Monday, 24 December 2018

'Let's Decorate' - Daring Cardmakers Christmas Decoration Challenge

Happy Christmas Everybody!

As I type this it is Christmas Eve and I'm just enjoying some quiet creative time to myself, before all the Christmas fuss and mayhem kicks in. I noticed the Daring Cardmakers Challenge Blog had one more crafty challenge for this year, and couldn't resist showing one of my favourite decorative crafts this year.

I first tried out these origami star decorations last year, making a few to give to friends and presents. I really enjoyed making them up and decorating them, so thought I'd do a few sets this year. Unfortunately I can't find the source tutorial for them at the moment, but they are really easy to make, and there are so many options for paper/card combinations, and decorating the central circles that complete the star.

While easy to make, it was tricky sometimes getting exactly the same fold and finish on both sides of the star when making them up, and I did pick the wrong type of card once, which wasn't really meant for folding and scoring and looked a little bit scruffy/creased.

The only really difficult bit for me was when it came to punching the holes in the points of the stars for hanging; it just seemed impossible to position the hole punch exactly where I wanted it, to get a hole right in the middle. Then I thought I'd mastered it and did some perfect ones, then they went a bit wonky again. Luckily when the ribbon is threaded through and each star is decorated and finished you don't notice that at all.

I've inserted a few pictures of the different designs I made this year, I also decorated them on both sides, as I thought it would be nice if you could switch between a sentiment and a picture if you wanted to. I am planning some non-Christmas themed stars for next year, so I'll do a full project with one of those, or post on my Instagram feed, in the meantime thank you all for reading and supporting my blog in anyway this year, and see you all again in 2019!

All the best for Christmas and the New Year. http://www.instagram.com/thesecitydays

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Claudio Desideri - The Strangest - Music Review

I was looking for a work sample the other week and came across some of the music reviews I have had published in the past. So many different artists, and music ranging from indie rock to pure pop music. Ambient, ethereal music is not something I've come across much as a reviewer though, so I decided to challenge myself and review Claudio Desideri's first solo release 'The Strangest'.
Claudio has a background that includes tribute bands, and the new wave punk of Zephiro (worth checking out their very creatively shot music videos), and currently does beautiful things with his voice singing in a Queen tribute. That's quite a mixing pot of styles, and indicates a varied ability and musical taste, but no clues as to what a solo release would be like.

'The Strangest' is ambient and ethereal at it's core, with various effects employed to add to the atmosphere, tension running through the lyrics, and visuals in the music video. There's a quite quirky disco instrumental part, which on first listen didn't seem to quite fit with the song, but makes much more sense when you watch the video.


The repeated lyrics of "oooh ahhh, and if you wanna sing" have been stuck in my head since first listen, and overall the song is growing on me.

The effort is clear in the accompanying music video (I wouldn't know where to start with something like that) with some well chosen shots, and sharp movements to convey the message in the lyrics. There's enough to grab your attention early on, and keep it until the end. Sometimes it seemed to move a tiny bit too quick between shots, and the gestures could have been more relaxed, but these are tiny things that I'm sure I won't even notice in the next video.

Sometimes you come across singers, songwriters, and musicians that capture your interest, and give you ideas of things you could imagine them writing, singing, and being great at. Claudio is definitely one of those. While this song was more of a grower, and lacked some of the energy and emotion I've heard in his cover versions, the potential is definitely there, and I look forward to hearing what comes next.

Download 'The Strangest' on all the usual download platforms now.
Check out future song teasers and more on Claudio's Instagram.

Friday, 16 November 2018

A Gift From Woolworths Book Tour - Q&A with Elaine Everest

Something old, and something new for this blog post - thank you to everyone who has been reading my previous reviews of Elaine Everest's novels. I have really enjoyed reading them, and am currently making my way through the pages of the latest book in the Woolworth's Girls series, A Gift From Woolworths. So Elaine is not a new author to These City Days, but her blog tour is! It's an absolute pleasure to join in the fun, so a big thank you to Elaine and Faye Rogers, along with ED PR for organising this, and here is the Q&A I did as part of the tour.


1)Did you always see the Woolworth's books as a series, or did it evolve into one? How far do you feel you can take the theme?

The Woolworths Girls was originally meant to be a stand-alone book. I had a two-book contract with my publisher, Pan Macmillan, the second book being The Butlins Girls. However, readers took the characters and Woolies to their hearts and it became a series. At the time I did worry as I’d tied up all the plot lines and had to think what else I could throw at my girls. 

Woolworths closed its doors for the final time in 2008 and I do joke that I could write a book to cover every year from 1945… However, my publisher does have a very nice outline for a Woolies story set in 1947 when there is a wedding…

2) Any interesting tales to tell of where you found inspiration this time round, or when it struck?

This book takes us to the end of the war and beyond. I had to decide what would happen to my girls and their families. Would there be more babies or a death - perhaps a romance or two? I was tying up all lose ends for the time being while I focused on my new series of books. Along the way I started to think about Freda and her life and recalled how once, as a shy fifteen year old, I went on a date straight after a Girl Guide meeting trying unsuccessfully not to look as though I was wearing a uniform covered in badges with my hat stuffed in my handbag. It was perfect for poor Freda who also had to endure Scottish country dancing and her experiences with this was very much my own experience.



3) What were your earliest ideas for this book? 

I wrote an earlier saga (Gracie’s War – still available in libraries) set in the same area as the Woolworths books. I enjoyed writing the story so much I started to think about another. I knew it would be set in Erith in the war years, and I decided the house where I once lived would be a good base for my main character, who had moved to the town to live with her nan. I knew she would need a job, so in my head I imagined walking up the High Street and into Pier Road where I spotted good old Woolies. Straight away I recalled my first Saturday job in a nearby Woolworths store in the late sixties/early seventies and the memories came flooding back. It would be the perfect place for Sarah to work and have her romance. I’d not written any words when I was invited to meet my soon to be agent, Caroline Sheldon. Caroline liked the idea and the rest is history…

4) What gifts did you love to buy from Woolworths?

I would visit Erith Woolworths as a child with my pocket money to buy stationery for school as well as presents for my parents at Christmas. Calendars were a favourite purchase for gifts. My first bra came from Woolies, and as a teenager I would purchase Rimmel make up, long playing records from ‘sound alike’ singers, and trendy pale coloured tights. I’ve chatted often with my readers about Woolies memories and so many people can recall their first purchases and how much they miss the iconic store.

5) What are your essentials that you have to hand for a writing session?

Coffee! I need a mug to hand regardless of whether it has turned cold. My notes containing the names of my characters - I’d forget my own name if it wasn’t written down. I have to have noise around me, as I cannot write in silence. However, it cannot be music as I then I have to stop writing to search for the right tunes. My favourite white noise is daytime TV. It is meaningless but fills the room. However, I have to change channel when Jeremy Kyle comes on, or I find myself shouting at him!

6) Apart from Woolworths and Butlins, what other British icons would make a good setting for a novel?

I’ve just written a new series set in the iconic Lyons Teashops. My stories will be set in Kent like my other books, and I really hope my readers enjoy meeting Rose, Lily, Katie and their friends. We revisit WW2 where Ramsgate suffered greatly during air raids and also played a prominent part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Ramsgate too played s big part in my childhood where I have pleasant memories of childhood holidays. 

7) How do you find social media as a promotional tool to promote your novels and interact with readers, and other authors?

Social media plays a big part in an author’s life. Fortunately my books can also be found in supermarkets and bookshops, but with online suppliers being so popular I can use my online presence to chat about and link to my books. I do join in with book promotions like the Tuesday campaign by the Romantic Novelist Association, The Saturday Saga campaign by friends in a private group of saga authors and also a Friday campaign on a saga readers group on Facebook. This is where I can chat with readers about everything saga. I also have a Facebook page for my books. ‘Elaine Everest Author’ is where I run competitions and give out news to my followers and readers. Authors also have a healthy relationship with book reviewers and bloggers where we can again chat about books and share news.

8) How did you transition from writing short stories to a full novel?

It is two different hats. I’ve written in excess of eighty short stories, as it was a big part of my working life as a jobbing author before I concentrated more on novels. I find I can switch easily from short to long fiction and also non-fiction as I’ve been doing this for over twenty-one years. However, both forms of fiction need to have conflict and a good ending to keep readers interested. I’ve recently written a short story for My Weekly magazine called The Last Saturday Girl which is set in Woolworths just as they closed in 2008. It will run at the end of November and include a competition to win copies of  A Gift From Woolworths. 

9) If the Woolworths Girls were on Twitter, how would they describe their lives? 

That would be interesting!

Sarah: Loving mother and devoted wife, who dreams of roses round the door and her husband home safe from war.
Freda: Fun loving single girl looking for the right guy!
Maisie: Earth mother who can turn a rag into a couture gown and loves a good laugh.

Thank you for your most interesting questions

Elaine
xx



Thanks again to Elaine for her insight, and do check out the other lovely blogs taking part in the tour, there's some great interviews and reviews out there! 

Monday, 29 October 2018

Spring Fold Card - Make From A Magazine

I had a big clear out of my craft magazine pile recently, and saved a good few projects from magazines, including some concept card ideas to try. I have had mixed success trying out the first few projects, but thought I'd write about my first experience making a spring form card.

The magazine tutorial I followed - this is what I was aiming for.
Spring form cards are scored then folded in a certain way so that the main body of the card, like the name suggests springy, and bouncy. It looked like an easy project to follow, but there were a few stumbling blocks along the way.

With these tutorials I often find that the pictures don't always give a clear indication of exactly what you need to do, and what angle to score at etc. Once you've come back to it with fresh eyes it's a lot easier to work out, but my first impressions were that I didn't know exactly how the card was supposed to sit on a surface when completed, and I wasn't sure which card would give the best result - it just said that thicker card makes it more sturdy. I think a little more guidance and better pictures of the scoring and folding process would have helped here.

The finished result - copyright These City Days 2018
I am pleased to say I do have a made and completed card, that stands up as I think was intended, though it did take a while to work out that I still had some glue to apply to make the card properly stand-up - I thought I'd completed all the processes and gone wrong as my card just flopped over, but no I missed out one part of the instructions that seemed so obvious when I came back to it.

My finished result does look a bit different to the magazine tutorial, so I still have some work to do, to get the main part of the card more of a rotated square than a narrow diamond, and my measurements may have been off, because I'm not sure if the folds are supposed to overlap or not. Apart from that it was a fun card to make and decorate, and I think the finished result looks really cute. I'm also happy to have a finished project, what you don't see here, is my binned attempts at some other concept cards, where the instructions don't make sense -yet.

Copyright These City Days 2018
Have you crafted any concept cards lately? any tutorials to recommend? would love to hear your thoughts below. Thanks for reading everyone.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Alexis Gerred Album Review



A 10 track album that tells the story of a songwriter with a clear identity and strengths, that occasionally veers off course, but always delivers on raw vocal talent, and memorable lyrics. This is what you can expect from West-End star and BBC Let It Shine semi-finalist, but the detail in his self-titled debut reveals even more.

Vocally this album is a powerhouse of raw rock tones, subtle emotion, and a delivery that adapts well to the more pop and country inspired numbers. Alexis has a voice born to deliver a story and capture the attention of an audience, in a genuine and accessible way.

The storytelling this vocal delivers is personal and relatable, slipping with ease through subjects such as mental health, parenthood, grief, and regret - but the lyrics are reflective, at times very uplifting, and the difficult subjects tackled with just the right level of emotion.

The Highlights

Sweet Angel was the song that launched the crowd funding campaign for this album, and it's always resonated with me. It won me over early on, with it's soaring, atmospheric melodies. You can read my review here but my other favourites include:

FACE THE CROWD - What captured my attention was how well this song gathered pace, and built up into an anthemic number that I just want to be singing back to Alexis at a gig. Fast becoming a favourite on the album.

RULE THE WORLD - One of the duets on featuring West-End star Danielle Steers. I wasn't sure how they would sound together on record, when I first heard this was happening, but I needn't have worried. The production is on point, the combination of soul and rock vocals work really well together, and the subtle backing vocals/harmonies really add to the beauty of the track.

SAVE ME - "Find it hard to breathe, find it hard to see" - this song is raw emotion, personal
experience, and a beautiful, smooth, and emotive 'moment' on the album. Mental health is an issue that is very close to me, so this song, with it's acoustic base, and slight country leaning was at first quite difficult to hear, but soon became a relatable gift. Be prepared, it's incredibly moving.

NO ORDINARY GIRL - A good example of all the pieces of the jigsaw fitting together in terms of simple but effective backing and lead vocal performances, and instrumentation. Another track that people will respond to live, and one I was soon singing along to.

The Added Sparkle

I decided not to do a track by track with this review, as it would probably end up as an essay and there were other things I wanted to say, but I do want to give credit to Jon Wright for his production, which has really bought the best out of Alexis' songs. It's first class work, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for other work he produces in the future.

Also credit to Liv Austin for duetting on 'HOME', a chilled out softer ballad, that I also enjoyed. If you enjoy country rock then you'll love this. Ideal for a chilled out live lounge setting, with a sentiment everyone can relate to.

Room To Grow

It was clear after a first listen that Alexis is displaying some clear strengths and potential, lyrically, and with song style and performance. There is an identity forming, although for me it seemed to veer a little off course, partly with track selection, as Hold You Close and Don't Let It Go seemed like they'd be more at home on a different type of album.

I think there is room to grow and improve with some of the backing vocals and ad libs as well. The La La La's on 'Don't Let It Go' were a bit repetitive, and while the Bon Jovi-esque 'Road To Redemption', was overall a strong song, the vocal lines "How Long, How Long, How Will You Ride" didn't quite work.

The Journey

I was part of the crowd funding campaign for this album, and really enjoyed getting an insight into how the album came together. As someone with a big passion for music, helping to make this happen has been a highlight this year. So the only other thing I would say is: be proud, enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing what comes next.

Alexis the debut album is available to download from October 26th. Please do check out all the social links below and if you like what you hear, say hello.
Alexis:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Danielle Steers
Liv Austin
Jon Wright

Friday, 21 September 2018

Flash - A Tribute To Queen


Anyone that knows me will know how much I love music. It's my happy place, my therapy, the thing that makes me feel alive, and something that I can still enjoy as much as I can despite suffering from anxiety. Which means when I come across something new that I like, my enthusiasm is probably all too obvious, as it was this summer when I went to see Flash - A Tribute To Queen perform at Chelmsford's Fake Festival.

I grew up on many of the Queen songs they perform, so nostalgia was always going to be a factor, although for me, with a tribute, that can only take you so far. Beyond this I could see and hear musical skill, vocal ability, and charisma. This is why you go and see a good tribute act, this is why a good tribute act works, and this is why I hope to be able to see lots more of Flash in the future.

I can only judge on what I have seen and heard so far, but these guys come across as absolute pro's, and a strong unit that work together well on-stage. They respect the songs they are performing, but you can hear little touches of them in there too. They interact with the crowd, and they make a lot of them smile.



I've heard some of the classic Queen songs live before, sung by covers artists, but hearing them performed by a pro tribute act is a whole different level of good. I even felt a tiny bit emotive at watching a Youtube video of 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives' live.

Claudio is the frontman who entertains, bursting on stage with energy and charisma, sneaking a go on the other's instruments like an excited kid entering a music shop for the first time, doing it all without the cocky attitude of some performers I have seen on TV recently.

Someone described them on social media as just a sing-along with Freddie style show - well yes, if you are there, and you have a frontman adept at working the crowd, how are you not going to respond to that! You can't please everyone, but those that listen to the detail know why Flash work, and many smiling faces this year lay testament to that.

If you're a fan of Queen, British Rock, or just want to experience a new tribute act for yourself, then check out Flash - A Tribute To Queen.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Pink Parcel Subscription Box - May 2018 - Review

Hi everyone,

I am a member of a free stuff group on Facebook and recently they posted up an offer where you could trial a Pink Parcel box for £1. I thought it would be something different to order and review for you all, and this box was the May 2018 version, I realise this is a tad late going up, but I think it's still worth giving you an idea of what to expect.

What Is Pink Parcel?



This is a period subscription box, and when you subscribe you receive a pile of sanitary wear and some treats to see you through the monthly woes. The different pricing options normally are:

£12.99 a month - free delivery, cancel anytime.
£35.97 for 3 months - free delivery, one off payment, save £1 a month.
£64.95 for 6 months - free delivery, 1 month free, VIP extras, one off payment.
£129.90 for 12 months - free delivery, 2 months free, birthday treat, one off payment, VIP extras.

When you order you get to choose whether you'd like to be sent tampons, towels or a mix of both, and the date you'd like the box by (supposed to be near your period time).

Ordering Process

It was very quick and easy to sign-up to the site, look at details of previous boxes, and use my trial offer. I chose for the box to arrive on the 20th May, and it said on the site that it would be a letterbox sized box that would arrive.



First Impressions

It's worth noting that dates are probably not guaranteed if you order this box regularly. I saw reports of people getting boxes early, late, and some were still waiting and getting impatient. If there is demand, it might be worth choosing a date a while before you need, or order at the end of the month for use the next month.

The branding, design, and outer envelope is very subtle, which I liked, although the box was bigger than expected, and there was no way it was going to fit through the letterbox, and as my point above, my box arrived 4 days late.

The Contents



I've got to be honest it's hard to get that excited over sanitary ware, though I like the fact they included your choice of item, along with some extra pads and towels, so I think you'd have enough to see you through a cycle, though maybe needed a few more pads.

I love the idea of the little fabric pouch to put your stash in if you're going out and about or are away. I'd never thought of that before, but it's so subtle and convenient.

The 'for you' treat box is where the real novelty factor comes in and for the most part I was happy. A nice addition, though not too my taste were the chai latte sachet and the chocolate, but that was just taste, on the less impressive front was the sachet of Optiat facemask! Stingy is putting it mildly - I threw it out the box in mild disgust, you can feel there is barely any product in there - really don't see the point if you don't even get one full application over your whole face.

On the good side I love the eye pencil, and it's in one of my favourite make-up colours. It will go really well with the eyeshadows I have. I was surprised to find I also liked the scent of the orange juice hand cream from Naobay, and am interested to use the soap and body cleanser.

There was good variety in the treat box, but I could buy more sanitary products for cheaper, and despite proclaiming the box contained product over £40, I don't think some of the samples would be worth the cost of a full price box, they were just too small.

If there are offers on to try a box, then I'd definitely try it out, and you're sure to find some treats, but it's not something I would subscribe too.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Book Review - Wartime At Woolworths, Elaine Everest

Heat waves are wonderful things for helping you relax, switch off, and really lose yourself in a book, and that has basically been me recently, as I read, in record time for me, the latest instalment in the Woolworth's Girls series. Unfortunately I then got writers block when writing a review, so this has taken a while to get up, so sorry guys, but here is my thoughts.

Wartime At Woolworths picks up the action in 1943, with war still raging around the lives of the friends and family in Erith. The blurb on the back declares that the Woolworths Girls 'face their biggest challenge yet' and that certainly seems true.


The reality of wartime is that you never knew what was around the corner, and you can live life in fear of death and destruction. There's an unpredictability about it, but it takes a skilled writer to accurately portray that on the page and give the reader no sense of when something will happen and to who, and that's just what Elaine Everest did. She captured the mood perfectly and kept me engaged with no idea of what would happen next.

I also enjoyed the fact she had gradually built up insight into what life was like in the time period over this series of books, and here she adds details of day to day life in wartime. Grey bread, the sourcing of luxuries, re-using and making clothes, and above all the escapism that a trip to the cinema brings, were all covered throughout the book, this was a story where the small details were noticed.

Small details included the fact that someone could send a letter in the morning announcing their impending arrival, and have the letter arrive before they did, that same day. Not ashamed to say I was a bit mind blown by that idea, and how quick/different the postal must've been back then.

The characters and their attitudes to life back then bought some of comedy moments to life, including when Ruby, attending a wedding tells the newly arrived Alan "I'll join you when I've seen that Gwyneth's parents are settled. They're pretty decent folk considering their teetotal". I was equally laughing, and feeling like I'd stepped into an alternate universe.

Christmas Time At Woolworths didn't quite meet my expectations, but Wartime At Woolworths far exceeded them. Well done and I look forward to seeing what you write next.



Have you read this or any of the other Woolworths Girls books? why not tweet Elaine and let her know what you think. Her handle is @ElaineEverest.

Thank you to Ed Public Relations for gifting me this book to review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Fake Festival Chelmsford - 7th July 2018

Saturday 7th July was a day of new things. It was the first time Fake Festivals had bought their touring tribute band festival to Chelmsford, and the first time I had been to one of their events. I'd bought an early bird ticket as soon as they went on sale - partly because I love day into evening events (never been one for clubbing until 2am) and I wanted to try something new. The other big draw was Flash- A Tribute To Queen, were performing.

I've not spoken much about the music I've grown up with on here before, but Queen definitely featured and I was pretty excited to hear a tribute to them for the first time.


The event ran from midday to 11pm - 6 bands with roughly 1hr 15 minutes each, and 30 minutes break in-between to reset. The festival area included a fenced off outside area with food vendors, glitter face painters (should've done that!), and some children's inflatables/play activities. The main festival tent had a fast serving bar at one end and the stage with full lighting set-up at the other.

I wasn't going to miss the football, and knew my festival stamina wouldn't last all day, especially as it was VERY hot and humid, so arrived ready for some live music just before the 4th act went on-stage. Sadly the night didn't go entirely to plan, as despite being well rested and hydrated I think the heat and bad sleep caught up with me. I didn't get to enjoy as much of the event as I'd like, in the way I'd like, but I am still very glad I went.

PRO'S:


A quick and easy ticket scan and security check, friendly staff, a good amount of outside space, and good quality sound, light and stage set-up. Although I didn't get to see as much of the event as I wanted, I still think the ticket price of £22.50 was pretty good value for 6 bands all doing just over an hours set, and the quality of the set-up.

Timetables were available beforehand as well so you knew exactly what to expect.

I wasn't too sure what the atmosphere would be like, especially after the football, but although a few people looked a bit worse for wear it stayed friendly. There were good age range of people there which was nice to see, and should be repeated more in Chelmsford.

CON'S:

The access to water wasn't ideal - there were no water standpipes you could fill your own bottle up from, drinking water at the bar came in a cup - not very practical in a crowd full of people wanting to jump around a bit, and the vendors outside were selling bottles for different prices outside. You also could only take in your own bottle on first entry. I think this could be improved for future events, especially when it's so hot.

Although I never felt squashed or too crowded in, it was a very hot day and there needed to be more ventilation in the tent. They should have fenced off all the event area so they could take the sides of the tent down and get some cooler air in. I think this, and previous tiredness, just caught up with me a bit and I decided to leave - during the band I really wanted to see.

But let's talk about the music, I know from others experiences the quality of tribute acts can vary, A LOT at gigs, but what I saw and heard from Guns 2 Roses and Flash was outstanding. Guns 2 Roses did a good mix of full on rock and rock ballads, some songs I'd even forgotten were Guns and Roses and that I liked!

Flash - Queen Tribute Band
It was definitely a moment when Flash literally bounced on to the stage with the opening bars of One Vision. What an amazing feeling to hear that song live, and this was swiftly followed by A Kind Of Magic, and Those Were The Days Of Our Lives also featured in the set. It was during their set I went home, but the musicianship and atmosphere they created was great, and Italian frontman Claudio Desideri as Freddie was a find!! a bit of a lookalike, and a whole lot of voice!

Two parts of two band sets wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I bought my Fake Festival ticket, but I still made some memories, tried something new, despite some anxiety and the heat. I would be more than happy to see either band again. Would I try another Fake Festival again? For sure, just be nice if it wasn't so crazy hot.

Find out more on the links below:
Fake Festivals
Flash- A Queen Tribute
Guns 2 Roses

ALSO I have a video of Flash performing 'One Vision' on my Youtube Channel, please do check it out, and there's some more photo's over on Instagram.

Friday, 15 June 2018

4 Ways To Help Care For Dry Hair


Hair, I love it and hate it, sometimes miss how it used to be, and often get annoyed at its weather beaten state in winter. Now I'm a reluctant 30 something with thick, sometimes dry and frizzy, brown hair. I’m not great at styling it, but have discovered some things that have made a difference when looking after it, so I thought I’d do a post on 4 of them.

1. Upgrading My Hair Dryer

Years ago I used to have a basic, just does the job hair dryer, and got to the point where I needed something better that would really look after my hair. I was given an ionic hair dryer as a present, and instantly noticed the difference. The technology really did help smooth out my hair when drying, but now there’s a new kid on the block I am excited about. Nanoe technology claims to retain around 1,000 times more moisture than regular hairdryers, and products often come with 3 attachments, including a quick dry nozzle which I’d love to try – it emits strong and weak air flows to help look after your hair and leave it healthy and shiny. Hopefully I will have the chance to upgrade my hair dryer soon, I have spotted a rose gold version that is so pretty - a hair dryer can be pretty as well as practical right?



2. Hair Dye With Extras

I dye my hair fairly regularly, and there’s nothing like the feeling of freshly dyed hair. I normally have extra conditioner left over as well which is always a bonus. I normally choose product with added extra nourishment, whether that be extra conditioning ingredients, or natural oils. My new favourite is the Schwarzkopf Colour Expert with OmegaPLEX technology. I've only tried it once, but will definitely be using it again. It was easy to apply, my hair felt nicer even when I was applying the dye and rinsing afterwards, and the condition of my hair stayed nicer for longer afterwards.

The box comes with anti-breakage serum which goes in the developer bottle with the colour crème, an after treatment repair sealer to help seal the colour, and a repair reviver which you use after 3 weeks. I'm really impressed, and they have additional products you can order, so I have a tube of colour sealer treatment rinse off to use as well!

3. New Shampoo

Mum drummed it into me from an early age that it's not good to keep using the same shampoo all the time, and that my hair would build up a tolerance to it, this has been dismissed in hair care circles as a myth, but there is still good reason to change up your brand and try new things. This article looks at reasons to change your hair products, such as diet, and changes in the climate/weather, while another about hair rules you should break points to the reasons why your shampoo isn't performing. There's useful advise about how your shampoo may be drying your hair out or coating it with product - neither of which is ideal.

My recent find is a set a hair care products from the Organic Shop. They are soil association rated as natural and free of SLS, SLES and Parabens. I was lucky enough to be sent a set for review, so will be covering those in a separate post, but so far so good, they are doing what they promised and my hair feels better for it. Look out for the review in a future post.



4. Serum and Heat Protect Spray

These are two must-haves in my box of hair care products, and ones I use quite a lot. The heat protect spray is for when I straighten either just after washing, while the serum helps me keep control of flyaway hairs and smooth strands out between washing and straightening. A straightener does wonderful things, but I try not to over do it, and don't want heat damage, so protection, and a serum helps keep things in check.

According to some fun hair facts that I looked up, the average human sheds 50-150 strands of hair in a day (see, it's not just me that sheds mum!), but it's important to find what works for your hair, and look after all the strands left on your head. So what works for you? if you have any tips or favourite products we may not have heard of? let me know in the comments below.

* This post was written in collaboration with Panasonic.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Daring Cardmakers Tropical Themed Card Challenge

Hello Everyone,

Summer has officially arrived, the weather is pretty consistently good, it's my birthday this week (less said about that the better - reluctant 30 something), and I have a gig to look forward to in July, and am tempted by another in August. Meantime I have a few blogs I'm working on in drafts, but have had a bit of writers block, so instead have uploaded my entry into the Daring Cardmakers Challenge for this week.

I've really enjoyed joining in with the themes when I can, and seeing how other people have portrayed them. This weeks theme is Tropical which is close to my heart, it always reminds me of my favourite tropical holiday to the Polynesian Resort at Disney World; I love that place so much!

Copyright These City Days 2018


To make this card I used elements from a recent Hunkydory members kit, which is possibly one of my favourites they have produced. I absolutely love the colours and the different birds in the toppers, and had a lot of fun creating this flamingo card. I teamed the flamingo topper and a 'let's celebrate' sentiment with some DCWV cardstock and silver holographic card to add a touch of sparkle. It was fun playing around with the layout and choosing stash items to match, and I am really pleased with the end result.

There's some really pretty inspiration from the Daring Cardmakers Blog Design Team over on this post, and you can also follow along with the other challenge entries. If you are keen on card making, then why not keep your eyes open for a new challenge each Friday.

Don't forget you can also follow These City Days on Instagram for more crafty posts, local lifestyle pics, and teasers of forthcoming reviews and posts.

*contains an affiliate link.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Dance Themed Stamped and Stencilled Card

Hi everyone,

Just catching up on some blogging, and I have a brand new card to share today. I've been looking forward to sharing this one, as it's my favourite of the 3 I have made using the music and dance themed stamp set from Creative Stamping Magazine.

The first idea for this card came from a Christmas themed idea in another magazine. I decided to take the layout idea from there, and then do some stamping and stencilling to create the finished card. You can see the original inspiration on my social media, but here's how I put together this card.

Items Used:

Creative Stencils - Stars *
Nuvo Crystal Drops Navy Blue *
Navy Blue Ribbon
White Card
Cosmic Shimmer Colour Cloud Blending Ink ( and applicator sponges/dabber.
Colouring Pencils
Memento Black Ink *
Acrylic Stamping Block
Scissor & Double Sided Tape
Foam Pads
Glitter Card
Music & Dance Themed Stamps (Creative Stamping Magazine).



How It's Made:
  • Stamp the dancing shoes stamp on a piece of white card, then colour the image and cut round the edge of the design.
  • Next, stamp your chosen sentiment (here I used 'Put On Your Dancing Shoes') on another piece of white card. Cut out the sentiment, using a corner punch to round the edges. Finish with some Nuvo Drops and leave to dry.
  • Cut out 4 equal size rectangles that will be placed next to each other on the top half of the card. Mine were roughly 7x3cm.
  • using the star stencil and colour cloud blending ink, decorate each rectangle of card, two in each colour. Decorate two panels as shown with a musical note stamp.
  • Mount the decorated pieces of card on the top half of your piece of glitter card.
  • Just below the stencilled pieces, wrap around the ribbon and securely fix on the back. Add a matching bow on the left hand side.
  • Fix the sentiment on the bottom left hand side with foam pads, then mount the dancing shoes image in the middle of the set of stencilled rectangles.
  • Mount the whole piece on to a white 6x6 card blank to finish.
The finished result is really striking and can easily be adapted to your choice of colours. The sentiment means it could be used as a card for many different occasions, from birthdays to party invites. I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you'd like to check out some of the items I used to make this card, please check out the affiliate links above.

The stars stencil was my first purchase from Craft Stash, and I was very pleased with the price and quality. I've also noticed they do a good range of Tonic Nuvo products, which could be hard to resist after trying some out on a previous design team!!

New Challenge: I got a really cool hand lettering book for Christmas and some pens from a competition win and present, so I am hoping to develop a new skill this year. Will post pictures on my progress when I have any, and if you fancy having a go, check out these really pretty packs of brush pens.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Alexis Gerred - Sweet Angel - Song Review & Crowd Funding Launch


Although Alexis Gerred has 10 years experience in the theatre, appearing in shows such as the Green Day musical American Idiot, and was more recently seen as a semi-finalist in the BBC hit show Let It Shine, he is untested as a singer-songwriter. So untested in fact, that very few people have heard any of his original music, until now.

 Alexis, perhaps in part, fuelled by the response he received after appearing on Let It Shine, has written a 10 track album. It's all ready to be recorded and released, with your help! The album has been launched via a crowd funding campaign on the Indiegogo platform, where you can pre-order a digital or physical copy of the album, along with other perks, to help offset some of the costs of release. But as an unknown in the songwriting sense, Alexis had to make a splash to launch the campaign, and he has done that with launch song 'Sweet Angel'.

I was veering between Iron Sun and Five To Five as ones to watch on Let It Shine, and picked out Alexis' voice, but had no idea what to expect from this debut song. 'Sweet Angel' has an energy to it that I instantly liked, and while I don't talk about it much on here, it would be the kind of music I'd turn to if I was having a bad day with my anxiety. The uptempo beat of the music, especially when the drums kick in, works well with the message in the lyrics, especially these key lines:

"I can see you falling, I see you falling deeper down, I'll show you how to fly with broken wings, sweet angel" (Alexis Gerred, Sweet Angel).

 How can that not make you smile and feel better inside? The vocals suit the track well, and display a different, softer side, to what can be a raw husky rock tone. On first listen I felt like I was waiting for the track to get going (having heard a soaring, upbeat, chorus as a tease), and there was the odd word sung that wasn't immediately clear, but as you can probably tell my critiques are only little things that I picked up on in 'review mode', and probably wouldn't even notice listening for fun.

It's catchy, the message (which you can find out more about on Indiegogo) comes across well, and I can imagine it will go down live, with Alexis up on-stage with band! In short, I really enjoyed this! If you'd like to find out more about the song, and the perks available if you pre-order, then visit this link - Alexis Gerred - Indiegogo Page.





Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Fairground Themed Stamping & Handmade Card Projects.

A crafter can never have too much stash right? according to my family you can, but I had a good sort out of all my paper craft products and my stamp collection was a bit lacking, and some of them were of a similar theme. Time for something new, so I ordered the Fairground Fun stamp set from the For The Love Of Stamps by Hunkydory.

This really appealed to me, as I have many happy memories of going to the fair when I was younger, and when it arrived I wasn't disappointed. I think I will get a lot of value from this set, as some of the individual images can be used on their own for different theme cards, there's possibilities to aim at different age groups, and create a fairground scene or two.

I have made a couple of cards so far, and found the stamps easy to work with and good quality. My favourite of the two cards I will share details for below. This is an invitation idea, and instead of using the card blank traditionally folded, I folded in and under, which you can hopefully see from the photo. There's a triangle shaped tube which helps the card stand up, and a panel which you can add all your party details on to. To make this card I used:

Design copyright These City Days 2018


White card stock
Patterned paper
Memento Ink Pad -Tuxedo Black *
Small round decorative stickers
Colouring pencils
Crystal glitter glue
Foam pads *
Double sided tape
Hunkydory Fairground Fun stamp set *

Thank you for dropping by and supporting my blog today, if you have any crafty questions, or have ideas for other lifestyle content you might like to see in a future post please let me know. I already have a few ideas planned, but would love to hear from you.

*Affiliate links to some of the products used to create this card.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Daring Cardmakers - Home Themed Card Challenge

Hi everyone,

I hope everyone is well. Thanks so much to everyone who has commented or read my last post. I am fairly new to book reviews, but they are great fun to do. Last year I joined in with some of the challenges on the Daring Cardmaker's blog, and they are continuing this year so I had to have another go. It's great fun to see how everyone interprets a theme, which this time round is HOME.

Items used:

Nuvo Glitter Drops - Blue Lagoon
White card base
Blue patterned card
Colouring pencils
Black Ink Pad
Kraft Card
At Home Stamp (Kirstie Allsopp kit)
Mama Makes Mandala Mania Stamps




The inspiration for this card started off with the stamps; they were a cheeky purchase when I was a member of the Mama Makes design team. I'd cut a few out and coloured them but wasn't sure what to do with them, until I saw the Daring Cardmakers challenge. I thought it would be good to cut them in half and use them like curtains to frame a cut out window frame. I pieced together the rest of the card using items from my stash listed above, and decorated a bit with my new Nuvo Glitter Drops (highly recommend Nuvo, they have so many pretty colours, and very precise application).

Hope you have enjoy this blog, and do check out the Daring Cardmakers and see how everyone else has responded to the challenge. There is sure to be a variety of designs.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Elaine Everest - Christmas At Woolworths - Book Review

*Apologies for the lateness of this Christmas book review, it was released in the run up to Christmas, but I read a fair portion of it over the festive season. Im late posting, but it's never too late for a good book right?*

Christmas is probably one of my favourite times to head to the book shelves in the shops, so many novels out with a Christmas theme. I'm like a moth to a flame, I just want to buy and read them all. There's just something about festive novels that makes them so easy to read.

When I heard that Elaine Everest had plans to release a new novel, and a follow up to The Woolworths Girls, I was excited to read how the story had progressed. I was expecting good things after enjoying the previous novel, the review of which you can read here.


Readers pick up the story in Wartime, with Maisie, Freda and Sarah all with husbands or family members off fighting, or involved in the war effort. This time round there is a greater focus on friends and relations, so you get to know more about stalwart of Woolworths, Betty Billington, Sarah's grandmother Ruby, and her neighbour, including the ever present, but slightly irritating Vera, and the furry ever faithful Nelson.

I won't give too many spoilers away, but you may find a few love stories focused around Mike and Bob Jackson, and new additions Gwyneth and Douglas. It's the seamless introduction of new characters, and giving more prominence to those we didn't see much of in the first novel, that adds some humour and interest to the story. It's not just that though, it's the sense of warmth within when the characters bloom, and grow in confidence as the story unfolds, it's something you can relate to in every era.

Favourite moments include Freda standing up to those who commented on her age and sex when she started wartime work with the fire service, and when she was a fish out of water at a dance with US servicemen, and brash, more sophisticated women.

My only slight disappointment was that the novel was not quite what I expected from the title. I just couldn't help looking for references to Christmas, either in Woolworth's, or in the lives of the characters despite the war. When things did feel more festive, it seemed a little rushed. That being said, 'Christmas At Woolworths' did end on a high note, with a powerful sense of the importance of family, friends, community, and being grateful for what you have, and that is how it should be.

Another interesting read, from an author who has found her stride, and has already gathered pace towards her next Woolworth's Girls release. Keep an eye out in May, and find out more here.

In the meantime, look at my current reading pile, added to at Christmas with a competition win, a Robbie William biography and the Blue Planet 2 book. What shall I read next?




Thursday, 18 January 2018

Optiat Mouthwatering Mandarin Feel Great Coffee Scrub - Review

Hello and Happy 2018!

It seems so bizarre to be wishing you all a Happy New Year, this festive season has gone so quick. Normally by this stage I would have watched a fair amount of Christmas TV and eaten lots of party food, and oddly neither has happened, but I am sticking to one post Christmas tradition, catching up on some blog posts. Today I am reviewing a scrub I got sent a while back from a brand called Optiat.



This was one of two scrubs I was sent when there was a lot of attention given to plastic microbeads, their dangers, and what was being done to prevent the sale of products containing them. Optiat have produced a mandarin flavoured coffee scrub, with Arabica coffee grounds and orange essential oils among their ingredients.

First impressions were that it was a fairly decent sized tube, though the smell was a bit confusing. I expecting either the orange or coffee to over power, and what I got was a balanced mix of the two, which was a bit odd. I wasn't an offensive scent in any way, but I don't think it was something that would attract me if I tried the product out in a shop.

The scrub is quite thick in texture, and comes out quite lumpy as well, because of the nature of the ingredients It was also a bit crumbly in my hands and fell off my face a few times, so it wasn't the easiest to apply.

Some exfoliating scrubs I have used in the past have been very subtle and smooth, in fact they've not really felt like a scrub, this one has more of a coarse texture, so you'll definitely get full a exfoliation treatment.



I have used it a good few times now to give it a proper test, but I don't think it's quite right for my skin type, and although my skin felt nice afterwards, I didn't enjoy applying it. It's a bit too clumpy and thick for me, and half a tube is already gone, so I don't think I'd get much mileage for my money compared to other products I have tried.

It was interesting to try, but not for me I am afraid, but I did fair much better with the other scrub I was sent in the same package, so keep an eye out for that review soon. I've also noticed Optiat do a range of face masks so I will be checking out the credentials on those very soon. Check out the full Optiat product range here.

* This product was gifted for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.




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