A Golden Birthday

When I was living in the US, I heard a lot about the “golden birthday” – the year you turn the same age as the date of your birthday. I still haven’t figured out if this is a thing in the UK or not, but this year I turned 22 on the 22nd and so I was determined to embrace it – so much so that I decided to stretch my celebrations over an entire 7 days. The fun began on Tuesday with a pancake breakfast and an actual hour of Taylor Swift’s 22 on repeat (I’m not even kidding…)

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The boy came down to visit (my very best birthday treat), so after we picked him up from the station we set about making my own birthday cake, courtesy of my friend Sofie’s super cool castle-shaped cake tin. We didn’t end up making nearly enough cake mix so we ended up with more of a ruin, but it tasted good anyway!

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I was left feeling like one spoilt princess by the gorgeous gifts everyone got me, including the ultimate in frat boy fashion (white Sperrys, naturally…which I may have since dripped mango ice cream all over), some new Real Techniques brushes (I may have pointed my brother in direction of Lookfantastic…) and my most grown up present yet, a gorgeous bouquet of flowers that my parents sent to the door.

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I’m going to do a whole post for my birthday dinner, but safe to say it was a lovely chilled day and I went to bed feeling very spoilt indeed. The fun didn’t end there, though. The next couple of days were a gorgeous blur of sunshine, al fresco dining all day every day and a whole lot of relaxing…

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We even got some exercise in with a long bike ride, a little go on an obstacle course and even a zip wire thrown in there…just call me action man!

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I volunteered Matt & I to cook a BBQ for the family, which, naturally, meant that he did all the BBQing and I watched.

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I can’t think of a better way to have spent my birthday – and as it turned out, these couple of days of gorgeous relaxation and fun were exactly what I needed because Thursday evening brought a train to London and the beginning of a jam-packed weekend…but that’s another post!

What have you guys been up to lately? Hope you’re all making the most of this sunshine!

Graduation Day

Right, before I begin this post proper, it’s time for a rebrand. You all know him as Rory, but in actual fact my boyfriend’s name is Matthew – it’s a long story involving a first year nickname, but basically after a lot of deliberation we’ve decided to use his real identity. So that’s what he’s going to be known as from here on out!

Anyway, that said, last week was grad week and so the boy in question was back to graduate. We were up bright and early on Thursday morning for the ceremony, and after a suitable amount of pictures and a small glass of pre-ceremony champagne, it was into the Great Hall. Having graduated in the very same place last year, it was seriously weird to be there a year (to the day!) later as a spectator!

Exeter’s ceremonies are conducted by the best chancellor in the entire world, Floella Benjamin, who is seriously the most magnificent & inspiring lady in the entire world. She gave more or less the same speech last year but it still brought a lump to my throat the second time because she is just that great.

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Obviously I was very proud to see M graduate and become an official Master, but by far my favourite part of the ceremony was the honorary graduate, Tim Hollingsworth. Tim is in charge of Paralympics UK which is impressive enough in itself, but he also undertook a BA in English & Drama and an MA in Drama, at Exeter, and his speech honestly felt like it was directed exactly at me. I don’t know really why he was speaking at the Business School ceremony, but it was PERFECTLY timed for me as I force myself to finish my dissertation and finish this silly MA. Plus, look at his cool cloak!

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I was very pleased to note that I actually knew quite a few other people graduating (including fellow blogger & impossibly lovely Francesca!) so the ceremony flew by and all too soon Floella was finishing things up with her signature line. We filed back outside for more photos and, more importantly, more champagne.

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As we left it hit us that this is probably the last time we’ll be on campus (although I will hopefully graduate in January!) so I took a few sentimental pictures of our gorgeous mismatch campus in the sun.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with a pre-dinner sandwich at the Cathedral, followed by drinks with some of the business school boys & Matthew’s first year friends, and finally a fab, gin-fuelled dinner at Harry’s Restaurant (one of my fave Exeter restaurants and highly recommended!)

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The day absolutely flew by and was a lovely way to finish up the year. Graduation ceremonies are always so special – I absolutely love all the old-fashioned ceremony and all the funny hats and most of all, how happy everybody is. Congratulations to everybody who graduated in the last couple of weeks (especially from Exe!) or will do so soon: it’s really the best day ever!

Topsham Food Festival

Last weekend, with Mae back in Exe, we decided to take a little trip out to Topsham for their Food Festival. It had been all blue skies in the morning, but naturally by the time we arrived things were distinctly grey (story of my life right now!). The locals were out and about in force, though, and after we’d navigated our way through a “street fair,” we found the food fest itself right on the water.

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Obviously we couldn’t even think about buying anything before we’d done a full circuit and assessed our options. First up was one of my favourite food festival/farmer’s market activities: sampling chutney.

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These ones were from Fine Country Lifestyle, a farm shop somewhere in Devon. That one on the left was an “Indian Courgette” chutney and although I was definitely dubious about trying it, it was actually really good – similar flavours to mango, but less sweet. I also tried an apple cider chutney that was delicious. If my time in Devon has left me with anything, it is an affinity for chutneys!

There weren’t a million stands, but there were some of my favourite local stalls and some new ones I hadn’t seen before and there was a nice range of options for us. I was very tempted by these salad plates (also from Fine Country Lifestyle I believe), where you could heap any of these options (plus a couple of others that appeared after I took the picture) onto a plate for about £4.

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In the end, though, sweet won us over. The Blueberry Bros are always popping up at foodie events in Exeter and are regulars at the Farmer’s Market on campus: I had a blueberry-mince pie-muffin-concoction thing at Christmas that was delicious, and I think they also make blueberry beer which is fab.

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In the end Mae went for a blueberry muffin, while I opted for a good old traditional brownie from another stand. We sat and caught up while we ate them, soaking up the atmos and listening to the live cooking demonstrations, one of which seemed to be a Ready Steady Cook imitation and was funny/bizarre in equal measures. We decided it was probably time to head back to the car and to Exeter before the rain came, but on the way, we popped into a few of Topsham’s cute shops. I was kind of delighted to find this…

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Perfect, isn’t it? Anyway, one of my goals this term was to get out and explore Exeter and Devon more before I left for good and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job. At any rate I’m very glad Topsham has been such a frequent haunt of mine and as always, I’d definitely recommend it for a wander if you’re down that way!

 

 

The Highlight Reel #5

Hello! Sorry it’s been a while: I’ve been busy packing up, leaving my job, celebrating, and saying goodbye to people and places. Grad week has descended on us once more and although it’s been making me impossibly nostalgic, I’m taking the opportunity to live vicariously through everyone I know who is graduating. It’s been a while since I’ve done a Highlight Reel, so as I’ve not really had time to capture much on camera, here’s a little rundown of some (mainly food related…oops) highlights of the last couple of weeks.

  • Dinner at El Bocado, a tapas restaurant I have been honestly wanting to visit FOREVER, with Mae and her family. I’m always happy with some cava sangria but add some delicious tapas to the mix and a cheeky after-dinner cocktail and I was one happy bunny.
  • A quick little picnic on a sunny Cathedral Green – for the last time!
  • Stocking up on samples of my new fragrance obsession, Daisy Dream, which is the dreamiest, blackcurrantiest thing you ever smelt
  • A little trip to Topsham, which has become something of a frequent haunt of mine lately
  • Firehouse pizza & sangria with some work chums, which was a well-needed break from spending allll my time alone or at work!
  • Pretty pretty pink sunsets, followed by a good old dose of lightning
  • Free champagne, pre- and post-graduation ceremonies
  • Seeing my old friend Floella once more (and maybe possibly tearing up at the sight of her amazing wise face) at R’s graduation
  • Returning home to a BBQ in my gorgeous green garden after the longest most boring journey from Exeter ever!

Much more to come on the subject of graduation – I haven’t yet graduated, but I was on girlfriend duty and got to experience a ceremony as a guest – and also possibly a sentimental post on leaving Exeter forever…we’ll see! Hope you’ve all been having wonderful weeks!

Adventures in Devon: Exmouth in the Rain

So last weekend, my parents, brother and dog all made the longggg trip down to Exe (on Glasto weekend no less – they must love me!). The weekend before, when we’d planned this trip, we’d been all glorious sunshine and pub gardens and Victorian lemonade. The weekend they actually came, naturally, it rained and it rained. With the dog in tow and not many other options, we went to Exmouth anyway.

As we got closer the clouds looked like they might be dispersing (spoiler: they were not), and there were quite a few other hardy souls out and about.

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My brother has never seen Exmouth or any of Devon’s coastline in all its glory (his one and only visit to Exeter consisted of a rowdy trip to Arena and not much else) and I can’t say he was overly impressed on this rainy day.

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Jimmy, on the other hand, was having a great time.

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Eventually / about fifteen minutes later, the rain arrived and got the better of us so we piled in the car with hopes of finding a dog-friendly pub. We ended up in Topsham at The Lighter Inn, which was just as friendly (to humans and to dogs) as it promised. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon meandering around a few shops in Exeter, before finishing the evening with dinner at Wagamamas. A warning: the firecracker dish IS as spicy as it promises to be!

My parents’ visit ended with a fab brunch at Cosy Club the next day, and then we packed up the car with the majority of my stuff and waved them on their way. It’s a shame the weather didn’t hold out for their trip but I still had a lovely time with them all – what’s a British summertime without a rainy trip to the seaside, after all?!

Summer Essentials: Beauty

Summer is my absolute favourite time of year. It’s my birthday, it’s the school holidays (wait…), it’s sunny (or at least we usually get one day of sun). As a result of all my various trips out and about around the South West recently, I finally picked up some colour and that gave me an excuse to delve into my summer makeup supplies. I love being able to just get away with some bronzer and a bit of gold sparkle somewhere or other while on holiday, and while we’re not at that stage just yet, I have been changing up what makeup I use on an everyday basis lately. Here’s what I’ve been playing around with:

Bourjois Bronzing BB Cream

Bourjois Bronzing BB Cream

Bourjois Bronzing BB Cream Swatch

Apologies for a) photographing the French side and b) the state of my nails. So as you may or may not recall, over Easter I won Bourjois’ entire bronzing range as part of a Twitter giveaway (result!), and this “bronzing BB cream” was part of it. The bottle of this claims to be a universal shade which is not exactly a statement I’d agree with. At my winter-palest, this made my face look grubby at best and orange at worst, and I’m not even really on the English rose-porcelain-ivory kinda end of the skintone scale, so it’s stayed firmly at the back of my makeup shelves. However, now that I’ve got a bit of colour on my face I brought this one out again and I’ve been really pleasantly surprised. It still looks terrifyingly dark on the fingers and it does still look a little bit grubby immediately post-application, but after I let it settle for a couple of minutes it gives me a nice, fairly natural brown glow. I wore it to work a couple of times and people kept telling me I looked tanned so it must work. Plus, it smells gorgeous – the whole range has a chocolate-y scent to it and it’s really yummy.

Bourjois Maxi Delight Bronzer (Shade 02, Olive/Tanned Skin)

Bourjois Maxi Delight Bronzer

Bourjois Maxi Delight Bronzer

You guessed it, this one was another part of the kit. The shade it came in is for “tanned/olive” skin so again, I’ve kept this hidden away until the sun made an appearance but I think it’s going to become my go-to bronzer on holiday/if summer proper ever arrives. It’s nice and big so hopefully it’s going to last a while and it’s nice and matte so it’s good for everyday, and there’s a smaller, slightly different version (“Delice de Poudre”) that’s a bit sparklier and will be ideal for my holiday or travelling. Again, it’s got that gorgeous chocolatey smell to it – winner!

Clarins HydraQuench Tinted Moisturiser

Clarins HydraQuench Tinted Moisturiser

My mum always used to go on about how much she loved tinted moisturisers so when Clarins introduced theirs, I bagged a couple of samples. I love the HydraQuench moisturiser anyway and this is just as good – it’s refreshing and leaves my skin super soft alllll day long. It doesn’t have much in the way of coverage but my skin has been a happy bunny lately, so I wore this by itself for a few days and it definitely leaves more colour than a foundation and is much lighter on the skin, obviously. I was really tempted to splash out on a full-sized version of this but it’s £30 a bottle so I think it’s going to stay on my wishlist for now!

Benefit High Beam

Benefit High Beam

To be honest, Highbeam is often how I differentiate my daytime makeup from my nighttime makeup. Nobody else can probably tell but I know! I only use a little bit on my cheekbones, especially if I’m using a blusher or bronzer that’s already quite shimmery, but it does just leave a nice subtle glow that makes you look ever-so-slightly more “done” with very little effort. I’m not sure I’d buy a full-sized version because I’m sure there are cheaper highlighters out there (like the Topshop one) but I’m very happy with this little guy for now.

Blistex Raspberry Lemonade Blast Lipbalm

Blistex Raspberry Lemonade Blast

Stop right there cause this is one of my all time favourite products. This little tube was actually a gift during my sorority “Clue Week” which was two and a half years ago now and it’s still going strong, which just might make it the best value £2 you’ll ever spend. Quite frankly, it is the nicest tasting thing I’ve ever used and it does a fab job of keeping your lips moisturised and protected from the sun. I’d assumed I’d only be able to get this in the US but I’ve just had a little look and it’s widely available on UK sites too – result! I’ll be stocking up and I’d suggest you do too (at £1.39 from Chemist Direct, is there any reason not to?!)

Topshop Eye Crayon in “Gold Digger”

Topshop Eye Crayon Gold Digger

Topshop Eye Crayon Gold Digger Swatch

This was actually a bit of a rash purchase last summer but it turned into one of my absolute summer staples (as you can tell by the grubby lid). Topshop don’t seem to make these eye crayons anymore, which is a huge shame because they’re fab. I love using this in summer, mostly on the top lid but also sometimes just a smidgen under the bottom lashes in the corner. It’s really pigmented and then you can blend it out quite nicely but once it’s dried, this thing is notttt moving and it has great staying power. I don’t even think it was that expensive and I am really hoping that Topshop bring them out again!

Have you used any of these products? What are your summertime favourites? Let me know if you’ve got anything amazing I have to try – and seriously, buy that lipbalm. 

Taking Stock

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It may only seem like a couple of weeks since Christmas, but somehow or other we’ve reached the midpoint of the year. With the end of my time in Exeter coming up fast, this seems like as good a time as any to look back at the last six months (and the last academic year, actually) and have a good old reflect.

To be honest, I was told time and time again that I shouldn’t do an English MA just for the sake of another year in Exeter and in many ways, everybody that told me that was absolutely right. I’ve enjoyed most of my modules this year well enough and I’m in the middle of writing the dissertation that I probably should have just written last year, but to be honest, I don’t feel like this course has given me much more than my undergrad did. I feel like if I hadn’t done the MA and had just sucked it up and found an internship, I probably would have got a job of some description and things would have worked out – but I didn’t and at the end of the day, I’ve got some extra letters next to my name and a newfound knowledge of Victorian fiction, creative writing, and American sport.

And that’s not to say that I haven’t learnt a lot or enjoyed this year, because I have. I stumbled into a job that I actually really like, which in turn has made me realise that yep, I’m good at talking to people and figuring out what they want and how to keep them happy, and, more importantly, that I love doing it. I’ve had a little shift in career hopes & dreams and I’ve gotten to do way more things and learn way more skills than I had anticipated from a part time retail job. I’ve also learnt a hell of a lot more about beauty than I could ever have imagined and I fully plan to keep my nose firmly in the fragrance world (geddit) – and, of course, I’ve embraced the beauty world and have even done what I thought I never would and introduced a healthy dose of beauty blogging to my life. (And, of course, got together with a certain boy who’d pout at me if I didn’t mention him!)

Speaking of blogging, this little blog here has grown quite a bit too. I’m approaching 100 wordpress/email subscribers and my Bloglovin figures (while tiny compared to most bloggers out there!) keep me pretty happy these days (although please feel free to stroke my ego and give me a follow if you’re not already!). I’ve also discovered some great new bloggers recently through twitter/instagram/various other social networks, and my aim for these next few weeks is to really engage with them all and make sure I leave lots of comments and tweets and favourites and everything else. I participated properly in my first ever “Lbloggers chat” last week (hosted by the lovely and hilarious Michelle) and it was great fun and really inspired me to make more effort with my commenting. I love it so much when people do those things for me so I’m going to try my best to do the same – I’m definitely guilty of reading a post, enjoying it, and then clicking through to the next one before I even think about it!

I’m not really sure what the rest of this year will bring me but whatever it is, I’m ready for a change. I wasn’t ready to leave Exeter this time last year and now I’m slightly too ready – I’ve never been this excited to go home. But whatever happens, I know I’ll probably always have a special place in my heart for little old Exeter and the little corner of the South West that’s been my on-and-off home since I arrived, fresh faced and just turned 18, almost four years ago (WHAT?!). And in the meantime, if anyone’s got any jobs going…let me know, okay?

(PS. Shout out to the person in Australia who apparently read almost every post I’ve ever posted on here the other night! Please say hello!)