30/04/13 - My First 'Outfit of the Night'- After-Show Party

I probably won't do these outfit posts regularly as I don't pretend to be a fashion blogger or a very fashionable person at all - a typical day for me is a black skirt and tights with some kind of jumper.  Every day of my life. Sometimes I substitute the skirt and tights for black jeans - I'm so crazy.  But I really wanted to show you my new dress because I am currently totally in love with it.  The day it arrived, I put it straight on and didn't want to take it off!

Dress - H&M (£20, online sale)

Despite H&M sizes being a bit hit and miss, this dress fits me really well.  However, if I'd bought my usual size, it would have been much too small so also remember to check the size guide!  The material is really thick and good quality, and I find the shape really flattering.  I love the flared skirt; something a little different from all the bodycon dresses around.  The pattern is fun and summery too.

Shoes - Dorothy Perkins (as far as I remember they were £40)

I bought the shoes ages ago (for a friend's 18th birthday, and she's just turned 21) - they were exactly the same colour as the dress I was wearing for that party, so I had to have them.  Since then, they have become my go-to shoes for nights out of all kinds; the platform at the front makes them really comfy and the neutral colour means that they go with everything.  They do get scuffed up quite easily and my mum always insists on cleaning them for me when she sees them in a mess - "No daughter of mine is going out in mucky shoes!"

Clutch bag - New Look (this time last year, I think it was about £12)
Nails - Bon Bon by Ciate
Silver bracelets - H&M (£6.99)
Black bracelet - very cheap from Etsy about a year ago; I never take it off.

My skin has been having some issues recently - essay deadlines are not conducive to glowing and clear skin.  A combination of a lack of sleep, a lack of sunlight and fresh air, and a lack of exercise have caused me to have a few little break-outs which is really annoying.  For this reason, I won't give you any massive close-ups of my gross face

No 7 Stay Perfect Compact Foundation in Calico
Collection 2000 Lasting Perfection Powder in Fair
Collection 2000 Lasting Perfection Concealer in Fair
Sleek Blush in Rose Gold
Maybelline Falsies Flared Mascara
Collection 2000 Extreme 24 Hour Felt Tip Liner
Urban Decay Naked palette (specifically Virgin, Half-Baked and a touch of Smog)
L'Oreal Caresse lipstick in 202 Impulsive Fuschia

Yesterday was the night of the Performing Arts Society after-show party, which consisted of a lovely meal at a local Italian restaurant called Piola (big shout-out to the wonderful Paolo who helped me book the table - it's no mean feat for 30 people!) followed by drinks at the pub which sponsors our society and ending the night at Piper, a cheap studenty club which plays really fun music.  I love any excuse to get a bit more dressed up, and it was great to get everyone together and just let our hair down after the stressful show week.  It's always nice to see the guys get suited up...and they always jump at the chance, they're more into their fancy clothes than the girls are!  All in all, a great night was had - lots of champagne was consumed, the food was excellent and if the Facebook statuses are anything to go by, a lot of people have rather sore heads today...always the sign of a great evening.

If these outfit posts are something you'd be interested in 
seeing more of, let me know in the comments!

27/04/13 - Life is a Cabaret

I cannot apologise enough for the lack of blog posts; I've been absolutely snowed under with uni work (the curse of being a third year) but on top of that, I've been totally run off my feet with preparations for my Performing Arts Society showcase - specifically, the 'Musical Theatre and Cabaret Evening' in aid of the Alzheimer's Society (a charity very close to my heart).  I'm sure you can imagine that, as a member of the exec committee and also directing and choreographing one of the small group numbers (La Vie Boheme from the musical RENT, if you're interested), it's been a manic few weeks.  Between frequent long hours of rehearsal, there's also the planning which goes into setting up the venue, sorting costumes, finalising the running order, making interval refreshments and generally trying not to drown under a sea of odd jobs which need to be done whilst keeping on top of all the essays and seminars that you can't afford to miss.  And that's just been the past week.  

The Nicest Kids in Town

My lovely little Bohemians.

This whole term has been crazy busy but a little sadistic part of me enjoys the constant stress.  Even things like spending hours listening to the same minute of a song in order to note down every single moment of choreography - let's just say, I won't be able to watch RENT for a very long time - and attending exec meetings which require an 11am gin and tonic just to get through can be oddly enjoyable.  We're all in the society because we want to perform, and that includes the hard work and long hours which go into making a performance possible.

The actual day of the show was a bit hellish.  After an early start, a two-hour seminar, and a mad dash to the florist to collect the post-show gift for our departing President, there was then the Indiana Jones-style task of hiding the monster bouquet for a surprise presentation at the end, the frantic application of lashings of stage make-up, and the desperate attempts to rectify all the problems we had with the venue (such as a distinct lack of seating and an issue with the wine discount we had secured for our audience at least a month in advice).  But the adrenaline carried everyone through and then it was SHOW TIME!

Dramatic Les Mis medley. 
Alistair and Matt will "always be timeless to me".

As well as the big company numbers (One from A Chorus Line, the Les Mis medley and Dancing Through Life from Wicked as the finale) and La Vie Boheme, I was in the dance number Big Spender - photos of which this blog does not need to see, due to my implausibly skimpy outfit! - and a duet from Wicked with my beautiful and insanely talented housemate, Emma.  There were also numbers from musicals such as Cats, Love Never Dies, Annie Get Your Gun, and West Side Story.  With a mixture of vocal pieces, dance numbers and a saxophone trio, it was a great way of showcasing the society's versatile talents.

This show literally would not have been possible without not only Kat, our long-suffering President, but particularly Lauren (our Vice Pres - I can't find a photo of her from the gift-presenting and speeches).  Lauren is one of the most dedicated and passionate people I have ever met, as well as one of the most talented.  She created and directed the entire showcase and still managed to find time to come to every single one of the socials that I planned.  She's also an amazing friend and I consider myself lucky to have her in my life.

Thank you to Kathryn, our President.
And now it's all done.  All we have left is a couple of social events, including the after-show party on Monday, and that's it.  While PA has been a huge source of stress and drama in my life over the past two years, it's been one of my favourite things about my uni experience.  The friends I have made I know are friends for life, and I'm going to miss it so much when I graduate.

Some of the most talented people I've met.
It's really sad to think that, chances are, this may well have been my last show.  I was involved with youth musical theatre from the age of eleven until I left for uni, and have always been in school shows.  But I feel like entering the real world will make it more difficult to pursue this particular hobby, which will be a huge loss to my life.  In the past ten years of my life, there has only been one which didn't involve performing and while I really enjoyed the first year of uni, I desperately missed being on a stage.

Now that the show is out of the way, I can focus back on that little thing I came to uni to do - my degree!  So while the blog posts may still be few and fair between, I'll try and keep you updated as much as I can.  

I hope you're all well and not quite as stressed out as I am!

PS: most of the photos in this post were not taken by me, but borrowed from various Facebook sources. I am not taking any credit for them.

09/04/13 - Happy Birthday, Josh!

So today is my baby brother's 17th birthday...not such a baby any more!  I'm a bit gutted I can't be at home for it as this is the first time I've missed his birthday in his life.

While these pictures largely read as a documentation of the frequent changes to the colour and style of my hair over the last few years (fringe, no fringe, dark, red, faded ginger), they're the most Internet-worthy of a host of unflattering photos taken on various family holidays or at specific events.  There aren't that many photos of the two of us together from recent years, as Josh is clearly too cool for being in photos with his camera-happy older sister now he's nearly an adult.

See?  Look at that sulky face!
It's scary how quickly he's growing up; I really wish I could include some embarrassing baby photos of the two of us, but they're all back at home.  I'll have to save them up for the big 1-8 next year!  By that point, he'll nearly be at uni himself...that's a terrifying thought!

While we have a slightly...antagonistic relationship (him doing the antagonising, naturally.  I'm an amazing sister), I really do love him to pieces.  He's my partner in crime, and genuinely one of the funniest and cleverest people I know.  He's an anomaly within our family as a total Maths and Science geek, but still has a fantastic way with words and he never fails to make me laugh.  But just because it's his birthday.  Tomorrow, I'll deny I ever wrote that.

And he's a pretty snappy dresser too!

I'm not going to get too maudlin because no one wants that but over the past year, Josh has had to cope with quite a lot of stuff and I couldn't be more proud of him for how manfully and stoically he took it all.  Basically, he's got weird blood and had to be in hospital for ages causing him to miss his GCSE exams...good job his predicted grades were so high!  Thankfully, he's now on the mend but he was so brave about all the tests he had done and just generally handled it all in the most amazing way.  I know I couldn't have done the same - as my parents told me, "We just kept thinking 'Thank God it wasn't Hannah, she'd have been such a drama queen!'"  Thanks, Mum and Dad.

What else is there to say?  I hope he has a terrific day with lots of presents and cake, and isn't missing me too much...I know it must be so tough to cope without me ;)

Happy Birthday, dude!

03/04/13 - A Plethora of Book Recommendations

For a while now, I've been compiling a list of books in my head on which I intended to write reviews.  But the longer and longer that I left it, the less motivation I had to review books which I hadn't read too recently.  And eventually, this idea sprung to mind: why not just make one big post about all of these books?  So that's what I'm doing.

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
Personally, I am a sucker for any book about food or Paris, so this one was a miraculous find.  It tells the true story of author Elizabeth Bard's experience of falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to Paris, interspersed with recipes which she has picked up along the way.  Witty, heart-warming and intelligently observational, it doesn't romanticise the struggles of Bard uprooting from her life in New York to relocate.  However, the book shows that even in the face of vast cultural differences, food is able to bring people together.  The recipes are eloquently described, so even the most novice of chefs shouldn't find them too hard to contend with.  Although this is primarily a novel, it has become a book which lives in my kitchen, complete with Post-it notes sticking out from my favourite recipes or the ones that I've been meaning to try and notes in all the margins.  And I feel that that is how Elizabeth would have wanted it.  I very strongly recommend to any Francophiles or foodies out there.

The Collector by John Fowles
This is a book I actually read for uni and as it was published in the early 1960s, it's the oldest book on this list.  The plot revolves around a man who kidnaps a female art student and keeps her in a basement - not exactly a fun, light-hearted read.   It's also quite a problematic book in the same way that Nabokov's Lolita is - incidently, another book I would recommend; as a reader, your sympathies are conflicted and it brings into questions a lot of your beliefs about humanity.  I could get into a long spiel about existentialism, but I won't as I can't really pretend to understand it that well myself.  If you're after something a bit challenging, I'd definitely recommend this.  It's creepy and a bit disturbing, but really interesting and well written.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy
I intended to write an entire post on this, but when I attempted to, it turned into an incoherent rant about my views on feminism and the way society deals with women.  There were too many conflicting ideas in my head for that ramble to be read by anyone other than myself, so instead I will simply recommend this book.  It is an exploration of how ideas that have previously been considered offensive to feminists (Playboy, the porn industry, etc.; here combined under the title of 'raunch culture') are now being embraced as symbols of feminist sexual liberation, and whether this indicates any progress or just shows how much further society still has to go.  Now, that makes it sound a little heavy-going but the writing style is witty and conversational, making it an informative and enjoyable easy read while analysing the way, particularly American, society reacts to different branches of feminism. 

Grow Up by Ben Brooks
I originally bought this book for my little brother for his sixteenth birthday.  As a boy who used to read quite a lot as a child, when he hit puberty he found that he had other priorities.  For this reason, I make a point of buying him books so that when he feels the urge to read, there is always something there for him to pick up.  I can't remember where I heard about this, but it struck me as just the kind of thing which would get a teenage boy back into reading.  A coming-of-age novel for what has become deemed 'the Facebook generation', with vivid descriptions of frequent drug use and sexual encounters, it is somewhat reminiscent of Channel 4's Skins (not that bastardised American version).  However, I found Brooks' use of language to be beautiful even when describing the most unsavoury of things and although it won't be to everyone's tastes, the novel is hilarious and an absolute joy to read.   I will definitely be seeking out his other novels off the back of reading this.  And Ben Brooks is the same age as me, which makes me a little bit insanely jealous.

Anything by John Green

John Green is definitely one of my favourite authors.  Each of his novels has a very different feel to it, but always his great wit and sparkling way with words.  His protagonists are multi-dimensional, sympathetic and, some might say the most important of all, realistic.  While his language is occasionally more the way I wished more people spoke than the way they actually do, I have never not loved a John Green book.  Looking for Alaska is one of my favourite books of all time and The Fault in Our Stars is probably the most moving and thought-provoking book I've read in the past few years.  A while ago, you couldn't get a John Green novel in a UK bookshop for love nor money, so I am so happy when I go into Waterstone's or wherever now and see plenty of them.  More young people should be reading his books.

Have you read anything that really stuck with you recently?  Pop it in the comments, I'm always looking for more recommendations!