Sunday, 30 April 2017

Somewhat Less Than Satisfied

In the last few weeks I've become complacent. For a good while I was working hard at my blog, spending whole mornings taking the perfect flatlays for instagram and blog posts, spending many an hour writing and writing and writing until I was happy with what I was publishing, and it showed. SpareOom started doing better, I saw my statistics start to improve and I was really pleased with my progress. I felt like I was getting better at this whole blogging jam, and I really enjoyed working hard at it.

Rivington Pike Summit
Steps to Rivington Pike Summit

I think I lost my mojo in the April long weekend when I had four glorious days off and did absolutely no work. As soon as I was out of the rhythm of it I found myself slipping. April's blogposts, with a few exceptions from the beginning of the month, were a bit sub-par. I failed to realise why I was so dissatisfied with my blog until a few days ago whenI sat myself down and thought about which posts I actually like and enjoy writing. 

Turns out I'm pretty bored of writing generic "this is what I got in the post", "this is what I bought in Boots" and "these are the lipsticks I've worn this month" posts, and you guys are probably pretty bored of reading them. The exception is if I actually have something worthwhile to say. I quite liked writing my most recent My Little Box review, as I was unsubscribing and wanted to talk about why. I found that I didn't enjoy my most recent book review because I didn't really have a strong opinion about it, and that reflected in how little care I took with the photography. On a similar note, "monthly makeup" posts are great for flatlays and instagram, but I don't have enough makeup for every month to be radically different from the last. I may do the odd favourites post going forward, but only when I have something I'm really excited about that I want to share with the world, or at least my small corner of the internet.

Selected pictures from when I did Blogtober last year

The blogposts I actually enjoy writing are the ones that do the best; people can tell when you're just writing for the sake of getting something out there. I'm currently advertising with the lovely Gwennan again, and at one point when she shared one of my posts I was actually embarrassed by it because she was so positive about it, yet I knew it wasn't my best photography or writing. I really don't want to feel like that again.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff Review
From my review of Jay Kristoff's Nevernight

The kind of posts you can expect to see on Spare Oom is going to change. You'll see more Days In My Life, Book Reviews (that I'm actually interested in), Beauty Brand Posts or Product Comparisons (as opposed to boring hauls they'll be more critical and focused so that they're actually useful), Personal Posts, Reading Lists and Travel Posts. There will be a few Week In Lipsticks and similar things thrown into the mix, but I'm going to try and make them a little more interesting by actually talking about what I've been up to and why I chose it, so that it's not just "I wore this one on Monday, and this one and Tuesday", which is kind of boring. I'm also going to try and get my instagram back on track; for a while there I was doing really well with the whole theme thing until I got a bit bored of it all. I'm going to try and stick to the cool-girl three themed pictures in a row but allow myself more flexibility and stop being so hard on myself with it. It's a semi-broken picture sharing website; it's hardly important in the grand scheme of things. 

From my March Monthly Makeup post

Or at least, that's the plan. 

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tradition, Tattoos and Treachery | Ink by Alice Broadway

This is the first book I read and reviewed from my Spring Reading List and is one that I clicked on initially because the cover was gorgeous, then added it to my basket upon reading the blurb, which sounded intriguing, to say the least.

Ink by Alice Broadway Review
Ink, by Alice Broadway, follows sixteen-year-old Leora in the months following her father's death. Struggling through grief, Leora's life is complicated further as her father's integrity and her entire belief system are called into question. The relatively simple your father was not who you thought he was plot is made more complex and interesting by the world in which Leora lives. The city of Saintstone and everyone in it is tattooed no later than two days old, and their tattoos tell the story of their lives. After death, people are flayed and their skins made into books that the families keep to read and remember them by. This is pretty gruesome at first reading, but the characters' matter of fact reaction to it normalises the whole thing, so I found that I got over my initial ew gross what?! reaction pretty quickly. 

Remembrance and truth are the central tenets of the society, but as the plot progresses Leora gradually begins to question her beliefs. The great contrast to the tattooed residents of Saintstone are the Blanks. They are the monster under the bed and the enemies of the myths that tell the stories of Sainstone's founding and their religion. Anyone who refuses to be tattooed is outcast and considered evil, for if they won't wear their lives on their skin, who knows what they could be hiding? I can't elaborate much more without giving away huge plot points, but safe to say that the unique world kept me engaged with the story. 

Ink by Alice Broadway Review

The characters were okay, as was the plot. Neither of them was particularly astounding and the writing was pretty average without a distinct style or voice. The thing that kept me rooted to the page was the world itself, and by far the most accomplished parts of the book were the little dribs and drabs of mythology worked into the present day plot. They were always timed just right, generally just as I began to get bored of Leora and the main plot. While the main plot twists of this book were pretty obvious, especially when taking the mythology into consideration, the wider implications of it were what kept me interested.

There are some very minor magical elements to the plot, but they were quite inconsistently applied. I was left with a lot of questions about how magic and mythology fits with the relatively modern world Leora knows. As a result, I would read the sequel, but it wouldn't be top of my list or something I would be super excited about; mild curiosity would be an apt description.

Overall, this was a decent read, but not something I'll be picking up again anytime soon. I'd buy the sequel on kindle but wouldn't bother with the print version, as I tend to save that for books I really love. If you like the sound of the concept this could be your sort of thing, but it's not something I'd shout about. 

Ink by Alice Broadway Review


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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Spring, Greenery and Unsubscribing | My Little Box April

This box was, unfortunately, the last straw for me and My Little Box. My boxes have been arriving progressively later which I found very irritating, especially when I want to write an unboxing post and publish it asap. I've also been increasingly disappointed with the contents; when I first subscribed in December I absolutely loved MLB (salted caramel sauce yaaas) but the contents has really gone down hill of late. I may resubscribe in future if the contents improves, but for now, I am done. 

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

I think that I was particularly disappointed with the April box because the theme sounded right up my street. As a plant lover/killer, the My Little Garden box should have been something that I would love. Last month's box was pretty decent, with a sample of a Laura Mercier primer and a few really cool lifestyle bits, and as a result, my hopes were high for this month. 

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

First up was the Mixa Restoring Body Lotion. It does what it says on the tin and is a body lotion. It's not particularly exciting or innovative; apparently, it's a French pharmacy brand, but I could just use Nivea or something else generic from Boots for the same effect. It was nothing special, although I will probably use it up.

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

I received two My Little Beauty products; the Easy Morning Moisturiser, of which I already have about three of and is mediocre at best for my Sahara-skin and has a weird glitter to it that I don't like at all, and the Vitamin Shot Face Scrub, which is a physical exfoliator scrub containing bamboo extract, apricot seed powder and argan oil. I hate physical exfoliators because they tend to irritate my dry, sensitive skin, but in the name of fair play I tried this out, and lo and behold, a red and angry face that took several days of nurture to fix. 

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

Next up was this cute water bottle with a compartment to put fruit in to make flavoured water. Sure, it's sweet. I used it once and it is now at the back of my cupboard no doubt never to be seen again. Oh, and it leaks. 

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

Also included was a square scarf, because this is a French company, after all. Tha navy print was cute and it could have been really lovely, it's just a shame that it feels like crap. It must be the worst quality garment I've ever encountered and I was thoroughly enraged by it. It just looks CHEAP. It can't have cost 50p to make. I hated it and it's now in the bin. 

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

There's frequently a snack of some kind in these boxes, and this month it was a little packet of Ape Coconut Bites. Now, these were at an unfair advantage as I don't like coconut, but frankly, I was disappointed at just how paltry the serving was. Three tiny little coconut things about the size of my thumbnail? I'm fine, thanks.

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

Astonishingly, there were things I liked in this month's box! Unfortunately, they were all just bits of paper. This magnetic backed notepad was pretty cool, and perfect for sticking on your fridge (if I had a bit metal one). The other thing I liked was the large card with all of the year's seasonal fruit and veg all laid out for you. I've stuck it to one of my cupboards to remind me of it, as I eat loads of fresh fruit and veg and can never remember what's in season.

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

That was it. The only things I liked were bits of paper. My decision to unsubscribe was made for me with this box. I'd been mulling it over for a while after seeing what other people were receiving in what was supposed to be the same box as me. I saw people receiving Caudalie and Nars(!) samples while muggins was over here failing to get excited about another sub-standard moisturiser. Can you see why I became somewhat disillusioned?

My Little Box April 2017, My Little Garden Box

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cream Eyeshadow Sticks | The Good, the Bad and the Patchy

I wrote a post like this back in October, also entitled The Good, the Bad and the Patchy but for liquid lipsticks, and I fancied doing something similar for cream eyeshadow sticks. I've really been getting into them of late and have found that they vary in quality massively. I recently had an allergic reaction to a Clarins primer, which left me with sore, dry eyelids. While I avoided wearing eye makeup as much as possible, when I did have to I wanted something that wasn't going to cling to the dry patches and make it look worse. My eyes are pretty much healed, but I'm still enjoying using cream eyeshadows. I picked up six eyeshadow sticks in total, generally in warm bronze or gold shades as that's my go-to eye look. The price and quality vary, ranging from £4.49 to £29, but it's not all a matter of getting what you pay for.

Rimmel Shadow Stick in Bad Girl Bronze | £4.49

The cheapest of the cream eyeshadow sticks that I found, this a really gorgeous colour. In fact, it's a decent colour dupe for the Laura Mercier shadow below, which is nearly £20 more. It's a gorgeous metallic bronze that doesn't crease much even on my oily eyelids. Unfortunately, I really struggled to get this to apply evenly and just generally made a mess when using it. I'll use this going forward, but probably only as a slight smudge on the lower lash line. There are seven shades in the range, which is pretty good for the drugstore, but I don't think I'll be buying any more of them. 

Nyx Jumbo Eye Pencil in Yogurt | £5

This eye pencil from Nyx is in a slightly unusual shade for me; it's a lovely pale gold with a metallic pink shift and looks gorgeous on the lid. It's a super creamy formula, which unfortunately means it creases a lot. You can sort of smudge it back onto the lid when it does crease, but that's not exactly ideal; it's also not great as a base for powder eyeshadow because it's so creamy. I suspect that it would work a lot better with a primer, but I've yet to find one that I'm not hideously allergic to. If your eyelids aren't too oily this could be a really great bet, as it's cheap as it chips and has an amazing shade range. Despite the creasing, I probably would buy more of these, as they're great to just throw in your handbag for touch ups. One thing to note is that the product is literally just the tip, as the packaging is plastic it can't be sharpened and there's no wind-up function. If you consider that then the price isn't quite as good value for money as some of the other products I bought. 

Bourjois Colorband Eyeshadow and Liner in Beige Minimal | £5.99

I had real trouble testing this eyeshadow as it broke almost immediately. With a bit of work, I managed to test it out as both and eyeshadow base and alone and was generally underwhelmed. Despite the shade name, the colour is definitely more gold than beige and initially promised to be a really lovely colour that I would get a lot of use from. The colour may be great, but the reality was creasing and patchiness. There also wasn't a great deal of pigmentation to work with, which combined with the pretty pitiful shade range means I won't be buying more of these, especially since I think it's grossly overpriced compared to the Nyx Jumbo Eye Pencil.

Estee Edit The Edgiest Kohl Shadowstick in Grounded | £17

The Edgiest Kohl Shadowstick is without a doubt, the biggest waste of money I have ever spent. I'm genuinely angry about it. For SEVENTEEN POUNDS you get a crappy eyeshadow that is the patchiest thing I've ever seen. It doesn't even swatch well. When I bought it I must have been drunk or something because I swear it wasn't nearly as bad. It's dark brown with a slightly metallic finish, which sounded right up my street. Unfortunately, one swipe of this stick doesn't provide much in the way of pigment, and should you attempt to layer it all hell break loose. Layering the shadow actually moves it around, leaving you with product build up in strange places on the lid and nothing where you actually need it. I tried to make this work multiple times to no avail, and I'm just so angry that this cost £17. If it was a fiver, I would have been forgiving and just binned it, but this is made by Estee Lauder - what the hell?!

Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in Burnished Bronze | £23

This is probably my favourite find from my venture into eyeshadow sticks. A gorgeous reddish-bronze, this works particularly well as a base for powder shadows. It genuinely doesn't budge despite my oil-slick lids, although you do have to work fairly quickly with it to blend it out before it dries down. It is a touch drying on the lids, and as mine are still recovering I wouldn't use this two days on the trot as my eyelids do feel a little dry afterwards, but I think that's down to the contact dermatitis rather than the product. The shade range for the Caviar Eye Sticks is amazing, but for the price, the packaging is a little lacking. It feels plasticky and cheap, but I can live with that for the great product inside. I'll be buying more of these.

By Terry Ombre Blackstar in Bronze Moon | £29

The Ombre Blackstar was the first eyeshadow stick I ever bought, and although I was initially quite disappointed, I've grown to love it. Its claims of being creaseproof are false, but it is great as a base for other products. It's also the most pigmented shadow stick that I tried, needing the lightest of touches to cover the whole lid, and is wonderfully creamy and blendable. I wouldn't wear it alone as the creasing if pretty obvious, but when paired with a little powder eyeshadow it almost sets the product, helping it to last all day without smudging to creasing. The shade range is good, with occasional seasonal shades being added for a limited time, but the price is a sticking point for me. While I probably will buy more of these, it will only be if I really adore the colour and there isn't a Laura Mercier equivalent. The packaging on the Ombre Blackstar is better quality that the Laura Mercier Eye Colour, but it's worth noting that after I dropped this once the lid no longer clicks and will just fall off.

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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Invasion of the Greenery | Houseplant Collection

An alternative title for this post would be "They're all dying, please send help", as I'm a fairly terrible gardener. I love having plants and greenery around me, and try and buy fresh flowers whenever I can. Trevor the Cactus is the oldest plant I have, as it was given to me by my Nan waaaaay back when I first started university. He's survived eight house moves, being under- and over-watered and generally has flourished despite everything I could throw at it. It's ridiculously sharp and kind of dangerous, and I do suspect it of being some kind of vampire plant due to the amount of blood it has drawn over the years. 
I've recently started adding to my houseplant collection as my environment has become more and more important to me as I've got older. I now have a collection of mostly small plants, as my flat doesn't have the space for anything very big. I wish I had a balcony for a proper little vegetable patch, but for now, I'm making do with two troughs on my windowsills. 
I picked up these two amazing plants from Shrubbies, which I highly recommend if you live in Manchester and love plants. They pop up at the markets that are always going on in the area and I always keep an eye open for them whenever I'm wandering around the Northern Quarter or Spinningfields markets. I love this little succulent in a painted tin, and the tiny cactus in a beer can is one of my absolute favourites. When I first bought it, it looked a lot like a rabbit with two ears and a little bobble tail, but it's now started to grow some extra knobbles (there's probably a technical word but I don't know it). I thought about pruning it back into the bunny shape but I decided to let it grow wild and free, mostly because I can't be bothered.
Originally I had two of this little succulent in the cream pot, which I think I bought in Sainsbury's. I managed to break the other one when I knocked it and it fell on my head, leaving me with a bruise and a lot of soil and pottery sherds to clean up.

In the white pot is a Christmas Cactus that I bought from Aldi in December. It initially had cute little red buds that bloomed into flowers, which looked like Christmas Tree decorations, hence the name. The flowers have since dropped off but the plant itself is still going strong, so I'm going to attempt to keep it alive until next Christmas in the hope that the flowers will return. Also from Aldi, I have this rather sickly looking lavender bush which I keep in my bedroom. I pruned it rather exuberantly after this photo was taken and it's looking a lot better, so fear not, anyone who was worried about it. I like having it in my bedroom as I love the smell of lavender for lulling me to sleep.
In the little terracotta pot are some Mother of Millions sprouts which are finally growing! They were sent to me by my cousin who lives in France, along with lots of other seeds which I'm attempting to grow with mixed success. Once they get a bit bigger I'll have to transfer them to some of the troughs, I think, but that will be a while yet.
In a big grey trough are some radish seeds which have yet to make an appearance, and some flourishing mixed salad leaves, which I reckon I can probably eat but I'm too nervous to. The packet just said mixed so I have no idea what the leaves actually are. In the other trough I FINALLY have a tiny sprout of Love in the Mist, or Nigella, which I am intensely proud of. I'm terrified that I'm overwatering it but I just really want it to grow. As to why that one is growing but none of the numerous others in that trough are, I have no idea. 

As you can see, plants are slowly taking over my life and I want even more. This is in spite of the fact that I don't seem to be able to grow very much and a lot of my existing plants seem fairly unhappy. If you know anything about plants any and all advice is much appreciated!

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