Sunday, 27 March 2016

Some photos I'd taken and finally touched up a bit (lighting) and I'm really proud of. :)

I saw him raise his tail and I snapped! - Woburn Abbey Safari Park

Family of Macaques - Woburn Abbey Safari Park

Very fat otters - Woburn Safari Park

Scary rooster - Woburn Safari Park

Female Golden Pheasant - Woburn Safari Park

Male Golden Pheasant - Woburn Safari Park

Female Golden Pheasant - Woburn Safari Park

Female Mallard - Cambridge Botanical Gardens

One of my best friends looking lovely at the Cambridge Botanical Gardens

Waterlily at Cambridge Botanical Gardens

Ely Cathedral

Me at the top of the central tower of Ely Cathedral

J.S. Bach in Bonn, Germany

Sun bear - Koln Zoo

Sun Bear expressing every teacher's thought when asked a silly question - Koln Zoo

Cheetah! - Koln Zoo

Hornbill - Koln Zoo

Hornbill - Koln Zoo

Gibbon - Koln Zoo

Gibbon - Koln Zoo

Gorilla - Koln Zoo

Sea Lion - Koln Zoo

Church in Koln

Me with Chris Sabat at an anime convention in Cambridge, UK

Waterfall at Elterwater, Lake District

A deer I saw in Elterwater, Lake District

Our pup*, Kevin, loving being off the lead at Wandlebury, Cambridge, UK

*strictly speaking he's fully grown but he doesn't behave it.

I went on a photography course to refine my skills and I found that actually, I was already half-way there to going pretty much semi-automatic. For some of these photos, I had!  He recommended an easy editing suite (Lightroom by adobe) and this photography monthly package. I might look into it and have a little photo album online somewhere, linked to my blog. I really want to keep going out and taking awesome photos. :) 

It'd also be good to have that webpage so that I can edit and upload quickly whilst IN Japan, rather than months later when I get home.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Holiday plans!

It has been a difficult year for me, physically, emotionally and mentally. By year, I mean academic year, because I am a teacher.

Somehow, for various reasons, I find the job challenging - it's partly the workload, it's partly the cohort's emotional and social needs, it's partly their innate abilities, attitudes and backgrounds and it's partly to do with how much support I've received over the year from people around me at work.

One thing that HAS kept me going though is the glorious thought that in August, which is now just 16 weeks and a couple of days away, I and Him Indoors are going to be staying in Japan for a month!

We booked it around September or August just gone, so we've got cheap flights that go via Moscow (we're also covered by his work's Travel Insurance, so that is awesome) and after a gruelling 14 hour flight (I find the 8hour flight to Kenya bad enough!) we will be travelling for about an hour on bullet train to our AirBnB apartment, which is also relatively cheap but well reviewed.

The apartment is fairly basic and the owner comes and works in the office on the ground floor during the day, but it's to be our base for 28 days.

Just for the flights and this 28 day stay in someone's flat, we've only spent around £500 each! :D

In Tokyo we will of course be doing lots of things - soon we'll be getting our JR Passes sorted out (around June, because of how far ahead you can book that) and we will also be trying to book tickets to the Studio Ghibli museum/park place.  We'll spend a day at Disney Japan, we'll be visiting the Pokemon Health Center, we'll be visiting various cafes and Him Indoors wants to go to the Gundam museum and everything. There's lots to keep us busy in Tokyo itself.

For Him Indoors' Birthday on the 10th August we'll travel to Mount Fuji which we'll start to climb, rest at a half-way hut and then over night climb the rest so that we see the sunrise on Him Indoor's Birthday on the 11th August.  Hoping the weather will be relatively clear then.

Then we'll spend the day in the parks around there and then we'll catch a train to Yumedono where we splashed out a bit on a onsenji hotel. :D Got an executive suite discounted with a private outdoor onsen. Can not wait!!!!!

We then touch base back at our flat in Tokyo for a couple of days and travel out to Osaka where we've booked another small flat via Air BnB so that we can visit areas around there for a couple of days.

We've a small to do list in our house on this big old whiteboard Him Indoors managed to get cheap (without thinking about where to put it), and we're slowly ticking things off so that's exciting.

Yeah. I'll be keeping a mini blog and taking a looooooot of photos on this trip!

In fact, I'm going on a short one-day photography course today just to get to grips with the manual settings of my new camera, so that I can get the best out of it when we're there.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Reading Challenge: Read only female authors for a year Part 1/?

I'd heard of this challenge before and I'd never really considered having the time for it until a last month.

I was reading some Jane Austen books I'd never actually read all the way through before and was enjoying them immensely (who wouldn't? they're hilarious!) and it occurred to me that since New Year's Eve, up until that point (late February?) I had only read books by a female author.

I WAS ALREADY 2 MONTHS IN! And I'd read 7 books by female authors! (Ok, 5 of them were a series by the same one and I'd already read 4 of them before, but so what?)

So I made more of conscious effort to do so. Which I guess means that one book I bought ages ago won't be read this year....

Now, technically, you're meant to read only new books by female authors? But I'm a teacher. I do not get to read a lot. I do not get a lot of time to do anything I like a lot. I love reading.
I've been deliberately trying to carve out more "Me Time" for myself this half term, because it is all getting to me a bit. And reading is what I'm doing. So if I end up re-reading books I love and have read more than once, so be it!

So far, I have read:

  • The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries - Emma Thompson*
  • Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
  • The Otori Trilogy, The Harsh Cry of the Heron and Heaven's Net is Wide* - Lian Hearn
  • Emma - Jane Austen*
  • Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman*
  • The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
  • Volumes 1 - 7 of My Love Story!  - a Manga by Kazune Kawahara*
  • Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol*

*All new books I've read.

...huh. Actually, I've managed to read quite a lot of new ones.  I've started re-reading "Kitchen" by Banana Yoshimoto and "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberg.

I dunno. I do find after reading utterly amazing ones that have gripped me so that I really had to wrench myself away to continue with trivial things like my job or living, I have to go for short stories or what I call "my gorgeous trash pile". I'm not saying that The Devil Wears Prada is trash by any means. All books have a place on my shelf. (Except for The Far Pavilions. That is just TOO LONG. It should have ended over 300 pages earlier. It's the only book I actually gave up on.)  I just mean it's my easy read. It's simple. It's got a few themes in it that are interesting but otherwise it's not really what I tend to go for? It's my Brain Holiday book.  I actually much prefer Everyone Worth Knowing, (same author) because it much more closely follows the RomCom formula and is much more predictable.  Also because the people in it are nicer!

We all have films we default to when we're in the slouch-on-the-couch-with-ice-cream-or-a-giant-packet-of-doritos-and-a-fizzy-drink mood, so I refuse to ignore the fact that I have some books I have bought simply because they are easy and formulaic and you got a pretty good idea of the entire plot from the blurb and review quotes on the cover. I am not a book snob, no more than I am a t.v. snob. Dammit, I need those shitty soaps to give me something to escape to for a very short time and then I can laugh, gasp or cry at some actors who clearly are good and I hope want to be there and enjoy some convoluted (Looking at you, Once Upon A Time) storylines.

So I'm currently going through Brain Fart period, where I've over-done it like an addict who's fallen off the wagon. Also it's end of a very very very very short half term and we are all cream crackered having tried to shove 7 weeks of learning into 4.

This Easter the majority of my reading time will be children's workbooks across a whole range of topics so I doubt I'll be adding many more to the list.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

My Younique Look

I have never really written a make up review before. I've a friend who's a Younique presenter part time and to be supportive, (and cause I am sold on it) I bought the Younique 3D+ Mascara.  I loved it.

Nicky has since had a make up party, where there was the good old sales pitch and lots of tester products so that we could see the other things on offer. Buying mascara online is pretty easy - if someone's wearing it and you can see how it works, then fine. I'm a lot more skeptical about lipstick, eyeshadows, BB creams and all the other products that depends entirely on your own skin tone and colouring, so I went to the party for the laughs and to try out what they have.

Not disappointed. I'm writing this in part to advertise for Nicky (I'll be adding a link to her Virtual Party or explaining how you could help out should you wish to purchase a product) and in part because I genuinely am THAT impressed by Younique.

My own make up background

Until about 2013, the majority of what I wore was mascara and eyeshadow. Occasionally a bit of gloss or tinted lip balm.

I was on the pill, my complexion was, now that I'm off and know the difference, amazing. I mean really. My skin was smooth, rarely needed moisturising, and the only blemishes I got were when I was off the pill, so that was only really a week every 3 months. COULD NOT COMPLAIN.

The mascara I used was typically cheap - Boots Natural lengthening mascara (£7, not bad and did what I wanted at the time), and then later, Him Indoors's sister bought me They're Real! mascara by Benefit (whom I've just found out still test on animals, so I won't be buying from them again)

CC Cream, Urban Decay purple eyeliner pencil, NAKED
pallet 3 and a-near-the-end bottle of 3D+ Mascara
Around 2013, my best friend let me try some of her CC cream (Colour Correct) which she'd got from Tonymoly's ebay shop. They're a Korean company and as far as translations of their info goes, they do not appear to include that skin whitening treatment stuff. It simply was the perfect shade for us. We both have tricky skin to buy for in the UK and since the East are very good at make up, that's where we turned.  I still have about a third of my current bottle left and on my "less is more" days, I'll still be using it.

Here is a Youtube review of the CC cream if you're curious. The woman giving it is much darker skinned than I am! So bear that in mind, also I didn't have the flakey skin issues she was talking about. It worked fine for me. What she doesn't say is that a pea-sized amount is typically all you need for CC cream. If you are looking for full coverage in a foundation-sort of way, go with BB or Foundation, not CC.

I also sometimes use some natural/nude powder for my shinier days and I use Benefit's Sugarbomb blush (though I'll soon have an alternative to that when it's run out)

Eyeshadow is mostly using Urban Decay's NAKED pallets - I have 1 and 3. Three is the absolute best one, in my opinion, but number 1 comes second as it has some really nice shades that I can use for going out. It's a lot darker than the third one, so I can't use all of them. I have a couple of eyeliner pencils by them as well.

I also use Barry M blue eyeliners because their pencils are a nice gel pencils that are easy for me to a apply.

On my not-so-everyday days, when dressing up as Maleficent or Cruella for school, I wear lots of cheap make up coupled with a couple of more expensive products that I bought because they were ideal for that character. Not for me, the character. I like to think I do a fairly good job for a primary school teacher.
Rimmel Ivory Foundation, Bodyshop palest powder, MAC Hollywood lipstick, 3D+ Lash mascara
MAC Maleficent eyeshadow pallet, Sugarbomb blush, UD Metal pencil liner and a cheap black smoky eye pencil for the eyebrows

So that's my make up background.



Younique was started by a pair of siblings who wanted to run their own company but didn't know what to sell.  For reasons only known by them and speculated on by others, they wanted to start a business that would in some way empower women.

So they went for an online Avon sort of model. Women could earn money from the comfort of their own homes, selling a product that they'd be interested in themselves.

A portion of the money that Younique makes goes into the funding of Women's Shelters in the US, something which I think is blinkin' awesome.

Also the products are all as naturally based as they can be, cruelty free and quite a lot of their lines are mineral-based.



I now use their Moodstruct 3D+ Fiber Lashes mascara. It comes with two bottles/tubes.

In one bottle is the application gel, which is black tinted, so it is intially like applying a very cheap mascara. In the second bottle is a dry, fuzzy wand with fibers on. You apply that to your wet lashes and then you put a second coat of gel on top to keep them there.

In theory, if you wanted to have eyelashes that hit your eyebrows, you just keep reapply coats on top and the fibers will build in length.

A common problem I've seen others online having is that they get thick, clumpy spider leg lashes. This is the same with any mascara product.

It takes practice: use less of the gel and if you don't like having too thick lashes and are aiming for length, just add the fibers to the ends of your lashes, rather than sweeping from the bottom.

There's also no need to apply on the "top" of your lashes, as I see some people do with normal mascara, you know, where you apply with your eyes closed so they're black from the roots where your eyeliner would go? Does that make sense?

Here are the results I get, used a fresh box for this: 

One with, one without. 

I've actually used more than I would normally for the purpose of this picture, so they come out a bit thicker, but you get the idea. You can have thick and dark or long and skinnier, depending on the technique you use and how many coats.

I have longish lashes, just they're very blond. If I still had a bottle of normal mascara, I'd show you the effect that Younique had in comparison. This is the best mascara I've ever had and is wonderful for cosplaying when you can't be bothered with false lashes.

BB Cream

At the party, I tried out their BB Cream. I've never found a BB Cream that is 1) the right shade and 2) feels as though I'm not wearing anything.

I wasn't too sure initially, and the price was off-putting (did I mention I'm a cheapskate?) but I took the plunge and bought it.

Now. First thing. You know I'm pretty pale and I've never found anything in my shade? The woman who applied it on my face used the SECOND SHADE UP.

Seriously. I was using the same shade as a woman who tans all year round.

And it looks great. It IS tinted, so perhaps my face is a bit darker than if I were using my CC cream or just going make-up-less but it isn't to the point that you can tell when you compare it to my hairline, ears or neck.

The shade I use is Bique and it really is lovely. Again, not a lot is needed. I use fingers because I hate brushes, but it applies just as well with brush.

It gives me the coverage that CC cream simply never did (not its job anyway) and it looks and feels smooth when finished.

I've been using it for a week and I am quite honestly amazed. My skin looks better than it has been for ages. And I'm not talking about when I wear it!  It really does moisturise and look after my skin as well as sort out any problem areas I'm having.

This is one of their mineral-based products. It's not too oily, though it does contain "seed oil".  It applies really well and it looks fantastic. I still have that nice glow to my skin that the CC cream gave me, so I feel great wearing it.


Until the party, I'd never used bronzer.  I had the lightest shade and while I still need to practice a bit more in application it's great. Also I can totally use it for contouring when in my Maleficent get up. (She has ivory skin so I don't need that dark a contour colour)

Anyhoo, it really is a lovely bronzer. I don't need a lot and I just apply it to where I imagine I would catch the sun if there was a sun to be caught. And it looks lovely. I've even applied it to my breast bone a bit as well to convince myself that I can indeed look as tanned as I once did in my pre-teens.

It has the sliiiiiightest of shimmers - it's a nice way and it compliments the Bisque shades really well.

It claims on the box that it is made with Safflower, Ginseng, Aloe and Ginkgo.


I have a weariness around lipstick. It dries my lips out. The wrong shade makes me look as though I've been playing in mummy's make up box.  Those are the hazzards of being blessed with full lips and a big mouth!

I only wear the Hollywood shade of red when I'm dressed as Maleficent or Cruella, because the other make up balances out the clown mouth!  On a normal day with my real skin tones and my real eyebrows and my real style of eye make up, it just looks weird.

I've occasionally worn pinker shades and it is ok but as they were presents and donations, they at best tinted and at worst came off quickly, so it wasn't as big a deal as the needs-sandpaper-and-turpentine-to-remove abilities of my cosplay MAC lipstick.

There are soooooo many colours! I did not like the nude shades but they suited one particular friend. I was rather taken by the gorgeousness of the Pretentious (love the name) shade. It's a sparkly pink and it's GORGEOUS. AND IT SUITS ME.

Moodstruck Opulence: Pretentious
*Ahem*.   It is also creamy and after 8 hours I did not feel as though my lips, though coloured, were like sandpaper (take note, MAC).

And if lipstick isn't your thing, they usually have corresponding shades in their Lip Gloss! Oh yes!

I went for Luxe lipgloss, even though I'm normally not a fan (too sticky and wet) because no matter what your colouring, it works. It works with your natural lip colour. For reals, my friend Paula wore it at the same time as me and it was a different shade to how it looked on me. It works really well for an every day kinda thing or if you like gloss for going out. (Deter men from trying to snog you on the dance floor)

Luxe is the shade on the far right, if you're curious. I'd say the pretentious shade is the second one from the left.


I am fussy about make up. This company has awesome ethics. It is affordable. It lasts all day. It looks fantastic. It actually helps cure your skin (counter productive? maybe).

Here's a picture I posted to Nicky's virtual party page as a favour, wearing the Bisque BB Cream, Sunset Bronzer, 3D+ Lashes (again, I need to use my new bottle as the gel is running out so the effectiveness is less), Pretentious lipstick and other non-Younique unique products mentioned above before anyway. 

Awkward selfie face

I'd just like to point out that the Cruella photo was taken a few days before this one. I had spots in both, particularly on my chin and one annoying one near my nose and temple. (Actually on the side shown in this photo) I used a rather thick, pale-blank-canvas foundation for that dress up and it covered everything. This BB Cream required less and provided the same level of coverage and it looked good. Like, I could actually use it on its own and still look "natural", the way all those whiny boys on the internet seem to like. 

If you are interested, then do go to to have a look.

If you do buy, I'd like to sell out by endorsing Nicky!  At the checkout, which Younique presenter or virtual party you are buying through, type in Nicky Ralph (a picture of a very cute small dog should be her avatar) and she will earn points which go towards getting a full sales tester kit and she earns a small commission on the side. 

And money you spend at Younique goes towards Womens Shelters in the US, a very very worthy cause!