Mellow Yellow

A couple of months ago I finally got my hands on this, the most gorgeous jackets to have ever been made, ever. I'm pretty sure everyone and their nan owns this jacket in either the yellow or blue in particular, but I put off getting it for so long and it was no good - I had to cave. I *love* mustard yellow so I knew I would love it and not really care if it suited me or not. A great thing about it is it seems to be slightly cropped in the length and the length of the sleeves which is fantastic news for me as I have pretty short arms and often need jackets that I know I can roll the sleeves up on and not look ridiculous. But there's been no need for such shenanigans with this yellow number and it is such a nice piece to wear with all black outfits to give it a different edge (which I need because as much as I love the goth life, I can't deal with wearing all black when my hair is black too - I just can't do it anymore. Am I getting old?!). It also gives girly pieces a bit of edge too so I just through it on with my fave silky number that fits like a glove and my shiniest Gucci wannabe shoes.

Zara Faux Leather Jacket | New Look Petite Slip Dress |
Topshop Suede Shopper (similar) | Asos Silver Loafers (currently sold out but similar here)

- A.
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Taxidermy for Beginners

After asking you guys over on Twitter if you'd like a post on a recent course I attended, and after a sizeable response, I thought I'd throw together this wee post on Taxidermy for total beginners as some of you curious cats were interested in just *what* on earth you do to create taxidermy. So last weekend, Matt & I attended a beginners taxidermy course with Mabel Edwards who has been in the taxidermy business for the last 4 years. Matt had found out about the course by chance so we quickly snapped up some tickets for the 4-hour session at the Winchester Discovery Centre and I was super excited. I'm really interested in taxidermy and like collecting but the thought of making my own? It had never crossed my mind. I knew it would be a fiddly job that you needed patience for which, as someone who enjoys creating art, I thought I could handle but even if I have to prepare raw meat for cooking I will freak out about touching it a whole deal. So the idea of cutting up and gutting an animal in order to stuff it? I didn't know if I would cope with it but it turns out - I found it fascinating!

The 4-hour course was led by Mabel and she instructed and guided us through the process from start to finish. The class of 10 were an eager group and we all came into the room to see a little white mouse laid out in front of each seat with a scalpel and some tweezers nearby. In just 4 hours, we would take our mice from frozen ex-pet shop snake bait to a fully mounted taxidermy. So I'm going to talk through my experience, briefly what we did, and if I'd recommend the experience. Before I kick things off though, I should mention a couple of things: the taxidermy course and of course the mice used were completely ethically sourced. They were mice that were frozen to become food for the snakes in the store but instead were used for this - giving them a second life if you want to look at it that way! And secondly, I've purposefully not included any "gory" or bloody photographs for those of you who may be squeamish. Saying that though, there *is* going to be a couple of photographs of the mouse skin without it's innings, it's skin turned inside out and yep you guessed it, a photograph of a dead animal. So now that I've warned you, please carry on scrolling and reading only if you wish!

So first of all, we needed to tackle the little frozen fella. Using a scalpel, we cut an incision down the back of the mouse and had to de-skin it. It was strange - I was expecting this to be a lot more gory and grotesque than it was. It was quite clean to do. We all had medical gloves on but Mabel pointed out that she often chooses to work gloveless as as long as you wash your hands once you're done, there's nothing to worry about. The only downside to this part of the process was the smell of some of the mice. Overall it was a clean job but as some people had pushed a little too hard with their scalpel, they had nicked the innards and therefore had caused the insides of the mouse to leak a little and start to smell! Some members of the class found this harder to deal with than others but I honestly thought the smell was bearable. If you've ever had cooked meat stored in the fridge for a couple of days and then opened the tupperware - yeah, the smell is like that just a little stronger. Once the skin felt pretty loose, we had to cut the legs and arms off to keep the lower joints intact for stuffing later and we also had to decapitate the head to keep it looking as realistic as possible.

This was the longest part of the whole process as once we had totally removed the organs inside the mouse, we then had to make sure what we planning to stuff was as clean as possible too. By using the tweezers, we had to pick and scrape the inside of the skin to make sure no fat was attached. The skull also needed all of the fat and "gooey" bits like the eyes and cheeks removed so they wouldn't rot inside of the skin. By using some basic cleaning agents and the scalpel/tweezers, this was done in no time and next we washed and dried the skin, ready for stuffing! After a quick soak and swim in some water and washing up liquid and a quick blast with the hairdryer to fluff the little rascals up, we were ready to make the body and get them mounted.

As you can see, my little guy had lost his tail during the previous processes. The tail bone needed to be removed and the skin is much more delicate around the tale/anus area of the mouse so my heavy handedness caused it to all to snap off completely. The beauty with making a taxidermy mouse though is there seems to be very few mistakes during the course of making it that can't be rectified, so the tail could be added later. The first job once the mouse was fresh and clean was to give the little fella some eyes again. With some poly-filler and some black beads, this was a quick and easy job whilst the skin was turned inside out. We then simply needed to carefully push the skull back into the skin (the muzzle was still attached to make this easy) and the arms and legs also needed to be put the right way around again. Once back to "normal" we needed to make the body. Just out of shot of all of the photos, we had the organs/general insides left out on a paper towel. Sounds gross, but this was purely to help us get an idea of what size body we needed to create for our mice as obviously no two mice would be the same! We then began wrapping cotton thread tightly around cotton balls to get a realistic body. It was a simple job of getting the right size and shape by adding more and more cotton until it looked about right. Then, just using some craft wire, we wrapped it around the body to mimic arms and legs and now we needed to add the skin.

This was by far the most frustrating part for me. Getting the wires to feed through the limbs so you could pose the mouse was so fiddly and after 3 hours of nonstop making this little guy, I was quickly losing my patience. I finally cracked it though and all that was left was to sew up the back incision we have made at the start and then mount the mice! When I first thought about going to the course, I was convinced I wanted to make something realistic and not give the mouse cheesy props or poses but when I realised what I created was far from perfect (some areas of the skin tore, my sewing could have been better, the mount could have been neater etc. etc.) I figured I'd just have fun with it as I knew I wasn't going to keep it. So naturally, I rummaged through a box of goodies that could be added to my wee mouse - a bowler hat, a mini vacuum cleaner, a little book... But I settled on some bowling pins and a bowling ball...

And there we have it! As you can see I wasn't too careful by the end of the class. I didn't really mount it properly and I made zero effort to hide the wires in the limbs. By the end of the class I was quite tired and hadn't necessarily lost interest, but I had lost concentration. If you're someone who is interested in taxidermy or you're quite up for trying something new and different, I'd really recommend a class like this. I found it really insightful, it has made me think even more highly of taxidermists as I never truly realised how time-consuming and precise it all is, and it was also a great learning curve that others are intrigued to hear about. Although I didn't end up keeping my little guy because he was far from perfect, I do feel like I could always make one again myself in my own time because I understand what skills are involved now; it's just a matter of practice makes perfect. This class has also convinced me I would love to do a bird taxidermy class (although they are supposed to be much harder to do), and of course, a bug mounting course is high on the list now too. For £60, you have the opportunity to not only make your own taxidermy but to keep it too which is an absolute bargain in my opinion! We also got a free glass of G&T out of it too and it was a unique way to spend our afternoon.

If you've enjoyed this post please let me know as taxidermy is a big big interest of mine that I just don't talk about enough on NB!

- A.
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Blogging Made Me Buy It

When it comes to beauty and skin care, blogging and YouTube has 110% responsibility for a lot of my purchases. Whereas when I was younger, you found out about the latest makeup releases and what the best moisturisers were either via TV adverts or in the beauty magazines, now we can do a quick search about specific products and within minutes, we can have hundreds of hits to choose from that will give us swatches, opinions, and in-depth reviews from real people with a face and personality. As much as this is a great thing we kind of take for granted now, it has definitely been the catalyst for a lot of my spending. I honestly believe that if I didn't enjoy reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, I wouldn't own half of the things I do - especially when it comes to the beauty world.

Although I may spend a lot more and own a lot more stuff because of blogging/vlogging, it has meant I've experimented more and stepped out of my comfort zone when it comes to makeup so I thought it would be a great idea to talk about some of the products that have come into my life because of their popularity in the blogging/YouTube community and discuss what products I think have been worth the hype and what has been a waste of money. Of course others might think some of these products are fantastic or garbage, but I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my hits and misses from a selection of popular "blogger faves" that no doubt we've all considered buying or actually have, all thanks to the online beauty world.

Nivea Men Post Shave Balm

Some Good Things:
- La Roche Posay Serozinc Spray | £8.5o -
I love this stuff. I've raved about this product on NB a couple of times before but it has honestly become a staple in my morning and evening skincare routine. This stuff is great for those who are oily, who suffer with acne, and those who are just a little bit lost when it comes to toners, face sprays etc. It has taken a while to notice any benefits from this product, but I genuinely believe the fact that I can wear my makeup all day for work - from 6am til 6pm most days - and I never have to touch up (compared to Amy pre Sero Zinc who would have to blot/powder every 2 hours) is solely down to this product here. It keeps my skin matte and it has helped control even the bad breakouts from getting out of hand.

- Nivea Men Post Shave Balm | £5.35 - Ah, the primer that no one saw coming. This stuff burst onto the online beauty scene and due to how affordable it is, everyone and their next door neighbour picked up a bottle because one or two people on YouTube said it was the bees knees. For me, it was after I had watched Kathleen Lights put it through the test and saw that her makeup still looked beautiful after several hours of wear that convinced me I may as well just see what all the fuss was about. Although I don't love it as much as my The Body Shop's Instablur and I don't seem to love it as much as some others online, I do really really like this product and think it's an absolute steal for the price point and the amount of product you get. I've seen the driest skinned girls praise this and I've seen (and been) one of the oiliest skinned girls to rave about this so I think it's the best hype there's been in a long time because I'm pretty sure everyone can and should try it.

- Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water | £4.99 - Micellar water used to be a more "exclusive" thing as Bioderma seemed to be the only brand that really had one (a stupidly successful one that is). Fast forward to the last couple of years though and pretty much every high street and high end brand popped one out and suddenly we were all spending silly money on bottles of water that promised to remove all our makeup and the dirt and grime of everyday life. Like every other blogger out there, I've tested my fair share or brands when it comes to this type of product, but one that gets the hype it deserves is the Garnier one. I use this stuff every evening to remove the majority of my makeup before I cleanse and I don't think I'll ever look back. Although I actually prefer the Nivea one as it leaves my skin feeling heavenly to the touch (read about the different micellar cleansers I've tried, here), Garnier's huge 400ml bottle for a really affordable price is why I repurchase it again and again. They also now do this original one in a whopping 700ml bottle and do a range of different ones for sensitive to dry skin but this is always the one I will go back to.

La Roche Posay and Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

- The Beauty Blender | £16.oo - If you had talked to me a couple of years ago and suggested that I would depend so heavily on a sponge in my day to day life, I would have thought you were having a laugh. Now though? I legit would tear the house down if I didn't have my beauty blender each morning. In a world of thousands of different brand sponges now and an even larger range of knock-offs and dupes, the beauty blender is still the number one for me. Nothing makes my makeup look as flawless yet natural as this does and thank the beauty gods I took the plunge and purchased one again and again.

- The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer | £17.49 - Highlighters are another thing that have blogging, social media and YouTube to thank for their popularity. I've been suckered into buying a million of them just like everyone else but the ultimate one that always lives up to the hype is Mary Lou. This champagney slightly gold highlight works on so many skin tones, gives a gorgeous glow and shimmer to the cheeks and is my go-to when I want either a natural or intense highlight as it's so buildable. The Balm are a great brand in general that I would never have heard of if it wasn't for blogging so thanks again, internet, for making me buy it.

- Real Techniques Bold Metals | £12 - £22 each - Although I do love these brushes, I think it has a lot to do with the aesthetic of them. Real Techniques are yet again, another great brand who's success might have only a little to do with the online beauty community, but their bold metals collection sales is definitely down to it. These brushes are really love to use - they're weighted, they give a little bit of luxury to a drugstore brand however they are quite expensive for drugstore quality brushes. If they didn't look so beautiful in my makeup pots, and if I hadn't have received the couple I have as gifts after I never stopped asking for them, I think they would have remained in the shop! I do use them every single day though so in the long run, they have certainly been worth every penny.

Bourjois Paris and The Balm

Some Bad Things:
- NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick | £6.5o -
I've posted about these before on NB but every time I use them, I like them less and less. The colour range of these lippies are great and I especially love the grey shade, but the formula is just not good. NYX is easily one of my favourite beauty brands but I wish I had never bought these suede liquid lips. The Soft Mattes and the Lingerie ranges are great and certainly worth the hype but these ones are just too thick, tacky, and not comfortable to wear as I feel like they never dry down. A clue might be in the name as I honestly can say they do feel like suede - suede when it's accidentally been rained on and has started to go all bitty and starts to shed? Yep, that's what it feels like. On you lips. I think these were definitely a purchase that was just wrapped up in the "NYX is now available in Boots" hype on the net.

- Urban Decay Naked Palettes | £38.5o each - This has got to be one of the ultimate hyped up products in the online beauty world. The Naked eyeshadow palettes were the first and only eyeshadow palettes I can remember ever being so highly coveted by almost everyone. When the first, original palette was released I'm pretty sure it went out of stock in more stores and more times than I can count but for good reason. This palette was full of such wearable eyeshadows that would suit a range of skin tones and personal makeup styles - not to mention the shadows were incredibly pigmented and buttery compared to so many others around on the market at the time. As you can see, I don't hate these palettes at all, but they are *so* expensive. At almost £4o for 12 eyeshadows, I think that price is pretty steep and there's a great range of other palettes out now that are amazing dupes for these guys in pigmentation, formula and colour range. I tend to reach for the W7 dupe versions more than my two Naked palettes because they're just as good and a fraction of the price to replace. These aren't necessarily a regret purchase, but I really wish I had just waited a couple of months and picked up various dupes instead.

- Bourjois Delice de Poudre Bronzing Powder | £7.99 - Bourjois are another great brand and when this bronzer was released, everyone on YouTube was raving about it. Promising that it smelt of chocolate, I think every chocoholic flooded Boots and Superdrug to slap it on their faces. But honestly? It doesn't smell like chocolate but it does apply like it. I find this bronzer *so* incredibly muddy to use as it goes on patchy and never truly blends into the skin well which is a shame because I feel like the colour is pretty good for most skin tones to use. The packaging isn't the best either and if everyone of YouTube hadn't loved it for all of 5 minutes, I definitely would have left it on the store shelf.

What products have you loved and loathed as a result of the beauty blogging world?

- A.
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