TV Style Inspiration: Aria Montgomery, Pretty Little Liars

So recently, I've been getting seriously obsessed with Pretty Little Liars. I know, late to the party. If anyone's a bit later than me, it's basically like a mashup of Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives. Four high school friends are trying to solve the murder of their friend Alison, all whilst being tormented by a mysterious character, 'A', and dealing with the ups and downs of being a teenage girl.

Although I'm addicted to the storyline, the show also features some amazing outfits. All four of the protagonists have their own awesome styles, but I'm a little bit in love with Aria Montgomery's wardrobe. Particularly in the early seasons, it's girly gothic, growing into a more funky and experimental style as the show goes on. I've picked out three of my favourite Aria looks and recreated them - which one's your favourite?

Skirt, Forever 21, £12 // Top, Boohoo, £12 // Necklace, New Look, £7.99 // Ring, Asos, £33.50

Dress, Yumi @ ASOS, £28 // Jacket, New Look, £34.99 // Bag, Oasis @ House of Fraser, £36 // Socks, Topshop, £5

Cardigan, New Look, £15 // Vest, H&M, £4 // Shorts, Topshop, £28 // Boots, New Look, £35 // Belt, New Look, £2.99
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Three Illamasqua Lip Shades For Work, Play and Party

Illamasqua Minx, Luster, Maneater, £18.50 each

Illamasqua lipsticks have become a fast favourite of mine for their great quality, and these three shades are a great trio to have as there's a shade for every occasion. At £18.50, they're definitely on the pricier side for lip products, but the pigmentation and long-lasting formula packs a real punch. 

Work - Minx
Minx is from the Glamore Nudes collection, and is a grown-up shade perfect for work, meetings or any time you need to feel sophisticated and mature. It adds colour while still feeling like a more natural shade, and the matte finish perfectly complements the colour and feel.

Play - Luster 
Luster was the first ever Illamasqua lipstick I bought, when I wanted something fun and colourful for days out or days where I want to give my look a youthful, bold touch. The colour is really intense, and the satin finish is a bit different from the other Illamasqua lipsticks I own. 

Party - Maneater
Sometimes, you just need a red lip to up the glamour stakes when you're out partying. Maneater is a warm, 'true red' shade that I think would work with a lot of skintones, and even though it has a matte texture it isn't at all drying. I've found that red lipsticks seem to be the worst for transferring around the mouth/onto teeth, but this one stays in place really well.

What are your go-to lip shades for work, play and party?
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New Job, New Accessories: The Perfect Work Shoes & Handbag


As I mentioned on my 2014 roundup post, I'm starting a new job in February, working in events - aka my dream career! The first day of a new job can be an incredibly nerve-wracking one, and everyone wants to make the best impression. Having an outfit you feel fabulous in can really help, making sure you're feeling comfortable enough to be your best self, and for me, accessories are a huge part of this. A great pair of shoes and the right handbag can really add a professional touch to any outfit, and I think I've found the perfect pairing to beat my first-day nerves.

Black leather mid-heeled shoes are an easy classic, making any outfit instantly smarter. Back in the day, I always considered Clarks to be a shop mainly aimed at older women, or a place where I got my school shoes. However, since those days they've really turned it around, creating ranges that are trend-led while still keeping the classic Clarks quality, making them a great choice for women's smart shoes that are both affordable and super stylish.

For the perfect mix of cool and professional-looking, the Coolest Berry shoes (£45*) are my perfect choice. The Mary Jane style upper makes them fresh and modern, and the smooth grained black leather gives them a real luxury feel - and I really like the exposed stitching and detailing on the heel. The heel height is just the right height for the office - tall enough to give a boost but comfortable enough to wear all day without getting sore feet. As I've mentioned before, I often suffer from aches in my feet, but I've found these to be incredibly comfortable, thanks to the CushionSoft foam insole layers.

I love it when designer brands create more affordable lines, and Carvela Kurt Geiger allows for those on a high-street rather than high-end budget to still get a bit of the KG luxury. The Carvela Black and Red Grab Bag (£39.99, TK Maxx) was actually an anniversary present from my boyfriend (although I got to pick it!), and I pretty much fell in love at first sight. Plus, the RRP of the bag is £75, which means the TK Maxx price gives a saving of almost half price!

The size is just right for an everyday work handbag - I didn't want something too big, as I end up filling it with rubbish - something streamlined with room for my purse, makeup bag, book, diary and essentials is exactly what I was looking for. The shape of the bag is lovely too, and the triangular designs on the front combined with the super on-trend oxblood red make it classic with a fun element. Subtle gold hardware detailing and an understated logo mean it doesn't look OTT flashy, and there's an optional removable adjustable shoulder strap too.

I definitely feel like both my shoes and bag will go the distance as they seem like fantastic quality, and especially considering they're both under £50. I think with these in tow, I'm ready to make my best first impression now!

What are your style go-tos for feeling amazing at work?
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Doing Something Different: Arsenal Stadium Tour

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Those who know me will probably know my attitude towards sports is blasé at best. I don't mind watching football in the pub, and going to a live game is actually pretty fun, but when the talk of tactics and statistics begins, my eyes glaze over and I go to a land where I'm in an imaginary bubble bath watching Pretty Little Liars. So I was surprised at how much I enjoyed spending a Saturday poking around the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal football club.

The tour was actually a birthday present for my boyfriend, whose birthday was back in September, but due to schedules and life and us being a bit rubbish, we only got round to doing the tour recently. Starting off from the stadium shop (seriously, if you know an Arsenal fan, you'll never be stuck for gifts again), the tour took us around some of the usually unseen parts of the Emirates. First stop was the fancy lounges for directors and members, which have an amazing view of the pitch - I'd love to watch a match from there!

We also got to nose around in the changing rooms, including the amazing jacuzzi/bath/shower thing pictured below. On the pitch itself, we got a players-eye-view of the whole stadium, and it looks absolutely MASSIVE. I was tempted to do a run out of the tunnel footballer style, but there were too many people around so I chickened out! There was also the opportunity to have your picture taken with the cup, and see the media rooms where they interview teams and managers post-match - the perfect opportunity for a picture!

Doing things that are out of my normal comfort zone is something I want to keep on doing in 2015, learning and exploring new things. Even for the most fleeting of football fans, a stadium tour is a really interesting behind the scenes experience. If Arsenal aren't your thing, plenty of other stadiums do tours, you can find plenty here. It's definitely something I wouldn't normally do, but I found it really fascinating!
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Botanical Beauty with Yves Rocher


Like many probably have, I've heard of Yves Rocher before but actually never really knew much about the brand, so I jumped at the chance to try a few things out and learn more about the ethos behind the products. Yves Rocher was actually recently ranked as France's favourite beauty brand, providing botanical (plant based) beauty products with a genuine compassion for nature and the customers who use the products.

The brand's roots date back over 50 years, when namesake Yves Rocher, fascinated by the plants and herbs, began to create his own beauty products which he sold in his village and via mail order. I particularly like their ethos and message - Yves Rocher celebrates women, nature, and Yves' own home village, where the brand originated over 50 years ago. Yves believes that "beauty is timeless and comes in all shapes and sizes", and aims to create products with effective formulas that arouse the senses.

Yves Rocher Botanical Beauty review - Silky Cream

The Silky Cream (£13.50*, currently £9.45) basically does what it says on the tin, a silky moisturising cream. It's made with organic oats, and oats in general have been used in skincare since as early as 2000BC for beautifying skin. Why mess with a time tested classic? This feels really luxurious to apply, and definitely lives up to it's 'silky' title. It melts into skin quickly, leaving lovely silky soft legs. I did find that the packaging was a bit stiff to open, but I do love the way it looks - it would take pride of place in my bathroom if the room was a bit fancier! The cream is very lightly scented in a natural way, light and oaty. It's probably best to use this on still slightly damp skin as oats contain polysaccharides, which fight dryness and protect the skin. It costs a bit more than I'd normally splash out for a body moisturiser, but if you fancy something affordable and luxurious feeling that looks great on your bedside table, it's definitely worth a try.

The Anti-Fatigue Iced Gel (£5*, currently £2.50) was something I was really looking forward to trying. Working two jobs including one where I stand up for hours on end behind a bar, I often get tired and achey feet, so something promising instant soothing for heavy feeling feet and legs seemed like an absolute wonder product. Although I didn't find that this had a huge long-term effect and didn't completely solve the problem, the initial cooling felt very relaxing and took some of the strain out of my work-tired feet and ankles. The lavender and peppermint oils create a relaxing scent that makes it a perfect treat for before bedtime.

In the winter having a good hand cream is vital for protecting against the elements, and Yves Rocher's Long-Lasting Moisturizing Hand Cream is a botanically-based moisturiser to keep hands soft and smooth for the long haul. Lightly floral scented, like the silky cream it absorbs quickly, avoiding the greasy feeling of some hand creams. The moisturising effects have definitely lasted, giving me softer hands and cuticles. I also really love the summery yellow packaging! The usual price of £3.50 for 7ml is really good value, but at the moment it's just £1.80 - which is too good a bargain to miss!

Finally, I tried out the Coconut Fizzy Bath Cube (£1.50*). I was a bit put off by the size at first, as I'm used to gigantic bath bombs. When used under running water, it activated and fizzed far more than I was expecting, creating a milky bath with a lovely aroma. Unfortunately, I do prefer my baths to be super-scented and colourful, so it wasn't really for me and I did end up adding some bubble bath into the mix. But although it wasn't my cup of tea, this would be a light bathtime treat for someone who prefers more stripped back bathing, and the coconut scent was just gorgeous!

For someone who usually opts for super-girly scented products, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed discovering botanical, natural beauty. The lighter scents were a welcome break, and the Silky Cream in particular is a favourite. Despite being relatively simple products with no super-wonder-product claims, they feel really luxurious to use and perfect for busy women who want to indulge in a fuss-free pampering routine that delivers results.

Have you tried anything by Yves Rocher? What do you think of botanical beauty?
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What to Expect at your First Slimming World Group Meeting


I'm not the biggest fan of the whole 'new year, new me' attitude, but at the same time I feel like I've generally hit a point in my life where self-improvement and being the person I really want to be is on the agenda - and I guess January is as good a time as any to start. I'll firstly point out that I'm most certainly body positive - whatever size you're happy at, own it and love your body for how awesome it is. This isn't a post that tells you that you NEED to lose weight. At all.

However, as a personal thing, I really wanted to lose some weight, for myself, and needed a bit of support in getting on the right track. So I took the plunge and went along to my first Slimming World group session. Hopefully this post will answer some questions if you're thinking of joining but aren't sure what to expect.

I found my nearest group online, and after ringing Lisa, the group's super-friendly consultant, I was told to just turn up. When I first walked into the room, I immediately felt reassured to see a diverse mix of people - the majority were women, but there were also a fair few men. Ages ranged from late teens to seniors, and of all shapes and sizes. Some were in groups, but there were also a fair few people on their own, as I was. Although I didn't speak to anyone in my first group, I ended up making a few friends the second time I went along (to a different group due to time constraints), and I definitely found that people were friendly and welcoming.

 The first step in group is joining the queue to sign in and get weighed. If you're new, you'll need to fill in a form to give to your consultant, who'll sort you out with a membership card and new member pack. The new member pack consists of four books/pamphlets (pictured), all in a durable plastic case (top left). I'll talk a bit more about those in a second!

After saying hello to Lisa and handing over my one-off joining payment and weekly fee, I joined the queue to get weighed. Although it was in the same room as the rest of the group, the lady doing the weighing was very discreet and you saw the number on the scales rather than having it read out. Then I joined the rest of the group in sitting down, where Lisa went through the Food Optimising book as part of the new members talk that was being given to everyone that night. This session was amazingly helpful, as it covered the whole plan and actually made it seem really simple - which it is!

It's worth noting that the new members talk may not happen as the main part of the group every week - but now I've attended a normal group, they're very flexible, so your consultant will be able to give you the talk before or after the main group session finishes.

Now...onto those books!

The Love Food, Love Food Optimising book is basically your Slimming World 'bible'. Food optimising is the governing principle of Slimming World, and this bookcovers exactly what food optimising is, and has lists of superfree and free foods, healthy extras and a directory of common Syn values. Those words might not make sense to you now, but the book explains the relatively simple Slimming World premise really well. As well as your guide to food optimising, it's also where you'll log your weight (and measurements if you wish).

As a start, you also get the Everyday Extra Easy booklet, with plenty of recipes to get you going in your first week. Love Friendship, Love Your Slimming World Group is very much a support and encouragement booklet, covering topics such as understanding your relationship with food and featuring real life member success stories.

Love Life, Love Body Magic covers the Body Magic element of the plan. It's not an integral part of Slimming World and you can follow the plan without it, but it's definitely encouraged. Rather than telling you to go to the gym for hours upon end, it talks about the ways you can slowly work exercise into your everyday life - even just going for a walk counts!

Some of the Slimming World mantras for the pamphlet titles seem a little bit cheesy, but the books are a great basis to form your Slimming World plan. For the four weeks after you join, you're asked to keep a food diary, which I've found really helpful in sticking to the plan. And despite a cheat night at TGI Fridays, I lost a massive 6lbs in my first week. Even though it's normal to lose a larger amount in your first week and have more steady losses as you spend longer on the plan, I was still really stunned. That's nearly half a stone in one week! I'm really surprised at how well its going in general, I'm cooking myself healthy, nutritious food that tastes great and I don't feel deprived or 'on a diet'. I'll be keeping you all updated on my progress, and hopefully sharing some of my recipes here as time goes on!

If you're a Slimming World member, please do share your first meeting experiences below!
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What's In My Purse?


Okay, so really, this is just a blatant opportunity to show off my amazing new purse, which I am totally and utterly in love with. Sorry not sorry. I won a competition recently on Paul's Boutique's Facebook page and as my prize, I could choose any of their lovely purses to have as my own. It was really hard to choose which one I wanted, but in the end I opted for this classic black Lizzie Half Suede purse (£39), being attracted to it's classic shape with a modern, patent twist.

It really bridges a gap between being a 'grown up' purse and still being super stylish. The suede texture is just lovely, and high gloss, quality looking patent is always something I can get on board with, a lot. The gold inside material, subtle polka dots and small Paul's Boutique logo on the front all really add to the luxe feel of a purse that looks like it cost a fair bit more than it actually did too.

It feels really sturdy and the zip is nice and thick, meaning it's unlikely to break and keeps all my cards and cash tucked away safely, not rolling around in the bottom of my bag. It's the biggest purse I've ever owned, but it somehow makes me actually feel like a real adult when I whip it out at the checkout. For a purse that'll last, I think it's reasonably priced despite being more than I'd usually pay for one (but that's just because I'm usually skint...)

And now for the contents...

Loyalty Cards - I do love a good loyalty card scheme! I usually shop at Sainsburys, so of course there's a Nectar Card in there, as well as every beauty fan's staples, Boots' Advantage Card and Superdrug's Beauty Card.

Gift Cards - I've seemed to acquire a fair few gift cards and vouchers recently, including a Sainsbury's voucher that my parents got me for Christmas so I could afford to eat in January. They are heroes.

Railcard - My 16 - 25 railcard is an incredibly useful cash saver. The fact that I turn 'too old' for it this year is an incredibly depressing reality.

Cash - It's actually pretty rare for me to have large sums of cash in my purse, as I tend to pay by card a lot. But I was given some gig ticket money that I was owed the other night (Slipknot! SOON!), so I happen to actually have a £20 note on me. Chances are it won't be there for long...

Photos - Yep, I'm one of those lame girls who carries around a picture of me and my boyfriend. Pass the sick bucket. Shoot me. He rarely ever agrees to being in photos, so the fact that he suggested these photobooth ones was pretty impressive - even if we were drunk at 1am in Euston Station after Camden Rocks.

Blog Business Cards - Because you never know who might want to see your blog!

Weirdly, I don't tend to keep my bank card in my purse, but in the zip up pocket of my bag - I guess if I ever lose just the purse, at least I'll still have my card on me?

What are your purse essentials?
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