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April 16, 2018

Book Club No.14

Hey folks, welcome back to Book Club: a chance to delve into some of the works I've been indulging in lately and whether or not I rate or slate them. This instalment has a real mixed bag but in the best possible way and what's even better is I *actually* enjoyed all three books I'm going to mention today! Whether you're fan of drama, poetry, or murder, I've got you covered in this latest Book Club.

Zodiac by Sam Wilson
Zodiac is my most recently finished book and it was certainly a pleasant surprise to read. I picked it up on a relatively recent trip to The Works (which, if you live in the UK, can be an absolute gem for finding unusual and popular titles in the 3 for £5 section!) and I'm so glad I did. The cover and the general *crime thriller vibes* are what initially drew me in. The title and wee blurb gave me a little bit of insight that astrology and starsigns might play a part in the drama that unfolds so of course, that had me hook line and sinker as I'm partial to a bit of the ol' horoscopes as it is.

The story essentially follows a Detective Burton and his astrological helper, Lindi Childs, as they try to work out why some high-profile individuals are being murdered and try to uncover what their connection is. Zodiac takes place generally in a place called San Celeste and it has an LA sort of feel to it as you read delve further into the story. The interesting thing about San Celeste and the world of Zodiac in general is the fact that society is dictated by zodiac/star signs. For example, if you're a Capricorn, chances are you're a hot-shot CEO of some company and have millions of dollars invested in yourself as a brand and individual and many businesses whereas if you're an Aries, you probably live in the shithole aptly named Ariesville and have turned to life of drink, drugs, crime, or all three just to get by. I'm a big believer in our starsigns and birth dates having a lot to do with our personalities and general traits so it was a nice read for me to get into that interest via another interest of mine (i.e. crime thriller genre fiction). Burton and Childs basically discover that the murders of these high-profile men are linked to their elemental signs - Earth, Air, Fire, Water - and they need to predict who is going to be next based on this. Of course, as they investigate, they uncover more information about different things and individuals in San Celeste that opens more problems for them and the police.

The narrative of Zodiac reminds me a lot of the kind of classic Dan Brown style in that the chapters tend to jump from Burton and his story to another character called Daniel and his story/interactions. It also switches between many other characters but it's easy to follow and with each page you learn more about how they are all interlinked. One thing I particularly liked about this writing style is that there is a bit of a plot twist in terms of the timeline that I did not piece together. I don't know if it was obvious and I just didn't pick up on it, but I think it was cleverly executed either way and I honestly believe that if I even knew the "twist" from the get-go, it wouldn't have dulled the enjoyment of it at all. The characters are all very interesting and fit within the stereotypes of each of their starsigns which helps make the societal divide more believable too. The one criticism (and I say that loosely) with this book is that I feel like the whole story had a great pace to it but then was over in a flash at the end. The whole book works up to a grand finale, but I definitely could have done with a few more chapters just to fully tie everything together and finish the whole story on a cleaner break. With that being said, I did really enjoy it and was also *so* pleased to see there was no random love interest scenario plopped in there like many crime thrillers do - so thank you Wilson for not being a shitty predictable writer! Pick up a copy of Zodiac in a variety of formats, here.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
One of my all-time favourite books is Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur as it was the first poetry book I read as an adult that made me fall in love with poetry instead of loathing it due to what I was forced to read in school. Kaur's writing is incredibly relatable for so many people who read her work and I certainly include myself in that group. The Sun and Her Flowers is Kaur's second publication and has more of an "after the heartbreak" feel to it compared to Milk & Honey.

The Sun and Her Flowers starts with poetry covering relationship breakdown and realisations made in the grief afterwards. It then progresses into finding yourself, accepting flaws, and trying to practice self love. Kaur also explores how self love can then help you find the love you deserve elsewhere. I once again found myself reading every poem and finding comfort in Kaur's words and finding it consolable in aspects of my own life. My emotions can swing from feeling empowered by her words to feeling incredibly upset and needing to purge that upset but that's my favourite thing about it. An additional theme in The Sun and Her Flowers that I feel Kaur explored much more in this book compared to Milk & Honey is her ancestry and family. She writes such wonderfully honest and pure words about her mother and also writes about what it's like being the first generation to be born and live in a different country. There's passion running throughout every poem and it's incredibly infectious. Although I feel The Sun and Her Flowers is fantastic in its own right, I can't help but do what many others have done and compare it to Milk & Honey. I still prefer Milk & Honey over this book, but I still recommend reading this because Kaur has certainly managed to maintain her emotional rollercoaster effect. Pick up a copy here.

Holding by Graham Norton
Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have already seen me talking about this book, but this one was certainly one of those "pleasantly surprised" moments for me. I picked up Holding purely because I had heard good things about it. Graham Norton's writing has received some great reviews so I was intrigued to know whether or not this was because he's famous and loved by many or if his writing was *actually* good. Reading the blurb of Holding, I decided I might enjoy the story. It centres around a small Irish village and the drama in the local community. A skeleton is uncovered when a new housing development is started in the village and the main character, PJ the Guard (the only policeman in the village - no that's not a euphemism), feels it's his chance to shine to solve who this skeleton once was.

I described this book when I was only a few chapters deep as being like a tamer version of Emmerdale but in an Irish village and I fully stand by that still now I've finished it. The story does follow PJ mostly, but it doesn't just look at him solving this old crime - it also explores his relationships, how he views himself and more. It also looks at the stories and lifestyles of a few of the villagers and how they're all interlinked. Some aspects of the book gripped me that were on the verge of going down a dark route, but Norton keeps his writing light so it never gets too dark in the story which I was a little disappointed in (but it's not that sort of book so I guess I'm asking for too much!). There's a twist towards the end of the story and I honestly saw it coming a mile off but despite it not shocking me, it didn't ruin the story and I finished reading the book feeling content. I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as I just didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Although it's not the most gripping story I've ever read and I prefer darker, more weird plots, this book is a good read, it's easy and simple to follow and if you're a fan of drama or soap operas, you will probably really love this. Grab your copy here.

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April 13, 2018

How to Come Home Happy After Work

Hey gang - I've been back at work a matter of days after having over a week off and I have to let you in to a little secret: I'm not exactly thrilled about it. Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoy my job, but there's only so much of work one individual can and should stomach, y'know? Before I began working in my current role, I would come home usually pretty late, cry to Matt about how mentally and physically drained I was and I basically wanted to be doing absolutely anything else than going back to work the next day. The problem with any job or career is that it can effect your personal life so very much and that can be an issue. Obviously there can be positive implications but when the negative ones start to creep in - that's when I feel I've got a major problem on my hands.

Being a teacher, particularly teaching young vulnerable people, often means that I take home a lot of emotional baggage with me at the end of each day and I've began to understand the importance of trying to leave this at work to pick up on my next shift and why this is beneficial to my mood, mental health, and my personal relationships. Realising this has meant I've tried to put in place some small things I make sure I do to try and come home from work each day feeling generally happy and ready to relax and enjoy my home life with all concerns or worries about work left behind.

Leave your work space tidy for the next day
A tip I cannot stress enough is making sure your workspace is neat and tidy. This obviously depends on your line of work and also potentially on other individuals and even more outside factors you have to consider, but I always make time at the end of each working day to tidy my office. One of the worst feelings in heading to work in the morning then stepping foot into my office to see tea-stained mugs from yesterday scattered around the room amongst paperwork I never filed and the odd crumb from one of my students stealing a cookie the day before. The Sims were bang on the money with the "environment" bar plummeting from bright green to hazardous red when your character walked into a messy room. A clean space means you're starting the day on the right foot and that's a little boost everyone needs.

Prepare what you can the shift before
Following on from my first point, something I like to try and do is do as much as I can the day before to make the next day smoother sailing. Obviously again, this isn't always possible depending on your job, but if there's anything I can put in place ahead of time - I will. For me, this is silly little tasks like writing the date and lesson objectives on the board and laying out the resources for the lesson the next day before I leave work. Having this organised before the next morning stops me from rushing around, being my typically disorganised frazzled self and helps me keep my anxiousness and worry at minimum levels.

Take time for *you*
Okay so this one is definitely a work in progress for me, but here my hypocritical ass out for a minute. Lunch breaks are required by law but let's be honest here - not all of us take them and we need to cut that shit out. My lunch breaks usually consist of frantically printing something extra out for the students to work on, calling people to ask why they're not in class, or listening to the students who have followed me into the office tell me who's been fighting with who over the weekend, all whilst shovelling a cereal bar into my face for some "substance" for the rest of the day. *Breathe*. Some of us might not be in the position to go out and enjoy fresh air or a full hour of uninterrupted break time, but making the most of what time you're given can really help elevate how you view work and your attitude towards it. As I can't leave my students unsupervised, I just simply make sure I spend a little time in our communal kitchen making a cup of tea and ensuring I have something properly to eat that's not just a packet of crisps nobody wanted. Just removing yourself from the four walls you're confined to for most of the day can increase your mood tenfold.

Lists lists and more lists
Although I would count myself as someone who is incredibly disorganised and quite frankly, frantic, at the best of times, I am a planner and my good goodness do I like making lists. Making lists for work is honestly life-saving for me as I am one wee forgetful goldfish but I also like to make lists for a sense of accomplishment. I'm a big procrastinator when I can get away with it so a list helps me gain focus on work and stops me from wasting my time but it also makes me feel quite proud at the end of each day to see what I've managed to get done despite spending most of my day teaching. I have a separate daily journal at work that is just full of daily lists and I purposefully leave this journal at work so it doesn't interfere with my personal life. Keeping lists also helps me keep on track for the foreseeable future too as it's crystal clear what things I haven't yet crossed off that I will need to complete the following day or that I will have to meet by a particular deadline. It takes away a lot of the stress and strain of work to just have it written down on paper so I can tackle it how I see fit.

If you commute, try to enjoy it
Again, this is subject to many factors, but commuting doesn't have to be awful if you can manage to have a positive mindset about it (sometimes *much* easier said than done I know). I thankfully only really commute one day of my working week now but when I do, I've tried my best recently to not stress about it. My train to and from work can be quite busy and hectic and instead of stressing about whether or not I'm going to get a seat or worrying about delays, I try to just enjoy the time I have in that moment. I used to be so apologetic and worry myself silly if my train got delayed or cancel but in reality? There's no point in worrying because worry isn't going to change the circumstance. Now I just make sure I find a spot on the train - whether that's a lucky rare seat or a patch of floor - open up whatever book I'm reading at the time and pop my headphones in if it's a particularly annoying/loud carriage. Having a commute of just under an hour is time I am now using to force myself to relax and take some "me" time and whilst the environment might be less than desirable, I certainly see a spring in my step once I finally get home and get that kettle on at the end of the day.

Work can be incredibly stressful and can be draining on many levels, but try to find any glimpses of the positives can become a great boost. Little small changes can make a world of difference to your attitude and outlook on work and trust me, I've been in those jobs that make you hate anything and everything - including yourself for making yourself go to the hell-hole every day - but you can try to change it around if you look deep enough.

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April 03, 2018

The Signs: Decode the Stars, Reframe Your Life with Carolyne Faulkner

Bookworms, astrology lovers, and fellow horoscope readers - listen up. You may have seen this little slice of heavenly reading floating around over the last few months and it seemed to gain popularity & was popping up all over social media, but there's a reason for that and that reason is that it's a great book. I was gifted The Signs: Decode the Stars, Reframe your Life by Carolyne Faulkner back in December as a gift and have been thumbing my way through its pages ever since and thought it was high-time I gave it it's own detailed review.

I'm a big fan of astrology and whilst I don't believe for one minute that the likes of horoscope pages (particularly those you find in magazines or newspapers) are predicting everyone's future, I do feel that there are traits and qualities - both good and bad - which are often linked to the time of year each of us was born and thus, our starsigns. I use a few different horoscope/daily tarot-style apps on my phone to see what the starts have in store with me on a daily basis and again, whilst I don't think they are predicting anything, I like taking comfort in how easy what they say can be applied to what has happened to me throughout the day, week, or month and relating incidents in my life to these "predictions" can sometimes bring about advice and pep-talks with myself which are never bad things. To quote the book itself, "Nobody's future is written in the stars, but we can use the stars to help write our future" and that quote alone best sums up how I view astrology and horoscopes. Due to my interest in this and my strong belief that each starsign definitely does have traits I can see in each person I am close to in my life and my own personality is certainly included here, I knew I just had to take a look at what Carolyne Faulkner was suggesting about the stars and how we can make changes for the better for ourselves.

So, firstly I have to state the obvious and say that aesthetically, it is a gorgeous book. Hardback with a ribbon bookmark attached, the book looks great whether its on your coffee table, your bedside, or amongst the rest of your book collection. Upon entering the book, Faulkner has mae it really simple to use this book however the reader sees fit - if you're an avid astrology aficionado and want to know *everything* then you certainly can read this piece from cover to cover but if you just want to find out the facts that apply to you or another, you can use the easy-to-navigate contents to find what page you're looking for in seconds. As the book is so user-friendly, I feel it is a timeless piece that can be revisited again and again when circumstances change or when new individuals come into our lives because it is categorised in a way that almost acts as an astrological dictionary.

Upon reading the introduction, Faulkner goes more into detail about just how little or how much you can use this book and therefore its a great gift option for anyone with any remote interest in astrology. After reading just a couple of pages, I decided I really liked Faulkner's writing style as she explains everything is such a coherent way that isn't too factual and boring but also doesn't just give you wishy-washy bits of information here and there. It is informative, instructive, but also as easy to follow as a conversation you would have with your best pal in coffee shop on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The writing style is not forced and Faulkner is a great teacher for any beginner to expert who might pick this up and want to apply the knowledge inside to their own life. To give you some general information, Faulkner talks about starsigns/horoscopes/astrology as having more to it than just your sign: she discusses The Planets, The Signs, and The Houses and each "area" is as important as the next if you really want to get the most out of this book.

As soon as you start reading this book, the best advice I would give to you is to use the accompanying website to create your own star/birth chart. By knowing your date of birth and if possible, the time of your birth too, the website will plot all the planets and signs within houses on a chart much like the one above. Faulkner obviously explains this much more clearly than I will right now, but the more information you have about your birth, the more specific your findings will be when you read certain sections of The Signs. The website that provides you with your birth chart gives you the option to print off a copy of the chart or you can also simply copy it down into the book itself as Faulkner leaves a blank chart page available within the book, as a well as blank tables, to record any information you see fit.

Something Faulkner focuses on throughout The Signs is the "gone right" and "gone wrong" parts of our personalities/signs. There is general information about this under each starsign, but you can go more in-depth by using your chart and seeing which Signs fit in which Houses etc. Generally speaking, reading the Aries "gone right" and "gone wrong" points was one of those "ha, that is *so* me" moments for me as I could see a lot of myself, my actions, and my thought process in what Faulkner said. She described my sign as being someone who can be very creative and loving if being "my best self" but also I can grow easily bored, but incredibly stubborn, and undoubtedly selfish when I'm in the "gone wrong" zone and I found myself nodding along with every statement she made. Of course not everyone will think everything Faulkner says about their sign will apply to them, but she does encourage all readers to make a note of the things that do apply and if you've got more "gone wrong" outweighing the "gone right" points or if generally, you're just in the "gone wrong" frame of mind at the moment, she stresses that identifying that is the first key step to then addressing these negative qualities and changing them in to positives.

I found The Stars to be an incredibly motivating read for me and it came into my possession at a time when I really needed to change a lot of my personality around. The bad traits of mine that I already knew about became more crystal clear after reading this book as seeing it written down made it all the more real and made me feel like this isn't just how I'm seeing myself right now - it's how I'm portraying myself to others and how I'm projecting myself onto the world around me and I didn't like that. Even if you're sceptical of horoscopes/starsigns and don't think you'd enjoy this book, I suggest you still take a flick through it because using it as a self-cleanse is so beneficial. As I said, I found it easy to identify my faults and negative qualities by seeing it written down on paper, but it also highlighted to me what I am good at - the things that can make me a nice, loving, caring, and thoughtful person and helps suggest ways to nourish and encourage those qualities to improve yourself. I've never been one to be interested in self-help books or self-therapy reading, but The Signs has really changed my attitude on all that and has made my want to be a better person. If a book on astrology signs and my birth can bring about that level of positive change in myself and how I want to be seen by others, then that can be nothing but a good thing and therefore, a damn good book to read and revise whenever I feel I need a boost of motivation and inspiration.

If you'd like to pick up a copy of The Signs: Decode the Stars, Reframe your Life, it is available for £9.59 here.

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March 29, 2018

3 Years til' 30: The Space Between Where I Am & Where I Want to Be

Holy shit. Has there ever been a more daunting thing to type than that title? I'm probably being dramatic but I'm having flashbacks to being 16 and thinking your 20's was old and now I'm like har har, you silly wee fool, being twenty seven is old. Again - I'm being dramatic. Of course 27 isn't old but boy oh boy, it is scary to think that as of today, I'm only 3 years away from 30. For the last couple of years on NB, I've shared a couple of lighthearted posts about getting that one year older and I'm not one for breaking tradition. But I apologise now for today's offering not starting off quite so lighthearted; it is a more cynical, anxious look at my life thus far and why I - like many others - set a bar that we constantly move for ourselves making it consistently unattainable. But don't fret, I will also be sharing 30 things I'd like to achieve in the next 3 years to set myself some actually attainable goals and make sure I live my life to the fullest, with only myself to impress or prove wrong.

By the age of 25, I thought I'd be married and have at least one kid. That seemed like a good age for everything to have fallen into place yet here I am, 27, not remotely married, and certainly nowhere close to having at least one kid (or even a sparkle in my eye towards the creation of one). I joked in my post celebrating turning 25 that people would start asking the "Got married yet? Bought a house yet? Have you heard the pitter patter of tiny feet yet?!" questions that fill most of us with dread, but it genuinely does happen. Not only do we put ourselves under unnecessary pressures to 'accomplish' certain things by a certain milestone, but it seems that it is all linked to outside influencers too. One thing I am learning though is that this pressure, whilst I still seemingly let it get to me at times, isn't a true reflection of me and my happiness at this moment in time. I think I'm growing up in a generation that are looking for that instant gratification and it's fuelled by the skewed view social media gives us of other individuals. How many times have you sat there and compared yourself to that girl who didn't like you at school who has just bought a house and is expecting her first child or that blogger who has the same amount of followers and engagement as you do, yet they're currently jetting off on a free trip to a different country for a blogging opportunity? We do it all the damn time and unfortunately, I think it's part-and-parcel of being in the *millennial era*.

Enough of this doom and gloom though - it is my birthday after all! I always see my birthdays as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and also set some goals for myself so this year has been no different. So to let you guys in to the fold, here's 30 things I'd like to achieve before 30 (some of which are just things to work on rather than this "bucket list" sort of thing) and I have a grand old 3 years to achieve them all:

1. I want to continue to work on not saying sorry all the goddamn time. I've already stopped doing this in some aspects of my life, but it would be wonderful if I could stop it completely. I should not be sorry for being myself.

2. I will go on holiday alone at least once.

3. Minimalism isn't a lifestyle for me, but I do want to minimise and cut down in every aspect of my life - my makeup and skincare collections, my clothes, my books, my stationery etc.

4. Go to gigs a hell of a lot more - like I'm talking at least once every 2 months more. This isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it is a lot more than I currently attend so I want to change that.

5. Go glamping somewhere in the UK. No, really.

6. Take a trip to Edinburgh.

7. Go on a long weekend camping trip alone.

8. Spend more time exploring my local nature spots - I'm looking at you, New Forest.

9. Join a kayaking club.

10. I have 25 tattoos on my "to get" list. Let's get that down to 15 in the next 3 years if we can, team.

11. Start a masters and gain my postgraduate in a subject I actually enjoy.

12. Spend time studying a trade - gas and electric particularly (yes, I did actually want to study these at college but parental pressure pushed me into A-Levels instead).

13. Try my hand at vlogging.

14. Podcasts too - why the hell not.

15. Take a pottery making class or 30.

16. Completely switch out dairy for dairy alternatives.

17. Be happy and content within my home (wherever and whatever that ends up being).

18. Be happy and content within myself and mental health.

19. Spend at least one day of each weekend doing something worthwhile. That could be creating, crafting, photographing, studying, writing, or getting outside and exploring. Anything and everything as long as it makes me feel good and fulfilled.

20. Try to find a way to actually enjoy eating avocados because I know I know, they're good for you but *mate*, they taste rank.

21. Get a goddamn dog.

22. Play ukulele at an open mic night.

23. Read my poetry at an open mic night.

24. Spend more time with family. This has been a difficult one over the last 5 years as I moved to the other end of the country, but I've got the opportunity to change the lack of family time into "too much family time" and I need to grab that chance with both hands now.

25. Do a "photo a day" challenge for a whole year with my film camera.

26. Make sure my little brother has a perfect 18th birthday party. Holy shit I want to cry writing that.

27. Become as zero waste as possible.

28. Learn how to propagate succulents.

29. Get at least one of my archaeological pieces published.

30. Find the inner strength and determination to rely on just myself to make my own happiness. When I say hello to 30, I want to do it knowing I'm not relying on or seeking out others to fill the happiness void, I want to be happy and it to be because of myself - everyone and anyone else is a bonus. I want to put myself first more not in a selfish context, but more in a "I deserve to be happy" context because boy oh boy am I notorious for just going along with anything and everything to keep everyone else happy and I struggle to stay afloat that way.

Most of the things I've just listed aren't strictly measurable, but they are all valid and all things I want to work on to some degree. They are also things that I'm fully aware will possibly and probably change over the next 3 years as circumstances and mindsets change and grow, but ultimately I want to continue to work on being a happy individual, feeling fulfilled, at peace with myself and others, and also minimising the negative impact I have on the world and maximising the positive. If I had 27 candles right now, you betcha I'd be popping 27 of these goals on them as wishes to come true.

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March 26, 2018

Easy Peasy Lemon (Squeasy) Easter Cake

If someone plopped me on a dessert desert island (I know, I'm messing with your minds already) and said I had to live off one type of cake and one type only, y'all need to know that I would say "lemon drizzle cake please!" with no hesitation. Lemon cake is always my first choice as it's sweet but not too sweet, can be both heavy and light, and can have some super zingy and refreshing sugary drizzles and icings - not to mention lemon curd stodge now and again too!

With that being said, I realised recently that I had never actually made my own. Why? I've no idea. Somehow this delicious idea had not crossed my mind, despite it being a really simple and easy cake to make. My great grandma was the master when it came to baking so I thought I'd share her recipe (don't get used to this mind as we all know grandma recipes are highly coveted and top secret) as it's ridiculously easy to make, pretty much fool-proof, and tastes bloody lovely. My grandma had everything measured out in grams/ounces but as I currently have no scales in my kitchen (I'm also stunned that I'm still surviving), I've re-jigged the recipe to cup measurements which makes it even easier to follow and even more fool-proof as anyone can follow how easy it is to make. Although lemon cake of any kind is just generally my favourite all the goddamn time, there's something about it that makes me always think about Easter and the spring time so I thought today was a perfect time to share this recipe - just in time for the Easter weekend!

So here's what you will need:

- Large mixing bowl
- Sieve for dry products (not essential)
- Spoon/spatula for mixing
- Standard loaf cake tin

Ingredients for the Cake
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup of self-raising flour
- 1 cup of unsalted/baking butter (keep it at room temperature)
- 1 cup of caster sugar
- 2 x lemons zest

Ingredients for the Drizzle
- 2 x lemons juice (just use the ones you zested!)
- 1 cup of icing sugar

So before you begin, preheat your oven to 180C/350F and grease your loaf tin (regular/medium/standard size) with some butter to prevent the cake from sticking.

Next, you need to cream together all of the cake ingredients in a large bowl. There's no right or wrong way of doing this, but I tend to sieve the flour and caster sugar in together, crack the eggs in and begin to combine, then add the butter gradually before pouring in the zest. Sieving the powder ingredients helps keep them fine and clump free, making your cake batter more smooth in the long run. Mix the ingredients until the batter is smooth and pour it evenly into your baking tin.

Pop the baking tin into the oven and leave cooking for 30-35 minutes*. As it's a cake and you want it to rise a little, don't keep opening the oven door and instead just check once it gets to the 30 minute mark. *(I actually ended up leaving my cake for a whole 60 minutes this time around as it just wouldn't rise/the middle wasn't setting. I've recently moved into somewhere that has a non-fan oven and it makes cooking taking *so* much longer - so please bear this in mind!)

Whilst you're waiting for the cake to bake, it's time to make the drizzle. Lemon drizzle is what makes this cake the tastiest thing on the planet but it's super simple to make and add to the cake. Simply add the juice of your two zested lemons to your cup of icing sugar and mix well until the ingredients are fully combined. If you're wondering what consistency this mix should be, it should have a runny consistency and opaque look to it when poured out to ensure it's not too runny but not too thick either. You want to be creating a sugary drizzle that will dry to create a yummy crisp rather than make actual icing for the top of a standard cake!

When it gets to the 30 minute mark*, pierce the centre of the cake with a knife or skewer and if it comes out clean, it's all ready to go! If any cake mix is on the knife, pop the cake back into the oven for a couple of minutes. Once it's looking golden and ready to go, you need to skewer the cake all over the top. Using a knife or skewer to just repeatedly pierce it all over, pushing the knife/skewer in all the way to the bottom, as this will give the lemon drizzle icing little tunnels to seep down into to make the cake extra moist.

Once you've done that, pour the drizzle all over the cake and leave to cool. Putting the drizzle on when the cake is still warm is perfect as it soaks up the glaze really well and also I'm not going to lie - I'm pretty impatient and think it takes amazing warm. But leave it to cool and the drizzle will create a nice sugary crust all over the cake. Once it has cooled, you can pimp it up further if you like by drizzling over melted chocolate (I personally think white chocolate is the nicest pairing), adding any leftover lemon zest shavings, or by crumbling up a little bit of merignue too! But if you're too impatient like me, simply scoop it up out of the tin, place on a tray or cutting board, slice like bread, and dish up!

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March 20, 2018

Setting Up My Spring Skincare

Gang, we've done it - we've managed to survive what has felt like the coldest, wettest, and longest winter ever and we can greet spring time "hello" today as of 4:15pm (I'm not clock-watching or anything). Although spring usually means there's lots of "April showers", I don't think I will mind if the weather is getting milder, the mornings are getting lighter, and nature is beginning to blossom properly again - especially considering there's still snow on the ground somehow. The start of all these lovely things means I also have to switch up my skincare as the heavy-duty, very moisturising products I lathered on myself during winter aren't really needed or suitable any longer and thus, I need to think about what my skin needs - and it certainly needs a spring in its step (I'll see myself out).

Although I've been buying and trying a lot less skincare products since trying to minimise my collection, I still have a lot of products I like to alternate and rotate through that give my skin very different things and answer to my different needs. For Spring this year, I'm saying goodbye to intense moisture and excessive hydration and hello to the brightest skin I can manage to create without dipping my face in sequins and glitter and there's some fail-safe products that do that for me:

Cleansing is such an important step I used to severely overlook but revel in nowadays. I love using a micellar water to get rid of my makeup and top layer of daily grime when I come home each day as it's gentle and can leave the skin feeling instantly refreshed without feeling stripped. The Botanics Hydration Burst 3 in 1 Micellar Water* has been my go-to lately as it truly feels hydrating but isn't unbearable for someone with oily skin. I really love Superdrug's Vitamin E Micellar, but as I've been using such moisture-rich creams and serums over the winter period, I was finding using those as well as the Vitamin E water was all just a little too much for my greasy wee face to handle. The Botanics Hydrating Micellar Water is a nice balance between cleansing and hydrating and just feels lovely when you initially take that makeup off - so revitalising. Another product from Botanics that I've been dabbling in and will certainly continue to use heading in to spring is their All Bright Soothing Eye Makeup Remover. I've never seen the fuss over eye makeup removers and will often just opt for my micellar water, but I've really noticed a difference using this product. It's a very oily watery consistency and I'll be honest, it does sting my extremely sensitive eyes if I'm not careful with it, but it is *so* nice to use. It melts stubborn mascara away in seconds and whilst I don't wear heavy eye makeup, I do like to use this every other evening as I feel the oiliness helps to hydrate my under-eye area really well and it leaves my skin feeling soft and looking more awake.

My last mention is no stranger to this blog so I'll keep it short, but if I feel my skin is still looking lack-lustre or needs some extra hydration, exfoliation, and just some general perking up once I've removed my makeup with my micellar water, I will always go in with the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Hot Cloth Cleanser. Holy smokes this cleanser is always such a luxury to use and costs next to nothing. I've raved about it so many times yet my opinion stays unaltered - it plumps up my skin, it gets rid of any dryness and flaking my skin is facing (particularly around acne that is healing), and always musters up some inner radiance. Cannot recommend this guy enough.

Over the winter period, I seriously got in to using serums and now follow one of those "*insert number*-Step Korean Skincare" routines so serums heavily feature in those. I've dabbled in the past and have found them to be very hit and miss, but there's a few that have been game-changing and the Botanics All Bright Radiance Concentrate Serum has certainly been one of them. I initially used this morning and night and fell in love almost instantly. I find it really smoothing for skin texture, it helps my pores appear smaller, somehow helps my makeup last longer, but also hydrates and most importantly, gives my skin some serious glow. I'm not talking about that artificial pearlescent shimmery glow many skincare products like this have oh no, I'm talking straight up looking like you've slept for a month, getting good sex regularly, and drinking all of the water sort of glow-up. This is a radiance product I will be piling on in the spring months as it doesn't irritate my sensitive skin at all, doesn't cause any excess oils or acne flare-ups, and it just does a fab job at being a great skincare product.

There's not much too see here as yet again, I'm going to rave about some skincare that I've definitely raved about before, but the ultimate moisturiser I will be using on the daily heading into spring is the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Day Cream for normal/combo skin (they also do a normal/dry version too!). I've been in love with this guy for many months now but it's still going to be my go-to until the months get a lot hotter. This does a great job of yep, you guessed it, moisturising the skin, but it also helps build up that glow, sits well on top of different serums, and sits well under makeup. It has SPF included so it's a great lazy option for the days when doing sunscreen is an extra chore and it doesn't make this oily girl any oilier which is a blessing. Something that's been a bit more new to me has been the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening Eye Cream though. I love the Naturally Radiant range if you hadn't of noticed, but I've only recently started to use the eye cream from the range and again - this stuff is fab. I have very sensitive eyes so finding the perfect eye cream can always be a bit of a nightmare, but this one doesn't irritate my eyes, it moisturises really well and creates a good base for my makeup products. Although I can't say for definite if it does brighten the eyes just yet, if you are someone who suffers from dry under-eye areas, this stuff will be a dream come true to use.

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