Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Liv Austen - A Moment Of Your Time (Album Review)


One of the best things about music is that breath of fresh air it can bring, when you need something new. Everything seems a bit samey, and then an artist comes along that just wakes you up and makes you pay attention! Liv Austen does just that. The Norwegian singer-songwriter first came to my attention when she did a duet with Alexis Gerred on his album (read the review here), and although it took me a little while to get the album, I am so glad I did.



The industry has ever so slightly pigeon-holed Liv as a country artist, and I can hear hints of that in the album, but in reality this is a pop record with many influences. There’s soulful ballads, upbeat punchy pop, a slight touch of urban attitude, and some indie guitars creeping into the mix, all of which makes for an easy to listen to, press repeat when you’re done record.
Window Shopping was the track that convinced me to give the album a try, and it’s still a favourite. The lyrical story interwoven with shopping references is a lot of fun, and the beat is just perfect for a summer day, or summer gig. There’s also an acoustic version doing well on Youtube, which I would recommend checking out.

It’s hard to pick out highlights from an album I have listened to all the way through, quite a few time over, but there are a few others that stole my attention more than most, and The Next Time was definitely one of those. The lyrical references – chainsaws, jigsaws a square peg in a round hole were a lot of fun and seamlessly fit into the lyrics, and the changes of pace made for a really catchy song.

Whole Heart was another one that made me smile. The soft vocal harmonies and piano intro worked well with the relatable lyrics, and well-chosen ad-libs, with an emotional punch in just the right places. Liv has a knack of letting a song ebb and flow in just the right way, and letting it build or fade away to suit the story and Whole Heart was a great example of that.

The whole album has a live instrumental feel to it, and you can feel the gig vibe even on CD, but if you want to dance, head on over to track 9 – Part Time Sweetheart – this will be the dance/sing-along hit of any live session, along with Window Shopping. I’d also like to mention the title track ‘A Moment Of You Time’ – the guitars on this give it a really laid-back holiday vibe, and it adds a nice touch of soul to the track list.

The only thing I would say in critique, would be around ‘Don’t Regret A Single One’ – I just felt the higher pitched vocals at times in this track were a bit overpowering, and the music was drowning out the vocals a little at other points in the song. It’s hard not to be picky at times, especially when you spot potential, but I still really enjoyed the drums and backing vocals on this track.
All in all it’s a refreshing, catchy, pop record, with a lot of soul, interesting lyrics, and some great quality instrumentation. I can’t really say any more than that, other than I look forward to hearing what’s coming next.

‘A Moment Of You Time’ is out now, and available on all your usual streaming services/download sites, on CD via www.livausten.com and if you’re lucky you may even spot it in your local HMV. Follow Liv on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more musical updates.

* In the interests of disclosure I bought this musical gem and just had to give it a shout out on my blog. 


Thursday, 13 June 2019

Sharon White Stationery Review

Although I have missed the boat with World Letter Writing Day (1st September), I think letter writing should be celebrated all year round, and I very much hope it's not dying out. Who doesn't love getting happy mail land on the doormat.

I was recently given the chance to receive and review a selection of stationery from mixed media artist Sharon White. Sharon has exhibited at the London Fashion and Textile Museum and Dubai International Art Festivals, and has worked the Strictly pro dancers and craft fan Kirstie Allsopp.

The online store on her website features some wall-art, cushions, and her recent stationery release, and to give you an idea of style, this artist likes bling, pearls, crystals, fabric and floral accents. Sharon has chosen to magnify elements of some of her paintings to create the cushions and stationery.

I received samples of her correspondence cards, which all have foil greetings at the top on one side, with wording such as hey, hello lovely and guess what. They were also nicely presented with the top of the envelope folded down so you could see the artwork that was printed/inserted within.

Pro's - the magnified artwork looks stunning, and the printing has really captured the detail of the materials used. I don't know how she has done it, but the glitter, pearls, gems etc. really stand out. I'd definitely notice this on a shop shelf, as I find most writing sets out there at the moment quite muted, old fashioned, and a bit boring. The greetings at the top of each card are also a lot of fun, and although I've never used them before, I like the idea of correspondence cards, a bit of old school tradition mixed with modern mixed media prints, and they've all been printed on good quality materials.



How I Would Use - Because of the artwork and foiling, size of cards and price, I'd say this set is more for gifting or special messages to keep rather than everyday use. I wouldn't write normal penpal post on something this nice.

Cons - The price. Although there are 12 beautifully made cards in the set, and as a crafter I appreciate the work that has gone into them, I think £19.99 is too steep for a pack of 12 cards. I'd look to pay more for an artists product, but not that much, and would look for extras such as writing paper and pens/pencils for that price. I think the price of the cushions is more inline with what I'd expect. I also think its a neat idea to package the cards in a bag that can be kept and reused for other things, I was disappointed that the decoration was just a name. It's not something I'd keep, and I don't think adds value and would put me off the price point again.



Sharon has the right idea by magnifying some of her artwork for more affordable stationery pieces, but I think the packaging should match the prettiness of what's inside, and as an avid letter writer, I couldn't justify the price for the amount of product received. That said, I am currently wondering whether one of her cushions would go in my bedroom.

Please do check out Sharon's artwork collections, and the images she has chosen for her stationery range, although I wouldn't buy, I loved the ideas and it's great to see more stationery products out there.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Me, Myself, and 90's Nostalgia *hosted



I have a big birthday coming up soon, and I am not happy about how the numbers are adding up this year, but a bit of nostalgia never hurt right? even if it does make me feel old! The '90s were (whispers quietly) my teenage years, remembered for watching Thunderbirds after swimming on a Friday, tussling with friends over who got what ice pop at the shops after school, and saving pennies to buy a Tamagotchi to look after, something which I was probably too old for.

Other favourites include binge watching The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air - the fairly recent video from Graham Norton's show of Will Smith, Jaiden Smith, Alfonso, and DJ Jazzy Jeff is a beautiful thing. Challenging my sister to a skip-it challenge (still a big kid that would probably do this again!) was also a favourite weekend activity.

My main memories of the ’90s though all circle around music, and the big part it played and still does play in my life. I was always happy around music, listening to it, dancing around to the radio, but as a teenager, I was much more interested in who was out there, how I could experience them, and what I was going to buy next on cassette or CD from Woolworths.

This was also the time I discovered the magic of live gigs, the excitement, the energy, and the disgust of my sister as I enthusiastically danced and sang all night long, while she looked on in embarrassment. I sunk to new lows when we were watching boybands and I screamed as well! Luckily I don't think I was ever as bad as the super fan in the video below: 


My first big concert outing was to see Take That at the Chelmsford Spectacular in 1993, how exciting it was back then to have them visit our town, and break records (at the time) for the largest crowd. That was the first of 3 times I saw the band, the second I had them over my head on an aerial stage, and the third I watched a school friend cry at Mark Owen singing Babe, at what turned out to be their last UK tour gig (that time around).

I’ve been a Take That fan since I was 13, but it wasn’t just the big boyband arena shows that caught my attention, there were so many other ways to enjoy pop music, from radio roadshows, touring events like the Radio 1 Massive Music Tour, and fun entertainment events like the Capital Extravaganza, so good I went twice and returned the next year. I also managed to fulfill a big ambition of going to the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, after many years of sellouts, and was in the audience of CD:UK a few times. On one show during a commercial break, H from Steps filmed us all on his video camera, waiting for Kavana to perform – who knows maybe the footage still exists and I have a little claim to fame from one of the best eras of pop!

I’m new to Spotify so maybe my next challenge will be to create a 90’s playlist, starting with Elton John – Candle In The Wind, and End Of The Road by Boys II Men, and ending with Ace Of Base – I Saw The Sign, with the Bodyguard Soundtrack in the middle! So many choices! What would you add? If you were buying music, games, films and more in the ’90s what did you choose? Join me in celebrating the 90’s, and forgetting how old we are now, and drop a message below, I’d love to hear your stories. 

* This post contains a hosted/sponsored video element. 

Monday, 20 May 2019

Essential Oils You Can't Do Without - Book Review *gifted

Hi all,

Hope everyone is well, and having a good week. If not, then maybe this book review can help a little. I was recently *gifted a copy of this book all about essential oils, and have just finished, what turned out to be a much better than expected book.

The content of the book is centred around 6 essential oils: tea tree, lemon, lavender, peppermint, rosemary cineole, and damask rose, plus some bonus oils. It's divided up into easy to digest sections, first an overview of each of the main oils featured, and then how to use them. Part 2 has sections for beauty, mind and body, and the home with different sub sections in between. Skin concerns are divided up by age brackets, there are ideas for different rooms in the house, and some useful massage techniques that you can practice yourself.


PROS:
  • Good, clear advice in the comments at the start of each section on how long to use the oils for, and when to get advice on use and application. 
  • Easy to follow ideas with precise dosage (very important part to get right).
  • Nice to learn more of familiar ingredients such as Argan, which I see in products all the time, but don't know much about. 
  • General guidance on what to look for when buying aromatherapy oils.

CONS:
  • The book seems to have an international reach, stating product availability and usage advice may vary from country to country. I would have found UK specific buying and sourcing advice more useful.
  • Would have liked more information on what the additional/base/carrier type products are and where to find them, e.g. black liquid soap, rose hydrolate, clay paste.
  • I'm not sure how practical some of the ideas are to put in practice. I am not a fan of spiders, and love the idea of deterring them, but putting cotton wool balls soaked in lavender around the house, that could easily get moved, trodden on, or picked up and thrown away, just wouldn't work.
Overall I would say though it's a book I can trust. The instructions and safe usage advice is clear and in all the right places, there is a wide variety of ideas, in fact many more than I expected, and it was enjoyable to read. Now I just need to get my hands on some essential oils to try out some of the suggestions myself. My favourite so far are the face masks, a solution for cleaning your hair brush, and their suggestions for concentration, well-being, and anxiety. 

Have you tried any essential oils in your life for the home or beauty/skincare? Do let me know in the comments below. I have used lavender with a base oil in the bath, and a high street headache product for the forehead with peppermint oil in and both worked well. I look forward to hopefully trying some new ideas and reporting back in the future. 

6 Essential Oils You Can't Do Without by Daniele Festy, is published by Eddison Books Ltd. Daniele was a renowned pharmacist and best selling author. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Alteya Organics Lip Balm Review *gifted

How is this for timing; a new lip balm arrived in the post to review just as I have been suffering with dry skin and lips. Not sure why that's happening as the weather is starting to look up, but thank you to those who gifted me a sample of Alteya Organics Lip Balm.

These lip balms are USDA certified 100% organic, chemical and GMO free, and is marked as not tested on animals. As with many lip balms out there, they also claim to soothe, moisturise, and fight signs of ageing on the packaging.

The different options are:
  • Rose
  • Jasmine and Ylang Ylang
  • Vanilla and Geranium
  • Lavender and Mint
  • Grapefruit and Zoravetz
  • Lavender
I am always drawn to the lip balm section of any shop, and have on occasion ended up with a little collection of balms with various scents/ingredients, so this was a review I was looking forward to, although I admit to being a bit sceptical when I saw I had been sent the lavender and mint version. I love both things, and use mint lip balms quite often, but I never would have thought of putting them both together in a lip product. But having used it for a while now, the smell is definitely not what I was expecting. I thought the lavender would over power, but it's a good balance of the two ingredients together and is quite subtle. On the lips it feels nice, with a slight refreshing feeling coming from the mint, and seems to last quite a while before it needs replacing. 

Although it's not my favourite lip balm I've tried, I'd still use it again, and try out one or two of the other options. I'm curious about the grapefruit and jasmine ones. Prices start at £3.60 with products available from Love Lula, a natural beauty shop. 

Monday, 4 March 2019

Elaine Everest - A Gift From Woolworths Book Review

Hi all,

I was very lucky to be invited to join in my very first book tour last year for the latest book in the Woolworth's Girls series, and it was a lot of fun to send in my questions, and read everyone else's posts. You can read my stop on the blog tour HERE. I was also kindly gifted the book to review as well, and have finally got around to putting my pen to paper and writing a review.

One of the first things that struck me about this novel, having read the other books in the series, was the marked change in tone and mood within the characters. They are no longer fearful of war, they are fearful of life when the war ends, and the changes that will bring. It's quite an intense piece of writing that really brings home how the female characters adjusted to life in wartime, and their new found independence, and work home/life.



What's also interesting, is the contrast between the characters that seem to embrace change and look forward to moving on, and those who are fearful, or are very used to their current roles, and don't know how to adjust. There's Betty who faces new challenges as a mother, but can't imagine life without the store, while George faces a family tragedy, yet is positive, ready to move on, and looks to the future.

One of the best additions to this story has to be the addition of Mr Porter. Having felt the changing tones in the novel and read the previous stories, I think he was a breath of fresh air. All the scenes featuring his character as he tries to rule the roost at Woolworths were very visual and amusing, and it was quite satisfying as a reader to picture the Woolworth's girls causing some mischief and standing up to him. I was a bit sceptical beforehand as to what else you could add to this story, in wartime, which hadn't already been covered, but this was the perfect way to add some light relief.

I've not written any stories since I studied English at school, so it always surprises me to read and notice all the little details Elaine includes in her novels, things as a reader I may not have thought of; such as putting the brake on a pram so it doesn't roll down the hill, or placing a plate in a bowl pouring hot water from the kettle on top. Very little detail is missed in the scene setting, and that helps keep things interesting.

I think the book, and perhaps the series came to a natural conclusion with all the characters looking forward to life without war, and although I've loved reading the books, I'm not sure how you'd continue on from that point and keep the same quality of writing. I'm ready for a change, which is maybe just as well, as the next release from Elaine Everest is brand new, shiny, and coming out in May. Keep an eye out for The Teashop Girls, but after you've caught up with the Woolworth's Girls series of course!

And Elaine, I'm still holding out for a sequel to The Butlins Girls!

This book was gifted to me for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own. Many thanks to Elaine Everest, Pan Macmillan and ED PR for continuing to support my blog through these opportunities.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Passion In The Bones - Elaine Howard - Book Preview

"We are never too old to learn and pursue new adventures"

This quote comes from Elaine Howard, an American attorney, palaeontology enthusiast, and now author, who has released her book Passion in the Bones: A Guide to Breaking the Chains of Negativity and Living Your Own Adventure. I've been lucky enough to be invited on to the blog tour for this release, so for my stop I thought I'd preview the book and the ideas behind it, and maybe someday soon (I have a huge reading pile to get through first) some of you will join me in checking out the full book for yourselves.

One of the things that appealed to me when I was sent details of this book, was the creative angles taken. Creativity and well-being for me go hand in hand always, so for Elaine to link mind-set, mental health, and pursuing your passions, to her passion for dinosaurs is intriguing.



Passion in the Bones has been described as a 'step by step guide to changing your mind set, exploring your interests, identifying and nurturing true passions, and sharing them with others.' The common theme is all surrounding the fact that you have the power to change your life, and make the most of it, and that passion provides purpose.

Elaine describes the four essential characteristics of any life changing passion as:

1) It must be something positive and productive.
2) You're genuinely excited about it.
3) You pursue it on an on-going basis.
4) It's something you share with others.

Would you agree with those sentiments? is there anything else you'd add? let me know below. It's clear from the blurb on the book that Elaine Howard has found her passion in dinosaurs and palaeontology, after challenges with self-esteem and other issues, and she wants to use this help and inspire other people.

Find out more one the website or Instagram and you can purchase the book using these links:

Amazon UK
Amazon.com


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Colouring A Sunset Scene - Handmade Card Project

I've been watching some Instagram stories lately with nature and sunsets in them - two things I love to see, experience, and watch, and just on impulse the other night decided to get my colouring pencils out and try and create a sunset myself.

I count myself as a crafter much more than an artist, but have a collection of adult colouring books, and love playing around sometimes.

To help me with this doodle I looked up sunset images on Google, and chose a scene with the type of colours I was looking for, that I thought I could do a version of.


I coloured on to white card, and tried to blend in the shading as much as possible. When I was happy with the result I added in a little landscape of rocks, inspired by Roque Nublo in Gran Canaria, which I had just mentioned in an article on the island, and a touch of glitter, as white pencil does not show up enough and I needed to create some whiter cloud parts.

As a finishing touch I mounted the finished piece on card, then added a musical note stamp, inked in the same colour scheme, from Creative Stamping Magazine. The final touch was the quote, something that has always resonated with me, and seemed to fit really well with the drawing I created. After adding in a few touches of Nuvo Drops, it was a complete card.


It's not very often I do things like this, but I was pleased with the result, found it really relaxing, and would definitely try again. Would love to know what you think, and if you have any other ideas for nature scenes/landscapes, or settings I could add a sunset to. Let me know below, and thanks for reading. 

*This blog contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Going To Gigs & Anxiety

Although life with anxiety is never plain sailing, and there is still a long way to go to get my life where I want it to be, one of the things I am most proud of is my gig going adventures. They are and have been just local, and are not without their challenges, but to have pushed myself to do as much as I have done, is something that I always come back to for motivation.

I think part of it is that music is a powerful motivation. I've always been a huge fan of music, it makes me feel alive! I enjoy music and dance based films, sometimes write lyrics, and more recently I have written about it as a freelance writer. So that has pushed me where other things haven't, and perhaps the other thing is I have done all this on my own. I'm not always the best with any kind of planning and social expectations, and don't really have a close social circle locally for support on these outings. I have tried and succeeded, tried and failed, tried and found things got a lot easier. It's an entirely different experience going on my own, but in some ways it works. I can come and go as I want, don't have to think about anybody else, and have got to know quite a few people, to varying degrees, that I might not have done otherwise; people in bands, music fans, people that promote and run events locally, and people that have been very supportive of my writing.

I've been there and done it as far as tension, anxiety, and unsettled feelings go. I've been beating myself up a bit if I have gone home or missed a specific performance, fidgeted through a whole theatre show and struggled to relax, then equally done other things and felt absolutely fine. Sometimes I've also seen a band that I know for the first time in ages, and quite happily and confidently chatted to them, feeling better about doing it, than I have done all the other times I have seen them before.

But there are things I make sure I do every time I am planning to go out, so I thought I'd share a few with this post, in case they help anyone else who might need some coping mechanisms.

- Aisle Seats - if it's a theatre show these are always a must-have with me, even if I was with someone, I wouldn't want to be in the middle of a crowd, I just think it would be a bit claustrophobic. I also try and book in the sides of the theatre, sometimes the back, or maybe even the balcony, so I am a bit away from it all, and it's easier to relax.

- Try a 'practice visit' to a venue - this only really works for local venues, but I found going to something I wasn't that fussed about helped me to scope out different places, their vibe, and decide whether I would feel comfortable going to gigs there. It didn't 'matter' how long I was there for.

- Be prepared - I always make sure I have certain things with me, even if I never use them for weeks or months on end, I always feel better if I have a supply of mints, rescue remedy, tissues, water. It may seem like a simple thing, but it all counts for me.

- Don't be too early or too late - I always check timings before I go to an event, especially if I really want to see a specific act or band above all others. If it's a festival, I try and work out the time I most want to be there to get the best experience, but so I'm not trying to amuse myself hanging around too much waiting, or with nothing to do. I try and give a decent time to get ready, travel, and deal with any unsettled feelings, then go and enjoy as much as I can.

Anxiety and the way you deal with it always has it's critics, but equally people I know have said to me that I am doing things they wouldn't ever do on their own. I hope your gig going experiences are successful ones, and if you suffer with any kind of anxiety, you've found lots of ways of dealing with whatever comes your way. I have my first gig ticket booked for 2019, and can't wait to buy more and see what happens.




Popular Post:

Liv Austen - A Moment Of Your Time (Album Review)