The quest for the perfect long-wear eye shadow crayon

crayonsThe first time I tried eyeshadow was with a sweep of pearlescent blue from a pot of Bourjois (no.17, I believe), which resulted in me being shamed by my year nine English teacher who suggested I wash it off at break time.

In my late teenage years, I tried out the smokey eye only to be likened by my father to a raccoon. Then at university, I adopted the nu-rave look with zeal, applying loose Barry M shadows in neon shades with matching glitter, which I set – to my lasting horror – with a liberal layer of Elnet.

Thankfully, those days are behind me and I’ve come to appreciate the brightening effect of a low-key shimmery wash across the lids – a particularly easy look to pull off at 6am when one cannot reasonably be expected to master winged eyeliner.

My shadow of choice for a long time was Benefit’s creaseless cream formulas – my favourite shade being R.S.V.P. – which can be applied with your finger even when you’re going over potholes on the bus. I’ve since moved on to long-wear crayons, which remove the need for hands-on application and get deeper into the eye socket.

Bobbi Brown’s twist-up stick in Golden Pink is the one I return to most often – a summery retro shade which stays well put in conjunction with Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. For everyday wear, I’m a huge covert to NYX’s jumbo eye crayon in Yoghurt, though it is mildly annoying that there is no twist-up function and what you see of the product is what you get.

A surprise bargain was Rosie for Autograph’s cream eyeshadow stick in Sparkle and Magic. Cringe-worthy name aside, it’s a dead ringer for Bobbi Brown’s Goldstone version, offering the same shade and density with the added bonus that it’s half the price. At the lower end of the price range is GOSH’s Forever eye shadow crayons, which do sound a little teenage, but go on smoothly and refuse to budge. I have it in Silver Rose and Light Cooper and can’t fault either.

The only real disappointment I’ve thus far come across is No.7’s Stay Perfect Shade and Define which failed to do any of those things. Even on primed lids, it went on patchy and refused to layer up, acting cheaper than its price tag would suggest. I had a similar issue with Charlotte Tilbury’s much-hyped eyeshadow pencil, the formula for which left my lids feeling oddly stiff.

Tell me about your favourite long-wear crayons in the comments below 👇

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Aldi’s Jo Malone-style candles are back

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🔊 CANDLE KLAXON 🔊

The two-wick burners that disappeared off Aldi’s shelves last year quicker than you can say ‘Jo Malone’ are back in stock.

This means that, obviously, I stockpiled my allotted two per person then sent my boyfriend into our nearest shop to do the same again.

At £3.99 each –  a far cry from the average £40 one might spend on a fancy candle – and with approximately 20 hours of burning times by my nightly calculations, these really are worth sending your money up in smoke.

No.1’s lime, basil and mandarin is unashamedly similar to the signature scent of an, ahem, rather more famous brand. So much so that my friend recently told me how a relative who is an employee of said brand followed her nose to the source of the aroma and couldn’t believe the supermarket knock-off wasn’t the real deal.

I wasn’t expecting to like No.2’s blackberry and bay, not being a fan of overly sweet smells, but this one fills the room with a scent that is fruity without being cloying. However, the berry notes overpower the freshness of the herb, which is virtually undetectable. But who’s complaining with that price tag?

No.3’s pomegranate noir is by far the candle with the best throw, lingering in the air long after it’s blown out. It’s a rich, woody scent with a somewhat Christmassy note, meaning it will really come into its own when the nights draw in.

Crossing fingers for some new additions to the range – an autumnal pumpkin spice number wouldn’t go amiss.

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My night-time skincare routine

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I get a lot of compliments on my skin, which is unfailingly lovely when I remember the once daily agony of teen acne. Most of the time, the answer I give lays all the credit at the feet of beauty genius, Nars, whose tinted moisturiser is my daily base, finished off with a liberal sweep of Albatross highlighter, because who says you can’t rock gold cheekbones on a Monday. Makeup however, forms only part of the answer, and I’m a firm believer that if you skimp on basic skincare, it’s harder to fake it.

From the moment I started wearing mascara, my mother drummed into me the importance of taking make-up off before bed – no matter how wasted, tired or incapacitated I might be. I can hand on heart count on one hand how many times I’ve broken that rule. There have even been times that I’ve removed every last speck of make-up from my face while three sheets to the wind, yet inexplicably neglected to take out my contact lenses, which let me tell you, is far more dangerous than waking up with a chunk of glitter in your eye.

Granted, I once did all this with face wipes, which I swiftly dumped after reading Sali Hughes’ book Pretty Honest. Since then, I’ve tried a litany of cleansers. I’m not wedded to any one brand, but whichever I happen to be using, my nighttime regime goes something like this:

Firstly, I take a hot flannel to my face. I’m currently into No.7’s cleansing balm for dry skin. I don’t suffer with such an affliction – mine being more dehydrated – but I find the formula lifts make-up easily and leaves my face feeling moisturised. I wouldn’t use it in summer as it is quite heavy, but with the nights drawing in it makes an affordable alternative to other cream formulas, such as Liz Earle’s cleansers.

I’m a solid lipstick wearer and usually have to remove any stubborn product (Maybelline’s Infalliable Matte Ink lipstick, I’m  looking at you) with a cotton pad soaked in Clinique’s Take the Day Off remover. Next I massage in a blob of my favourite serum, Vichy’s Aqualia Thermal. This is the only product I weep for when I’ve run out and can’t afford to replenish because it is the only serum I’ve ever seen visible results with – the hyaluronic acid leaves me with skin that looks and feels like it’s just necked a pint of water.

Next I massage in Clarin’s incredible smelling blue orchid oil for dehydrated and combination skin. I use it all over my face and neck, forgoing heavy creams that tend to clog my pores and cause breakouts. That being said, with winter on the way I’ll be swapping it out for a richer cream – I’ll be trying out Marks and Spencer’s cult night cream Formula Absolute, which at one point had a bonkers waiting list of 7,500 people.

Finally, I make an attempt to stop my emerging crows feet with La Roche Posay’s Redermic R for Eyes, which contains retinol known for its anti-aging properties, before slathering myself in Lush Sleepy and hoping for the best. On the whole, I’ve found this routine serves my dehydrated-combination skin the best, leaving it blemish-free and comfortably moisturised without breaking the bank.

Do you have dehydrated and combination skin? Have you found a good combo of products? Comment below! 💁🏼

‘That’s the Mancunian Way’

There’s a poem by Lemn Sissay written on the side of a takeaway on Oxford Road in Manchester.

I took a photo of it the day I moved into my student halls 12 years ago. The sky was a brilliant blue – unusual, given it was early September; ironic, given the words painted on the wall.

Today, its prose seems more poignant.

Manchester is a city often mocked for its inclement weather, its reputation wrapped up in near-constant drizzle and Morrissey-like misery. But there’s more to the heart of the North than stereotypes of swaggering scallies and 24-hour party people, as last night’s events have shown.

In the wake of yet another cowardly attack, Mancunians have responded in the way only they know how – with strength, with solidarity and with the no-nonsense attitude borne of living where it’s “grim”.

When a suicide attacker targeted an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, killing 22 people – some of them as young as 8 – taxi drivers took gig-goers to safety. Hotels and strangers opened their doors and homes. People rescued children who had become separated from their grown-ups.

The outpouring of support on social media has pulled us together, both in terms of love for the city and in the thousands of pounds already raised to help those caught up in the attack.

I live in Leeds now, but my heart is in Manchester. The five years I spent in Rusholme, in Fallowfield, in Victoria Park and in the Northern Quarter, were some of my happiest. I think back to that day in 2005 when I arrived at Whitworth Park with a kettle, a crap laptop and a box of cornflakes and feel the same excitement I did then every time my train pulls into Piccadilly station now. This one feels personal.

When I woke up this morning, I had no words. I can think of a few choice ones now that it’s sunk in, but I’ll leave the talking to Lemn Sissay:

“When the rain falls, they talk of Manchester. But when the triumphant rain falls, we think of rainbows. That’s the Mancunian Way”.

Travel review: Bologna, Italy

If you’re looking for a quick 48-hour jaunt look no further than Italy’s gastronomic heartland, where the buildings glow red, the gelato is plentiful and just a two hour flight stands between you and a stroll down Bologna’s 38km of intricate poritcoes – Aperol in one hand and phrasebook in the other.

Its reputation for melding history and belt-busting food has earned it not one but three nicknames – la dotta, la rossi and la grassi; or the learned, the red and the fat, for those without the language skills. But do its walls painted in sunset hues, mosaic walkways and riches of mortadella, cheese and Prosecco live up to the hype?


We made a quick pit-stop at the Art Hotel Novecento before hitting the main square, Piazza Maggiore, for the evening. Though Bologna is just a short train ride from nearby Florence, this is a city where the mood is unfailingly polite and even in its central courtyard, there are no pushy waiters on street corners trying to entice you into the nearest tourist trap.

In fact, on a Tuesday afternoon the streets were practically deserted, leaving us to pick an osteria – cafes serving wine and snacks – quite undisturbed. At Zerocinquantuno 051, we raised our first Spritzes and ate salty slithers of Parma ham, roast belly pork and sundried tomatoes tucked into tigella – small, round-shaped bread made with olive oil.


Then, to the first of many ice cream stops – the much-lauded La Sorbetteria Castiglione, where in keeping with tradition, gelato is stored under the counter to keep it the perfect temperature and texture. We chose velvety scoops of salted caramel, rich dark chocolate and vanilla before chasing them with strong coffees and venturing out in the unforeseen evening drizzle.


Winding our way back to the hotel through a gloom of alleyways, fresh fruit and veg stalls punctuated the darkness with bursts of colour. We paused at a cheering window display of loose tortellini at one of Bologna’s most famous pasta-makers, Paolo Atti and Figli, where signs promised their wares were so authentic it would “fool your husband you made them yourself”.  A nightcap at Mercato di Mezzo also saw us tick off the city’s first indoor market, a three-storey pavilion that dates back to the Middle Ages and now hosts a handful of vendors serving cocktails and street food.


With only 36 hours left, we were out early on day two with a hit-list of eateries, churches and backstreets to visit. Our first stop was Via de’ll Indipendenza, a wide avenue of high street shops bordering the former Jewish ghetto. Veering into its maze of passages, we stopped to read about the fascinating history which saw a community forced by the Papal State to live within borders that were opened at dawn and closed at dusk.

img_3348Now home to an artisan crowd of independent retailers, cafes and bars, one of its greatest features is the network of canals running through its core. The guidebooks suggest peering through the window of a graffitied wall on Via Piella, but perhaps the best view of this not-so-hidden stretch of the Canale delle Moline is over the road, where its deep green water looks all the more vibrant for the golden buildings at its edges.

Leaving the corner of the city known as Little Venice behind, we made our way to one of Bologna’s top sights, La Torre Asinelli. We fully intended to climb its spiral staircase of 498 steps to take in rooftop views but restoration work has closed the tower until the summer. Instead we got our cultural fix at the basillica of Santo Stefano – a cluster of seven churches with mysterious origins. Thought to date back to 430 AD, the complex houses a labyrinth of ancient graves and a Benedictine cloister fronted by a suntrap made for idling in the midday sun.


In keeping with the religious theme, we toasted a successful afternoon of sight-seeing in Le Stanze – a former converted chapel in the student quarter. With its impressive frescoes duly appreciated and wine imbibed, we stopped for pick-me-up espresso martinis at the Jukebox Café before making our reservation at top gluten-free restaurant, Franco Rossi, where the service was faultless and the wheat-free pasta as good as its glutinous parent. Dessert at Cremeria Santo Stefano hit peak gelato, with unspeakably delicious custard cream and speculoos flavours on offer for just a few euros.


Our final morning was spent ducking into delicatessens with hams hung high in the windows to pick up souvenirs. Wedges of Parmesan and aged bottles of balsamic vinegar were high on the list of take-home treats and were gelato airline friendly, the stracciatella flavour from our last parlour stop, Cremeria Funivia, would have made the cut too. Bidding farewell to a city brimming with beauty and history, we returned home no redder given the intermittent sunshine, but we did come back slightly more learned and quite a bit fatter.

Why the Gilmore Girls revival kinda sucked

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. Lots of spoilers.

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Picture: Netflix

 As you might have gathered from the headline of this blog post, I was not a fan of this year’s much-hyped return to Stars Hollow. I say this neither lightly nor to upset those who enjoyed the four-part revival (I’m sure there must have been some). In fact, it practically pains me to do so, because I was as excited as the next fan to find out what had happened to TV’s finest mother-daughter dream team.

Don’t get me wrong, there were moments. Kelly Bishop shouting ‘bull shit’ several times being one of them. But for me, the highlights were few and far between. And the reason why?

Rory. Gilmore.

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Picture: Netflix

Now I came to the show pretty late – by about 16 years. When it debuted in 2000, it kind of passed me by because I was a Buffy girl and I liked my TV dark and vampy. The gloominess of real life means I now prefer my escapism cutesy and twee, so when I was looking for something to fill the Friday Night Lights/Parenthood void earlier this year, Gilmore Girls fit the bill perfectly.

The benefit of coming to the programme a decade and a half late was that having squeezed all seven series into six months, many of the story-lines were fresh in my head. But that also meant I could easily recall all the times Rory Gilmore was basically a bit of a dick.

And apparently, that hasn’t changed, it’s just gotten worse.

That’s right. Alexis Bledel’s character has always been, as my friend so succinctly put it, a brat. For much of the show’s run her behaviour could be excused by virtue of the fact she was, for the most part, a teenager. But all the revival did was show how Rory spectacularly failed to mature in the decade that had supposedly passed.

Take for example her Trans-Atlantic shagathon with Logan. It’s hardly a surprise he would cheat on his fiancee and it’s not the first time Rory’s played the role of ‘other woman’ either – lest we forget her doomed affair with first love Dean while he was married. So why does it seem more distasteful this time around? Perhaps because her previous indiscretion could be put down to immaturity and raging hormones, whereas there’s nothing to excuse the behaviour of a 32-year-old who pouts when her fuck buddy says she can’t visit because his future wife is there.

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Picture: Netflix

Then there’s her “career”. With a startling lack of perspective she spends half her time moaning about a meeting with Conde Nast being pushed, seemingly unaware she should be thanking the editorial gods they would consider someone whose credentials seem to be little more than one article in the New Yorker and editor of a university newspaper.

When she finally gets an opportunity to write for GQ, she is the height of unprofessionalism, nodding off while interviewing one contact and sleeping with another. It’s never mentioned, but presumably she blows off writing the article altogether. Finally, when she goes to meet a prospective employer she rocks up having prepared nothing and acts like she’s doing them a favour. And she wonders why she’s unemployed?

With her bottom lip firmly stuck out she returns to Stars Hollow where she plays the Ballad of the Sad Millennial like a broken record to anyone who will listen (I have no job, my driving licence expired, I have no underwear, wah wah wah), until Jess sidles in looking all hot and ripped and gives her the blindingly obvious book idea she is apparently incapable of coming up with herself.

Then, when Lorelai asks her not to write about her life for all to read, Little Miss Entitled throws a strop of epic proportions, in an echo of that time she moved out and refused to speak to her mother for months because it was suggested that leaving one of the most prestigious schools in America halfway through her degree was a bad idea. That sort of behaviour was sort of excusable then because no 21-year-old does what their mother tells them, but at 32?

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Picture: Netflix

And just when you thought she had reached the height of dickishness, she then drops the bombshell I sort of suspected was coming: Rory Gilmore, whose future was once so bright, is up the duff (presumably with Logan’s baby, though there’s an outside chance it’s the Wookie’s) and doomed, it seems, to repeat the mistakes her mother made and had every chance to avoid.

My biggest beef with this curve-ball is more with writer Amy Sherman-Palladino. Rumour has it she always wanted to end the series this way, which is deeply depressing but would sort of have made sense given Rory was supposed to be 22. But what excuse has Rory reasonably got to get into that position at 32? Floundering in every aspect of life doesn’t stop one from using a condom, does it?

I recently read an article in which Sherman-Palladino defended the cliffhanger, claiming life isn’t supposed to be wrapped up in a bow at 32. She’s right, but if you’ve given the character every opportunity, support and financial backing, then it’s dreadfully sad to write an arc as subtle as a brick in the face that recycling Lorelai’s past was Rory’s inevitable fate all along.

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Picture: Netflix

I guess the only thing you can say in Sherman-Palladino’s defence is that when a show ends with the loose ends neatly tied – and as we all know, she did not write season seven – where do you go? Lorelai finally had her happy ending with Luke, while Rory had a bright career ahead of her as a journalist. To fill 360 extra minutes of plot you have to fuck it all up to make something to watch.

What we witnessed was Rory becoming a total disappointment and a load of half-baked story-lines in which we were supposed to believe Lorelai would have left thinking about having another child until she was 48 (having apparently never discussed it with her partner of nine years) and having to ‘find herself’ Wild-style. And don’t even get me started on the Stars Hollow musical segment.

If we’re being honest, all anyone really wanted from this was to know who Rory ended up with (Team Jess, btw) and on that basis, the Gilmore Girls revival was a total flop. Except when Emily told the DAR girls where to shove it. Emily forever  ❤

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Picture: Netflix

New York you’re perfect, don’t change a thing

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I wrote this blog post weeks ago in the darkest hour of a sleepless night and left it, unsure whether it would ever see the light of day. Publishing it today is a reminder to myself of my love for America, at a time when many are feeling shaken and confused about the country’s future. 

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A lot has changed since I first stood, wide-eyed, outside Port Authority at 19 years old. I had just stepped off my first flight and until that point, only ever experienced the bustle of Manhattan’s streets through cinema’s lens. Though that initial visit was only long enough for me to buy a Schnapple and gawp at Times Square before heading upstate for the summer, it set in motion a decade-long love of the city that never sleeps.

Since clapping eyes on that famous skyline in 2004, I’ve returned a further three times – an homage to how fond I’ve become of the Big Apple and how lucky I’ve been to have natives who have been generous enough to blow up the air mattress whenever I’ve been in town.

My second visit in 2005 ticked off the typical tourist haunts – the Empire State, the Chrysler Building and the Rockerfeller Center. I walked up and down Fifth Avenue, wishing I had more dollars in my pocket. I took the Staten Island ferry and said hello to Lady Liberty as we sailed past. I snapped a picture of the former Domino sugar factory – sadly no more.  

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During the freak heatwave of 2012, I sat in Central Park and melted like a true English Rose. I walked along the High Line, sharing it with just a handful of people because the secret wasn’t yet out. I lingered over coffee in Williamsburg’s cafes, half expecting to bump into the cast of Girls. I went to flea markets, used the toilet in Katz’s and went to a record launch attended by some of the coolest kids in the LGBTQ scene. I was very uncool by comparison.

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Four years later and I was back again. Having been fortunate enough to have seen so many of New York’s popular attractions already, my trip in September gave me the chance to explore even more corners of the city, punctuated at timely intervals with eating and drinking in places the guidebooks try to keep quiet.

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Day one saw us take in an unobstructed view of Manhattan’s skyscrapers at Brooklyn Heights before hopping on a ferry and taking a waterside tour of the island’s neighbourhoods. At Greenpoint we took a punt on lunch at an unassuming taqueria, where I rediscovered frozen magaritas for the first time since the tequila-riddled Spring Break of 2007.

Stuffed with black beans and avocado, we ambled into Williamsburg where we bought thyme and olive oil chocolate from Mast Bros, made like magpies in Catbird and ran our hands through racks of $100 shirts in high-end boutiques. Later, our 90-minute commitment to the line at Pies and Thighs was rewarded with juicy chicken pieces and smoky pulled pork served with a side of creamy, cheesy grits.nyc3

Day two began with breakfast cocktails at brunch spot Rose Water in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighbourhood, which were the perfect accompaniment to our poached eggs and sweet potato falafel combo. We then headed into the city, passing through Grand Central station and its whispering walls, before embarking on some much required retail therapy.

Laden with bags and giddy after spotting Kim Sears and Baby Murray in Bryant Park, we headed to La Esquina, where I had made reservations the required month in advance. The darkened bodega basement stole our hearts with its tapas-style plates and Mezcal drinks in a variety of sweet and sour flavours, but it was the rich and sticky heap of rib meat which left us raving.

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With room for dessert, we found ourselves at Morgenstern’s indulging in salted chocolate ice cream garnished with shards of sesame honeycomb. We leisurely ate as we walked towards the Woolworth Building, where we had secret access not only to one of the sets of Ugly Betty, but views of the city’s countless flickering lights. 

The evening’s finale came in the form of a wildcard trip to the night courts, where the wheels of justice creaked into the early hours. We watched as a trickle of defendants were casually dealt with by a judge who waved them away with court dates and fines – a far cry from the stuffy tradition and procedure of England’s magistrates’ courts. nyc7

A final day wandering the streets of the Lower East Side saw us lazily pinball between cafes, bars and shops. In need of culture, we took in a tour of the Tenement Museum to learn about some of the neighbourhood’s former residents, before heading back to Williamsburg. A goodbye dinner at The Four Horseman – brainchild of LCD Soundsytem frontman, James Murphy – left us all crossing forks over the last mouthful of a sublime sugarsnap and cashew salad. 

On the way home, the remenants of Hurricane Hermine – which had threaten to rain down the whole weekend – finally rattled through the night, as if it had politely waited for my trip to end. I dozed off, wondering how soon I could impinge upon my friend’s kindness again and whether it was possible to every really be ‘done’ with New York. I decided not and went about plotting my return.