February Empties

This is a very Nivea-heavy post, for some reason!

Soap and Glory Scrub Your Nose in It

Soap and Glory Scrub Your Nose in It, 125ml

Soap and Glory’s Scrub Your Nose in It is a minty, bright green scrub and exfoliating mask – you can use it just as a normal scrub, or leave it on longer for a mask. This is a really nice product, and one that’s lasted me nearly a year, with a good 6 months of twice weekly scrubs and once a week full-face mask. It’s very very scrubby, so not good for those with sensitive skin, but I like a rougher scrub so that I feel like it’s cleansing! This suffered in comparison to St Ives’ Apricot Scrub, which has become my Holy Grail scrub for normal use, and so for the last few months this has been used just for masks. I’m not sure that it’s “pore-refining” or whether I’ve looked “more radiant”, but it is a nice exfoliator. I got this in the big Christmas bundle (The “Pink Big” Tote) in 2010, which I paid £25 for. A tube of this currently retails at £7.50. I probably wouldn’t buy this again, because I like St Ives much better, and it’s half the price.

Nivea Soft, 200ml

Nivea Soft, 200ml

I was given this by my mum, who was on the search for a new moisturiser, and bought this only to discover that she couldn’t stand the smell. To me, it just smells clean – there’s a slight baby powder-ish smell, but nothing too strong. This isn’t a very exciting moisturiser, but it gets things done. I liked it, but I prefer a thicker body butter (or even the original dark blue Nivea cream), while this was like a very thick body lotion in a pot. I wouldn’t buy it again, but it wasn’t bad. This is currently in Boots for £4.28.

Nivea Essential Care Lip Balm, 4.8g

Nivea Essential Care Lip Balm, 4.8g

This is one of the lip balms I got in this set in September, and I’ve just used it up today. This was my least favourite of the four, because after about three weeks of use, the texture of it changed completely, from a solid lip balm to a squidgy Vaseline-type texture, which meant that it couldn’t really be used as a stick balm, but had to be applied by dabbing. I always got too much, which I think is why I’ve used this one up first! I didn’t like this at all (and I used the last centimetre or so as heel cream!) and I wouldn’t recommend it, but no other Nivea balm I’ve ever had has done that, so it might just be a funny one. I got this as part of a 4 for £4 deal, but on its own this sells for £1.65.

Nivea Happy Time Shower Cream, 250ml

Nivea Happy Time Shower Cream, 250ml

I picked Happy Time up along with Free Time when searching for a new shower gel, and all Nivea body wash was £1 in Boots. Although I adore Orange Blossom scents, I found this one rather lacklustre, more orange squash than sunny Mediterranean landscape. I much prefer Free Time, which has a very intriguing green smell. I also think I prefer a clear shower gel to a creamy one, just for feeling cleaner (which is silly). I would happily use this again for £1, but perhaps not for £1.95, its usual price – it’s still on offer at Boots at the moment, but I’ve got plenty of shower gel at the moment!

What’s the best shower gel scent you’ve tried? I really like Lush’s Flying Fox for an evening shower, but I need something citrus or minty for the morning to wake me up!

Asha x

The Owl Reads!

Behold! Even though it’s term time, I managed to finish two books in the last week! Mini reviews up ahead.

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Green Rider – Kristen Britain
The Curse of Chalion – Lois McMaster Bujold

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

I originally picked this up in a spree in Blackwells, just because I was browsing the sci-fi/fantasy section and this book was so, so pretty! Just look at it! It’s taken me over a year to get to this; I think I bought it early in second year.

Karigan G’ladheon always seemed to be getting into a fight, and today was no exception. But as she trudged through the forest, using her long walk home to contemplate her depressing future, a horse burst through the woodland and charged straight for her. The rider was slumped over his mount’s neck with two arrows embedded in his back. Wherever his horse was taking him, he would be dead long before they got there… Karigan may be unable to save him, but she can swear to complete his final quest… [excerpt from blurb]

Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the gorgeous cover. It’s a sweet story, yes, but I’m still not sure if it was intended to be a YA fantasy or not (Goodreads and Wikipedia haven’t enlightened me!). I really don’t think that being YA fantasy is a bad thing – I loved Graceling and Poison Study recently, to name a couple – but Green Rider felt quite childish in its plot developments. I never really felt connected to Karigan, so it failed for me as a character-driven novel, but there was such light information about the Green Riders that it didn’t draw me in with the setting either. I felt the world was very lightly sketched, and no development had been done outside Karigan’s immediate situation – while I hate info-dumps on the magic system/the current king/etc, there are so many ways that the reader can learn about a world through the journeys of the characters.

I did enjoy Green Rider: it was a nice little fantasy. But it didn’t live up to expectations, nor to its more grown-up cover.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

I was lent this by a friend, as a good place to get started with one of his favourite authors. As with Green Rider, I enjoyed it for what it was, but I couldn’t help but compare it unfavourably to Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson – and believe me, in that company, it definitely comes off quite shabbily.

Lord Cazaril has been in turn courtier, castle-warder and captain; now he is but a crippled ex-galley slave seeking nothing more than a menial job in the kitchens of the Dowager Provincara, the noble patroness of his youth. But Cazaril finds himself promote to the exalted and dangerous position of secretary-tutor to Iselle, the beautiful, fiery sister of the heir to Chalion’s throne… [excerpt from blurb]

This is a fantasy focused more on court intrigue and religion than on traditional magic, which was very interesting. Unfortunately, the intrigue wasn’t enormously intriguing – I found myself hating the wilful, beautiful princess Iselle, simply because she was intended as nothing but “Wow, a feisty, sensible princess who eventually solves all the problems of the kingdom and never has to deal with being sold off into an advantageous marriage, because she marries for love and peace. Yay, feminism!” I just felt like she was so untouchable as to be unbelievable.

This book reminded me enormously of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, which I’m going to lend to said friend in return, if he hasn’t read it. Now there is an instrumental princess, wrapped up in court intrigue and religion, who seems real. She is used as a pawn, forced into contact with destiny and the gods, and never manages to lose her humanity – but she struggles, instead of birds helping her get dressed in the morning.

Cazaril himself, the main character, I had no real objections to, but I didn’t find him as compelling as he could have been. He, too, had a sort of overcoming-struggles-to-be-the-chosen-one storyline, which apart from being predictable, he managed not to really react to. I think that maybe I just don’t click with the author’s style of characterisation, because I just found everyone a bit Stoic and samey. I like some grit and some crushing despair in my chosen ones. Otherwise it’s just wish fulfilment.

Another pet hate: renaming court positions for no real reason. I didn’t like ‘ser’ in ASOIAF, and I don’t like ‘roya, royina, royse, royesse’ here. They are exactly the same as ‘king, queen, prince, princess’, so why bother renaming them? If you’ve invented a new hierarchy, brilliant. If not, you just sound like you’re trying too hard to exoticise your setting.

Well, that review sounds a little harsher than I intended. I did enjoy this. I’m just baffled as to how it can be held in competition with the masters of the genre (Rothfuss, finish The Doors of Stone!), when it would be much happier next to Eddings and Lackey. Lovely, but not as deep as it thinks it is.

If you’ve read either of these, what did you think? What’s your favourite fantasy novel?

Asha x

Vaudevillian ravings…

Last weekend, Boyfriend and I and several of our more dapper friends headed to the Vaudeville Rave, which I mentioned briefly in this post. The Vaudeville Rave is a steampunk-historical-burlesque sort of event, like a pop-up nightclub for people who prefer lindyhop to Gangnam Style and murderous space pirates to Rihanna.

The theme for this event was Bright Young Things, based on the film (which itself is based on Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies). Now, most of my friends interpreted this as 1920s (although the book takes places over several decades), which posed a small problem for me. I am very proud of my hourglass figure, and the flapper style just doesn’t suit me. Without any hint of a waist, 1920s party dresses just look like sacks on me.

Not great on this tiny model – not great on me.

So obviously that option was out. I would just have felt uncomfortable. Luckily, however, the Vaudeville Rave is much more pan-historical than that, and so I settled for this:

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The best of a selection of terrible faces!

A long velvet skirt with a blue and black brocade corset. Much more me, much more comfortable (apart from the sitting down bit!) and I definitely fit in with the be-corseted masses at the Rave.

I also took the opportunity to put my hair up in small victory rolls (not too big, because there would be dancing!) just as a two-fingers-up to the Twenties theme: 1940s, please! (Hopefully Boyfriend and I will be heading to the Blitz Party in London soon…)

A slightly more blurry but up close view of my rolls.

A slightly more blurry but up close view of my rolls.

The Rave itself was at a local club in Oxford, a venue which didn’t work so well as the previous location, a big event space for gigs and dances – but that has since been turned into a ‘Christian Life Centre’… Not so helpful. This Rave took place over three floors, with the basement and ground floor being dancefloors with DJs playing all sorts of swing and generally decent music, and the top floor being home to a selection of weird activities:

Some of my friends swing dancing

Some of my friends swing dancing

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Fortune-telling room

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The mysterious ‘boudoir’

The boys (and some of the girls) were 'measured for suits' (ie, stripped) in the Out of Time Tailors...

The boys (and some of the girls) were ‘measured for suits’ (ie, stripped) in the Out of Time Tailors…

All photos taken by the beautiful Alice Young, except the ones of the tailors, Ashes O’Reilly and  my outfit.

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We were given poker chips on entering, to spend on the sideshows – I found a useful storage space!

The most exciting part of the night, though, was the set the Mechanisms did at midnight, showcasing their new material. The Mechanisms are a band of immortal space pirates who travel the universe in their ship, the Aurora, and occasionally do really awesome gigs. Go check out their website for more information about their space-folk brilliance – they’re currently working on producing their second album, which is going to be even better than the first, from the looks of it.

The event organisers had planned their set rather poorly, only giving them an acoustic set and not enough space to swing an octokitten, so it was very difficult to hear the new songs, but on their older material, the audience definitely helped out by singing-yelling all the lyrics. These guys are damned catchy, partly because they use a lot of sea shanties and old drinking songs in their music, and so it’s easy to pick up the tunes. One of my favourites, ‘Drunk Space Pirate’ is obviously to the tune of ‘The Drunken Sailor’, but the newly invented punishments are hilarious, and the chorus is something beautiful, with the wistfulness of ‘distant stars awaiting’ replacing the prosaic ‘early in the morning’.

The darkness of the venue meant I only got a couple of good pictures of the band playing, but they are good… They are an attractive bunch of people, and I’m not just saying that because they’re holding a gun to my head.

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Marius von Raum, the ship’s medic.

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Ashes O’Reilly, the quartermaster.

So, definitely check the band out, and if you’re in the area the next time a Vaudeville Rave night happens, come along. Keep an eye on their website here. It’s a lot more fun that your standard club night, by a very long way!

Asha x

Disclaimer: I am not in the pay of the Vaudeville Rave or the Mechanisms. I just had a really great night!

Also, thanks very much to Alice for the photos!

Tea.2!

So, I’ve come to the slightly crushing conclusion that week on week, month on month, my most popular post so far was about my tea stash. More than half of all the search terms that lead to my blog are variations on ‘lord nelson tea’ or even ‘oxford owl nelson tea’, so it’s obviously what I’ve become known for… Well, here’s an update!

Over the summer and last term, I actually managed to whittle the stash down to just a couple of boxes – Twinings Camomile, Apple and Cinnamon, and their assorted mint box. Then came the bug disaster. I don’t know what happened. Maybe something got wet. Maybe it was a bad lot of tea. But suddenly, all my tea was infested with tiny, horrible bugs.

That was a bad day. I was in the middle of writing an essay, and found myself tea-less – I panicked, but a friend from college saved the day by popping round with a dozen or so teabags from his excessive stash, which was incredibly kind!

Anyway, for one reason or another, there’s nothing left of my original stash! In fact, I once again ran out of tea entirely, depending only on a few single packets of Twinings Earl Grey taken from a hotel room… But luckily, Boyfriend came to my rescue, and started me back on the stashing path…

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Quite a bit more brand loyalty, this time!

He brought me some staple English Breakfast tea, and a little selection pack with five of each kind of Twinings’ bestsellers, for a little variety: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, Assam, and Ceylon. I really like teas that can be drunk black, because I’m not very good at remembering to buy milk…

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I promptly drank all the Lady Grey (a favourite, and the Twinings blend is perfect) and

was tempted to venture out for some more. While in Tesco, perusing, I spotted this interesting pink box…

Very cute, I thought, especially since I have a bit of an obsession with all things rose-flavoured. So I bought that too, and bam! An instant new favourite.

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This is a very fragrant tea: you can smell the rose as you drink, which is lovely. I find it quite calming, and I seem to have gone through about half the box in the last week. It’s definitely become my go-to favourite for a long day at my desk. This was £2.30 for 20 teabags in Tesco, it might be cheaper elsewhere, but I think it’s certainly worth it. And of course, let me know what you think!

 

And in the meantime, can anyone recommend any other good rose-flavoured things, food or beauty? I can’t get enough!

Asha x

 

My shopping week!

So, to start, a Primark haul:

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I’ve been longing for some floaty little tops to see me into spring, with skinny jeans and a cardigan. The flowery one was £8, and the typewriter one was £12, but because there was a makeup stain on the collar in the only size 10 left, they kindly did it for £9. I bought these on Saturday, but forgot that, being see-through and all, I might need a cami to put under them…

…and what do you know, I was forced to return to Primark yesterday to get one.

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On the bottom right you can see the little cream cami I needed (£3)… Plus two new pyjama vests (£2.50 each), two belts with pretty baroque detailing (£2 for two) and a petrol blue floaty shirt, which was reduced to £5 (but miraculously still had a size 10)!

I didn’t, however, find any ballet pumps I liked, which was what I was looking for in the first place. I really, really need a new pair of flats, mine have literally got holes in the toes, because I’m so picky I can never find any I like.

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I also popped into Lush to see if there were any Valentine’s products left, and picked up the Dusk til Dawn massage bar (the funny pointy one, £4.95 but there might not be any left by now!). It smells like a dark citrus, if that makes sense? It’s not brash and cheerful, but quite deep… I also picked up an Avobath (£3.20), having been convinced by the lovely Georgia that it made a good bath cocktail with Rose Jam… I’ll report back!

DSCF0062On Saturday night Boyfriend and I and a few of our friends went to the Vaudeville Rave, which is a sort of steampunk/dapper nightclub party night that is held every so often in Oxford (more on that later, including an outfit post!). Playing at the Rave were The Mechanisms, an incredible steampunk band that is made up of some of my best friends. For some reason I’d never picked up their first album, so I grabbed that for the low, low price of £4 and a promise of some cake to the band members. If you want to check them out, go have a listen to their stuff here, and if you really like them, go support their Indiegogo for their second album here.

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It wouldn’t be a shopping post without a book, and here is A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo, which I’ve been wanting to read for ages. I spotted it in The Last Bookshop, which sells everything for £2, so even better!

DSCF0087And finally, we come to my favourite thing I’ve bought this week: Revlon’s Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic, a very bright red (I think it was £6.99). I’d seen these everywhere on the internet, being raved about in comparison to the Clinique Chubby Stick, and I have to say, I’m very impressed! It’s a little more orangey than I’d like: I prefer a blue-red because my teeth aren’t very white, but it looks incredible, stays put for ages, is very moisturising and is so so easy to apply, even without a mirror. I’ve worn it everyday since Saturday and I’m in love with it! I want Crush and Adore, too, now.

That’s my haul for the week, then. Did you get anything nice?

Asha x

Lush Stash Part One

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A small showcase of my Lush obsession… Today, soaps!

Clockwise from top left:

Ice Blue x2: This was my total favourite, but it’s discontinued! Boyfriend and I managed to pick up quite a bit of it from eBay, and I have I think three more pieces at home? This is what I have in college, anyway. It’s a light, spearminty refreshing scent, perfect for summer mornings. It’s not very foamy, but it does make you feel very clean. 10/10

Mr Punch: One of 2012’s Christmas soaps, this is a fruity, gin-soaked soap that is really relaxing, but doesn’t do very much for me… Again, being more transparent, it foams up much less than the creamy ones – not a problem, but I find the scent a bit blah, so it’s not very exciting. This has the horrible tendency to drip bright pink everywhere, which means it falls a bit in my estimation. 5/10

Sultana of Soap: I got a free sample of this as part of a recycling scheme, so that was pretty cool. I chose it because it’s one I’ve always ignored in store, before, as a bit boring. This is really creamy, and it disappears really quickly – it’s melting here just from my taking it out of its box! The scent is a lot stronger than some of the other soaps, and it lasts quite a long time. I find it quite floral, and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming – I have a piece of it by the sink, and find it very noticeable. Definitely smell it before you buy. 5/10

White North Pole x2: This is the closest to Ice Blue I’ve seen them get since discontinuing it: unfortunately, it’s also limited edition, from Christmas 2012! This is a really comforting mint, less zingy than Blue, but it’s just as nice. Not as creamy as Sultana, but still very moisturising. 9/10

Snow Globe: My final piece of 2012 Christmas soap, I picked this up half-price in the sale online. It’s much more lemon scented than I was expecting, I think I expected more mint, but I like the scent. I haven’t tested this one yet… 7/10

Honey I Washed The Kids x2: Wow, I love this one. It’s the best selling soap from Lush, and it’s easy to see why. It smells absolutely delicious, like toffee and orange and sugar, and it’s soft and creamy. Once, I had a friend over for coffee, and this by the sink, and she came back from washing her hands cradling this bar of soap, whispering ‘I love this, what is it?’ So you can guess what she got for her birthday! This is my favourite of all the current Lush soaps! 10/10

Next time, would you prefer to see my face and body products, or my bath stuff?