobe. It gives you a boost to wear a smart top that you reserve for critical meetings and similarly having a good stock of 'civvies' helps you to feel more off duty on your days off.

I'm not saying go out and buy a whole load of new clothes but think of the key pieces you have at the moment that you can build a functional, smart and expressive capsule that you can interchange to suit your day.

Interview jacket making an appearance to toughen up a feminine floaty dress

I wear this with opaque tights, heeled loafers and a  caramel de-constructed blazer

Smart slippers, working in live events can be almost impossible in heels!

A range of scarves, tied in many different ways update your more plain staples
I pad my work selection with:
  •  three pairs of trousers:- 1 pair of smart black skinnies and 2 pairs of linen trousers, 1 black and 1 a putty/mushroom colour
  • a couple of long sleeved neutral tops and some short sleeved tops and two shirts, 1 plain and 1 patterned
  • 2 pairs of flats and 1 pair of heels (and a pair of wellies- I work at a festival)
  • A selection of quirky, cute costume jewellery to make me smile!
I'd really like to add some cardigans and a breton top to my work stuff but can't find any that I like. On the look out though especially loving monki at the moment and think I will probably get some pieces from there.

The Sweet smell of Success!

I think that there are important milestones in everyone's self development where all of a sudden, the clouds clear and the answers you've been looking for are all of a sudden, rudely apparent.

Changing my career completely two months ago, forced me out of my comfort zone and was a step I took purely for my self development. Little would I have foretold that my self development would actually come from less focus on myself and learning from those around me.

Since going to University and seeing myself as someone who could achieve, I've always been drawn to others who are achieving. Success is an addictive thing and something that when we perceive we have it, we (usually) want to let everyone know about it. Just look at facebook profiles of those you went to school with or work with now, from the outset, everyone's garden seems to be rosy, an advert of their own lifestyle. It's great that these lovely things are happening to people but in all honesty, it's probably not the full picture.

Nobody is going to post on their facebook status: God I'm feeling so awful today can't stop eating hobnobs in my pyjamas and crying at repeats of Secret Millionaire
(If you do- thank you for being 1 in a million!)

Now here's the thing, the second you have an "Achievement Addiction" you have a niggling fear that success will leave you and for some reason your subconscious has this way of telling you, 'This decision you've made isn't right- how can you save face on this? You're losing your success here!' and all of a sudden that sweet smell of success that you once revelled in and perhaps encouraged others to take a good sniff of all of a sudden becomes quite sour.

The panic sets in and rather than being able to step back and relax about the whole situation, all of a sudden you're pining for the green grass in everyone else's garden while absent mindedly dowsing your own with weed killer. 
My yoga instructor (not a personal instructor obviously- I'm not Madonna!) always says in the meditation bit of the class:
"The more you let go in life, the more the Universe will support you"
Well guess what, it's not all hippy crap and whale music- there's something to it. If you think you're losing your success, you quite naturally overlook the success you already have.
Like wearing your favourite perfume (probably a better analogy for females here, sorry lads!) for ages, you know when you spray it on that others can smell it on you but because you're so used to it, you can't smell it on yourself.

That is exactly the same with success- it doesn't leave you, you're ability to achieve can not ever be compromised- unless of course you compromise yourself and allow yourself to focus on what isn't achievable. 
Wherever you are in life, you have to accept that you chose to be there. You sent the thought out into the ether and whether it was passive or active, you took those steps towards where you are now.

Similarly, the destination you aspire to in the future is just as flexible as your life is now and just as you have given it thought- you are already on your way to that destination. But when you get there, don't forget the journey you took and what you had to do to arrive because you might just forget that once again, you have achieved. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Most Amazing Fragrance Ever- Scentsational!

A very wonderful friend of mine used to wear the Amber fragrance by L'Occitane a very similar but warmer frangrance to my new wonder scent- L'Eau D'Iparie.

Eau d'Iparie

It's masculine, heady, oriental, incense-y (!) and a truly distinctive, unusual fragrance- my friend advises me that they don't make Amber any more and that it's discontinued, so if you are in the same boat as her- pining for a long lost love- give this one a go, it could be love at first sniff.

Mini L'Occitane Haul

L'Occitane (pronounced Loxytan if you were wondering!) also have a great gift with purchase at the moment when you buy any 2 items (I think) you receive a lovely mini selection of products from their new frangrance range, Cherry Princess.

I also bought a small tin of pure shea butter which is a fabulous idea and a great multi-purpose product, which has since, been half inched by the other half!

Are you a fan of L'Occitane?

Sarah-J x

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Battle of the Body Butters

This is a snip of what I used to own- I currently have a range of other body moisturisers but only four Body Shop butters at present.

Just wanted to give a little insight into the famed and beloved Body Shop butters (Victoria Beckham uses the Strawberry one dontcha know! and Sienna Miller is also apparently a fan) as they are quite steep and I know that the price puts a lot of people off what is an exceptional product. (£12.50)

Shea, Coconut Shimmer, Strawberry and Morrocan Rose
The four I have actually give a good snapshot of the range, as there are butters for very dry skin (Shea, Cocoa Butter, Mango) and butters for normal/dry skin (The rest of the range + fragrance) you can now get a duo butter where one side of the pot is for when you skin needs a bit of a moisture boost and the other side is for intense revival of scaly skin! I don't have one of these yet as I couldn't justify the spend what with having four already but I will look to purchase one in the future.

The body butters contain community traded shea butter and cocoa butter- the difference between community traded and fair trade is that community traded products have a premium attached which funds community projects in the local area where the products are sourced.

These butters will keep your skin moisturised for up to 24 hours and are excellent at clearing dry patches and soothing irritated skin. They also make brilliant after sun lotions (particularly the coconut shimmer) and the intense moisturisation helps to prolong your tan and reduce any peeling that may have occured!

FACT: The same farmers that produce the cocoa beans for Divine chocolate and the Co-Op's own brand of chocolate make the cocoa butter for these body butters.

The Shea body butter is my all time favourite, one of the thickest and creamiest in the range, it has a clean, fresh scent that is suitable for men and women and is transformative for the skin.

These butters work well used after any body scrub however, if you can get your mitts on (or there happens to be an offer on!) a cocoa butter body scrub- it is the best you can get.

Had to get my love for body butters out there...phew that feels better! Do you have a favourite body butter? I also love Soap and Glory's righteous butter, it's more purse friendly than the Body Shop butters but doesn't moisturise for as long in my opinion

Sarah-J x

Friday, 24 February 2012

Look what came today!

The first time I saw Florence + The Machine I actually thought I might be crushed alive. It was Leeds Festival 2009 and they were performing in a side tent. Flo was just breathtakingly beautiful- she just oozes icon. At the time she had a big support bandage on her wrist that she actually colour co-ordinated with her amazing floor length silk dress, accessorised with ridiculously high spike heels (making her amazonian in stature) perched a top of a speaker-no fear in life or in the incredible performance her and the band gave. 

A very dear friend of mine very cleverly decided we get each other tickets for our birthday. There is a crew of us going hence the fan spread, very excited to see her in a venue where I won't be fearing for my little life!

Amazing Artists!
Who else is going/ is a fan? 

Sarah-J x

Monday, 20 February 2012

If this doesn't make you feel fuzzy inside...!

This is my friends' gorgeous son. He's a little bruiser and the happiest, cuddliest baby on this planet and this is his first proper giggle fit! 

Sarah-J x

Dress to impress- The Interview

I have received an email today inviting me to interview for a very well know charity in Central London which I am really excited about. Each interview gives me an excuse to add a special piece to my wardrobe that I wouldn't otherwise buy under the auspices of a "confidence boost"! 

While it is great fun piecing together the perfect first impression, it can be very tricky to pitch your presentation to the tone of the company.

I've found this website which gives good examples of the 'business to casual' spectrum and I already have this jacket that I want to create the look around

Obviously it will get a good steaming to smooth out the creases, it's been sleeping in my crammed wardrobe for a fair while!

I always do a classic make-up and go for fail safe O.P.I. in Tickle My France-y on the nails as it's a very pretty taupe which looks professional.

Do you have any interview outfit fail safes or any great tips?

My one tip for interview (other than to allow them to see the true you) is to always have a few questions prepared. If you think they have covered what you were going to ask, it's always handy to ask them, 'What skills are missing from your current team which you hope to fulfill with this post?' This gives you an opportunity to give a targeted answer on how you can genuinely bring something new to the team.

Wish me luck and all the best to fellow job seekers out there!!

Sarah-J x

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Some First Half of Feb Favourites!

Lovely stuff!
Starting from left to right

1. The Body Shop Chocomania Body Butter- I will come clean straight away and say that I did work for The Body Shop for a couple of years as a customer consultant and colour coach, however, I feel this makes me more objective of their products not less, as I know the standard of their great stuff and I know what I'm not so keen on. This Body Butter is part of a new Chocomania range released just before Valentine's Day and even though I'm not usually a fan of gourmand scents, the Chocomania scent in the body butter is yummy. It has all the high quality moisturising properties that you would expect from a Body Shop body butter with a smooth caramel/ creme brulee scent. It's not too heavy and I'm looking forward to trying the rest of the range.
2. Nails Inc. in Victoria- This is a great winter plum colour that lasts on the nail. I applied three thin coats, allowing drying time between, and it only started to slightly chip by Saturday which is great news as I type from 8:30am-5pm in my job so my nails do get a bashing. Dark polishes show the slightest chip straight away and I recommend this for it's rich colour and great longevity.
3. Maybelline Blush Mousse in 06- I got this while away as I hadn't packed any blushers and was drawn to the colour. I really really dislike the Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse foundation and was apprehensive about this product. I needn't have been. The cool toned pink has a sight shimmer and buffed on with an ecotools blusher brush to the apple of the cheeks gives a pretty glow. It is highly pigmented so be light with this unless Miss Piggy is your make-up icon.
4. Garnier BB Cream- I have an oily t-zone and this BB Cream does not upset it one bit. I evens out my redness and leaves my skin looking fresh and not too made up. I love this for work and I just love this make-up in general. I know there are many prestige brands with their own BB Creams but if you haven't tried one yet and would like to dip your toe- you won't go far wrong with this little beauty!
5. Clinique Turnaround Body Smoothing Cream- Clinique is another brand where I love some of their products and am very wary of others (after their toner took off the top layer of my nail varnish?!) that said, this turnaround body smoothing cream is excellent for irradicating dry, rough, uneven, flaky and generally winter addled skin. I would also highly recommend this if you work in an air conditioned environment as the active ingredients in the product work to exfoliate and smooth the skin continuously throughout the day. There is also a face masque in this range which is amazing but I have that lined up for a pamper session special post which will be coming soon :P.
6. Sleek Liquid Eyeliner in Black- Just incase anyone from Sleek is reading this, **please sort out your website!** the basket empties itself and the navigation is hyper sensitive so a bit frustrating which is a shame as you can currently only buy Sleek products from selected Superdrugs and it would be so much easier to order it online-phew! rant over! Sleek make-up is well made, well pigmented and an absolute bargain. This eyeliner has a firm but comfortable tip which allows for ease of application and is slim but not too slim meaning it's great for novices to liquid liner and also for doing more detailed eye make-up. The colour itself is a true black with a matte finish which is also blendable.

That's it so far for the first half of the month- I'd love to know what other people make of this products, especially Sleek make-up?!

Sarah-J x

Saturday Bakes!

Although I am definitely still a novice I really enjoy baking and feel that the fun is in the learning. Today I made some chocolate chip cookies from the Love Food Baking Book (pg 132). Tip: Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before trying them as the gooey chocolate gets really hot and will burn your tongue! Mine have gone a bit crumbly in texture which I'm not sure they're supposed to be like but they're still tasty, just best enjoyed with a drink! If you fancy giving them a go here's the recipe.

225g butter, softened
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
85g milk choc chips
85g white choc chips
115g plain choc, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 190C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper
2. Cream the sugar and butter with a wooden spoon and then beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract
3. Sift together the dry ingredients, add the chocolate chips and combine with the wet ingredients
4. Make 12 balls with the mixture and slightly flatten them on the tray and push in the chopped chocolate
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes and then allow to cool on a wire rack

Here's my attempt!