Friday, 26 April 2013

C is for... Costume Dramas

A well known fact about me is that I am a bit of a nana. I love my electric blanket, I like to sew, I don't like clubs or loud music, I love earl grey tea and anything lavender or rose scented (or flavoured for that matter), and I also love a good costume drama. I love, mostly, all the old outfits & makeup. Lots of the time they are a lot more decadent & elaborate than modern fashions, so there always seems to be something so lush & evocative about the way they dress in costume dramas.

I also think that lots of costume dramas seem to have really engaging & interesting stories. I think maybe it's because we have to suspend disbelief so much to get involved with the characters & really believe that they're real as everything's set in the past that you just get more lost in it somehow. I also think they differ from actual movies made in the past because we tend to look back in time through slightly rose-tinted glasses, so everything seems so much more lovely than what it probably really was. I could definitely pick more than 3 costume dramas that I love, but for now, here are the 3 that spring to mind as being my favourites.

3. Downton Abbey


I love Downton Abbey so much, partly because when it first started airing it was during the first time in my life I had ever seen amazing snow at home, and my memories of watching it are tied up with trekking through the snow from my flat to my mum's house in order to watch it with my family in front of a roaring fire with bottles of red wine & good food. Also because, though, it's absolutely brilliant- I get so involved with it. When my favourite character died I sobbed so hard I had difficulty breathing. I think that's because the writing & acting are pitch perfect- it's a drama designed to suck you in, from charm-your-socks off lovely & kickass Lady Sybil, to the drama of Mary & Matthew, to pantomime villains that you love to hate but also secretly love in Thomas & O'Brian, and to stiffly proper but extremely loveable Mr Carson. You can't help but be charmed by every single character. Plus the actual house and grounds of Downton itself are beautiful, from the sprawling green gardens, to the candlelit dining room.

2. Marie Antoinette


Firstly, Sofia Coppola is my favourite director of all time, and her visual aesthetic and lethargic tales of lost young females have had a profound effect on my life, particularly when I was a teenager. My favourite movie of her is still The Virgin Suicides, but I chose this as a favourite costume drama, because visually, it's probably her best work. Marie Antoinette is a downright damn beautiful movie to look at. Firstly, it was shot in the Palace of Versailles, which is pretty much one of the most beautiful buildings on earth. I was really lucky to get to visit there when I took a trip to Paris with a friend during university & it was one of the most amazing things I've seen. The gardens are fantastic and the interior is just breathtaking. (You can actually take a virtual tour now on Google Street View which is brilliant.) Not only that, but the movie is quite heart breaking, and looks at Marie Antoinette's like in a sympathetic light. It's quiet & unassuming as a movie, there is not much dialogue, and a lot of the artifice of her surroundings coupled with Kirsten Dunst's fragile smallness speaks most of the volumes. Rose Byrne is really great in it too. Also, this movie won an Oscar for the costume design, and if you watch it you'll see why.

3. Poirot


I can barely even explain why I love Poirot so much, I just do. I love David Suchet as Poirot for a start, he is hilarious and captivating as the fussy, genius, Belgian detective. I can't imagine a more interesting character for a private detective. The costumes are AMAZING- the women are always so beautifully dressed, and the hair on this show is always swoon-worthy. Also the men look pretty fly too- lots of waistcoats & dapper moustaches. It's set in the 10s, 20s & 30s and the sets are always visually interesing & beautiful. The episodes I love most are the ones set in places like Eygpt & Iraq during the time of British rule, when Poirot & Hastings are off on some river cruise or staying with friends who are part of an archaeological dig. Everyone swanning about in floor length dresses and feathers and linen suits in the sandy sunshine is amazing. Mostly though, I love Agatha Christie's masterful stories. The intrigue behind the motivation for the crimes, the masterful unfolding of the plot, Poirot's 'little grey cells' ticking over the details to unveil the twist at the end. I am NEVER able to guess who the killer is. Also, people say things like 'tally ho', 'frightfully sorry' and 'I say!' which I quite like too.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

DIY: How To Make Candles!

I am a bit crazed when it comes to candles- I can't just burn one or two, I have to light every single one I own, which is usually about 8 or 9. So that's why I decided to start making my own- it saves me money & it's also really fun & easy. I still like buying candles, & I buy lots of cheap jar candles from places like Dunelm Mill or B&M Bargains (well classy like), and the occasional Yankee Candle, but they are too expensive for me to buy all the time, and I wouldn't even consider buying Diptyque or Jo Malone because I can't be trusted to burn them responsibly. Making your own candles is a good way to use up leftover wax from candles you've bought too- which I like because I feel like I am getting my money's worth.

To make a couple of candles you will need:



- A couple of smallish holders- I use everything from old jam jars, to teacups, to milk jugs. You don't want anything too big.
- Wax chips. I use soy wax chips from this ebay seller. I have bought from them a couple of times & had no issues & they are good value for money.
- Pre-waxed & pre-tabbed candle wicks. I use these because they just make life a million times easier. I get mine here.
- Wooden skewers. These will be your wick stabilisers- tape two together at both ends and you can use them to clamp your wick in place and hold it up straight.
- You will also need an old, clean saucepan you don't mind melting wax in.

Optional

- Fragrance oil of your choice & candle dye. You can get both of these on eBay fairly cheap.
- Or fragranced wax melts & bits of old candle. These are good if you are just starting & also less messy.
(I used a combination of both in the candles I made in this DIY.)

Firstly, prep your containers with the wick in place to make sure you're ready to go. Set them on a tea towel or something similar on the bench or surface you are going to be letting them cool on. You don't want to touch them too much once you have poured them, so it's best to be ready before hand.


Then, start melting your wax on a high heat in the saucepan on the hob. Be careful not to splash yourself with hot wax! I speak from experience, when I first started candle making I burned my hand pretty badly attempting to move a candle I had just poured so it can be very dangerous. My tip is to not melt all your wax at once, melt it in portions. I use a measuring cup, so once I have almost melted 2 cups, I take it off the heat. The melted wax will help melt anything that remains unmelted. Then I add more wax chips to the melted wax and give it a stir with a wooden spoon- I'll put it back on the heat if I think it needs it, but never for very long. The idea is that the wax never gets too hot, it only needs to be just melted.


If you are using up old bits of wax or fragranced wax melts, chop them up a bit first & add them to the melted wax. If you want to use fragrance or dye, add them once all the wax has melted. Candle dye is very strong so you usually only need a tiny bit to colour your wax. For these I used one tiny drop each of blue & red dye because I wanted a pale lavender colour. I used lemon & lavender scented wax melts, and leftover bits from old vanilla candles for fragrance. Fragrance oils vary in strength. Usually with the cheaper ones (that I buy, ha) you need a tablespoon per candle for a decent smell.

Also, for these candles I used roughly 3-4 cups of wax. If you have some melted wax left over you can pour it into a jar or container & just use it next time.

Then pour your wax (very carefully!) into your prepared containers & let them cool! (I added a bit of superfine glitter to make them extra fancy).






Because the candles are little they normally don't take long to cool, about an hour or so, and you can light them as soon as they have. And that's it! Super easy :)



Home-made candles make great presents too- people are normally really thrilled & impressed that you've made them something so unique. You could personalise them too, by getting inexpensive white teacups & drawing something personal on with a sharpie, like this tutorial at A Beautiful Mess.

Happy candle making! I really hope you do try this one because it is really fun & seeing your finished candle is so fulfilling. Plus, if like me, you are obsessed with lighting lots of candles it will save you a ton of money!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Movie Monday: The Usual Suspects

I'm a bit in love with film. One of my favourite questions to ask people is, 'If you had to choose between music & film what would you keep?' I would keep film. Not that I would want to ever live without either, but I get excited & crazy passionate over film in a way that I can't get about anything else. So I am going to start writing about some of my favourite movies in the hope that some of you will connect when I post about a movie that's one of your favourites too, or maybe fall in love with a movie that you've never seen before <3

I'll start with my ULTIMATE favourite of ALL TIME: The Usual Suspects. It's hard to talk about the plot of this movie without giving too much away (just in case for some reason you don't know how it ends, I do not want to ruin it for you!) so I will only say that it's about a group of criminals who are brought together in a lineup which leads to them attempting to get together to pull off a really big job, and the consequences of what happens to them. Agh it's so amazing I'm getting goosebumps just typing that sentence!



It is directed by Bryan Singer (another good movie by him is Apt Pupil & he's also made a bunch of the X-Men movies) & stars Kevin Spacey & Gabriel Byrne, with Benicio del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, & Dan Hedaya (Cher Horowitz's dad hello). It features one of the best plot twists in the history of mankind, Kevin Spacey is basically amazing in it as Verbal Kint (he won an Oscar for this role), and the musical score is really good too.


If you've got Netflix, it's available to stream on there, but if not, and you've not seen this movie, then beg, borrow or steal a copy asap. Well, maybe not steal.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Wanderlust

I've never been travelling. This makes me sad to realise. I've been to Paris once for a weekend & I went to Portugal on holiday with my family about 5 years ago but that doesn't even count. My sister & I planned on going to Australia for six months a few years ago but then she got her dream job at home & it never really panned out. I think it's down to a number of reasons:

1. I like time to myself. I'm not the kind of person that can spend a lot of time in the company of others before I want to kill them. I would get about 3 days into my trip & require alone time immediately. Or I would get home & realise that I now hate everyone I travelled with.
2. I am scared of having no money. I know there's only one time in your life you can blow all your money on backpacking or interrailing and that's when you're young, but I need to pay for like, rent & food.
3. I don't like being dirty/without my makeup & hair dryer. Hostels, backpacking, etc sound horrendous to me. Any time I have stayed anywhere it has been a hotel with a nice hot shower and clean sheets & towels.

And that's why I've never been travelling. I feel that now it's too late for me as well because I will never in a million years be able to afford it unless I win the lottery. Plus I'm moving across country this year so it won't be any time soon that's for sure. I think that's why I'm so obsessed with looking at pictures of different places around the world. I feel like I've seen relatively little of the world around me which is sad for someone who's so in awe of it. So if I do win the lottery, the first thing I would do is pack a suitcase, grab some good friends (who will not put up with any of my dumb shit) & head straight to the airport. And these are some of the places I would go.

Greece

India

Japan

Paris (again)

Thailand

Venice

Who's with me?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Summer Stylin'

Ahhhh Summer. Can someone remind me what that is again? I'm finding it hard to remember due to the neverending Game Of Thrones style winter we've had. It's the end of April & it's still pretty cold out. Horrendous. Spring, however, is creeeeeping its way through & we've had our first few sunny days here in Belfast. It has been super welcome because I was starting to feel a bit like I would never feel the warmth of the sun on my face again, much like I assume a wooly mammoth felt during the ice age.

Now that we've had our first peek of sunshine though I have become a bit obsessive about the idea of summer & have been researching holidays that I cannot afford, cocktail recipes for parties I will never have because my flat is too small & I don't even have a garden, and clothing I will never buy because I am broke. But it's still fun to do!



1. So you fancy a play about in the park, because, like me, sunshine makes you feel like you're about 3 years old again. Or maybe, again like me, you are nostalgic for those summer days as a kid when the school holidays seemed to last FOREVER and were amazing. In that case I say go for some dungarees and a rucksack & play rounders with your friends. Mismatched, busy prints are fun and playful so cram as many in as you dare.

2. Sometimes you just want to swan about in a really long skirt, in some dark sunnies, with a large bag hung nonchalanty in the crook of your arm like you're Nicole Ritchie and that's okay. Summerify it up with some super bright colours, palm tree prints, jelly shoes & glitter polish.

3. There is literally nothing that says 'I'm excitedly theme dressing for summer' more than nautical stripes, a yellow cardigan and carmen miranda style fruit earrings. Throw in a macrame shoulder bag that you might have bought on holiday in a tacky tourist shop & some braided sandals to let people know exactly how excited you are that it's not raining.
 

And that's basically the kind of thing I'll be wearing all summer. I may have to invest in a decent fake tanner in order to ensure that all those bright colours don't make me look so pale that people start thinking I have a serious illness.

Okay, now go listen to this & put on some coconut body butter.



PS. Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I don't really have an excuse other than this extended Winter appears to have sapped all of my motivation for EVERYTHING. Thank god Spring is finally clawing its way through. I feel like I am waking up from a loooong hibernation.