Friday, 30 August 2013

So lets talk about hair....

I don't think I've posted anything about my hair really. As you may have noticed from my little avatar, my hair has changed quite dramatically.

In April, whilst finishing my MSc, I decided I'd had enough of the long black locks I'd been sporting for some time, and what I actually craved was my natural hair colour whatever that might be.

 I didn't start out wanting to change the length. It sort of became, erm, necessary at a point in the process.

I decided that the best course of action would be to strip the colour out as much as possible, then lighten it with bleach and slap on a decent toner to try and approximate my natural hair colour, or at least something quite close.

I had a hunt around and ordered this stuff:

Which is basically a colour remover. I've used them before, and they work ok, but not that well on dark hair. They work by shrinking the pigment molecules to a size where they can escape the hair shaft - the other thing the process does is open the cuticles up to allow that to happen.

I used this stuff three times. And went from this:

This is my work photo!
to this:

Which was sort of an improvement. You can almost see my roots at my parting, all nice and light!

Actually, I think this might have even been AFTER a liberal application of bleach. It did virtually nothing the first time. The pigment just wasn't going to budge. I took the decision to do the only thing possible, cut it all off.

And so The Beard was instructed to pick up the shears and give me a new hairstyle. Which is what he did, whilst simultaneously terrified. This is what I got:

It was really short. Shorter than I have ever had my hair before! (crikey look at the scarring on my face... this was about 3 weeks before I started using hyaluron and acid exfoliators, the difference is incredible). There may even have been more bleach after this, which caused a slight unevenness in colour.

A couple of days later, after giving my hair a well deserved rest, I bought some dark ash blonde dye and used that to even it all up. I haven't touched the colour since. Most of it has grown out to my natural colour, as I've had 2 haircuts since April. This is now:

(I'm loving my new foundation btw, MAC Studio Sculpt in NW20. Its one of my favourite foundations anyway and it really really suits my skin with the skincare regime I'm following right now)

Give it another few months and it'll be 100% my natural hair colour. Which will look dark blonde on camera, but its actually quite light. My hair has never really photographed well!
I use a purple shampoo to keep the slight orangey tint (I never did get all the dye out) under control, and I use a conditioner designed to maintain the colour of blonde hair.

And so far I've had no desire to dye it ever again! The length is much easier to deal with and I love the asymmetry of having it short on one side and long on the other.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Experimenting with Quitting Sugar

Recently I discovered the blog of Sarah Wilson, journalist, TV personality, former editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, and author of I Quit Sugar. As the title of her book suggests, nearly 3 years ago she quit sugar. And now I'm going to follow her 8 week plan to quit the stuff myself. 

Actually I won't be quitting all sugar. That would be pretty impossible (and not good for me!)! The body needs glucose, it is the main source of energy. But the stuff that you might put in your tea, or sprinkle on your cereal, or put in your cake, is made up of both glucose and fructose. It isn't the glucose that is the problem, it is the fructose. Which is also found in high concentrations in many fruits. 

Why is fructose a problem I hear you ask? The majority of people who I've told I'm quitting sugar and therefore don't eat fruit say "but fruit is healthy sugar". 

Well yes fruit is healthy, to a point. It is full of vitamins, which is great, but in most fruits, that is accompanied by a lot of fructose. The thing is, fructose doesn't stimulate insulin production, which in turn means that the hunger hormone isn't switched off, and the satiated hormone isn't switched off. So the presence of fructose in food means we can't tell when we've had enough. On top of all this, fructose converts directly into fats, which the body then stores. 

So, while fructose itself might be lower in calories, its effect on the body is the opposite of what we want. And yet a lot of companies use fructose as an alternative to sucrose in low fat foods and drinks!

Initially, I will be cutting all fruit from my diet. Which in reality for me means cutting out like 1 portion of the stuff. I'm really not a natural fruit eater. Can't remember ever being one! My natural preference is for less sweet fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, if I eat them at all. But if I can't have sweet fruit I'm not that bothered. I'm quite happy munching on tomatoes and cucumber, peppers and other savoury fruits, which contain far less fructose.

Why would I want to do this?
For me the answer is pretty straightforward. There is a link between sugar consumption and hormones, and mine are a little bit all over the place. I'm still trying to stabilise my skin, and I've come to the point that I need to look at my diet. There are studies that show that fructose can cause skin problems, and these are more likely in women than in men. 
Quitting sugar is just one change I am making (and I will talk about the other changes later), but I hope it will be a successful one. 
Secondary to this is my desire to lose the kilos I've put back on this summer, which has in part been down to sugar consumption, and I'd like to do it before we go on holiday in October. If I can shift just 3kgs by then I'll be happy.

How am I going to do this?

First off, I have bought Sarah Wilson's book containing her 8 week plan, I Quit Sugar. I chose her plan out of all those out there because I like her writing style, and her honesty about the downs as well as the ups. She doesn't come across as preachy, just as a normal woman seeking balance and a better life, and if you read her blog, she isn't afraid to tell it when it all feels awful. In short, she seems very normal and I like that refreshing honesty. 

I've had a quick skim through it, and so far I can tell that I will be able to go straight to week 2, as I've been on a relatively low sugar diet for nearly 2 years now. I had a bit of an 'aha' moment today when I realised that one of the successes of Slimming World for me was the reduction in sugar. 
I don't take sugar in my hot drinks, I drink sugar free soft drinks and I have hardly touched fruit juice in 2 years. So far so good. I just need to go that extra mile and get to the point where my sugar intake is consistently on or below the recommended 6 tablespoons (approximately 24g of sugar).
In theory I shouldn't go through any horrendous withdrawal, and I've already started with some of the suggestions she has for week 2, which is eating more good fat, like avocado and olive oil.

My intention is to blog my progress at the end of every week, but I may do more, if the mood takes me. I don't want to put any pressure on myself to write posts at particular times or record my thoughts, because knowing myself, that isn't going to work.
This challenge is going to be a real test of will power for me, but I'm hopeful that I can break my remaining bad habits, and forge a new, healthier life for myself. Thankfully giving up alcohol is not necessary, but I do need to make some adjustments to the way I drink, and hooray, beer doesn't contain fructose!

The one thing I don't want to do is tell myself I can never have sugar again. That sure as hell isn't going to work for me! But I want to reserve it for special occasions, like Christmas (I'm not giving up my Christmas puddings - there is no way to make a fructose free one!), or the odd cider as a treat. But that is what they shall remain. I'm working on a way to make cakes and biscuits that will be fructose free, thankfully sourcing some suitable sugar (dextrose) is easy enough.

I think my only downfall will be cocktails. I love love love cocktails, and many contain sugar laden fruit juice. My natural preference is for sour cocktails, or low fructose fruit ones, like Daiquiris, or Mojitos, or Caprinhas (yes, I know they all contain big heaps of sugar in them), which makes like a little easier, but tonic water will be my toughest challenge. Sugar free versions are impossible to find in Austria (although artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulphame potassium aren't exactly fantastic for you for other reasons, when it comes to the no fructose thing, they are on the side of ok) which must suck if you're diabetic, but evidently there are not a lot of diabetic tonic drinkers in this fair country. The solution to this may be making my own tonic water, if I can find powdered quinine somewhere, then I can replace the sugar with dextrose or stevia. 

This is a whole new direction for me. I've spent years trying really hard to be good to the outside of my body, and moderately good to the inside of my body, but now it is time to really kick it up a notch.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Early autumn pattern mixing

Today the weather was decidedly gloomy, although I'm rather loving the cool air! But it still isn't cool enough for jeans at around 17 degrees so I'm struggling a little with transitional clothing! Its quite fun shopping my own wardrobe though :)

Today I felt like wearing a skirt and leggings. I bought this skirt back at the beginning of the summer and I don't think I've ever worn it with my boots, which is why I bought it in the first place!

Skirt from H&M, Boots by Doc Marten

It was the perfect opportunity to try something different with my Mango Leopard Print t shirt that I bought in the summer. I love it, it is very soft, and the slight sheerness is lovely, but the shape is a little tricky on my - with baggy trousers it looks great but with skinny jeans it doesn't work. So I thought it might work with the slightly voluminous nature of this skirt, and I was right!

Blazer from Forever 21 (about 3 years ago), t shirt from Mango

I topped it off with my ponte black and grey stripy unstructured blazer for the ultimate in pattern and texture mixing. It felt really nice to have my boots on again!

No full shots as my skin is atrocious, my nose looks like I've had a run in with a cheese grater and I'm not wearing any make up.

Budget vs Mid Range: Transparent Finishing Powder

I am a long time devotee of MAC, and ever since they brought out the Prep and Prime Transparent Finishing Powder I have been a devoted user. It is just the perfect thing for setting foundation, and keeping everything looking good during the day.

Since moving to Austria I've been expanding my make up buying horizons. Initially a cost cutting exercise, it has now become a hunt for good products at lower prices, and why not make the most of being able to get my hands on good quality budget lines?

So I thought I'd try the Catrice version of Prep and Prime Transparent Finishing Powder, the imaginatively titled Prime and Fine Transparent Finishing Powder.

And I would love to say I liked it. Actually I think it is a very good powder for its price. It is finely milled, goes on easily, and works well. However, there are some noticeable differences.

1. I found the finish 'flatter' than the MAC powder. It felt a little heavier and didn't seem to deliver the same radiance that the MAC powder does. One thing I really like about these types of powders is that they don't dull the finish of your foundation, so unfortunately this didn't work for me.

2. The main ingredient of the Catrice powder is Aluminium Starch Octenylsuccinate, which might be why it feels a bit heavier on the skin. The main ingredient of the MAC powder is Corn flour. For me this is a significant difference, as my skin has a sensitivity to aluminium, something I only really remembered when I started suffering from an insane breakout. If I use deodorants with aluminium in them I get horrendous breakouts under my arms (not cool!). So for me the Catrice powder didn't really work. The MAC powder, being plant based, it much kinder on the skin.

So. I think this is a great powder if you are on a budget. It does the job, it works well, and it is beautifully purse friendly!

But if you have skin sensitivities to aluminium, this is definitely not the product for you!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Currently Listening To Office Edition: August 26th

I listen to different stuff depending on where I am. On my work computer I have a folder of music that I selected to play on shuffle at The Beard's 30th birthday party 2 years ago. I picked the songs based on a few criteria, including shared appreciation, stuff from our younger days, songs describing our relationship, and Swedish music (but no ABBA).
It is huge (enough music for I think 6 hours) so I won't tell you every song in it today, but as it can be the most random shuffle ever I thought I'd share the first 10 that come up one day every week.

So today's first 10 were....

Skindred "Nobody"

George Michael "Amazing"

Limp Bizkit "Faith"

Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett "New York, New York"

Vanilla Ice "Too Cold" (this is the metal version of Ice Ice Baby)

Frank Sinatra "Come Fly With Me"

Bomfunk MCs "Freestyler"

No Doubt "Bathwater"

Living In A Box "Living In A Box"

Metallica "Whiskey in the Jar"

A pretty mixed bag no? Come back next week to find out what the workplace playlist has in store for me!

Preparing for the beach: Bikini Body

While spending time in a bikini is not an unusual activity for me in the summer in Vienna, my up coming holiday to Tunisia has given me a goal to work towards in terms of going to the gym.

I've been going to the gym for a few months now, and I've found a regime that really seems to work for me. Who knew that as an adult I'd really enjoy circuit training, the bane of PE lessons as a teenager?

My routine consists of the following:

5 minutes warm up on the cross trainer
15 leg presses
15 on the abductor machine
15 on the adductor machine
3 minutes on the stationary bike as fast as I can
15 on the chest press
15 on the lat pull down
15 on the reverse butterfly (I hate this machine)
4 minutes on the stepper as fast as I can
20 crunches
20 dorsal raises
15 side raises on each side
5 minutes on the cross trainer as fast as I can

Then repeat.

On each machine I challenge myself to use the heaviest weights I can, and every fortnight I aim to increase the weight.

I try to go 3 times a week, and in between eat healthily. I actually find it easier to eat healthily in the winter, well, I find it easier to not drink as much, which is my biggest downfall!

So far this routine has been really working for me, and I can see the difference in my shape, and the best thing is that I don't get bored!

What is your work out regime?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

I'm poorly!

And lo, it came to pass, that the first cold of the winter was upon me.

I kinda blame the colleague who was wondering around with a cold last week, or it could have been someone at the football, or just on the tube. Whomever it was, I am stricken. Thankfully I'm well stocked up with UK cold and flu remedies (the equivalents here are either expensive or disgusting. Or both), but work may be a no no tomorrow if I don't get a good nights sleep, as my glands are swollen and my ears feel a bit owchy.

If I do end up taking a sick day, I shall probably lie on the sofa and indulge in my favourite films whilst eating all the food I can (I always get really hungry when I have a cold, until the not tasting or smelling kicks in properly, then I totally lose my appetite). At some point I might be tempted to take a brief trip to the drugstore to buy some cold and flu bath salts, and lounge in a nice warm bath with a book.

More than likely, I'll just sleep. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Strong role models are important for girls (and boys)

I am incredibly fortunate to have a whole host of amazing strong women to look up to. My entire family is full of them, and my grandmother was a force to be reckoned with. In particular my mother and her twin/my aunt, who both built incredibly successful careers and families.

I think I've always been what would be called a feminist (and how I would describe myself now), I was raised by feminist parents. Which made me a little blinkered to the issues that still affect women because in my thoughts and feelings there was nothing I could do, and my gender certainly wasn't ever going to get in the way of me doing stuff. That was just the way I was brought up. When I went to university I chose to study gender studies in my final year and it really opened my eyes to things. It gave me a whole new perspective on inequality, which is something I've continued learning about and discussing ever since (that was nearly 10 years ago!).

Maybe that is what we're lacking as women, that feeling of confidence that we aren't going to be dealt with differently just because of our biological differences. Think about the people who you would think twice about disagreeing with. It is usually because they exude a level of confidence that puts everything else into the shade. If we all had the confidence in our own abilities regardless of our identified gender, would it become less of an issue in the workplace?

This isn't to say we should be aware of the problems faced by people in relation to their gender, in particular those identifying as female. And to be honest, it is a little hard to forget them, given that women are 'bashed' on a daily basis for having a voice, for speaking out, for being present, when all a lot of people and publications would like them to do is go back to the kitchen and make some tea.

Strong role models need to be everywhere; in the workplace, on TV, in films, in politics. Then it can filter into our private lives, because each one of those strong women we see in the public sphere is someone's mother, daughter, wife, lover, girlfriend, best friend, sister, cousin, aunt, etc. When Thatcher died my initial reaction was 'well she was a bit of a crap feminist' because the feminists I had learned from, and had aligned with, maligned Thatcher for 'manning up' and acting like the thing we women were fighting so hard against. But President Obama made me pause and think for a second, when he sent his condolences and said:
"As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered."

And I think it is true. I grew up as a child of the Thatcher age, she won her second term as Prime Minister just after I was born. I grew up thinking not that a woman as the head of state was normal, but that it was most certainly possible. So while I dislike the majority of the things she did and said, I cannot change the fact that I grew up knowing that a woman in Number 10 was not an impossibility.

Hopefully the millions of girls in countries where there is a female head of state can grow up feeling the same way. Brazil, Argentina, Malawi, Kosovo and South Korea all have strong female leaders, add to that the Nobel Peace Prize winning President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and the architect of European survival, German President Angela Merkel, and with the November election in Chile looking to be a close battle between former president Michelle Bachelet and old friend Pinera Matthei, it seems that the time is right for women leaders.

We just need to work on the representation of women in popular culture and everyday life, and the world will be well on its way to having the role models it deserves.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Life tired

I've been a little awol from the blog this week, I've been a little life tired. This year has been a bit of a write off really, certainly not the summer of fun and frolicking we were looking forward to when I got my job back in February! Sadly the Beard's father died in April, and he is trying to deal with the estate (its all a bit complicated so I won't bore you with the details here!). There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, and we have booked a holiday in Tunisia in October, at an all inclusive hotel with 24 hour drinks and a bar on the beach. 

Actually the holiday in Tunisia will be the first one the two of us have had that is purely a laze on the beach type of holiday. Because I'm a restless soul and will not be able to spend a week doing nothing, I expect we will take a trip to the desert (provided it is still safe to do so) and maybe do a little sight seeing in the nearby town, as it is one of the locations for Monty Python's "Life of Brian", which we both love. But the majority of the week I will be working my way through the 100 or so unread books I have stored on my Kindle, drinking cocktails and working on my winter tan.

A nice relaxing and productive weekend has helped recharge my batteries a little, watch this space for a return to normal service!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Follow me on Bloglovin!

I've finally done it, and signed up for Bloglovin, as it seems to be the popular replacement for Reader.

You can find my blog here:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Volbeat: My New Music Obsession

I just cannot stop listening to Volbeat's latest album, Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies. I wake up with the tunes stuck in my head.

The band are from Denmark and are described as groove metal. I really love the combination of power metal riffs with a more rock and roll style.

They are playing in Vienna in November and I think I will definitely be going!

Deep Winter Soft or Soft Summer Deep?

I was having a little look around the internet for something (I can't even remember what) and I came across a post about seasonal colours. I remember this being a bit of a 'thing' in the 90s, having your colours done. Were you Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter?

Well it seems things have moved on a little bit since then, and now there are several systems, and up to 16 different seasons. 16! Each main season (the traditional 4) is split into 3 or 4 sub seasons, depending on the system. Things like Cool Winter, Soft Summer, and Deep Autumn.

To be honest, I'm utterly intrigued. I'm pretty sure I'm a Cool colour. My hair is ashy, my skin is pale and fairly neutral, and most yellows make me look ill. But am I a Summer, or a Winter? Or maybe a Deep Winter Soft, or a Soft Summer Deep? Typically Summer types are blonde and have a low contrast between their skin and hair, whereas Winter types typically have darker hair, or are completely grey haired. There are exceptions to this of course, hair colour is not the only determiner of which season you belong to.

Apparently some examples of Deep Winter Soft types are Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Garner:

Doesn't she look fabulous!

Blonde winter types are really hard to find! Rachel McAdams and  examples of Soft Summer Deep, which is the complementary palette to Deep Winter Soft:

I am definitely drawn more to the Deep Winter Soft palette. My love of black is obvious, but often I prefer to soften it with grey taupe and beige, using jewellery and make up to add colour accents such as purple, teal and cream. Winter is definitely my favourite season, but is this something that reflects my understanding of my colour palette, or something that influences my colour palette?

For me personally the clear full toned colours of a typical winter palette are a little too bright for me now my hair is back to its natural hair colour, and the lighter colours of a Soft Summer Deep palette are too light for me.

This pin from demonstrates one of my perfect palettes:

Aside from navy, which is often used as a black substitute in this colour palette it seems (I will never bring myself to wear blue again, no matter how good it might look on me, as a result of 5 years in a navy and sky blue uniform), all the colours in this palette sit nicely with my personal style aesthetic of a combination of tough blacks and softer greys. I do still have to be careful that greys are more purple or taupe based than blue based as those are better colours for me. If I wore colours that is!

Also, unlike deep winters, or cool winters, I can't wear deeper shades of lipstick any longer. Which is a real shame as I have loads of them! When I had darker hair they were balanced out nicely but without that massive contrast between my hair and skin deeper lip colours just take over my face and look a little weird. Eyes though, done correctly, remain something that I can wear strong colours on, particularly if I stick to only tight lining my eyes rather than a more traditional eyeliner look.

My own outfit sets that I have created in the past certainly reflect my love of dark, rich but slightly muted colours:

Of course whether or not any of this is the right palette for me is unclear. I like to think I have a good eye for colour, but I could be totally misreading the whole thing! One of the colour consultants I was reading about (because she is a blonde winter type, which aren't common!) is based in Prague, so maybe at some point I'll combine a trip to one of my favourite cities with a colour consultation!

At the end of the day though, my own personal style aesthetic is dark, brooding and loves black. I can't see that changing at all. What finding out my 'colours' does help with is the make up choices I make to go with those neutral tones, and perhaps stop me feeling guilty for the vast amounts of lipstick in my drawer that I will probably never wear again. 

If you're similarly intrigued by the expanded colours system, try reading the following:

Monday, 5 August 2013

Thoughts turning to Autumn

Temperatures in Vienna are still pretty hot, but nevertheless, my thoughts are turning to my Autumn/Winter wardrobe. Madness right?!

I can't think that my wardrobe will change that much; I'm a bit of a creature of habit and I rather like the things I have. One of the reasons I don't really do outfit posts on here is that my wardrobe is really not that exciting! It's all black and grey with the odd bit of taupe thrown in for good measure.

I have bought some new jeans, a new t shirt and a new cardigan though.

The jeans are from Long Tall Sally, and they cost me a princely €30 in the sale. The t shirt in the middle is from S'Oliver, and cost me €16. The cardigan is from H&M, coming in at €20. Of the other two tshirts, the one on the far left is also from S'Oliver and is also €16. The grey lace vest comes in at €10 and is from H&M. 

I can't wait for the weather to get cooler!


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